Saturday, April 03, 2010

Happy Resurrection Day!

We’re just home from a wonderful Easter vigil Mass. It was even more special than usual because Kathy was a reader, taking a part of the Exodus reading. A woman who had read at the vigil for many years (Maureen) passed away a few weeks ago, and two readers decided to leave, so I was really stuck. Kathy volunteered to read—only the second time she has ever been up there—and she did a great job.

Holy Saturday is always the day when I think about how my life, how my family, how the whole world would be different if Jesus had not existed, if He had not come, taught, died and rose. Would all our cities resemble Pottersville, from "It's a Wonderful Life", where the 'working poor' are crushed by avaricious landlords like Mr. Potter? Or would they descend into the hedonistic vision of "Back to the Future", where Biff uses the sports almanac to build a gambling empire? If we couldn't be 'good Christians', what would we be? How would we treat each other without Christ's example to emulate?

Take a look around at your world and imagine all the church spires gone, no minister to turn to in times of despair, no one to share your faith with, because you wouldn't have any to share. This is the one day when we can say "What if", and maybe come to a better appreciation of tomorrow's gift. Perhaps Easter is a better time than New Year's Eve to resolve to do better in the coming year, since it marks the beginning of our real New Year, our acceptance of salvation.How would your life be different without Easter?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Poker night

Seven year old Max came over on Tuesday, which is getting to be poker night, since that’s what we’ve been doing lately with him. Before the big game, though, he had some of Nana’s famous mac n cheese. We shut off the TV to visit, and I asked him about school. He was typically noncommittal, though he did talk to two girls in his class, Krista and Katerina.

He started talking about those hand buzzers that kids use to shock each other, and how one might be built. His dad cautioned him strongly about playing with electricity, but asked him, theoretically, how he might go about making such a thing. Max surprised us all by saying, “I have a diagram in my pocket.” Sure enough, there it was: an exploded view of a buzzer, complete with “battery holder” and “copper wire”. Shane said it looked like the kid version of the Anarchist’s Handbook.

Nana was the big winner in poker, taking the “all in” hand at the end.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Look who's 60

Today is my 60th birthday. I’ve come to terms with it. It was a little rough for the past year or so leading up to it, as I thought about what it might mean. Growing up, anyone who was 60 was really old! I remember that 50 kind of felt good. 60 is not much different, though I might be creaking a little more than I did ten years ago.

I’m fresh from my birthday dinner with the in-laws. We tried a place that none of us had ever been to before. It bills itself as “comfort food with a twist”. We had a nice time with great food—one brother in law even cleaned his plate of his chicken parm, and the other liked his steak. I had lamb chops and discovered that I really don’t care for lamb chops, but I could see where they were going with it.

Everything was going along just fine until the checks came. There were errors on all three of them. Ours was correct the second time (we wound up owing more). Kathy and I left, though, while the others waited for their checks to be corrected for the third time. Too bad. We were thinking of returning there some time.

I spend the day doing things I like to do: I got a haircut, and walking back from the barber, I saw a pretty girl in a red Corvette stuck in the snow across the street from our house. What to do? I got a board and some carpeting from our garage and went to the rescue. Later I went to Borders and got a book on the photo software I use, and wandered aimlessly around the store for a while. So it was pretty much a perfect day.

As long as I keep up with walking the dog a few miles a day, swimming and weight training, I should be able to keep age at bay. After all, isn’t 60 the new 40?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Memories of Maureen

One of our friends from church, a woman named Maureen, died a couple of weeks ago. We think she had pancreatic cancer, since she went so fast. Two weeks before she died, she was in church, telling us how she was having a hard time with her treatments, with blood counts so low that they couldn’t even administer the treatments. She went into the hospice which is just up the hill from our house. I went to see her one day, but I yielded my time to a couple of ladies who had driven over from the east side to see her. They used to teach with her. Turns out I should have just gone up with them, since on that day she was lucid, talking to visitors, but by the next day, when I finally got back there, she was just sleeping.

I was fortunate to be invited to do the readings at her funeral, since her two adult children said they would not be able to get through it. The night after she died I was in her house, planning the liturgy with her husband and the priest who was going to help with the Mass. Her kids traded stories about their mom while the five grandchildren meandered, crawled and otherwise orbited the table where we grownups sat.

Maureen and her mom (who passed away two years ago) had a standing hair appointment every Thursday. Sometimes the kids would go with them. Her daughter said it was a wonder they didn’t develop lung disease, since the women would get into the car after the appointment and pull cans of hairspray out from under their seats and liberally spray their hair, locking it into place. The kids could (and did) bounce wadded up paper off their mother’s hair helmet.

One time when Maureen and her husband John were in Las Vegas, the hair appointment loomed large when, at the airport gate, the agent announced that they needed two people to give up their seats for some VIP’s who needed to fly out that night. They offered a sweet deal: two $500 ticket vouchers, transportation to a hotel, dinner that night, and first class seats back home on the following day. John wanted to grab it, and Maureen said no—she had to get to her hairdressers the next day! Once on the plane, John couldn’t help himself, “I hope you enjoy your $1,000 hair appointment,” he scowled.

We gave her a nice sendoff, with trumpets and a tympani and some great hymns.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

If you lived in the 60's

We just finished a heck of a cold snap here, with temperatures staying in the teens for the last week. The other day the wind was whipping through town as a front came through, but then things calmed down. Fortunately, Tank and I did not have to contend with much wind on our walks. I did keep it short, though, since he doesn’t have a very thick coat.

I took him for a bath again on Saturday, this time just the two of us went. I had reserved the shower room at the dog wash place. We have the routine down pretty well now. They give you about a half gallon of shampoo and they expect you to use it all. I applied his medicinal shampoo after the oatmeal mix they give you, so he is super clean right now. His coat is repairing itself well , such that unless you know where to look, you can’t see the former bare spots. Later, I cleaned his ears and brushed his teeth, so he’s ready for his close-up.

My goals at work on Friday were a) Leave early, b) Get my email cleaned up and c) Get control of my desk. I accomplished all three, but not in that order. Ever since the Great Flood, I’ve felt out of control, with papers strewn everywhere. Fortunately, most of what I found had already been handled and could safely be recycled. I got my email down to about two inches worth of screen.

Grandson Max stopped over on Saturday for a visit for a couple of hours. Max discovered a Lego set that had never been touched—I think he took it with him. He did goof around with a some pieces of something for a while, then he and I watched cartoons while he had a lunch-snack. We watched something called “The Kids Next Door”. After a while I thought the show was getting a little out of hand and I remarked, “I wonder if we should be watching this…” and Max responded by saying, “It’s OK. It’s funny violence—like Tom and Jerry.”

On Saturday night, we all went to Bonefish for my brother in law's 60th birthday celebration. The waiter wasn’t the sharpest, it was crowded, we had a crappy table, but we still managed to have a good time. My contribution to his birthday booty was a CD of Procol Haram, a group from the 60’s that he liked. It was interesting talking to a twenty something sales clerk in a music store, trying to explain what I was looking for. His manager wasn’t any more hip, as he confused the group’s big hit “Whiter Shade of Pale” with Simon and Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade of Winter”. Jeez—where do they find these people? I told daughter Ann this story and she said, Oh yeah—the Bangles’ song. No—you have to go back a little further.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Woo-hoo! Burning through a four day weekend

Four day weekends are the way to go. Kathy and I both took Friday off last week, and I had MLK Day off. We had a nice day on Friday since it had stopped snowing and warmed up a little bit. We ran errands, went grocery shopping and then went out to lunch at Outback.

One highlight of the errands was taking Tank for a bath at the dog wash. This time we used the shower room and it went much more smoothly. Kathy was there this time, though she practically had an anxiety attack over the prospect of bathing the beast. He behaved quite well and stood patiently while we worked him over with an oatmeal shampoo and then his medicated stuff. He was unperturbed by the all the yap dogs that surrounded him.

I kind of treated Saturday as a work day, though, since I was working on staff evaluations. There is a new on line way to do those things now that is supposed to be “easier”, “faster” and “more convenient”, but I think that just applies to the people in HR. I was so frustrated and infuriated by the new system. At first, every time I tried to open the instruction page, it would freeze my computer. I called the help line at work and of course then it miraculously started to work.

My plan was to do all my evaluations (I have five to do) and then tell the staff to do their part of the evals. I finally figured out that I cannot do theirs until they do theirs, even though the instructions don’t come out and say that directly. So I printed out the version the system uses and then wrote out as much of the evaluations as I could without using the computer. In the end, I was only able to do half of the work. I can’t access the rest of the work until the staff fills in their part of the forms.
The person who is resigning—Sharon, the one who works with the College of Education who broke her arm January 4—was the easiest to write. I just gave her all the highest marks, and wrote glowing things about her, and she deserves it. I really have some good people working for me. They typically don’t cause trouble and do their work well.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Water, water everywhere

We had another bunch of snow this week, such that I was clearing the driveway each night and then the next morning. On Friday they were promising 4-8 inches of lake effect snow, but it never materialized. I felt cheated.

This weekend it’s sort of cold, but the sun came out brilliantly on Saturday afternoon, prompting me to wear sunglasses when I walked Tank. He loves the snow, incidentally. He’ll throw himself into the deepest drift he can find, and enjoys snapping up mouthfuls of the stuff as we walk along. I told him he might find a chewey surprise left by another of his species if he keeps that up, but he was undeterred.

In other news, we had a flood in the office this week. On Monday we noticed water coming under the door of an equipment room where electrical and heating equipment is housed. The water kept coming until about half our space was covered with it. Several offices had soggy carpeting, the whole career library floor was soaked. It even started moving into our storage room. The housekeeping people came with all their equipment and sucked up all the water, shampooed the carpets and left by 2pm.

They had just left when a pipe snapped in my own personal office, and brown yucky water poured out, flooding the floor and moving into the space outside my door. Now, you must understand that the floor is part of my filing system. Anything on the carpet was soaked, but fortunately, I don’t keep very important stuff down there.

So we called the cleaning people back, and they sucked out the water and treated the carpet with antimicrobial solutions and then left. The carpet was still very stinky, though, so I called them back to redo it. We’ll see how it is on Monday morning, but when I left on Friday, it wasn’t too bad. Someone else’s office that, didn’t even have as much water as I did, had an awful stench on Friday.

It’s all an academic exercise until it’s your own office that is involved. I moved all my furniture out including a big filing cabinet and couch, along with two small filing cabinets and all my chairs. All that is in there is a bookcase and my desk, which is covered with junk that belongs in drawers somewhere. Or on the floor in my filing system. The building engineers have to come back and check their repairs before I can put my space back together again. Every time I look for something, it’s in the hallway somewhere.

Turns out the University thought they could save money by turning off the heat over the winter break. The result was that the water pipe that supplies the sprinkler system froze and broke. My boss had a geranium cutting in a Cool Whip bowl of water in his office sitting on the radiator. The bowl was frozen solid.