Friday, July 30, 2010


When I was a spry nineteen year old, my sister began her first term in college and moved in with me on special dispensation. Normally the college required first term students to live in the dorms, but they could live with family if the place was close enough to campus. Later we took in one of my sister's best friends, who several years later passed away in a single-car accident. (She fell asleep at the wheel.) In those days, at least how I remember them, we had good times.

One of the things my sister did was join crew. To be part of the team, you had to go running a certain distance every day. To help her out, and because I'd gained my freshman fifteen (and some) I promised to join her at least every other day.

So we went running around, usually after dark because of our schedules. I'd always hated running until I started running with her. We'd joke around, talk about stuff, and challenge each other. When she couldn't run on a given night, I missed it enough that I went out on my own. And it was great. I started to feel truly alive, and light--not just in weight but in spirit, like I could go on forever (though while I was actually running I felt like a lead butt.)

Then one day, when my sister got a bit ahead of me on the big, last-stretch hill that we lived on, something in my knee went ping. It wasn't a particularly sharp ping, but I stopped running and started to walk, and then limp, and then found I couldn't really bend my leg much.

By the time I got to the apartment my knee had swollen up. I thought I'd snapped something, but it turned out to be less serious, but at the same time, more extensive damage. By running on pavement, and not just any pavement but sidewalk cement which is the worst, I'd turned the normally smooth surface under my kneecap into a rough road full of potholes.

It took a lot of ibuprofen, months of physical therapy and rebuilding to get my knee to bend again, and then another couple more months to walk without a limp. The doc told me that I'd probably need knee surgery by the time I reached forty.

Well, here I am at 42, and I'm running again. No surgery, just the application of lessons learned and reaping the benefits of years of keeping my legs, especially my knees, in the best shape that I could. I try as much as possible to do 'silent running'--trying to run quietly as a measure of how much impact my joints are taking. I also practice good alignment--feet, ankles and knees all pointed in the right direction. And last, although I'm forced to run on pavement most of the time because of our local roads, when conditions allow I take breaks from asphalt running by running on the shoulder wherever it was recently mowed and flat enough.

I'm not there yet, but I'm looking forward to feeling light again. I've taken up running since college a couple of times, and stopped, and started and stopped. I don't know how long I'll stick with it this time, but I have a new incentive.

The boy wants to be able to run an 8 minute mile. We've worked him down to about nine and a half minutes on the flat, about eleven and a half on the grueling hills around our house. I love running with him. We joke around, challenge each other, and talk about stuff ....

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Another late day at work.  It still feels good to be working even after six out of seven days in a row (tomorrow will be day seven.)  After that long dry spell trying to find a job and not even getting calls, and forget about interviews ... it'll feel good to be working again for quite a while.  I'll hazard that it might not even ever get old to be employed.

I pruned my sacrificial tomatoes (it's okay to do that--really) today and tied them up after having them crawl wild around on the ground for way too long.  These are the tomatoes that I planted out waaay early to see when they'd start actually growing as opposed to sitting there shivering in the cold.  That helped me time when I put out the tomatoes I carefully raised from seed.  All the tomatoes are doing really fabulous.  

Little known fact about tomatoes--if you let them creep on the ground, they'll root as they go.  I haven't let them do this before, but in theory I don't see any issues with treating them like, for example, squash, and letting them ramble on the ground.  I might try this next year.  To keep the tomato fruits clean, I'll probably put down some sort of mulch.  I think straw would work really well.

The chickens are doing really well too.  Hermia, the little one that I thought might die, is now the biggest one, and she turned out to be a he.  He's now known as Henry--because Henry had six wives.  We might have other roosters, in which case Henry's wives will be dropping in number.  It'll be a few weeks more before we can settle on who is what, as they're still peeping and acting like babies most of the time.  The only reason we know about Henry is because he's been rearing up, flapping his wings and crowing in the evenings.  That's a pretty sure sign of rooster-dom.  Despite their little baby voices, they sure do look grown up.  I won't expect eggs until November, though, and they might wait until next year.  Many chickens don't lay, or lay fewer eggs, in winter.  It's a time of rest for them, and I don't intend on tricking their bodies by setting up an artificial light and heat in winter so they'll lay.  I think the extra developmental time will do them nothing but good.

I'm looking forward to having two days off in a row so I can do some serious gardening, the dawn to dusk kind.  Much as I love working, I do miss puttering around.  I'm sure the weeds didn't miss me, and they will be sad when I get back to them.

I'm really grateful for what we have right now.  It's a very peaceful feeling.

Monday, July 26, 2010

We're Slow (Normal for us) but Live

We have online connectivity at home again. Whew!  

I've been working at my new (old) job for five days now and I've only made a couple of glaring errors, only one of which could get me written up (or fired, since I'm on probation.)  I'm getting some of my old speed back, though, which is nice.  I'm not the fastest cashier in the world by a long shot, but I think I'm pretty efficient w/o being like a machine focused entirely on scanning stuff in.  In a lot of ways it would be easier to be just a machine, but making eye contact, listening to the customers, and having those fun micro-conversations makes work more pleasant.  Hopefully the customers like it too.  

I balanced to zero today.  For non-cashiers, that means you're neither short nor over on cash, various slips, coupons, and stuff like that.  I like my boss, I like my coworkers--it's good to be working again, especially considering our local unemployment rate.  We dipped below ten percent, finally, but too much of that includes temporary jobs.  Some of those temporary jobs showed up outside our house and then later on the highway at the bottom of the hill as large road crews worked on our roads.  Yay for better roads ... except I don't think they were that bad, at least not compared to the interchange near our usual bridge which is riddled with potholes.

I suspect complex budgeting issues created by our government's system of spending are why we're getting all this attention while other areas fall apart.  It might be that the politicians aren't in touch with what people really need and want, but I think it's actually more likely that the political system itself makes budgeting so hard that even experts end up making weird or even bad choices because the alternatives are worse.

But, that's all depressing stuff.  I'd rather celebrate the job thing for now.  I can grind my teeth later when I have less stuff to catch up on.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Boy Will Drive! Eeeeeee!

The boy is in his first driving class today. Eeek! Watch out for him on the roads over the next several weeks.

Looks like it's going to be an excellent class.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Yay Interview

I have my first interview after sending out I don't know how many applications starting last August. It's a place I've worked before. I'm hopeful. I was hoping to find something approximating full time and on a regular schedule, but I don't mind retail, and this business is very, very close to home, which is a huge advantage. It also has really good benefits, which is unusual for retail.

Wish me luck!

Posts will continue to be sporadic as we haven't gotten the new modem yet. I know that special orders take extra time, so I'm trying to be patient, but wading through the gizillions of emails I get after just a couple of days ... wow. I thought Wifi time at the library was time consuming before. Now it really takes a serious chunk of time. I'm learning to prioritize, and take most of my emails home unread. If any of them need replies, I send those out the next time I Wifi. If you've sent me an email and there's a long, terrible silence, that's why.

Wah. And Yay. It balances out to a good day, and a potentially great week.

Monday, July 12, 2010


The boy kicked out a line and broke our modem. I won't be posting much until our specially-ordered dial-up modem comes in.

Now why in the world wouldn't stores carry modems anymore? It's not like they were used in the stone ages or something.

Oh wait, yes they were.

I wonder how many people still use them. I'm guessing three, besides us.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Billions and Billions of job applications

Applying for jobs sure is different these days.

I've filled out a lot of online applications, and it makes me wonder how difficult it is to sort through all of them. Back in the day, someone had to show up to pick up the application, or make special arrangements to apply for a job over long distances. Now, anyone with computer skills can fill out an application. Combined with the job market these days, there must be hundreds, even thousands of applications for every search-able job that opens up.

It's a whole new kind of slush pile.

Also, I used to be able to shake hands with a manager when I picked up an application, and talk enough to let him know I can communicate with other human beings in a reasonable fashion. That would be hard, if not impossible, to discern from an electronic application. So how would someone decide who to call, out of all those applicants? You couldn't call them all. I happen to have work history, which probably helps (maybe) but what about the kids just hitting the market with no job experience? How can they convey that they can not only text each other, but say hi to a real human being and maybe even get work done that involves other real people? GPA?

I'm intrigued by the idea of people leaving different impressions through electronic applications. Spelling/grammar will be part of it, as will references and such, but handwriting analysis is out the window. Does experience give HR specialists a feel for this sort of thing? Does HR read tea leaves?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Warm at last

I can't complain about the hot weather.  In fact I'm loving it.  I need to take frequent breaks indoors--my system can't acclimate that fast from days in the 60's F to days in the 90's F--but it feels really good to do simple things like give the puppies outdoor baths, and to have that liquid, languid feeling right down to my bones.  We've got plenty of water in the well, and the downstairs is nice and cool, which helps.

The seedlings are probably suffering, and may not survive the shock of going from wet, cold weather to dry, very hot weather in such a short space.  I'm giving them plenty of water in hopes of keeping their morale high so that they won't give up on me.  Failing that, I guess I'll have lots of nice, well-weeded, well-fertilized beds for fall crops.  

Now that the puppies are all clean and fluffy white, I won't feel ashamed to take them down to the river for wading and walkies.  I'd take a pic of them, but as soon as they finished shaking off they retreated under the porch, where the temps are fifteen or more degrees cooler.  It's their version of downstairs, and I don't blame them one bit for napping there all day.  Bonus--after a long afternoon snooze, as soon as the weather cools down in the evening--you haven't seen such racing about, barking and leaps of glee from big dogs.  

I wonder if they dream of winter.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Writers of the Future Honorable Mention

I received my second honorable mention from Writers of the Future.  They sent me a lovely certificate in the mail.  Congratulations to all the other honorable mentions, and good luck to those who are still in the running.

If you write speculative fiction and you qualify, this is a really good contest with no entry fee.  I know a surprising number of past winners--or maybe not surprising, as this contest has been going on for a long time now.  They have fantastic judges and excellent prizes.  Their new submission quarter began July 1, so even if you have a story in the running for last quarter, you can send another in for this quarter.  

Their main website with complete rules, faq, etc. is here.  If you're an artist, you'll find information for the Illustrators of the Future contest at the same site.

Oh, and be careful if you're driving today.  Sadly there are more drunk drivers on the road on Independence Day than usual, so watch out.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Celebrating Freedom

Writing.  Gardening.  Chickens.

The weather turned cool and rainy (again) but apparently it's just a passing thing.  Looks like we'll have a really nice Independence Day, Fourth of July, whatever you want to call it.

We can see several fireworks shows off in the distance from our place.  It's nice to kick back, listen to our own music, and watch the colors and lights, and listen to the distant booms.  The pops, cracks and explosions are on long delay.  Sometimes we count the delay, like lightning and thunder.

So, weirdly, it's a peaceful holiday for us.  Sometimes the neighbors put on a show, but even that is usually pretty brief, and then relative quiet descends.  We just have a few extra pretty, sadly brief stars in the sky.  The animals are grateful.

Which makes me really feel for the folks in town where there are fireworks galore starting a couple of days before and continuing to pop off for days afterward, not to mention ongoing chaos long after the advertised hours most cities post for legal firework activities.  I don't know what percentage love the holiday vs. those that loathe and/or fear it, but I do know there are enough people and animals that suffer with all the noise that it lends a keen edge to the day.

I don't think something should be banned because it upsets a bunch of people and/or animals.  There are lots of things that we do that are downright deadly that no one would dream of ever banning, like driving around in cars, or eating ribeye steaks.  (Well, okay, some people dream about that.)  Still, I try to be a careful driver, mindful of my responsibilities.  I don't give vegetarians a hard time for their food choices, as I expect that they won't hassle me about mine.  And when we shoot off fireworks, for the sake of our neighbors and our animals, we keep it short, sweet, and within the legal hours.  It just seems more ... I don't know ... in the spirit of celebrating an American holiday to not only express joy at our freedoms, but to respect the fact that we're not a monoculture--we're all about the melting pot (or we claim to be--or is that no longer taught in schools?)  I'd hate to see a tradition banned for fear of injuries or offending someone or excluding people or out of dread that we'd be promoting something religious or pseudo-religious on a government/social level using the Constitution as an excuse, like the whole Christmas thing being banned from schools (I'm not even a Christian and that still makes no sense.)  But keeping Independence Day and all our holidays in perspective, so that they're fun, rather than using it as an excuse to terrorize or intimidate or to try to make it into some sort of political statement that supports a party or an action toward a foreign nation ... fun makes sense to me.  It also makes sense to expect that people will do whatever they want and twist around whatever celebration comes along to serve their own purposes at the expense of others.  That's part of our country too--we have good, and bad, and I don't think we should ban Halloween because some kids egg peoples' houses.  You know?

Yay freedom.  Yay courage.  Yay living all together, in as much peace as a bunch of messed-up primates can manage.  Holidays, whether they're religious, political, or social, are always a mixed bag.  You can't have Father's Day without an estranged family feeling in the dumps about it or men who are intentionally childless wondering where the heck is the day that honors them?  But I wouldn't want to do without holidays. 

By the way, for those who feel left out:  there's no reason why folks can't celebrate or make up their own holidays, and move them around the calendar to fit their days off if need be.  It's not like Easter is on the same day each year, you know.  We celebrate our own holidays here at the farm all the time.  They circle around birthdays and the seasons.  They're no less special just because there's only a few of us that celebrate them.  

So here's to the Fourth, and to holidays in general.  Maybe you can celebrate, if nothing else, life and that which you love.