Monday, December 27, 2010

Ruby Slippers

If you look very closely, you'll see a doggie in that window. Don't ask how much that doggie is...she's priceless! That's my Daisy, who was watching from the cozy bedroom as I tromped around taking pictures in the snow.

I haven't posted much lately because I've been generally miserable. It's not the holidays - I really had a nice Christmas, without too much stress leading up to it. I don't know whether it's hormones, (what with the pituitary thing and my age), or if it's work, or if it's just all of the sudden changes of the last few months (getting married, husband retiring). I guess it's some combination of all of the above.

Work has recently gone from being a place that I didn't mind, that I even liked most of the time, to being a land of the unknown. I'm like Dorothy in Oz, but without the promise of the Wizard to cling to. I really don't have much hope that things will get better anytime soon.

I'm one of the odd men out when it comes to office relationships since I don't have a lot of close friendships within the office group, and I don't text and email my coworkers throughout the day. But then, I never passed notes in high school, either. Being surrounded by networks of people who DO socialize with each other at work this way is...strange. And the atmosphere gets really toxic sometimes. I've taken the brunt of it, and I've seen it affect other people, too.

I'd say that it's a generational problem, but there are plenty of people my age participating in the silent babel. Funny how social networking is turning adults back into teens. It's just odd that it has taken on such an important role in the workplace. Maybe we never really grow up, we just don't have teachers anymore to tell us to stop, so we think it's OK.

Anyway, I've seen how ugly the whole gossip thing has become, at work and in the world at large, and I'm opting out. I know I'll stumble, but I plan to work on it. Even the craziest, most difficult person you know deserves respect.

I've been thinking more and more about pacifism. I have known some fairly committed pacifists in the past, and I have a lot to learn from them. It is not necessary to right every wrong or rail at every perceived evil. And it is distinctly wrong to try to get points for witty comments at someone else's expense. Serenity and peace are undervalued today. I think I will be more serene and peaceful if I cultivate respect and compassion for other people. Meditation might help, as well.

There have been other changes at work, with retirements and hiring and the like. Government agencies are pretty haphazard in the way they handle both of those things, and it's got me tired and confused. I used to know how to do my job, or at least I thought I did, but not anymore. I'm getting absurdly mixed signals about what's wanted and what's expected.

OK, so it looks like work is the source of most of my misery right now. At least that much is clear. I guess finding the Wizard of Oz was only a false hope for Dorothy, since he didn't do her much good in the end. Turns out, she always had the power to change her own situation. I guess I'm just at sixes and sevens when it comes to figuring out how to apply that to my own life. The pacifism/meditation route is the only step I can see right now. Where DID I put those ruby slippers?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

All at Once

I left work early last Wednesday because I felt lousy, like I had the flu. Felt much better Thursday and went to work. Then Thursday night it hit like a steam-roller: I had a sore throat and I felt lousy again. Stayed home Friday.

That's just the beginning of my tale.

On Friday morning, Muttley was trying really hard to get Daisy to romp with him in the house. Daisy was a very good dog and just sat quietly next to me. This led Muttley to go in search of a new tactic. A minute later, Muttley came out to me with something in his mouth. Turns out it was the cooling gel headache pad I had used overnight on my forehead. It's infused with all sorts of substances, including eucalyptus oil (toxic) and castor oil (possibly toxic and surely laxative).

When Muttley brings something like this to you, he wants you to chase him to take it away. It's an attempt to get you to play. Usually it's socks.

I said, "Want a snacky, Muttley?" and led him to the kitchen. Muttley ran around the table and came back empty-mouthed. I gave him the snack and grabbed his collar, then I put both dogs in the bedroom so that I could go back to find the dropped gel pad.

Only I couldn't find it.

I realized that Muttley had swallowed the pad and then come back for the snack. I had a moment of vertigo (partly from the cold, partly from the situation) as I envisioned a sick me hauling an uncooperative Muttley off to the vet for emergency treatment.

I calmed myself and took a moment to think. I knew that he hadn't had time to chew the pad, so he had to have swallowed it whole. That meant that he'd probably be OK if I could quickly get it out of him. I gave him a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to drink. Without going into too much detail, it worked like a charm. Cleanup was a minor detail compared to the thought of a trip to the vet.

Unfortunately, this is not the end of my tale.

Friday night, my hubby calls down the hall, "There's no water." Oh no. Immediately checked for flooding under the stairs, where the interior apparatus for the well is located. Nothing (thank goodness). Then checked the circuit breakers. All OK with the electric service. That's about as far as my knowledge base could take me, so I knew I needed outside help.

I dug out the information on the well. At 7am on Saturday, I called the guy who installed the well (house is not quite 4 years old). He said he'd "see about getting someone out here" and he'd call back.

The well man called back 2 hours later to say all of his guys are tied up. He told me to give the switch a couple of whacks with a stick - sometimes that's all it takes - and call him back. I gave the switch several whacks - nothing. Called him back. Got his voice mail, which was (surprise!) FULL. Got out my cell phone and called from a different number, and, magically, he answered. Told him the whacks didn't do the trick. He said he could get someone out here this afternoon and he'd call back. Waited all day, and nothing - no show, no call.

So now we're on day 2. Called a guy who advertises emergency service, and if water runs through it, he can fix it. Got his answering service, and he called me back right away. Said he'd call "Pete" and call me back in 45 minutes. That was 2 hours ago. I haven't given up hope yet, but it's waning.

Thank goodness for bottled water. Thank goodness for Nyquil. Anybody know a reliable well man?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Early Fall

We've had one of the hottest summers on record in the Northeast this year, and we've had very little rainfall at my house. The result seems to be an early fall for us. There has been a bit of rain in some of the areas around us, but it seems to have missed us each time.

The sour gum trees are usually first to change color in our woods in the fall. They become a beautiful bright red, and they usually start to show color in August. I saw the first leaves turn on the sour gums during the last week of July this year and the sweet gum trees are going yellow already. Way too soon.

The sweet pepperbush was in flower and covered with bees and butterflies during the last 2 weeks of July. Now the leaves are droopy and brownish-yellow. The understory of wild blueberry usually turns into a lovely, endless bank of red sometime in October. It's already starting to go brown.

Some of the oaks have started to drop their leaves. That doesn't usually happen until November or December. There is sure to be a poor crop of acorns this year, which is bad news for the squirrels, chipmunks and mice.

Too hot. Too dry. We need rain.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Critter Wars

On Wednesday evening this week the dogs went nuts - running around, barking, jumping at the window in the living room. I looked out, didn't see anything at first. Then I said, "It's just a fat rabbit on the front lawn. No...wait...that's not a rabbit. I think it's a groundhog." He started walking, and his identity was confirmed. He walked right up to the front steps then walked around them into the bushes along the foundation. Couldn't see him anymore.

The problem: now there is a BIG HOLE behind those bushes, right next to the foundation. Time for a groundhog relocation project. Let the games begin.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Broken Record

Preview for the weather forecast coming up at 11:00, "Record breaking temperatures are on the way." Same thing they say every night these days. It's like listening to a broken record.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Cool Down

After several days of temperatures in the upper 90's, culminating in temperatures of 104 and 103 the last two days, tomorrow's forecast for a high of 92 sounds like a cool-down. Seriously, the temperatures in Playa del Carmen, Mexico have been in the mid to upper 80's all week, according to the weather tool on my homepage. Anybody up for a trip to Mexico to cool off?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Soap Opera

Muttley ate a bar of Dove Soap while I was at the grocery store today. R opened the gate to the upstairs hallway to put some laundry away. Muttley got into the guest bathroom. Doubt I'll get much sleep tonight...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Hope

We took a ride to New Hope, PA on Tuesday. It was a beautiful day, and we were able to dine alfresco by the Delaware River for lunch.

New Hope is a historic town on the Delaware, just a short walk across a narrow bridge from Lambertville, NJ. The town is sometimes described as "artsy" or "new agey," and there are lots of shops and restaurants. Some of the shops carry unique, handcrafted items, and some carry the usual touristy stuff. Most of the shops are located in partially restored historic buildings of the father-son-holy spirit variety (three story early American firetraps) often found in East Coast revolutionary era towns (Philly, Trenton, etc.).

The ride up through New Jersey was nice, traveling through the pinelands, then through Trenton and the outskirts of Princeton, and winding along the Delaware past Washington's Crossing State Park. It's nice to remember some of the good things about New Jersey. There is quite a lot of bitterness here these days, centered on politics and state and local budgets. It can sometimes be hard to see this as a nice place to live. It was nice to forget all of that for one lovely spring day.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tee Hee

Found this at

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Piper

This is the pyramid of Kukulcan at Chichen Itza in Mexico. I was in Mexico from December 12th-19th, and visited the pyramid on December 15th. I really enjoyed the visit to Chichen Itza, though it was quite hot there. I would change only one part of the experience. We were approached by a nonstop stream of hawkers and vendors trying to sell Mayan goods, "One dollar, almost free, cheaper than Walmart." It's OK to have vendors at the gates to the grounds and even at tables on the walkways leading to the ruins. It would be nice, however, to be able to wander the ruins without this constant interruption.

Oddly enough, I kind of miss the ubiquitous hordes of vendors found all over the Mayan Riviera. Yes, they could be annoying, but they certainly were accomodating. If you were looking for something that a vendor didn't have, they'd find a vendor who had it, if they could. And the prices WERE low. I was looking at silver jewelry in Target today, and the prices seemed so very high after the prices in the markets in Playa del Carmen and Cancun.

Shopping in Pesos is a little bit overwhelming, since the US dollar is worth so much more than the Peso. At the time of our visit, 1000 Pesos was worth something like 77 US Dollars. I can only imagine how dramatic the difference would be if the US Dollar were robust right now!

On the way to the ruins, our tour stopped at a cenote - a sink hole fed by an underground water source. This cenote was in a cave and was well below ground level. There were roots hanging down into the cenote from several stories up. Here is a picture taken at the cenote:

As you can see, tourists are allowed to swim in the cenote. I did not, but my fiancee did. He reported that the water was warm, not cold as one might expect. It is asked that you rinse off in a shower before going into the cenote if you are wearing sunscreen, since it might jeopardize the fish, plants, etc. found there. I had applied gobs of waterproof sunscreen before the trip left in the morning (I'm fair - OK pale - and I burn without tanning), so I decided not to swim.

Below is my favorite part of the whole vacation: the vast pool at the resort where we stayed. You couldn't see the entire pool from any one spot. We usually camped out by this end of the pool, near one of the the swim-up bars. We spent pretty much the whole day at the pool on the16th and again on the 18th. It's hard to see in this night shot, but the palm trees, huts and umbrellas around the pool made it quite comfortable even during the hottest part of the day. The beach was nearby, as well, but my camera never made it down there.

Good thing we had a nice, relaxing day on the 18th. Travel misery set in on the 19th, as we tried to return to New Jersey during an unprecedented December blizzard. We were delayed getting out of Cancun, and our flight from Ft. Lauterdale to Atlantic City was cancelled. We were scheduled onto the same flight 24 hours later (9:20 pm on the 20th). THAT flight was delayed several times, as well, and we finally flew out of Ft. Laut at 3:30 AM.

We spent 27 hours at Motel Hell in Ft. Lauterdale. As soon as we saw our rooms, we went out. I had 2 cosmopolitans and a shot of tequila with my dinner at the outdoor Irish Bar up the block. Hey, at least we were dining al fresco while everyone back home was shoveling snow!

It's REALLY rare for me to drink that much, but I was hoping to soften the impact of the seedy room. After dinner, we went across the street to the CVS. We bought snug sacs and super-huge towels to put on the beds (there were two couples and two rooms) so that we wouldn't have to touch the sheets. We also bought Lysol, and we gave each of the rooms a good spray down. I bought Deep Woods Off and put some on, just in case. I sprayed the outside of my luggage, too.

When we finally flew into AC, we had to dig the cars out of the snow. We had no gloves, mind you, and we hadn't worn our warmest coats, either. We drove out of the airport as the sun was rising at 7 AM on Monday, December 21st. We had to dig our way into the driveway when we got home. Then we had to go back out to pick the dogs up from the kennel. After that, we slept the day away. Going to work was not an option. I would have been asleep at my desk all day.

I was only back at work for 2 days before my next holiday began. With furlough days (unpaid leave days required of NJ employees to help balance the budget), personal days, holidays and weekends, I've been off since Christmas Eve. Tomorrow I have to go back to work, and the next few weeks (maybe the next few months) are going to be hard. Time to pay the piper.

Here are a few random photos from the trip:

An air plant in it's natural environment, camped out on the branch of a tree.

This tree was growing at the edge of the jungle just off of the balcony of our suite.

Mayan Muttley at Chichen Itza.