System Failure

In theory?  i’m a genius when it comes to creative use of the calendar nestled so efficiently within my Blackberry.   i have a system!

Need to remember to bring a book to work to share with a friend?  i simply set up an appointment for 0730, so that i am reminded just as i’m leaving the house in the morning.  Owe someone a bit of info immediately after a meeting?  Just park an appointment on the ol’ Blackberry calendar, set to go off as soon as i get back to the office. 

This little reminder system works quite well, since my Blackberry is a near-constant companion.  It even serves as one of my alarm clocks, and sleeps next to me on my nightstand.  Integrating my professional and personal life, i love the ease and efficiency of my e-calendar.

Last Friday, one of the irritating dorkboyz at the office set up a meeting for 0700 this Monday morning.  In general, i don’t get to work until around 0800, but on a typical Monday, i’m stumbling in closer to 0830, when the weekly staff meeting is scheduled.  i was not thrilled with the idea of an early morning requirement for a Monday.  It was, however, necessary to catch the boss before he went into lockdown for the rest of the week.  So i reluctantly hit the “accept meeting” button…

But i’m awful about early meetings.  And on a Monday?  No way!  The solution?  Use the calendar, of course!  Cleverly, i set up an ‘appointment’ for Sunday evening, around 8:00 pm.  “Go to bed early, dumbshit, because you have an early morning meeting tomorrow!” was the title of the ‘meeting’.  That was on Friday…

My weekend was packed with good stuff and home stuff and other stuff, so the next time i saw that meeting reminder was at 0615 this morning, as i was bashing the shit out of the alarm on my beloved Blackberry as it tried to rouse me from insufficient sleep. 

Sunday night?  8:00 pm?  The reminder went off as planned.  Why didn’t i get that meeting reminder? 

Oh, wait.  There was a party.  At my place.  Seems i got a little bit distracted…

My daughter and her boyfriend, ZZ, were hosting a small soiree.  For the most part, i was happily holed up in my bedroom working on a project.  Periodically i emerged to scavenge for food and beverage.  For the most part, folks were headed home by 11:00 pm, and i was on my way to bed shortly thereafter.  But when i heard the strains of a little bluesy-jazz piano coming from my living room, i caught a second wind, and headed out to investigate.

By the time the impromptu jam* ended, it was after midnight.  At no point did it occur to me to look at my Blackberry and sort my schedule for the next day.  Hence the full-blown “Oh, Shit!” panic-stricken jolt from bed this morning when i realized that i had approximately 20 minutes to get dressed, walk the dog, and get myself motorvating toward the office.

i got dressed.  The dog pooped.  i made it to the meeting, demanding the head of the dorkboy who set it up as i inhaled an industrial-sized bucket of coffee. 

In theory?  My little system is foolproof.  In practice?  i’m a pretty talented fool…

* Wasn’t much of a jam.  The pianist, an adorable little lawyer, was able to bang out my current most favorite song – Biz Markie’s “You Got What I Need”.  There was a guitar.  i vaguely remember playing along.  Possibly dancing.  It’s a little bit soft focused…

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On being lost…

A glimpse into your character emerges when you are lost. Do you get pissed off? Start blaming the layout of the damn city for such an illogical arrangement? Stay cool, stop and ask direction as soon as you realize you aren’t where you want to be? Turn around and back-track to see if you can discover where you went wrong?  

Yeah, we all turn down the radio in the car when we really don’t know where the hell we are. That’s a given…  

When i’m driving, and realize i’ve got nary a clue* as to where i am, i just poke around until something looks familiar.  Backtrack a little.  Wander a little.  “Phone a friend” if it makes sense.  Eventually i end up where i intended to go.  

For the past several months, i’ve had a vague feeling of being lost.  Not on my drive to work or anything.  Just lost in general.  Ms. Melodramatic has even said the words out loud to herself on occasion – trying them out to see what they taste like.  Unlike driving through a scary neighborhood when you’re late, and trying to find the office of a new doctor, it hasn’t been “panic” lost.  More of a free-floating “wonder if i’m going to get there” lost.  

Since i had a few errands to run on a rather spectacular late summer afternoon, i hopped in the Jeep today and charted a meandering path to soak up some sunshine and knock a few items off the mundane ‘to do’ list.  Driving from the pharmacy to my favorite spot for cheap gas, i was singing random song snippets to myself, and enjoying the day.  

It finally hit me that i’m not even close to being lost.  Far from it.  i can navigate the streets of my existence blindfolded in a hurricane.  All of my senses let me know where i am.  The smell of the gym as i bash my muscles and bones.  The taste of the bourbon barrel ale consumed with good friends around a pub table.  The warmth of the large brown dog who lies contentedly on my feet.  Chattering voices outside my office, letting me know that i’m late for a meeting.  

i am here.  Right here.  No doubt about it.   

What i don’t know, however, is where i am going.  i’m not lost.  i’m wandering aimlessly.  Destination unknown.  Enjoying the scenery.   

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. My "new" bike - '76 Honda CB360T. Needs work. But hey, i've got time. Not like i'm going anywhere...

* No, i do not have GPS. Nothing against them. In fact, when i’m with someone who has a Garmin, or even the iPhone app that ‘pings’ your location, i find it fascinating. i just don’t want one. When i travel on business, i study maps and locations in advance, and use mapquest to prepare large-print directions from “point A” to “point B”. Something comforting for me to have studied a map before i get somewhere… Usually works out ok.

It’s my party, and I’ll snub who I want to…

When i got the e-mail from my sister T’s partner, TK, i was amused.

So the reason I am writing you is to see how your calendar looks for the weekend of August 20 – 22. I’m thinking about having a surprise party for T’s 50th. Would you consider coming down to surprise her? Please be honest with me…

Also, I think you would be the only family member I would invite as I think any others would be a problem. Do you agree? Would that create tension in the family? I just don’t know so any direction you can give me would be great. You know how much T resents them.

TK has been with my sister T for several years, and i have learned that she loves my sister a lot.  She has been tremendously resourceful in helping T manage bipolar disorder – which can be devastating.  She looks out for T’s best interests, and has on a few occasions contacted me* to intervene when the Trailer Park bullshit caused stress.

We sorted some ideas, and i figured it would be easy for me to get there for a party.  In fact, i could even craft a story for my Mom that i had a business trip in the region, and just decided to pop down to surprise T for the big 50th.  It was credible, and designed to minimize family drama, and prevent stress being dumped on T or my Mom.

It was one rather unfortunate tactical error on my part that sort of screwed things up.

The surprise party?  Perfectly executed, with military precision, by TK and her extended family!  My sister, T, was stunned when she walked into the party room to find 30 friends cheering for her!  She about fell over when she finally spotted me in the crowd!  i haven’t seen her for over a year, and it was fun to have a chance to meet her friends – people i’ve heard about for years but never met in person.

My mistake?  In the wee hours of Friday morning, while i was still in the wet clothes i had been wearing when i got the partiers to jump in the pool, i put up a silly facebook post, thinking that my extended family might like to know that T got a helluva good party for her 50th.

Oops.

Before i managed to get to bed that night, i received the following e-mail from my Ridiculously Self-Absorbed Sister, S:

I’m glad to see that you’re allowed to have a relationship with T but we aren’t — that’s right — “she’s all you have!”

Last April, S was poking at T with the Ronco Pit Bull Teasing Stick, with a whiney-assed series of e-mails to T’s work address.  When T finally told her to “Stop e-mailing me at this address”, S was mortally offended, continued to send a few more e-mails despite the request, and was horrified that the family was being abandoned by T.

i thought it was resolved, and all sleeping doggies were resting comfortably.  Apparently not. 

How selfish do you have to be in order to find offense when two of your sisters are able to get together to celebrate a birthday?  Especially when the birthday celebrant lives 1,000 miles from the homestead, and is rarely visited by family**?

Oh, that’s right… S is the sister who managed to become completely derailed by my cancer diagnosis (the old “Oh my god!  What am I going to do?  My little sister has cancer?” routine).  The same sister who melted down in a hospital after Mom had a cardiac catheterization (the patented “Oh my god!  I’m not ready for Mom to die!  What will I do without her?” tantrum).

Of course it was all about her.  Everything is.

~~~~~~~~~~

* It was TK who first got T to call me when the last round of serious Trailer Park Stoopid was underway.

** The lack of visitors is, at least in part, due to the fact that T can be rather intense.  Especially when she is under stress.  This has led to a few bad moments when family did visit in the past.  In reality?  It’s clearly best that the rest of the clan keeps a distance…

Hello Kitty Gets Her Groove Back

About five years ago, i was at a technical program review held in Hilton Head, South Carolina.  Autumn weather, but it was still rather resort-y and beach-y, and the perfect setting for the Dawg Boyz that i run with to get up close and personally in touch with their ‘stoopid’.

New to the community was a program manager who had just returned from spending several years as our Asian representative, living in Tokyo.  She was then about 50 years old, a tiny waif of a woman, with a penchant for wearing 1960’s era Chanel suits, tailored clothing, and feminine frills.  Perfectly accessorized, too!  

Bubbly and exuberant, she was welcomed into the group for an afternoon happy hour by the pool*.  Within minutes, she was regaling us with tales of her time in Tokyo.  How to perform tea service, cultural mistakes that many westerners make in Japan, and how much she adored life in Tokyo. 

But what really got her lit up?  She shared with us her fanatical obsession with “Hello Kitty” products! “I’ve got just about everything they make with ‘Hello Kitty’ on it!  I just LOVE ‘Hello Kitty'”

By this time, some of the Dawg Boyz were getting a little tired of her chatter.  Ok.  MOST of the Dawg Boyz were tired of it.  While i was busy yapping at the other end of the table, i heard one of the auxiliary Dawg Boyz ask “Do you have the ‘Hello Kitty’ vibrator?”

Brief pause in the chatterbox patter, but without missing a beat, she pretended not to hear him, and continued on about all of her collectibles, and how she’s going to build a display area in her house for all of them.

Not to be ignored, the auxiliary Dawg Boy asked again, louder “Well, do you have the ‘Hello Kitty’ dildo?”

Brief pause, while she re-set her registers, and prattled on about something else.  Knowing she was not going to like the direction of the conversation, shortly thereafter, she excused herself and found less obnoxious tablemates.

Tonight, i found myself chilling with “Hello Kitty” at a local establishment, as we awaited the arrival of a birthday celebrant from the office.  i was there early, and when Hello Kitty arrived, looking lost and confused, i invited her to join me at the bar for a drink while we waited for the rest of the crew to show up.

Really enjoyed catching up with her, she seems to have made a comfortable transition back to the US, and is happy in her new job.  As always, she was dressed in her signature style – 1960’s style conservative suit, complete with matching accessories and white fingerless dress gloves! 

Given that this event was being held in something akin to a local tavern, she was the best dressed person there.  By a long shot.  Me?  Black yoga pants, tank top, and baggy overshirt.  Sexy to the extreme…

As we chatted and finished up our beers, our waitress stopped by to let us know that the gentlemen at the table behind us had picked up the tab for our beers.  Mildly shocked by this, as i’ve entered the ‘realm of the invisible middle-aged woman’, i turned to thank them with a smile and tip of the beer glass.

They were a crew of off-duty construction workers, still dusty from a day of manual labor.  Turning back around, i noticed that Hello Kitty was showing a little bit of thigh as she sat at the bar stool.  Complete with a peek at a lace-topped thigh-high stocking!   She was cluelessly flattered by the free drinks – and i had to point out to her that it was obviously because she’d knocked their boots off!

“Your fashion rocks, sister!  Knock ’em dead!”

image found here

* Rather than pay hotel beer prices, a friend and i had gone to the local grocery store, bought a styrofoam cooler, a couple cases of beer, and 20 pounds of ice.  We were resourceful like that…

Gender Equality in Engineering?

We’re moving offices at work. Due to a massive construction project, we moved to temporary trailer-offices about a year ago.  As of this week, the new office complex is complete. Although i felt quite at home in the trailers, all good things must come to an end, and i’ll be camped in a cube farm by the end of the week.

All logistics for the move have been orchestrated with military precision. Our Division Admin Assistant is in charge of letting us know what to do, when to do it, and all that crap. He’s been great about giving us plenty of advance notice.

For over a month, we’ve known that today would be moving day. Our responsibility? Pack up everything in secured boxes. Write our name and new office number on the outside. Nothing personal, or fragile, as the movers would be palletizing each office, wrapping in shrink wrap, then delivering to the new digs.

Last week, DivAdmin reminded us that “fragile” items included our desktop computers and phones. Given that our IT department is always short-handed, we were to pack ’em up, move ’em, and plug ’em in. Seeing as we are engineers? Seems reasonable.

On Thursday, a recently hired ovaried engineer managed to cause a bit of a flap by hitting “Reply All” to the DivAdmin’s reminder. She said “We have to carry our own computers to the new building? That’s a long walk! I’ll have to make at least a dozen trips to get it moved. This seems outrageous!”

Well, it would be outrageous if we all didn’t have these things called “cars”.  All she had to do was ask DivAdmin. He’d made arrangements for us to load everything in his truck and he was going to do a couple of runs to the new place. Walking it over, one mouse or keyboard at a time, was never part of the strategy.

On Friday, whilst drinking beer with the last crew at the summer picnic, one of the guys mentioned the whiney e-mail. Naturally, he then asked me if i was moving my own stuff.

daisyfae:  Well, i had planned to just throw it in DivAdmin’s truck like everybody else, but now i feel compelled to carry the entire arrangement on my head the half-mile to the new office just to make a point. In heels.

We continued to talk shit about it.  Until it occurred to me that if it had been one of the guys who’d sent that message?  We’d have been calling him a big fat wussy right to his face, rather than snark about it behind his back*.  So i informed the guys that unless they called her out on it, they were guilty of gender discrimination.

i was greeted with a few blank stares.  They weren’t sure if i was serious or not.  To be honest, i wasn’t entirely sure either…

Gender equality.  Seems to me that includes taking your fair ration of shit when you deserve it.

* Truth is?  We’d call him a big fat wussy to his face AND snark about him behind his back.  Probably for several months.

The Catsket

Shortly after Dad died, i encouraged Mom to get a cat for company.  A friend of mine had a cat that dropped an unexpected litter so we stopped by and Mom found “Ladybug”.  At first, the cat was sweet and playful, but Mom didn’t like the biting.  She used the “spray bottle full of water” technique to discourage the cat from chewing on her.  It sort of worked, but the end result was that the cat got a little bit nasty.

Mom loved Ladybug, and although the cat made sport of hissing at the rest of us, biting our ankles, and generally making visits unpleasant, she was good company.  When Mom moved in with my niece last summer, the cat had to stay alone in the old house, due to fears that Ladybug would bite the baby, or scuff it up amongst the numerous animals in their existing menagerie.

Ladybug got even more snarly.  Mom loved her, and continued to visit when she could.  Last winter, my niece gave into Mom’s demands to bring the cat with her, and Ladybug was assimilated into the new environment.  Even just a touch nastier than before, but Mom was happy with Ladybug curled up beside her in the bed in the living room.

When i visited last week, it was obvious that Ladybug wasn’t doing well.  She’d been a fat cat, but had become a bag of bones over the past two months.  Mom was trying to fatten her up, but no luck.  When she stopped drinking water, Mom finally got my niece to take her to the vet*. 

This past Tuesday afternoon, i got a text from my niece. “Ladybug will need to be put down”.  Asking if it was kidneys, my niece affirmed the dreaded diagnosis, assuring that it’s all over but the hissing.  i asked how Mom was taking it, and my niece immediately texted back “Not well.  Can you call?”

It was very sweet of my niece to reach out for help, and as soon as i could abandon the work project of the moment, i called Mom.  She was obviously distraught. 

daisyfae:  DQ told me that Ladybug is in bad shape.  What’s going on?

Mom:  The vet said her kidneys are failing, and he recommended we put her to sleep.

daisyfae:  Ouch.  That’s pretty sad – she was just getting used to living with you again.  When are you going to do it?

Mom:  I don’t know.  I’m not ready yet.

daisyfae:  Is the cat suffering?  You don’t want her to be in pain…

Mom:  I don’t think so.  She doesn’t want me to touch her though. She’s not even feeling well enough to hiss at anybody.  I might be ready later this week…

daisyfae [flashbacks to conversations when Dad was on life support]:  But the vet said there’s no way she’ll get better.  It would be horrible if she has to suffer unnecessarily.

Mom:  I just don’t want to do anything too soon…

daisyfae [now having SERIOUS flashbacks to the interminable days before Mom signed the “do not resuscitate” order for Dad after he was full of tubes, in a coma, suffering complete multiple organ failure]:  It’s your call…

In the meantime, my niece, DQ, who has so thoughtfully reached out to get more support for Mom, decided that this would be a perfectly grand time to run the vacuum cleaner in the living room – where Mom was attempting to talk to me on the phone.  Through the noise, Mom finally agreed that she’d need to do it soon, but repeated that she wasn’t ready to let go yet.   Offering moral support, hugs and love, i told her i’d give a call later…

That was Tuesday afternoon.  On Wednesday afternoon, i received the following two pictures from my niece via text message.

Realizing what this was when the second photo arrived, i wrote her back asking if Ladybug had been put to sleep yet. 

DQ:  No.  BJ’s taking her to the vet now.  He worked on this all night long.

On the one hand? It was a beautiful and sweet gesture by BJ.  Clearly, it was meant to help Mom work through the impending loss of her cat, and perhaps even helped speed up her decision calculus, sparing the cat unnecessary suffering.

On the other hand?  BJ has been unable to find the time to continue renovations on Mom’s house, which is why she is still living on a bed in their living room.  He can spend 24 hours making a casket for a cat?

(sigh)

Such is the paradox of The Trailer Park… and an example of why i can’t completely give up on them.  Sometimes all i can do is shake my head. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* The cat.  Took the cat to the vet….  U.S. health care is bad, but not quite that bad.  Yet.  Although it would have been far less expensive if i’d gotten myself spayed instead of doing that tubal ligation procedure.

Quantum elasticity

The suspense is what makes it memorable.  If it happened suddenly?  Popping off without warning?  It would be over far too quickly for you to harbour that fleeting nanosecond of hope that perhaps this time…. maybe for the first time…  trauma can be averted. 

A slight shift in your seat?  Ever-so-gently adjusting your hips.  Slowly.  Is this a better angle?  Can the situation be rectified on the sly?

No.  As always, it is not to be.  You feel it going over.  Past the point of no return.  You shift again, hoping that no one else in the room is witness.  Worse, you wonder if it will be audible!  Christ!  Why can’t the white-noise people start talking now?  Where are they when you need them?

It’s done.  Just like that.  Almost relief, as you realize there is nothing to be done.  You accept that you will simply have to sort it out later.  You gather your notebook as you stand to leave the room, prepared to strategically cover up if needed, and wonder if your altered appearance is noticeable to others.

Perhaps it’s only us chubbies who know this particular joy – another burden of shame we bear because we allow ourselves to be sunk by those bloody Chips Ahoy!  Does this happen to skinny people?  Doubt it. 

Feeling the elastic band on your knickers break loose in the death-slide across your flabby stomach.  Taunting you, just a little bit of stiction before snapping free, finally reaching the lowest energy state under the fold of your ice cream-fueled powergut. 

Nothing quite like it.

(sigh)

Travels with the offspring

In addition to an offer of urine-based first aid from my son, there have been a few other ‘moments’ as i’ve been knocking around coastal Georgia with my two children. 

– Stuck in the Charlotte airport last Wednesday due to a narrowly missed connection, we parked at an airport bar to kill the expected 3-5 hour wait.  Ordering beer with lunch, the waitress asked to see their ID, to verify that they were indeed old enough to drink.  As i rooted around in my purse for mine, i realized i’d misplaced my drivers license after leaving airport security.  The server, patiently waited, until my son said “Mom, she’s just being polite.  Let her go get the damn drinks.”

– On the island, we spent our last night hanging out in a ‘locals’ bar.  Within a couple minutes of getting settled in, the owner came over and introduced himself.  We farted around, stayed for some marginally bad karaoke, and packed up to leave around 10pm.  We waited by the door as The Boy made a pitstop.  A somewhat crunchy older gentleman sitting at the bar motioned me over.  i assumed he wanted to comment on my singing – he was a perfect representative of my typical fanbase – an elderly drunk man.  i stepped over to him.  He pointed at my daughter and said “Don’t take her outta here!  She’s so pretty!”   Rather than just disappear, i asked him to make me an offer… Fortunately, he was a bit too far gone.  i’d have stuck around if he’d bought us another pitcher… 

– Shark week!  If you’re going to be spending time lounging around hotel rooms, when it’s “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel, no one argues about what to watch on the tv-tube.

– One of the coolest things about Savannah, Georgia?  “Go cups”.  Yep, you are allowed to carry out a glass of beer, provided it’s in a plastic container.  Which makes wandering along ‘river walk’ a bit more pleasant, and the people watching far more entertaining.  Unlike New Orleans, however, there are no “walk up” windows.  A business opportunity lurks…

– The last time we did something like this?  2004.  Hard to believe it’s been six years since the three of us took a family vacation.  We still travel pretty well together, despite a few skirmishes related to ventilation in hotel bathrooms.  Didn’t really ‘do’ much.  Mostly about hanging out, sleeping and reading.  Five days was about right, as we all found ourselves saying “Yep.  Time to go home.” over dinner last night…

Surf’s up

Funny thing about being stung by a jellyfish?  It doesn’t die after it stings you.

Unlike a bee sting, where you at least have some satisfaction in knowing that the little fucker has just flapped his little wings for the last time after he injects you with venom, the jellyfish just swims on.  Probably pretty oblivious that he has just fucked with your morning.

If a dog bites you?  You can smack it.  If you are attacked by a snake?  Crush it’s head with a shovel, and leave the body as a warning to the others.  But if you reach down to smack a jellyfish after it stings your legs?  It will happily sting your arm, and then swim off without a care.

On the bright side?  It’s not going to ruin the weekend…

Not too long ago, i realized that it had been about 6 years since my kids and i have had a vacation together.  Starting in about 1998, we’d take off somewhere for Spring Break*, and it seemed a good time for us to do it again.  They’ve both been working overtime, and a long weekend seemed like the thing to do.

So here we are.  i let them choose from a short list of east coast locations.  The winner?  Tybee Island, Georgia.  No major plans, other than a couple of beach days, then a couple days farting around in Savannah.  While they were snoozing the morning away, i hit the beach.

And that was when the beach decided to hit me back.  All in all, there are worse things than being stung by a jellyfish.  Like returning to your hotel room, informing your children that you’ve had a minor scrape with the local wildlife, and getting the sympathetic response of “Hey, want me to pee on it?” from your son…

~~~~~~~~~~

* My approach to avoiding the dreaded “Mom, can I go to Daytona Beach with a car full of stupid teenaged boneheads for spring break?” question?  Take them somewhere better from the time they were in junior high school.  Germany,  England, San Francisco, the desert southwest…  We had some adventures.