Tuesday, April 28, 2015
I'm moving to a new crash pad. My lease is expiring, and I'm not happy with either the current upkeep of the property or the new neighbors I share a wall and driveway with since my neighbor the cop bought a house. They consist of the buffalo family and their feral children who spend their evenings bouncing things off the walls while the kids scream and cry and doing laundry at 6 a.m. on weekends when I'm coming off of work at 3 a.m.
I've rented a yuppie condo place in an expensive community (it's actually cheaper than a house though) but they allow large pets, which few nice places do, and have a dog park very close by. Yes, I could transfer to Chicago - but it would mean not being Gibbs, and I like being Gibbs. Squirrel retirement is looming (with my retirement pay based on the last three years of being Gibbs) so I look at it as an inconvenience for another year, then on to other things and more time at home to annoy my husband.
But cement between floors, a single one bed-rrom neighbor with a car that cost more than most of my gun safe, and a location far away from the road at least means I'll have some quiet in the evenings to write and relax when I'm working-- which is but a distant memory lately.
But the next few days will be busy packing after work, and I will have a couple of days with no computer but for a quick Facebook hi from a local coffee shop. I'm going from multiple bedrooms and two baths to one bed/one bath so there's some packing and downsizing to do. Hello? AmVets? After that, the free ice cream will continue and I promise not to bore you all with the new book any further, though I will advise when the Kindle edition comes out.
Thanks for those of you that acknowledged it though. It's not for everyone but the fact that a few of the many folks that visit here left a comment and bought a copy, even if the subject matter likely wasn't their thing, (there's no guns or spaceships!!), meant the world to me. You, my friends, all are awesome, and the reason I keep showing up here regularly.
See you all next Monday, Comcast (shudder) permitting.
Monday, April 27, 2015
It starts with great anticipation, is filled with moments of joy, discomfort, and the occasional sleepless night while thoughts kick from inside, with no place to go. It takes months and months for it to grow and develop and it seems like the day it is born will never be here.
Then it's done, painfully and protractedly. Finally, you hold it in your hands, loving it because it's part of you, the most painfully shy, weak, strong, courageous and foolish parts of you.
But remember, there's ALWAYS going to be someone who has never been through the experience that's going to say "Ugly Baby."
It's all worth it.
"Hard times and lean times are only forever if you believe they are. If you refuse to, they are simply brief glances in which, for a moment without measure or context, will lie in your sights the portent of all that you think you cannot bear but will, there between the darkness and the light."
- Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption
Friday, April 24, 2015
Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption has been published. Paperback is available at Amazon. (Kindle copy in the works, and should be available in a few days).
If you liked the style of writing in The Book of Barkley you will enjoy this story. It started as a journal I wrote to my daughter after I gave her up for adoption as a teen. It wasn't anything structured, just notes here and there of thoughts and stories of her birth as well as my life growing up in the 60's and 70's with the brother I was adopted with. In a series of vignettes of life and memories crafted from those notes, I hope some of you will see much of your own journey to family.This book is for my daughter, in memory of my brother, but I hope the world will enjoy it.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
It looks like a testosterone bomb went off in here and Abby is looking perturbed that couch, futon and all extra sleeping spaces are no longer hers.
There's many years of history here, and there will be some tales told under the "Cone of Silence" where a toast is raised and at least one tale will be told about a wrong way tank and a Bosnian goat (a tale that's in my next book but not told here tonight). I don't have a real little brother of the blood kind, but I really do have my own band of little "brothers", and for that I'm grateful for their presence.
We think we have also lured Tam over for Poutine and Beer on Friday night.
I'll be back tomorrow.
Monday, April 20, 2015
But it was NOT torn down. The city in Plainfield worked with some local folks to get it moved to the historic downtown area and restored to it's glory of 1954. I sort of stumbled across it one day and promised to drive back and eat there. With my husband around this weekend it was the perfect time.
Partner and I made the drive to check it out and are really glad we did. They've been open several months now giving them time to work out the kinks that can come with any new business, and establish a good menu.
MMMM, Spice Cake
It was pouring, so we ate inside but there is outside seating, including an area where your pets are welcome (the restaurant is right off of a walking trail through an extensive city park so this would be a great spot to stop with the kids and the dog for one of their hand crafted milkshakes, malts or old-fashioned soda floats on a warm summer day.)
There's some standards and some not so standards like Grilled Cheese, full of not just cheese but lots of bacon, roasted tomatoes, avocado relish on homemade (baked right there) bread served with a cup of tomato basil bisque. Then there was something called "disco" fries which looks wonderfully like Canadian Poutine - with french fries covered with melted mozzarella, brown gravy and fresh chives.
They also sell their whole pies and loaves of bread to go.
I had the tenderloin sandwich (and yes, there ended up being a "to go" box involved --it was HUGE). Crispy and tender with a surprisingly delicate, yet crisp and tasty coating, it was worth each and every calorie, especially with a homemade bun and garlic mayo and my choice of their many sides - in this case poppy-seed infused creamy coleslaw though I almost went for the bacon mac and cheese. Partner headed back to Chicago in the morning with half the sandwich (which didn't last the trip) and called to tell me how good it was.
Looking out the window, at small town America, I was thankful that such family run businesses are still succeeding. There across the street, a bus from a Baptist church, a city flag honoring our soldiers, and another local business. This is the kind of town I grew up in, and though I'm officially a "big city" resident now, I love to return to my roots Especially with wonderful meals to go with it.
To the owners and staff of the Oasis Diner-- here's hoping for another 50 or so years. We will definitely be back.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
In my travels I try and take the time to visit local places of history. Wherever I am, be it for work or play, if I have time I will explore. In my travels, I've stayed in places as exhilarating as the Rockies, as surreal as the desert, and as desolate as a corn swept landscape. Yet even in the most innocuous of places, there are discoveries.
I had a couple days in Hutchinson, Kansas a few years ago and went to the Cosmosphere. Yes that's right. A premiere Space Museum in Kansas. With a U.S. space artifact collection second only to the National Air and Space Museum and the largest collection of Russian space artifacts found outside of Moscow, the Cosmosphere's Hall of Space Museum is uniquely positioned to tell the story of the Space Race. In the middle of the plains you can actually touch capsules that went into space. Many of them look more like Frank Genry designs on crack. Or something my brother and I would have attempted to build with our erector set, giant tinker toy constructions, resembling bulky 1960's foil Christmas trees more than modern spacecraft, topped with antennas that could have been placed on top by someone,s drunken Uncle after a holiday evening of cookies and grog.
Yet I walked away in wonder, seeing it all and thinking that all of the things I built as a child and a teen, the weather radio, the rockets, could have become something like that, with no more imagination, simply more education. Museums are like that for me, a humanness of history that brushes you as you pass each display, clinging to you even after you leave. Guns, Germs and Steel as Jared Diamond coined the title of his Pulitzer Prize winning book; the genius, fixations and rage of humanity.
Some of it is sobering. Visit the Holocaust Museum in our nation's capital and you know, too well, the bromide of evil. The piles of shoes, obsessive compulsive logic of sick record keeping. Sit among the silent chairs, one for each life lost, at the Oklahoma City Memorial. You can't help but think that a good portion of our misfortunes arise, not from fate or ill health or the vagrancy of the winds, but from human rancor, fueled by innate stupidity, and those ever present justifications of the same, hell bent idealism and proselytizing mania for the sake of religious or political effigies.
Some are places in which you leave feeling as if the presence of those it immortalizes stand silently beside you as you solemnly take it all in. Such was the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum up in Whitefish Point. I was in the area on business and had a day off before heading home and got a rental car at my own expense to go explore. It was well worth the drive, with a detailed display of sights and sound that chronicled the many wrecks due to the furies of that vast lake. But with respect to all the lives lost on the Great Lakes over the years, I especially wanted to see the display on the Edmund Fitzgerald, the most mysterious and haunting of all shipwreck tales heard around my beloved Great lakes.
It was this bell I wanted to see. In looking at it, at the inscription of the names of the crew lost, it was personal. These weren't just numbers on a wall, or dates on a memorial, these were people living, these were people who like myself, loved the wind on their face, the draw of wild nature.
In looking at the artifacts of loss, the fascination comes from the step we take into connection. Strolling past the exhibits, pieces of wood and glass and rope, what we are looking for are familiar things, the small quarters where the crew gathered, the hall where the hungry and thirsty ate meat and beans and drank strong coffee. We know that when the ship sent down, there were people thinking and scheming, composing a letter to their families in their minds, the seas too rough to write; worrying, handling a task, dreaming of calm seas and the blue eyes of the one they loved. That knowledge, that thought, brought with it a chill, and a touch of familiarity. Like a hand from the vast waters touching my shoulder, what I left with was not a concern for the dead, for they are at peace now, but for the living, those people with me, now.
Such it is with history, and the viewing of its pages, finding darkness not only in one's world but within oneself. It is at such time, when we are truly solo, truly adult, that we accept responsibility for a soul that survives in a world of such anomaly. You make good decisions based on the bad ones others have taken before you, or you, yourself will spiral down into the blackness.
Others look only ahead, paying no attention to the past, the remembrances of brave men, the battles and freedoms we have fought for. My flag was at half staff today and I bet half the neighbors did not know why, seeing only what's going on in this moment, however useless, with no intention of availing themselves of the lessons of history that rattle around in our pockets like rare coins.
Not I. For me, I'll take the slow path, the closer look, the unseen poetry in a drop of melting snow, the land and soul that thirst, the blood and the tears that united a nation.
Like all things mechanical, all things living, what we look at is much more than a sum of its parts. Those early space ships, the eroded surfaces speaking of the intense heat of reentry, the thin outer skin belying the courage of the man that it cradled, just waiting to be blasted into the unknown. A Mercury wonder of heat and design and engineering unheard of in its day. Compare it with the Soviet ships, odd instruments with Cyrillic labels, foreign yet familiar. An animation can never give you that little surge of awe I got on seeing that warning stenciled on a Soyuz reentry module: “Man inside! Help!” -- words that are dense testimony to both the dangers of a landing and the human ignorance that may exacerbate it.
So today - give pause for those souls lost this day 20 years ago. And next time that you trave--l instead of going out for wings and a beer, take time to look at those places of history that often go undetected. Stop and look in a museum, stand in places where history stood still, the courtyard at Monte Alban in quiet sunlight you can almost feel the air shimmering with life, priests, victims, warriors, the ball court where to lose the game was to lose life. Those lives vibrate through you.
That which remains are all things, past, present, they make us what we are, everything the human mind has invented, everything the human heart has loved and grieved for, that bravery has sacrificed for. It may touch only a few, but it connects us all.
Remember those who have gone before us.
In the Cosmophere in Kansas I reached out and touched a spaceship that had gone to the heavens, and the cold metal felt no different to my hand than the cold forged metal of a lost diving bell. As my hands warmed it, I realized that there are not absolute answers to all of the great questions. I can simply persist to live through them, as I learn and remember.
On a small table at my home this morning, lies a simple crafted box in which contains the fired remembrance of pure love and loyalty. Each day as I leave, I gently lay my hand upon it. Remember me, remember this, from God's intricate creations of blood and bone and sinew, to our own divined dust, the distance is small.
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Actually it's crashpadville again for today, as I'm getting ready to move to another crash pad. My lease was up, after three years my rent had gone up and the nice police officer and his wife had bought a home and moved. I now have the Buffalo family sharing the wall and the driveway with me, as their herds of stampeding children run and squeal and play. They're a nice, hard working young couple, but multiple kids under the age of five doesn't work well when I often work weird hours and have to sleep in the day. So I'm moving to a brand new one bedroom condo with granite countertops, a huge tub, better construction, one that shares a wall with another one bedroom, likely to be quieter. It's even closer to work which is also a plus. No, it's not cheap, but here I'm "Gibbs". If I transfer closer to home I'll be a Ensign Ricky from Star Trek, on the bottom of the totem pole with pay that matches and on the road all the time or a desk bound bureaucrat. So Partner is all for me staying and doing what I love for now.
So this weekend was getting stuff packed up to move soon.
I bribed Partner in Grime to come down from the Range today to help get organized for the next long weekend when I can make the move.
He earned it. This weeks Range project was to put in a backwater valve at the same time we replaced a sewer line that had a crack in it. Flooding was a problem after unusually heavy rain events back to back, last year.
So he was ready for a little break. After the moving boxes were assembled and set in the spare bedroom it was time for lunch.
Then we ran a few errands.
As well as Dad's favorite - huckleberry salt water taffy.
OK Abby - we'll watch something more entertaining than a blank screen with you while we have a snackie supper.
Ring - it's the phone - It's Dad and he wants to say hi to both of us!
And finally - since it was "Buy a Gun Day" this week. Here's a photo Partner took of our purchase, taken down in the basement. With the new kitchen floor, major basement re-plumbing, moving costs and Dad care, our gun budget was a bit limited.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Internet Spam Haiku - by Brigid
You too can make two
hundred dollars an hour
SPAM - like leading a horse to water. Or not.
I've seen it all, even without accepting anonymous comments. There's the one guy who leaves comments on all the popular blogs - completely generic comments that indicated he never read your post. We may not all write Shakespeare in a comment but putting "loved your post! or great idea! - link exchange?" on a post about a death in someone's family or a soldier being killed while serving is beyond tactless. When it goes back to a blog that's pretty much nothing but ads, other people's writing you copied and other people's videos, it's just wrong.
But there is always the obvious SPAM that IS funny. There are the ones that seem to be written by someone whose first language is NOT English. (Hot, like a cow on fire!)
And the SPAM that comes via "thank you gmail!" Letting me know there's a source for everything I could ever want to know on the "craps workbench (verb or noun?), ascent tampon, gopher debilitator, or products from the Spiderman Pharmacy. Then of course there are the letters from folks with long legal titles in mangled English that begin with a narrative informing me of the giant foreign lottery I won that I don't remember entering, or the arrangement to cash a big check for someone overseas in exchange for a fee so big I could buy my own island -
"I humbly request your ass. . ."
Then there are the ones that just make you tilt your head like the RCA dog. Huh?
"Observe up the monumental hunk of process, I show handful points on this internet site also I deem that your net scene is rattling stimulating furthermore has places of splendid news.”
"Monumental hunk of process?" Apparently a Six Sigma guy on crack selling the "Western Wedding Dress" (Annie Oakley gets her man?)
Of course, there are the the more mundane ones, simply a sensible sounding comment that makes sense but is so generic that it might not have any bearing on the actual post, but then again, it could. "I wonder who sent it ? There's no link, just a blogger name, this must be someone I know" (click on the blogger name) - "Act Now, get The Ronco Weasel Encabulator!"
The HOTR Crown Roast of SPAM
Always filling up my SPAM folder are those creepy ads for Viagra or Cialis that would make a South St. Louis crack dealer blush. I will not repeat here as this is a family blog.
Then there's the ones that are pure gibberish. Written by a computer or simply someone reading the thesaurus after smoking the Happy Poppy.
Most people believe that a satellite falls in love with a loyal tape recorder, but they need to remember how ostensibly a load bearing burglar wakes up.
If you want to have real fun, reply to one of those SPAM's from foreign women named Natasha or Anna the hot chick who saw you at the grocery who want to throw their bodies at you if you'd just send them air fare-- with your own auto generated reply.
Dear Darling Natasha.
ANY sandwich can accurately sanitize an imaginary deficit, but it takes a real fruit cake to avoid contact with the steam engine. The cab drive for an industrial complex ostensibly is a big fan of a grain of sand. Now and then a asteroid near a paper napkin pees on the boiled warranty.
Remember darling, when you see the ski lodge it means the tattered customer went to sleep.
But this latest one, from a country where the currency exchange is likely based on the current value of a camel, did make me laugh after a VERY long and stressful week. Maybe because he called me "dude" before trying to sell me dental equipment likely leftover from the last Soviet invasion, (the last three words being a direct link which I did NOT click on.)
"thanx dude i am really ur post tooth extracting forceps"
And finally - my favorite of those one liners .
THIS MASSAGE IS FROM HOMELAND SECURITY. (Secret Service-- I might have bought it . . .)
So, what were YOUR worst SPAM comments?
Sunday, April 12, 2015
I wouldn't trade these years for anything and it's the reason I spent at least two weeks a month away from my husband, not willing to give it up for a desk at headquarters quite yet. My husband too is a leader. He knows that if he asked-- I'd quit my career in a heartbeat as he is more important, just as he knows he won't ask that of me, for he totally gets it.
These thoughts here tonight, are based on the core principals of military leadership that many have passed on to me, as well as things I just learned by watching bad leaders as well as making my own mistakes, finding my way. I revisit them regularly, and with humbleness.
Seek out your strengths and weaknesses, even the ones you can't see yet, and look to improve on those daily. Do it openly, do it quietly, but each day try to improve on something in which you are lacking and perform just a bit better on those things of which you are skilled. Teach those with you to do the same.
Seek responsibility and take it. A key leadership principle is that we ALL make mistakes, but it's how we respond to them that separates the "men from the boys", as they say. If you make a mistake and blame someone else, no one is ever going to trust you again (though some people might be stupid enough to vote for you again).
Your Mom doesn't work here. If you screw something up, own it, don't wait for someone to make an excuse for you or correct it for you. If you break it, fix it, if you open it, close it. You are accountable for your actions, you are accountable for your outcomes.
The rules that apply to your team, apply to you. If they have to sort it, document it, retain it, verify it, or fill out 8 forms for it, SO DO YOU.
Lead from the front. You are setting the example. If you are thinking "just this one time", or "let's take a shortcut", "let's just this once, sacrifice a (little) standard", whatever it is, then your team will be OK with it too when you're not looking. Hold yourself to a higher standard, and they will try to as well.
Questions are less bloody than not asking them.
Know yourself, but know your team as well, and look out for their welfare like your own. Loyalty may be bought, but only very briefly. Be compassionate, but be firm, and be clear that what they offer is important. If they know that they can count on you, you can count on them.
Successful missions come in threes - the mission you plan, the mission you do, and the mission you wish you had done.
Some things are classified, but don't be a mushroom farmer. Keep people informed. Share those things that may not necessarily be their specialty, or even within their current technical grasp. They will learn, and they will feel included and valuable, for they are.
Successful completion of a task depends upon how well you know your unit’s capabilities. Don't give out a task you have not prepared them to do. Experiments are for a science lab, not the field.
You set the standards by what behaviors you ignore, reward and punish.
There is no "I" in "Team" but there's "Me" if you rearrange the letters. Yes, and No. Respect the individual, know the individual. But train and cross train as a team, individuals have weaknesses, teams learn to compensate and overcome them. Reward is not the only thing shared, responsibility is.
Just because it's not your fault, doesn't mean it's not your problem.
Trust but Verify. You have to trust your team to do their job without micromanaging every step. But verify it's done to the standards you have set, standards that are clearly communicated and adequately supervised. For their mistakes aren't just theirs, they are yours, for you are accountable and creditable with your superiors.
Recognize not just physical courage but moral courage. Standing firm on values, principles, and convictions is just as important as putting life and limb on the line.
Know your limitations. Not just your own, but the limitations of your team and the individuals that comprise it, as well as those of your organization as a whole, at the highest level. If you know that, you know when to call in back up and how and who to call for back up. And don't be afraid to, no matter whose toes or egos get stepped on. There are jobs, where failing that might mean a bad meal, a bad haircut, loss of income, or a loss of face for someone. In some positions, failing that means people will die. NEVER forget that.
Never get so self-important that you can't take advice from the probie.
Saturday, April 11, 2015
Give me the treat. give me the treat, give me the treat.
I had a shot of Bowmore, slept for 10 hours and woke up to a day with absolutely no obligations and no plans as my regular girls day out partner is out and about elsewhere today.
Well, no plans except to help a coworker move a bed first thing in the morning. (Yes, I am THAT friend with the truck).
Then Abby got a nice long walk,. . .
. . . . and begged for treats (she gets so mesmerized, she looks like she's stoned).
I did my every other day weight routine (slightly more effective than 12 ounce curls I've found) followed by a long soak in the tub with my favorite bath goodies (Queen Bee Naturals from St. Louis, the bath soak of which smells like milk and honey), then a late breakfast.
Cinnamon Roll Waffles.
You can either mix up a batch of Easy Cinnamon Rolls from scratch, cutting them about 1 and 1/2 inches thick, or use the GRAND kind in the can. (Damn, I thought it was Pillsbury Garands - that was a disappointment, the first time I bought them.)