10 May 2017

Dia duit ó GARF.

Almost TOO Irish, that.

Go raibh míle maith agat to Chris Heffron (of the Southern Travel Guide) for this great shot from last Sunday afternoon. While hopping from shade spot to shade spot, Bryn and Anne and Bo and I ran into one of our dear friends from the GARF cast, Andy (aka Irish or Jordan Hale) as he was waiting to be able to spend a bit of time with his lady-love (who also works at GARF). Andy is just one of many cast members who have made us feel at home and part of the family at GARF this year (and in years past), and we can't thank him (and them) enough.

It's funny, it's like we are almost too Irish here and Bryn is trying to make a break for it. My sweet girl...she didn't have the best weekend this time around, adding stealing a sandwich off a table and trying to abscond with a turkey leg to her list of accomplishments this season. I hope that my renewed enthusiasm for this faire will bleed over to her, but I know that I am causing some of her frustration when I expect her to do bad things before she does them. She is still roaring at the horses during the joust and wagging her tail when her favourite princess says her name, so I think she is still my Rennie Hound. Dia linn, for the rest of the run, I say. Dia linn.

09 May 2017

Lights at the Ends of Various Tunnels

Me and my girl at GARF,
photo courtesy of the Southern Travel Guide
Yeah, the last post was pretty grim, and if I'm honest, the work situation (that I still can't talk about) hasn't gotten any better, but there have been bright spots and that's what we are going to focus on in THIS post.

One of them is featured in the photo: The Georgia Renaissance Festival. Now, this is not a new thing, not by a longshot, but apparently, the fourteenth year is the charm, hoopskirt issue notwithstanding. I have made friends at GARF in the past, cast members and vendors and directors and the like, but this year just feels different. I feel at home in "Newcastle" in a way I have yet to feel at home in "Fairhaven" after fifteen years in what we refer to as the Northern Kingdom.

What has changed? Me? Having Bryn? I don't know. But this past weekend, I was able to play, really play, with both the cast and with my partner in crime, Lucy to my Ethel, and the only other member of HOEF that does more than one or two weekends at GARF, Anne. Perhaps it is the beautiful friendship that has formed between her Bo and my Bryn. Perhaps it is Anne's extrovert that brings my introvert along, often kicking and screaming, to get to know the cast.

Whatever it is, I am profoundly sad on days that I have to miss attending GARF, even though it means a 5 am start every Saturday and a late afternoon arrival back home, dirty and sweaty and hot every Sunday between the middle of April and the first weekend in June. I long to be in the lanes, even though that means pulling turkey tendons out of Bryn's mouth and replacing steak sandwiches that she snatches in the blink of an eye. I dream of the joust, and of watching with pride as Bryn thumps her tail when her favorite princess rides by, upside down in her saddle, even though I'm fighting the reflection of the sun off the light colored sand which is swirling about in my eyes and nose.

I'm hoping that this feeling of Rennie family will continue into the fall when I am again with my HOEF family in the dog barn on the eastern side of Fairhaven, and that we can project the kind of skilled performance that we are learning at GARF into our wonderfully laid back home at the Enchanted Chalice in Greenville, SC. Vikings ahoy!

I did say tunnels in the title, didn't I? While GARF is the light at the end of one tunnel, the fact that I only have four days left until my summer break is certainly another. But that tunnel is not quite as bright because I will have several months of empty coffee meetings to look forward to without Daisy. While it hasn't been easy without her, it has been easier because I've had work to distract me. Without my daily commute to Clemson, I am going to have to face what our reality looks like now; no queen on the end of my bed, huffing because I've rearranged my legs and accidentally knocked her about. No beautiful blonde/red fawn fur glimmering in the green grass of the back yard as she sunbathes. No teeth chattering in my ear.

But you see that muppet in the picture with me? She is a light of her own, and she and Willow are there to distract me when they can and snuggle with me when they can't. Their light comes to find me in my tunnel and shines into the darkness to remind me to keep moving forward.

Finally, there is light at the end of the Superginormous Manuscript tunnel...book one in the three book series that it has become is almost ready to go to Amazon, and that is both exciting and horrifying. I took the first Camp Nanowrimo to edit the second book, and am not working on editing/fleshing out the third in between expense reports and mad garb sewing/laundering. So all in all, my life has far more light than dark. I just need to be able to remember that and hang on to it...and keep moving.

16 March 2017

When too much is too much...

My Allen Face...or annoyed face.
We all have breaking points. Some of us have higher pain (emotional and physical) thresholds than others of us. Some people thrive on deadlines and last minute pressure, other people fold in the face of increased intensity.

I'm not sure which one of those categories best suits me. In reality, I think that it fluctuates, as I'm sure it does for most people. But right now I am feeling close to the edge of my patience, my sanity, and my ability to interact with others in any way other than with anger, and y'all, that just isn't me.

2017 has been rough so far. It started out way back in 2016 with losing Daisy. I have joked since she came into my life that when I lost her I'd have to be hospitalized because I would lose such a big part of my own soul there wouldn't be much left.

And then it happened and it was terrible and awful and my heart hurt then and hurts now every time I think of her or see her face come up in my FB timeline. I want to simultaneously carry a copy An American Greyhound in Yorkshire around with me all the time, and rip the book to shreds because I can't stand to see her eyes staring out from the front of it. My rational mind reminds me that all dog lovers and pet parents go through this when their animals depart this life, but my heart screams into its own vacuum that it was too soon or not fair or my fault, and that I will never ever let myself be hurt like that again.

I said that after Clowny, and Mills, and Jeany, and Hunky, and Profile, and Franny, and Zooey, and Lizzard, and Bo...and Buffy...and Midgit...and I always do, over and over.

So  I started my new semester on the back foot due to that familiar upturned beehive that is my brain and things were not any better at work. I am not able nor willing to go into details here (or anywhere, really), but vicarious trauma is real, y'all.  It leads to weird things like physical pain, memory loss, insomnia and at the very least, irritability. Next week is our spring break and I will only be down here once for a meeting...and it's like a reward, dessert at the end of a meal of nothing but olives and asparagus. I'm hoping to get my head on straight again during those 5 very short days of doing almost nothing.

But then again, those are five days that start with coffee meetings without Daisy, so I'm not holding my breath.

You're my back bone.
You're my cornerstone.
You're my crutch when my legs stop moving.
You're my head start.
You're my rugged heart.
You're the pulse that I've always needed.
Like a drum, baby, don't stop beating.
Like a drum, baby, don't stop beating.
Like a drum, baby, don't stop beating.
Like a drum, my heart never stops beating...
For you, for you.


(from Gone, Gone, Gone by Phillip Phillips)

07 February 2017

FTH Oopsie Daisy, 14 August 2004 - 2 December 2016

She truly was transcontinental.
You know, I'm sitting here staring at the blank screen and can't even bring myself to type the words that she's gone...and she's been gone for two months now.  I still expect to come home and hear her whistling from the bedroom, demanding that I hurry up and let her out. But the whistle has fallen silent.

I listen for her toenails on the hardwood floors and remember how, when we lived in the UK, she made no sound at all on the carpet and could sneak up on me, suddenly jamming that needle nose into my ear and exhaling. There's nothing in my ear now, no cold nose or loud exhalation of warm doggie breath. It's just silent.

I call the other two dogs by her name and they look at me, with a mixture (I think) of confusion and sadness, wondering simultaneously who I am talking to and where Daisy is. I wonder that too.  Is she with the Fab Five Plus Clowny? Are they now the Magnificent Seven? I don't get answers, though. As always, my Bridge Pack is silent.

We see things that she would have loved, go to places that made her happy, and the memories are sometimes so strong that I can smell her Frito Feet and feel her nose pressed up against my neck, as she would do to make sure of me. I think for a moment that I can hear her Snappy Jaw that should have struck fear, but didn't, not in me...but there is no snappy jaw, not anymore. Everything is silent.

She was a larger sized female for her breed, but she was Bryn's Little Big sister.  She was a good foot taller than Willow, and lorded that size over her Little Little Sister. They still run and play and I can hear their tags jangling as they bound up and down the stairs. But Daisy's tags, still on her purple dragonfly collar, remain silent.

I want a do-over.  I want more time. I want for her to not have suffered through the heart murmur and the heart disease and the Lasix. I want to take her to Ireland and to Canada. I want her to have the jacket with all the little patches from everywhere she was able to visit. All these things I want...and all she wanted was to be able to rest.  Rest well, my world traveler, my Psycho Puppy Girl, my Angel...my Mei Mei.  You earned it.  I just wish it wasn't so silent around here.

19 January 2017

Second verse, same as the...I've lost count

And yet, my lesson I have not learned.
Well, it has happened again. I have become utterly broken and tired and overwhelmed and...and...and I have decided to apply to grad school. But this time, rather than just stopping after the cursory search of programs here at Clemson and online programs at other institutions, I have actually begun filling out the application.

Okay, yeah, I've done that before too, fair enough. You have a long memory, my Lettuce readers.  But this time, there seems to be intent and follow through happening, and I've announced my intentions to the world so I have accountability when I feel ready to give up.

What? Yes, okay, FINE, I have done all of this before as Hubs so helpfully reminded me last night when I announced my intention, and by the end of that conversation I had almost talked myself out of even waiting for a response to the inquiry email I sent the department yesterday. Almost.

Just now I have saved the application because my few minutes of calm have broken out in nasty cases of barely controlled chaos as they so often do on this job. I am spinning plates and rapidly applying imaginary bursts of extinguisher to my smoldering hair.

The truth of the matter here is that I am not as confident in my interpreting skills as I was when I entered the field TOO MANY YEARS AGO TO ADMIT, so I am starting to look both at what I feel is my calling (scary prospect) and what I can do that will be a transferable skill when we move back abroad.

Oh, yes, we will be moving back abroad...where? I'm not sure (thank you Brexit), but somewhere that is decidedly NOT HERE. And that, my precious Lettuce readers, is as much of a political statement as you will see in the Lettuce these days. New Year's Resolution, that.

11 July 2016

A Monday Morning Warning, or Two.

Photo of print copy of Clobberpaws
Clobberpaws Print Proof
So it is not at all a surprise to anyone that knows me that I do not like to talk on the phone. I am much more coherent and clear in text, and I like having a record of what I've said but more importantly what has been said to me. So if you have lured me into a website that  says that in a few clicks I can get the information I want but then require my phone number, I know that you're going to ring me and you can know that I will not answer when you do.

I have two cases in point here, and to be fair, if I had just googled these two outfits ahead of time I would have seen all the negative reviews and steered clear. But I did not, so I could not, and now I'm getting landlined like there is no tomorrow (nod to Cougar Town there). So here we go. Writers (and generally others as well), beware!

The first mistake was listening to ads on the radio and television for LendingTree.com.  I mean come on, the ad on telly is like a nod to the intersection of Sesame Street and Avenue Q! Go to their website and enter your info and then you have a bounty of options to choose from for mortgages, refinances, loans, and so forth.  Sounds great!

I'll tell you what it REALLY sounds like: LANDLINED.  I hadn't even gotten all of the info rendered on my screen before our phone started ringing. After the third call in a row (I think? Might have been fourth), Hubs answered it and spent a good long while waiting for the very excited someone from QuickenLoans (I'd be wary of them as well) to stop talking so that he could try to tell her he wasn't interested right now and could we just call them back when we were, please? For the new few days, I got several calls a day (that I did not answer) and at least two emails just from QuickenLoans.  Other companies rang/emailed us as well, seemingly on repeat, even though we had made no attempt to get more information from them.

Here's the kicker...the reviews that I should have looked at first, admittedly...say that when you submit info to LendingTree.com, they immediately give your info to all the companies that even remotely suit your parameters.  Now to be fair, they do say that they ask for your phone number so that they can pass it on to the companies that could help you with your inquiry.  I just thought they would at LEAST wait until I had picked an offer "for more information," but no.  Avoid. Avoid, avoid, AVOID.

Okay, number two is the "new" self-publishing arm of Simon&Schuster publishing house.  Like other traditional publishers, S&S have made the leap to reach out to those of us that want a bit more control in our publishing process and introduced "self-publishing." They offer you a guide to self publishing once you sign up for it and give them your email address and...yep, here it is, your phone number.

Got a call this morning from "Archway Publishing," the self-publishing arm of S&S.  Only they are only Archway in name...they are, in fact, run by Author Solutions which as far as I can tell is an outdated form of a vanity press.  I didn't press on far enough to see the price list for myself, but others report charges upward of $1k to publish your book and AS is enough of a scary thing in the realm of self-publishing that I am still as of this writing looking for a way to get OFF their list.

It is easy enough to publish with Amazon's KDP and CreateSpace and their services are professional looking as is their product. Lulu.com was my first foray into self-publishing and it also offers a professional product at no cost to the author.  In my mind, the fees that they charge from each purchase are well worth what you get in the end.

So yeah, I'm ignoring my landline now...and so very thankful for caller ID.

30 March 2016

On regime change and the politics of long work weeks.

Tourists.
Tourists.
Regime change or administration change can be tricky at best. There are those mourning the change, those hungry for change, and those to whom the change will make little to no difference in daily function.  I'm not really sure which one best represents me, but I will tell you that a bit of change has made a huge difference in my motivation.

Remember the thinly veiled posts about not being valued at work, or being told that my professional development was not important, etc.? There were lots of them.  I had days where I had to blog or I'd lose my mind and, even worse, my temper.

Not anymore. Even though I am still working insane hours (some weeks in this semester, for instance, contained multiple days where I worked upwards of 10 hours...in the past that would have still equalled 37.5 but no longer), I have gained the power/kahones/whatever to say to whomever needs telling that I have worked more than my fair share and will be taking some time off, or that if the students aren't here I really don't have a need to be here.

Gone are the days of hearing second and third hand that I am lazy and need to be given work to keep me busy.  Adios to the insinuations that because my desk is clean, I must not be working.  And it isn't just the replacement of one person that has led to this over all office climate change...there are only two of us still here that were here when I started working in this office.  

The culture has shifted, and I believe for the better.  Though the Canadian tourists above are often the first and last thing I see in a day AND are often in the dark due to early starts and late arrivals back at my car, I really am enjoying my work and that has been a long time coming.

27 March 2016

On Feeling the Bern and other political nonsense.

FB_IMG_1456591910726
My hair was feeling the bern from the color, still.
So you may or may not have noticed, if you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or just down the street, that we have an election coming up this fall here in the good old USA.  While I am utterly heartbroken at the prospect of losing our current Commander in Chief and his warm, friendly, witty, and definitely egalitarian ways, I'm looking forward to November this summer's Democratic Convention with hope, yet again, just like I did right before fleeing to the UK for two years.

You've probably ascertained if you know me from the above social media OR you read the title of this blog post that my preferred candidate for the Democratic nomination and the White House is Senator Bernie Sanders, currently of Vermont. There are many reasons why I'm supporting Bernie, not the least of which is his socialist leanings which I share.

Okay, take a breath, I did NOT say I AM a socialist.  Further, I didn't say he was, because he isn't.  Democratic Socialism is a different breed from pure, unadulterated German/Chinese/Russian Socialism of years past (and, in some cases, present). 

We okay now? Well, if not, you might not want to continue, because I'm going to tell you why I don't care for the other candidates in the race.  

First, the other strong Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.  I'm not going to support her just because she is a woman, or because she made it through a nasty patch of cheating by her (I am sorry but he is just still adorable, reprehensible or not!) husband, or because she has already lived in the White House once and most likely had a hand in what I consider to be a fairly successful administration.  I've looked at her issues and policies but more importantly I've listened to her when she has told us what she will do for us as President...and I'm not sure I trust her.  I can't put my finger on it any more succinctly than that, really.  Nowt to do with any of the myriad of scandals that she is presently or has been involved with/in, at all. (Don't bring up Benghazi to me or I will either walk away from the conversation or explode, I'm not sure which.)

That said, if she wins the Democratic nomination (and the world ends) (just kidding) (kinda), I will vote for her come November.  Sound like I'm wishy-washy and fickle? Just let me tell you about what's happening on the other side of the aisle from where most of my beliefs find their home, and stay tuned because there IS a Republican that I would have voted for had I no other choice...and not just because of his hair.

By this point there are only three candidates really competing for the Republican nomination (now that someone told Ben Carson he actually WASN'T winning and Rubio picked up his toys and went home to Florida...or Washington, not sure which): Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich.

Yeah, THAT Donald Trump.  Star of the small screen boardroom, misogynistic tyrant, and (it has become apparent in his stumping) under the radar racist.  You have to know if you know me at all that this man speaks NONE of what I see as my truth.  Walls between us and Mexico? Halting Muslims that want to come to the United States? Bulking up the military to be even more of a bully in the world than we already are?  If that's "Making America Great Again," I will take the Slightly Less Great but Still Not Racist and Evil America that we have now, thanks.

Then there's Ted Cruz. There was actually a study done to find out why Ted Cruz's face causes people not to trust him: turns out his smiles don't go all the way to his eyes and that indicates shenanigans afoot.  Never mind his promise to "carpet bomb" our enemies.  Carpet bomb, y'all! There was one debate where he used the word murder so many times that I not only lost count I no longer WANTED to count...and not just about THEM murdering US, but US doing the murdering.  I find him terrifying and not at all the wholesome Christian he pretends to be.

Finally, still hanging on in the race with a slightly better chance than a snowball in the Midlands is Kasich.  I will admit that I don't know much about him...who really expected him to be around this long?  He was passed over in debates and resorted to joking along with Ben Carson about not having any air time.  He went from someone I thought was NOTSOBAD while campaigning in Idaho to SUDDENLYVERYRELIGIOUS when it came to the Southern primaries.  But he doesn't scare me like the other two do, not really.

The one that I would have voted for if I had to and he hadn't dropped out was Rand Paul, and that's because he just didn't sound all that conservative to me.  I promise, it was nothing to do with his hair or the eye-rolling he did whenever Trump spoke in the first debates.  Nothing at all.

My other mini rant has to do with the media coverage of the side of the aisle that I am supporting.  How much coverage does Bernie get for doing anything well or leading in any polls?  Zero to notenoughtonotice.  Hillary sneezes and someone is telling "the Democratic frontrunner and likely candidate" bless you.  Even NPR, my beloved NPR, is leaning toward Hillary and to me that isn't right.  She's got enough help, thank you very much, she doesn't need any more.

Don't even get me STARTED on superdelegates.  Super my foot. 

So yay! The Lettuce is back!  Don't worry, it won't be long before I've forgotten this blog yet again...

20 March 2016

Lettuce Hard Reboot

Watchers
The watchers, Bryn and Willow.


Yeah, so...um...hi.

It's been a year plus since I've updated the Lettuce, and that is embarrassing and mortifying and actually...freeing.  I have no precedent set, really, anymore. I can talk about whatever I like.

So...yeah...hi.

I think a bit of catch-up is in order, though that seems to be all I do around here.  I'd make promises to be more timely, to push out more content, but let's be honest, shall we? Haven't heard a peep about "When will you post again?" "What's going on at the Lettuce?" "Are you still alive?" but that's all right.  

So, let's see... last post was last March and I believe that I was ranting about something related to snow, leave time, work, or Sandy Paws, not sure which.  I skipped Sandy Paws last year, and was glad of it...so glad that I went again this year and was reminded why I had stopped going. Surely I can find something more interesting to talk about.

Rebooting. Watch this space. Loading, please wait...

20 March 2015

Flashback Post: The Aftermath of Snowmaggedon 2015

Rock on with your bad icicle selves...
First, please read this: In which I rant...

Now, as you know, there was another Winter Weather Event here in the Carolinas a few weeks ago.  Our meteorologists went crazy predicting 10 inches of snow and ice and all sorts of mayhem.  Didn't happen exactly like that but apparently there was enough chaos of the frozen variety that my University closed for a day and a half.

And once again, thanks to those who can afford time at work without pay, some of it was not "forgiven" by the governor's office.  Seriously, if you're going to order us to leave then go on and pay us for the time that we are not permitted to be at work.  It just makes sense...

19 March 2015

I'm so out of the loop I'm a straight line...or a t-plane.

Tá mé na hÉireann.
So what started out as nostalgic blog reading led me to this post: SP14 Wrap Up which further led me to thinking about why I didn't go to Sandy Paws this year...and why I'm kind of glad.

But first, in case you've forgotten who I am because it's been so long since I've posted, I'm still at Clemson, I'm 37 days from summer break from Clemson, I still live in Greenville with Hubs and Daisy and Bryn.  I'm still me.

I'm still not as good of a dog parent as I could be.  Life still gets in the way of keeping toenails perfectly trimmed and practicing our obedience lessons.  I'm still not earning any part of my living, really, through writing.  But I carry on and I dream of a day when "going to work" means "going to my home office and writing for 8 hours."

But back to what led me to open this post and write...I was looking at the experience I had last year at Sandy Paws...the people that were nasty to me and Anne about not having greyhounds at the end of our leashes, the people that laughed when Bryn nearly pulled me off my feet, and all the other experiences we had that made me feel like an outsider.

Well, I have to share that instead of going back to that pit of thinly veiled anti-racing sentiment and Greyhounds Only Breed Snobbery for the chance to see a handful of people that I truly adore, this year Bryn and I walked in the Greenville SC. St. Patrick's Day parade and she didn't pull me down!  No harness, no prong collar (because I'm still just not going to do that to a sensitive breed like a Wolfhound if I can help it), just a martingale and a leash.  I could not have been more proud of her and I'm still telling anyone that will listen about it.

As far as work goes, I am encountering new challenges like t-planes, compilers, ethnography and research rigor and I think I'm muddling through it all right.  I have an amazing staff of women that caption and interpret for Clemson.  Does it make sense to say I love what I do but I don't love my job?  Anyway.  Off to do more things that "aren't really important" in the name of keeping up my skills and certification until I get to go home and see that fuzzy face up there.


Dia duit ó GARF.

Almost TOO Irish, that. Go raibh míle maith agat  to Chris Heffron (of the Southern Travel Guide ) for this great shot from last Sund...