Trying not to sweat the small stuff

I have been at the SC condo for a week and was scheduled to fly back to Boston today. I have to fly through Atlanta. A major snow event happened today that affected much of the South. My flight home at 11:55 am today was canceled yesterday. I waited on the phone to reschedule it for 6:20 pm today. As I looked at the weather I realized I probably wasn’t going to get out of western SC today.

I woke up at 4:00 am and had the bright idea to fly out of Charlotte. So, I checked the flights and weather and thought it might be a possibility, IF Hertz did not charge me a fortune to drop the car off at another airport. So, I called to find out – and the saga began.

The check engine light had come on in the car earlier in the week. So, as a good do-bee I called to report this. Hertz told me to tighten the gas cap and see if it went away. I hadn’t planned on doing much driving so I didn’t worry that the light was still on. Little did I know that calling to report that check engine light would cause me so much headache. I called Hertz to see what the change in location would cost me. They can’t access my account because it is frozen due to my report of the check engine light. I get transferred to emergency assistance to remove the hold. The first question from the person answering my call is, “Are you safe?” At least they take things seriously. But, they can’t help me, I get sent back to reservations thinking my situation is fixed. Nope, but at least this person explained that only the actual rental location can make any changes to the reservation, I need to call them. They don’t open until 7:00 am.

Ok, so while I wait I check the weather in Charlotte, it seems they may get snow as well. Plus, getting to the airport in time to make the last flight that will get me to Boston is doubtful. I check the weather for Charleston – rain but no snow. I’d like to get to Boston today because this storm will be in New England tomorrow. I call Southwest. While they will change me to another flight out of Greenville for no charge due to the snow event, I can’t change to another airport unless I want to pay the difference in airfare. That is fairly significant since I am trying to book a flight today. Plus, I still don’t know about dropping off the car. I’ll hold off on making that change. I’m not going to get back to sleep now so I do some packing.

I call Hertz at the airport at 7:00. I wade through all of the prompts and get the opportunity to leave a message that will be returned within 24 hours. Gotta love that customer service! You know there is someone at the Hertz office. Is it really that busy in a relatively small airport that they can’t answer the phone? I get the bright idea of just booking a new rental from one airport to the next. I do that online and it would be about $70. I ponder whether it is worth the extra flight cost and rental fee to get home today. I have to admit I’m not overly excited to drive 3.5 hours in the rain. Plus, I first have to go in the wrong direction to return the current car and pick up a new one. And, I don’t trust that I won’t be hit with an additional fee when I turn in the car. I try the local Hertz number again and someone answers! It would be an additional $200 to drop the car off in Charleston. I ask about renting another car and told I can do that but when I express my concern about an unexpected fee when returning the car I don’t get a comforting answer. And, at this point I am still hoping that my 6:20 pm flight might happen.

Nope. At 11:00 I get the text from Southwest that my flight is cancelled. I wait on hold to reschedule. I now know my airline confirmation code and hertz rental agreement number by heart. At this point Southwest probably would have let me change locations but it is too late to get to Charleston and there is still the matter of the rental car cost. I opt for the 7:30 am flight on Saturday.

At this point I could have had a meltdown. I’m tired. I had made several phone calls and gotten the run around (I’ve skipped many of the details). I’ve been gone a week and am ready to be home. I feel guilty that I have left the cats for a trip that wasn’t really necessary but was a nice escape (I came down for the annual condo meeting). I am also not anxious to fly home to Boston during the snowstorm that is arriving on Saturday. Although at least Boston can handle a snow event and knows how to take care of the roads. But, I took a breath and put things in perspective. I have a place to stay and friends to take care of the cats. If I had elected to fly out on the 6:35 am flight this morning, I would have made it to Atlanta but the flight from Atlanta to Boston got cancelled. I would have been hanging around the airport rather than working in my condo. I took a break and got to work.

At 6:00pm I got the text that my flight tomorrow is cancelled. There is only one other flight out on Saturday, that is listed as full. So I wait on the line for over and hour to talk to a Southwest representative. There is one seat on the afternoon flight that gets in to Boston at 10:45pm. My car is parked at a satellite transportation facility about 30 minutes from the airport. The buses only run every hour on Saturday until 11:00pm with one additional bus at 12:15. If I am delayed I will be stuck in Boston or taking a taxi in the middle of the night. I opt for the flight on Sunday. There are only two options, getting in at 6:30 pm or after 10:00 pm. I picked the earlier one. At least I shouldn’t have to deal with snow! Wish me luck.

And, to add insult to injury I leave for an overnight business trip to New York on Monday. Thank goodness I am a passenger and not driving. If there is any hint of weather I’m bailing out!

But, I at least feel like I learned something from this mini-saga. While I did let myself get pretty worked up this morning I did calm myself down and didn’t feel too sorry for myself. There is no one to get mad at, no one to blame. I am safe and comfortable. The cats are fine. Yeah, they’ll be mad at me when I get home but they will get over it (although there might be some revenge when I leave again the next day ;). I made the choice to come here. No one can control the weather. There are far worse things that happen in life than a change in plans. Get over it, embrace the change, and move on.

Who thought there would be a major snow event in South Carolina in early December??? Next year I’ll think twice about a “quick trip to South Carolina in the winter!”


A Review of Option B

This could be a review of my option b of living without Gary (it wasn’t actually a planned “option” but a reality), but it is about the book, Option B by Sheryl Sandberg. To be honest, even though Sheryl is a widow, I wasn’t motivated to read this book. I didn’t read Lean In because I felt that Sheryl was a privileged person and I honestly didn’t think I could relate to her life,options, and opinions. So much for me supporting women leaders, I should probably be ashamed. However, I did listen to the audio version of Option B and I am glad that I did.

In fact, I think that anyone who has experienced extreme grief or knows someone who has should at least read the chapter titled, “The Elephant in the Room.” Sheryl does a great job of explaining the awkwardness of grief and provides help in dealing with it. Yes, there will be days that you cry in what you feel are inappropriate places. People won’t know what to say to you and you have to pretend to “be okay.” She does a great job of guiding people to be supportive and encouraging to those who are dealing with grief. Let’s face it, we all will deal with grief at some point in our lives, we need to understand how to continue on and how to help others. There is no “moving on” or “getting over it.” Grief is a process that each person must learn to live with and decide the next steps on their own. Having supportive people around you makes all of the difference.

I can’t say that everyone will enjoy the book. It is filled with research and facts and figures about grief, resiliency, children, and more. Since I don’t have children I was less excited about the chapters dealing with children but I still found them interesting. I also couldn’t relate to the benefits of sharing on Facebook, probably because I am from an older generation than Sheryl. The book can be a bit dry at times, especially when listening to the audio version. However, it is well researched and even if you pick it up and scan through a few chapters (after reading about the elephant in the room, of course 😉 it will be worth your time.

Heck, after reading this and gaining a new appreciation for Sheryl Sandberg, I might even read Lean In!

Chasing Butterflies

Yes, I was literally chasing butterflies. I decided to take advantage of the fact that I am only working part time. Today I attended a Monarch butterfly tagging program at a Mass Audubon property. I can confirm that butterflies are not the easiest critters to catch! I had to laugh at myself as I was tramping through the milk weed and goldenrod with a net chasing a butterfly. The butterfly escaped.

We did catch 4 and tagged them. The tag is a very small sticker that is attached to the underside of the butterfly’s wing close to the body. It is very light and researchers are confident that it doesn’t affect the butterfly. I learned a few facts about Monarch butterflies today. I now know how to tell apart the males and females – the males have a spot on each lower wing. Monarchs are the only butterflies to have a very long migration – 2000 or so miles to Mexico. The butterflies that migrate to Mexico do not go back to their original starting point. They over-winter in Mexico and then lay their eggs in the Southern US in the spring when head north. But they die before traveling further north. The next generation returns back to the migration starting point and breeds. The generations that are born in June and July die before they migrate. The ones born in late August and September are the ones to migrate. And, for every three tagged Monarch’s from the central US corn belt that are recoverved in Mexico, only one Monarch from New England is recovered.

Probably more than you ever thought you wanted to know about Monarch butterflies!

a black, yellow, and white striped monarch caterpillar on a milk week leaf

A Monarch caterpillar on a milk weed leaf.


monarch hanging on flower

This butterfly had just emerged from his chrysalis and was still drying his wings. The tag with url, phone, and tag number is visible on his wing.


I (Finally) Made Mayo!

“Why,” may be the first question someone asks and the next may be, “Why so excited?” As to the why, since I have changed my diet I avoid all polyunsaturated vegetable oils as well as all soy. Traditional mayonnaise is made with vegetable oils. Hellman’s, which was my favorite brand, is made with soy oil. Soy is one of the most genetically modified plants and I avoid it almost completely for more than just that reason. I will admit to ingesting soy lecithin at times when I need an on the go mostly healthy protein bar. And I’m sure I get some when I eat out or splurge on ice cream or other treats.

Okay, so I hate recipe blog posts that ramble on and on before providing the actual recipe. Since I know I will be rambling, here is a link to the recipe I used: It worked and it was easy. Read on if you want to know more about my mayonnaise making trials.

I have been regularly making many other products at home and have been experimenting with others. I make almond or cashew milk, facial lotion and cleanser, toothpaste and mouthwash regularly. There are plenty of recipes on the web and I try different ones and make adjustments until I find something that works for me. I’m still trying to find a good body lotion recipe that isn’t too hard or too oily. My goal in making my own products is to avoid all of the additives and chemicals that are found in so many products.

I have bought Primal Kitchen Avocado Mayonnaise in the past and use that but it isn’t easily found in stores and is expensive. I’m also not a huge fan of the taste, although there are different flavors. One day I really wanted a tuna fish sandwich and I didn’t have any Primal Kitchen mayo. I will often use avocados in place of mayo in my tuna fish but I din’t have any ripe ones. I decided to try making my own mayo. Let’s just say I didn’t have tuna fish with mayo on that day.

My first attempt was hand mixing with a whisk. I put the initial ingredients in a measuring cup and started whisking and whisking and whisking. When I thought it was time to start adding olive oil I realized that I couldn’t tilt the measuring cup (in order to have enough liquid to whisk) AND slowly pour in the oil. Fail. My next attempt was in the food processor. I really should have thought that through a bit better. The food processor bowl is way too large to emulsify an egg. I ended up with well mixed egg, lemon juice, vinegar, and water. That fried up as an interesting combination of scrambled eggs.

Next I turned from my cookbooks to the internet. I found recipes and YouTube videos that used an immersion blender. They looked easy so that was my next attempt – after I found a jar that my immersion blender would fit into. Hmm, this seemed like a similar problem to the food processor, the jar is too big. Another failed attempt and more research. Finally I found a post that stressed the importance of having a jar that just fits the immersion blender. I didn’t have one in the house and took my immersion blender to Bed, Bath & Beyond and found a blender ball container that fit. I am on a mission to make mayonnaise!

And today I followed this recipe and I finally made mayonnaise and it was easy:! This post doesn’t stress the importance of the jar size but the instuctions worked perfectly. I used half sesame oil and half avocado oil and bottled lemon juice. I didn’t want to waste an entire cup of either oil nor my last fresh lemon. The taste was a bit too strong of sesame oil but it was okay – more importantly, it worked!

A friend suggested I should start blogging about the products I make for myself. Since I was so excited that I was finally able to easily make mayonnaise I started with that. So, you may see posts in the future about making products at home. I don’t plan to compete with the folks who do this full time, I will just share what works for me. I probably won’t get as excited about the other products (unless of course I find a really good body lotion recipe :).

Now for some tuna fish salad!

An Intuitive Reading

I don’t participate in any organized religions and thus don’t consider myself a religious person. I believe that I am spiritual, that there is some sort of connection of all beings within the universe. As I get older, I’m sure I will contemplate spirituality more deeply.

I went on a yoga retreat recently and one of the organizers was a clairvoyant medium. She offered intuitive readings during the retreat. I strongly considered signing up for one, but in the end decided I needed to consider it further. I needed to decide if it was something I could believe in and accept. The medium operates a yoga studio near me and offers the readings there, although there is often a long wait. I decided I would sign up when I got home from the retreat and then have time to make a final decision if this was something I wanted to try or not. I had to consider whose spirit might reach out to me, did I actually believe it was possible? Would it be Gary? What would he have thought about all of this?

When I went to book the reading there were actually a very few openings within the week. I took that as an encouraging sign so I took the appointment. I was skeptical and I vowed not to reveal too much to Gail, the medium. I’ve heard admonishments from skeptics that spiritual readers are very good observers and listeners and can learn enough about a person to make reasonable assumptions that appear to be “magical.” I was nervous but I also went in with an open mind.

Gail made me feel comfortable and the only personal question I remember her asking was about my ring. I wear my wedding ring on my right hand. I told her I was widowed 3 and a half years ago but provided no other details. The first spirit she felt was a tallish man (not over 6 feet), bald on top with a circle of hair that was light in color. He looked elderly but wasn’t stooped over or frail and he appeared fairly strong. There was a dark haired, shorter stout woman with him and that they seemed to go together. Gail asked if those descriptions rang any bells? She indicated that there is no explanation for which spirits might communicate. I really wasn’t sure who they could be. Gary certainly wasn’t old and he was only about 5 feet 9 or 10 inches tall. He was bald with a ring of blond hair, though. Gail continued and dealt out the angel cards that are part of the reading and that I had thoroughly shuffled before we started.

The cards showed some stress in my life and possible financial issues. That is pretty accurate since I was laid off recently and while I don’t have any serious financial woes, it is definitely on my mind. I explained this to Gail. As we continued, my interest in travel came up. Gail indicated that it seemed that I wanted to travel or make a change but something was holding me back. I responded that yes, my mother is in a nursing home and I don’t want to relocate or travel too extensively. This is when she received more information from the spirit. He communicated that my mother would not notice if the time between my visits was a day, a week, or several months. That is true. I had not told Gail that my mother has dementia. A skeptical person could conclude that Gail had a 50/50 chance of making the correct assumption about my mother’s condition – many people in nursing homes have memory loss. The spirit next communicated to Gail something about me also worrying about leaving the pets. Gail asked me if I had a cat. Yes, I have two but I hadn’t mentioned that. Again, I guess that could be a reasonable assumption, especially if my clothes were sporting the usual decoration of cat hair!

Since both of these topics are things that Gary might bring up (especially the comment about my mother) we discussed the spirits again. I mentioned to Gail that Gary had died of cancer and he had lost so much weight that he looked old. She accepted this and felt that is why she sensed that the person was more robust than she would have expected for an older man. Since she felt the woman with him was connected to him in some way, I concluded that she was likely his mother. The reading and turning of cards continued. It showed some upcoming conflict in my life but no details. It also showed an upcoming financial gain (yeah, maybe the startup I am working for will succeed ;).

Then the love card turned up, twice – uh oh. As we talked about that Gail felt that Gary was communicating that he was okay with me finding someone else. That when I was ready, he wanted me to ask for his help in finding the right person. While this is certainly a nice sentiment for a medium to share with a widow, it also rang true for me. Before Gary ever got sick he used to say to me that he would die before me and that I should make sure that the next person in my life appreciated the home and life we had built together.

All in all it ended up being a very emotional and thought provoking session. I do believe that Gail made some connection to another dimension or spirit world. Whether or not it was actually Gary, I can’t say for certain but I do believe that the information she provided was not derived only from clues I may have provided. I will work on broadening my spiritual horizons and stepping beyond my current comfort zone. I will likely do this again.

I had this reading over a month ago and have contemplated posting about it. Today is Gary’s birthday, it seemed like the appropriate time. While I am devastated by his loss, I still make time to pause on this day and be thankful that he was born and shared his life with me. I can’t remember where I found this quote but it hit home for me:

“I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with you. Then I remembered… you spent the rest of yours with me.” From Wake me Up! The True Story of Life After Death by Lyn Rages.

Goodbye, IBM

Well, the day to leave has arrived.  I certainly didn’t expect to be leaving IBM except on my own terms when I retired in a few more years. After 33+ years, IBM has decided that I am no longer needed. Nor is the entire Emerging Technologies team that I was a member of.  That is what is really incongruous. We were a team that was working on forward thinking projects, exactly what IBM claims that it wants. Many projects, including the one I was working on,  had customers and were building new businesses for IBM.  Oh, but we didn’t have the name “Watson” in our title so we must not be useful and in the minds of the upper level folks, we “cost too much” (sarcasm intended).

My emotions vary between sadness and anger.  I am sad to be leaving a wonderful team and manager,  sad at what IBM has become, sad to be saying goodbye to so many friends and colleagues from over the years.  At least keeping in touch is easier with social networking sites but it isn’t the same as a friendly chat in the hallways and catching up over lunch.

I am angry that IBM is turning its back on so many dedicated employees.  I am angry that I am no longer valued, angry when I see IBM advertising job openings on social media, angry that I have to start over somewhere else. Angry that after 33 years I receive only 1 month of severance pay.  A few years ago I would have received 6 months due to my length of service.  In addition, by letting people go on the day before the last day of the pay period, we don’t accrue and are not paid for vacation for the last half of this month.  It is all just so petty.

I have found a position with a startup.  I will work part time  for the summer and we will both reevaluate the relationship in the fall.  I am continuing to interview for other positions and have had some good interviews.  Thankfully I don’t have children in colleges or significant debt to increase my anxiety.

Life goes on.  If I have learned anything over the last several years it is that nothing is guaranteed. There is no cap on happiness or  good fortune just as there is no cap on sorrow or hardships.  Tomorrow is a new day, new experiences await.

As for IBM, they lose.

YoYo Emotions

Isn’t it amazing how everything can be going great one minute and in the next something happens to change the mood? The last several weeks have been like that for me.  Several weeks ago I was laid off from my job.  Actually the entire department was let go so at least I can’t take it too personally.  After 33+ years at the same company it was quite a blow.  I’ll admit I took a few days to absorb it and to feel sorry for myself. But, it looked like my project was going to be absorbed into another division and I would still have a job.  My emotions evened out and I went back to working (mostly) as normal.

Then last week, I was told that the executives pulled the funding and I didn’t have a job.  Queue the angry, frustrated response and the rise in emotions (and associated “comfort snacking” – poor eating habits).  But, there was one last hope for funding…….nope, that didn’t come through.  I resigned myself to the fact that I would be leaving the company and I started looking for a new job in my desired field.

I was pleasantly surprised at the interest from my network to employ me. I suddenly have several opportunities to pursue, that is a nice relief and I don’t feel quite as anxious about the loss of my job.  Then today another wrinkle arrived, there might be yet one more opportunity to keep our group together. I’m not sure how I feel about that –  less than a week ago I made the decision to leave and find a position outside of the company.  Another set of emotions and questions.

I had a great phone interview today and an email from another potential employer (and dear friend) so my ego was well inflated and I was feeling really good about myself and my prospects.  That was until my mother’s nursing home called.

It thankfully wasn’t an emergency but they want to put her on an anti-depression medication because she is overly confused (she has Alzheimer’s but is still fairly functional and knows her family). I immediately called Mom and she is certainly confused.  She told me an entire story about one of her brothers picking her up and taking her on a long drive to visit their sister who was in the hospital.  And she is back at the hospital and need to call Dad (who passed away 7 years ago) to come pick her up.  That certainly set my emotions in a tail spin, brought my ego back down to earth, and prompted me to write this rambling post!

I guess the moral of my story is to never take anything for granted, wait a minute and the situation will likely change (for better or worse), and take a deep breath and carry on!


*For inquiring minds, I suspect my mother has a urinary tract infection as that has set off this level of confusion in the past.  I’ve requested that she be tested and not permanently medicated for depression.

Update: Mom did not have a urinary tract infection. The nursing home had increased Mom’s insulin due to high A1C values.  This resulted in her having some very low blood sugar readings.  Generally Mom does not exhibit “typical” responses to overly high or overly low blood sugar so they didn’t immediately make the connection with her increased demential and confusion. The doctor decreased her insulin back to the previous dose and Mom’s extreme dementia subsided. That is a huge relief.