Missing My Garden (and a RANT!)

I’ve mentioned before how I downsized a couple years ago. Sold my 4BR house that I lived in for 23 years and moved to a very small 1BR apartment. It wasn’t something I wanted to do…. it was something I HAD to do. And I still have VERY mixed feelings about it. On the one hand I had planned to stay in my house until I was carried out of the place. I truly loved that house and felt like it was a gift every day I lived in it. On the other hand, even though it was pretty low maintenance, it was getting too much for me.

Now I would have liked to have hired things done as needed but in January 2009 I lost my job. It was the height of the recession and I worked for a Fortune 500 company, AK Steel Corporation. AK was a major supplier to the Big Three Auto Manufacturers and they were cancelling their orders left and right. It was a disaster and AK had to take drastic measures to survive.

First they asked older employees who COULD retire to take a bonus package and vacate. Most did not. These were people who were working for health insurance or who had kids in college, etc. They still needed their paycheck.

Then the cuts came. Several hundred people were let go and I was one of them. And I do understand why I was cut, but I have never gotten over how it happened.

First of all, I was in a subgroup of the metallurgical engineering department. My group was originally 4 people who supported the metallurgists. When I joined the department I replaced two people – one who had retired and one who had been fired. The work was spread among 3 people at that point. We got along great and I loved that job. I might have been new in the department but the other two guys had been there 30+ years. They welcomed me and taught me the job.

Then one day there were some cuts and my close partner got the axe. I was shocked. But he had made a “mistake” that cost the company some money and he was let go. I cried and helped him pack. He was gone in 15 minutes. The two of us who were left took on the work of the whole department. After that we were never allowed to be gone at the same time so we had to coordinate our time off with each other.

As time went on, my remaining team mate announced his upcoming retirement. At that point I began training with him to learn what I didn’t know about his job. Of course, I thought someone would be brought in to replace him. Nope. When he was gone, the work of the entire department – which used to employ 4 people – fell on me. I was given an “assistant” – the department clerk – to train and help me. She was a nice enough person but in no way qualified to do engineering work. She made a lot of mistakes and I was held responsible for her actions. It was a no-win situation.

So when the big cuts came, I was on the chopping block. I was the only non-engineer in an engineering department. Who else were they going to let go?

My direct boss (mgr) loved me but my bigger boss didn’t like me at all. And I couldn’t stand his sorry a$$ one bit. He was an arrogant, condescending SOB who had his favorites and made no bones about it. He was also a cheapskate. He would take his pets on paid-for golf outings but refused to buy a ham for the department holiday carry-in dinner.

In January 2009 I got a message on my work phone. Not even a live call. I picked up the phone and it was beeping so I clicked to get the message. HR had sent an internal message to come to their office at 4pm. I knew what that meant. And when I walked by the big boss’ office on my way there, the little snake was watching. He followed me to HR and took a seat across the table from me. The HR boss sat between us.

Mr. GG was the ultimate wuss. He kept his head down while I was told I had been terminated and given the papers to sign. I was also told I was expected to return to work the next morning to train the metallurgists on the job I had been doing. It just so happened that I had been re-applying steel orders so as to rescue work in progress and not suffer the usual loss of cancelled orders. This had required me to learn a lot of chemistry, which was quite a stretch for my brain, but I did it. My manager had been so pleased he asked for a detailed report that he distributed to all of HIS bosses on up. My report showed that I had saved the company $2.3 million in the past 4 months. GG was scrambling to save his arse because that report had just come out the day before I was terminated.

I did, in fact, come in the next morning, and was totally bombarded. “GG says I have to sit with you all day!” said a number of panicked metallurgists. And after a half hour of this I snapped. One woman had called me 15 times and demanded that I be at her beck and call all day to teach her my job. She was someone who normally never gave me the time of day so I didn’t answer her calls. She finally showed up at my desk and began to scold me.

“Who do you think you are not answering my calls?” she screeched.

Whoa! “Outta my face!” I said.

“You can’t talk to me like that!” she declared.

“I no longer work here, so I will talk to you as I please,” I said.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” she replied. “I can make your life very miserable.”

“Well, that might have been true once, but no more,” I said. “And I will not show you a damn thing because I’m leaving.”

She turned and went into a nearby office and slammed the door. That was the last I ever saw of her and that was in 2009.

Then my manager showed up at my desk and I said, “I’m done. I’m leaving.”

“I’ll help you carry out your things,” he said. And he did. I was back home by 9:30am.

Later, when I got my last paycheck, GG had docked my pay for leaving that day. I didn’t even get paid for the two hours I was there. Just shows what a low-life imbecile he really was. And I’m sure he has slept like a baby all these years since because he has no conscience. I have never despised anyone so much in my life. And I know I sound bitter but it was a very bitter experience.

But the real reason I am going on and on about this is because it is what led to me having to move from my home of 23 years.

It took me a year or so to get back on my feet. That drained my savings down to zero. I was able to make enough money to pay my bills but not for health care. I was paying $325/mo for a health care policy that didn’t pay squat. (My corporate insurance didn’t cost me anything.) And the first time I got sick I ran up $20K in medical costs that wasn’t covered. Another evening I cut myself and had to go to the ER for stitches. I wouldn’t have gone but the cut was down to the bone and wouldn’t stop bleeding. I was sewn up by a physician’s asst – didn’t even see a doctor – and it cost me $2,000. Took me a year to pay for it.

Finally the health care was doing me in. I had to sell my house even though I would have had it paid for in just a few more years. That’s life, I guess. And the results of actions of people like GG, who have no loyalty or conscience to speak of.

And so I left my house and my garden. I’ve made the best of it and I truly am happy where I am now. It is small but it is all I need and I cleaned out 40 years of “stuff” my kids will never have to worry about. But, oh the garden! I spent a good 10 years building that garden. What once was a totally green back yard became a garden with only a lawn path to walk along and enjoy the seasonal blooms.

One of my sketchbooks is totally devoted to that garden. The very first page is an aerial view of the house and the lot with the original garden laid out. I initially started on the garden in 2001 but I wasn’t doing sketchbooks then. In 2006 I started the garden sketchbook and this is the first page.

Garden site 1

That whole sketchbook is devoted to garden drawings, which I will post here later. Then the last page is 6 years later in 2012 just before I moved. It doesn’t look a whole lot different on paper but there were some significant changes. They are detailed in the text which most people won’t read, but that’s ok. I’m posting here for my own record. (And I assume you know you can click on any of the pictures in this blog to enlarge them and read any text on the page.)

Garden site 2

Meanwhile, I am doing drawings in my current sketchbook to record what is in my yard now at my apartment. I still love flowers and the annual parade they start when spring hits. My yard does have an established lilac bush. which I love…


My daughter Ellyn planted some Stella D’oro in my front beds and they are already blooming. I especially enjoy them since my name in Italian is Stella…

Stella D'ora

The Hosta are already HUGE! I may have to divide them next year because they are doing so well!


I don’t have any peonies here (had a whole row at my Hampton House!) but the ones at my neighbor’s are glorious…


Nor do I have any Iris (why didn’t I bring some with me?) but I am tempted to sneak down the street at night and snip a few from someone else’s garden. OK, OK, I won’t… but I want to…


So those are my drawings of the past couple days. And I must say I cannot bear to drive by my old house. The new owner SAID she loved to garden but she obviously is mistaken. The $150 ornamental cherry tree I put in on the street lawn has been cut down. The dwarf spirea that was the foundation planting in front of the porch for over 20 years has been torn out and replaced with petunias. PETUNIAS!!! Who tears out a foundation planting and puts in an annual plant that is so low to the ground? And the Oak Leaf Hydrangea that was 12 feet tall and nearly as round has been cut to the ground. Is that someone’s idea of pruning? Good God! It’s a blessing I can’t see the back yard, but I won’t be driving by any more. It’s just too painful.

I need to be grateful for what I have and tend to that. This weekend is a good time to putter in the yard and enjoy the spring weather. There will be plenty of flowers here to look at and to sketch. And not near the garden to take care of! All good… all good.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Patti
    May 24, 2015 @ 00:31:35

    Hi Starr, Just read your blog….and it made me so sad…all over again! I think it’s a wonderfufl thing to share your life’s experiences and of course the beauty of your art reaffirms your love for the more wonderful things of living in this world. May God continue to bless you each and every day with what you love the most!…….Patti


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