Saturday, August 30, 2014

Go! (Again!)

This stoppin', breathin' and relaxin' stuff takes some practice.

I've not been very good at it since I left home, but I'm willing to work at it so I can get better.

I left home a week ago Friday, and headed up to Minnesota to see family.  From there, I headed off to see more beautiful places I haven't seen yet.

Buffalo River State Park, MN
The first night out of Minneapolis, I drove to Buffalo River State Park, near the North Dakota border.  The park bore out my prejudices towards state parks - they put them where they do because there's something pretty there.  In this case, it is a bit of untouched prairie.  Beautiful.

Painted Canyon, ND
From there, I drove across North Dakota to Teddy Roosevelt National Park - the North Dakota part of the badlands.  I loved my hike down into one of the canyons.  The short loop and the visitor's center at the top of the hill were busy, but as I walked away and down the hill, the sounds of trucks and people faded away, replaced by the chirps of birds and grasshoppers.  The view of asphalt and cars was replaced by the wonders revealed along a rugged trail winding down into the path ancient waters cut into the layered rock.  The smell of car exhaust was replaced by sun-heated grass.  For the first time in ages, I stopped to just breathe.

I left North Dakota, and spent four hours along Route 200S across Montana looking at some of the most beautiful nothing I've ever seen.  Every turn along the road brought a new version of beauty.  This turn showed badlands-like hills and vales.  Around here, a desert landscape.  The next revealed a lush and green valley, cows contentedly munching.  And so it went.  I found myself eagerly driving to the next hill, to see what I would see.

Virginia Falls, MT
And now, I'm happily ensconced in a friend's dining room after the morning's hike in Glacier Park.  Four of us went up into the park for a four mile hike near St. Mary's lake to see the water coming down the mountain.  It was cool up near the road, but once we got down onto the trail, the weather was perfect - comfortable walking in a long-sleeved t-shirt.  We had almost completed our hike when the overcast skies decided to dump part of their load.  I must admit I was very grateful for my '10 hiking essentials checklist' at that point, and was almost smug as I pulled my waterproof jacket out of my daypack and hiked up the hill back to the car in relative comfort.

I know I can get good at this stop, breathe and relax thing if I only try.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Cat: 1

The (mis-named) Monster (because he's really a gentle and good kitty), is not the world's most intelligent cat.  He's a biggish creature, and not overly graceful.  He's been known to fall off chairs and run into walls.  He has a wimpy meow and a wonderful purr.  (He purrs me to sleep some nights.  I really like that part.)

Monster is a cat of simple pleasures.  He takes special pleasure in boxes.  Shortly after you set a box on the floor, he will find it and climb in.  Then he just sits and looks at us with a very satisfied look on his face.  Box!

Well, Monster has decided the sink is a Box.  Even better, it's a Box with Water!  (He loved our drippy bathtub before we tore it out.)  If he is in the sink, he is NOT on the counter, he is in a Box.  and he is allowed to sit in Boxes.  And, he doesn't even really barely even have to pause on the counter to get to this newfound mini-heaven.  Surely, it's OK to sit in this wonderful Box with Water!

I've tried chasing him out, even turning on the water so he gets wet.  (whereupon he just jumps to the other sink).  If I physically lift him from the sink, he will stay down, but gives me a reproachful look.  (It's a Box.  It is.  It IS!  He is SO certain he is right.)

I'm afraid I'm losing this battle.  What does it really hurt if the cat sits in the empty sink?  (I mean, Box?) 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ready, Set...

It's been a busy and hectic summer.

While the rest of the school was on break, I was in charge of making sure our servers got moved to a new home, our file shares were converted to SharePoint, that computers got cleaned and software updates loaded, and that iPads were ready to go for the incoming freshmen.

The server move, which I thought would take a week or so, turned into one of my two-hour projects.  In other words, it took WAY more time than I thought it would, both on my part and on the part of the new server company.

The good news part is that when school started this week, it was all ready to go.  mostly.  kinda-sorta.  Close enough, at any rate.

There isn't really a bad news part, except that I got very little time off over the summer, and so am starting the school year exhausted.

This is where I get grateful for that clause I insisted on when negotiating my contract where I get a month off each year.  I'm ready.

And, I'm leaving at the end of next week.  Back to the camper van, I go!  The school president is currently questioning her judgement in letting me finagle the contract clause.  She's worried about how the tech questions are going to get handled for the next month.

So am I, but not enough to not take my break.  I need it.  I really need it, if I'm not to start snapping at people for asking me stupid questions.  (Yes, all questions are stupid if I'm tired and cranky enough.)  It still seems so far away.  I have a friend who has started planning part of the trip for me, since I haven't done any planning for myself.  (I may or may not follow the portion of the path she laid out, but it's nice to have a plan to deviate from...)

Ready, Set....  soon..........

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Neighbor's Garage

Last weekend found me out in the heat painting part of the neighbor's garage.

"Why the neighbor's garage and not your own?", you ask.  "Don't you have enough to do around your own house?", you ask.

Well....  I do have plenty to do here, but.

When I look out into my back yard, the neighbor's garage serves as a backdrop for the yard.  Not that the yard is anything to look at right now, but I do hope it will be pleasing to the eye sometime in the next year.

As I looked out and planned, my eye would always get caught by the peeling paint on the neighbor's garage.  I didn't like it.  Now, they keep their house in good shape, but the garage is pretty rough.  I think that because they don't have to look at it, they didn't think to keep it up.
The back of their garage isn't that big, so I found myself tempted to just paint it myself, so I wouldn't have to see the peeling paint any longer.  I didn't think it would take that long - 4-5 hours tops.

So, one day I popped on over there and asked them if they'd mind if I painted it.  They were a little taken aback, but readily agreed to let me do the work.  (they quickly offered to buy the paint.)

I was talking to their neighbor to the south, whose backyard is also next to mine, and mentioned she might see me out there.  "Oh, my", she said.  "Do you suppose you might be able to paint my side of their garage, too?  It looks even worse than the back."  Well, Anita's been nothing but nice to me since we moved in.  She's getting a little older, and can't paint the garage herself, and she was right - her side of their garage looked awful.  So, I agreed.

Which changed the job from a 4-ish hour job to a 12-15 hour chore.

It took several days to get the work done.  It took a LOT of scraping, then I had to prime and reglaze the window before I could paint.

As I scraped, I must admit I was asking myself what the heck I was doing out there.  It's one thing to indulge my own self-interest by painting the side I have to look at, it's another to paint a side I can barely see.  It was hot.  I was sweaty.  I mulled it over.  And I decided it was high time I'd reached out and done something nice for someone just because I could.  I've been mostly just taking care of me for some time.  I think I said yes because I was overdue for some good church.

Now, I'm not much on formal religion these days - when asked, I claim to be a member of the Church of Random Kindness and Senseless Beauty.  My church isn't much on doctrine, but it does ask, when the opportunity presents itself, that you reach out in kindness to others.  The garage painting gig was a perfect opportunity to reach out.

As I reached this conclusion, Anita saw me out there working.  She came out with her ladder and a pitcher of ice water and a glass of ice.  (and refilled it after the ice melted.)  She was so grateful - she's worked hard to make her small back yard inviting, and the eyesore next door was hard to camouflage.

It's not often I get instant feedback that I've done the right thing, but there it was.  Suddenly, I didn't mind the heat and the sweat.  As Anthony De Mello wrote - I gave myself the pleasure of pleasing others.  and it felt good.

I was happy.  Anita is happy.  and, as a bonus, the garage's owners are happy.

Not bad payback for a few hours work.