Sunday, October 24, 2010

At the office

For you Inquiring Minds - you know who you are! - meet my office desk. My desk is usually clean despite the dust. I don't have many personal items - just a Vienna calendar (sent to me by friends E&B at the beginning of this year); headphones for my iPhone; and a certificate I earned in a recent work meeting (I received the very prestigious and highly sought-after Boomerang Award, for traveling around the world just to come back home to North Carolina.)

It's not that I dislike personal stuff at my desk. I'm just not used to having a desk. Yet. After all, I was what they call a "mobile" worker for nearly three years in my previous job. At first, sitting here felt so cramped. I felt claustrophobic. But I'm over that now.

So it's probably only a matter of time before I have more personal junk on my desk. I guess then I'll have to take another photo, and write a Before and After blog entry. :-)


My work team had an offsite meeting recently and when we took a break, I turned around and saw an amazing view of uptown Charlotte. (Look between the middle columns to see what I mean.) I'm sorry that my iPhone camera can't capture what I saw with my own eyes, but at least you can get an idea. When I walked closer to the edge of the building, I was able to get the shot below of the skyline. The distance between where I'm standing and uptown is approximately 6 miles.

I'm really looking forward to a nice "Carolina blue sky" day (not overcast, like it was on this day) when I have the time to go uptown to take some photos. Not yet sure when that will be. Could be winter by then!

P.S. A follow-up to the recent DMV blog entry: it took only 8 days before my NC drivers' license arrived in the mail. I guess that's not so bad, all things considered. :-)

Friday, October 22, 2010

My old school

Steely Dan had a song in the 70s about never going back to your old school.  One night last week, I disregarded this advice and returned to my undergraduate alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, for the first time in over 20 years. Boy, was I surprised!

The place has really grown both in campus size and in number of students enrolled. When I went, there were maybe (this is a guess that could be a stretch, actually) 8,000 students enrolled . . . now there are over 24,000! Back in my day, there wasn't much of a campus life. The school was located on the far north side of the city (actually, it seemed like it was in the country then). Now, the city has grown to it and beyond. They call it University City. There's lots of stuff going on, both on campus and nearby.

There are many new buildings at UNCC, like the Student Union building above. They all have a similar look, and the campus is modern-looking and very clean. I went to a meeting in the College of Education building, and it almost made me want to go back to school. Emphasis on almost.

When I was a student there, we only had a couple of sports programs, but none of them were particularly interesting. It's mostly a basketball school - and there have been some successful basketball seasons and several trips to the NCAA tournament. I never went to a basketball game there and I probably won't now. But in 2013 when their new football team debuts, you might just find me in the stands of the new stadium. If I'm still living here then, I might even consider buying season tickets. Go 49ers!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Inspired by elders

I had a couple of potentially life-changing experiences lately. The first involved some family members; the second involved total strangers. It goes like this. My dad (who will turn 77 soon) is the youngest of 13 children. Of his remaining brothers and sisters, the oldest is 96 and the youngest is 83. They all got together last weekend, and for the first time ever, I found myself just sitting back and taking them all in, thinking: "I hope I got these longevity genes."

The second experience was with the residents of Atria Merrywood, a retirement facility down the street from where I live. S's Mom was in town and decided to stay there for a few nights last week to check it out in case she decides to move to Charlotte. We went over for dinner on Wednesday night, and I was totally amazed with some of the people I met (and a few others I heard about). For example, Ann, our hostess, is 82 and probably in better shape than I am. She's very active in the residence, and also in local community theater. And she shoots pool! We heard of another resident who is 100 years old and still drives to Concord (a nearby city) once a week to take decorative painting classes. These are just two of the amazing people we encountered either directly or indirectly while we were there.

The whole thing got me to thinking. After all, I've seen people in their 60s and 70s who seem "old" and unhealthy, but there are also people in their 80s and 90s who seem "young." Why are some people old and others young despite their chronological age? Three things stuck out to me: 1) the "young" people don't eat much! 2) the "young" people are very active and involved with hobbies, volunteering, etc., and 3) the "young" people are very social and seek out opportunities to keep learning.

I want to be one of the "young" when I get older. Therefore, I'm starting to ask myself what I can do NOW to increase the possibilities of being "young" in 30-40 years. The first thing I've decided to do is to lose some weight. Not for vanity's sake, but for health and longevity. I may or may not be blogging about this in the future, but by writing this, I'm committing myself to living a healthier lifestyle. I don't know if it's possible to overcome 30 years of bad choices, but I'm going to try.

One day at a time. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. No time like the present.

Here I go!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mitch, please call Bev asap

I had my first experience (since 1989) with the Division of Motor Vehicles (a/k/a "The DMV") today, and it was blog worthy. I'm just not quite sure where to begin, though.

Should I begin with the fact that it's located in the most dreary and run-down old strip mall in one of the most dreary and run-down parts of town?

Or with the fact that I spent 3 hours there just to get my driver's license?

Or that I didn't get my actual license, but rather, got a little piece of paper that's supposed to be some sort of a lame-a$$ substitute until the real one is sent to me in the mail in approximately 20 days?

Or that I spent 3 hours there?

Or that the test is full of questions that have nothing to do with driving? (Sample question: Which of the following should you do in order to be safe while walking at night? A. Walk on the right side of the road with the traffic. B. Walk in the center of the road so drivers can see you. C. Wear white. D. All of the above. Correct answer C. Again, nothing to do with driving.)

Or that it cost me a whopping $32?

Or that the young whippersnapper who assisted me (when it was finally my turn) asked me if I'd ever had an NC driver license before . . . I replied that I had many years ago . . . he looked me up in the computer system and found me . . . and exclaimed: "DANG!!! YOU GOT YOUR LICENSE IN 1980!!! I WASN'T EVEN BORN THEN!!!"

Did I mention I spent 3 hours there?

I've been back in "Cackalacky" about 7 weeks now, and if I recall from my time in Austria, this is about when the excitement of the new place wears off and the culture shock kicks in. Yeah. I'm culture shocked, all right.

Three hours at the DMV is B.S. I recall several years ago in Indiana when there was lots of chatter about the horrible wait times at the BMV (they call it "BMV" in Indiana). Governor Mitch came to the rescue and fixed that mess and now the Indiana BMV is pretty much a well-oiled machine. I got my Indiana driver's license renewed in less than fifteen minutes last year. OK, so maybe a renewal isn't the same as an original. But I sure wish Governor Mitch would give Governor Bev a call and challenge her to do whatever he did there here.

Three hours!!! And that didn't even include the license plate, which I'll have to take another half day off for . . . after I get my real driver's license.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The house with the crooked floor

I was having coffee on the front porch of my parents' house this morning when I looked across the lawn toward the house with the crooked floor. Built in the early 1900s, this is the house where my Dad (who was the youngest of 13 children) grew up, and where I lived from the ages of 5 to 11. You'll probably be reading more about it now that I'm back in Carolina, because I'm spending more time here on the family farm. Now you know what it looks like (at least from the back) . . . and yes, it really does have a crooked floor . . . and lots of crooked windows, too. :-)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Work sweet work

So here it is, the photo you've been waiting for . . . the place where I spend approximately 40 hours per week . . . my new work home. It's too bad that my camera can't capture the vastness of the campus because this building is actually quite large. This is just the front. You should see how far it goes back! And this is just one building. There are a couple of others.

In a lot of ways, my building is similar to the last place I worked. The, um, d├ęcor reminds me a lot of Building 22 before the upgrade (in other words, it's cube city, with industrial lighting and lots of grey shades. Very stimulating--Not!) My main complaints with my new work home are: 1) There's no coffee shop anywhere on the property; and 2) We don't have a parking garage. I've gotten used to the former (thankfully there's a Caribou just around the corner). But the latter sucks, especially when it's super hot out or when it's raining.

One thing that's taking some getting used to is the number of 18-wheelers in the area. We have a distribution center here, and a huge fleet. Trucks are always coming and going. It's fun to watch. Makes me feel like a little kid playing with my Matchbox City -- only the toys are a lot bigger and I can't actually play with them.

I'd like to tell you more, but I need to save something for another time. Maybe someday soon, I'll share a photo of my cube! Here's a hint: it's pretty boring, because since I was a mobile worker for a couple of years before taking this job, I just can't get into decorating it or keeping too much stuff around. I'm not so sure I'll ever get used to working in a cube -- ever again. :-)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Freedom Park

I've written about Freedom Park a couple of times lately, so I thought I'd show you a photo. Took this one around 6PM this afternoon . . . a beautiful time of day to be there. We only have a slight amount of Fall color so far. I can't help but wonder how colorful things are back in Indiana. Fall just doesn't seem the same here. Maybe it's just not here yet?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A walk in the woods

Today was one of those days when the weather was so perfect, we just had to get outside. Everyone was in the mood for a long walk, so we went to Reedy Creek Park. Located on the northeast side of town not far from UNC-Charlotte, this 116 acre park and adjoining 700+ acre nature preserve is full of wooded trails, ponds stocked with bass, a disc golf course, playgrounds, picnic areas, and a very nice mostly wooded dog park. It rocks! We give it five stars.

Cody and Chelsea LOVED the wooded trails. They had to be on their leashes on the trails, of course . . . so after our long hike, we took them to the dog park. Glad we took them hiking first, because in their tired state, they were a little more social with the other dogs. (We still have a long way to go with the yapping, though!)

After a couple of hours in the park, we drove 10 miles west to the area around Northlake Mall. But the mall wasn't our destination. We were looking for the REI store. Both of us are huge REI fans, and we weren't disappointed! Great store.

And a perfect day. :-)