Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Searching for My Pony

Image Credit
I've been thinking a lot about luck lately, and one of the things I've been thinking about has been the semantic nitpicking that goes on in one of my circles. This is the circle that spends way too much time jawing about whether to use the term "luck" at all. To say one is lucky or unlucky discounts divine influence in our lives, this group avers with the vehemence that I, personally, reserve for my support of the Oxford comma. The proper term for this kind of unforeseen occurrence is "blessing," they say, and the blessing is either obvious or deferred.

If this is the case, I'm having quite the run of deferred blessings.

There was, of course, the change in my job status that I'm beginning to enjoy immensely, as I sit here in my home office in a T-shirt, comfy capris, and Birkenstocks.

Then there was the root canal and my dentist saying  "uh-oh," and the revised root canal, and my mouth's first crown. And guess what? It came out just fine (aside from the untimely hit to our bank account) and I've now discovered that root canals aren't the horrible ordeals they apparently were before improved dental techniques.

Last Friday there was the computer tech guy saying "uh-oh" as he tried to install the printer driver on my desktop. He texted me about the problem, and ended with "Don't worry, though, your data is most likely recoverable." Although this did not fill me with confidence, the latest word from the tech ninjas was positive, and this crash might even result in a better, faster computer.

Yesterday morning I had occasion to think about the old story about the father who decided to teach his twin sons a lesson concerning the futility of high expectations by giving them a pile of horsepoop for Christmas.

One son was angry. "I've been good all year and all I got was a pile of horsepoop? This is the worst Christmas ever," he told his dad.

The other son, to the surprise of his father, grabbed a shovel and began to dig into the pile. "With all this horsepoop, there's  got to be a pony  in there somewhere," he yelled gleefully.

This story came to mind as I sat on a large rock next to Pearl, my 2003 Ford Escape. Pearl had just been rear-ended by the sobbing young driver sitting next to me who had taken her eyes off the road for just a second and didn't see me slowed down for a left-turning car. She was fine, I was fine, but her car and Pearl were not fine.

A little later today we'll take Pearl in to find out the full extent of the damage. I'm hoping the guy doing  the evaluation will say "What? Your seat-belts aren't retracting properly? Why don't we just fix that while we're in there?"

I'm determined to see what kind of deferred blessing is waiting, because at this point it's not obvious and I know there's a pony in there somewhere.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wherein I Am That Person


Husband and I traveled back to my childhood over the weekend, visiting my dad and his sweet wife and getting away from the skyscrapers and traffic noise of Small Town. You may think I'm exaggerating but our skyscraper is six stories high, and if you have the windows open on a summer weekend, you can hear a boatload of camper traffic headed for the city lake.

Boy#1 and Lovely Girl escaped their own Significantly Larger Town to join us for this trip down memory lane and the majority of my sentences began "When I was a kid..." (...this creek was a lot deeper; it was much farther from the house to the barn; Older Sister and I did ALL THE CHORES; etc.)

We walked to the mailbox (this time to get steps on our Fitbits rather than the mail), slept in the bedroom where I slept as a teenager, and leaned over the fence to see if we could catch a glimpse of the feral sheep my brother keeps as pets. Sadly, we did not see any fleeces that rivaled Shrek in sheer bulk.

The most memorable moment, though, came during Sunday morning church when, during a quiet moment, a cell phone rang several pews behind us.

"Whoops!" I thought. "That sure was embarrassing for someone."

So that I wouldn't be guilty of being that person, I reached down to turn off my own ringer. Unfortunately, sometime during the four-hour trip between the House on the Corner and the farm, I had put my phone into my purse upside down. Instead of grabbing it by the top corner as I normally do, I grabbed it by the bottom half.

You know where this is going, right? Straight to Siri. And while Siri could hear the sermon, she couldn't hear it quite well enough.

"I'M SORRY. I'M NOT SURE WHAT YOU SAID THERE, MOMQUEENBEE."

Yes.

In case anyone in the sanctuary had not been able to pinpoint where the Siri shout came from, my phone j'accuse-d me to the entire congregation.

Boy#1 immediately sent a note down the pew. "Most embarrassing moment in this church since we dropped that Matchbox car."

He was right: Until now, the low point on our church disruption barometer had been when one of my darling toddlers dropped a toy car and that car somehow miraculously missed every single foot to vrreeeeeeeeee its way to the front, only stopping when it hit the carpet in front of the communion rail. I'll never forget the look on the preacher's face as he tried to identify the noise.

Anyway, I'm recovering from the embarrassment to the point that when I was shooting the photos for this morning's illustrations I was amused by the things Siri suggested I ask her. Who is Barack Obama? Look up my videos from my last trip to New York City? I don't think so. Instead I'll leave you with the reaction from the Marie Antoinette action figure given to me by a dear friend.

Off with my head.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

I Will Miss This

They're also extremely good-looking.
I'm settling into the New Normal quite nicely, thank you. By 10 a.m., I've checked off three of my daily must-do's (exercise, quiet time, cleaning) and added the delightful bonus of some piano practice.

I am experiencing, as well as declaring, that I'm going to be fine. But I am missing the people in today's picture.

Over the past decade or so I've been surrounded by the best working group ever assembled. They're not only really, really good at their jobs (and they have the awards to prove it), they are smart and funny and sensitive and hard-working.

Do you know how rare this is in a working group? To not have a single person who is irritating or distracting? No one you secretly hope is scanning the want ads and looking for a better job? As one with decades of experience in the hiring biz, I can tell you that this is the Holy Grail of a supervisor's quest.

A week ago they threw a transition party. "We're not calling it a going-away party because you're not going away," the lead organizer told me. "You're just transitioning, and that's very different. We'll still be your co-worker, and your friend."

Because they know me well and did not want to spend the afternoon in tears and maudlin muddling, we met at our favorite coffee shop, ate lemon poppy seed cupcakes (my favorite), and played Apples to Apples. This is the game we play every year at our Christmas party, and the experience has taken on a life of its own in our group.

We know each other well enough that we can play our cards based on personality rather than logic. The news bureau guy, for instance, was married in Reno. If it's his turn to choose a card and you play "Las Vegas" or "Casino" or anything Nevada-related, romantic mist fogs his face and you know you're taking that trick. Or if it's my turn to choose, the person who has drawn "Tom Hanks" has heard my long-standing and oft-repeated claim that TH is the only man I'd consider leaving Husband for, and that I'm choosing Tom, no matter what the comparison card is. We know that a category we made up called "Tony's Sister" will be funny every single time, even though no outsider would have the least idea what we're talking about.

When we counted our cards at the end of the game I had won, lapping the field with the number of tricks I'd taken. They said they hadn't let me win, and I believe them because they're as competitive as they are talented.

But maybe, just maybe, they subconsciously let me take a few tricks because I was the only one who had cried that afternoon. Just a little, and only for a few seconds, when I was thanking them for their transition gift that contained both fonts and puns and was another indication of how well they know me.

"The best thing I've ever done professionally is hire you all," I told them through tears.

They're what I will miss the most.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Look How Much I've Gained


I texted this picture to Husband last week on the first day of the New Normal.

"I am woman! Hear me roar!" I wrote in the caption.

Aside from the fact that approximately two people will recognize that reference (oh, Helen Reddy, I hated your voice but that song was a winner during my high school years) it's also borderline pitiful how delighted I was to see those screen savers.

I had just finished moving my computer from my old on-campus office to my new in-home office, and even though none of the males in the family were at home to make the connections work, both monitors and the mouse had booted up when I hit the power button. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that in all of my (many, many) years, it was the first time I've hooked up my own technology.

I've tended to defer that kind of work to the Boys: As children of the technological revolution, this was second nature to them and they could have things up and running in no time flat. Why bother my pretty little head with this kind of nonsense?

The time has come, though, that this kind of nonsense belongs to me. Oh, I can call on the Tech Monkeys (I'm not being derogatory; that's what they call themselves) but now fixing my computer issues doesn't involved a 30-yard walk to another building, it involves a trek off campus and the monkeys don't always have time for that.

So I'm learning. I am tentatively plugging a monitor cord into the back of the computer tower and marveling when a picture of my kids appears on the screen. I'm scheduling my time according to a different set of self-determined priorities. I'm exploring project that had never occurred to me, and I'm excited about these possibilities.

I'm looking forward, and if I have to, I can do anything.

Thanks for the reminder, Helen.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What Do Panama and I Have in Common?

This photo has nothing to do with today's topic. Isn't it gorgeous, though? Husband made it.
Hey, there, Panama!

I see you down there, with your fabulous hats and your monkeys in the streets! It's been a big week for both of us, no? We both have new canals! Of course, yours is of the $5.5 billion expansion type and mine is of the root type, but still. So very, very momentous.

I mean, a canal is a canal, amiright?

And for both of us, this was a second stab at what we had thought was going to be a one and done project. A century ago, when the first ship sailed through your famous locks (and someone first thought "'A man, a plan, a big ditch,'--dang! That can't be right!") the Panamenos probably thought "Thank heaven that's done. That construction took FOREVER and now we can finally clean up and put the sofa back where it belongs."

I thought the dental equivalent of that a couple of weeks ago, too, when my dentist took his first crack at the root canal needed in my upper back molar. Instead, he worked on it for a while then decided a specialist in the Big City should share the fun so he did the oral equivalent of slapping a BandAid over the wound and sent me on.

Yesterday the Big City specialist did his thing, or at least I'm assuming he did. By the time he came into the room the lovely assistant (who was the spittin'-here image of my favorite children's librarian--hi, Miss Jo!) had already X-rayed me, prepped me on what would be happening, reclined me back in the seat, and slipped some cool shades on me so that I could look especially fetching as I drooled.

I was completely relaxed, thanks to the combined powers of prayer and nitrous oxide, so when the endodontist introduced himself and pointed out the nasty fishhook curve in the root that he would be excising, I distinctly remember thinking "I will not be able to pick you out in a lineup later."

Panama, when your contractors began digging, did you think "No matter what happens, they are totally getting away with it because WHO ARE THEY?"? I didn't think so. Maybe you should have had a whiff of nitrous before you began? Because I don't know what I thought Dr. Whatever-His-Name-Was was going to do that would cause me to have to identify him in a lineup, but Panama, you'll feel better if you don't remember the last nine years of construction.

Over the course of the next hour I wrote half a dozen blog posts in my mind, and they were HILARIOUS. Thanks to the nitrous, they also are gone forever, as is the nasty fishhook root and everything else I thought during the procedure.

I've been able to retrieve only one clear memory of the procedure and that was when Dr. W-H-N-W said to Miss Faux Jo, "Could you straighten out that big paperclip and hand it here?" That concerned me for, oh, two seconds before I cared no more. Not only did this guy have multiple medical degrees (and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman could have done brain surgery with a paperclip), it probably wasn't at all what he said.

So, Panama, congratulations to the both of us! We are now both done with things that we knew were necessary but that we weren't looking forward to at all.

Now you can put the sofa back where it belongs and go back to looking for monkeys in the street. Me? I'll be looking closely at everyone I see in Big City, seeing if I can actually pick out my endodontist.

I just have to know what he did with that paperclip.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The New Normal, In Progress


The past few months have not been the favorite chapter of my life, to be quite honest. It began with That Thing That Happened, and continued through Clean Out the Attic Month. And because that wasn't fun enough, my very first root canal (which hasn't even been blogged yet) has been thrown into the mix.

Today, though, I'm taking a practice swing at what will be my new normal. This day off from my old job is a run-up to what will be routine soon.

In a few weeks I'll be working half-time, from home. As I've mentioned before, my most blissful default position  is sedentary--knitting, Netflix, and good books. There's nothing wrong with a moderate dose of this default but without the enforced discipline of  a traditional office job I could see myself growing pale and myopic with so much indoor, ingrown existence.

So I'm making a list of healthy habits I plan to incorporate into my daily routine.

Exercise, every day. Quiet time, every day. Writing for pleasure, every day.The satisfaction of cleaning something, every day. And every day, some time outside.

This morning I drank my cappuccino on the deck with the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle. It will be ghastly hot later in the day but the morning was cool and shaded on the west side of the house. It was lovely, and I filled in every square (although I think 78 Down might be incorrect).

I sat there for a few minutes after the coffee and crossword were finished, thinking about how very, very lucky I am to have the luxury of choosing a routine that includes these indulgences. I'm not naive enough to think I will never feel  hurt or uncertainty again, but I welcomed contentment back like a friend who  has been missing and presumed dead.

The swing at the new normal has been a home run.


Unrelated but important  footnote: Boy#1 has officially made me an old person by turning 30 today. He is wiser and funnier and a better writer and person than I will ever be. Happy birthday, Waffle Child!  

Monday, June 13, 2016

Down and Out


If you're around me this week and I suddenly vomit and fall asleep, don't be alarmed. It's just the cumulative effect of hitting my head eleventy-seven times on ceiling rafters in the past few days. Husband has declared June to be Clean Out the Attic month in the House on the Corner, so every morning we're getting up while it's still cool to spend a few hours of quality couple time under the roof.

Having a gigantic enormous house with a gigantic enormous attic has been most handy over the 30 years we've lived here because we have not had to make a single decision as to whether something should be kept or thrown away. "Just put it in the attic" is chiseled on our family crest, and even though we've made fluttery motions at cleaning out the attic from time to time, we've never been terribly serious about it.

And after a week or so of trips up and down the narrow stairway carrying heavy boxes, walking hunched over under the outside edges, and trying not to swear as I hit my head AGAIN, I remember why we never got serious about it before. Cleaning the attic is a pain.

Oh, we've made some really fun discoveries.

There is the antique bed that Husband bought before we got married, intending to refinish it. This thing is really old--the "springs" are a chain link contraption that I'm sure the pioneers found extremely comfortable.

We also found the car seat all four Boys used, and that we had intended to use for grandchildren before it was discovered that this kind of car seat actually is a death cab for cuties rather than a safety device. The baby gate behind the car seat might have come in handy some day except that baking in attic heat for two decades did the plastic webbing no good whatsoever and a toddler with any smarts would escape this Alcatraz with no trouble.

We found the Tie Fighter Halloween costume that Boy#2 made in one of his final costume-wearing years, and it had held up pretty well.



And we were pretty sure we had found a treasure when we found this pristine box.


What could it be?


Oh, yay! It's a computer!

Or, rather...


It is the packing material for a computer. A really old computer.


Yes, our attic is filled with treasures. When we have cornered the market on empty boxes and packing materials, as we apparently are trying to do, the price is sure to go up. We're going to make a fortune. 

Meantime, please excuse the vacant stare and occasional drooling. The concussion symptoms should go away within three months.