Monday, April 01, 2019

"How is your soul?"

I got to go to Boston this past week. Our office hosted a series of meetings over two days, and I was encouraged to go. It was really interesting, even if a bit out of my wheelhouse. I was able to make some face to face connections with people from across the company. And some new people who really need my help. Overall it was not a waste of time, but I felt under-needed, and a bit out of place.

My boss also was at the meetings, and she encouraged me to go so we could go back to Boston. She and I were walking around Boston University/Comm Ave, which was dusty and dirty, and under so much construction, and full of students. She screeched at the top of her lungs that she just loves this filthy dirty place that is emerging from winter and not into spring and is just a mess. A gorgeous mess! We stood on Comm Ave and looked towards the skyscrapers, the views, the vistas, and lamented that DC just isn't interesting to look at.

And this was. We were joyful in our souls, standing by the Agganis Arena and just smiling. We must have looked like freaks.

She gave her notice the week before last. This is her last full week with us, and I'm not here in the office on Friday.  We knew this was coming. She's fought the great fight here for good things for our customers, and for our team, and she's run to the end of her journey.

She's off to different pastures that I hope are better and more fulfilling.

I truly am happy for her. We made this move here together and she told me when we were all debating what we'd do back in 2017 that she couldn't do this without me.

For what its worth, we had a great run, and I'm glad that I stuck with it and we came down here.

But now I'm feeling a little disjointed and not scared at all, or worried, but sad and kind of defeated. I am tired. My job is tiring. I love it, but it takes a lot out of me. They told me when I took the position in May of 2014 that people never last longer than 2 years in this seat and I had a "Hold My Beer" attitude. I have no real desires to climb a corporate ladder or jump from job to job to increase my salary and get my title to grow. I am not joking when I say I love what I do.

But yeah, I'm kind of exhausted. So I can only imagine how she feels deep inside and how she had to make the move.

While we were in Boston we got the old crew back together. My co-worker R was already in town for PAX, so we figured it was a great time to gather us all up again.

We all met up at a pizza/bowling alley in Somerville, and there was much fun and chatting. I didn't get to spend a great deal of time with some of the folks, but, I got to spend time with quite a few. On my way out at the end of the evening (for me - I didn't want to have too much to drink and not be able to get back north safely) one of my former co-workers and I got to have a minute together. She had gone off before our office closed to a great opportunity to do her dream job in Scrum/Agile development. She's training people all over the world, all over the country, and training people in-house in Boston on how to do the things they do. She is a beautiful, fun, radiant human being.

She and I hugged and she took my hands and asked "How is your soul?"

And I almost burst into tears right then.

Great question. How is my soul? I asked her what she meant, and she told me that I always had the best, kindest, willing and joyful soul in the office "I just want to make sure that is still the case!"

How incredibly kind and thoughtful. I told her, well, to be honest I'm not sure how my soul is.

Right now the thing feels a little weary and battered and but not broken. I'm not sure how it will do in the coming weeks once my boss doesn't work here anymore. But we'll go on. We'll go on. I recalled reading about Neil Peart's "little baby soul" and how shattered it was after the deaths of both his daughter and his wife in a very short period of time. He got on a motorcycle, and left. And each step of the road trip was a step in healing. With plenty of tears along the way. "Ghost Rider" is an outstanding book if you're looking for a good read.

I don't have the luxury of being able to get on a motorcycle and leave. And certainly, my situation is nothing like what his was. Mourning the great love of your life and your child all at one time is enough to break anyone. I am in a lot better shape and a great place in the universe, believe you me.

But yes, I too have a kind of a soul that once was big and bright and exuberant, but right now it feels more like the tiny spark that is left. It's been squished. And it hurts.

I didn't realize how depressed I maybe am.

I pondered these things for the weekend, and did things that helped bolster that little baby soul and make it feel bigger and stronger.

 Hanging out with Jess and drinking beer with her and her friends and laughing hard, and meeting the new girlfriend and new boyfriend of two of those friends. Seeing friends from church like Beth and Kara, and playing with both of their dogs. Talking to their kids, and we all call each other "lady" no matter if we're boy or girl, going back years now. Those kids are in 11th and 10th grade. Seeing my parents, listening to my mom tell stories to my kid, and my dad was sleeping a lot but still nice to see.  Breakfast with Amy, a full more-than-an-hour massage therapy appointment with Sue, and the Boy Scout troop. Going and seeing the Troop brought me great joy. It isn't like it was a few years ago when all the moms would stay and hang out and talk. But there were a couple mandatory moms there, and mandatory dads, and a few of the boys still in the Troop moving towards their Eagle ranks, I was truly happy to see them.

And all the fun I had with Carrie. The mandatory Newburyport Sweatshirt trip was needed. I am so happy to have a new fresh one. Breakfasts, her going to pick me up at the wrong hotel, going to the beach, driving around Newburyport and just talking. Just having the time to not think about work but to talk about all kinds of shit.

I felt pretty rejuvenated there, until about 10:30am into my workday.  My little baby soul, it's hiding in a corner.

And I'm looking forward to when I get to go back.







Sunday, March 17, 2019

Harpers Ferry

Compared to last winter, this winter wasn't as bad as it could have been. Weather-wise we only had a couple of days of severe cold, compared to last year when it felt like solid weeks worth.

Longtime readers (all five of you) know that we like to go out for adventures and have fun, even in the cold. With Doug not having a job right now we've curtailed a lot of said fun and travel. I've longed to take a trip to New Orleans or to go out to see Aaron. Go to Montreal or Quebec City... but we've been staying home and not venturing far afield. Which can bring a soul down during a long stupid winter.

We go into the city once in a while. The parking at the metro is free on weekends and we can go into town and back for less than 10 bucks each round trip. Mostly we go to free things, like the museums, and play Pokemon, and have a beer and appetizer of some sort just to keep from losing our minds. 

We have gone to the Folger Shakespeare Library a couple of times, and Library of Congress. The "LOC" as people around here call it, is gorgeous. A beautiful color scheme and fantastic art mixed in with great literary quotes all about the walls. We spent a great deal of time just reading the quotes and trying to figure out what famous author wrote them. Doug and I both realize that our literary education has faded off into the distant memories, as there were so many that we didn't recognize. 


We went to the Smithsonian Natural History and American History museums. We shelled out some cash to see Peter Jackson's WWI documentary "They Shall Not Grow Old," and that was money well spent. 

And by the way, if you can, please go see that and make sure you see it in 3D, and make sure you stay for Peter Jackson's commentary at the end. It's worth it. Completely. 

With spring coming though, both of us are starting to get a little more restless. Spring does that to you, I suppose. And Aslan is on the move, as they say.

Last weekend Doug wanted to go out to the Shenandoah Mountains and toddle about Skyline Drive but it was closed due to ice and snow. We will save that for a couple weeks from now, I guess. 

Instead, we went to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. We didn't quite know what to expect on arrival and were confused when the visitors center was really far out of town. Luckily, you pay for parking and there is a nice shuttle that takes you into town. There isn't any real parking in town, a small lot at the train station, and aside from that you are out of luck unless you're at the bed and breakfast or an employee of the parks service. 

I'm a big fan of the national parks, and they've done a really great job with this little town at the convergence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. There is a lot of history that happened here, most notably John Brown's raid before the Civil War. 

And as sometimes happens, the man who is most allergic to cats was found by a cat who wanted his affections. And he agreed.

The weather was still cool and windy, but the sun was very warm and walking around we were comfortable. We walked about a mile's worth of the Appalachian Trail in downtown and up a hill to Jefferson's Rock, so I can say I did that. Ha. 

After walking around town we found a brewery, of course.

The Harpers Ferry Brewing Company sits up above the river and has sweeping views of the area. The beer was refreshing, and the BBQ food truck on site provided good eats for us to sit and enjoy being outside. For early March, I gotta say this area is a blessing for getting out of the house and being able to not freeze to death.


Yesterday we drove down into southern Maryland, which feels like it should be a completely different state from where we live, or from the far western part of the state. 

Maryland is so weird. 

We went to Fort Washington, which I think took almost 2 hours to get to because traffic. Once we got there it was a really nice place to spend time. It reminded me of all the old Forts around Portsmouth and Southern Maine like Fort Stark, and had a really cool view of DC. 

We wandered over to the Piscataway Farm a little bit to the south, and enjoyed a nice flat stroll around the property looking at the pigs, cows, sheep, and buildings. This was a good vantage point to look back north up the river and see the big yellow welcome center at Fort Washington, and across the river to Mount Vernon. 

From there Doug just continued to drive south. There are a lot of scenic drives and by-ways through here, and he picked one from brochure he'd gotten on a previous trip south. It is pre-pretty out, so the scenic drive was less scenic and more headache invoking, but eventually we found route 301 and some gas, and got our bearings about us to decide the next move. 

We ended up heading to Cobb Island, and getting dinner at a place called Captain John's Crab House. The food was alright, the beer was cold, Doug played a couple rounds of Keno in honor of my dad. This place would make him very happy, we thought. 

Great sunset, and back home. 


Alright. On that note... this post has taken me like two weeks to write, I started it after Harpers Ferry. I'm sure I will have something to write next week, or the week after or after Ft. Lauderdale. 

Monday, January 07, 2019

Weird Little Yellow Car

Over the last couple of weeks, I've seen this weird little yellow car in my neighborhood a couple of times. It looks like it may be a mini-cooper of some sorts. Normally I wouldn't think anything of a weird yellow car. In fact, I love when cars are interesting colors. It makes them noticeable in traffic, when you see a little orange speed past you, or a bug-green car run a red light. These are helpful little cars when they are that color.

This little yellow car always has a guy in the driver's seat, an older gentleman. And he's looking at my house.  On Sunday, Geoff noticed him and said "What's that asshole doing looking at our house and pointing to us?"

Doug and I both got up to look, and sure enough, there he was. Someone was in the passenger's seat, and they were parked facing the wrong way down the street. The man was pointing and gesturing. And when he saw us looking out the window at him, he pulled away from the curb. In doing so, he almost hit a car head on (remember, he's pointed the wrong way down the street by parking in the incorrect direction). That would have been comical, if no one got hurt.

And we could go outside and say "dude, what's up with you looking at our house and stuff?"

I'm intrigued but also nervous.

Our lease is up at the end of July. What if this is the owner, and he's thinking of selling the house? We currently rent through a rental agency, and I was going to wait a month or so to talk to our agent about renewing the lease for another year.

Houses in our neighborhood are typically $450,000 and up. A cute little one around the corner was just rehabbed top to bottom and is on the market for $599,000. I hardly think it is worth it. It's pretty and all, nicely newly restored. But wow that's expensive.

A lot of properties in this area are skyrocketing due to Ah-may-Zahn HQ number 2 opening in Virginia in the future. They hadn't even granted the town the deal when prices for rent started to climb. Everyone figured it was a foregone conclusion, and they should jack up the rents to get in all those employees gonna make big paychecks at new HQ. The timeline for the HQ to be open is still years in the making - no one is going to be working there because there is no there for quite a while.

But even on the other side of the Potomac, up here in the county I live in, things have gotten very expensive housing-wise. If they don't renew our lease, we have to find somewhere else to live and to be honest, I may have to find somewhere else to work. Commuting down here from say Frederick MD (a wonderful place to live) is a challenge traffic-wise, and I would love to live closer to the ocean, but again... housing costs are insane and traffic is not much better out towards Annapolis or Upper Marlboro. I'd be living in a car, both for my commute and where I live!

And, Geoff is doing great at the community college where he is taking classes, he's very happy, and really working hard. I don't want to upset the apple cart that we carefully got into place with him this year.

So back to weird little yellow car and the man inside. Back in the day, I'd probably make up a narrative about hit. I used to do that with Dave when we did our Shenanigans. We'd sit at a bar and make up a short story about someone down the other end, holding court like they do in the middle of the afternoon.

But maybe I'm getting older, and I'm not as much fun as I used to be. I am starting to slightly panic over this. I'm kind of convinced he's the owner and he's going to want to sell the house and make a fortune on it. And I'll have to move. And now I'm worried.

Hopefully it is nothing but my imagination runs wild in the not-fun direction. We'll see what is going on...

Friday, January 04, 2019

These Dreams

Happy 2019, dear reader. All five of you real humans who I think still read this blog - I hope 2019 is full of love and joy for you. Or at least isn't a dumpster fire of epic proportions.

I don't put a lot of stock into dream interpretation. I've written a couple of times here about dreams I've had that were super bizarre, like my dream about Steven Page singing in a taqueria with incredible interior design.

Lately, I've had a lot of dreams about barns and about roads.

The barns are empty of animals, and are being used for events. In one dream I have often, we're doing some repair to a barn door. Hinges, new wood frame, making it secure and safe. I like the kind of barn doors that are on a rail or a track, and they slide open instead of barn doors that swing open. Last night, I had a dream where my boss was getting married, and the wedding was in a barn (very not her style!) and I was in charge of keeping an eye on the small children in attendance.

Sounds very much like my style if it isn't hers.

At the wedding, most of my daughter's high school friends were there. Which is weird, because only my daughter knows my boss. The cake was really good.

I dream about off ramps and bends in the road a lot. The other night I was dreaming that Geoff was behind the wheel, and he was eyeballing some dogs the way some dudes sometimes eyeball hot babes. He had a big grin on his face, and missed the turn. We went off the road and rolled over and over on a beach. I was yelling at him, neither of us were injured, and he was defensive and angry, and I think embarrassed that it happened. No dogs were injured in our roll over incident.


Monday, December 31, 2018

It Could Be Worse. There Could Be Bears.

I'm looking back on my year, and I think my kid posted something great on Twitter that I'd like to share as my year end post. My year was kind of a bust. Nothing really exciting. In fact, aside from Guster Concerts and hanging out with family, and a couple lovely visits from a few wonderful people, I have been kind of in a state of the doldrums.

I could write a "hey look at all these awesome things!" post but ... meh?

Back to Jess who tweeted "I can't believe I got a new car, a new job, and a new house all this year and none of them were obtained by choice."

It's true.

JOB
In April she was let go from her temporary/contract job, after being strung along for months that a full-time "real boy Pinnochio" job was coming down the pike. I think the lynchpin was when she pointed out that they'd be turning 26 and losing their health care coverage on our policy, and started asking for the verbal commitment to be honored... that the promised full time job be given. Instead of being offered a full time position, she got the old "We restructured the department and found we don't need a full time position for this, so we won't be keeping you. Thanks. Bye..."

This is the kind of thing businesses do anymore and it is sad. My own company is completely guilty of this and it is horrible. Bring in temporary employees, offer them zero benefits, cut them loose when their presence doesn't suit your needs any longer. Everyone is

So she had to find another job, and did. Another temporary contract job, but, this job loved her and hired her full time after a very short period. With insurance, and vacation hours, and everything an employee deserves.

Hell yeah, new job.

HOUSING
A while back, maybe 2016 I think, Jess moved an apartment with 3 of her high school friends. I referred to it as The Weenie Hut (thank you, Spongebob). The Weenies Four happily lived there, one flaked off and moved out to live with her new boyfriend (ditching her fiancé who also was a weenie in the Weenie Hut. Very much to everyone in the apartment's disappointment). The landlord then told them their apartment, which was a condo she rented to them, was going on the market, and she wanted them to move out so she could get it all set for sale. They had to be out by the end of May.

The dumped fiancé moved in with other friends, leaving Jess and Liz to fend for themselves. Housing prices everywhere are crazy. But if you are living anywhere in the Boston area, making something in the vicinity of $12 an hour, it's very hard for two people to find a place.

Add to the fact that Liz had a very big dog, they were super lucky to have the apartment they had in the first place. This wasn't going to be easy.

Lucky for her, and before they needed to be out, an opportunity came to light. Our good friends and former across the street neighbors were in Iceland so he could do a Fulbright year. They had a house sitter, but he decided to bail on the agreement. They contacted Jess and asked if she'd house sit and watch their crazy dog for the remainder of the time they'd be away. Jess said as long as Liz and her dog could come too, then she was willing. Agreement reached, they moved over to the Orange House to sit until the last week of July.

The search for something starting on August 1st was afoot. Not finding anything that would allow a dog, knowing they needed to be somewhere on July 22nd, Jess arranged to stay with friend Molly on the couch and Liz went to live with her mom. They'd keep looking, and technically be homeless. But hopefully not for long.

As fate would have it, weird things happen. Liz' dog had become sick, the diagnosis was stomach cancer, and the prognosis was grim. Liz didn't have the heart to put her down, this was her baby. Her big, giant baby. I loved that dog very much and it broke my heart to know Liz was facing having to make the decision to put her to sleep.

Liz was packing her car on the day they needed to move out of the house sitting gig, and her dog died. Just ... died. Right on the back steps. Jess got home to the house after work and found Liz' mom and sister, and the sister's husband, helping her deal with things there. The grief and the lifting up of a dog that weighed over 100 pounds.

Jess took the dog they were dog sitting for out for a walk and called me on the phone. She was a little freaked out. "Mom..." the tone of voice was a bit scared and shaky, as the conversation started.

She realized immediately that this opened up a ton of opportunities for them. After a little more searching, an apartment was found right in the same neighborhood as friend Molly and Liz' mom. A little above their price range, but the place is big and beautiful, with off-street, safe parking for both of their cars. They moved in the first week of September and only had to spend August in the Homeless Phase. Homeless but safe, with a place to be, and not living on the street.

Hell yeah, new apartment.

CAR
For transportation once she moved out, she mostly relied on Liz or the other roommate who had moved off to live with her boyfriend. While she was working in Boston, she would take the train to work, Liz would drop her off and pick her up or she'd walk the 2 or so miles to and from the train. After she lost the job in Boston and went to the place that hired her temporarily with no guaranteed future, Liz would still drive her to and from work. It was very close to home, and with Liz' schedule, it worked out perfectly.

She didn't need a license. Or a car. For the most part.

We always wanted her to get a license, and right before Doug and I moved to Maryland, that she did. A little while later, she got her first car. A little Subaru Wagon, which the Dog (the one who died in July) could get in and out of easily, without throwing someone's back out.

The car developed some issues. Our wonderful mechanic told her she needed a new catalytic converter and a new timing belt. The timing belt was under warrantee, so Subaru took care of that, but the burning oil, the catalytic converter, and other issues that were developing would mean that her freshly purchased in late 2017 car would have to be replaced. It was not going to pass inspection December 31, 2018.

So she needed a new car. She had very little savings, could probably get 800 bucks on a trade in for the Subi, but not much more than that. After much discussion, she realized she'd probably have to finance a car. Not having a ton of money, she was tremendously worried about getting financing. She got a credit card, made small purchases and paid them right off, in order to establish some credit by the end of this year.

Doug went up to Boston right before Christmas to help her out. They'd shopped online and found a used Subaru Impreza, about 10 years old, for about $6000, which she wanted to finance. Her payments would be under 200 a month if they'd give her a decent trade.

The salesman said no bank would finance the car with this age and amount of miles, and suggested a lease. She doesn't drive a lot. 10,000 miles per year for 3 years is pretty fair, and the payment with her trade in and downpayment would be $200 a month.

So she is now the proud leaser of a 2019 Subaru Impreza, with all the bells and whistles, and bluetooth and backup camera and fancy things. "This car is too good for me," she says.  No honey, your frugal parents raised you frugally. And if something nice is within your means, it's okay to have something nice.

Hell yeah, new car.

So that is how all of these things happened for Jess this year. Not by choice but by circumstance.

And here we are at the end of 2018, looking back on what was a garbage year for so many humans, filled with garbage humans making things even more garbagey for the masses.

Jess could be homeless, carless, jobless. She could be all of those things or just one of those things.

When the kids were little, we used to play a game with them when they were upset about something or when circumstances were such that we should be worried or panicked. "It could be worse," I'd start.

About 15 or so years ago, we were hiking and when we got back to our car, Doug unlocked the hatchback of the Saturn Wagon and the key broke off in the lock when he lifted the hatch open. Three dogs, two kids, no key. He had literally just enough juice in his flip phone to call an emergency locksmith, give him our location, and then the phone died.

We were not sure we were going to be rescued. It was up in the air at that moment. All seemed lost. And the kids, well they seemed to grow concerned.

"It could be worse," I said. "It could be raining."

We would add in things that could make it worse. Invariably, we got to the point where we'd be attacked by bees, or by bears, or by bears and bees. There would be laughter.

And in the case of the broken key in the hatch, the locksmith found us deep in the woods in Andover, got our broken key bit out of the lock, made a new key, and we got to leave.

Right before it started raining.

It could be worse.

Now, before it sounds like I am all about everything is perfect and sunny, and things are great, let me assure you that if you've read this blog since its inception you know things have not always been perfect, sunny, and great. Bad things that are bad have happened, even when we were keeping our chins up and a stiff upper lip.

We got fucked. We lost. We struggled. We have had some major league absolute bullshit happen, even when things were our choice and we thought we were making the right choices. Times when saying "It could be worse" simply would have gotten a "Well do tell, how the fuck can they be worse?!"

And I always joke about the Springsteen line "Someday we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny," even when I'm in the middle of things that are patently not funny. But sometimes it's the only thing you can do when things are ... not funny. And just plain awful.

I know some reading this will say that they're in the worst spot they have ever been in their lives and I do not doubt it. I think of Guster's lines from "Come Downstairs and Say Hello"

"I'm telling the truth, I've said it before, tomorrow I start in a new direction."
"By this time next year, I won't be here."

By chance, choice, opportunity, no choice, no chance, looking at your year past where do you want to be this time next year.

What will the year have in store for you, you can't predict or plan for sometimes. You just do it. You go through the year. You face situations and you take on challenges. Or you tread water. Or you drown.

Where will we all be this time next year? Hopefully there won't be bears. Or bees. Or bears with bees in their mouths.

Happy new year if you've read this drivel this far. I hope if 2018 was yet another bigger dumpster fire for you, that 2019 at least is downgraded to a small trash can, an office sized trash can, with little damage left behind.





Thursday, December 27, 2018

Gratefulness journaling

Every year I say I'm going to try and write more. After reading a recent story on how gratefulness journaling can help people with depression find at least one thing in a day that is worth noting, I thought maybe that would be a good impetus for me to write.

So here's a thought.

Some mornings when I get off the train there is a guy who plays the trumpet out on the street. He aims his instrument into the Metro station to get the best of that acoustic sound of tile and concrete.

Usually he is blasting the theme song from Rocky, or Star Wars, or a song that I don't know the name of but I always associate it as a College Fight Song.

It makes me feel victorious. For a minute. Coming down the steps to the tune of Rocky, well, how can you not?

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Slacker Christmas

We didn't get a tree this year.

For the first time in our marriage, no tree. Nothing. Well, maybe the first year we were married, but I seem to remember the 2 person dining table in our Beverly MA kitchen having a table top tree. But that could be from another house.

With Doug being out of work, money isn't that big an issue (finally) because I am bringing in some decent cash. Ask me how we're doing in three months, though.

He's just been distant, almost siloed, since October. When I try to talk to him or plan things, he gets aggravated and makes a face at me. The face our friend Christopher Kelly once called "the Constabrow" like he's trying to concentrate and poop and process the gibberish coming out of my mouth all at the same time.

I've found it easier to just not suggest things, or talk to him about things, because I sometimes always seem to pick the wrong time to "spring" things on him, and every time is the wrong time.

So we've been quietly dancing around each other for weeks.

He said "Christmas kind of snuck up on us..."

Well, maybe you. But not me. It made me kind of sad to not have a tree, but to be honest, right now I'm happy to not have to put it all down.

If I really wanted to, I could have taken Geoff and gotten a tree like we did last year. But I just didn't feel like it. Lately,  I feel like the Little Red Hen who takes care of all the duties while others are distracted or don't feel like it, or are otherwise occupied, so I just didn't do it.

The only thing I did was buy each kid one thing they would like for Christmas, get Jess a decently priced airline ticket, and encourage Doug to commit to going up to Massachusetts to help her secure a car since her Subaru was not going to pass inspection at the end of the month.

Mission accomplished on all three fronts.

I also just bought (after Christmas but still covering the holiday) airline tickets for Jess to come down in January, Guster tickets (2 nights in DC for her and me to enjoy), and Geoff told me that he wants Judas Priest tickets for May. Which surprised me and I'm kind of glad that I didn't go buy the 4 day pass to Maryland Death Fest that he hinted at maybe wanting.

In my not doing anything, I did manage to put up lights, and make it feel somewhat hygge in the house while he was in Massachusetts last weekend.

So I semi-Little Red Henned it. But that's about it.

Since the kids have been bigger kids, I've totally tailed off on doing a lot for the holidays. But even when I did stuff for the holidays it wasn't like a big bombastic over the top deal. We never really decorated outside. I would put a garland of green and some bows out on the fence at the brown house. Lights in the window in the living room, but nowhere else. We usually kept white fairy lights up year round because watching TV with those on and the fireplace going is just as lovely at Christmas as it is in March.

I have friends who put more than one tree up. And in November, sometimes earlier, they start with putting up lights on the exterior of the house.

That's never been my style. A couple presents, sometimes not even wrapped (my inner semi-environmentally responsible soul finds wrapping paper completely offensive sometimes), an let's all just have a really nice dinner. That's my style

That's the definition of Slacker Christmas.

We hosted Doug's aunt and cousin this year again, they live over in Virginia. It was a nice time of fellowship. We watched Santa Claus vs. the Martians and a badly dubbed Mexican movie about Santa vs. the Devil. Doug's aunt didn't care for either but his cousin seemed genuinely entertained.

We're getting ready to take Jess to the airport, and I'll miss her. I like having her around. I'm happy to spend all her Christmas money on airfare bringing her to visit. And I do feel like I need to go back up there for a visit, but I feel like when I do go back there it is always because someone is dead or someone got hurt. Well, no - my cousin got married and that was nice. And I did go to Boston to see Guster in January, so there was something good.

2018 wasn't as weird as 2017. But it wasn't awesome. Maybe 2019 will be?




Thursday, December 06, 2018

December update

Seeing as the last time I updated we were investigating civil war defenses around DC in the broiling hot heat, it seems like summer was a world away.

We haven't really done anything unbelievably exciting, I guess. It's a lot of go to work, come home, go to work, maybe try and do something fun on the weekend.

Here's kind of the update of what's the haps with the gang.

Geoff
Over the summer he took a required class to enroll in Community College. He decided he wanted to pursue a certificate in Radiology, and then decided he would take the year of pre-requisites and apply for the program. He's got one more week of this semester, 2 more classes under his belt.

So far so good.

Next semester may be harder with a biology, biology lab, and an advanced writing class, but he's up for it. He's enjoying the classes, commutes to school on the train, gets his work done.

Even though I told him that he didn't need to get a job, we'd support him while he is in school, he went out and found himself a full time job at a spice company up between us and Baltimore. He works a 4pm-midnight shift, gets home at about 12:30. He's in his "trainee" 90 day period, which I think is hitting month 2 right about now. At the end of that period, they'll offer him the benefits and everything.

I told him he can keep the job as long as his grades do not fall below B-, and right now he's doing pretty well on all fronts.

The only bummer about him working and going to school is that he isn't going to the market and making dinner. Which makes for a lazy Doug and Christine needing to fend for themselves.

I miss his Chicken Parm. He'll be off school soon, so at least I can send him to the market and stuff, even if he won't be making dinner because he leaves for work at like 2:30.

Mind you, shift begins at 4, but "on time is late" is Geoff's philosophy.

Photo of Geoff is from this summer at Doug's family's reunion in Pennsylvania. Wherever there is a dog, there's a happy Geoff. I realized I don't have any other pictures of Geoff that don't involve him looking slightly drunk with a beer in hand. The only time I seem to get to spend with him lately is on weekends, and we do like going to the beer halls and having a taste.

So this picture makes me happy.

Doug
Shortly after my last post, Doug's position at his company was eliminated, along with the rest of his team. He received a small severance, and is collecting unemployment. He's looking for a job, and has had several interviews. None have panned out just yet. He's getting great feedback, so hopefully something will happen soon.

We made a couple trips back to see Doug's mom over the summer and the last one was Labor Day weekend, helping out around the house with jobs that Gary would normally have done, and she's not happy with how service providers have handled the work she needs done, especially the yard work. Not sure when we'll go back again.

We invited her for Christmas but she doesn't want to come down. So we will see what happens with a future visit, or whatever.

Jess
Doing well back in the home lands. Was temporarily unemployed and homeless, but things worked out. I am thankful for her friend who let her stay with after they had to move out of their apartment. Everything worked out. She's got a better job (I think it pays a little less but they made her a full time real employee instead of stringing her along saying they were going to hire her, like the last place did for over a year). The apartment they are in is great - so much more grown up and nice than the last place. And she's got a good setup.

The only thing she needs now is a new car, hers won't pass inspection at the end of December, so she can take a failure and get 30 more days on it - and will need to have a new solution by the end of January.

Again, I'm sure all things will work out.

It's been a bummer for me not being there to help her out with things in person. But her roommate Liz' mom (for years I thought her name was Tammy. Found out it is Evelyn) lives right around the corner and keeps them in laundry detergent and other things from her job, has a key to the place for emergencies, and is the certified Mom for the team. I'm happy about that.


Here's a picture of us from October, without Geoff because he had work and school. My cousin Billy's daughter got married in Maine, so Doug and I made a trip up, grabbed Jess, got to see the great apartment and the great roommate for a minute. We spent a lovely time with my parents and sister, and the overall My Mom's side of the family.

Doug and I then took a trip across NH and VT (after a lovely night's stay at a beautiful Cabin In The Woods provided by my girl C). We drove down into NY State, went to Poughkeepsie, found a great brewery with a super restaurant. We walked on the footbridge over the Hudson, and it was a gorgeous day. We stopped in Philadelphia at the Eastern State Penitentiary, which Doug has wanted to visit for his whole entire adult life (of all things).

That was the most fun we've had since the summer. I think.

Anyway.

Me
Work is fine, nothing overly exciting or pressing. For Halloween my team dressed as Bob's Burgers, and it was tremendously funny. The only person we were missing was Gene. Couldn't get anyone to play along as him. But we did get Little King Trashmouth, the Raccoon, and that was incredibly funny. Famous people where I work tweeted about us. We were temporary stars.



My sister came to visit. We went to see Guster in Baltimore and had a girls' weekend. She hadn't been down to see us yet, so this was a welcome and fun visit. She's coming back again this weekend and we're going to see Ghost. A band much unlike Guster.

But if they did a mashup thing, they'd be Ghoster, and that would be a riot. I can imagine Tobias singing "Fa Fa" and Ryan doing "Square Hammer."

TM! TM! TM! TM! I'm totally trademarking that so no one steals it.

We had Thanksgiving at our house and Jess came to visit. It was pretty fun to have all 4 of us together again. We went to a brewery and the arboretum to see the Bonsai trees. Most of them were put away for the winter, but some were still there and it was a nice time to go, because no one was in our way.

We'll be bringing her down again for Christmas but right now I'm trying to get Doug to maybe, just maybe, go back to Massachusetts with her for a couple days to help her find a car... she needs a Certified Dad to come be with her and help her pick one out. Someone from her work offered to help but she said he's condescending and annoying about it. I told her that is what a Certified Dad would be like, and she kind of agreed.

I turned 52. We went to a brewery at a horse farm. The last time we were there no horses wanted to come see us. This time, we had lots of fans. It was kind of lovely.

This big guy was kind enough to let us rub his nose and cheeks. And we had mighty fine beers and sat by a fire pit on the patio.

It was a nice way to mark the end of 51.

Except.

While we were there, blissing out with horses and chocolate porter, my mom called.

My dad ended up in the hospital with congestive heart failure so that was ... interesting. My sister went to be there, and spent a week with my mom, while they got him all figured out.

He's out of the hospital now but will be having a day procedure to put a plug in his heart valve (forgive me for not knowing all the exact medical terms and things). Because he'll be 79 in May, he's not a candidate for a valve replacement. It would probably kill him. So they'll put this little plug in to stop the backwash into the one chamber of his heart, and hopefully keep him going for a couple more years.

I do believe this happens a week from now. Will call my mom and find out.

And that's right now. Up to the minute coverage of us. Doug has an in person job interview a week from today for a position he really wants so... cross your fingers, kids.




Sunday, August 26, 2018

Late August and the Civil War Defenses of DC

It is a Sunday morning, and I have to say that it has been 11 months since we've been to church. Doug was itching to pick a church for us, but then dropped it. Everything was too conservative or way too liberal. There was nothing that spoke to us and made us feel like it was home. I miss the congregation of the church back home. Ha. Look I still call it home.

Sunday mornings we fellowship together. After all, I have said it before, if you can't find God in the sacred space of your backyard or your front porch, you sure won't find God in a building that people claim is sacred. Coffee, news reading, game playing on the phones, dog watching the other dogs going down the street, and the ever adorable watching of people running the stop sign on our corner keep us entertained.

When coffee time fellowship is over, usually right around now, we get ready to do errands and go places and look at things. About a month ago, Doug suggested that he wanted to start visiting the Civil War forts and defensives all through the DC. Sounds cool and historic. Let's go!

We started just across the border from Silver Spring in DC at Fort Stevens which was restored but sits in the middle of a neighborhood in the beating hot open sun.

Walking around the earthworks and modern materials walls of concrete imitating wood, we recounted the story told of Lincoln being there during the Battle of Fort Stevens in July 1864 when he was nearly shot in the head.

I guess if you're supposed to die by being shot in the head, eventually it gets you. Hmm.

Next, he wanted to walk to the small national cemetery  where the dead from this battle were buried. It was brutally hot, so we got halfway up there (it is probably a half mile north) and we weren't seeing any signs or sights of it so we turned around and went back to the car, and drove.

Again. I cannot stress how much I hate how hot it is here.

The cemetery was small, well documented. The visitor's center was closed, which if you ask me is a crime on a Saturday when tourists might want to visit? Not sure if that's just part and parcel of budget cuts but I'd close on Monday and be open Saturday. We weren't the only people there to see the place.

It is a very small cemetery but a very important piece of the history of the District and the Civil War.

We drove over to Fort Slocum, which is now a large open field with a small pavilion. A family was there setting up folding chairs, the grill was starting up, and music was playing. It looked to be a nice afternoon where you could get shade, and I was happy to see the spot being used for life affirming activities.

Next we tried to go to Mr. Lincoln's Cottage. After driving around and getting totally lost in the North Capitol Street area, we knew we were close but we were not sure we were in the right place. Upon reading articles like this delightful one in the Washington Post, I think we were spot on and this was just part of the deal. A guarded gate, a military feel, and the cottage was probably just beyond our reach. We bailed and drove around another section of the cemetery that was not so closely guarded, and it was a mini-Arlington National Cemetery with perfectly measured white tombstones filling every corner of the grounds.

We opted to go home at that point. It was just too bloody hot to make any more effort to try and see something else. We were close to Fort Totten but want to save that for a day when I can walk without dying. Again. So hot. So very hot.

Yesterday was a gorgeous day. Humidity was gone, it was in the mid 80s which felt like winter compared to the weeks prior. We were up for another attempt at Civil War defenses touring!

First stop was in  Rock Creek Park, which a US National Parks Service property running through the center of DC. It hosts miles of trails, an equestrian center, planetarium, public golf course. There is a lot to explore there.

We parked at the planetarium and visitors center and walked north past St. John High School to go up to Fort DeRussy, (see map) which has not been restored to its original or close to its original condition. It is overgrown and wild. It made me think of the Talking Heads' song "(Nothing but) Flowers" as trees and brush and plants all grew up over what used to be the walls and parapets and  defenses.

After DeRussy, we headed west to Fort Reno. It is the highest point in Washington DC, 409 feet above sea level, and Doug read that the views were great.


Unfortunately, it seems the property belongs to the DC water authority and there is a reservoir there, and the entire area is fenced off with chain link and barbed wire.

One cool fact is there have been many concerts in this park, and there is an information sign about Fugazi playing there in 2002. That's badass.

It struck me as the kind of park I might have picked for a Rebel Shakespeare show back in the day when I was booking tours for the teen program. There is a high school across the street, the field is wide open and beautiful, there is a stage there, and the backdrop of the tower would make an impressive sight. It made me sense possibility instead of feel like we were ripped off by not being able to get to the tower after all.

We drove home through Tenlytown, which looks like a lot of fun, and a lot more affordable for food and shopping than its neighbor to the north of Chevy Chase.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Rescue

I have a friend who set out to hike the Appalachian Trail by herself. She trained through the winter, prepared by hiking around her home in Tennessee and working with experienced veterans of the AT to get ready. I feel that's pretty badass, and a younger me once wanted to do this, when we were campers and hikers and I was in a shape other than round.

She set out in March, and has a Facebook page and Youtube page where she posts videos that she has been making as she goes.  I've been following her steps from afar.

Early in the journey, she injured her foot and has a hairline fracture which is making hiking exceptionally painful, as you may reckon. She saw a couple of specialists, had her shoes checked out for anything that could be done footwear-wise to make this less difficult. She took a couple weeks off the trail in very southern VA about 3 hours from me and rested up, doctor's orders.

Last week she got back on the trail with high hopes. Knowing she is so close, relatively, and wanting nothing more than to go hug her and buy her a great dinner, this has been exciting for me. I've been eyeballing Harper's Ferry, WV, as a destination where we can connect. I know I'll cry when I see her.

Because she lost a good chunk of time, she revised her north-south plans a little, and was hoping to get a ride up to Western Massachusetts to hike up to Maine from there, instead of trying to do it all straight up to Maine. In September and October, conditions change up through that end of the journey and it can be unpleasant and they eventually close the trail to hiking up that way.

I was encouraging her to make it to the halfway point to Carlisle PA, because there's nothing better than yelling "We're Halfway There!" when you're on a journey. My kids still do it, and funnily enough, even when we are less than halfway or more than halfway. It's a thing with us.

Hikers call this "flipping" on the trail, and there's no harm, no foul. doing things where you get a ride north to hike back south to where you left off, whether in short spurts of several states at a time, it doesn't matter. You are stepping every mile of the trail, so who cares if it is not in order. I thought it was a good plan, especially if worried about the weather. Heck, in my brain starting the trail in the North in May and hiking south all the way until you get there, you still have to struggle through the heat of July and August but at least you may not have to worry too much about snow maybe when you make it to Tennessee and North Carolina. You may get a little extra time before the Smokey Mountains are blessed with winter.

I'd been trying to figure out a way to assist her in getting to Massachusetts. I can't take her - we have no plans to head up that way now, but maybe in a couple months. I asked a few friends who live down this way who drive up that way and they were in similar positions. Not traveling until late August. Waiting until Columbus Day.

She has told me that "The Trail Provides" is a philosophy that everyone has while doing this. People are willing to drive hikers north and south, into town. Entire towns have festivals for the hikers, called Trail Days. So she is looking to connect with someone possibly who can help get her north that way.

She messaged me today saying that she may not be able to do this at all any more. She wants to stop. She is about an hour and a half from me and I think I may go rescue her. She wants to go home to Nashville, and stop.

I'm torn about what to say to her. Encourage her to continue, believe in her ability to do this. Or congratulate her on this and get her and a bottle of wine and help her figure out a way home knowing she has accomplished so very much.

It's not my journey but she is my friend. I know what she wants, and she wants to complete the journey and not fail at it, but also she wants to heal her foot and go home. How do you help someone decide what to do?

We'll see what happens, but if nothing else, if she stops here I'm more than willing next year to help her pick up and start from the very same spot and go on with a healed foot.

I've enjoyed following her steps, her tears, her laughter, and each of the white trail blazes she has shared.


If you want to follow the journey so far, visit her videos at Act Old Later on youtube. She'll take you along for a walk. Several times her little screen captions have been just perfect for me. Watching at the office with a message that says to just stop what you're doing and listen, or look at these little purple flowers, or see how the clouds walk across the mountains from here... these videos have been a kind gift from her. Whether they continue after this weekend or not, so far the journey has been interesting.

One of the things I've been pondering on this experience is how alone she is. That may be what is breaking her heart and making her want to quit more than the foot issues. Once in a while she gets to overlap with other hikers, but for those who hike as a team or as couples, they get that moral support and that encouragement that you sometimes need to push through. And here she is alone as alone can be.

I'm sure I would enjoy the solitude at first in hiking alone but after a while, no.

Send her good thoughts to make the right decision for her.