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I’m going to have a different kind of Thanksgiving this year.

Hubby will be driving the Zamboni for Disney on Ice in Hampton VA that whole week, so we are spending our Thanksgiving at a hotel. That means, for the first time in my life, I will eat Thanksgiving dinner out.

I’m not sure what that will be like. Sure it’ll be nice to not have to cook all day. It’ll be nice to not have to do 2 or 3 loads of dishes either. What I’m not looking forward to is the traffic. Whether I decide to travel the night before Thanksgiving or the morning of, I think I’m in for some serious bumper to bumper action.

Then I wonder, should we try to find traditional fare that day, or should we just eat whatever…steak, burgers, Chinese? I guess it all depends on what’s open. I’d rather not get stuck at a Golden Corral or a Cracker Barrel, because to be blunt – the food pretty much sucks. But I also don’t want to pay $35 bucks per person either. So we shall see.

I mean, why should I care…it’s just a meal, right?

But Thanksgiving has always meant a lot to me – it’s family, and food, and wine, and laughter and a feeling of home. I don’t know if I’ll feel that at all this year, spending it at a hotel.

It should be an interesting weekend.

We are spending Thanksgiving evening viewing the annual Holiday Lights at the Beach. Seems they gussy up the Virginia Beach boardwalk with zillions of lights and displays, and you drive your car down the boardwalk and soak it all in.

Perhaps it will give me ideas for my Christmas decorations…a thing hubby and I argue over every year. He likes it simple…I’d rather go all out.

One bonus about this weekend? I already know what I’m making for Christmas dinner. Turkey with all the trimmings. For sure.

 

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It’s the first day of school for most northern children. My daughter went back to school on August 8th…they do things differently here in the kinda sorta South.

I have fond memories of the first day of school growing up – especially in my teen years. My mom would always take us “back to school” shopping, which meant a trip to Paramus Park or the Garden State Plaza for school clothes. By late August, the stores were featuring all the hot fall fashions, so we would stock up on corduroy pants, long sleeved shirts, sweater vests and blazers.

Unfortunately, you couldn’t wear any of it right after Labor Day. The society calendar might say that summer’s over, but in reality, it was still pretty hot. So your new cardigan and your argyle knee socks would have to wait until cooler climes blew in from Canada.

So you just made the best with your summer wardrobe. it was a time to show a new you…did anyone lose weight over the summer? Did the freshman freak grow into the sophomore stud? Brunettes came back as bleached blondes after months of spraying Sun-In onto wet locks. Everyone was tanned and rested.

It never lasted long. Note-taking, quizzes and homework soon began to fill brand new Mead notebooks. The mean girls remembered how much they hated you back in June, and took little time getting back into the bully swing of things. And before long, it was time to study for your first test, or hand in your first book report.

But just when you thought school really sucked, a cold front would come through, and you could finally wear that brand new “back to school” outfit…

And hope that you turned some heads.

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I’ve been at my new job for a month now, and I have to say, I am really loving it.

After 2+ years of having to get permission from multiple people to take a day off, or leave early, and being chained to my desk from 9:30 to 5:30 (because God forbid the phone rings and isn’t answered IMMEDIATELY), it’s nice to be able to leave my phone-less desk and walk to get a cup of tea, or to just take a breather.

But it’s so much more than that. Because my newspaper is deeply steeped in our community, we have a presence at a lot of community functions. And with that presence comes free tickets. Free VIP tickets. Easy parking, lots of perks, and access to stuff the creme-de-la-creme of Charlottesville is used to, but I certainly am not.

For instance, next weekend I will attend the Heritage Harvest Festival at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. The next weekend is Tomtoberfest, a fall block party featuring a variety of danceable musicians and bands, a dozen of the best local food trucks and an Arts & Crafts fair. And all this is free and VIP. Yippee!

In October, my office will attend an Avett Brothers concert at an outdoor venue here in town. They have reserved this space called the Party Porch, and it’s a fun time to drink and socialize with my fellow co-workers. While I don’t really know the band very well, I’m willing to give them a listen to, especially if the wine is free.

I also found out, I get to claim expenses…now there’s something new. I get money towards my cell phone, towards parking, and if I joined a gym, they kick in money for that as well. When I go to take photos for the newspaper, I get mileage.

I get to work from home on Wednesdays. My company pays for a LogMeIn subscription, so I can access my work desktop from home and get my work done while sitting in my pajamas. It’s so awesome and it really breaks up the work week, making it seem a lot shorter.

And take this past Friday…almost the whole office left early. It was the Friday before Labor day weekend, and the ad work was all done, so…we just left, two hours early. And nobody cared.

At my last job there had to be a meeting of the chiefs just to see if we could leave early during a snow storm, or the day before Thanksgiving.

It’s all so wonderful. Each day that goes by, I discover something wonderful about my new job, and I’m pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.

It makes me think back to the spring. I remember being in the shower and coming to the realization that I was never going to find another job. I hated the job I was at, but after several failed interviews at other companies I realized I was stuck where I was, and it was going to be fine. There were way worse places I could be working.

And now look at me. Everything has changed, and all because I happened to look on Craigslist on the right day. I’m certain it was divine intervention…or my dad from beyond the grave giving me a nudge.

When hubby and I were talking about all these fabulous new development and how happy and satisfied I am now, he said to me, “you’re not just on a roll. You’re on a buttered roll.”

He’s so right.

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Today I had a salad with cucumbers that I grew in a pot on my front deck – I really dig that. While I didn’t grow them from seed, (for some reason when I do that I never get great cucumbers) I grew them from starter plants bought at from a local farmer.

And even though I’m not growing them in the ground…too many critters and bugs around for that…I got a halfway decent crop of cucumbers that looked like they could’ve been store bought.

I also tried growing tomatoes. For some reason this never works out for me. I only got two tomatoes off the whole plant, and only one of them was edible…the other had split and gone mushy before I had the chance to pick it. I’ll try another variety next summer…maybe cherry tomatoes instead.

The rest of my deck is devoted to herbs. I have pots of parsley, thyme, rosemary, mint, and oregano. Last night I made potato salad, and it was nice to be able to just go out on my deck and grab a handful of fresh herbs to chop up and add in. And the best part is my thyme is from last year. I just left the pot on the deck all winter and this spring, new green shoots appeared.

Next summer I think I’ll buy a few more giant pots and plant some peppers. My neighbors grew jalapeños this year, and I helped myself to a couple while we were pet sitting and made a big pot of chili.

It may not be “farm to table”, but I really like eating food that I’ve grown myself. It’s cool even it it is only deck to table.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 10.28.15 AMOn Monday, June 27th I got the call that I had been dreading for years…My father had died. He was 92, and died in his own bed with my sister and his wife by his side, which isn’t a bad way to go. It was just his time.

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to my dad, so I might just ramble on for a while and see where it leads me.

Pop was a morning man. I think this is where I get my love o’ the dawn from. Growing up, sleeping late on weekends was not an option. Before the smell of breakfast could reach your nostrils, dad was yelling up the stairs to “get the hell out of bed.”

Dad the Breakfast Cook. My father liked to cook breakfast every weekend. Anything from French toast, which I liked, to Liver and Onions, which I didn’t like, would be served up on our blue formica kitchen table. My favorite breakfast was Nana’s pancakes…Slovak crepes called palacinki. They are my daughters’ favorites to this day.

Dad was an adventurer at heart. While my mom was good for back to school clothes, or that pair of shoes you really wanted, she rarely let you walk on the wild side. But not when you were with dad…every tree was climbable, every rock was there for you to scramble up on, and every path was worth hiking down.

Dad liked to go visiting. I’ve blogged about this in the past, but Monday nights were his banking nights. He’d take us to his bank in Cliffside Park, and then we’d go visiting the various aunts, cousins and family friends who lived in the area. My father had no siblings, but he managed to make a huge family network for us made up of fairly distant relatives who felt like next of kin to us.

Dad in New York City. Many a Friday night my father carted all four of us kids into New York City. My brother and sister attended Slovak School, and my brother had accordion lessons as well. The lights and smells and sounds of New York in the 70’s is something that will always be with me. We usually ended up eating a dirty water dog from a NYC cart or a sack of White Castles in North Bergen.

Dad in front of the TV. My father had a bad back, so TV viewing was done on the floor laying flat on his back with head propped up against the couch.  He would do calisthenics and isometrics while watching “The Waltons,” or “Masterpiece Theater.” One of us kids would always make him a cup of Sanka, and bring him a piece of whatever Entenmann’s  cake mom had bought at the Co-op.

Dad on a Rant. Some weekends could be lethal at home when my dad was in a mood. Rooms had to be cleaned, the yard had to be raked, the garage needed cleaning out…you name it. I won’t even go into the lectures my poor mom got about all the food we had in the house that my mom wasn’t using – mainly because it was really far back in our ginormous kitchen cabinets.

Dad on Martha’s Vineyard. Dad was at his best up there…away from the pressures of work, and enjoying the place he loved. Mornings were for fishing (and catching a whole lot of nothing), afternoons were for the beach, and evenings were for dinner and a walk around town.

Dad behind the wheel. I’ll admit, driving with my dad could be a drag. He never got lost, but you had to listen to what he wanted to on the radio. That meant a whole lot of Bob Grant, and financial shows. I sent up a silent prayer when the Walkman was invented, and another when we could actually afford to buy me one.

Dad the Storyteller. Dad was always good for a story about his colorful life. Like how he used to get chased by the grumpy old man at the Palisades Amusement Park pool for digging holes in the sand…and then later in life, he became the grumpy old man as it was his job to fill in the holes the kids dug. Or how he and his friends would swing on a rope out over the Palisades, praying the rope wouldn’t break. And the one about him having to out-run some ruffians in his souped up car out in California. My dad had adventures, yes sir.

Dad the Healthnut. My dad was a bonafide health nut. He was always sneaking wheat germ and flax seed into our pancakes and oatmeal. When my mom boiled vegetables, he drank the water she cooked them in from a coffee cup because that’s where all the vitamins were. He took crazy vitamin pills like shark cartilage, and bee pollen way before it was hip and trendy. I am certain it is why he lived to be 92.

Dad the Helper. My father helped quite a few people over the course of his lifetime. He took my Aunt Carol, my mom’s sister, out of a mental facility to come live with us when he saw that she was never going to thrive there. She became a vital member of our family, and I cherished her presence growing up.

He was also a one-man Czechoslovakian UN.  My father sponsored my cousin Stello to come live with us for a year, where he worked in New York and was able to send money home to his family. He also sponsored my cousin Gitka, who came and stayed with us for a month and saw all the sights of the East Coast in the good old USA. He sponsored quite a few relatives to come and see the US – many of whom became citizens.

I also remember a couple who moved here from Czechoslovakia …Darinka and Louis, with their young son Renee. My father helped them get accustomed to the States, and we had them over our house many times for dinner – he let them know they had a friend nearby as they made their way in a new country.

I also recall him having the young son of a family friend stay with us over the summer. They lived in upstate New York, where there was little to do besides get high and get in trouble. This son was going down that wrong path, so he came to live with us for a few months. I had to take him to my volleyball matches, and listen to The Fixx.

I’m really going to miss him. I’ll miss breakfast at his house in Florida, sitting around the table as he yelled at CSPAN, while I did the crossword puzzle. I’ll miss his far left arguments, and his refusal to believe anything the right has to say. I’ll miss seeing him on the ferry to the Vineyard, big giant sunglasses and what was left of his hair whipping in the wind.

The world is a little dimmer without you here dad, that’s for sure. But know that you left some damn fine humans behind in your wake, and for that we are grateful.

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2016 has been a year of new jobs for me.

I left my job of almost three years at a high-end real estate office, to take a job as the designer for a local newspaper. I had grown to hate my job at the real estate office. It was a constant merry-go-round of bullshit work that was totally uncreative. And if something creative did come around, I was too tired and uninspired to give it much attention. But it was a job, and I had no choice but to just soldier through it each week.

So when I got the job at the local paper, I was elated…it was close to my home, and I could pretty much set my own hours…freedom at last! I loved the flexibility and the creativity. What I didn’t love was the pay. I was told it was a 30 hour a week job; I was only working 32 at the real estate office, so I figured the pay cut wouldn’t be too drastic.

Problem was, I could get the job done in 15 hours a week. I’m not sure how the previous designer could milk double the time out of the job, but my time sheet for a two week span was usually only 32 hours or so—only half of what I was expecting. This was not a good realization.

But one day I just happened to look on Craigslist in the art/media/design section, and there, I saw an advertisement for a designer at my old office. The one I was fired from back in 2012. I had applied for this job previously, but was muscled out by someone younger and hipper. Well, the problem is, the young, hip designers work there for a few years and move onto bigger and brighter futures.

So, I emailed the publisher and said, “how about hiring a seasoned pro who will remain loyal to you?” And a few days later, I had the job – the job that comes with benefits and dental.

But now, I had to tell my adorable little local paper that I was leaving…a mere six weeks after I had started. But what could I do? I cannot pass up benefits for my family, and in the long run, they understood.

 

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My new totally cool location.

The result? I started back at C-ville Weekly on August 1st and I am monumentally happy. The workspace is cool, and located on the Downtown Mall, just about the coolest place in all of Charlottesville. I can walk out the door anytime I need a break, and pick up a salad or an iced tea. I am not chained to my desk, and the work is creative and fun.

I truly feel like I have come full circle. I know when I worked there in the past I had lots of complaints. But, the management is new, and I know what it’s like to try to find a job with benefits at my age. I am so grateful to have been given another chance, and I’ll work my hardest to make sure I don’t disappoint them.

 

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As many of my readers know, I tried to walk 1,000 miles last year, but my final tally was only a hair over 900. Even though it was twice as far as I walked the year before, there was little real improvement in the shape of my body.

I mean, I’m not a dope; I know all that walking did my body good in other ways…blood pressure, blood sugar, etc. But it did little to nothing in changing the shape of my body. My legs were still flabby, and the scale only showed a loss of maybe 30 pounds. I realized that just walking wasn’t the real answer.

So I kind of lost my passion for it. Here we are more than halfway into 2016 and I’ve only walked 200 miles.

Monday morning I realized I hadn’t been out to walk for almost the whole month of June. I’d been so busy with jobs and freelance that every single morning was devoted to meeting deadlines and getting work done. But with one of my magazines going to press, I finally had some time.

The walk was glorious, and I scolded myself for letting work get in the way of those cool, green morning walks to my favorite podcasts.

Then on Monday night, I got the call that my father had died. I’ll blog about that later. Now just isn’t the time.

I went out Tuesday morning, but my walk was anything but enjoyable. My legs felt heavy and my head and heart just plain hurt. I took out my earbuds and turned off my ipod and just walked, heading back home.

I thought of my dad, and how this was the first morning in my entire life that he wasn’t waking up to. How he’d never have another morning with the paper, and his slew of vitamin pills, and his breakfast with his wife Gabi.

But I also thought of how when I was a child, my dad would always go out very early and run. He’d drive down to a park in our town that had a long track, and he’d run. When I started walking a lot he reminded me of that, and said something to the affect of being a chip off the old block.

So Wednesday morning I went out again. And again today. I walked not so much for exercise, but more as a tribute of sorts to my dad. He’d want me out there, enjoying the morning, breathing deep and living life.

Both walks were phenomenal…I felt like I could fly. It felt less like a workout and more like a spiritual and physical release. It felt really fucking good.

Yes, there will be times when my walks are going to feel labored and annoying. But for now, with my dad looking over me, they are out of this world.

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A few weeks back my family started a group text message to keep us all informed on my dad, who had gone into the hospital with an infection. I did not even see this initial message until more than 24 hours after my father had settled into his hospital bed.

Then this morning my sister calls me to ask if I had seen the barrage of texts from last night. What texts? Obviously not. After I hung up I checked my phone, and upon hitting the little text icon (with a red 15 beside it) my phone dinged for 30 seconds as all the texts flowed in. I had no clue they were even there.

Why? Because I am not a savvy smartphone user. Not by any stretch.

I mean, I look at my phone when it dings, but it’s rarely anything important; an email I wish to ignore, or some dopey Facebook alert.

But I’m not married to my phone. I don’t look at it first thing when I wake up – that’s what my computer is for. I go to my computer first thing after waking up (and putting the tea kettle on). I don’t even think about my phone unless I have to make a phone call. I’m just not married to it the way others seem to be.

So family, please don’t take my silence after one of the group texts to mean I don’t care. I am just absolutely clueless that the messages are even there.

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I owe Panera Bread an apology. My girls like going there for lunch or dinner, but I always hated it. I find their soups too salty, and their sandwiches are, what seems to me, made from too thickly sliced packaged deli meats. I find them to be generally flavorless. Plus it’s a tad pricey for food that really isn’t that great.

But this past weekend, my daughters wanted to “eat light” for dinner and I gave in and took them to Panera again. I figured I’d try something new, fully expecting to hate it and in return, have a really good, rant-worthy blog post.

I got the green goddess cobb salad, pictured above, I have to tell you, it was really good! I thoroughly enjoyed the entire salad, and so did my daughters, who kept sticking their forks in for another bite.

So, sorry Panera…you’re not so bad after all. You just have to know what to order.

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I know, I know…I’ve been remiss in keeping up with my blog. Shame on me. But in my defense, things have been really crazy this month.

I started my new job as the editorial designer for the Fluvanna Review. It’s a little paper that serves the rural county I live in. It’s no New York Times, but it keeps the locals informed. What I love about it is a) It’s creative, b) the hours are flexible, and c) it’s a 4 minute drive from my house.

My other job, designing for a high-end real estate office, has been a real emotional roller coaster. Before I left for vacation, my understanding was I’d work from home Monday & Tuesday, and be in the office the rest of the week.

But when I got into the office the Wednesday after vacation, my boss handed me a pile of ads to be worked on, and said “oh, I almost forgot. We really need someone here 5 days a week, so we are trying out someone new on Monday and Tuesday.” The gist was, if she worked out, I’d be out for good.

Part of me was shocked.  I mean, they didn’t even try to see if my new schedule would work. The other side of me understood where she was coming from.

The entire office, my boss being the main offender, is very used to me being their little graphics monkey…I am here to perform for them at will. They don’t like the idea of having to wait, or having to think ahead. With me at my desk 5 days a week, they can give me last-minute stuff, and I get it done. But that doesn’t wash if I’m only in the office 3 days a week- this requires them to schedule my time, and they don’t like that at all.

But it turns out they don’t really like this new girl. She’s 100% capable of doing the job – hell she’s even a real tech wiz, which I am not. But her interpersonal skills suck. She’s a bit of a know-it-all, and she has already clashed heads with the boss in the course of two weeks.

My only problem with her is that I’m not even gone yet, and she’s moved a ton of my files around. Now when I open an ad or a postcard, nothing links. If they wind up canning her (and that’s the word that’s going around) I’ll be stuck trying to undo all her crazy reorganizing.

So with all this PLUS my three other freelance jobs (yes, at present I have FIVE jobs), it’s no wonder I haven’t had the time to write about my silly little life. I hope that once the dust settles, I’ll have more time to devote to being Typical Tracy.