Friday, August 25, 2006

Office Space

...and so she weaveth steadily
and little other care hath she...

It’s 8:30 PM, and I’m sitting in my game room, at my computer, writing this. Outside, it’s still a zillion degrees and the cicadas are screaming in the trees. It was 108 degrees when I was driving home this afternoon, according to one of those big interactive, highway billboards along LBJ.

But frankly, I don’t give a damn. My car’s in the garage, the cats are fed, I’ve had dinner (a cold grilled salmon fillet and a bottle of pear ale), I’ve watered the plants (not that it seems to matter, much, in this horrific heat) and (Kath, don’t read this), I’ve had a quick skinny dip.

Life could be worse. I’m actually enjoying this contract gig, in spite of the commute. After 19 months of being unemployed, it feels great to work again, even though I seem to have landed smack dab in the middle of
Office Space. If my supervisor, Dawnelle (yes, that’s really her name, and she’ll never know about this blog, so I’m using it) ...if Dawnelle came up to my cubicle and told me she needed to talk with me about my TPS reports, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

Two of us were hired as contractors, and as much as I’m enjoying this gig, my fellow contractor is not. She doesn’t like the fact that we’re doing the equivalent of Peter Gibbons updating bank software for the 2000 switch (another Office Space reference), except that rather than entering thousands of lines of code like Peter did in Office Space, we’re entering thousands of lines of facts about devices (my co-worker) and drugs (moi) into endless domestic and international FDA reports. It’s not rocket science, and it’s not personally fulfilling in the way that working with kids in child psychiatry was, but it’s a job, and it’s pays ridiculously well, and I don’t have to wear a pager, and for the first time in my life, I have flex time. I LOVE flex time. It takes all the stress out of the commute. No one cares what time I come in, or what time I leave, so long as I do my 8 hours, and I love that. Also, even if I didn’t, the contract’s up at the end of January, at which time I’ll be doing something else, and I like that, too.

Did I mention that we get to actually stop work and eat lunch? Lunch. What an amazing concept. In the 5 years that I worked at the U, I almost never got to do that. Of course there were times that I did, but those were the exception, and not just for me, but for most of my colleagues as well. We either skipped lunch altogether, or grabbed a bite to eat at our desks, hoping we wouldn’t have to deal with patients, either in person, or on the phone, as we ate. A couple of times a month, we had working lunches, brought to us by pharmaceutical reps, who did a dog and pony show for us, telling us why we should push their particular drugs, as we wolfed down their fajitas or pizza or Eatzi’s sandwiches, but even then, taking a full hour was not part of the deal. Usually, at the U, it was easier to just skip lunch altogether.

At this contract gig, there’s so much work that the day just flies by, and then, when I’ve put in my 8 hours...I get to leave. I walk out to my car, drive home, and I don’t have to think about work. That is such a change for me. To not have to carry a pager...I suspect I won’t want to do this forever, but for right now, it’s mindless, and busy, and just what I’ve needed.

Life is good.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Happy Birthday Mike & Chris!

21 years ago today, I gave birth to Mike and Chris. Happy Birthday, guys! I love you.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

party on the ice floe...

I’m 56, and on September 11th, I’ll turn 57. Except for my knees, I feel pretty much the same as I did in my 30's, except that I know a lot more now, and for the most part, I enjoy knowing the things I know. I wouldn’t say I’m wise, but I’m certainly wiser than I was in my 30's.

Two things have happened this week, though, that have gotten me thinking about the way Americans view women as we age. This being August and Texas, of course it’s been hot, for example, yesterday the high was 105. On Wednesday night, just before going to bed, I went into my back yard to water my patio flowers. It was a little after 10:00 PM, and Mike had just left for the evening, so I was home alone. Watering the flowers, I felt incredibly hot and sticky, and suddenly decided to have a quick skinny dip in my pool. There's a high fence around my backyard, so it's totally private. I swam around, au naturel, for about 5 minutes before locking up the house for the night and going to bed, feeling considerably refreshed and relaxed.

The next evening, Katharine was over, and I mentioned my skinny dip to her, thinking she’d appreciate the spontaneity. But her reaction wasn’t what I expected.

"Ewwwwwwwwwww," she said, "Mom! I didn’t want to know that!"

"But why?" I asked, knowing she enjoys going skinny dipping herself. Then, seeing the look on her face... "Oh my gosh, is it because I’m getting old?"

"’s sort of gross..." she said, and then added, "And anyway, what if I’d come over with Xander, what’s he supposed to think?"

I said, "Well, if you come over unannounced with anyone at 10:30 at night, you’re going to have to take what you get and deal with it..."

I’ve been thinking about this. I’m 56, and my favorite things...things for which I’ve acquired a taste in the time I have lived on this earth, so far (and I’m adding more all the time)...those things, for the most part, haven’t yet fallen by the wayside, in spite of the fact that I’m 56 years old. I still like red wine, and dark chocolate (not necessarily at the same time), and I still like driving fast in a small convertible with the top down late at night, and the wind blowing in my hair...and I still like oysters on the half shell, and deep fried calimari, and indie films, and good music of almost any type...and I still like good books, and good conversation, and good sex (though I have to admit, sex is like pizza...even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good)...and just like I have my whole life, I still love skinny dipping...and I don’t think I’m going to wake up one morning suddenly not liking those things, just because I’m 60 or 70 or 95...

Which brings me to my other rant.

I had dinner last night with an old friend, someone I’ve known for almost 30 years, who recently (in the past couple of years) got divorced. For the record, he is, he’ll be 60 on his next birthday. We were talking about dating, and specifically, about internet dating.

"People lie," he said.

"Well, yes," I agreed, "they do, it's the internet, so you have to keep that in mind."

"Yeah," he said, "like this one woman...on her profile, she said she was 56, which would be OK..."

I felt a flag starting to rise in my brain, but pushed it down, waiting to hear what he’d say next...

"But when I met her, she admitted she was 62! 62! I mean, I have a 16-year-old daughter, what am I going to do, going out with someone who’s 62? And I asked her that, and she said it was fine with her if I have a 16-year-old daughter! It may be fine with her, but it’s not fine with me, I’m just not going to date someone who’s 62!"

I sighed, and I’ve been sighing every time I think about it. For what it’s worth, he’s 5 years older than his ex-wife, and is currently dating a woman who’s 51, or 8 years younger than he is...but he was insulted to think that a woman just 3 years older than he is would think it might be OK to date him. And also for what it’s worth, actress Susan Sarandon, who’ll be 60 in October, has a 14-year-old son with her partner, 47-year-old actor Tim Robbins, and no one seems to think twice about it.

What is it with men and age? Most guys I know find the 16-year age difference between Tom Cruise (42) and Katie Holmes (26) quite acceptable, because she’s younger, but they’d be horrified if that difference were in the other direction. But if that difference were in the other direction...if guys Tom Cruise’s age were looking for women who were 16 years older, rather than 16 years younger...well, all I can say is, it’s comforting to me, to think that at 56, I’d still be too young for Tom Cruise.

And Kath, I’m putting you on warning...if I live to be 90-something, it’s quite likely that you’ll be getting regular calls from the nursing home: "It’s your mother, she’s been skinny-dipping AGAIN..."

Thursday, August 10, 2006

meanwhile, back at the ranch...

I've been neglecting this space, I know. Blame it on my finally having found gainful employment, in Ft. Worth. I leave my house at the crack of dawn each morning. In fact, Mike accused me of putting our cat, Leo, out "in the middle of the night!"

"But I didn't!" I said.

"Mom," Mike said, "I heard you!"

"Well, I let him out in the morning, as always," I said.

Mike interrupted, "No, Mom, it was the middle of the night!"

I thought about what he'd said.

"Could it have been 5:00 AM?" I asked.

"Yeah," Mike said, "I think it probably was."

"Uh, Mike...that's what time I get up these days, for work..."

I'm spending about 2 1/2 hours a day, commuting, and that cuts into my computer time, but I'll be writing more soon, I promise, and I'll be catching up on my reading of everyone else's blogs too.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Removing the Bean, or, Just Another Day at the Office

Oh, the things I learn at work. Yeah, those of you who know me, you read that right, WORK. As in, JOB. As in, what I haven’t had in 19 months. I finally got hired by a CRO (clinical research organization), as a...ahem...drug safety specialist for a big, posh company that shall go unnamed, but that is so big and posh it shuts down for a week at Christmas. It’s in Ft. Worth, which is over an hour’s commute each way for me, and it’s more than a little corporate...think Office Space...but I’m a contract worker, meaning if I don’t like it, I can simply not renew in 6 months, when my contract’s up, and go on to something else. In the meantime, I’ve plugged that ugly gap in my resume, and I’m doing something new and interesting.

I’m being trained by a pharmacist, one of many employed by this company. This one happens to be a zappy woman, just 2 years older than I am. She also happens to own a horse. Today, when I walked into her office to ask her something, she was on the phone. She waved me in, and as I stood there, waiting, I overheard her trying to talk her veterinarian into making a house call.

"Can’t you please come out?" she asked. "He really needs to be seen, and I just don’t know how I’d bring him in...yes...ah, yes, I see. I understand. Ok, I’ll think about it and try to figure something out. Thank you."

She hung up the phone and sighed. "I’ve got to bring my horse in," she said, "and I don’t know how I’m going to do it. He absolutely refuses to get into the horse trailer, but he needs to have his..." She stopped, and looked at me. "How much do you know about horses?" she asked.

"Nothing at all," I admitted.

Her eyes crinkled into a wicked smile. "Then you don’t know about Removing the Bean?" she asked.

"Haven't a clue," I said. "You’ve lost me, what’s the bean?"

She proceeded to tell me. Sheesh, and I thought I’d heard almost everything, working for 5 years in a department of psychiatry. I was so wrong.

It seems that male horses, almost all male horses, have a problem with...ahem...smegma. If you don’t know what smegma is, click on the link. Do I have your attention now? Ok, so here’s the thing...male horses have rather large, apparently can produce prodigious amounts of smegma. Over time, it dries, and accumulates in various parts of the male horse’s rather vast and mysterious Male Horse Anatomy, including not only the outer and inner parts of his, uh...sheath...and also the top of his, uh, member...but also...and herein lies the problem, so to speak...the dried smegma accumulates in a small pouch just inside the urethra, and that small, smegma-filled pouch is known as "the Bean". I am not making this up! Ultimately, this causes problems for the horse, and ultimately, the Bean has to be removed.

This is the 21st century. It’s about a hundred degrees outside, but my house is pleasantly cool. I’m sitting comfortably in my gameroom, writing at a keyboard that transmits my words to a computer screen, and then on to my blog, where people whom I don’t know, from all over the world, can read them if they come across them. If I walk into my kitchen, I can get ice from the door of my refrigerator...well, that’s wishful thinking...actually I can’t, because the icemaker’s broken...but you get my point. To quote Paul Simon, "these are the days of miracles and wonders..."

And yet, when a male horse accumulates too much smegma in his nether parts, the solution is quite primitive. It involves a hose, water, a lubricant, some gloves, and a human hand. Uh-huh, that’s right. If you doubt me, you can read all about it, here. How often the bean has to be removed varies from horse to horse. With some horses it’s once a month, with other horses, once a year.

It turns out that although my friend loves horses, she didn’t know this. She found out about it last week, when a farrier, working on the horse’s hoofs, noticed that the horse was...letting it all hang out, so to speak. The farrier, a tiny woman of 70, asked, when was the last time the bean had been removed. It turns out my friend has owned the horse for over 5 years, and because she was unaware that this could even happen, in all that time, the horse has never had anyone get up close and personal with his parts, to Remove the Bean.

The farrier, experienced in performing this procedure and feeling sorry for the horse, offered to do the deed then and there. My friend watched, fascinated, as the farrier donned gloves, only to have her hand and part of her arm disappear from sight as she proceeded to soap and clean the horse’s inner and outer sheath. The bean, though, untouched for over 5 years, was too large to be removed by the farrier, who said it’s so big that she believes the horse will have to be anaesthetized for the procedure.

Thus the call to the vet, asking if he makes house calls.

Wow. Dunno what it is, but wherever I work, I always end up having the most interesting conversations.