All posts by verily sherrilee

Directionally challenged, crafty, reading mother of young adult

The Presentation

Photo credit: Ben White

In the Events division at my job, the process of getting a travel program going is divided into lots of pie pieces.  We have the folks who source the hotels and write the programs, the folks who program the program websites, the folks who book the air, the folks who write and design the communications, the folks who manage the participants, the folks who go on site and run the program.  Then there’s what I do; from the time a program sells until the participants arrive at their destination, I oversee all the other pieces of pie, getting all the details wrapped up tight so the program runs successfully.

Over the years I’ve been corralled a few times into doing work in other departments; I’ve been successful but I don’t like it much.  A couple of months ago we got the opportunity to bid for a big piece of business with a client that I’ve worked with for 15 years – in fact I’ve done 46 trips for their various regions.  As you can imagine, this opportunity has taken on a life of its own – specs from the client, questions back to them, a preliminary presentation made.  The number of meetings has been alarming, especially since I really don’t have that much input.  Others involved are excited to be doing the work, love the corporate lingo and are happy to be jumping through all the necessary hoops.  I completely understand this work has to be done but it doesn’t ring my bell.  So I smile, answer any questions asked of me and multi-task.  It really makes me appreciate zoom meetings.

The notification that we made the initial cut and have a presentation date slated came down on Tuesday.   We had a meeting on Wednesday – I knew this would be the meeting in which decisions were made about who would be part of the presentation.  I’ve been dreading this prospect for weeks; while I certainly wouldn’t be tasked with heading up the presentation, I worried that with my overwhelming experience on the account, they would think I would be handy to have in the room.  Not my cup of tea and the idea of flying to the east coast for two days for this presentation doesn’t excite me at all.

They didn’t ask me.  I can’t tell anybody at work how relieved I am not to be part of the presentation team.  But I can tell you all – I am very happy to stay home.  I’m not even going to grouse about the fact that there are two “practice” meetings that I have been asked to attend, even though I’m not practicing.  Phew!

What topic could you give a 30-minute presentation on without any preparation?

The Dog Gate Conundrum

Last week I bought a fold up free-standing gate.  The dog behaviorist has finally made me realize that I am not going to “fix” Guinevere so that she doesn’t wake up violently when the kitty jumps down from the windowsill in the middle of the night.  That means I have to solve how to keep the kitty safe.   It’s always a pretty short scenario; Nimue thumps down on the floor, Guinevere startles awake and lunges.  Then Guinevere wakes up and it’s over. 

We tried keeping Nimue in YA’s room but kitty does not like being imprisoned all night.  After all she does her best hunting in the wee hours.  Then we put Guinevere in YA’s room but then the dog whined all night and scratched at the door.

So now we have a pretty white, fairly heavy free-standing gate in my room that separates where the kitty jumps down from my bed, where the dog hangs out all night.  It’s only been a few days so Nimue hasn’t quite figured it all out, but I expect in the next few days, she’ll have it worked out.

That’s not really what I’m here to talk about.  What I’m here to talk about is that it’s been over a week since I ordered this thing and today I have seen at least SIX ads recommending various dog gates.  Oh and an ad for a pet door.  I’ve probably said this before, but if the computers are so smart and connected into my life to know I’m looking at dog gates, then why aren’t they smart enough to know I already bought the darn thing.  Do they think I need lots and lots of dog gates?  I hate to think what would happen if I returned it – what pop-up ads would I get then?

Have you ever worked retail?  Any good stories?

Large House Cats?

Last November there was a post that I clipped part of and have kept on my desktop.  I don’t remember what we were talking about but this string always intrigued me:

Part of the reason it has stuck with me is that it reminds me of two books.  My dad loved everything written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, especially the John Carter/Mars series, so I’ve read quite a few as well.  In the Gods of Mars series, the Therns have bamboozled another species, the Barsoomians, luring them with the promise of a journey to paradise, when in fact, they just get captured and eaten.  My father and I had some long conversations about this; he thought it was the best justification for being a vegetarian he had ever read.

The other book that our conversation reminds me of is The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell.  Also science fiction and a similar scenario in which the traveling Earthman discovers that the dominant species eats the non-dominant, although to his eye, they are both sentient beings.  There is also a VERY disturbing sub-plot in which the Earthman is basically kept as a pet and from his (and the reader’s) perspective, abused and maimed, although his “owner” fairly easily deflects and explains those actions away.  And it was believable.  Way too believable.  It took me a few years to work up the nerve to read the next book in the series.

Even though all these memories got dredged up back in November, I still thought it was a funny exchange. Although I’m pretty sure I’m already the pet of my cat Nimue….

What’s the most exotic animal you’ve ever fantasized about getting as a pet?

My Un-Monty-Don-Esque Woods

Today’s post comes to us from Clyde.

Monty Don, of craggy face and deep rich voice and calm confident demeanor, is the BBC’s in-house gardening expert, worth knowing if you are a gardener. And worth knowing if you are into travel. In addition to his weekly garden show, he has done several series where he helps non-gardeners develop their small yards and, my favorite, when he gives tours of great gardens of different countries, such as France and Italy. Of those I love the French tour most, in part because he travels around in post-WWII era Citroen, one of the more visually memorable cars. The French gardens are the highly structured masterpieces of topiary and shaped hedges and large fountains and looping pathways. The Italian ones are about as structured but do not appear to be so, cultivated randomness.

But it is the old English gardens which impress and irritate me. Garden on the English tour means large expanses of hundreds of acres where every tree, pathway, line of sight and folly has been developed to look ancient and natural, when it is not. The long lines of sight built into the landscape are masterpieces of faux natural. The beauty impresses me, but the bending of will to man irritates me, done by genius such as Capability Brown (1716-1783), original name Lancelot Brown. (Marketing was an art even in the 18th Century.) Brown’s face is shaped much like Monty Don’s, by the way.

Then there are the woods 20 feet off my patio, owned, except for the first 5-6 feet, by the city. Capability would rub his hands in glee on how he could change that abhorrent disarray. Not that I do not have a similar impulse, having been raised on a farm where the woods were managed as graze and woodlot. Our roads through the 85 acres still appear in my dreams.

My woods here is as wild and uncontrolled as woods in a city could be, mostly because of the ravine. Various parts of both Mankato and North Mankato are designated as Upper and Lower, meaning on top of the bluffs or below them where the ancient river Warren carved out a deep and wide valley in a matter of a few days.

The header photo shows the tangle at its worst or most glorious. They are the end of the woods where they point out into a small field of corn or soybeans, a la Ben. Those trees are not shaped that way by the wind, in fact they are bent right into the prevailing wind. I assume their need for sunlight made them arch out and away from the tall trees. It is a favorite place for deer to bed down. But even they struggle to navigate through my woods. There are several tall trees reaching their full maturity, about which there is a mystery I will not delve into. But when the leaves are gone (I took these pictures in April.) you can see the tangle of fallen and rotting trees down the sides of the raven, which gets deep very quickly, or up among the standing trees. Or you can see my corkscrew trees, as I call them, species unknown to me. They reach up like a middle finger in the face of Capability.

Trees are in all stages of life and decay.

Many visitors live or walk through the woods or the apartment building’s strip of grass.

Just three days ago I realized that at the base of one of the mystery trees a pair of squirrels have raised almost to maturity a litter of, I think, five kits. I caught them venturing out to explore, but only on their tree so far, and took this photo through the window above my computer.

I have sketched several parts of my woods. These two trees now are mush on the ground.

This spring a thick branch on one of the mystery trees broke in the high winds and got caught as a squirrel beltway. The next day the squirrels tested carefully before venturing out on this wonderful shortcut across an open space in the upper trees. Now it is their jousting ground and a trysting place, observation deck, escape route and attack route.

I could show and tell more, but I have overstayed my welcome.

Thoreau said he had traveled much in Concord. In what small area have you traveled much?

Virtual Chicago

YA took a long weekend trip to Chicago the past three days.  I dropped her off early on Friday at the airport.   I was really looking forward to having a long weekend all to myself.  You all know that I adore YA but since I haven’t traveled for work since March of 2020, we haven’t really had a break from each other for quite a while now.

She didn’t ask me for any input on her trip, except for two questions, one about her Real ID and one about security at the airport.  When I asked her if she needed a packing list printed out (I have it on my pc), she said no.  (I did see that she had created and printed out her own packing list when I took a couple of things into her room yesterday!)  As the parent of a young adult, I was not expecting to hear from much if at all until her pick-up (noon today).

It was a nice surprise on Friday afternoon when I got a photo text of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by George Seurat with a question about whether this was my favorite painting (I had mentioned my favorite painting was hanging in the Chicago Art Institute – this isn’t it). 

Later on Friday I got a quick text about an “ok impossible burger” but no photo to enshrine the meal.

Then on Saturday morning this photo came.

I didn’t realize right away that it was taxidermy – The Natural History Museum.   A bit later, a photo of Sue, the famous tyrannosaurus rex, showed up (header photo).  No texts about dinner.

Yesterday, there was a photo of a breakfast taco and smoothie and then, some real polar bears at the Chicago Zoo

This was followed by a picture of a lovely flower – the Botanical Gardens.  I didn’t even remember that this was on her schedule. 

No photo of the pizza dinner last night.  Her flight arrives at noon today so no more photos will be coming. But I definitely feel like I had a trip to Chicago even though I barely left the house over the weekend!

If you could get a virtual tour of someplace, where would that be?

Making Progress

All things do eventually arrive. Even good weather.

The corn is all planted and we’re working on soybeans. Growing Degree Units for my area are at 317; about 90 above normal, which, I’m finding hard to believe as cool as it was this spring. But I read it on the internet so it must be true.

I’m still struggling with the pinched nerve and I’m lucky my brother has been coming out and helping do fieldwork the last few years. He and Kelly got to work last Saturday with me pointing and giving instructions and they took the loader off the tractor, hooked up the corn planter, got it all greased, filled it with seed and started planting corn. Several times it became clear to us how many things we just do, without thinking about them, and then have to explain to someone *how* to do it, is much more difficult. Communication people, Communication.

Kelly planted the first field of corn. Again, so many things to watch, that I do automatically, but trying to explain it all to her…well, one thing at a time. It wasn’t helpful that sometimes I change my mind in the middle of what’s happening. But she did it! I knew she could! She just hadn’t had too before. Eventually I discovered I was able to get into the tractor and I was able to do the planting. I have more corn this year than normal, partially because the co-op and I had a mix up of maps and they weren’t spreading the fertilizer where I expected them to spread it. A few phone calls and texting photos of maps back and forth solved the issue. I’m still not sure what happen but it’s OK and I’ll verify next year before we start.

Several very fortuitous things have come about this year. We bought a gator two years ago; one of those side by side utility vehicles. I’m able to get in that and drive it. I can park it at the back door, I can drive it through the fields, and into the shed. It’s been very valuable. And the decision last fall to have the co-op spread all the fertilizer, while at the time was more about precision application of nutrients, certainly became valuable this spring as I wasn’t trying to explain how to run the fertilizer wagon to Kelly. Not to mention having to refill the planter so often. With the co-op doing it, all the corn fields are fertilized at once and I just have someone add seed to the planter and I can go many more acres before needing a refill. Ah, those decisions we make without realizing their full implications.

The barn swallows returned the first week of May and a pair have built a nest on top of a wind chime outside our front door. This has been a regular occurrence the last few years. We’ve learned to put some cardboard down to collect all the droppings. And a Robin is building a nest on top of a gutter downspout where it angles under the eave, at the back door. I enjoy watching the swallows fly around me when out in the fields. I’ve been seeing pheasants near the CRP, (Conservation Reserve Program) fields. He doesn’t seem to be very afraid of me in the tractor. One day daughter took a walk and said she saw an owl. I thought that was kind of unusual and figured she meant a hawk. Two days later, Kelly and I were going to get the mail, and there was an owl! Daughter was right.

Planting corn was almost without issues. On the second to last field, the planter settled to the ground by itself once and I thought the hydraulic valve on the tractor must be leaking. (It’s hydraulic oil that holds it up). When I got to the last field, I realized there was an oil leak and that’s why the planter had lowered itself. Oh. Heck. I tried to finish planting but it soon became apparent I was losing too much oil. Making a run for home, I almost made it before running completely out of hydraulic oil. The next day we found the leak and my brother got it apart, I found a replacement, he reassembled, and we finished planting corn.

The chicks are growing up; they’re kind of at that awkward teenage phase.

I watched a pair of guineas the other day. I’m not sure if they were fighting or playing or mating.

When have your intentions been misunderstood?

Too Much Mulch

It’s my Menards time of year.

One of the upshots of the “more flowers, less grass” way of life at our house is mulch.  We like the look of mulch around all the flowers and now that the front yard and boulevard are essentially all flowers, that’s a lot of mulch.

“A lot of mulch” and “very small Honda Insight” aren’t usually phrases you see in a sentence together.  That’s because you can only put 8 2-cubic foot bags of mulch IN a Honda Insight if you want to continue to see out the back window. (You could transport more if you used the backseat and not just the hatch but that lesson learned was ugly.)   If you go through 25-28 bags of mulch in the spring, that means several trips to Menards.  Yes, I’ve looked into having a boatload of mulch delivered, but one of the things I know about myself is how unhappy I will be with a mountain of mulch that might get rained on before I get to it, is taking up driveway space and is also making me feel guilty until it’s all gone.  And the savings isn’t that great anyway.

Mulch trips are in the morning – it’s cooler, plenty of room in the parking lot, not too crowded in the store – so for four mornings in a row, there I am, with my mulch on a big cart.  There is an older woman who works the first register shift every morning and she is NOT a happy person.  Could be that she resents working so early.  Maybe she resents still having to work at all at this stage of her life.  Might even be that she’s just not a morning person. 

I try not to take this personally, but I’m a chatter.  Every morning I say “good morning”.  Once I said “Eight of them (the bags), if I counted right”.   Couple of times I’ve said “see you tomorrow”.  Yesterday was “Thanks”.   Nothing from this woman.  Not even a smile, which I would have thought would be helpful in a customer service role. 

The mulch trips are probably over for this spring but I have determined that if I need more, I will probably just leave this poor woman alone when I go through her lane.  It won’t hurt me and maybe it will give her a little relief at 6:15 in the morning.  Of course, it’s not as much fun.

Tell me about a time you’ve gotten GREAT customer service!

Celebration!

A diagnostics company in Kentucky ran up a $450,000 bill for an employee birthday party.  It wasn’t over the top decorations or a gilded cake. 

Several days before his birthday, the employee asked his manager to not throw a party for fears it would trigger his anxiety disorder; he doesn’t do well being the center of attention and worried about having a panic attack. 

The glassbowl manager decided to throw a party anyway, planning the fete over lunch in the breakroom.  The birthday boy fled the building and ate his lunch in the car.  To add insult to injury, the next day the employee was scolded in a meeting and then fired. 

The lawsuit filed against the company alleged that they did not accommodate his anxiety disorder and caused him to suffer loss of income, benefits as well as causing him emotional distress and mental anxiety.  The jury on the case agreed and awarded him $450,000.

What kind of party would you throw for yourself with a $450K budget?

TRAVELERS NEVER DID LIE, THOUGH FOOLS AT HOME CONDEMN THEM

At Blevins Book Club on Sunday, tim and I were extolling the high quality of Ben’s eggs, having both gotten some the weekend that the straw bales were delivered.  Even the organic eggs that I get from my milk man pale by comparison.  I commented that I wished Ben lived a bit closer so I could justify driving down for eggs on a regular basis.

I should not have been surprised when I got a text from tim today saying maybe we could do some kind of driving swap/egg coop arrangements.  For the first five minutes after I got the text, I thought “tim is one crazy dude.”   Then the next five minutes I was emailing Ben with a few questions to even determine the feasibility of this. 

The third five minutes I was looking up directions between my house and Ben’s farm and thinking about how every few weeks I could get in almost 3 hours of books on tape when I was driving down and bacl.  And the fourth five minutes I was thinking about the spreadsheet I could design if this turns out to be do-able and more baboons than just tim and I can co-op (a lot of this does depend on Ben’s chickens after all).

I’m not sure what the next few five-minute increments will bring – but please don’t anybody tell my milk man!

How far will you go for your favorite products?

Royal Living

Last week I extolled calling a professional concerning my front porch.  The stucco guys weren’t the only professionals I called upon last week.

The story of my “privy” is a long one.  When I moved into my house 30 years ago, the lid on the bank had been previously broken in 2 places and glues back together….badly.   The glue had been liberally applied and the excess, which had yellowed, had not been wipe off.  It looked so awful that I always draped a towel or napkin over it.   A few years later, it got dropped and broken again, this time it couldn’t be put back together again.  Luckily YA, Child back then, found an exact replacement at Architectural Antiques downtown.

I had learned early on to changed out the tank ball; it needed to be done every year or so.  I also installed a new fill valve several years back.  So when the trip lever broke about a year ago, I figured it would be a quick fix.  Wrong.  I won’t go into the excruciating detail, suffice it to say, it went from bad to worse and we ended up having to jiggle as we flushed and then jiggling again after the ball dropped.  Sometimes twice.  I’ve probably spent 40 hours in the last year trying to adjust, replacing levers, replacing the ball.  Awful. 

I was pretty sure what the plumber would tell me, but when he showed me what was contributing to my issues and talked through the repairs, I knew that I had been right to expect the worse.  He came back two days later and voila – a new throne!  It uses less water, fills faster and does its job better.  I almost wish I had replaced it years ago.  YA is reserving judgement as it’s taller than the old one.

Toilet paper – over or under?