Monday, January 31, 2011

Busy being a Champion

Last week I spent most of my waking daylight hours with my girl C moving her office.

She and her husband run a company that refurbishes/rebuilds/makes magic on fancy high-end that have seats in them that cost more than what I used to make in five months. Super fancy. Princes own the cars they work on. Celebrities. Super uber rich people. And moving it all is a rather complicated.

She asked me to come help her move some things. We took care of the front of house stuff, the offices, the desks, the day-to-day stuff. I made some phone calls for her because the last thing she wanted to do was sit on the phone with people. I ran errands to Home Depot and to get foodstuffs for the guys in the shop.

I'm still worried about her mental well being, but going there to do a couple things this morning it looks like she has her bearings about her and the front of house stuff is okay.

She just needs to get the communications system/computers/phone up at the new location ironed out and life will be good. I'd do it for her, but it is way over my head.

Better left to someone with a bigger clue.

In the meantime, we had another school closing last week due to snow and the same day we had a pipe burst in our heating system.

I knew that with the super cold temps over the beginning of the week that our furnace was competing with the cold to just keep the house around 60 degrees. The livingroom was often around 36 degrees in the mornings, and most days I got up at about 4:30am to stoke/refire the woodstove just to stay ahead of the cold. By bedtime, the livingroom would be in the 60s, comfortable indeed but not long lasting with the lack of insulation in that room.

Doug was sitting in the living room drinking coffee at 6:30 in the morning after firing up the woodstove when he heard a bang and HISSSSSSSSSS! Thank God he was there, because Geoff was up here and I was still in bed. Steam was pouring out of one of the three cabinets where we keep our wood for the woodstove (luckily, he'd used that cabinet's worth of wood overnight and it was empty). He could clearly see the breach, and called to Geoff "Hey, go wake up your mother. We have an emergency."

I grabbed my cellphone and started dialing the plumber.

Doug went to the basement to figure out where to turn the water off so it would stop flowing into the room. I grabbed towels and talked to the plumber's answering service. They were here in about an hour, and fixed the four breaks they found in the system, massaged the furnace so it would behave and work, and it all cost us less than $400.

It's a good thing I'd been working for C for a few days because she kept handing me money for my help... so she paid for the repairs in essence. I was going to use that money for a new laptop, but knowing that freezing to death was not an option I needed to pay for the repairs with the recently earned cash.

So now my house isn't Frontier House cold. In fact it is rather hot up here in the study. One can never be happy, can one?

In the meantime, we're expecting another 14-20 inches of snow I guess. I'm off to buy a new shovel because Doug broke our shovel in the last storm. I am not complaining too much about the snowpocalypse because I've after all chosen to live here -- but for the most part, I'm done with this winter and ready for spring.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pay for what is good

On Sunday, our congregation held our annual meeting where the Session and Committees report on the stuff they've gotten done this year and the congregation votes on the pastor's salary.

The Session had decided to give him a 1% raise, and increase his educational funding for his doctorate by $1600, seeing as he's got 2 years left in his course of study for his PhD. I won't say exactly how much he is compensated. The breakdown on paper makes sense. His base salary is very low, but then he gets a bunch of other perks, like the vacation, a housing and travel allowance. It adds up.

There were arguments in the congregation about the amount of vacation time he gets (4 weeks vacation, 2 weeks study leave) and the amount of money he earns. One woman who is on Social Security said "I didn't get a raise this year. I got a one dollar a month increase in my Social Security benefits! Why should we give him a raise?!"

I wanted to say "I have no job, and my unemployment benefits are 50% LESS than what I was earning in March of 2010. Should I blame our pastor for that and punish him?"

Someone else pointed out that our pastor is the fourth highest paid pastor in our presbytery and the first in vacation/time off.

I wanted to say "So what? Our presbytery has to compete with Boston, NY and Pennsylvania to hold on to a decent pastor. He could go anywhere else in the country. With his resume, and the 6 years he has put in here, he can easily walk and find another congregation. Pay for what is good." It isn't like we were voting to give him a 30 million dollar bonus. He does good works for us. He's not perfect... but he is probably the nicest, least egoistical, kindest and most generous pastor I've ever met. Ever.

Pay for what is good.

He is also exceptionally generous with his money. He gives BACK to the congregation/church a lot of money. A heck of a lot more than Doug and I do (he has to make this public -- full transparency for the record). I don't know if there is some sort of standard percentage that most pastors tithe, but he really does give out a lot of his own money, not just move money from one account to another inside the church coffers. Between the non-monetary giving that he does for the community and congregation, and the monetary, he's doing a great job as far as I can see.

Pay for what is good.

We voted and the yeas had it, and two people got up and left angrily (of the 3 who voted nay) as if we were taking $1000 out of their pockets personally. It shocked and bothered me. I know times are hard, they're hard all over. Heck, readers here know that we're kind of in hell financially. But I would not ever begrudge this man his salary. It is reasonable compared to the pay I'm sure most of the people in his town get (I'm sure he has neighbors who make 7 figures, easily). He's not competing with others, he's existing. And we pay for him to exist, and keep him comfortable and healthy to do good works for people. I'm sure if we told him what a problem we were having he'd HAND US MONEY. He's just that kind of guy. I wouldn't ask him though -- because I know there are others who are in worse situations.

And I've got a suggestion -- If you don't like what the pastor is earning, find another congregation with a different pastor who earns less. If he is 100 times more awesome than our pastor, and getting paid a lot less, you've made out well.

I've been to a lot of churches. I've met pastors who are JERKS. Flat out, downright JERKS. Some of you may not believe that, others know right what from whence I speak. I've met pompous, selfish, rude, egomaniacs, men and women both. I don't know how much they are compensated financially, but who cares... I don't go to their churches for a reason.

We picked this one because the pastor is one that speaks to us, makes sense to us, cares about our kids without being a creeper or a parental usurper, and is the nicest guy in a robe that I've ever met. He could do this for free or for a million dollars a year. He's doing it right, and that's why I'm there.

I just think that it isn't fair to freak out and want to withhold from a man who isn't getting rich off his job by any means just because Social Security isn't paying you more.

My guess is that people who are ON Social Security never stop to think for ONE SECOND that they maybe paid $100,000 into the system, and in a few short years they've taken that amount out, and are now taking MORE than they "put in." And if they live for 10, 15, 20 years past their retirement age, they're taking a LOT more than I think they deserve. Stop and think about that for a second and then realize why you're not getting a "raise."

"No Job For You!"

I got an email from the hospital in Boston where I'd interviewed back at the beginning of December. They've chosen another candidate. I didn't get the job. The interviewer/person who would have been my boss was gracious and said there may be another opening coming up shortly and asked if he could keep my resume on file for that.

Of course you can... thanks.

Initially, if you recall, I had been apprehensive about working in Boston but the idea grew on me. Getting Doug out of bed early/on time so we both could make it into the city was starting to make sense. I had been worried about Geoff being up here in our far away little town solo, but realized that he's made amazing strides as a person and student and most likely would not need for me to be all worried about him. Four years ago, that wouldn't be the case. It was hard enough being 30 minutes away no matter how fast I drove to get back up here to him.

I'm disappointed, and everyone is saying "the right job will come your way, Chris. Don't worry about it!" But we're at the worry about it stage. I think we are going to need to have extensive work done to the furnace, or have it replaced. So we are looking at $5,000 worth of work.

And I have $2000 available credit on my only credit card at this point.


Could use a little mojo at this point, kids. Thanks.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Frontier House, Starring Me

A long time ago, I wrote an entry here on how I enjoyed PBS' "Frontier House." Kind of a reality show, combined with historical documentary, the families involved were put out into 1880s Montana and given training on what it would be like to live there, and survive there. The show ended with the onset of winter. The goal was to be prepared for what it would take to survive that winter. Chances are, at least two of those families would have failed with the lack of preparations they'd done.

I kind of feel like I'm on that show right now, only it is the sequel. Rather than ending the show with the onset of winter, we're in the thick of it. And I'm trying to survive record freezing temperatures.

We have a very old furnace. When we bought this house in 2006, we knew it would have to be replaced. We should have negotiated harder with the seller (an old man who just wanted to GTFO and move up to New Hampshire and ski for the rest of his life, and he did NOT budge on his price and his refusal to replace or compensate for the replacement of appliances and furnace). Had we held out, he maybe would have capitulated, but we were in a hurry to move. We had a buyer for our house who wanted in desperately. We had no time to pussyfoot and haggle with him.

Our first winter here, the damn thing failed. We had to have a technician here on Christmas Eve Day to get it running again. He told us that we pretty much would get through the winter, but that the following fall we should have it replaced.

Four full years later, and it was cranking away beautifully.

Until the night before last.

When it hit -6 degrees. Of course.

And the 3 zones in our house are not receiving happy hot water through the pipes to heat the entire joint. The two rooms that we do not use are warm-ish. The rest of the house is like a Montana Frontier Shack.

I think my bedroom is 50 degrees right now. I don't even want to bring the thermometer upstairs and confirm that.

Doug doesn't want me to call a plumber. I've been home here for two days, offering to BE home here and get someone in here to figure out what is wrong. The furnace is running, it is RUNNING without stopping. The pipes coming OUT of the furnace and up INTO the house are hot.

But the rest of the pipes throughout the house are either lukewarm or ice cold.

There is a blockage problem somewhere, or a pressure problem, but Doug is literally deaf to my protestations and sits in front of the woodstove filling it with pizza boxes and old magazines while grumbling (not really. I just like that image in my head).

He states that once it warms up, the pipes will warm up too, and the water will start flowing again, and it will be tropical effing HOT, monkey hot, Africa Hot up in there.

Until then, sweaters, hoodies to bed, and at least a quarter of a cord of wood into the woodstove in 2 days.

And I do feel kind of Frontier Housey. I have a horrible case of Tendinitis in my shoulder, and got a shot from the doctor, but it still hurts like a mother. But there I am, hauling wood into the house with my son in -3 degree weather.

There I am awake at 4am three mornings running getting the fire revived. If I do not, there is no happy warmth while we watch football and Chuck.

There I am moving snow and ice out of the way so cars can come in and out of our driveway.

There I am contemplating roasting our dogs on a spit so we can eat and make it through to spring.

Right now, the woodstove is cranking. There are coals in there that burn white hot like the lava in Mount Doom in Mordor. They could easily melt The One Ring. I have to leave here for a few hours and those lava hot coals will diminish in their power, and the stove will cease its glowing, and my house will sink into the grip of winter once again.

It feels like a never ending battle. I hope Doug is right and that once the temperature reaches about 32 degrees our pipes will soar to magnificent warm heights. Until then, Frontier House Rules up in here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

the wee hours

She usually wakes me up by barking.

Most days, around or about 1:30am, almost exactly to the hour. She is barking at something outside or in the kitchen. I'm hoping it is small animals (outside and maybe inside too) and not the ghosts my mother in law seems to believe inhabit my house.

I then try to fall back asleep for the next 4 hours. We sleep with the radio on, which is counter productive to sleep to be honest. The only station that comes in without interference is WRKO. Which locals know is a conservative news/talk radio program.

From 1am to 5am they used to run the fantastic George Noory and his Coast to Coast AM program. Doug and I have been listening to that program for years, even back to when Art Bell was the host.

That program moved over to a (if you can believe it) even MORE conservative radio station, which (thankfully) we don't get here in our house. If I want to listen to George Noory and learn about Planet X and the Shadow People and government conspiracies, I have to come in here and fire up the interwebs.

Most of the time, Noory's programs keep me awake and sometimes even scare me. I am such a weirdo.

Now they run a program called Red Eye Radio, hosted by a guy named Doug McIntyre. He claims to be conservative but I think he's actually more libertarian than most of your conservative gas bags on the air. He's funny, he lets people talk until they become just downright stupid or bizarre and nonsensical. He loses his temper when people are stupid, which is fantastic and it makes me laugh.

So I usually do not fall back asleep right off the bat. Sometimes, I don't fall back asleep and Geoff's 5:15 alarm goes off and he gets in the shower to get ready for school.

This morning, she missed the barking alarm. Not sure if all the play outside yesterday wore her out and she was able to sleep. But I managed to not be wide awake at 1:30am.

Instead, she started barking at 4:30am. And now I'm up for the day.

It is (so far) the coldest day we've had yet this winter. Our furnace is not behaving well, so my bedroom was cold. I knew that if my bedroom was as cold as it was, the woodstove room had to be insufferable. I went downstairs to stop Brodie from barking (she ran upstairs and jumped into my spot in bed. Nice). And the woodstove room was a balmy 36 degrees. Outside, it is just under 0 degrees.

I figured, being up for the day, it is time to fire the woodstove and get her cranking for the rest of the family. It is time to put laundry in the washer and the dryer. It is time to make coffee. It is time for a journal entry. I've managed to do all of the above and now wish I could go back to sleep, but I think there is a nap in my afternoon, not back in bed for right now. Gotta man the woodstove and keep her going. The wood we brought in yesterday is very cold/damp from being outside in the shed. We have a bunch of wood in the kitchen that we use to get the fire started, and then the outside stuff comes in throughout the winter. I'm tempted to just use more of the drier wood today but we have our system and I should stick to it.

Being this cold inside makes me think of people outside in it. From the homeless to soldiers and Boy Scouts learning cold weather survival, this is the time of year I do not wish the outdoors upon anyone.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Livet inne i snökanon

Life inside the Snow Cannon, is the title of this entry, for those who do not speak Swedish.

I have a flickr friend, Steffe, who lives in Southeastern Sweden, not far from Stockholm. He blogs his photos just about daily, and I enjoy his visual perspective. His blog is here, if you want to visit.

He wrote at the beginning of the winter that there are storms that brew over Russia, and blow across the Baltic Sea. They call the storms the Snow Cannon.

I think a little bit of that has migrated across the Atlantic... and has found its way here to coastal New England.

We have had our fair share of snow so far this season. We're about ten inches beyond what the normal "average" snowfall is for the entire year, and have yet to finish out the month of January and get through February and March. And even April, because snow comes to us after April Fool's Day regularly.

I think there is a solid 3 plus feet of snow out there.

I learned how to run our snowthrower like a champion, and I've enjoyed getting out there and doing snow removal because it is so epic and fun, compared to shoveling ...

We are expecting yet another storm, and our forecaster/prognosticators are saying it will be about another foot of snow.

I have no idea where we are even going to PUT this round, because I think the snowthrower height has been reached.

It has been a long time since we've had a winter like this in New England.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Psoriatic Arthritis...

"Do you have the time to listen to me whine,
about nothing and everything all at once?"

-Green Day

On top of all the other crap going on in my life (add sleeplessness and weight gain to the list) I have managed to contract psoriasis. And, my elbows do not work anymore. I'm afraid I may be developing Psoriatic Arthritis.

Now, one does not contract psoriasis like one catches a common cold. This runs in my family. My father is covered in it, so much so that each time he visits we clean before and AFTER he is here. And my mother has told me stories about her dad, who used to have to wear a bathrobe and nothing else when he was at home because his skin was covered in it. He was in pain because of it. Having psoriasis all over your body I could imagine that sitting, walking, wearing pants... these things would indeed be difficult tasks.

I've had it on one elbow, in my ears, and in my hairline along the back of my neck for about 2 years now, and have managed to keep it pretty much under control using over the counter shampoos and creams. Some of the creams smell like gasoline, and I go to bed at night sick to my stomach from the smell.

But, rather deal with that than have to deal with my elbow bleeding through a shirt.

In the past week, my right arm has literally exploded with a red, bumpy rash that does not look like the psoriasis on my elbow, but it has to be related. All the way down to my wrist, there are lesions. And my elbow is no longer responding to the unleaded fuel scented cream I put on it.

I have decided to go to the doctor, and I'm afraid this is the beginning of a lifetime of no fun when it comes to my skin. Hooray. I'm thrilled.

If any of you have suggestions for dietary changes or supplements that you think help, now is the time to leave a comment. I'd love to hear what you have tried in the past. If this is something you have experience with.

The main thing is, I do not wish for a life in a bathrobe. That's for sure.

EDIT, 12:24pm
Good news is I do not have Psoriatic Arthritis. I do not have arthritis of the regular variety either. Bad news is I have a rotator cuff injury in my right shoulder. I get to go for PT/shots at the local orthopaedist. Hooray for not having a skin plague.

I do have a rash on the arms, and it is infected, and she gave me a prescription to clear it up.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Being a Champion

I forgot to mention GOOD things, as the last entry was getting way too long.

Over the weekend we went up to Maine to see Wayne and Marcia and the kids, and enjoy some football fellowship.

They have two little ones, Matthew (aka Mammoo) and Christopher. Christopher is 4 years old, and this is actually only the third time I've spent any time with him in his short little life. He brought me up to his room, so he could show me his toys and where he sleeps. We were sitting on the floor talking, and he was showing me how good he is at folding his quilt.

"You are very good at that," I told him.

"I know. I'm a champion at it."

This made me laugh and he went on... in all seriousness.

"I am a champion at everything I do. But God is the King of the World and he helps us all to be champions."

He looked at me with his adorable, sparkling blue eyes and it gave me deep pause. "I like that. I think I am going to try and remember that and be a champion whenever I can."

Later that night he told me he was "only kidding" about the whole champion and God thing. But I'm holding him to it. He said it, and I liked it so... there it is.

Try and be a champion.

Feeling Eeyore about things

I have started this entry about 10 times in the last week.

Blogger keeps drafts of my efforts, all epic failures and pieces of crap. I am uninspired and feel I have nothing to say which won't come off like I'm some sort of cry baby. That doesn't mean nothing is going on in our lives. So I'm making a Herculean effort this morning to not crawl back into bed now that Geoff and Doug are gone, and write a journal entry.

Since last I posted, we have not gone back to snowboard, but we did get 2 feet of snow. It snowed like mad and Geoff had two snow days in a row, something that never happens with our school district. I was surprised by the second day's closure... I thought the roads were okay but I guess our administration didn't. Geoff didn't complain.

It is snowing again, I guess we are expecting 2-4 inches and then a half inch of ice. This should be interesting.

We got some paperwork from the credit bureaus and a series of contradictory form letters from BOA which show they have no idea what they even are sending out to their customers. No we won't talk to your lawyer, yes we will talk to your lawyer but only after you confirm your mailing address (which we are ironically mailing this letter to you at) and yes we'll talk to your lawyer. I hate them. I hate them with a white hot burning passion of 10,000 suns. I have broken out in hives, my skin is bumpy and rashy. I am not sleeping well. I wake up in the middle of the night in a panic after series of inappropriate dreams that leave me feeling as if I've done something wrong. I have to repeatedly tell myself "you're just dreaming, you're just dreaming..." as I lay there waiting for the morning.

My mission today is to get all of the documents down to the lawyer. I would like to make photo copies and then swing by his office and slide them under the door if they're not there but I let Doug take the "safe in the snow" car to work, and I don't like driving the Passat in the snow. It gets stuck in a centimeter of precipitation. It shouldn't, but it does. But I need to do this, so ... meh?

I also need to look into ways to get Jessica to be an independent student and a Pennsylvania state resident so we can reduce the cost of her college tuition. I have to do her next FAFSA, and we don't have our tax forms yet so that makes it a little difficult. The deadline is February 1st for this, I don't know why they do that to people -- honestly. I had called them last year and they told me to "guess" my salary totals if I didn't know.

Why not just make the deadline March 1st? By then everyone will have their tax forms in hand, right? I wish I ran the country. That's one decision I'd make to fix the world.

So we have to figure out what establishes someone as a state resident. Do dorm addresses count? Does she need to use another address, like grandma and grampa's house? How long does it take before she's established as an in-state resident? What is the implication of us not declaring her on our taxes? If we declare her this year, it impacts her for the year upcoming... but if we don't declare her as a dependent, do we get screwed financially? And she WAS our dependent last year. How the hell does this work?

I remember going through this myself, and my mom declaring me on her taxes while I was a college student and it kind of messing me up. I was living in Massachusettes, not New York. I had a job, an apartment, and I was not receiving money from her. She wasn't paying my rent or utilities or tuition... but she declared me as a dependent and then I didn't get any money at all. I remember it clearly because I went to the Oregon Extension that year (1988) and they handed me a bill for over $20,000 for me to be there. I was already there. And I couldn't pay the bill.

It was a hard time. And I want Jess to have an easier time of it.

We also need to look into scholarships for studying foreign languages. A professor in the languages department that we talked to last year said there is "tons and tons of money" for people studying foreign languages. But I can't find any that are not SCHOOL SPECIFIC. So I'm frustrated by this as well.

Another issue is her inability, either through refusal or lack of desire or cluelessness, to get a job. She states that she has gone into several establishments and filled out applications, but that she never gets called back. She is a pain in the ass because she refuses to work with children and/or food. I understand that. Children are annoying and working with food is gross. BUT those are the jobs available to someone who is 18 and has no experience doing anything. When I was her age I was working for a cleaning service, working food service, and then I managed a bakery. I had to work with a lot of food. Get over it. Get a job. Do something.

I told her that she needs to go to the University Student Employment office and find a job this semester. I get the "yeah, yeah, yeah, lady" thing from her but I don't know if she realizes how incredibly serious it is for her to get a damn job and contribute to things financially.

My in-laws co-signed on her student loan for this year (because we could not, due to what is going on with BOA and what it has done to our credit rating) and they called me last night upset that interest is already accruing on the loan. And that the interest rate is 8%. My father in law said "this is going to BURY her by the time she is done with school!"

Yeah. I KNOW.

I think that it was my hope when she got there that my friend Liz would farm her out to people in the arts community that she knows, people who need office help for a couple afternoons a week... something, just to get her a little money. That didn't pan out and I think that Jess has simply NOT been engaged in WANTING a job. She's getting used to the city and finding friends and studying (her grades were great last semester)... and this is all fine and good but I honestly do not think we can send her back there next year unless we get the tuition lower, get her some sort of assistance or scholarship, and get her engaged in working.

No one is beating on her door to offer her jobs; she has no experience at anything. She did work for my co-worker MB doing filing and burning CDs for archiving. It was all stuff she can do and she did well. But she has literally no experience doing anything. Hell, no one is beating down MY door to give me a job and I have over ten years experience and in fact have a LIFETIME of experience. And unlike my daughter, I'm willing to do anything. Within reason.

On that topic, the job that I interviewed for at the beginning of December still hasn't gotten back to me pro or con whether or not I'm still a candidate. The guy had told me "I'll bring you in for an in-person interview after the holidays," and yeah... he has never called back. So either he found a much better candidate or he has gotten distracted with the day-to-day work and just hasn't made a decision yet.

I was a bit negative on the whole going to Boston for work thing, but the more I thought about the prospect the more comfortable I got with it. And now, I have a feeling I'll never know.

So this has turned out to be a long winded whinge, hasn't it? I feel so defeated, and I'm hoping that the words of the great Bruce Springsteen will ring true soon. "Someday we'll look back on this and it wall all seem funny."

Right now though, I kind of don't think so.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snowpocalypse 2011!!!

We're in the throes of 12-18 inches of snow. It started falling somewhere after I went to bed at midnight. When I woke up at 6am, there was a good deal of snow already on the ground, maybe 8 inches.

All told, I'm wondering if we'll lose power with this one.

It is now (at almost 8am) nearly light enough out for me to think it'd be fun to go out and take some pictures. The wind is starting to pick up a little bit, and the trees and bushes are heavily laden. Power lines will surely be kissed or hit by something.

A full report will follow later today, I'm sure. In the meantime, I've enjoyed a very quiet two hours of peace here. Watching the morning news, surrounded by snoring dogs (they played like houses afire out in the snow earlier...) and it's just nice to enjoy the silence.

Monday, January 10, 2011


My son has always wanted to go snowboarding.

We live in northeastern Massachusetts, and within an hour ride there are dozens of good snow hills and ski slopes. Within a couple more hours, there is Maine and the White Mountains of New Hampshire -- for the real skiers who can't travel to Europe or Banff or Vail or other such places.

For a number of reasons, I didn't want him to.

One, his attention span. He isn't good at learning stuff and sticking with it. It is also rather expensive as far as a sport goes. And finally -- my husband works at a rehab hospital. Several of his patients were snowboarders. Operative term is "were" snowboarders.

Use your imagination.

Our school district has an after school ski and snowboard program for kids. I looked into it a couple years ago and decided there was not enough adult coverage to avoid Geoff getting into trouble with another kid. All I could see in my mind was someone making fun of him when he fell down, or someone ragging on him for something else. The fists would fly and the language would get colorful and the next thing I knew Geoff would be out of the program on his ass.

So to this point in life, there has been no Geoff plus snowboard equals fun.

For his birthday, he asked for very few things. He asked for two books by Lois Lowry (I got him three), and he wanted guitar and drum lessons. I arranged for a kid from our high school who is a multi-instrumentalist (and quite good at them all) to come give lessons twice a week. It is costing me a lot less than going to an adult, or to a drum/music school. And he's THRILLED to be making some money doing something he loves. It is one on one, drums on Friday and guitar on Monday.

We started the lessons on his birthday, which made Geoff very happy.

And the final thing he wanted was to try snowboarding.

So I took him.

We went local, there is a little ski hill not too far from our house. It is where our school does their after school program every year. It is where all his friends learned to ski or snowboard.

They offer group lessons for an hour for $25, groups limited to 4 and based on age. I thought that was reasonable. The ticket, the rental of the boots, board and helmet combined with the lesson came to $55.

We went over to the lesson area and Geoff was the only one at his lesson post. A young man came over who I would have actually thought was younger than Geoff if I didn't know better. He looked at Geoff and identified him by name, "Yo. I went to summer camp with you when we were in Elementary School." The kid is a junior in high school (and a good foot shorter than Geoff) and he gave Geoff the bro fist and said "Hey! This is awesome! I get to work with Geoff today!"


So he had a private lesson, no one else was in his age group. I watched them on the slope together. Geoff couldn't figure out anything and spent a great deal of time on his ass. He also spent a great deal of time on his face, so I was glad he gave me his glasses. Geoff also couldn't figure out how to use the rope pull up the bunny slope, so he and the kid walked up about 10 times.

Lesson time was over, but the kid kept going. He kept working on things with Geoff, for a good 15 or so minutes past the time that he needed to. He knew the lesson was over, he told me he didn't have anything else to do that day so ... why not spend a little longer.

The instructor came and told me that if Geoff comes back a few more times he'll definitely get it. I asked him if he wanted to stay and work on it, but he was bushed from the nearly 90 minutes of working on falling down. I was a little disappointed because that was a chunk of change to spend for 90 minutes of whatever... but he was ready.

On the way home, he said that he loved it and can't wait to go back. He's torn between saving money for a new pokemon game for his DS and going snowboarding again.

I was happy to see him happy. He then came home and played drums with the new knowledge that he'd gotten from his teacher (and he sounded 10,000 times better than he did the day before, that's for sure).

It crossed my mind that I had forgotten how he does when he WANTS to do something. Long time readers may recall the Red Onion, his first two wheel bike. He couldn't ride that thing to save his life. But he kept at it. We let him ride in the back yard on the grass and he eventually got it. He nailed it. And watching him ride was like watching a kid who had been riding for years.

His drum/guitar teacher said "when Geoff gets it and it clicks I can SEE it click, and SEE him get it. He'll do fine at snowboarding and he'll learn as much as I can teach him, as long as he's interested."

And that's the truth.

So, the start to 14 has been great for the boy. I look forward to watching him improve at what he desires to do.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Geoff is 14...

I have nine and a half years of journal here.

And I have looked back on each month of January that I have and each time my son's birthday is the first or second entry in the month. I confess each time that I have not arranged a party or done anything fun for him. The holidays drain me and eat my soul each year. And this year my desire to crawl inside bed or a bottle of wine outweigh anything else, and I feel I am failing on all family fronts on most occassions.

I'm ashamed for the lack of effort I make for my son.

That having been said, I love that he is easy to please and easy going. He isn't upset that there isn't a 14 yr old birthday blow out festival happening tomorrow. He wants very few things. Get this:

1. To go down to his drum set at midnight and hit a cymbal.
2. To eat at a restaurant of his choice tomorrow night.
3. To go snowboarding for the first time on Saturday morning.

All three of these things I can give him. He is still awake, at almost midnight on a school night and I am not fighting him on this. It is his wish. it is HIS birthday.

Right now, my son is at a weird age. 14 is just downright bizarre.

He is argumentative, bull-headed, opinionated, an oaf at times. He listens to scary heavy metal music that makes me uncomfortable. He fights and disagrees over stupid things. He states he is a "democrat" but I don't he knows what a democrat, republican or libertarian or socialist really believes. He isn't the gentle and adorable child that I've been used to for so many years. He has a mustache of sorts, zits and hair screaming out of his chin. His hair is long and curly and unruly. His voice is low and weird.

Two years ago he was a totally different person, and now ... he's a space alien of sorts.

But he still is inquisitve and investigative. His arguments are usually based in him wanting to learn and expand his knowledge and experience. He is noisy and oafish because his body is something he is not used to. He is just about 6 feet tall and 230 pounds. He isn't a little wee kid anymore and he needs to learn how to BE this size.

He has a good heart, and I love him immensely.

Happy birthday to Geoff - my son, my friend, and hopefully my future heavy metal drummer who makes a lot of money and pays for my nursing home bills.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

It is good to have a Plan A, B, C, D, E and F

Yesterday I took Jess to NYC to get the bus. The bus to Pittsburgh departs once a day, at 5:30pm.

Plan A was to take the train from Huntington to Penn Station, subway to Chinatown, walk 2 blocks and get to Division Street where the bus stops.

Plan A got screwed up when I misread the train schedule. There was a 2:06 train, and a 3:06 train, but in between them I saw a 2:42 train, which is the one I wanted to take. I figured it would get us there in PLENTY of time.

Turns out the 2:42 train coming in from Port Jefferson didn't continue on past Huntington.

Had I looked down the schedule to the right I would have seen little dash marks for all the west bound stations meaning no stopping there, all the way to Penn Station, which would have registered in my bear of little brain head that this train did not move past Huntington.

That train turned around and went to Port Jefferson again.

We arrived just as the 2:06 train was leaving. It had taken me forever to find a place to park because all the empty lots were marked "residents only" or "non resident with sticker only." Empty lots, all over the place... and nowhere for an outta townah to stick her vehicle. Luckily I know the neighborhood, found an on-street spot two blocks away, and after dropping Jess and her luggage off I walked back to the station.

I bought our tickets and we were sitting in the waiting area, when I looked up at the digital sign and saw that the next train to Penn Station was at 3:06. So I asked the lady about the 2:42. She informed me that I was mistaken about what that train would be doing, and Jess and I opted to enact Plan B.

Plan B was to drive into Chinatown.

Now, I've never once driven into Manhattan. Hell, I've only ever stayed on the interstates and bypassed it, or taken the train in. I had no idea what I was doing but figured "How Hard Can This Be?"

So after establishing Plan B, we discussed plan C, which would be our calling the bus company and seeing if she could use her ticket tomorrow (meaning Wednesday) and she'd just miss the first day of classes. Plan D was getting a flight out of LaGuardia or JFK that night. Plan E was getting a flight out in the morning today (if plan C was not a go). And plan F was "F--k it, we're driving to Pittsburgh!"

Plan B being enacted, we called Doug so he could Google Maps us into our destination.

While on the phone with him, I realized we were in the wrong lane on 495 (LI Expressway) when we got to the 278 (BQE). Not knowing how to correct that, I figured I'd just take the Midtown Tunnel. I got on 2nd Avenue at 34th street, and we started our Southward trek... I missed the turn for the FDR Drive because one cannot get from the right lane alllllllll the way over to the far left blocked into its own protected lane lane if one isn't prepared to do so, but I knew there would be another left to take us over there eventually.

No Worries, I got this.

We followed the signs to the FDR Drive, got on, and were cruising right along when I realized that the exit I wanted for Chinatown was blasting past us (I realized because I saw the tiny, itty, bitty, wee, little "Chinatown" road sign as I passed a truck in the right lane).

No Worries. I got this. Seriously, you guys. I got this.

I got off at Battery Park and figured all I have to do is go north a little bit, and turn right. And Bada Bing Bada Boom, I'm on Canal Street. I've walked this area for a long time. I've been to the south end of Manhattan a billion times. I know my way around.


Thing is, all the stupid roads down that end of the world are one way and are no longer on an east/west, north/south grid like the rest of Manhattan. One knows that if you cannot make a left at this numbered street, go up a block, then turn left, then turn and you're right where you want to be. One cannot get lost in Manhattan when one knows how to count, and knows the road numbers go down as you head south (east west) and go up as you head west for the north south numbered avenues.

The southern part of Manhattan does not obey any of these rules, the roads being built when the colonial period was thriving. So, when you're walking, you can walk any which dang way you want to, but when you're driving it is a whole different story.

And at this point, I now have to pee. Very badly. Four giant cups of coffee and the lease was up on the liquid. I contemplated illegally parking in front of a hotel, leaving Jess in the car and running into a hotel to pee, but there were cops everywhere, and busses, and cabs.

I contemplated pulling over and telling a cabbie to take her where she needed to be, because he would know better, and I would just get the hell out of dodge, but that wasn't gonna happen either.

My sister called me as I was being forced up Trinity and past St. Paul's and the WTC site. Doug called Jess' cell phone to check on us and he was giving her directions too. Linda pulled up Google Maps and she and her boss got me over to Bowery, which got me under a bridge, which got me to City Hall, which got me to Jessica yelling "OH MY GOD I KNOW EXACTLY WHERE WE ARE! TURN RIGHT ON EAST BROADWAY AND THEN LEFT ON RUTGERS!"

Yes, ma'am.

And there we were, where Division and Canal and Essex meet, that is where she needed to be.

A cool hour and a half hours before the bus was leaving, and by my estimation, a good hour before the Plan A option would have gotten us there if we had waited for the 3:06 train.

Insanely, there was on-street parking right in front of the building. We had enough quarters to feed the meter. The bus office let me use their bathroom (thank you God and the chinese bus desk lady).

Our friend McKey lives a few blocks away so he walked up and met us and hung around with us until 5:15 when I opted to leave, give him a ride back to his apartment so he could get his dog settled in and get to rehearsal by 6pm.

I then sat in traffic for 2.5 hours getting to my sister's house. It was insane. I don't know how anyone in their right mind would drive into Manhattan (and out) on a daily basis. But for all intents and purposes for us, it worked out well. She got her bus, and we didn't have to try out the other Plans C-F to get her back.

She got in close to 1am, and didn't have a class until 11, I don't think... so she got plenty of rest and is back at it for the semester.

As for me, I now need to start the trek home. I was contemplating a ferry but I think I'm going to wing it and head up on the highway. Cross your fingers for me that I run into no traffic. I figure if I leave an hour ago, it'll be fine...


Tuesday, January 04, 2011


My lack of speed out of the gate yesterday caused us to miss two ferry possibilities and end up in Bridgeport approaching rush hour. I opted to wait an hour for the 6pm ferry, and avoided taking the same amount of time driving around. My sister lives about 20 minutes from the Port Jefferson Ferry, an hour and a half from Orient Point. I like the OP ferry better, because the drive west is so nice.

Had I been 1/2 hour faster out the door, I would have gotten the 3pm in New London to OP. Oh well. Such is life.

We got here late and had fun with the dog. Sasha is 1, a Siberian Husky, and very very energetic and playful. We ate chinese food. I think I was asleep at midnight, still feeling like I was on the boat.

My sister is out of oil, so we're waiting for the delivery so I can start her burner again for her and have the house all nice and warm by the time she and Ronnie get home from work. Not sure if that is going to happen, but it is my wish. They have a nice fireplace, and I have a nice fire going, but I'm far away from it in Linda's office... my laptop would be nice to have if they had wifi... I could sit by the fire, with Sasha sitting in the window sill (she gets up on the back of the couch and sits in the window... it amuses me).

I should be researching train schedules and where I think I am going to park in order to go into the city. We may try and catch a short visit with McKey, one of the Rebels... he lives right near the bus pick up/drop off point that Jess needs to be at. It is good to know as in future I'll see if he can host her for a little while for breakfast or lunch on one of her trips home.

Anyway. That's about it. I think it is hysterical that my sister's dog cannot catch in mid air but lets things hit her in the face. I must remember not to throw so hard. Ooops.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Asleep at the starting gate

Happy New Year, or should I say happy arbitrary date on a calendar where people make a big deal of stuff day. I'm not feeling the rush of the new year this year. I'm feeling stunted and numb, like I'm standing in the starting gate of a big race and all the other horses around me are chomping at the bit to take off and I'm just staring into space ahead, not pressing against the metal frame of the chute, not really wanting to hear that buzzer go off and see the door fling open. And when they do go off and fling, I feel like I'm just standing still there. If my jockey is whipping my ass to go, I certainly cannot feel it.

I am numb, and staring ahead, with no desire to run into the 2011 track.

I am not used to feeling this way. I kind of wish I could just snap out of it and get going again. Some sort of renewed desire may rise out of a routine and regimen if I had a job again. Or I could just feel this way as I commute, sit at my desk...

Someone slap me, please. Like Cher does to Nicholas Cage in "Moonstruck." Anyone.

The new year came and went. We didn't celebrate or have a party. We stayed in and had dinner. Jess went to her friend's house and then they came and spent new year's day night here. I should be gathering my stuff together to drive her down to NY where we will spend the night at my sister's house, and then head into the city to put her on the bus. But again, should be packing and actually AM packing are two different things. I have no desire to do so. I know that once I get there it'll be a lot of fun and I'll be happy to see Linda and Ronnie. I just don't want to do a 5 hour drive.

Anyway. I guess that is about it. Gotta get my move on here and go. I figure if I go day to day it's better than not getting out of the gate at all.