Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Motherless Christmas

[Mom and the grand-kids last Christmas.]

I am working at home today, Christmas Eve.  I went to the office yesterday.  It appears the new policy (this is the first year we cannot carry over vacation time) had come home to roost.  Everyone is gone.  After a brief flurry of activity in early morning, most work ground to a halt around noon.  By the time I left at 4:30 the place was a vast wasteland populated only by a few colleagues who had planned ahead and used their vacation time for vacations earlier in the year. 

In addition to checking email and wrapping up a few loose ends for work, I've cleaned the cat litter boxes and even stopped to wrap a few presents.  A short shopping trip awaits John-John and me – whenever he wakes up.  After that it’s time to prepare food, gather the presents, and head over to Uncle Paul’s for the first motherless Christmas.

The first motherless Christmas is not easy.  After my father died, we still had Mom who was the driving force of holiday traditions.  That first Christmas without Dad was sad, but we were together at Mom’s apartment, she was healthy, the kids were young, so Christmas was exciting.  This time will be different.  I’m not sure how but I know it will be different.  That scares me and colors my mood.

Christmas cards arrive daily with touching messages about my mother.  Those are very helpful, but bittersweet.  I nervously open certain cards.  Sometimes I delay opening the mail until I know I’ll have time to appropriately process the messages in the cards.  It works best that way.

So, where is this going?  It’s an explanation or an apology of sorts.  Because Christmas has been harder this year, I haven’t sent the usual Christmas card and letter yet.   Mom would NOT approve, but that’s the way it will be.  The card will come, but I’m not sure I’ll send the letter.  Many drafts, but nothing seems right. 

Hmm . . . perhaps I’ll just print this out, fold it up, and stuff it in the envelopes with the card.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Building a Statue of Snow"

Peter O’Toole passed away over the weekend.  I’ve read several news articles and blog posts about O’Toole – many remembering him for his personal style and ability to hold his liquor.  The Trad (a favorite blog of mine) linked to this article from Esquire (1963) by Gal Talese.  Given our family’s interest in theater, as actors, behind-the-scenes workers, and volunteers, I thought this was a great quote to share.  O’Toole is comparing his experience on film against live theater:

"Oh, it's painful seeing it all there on the screen, solidified, embalmed," he said, staring straight ahead toward the rows of bottles. "Once a thing is solidified it stops being a living thing. That's why I love the theatre. It's the Art of the Moment. I'm in love with ephemera and I hate permanence. Acting is making words into flesh, and I love classical acting because...because you need the vocal range of an opera singer...the movement of a ballet dancer...you have to be able to act...it's turning your whole body into a musical instrument on which you yourself play...It's more than behaviorism, which is what you get in the movies...Chrissake, what are movies anyway? Just fucking moving photographs, that's all. But the theatre! Ah, there you have the impermanence that I love. It's a reflection of life somehow. It's...it's...like building a statue of snow...."

Hat Tip, the Trad.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Great Great Grandfather?

A relative from Sweden found me the other day.  I'm not hard to find.  I wasn't hiding, and a Google search locates scads of Gisselquists - all related in some way.

The email from Sweden got me poking around online and I unearthed this photo on Ancestry.com - I suspect it's my Great Great Grandfather Per Jonsson Gisselquist - who emigrated from Sweden in the early 19th century.

Sorry for the small photo.  Attempts to enlarge don't do much to enhance the appearance of Per Jonsson.

Wait - this gets better - now I've unearthed my Great-Grandfather Ole Gisselquist.  I love the straw boater.

I may need to purchase a subscription to Ancestry.com.

Get Back to Your Desk

It’s a quiet day at work.  It seems half the company is burning up their remaining vacation days before the lose them.  This is the first year we will not be allowed to carry over any vacation time.  That policy change is having an interesting effect on work around here.  Most folks toiled away all year deferring time-off because their projects and deadlines were too important to break away from.  Now with the year-end use-it-or-lose-it deadline looming, everyone’s changed their tune.   Suddenly work can be deferred and folks can take time away.  I’m not bitter – in fact – good for them!  It’s about time people strived for the work-life balance the company likes to brad about.  What it means for me, and the few others who used most if not all of their vacation days earlier in the year – are many quiet days and lots of great parking spaces!

This morning I stopped for coffee at our in-store Caribou Coffee then thought (since I had the time), why not take a look at the newspapers. 

We have a number of conveniences at my work place.  Along a stretch of our fourth floor we have a Caribou Coffee, a very nice cafeteria, a branch of US Bank, a convenience store, and a library-learning area used for training, etc.  This learning area also has comfy chairs, couches, and big windows.  There’s also an area with magazines and newspapers.  It’s really very pleasant.  I often stop by to check out the headlines on the Wall Street Journal or New York Times, or maybe a magazine.

But today I see this sign:  no more newspapers.  I suspect its part of our ongoing cost-cutting measures – or “transformation” as the initiative it’s officially named.  (We have a newly named Chief Transformation Officer.)   Last week we ousted the Presidentof our division (along with two other high level folks).  The high level replacements were meant to send a message to Wall Street that we are not satisfied with our growth so we are cleaning house. 

So measures are taken, big and small.  First the head-guy, then the newspapers; we are saving money where we can. 

I get the message, “Move along, nothing to see here.  Get back to your desk.”