Sunday, November 30, 2008

Meet Buddy

The newest addition to our family is Buddy, a purebred 18-month-old male miniature poodle. He’s apricot colored and about the same size, maybe even slightly smaller than our housecat, Tiger. I first saw Buddy on the day before Thanksgiving at the Cambridge Pet Salon. I stopped to learn the cost of having our Labrador mix, Lady, bathed. She had been smelling quite doggy and needed her nails trimmed.

I saw this sweet-looking poodle cuddled in one of the groomer’s cages. Groomer Becky explained that he was for sale and had come from a puppy mill some weeks earlier. She said Buddy hadn’t been socialized and had been very thin. I held him and he was a good weight for his size/breed, was quite snuggly and came fully vaccinated. I’ve never owned a true lap dog, although Lady likes to jump up on our laps sometimes, but at 80 pounds she is so NOT a lap dog. Buddy weighs about 12 pounds, less than Tiger who last weighed in at 14! I don’t know where it began, but I’ve always loved an apricot colored poodle – regardless of size. Now, miniature is not the smallest, which is toy (think: Chihuahua). Anyway, I asked Ian, who looked at me like I had truly lost it, but said, “Yes.” We picked up a freshly groomed Buddy that day after Thanksgiving. We also dropped Lady off for her doggy spa treatment. Both smell great now.

In coming weeks we’ll have Buddy fixed. Lady’s spay, so there’s no true rush. I want him completely settled in to a routine with us, before we add in surgical procedures.

Being a poodle, Buddy requires grooming once every six weeks and he eats small dog food versus the larger chunk stuff Lady chows down. The winter weather may also require getting him a jacket for poop/pee outings. I draw the line at boots and hats though. Since we clip our horses, we may well learn how to clip Buddy’s coat properly and be able to handle this ourselves eventually. It cannot be rocket science!

Buddy has also been introduced to the outdoors Macdonald menagerie – the chickens, barn cats, geese and the horses. He thinks the latter are the biggest dogs he’s ever seen! The horses find him quite curious and line up at the fence when he bounces down to the barn accompanying Lady and me to do chores.

The best blessing of all so far is that Buddy is not a yappy dog. It’s just not part of his nature, and this may have something to do with his time at the puppy mill. Whatever the cause, we appreciate him not being a small dog vocalist.


Back at USPS

On Wednesday, something happened to me that has never happened before – I was asked to not go through with my resignation, which as of the 20th I had already submitted. Let me back up and fill in some details. As I had mentioned in earlier posts, my 70-some-year-old postmaster, Helen, had been off work since the beginning of September. Helen takes the blood thinner Coumadin, which by some weird twist made veins in her left arm bleed and cause a painful bruised limb. Helen also has a blood clot pressing on a nerve in her upper left armpit that puts her hand to sleep. She was hospitalized Labor Day weekend in September for several days, then went on sick leave and I worked six-day weeks as her relief (my position title is Postmaster Relief - PMR) for the next eight weeks until Halloween week.

Against her doctor’s recommendation, Helen returned to work, which meant I worked only in the mornings helping to lift tubs and trays and with mail sorting; all of which she could not do. One of the many job requirements for all who work in a post office is that they can lift 70 pounds, which she’s not been able to do in recent years. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to work 2 or 3 hours was just not worth it to me. Also, Ian and I have been discussing going to our home in Spain and being there for long stretches of time. OK, then why am I working when I could be focusing on selling more horses, packing and getting ready to spend time in Spain? So, on November 10, I gave Helen my written resignation that would be affective December 20. I also began working the standard PMR shift, Monday and Saturday mornings only. I did tell Helen I would be available if she went on full-time leave again and for any days when she has doctor appointments or doesn’t feel well. Because Helen could not do the morning sorts, she asked Dan, a neighboring post office PMR, to work the few weekday hours.

Dan and I are friends outside of work and when I visited him Thursday morning the 20th, he said there was a new person at the Stanchfield Post Office and that Helen was going on leave again. Needless to say, I was confused and shocked. I called and spoke to Helen, who informed me that it was her last day for many weeks and she had brought in Linda as Officer In Charge (OIC) from neighboring post office Mora. I asked why she hadn’t called me and she said she thought I didn’t want to do it, blah, blah, blah. I decided why wait til December to resign and I offered to turn in my keys that day – she accepted. This is the tale I did not go into in the earlier post saying I’d left USPS.

My feelings were hurt. In September, I’d dropped everything to go to Helen’s aide. There had never been any issues with me being in charge – in fact, I’d gotten things accomplished (reports files, etc.) that Helen hadn’t because she didn’t understand how to do what was needed on the computer. Why hadn’t Helen called me? I have finally come to realize that it is not important. I enjoyed several days off with days infused with joy and hunger to regain habits I’d given up – like writing, visiting friends, attending performing arts, etc.

On Tuesday, the 25th, Linda called me. On the day I’d counted out my cash drawer and turned in my office keys, I’d told her that I would wind up any last needed details on the 28th when I collected my final check. Linda asked if I would consider staying on as PMR for at least the weeks she was there managing the office in Helen’s absence. When an OIC is installed there is no coming in part days, as Helen did when I was there. She is officially off until she is fully capable to return to her position. Very diplomatically, Linda said she thought what had happened with Helen not contacting me, my abrupt departure, etc. had been wrong. She was also very up front with the fact that she was in a pinch without adequate back up to run the office or with someone to deliver mail, as I am also a Rural Carrier Associate (RCA) if a carrier is sick or takes vacation. It was her frankness that led me to say yes. Linda quickly put the wheels in motion to find my resignation paperwork and rip it up. My keys and badge were returned to me on the 28th. I worked my usual Saturday shift and will work as fulltime PMR December 2-9, RCA on the 17th, PMR again 18-22.

I have not forgotten that joy infusion and am working to fold creative events back into my life so that I don’t have all of my outlet eggs in one basket.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Prairie Home Companion

We had a great time attending the live recording of A Prairie Home Companion at the Fitzgerald Theatre in downtown St. Paul. We rendezvoused with Marcia out front and then tucked into seats 8, 9 & 10 of Balcony 2 Right. The Fitzgerald uses its space well and while the row leg room is reminiscent of flying transatlantic coach, it wasn’t uncomfortable.

I knew the other friends we were meeting, Lisa and Frank, were somewhere in the auditorium, and via cell phones and roundhouse arm gestures, Lisa and I found each other during the short intermission.

The featured musical guest was Indy singer Kristin Andreassen. I had never heard of her, but over the years I’ve learned to trust APHC host Garrison Keillor’s eclectic, wide-ranging musical tastes. Andreassen’s “Crayola Doesn’t Make A Color to Draw My Love” is accompanied by a patty cake game, which you can listen on her My Space page.

Multitalented Gospel singing sisters Jevetta and Jearlyn Steele were also folded into the show’s various skits.

I marvel at Garrison Keillor’s huge talent; his capacity for memorization, spontaneity, and how generous he is with his guests, showcasing them in the best light.

Assembling in the lobby, we headed to Everest On Grand, a Nepali restaurant, which is one of Lisa and Frank’s favorites.

A 25-minute wait turned into 40 minutes, but it was well worth it. A new friend, Katherine, joined us for dinner. She had bought a last minute “rush” ticket and got a standing-room-only space on the rail. A page from the small world book, Marcia and Katherine knew one another from working at the University of Minnesota! Once the six of us were seated, we began with “Yak balls” appetizers, which are showcased on the restaurants homepage.

The wine and beer menu revealed a wonderful French surprise, a bottle of Cotes du Rhone (Rhone Hills) red wine by a tasty vintner, Monsieur Chapoutier, which we ordered tout de suite.

Ian ordered lamb curry and I got an Indian favorite, Palek Panner, which we shared. The dinner conversations were wide ranging, interesting and rapid, all done as we sampled each other's main courses. Sated, we headed to W. A. Frost & Company bar on Cathedral Hill at Selby & Western Avenues for a nightcap.

Ian, Lisa and Frank enjoyed Laphroaig (pronounced “la froig”), which is a single malt Scotch whisky. Katherine ordered port, Marcia a brandy Manhattan, I had a lovely dry sherry and four of us savored crème brulee.

Near the bewitching hour, Ian pointed our 1996 Chevy Lumina homeward and began the hour drive. Lady and Tiger were extra pleased to see us, as the pellet stove had gone out and the house temperature was around 40 degrees. I restarted the stove and turned on our electric mattress warmer while Ian closed up the barn. We had anticipated a late night and had done chores earlier in the afternoon. Windy and Bentley were brought into their stalls, fed and watered at 3 versus 6 p.m. and we left the barn door open so that the six geese would come in and settled in for the night. Ian noted they were cuddled in the barn aisle when he came to say good night.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday freedom!

This is the first Saturday in I can't remember how many when I am not working at the post office. I resigned and my last day was Thursday, the 20th. Actually, my last day was to be December 20, but things came together more quickly in a tale of events I won't go into here. I am happy and feel very blessed! I enjoyed my 13 months there, but have been feeling the need to move on for a while. I am not using my God-given talents and was really feeling the pressure of that. So, in releasing that obligation, we will see what God has planned for me ... His plans are always best!

Ian continues to work as a contractor with General Mills. He is working on revamping its entire online recipe division - this is a LONG TERM, well funded project and the Big G are happy to have Ian on the lead team.

This morning, Ian and I attended a U of MN sponsored horse program held in Cambridge at the local high school. There were a series of workshops on various topics, including the three we attended Winter Horse Care, Older Horse Care and what resources are available to people who own unwanted horses. I learned some and had info I already knew validated, so that was good.

This afternoon, we are meeting friends in St. Paul at the Fitzgerald Theatre to see Garrion Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion. The program begins at 4:45 CT and will be taped for broadcast later this evening and replayed again tomorrow. You can hear it on your local public radio station.

The program is 2 hours. Afterwards we are going to eat Tibetan food at a place on Grand Avenue. Should be fun!

Last night, Ian and I watched The Water Horse on DVD. What a great movie. I recommend it for kids of ALL ages.