Monday, December 29, 2008

Helena & Hermia

I hope everyone's holiday was lovely. Ours was good, more on that later. I had a virus, as did my PC. I currently have my original PC pulled aside to take to someone to give it a jolly good workover. Amy's old PC is here, running and taking care of our Internet and Blogging Needs. Hurrah. The one thing we're lacking is a better video card in her PC to run "Spore" and keep Doug and Geoff happy. But they'll live. As long as I can use Facebook and write in the journal, I'm content. I'll address the video card thing later, once the original PC is healed, and I get a network going to get the second PC online.

Whew.

All told, from the date of the last entry to now it's been busy and chaotic here. The usual stuff that I'm sure all of you have dealt with as well in your own lives. I was sick with a horrible cold and absolutely no gumption (funny how colds just wipe the gumption out of your system) and I had to wait until I got a couple of checks from my parents and Doug's parents so we had money to even go buy presents. Those, of course, came on the Saturday before Christmas.

I didn't even get out to go Christmas shopping until Monday the 22nd. That was actually okay. I went to Best Buy and Target... and the crowds were huge, but manageable.

GHWT 1I got an assortment of gifts for the kidlins. I spent more time standing on line than I did looking for what I wanted.

Geoff got Guitar Hero World Tour, which he's been wanting since the day it was released. We got the version with the drum set and the microphone. So we can have four players at once. Drums, bass, guitar and vocals. It's pretty fun... there are a few songs that just flat out suck. I have no idea why "Shiver" by Coldplay is on there and "Clocks" isn't. Who the hell wants to sing "Shiver" anyway? I hate it.

We didn't see Geoff for a couple of days.

Jess didn't want anything, as she's been reading a lot of Emerson and Tolstoy and is very anti-materialistic and down on the whole hype of consumerist culture. I got her iTunes gift cards, her one indulgence is her music, so she was thrilled to have that but played it down low-key.

And I got Spore for Geoff, but more for Doug because I knew he would want it.

I felt that our gift giving was spotty and weak, mostly due to money and just not having any sort of inspiration. Geoff wants a new camera, but I don't want to spend money on something decent and nice for him (especially after what he pulled this morning on me with MY camera. I'm rather pissed at him and don't want to give him anything worth more than two dollars right now). There was one thing I felt would make Christmas extra super special.

On the way home from work on Christmas Eve, I stopped at the pet store. I felt it was time for a new guinea pig.

After Gordon's passing, we knew that Geoff would be doing a Pet Care badge for Boy Scouts and needed to maintain a log for 4 months on his pet care duties. There's a Dog Care badge, and we noticed that his duties for Dog Care couldn't be duplicated for the Pet Care badge. So, I figured it was time. I'd been looking for a few weeks, and everywhere I went the pigs were male, and huge. I kind of wanted something tiny and young, and female... So as a last ditch effort, I went to one last pet store and walked in to find a display of 18 female guinea pigs, all babies. Wow. My lucky day.

The girl said she had two others out back, that they were much smaller than these ones and a couple weeks younger, around 8 weeks old. She kept them apart because she felt they were too small to compete for the food. She brought them out to me and I ended up buying both of them, because I felt badly about breaking them up. One is black and white (Yes. I know. I have a lot of monochromatic pets). And the other is tortoise with a funny little cowlick on top of her head. I called Jess and asked her to set up the guinea pig cage, clean it up and put it in the brown room, and have it ready for the new arrivals.

She obliged, and I brought them home and snuck them into the house. Quite by accident, Geoff discovered me in my quiet sneaky state. I'd wanted him to come down on Christmas morning and meet them, and be surprised... but he saw what I was doing and turned on his heel to march away quickly with "I see nothing! I SEE NOTHING!" kind of spirit. I called him back and showed him and wished him a merry Christmas.

He helped set the cage up, and put the very terrified and squeeley pigs into the cage. He decided to name them Helena and Hermia, from "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Doug wanted him to name them Twigs and Berries, or Cheddar and Monterrey, but Geoff was having none of that.

guineapigs 4 guineapigs 5

Helena is the black and white one... the one who would perceive herself as plain and un-special, but she really is beautiful. Hermia is the tortoise one with the fancy hairdoo. She is fancy and special and all the guys like her... I love how he applied what the characters in the play are like to the actual guinea pigs, and their looks.

They're quite happy little pigs. Helena is quiet and sweet. Geoff takes her out the most. Hermia is fast and noisy. When we try and take her out of the cage she screams like we're going to kill her. And then snuggles right in for a good cuddle.

Geoff is tracking his care, and doing the feeding and cleaning. I think this is my favorite gift this year. They're really cute and sweet... and much better than a DS game or Guitar Hero. Really.


In the meantime, the office was very quiet this week.

A lot of people on vacation, and a lot of peace and productivity. I'm scheduled out to the end of January, and feel relaxed and organized. That's a nice way to start the new year. Or end the current one, I guess.

My girl C was laid off, which broke my heart. I will miss her walking into my office every day and saying "What up, bitches!" and flopping down into the chair by TJ's desk. I inherited on part of her job, and it's kept me busy, getting the feel of how she did things and figuring out all the ins and outs of her process. The first week I had to do it, it took me 15 hours to get the job done. This week I had it done in 4 hours... and was happy at how it made the afternoon fly.


I took today off, and this afternoon am taking a group of Rebel Shakespeare kids to perform at the Beverly First Night celebrations. We have about 7 kids who are on the docket for the afternoon and I'm wondering if others will just show up if they feel like it. They can be fickle.

The plan is to perform in the street for an hour, and then we have an indoor performance space for 45 minutes where the kids can do scenes, monologues, sonnets. I may even do "Blow, blow thou winter wind" myself. Who knows. It's amazing what you can remember from high school choir. Sing high-ho the holly.

It's a good thing we have indoor space... initially we were supposed to be 100% outdoors, but the coordinator wanted to give us space to perform so she worked it out. If it goes well, hopefully this can be an annual thing. It's a heck of a kick-off to the 20th anniversary year for Rebel though.

We're looking at about 8 inches of snow today. So that kind of sucks for the performing out-of-doors portion of the program. Hopefully the kids will be able to make good of it and have high spirits. At least not give up and blow it off, not showing up because of the weather would suck.

Right then. On that note. I am off for more coffee and perhaps a bagel. If you're in the area, come to First Night Beverly. Don't be shy or scared of the snow. And if we don't see you ... Happy New Year. Hopefully it'll be a good one. I'll give you a little link here to Barenaked Ladies singing "Auld Lang Syne..." it's a windows media file, so hopefully you can play it. I don't have it as an MP3. If you can hear it, great... if not. Oh well, I tried.

Be well, and we'll chat next year. Okay?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oh little town... About Philips Brooks and his little hymn.

Earlier this week at church we had a carol sing. Just a casual night of singing the greatest hits of Christmas. People who know me well know that the one song that "gets to me" is "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem."

I looked at the hymnal as we got ready to sing this song and saw the author's name for the very first time. Phillips Brooks.

Phillips Brooks? Really now.

I was suddenly struck with recognition of the name. I pass a statue of him every time I drive through North Andover, Massachusetts and the green there. Phillips Brooks.

I tied the name on the statue in my head to the man, and figured there couldn't be any OTHER Phillips Brooks running around out there who might have something to do with North Andover, Massachusetts or Hymns of the Christian Church. There had to be some interesting history, something to think about there.

I did a little digging into who the man was behind the hymn. Wikipedia is the most fun source. Finding out that his grandfather founded Phillips Academy (and he was named after the man) and that Endicott Peabody (two names that are entrenched in the history of northeatern Massachusetts) named Brooks School for him, which is a couple miles away from my house were interesting facts.

I had no idea that he was the bishop of the Episcopal Church of Massachusetts. I had no idea that he was a heavyweight in philosophical and religious identity here in Massachusetts, opposing slavery and strongly siding with Lincoln in the abolitionist movements in American History. When he died, thousands of mourners poured out to grieve him and celebrate his life. And to me, he was just a name on a statue that I drove past.

And I didn't realize his connection to something very close to my heart. This man wrote the one song that brings me to deep and profound ponderances and tears during Christmas.

"The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight."

That one line always makes me cry. The concepts of what was crouching towards Bethlehem that Christmas night. The journey that Joseph made with his not-yet wife but knocked-up fiance Mary. The fears. The confusion. The uncertainty. The "you've got to be kidding me" kinds of concepts surrounding the birth of a once and future king.

And Phillips Brooks sums it all up for us all in one little hymn. The darkest and saddest of the Christmas songs. Not the trumpeting angels of "Joy to the World" and "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing." The anticipation and confusion of the holiday and impending birth of the savior are summed up so amazingly in this one little song.

Wow. What a sudden epiphany for me this late in life, to suddenly connect a statue of a man that I drive past on a green to the song that speaks most strongly to me during the Advent Season.

It brings me to tears. It rocks my world. That one little hymn, carol, Christmas song, means so much to me that I cannot explain why. And I am so glad to finally and quite accidentally learn about its author.

At this late point in the Advent Season... on this cold and snow, dark and quiet night, I ponder deeply the meaning of what is happening at this time of year. Preparing my own heart for the welcoming of the Christ Child, I ask you to look at your life, and consider what the hopes and fears of all the years are right now for you.

Are you afraid for you job?

Afraid of money problems? Losing your home?

Are you sad, do you feel deeply lonely and lost?

Yes. We all do. We really do. But there was, and I do believe this deeply, there was a young lady who had a baby and instead of having him in a hospital she had him in a stable. And on that dark and quiet night, that sad and lonely moment, the world changed.

Lives changed.

Your life changed.

And the hopes and fears of all the years were focused upon that one little city, that one little shed. And we all prepare for that moment this time of year.

Forget everything else. Just think about that hymn. This hymn. That song, this moment.

Happy Advent. May your heart begin to be filled. Make your heart meek. Receive.

Happy Advent indeed.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortlas sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth.

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heav'n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem! descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Immanuel.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I have the plague, and my PC does too

It's been a while since I've had a good bone rattlin' "-itis." This year I've maintained a good track record of being cold and flu and illness free. Aside from some minor allergies in the spring, I think a headache or two is all I've had to fell me.

So of course, the weekend before Christmas I come down with a massive cold that whips me like a rented mule and leaves me for dead by the side of the road.

It started on Tuesday afternoon, I felt it coming, grinding my throat and making it sore. Hot water and honey made it feel a little better but the water could just never be hot enough, no matter how hot I made it, and I started to fade fast.

On Thursday, I called out sick and after taking Geoff to school came home, fired up the DVR and watched "Red Eye" (which is actually quite funny) and slept the entire day. At about 4pm I realized that Geoff had a date with the boy scouts to go do laser tag, and I'd agreed to chaperone.

Oh yeah, that's great. I feel like someone should be putting me onto a cart and wheeling me out of town while hollering "Bring out your dead!" and I'm going to go herd cats at a laser tag facility.

Um, Doug? Can you meet me there and take over for me? Kthxbi.

Doug reluctantly did come and take my place, and I was grateful... I knew I couldn't bear to be there for too long.

As part of the trade off, I agreed to make a trip to the grocery store. Which, as you know turned into me having to fight the mongrel hoards pillaging for all the milk, bread and eggs they possibly could due to the encroaching category four killstorm that was expected to arrive on Friday. The grocery store was packed, I was in a cold sweat, but I made it out alive and was curled up on the couch with a box of tissues before the boys were home from laser tag.

At work yesterday we had our holiday party and they released us at 1pm because of the aforementioned category four killstorm. I ended up working until 2:30, wrapping something up that came in last minute, that I really could have used another hour or two with, and drove home in a daze.

Unlike the massive category four killstorm we had last year at about this time, neither Doug nor I got stuck in traffic, and it didn't take seven hours to get home. I was home in a little more than an hour, and curled up on the couch by the fire comfortably before I knew it. I went up to lay down at 6pm, and slept until 9:30 this morning.

I still don't feel right or good or better. It's all in my nose and throat and head, which is the worst place for it to be, until I cough and I sound like someone who would be rejected at Ellis Island if I were trying to enter the country as an immigrant. Hopefully this will wrap up quickly.

I've written here before that I am forever grateful to the dirtbags of the world who figured out how to melt down over the counter medicines and extract their properties to make speed, so now whenever I buy some cold medicine it is as effective and helpful as a kick in the teeth. Thanks, meth heads! you've made my life better! Jerks.

I have a lot to do. And by a lot I mean everything.

I stopped and bought a Christmas tree on the way home yesterday. Yes, yesterday. At one place I stopped I knew the woman running the place. She works for the company my office used to be located next door to. She had these horrible Charlie Brown christmas trees and wanted $25 for them. None of them were taller than four feet, and they were threadbare and sad. I felt bad walking away, but there was no way I was going to pay that for ... that.

Near our house there is a greenhouse, and I scored a very pretty little tree for $40, twenty bucks off the asking price. Doug said I paid too much, but after seeing the $25 Charlie Brown trees I think I got my money's worth. And I wanted to tell him to shove it because hell, I stopped and bought the damn thing. You're welcome.

To be honest I wouldn't do anything at all if Geoff weren't so gung ho into it.

I honestly couldn't be arsed to put up a tree this year. But the boy just wants that whole happy shiny tree thing. It's really hard to be in the spirit these days except for him... Sometimes that's a blessing, other times a burden.


I sat down here this morning and discovered that there is some sort of something happening virus-wise on the PC. Whenever I'm surfing the web all sorts of web browser windows will just start opening up randomly, with Edmunds.com and Maxim.com and Playboy.com and all sorts of other websites on them... but the URL in the toolbar doesn't match the page it is bringing up. I guess my virus protection wasn't doing what it was supposed to be doing. Has anyone else had any experience with this?

I've scanned and rescanned and downloaded some extra scanning stuff, and it is still happening so it is bothering me greatly. For five hours today I've been running scans and it is still happening. And I just want to pitch the damn PC out the window into the snow.


Speaking of the snow, I have no idea how much we got, whether it is six inches or a foot. It's hard to tell. The fence top looks like two inches but I guess that's because the wind blew the snow off, and the yard looks plenty deep because Brodie is sure having a fun time running through the snow as it comes up to her middle. Doug went out and did the snow removal, I suppose I could ask him, but he's got a headache and is napping...

I think it is his turn with the -itis.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Satellite Ice

There is a state of emergency in Massachusetts this morning. And a state of emergency in our house. Overnight we had an ice storm. And our Satellite Dish is out of alignment so we're without DirecTv and our roof is covered with ice so Doug can't get up there to fix it. Oh noes!

It was raining yesterday afternoon and evening, but overnight the cold just froze everything up. A lot of people have no power, the kids have no school, and before you know it it'll be 50 degrees and it will be like this never happened. Except for the downed trees and powerlines that are still snaking along the ground.

I'm going into work late so Jess can sleep for a little while this morning. We didn't anticipate that it would be a day of school cancellation. Jess was supposed to have callbacks for the spring musical ("Bye, Bye, Birdie") so she's relieved that she doesn't have to go do that. I'm more than caught up with work right now, and plan on going in tomorrow to make up time from taking Wednesday afternoon off, so an extra hour tomorrow won't be a big deal.

All I have to say is thank God for the woodstove, coffee and beautiful Christmas Carols from "Sixpence None The Richer" this morning. It makes me feel nice inside.


On Wednesday we had a little windstorm blow through. Our satellite dish went out of alignment. In our last house, we never had this problem. Here, it happens once every couple of months. Doug's got the recovery method down to a science, which is good, but not when there is ice to deal with.

Fortunately, we've got a little TV up here by the computer that gets very basic cable (local channels and Comcast 8 and NECN). When I signed up for Comcast for the internet when we moved in here, it was 10 dollars LESS a month if we hooked up a TV. Which I thought was stupid but ... it's a good thing we have it so we can follow the news.

Living without the DirecTv is a drag though. How am I going to know how "Charm School" is going! I couldn't watch last night's football game. I'm not sure when Doug is going to be able to safely scale the roof. I'd rather have an uninjured husband than TV though, so I'm willing to wait.

It's kind of nice to have no TV though. The evenings at home have been relaxing, and aside from everyone trying to get a turn on the PC there have been no conflicts. I kind of like it. But I'm looking forward to Doug fixing this by Sunday so we can watch the football games and whatnot.


Tonight we have a Christmas carol sing-along at church. If you are anywhere near Newburyport, MA come to Old South Church at 7pm and join in. Come and go, be late or on time... there is no mandatory be there by time. It should be really nice. And if you're not familiar with the church, it is one of the oldest in Massachusetts, and Christmas in the sanctuary sure is pretty.

Last night (thank you no TV, which made it so that we had no distractions or excuses to be lazy) Geoff and I made cookies to bring to the event tonight (Jessica actually helped, which was nice). Geoff wanted to make some really cool cookies from a cookbook that we have but I don't have a candy thermometer or a food processor. All of the recipes were a little more complicated than the equipment I have on hand can handle, so we improvised.

We made traditional Toll House cookies with a twist ... we crushed candy canes up and mixed them in the dough. Some of the candy cane pieces were pulverized, others were chunky... I was afraid the candy cane pieces would burn, but Jessica taught me about processed sugar and how these wouldn't burn but melt. (I said "thank you Alton Brown" and she said "um, no. thank you physics.")

She was right -- they did melt and crystallize into an almost glassy substance. So there were pools of molten candy cane sugary goodness in the middles of the cookies! Some of it leached out onto the cookie sheet, which made getting them off the sheet fun.

When they cooled, they were minty and chocolatey and just really good. It was a good time.

So this morning we've got the ice storm, the state of emergency, I'm not looking forward to driving into work but I understand that just south of here in Danvers and Peabody it's just rain, no ice. So we're right on the line. Facebook updates from the high school kids up this way indicate a lot of them have no power, so I hope ours stays on.

Hopefully by where you are it is not a state of emergency, and if it is, you're hanging in. Have a good day.

Friday, December 05, 2008

All shall be well...

Hello friends... I have good news. Geoff managed to get through a whole week at school without me having to get a phone call from the office saying "Please come get your boy." And for that, I'm exceedingly thankful and proud of him.

geoff and nigelI haven't been writing a lot, or any, lately.

Geoff has had me under such immense stress that I can't hardly deal with day-to-day activities like doing laundry, cleaning myself, going to work. I've been a mess.

A bunch of you have dropped emails and comments and asked what gives, but hey. Sometimes I have to stick my head in the sand (or up my ass!) and hide.

Combine The Boy with money issues, some stress stuff at work which I have no control over and can't talk about here for all the good reasons, Doug's job search, I just have had the worst time for the past couple of months and it really started to get totally out of hand right before we went to Pittsburgh for the wedding.

I won't get into any of some of the stuff Geoff has done or said because I want to actually forget it, not put it down for posterity's sake. I want to forget things ever happened and just move on with my life.

So getting through a week without seeing the school's number on my cell phone, wow. That's amazing. And a relief.

Praise God for the little victories, right?

I will write about this. One of the things we had to do this week was something I didn't WANT to do and I've been fighting against since the beginning of the school year.

We put Geoff in a special education van transport instead of letting him ride the bus.

As many of you know, Geoff has a rough time on the bus. His own behavior, his inability to deal with the other kids' behavior, his misinterpretation of what is said to him, the noise, the unsupervised environment, the fact that the end of day is just a time where he's out of control and can't self-regulate... all these things have led to critical mass where he can't be on the bus in the afternoon. So the school made it clear to us it was time, and we had to comply.

Break down and comply.

Because we have not been able to get him to get it and do what is required of him.

There are a lot of pros and cons to this.

Pros:

  • Geoff now has a much shorter bus commute of around four minutes instead of almost twenty.
  • There are a lot fewer people (bus driver, Geoff and 2 other boys)
  • There is music instead of rowdiness.
  • When he turns 12, he can actually ride in the front seat, which is pretty boss.
  • He gets dismissed 5 minutes before the rest of the class, so he avoids the abject chaos of dismissal time which seems to start him on a downward spiral into uncontrolled insanity.
  • He knows the bus driver. In fact, I had no idea she would be his driver until the day after he delivered Boy Scout Wreaths that she ordered from him to her house. I'm hoping that the connection they have will result in him being a little more respectful and understanding.

Cons:

  • He's afraid that he'll be seen as a "retard." He thinks the other kids are going to laugh at him, and that he is socially ostracised from his peers. But in reality, the other kids don't really know unless he tells them. Which if he does, he'll have to deal with their reaction. Kids aren't as brutal as they were when I was 11. Most of them don't give a damn whether you ride a van home or you get a ride home with your mom. They just don't care.
  • He feels he is being punished and he wants a second chance. He feels that his behavior ON the bus has been great, which it has... but his behavior at the bus circle at release time is what got him into this situation.

There are a couple hundred kids out there, and Geoff running around like crazy and after 10 chances he just doesn't get it that he is going to be hurt or hurt someone else by his actions. He's not retarded. He is just immature, and right now his immaturity is going to result in injury.

So he feels he's being "punished" when really what is being put in place is a stop gap solution until he has the maturity to line up and act normal. Which will hopefully be next year at middle school.

He begged me not to do this to him. Begged for a "second chance." He said "Okay, I get it. I totally get it! I will behave at dismissal. I will behave in the bus circle. Please don't do this to me..." and he cried.

And he pushed me to crying, in front of the assistant principal.

I had to tell him that he had more than a second chance. He's had 50 chances... we can't give him a 51.

He accused me of doing this to "make life easier for the school teachers and administration." He's one smart cookie, isn't he.

Thing is, he is right. A lot of times schools refuse services or force people into things because, yeah... it's easier on the school and not really in the best interest of the child. But in this case -- it was and is in Geoff's best interest.

I think, whether he realizes it or not, this is the best for him and for others and ... for me.

I cannot afford private transportation. I don't have family who live in town who can swing by and go pick him up. I'm about 40 minutes away at dismissal time due to traffic, and I can't leave work every day at 2pm to go up and get him. I don't have the kind of job where I can work the rest of my 3 hours of work day at home. I wanted that, I never got it, and I'm never going to. That's the end of that. And unless I don't work there, which will of course result in us losing our house, there is no other option.

He wants to walk home from school... it's a doable option... but thing is it's winter almost and there is no way I'm going to have him walk a mile and a quarter in the cold. Maybe in the spring. Maybe then we'll set it up so he can walk home. I also don't want him walking alone. I want him walking with a buddy or two. So I'm going to check out a few people who live nearby who may be likeminded. Last year my friend Suzanne's son walked 2 miles to and from school with his best friend in the spring because they wanted more exercise. I think it's a great idea. Geoff thinks I think he's a little baby. I don't -- I just don't want him alone.

It isn't that I don't trust him, I don't trust the rest of the world.

So yeah. It's been a hell of a ride here since the end of football season. And I'm hoping things start to brighten.

If this week is any indication, I think it is.


In conclusion, I know this is probably flat out boring yawn fest to some of you. "That's what you get for being a breeder," right? Yeah. That's what I get. I know. I wanted kids. I love my kids. And whinging about them on the intertoobs is hardly entertaining. So apologies to those of you who come here for something insightful or interesting. Our regular programming will resume eventually.

It also may explain to some of you who feel I'm always there for you why I haven't been. Yes, your lives suck. Suck really bad. And yes, I'm usually the one who will hold your hand and tell you that it's going to be okay. I honestly believe it will. But if I've been distant, or unsupportive and you feel I've been kind of a bitch or cold, well... my perfect fucking life isn't exactly perfect. Is it. No. So be patient with me. It'll get better and soo enough I'll be there to listen a little harder, answer more emails, give that shoulder and possibly make you laugh. It's not about me not liking you or wanting to be with you. It is just about me needing to fix some things here. Please don't take it personally.

I'll leave you with this:

And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well...

That's a mantra I've stolen from Keri. And one I will be repeating to myself. Make it your ongoing prayer, apply it, and hang in there. Okay?

More later.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cranberry Sauce

Because my last entry was such a drag, I figured all y'all need some sweetness and light from your humble narrator. So I'm sitting here pondering what on earth is worth writing about this Thanksgiving night.

This morning, Doug put the turkey in the oven at 8:30am and at about 10am we went out for a long pre-dinner walk. Doug cooks the turkey at like 220 for 6 hours, with 90,000 cloves of garlic crammed under the skin and onions, celery and carrots stuffed in the cavity to make a nice gravy. He's done it this way several times over the years, so we knew dinner wouldn't be ready anywhere before 2pm. A good long walk is good for the appetite and soul. We had a long talk on the trails, while the dogs ran ram shot (or is it ram shod?) all over the Georgetown Rowley State Forest. Not another soul was seen the entire time we were out.

I did an inventory, and came up with the following. This is what I'm thankful for this year.

For one I'm incredibly thankful that I have a job, a husband with a job (even though it isn't paying as much as it could), and that we've managed to keep afloat for as long as we have. So many of my friends are being laid off or losing their homes. The losing the homes part of things seems to have let up a bit because so many mortgage companies do not want to repossess houses and are willing to work with people through the rough times that they're experiencing.

I am thankful that Doug is looking for a new job and that his skill set equals 20 calls right off the bat from recruiters and agencies. For me? I would not get a single one, no matter how awesome I think I am. Praises be for Doug's skill set. He had a really good interview, and it would be a very short commute. If they will pay him what he would like to earn, he is going to take the job. Another option that he has is to travel. Agencies are always ALWAYS looking for short-term placements of 14 weeks all over the country. There are tons of them in Louisiana, and he could make a lot of money. A lot. So he's even considering that, even though it means that he'd be away. Part of me sees the dollar signs, and part of me thinks it will suck to be home alone dealing with the Geoff nonsense that we've been dealing with for the past several weeks. The fact he's open to doing whatever needs done is a relief.

I am so incredibly and unmitigatedly thankful for Keri and Rebel Shakespeare. Not just for my kids, both of whom seem to thrive on the Rebel existence, but for me. This past summer, Keri gave me work to do and I embraced it and loved every second of it. I got to put my feet back in deeply in the Bard, the story, the action, and all that I find so amazing about all of it. I got to be surrounded by amazing students and directors and people willing to support the program. I got to see how my two wonderful children are perceived by others. And to be honest, I got the taste for what should be for me and it made me so happy.

My summer? It was the most amazing summer I've had in years.

I constantly thank God that I ran into Keri by accident right before she was heading to Russia to adopt Nas a few years ago. I constantly thank Him that Keri took Jess in back in the summer of 2007 without ever SEEING her and allowing her to do Midsummer and King Lear. I constantly cry and thank Him for the kindness she and the program showed Geoff this summer. And oh -- oh I am so thankful for the rekindled friendship I have with her. My faerie queen. My personal Titania. I am your ... servant. Your Cobweb. Your Mustardseed. Thank you for being part of my life, you amazing star.

I am thankful for Jess. Who constantly shocks me with her smartness, her wisdom, what people think of her and her skill, and her humor. Oh my God is she only my best friend? Yes. And I'm already very afraid of missing her when she goes away. Because that is sooner than we think. She has good eyesight too because she's reading this from a mile behind me and is like 'uh, okay?' And that makes me laugh.

And Geoffrey? Oh how I do love him. And fear for him. And adore him. I am thankful that his teacher and assistant principal (so far) support and love him. I am thankful that when I watch other kids with him, they seem to genuinely like him. Wish he could see and feel that. I am so thankful for Boy Scouts and Rebel in his life. I'm relieved that he has friends and people who understand him. But I desperately pray for him daily that he not lose those people. I am thankful that thusfar he's managed to keep things together and HOPEFUL that things can get better.

Case in point ... last night Geoff wanted to help me make the pie, and he has been obsessed with making videos so he wanted to make a cooking show of the videos. So we did. It is stuff like this that makes me laugh, makes me cry, makes me happy. And I give thanks that we have these special moments.

I share with you, Cranberry Sauce:



On that note, I hope everyone had a relaxing and wonderful Thanksgiving. Count all your blessings. I hope that things are well and good by you and that your Thanksgiving was (and upcoming holiday season is) filled with love and joy. Above all else, that's all that matters. Hopefully the year ahead will be filled with more sweetness and light.

Monday, November 24, 2008

42

"Every article by Christopher J. Kelly of the Scranton Times Tribune contains five to seven swear words hidden amongst the letters of other words."
-Dwight K. Schrute, "The Office"

Once we got back from Pennsylvania, the weeks got busy. Jess had her play, and I took a mess of pictures (as usual). I had a great deal of fun sharing the pictures with the kids... I found that one should not play The Wall character and steal the entire show, but one of the girls did, and she was amazing and I adore her. I'm glad she's part of my daughter's life.

Photos are here and here if you're interested.

Jess' experience with the high school cast was a lot different than her experience with Rebel. I don't think she found it as satisfying. In fact, while the play was amazing and great and looked good, she hated it and hated everything about it, and I feel bad for her.

The theatre director allowed her to assistant direct, which you would think would be the best thing ever but I think she found it more frustrating than she ever imagined possible.

She was relieved when it was over and didn't go to the cast party. She went to a friend's house instead and spent the night watching Simon Pegg movies and just being done with the play. I felt badly for her, because I know that she locked herself out emotionally because of her frustrations. It was hard to watch.


Geoff got into some trouble at school, once again, and we're dealing with him on that.

Keri told me I need to blog it so we don't forget things, so we can look back in 20 years and have a good laugh but to be honest, I would rather not remember 15 minutes ago or last week or anything 20 years from now. I'm rather weary of dealing with him. More weary than a soul should be.


In the midst of all this, I turned 42 last week. My facebook page was ridiculously adorned with love and adoration from millions of friends and whatnot. Compared to a year ago at this time when I got 20 well wishes, it was funny to sit there and watch the little red notifications bubble go up and up and up. I think if it weren't for the birthday reminder on facebook it would have been a non-eventful day.

According to Douglas Adams, 42 is the answer to the question "what is the meaning of life?" in the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. So I've decided that 42 is indeed a good number to be. Last year, 41 was a good year because it is the title of one of my favorite Dave Matthews Band songs. So if this year I embody the meaning of life, that's a good thing.

We didn't go out because we're desperately trying to save money. Doug did make a really nice dinner and we ate by candlelight as a family, which was enjoyable. The kids went 20 minutes without yelling SHUT UP at one another. That was refreshing. MB gave me a bottle of wine and fresh eggs from her chickens, and my sister mailed me a nice Shakespeare magnet and deck of playing cards of poets and playwrights.


I never talk about finances and politics on my blog, so this is a rare occurrence.

Like most of the rest of the planet, we're struggling with money right now. Some of this is our own fault for sure, but some of it can be blamed entirely on Doug's former employer for laying him off in early 2007.

When we bought the house in May 2006, we both were making good money and had savings in the bank. We were beating back our debt and smiling the whole time. We did a couple improvements on the house, like the doors in the woodstove room, and life was good.

Then, Doug's company got bought and the new company axed him. He spent several weeks unemployed, and he eventually found a new job and started that in May 2007. A job that he seems to enjoy, but which pays him $20k less than what he was making before.

That's a pantload of money in the greater scheme of things.

Shortly after he took that job, I had to start dipping into the savings to pay the mortgage. We started using our credit cards again to buy stuff like groceries and gas, which we normally would never do. Jess had expenses in the form of her trips to Germany and England, both of which we signed on for when the money was better. The cost of gas skyrocketed, and it began to cost us, and I'm not joking here, $500 a month just to get to our jobs.

Drip by drop the buckets filled and now we're having a tremendous time. The entire time I have been picking up side jobs, a few print design jobs, worked for Rebel to barter the fees off so Jess could go to camp for free (and admittedly, had the time of my LIFE!), and cried at Doug the whole time that he needed to get a part time job, because he has every Wednesday free.

I've been so stressed out about this that I wake up hyperventilating in the middle of the night. I turned into a Shrieking Cassandra thing on Doug a few weeks ago, wrote out what we owe, what we pay out, and how we're basically screwed. He finally got it.

We decided a few weeks ago that the money coming into the house wasn't sufficient enough for us to stay living here so we started looking at selling the house. And I know I said I'd never move, but the cost of heating this place, the size of it, and what it costs us for a mortgage every month is an albatross. We can buy something else in the regional school district for $230k and totally not have to get consumed by what it costs to live here.

But we can't sell the house.

Home values in our area (like most everywhere else) have dropped so far that we wouldn't make enough money on it to pay off the mortgage that we currently owe (ie: we owe $363k and if we were lucky right now we'd get about $350k for a house we paid $415k for. How lovely).

Doug started looking for per diem or part time work but is not finding any. My web design side jobs have pretty much stopped. I have one that I'm working on but am having a really hard time doing because I can't figure out the whole online bill pay portion of the job that they want done.

Tomorrow, Doug has a job interview.

He doesn't want to go back to doing speech therapy, but the reality is that there are jobs in the field and they pay a hell of a lot more than what he's getting now. And, on top of that, there are jobs closer to home.

He took his job in Boston in 2007 to get his foot in the door at a big city hospital and to get experience in a different field, to make him more marketable as perhaps a rehab director or manager... but 18 months later there are no jobs for him to step into.

So he's interviewing in a local town, which would cut his commute down to 20 minutes instead of the hour or more it takes him to get to the city. No more paying to park, no more filling the gas tank every week... he can go back to the every other. Combined with the drastic drop in gas prices in the past couple of months, and a salary close to what he was making when we bought this house, we'll be fine. But if he doesn't get this job, I'm not sure what we're going to have to do here.

On that sunny and cheery note, off to work! Yay! I am thankful that I have a job to go to, and that Doug does too. I keep telling myself it could be worse, and like good friends I know I feel thankful that we're healthy and well because we seriously could be one medical diagnosis away from homelessness.

More later -- I have more to say and ponder on the subjects at hand. But I have to get the boy to school on time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Pennsylvania Wedding Shuffle

We're home and I'm still kind of super stressed. I'm tired and feel like another day would be so nice, a day to do nothing and go nowhere. I took today off because Geoff had a doctor's appointment this morning. We were done at 9 and home at 9:45. I could have gone into work, but I really need today to just catch up on stuff and do things like find out why my mortgage payment didn't clear on the 17th of October when there WAS money in the account at the time (there isn't now... so I'm kind of screwed and scrambling, and the banks aren't open due to the holiday...)

But that's neither here nor there. An update would be nice, don'tcha think?

Our trip was good, better than I thought it would be, and we made it there and back in record time. We left here on Friday morning at 9:30 and took an hour for lunch in central PA. And we still made it to the hotel at 8:30pm. Amazing. Normally it is a 12 hour trip. On the way home, we only stopped for gas and to "rest" as it were, and made it home in 9 hours.

Doug noted that this is the first time in his recollection of driving this trip to and from that there wasn't a highway crew anywhere, or a series of ramps taking you over into the oncoming highway to run a scary skinny two-lane interstate for 8 miles. All of the cut across ramps are overgrown with grass, and the asphalt up the median is crumbling. So perhaps the twenty year road project... maybe is finally done.

We did see a million dead deer though.

And some of them were incredibly revolting.

We saw one near Nuangola PA where the carcass was there, but the head was gone. Doug figured it had to be a trophy buck with a beautiful, giant rack of antlers, and that someone came with a saw or chainsaw or something and just removed the head off the beast.

I threw up in my mouth a little bit just thinking about someone coming out there in the dark and sawing the head off in the middle of the highway median.

Can you imagine?

Ugh.

But then I started thinking about the individual, and the bragging that would go along with this giant head. "You see this one? Yeah, I stalked that bad boy for three season up in there, waitin' for the points on the antlers to just keep goin'. He fought me good too. I done shot him elevendy times until he finally dropped!" (cue spittoon noise).

And no -- I don't think that all the people through Pennsylvania act like that or hunt or talk like that. I'm just saying that a guy who would cut the head off road kill just might be the kind of guy who ... might.

I started laughing a little imagining him going to the taxidermist with it. You can't just do that. You can't just go somewhere and say "Hey Bill, how's the wife? Can you mount this'un for me? The rest of it got away..."

Unless it's your cousin Karl (on whom you got a big dirty secret, and can lord that over him so he keeps YOUR secret...), I doubt you can get someone to clean that up and mount that for you.

So it perplexed me and gave me something to ponder all the way deep into Black Moshannon forest.

But seriously people, there were deer carcasses everywhere. One every mile of the 630 mile trip. Pretty much. Well, only in Pennsylvania. So maybe 270 miles of the trip were strewn with a deer every mile. Even in the city areas, like where we were in Nuangola near Wilkes-Barre. Legs akimbo, heads and necks totally turned the wrong way, some just looking like they were asleep nice and orderly on the side of the road, others lasting for about a quarter of a mile before you got to the end of it.

Not a pretty scene, so it was easier to look up at the sky, the trees, the sun, the foliage, the farms... keeping the corner of my eye on the side of the road lest another one jump out in front of us and become the next victim on the roads...


I have a couple favorite parts of the trip when we take it.

I like heading down (and up) in the area around the Lock Haven exit. That is really cool geologically, the way the highway is sliced through the mountain and you can totally check out the rocks and strata and whatnot. I love the layer cake of the earth that you get to see through there.

Once down the hill (and avoid the speed trap, because there is ALWAYS a cop there. Doug's gotten nabbed there twice) down around Rte 220 there, the farms at the foot of the mountains are so pretty with the trees on the hills behind them, and knowing there is this little town right through that gap between the hills where the road goes always makes me smile.

Same thing around Clarion and Emlenton, the height of the highway up over the rivers and knowing that just over that bump to your right (or left, depending if you are coming or going) there is this little town. I love seeing the steeple peeking up from Clarion, and thinking about how if you didn't see that, you'd never know there was a town there. I think someday I may get Doug to get off the highway and take me over to one of those towns, but we're usually trying to get home before a storm or pitch darkness, so we don't detour off the road for much other than food and "rest."

I love Zelienople, it's such a cute town. And I enjoy Rte 68 down into Rochester. I think about how cool it would be to live in one of the houses and have the view down into the valley below, with the sunset and the vista waiting for me daily.

It's a fun ride. Except for the dead deer.

Anyway -- the wedding itself was something I was kind of dreading. As with most families, there was drama building up to the event and I won't get into it lest someone read and get upset. Self censorship is very important at times.

I hated leaving the kids behind, but I'm glad I went and had time alone with Doug and his family. Part of me thinks I only went because I honestly wanted to see what would happen. Would it work out okay, or would it be a jaw-dropping ghastly event with screaming and yelling.

Oh, the human drama.

Well, to my balanced relief and disappointment, nothing happened.

Nothing that I saw, anyway. There could have been some behind the scenes action that I wasn't privy to, but all told it was lovely. The bride was lovely, I met the groom for the first time and he was lovely. It was truly nice.

cousins

I took a picture of Doug and his cousins specifically to send it to the one cousin who couldn't be there because he's in Iraq (his sister is the bride). I didn't get to take a lot of pictures at the ceremony because Doug doesn't like to sit up front and hates when I'm all paparazzi at things.

So I sat with him and restrained myself. I did get some fun shots at the reception and all told it was worth the trip. Photos are here if you like to see.

craig batman launcher 2We spent Sunday with the grandmas.

In the morning we went to see Doug's mom's mom at her assisted living facility and spent a good couple hours with her.

It is so much easier to talk to her in person than on the phone, but the great thing is her vision is fine, so I may start sending her cards and photos so she can see the kids... because we have a hard time communicating with her otherwise.

We then went to visit Doug's dad's mom in Ohio, and cruised the long way via the backroads up into Negley, Rogers and East Palestine. Grandma was surprised to see us, she said that she didn't know we were coming. Doug's dad rolled his eyes and made a face because he told her at least ten times we were coming out that day.

Doug's sister and her husband came out too, and we had a blast with the kids. The day of the wedding was my nephew's fourth birthday, so Doug and I picked him out a good, noisy, complicated toy that he would master and then become obsessed with playing all day, every day.

I ended up outside with him for quite a while just to keep him happy and entertained with the glider, so I did my duty and then we parted ways, with him loving the toy and us planting the seed of driving mom and dad NUTS until it breaks.

Heh. What are aunts and uncles for if not that?

It was a good time.


Best part of the trip was the hotel room.

We went to check in, and the room they gave us was not made up at all. It was a disaster. I actually thought we were walking into an occupied room, the amount of stuff that was up in there.

Anyway, Doug went downstairs and smiled and said "uh, hi?" and the girl said "Oh, sorry!" and gave us a suite. With a jacuzzi and walk in shower kind of dealie, two flat screen TVs and whatnot.

It was very nice.

We have never gotten a room like that in our lives and I stood there saying "um, no?" and Doug said "uh, yeah!"

I went downstairs and asked the woman if there wasn't some sort mistake. She said no, that she upgraded us because she felt that it wasn't fair that our room wasn't ready. I asked her if she wanted us to move into the right room the next day and she said no, it was ours. And I asked if it would cost more... and she said no. It was fine.

So yeah. Sweet! Jacuzzi! King Size Bed so Doug is a mile away from me! Yay!

I don't think I can ever actually stay in an assy room again. Ever. I'm spoiled for all eternity.

Anyway -- Geoff wants the computer, so I'm going to get off and go do dishes or take a nap or something. I have a project to work on but it can wait. I guess.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Needing True Hope

"True hope is swift, and flies with swallow's wings;
Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings."
-William Shakespeare

Doug and I are leaving to go to his cousin's wedding out in western Pennsylvania. I don't want to go, not because I don't want to see family and have some time away from home, but because I don't really feel comfortable leaving Geoff behind right now.

This past week has been rough for him. I haven't sat down and blogged any of it because it really isn't that big a deal some of the things that have happened but his inability to process things like hurt and disappointment are what is the true problem. And we are leaving him and Jess here, not bringing them, so he's feeling exceptionally abandoned right now and it is sad. Doug said I cannot allow him to manipulate me, but I'm just feeling that he really needs family right now. And leaving him today is hard because heck... I'm family.

We've tried to explain to him that yes, he's family -- but weddings are expensive and this is a second-cousin relationship and she has only met Geoff once in her life... he just isn't wrapping his head around it. He said "yeah, but I could spend time with my FIRST cousins who aren't GOING to the wedding and we can BE together..." and he has a point but my sister-in-law made alternate arrangements for her kids that didn't factor in mine. So that put us in a position where either Doug went alone and caught grief for me not being there, or we went together and the kids stayed here with my mom. So my mom is here -- and Geoff is pissed. So our discussion went as such:

"But honey, she's FAMILY too, isn't she?"

"Yeah, but I see her all the time, and she smokes and that's so disgusting."

"I hear that Barak Obama smokes, and you like him a lot... maybe you can cut Grandma some slack. Maybe she smokes because you stress her out so much. Maybe you can be more compassionate to her, and realize that people are people first and that she has a habit that is hard to break. Maybe if you're kind, you'll be easier to deal with."

He's not buying it. He's pretty pissy about it. And it isn't my mom's fault... he's just taking it out on her because he feels abandoned, alone, and not family.

I'd rather send him in my stead to the wedding. I really don't want to go.


So yeah. I'll write more about it later when we get back. I'm sure this will be an interesting wedding, what with the father of the bride not going because his daughter is marrying (gasp!) a CATHOLIC!!! And just the whole family drama thing that gets so full of the crazy every time we go there. My brother in law and I look at each other and ask how we got involved in this scene... it's truly fascinating.

While we're away, I won't have access to this blog so all I'll ask of you is to pray for Geoff. Pray that he won't make my mom's head explode.

I gotta pack.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloweeners

So tonight is Halloween. My office is in Salem MA, and I actually had visions of horror in what would be my commute home. Most of my office bailed at about 2pm. I ended up working on a little sudden emergency project that kept me there until almost 4pm. On my way into work this morning, there were already tourists in costume stumbling through the streets. Are you kidding me, people? Grow the hell up! It's 9am. Don't you have JOBS or some shit??? Good Lord.

And, I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera with me this morning. I figured I'd have no time to actually walk around town because I was looking to leave at a reasonable hour and had several hours of work ahead of me.

But on the way in, sitting in traffic, I could have taken dozens of pictures of goofy goobers just lolling about town.

This in mind, b y 4pm I could hardly imagine what horrors would await me when I got out of the building.

All told, I was pleasantly surprised. The crowds were minimal, streets weren't yet closed, and I beat feet out of Dodge through Pickering Wharf with little difficulty.

Whew.

By the by, I do have one comment to make.

People, when someone stops to let you cross the street, move your everlovin' ass.

I'm not kidding.

I didn't just invite you to take a Sunday Stroll with me, hand in hand, through Central Fucking Park.

Move your fucking, fat, distracted, ASSES out of my way.

You wandered out into traffic, by all rights, being outside of the crosswalk I should have mowed you down like Deathrace 2000.

I am David Carradine, and you are worth 200 points.

So get the hell a move on.

This afternoon, no fewer than ten people did this to me. I actually rolled my window down at one woman and yelled "While We're YOUNG! or at least while I am."

Bite me. Fucking Tourists.

Oh, I was so pissed off.

But it only took me an hour to get home, when it usually takes me about 45, so all told, it could have been worse. Totally.


I got home at 5pm, and Geoff and I got ready for the halloweeners. I'd purchased about 20 dollars worth of my favorite candy (yes!) because my kids weren't trick or treating this year. Jess is at Lizzy's celebrating her 17th birthday (tonight!) and Geoff wasn't interested in going out. He wanted to hand out candy. So we went out and I wore my witch hat/wig thing and we squeezed our glowing rats in the candlelight. We had several dozen halloweeners come by, and I was able to get some nice pictures of kids from the neighborhood.

Doug got home incredibly late. His Friday traffic nightmare is usually pretty bad, and so he brought wine and some hot dogs and we sat out until 8pm, a full half hour after the halloweeners were done, just talking.

It was such a beautiful night, that it is actually a shame I didn't stick around Salem and enjoy the festivities. And watch some tourists getting mowed down.

But it was better being home, though.

I'm heading downstairs to watch Zombie movies with Doug. Geoff is heading to bed. Jess is with her friends.

To steal from PG Wodehouse, God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.

More later.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mr. Buckeye, The Sweatshirt and the Ajax Mobile

"In old Ohio there's a team that's known throughout the land,
Eleven warriors brave and bold whose fame will ever stand.
And when the ball goes over, our cheers will reach the sky,
Ohio field will hear again the Buckeye Battle Cry!"
-Ohio State Fight Song

Back in Early September, one of my best friends on Earth suddenly lost his dad. And my memories of this man are forever tied to an old Ohio State University sweatshirt.

The news of Al Knoeppel's passing came as a big surprise to me. Rob had called me on a Wednesday afternoon and his message didn't sound pressing. He said "give me a call, when you get a chance."

I had just talked to him on Monday, and he was flush with happiness with his new job and new community and all the cool things he was experiencing. On the Wednesday voicemail, his voice wasn't sad or down or different, so I kind of backburnered the call, thinking he was going to simply tell me just another wicked cool thing about the new job. Not that I didn't care or want to talk to him, it was a crazy time for me. I was stupid busy with work for the rest of that week, and then the weekend came and I simply forgot to call back.

On September 12th, he called me back again and said, "Well, we buried my dad yesterday..." which stunned me.

"Rob, why didn't you say that it was urgent, or pressing, or that there was something wrong... Why didn't you call me back again after the first call?" I kind of cried at him, and realized quickly that I was being whiny and selfish. My attitude was wrong. My ego was in the way. I felt left out of the loop as his father was dying, and really would have liked to have known. But... It wasn't my place to be kept informed of up to the minute decisions and events as things were going on so I checked myself quickly. I felt like there maybe would have been something I could do for Rob to provide an ear and comfort... and maybe I would have gotten in the car and headed down to Charlottesville to hold his hand and hug him after Al was gone.

"I did call you. I called you a bunch of times and talked to you," he answered.

"Um, no, you didn't, honey ..."

"Oh, well then it felt like you were there with me and I was talking to you through everything."

That overwhelmed me ... that somehow he felt connected enough to me even though we hadn't yet spoken. I'm constantly praying for him, he's on my short list of daily concerns and lift ups for mojo and joy and peace, so perhaps yeah... I was doing something for him. But I didn't know it.

Rob told me the story of what happened to his dad. He collapsed in his driveway in the on Wednesday morning before heading out for his daily walk with his neighbor. After some time in the hospital and medical efforts that were attempted to bring him round, they knew that it was futile, it wasn't going to work. Rob and his mom made the decision to let him go. But before they removed support, Rob had one more thing he wanted to do with his dad.

Saturday during the day, Rob watched the Ohio State football game with Al, who obviously couldn't see it or hear it. Al was a rabid Ohio State fan. So Rob wanted to watch the game with him, one last time. He sat in the chair next to his dad's bed and gave his father the play by play. Ohio State was losing, and Rob said "Come on dad, we gotta help them win!"

Rob told me that he was cheering, yelling and talking to his dad as if his dad was sitting on the couch next to him in his Ohio State Sweatshirt. He said anyone who would have walked past at that moment would have thought him insane. But he was routing for the Buckeyes, with his dad... and believe it or not, Ohio State made a remarkable comeback and won the game.

It all sounds so very Mitch Albom, or so very "a special Hallmark Channel movie," and one would at that very moment hope that Al would wake up and reach for Rob's hand and the victory of the Buckeyes would be Al's victory over death. If I was writing the script... that is exactly what would have happened.

But it wasn't meant to be. The following morning he was gone.

The hospital chaplain came in to spend time with Rob and his mom. She asked Rob, "Tell me about this man."

Rob answered, "This is my dad, and he loved me."

And that is the truth.


When we were in high school, Rob and I would get together an assortment of other good friends and drive all over Huntington, Long Island.

We'd occasionally imbibe beverages legally intended for people older than we were and act goofy. We'd hang out at Coindre Hall, overlooking Gold Star Medallion Beach. We'd go to the Huntington Bay Beach Club and try to fool the cops by pretending one of us was a member. We'd drive backwards through the drive through at Burger King, mostly to let ME place the order, since I never got the chance to do so, not having a driver's license. We'd cruise up and down Rte 110 an Rte 25A, beeping the horn of the car and stamping on the brakes in rhythm to "Heartache Tonight" by the Eagles. We were just enjoying our little big town and the nightlife available to 17 and 18 year olds in the mid-80s.

We had a lot of fun in high school, especially the summer after we graduated.

Over the course of our high school years we spent a great deal of time in a USS Nimitz sized station wagon owned by Rob's dad. Mr. K worked cleaning offices, and his station wagon smelled like cleaning solution, so we lovingly (and sarcastically) referred to the beast as "The Ajax Mobile."

One night, we stopped by Rob's house because it was rather cool out for what should have been a hot August night. Rob ran upstairs to grab sweatshirts for us, because we were headed to the beach for yet another night of being silly. I made chit chat with Robs folks while the warmer clothing was retrieved from upstairs and we beat feet out the door to go have fun.

Rob chucked me a red sweatshirt that was nice and big (wouldn't fit me today because I'm ... twice as nice and big) and it was worn perfectly. It was his dad's old Ohio State sweatshirt, and I think it was at least 10 years older than I was at the time. We had our fun out in the world, and I got dropped off at home, with the sweatshirt.

Said sweatshirt went to college with me, and I wore it a lot at the beginning of my Freshman year ... I was totally missing Rob, but not his dad. I didn't really give a second thought to the man who owned it, and who probably would have liked to have worn it on a nice fall afternoon watching his favorite football team. I loved that sweatshirt. It became a part of my life there for a few months.

At Thanksgiving I went home, and par for the course went to Rob's one night during that long weekend so we could go out again and have some fun and talk about our new lives at different schools.

I made the mistake of wearing the sweatshirt.

I'll never EVER forget the look on Al's face. "I've been looking everywhere for that sweatshirt!" He bellowed.

Oh, sweet merciful crap.

"Where'd you get it! How'd you get it!" He pointed at me with his eyes flaming.

Pooping my pants in abject terror because I totally thought that Al was going to kill me, I threw Rob under the bus and pointed at him. He started berating Rob and I took the sweatshirt off and folded it up and returned it to its rightful and very grumpy owner.

Again, we beat feet out of there and I felt small and stupid and terrified and also had a good laugh at a grown man flipping out over a sweatshirt...

God, I wish I hadn't worn it that night. Dimes to dollars I'd still have it. I loved that thing, and I could see why he was all bent out of shape five ways to Sunday for having "lost" it when his kid loaned it to one of his stupid rotten friends who ran away to college with it.

Anyway, for years and years after that all I could think of when I thought of Ohio State was him and that sweatshirt.

I so wish I had it now.


Al died a month and a half ago.

I've been processing the events that Rob and his mom and his siblings have had to go through, and where they are now. I talk to Rob every couple of weeks, and I feel there is such an emptiness in his life. His dad was a presence.

Rob said recently that his dad was a hard man to get to know. I think that is the God's honest truth. I always felt very connected to Rob's mom, Kathy, and could spend days and days talking to her. But was always a bit intimidated by his dad.

When I would talk with him I always felt pressure. He'd ask me questions like what I was planning to DO WITH MY LIFE and why I wanted to study English in college, where did I think that would get me, and why I was doing this and why I was doing that. Where did I see myself in five years, ten, twenty. Who thinks of that kind of stuff at 17?! And who needs someone else's dad pressing them about it... yikes. I totally freaked me out and made me nervous.

At the time, I felt like a blithering idiot and not a very smart person. I felt that any answer I would give wouldn't be sufficient, smart, good decision. I felt kind of judged. What I didn't realize he was holding my feet to the invisible fire made of making good decisions and doing good things to lead to a really good rest of my life.

At 16 or 17, I just thought he was mean and overlordy.

No one ever asked me questions about what I wanted to do and why. No one made me offers or gave me things to think about. I wish I'd paid closer attention to him and not ended up terrified of him. I wish I'd recognized his brusk attitude was actually him caring about where his son's good friend was going to end up one day.

He was a presence, for sure... commanding, demanding, blunt and direct.

After the sweatshirt incident I basically avoided him when I came home from college and would get together with Rob, not because I was afraid of him but because I was embarrassed.

For making a bad decision and walking off with a man's beloved sweatshirt.

A few years back, Al and Kathy moved to Virginia.

Rob would tell me about their cool house, how it was exactly what they always wanted. I wanted very much to go visit, especially when Rob was a student at Mr. Jefferson's University, but I had kids by then, and was working my butt off at jobs that I didn't like or want thinking about the decisions I'd made that didn't have me on a path towards a Ph.D. in Shakespeare Studies somewhere.

But I had my kids, and my awesome husband, and my life was here and Rob's family was elsewhere. If they were still on Long Island, I think I would have stopped in to see them more than the two times I did once I had the kids, while my folks were still living there. But they'd moved away, and I never got to see him again.

Hey Al, just so you know, I think I turned out okay. I may not be rich, or perfect, but I'm probably much happier than I was in 1984 or so back on Long Island when I stole your sweatshirt.

I've got some good kids, you might like them.

And I'm still friends with your son, and hold him close to my heart forever as one of the best friends I have ever had or ever will have.

So thank you for not killing me for stealing your OSU sweatshirt and for tolerating me those many years ago. And I'm sorry I never had the opportunity to say now that I get it. I get what you were trying to do back then in the pre-sweatshirt stealing days when you scared the crap out of me.

I'll miss you. And I'll never forget you.

Especially when watching College Football.