Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Weekend Flowers

Doug is somewhat of a gung ho gardener. At least, he starts off each season that way.

The first spring and summer in a new house, you don't always know what is there already. Stuff is planted, and there may be perennials, and you don't just want to dig it up and ruin everything. So you sort of wait and see.

We had daffodils in the yard, but no tulips. There are hostas and some other green leafy things. We have some hedges and azaleas that are coming up and around the front and side of the house.

Doug is a firm believer in just letting the bushes grow into the shapes they want to be. He doesn't shape things into boxes or globes... he leaves them to find their own paths. He'll trim back a particularly exuberant and unruly shoot, but for the most part, grooming isn't his style. It's like the English romantic poets... let nature be nature and we shall cower in front of how it grows, its beauty and wildness. None of the Enlightenment man controls nature hoo-haa. She cannot be tamed and restrained.

But once in a while, she needs a good haircut.

We were at the national arboretum a few weeks ago, and they have a national Bonsai and Penjing museum, all very orderly and beautiful, all very well kept. Some of the trees are hundreds of years old. It's quite astounding and inspirational to the gardener who aspires to greatness. Doug brought up the romantics as we stood in front of a pine tree cut, tamed, trimmed to grow against a wall, and how the tree probably hates this. Just freaking hates it.

Doug's heart is in the right place, ever the romantic poet.

This weekend, we bought four nice hanging baskets for the front porch. There are wildflower seeds to sow, as is his style. He is monitoring the gardens for what is coming up, what we like and what we don't. The aforementioned hostas have some friends growing way in the back corner of the yard, which is disorderly and wild, so he thinks he may replant them, and move them over to a spot where they can be seen and enjoyed.

Oh, and the Ivy. We have a lot of ivy.

It's nice to see him puttering around, and I'm hoping that he is able to make it look like what he wants it to look like, and my involvement will be minimal.

I'll take some pictures of the progress I guess. Missed out on the daffodil pictures but will try and do a better job of the other things.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

I love things that happen at my job, Episode 1

My job is simple. I help radio stations. I work for a major news network, not going to say who, but my job is to help the stations out in the world with problems and issues. My company builds products and provides services to these stations to get content out into the world. Digitally and terrestrially. 

I wanted to share a funny anecdote about something that happened yesterday. I was working with a small station out west, and they have been struggling with under staffing, tech deficit issues, and general confusion about some things. One of these things is SSL certification. 

A while back, Apple decided that all streams and audio coming into their iDevices had to be in HTTPS Secure format. 

This sent people scrambling. Stations that hosted their own streams or who weren't working with our preferred provider had to do a lot of work. If you were a station working with our partner, - no problem. It was done for you, seamlessly. 

So this sweet little station out west was having a bad day. Ransomware attack over the weekend, stream invisible in smart speakers, issues and complications. 

I was working with the Program Director (PD for those in the know) John, and he was working with his streaming provider. They got the stream secured, and over to me. I tested it for him. They were playing some strange ambient music, followed by the Doobie Brothers...

I said "what's your format over there?! It sounds like crazy town!" 

John said "oh, our hosts... they're free spirits! They play what they want. I'm sorry!" I told him that I loved when stations do that - and I said "You should play Guster!" 

So he ducks into the studio and says "Hey! You got any Guster in there?" The host said they had Endlessly, Amsterdam, and Careful.

Now, Careful is one of my favorite Guster songs so I said "ooooh! Careful! Play Careful for me!" 

So he hollers in and says 'Play Guster's Careful! Dedicate it to Christine, our Station Support manager in Washington DC! She is the super most amazing dedicated helper ever! Say that on the air!" 

And they did. 

I sat here at my desk just laughing hysterically. No one else was sitting in my area - it was on the later side and most of the team had cleared out for the day. But wow. What a giggle. I've requested songs before from stations. I try to listen to a station while I'm reading a helpdesk ticket, or following up on a call. They are all varied and different, big and little; music or news or a nice mix of both... they're all unique and lovely. 

So that made my day. And reminded me why I do this job.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

This is a Great day, an Historic Day!

We had a really nice visit up to Doug's homeland.

Doug's great aunt turned 103 on Saturday, so part of the reason for our trip was to go celebrate her.

85, 103, 87.
She's a sharp cookie. Doesn't see too well, but is top of her game for the most part, and loves to have little conversations. She has a great memory.

She remembered before Geoff was born we came to visit with Jessica on our way to NY (she and her husband were living in Connecticut). And we didn't visit more than once with Geoff because he was hell on wheels when he was little.

But she remembers them, and remembers details and stories. She loves to tell them to the kids (us) and our kids.

Doug took me on a nostalgia tour on Saturday night, we drove all around back and forth across the rivers that run through the valley where he grew up. It was dark, and he couldn't make out some of the places that he wanted to point out (again... I identified one of his relative's homes on the main drag because I knew it was across from the seamstress) and he was happy I knew.  We went to the Hot Dog Shoppe, which is an amazingly delicious heart attack in a styrofoam box, and ate overlooking the river outside of the insurance company his dad owned for many years (family still owns it, and family still works there...)

On Sunday, we went to Gary's church. I call it Gary's church because for many years Bonnie didn't go there. Not exactly sure why. But she seems to have been going back more in the last year. Gary was very active in his church, and was clerk of the Session (i.e.: Secretary/Record Keeper for the Governing Body) and was chair of the search committee for a new pastor.

Gary was very involved but Bonnie didn't really go there much. I'm not sure of the back story. I think some feelings were hurt or something was said. For a long time she went to the Anglican church that my sister in law and her husband go to.

Lately she's been back at Gary's church. So I guess I can call it Bonnie's church too. They all seem to love her. And everyone has been incredibly supportive to her.

When Gary died, they didn't have a pastor picked yet. Their pastor had retired, and they were using substitute pastors, one of them very regularly. They wanted that guy to be their pastor. He wanted to be their pastor. Gary really wanted him to be the pastor.

His name is Lee. For a long time he actually was their pastor but had gone somewhere else for a while. He was retired, and the rules and bylaws of his retirement as interpreted by The Home Office (shall we say) stated that he couldn't be hired back to the church he'd retired from.

But. After a while, someone put the pieces together and realized he had not retired from their church, but from another. The paperwork was faulty. The truth won out.

He was offered the position (and accepted) and announced it while we were there on Sunday. How fortuitous for us to be there. Almost like we knew it was going to happen that this announcement was going down.

Gary got his pastor.

Lee said "Gary used to say things like "This is a GREAT day! An Historic Day!" about things when decisions were made. He was maybe partly kidding, but he was enthusiastic about getting things done. So Lee quoted him, and looked to us, and told us he was going to do his best for Gary and for us.

It was humbling.

And then he skipped a whole section of the service. Completely blew it. Because he was probably flustered after having just made such an historic and great announcement. When everyone was laughing I called out "Tell 'em it's your first day!"

It couldn't have been more perfect.

Well. Actually, it could have. Gary could have been sitting in his seat. He always sat in Row 4, Left side, 2nd seat from the window. He would call Lee's phone and leave messages saying that. "Hello, Lee, this is Gary. Fourth Row, Left Side,  2nd seat from the window..." and then leave the rest of his message.

Lee said whenever he would be in the church he'd walk by Gary's seat and touch the back. I am tempted to get a small copper plate engraved with that on it.

We had a good weekend.

Bonnie's family has a big family reunion every summer. I don't think we've been for over 15 years now that I think of it. We intended to go last year but decided not to with the move and house hunting. The year before we planned a vacation and didn't know the schedule of the event, and were in town the wrong weekend.

This year, we have no excuse. It'll be nice. It'll be a great day, an historic day!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

A Visit North

My husband and I gave away the free passes that I got to go to a big beautiful Bluegrass Festival today in Baltimore, and we're going to go visit his mom.

We haven't been back "home" there since Gary's funeral, and Doug talks to her about once a week to check in. She initially indicated that she was wanting to clean, organize, purge, give away the clothes, donate the books to the library book sale (ironic since that is where most of them came from) but in the weeks that followed Gary's passing, she waved us off from coming to help.

All normal, all expected.

This weekend we have an ulterior motive in going up. Doug's great aunt is turning 103, and they're having a nice open house party for her today. I really like her. She's sharp as a tack, full of amazing stories. She's a delight to spend time with, and I'm looking forward to this.

Doug let his mom know we are coming, and she said this was great. The AC in her car doesn't seem to be working, so Doug is going to bring the refrigerant recharger and see if that helps out. Gary's car hasn't been driven since we were there and she wants to get it an oil change (I'd be happy to do that). And I'm sure we'll probably do a thing or two, and if nothing else, spend time.

And that is very nice.

Yesterday I took the day "off" but ended up working about 6 of the normal 8 hours of my vacation time. It's the way it goes sometimes. I don't have a problem with it - I think I goof off enough at work sometimes that it all balances out in the end.

After Doug was finished with work, we went up to the county park and gardens just north of us to take a walk. It is a beautiful place. He came upon it during the week before I moved down, and we've gone back five or six times. Even in the winter.

It is adjacent to a big park where there is a playground, merry-go-round, and a train that covers a couple acres.

The gardens are slowly revealing themselves. Last time we were there it was all daffodils, and now the tulips and the lilacs are out doing their shows. Slowly the wisteria will begin to drip and bloom, and all sorts of different friends will shine their faces to us as we walk past.

The cloudy, gloomy day gave way to sunshine, and there were people gathered to take prom photos. Tons of pretty girls and handsome young men, done up nice, smiling in front of the rows of tulips and the newly budding trees. Couples posed in the small pavilion opening, and I noticed the light was behind them, and all the parents' cell phone photos were going to be lame or need some sort of filter and fix in order for them to look halfway decent.

There was a group of young ladies, all together, "I don't need no man" attitudes as they marched about the grounds taking selfies, and posing so parents could take their pictures. Doug and I came upon them at this spot, and the entourage of family and friends taking pictures was delightful.

As I approached from the left side of this photo I stopped. I noticed that there was an opportunity for a really cool shot from my perspective. One (I presume) dad had a super nice camera and I called out "Can I suggest an angle for a shot? Come on over here."

I started to describe that if the girl in purple leaned backwards, the girl beside her in burgundy lean a little bit back but not as much, the two girls in the center stay where they are and the two girls on the end lean forward, it was a pretty cascade, with them looking over to their right.

"Oh, you got the vision! You got the vision yes!" he laughed back and came over. He stood up on the wall to avoid having the black fence post be in their faces, and they followed direction as I assembled them. Willing and giggling, they got into place and the moms and aunties and friends were all laughing and saying "yes! yes! perfect!"

As I walked away I grabbed this shot for me, and I heard the dad say, "Okay now everyone turn and look over your right shoulders..." as he perceived another angle and another shot. More giggling and cheering resulted from the entourage.

I was so relieved that there was someone there with their kids with an actual camera. I know a lot of cel phone pictures come out just absolutely shitty, so it is nice to know someone had an actual tool for the job. And yes, yes, I know that cell phone cameras have come a long way, but so often if the light isn't perfect, if you aren't in the right spot, the pictures just look a mess. Like the one I took here below. It's not perfect, it's kind of meh. It is blurry. It isn't something that I'd want to frame as the memory of the moment. So kudos to the dad with his DSLR and what looked like the perfect lens.

Doug was standing on the path about twenty feet ahead, laughing at me. I shrugged my shoulders and said that I couldn't resist making the suggestion in what I hope is a penultimate shot of a great memory before these girls go off to their prom together.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Flowering Trees and lots of Beers

March just kind of passed us by, didn't it? I didn't have much to update. Was kind of feeling really bummed out. Work has been very busy. And I've been missing my whole Boston team. Some things happened that I don't think I should write about or mention but suffice to say, there has been upset.

Thank God for my girls in the office that I know and love, or else I'd be feeling really alone here. Doug and Geoff are great, don't get me wrong. They're my world. But the icing on the life cake is always what makes work life balance happiness, and right now my home life is the only happiness I'm feeling.

So let's talk about home shall we?

We got a bed for our guest room, which is kind of exciting. No more camping air mattress for weary travelers, but a full blown IKEA queen. A colleague in another department was moving to Spain and he and his wife were literally liquidating everything.

The day before they moved he called me "No one wants our couch! You seemed to like the couch. Do you want it? Free! Come get it!" He gave it to me free but after we've finished our taxes, he's getting some money from me.

So we got a 7ft IKEA sofa, and rearranged the living room so we are "couch rich" now. lots of surfaces to plop buttocks down upon.

As of right now, two people can sleep in the living room, two people can sleep in the guest room. And in theory, two more people can sleep on both of the air mattresses in the basement. So we can sleep 8. If need be. Or more even. Come party down!

So far, only Jess has come to visit and stay over. I had two colleagues from the Boston office here, but they had hotels and didn't stay. And on New Years Eve I did rescue a friend from a night of either some rando hookup on Grindr, or sleeping on the floor at the Baltimore airport.

Maybe this spring and summer people will want to visit?

One of the more popular things to see in the DC area is happening right now. The Cherry Blossoms are in full peak and we tried to go see them right before they go "boom" as it were. The traffic and tourists and buses and everything were so awful that we bailed and left.

Allegedly, the blooms should still be good through this weekend. Maybe we'll try one more time?

Then, we tried to go see the Great Falls again, but the road is a two-lane, and we sat in traffic not moving for 20 minutes before Doug decided we'd give up, again. I guess you have to get up before dawn to go see the great falls.

We ended up at a semi-decent Irish pub. So not a full loss of that day.

What else did we see recently? We have been getting out and looking around quite a bit lately. We drive around a lot, playing Pokemon Go and taking walks in parks and stuff. Doug does a little research on a destination, and we go. Sometimes Geoff comes with, if he thinks beer may be involved (he's becoming a craft beer fan, don't ya know).

 Doug likes to go into DC on Sundays when the parking at the Metro is free. So we went in to the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers museum, which was really cool. They had a special photography exhibition called "War on our Doorsteps," which focused on the photography of Alexander Gardner's photographs of Antietam.

We've been kind of on a Clara Barton kick lately, the woman is a freaking national treasure. Doug has been very into the Civil War sites and museums. We live right near the Walter Reed National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM), which is primarily dedicated to the advancements in medicine introduced during the Civil War as well as special exhibits on things like robotics, modern field hospitals, technology, and head injury recovery. That was cool. They have the bullet remnants that they pulled from Abraham Lincoln's brain... (cool!)

We took a day trip to Frederick for Restaurant Week, and they have a fantastic Civil War museum that focuses on the medical aspect of things as well...

We stumbled upon Clara Barton's homestead at Glen Echo which was unfortunately closed due to renovations.

In the woods next to the house, there were signs about a place called Glen Echo. Through the trees I could see what looked like an amusement park, and I was kind of confused. Turns out, there is an amusement park, small aquarium, and summer camp... None of the rides work or do anything, but there was stuff going on, and there was a bakery, and there were these cute little huts where you could take art lessons for glass blowing and stuff.

I'm sure at a more lively time, the place is as freaking packed as everything else around here. The history is pretty cool though, if you want to read about it.

The other day, we decided to go down to Union Market near my office to grab lunch, but that place was a shit show - completely mobbed, absolutely the most crowded food market I've ever been to. So much so that I couldn't figure out what to do and had to get outside. People were just stopping in the middle of the aisles, on the phones looking for their friends (take 2 steps to the left and get out of the middle maybe?) And a yoga class was just let out - so there were all these people with bags and yoga mats, swinging around to talk to people. I think I got hit in the face three times with a mat.

Kind of ruined my overall experience, ya know?

Probably not the best place to go at 2pm any day but especially a Sunday. It was a complete waste of time, and disappointing on so many levels.

We went to the Chinese New Year parade in February, welcome to the year of the Dog. It was beautiful and fun, and there were a lot of dogs. And we were able to stand on the steps of a church in a not-crowded side street and really enjoy the festivities, and the dogs.

On the beer front, we've been frequenting some taprooms in the area to sample their offerings. We went to the Hellbender Brewing company tap room, which was alright. The room itself left a little to be desired. There was music playing but we couldn't hear what it was, so it was literally an aural torture of some sort of bass line or noise. Ceiling speakers may be a good idea, or no music at all. I think I would prefer the patio if I go in better weather. The beer was fantastic though. I'd go back and get more of that, for sure.

We went to Waredaca brewing company  up north of us in horse country. Maryland gets really rural really fast around here. The taproom there was fantastic. What a beautiful room. Like the comfiest living room, perfect wood walls and lighting. The staff was lovely. The beer delightful. We walked around the grounds and I wanted to take pictures of the horses on the property adjacent, but they seem to be kept far away on purpose. The signage was very clear that you couldn't go beyond certain points. And I didn't have the courage to ask. Because who the hell am I to even ask, right?

Over in Rockville (yes, go ahead and sing the REM song) there is a place called 7 Locks Brewing Company. Hidden in an industrial park, they have a really large room with lots of games and lots to do. They even have a lovely library with assorted history of beer and how to drink your way around the world. Great stuff. Oh, and the beer from them is fantastic. Simply perfect. So far a favorite, and very close.

Tap rooms thus far sometimes have snack, sometimes do not, but places like 7 Locks encourage you to bring your food with, or order out from a local spot. So we got some delivery pizza there and it was only half horrible.

That's one of my biggest complaints - the vast majority of pizza in these parts is just plain awful. We've found one place that has decent pizza. Two locations, the Pizzeria is in Downtown Silver Spring, and the Trattoria is closer to our house.

I feel like I need a vacation, but I also feel like there is stuff I need to do around here, and get done, and make the house more enjoyable. I am hoping Doug and I can go get some yard furniture, or at least something for inside the back patio, and kind of fuss that up nice.

Especially now that we have the guest bed.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Kind and Generous

We laid Gary to rest on Monday.

I was standing in Burger King, in my dress blouse, hair done, yoga pants, sneakers without socks, and big black winter jacket. Geoff had woken up early, as is his wont, was restless and annoying bumping around the hotel room. This hotel has no gym or pool, sadly, so he was like a caged animal. I figured it would be a good idea to get up, get ready, and go grab breakfast for Doug and Jess, sleeping behind.

We ordered breakfast sandwiches, things like croissants with eggs and sausage, and an "Eggnormous Burrito," of all things. The hash browns were dropped into the deep fryer, so I knew they'd be fresh and delicious for us.

Burger King was empty, and after I placed our order, I stood there waiting. Natalie Merchant's voice came over the speakers, and she was singing the Thank You song, "Kind and Generous."

I'd always been a big 10,000 Maniacs fan, in my younger days, R.E.M. and Indigo Girls and their ilk filled my heart with poetry.

I never liked this song.

I found it repetitive, pointless. It wasn't to anyone that I could detect, it wasn't about anyone or any one event. It started with "la la" which always drove me nuts. Get to the words, not the la la part.

But I stood there and began to listen to her. I began to think about all the Thank Yous I gave Gary, and many that I never had the chance to deliver.

And for the first time ever, at the end of the song when she sings "Thank you, thank you" over and over again, it stopped sounding to me like a pointless waste of time and lazy songwriting.

It sounded like "I can never thank you enough."  Never, ever enough. No matter how many times it is sung, to the point of fading out or the next song beginning, there would never be enough thank yous delivered.

You've been so kind and generous, I don't know how you keep on giving
For your kindness I'm in debt to you, for your selflessness, my admiration
And for everything you've done
You know I'm bound...I'm bound to thank you for it
You've been so kind and generous, I don't know how you keep on giving
For your kindness I'm in debt to you, And I never could have come this far without you
So for everything you've done
You know I'm bound...I'm bound to thank you for it
I want to thank you for so many gifts you gave with love and tenderness
I want to thank you
I want to thank you for your generosity
The love and the honesty that you gave me
I want to thank you show my gratitude
My love and my respect for you
I want to thank you
I want to... Thank you thank you, thank you thank you, thank you thank you, thank you thank you....

The pastor delivered his sermon, and then he opened the floor to people to come up and share their thoughts and feelings. Danny, one of the fellow elders in the church, came up and shared his peace. Michael Q Neely (the Q stands for Quality Keyboardist... inside joke) spoke at length on his friendship with Gary, and how he wasn't attached to the church or God, until he kind of started "dabbling" with this experience, and Gary was there to be his friend. Not be anything more, but to just be his friend.

I knew Doug and Diane both were not going to get up and share. Doug told me that I could, and should, and that his dad would appreciate it. Gary told me on more than one occasion that "Christine, you just got a way about you..."

Wanting to honor that, I got up to speak.

My nephew Craig (Diane and J's son) came to join me. I asked him if he wanted to speak, but he did not. He wanted to just stand with me. Perfectly cool. I'm down with that.

I told everyone that the first time I came out to visit the family, probably in 1987 or so, Gary insisted on taking me around town. I sat in the front seat and Doug was in back. Gary tootled us around town, and he pointed out things and places to me.

He took us to the river to show me the mighty Ohio. There was a coal barge making its way along, pushed by a tug boat. He talked to me about its destination, and the comings and goings of boats up the river. Where the Beaver would meet up, and the locks that were over in another location that he wanted to show me.

Doug was in the back seat cringing. He groaned to his dad that "she knows all this stuff already, she's from Long Island..." I had a big smile on my face, because I knew Gary was showing me this stuff because it was such a part of their life, and their heritage, and their town... even if there were ten thousand sailboats on the river, it still would have been his to share and show. I felt honored, not insulted or upset.

He was being a dad. Such a dad moment. And Doug, well he grew into those dad moments himself for sure. I see a lot of Gary in him.

Another story that I related was when we went to see his mother "Middie" in her nursing home one day when I was waiting for Jess to finish her finals so I could bring her home. Middie told me about this nurse... she had a tattoo! on her NECK! and she got her hair all cut short so everyone could see it! Imagine that!

Right in front of the nurse, who waved politely to me. I asked if she'd turn about and show me her razor short haircut in back, and the tattoo.

It was very nice.

Gary, like Doug before, was rolling his eyes and groaning about his mom. I said to her "Hey Middie, where's your tattoo?"

"My tattoo?" she asked, confused.

"Yeah, I bet you have a wicked awesome tattoo. Show it to me!"

Middie at first was confused and then started laughing and said "oh my! You think I have a tattoo!" and she laughed, hysterically. She told the man at the table next to us that I asked where her tattoo was. He kind of nodded. Gary was holding his head in his hands.

"You don't have one? C'mon, I'll spring you outta this joint and we'll go get you inked up. How 'bout it?"

She laughed maniacally. It was delightful. Gary was cringing, but I could see this smile.

When we left the nursing home I asked him if he wanted to go get tatted up. And he laughed.

A little while later, he sent me a tear-out from a coloring book of a little girl with flowers and bunnies, and he'd written "Death Before Dishonor" on her arm.

That shit was funny.

Finally, I told them the story of Burger King, Natalie Merchant, and the line " You know I'm bound, I'm bound to thank you for it..."

I thanked him for all the kindness and love he had shown me, for welcoming me to his family. For laughing with me, and for times he cried with me like when I lost the baby between Jess and Geoff back in 1994, when I was quite broken and distraught. I thanked him for making me his "outlaw" which is so much cooler than an "in-law" and I told him there were no thanks that I could give that would equal the amount of thanks I have.

We sang "I'll Fly Away," which always breaks my heart. And there were military honors with guns and a full flag folding and presentation to his mom.

We didn't go to the cemetery, Diane did because she felt it was very important to do so when you commit a body to the ground, that it should be attended by Family. I considered going, but thought it more of a love to take her son, my nephew, Craig, with me to the restaurant. Bonnie didn't want people going to the cemetery, because it was cold, and not good for the 90 and 80 year olds who would have to be standing out there in the cold and wind.

All told, I liked Bonnie's choice, but recognize the importance of Diane's choice.

I'm still numb from this. I have not cried yet - I've kind of kept it together with a dose of "this didn't just happen." I'm not sure why I'm not a quivering mess, a lumpy wet pile in the corner. But it will hit me. It will break my heart. It will come at me like a rogue wave, unexpected and out of the blue. It will happen.

I won't be ready, but I'll accept it.

And will shed the tears and say "Thank you," as many times as I can.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Over and Out

I love this picture.

Gary sent it to us in a Christmas card a couple years ago. It's been hanging on our fridge since. Made the move, and was one of the things I set up first.

We got a Christmas card this year from "the White House." In Gary's hand, the message on the inside is from the President. It welcomes us to town, tells us not to bother dropping by because they are rarely ever home, and says to keep our dog out of his lawn. Hysterical.

Before the card arrived, he called Doug and warned him that the card was from him, and it was a joke. He didn't need to tell us that, we would have gotten it. For sure. But the fact he felt the need to warn us is kind of hysterical.

We have boxes of post cards that he sent the children over the years from their travels. They are usually animal related. And Gary would talk about the weird and/or amazing things they were seeing on their trips. I saved all of these post cards.

Gary had a great sense of humor.

Gary passed away on Wednesday at 5pm, on the nose. Like, quitting time on the nose. Doug thought it completely appropriate. He was military punctual (Unless something was slowing him down, like his companion for the moment - i.e. my mother in law). By his side, was his wife of nearly 53 years. I only know when their anniversary is because when we were scheduling Geoff's Eagle Court of Honor, she begged me not to pick April 21st. But we didn't have another day. So we did. And they came. His daughter and her daughter were there. And his son, my husband.

In a lot of ways, this whole event was Wayne all over again. But it was also very different.

I have to say that my thoughts on my friend Marcia, Wayne's wife, carry through to my mother in law. Bonnie... wow. She held such grace, and such poise. The surgeon put everything on the table, including surgery, but he said he'd do whatever Bonnie told him to do.

She told him that if there was no chance Gary would come back as Gary, would need round the clock care, would never speak or walk again, that he would not want that. She said he'd also be mad that he was occupying a bed in the ICU if someone else could come in and be saved, someone with hope. When he has no hope, he would say (if he could) it's time to go.

I reread this post I wrote about Marcia in 2014, so many of the things that I said about Marcia, I could say about Bonnie. Like this:
She knew her husband, knew his wishes, knew exactly the person he was. And she abided by that so beautifully.  
And again I echo, if I'm ever in that position, may I have just an ounce of that grace.

That's all I have to say right now. There isn't much more I can.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Weekend At Chrissie's

Doug and Geoff are on their way to the Pittsburgh area to see the fam. I'm staying here with the dog, so Geoff can get a little trip out and have some fun. We thought it was a good idea for them to go and spend some time.

This is the first time since Doug left to move down here at the beginning of September that I'm actually alone. I miss them both already. But I'm looking around here, and I have a lot to do that will keep me out of trouble for a couple days.

First, my husband hates the vacuum. He hates the way it sounds, the way it smells in the air after you're done doing the deed. I think he was a small domesticated animal in a past life. A dog probably. So I tend to try and vacuum when I know he's going to be gone for hours, and, when I can open the doors and windows and let the fresh air in, thus removing the post-vac stank.

Second is the fact there is still a box of glass Christmas ornaments on my dining table. They need wrapped and put away. Awesome. I'll do that next.

Then, find a home for the crock pot. There isn't enough space in our kitchen. It doesn't fit on the shelf of the small table I have. It is just sitting around and I have to move it any time I want to do something. It will probably end up on the shelf in the basement. I already keep the wok and giant roast pan down there.

But first, I'm running to the market to get me some mimosa makings!


I started writing that on Saturday morning. 

None of those thing happened.

Well, I did vacuum. But that's when everything stopped. Doug called, our car broke down on the interstate just south of the Pennsylvania line, they could see it. 90 minutes from our house, about 2 hours from Pittsburgh.

I went and rescued them.

Normally I'd say, "get a rental car or something and figure things out." But there was nothing anywhere near them. And they needed to make it the rest of the way to Pittsburgh. I couldn't really mention, and still shouldn't, why they were going.

My wonderful, lovely, amazing father in law had a stroke on Saturday morning. The boys were en route to be by his side and be there for Doug's mom and sister, and whole family. To be part of whole family. I couldn't really mention their reason for going. My mother in law doesn't like it when I "announce" things on the internet and then other people approach her about it. That's what happened when I "announced" we were moving on Facebook, and my husband had not yet told her (I thought he had).


I figured, this is all going to work out fine, and he'll need rehab or something, and I'll come see him soon.

Well, he's not going to need rehab. He's not going to rebound for this. It is much worse than anyone expected. And we're waiting for him to pass away.

Weekend at Chrissie's turned into weekend in a hotel, and by a hospital bed.

I can't write more about this right now. There are vignettes and images that I want to share. There are things I want to say. But I can't in respect to my mother in law who doesn't like it when people talk about stuff like this on the internet.

Suffice to say, this is a blow to the family, one I didn't see coming really. I kind of thought it would one of my parents first. But here we are.

Hearken back to the post about "How did we get here," and that's kind of where I am again.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Great Falls and the Great Discovery

On Saturday morning, we set out on a scenic drive, which didn't go as well as we wanted.

Since we arrived here, starting out with the six weeks that I was sick, followed by the holidays and probably one of the coldest winters they've seen in these parts, we haven't gotten out much.

I think that's why I'm not feeling like I "like" it here. I haven't seen here. I haven't experienced here. I ride the metro to work. I listen to my podcast of choice. I work. I ride the metro home. We watch TV (note: "Turn: Washington's Spies" was a great series!)

 And it isn't like we've just sat here in our little rambler doing nothing.

  • We've gone for a couple walks of note. 
  • We went to the Jefferson Memorial on one of the days I didn't feel like dying, back in October. 
  • We went to the Brookville Beer Farm on another one of those days.  
  • We went to a farmer's market in Takoma Park, and found a nice brewery selling Crowlers, so we bought a few of those and have been talking about trekking up to see them. 
  • We bought cheese at that farmer's market too. 
  • We went to a silent movie screening at Halloween time and met the piano player who wrote the scores to the movies. That was cool. 
  • We found a local pub to watch football in, and eat Old Bay Wings from. 
  • We went to see R and M and the baby up in Baltimore, I need some more baby time.
  • Jess and I went to the Natural History Museum, and I finally rode the metro past my office for the first time.

But we haven't done the Doug and Chris things we've all grown to love. The go out and drive and see and explore and take shit tons of pictures and meet locals and just kind of sink in happily.

Hopefully spring will bring all of that.  And with the good weather, yesterday was supposed to be one of those days.

Doug wanted to go to the Great Falls Park on the Potomac. He put the address into the GPS and it turns out that location was a lie.

We ended up at a Quonset hut and Model Basin owned by the Navy, on the Maryland side of things. I told him the internet said we needed to go back to the highway, and go to Virginia. Doug said that he saw a sign that pointed northwest, on the Maryland side, and he was going to follow the advice of said sign. We bickered a bit - I asked him to change his course, but no. Hmmm. Doug saw a sign, saying something was that-a-way, and signs don't lie, like the GPS did.

Well, we found an entry way and welcome center on the Maryland side of things. Alright then. Doug wins that argument, so even though the National Parks Service doesn't tell us to go this way, it's a way to go. We'll take it. We happily began to cruise down the road.

Turns out, it was us, and 50 million other people. It was kind of ridiculous.

Truly, yesterday was one of the first nice days in a while. So I can't blame all the other savages for heading out for fun in the 50 plus degree weather.

Doug planned the trip, the route, the destination.... and we didn't anticipate this.

People were parking their cars along the road about a mile behind where we were - I presume there is some way in through the woods.

But on the map it looks like a pretty long trek in.

Our low coolant light came on while we were in the line to get into the park, of course it did. Doug decided it would be a good idea to turn around, and head out of there, lest something bad happen. We visited a town called Potomac, MD, got some coolant, caught some Pokemon, and Doug was starting to get grumpy at the not awesomeness of our day. But he had an alternate plan. Let's just keep driving up the river, and see where it takes us.

We took a small side-trip down to one of the roads to the river to the Seneca Aqueduct, and took a brief walk about there.

Learning about the C&O (Chesapeake and Ohio) Canal system that was in place and the tow-paths where horses would drag ships up and down, and into lock channels. It was pretty cool.

The place was not crowded at all, a lot of cyclists riding the path, which stretches for miles and miles along the river. It looked like a pretty sweet ride, and possibly a good put-in if you had a kayak.

He'd read about a place called Smoketown Brewing Station, in Brunswick, MD. I plugged it into the GPS and it said it was a 50 minute drive on the scenic backroads up MD 28. Which is what Doug wanted. So we did that.

Continuing on to our earthly reward of beer and dinner, we followed signs for the scenic by-way, keeping a west by northwest orientation up the river. We'd hoped that there would be actual river views, that we'd ride along the river at some places but that wasn't to be. Everything was mansions and farms. Horses and mansions. Farms and silos. Mansions and silos. No view down to the left into that river basin. Just the awareness that it was down in there.

We got to Brunswick and found the brewery easily. They didn't have a great deal of food offerings, so we had snack, and enjoyed two beers each.

 Geoff decided to go right off the bat with an IPA that had a lot of IBUs, and then he sampled my Brown and Doug's Rye, noting the giant difference between the flavors. Even though it is a light colored beer, it packed a punch in the mouth taste that he noticed, and liked.

Doug and I both commented that we've had some decent craft brews since coming to the area, but this place outdid them all. Nothing weak or watery, nothing just pretentious for being ... pretentious. It was all so good. We'll be back!

We took a little walk around Brunswick, down to the Potomac, got some brochures for kayaking and rafting, and discussed how this town probably looks a lot different in July than on a day in January.

We talked about John Brown and Harper's Ferry, WVA, which was only about 7 miles away, realizing how very close we were to the place where three states meet, the Tripoint as it were.  There is so much history right around us, literally within a 10 mile to 20 mile radius, without ever entering Washington DC proper.

The interstate was the best way home for us, as it was incredibly dark and poorly marked and lit on some of the backroads. We noted that we were super close to Frederick, and that's another town that we wanted to visit.

We had two growlers filled at the brewery, and settled in to watch our Netflix choices. Geoff bought himself a Crowler of Oatmeal Stout, since he's house sitting for the neighbor, and he went over there to hang with the dog and watch his own TV choices. 

Closest thing so far to a day that was "us." In fact, screw that. It was a day that was totally us. It sometimes happens that we start with a plan, the plan goes pear shaped with a car that just might overheat, or some shit might happen, we don't end up where we planned to be but hell if we don't end up where it works out great for us. And that's how I felt about yesterday. 

Three Drink Geoff

When last I wrote, we were on our way to Doug's office party for some shenanigans. Six hours of open bar shenanigans, as it were. Luckily for me, I have developed a little social anxiety as of late, and so drinking to the point of stupid drunk in front of people I don't even know or am meeting for the first time is not an option.

I had glasses of white wine with a blueberry seltzer mixed in, so the entire night I felt hydrated and barely impacted. Doug's co-workers are fun, delightful, I had a great time meeting them.  It was a fun party. And we were not the most dressed up for "Casino Royale" night (his boss and the wife were straight out of a Bond movie) but we were also not the least dressed up. All told, staying at a very beautiful hotel, and it all costing us about 50 bucks, I'd say it was a success.

We drove home on Sunday, which was Geoff's birthday. The "big" one. The 21.

Doug opened the refrigerator when we got home so we could make lunch, and he noticed a 4-pack of Guinness Stout cans in the fridge, with one missing. He called to the boy. "Geoff? Did you go to the liquor store first thing this morning and buy beer?"

Geoff stood there and grinned.

"Well, I found out the liquor store doesn't open until 10." he replied.

"What time did you go?"

"Um. 9."

"So you got up at 9am and went to buy your very first booze. Interesting. Good choice though." I had to give it to him - he didn't go get an 18 pack of Natty Ice or Coors Light or PBR. Went and chose a quality beer.  We have modeled (I hope?) good behavior.

He had two more of them over the course of the day (I stole number 4). I showed him how to pour it so the cascade kind of works - not quite as right as when Guinness is pulled off draft by an expert bar tender - but they've made the experience close to it. We talked about Nitro beers, and the noise that cracking this can open makes vs. the noise any other beer will make.

Geoff had spent the better part of two weeks actually researching where he wanted to go for his birthday dinner. If we were at home*, he would have chosen some of the obvious spots -- the Tap or The Grill Next Door in Haverhill, Amesbury's Ale House. Places he's been dozens of times over his pre-legal life, but has not had the opportunity to enjoy their plentiful quality craft beer on draft.

He selected Indian Food, not a craft brewery with a food menu. They didn't have any special or amazing beers to go with the experience, but we did talk a lot about filtered vs. unfiltered; craft breweries vs. beers that used to be craft breweries that are now owned by one of the two giant beer manufacturers on earth and still like to try and convince people they are craft.

The food was outstanding, and Geoff's interest in the food and beer, and the discussion we all shared were probably the most notably wonderful things I've experienced with him since moving here.

For Doug's birthday two weeks later, we went to a place in DC called Pearl Dive Oyster Palace.

Initially, he had selected a Belgian Beer and mussels bar, but the downstairs was not open on Tuesday nights. He had his heart set on the downstairs location, so he called an audible and picked this other place.

They had some really nice breweries represented in their craft list, which wasn't big, but I have to say they made some great choices.

Geoff had three beers, and I limited myself to two, because I began to realize that I would probably have to be the one do drive us home.

Doug was celebrating with oysters, and craft beer and was in an exceptionally great mood. The two of them commandeered the discussion, talking about oyster flavors and harvest locations, why Rhode Island tastes different than Virginia; and  about beer IBU and ABV and styles and flavors.

It was a pleasure to sit and listen.

Jesus, they've really connected on something. Young Geoff begins his journey into the knowledge of the magic ingredients: Water, Yeast, Grain and Hops, and all that that implies.

On the way home, three drink Geoff talked to his grandmother (Doug's mom) while I drove and tried not to crash the car from laughing. He was chatty and entertaining. He was sassy and full of questions for her about a recent trip taken to France and Germany.

"We should have given him beer earlier, I think." I said to Doug, as we listened to him say more sentences to his grandmother than I think he's said in five years.

Alcohol is a very good social lubricant when managed correctly. Four drink Geoff would be a little out of control, and five drink Geoff. Well. I think of comedian Mike Birbiglia in this case:

Two Drink Mike enjoys dancing and knows a magic trick. Whereas, No Drink Mike enjoys biographies, and has serious opinions on wildlife. And Five Drink Mike...dances with wildlife...

Three drink Geoff, that's perfect level drinking Geoff. I hope to keep him that way. We talked long and hard about how to drink, not to drink to excess, drink for the taste. If you want to sample 5 beers off a menu, get a flight instead of five pints.

I think he gets it. At least, he is enthusiastic over it. Yesterday's conversation was all about different hops, and the differences between a Cascade and a Czech Saaz. Noble vs. ... I don't even know the term but "not" noble?

Who knows, maybe we've created a hobby brewer. Maybe he and Doug will small batch brew together, the way Doug used to small batch brew when he was in his mid-20s. Jess used to help him fill the bottles and put the caps on. It was lovely parenting.

Maybe we've come full circle over a 24 year journey.

Also, here is a picture of Doug, with Dessert, for his 50th birthday. 
I told the girl it was his birthday, and he was very thankful that they did not sing to him. 
Happy Birthday sweetie!

* I keep referring to "home" meaning the Merrimack Valley, Newburyport, North of Boston, Boston. Not sure when I'll switch to calling Maryland "home."