Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Do you see the salt shaker?

I have too many plants on my small table! When I moved here there was only the antherium and that was a about a fifth the size it is now. I made the mistake of transplanting it. The other two are gifts from people who know how I am missing plants and gardening in this apartment. This may be a great way to loose weight, the food will get lost under the plants.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

According to Bartlebys , the phrase 'familiarity breeds contempt’ means: “The better we know people, the more likely we are to find fault with them.” It seems the quote originally came from Mark Twain. “Familiarity breeds contempt. How accurate that is. The reason we hold truth in such respect is because we have so little opportunity to get familiar with it.” (I love Mark Twain!)

So, why am I writing on this subject? Well, pull up a chair and I will elaborate. I got an email from my sister last week. Dee wanted to know when a certain art exhibit was going to be in my town and how hard it would be to get in and see it. She makes 6 figures and flying halfway across country is not an expensive proposition for her. She is not a rich snob, but when she wants something she goes for it. But there was also something else in her email. She currently has my middle brother and his wife as ‘guests’ at her house and she said she was going crazy and she wanted to warn me about planning for their visit out my way. Was she getting a little too familiar? Getting a little contempt thing going?

Here is the back story about my siblings. About a decade ago my middle brother, whom we shall call Lem, was unmarried and in his 40’s. Lem and my sister were the best of camping and hiking buddies at that time. Dee was married but her husband was on travel 80% of the time. These two siblings of mine worked together on house repair projects, went on skiing trips and camping adventures and prepared massive feasts with original recipes for all the local relatives. It seemed to me that they spent most weekends together.

At 51 Lem married, for the first time in his life, a lovely woman who had been married once before. This gal whom we will call Annie originally came over from Europe as a teenager and was a teacher at my brother's school. She is very outgoing, high energy, and tends to ‘get involved’ in your activities. She is a ‘do-gooder’ liberal who is now retired and she is the one who organized the recent 4-month volunteer adventure with my brother in Madagascar that I mentioned in a prior blog. As part of this travel adventure, they had rented out their house in Colorado for 12 months. While they have many travels and activities planned for the next 6 months, they have to stay with my sister and also my other youngest brother for at least 3.5 of the weeks this winter (along with crashing at other homes). They are hoping to also come out and visit us during their house rental hiatus in the Spring (should I be concerned?). I welcomed them with open arms, even though we will be between a tiny apartment and a newly finished house.

According to Dee’s recent email, she is ready to kill them (note she is not planning on killing herself). Dee is a strong but normal liberal--whatever in hell that is--I guess I just want you to know she isn't into wife-swapping or Bible burning. She pretty much has her big house to herself and except for the demands of her job, she doesn’t find a need to make many compromises in her life. She has no biological children making demands on her time. She is a nice person.

Much to the total surprise of my whole Democratic family, my brother Lem morphed into a conservative somewhere along the way. He is a strange conservative. He is not religious, non-militaristic, living off of a teacher’s retirement salary. I guess this bothers all of us because we wonder how in late life he married to a do-gooder liberal. He writes a conservative blog, not read by anyone, but it gets him access to the state Capital. My brother-in-law says that Lem really hasn't thought this stuff through because he is a contradiction.

I guess I wonder if the real problem lies with the fact that my brother, who used to be my sister’s best friend, is now a married person; or if it is the fact that he is a conservative; or is it the fact that Annie keeps getting involved in everyone’s business; or is it just that familiarity does breed contempt? You can have your relatives for guests for short periods of time and as Ben Franklin said, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

I get along with everybody in my family (she types smugly)…but then I live thousands of miles away! Maybe that is the secret to good family relations among siblings. How long should I let them stay?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Something that lifts my day

Winter is here. We do not have the pristine white snow magically hiding all the rough spots as it does in some parts of the globe. We have warm days in the 50's interspersed with cold rain, like today, that bores into your bones and threatens to freeze your soul. The cymbidium orchid above was a birthday gift from my daughter and son-in-law. It is getting ready to bloom. Boy does it keep my spirits up. I can pretend that spring is just around the corner.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Don't Drink at Work, No Matter How Stressed You Get

I had one of those steadily busy days at work. Trying to catch up on email, then met with a colleague for some information on a database, then went to a demo by a vendor in the main conference room. I also had scheduled another meeting about 20 miles across the county at 1:00 PM and was planning on leaving work at 12:30 to get there in plenty of time, since I wasn't sure exactly where the meeting was.

12:30 at my desk I get a phone call from the front office.

"Freight called and said they have something for you and you have to sign."

My mind is blank as I don't remember expecting any shipment.

The caller asks if they can transfer the call from the security guard down in freight and I say fine.

Ok, while waiting for the return call I will give you some background. I work in a very large building in the city. This building has commercial employees and federal employees. Among the federal employees are people who are responsible for regulatory actions. I say this to let you know that any area that houses regulators is a "hot" site and gets top security especially after 911 and the Oklahoma bombing. Please note that I am NOT saying the building is anymore secure than your house, it just has top security procedures and staff in place to make SOMEONEs feel it is protected.

The phone rings again. I answer. A man with a thick accent tells me he has a package which I must sign for.

"You want me to come down to the loading dock?"

"No, no. Just got to floor 4 and go to the freight elevator there."

"The fourth floor?"

"Yes. Go down by the printing press."

I have no idea where this is, but I do know that there is a publications office somewhere in the building---must be the fourth floor.

"Ok" I reply and hang up.

I go to the fourth floor which happens to have some offices of people I know. I ask the secretary there where the printing press is and get a blank look. I then ask about the freight elevator. She walks me there. There is NO ONE there. Just an empty hallway and NO printing press.

I ask her if by any chance the 3rd floor has a printing press and she says "maybe." She actually gets on the freight elevator with me, after a wait of ten minutes. I am watching the clock tick away. I get off and sure enough there is a large piece of equipment that could very well be a printing press on the inside wall. There is a large open office with desks and some people at the other side of the press. I go toward one of the staffers and ask about freight deliveries that need signatures. He says I need to go to the loading dock several floors down!

I tell the secretary to go back to her office. Today is VERY COLD and WINDY so my trip back to the freight elevator and down to the loading dock is not pleasant and this freight elevator moves at a snails pace.

I enter the freight elevator with two rather grubby but pleasant bears (men) whose complaints about the sound of the elevator and concern about the last time it was maintained do not help my mood. I get to the windy loading dock and a uniformed female security guard sits in a glass booth inside the archway of the dock. I ask her about a delivery.

She looks at me and points to a box on the nearby chair. She then walks over to the X-ray machine and asks if I recognize the contents of the package. Chemicals?

I look at the X-ray and saw what appeared to be two bottles. The light goes on in my head. I remember my daughter telling me she had given me a Christmas gift of three months to a wine club and was sending it to my place of work since I wouldn't be home to sign. I told the security guard it was wine.

She looks at me and smiles. "I will have to call my boss to see if you can take this package." (You know what, I am so tired I don't even react.)

She makes the call to the BOSS and then says I can only take the package if I take it directly to my car. I am SOOOOO late for this meeting that I realize I will be running to my car in a very short time.

"Can I take the package upstairs to get my coat and papers," I ask.

You readers know the answer. Of course not, those regulatory officials in my building are so on the edge they will mug me and drink both bottles before they check out for the day. We can't have alcohol anywhere near federal employees...and can you blame them? Really?

I have to ride the groaning elevator all the way back up, get my coat and papers, ride back down to the dock, get the package, walk all the way around the building through the garbage and around the huge parking garage, carrying this stupid box until I reach the street and can head for my car. All with a wind chill to die for.

Any ideas about to handle this the next two months? And no, I did not open any of the bottles before my afternoon meeting, but I will definitely have a glass now and make an entry on my neglected wine blog...if I am sober enough.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What It Is All About--The Genetic Scream

Why do most of us fall in love with our grandchildren? I know some grandmothers and grandfathers find the whole experience dreadful, but for most of us, it is exactly like the first time we fell in love. We can't think straight. That face, that smell, that memory keeps creeping into our daily activities, even when we are far from the little ones. That inability not to let some sweet anecdote creep into our conversation with others is everpresent. That syrupy way we bring out each new photo or screensaver whenever we get a chance. I mean we are totally smitten. We have lost control!

I am sure that it has something to do with that genetic scream...those subtle pheromones, the strangely familiar smile, the way the child handles frustration...something that reminds us of ourselves...something that reminds us of our children.

Add to this the knowledge we have of time and how it flies over and above and beyond us with a fury. We have reached the age where we know what is important and what is not. We know that real pain is deep inside us and not that little superficial wound that will be forgotten shortly. We know how to savor the moments.

We also probably view this as a fresh start at the end of our lives. After all, we made all the mistakes with our own children, now we can go through this passage more perfectly (we hope). We will not be judged (Ok, maybe a little by the parents---but face it, they are novices.) We can actually freely interact and push the boundaries with this new life. We know where the edge of the envelope is. We know what will imprint and what will not.

Also, we have that great motivation. We want to be remembered. We want eternity. Just like that "Fame" song, we deep down inside want to live forever. Most of us are not going to be great writers, painters, leaders, inventors. But we hope to live forever through our children and their children in some way.

I find this new passage in my life more intense than I expected. I wish I wasn't so busy!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Small Talk 2

I had a former blog entry with this same title and it was about somebody who does mostly small talk.

In the musical, Music Man, the main character provided a quote that seems to fit with the philosophy of my blog site. See below:

Harold Hill: Oh, my dear little librarian. You pile up enough tomorrows, and you'll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays. I don't know about you, but I'd like to make today worth remembering.

In addition to this there is a little gossip song sung by the townsfolk about ‘small talk.’ Or because it is a small town more like gossip.

Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little
Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more
Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little
Cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep

I am not a fan of small talk as I have said before in this blog. Yet, I am married to the National Award Master of Small Talk. It is his life’s blood. He cannot get on the elevator at this apartment or at work at 6:30 A.M. without starting a conversation with whomever is on the elevator with him (If no on is there I am the target.). It makes no difference if the person has or does not have coffee in his/her hand. They only need to keep their eyes open long enough to make eye contact with him. He will start a conversation on anything including the WEATHER. I, on the other hand, can sit on a plane for three hours and not have a clue about where the person sitting next to me lives or what he/she does for a living.

Yesterday, the husband half of the new couple that moved in across the hall a week ago was knocking at our door. (I didn’t even know the girl across the hall had moved out!) He had talked to my husband on the elevator and wanted to know if he could listen to our bathroom fan. Sure, I get that kind of request every day(!). He is Chinese American and had a very thick accent, so it took me a while to even believe that I understood his request. It seems that his fan is so noisy he can’t sleep. But, since our fan is just as loud as his, it looks as though he will have to do something else for his problem.

It’s not that I don’t like people…I mean, my god, I blog. I respond to blogs. I like to read about others everyday lives. I also am a big people watcher and find sitting at an airport that I am torn from reading my book by eavesdropping on nearby conversations or studying the people that got off the last plane. BUT, I am not a lover of small talk, especially if I will never build a relationship with the person over time. I guess that is why I like email more than a phone call. I can talk on my terms, at my length and listen to the response when I am ready. During pioneer days I would have been the perfect quiet knitter, sitting and humming near the fireplace.

Yet, this is why I am so totally out of it most of the time. I am the one who would attend a meeting at a large company and find to my surprise they are downsizing, while everyone around me is sweating bullets before the boss even walks in the room. I am the one who finds out they are changing the parking fees the day they are changed.

I mean, I CAN make small talk with the best of them. But the back of my mind is racing ahead thinking about the day’s upcoming schedule, or when I should leave the cocktail party and head back to my hotel room and unwind, or thinking to myself if I really want to wait in this line much longer while the stranger in front of me talks about his three-year-old’s cold.

Thankfully I am married to the SMALL TALKER or all small talkers. He is the one who finds out the names of all the people on our floor and what most of them do. He is the one who finds out how many cars were broken into last week and how many were actually stolen in our apartment parking lot. He finds out who at work got inseminated without getting married before she shows. He is the one who got my son his first job because he made small talk with someone who was on a committee meeting that he attended as a fill-in for someone else.

Of course, he is also charming. He has those bold blue eyes that fascinate people. You trust people with blue eyes. I on the other hand am just a normal hazel nut. Hardly the charmer. More the inquisitive-get-to-the-point type.

So what is my point? I don’t know. I guess just that small talk is important and marrying somebody opposite from you can have its advantages.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Air Out There

My husband twisted my arm yesterday and insisted that I go for a walk to help get "my circulation going" to get me back "up-to-speed." I think he is getting sick of my illness even more than I. It was a good idea, this walking thing, as fresh air, people walking dogs, geese making noise as they skid across the winter water and picture taking are all therapeutic. The angle of the winter sun (at last breaking through the clouds) painted warmth into the dormant forest to give us a little hope of spring...someday...not soon.

Ok, look closely at the photo above. Guess who has the childlike enthusiasm in my family? Certainly not stodgy old me.

And of course, America ain't Italy, but it does have its lovers.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Silver Lining

I feel like the sun is finally peaking out behind the clouds. There is a breeze bringing the fresh air to my brain. My eyes are beginning to see through the fog. I actually think I am going to live once again like a normal person. There is a good side to life.

During the time (12 days) that I have been sick, I dragged myself through work and through weekends and holidays. I am the kind of person that shuts down when I first get sick. In the beginning, I don'’t attempt to force myself through the day, but instead make tea and curl up on a bed or couch and stop moving and take Vitamin C. I don'’t take medication right away. After about two days of this, I start to get angry if I am not feeling better. I like to think I am in control of my body. So I get up and force myself to go through each day regardless of how I feel, trying to pretend that I am not sick. This used to work when I was younger.

The last few days, I was living on wine and popcorn and chocolate. That has to be good for the immune system, right? I actually tried to eat healthy at first, but nothing tasted good.

Unfortunately, as I am getting older, my metabolism is changing. I don'’t seem to be able to control the "‘getting well"’ process as I used to. I totally loose my patience and get crabby with hubby and angry with myself. I hate the gray days, and I hate being cooped up in this apartment and I tend to see all the bad things about life. If a young Latino girl is selling flowers on the corner at the stop light, I get depressed about her life and wish I was a millionaire so I could send her to English classes and then to college. If the bathtub gets stopped up (as it did this weekend with all my "“luxurious"” hair) I get immediately frustrated---as if I will never be able to take a bath again.

If I am watching football (which I did a lot of this weekend and I am not a football fan) I realize what a stupid shallow game it is at which society throws so much money. Why aren'’t we rewarding the teachers, the pro bono lawyers, the policemen and soldiers, the nurses in the same way?

Ok, enough ranting, as I said, today is finally going to be a good day. I actually feel that the germs are all dead, Dead, DEAD! I can actually think about seeing my grandson again and holding him...wait a minute, isn'’t that how this all started?

Friday, January 06, 2006

I Need a Better Immune System

I think this must be the third cold I have contracted the last few months, and this devil is hanging on --day eleven. I don't feel bad all over anymore, just wake up coughing and sniffling every two to three hours. Now I know how Manababies feels. Ugh! Only I don't have any cooing and giggling to greet me awake. Just a 'harumph' from my hubby which makes me move into the living area trying to sleep on one of the two loveseats in this apartment. I jury rig a "bed" by removing all the back cushions from the love seat and then moving the ottoman to the bottom side as an extension. Fortunately the apartment is warm enough that just a throw is all I need for a cover. Besides when you are coughing your head off, you generate a lot of body heat.

Hubby has an excellent immune system and doesn't seem to catch any of these little devil organisms. I am popping Vitamin C and drinking expectorant, but this is like crossing a sludge river very slowly--sorry for the imagery.

I am feeling so guilty about my exercise routine. I didn't exercise much in Hawaii (hiking doesn't really count--no aerobics or weight lifting there--OK, I don't appreciate what you are thinking), and then when I got back, there were the holidays and somewhat fortunately the cold to keep me from eating too much. Still, no real exercise.

Today I am home because I am leaving in 45 minutes to meet with my builder's interior designer/real estate saleswoman. She called me to ask if she could help with any interior selections and we worked out a mutual time to go to the flooring place to pick out the wood and tiles. (Actually the builder's show home and other sales in his subdivision are moving slowly due to the housing dip and I think she is bored, bored, bored.)

So this afternoon I will add something to the house building blog. Due to wet weather, exterior stuff going VERY slowly. Interior pretty much on schedule.

Well, I am starting to feel a little better as I finish this blog...maybe the computer screen has irradiated the germs!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Hawaii 2006--Part II

The Rare and the Not So Rare

These next Hawaiian photos were all taken on Kauai during our real vacation. The geological wonder that you see below is called the “grand canyon” of Hawaii. The story goes that Mark Twain named it the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and yet never saw it! A good writer can describe anything when hearing it through another’s words, I guess.

We did quite a bit of hiking and were rewarded by far too many photos to post here. I actually ran out of memory and next time, maybe, I’ll take another chip. (While at our hotel we ran into a 40-something couple who were there celebrating the tenth anniversary of their second marriage. We were sitting with them in one of the four(!) hot tubs so we kind of had to talk. Anyway, all of the activities that this couple had done during their stay on Kauai were “awesome.” The guy had taken 500 photos and had to go out and buy another chip. He figured he would have 700 photos when he got home. But that “would be awesome.” Tabor was planning on only 300 photos for this trip and it was awesome enough for me, especially when going through all those .jpg files when I got home.)

One of our early hikes was a trail around the Kalalau valley. My daughter later told me that when she went on her honeymoon there, ‘they’ told her to only hike a mile in because couples were being kidnapped in the jungle. Wish I had heard this, because we hiked about 2.5 in and then 2.5 back out. Guess they didn’t want our old tough meat. This view in the photo below is the Kalalau lookout on Kauai at the very beginning of the hike. Takes your breath away even in the photo, doesn’t it? The hike goes completely around the upper ridge and we did half of it before running out of both time and energy.

This photo below was taken at the beginning of one of our horticultural tours. This gentleman’s great grandfather or grandfather(?) was the first and only doctor on the island of Kauai in the early days. He gave us our tour of one of the large botanical gardens. He wasn’t great on the botany part but pretty good on the Hawaiian folklore.

The photo below contains two Brighamia insignis plants. We were told that this plant is very rare and indigenous to the island of Kauai. It grows along coastal areas and gets three to 8 feet high and has fragrant yellow flowers…such a strange and cool-looking growth. Flowers are in the photo below and did smell gently exotic.

What follows is a photo of our breakfast nook in the hotel just below the TV. We usually eat breakfast of fruit and yogurt and granola that we get at the local stands or grocery stores. Then we pack fruit, cookies and maybe beef jerky or cheese for lunch. Dinner we eat at a really nice restaurant to pat ourselves on the back for saving money all day. Actually we can’t eat all that food that we would have if we ate out three times a day!

We took the big splurge this trip and went on a helicopter tour over the island. While this is expensive, it is well worth the money. We went up with two other couples that appeared to be our age. When we sat at the benches at the outside porch near the airfield and were putting on our life jackets (a little orange fanny pack), the other folks greeted us and introduced themselves with the following speech from one of the men:

“Hi, looks like we are going up together. We are from Utah. Where are you from?”

We answer.

“Well my wife and my two friends are from Utah. This is our second trip to Hawaii. My friend’s wife over there is the sister of our state Senator.”

OK, wheels are now turning and hubby was the first to win the booby prize.

“Your friend is the sister of um…Orrin Hatch?”

“Yep. She is Senator Hatch’s sister.”

Since we didn’t jump up and down with excitement or grin from ear to ear, they probably figured out we were two of those damned liberal heathen democrats. Senator Hatch’s sister is a very sweet, reserved, and attractive woman, in case you want to know.

We flew into the major dormant volcanic crater on the island of Kauai and were VERY lucky since all the low hanging clouds and rain were not there as usual. The pilot was actually able to fly us into the crater which has collapsed on one side.

We also flew over the set of falls that were used in Jurassic park. Recognizable, no?

Below is a view of the Pali on the Northeast side of the island of Kauai. This coastline has beaches accessible only by some pretty intense hiking or by boat in the summer. During the winter months the beaches completely disappear under the tremendous and dangerous surf.

These two photos show the well marked but somewhat dangerous trails which we hiked. If the roots didn’t get you, the slippery mud did. Of course, we are now older and we were amazed that the younger folks were doing this in sandles(?). Even a few guys had toddlers on their backs in backpacks. There was so much salt spray I didn’t chance getting a photo of the surf we hiked down to with my digital camera.

Well, time to put away the suitcases and re-enter the world of reality. (Yes, Hag, once I get unpacked in my new house I will have to find the ‘turtles.’

Aloha nui loa.

Looking Back

First there was the lecture from Xman to keep us up to speed and then there was the race to save the food. This pretty much summed up most of the Christmas Day.