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Archive for the ‘Shelf Life’ Category

Which, I am reliably informed, is how Russians say, “Let’s get back to work.”  Interesting that in the USA, we say, “Back to the salt mines” — which were always a feature of Russian life.

“If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?  Bonus: What is the worst job you’ve ever had? What did you learn from it?” is today’s prompt.  For the record, I skipped the last two days because there’s only one computer in this house, and it had been Commandeered.

If I could have any job in the world, I’d want my old one back.  I was a secretary for a church, and I loved it — not necessarily because it was church-related, but because the office was in such disarray that I constructed all the procedures from scratch:  the filing system, the way mail was processed, the way mass mailings were organized, year-end procedures for closing out the prior year and setting up the systems for the new year — the whole ball of wax was mine, all mine.  Till the Parish Council decided it didn’t want to pay a secretary.  (Well, initially they did.  They constructed a fairy tale about my retiring so they could hire someone of a more acceptable ethnicity, and no I don’t mean race, who didn’t even want the job and had never been a secretary in her life.  Three months later, they decided they couldn’t afford her, either.)

The fun of that job was that it was the culmination of thirty years’ worth of secretarial experience; I was able to pull together everything I had ever learned on the job, and put it to good use in an environment that worked.  Maybe that’s what Greeks find scary, an environment that works.  When you consider the current state of the Greek economy, it explains a lot about the treatment I got.

As for the worst job I ever had, ironically, that was also as a secretary.  I worked for an accountant, and I lasted exactly three weeks.  I had Issues with being required to inch my way across an ice-covered parking lot (the only spots cleared out were for clients), and having to stand in front of the copier catching photocopies as they came out of the machine because the accountant was too cheap to get the sorter fixed.  And what I learned from that job was to ask around about firms that were looking for help; turned out most of the people I knew, knew this accountant’s reputation for being stingy, and I could have saved myself a lot of embarrassment if I’d asked first — it’s the only job I ever walked out on after only three weeks.  But there are some things that self-respect requires, know what I mean?!

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Today’s topic:  “How do you stay entertained when you are snowed in?”  To which I, living in New England, can only respond, “Oh, please.”

I personally have so much handwork that I practically pray for snow days — though, having survived one winter (I think it was ’08-’09, or it might have been the year before) when it began snowing in October and ended in late April, with snow every single day of the first two weeks of February, I temper my enthusiasm for snow with caution.  The fact remains that between cross stitch, knitting, crosswords, letter-writing, blogging, and the ever-present library of Books-to-Be-Read, indoor entertainment is not a problem in this household.

Other people are puzzle aficionados (yes, Italians, I know that’s grammatically incorrect, but I don’t know Italian plurals).  Still others begin planning their home renovations in October, put everything on hold for the holidays, and get back into it the second the Christmas tree is down.  There are people who put together entire photo albums over the winter, complete with hand-written notes about what was taking place in each photo.  You can make pretty good progress on a foreign language when the winds howl and hurl the snow against your windows.

Or you can begin, and finish, War and Peace.  Now there is a project.  But please don’t try to tell me that there’s nothing to do when you are snowed in.

And once it all stops, you still have to dig your way out.  Then you get to go skiing.

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It only recently occurred to me that it’s been one year now since my husband retired, an event I was not looking forward to.  I’m not the first woman who has at least thought, if not said, “I married him for better or for worse, but not for lunch” — although actually, at one point in our lives (when the kids were little), he did used to come home for lunch, and I enjoyed having a hot meal on the table for him.  That was a long time ago.

So here we are, a year later, and it hasn’t been as bad as I’d feared.  I truly was afraid that he would be one of those horrible men I see wandering the supermarket with their wives, badgering the poor woman about all her choices; I always want to say, “Hey, she managed the house just fine without you for 35 or 40 years, so buzz off, buzzard!!” and manage to restrain myself only with difficulty, which gets harder as you get older.

Fortunately, my husband has found many other things to occupy his time, mostly having to do with selling his father’s house.  He made two trips to NJ to clean the place out, in November and December, and we spent much of last winter sorting through the stuff he brought home, which wasn’t as bad as it could have been; he only brought home photo albums (still to be gone through) and tons of paper with confidential information on it because my in-laws never threw anything out.  Most of that went into the shredder (thank goodness for shredders).

In July he actually managed to unload the place, albeit at substantially under market value, mostly due to the fact that the in-laws hadn’t done a thing to the place since they bought it in 1973.  We debated updating it, and decided to put it on the market at a rock-bottom price (which was still about twice what they paid for it), and let the new owner do all the upgrading; and that turned out to be a good approach, since we got our asking price.  I would want that, too, so I could make my new abode my own that way.

And there has been the Garden.  Ever since we moved here, 24 years ago, my husband has had a vegetable garden.  He grows tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, mostly, all organically — we make and use all our own compost — and from time to time we have Unexpected crops, like tomato plants he didn’t buy (they came from seeds we threw away), and very often, a bumper crop of potatoes, which are a whole new ball game when you grow them yourself.  One year he planted pumpkin seeds, and we had pumpkins for about five years after that (and no clue how to cook them, sooooo….).

But now the house is sold, the paper is mostly sorted through, and the garden is going to sleep for the season.  There is still the cellar to clean out; it used to be a very nice family room till the kids moved out and started storing all their stuff down there, and now it looks like most people’s cellars.  When priests come to bless the house, we always ask them just to “throw some holy water down there,” and since they all have families and Stuff themselves, they know where we’re coming from.

I confidently expect this project to take a couple of winters.  After that — I don’t know.  But at least he doesn’t follow me around the supermarket, mostly because I send him with a list and some money.  Gives me more time for cross stitch.

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Well, except that I am so close to finishing that dratted train cross stitch (see blog header) that I have been putting in most of the hours of my day on that.  Also, because nothing much has been going on around here.

We did finally unload my father-in-law’s house.  I didn’t want to blog about that until it was a done deal, but now it is.  We sold it for half its assessed value because, frankly, the place was a fixer-upper; you wouldn’t expect that in a retirement-condominium community, but it was:  My in-laws bought the place new and never did a thing with it, except for necessary repairs.   So the stove is old, the fridge is old, the dishwasher is old — like, 1972 old, all of them — the carpets have never been replaced, it needs fresh paint, etc., etc.  We had the option of getting it fixed up to sell at a higher price, or letting it go for a song so that the new owner could fix it up to his own taste, and as it happened — that’s exactly what the buyer was looking for, someplace she could have renovated to suit herself.  Well, if I were buying a house, I’d want it to look like my house, right?

So that’s done, and we are finally done with New Jersey.  I keep thinking of that old Lyndon Johnson ad, when he was running for President:  Barry Goldwater had said something about sawing off the easternmost part of the country and letting it float out to sea, and the Johnson ad showed someone taking a saw to New Jersey.  I keep thinking, What’s wrong with that?  There’s no excuse for New Jersey, and the people are worse drivers even than Massachusetts drivers, who have a nationwide reputation for it.  (Though I’m told that Florida drivers are even worse.)  NJ drivers have to be the very rudest I have ever encountered.

Okay, enough of that.  As ridiculous as it sounds, I’m thinking of starting a new blog.  After all, I’m hardly ever on this blog, but I have an idea for a new book, different from what I usually write, and the title of the blog would be the same as the title of the book.   For the past nine weeks, I have been getting up at the crack of dawn, most days, and walking around the Common, which is a grassy patch of land in most downtowns of New England where they used to graze sheep and cattle.  Most places have fixed theirs up as recreational areas; ours is rather tame by comparison, but it serves very well as a playground, baseball diamond (skating pond in the winter), and walking track.  I’ve been walking this track for the past 9 weeks, and I had the idea yesterday:  Why not a book called Common Life?  I could write about the Common at various times of the day and of the year, who’s on it, what they’re doing, the weather and how it impacts Common activities….

So I was thinking about a blog called Common Life, but as I’m writing it occurs to me:  Just create a tag, Common Life, and stick with this blog.   It needs all the help it can get.

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On Sunday, our computer crashed.  We’ve only had the thing a little more than a year, and it has, I think, 80 gigabytes of hard drive (when we took it back to Staples, where we bought it, the sales clerk described it as a “beast”), so this shouldn’t have happened.  But I turned it off before church on Sunday morning, and when we returned home and I went to boot up, it wouldn’t boot.

Let me tell you — getting it all back has been a pain.  First we had to get a hard drive, and I didn’t want to replace Vista, which we hadn’t been using anyway; so we purchased Windows 7, and now have to learn how to use that.  Then, all our documents were lost, of course, and of course, we’d grown lax about saving them to a flash drive.  When DH asked if we could possibly recover them, we were told that, sure, it would be possible — for a minimum $1200.00 (according to the manufacturer of the hard drive that went south on us).

Then I remembered something.  On  Saturday I had had a notice from our seucrity program, Norton 360, that we hadn’t backed up our files in awhile, so as a matter of course, I took care of that.  If our files had been saved onto the hard drive, we were out of luck; but if they had been saved to an external source, there was a chance we could retrieve them.  So last night, I sent an e-mail to Norton to ask about the situation —

— and they were backed up and saved on Norton’s own computers.  The download took just about an hour, and we didn’t recover everything — my new cross-stitch projects didn’t come through — but all our documents are available, and thank heaven for that!!  Now it’s just (perhaps I should say “just”) a question of transferring them from the file created to store them into the My Documents section of Windows 7. 

It’s not as easy as it sounds; there are a lot of new bells and whistles on Windows 7 that I expect will keep us both tearing our hair out for the next month or so.  And all my Favorites sites are gone, so I’ll have to see what I can do about rebuilding that special page where I had my Top 9 sites available at the click of a button — I don’t even know if such a thing is possible with Windows 7.  But at least we are back in touch with the outside world.

Now, whether or not that’s a good thing…

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I had a call from my son yesterday for Mother’s Day — he wanted to know if I had received his card.  Well, no, I hadn’t, so I was especially glad to hear that he had sent one.  (I did, however, actually receive a card from my daughter.  That was a nice surprise!)

Once we got done with our Mother/Son conversation, I passed the phone to his father, who also loves to talk to him.  From remarks that my husband was making, I gathered that Chris had told him something good about work, so after the conversation was over, I asked about it.

It seemed that Chris’s train had had a surprise inspection from the Federal Railroad Administration — just a routine thing, but the thing is that the FRA is even more stringent in its requirements than the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is the field my husband has worked in for all his working life; he got his start in OSHA.  The inspector actually complimented Chris on his safety practices, and Chris made note that he had grown up in a safety culture:  “My dad just retired as a safety inspector, so I’ve heard about this all my life.”  The inspector, he said, seemed impressed.

Now, over the years, my husband has put up with a lot of guff about occupational safety and health.  Bad enough when it comes from the public — when it was first enacted, the OSHA Act came in for a lot of criticism, and my husband was threatened several times with bodily harm — but over the years, thanks mostly to mucking around under various administrations, gradually OSHA came to be deprived of its teeth, and now has no real power to do anything proactive; it only comes to the fore after a life has been lost, which is a shame.  Be that as it may, dh has endured a lot of commentary from his various agencies about the “wussiness” (for want of a better word) of safety, with the implications that anybody who works in the field is little better than an old mother hen.  That kind of talk takes its toll on a man’s self-esteem, especially over a period of decades.

“I want you to think about this,” I said.  “For all the nonsense you’ve put up with about your career — for all the people who’ve been ungrateful about the fact that they will get to go home at night to their families, instead of to the hospital or the morgue — the one you actually reached was the most important one of all.”

My husband was already on a high over that telephone conversation.  When I said that, he positively glowed.  It makes a man proud when his son follows him into his own line of work; but I think it makes a man even prouder when his son takes Dad’s life lessons to heart.

I am a blessed woman, to have such a son, and such a husband.

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Fr. Baarsanuphius!

…and flock.

From left:  Abby, Millie, Fr Baarsanuphius, and the most senior member of the flock, Mrs. Mutton.

Mrs. Mutton has been with us for 25 years now.  She was an anniversary present at a time when knitting was my primary creative outlet, and she remained our sole sheep until 1997, when my husband was hospitalized with a blood clot.  In Boston.  While I was holding down the fort with two kids (one in college, one in high school at the time, but still), a job, and my very final exams coming up — the ones before I completed work on my degree.  Getting down to Boston to visit him involved so much figuring out and planning that he was home before I had figured out how to do it; but when I got word that he was there, I sent him flowers and a toy sheep to keep him company.  The toy sheep accompanied him home; he named her Millie for the millefleurs decorating her.  Abby was something he couldn’t resist, a stuffed lamb from a Scottish gift shop, and you already know how “Father Baa” came to live with us.  This was my first opportunity to post photos, since completing his riassa and skufia.

On Wednesday, I visited a priest I know in Saco, ME.  He has been my spiritual father for ten years, now, and it was time to catch up on Things.  I brought Fr. Baa along because I knew his secretary would get a charge out of him, and she did; but when Fr. B (no relation)    😉    saw him, he chuckled and said, “You have way too much time on your hands.”  (He knows about the events of last January.)  And I said, “Ya think?!”

Since Wednesday afternoon, I have been wrestling with a cold, but hope to get back to my cross stitch once I’m feeling civilized again.  Somehow, knitting isn’t as satisfying as it was 25 years ago; maybe that’s because I’ve mastered most of the really interesting projects, including making socks, intarsia (think Argyles), Shetland knitting, and Arans and Ganseys.  The only thing left to learn, that I can think of, is how to knit two socks at the same time, like that old peasant nursemaid in War and Peace.  If I ever nail that one down, I’ll let you know.

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