Saturday, December 13, 2008

What We've Been Up To...

Sorry to have taken so long - been really, really busy. And just when I thought things were tough enough (microeconomics and all), in came the weather...

So, typical of our optimism - we didn't just see really labor intensive tree work or total destruction - we see firewood for the next three seasons and art! And, while we could be feeling sorry for ourselves because we have no power, water, heat or hopes of regaining any of that for several days, instead we're enjoying the opportunity to take our traumatized pets, Cassidy and Kesey for a 4-hour drive in small cages to Cape Cod, which they don't know is beautiful, but rather just smells wrong to them and they don't know where their stuff is. So here we are on beautiful Cape Cod, (Hi Fred!) where we have heat, electricity and lights, so I can cram for my above-mentioned microeconomics final exam on Tuesday. I don't even mind that I will have to get up in the middle of the night on Monday morning to return our traumatized pets to our freezing cold house four hours away so I can then drive another hour to UMass to review for the final. I'm grateful. Really, I am. Many of our neighbors are staying at the fire station in town (and don't forget to ask Jeff about his adventure helping out at the fire station on Friday). We are truly privileged to have this place to come to. Yes, those are our crabapples and yes, those are individual blades of grass that were frozen one little layer of ice at a time. For a little perspective, this is what my camera saw just a few weeks ago...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Making History

This is the most hopeful I've felt in 8 years - just the fact that anyone else will be President is a good start, but that a smart, thoughtful, reasoned Democrat (who happens to be a black man) is about to win in a landslide, now that's what I'm talkin' about! I know I'm getting ahead just a bit, but if Dixville Notch is any indication, history will be made today.

Heard the election night preparations on the radio today. The McCain campaign has the upscale Biltmore Resort (chosen for its inaccessibility) planners worrying about having enough champagne, while Obama is having his party outdoors, in a park, setting up a gimongous screen so as many as can fit can be part of the celebration. There's the contrast right there.

I think maybe the Republican party has revealed itself to be its greedy, mean-spirited, closed-minded self and the citizens have finally had enough. God Bless America. I think we're getting our country back.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Things That Make Me Happy

Made an early-morning trek through the grocery store today and the background music was playing Jim Boggia's "Listening to NRBQ" Such a wonderful song that so captures how special that band is. Nice way to start the day. Been humming it ever since.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Signs of the Apocolypse

It snowed today. With snowplows and everything. It's October.

A black man is about to be elected President of the United States.

I'm a little bit understanding microeconomics.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Good Manners

So I spent the day on campus - the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to be exact. It's rare that I have an entire day to hang out and work on stuff - usually I just run to campus to go to a class or go to the library. I really like that I can see classmates who are here during the day and get more acquainted with the workings of the program I'm in - being a part-time student means you miss a lot.

Here's what I'm o.k. about missing - undergraduates napping the hallways, messy (really messy) bathrooms, sloppy tabletops in the dining halls and male undergraduates who spit all the time. Seriously - where do the manners go?

On the way home from the Cape last weekend, I heard an interview with a woman who just wrote a biography about Emily Post. I know that the perception is that she was all about which fork to use, but I was so impressed to hear that she was really all about manners being more about how you make others feel. A smile to welcome someone, holding the door open, sitting up straight. It's not at all pretentious - it's gracious.

Rumor has it that we're in a recession - that means that jobs will become scarce and new college grads will have some stiff competition for good jobs. Maybe someone who learned something from Ms. Post might have an edge over the slob who doesn't flush...

Anyway - here in the lovely, gracious Berkshires, fall has arrived and I'm inspired by the golden yellow leaves all over the yard and the nip in the air. Even made Butternut Squash and Apple Soup this weekend. It was the least I could do for my wonderful husband who raked acres of the aforementioned leaves... Forecast calls for snow showers tomorrow night!

Our life here is nearly perfect and very gracious ~ And I'm sitting up straight as I type.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


So after a *minor* homework meltdown on Sunday (yep - tears and all), Jeff and I took a walk on the beach. The Brewster bayside beaches are lovely and the tide was going out, revealing, I dunno, a hundred yards or so of the Brewster Flats.

So not long into our walk, I had forgotten about microeconomics entirely, and my attention was drawn to the really neat stuff - like the pearly-golden seashells and the snails dragging themselves along the ridges of sculpted sand. It seems each time I'm there I see something I've never seen before and I get lost in the magic.

What really got my attention, though, was this large tuft of seagrass - like a little island pretty far offshore. Jeff and I took a closer look and it was clear that it's far enough out that when the tide comes in, this grass must become submerged. Still it survives and thrives.

I couldn't help but draw inspiration - wouldn't it be nice if I could be more like that? I'd like to learn to thrive, even when I feel like I'm drowning. Then come through it all tall and strong...

Friday, October 3, 2008


I'm here, on the Cape, taking a break from homework.

It's different - all of it. Being here alone, being here when it's not summer anymore. I could be at home - doing just what I'm doing now. It's probably the same temperature (maybe a little cooler), probably breezy, (maybe not as much as the Cape today). I wonder what made me want to drive all this way?

I stopped at the grocery store in Orleans, then the wine store in Brewster on my way home last evening. It's a small town now, with the weather changing and the vacationers gone home. Clerks are chatty - I guess they assume I live here too. It's nice that it's all getting familiar.

It's beautiful here - the breeze, the ocean nearby. It's beautiful at home in the Berkshires, too. The leaves are changing and the sky is really blue in the mornings. It's getting to be snuggle weather - we'll be having a fire in the fireplace soon.

It's pretty special - being able to be homesick for both places.

Now if it weren't for this microeconomics stuff I'm supposed to be learning... Did you know that people use really dumb criteria to make buying decisions (see Rational Choice Models). Probably no beach for me today.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's not every day

So I met this really interesting person the other day.

I was helping my work-friend, Jenny, who is a recruiter (employment kind, not army kind). She asked me to do a first interview with a candidate for employment, because his application showed he was from India and she's not particularly culturally-diverse-comfortable, so wanted me to meet with him first. She thinks I'm more patient with accents.

This man wasn't applying for any position in particular - he knows he has a language barrier, so he's looking for any job that would have him. So I asked him the most open-ended job related question I know: what kind of work do you really like to do? In a zillion years I would never had been prepared for the answer.

This kind gentleman asked me how much time I had to meet with him. When I invited him to take as long as he liked, he began to explain to me his lifelong goal - he wants to create a worldwide organization to, as he put it, "spread humanism all around the world." He drew the organizational chart for me -explaining the three types of help (physical help, financial help and knowledge help), and how he intended to get all this to happen. He then explained that he comes from a family that thinks his goal means he is lazy and doesn't want to do real work, so he'd like to work for our housekeeping department, please.

As we ended our meeting, he thanked me graciously for listening to him and told me that, whether we offered him employment or not, I should feel welcome to stay in touch with him, in case I ever needed help from him.

I'm glad Jenny asked me to cover this one for her. She might have thought he was nuts. It's possible that he is a little... but he's going to be great for our organization. He starts Monday.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


So you know how the planets line up sometimes and point us to something wonderful? Here's todays wonderful thing (but there's a bunch of stuff leading up to it - bear with me):

A dozen years ago, we met Fred because of NRBQ and he introduced us to The Chandler Travis Philharmonic and gave us our first recording of the Incredible Casuals at the Wellfleet Beachcomber. Ok, so fast forward a bunch of years to last summer, when we saw signs around Wellfleet about praying for Caleb Potter and I searched the internet to try to find out what that was about and discovered Susan's blog and coincidentally, Susan is a friend of Fred's. Still with me? So Susan also blogs for the beachcomber and recently posted about this bridge in Wellfleet that was going to be torn down and rebuilt.

So, remember when I told you about buying this really cool condo (except that it's in a gated community and I have a hang up about that). Anyway, when we met the seller at the closing in May (she was really super nice) and she told us a bit about our neighbors and mentioned Mike who lives downstairs. When we were moving in, Mike offered to help us carry stuff and mentioned this neat thrift shop in Orleans that has furniture and said we might find bargains there. Still hanging in? O.k. so we're still furnishing and decorating our new place and today, I went into that thrift shop on a whim and found this beautiful photo, all wrapped and matted, of the very same Uncle Tim's bridge in Wellfleet, taken by the "Wellfleetian" fisherman and photographer Walter Baron. Clearly, I was meant to have this picture, especially because I had no reason to even know what Uncle Tim's bridge is if it hadn't been for these wonderful people I've been introduced to, plus it had been marked down twice and was truly a bargain. Here's the icing on the whole thing - Jeff mentioned (a couple of times this week) that it would be nice if we had a wine rack, preferably a black wrought iron one (there's a lot of wrought iron in the condo) and they also had one of those for ten bucks.

All of this leads me to feel very blessed - not just by the bargain, but all it represents. It came to us by way of a lot of good fortune, wonderful people, exceptional musicians who bring us joy, and a little help from the planets. I will treasure it all and, I hope, never take it for granted.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Math Challenged

So I only had five things in my list of six things about myself...
Thank you to those polite enough to not point that out (my husband was not one of you).

And to think I'm expected to take graduate-level microeconomics in a few weeks. This could be a problem.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I've Been Meme'd

I hate chain things, but I love the person who did this to me. (Fred!) So, a compromise.

Here are six random things about me:

  • I remember the words to almost every song I've ever heard (but somehow can't remember important stuff, like the date the Declaration of Independence was signed or statistics formulas)
  • My second toe on each foot is longer than my big toe, which my mother told me is a sign of intelligence (flawed theory - see above)
  • Sometimes when I bake a really good pie, and people think I made the crust too, I don't correct them
  • Victoria Principal and I went to the same high school (though not at the same time; she's much older than I am)
  • I have a past...
So the rules for this meme business are:

  • Link to the person who tagged you.
  • Post the rules on your blog.
  • Write six random things about yourself.
  • Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
  • Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.
  • Let your tagger know when your blog entry is up.
I don't like rules, but I like messing with people. Plus, I don't know six other people with blogs, except the people already tagged in this chain-meme-thing. So the one person who has yet to be tagged, and whose six random things I'd really like to know is:

You're it!
Love, Lis

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


So I was reading a comment my friend Fred posted on someone else's blog today and I felt bad because he said he would have a hard time finding six other people's blogs to refer to in his post (it's a complicated scenario - this is the best I can do).

So, I've decided to recommit myself to my blog. Just in case.

Here's today's theme: Being mean.

I work in healthcare and my job involves helping our employees feel good about their job. Here's all the ways working in the healthcare industry makes people not feel good:
  • Low pay for people who work really hard
  • A culture that allows (encourages, rewards) being mean to those above
  • Patients who are sick or aging and don't feel well that are in a place they'd rather not be
  • Family members who have unrealistic expectations and voice their complaints in unkind ways
  • Family members who are truly grateful and recognize good care but keep it to themselves
O.k., there are others, but that's a good start.

I'm constantly amazed at the lengths people will go to when trying to make others feel bad. We really have belligerent people to deal with throughout our day and I just don't understand why people want to use up all that energy in such a harmful way. And to make it worse, the common language I hear at work involves phrases like "eat their young" and "throw under the bus" and we all act like that's normal.

Here's my commitment (besides promising to post in my blog more often) - I'm never going to let all that junk be normal. I'm swimming upstream as hard as I can and confronting the mean people and celebrating those wonderful, kind, gentle souls who make a marginal living in service to others. People who help people for a living are not treated like rock stars, but they should be. They make a greater contribution. If you know anyone who is a helper, say something nice to them - no one else probably has today. And expand that out: overtip your waitress, send some chocolates to your kids' teacher, change your mind about your presumptions of people who don't choose money as their first consideration in their career. And just be kind. Give people the benefit of the doubt.

O.k. - that's the sermon for today. I'll be back to my smart-ass self tomorrow.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Life Lessons

So, smart people learn from their mistakes and really smart people learn from other people's mistakes.

My friend and co-worker lost his job yesterday and I saw it coming. For about two years.
My job is to help people be successful in their jobs, but I'm not anyone's boss, so my influence has to be subtle. Subtle didn't work with my friend. I was supportive, coached, suggested, occasionally became cross, but I didn't get the chance to tell him if he didn't get his stuff together, he'd be fired. Then he was.

I couldn't help but reflect on my own mistakes - it was so familiar watching his self-destruction. We're a lot alike, he and I - and even shared the same birthday. He worked for my company for a really long time - clearly too long - and he knew his strengths, but refused to work on his weaknesses. I think in the back of his mind, he believed that if he just didn't do a good job on certain tasks, they would be reassigned and he wouldn't have to do them anymore. He acted like a victim, got lazy, had righteous indignation and didn't believe it would happen.

So what is this about us, that we do this to ourselves. I have an amazing capacity for convincing myself I'm right when I'm wrong (though I'm working on being better about that) and my friend did too. But what he didn't do was face his challenges and deal with them. He would rather duck and cover rather than confront someone face-to-face and he risked and lost his job because of it.

I want to learn something from this. I wanted to be a better support to him, but he needed to decide for himself. I want to learn to be brave and confront challenges even when my whole body resists. I usually know what the right thing is - but I don't always make myself do it. I want to. And I want my friend to, too.

He's not returning my phone call -
I so hope he does.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Having Stuff

So this whole buying a condo thing has taken over our life - thinking, dreaming, shopping... Especially shopping.
While I've acknowledged being uncomfortable with the whole flaunting-our-own-privilege aspect of buying a vacation property, it hasn't inhibited my desire for nice stuff to go in it. In all fairness, the stuff is all being bought at discount stores, but we're really determined to have the really nice sheets and stemmed glasses in every shape imaginable.
Got Jeff to shop today, but only because it involved a large flat-screen tv (I sprung for a new really wide ironing board which I'm embarrassed to say makes me very happy). The big problem will be how to fit all the stuff in one car when we drive to the Cape for the closing on Friday.
Still - we're so looking forward to being so close to the ocean and having a place to just be still - we can't do that so much at home because there's always yardwork, laundry, dust, clutter, etc. I guess driving three hours to our other house somehow excuses us from that responsibility.
Our friends keep telling us we deserve it.
It is awfully nice to have spring finally here and the perfume of the lilacs in our front yard. We'll soon have the most wonderful balance between the beautiful views of the Berkshire Hills and an escape to the ocean surf and salt-kissed air. We are blessed.
We are blessed indeed.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Life Lessons: A Reflection For Mother's Day

I haven't blogged in a while. I tell myself I don't have time, which is mostly true, but sometimes I have trouble with inspiration. I still don't have time today, but am feeling a little inspired nevertheless.

In the past week, in different contexts, I've witnessed or heard about instances of people "checking out" of responsibilities. As if that's an option. The first two were at work, when I was contacted by people who didn't want to come to work because they were experiencing life stressors and felt that one shouldn't be expected to come to work when one is "stressed out." The third was when a classmate who is trying to finish her thesis in the last days before graduation is trying to keep her head from exploding because her roommate is too "stressed out" to manage any responsibility whatsoever including doing dishes, dealing with the landlord to get out of their lease in time to save $3000.00 or reserving a moving truck (in the western Massachusetts 5-college area where approximately seven million people graduate from college and have to move out of their dorms or apartments on precisely the same Saturday) so they can move out of their apartment when they do deal with said landlord. The roommate also almost set the apartment on fire because she put on the tea water to boil then took a shower. This is a graduate student who will soon be in charge of something expensive in the world.

Which brings me to Mother's Day. I lost my mom in 2001 and miss her very much, almost every day. Mostly I miss the completely unconditional adoration my mother showed me. She made me believe I could do anything, that I was brilliant and beautiful and the world was lucky to have me. She also taught me completely dysfunctional ways of being - in the if-you-never-talk-about-it-it-never-happened kind of way. I've made some unbelievably huge mistakes in my life and, while I take full responsibility for the complete dope I can be sometimes, I sometimes wonder why I didn't turn out worse, given my upbringing.

But "checking out" was never an option - my mother faced incredible struggles and if anyone were to describe her today, the first word they would use would probably be "strong." She was incredibly resilient and, though very flawed, raised four daughters and taught us that it was more important to be smart than almost anything else. She believed in love, but didn't want us to rely on that for our survival. She told me that she loved the man who would become my husband, and trusted him, because of the way he looked at me. But she also encouraged me to be self-sufficient and get an education in case that wonderful, trustworthy man thing didn't work out.

So I want her to know that I'm doing o.k. The husband thing has worked out - she was right to love and trust him. I am blessed to have him. I have a job that I love and feel like I make a contribution, while I am surrounded by young employees who don't come to work when it's too hard. It's my job to share with them some of what I was taught and convince them that they're stronger and more resilient than they think and that while they would probably rather take the weekend off and sulk about life's unfairness, they'll feel better about themselves if they gather themselves together and get through the day productively. She would be very pleased (a little understatement) that I got into grad school, but she would be telling me on the phone right about now that I sound really tired and when finals are over she'll take me out to lunch and buy me earrings. She would be cheerleading and bragging and giving my husband credit for propping me up. She would tell me she's so proud.

So, Mom, I'm doing just fine. I'm a little tired, and sometimes a little scared. You'd be proud. And I learned it from you.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Being Grownup and Girl Scout Cookies

So, I started a blog then stopped thinking interesting things.

Not really - just got distracted a bit. See, my life is full of a lot of stuff, normally, then when you throw in more stuff, I get entirely out of whack. That's what's happening now.

In the normal life, I work 5 days a week at my job, which I love, then I throw in a commitment I made (for reasons I don't remember today) to pursue a graduate degree. Mostly manageable, as long as I reconcile myself to not ironing exactly everything I wear and having no downtime, except while I'm driving the seven thousand miles a week I drive between work, home and school.

Here's the wrinkle. My husband and I (again, for reasons I can't quite grasp right now) have decided to purchase a second home, a vacation property, an investment, a - what's another term for we're middle aged, bourgeois, privileged - whatever - people -we're -not. It's on Cape Cod, it's in a "resort community" with a gate and all.

So, we have found ourselves in this position - and I'm still fretting about getting my homework done, wondering if I have any clean underwear for work tomorrow and sitting on the couch really enjoying holding the Thin Mints in my mouth long enough for them to get a little soggy, which is when they're most delicious. I also this week negotiated the sale terms of the condo, have two banks competing to offer us the lowest interest rate, hired a lawyer, defended my company at an unemployment hearing, taught a workshop and dazzled my boss by recognizing when he used a mu-bar symbol when discussing customer survey results at a meeting of high-level managers.

I think I'm feeling a bit tugged between the reality of being a grown up and resisting the responsibility.

Having another cookie now. The rest will have to wait until tomorrow.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Barriers to success...

No wonder I can't get my homework done...