Monday, June 30, 2008

Back to Reality

Vacation is over and I am safely back home in Arizona. Today was an absolutely beautiful summer day in Iowa to send me on my way. Of course it was about 118 at my house so I anticipate a lot of hibernating this week.

I've had some requests for photos of Blue the long haired weiner dog in his new sweater. He thinks the green goes well with his lovely red coat (or it would if his mom hadn't shaved him for summer). He wore it pretty much all weekend as he gets slightly chilled in the air conditioning.

Now I must go cuddle a very demanding cat who missed me a lot.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Greetings from the great Midwest

Today is a beautiful day, finally. Now that it is almost time to head home, the weather is going to be that amazingly, perfect June type that Iowa hasn't had this year. On the bright side it is perfect for going to the Arts Festival today or tomorrow.

Last night we went to see Wall-E, which was very sweet and well worth the trip. How can a movie without dialogue be so entertaining? It did motivate me to get out and walk more (which you'll understand when you see it) The adults in the theater all seemed to be enjoying it as much as the kids.

My son's weiner dog loves his new sweater that I knit him. I just used some stash acrylic worsted, as I've never tried a dog sweater before and wanted to get a feel for the sizeing. We tried it on the corgi too to see how much altering of the pattern I need to do for his. Stumpy has kind of a thick neck and a crew neck is going to work better for him than the turtleneck. Two sweaters in washable wool coming up for the sweetest granddogs in the world!

This has been such a relaxing and knitting productive vacation. In addition to the sweater I also am halfway through two different socks and still have two days to go on my vacation ;-) It is amazing what one can get done while being lazy.

Hope everyone has a great weekend.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Short and sweet

I'm safely in Iowa, land of bad flooding. Although the water level is way down, you can now see all the debris that will have to be cleared out. It is hard to imagine what an awful mess it is.

On the bright side, I got to have breakfast with my daddy and have plenty of books and knitting along.

What more can you ask from a vacation?

P.S. In answer to Knittech's question - it get days of restful knitting and don't have to help slog mud and debris. Thankfully, where my dad lives, there was no water damage.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Super Walmart and everything

You know you live in rural America when . . .

A. It takes 3 hours to get to any real city
B. You think the high school (1) homecoming game is a a really important night
C. The opening of a Super Walmart is the most exciting event of the last year

Don't get me wrong, I don't even live in a really isolated area and we do have a population over 50,000 people. We are, however, stuck halfway in the middle of nowhere and are just now getting what passes in rural Arizona for a mall! What is even funnier is that people travel from all over the Southwest to enjoy our lake and most of the locals think there is nothing to do (ask any high school student or young adult).

What we have, as of March 2008, is an outdoor mall, which has supposedly been in the works for at least 15 of the 24 years I've lived here. I'll admit the Dillard's is a nice addition and the JC Penney's is much more upscale than our old store, but the anchor that really matters is the Super Walmart. I mean one just like the big kids have in Phoenix and Las Vegas with a grocery store and everything.

Today I took the plunge and headed the ten miles out of town on my pilgrimage to the Super Walmart. Before I could leave I had to take stock of myself in the mirror. Hair not too greasy once a little hair spray poofs it up. Chipped toenail polish removed. Acceptable top and clean shorts. Makeup in place and earrings matching. Check,check, check. Why, you ask, do I care? Because every living soul in my town will be there to check out the new store and if I don't look decent someone will hear about it. This is the event of the year remember.

So I get there and the Great Provider of Everyday Low Pricing is enormous. It has a nail spa and hair salon right in the same building (I know, we are pathetic here). I grabbed my cart and list and began rolling up and down the aisles (the cart was rolling, not me - just for clarification - although it did occur to me that this might make a good air conditioned track for walking off some of the extra lard I've accumulated).

It is wonderful, there are so many choices,and I CAN'T FIND ANYTHING!!!!! In the old store I knew where everything was. I could breeze in for 10 minutes, grab what I needed and duck out without missing a beat. And the worst part is - when I finally find the yarn department tucked away in the back, they didn't think to supersize it along with the rest of the massive inventory. Obviously there are no knitters in that purchasing department.

After consoling myself with the idea of an online yarn order, I accumulated the rest of my items and headed for the check out. After checking out and packing the car came the really geeky and sad part. I find myself sitting in the parking lot trying to figure out whether the savings I received would balance out with the gas required to go out there. At almost $4 per round trip, did I save enough on the diet soda to make it worthwhile? Can I justify two trips a month on my reduced budget and still have enough money for the previously mentioned online yarn order (you understand that logic, right?)

Home again in the 118 degree heat, I sat down with 3 glasses of water to relax from my exciting afternoon. Now if we would just get a Barnes and Noble, life would be sweet.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm reading . . .

Amy Lane tagged me for the book meme, so here goes.

"PS - you have been meme-tagged.Pick up the nearest book.Open on page 123.Find the fifth sentence.Post the next three sentences.Tag five people,and acknowledge who tagged you. "

The book I am reading(ergo nearest me) is The Touch of Twilight by Vicki Pettersson. I have to finish it so I can pass it on to my lovely daughter.

"All the better to eat you with, my pretty, I thought, peering at the elongated teeth everybody in this world seemed to come equipped with but me. For now Doug only flanked Regan, swaying in a slightly nauseating motion, but if she needed protection from me he'd throw his aura over her like a supernatural cloak. Her true form would then appear, replacing this pseudo Joanna she'd donned for Ben, and Douglas's prepubescent body would fall to the floor, emptied of his life force, nothing more than a vunerable shell until his aura was returned."

Most of the people I know to tag have already been done, so I'll just tag RL Bar Wench and invite anyone else that wants to to join in the fun.

A normal, ordinary week

As I tried to think of something interesting to write about, I realized that this is just a normal, ordinary week. There isn't anything exciting happening and I even have some down time to get ready for vacation. How did this happen?

Since I've been off work for 5 months, people keep asking me what it is like to be retired (since that is what people seem to believe I am). They always want to know how I'm coping with the boredom. I just laugh. Boredom? Hardly.

I admit my situation is somewhat unusual, in that I've been doing the networking, research and planning for a new career while I've been off ,which ate up big chunks of time. I also had the opportunity to be home with my children for many years, so am pretty comfortable with sliding back in to that lifestyle (sans the children of course). The reality is, if money were no object, I would probably be retired because I'm too busy to go back to work! This phenomena has been verified by several friends and my father, a man with almost 30 years of retirement under his belt.

So what keeps me so busy? First on the list would be volunteering. Churches, schools and community organizations are desperate for people to support their programs. Once word gets out that there is fresh meat (I mean an available worker), the problem is beating off those friends who would like to help you get "involved". Knowing this, I tried to limit myself to one or two organizations. One visit to a local organization resulted in me doing about 25 hours of research for a special project. Joining the board of another local organization led to my being treasurer after the first meeting. Are you getting a feel for how this goes? It would be possible to be busier than I've ever been just by volunteering. I've seen a lot of retirees do that over the years but they also claim it was the most rewarding time of their lives.

What else? Friends and family are receiving a lot more of my time and attention. Calls, e-mails and visits all take time. It's not that I didn't have the time before, I was just too tired at the end of a long day or week. I kept meaning to get in touch "next week", which sometimes turned in to years (except for the annual Christmas letter). Nurturing those relationships takes a lot of time but is the ultimate investment in happiness.

More? Travel. In 5 months I'll have made 3 trips to Phoenix to visit my daughter, two trips to Iowa to visit dad and the kids, one trip to Omaha and several trips to Phoenix and surrounding communities for conferences. The tricky part of travel when one isn't working is the cost. You now have the time to travel but lack the resources to pay for it. Thank goodness for the futon I gave to my daughter which is now free accommodation at her house :-) I had the cruise to Greece and Italy all picked out but alas that will have to wait for an infusion of funds. Maybe if I plan for 2015.

And also - hobbies and "later" projects. I'm sure you all have those "later" projects you put away for a rainy day. Putting old photos in the album, sorting old papers for shredding and cleaning out closets are only some of the things I've been prioritizing. Knitting - enough said. Reading - enough said. I still have piles of VHS tapes to transfer to DVD, albums I'm transferring to MP3 since they are not yet available as CD's and shelves of depression glass I need to organize and inventory.

Then there is the miscellaneous category like getting small household repairs done, cleaning out drawers, running all the errands I've been putting off for 5 years and getting rid of the 25 year accumulation in the garage. It also includes all those things I didn't notice when I was working many hours like the grease on the range hood, cat hair on the lampshades and dead bugs in the light fixtures.

Probably the biggest time sucker of them all in "retirement" is the computer. Here it is 9:22 AM and I'm still writing my blog and drinking coffee. If I'm sitting down and not reading or knitting, my laptop is my constant companion. I can pay bills, buy cool stuff(again lack of funds rears its ugly head), chat with friends, read blogs, look for new knitting patterns, plan a trip etc., etc., etc. I also just got the Microsoft Office 2007 upgrade and haven't begun to learn the new format yet. That will probably take an hour or twenty.

Bored? Not likely. The problem now will be fitting work back in to the equation with a little more balance than I did it the last time. Oh well, I can always hope for the lottery.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Things are looking up

The river in Cedar Rapids, IA is beginning to go down. My dad, son and daughter-in-law are all fine. Those are the good things ,for which I am extremely grateful, given the horrendous flooding that they have been experiencing. The city has at least a week before flood waters ebb below flood stage and the fresh water supply is in jeopardy but they seem to have turned the corner for now.

I have watched with horror on as a city I've lived in and around for half my life was engulfed. Like in any disaster, my heart goes out to the people who have lost homes and businesses. I always feel a special hurt for the abandoned pets who must be rescued, even though I know that getting people out is a priority. I assure our cats we would never leave them behind but sometimes there is no choice.

My dad and I were talking last night about familiar buildings now covered to their rooftops with muddy, swirling water. We discuss how much of the old downtown will have to be razed. Will the bridges that have spanned the river since long before my birth be damaged beyond repair once the flood waters recede leaving the city largely divided? While this is not a disaster on the scale of something like Katrina, those of who have lived in and loved this stereotypical Midwest city know that its landscape and history are forever changed.

Keep a good thought (or a prayer, if you are so inclined) for those who now must rebuild their lives. It will be a long haul.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Water Everywhere

I just got off the phone with my dad in Iowa. I was hoping he still had power and clean water after a good portion of their city was closed down due to flooding. So far so good except for intermittant power outages but more rain is falling today and tonight. It is hard to imagine the destruction if you've never seen what water can do.

This year is being compared to the great floods of 1993. That was the summer my two young children and I did a driving vacation of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri to visit family. We traversed the flooded Mississippi and left St Louis one day ahead of the bridge closure that would have trapped us there. The scariest experience was crossing from Iowa to Missouri over the only remaining connection, sandbagged to hold back the water. My daughter was sure we were all going to drown. We were never in any real danger as we planned carefully and kept a constant check on road closings but the scenes we witnessed were incredible. 2008 is even worse.

It is a scary situation and one I will have to monitor closely. I'm due back in Iowa for a 10 day visit on 6/22 so hope the waters recede and no ark appears! Events like this are a good reminder that everyday stresses like rising food and gas prices are not major issues compared to losing a home or livelihood in a natural disaster.

On a side note, I hate to think how many knitting stashes have been lost to basement flooding! I wonder if the Red Cross ever thought of collecting yarn as a way to de-stress anxious knitters :-)

Monday, June 9, 2008

To there and back

I have returned from my sojourn to rural Nebraska and did not blow away in the Omaha tornado or get caught in the flooding affecting so many Midwest communities right now. I did get to sit up in the middle of the night with my shoes on and phone in hand waiting to see if I needed to flee to the basement. Life is ever exciting!

My trip was a wonderful diversion and I don't think my friend and I stopped talking for 3 days. It took us at least 24 hours just to get caught up on 20 years of life experience and family gossip. We didn't really do anything all that exciting as the whole purpose of the trip was to spend time together.

We did go to the Joslyn art museum and the Durham Western Heritage Museum (an awesome art deco building). Yes, I am that much of a dweeb that I love museums, especially when it is hot and humid outside.

We went through the children's exhibit on the Amazon at the Durham and had a very successful turn at finding all the hidden animals with a flashlight, learned fish trivia and heard a song about the tiny catfish that swims up in your bladder (actually kind of scary for little kids). Never let it be said that I balk at making a fool of myself in public!

It was such a joy to reconnect with an old friend and recognize that despite increasing age, weight and wrinkles, the important things we share don't change . Now I have to go convince the cats that they really weren't abandoned or starved in my absence :-)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

On an adventure to the wilds of Omaha

I leave tomorrow for Omaha to visit my long time friend. I'm trying to imagine how we will stop long enough to draw breath after not seeing each other in 20 years. Most of our communication has been by e-mail in the last five years because it fit in to our schedules the best. We actually don't have anything much planned, so it should be a relaxing weekend.

To put in a shameless plug, she self published a little book about 3 years ago based on her experiences caring for husband, his death and her reconnection with life. It is an illustrated book with an inspirational message called Send Me Tulips (available on Amazon). I've given it to a couple of people after the death of a spouse. I know it sounds depressing but it really is uplifting. Those of you that self publish know what an adventure that is!

I am pleased to report that the house continues to be presentable, the business plan meeting yesterday went very well and I cast on a pair of real socks (as opposed to socklets) to work on during the trip. Thankfully, our Pippin cat also got a clean bill of health this morning after several weeks dealing with the urine crystals some male cats are prone to. He'll have to be on a special diet the rest of his life, but if it keeps him out of pain and peeing freely, I think it is a good trade off.

I'm headed to daughter's house tonight so she can take me to the airport early in the AM. I must have done something right in raising her, if she's willing to get up in the wee hours to play cab driver. I probably will be sans computer until Monday, so hope everyone has a great weekend.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Sparkling Success

The house did get cleaned by 5 PM and the dinner went very well. I would say yesterday's dinner party was a success if it weren't for the pets. Our cat, Meriadoc Brandybuck (Merry for short), nearly lost his life when he pulled the dining room tablecloth and vase over on his head while trying to reach the flowers contained in the vase. It was not the vase that almost did him in, but his rabid, raging mother who chased him around the house threatening to wring his neck! Not 30 minutes after the floor dried from its initial bath, shattered glass, foliage and a quart of water covered the previously pristine surface. Compounding his misdeeds for the day, Merry later vomited his entire dinner on the floor next to our guest's foot. The fact that he hit the tile was only accomplished by his mother racing from the table and hauling him from the carpet as he was attempting to spew.

Not to be outdone, his brother, Peregrin Took (Pippin), had an accident on the hall carpet and Icey(19 years and crotchety) knocked over our guest's glass of red wine with her tail. We ended the evening with dessert, after frantically spraying and blotting to get the red wine out of the new, light tan carpeting (but it doesn't show cat hair!). Thankfully, guest is a pet owner and no stranger to such happenings or she might have been out the door, never to return. The glasses of wine imbibed before dinner probably didn't hurt her tolerance level either :-)

It is always good to know, as I read your blogs and comments, that our household is not the only one with chaos and a lifestyle the housecleaning police would frown on. It is a good life, and I wouldn't change it ... much.... maybe the vomit part. Anyway, thanks for your support and good humor in getting me through this.