Thursday, March 27, 2014

What's klutz got to do with it?

Ok, I admit it.  I am not and never will be a ballerina.

 I took a class once when I was in college, and the teacher's words are indelibly etched in my head:  "PLIE' DIANE, PLIE'!  

I know, you are wondering "how hard can that be"?  I was a failure in every sense of the word, including the definition:
Bent, bending. A bending of the knee or knees. This is an exercise to render the joints and muscles soft and pliable and the tendons flexible andelastic, and to develop a sense of balance. 

You see, I have no sense of balance.  Or, in other words, I am a bit of a klutz.  My friends and family just understand this about me.  I move fast, I don't always look before I turn or walk backwards, I drop stuff, I trip over things and fall more than anyone should.  Generally I'm a bit of a nuisance to be around.

This past week showed my true klutz colors.

First of all, we were walking downtown with friends on a beautiful Friday evening, and I ran into a parking sign.  Why it was in the middle of the sidewalk I'll never know. Generally they are right next to the curb, but Noooooooo. Not when I'm innocently walking down this sidewalk watching the sights around me.  This sign was just about waist high, and so I now have a nice vertical bruise right above my belly button.

And Gilbert had the audacity to chomp off a blossom

And lately I've had a bit of Spring Fever, meaning I want to change up the furniture and decorations around the house.  So, I added some beautiful flowers to an old crock and was placing this in front of the fireplace.  As I arranged the flowers, I would then step back to look at them.

Well, I forgot Mike's backpack was right in the middle of the floor, and I stepped on it while walking backwards.  Next thing I know, I'm falling backwards onto the floor, flat on my back.  Good thing I was by myself given the choice words that came out of my mouth.  After moving around a bit to make sure nothing was broken, I pulled myself off the floor and promptly moved (maybe threw?) that backpack to a safer place.  So far I've only developed a bruise on my hand from that fall.

And you may have heard me talk about my new iPhone.  On Saturday after lunch we were getting into the car, and I heard some words from my iPhone inside my purse.  Possibly I had pushed the SIRI button, but here's what I saw on the screen:

Now really, I did not tell SIRI "I love you".  Maybe I said "I love my iPhone", or "I love you sweetie", but I did not use those words with SIRI.  But we laughed long and hard at the answer "I value you".  Who programs this stuff anyway?  Fortunately no bruises came with this klutzy move...

So as a word of warning... if you are anywhere near me, you may want to watch your step.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Catching up with friends and family

Sunset and clouds
It has definitely been the "winter of our discontent" to quote Shakespeare.   Like many others across the country, we have been plagued this winter by very cold temperatures and too much snow.  And the phrase "I'm tired of being inside" resonates with everyone.

We have been longing for warmer temperatures and a hint of Spring.  And I think we're finally getting there.  Our temps now vacillate between the teens and upper 50's, and any new snow melts within a couple of days.  Now we actually see people in the neighborhood walking and riding their bikes even though it's still a bit brisk.

And after this long hibernation period of curling up on the couch at night with a blanket and a book or TV show, people are finally ready to socialize again.  And so we've been busy catching up with friends and family...

Thursday my brother Gary and sister-in-law Peggy were in town for the Big Ten Basketball Tournament.  They are huge basketball fans, and had a great time despite losses by Indiana University and Purdue.  Mike and I met up with them for dinner at one of our favorite places in Broad Ripple, Twenty Tap.  They spent the night at our house and headed back home on Friday morning.

I then met up with my friend Elena on Friday for lunch and shopping.  We enjoyed getting caught up on work and hobbies and vacation plans.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, and the downtown area was all hustle and bustle, which I hadn't seen since Christmas.

Chris and Garth during the Italian Tapas meal

And Saturday evening was an event that I will long remember.  Our friends Chris and Garth invited us and two other couples to their home for an Italian Tapas meal.  Chris is an amazing cook, and she prepared all the dishes for a 5 course meal.  As good as any meal in a fine restaurant,  here is a glimpse of the food she prepared:  antipasto, stuffed mushrooms, stuffed dates, ravioli and gnocchi.

Chuck and Melanie

And the wine...  Garth served two different Italian wines with each course, which were paired perfectly with the food.  We ended the dinner with a choice of pistachio liqueur or raspberry liqueur and a lovely tiramisu that Chris whipped up.

Dinner lasted for 5 hours, and we had so much savoring the food and enjoying the stories and laughing with our friends.  It was an incredible evening.

Joyce and Emma

We slept in on Sunday and then headed to lunch with my friend Joyce. She and I worked together for about 10 years in Des Moines, and she was in town to take her son back to college after Spring Break.  Over a great pizza lunch, Mike and I enjoyed talking with Joyce and getting to know her son Chad, daughter Emma and Chad's girlfriend, Hannah.

Joyce and I had a great chance to catch up a bit on how happy she is at her new job managing technology at a Des Moines Company.  She updated me on some health issues she faced last year, and I am so happy that she has recovered and is doing well.  I could have talked with her for hours, and we agreed to get together when I return to DM later this Spring.
Hannah and Chad

Kathy and Kevin

And while we were at lunch, we got a text from our friends Kevin and Kathy from Illinois asking if we had anything going on Sunday as they wanted to get together.  So we said "come on over", and we spent the evening in downtown Indy at the Slippery Noodle enjoying a great meal and music by one of our favorite guitar players, Chris Shaffer.

And by Monday morning, I was EXHAUSTED but smiling at the events of the past several days.  Rarely is there so much going on, but we loved visiting with our peeps...

Surely signs of Spring are in the air...


Monday, March 17, 2014

Missing my old job...

Sunset on Friday evening
Imagine my surprise last Friday.  I was having lunch in downtown Indianapolis with a friend, and I was feeling quite proud of myself for my first drive downtown BY MYSELF.  

My friend is a project manager for a large company in town, and we began to talk about her latest project.  Wow!  It was like finding someone who speaks your native language after spending a long time in a foreign country.  In my own world of engineers, scientists and professors, I finally found someone who could speak project management.

As my friend described her current project,  I mentally travelled back to my job as a Project and Program Manager.  I remembered all the activities she discussed: meeting with sponsors and key stakeholders, managing project scope, holding project kickoff meetings, deciding when to push an issue when the team is in a "group think" mode, and learning whom you can trust.    

We talked about how to deliver tough messages, how to handle the people who try to derail a project, and when you demonstrate strong leadership vs. blending into the team.  My friend talked about the challenges and rewards of this role, and I realized I missed Project Management.

Holy cow!  Who saw that coming?  I was shocked to say the least.  Here I am enjoying my third year of retirement and my total freedom from a work schedule, when I started wistfully thinking about finding a project manager job.  And in the very next second I realized an intervention was necessary to help me escape that notion of joining the working world.

Ok, I haven't dusted off my resume or applied for any jobs.  But I've been giving more thought to working again as a project manager.  I don't know if that makes sense for me or not, but I'm no longer saying "I don't miss working at all"...


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Volunteering at the Food Pantry

We take for granted that we can go to the grocery and buy the groceries we need.  On Saturday we got to experience first hand some people who aren't so fortunate.

Yesterday Mike and I volunteered at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry.  Our church volunteers once a month, and we decided to participate. We arrived at the Food Pantry at 8 A.M. ready to work.  When we walked in the front door, I was amazed at the crowd of people seated in the waiting area.  Upon checking in, each person is given a ticket with a number, and they wait in this area until their number is called.

The shopping area was set up in a large "U" shape, and it was filled with produce, dry goods, meat, eggs, frozen foods, bread, milk and canned goods. Each item "costs" a specific number of points, and the client selects the items they want until they have used up their points for the week.  The place was buzzing with activity with folks shopping and volunteers replenishing the supply.  The attitude was upbeat with the shoppers smiling and conversing and the volunteers answering questions.

We were introduced to Don, who showed us the volunteer sign in set us up with name tags.  He took us to the supply area where bulk items were delivered including produce, eggs and frozen foods. These food donations came from Food Banks, the USDA Commodity Program, Kroger, Colonial, local food drives and discounted purchases from other vendors.

Mike started tearing down boxes, and I donned my gloves and began packaging squash into individual plastic bags.  These bags were added to the produce cart which was quickly moved to the shopping area.

I then moved into the egg packing area. There was a pallet of egg boxes, and our job was to repackage these eggs into the egg cartons that held 12 eggs each.  I have never seen so many eggs in my entire life.  I wish I had counted them, but I estimate that four volunteers, including me, packaged hundreds of dozens of eggs.  This was the first time the food pantry had eggs available in about a month, and the clients eagerly put them into their carts.

Next I moved to potatoes.  Basically we took 40 pound bags of potatoes and repackaged them into individual plastic bags.  This wasn't a difficult task, but I never did get used to finding and removing the occasional rotting potato.  I was definitely happy to be wearing my latex gloves.

Next we opened boxes of frozen foods including potatoes, bread, tortillas, mashed potatoes, vegetables and pastry.  Our job was to make sure the packaging was intact, and then to move the packages into a huge walk-in freezer.  Although we could not use opened or torn bags in the food pantry, the food did not go to waste as a local farmer picked up the food for his hogs.  Somehow I have a great visual of some hogs happily munching on french fries yesterday...

And the most unusual food of the day was Brazil nuts.  We repackaged three 50 pound bags of nuts into smaller individual bags. And let me tell you that 150 pounds of Brazil nuts is a lot of nuts!

I used a shopping cart to move some of these individual bags to the shopping area, and I made a small cardboard label so people knew what they were.  I smiled when one guy excitedly asked "are these Brazil nuts?", and another man asked if they were chocolate pieces.  I also saw people pick them up and look at them strangely and return them to the bin.  Possibly an acquired taste...

By noon we were tired and sore from all this standing, lifting and packaging.  We had met some great volunteers, and we felt like we were part of something bigger than ourselves.  We helped get food to people who really needed it.  And as we walked to our car, a client who was unchaining her bike from a street sign, said "Thank you for volunteering and God Bless".  And I know we had smiles on our faces the rest of the day...