Saturday, April 04, 2020

The New Normal, doesn't have to stay this way

This time of year is when we've got things buttoned up for what we're going to do for our anniversary.

June 1st is a good time to celebrate a wedding. Not a lot of things are in full season yet. We have taken some lovely trips, especially when we lived north of Boston. A favorite was our trip to Quebec City and Montreal for number 25.

This is number 29, which still kind of blows my mind. 

As much as I'd love a long weekend in a cabin in Vermont, or yet a tour up to Prince Edward Island, there is a great deal to discover down here and I need to kind of embrace that. The whole first year here I didn't want to go anywhere or do anything. I was far more depressed than I ever wanted to let on. A couple of trips to Annapolis, and down to Charlottesville and poking around up to Gettysburg have given me renewed interest in the area.

Doug had suggested we head into the mountains of West Virginia. He had his eye on New River Gorge and that area and had found a couple interesting Air BnB spots. One was attached to a barn so the animals were right literally next to your head. I wondered if it was a stinky or noisy option, albeit gorgeous and pastoral based on the photos.

West Virginia also supplied a convenient way for us to go away but also still be able to get to Western Pennsylvania too. Doug's aunt Mae passed away a few months ago, and the family had all decided to wait until good weather for a gathering and for her funeral (she was cremated, which makes that wait easier). So heading into West Virginia was a great idea.

We were going to head out May 30th, stay somewhere like Charlottesville, Lynchburg, something along that side of the mountains, and spend our anniversary where there are nice restaurants or a fancy something.  Not that I don't think there's fancy something in West Virginia, but I think it gets rural fast, and a roadside Waffle House on the highway near Beckley isn't my idea of 29th Anniversary Quality.

From somewhere in Virginia, we'd continue to the Gorge  via Beckley, stay a day or two at some barn cottage or rock cabin. Then head to the north, to Ohio, maybe Columbus or something, and then over to the homeland north of Pittsburgh for the family gathering on June 6th.

I don't know that we're going anywhere or doing anything at this point.

I'm not crushed or depressed or freaking out over this, I'm slightly disappointed because I haven't gone on a nice trip or vacation in a while. I'd have to go back and look through things but I think the conference in New Orleans was the most travel I had in the last year. Thankful for that, and for that time.

Work has been busy but not unmanageable. I'm not under pressure to do MORE MORE MORE the way I feel some of my colleagues are. I am feeling balanced and healthy mentally. I use my little projects to get through my days with some semblance of home vs. work and a balance thereof. 

But I want to do neither of those things for a little while. I want to do no house little projects, and no work, and just go somewhere different for a bit. And I wanted to do that with Doug. And right now I feel like if we're able to get Thai take out for June 1, it'll be a miracle.

I'm listening to people bemoan things like this or actually freak out over them. I've watched my friends' kids absolutely losing their minds because Senior Weekend is canceled.

I think as a nation our coping mechanisms are being tested hard, and our expectations of what we deserve and getting what we want no matter what are being taxed.

Another friend who is a therapist for battered women had recently said that when people are freaking out about things, they are grieving. They are in mourning. I get that. I do. But I also am thinking I'm not Anne Frank sitting in a wall for two years unable to speak aloud. I'm not in a bunker in London hoping for some great leadership speech from Churchill.

There has to be a balance. Missing Senior Weekend or having your graduation ceremony and "walking" canceled sucks really bad, but some things cannot be helped right now and your reaction, our reaction, has to be a little bit stronger, tougher, and better.

It's okay. You're okay. I'm okay. We're okay. We're going to make it. I believe we will. There are things we are totally going to miss out on, landmarks and touchpoints of what we expect as human developments. But look to the next one and say "I'm hopeful for the future.

Everyone is referring to this as the New Normal, but I don't think it is the way life is going to be forever. I don't think there is going to be a time in the future where once again I'm counting rolls of toilet paper to make sure I know kind of how much we've got left. I believe I'll go back to work at my office. I don't think this normal is here to stay.

I think that some mental adjustments need to be made to living this way now, but I also think some adjustments need to be made when we do go back to the way it was before. I think being more aware and listening better needs to happen. I think responsiveness by ourselves and our government needs to improve.

I think taking things for granted will hopefully no longer be a thing, and I can look at planning Year 30's trip with a joyful heart.


Friday, April 03, 2020

Riding On The Metro

I take the DC Metro to work, usually.

These days, my commute is free, I can usually sleep until 8:30 instead of sitting on the couch, dressed, ready and pre-work working while waiting for Doug to get ready.

The DC metro has been reliable, if not kind of dingy and dirty.

I mean, Boston's T is kind of super filthy in some places (hello, Red Line Downtown Crossing...). But I've found that aside from the occasional service outage, or the work they've done where they have to close actual stations and provide shuttle buses (hello 90-120 minute commutes!)  it's pretty reliable.

I can be at my Metro stop at 9am (because always late since Doug drops me off as I'm too lazy to walk), and at my desk at 9:30, or 9:45 if I take my time and play Pokemon Go while walking from my metro stop to my office. It's not a bad deal. It's about 3.50 each way.

I listen to podcasts. I listen to music, and sometimes I listen to life around me.

Sometimes in DC it is best to not tune it all out and have the earbuds shoved in good and the sound cranked up. I've seen some assaults, I've heard some fights, I've maintained my distance safely, I've always hoped for the best for the parties involved, or I've been personally relieved when I see someone else calling for help because I fear for my human form sometimes.

I've talked to strangers, I've had some great conversations. I've ridden to work with co-workers, sleepy and not yet ready for the day. I've come home late. I've used the metro to go to shows downtown instead of driving into the city and dealing with parking.

I like the newer cars, all silver and shiny. I groan a little bit when the old models come around.

In the newer cars, I like to sit right by the door, where the giant windows aren't flooding my face with the sunlight, and giving me a headache. I know that sitting way toward the front of the train on the way to work gets me dropped off at the top of the stairs at my destination stop. I know on the way home, sitting three cars back gets me right across from the tunnel to head to the elevators at my home stop.

I've gotten to know the system.

In the past few days I've been thinking about the Metro, and the not riding it, and the not going to work. I've been thinking about all the people that I haven't seen. And I've been thinking of once we're back on the Metro, and how I'm looking forward to seeing the humans.

I very much want to look at everyone and say "How are we doing? Are y'all okay? So good to see you here!" I want to make eye contact, and see smiles. I want to hear sighs of relief that we're all going to be okay.

It's going to be okay.



Thursday, April 02, 2020

When this is all over...

My dog paces the house and stops on the side of the bed to "tell" me that she needs to go out. She doesn't issue any whimpers or whines, but her feet stomping like a herd of hippos on the hardwood floors alway wakes me up. Usually she will just give up and go back to her doggie bed and flop down. Last night, well, last night was different.

We had an epic adventure at 3am, wherein she had an accident and wherein I had to use cleaners and a mop to fix things. There is nothing like the smell of household cleaning materials at 3 am to get you all the way, wide awake. And I was.

After all was said and done, and she was back on the doggie bed snoring away, I was in bed staring at my bureau and just thinking. I didn't get back to sleep until almost 6 (I kept checking the time).

While thinking, I started to make mental lists of all the things to do when this is all over. Here is a partial list. In my head, it was all a lot more poignant and poetic. Exhausted this morning, it isn't quite as flowery and delightful and if more things come to me I will add them. But here are some of the things.

Also, here is a photo I took of myself yesterday (it is backwards from Selfie mode because I forgot to flip it). My cousin Jimmy asked for signs of life and how we are doing. I thought this would suffice.

Note, I cut my own bangs a week or so ago, and they actually came out really good, so there's a tiny victory.

When this is all over, I am going to spend more time with my friends.

When this is all over, I am going to hug you.

When this is all over, more concerts and more fun. Right now though, my bank account is very happy with me because we have not been eating out, there have not been concerts, and I have not exercised any retail therapy extravaganzas. And not just Guster, but of course, Guster.

When this is all over, I will still bear my dislike and uncomfortableness with large crowds in public, but probably even more so because it'll feel like PTSD, and I will relish more time in wide open spaces. I will go on more trail hikes. We will visit more places. We were really getting into that, and with spring arriving, I was so looking forward to going places and doing things. Winter just feels like it is still heavy around my head.

When this is all over, I am going to the ocean as soon as I can. I'm finding a place on the Eastern Shore, or Annapolis, or Delaware, and I am going away to be with the ocean.

When this is all over, I'll probably go back to church. We kind of picked one but never went. We drive past it and Doug says "oh, there's the church that I don't go to." I miss the fellowship, and I know that when this is all over, not while it is happening (I'm really pissed off at churches that are insisting on being open during all this!) I'm going to be comfortable entering back into that kind of a relationship.

When this is all over, I am using my vacation time. I have a lot of it. I was talking to my aunt in Arizona. It's been 5 years since we visited there and I really want to go back. She's terrified they are not going to make it through this. I told her to keep the faith, and be patient, and that I'll be sure to come see her.

When this is all over, I'm for sure going to Oregon to see Aaron and Serena. They're expecting a baby in July, and I want to see that baby. As well as them. Maybe it'll be on the same trip. Not sure. Maybe I'll take two different trips. But no matter what, I'm going.

See that note up there about more fun. And my bank account will start hating me again.

When this is all over, I want some of you to come visit. You know who you are.



How goes it by you?

How are my friends doing? How goes it with your soul? I've reached out to a number of people and have had all kinds of different conversations.

Some of my friends are unbothered by all of this and life is normal, perfectly normal, they're just waiting to go back to their offices and biding time at home twiddling their thumbs (I'm kind of in that mode). Others are freaking out all the way to 11. One is afraid they are going to be pulled over by the police for being out driving around on errands. Another is afraid for their business, and having to possibly furlough or lay off staff permanently. Others think this is all bullshit, that there isn't going to be a "surge" in the next three weeks, that over 100,000 people are not going to die. Another feels that it is going to be a lot worse than 100,000 and by a lot, they feel ... a lot.

Some are doing the teacher parent thing incredibly well, or their students are actually the ones to congratulate in all this. One colleague says her daughter gets up every day, comes to breakfast, and immediately starts her school work. They do lunch and recess (which my friend loves because otherwise she'd just stay put and work so they are going running together). And the daughter says "Mama, the faster I finish my schoolwork, the sooner I can play Stardew Valley!" And she's right. Another friend tweeted "Raise your hand if you were *the worst* school teacher today."

Others have had vacations ruined (me, as well). Others are out of wine (oh yes. Me, as well). Friends who are fighting to be clean and sober in the midst of all this have caused me to stop saying or even thinking "I picked a bad time to drastically cut back on alcohol consumption." The picture up there is of me with a beer, and instead of a nightly relaxation after a long, hard day at work this is a once a week thing usually reserved for Friday or Saturday. The Maryland Craft Brewing scene is gonna crumble because of my prohibitions.

And I'm honestly worried for one dear love who is drinking way too much, all day, even when working, because self-medication is the goal in their life. I am worried for them when this is all over, how will they undo what they are doing to get through the days?

I can't fix how anyone feels, or how any are reacting.  I can extend love and grace, and hear you when you're frustrated with your kids or scared of the police pulling your mom over when she is on her way over to your house to babysit so you can do countless hours of Go To Meeting or Zoom conferences.

If you are reading this and want to skype, FB chat, anything - hit me up. Let's schedule some time. Your introverted extrovert who is riding an even keel is here for you. And happy to hear you.




Thursday, March 19, 2020

Operation Yoga Pants - The Pandemic Update

Greetings, (a)musers who still read the blog. I've been meaning to update, but for the last week have been working at home and I have a tendency to forget anything but work exists when I work from home (WFH). So here I am, up earlier than usual and enjoying coffee while listening to the news.

As you're well aware, unless for some really strange reason you are not, the world has been derailed in a big way by novel coronavirus "COVID-19." And, depending on the lengths your own state is going through, a lot of "non-essential personnel" are working from home.

My state is no different, and my office enacted the decree before the state did. They had set up a three level telework policy early in March:

  1. Managers must Support staff who felt the need to work from home (prior to March 12).
  2. All non-essential staff are Encouraged to work from home (beginning March 12).
  3. All non-essential staff are Required to work from home (starting yesterday, March 18).


We are not sure how long we will be doing this, the Required status. But we're prepared to do it for as long as we have to as a company. Things seem to be going well. I'm worried about temp and contract employees, and the Interns and them keeping their jobs. And I am hoping that we do right by them.

I've been referring to this as Operation Yoga Pants, because it just sounds more fun than Everyone's Going to Get Sick and Die Pants. I've been updating my twitter with the things I get done or observations I see daily, today is Day 8.

I'm a big fan of working from home. Pros are that I get a lot done. I'm efficient, not as easily distracted. I can get tech support writing done without distractions. Cons are that I'm on my ass and not walking nearly as much, and I work from rolling out of bed until I go to bed. There may be some working-less work time from say 5pm to 7pm, but I always pick things back up before bed for a little while and I need to not do that.

There are other things I need to be doing so I need to do those.

I've been working on getting our back porch tidied up so I can sit out there instead of the couch. I've been moving around from dining room to bedroom to back to the couch to front porch just to keep my brain entertained with new vistas.

The dog is very happy I am here. And I am happy to be with her. My old lady sits on the couch and watches me work, or sleeps at my feet and prevents me from being able to gracefully get off the couch.


Both of my children work in warehouses, Geoff works in a spice processing plant and Jess works in a parts distribution warehouse. Both of their jobs are still open, although at Jess' site they are moving people around to cover a 24 hour clock in shifts to distance the employees a little bit (which is genius, as orders still need to be fulfilled). Jess will be working 5am-noon for the foreseeable future.

Doug works in a hospital, and is "essential" but he isn't sure why. He doesn't see patients, and can do his work from home. But it was the same at the last two hospitals he worked for so this is no different.

I just kind of feel like I have most likely already been exposed to the virus, probably through Doug, who most definitely has been exposed. Neither of us have it, yet. And hopefully we won't. We'll see.

The other news is that our Guster concerts at the end of the month were canceled, something that I was so very looking forward to for months.

One of the concerts was in my hometown in NY, and my sister, her best friend, Jess, and a friend from Maryland here were all going together. Hotel rooms, pool. I even bought a bathing suit so I could enjoy. Devil may care if I'm fat and stupid looking! Huzzah girls weekend!

But that's been dashed. I got my train ticket (for myself and for Jess) refunded easily and took the Vouchers instead of the cash, because I'll use that for sure sometime in the future.

We are patiently waiting to see if the May 8 & 9 Boston Pops shows are canceled. I'll be horribly disappointed, but, I know they will be rescheduled so I'll look forward to that. It is sad when you hold on to something that you really want to do and have the universe turned over on top of your plans. The good thing is everyone's been really accommodating thus far with refunds and reschedules. We have plans for the August On The Ocean fest, I've booked us an Air BnB for several days (Thursday through Tuesday) on a river north of downtown Portland, and if nothing else, if for some reason the shows and weekend festivities are canceled, I'm still going. Come hell or high water, I'm going to sit in a house, read a book, paint my toenails, relax, for my own well being.

As much as I don't want the summer to come and be over, I also can't wait for that.

Geoff and I made a quick trip to Massachusetts a couple weekends ago. We went up to an Eagle Ceremony for one of the boys in his old troop. I was happy to be invited and got to see some great friends.

The ceremony was not as fun as what they were like when we were in the troop. It is interesting to see how things have changed for them. Geoff was a little disappointed that a couple of the old "standards" were not incorporated, such as "ushering the Eagle to the front of the room in whatever dignified fashion" which usually resulted in some sort of ridiculousness (Geoff was picked up and carried feet first).

At the end of things, Geoff went and got the Eagle and carried him away on his back, which made both the Eagle and Geoff very happy even if it confused everyone else. Here they are together, and it is lovely that the Eagle remembered such fondness of Geoff enough to actually invite him to the ceremony, and that Geoff wanted to go even from such a distance.

Driving up, we left at 9am, stopped for dinner in Connecticut, and got there by 5pm. So it was an easy, clean trip with no traffic or issues. But man is that a long day of driving and being in the car. We stopped often (I like to try and get my steps in) and Geoff likes to get snack. He's a good traveling companion.

We also got to see my parents, which was nice. My dad seemed really tired and a little bit out of it. He's going to be 80 in May so I'm kind of wary of him being able to make it through all this. But he's a tough old fart. And mom refers to herself as "Nurse Ratchet" so she'll keep him going as long as she has the energy too.

We also got to see Jess and one of our friends, and good friend of Geoff's, Thane.


We met for dinner and had a great time and Geoff had been wanting to go to a little brewery in Amesbury, where Jess actually goes regularly. One of her co-workers lives around the corner with his partner, so they joined us too. Didn't get a picture of that side of the table but loved this one of the boys. They've been friends since elementary school, and still have such a good time together. It was a fantastic and fun night. We had a couple laugh riots, and I could tell Geoff was just so overjoyed to be spending time with Thane in person. What a gift to have this connection. And it is so weird to know that Thane is 25 now. He was like 7 when we met... our babies are all grown!

And before we left on Sunday morning we had breakfast with Jess and their roommate Liz. Wished to have had more time with them as well.

Geoff and I both get a little sad when we have to come back. I wanted at least one more day there but he had class and work on Monday so we came home. He doesn't have a lot of vacation time (his boss let him take a sick day because he was impressed with Geoff going to the Eagle ceremony and being in contact with his Troop still).

Like I said, I'm looking forward to heading north hopefully in May, if not... August.

Well, the aforementioned telework time is here. Gotta get to it.



Sunday, January 12, 2020

Farewell to the King - Neil Peart

I have a lot of feelings. And news flash, there are a lot of bands that mean the world to me that are not Guster. Believe it or not.

This week, drummer extraordinaire and lyricist for the band Rush passed away. Neil Peart was 67.

Glioblastoma is listed in some articles as the cause. A colleague of mine was taken by that particular form of cancer a couple of years ago. Talent removed from this earth too soon by the same horrible disease.

The irony of the kind of cancer is not loss to me. Both of these men were of incredible intellect, amazing thinkers. My colleague was a web designer and always trying to figure out ways to game our CMS so they could make better more wonderful web presentations, and he would call me and ask "Can we test this. I have an idea..."  Neil? Well. I never met him, but listened to and loved his music, and his books, and the way the man could play the drums.

I don't think I've shared this ever, but it was 1987 and Doug and I had not been dating long. Our Christian College had certain rules about members of the opposite sex being "on the floor" at any time, and doors had to be open and feet had to be on the floor.

Doug had arranged his modular bedroom set to fit a dumpy assed recliner under it, putting the desk on the outside of the setup. We had to climb over things to get into this little cubby where we'd kind of go nuts making out whenever we had the chance. Doug would pull his bedsheets down off the bed up high, and we'd hide. And have some private time. He had a small record player and speakers set up, and we'd cuddle up and listen to a lot of music.

Doug's favorites were Bob Dylan and Rush. Mine were Genesis and Yes. We mixed it all up. And at certain points in our early relationship, there was some very passionate time spent making out to "Fly By Night." Especially fitting in all this budding prog rock romance was the song "In the End."

You can take me for a little while, you can take me you can make me smile in the end.

As far as Neil Peart's songwriting goes, it is not the deepest or most insightful song. I'm sure it is based on personal experience with someone, a private conversation that turned into a song, a story unknown to us at age 18 and 19 on a beat up piece of crap recliner hiding from the RA in Wood Hall. It's no "Dreamline" (one of my very favorites). No 2112, no Anthem, no Free Will, no Witch Hunt, no Roll the Bones, and certainly no Red Sector A.

We were young, and super hot for each other. We had to be just as sneaky as the protagonist of the song Red Barchetta, who sneaks away from the prying eyes of laws and technology (ie: the college RA and the rules) to go drive a car very fast and then hang out and laugh about it with his Uncle.

The whole album builds up to this sweet ending, and in a lot of ways, such the perfect song to put at the end of the album, and the perfect song for us. Rush was a soundtrack to our not-quite-lovemaking, as we didn't get to that point for a while (after all, we were good Christian College kids).

Here we are, all these years later and I get goosebumps when I hear songs off Fly By Night. We both probably couldn't fit in a recliner together like that anymore, and I chuckle just thinking about it.

Neil's songwriting and his books are a wonderful legacy he's left behind. I'm absolutely devastated that we lost him.  But in his own words from Dreamline, our lives are where we are "learning that we're only immortal for a limited time."

Here are some videos. Watch and listen.

By-Tor/In the End


Dreamline


And, because Rush is often named as the band most loved by young suburban men, I want you to remember that there are girls (like yours truly) who love and loved Rush. Girls who felt just as disenfranchised by the expectations of society and parents. Girls who were spoken to by Neil's songwriting. Girls who read the same books, thought the same thoughts, and though we were few and far between, we found the partners we needed in life, and now over 30 years later, we're still listening to Rush with those boys, recliner optional. That is a whole blog entry in and of itself, I'd say.

Nerf Herder - The Girl Who Listened to Rush


Sunday, January 05, 2020

Cheesecake

Note, this isn't a food blog. But once in a while I make things and actually write the process up.
See the Caribbean Black Cake, and how Bread Bowls should not be feared.

I really like cheesecake. I love to bake. But I've never baked a cheesecake.


I borrowed a set of springform pans from a coworker recently. I wanted to bake with Jess while they were here but it didn't work out timing wise. I also wanted to give this a try before I actually buy pans, or a pan, because I don't like the idea of buying things I may use just once and never again.

Figured it was time to give it a go. After making some epic french onion soup earlier in the day on Saturday,  I kept the cooking ball rolling.

I did my preparation.

I watched an Alton Brown cheesecake recipe video. I looked at a number of different cheesecake recipes from plain to berry mix to oreo. I read arguments pro and con for water baths. I was ready.

Decided to make an Oreo cheesecake because I thought Geoff would like that for his birthday week. I planned poorly, using in my memory for Alton's recipe which called for 2 boxes or so of cream cheese, and this one called for 4 blocks, so I had to go to the market. Got a very late start in the preparations so we could not enjoy this last night.

For the first time ever, I wish I had a food processor. I crushed and used a rolling pin and mashed and squished oreos to make the crust. No matter what, the cookies didn't get crumb-like enough for my liking. They were large clods, and that disappointed me. 

Kind of feel it was a failure but after baking the crust it holds together nicely and looks alright. Good enough to put some mix in. 

Making the mix was easy enough, I crushed 6 extra oreos to put in the cake mix, and it all spread nicely into the baked crust in the springform pan.




One of the things I opted not to do was  something Alton does -  a water bath on the bake. Several people said not to do that, but instead to put a pan of water into the oven on the shelf below the cake, to keep moisture in, but prevent any moisture from leaking into the springform pan. 

Because I didn't think I had a really solid foil wrapping job, I wanted to go for the moisture but not the soaking of the pan. 

I put a baking sheet on the lower shelf with a 9x9 glass pan on it, filled with water. Set the cake in the oven on the shelf directly above it, and let it bake!




The cake bakes for 90 minutes and then you open the oven door a crack and turn the heat off.  Several people wrote about how they opened the oven all the way and that ruined the cake. I figured that would be bad, and was happy to discover our new oven has the ability to stay open a crack, instead of full half way.

The center of the cake is supposed to be jiggly a bit, but mine was pretty solid upon finish, and the cake was brown on top, appearing slightly over cooked to me. I was rather worried about it at this point. Would this be a fail?

Instructions said to put the cake in the fridge for an hour, or, cool overnight. I wrapped the tin foil from the bottom over the top and set it out in our back porch as it is cold enough overnight (and the fridge is super full so now is the time of year to use our natural surroundings.



This morning, not able to wait until say dinner time (or even lunch) I made whipped cream from scratch (why put cool whip or spray can whipped cream on top of something so carefully homemade!).

I always use very little confectioners' sugar, far less than the recipe calls for, and a lot more vanilla. I love making whipped cream, and love how it comes out! I wished that I had some powdered cocoa to toss in to make for a nice contrast to the cake, if the top of the cake had come out white. As is, the white whipped cream ended up looking fine against the finished product.

I was worried about taking the springform pan side off, worried that the cake would be completely stuck and all would be ruined, but everything came off nicely, with just a little pull off the cake in the end. Nothing major!

Cutting the cheesecake open, it was dense and heavy, the crust a lot thicker than I expected.  The cake part was not as thick as I'd expected, but it all held together beautifully and the extra Oreos in the mix looked wonderful. Broke them up into the just right size!

I suppose if I'd made an attempt to smoosh the crust  up the side of the pan a little bit it may have been a nice side lip of crust. But all told, this was alright in the end.

The pan that I used was rather huge I think, partly how the mix was so "short" in the pan. The slices are gigantic. But. Look at that cake.

A few other notes... The non-water bath approach seemed to work fine. I will butter the sides of the springform pan before filling the the pan with the mix. Next time, I'm going to make graham crackers and use Alton's recipe  (it calls for 20 oz of cream cheese and heavy cream, instead of the 4 boxes of cream cheese that the Oreo recipe called for). I'll mix in a little strawberry cream cheese to the mix and see how that goes, and make a strawberry reduction sauce to drizzle on top.


And, here is the boy, turning 23 this week. The one I made this all for. Should have cleaned the lens on my phone a little because this looks blurry to me... and he does look a little ... messy. But Sunday Geoff sleeps in and eats cheesecake for breakfast!





Verdict: It's a success! 

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Woke up today to everything grey

We tend to have a lot of milky colored skies here in the DC area. Lately, the weather has been very warm, it was in the 60s earlier this week. I'll say that weather-wise, DC in the summer is the pits. DC this time of year when I can drink mimosas on the porch while talking to my sister and not be shivering and whining, well, I'll take it.

But the grey. No matter the temperature, the grey is a lot.

Today was another grey morning. I didn't feel well last night when I got home from wor, so I pretty much fell onto the bed, played a game on my phone and fell asleep. I woke up when Doug came to bed at 9:30. I had no problem falling back asleep and stayed that way until the dog woke me at 6 to go out.

Doug decided it was a good day for french onion soup. So he volunteered to chop the onions for me (what a lad!) and I think he cut about 2x what Alton Brown's recipe calls for.

We'll make due. I'll double the stock and wine and everything and it'll be FOS for days. Sorry Amy. Thinking of you.

Jess was here for Christmas.

They flew down on the day of my sister's 50th birthday and I wish I'd been smart and planned another day for the arrival. Linda had quite a fun celebration, and I would have loved to have been there. While Jess was here, we did some fun stuff. We went to the Aquarium in Baltimore and out to Jimmy's Seafood for dinner.

We went to the horse farm / brewery up north of us a bit. That's always a great thing to do. Unfortunately none of the horses were out running in the back but it was still a beautiful day to sit outside, have some beer, dog and people watch. Again, DC December, I'll take it.

Before the horse farm, we went out to lunch at Brew Belly Kitchen & Sudhaus.  Doug took me here for my birthday and we figured both kids would like it.  I am sure some of you ask why on earth would Doug not take me somewhere lovely, romantic, fancy, but he knows me.

Beer. Cheesesteaks. I'm a happy person.

As you can see, Geoff fit right in with the branding. Wonderfully, the kids got along, no name calling, no fighting or insulting. This is kind of a first and I was pleasantly surprised at how they actually got along.

Jess and Doug went to the National Cathedral and took a tour, and they both really enjoyed it. Doug has been saying he'd like to attend a service there, so this may spur us in. They also went to Dumbarton Oaks even though the gardens are done for the year, had a nice walk, and spent good time together.

We then went out to Right Proper Brewing for dinner, and Jess really enjoyed it. We've been a couple times, and it was a good choice. The beers are great, the food is great. And the waitress bonded with us over Pokémon Go.



Jess hates having pictures taken but agreed to this. And I'm thankful for it. I know how they feel - I also hate having my picture taken, but sometimes you gotta just make the memory official and forever.

And look at that mural.

On the one day that both Doug and I were at work, Jess took a trip down to the Folger Shakespeare Library, which wasn't as exciting as Doug impressed upon them. They met me at the newest brewery in DC, which is right by my office. We had a nice sit and spent time with one of my colleagues from another department, and had a good visit.

The one thing we didn't get to do was head over to Annapolis, which was on Jess' things to do list. I asked why they had so many things they wanted to do because usually Jess comes to visit and does not really care about going places. They said that they usually are only here for a couple of days, and this time it was more than a week so why not do fun things.

So next time, whether or not we have three days or one full week, Annapolis is on the list. Grey skies or not.

At work we are gearing up to launch a new product, everyone will be moving onto it over the next year. A lot of work has gone into it and now I'm getting trained on what it will be like to use, so we can train the trainers. I'm desperately trying to be positive about this. I want to be positive about this. It has been a long time in coming getting here, and I'm hopeful.

But it has been a total stress for everyone. I just hope we can keep our wits about us. There is going to be a lot to do. We have a new boss starting in February, someone I'm already friendly with from outside our HQ. It will be interesting to see how their leadership works out, and how we do bringing someone into a team that has not had a direct supervisor for 9 months.

The only other kind of interesting thing to report right now is I borrowed some springform pans from a co-worker recently to make cheesecake, and so I've been gearing myself up to get that started for a week or so now.

Today may be the day.

I may take pictures of the process as it will be my first time ever doing this. It's been a long time since I've thoroughly blogged a cooking adventure. Visit the Caribbean Black Cake adventure of 2014. You've been forewarned, all four of you.


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Looking forward to Twenty-Funty. or 20funty, whatever we want to call it

For my first post of 2019 I wished everyone love, and that the year wouldn't be a dumpster fire of epic proportions, or something like that.

Well, for a lot of people it sure the hell was. What a freaking year 2019 was, amirite? 

I have to say that this being the second solid year I've lived here in DC, I've grown a little more comfortable here. I made actual honest friends outside of work which is fun. I had some amazing moments. I saw my sister more in this year than most of all the 10 years before... it's super easy to get back and forth between here and NYC, so we've been able to really have fun and connect.

One of the highlights for me was getting to see my favorite band a lot. Twice in DC at the 9:30 club, then in Philly, Ft. Lauderdale, NYC which got rained out in epic proportions and rescheduled, Vermont three times, and the rescheduled NYC show. If you don't count the NYC Central Park rain show, that is a successful 8 shows. 

I even got to drive up to Maine and surprise my friends by appearing at a "Moth" radio hour style fan essay reading, where the drummer Brian Rosenworcel used some of our writing, and we kind of ended up making him cry a little. I wish I'd gone to the other shows that weekend but am super glad that I spent the time with Carrie at her cottage and had a wonderful dinner and lots of fun sleeping with the farting dog and giggling the night away. 


2019 didn't suck in the Fun Department, overall. 

Here are two pictures that sum up the greatness. 


This image is of me, Brian from Guster, his son, and my friend Sara, after the Moth story hour. Brian is just amazing. I love this kind and gentle human. And to have driven up to surprise Sara so we could be there together while Brian read our essay, well, this was great. Highlight of the summer if not the year for me. 


My sister won tickets to a Guster show in Fort Lauderdale. One of the Guster fans won tickets to every single show they did this year, and for the ones he could not attend, he had permission to give them away to other Guster fans. He raffled them off and Lin was the winner of that show.

Seeing as her best friend Ginger and family live in the Palm Beach area, Linda and I recently got Ginger into Guster, and we wanted for her to attend the show so close to home. Linda bought me a ticket so we could all go together. 

But she plotted and schemed to deeper shenanigans. 

She flew Jess down, and got Jess a ticket to the show. I arranged for after show time, so Linda had to also email Brian to let him know Jess was coming and to add her to the list but not tell me, because it was a secret. Brian was thrilled.

Linda also reached out to Michael and Jon, my dear loves who long ago moved to Florida. They couldn't come to the concert but Lin and Ginger threw a party for me to do the big reveal of Jess being there, and invited them to join. We laughed long into the night, it was a truly memorable time, and Michael took this group "ussie." I loved it. What a surprise and a blessing this entire night and weekend were.

There were a lot of stresses for sure, though. Doug ran out of unemployment and we were literally weeks away from having to borrow money to pay rent when he finally got a job in September. 

We didn't suffer a great loss, like of one of our parents. Doug's great aunt Mae just passed away last week, she was 104 years old, and I'm sorry we didn't get to go see her before she passed, but we did get to visit a couple other times this year. What a life well lived. And I so enjoyed getting to know her.

We had friends lose parents; friends lost children. Those were the hardest ones, the children. Friends got divorced or broke up. A couple of those are still struggling with these events and I'm heartbroken watching from away. 

The entire country has been stressed out. Working at a media organization has made me feel both extra stressed out over this whole year and also numb and not-caring. 

We didn't travel as much as I would have liked, but did get to go to Massachusetts, albeit for a funeral. I got to make a trip up for meetings and see Carrie and my parents and others. I did several Drive-By Hugs of many friends. I miss so many people that going home I try to make it a goal to see as many people as possible. 

I reconciled a little bit, but not fully, with a friend that I'd fallen out with. I'm happily watching from a ways off their life now and am happy to see them online and be reconnected. 

I'm looking forward to next year. 2020 as a number signifies a clear vision, focus, a real sense of sight. 

And at least one Guster concert coming up. 

Happy new year to you, dear reader. As Jim's Big Ego sings, "Thank God It's Over." Watch the video here: 


Sunday, December 01, 2019

Brodie Bean and the Close Call



We had a close call this week. 

All y'all know Brodie is an old girl. She's 13. She has outlived her two brothers, Jack and Gonzo, and made the trip with us to DC to continue her life. 

Old is hard. And if you're 13 well on your way to 14, things happen. 

In the fall she started peeing and pooping in the house. I took her to the vet, they did a lot of bloodwork and tests and thought she had Cushings disease. More testing to determine which kind of Cushings it was (so they could prescribe the right meds), and no conclusive results found. The vet said that she's just kind of old and encouraged us to limit her access to the parts of the house where she was going and making a mess, and for us to take her out more frequently to help combat her urgest and needs. 

On Thursday morning, I took her out before I left for Vermont to see some band named Guster (heh). She fell down a couple of times which is very unlike her. I brought her in, she went to sleep. Geoff texted me before he left for work and said she fell down the stairs to the back porch and she didn't pee or poop outside. I was in the car somewhere in upstate New York at that point, so I told Doug to keep an eye on her. 

He said Thursday she was restless and paced the house, didn't sleep hardly at all. Geoff was home all day Friday and reported that she didn't pee or poop all day. 

This was concerning. Doug kept an eye on her, and didn't tell me anything was happening - and I enjoyed my Guster experience with my friends and "GusFam" in Vermont. 

When I got home Sunday night, she didn't greet me at the door. I did some dishes that were left behind, I made a snack. I sat down to read email to get started for the work week ahead and she finally came out of the bedroom. 

She then began to pace. And pace. And pace and pace and pace - all night. Literally from Midnight until 7am, she paced the house. I thought she needed to go out. I took her. She did nothing but walk in circles around the yard. I made sure her water was clean and fresh and her food dish filled, but she had no interest. I called the vet at 7:30am, and they asked me to bring her in. 

Her temperature was 104.8, which is much higher than it should be. The doctor said that he wanted us to give her oral antibiotics, and take her temperature and get back to him. Over two days, the temp didn't drop and he was very concerned because all of her blood work indicated nothing abnormal. "She's perfect," he said. Literally for a 13 year old dog, all her numbers were just fine. Why is she running this "fever of unknown origin." He asked me to bring her back in on Wednesday morning. They hooked her up to an IV, and got her hydrated, and full of antibiotics, and continued to monitor her. 

He asked me to call him at 2:30pm and we'd see where we were. As the next day was going to be a holiday office closure, so we knew she couldn't stay there.  And we needed a plan if her fever would not budge.

At 2:30pm, she still had the very high fever, and the vet and I had a practical heart to heart. We could transfer her to the emergency vet, and she could spend the holiday at their office with 24 hour care. 

Or, we could just bring her home, get through the Thanksgiving holiday, continue the antibiotics, and if she still wasn't dropping we could let her go. Doug agreed. 

I left work early, met up with Geoff for a beer to talk about the plan. He understood and said we'd give her the best last 24 hours she could handle. I agreed. We talked about how since 1993, there was never a day in my life when I didn't have at least one dog. He said since the day he was born he didn't have at least one dog... we cried a little. 

He drank a little too much (he had a head start on me before I got to him) and was sad. I dropped him off at home, and I went to the market. Doug had not done any Thanksgiving shopping while I was in Vermont, and we were so focused on the dog, that we were unprepared. So we needed some something for dinner I guess.

As I was sadly dumping bags of stuffing and cranberries into the cart with no joy, no giddy anticipation, the vet called to report that her temp is 103.3... the fever broke. He wanted to keep her to 8pm to get another bag of antibiotics into her - but he wanted to release her to us, get through Thursday with two oral meds, and see how she was on Friday.

Her temp continued to drop through the next 24 hours. I'm completely impressed at how well Doug can give pills to dogs because hell I sure can't. And Geoff sure can't (Lord knows, he tried...). 

We opted to ... not put her to sleep. Her appetite had improved, mostly because we were feeding her hamburger and white rice since she wasn't touching her own food and the vet highly recommended we do that. 

It is such a relief that I didn't have to put my dog to sleep and then drive up to see Guster. I don't know that I could handle putting her down and then going to listen to my band. the sadness would suck. The spending time with friends would be in a fog. 

Doug texted me yesterday that her temp is 101.5, which is in the range of safety. We have antibiotics to get through to Wednesday - and will consult with the vet tomorrow to make sure we know how long to continue giving them to her. 

And I get to go home tomorrow to my pupper. What a relief.