Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Downside of an Even-Keeled Life

I'm feeling a little blue tonight because I'm channelling my daughter's feelings.  Her absolute favorite place in the whole world, her Spanish camp, is going to close and she is devastated.

Grace is currently there working in the kitchen.  She attended the camp for eight years as a student and hoped to go back next year as a junior counselor.  This is her home-away-from-home in the summer.   Even though camp is over this Saturday, she came home briefly today just to tell us about it.  She's that sad.

It makes me sad to see her sad.  But it also makes me a little envious.  She has bonded so much with her fellow staff members and the students she has met over the years, that it is a little like her heart being torn out.  When was the last time I felt that way about a group of people?  When did I last cry over a parting with friends?    When did I last feel excited about everything and love everything as much as that?

In the 70's I went to Montreal for two-weeks to watch the 1976 Olympics.  I was twenty-one and traveling alone. My lodging was a hostel set up in a suburban elementary school.  Within the first hour of my arrival at the hostel I had met two women from Miami, two from New York City, two from Boston and one from Sydney, Australia.  We were best buddies for the next two weeks experiencing the excitement of an event watched the world over in a cosmopolitan bilingual city.  We met boys from other cities and managed to have a year's worth of crushes and romances in two weeks time.   A Frenchman, Jean, wrote me poetry.  When we went our separate ways to Olympic events, we met at the end of the day and told our stories.  I remember laughing a lot.  To this day I look back on this trip as the best adventure I've ever had.  When it all ended, it was truly like the ending to a great book with characters you want to see continue on with their lives.

In the 80's I came to Minneapolis to work for General Mills.   I wasn't alone.   Within a few weeks I had met women who to this day I still count as friends.  We started our careers together, all fresh and green.  Most of us were single and through the next four years, we had crushes and fell in love and (some of us, not me) got married.  We explored the city, partied, spent holidays and vacations together.  We gossiped about the same people at work and ragged on the bosses who couldn't figure out how great we were.  We compared notes on our latest and greatest projects.  And almost as a group, we decided to leave and go our separate ways.   I didn't fully appreciate how special that time was until I came back to work for General Mills in the 2000's.    Great people are still there, but that feeling of being with people who see everyday as something new and full of possibility was no longer there for me.

In the 90's I went to work for a start-up company.  We were all working to make a great success out of something that in the end turned out to be a great failure.  There's nothing like the stress of a great high profile failure to bond you together.  We laughed to keep from crying.   We went through a battle together and now bear the same scars.  And like soldiers who fought together, only those who were there can understand what we went through.   I'd drop everything for a reunion with these comrades, but alas, I've lost touch with most of them.

So I'm a little jealous of my Darling Daughter.  I miss the camaraderie and support that you feel when you are joined at the hip with a group of friends.  She's got so many more chances at intense friendships and experiences.  I don't know if my future holds similar possibilities.  Surrounding yourself with new people in a new adventure is risky, while an even-keeled life, a life with little change, is comfortable.   I like to be comfortable.

I just suspect it's not nearly as much fun.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What's the Rush?

Just when I think there's not an ounce of Mattingly in my Darling Daughter, she unveils her hidden side.

She was explaining to me that she discovered she could possibly graduate from high school after completing her Junior year.   I was secretly cringing, wanting desperately to yell, "No!  I don't want you to!"  But I held back and, as luck would have it, she announced that she wanted to graduate with her class, hence saving me from being the bad guy.  

My Darling Daughter seems in such a rush to grow up.  To get on with what's next.   And I keep thinking, "what's the rush?"  Then it hits me.  What was my rush?  I couldn't wait to get out of high school, to move away from home and be on my own.    To that end I finished high school in February, started in secretarial school in April.  Finished that in December and started my first job.  Moved out of the house by the time I was 19.

When I was about 21 my father died and I qualified for tuition and other financial support so off I went to college.  Because I started late, I wasn't going to waste time.    Took 18 hour class loads and went every summer so I could finish a year early.   Then I went to work.

Eventually I went to graduate school and started my career.   It's hard to rush a career, but I tried.  Whenever I was changing companies, I could have held off the new company starting date, but I never did.  When do you want me?

I began to seriously plan my retirement when I was in my late 40's.  I targeted 52.  Didn't happen.  I had to wait to 55 because rushing to retirement any earlier was clearly a bad financial decision.  But to many people, age 55 is pretty darn early.  So here I am.  I rushed my way to retirement.

When I look back I wish I'd finished high school with my class.  I  envy those kids who take a year to just backpack their way across the world.  I wonder why I didn't take just a little more time before moving on to the next thing.   Would life now be much different?  Did all those rush decisions make me who I am today?  I can only presume the answer is yes and be satisfied.  Certainly, I'm glad I was able to retire when I did.

However, I thought when I retired I wouldn't need to rush anymore.  I would have all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted,  but there's a problem.  Time refuses to hold still for me.  The days, months,  and years fly by and I look at the calendar and say, "slow down, what's the rush?"  But time doesn't listen.  It just speeds up and I'm left thinking,  I've got to hurry.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

What Was That You Said?

Two posts in the same day.  Must be a record.

I want to go on record that I have a foreign language disability.    Somehow I was able to avoid taking a foreign language in both high school and college.    Actually I agreed to take Russian during my High School study hall period, but not enough students signed up, so it wasn't meant to be.

So why the talk about foreign languages.  Because I went South and the further South you go the less you understand.   It's a little like entering a foreign country.   I can generally act as interpreter for my Northern Hubby but at times even I was lost.

We were doing a little grocery shopping in Dale Hollow.  The conversation between me and the sales folks..
               Her:   "Can ah hep yew faaan sumthin?"
               Me:  "No,  am jus' waitin' for my husband." (I find it helps to try and blend in)
               Her:  "Oh, he's done lef' yew.
 I thought about protesting but then realized this was her idea of a joke so I appropriately chuckled.
             
Hubby has perfected the southern version of Thank You....Thiank yew!  (I've no idea how to spell this out, but if you have ever been South you know what I mean.)  It comes in handy and we use it a lot.

Sometimes we just looked at each other and said, did you get that?  Even my Elder Brother, who is still living in Kentucky, was baffled at times.   We just shrugged it off.

Getting directions from someone was always an adventure.  No one uses a street name or number.

             Hubby:  "Can you tell us where we can find a grocery store?"
             Him:  "Yer not from around here, are yew?"
             Us:  Unspoken: How'd you guess?
             Him:  "Yew go up there and take a raht.  Take the first left.  Then yew go down the hill.  At the
                        bottom of the hill look to yer raht and yew should see a restaurant and the grocery will
                        be on yer left."
             Me:  "Thiank yew!"

So we followed the directions and found the grocery.  But it would have been a lot simpler to say...go back out to the 111 (the main thoroughfare), turn left and you'll see it about a quarter a mile down on your left.

We rented a pontoon boat for a day out on Dale Hollow Lake.  Before going out we had to receive an overview of the boat.   I was prepared to hear about the operation of the boat, where we could/could not go, who had the right of way if you met up with another boat.  That kind of thing.  The first thing he told us?  "You have five chairs."

Yes, indeedy.  We did have five chairs and unless someone decided to throw one into the lake, we were going to have five chairs when we returned.  At this point, I decided there wasn't much of value in listening real hard.

But lest you think I dislike the Southern language, let me set you straight.  I thoroughly enjoy it.  It sounds a little musical I think.  Makes me feel at home even though I never spoke this particular dialect.

Plus, I like saying Thiank yew!


Porkin' My Way Through the South

(Wow.  It's been awhile since I posted and the sight has a whole new look.  Hope I can manage!)

Hubby and I just completed two weeks of vacation in the south.  By that I mean Kentucky and Tennessee.  As my ardent followers know, since retirement I have lost about 25 pounds through exercise and a lot of watching what I eat.  But two weeks of eating my way through my home state and its neighbor almost "done me in" to quote Eliza.

Let's recap.  Hush puppies.  Is there anything better than a hush puppy.  Apparently they are the perfect accompaniment to a fish dinner in the south.  I ate about six of them across two meals of catfish and trout.  Fried pieces of cornbread.  Yum.

I ate quite a few pig parts at our B&B breakfasts (Eight Gables in Gatlinburg, TN).   Monday: sausage patties; Tuesday: sausage links; Wednesday: bacon; Thursday: pork chops.   Poor porker.    Mr. Piggy came with a healthy dose of fruit and bread (i.e. muffins, banana bread), scrambled eggs and some kind of carbo delight.  Monday:  Blueberry waffle; Tuesday: Banana nut pancake; Wednesday: Cinnamon French toast stuffed with cream cheese; Thursday: Cheesy Hash brown potatoes.   To give myself some credit, I generally only tasted Mr. Porker, then offered the rest to Hubby who wolfed it down.

We did exercise.  Walked about twenty miles over the course of three days, a lot of it uphill, in the great Smoky Mountain National Park.  Lunch was a packed sandwich, pretzels and apple.  Not bad.

Then we had dinner.  Other than the hush puppies and maybe a serving or two of coleslaw,  I maintained some control.  We always said no to dessert at the restaurants.  Brave, huh?  Actually, no...our B&B provided dessert every night.  Monday:  Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter/Chocolate frosting; Tuesday: Paula Dean's Sour Cream Pound Cake; Wednesday: Coconut Cream Frosted Yellow Cake; Thursday: Key Lime Bars.   I ate every morsel.

Then there was the free candy in the lobby.  My hands were controlled by an alien being.   Every time I passed by the plates my hand reached out for a handful.   I didn't know what was happening.

It was hot too and you know a beer tastes mighty good when it's hot and you're in the south and the sweat is dripping.  I had a few.

But I'm back home now so I'm under control.  If only I could figure out what to do with that 1/2 pound of Cherry Nut Chocolate Fudge I bought in Gatlinburg.