Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Anniversary

Front view

Three years ago, the Friday before Labor Day, I signed the papers on my house.  Three years ago, the Saturday before Labor Day, I sat on my new front porch, without electricity or gas in the house, watching Hurricane Rita pound my new yard into a lake.  Today, I'm typing this, waiting for Gustav to wreak havoc, just as Katrina and Rita did three years ago.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  My family has been getting phone calls from other family in New Orleans and in Houston; they're making contingency plans in case they need to flee (again).  In Katrina, we lost a great uncle at St. Rita's Nursing Home.  We nearly lost my father's sister, her husband, and their oldest son, our cousin.  They were trapped in their attic when the levee broke down in Violet, LA.  David, my cousin, takes medicine for seizures; he had to be air lifted to Lafayette with his mother.  My uncle ended up in Texas.  It took us a while to find everyone and bring them back together.  I wouldn't be surprised to find out that many, many people still haven't been reunited with all of their family members.

I'm watching the skies and checking my hurricane tracking map regularly.  I mowed the grass today because I wasn't sure when or if I'd be able to do it next week.  Besides, it was knee-high (and I'm not kidding).  I didn't have to mow it at all in July because of the drought, but the recent rains pushed it up.  I don't mind doing it since I bought the riding mower last year.  I can mow this near-acre quickly and meditate while I'm getting it done.


I was so looking forward to a two-day workweek (Well, really, I work every day.  I mean I only had to go into the college two days a week).  I was excited, because I could save on gas.  This summer, I made maybe 10 trips to town because I taught on line.

This is what I get for being so smug.  Our department has had two professors knocked off their feet--one because of a car accident and a seizure, the other because of an operation that needs a re-do.  The department needed seven classes covered.  Of course, I was asked to take one of them.  And it's not a good idea, when you're on a year-to-year contract to say, "No."  So, I said, "Yes."  Now I will be driving into town four days a week, just as I did during the spring semester.  Sigh!  One day...

On the upside, when the college or university calls a meeting on a day I wasn't supposed to be on campus (usually on a Monday or Wednesday), I'll be going that way at some point anyway.  And I do get paid a bit extra for the overload, which is nice.  But, with five classes (two on line, four of them writing classes), I'm wondering when I'll have time to work at the bookstore (or sleep, even).  But, I've done this before; I can do it again.  And the grass doesn't need to be mowed in the winter, usually, so I can knock that chore off my list.

When I'm tempted to complain, I think about that day three years ago, when I sat on the porch of my new home and wondered if I'd ever see my New Orleans' relatives again.  I'm grateful for what I have and what I can do.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Trying out a new program

I received a new program today called Dragon Naturally Speaking.  I think it would be easier for  me to just type. This program does work well in Word and I can open programs from my desktop with voice commands, but I think I can type faster with less aggravation. For example, I sometimes have to give up talking and type what I mean because I can't get the program to type exactly what I'm saying . It can be very confusing.  I'm sure that's just the learning curve, and, once I get used to it, I'll be fine.

One other problem I have is that I had to tell the program where to insert punctuation, which is not hard when I'm typing, but I have trouble remembering that when I'm talking.  I also have to tell it when to capitalize letters within a sentence, and I have to speak very clearly and slowly for the software to catch everything I say.

For the most part, I'm starting to get used to it, and I think once I get used to dictating instead of typing, I could become quite spoiled.  This could also help me avoid carpal tunnel syndrome since I spend so much time on the computer.

I'll keep you posted on my progress with the software and let you know if it's worth the money I paid for it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

And the Madness Begins...

Also known as the beginning of the semester!  Things get frantic for about two weeks, then we all settle in.  The beginning of the semester energizes me and gets me back into a routine--well, a different routine.

The summer--where did it go?  I planned to do so much and didn't. gardens almost withered and blew away because of the heat and drought.  Now they are green again because of all the rain.  I haven't mowed the grass in a month--didn't need to because it was brown.  Now it's green and knee-high, so I'll chug out the lawn tractor and cut it all down.

I have a huge limb on the back fence--of course, it's not my fence, and the limb came from the neighbor's tree.  I'll have to get back there and cut it to pieces, but I'll need help getting it completely into my yard.  The fence will need mending--again, not my fence, not my problem.  The burn pile is huge.  As soon as the wood dries out, I'll have an immense bonfire.  Somebody bring the marshmallows!

I'm going to try to enjoy my last weekend of vacation, but I've already made contact with a few students--the early birds.  They are the ones who get a head start on the semester and help me get back into teaching mode. 

I promise to blog more.  My students will be reading and I'll need to have some fresh posts for them.  And I'll take pictures of anything remotely fascinating.  Things have been quiet here, thankfully. 

And here comes more rain...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

What I did on my summer vacation...

I started looking over my posts and realized I didn't say much about my trip to Austin--my "actual" vacation, though I have been home all summer.

Well, besides the trauma of the drive to Austin, everything else went well.  My sister, Lydia, came in.  Her birthday is the day before mine, so we celebrated together.  Her son goes to UT and is working in Austin over the summer.  We met up at Oasis, a nice restaurant on Lake Travis, the day I arrived.  Oasis is up in the mountains outside of Austin, and the drive there and back scared me--twisty turny roads, steep inclines.  But the views had me dropping my jaws.  We ate outside on one of the decks with an astounding view of the lake and the homes on top of the mountain, as well as those nearer the lake.

On my sister's birthday, she, her friend Pam, and I went lampshade shopping and then we went to see "Mama Mia" at the Alamo Draft House.  My daughter used to work there (she's worked everywhere, really).  The Alamo serves food, so you can eat and watch the movie.  It's a silly, funny movie.  I love ABBA's music, so I had a good time.

We later went to see the bats come out from under the Sixth Street Bridge.  I've seen them before from the shore, but this time we were on a boat.  Spectacular.  I took some video, but it's kind of shaky.  I kept swooping the camera when I should have kept it still.

On my birthday, my daughter cooked dinner, and we stayed up talking late into the night.  Lydia came sans her friend; she needed a break.

On the Friday after my birthday, my son took us to see "The Dark Knight" at the IMax theater in Austin.  What a rush!  I had to close my eyes a couple of times because the IMax scenes made me dizzy.  But the movie was awesome.  Daniel, my son, and I sat up for a while talking about the role of the hero in modern life--well, we just dissected the hero's place in the world.  "The Dark Knight" got it right.

I stayed a day later than I planned, but that was fine.  We needed a day when we didn't have to go anywhere or do anything unless we wanted to.  Dan and I gave in to our meat cravings--we grabbed some burgers and watched "Pirates of the Caribbean--At World's End."

The trip home, as I've already mentioned, was a snap.  I didn't take any wrong turns, and I made it home in six hours exactly--and I stopped once for gas and eats.

With gas prices so high, more than one trip would have been too expensive.  Gas cost me almost $180, which is way more than it used to cost.  I'd love to travel more, but, until prices level off, I'll just use email and the phone.

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