Friday, March 31, 2006

Symbols of a Marriage

This photo could represent interracial friendship and love or overcrowding due to population growth or problems due to global warming and acid rain. Tonight, though, it represents my husband and I. It is how I feel at the end of his retirement party this afternoon. I need to collect my thoughts like the scattered cherry blossoms on the walkway and I will blog about it all later this weekend. In the meantime go take a LOVELY ride with Val at Stepping Stones of Truth for a fresh breath of air before you start your weekend crazy errand running. (Hoss, be polite with your comments now ;-) )

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Yes, It is Contageous

I live in the heart of the city with buses, mass transit and high rises that are a few hundred feet from my apartment door. Yet the brilliance of city planners has created acres of parks only a ten minute walk from where I am now living. Everything in the photos below is wild. I guess I do not need to worry about tending a garden this spring.

Below I share with you some of the fever of spring and I hope it is contageous.

I am big on fungus and drive my husband crazy when I stop and take fungus pictures. I think I like them because they hold still and you can get a good picture. The tree above was covered.

This fungus is particularly lovely and my favorite picture of the day.

This is the tree in full and you can see it was covered with fungus.

I think this is an anemone buttercup but am open to any botanical corrections.

We saw only two of these trees pictured above blooming in the depth of the forest under some pretty large oaks and beech trees. I have no idea what they are. Can anyone help? They didn't look like a dogwood and it is too early for dogwood blossoms. The flowers were about the size of a quarter and the tree was very sparce and not too tall. I couldn't detect a fragrance.

Here are some lovely Scylla and to think that I used to buy these bulbs by the dozens and plant them under my trees at the old house. Here at my feet there was a small field of them for free and in several shades of blue.

Well, enough fever. I will go get something cold to drink.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Saturday Snapshots

  • On the drive down, the Bradford pears that have been planted at every landscape junction in the mall parking lots were in peak bloom with no bees in sight.
  • As we exited the car, the concert at the new house site was so rich and complex that it took our breath away. Warblers were taking up the lyrical medley, cardinals then hit the high notes, and blue jays added the percussive rhythm.
  • Organic smells from the freshly excavated earth in the front yard mixed oddly with the greenness of the spring air.
  • Water across the bridge from the boat reflected only a gray glassy surface broken suddenly by a rarely seen speeding river otter who emerged for a few seconds to exhale and inhale, and then twisting snake-like, darted beneath the surface of the water and into a large pipe under the road.
  • The open window upstairs framed a perfect view of the finger of water that joined the river to the west.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Another Milestone? What Number is That Now?

Another milestone? Pretty soon my backyard will be full of them.

A week from this coming Monday is my husband's last day at work. He is retiring after 38 some years doing the science that he so loves. He has been talking about retirement for years and each year he got closer to naming a date and finally this past winter he put a number on the deadline. Work at his office has become more and more about process and bureaucracy and less and less about science and making things happen for people, so he knows it is the right time.

He has actually helped create a couple of millionaires in his field of interest this past few years. (He was the one that helped guide their research and provided the handholding for their partnerships and worked them through the maze of government regulations and processes. I remember the hours on the phone, that few government bureaucrats would have devoted.) And a few decades ago we would have been envious of their millionaire status, but interestingly today, as we look back on our lives, we are just happy for them and he looks on it as one of his accomplishments. This is another milestone for us in maturity.

My husband has had a few shock moments still where he is amazed that he is actually retiring. Like most men and a few women, his image and self-worth is all tied up in his career and the job description. So, this transition will be somewhat painful. He is trying to line up a few consulting jobs and he will be back to the same office working half-time as a contractor this summer. He is smart in doing this in stages, although he says he is continuing with a contract just to keep me company until I retire in a year or two.

He also got a scare last week with his prostate test and it looks like he may have prostate cancer. This is naturally a scare at a time when he was hoping to adjust to a new way of living. We have a few acquaintances that also are fighting this battle. If a man lives long enough, this gland seems to want to fail. My Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer about ten years ago and they decided to do nothing about it. He is still alive and doing very well for someone 92! We have a close friend that was diagnosed with this about 6 years ago and kept telling us he was preparing to die. He went through some painful surgery and chemotherapy, but he is still here and looks great, if still a bit of a hypochondriac.

I am worried, naturally, but more about the types of treatment and what they may do to my husband. I am not worried about him dying. Maybe I am very naive. We will know more in the coming weeks after he visits the specialist.

It is sort of strange, because as we got closer to finishing and enjoying this new house I was feeling guilty. Guilty that we are so blessed and wondering if somehow we were going to get our share of pain soon.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The special lunch

We met at noon downtown near the hotels and restaurants. I was the first to get there. The weather was cold but the wind was gentle. Sidewalks were busy with all the city people trying to squeeze in a lunch. Several well dressed gay guys were hanging out near the bike rack. Then I saw my son all dressed in black with a blue undershirt. He looked very handsome, but then I am related to him so may be prejudiced somewhat. He looked a little tired but he kissed me and gave me a big hug. We chatted for a while about his work which was going reasonably well. His management is manipulative and insecure and at least he sees through that. He likes his work and his band seems to be getting some play dates at least. He is carrying too much debt with his condo which he insisted on purchasing in the hot part of the city, and that concerns me. We don’t have the money to help him out.

My daughter had called earlier to tell me that Xman was sick and she wasn’t going into work and therefore not joining us for lunch. Then she called back and decided he wasn’t all that sick and so she brought him. She was her high energy confident self and Xman was a little under the weather and spent most of the lunch chewing on cheerios and watching us.

We ate in a little hole-in-the-wall bar down under the street because all the main restaurants had long lines of people waiting as they had just escaped from conference meetings. The lunch was quick but not rushed and the food was OK. I just sat and watched all of my favorite people interacting. My son and daughter are now adults talking about adult things; they were not teasing or taunting as they had done just a few years earlier. Time changes everything somewhat.

Busy, Busy, Busy

I have been super busy this week and don't even have time to think of something to post. I have been in meetings of one kind or another all week long and will look so forward to heading home this afternoon.

Actually I am also looking forward to noon today. I have a meeting downtown near where my daughter works, and she and I have planned meeting for lunch. To make the lunch even more appetizing I finally got my son to call me back two nights ago(by using his best friend as a go between!) and he is going to join us also!

This is such a precious little lunch as I am old enough to know the real value of time with those you love!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Stop the World I Want to Get Off

I am on a rant today. What set me off was a traffic light, a new traffic light that was installed to allow pedestrians to cross safely on a very busy road outside my office (cubicle if you really want the picture-perfect version.) This section of the road is very busy with buses, cars, and pedestrians leaving several high rise office buildings to cross to the small shopping center that has restaurants, a nail place, a hair place, a coffee shop, a cleaners, a drug store, a bank and a supermarket, just the kind of place that busy people might want to get to during their mid-day escapes from the office. Using the crosswalk was a dangerous game and several people had actually been hit by cars.

There never was a light until last year when they put up a caution signal light and a sign that said “Pedestrian Crossing.” On occasion a motorcycle cop would hide behind the shopping center sign to catch cars that didn’t slow and let pedestrians cross.

This didn’t work. There were still close calls, several even I experienced. The trouble was partially that pedestrians would not check the light down the way for the major intersection and they would cross whenever they felt like it, forcing a car to stop for them and then miss the green light at the big intersection. Part of it was the drivers on the opposite side of the road that were racing up the hill and just wanted to get by while you waited in the MIDDLE of the street.

Well, early this week we got a real light, a push button to cross, a ticking timing bell, and a voice that says you can now cross. Well, people are still crossing without the light, drivers are still trying to beat the light change, and I almost was hit by a stupid middle-aged white guy at lunch!

I have way too many things to worry about more than crossing the street! There is mad cow disease to my south forcing me to give up hamburgers indefinitely, as well as PCBs and mercury making me question both my salmon consumption AND my Omega 3 capsules,

I have to worry about my identity being stolen on the Internet to say nothing of my concern hoping that my employer doesn’t find my blog. I am worried that I will not get any Social Security when I retire. I am worried that the stock market will collapse under this crazy administration spending which has no regard for the country and I will have to work until Hell freezes over.

Even though my new retirement house sits about 20 feet above the water level, I have been told by scientists that the water is rising and the icecaps are melting. I also have to worry about Lyme’s disease (which I already contracted once) as we attempt to clear out all of the deadwood in the area near the new house in order to avoid any fire hazards from the increased lightning due to global climate change.

I am worried about my daughter’s storm door to the front of her house which leads to a VERY busy and dangerous street and which is only seconds away if Xman hits the storm door just right while running.

I am worried that my son will never have a social life since he works nights and he will never meet the right girl, I will never be allowed to enjoy his children, and he may end up depressed and a recluse. (HE NEVER ANSWERS MY CALLS OR EMAIL.)

I am worried…OK, I can go on and on and on. Now I know why I have trouble sleeping nights. It is time for my Yoga tape. Breath in…breath out…

Sorry, but remember this blog is my therapist sometimes.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Finishing the meme—job #2 and #3

I was tasked to list four of my jobs in a meme a while ago. I listed #1 here. Being the anal-retentive that I am, I am doing them
in chronological order; and, since I have to go into the WAAAY back machine for that, the process is a little painful.

#2: Job number two for me was the second oldest 'profession' in the world, babysitting. This is where a stressed and deluded parent hires a young, innocent, naïve, and poor girl, and pays her slave wages to watch human an
imals that behave like wildcats (I like the graphic on this site as it conveys the true nature of the beast)--- or like Tigger on speed.

There is something about that sweet, blue-eyed child that waves to you from across the neighborhood street that changes him/her totally into another personality when they know that Mommy and Daddy are out playing for the evening. They have entered the next dimension. They seem to sense that you do not know where anything is, do not know what all of the rules are and have no qualms about loosing your dignity at any time during the evening.

The greater danger in this job is that you may gain some self-confidence (actually I became addicted to having a little cash on hand) and you take on greater and larger responsibilities. One of my ‘clients’ was a family that had six children. They were age 2 up to age 9. Remember I lived in a farming community where large families were an asset. Those evenings with 6 kids were such a blur in my mind. I remember it vaguely like a terrifying roller coaster ride. I was petrified the entire time and so glad when the evening was over and I didn’t have to call an ambulance---not for them---for me. Needless to say, I was the only babysitter the parents could get!

#3: My third job was a step up. I think I increased my wages to about $1.50 an hour and babysitting only paid $.50 and this third job also paid my Social Security, which as we know today is a real benefit.(!) This job required the following skill set: abilty to lift heavy weights, balance things, be speedy, have an excellent memory, ability to hear in a noisy environment, and no aversion to putting fingers in half eaten food, AND the ability to avoid dirty old men---particularly the boss. You guessed it, waitressing in a small-town diner.

I hated that job because the boss always wanted to get me into the kitchen where he could tell me a dirty joke. That was when I realized that I don’t find dirty jokes funny. If my parents knew what he was like they wouldn’t have allowed me to work there that summer. But I needed the money to save for college and they were glad I had some small income. Fortunately he kept his hands to himself. I was such a schmuck in those days.

Well, next blog will be job #4 and the last of the this meme.

(Addendum: When I was 11 my mother gave me another sister and when I was twelve I got another brother...therefore, since I clearly had inside experience, I was pretty much in demand during my teen years.)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Can You Still Catch a Sunbeam?

It Takes Two to Tangle, Or Does It?

I spent Saturday evening babysitting that grandson of mine. Xman was in his usual crazy-man endless-energy form. I arrived early and kept him entertained while the young couple got ready for their evening out. Xman and I played a little ball, played a few musical instruments, stacked some foam blocks, dropped some plastic blocks down the giraffe's neck and raced a truck, but spent most of the time exploring areas of the house that he is not allowed to explore! He does know what ‘no’ means, but it requires physical re-direction to get him off of the track. He also is now the age where he is not afraid to protest/wail when re-directed.

I discovered when it was my job to feed him that, unlike many of us, dinner is not necessarily the favorite part of his day. He is intrigued by the way the belt connects and disconnects on his high chair, and he likes to chase the cheerios across the tray, but he is only mildly interested in the colorful puree in the plastic spoon. I have learned that if you keep up a quick and steady pattern of moving the spoon into the mouth as soon as it opens, you can cram about six to ten spoonfuls down before he is finished. I have to watch carefully on the timing of this, as he begins the head swaying (i.e. Stevie Wonder) and arm flailing which leads, of course, to blobs of food on the walls, the floor, him and me.

After the meal he gets to play a little longer while I clean up his mess and then attempt to eat a quick sandwich for dinner. (This sandwich eating is interrupted numerous times.)

Then it is bath time--his. Anyone who has bathed an 11-month-old will shudder involuntarily when they think of their experience. Trying to get him undressed, away from the floor heater, the bottle of baby soap on the edge of the tub, the toilet and my watch which rests on the edge of the counter all while I sit on my knees in this tiny bathroom is the first challenge. Then I realized that I should have started the tub water in the beginning, so I had to keep him entertained with “Ducky” while I tried to fill the tub. I filled it just a hair too warm (it felt COLD to me) because he wouldn’t sit until I had added more cold water and it was then tepid like a tea cup that had been left out for a (long) while.

Finally, he sits and plays with toys while I try to soap and rinse him. That is when he discovers the pink bar of soap on the tray above his head and stands precariously on tip toes while reaching for it. He knocks it into the tub and then sits back down to retrieve it. It slides under his leg, and I sneakily remove it from behind him and put it back up into the soap dish. I am so pleased that I have pulled one over on him and then I discover why it was so easy. While looking for the soap he has discovered that little bobbing appendage between his legs. He tries to grab it and playing with it occupies his time for another five minutes.

Finally it is time to drain the tub and dry him off. I grab the warm wet mass and wrap him in a towel without getting me too wet. I actually am able to hold him and stand up from a kneeling position at the same time, Yay!

Then we head into the bedroom where an attempt is made to dry him completely. This is like trying to wipe a doll while it is in the spin cycle of your dryer. I then apply lotion and diaper cream. If you have not greased a squirming baby and then tried to diaper and dress him, you have not faced one of life’s most interesting challenges. Each appendage is flailing and swinging like the legs of beetle on its back. And each of those appendages is slicker than butter on a pre-basted turkey—except this analogy has gaps because the turkey isn’t moving, at least MY turkeys don't move.

In what seems an endless series of almosts as I grab and lose one arm and then one leg, he is finally in the diaper and in the pajamas and the hair is combed (sort of)

We read a story together about colors, but he is more interested in turning the pages—back and forth and back and forth. After ten minutes, I admit defeat realizing we are never getting to the end of this book much less read it in any chronological order. I put it aside and grab the bottle.

He attacks his bedtime bottle like a drunken sailor and when finished he immediately goes to sleep with the finality of a light switch being turned off--- no guilt, no regrets, just down until the next day's adventure.

Then, I headed for that glass of wine.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

And We're Off!

The Last of the Three

The first gift for my birthday last December that came from my daughter was part of a three month flower show and was a lovely orchid. This was followed by an amaryllis. My last gift is the fragrant and fragile looking Lily-of-the-Valley. I love all three plants, but being the garderner that I am, when I looked at the catalog and saw what she paid...she paid way too much. As some of you may know, amaryllis are easy to propagate and grow. The LTV is a little plant that takes off if planted in a moist and shady wooded area. The orchid was the only exotic one and as Hoss said, I will probably kill it. In spite of the cost, they have been a bright addition to my kitchen table.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Love is in the Air

I left the apartment for work before the sun was up today. The air was cold but not bitter. I heard the pure and loud song of a bird that I could not identify against the black silhouette of the tree across the parking lot. I think it was a sparrow…the poor English interloper sparrow of the Mid-Atlantic. He was singing his heart out, even though the sun had not yet sprayed its yellow warmth across the asphalt. His song was full of bird passion. He was clearly looking for that someone special, calling in that cavalier way that identifies the single male. Those clear notes against the increasing murmur of the morning city noises told me that spring was on its way! Hurray!

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Since I have nothing to say before I leave for a very few errands today, I am going to load a few photos that have kept my attention this month. I had a difficult time loading under blogger, so went back to my old friend, HELLO under Picassa and that seemed to work. The photo below is the first real sign of spring that I saw while sitting in the car and waiting for my husband to finish something on the boat in the boatyard yesterday.

These flowers are very tiny and can easily be crushed under one's feet as one races from the cold wind to any shelter for warmth. They are the first homage to warmer days.

This is the scar left behind from the snow-laden branch that fell after that heavy wet snowfall a few weeks ago. It is impossible to get through life without scars and this is the farewell to winter.

This is a photo from the recent Las Vegas trip where I took a brief hike with friends in the desert on the last day. The person in the foreground is 85-years-old and such an inspiration to someone just a few months away from 60!

At the boatyard, this little skiff hidden in the vines and weeds seemed to be calling to me. "Spring is almost here, let me out, let me out!"

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Slouching towards Bethlehem

While it has been the only thing on my mind for months, I was not going to write about this in my blog; but maybe I can move on with my life if I put it down in black and white and try to figure out WTF is going on and how should I handle it! I know that no one out there is interested because we all have our problems but….sigh.

I did blog briefly about this a while back. I had lost my program budget last year and yet still had to play nice with the people who had a budget in the partnership part of the program. Well, the good news is that I got my budget back, but the warning “Be careful what you wish for” has new meaning for me.

I submitted an annual operating plan AOP (bureaucratic speak for ‘What are you going to do if we give you some money and how will you measure your accomplishments in concrete terms?’) in November. I never got any feedback on that AOP and yet 60 days later I was notified that I got the budget I requested. Now, I don’t think I am crazy when I say that I logically assumed the activities and goals in my AOP were what I was going to work on implementing. Right?

As the past three months have transpired, I have been thwarted at every level in doing this. How? 1) 50% of what I do has been assigned and TAKEN OVER by someone else. She is very smooth about consulting me, but she has been given permission by the money people to run the show and she has reduced my role to baby steps. 2) 20% of what I do (outreach) has been put on hold until we are ‘ready’ to move forward. We are not going to be ready in this area any time soon as anal retentiveness is this groups claim to fame. 3) 20% more of what I do is being continued because it involves international relationships, but I have been told that the leadership has no, zero, zilch, nada interest in pursuing this part of the program any more. 4) 10% of what I do is based my own creative efforts and with the approval of my immediate supervisor. This is what I have been filling my days with, along with participating more fully in professional projects of my colleagues.

I will not be fired if I don’t get anything done in my AOP nor will I be reprimanded as my boss can find many ways to use the money. I won’t get a raise or any rewards, though. Why did they give me this budget? I think it was all political to show that they play nice with all the divisions. This group is big on showing TEAM efforts. It would have taken real guts to tell me to go suck an egg.

Even though I have been around the block a few times, it does make me feel as if I have lost any competence I may have had. It makes me feel as if any past work I did was not really worthwhile or significant. I intellectually know this cannot be the case, because I have been evaluated well and even gotten an award two years ago. But this is a really crappy way to move toward retirement.