Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in review

I'll go ahead and use mostly the same questions I’ve used in previous year end reviews.

What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before? I am now managing a team that’s partly comprised of associates based overseas. That’s a new one as was traveling to India twice as part of being their manager.

Did anyone close to you give birth? As with last year’s answer—yes. We have friends squarely in the kids stage of life so that’s not a surprise.

Did anyone close to you die? No one close to me has died; all’s quiet on that front.

What countries did you visit? Mexico and India. We didn’t take any Crazy Trips™ this year, mostly because we had a lot of expensive home repairs/maintenance this year. Edited to add that we did go to Miami over Memorial weekend, but that wasn't a crazy trip.

What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015? Cheesy but true: I lack for nothing and I’m grateful.

What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? No specific date for me again this year, just a handful of events:
  • Kent got a new car so now we’re all matchy-matchy with our Volvos. I know, that’s pretty cheesy.
  • My low frequency hearing loss got worse and I shelled out the cash for a hearing aid.
  • I had and am recovering from sinus surgery.
  • Kent started working on his MBA.
  • I didn’t really sew at all this year. Neither did Kent. We’re both overwhelmed with our jobs and when that happens, the creative hobbies take a hit.
What was your biggest achievement of the year? This isn’t an achievement, but maybe the best thing that happened all year was the unexpected positive outcome of my younger son’s deployment. I’ve always liked and loved my daughter-in-law but in my son’s absence, it seemed as though our relationship got even better and I feel like today that relationship stands fully on its own merit.

Did you suffer illness or injury? Not really, although I guess the sinus surgery sort of counts.

What was the best thing you bought? I got yet another suitcase which seems to be my magical unicorn suitcase. You can read about it here.

Where did most of your money go? Home repair and maintenance. We replaced our HVAC and our dish washer and did some expensive foundation repair.

What did you get really excited about? I’m going to sound so very lame but I was stoked when we ran the new dishwasher the first time. You would be shocked at how very quiet it is.

What book(s) did you love this year? I read Justin Cronin's The Passage: A Novel and The Twelve, the first two books in a planned trilogy. I absolutely loved them and pre-ordered the third book the instant it was available. The City of Mirrors comes out in May and I cannot wait.

What song will always remind you of 2015? Definitely this one

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Did you just say that?

I ran across this video the other day, and was curious if I’d heard many or any of the 48 comments. Much to my—well surprise isn’t the right word, maybe sad resignation is better—I had heard nearly all of them.

I have a story of my own to tell.

In 2011, Kent and I took a short vacation in Negril. This was our second time there and we’d had a relaxing time. We were waiting to catch the commuter flight from Negril to Montego Bay and one of the men who worked at the local airport was making small talk with us.

Somehow it came up in the conversation that we have grandchildren. He was shocked and commented that I didn’t look like a grandmother. I told him that I was and that I’d passed the half century mark and lived every year.

He looked me up and down, and then said “You must have been a goddess when you were young.”

Stop for a moment and consider those words. Never mind the looking up and down (which happens to women all the time and we are expected to either not notice or not mind). Think about the implications of what he said to me.

What I thought (but didn’t say and have regretted ever since that I didn't) is that I’m as much of a goddess now as I was 30 years ago, that being a goddess has nothing to do with age and in fact not much to do with looks.

I know this sort of thing happens all the time. I hear it about my marriage to Kent (he is younger). I'll be clear with you that the cougar comment offends me. I'm not a cougar, I am a woman who happens to be deeply in love with a younger man. No one would think twice about the reverse situation.

I suspect that I'm going to end up being that one woman, the one who got more outspoken as she grew older and realized that some things ought not be said, and some attitudes need to be changed. I'm OK with that. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

On pain and judgment

Years ago, I read an article that described the controversy surrounding aspirin and the relief of pain. The argument went roughly like this:

Pain is from God, especially for women in childbirth, so to alleviate pain is to go against God’s will.

I tried to find that article this morning but my Google-fu let me down. I did find articles that specifically mentioned childbirth, and also the use of pain as a diagnostic tool, but wasn’t able to find the bit about any pain relief being in opposition to God’s will.

I mention all of that because I’ve heard from more than a few people that they don’t ever take anything for pain. You’ve probably met people like that yourself (or maybe you are one)—there’s a sense of pride that the pain is just endured, almost like it’s a virtue to suffer. God knows I’ve done plenty of that myself, no doubt some remnant of my own upbringing.

But the thing is, pain is also exhausting and can interfere with recovery.

Case in point—I had an appendectomy when I was 19. My appendix wasn’t actually where it was supposed to be so I ended up with a seven-inch incision and my small intestine was compromised. Because I hate needles so much and also thought in my twisted way that I was demonstrating some sort of fortitude, I refused all pain relief post-op. I went on to do the same thing with my first C-section, but by the time I had my second C-section, I was tired of being so exhausted after surgery, and also cranky from the pain. So I endured the shots and got some relief.

And another case in point—2006 was a very tough year. I had ongoing, never ending pain after my sixth major abdominal surgery and was put on a pain management system. Since most prescription pain medication makes me incredibly nauseous, I took half the prescribed dose. As you might expect, I didn’t get much relief plus I had horrid nausea. I ended up having my seventh major abdominal surgery in August that year. The surgeon repaired an incisional hernia from all the previous surgeries, and also cleared out what he called a lot of scar tissue. If I’d been clearer about the amount of pain I was in after my sixth surgery, I might have had that seventh surgery sooner. But no, I was being all tough.

I’ve come to realize (finally) that there’s no virtue in enduring something that can be alleviated or relieved. So I am writing this post after having had sinus surgery on Friday and I’m definitely taking the pain meds (along with some strong anti-nausea meds). I want to recover quickly and I want to be able to sleep.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Standard Luggage: An unsolicited review

I have a bit of an addiction to luggage and laptop bags. I always look at those items when I’m out shopping and of course I look at them online. Some people love shoes, I love luggage and laptop bags.

In 2010 when I was traveling 90% for work, I got a Briggs & Riley wheelie bag that was touted as fitting in overhead bins. That was important to me because I didn’t want to gate check a bag ever. But as it turned out, that suitcase wouldn’t fit in the tiny planes’ overhead bins. Normally that would only be annoying but on one trip, we'd encountered strong head winds so that the 2 ½ hour layover in Memphis was all used up. I stood on the jet bridge waiting for that bag and heard the gate agent for my second flight paging me. Sure enough I missed that flight so I was in the market for another bag, one that would either fit in the overhead or else fit under the seat.

I got a Timbuk2 Wingman Travel Dufflebag—Kent has one and loves it, but I have never filled it all the way up. Since this is a soft bag, that's meant my belongings slide to the middle and sag down. Talk about awkward! Plus the bag is just a bit too big for my body so I would end up bumping people. That’s also annoying.

I read about my current bag on a blog I follow. The author mentioned the bag and included a photo. I loved the look of it so I checked out all the details on the web site and I was hooked. It’s got just a slight bit of structure around all four sides, it’s a bit shorter on the long dimension a bit taller on the short dimension. It’s got a lot of well-designed and thought out pockets, plus I loved that the laptop sleeve is on the back. It converts to a backpack with ease and can also be put over the handle of a roller bag. And you can also expand the bag by a few inches. Here are the dimensions:

  • Bag dimensions: 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 in when zipped and 21.5 x 13.5 x 9.5 when expanded
  • Volume/Capacity: 35L zipped and 45L when expanded
  • Weight: 3.7 pounds
  • Laptop Pocket: Holds most 15" laptops and 15" Macbook Pro

I used it when we went to Boston and then Norfolk last month as a trial run for my next trip to India. I was able to pack a full week’s worth of clothing etc. and then add in some of the gifts we received for the trip home. It performed like a champ so I used it for my most recent trip to India.

Here’s a photo of my bag (plus bonus photo with Eddie photo-bombing the picture).

As with all luggage that comes with a shoulder strap, I used my Tom Bihn Absolute shoulder strap. This strap messes with gravity somehow because it makes even the most awkward messenger bag seem lighter and easier to carry.

All in all, I absolutely love this bag. I can't wait to see what other products Standard develops because they sure know what they're doing.

Friday, December 18, 2015

A tiny rant

As with a lot of US-based companies, mine offers preventive health assessments and lots of resources through a company called StayWell. Part of what’s offered is an online health assessment that has you enter things like total cholesterol, hdl, ldl, ratios—that sort of thing. Also blood pressure, weight, etc, etc, etc. I think it's pretty invasive, but figured I'd take a look. (Yes, I know the results are used in the aggregate and not at the individual level. Still think it's nosy and invasive.)

If I complete this particular online health assessment by December 31 and am enrolled in a Health Savings Account (HSA) insurance plan (definition here, IRS Pub--it's a PDF--here), I'd get an extra $300 contributed to my HSA. Well, I'm enrolled in an HSA and let's face it, $300 extra would be nice. Plus I have very current lab results from my annual physical so I decided to fill out the assessment even though I have those misgivings. Still--$300.

I got to the section where I needed to enter all my cholesterol values and when I tried to enter my hdl, I got an error message. My value was “invalid” and I needed to enter a valid number. Only my value wasn’t and isn’t invalid. I just happen to have very high, off the chart high, hdl cholesteral.

That’s actually a good thing to have, and means that my ratios are perfect. That high number does make my total cholesterol appear to be a bit over normal. It is, but that’s entirely because of the hdl numbers. This isn't a new set of numbers for me and both my current primary care physician and my previous one are pleased with my numbers.

So I tried to get the system fixed. I made phone calls, I emailed, I talked to an HR person at work, all to no avail. Oops, they said. Sorry about that. We'll take your feedback to the team. And the latest solution that StayWell offered was this: Enter 79 in that field and then the StayWell representative would enter my actual value on the back end.

Um no.

Basically I have to put in a false number and hope that it gets fixed on the back end. That’s just a horrible user experience and since it’s related to my health records and involves me essentially lying, I said no thanks. While I appreciated the offer, that isn’t a fix to crappy design and a poor interface. I guess I’m glad that I’m in a position that the loss of the extra $300 isn’t catastrophic. It just sucks is all. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Setting aside old tapes

Years ago when I lived in Germany, two friends took a quick trip to Paris where they were mugged. The muggers told them that the reason they mugged my friends was because they were American. That’s always stuck with me, and not in a good way, so Paris has never been a place I wanted to visit.

Delta doesn’t fly into Bangalore but one of their partners, Air France, does. So I was on an Air France flight from Bangalore to Paris last week, and ended up having probably the nicest flight attendant I’ve ever had. Since I’ve flown at least 75,000 miles a year since 2010, and plenty more in previous years, that’s saying something. But he was fantastic. And of course he was French*.

On that long 10-hour flight, I found myself reconsidering my opposition to going to Paris, and long story not so long, realized it was time to ditch that old tape. After all, I’ve definitely seen that India is not full of people like the Ferals, so why would Paris be filled with muggers who hate Americans?

I have no idea when we’ll go—this has been the year of home maintenance and repair, not travel—but look for us to make it over there hopefully in 2016.

*He told me a couple of hours into the flight that he was pretty good at identifying where people were from. He pointed out one he'd known was Italian, and another who was British. But, he said, he'd thought I was German. I laughed and said that I'd lived there three years so maybe that's why I seemed German. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Jet lag is a funny thing

Much like altitude, sometimes I have zero issues with jet lag—in fact, usually I have no problems—but sometimes? Well let’s just say I can be in a fog for a bit.

I got back to the US Thursday evening. I thought I slept well that night but FitBit disagreed. Apparently I was awake 20 times and restless a record-setting 43 times. Wow. Friday night, I woke up around 2 AM and that was essentially it for me for sleep. I dozed a bit but never fell fully asleep and gave up at 5. You can tell from the multi-colors below that I didn't actually sleep much (the dark blue indicates when I was asleep).

Yesterday—Saturday—Kent and I had a massage in the late afternoon. We picked up sushi on the way home and by 6 PM I knew I was not long for this waking world. I managed just barely to stay up until 8 PM and I think I was asleep within 15 seconds of Kent turning the light out (he stayed up later, like a normal sane adult would).

Then in the middle of the night, I struggled to wake up, almost the way it feels when you’ve swum down lower than you can safely handle. I was convinced I’d left my 3-1-1 bag at home and that I would have no way to wash my hair or face or get cleaned up. I managed to open my eyes and could not for the life of me recognize where I was. I’d say it took me a good half minute to sort out that I was at home and so was my 3-1-1 bag.

I hoped it was 2:30 when I woke up, figured it was probably 12:30. Actually it was midnight, so I took a sleeping pill and went back to sleep.

I feel far more normal today, although still fairly low energy. Maybe I’ll be back to normal by Friday—just in time to have that sinus surgery and get all discombobulated again.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

High contrast

I’m no expert on Bangalore, let alone India but here are my observations for what they’re worth.

This country is a land of extreme contrasts—yes, there’s desperate poverty but there’s a lot of wealth and the two don’t always live that far away from each other.

I’ve seen shrines scattered and tucked away in the smallest spaces. Some are plain stone or limestone and others are highly elaborate and colorful. I’ve also seen a fair number of Christian churches here—I passed one this afternoon and I could see inside where the altar and cross were, along with a couple of motorcycles.

This trip, the garbage was far more obvious than last summer. I read an article in the paper that described the garbage dumping as a protest. Apparently, the garbage is supposed to be sorted by whether it’s wet or dry and people aren’t doing that. So the garbage trucks aren’t picking up the trash—so in turn, people are burning it.

Bananas here are a lot smaller. They’re maybe three inches long? Limes are different too, the skin is much smoother than the limes I buy at home.

I’ve seen more cows in the road this trip, also goats (which I didn’t see last time).

Someone asked me last time what I missed the most when I’m here. I don’t think I posted this (apologies if so) but other than my husband what I miss the most is being able to rinse my toothbrush under running water.

It’s winter here, and people think it’s cold. I’ve seen down vests, heavy sweaters and scarves and the other night I saw a woman wearing ear muffs. Temps have ranged from highs in the mid-80s to lows in the mid- to low-60s.

The floods in Chennai have had an impact here. The drains run under the sidewalks for the most part, and the sidewalks are made up of concrete slabs designed to be picked up and moved so the drains can be dug out. And that’s what I’ve seen—huge piles of dirt and debris piled alongside these open channels where the sidewalks are. If it rains here the way it did in Chennai last week, Bangalore would flood too. There’s just nowhere for the water to go.

We don't take cabs here, the hotel provides a driver to take me to work and pick me up (and also do the airport run). Some of my drivers have really wanted to talk—they’ve asked where I’m from, how many times I’ve been here, what religion I am (that topic isn’t taboo here), what I think of Bangalore etc etc etc. It’s mostly sweet although sort of tiring.

I’m glad to head home tonight, well really it’s early morning. Regardless. In about 30 hours I’ll be home and that’s a good thing.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A quick catch up

Hi from India! I’d love to say we’re enjoying exceptionally good weather but that’s not exactly true. You may have read about the record-breaking rains in southern India—Chennai has been particularly hard hit with amounts of rain that broke a 100-year record. The airport was underwater for nearly a week, with flights diverted to Bangalore (where I am). While Bangalore isn’t experiencing the floods, it’s been cloudy and raining off and on since I landed around 1 AM Thursday morning.

I thought the rain might cut down on the air pollution but that hasn’t been the case. I also expected that the pollution would be about what it was like last summer when I was here but that also hasn’t been the case. It’s much, much worse and I’ve seen a lot of garbage burning along the sides of the streets. As you can imagine, that doesn’t help the air quality.

It’s hard to adequately describe the population density here; it’s staggering. And with that kind of population density, it’s no wonder that the infrastructure isn’t adequate or that public services aren’t on the same level as what we enjoy at home. Honestly, any country would have these issues if they were this populated.

But as with the last trip, I am enjoying working with my team.  The culture here is very hospitable and Midwestern nice in an Indian sort of way.

Here are a couple of pictures I took yesterday at a team builder. I thought these flowers were lovely, I have no idea what they are—maybe you do?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I have no shame

Last week while in Virginia for Thanksgiving, I got pedicures for Jen, Alison and me. But we wanted to go shopping afterwards and I hadn’t brought proper flip flops.

What I had brought was a pair of house slippers that are like flip flops but pretty clearly not the real deal. They do have soles on them but they are pink terry cloth and you’d never wear them on the beach. But I didn’t want to ruin my pedicure!

Pink slippers on the right
So I wore them to lunch—I’m sure I shocked anyone in Panera who looked at my feet but so what? After we finished lunch and got to the mall, I put on my real shoes and was good to go.

Friday, November 20, 2015

More fun with dimensions

This dimension is loosely based on Frank Lloyd Wright's Jacobs House. I've seen someone else do a spot on version of Falling Water, so I didn't want to do that yet the scenery cries out for Frank Lloyd Wright.

It started with one house--the red one perched over the top of the waterfall (and yes, in the dimension, the water flows, trees move with the breeze, there are bird songs--it's very realistic). That first red house is my take on Jacobs House.

But the dimension had an item count of 315 items and I hadn't used them all up. So I added the blue house. Then I spent in-game money and expanded the dimension so I could use more items. Then I added the green house.

Altogether I expanded four times and build a total of four houses. All have kitchens, a bedroom, a dining area, a living area with fireplace, views of the waterfalls and pools of water, and of course each house has a bathroom too.

Jacobs House kitchen

Jacobs House living room

Jacobs House from behind

Green house living room

Blue house living room

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The good, the bad and the ugly

Facebook, that is.

I’m mostly a lurker these days—partly by design, partly because I’m pressed for time and have precious little energy for things outside of work and Kent. I’ll have to catch you up sometime with all the stuff I’m doing at work but for now, it’s enough to say the hours are long and I’m tired on all fronts when I get home.

I see the ugly—the vitriol posted either about world events like the bombings in Paris or the Syrian refugee crisis (what a bland way to describe that). I see the bad or maybe more charitably the stupid or inane—all the clich├ęs posted over pictures of sunsets or mountains or of course cats.

But I’ve seen good too. I’ve moved so much and lost contact with so many people and Facebook has been a way to reconnect if ever so briefly and superficially. It’s like getting to find out the rest of the story, what happened after I closed the book.

One example is my friend, C. I met her the first month after my family had moved to Cape Girardeau when I was 14. Cape is a small town and fairly insular and making friends wasn’t easy. Most had been friends, no joke, for life. But C, who went to the local Catholic high school, lived near me and loved theater as I did. I met her in rehearsals for a play, all details long forgotten except for meeting her and also my first boyfriend, Mark. None of us drove yet, we were all too young, so C and I rode our bikes to rehearsal every day, up and down the hills of Cape.

She ended up breaking her arm in some freak accident at home, and had to drop out of the play—but we remained friends until after I’d graduated from high school. Then I went off to basic training and lost contact not only with her but with most of my friends from that time. I saw her again probably five years later, and life hadn’t been all that kind to her. She’d had a number of failed relationships and wasn’t very happy. Once my parents moved away from Cape, I never went back and had no idea where she’d ended up.

We reconnected on Facebook a couple of years ago, and I could piece together a sort of history for her. She’d clearly married at some point, and had four sons but wasn’t married any more. She had a bad health scare not long after we reconnected, and nearly died. I don’t know all the details but at some point she met a man and they became friends. Things evolved and they are getting married soon.

It’s been nice to see how things are turning out for her now. Sure, there’s no guarantee with this relationship but when are there ever guarantees? And this entire story sums up why the good of Facebook outweighs the bad and the ugly. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

How is it November 6 already?

I can hardly believe that November is here and that in just a couple of weeks, we’ll be seeing friends and family for Friendsgiving/Thanksmas. Or that I haven’t written anything in two weeks.

But isn’t that the way of life? If one area is crazy busy, then something has to give. Work is the crazy busy thing for me right now, which means I have not only less time but less mental energy to use anywhere else. I’ve moaned about this before but it’s still true—I write a lot in the course of my job, so if work is crazy, it’s as though I’ve used up all my words.

Here’s another way I know things are hectic at work. I play Rift and in Rift, you can have what are called dimensions. Think of them as three-dimensional landscapes that you can make look like whatever you want. I am absolutely addicted to my dimensions—I currently have 11, of which 9 are active and not used for storage—and when I come home during times like this, I log in and create a fantasy world. As Kent says, it’s like a pixilated doll house, and I do love creating doll houses.

I took some screenshots of one of my favorites I've been working on lately. Keep in mind that I built these structures from square and rectangle tiles, planks and other building components. Almost nothing in this house is pre-made (including the aquarium which even has a fish!).

Front of house with fountain on the left

Aquarium with fish

From the front door--there are candles on the fireplace

Stairs to the second floor


Second floor sitting room

Luxury bath

Second floor deck

Thursday, October 22, 2015

And another one

October has always been an odd month for me; I’ve had some of the best things in my life happen in October (married Kent for example) and some not so good (flooded in Boston). Hands down for worst is my son getting diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

This week on FaceBook, a friend of mine posted something about her car and boom—I remembered that day in October.

My son was 12 and just entering those awkward teen years. He’d grown more modest and so always wore a baggy T-shirt and baggy shorts; that’s why I hadn’t noticed his weight loss. Well I did notice it but I didn’t realize he’d lost 20 pounds. After all, he was also growing like a weed so between the baggy clothes and his increased height, it was no wonder he looked thinner.

The night before, he’d had his best friend spend the night. They pigged out on candy and soda (what can I say? Sometimes I was a nice mom!), but he woke up in the middle of the night throwing up. And that’s when I realized that he had lost so much weight—I was helping him in the bathroom and he wasn’t wearing anything but his tighty whiteys. You could count his ribs on the front and the back, he was so thin. I was appalled, so the next morning I called and got a late afternoon appointment that day with his doctor.

Once we got there—and I don’t know how I knew this with certainty, maybe I’d finally pieced together his symptoms—but I knew what the doctor was going to say even before he came back with a glucometer to check my son’s glucose level (which was 456, I’ll probably never forget that number).  He was sick enough that we needed to go to a hospital right away, and we agreed that Children’s Mercy in Kansas City was the best place for him to go, rather than Lawrence Memorial (we lived in Lawrence). Because of how high his blood sugar was, he needed to go by ambulance and that meant I would need to follow by car.

But I didn’t have any cash, my husband at the time was out of town on business and my car was out of gas. I reached out to my friend, the one I mentioned earlier, and she came by while I was still at the doctor’s office, and put gas in my car. Only I drove a Honda Civic and she drove some great big honking van that had like a 30 gallon gas tank and she overfilled my car by a lot. She told me later that she couldn’t believe the car was full already because she’d only put like eight gallons in there!

My friend had also reached out to some of our other friends who swung into action. One came and got my younger son, another brought me some cash so I could get something to eat at the hospital. That cash ended up being hilariously unusable. He only had a $100 bill, which obviously couldn’t be used in any vending machines and nothing else was open so for a while I felt rich if hungry.

But yeah, October is a mixed bag for me.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A random memory

I was slicing strawberries this morning for my normal breakfast—sliced strawberries with a few dollops of Fage yogurt and a half cup of granola sprinkled on top—when out of the blue I remembered a time when I found strawberries gross.

I was 18, it was the spring of my senior year in high school right before Prom, and I had a part time job in a local grocery store. I was hired as a cashier but they needed help in the produce department so that’s where I was scheduled to work. And it was strawberry season, so I had to get the strawberries out and put in the display cases for people to bag up. This was before the ubiquitous packaging you see now; people scooped berries into a plastic produce bag and bought them by the pound. Not only did I need to keep the display cases appropriately full, I also had to pick out the bad ones and dispose of them. It was a messy, messy job and I had sticky pieces of strawberries and strawberry juice all over my hands and up to my elbows.

I was working on a Friday night, and had a cough and didn’t feel well—but I stayed at work and finished out my shift. The next morning I woke up with a fever and a cough and things just went downhill from there. My dad checked me out, told me to take Tylenol and so that’s how it went on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Tuesday I could hear myself wheeze so I told my folks. Dad had me get a chest x-ray, and the radiologist told my mom that Dad should put me on a stronger antibiotic because I had pneumonia in one of my lungs.

Fortunately it wasn’t a bad case—just one lung and not a lot of it but boy if that’s what a mild case of pneumonia is, I don’t ever want to get a bad case. I missed the full week of school and begged—BEGGED—to go to my prom that next Saturday (which was my first day out of bed). My mom said I could go but I had to be home by 10. I bargained to stay out til 11 and in fact was home in bed by 9. I coughed for weeks, missed the big choir trip that year and just generally felt wretched for longer than I ever would have thought.

And for some reason, I associated the smell of strawberries with all that. I didn’t eat them for a couple of years although I’m over that aversion now. But I remember very well how awful pneumonia was, and didn’t hesitate for a second to get the pneumonia vaccine a couple of years ago.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Do you hear what I hear?

I thought you might be interested in what it’s been like with my new bionic part. I got it not quite three weeks ago (posted about it here); I went in a week later for adjustments. I asked for the highs to be dropped a bit and the lows boosted, which my audiologist did—then off to work I went.

Yeouch. It was too much, and sounded wrong so I called him a couple of hours later and asked if there were any way I could get in the next day because I knew I couldn’t last two weeks until the next appointment. He squeezed me in, and we agreed to reset all the levels to what he’d originally programmed. He said that it can take a while for the brain to relearn how to process the information coming in that ear.

Today was the second adjustment visit. I told him I wasn’t sure if my brain had adjusted or if I was having problems because this is peak (PEAK) allergy season for me, which means my ears are clogged, or what. But I couldn’t hear as well. This time he didn’t change the low to high frequency program, but instead boosted it all just slightly.

Right now this seems to be working well. I’m going to be in meetings off and on this week so I’ll have more chances to hear in different circumstances. I haven’t yet turned the volume up (I have three levels of volume control), so I may give that a try too. Overall, though, I’m encouraged and I know it’s helping.

Friday, October 2, 2015

My secret fear

Do you listen to Storycorps? I don’t always—partly because I’m usually not near my desk when it plays (I listen online) and also the stories are emotionally draining.

I did hear today’s story (which was emotionally draining) and this story more than most just smacked me in the gut.

You should go listen to it now.

And here’s why it smacked me so hard. Angela says that she was afraid of what her blood line held—to the point that she’d told a trauma specialist that she would get sterilized before passing down whatever madness might lie in her genes.

You see, she named my secret fear. My father can best be described as a predator. It’s easy to play armchair psychiatrist and label him a sociopath or amoral; based on his actions throughout his life, those labels may be accurate. He cut a wide swath of destruction everywhere he went—think of him as a category 3 or higher hurricane. No, he never killed anyone but you don’t have to commit murder to leave someone crippled. Damage comes in many forms.

I had already had my two children by the time I fully realized how evil he was (I’m not sure evil is the right word but I can’t think of another that works better). So the worry for me was twofold—did his madness lie in me? Would I commit the same kinds of damage he did on my own children? And worse, had I passed this along in my bloodline?

I have two brothers who have the same father as I do. I don’t know if they share my concerns, if they watch themselves and their children, if they think, as I used to, that someone like me who has half her bloodline from such horribleness shouldn’t even be here.

I don’t think there’s a happy ending here. I’ll always be watchful in myself, I’ll always have that fear for my children, and their children. Someone like my father isn’t made, I think they’re born that way. I hope the way he was was a fluke, an aberration and not something genetic. I hope that with all my heart.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

It's the little things (again)

We painted the pink bathroom (walls were a light coffee/khaki color) and then I found this cool shower curtain online. And then I found the aqua towels at Ikea. I sure didn't think I'd find that exact color! Isn't it fun?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

I bought us more time

This won't look like much, I'm sure. Just a couple of open windows, right? But they didn't always open.

The woman we bought this house from renovated the kitchen, living room and dining room. As part of that big remodeling project, she put in new windows everywhere except the bedrooms. So all but eight of our windows are quite good and work beautifully.

The ones in the bedrooms are in decent shape,  as good as you could hope for with windows that are 57 years old. The storms, however, are a very different story. They are aluminum and have gotten grimed up in the grooves and in the latches that let you open and move the screens and panes of glass. We'd originally thought about replacing those windows but unfortunately we needed to get some expensive foundation work done, and as seems to be always the case for us, we have to replace the HVAC this fall. Those are/were necessities, not nice to haves.

It's important to me to have working windows. I love fresh air and I don't like running the AC when the weather is lovely. But our windows were so horrible that Kent actually threw his back out trying to get one of them open. I Googled "how to maintain aluminum storm windows" and found a great article that spelled out what I needed to do.

It turns out that WD-40 makes a silicone spray that unsticks those storm windows in a jiffy. OK, it takes a little longer than that but after about two and a half hours of work yesterday, I got all but one window opening and closing easily again. The lone holdout looks to be stuck shut because of paint; I can't even get the window open to get to the storms.

I'll take the seven windows that work. Now we'll be able to enjoy the cooler breezes with our windows open, and once winter arrives? We can put down the storm windows. I'd say we can live with these windows for a couple of more years.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

When you hear hoofbeats

I’ve always had a hard time accepting that (a) anything was ever wrong with me and (b) if something was wrong, that it might be unusual.

For example:

  • I waited three weeks to go to the doctor when I was 19 and had all the symptoms of acute appendicitis. Three weeks! And because of the way my appendix presented itself (small colon and attached length-wise—which I also had a hard time believing), my intestine was compromised and I had a nasogastric (NG) tube. But I didn’t realize that either until a few years ago when a friend of mine, who’s a med/surgical nurse, told me that. And when my surgeon told me that if I’d have waited another day to come in to be seen, I would have died. Didn’t believe him. 
  • Same thing with the incisional hernia I developed after six major abdominal surgeries. How on earth could the ongoing pain I had be a hernia? But of course it was and once it was repaired, bam—the pain went away. 
  • Same thing with my ears. When the audiologist got nearly giddy last year because I had such a rare hearing loss, I thought surely he was wrong. But of course he wasn’t and my results this year confirmed that diagnosis. Now I’m sitting here in my office typing this post wearing my new hearing aid. And I can hear. 

In fact, when I was in the audiologist’s office and he was doing his thing and finally turned on the hearing aid, I gasped and teared up because I could hear in stereo. I didn’t even realize I’d lost that.

Low frequency hearing loss isn't well known and not well researched or addressed; there are just so few of us who have it. So I'll need to go in frequently over the next month so he can evaluate how the hearing aid is working for me and what, if any, changes need to be made to the programming. And yes, he’s still giddy about me and my hearing situation. I think he might write a white paper about me because my situation is that rare.

Sometimes it’s a zebra.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Things you don’t learn from a book

I’ve read a bunch of books and articles on managing. Some are good, others less so and generally they cover typical scenarios in an office environment—providing feedback in a way that fosters change, modeling good communication skills, time management skills, things like that. A few of those resources have touched on the trickier topics—letting someone know that their attitude is holding them back, stuff like that. But there are others that defy easy categorization or are inherently not a lot of fun but must be done regardless. For examples, over the course of my career as a manager, I’ve had to do the following:

  • Tell someone with combat-related PTSD that he couldn’t work for me anymore because of the breakdown he’d had with our clients. I feared he might commit suicide or go on a rampage—thankfully he didn’t, but it could have gone that way pretty easily.
  • Tell someone else that I didn’t have full time work for him, only part-time and not much at that. I knew he was living paycheck to paycheck augmented by credit cards. While not my fault or responsibility, I knew that was a hard place to be. 
  • Tell another employee that in order for her to go in front of our clients, her skirts needed to be longer and her necklines higher. Yeah, that was an awkward conversation.
  • Tell yet another employee that when the dress code said dress pants and dress shoes (no athletic shoes), that’s what it meant and no, he wasn’t exempt.
  • Counsel another person that while we absolutely would make accommodation for her disability of narcolepsy, I needed her to take her naps some place a little less public (she’d been tossing her sweater over her head while sitting at a conference room table with the rest of us and then going to sleep).
  • Attend the memorial service for the father of one of my direct reports. He died very suddenly and she hadn’t known that he was that ill. 
  • Tell employees on my team who’d applied for a promotion that they didn’t get it—and hopefully in such a way that they weren’t demotivated or wanted to quit. 

How do you prefer to get feedback? What’s been most helpful to you when you’ve needed to change what you do at work?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I don't even know what to title this

How's that for real?

I've spent the last couple of weeks alternatively bummed and irked and accepting. No, this hearing loss isn't huge on the face of it and yes, others have it far, far worse (aren't there always others who have it far worse?). But this is my reality and I don't much like it.

For your viewing pleasure, here's my hearing test results. The results for my left ear are on (oddly) the right: the Xs are the most recent results, and the dots are from last year. The biggest not good changes have occurred between 500 and 2000 HZ. The reason this matters is that's a big drop over last year. I'm still considered moderate in terms of the loss, although it doesn't feel all that moderate to me and probably not to the people who end up having to repeat themselves.

At any rate, I've met with the audiologist and ordered a hearing aid. It will be here next week and then we'll see if it helps and how much. Fortunately there's a 30 day trial period so if I hate it or it doesn't help me, I'll "only" lose $150.

Funny aside, the audiologist I met with today is the one who did my hearing test last year. At the end of today's appointment, he confessed that he doesn't really remember patients' names, just their hearing test results but when I'd mentioned again today that I'd been in the military, he fully remembered me. The reason I mentioned being in the military and being a musician again was he'd asked me if I had any tinnitus. Look, I said, I was a musician in the Army and we played the 1812 Overture with real howitzers, plus I fronted a rock back. Of course I have tinnitus. I don't know any musician who doesn't, to be honest.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

PSA: Those jokes aren’t funny

Why do people make stupid so-called jokes about others’ issues or health problems or conditions?

I mentioned last year that I have what’s called reverse slope hearing loss. That’s a fancy way of saying that instead of the typical high frequency hearing loss—which is associated with age and/or environmental factors and which I fully expected to have given that I served in the US Army and was also a professional musician for years—the loss occurs in the low frequency range.

I encountered a lot of those stupid not-funny jokes last year when I told people about this problem.  The most common comment was “What?” followed by a har har har. Yeah, you aren’t as funny or unique as you think you are.

The second most common response was “Wow, getting old sucks, huh?” Um—I just told you it’s not age related or caused by environmental damage. Maybe I’m not the one with the hearing problem?

Only a few said anything at all comforting.

I’ve just returned from a visit to my ENT and as I suspected but hoped I was wrong, my low frequency hearing loss has gotten worse. Since we ruled out any physical cause last year with an MRI, and since I don’t have typical symptoms of Meniere’s Disease, my doctor isn’t sure what’s causing the loss. But my left ear is definitely worse.

In fact, it’s bad enough that I need to start telling people—at least the ones I can’t hear—and I’m already dreading the stupid inane comments. I’m also looking into getting a hearing aid in hopes that I can get some hearing restored to that ear. While hearing aids are expensive as all get out and not covered by insurance in either Kansas (where I live) or Missouri (where I work), I’ll pay the money if I can hear again.

In the meantime, if your first urge is to say “what?” to me, don’t. Don’t be an ass. Be kind and if I ask you to repeat yourself, just know it’s a hell of a lot more frustrating to be on this side of my hearing loss than it is to be on your side. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A report on salt

A few years ago, my sis and her husband gave us a cool collection of salts for Christmas. We use Maldon salt as our daily salt so my sis knew we’d enjoy trying other kinds of salt.

Then we moved and honestly I forgot about the salt—it sat in the back of a cabinet after we moved from Boston to Overland Park, and moved again to our home in Leawood. But when I was organizing our kitchen cabinets a la KonMarie, I ran across the salt and decided it was now or never. So I put the container on the counter and we started experimenting.

To be honest, I had no idea if the colors would translate to differences in taste but mostly they didn’t. Some were saltier or in the case of the smoked salt, smokier. But the main difference we noticed had to do with how fine the grain was and whether the color of the salt discolored our food.

We started with the one on the far right, the Murray River Pink Flake River Salt from Australia and both liked it. I especially liked the texture because it’s flaky like Maldon.

Next, we used the Hawaiian Red Alaea Fine Sea Salt—and boy was it red. It looked like paprika on our food! The taste was fine and the red added a little punch of color to things like eggs.

The Cyprus Black Flake Sea Salt from Cyprus was utterly black—it looked very black on our food and it stained our fingers. So we moved on.

I’m not a fan of most smoked flavors so the next one—Viking Oak Mountain Salt from Denmark—was and is all Kent’s to enjoy. He likes to add it to meat, he says it’s a nice flavor. I’ll take his word for it.

The Himalayan Crystal Pink Mountain Salt from Pakistan was probably the most subtle of all the salts and also had the finest grains. It was a very pale pink, the kind of pink that doesn’t really show up. It wasn’t nearly as pink, for example, as the Murray River Pink Flake River Salt.

Finally, we’re currently using the Qab-nab Taab Sea Salt from El Salvador. It’s also got very fine grains, and a nice mild taste.

So there you have it, a report on some interesting salts. Thanks, Amy and Greg, this was a fun gift!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Spiders and spiders and spiders, oh my!

Two years ago, I shared a photo of a honking big spider that built a gigantic web from our pergola. We named him/her Ralph and left it alone.

A descendant of Mega Spider built another web out there last summer, but I never did get a picture.

This year we have two. Such riches of spiders, it's a wonder we have any bugs at all. But Saturday we did go ahead and break apart the webs because we were cleaning windows and screens and the webs were in the way. Not to worry, though, one of  Ralph's great-great offspring had already rebuilt by the next morning.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The rest of the Blue Apron meals

Spiced meatballs
I thought I'd go ahead and finish up my review for all three meals we've now cooked and eaten through Blue Apron. On Monday I wrote about the salmon, which was truly yummy and my favorite of the meals so far.

Tuesday night, we had the spiced meatballs with summer squash salad you see in this photo. It, too, was quite good although probably my third favorite of the three meals. It's in third place not because of any deficit of the meal or recipe but because the other two were so good.

Last night we had the chicken stir fry which Kent had cooked ahead on Sunday. We figured of the three dishes, it would probably store the best for a couple of days and we were right. The rice is cooked in water plus a little reconstituted coconut milk and that added a touch of sweetness and creaminess to the meal. It's a slightly spicy dish, and I think if we were to make it again I might want to dial the spice up just a little bit, although honestly it was yummy as made.

We've skipped delivery this week (remember, we weren't sure if we wanted any more meals) but the following week, we'll be trying these:

  • Tomato-basil burgers with green bean/tomato salad
  • Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken with Rice
  • Whole Grain Spaghetti with Corn, Cherry Tomatoes and Mascarpone Cheese

I'll let you know what we think.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A fond farewell

Six years ago, I was wearing these shoes when the water main burst and flooded our place in Boston. Little did I know at the time that these shoes would be nearly the only shoes available to me for the next five months.  They served me well, as Cole Haan shoes often do—in fact, they were the second set of this particular style that I bought. The other pair looked more like athletic shoes because they were white and black rather than the grey and maroon you see here.

I’ve worn them a lot. In addition to them being the only shoes I had for a while, and then one of two pairs I had while our apartment was reconstructed, I continued to wear them for the next several years as my go to pair of casual shoes.

But in the last few years, I’ve noticed that one of the shoes squeaks. Even though I can’t see it, I suspect that the sole has a crack that runs the width of the shoe and that’s what’s causing the squeak. It’s enough of the squeak that I don’t wear the shoes much anymore. I think I’ve worn them twice in the last 12 months. So it’s time to say good bye to them. What I can’t decide is if someone else might like them in spite of the squeak or if it’s time to toss them.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

I thought I outgrew this

I’m recovering from a sinus infection and ear infections. Yes that’s right, ear infections—I used to get them as a little girl but once I got my tonsils out at age 9, my ears didn’t bother me again. Well until now.

I was pretty sure I had a sinus infection, now that I know what they feel like. And I knew my ears were very uncomfortable and clogged. But when the doctor looked in my right ear, she murmured “Hmmm red.” Then she looked in the left ear: “Also red.” Then up each nostril: “Red” and “Red.” Only my throat was spared a bit. She looked and said, “Pink, pink, pink oh there, there’s the red.”


I’m finishing up a round of antibiotics and while I’m glad I live in a time when they are available, I sure don’t care for the side effects. People have been asking me if I’m feeling better and the truth is not so much. As my sinuses and ears quit hurting so much, I was feeling all the gastric side effects. Let’s just say that it’s a good thing we have two bathrooms in our house.

But now all parts of me are doing better and I’m hopeful that this round of ear infections was just a momentary aberration and that I don’t have any more issues with my ears. I think it’s probably too much to hope for that my sinuses stay clear.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Blue Apron—a review

Warning—lots of photos ahead

Have you heard of Blue Apron? You can read about it here, but basically it’s a subscription food service that delivers the ingredients for three meals ready to be cooked. My friend Magpie was given a week’s worth of service from Blue Apron but she forgot to cancel so ended up having it for a second (maybe third) week. So Blue Apron gave her a week of free meals to give to a friend; when she asked around, I raised my hand.

The recipes this week
Kent and I have talked about the rut we tend to get in when planning meals. Neither of us have much energy during the week to cook involved dishes, even though we both like to cook a lot. So we will cook several meals on Sunday and then fill in with quick hits like omelets (which I learned to make like a champ from my grandmother) or something similarly quick. They're tasty meals and fill us up just fine but after a while, we’re bored. When we’re bored is when we order carry out sushi or just flat go out and that’s not necessarily good for either our budget or our bulges.

So the idea of Blue Apron interested us both. Our delivery came Friday and Kent’s cooked up two of the meals today—we just finished one and the other one is in the fridge for later this week. We still have a third meal to fix, spiced meatballs with garlic toast and summer squash salad.

All the food
First thing: You get everything you need to make the three dishes, and the food is fresh. The produce looked amazing as did the salmon and chicken. The Thai basil was wonderful, and the paper bags have tiny plastic bottles with screw top lids that hold the red wine vinegar and ponzu sauce.  Our three meals are:

  • Spiced meatballs
  • Stir-fried ginger basil chicken
  • Seared salmon and panzanella

The food comes slightly prepped. For example, the salmon had been skinned and the chicken for the second dish was diced, and everything was already measured. You still need to chop, cut, etc. but that's only to be expected. Kent—who is quite handy in the kitchen—thought that some of the prep time given might be a little optimistic. The chicken dish prep time was listed as 15 minutes but took more like 20. We'll see how the meatball dish goes.

Tonight we had the salmon and I would change only one part of it. The salad portion has croutons in with the tomatoes and corn but to my mind it wasn't needed. In fact, Kent only made half the croutons which still seemed like a lot, and we ate the rest of the bread (which had been baked with olive oil and then rubbed with a clove of garlic) as a side dish.

We got to try some things we haven't been able to get here before, like the Thai basil. The peppers in the salmon dish were shishito peppers, which neither of us have heard of and they were perfect for the dish. Also heirloom cucumbers, which we've wanted to try but can't get here.

More photos:

Chicken stir fry

Salmon dish ingredients

Salmon dish salad

Net/net, we like this well enough to try a few more weeks. Thanks, Magpie!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Make a dragon want to retire

I’ve never loved summer heat the way a couple of my friends do. They positively glory in heat and humidity and find my dislike nearly impossible to understand. I don’t mind summer temperatures, but when the humidity reaches 80% or more, then it’s just impossible to cool off and I feel sticky and gross.

This summer has been very warm and quite humid—you know it’s bad when the temperature is in the high 80s but the heat index is over 100. And I know I’ve mentioned that some of my runs have been downright miserable. I’m not exaggerating, I’ve gotten overheated to the point of nausea and have had to walk for a bit in the vain hope of cooling off just a bit.

I’m not alone. My granddaughter has struggled with heat exhaustion this year, to the point of throwing up and feeling generally miserable. I feel for her. I remember struggling with the heat in basic training. I was in southern Alabama from mid-July through late September and that heat was no joke. I had to drop out of a couple of training runs just to throw up because I got so overheated. You can imagine how that went over with my drill sergeants.

I’m probably always going to be sensitive to the heat. At least now I can walk for 30 seconds or so while on a run and not have a drill sergeant yelling at me and calling me names.

Here's a little Bruno Mars for you again--he's so hot, he's cool.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

So this happened today

It’s hot here in Kansas. Really hot, with heat index values over 100 F most days. That in turn can lead to some pretty terrific thunderstorms with a whole lot of rain. We’ve had so much rain this summer that we haven’t bothered to have our sprinklers blown out. Why pay to do that when we’re getting enough rain that everything is growing like crazy (and in fact, it’s been hard to get out to weed because the ground is so wet)?

Anyway, the forecast today was for sunny, hot and humid, but rain wasn’t in the picture until later tonight. Surprise! We had what sure seemed like a microburst on our street—nearly straight line winds and torrential rain but the weather radar barely showed anything.

As it was raining and thundering, I walked to the kitchen to start working on lunch when BOOM! A pretty good sized branch landed on top of our pergola and startled the snot out of me. Then five minutes later, the sun was shining again as if the storm had never happened.

So I opened the patio door and noticed a man standing just inside our backyard. Well it was our neighbor from across the street, and he too had seen the branch fall. Like me, he thought it was a pretty good sized branch but he’d thought it fell on our house.

And 30 minutes after all that, Kent was able to get on the ladder, crawl onto the pergola (thankfully it's very sturdy) and tug and shove the thing until it gently fell over the edge and landed on our patio. We’ll have to get it all cut up and bagged tomorrow so that it can get put out with the rest of the yard trash on Monday.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

It's the little things

Our home is a 1958 three bedroom, two bathroom ranch house. One of the bathrooms still has all the original tile and fixtures; they're in great shape and they're pink.

The only thing that wasn't pink was the toilet seat. It had been replaced with a grey one, which is also a common color in houses from the middle of the last century, but it always kind of bugged me that it wasn't pink. Then one of the little spacer things that hold the seat up from the toilet bowl broke. It sort of stuck out and jabbed our legs anytime we sat to do our business. That was both uncomfortable and annoying.

I'd tracked down some places that carry either the old fixtures or modern reproductions, so we ordered some color samples both for the seat and for tile. Our current shower head is pretty low but can't go higher because the surround isn't tiled to the ceiling and we'd risk a lot of water damage if we left it as is.

Anyway, we found a nearly perfect match for the seat, and here it is:

If you're interested, you can read this website about the history of the pink bathrooms and kitchens found in houses like ours.

And just for fun, take a look at the photos of this 1950s era kitchen. I love it!

Edited to add that the seat actually does match the tiles; it's just that the flash really bounced off the seat and made it look a shade lighter. But trust me, it's not.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Brand loyalty

We’re big Delta fans in our house. We fly Delta, we use a Delta AmEx and we spend our Delta miles sending people hither and yon. It’s been a great relationship—Kent’s been either Platinum or Diamond for seven years and I’ve been Platinum for six years.

We’d booked tickets for Jen and the kids to come see us this month. Since her folks still live in Lawrence, it’s especially convenient because the kids can see two sets of grandparents with just one stop. But as can happen, plans changed and so we needed to cancel the four sets of tickets. To be honest, I figured the miles might get refunded but the cash for fees and an upgrade to Economy Comfort was probably gone.

To my utter surprise and delight, Delta refunded 100% of everything.

My mom pointed out that if she—someone without status—had tried to get a similar refund, it probably wouldn’t have happened. And that may well be the case. But the thing is, loyalty is a two way street. Yes, Delta treated us well. But we’ve been very loyal for the last seven years.We only fly Delta, we use a Delta AmEx and we work at it. Twice I’ve had to fly a different airline for just one segment of a flight because either Delta didn’t go there, or their flight was booked. It’s not all that convenient to change airlines; often that means clearing security again which is not my idea of a good time. But my point is this: we’ve been very loyal and this week, that loyalty paid off in a big way.

And for Delta, it will pay off too because we’re even bigger fans now.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Odds and ends from my trip

First, I’m pretty much over the jet lag, although I was fairly useless yesterday. Mostly I felt slow but I wasn’t particularly sleepy until about 6PM. I did well to stay up till 7:30, to be honest.

I made the whole trip using my carry-on bag plus my laptop bag (a backpack). What I love about my suitcase is that it will fit in the overhead bins of all except the really tiny planes, the ones that have no first class and bins with sliding doors. That’s helpful when connections are tight, even gate checking can mean you miss the next flight. In this case, on my return trip I was changing airlines and potentially terminals in Frankfurt. If I’d checked a bag, I’d have had to clear customs and immigration, then retrieve the bag from baggage claim and clear security again. That was a hassle I didn't want.

I wore everything I packed with the exception of one company-branded shirt. I have two of them; one is pink and the other one is black. They’re polo-styled shirts and travel well only the black one is cut smaller than the pink one. I hadn’t tried on the black one or I’d have left it at home. I didn’t end up needing it anyway.

The food was really good, also spicy but that’s fine by me. One of our new associates had made it her mission to find the limits to my enjoyment of spicy food, but she never did. Last Tuesday night at the hotel restaurant, I ordered a chicken dish that was labeled as spicy. The server even asked me a couple of times to make sure I knew it was spicy. I told him I hoped that it was—and it was, but not too spicy for me. Even the crackers are spicy. I’m not sure if that’s peculiar to all of India or specific to southern India, but they were.

Here are some random photos of the food I had over the nearly two weeks I was there. I don’t remember what anything was called, just that it was really good.

It was in the shape of a heart :)

This one is dhal (I forget what kind)
Those little round bread things are yummy.

It's HUGE! And filled with some
sort of potato mixture.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Conversations you don't want to have

This morning Kent and I were using instant message before we talked. You see, we talk in the morning (my morning/his evening) so I like to make sure he's available and he needs to make sure I got up before he calls. And his IM said he had some exciting news to share. Well now, that sounded interesting!

Turns out Kansas City had a tornado warning (not watch) and so he'd had to wrangle all three kitties into their carries and take them to the basement while the threat passed. Getting cats into carriers is never the most fun but especially when there's just one human, three cats and a pressing need to get them into those carriers sooner rather than later.

So when we talked, they'd been back upstairs for not even an hour. Yikes! As I told Kent, he made a really bad Dorothy and the cats would never be mistaken for Toto.

I'll leave you with an old photo of kitties in kennels. Not much has changed, they still hate being in them.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Things I've seen in a week

Cows. It’s not an urban myth, there are cows in the big cities. Until today I hadn’t seen any except in a couple of empty lots but this morning on the drive to the office, I saw two ambling along in the middle of the street by the concrete divider. Then tonight I saw another one.

Horns. Car horns here almost form a language of their own. Everyone honks—cars, motorbikes, motorized rickshaws—everyone. But the horns aren’t as loud as in the US. I don’t know how to quantify it any other way except to say its how the drivers all communicate. I’ve seen a lot of very close calls but no accidents, all the drivers just sort of weave in and out like a bizarre, elaborate ballet dance.

Today I saw my first man peeing in public. Granted, he was in a fairly empty lot with his back to the street but still it was clear what was happening. I just turned my head.

There’s an empty lot by the hotel (which is nice, by the way—clean, quiet, just a normal hotel room) and I realized yesterday that was I thought was two small cinder block storage cubes are actually homes.

We have kind of frequent power outages although that’s a really grand term for what happens. Basically the power goes off for a minute, maybe three but so far no longer than that. And then it comes back on.

I’ve been using the electric kettle in my hotel room to boil tap water for coffee in the mornings. Sometimes it’s a bit brown so I toss that water and start again. I figure brown is bad when it comes to water, and remember my dad’s comments about how health in the US dramatically improved as we all started getting access to clean water. I’m glad the water comes to a complete boil, I’m glad I had my typhoid vaccination and I’m really glad I live in the US where we take clean water for granted.

Mostly I drink bottled water though.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Three cheers for the red, white & blue

I’ve spent the 4th of July abroad before. Two years ago, Kent and I were in Dublin over the 4th and of course I lived in Germany for three years so wasn’t on American soil then either. Being abroad this year isn’t a first, but I will say this is the furthest away I’ve been. And also the furthest south and the closest to the equator, too.

I elected to spend the day at my hotel rather than do any sightseeing here in Bangalore. To be honest, I’d rather not take the slight risk of unpleasant encounters and also it’s so hot here. So I’m watching Captain America: Winter Soldier in my room. I’ve got books on my Kindle and I have some work I’ll get done either today or tomorrow.

I’ll be glad to get home later this week—although coming home from my second business trip to Beijing will always be the time I was most eager to return to my country. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

A quick summary

So I’ve been in Bangalore (which is actually spelled Bengaluru here) for nearly a week. In all honesty, my experience here is rewriting the awful, wretched, very bad, no good experiences we had with our insane upstairs neighbors in Boston. I’m starting to believe that those neighbors—the Ferals—were the aberration. My team and my colleague’s team of associates are nothing at all like the Ferals. In fact, the differences couldn’t be more stark. (Should that be starker? Microsoft Word certainly thinks so.)

I already told you about Monday’s amazing dinner (still in awe of how fabulous it was). Tuesday, J and I were on and began training our new associates. We started with a quick session on cultural differences. We’d had our US associates answer two questions:

  • When you think of the US . . .  and
  • When you think of India . . .

And then we had our new associates in India answer the same questions. That made for some good conversation. We concluded that part by asking our new associates to provide us with five areas that they believed would help promote team communication and collaboration.

The rest of the week has been spent on more job-specific materials and I have to say, these guys are sharp and quick. I’m really pleased with how things have gone and think the five I am picking up are going to help our team produce even more at a very high quality.

On a non-work note, last night J and I went to Commercial Street. We didn’t realize that the drive was so long but it was wonderful to get out, see more of normal Bangalore/Bengaluru and do some shopping. J snapped a selfie of us and yes, she’s quite tall:

She’s gone now, or nearly so (her flight leaves around 9PM local). I’m here through very early Thursday morning and will be joined by two other colleagues Tuesday evening.

I hope you have a great 4th of July holiday. I’ve certainly spent my fair share of Independence Days in non-US locations but I never expected to be in India on this day!