Friday, July 13, 2018

New Guy

Since our move here to DC, our department, which was already understaffed, has become even more understaffed. We lost one colleague to another department, we lost one person to unforeseen circumstances (and God, I miss her so). Another person agreed to stay on and work remotely from Boston, but she found another opportunity and a step up the ladder so she opted to take that on.

I kind of feel like it's been me, JW, and my work wife R against the world. The three of us have grown closer. We've fought some battles, won some, lost some.

We just hired a new guy. New Guy started on Monday and it's been a whirlwind of orientation meetings, trainings, and time with us learning our trade.

He asks a lot of good questions, sometimes I have to tell him to slow down, I'm getting there! He's eager. And I like that.

But I'm also exhausted. I kind of like going through my job, my cases, my everything at my pace. And finding things to show him and teach him as we go is sometimes a challenge. Luckily for me there was a tech support emergency yesterday with JW traveling to a conference and R working at home. So he got to see how we support each other and take tasks and duties.

"I'll send out the email."
"Do you want me to update Slack and Facebook?"
"I will call the station back and check in with sys/ops."

We've got it down. We've had it down, as it were, for a long time. I'm sure we will find plenty of ways to fit the New Guy in.

He told me he took a ginormous pay cut to come here. I hope it is worth it for him. I hope he stays happy and enjoys it incredibly. I'll do my best to play the part to keep it that way.

When I told him that JW and I went to R's baby's first birthday party, I said "we're kinda close like that," he said "Yeah, I picked up on that. It was a little intimidating to realize that I was walking into such a strong fellowship." He said that it initially made him nervous, but we've made him feel a part this week - and not like an invader or interloper. He was relieved.

I took him out for a beer at the end of day one because I could tell he was just over all the work stuff. We had an excellent conversation about music and dogs and the DC metal scene.

We have another position to fill, and that is taking place now. Interviews are flowing in. We'll see how that goes. But for now, I'm happy to have someone to train and am hoping he can become as adept as possible on the products that neither R nor I know much about that we've been trying desperately to learn but don't have the time.

We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

First Birthday

My "work wife" as the term goes has a little boy. He just turned 1. I'd share the pictures I took of him, but she's not wanting him to be on the internet, and I honor that.

But hell he is so stinking cute I can't even get over it. I mean ... holy cow he's a beautiful little man.

I drove up with our boss and her two boys. The younger one, Isaiah, is four going on old man. When I picked them up, he bemoaned going. Then, he bemoaned our leaving. We got in the car and he said something along the lines of "I just don't want to go home yet. I want to go somewhere else."

Where is that you want to go?

"Somewhere that has a dog."

Meaning my house. They only live about a mile and a half away, and they lovingly took old Brodie in while we had our going to Pennsylvania for Gary emergencies in February. Isaiah has a love/hate relationship with her. She is always begging for his food, and it makes him uncomfortable. So there is sometimes whining and complaining. And then she won't come to him when he wants to pat her. She will go to his big brother for pats and loves.

I told him he was very welcome to come over and see the dog. I texted Doug to give him a heads-up so he wouldn't be napping when we arrived.

There was tail wagging, and sock carrying (Brodie will find a sock and bring it to guests, or bring it to us when we come home from work). "Her tail! It's touching me when it goes back and forth!" he hollered, horrified.

Lots of petting happened. And then when it was time for them to go home he was very sad. He didn't want to leave. I guess we are so amazing.

I gave him hugs and told him I couldn't wait to see him again and we'd have more fun but he needed to go to his house. Eat dinner. Get ready for the week ahead.

He cried in the car, and when we got to their house he said "I just don't want it to end! I have had so much fun, and I don't want it to be over yet!"

I wish everyone I knew felt that way about spending time with me, that they'd cry because it was time to go home.

All told, it was a great day. And now it is Sunday, and I feel like Isaiah, and I don't want it to end either. So I'm feeling you today, little man. I may cry.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Crabs and Colleagues

I kind of let the time get away, didn't I. Lots to cover in updatesville. I did get a visit from Carrie, and we had a wonderful time of food and toenails. I miss her the most.

Most of May went very quickly, without much note. Except that Jess and her friend Molly came to visit. They drove down on a Thursday night late and got to us at about 2:30am. Friday they came to visit my office, and we had a lovely time. We took them to the zoo and it was so hot. A taste of things to come there for Early May!

Molly likes Elephants a lot.

I was sad for them to go. I miss my kid, and I miss the drop-by visits from them in their grown up lives. No more "Can Molly and I swing by?" texts in the middle of a Sunday afternoon, this makes me sad.

 My uncle Ken passed away right around Memorial Day and his funeral was the beginning of June.

Doug and I had planned a weekend trip to Atlantic City for our wedding anniversary, which then turned into a trip up to Cape Cod for the funeral.

It was lovely to see my sister and parents, and my cousins. Jess couldn't come down because it was a work day. We were so close, yet so far.

My aunt seemed very tired, the past year has been a toll on her. I feel very sad for my cousin's kids who spent a great deal of time with their grandfather. I remember talking to him once about his great grandson, and boy did that fire him up. "I live for that kid," he told me, while flipping through pictures on his phone, showing me how cute the little guy is.

I'm glad he lived for him.

Doug and I drove back from the Cape right after the funeral which is a 9 hour trip. Not something I enjoyed, all in one fell swoop like that. We used to drive 12 hour trips like it was nothing. now I feel I need to break trips back up there in half. Luckily, for a Monday, we managed to only run into bad traffic between Providence and

While we were in Atlantic City, we saw billboards for Brian Setzer's Rockabilly Riot show, and decided we'd buy tickets for it, knowing we were going to have to come back in a couple weeks. No problem! It's close!

It was a phenomenal performance. They only played 90 minutes or so, but every minute was full of awesome. We also noted that we were not the oldest people there. In fact we were almost on the younger end of the crowd. There were some folks in their 30s or 40s, but the vast majority of attendees were in their 70s!

Way to come out for the Rockabilly and represent, lady with the walker and guy with your oxygen and scooter!

Our experience at the Tropicana was kind of miserable otherwise. We won't be staying there again. It was loud and rude. Everything wants to be a dance club, and the layout of the joint was ridiculous. I think we walked 5 miles inside the building just trying to get from point A to B. I vastly prefer the layout at Caesar's or Bally's.

We had a good time walking up and down the boardwalk the next day, playing Pokémon and people watching. Atlantic City is close, and sometimes we get affordable deals. Summertime is expensive though. Doubtful we'll be back there again before the late fall.

Our lovely crab picking instructor
This weekend we were invited to one of Doug's co-worker's for a day of "Crabs and Colleagues," as he called it. 

They live down the Eastern Shore in the Easton area, so about 2 hours from our house. The place was outstanding - what a house! What a spread! Big beautiful home on a couple of acres with waterfront, dock, and a 21 foot motor boat. 

Geoff came with us, and the host has a daughter about Geoff's age, maybe a little older. Her boyfriend is a med student at Georgetown, and both of them were incredibly kind and welcoming to him. They took about 8 people out for a ride on the "creek" which looked more like a full river to me. Creeks are where you catch frogs and there is a piddly flow of water. This was beautiful. Geoff texted me from the boat to say he was having a great time and that made me very happy.

Meanwhile, Doug and I were with the "colleagues" that Matt had invited over. Matt's party was focused on colleagues from every job he'd had. So he went back 20 years to invite people over.

Doug was only 1 of 2 of his most recent colleagues. We got to spend time with neighbor friends of Matt's Del and Patty.

Patty gave us "crab picking" lessons, and told Doug he was a downright natural. They used to live in Gloucester, MA, and they were just in Newburyport for a wedding, so we had a "small world" moment and great talk about living here vs. living there. There are pros and cons.

Baby's first official Maryland crab. 
We asked Del if they had a house with waterfront, and he said no - that's about a $400,000 difference for properties. He said he's perfectly happy not having waterfront but being friends with Matt and his wife Peggy!

Peggy got home from work, at a local gallery, and she was delightful and vivacious.

Crabs and Colleagues was turning out to be a great time.

I am usually of the mindset that I should not have to work this hard for a mouthful of food. Patty said that it isn't about the amount of food you get but the fellowship, the conversation, the beer and the sunshine.

Not able to disagree with her on that, I had my second crab

Doug and Patty went to task on these crabs, which were picked up that morning by boat by Matt from a local marina and crab shop.

After Geoff got back from the boat ride, he wanted to take a kayak out. 

Matt hooked him up and he took off like lightning. A natural. And the smile on his face was amazing. Matt was amazed at how fast he jetted off, and was really impressed. Boy Scout muscle memory comes right back. The incredibly calm "creek" and miles of places to paddle... this was a perfect day and a perfect time for him. I'm so glad he came with us. I really should have taken a picture of him, but am happy to see that smile in my mind.

A small amount of the post-crab picking carnage
We stayed through the sunset, which we didn't intend. The fireflies filled up woods, blinking from ground to crown. It was virtually middle earth as we walked down the drive to the car.  On the way home Geoff expressed how much he missed being on the water. Near the water. Access to the water any time he wants it.  I completely agree. 

We have got to get him a kayak. But thankfully we have a "colleague" that maybe we can visit again.

We had fun down the Eastern Shore, including a stop in to grab some beer to bring to the party at the Eastern Shore Brewery in St. Michaels. There seem to be enough little places up and down these roads to visit in the future. Most likely not affordable this time of year, but good to note for the fall and early winter when it isn't totally freezing and horrible. 

So that's where we find ourselves so far. More to come, I'm sure.

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.