The Thrill is Gone.

I am up to my ears in tomatoes. I hate my garden. I can barely stand to go out and look at it.

I’ve put up quarts and quarts of diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, plain tomato sauce, and ketchup, and I still have a half bushel of dead ripe tomatoes staring at me every time I walk into the kitchen. Tomorrow morning I will go out and pick another load, but these will go into “care packages” for some of my coworkers. Whether they want them or not.

My cucumbers failed me this year; a fungus of some sort killed most of them in early July, but not before I canned enough dill and bread&butter pickles to last two years. I see my peppers decided to go all out just now, but they’re easy to chop and freeze.

When I plotted out my garden, planted seeds and plants, all I could think of was sweet, fresh vegetables to eat every day and put up for winter use.  I was out every day, hoeing, mulching, watering, pulling even the tiniest weed to keep my garden healthy and pristine.   I was the first person in the neighborhood to plant a garden, the first to gather new potatoes, the first to triumphantly hold up a red tomato like a trophy.  The first snap pea was eaten directly from the vine, as was the first cucumber and the first tomato. We would have dinners consisting of  sweet corn from a local grower, sliced tomatoes, wilted cucumber salad, and new potatoes boiled then browned in butter and sprinkled with dill weed from the garden.

But it didn’t take long before we got really REALLY tired of eating the fruits of our labor…the weather got hot, I started a new job, and knowing that there would be tomatoes to eat–again–made me  regret planting the garden. I stopped weeding the darn thing, watering it only if it hadn’t rained in a few days, and prayed it would just go away.  But I look out there now, and see red spots under the tomato plant leaves, and cucumbers deciding  to give it one more try and blossoming like crazy. In a few short weeks, hopefully, we’ll get a frost and I will have “forgotten” to cover the plants to protect them.  But not before I pick most of the green tomatos and make green pasta sauce and pickled green tomatoes.  Then, with great pleasure, I will pull up the dying plants and weeds, till up the dirt and mulch, and wait for next spring when I’ll go through the same routine, as I have for the past 35 years.

  Guess I’ll never learn.

It’s much better in a roundabout way.

When I drive to work in the morning, I usually take the quickest route; down 13th Street to Hiway 2, then east to 56thStreet.  With 10 traffic lights in little more than 5 miles, the trip can take from 10 to 20 minutes.  I don’t mind the lights; that’s just part of city living. What I do mind are the drivers who can foul up a perfectly good traffic flow by turning left on a red light, gab on their phones (or do their hair, or yell at their kids) and hold up the rest of us waiting for them to finally realize they have a green light.

OK, everyone bitches about traffic, just like everyone bitches about the weather, the economy, and gas prices.  But the easiest of these to change is traffic.  If we all pay attention, turn off our cell phones, watch traffic signals and signs, and drive within the speed limit, I believe traffic in this town would flow quite a bit smoother.  And those of you who like to lolly-gag, look at the garage sales along the route and drive 15 mph under the speed limit, you are just as much a problem as speeders. You are keeping the rest of us from being part of the  smooth flow of traffic intended for that part of town. Save it for Sunday.

 Which brings me to roundabouts. What is wrong with the wiring of  the minds of Americans that they just can’t seem to understand how a roundabout works?  My first encounter with a roundabout was in Dublin Ireland, in a very busy part of the city, where the roundabout had 8 lanes entering the circle, like spokes on a wheel.  What’s the point? I thought…until I realized that with the hundreds of vehicles (and more, during rush hour traffic)  traveling through the roundabout, most of them had to wait only10 to 20 seconds before entering the roundabout.  If this web-like intersection was controlled by traffic lights, who know how long it would take?  The roundabout is a simply brilliant and brilliantly simple idea…yield to the vehicle already in the circle. And signal when you are leaving the roundabout. Don’t cut in front of someone in the circle. Wait that extra second or two till they pass.

Yes, You Can!

Yes, You Can Do It!

When I head home from work, I take the scenic route, through Sheridan Boulevard. All the gorgeous old houses with deep, flowery yards, huge trees lining the street,  beautiful landscaping between the lanes…this is such a relaxing drive I wish it would last longer.  But this unwinding bliss is interrupted twice each evening. There are two roundabouts on my way home along Sheridan, and although they are not the original plan of the street, they have been there long enough so that people who travel these streets should have learned the rules of the roundabout.  But I still see people racing into the circle, almost clipping the car that’s approaching them, drivers stopping in the circle like it’s just a convenient place to check the GPS, and drivers stopping in the circle to allow other drivers enter in front of them. (Polite, but wrong.) Twice this past week I was almost t-boned by someone who failed to yeild and  just drove on into the roundabout. 

C’mon, people?  If a roundabout with 8 or even more lanes of  traffic can work in a huge city like Dublin, Ireland, surely we can handle our itty-bitty roundabouts  with 4 lanes.  All it takes is patience, and manners.  But I guess patience and manners just isn’t the American way.

By the Sweat of Their Brow, Ye Shall Know Them.

I have to apologize to the 3 readers who check out my blog when they have nothing else to do.  I have been re-introduced to the world of gainful employment, and when I get off work all I want to do is rest.

I know I can’t say much about my job, least of all the company I work for.  I chose a job where physical labor makes up 95% of the work, and paperwork the other 5%.   My salary is 50% less than what I made a year ago.   I was looking to work in a field where I knew I was making a difference, whether it be to the world, the country, the community, or one person.  So I chose to work for a company that, to put it simply, provides good used merchandise and clothing to everyone.  I was also surprised to find that this company provides education, rehabilitation, counseling, and employment to people who have no other sources to turn to, due to mental, physical, social,  or financial barriers.

What I do is oversee the workforce in my store, making sure that quotas are met and that everyone has a job to do and that they feel rewarded for doing their jobs well.  Along with that I am required to do the same jobs they do, to show them that we are all equal partners in the success of our store.  Keeping up moral is difficult, especially when you are constantly on the move, loading and unloading donated goods, sorting clothing, books, toys, housewares,  and furniture, hanging clothes and pricing housewares.  I am a natural comic,  and it’s taken a while for the employees to realize that I’m not going to yell at them, but I will shoot an occasional donated monkey sling shot at them to get their attention. I want them to know that I am one of them, and if anyone feels slighted, rejected, insulted, or treated unfairly for any other reason, I will be there to listen and help resolve the problems. I HAVE BEEN THERE.

It is hard, dirty, gruelling work.  But I am proud of the job my coworkers, and myself, have done.  What I’m not proud of is the perception of the public who think working for this company is the last recourse for us, and that everyone employed here has some legal or mental issues that prevent them from working anywhere else.  I’m also not proud of the way the public treats some of my coworkers, how donors think they can bring ( and I can’t think of a more palatable word) their garbage in to donate and ask for a receipt for their income taxes.  Sure, most of the donations are sold by our company for a low price, and most of what we can’t sell is sent on to other entities to sell or recycle.  Very little gets thrown away.  What is put into our dumpter are things that people should put into their own dumpster, like old plaster casts from broken limbs, soiled underwear, old prescriptions, and broken furniture or appliances.  Sure, we’ll accept your donations, but sorting through these types of things makes work harder for everyone.

I used to be one of those people…looking down my nose at the people working at these stores, haggling over prices (where else can you get a gently used Coach handbag for $11.99?), and basically thinking I deserved better than what they offered.  Now I know what goes into making this company a success, and it’s not selling used clothing and housewares.  It’s the teamwork of many people who aren’t afraid of physical labor, people who take pride in their work, and people who see this not as the ends, but the means.