24 June 2008

Happy Summer!! Goodbye to a Faithful Feline and Hello to a New Job!

This will be a very fast update, with details to follow later in the week. Things have been hopping since my last update. Some events have been wonderful, but one in particular was very sad.

We had to say goodbye to our beloved cat Sylvester. He was nearly 17 years old and was in a great deal of pain. On 7 June, Justin bravely took him to the vet and he was put to rest. We all said good bye and I know, I know, it's a cat we're talking about, but Sylvester wasn't just any cat. To know Sylvester was to love him. We knew him and we adored everything about him.

It still seems so odd not seeing him around here, but he's not suffering now. Sylvester was our first cat, and joined us when he "chose" Katie as she and I visited a pet shop in El Paso, Texas. He was a gentle, smart, social and very kind feline. He convinced me that I wasn't simply a "dog" person, as I had erroneously and originally thought prior to meeting him. I was so sure I didn't like cats at all, but Sylvester enlightened me and gently taught me otherwise. Sylvester, in his own characteristically understated manner, changed my life. I loved him. We all did. With every soft purr, kneading motion of his paws and slow caresses on our ankles as he'd make contact with us, we knew he loved us right back. Gosh, I miss him that cat.

I need to send out a special thank you to three people with regard to Sylvester. Katie, thank you so much for talking me into adopting him back in Texas. You and Sylvester were so right - I was a cat person and he was destined to become part of our family. I know you loved him and he enjoyed watching you grow up, as the rest of us have. You were such a kind and faithful companion to him. I know you maintained such a special place in his heart.

I also must mention Stephanie. Steph, thank you so very much for tending to him in his final months. You were kind, compassionate and so sensitive to his physical and emotional needs and pain. You went far beyond the call of duty and I know he loved you for it. I know it was especially hard for you and I understand you had a very strong bond with him. Your care allowed him some extra pain-free months and you should be proud of that. We're very grateful to you and pleased that you are part of our family. You know, Steph, we miss you, too. You can come around and visit even when your boyfriend is at work or busy. This is still your home, too, kiddo.

And finally but by no means last, a special thanks to my Dad, who is the keeper of the litterbox. What a thankless job, but you sure are dependable! Thank you for all of your housekeeping duties. Also, thanks for taking extra care with Felix during this transition. I know he's become quite attached to you. Princess may have lost her husband, but Felix lost his best friend, and he's trying to deal with that so I know he loves every extra minute he spends on your lap while you work on the computer. I think you have a new best friend! Felix has great taste, obviously.

After the passing of Sylvester, Justin returned to the house and took Princess to live with him at his place. He felt that she should be with him, now that her husband was gone. Sylvester and Princess were adopted six weeks apart, so their bond was deep and intertwined. I'm sure Princess is enjoying living with her "father", and I know Justin and Stephanie are taking great care of her. And yes, Princess will be moving to Charleston, WV late next month when Justin joins his Dad in his new business venture.

Two weeks ago I received a call to interview for a new position in a completely different industry. I went to the first interview and met three very nice men who took turns asking me a lot of questions as they perused my resume. Later that evening, they invited me to a second interview the next morning. Fortunately, that went pretty well, too, and within two hours, my new employer rang my cell phone and offered me the position. I officially start on 1 July and I'm looking forward to it. I will be heading to Greenville, South Carolina on 30 June for three days of training, as this is where the company is headquartered. I'll return to Wilmington on 3 July, which will be a very special day because it will be my parents 62nd wedding anniversary. There is just so very much to celebrate and I'm grateful for all of it!

Of course, as excited and thrilled as I am with my new position in a few days, it will be difficult leaving my present one. I have enjoyed working with Sherry so very much. We have had so much fun most days that it hardly qualified as work. Sherry has taught me a great deal and spending my days with her has been a very special time for me. We can nearly finish each others sentences and not a day goes by that doesn't find us laughing about all manner of occurrences in our work days. Though I will no longer be working with her, we have made a serious pact to stay in touch on a daily basis and she has promised to keep me informed as to the more curious things that happen at work. Besides, she won't be completely rid of me. I have agreed to continue to install the SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) ankle bracelets and will see clients and do installations on Saturdays. I find it hard to make a complete break because I enjoy working with our clients. Anyway, working with Sherry one day a week will make it easier for us to keep a weekly lunch date and really catch up with each other.

Finally, I am happy to report that the swimming pool repairs have been made and it is holding water well! It's being chemically shocked right now, but the major repair has been completed and I can't wait to take my first dip in it which will hopefully be later this week. It's SUMMER - and that means flips in the pool! I will be so excited to literally be "back in the swim" of things. Hey, it's skinny-dipping season!

By the way, I was given a brand-spanking new copy of the "hot off the presses" latest edition of "Insider's Guide - North Carolina's Southern Coast and Wilmington" by its esteemed publisher (and all around nice person), Jay Tervo. If you haven't acquired one yet, treat yourself to a copy. It's beautifully turned out and brimming with information, tips and facts for both tourists and even locals will learn a thing or three about the town we are privileged to call "home".

It's so strange to be writing these days. I've had scant time to really pen much of anything though my mind has been swirling with a million details, observances, thoughts and feelings. Lately, it seems like with so much going on, I find I'm keeping more and more things to myself. So many huge changes are taking place in my life right now - in all of our lives, in fact. My son is preparing to move to West Virginia at the end of July. My daughter has been happily ensconced in Manhattan for over two years. We're now two cats short and this house seems to be growing in size and echoing in silence. Not too many years ago, there was always noise, music, chatter, comings and goings of my son and daughter and their posse of friends. I remember summers filled with the sounds of my son and his buddies on their skateboards in the driveway. I'd peer out the window every ten minutes or so, wondering if I might need to make a quick run to the emergency room because someone didn't land properly as they surfed on the concrete. It's just so quiet now.

It's almost too quiet. The air is stilled as we slowly grope our way through new transitions, the ones where teenagers are now twenty-somethings who grow up and move into new adventures which predictably take them far from this house, but never, ever far from our thoughts, prayers and hearts. I guess on an intellectual level, you always know the time will come when they grow up and become admirably independent, and I am absolutely proud that they have. I'm also grateful for so many lively memories from raising these two offspring of mine, but lurking just beneath my pride and awe, is a lingering whisper of a wish that I could do it all again and again and again. These transitions take some acclimatization, I suppose, and the key feature to any acclimatization is the passage of time. I'm sure we'll get our sea legs soon, but some evenings, I miss Katie and Justin so much that it literally defies description and words are rendered useless; literally inadequate. Maybe that's why I find it so hard to write lately. The translation of the depth and sheer force of these feelings into mere words is difficult.

I guess growing up gets tougher with age. Separation anxiety can strike without warning. Thank goodness for e-mail and cell phones and particularly unlimited mobile-to-mobile minutes.

I'm still keeping a keen eye out for a sailor - if you see one with a nice boat who's in the market for a crazy, wild-haired, adventurous first mate, send him my way. But only if he's nearly perfect, great looking, sane, financially secure, interesting, brilliant, youthful and skilled. I don't think I'm really asking for too much...just something reasonably close to almost perfect.

Karen...Bobbi...I hate to put pressure on you both, but we're in late June now. What's the hold up, ladies? Shouldn't you both have "e-maled" me some prospective resumes by now? No rush...just hurry!

03 June 2008

It finally happened!

Today was a very special day. I FINALLY met someone who's name has been a household staple since I was about ten years old. This afternoon, I had the great pleasure of meeting the man (THE MAN!) my father worked for (the BOSS!) when my father was a treasurer for Hawk's Nest Mining Company in Montgomery, WV. (Photo right: Harry Burke, Susie and Barbe.)
Mr. Harry Burke in the flesh. What a guy! He'd heard my name in conjunction with my Dad no doubt sharing some of my antics as I was growing up, back in Charleston, West Virginia, when Mr. Burke would visit the office from "headquarters" in Chicago, Ill., where he held the position of Chief Financial Officer with F. H. Prince. I'd heard his name when my Dad would share at dinner that "the boss", would be visiting the mine. We "knew" of each other, Mr. Burke and me, but we had never shared the same space.

Mr. Burke and his companion, the lovely Marsha, were in Hampstead this week visiting his sister, Janet, and so my parents were invited to drive up and have coffee. Last year when they were in town, I missed out on their visit to our home because I was on my way to Fayetteville to meet Katie's train, however, my son had recorded the event with photos and I did blog about it. (Click here to read about last year's visit).

This year, however, I was in town and ducked away from work early in order to finally have a face-to-face with this iconic figure. I felt instantly that I knew him so rather than a polite, stiff handshake, we dispensed with all that and went straight for the hug. What a precious moment for me.

As I sat this afternoon in Janet's lovely Hampstead home, and enjoyed the company of these friends, so many childhood memories flooded my consciousness. Mr. Burke and my Dad have always had a special bond and, separated in age by only a couple of weeks (my Dad will insist that I state for the record that he is the younger of the two), they have maintained their friendship through over 22 years into retirement, even though most of that time Mr. Burke and my dad have lived on opposite sides of the country. However, throughout those years, they have kept the lines of communication open and humming in frequent, lengthy phone conversations and through the magic of e-mail.

My Dad was sharing a story of when he first met Mr. Burke and casually mentioned that he was just 47 years old when he met this man for the first time and it occurred to me that he was a year younger than my present age of 48. It's amazing to me that I was no more than ten years old when I first heard of this Mr. Burke fella.

Today was indeed a sweet gift and extreme blessing. I'm so glad these friends could enjoy a visit and have the chance to relive their interesting history, in person, over a delicious dessert and fine coffee. I'm also thankful that I had the opportunity to share some time with these two special men. It was a warm afternoon, and it wasn't simply because of the weather. This afternoon was a very special honor for me.

Let's do it again next year, Mr. Burke!

01 June 2008

Getting Better Every Day!

"Sick as a dog, but having the time of my life!" Gomer Pyle - "The Andy Griffith Show".

I guess going out on a date with two younger, crazy men was too much for me. The morning after I had dinner with David and Chris, I woke up feeling like I had a tennis ball stuck in my throat. Fortunately, that didn't preclude me from having breakfast with my wonderful friend Sally, or going to work for a few hours, but by Saturday Night last week, I was clearly, without question, in the throes of bronchitis.

So how did I spend my Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start of summer? In bed, feverish, drinking tea, coughing and sneezing my head off. Not how I imagined, that's for sure.

Sunday Afternoon, feeling extremely sorry for myself, alone and having only my trusty dog Cassie by my side, I was laying in bed when in dropped my friend David with all manner of meds, a gallon of tea from Smithfield's, and the time to keep my mind off how horrible I felt. He even inducted me into the Blackberry Pearl fellowship by programming my phone and teaching me all of the fun things it can do. He was great company and made a very nice nurse even though I think he told me to quit complaining and "check this out!", as he would enlighten me to cool features of the Blackberry.

When he got bored with my sneezing and coughing, he would go back downstairs and visit with my parents, who made him a banana-split and were probably relieved that they didn't have to deal with me. Every now and then one of them would venture upstairs to see if I needed anything, not that I think any of them had any designs on bringing me more coffee or soup, but it did make me feel less alone and fortunately the movie line-up on TCM (Turner Classic Movies), was to my liking.

Also on Sunday Afternoon, my friend Wayne dropped by bearing a pot of daisies, soup, a beautiful wicker basket, a card and, best of all, the latest "hot off the presses!" issue of "Cruising World" magazine so I could salivate over sailboats I'll never be able to buy. Hey, it's good to hold onto your dreams, right?

Monday Afternoon, it was more of the same. David dropped by to check on me but was mostly interested in visiting with my parents, but when he did hang out with me, he fired up the laptop and as I was struggling to breathe, he was looking for property in Oriental. He saved about eight possibilities and now and then he would get excited and say, "Look at this one! It has a dock!", and then he'd go right on creating an organized spreadsheet of his real estate possibilities while I watched Claudette Colbert and Joseph Cotton in "Since You Went Away".

Other friends called and checked on me, thinking I would be seaside, but the only water I got close to was the shower which I would run as hot as the water would go, because that was the only thing that allowed me to breathe easy for a few minutes. David wound up his visit by driving to Smithfield's on a chicken wing run (for me), but he chose to dine with my parents downstairs at the table because my Mom was serving spaghetti. From the sounds of it, they all had a very nice dinner. I ate alone upstairs in bed but Cassie was kind enough to stay with me. A good dog is hard to find and loyalty, particularly in times of need, is a precious gift, indeed.

I stayed in bed most of Tuesday and didn't go to work, but work came to me in the form of a visit from Sherry Tuesday Evening. She brought dinner over and hung out with me upstairs and we watched a couple of episodes of "The Andy Griffith Show" and caught up with each other. As she was getting ready to leave, Justin appeared with a homemade casserole and I was so happy to see him! He took her place on my bed and we chatted, well, he chatted and mostly coughed. This house still feels so empty without him and yet it struck me just how grown up he is. My son made something for me to eat at his place, and brought it to me. What a sweet guy he is. His company helped me immeasurably.

Wednesday I did make it into work in the late morning, but before starting work, Sherry and I met at La Costa for lunch before going to the office. She wanted to "ease" me back into "pre-audit work mode". She's nice like that. I wish I could have tasted the guacamole and refried beans and rice, but I could smell the cilantro, so that was definitely an improvement.

My health almost took a nose-dive on Thursday, as I read about Karen's weekend in Canada and turned an unattractive shade of "envy green", but she wrote me a nice note which took the edge off and returned me to my normal color. It was a good save and I was happy she had such a nice time during HER holiday weekend. She is still on the look-out for a seaworthy boat (and a guy to go along with it), for me, but progress is slow and I understand these things take time. I'm trying to be patient KAREN!!!!

Friday Morning, I had the experience of installing my first SCRAM ankle bracelet. I was trained and certified to do this back in March, and March was a long time ago, so I was a bit nervous but fortunately I had the kindest, sweetest, most patient client for my first experience and really, it went quite well. He had a great attitude about the whole thing and was eager to take this next step in illustrating to the NC DMV his commitment to staying sober, so his positive attitude and cooperation made him an ideal candidate to allow me to test my technical skills and fortunately, we were successful!

Sherry and I are both working like maniacs getting ready for our 12 June audit and we are so ready for this to be over! We're going to celebrate in some form or fashion after it's finished, we just haven't figured out how yet.

My friend David (in Michigan) tells me he's going to put together a sailing program for us and I can't wait to hear the details on that. I'm ready to be on the water, in spite of the fact that one year ago today, I was spent twelve nerve-racking hours sailing in Tropical Storm Barry with a lunatic captain and a boat that felt like it was going to break apart with the next wave. I look back on that now and I can't believe we were able to crawl into shore in one piece, but thanks be to God we did and it was nothing short of a miracle. I'm also grateful that it didn't diminish my passion for sailing, even though I emerged bruised and more than a little battered. I can't wait to get back on the water on a viable boat with a knowledgeable captain who doesn't have a death wish and understands the importance of safety and weather forecasts.

I have relived the memories of one year ago today, but not in a dark way. I realized that tropical storm notwithstanding, I discovered a passion on that erstwhile sail. In hindsight, it probably wasn't the wisest thing to take off sailing in international waters with someone I knew so little about, but for me, that trip was less about the person and more about the water. The water, from the second I was invited on that trip, was the magnet for me. I wanted to finally know about sailing and though I wasn't really bargaining on a sail in such dangerous and dire conditions, I learned a great deal in those ten days. It has fueled a thousand dreams and if I'm lucky, it will be the catalyst of a few thousand more.

One of the interesting things about feeling unwell, even if it's just being laid up in bed for a few days with a bout of bronchitis, is that it reminded me of how much I missed feeling fine. Most of the time I feel great and like most of us, I take that for granted. The string of days, weeks and months when my health doesn't dip below the barometer, I just whiz through my days taking so much for granted. Only when I became congested, had a little difficulty breathing or smelling the coffee I enjoy every morning, did I think about how exceptional it is that most days I can do just about anything. Great health should never be taken for granted. You can't buy, barter or trade it. It is, in fact, a blessing and one I want to try really hard not to forget about or allow to go unnoticed. I need to thank God even before I pop out of bed each morning, that I appreciate the fact that I am waking up pain free and clear-headed.

A few weeks ago I bought a book - "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch, a former Carnegie-Mellon professor who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer over a year ago. Groping around for something to read, I remember that book and in less than two days, I finished it. I highly recommend it. It's an amazing book and it's filled with lessons, reminders of what is important in this life.

This afternoon, as I perused Dr. Pausch's website for an update, I saw that he had participated in the commencement address this weekend at Carnegie-Mellon. If you have a couple of minutes, I highly recommend watching this. If you find yourself in or near a bookstore, do yourself a favor and read "The Last Lecture". It isn't at all sad or maudlin. It's inspiring, funny and laced with a gentle, exquisite poignancy. It is also a challenge. Perhaps it is true that we need to recapture those childhood dreams of ours, dust them off and look into using them as a foundation for new adventures, regardless of our present age.

All in all, it has been a pretty good week, bronchitis notwithstanding. I am grateful to God, my family, my ever-present and crazy friends and yes, I am also grateful for my faithful dog Cassie and her kind company when I took to my bed. It is practically summer, my favorite time of year, and there are all manner of reasons to celebrate. Life is exceptionally sweet and I am uncompromisingly grateful.

And yes, I really am becoming quite addicted to my Blackberry. If you're in the market for a way cool phone that can do practically everything but make tea, you should absolutely check it out. Before long, you'll wonder how you ever got along without it.

Oh, and a loyal dog. You really need a loyal dog - maybe more than you need a Blackberry Pearl. Cassie is over ten years old, but she still retains her sense of mischief, silliness and fun. Those qualities are incredibly attractive whether you're a dog, a cat and I know I'm drawn to people who have a natural exuberance, a feisty, fun and adventurous nature. The world seems populated with grown-ups who act way too grown-up. Maybe we all just need to kick back and get in touch with our inner puppy more often. Cassie reminds me of that often. Here's to jumping into the ocean, regardless of what you're wearing.

Happy Summer!!