Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Long Week

This has been a hard week. Certainly not as difficult for me as those facing the loss of a spouse, child, sibling, or parent. Still the loss of a greatly respected friend affects the heart deeply.

On the plus side, this week we found out that little sweet Schnauzer Gus does not have Cushing's disease. That leaves us with another expensive test that has given us no conclusive results. The vet has decided to treat him for a thyroid condition for the next 30 days and then test again. I thought we were buying the vet clinic a speed boat for the summer -- now we find out they actually need a yacht.

Little Luie, Gus's boon companion, needed his six month checkup at the eye clinic. Walking in the door there requires a hundred dollar bill. If they open the door to the exam room, you can count on another hundred. And if they give you the drops his eyes need for the next six months . . . well, you get the picture. Still, Luie's eyes are doing great. He has a new cataract forming on the blind eye but that is not a problem at the moment. The eye that sees some light looks as good as it did six months ago -- that is the aim for us, keep that eye healthy as it can be. Plus the eye pressure is still good and there is no ulceration.

The diagnostics on the 1995 Lincoln are much like the tests for Gus. Unless and until the car won't start they can't diagnose the problem. All the tests they ran turned up negative and the car continued to start just fine. So we bit the bullet and rented a car for the weekend, leaving the Lincoln with the mechanic which is when the Lincoln said, "What? You think you can replace me! Well, okay. I'll just refuse to run!" and the mechanics began to find some of the old car's problems. Currently, Hubby is out driving it to see if, finally, the correct repairs have been made.

I did the annual doctor's visitation to get the meds renewed. Except that I was advised to "not go on a diet but you really must lose some weight," I got a clean bill of health. Plus, she substituted a light tranquilizer for the sleep meds which I would NOT take because they made me groggy in the early morning hours. I took one last night at 2:30 a.m. and managed to get up by 9 this morning. That's six hours of uninterrupted sleep. That's a little bit of heaven, frankly.

On Saturday we attended our friend Bruce's funeral. It was a mighty impressive affair held in the main Episcopal cathedral downtown. The diocesan bishop led the high mass (it was the official Easter mass according to the program). I had not been in a place with 300 white men in suits or sports coats with ties in a very long time. Even the mayor of Kansas City came. Bruce had been a political force for preservation of historic landmarks in this city for many years, as well as a respected Episcopal priest and teacher. Consequently, those in power turned up to pay respects -- and probably rub shoulders with others in power. I hadn't realized that the wealthy and powerful still thought the navy blazer, beige slacks, and penny loafers were the uniform of those kind of men. Or that on a summer day where the temps reached a heat index of 103 men still thought they needed to wear suits and ties. Clearly, I am not part of the power elite.

Mostly, the pomp of the funeral felt foreign to me and I couldn't find a way to say goodbye to Bruce in that atmosphere. But then his younger son got up and provided me with a wonderful, clear image: evidently, when Bruce was found in the lake he was on his back, still holding his fishing pole. His son said he would always think that Bruce, always a fisherman of souls and fresh bass, had simply found that he had two fish on the line and so he put his hand over his heart -- and as he had done with so many souls before, simply laid back into the final, ultimate baptism in the arms of God. What a beautiful, comforting image.

To start our week out in a better mode, today we met our dearest friends, Lou and Debby, for a long, leisurely brunch at the neighborhood bar and grill. Over corned beef harsh and eggs, we shared and reminisced and eased our souls. We agreed to take in our favorite concert series in the fall -- and add a new one into the mix. We remembered our individual wedding celebrations. We caught up on health issues and discussed new dentists. Two hours flew by and we left revived to face the joys and sorrows of the coming week.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dr. Bruce Rahtjen

Bruce's body was found today in the lake where he had been fishing. The news reports have made a ridiculous amount of noise over the fact he was fishing in the lake that belonged to a nudist camp. Bruce and his wife, liberal to the core, were NOT nudists but did not find fault with alternative life styles and the lake was a wonderful place to catch bass, I'm told. Bruce's body was found with his fishing pole still in his hands and two fish on the line. Even in death, he was still a fisherman of souls and refused to let the good ones get away.

One of the smartest men I'll even know, Bruce was a decent, caring, gentleman. He came to a dying church as the part-time pastor and gave his all to the project for seven years. He kept the church alive and he brought in new members. With his wonderful wife, JoAnn, he was the HEART and SOUL of the beautiful, historic church he agreed to help in the northeast corner of our city.

I heard some wonderful advice from Bruce during the time he served as my pastor. I found peace in his presence. Dr. Bruce added a great deal to my life. I'm grateful I got to know him. His presence in our city will be greatly missed. It's hard to say farewell to the very best people in your life.

Added on Wednesday, a clip from the local news:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dear Dr. Bruce --

Our prayers and hopes are with you.

May faith sustain your family.

All our love --as we keep the faith --
Milly & Hubby

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sundry Summer Surprises

The basement flooded. Massive rain overwhelmed the gutters and then the windows leaked and rain poured through the foundation. I found the entire dryer covered in water. The basement floor had an inch of water on it. The water has evaporated now but everything smells moldy.

The Lincoln broke down with me in it -- and no phone. I had made a quick run to the grocery and only had my wallet with me -- driver's license and debit card. The grocery let me call Hubby who sounded highly annoyed and told me to just sit in the car for 30 minutes before trying to start it again. We knew we were having sensor problems but thought they were all fixed. It was 95 degrees in the parking lot and I was sitting in the sun. Thirty minutes went by. The car would not start. My underwear got damp from sweat. Another 30 minutes went by. Now my outer clothes were sweat logged. The car still would not start. Twenty minutes went by and I was considering whether I was going to break down in tears when Hubby and the mechanic showed up, loaded the groceries and me in the mechanics truck and took me home. Hubby never looked so good!

Hubby had the old van repaired so the air conditioning in it would run. He also had it detailed at the same time. The van is so much nicer now that the years of smoker residue has been removed (previous owner). However, the van was still at the mechanics when the Lincoln quit on me yesterday. We have it back now, so things are much brighter on the car front. Plus, the mechanic thinks he has a fix for the Lincoln.

Little Gus and Crazy Luie had their wellness exams and cost us a fortune at the vet. Luie is fine. Gus continues to gain weight and gets inordinate amounts of tarter on his teeth. Today we had them cleaned and he lost yet another molar. Plus, because he's still gaining weight after being on a diet for a year, he's now had a complete blood panel drawn to check his thyroid. We spend nearly a $1000 on vet bills in the last seven days. The vet will be sure to have her vacation this year.

I downloaded Microsoft LIVE on the advice of Microsoft. It blew out Outlook Mail. After a chat with Earthlink I found that lots of people are having problems with LIVE. So I uninstalled it -- and voila! problem fixed.

My instructor for my July grad class e-mailed out the first assignment -- five chapters to be read before the first class in a $110 text book. I ordered the book from Amazon and got the international edition that was only to be sold in Asia from a second distributor. The book came today and the print is so small I may need a magnifying class to read it.

Also I found the syllabus for the course on-line. It's going to be a very long, trying July.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Making Changes

Blogger has added new templates. As long as I'm changing my life around on the desktop, I figured I might as well try the new template here. I think I like this except that the pictures suddenly seem to overlap.

Meanwhile, the desktop Dell Studio Windows PC is nearing complete setup. After 24 minutes on the phone with Earthlink today (reminding me why I pay such a huge price for Internet service -- because they actually DO provide service!) all my email issues were resolved satisfactorily. The second account was set up and we can now send email to all our thousands of friends and family (yeah, right).

The Outlook contacts have been synced with the roll-a-dex and the most current files from MAC Mail. Hubby has all his programs where he can find them and he can get his mail without going to the Internet itself.

In a week's time we have rebuilt our lives. Strange that 20 years ago our lives did NOT revolve around a computer screen. Now we're lost without it.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A New Computer & New Software

Hubby decided, against my better judgment, to purchase a refurbished Dell computer with all the newest operating systems (Windows 7).

Last Sunday we went computer shopping together. I’m not the hardware nerd but I do have a pretty good idea of what software I need to be run and if we could find a good salesperson, they could steer us to the right machine. We found a PC we both liked with ultra high end graphics, but I just couldn’t see making a purchase this summer while we still haven’t optimized the Mac.

Yet like coveting a new car (which thankfully he never does), Hubby wanted the sweet computer we found at MicroCenter. He managed to get through Monday, but by Tuesday, the computer bug just couldn’t be overcome. That night he came lugging home the CPU, took a little nap, and then at midnight woke up thinking he wanted to access the new machine and see how it ran. He sat up all night, installing Office and virus protectors and registering the computer, while I slept blissfully unaware of the havoc he was causing. Without notice, he had unplugged my five year old Sony with all my files and email and he nearly caused a divorce in our once happy household.

Today we ran out and bought a 16 gig USB drive and he has promised to set Sony back up to a monitor so I can at least get all my documents off the machine (I have soooo many pictures and graphics that the files will be huge). I need to get this done before summer school starts. I HAVE to have all my Pittsburg State files intact just so I can feel productive and safe.

As an aside, two summers ago Hubby had all my files transferred to the MAC. But that still leaves two years of grad school files and updated contact lists and bookmarked web sites that need to be saved. Not to mention lesson plans and vocabulary lists and teaching strategies for the novels I’ve taught. And the passwords I’ve completely forgotten!

Today I was rooting around on the Dell when I found that the new Office / Windows has a Blog Writer called “Windows Live Writer” that automatically connects to blogspot. This is my test run to see if: 1) I like it; 2) it’s easy to use; and 3) it actually does work. If this looks weird, that’s why.

For the geeks, here are the specs on the new PC (purchased because of its graphic capabilities – otherwise we’d have never gone Dell): a Sudio XPS 7100 with a 6 core processor featuring vision ultimate technology perfect for movie/photo editing and advanced multitasking. I must say the gaming on this machine is really, really spectacular. Which is currently all I’ve done with it. I’m not as dumb-founded by the new office as I thought I’d be (except I have no real idea what to do with Access). I do love the full Outlook features.

The poor Mac, though, now sits unattended once again. And I had such good intentions this summer. And it’s such a pretty machine.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Space Saving

Not this past Christmas, but the one before that (2008) Hubby gifted me with Cuisinart appliances. I only cook during my summer hiatus from school, and as it was winter and Hubby was the only chef in the kitchen, nobody even bothered to open the boxes.

My first chore this summer was to clean off the counter tops after Hubby had spent the winter / spring splattering them with gravy, tomato sauce, and sundry other disgusting things. As I was thirty minutes into de-crumbing the huge four-slice T-Fal toaster, I notice that the box on the dining room floor contained what was claimed to be a "space-saving" Cuisinart toaster, never used and consequently in no need of cleaning. Now our house is tiny and our kitchen is minuscule. Space-saving sounds good, even though the toaster is only a two-slicer. Opening the box, I found this cute little toaster, with settings on the side (not the front) so it could be stored on the counter side-ways. Space-saving, clean, new -- and Cuisinart. The still operating four-slicer could be moved to school, where the kids could toast up pop-tarts and I could do bagels . . . win / win.

Yesterday evening I called Hubby out to the kitchen to show him that I was finally using the new toaster. He looked at the full-sized microwave and Cuisinart food processor still on the counter - and the biggest Crockpot made, and suggested that I might want to swap out the microwave for the one in the office -- quite a bit smaller. "And, you know, I also gave you a food processor that Christmas."

"No, you didn't. You gave me a blender."

So Hubby pulled out the still-unopened box -- and we were both right. It was a combination food processor / blender -- and half the size of the one on the counter. Now, I love the one on the counter. My sister-in-law gave it to me, oh, maybe five years ago. It has all the blades and can hold a whole head of cabbage at one slicing. But . . . I only use it maybe four times a year. And Hubby never uses it. He still chops by hand.

"Let's open this up and see if we like it!" And we did -- and we loved it.

Yesterday was a dreary, rainy day in KC so Hubby spent the morning at the computer. I toasted some nice oatmeal bread to go with his tea -- and that toaster is twice as fast as the old one.

The toaster, the huge Crockpot (which I will never replace until it burns up), and the blender / food processor are all the same color (white). They now sit on the left-hand side of my sink and there is still some room to chop and peel on the counter tops.

I'm debating about the microwave. Hubby exploded a jar of baked beans in our big one in April -- and yesterday I cleaned all that up. I don't think a smaller microwave will keep him from making a mess (and ignoring it) but I have asked him just how clean the smaller microwave is.

Today I'm tackling the refrigerator. Ours is at least 25 years old but it still works just fine. I'd kill for an ice maker but because our kitchen is so small, we have a smaller full-size frig that just does the basic things. When I removed the crisper tray though and saw that Hubby had spilled an entire jar of honey that had seeped under the tray and then hardened, I wondered just how much a new frig would cost. I'm not sure I'll ever get all that honey removed.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Burgers at the Bar

Hubby and I don't go to bars. We don't drink and we don't watch sports events in huge crowds. So bars are just loud, crowded spots where people get loaded and act in ways they normally wouldn't.

Consequently, we have missed a dining sport in our immediate neighborhood that is quite a treat. At little more than five minutes from our house is a sports bar that serves some of the best burgers in town and on Monday nights, they lower the price to a rock bottom $3 for any one of the their speciality burgers and fries. The burgers are served just right, with loads of toppings, and cooked to order. The fries are thick and tasty. The 5:30 to 7:30 crowd on Monday nights is family oriented, there to mainly to eat and savor the tasty beers that can be a nice accompaniment to the meal.

Last night we met our concert-going friends at Charlie Hoopers in Brookside, Kansas City, for the $3 burger specials, the diet cokes and ice teas (and one interesting beer served with an orange slice). We filled ourselves up with the bacon, pepper jack, grilled onions topped burgers and discussed the concerts we wanted to attend in the fall. We sat around and talked for an hour after dinner, while the wait staff keep supplying us with pitchers full of iced diet and tea. Then we ordered dessert -- only two on the menu, cherry cheese cake and Snickers' pie. The Snickers' pie was so good it was better than a real Snickers' bar.

We ran into old neighborhood friends we hadn't seen in years. We talked for two hours. And we had a grand old time. We plan on going back often.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Change the conversation - Change the conversation...

I found this link on another blog -- and was totally impressed. I have been reading about people friendly, people first, language for a while now.

If you agree, please pledge.

Monday is Laundry Day

My lord, you'd think I have a houseful of kids all under 10 -- not just two old foggy adults at retirement age. Once again, I'm trying to slay the laundry dragon.

I have a wonderful washer that holds super-sized loads (thank you, Hubby) and a very functioning dryer -- but they are both down 15 steep steps, in a basement that has become a dumping ground for old furniture, seasonal clothing. and craft supplies that should be thrown away. Neither Hubby nor I clean the basement anymore. Instead, twice (or once) a year, Hubby brings in his crew of workers and supervises their cleaning. In honesty, they only do a fair job -- but it's better than no job at all. So going into the basement is rather like facing up to a responsibility that I should shoulder but have no intention of doing (my heirs can take on the job) and I end up feeling guilty. Plus the stairs are deep and narrow and hurt my knees and back -- and carrying laundry up and down wears me out -- without having done a lick of laundry itself.

Once, when Hubby's knees were much better than they are now, he volunteered to do the wash. Except his idea was to put everything in one load and wash it all on hot. He did sort colors, kind of, so things did not come out all pink, but he wouldn't sort by delicates. So he shrunk all the nice tee-shirts and fine cottons. He also didn't think you had to remove things from the dryer for two to three weeks so everything got hideously wrinkled. He was quickly banned from laundry duty. Now his knees are so bad that he really can't navigate the stairs unless we have an emergency in the basement (leaking pipes, water heater pour water, drying not functioning, etc.).

Consequently, I have multiple excuses for not doing laundry. Still, in my heart I know that owning my own washer and dryer is a huge luxury and I should man-up to the chore and do it a lot more often.

Today, my first day of real summer vacation, in consequence of me not doing any laundry in May, is washer-woman day. Hubby hasn't a pair of shorts left and has resorted to wearing long pants -- something he is not complaining about, but I know that his summer costume is only shorts and sport shirts. Yesterday, a very hot 90 degrees, he was in long pants with a long sleeved shirt and I knew that I finally had to face up to the piles of laundry. Thankfully, we both have enough underwear to go six weeks or more without worrying.

I hate the sorting process. It requires me to bend over the huge piles of laundry stacked up in our bedroom, drag it to the bed, and stuff it into the laundry bags. Then those heavy bags have to be dragged down the steep, narrow stairs (I can't carry them) and resorted into the washer. Even worse is the drying process of folding, hanging, and turning things right-side out. Finally everything has to be dragged back up those steep, narrow stairs.

If I ever find that fairy godmother, the first thing (okay, one of the top 10 things ) I'm asking for is a laundry room on the same floor as the bedroom. I can only imagine how sweet that would be! But then what would be my excuse for not doing this "dirty" chore?

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Starting Summer

The final day of the district workshop ended after only 3 hours -- more with a whimper than a bang. We were to list all the resources available to the high school English teachers in the district -- and that was such a short list that we all went home right before lunch.

Finally I got the feeling of freedom and release. I now have three delicious weeks before grad summer school starts. Three weeks of going to bed at 3 a.m. and getting up at 11. My internal clock is thrilled.

However, today I trudged out at 6:30, took a bath, got dressed and Hubby and I went garage saling for a brief period before it got too hot. We never left our neighborhood, but I did find a couple of cute things to give as sock gifts to the Houston crew over Christmas.

While Hubby computed, I did a bit of grocery shopping for things I want to eat this summer -- cereal (Grape Nuts, Rice Krispies). Then I started cleaning a very wee corner of the bedroom.

I also finished the second of the Stieg Larsson Millennium series. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was absolutely riveting. The Girl Who Played With Fire was not quite as good, but that's rather like saying "this is a honking big perfect diamond, just not the Hope diamond." The two books are simply so good you can't put them down once you start reading. I am chomping to get the third in the series, but it's not yet out in paperback and I'm reluctant to pay for a hardback that I will have trouble holding (carpel tunnel makes reading paperbacks almost required for me).

I understand that Larsson left a draft of the 4th book on his computer but his family and girlfriend are fighting over who has rights to the book. And there are also outlines for book 5 & 6. I'm really sorry that he died so unexpectedly (and young) before we (the readers) could find out what was planned for the future of Mikael and Lisbeth.

It's going to be a short summer -- for those outside education who believe we (teachers and students) actually get three months off, it's certainly not true. Plus, remember, teachers are only paid for 10 months of the year -- NOT twelve. But we do need time to recharge our batteries and feed our souls and take care of family matters. I dread thinking what a 12-month school year will actually look like. I know it's coming, though, and sooner, rather than later. Still, THIS summer, I'm going to enjoy myself for the next three weeks, and like Scarlett O'Hara let tomorrow take care of itself.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

One More Day

The air came back on for the Wednesday session in the building without windows. That was helpful. Plus there was Internet access. Even better the Wednesday workshop session was challenging and interesting. The participants were engaged and productive.

Today, even with air, the participants were snooty, air-headed, and disengaged. The youngsters thought they knew it all . . . and the old timers were too tired to resist.

I hated the day. I hated the work. I hated the process.

One day to go! I hope I can make it.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Back to School

The teacher workshop for this first week after school closing is being held in a 1970's built (ugly!) school. This means three floors, no elevator service, and no windows.

Today was our first day to top 90 degrees -- and with the high humidity of the mid-west it was very hot.

We started the meeting in the basement (what they called the first floor -- guests enter on the second floor). It was announced they were working on the air. At 9:00 it was already 88 degrees in the building.

At 10:00 they released us to meetings on the 3rd floor. I'm schlepping a heavy Apple laptop which I was required to bring, plus all the curriculum junk they had requested -- and my lunch. On the 3rd floor we find out that besides losing air-conditioning, they also had no Internet service in the building. Can the laptop.

By noon the heat was at 93 degrees inside the building. No cool place could be found to eat my lunch. They did deliver bottled water to us -- at room temp.

At 3 p.m. the temp inside the building was at 98 degrees and we were all feeling sick.

But they wouldn't release us early -- we ran right up to 3:30.

True to my form, my cell phone wasn't functioning and Hubby had driven me to the site, not to pick me up until 3:30. Otherwise I'd had walked out.

As it was, by the time I got home all I could do was go to bed and sleep away my misery. Now, of course, it's 1 a.m. and I'm not sleepy at all. However, you can guarantee that by 6 a.m. tomorrow morning, I'll be exhausted again.

No guarantee of air tomorrow either. I'm leaving the laptop at home. I might wear underwear and I might not.