Monday, December 30, 2013


It's always a challenge to find Christmas gifts for Mom.  Not only does she not want anything she tries to get rid of the stuff she does have by giving it to me whenever I visit.  Plus she always pleads with me not to spend any money on her. But I really want her to have wrapped packages to open, so I'm always determined to find something.

Every year I get her a Robert Tuckwiller calendar (he paints lovely landscapes of the area of Virginia where we are from).  So that's an easy one.

This year I got her a pretty Marjolein Bastin bluebird refrigerator magnet from Hallmark.  She had a bunch of photos and magnets and things on her refrigerator when she lived in Gainesville, but now her frig is a small one and somehow nothing ever got put on it. She seemed really happy with the little decoration.

A bestselling book from a few years ago (Wish You Well by David Baldacci) has been made into a movie that was filmed in Giles County, where I'm from.  Part of it was actually filmed on the tiny little road where I grew up, right down the street from our house, in the old abandoned one-room building that was my father's school.  (Don't picture the school in the Waltons, that's too modern - picture the one in Little House on the Prairie.)  My cousin's young daughter (whom I've never actually met) is an extra as one of the schoolchildren.  The movie is completed but hasn't been released yet.

I found a copy of the book that meets Mom's requirements: it's a trade paperback but it's not too heavy, and even thought it's not actually Large Print it's easy to read.  Inside the book I put a pretty pink and lavender bookmark, and Mom's started reading it already.

I also bought her a small box of chocolates that had whole hazelnuts inside.  She just loves hazelnuts.

So she had several pretty packages to open and she seemed genuinely delighted with each of the gifts.  We opened presents in her apartment on Christmas Eve and then went to my sister's house for a lovely lunch on Christmas Day (roast chicken, green beans with almonds, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, cranberry sauce, carrots and homemade pecan pie that consisted primarily of butter, Karo syrup and brown sugar).  We all ate too much, and Mom took home a leftover piece of pie.

It was a lovely holiday visit.  I am aware that I get too caught up in trying to make sure everything is perfect for Mom, and often having Greg there makes it even worse because instead of letting him help me I just add to the pressure by feeling like I have to make sure everything is perfect for him, too.  Being aware of my tendency to get too stressy makes it a little easier to cut it out when I see it starting, so I think I did a pretty good job this time of just relaxing and enjoying the time with Mom.

It's been too long since I've visited her, and I want to go again within the next couple of months.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Little Sketch of Niceness

From a tumblr blog called 'please stop being sad':

I'm going to try to remember this more often.  Things are really going well, right now.  The only one causing me stress is me, putting pressure on myself to do more.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Six Years Ago Today

I grew up with a father who was impressive.  I grew up watching other adults treat him with respect and admiration.

He grew up in a very rural area on a road that had just a few years earlier been a cow path.  He was born in his parent's house and had three sisters and two brothers.  When he graduated high school he decided he wanted to go to college, and he got a job and joined the ROTC and made it happen.  He was the first in the family to go to college, and the last for decades.  Actually, counting immediate family… until me.

The nearest university was Virginia Polytechnic Institute, which was two mountains away and might as well have been on the moon.  He went to the only car dealership around and talked the salesman into giving him a car to go to college.  He promised he'd pay for it as he could, and he did pay it off.  He was then the first person on that mountain road to own a car.

From what I understand, he was kind of a terror zooming around in his car, but then again it may have just been the fact that there was an unfamiliar loud machine roaring around and scaring everyone's horses and mules.

He graduated college and joined the army and married my mother and they went around the country on Army bases.  During World War II he worked for the Adjutant General's office in Texas, and he told me once that he would sometimes go over the border into Mexico to find the men coming back from the war, who would be drunk in bars and in danger of missing their discharge processes. 

He and mom had a son and a daughter, and he left the military and went to work in a department store.  If it's true that people sometimes get stuck in one particular style, that 50's era was my dad's: he wore suits and ties and hats his whole life.  He eventually opened up his own ladies clothing stores, and went on buying trips to New York. 

He and mom had me in 1966, and decided, after spending their whole adult lives living in various cities around the country, to move back to that little road in the country.  The house he was born in had been torn down, and he bought land and built a little brick ranch house right next to where it had been.  One of his sisters lived next door, another lived down the street, and another lived a few miles away on a different mountain.  One brother lived nearby, and the other had died young in a coal mine.

By this time everyone had cars, but dad was (as far as I know) the only one who had moved away.  A lot of them had barely been off the mountain.  Dad would often drive people who needed to go into the city (Roanoke, more than an hour away) and weren't comfortable driving themselves.  What must that have been like for him, coming back after so many years?

He became a broker, and worked with companies setting up retirement plans and stock portfolios for their employees. He knew he would be retiring and wanted to have a job that would continue to provide income.  Despite the drastic career change, he was very good at it.  We shared an office in the house, filled with legal pads and giant leather books of tax codes and copies of the Wall Street Journal; he would use it during the day and I'd do my homework in it at night.

He was social and loved to be around people. Even when he was in his 90s and had lost a lot of his hearing and eyesight, you would never have known it; at his 92 birthday party he made the rounds, laughing with the adults and the children alike.  He was unfailingly kind, always turning the other cheek and looking for the good in people.  He didn't like music. (Who doesn't like music?)  He read all the time, financial newspapers and magazines and Bible studies and Western novels.  He had many lifelong friends who were exceedingly loyal to him.  He loved his family.  He never spanked me.  I literally never once heard him yell.  I also never saw him laugh until he cried.  He always gave me good advice about clothes, and taught me how to look for good quality fabric and stitching and fit.  He gave me good financial advice, about saving and retirement plans and taxes.  In retrospect I can see that he tried to teach me how to get along with people, how to make them like me and how to be social; but my shyness and introversion prevented much success with that.

That was my dad.  He and my Mom were happy together for so many decades, and I was happy to have him for a father.  He had a long and seemingly happy life, dying suddenly with no illness and, I hope, no pain at the age of 92 at my mother's side.

The world is emptier without him.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Societal interpersonal cultural weirdities

There's a weird cultural dynamic going on in my office.  I am in the same part of the building as the IT department, and they contract a lot of guys from India.  (Honestly, this whole company is very culturally diverse with a lot of people from other countries, which is one of the things I like about it.)

It might be a cliché, but here it's true.  There are a couple of dozen Indian IT guys.  And they are all guys.

Our building has the typical locked door system where you have to buzz yourself in by unlocking the door with your ID card. The sensor thingie is not by the door, it's about 10 feet away, and on a pole around 2 feet off the ground.  I assume that's to be easily reachable by someone in a wheelchair, although I'm not really sure exactly why the sensor deal can't be right by the door itself.

So it happens occasionally that I reach the door, beep my ID on the sensor, take the three steps to the door and open it and realize that there is someone coming up behind me.  I hold the door open for them, they walk on through, they say, "Thanks!" and I say "Sure!" and we go our separate ways inside the building.

Except for those Indian guys.  They see me standing there holding the door wide open and they always, and I mean every-single-time-always, go over to the sensor, beep their ID card pointlessly, and then come over and attempt to take the door away from me so they can hold it open.

This just pisses me off.  I started holding the door but getting behind it, like opening it in front of me, so that they can't take it from me and they have to just stand in front of a gaping doorway looking uncomfortable until either they give up and walk through looking pitiful or I give up and give them the door.  They just looked SO sad and lost that despite the massive stupidity I actually started feeling bad about it, and so I stopped doing it.  I mean, politely drawing attention to somewhat strange or inappropriate social reactions is fine, I think, but I'm not trying to spread discomfort and sadness around.

But seriously, what exactly is the sexism going on here?  It's not that they are trying to be chivalrous and they think it's the man's job to be polite and hold the door.  (Still sexist, but possibly trying to be nice.)  And it's obviously not that they think I can't hold the door.  And what part, exactly, does beeping the ID card to 'unlock' a wide open door play in this whole cultural dynamic?  What's so wrong with their brains that they can't just walk through an open doorway?


I did receive my official certification, so yay for me.  There's a Workforce Analyst job open at a pretty cool company that I've been eyeing, but I feel guilty even thinking about applying for another job when they just paid nearly $4k to train me on the new technology that hasn't even been installed yet.  I swear, if it's still open next month after the holidays are over, I may just apply to see what happens.

Wonder if any men from India work there...