Monday, August 31, 2009

Put your big girl panties on

Since moving to the dark side (i.e., taking a job in the corporate world) nearly ten years ago, my vocabulary has grown tremendously. I now consider myself to be fairly proficient in Corpspeak. This very unique language is often rather amusing. Here are some of the basics:

  • Ripped me a new one. As in: "Man, I was in a meeting with my boss this morning and when I told her I still hadn't finished Project X, she ripped me a new one." This is the rated PG version. The rated R version is: 
  • Ripped a new a**hole, which basically means the same thing, but typically applies to others, usually someone far up the ladder. As in: " I heard that our CEO ripped a new a**hole in one of our VPs for not making plan last quarter."
  • Come to Jesus. This is an encounter in which one person sets down some rules for another person or group, as in: "My boss and I are going to have to have a Come to Jesus on these new flex time rules, 'cause they ain't gonna work for me." Or: "When it comes to these new flex time rules, I (the manager) am just going to have to have a Come to Jesus with my subordinates."
  • My plate is full. This is what you say when your boss asks you to do something and you don't want to do it or don't have time. In which case, your boss will usually ask you to:
  • Clean your plate. Meaning: get rid of any unnecessary tasks or projects that you're supposed to be working on. Usually this is a temporary thing, to be done when a high-priority task comes along that supersedes anything else you were supposed to be doing. As in: "OK, I need you to work on [insert name of corporate-initiative-of-the-day], so clean your plate for the next two weeks."
  • Help me to understand. This is what you say when your boss asks for the impossible, but you can't say: "Are you out of your @#$% mind?! There's no way I can clean my plate right now! I'm already working on 5,000 high priority projects!" Instead, you take a deep breath, think of puppies and flowers on a warm Spring day and say: "OK. Help me to understand why I should clean my plate for this . . . as well as how I'm supposed to do it." NOTE: Always use help me to understand before you attempt to Come to Jesus, otherwise you may find yourself being ripped a new one. Or worse.
So what is my point in writing this blog entry? Well, usually, these words and phrases don't translate to real life; I don't use them at home. But a few things have happened to me lately that have made life a little challenging.  A few days ago, I remembered another Corpspeak phrase that I hadn't heard in a while. It seemed to apply to my situation.
  • Put your big girls panties on. This means exactly what it sounds like: just grow up, shut up, and get it done.
Due to circumstances beyond my control, this phrase has become my mantra lately. I just wish my "big girl panties" had Wonder Woman on them, because I could certainly use some of her strength!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The harvest

KT, this is especially for you . . . a photo of my most recent harvest from the summer garden. Here we have Roma tomatoes (grown from seed!), along with some yellow and red tomatoes in various stages of ripeness. The larger yellow things under the tomatoes are spaghetti squash. 

We still have 8-10 tomatoes on the vine, and look forward to more of these. The squash plants are gone now - replaced by Swiss chard, which have already emerged after just six days in the ground. So maybe it won't be long before I can show some more photos of food grown in our backyard!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Digging my garden

I took advantage of the cooler weather yesterday to plant what I'm calling "Fall Garden #1" (to distinguish it from "Fall Garden #2", which will be planted later, in the spaces to eventually be vacated by the peppers and tomatoes). Now, clearly I'm no expert. This is, after all, only my second garden. And I'm a native of Zone 7, where we can grow things outdoors 10 months out of the year without trying. But I'm hopeful.

So I cleaned out just over half of my square foot garden - not fun, by the way. The fun part is always in the planting. In the spaces vacated by lettuce, spaghetti squash, and radicchio, I planted more lettuce (Romaine and buttercrunch), more radicchio, red Russian kale, Swiss chard, scallions, and some short stubby carrots (can't remember the variety now).  These were all seeds (as opposed to seedlings - I did go to my local nursery seeking spinach and beet seedlings, but they said they won't get them for another week to ten days).  I added organic fertilizer spikes and made copious notes in my Plant Some Seeds journal and even marked my calendar based on "days to emerge" and "days to harvest." Maybe, just maybe, my thumb is getting a little greener.

As to my "summer" garden . . . hmmm. Let's just say I learned a lot from it. First, in my attempt to be organic, I forgot to fertilize. Then I left the lettuce out too long and it got too tough. I accidentally took up my leeks, then desperately transplanted them and now they're as limp as wet noodles. The peppers have been slow to flower and fruit - I'm only just now starting to see any action. My tomatoes, however, Rock. Not only are they abundant, they're also beautiful, with hardly any blemishes at all and very little evidence of pest damage. The biggest surprise of all was my spaghetti squash. OMG! I only got 4 but they are so awesome!

What I can tell you about vegetable gardening is . . . I dig it!!! (Ha ha) When I'm out there planting something, or pulling weeds, or looking for caterpillars, or harvesting . . . it forces me to be in the moment. Being in the moment is not so easy for me. I'm an adult with ADHD, and I get paid for my ability to multitask, which I'm quite good at. But when I'm in my garden, I'm really there, and everything is right with the world. 

I'm already thinking about next Spring! :-)

Friday, August 21, 2009

An amazing milestone

Fifty years ago today, Hawaii became a state. And my parents got married. My parents have been married for half a century! What an amazing accomplishment in this day and time.

If I'm doing the math right, my Dad was 25 and my Mom was 21. They had only met the previous May - at a funeral wake for my Mom's granddad, of all places. It must have been love at first sight because they only knew each other for three months before taking the big plunge. 

Both of them were high school teachers at the time . . . actually, Mom was just finishing her last summer school class and was about to start her first teaching job. They just sort of spontaneously decided (so I'm told) to go across the state line and get married. This is because you can get married in South Carolina on demand, rather than having to wait three days in North Carolina. 

So they went over to SC on a Friday night, and as was the custom back then (can't imagine doing this now) they found out where the judge lived and went to his house. Only when they arrived, they were met at the door by a woman with curlers in her hair. This woman performed the ceremony for them: now, was she the judge? Hey, I don't know. That's the story they tell me. For all I know my parents could be common law married!

If that were the case I think that, after 50 years it would be legal. Regardless.

Anyway, I'm thinking of them tonight, and feeling proud. And very, very lucky to have them as my parents.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The big stretch

The last week or so has been kinda rough at work. OK, I don't really mean "rough" - I mean busy. I've been working on a special project that had a quick turnaround, and I had to really give it 110%. That required putting other things aside and even working most of the day on Sunday.  It also required me to stretch myself. "To stretch oneself" doesn't sound fun, does it? It sounds painful. In fact, sometimes it is. I don't often want to do it, but I usually realize after the fact that it wasn't so bad. And I always learn a lot.

Such was definitely the case this time. Whoa, did I stretch!!! Did I learn! My brain hurts!

I'm not there yet . . . I'm not quite finished with this project. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. If all goes well, life should get back to normal by the weekend. I hope so, because I have lots of stuff to do. Like planting my fall garden! 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Early to bed, early to rise

If not for the alarm clock, I would sleep until 9-10AM each day. I prefer staying up until midnight or later. When I was in graduate school, my best working hours were from midnight until 4AM. I'm sure I could easily get back into this pattern. Unfortunately, the world's circadian rhythm isn't exactly in sync with mine, and it's up to me to conform. So I'm desperately trying to make a few changes.

Starting tomorrow, I have a new rule: I'm going to be in bed (or at least in my bedroom) by 9PM and off the computer by 10PM. Lights will be out by 10:30PM.  

This means . . . I have to reduce my "fun" time online. Namely, I have to quit some of my Facebook games. I will miss YoVille and Sorority Life. I will miss playing Farkle. But mostly, I'll miss Farm Town! I have the cutest little farm there - I've worked so hard to get it "just so." It's hard to leave it! But alas, there are only so many hours in a day . . . 

Saturday, August 8, 2009

10 things I miss about living in North Carolina

1. Being in close proximity to my parents and certain other family members.
2. Sitting on the front porch in the rocking chairs at my parents' house on the farm that has been in my family for 4 generations.
3. Orange pineapple ice cream.
4. Chopped BBQ done in Eastern NC way, with a vinegar base, served with coleslaw (simply called "slaw") on top.
5. Sweet tea with LOTS of ice.
6. Calabash seafood - the real, fresh stuff from Carolina waters, not the fake, nasty, formaldehyde-soaked crap imported from who-knows-where.
7. Tar Heel basketball and the lovely little city of Chapel Hill. GO TAR HEELS!!!!!!!!
8. Long leaf pine trees that are so tall they seem to scrape the sky.
9. The Outer Banks, especially Ocracoke Island.
10. The mountains. All of them. And it's Appalachian, people (Ap-pa-LATCH-un, with a short "a" sound and a hard "ch", not Ap-pa-LAY-shun with a long "a" sound and wimpy "sh.") 

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sweet C'ville

From a break in the trees up at Monticello, you can see the famous Rotunda at the University of Virginia down in Charlottesville. The brainchild of Thomas Jefferson, "UVa" was established as a public university on land once owned by James Monroe (5th President of the US) and was the first to offer formal study in philosophy and astronomy according to the Wikipedia article found here. It's also the home to several secret societies including the philanthropic Z Society, whose symbol graces the steps leading to the Rotunda (and other places).

Unfortunately for us, we only spent about two minutes on the campus of UVa. Just long enough to take the above photo. I wanted to stay longer, but S was afraid I'd commit myself to yet another Master's degree program.

We spent two nights at the Boar's Head Inn, where we enjoyed two dinners in the four-diamond Old Mill Room. (I blogged about the amazing food in my Food for Thought blog.) We also spent a couple of hours at the Downtown Mall Thursday afternoon, darting in and out of a few of the 100+ stores and grabbing an al fresco shrimp po' boy and sweet tea lunch at Miller's, one of the 30+ restaurants that line the tree-covered pedestrian street.

Charlottesville is a small town of about 40,000 people that probably doubles during the academic year. It seemed quiet to us, but then we realized that the students haven't come back yet. Give it a few more weeks, and the place will be hopping. 

In some ways Charlottesville reminds us of Bloomington. The presence of art galleries in the Downtown Mall indicates a good number of local artists; there are a plethora of ethnic restaurants and several independent coffee houses and bookshops. Charlottesville is certainly quaint and UVa is pretty with its rolling green hills and large brick buildings. But of course, we are biased and will always think that Indiana University has one of the country's most beautiful university campuses. :-) 

Nevertheless, we're thinking that Sweet C'ville needs to be put on the list of potential retirement locations. Its proximity to the mountains, historical sites and short train ride (114 miles) to Washington, DC is a plus. The local food movement is growing, and Joel Salatin's Polyface farm is only about 30 miles away. What's not to love?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thomas Jefferson and Monticello

This morning it was raining and quite cool, but in the Blue Ridge mountains you can never tell how long that will last. We decided to make plans to visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's famous house on top of the mountain. Monticello is based on the Italian for "little mountain" and apparently Jefferson was really into Italian (Roman) design, especially Palladio. By the time we arrived at this historic site (a 20 minute drive from the Boar's Head Inn), the rain had stopped and the steam was not far behind. 

S remembers coming here as a kid, but it was my first visit. We took a guided tour of the downstairs, which included the entryway (where people would wait to meet with "Mr. Jefferson" - it was said he had some 100 visitors a month, most of them total strangers, and if he was home he'd meet with them), his private quarters (including his library, polygraph, and a bed that seemed way too short for his six-feet-two-and-a-half-inches frame), his daughter's sitting room, the dining room, a family sitting room, and a guest room where James and Dolly Madison often stayed for weeks at a time.

Jefferson was most likely a genius, and definitely a "Renaissance Man." He could read in seven languages, and (according to the tour guide) taught himself to read Spanish using only a dictionary and the novel Don Quixote. He was interested in everything from gardening and seed saving (the "TJ" on the marker in the photo above indicates that this plant, Joseph's Coat, was one of the plants grown there during his time) to making his own timepieces. He recorded the weather twice a day for some fifty years. A self-taught architect, he designed the unusual but attractive home and also the famous rotunda at the University of Virginia in nearby Charlottesville, which he founded. He collected European and Native American art and was quoted as saying "I cannot live without books" - and I thought I was the one who said that. :-) Despite all this and all his accomplishments (Declaration of Independence, Governor, Ambassador to France, Vice President, President, etc.), he died broke and probably somewhat broken as well.

You can feel the history here. You can also feel a sort of presence of the 150 to 300 slaves and servants who ran the place in its heyday. Jefferson was in a sort of juxtaposition on the issue of slavery. He called it a "moral depravity" in some early writings, yet he continued to "own" slaves and only freed a few upon his death. After 1785 during some years that he might have been able to do something about it, he only expressed what one author called a "thundering silence" on the issue. (See this article.) Certainly this and other documented writings and behaviors are in contradiction to the "all men are created equal" philosophy that he was known for. 

I'm glad I went, and recommend it to all of my history-buff friends out there.  Charlottesville itself is worth a trip, and I will write about that in my next entry.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Stepping into the past

We've been on vacation. After spending several days on the family farm in North Carolina, we headed north to Virginia today. Somewhere along the way, I realized we'd be traveling within a few miles of the battlefield where my great-grandfather (my Dad's Dad's Dad) fought in the US Civil War. So I decided to go check it out.

My great-grandfather was with the North Carolina 51st Infantry. On that fateful day in June 1864, he found himself on the winning side of the battle, but on the wrong side of a gun. A musket ball fired by (most likely a) Connecticut Infantryman hit him in the arm. I can only imagine what happened after that, based on the horrible reinactments I've seen in movies, where they fill a man up with liquor and then hold him down. My great-grandfather had his arm amputated in an attempt to save his life. It worked, and he lived to be an old man with quite a story. 

I told the Park Ranger at the battlefield that my great-grandfather had fought there and she looked him up in the computer database. From the information there, she was able to tell me which regiment and unit he was with (for the record, he was fighting with Clingman and Hoke . . . as in Clingman's Dome and Hoke County, NC). She showed me on a map exactly where he would have been when the fighting was going on. So I was able to walk to the actual place where he was . .  probably the place where he got shot. She also gave me the number of the film so if I ever visit the National Archives in Washington, DC, I can look up the details about his military service. (This is not yet available online.)

Ironically, just a few hours before I arrived at the battlefield, another visitor stopped by. This person was a descendant of a certain Connecticut Infantryman who died that day. The unlucky soldier had been a part of Upton's regiment. It was Upton's regiment who was firing on my great-grandfather's regiment. The Park Ranger said it was very rare to get two descendant visitors in one day - especially from regiments who were firing at each other!