Sunday, August 24, 2014

What I learned on my summer vacation, part 2

9.            Toby will eat ANYTHING. 

9.  Corn cobs, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers.  He loves it all.  Thankfully, he is very good about ingesting the peroxide that makes him barf some of the not-good-for-him things (like corn cobs) back up.  It used to take 3 grown men to hold Kocoa down and force peroxide down his throat, but Toby just swallows it and looks sad for 10 seconds.  Then he barfs, runs around, and looks for something else to eat.  Thankfully, Pippi doesn’t eat as many bad things as Toby does.  Friday he scarfed down a jalepeno pepper without even chewing it.  When that went down smoothly he grabbed a habanero and took a bite.  Then shook his head and dropped it.  And then picked it up and bit it again.  Then shook his head and dropped it.  He did that 5 TIMES while B chased him around the dining room before B finally gave up, called him a bad word, and let him eat it.  He chomped it up and swallowed and then proceeded to curl his lips, stick his tongue out, and shake his head repeatedly.  I finally had pity on him and gave him a piece of bread .  That seemed to help though B said he was still kind of licking his chops a lot on his walk.

10.          It is actually possible to lose the hat off your head. 

I left Counties with my blue hat ON my head yet it is not in the house or in the car anywhere.  It is gone.  Poof.  Vanished into thin air.  I really liked that hat too.

11.          I really need a goal.

Besides being isolated this summer I also feel slightly adrift.  I have no goals – not physically, not work related, not personally.  I am just slogging along in my little rut while people around me train for marathons and run the iron man and do tough mudders, etc.  I haven’t even been reading as much as I usually do (mostly b/c I fall asleep when I actually have time to read).  My only goal right now seems to be to survive the week and that is pretty pathetic.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Adventures in baking, or why my kitchen will never be clean again.

Yesterday, our first non-swim practice day, my daughter decided she wanted to spend the day baking.  She had a modicum of success (if you discount the mess she left me) making cupcakes for her grandmother last week and so looked up a bunch of recipes she wanted to try.  All at once. 
She started with a recipe I asked her to make for no bake chocolate PB cookies.  She melted the butter in a sauce pan and then mixed in the other ingredients while I worked.  She called me down to see the end result – about 3 dozen beautiful chocolate cookies setting on wax paper and cookie sheets on top of the hutch in the dining room.  There was still a little bit of batter in the bowl so I spooned it out for us to sample and then licked the spoon.  Really salty. 
“Huh,” I thought, “she must not have mixed the salt in very well and I got a mouthful of it.”
 I spooned some for her and popped in in her mouth while she washed the bowl and then put the rest in my own mouth. 
“Mommy, it’s really salty” she mumbled around her mouthful of chocolate deliciousness before spitting it into the sink.
“Yes, indeed” I agreed while I gagged over the batter and checked the recipe. 
“I followed the recipe.”
 “How much salt did you add, honey?”
 “A quarter cup like it says.” 
“Ummmm….K?  It says ¼ tsp not ¼ cup.” 
“Opps”  We giggled over it for a while and I gave her a hug and a kiss and told her it happens to the best of us.
In the meantime, I enjoyed the burning sensation in my gut from swallowing that spoonful of salt while we called grand-mom, the keeper of all kitchen wisdom, to see if we could salvage it somehow.  Her verdict?  Other than making 100x the amount of batter to catch up to the amount of salt, nope.  She suggested we bake them for the birds. 
Good idea!  We would bake them and take them to SC with us next week and feed the gulls and ducks.  So I popped them in a 350 oven and went back upstairs.  About 5 minutes later, I hear a somewhat frantic yell from the kitchen where K was still doing dishes…
”Mooooooommmmmmmyyyyyyyy!!!!!  Is the oven supposed to be smoking like this?” 
Oh brother.  I ran downstairs, turned OFF the oven, opened the windows and told her not to touch it.   The now baked salt-cookies?  Totally stuck to the wax paper.  I let them cool and harden into something approaching mortar and then chucked the whole batch while the oven self-cleaned whatever had slopped onto the heating unit.
Back to work.  Again.
In the meantime, her friend came over to “help.”  Once the oven was cool enough to open, they baked chocolate chip bars.  Those actually turned out really well and were quite yummy.  Next up?  Amish bread.
Since they had successfully navigated the bars, I let them go for it while I worked. 
“Yes, K?”?
“What kind of pan is a ‘bread machine?’”
Back downstairs where I tried very hard to remember that it is just flour and yeast and not gold bullion that she is using up on these multiple failed baking attempts and we tried to salvage the recipe.  The dough was really gummy so I added some more flour, let it rise for an hour, let the mixer knead it again with a little more flour until it was finally a decent consistency, let it rise (and overflow) again, dumped it in a pan, let it rise a third time, and then baked it.  It turned out okay although it won’t win any bread awards.  We cut it for dinner last night and will subject my parents to it tonight as well.
What was next?  Chocolate chip cookies.
They turned out fairly well too, although I suspect they may become a little like chocolate chip hard-tack in a day or two.  Mom and dad will get them tonight too.
After that I told them no more (dear, God!  No more!!!!) and they played with the dogs until it was time for her friend to go home.  I ended up working until 6 PM, but it was okay.  She had a good time, didn’t make too much of a mess, and learned a couple of valuable lessons about reading the entire recipe carefully before getting started (something I still don’t do, by the way).
I suspect that her dad is not going to let her bake anything today while HE is working from home though.

Monday, August 4, 2014

What I learned on my summer vacation, part 1.

1.  I should have known better.  
There was that e-mail incident this Spring that should have been my warning on how the summer would go.  But…stupid me believed it would be like last summer – true teamwork.   Not so much.  I wasn’t picked to be on the team, apparently.  No team uniform (Matching hat?  Check!  Super special shirts?  Check!), no team-cheer, no team meetings, no secret insider info.  I ended up separated from the kids I love, unable to teach them the sport I love, while my hard work all year was belittled over and over and over again to the team while I stood there and listened. 

2.  Mean girls suck as much when you are 41 as they do when you are 14.   
I need to find a way to not let rejection bother me so much.  See also, #1 - I really should have known better.  I didn’t like Junior High the first time and to have people who are theoretically adults (albeit adults with no real responsibilities, at least at the moment) act like a bunch of Junior High girls…really unpleasant.

3.  It actually IS possible to cry yourself to sleep.
This one came after being told I was not allowed (NOT ALLOWED???) to talk to parents.  Long story short – at our 2nd meet, I made a comment about a new swimmer.  Let me preface my tale by informing you of my fairly regular practice of being in the water with newer kids during stroke clinic and at the start of new seasons and either rearranging them physically, holding them up so they can kick without sinking, or pulling them by the hands or a kickboard so they can kick correctly without sinking.  So, when I viewed this young lady struggling to swim a stroke that she did not know how to swim I said something to the effect of “Awwwww, I’d really like to jump in and pull her to the other end.”  Mom overheard this comment and flipped out – after the fact and not to me, but to another person.  Said person, one of the mean girls, relayed by e-mail the fact that one of us had made a nasty comment about a kid and we can’t do that, etc.  I knew that I was the only one in position at that meet to have been heard so I asked her what was allegedly said.  She called, on July 4, while we were at a friend’s for dinner (but locked out of his house…another long story), and told me what I had said and why it was completely inappropriate.  During that conversation I learned that a) she had thrown me under the bus with the parent rather than try and explain what I said and meant, because b) she didn’t give a flying fig what I actually said or meant, because c) she didn’t consider me an actual coach, didn’t know me at all, and didn’t care to try.  At the end of that conversation I was told, by the person who at the same meet had told a parent how much she disliked dealing with “the stupid kids and their ridiculous parents,” not to approach the parent without ASKING PERMISSION from another of the mean girls.  I hung up and burst into tears.  I did call a friend and colleague who helped talk me down and transition my reaction it from self-loathing to anger at the mean girl but by bed time I was back to being upset. 

I have tried to make a joke of the “don’t talk to parents” thing this summer to a few other parents, but inside it REALLY bothers me.  So does the hat/shirt thing, and the being shut out of everything kid related.  I have years of experience in dealing with kids in juvenile detention or other forms of Court supervision.  I also have years of experience as a scout leader and as a coach.  I may not be a licensed social worker, but I can usually have a conversation with someone without screwing something up or dropping the f-bomb.  In my real job I am a pretty competent, professional person.  I am a team leader, well respected by my peers in my office as well as around the Country.  I am considered a go-to person for my field and asked for expert advice and feedback often.  I teach people about my job in National forums and when someone needs something done in a hurry and well, they call me.  And yet…I am too stupid to speak to parents b/c of someone’s pathetic power trip? 
See…now I’m temporarily back to anger again.  Writing is cathartic.  But...I have to find a way to let it go b/c anger that can't be channeled becomes depression.
I did try and e-mail the parent and asked them to speak with me about what they heard and what I meant but they ignored it and, I assume, chose to hang-on to the righteous indignation that someone had said something other than “rainbow, sunshine, hearts and flowers” about their child, no matter how kindly meant.

4.  Power trips abound in Berks summer swimming.
I knew this one, but it manifested itself in new and exciting ways this summer that didn’t only impact our team.

5.  Being responsible is not always the best route.
Once I experienced #2 and accepted #1, I should have walked away rather than stick it out.  Sometimes being responsible makes you ill.  See also, #7.

6.  I really can’t count on anyone who isn’t related to me for support. 
People have their own sh*t to deal with and don’t want to be sucked into my drama.  That said, it sure would be nice to have.  I felt really…isolated….this summer. 

7.   Multiple sources of stress at the same time really wear you down.
Work, dead truck, crazy schedule, and medical stress and then add in the swimming.  Too much.  I am not sleeping enough and I feel like crap too often.   I look and feel old and intermittently look like I am 4 months pregnant and feel like various organs are going to push their way out of my body – and looking old makes me feel like even worse crap.  Plus its migraine season.  My goal for the year was to be grateful but I admit, this summer I have really lost sight of that goal and it has been hard to be grateful for all the wonderful blessings in my life.  I’m hoping vacation helps get me back on track.   I need a kick in the head.

8.  We totally wasted money on our pool membership this year. 
K has gone to the other local pool more often than our own pool and I think I have been there 4 times total?   I love sitting there reading and watching K swim but...See also, #7.

9.  I am too tired to actually remember all the things I want to put in this post.  I will have to make it a Part 1 and try again later!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

S.B.D. Seeking Long Term Companion.

I enjoy cuddling on the couch, belly rubs, and taking long walks in the neighborhood (or anywhere else).  I am a true modern dog - ready to lick the dirty dishes, help with the vacuuming, fertilize the garden, or eat...errr...take out the trash.   My hobbies are creating masterpieces out of whatever is left in the fridge, opening doors with my nose, and chasing squirrels.  I love spending weekends lounging in bed chewing on a bone or listening to sports talk on the radio.

Favorite color:  I'm color blind.

Favorite Shape:  round, like a ball  Or a crunchy red apple.  Or an onion. 

Favorite Food:  yes.

Favorite Beverage:  coffee with cream.

Favorite Song:  You Are My Sunshine.

Favorite Book:  I prefer chewing on a good paperback thriller (like the ones from my grand-mother) and once in a while spice it up with a hard cover romance from the library.

Favorite Movie:  Must Love Dogs.

Favorite Woodland Creature:  baby bunnies are pretty tasty.

Favorite website:  The Daily Puppy.

Dislikes:  Buckeyes, moody girl dogs, and having my nails trimmed.  I'm also not too sure about swimming pools or other large bodies of water.  I like puddles though.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Spring has sprung and we are rapidly moving towards summer now.  I can’t believe the pool opens a month from tomorrow.  A MONTH!  It feels like it was 6 months to wait just yesterday.  Swim practice is back underway (yay.  Not) but I don’t really get busy until this weekend when I will once again be almost entirely on my own.  Yay again.  Not.
Today was eye doctor day.  I hate the eye doctor.  I go every year – not just to the optometrist for my glasses – but to the ophthalmologist in Philadelphia where I have my eyes dilated, poked and prodded and am repeatedly blinded by bright lights while they check out the pits on my optic nerve and the color sloughing off my irises.   Occasionally, depending on what baby doctors are there, I have multiple people repeat the same dang things over and over again so they can see my freakish eyes. 
Today was my 6 month follow-up with my new glaucoma doctor.  Last time I was in he told me to come today ready to workout – that he’d want me to run a little and then check out my eyes to see if the pigment is clogging up the ducts or the pressure increases.  To me, “run a little” means 20 minutes.  So after I had my field vision testing I changed into running clothes.  The run?  3 minutes.  It wasn’t even enough to get my heart rate elevated.  I tried to explain that to him but…he thought that was sufficient to test what he needed to test.  I felt like an idiot running around the circle in front of the hospital.  In all today I had my pressure tested 5 times, had my eyes looked at 3 times, had a star trek scan of my optic nerves and ran for 3 minutes. The results?  All is well.  My optic nerves, though slightly wonky, aren’t any more damaged than they were last time he looked at them and with the exception of now having field vision testing and seeing him every year and the nerve scan every once in a while, I am good to go.  In the meantime, I sit here with my eyes dilated, looking like a cat on kitty crack or with what we in our household call “Crazy Pippi Eyes.”  It will take a good 8-10 hours before they are back to normal.
So today I am grateful that I do not need drops or a roto-rooterg to open up the ducts in my eyes and that, other than glaucoma and a little old damage  (or weird genetics, I guess), my eyes are otherwise healthy.  I am grateful that I only have to do this once a year and not every couple of months.  And I am grateful that I have my own sunglasses and don’t have to wear those ugly plastic things like I’m 80. 
Today I am also grateful that my presentation went well yesterday and that all the work I put into preparing was recognized by the people that matter (my team-mates).
I am grateful that the sun is shining with some regularity now, and that temperatures are consistently staying above freezing in the mornings. 
In other news…Change sucks.
I am not good at it at all.  Some things I can ride out – changes associated with parenting.  Changes to my weekend schedule.  Taking a different train.  But major changes?  Not so much.  Because of the government slim down (ha!  We need gastric bypass surgery and a starvation diet for a year) a ton of people in my office have retired.  They offered buy outs this spring and about 40 people left with that.  In the last couple of years dozens of others left just because it was time.  I didn’t know many of the people in this last group, but many of them I did know.  Some of the attorneys I worked closely with when I first started at my agency retired.  Some other people I crossed paths with regularly left including my supervisor for a year when I was on a detail.   I wasn’t particularly close to any of them and I didn’t go to any retirement parties for a variety of reasons, but the fact that they are all gone makes me sad.   Big changes are hard, even when they are good. 
Monday of this week our Branch secretary died.  She has been out for about 3 months – first trying to figure out what was wrong, then getting chemo and other treatments for what turned out to be a relapse of leukemia, and then the last month or so on hospice.  We’ve been sending her things as a Branch – flowers, cards, candy, and calling her once in a while to say hello, and I’ve been sending her cards myself letting her know how much we miss her.  The last one I sent was last week and I’m glad I had that last chance to tell her once more how much I appreciated her.  And now she is gone.  And even  though we weren’t friends, I am sad.  She was a good person and helpful when I had things that needed her to do. 
Today another woman in our Branch announced that she too is retiring at the end of June.  It is not unexpected but is a little earlier than anticipated.  Again, we are not that close, but I have worked with her for 15 years.  You get comfortable seeing the same people for years and years and years.  And then one day they aren’t there anymore and it is an adjustment.  I am struggling to put into words what I am feeling right now.  It’s not quite the same feeling as when a loved one dies, but…can’t quite explain it yet. 
In the last 2 years my Branch will have lost 4 people to retirement, 1 to just quitting, and 1 to death.  We are down to a Branch of 11, from a high of 18 just a few years ago.  It is too quiet and lonely in there some days since just about everyone works at home at least 1 day a week and 2 of the retirements  increased my workload dramatically.  On the plus side – I have my own annex now so I can keep my cube neat and organized and store all my less active files in another cube.  .  But…I am grateful for the job and the (occasionally) interesting work and the (few) nice people that are still there.  And I am happy for the people who get to move on to the next chapter of their lives that doesn’t require them to put up with the bureaucratic BS (at least in a work context).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Today I am grateful for the warmer weather.  The trees are finally starting to bud and the flowers (not mine, but other people’s) are starting to bloom.  It might even be nice enough to do some yard work this weekend and maybe plant some pansies or impatiens. 

Today I am also grateful for my smart daughter.  After a rocky end to last quarter and a rough start to the 3rd quarter that included a failure warning, she pulled everything up and earned 1st honors again.  I am so proud of her and she is very proud of herself and sees the payoff to her hard work.  We are going to try and end just as strongly.

Today I am grateful for the warranty I purchased for my glasses.  Toby got them a couple of week ago.  Again.  We were able to glue the ear piece back together but he also gnawed the lenses and there are some deep dings that I didn’t notice at first.  I haven’t gotten around to taking them in to be replaced yet.  I am also insanely grateful for the spare pair that I purchased “just in case” which are now my main glasses.

Today I am grateful for my new baby cousin.  No one down here knew she was coming, but now she is here and she is cute and I hope to get to meet her someday soon.

Today I am grateful for my parents.  They are here, they are in good health, and they are an important part of my life.  We celebrated their 50th anniversary on Friday which makes my head spin.  More on that in a bit.

Today I am grateful for the friends I have.  I am truly just plain tired of waiting for people to care about me or my life as much as I care about them and theirs.  It is a weakness and big shortcoming of mine.  I expect and hope – this time it will be different!  this time I will fit in! this time so-and-so will want to be my friend-  and then I am inevitably disappointed.  It is PATHETIC.  I am disgusted with myself to even type the words.  I feel like I am back in 6th grade when we went from being a class of good buddies to a class of cliques – the popular kids and the rest of us.  And then at some point, I was an outcast even from the outcasts.  Incidentally, my 30 year battle with depression also started that year.  Chicken?  Egg?  Up for debate.

So, I am going to make a concerted effort to give up on the people to whom I don’t really mean anything and who don’t really care if I am part of their lives or not.  I have a handful of people I love and trust who I will continue to count as honest to goodness friends, even though I don’t see any of them all that often, and the rest… {shrug}.  That includes people I work with, facebook so-called “friends,” a handful of relatives (not the ones who read this of course!), and a few others.  It sucks too much energy and joy out of me and I am done with it.    I won’t stop being me and caring about people and helping whenever I can, but I’ll be damned if I let myself get turned inside out and upside down by people anymore.  That said, I am beyond grateful for B, who is my very best friend and the ONLY person on earth who truly knows everything about me and loves me anyway.   I am also particularly grateful for my sister and my friends S, M and T.  I am grateful for my earthly friends, but even if they were gone, I would survive.  I need to work on filling myself with the only One who isn’t fickle, who will never let me down. 

Last week I sat through a leadership “training” thing at work on resolving conflict.  It was educational on many levels (although not on a how to resolve conflict standpoint).  Early on in the thing the presenter was discussing the types of empathy: cognitive empathy - knowing how the other person feels and what they might be thinking, emotional empathy – taking on the emotions of another person, and compassionate empathy - we not only understand a person’s predicament and feel with them, but are spontaneously moved to help, if needed.  It is the 3rd type that was of particular interest to the presenter b/c he had NEVER heard of such a concept as being spontaneously moved to help someone.  He cited as an example strangers helping a woman with a stroller get on the bus as if this was the oddest most unusual thing in the world.  And I guess anymore it is.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Hershey Park Happy

 On Sunday we went to Hershey Park courtesy of discounted tickets I bought through work.  I am not one to take advantage of the offers our employees association has for things like this, but….I couldn’t resist the opportunity to go to Hershey for half the summer price.  We haven’t been to the Park in about 6 years, since my sister and her family came up to visit.

It was a perfect day weather wise – sunny, clear, warm but not hot.  It started off in the 50s and went up to the high 70s by the time we left.  It was a little warm wearing jeans, but not humid at all so it was still great!
We skipped church (went the night before) but still got a little bit of a late start so we could have breakfast together.  We still managed to get there shortly after it opened at 10am.  It was a bit crowded right by the gate, but the longest we had to wait for any ride was about 20 minutes and most rides didn’t have more than a 5 minute wait.  We got K to go on one mini-rollercoaster (the wild mouse) which neither of us particularly liked (hills we fine, whipping curves high off the ground, not so much).  K made B put his arm around her while I sat behind them laughing.  Other than that we went on a ton of pretty tame rides – monorail, train, music express, whip, kissing tower, Ferris wheel, carousel,  Flying Falcon, Tilt-a-Whirl, swings, etc -and  B went on his own to a few of the roller coasters. 
Much of the fun was people watching and it didn’t take long for us to realize that we are freaks compared to most of the world – no flip flops with socks, exposed undergarments, inappropriate tank tops, or seriously taxed spandex, and none of us needed a cart because we were too fat to walk.  We didn’t let our child pick the flowers planted around the park as landscaping, try to sneak her onto rides that she was too small for, thereby delaying EVERYONE while they made us leave, or let our child make a scene when she didn’t get her way. 
We spent about 2 hours when we first got there and then went out to the car to have lunch and headed back in until about 4:00pm.  It was the longest we have ever spent at the park and probably the best weather we have ever had.
We ended the day with a visit to Chocolate World which was torn up and chaotic but still fun.  They are doing major remodeling and it was a mess but hopefully they will finish the renovations before the main season starts next month.  We got our usual dozen of the best chocolate chip cookies on earth (well, my mom’s cookies are the best, Hershey’s are a close 2nd), took the “tour” with the singing cows, browsed the candy until I couldn’t take the crowds (about 2 minutes) and then declared that we had all reached our limit on being around people and headed home.