Tuesday, May 26, 2015

honeysuckle reminiscence

Because yesterday was Memorial Day, it was a glorious three-day weekend for me - the stuff that retirement dreams are made of.  It is a remarkable luxury to wake up in the morning of my own free will and not by an alarm clock, or garbage truck, or woodpecker on the gutter, or Molly scratching my face to be fed, or Someone flipping on the TV.  For two mornings in a row, I got to wake up on my own volition.  It was marvelous!

We had three beautiful days, but sadly, I didn’t take my kayak out.  There was just not enough time.  The weekend melted away and is only a distant memory now.
One thing I did do was drive over and take in an afternoon with Sarah.  We had another marvelous adventure together!  This time, we visited an Amish greenhouse not far from where she lives.  The greenhouse had Amish girls running it.  Amish people are interesting because they are…well…different.  At least based on their appearance, I assume they are different.  Perhaps behind closed doors, they are just like the rest of us – cussing, drinking, and watching trash on TV.  Visiting a greenhouse is one of my most favorite things to do.  Visiting a greenhouse with Sarah who also loves greenhouses is nothing short of AWESOME!  We wandered through, taking our time, and making plans for our future gardens.  We bought a cartload of lovely plants.   

We almost bought roses but we mutually talked ourselves out of them.  As soon as we started discussing about how to care for roses (spray them with fungicide after every rain, and watch out for those Japanese beetles)…we both had second thoughts.  Sarah wants a Peace rose and I want a Mr. Lincoln rose.  Peace roses are beautiful in color, but Mr. Lincoln (a standard looking red rose) smells divine.    Someday when I have time to tend a rose garden, I will find a place and plant a bed of tea roses.  In my younger days, I used to study catalogs of roses and drool all over the glossy photos.  Sadly, I’ve killed at least six rose bushes in my life (including a Peace and a Mr. Lincoln).  

Beautiful Peace rose

For myself, I bought a full flat of zinnias.  I set these out yesterday afternoon in the corner of our vegetable garden where they will be somewhat protected from deer by a tall fence.  These count as my cutting garden; meaning, I should have beautiful zinnias to cut for bouquets to fill our house with their beautiful colors.  In theory, yes.  The reality is that I just tend to leave them growing for the butterflies and humming birds. The only ones I cut are the dead blooms so they will put out new ones.  Oh well.  Zinnias do well with neglect…my kind of flower. 

A few weekends ago, Erin and Emily were off to the mall.  They wouldn’t tell me what they were shopping for, so I knew they were going to get me a Mother’s Day present.  I told them if they had to get me something, to make it something small, like a plant.  Erin asked me what kind of plant I wanted.  Before I could reply, she asked (with a rather sinister gleam in her eyes), “How about a nice SUCK-u-lent?”  It struck me as funny, the way she said it, so I said, “Yes!  A succulent would be awesome.”  Lo and behold, on Mother’s Day, Erin presented me with a succulent…I don’t know its variety.  All it said on the tag was succulent-don’t over water-give it sun.

Honestly, I’ve really never had an affinity for succulents or cacti.  But as a new owner, I was compelled to research them a bit to give my new plant a decent chance.  After watching some YouTube videos about succulent gardens, I wanted to make one.  At the Amish Greenhouse, they had a whole table of succulents, and they sold a variety of containers perfect for making succulent gardens.  I bought three more succulent specimens, and assembled my little garden Saturday morning.  I love it!  The one Erin gave me is the lighter-green one straight across from the big rock.  There is space for another, but I will take my time to find it.      

My succulent garden

Someone and I took Miss Gracie for several long walks over the weekend.  You might remember I said that black locust trees smell more wonderful than anything on this planet.  The locusts have shed their blooms and now the honeysuckle has taken over.  Whereas the locust trees are like sweet perfume, honeysuckle is heavy and utterly intoxicating.  Maybe the difference is because the locust blooms are mostly higher up in the air, whereas honeysuckle vines start at the ground and grow up to choke the bushes and trees.  They grow along every fence row too.  The scent is so strong that sometimes you can even taste it. 


During my summers in the country at St Paul, Kentucky, my great grandparents, grandmother, great aunts, and great uncles sat outside in the yard in the late evenings until time for bed.  There was no air conditioning so the inside of the house was a bit stuffy and too warm.  My brothers and I would catch lightening bugs, or find things to do in the yard that didn’t bother the old folks.  The farm was near the mouth of a hollow, Scaffold Lick hollow.  I’m not sure how it got its name, but “lick” in any name implies there was a source of salt back in those hills somewhere.  What I remember most about those evenings was the scent of honeysuckle.  A breeze came out from the hollow when the sun dropped below the horizon, carrying with it that lovely smell.  The windows and doors were left open (with screens, of course).  By morning, the house was cool.  The scent of honeysuckle lingered until mid-morning. 

My trip to Louisiana has been postponed.  Thank you, God and Jesus.  

Friday, May 15, 2015


Old KYLady does way too much whining, so she will try not to whine today.  Last Saturday, I got out and played golf on a gorgeous afternoon.  On Sunday morning, the kayak and me went out on the Little Sandy River for a new adventure.  Adventure is a very good remedy when things start to spiral.  Things have been spiraling lately…lots of things.  There are just too many things lately; my “thing limits” have been exceeded much too much too much in recent weeks.  Even two fun things over the weekend was not enough to slow the spiral, in fact, taking those hours off seem to have only contributed to the spiral.

I had never been on the Little Sandy, but I’ve driven over it more times than I can count.  Many times I’ve looked down from the bridge and thought about putting my kayak on it.  There is a boat ramp less than 15 minutes from home very near where the Little Sandy empties into the Ohio River; super-convenient.  Those first minutes on the river were not so pleasant.  The highway traffic is noisy (the marina is right off the highway).  As I paddled toward the bridge, lookout geese began honking to warn the others I was approaching.  Swallows came out of their mud nests built in neat rows under the bridge.  They dive-bombed me (I was grateful that none pooped on me) until I was well passed the bridge.  Under the bridge, geese were in the water all around me and also watching from high above as they stood all along the concrete pillars that support the bridge.  I looked up and felt very outnumbered.  Geese can be mean birds.  I wondered if they might come after me, like something from an Alfred Hitchcock movie (The Birds).  They all honked at me – their noise and the traffic noise was deafening. 
On the other side of the bridge, the shore was lined with camp sites of people sitting around playing loud music, some fishing, some drinking beer at 9 in the morning (but who am I to judge?).  Then on up the river, it got quiet and lovely, other than some debris from recent flooding and farmers plowing fields.  I paddled past a dock where a man was just pulling a giant fish out of the water.  He had no reel for the line – so he just pulled this big creature out hand-over-hand.  The river must be very deep there with all that line, but finally the fish was out and flopping around on his dock just in time for me to see it.  I saw several duck families and geese families along the way, and two blue heron which are beautiful and exotic (not as fancy as peacocks, but pretty awesome birds nonetheless).  On my trip back down the river, the man who caught the fish was now cooking it on his grill right there on the dock.  He called to me and asked me if I wanted to join him for breakfast.  Tempting, but I declined and thanked him.

Little Sandy River - mirror of tranquility
Some interesting things to see along the way...

The classes for my new job are up and running.  I’m already heavily involved.  It’s great so far, because I’m less like a teacher and more like a course facilitator whose job is to answer questions, grade papers, and keep things moving in the right direction.  I hit the ground running, but I wish there had been time for me to at least review the course materials for each of these three classes.  My students are writing papers already and I had to grade one last night without really knowing what the required reading contained.  I am very familiar with the topic of the paper, but I won’t be able to judge whether a student is relying on the assigned literature or free-balling it.  Regarding the paper I evaluated last night, hells yeah he was tots free-balling it.  His only reference was Wikipedia.  

Someone and I will attend Someone’s family’s annual beach vacation in June.  It’s not good timing for me, but I will take off work from my primary job and go to the beach with Someone.  I’m sure we will have fun but it’s a hassle to find a quiet place to work with so many people in one house.  My classes will still be going on so it won’t really be a full vacation from work.  Perhaps there never will be a full vacation from work again for me until I can retire from my primary job.  Someone gets so terribly excited about this vacation.  He is already packed and nagging me to start getting ready (even though we aren’t leaving for more than 4 weeks).  Besides, I have to make another trip to Louisiana for work before then…that’s on my mind much more than vacation.  The girls are not going with us; they will stay home and work, animal sit, and house sit.  I am grateful to have them stay behind so I don’t have to arrange for it.

Anyway, it’s very easy to get caught up into the spiral – the plethora of crap that there’s not enough time for – stuff I should do and want to do, stuff I should do and don’t want to do, stuff I have to do, stuff people expect me to do…lots of stuff.  I’m drowning in stuff.  It’s a lot of balls in the air.  I need more hands and eyeballs.   

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

no snakes in Paradise

KYLady has been much, much, much too busy lately.  It was a lot of effort to finish up training for the new job while keeping up with my current classes while working the “real job” while dealing with several other important meetings for things I’ve become too involved in.  Sunday afternoon, finally, I found time for a break.  Someone, Gracie, and I headed out to Greenbo Lake State Park which is less than a 30 minute drive and a great place to get away from the world.  We hiked a section of one of my favorite trails.  It’s a lot of uphill and downhill, but you can look out over the lake for much of it.  Right now, the dogwoods that are mostly in shade are still lovely and the redbuds have faded to pink.  Wildflowers are blooming. It’s so lovely to be out in the woods with all that color and a green canopy of leaves overhead on a calm, beautiful sunny day.  One good thing about spring is that leaves are just unfurling and still smaller than usual, so the poison ivy is distinctive and easier to spot.  Best of all, the black locusts are in bloom.  Their scent is thick and heavenly.  Nothing on this planet smells as sweet. 

Black locust tree in bloom

So, let me tell you this story about what happened Sunday afternoon.  Someone, Gracie, and I were walking a mountain-goat trail (i.e. narrow deer path, actually) around the side of a steep hill.  There were lots of fallen leaves on the ground and many old dead trees laying on the ground above and below us.  Someone had the leash; Gracie was pulling him along like she always does.  I was bringing up the rear, walking along and looking down so I wouldn’t trip over a rock or tree root and go tumbling down the hill.  We were single file on the narrow trail.  Someone yelled and I looked up just in time to see a giant snake launch itself off the log to my right, fly across the path in front of me (airborne, no kidding) about thigh-level just within arms-reach.  Thud!  It hit the ground on the other side of the path.  I caught a glimpse of the back half of him as he hit the ground and streaked on down the hill.  I could hear it slithering through the dry leaves for a bit and then silence.  I imagine he took refuge under or inside a log.  Someone said it was at least 5 feet long (I would guess 4 feet), but it was a fat snake so I imagine it has found plenty of ground squirrels to eat.  I really couldn’t guess what kind it was, but Someone said he got a decent look as it came down the hill toward us – he thought it was a black snake.  He saw it coming and he expected it would go under the log and hide, but when he saw it coming over top the log, he freaked.  I’m grateful its eyesight and timing were good enough that it didn’t accidentally plow into me.  Of course, Gracie wanted to go after it but we kept going.

Walking hills in eastern Kentucky

I don’t like close encounters with snakes.  I don’t like snakes. 

It’s finals week for my students and for Emily.  Erin finished finals last week and has moved home for summer.  Emily has a job at the mall starting next week.  Erin is still looking for work.
I’m delighted to report that KYLady has been assigned to teach three courses in the master of IT management program for the new job.  So, just as soon as I wrap up final exams and posting final grades for the current semester at the end of this week, I’ll launch into three new classes on Monday.  I’m excited to have this opportunity and to have a batch (3 batches actually) of new students.  These classes will be 100% online.  I intend to see what it’s like to lay in my hammock with the birds warbling, the squirrels barking, the woodpeckers pecking, and the leaves rustling in the breeze over my head while grading student essays.  It sounds like a dream job.

But oh, there is just so much to do this weekend…in my 2-day break between teaching jobs.  The house has fallen to ruin, it’s time to plant the garden, I promised Erin we would begin looking for a car, and I want to visit Sarah soon…very soon…as soon as she and I can find a time when both of us are free.

Lovely and talented Sarah
and Jack, ever-faithful

 It’s a very long story.   I bought a decent used car in an estate sale – it’s an old car (2002 model) but it only had about 37,000 miles on it when purchased.  It was for the girls to use after they got their driver’s licenses…knowing they would ding it up…which of course, they did.  So now, it’s a few years older and dented/scratched up all over, but it runs good and it has about 47,000 miles on it – still pretty new other than it has some “old car” problems…like electrical things that have gone bad, the interior has faded, etc.  Meanwhile, my old van is still functional but old (2005) with lots of miles (160K), and rusting really bad in places…but I need a van so will keep it until the wheels fall off.  During the girls’ senior year of high school, sharing a car became too much hassle, so I bought another car.  As it turned out, Emily claimed the newer used car while Erin continued to drive the older one.  In August, Erin will be taking a car to college (she didn’t have a car on campus this year) and I want her to have something newer with better safety features.  It’s time to shop for a car…which I hate.

So, by the end of summer, assuming I’m still walking on this Earth, KYLady will have purchased 4 cars and pay insurance on 5 cars (Someone bought his own new car last summer after he totaled his old one).  Sadly, KYLady will be driving the two shittiest ones.  Life is rough like that sometimes (first world problem).  

A new car is nice to drive, but cars are pretty much just a functional thing for me.  As long as it’s reasonably clean, runs reliably and the important things work (such as brakes, wipers, lights, etc.), and the heating and air conditioning work, I’m OK with it, whatever it is.  Even if I became very wealthy, I don’t see myself running out to buy a fancy car (or a fancy house).  If I suddenly had money, I would shop for land – a big chunk of hill land in the middle of nowhere with a nice creek, along a river, or on a big lake.  Somewhere with a cabin or where I could build a small cabin and have a nice orchard.  That would be my paradise.