coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Saturday, May 19, 2018

uuuh, what?

I apologize for how sporadic my posts have been. We've had a lot of visitors, which has been wonderful. It is the end of the school year so there have been plays and kindergarten moving up ceremonies, and the like.  As the Florida primary approaches (August 28, so late) I am busier than ever with coordinating candidate FB Live Q&A's on my beloved secret group.  We are on fire, and some like it hot. I know I do.

I sat down with the sole purpose of writing a blog about something specific.  After writing the first paragraph, I have completely forgotten what I wanted to say.  It was gonna be good, too! 

I can muster up a photo, though.  Will be back in a few days with something of substance.  I'm almost sure of it.

palm fronds and fruit

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The ghosts of academics past

I could not sleep when I went to bed last night. I was awash with memories of people I knew at the University over the 37 years I worked there. I was not remembering my work friends in this trip down memory lane. In this particular bout of insomnia I was obsessing about the many faculty members I knew over the years. They paraded by me, in chronological order by place of work. I worked one administrative job or another in 9 different departments in those years, so the parade went on for a long time. I was reminded how deeply I care about most of them, and what an impact they each had on my life.

They are an interesting bunch, those academics. Except for a few notable jerks, they were/are lovely people. The engineers and mathematicians are less sociable with staff than humanists and social scientists are. However, the theoretical and applied "science guys" are still lovely because they are gloriously logical and conflict averse. There is little drama in those departments. I especially liked working in the Department of Mathematics. 

The humanists spent more time interacting and building relationships with the staff. However, they also tend to pull the staff into interpersonal conflicts.  It is a toss up as to what environment was best. I will say I preferred the humanities despite the emotional wear and constant drama. I guess I am a glutton for punishment, or perhaps they were simply more interesting to me.

I worked at an Ivy League research university, so the faculty's contractual duties involved teaching, research, and public service. Some of the professors are the best in the world at what they do. All of them were probably the smartest kids in their high schools. They all made top grades in college. They studied for their PhD's with icons in their respective fields. If they had an overriding fault as a group, it is that they all needed to be perceived as "smart." It needlessly stressed them out! More on that some other time.

None of them were rah rah boosters of the University. It just doesn't seem to work that way at a research university. The faculty identified with their international field first and foremost. Where they were employed was of secondary interest, as long they derived sufficient status and salary from the appointment. The central administration never quite understood that. Those bozos are business types who don't quite understand the community they serve. Actually, they may not even understand they "serve" the faculty and students.  Education was our business product, for crying out loud!

Anyway, it was interesting to be around people of such distinction and drive, because I'm not that. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Entertaining Visitors

We had visitors two weeks ago. We have visitors this week. We will have more visitors the week after next. It is an embarrassment of riches, a plethora of love, an overabundance of hilarity. But most of all, it is an excess of food and drink.

Our current visitors leave today. It has been wonderful. However, I'm stuffed to the gills and sick of food. I don't know if it is the glut of alcohol or sugar, but I am lightheaded and slightly nauseous. Of course, it could also be the fact that I keep forgetting to take my daily medications on time. Yeah, that could definitely be my problem. Let's pretend that's it, okay? Now that we have THAT figured out, I am popping the pills I should have taken 6 hours ago. Maybe I will stop eating pumpkin chocolate chip bread, too. Couldn't hurt.

People like to visit Florida, which is good for us because we like having visitors. We have this entertainment thing down pat. T makes amazing dinners and/or we go out to eat. If I make dinner for guests it will either be a stew or pasta. I like stirring the pot, you know what I mean?

Our visitors range from those who only eat french fries and chicken strips to low carb, vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, dairy free, gluten free, food allergies, and everything in between. Got a food issue? We can handle it with one arm tied behind our backs. We like a challenge.

I have a limit though. I prefer people stay no more than 3 nights, although I can manage 4 nights without losing my mind. If they stay a full week, I start hallucinating.

Not only do I forget to take my pills when I have company, I stop remembering to breathe. But I NEVER stop talking or taking pictures. I'm filled with sadness and longing for days after they leave. Sigh. I'm already looking forward to the next bunch. I hope they eat vegetables.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

All things must pass

I had company last week, and had a wonderful time.  For some reason I'm left with nothing to say.  This will pass. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

Toil and Trouble

I am reminded of a certain fairy tale, The Six Swans. In this story the princess was forced to work her fingers to the bone sewing shirts out of nettle for her six brothers.  They had been turned into swans by their (of course) evil stepmother. The princess could not speak during the duration, so she was unable to tell her father what transpired. Only by silently completing this impossible task could she free her loved ones and herself.

For six long years she toiled until she completed the onerous and painful work. There was blood, for crying out loud! There was a marriage. There was an evil (of course) mother-in-law who kept stealing the princess's new-born babies and making it look like the princess devoured them. Still, the princess could not speak to defend herself or the six brothers would be lost. Finally, at the end of six years she was sentenced to be burned to death for, ostensibly, eating her children.

Only at the last minute did she finish those shirts enough to throw them over her brothers as they flew overhead, returning them to their true shape. The last shirt wasn't entirely finished, so one brother had one wing instead of an arm. What the hell! It was the best she could do.

At the moment of deliverance, she recovered her voice. She was finally able to speak the truth. She got her brothers AND her babies back. That was the big payoff.

Call me crazy, but this reminds me of retirement. How many people at the end of their working lives, having sacrificed themselves for the betterment of their family at jobs they did not love, can relate to this fairy tale? 

Illustration by H.J. Ford

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Grandma gets tired

I picked up my 6 year old grandson from school yesterday. My daughter asked me to take him to the mall to buy plastic animals for a diorama he was making. I'm an amiable sort. I said,"Sure!" O wa ta foo lie am!

Picking N up involves parking 2 blocks from school and walking to get him. Walking back involves dodging rotten older boys on bikes and getting N to keep moving. He's inclined to stop every few steps and pick something up to stick in his pocket, or pluck flowering weeds to make a bouquet for me. He also has a mania for collecting rocks. It was raining, so he had the pleasure of wielding his own umbrella, too. No one was safe.

Halfway to the mall he decided we must play the alphabet game. This involves each of us taking turns finding the next letter of the alphabet on a passing road sign. Try dodging traffic with children's music blaring and a kid screaming "It's your turn, Grandma, find a Z!"

We went to a craft store that sells plastic animals. He was enthralled by the children's aisles, and each step was a negotiation. He knows Grandma is a sucker. He kept disappearing behind stacks of toys, only to emerge with something in hand. Then I had to wrestle him to put those things back.

I agreed to buy one kit for him to bring home. He chose an unfinished wooden train set with acrylic paint and stickers. Yes, acrylic. I didn't realize that when I bought it. I assumed any child's kit would be washable paint. Wrong. Note to self, always read the box, especially when your daughter buys her son expensive designer t-shirts. 

At check-out he announced with the cutest damn smile, "Do I look different?" Well, that's code for "I have something in my pocket you don't know about." We retraced our steps to put it back when we saw a blank puzzle board where a brilliant child could design their own puzzle with markers. I really HAD to get that. When we finally made it to the cashier he yanked a wet umbrella out of the cart. Before I could yell "Stop!" he punched the button to open it in the store. Water spurted everywhere. 

One of reasons I buy him toys he doesn't need is that he will play quietly with them in the car on the way home from the mall. 

At home I collapsed, picked up my iPad and played solitaire at a manic pace. Grandpa took N to the lanai to paint. N kept yelling for me to come out and paint with them. I played solitaire all that much faster, yelling back "Grandma needs to rest, honey." When I forced myself to go and see what transpired, he was already covered with paint. What did I care?

After a much needed shower, he dove right into the puzzle. That would have been fine, except he became bored and decide to turn the puzzle over and draw on the back, too. I tried to stop him. I shrieked "No, don't do that! You'll never know what pieces go with which side!!!" He didn't believe me. I looked the other way and played solitaire with great vigor while he finished.  

I love this kid

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Waking up without a smile

I sort out a lot in that short period of time between waking and rising. 

I have said this before, being able to enjoy the morning is perhaps the greatest joy of retirement. I find the experience evolving as I become more comfortable being less productive. It is now less a stolen pleasure and more an important part of my day. 

If I can remember my dreams, I try and pay attention to what my unconscious mind was trying to tell me during the night. Unfortunately, I don't often remember my dreams. Too bad, because they can be quite informative. If only our unconscious minds could learn to speak English instead of Symbol, right?

I am now at my most mindful and self-aware in the morning. This is a huge change from my working years when mornings were spent on autopilot. It took me at least a year to figure out what to do with my mornings in retirement. I'm getting the hang of it, but for some reason I am still not "happy" once I get out of bed in the morning. Is this because of habit, guilt, or chemical imbalance? I don't understand. I am a reasonably happy person. I just can't get get rid of the morning blues. It takes a cup of coffee or three before I let my shoulders down.

I'm curious, does anyone over 7 years old wake up feeling like a million dollars? I use 7 as the cut off point because that's when the Catholic Church decided a child reached the age of reason, and I suspect reason is what obliterates joy. Actually, I think 5 might be a better age. Kids grow up faster these days.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


I went to a psychic recently for a mediumship reading. Yes, I know that's a wacky thing to do, but it was fun and eerily accurate. The outing was my birthday present to my daughter and we went together. We figured we knew all the same dead people, so why pay for separate readings?

Many years ago, my friends and I would attend a few Spiritualist Church camp's Wednesday night readings each summer to hear what we could hear. We tried to be respectful of religious aspect of the service, but I'm afraid we were a naughty bunch of heathens looking for a good time. Still, there was always "something" said or revealed that was close enough to truth that it brought us back.

One summer night, the poet Diane Ackerman was there with a posse of loud and confident women. I heard one describe the evening as a field trip. That was how it was for my gang, too. A field trip. This is where I should include that smiley face emoji with a clenched toothed smile. 😬

I'm a staunch agnostic, so I am never convinced it is real, but I am also never convinced it isn't. I take what I can get, and I enjoy the process. When the psychic is faking or trying too hard to convince me, I smile (a little too hard) and ignore the BS. When s/he is spot on, I get big eyes and know I won't be able to sleep that night. There is usually some spine tingling accuracy thrown in to justify the payment.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Aches and Pains

I ache from gardening today. I am battling a specific flowering plant propagating via underground suckers AND volunteer seeds. It is called Mexican Petunia, a non-native perennial that was here when we bought the house. Mexican Petunia is choking out my canna lilies! This  formidable enemy will take me a long time to vanquish. I have fought this particular battle many times before with invasive plants. I am not worried. I will prevail. I know what to do. Although it is a frustrating struggle, it has to be done. Can be done. Will be done. I am sore, but that's why God invented ibuprofen, right? 

Time is the forgiving nature of gardening. One does not have to do all the maintenance at once. I take as much time as I need to get the perennial beds ready. I take longer now that I am older than when I was younger. I love getting my hands in the dirt. I love digging things up with large, impressive gardening tools and metal implements. I love cutting plants back with both large and small "cutting tools." Mmmm, "cutting tools!" I am a cold-hearted weeding machine. Bring it on!

Here's to spring, my friends. She is already here in Florida, and soon will arrive for you, too. I promise.

See - my yellow canna is being invaded by the beautiful, but greedy Mexican Petunia!