Friday, November 30, 2012


Oh man, exhausted to the max.  Training in the office every day (I am pleased with our new hire--smart and picking it up fast).  I end up taking no breaks and staying a little longer to try to get some actual work done.  Add the half hour commute each way.  It makes for a long and truly exhausting day.  I didn't realize what a toll it would take on me.  I'm too old for this.  Good thing I'm retiring. 

In five more weeks.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Swan Hunting

I went in search of Tundra Swans yesterday.  I hit three of my favorite sites:  Salt Creek, Bear River WMA, and Antelope Island Causeway.  Unfortunately, there were too many duck hunters.  Lots of BLAM, BLAM, BLAM all around.  Most of the ducks at Bear River were on the east side behind the gate with a sign saying "No Public Access."  Smart Ducks.  Only a handful of swans all day.  After checking out pictures from other years, I see I will get a good chance for the swans again in February.  I don't know if I'll get out birding again before January.  Between working in the office every day and trying do fulfill all Christmas and birthday responsibilities, December is usually iffy at best.  We'll see.

I did manage to get a nice shot of a Canvasback.  And a pretty sunset as I was leaving Antelope Island.  Incidentally, when I drove mom and dad home Friday, we stopped off at Beus's Pond, and sure enough, got to see a number of Wood Ducks.  Mom and dad thought that was pretty cool.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Six?  Really six?  Thanksgiving is over and we're full on into the Christmas season now.  One new writer starts on Monday and the other the following Monday.  I need to finally decide on my Medicare supplemental insurance.  I will do that within the coming week.  Put up the tree. Get presents. Cards.

And to make things extra fun, half the birthdays in my immediate family fall in the month of December (with one also in November and one in January).  So the cluster of birthdays adds to the busyness.

I dreamed the other night of waking up retired.  It almost made me want to quit work on the spot and not go back.  But I promised I would get those new writers trained, and I will.

Six!  I feel a slight panic. And impatience.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Ditto

I've written about Thanksgiving days, dinners, guests, plenty of times.  I could just say "ditto" to all the previous posts.  Suffice it to say, there will be 12 for dinner at my house this year.  Some traditional and some very untraditional fare.  It promises to be a lot of work and a lot of fun. 

And on this day devoted to being grateful, I am.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I guess it's actually a named phenomenon .  But it's been around for centuries.  Well, probably since the beginning of man.  An interesting article I stumbled across on the age-old practice of "Mansplaining"--that is, men telling women what women think.

Credit:  "The Atlantic" November 1 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Last day working from home

Today was probably my last day working from home. I'm off the rest of the week,and then I start training new people.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

In the driver's seat

Hogsback.  Hwy 12, central Utah, 2011
Driving past the Beck Street gravel pits today, I wanted to look up way to the top to see if any deer were visible against the skyline.  But I couldn't.  I was about to merge onto I-15--not a time for taking the eyes off the road.  When I was married, I was rarely the driver, and I got to enjoy the scenery instead of watching the road.  Spotting deer and birds of prey were just a couple of my favorites activities from the passenger seat.  There are some nice advantages to being the passenger.  Control over your destination is not one of them.

The driver is the one in control.  I may want us to turn here, but he will choose the route he wants.  I'm just along for the ride.  I didn't always like that in my marriage.  It seemed there was not enough compromise.  Not enough consideration for the way I wanted us to go.  And not just in the car.

When I got divorced, I was at first tentative about so many things.  Making decisions about my money, my property, my life.  For some time I felt I needed someone's approval before going ahead.  It took awhile to gain confidence in my own decisions.  That's changed now.  I have moved fully into the driver's seat of my life and am keeping my eyes on the road. This could be a bad thing if I ever hope to be in a committed relationship again.  Will we both want to do the driving?  Is there a way to share?  Is there a man willing to let me drive some of the time?

Men never seem to lack confidence in their decisions.  I find it fascinating.  They speak and act decisively while I dither.  Unfortunately, they also give lots of advice and do not like disagreement.  And then I'm in a position of either backing down from my own ideas or having a debate over them.  I don't care to do that so much anymore.

I don't miss being in the passenger seat.  When I want to view the deer or birds these days, I just pull over and stop.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pushing Stuff Around

I play a game called "Alchemy" on my smart phone.  You start out with four elements--earth, air, water, and fire, and you push things around on the screen combining two elements to make a new element.  For example: Earth + Air = Dust.  Dust + Fire = Gunpowder.  And so on.  The combinations are supposed to be logical (Time + Worm = Butterfly), but sometimes they are crazy.  My daughter laughs at the way I play this game.  And she can't believe how far I've progressed--far beyond anyone else she knows who plays the game.  She introduced it to me and she and her friends play it by trying to reason out combinations of things.  But for me, I just dump all the elements I have so far on the screen and double them and just push them around randomly until I suddenly create a new element.  I'm up to 369 elements out of 390.  A pretty remarkable total for using randomness as my method.  I play while waiting in line, or watching the news or drinking coffee.  Just to entertain myself during idle time.  Of course, the more elements you have, the less often you stumble across a new one.  And at some point maybe you have to start using logic.  I don't know, but I doubt I'll change my method this close to the finish.

The "pushing stuff around" struck me as an analogy for a lot of the decluttering and remodeling I've been working on for the past six years.  My method has been to focus on one space or task until I finished it and then move to another.  This meant that some things would come out of that space, and instead of finding a permanent home, got stuck in a closet or drawer for later.

I got this idea from a woman whom I heard speak many years ago.  She was the head housekeeper for the famous Brigham Young homes in Salt Lake City, the Beehive House and the Lion House.  She gave us lots of tips and even recipes for making our own household cleaners.  I've forgotten much of it now, but one thing stuck with me.  She told us to clean one room at a time and finish it.  Don't get distracted by other rooms needing your attention.  For example, if you pick up toys from the living room and take them to the children's room, ignore the children's room floor cluttered with other toys.  You may be tempted to stop and pick them up right now.  Don't do it, she told us.  Toss in the toys from the living room, close the door and don't think about that room until you finish the one you're working on.

I've employed something like this in my remodeling and decluttering projects.  I gave away and threw away a ton of stuff.  But things I thought I wanted to keep got stuck in drawers and closets until I could address them later.  Consequently, I have videos in three rooms, light bulbs in three places, Christmas decorations in three locations, and so on.  I have a dresser drawer in my bedroom that holds candles.  And another full of fabrics I may one day sew.  They don't belong there.  I need to start organizing.

And then I suddenly realized, I'm really finished.  FINISHED!  Finished with the grand decluttering.  The rooms full of boxes, old furniture, broken stuff--it's all gone.  I'm down to the closets and drawers containing things that I think I still want.

And now it's time to start the final GRAND ORGANIZING.  Time to stop just pushing stuff around.  Time to stop tossing things in the drawer.  Time to go through all the drawers and closets and get everything put in its rightful place.  Randomness will no longer work for this.  I'll need to think it through.  I want all the light bulbs in just one place.

With the holidays upon us, it seems unlikely I'll get started on this until after the new year, after retirement.  But I've already made the list of closets and drawers and will start as soon as I can, checking them off as I go.  (No doubt, I'll find more things I don't really need or want.)

The randomness of pushing things around temporarily has helped me get to where I am.  Finishing one space before moving on to the next.  And not worrying about the things not yet done.  Allowing myself to trust that eventually I would get to it all.  And now I have.  And it's a startling discovery to see how far I've come and how near the end.  There was SO much to do at the start.  SO MUCH!  It was daunting, to say the least.

They upgrade the Alchemy game now and then and add more elements, so you are never really "done".  It's sort of like Farm Town that I played on Facebook for awhile.  You think you are finished, and they add more levels.  You could go on and on and on, trying to reach the actual "END".  But there is no real END, and after a point you do have to stop and say that's as far as I want to go with this.  It's no longer fun; it's no longer interesting, it's no longer worthwhile to me.  I'm am not going to make a career out of organizing my house, either.  One pass through will do it and then just maintain.

I will do what I'm calling the "Drawers and Closets" project in the next few months.  Primarily the bedrooms and hall upstairs.  The kitchen is already just how I want it, having remodeled it just three years ago.  And there's absolutely nothing to do downstairs.  After that, I'll do the long-planned "Doors and Floors" upstairs to replace all the 30-something-year-old doors and to finally decide whether the teal carpet gets replaced by more carpet or wood floors.  That's what I have planned for 2013.

Then what?  I don't know.  I think I'll stop this game and move on to another one.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Lucky Seven!  Seven is heaven.  Seven weeks till retirement.  Why do I feel a little bit nervous?

We've filled one of the two writer spots at work--the junior writer.  She starts the Monday after Thanksgiving.  That will be the end of working from home for me.

Things are good.  Thanksgiving at my house next week.  I feel no stress.  Simone's mom is here from Brazil and they are bringing side dishes.  She is such a wonderful cook.  We are going to have some good food and fun! 

Still some lingering sadness.  This week, another one of those "memories" days--days you wish could finally become just another day on the calendar.  But time heals all, right?.

Time, time, time.  It's all about the passage of time.  And here I am doing what I promised myself not to do: wishing my life away.  Bu only for seven more weeks. Let's get on with the holidays!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Selected Shorts - Isaiah Sheffer, 1935 - 2012

I don't know how long Selected Shorts has been running on the radio, but I've been hooked on it for maybe a year or so.  I happened to hear it on Sunday evenings when driving back from birding -- something to keep me alert, awake while driving the sometimes long distances.  I enjoyed it but didn't really pay attention to what it really was.  Then I started to notice what I was listening to.  These were wonderful short stories written by a wide range of authors--well-known and not so much--read by such a variety of people--actors, actresses, authors, and others.  I was hooked.  Who doesn't love being read to? 

And then I started making a point to listen.  It comes on here at 7 p.m. Saturday, and is repeated on Sunday.  When other events prevent me from listening, I listen online where the five most recent broadcasts may be heard at any time.

Listen here.  I recommend "Great Beginnings" from October 21st as a particularly delightful place to start.

One of the joys of the program was listening to the introductions, segues and closings in the wonderful, warm resonant voice of Isaiah Sheffer.  I didn't know who he was really, until I learned this week, he had died November 9th.  I felt sad at this loss though I knew nothing about Isaiah.  So, I took the time to find out more about him.  You can read some at this link and this link.

They promise us the radio program will go on.  Of course it will.  It has a huge following.  Isaiah will be hard to replace.  His voice carried the certain warmth, humor, and reassurance of an old friend.  A tough act to follow for anyone.  I will miss that voice that brought me stories to make me laugh and cry and think. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A very snowy weekend

I'm always glad when the big storms hit on the weekend and are pretty much finished by Sunday afternoon.  This one was a doozy, with wave after wave of lake effect squalls hitting my area.  The ski resorts love the snow that comes from those storms that pass over the warm water of the Great Salt Lake.  It produces a particular kind of powder that Utah is famous for.

As for me, it produced at least a foot of white stuff to be shoveled off the driveway.  I have made a total of four passes now, all together.  It's snowing again now--great big fluffy flakes--but the driveway is clear and with temperatures just above freezing, it mostly melts when it hits the concrete. I hope I'm through shoveling.  At any rate, here is a series of pictures taken yesterday and today.

Saturday morning, we've had maybe 10 inches.  It's bitter cold.  I fill a bird feeder and bird bath and wait for the storm to subside a bit before shoveling.

Saturday afternoon. things have let up enough to shovel the driveway.  It took two passes and then another one later in the day.  One more on Sunday (at least so far).
 Trees are weighed down. Some parts of the valley have power outages due to trees falling on power lines.
 Sunday morning, there is clearing to the west.  But there were more squalls to come.
By Sunday afternoon, we keep getting clobbered. Here a 2-point buck suddenly runs into my shot as I grab of pic of the blizzard.
The squalls pass quickly.and don't seem to be sticking to the driveway any longer.  The roads now are clear and just wet.

From my Facebook post following the latest outing:
While out shoveling snow, was treated to a fly-by of about 30 TUNDRA SWANS. Slightly off-course, I think, due to the lake effect squall also passing over. Heard the squawking first and then they appeared just visible in the snowy sky. Thrilling sight and sound. Luckily, I had iBird on my phone and I immediately looked up the call to be sure I had identified them correctly. A rare reward for my hard work.
Imagine my delight after seeing the Tundra Swans in the heavy snowstorm earlier in the day, to just by chance see them returning as Jenn and I were driving up the hill. I made Jenn pull over and I grabbed a very marginal shot with my phone. Still, how cool is that!?  Of course, it wasn't the same ones.  The swans are migrating right now, numbering in the hundreds of thousands.  They will be here for awhile.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The gales of November

November 10, 1975, the Edmund Fitzgerald, Lake Superior.  A haunting song about a haunting story.


Friday, November 9, 2012


What a lovely number is EIGHT!   Nice and round in every way.  Doubly round, in fact.  The perfect number for a dinner party.  The base number behind our computers.  But best of all, one week closer to retirement. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Staying Flexible

Just as I was thinking I could just glide into retirement, things have really picked up at work.  Our junior writer is with us just two more days, but she may as well be gone now.  I am giving her assignments as usual--I need her help.  But she feigns an inability to understand what is needed and days pass with nothing getting done.  I may as well accept it.  She's already gone.

In the meantime, everyone has started realizing I'll be gone soon, too, and projects have materialized from every quarter.  I don't mind, I like being busy.  It may become difficult to keep up, but I've never been one to cave to a big workload.  I'll get it done. 

We have found a couple of good candidates to replace both of us and, even though we are still interviewing, I am feeling good about the prospects and I'm eager to get someone on board and start training. 

So I'm more tired.  I'm having more headaches.  I feel a little stressed.

At the same time, I'm trying to use up my saved up vacation time.  It may not work out.  But I took a half day today and raked leaves, frantically trying to beat the predicted snowstorm on Friday.  Oh well, if I don't get it done, I can call Alberto.  I am just hoping to save some money by doing it myself.  I MUST remember to turn off and drain the sprinkling system.

I'll take another half day on Friday, even though the storm will be here and it will be too late for raking.  But I am trying to use at least one full day every week.  And even though I've changed my schedule three times, I'm not suffering.  Actually, I still feel a little exhilarated that time is flying by.

Life is good!
. . .

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Come Together

I have a political blog, RedStateBlues, which I've lost interest in and have allowed to become stale and dormant.  Whatever political comments I've had to make, I've made on Facebook which is lazy blogging.  You make a short statement, attach a photo or link, and a conversation thread ensues.  A blog post takes more time, more thought, more substantiation.  I was also a contributor to two local political blogs that were fairly widely read.  There I found myself under constant attack for every little thing I said. I finally grew weary of trying to have a reasonable discussion with people who only wanted a fight.

So I have kept politics out of my personal blog, here.  It taints things.  This blog is not about politics.  But I want to comment on the present election and the fiercely divided country we have become.  Today is election day and, hopefully, by tonight we will know who our next president will be.  The real challenge begins after that.

The man we elect has to represent people who supported him and people who viciously hate him--about 50/50 each.  He will have to deal with a divided congress.  And Americans will need to find ways of healing the wounds of this election season.  If we don't, that's where the real danger lies.

There are those who are invested in stirring up controversy.  They speak in half-truths, rumors, exaggerations, and outright lies.  We know from recent election cycles, that the rhetoric doesn't die down after the election.  Whoever is our president, he will have that monster dogging his every word, every move.

I have my preference in this race and I'd like to see him win.  But even greater than that, I would like to see some signs of our country uniting after the election.  To see a congress that actually can compromise and get some work done.  To see citizens who can accept differences with friends and family without name-calling or deeming the other to be stupid. 

As this election draws to a close, I wonder if friends and family who have attacked me personally and who have been insulting and intolerant of my views will treat me with renewed respect.  I'm not at all sure whether this election hasn't changed some things forever.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Downstairs Remodel Pictures

Finally, I am taking the time to post pictures of the downstairs remodel.  I just hung a lovely painting above the fireplace.  More accessories are needed, but I will add those as I begin to get a feel for what I want.  So please excuse so many bare walls, and enjoy this little tour with me.  Click any photo to view larger.

Family Room: Here are three views of this cozy room.  I used a flash on the first photo, but not the next two.  You get a fair feeling for daytime lighting and night time lighting this way.  The recessed lights are on a dimmer so I can have the room as bright as I like.  The furniture arrangement is almost final, but needs a little tweaking.

Bedroom: This is my guest room.  I would like a larger window here, but it would require some cutting into the concrete foundation.  I forgot to photograph the big closet opposite the bed.
Laundry: In order to have a bathroom with shower in my limited space, the bath and laundry room needed to be one room.  I learned that the new front loader washers and dryers can be stacked.  This gave me the room I needed to add the shower.  I love this convenient configuration. And the new appliances don't take anything away from the pretty bath.
Bathroom:  For this small space I had a custom vanity built 36 inches wide but just 22 inches deep. The legs are purely decorative for a look that I wanted. But the vanity sits on a box frame so it is easy to clean around.  The shower is two walls of glass and two walls of cultured stone.  I was worried it would be a tight fit, but I have used it and it's just lovely.

 Hallways: A major problem I had in the basement was with door configurations. Where you see two open doorways here were once doors that hit each other when opening. That problem is solved. We added a small hallway into the bedroom bath area.  The bedroom door is to the right as you go in (not seen here).  Straight ahead is the bath/laundry.  And to the left is the new utility room for furnace, water heater, and water softener.  The area that is now the hallway plus the bath/laundry and utility rooms was all one unfinished space before.  This reconfiguration is more convenient and makes so much better use of that space.
I had originally posted pictures of the old space here--scary, catch-all, sad.  But I had to delete them.  I found in looking at them, they conjured more than the old ugliness in my house, but also some old ugliness in my life.  I can't do anything about the past.  It's finished.  I have to look forward, focus on the changes in my life and positive new directions.  The changes in my home are certainly symbolic of that.

UPDATE:  Okay, I am putting the "before" pictures back up here.  I've sufficiently recovered from the shock to appreciate the wonderful new space and to forgive myself for how awful it used to be.  


Friday, November 2, 2012


Nine more weeks to retirement.  My Medicare card arrived in the mail. I have sorted through all the solicitations for supplemental insurance and picked four or five I will talk to.  Need to do that soon.

Things have changed at work.  Our junior writer gave her notice and is leaving for another job.  This means we will be hiring both a junior and a senior writer.  I'll be required to participate in the interviewing and selection.  And then I will have to train both.  In my previous two jobs, I was a manager and had to do hiring (and once or twice, firing).  It was an activity I found so stressful and unpleasant, I welcomed this position at ARUP where I was no-one's supervisor and was not responsible for anything involving personnel matters.  Until we hired another writer a year ago, that is.  The last nine weeks of my employment will be stressful because of this but I am trying to be pragmatic about it.  It will be an added load, plus I will be doing all the work myself in the meantime.  It will be tough passing along all my knowledge in the few available weeks.  I have offered to come back and do additional training after my retirement, if needed.  And even, in a pinch, work on a project (although I warned them I can't work so much I jeopardize my social security payments).

So I find myself today just trying to gather all the positive thoughts and energy I can to face what I will need to do.  It's about attitude, I know.  With or without me, the company will go on.  They'll figure it out.

And isn't nine a really lovely number?  We're in the single digits!