Looking at the End

Today is the last day of my employment in a job I’ve held for 28 years, 25 weeks, and 2 days. Work-wise the last 10 business days have been a blur. I gave my employer 12 weeks notice. I imagined that I would train my replacement. There has been turmoil because the department our unit is under has determined that they want to change the credentials required for my position. What they have proposed (and are insisting on) would make me unqualified to apply for my job. Sadly these new requirements also make my “heir apparent” ineligible to hold the job. Thus she has refused to be trained. She moved out of my office, stopped asking questions, and is (according to the grape vine) looking for another position likely outside the university. There was rumor that my position would not be replaced. You see the whole purpose of the buy-out was to eliminate staff on the high end of the pay scale and to only replace 50% thus realizing a hefty savings. The only flaw is when they don’t replace key positions. So after some heated exchanges with high ranking faculty the department finally posted the position on Tuesday. If they are lucky the interviews will take place in early July and a replacement named by August…

The invitations to my retirement “open house” went out and there was a firestorm of email. I was inundated with requests for meetings so that I could introduce my replacement and go over details of their projects with the new person… I had to let them know that my job hadn’t been posted yet and no replacement had been identified or hired. Talk about anxiety! There was a massive cry of anguish heard throughout the biology and chemistry, and biochemistry departments. I won’t lie, it was gratifying to know that I would really be missed by the people I assisted. I am expecting to see many of them today as they stop in to say good-bye. Those would be all the grad students who weren’t high enough on the food chain to be invited to my party last Wednesday. The original guest list was 95 and I had to cut lots of people from my original list of 27. I had to eliminate my husband, in-laws, and friends. At the 11th hour I was informed that only 33 people had sent an RSVP. It was OK because I had informally invited some of the graduate students and post docs to crash my party. They did! Not all the food was eaten but no one went away hungry. 3/4 of an enormous cake was taken back to work and will be consumed over the course of the next couple days!

I’m going out to lunch with my co-workers today. We are going to India Garden. I had agonized on the venue – go where I like to eat or go where others will be comfortable with the food choices… Today I get to be selfish. Besides I’m paying for my own meal so I’m going to eat good food. It is a buffet so there won’t be a wait! I plan on gifting them all with some of the “prizes” I collected to give out to the winners of “buzzword bingo” (a game played during continuing education presentations). Since the boss has eliminated all continuing education presentations, I have lots of things stashed away. They will get everything from t-shirts, pens, and lanyards to stuffed toys, calculators and water bottles. I took time last Tuesday to put together the goodie bags which cleared out the drawers in one filing cabinet.

Speaking of which, I spent all week removing my art and wall hangings from my office. I’ve turned in my keys and said my farewells. I have only one small box of personal items left to bring home at the end of the day. It will have the uniform I wore today, my certification plaque, my shoes, my spare umbrella, and the name plate from my locker. I hope the box isn’t so heavy that I won’t be able to skip to my car!!

As a side note, my husband Sparky asked me the other day, “What will you talk about if you can’t talk about work???” Hehe! I’ve got plenty to say. I don’t think that will be a problem! I have several already retired friends who will provide an opportunity for trouble. Of course I may become one of those crazy old ladies that writes letters to the editor…

Looking at Familiar Surroundings

Rolling down the windows provided some relief as the cold air rushed in. A deep breath and she was fully awake and hungry. A quick check of her watch and she was ready for lunch. Rummaging in the cooler produced a sandwich and a drink. After eating in the car, she headed to the hotel. On the way there she kept the windows cracked to help stay awake. Securing an early check-in, she lugged her bag and cooler to the elevator. Ensconced in the room she was able to give her phone a little extra charge. Impatiently she checked to see if there had been a call or text from the Vet School. She turned on the TV but turned it off again after checking the weather. Pacing like a caged tiger, she traveled from the window to the bathroom and back again. She decided that a trip around campus might be interesting. Her drive onto campus showed many changes and lots of new buildings. She told herself a brisk walk would be better than driving. Finally scoring a decent parking spot, she toured campus, periodically checking her phone. They had replaced the old art buildings, Quonset huts constructed just after WWII, with a modern and spacious building. She looked over the new inner courtyard sculpture garden. There was a stone carving of a woman transforming to a cat. She examined it carefully as if it were an instruction manual. If the stone benches had been dry and clear of snow, she’d have sat and enjoyed the statues, as it was she kept moving. There was a new natatorium and 3 dormitories where the intramural fields had been. The parking lot next to the Science Building had been usurped for graduate student apartments. As she walked, her footsteps took her closer to her old dormitory. Unlike the dream, the bushes had been removed and there were no familiar faces. She was relieved that the ghosts that lingered there in her mind had abandoned the physical location. Standing in front of the steps, her memories played both the good and the bad. The sun began to slant in a way that cast long shadows indicating late afternoon jolting her back to the present. Realizing that she had been daydreaming for more than an hour, she checked her phone hoping for a missed call. There wasn’t one. She intended to drive back to the hotel but once behind the wheel she ended up at the vet hospital.

Here is another episode in this story. My own story involves a retirement party today. I don’t have any clue what is on the menu or what kind of retirement gift I’ll receive. I’m hoping that I don’t get any decorative cut glass engraved with the university logo or worse. I was told who I could invite (my little list of 27 people was axed because the big shots had to be invited).  Then as the regrets to the invitation started rolling in, I was informed that I could invite people after all. Of course I had already let some people know that they were welcome to crash the party. If too many people show up what can they do? Fire me?? I’ll let you know how it went.

Looking at Online Purchasing

As I mentioned previously, I assisted son#1 in cleaning up and cleaning out his bedroom prior to the repair work. Now I am a professed “neat freak”. This was confirmed by son#2 who announced during a family get together that I “love animals but she annihilates dust bunnies – they don’t stand a chance in her house!” I suppose it was a compliment. It took 2 days of hard labor to straighten and condense all his stuff into organized and boxed units for storage in the attic. At one point he had a dresser drawer on the floor in the middle of the living room heaped with underwear. I’m not kidding there were maybe 3 months worth of skivvies. So I did what any OCD person would do – I emptied the drawer and sorted them by size and style. Then I asked the question, “Do you even wear this size?” Of course the answer was an exasperated no. A stack of 12 pr of gently worn or never worn boxer briefs went into the Goodwill bag. Then I beckoned him to sort through the remaining boxer briefs to eliminate any that had holes or dead elastic. Those went into the bag as well. He was now down to an ample supply when I stumbled on another stash of underwear in a bin. As I lifted them out I asked (probably shouldn’t have but I’m his mom), “So you are wearing silky thongs now?” He snatched them from my hands and yelped, “They’re NOT thongs!!” I suppressed a giggle. I then came across 2 pair of holographic geometric neoprene boy-cut briefs. As he was clasping 2 dozen pairs of silky satiny skimpy briefs (in black and navy), I asked, “Are you so desperate for cash that you are pole dancing now?” as I held up a pair. He gave up. He dropped the bikini briefs onto the sofa next to me and held up the other pair of neoprene underwear. As I stacked his “too delightful” briefs into the underwear drawer, he told me the story of the neoprene underwear.

He was shopping on line. He said that one of the drawbacks of shopping on line is that sometimes the photos and descriptions are not accurate, don’t match the product, or are completely missing. In the case of this unfortunate purchase it was all of the above. He had ordered some underwear previously and thought these were the same. They were on close-out super sale for only $2 for a 2 pack and appeared to be plain black. It was too good to be true. They arrived and he opened them. He was taken aback by the pattern and the texture of the fabric. He reasoned, what the heck, he’d give them a try. By the time he finished his story I was laughing so hard I was crying. I’m sure the neighbors heard me howling and thought he was probably murdering me. His description included these phrases: “They didn’t breathe at all.” “It felt like a swamp in my pants.” “I was pruned when I took them off.” “I’ll never wear them ever again.” “What idiot thought that fabric was a good idea?”
At first he was going to toss them but I convinced him that he could safely donate them to Goodwill. You know they don’t keep a secret file on the name, address and license plate number for each donation…

Looking at the Home Stretch

Is this how the butterfly feels
Moments before bursting forth
Constriction and anticipation
Metamorphosis complete
Yet the final form crumpled
Unrealized potential
A gasp of breath
Unfolding into glory

As I wrap up week 2 in the count down to retirement I feel an uncertainty and a rush of excitement. There are only 5 work days left in this phase of my life. It will be so strange to find myself with no early morning commitments. I won’t have that mad rush to get to work and no sharp increase in blood pressure or heart rate when traffic threatens to make me late. I have plans to continue at the university in an on-call position. I can’t start until September 30th but the time will certainly fly. There are new routines to establish, trips to take, people to visit, geocaches to find, and adventures just around the corner. I’m going to give myself a few days post-retirement to unfurl my wings and catch my breath. Then I’m going to be very busy doing what I want to do…

Looking at Prompts

There are several blogs that I follow that have been posting writing prompts. I have been so caught up in the rush to retirement that I’ve pretty much ignored them. Not because I don’t want to participate but instead because I have so many things clamoring for my attention that I’ve had to prioritize. Truthfully poetry is pretty far down on the list right now. BUT the Haiku prompt for this week as posted on I am Jann Doe’s blog is to write a Haiku using the prompt of “potential”. Now I’m not sure how the planets have aligned but I wrote a poem incorporating that very word. It was not a haiku. It is scheduled to post next week. Her prompt however made me rethink my poem with a different point of view. Since in retirement I intend to make writing and poetry and actually editing a more pressing endeavor, I’ve broken my self imposed rule of 3 posts a week. So today is an extra post, just so I can add this prompt!

Dead dream shattered hope
Unrealized potential
Toss the manuscript

As is the problem with writing, sometimes what you think is a riveting topic with engaging characters, turns out to be nothing more than over cooked oatmeal on paper. So there you have it. A haiku about potential which is the favorite attribute of a writer. A blank piece of paper is full of potential. An idea is dripping with potential. The sharp intake of breath as inspiration strikes is loaded with potential. And all too often the potential is not attained. It is squandered, poorly executed, or left too long on the shelf to shrivel.

Looking into the Dreamscape

Looking to the left was the dorm entrance, even in the dim light she could tell that something was out of place. The bushes were in motion. As she approached her fiancé burst from the shrubbery, hair disheveled, pants unzipped and a wild drunken look in his eyes. He fixed her with an unflinching stare. Without a shred of guilt or remorse he intoned, “I choose her, not you.” Then the maniacal laughter like a siren began to rise from the center of the bush until all she could hear was the high pitched scream of laughter. She woke herself with her own voice in a full throated cry of agony. Lu immediately looked around. There were now a few more cars parked near her but not a single person in view. Checking her watch she realized her nap had only eaten 30 minutes of the day. She pulled a napkin from the console and wiped her eyes and blew her nose. She considered driving to the hotel but her body felt heavy. She knew she needed to remain in isolation for a little while longer to recharge and steel herself for dealing with the hotel desk staff. Why couldn’t there be automated check-in at hotels like there were at airports? After a few minutes of deep breathing she was able to get comfortable and check her phone for any news about Mister. There weren’t any calls or texts. She muttered a familiar curse under her breath, “Go to hell Aurora.” She said it more like a mantra, repeating it several times in a monotone. Still holding her phone in one hand, Lu slipped into another dream. This time there was only a series of disjointed events, a swirl of faces and waves of emotions. She felt the abandonment when friends didn’t arrive to pick her up, sadness when there was no invitation to parties, rejection when no one joined her for dinner. And then the burning anger when she discovered that Aurora had usurped her identity and diverted her friends. A fire raged in her mind and she fed it with all the hurt and anger and fury brimming in her heart and soul. The flames leapt high and the heat forced her to step back. She woke with the sun shining and the interior of the car stifling hot.

So now you know a little more about the evil twin, Aurora. It is no wonder Lu doesn’t trust people. Of course the friends she has from college days, when they discovered Aurora’s ruse immediately apologized and were contrite. Some chose to orbit Aurora (who ditched them when they were no longer useful), some never realized their mistake, and a few didn’t care. These were immediately dropped from her life. Her fiancé broke off their engagement and promptly proposed to Aurora. Lu never spoke to him again. The one time he attempted to speak to her met with stony silence and then she looked through him and walked away. Of course that single attempt was after Aurora had bankrupted him and then kicked him to the curb…. in case you were wondering.

Looking at the Spread

I was invited to the graduation party of a graduate student, now a proud PhD. I went of course and dragged my husband with me. I met some lovely people. I ate some delicious food. I even had some great laughs.
But what I want to talk about is the food. The graduates (it was a dual party) were both Vietnamese. Their roommates and friends were a truly international group. And all these people provided some special food to the celebration.
There was Pho and a beef stew,

pork ribs and pork skewers from the grill, Pad Thai and fried rice,

cookies and macaroons (filled with pineapple with a cheese cake outer ring),

a matcha cake (with edible gold leaf on the outside and pineapple between the layers on the top and strawberry on the bottom layer),

a berry trifle (angel food cake cubed with a light whipped cream and fresh berries mixed in as well as decorating the top),

and assorted cheeses with fancy crackers. I love Pho and Pad Thai is a favorite too. But the Vietnamese beef stew was spectacular! I had never tasted anything so delightful!!The ingredients were just chunks of beef and large sections of carrots. The broth was the star. It was thin but also rich and aromatic. It had hints of anise, cinnamon, tomato, lemongrass, and some other ingredients that I couldn’t place. I have begged the recipe but so far nothing has been shared…
The macaroons and cake were made by the graduate’s recently ex-roommate and the roommate’s husband. The blue was intended to match the blue of the school colors. It failed on a couple levels. First it wasn’t the right shade of light navy (more a smurf blue instead). Secondly the blue stained everything and anything it came in contact with. This was for both the cake and the macaroons. People ate the macaroons without suspecting any issues. The photo booth resulted in several blue/grey smiles as the teeth were stained. Then they cut the cake. I don’t eat icing and especially blue! I had some cake and very carefully avoided touching lips to fork or teeth to icing. My tongue was lightly tinted. Others were not so careful! One of the professors at the table had blue lips, teeth and tongue to the great amusement of her husband who mercilessly took photos! For all the problems with the blue dye, the cake was delicious and the macaroons the best I’ve ever tasted!

Looking at the Kenmore

So much is happening that I am just now getting around to this topic. It is part of the continuing woes that are befalling me and mine. Bear with me – these are definitely first world problems and I really shouldn’t complain.
The vacation started on a wrong note. A text at 5:00 AM from son#1 saying only, “tree fell on house”. Yes I freaked out. They have several massive maple trees in their yard. I imagined one of them blew over in the storm and their little house was flattened. I called immediately. No obvious holes in the roof and they were waiting until it was light out to survey the damage. We drove by on our way to the airport. It was the neighbor’s tree and it was a large branch which took off the gutter and possibly did some damage to the roof – at the same corner that the car hit in January (which is still not repaired)…
The airlines gave us seat assignments row 23 seats A & B. We boarded the plane. There were only 17 rows. Pandemonium ensued as they wanted all of us without seats to deplane and wait on the jet bridge as they sorted it out. I left and Sparky planted himself in a seat. They called names. Finally it was me and one guy left. I told him I was going to stand IN THE PLANE so that if need be I’d sit on a flight attendant’s lap. Because I was leaving on that plane. After they sorted out that I really did have a ticket even if my name wasn’t on their list, they found us a seat. If Sparky hadn’t insisted that I sit with him I’d have flown 1st class in the wide comfy seat…
Then there were the bug bites from the flea infested rental car (see the Looking Itchy post)…
The latest in a long line of annoyances and frustrations is the demise of my 28 year old Kenmore Gas Dryer. It made it through the “debugging” laundry post-vacation and then expired (possibly a direct lightening strike that melted the electrical ignition panel). It lasted 5 years longer than its mate, the Kenmore Heavy Duty Washing Machine. We were forced to go purchase a new one. There were lots of Memorial Day sales and we ended up at Lowe’s (I bought scrip and Sparky has an employee discount). That made the rather expensive dryer reasonably priced. Not cheap but not too bad – $512.70 for a 7.2 cu. ft. most of the bells and whistles machine. The catch was that they wouldn’t be able to deliver until Friday the 7th. That’s an inconvenience but we decided we’d be able to manage it and have Sparky’s parents come over while they delivered the new dryer. But nothing is easy anymore. (I think I’m cursed) The delivery team failed to call Sparky. His father had to make an emergency visit to his doctor. So we scrambled and son#2 had the day off and came over to let them in to deliver the new and haul away the old. I came home and dashed to the basement to admire my new dryer. The first thing I saw was this.

I was on the phone immediately. Then my phone glitched and turned itself off. So when Sparky came home I used his phone. Long story short they delivered the “rejected” dryer but found “our dryer” in the warehouse. They were supposed to deliver it on Monday. They called in the morning to let Sparky know to expect them between 1:00 – 2:00 PM. He waited. No dryer, no call. At 3:30 he called them. “Oh, one of the delivery guys called off so we can’t deliver it.” Sparky was hot. He called the store. He talked to the service desk. They transferred him to transportation and no one answered the phone. He called back to the service desk and asked to talk to the manager. The manager transferred him to the assistant manager, Tom. Sparky cussed at Tom. Tom hung up on Sparky. Sparky called me. I called the store. I expressed my frustration. Tom assured me the dryer would be delivered Tuesday the 11th. True to their word, the dryer was delivered Tuesday morning at 9:00 AM. It too was dented (albeit a small dent compared to the first one but a dent none the less.). They loaded it back onto the truck.

I still have the first dented dryer in my basement. Sparky is out 2 days of work. I’m going on 3 weeks of no dryer and the laundry is piling up. So he called corporate. They called me. I need to pick out a new, different dryer, whatever I want, and they’ll deliver it – without a dent and I won’t have to pay a penny more! I hope. We’ll see as I am not holding my breath!
So there you have it – my run of bad luck. I’m thinking things will start looking up. I’m counting on it!

Looking at Campus

The Vet School was confusing. The campus had changed drastically since she had last been there. She had to drive circles around the building before figuring out where to park. She managed to get Mister and his paraphernalia into the building while juggling her purse and all the paperwork. She was so focused on making sure she didn’t jostle the carrier that she forgot to be anxious about talking to the receptionist. They had been waiting for her and Mister. In a blur of activity, Mister was admitted as she filled out a multitude of forms. The surgeon explained what they were planning to do to repair Mister’s jaw and the shoulder. He cautioned that the recovery would be long. She was given the carrier and the towel he had been wrapped in. She just looked at them sitting on the exam table. It finally occurred to her to ask a question, “When will I be able to see him?” The vet told her that they would call the provided contact number once the surgery was finished. He went on to assure her that as soon as he was recovered from the anesthesia and stabilized post operatively she could see him. The entire process had taken 40 minutes. Her hotel check-in wouldn’t be for another 3 hours and it was still too early for lunch. She sat in her car. It was quiet and cold. She felt the familiar rising tide of uncertainty and fear. Mister wasn’t around to remind her that she didn’t have to give in to those thoughts. So far all day she had been interacting with people, strangers with the power of life and death for Mister. Perhaps it was the proximity to ground zero in the destruction of her trust and her future that caused her sister’s face to rise up in front of her as a ghostly reminder of all the bad parts of her life.
She had been lost in thought and slipped into a much needed nap. Her head had nodded forward and her chin rested on her chest even as her hands remained in the 2 and 10 position on the steering wheel. The dreams were chaotic switching from the present to the past in a colorful swirl.

Here we get a little more info about Lu’s college days and her sister. You’ve all heard about evil twins? Yeah, that’s rooted in fact…

Looking Itchy

Texas was a great time but I’d never want to live there. It was hot. And humid. All the time. Sort of like those 2 weeks in August in Northern Indiana when you wish it was winter (though we never say that out loud because we don’t want to jinx ourselves). Anyway it was sunny and the temps were hovering around 90 degrees with a stifling humidity of 60-70% making everything damp and mildewed or moldy. My allergies were under control until we got to Houston. (gesundheit) But that wasn’t the worst of it. I slathered on the sun screen – a water proof SPF100 for my exposed skin and a special Neutrogena SPF100 for my face and neck. They all worked but I burn easily as in 15 minutes in full sun and I look like a boiled lobster, 30 minutes and I’m in 2nd degree burn territory. I’ve got scars. Anyway we were out hiking, running around waiting for the group photo for Geowoodstock, then more hiking, doing urban caches, and then some more walking around. I’ve got so much Vitamin D I may never need to go into the sun again! With all that exposure to the sun I managed to get a touch of a burn (mostly on the spots where Sparky missed in his application where my arms don’t reach). It was probably for the best that I couldn’t get my hands on the itchy area or I’d have done myself harm. But no that wasn’t the worst of it. At the end of the first day caching I noticed my feet were itching. I noticed a small red dot on my ankle just at the edge of my shoe. I didn’t say anything because duh, I wasn’t wearing socks or long pants and we had been walking through unmowed grass. I probably got a mosquito bite or stuck with a burr. But by the next morning I had several more small dots on my feet and ankles. Sparky was however covered in small dots so much so that it looked like he was wearing dark pink socks. He had them all over his feet and ankles. We drove all over to get geocaches. By the morning after Geowoodstock Sparky had red dots at his waist and legs where his underwear touched. I discovered bites at the back of my knees. They itched. We spent time thinking they were bed bug bites. But then it clicked as we were driving back to Fort Worth to return the rental car – and something bit me. There were FLEAS in the car!! We were being feasted upon by the starving fleas in the rental car!! I suspect this is not uncommon as the rental car agency was quick to stuff about $125 in vouchers into our hands and apologize profusely. So we took precautions and everything has been washed and the suitcases are airing in the garage after being treated. Even the shoes have been washed and dried. The spots are fading and the itch is gone (mostly except for the one on my right knee that I scratched in my sleep and made a big scab)… I’m glad it wasn’t bed bugs but I’m totally miffed at the rental car place. I’m considering whether I want to even use those vouchers…