Sunday, April 29, 2012

The dead have arisen

I'd forgotten about the changes to Blogger until an email reminder showed up in my in box, helpfully informing me that my entire blog would be disabled/inaccessible if I didn't migrate it by 4/30.

Then there was the chore of logging into my account, trying to recall which password I'd last used, Blogger saying my account wasn't recognized, and having to turn to my backup account to reset the password and make everything OK again.

Apparently, I was successful. Though I haven't blogged in maybe a year, I didn't want to lose all the posts about life as a newlywed in South Texas and all the crazy goings on. I thank Blogger for the nudge to reconnect and preserve some interesting years of personal history.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Lookit me--blogging again!

As I was getting ready to leave work tonight, I got a phone call from a co-organizer of this weekend's symposium letting me know a few last-minute details--including a time slot swap that affects a panel discussion some friends put together.

Theoretically, I knew about the swap. Two plenary sessions switched places so that an out-of-town speaker would have time to get to Independence for her afternoon session. This meant that the other panelists were on at 8:00 am Saturday instead of early afternoon. And I just connected the dots tonight and alerted the panelists.

The online listing of sessions hadn't been updated in quite a while, so the panelists were hearing about this for the first time. One is driving in from SLC and said an 8:00 am session would be complicated for him.

Another panelist spoke up on behalf of the session's chair and organizer, saying he was just coming in for the day and the time change may be a significant problem for him (and sounded a little scoldy about this being a "non-trivial adjustment" that may be impossible to accommodate). The session's chair/organizer may possibly have a kidney stone that could also prevent him from participating--another fly in the proverbial ointment. I've tried to find out more about his condition, but no luck so far.

And just prior to typing this, I saw a third panelist asking around for a weekend babysitter so she'd be able to attend and present her part of the panel. This panel was accepted to the conference in January--plenty of time to plan child care in advance, no?

So, if two or three of the four panelists might not be able to make their session at the new time--or AT ALL--how much energy do I put into trying to find a workable solution?

Despite all the practice I get having to adjust to circumstances beyond my control, seeing my careful planning come unraveled, or not having helpful information soon enough to implement a Plan B, I have not perfected a zen attitude in the face of forced, sub-optimal change. Especially when 1) it's clear at least one of the above people is passive/aggressively irritated with me, 2) the eleventh hour is upon us all and the options are limited, and 3) I did completely miss the impact of the time slot swap on this panel.

How did I miss this detail, fastidious planner that I am? Probably something to do with the happenings of the past five weeks:

--Sunstone West in the Bay Area and our long detour home through Las Vegas.

--My mom's surgery two days later and her post-surgery complications (including a trip to the ER this morning to address her perilously low heart rate & blood pressure).

--My two bouts of iPhone problems.

--The still-unresolved issues with the Sheraton SLC and lining up an alternate venue for the August Symposium.

--A missionary homecoming/Stevens family event.

--A Sunstone panel discussion at the U of U last Thursday, complete with a fire alarm in the building and a spring snowstorm that tanked attendance (and one panelist who was in a car accident on his way to the event and never arrived).

--A phone call from a dear friend who's in the grip of some fierce depression and family crises which make me really worried for her physical and emotional health.

--Tidying up prior to our first house showing in four weeks. (Still no offer from the Seattle people who liked it enough to tour it twice).

--Trying to get the new house painted, carpeted, cleaned, fenced, and ready for habitation (on the few weekends we aren't traveling or Mike isn't teaching his leadership seminar).

So yeah, in the midst of ALL THAT, I missed a detail. One that has a fairly large impact on others, will not be easy to fix, and that I feel somewhat responsible for.

I emailed the planning committee tonight about the problem; it's possible we may be able to switch the first and last plenary sessions of the day--IF the folks scheduled in the last session can all be present at 8:00 AM instead.

Perhaps the course of action will be more clear tomorrow. In the meantime, I ought to put myself to bed.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Itsy Bitsy

A high school friend posted two photos on Facebook today: one of a large black widow spider he found in his garage. The second was a photo of said spider squished dead.

The spider carnage reminded me of another spider death I witnessed nearly two decades ago, the violence of which still bothers me.

I visited a former roommate at her home in West Virginia and we spent part of the week staying with her relatives in Maryland and taking the Metro into Washington D.C. One afternoon, I was in the relatives' garden admiring the rows of hearty tomato plants when I spotted an enormous yellow and black striped garden spider poised on its web.

I've been fascinated with spiders ever since I was a kid and knew that garden spiders are harmless. They weave orbs and eat bugs--not much else. So I watched the spider for a while and looked for an insect to help into its web so I could see the spider in action.

I point out the spider to my host--Jen's elderly male relative who had come outside. He leaned over and took a good look at it. He then rooted around the garden soil for two flat stones, walked over to the spider's web, and abruptly clapped the stones together, crushing the garden spider between them.

I was HORRIFIED. I never would have pointed out the spider if I had any idea doing so would result in the spider's violent death.

Trying to control my upset at this turn of events, I stammered "Why did you do that?" The host said they have grand kids over to play in the yard and didn't want black widow spiders around.

I bit my tongue a few times before blurting out that it was NOT a black widow; it was a garden spider, one that would pose little danger to anyone. My host shrugged. Oh, well. One dead spider didn't upset the balance of his universe.

I'm still bothered by that experience all these years later. And yet I'm a hypocrite--I don't tolerate spiders in MY living space. I squish, vacuum, or wash them down the drain without much thought about their demise. (Mike's better about taking spiders outside and occasionally I will, too). But I wouldn't purposely kill a spider that was outdoors doing its own thing.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Big Whew...

It's been a whirlwind week.

Last Thursday at this time, we (me, Mike, and passenger Brad) were leaving Reno after eating at a hotel buffet, a welcome stop on a day-long road trip from SLC to the Bay Area for Sunstone West. We got through the Sierras OK and spent the night in Sacramento. Mapquested the route to the nearest Trader Joe's. Bought refreshments for Friday night's Sunstone event and stocked up on some staples for us.

Friday afternoon, we arrived in Cupertino, checked into the hotel, and I met with the banquet/meeting director for one last run through. I realized that my phone wasn't working properly for phone calls and chalked it up to being in a dead zone.

Dined at the Ranch 99 Market's Chinese buffet (a pattern emerges) and headed over to the Cornetts' home for a rousing hymn sing-along. Unfortunately, the street address in the db and on all our printed materials was wrong; we put up a sign directing people down the street to where they really live. Had a cozy time on a rainy night. While there, one panelist called to say that two speakers from Utah couldn't get over the Sierras and wouldn't be joining us for the Saturday night closing session. :(

Up bright and early Saturday to set up for Sunstone West. Mike was his usual AV-wizard self, getting the equipment set up and troubleshooting. Had some nice onsite registration numbers. At lunch--another buffet that partakers could bring back to the meeting room where Mike was showing Mormony Daily Show & Colbert Report clips and the episode of Big Love that mentioned Sunstone in a storyline.

The attendees seemed to enjoy themselves and we had a pretty big crowd at the closing session. A few die hards went out to dinner together afterward.

We kept an eye on weather reports Saturday night and Sunday morning; while we were eating breakfast, I-80 closed at Donner Pass, meaning we had to take an alternate route home. Mike thought Hwy 50 (if it remained open) would be crowded, so we took I-5 south and toodled over to Bakersfield and over to I-15 for the rest of the drive. Of course, this meant another buffet stop at dinnertime. Sixteen or so hours later, we pulled into our own driveway.

Monday was a blur; Mike had to teach and I worked from home and spent time with my mom ad dad before mom's surgery Tuesday morning. The surgery went well--the surgeon was able to place a stent over her aneurysm using the least invasive route. He plugged an artery near the aneurysm so that blood wouldn't leak in behind the stent. We were relieved that the process went smoothly.

Mom was in a lot of pain and stayed in the ICU for two days so she could have extra monitoring. By Tuesday night, the pain had gone down somewhat and by Wednesday it was considerably less. She's still having some chest, leg, and arm pain in addition to incisional pain in her groin. As of this writing, she's cut back on the pain meds and is resting more comfortably. When she's discharged from the hospital, she'll enter a cardiac rehab facility for a few weeks for recuperating and physical therapy/rehab.

Dad's been staying at the hospital guest house and will move in with us while mom's in rehab. Not sure how soon they'll go back to CA afterward. I guess we'll cross that bridge eventually.

I'm pretty tuckered out from the long roadtrips, the symposium, the surgery, the late nights and early mornings spent at the hospital, and trying to set up contractor appointments for stuff we need done at the new house and the old one. Mike's soldiering on through his many responsibilities on less sleep than usual, too. Looking forward to things CALMING DOWN.

Still haven't resolved the contract dispute with the Sheraton; they haven't made any contact for a couple of weeks now. Not since I said that they needed to comply with the terms of the contract as their starting point and that I would happily document the direct and consequential costs to Sunstone for the Sheraton's booking error--including my time spent on finding another venue and having to cancel a regional symposium in Washington DC. I may have dropped enough legal terms to indicate Sunstone is serious about getting the cancellation damages due us. They will keep hearing me roar until that happens.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Breaking the long silence

It's been a bit of a whirlwind since Thanksgiving. Here's a much abbreviated rundown of what's been going on since I last blogged:

-- My parents came to Utah for a visit in October.

-- Mom went to the ER with shortness of breath and elevated bp the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Testing showed an aneurysm under her aortic arch. Logan doesn't have the facilities to handle this, so she was referred to McKay Dee hospital in Ogden.

-- Mom's new cardiologist did an angiogram in early December and got a better sense of what treatment options are. He scheduled an appointment for mid-January to recheck and see what mom had decided to do: have surgery in Utah, or go back to CA, get a second opinion, and line up surgery there.

-- Additional episodes of shortness of breath and high bp kept mom and dad in Utah for the duration. I spent Christmas with them in Logan, camping out in the ancestral home and making Christmas dinner (and other meals) without an oven or microwave.

-- Spent a few days with youngest stepdaughter Jessica during her Christmas visit (during which she turned 18!)

-- Saw True Grit with Mike on NYE.

-- Dealt with computer glitches at the office, with my laptop, new desktop, and my slow, old, lumbering iPhone. Upgraded and finally got all my data onto the new phone.

-- Recreationally perused some real estate close to WSU and scheduled some appointments to see the promising ones IRL.

-- Spent three Saturdays in January touring properties with varying prices and levels of appeal. One 1957 rambler had an entirely pink kitchen--including the built-in OVEN. Others looked good on paper but didn't deliver in person (including one rental that could have been on an episode of Clean House or Hoarders).

-- Wrote an offer late last Saturday night for a spectacular home on Ogden's east bench, slightly closer to WSU, but not walking distance. Now trying to juggle the offer and listing our current home with the demands of Mike's semester and my symposium schedule.

-- Feeling some about the house's size--4100 square feet is an obscene amount of space for two people. But its other features--hot tub, energy efficiency, large yard, fabulous kitchen, and the amazing SOLARIUM (where I picture spending much time during the winters)--made it too good to pass up.

-- We went to church at what would be our new ward if all goes well. The people were warm and friendly--spoke to us, asked if we were new/moving in, made efforts to include us. It was quite a contrast from our current ward, where no one spoke to us until RS/PH meeting for the first THREE SUNDAYS we attended.

-- Mom has an appointment with her cardiologist and the surgeon next week. We should know soon when her surgery will be scheduled. They're hoping to go in via groin to place the stent rather than go in via chest. The aneurysm is close to another artery which will need to be bypassed a couple of days before the stent goes in. Hoping it all goes smoothly!

-- And while all this is going on, I'm planning regional symposiums in Northern California, the Midwest, Washington DC, and getting a head start on SLC 2011. Just had my opening keynote speaker confirm today: Colleen McDannell!

-- Oh, and I'm also going to be assisting Mike with the Monday night class he's taking over for an ill colleague. He should hear soon about his promotion to full professor AND department chair. Nice work, honey!

Yeah, it's been a busy few months. But now you're pretty much all caught up!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Big win!

My dear friend Jana had a giveaway on her blog as part of telling the six-part story of illustrating a Christmas book, What Think Ye of Christmas?

I knew the book was out last year in time for Christmas, but wasn't aware of the back story. So many things came together to make the project happen--it's a pretty amazing read. I commented on the different posts in the series and was eligible for various fabulous prizes.

Today, Jana announced the recipients for the drawing--and I won the art print of one of the book's illustrations and a copy of the book.

Here are the options I have to choose from. Not sure how I'm going to manage to select just one; they're all fabulous!

Jana is giving away one last prize: up to 10 copies of the book, What Think Ye of Christmas? for folks on your Christmas list. Follow the link at the bottom of the post announcing the winners (or here) and leave a comment to be eligible for the prize!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Whoever said "Hell is other people" was right

As part of my outreach duties at work, I've been trying to enlist more volunteer help with Symposium planning.

I had a great bunch of people step up to help with Seattle--many of whom I've never met. And one volunteer set us up with FREE meeting space that a symposium-goer described as a definite step up from the rowing club we'd used for the past few years.

Anyway, I finished the final program today, posted it online and on Facebook, and sent PDFs to all the volunteers/participants.

I was getting ready to leave the office when I checked my work email one last time and saw a new message saying there was a change of venue for the Sunday night event Portland. Had I not seen the previous email about it?

Um, NO.

So I've been scrambling to update the final program (with change of venue in red and magenta so it's hard to miss) and reposting the revised version everywhere imaginable.

Thank heavens I saw the message and got to it quickly. I'll have to announce it repeatedly at the event so we don't have people looking at their preliminary programs and going to the wrong place.

This is the kind of last-minute switcheroo that makes me wary of delegating planning responsibilities to others. Sure, it's more work to do it all myself. But it's also more stressful for me to respond to surprises from delegates. (Delegees?)

Anyway, the last place I want to be at 8:08 pm on a Friday night is the office.