Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday dinner madness...

Holidays.

The way it's supposed to work is that family gets together and has a nice meal and all is well.

Right?

Wrong.

Holidays are that special time of year when mom has to remind--no, wait--beg--everyone to be on their best behavior, which of course in reality, never happens.

There are many personalities at the family dinner. Take for example the relative who tells the most inappropriate jokes at the table during dinner and the family member sitting across from that person who is slowly sliding down her chair and onto the floor all the while saying PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT FINISH THAT PUNCH LINE. In the meantime once the punch line is actually uttered, there's the family member who laughs hysterically at the joke while everyone else is busy picking their collective jaws up off their laps. There's the family member who sits at the table forcing his opinion on everyone else while his spouse rolls her eyes, gives the evil eye and jabs said person in the ribs which is not supposed to be noticed but always is. There's the matronly one aka grandmother aka martyr who insists that she have no ice in her drink and take the smallest portion of everything which by the way consists of any food that is burned or overcooked or an "end piece."  To round things out we have the teller-of-tall-tales whose stories get more outrageous with every family dinner and finally (drum roll please), there's the relative who has an alarm clock in her colon that tells her when the dishes are ready to be cleared so she can make a run for the bathroom.

And of course I wouldn't know a thing about this kind of family dinner, now would I?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Our experiences make us who we are...

We are the products of our experiences, they make us who we are. The sum total of our life is wrapped up in these experiences and we should be thankful we've had them. These life experiences include people, people whose words or actions have impacted our lives in a variety of ways. I am for the most part, a people person. While there are times I enjoy seclusion, there are also times I need people. I love to talk, discuss and debate, and hear other people's stories.  I love to hear the life stories of people older than me in the hopes that I can learn something from them and I love to share my life experiences with those younger than me, in the hopes that they can learn something from me.

Throughout the course of my life I have met a variety of people from all walks of life. Never at the moment of meeting them did I understand the importance they had in my life. It was only later when I reflected on the experience of knowing them did I realize how truly blessed I was to have known them.

The high school teacher who took the time to counsel me when I felt the fear of peer pressure.

The high school friend who, after years not having been in touch, returned to my life and has blessed it greatly with her presence.

The Baptist minister who I'd never met, but after being asked by a friend, offered to conduct the service at my father's funeral.

The woman who managed the dive shop who after a two-hour conversation talked me into leaving the city I was living in and moving back home where I could be near people who cared about me.

The friend who, knowing all the stupid things I'd done in my past, saw I was going to repeat certain mistakes and advised me against it yet when I did repeat them she was there for me through it all.

The mom who, as we both get older, seems to see only the good things in me and none of the faults. 

The Sales & Marketing Director who hired me with no experience just because she liked my spunk and admired my military service.
 
The former professional equestrian who has become my friend and makes me smile and offers hugs and kindness every day.

The coworker turned friend who lends his ear to me because he cares and because we think alike and he thinks of me as part of his own family.

The actress and comedienne who befriended me and makes me laugh and challenges me with good debates and discussion every day. 

The nurse practitioner who, no matter how busy she is, always takes the time to listen to me when I tell her "I know something just isn't right with me."

The graduate student who, no matter how busy she is, always makes time to come by my office to strike up a friendly chat and ask me how my day is going.

The company commander in boot camp who got right up in my face and told me he was not letting me give up or give in.

The manager of what was once my favorite clothing store, who, whenever I went in there, struck up a conversation with me and made me smile. 

The former professor turned good friend who takes the time to write to me all the time and praises me, advises me, and encourages me to be the best I can be and never give up on my dreams.

The writer who, having made a highly successful film about his life, has become my friend and continues to inspire me and my writing to this very day.

The old friend from elementary school who makes me smile when we talk about the good old days as young children.

I am thankful for all the people I have met along the way who have been a part of my life. Though it would be easy to say I got where I am all by myself, it would not be true.  The people I have met and the experiences have shaped my past and they shape my present and future and I am forever grateful for them.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turning point...

I don't mind saying things other people are afraid to say. I used to be afraid of what people might think but then I realized for every person who does not understand where I am coming from, there is someone who does. It is important for me to speak my mind not just for me but for all those out there who can't or won't. The most important reason though really is for me to be able to get things out and try and make sense of them.

I am not a happy person.

I am not a sad person.

I just am.

Am what?

I don't know.

That's why I'm here.

There are times I want to leave the life I have behind and search for something else, something more fulfilling. I am not saying the grass is greener on the other side and I am not saying I'm packing my bags tomorrow. It's just that I feel the need to explore, really live life, find out what my purpose is and why I'm here. There are times I want to put in my notice at work, pack my clothes, some money and say goodbye to the husband, the cats, the job, mom, grams, and my friends. This doesn't mean I don't care about the people around me, I do. And let me just say very firmly, the problem isn't them, it's me. 

I am regarded by my family and friends as an excellent problem-solver. This time though the problem is me which makes the process of solving much more difficult. One of the reasons I write is because it helps me think through my problems and so this is just a step in that process. I don't expect the answers to appear overnight but at least what I am doing here is a start.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Reflecting...

When I was a child, I felt there was something simply magical about this time of year. When the leaves began to change from deep green to burnt orange, red, and yellow and when the weather cooled, I felt invigorated and happy. Of course like any other child I also looked forward to the perks of the holiday season like time off from school, visiting relatives, big family dinners, cold weather, putting up the Christmas tree and playing outdoors.

As an adult, I still feel reinvigorated when this time of the year approaches but now I spend this time reflecting upon my life and its meaning. It is a process that I do best alone. By alone I mean I don't talk about it, rather I write about it because it is just easier for me to convey my thoughts in writing. If I had to actually verbalize my thoughts in this matter, I would make a mess of it and sound like an idiot.  As fun as that sounds I think I'll pass for now.  Time to get back to my thinking...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The phone conversation went something like this...


Mom: What can I say? I'm just not a morning person.

Me: Nope, you definitely are not. In fact, well let me just say this...we used to hate it when you got up in the mornings!

Mom:  Why?

Me: Because you were so GRUMPY! Those first few hours were hell for us.

Mom: Your father used to say that.

Me: Well he definitely knew what he was talking about. He wasn't like that. He was always happy-go-lucky!

Mom: I don't know why I was like that. I had three kids, a lot of stress.

Me: Yeah ok. Since I can say this now and get away with it may I say,"mom you were a real bitch in the mornings! And since Kim [sis] was like that too, you have no idea what it was like growing up with you both like that in the same house every morning! [LOL]

Mom: Was I that bad?  I'm so sorry.

Me: Oh now you apologize? [LOL]

Mom: I had a  lot going on back then when you guys were kids.

Me: Oh Please! [LOL] you were like that even when we weren't kids. Hell, we were all grown up and moved out and you were still that way. Dad used to say "Oh God your mother's up!" [LOL] When I was living there as an adult with you guys, dad and I would make sure we cleared the house before you woke up because we knew when you got up man you would be bitching for hours. [LOL]

Mom: I'm sorry. [LOL]

Me: Oh it's ok, I look at it this way, it was like a really bad horror movie, like the Exorcist. All you needed was some pea soup and the ability to turn your head 360 degrees...well ok all you needed was some pea soup. You had the other one down pretty good. [LOL]

Mom: Your poor father, he's probably up there [heaven] laughing right now.

Me: Oh yeah he is but he was used to it after 43 years. [LOL]



It's nice when you get to an age when, after all the crap you put your mother through in your youth, you can pick on her and she apologizes! Mom was a good sport and took it all in stride, as always.   :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

A small act of kindness goes a long way.

I was rather busy at work today and being a Tuesday, I was trying to get some major projects completed before leaving for my two-hour Journalism lecture which breaks my day in half and eats into my productivity!

In the midst of advising one of my grad students shortly before class, another student walked into my office just to give me a great big hug! It made my day. Truth be told, we're like one big happy completely dysfunctional family and I mean dysfunctional in a good way!  They know my moods, they know when I'm going insane, they know when I'm stressed. And they always have a kind word, a joke, or a hug. I am so thankful to know them and be a part of their lives!

We have over 100 grad students, most of them from the US, but some others from countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, China, Korea, Greece, Mexico, Albania, Haiti, Colombia, Honduras, Ecuador, South Africa, India, and Bulgaria. I have learned so much from them. Some of the most fascinating conversations I've had have been with them.  I don't think I've ever met a nicer group of young people ever.

This part of my life has been a fantastic journey and the experience of having known them will stay with me forever, having changed me in ways I never thought possible. Actually I believe they have been a small part of what has inspired me to be a better person and for that I am thankful.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Contemplating Generation X

As the children of the Baby Boomers and grandchildren of the Greatest Generation, Generation X (the "X" symbolizing the absence of a specific generational cause or purpose) was born with big shoes to fill. If Gen Xers have ever felt a nagging sense of purpose, wondering what their contribution to history should have been, that comes as no surprise. After all, their grandparents saved America and the world from Fascism and Nazism in the 1940's and their parents were idealistic revolutionaries and catalysts of political and social change in the 1960's and 70's. In comparison to those incredible accomplishments, surely the generation to follow had some great feat awaiting them. However, looking back, what has Generation X done? What contributions have they made? What defines them?

In the case of Gen Xers perhaps their identity is not so much tied to any historical contribution or accomplishment as much as it is the shared culture and experiences of their youth. Aging generations often believe that life was better and simpler in the past than in the present. Considering the increased pace at which America has progressed in the past several years, it is natural for Gen Xers to believe themselves the last to enjoy the good old days. They were the last to experience a type of American culture that no longer exists and will never exist again. Besides, does anyone really believe that Generation Y (also known as the Millenials) will look back upon 2010 with the same fond memories?

Every generation has their moment in the sun, when they hold the reigns. Right now it is the Boomers but as they head into the golden years, their children await their turn. As that happens, it may not be too far fetched to believe that the Gen Xers, closing in on 50, will still have an opportunity to make their mark on history. Perhaps what will come to define them will not be merely a shared culture of their youth but their accomplishments in later years, or even better and more significantly, the journey in-between.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lessons from friendship...

I have a friend who is going through a very rough debilitating illness. It gets progressively worse, there is no cure, and someday it will end her life. The pain of this illness has sucked her into a great depression. She has her good days and bad days though the bad days seem to take over more often now. To see pictures of her you would not guess she is so sick, that's because she always seems to have a smile on her face. Two things seem to put that great smile on her face--her children and horses.

Nothing I say or do can take away her pain and that is difficult for me because I have always been a person who wants to ease other people's suffering. I want to make them feel better. In this case, what can I do? I can be her friend, listen to her, reassure her, and just be there for her when she needs me.

As I get older I learn more from my life experiences and the people I meet. My hope is that through my experiences I become a better person. I feel that there is a great lesson to be learned from my friend, something about appreciating life, friendship, and dealing with pain. I'm not afraid to say that I don't appreciate life as much as I should. I know I am not the only one either. I am also quite sure I do not put into it and get out of it what my friend has even in all her pain.  I can't believe I'm about to use a TV metaphor to explain this but... "Dying changes everything"... is basically true.  It changes how you look at life, how you handle everything from the moment you find out that it's happening to you.


My friend and I are the same age, less than two months apart. I think about how much pain she is in,  how she has everything to live for. She really appreciates life and so desperately wants to hold on to all the wonderful things she has and live as normal a life as possible. Then I think about myself and how I am still trying to figure out how to live my life and enjoy it. I try but I'm still not there. You know how you can look at a picture of someone smiling and you can see how much they absolutely love their life, all in that one smile? I want to be that person. I just don't know how to get there. What does it take? When do we figure it out? Do we really ever get it?

And so the lesson continues...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

“We should expect and depend on affluent people to pay the bills”

....that was the quote of Alachua County Commissioner Paula Delaney at a swearing-in ceremony of a fellow commissioner. Delaney turned what was supposed to be a happy ceremony into her own political soapbox. She began the argument that lowering property tax bills would harm the poor people in Alachua County who depend on government programs.

Politicians say the stupidest things at the most inappropriate moments, don't they?

I can go along with social programs, there are some we need and without them, those who benefit would be an even greater burden on society. But seriously, to use what was intended to be a joyous celebration to jump on one's political soapbox and to insult people in the community who have worked hard and been able to accumulate some financial success, is just completely stupid .

We ALL have a responsibility to our community and our country. It is just wrong for one segment of the population to carry the rest.

I could say a lot more here but just thinking about this just makes me angry. So let's just leave it at "Paula Delaney is an idiot" and move on.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Because I like to do things right the first time LOL

So there I was telling my friend Alexis today how if you're going to go to jail, you need to make it for a really good reason. I mean don't be a weenie and go to jail for something minor. Can you imagine telling the other inmates "I'm here because I didn't pay my parking tickets?"  I don't think so. No, no it's got to be BIG, I mean something that makes the time incarcerated worth it. I figure that with all the skateboarders, pedestrians & cyclists on campus, it's open season especially on those idiots who never bother to look either way before crossing the street in front of traffic. 

Yep, the way I see it, if I'm going down, it's not going to be for just one measly little skateboarder. Oh no,  if I'm going down I'm taking a half dozen or so of them with me. Just head down Museum Road going the speed limit which is 20mph, I could easily take 'em out.

That would at least show my cellmates I don't mess around, ya think? If I do something, I damn well do it right the first time :D

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Last Friday while moving furniture out of my office in preparation for renovations, I inadvertently left an item on a file cabinet in the hallway. I never saw it again. The item was a Star Wars light saber my mother gave me for my 40th birthday last year. That was a special birthday, not just because I turned 40 but it was the first birthday since my dad died and to brighten the mood, I celebrated with family and friends. Mom gave me this unusual gift because one stressful day at work I remarked that I wished I had a light saber so that I could wield it and make things at work go my way. Little did I know how popular that saber would be in my Department. The fabulous blue neon light and cool sounds made it a great conversation piece among faculty, staff and students.

Sadly, this is just one of many thefts from University departments in recent years. Office equipment and personal items have disappeared from private offices by thieves working quickly and quietly. It would be nice to be able to leave one’s office to walk to the water fountain or coworker’s office down the hall without the worry that someone might steal you blind. But alas, it is not so.

By now my birthday gift likely adorns a wall in an apartment, dorm or fraternity. To the thief, I say enjoy! Maybe someday if you’re lucky, it will happen to you. 

Monday, November 08, 2010

Well, they didn't just walk off by themselves...or maybe they did.

How difficult can it be to figure out who cut and removed the phone lines in an office suite?

Consider the mystery which took place at an institution of higher education recently. A renovation is taking place. In one week, one half of the hallway (renovation #1) is to have its offices renovated and in the following week, the other half of the hallway (renovation #2) is to have its offices completed.

On Friday and in preparation for renovation #1, the individuals who occupy the office suite move out so it can be renovated. There are three phases of renovation. First, the carpeting/tile and asbestos underneath must be removed. Second the flooring contractor lays the wood floor. Third, the individuals who work in the suite will paint on their own offices. Takes about a week to complete.

After the wood flooring is installed (one week after the move out), one of the individuals who works in the suite begins the painting. It is at point she realizes that somewhere between phase one and three (one week) the phone cables were completely removed from the three offices in the suite. Someone pulled them out through the ceiling. Not only that, but the end of one of the cables was found in one of the offices, just laying on the windowsill. The phone it was connected was found in the cabinet in that office with the phone cord neatly wrapped around it.

And so began the saga of trying to figure out who cut and removed the lines. Was it the asbestos abatement contractor? The flooring contractor? Telecommunications? Or was it the cable network systems people who were contracted to run some cable in the GIS lab on our floor?

The asbestos abatement team denied cutting/removing any lines. Then the flooring contractor denied doing so. That left the cable guys. But they didn't do it either. Their work order was ONLY for the lab on our floor, down the hall from the suite, which is owned by another academic department. Frustrated, calls were made to the project manager in charge of getting the crews in and out to do the work. He had no idea what happened, he did not authorize it. Calls were made to the telecommunications department on campus in case they were doing any work in the building. They had no knowledge of it. They suggested calling the information technology guys on campus who may be running new cable. And of course they had no idea what was going on but were sure it wasn't them. It was beginning to become a nightmare just trying to figure out WHO cut and removed the wires. Two dozen phone calls were made with all the individuals saying "We didn't do it, call so and so"

Finally to help the people who work in the suite, the guys from the cable network service who were running cable in and out of the GIS lab came back in and offered to run some cable into the suite to get phone service. But they can't actually connect it, no the telecom installation guys have to do that. Ahh but that is going to cost someone. Who will pay for it? The department? They did not do it. The asbestos contractor? They did not do it. The flooring contractor? They did not do it. The cable guys? Nope. After hours on the phone it is still impossible to determine who did this dastardly deed and nobody is sure who is going to pay to have the lines reinstalled. And be assured that whenever there's a state run institution involved in anything, there's never a simple solution to any problem. The truth of the matter is that two people in the same department in some areas of these institutions can have absolutely no idea what each other is doing. But I'm quite sure you are not surprised.

And just when you thought this was the end, there's more.

A few days later, one of the offices at the end of the hall which was renovated at the same time as the office suite, was found to have both phone cables still hanging along the wall, with one exception...their ends had been severed. So now they have no phone service either.

At the very moment I was told about the phone lines being severed in this latest office, I heard a noise down the hall. It was very distinctive and familiar. It was the sound of a very sharp flat metal object scraping something. Yep, it was the asbestos guys down the hall removing the tile from the floor with those very shovels. Which leads me to wonder...considering the cables hang in corner of the office, did they, instead of taping the cords up to the wall, simply leave them on the floor, cutting them while shoveling up the tile?

Hmm...

Except this one mystery still lingers: Where did the cables go in the suite? Those cables were not only cut but completely disappeared and were pulled through the ceiling never to be seen again.

Considering that the left and right hands in some areas of said institution have no idea who is doing "what" and when "what" is being done, everyone is probably better just now knowing, although, at a place like this, it is actually easier (not to mention less stressful) to believe the cables just cut and removed themselves than to believe this problem will be solved quickly and efficiently.

And oh by the way, so far renovation #2 is underway and the cables have not decided to vanish. But I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Do not go gentle into that good night

I do not know why it came to me suddenly, one of my favorite poems.  The author begs, pleads his father not to let death take him easy. He knows his father must go but he wants him to fight it with every fiber of his being. Fight for that last breath, that last word, that last sight and sound, that last moment of life before the light extinguishes forever. It is an incredible poem with such power and meaning.  I have always taken great comfort in reading the words, though I am not sure why. They are somewhat reassuring, at least to me.


"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning
They do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight
And learn too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you my my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

-Dylan Thomas

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Best candidate vs. Lesser of two evils

So...the Republicans took the House and the Democrats have the Senate. That's the kind of balance of power I like to see. With the big turnover, it might be safe to say "the people have spoken."   But there's something bothering me about that. How many votes yesterday were for the best candidate and how many were for the lesser of two evils

How many people were elected yesterday simply because the other major party candidate was in their minds, a worse choice? How many people cast a vote for someone they didn't truly believe in just because they felt they had to do everything possible to keep the other guy out? I used to do that and then I realized that voting for someone I had no confidence in just to be sure the other guy didn't get elected was the same as throwing my vote away. I couldn't live with that.  If neither of the two major party candidates is the best one for the job then I vote for another candidate who I feel is better suited. My die-hard Republican friends tell me a vote for the third party is like a vote for the Democrats. That may be true but at least my conscience is clear. In the mad attempt to do anything and everything necessary to make sure the other guy doesn't get elected, I feel like we've lost sight of the real meaning of the vote.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

And now for last night's dream

I had a strange dream last night. Or rather two strange dreams that ran together.

In the first dream I'm at my parents house and they weren't home. I was living there with them, in my old room. They had an old washer/dryer set and a new set and I was using one set and trying to move the other out of their utility room which I couldn't do by myself.  I think mom was away visiting dad in the hospital. I have lots of dreams like that where mom is on a trip visiting dad who isn't dead but in a hospital. And I have dreams too that he comes home from his hospital stays and he's just fine. And we're like "hey you're not dead after all." Anyway........I don't remember much from that first dream. But the second one? Oh crap. It was even stranger. 

In the second dream, somehow I was zapped away to another place by some company who needed me to help a crew finish building the death star--yeah the REAL Death Star. I am NOT kidding. And no, I was not on any drugs!  Anyway, I was zapped into another world, with people just like me. We were wearing uniforms, different colors for different teams. We slept in rooms that looked like the inside of a military barracks. We had to put our shoes under our bed in a certain way, and we had to wear certain things on our uniforms that designate what team we were on or how long we were there. I spent an awful lot of time trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing.  It was a very bad and rough place. Like a prison.

I had not had the chance to tell anyone where I was of course, I had been zapped away that quick. I did find out we were allowed to make very short phone calls so I was able to make a call home to mom and dad. I talked to both of them and told them I did not have much time on the phone (only a few minutes). I could NOT get a hold of DH. He was living at grams house and I kept calling there but he was outside doing something and would not go in and pick up the phone. I was running out of time. I had to let him know where I was. I was desperate. I didn't get through to him, but someone got him a message because when I hung up the phone I saw this text message in red on a board above the phones from DH stating in so many words he knew where I was and that I hadn't just walked off and not told anyone. Don't know how he got the text message through but I felt better that he knew. I had been anxious to let him and my family know where I was. In this dream I was trying to find my uniform, the correct one I was supposed to wear. I remember walking around with no clothes in an attempt to find my uniform. Gosh I hated that part LOL. I needed a uniform, shoes, suspenders, stuff like that. And we were watched ALL the time.  And the guards who watched us were not very nice to us. We had to watch what we said or else.

Lots of other stuff in the dreams. Little filler stuff that I can remember but don't know how to put into words so I'll have to skip for now.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Women make up 50% of the US population but only 17% of Congress

In light of the upcoming elections I've been pondering something. Women make up an estimated 50.7% of this nation's population but their representation in Congress is a mere 17%. Why is that? Why are there not more women in the US Congress?  Surely there are qualified women in this country who can beat the incumbent males, no?

So the question is...why? Why aren't there more women? What prevents us from running for Congress?

Think about it, half the population of this country is terribly underrepresented in Congress--the people's seat! Now what are we going to do about it?