Thursday, April 24, 2014

Take One Step Back

Y'all are way too sweet with your concern about my under-the-weatherness, and I'm pleased to report that yesterday I felt much, much better. So much better that I jumped out of bed, showered, went to work, handled eleventy-seven phone messages and e-mails that had piled up in the two days I had been out, then scurried off to do some previously-scheduled community service.

It wasn't much fun, but as illnesses go, this one hadn't been unbearable--it was provable, what with its impressive numbers registering on the thermometer, but did not include barfing or stuffed-up nose, both of which are symptoms that I do. not. like. And let's face it, all of us secretly resent those unused sick leave hours that go to waste every month because we're over the accumulation limit, amiright? No? Oh. Just kidding, HR lady!

Anyway, I was congratulating myself on how I had well and truly conquered this bug when I woke up this morning and realized

Husband came into the bathroom to find me sitting on the edge of the bathtub.

"I feel horrible," I groaned. "My head hurts, and I think I'm going to throw up, and I'm all dizzy."

"In that case," he told me briskly, "you should probably not sit on the edge of the tub because if you pass out and fall over backwards you could hurt yourself."

I do believe Husband may have been Florence Nightingale in a previous life.

Back to bed. Again.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


I have a favorite travel mug. It is shiny and keeps my commute cappuccino nice and hot for the full 14 seconds it takes me to drive up the hill to my office. However, this mug has a little trick to it: If I do not screw on the top exaaaaactly right, it will slosh commute cappuccino all over my front and I have to drive 14 seconds back down the hill to change clothes. And the tricky part is that the top can look just fine and well-screwed-on, when it actually is not.

I thought of that travel mug yesterday when I woke up. I was sitting on the bed looking at my toes and trying to figure out which one of them was which character in The Godfather. As one does. I was thinking that obviously the big toe is Don Corleone, the tall toe is twitchy Fredo, then the "normal" one is Michael, the little fat one is Clemenza, and the wee-wee-wee-all-the-way-home is Johnny Fontane.

And it was right then, as I was trying to remember Clemenza's name, that I realized I probably was not well. I didn't look particularly sick, although who can tell first thing in the morning? Ladies of a Certain Age do not wake up as dewy and fresh-faced as they did when they were teen-agers.

I didn't have any symptoms, if you don't count all-over aches and intense desire to crawl back in bed, and again, Certain Age so those are SOP.  Oh, and temperature of 101.8. 

The Godfather toes should have been a tip-off. I may have looked shiny and functional, but if I tilted my head just right I was in danger of spilling cerebrospinal fluid all over my front.

Back to bed.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hold Up Just a Bit on That Advice

In my last post I gave you young whippersnappers some dandy advice, perhaps the most important advice I could give as a late-middle-aged person who has been around the block a time or two. The advice was that if you are walking while you are repeatedly going around the block, you should wear comfortable shoes.

Today I have a caveat: Wear comfortable shoes that fit.

As I was going about my de-stuffifying a few weeks ago I found a pair of brand-new shoes I had never worn. I know! How wonderful is that? When I saw them I remembered that I had bought them in an end-of-season supersale (non-returnable, but so cheap), put them up on the top shelf of the closet until the appropriate season rolled around again, then promptly forgot all about them.

De-stuffifying for the win! I LOVE these shoes. They are a well-respected brand, exactly the right shade of red to go with my winter wardrobe, appropriately low-heeled without being boring, everything I wanted in a shoe. And when I slipped my feet into them they felt as if I were wearing Cinderella's favorite bedroom shoes.

So I wore them to work yesterday for the first time, and about halfway there I remembered a tiny detail about the shoes: They were size 10, and my feet are a dainty size 9 1/2.

"Pffft!" I thought. "I LOVE these shoes. How much difference can half a size make? A quarter inch? I'll just scrunch up my toes and they'll be just fine."

I thought that for fifteen minutes, until I was walking down the hallway of our main administration building, smiled at the student sitting there with her laptop, and this happened:

I looked exactly like the guy who's about 10 seconds into this clip, the one with his shoes flying off.

At that point I glanced back to see if the laptop student had noticed. She pretended she hadn't--the sight of a member of the college's senior administration inadvertantly kicking her shoes across the lobby does not engender great confidence that tuition is money well spent, so that probably was the best reaction I could have hoped for.

Then I went back home and got a pair of shoes that fit, and the de-stuffifying discoveries became de-stuffying discards. Someone else will be wearing my beautiful, comfortable shoes, and I hope they love them as much as I did. I'll be wearing my dignity, and that's even more important than comfortable shoes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Breaking the Tape

When Boy#2 ran his marathon a couple of weeks ago, we met up with him at the halfway point and again just a mile before the finish. Halfway through the 26.2 miles Two was chipper and talkative. He posed for pictures and stuffed his pockets with gummy bears then waved jauntily as he took off down the street again. At the 25-mile mark the distance was starting to show.

I shot video of his arrival at our check-point on my phone and you can hear me shouting encouragement.

"Woooo, Two! Great job! You're almost there! Wooooo!" then you hear my sotto voce aside to Lovely Girl "Oh, my gosh, he looks terrible," followed by more Woooos! and "Only a mile left! Hang in there!" Two didn't stop for pictures; later he said he was afraid he wouldn't get moving again if he did.

I thought of that in the past couple of days as Husband has raced toward the metaphorical adding machine tape stretched across the April 15 income tax deadline. A CPA, Husband starts this marathon in January when he begins working a few extra hours every evening. By the March 15 corporate tax deadline he's working several extra hours every evening, but he still looks good. His pockets are filled with gummy bears.

Then April arrives and now, after three months of The Season, we're at the stage where Husband doesn't stop for fear of derailing the momentum that is keeping him going.

Last night I took sandwiches to his office for supper. It saved the ten minutes it would have taken him to get home, and even more important, it saved him having to expend the energy to get back in the rhythm of deductions and contributions and bottom lines.

"You're looking great!" I told him, and he admitted that this year has been remarkably uncomplicated, with few software problems and only one computer crash. After the record level of stress last year when he had both of those issues plus the death of his mother on April 14 to cope with, this year has been a walk in the park.

The walk through the park is still a marathon, though, and both of us will be glad when he hits the finish line at midnight tonight. Tax season is exhausting, and it's a relief to see the last of the e-filings successfully completed.

Wooooo, honey! You look great! Now take a nap--you've earned it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Advice From an Old Person

I have lived a long time. A long, long time. I have lived so long that I have all kinds of advice floating around in my head, and because the Boys are no longer in close enough proximity for me to brighten their lives with this advice, I am going to share it with you.

I'm calling this new Empty Nest recurring featurette Advice From an Old Person, because if the shoe fits.... And that is a brilliant segue into my first piece of advice, which goes to the women out there in internet land: If you are attending an event that requires you to go up and down the bajillion steps between the lower and upper campus more than a dozen times in a single day, though, get dressed from the floor up.

It sounds so simple, but in actuality you probably will look into your closet and think "Okay, I want to look professional but not stuffy, with-it but not trashy, distinguished with just a hint of cute. I want to look just like the Duchess of Cambridge!" (Because really, isn't that what we all want?)

You will take a final peek at What Kate Wore, then you will choose the blouse and jacket and jewelry that will fit all of those criteria, and as the last step (see what I did there?) you will choose your shoes.

Women, rewind. Look into your closet and think "Okay, I do not want to be looking for every opportunity to sit down today because my feet are KILLING me. Also, I am not within 30 years of being Kate's actual age, so I don't have to be trendy and I am not the future Queen of England so I don't have to be any more of a fashion goddess than I already am."

Then pick out the most sensible shoes you have that don't actually have SAS branded into them, and find skirt/blouse/jacket/jewelry that complement the color. Now head on out to work and go up and down those gazillion steps more than a dozen times. You will still be able to greet important people with a smile.

Want proof?
See that woman on the right? Great example of dressing from the ground up. This little old lady is smiling, rather than grabbing the back of the chair next to her for support as she contemplates kicking a six-inch stiletto across the room. Her Corgis aren't the only dogs that will thank her at the end of the day. As will you, when you heed the Advice From an Old Person.

You are welcome.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Orts and a Blurb

I am ever striving to improve myself. As part of this striving, because I am busy, busy, busy, this morning I decided to multitask and stir up my steelcut oats at the same time I frothed the milk for my cappuccino. After all, I have two hands, why not cut my breakfast prep time in half? This turned out to be not such a good idea, because while I do have two hands, I do not have two brains, and my puny single brain could not remind my right hand to hold onto the oats container while I also held onto the mug of frothing milk with my left hand.

I guess I'm glad my brain didn't decide to drop the milk and hold on to the (relatively) easy-to-clean-up oats.

Have you read this fascinating story about how to detect when someone is lying? If you think someone is lying because they are acting all jumpy, you may be wrong. It turns out the best liars are not so much given away by outward nervousness (shifty eyes, general state of flusteration) as they are by indications of "cognitive load." Lying is hard work and that means the liar has to concentrate to keep the story straight, so he actually fidgets less in deceptive situations. So who are the best liars? This author says the best liars are the smartest, most creative people.

It's the new brag point for competitive parents--"Oh, sure, your kid gets straight A's, but my kid is a LIAR."

I'm working with a new software company that is going to provide Small College with the latest in whiz-bang, and this week I had to contact that company's customer service rep. She replied by forwarding my message to Natasha, who is going to answer all my questions. "Hello Natasha," she wrote, "Please do the needful." 

Is that not the most elegant turn of phrase you've heard this week?

Amazon image
I was shocked to hear that Boy#2 had not yet discovered the author Jasper Fforde. (That's correct--Fforde with two effs. How would that be prounounced? Fuh-ford? Fuhhhhord?) Anyway, Mr. Ff. has been one of my ffavorite authors since I read The Eyre Affair several years ago. Eyre is a grammatical fantasy mystery, or at least that's the closest I can come to describing it. It has elements of time travel, and a passage on the overuse of apostrophes that made me laugh out loud, and a whodunit, and I recommended it to everyone I knew.

Now I've discovered that the author also has written the Kazam series for young readers. Amazon says these books are for ages 10-14, which is exactly my mental age when I'm puffing and sweating on the elliptical. The Last Dragonslayer is charming and whimsical and kind of Harry Potter-ish without the angst. It's just what I need to take my mind off those last 400 steps.

Tthumbs up for Jasper Fforde.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Resquiescat in Pace

Of all the writing I do, perhaps the most complicated is writing memorials. Today I have been working on a piece that will be part of the service for one of Small College's most beloved professors, a man who was in the classroom just a few weeks ago. He was only ill for a few days, and for most of that time we expected he'd recover. He did not.

His death was a shock, not only to his family but also to his students (for some of whom this is the first death of someone they knew personally) and to those of us who worked with him. We've spent the week here at Small College rather blindly walking around wondering what has just hit. Most of us have never been in this place when that professor wasn't--he'd taught here for 47 years, and fervently wanted to hit the 50-year mark.

I want to capture him for the tribute that will be printed in the memorial folder, capture him in a way that will let his family and friends say "Yes! That was what I loved about him. Weren't we lucky to know him?" So I talk about how he always wore white Dockers and pastel shirts (long-sleeved in the winter, short-sleeved in the summer). I mention that he was known as the grammar guru of the college, even though his area of specialization was history. I mention that he taught three generations of the same family. I talk about his keen mind and how thousands of students have shared his insights.

I write how he always said "Hi-hi!" to me when we passed in the hall, and hope that others will remember his voice and how he laughed.

I remember doing this task after my mother died (also suddenly) and how healing it was to be able to look back on a life well-lived. Even as I was punch-drunk with grief, I laughed as I wrote Mom's memorial, documenting the one time I ever heard her swear (she had just backed over the plow), thinking of the dozens of orphans and widows she invited to Christmas dinner.

That was in 2009, and even then we talked about how God had rewarded Mom by taking her quickly, before her increasing cognitive issues took her mind but left her body for us to manage.

I hope that as they read about this professor's life, which was so very, very well-lived, his family will be comforted that this sudden death was a reward. His illness was one that would not have had a good outcome; he could have suffered through months of painful treatment. Instead he was gone only days after his final lecture. 

In time, I hope his family will re-read what I wrote and smile, even if it's through tears.

Weren't we lucky to know him?