Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cottage 505

We are staying at Chautauqua for the Thanksgiving holiday. I told myself I wasn’t up to having a houseful of people for turkey day like we normally do; and then I had that houseful of folks over on the Sunday before for a potluck and jam in honor of our friends Brian and Judy. Oh well, I had thought I wasn’t up to it. It was a great party!

We rented our cottage here for four nights, starting on Wednesday. It is darling—tiny and prettily done with light yellow walls, white trim, and wood floors. We guess it is about 500 square feet, with a living room, bedroom, fully-appointed kitchen and bathroom. You have to be neat—the things we brought with us would fill up the whole place if we let it. Instead I have stored most things away in the closet in the bedroom so that we have room to move and won’t feel cluttered.

Molly was quite excited to be going on a trip with us. She was very surprised when we put her bed down in the kitchen—she didn’t realize that our cottage would have a bed for her just like the one at home. She was entranced this morning by two fat squirrels and a pair of sleek mountain jays outside of our screen porch. Overall, she has been a very good girl.

Along with our dog, we have brought books, computers, instruments, food—the accoutrements we deem essential for a get-away. I read a whole book today: “Family Linen,” by Lee Smith—and it was wonderful (both the book and the reading). David hooked up a little ham radio and fiddled around with that for a while in the late morning. Now he’s plunking on a banjo, working on a new song.

It is very quiet here. We hear little of our neighbors. But we hiked this morning and there were lots of people and their dogs out on the Mesa trail. Everyone was exercising in preparation for “the big eat.” It was a day of gloomy skies and winter gloves and beautiful in its own right.

We are on a retreat. It feels good.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Smoking Cigarettes and Watching Captain Kangaroo

I am almost never around cigarette smoke. Every place here outside and inside of Boulder is smoke-free. Few people in my workplace smoke; those who do keep it low profile. One of my employees worked for me for a year and a half before I knew he smoked--and only then because someone else mentioned it. Here in this part of Colorado, it isn't something you brag about.

Yet, on that rare occasion when I catch a whiff of someone's cigarette, like walking to my car at the grocery store, it takes me back to my childhood. Yes, an odd thing, but I associate the smell of cigarette smoke with growing up in Kentucky. Although no one in my household was a smoker, I was surrounded by others who were. My uncle smoked; he is in precarious health today as a result. My beloved next door neighbor smoked; she has now passed away, but it was not cigarette-related. Lots of my classmates smoked; it was a rite of passage into adolescence, unfortunately.

Cigarette smoke reminds me of parties and picnics and concerts and going to college. It used to be that every other person I encountered was a smoker. Yes, I'd estimate 50 percent. Nowadays, it's down below 5 percent, I'd guess. Maybe more with the folks who don't let anyone know that they smoke. Sometimes I guess when I catch the faintest whiff on their clothes.

Last week when I walked out of the grocery store, I pushed my cart through the smoker's zone, and caught that familiar aroma. I was back in Kentucky in a flash, waiting for the bus outside of high school, not smoking but smelling. It feels so familiar.

Oh, and yes, I was a fan of Captain Kangaroo growing up.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Still Missing Oren Beach

Even after 18 years, I still miss Oren Beach. When I moved to Germany in the 80's, with two cats in tow and not knowing a single person, Oren was the guy who met me at the Frankfurt airport. He was tall and bushily mustached, with a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. He didn't exactly fit in, at a time when Americans were encouraged to keep a low profile. I don't think he could have fit in if he wanted to.

That day, he shook my hand briskly, welcomed me to Germany, and then waited with me for the next flight to arrive from JFK--as it turned out my luggage was on that flight, not the one I came in on. Oren then drove me haphazardly around the airport, in search of my cats, who were quarantined in some obscure corner of the place.

Oren was my "sponsor," a military-designated role, although he wasn't in the military. Like me, he was a DOD civilian employee. Any newcomer, military or civilian, was assigned a sponsor to help them assimilate into the community and the country. Oren took his assignment very seriously; in essence I became part of his family. When he dropped me off at my hotel that first day, he told me when he would be by to get me the next day. That became the norm. Oren was always telling me when to be ready to go to work, camping, to wine festivals, shopping, dinner at his house.

Oren's family welcomed me into their midst without question. He and his wife, Donna, and their two children that lived in Germany with them, became my closest, best friends. I recall many meals at their table, with people of all nationalities. At that time, the military presence in Germany was 300,000 strong, with a massive civilian support infrastructure. There were many folks to meet, to break bread and drink wine with. Oren and Donna were always ready to have a party at the drop of a hat. They seemed to move at the drop of a hat, too. I would really like the house where they lived, and they would tell me that they had found a better house and were moving. It went on that way for four years.

Oren had an almost larger than life personality. He was a hard worker, ready to give his all for any task that needed doing. He believed in being part of and nurturing his community--and in this case more than one community--the military community we were a part of, and the larger German community, as well. But his roots were in the western U.S.; he and Donna were originally from Kansas and had American Indian blood in their veins. I still recall going to his house for dinner, and he would announce to me, "Kathy--we have a great movie to watch tonight--the best! John Wayne!" And that's what we would watch--always his first choice.

After four years, Oren and Donna moved back to the U.S. Oren had a new job he was excited about; they were moving to Colorado, where they hoped to own horses again. The last time that I spoke with Oren was on my wedding day. He called that morning from the U.S. to offer me his congratulations and wish me well.

Some four months later, I got a call from a friend that Oren and Donna had been killed in a car accident. I could not believe they were gone after only four years as part of my life. And even now, I still miss Oren, after these eighteen years. His presence was huge in my life. No one ever had a better sponsor.

Friday, November 14, 2008

La Pie

The first snow of the winter is on the ground now. I am looking out at heavy, dark weather clouds and the light reminds me of living in Germany. I rarely get that feeling in the Colorado bright fall and summer days. Only in winter is the light sometimes similar enough to trigger my memory. It is the same light I see in a painting of Monet's called La Pie (The Magpie). The bird sits on a gate surrounded by snow and cloud; there is a pink undertone behind it. When the daylight is like this, I recognize it--I have for years now, since I moved from Germany to Colorado.

That is the light of today. There is no bright Colorado sunshine falling on my sunroom. Instead it is winter as the rest of the world normally sees it. I like these days. They remind me of other places and fun times.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Adventures in Social Networking

Suddenly, I am a social networking fool.

I have had two MySpace sites for a while--one for the band, Steel Pennies, and the other for the Altona Grange Bluegrass shows that David produced this fall. I just kind of go through the motions with those, periodically uploading new photos, approving comments and friend requests, removing songs as per the request of disgruntled band mates. I found that it had become a little boring.

But then things picked up when I set up a profile on Linked In. I kind of liked that one--decided to get it going for job hunting. I caught up with a lot of old coworkers and enjoy exploring where folks are and what they are up to. I had lunch with Scott Martinez, who used to work for me 6 years ago. He found me on Linked In, and a week later we were sitting in a Mexican restaurant, howling over our adventures in the corporate world. Then I got folks who I worked with to write recommendations for me--now that was an ego-enhancer! Stephanie, Jon, Ted, and Mike Kallet all took good care of me.

From Linked In, it was almost a natural progression to decide that I needed a Facebook page. I enjoyed putting it together, as I did my other profiles. Once I had that baby up and running, I was further delighted by two things. David Okay decided he would have one, too. And everyone on his side of the family is also on Facebook. Now we IM and write on each other's walls, and comment on each other's pictures--for me, living so far from family for so many years, it has been wonderful.

Now, as of today, I am tweeting. I set up Twitter about two months ago, but never did anything besides get the account going. Lo and behold, this morning here comes an email from Twitter telling me that GoodBlueGrass is "following" me. After wondering what Paul was doing on Twitter, I got myself organized and began to "follow" other folks, too. I even figured out how to compress the picture I wanted to use for my profile, and how to link Twitter to Facebook--awesome!

I am having so much fun.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Election High

I am still elated over the election. On Tuesday night, I joined my jam group at Lindsay's house. We ate chili, played music with the T.V. on but muted, cranked up the sound when there was something important to watch. It was very fun. I was so excited that Colorado was going blue--and embarrased that Kentucky did not. I thought both speeches were great--that of McCain and that of Obama. Obama seemed very presidential and serious--he knows how hard his job is going to be. His work is indeed cut out for him. I think he can handle it.

The next day I didn't go to work, but spent the first part of the day reviewing the election results and following the states that still hadn't been called--Missouri and North Carolina. I suddenly realized that my brother-in-law, Kevin, would be home and I called him to chat about everything. My sister, Leslie, and Kevin live in Illinois and have been die-hard Obama fans for a long time. The weekend before the election, Kevin went to Iowa for the Obama campaign and knocked on doors to get out the vote. When we chewed over the details of the election on Tuesday, he said that the Obama campaign had bussed 5,000 people to Indianapolis to get out the vote. Holy cow--it worked. Indiana, one of the most interesting battleground states went blue--with the help of 100,000 Obama votes in Indianapolis. Wow.

The commentators on CNN were talking with awe about the Obama campaign--they all gave it a thumbs up for being the best run campaign in history. I heard that they targeted 600,000 voters in Florida who were eligible to vote in the last election--but did not do so. And guess what--Florida went blue. What a tremendous, smart, strategic effort.

This election means so much for the African American people. It brought tears to my eyes to see Jesse Jackson weeping in the crowd at Grant Park. Althought he did some questionable things during this election, he has been at the forefront of the battle for African American rights for a long time and this meant so much to him and so many others.

Finally, I can't close without talking about the halogram. I watched in amusement early in the evening when CNN explained they were going to bring a reporter into their newsroom via halogram. Lo and behold--she appeared. She was in Chicago, in a tent, with 30 something HD cameras focused on her. She remarked that she was following in the footsteps of Princess Leah--I thought--Yes! I studied her; she was just kind of floating there--just like Leah--or I recall a halogram used on a Star Trek episode or two. After a while, I thought, "Wow. It took this long for them to figure out how to do this! Yep--40 years or so."