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?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Requiem for an Office Plant

I like to pretend that I'm a rational person. (Please ignore the hoots of laughter coming from Husband and the Boys. I said I was pretending.)

However, I have one fear that I will admit is absolutely irrational, and I'll just go ahead and claim it right now: Leggy philodendrons freak me out.

Philodendron plants are practically indestructible, and are the office plants most recommended for people who have superpowers when it comes to killing plants. That (along with being able to predict when the kitchen timer is going to ring) is my superpower, and when someone gave me one for my office years and years ago, I figured it would be gone in a matter of weeks.

Instead, it has lasted years and years. Instead of dying when I neglect to water it, it has dropped off leaves the that were nearer the roots and continued to put out new shoots. It has become leggy, with long bare vines topped off with robust leaf-bearing sections.

There are people in this world (*cough*Husband*cough*) who may have, in their ill-informed youths, thought this was attractive. They even might have draped their own leggy office philodendrons in such a way that they embraced the legginess, stringing them around floorboards as if they were some kind of domestic kudzu. This kind of Wahoo for Legginess! attitude also is seen in Small Town's most popular Mexican restaurant, where the philodendrons hover around the ceiling, stretching through the space between tables.

I do not like this look. This look says "Mmmm...I'm going to share your chips, then I am going to strangle you. Could you hand me that salsa?" Then the plant hums a few bars of "Feed Me, Seymour" which pretty much kills my appetite for enchilades verdes.

But I also can't bear to throw away a plant that is not yet dead, so as my own office plant became a series of leaf-tipped vines I wrapped them around the totem stick and kept the plant compact. Finally I unwound the vines. They stretched through my office, snaked through the reception area, and were almost long enough to climb into the break room. Enough was enough. I picked up the plant and carried it out to the dumpster, where I'm hoping it will be picked up before it slithers back inside.

Now I have a lovely new office plant, contributed by Husband (whose office plants always look gorgeous, because he insists on watering them every week and because he has seen the folly of his leggy-philodendron-loving youth). I'll see if I can keep it alive, but I'm not making any promises. Better admire it while you can.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dream a Little Dream of Me

Husband told the photographer to be ready. Kiss-bomb!
(Actual breakfast table conversation from the House on the Corner)
Husband: I was pretty irritated with you in my dreams last night.

MomQueenBee: Oh? What did I do?

Husband: You decided you were ready to do some remodeling on the house, so the contractor came over and you started tearing wallpaper off upstairs without even checking to see if I was okay with it.

MomQueenBee: And how, exactly, is this different from our actual lives?

Husband: Well, not at all. But then I sulked.

MomQueenBee: My point is proven.

Thirty years and counting and I'm still his dream girl. It must be love.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

I'm Here!

The three signs on this door say "Do Not Enter"(x2) and "Quiet! Performance in Progress"

I'm here! I haven't moved away or abandoned this space! I'm just busy, busy, busy. But I will be back, because I'm sure you're all breathlessly awaiting updates about my eyebrows. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a couple of Thursday orts:

1. Last Saturday I was a door monitor at the high school regional music contest. More than 600 lovely singers and talented brass players and exuberant percussionists invaded Small College, and it was my job to keep order in the hallway while performances were in progress. I was stationed at a set of doors that is identical to the ones shown in today's photo but I kept seeing students stop and put their hands on the pictured door handles. Then, inevitably, the student would ask, "Can I go in here?"

I'm going to give these folks the benefit of the doubt and assume they did not see the two signs instructing them to DO NOT ENTER, or the sign that was taped directly across the door opening explaining they should be QUIET! because PERFORMANCE IN PROGRESS!

You know all that research that shows studying music makes you smarter? That must kick in after the high school years.

2. Husband and I were syncing our calendars this week and realized that the next Saturday we have open is June 7. Between tax season and the end-of-academic-year folderol, we're missing all of the good camping weather. Hrmph. The folks who said we would be bored when we were empty nesters were so, so wrong.

3. This morning I was on a conference call just before lunch and my stomach growled so loudly that the presenter on the other end of the call asked if someone had a question. Sigh.

Maybe this is why we're destined to not be able to go camping: The universe knows you just can't take me anywhere.