No Regrets: Second Quarter? Already?

At the turn of the year i set forth on a quest of mindfulness. As i did last year, i’m doing quarterly updates on my progress, or regress as the case may be… Slow and steady going through the end of the first quarter, i’ve been on a bit of a roller coaster this quarter, so results are a little jumbled.

The categories:

Bridges – repairing relationships that have mattered to me.

Ducks – getting things in shape to assure the least hassle to my children after i die.

Vessel – assuring that my body can carry me through the adventures i desire.

My scorecard for the second quarter:

Bridges: Small efforts yielded wonderful re-connections! A comment on the first quarter update by an old friend, cramnitram, led to a lunch date, and a few other looooong overdue conversations. Yoda surprised me with a book for my birthday. i hosted a party for my daughter – and spent time with a former sister-in-law that i haven’t seen in years. Facebook brought me a meet up with one of my former “kids”, who is all grown up and doing well professionally. Being attentive and looking for opportunities, slowing down enough to make time to talk… This has been a very good quarter, and i hope to maintain momentum.

Ducks: STILL working through Mom’s estate, i found myself with yet another carload of old memorabilia, photographs, journals and letters after excavating the large storage locker. My office remains buried in paperwork, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s proven difficult to take care of my own estate planning while up to my tonsils in her business…

Due to the kitchen renovation, i gave away two tables, 8 chairs, a refrigerator, a stove, a dishwasher and 14 serviceable kitchen cabinets as i launched into construction. It has been a massive project, but almost done. While unpacking all of my kitchen gear, i was quite brutal, giving away unnecessary stuff. A bit of a draw, volume-wise, considering the scale of the new kitchen.

i also set up an ‘Advanced Directive’ for my senior doggie with my veterinarian. It seemed the right thing to do, staring at so much travel this year. i didn’t want to leave my pet sitter dealing with difficult decisions, should i be out contact.

Facing the end of the quarter, i also printed out several ‘change of beneficiary’ forms. These are currently payable to my ex-husband. i’ve never really worried about it since the divorce, knowing that he would do the right thing with the funds and hand it all over to the kids, but it’s kind of simple to take care of, and i’ll get it done before the end of the next quarter.

Vessel: Holy shit, this one is a demon! i’ve done well with exercise, despite a pretty busy schedule. Sticking with lunch hour cardio, the Saturday morning fitness classes, and regular after work bike rides, i’m not too horrified at my follow through here. But food? Booze? i’m eating like it’s my job, and no longer holding my alcohol consumption to just weekends. The cruise – where we had access to an endless variety of food, and unlimited top shelf liquor – was a factor in keeping me chubby. i’d lost about five more pounds early in the quarter, and have managed to gain that right back in the last few weeks.

During construction, i had one month with only small refrigerator and a microwave for a kitchen. i was eating peanut butter, microwaved popcorn and oatmeal for dinner most nights. No reason i couldn’t have done better, but i was living in a major construction zone, working on my pieces of the project at night, and wasn’t particularly motivated to do better.

With the new kitchen up and running, i’ve started cooking again! Went from an electric cooktop to a glorious gas stove!  i’m learning how to cook with the new gear, and it’s been fun! So there’s hope that my lean eating habits from earlier in the year can be dusted off…

Bridge, Duck, Vessel - Get it?

silly image found here…

Halfway through the year. Much more to do. Putting together the scorecard, i’m optimistic that i can at least wrap up “Ducks” by the end of the year… Onward!

Projectionist

We signed up for a Mediterranean cruise last November, at the urging of my friend, Dee. Single, 40-something, with a great sense of fun and adventure, she asked us to join up with a larger group of friends. “You and Studley need to go on this cruise! I really want to get back to SCUBA diving, and I’m terrified of going it alone!”

So we did.

The cruise organizer is a former colleague, Ted. Ten years ago, he beat the odds against aggressive brain cancer. Every year, he arranges a cruise holiday with friends and family to celebrate another year of remission. Yet another great reason to sign up…

Studley and i decided to hit Rome early and spend a few days there before boarding the ship. We weren’t sure we could get off the ship and to the airport in time for a same-day departure, so we also booked a night at an airport hotel before our return flight. It was pricey, so i used some of my banked hotel points for a free room.

Dee was making her own arrangements. She pinged along the way, finally telling Studley that she was too scared to go it alone, and asked if she could connect up with us for the days in Rome. He shared our hotel info, and flight arrangements with her. She decided to also spend the extra night in Rome on the return, but found out our hotel was way out of her price range – and didn’t have points to burn. Since she knew many others on the trip, she emphasized that she didn’t expect to tag along with us for the entire trip, and said she’d figure something out.

We got to Rome and hopped the train to Termini station. Dee has not traveled much, and we made sure to share the process with her – coaching along the way*. Tracking train schedules, buying tickets, map navigation, avoiding touts and pickpockets. We had booked a sweet little place in Rome, and had a blast farting around for a couple of days. At breakfast, on the morning of our departure for the cruise terminal…

1Rome a

daisyfae: Have you figured out where you’re going to stay on that last night in Rome?

Dee: Not yet. I need to get on that…

daisyfae: This hotel is terrific – maybe ask to see if they’ve got a room available?

Dee: I don’t know if I can get back to the train station by myself…

daisyfae: You’ve done it six times since we’ve been here! You’re a ninja! You got this!

Dee: I don’t know…

The cruise was fun – we are not particularly fond of big cruise ships, but it is nice to unpack once and then wake up every day in a different port… Sometimes a different country. Florence, Cannes, Mallorca, Barcelona, Naples… It was a grand trip!

Periodically, i’d ask Dee if she’d figured out what she would be doing for that last night… Suggested talking to the Guest Services staff on board, stopping in the internet café to get online and do some checking. She continued to procrastinate. It was frustrating for Studley and me – we are not over-planners, but having a place to stay is one of those things you really need to take care of when traveling! Trying to help her learn to travel independently, i got a little agitated that the student wasn’t taking initiative!

Studley had arranged a few adventures on shore for the two of us. We rented Vespas in Cannes – managing to get lost a few times, but still finding some gorgeous spots on the French Riviera! He also arranged our dive trip near Naples – Roman ruins, dating back to Emperor Claudius! Not the “warm water, pretty reefs and colored fishies” dives that we’re used to, but absolutely fascinating!

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The last night on board, Dee still hadn’t made her hotel arrangements. i insisted that she go to the guest services desk.

daisyfae (to Studley): It’s like she’s not even trying! She is fully capable of taking care of this! i just don’t get it!

Studley: You know, not everyone aspires to be an independent traveler. I think she just wants someone else to deal with it…

daisyfae : …

Studley: Some people want to be taken care of… and there’s nothing wrong with that!

daisyfae [lightbulb over head]: You’re absolutely right. Holy shit! i’ve been projecting MY need to be independent onto her. That’s not what she wants…

In the end it was Eddie, the internet café manager, who hooked her up with lodgings. The hotel was a short taxi ride from the train station. When we got to our hotel near the airport, i sent Dee a text…Checking to see if she’d gotten to her hotel…

daisyfae: We made it! Are you settled? Best option for a train from Termini is the Leonardo Express – look for the separate ticket kiosk at the station.

Dee: Made it ok! I’m just going to take a taxi to the airport tomorrow.

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*”Adventure shared is adventure squared!” Encouraging others to “Get off the sofa” is absolute joy!

As the Dust Settles…

Coming up for air as things settle into transient equilibrium in my inconsequential corner of the universe… Sharing a few observations, lessons, and a glimpse of ‘scores and highlights’ from the past few weeks… Not writing. Just reporting.

Wedding: My sister T’s wedding earlier this month went off with only one hitch – and that ‘hitch’ was to her partner! i was anxious regarding the coalescence of family around an emotionally charged event. Whether they all buried their respective shit out of respect for my sister, or because of my pointed directive prior to travel simply doesn’t matter – all went well, and it was a celebration!

My anxiety was driven by a series of messages and e-mails the week prior to the wedding. My brother couldn’t understand why my niece was invited, and he couldn’t stand being in the same room with her. My niece, and sister S, were both barking because my brother would be there. In a group e-mail to the clan sharing logistics and plans for the weekend, i added the following line: “There will be no drama.  i will drown the first person to be rude.” Regardless of the reason, everyone was cordial and nobody got drunk and stupid… Well, i might have had a few too many once i got on a plane toward home…

And then there was the suggested dress for the wedding – “Nautical Chic”… Us ‘Trailer Park People’ had to request clarification on this one. In southern Ohio, “Nautical Chic” means “Dress for a day of boatin’ on the Ohio River”, and would lead us toward cut off blue jeans and flip flops. i suggested Khaki trousers, polo shirt, or if going more “yacht club”, wearing the khaki’s with a light blue oxford and a blue blazer. Boat shoes for the gents, of course. My sister S’s husband J won the prize by asking if his old pair of disco shoes would be ok…

disco shoes

Kitchen Remodel: Today is the ninth day with skilled laborers in my home. Tear out began on 27 April, and there has been a tremendous amount of work done – making my new space look like a real kitchen again. A dream kitchen, in fact. Fortunately, my boss and the nature of my work has allowed me to work from home while construction is underway.

i sit in my home office, dog at my feet, bashing through e-mail, documents, presentations and conference calls. They tear out walls, install wiring, plumb gas lines, place flooring and trim, make all things perfectly flush and level, and haul a 10′ 6″ long slab of manufactured quartz that weighs 830 pounds into place on top of the new kitchen island.

In awe of their knowledge and skill, I’ve tried to stay out of the way – but have bootlegged the chance to learn something. What have i learned? We need to send fewer people to universities and instead develop more skilled tradesmen. They don’t need to leave at lunch to go to the gym to get exercise – they use their lunch breaks to rest.

Working with my designer, and lead contractor, i’ve also had to do some juggling and dancing to keep the project on track as various components were damaged or delayed. This morning? Flooring contractors were finishing up as the plumbers arrived. They were mostly finished by the time the refrigerator was delivered and installed. i really need to have the kitchen operational soon, because…

Adventure: There is a cruise in my immediate future. Not the type of holiday we usually take, this one is special for two reasons. The first? A former boss organizes an annual family and friends cruise to celebrate remission from brain cancer. Seven years ago he was given a 20% chance of getting on the other side of an aggressive tumor.  He did it.

The second reason? A friend, who has attached to us because she wants to be more adventurous, invited us along – with a request: “Please come on this cruise – I want to go diving with you guys in the Mediterranean!”  So we plan to be diving ruins in Naples along with a few other adventures – a bit more aggressive than typical shore excursions.

Studley had to carry the football on this trip because i handled travel logistics for the wedding, and am working logistics on a late summer trip to see The Girl in Turkey. So much to look forward to… but i am a bit overwhelmed.

This arrived today – i have a luggage fetish and am smitten with Samsonite Fiero. A new mid-sized piece for the collection. Time to get the kitchen re-organized and start loading this baby…

packing

Life is short. Don’t postpone joy…

How Did i Get Here?

“Those are nicer cabinets than the ones I’m putting in my kitchen”.

Dan was half of a two-man crew from Habitat for Humanity, stopping by to pick up the oak cabinets i’d just had removed from my kitchen, in preparation for a massive remodeling job.

“i just want them to find a good home…”

Since i moved to the new place in 2008, i’ve been tackling one project each year. Billiards room, home theater/audio system were top of the list, but the office renovation, theatre room upgrade and fitness center remodel are all completed according to plan. i’d put off re-doing the kitchen because it would be more expansive – and expensive.

Initial plans were more modest, but once i realized that Mom and Dad’s final gift would be more than expected, i decided to go balls out – and make it a dream kitchen. Serious design work started in January with a professional, and i pulled the chain in March when i placed the order for cabinets.

And then the guilt started to work on me… My kitchen was perfectly serviceable. Why remove the walls? i’m not a serious cook – do i really need to upgrade to a gas cooktop and double oven?

My facebook-based flea market began in earnest – i gave away two perfectly good tables, a working refrigerator, stove and dishwasher. Donating the cabinets to Habitat for Humanity to make sure someone, somewhere could use them.

Realizing the magnitude of the job, schedule became a challenge.

“i’m going on a two-week European holiday at the beginning of June – can we have the work done by then?”

Did i say those words to my contractor? Yes. Yes i did…

In order to accomplish a 6 week project in 4 weeks, i took on a few parts of the job myself. Professionally trained as a program manager – Cost, Schedule, Performance – this is what i do for a living.  i worked with the contractor (and subcontractors) to run things in parallel where possible.

So i’m the luckiest… The absolute fucking luckiest human on earth right now.

Sure, i’ve worked to earn a paycheck from the day i turned 16. Something in my wiring diagram does not allow me to go without my own paycheck – even when starting university, i was in a co-operative education program  at 19, picking up a job as a secretary in the engineering office during the semesters i wasn’t working full time.

i made the choice to go to graduate school at night, while working full time and breeding. Those years are a bit of a blur, but i did it. So did my spouse.  My husband and i made the choice to live on one income, and invest the other. We lived well under our budget, and prepared to send the two spawn off to university should they choose to go.

Why do i feel guilty? Where does the voice come from inside my head that says “You’re being selfish? You don’t deserve this!”

Is it enough that i know i’m lucky to have found myself here? That i’m lucky enough to have had parents who squirreled away something for their children? That i haven’t been bankrupted by a major medical disaster, or lost my job through downsizing, or random events beyond my control?

As i write this, i’m sitting First Class, given a complimentary upgrade on a flight to Florida for my sister’s wedding. Drinking free booze, and munching on tasty kibbles handed out by a smiling flight attendant.  Unlike the guy that Exile on Pain Street wrote about earlier this week, you won’t catch me bitching about the lack of single malt scotch. i’m pretty happy with my Jack Daniels and Diet Coke.

jack and diet coke

Cannot be unseen…

We needed to go through Mom’s office. Because she valued everything she saved, we felt compelled to touch everything before determining disposition – we owe her that. Spending a Sunday morning at the homestead, my niece DQ, sister S, and i plowed into the task at hand.

We created piles – “Save”, “Trash”, “Donate” and got to work, each of us grabbing a box of stuff for excavation. The first box i grabbed came from the file cabinet. Reaching in, i pulled a worn envelope, stuffed full of aged, brown papers. Naked lady playing cards, purple mimeographed ‘office jokes’, and a stack of typewritten stories.

the collection

There was a two page “diary” entry, dated 3 November 1952, Avonmouth, Bristol, England…

Dear Diary:

I had a date with Ted last night and we drove along for about an hour or so until we came to a small house beside the road in the woods. Ted drove the car behind the house and we got out and knocked at the door, a girl came to the door and opened it. She was perfectly formed, having a beautiful body and legs. The rich crop of black hair at her cunt made me envious immediately.

Well… that escalated quickly, didn’t it?  Apparently Betty, and her boyfriend, Bob, were expecting company. Then the orgy commenced… Lots of poorly-written, detailed exploits for these two couples.  Criminal abuse of the words “juice”,  “moist”, and “moans of ecstasy”.

“Holy shit! i found Mom’s porn collection!”

Although badly written hard core erotica, i was delightfully surprised with the degree of sexual adventure it captured… Who knew grandma could get her freak on with another woman?

to be...

As traumatic as it was to find this gem in the stack of fragile papers, it was this one that makes me want to take a cheese grater to the memory lobes of my brain… In complete shock, i read it to my sister and my niece…

A True Dog Story

I was married when I was 16, younger than most girls nowadays. I had a good husband and life ran smoothly for me until I was 20, then my husband died. After I had been a widow about two years, there was a burglar scare in our neighborhood and my friends advised me to get a watch dog to keep strangers away.

Well. Can anyone else see where this is going?  After our heroine has to rush from the bathtub to see who is knocking on her front door, the new watch dog decides to get frisky… i cannot retype the entire text because i will end up stark raving mad. There are gems like this “He finally managed to lift my hips with his front paws…”and “After a short struggle, I fainted.”

As you can imagine, my sister and niece were both screaming at me, “STOP!  PLEASE!” but one must share such horror. It was a train wreck – i couldn’t make myself stop.

The lady and her dog apparently continued hot and heavy for a few months, until invariably a neighbor lady caught them. “You should have seen her eyes stick out when she saw that the dog had me pinned to the bed, screwing to beat hell”.

So what the hell am i supposed to do with this stuff? Trash it? Burn it? There is only one answer, at least now that i have been permanently scarred by this discovery…

Put it in a storage case and forget about it. Let my children find it after i’m dead. It’s only fair…

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

UPDATE:  Added this image for Ms. Texas Trailer Park Trash!  Apparently she found this in her Father’s stash when she was a child!  Since this was the least freaky of the things i found, i kept it and will likely use this for notes!

things to do today notepad

No Regrets – First Quarter Update

In January i identified a few things i’d like to focus on this year – things that will help me get to the finish line with no regrets. Not ‘resolutions’, but an attempt to be more mindful about things that matter. Last year, the quarterly blog updates proved to be a useful accountability tool. While these are certainly not the most riveting words, it helps, and i appreciate your tolerance of my introspection and intellectual monkey-spankage.

To better position myself for a ‘clean house’ at the end of my life, i picked three general categories:

Bridges – repairing relationships that have mattered to me.

Ducks – getting things in shape to assure the least hassle to my children after i die.

Vessel – assuring that my body can carry me through the adventures i desire.

Here’s how i’ve done in the first three months of the year.

Bridges: Got off to a quick and easy start here because an old friend finally replied to an e-mail i’d sent him last year!  Yoda re-appeared, after a post-retirement hiatus. He had been a friend and mentor, and we had an intense and occasionally tumultuous friendship until he retired a few years ago. Through a series of e-mails, we caught up a bit, reflected on our relationship, and considered prospects to meet up again.

One close friend was set adrift about four years ago. In a moment of anger, i slammed the door on a decade of friendship, with no explanation. He politely responded to my unexpected birthday greeting in January, and through an exchange of e-mail, we shared updates on the current contents of our garages. Not all that weird considering we’d spent a lot of time together in automotive pursuits. Need to keep working this one… at least i started a conversation.

Ducks: Building on my efforts last year, i have continued to work on reducing my physical footprint by shedding unnecessary ‘stuff’. A good start here, with three Jeep-loads of possessions taken to thrift shops. Also did a few ‘facebook flea market’ weekends, where i gave away items to friends. Re-homed many former necessities, and cleared a good bit of space in my storage room.

Six months after her death, i continue to bash through my mother’s estate. i have learned just how unprepared i am to die. Not much progress here, but i did manage to visit two different financial establishments today, the last day of the quarter! Making two major bank accounts payable on death to my children will reduce the complexities if i drop dead tomorrow.

Vessel: Started the year with a three week “cleanse”. Mostly as a means to jolt my brain into a healthier eating mode, it was also a chance to let my digestive system re-boot. Studley joined me, and we set about eliminating alcohol, dairy, wheat/grains, caffeine, sugar, artificial sweeteners and most fruits from our diets. Instead we ate a shit-ton of vegetables and lean protein. It was a good thing. i re-learned to make soups, and cook. Packed my lunch and saved a lot of money by not eating meals out. Saved money on booze, too.

Biggest surprises? i didn’t miss alcohol, sugar or caffeine all that much. What i missed? Cheese. Oh, lord, i do love a blast of bleu cheese or goat cheese on a salad! A nice hunk of smoked gouda makes a great snack! But we made it. We were eating well, shitting like cows, and very focused on whole foods. Many of these habits have stayed with me, and i feel pretty good.

Exercise has picked up, too. i added a ‘high intensity interval training’ workout on Saturday mornings, with modified workouts at home a couple of nights per week. Typical week has 4-5 workouts, plus bonus bike rides now that the weather has improved. I’m down twelve pounds in three months. A lot more to go, but a good start.

no regretsMuch more to do in all three areas of my life, but i’m content with the progress so far. The quarter ahead offers some challenges – major home remodeling project, several business trips, two significant vacations, three heavy-duty volunteer gigs and maintenance of an active social life, while working full time and finishing up Mom’s estate.

i can sleep when i’m dead. And if i do this right, it’ll be with no regrets…

Road hard

Three weeks of nearly continuous business travel. Given the run of frigid weather in February, i did gain some time in sunny, relatively warm California. Sure, i got to enjoy it a bit, walking to and from the rental car, and a few days spent dining al fresco for conference luncheons… but mostly, i was in meetings from 7am until 7pm or later.

Jacked up flights, due to weather.  i missed a connection at O’Hare by fivefuckingminutes, which led to a complete re-route to an airport near my destination, requiring a rental car and about six extra hours of travel time.  Missed a half day of work as a result, but made it. And didn’t get particularly stressed out.

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Similar jackage the next trip. i was halfway through a cardio workout in a hotel fitness center, when my phone lit up – 800 number.  i knew immediately that it was from the airline, likely delivering shitty news regarding my scheduled flight home the next afternoon. Rather than take the call, i finished my workout, then hauled my sweaty arse back to my room to deal with it.

As expected, my Wednesday afternoon flight was bagged, due to ice in Dallas, but they had conveniently re-booked me on the same flight for Thursday. “Well, that’s not gonna work!” A rookie traveler might have lost her shit at this point.

i dialed up my travel agent on one phone, and dialed the airline on my business mobile, while peeling off my sweaty gear. “Due to inclement weather, we are experiencing delays in customer service…” on both lines. Plugged in the phones, set both to speaker, and proceeded to call room service to order dinner…

i knew i’d have to bag the morning meetings and hook an early flight toward the east coast.  i set up my laptop, finished up the work that was required for the next morning. Room service arrived, bringing me a marginally edible flat bread pizza and a glass of wine.

As i emptied the wine glass, my travel office came back on line. Agent was able to wade through a pile of options and get me re-booked for a 6am flight. i finished the pizza. Once confirmed, it was about 9pm local time, meaning i had about 6 hours before my 3am wake up call.

Packed my clothes, sent my work off into the ether, set three alarms and was in bed within fifteen minutes. Was on the road to an airport an hour away by 4am, on a plane at half past five, and headed east around 6am.

Looking out the window. Thinking back on all the years i’ve been doing this. There was a  time when i loved it! Exciting, glamorous and chubb-inducing business action – i was a cog in my small corner of the technology world, and i enjoyed mixing it up with others in the field.

Now? It’s nice to bank all those airline miles and hotel points, but it’s just a longer commute. i try to be good at what i’m doing, but it is no longer my passion. Looking out the window of a plane, i just wanted to get home to my own bed, and my manimals.

And looking forward to the day – not that far away – when i will travel for only for recreation! Retirement lurks, and those airline miles are going to fuel a lot of roadtrips. Dive trips. Backpacking trips abroad – open ended, with no return flights booked.

Studley and i are in the midst of planning three trips between now and September. Uncharted territory – emotionally, mentally and geographically. i will continue to hop planes as a commuter, but i can assure you when i board those planes for uncharted territory, i am going to be one delighted adventurer…

i genuinely believe that a key element to happiness is having things to look forward to… i may be exhausted, but i am incredibly happy at this moment in life!

Trailer Park Family Values

With the passage of a law in the state of Florida, my sister, T and her partner, T* are free to marry! They’ve been together for nine years and have built a home – and a life – together. This is grand news, and plans for their celebration are underway!

T called me early last month to share the news, and check schedules. Studley, who is ordained as a minister in the Church of our Lady of Perpetual Motion**, will be performing the ceremony. The celebration will take place on a fabulous chartered yacht in Biscayne Bay at sunset! i will serve as MC for the reception! We are so very excited for them!

As T was working through details, she was wondering how to handle invitations to the members of the Trailer Park. Relationships were strained for the past few decades years. Like me, T was at odds with Mom’s living arrangements and choices. There had been scuffles – direct and indirect – that led T to take some time to decide whether she’d invite the rest of the family, or keep it fairly small.

With Mom’s death in September, i would have predicted that the entire clan would have imploded by now, and this would never be an issue. i fully expected to wander off from most of the rest of them after Mom was in the ground. T, already living a thousand miles away from The Park, had placed great geographic distance between her and the rest of the clan.

Yet it was my sister, T, who articulated the words that brought peace to most of the clan. In a conversation with my niece, DQ, T said “We all wanted what was best for Mom, we just didn’t agree on what that was… Now that she’s dead, none of that really matters.”

After deliberations, T decided to invite the entire clan, with some concerns about drunken drama and bad behavior causing disruptions. i assured her that i would manage the family dynamic, and promised to contain bullshit on her wedding day.

The curve ball in planning came from elsewhere. My sister’s partner comes from a family of means, politically visible and very well known in their hometown. Despite the fact that her mother shared a champagne toast to celebrate their engagement, she let it be known that she could not attend the wedding. T’s brother, also felt that a public wedding was not something he could support, and declined the invitation.

This was unexpected and heart-breaking for both my sister and her partner. Her brother had been with his wife for a mere two years before marriage – a fraction of the nine years T and T have been together. It seems they are more concerned about appearances than they are about the happiness of a daughter, and sister.

Fortunately, T’s sister will buck the family position, and is going to be there to celebrate.  As will the entire Trailer Park clan… Words i would never have expected to hear from my sister – “Our family is pretty fucked up, and we’ve certainly got our warts, but at this moment I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”

let them eat cake

* i know this is confusing.  i should use names… i’ll figure something out. It’s only been 7 years out here… Give me a break!

** Not a real church, but neither is the one that grants on-line ordinations!

Out to lunch…

“My Momma made my lunch for me today. It’s in a big white bag with “Keith” written on it. It’s a tuna fish sandwich, potato chips, and cookies. I’d say that’s pretty lucky; I have lots of friends who would give anything to have their Mom make their lunch again.” – Uncle Keith*

This paragraph rolled through my facebook feed today.  It made me cry.

It also took me on a romp through some very wonderful memories…

There were two groups of kids when it came to school lunches – Packers and Buyers. As a wee lass, i remember feeling quite special because my mother loved me enough to pack my lunch for school every day.  A sandwich, fruit cocktail in Tupperware, and a Little Debbie Snack Cake were pretty standard fare.

School lunches were available, and the majority of students bought whatever was offered – “Pizza, corn, jello” on Fridays as the highlight of the week.  It cost $0.10 more if you wanted ice cream, and some of the lucky kids got ice cream, but that was a pretty extravagant item in our world.

Before leaving the classroom, the teachers would line us up by the blackboard – Packers first, then Packers who needed to just buy milk, and then Buyers. i was a bit cocky every day knowing that my lunch had been prepared for me, and was neatly packaged in my groovy lunch box.

ohmygod

i had this lunchbox.  i shit you not…

Shopping for a new lunch box was part of the ‘back-to-school’ ritual!  It couldn’t be taken lightly – you were judged by what was on your lunchbox.  Carrying that really cool “school bus” lunchbox might be ok in 2nd grade, but you’d be called a baby by the start of your 3rd grade year.

disney box

i tended to be somewhat conservative with my choices, going with bright designs rather than cartoon characters, or television shows.  i do remember being tempted by a sweet “Partridge Family” box, but opted for something less likely to get me verbally abused.

and this one

By the time i was about 10 years old, the lunch box thing wasn’t cool, but it was still preferable to pack a lunch and i ditched the lunchbox for a brown bag.  Still felt damn special, though. Eventually, i got fussier about what was going in that bag, and started packing my own lunches.

Thanks to Uncle Keith, i had a happy wander down memory lane today.  With a simultaneous ache of missing my mother… It would be wonderful to have her make me a bologna and cheese sandwich on white bread, some syrupy fruit cocktail and a Little Debbie Nutty Bar again…

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*Some of my older blogmates may remember Uncle Keith from a few years back. As the founder of his own religion, Keitholicism, and leader of The Riot Squad, he always brought insights and smiles.

Russian Roul-etiquette

Winter excavations are well underway at Chez Daisyfae. It is amazing what one finds when going through boxes that were hastily packed many years ago.  While digging through the storage room, i found a box containing the journals* i’d kept all through high school.  After a brief excursion down Painful Memory Lane, i put that box aside and kept plowing through.  A bit of a dark cloud amassed inside my head as i mulled over the words i’d written at the age of seventeen…

Moving on to a box full of old photographs and work memorabilia, i found a piece of paper that stopped me in my tracks.  i laughed so hard that i made the cat jump! The photo, from a hotel surveillance camera, carried me back to one of the goofiest things i’ve ever experienced.

Several years ago, i served as general chairman for a large international technical conference.  The conference would be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – a wonderful city.  We planned the conference for several years, and i worked very closely with event planning staff at the hotel – and we got along very well.

Expecting around 700 attendees, we knew that about a third would be from Europe and a third from Asia.  It was my goal to make sure that every single attendee had a grand time, and went home feeling good about their experience in this little river town.  We put together a solid technical and social program, and our evening events included a massive banquet held amid exhibits at the Carnegie Museum.

After that banquet, my major ‘hostess’ duties were done, and i could relax.  i relaxed by throwing a party in my room.  As chairman, i was given a two bedroom suite, with full kitchen, dining room and entertainment area.  We made the best of it!  My admin assistant and i had spent the Sunday before the conference making jello shots (“vodka jellies” to my friends in the UK).  We laid in enough booze, wine and beer to inebriate an army.  We’d brought food as well.

The party was “invite only”, but we still had about 200 people coming and going through the course of the evening. Teaching the art of the jello shot to the world! An international jam session started in one bedroom, when a senior German technologist grabbed my guitar and performed Leonard Cohen.  One colleague learned the hard lesson that one should never do vodka shots with a Russian – she drank him under the table, or under the toilet in this case.

My friends on the hotel staff knew about the party – they were invited.  The next day, one of the event planners found me at the conference headquarters room.

Stephanie:  Did you have a good time last night?

daisyfae: It was a throw down… We tried to manage the noise, and keep the guests contained.  Hope we didn’t cause any problems.

Stephanie [giggling]:  We caught one of your guys on camera at about 3am.  He came down to the front desk…

daisyfae:  What?

Stephanie: We had a guy show up at the desk wearing nothing but his glasses and underwear!  He’d locked himself out of his room.

daisyfae:  Are you shitting me?  Who was it?  Oh my god…

Stephanie [produces print outs from security camera]:  Here are pictures from the cameras.  He came to the desk, and was apparently pretty drunk.  The night attendant offered help, but she couldn’t understand what he was saying.  Finally, she just asked him ‘What is your room number, sir?’  He got agitated and kept saying “What is YOUR room number?”  She had some help from security, and they got him back in his room.  We just figured he had been at your party!

daisyfae [jaw on floor]:  Oh shit.  [staring at picture] i don’t recognize him – he wasn’t in my suite last night.  But i’m certain he’s with the conference.

My admin assistant, and a few of my friends, spent the rest of that day trying to figure out which guy at the conference was pictured in the photo.  We finally identified him – it wasn’t easy with his clothes on.  i tracked Stephanie down the next morning.

daisyfae:  Not only is he with the conference, but we comped his room!  He’s an invited speaker!  Be sure to tell your staff that he’s staying here for free!

What is YOUR room number

The next night, there was another party – this one hosted by a key industrial sponsor.  Chartered riverboats, Monte Carlo gaming, and another throw down for the conference attendees.

Hanging with our group was my friend, JP, who had also been helping us identify the Drunk Naked Russian from earlier in the week.  As we get back to the hotel, he realized that somewhere along the way, he’d lost his room key.  Stopping at the desk, he asked for another.

As the woman behind the desk asked for his room number, he recognized her as the desk clerk from the Night of the Drunk Naked Russian.  With the goofiest accent he could muster, he shot back “No!  What is YOUR room number!”

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* Picked up the one on top, chronicling the summer after my 3rd year of high school. Read far enough through it that i decided i may need to burn these.  My escape from the Trailer Park was not a sure thing… i was reminded that it could have ended very badly for me.