Sunday, November 28, 2010

To Do List for Monday; Thanksgiving 2010 update

1. Take Jess to the airport. Up at 5am, flight is at 7:10am.
2. Dryer repair dude due at house 8am-11am, sometime. Maybe squeeze in a nap there or incorporate number 4's content into this period of time.
3. Laundry after he finishes fixing the never ending beeping noise coming from the dryer.
4. Clean the house of the Thanksgiving aftermath. Oy.
5. Buy some small gifts for a boy in Keri's Orphanage in Kemerovo, and ship them. He is 12. And I have no idea what to get. Nothing with batteries though... it's hard to have a toy with batteries and then the batteries die and you have nothing. I'm thinking two mitts and a ball, a Red Sox t-shirt... and some personal items. Some arts supplies? Open to your suggestions.
6. Maybe squeeze in a nap, maybe?
7. Receive 2 cords of wood sometime after 3pm. Which means clear a space in the shed so that we can start putting said cords away.
8. Look for more work.
9. Call Bank of America and bitch them out for the 22nd consecutive month about my mortgage (I'll write an entry about that later as it is its own horror story).
10. Help Geoff solidify the choices he has for music for an English class project on Lois Lowry's "The Giver."
11. Grocery shop for me.
12. Grocery shop for fresh fruit and welcome home items for Keri and Nastia
13. Stop at Keri's house after the house sitters are cleared from the site, or before and hug them hard and thank them profusely for their time there. What a blessing... what an amazing blessing.
14. Pick Keri and Nas up at the airport in Boston. Flight arrives at like 11:50 pm.

Sounds like a full day. And it is. I won't drink too much wine tonight. Heh.

We had a great Thanksgiving time. Jess made her trip via Chinese bus from Pittsburgh to Boston and met Doug at his office on Wednesday. He met her in the city and took her too his desk, where she snoozed and watched the Zakim Bridge and events unfolding nearby. He actually had to work the full day, no getting out early for him. So they got home at about 6:30 pm. My parents had arrived here at 11am, cutting short my efforts to clean the house but I guess I wasn't going to make much more progress than I already had. Things were clean enough for dinner on Thanksgiving and that's all that mattered.

In the afternoon, Geoff and I did the leaf thing at the old lady's house, see a few entries back. We got home and then went out to dinner with my entire family and it was nice. We went to the local pub, which I'm fond of, and I love our waitress. After 14 years here I'm starting to feel a little bit "townie," which is kind of odd.

Thursday morning Doug got up at 8am and went down and started turkey prep. I got up at 10 and he went and took a nap. My son peeled potatoes and carrots, and we prepped all the rest of the foodstuffs. Dinner was served at 12:30, and all I have to say is thank God for the DVR because we paused the Pats Game (who timed this meal to be ready at 12:30 when there was a Patriots game on. Honestly! heh).

Dinner was over at 1pm.

Naps were had. More football was watched. All told, everyone was fat and happy.

Friday, Doug had to work. It being the last Friday of the month, he teaches a class to incoming new hires and they're required to attend. He had 6 people there. And he got home at 6:30pm as usual, so we ordered pizza since most everyone but Doug had leftover turkey dinner products for lunch.

Saturday I went down to Keri's to decorate (see last entry) and got home in time to make 26 pounds of baked ziti at Jess' request. She was having people over for a bonfire, and I figured I'd make dinner. People weren't supposed to be there until 6pm but at 4pm there were 6 kids at my dining table. Liz and Jess were baking cookies and pies, as usual. I whipped up the ziti and seriously, 26 pounds of it... and I think I have a small ziplock bag leftover. The kids devoured it (as did Grandma and Grampa, who were still here, Geoff and Doug...)

My son and my father went out to build the bonfire, and honestly people, why send a city boy (my dad) 0ut to do something like that. He put 2 pizza boxes under 10 pieces of wood and thought that would start. I had to undo and redo everything.

Honestly, I'm a better Boy Scout than most of the men I know. Jeeesh.

Bonfire cranking, kids start showing up. It was an open invite so there were a couple people there that I didn't expect but one brought snacks so kudos to him.

I had invited one of Jess' classmates from Pittsburgh to come. She lives about 1/2 hour north of here, and I thought that since she was so close she should come to the party... she did, and I'm glad. It was nice to meet someone that Jess is friends with at school. She is so sweet and gentle.... very kind.

The party went until about midnight and I finally had to kick everyone out. Well, kicking everyone out meant that I drove home 3 kids who didn't have a ride and everyone else took care of themselves.

All told, a good time.

My parents left before I was out of bed on Sunday, which confused me. But whatever... they had their agenda. We went to church without a very sleepy Jessica, and the day devolved into Football and Fondue.

I'm sad to take her to the airport tomorrow, not so much because I'll miss her because heck, she'll be home in three weeks, but because I'm not interested in getting out of bed at half past oh my God thirty.

That's the update guys. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend too. No matter how you spent it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holiday Decorating for Keri

Today, we picked up the wreaths that Geoff sold through Boy Scouts. I bought an extra to take down to Keri's house. I'm meeting up with at least one person to decorate her house exterior this afternoon for the holidays.

Keri is going to be in transit shortly, returning to the USA. Initially I think she was planning on staying through December but she's cutting the trip short. There is no resolution on the Anya situation, and Nastia wants to come home.

She taught Shakespeare to high school students in Kemerovo and they did scenes in English. Their performance was documented by a Russian TV program, and then she took her students to the orphanage to have an American Thanksgiving with the kids. She is hoping that showing the kids who have families what it is like to be in the orphanage will awaken their spirits and hearts, and make them care more about what is happening with the little ones who aren't fortunate enough to have homes.

She accomplished a lot during her trip, unfortunately the main goal was to get Anya here. That most likely won't ever happen at this point. Hope isn't entirely lost, but I think the realism that the situation is not going to have the outcome she wants is sinking in.

My heart breaks.

In the meantime, there is this trip, and her return home, and her house will be hopefully decked out nicely for her and for Nastia to come home to.

Here is a link to the Russian TV program, and even if you're like me and don't speak any Russian, you can still watch and enjoy the images. Give it a little while to load -- it took forever on my PC and mine is pretty fast.

So I'm off -- to decorate the home of a lady who decorates hearts. I hope that some of the kids here show up to help. I don't want to do this alone.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No Kitteh Today...

This afternoon I took Geoff over to do the cleanup at the house mentioned in yesterday's entry. Only one other boy showed up, a much younger Scout. Geoff has expressed to me repeatedly that he doesn't like this boy, that he's "annoying" and "acts like a baby all the time." I repeatedly remind him that he was once in sixth grade, and was equally annoying to older Scouts, and that right now he needs to do his best and be a good role model for the younger boy.

It turned out to be a lot of fun. We were there for two hours, barely made a dent in the leaves, even though I swear the boys hauled 890 trash barrel fulls of leaves down to the creek out back.

Geoff and the other boy got along great, there was a lot of laughter. The younger boy thinks Geoff is a riot, which he is... at times. And so with an individual audience Geoff could put on a show AND get work done. We had a great time.

When we had done all that I could tolerate, I suggested we go for hot cocoa at our local coffee shoppe. I didn't have my wallet and was going to go home but Geoff said "I have money." I had paid him his allowance earlier in the day, so he had plenty of cash on hand.

He bought me and his fellow Scout hot cocoa, and he and the boy had donuts and cupcakes. On Geoff's dime.

All told, it was a great day. The only thing missing was our kitty friend. The boys wanted to see him... so all three of us were disappointed that he wasn't there.

I still left a can of cat food on the step.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Cat Whisperer

"Sometimes, it's a hard world for small things."
--Raising Arizona

I spent this afternoon with a cat.

Someone from the town contacted our Scout troop to see if we could help with some yard work. Seems an elderly woman has gone into the hospital, shehas no relatives living nearby and the town felt that while she was away that her yard should be tidied up. There is a lot of stuff for her to trip over. And the leaves need removed. They thought of us, and I was dispatched to go assess what the project would be like.

I drove to the house after having lunch with my friend Janet. It is an old colonial farm house with a barn, and it is in disrepair. I feel awful for the woman who lives there, it is obvious she needs a lot more than a leaf raking. The yard is leafy for sure, but nothing that some sturdy Scouts can't handle. I walked around the house, figured out where we will be depositing the leaves (there is a large stick pile down by the creek in the back so we'll head that way with our dumpings...) and when I came back around I saw him.

A little white, black and grey kitty, curled up on a pile of leaves outside the back door. He lifted his head and looked at me and meowed.

"Hello," I said to him. "Are you locked out? It's probably a good thing that you're outside instead of inside..." I squatted down low. He meowed at me a few times, stood up and arched his back in a stretch.

"Come and see me, kitty," I called to him, and he did. He came over, meowing and I offered him my hand. He then walked around me a few times, sniffing, meowing. I answered his meows with "I know," and "I heard that," and "Oh, yeah. Totally." I patted his head and he arched his back to me. He rubbed his face on my knee, my ankles, my hand. Giving me his scent.

He laid down on his side, tail flicking leaves about, and showed me his belly. Now, with a dog, I would take that as an invitation to scratch that belly, but cats (in my experience) usually end up biting me. So I talked to him for a while, walked around some more. He followed me, meowing and rubbing against me. He ran ahead, turned and waited. He walked behind. He meowed. I answered.

I then began to feel very badly for him. I mean, if his owner is in the hospital, who is taking care of him? The barn door was chained shut but someone had shoved the bottom of it open a bit, and there was a metal pan of water in there, but no food. It appeared he had shelter at night and from the weather, so that was good. But there was no sign of food anywhere.

The house across the street was beautifully maintained, and had two cars in the driveway. I figured I'd go ask them if they knew anything about the cat. The woman who answered the door was very sweet. She told me that this cat was the last of the neighborhood strays, that in the past few weeks coyotes were definitely killing the cats off. Over the summer there had been quite a few around, but this was the last one.

She told me that the little old lady across the way would come out and feed all the cats, putting tins of food on paper plates. I told her that I was relieved to hear that, and said that if he WAS her cat I would take him up to my vet and have her house him (I'd pay her something if I could) until the woman was out of the hospital. She assured me that he was indeed not necessarily the woman's cat.

"She lost her cat a while ago," the woman said. "It was at that point I saw her start to deteriorate... she's gone downhill quickly these past few months... all because of losing her cat."

I told her that the boys would be over to do yard work tomorrow, and she told me that the woman is very particular about these branches that she puts along the edge of her driveway. I'd noticed the branches all lined up, not really organized or tidy. I figured they had broken off the trees and was going to take them for my wood stove. I'm glad the woman told me because if the lady is that particular... well! I'll make sure it looks good and the boys do not get rid of the branches. I told her that we were just going to rake, tidy up, and we'll add fixing the edging to our tasks.

The woman and I said goodbye and I walked to my car. Instead of going home, I drove to the market. I picked up a few cans of cat food. I went back to the house.

Pulling into the driveway, I noticed he wasn't where I left him and he hadn't gone back to his leafy bed. I called out and he answered. Meow.

He was on the roof.

Yes. The roof. All the way the hell up on the roof.

"What the heck are you doing up there?" I asked him. "How'd you manage that? Come on down. I have some food for you, silly." He meowed to me and paced back and forth, trying to figure out the best way to me.

He got to a smaller roof by the barn but couldn't quite get down. It was amusing to watch him. "You got UP there, so I presume you've done it before and know how to get down... so how are you going to do it?" He meowed and meowed and paced. I honestly couldn't figure out how he was going to get down. I found a plastic yard chair on the side porch, and stood on it, reaching up to him, but he was just out of my reach. Not wanting to break my neck, I got off the chair, held it over my head against the side of the house.

Right about then I started laughing at myself. I mean honestly. I'm holding a chair up to the side of a house for a CAT to jump down into and get off a roof. What must I have looked like to the neighbors if they looked out at me just then. A silly fat lady with a chair over her head with a cat dangling into it.

He jumped into the chair, and I laughed harder. I lowered him down and called him silly. He jumped off the chair and walked around me in circles. I took out a tin of cat food and set it out for him. He wanted to be petted more than he wanted to eat, initially. He sniffed the food, turned back to me and meowed and walked around me. His purring was powerful. I love when cats purr, so I scratched his head and told him to eat.

Getting back to the food he licked it a little and then began to devour it. I patted him, scratched his back, and the purr was fired up.

And I started to cry.

He was about halfway through the tin when I got up to go. I figured that he was fine for the night, and I'll be back tomorrow with the Scouts so hopefully he won't be too freaked out by the invasion. I'm hoping it is an invasion and not just Geoff and me.

It is indeed a hard world for small things. I know coyotes need to eat. I just wish it was chipmunks and squirrels instead of cats that purr and call to me. Wild things that are wild and meant to be food for the hunters.

And it is a hard world for little old ladies. I think of this woman in the hospital, I don't even know her name at all. I told the woman across the street that I didn't need to know her name. It isn't about knowing her name or anything.... I just think of her and this old house that she lives in and it is probably a mess inside, and how does she live? Is she warm enough at night? Some of the window panes were busted, there are obvious problems with the fascia boards and the roof. Does it leak in when it rains? What if she is so sick she doesn't come home? What happens to her life and her stuff?

What happens to the cat? I figure eventually he'll walk over to someone else's house, but I'm sure he's gotten used to the relationship he has with this lady.

I just don't know.

So tomorrow, think of us as we're raking. Think of the little old lady whatever her name is and her ailment is. Pray for her that she can come home and feed her cat. And that we don't make her mad by doing something to the yard that she doesn't like.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The things we have done, and the things we have left undone

One of my favorite things about being an Episcopalian, when I was one, is general confession in the morning prayer in the Book of Common Prayer. My favorite line is in bold:
ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.
Recognizing that not only do we DO things that are bad, we DON'T do the things we are supposed to do or don't do GOOD things. People always repent or are apologetic for the sins they commit, not the omissions they make.

I've been lazy. I've let a lot of things slide and ignored a lot of things. My daughter is on her way home and my parents are coming to visit. Instead of preparing a friendly, nice, clean, homey house for them... the place is a pig sty.

Sins of omission. Sins of laziness. Sins of procrastination.

I now have about 24 hours to fix 100 hours worth of stuff. Two bathrooms to clean, dining room, kitchen, livingroom to tidy. Pies to bake, cookies to make.

We always have a nice, laid back thanksgiving, but I kind of feel like it is because the house is clean prior to the arrival of guests. This year, not so much.

I got a number of things done today. I had to make an orthodontist appointment for Geoff (his canine teeth are coming in and are ABOVE all his other teeth, which is hysterical...) I had to order wood, because we're getting dangerously low. I needed to grocery shop, for this week and for thanksgiving. Dishes? All of them need washed. Bills to pay? Yeah. Go to the bank and put money in Jess' debit account so she can get home? Knew I had to do it 2 weeks ago, finally went today and did it.

Back when I was younger, running headlong to a deadline inspired me to action. Now? I go to bed.

That told, I'm pleased with what I managed to get done today. I have more to accomplish. And I will go do it.

And when I pray for forgiveness, knowing that the things I've left undone will be smaller than they were at the beginning of the day today, it'll feel good.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How Ed Robertson Made Me Cry. BNL @ Symphony Hall, Springfield MA 11/19

My birthday was Friday, and I turned 44. We had nothing big planned, nothing even a little bit interesting. But it turned out to be a wonderful birthday. Here is the tale..

I was supposed to have coffee with my friend Janet. Doug had spent the night at a sleep study and I thought for certain I'd be fast asleep with no one in the bed with me who was snoring and keeping me awake.

It wasn't so -- I still was awake until 3am, and ended up canceling coffee with Janet via email. Doug called me on his way to work at 7am and told me about the sleep study. He said that he has sleep apnea, and they will be recommending a CPAP machine for him. He said that it was the best night's sleep he's had in a long time. It was marred only by an initial vasovagal panic response when they put the mask on him in the middle of the night. They woke him up, he was groggy and disoriented, so the initial masking didn't go well. Once he got settled (thank goodness he was already in bed laying down... otherwise he would have dropped like a stone) he slept wonderfully. He said he honestly has not felt better in months.

He wanted me to come to Boston and have lunch with him, I agreed and went back to sleep until 11am. We had a great lunch at the Boston Beer Works, and walked around the area where he works, looking at the scenery and the water and the Zakim Bridge. It was a beautiful day for walking around, and luckily Doug's boss was cool with him being gone for over an hour. It isn't like I'm all down there every day making him show me around his work neighborhood and keeping him from getting things done. And it was my birthday. So she was cool.

I then made my way to Springfield.

To see Barenaked Ladies.

Now, many of you know this was not the first time I shared a date with The Ladies as a birthday event. Nine years ago I had one of the best birthday weekends ever, as evidenced by this entry from back in the day. Maine, Hydes, Portland, BNL and a metor shower outside in sleeping bags. A truly amazing and memorable night that wasy.

But that night was the first time I saw Barenaked Ladies live in concert, and my seats were exceptionally bad. After the show, I immediately joined the fan club to get better pre-sale seat options and have never been disappointed with my seats (except for when they played Mohegan Sun, where the fan club seats are in the Triple Z row on the floor).

I have, due to being unemployed, eschewed buying concert tickets for a quite a while. I have had the chance to see Guster and Kings of Leon and many others, but have made financial decisions to benefit the family and not my music listening pleasure. I got phone calls with phone love from other friends at many shows. I lived vicariously through their photos and videos and Facebook status updates.

One of my friends, Abbey, who I met through the BNL discussion board and in person at a show (we think it was a Manchester NH show in maybe 2004?) offered me a ticket to go see the band and told me I didn't have to pay her back for it, because the show was on my birthday.

Well who could say no to such kindness?

I left Boston and cruised to Springfield, got to our meeting spot at the Basketball Hall Of Fame, which she figured would be a good safe place to leave my car (so we would not both have to pay for parking) and to have dinner before the show. I was there very early and took some cool pictures, just hanging around and scoping out the place. They were setting up for a corporate event, so the hall was not open, per se, but no one stopped me from coming in and looking around. I burned an hour checking out the displays and thinking of friends who would enjoy a visit to this spot almost as much as I enjoyed a visit to the Football Hall of Fame a few years back.

Abbey and I had dinner and wonderful conversation. It has been a while since we've seen each other. I think the last time was Guster at the Opera House in Boston, in April of 2007.

We made our way to the show, and the seats, as I mentioned, were great. As we were sitting there, the couple who were to sit next to us showed up.

"We're here! We made it!" said the dude. He stuck out his hand and had this big goofy grin on his face. His lady friend was laughing and smacked him with the back of her hand on his chest.

"I'm so relieved! I was afraid they'd start without you! So glad you're here!" I answered.

They laughed their asses off and it became apparent that these were THE people we were meant to sit with tonight.

They introduced themselves as Eric and DeAnne. Eric lives in Connecticut and she lives in one of the Carolinas, I forget... Long distance relationship that is held together by traveling to see shows together in different markets. Lots of jokes, and lots of chatting about life, we spent the time before the opening act talking about our expectations for the night.

We chatted about BNL, the new album, the tour thus far. They compared experiences with Abbey on the Ships & Dips cruises, and they were on one together so they talked about all sorts of BNL cruise stuff. Both Abbey and they had seen the show at Mohegan Sun recently and neither of them were impressed. They said Ed sounded haggard, things sounded slow and unprofessional. She wondered if they weren't all drunk or hungover from a night of gambling and ridiculousness.

I only hoped that the show wasn't going to suck, based on what they were saying.

By the way -- the photo above was taken during "Million Dollars" when they turn the lights onto the audience. Eric wanted me to catch them on his iPhone but I told him I'd do one better... but he had to stand perfectly STILL. Took me four or five tries to get it, this is the best shot. My only complaint is the shadow across her right eye, but all told... they're stinkin' adorable.

Back to the show.

I will go on record and say I'm normally not a huge fan of opening acts. Not knowing any of their songs (usually) I find I'm sitting there critiquing them and sometimes I just get bored of rock star wannabe antics. Lead singer chicks who change guitars on every song but only play 2 chords and stick their arms up in the air... yawn.

The opener for this show was a little Washington DC/Philly based trio called Jukebox the Ghost. Pretty much the silliest name since Toad the Wet Sprocket, or even Barenaked Ladies, these guys walked gently out onto the stage lookin' all hipster cool, introduced themselves, and launched into a spectacular display of high-energy piano, enthusiastic drumming, great guitar work and tremendous vocals.

It was almost like Ben Folds had a baby with the All-American Rejects or something. Tight, hot piano with crazy good pop hooks. The guitarist and keyboard player share lead singing duties, and they harmonize beautifully. They didn't banter a lot, or talk politics or environment or how they wrote this song or that song. They shared an inside joke or two, and just ripped into songs with playful fury. Several members of the audience were already familiar with them, probably from other shows on this tour, and so they cheered along and did important clapping things in the middle of songs where one would clap along with the rhythm of the interlude.

Newbies to their show caught on quickly (like me) and did the clappy thing too.

Pretty much by the song "Empire," I was sold on them. After their set they were out in the lobby at the merchandise table and I found the guitarist, stuck my hand out and thanked him. I confessed that I usually don't like opening acts but they ruined my cynicism and I was a sworn fan. He found that rather joyful. I got a hug. I hope they're hearing that all over the country.

BNL came out on stage and this being my first time seeing them as a foursome, I hurt a little bit inside not seeing Steve. Back in the good old days fans would say "I'm sitting on Ed side" or "My tickets are Steve side."

This time, it was Ed center... frontman. Rock star. Natural.

I don't have a setlist. The show ranged through lots of Ed songs like "Who Needs Sleep," and Steve songs like "Brian Wilson" and "Old Apartment," both of which Ed handled beautifully. "Million Dollars" and "One Week" worked fine with Kevin and Ed. There were interstitial banter rap bits, Tyler Stewart did an unbelievably high energy "Alcohol" and was drop dead funny (Ed played drums and Jukebox the Ghost came out on stage and joined them). They even played "Pollywog in a Bog" off their kids' album, and the theme to "Big Bang Theory," which blew the roof off the joint (did you know that was a BNL song? Yeah.)

They did at least three songs from the new album. I bought the new album when it came out and have listened to it twice. Long time readers and good friends will probably drop their teeth when they hear me say this, but, I hate the album. Over produced, muddy, the songs just lack conviction and energy. Even the radio release (note, I didn't say "hit" because it sure wasn't) of "You Run Away" just sounds dull and repetitive. Kevin sings on a song that I could like if it was an Ed vocal (Northern Lights). I'm a fan of Kevin Hearn, when he is not singing. I think his voice is annoying and baby like... it really gets on my nerves after two songs.

Performed live, though, the songs were great. This song, which you can watch the video of, "Every Subway Car" was outstanding... truly lovely. No female backup vocal, just Ed and a little harmony from Jim and Kevin and it was perfect.

At the beginning of the show, Eric and DeAnne asked what we thought the opener and closer would be. I thought they'd open with Old Apartment (it was in the first 5 songs), and Eric called it with Who Needs Sleep. I told them that I would love to hear them close with "When I Fall." After Tyler's drunk-acting high shenanigans performance on "Alcohol," I figured there was no way they would end with something so soft. They took it down a notch with "What a Letdown," and then I saw Ed's acoustic being brought out on stage for the third and final.

DeAnne said to me "let's yell it." I hate when people yell stuff out that they want to hear at concerts, but she and I both knew that guitar meant very few things...

So together we screamed out the song we wanted to hear, Ed smiled, and played the opening chords.

If you don't know the song, here is Ed singing it in his bathroom. Yes. In his bathroom. He sat over the course of several days and recorded a ton of songs in his newly refinished bathroom. If you don't know BNL, go through the videos in the Bathroom Sessions, and just watch how he plays, and listen to some of the songs. They're lovely, stripped down, simple and God is Ed just wonderful.

I have heard it live a few times, but this was my birthday and it is like that man played it just for me as a gift. I love that song so much, a little poetic sketch about a suicidally minded window washer. And I cried. I actually stood there and I cried. Like a big fat doofus, I just cried. I was so thankful to Abbey for offering me this ticket, I was so happy that Eric and DeAnne were fun to be with and into the show. I was relieved that they didn't disappoint me horribly because in my heart of hearts I was afraid. BNL without Steve? Yeah. It exists. They are doing fine, people. The nearly sold out show in this beautiful hall in Springfield is evidence of that. Seeing a mess of discussion board people out down front, hearing Ed talk about the next Ships & Dips cruise (and Jukebox the Ghost will be on it with them and Guster and others)... alive and well. Alive and well.

I drove home that night, got in at 1am when I started writing this entry. The entire weekend has passed, it is now 2am on Monday morning and I'm finally starting to feel the sleepies creeping up, if the typos are any indication.

There are other tales to tell, but for now, that's the birthday weekend wrap-up. All the photos can be found in the Flickr set. Enjoy.

BNL Birthday update

so tired.
sooooooooooooo tired.
BNL asks "who needs sleep and the answer is me.
I got home at 1am, got to bed around 1:30, fell asleep at 2:30 and got up at 7:30 to take Geoff to our church fair to sell wreaths and do community service.

proper entry to follow. I just wanted to say that BNL did not disappoint me at all as a foursome. And the fact that Ed closed with "When I Fall" brought me to tears. Literally. Steve leaving the band cannot take that element away from the group. I've always been an Ed fan, and while he can't sing "Break My Heart" like Steve ever.... he still can break my heart with this one song.

Best night ever. more later after a well deserved nap.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A First World Problem...

So tonight we had Boy Scouts. It was great. I did a board of review, I made announcements, and a bunch of moms put together things to go with the wreaths that the boys have sold. We had a lot of fun. I love the scout moms.

Doug had to be at his sleep study at 8:30pm. He called me in the middle of the board of review I was doing. I answered quickly and told him I'd call him back in 30 seconds.

I did and he never picked up. I didn't even get his voice mail. It was weird. So he left without me saying goodbye and good luck. I can't text him, I can't email him, I can't call him. And this is weird.

We got home from Scouts and Geoff pretty much went straight to bed. He's usually exhausted after these meetings. I settled down to drink beers and watch football.

My laptop crashed.


Blue screen of death, rebooting, doing weird stuff, not starting the virus scan (telling me it was disabled, even after I enabled it).

Finally, it just went black. Poof. Done. Gone. It sounds like it is running but the screen is black.

I got this laptop for free a couple years ago from my sister. I just said this morning that I felt it was time to back up all the photos and make sure it was all set in case something happened.

It must have heard me and decided to die.

Call is in to my friend Gerry. We'll see if he can help. The last time this happened it was our upstairs PC, which he couldn't even get to boot from a disk. That was toast. Completely fubar. So I'm hoping this isn't as bad. I just want the photos and websites backed up.

I do not have the money to go buy an new PC. I need a new couch more than I need a new laptop. Doug has sat the hell out of his part of the couch... it's busted and basically he now has to sit on a bunch of pillows. Mind you, we got this couch for free four and a half years ago from Geoff's den mother, who decided the couch had been sat the hell out of at that point for her. Doug proved that it still had some sitting left in it, but dang yo.

Add to that the fact that our dryer is possessed by Satan and won't stop beeping, and life is a lot of fun here at the Way Out Inn.

I'm totally bitching and moaning about stuff that in the grand scheme of things are not show stoppers. Life continues without the laptop. I just use the upstairs PC (sorry Geoff!). I'm not sure how I'll do web design on a PC that doesn't have web or graphic software on it but ... I have disks for DW2 and Photoshop negative 90 somewhere.

All told... fingers are crossed that Gerry will take one look at it and say "oh yeah, your thingamawhatsie is all combobulated." And that will be that.

Like I said... fingers are crossed.

This is how most of my nights go...

  • 10pm, Doug goes to bed. I'm not tired yet so I put on some CSI or My Name Is Earl on the DVR and watch.
  • 12 midnight, I finally go upstairs after two hours of trolling on facebook and being an utter creeper.
  • Doug is snoring. I get in bed, cover my head with a pillow and turn the radio up a little louder. Which is bad, because I actually am paying attention to Jerry Doyle and his talk show, and don't start to fall asleep at all.
  • 2am, Gonzo the pain in the ass dog who can walk all over the house in the pitch dark comes and stands in my bedroom door and whines for help. He seems to not know how to find the doggie bed in the dark.
  • voof, voof.... voof. I ignore him.
  • mmmmmm, eeeeeeee. voof? I ignore him.
  • arrrrruuuuuu.... mmmmmm. Voof Voof VOOF! I ignore him.
  • Finally he starts barking for help.
  • I get out of bed, fixin' to kill, and he comes to me wagging his stupid tail, and flops his ass down on the doggie bed.
  • 2:30am, Doug is snoring up a storm and I'm contemplating poking Gonzo repeatedly with my foot every thirty seconds to see how he likes not being allowed to sleep.
  • poke, poke, poke. How do you like that, you jackass. Huh? It's annoying? Sorry.
  • poke, poke, poke. Oh, I'm sorry, you can't fall asleep if you're being poked? Now you know that it feels like to be prevented from falling asleep by someone annoying you.
  • But I don't. I just think about it and grow more and more agitated.
  • 3am, Brodie hears something outside and jumps off the bed and tears ass downstairs barking her ass off.
  • I get out of bed after a few minutes of her barking and yell at her to come upstairs. She ignores me.
  • I go downstairs and grab her collar and pull her to the stairs.
  • 3:30am, kitchen door opens. Gonzo is downstairs sneaking to the garbage to pull it over and eat out of it.
  • I go downstairs and catch him red handed. He sheepishly heads back upstairs and has no problem finding the doggie bed.
  • 4am, Doug is snoring like a chainsaw, I lay down and pray for some to hit me over the head with a frying pan.
  • Sometime between 4am and 5am, I fall asleep.
  • 5am, Doug's first alarm clock goes off. He sits up and hits snooze.
  • 5:15am, his cell phone alarm goes off. Loud as hell, scares the crap out of me.
  • 5:20am, Geoff's alarm clock goes off. He gets up promptly and gets in the shower. I know this because he walks like an elephant through our house.
  • 5:30am, more alarm clocks go off in our room. I'm now ready to kill someone.
  • 6am, Doug gets up. Finally.
  • 6:30am, my alarm clock goes off. I go down and make sure Geoff has everything he needs for school. Doug is in the shower. I get back in bed
  • 6:45am, Doug comes in the bedroom, running late, turns on lights, can't find matching socks. Makes all kinds of noise. I'm officially ready to rain down fire.
  • 7am, Doug leaves.
  • 7:05am, Geoff leaves.
  • 7:15am, I fall back asleep. And I get the best sleep of the night in the day, snoozing solidly until 11am or later, depending on if the phone rings or a dog barks or the trash truck comes late or early. It is a good thing I am unemployed.
Wash, rinse, repeat. During the summer this isn't a problem as we have fans blowing or the air conditioner blasting. But once it turns cold might nights turn noisy.

There are a number of things I could do, in theory. I could sleep in Jess' bed. I could sleep on the futon in the study, if I clean it off but that's a whole other story... I could sleep on the couch, but it is so uncomfortable I end up feeling like no sleep is better than the little sleep I get off that thing.

Doug is going for an overnight sleep study tonight. His snoring has gotten worse over the years and he wakes up almost as exhausted as me. I don't understand how people can sleep through snoring. Aren't their heads vibrating? Aren't they aware of that sensation going through their noses and faces (and bed). How do they sleep through it?

Obviously not well, as Doug is attesting. And I certainly cannot enjoy our marriage bed with as bad as it has gotten for him. I know that one of the major contributors is his weight gain. Since we stopped Geocaching, he's packed on the pounds, and now he has gout in his toes, and he's a mess. He can't hike without pain, and he's just plain miserable.

I have a feeling they'll tell him to lose 50 pounds, and that they will recommend a CPAP. And he will be even more miserable.

I remember when Clayton's snoring got so bad that he was snoring while he was awake, and he had to get one. He hated it. Absolutely hated it. He chose heroin for sleeping better instead of using the CPAP. So I only hope Doug makes better choices than using heroin as a sleep aid.

Hopefully tonight I'll get a really good night's sleep though.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The People of My Walmart...

I have been kind of a shut-in lately. I go to the supermarket when we need food. I come home. I go to boy scouts on Thursdays with Geoff. I come home. I once in a while have lunch with a friend out in the world. But for the most part, I'm not out there.

Which probably explains a lot. A lot about what I witnessed tonight when Geoff and I went out to run errands.

Geoff is a bull in a china shop. He breaks things easily. So over the course of this last couple of weeks he has managed to murder three lamps. We have no lighting upstairs in our house except for the bathroom overhead light, because Mr. Gently has knocked things over, turned things too hard or just basically been himself.

It is why we don't shop at Restoration Hardware. It is why we do shop at Walmart.

He got home from school and I told him that we ought to go up to Plaistow New Hampshire and go pick up some new lamps. We got to Walmart and I noticed that there were about 100 people outside of the building smoking. Yeah, I know -- people smoke outside. But it seemed as if this was an inordinate amount of people to be outside smoking at 4pm on a Monday afternoon. And they were all a bit sketchy.

More than a bit sketchy.

They were downright sketchy.

There was a woman on a park bench who if you asked me to guess how old she was I would have said 50-55. She had a baby on her lap and she was smoking. She was wearing a tank top and shorts. I know the weather has been mild lately, but not mild enough for tank tops and shorts on November 14th.

Two other women were standing there. One was the size of two of me, and I'm pretty big so you can just imagine. As we walked closer, the baby holder yelled to a woman coming out of Walmart.

"Hey, don't say hi to me or nothin' Tammy! Just keep walking by!" I couldn't quite tell if she was being playful or if she would get up and shank the bitch for not saying hi, once she tucked the baby under her left arm of course. And whipped her shank tool out from the top of her tank top. It would of course be between her saggy breasts. Right by her tattoo of the name Mary.

The Tammy woman was busy lighting her cigarette and said "Aw Fuck, I didn't even see you there. How the hell are you?" She didn't stop to talk, just kept going so her how the hell are you question was answered loudly with:

"I had a baby! Do you see my baby?!"

Oh dear God, that's HER baby. She and the baby, toothless and loud, sitting on a park bench in front of Walmart. Under dressed for the weather. And I think the baby has tattoos too!

"I see your baby! Congratulations!" yelled Tammy as she got to her car.

Those two are fast friends.

I shuttled Geoff between some super sketchy dudes who may be on the sex offender registry... they were eyeballing us pretty seriously, not sure who they were more interested in.

We went into the store.

There weren't as many people inside as there were out. We had no problem finding the stuff we needed. I got lamps. I got light bulbs. Geoff wanted a new zip up hoodie with a fleece liner. We picked one out. We even got ourselves a Christmas Tree Stand so we do not have to live through the nightmare that was LAST Christmas (long time readers will recall the shenanigans).

Upon leaving the store, we put our items in the car and got ready to leave. There were several people shuffling around the parking lot, smoking, toothless, and kind of Meth-Addicty in appearance. I looked for the group home van, or the state of New Hampshire work release van to see if all of these people were there together. But they were not. They all got into their own cars. Beat up Chevy Corsicas and old Ford somethings with missing headlights and taillights.

Now, New Hampshire is a bit rural and not too sophistimicated or nothing, but I felt like this was really way past unnerving.

When I'm at a store and I feel like I am an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog model compared to just about every other human being within 2000 feet, there's something weird going on.

I was instantly reminded of the first section of this entry on Hyperbole and a Half, where Allie gives instructions on telling the difference between safe and not safe people in Rural Montana.

5 feet over the border in New Hampshire is looking a lot like Rural Montana.

Are people just not doing well? Has the economy pushed everyone over the edge? Has meth taken over Rockingham County?

It was a weird experience for sure.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cruise Ship "Disaster" and Veterans' Day Collide

Bear with me for this rant as I'm rather annoyed.

Today is Veterans' Day in America. Formerly known as Armistice Day, it is a day where we stop and remember those who have served and serve in our nation's military. To me, this is an important day and I think people should mark this day appropriately. Unlike Memorial or Labor Day, which more or less have become bookends to summer and excuses for barbecuing and beach going (nothing wrong with that) Veterans' Day marks the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, when the silence of peace rang like the voice of God as the killing of WWI ended. It should be marked as a blessed moment, a solemn moment, and one we should not forget.

A lot of people are bitchy and moany about Obama not being here in the USA to lay the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, but he was in South Korea, and he made use of the time there to mark the memorial of those who died in the Korean (aka the Forgotten) War.

Good for him, I applaud him for that. I don't know very many American dignitaries who have ever been in or near Korea for Veterans' Day, so thumbs up to him for being there and making use of his time appropriately (I was far more offended by him not going to Memorial Day observances, but going to see Paul McCartney or the Jonas Brothers or something that day instead but, whatever. Over and done).

But my rant is not Obama-based. Not at all.

For people who were bitchy and moany about Obama's not being here but being overseas, I bet 90% of them paid more attention to the return of the ill fated Carnival cruise ship that was dead in the water for 3 days due to a fire on board that knocked out all electrical functions, including toilet flushing.

The fact that both Veterans' Day observances and the return of the ship to the harbor happened at the same time meant that the media had a "difficult" choice to make. What do you cover? Well, they covered Arlington National Cemetery in all its subdued solemnity, and before the bugle was down from the lips of the bugler, they cut straight over to San Diego to cover the triumphant rescue and return of the cruisers. Hallelujah! Amen!

I heard someone say this was very much like the rescue of the Chilean miners! These people suffered! Honeymoons were ruined! They had to eat ... SPAM that was airlifted to them from our military!

Oh dear GOD how did these people survive this DISASTER!

Shut. Up.

It was not a disaster. It was an inconvenience. Three days, not three months. A few days of SPAM, not months of a thimbleful of water and a moldy piece of bread.

A disaster is Katrina in New Orleans. The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald was a disaster. Haiti, and what is still going on in Haiti, a disaster. Indonesia, with floods AND volcanoes happening simultaneously, THAT is a disaster, my friends.

If you go through the photos that I linked to above in the news story, those people, after three days stranded close to death at sea, don't look like they've lived through a disaster. Waving a white shirt that says "Next stop the Daily Show" is not something that someone who suffered horribly would do. I'm sure their families were worried about them, but it was nothing in comparison to what goes on globally that is truly disastrous.

Want to know what is a disaster? How many homeless veterans there are in this country. It isn't that some lady couldn't flush her toilet and food spoiled and was smelly and someone couldn't take a shower or bath for three days.

For some woman to say "I never want to see SPAM and cold sandwiches again," while a Desert Storm veteran with PTSD living under a bridge somewhere a mile or two away from where she has finally been rescued bothers the hell out of me. Maybe he'd like a SPAM sandwich.

I'm sick of our media in this country, making giant stories of freaking out proportions about things that are just not that freakoutaboutable. We need to make better editorial decisions about what we cover and how hard we cover it and how we even CLASSIFY things (ie disaster vs. inconvenience). Our news has become nothing but a list of "First World Problems" and gun deaths.

Maybe you see it differently. Maybe you say "oh stop, those people had a really rough time." Their families were so worried about them and you would worry too if you couldn't talk to say Jessica or your sister and you didn't know what was going to happen.

And so I would say go tell that to the Hatians who still live under tarps who now have cholera and still don't have homes. Tell it to a Veteran who fought in WWII who spent months in a trench, lost friends in his unit, took bullets, chances and risks, and lived to tell.

Sure, I'd be worried but I would know in my heart of hearts it wouldn't be like they'd be resorting to cannibalism in three days or anything. No one was going to starve to death or die of dehydration. Everyone KNEW where they were and help was on the way.

Today, I took my son to our town Veterans' Day observance with our local VFW at the controls. The boys mostly just stand there, which is fine. We do this for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Our school district has a nice new marching band which is getting better and better by the performance. There were a lot of people in attendance. It was really nice to see.

I didn't have to watch Joe Biden or Obama do their things with wreaths. I got to watch a wonderfully old man who was half stooped over get ushered over to the display to hang a wreath for those who went before him. To me, that was far more meaningful and beautiful. I didn't need a Tomb of the Unknowns. I stood in front of a memorial to the knowns, with other men still walking who fought with them in different theatres across this world.

And, I'll end my rantings with a thanks to just about everyone on my friends list on Facebook. Not a single person I'm friends with mentioned this Cruise Ship Disaster. Almost every single one of them said something about what they thought about in regards to the Veterans of this nation. Do I have a great set of friends or what. They know what the priorities are. They get it.

All told, I'll sleep well tonight now that I've voided my rheum about this. And I'm sure all the Cruise Ship Survivors will too. I just hope that there is somewhere comfortable, dry and safe tonight for someone who really deserves and needs shelter.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

God puts the right children in the right homes with the right parents for the right reasons...

This afternoon I had a wonderful long chat with my best friend from high school, Doctor RCK. He calls me when he is on long drives from his university to another city about 90 miles away where he has to meet with people once in a while. It used to be every Tuesday afternoon, and I'd get the call at my desk and it would be a wonderful way to spend time while working, chatting with my good buddy about life, the universe and everything.

Those calls are less frequent these days because this semester he doesn't need to drive as much, but today he found himself on the road and gave me a call. We talked about the recent elections, about the "new normal" about taxes, tax rates (I believe in a flat tax for everyone, he believes in gradual percentage increases as salaries get larger so we hashed that out for a while). We talked about my being unemployed and getting shafted in interviews and the search process.

We then talked about the kids, how Jess is doing at school and how Geoff is handling middle school. Rob has always been so supportive in the Geoff process and his advice over the last 13 years has been very exceedingly helpful. He will temper his opinions or advice with "I don't have kids so what do I know," but his education and experience are both very kid-centric so he knows a lot more than he'll give himself credit for at times.

I told him about how Geoff is looking at an agricultural high school and that his focus at this year on his academics has shot right up because he has to work to get accepted to this school. Rob was pleased to hear this, and we talked about what a difference maturity makes, especially when there is a goal that the kid has picked. I agreed fully with that, because this is HIS goal and not OURS for him. I told him about the "Apple Cinnamon Waffles" negotiation I had with Geoff a few years ago that if he got through a week at school without getting in trouble, I'd give him something HE wanted. He picked Apple Cinnamon Waffles. And he made it happen by doing everything he needed to do.

Rob told me that he fully believes that everything going right with Geoff lately is because he has learned and WE have learned how to work together. That this is the best home for Geoff... and God puts kids in the homes they are supposed to be in.

Basically a kid is born, or a kid is adopted into a family. What happens next is that the parents or parent need(s) to learn how to do it right with this particular kid. The kid doesn't just know. And the parents don't know. They have to work together as a team. But it is mostly on the parent to figure it all out.

Dr. RCK said, "It's like God says 'I'm trying to teach you something here, are you listening? Do you get it?'" The lesson is that as much of a responsibility for the kid to learn and grow up correctly, it's up to the parent(s) to learn similar lessons and do things right. And not fail at it.

I thought about this long and hard... how this is so true, especially when I look at parents that learn to do things right for their kids. And how families fail because the parents can't learn how to do anything right and the kids end up lost, broken...

This kind of reminded me of when Jessica was a few hours old and I was in the hospital trying to nurse her. It was an epic failure. She was screaming, I was crying and a mess, and a male nurse was sitting with me trying to teach me how to get her to latch on and nurse. He told me "Just remember, she's new to this too. She's never done it and you've never done it so you'll have to learn together."

For someone who doesn't have kids, Rob does know what to tell people and what is true for kids. He has provided me with great guidance and I'm forever glad that he is in my life to help advise me.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

I did it....

It took me weeks, but I did it. I managed to go all through the old journal and cut and paste all of my old entries into this format. It took me weeks, but it is finally done.

Apologies to all of you who use an RSS feeder to read this journal, but the insanity is finally over. Thank you for your patience.

Ah, sigh.

It was fun to go through our whole history as a family. I read some of the old entries and rolled my eyes at the ridiculousness, and I also laughed good and hard. I have to double check and make sure I got everything that I have access to, because I really don't want to miss a thing and then delete the old journal.

It would be a shame.

I also still have to go through and read all the "quote of the moment" content because there are little one liner quotes from all of my family members which are really amusing to me. They will all get their own entry once I weed through the journal again.

There is a bunch of content missing because it was on Journalspace... and there are stories that I can't remember that are lost and gone forever. The other day I had lunch with Carrie and she reminded me of a first grade Geoff story. He had reached into his desk and squished up a glue stick. He then pulled his hands out and yelled "I'm all STICKAAAAAAYYYYYYYY!!!!"

Carrie said that the guys in her shop know this story and when they get adhesives on their hands they yell that. Invoking the spirit of seven year old Geoff while covered in glue.

I had completely forgotten about that. And it is sad. I am wondering what else I don't remember.

It feels so weird to actually not remember stuff. So I am exceptionally glad I've kept an online journal for this reason. I can access memories. Good and bad. And this is a great thing.

Realizing that I used to write A LOT (not ALOT, because that's not a word) and now I barely write at all it kind of makes me sad. I feel like I've lost all my narratives. I have nothing interesting to say or post. Which is sad. I may have to work on that.

In the mean time, feel free to go back through the archives and enjoy. I know I have.

Friday, November 05, 2010

job on hold...

My job recruiter guy called me today to let me know the college has put hiring for the position I'd interviewed for on hold indefinitely. They have decided they want to hire first for a position between the director and the position I'd interviewed for, a Distance Learning Manager or something along those lines.

Part of me wanted to say "can I be considered for that position as well?" But then I kind of decided that I don't want to be considered for anything anymore.

I will be 44 in a few weeks. I kind of feel like yeah, I should be able to walk into a manager position and should be thought of immediately for such a position, having just interviewed there for a job... but now I don't want it. I don't want anything. I don't think. I don't know.

It doesn't help right now that I'm just really tired of sending out feelers, sending out emails, filling out form after form after online form. It's all just so boring and uninspiring.

A great deal of my time lately is spent cleaning or doing volunteer work. I wish someone would pay me for that.

I need a nap.