Sunday, December 14, 2014

For those keeping track at home...

Geoff needed 4 merit badges, 2 Eagle and 2 Non-Eagle. He finished the 2 Eagles with my friend Deb as his merit badge counselor 2 weeks ago. For his non-Eagles he chose the Safety Merit Badge which he finished on Thursday.

Which left one Merit badge.

Now, back in the day he started the Photography Merit Badge with our then Committee Chair, Marie. Marie, like me, likes to keep the blue Merit Badge cards in her possession.  He spent 3 weekends, one or 2 hours each with a couple of other Scouts and Marie doing Merit Badge College kinds of classes. At the same time, he finished Art and Citizenship in the Community.

Marie told me all she needed from Geoff was 20 photos either printed out or put into a slide show. Geoff took 20 blurry and awful pictures of our dogs. I told him he needed to apply some of what the merit badge requirements were asking of him. Rule of thirds, depth of field, macro, portrait. He said "yeah yeah yeah."

When Marie got sick, and I told him all you have to do is pull 20 good pictures together and she'll sign off on it! I got the "but I took 20 pictures of the dogs..." routine. I told him he could not submit those to her.

I registered to be the merit badge counselor for photography for our troop (and others, if anyone local is interested). I thought this might come in handy. I'm sort of a decent photographer, I think. I understand the requirements. I know what an f stop is. Yeah.

Before Marie died, she sent her son to my house with a bag of all of the things she used for the photography Merit Badge. A polaroid camera, some documentation, some books. I wish she had given me her really awesome film SLR but she did not.... such is life.

I emailed her, asking her "where are the blue cards?"

She didn't answer me, and each time I spoke with her she was vague and would say "oh the boys do such nice work on that badge..." And then she passed away on me.

I figured I would wait until her sons tidied up the house. After she passed away, the boys went through things and I know a lot of stuff was distributed back to the troop. I emailed two of her sons and asked -- both reported that they had no idea where the cards were.

All Geoff had to do was 20 pictures.

I made him redo the whole badge.

We spent the whole day on Saturday together, we did all of the requirements outlined in the badge and then we went out to Newburyport and took pictures. His little point-and-shoot camera doesn't have a lot of features. It has an auto-detect for Macro which is kind of cool, but it isn't awesome. We had my camera and a very old Pentax Spotomatic, which suddenly didn't want to work for us when we were on the photo walk. I'm glad we had my camera.

There was a plethora of things to photograph from beautiful store windows, to little lights, and yes... dogs. Geoff photographed 5 dogs. I had him approach some strangers that I noticed were trying to take a selfie. He took a picture of them with my camera, and I took one of them with their cel phone.

It was snowing like mad - he had 50 pictures taken... we went to lunch and went through the camera laughing at some of the shots.

He did a great job.

There were some really great depth of field shots, a couple macro shots where he got excellent light bokeh going on behind.

And dogs. He got some great dog shots.

We did rule of threes with a street. He took some great landscape vs. portrait shots. He even took a cute picture of me laughing at him.

I filled out his blue card yesterday and thought "Whoa. That's it. That's the last thing he needs. This is done."

Well, the Merit Badge portion of the dance is done.

After we went to lunch we went to Lowe's where we got all of the things we needed for The Box. His project coach sent me dimensions for a plywood sheet to be cut down, and miracle upon miracles it fit in our car so I drove it home.

The box assembly started today. The box itself is built, except for the bottom and the top. I am hoping I can get a good friend to paint the top of the box or make a plaque for the box that is gorgeous.... if she is free to do so.

All told... Next weekend we will be done. Just in time as I'd hoped. Just in time.

So if you are keeping track

1. finish the box (will happen next weekend).
2. recycle the nylon flags (will happen on 12/19 when we go down to the National Cemetery on Cape Cod and drop them off. They have a program.... )
3. Fill out paperwork.
4. fin.

Thank you to  all of you who have reached out to offer funds for Geoff to help defray the cost of this project. You know who you are. Special thanks to my Girl C who bought the flags on Amazon and had them shipped to us.  The overall cost of the flags was about $650. The box rough materials ran us $54, and our estimate for what we thought it would cost was $75.  All told, he has about $600 in his account. I don't think we need to do any fundraising letters or anything to get the balance taken care of. I think it will be a break even project. I think the balance can be written off as a donation from me.

This is for reals you guys. You long time readers (all 2 of you) who have followed Geoff since his Kindergarten Graduation.... watched him grow through this blog.... I hope you are smiling as big as me.

I'm overwhelmed by the kindness people have shown. I'm more overwhelmed by how he has done.

We have already begun our paperwork for the submission to the Eagle board. That hopefully will all be in my hot little hands and printed and done for next Monday. My friend Kathy is shopping for invitations for her son's Eagle ceremony, and she keeps sending me emails with "how about this for Geoff? Do you like this one?" and I'm just laughing because I don't want to buy a single thing until he has that board of review. God help us. I'll be a mess until then, I think.

I'll be happy when I can write about other things. Think about other things. Go to sleep thinking about other things....

And as he begins his final lap, I'm already talking to other parents in the troop, heck other parents of boy scouts .... "get going now..." I tell the parents of the 15 and 16 year olds as they are in or approaching Life rank.

Get going now.

Nice story from Lowe's, we were with a staff member looking at plywood. Geoff was in his uniform shirt and a dad walked past with his son in a cart. They picked up what they needed and I didn't see them again until we were close to checking out. He smiled at us and said "Eagle Project?" and Geoff nodded.  "My brother and I are both Eagles. I remember this kind of thing well." He was beaming with a huge smile. "I know a lot of Life Scouts. But not a lot of Eagles." He shook Geoff's hand and looked at his son.

"Good luck," I said to him as I looked towards his boy.

Good luck indeed.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Caribbean Black Cake

Started drunkenly somewhere around 11pm on 12/4
My office holiday party is tomorrow. Unlike last year, where as a contractor I was not allowed to participate, this office embraces the contractors whole heartedly.

The theme is "the islands" and they do not mean "Cape and Islands," for you locals.  Think sandy white beaches and palm trees. Caribbean. Jamaican. Ya mon. Ya Ya Ya.

There is always some sort of contest with these people. And I'm okay with that. Last big contest was an ice cream making contest, and my co-worker Molly won with a goat cheese and drunken cherries blend. So good.

I figured, I'm okay at baking, so hey - maybe I'll bake something authentic for my people. So I googled things, and all points seemed to lead to Caribbean Black Cake. I asked a long time blog friend, someone I met on Journalspace back in the day, Mr. Keifel himself, for a good recipe. He's originally from Trinidad, so I figured he'd have a good recipe for me.

He sent me his Grandmother Winnifred's recipe, and I was excited to give it a try.

Seeing as right now it is Thursday night, and the party is tomorrow, it is already a semi-collosal flop because I didn't have the fruit soak in the booze long enough. I prepped the fruit yesterday and it should really sit for a couple of months. But hey -- I'm just trying to have some fun over here!

I went to the market with my smartphone dialed up to the recipe, and walked around in search of prunes and currants. I had to call Jo from Awesome and ask "So, what on EARTH is candied mixed peel?!" She laughed at me, educated me and wished me well.

With ingredients in hand, and booze procured earlier in the day, I set to soaking the fruit. Prunes, raisins, currants and this mystery collection of strange bits like citron and cherries and whatnot. When I got home from Boy Scouts tonight, it was baking time.

At 9pm. 9 Freaking PM.

So I'm baking at 9pm, and drinking beer, like you do, and listening to the police scanner as protestors are out in the streets of Boston... I'm pondering race, race relations, crimes while white, crimes while black, drinking more beer and just feeling like the world just needs so much help. I am thinking about black and white people, growing up white in an all black neighborhood, co-workers and friends who have broken or angry hearts tonight. And overall, there is nothing I can do.

So, back to the cake. I followed the directions and I cut the recipe down to 1/3. I got 3 cake pans out of the deal, which is kind of nice. If I did the whole thing, it would be like 12 cakes.

While working and following said directions, I noted that I cracked all 8 eggs into one container before I read that I should separate the yolks and whites out (again, my cake will be a colossal failure because of that). I couldn't get the egg whites to peak the way they are supposed to -- after 15 minutes of hand mixing, we got nowhere but fluffy and foamy, and the motor on the mixer started to get super hot. (again, colossal equals failure equals cake).

Continued on 12/5, non-drunkenly but somewhat hungoverly
Party is about to begin. I transported the cakes to the office this morning and my friend Rakiesha took some pictures of me finishing the cakes. The cakes are supposed to soak in alcohol. Wine or rum or both or whatever. I had used all of the wine in the part where I set the fruit up but there was still the more full bottle of rum to be used.

When the directions said to add the alcohol at the end, I emailed Keifel and asked "what, like a drizzle? He said no - "I drunken up those babies." So, I did. I poured the entire bottle of rum on the cakes, and they absorbed nearly the entire bottle.

I finished it off with the juice of a lime, one half on each cake.

Winnifred's name is on the tent in front of the cakes. Two are alcoholic, and one is alcohol free.  I better win this competition.

Photos and the process:
I took all the pictures with my phone camera because I have no idea where my camera is right now. Last time I saw it was Geoff's Eagle Project a couple of weeks ago. It's around here somewhere...

The fruit, wine and rum, run through the cuisinart.
I think if it gets to sit for a good long time, that liquid gets absorbed or something...

A pound of butter, a pound of brown sugar.
That's a lot of butter and sugar.

Next time, don't just crack all the eggs into the container, read the instructions. dummy.
Because this is what happens, 20 minutes of whipping the egg whites results in no peaks.


But the good news is, it is hard to mess up blending butter and sugar...
And then you add in your fruit. 

I used half of this amount of fruit... the other half is in the kitchen waiting for 
me to find an appropriate container
After adding in all the fruit, and the egg whites which never did peak 
(I gave up) the mix looks like this. 



I ended up with 3 whole cake pans full of batter from the above mixer.
When were they done? Insert Spongebob 3 hours later image here
(cakes came out of the oven at like 12:45am)
Finally asleep at about 1am with a wake up time of 6am. 
Sounds just about right for stuff I decide to do...

After the cakes cool the recipe says to add alcohol to the cakes. 
I thought I would be drizzling the cakes with booze. 
Instead I was baptizing them by immersion.
The entire rest of the bottle of rum on 2 cakes.

The cakes were like giant sponges, soaking up all the rum. 
I may have over baptized them, because after a while they stopped 
soaking up the liquor, and the liquor pooled all in the pan. 

Note to self, stop after a while.

Just for fun, I added the juice of a lime, one half per cake.
because I thought it would taste good. It didn't make much of a difference because... Rum.

Conclusion, Saturday morning after the party
We didn't seem to have any sort of judging of cakes and baked goods. One of my co-workers made a rum bundt style cake, and it was good but not this good. Another made oatmeal chocolate cookies which were outstanding. Someone else made a dip for strawberries with cool whip and Oreo cookies, which tasted great. It was super firm and tasty. And someone bought some sort of Boston Cream Pie. 

I think everyone just ate fast and had Yankee Swap time and no one was really paying attention to the prospects of the competition... except for maybe me. As far as parties go, it is sometimes just better to not have structured events, but to just party and chat and have a good time.  And this party had plenty of that. It was a really good time.

But I would say it if there was a judged moment it would have come down to my cake vs. the oatmeal  cookies. Hers were tasty, baked right there in the office at 3pm. Still semi-warm by the time we all tucked into them. But I heard a lot of incredible feedback from people about the cake. And that made me incredibly happy.  I enjoyed the cake greatly myself.  And to be honest, you know that's all that matters. 

Notes for future use:

1. Buy some dried apricots too. You like those.
2. Do the eggs correctly? please? It should not take 15-20 min to peak egg whites so ... you did something wrong there girl. Probably that tiny bit of yolk you got stuck in there that didn't want to get out of the whites. Figure it out. Don't do it again.
3. Put the rest of the fruit/booze mixture into a glass container and save for a few months so it gets all super funk just the right way. Or save it for putting over ice cream next weekend.
4. Always have beer handy while baking. It just makes life so much more fun. But... do not drink it all, like you just did.
5. Browning. It's some brown sugar/caramel thing that Keifel mentioned in an email to me that I completely missed this detail. It isn't mentioned in the recipe but Keifel mentioned it in an email discussion. I thought browning was an action, not an ingredient. I was all "ZOMG LET'S MAKE CAKE NAO!" when I went to do things, and so... always read all the correspondence in everything.
6. Cooking time states it should cook for an hour at 175 F. That is actually more like 2 - 2.5 hours. She learned as she crawled up to bed at 12:45am.
7. Use a better quality rum for the baptism. I felt like the cheap rum that we bought for the soaking of the fruit was probably not the best rum to be using for the soaking. No one else complained, but it just seemed too harsh to me.
8. Don't use so much of the rum for the soaking.
9. Room temperature? Seemed super squishy. I think it may be better chilled.
10. Ice cream would be a good addition.


Thursday, December 04, 2014

One more step closer....

I know it feels like the All Eagle-All The Time blog right now but ... It is literally the most important thing going on in our lives. I promise a different post soon. We have other stuff going on.

Geoff got his last 2 Eagle required merit badges tonight. I feel like screaming it from many rooftops.

He started Personal Management at the beginning of the summer, and he started Cooking last spring. Tonight he had all his requirements pulled together and sat down with the MB counselor who covers both of those badges, and talked about things, and went over things and .... got them signed off.

For those keeping score at home... he needs 4 total merit badges, 2 Eagle required and 2 non-Eagle. So he just knocked those 2 Eagles out of the park.

For the 2 non-Eagles, I'm the photography MB counselor, so he had started that 2 years ago with our friend Marie and never finished it before she got too sick to do badges. So. We'll finish it.  When she passed away, I got a whole bunch of stuff from her but no blue cards, so ... Geoff and I will go over the requirements that he already did with her and then finish off the last thing he was supposed to do and never got to do.

For the other non-Eagle, he'll do Safety with our district commissioner Denis, and get all that work pulled together before next meeting.

He wants to finish off Shotgun shooting - and if he does that's great but .... I'm hanging my hat on Safety and Photography for him right now.

Other stuff:

He has been calling funeral homes to make arrangements for the nylon flags to see if they can be burned with Veterans who are cremated. If he can't get them taken care of, we have to just bury them somewhere, and will need to figure out where that where is.

He has to build the drop off box for town hall to replace the weird container they have down there for flag donations, and present it to the Veterans. That will probably happen next weekend, when his Eagle Project Advisor is.

He has to write all of this up.

We'll work on that.

I want all of this buttoned up before Christmas and I believe he can do it. I just feel like my head is going to explode - he isn't very anxious or revved up about things, I guess that is my job.

Denis told me tonight that he did his entire Eagle project but missed out on one Eagle required merit badge, so he never got his Eagle. He's a great boy scout and great boy scout leader. He said "I've known Geoff for so long and I can't imagine getting to this point and having us not get him across the finish line."

I'm so happy there are so many people lining up behind Geoff to help him succeed.

Even an Eagle needs the wind beneath his wings I guess.

So.... stand by. We're getting closer and closer, my friends. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it isn't a freight train coming our way.

Friday, November 28, 2014

So, how did it go?

I realize I owe an update after the last entry about Geoff's project. Photos are up in my flickr account, if you want to go through there and get the overview starting on Veterans Day and then going through the ceremony that he had.

Our boy hosted a flag cutting/destroying clinic to teach people about how to properly prepare flags for retirement by burning. Only a couple of cub scout moms and their boys stuck around for this - it disappointed me greatly that there was a really good turnout at the Veterans Day Observance, but no one stayed to learn about this.

It didn't bother Geoff.

We had about 20 scouts and parents cutting up flags. Geoff demonstrated how to cut out the field of stars, cut the stripes and lay them in the field and then fold it all up together. The scouts and leaders (and one of the scout's Grandmas!) were really interested in his demonstrating. They all listened really carefully, and everyone set to work immediately after he cut the first flag up.

We used twine to seal the flags up so none of the stars would lose their stripes.  We tried to keep  the nylon from the cotton (they got all mixed in again) because the nylon flags can't be burned due to toxic fumes. We recovered nicely though, and at home got things organized.

We were there, in full or in part, until 4:30pm. It was chaos, slightly organized, and I was super impressed with the scouts who did so much work, and the dad who stayed and helped me clean up because honestly... we messed that room up with dust and dirt and detritus and threads and strings and ...

As the week went on, people were calling and offering more flags.

The day of the ceremony, we were still cutting and preparing flags. Geoff and I were sitting in the kitchen, in silence, cutting small cemetery flags and folding them.

All told, there were 130 cotton (or almost cotton, there were some renegade polyester ones mixed in) for the ceremony day itself.

And my study is still full of nylon flags. More on that later.

We got everything and everyone over to the park and Geoff had invited two guys who were once in our troop who are now Marines to come and do an honor guard.

He had a chosen a giant flag to demonstrate the "dismantling" of the flag, as one veteran called it later. It may not have been the right flag to pick because the shears didn't want to cut the seams at certain points and it was kind of a struggle for me to sit there and watch him fight with the scissors, as a left hander and ... well. He handled it well, and the crowd was really patient watching him do his work. He had volunteers helping him out, and he had a method that ended up working out okay.

He had prepared a great speech which was fully "Geoff" in every way, shape and form, with great
depth and understanding about the seriousness of the ceremony. I had told him that people consider this a "funeral" for a fellow soldier, so there would be no joking, no matter what. So he did a tremendous job, with perfect seriousness, and I couldn't have been more proud.

After the flag was cut and folded he had someone read a poem, and then asked everyone to go outside.

The troop had brought some small backyard fire pits to the park, and built fires in each of them. Geoff had overseen that process prior to the ceremony. When I got up to go outside I couldn't believe how many people were there in the room. At the beginning of the ceremony, I thought again only our troop was there. But the room was full of veterans, townspeople, and folks from my church who also came over to support the event. And by the time the crowd all came out, the fires were going great.

He had asked his grandfather, a Vietnam Veteran, to place the first flag on the fire. Geoff and I found this really cool call and answer script online and thought we'd have the Marines day it to one another, but we changed it so the Marines asked Geoff's grandfather the questions.

I heard someone crying softly behind me while I was taking some pictures. I had goosebumps. This was very impressive.

Gary placed the flag on the fire. Geoff had arranged a classmate who plays trumpet to come and play Taps, and he nailed it, so perfectly and beautifully. I was terrified he wasn't going to make it, because the boy that he usually would have asked is in our troop, and he is off at College so he missed all of this. That made me super sad, that Christopher couldn't be here for this. But ... Geoff's classmate worked out great.

As the first flag burned, the Marines saluted, and everyone stood there in silence. You could have heard a pin drop Geoff announced that veterans, Eagle Scouts, Scouts, and anyone in attendance who wanted to would be welcome to place flags on the fire.


The entire time, the Marines stood at salute for the flags being retired, cremated, fellow "soldiers" in this world representing the country they serve.

Participants lined up, and took their flags and laid them on the fire in a slow, silent procession.

My only criticism of the process is that there were too many flags placed too quickly and the fires got brutally hot.

Geoff had a small box of the cemetery flags that we'd prepared that morning and he went over to the cub scouts in attendance and gave them to the kids to place on the fire. The fires were way too hot for the little ones, and I wanted to stop them - they were too enthusiastic though, and really wanted to participate.

One of the women I go to church with has two twin boys who just joined Scouts so they were there. Initially they were scared and a little nervous. I told them they could go get flags and place them in the fire and one of them very politely told me "no thank you, I'm all set." But when Geoff came to them with the box and encouraged them, they smiled and joined in.

Eventually the flags were all burned, and people stood there quietly watching them burn. I gave Geoff a look and a nod, and he announced that people were free to go and thanked them for attending. The marines still stood at salute so I told him he should make some sort of pronouncement to "release" them from their positions.

All kinds of people were thanking him, and congratulating him, and he had a bona fide smile on his face as people got ready to leave. It was truly overwhelming to watch my son shaking hands with strangers and thanking them for their support.


As people left, the troop took care of reducing the fires and getting the ashes into a can so we could transport them home.  He had so much support, and gave great instruction and guidance to the younger scouts. It really was a great day.

Look, this is me and my family.

Tradition states the ashes are to be buried, so Geoff took them out into the woods behind our house and buried them, alone.

Next? The box has to get built. Geoff has to arrange for the nylon flags. He can bury them whole somewhere, and we researched that he can get them to a funeral home and they will retire them with a veteran being cremated.

There is still work to do on merit badges, and I'm riding his ass to get things done.

He'll be the death of me, but I am not going to let him fail this close to the deadline. Honestly. No way. I will push him sighing and hemming and hawing at this point to the finish line.

And here's advice for parents with Scouts - if they hit their Life rank at 16? Start that Eagle project right then. Do not wait until the last minute.

All told, I know we'll get there. But ... it's gonna stress me out. Pray for me. And him.

One last note, here is a picture of Geoff with the Cub Scouts from our church. They live in another town, and their mom has been reluctant to start them in the program. But they go to a private school, and she wanted them to socialize with neighbors, and .... I am happy that she signed them up, and after a few weeks they're enjoying themselves. And then getting to attend this event, and see something they've never done before...

Our friend Steve from Church would have been incredibly proud of this moment. So proud. These boys, the big one and the littles, stand on the shoulders of a great man. And to live up to his standards which he set with love and care... I know Geoff will never forget him for all the support he gave, and I hope the little ones remember him enough to think of him as they live the cub scout life and go ahead to Boy Scouts. I hope.

Monday, November 10, 2014

40% Eagle

I have started several entries in the past few weeks, all of them faltering. I am tired most of the time, and when I’m not tired I’m working. Or commuting. For instance, I’m typing this in notepad on the Commuter Rail in the double decker car on the top floor, the guy across from me looks a lot like Adam Levine and both of us are equally frustrated with the lame wifi we’re connected, maybe, to. 

The guy next to me has given up completely and put his laptop away. 

The guy catty-corner from me has had to re-log into his VPN three times because the internet connection times out.

I do not know why we bother. 

So I look like I’m getting something done, fingers moving quickly over the keyboard. I think I was able to send three email responses in the train station while we were waiting for everyone to get on board. Now, I may as well wait for getting home. 

Thing is, when I  get home, I can’t just collapse into the couch with a glass of Pinot Grigio, the way I want to. 

Tomorrow is the first big day in Geoff’s Eagle Project. 

It will all be fine, it’ll be great. He’s got this. I’m just standing behind him.  Here’s the update: 

Long time readers will remember that he wanted to do a flag retirement ceremony. His project was submitted after I got out of the hospital, and it was rejected because they found it lacking. They made some suggestions on how to make it more robust, more “Eagle” worthy. We spent the summer ignoring it, he went to Summer Camp. And then school started and I realized dude — If you’re going to do this we have to do this now. We resubmitted, they had feedback again, he resubmitted immediately but forgot to include the guy who actually approves the projects on his email. Luckily after 3 weeks of waiting and me borderline Chernobyl, our Scoutmaster realized what was going on and Geoff sent it to the guy again. 

And it was approved. 

So. Here we are. Right on top of it. Right on the very bleeding edge of it. Here we go.

Part 1: Geoff secured permission from the town to do this.  And the fire department. And the park that is hosting the event.

Part 2: Geoff put the word out that he was collecting the flags. Within a few days, we had 100. As of right now, I think we have about 210. He wrote press releases. I made posters. He sent information in to the elementary school to tell families to come to the events. He has a Facebook group, and wrote an announcement for the school PA system. 

Part 3:  Tomorrow is the Veterans Day Ceremony in our town, and after that’s over, we will host anyone who wants to come into the conference room at Town Hall to cut and prepare flags. Did you know you were supposed to cut and prepare flags, you don’t just throw them on a fire? Yeah.  Hopefully we will get all the flags cut and folded right proper. 

Part 4: Sunday we will host the actual ceremony. Cotton flags will be burned. Nylon cannot. I am still searching to see if poly/cotton blends can be burned or if that violates the Leave No Trace policy of the BSA. We’ll see. We have to see. 

Part 5: Before Part 4, we have to write the ceremony and submit it to the VFW and American Legion. They want to see it first. We were supposed to do that this weekend. I really would like to have it complete for tomorrow when he sees them. He wrote is speech. He knows he wants his friend Taylor who is a Marine, and his grandfather who is an Air Force veteran, to place the first flags on the fire

So consider that part 3a. Or 2a. Or something. Really. 

Part 6. After this Sunday’s festivities, he has to build a new box for the town hall entry way. There is a container there now but it is really beat and really ugly. So he’s got to measure the area, get the materials. Build the box. Present the box to the VFW and the American Legion. And then establish an annual event where this will happen “in perpetuity” and as a “legacy” going forward between our Troop and the Veterans of the town.

Part 7. He also is replacing 25 flags (maybe 30 if we are feeling generous) and he has to organize and deploy a fundraiser, and send out fundraising request letters to people to get money for the flags, the box, and the possible cost of recycling the nylon flags. Which is all going to be stupid expensive in the end.  There are companies that recycle the flags, but they don’t give Boy Scouts a discount for their projects. Thanks. That’s awesome. 

Does that sound Eagle Worthy enough to you? It does to me. 

He also has to finish 2 Eagle Required Merit Badges, and 2 non-Eagle.  And then turn all of his paper work into the Council office. All be for January 7th, 2015. 

We got this? Do we? Jeesh I hope so. 

He has a learning disability, but my friend Deb went through his IEP and through the BSA Documentation on getting an extension if you have a disability, and he doesn’t have the right disabilities so he won’t qualify. so any concept of an extension is out the window. 

Here we go. I’ll be sure to update you 3 readers with news on how it goes.

And, if anyone felt like making a donation to his project you can comment, I’ll let you know where to send it. I think he needs to fundraise at least 500 bucks. 

Adam Levine guy is fast asleep. My time card that I opened in Chelsea still hasn’t loaded. I really want to call Nick’s Roast Beef in North Beverly and see if they can have a bag ready with a junior beef 3 ways and some chicken fingers for me that I can lean out the door and throw 20 bucks at them. Man, I really want some Nick’s. 

Half hour to home. And home-work. And instead of tech support it's Geoff support. And yeah, maybe a glass of Pinot Grigio. We’ll see.



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

357 miles

Our new used car has a broken gas gauge. We agreed that at 300 miles, we always fill up. Always. Tonight on the way home, we discovered that the car goes about 357 miles on a tank of gas.

I can only laugh. Doug and I got to talking about other times this has happened as he brought back a loaner can from the Gulf station around the corner that we tried to roll to, but decided to use gravity and downhill slopes to get us into a safe parking lot.

I had a car in college with a broken gas gauge and meticulously measured out the miles, unless someone borrowed my car to drive it for 10 miles round trip to Nick's Roast beef and then I thought I had enough gas to get to work in Gloucester and I'd run out...

Then there were times that we weren't the ones running out of gas. Were driving to my parents one day, in the heat of summer,  and we came across some guys on the side of the road stopped so Doug decided we should stop and help them. They were not all that with it, headed southbound when they wanted to be headed to Maine. They weren't thrilled when they found out they were on their way to NYC and not the northern kingdom.  They were out of gas, so we offered to help.

We drove them down the highway in Connecticut to the next exit. We went to the gas station and the man at the station would not let us borrow a gas can. We assured him we'd return it, and drive these guys back down to fill all the way up.

The man was insistent, so Doug decided "screw you" and bought a glass container of orange juice. Mind you, you can't put gas into a plastic container, it melts the plastic... so an approved gas can or a glass or metal container is what you need.

The glass container was a gallon. And he popped the top off of it and started to drink it. I took a sip, and the not too with it dudes were all "oh man, you're not gonna drink all that are you?!" Doug said "Hell yeah." The guy suggested we pour it out, and Doug said "no way! I paid for this! I'm drinking it!" So he did. We filled the container, got back in the northbound lane and headed back so we could get to their car. The gallon of gas was just the ticket, and they got it started happily. Doug handed them some money, and we got on our way. We saw them again at the gas station, where we stopped so Doug could pee out the gallon of orange juice and they could fuel up. Laughing.

There are a lot of stories like this for Doug and Chris. I'm glad we can laugh at them.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Take On Meeeeeeeeeeeee

So, in the "stupid things about me" file, I thought that I should let you know that there is nothing that makes me happy more than the fact that I can hit every note in the refrain of "Take On Me" by a-ha.

And I know all the words.

So when I'm driving home and feeling bad for myself and this synth nonsense starts I crank it up to top volume and dance in my seat and sing it loud.

And I feel much, much better.

What is your go-to or out of the blue happy clears everything up (for a minute) song? Tell me. or... Take on me... take me on...


Monday, September 08, 2014

and I'm back!

Thanks for worrying about me and being concerned, and thanks for praying... those of you who pray.

They were unable to remove the IVC Filter. It is dug into the vein and is holding clots. This little metal shield is holding clots back from getting into my lungs. It will stay there.

I am unhappy on one hand and okay with it on the other hand. I don't want to get into the whys on either side. I'm just kind of not happy overall with the entire thing.

The doctor said that it is probably good this was there because it prevented clots from getting to my lungs but I told her I don't think so, I think my body attacked it and put clots around it, the way my body responds when I get hurt and it just throws clots all over the damn place like that will help. She said that she didn't think that was the case, that these were caught clots.

I want them to vacuum them out and take them away. I don't know if that's something they do. I'm exhausted from thinking about it.

so there's that. I'm home and everything is okay and I made a gorgeous New England baked haddock with Ritz crackers for dinner, because that's what I like. Comfort food is good you guys.

And I'm off to bed. tired and headachy and ...

love you. good night.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

A realistic approach to tomorrow

Tomorrow morning, I am having that IVC Filter removed from my vena cava. Remember that thing? The little device left over from the February surgery adventure? I could leave it in for the rest of my life but a pre-60 yr old person should not have this inside forever if blood clot medication is doing the right thing. My neighbor has one, and he's had multiple problems with it. He's in his 50s, and you'd think he was 80. He hates it. I think I would too. So it's gotta go. Thanks for maybe doing what you were supposed to do and keeping clots from going into my lungs, IVC! Your efforts are appreciated.

It is day surgery, I should be in and out of the building from what I understand.

During the month of August,  I witnessed from afar the sudden and unexpected deaths of several friends. Not Joan Rivers and Robin Williams. My friend Ed from high school lost his husband Brad after his second bout with leukemia, leaving him behind with 2 small children to raise and a severely broken heart.

And then a friend from college died after having an epileptic seizure while swimming. He just celebrated his 50th birthday the week before. In college, he was one of my closest friends... the best friend and cousin of my then boyfriend. For a couple of years, we were puppies in a pile together, and I remember those years and that guy with such love and deep reverence. He was a genius, so funny and so amazing. I'm still heartbroken about the loss.

Then another friend from high school died unexpectedly while in hospital in North Carolina. She hadn't been feeling well for months, was having breathing problems. She finally was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia literally days before her death. She described it as a highly treatable form of cancer with great remission rates. A couple of days later she posted on Facebook that she  was in the ICU with breathing issues and low oxygen counts. And then she was gone. Just like that.

You all know me, I'm not maudlin or fretful or obsessed with things. I'm walking into this day surgery with no fear. This is routine. This was all about timing and making sure my medication for the blood clots and the clots themselves were doing everything right.

That said.

I love you all. Just in case I don't get to say it again after tomorrow morning. I know. I know it is weird. And a little bit creepy, you know?

But routine sometimes does not mean routine. And expected sometimes doesn't go as. In my heart of hearts I know that and I just want to, if necessary, go out on a good footing with a smile on my face.

Talk to you later. And don't worry. I won't be a weirdo and never ever post here again leaving you wondering "what the heck?" I'm not that mean. Well sometimes a little. But usually that's all in good fun and not douchebaggery rudeness.




Thursday, September 04, 2014

In the Pacific Northwest

We had a vacation.

It has been a while since we've had a real bona fide vacation. I could go back through the blog here, and find trips and stuff. Doug and I got away in 2013 for a few days, but not really a vacation. Perhaps going to the Outer Banks with Aaron in like 2005 was the last vacation.

We have broken the streak.  This was a vacation.

Our good buddy Aaron was to be wed to the lovely Serena out in Oregon. He asked me to be his "best man" and I said yes without thinking. Without batting an eye. I was honored. It was lovely to be asked. So we had to be there.

Months of planning and saving later, and questioning whether we could afford it or not after me getting sick in January... we committed to it and pulled the trigger. We ended up headed west very early on a very rainy morning.

We flew out to Portland, Oregon on a Wednesday morning, getting there on... Wednesday morning. The clusterfuck of TSA at Logan made for us missing our first flight, but United was gracious and rescheduled us onto the next one an hour later and we still made our connection in Chicago. 

Aaron met us at the airport.

We hadn't seen Aaron in about 8-10 years or something. I honestly have lost track.

Here are Geoff and Aaron on one great summer day back in the MDI shenanigans days, 2003 I think.
I love this photograph.

I love how small Geoff is and his missing teeth. I love how he loved Aaron so much, like the best uncle a kid could have. Nothing but fun.

When he moved away, I think Geoff lost his best outside-the-family role model ever.

He went to the west coast after he and Michelle split up. He had a kid, split up with his daughter's mom, met another girl, got his dream job, and settled into what appears to be a most excellent life. And being asked to be his best man and join his "tribe" as it were was a gift I was happy to receive.

After we were dropped off in our housing for the night Geoff had a big smile on his face and he said "I forgot how funny Aaron is, holy crap that guy is hilarious."

That's the reason we brought Geoff.  Because yeah. Aaron is hysterical. And I didn't want him to miss this.

Geoff is a lot different than he was when he was 6. On this trip he was insular, quiet, distant, except when he was with Aaron. He had the biggest smile on his face when they spent time together. And I am kicking myself for not taking a photo of the two of them together now that Geoff is the same height.

I know Geoff adores him. And while we tortured Geoff by making him spend time with complete strangers, I felt like this picture was happening inside him all the time when the two of them were together and no one else was around.

I wish Geoff connected with other people like this.

Worth every penny to bring him.

Wednesday night we settled into sleep and were wide awake by 6 am. Traveling west is awesome. My 6am west coast brain was firing like 9am east coast brain. Wide awake, happy, awesome, joking. It was great. We ran errands, got stuff done, helped with wedding decorating on Thursday and Friday. We went on a cool trolley ride historic tour of Astoria Oregon with a bunch of the wedding guests. Fun stuff! It was a beautiful night, gorgeous sunset, awesome views. We were semi obsessed with all of the cargo ships that queue up to go up river to Portland or Longview.



After the trolley ride we had dinner at the Rogue Brewery restaurant. The food was kind of sub-par, and after sampling several items off the menu I was under impressed  with their offerings and stuck with the standard Dead Guy brew. That's a good go-to, and the evening overall was lovely.

Getting to know Serena's "girls" was awesome, and spending time with Aaron's aunt Carol who took the train across country with many many misadventures along the way was also great.

 ... we had a great night out.

We took Aaron out for a few drinks after the party split up. Not a bachelor party, just his brother, his future brother in law, another friend, Doug and me. There was a bachelorette party in the other corner and they were kind of out of control. Aaron sat there and laughed and said that he was way too old for that shit. We all agreed.

We called it an early night.

Friday we were up early and decorating the hall. The reception was in an old school gymnasium that was rehabbed beautifully, white walls and a gorgeous hardwood basketball court floor, with a full stage and a balcony. A fantastic space. We set up tables and folded a million paper flowers (not a million but ... you know).

Geoff and Aaron's mom put tiny roses in little cups and filled them with water. I had some quality time with Aaron's dad washing vases so they were clean and crisp and beautiful. It was wonderful to spend time with Marty and Connie.

It was great to see Geoff interacting and helping.

Friday afternoon, Doug and Geoff went sightseeing while the wedding party held rehearsal -- I instantly loved Aaron's pastor. He was a super great guy with a loving demeanor. Really young but not a fake hipster evangelical. Just the nicest guy.  Genuine. Amazing. Refreshing.

Everyone went back to Aaron's for a barbecue and bonfire. About 50 people were fed and had great joy. It was a good time.

Saturday morning, up early, and I had to go to the church for portraits, while Geoff and Doug got to hang around and not get ready as early as me.

They did get the honor of bringing a plum tree to the church, which Aaron and Serena's moms added dirt to from each of their childhood homes. Instead of a unity candle they had a unity tree. Very typically Aaron.

The service was lovely. Much longer than I thought it would be. I felt like I was an awesome best man.  Serena's girls made me a bouquet even though I was with The Guys. So incredibly sweet of them. So I got all the cool guy swag like the Reef sunglasses, and girl gifts too.

Aaron's nephew was the ring bearer, and he was nervous. He asked me to keep my hand on his shoulder the whole time, until it was time for him to go present the rings.  I felt kind of like a creeper standing there with my hand on his shoulder, and would gently lift it away. He'd realize it was gone and turn around and glare at me ... pointing at the shoulder.

The video will be entertaining.

One of the groomsmen was a "Mormon as a kid" as he explained to me the day before the service. He confessed that wasn't sure how he was going to "handle communion," as he put it. He didn't want to receive it, because he wasn't religious in a church way, his words... I told him that he could go up and get a blessing from the pastor or stay in his seat... those usually are the options. I encouraged him to hey, just go up. Get blessed. It can't hurt.

At communion time he went up to receive the blessing.  He came back to the pew with his eyes full of tears and a huge smile on his face.   I wanted to hug him. I have no idea what the pastor said to him, but it must have been ... just right.

It was all very lovely. Everything was just right.


After the wedding -- everyone was instructed to burn some time before the reception at 5:30.

 Doug and Geoff took me up to the Astoria Column.  The view was outstanding.

It was a gorgeous, crystal clear day. Up until that day it had been rather overcast and very "Pacific North West" with fog and low clouds everywhere. On one side of the river it could be sunny, the other side socked in by fog and clouds.

Every day it was a different view. Every day it looked totally different. This day, everything was clear, and hot, and sunny.

The reception was great. A bluegrass band, square (line) dancing. Very hot, very fun.

Serena's sister and I both gave toasts to the couple. Hers went on for quite a while so I knew I had to do things in classic best man style and make it short, sweet and count. I told everyone in the room that being invited to this wedding was a wonderful thing, and that perhaps aside from Aaron's family, I was pretty much the only one who knew Aaron longest. I changed my daughter's diapers on the floor in his office when he was in college, and now she is 22 years old.

So coming out to West Coast Aaron, to this new life, was a little intimidating. It was great getting to know Serena over this week,  but I told them, my toast wasn't just about  the happy couple and wishing them well. It was thankfulness for all the great people my family and I met. Aaron has chosen well. We were his tribe for a long time, and now this... this is his tribe and it is an honor to be in it.

A lot of Serena's family is Norwegian stock, so I raised my glass and said "it doesn't matter the language of your people. Skol, Proust, Cheers, as my people say... Slainte, L'Chaim, Good on ya... whatever you say, raise your glass and toast these fine folk and yourself. Thank you for your hospitality and long may you all run."

People actually clapped and cheered. And I loved the look on Aaron's face. Bending that arm, and seeing all the glasses in the air and the cheers, and everyone toasting... well hell.

Best Best Man Speech Ever. 

We all had a blast. The food was incredible. And we went back to Aaron and Serena's for fireworks on the beach and another great bonfire.

My brother, best friend. Happiness.

Sunday we checked out of our Air Bnb house (which was very nice, even though it had no internet access so I could work a few hours a day).

We spent the day sight seeing around Cape Disappointment and the Lewis & Clark sites like Fort Clatsop and Fort Stevens. Again, bright and sunny and beautiful in the afternoon, and a gorgeous place to visit.

Cape Disappointment did not disappoint. That's fun to say.


We had wanted to hit the road and go north that afternoon, but before we left my blood counts for the blood thinner were way out of whack so they wanted me to get my blood tested at a lab or hospital. I had to go in on Monday morning and get tested, so after I did, we hit the road.

Aaron had offered us the use of his truck but we were worried about taking it up the mountains and the price of gas. We opted to rent a car. The local car rental was all sold out but suggested a car dealership the next town over, so we hit them up and rented a Prius V.

Like Cape Disappointment, it did not disappoint either! I was incredibly impressed with the power and the gas mileage. I think we put $50 in gas in it after driving the entire Olympic Peninsula, whereas I think we would have had to put that much in Aaron's truck each of the 3 days were were trekking. Huge shout out of thanks to the fine folk at Lum Toyota. If I lived out there, I'd buy a Prius V from them.

We drove up to Forks, Washington, with a lunch stop in South Bend at a roadside fish & chips joint. The food was great, and the view outstanding.

On the way up to Forks, we pulled over on the side of Rte 101 where there was a sign for "Beach 2" and Doug had read that Beach 2 was a great place to visit.


There was a short hike down to the Pacific, and a rugged beach of rocks and driftwood for miles, and us. No one else.  Turns out, this wasn't the Beach 2 that he'd read about (they name everything with numbers, like there is this utter lack of creativity out there in that nothing has a name, everything is just ... numbered... which is weird).

But it was a gorgeous beach that we had to ourselves, with sun trying to burn through the clouds. We could feel it trying to burn off the haze, the warmth, and then the damp and cold Pacific mist would win. A sweet and lovely find for us.


I don't have a lot of pictures of me and Doug. Geoff took this one, and I'm happy for it.

Forks was socked in with clouds when we got there, but we drove down to La Push in search of dinner and the sun was out, the ocean and the sea stacks were gorgeous, and we spent a great deal of time hanging out watching the sunset before eating dinner at the one place in town that was open (or even existed).

For those in the know, Forks and the surrounding area is where they filmed "Twilight"... that there vampire and werewolf and chick movie thing.

Having absolutely no interest in "Twilight Tourism," I did however find it amusing that the town was trying to make an industry out of that fact.

There were at least two out of business shops though focusing on Twilight merchandise. You could go on Twilight Tours, see where Bella did her grocery shopping and stuff like that. We passed on all of it. The area is beautiful, but slightly sad and depressing. Mostly because there isn't a lot of industry aside from lumber (not that there is anything wrong with that) around, and the attempts and drumming up said tourism industry looked like an abject failure.
I think this is Bella's Truck or something. Twilight fans would know.


We slept very well that night. We got, I believe, the last available hotel room in town and were happy for it.

In the morning, we went to Hoh Rainforest, back down the highway to the south a little ways.

We took a long hike, nothing too vertical as my knees hurt like hell lately. We got to wall through the Hall of Mosses, which was cool. It was very hot and very sunny, as we were visiting in the driest time of the year. I'm kind of glad it was hot and dry instead of wet and muddy.

The river running through the area was a gorgeous grey color, filled with wash and silt from the snow and glaciers up above in the Olympics.

Watching people drink the water in their cupped hands made me exceptionally thankful to have BSA training to know not to do that.

After Hoh, we went up to Port Angeles, scored a decent room at a slightly too high price but compared to the place I wanted to stay (with the view) it was a bargain.

We got all checked in and unloaded, and took the drive up to Hurricane Ridge.

What an incredible place.




I was blown away by the ride and the views. This flatlander, this east coast maiden, well... she was enthralled. Just an absolutely beautiful place. At the top of the ridge we took a small hike, enjoyed more views and had a black-tailed deer walk along side of us while she was eating like no big deal. While looking at a glacier and snow and clouds and sun and the ocean and Canada.

In the morning, we got up early to head back down to Lum Toyota to turn our rental in as it had to be back for 4pm, and our flight as scheduled was at 10:45pm.

Aaron and Serena met up with us and rode us to the airport, with dinner at Gustav's beforehand. Nothing like a German restaurant with accordions and lederhosen and singing to send you off from the north west!

As mentioned, we had been gifted some stand-by tickets and I was happy to have them but it was complicated getting out of Portland as opposed to getting out of Boston.

We signed up for the red eye on Wednesday night, ended up not getting on a plane until the following morning around 11am. My son didn't deal well with it, even though we prepared him (I thought) for understanding how flying stand-by works. Doug and I had no problem with it. It was slightly disappointing to get bumped but we were thankful that 3 of us were flying for a little more than what it would have cost for 1 of us to fly so we didn't stress it.

We got to look at the famous PDX Airport Carpeting, a lot.

We spent the night in the airport because we'd thought we'd be able to get a seat on the first flight east but that didn't work out.

He grew increasingly more frustrated and I was incredibly relieved when we finally got our plane to Newark.  As was he.

The night before, a flight from the East Coast had been horribly delayed because of weather so the crew couldn't turn around and get back on the plane and fly for 12 hours. There was no other crew to take the Red Eye back across the country because of that.

And some of my thoughts about culture and experience on this trip will wait for another entry.  I've been working on this one long enough.

Oh, and here is one last picture.

Doug and I clean up nice. 

One last thought though... on our wedding anniversary, Aaron sent me a text wishing us a happy 23rd anniversary, and that he couldn't wait until he celebrated his 23rd. Probably the nicest text ever.