Saturday, August 30, 2008

Blue Angels and one not so blue

Imagine—it’s the end of August already. Winter should fly so fast. This past week was the first week of classes at the U. As usual, I worked the Welcome Table in front of my building on Monday and Tuesday from 7m-9am. In the past we had two people at a table, but this year for some reason, they had trouble finding people willing to work them. I like to do it because it’s fun helping new students find their way around and answering their questions. I wound up working alone both times, but that’s OK. On Monday I was so busy I handed out hundreds of logo'd planners and pencils and pens and keychains—hardly had time to get the table set up when people started streaming by.

It was noisy work, since there is a huge construction pit right in front of the building, with five excavators hammering on old concrete, loading up old rebar, and generally roaring around without let up. They tore down the old student center and will open a new one in about year and a half. The wing of our building where the Career Services Center sits has been shuddering since the beginning of July, since we all seem to be sitting on the same concrete pad as the demolished building.

On Thursday and Friday last week we had the Blue Angels streaking around the city at practically tree top level, practicing for the Cleveland Air Show that’s held every Labor Day weekend. We had a great view from my office, as the planes zipped by in formation, climbing into the sky, disappearing and then roared in from a completely different direction.

I had my last physical therapy appointment last week, and I wanted to do something for my therapist, so I asked one of the aides what she liked and learned that chocolate would be a good thing. Kathy and I drove out to the only mall with a Godiva store and I bought a good sized box for Laura the therapist and a smaller one that she could use to share with the other people at the clinic. I also bought her some swim goggles that I thought she could use. When I arrived for my appointment, she wasn’t’ there yet, so I was able to stash the duffel bag with the goodies in it in a closet without being observed. After the appointment—during which we really worked hard by the way—I made my presentation. I told her that I had been treated by five orthopedic surgeons, five physical therapists, three emergency room doctor s and my own doctor, but she was the only one out of all those people to take the time to diagnose me properly and find the source of my problem and fix it. I think she was touched—she was mostly excited about the goggles, I think. Then she went to the computer and told me that there are still three more sessions.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

HHH-Hot Hazy Humid

Still no rain this week. The lawn, such as it is, has browned up nicely and those odd weeds that thrive in drought have popped up here and there, the kind that make you think you should mow the grass just for the sake of cutting those weeds. Each day for the past two weeks we’ve pulled into our street wondering if the tree surgeon had come to slice and dice our big evergreen out front, half expecting to see a pile of pine rubble where the monster once stood. So far, the tree still stands, heedless of its fate.

In the backyard, most of the pansies have withered away, sun loving though they maybe, they still require a modicum of water that must now come from the hose, if I can stir myself to go out and sprinkle them at all. The dogwood leaves look ready to fall, discolored by drought, though I do dump some water on it every couple of days. Meanwhile, we are ensconced in air conditioned comfort keeping the August heat and humidity at bay.

Six year old Max was trying out a new word this week. I was sitting with ice on my knee and he looked over and said, “I would be pleasured to bring you more ice when that one wears out.” I knew what he meant, though. Later, when he was headed home, Nana Kathy thanked him for doing something, and he replied, “It was my pleasure!” On Saturday we went to an early soccer game to watch him play and got there a little late. It was already hot by 10am and Max was in no mood to race around a soccer field. He sat out the third quarter and reluctantly agreed to play goalie for the final stanza (as the sports writers say). No threat to his team’s unblemished record as most of the action as always was at the other end of the field. Just as well as Max managed to get a good dust storm going at his end, kicking dirt and ignoring the game.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Summer musings

What happened to summer? It’s still warm, but cool nights have moved in, as they do during August. The days are dry and sunny, the nights comfortable for sleeping—don’t even need the air conditioning anymore.

I sat on the back deck and watched the moon rise the other night. The breeze had quieted. The first star came out. OK, it was probably a planet, but still. The crickets were ratcheting up their calls, some other insistent insect was buzzing, not doubt looking for some bug-love. Fireflies soared and swooped. First here, then there, then gone again.

Crickets used to make me feel a little ill. Sick to my stomach, marking as they do the waning days of summer and warning of the start of another school year. This was back when I taught high school. I dreaded going back, but then I got there and it was pretty much OK. Now it still means the start of another school year, but I love my teaching now, though I’m more often training other people to teach the courses I write.

Maybe January, February and March will go by just as fast as June, July and August seem to.

There is a blue spruce in the front yard that my mom and wife bought for our “new house” 28 years ago. It was a little stick that almost didn’t survive its first winter. Now it’s probably forty feet high and takes up half the front yard. I just signed the contract to have it cut down. The guy will be out in the next couple of weeks. My neighbor has been really good about it, but he’s mentioned that guests parking in his driveway can’t even get out of their cars on that side. We already know it’s impossible to see down the street when we pull out of the driveway. Are we rationalizing?

I’m a tree guy. I planted another blue spruce in our postage stamp back yard and keep it trimmed so it won’t take over the landscape completely. (You know it never occurred to me to trim the doomed one in the front yard.) There is a pink dogwood that we call our anniversary tree back there too. It flowers each year on our wedding anniversary. The birds planted two maple trees by the back fence and I’ve let them grow. The goal is to have them drop leaves in the back neighbor’s pool someday.

All this is to say I’d rather keep the tree, but I will replace it with maybe a river birch to dress up the front yard. Something that won’t completely block our vision or annoy our neighbor to the east.

Every prom photo and graduation portrait featured that tree in the background. One of grandson Max’s first “jobs” was collecting its pine cones one spring day. Generations of birds have made their homes in it. The lawnmower has been bouncing over its roots for years.

Being on the north side, it probably won’t affect the amount of light in our living room, but it will certainly open a vista long hidden: that of the neighbors’ houses across the street. We kind of liked the privacy it afforded us. No reason to buy fancy curtains if no one can see them, either.

It will be different here once it’s gone, but I think it will be a good thing. We won’t have so many close calls with people driving down the street, we won’t have to worry about it blowing over in a storm. But still, visitors will not have that landmark tree to help them find our house (“Just look for the big blue spruce. That’s us.”)

So the tree is coming down, summer is winding down, school is cranking up and pretty soon we’ll be carving pumpkins and sending out Christmas cards.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

So where have I been?

So where have I been? In that city with the Gateway arch for a professional conference. I hadn’t been there for twelve years. Since I spent five days in the hotel without venturing out, I’m glad I did some touristy things twelve years ago—things like going up inside the arch to see the view. OK, we did go out one night for dinner, but that was in taxis and didn’t really count.

We had some interesting speakers including Bill Rancic, who apparently was the first winner in the TV show “The Apprentice”. I didn’t know who he was, but I guess he brought a little star power to our group. He told some funny stories about how he got into business and a little about the TV show. No great earth shattering insights, just some thoughts about bringing different strategies to different problem solving situations and the importance of setting goals.

Different people have talked to us abut Generation X and the Millenials and their different characteristics and how they think and what they want from a career, that sort of thing. I couldn’t really keep it straight. This time, though, a speaker divided up the 400 or so people in the room into groups according to our birth years. We had enough different aged people to represent all these groups: “Traditionalists”, Baby Boomers, X-ers and Millennials. Then we answered questions about our own experiences growing up.

We covered things like TV shows we watched, what family dinners were like, what we thought of performance evaluations—ten questions all together. Then she had each group report on their answers. It really brought the generational thing to life to hear people talk about their group and how they were shaped and why they do the things they do. Very much fun.

A friend of mine did a workshop on Multi-Cultural Counseling Competency that was very rich in content. She has been training her staff on how to talk to people coming from different backgrounds. She covered womens’ issues, African-American, Gay/Lesbian, American Indian,--all sorts of different perspectives.

Then it was off to New Jersey to see my family there: Dad, sister and brother, nieces and nephews. Dad is 85 and doing better these days in terms of walking. He got some sort of shots that helped him. It had been a year since I had seen him, so it was time to go again. Plus, I love driving alone for seven or eight hours and listening to my iPod tunes coming through the radio speakers. That’s my idea of fun.

Also , it’s hard to sit down at a computer and keep up with blogs in the summer. If it’s nice outside, then I’m outside. What’s that? I should get a laptop and wireless network? Donations cheerfully accepted.