Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Do you wear slippers?

Or have comfy clothes you change into when you get home from work?

Going back to Kansas City was a lot like that—comfy, comforting, known, familiar and soothing. Having never really felt all that attached to a place and having never returned to a place after I’ve left it, I just didn’t know what to expect from the weekend. OK yes I did return to Cape Girardeau to visit my folks after I graduated from high school but I didn’t choose to live there nor did I choose where my family lived. You get my point.

Kent pointed out that you spend a lot of time in your car in Kansas City, and he’s right. The town isn’t all that densely populated and it’s very spread out. It’s 24 miles from the airport to our old house in Midtown, and you’d swear the airport is in Nebraska. But there’s no traffic, at least by Boston standards, and it’s not all that crazy either.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think KC is perfect and I'm not romanticizing the town. The summers are crazy hot and the winters are really cold and I’m not all that fond of the humidity. Oh and the utter lack of public transportation is just stupid. But it still felt like home which was a surprise to this nomad.

Friday, May 27, 2011

You can never go home?

Guess we'll find out this weekend. For the first time since we left permanently, we are going to Kansas City this weekend. I am nervous and excited and I really hope I don't end up feeling like you can't go home. That would be a real let down.

I don't have much experience in this sort of thing. Wish me luck.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Those were the days

I was an oboist for decades. Mostly I am OK with losing that career but sometimes the sense of loss comes roaring back as it has today.

Yesterday a guy who works for me asked me what the heck an oboe looked like. He had a nickname he thought applied to the oboe (farting bedpost, but that’s what a bassoon is sometimes called) but wasn’t sure what one looked like. So I Googled an image for him, which came from this site.

I’m not sure why that particular website got to me. All I know is I miss playing, I miss making reeds, I miss all of it.

I started playing flute in 5th grade but changed schools for 6th grade. I wasn’t allowed to play flute that year (they had gobs of flute players) so I picked up the string bass that year. I despised everything about string bass—the size, the bow, the strings, heck even that music for it was written in ugly bass clef. In 7th grade, I changed schools again and thankfully returned to flute. But the flute section was huge (if I recall, we had seven) and half way through the year, our band teacher asked for flute or trumpet players who might be interested in switching to oboe to talk to him. I jumped at the chance and have never regretted it.

I think there’s something to the idea that instruments and personalities need to line up. I’d always been frustrated at being one of lots in the flute section, and that was also why I never liked string instruments. But there are never very many oboists so even mediocre ones are hard to find. I wasn’t mediocre though, I was pretty damn good and I loved it. I loved having lots of solos, I loved tuning the band or orchestra, I loved that I played one of the most difficult wind instruments around and I loved that I belonged to a fairly exclusive club.

I served in the Army as a musician, both active duty and in the Reserves. I also won performance scholarships for college even though I was not a music major—actually I was the only non-performance or music-related major to have a scholarship at the time. But I also got played to death.

The last year I played full time, I was in four ensembles including orchestra where I was the principal. We performed Carmen that year and I alternated between principal oboe and English horn for the performances. Carmen is a very long opera, like three hours, and our rehearsals were five hours a day. That was on top of my other ensembles plus the Reserve band gigs.

About halfway through the semester, I developed tendonitis in my right thumb but didn’t get treatment because of the heavy performance schedule. As the spring progressed, the tendonitis got worse and progressed across the back of my hand, up to my elbow and finally my shoulder. So I saw a physical therapist but at that point, I’d done significant damage to my hand. I couldn't even sign my name on a check.

I stopped playing and went through six months of PT but only got some of my hand strength back. After a full year of not playing, I briefly tried but all the symptoms returned in force. I had some wonderful Loree instruments but woodwinds don’t do well if not played, so I sold both the oboe and my amazing English horn that was built in 1910. I also gave away my reed making tools.

I haven’t played since 1992.

My hand is still not right and I guess it never will be. I have the crappiest handwriting now. I haven’t yet tried to learn to write with my left hand but that’s because I’m a fast typist and typing doesn’t hurt me. But I did have to learn to use a mouse left-handed because mousing right-handed brings everything back.

As I said, most days I’m fine where I am. But seeing that website just reminded me of so much I used to love and no longer have.

What have you lost?

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Yesterday was gorgeous. Since we don't often get days and days of sunshine, we didn't squander our chance to plant our herbs and ferns. I wish this video were better quality because the patio looks lovely and it's very tranquil there. We call it the Grotto when we don't feel light-deprived.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


We’d hoped that the letter from the condominium association’s attorney regarding his opinion on any liability from the pending lawsuit might mean we could put our apartment up for sale. We’d really like to get out of here and are more interested in renting for a while than in buying. But the update is not good: our realtor (I refuse to capitalize that word) consulted both the mortgage company and the real estate attorney he uses, and neither were optimistic. He said we’d either need a cash sale (which seems unlikely) or we should wait another year. Alas, patience is not my strong point.

Remember the job application I wrote about two weeks ago? They continued to impress me with the way they conducted their search and in fact I did make it to the final round. Ultimately they chose someone with extensive SAP experience over me. I appreciated how quickly they moved and how they did exactly what they said they were going to do each step of the way. I still had a number of concerns about the job and my main feeling yesterday after getting the no thanks call was not disappointment about not getting that job but frustration that I am stuck where I am. That’s a pretty good sign this probably wasn’t the best job for me.

In other news, it continues to be rainy, cool and cloudy in Boston. We haven't had 100% clear skies since May 1, at 1 PM when I wasn't here anyway. I’m considering doubling my daily dose of vitamin D.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Two stories

Story 1

I’ve mentioned before that my son has type 1 diabetes. He’s insulin-dependent and will be for his entire life. Here’s a description from Wikipedia (I know, not a scientific source of information—however this sums up what I want to point out):
Type 1 treatment must be continued indefinitely in all cases. Treatment is not intended to significantly impair normal activities, and can be done adequately if sufficient patient training, awareness, appropriate care, discipline in testing and dosing of insulin is taken. Complications may be associated with both low blood sugar and high blood sugar, both largely due to the non-physiological manner in which insulin is replaced. Low blood sugar may lead to seizures or episodes of unconsciousness and requires emergency treatment. High blood sugar may lead to increased fatigue and can also result in long term damage to organs.

I met a woman a few years back who had type 2 diabetes. Here’s a description of that disease:

Type 2 diabetes is due to a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors. A number of lifestyle factors are known to be important to the development of type 2 diabetes. In one study, those who had high levels of physical activity, a healthy diet, did not smoke, and consumed alcohol in moderation had an 82% lower rate of diabetes. When a normal weight was included, the rate was 89% lower. In this study, a healthy diet was defined as one high in fiber, with a high polyunsaturated to saturated fat ratio, and a lower mean glycemic index. Obesity has been found to contribute to approximately 55% of cases of type 2 diabetes, and decreasing consumption of saturated fats and trans fatty acids while replacing them with unsaturated fats may decrease the risk. The increased rate of childhood obesity between the 1960s and 2000s is believed to have led to the increase in type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents.

Do you see the difference? People with type 2 diabetes can do a lot to control their disease by the lifestyle choices they make, and those choices can help them stay off insulin. Those with type 1 don’t have that option. This lady blew off everything she knew she could/should be doing to control her disease and that annoyed the crap out of me. She had a choice and didn’t value that choice, and worse, she didn't do a thing to make her situation better.

Story 2

I work with a woman who is a dotted line direct report—that means she works for me on some projects. She doesn’t handle change well and she tends to be inflexible about her job. She’s been targeted before for layoffs and it looks as though it’s happening again. Both my manager and I have made it our goal to help her demonstrate her value to the company by giving her projects outside the scope of her normal job (but still well within her job family). When times are tough, you bust your butt, right? But she isn’t. She’s griping endlessly about how she’s not doing what she was hired to do, blah, blah blah ad infinitum. Despite reminding her that we all remain gainfully employed and these projects are designed to maintain that status, my message is not sinking in.

Yesterday I learned that a friend who has been through a lot of job adversity in her family will be losing her job. I know my friend does everything and more to succeed at her job; this situation is out of her control because the company is eliminating the entire division.

I want to shake this lady who works for me and tell her to wake up. People are losing their jobs all over the place—she’s got a chance to save hers and instead she’s just wasting it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The bi-level cat

Wally prefers to sit in such a way that his front paws are higher than his back paws. Lately he's been sitting on my arm which complicates using my mouse. But he purrs and purrs when he's sitting there so I tend to let him sit until my arm is numb.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Baro what?

When I was a little girl, I had a lot of ear infections, ear aches, and tonsil issues. In fact I think my tonsils were nothing more than gigantic satanic germ catchers—once they were removed, my health dramatically improved. Today, I generally don’t get colds, I never get a sore throat and I’ve never had the flu.

However I’m pretty sure I have utterly inadequate Eustachian tubes because my ears clog up exactly as though I’ve changed elevation when I haven’t. It’s not a wax issue, I produce hardly any of that, but it’s very uncomfortable. Plus it affects my hearing. So I pop my ears the way you would when you’re on a plane and it helps a little bit but not for long.

This past weekend, I got uncomfortable enough to look online to see what the heck causes this. Of course I found lots and lots of non-scientific articles about candling and various theories about wax build up and ear clogging. Then I found this article about barotrauma and bingo! It lists all my symptoms—although thankfully my nose hasn’t yet bled—and confirmed my anecdotal observation that blowing out my ears helped temporarily. I also realized this bout falls more toward the severe end of the spectrum. I started taking a decongestant on Monday and I'm finally getting some relief. I don’t like taking them because they make my head tingle and I feel weird. But I’d rather feel weird and be able to hear than not take them.

Did /do you have ear issues? How about your children (if you have kids)? Sadly I did pass along my ears and tonsils to my older son. He ended up having four sets of tubes and his tonsils and adenoids out at age four.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Either or

American or import?
Southwest Airlines or American Airlines?
Cast iron skillet or Teflon?
Android or iPhone?
Butter or margarine?
Blogger or WordPress?

I work with a couple of people who vehemently hate my airline of choice, Delta. Things have happened, bags have gone missing and what have you and so for whatever reason, they hate Delta. But it's not enough that they won't use Delta. Nope, they have to tell me frequently that I should not use Delta--never mind that my experience hasn't been the same and never mind that I believe on any given day, any airline can screw things up.

In the same way, people have very strong feelings about iPhones and Androids. I happen to fall in the Android camp but if you love Apple, well that's your business. Same thing with whatever blogging platform you use.

Unless you’re supporting a company that enslaves women and children, I don't really care which one you use. If you ask me my preference, sure I'll share it with you. But if you choose otherwise, that's fine too.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Those who can, do

Normally I don’t join in bashing HR —jobs associated with my master’s degree are generally considered HR jobs even though I don’t work in recruiting or hiring. Also, I see the need for having a group dedicated to developing job requirements, screening applicants, and ensuring the hiring process stays legal. However last week I applied for a job and the difference in how that application has been handled has me rethinking my position.

I applied for a job by email on Monday and got an email back within two hours from the person who ended up being the hiring manager. That fast response is pretty amazing: if I even hear back from a recruiter, it’s usually days or weeks later. Usually I don't hear anything at all; it's as though my application disappears into the ether never to be heard from again. He asked if I were available for a 30 phone screen the next day and when I agreed that I was, he sent an agenda outlining what he wanted to cover in that 30 minutes. I’ve never gotten an agenda for a phone screen.

At the end of the phone screen on Tuesday, he asked if I would be available to come in later that week to their offices for a 90 minute interview with three of them—notice again the super fast decision-making process here. I was still interested in the job so I agreed. I got an agenda for the meeting on Thursday plus more detailed information about a presentation he’d asked me to prepare.

They will make their hiring decision by Wednesday (yes, the day after tomorrow). I’m not sure I want this job, and I’m not sure they will even make me an offer. But the way they’ve handled the process has been really refreshing—no lengthy delays, no pointless hoops to jump through, just clear expectations about what was going on. HR could learn something from these guys.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Feathers and catnip

We buy toys for the cats from time to time, although not as often as you might think. That's because they are very good at taking normal items and turning them into toys. For example, the cats play with the Velcro strips, cardboard boxes, milk carton rings and my make up sponge although the sponge generally doesn't survive being turned into a cat toy.

We'd gotten a feather toy with catnip in it about a month ago, and had saved it for a special occasion. Yesterday was that day and here's how Wally responded to the toy.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger came back~

I oh so very briefly dabbled in Word Press. No thanks, you can keep it. I will stick to Blogger which I know and love so very much.

Just glad I didn't lose anything--sometimes it pays to have a slacking week.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Regional differences

I’ve just spent two of the last three weeks square in the middle of the country. The first week I was in Little Rock, Arkansas and this week I’ve been in Texas—far western Texas to be sure, but technically still in the Midwest. Just don’t tell any Texan that, I’m pretty sure most of them still believe Texas is a separate country.

What I realized over and over again is just how friendly Midwestern people tend to be toward everyone. I know surface friendliness isn’t the same as genuine friendships—but it’s really nice to be greeted by smiles by people who aren’t afraid of having a conversation with a stranger. I’ve missed that openness these last three years. I’ve missed it a lot.

This week I also got to enjoy something else that’s a rare commodity in Boston—sunshine. Lots and lots of sunshine. It’s cloudy this morning in San Antonio but the rest of the past week I enjoyed nothing but pure sun with hardly a puff of clouds in the sky. I’ve practically gorged myself on sunshine.

I’ve loved both of those things—sunny people and sunny weather. But this part of the country isn’t home any more, although truthfully Boston isn’t home in the sense that I love and miss the city. But it’s where Kent is and where the kitties are and that’s what makes a place a home for me these days. So back I go to joyless people and dreary weather which are more than made up for by an amazing man and three nutty cats.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Floors, part two

New floors. Big mess. Huge sigh and much pity for Kent.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Now I'm just glad I'm not home

We have mold under the wood floors so mold mitigation is underway. Kent said they've moved probably 90% of our furniture into the hallway and sealed the rest in plastic. They did whatever they do to eliminate the mold and Kent had to find a hotel last night. He took these pictures this morning.

I can't make this stuff up.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Poor kitties

And poor Kent, too.

Last week was tough on the cats because we had the drywall guys in and out all week. I say we but really Kent was the one there, not me. I was gallivanting around Wyoming and missed that bit of fun. Originally, the drywall repair was supposed to be completed by Friday but the mud isn't drying very quickly so it's still a work in progress.

Today the floors are scheduled to be demolished with the new floors going in over the course of the rest of the week. I'm missing this bit again, so poor Kent has to wrangle all three cats into their carriers and take them to the vet's to be boarded. He said it was really hard to keep Eddie in the house last week as the drywall guys kept coming in and out, and with the floors up next, the house will be too chaotic for kitty safety.

Wally hates the vet. He hates the smell and he will hiss at anything or anyone that smells like the vet, including himself. So this is not going to be a good week for him. Eddie dislikes the vet also, and the last time we had to board him, he lost weight. It takes a lot to put Eddie off his food. We both feel bad for the cats but know this is really the only way to handle the rest of this week.

And I feet just a tiny bit guilty that I'm missing all this--but not a lot. After all, I was home for both water events and got to enjoy all that excitement. When I get home Saturday, it should all be done with the possible exception of the drywall. We do live in a basement and it may not be dry by Friday. But the floors should be done and at least we won't have black plastic garbage bags taped to cover giant holes in our walls and ceilings.