Monday, December 24, 2007

Rest in Peace (Cheshirekitty speaks)

Yesterday, my mother, Patricia Leach, died at age 77 from complications from metastatic cancer. She had only been diagnosed three weeks before that, as the result of an arm fracture that did not heal. Had the doctors noted the small tumor that had caused the fracture three months ago, this story might have been somewhat different, but her lifespan may not have been prolonged by much, given the spread of the cancer at the time of detection.

My mother would have liked to have been well for Christmas, I think. Christmas was always one of her favorite holidays, and even though she could not decorate this year, my dad decked the halls for her. She had planned on wearing a grey robe with some of her favorite vintage Christmas pins on it. Her last words to my husband and I in the hospital were, "You go and enjoy yourselves."

Mom liked to refer to herself as a magpie, given her penchant for collecting pretty things -- vintage jewelry, small metal jewelry boxes, Art Nouveau busts, antique furniture. She and I bonded over fantasy art and cooking. She had overcome being the child of an indifferent cook by collecting an extensive repertoire of cookbooks and experimenting with recipes -- often more exotic than her upbringing had dictated. On the other hand, her family recipe for pineapple upside-down cake, made in a skillet, was one of her favorites.

I always admired my mother's ability to talk to just about anyone. She worked as an assistant personal tax assessor, desk clerk, and Census Bureau interviewer over her lifetime, and her skill of connecting to people served her well. She gave me her secret to this talent years ago: "Remember that you have something to learn from everyone you meet, whether it be a janitor or a politician." She once asked for a hug from Jeff Smith (the Frugal Gourmet) upon running into him on a Chicago street.

Mom could not be described as a tranquil person. She was at times flamboyant, at times frustrating, but never lukewarm. She sometimes had trouble moderating her emotions, as if there was just too many of them to bear. However, in the last couple weeks of her life, she had resolved her conflicts with the religion of her childhood and had exhibited a rare serenity. As it turns out, she had simply tackled the business of dying with as much impatience and drive as she had approached her hobbies and artistic endeavors throughout life. Mom never liked to be a beginner at anything.

Rest in Peace, Mom. If there is a Heaven, you are now decorating a corner of it with great aplomb, and none of the ravages of age are in your way.

My mother's obituary can be found here.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Quiet Saturday

Been a quiet Saturday here this weekend:

1. Earlier this afternoon, we watched the NCAA Division II playoffs, where once again, the Bearcats struck out. Great season, but we were just outplayed. Oh well, there's always next year. And as my wife pointed out, as much as we love our Bearcats, "it's just a game".

2. With both the exterior and interior work done on the house following the drunk driver incident, we were finally able to put the living room to rights and also put up the living room Christmas tree (aka, the "kitty tree", since it has kitty-themed ornaments). We also put up our stockings (not by the fireplace, since we don't have one of those). However, "hung from the bookcase with care" is pretty close though, and we also put up the "Leon" from last year ... pictures later.

3. The "light snow" they were predicting for today came and stayed ... rather than 1 or 2 inches as forecast, instead we got about 5-6 inches. Winter wonderland, hah! Fortunately, we're snug and toasty indoors, with the base for another round of scratch chicken noodle soup cooking in the Crockpot.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Holding Out Despite the Weather ... And a Few Random Notes

Hi all,

Since the last post, we're surviving nicely through the ice storm and now the snowfall of this weekend. Given that we only lost power on Tuesday morning, we are counting ourselves very fortunate, given the number of people here in town or who live out in the country who are still without power. Since we have power, we're actually helping our next door neighbor out by keeping their deep freeze running (with a very long extension cord run across the street, which until earlier this afternoon, had been blocked off due to the telephone pole shown in the last post). Fortunately, the city came by, pulled the old pole, and reset a new one. However, they didn't re-attach our phone wire ... we're waiting on that from Embarq, and that may take weeks.

The cleanup around town is beginning; a lot of trees were damaged, including ones on campus (which is significant because the campus also doubles as the state arboretum), and our backyard is full of fallen limbs (none of which hit the garage ... darn!). Odds are, we're going to have to hire somebody to chainsaw the debris and load it onto a trailer to take to a collection site ... we're holding off on that until we can find someone who will charge a reasonable fee: the last person we checked with was charging $200.00 a trailerload. We hope that after a week or so, prices will go down.

I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that my web browser stays open so I can finish this post. I recently upgraded to Firefox 2.0.11, and while Firefox has usually been a stable browser in the past, 2.0.11 seems to want to crash if I even sneeze wrong. Not sure what's up, but it's almost making me want to go back to using IE7 (and if anything, that should tell you how serious the problem is, since I swore off using IE years ago due to pop-up and malware vulnerabilities).

Come on, Mozilla ... you've had a good product, but this one appears to be a stinker. Get it fixed!

EDIT: The Embarq guys showed up Sat. morning to finish redoing the pole. And we were without power for about 20 minutes while the Aquila crews restored power to the rest of the neighborhood.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sure Enough ....

Sure enough, the storm did hit, and we lost power right at 6:00. By 8:00, we had branches down. By 9:00, we had a telephone pole down and hanging over Edwards against the phone wires on the other side of the street. By 11:00, we were down to just my Treo to connect us with the outside world; our Internet service was out with the power and Lauren's cell service was out as well. Fortunately, the power came back after lunch, so I've been able to do some work apart from reviewing CBT notes for work.

Pics are above: the first two are of the back yard and show the downed branches and the telephone pole. The third is of the front showing the ice coating.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Coming to a Standstill (aka, Snow Day!)

Tomorrow's going to be a first: both Lauren and I are going to be working from home tomorrow. Due to the upcoming severe weather (possible winter storm, possible ice storm), the administration closed the campus during the day - the first time Lauren can recall this happening, and she's been here for 10 years - and adjusted the finals schedule, while I will forsake the drive in to KC and work from the warmth of indoors.

Fortunately, we're well-stocked on food, we have plenty of flashlights and candles, and both our auxiliary heater and stove are gas-powered, so even if the power goes out, we'll be okay for the short-term. We might be a little bored without Internet access or access to media (though now that I think about it, we will have both iPods, the laptops while on battery which we could use to play DVDs and CDs with, and we'll also have our smartphones for Internet access ... we're covered), but we could also catch up on our reading, too. And if for some reason we really desperately need to go outside, we have matching sets of snowshoes to strap on.

However, all told, I think staying indoors will be the order of the day tomorrow. Supposedly, the interior contractor is supposed to be here tomorrow as well to start the drywall repairs from last month ... we'll be amazed if he even shows up, given the weather.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Endings and Beginnings

Today was one of those days marking endings and beginnings:

On the plus side for beginnings, the contractor has promised to finally start work on the exterior of the house next week. We hope that the interior gets worked on next week, too.

Also, today marked the end of my formal role-training at work and the beginning of my actual work without having my role coach looking over my shoulder. Now I just have to make sure I'm ready for it.

The next one marks an ending ... but also a beginning as well. We learned today that our minister, Pastor Mike Kyle, will be leaving our church for a new position near West Plains, MO. It's a little bittersweet because of the reason for the move (in part to make a long-distance relationship a little bit shorter), but we hope that the people in West Plains appreciate that they are getting a wonderful minister ... and it's our loss. Still, we have heard that there is a tradition of good ministers coming to our tiny rural Episcopal church; we hope that the tradition continues and brings with it a new beginning as well.