Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Miss you, Mom

My mom passed away on this date in 1993. Sixteen years. It seems like 16 years; it seems like she's been gone a long time. Her death came as such as surprise to us all at the time. I guess it was because we couldn't imagine what life would be like without her.

I was thinking whether I had an electronic picture of her and realized that I don't and I'm kind of shocked. I'll have to dig around and find some snapshots to scan. She passed away before people really started keeping their photos on their computers.

Shitfire (for some reason this word is not in the dictionary, and it is the only word flagged as misspelled in this post). There are times when I'm as OK as a person can be when she's lost both her mom and her sister young. Mom was 56, Kris was only 45. I try to look forward while having learned from the past; that's how I want to live my life. But there are times when I'm tired (like now) and the loss still seems so profound that I have trouble measuring its consequences.

So that's it. Just a marking of the day. Remembering.

Eight Hours Earlier - The Next Day

That's the time difference between most of Australia and Colorado. CB's off for three weeks of working in southern OZ (as the cool people refer to it) and I have a few thoughts.

First it IS a long way from home. It's about a 14 hour flight from Los Angeles. Usually CB's trips keep him in this hemisphere (although he did go to Spain in May) and this trip seems different both because it's longer and farther away. Never mind that he'll be home for three weeks then goes back to New Zealand for another tour in November. Bounce bounce bounce.

By the end his internal clock has been thoroughly messed with, and it takes some time to figure itself out. In the meantime, he's overcome by the need to sleep occasionally and not much can be done about it. We've figured out that me waiting a week and then coming down for a visit seems to work best.

Also, the time change is wacked, in terms of trying to talk every few days. I'll need to be better at carrying my phone around, and crappy connections are more the rule than the exception. It's a mixed bag to be all excited to talk only to have to keep saying, "I'm sorry, I didn't hear that" and "I'm sorry, you just cut out".

That being said, connectivity is apparently a lot better than it used to be. For example, CB said it's possible to go to Google Earth and get street views of the hotels they are staying in. I can only assume that means that the place in general is moving towards better and faster internet, but at least I can see the place!

Finally, I think about how I was the first two years for this trip. For some reason, the combination of factors for this particular trip made me anxious while he was gone. Anxious about whether the relationship was going to work out, anxious about his safety, etc. I have since come to a realization, and I had to go through a few trips to get to this place. The realization is that, left to my own devices, I worry too much about things that aren't worth worrying about and that further, I can do nothing about. And knowing the process can happen sort of names it, and then it goes away.

So this year, I'm too busy to worry! It's not just that I have the teaching gig to keep me busy. We've now done this enough that I know the routine and know that I'll hear from him when he's able to call. So simple. But keeping busy does help, and if I ever feel like I've gotten ahead, I've got a pair of socks, a sweater, a scarf and a bag waiting as unfinished knitting projects that are just waiting for me to come back!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

That's not how it looks from here - oh wait

It's Saturday morning, I slept well, and the day will be full of getting things done. Unfortunately, it's mostly going to be related to making up hours at work and doing things for class. Playing catch-up, as it were.

I've been in a grading vortex the last couple of days, where I'm plodding through a stack (and it's not a huge stack, only 21 papers) of lab reports. These mostly first-time college students who have no experience writing scientifically are expected to churn out a lab report that conforms to and is graded based on how people write scientific journal articles. If they put me in charge (ha ha) we'd start with the pieces of it, because no one gets it. I write lots and lots of comments (hint: never say "First you take a measuring tape...") and I've already put 8 hours into grading these damn things and I've got another 8 reports to do. Harumphhhhh.

It's times like this when it's really important for me to step back and look my situation from a different, wider perspective. One that takes into account the temporary nature of this "problem" and the fact that I have it because I have a full time job plus took this on. It's going to be a beautiful day, and I'm meeting up with a friend for dinner, and once I get over this hump of grading, I'll be able to actually work ahead on lectures a bit.

That's a good thing, a really good thing, because I think it's getting more important in this class that I don't spend the time yakking up front. I'm on the look out for activities they can do in class, and so far it's worked well. I gave the first exam Monday, and while the average was 70%, a lot of people didn't do as well as they had hoped and I want them all to succeed.

And for all my kvetching (I'm sorry to those of you that have had to listen to it) I really, really like it. I wish someone would hire me to do it full time. I have noticed that my effectiveness and maybe my skill as a teacher are directly related to how comfortable I am with the material, and the students of course respond well (both with their attention and with good questions) when I'm in that zone. I suppose that's a no-brainer, but it's been my experience (teaching three labs a week in grad school) that getting to the "I've done this before, so I'm comfortable" stage doesn't happen the same way when teaching only one class - I have to be really well rehearsed instead.

So with that, I'm off to get ready for the day. I'll start out at work, where I owe them some hours and am looking forward to seeing some results of a test. Then I'll maybe go someplace nice and get the rest of these lab reports done.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Word to My Boss

Dear H,

A couple of days ago, I was getting myself, my kid and my dog all ready for the day and it struck me how amazingly great it is not to have a set clock-in time for work. Your attitude has always been one of, "You guys are adults, you know how to get your hours in, and as long as the work gets done, I don't need to hear the gory details".

I was thinking, then, about the implications of this attitude. For starters, it has allowed me to carry on a long distance relationship with CB by letting me work weekends to bank hours in order to visit (or be visited) a few days every few weeks. With 10 measly days of vacation, I couldn't swing it otherwise. And while I'm thinking of it, thanks for hiring me at a decent wage. If I'm there for another year I'm going to ask to be upgraded a pay level, but I think it will be worth it for everyone.

Perhaps most importantly, being freed from a set start time has promoted a calm and largely anxiety-free atmosphere in the mornings at my house. I know what time I want to get to get out of the house that day, and if I miss that by 5 or 10 minutes, no one cares. I see women putting make-up on at stop lights, and hear about "breakfast on the go" and am thankful we don't have to do that.

And while I'm at it, I also appreciate the way you let us work on our projects without hovering. There's sort of this understanding that we'll come to you with updates and problems, and it's really great to be free to work on my stuff at my own pace.

So that's it. Thanks again, and I'll try to have that manuscript finished by the end of next week.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Don't look now, here come the holidays

My family is scattered around the country - Ohio, Minnesota, and South Carolina. It used to be assumed that I would come in yearly for either Thanksgiving or Christmas and spend a few days.

I've been thinking lately about how some things have changed, though. Since my divorce, it's Mr W and I who will travel together (CB's working for most of that time). Last year, which was the first Christmas after my sister died, I simply couldn't bear to be in her house without her, so I didn't go to Ohio at all. I elected to meet up with my siblings in South Carolina, and had a great time.

But the desire to meet up with family during the holidays stays the same. I guess there are more choices now.

I'm getting the same feelings of anxiety when I think about how they'll have the house decorated without Kris there. Hmm, I'm a little surprised about this myself.

Anyway, plans are shaping up, and I need to decide where Mr W and I will spend Thanksgiving or Christmas. Thankfully, Mr W's dad is flexible as to the holiday schedule, so I don't have to worry that a battle will ensue over holiday time. That IS a good thing that I often take for granted.

Mr W's developed some anxiety of his own regarding flying, and I need to help him work on that. CB suggested we get some books about the ins and outs of flying because, as I often say myself, knowledge is power.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Back from radio silence

I've fallen off of posting and intend to get back on it soon. CB was here for a few days, and we were BUSY most of the time. I need to see if he can send me some of the video from the bike parade that went past my house last Saturday - it was fun to watch. Next year, we're doing it, though, not going to be spectators.

Teaching is going well, but I feel a bit behind. They have their first exam on Monday, and I haven't written it yet. Good thing those copy machines are available on Saturday.

Finally found some music lessons for Mr W that I think will work - more on that later. The short version is that they were going to have him in a class, but all the other kids were 6, so he'll get private lessons for the same price.

I'm starting to think about the holidays, too. Looks like Mr W and I will go somewhere, just not sure where yet. Probably Ohio for a few days.

I just noticed the date. My recollection of 9-11 includes spending a lot of time in the basement of the house my x and I were living in at the time. Mr W was 7 months old, and I remember having him on my lap, and he was gnawing on my fingers like babies will do. At one point, I felt two little ridges in his bottom jaw, and there were his first teeth just starting to poke through. Life marching on.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Musical Wumpkin

Mr W is the nickname I use for my son Zach. After he was born, they brought him into the room and I said something like, "there's my little wumpkin". Or maybe it was pumpkin, but no matter, wumpkin stuck and he, as of this writing, will still answer to it.

He's an only child, and spends his time equally between his dad's house and my house; we all live in the same town so this usually isn't too much of a problem. He does well in school, and given the choice, he'd play on the computer or his handheld DS game thingy for the remainder of his free time. OK, that's not entirely true, but his dad and I (mostly I) felt that he should develop some other interests.

I did not come from musical people. This might be revisionist history, but I remember coming home in 3rd grade and wanting to play the clarinet. And my parents said no. As a parent of a kid who to date hasn't shown the initiative to say "I'd like to try X" I'm still surprised I got turned down. But my parents weren't musical either, so they didn't have a basis to know what they were getting into.

And, neither do I, but I'd like Mr W to have some musical background. A friend's son takes lessons from the terrific music director at our church, so I contacted him and was put on a wait list for private piano lessons. I think Mr W would benefit from the lessons, but looking back, I don't think he's ready to dive in. And, while Mr W's interest right now is an electronic keyboard, those lessons' point is to make him into a piano player.

This was a bit frustrating for me because I don't know what makes a good music teacher or program. I want him to be engaged and like it, despite the fact that he's got to practice.

And then, by chance, I found the place and program.

I was driving by our sad excuse for a mall (vacancy rate = 50%) and saw a colorful sign that said "Foundation Music School". Yup, I was attracted by the sign (hey look! color!). I looked at their website and they've got a program for kids 6-9 (Mr W is 8) that introduces them to piano through aural and visual means, and they play games and imitate sounds. I talked to one of the teachers yesterday, and she was enthusiastic and from the conversation, I think this would be a great introduction to music for the kid.

Phew! It's odd how chance played into this, but that's how it goes sometimes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I just realized it's September

It's been a good summer. How is this measured? Well, partly by the absence of tragedy, but also by the extent to which the fact that it was summer was taken advantage of (if that's a sentence). Last summer we were all reeling still from my sister's death, and a couple of years before that was the whole divorce thing, so it may be the absence of tragedy. But we did do some good stuff:

Mr W, Sally and I went hiking, something I'd like to do more of, especially given this one trail that allows dogs off-leash. We also went to an amusement park and pushed his boundaries a bit as to what he was willing to go on ride-wise. I keep saying I'll go on whatever he'll go on, but I'm going to have to modify that to exclude rides that go around in speedy queasy circles. We rode our bikes fairly often, and he had a good summer at camp.

I got a decent garden in this year, although my landscaping projects have not come to fruition. Good thing about Colorado is that I've got some time yet before the snow flies to make some progress there. CB and I visited the Grand Canyon and looked for condors. Saw the former, looked for the latter for several hours with no luck. Over half the visitors seemed to me to be foreign - welcome, of course, but where's the Americans? I did some fieldwork for work and have concluded I prefer fieldwork on plants to that with mosquitoes. On the up side, I got to visit several cities in western CO that I had not been to, and they were lovely. Not to mention I collected specimens that will be my work for the next few months!

The weather wasn't too hot, which is always nice when one's house doesn't have AC. There is usually a stretch of a week or so when I contemplate putting the window AC unit in the living room, but it never stayed hot for that long.

So all in all, it was a good summer. Mr W was asking just yesterday about how long each season is, and I told him that if we end up with a mild winter (like we did last year) fall lasts a long time. Ah, sunny, jacket weather during the day and cooler temps at night. But there's always a chance of a blizzard in October as well, but that's the price of living here.

CB's coming in on Friday for several days. It's been a while since he's come here, and I'm very much looking forward to it.