Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

View from the Legion of Honor by suzipaw
View from the Legion of Honor, a photo by suzipaw on Flickr.

It’s been quite good so far.

I took Friday off to see an exhibit at the Legion of Honor, Pulp Fashion, which I’d been wanting to see for a while. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I’d call it art. While I was there, I also saw the Magna Carta, a large, lovely mosaic from an ancient Roman home, and illustrated books from Japan. I loved the contrast in calligraphy between the stiff, horizontal English and the sinuous, vertical Japanese, which on the page looked almost like the dark path rain leaves on a window.

I’d been planning this excursion for weeks and wondering if I should go alone or call up a girlfriend for company. In yet another example of how procrastination pays (usually) for me, while dithering about an outing companion, an exchange with an old acquaintance about updating our email addresses turned into lunch at the museum. It’s a little hard to describe our relationship. I’ve known her family all of my life--I call her older brother my first friend, her sister and I were pretty close in high school, and her parents founded the commune where I spent part of my youth. But she’s much younger than me, and I’ve never known her as an adult. She mentioned to me she also wasn’t sure how to label our relationship, but told a friend she was having lunch with her babysitter, which I thought was pretty funny. That is one career I’ve never associated myself with, at any age.

Through the magic of Facebook we’ve connect again and I’ve been interested in her serious urban garden projects, including Hayes Valley Farm. We had a pleasant time wandering the exhibit then catching up on more personal stuff over lunch. She mentioned how a few years ago she had gone back to the commune, now an apple farm and commercial garden, as an intern to learn more about gardening and how it had been an eye-open process in many ways. She said people treated her pretty badly when she was just the anonymous person who scrubbed their toilets, but when they found out she was one of the original “commune kids,” their attitude completely changed. And she said she had a much greater appreciation for what her parents accomplished with starting the commune, being part of an “intentional community” and living in a tent infested with rain and woodrats as an adult.

My friend was a little late, so thankfully I had time for a latte when I arrived. The museum café wasn’t crowded at all at that hour, and I notice a few people who seemed more like regulars, chatting with the bus staff, reading the newspaper. I wondered what it would be like to live nearby and have a museum be my local coffeeshop. I could pick one work of art every time I came to spend time with and really appreciate. Ah, city life.

After the museum I detoured on the way home to our local “premium” outlet mall and spent more money on new clothing than I have in a while. (Yesterday I had to clean out my closet and drawers of togs I just haven’t donned in a while to fit them all in.) My last stop at the kitchen supply store was a bit of a buzzkill—after checking my driver’s license to verify my credit card ID, the barely-of-age cashier observed, “Wow, your hair was much better back then!” Tell me something I don’t know, sister.

Saturday was too rainy and gloomy to execute our outdoor chores, so M and I took turns choosing activities to fill our day. We took the motorcycle out, but had to turn back as the rain came. We went to lunch at a burger joint that got my order wrong not once but twice, then to an open house (it was actually almost too big! Didn’t think I had an upper limit), then Borders (is it wrong to read a Sookie Stackhouse paperback gently with the idea that I’ll be able to return it?), then to a car dealership (M had a car in mind he wanted me to test drive; I didn’t like the looks of it, but I did receive a bottle of homebrew beer from one of his former colleagues—bonus!), then to a coffeeshop.

Yesterday was gorgeous, a true summer day, but we frittered it away on yardwork and chores and reading on the back deck, listening to the quail calls. M forgot to put his rib on the grill early enough for dinner so of course we were forced to go out for Vietnamese for dinner.

And what will today be? The sky still hasn’t decided between a blue or gray ensemble. Maybe we’ll be able to take the bike out today. I think foraging for French fries in quaint little towns would be a fine ongoing quest.


The work week was an interesting one: a woman I’ve worked with for many years is retiring, so we threw her a little fete on Thursday. I’ve known she’s been planning to retire for months, but it’s still a bit hard for me to absorb. We’ve traveled together a lot over the years and she’s probably the only person I can laugh and commiserate with about some of the foibles of our office, so I’m really going to miss that outlet. Her road to retirement was a bit rocky. The economic troubles and drop in the real estate market didn’t help at all. Observing the politics and process around her departure has been a good learning experience for me. She and her husband spent several years building their dream home in Idaho and that too has provided good nuggets of info for me to squirrel away. One thing she shared recently that I’d like to try: they bought a painting of a river in Idaho and hung it in their living room as a reminder of what they were working towards. So…what’s the inspirational image for M and me? Gotta work on that.

Relatedly, on the flight home from Baltimore, I sat next to a young man who became quite talkative as our plane circled Denver yet again. He was an interesting combination of ego and charm—a pre-med student at Johns Hopkins thinking of volunteering for Medecins sans Frontiers based on a recent semester abroad spent in Tibet where at one point he watched monks feeding a body to the birds and dogs, a traditional funeral rite. He apparently gave up a promising career in acting (“You know, I won a bunch of awards and stuff.”) to dedicate himself to helping the world. At one point he asked what my greatest adventure was, and I wasn’t able to come up with anything that came anywhere near the Tibetan funeral. And then he asked, “So what’s next for you?” I told him that I was nearer to retirement than any kind of career change (he approximated a satisfactory amount of surprise—those acting classes were definitely worth it!), but I admit for all his whippersnapperiness, he got me thinking about my next decade. The Big Birthday looms, as do the attendant questions. Am I where I want to be? Doing what is worthwhile or am I frittering too much? And back to my friend’s river painting, what the hell does it all look like? Lately I’ve also been focused on putting things in place to be able to buy a new house, but would a home sustain me and comfort me? Maybe I should be thinking along more spiritual and mental lines for satisfaction rather than the physical.


Chico Recap: It was a lovely weekend. The weather was blissfully unoppressive, the graduation ceremony not too endless, the food was good, the dorms not too icky though coffee making and the lack of toilet paper was challenging, and the capacity of the young folks for lack of sleep and imbibement of beer impressive (and the stout brewed by her engineer neighbors delightful). The best part was having so many family members together. We so rarely gather together. We hung out at Felicia’s apartment Friday night and Saturday, and at Mark and Glo’s place Sunday morning. M and I had a bit of “us” time too. We had dinner at the brewery Saturday night, then wandered downtown for ice cream after returning and impressed the beer-pong-playing kids by pulling up in a pedi-cab.

We left the dogs in the care of a housesitter for the first time ever, a friend of M’s from work, and it turned out fine! Rex slept with her both nights. I missed them very much, but it was reassuring to know they had someone with them that didn’t involve a trip/transfer up to “grandma’s” house. It wasn’t cheap, but a dog-free getaway definitely something we’ll do again this summer.


In other ephemera, I just finished City of Thieves and highly recommend it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Scenes from a Graduation

With Felicia by suzipaw
With Felicia, a photo by suzipaw on Flickr.

It was a quick weekend, but we had a great time. Nothing like a ceremony to bring people together.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Off to Chico

USS Constellation by suzipaw
USS Constellation, a photo by suzipaw on Flickr.

I’ve put some pictures up of my Baltimore visit on Flickr. The conference went very well. I had two pleasant meals out with work friends, one after a successful foray for Old Bay to bring back to M. (He had some on his grilled chicken last night and pronounced it good.) On the last day, I got up early enough to walk part of a 5K race that was planned as part of the conference. What fun! I wish I could have done the whole thing, but duty called.

Dear niece Felicia is walking in the Chico State graduation ceremony bright and early tomorrow morning. I’ve taken the day off so we can drive over and spend some time with family this evening as well as the weekend. She finagled space for us in one of the residence halls—old people partying in the dorms! While I think we’ll have twin beds, it may not be quite the urban camping experience I was anticipating. The website says the rooms come equipped with a microwave and a fridge. I’m still bringing a cooler and coffee maker—best to be prepared! I’m sure it will be a madhouse scene in Chico all weekend, which could be fun, annoying, or perhaps a little of both. The residence is a few blocks away from the campus and downtown, so that’s good, but still within walking distance of commencement and her apartment where we’ll be celebrating tonight. It’s going to be great having some time with parents, brothers, and extended family. I’m hoping there will be some space for all the family to hang out together comfortably. Maybe the dorm pool will be open! I’m bringing a bathing suit just in case. I’m sure M and I will make time to walk by the Stansbury Home—we’re just a few weeks away from our sixth anniversary.

The Wilbur Library quilt raffle drawing is tomorrow—think good thoughts for me winning!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

In Bal'mer, Hon

A couple of colleagues and I arrived late last night in the pouring rain after a long-ish but uneventful flight. It's been dry if not exactly clear today--a bit warm and muggy. I was able to stretch my legs a bit getting breakfast at Miss Shirley's before heading to work at the convention center and again at lunch with some of the gang.

We're right on the Inner Harbor, a clean, pleasant, touristy area. A great deal of brick has been laid here. I'm not so much interested in the Hard Rock Café (though the giant neon guitar perched against the smokestacks of the renovated power plant looks pretty cool) but the USS Constellation is here. I'm sorry I won't have the time to tread her decks; her rigging rising above the water is thrilling.

A group of us are going out to dinner tonight celebrating the Tauruses (Tauri?) among us. A thunderstorm has arrived and it's just started raining again. Wish us luck getting cabs!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Overnight in SF

I came down to the City yesterday to check out a conference that Google puts on.The presentations were way over my head technically, but the trappings were pretty amazing. It would be fun to have a huge event budget to spend at will.

I met Katch and Odessa at her office at the library. Fun being "backstage." We got to see the book sorting machine! We had a pleasant dinner at Dosa. It was great seeing them. Odessa has become quite the lovely young lady, sigh. After dinner we walked along Valencia Street, eating delicious ice cream and window shopping.

I'm in an all-day meeting here today, too, heading home tonight. (To get ready to head to Baltimore on Saturday, hon.)

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mothers Day--Happy!

I actually spent a few hours with Mom today. She came down on Friday, mostly to start shopping for paint, carpet, and furniture for the long overdue TV room remodel. It was fun helping her with that--we spent time visiting furniture stores on Saturday with a brief stop at Home Depot for a fistful of paint chips.

After lunch, we took a break from shopping and went to the junior college to see "Jesus Christ Superstar." Very good production values and a decent cast--Jesus is a much more demanding singing role than I had remembered from when my ex was one of the apostles back in my JC (junior college) days. It was a fun activity. I really like supporting our local thespians. "Company" and "Hairspray" are coming up. "Company" is on my Netflix list, but maybe I'll take it off in anticipation of seeing it live, though it might be fun to compare productions.

Busy week at work last week, but I'm starting to feel a little more settled in my new space. I had been asked to give a presentation on what goes into putting on a conference a few weeks ago, and that finally happened on Wednesday. I had spent quite a bit of time on my slides and I think it turned out well. Everyone was very supportive, so I didn't feel too nervous. I certainly have a greater appreciation for what speakers go through to put a good talk together, that's for sure. I subjected M to a rehearsal and he commented that he was glad he didn't have my job.

The change in my gym classes had been a little uninspiring, and that combined with so much travel lately has meant I haven't exercised much. A friend at work mentioned that she takes her dogs for a walk first thing in the morning, and I actually did that on Friday, semi-jogging during part of our wander in the field. It was nice being out early and the dogs were ecstatic of course. I did a few sit-ups when I got home just for good measure. I'm thinking I'll try this more often--I can get more sleep and vary the exercise routine, both things I need to do more of.

More travel is coming up, too. I have an overnight in San Francisco this week. I'll be going to a Google conference on Wednesday--apparently they throw a lavish show, so I'm excited to be going. On Thursday I have an all-day meeting in the City, so it will work out well to stay the night. And then I'm heading to Baltimore for a conference next weekend. I didn't think I'd be going, but plans have changed. I need to plan our camping trip or something with travel that not about work!

Monday, May 02, 2011

Catching Up. Again.

Back on Easter Sunday I was going to post a really thoughtful entry about how I was hanging at the Spokane Airport Ramada, procrastinating on work assignments, "Wizard of Oz" playing on the tube to my left while planes ascended and landed across the expanse of two parking lots at right. But that was a whole week ago and then some. Work guilt and a bit of laptop fatigue conspired to rob me of my blog mojo then, and that lack has lasted longer than I'd thought. So it goes.

So, starting with the important stuff: It was a particularly nice visit with Grandma, and just a little longer than usual due to a stopover on the way home in Portland which was a fine combination of work and fun with family.

Apparently I arrived in Wilbur just after a snow shower, but you wouldn't know it--the weather was beautiful! I walked up and back from Vista Manor several times, which I really needed after a couple of weeks cooped up in a convention center. Grandma seemed in good form and as usual we enjoyed catching up and looking through albums. She always seems to have new family history to talk over. I was distressed that Missy, a new canine resident, didn't take to me right off--it's been a long time since I've been barked at so vigorously--but there it is.*

It was an epic culinary visit as well. Tipped off by a flyer in the Willows Inn office, I partook of a delightful Indian meal on Saturday evening in the school's multipurpose room in support of the local Girl Scouts' trip to Washington DC, sitting with a slightly older couple and trying to be on my most entertaining chat behavior. I think the Singh family, who were overseeing the meal preparation, were relieved to have one other vegetarian in their midst. On Easter Sunday, I had my first luncheon with Grandma and the other residents of Vista Manor. It was lovely and tasty, and just so wonderful to be sharing a meal with Grandma. And then of course there was my semi-annual consumption of a plain cake doughnut from Sandy's, which tasted particularly fresh and tender this trip. Thank FSM the store is hundreds of miles away!

I tried to support the local economy as much as possible, picking up a few supplies at the Family grocery in Davenport, tshirts at the Billy Burger, quilt raffle tickets for the library fundraiser ("Ribbons and Stars" pattern with heart quilting stitch--I hope I win!), and a little coin purse at Lynne's.

Early Monday morning I flew to Portland for a visit to the convention center to prepare for our show there in July. This worked perfectly for a visit with Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Jacque! We had a lovely visit and cousin Michelle came over to join us for dinner at yet another local brewery. More connecting and catching up with family gladdened my heart, and Uncle Lloyd's many wood and craft projects are very inspiring.


After the epic read that was "A Suitable Boy," I picked up All We Ever Wanted Was Everything and devoured it in just a week or so. It was written in present tense and from three alternating points of view, which really made me think hard about the kind of novel I want to write, and sooner rather than later. Well, it's easy to think NaNoWriMo when we're months away. And by we I mean me.


It's been nice being home for the whole weekend and getting a chance to settle into my new work space. M and I were very productive over the weekend (in fact, only "Blog" was left undone on the To Do list). We also had fun--a motorcycle ride out to the coast and another attempt at pizza on the grill, which we have yet to perfect, although it was better than last time. We also did a little brainstorming about him hanging out his shingle and starting on his sole proprietorship for real. That was exciting. It feels like a very different lifestyle for us, but it's something we've also talked about since he started law school, so familiar in a way too.

I left work right at 5:00 pm today to race over to my local yarn shop to take a beginning crochet class. I've always wanted to learn the basics, to add a little something extra to my knitted projects, and this was just a two hour intro class--perfect! I was a little late and just one of two students in the class, which was great for individual attention. Imagine my surprise when I found out the woman my age was the other student and the very young gal--who turned out to be a sophomore in high school and working on a lacy piece for her prom dress while we practiced our half double crochets--the teacher. Of course she picked up knitting while in a Waldorf school.

The scene reminded me a little of a sight in the Spokane airport: a mom playing solitaire on her smartphone while her tweener daughter read a hardcover novel from the library.

It felt so good to focus on getting the hook moving in the yarn--the hour and a half flew by and my little brain was soothed just trying to get the hang of the loops and tension. I have a long way to go before I can crochet up anything of note, but I liked doing something brand new.


*M has given me some good advice: "It's not always about you," he's reminded me lately when I've whined about perceived slights or some such triviality. And by you I mean me of course. I think that should be my new mantra. Alternating with my friend Cathleen's advice to "Think Ducati" (essentially, do what you think is right for your own empowerment--and by you I mean me; OK, and you too) and my recent fortune cookie fortune: "Use your abilities at this time to stay focused on your goal. You will succeed."