Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My "kids" are getting expensive.

That's how much the bill was (after a discount) when I picked up the pooches this evening after their dental cleaning at the vet.
But it was hard to be mad at Plucky and Elmo. They looked so pathetically cute and loopy as they walked. They had been sedated for the procedure. (You think you don't like going to the dentist? Imagine trying to probe a dog's teeth and gums while getting it to stand still.)

I was partially mad at myself for waiting so long to take them in. I kept thinking, surely everything I was doing at home was delaying the inevitable. I gave them dry food, dental treats, etc.

But the tartar was winning. So I sucked it up and took them in. Plucky came through like a champion. Elmo my geriatric poodle left the vet with five fewer teeth than he went in with this morning. And of course, each tooth extraction came with a price. Then there were the antibiotics to fight any potential infections and pain meds to keep them comfy. (Oh, and don't forget the price of the sedation and the cleaning.)

To keep myself from grumbling (which I did a lot of after I paid the bill and left the vet's office), I started counting my blessings:
-- I got paid today (Thanks for the very first paycheck, University of Tennessee!)
-- My animals are in better health
-- They are such amazing companions. (They don't complain. They still like me even though I don't give them human food when they beg ... and even when I lose my temper and yell at them.)
-- They follow me around everywhere. I'm thankful for their faithfulness. Elmo would go into the bathroom with me if I left him. Sometimes I hear him sniffing under the bathroom door. Not always a good idea ;)
-- They're great with kids and adults and they bark at those who need barking at.

Doggie health care is something I've been seriously thinking about lately.
Plucky, who celebrated his 7th birthday this month, is still chugging along and being his ever spunky self.
Elmo, my little old man (he's 11ish in dog years) is slowly going blind and deaf. It's been a bit sad to watch him look for me and Plucky and we're in the same room. His vision is worse at night than daytime.
At first, when I would call his name and he would not respond, I thought he was being disobedient. Then I would gently touch him and he would be startled and turn around.

Frankly, I sometimes wonder how many more years I have left with them, especially Elmo. Both pooches are in overall good health -- for now.
As age takes its toll, I wonder what decisions I will have to make. If they developed a serious illness, would I pay for treatment, for surgery? How far would I go to prolong their lives? Or would I make the ultimate decision to put them down?

I decided a long time ago that as much as I loved them, I would not go into debt for them because ... they are dogs.

Of course, I say that now but who knows?

Friday, August 26, 2011

A university ribbon-cutting is no joke

I can now add event planning to my repertoire of skills.
Actually, it's more like day-of setup and execution.

Yesterday afternoon I helped with a ribbon-cutting for the New Norris House in Anderson County. It's a neat project by University of Tennessee architecture students to study sustainable living. It's a living lab of sorts.

UT's Media + Internal Relations department where I work was in charge of organizing the ribbon-cutting ceremony. (We're part of the Office of Communications and Marketing.)
It was amazing to have a behind-the-scenes look at everything that goes into making an event successful.
As a reporter, I would just show up to cover an affair and expected everything to go well. (And if they didn't, well...)
I now have a new respect for the folks who handle the logistics behind them.

I was like a little grasshopper following Beth, the master event planner in our office.
From chair arrangements and parking to caterer setup and crowd control, every detail was thought out.
(To be honest, when we arrived a couple of hours ahead of the ribbon-cutting, I wondered how and where we would fit the roughly 250 people who eventually showed up to see a 750-square-foot house. The home is on maybe a quarter of an acre, if that, on a narrow city street. Somehow it worked out. Everyone got enough to eat with some left over. Nobody got hurt or collapsed in the hot sun.)

I'm three weeks into this new job at the university and every day has been different. There's something new to learn, someone new to meet. Almost like when I was a newspaper reporter.

The gig is similar to what I did before: writing, interviewing people, using my multimedia skills (I completed my second video for the university this morning before I left for Norris.)
But I'm also picking up new skills and dabbling in many different things.

Challenge definitely keeps you sharp.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Some races you run for the t-shirt

This was a fun one.
When I saw the design for the shirt, I wanted one right away.
That and the fact that the Hotter 'n Hell 5K race director Michael Holtz was a friend. The event also was for a fantastic cause: the American Cancer Society.
So when my friend Trillia challenged me to run it with her, it didn't take much convincing for me to say yes.

I was so grateful the sun wasn't at its full blast for most of the course. The weather was tolerable. It got a bit toasty toward the end.

Some highlights:
- Seeing old friends on the course, including church friend Bryan and my former Knoxville News Sentinel editor Eric.
- The old gentleman who did the race with his walker. As he approached the finish line, everyone cheered until he crossed it. This made me teary-eyed.
- The young boy (maybe 10 or 11 years old) who was the last to finish the race. I had seen him on the course and he was just chugging along with a determined look on his face. As he ran toward the finish line, everyone applauded for him as well. Many of the runners waited until the last person finished.

The camaraderie of the running community is one of the things that fuels my desire to keep hitting the pavement. (that and my love of food.)

                                          Trillia and I all sweaty after the race :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lola-Palooza! (send-off #2)

When Knoxville News Sentinel humor columnist Sam Venable throws a party, you'd better be there or be talked about.
The shindig just so happened to be for me.

After I announced my resignation from the paper, Sam decided he wanted to have a send-off at his log home and concocted this invite:

Last night's gathering was again a reminder of what tremendous family and friends the newspaper folks are to me.
They sent me off in true East Tennessee style. The menu included fried fish and fowl that Sam had caught and hunted himself.
Then there was Matt's Sexxy Salad (he threw in an extra X just for me, he said), Donna's apple cheese delight (the true name of the dish is unmentionable in this blog) and a host of other yummies.

Sam by default was the entertainment headliner after it got dark. He told numerous stories about the antics of News Sentinel staffers of yore that had us laughing so hard. (My abs were sore this morning when I woke up.)

These last few weeks have been very affirming for me as co-workers have said their good-byes.
It's been so sweet to hear all the neat things people have said to me and about me. They're the kinds of things you hear at a funeral but by then it's too late for the person to enjoy it.

I'm glad I got to hear it on this side.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Operation "Remove Paper Vomit": Activated!

Confession: I am a paper hoarder.
Need: I want to be set free.

I initially scheduled this week off before starting the new job so I could loaf around and relax.
And I have been doing just that. (A nap every afternoon has been glorious.)
But I've had a desire to clean. I don't mean vacuum-and-dust type of cleaning.

I'm talking about giving the heave-ho to newspapers, magazines, documents and all manner of paper clutter that's invaded my life. (Paper vomit, as I like to call it.)

I figure since I'm starting a new chapter in my life, I might as well give my house a clean start, too.

I had this brilliant idea that I would be able to finish my paper removal project by week's end. Then as I started cleaning, I quickly revised my objective. The more I tossed, the more the piles seemed to grow.
I've been very adept at hiding all this paper junk. Not only did they litter my office/library floor, I had stacked some in the closet (probably a quick hide because of a last-minute guest.)
I even had them under my bed. (Don't judge me!)

I've decided that I'm going to attack it a bit at a time. Do some this week. More another time. Besides, my poor paper shredder was protesting.

The fun part of paper cleaning: I've found the most interesting things hidden underneath (and not just my car title. Although I'm grateful I located that, too.)

I got this at a garage sale while visiting a friend in Johnson City a few years ago

I started reading this on one of my overseas trips and got halfway. I think it's time I pick it back up.

I got these postcards on my 2009 Ethiopia trip. I'd written them but never mailed them. They were meant for young friends in Bolivia and Rwanda. I had planned to include them in letter packages. Me thinks I'll add more current Tennessee postcards and send them off.