Monday, March 29, 2010

Week 13 - Lived to Tell

With my life due for a long anticipated slow down, I decided there was no time like the present so headed to the Super Circuit on Monday at lunch. I hadn’t been since I blew out my knee last winter so was a bit worried. I guess I needn’t have been because I lived to tell.

I woke up on Tuesday a bit sore and aware of my knee but with no other problems. Yee ha! I was back to weight lifting – just another step on my “health” word for 2010. I figure if I do Super Circuit twice a week and do water aerobics, which is no longer the work out it used to be since we switched pools, twice I’ll be doing OK. I swam on Wednesday and Thursday and was back at the circuit after work on Friday. It felt good to start the weekend working out, which I’ve missed since they cancelled Friday water aerobics. I was less sore on Saturday too so I’m counting that as progress.

Like I said, my week was much slower than the past few weeks. Other than knitting at the library which I don’t count as a commitment, the only night I did anything was going to the movies with Nancy on Tuesday – The Last Station (a period piece about Tolstoy starring Helen Mirren.) I had been up since 3:30 a.m., awakened by a dream so disturbing that I never got back to sleep so was worried about my energy level. But my first fully caffeinated latte in years helped a lot. We went to Panera afterwards and chatted for a long time. I went home and fell into bed exhausted, sleeping through the night and waking up feeling great. I even blazed through a ton of housework Wednesday morning before work.

The rest of the week was wonderfully uneventful and I was thrilled to have a free weekend at last. As forecast, it rained on and off all day Saturday so I stayed inside and started on my to do list. By the end of the day, I had finished cleaning up from last weekend’s spare room clear out and even went through all the bags I’d brought home from work after the office move. My chores were started too and I had just sat down when Andrea called and invited me to dinner. How nice! I had done no cooking so was thrilled at the offer of homemade French onion soup. I threw a half batch of carrot cupcakes in the oven and was there by 6:00 for a yummy dinner and a chat. What a nice end to a dreary day.

Sunday dawned bright, sunny and warm and I was looking forward to sitting in the sun and knitting. But I hadn’t been able to knit in the sun for a month and was disappointed to see that the sun was too high in the sky to make it into my house – the only thing in direct sun was my feet. Taking this as a hint from Mother Nature, I headed outside to get my sunshine. First stop was the deck, where I took down my last Christmas tree (cut me some slack - there was still snow 2 weeks ago!), moved the furniture back, swept and pulled down the morning glory vines. I did a few more chores and then sat outside in the sun wearing just a t-shirt and was completely comfortable. Spring is apparently here to stay – yay! It felt wonderful to be outside on my neat and clean deck drinking tea and reading a good book with a cat on each of the other chairs. After awhile I headed back inside and did some cooking. Now I’m facing another week with not many commitments and the promise of 70 degrees by Wednesday. I think I’ll finally be starting my yard work.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Week 12 - Three Potluck Dinners

What a week! I had three separate potlucks on the schedule, which would mean I’d only be home one night by 7:00 before Friday. Sheesh!

Monday night was book club in Palmyra, which would mean an hour ride home once it was over. I had made an apple pie on Saturday so was all set with that. Then Nicki, who was hosting that night, came into my office and asked how upset I’d be if no one else had read the book. Well, I lit into her and expressed all the disappointment I’d ever felt with this book club, which has been considerable. When she came in later and asked me if I’d be cranky that night, I handed over my pie and bowed out. I took advantage of the unexpected free night and hit the grocery store. Then I went home, nuked leftover pasta and enjoyed it with a glass of wine. I didn’t even go to knitting. I did prep the salsa pork for Wednesday’s potluck so fell asleep to the smell of pork in the crock pot.

On Tuesday I ended up working late but still had to go to water aerobics so I could give the pork to Anne, who was hosting Wednesday’s dinner. I didn’t get into the pool until 5:30 but I guess it was better than nothing because it was the only class that week due to spring break.

I woke up at 4:30 on Wednesday and it was clear I wasn’t going to fall back asleep so I got up and made deviled eggs for the potluck. I made it through the day but was very tired and vowed to leave Anne’s early. Well, I had such a good time hanging out with the water aerobics gang outside of the pool that I was one of the last people to leave. I fell into bed the minute I got home. Just one more to go.

The sun finally came out on Thursday and the temp was in the 60’s. How nice that I was leaving early for my last potluck of the week – a newsletter meeting with the master gardeners in Fremont. Since this was my third, I weanied out and just brought shrimp with cocktail sauce and some chai green iced tea. Lorri drove and it was a pleasant meeting with delicious food. That was two nice dinners in a row and the last one – yay!

Unfortunately Friday brought a return of winter. By early afternoon it was snowing, with 3 inches expected. I stopped for milk and headed home to relax. I was scrapbooking on Saturday and Sunday at Camp Fontanelle but decided I’d get up early (I rarely sleep past 6:00, even on weekends) and prep for that in the morning. Big mistake!

I must have been worried about prepping because I had stress dreams galore. I woke up in a panic at 2:30 from a Jason Bourne-like dream, complete with people chasing me with guns, me strangling an old woman, rolling down a hill covered with snow covered bushes and calling 911 from a house only to find out they were in on it and were sending people to kill me. I’m not kidding! I did fall asleep again eventually so woke up at 7:30, much later than I’d wanted and feeling groggy to boot. Sheesh!

I wasn’t looking forward to scrapbooking but decided to get off my butt and get busy. I called and told them I wouldn’t be there on time and started slogging through the spare bedroom, which had looked like a bomb site for months and held all my scrapbooking supplies. I finished clearing out the room and then went through all my scrapbooking stuff and organized it. I ate lunch, uploaded pics to Walgreens and loaded the car. I stopped at Starbucks on the way to get everyone some caffeine inspiration and headed to camp. I ended up enjoying the weekend and finished an entire album of my Monterey trip last October. I ran some errands on the way home (I dropped a bag of stuff from the spare room at Goodwill and scored 2 CJ Banks sweaters for $8.00) and got home in time to do the bare minimum of chores before starting another week. And this week I only have one commitment after work and spring weather is coming back. Life is good!

P.S. The transfer in pounds is still not done. After leaving voice mails that didn't get returned and then dealing with three different bankers, they still need another piece of information. I think I finally have what they need and hope to report next week that the trip has been paid for and I've bought a ticket. Cross you fingers!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Week 11 - Feeding my Cousin

It was a maniacally busy week but the thing that most sticks out was the time I spent with Helen.

I didn’t see her Monday but took Tuesday off because Charlie had to fly to Dallas for work and Helen didn’t want to be alone. We had left it that she would get up before Charlie left and would call me when she wanted me to come over. Well she called at 6:20 a.m. saying, “I’m bored. Come entertain me.” I was there by 7:00 and stayed until after my normal bedtime, leaving at lunch time to make grilled cheese and tomato soup. Helen also sent me home at 2:30 so she could nap and I returned at 5:00 with mac & cheese. These 2 meals were the first full sized ones Helen had eaten in a week. We had a lot of fun chatting, watching TV and just hanging out.

I made supper for Helen and Charlie on Wednesday night – a super yummy cajun chicken pasta with black beans – but didn’t stay long after we ate so I could have some time at home. I’d already warned them that I would be going to water aerobics on Thursday so they’d be on their own for supper. After the pool, I enjoyed leftover pasta while watching Survivor, which is particularly good this season. I do love that show! But I digress…. Friday night I got the grill up and running now that it’s not covered by a snow drift and made steaks, rice and corn for supper. Helen seemed much better just in the 2 days since I’d seen her last.

I ran errands on Saturday morning and then started preparing for Helen’s first field trip (if you don’t count PT) – supper at my house. I was making lasagna so started that right after lunch. That done, I began peeling apples for the apple pie for book club, saving a few out to make apple crisp. Those done, I started clearing space so Helen could use her walker more easily and figuring out how to keep her comfortable at the dining room table and also on the couch. They arrived just after 6:00 and stayed for a couple of hours. It was fun and Helen did just fine. Charlie was the one who wanted to leave because he was exhausted and yawning up a storm.

Sunday was the long anticipated arrival of Liberty of London merchandise at Target and Andrea and I had planned to go weeks ago. I checked online in the morning and everything was already sold out so I called Andrea and we rushed to Omaha to check it out. Target is so odd! They’ve been hyping this stuff for weeks but we got there and some of the stuff wasn’t even on the shelf yet. It was also scattered all through the store so you just had to search aisle by aisle to find it all. I got a picture frame and a pop up leaf bag that I intend to use for yarn but was disappointed that they didn’t have any dishes. So we headed to a 2nd Target and struck pay dirt there. I got a cereal bowl and a mug and Andrea found 2 dresses and a top in the girls’ department, which she not only fit in but the XL was too big so she went down to a large. Sheesh! While she was trying the dresses on, someone was on the walkie talkie asking about Liberty teapots, which there had been space for on the shelf but there weren’t any. Well, the clerk in the fitting room said they were going to put some out so I ran over there and got the last one. Yay! Now I have breakfast for me and the teapot matches the mug.

Extra - Wells Fargo Sucks!

So, it was time to make the final payment on the England trip so I had to attempt, yet again, to do a transfer in pounds from Wells Fargo. The exchange rate has improved so much since the price was posted that even with the $20 fee for the transfer, we’d both be saving $600 by paying in pounds instead of dollars. I had tried to pay the deposit in pounds but Wells Fargo said the bank code was invalid so we ended up paying that in dollars. The tour people insisted the code was valid so I looked it up online (it was perfectly valid) and armed with the print out from the web headed to Wells Fargo with a butload of cash in my pocket. I’d looked the exchange rate up online and got enough cash from the credit union to cover the balance and the fee plus some extra. After depositing the money, they sent me over to a personal banker to do the transfer. He filled out a big online form, still had trouble with the code despite my proof that it was valid, chose another and hit enter. This is how it went from there:

Banker – You have insufficient funds to make this transfer.
Me – What do you mean? I just deposited plenty.
Banker – This shows you’re short by $105.
Me – What rate are you using because I checked before I came and based on today’s rate I should have extra.
Banker – We use a regional rate.
Me – A regional rate for an international transfer? Are these rates posted anywhere?
Banker (looking sheepish, guilty and a little bit scared) – No.

So, with the payment due in 2 days and no other mechanism to pay, I had to write a check (they require cash but he said I looked reliable(!) so he overrode the transaction so it looked like cash) for $105 extra dollars so they could transfer the money. What it all comes down to is they tell you there’s a $20 fee but they neglect to mention that they jack up the exchange rate to something having no relationship to reality what so ever so they in fact make $200 on the transaction. This is why I bank at a locally owned bank and a credit union. Big banks are in the business of screwing their customers at every turn so they can pay their executives big bonuses. If you bank at one of the mega banks, consider moving your money to somewhere smaller. Check out for a list of local banks with excellent ratings. Don’t contribute to the crooked banks!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Week 10 - Wichita Garden Show

The week started out mundane but ended up being a lot more interesting. It finally felt like a normal work week – the move was over and I could get back to getting some work done. I went to water aerobics in the new pool twice. The first time was iffy but the 2nd held some promise that I could survive in the shallow pool until Mabel Lee opens again (I live in hope.)

Helen had her knee replaced on Wednesday so I headed to St. E’s on Thursday after work to visit. She was in a lot of pain and had been on morphine earlier in the day so it was a bit scary. Her oxygen levels kept dropping, which sent an alarm blaring, but she seemed to get better as I stayed longer (nothing to do with me, I’m sure, but rather with the morphine leaving her system) so I left after a couple of hours knowing she’d be more normal the next time I saw her, which would be when she was home because I was headed to Wichita the next day.

Lorri and I were finally making the trip to Wichita for the garden show – something we’d talked about doing last year but didn’t. I was taking my half Obama day (the extra half day of vacation we accrued from Obama giving federal employees a half day off on Christmas Eve) and Lorri was meeting me in Lincoln for lunch, after which we’d leave for Kansas. We were staying with her cousin Friday night, would do the show Saturday morning and then drive to Manhattan to see our friend Susan, who had moved there last summer. After dinner we’d finish the drive home. It would be a long 2 days but fun.

The ride down was uneventful and we met her cousin and her family plus a couple of their friends at a restaurant for supper. We then went home and visited before heading to bed in the guest room that time forgot, complete with Holly Hobbie wallpaper, all pink, yellow and orange with rick rack. Loved it! After a bit of a snafu meeting up at the convention center, we spent the morning at the show. It was not as good as Rhode Island’s show, mostly because they interspersed the exhibits with the vendors, which totally cheapened it, in my humble opinion. Regardless, it was still fun to see all the flowers in bloom and I even bought a tangerine geranium to bring home. After grabbing lunch at a fun restaurant, we said goodbye to Lorri’s cousins and headed to Manhattan via a scenic byway route through tall grass prairie country. It was a gorgeous ride.

It was good to see Susan and we got a tour of her new house, which she still has a lot of work to do on the inside but the yard was looking nice. Kansas is way ahead of Nebraska weather wise so she had snowdrops in bloom and daffodils and tulips starting to come up. We had supper at a local steak house, got all caught up and then Lorri and I headed home. Highway 77 is lonely road with just a single lane in each direction. We saw lots of deer and it was pitch black out but we made it home just before 11:00. I was happy to be sleeping in my own bed.

Sunday was going to just be a catch up day of chores and cooking with some quaility vegging mixed in. Until the phone rang in the early afternoon - it was Helen calling from the hospital. They were releasing her that afternoon and she was going to the hotel in Wahoo rather than home. Between the mud, stairs to get in and all the dogs, they had wanted her to go to a care center so a ground floor room in the Heritage Inn was the compromise. Since that’s right at the end of the street, I said I would bring dinner over so got busy cooking. I already had meatloaf made so whipped up some mashed potatoes, asparagus and brown gravy, packed it all up hot off the stove and delivered it to the hotel along with 2 1950’s tray tables to eat off of. Charliie had left to feed the horses so Helen and I ate then talked for a couple of hours until he got back. It was a nice end to the weekend and it looks like I’ll be bringing more dinners to the hotel this week and even taking Tuesday offto spend with helen because Charlie has to travel that day. It’s hard to see Helen in pain but she was SO much better than when I’d seen her in the hospital and it’s clear she’d going to be much better off once she heals. In the meantime, I’ll look forward to spending Tuesday, laughing and yacking all day long to be sure.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Week 9 - Change a Go-Go

My work life was in an uproar this week. After 7 happy years in my south facing office in Accounting, I had to move. The Accounting Department was reorganized a few weeks ago. Mary became the Controller and the reporting team (Financial Systems, to be official) was now reporting to her in that function so would have to move. Luckily I had nothing to do with the logistics of the move, which moved about half of the people in Accounting, all of Payroll and Budget plus the training room. But we didn't know until the last minute where we'd be located and whether it was to our permanent space with temporary furniture or to a completely different floor, existing on tables until our new space could be refurbished. That meant sorting into 2 sets of boxes - things I'd need to survive on a short term basis and things that I wouldn't miss if they were boxed up until we were finally settled. Either way, I had to go through and pack up 7 years of crap. I did it over a few days though so it wasn't too painful. I also ended up taking a bag of said crap home every day. The bags are currently sitting on the kitchen floor awaiting disposition. Since I still had Christmas presents on the dining room table, I was determined not to have the office stuff linger.

So which location won out? Unfortunately, it's the temporary one because they found asbestos in the ceiling of what will be our new space. So Nora, Dale and I are in a windowless room that has been prepped for painting (the white plaster patches from where the old cubie walls were just accentuates how grubby the walls are) for about 6 weeks. Since we're in the training room, we're using the training tables with scavenged file cabinets as our only drawer space for the duration. I can live with the tables, it's the lack of sunlight I'm worried about. As if this hasn't been the worst winter of my lifetime, now I've got no sunshine, no plants (I left them upstairs so they'd still be happy) and no birds outside my window. I'll live but I think I'll need to treat myself to fresh flowersfor the duration. Good thing it's daffodil time in the markets.

On a sad note, Friday was our (potentially) last day in Mabel Lee pool for water aerobics. The pool needs work (something with the pump and filters) so they’re draining it to see if it can be fixed. In the meantime, we’ll be having class in 1 lane (yes, 1 lane!) of the shallow lap pool across the street in the main gym. Since I’ve only been doing deep classes since I blew out my knee, I’ll have to be very careful with the shallow classes. Plus they cancelled the Friday class, which was one of my nights, so I’ll be exploring new exercise options next week.

On top of all the turmoil at work, I was determined to get a few problem areas sorted out by the end of the weekend. You see March 1st is a Monday, which, in Merry world, makes it an auspicious day to turn over a new leaf. And do I need a new leaf! With this winter from hell, I haven't seen green since the first snow fell in early December. My yard still has 3 foot high drifts and snow piles everywhere, the weather has been bitter cold to match the gloom and spring can't come soon enough. So, I spent my weekend slogging through paper, doing my taxes (almost done) and putting away the last of the Christmas presents that have been living on my dining room table. In honor of what feels like a warm up when it's barely above freezing, I went for a walk with Lorri on Saturday and trudged through the snow to hang laundry on the line. I’m sure my neighbors think I’m nuts but I slept on sweet smelling sheets last night. And now that I’m so well rested, it’s time to turn over that new leaf.