The More Things Change

Posted September 7, 2016 by jbrueske
Categories: Uncategorized

I was amazed to see that I haven’t put anything here in almost two years.  Work got busy, then the world got busy, and I’m still not sure what happened to 2016 as I see 2017 just around the corner.

Our nephew visited for most of the summer again in 2015.  We had a lot of fun with him.

We went up north in July 2015, as we have every year for the last few years.

We had a Nurse Practitioner open an outpatient practice through our office briefly, but it turned out our structure wasn’t quite right for her and she has since moved on.

We lost some friends and loved ones, and and celebrated their lives in August, September, and October.

Two kittens joined our family in November.  They remain quite delightful.

We home schooled again last year and are still deciding on this year.  We’ll be looking at a charter school near our house this Friday to consider for this year or next, depending on if we like what we see and if they have openings for this year.

My back blew up in December (literally; my bad disc burst and disc material filled my spinal canal and nerve pathways, completely compressing my spinal cord and nerves; I got to spend my birthday in the ER and still don’t have all the feeling back in both legs), there was an emergency surgery, there were minor complications requiring another hospitalization, there were several months of clinic follow-ups 1-2 times/week, there was physical therapy twice a week, then my kidneys went batsh*t crazy, there was another emergency surgery, there was a little kidney failure, there was a short hospitalization, then I was stable enough to go home and get scheduled to finish the surgery that had to be stopped before, then there was that surgery, now there are lots of scans and tests – and so the first several months of the year are a bit of a blur.  I still have regular PT for my back and still have regular scans, labs, and follow-ups for my kidneys (because they seem to be fine now, but no one knows why they got the way they did or why they’re ok now).  I  was on leave until early April, was cleared to start going back in a couple of hours a week, worked all of two days, then had to go back on leave again until almost the middle of May.  I can work my way up to full time hours toward the end of the year, back permitting.

We went to New Orleans in June with my parents and a friend of our family’s (we’d planned this two years ago).  We drove and it was pretty rough on my back, but not as bad as expected.  We stopped a lot so I wasn’t sitting long periods and I spent time lying down doing my PT exercises every time we stopped.  We all had fun.

We again on our annual trip up north the first week of July – and got stuck there for a few extra days when our car broke down and the repair shop had a communication error that caused them to not actually start fixing our car until they’d had it for almost five days (they gave us permission to take their rental car home, then sent a driver down with our car when it was done and waived the rental fee; I wasn’t happy about the delay, but they made it right and we’d definitely use them again).

X is taller than I am and we’re celebrating lots of birthdays this month.

I have managed to put some things in my Etsy store and am hoping to get more things listed soon.

I didn’t do much of a garden this year, but bought a couple of plants in June and stuck some seeds in the ground late July.  We have some beans, herbs, summer and winter squash, tomatoes, kale, watermelons, potatoes, and sunflowers.  Our raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and rhubarb did beautifully on their own this year.  Our peaches, cherries, and apples were a little lighter, but not surprisingly so.  We had several greens and herbs that self-seeded last year surprise us this year.  It’s been so hot, rainy, and humid that I haven’t had to do much for the garden myself, and we still have lovely produce and greenery.  This has been nice, since I had thought there wouldn’t be a garden at all this year.  The rain has caused our yard to need more mowing than usual and the garden has enjoyed the abundance of clippings.

The critters are critters.

It’s time for bed.

And I still have scraps of paper taped to the wall by my desk.


Coffee Break

Posted January 21, 2015 by jbrueske
Categories: Uncategorized

My hours have been short the last two weeks, so I’m not really sure I deserve to let myself have a coffee break yet – but here I am, and there’s coffee, and my desk looks like a tornado hit it, so I think I’ll just sit down here for a bit and ramble semi-coherently online while I toast my employer (it’s his birthday today; I’m celebrating by quietly sipping coffee…there, I justified it, and it beats just pouring the coffee out on my desk, which I am sorely tempted to do at the moment).

I’ve been away from my desk a lot this month with my back acting up again.  There are some things I can do from home, but not enough, and what I need to do from here gets backed up if I have to be out more than a day. (Plus, I like being *here* to do my work and *home* to enjoy my family.  I need that separation, as much as I can have it.)  I’m looking at some software upgrades that might allow me to expand what I can do remotely, since this nonsense is getting more frequent and lasting longer every time.  That’s on the to-do list for this afternoon.  This morning has been devoted to some long-needed reorganization of my desks. (Yes, plural; I have three, one for each category of my job.  Two are next to each other, the other one is in a different part of our office.  It’s not always convenient and I’d probably move the things in it and the storage cabinets that go with it to my other desks if it weren’t material for a shared job with someone else.  I’m territorial enough not to want them to invading my other workspaces every time they need a file – which is really only going to happen for about for about three hours once a month, but it would make those hours very inconvenient for the other person, and our spaces are small, and I like to do my work and let them do theirs without us having to cuddle every ten minutes for those two hours, and I like to say “and” today.)

I reorganize every year, usually in January.  I like to go into the year with my stacks of papers in order, so I can find things and access things and forward things.  My job is to shuffle paper around.  It’s not usually very interesting or fulfilling, but it pays the bills and gets everyone else paid, too, so it certainly could be worse (heh, that’s literal – part of my job is paying the bills and writing out the paychecks).

This was never the kind of job I saw myself in. (I wanted to be a truck driver or a teacher or a ballerina or a polar bear.  I still kind of want to be a truck driver or a teacher or a ballerina or a polar bear.)  I’m not really cut out for nothing but administrative work.  I’m told I do it well, and I certainly try to (I figure, if I don’t want to be doing it in the first place, I *really* don’t want to have to do it twice, so I’d damned well better do it right the first time), but it’s probably not what I’d have sought out if I were going out to find my dream career.  I’ve worked other places, and although the benefits of this job far, far outweigh those I had elsewhere, I found more enjoyment in the work itself when I was working in retail and restaurant settings.  Before I came here to work full-time, I spent a few years as the assistant manager of a retail store, then a few years as the general manager of a retail store, then a little over a year as a middle manager of a fast-food restaurant (one step below our general manager), along with some other part-time retail positions.  I loved those jobs – they were fun, and the people I worked with were (mostly) fun.  During some of those years, I worked part time here as a receptionist to give their only other day-time staff member time to do some other work uninterrupted (for a few years I worked 3-4 jobs at a time, usually working 18 hours a day 5 days/week, 12 hours on Saturdays, then 6 hours on Sundays…because I wanted to).  I took two years (mostly) off to be a stay-home mom when X was born, but did some remote work for this office when we lived out-of-state and then when we moved back I did temp work here, filling in when the regular staff all had to be out (training, sick kids, school conflicts, etc.) or there were some projects that needed extra hands (like when we had to upgrade to new locking shelves; I spent a week rearranging the back of the office and building cabinets.  I loved it.).  When the main receptionist had to be let go, I agreed to be a longer-term temp until they hired someone new.  Weeks turned into months.  Every time I asked how the hiring process was going I got a non-answer, and after about six months I just accepted the unspoken agreement that *I* was the replacement.  The Clinic Administrator we had then was part-time (we had a larger staff to delegate to in those years); she had (and still has) a successful law practice, so typically only came in for a couple of hours on Friday mornings.  During the week, we would all put things on her desk (based on what she deemed to be things that needed to be handled by her; client deaths, denied claims, things like that).  By Friday morning, there were usually more piles than desk – her chair would be full; the floor would be used; the desk covered with stacks on stacks of charts, envelopes, and other miscellanea (her desk was already stacked floor-to-ceiling with folders and piles of paperwork dating back to the 70’s, when the clinic first opened, so to be fair, there wasn’t a lot of open space for us to fill…but I’m not exaggerating when I say that what open space there was typically had almost 2′ of new stacks of charts and other paperwork added by the end of the week).  It wasn’t long before those piles began shifting to my desk.  Her Friday hours became shorter – she came in to go through the stacks on her desk, then move them to my desk before I came in.  Bit by bit, more of those stacks found their way to my desk until everything but her mail was waiting for me on Friday mornings (with her long gone, meaning I’d have to call her at her other job to ask what to do with these things I’d never seen before…the standard answer was “figure it out” and a hang-up, so it didn’t take long for me to just not bother calling – and this was how I was trained to do my job.  No wonder I always feel like I’m doing things wrong and just don’t know it yet.)  With her encouragement, my desk became the new her desk – the other staff members knew that everything they put on her desk made its way to mine anyway (it was impossible not to notice, we had desks all in a row with a cubicle partition between them and had to walk past each others spaces several times every day), so they’d often just bypass hers altogether instead of having whatever they needed wait a week or longer for her to funnel it to me.  Instead of putting raw data on her desk to be processed, we began leaving a note saying “FYI – [x happened/needed to be done], so [we handled it this way] and [this was the result].”  This went on for a few years, then while we were in the process of restructuring the clinic, she left without giving notice (thankfully, she told someone else there that she was going to do it and they were kind enough to let me know [her goal was to see how long it would take for us to notice she had quit]) so I could take over the rest of the tasks she had been doing without screwing over either of our doctors.  (I’m still grateful that she chose to make herself available for some of my questions after that; I got a crash-course in setting up a new medical clinic [with the state, the federal government, and all the insurance companies] because we were in the middle of filling out and filing the paperwork for everything when she left.  It took me a week just to find the forms she’d been working on on her desk, then I had to figure out how to finish filling them out, where to send them, and what I needed to do in addition to what had already been done [I missed a couple of things, but was lucky enough to find myself working mostly with people whom I had developed good rapport with and who were more than willing to be flexible and work with me to correct my errors]…all while going to school full-time, getting a divorce, still managing the day-to-day operation of the joint clinic [because one doctor refused to have any breaks in his outpatient practice, so still saw a full patient schedule 6 1/2 days a week; the only day he took off from patients was the Sunday that he finished moving out of our office space and into his new one], dissolving the joint clinic, and helping the other doctor’s new office manager in setting up their new clinic, too.  I was in waaaay over my head.)  And here I still am.  It’s a good job, great benefits, and I’m lucky to have it, even if it’s not the kind of thing I look forward to doing when I get up every morning.  At least I can watch bad TV on Netflix while doing data entry, or listen to music, and I get to look forward to going home and reading my books or doing something arty/crafty some evenings.

Rats, no more coffee.  Time to go back to organizing my desk-forest.

I think I need a plant on my desk.  (And to stop taping scraps of paper to my wall, that’s just a mess…but I digress.  Again.)  I might need to make some room in our budget for a little greenery here.  (I’d love to bring in a terrarium with a frog or two, but our lease says no pets.  Spoilsports.)


Posted April 14, 2014 by jbrueske
Categories: Uncategorized

While I was blowing on my coffee this morning I was thinking, “Gosh, what can I do to put off doing anything productive for just a little bit longer…?  I know!  There’s a blog I’ve been avoiding for about six months.  I can update that!”

And here I am, burning my tongue on my coffee (should have waited…).  I *have* been avoiding updating this.  On purpose.  I have good reasons, but I’m feeling more confident that the issue has faded and it might be a good time to ease back in to regular posting.

My coffee is no longer too hot to drink, so it’s time to go be productive.  Maybe I’ll get that Benin post up for tomorrow. (No promises, though.  It might be next week instead.)

What I’m Reading Friday – 03/20/2014 – Stardoc Series by S.L. Viehl

Posted March 20, 2014 by jbrueske
Categories: Uncategorized

I know it’s not Friday, but I’m sick and I’m tired of Netflix.


1: Stardoc
2: Beyond Varallan
3: Endurance
4: Shockball
5: Eternity Row
6: Rebel Ice
7: Plague of memory
8: Omega Games
9: Crystal Healer
10: Dream Called Time

Four or five (six?) years ago, I stumbled upon a series (well-underway; she started writing it in 2000), of which I just finished the tenth – and final – book.

Not to be mistaken for great literature (they’re campy sci-fi books, so something I like but not necessarily for everybody), they were nonetheless a fun series and I searched for them every time we went to the book store.  I even bought a couple online!  The series centers around Dr. Cherijo Grey Veil, a Terran doctor, and her adventures as a physician to other species inhabiting the galaxy.

These were lot of fun to read. I think 1 & 2 were my favorites, 3 was fun but for a few cringe-worthy moments involving tentacles, 4 & 5 were a little lighter on substance but still reasonably good adventures.

I didn’t like this one at all.  I was bored and annoyed through the whole thing, hoping we’d hurry up and go back to what I’d come to expect from the first five books.  I only read it through because I knew there were more (and I had the next three waiting on my nightstand). I hoped this one was an aberration, the author had realized the error of her ways, and would quietly go back to the way things were.

They got a little better.  I probably would have liked them more had it not been for an event in 6 whose repercussions were felt quite strongly (in the form of a primary character) in these subsequent books.

Nope.  It started out ok, and was still better overall than 6, but not by much – and with a single event near the end, it completely ruined *every*single*preceeding*book*.  Yup, that’s right – the entire series.

I tend to get really into my books.  The characters become my friends; I explore with them, adventure with them, take part in their ups, down, and everyday lives.  When I look at the books on the shelf, I remember what fun [this] or [that] was, or what a disaster [that event] was, or the triumph of coming out ahead in a close battle – whatever.  After so many years and so many books getting to know these characters, just having a book be the end of the series would have been enough – it *really* didn’t have to take the rest of the books down with it.  I just finished this one, so my discontent is still pretty fresh.  In a day or two, I’ll probably be able to consider re-reading the series, distancing the events of those books from those in the last one.  1-5 are very likely to be on my to-read-again list; 6-10 are a lot less likely (though I’m a bit OCD, and I’ll probably end up having to reread them, too – whether I really want to or not).  Now that I’ve gotten my displeasure out of my system a bit, I’m already starting to look forward to rereading the first one.

If these become part of your to-read list at any point, do yourself a favor and enjoy the first nine books, then go ahead and read the first 318 pages of the tenth. Then just leave it there and let yourself imagine the universe continuing on as though the remainder of the book didn’t exist. It’s better that way. Trust me.

***Spoiler Alert***

You’ve been warned.

In the 6th book, the main character loses her identity and begins a new one.  The book is intentionally written so that the reader isn’t certain which character is actually Cherijo, although I don’t think it was very well done and although I had moments of uncertainty, for the most part, i thought it was too obvious (largely because of how hard the author tried to make us think it was more likely the other character).

In the seventh, eighth, and ninth books, the new identity has taken over Cherijo’s life, family and position.  This new identity is just as childish and annoying as Cherijo usually was, but has fewer redeeming qualities.  Large portions of the plots revolve around how annoyed the new identity is that people still sometimes call her Cherijo – but at least some of the fun, off-world adventures are there, and it feels a little like the books are getting back into the kinds of adventures we found in the first five.  I was grateful at the end of the ninth when Cherijo’s identity came back, annoyed that none of the years preceding it were in her memory, and hopeful that the series could again be as fun as it started out.  I also had hoped that this would *finally* be the end of her relationship with Duncan Reever.  (I remained hopeful until the very end of the tenth book that they would somehow bring back Kao, her love interest who died in the first book, and they would get back together, or barring that, that she would take up with one of the other Jorenians…but alas, it was not to be [although they *did* bring back Kao].

In the tenth book, Cherijo is always mad that her crewmates of the previous five years keep calling her by the name her alter ego had assumed.  She also finally gets to live out the destiny Maggie has been hinting at in the other nine books (maybe eight, I don’t really remember if she’s in the first one or not).  In doing this, at the end of the book, with one action Cherijo erases the entire timeline beginning more than six million years in her past – thus creating one in which she, and the others engineered to be like her, are never born, most of the friends she’d known and loved are never born or never met her, Duncan was never born, and none of the events in the other nine books ever happened.

I would actually have preferred an event that reset the universe so that all life had to evolve all over again, or that wiped out everything entirely.

[Insert annoyed expletives here.]

I’ve never understood why authors do that.   It’s not new, it’s not a creative surprise twist – it’s been done a million times.  It’s lazy.  It doesn’t surprise the readers, it usually just annoys them.

Geography Tuesday 003 – Angola

Posted October 22, 2013 by jbrueske
Categories: Uncategorized


Angola Flag



Angola Topography Map


This week I learned about Angola, on the southwestern coast of Africa.  I put the topography map here, too, because I thought it was very cool.  I like to look at the map and imagine what the terrain must look like in person.  Here’s the video.  Enjoy!


Angola’s Embassy Website:

Geography Tuesday 002 – Algeria

Posted October 15, 2013 by jbrueske
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , ,


Algeria!  I didn’t know much about Algeria other than what’s been in the news the last few years.  I learned some neat things – 91% of the population lives on 12% of the land mass, it’s the tenth largest country in the world, their presidents serve five-year terms, and on and on.  Sorry this one goes a little long – there was so much I wanted to say, and still so much I left out!  I’ve included links to a couple cool places to go for more information below the video.


Settling In

Posted October 13, 2013 by jbrueske
Categories: Uncategorized

The extended warmth this autumn has been nice.  I’ve been able to leisurely take in the harvest and begin putting the gardens to bed (our area had first frosts in September the last two years, although the average is early October; right now, we don’t have a frost predicted for at least another week or so).  It’s been nice not to have to rush around covering the plants and dragging everything inside.  My garden blankets might not even get used this year!  (We have two big tubs full of sheets, thermal blankets, and quilts just for the garden.  There aren’t enough, so we usually supplement with my sheets from younger years.  Rainbow Brite and The Care Bears have done a lot of good work protecting our plants.)  I hauled in the last of the ripe tomatoes last night and will be getting them cleaned for canning as soon as I finish procrastinating.


Dill pickles, canned hot peppers, dried tomatoes.


Eggplant (Farmer’s Market) getting ready for blanching, freezing, and drying.


A perfect autumn fruit.


Our first year growing pinto beans. The information we had said they’d grow to 18-24″, so I thought putting them around the cages for our drying tomatoes would be a good use of space. Several vines reached 7-9 feet, all the tomatoes were overshadowed, and out of the 30 tomato plants we started with, we have only four tomatoes….but the beans did great! Next year I’ll know better.




The neighbor boys stopped by to see X while we were shelling beans. They sat right down, picked up beans, and wanted to learn to shell them. They had a blast helping – especially when the beans would try to fly everywhere!


I’ve never seen a brown pinto bean with cream mottling, only the cream-with-brown. Some pods had one or two, two pods were all brown, and a few were like this one, perfectly alternated! I thought they were pretty.


5 1/2 pounds of beans. We’re very excited for soups, baked beans, and refried beans. This year we planted about 55 pinto bean plants in a 10’x16′ plot with tomato cages to grow on. Next year we’re planning to expand to around 70-80 plants in a smaller space, but with taller supports so they’ll still have room.


Wednesday dinner (part of it anyway; they went into a beef stew). The little carrots are a french variety that grown round, like a radish. They were fun to eat right out of the garden this summer.


Tomatoes! Green Zebra, Juliet, Cherokee Purple, Big Rainbow, Glacier, Sweet 100, Sunburst, Glacier, Silver Fir, Indigo Rose, Yellow Pear, San Marzano, and a couple other varieties. And a pepper.