Random Observations

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The measure of my life is different here in Glouster, Ohio. The big happenings in my life today included making lunch for grandpa, answering several emails and having a call with my boss, and a trip to the church to pull together a food box for the hungry family of 5 that made a special request for today.

It’s the little things that take on importance. One particularly over-achieving squirrel has learned how to move from the roof to the squirrel-proof feeder and net some seeds…I frightened him off of the feeder three times today so far. The downy woodpecker who decided to supplement his diet of tree grubs with some sunflower seeds. Checking the rain gauge to validate how much precipitation we had over the weekend (1″ of rain, 1″ of snow).

I got to add artichokes to the pasta I prepared for our lunch, because grandpa will eat them although Per will not. Canned mushrooms are not as good as fresh ones. We opened a bottle of wine with lunch and drank 2/3 of it — it’s vacation and why not? I will not whine about drinking wine with lunch…I felt like a 50’s mogul drinking my lunchtime wine.

The trip to the Church (specifically, the food pantry which is attached to the church) was uneventful, except for the dead body. The local funeral home is next door, and they were loading a body (sans casket or cover) into the back of an SUV from a gurney. Grandpa says they were probably going to the crematorium that’s 30 miles away.

Supposedly going to the crematorium.

My mind, with time to wander, creates tons of innocent and not so innocent tales about what happened to that poor soul who ended up in the back of the SUV.

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Only Words

There are no pictures today, only words.

I went to visit Betty’s grave today, and it’s peaceful. The stone and her remains lie on a hill, under a tree, in the deep countryside connected by roads without centerlines. The roads stretch for miles – sometimes gravel and sometimes paved smooth – with occasional homes and flashes of warmth in the midst of the rolling hills and farms. It’s kind of a metaphor for life, although the exact phrasing eludes me now.

My grandparents’ house is also peaceful – the kind of peace that seems to be waiting for Betty to come home. Her robe is still on the door, and I sit in her chair as I write this note. I tell myself I’m keeping the chair warm for her.

I know that in the final analysis, the twenty years of good memories are much more important than the pain of loss. I know that her suffering is over, and that she has finally found peace. And I know my grandfather will be OK, one way or another. But it still hurts.

As we drove back from the cemetery, I thought about how Betty had looked forward to the Spring. She loved taking drives and seeing the redbud in bloom, loved showing off her childhood home – now under the Lake – and how it was decorated with flowering lily pads in the Spring. She loved the promise of the new year to come.

I keep expecting her to walk through the door to the house, and kick me out of her chair.

Experiment. Fail. Learn. Not on Prod.

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I saw this poster on the wall of our office, right next to the Developer team desks…and I just had to write about it. At first glance, it’s funny because I can see a frustrated sales or support person making the correction to the poster. Perhaps after a late night of troubleshooting bugs with angry customers on the phone, or after a key prospect walked away from the product. It was probably dark outside, and the person was missing dinner with his family. He walked by the poster on the way to grab a beer from the company fridge, a nice cold liquid dinner ahead of him. And he did the only thing he could…remind the damn engineers to stop putting crappy code into the product.

But perhaps it’s a larger metaphor for life. Of course we need to experiment, fail, learn, and evolve. It’s part of being human.

But what’s “prod” and what’s “dev” in life? Are there some instances in which it’s not OK to experiment and fail? Perhaps driving down a freeway at 90 MPH is an example of such a scenario. Perhaps experimenting with the people we love and who love us is another example. Or perhaps relationships and jobs and the stuff that really count in life are exactly where we need to experiment and learn and evolve the most?

Food for thought.

Herding Kids

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It’s not a job for the faint of heart. Taking a group of often hyper, frequently overwhelmed four year olds through downtown San Francisco seems like a task for a very brave or foolish person. Every kid holds onto the ribbon, and the ends are secured by two brave adults. Progress is slow — they navigate through the sea of lunchtime city workers in the same way a flotilla of ships steers through a squall.

I imagine that the kids are heading to a park, or perhaps a museum. When the perilous journey is finished, and the streets have been navigated, they will be released from their safety line. The kids will be allowed to laugh and play and enjoy childhood again, free from the control of their herders. They will quickly forget the confusing process of walking down busy streets filled with adults who ignore them.

As they cast away the lines of control, and go running through their final destination…they learn that the world can be filled with moments where you rely on others to lead you to safety. If only this amazing bridge of trust were equally possible for adults.

Alien Teeth

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It’s very weird, you see….discovering that your teeth are strangers despite your intimate association with them. They sit in my mouth, and I spend 24 hous a day with them, everyday. They chew my food, they help me smile, and generally make me look less creepy through their existence. I am certain I would miss them instantly if they were gone, or took a vacation.

Occasionally, they remind me they’re annoyed if I chew too much ice, or if I forget to take my decongestants when I am congested with a cold. But most of the time they’re pretty low maintenance and do basically what I tell them to do. Which is pretty damn unique, since most of my body isn’t really into taking instructions.

And then I go to the dentist.

At the dentist, someone looks intimately at my teeth in a way that I never do it myself. They’re taken to the tooth spa, where there’s a salt scrub, a thorough cleaning, and some skin bleaching. And in the interim, I discover that their gums are a bit irritated, and that they have complaints about some of my brushing techniques. I even discover one is slightly cracked…which is strange, because he seemed completely normal to me.

Thus, in the space of less than an hour I discover that others know my teeth better than I do — that they truly see them including all their flaws. My teeth have a fan that doesn’t merely view them as a tool or as a means to an end…but views my teeth for the unique individuals that they have the potential to be.

Humbling, that dentist.

Waking Up Before the Birds

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I was up early this morning to solidify next steps of a deal. It’s a measure of how interested I am in driving this contract…I was willing to wake up at 4 am and get dressed for a 4:30 am conference call. Yikes.

The downside of doing video calls is that you sit there and stare at the bags under your eyes, and begin to question your wardrobe choices. I mean…it’s 4:30 am. I’ll join a meeting, but I’m not going to wear something nicer than a sweater…and I’m certainly not using makeup. Not at 4:30. The consequences of these choices are that you can clearly see the bags under my eyes and I look like I should still be in bed.

Probably because I should still be in bed. Now that the call is over, and my first cup of coffee has been consumed, I have fully determined that the 4:30 am wake-up call was a false start, and I can crawl back into bed for a bit. Which sounds like a total win.

Waking up before dawn is something I really only enjoy when I’m headed off on a flight, or slathering on sunblock for a big ride. When it’s work, it just feels stressful.

Back to bed, people. At least I don’t have makeup to remove.

Drinking the Funky Tea

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I bought a really cool tea infuser in Denmark last fall…it has a silicone top that looks like a (purple) leaf. It holds massive amounts of loose leaf tea, which allows me to brew a really strong cup. And it makes me think of Per…the fundamental Danishness of the beautiful, simple, and useful infuser is the essence of simplicity.

I brew coffee at home and pour it into a travel mug for the commute. Coffee gets me going in the morning, gives me my caffeine boost, and should be served with flavored creamer. It’s a valuable part of the morning (I grind it freshly) until I get to work.

When I get to work, I drink the funky tea. One of the many cool things about Fuze is that they subscribe to a “teas of the month” program. Every month we get bags of different teas – we have about 20 of them at any given time – that I’ve never heard of. Today I’m drinking Sencha Green with fermented rice. It’s kind of malty, verging on spoiled, which is an odd addition to the green tea. I’m sure it’s healthy for me, and it certainly makes my mouth feel differently about tea overall.

This afternoon, I have my eye on the Herbal Mate. I’m expanding my horizons, which should be a metaphor for something.

Maybe that’s why Fuze buys the funky tea.

Waiting for the Boot Screen

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As I was cycling to Calaveras yesterday, it hit me. I’ve been walking around expecting things to be difficult and prone to failure. I’ve been a little like Chicken Little lately…waiting for the sky to fall. I’ve been like the girl who does the upgrade from Windows 8 to 8.1 and sees the little circling ball…and expects to lose all her data and for the system to crash.

The sky generally does not fall, and when it does it’s usually in the form of rain (which can be soothing and nourishing). The system has upgraded and no data has been lost. Heck, I even got a new PC that’s even better than the old one! The reboot is finished and I need to move on, and expect successes while I do it.

I’ve had winning days over the past month, but I’ve ignored them in the overwhelming noise of days with frustrations and setbacks. I need to stop ignoring my successes and paying attention to my failures. I need to stop expecting the worst, and plan for success.

Chicken Little, begone. I’m having chicken dinner tonight.

It’s Springtime!

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It’s spring in San Francisco a bit early this year. I’m used to worrying about hot temperatures at the end of May, when the currents shift and we get an early summer. I’m not used to 70F+ days in the City, or the 80F+ day planned in South Bay this weekend.

It’s going to be hot, and this is my first 100 mile cycling weekend of 2014. In the heat, no less! I will spread out those 100 miles over two days, so I’m not too worried about my ability to complete the rides. In fact, Calaveras is one of my most loved routes and I’m very much looking forward to Sunday!

Hydrate. Sunblock. Sunscreen containing lip balm. Electrolytes (and salt, in my favorite form of salty chips). It’s all part of the hot weather plan.

Mentally, I’m already on the bike, as I stare out the window at the sunlight and the happy people walking down Spear Street. I wish I was doing something more fun than work!

Table for Two

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“Do you remember your grandmother’s favorite restaurant? The one with the vinyl seats in downtown Newark?” my uncle asked, with a strange smile of mischief on his face. I suspected the restaurant was long bankrupt – grandma had been dead more than 10 years, and she was the only person I knew who was a frequent customer. I’d hated going there, and I hadn’t thought about the place in years.

I cautiously answered in the affirmative.

“I still take her there once a year.” He looked carefully at me as he made that statement, analyzing my response. I began to wonder if he had completely lost whatever brains he had remaining, after years of hard living and questionable pursuits. I was careful not to respond, and merely raised an eyebrow…he wasn’t going to get the violent reaction out of me he’d hoped for.

Looking away, clearly disappointed in my response, he built on his statement.

“I have her ashes stored in a trash bag at my house. Usually, the bag sits behind my TV. But once a year, I bring it out and take her to dinner at the Chinese place. I think she likes it.”

So many thoughts run through my head. I wonder how he managed to end up with Grandma’s ashes and why they weren’t scattered in some appropriate memorial or placed in the typical urn. Grandma liked typical – she especially liked parties and people fussing over her. I doubt that she’d appreciate being stored in a trash bag behind the TV…she didn’t even really like TV.

I also suspected that she’d rather be taken out to a nice annual crab feast or lobster festival…cheap Chinese food sounded too mundane for Mother’s Day. My uncle clearly needed to raise his game if he wanted to keep Grandma from becoming a poltergeist and haunting him, his wife, and their 80 cats.

I also felt bad for the waiter. I wondered if my uncle at least ordered and tipped for two, and if he bothered to buy her a glass of wine for her meal. That would be the Irish approach…that or whiskey. I wondered if the trash bag went on the seat, or on the table…and if the waiter had ever asked the meaning of the ritual. I pictured kitchen conversations in Chinese about the crazy man from the dining room.

But most of all, I wondered what it would be like to join him next year.