Sunday, July 10, 2016


I used to be so good about blogging. I used to be so good about reflection and the observational life. I write. I read. Observation goes with those.

I used to have more than enough material for daily posts. For 3 years, there was more than a post a day. Now, I can barely get a post a month. You can be forgiven for feeling that I'm never around. It is the truth. I'm not around.

What happened?


In February of 2013, my office won a very large job, part of the largest road construction project in Illinois, the rebuilding of the circle interchange in Chicago, where Interstate 290 meets Interstates 90 and 94. It was complicated, but it got us into several other projects and work has never ceased. If we aren't out in the field, we are in the office. I used to write several posts from the comfort of my office. Get the work done, write one, two or three posts. Now, I don't have that luxury. I'm heading out in the early morning hours Monday for a full day in the city on yet another large job. I started it last Thursday. There are 30 buildings to inspect. I am not sure if I will do the bulk of them but I will have a lot done by noon on Tuesday. I don't mind the field work, it's the writing up of the reports afterwards that I dislike. I admit to procrastination in that regard. I should be better about writing these. If I didn't drag my feet because I dislike it, then there would be more time for the things I do like.

I've seen things, gone places I never would have ventured to. I kind of want to go back to this fabric shop even though I need fabric like I need Bubonic Plague. But...fabric! I never would have found this place had I not had to go do an inspection in a section of Chicago where I'd never been before.

I'm traveling more than in past years. That alone takes me away from this computer and the pushing of keys and the wrestling of letters into words into sentences into paragraphs. It's sort of good for the pocketbook because we get paid a mileage rate when we have to use our cars. But day trips of 12 hours can wear on one, grind one down, make the recliner or the bed more attractive than telling you about the way cool place I found myself back in May. I haven't blogged about that even though the space was amazing and I should show you some of the photos I took.

I made the deck space this year different from previous years. I haven't shown that to you and here it is, half-way through deck season. I'm out there, although not, obviously, right now, writing or reading, cats under the chair or in the doorway. I started journaling, something I used to do ages ago. I bought a package of gel pens and writing in colors has been wonderful for creativity on those pages, not so much for collecting thoughts here. And I'm drawing again. Bits and scraps and thinking I really need to invest in a good pencil sharpener. The journal entries are interspersed with art. Will I post some of it here? I don't know.

And there is life, in general. The Jeep finally died. I think I can write about that today although the deck calls. I need to upgrade my computer as World of Warcraft is bracing for a major expansion of play next month and the memory cards sit to my right, still in the box, still waiting for me to make the time to change out what I have for new and shiny. The electric line through the middle of the house, covering the bathroom, the hallway and the office, is non-functional. Next month, I need to have an electrician come out and look at it, tell me what it will cost to fix, and dread that whole process. I look years ahead and think just how much to do I want to invest in this place that's been my home for 30+ years. I had to move the computer to the living room. There are plusses and minuses to this.

I found, rather he found me, a landscape/lawn guy. He lives two blocks north of me; went to the same grade and high school Carole did. He's a go getter, if I may be allowed a retro word here. Yes, last year, I spent $250 on a brand spanking new lawn mower that now sits in the shed. If he hadn't wandered into my life when he did, my lawn would not look as good as it does. I have no time and less energy. I haven't blogged about that and I need to show you what I've done.

And there is the RA.

I honestly don't remember what I was doing when I cut my finger. It was something in early June. Probably planting. I was going to blog about my evolving plants. Well, that didn't happen, but there is a minion bandage for that cut. And it's my hands which have given me the most problems this year. My rheumatologist has moved to Atlanta and I see a new lady in August. Spring was, for some reason, particularly trying. There were and are aches in finger joints and in my wrists. That's the only place I seem to be greatly affected. When you spend a whole day typing reports, you don't want to come home and type blog posts, less so if the middle digit on the left hand hurts.

There has been the fatigue. I have energy that astounds me. I have calm. I have inner reserves I marvel at tapping into...

and then I crash. It is not uncommon for me to sleep 16 hours on a Sunday after a Saturday of activity. I don't feel fatigued on Saturday. I feel energized and am thrilled with all I can accomplish. Sunday morning dawns and I feed the girls and go back to sleep, getting up for an hour at one and maybe a few hours from 4-8. The RA web sites I follow talk about the fatigue. It is beyond "fatigue" and the associated connotations. It is beyond "exhaustion" and the definition of that word. I collapse, completely, totally. The deck and the sunshine hold no allure. Give me my bed.

This breeds frustration. There are dishes in the sink, clothes in the washer, grit on the floors, dust everywhere. I forget my daily vitamins. Don't bother me. I retreat. I seclude myself. I don't go out. Don't ask. It was a big, very big, deal to go to a wedding at the end of last month. It will be a big deal to go to Carole and Larry's. I could, very easily, recuse myself from life and stay in my bed. You don't know fatigue until it's from a chronic illness. "I'm so tired." Please. And this takes me away from the blog, from life, from things which used to give me great pleasure.

So, where am I? I am still grateful every single day. I am happy, too, in my own way. My happiness does not depend upon others. It comes from myself and if I can make myself happy in a small way, my whole day is happy. Yet, I look at this space and the hundreds of photos I have taken which have not made their way here and I feel a pang of unhappiness, emptiness, maybe. How to realign my life that I can get back here and yet do those things which are giving me pleasure? That's where I find myself. I promised, some months, or perhaps a year ago, that I would post more. I shouldn't make empty promises. I'm still here. I'm still me. I have joys and sorrows, frustrations and celebrations. I still have two cats, one of whom is in her box, snoring. I am reminded of a quote usually attributed to John Lennon but which was written by Allen Saunders for Reader's Digest.

"Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans." 

Truth. I love the journey, even with the potholes.

Beverage:  Orange Juice


Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Things I See

The last couple of weeks have found me in a couple of very interesting buildings. The first object of a blog post is an auction house in the city. It's in a section of town which has gradually, over the last 10 years, seen urban renewal. The building itself used to be a printing house but is now a place of, for me, wonder at the art contained therein. To inspect the building was going to take some time. Fortunately, across the street was a brand-new Portillo's.

This is important for lunch, you know. I hadn't had a slice of their amazing chocolate cake in a long time. It's also great for the neighborhood. This location serves salads. My co-worker got their apple cranberry chicken salad and it looked very good. I usually order a polish, mustard only, fries and a medium Coke. (They don't serve Dr Pepper.) But I looked at her salad and thought, I could eat that. It looks delicious and better for me than a polish.

The building was 4 stories of treasures plus basement storage. I found the two turtle doves, but no partridge in a pear tree.

There was this sculpture sitting off to the side.

It's a light-weight bronze of cattails. I could see this in my yard. I have no idea if it was designed for the yard or if it's indoor only, but it's really distinctive.

There was this globe sitting on a table in amongst a section devoted to garden sculpture and wicker seating.

Again, I have no idea if this is something you could put on a pedestal and sit in your yard or is it only for, say, an enclosed patio or your living room. In any case, I don't have room for it but it's one of those things I'd covet.

They didn't have a lot of paintings. They don't deal with many of those, I was told, because other auction houses handle them. There is a thriving paintings market in Chicago, something I sort of suspected. The "knick-knacks" they have, if you will, are just as valuable, particularly when they are older and in excellent condition. But, they will take paintings for sale and the climate controlled nature of the building means they can sit for awhile without damage.

A long time ago, I used to edit a railroad historical publication. I have a few things in my house from those days. I saw this.

I'd hang this on my wall. I love the colors and how immediate the train is.

Also something I'd put on my wall is this one.

I've been in a lot of homes where there are art collections and it's rare to see baseball paintings. I like the action of the painting. It was big, 5 feet in length, so you'd need a large wall for it.

And there was this.

This is quintessentially Chicago. Mr. Submarine sub shop is not something I've encountered outside the Chicago city limits. It's a classic mix of old and new buildings on a street in the city. I've walked this street. I've taken photos along these streets. It's a hot summer day. The sub shop beckons. Air conditioning and an ice cold beverage. This was also a large painting. I would have to remove quite a bit of my current art to accommodate it. Still, I wouldn't have to repaint the walls. It would look good with my current paint scheme.

There was a giraffe under plastic because you know there would be.

And there were mirrors, lots and lots of mirrors on one section of a floor. One, in particular, was ripe for a photo.

You know I rarely post photos of myself to this blog, but here I am, camera in hand, working. This mirror was huge. It functions more as an art piece than a mirror.

They have an upcoming auction of posters of Chicago and surrounding cities. Many were of the Art Deco age, highly stylized and touting taking the train or the South Shore Lines into Chicago or Indiana Dunes. There were 1933 World's Fair posters and general prints depicting 1930's-era Chicago. I recognized some landmarks, but there were a few prints showing buildings long gone. If I had a) the money and b) the wall space... The person I chatted with said art is the one thing which doesn't lose value. She said there are a lot of people with money in Chicago now and they are looking for distinctive pieces for their space. "You just need a couple thousand to get into collecting." Um...yeah. About that.

I'm content to just be in a space with art. I don't have to have it. I do understand the value of surrounding yourself with pieces which reflect your taste and which could appreciate in value. I also understand the need to patronize young artists so, if I'm going to buy, it's going to be from one of the many art festivals which seem to be every two or three weeks during the summer.

I very much enjoyed this inspection. It was a lot of walking and climbing of stairs but I could lose myself in the peace that comes from being surrounded by art.

Beverage:  Earl Grey tea



I'm working around the yard, having found a very reasonably priced gentleman who is willing to do heavy lifting to rehabilitate this overgrown jungle. Now that the northwest corner has had all the garbage trees removed, I need to add more grass seed and applications of weed killer in spots, I have plants for over there and other things are happening.

Over the weekend, I had to cut back some more garbage trees because they encroached on the drive. In the process, I liberated the sundial.

I've had this piece for a very long time. It was a Mother's Day gift when Carole was small. It's solid concrete with a metal sundial and probably weighs a good 100 pounds. Years ago, I could heft this and move it to a new location, provided that location was, roughly, 100 steps or so away. Now days, there was just no physical way.

It was in amongst some garbage trees which I hacked back. Then I had to tip it over and roll/drag it out of the brush. Once out of the mess, I righted it and tried to pick it up, remembering all the times I used to do this. I knew it was heavy but was unprepared for the weight. It needs to go to the northwest corner of the house from the west side, south of the deck. I'm not going to be able to carry it, at all, and I shouldn't even try.

So, I tipped it onto a corner and rolled it. It's still an adventure because I have to let it fall if it wobbles. It's not going to get beaten up at all by falling over. We have this instinctive reflex to snatch at something which is tipping, but I have to greatly suppress that instinct or I'm going to substantially hurt myself. Every day I come home, I roll it a bit more. It's reached the north side of the deck stairs and about 5 feet beyond that. There's still about 25 more feet to go. Once it reaches its destination, I have to orient the dial so it reads the correct time. The question then becomes, daylight or standard time.

Beverage:  Earl Gray Tea


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Score Times Two

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know I can spend a considerable amount of time on my feet. When you're dealing with Rheumatoid Arthritis, that can be painful. When I started this job, I went for slides or mules; shoes without a back; which could be easily exchanged for work boots or grabbed when I was running late in the morning. One of the things I learned, in reading about RA, was that sturdy shoes with a back, were something worth an investment. I looked at my slides. Right. These are comfortable. Why would I think of replacing them?

Long ago, and I honestly don't have any idea how long ago it's been, I discovered Clarks shoes. They are pricey when purchased off sale or online or in their stores. But they have two things going for them. One, they wear like cast iron. Seriously. I just haven't had to replace Clarks because I've worn them out. And two, they are extremely comfortable. Adding both of these things together, the price paid for a pair of Clarks is, in my opinion, well worth it. You'll get years of wear out of a pair of shoes. Extra value comes when buying shoes from the outlet malls or when they are on sale. 

This spring, JC Penney had their spring Clarks sale. Now, I don't really need shoes, but I have now come to see the comment about RA and shoes is true. As much as I love my slides, I do not feel comfortable wearing them to work anymore. I've "walked out of" a couple pair frequently. And without the back, I'm not the most sure-footed in walking. So, I have three pair of comfortable Clarks slides on the shoe rack that I only wear when I'm not going to be walking a lot. I needed more shoes which would be good for being on my feet and doing inspections. Now is the time, when there is a sale, to be shopping. 

I took a gamble on a pair. 

Yes, they are red leather with two elastic straps across the top. Shoes found on aren't always in stores, but they are Clarks and I've never had a problem with those ordered online. These are wonderful. I think they match my personality. I would have loudly colored shoes to go with my loudly colored socks. 

Right before Memorial Day, Penney's had another sale. I was surprised to see Clarks included in that sale. Again, I don't really need shoes. The addition of the red ones was adequate for the shoe rotation while doing inspections. I have three pair I rotate through inspections. I find that wearing the same shoes in a row seem to promote achy joints and tired feet. Not so when I rotate shoes. 

These are comfortable and I anticipate wearing them for a long time. But...what's often happened is that I'll find a pair I like and wish, some months later, that I'd bought another pair in a different color. I looked through the sale. They had these in a different color. I spent three days thinking about it, looking at the budget, thinking some more. In the end, I decided this was a good buy for the budget because I won't need shoes now for some time. 


Blue shoes. They also had a black pair but I couldn't justify buying two pair even though I'm, effectively, retiring three pair of slides. As with the red pair, these are comfy and they look great with jeans and with or without socks. They are easy to get into and stay on my feet. I'm going to wear the heck out of them, although, probably not walk through the grass in the front yard after a rain. 

Beverage:  LaCroix Berry Seltzer