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


"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?


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.


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.