Saturday, December 26, 2009

The post Christmas/post college tour report

Merry Christmas everyone, I hope you have had a great holiday season and that if you ended up trapped in any of the two Category Four Kill Storms that have reared ugly heads that you have survived. Of course you did ... you're sitting here reading my journal.

University of PittsburghWe've had a busy December. Jess is about 1/3 of the way through her senior year in high school, and right now we are vetting institutions of higher learning for her giant smart brain and butt to go to. Doug, Jess and I took a trip to look at three colleges during the beginning of December. We looked at Pitt, Syracuse and Buffalo.

Buffalo didn't impress me overall, but if they gave Jess a pantload of financial aid and scholarship money, I'd force her to go there. She likes Pitt. Who wouldn't? They have a 40 plus story tall building called the Cathedral of Knowledge, which Jess has rechristened the Cathedral of Kicking Ass. I liked Syracuse, the feel of the campus from the center where the Saltine Warrior shoots his arrow to the sky out to the little street with the pizza shops and boutiques. And not a Dunkin Donuts in sight... which to me is a selling point because it means the city has not been purchased by Dunks. The architecture is amazing. The facilities perfect. It made me wish for a do-over for my college career.

Both Pitt and Syracuse have friendly faculty whereas Buffalo wouldn't even meet with us. Jess reached out to the freshman advisor and his abrupt "I'm too busy to meet with you" email kind of bothered me. Dude... how about "I'm really sorry I'm unable to meet with you on your visit. I realize you're coming from about eight hours away, so please meet with my colleague Dr. XYZ and I hope you enjoy your visit to Buffalo." Thanks for putting in the effort to wow prospective student families. I would be happy if she went to either Pitt or Syracuse...Syracuse is closer which is good.

But even closer is Umass Amherst, which is also on her list.

We have no money with which to send her to college, I have no idea how she is going to PAY for this, how WE are going to payJess and the hall of languagesfor this. She wants to study languages and linguistics, but I don't know that she really is married to the concept of a career in the field. She says she wants to be a translator or interpreter. What does that mean? Will she get a $19,000 a year job in the national parks translating for Germans and Ukrainians when they come to visit? Or is there actual, lucrative dough available for her out in the world. I remember the day that I realized I earned more than both of my parents. Unless she gets a Masters or Doctorate, I'm not sure she'll beat Doug for income, but she very well could beat me considering I don't make very much more now than I did when I made that realization about my income.

Truth be told, I just want her to make a good income where she doesn't drown in debt, like I feel I'm doing now, and part of that will hinge upon how much she ends up having to borrow for college. The schools we are looking at run about 20-30,000 a year. Times four.

That's a bucket of debt. A really big bucket.

I truly wish we'd had the money to plan better for her. She deserves it. She really does.

Highlights of our trip were dinner with Doug's parents and our niece and nephew, and watching how much Elyse loves Jessica, eating at Primanti's in Pittsburgh and the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, seeing my old (long term, not ancient) friend Eva for the second time this year, and meeting her husband and son... those in addition to visiting some mighty fine campuses.

We had some Christmas Decorating Malfunctions that make for a fun tale. When we got back from our trip, I wanted to get the Christmas tree immediately. Doug wanted to wait. So there we were on December 19th doing our Christmas shopping and buying our tree.

New England Snowstorm and Christmas...Sunday we had a Category Four Kill Storm, and didn't get much done that day, so the tree stood outside in the back yard under the awing, getting snowed on.

Monday night we set to getting the job done. Doug set it in the tree stand and we discovered the stupid stand was busted. Repeated attempts to adjust and make do with said tree stand were met with utter failure. It was decided that I would go buy a new Christmas tree stand. The tree went back outside again to wait.

I left work at 6 pm Tuesday and went to seven different stores. No one had Christmas tree stands. I was treated piss poor at both Walmarts when I asked. At Lowes, the kids were friendly and apologetic and made suggestions for where there might be one to be found.

After five stops, I decided to write my own script to a little movie or an episode of "My Name is Earl," to bribe God or Karma with a good deed, and then I'd go into the store and poof!! I'd be rewarded with a brand new awesome Christmas tree stand made of awesome.

I went to the Walmart on Rte 114 in Peabody, the parking lot was PACKED and I let people go in front of me, I was nice even when it was obvious people wanted to kill me and leave me for dead over the railing to the cart return stand. Walking to the front of the building, I had two dollars ready for the kettle.

Here's my chance to bribe Karma... mwaah ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

The Salvation Army bell ringer was looking mighty chilly so I asked him if he wanted a coffee. He thanked me and said yes -- and reached into his pocket to give me cash, I waved him off and asked how he liked it. I went and stood in the stupidest line of stupid people in the Subway within the store. "What can I get on my sandwich?" "Are your mushrooms fresh or canned?" "That's too much onion can you take some off."

Finally, I buy the coffee, get it all filled up for the dude, and take it out to him.

"A ha!" I say to myself. "Lord, I know you will reward your servant here at this particular retail establishment!"

Well, there was not a Christmas tree stand in sight, but there were 20,000 tin containers covered in lead paint filled with carmel popcorn from China. There were several dozen open boxes of lights, strings all pulled out, bulbs missing. Not even good lights, just LED stupid cold dead lights that no one really wants. There were wooden pressboard signs of polar bears and penguins wishing you "Happy Holidays!" when everyone knows they don't live in the same hemisphere and would never ever be seen together like that in public, nor do they even celebrate holidays.

My bribe to the universe did not work. But as I left the store I wasn't disappointed with my hands empty when I walked past the bell ringer and he thanked me with a huge smile and a wave of the coffee cup.

I never did find a tree stand. I borrowed one from a friend who had to buy a second for herself because they bought an 11 ft. tall tree and her base couldn't handle the tree.

We set the tree up with the borrowed tree stand, and went to bed.

6:15 the following morning, I'm up sleeping and Geoff was on the computer. Doug was in the shower, the dogs were outside. CRASH! echoed through the house, and Geoff jumped up, ran downstairs and screamed at the top of his lungs "CHRISTMAS IS RUINED!!!!!!"

The tree fell over.

I came down and the tree was horizontal, across the coffee table and all over the couch. Ornaments were everywhere, some broken, some fine. I sighed, found my boots, walked through the livingroom, got some coffee, and came out to start the cleanup. Geoff helped me (God bless him) and we discovered that it would be a great idea to bungee cord the tree to the shelf behind it and pray that it stayed upright while we were at work and school. (It has... thank God).

We lost about 11 ornaments. Most of them were K-mart specials from the past several years that Doug has picked up along the line. Only one of them "meant" something to me... it was one of the ones my friend Courtney had made.

All told, the tree is still upright, crooked but sturdy. Christmas has come and gone and it will stay here until Geoff's birthday and hopefully not fall again.

Christmas was pretty cool -- really low key for us. Now that the kids are older it lacks a certain magic. In years past, long time readers will recall my efforts to get Geoff to go to bed or leave me alone or me wrapping presents until 1am. This year I was done wrapping by 9pm and in bed at 9:15. I told the kids to stay upstairs until I told them they could come down, and they did. Geoff took a book to his room and Jess waited on the computer. Piece of Cake. Why the last 17 years hasn't been this easy is beyond me.

My parents came up on Wednesday, and they just left a few minutes ago. We didn't do anything special or go anywhere, and that's fine... my mom did a hand-me-down of her Gamecube to Geoff so he's been upstairs locked in and playing his brains out. I'm going to have to reorganize a shelf up there for the ten million games she sent up too. Doug made an amazing rib roast and it was perfect. All told, that was the highlight of the holiday. I like it like this... no stress, no travel... bliss.

Guess that's about it... not much more to report. Like I said -- I hope you all had a good holiday that was equally laid back and happy.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving oh nine

So I think that Facebook wins. I spend all my time there, I never write here, and have lost interest in blogging. But I could not let the month end with one sad, lonely entry. Because that would suck. If this didn't cost me 25 bucks a month to maintain I think I would give up entirely.

I have nothing really interesting to say. Tonight I'm feeling particularly empty and void of interestingness. I'm sick already of the Christmas Creep, where the pre-thanksgiving influx of Christmas ridiculousness made me sick, and today being Black Friday I think of all the meaninglessness of the consumerism of the holiday and it just makes me retreat.

I have a friend who is younger than I am, and he suffered a massive heart attack this week and is in a medically induced coma. I am sitting here in the living room watching TV and all I can think of is how kind he is, and how he beat the crap out of stomach cancer 5 years ago... and how this is heartbreakingly unfair.

What else can I say or add? I'm honestly empty of anything.

Here is the muppet update.

Next week we are going on a college tour with Jess. Right now she just wants to apply to Umass Amherst, and that is it, but we (Doug and I) are requiring her to look at more schools. So we are aiming for University of Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Syracuse. Syracuse is the real long shot, because financially it is stupid expensive. Pitt is the same cost out of state as Umass, so I'm kind of happy about that even though it is so far away. If she can go somewhere as cool as Pitt ... why go to Umass!?

She only wants to apply to Umass, but we know for a fact that the in-state tuition schools are handing out more positions to out of state students because if they can make 30k instead of 20k, they'll take the 30k students, which means the out of state kids. She can probably get into each of the schools she wants, no problem. I'm quite pleased with her SAT scores (1900 out of a possible 2400). I think she can get in anywhere, but have no idea how we're going to afford it.

We'll leave Geoff here with a house/baby sitter. I think everything will go okay. Geoff doesn't want to go with us but I think he is secretly jealous about her future plans. He has latched onto German as his language of choice and only speaks German around the house since we had our house guest and now that he is taking German in the middle school. I love how he likes it, but he needs to bring his math grade up if he is going to progress a grade next year. He got a big fat F this first quarter and he has to bring it up to a C or we're in big trouble. He can't do Shakespeare in the summer because that is when it is summer school, so it really falls on him to take care of bringing that grade up. He got 2 Bs and 2 Cs and a big fat F... so this is reality for him.

We spent Thanksgiving with my college roommate Laurel and her husband Chris, and their kids. Jess is close with Sarah (who was born on my wedding day) and it was a wonderful night. They live near Umass, so ... if Jess ends up out there it'll be good that they are so close.

I dunno. I guess that's about it. I have nothing else really interesting to say as all I can think of is my friend Chris and his family right now. That's about it. I don't know why I am keeping this journal any more. Certainly, it isn't because I'm writing anything of interest.

I hope you have had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

By the pricking of my thumb...

Welcome to yet another November in the world of the Way Out Inn. Since the last update, Jess has started to apply to colleges, we had an amazing fun fundraiser night for Boy Scouts at a local restaurant, and Halloweeners came to visit. In our old house, we maybe got two or three Halloweeners. This year we had about 50, and it was kind of weird because I actually expected more due to the fact that the local 55+ residence that usually hosts an indoors apartment to apartment trick or treat (which every kid in town goes to) cancelled due to fears over H1N1 Swine Flu.

I work in Salem, so I bailed from my office at about 3:30. For the past few weeks there has been a ferris wheel outside my office building just sitting there... and they weren't running it until 4pm daily. I wanted to ride it when I would have lunch, and was always disappointed that it wasn't running at noon. I came out of my office and there it was... running. So I got my ride. I got some fried dough, and I beat feet out of the city of Salem before all the freaks and knuckleheads could come out. If you aren't familiar with what happens in Salem, it is the hub of the north east for Halloween "fun." It is absolute chaos when it kicks into full gear on Halloween itself.

It was a beautiful Halloween, I love when Halloween falls on a weekend and I don't have to rush home from work and be all spazzed out over trying to get ready in time. I also love it when it isn't stinking freezing out and we can sit out and enjoy ourselves. As usual, Jess went to her friend Lizzy's house. Liz' birthday is Halloween so they always spend the weekend together, and this may be the last time she gets to do it because I don't know where Liz and Jess will be next year.

Geoff doesn't trick-or-treat anymore. He's "too cool" for it. So he played Guitar Hero Metallica all day yesterday. Doug and I set up lawn chairs outside in front and he came out a few times to look at kids in costumes, some his own age and older, and then he went inside. I am not sure why he didn't want to go out. I gave him the option to go down to a friend's house, and he opted not to. So I'm not sure where he is with friends and things. Maybe next year.

My friend Janet, her husband and their two boys came by. Dave took the two boys around the neighborhood and Janet sat with us, relaxing, chatting and having a great time. We had initially planned on putting out the fire pit and chilling at the end of the driveway, but the wind was hellacious and I was afraid that the house would catch fire if we did. So we didn't fire up the cozy.

Jess came home from Liz' very early. She told me to pick her up at 4... but called us at 11 to get her. She went straight to bed. She has had a horrible cold, and I think it is owning her. She asked me if she had a fever or not and she didn't feel hot at all, so I think it is just a cold and not Swine Flu or anything.

I've had a lot of discussions with people about the vaccine and whether or not to get it. We opted against it. All of us are always sicker after the vaccine (yes, I know it is a dead virus in the vaccine, but after we get shots we get sick. Just the way it is, and I hate that). We also discussed the fact that there are 3 million vaccines for 300 million Americans, and that if there are people freaking out that they WANT it, they can just have it. We'll run the risk of getting it.

I know several people who have had actual confirmed cases of the flu, and others who said they had it but never went to get a test at the doctor to confirm that it was THE H1N1 flu. I have friends whose kids have it right now. I have friends who are just coming out of it. Our elementary school attendance has dropped to below 30% but they haven't closed school. I wonder how many parents are keeping their kids home with colds or even if they're NOT sick, just to keep them away from school.

How about you? What are your plans for the super flu that is sweeping the nation? Do you think the media and citizens are overreacting? The people I know who have had the flu say it goes fast, is intense but done. Over. Fini. So I'm thinking that it'll be okay if we get slammed by it. Doug had to get the shot because he works at a hospital, so we'll see how we fare in comparison.

Before I go -- if you live North of Boston and you'd like to buy a Christmas Wreath for your house for the holidays, get in touch with me. Geoff's Boy Scout Troop is selling greenery and I can arrange to take your order, get it to you, the whole nine yards. So drop us a line.

Alright. More later...

Monday, October 19, 2009

HHS is the best -- Blue Devil Marching Band Reunion...

This past weekend I went down to Long Island to participate in the alumni marching band reunion. About 100 alumni members showed up, which is kind of a lame showing considering how many actually still live in or near Huntington. People have their reasons for doing or not doing stuff.

I wasn't going to do it until my friend Eva asked me if I was coming; and then my sister asked me to, because we were never together in band at the same time due to our years apart in age. Both of us were very active in the band, and it meant a lot to each of us. Why not share it together once?

Sure. Why not.

I honestly did not remember a note or word of my high school fight song. I looked at the sheet music last week and just ... drew a blank. A total blank. It wasn't until I heard the high F trill in the flute practice room that it all came back to me. ah yes... and here we go.

My flute was in ill-repair so I had taken it in for a tune up last week. I guess I should have taken it out and tried it before driving to NY... because it still didn't work. I thought it was me until someone handed me a flute that worked, and then I realized my 40 year old Armstrong was most likely total shite... and should be retired. With a loaner flute and a willing heart, I sat in a room with a dozen other flute players from the 70s, 80s and 90s, and we slogged through the fight song and the national anthem.

Over and over.

I won't say it "flooded" back, but eventually I remembered fingerings, I remembered how to get from one register to another. I would play down an octave when I couldn't get the old lips to purse enough to hit the high notes. The percussion section was rehearsing across the hall, and when they'd come to the part in the cadence where we'd whip our instruments up and get ready to play, we rehearsed that and nailed it.

Eventually they pulled all of us into the auditorium, and we ran through the fight song. It sounded like this:

Not too shabby for a pantload of old farts, some of whom had not touched an instrument or played in 20 years. We practiced again and again, sped it up a bit, marked time in place, and broke for the night.

I had the honor of going and hanging out at a very overcrowded bar with a mess of people from band, and some who were there because they knew we'd be there. Old friends, new friends in the form of spouses... we didn't stay out too too late because 8am rehearsal time was going to sneak up on us way too early.

We met at the parking lot of the junior high (now called middle school, which made me sad). When we marched around, it felt natural. Everyone knew their rank, kept in step, and did a spectacular job.

The actual parade was great... turning the corner onto Rte 25a from the parking lot where we'd assembled, there was a huge crowd, and there was cheering. Actual cheering... for us. It was kind of funny. We played the fight song over and over and over. After about 10 times I realized I'd forgotten it on purpose, blocked it out like a horrible memory. Enough of THAT crap! Oy.

HHS alumni band reunion 37We marched up a nasty hill that I honestly do not ever remember marching up before. I think we used to end in the parking lot at the shopping center. Trumpet player Ted said that we most certainly did march up that hill because his father has pictures of us doing it back in the day.

So I think I'd blocked that out, too. I likened it to childbirth. It's awful, painful, hellish; and you deliberately forget how bad it is so you'll be silly and tell your husband "oh sure, yeah ... let's have another baby!" And then there you are back in the labor and delivery room saying "OMFG!!!! I remember NOW how bad this HURTS!" Actually, I can honestly say that even for a hugely overweight fat old lady I had no problem with the hill. It wasn't until 2 days later that I felt it...

The arrival at the high school was joyous. Our band director said "one more time and it's your last time!" on the fight song... so we played it loud and proud, finished with the final measures of the drum cadence and stopped. Everyone cheered... it was fantastic.

We played the national anthem at the football game with the high school band. Our band actually was better and more prepared than the High School band. But we sounded okay together and video evidence that people posted to Facebook shows that we were indeed spot on and did a great job. I sat with my sister and our friends Mike, Eva, Dan and his wife Meg, a girl named Chrissy who I didn't recall from back in the day but she knew me. (Crap I'm bad with memory on some things...) The rain was holding off, the forecast was that we'd get our asses kicked but that didn't come to pass. The cocoa was "special" and warm and wonderful, and we played along with the marching band the best we could with their silly interstitial musical pieces. We were good at "Let's Go Band" (which I remembered from Geoff playing a few years ago and I relearned that with him), and we had our section laughing at us as we cheered for the Blue and White.

Linda and I left after halftime and went home for a disco nap. We had a dinner to go to with the alumni, and wouldn't have made it through the evening without a nap. Again, feeling way too old. Dinner was decent, the bar was good, and the companionship was fun. We all tore the place up, laughing and sharing and watching Dan's teeth and lips turn purple slowly from the amount of cabernet he was enjoying. After dinner, we went to a martini bar in town that wasn't my scene at all, but found a dark corner where most of us fit. We drank more, laughed louder than we should, hugged people, laughed more and did the "dirty stay out" until 2am. We shut the bar. I've never done that before. Never shut down a bar. We all enjoyed some pizza. 2am NY pizza is the best. There is honestly NOTHING like it. And we tried two more bars but decided the scene wasn't what we wanted so we went our separate ways at about 3am.

My sister and I drove home to her house, the rain started, and we were happy to get home after laughing out asses off because we sang song parodies to Kings of Leon and Black Eyed Peas about how we were going to go get some sleepies.

I took the ferry home in a wild nor'easter and had wicked vertigo all day today because of it. But, it beat driving home in the snow and rain. The photos are here, if you want to see them all. I keep looking at them and smiling. I love my friend Mike, and he looks so handsome and happy. My sister is adorable. My boy Herbie was owning the Drums... Eva was just an amazing laugh the whole time... the ridiculousness that was coming out of our mouths as we snarked around town. It was so nice to see our band director. She taught us all so much, and 25 years later, we still "had it.." thanks to her groundwork years ago.

It was an honor to go out and play that stupid song a million times over and over. I'm glad I went. And I'd do it again. I am almost inclined to go get a good, decent flute... and actually take up playing again. We shall see. We shall see...

Now, there is talk of a choir reunion in Bowling Green where our choir director lives. He can't travel to us, so people are starting to build up an event for March '10 for us to go do... Eva and my sister want me to go ...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Canoeing Merit Badge Story - "Awww, my life totally sucks."

On Wednesday, we had an interesting Geoff experience. 

When he went to summer camp, he did three merit badges and didn't complete them. On his canoeing badge, he had one requirement left, so we made arrangements to meet with a merit badge counselor (who happens to go to our church) and get this puppy put away. Geoff was stoked, he couldn't wait to go... and we got down to the waterfront and he and Steve got the canoe out and brought it to the water.

The docks and floats were pulled up onto the beach as they were getting ready for the winter. Steve was there before us and had planted the canoe next to one of the floats closest to the water.

Because he hadn't worked with Geoff on the badge to that point he asked him some "refresher" questions about safety, paddling styles, all requirements that Geoff had completed over the summer... but Steve needed to know before headed out to the water with him that Geoff knew his stuff. 

Satisfied, he had Geoff walk to the back of the canoe (remember the canoe is half in the water and half on sand) and instructed him to turn around and sit. Geoff did that. And the second he sat down, the canoe flipped over on its side. 

Geoff, in the water end of the canoe, went into said water. It was kind of like a slow motion train wreck. I saw it happening, and both Steve and I stood there and watched. The water was about thigh deep at this spot, so he was submerged. Soaked. Head to toe. 

He got out and said the above quote about his life sucking. 

Steve said in a very calm and matter of fact way, "that's one way to look at it. It's your choice whether or not you'd like to try it again. It's up to you. We can finish this today, or come back in the spring. Whatever you choose, I'm happy to help you."

Geoff looked at Steve and said he'd like to try again. I could see that the wind was out of his sails though, as he got back into the canoe and Steve pushed them off. His paddling was weak, gentle, reserved. Steve encouraged him to put some more muscle into it but I could tell that Geoff just wasn't loving it as much as he had been the minute he got there. 

The requirement he needed to do was to basically paddle out 50 yards, go around 2 buoys in a figure 8 and come back to shore. Steve taught him some paddling techniques that he didn't know, and they went and did their figure 8. I could hear Steve asking him if he was comfortable what with being soaking wet and all. Geoff swims in weather like this (it was in the upper 50s, and I'm sure the water was really cold) so he wasn't freaking out about being cold. He wasn't shivering or teeth chattering, so he was fine. 

In the end, he achieved what he needed to, and got signed off on that last of the ten requirements for the merit badge. 

On top of that, he didn't lose his cool and flip the mother effing hell out the way I kind of thought he might, the way he usually does. I was really relieved. 

Part of his success in this was the fact that neither Steve nor I reacted strongly to the spill. We kept our cool. Had he done it in front of 10 other Boy Scouts, I think he would have stormed off and quit. 

I know that was embarrassing for him... Steve said that it would have been embarrassing for him as a 56 year old man. He was impressed with how Geoff regrouped and got the job done. 

My biggest hope is that he can maintain that kind of skill, or come to the point where he can laugh at himself and just continue with a crowd around him who might be laughing at him and turn it into a crowd laughing with him. 

We'll see.

But, I'm proud of him -- he did a great job and that's fantastic. Whew.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Das Wereweinerhundgeisterhaus!

"Ich lebt in einem wereweinerhundgeisterhaus mit einer vogelscheuche und einem hexenmeister."
I live in a were-weinerdog ghost house with a scarecrow and a warlock.
-Doug, at dinner, speaking his own very special brand of German

I took today off because I am beat. Exhausted. And feeling that "I'm going to throw up or pass out" kind of feeling. So being home, curled up with many dogs and the Steelers Fleece is the best place to be. I updated the Boy Scout Troop website (we have a huge fundraiser coming up at the end of October) and before I slip off into sleepies I thought I ought to write an update.

Our exchange student is spectacular.

I took the day off on Friday to clean house and have decided I want a cleaning lady. Yikes. But I digress. Jess and I picked her up on Friday evening, and brought her home where Doug had just arrived and where Geoff was waiting for us. We decided to go out to eat. The girl she is actually doing her exchange with (Raina) came with us (long story, Raina couldn't host her at all, so a 2nd family was asked to host her and then they backed out... if you read my last entry, that's how we ended up hosting. It wasn't Raina's fault at all, and she feels horrible about the whole situation, but we're not mad at her or anything. She's a gem and we love her).

We had a lot of fun and unlike 2 years ago when Jess didn't talk much in German and our exchange student was shy, the languages were flying. Raina and Jess were speaking German. Melanie was speaking English, and Geoff was speaking some crazy Geoff language of Spanish, German and English as he so desperately tried to fit in. It was entertaining and sad at the same time. I had to pull him aside and ask him to scale it back, not compete, and just be himself. He had decided since she was from Germany she wouldn't know any English so he had better at least pretend to speak her language. I understood his efforts, and thought them very kind. He's figured out she speaks perfectly good English, and has finally calmed down. Doug and I spoke "Denglish" as Raina calls it.... English mixed with some Deutsch words. Lots of laughs were flying.

salisbury 24We kept Melanie awake until 9pm when she finally collapsed into bed.

Saturday afternoon we went out to Salisbury Beach. The dogs needed a good run, and swim, and she wanted to see the ocean from somewhere other than a plane. She's been to places like Spain and whatnot but wanted to see our ocean. So we threw sticks and looked at Newburyport and watched a ton of people with their horses and I took more pictures of strangers and horses than I've ever taken in my life. They were so pretty on the beach.

Funny, the last time we were up at Salisbury Beach with a German Exchange student we saw exactly the same thing... now that I think of it. All the photos are here, if you'd like to see.

Saturday night Jess and I went to a Bat Mitzvah party and Melanie spent the evening with Raina's family. I think Melanie would have enjoyed the Bat Mitzvah party because they played all of her favorite music and there were Rebels there who would have embraced her. I know the mom of the Bat Mitzvah gal would have welcomed her to the party no problem... but I didn't want to overwhelm her with 10,000 new strangers after being here for less than 24 hours. Upon reflection, I think she would have done just fine, splendid, wonderfully. Ah well. I took a million pictures of Rebels and others with glow stick necklaces and chaos... the photos are here if you want to see. A couple particularly nice ones are there of our Jess.

whitefield day 18Sunday we took her to our church, and it was a special and different service. Our pastor dresses up as one of the most famous of the Great Awakening church fathers and he does a truncated version of one of his 3 hour sermons. I'm sure it was impossible for her to follow because I was lost and confused... but Rob (our pastor) was all dressed up with the wig and everything so a good time was had by all.

Afterwards, we toured the church from top to bottom, and she got to enjoy the view from the steeple. It was a very nice time.

The work week started and our German Guest went to the high school for the first time -- she said that she had a great time, and that everyone was really friendly. We watched "House" in English and she liked it. She didn't know Hugh Laurie was that guy... yeah. That guy. I was happy to finally see the season premiere, which I hadn't had a chance to catch yet. In fact, now that I think of it I missed the last two episodes of last season, so ... hmmm. Gotta go back and dig into some Hulu or Fox online and catch up.

Melanie has a great sense of humor. The other night we were watching a news report about the German elections, and they kept showing footage of revelers at München's Hofbrauhäus and I said "Look at all these stereotypes! Look how the American media portrays Germans!!! Like a bunch of drunken jerks!" She responded "Oh but that IS how Germans are all the time!" Which I thought was adorable. Monday night we sat around the dining table while Doug looked up words in Google Translator and tried to say them, and it made her laugh so hard. She would correct him, he'd try and say it... and so on and so on, much to our great amusement. At one point he was yelling about Bird Poop and Scarecrows (vogelscheuche) because his "scheuche" was coming out like Scheiße (oh I do love the German double S thingie!). I told her basically I would put money on the fact there wasn't another family in our school district with an exchange student at their house from Germany sitting around the dining table talking about wereweinerhundgeister and vogelscheuche. Guaranteed.

This weekend, the girls are off to NYC in an adventurous trip with Germans and American's mixing it up. Two 2 years ago when The Germans were here, you'll recall that on the same NYC weekend we went to someone's wedding with our German exchange student (GES, remember me calling her that for short? lol). And then we spent two days enjoying Manhattan, which you can read about here and here, if you are so bored at work you can't think of anything else to do.

Melanie is with us through the 15th, when we put her on an airplane and send her away. I already feel like I'll miss her. Three weeks is such a short time. Wow. But ... today she is in Boston doing the Museum of Science. Then to NYC with my daughter. Then they'll have a couple field trips during the week, including one to the town where I work and I may try and see them for a few minutes while they are there. I also think I will take her to the second annual Salem Zombie Walk, which takes place on October 10th (she said it sounds like fun, and I think she honestly means it). We may go with Pastor Rob out on his boat out to see whales on the 10th too, if that works out. Not sure yet... Have to wait and see.

Doug's parents are coming up to nearby Manchester NH for some sort of convention for some glass stuff that they're into. So we'll have a visit with them in late October... I wish they were actually coming to visit while Melanie is here.

Anyway, I so desperately need a nap right now. This has taken me longer to write than I thought because I got two phone calls and a house guest in the middle of it. I'm sure there will be more adventures coming up soon.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

An Unexpected but not Unwanted Guest

The phone rang while we were watching some one of the 4pm football games on Sunday afternoon. Probably the Steelers, but I cannot recall. It was Jess' German teacher and she was not at all happy.

"I am not sure what to do, but I need to ask you a favor..." she started. She is a lovely and sweet woman, and my heart started pounding wondering what could possibly be wrong. "I need a host family for one of the students coming here on Friday, and I'm wondering if you can take her in." She told me the story of how the original exchange family cannot host her, and the substitute exchange family deicided that they just can't take her.

"Sure. We'll take her."

I looked at Doug, who was lounging upon the couch watching his football and he rolled his eyes, but he knew in his heart of hearts that I was right speaking for us. "OH!" said Jess' teacher, "Thank you!!! I don't know what I would do without you!"

It isn't about her praising me, it was more about me thinking "What if this was my kid, and she was on her way to some Foreign Country, and her host family flaked." What would I hope for ... someone to step up.

So our German arrives tomorrow afternoon. Jess didn't sign up for the exchange program so we're not prepared for this. She's not planning on going to Germany in June, this is actually someone "else's" student, which is all fine and good. Some of you may remember 2 years ago right now when we had Anna here as our "German." She was fantastic. We went to my sister's wedding and had a hands down blast.... and Jess went to Germany and stayed with her family in June 2008.

Melanie will come to us, and we'll surrogate host her, I guess. But already I've had a wonderful time emailing with her. And I can't believe in 24 hours she'll be sleeping upstairs.

I do feel a little self-satisfied. I'm so willing to just fling open my doors and let whomever in... it's just too bad my house is a fucking DISASTER and needs to be top to bottom scrubbed.

I took a vacation day tomorrow.... so the scrubbing/vacuuming can take place. And it will. dude. It totally will.

So not much else to say except I plan on a German living with us starting tomorrow. And it is freaking me out. I should be cleaning... but oh man. German. Don't mention the war!

While she is here, she will be going to NYC with the full group (Americans and Germans) and spending 2 days heading out to Niagara Falls with just the Germans. They'll come down to Salem, and I may try and tag along with them when they do.

The weekend of October 16th, I'm going "home." My High School Marching band is having a reunion. I'm going to stay with my sister, and I'm kind of super looking forward to it because Linda (my baby sister) and I have never been in Band at the same time together... so this will be the first and only time I get to march with her. I wasn't going to go do this trip, but when I realized this fact, I had to go.

I loved high school marching band, the fun field shows and challenging programs. And Linda and I were never in band at the same time, so this will be an amazing time.

If I can remember how to play my flute or saxaphone.

There may be some awesome people there and I'm almost out of control excited about seeing people that might be there. More to come on this in the coming weeks, I'm sure.

But wow. High school. Marching band. Woot!

Anyway -- not much else going on. A lot of Scout stuff keeping me busy and the German thing, and ... wow. That's about it kids. Hope all is well with all y'all. Watch this space as usual.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fill-in-the-Blank Day(s)

It was a busy weekend, one where I managed to pull an event together by the skin of my teeth.

Does your town have "Insert your town name Days"?


Well, we do. We have "Insert your town name Days" around here. This is a community event that just about every town up around here in New England has. The "days" consist of a PTA cake walk, and ice cream social at a local church and another church does their pancake breakfast. Usually there is soccer sign up or basketball sign up, or a raffle for the local historical society, a band, and a bunch of other shenanigans.

Small towns have these "days" which are usually one "day" but let's not argue about that. Suffice to say, the Boy Scouts play a major role in whatever the town "Days" is. Our town is no different. Our Troop does a big assed barbecue. And I volunteered back in March to coordinate it. It also turns out to be our Troop's big fundraiser for the year. Last year, our "days" was canceled because of rain. this year, not so much.

We got food donated to us (if you live anywhere near Haverhill MA, I will extol the virtues of Haverhill Beef Company to you, and the fine folk at Fantini Bakery also helped out). Our Scouts and parents step up to man the grill, the cash register and do all kinds of good works.

We watched the forecast for weeks... it was perfect perfect perfect and then all of a sudden it was supposed to be pouring out on Saturday.

Absolutely POURING.

They had a rain date scheduled, but there was one problem. They didn't TELL anyone about the rain date, except the vendors. So the info that went home with the elementary school students, the announcement in the paper... not one mention was made of the rain date. Which was stupid. And it pissed me off. Because why HAVE a slated rain date and then not tell anyone about it. Dumbasses. But. Whatever. So they opted to go ahead and do it. Have it go on and ... move everything INSIDE (at the fire station) and run it indoors.

One problem -- you can't grill INSIDE the fire station.

Yet again, Troop 87 would be representin' in the pouring rain. it isn't a Troop 87 event if it isn't raining. I think we've all gotten used to this by now.

The night before at 11pm I'm on the phone with parents, people squabbling... "I can't believe they're not just doing it on Sunday!!!"

"I know, I know... but I'm not in charge so..."

"This is so stupid!"

"I know, I know... I fully agree!"

"It's gonna be BEAUTIFUL on Sunday!!! What the hell! Don't they know no one is going to come out on Sunday!!!!"

"I know," (insert sound of my head hitting the dining table), "I agree," (bang, bang bang).

Groveland days 3We were up at 7am, rushing to get ready, tying all the loose ends up. Veteran parents who have done this thing before were essential to me, keeping me from losing my mind. We got everything set up, and at 10am started up the grill. I borrowed a wok from my friend Gary and we stir fried the onions and peppers for sausages... we did just what we needed and then when we needed more we did more. The boys were psyched about the giant wok. I've never seen boys this psyched about ... a cooking device.

It poured. It so poured. It was horrible. Everyone else was inside, but we were outside, and people eventually came out to see us. And our food started selling. And we were cranking out the goods. Sausages! with Peppers and Onions! Burgers! with or without cheese! Hot dogs!

My concern was that we'd recoup our costs of about $500. We did. We doubled that. We ended up clearing about $600.
And at the end of the day, that's not bad.

The boys were in good spirits, and that made everything much better. Our senior patrol leader is so much fun, I adore him. We had a great time, and he kept everyone laughing (including me). I had a great time, and while it would have been much nicer to do it on a nice, sunny day -- like today -- we had a great time. I love these guys. And it was time well spent.

Today I slept until 1pm. I guess I was exhausted. After the whole summer of Shakespeare touring, and then this event on top of things... sleep was well earned.

Major league football kicked off this past Thursday but today was the first Big Day of game play. And you all know that I love me some football, we watched quite a bit of it today (once we woke up) and then later in the day we went to get Jess' senior pictures taken. My friend Peter is a great photographer, and I didn't want a 3 hour studio shoot with hundreds of dollars of photos and prints and whatnot, so I asked him to do her photos. We wanted to do it at Winnekenni Castle, but there was a wedding there tonight. So we ended up at a playground, which was Jess' idea.

She didn't even WANT senior portraits done, but I told her that her parents and grandparents and Auntie would want them, so we had to do something. So the playground was fun, informal, but professional. Peter took a ton of photos and will send me the best to pick from. One will be yearbook worthy... and some will be just fun and silly and happy. And in the end, that's all I wanted. I love my girl. So if she wants portraits at a playground... that's all right by me.

On that note, I'm officially very tired. Putting up photos into Flickr and going to bed. Good night friends.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Epistles of Love

Pictured here is a little scene from "Twelfth Night."

Three of the funniest people to "hide" behind a box tree. Sir Andrew in front, Sir Toby with the hat on and Fabian. They are watching Malvolio as he reads an "Epistle of Love" from the Lady Olivia. He thinks it is written to him, and confesses Olivia's love for him. The three musketeers above know it is a prank, as he reads " be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon 'em." Later he'll make his entrance with yellow stockings crossed gartered, much to Olivia's disgust, and he'll "thrust" greatness upon her. With hilarious results.

"Twelfth Night" was an amazing experience, and unlike each of the other two tours I really felt connected with this cast, not just my daughter and a couple of people. I had a wonderful time working on this tour, loved the production, loved the locations where we were booked to play, loved the directors, loved the comedy that they produced that just seemed to get better and better each time. We did ten shows, and I would have liked to have seen it five more times. It was that good. I loved it all, and going through my photos, which are all here in a collection, I relive it over and over and it brings me such joy.

I miss the kids. And I miss what I was doing. Keri always tells the kids that after the experience is over, and she has told us parents too, that the kids will sometimes get really depressed after the run is over. Well, I didn't think that it would hit me like this, but I have hit that dark place myself.

After this wonderful experience, I think I'm officially bummed in ways I haven't been in years.

I miss them, watching them, talking to them, spending time with them, and helping them and their directors do what they needed to do. I feel like what I was doing was full of such incredible meaning. I was able to do so much and experience the artistic side of me that is so lacking anymore. While the experience was fantastic, it also showed me that I'm just not happy where I am vocationally. I'm really rather unhappy. And I have been for a long time.

I don't know what I'm doing with and in my life at the moment, and it just really has hit me hard these past few weeks. I tried getting my masters in education, and realized that my starting salary would be 20k less than what I'm earning now. There is no real incentive for me to go do that. So, I'm semi-floundering right now. But I will get over it. It'll be okay.

Halibut 4Can I tell you why this picture is funny?

We did a show at Halibut Point State Park, and upon arrival a bunch of the kids saw this sign and thought it was hysterical.

The sign is telling readers "Danger! This is a Quarry." But with no punctuation, it can come off as the name of the quarry, like Danger Quarry... instead of Danger, Quarry! or Danger! Quarry!

So everyone laughed hard, and we sang a James Bond kind of song about Danger Quarry! Filled with Danger! And some boulders! And some rocks! Danger Quarry!

Doug said "where on earth would you ever find a mess of kids who know enough about punctuation to find "Danger Quarry" this amusing?" And we laughed our asses off for hours. Everyone wanted their picture taken with the sign. It became part of the play. During the scene where Malvolio finds his letter and Toby, Andrew and Fabian hide from him, Fabian hid behind it with excellent comedic results. It was leaned against, became almost like a prop or set piece. During his sword fight with Viola, our Sir Andrew did this great "Grrrrr, Rawrrrrrr" to be all tough sounding. And on this night he said "Grrrrrr, Rawrrrrrr, DANGER QUARRY! RAWWWRRRRR!" and the audience died laughing, the cast almost lost it... it was amazing.

I want to make him a t-shirt that says "Danger Quarry" on it. I want everyone to have one. I want one.

Twelfth Night - Museum Marketplace Salem MAWe had a wonderful run with a few weather related problems.

Hurricane Bill (aptly named for Shakespeare perhaps?) was threatening us for days. Luckily what it ended up doing was force storms out to our West to STAY to our West. On Saturday, I stood in downtown Salem outside of the Hawthorne Hotel before our show at the Salem Common, and looked at a wall of clouds, the backside of a massive thunderstorm that was up over Peabody. Lightning raged all up and down the back of the cloud walls, and I begged it to just STAY over there.

And it did.

We didn't get so lucky on the Sunday night of the run.

We were in East India Pedestrian mall outside the Peabody Essex Museum doing our show, which in and of itself has a great story that I'll tell next. A huge crowd had gathered, and we used the fountain interior as our stage. It was wonderful to have so many people there. The cast had done some serious street teaming during the day on Saturday and the hour before this show. We were thrilled to have a great audience for this unique little spot.

Our cast used the islands inside the fountain wonderfully. It was fantastic and the show was running smoothly. Three scenes left in the play, it started to rain, so we opted to go inside the Museum Place Mall.

It was after 6:30 at night... and we figured it would be no problem. No one was really in there, it's kind of like the place you'd film a post-apocalyptic zombie movie or something because it seriously has very little human traffic in it. Our audience quickly and quietly relocated to inside the mall, and the show started again. Everything was going smoothly, fantastically. Sir Andrew made his dramatic and very loud entrance yelling "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, A SURGEON!!!" and the audience busted out laughing.

Suddenly, the security guard came around the corner. He rushed over to Zoe, our stage manager, and I cold see him gesturing at her. So I ran over to intercede.

"You people can't be in here!. You don't have permission to be in here!"

I apologized, told him it was POURING out and we only had three more scenes. Five more minutes! We didn't think it would be a problem.

"You don't have permission. I'm calling my boss."

"Okay, sir, please understand, it is POURING out and we're almost done. Seriously there is only about five minutes left in the play."

"And then, I'm calling the cops."

Oh seriously. You have got to be joking.

I looked out the window -- noticed that the rain had stopped and looked at our director who was watching me carefully. I nodded at her and mouthed, "Get them outside now."

She stood up and halted the scene. She gently told the audience we were going back outside, and people complied. I was impressed again by their quickness and efficiency. We barely lost an audience member, they wanted to see what the outcome of this silly story was going to be. While the audience and cast reassembled outdoors in the fountain, I went over to the security booth to talk to the dude. He was on the phone with his boss and I asked to talk to him. I apologized profusely, and said that basically we thought we didn't have an option with five minutes left.

"Yeah, but you should have asked. If you asked, we could have made arrangements."

So it sounded to me like it was all about asking the permission and he was more hurt than mad.

"I'm sorry, if I knew it was going to start raining, you better believe I would have asked you. I'm sorry. Friends?" I stuck my hand out.

"Next time just ask me first and we'll be all set."

Okay champ. We shook hands and declared no harm, no foul.

I went outside knowing he didn't call the cops and watched the kids finish their show. In the distance, I cold hear police sirens and Chris, HBK and McKey looked over at me, somewhat wide-eyed and terrified. McKey got up and came over to me, he had directed the July show and was up from NY to see this show. He was all ready to be tough, arms crossed, chin jutted out. "Do I need to diffuse the situation with the cops when they show up?"

Twelfth Night - Museum Marketplace Salem MA"They won't be showing up. I diffused the situation with Mr. Security guy with love and words so we're all set."

We stood together and watched the end of the play. Pretty much the minute the play ended, I managed to get a full cast shot inside the fountain, and then the rain started up again. And it would not let up again for 20 hours.

Good thing we had the next day off.

The funny story about the fountain is that I had arranged with the city of Salem to make sure that the fountain would not be running the day of the performance. I had gone to a zoning board meeting, and gotten a street performer's license (awesome) and told them my plan was to stage the show inside the fountains on the island, and that it was okay if water was inside the fountain but that the waterfall would be too loud for the kids to compete with. They assured me that the fountain would be off.

We got there, and the fountain was running. D'oh. It being a Sunday evening I knew there was no chance I would be able to get ahold of anyone to turn the silly thing off. The kids were rehearsing and working on projecting over the fountain. I saw a city truck coming up the pedestrian mall to take out the garbage. I trotted over to ask the guys if they had keys or access to keys to turn the fountain off. They called their boss, and they told me he'd be over as soon as he could. Their boss, Tom, was there in ten minutes, on his day off even, with five keyrings with about 100 keys each on them.

"I turned this off on Friday," he told me. "Someone decided to turn it back on, and unfortunately, I think they still have the key ring with the key that opens this lock!" He told me that he got an email on Friday letting him know to make sure it was off for the weekend.

I thanked him for coming out on his day off. He was irritated with whomever decided to turn the fountain back on and shook his head. He apologized repeatedly, and I told him it was okay, the kids would project as loud as they could. The fountain looked awesome, so that was nice.

He tried every Master Lock key on the keyrings and none of them would open the lock. "I'm going back to the shop for a bolt cutter, I'll be right back."

"Oh! You don't have to do that!" I didn't want him to have to replace the lock for us. "I have a million master locks, it's no big deal."

So he came back, and used the bolt cutters to cut the lock, turned the fountain off. I tried to pay him for the lock and he wouldn't take the money. So he and the two guys who called him in all got hugs from me. They wished me luck with Hurricane Bill, and one said "Hey, Bill Shakespeare, that's funny!" Even the city workers got the humor in the hurricane name.

Bill didn't turn out to be a huge factor but Tropical Storm Danny did. We enjoyed the whole rest of the week with no bad weather, until the one show that I wanted to do outdoors was rained out. Saturday, we were scheduled to do the show out on a little island in Marblehead Harbor. The island is accessible at low tide only, visitors walk out when the water is low and enjoy this little island. Well, the rain prevented us from doing that. Luckily, the UU church in Marblehead was willing to host us, and we had our final show indoors, with epic and amazing results. I watched most of it instead of taking photos, it was really a fun performance where the kids let it all out. I was horribly disappointed to not have the show on the little island. I think that a lot of people thought I was crazy, or they thought it was awesome. My cell phone rang off the hook with people wondering where the show was. One woman told me she was really looking forward to the island. I guess that it was a weird and wonderful choice that some folks in town thought was awesome. I think a nice crowd would have come out. Oh well.

At least we had a nice contingency plan in place, and in the end it all worked out great.

Several friends come out to see the kids in their plays this year, and it really made me happy. Beth and the Dane came to both shows, Elizabeth was at Rockport, as were Gregg, Karry and Abby. A bunch of the Boy Scout troop parents came to the castle. Jess' theatre teacher was even there. I wish she had seen Hamlet to see Jess, Nick and Byron -- but at least she came to see Twelfth Night, and she really loved it.

They all told me how wonderful the production was, how incredible the acting, the presentation... and that was so awesome. I've been telling everyone how great they are, and hearing from them afterwards that it isn't just my imagination was so awesome and made me so happy.

Doug started a new job this week. He had been working a 4 day work week at a Boston Hospital and augmented his income with 2 days a week Home Health Care. A six day work week made for no fun Doug, but he liked the two days a week doing Home Health. He couldn't find a good full time home health gig, so keeping the hospital medicaid/medicare paperwork gig was important. He started looking at the beginning of the summer, and got a good job for a five day a week position at another Boston hospital, which he can actually get to by taking the commuter rail. It pays about 15k more than what he was earning at the other hospital, which makes sense for the extra day... and it is half the work load of what he had before. Hopefully he'll be pretty happy with this job.

Jess is very happy. She is a senior this year, and after her first day she was smiling and excited about her course work. "For the first time in my life, I'm taking classes I want to take." She had to drop AP German because everyone else in the class dropped the course, leaving her as the only participant on the roles so the school wouldn't run a course for one student. Can't say as I blame them. She only had half the summer work done, so she was semi-relieved but a little pissed because she was the only one who did ANY of the summer work. All of the students are now in Honors German now. She is still going to try and prepare for the AP test anyway, because taking it could help her a lot when it comes to college admissions especially if she gets a 4 or even the elusive 5 for a score. She is starting to look at colleges, and surprisingly it doesn't break my heart. The one problem is she doesn't FEEL LIKE going to SEE the colleges. She thinks that she can just pick a college based on their website. I disagree. I think a campus visit is mandatory. So far she's been to UMass Amherst, is interested in University of Southern Maine, University of Maine Orono (way too expensive. 30k a year for out of state students???? what???) and University of Pittsburgh. So we're going to have to convince her that actual site visits are worthwhile. Wish me luck.

Geoff started middle school, which is really the new normal for all of us. He is up at 5:45 every day getting ready for school. I so wish I had that kind of gumption. He is showered, dressed and eating breakfast by the time I roll my fat ass downstairs for my first cup of coffee. I opted to drive both of them to school this year, as our high school and middle school are right next door to one another, and we're also driving MM, our next door neighbor who Jess has been friends with since kindergarten.

I drop them off at 7am. My plan was to drop them off and go straight to work but since Doug has been in my way every morning my plan of being 100% ready to go has been thwarted, so I've come home to get ready. We all need to figure out our new schedules and get in synch together.

The great thing about Geoff is he's happy too, and I have not had a phone call from the school yet. Yet. I know there will be a call eventually, but for now, he's happy and I'm happy and that's good. Cross your fingers that it stays this way.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


August 12, 2009 - Reunioning

This past weekend I had the distinct honor and pleasure of going to a family reunion, on my dad's side of the family. A few years back, we did the same thing as some of you may recall. Since that time, my cousin Deb managed to find a few more relatives, mostly cousins, who had semi-vanished from our lives. Thanks to the magical powers of facebook, we've managed to reacquaint and get to know one another as adults. So another reunion was put into the works, and we gathered at Deb's house for another bash.

Doug couldn't get the Saturday off of work after spending a week at Boy Scout camp with Geoff, so he opted to not join us instead of joining us late. 5 hours away is not exactly the kind of thing you go to after you get out of work at 5pm.

Geoff had been at my parents' for the week, so we met him down there (Jess and I, that is). The party was in full swing at our arrival, with cousins from everywhere chilling in the backyard. Geoff spent about 11 hours in the pool. Sometimes I think that I'd like a pool because it would be something for him to do... and then I think to myself, naah, he'd never use it if we actually HAD one.

My aunt Margie was there, and my aunt Esther. Since the last reunion, my uncle Buddy had passed away, so this basically leaves my dad and his two sisters, with another uncle out in the world somewhere. I have no idea where he is or what he is up to.

reunion9Chief among the newly rediscovered cousins was Bill and Teri (who goes by Bethy these days). We hadn't seen one another since probably 1980, I'm guessing. They are a little older than I am, and both live far away.

When their dad died back in 1992, Deb tried desperately to find them, to no avail. It made us all really sad to know that he was going to be buried without his kids there... We'd gotten to know each other again on the facebook, and it is always so cute to log into FB in the morning and see "what's up cousins?" as someone's status. It always makes me smile. We take over one anothers statuses once in a while, with my cousin Joe and Deb's daughter Marlene usually the ringleaders of silly. We rag on each other, have long running back and forth conversations that rage through the evening that only we find amusing.

It was fantastic to see folks in person. My younger cousins are nuts, and it was a riot watching them. I bartended for them and polluted them quite well. So much so that my cousin Joe, the big talker, crawled into his truck to go to bed at 9:30pm, which incurred the wrath of everyone. For punishment, his truck got Toilet Papered. He got his revenge the next night when he shrink wrapped Ronnie's car.

jenssiepatti7On Sunday before we headed home, my sister and I had a late lunch with friends from High School who I haven't seen in about 20 years. We got our kids together and just took over a diner. Like NY pizza, diner food in NY is something we don't have around here. The closest diner food is in Connecticut, around Hartford and south. Massachusetts really needs some shiny metal greek diner action.

But I digress.

We had a blast catching up and laughing about the 25th reunion they just attended that I passed on. Who was an asshole, still. What girl changed so much that you couldn't recognize her for anything. Who threw up on the dance floor because she can't roll like she used to. Heh.

It was so nice to feel like no time has passed between us even though a lot really has. I loved their kids, and we just had a splendid time together. I cannot wait to see them again, truly and honestly.

I could have used an extra day, because I really wanted to head back to my hometown and just look around and maybe catch up with a friend or two still there. Hopefully 10 or 20 years won't pass to the next opportunity. My two cousins went with my dad to go to the cemetery where their dad is buried, and I was glad that they got to do that, after all these years.

Anyway. I'm home this morning. Geoff has no program to go to this week, so I opted to stay here with him until about 1pm, and then head into my office and work until about 6. Doug should be at a reasonable time today. He is giving notice on his job. He got an offer from another rehab hospital in Boston, and the pay is a lot more, and it is a 5 day a week position, so he won't have to do per diem speech for home health care. It's kind of a relief because he's been working 6 days a week since April. So there is much rejoicing there. We have a huge hole in our fence that no matter how often we block it Brodie dog keeps getting out. So I want to wait as late as possible, take them out to pee, and then Geoff doesn't have to take them out at all until daddy gets home. She's escaped four times this week... so some major fence mending has to take place as soon as possible.

And the Shakespeare update is that all the tour dates are booked, and now we start the publicity media blitz. I need to print out a bunch of posters and see if Jess can go hang them up around Salem while I work. If you're interested in the shows, they are as follows:

Twelfth Night

August 21 - 5pm. Salem Athenaeum Library, Salem MA
August 22 - 4pm, The Publick Theatre at Christian Herter Park, opening for the Orfeo Group, Boston, MA
August 23 - 5pm, Salem Museum Place Mall (the fountain area by the Peabody Essex Museum at the end of the East India Mall)
August 24 - no shows
August 25 - 1pm, Salem Willows Park Shell
August 25 - 5pm, Endicott Park, Danvers MA
August 26 - 1pm, Nichols Village, Groveland MA
August 26 - 5pm, Winnekenni Castle, Haverhill MA
August 27 - 5pm, Warren Park, Wellesley MA
August 28 - 5pm, Halibut Point State Reservation, Rockport MA
August 29 - 12 noon, Crowninshield Island, Marblehead MA

Now, a couple of these are special. Boston readers please note that the 4pm show on August 22 is an opening act for the Orfeo Group's FINAL show of "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)" and it is one quality act, I tell you what. Funny stuff. Our show is free. Bring a picnic. Orfeo follows at 6:45 and you can spend a wonderful evening in a BEAUTIFUL park enjoying Shakespeare. The Marblehead show is also special, because it is on an island in Marblehead Harbor, and you can only access the island at low tide by walking out... proper footwear recommended. Sunscreen too. It is a unique little spot, and the owners of the island, The Trustees of the Reservations, are excited for the show. I'm really looking forward to the Rockport show -- the park director there is completely psyched to have Shakespeare at Halibut Point. When I called to ask if they wanted to host us, he was thrilled "I've always wanted to do Shakespeare up here but didn't know who to reach out to!" he told me. So very cool and exciting.

I got turned down a lot of places this time around in my search for locations. Towns and venues want money. They want to charge a fee. Or, they want to book the show in March, and get it on their town calendars, and not do a kind of drive-by quick and dirty insertion of a program into their parks program. I did meet some cool people in some cool towns, Brookline, Wakefield, and others, who really like the idea and want to work on it for 2010. That was cool but it didn't do me any good for THIS tour! But it will make next year so much easier. Having a series of towns who want to host us, and lining them all up in advance, will be great. I can't wait to bring the kids back to the Boston Harbor Islands next year. I can't wait for next year.

Anyway. About time for me to pack this in and go to work. More later.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Done And On to the Next One

Hey. Summer finally showed up and the heat is on. We had a very below average, cold, horrible and rainy July, and August has started up with the 90s right off the bat. I'm sort of dreading the Twelfth Night tour because of the heat. I'm sure it will be okay though. What's 10 shows? The kids are tough. The new kids will hopefully love it, and ... your humble tour director is looking forward to what may come.

Jess got cast as Maria (found out it is pronounced "mah-REYE-ah" much to our confusion and the fact I've only ever READ the play and there is no written out "this is how it is pronounced" bit) and she's happy with her role. She read for Olivia, and I think she would have been actually well cast as her. I would have liked to have seen it. But she's got the comedian role again and she does that quite well. I think this is her last play with this group because she graduates in June of next year, and she had a blast with Hamlet, and is really looking forward to Twelfth Night. I'm so glad she's happy. I just wish she'd catch up with her summer work.

Geoff and Doug went to Boy Scout Camp, and they returned alive, tan and rested. Doug said Geoff did a pretty good job and was one of the least troublesome and messy kids there. He got 2 out of 3 of the merit badges he set out to do. He didn't quite get all of the tasks done. He has to score a certain amount of points on a certain amount of arrows, and he didn't get ... close. At the beginning of the week he couldn't hit the side of the planet. By Friday he was getting 4 of 5 arrows ON the target. He even hit one bullseye. Quite by accident I'm sure. But there was a lot of celebrating afterwards.

He's at my parents' now, spending some quality time with them. I have two more weeks of summer for him to be entertained through and am not sure what to do with him. Hmmm.

This weekend, Jess and I are going to Long Island to attend my family reunion. The last one was in 2005, and we took a whole huge family vacation out to Pennsylvania after doing the reunion. My parents are bringing Geoff down to Long Island on Thursday and then Jess and I will join on Saturday. Doug can't get out of work, having just taken the week off. So we'll go without him. I'm looking forward to my cousin coming out from Oregon, haven't seen him since we were young teens. Thanks to the power of Facebook, my cousin Debbie found him and now we're one big happy family again. Grownups, but still kids in a lot of ways.

I'm looking forward to Debbie's new tiki bar, and Geoff is looking forward to the pool.

Anyway. Not much else to report. I'm so boring lately, aren't I?