Monday, December 31, 2018

It Could Be Worse. There Could Be Bears.

I'm looking back on my year, and I think my kid posted something great on Twitter that I'd like to share as my year end post. My year was kind of a bust. Nothing really exciting. In fact, aside from Guster Concerts and hanging out with family, and a couple lovely visits from a few wonderful people, I have been kind of in a state of the doldrums.

I could write a "hey look at all these awesome things!" post but ... meh?

Back to Jess who tweeted "I can't believe I got a new car, a new job, and a new house all this year and none of them were obtained by choice."

It's true.

JOB
In April she was let go from her temporary/contract job, after being strung along for months that a full-time "real boy Pinnochio" job was coming down the pike. I think the lynchpin was when she pointed out that they'd be turning 26 and losing their health care coverage on our policy, and started asking for the verbal commitment to be honored... that the promised full time job be given. Instead of being offered a full time position, she got the old "We restructured the department and found we don't need a full time position for this, so we won't be keeping you. Thanks. Bye..."

This is the kind of thing businesses do anymore and it is sad. My own company is completely guilty of this and it is horrible. Bring in temporary employees, offer them zero benefits, cut them loose when their presence doesn't suit your needs any longer. Everyone is

So she had to find another job, and did. Another temporary contract job, but, this job loved her and hired her full time after a very short period. With insurance, and vacation hours, and everything an employee deserves.

Hell yeah, new job.

HOUSING
A while back, maybe 2016 I think, Jess moved an apartment with 3 of her high school friends. I referred to it as The Weenie Hut (thank you, Spongebob). The Weenies Four happily lived there, one flaked off and moved out to live with her new boyfriend (ditching her fiancé who also was a weenie in the Weenie Hut. Very much to everyone in the apartment's disappointment). The landlord then told them their apartment, which was a condo she rented to them, was going on the market, and she wanted them to move out so she could get it all set for sale. They had to be out by the end of May.

The dumped fiancé moved in with other friends, leaving Jess and Liz to fend for themselves. Housing prices everywhere are crazy. But if you are living anywhere in the Boston area, making something in the vicinity of $12 an hour, it's very hard for two people to find a place.

Add to the fact that Liz had a very big dog, they were super lucky to have the apartment they had in the first place. This wasn't going to be easy.

Lucky for her, and before they needed to be out, an opportunity came to light. Our good friends and former across the street neighbors were in Iceland so he could do a Fulbright year. They had a house sitter, but he decided to bail on the agreement. They contacted Jess and asked if she'd house sit and watch their crazy dog for the remainder of the time they'd be away. Jess said as long as Liz and her dog could come too, then she was willing. Agreement reached, they moved over to the Orange House to sit until the last week of July.

The search for something starting on August 1st was afoot. Not finding anything that would allow a dog, knowing they needed to be somewhere on July 22nd, Jess arranged to stay with friend Molly on the couch and Liz went to live with her mom. They'd keep looking, and technically be homeless. But hopefully not for long.

As fate would have it, weird things happen. Liz' dog had become sick, the diagnosis was stomach cancer, and the prognosis was grim. Liz didn't have the heart to put her down, this was her baby. Her big, giant baby. I loved that dog very much and it broke my heart to know Liz was facing having to make the decision to put her to sleep.

Liz was packing her car on the day they needed to move out of the house sitting gig, and her dog died. Just ... died. Right on the back steps. Jess got home to the house after work and found Liz' mom and sister, and the sister's husband, helping her deal with things there. The grief and the lifting up of a dog that weighed over 100 pounds.

Jess took the dog they were dog sitting for out for a walk and called me on the phone. She was a little freaked out. "Mom..." the tone of voice was a bit scared and shaky, as the conversation started.

She realized immediately that this opened up a ton of opportunities for them. After a little more searching, an apartment was found right in the same neighborhood as friend Molly and Liz' mom. A little above their price range, but the place is big and beautiful, with off-street, safe parking for both of their cars. They moved in the first week of September and only had to spend August in the Homeless Phase. Homeless but safe, with a place to be, and not living on the street.

Hell yeah, new apartment.

CAR
For transportation once she moved out, she mostly relied on Liz or the other roommate who had moved off to live with her boyfriend. While she was working in Boston, she would take the train to work, Liz would drop her off and pick her up or she'd walk the 2 or so miles to and from the train. After she lost the job in Boston and went to the place that hired her temporarily with no guaranteed future, Liz would still drive her to and from work. It was very close to home, and with Liz' schedule, it worked out perfectly.

She didn't need a license. Or a car. For the most part.

We always wanted her to get a license, and right before Doug and I moved to Maryland, that she did. A little while later, she got her first car. A little Subaru Wagon, which the Dog (the one who died in July) could get in and out of easily, without throwing someone's back out.

The car developed some issues. Our wonderful mechanic told her she needed a new catalytic converter and a new timing belt. The timing belt was under warrantee, so Subaru took care of that, but the burning oil, the catalytic converter, and other issues that were developing would mean that her freshly purchased in late 2017 car would have to be replaced. It was not going to pass inspection December 31, 2018.

So she needed a new car. She had very little savings, could probably get 800 bucks on a trade in for the Subi, but not much more than that. After much discussion, she realized she'd probably have to finance a car. Not having a ton of money, she was tremendously worried about getting financing. She got a credit card, made small purchases and paid them right off, in order to establish some credit by the end of this year.

Doug went up to Boston right before Christmas to help her out. They'd shopped online and found a used Subaru Impreza, about 10 years old, for about $6000, which she wanted to finance. Her payments would be under 200 a month if they'd give her a decent trade.

The salesman said no bank would finance the car with this age and amount of miles, and suggested a lease. She doesn't drive a lot. 10,000 miles per year for 3 years is pretty fair, and the payment with her trade in and downpayment would be $200 a month.

So she is now the proud leaser of a 2019 Subaru Impreza, with all the bells and whistles, and bluetooth and backup camera and fancy things. "This car is too good for me," she says.  No honey, your frugal parents raised you frugally. And if something nice is within your means, it's okay to have something nice.

Hell yeah, new car.

So that is how all of these things happened for Jess this year. Not by choice but by circumstance.

And here we are at the end of 2018, looking back on what was a garbage year for so many humans, filled with garbage humans making things even more garbagey for the masses.

Jess could be homeless, carless, jobless. She could be all of those things or just one of those things.

When the kids were little, we used to play a game with them when they were upset about something or when circumstances were such that we should be worried or panicked. "It could be worse," I'd start.

About 15 or so years ago, we were hiking and when we got back to our car, Doug unlocked the hatchback of the Saturn Wagon and the key broke off in the lock when he lifted the hatch open. Three dogs, two kids, no key. He had literally just enough juice in his flip phone to call an emergency locksmith, give him our location, and then the phone died.

We were not sure we were going to be rescued. It was up in the air at that moment. All seemed lost. And the kids, well they seemed to grow concerned.

"It could be worse," I said. "It could be raining."

We would add in things that could make it worse. Invariably, we got to the point where we'd be attacked by bees, or by bears, or by bears and bees. There would be laughter.

And in the case of the broken key in the hatch, the locksmith found us deep in the woods in Andover, got our broken key bit out of the lock, made a new key, and we got to leave.

Right before it started raining.

It could be worse.

Now, before it sounds like I am all about everything is perfect and sunny, and things are great, let me assure you that if you've read this blog since its inception you know things have not always been perfect, sunny, and great. Bad things that are bad have happened, even when we were keeping our chins up and a stiff upper lip.

We got fucked. We lost. We struggled. We have had some major league absolute bullshit happen, even when things were our choice and we thought we were making the right choices. Times when saying "It could be worse" simply would have gotten a "Well do tell, how the fuck can they be worse?!"

And I always joke about the Springsteen line "Someday we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny," even when I'm in the middle of things that are patently not funny. But sometimes it's the only thing you can do when things are ... not funny. And just plain awful.

I know some reading this will say that they're in the worst spot they have ever been in their lives and I do not doubt it. I think of Guster's lines from "Come Downstairs and Say Hello"

"I'm telling the truth, I've said it before, tomorrow I start in a new direction."
"By this time next year, I won't be here."

By chance, choice, opportunity, no choice, no chance, looking at your year past where do you want to be this time next year.

What will the year have in store for you, you can't predict or plan for sometimes. You just do it. You go through the year. You face situations and you take on challenges. Or you tread water. Or you drown.

Where will we all be this time next year? Hopefully there won't be bears. Or bees. Or bears with bees in their mouths.

Happy new year if you've read this drivel this far. I hope if 2018 was yet another bigger dumpster fire for you, that 2019 at least is downgraded to a small trash can, an office sized trash can, with little damage left behind.





Thursday, December 27, 2018

Gratefulness journaling

Every year I say I'm going to try and write more. After reading a recent story on how gratefulness journaling can help people with depression find at least one thing in a day that is worth noting, I thought maybe that would be a good impetus for me to write.

So here's a thought.

Some mornings when I get off the train there is a guy who plays the trumpet out on the street. He aims his instrument into the Metro station to get the best of that acoustic sound of tile and concrete.

Usually he is blasting the theme song from Rocky, or Star Wars, or a song that I don't know the name of but I always associate it as a College Fight Song.

It makes me feel victorious. For a minute. Coming down the steps to the tune of Rocky, well, how can you not?

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Slacker Christmas

We didn't get a tree this year.

For the first time in our marriage, no tree. Nothing. Well, maybe the first year we were married, but I seem to remember the 2 person dining table in our Beverly MA kitchen having a table top tree. But that could be from another house.

With Doug being out of work, money isn't that big an issue (finally) because I am bringing in some decent cash. Ask me how we're doing in three months, though.

He's just been distant, almost siloed, since October. When I try to talk to him or plan things, he gets aggravated and makes a face at me. The face our friend Christopher Kelly once called "the Constabrow" like he's trying to concentrate and poop and process the gibberish coming out of my mouth all at the same time.

I've found it easier to just not suggest things, or talk to him about things, because I sometimes always seem to pick the wrong time to "spring" things on him, and every time is the wrong time.

So we've been quietly dancing around each other for weeks.

He said "Christmas kind of snuck up on us..."

Well, maybe you. But not me. It made me kind of sad to not have a tree, but to be honest, right now I'm happy to not have to put it all down.

If I really wanted to, I could have taken Geoff and gotten a tree like we did last year. But I just didn't feel like it. Lately,  I feel like the Little Red Hen who takes care of all the duties while others are distracted or don't feel like it, or are otherwise occupied, so I just didn't do it.

The only thing I did was buy each kid one thing they would like for Christmas, get Jess a decently priced airline ticket, and encourage Doug to commit to going up to Massachusetts to help her secure a car since her Subaru was not going to pass inspection at the end of the month.

Mission accomplished on all three fronts.

I also just bought (after Christmas but still covering the holiday) airline tickets for Jess to come down in January, Guster tickets (2 nights in DC for her and me to enjoy), and Geoff told me that he wants Judas Priest tickets for May. Which surprised me and I'm kind of glad that I didn't go buy the 4 day pass to Maryland Death Fest that he hinted at maybe wanting.

In my not doing anything, I did manage to put up lights, and make it feel somewhat hygge in the house while he was in Massachusetts last weekend.

So I semi-Little Red Henned it. But that's about it.

Since the kids have been bigger kids, I've totally tailed off on doing a lot for the holidays. But even when I did stuff for the holidays it wasn't like a big bombastic over the top deal. We never really decorated outside. I would put a garland of green and some bows out on the fence at the brown house. Lights in the window in the living room, but nowhere else. We usually kept white fairy lights up year round because watching TV with those on and the fireplace going is just as lovely at Christmas as it is in March.

I have friends who put more than one tree up. And in November, sometimes earlier, they start with putting up lights on the exterior of the house.

That's never been my style. A couple presents, sometimes not even wrapped (my inner semi-environmentally responsible soul finds wrapping paper completely offensive sometimes), an let's all just have a really nice dinner. That's my style

That's the definition of Slacker Christmas.

We hosted Doug's aunt and cousin this year again, they live over in Virginia. It was a nice time of fellowship. We watched Santa Claus vs. the Martians and a badly dubbed Mexican movie about Santa vs. the Devil. Doug's aunt didn't care for either but his cousin seemed genuinely entertained.

We're getting ready to take Jess to the airport, and I'll miss her. I like having her around. I'm happy to spend all her Christmas money on airfare bringing her to visit. And I do feel like I need to go back up there for a visit, but I feel like when I do go back there it is always because someone is dead or someone got hurt. Well, no - my cousin got married and that was nice. And I did go to Boston to see Guster in January, so there was something good.

2018 wasn't as weird as 2017. But it wasn't awesome. Maybe 2019 will be?




Thursday, December 06, 2018

December update

Seeing as the last time I updated we were investigating civil war defenses around DC in the broiling hot heat, it seems like summer was a world away.

We haven't really done anything unbelievably exciting, I guess. It's a lot of go to work, come home, go to work, maybe try and do something fun on the weekend.

Here's kind of the update of what's the haps with the gang.

Geoff
Over the summer he took a required class to enroll in Community College. He decided he wanted to pursue a certificate in Radiology, and then decided he would take the year of pre-requisites and apply for the program. He's got one more week of this semester, 2 more classes under his belt.

So far so good.

Next semester may be harder with a biology, biology lab, and an advanced writing class, but he's up for it. He's enjoying the classes, commutes to school on the train, gets his work done.

Even though I told him that he didn't need to get a job, we'd support him while he is in school, he went out and found himself a full time job at a spice company up between us and Baltimore. He works a 4pm-midnight shift, gets home at about 12:30. He's in his "trainee" 90 day period, which I think is hitting month 2 right about now. At the end of that period, they'll offer him the benefits and everything.

I told him he can keep the job as long as his grades do not fall below B-, and right now he's doing pretty well on all fronts.

The only bummer about him working and going to school is that he isn't going to the market and making dinner. Which makes for a lazy Doug and Christine needing to fend for themselves.

I miss his Chicken Parm. He'll be off school soon, so at least I can send him to the market and stuff, even if he won't be making dinner because he leaves for work at like 2:30.

Mind you, shift begins at 4, but "on time is late" is Geoff's philosophy.

Photo of Geoff is from this summer at Doug's family's reunion in Pennsylvania. Wherever there is a dog, there's a happy Geoff. I realized I don't have any other pictures of Geoff that don't involve him looking slightly drunk with a beer in hand. The only time I seem to get to spend with him lately is on weekends, and we do like going to the beer halls and having a taste.

So this picture makes me happy.

Doug
Shortly after my last post, Doug's position at his company was eliminated, along with the rest of his team. He received a small severance, and is collecting unemployment. He's looking for a job, and has had several interviews. None have panned out just yet. He's getting great feedback, so hopefully something will happen soon.

We made a couple trips back to see Doug's mom over the summer and the last one was Labor Day weekend, helping out around the house with jobs that Gary would normally have done, and she's not happy with how service providers have handled the work she needs done, especially the yard work. Not sure when we'll go back again.

We invited her for Christmas but she doesn't want to come down. So we will see what happens with a future visit, or whatever.

Jess
Doing well back in the home lands. Was temporarily unemployed and homeless, but things worked out. I am thankful for her friend who let her stay with after they had to move out of their apartment. Everything worked out. She's got a better job (I think it pays a little less but they made her a full time real employee instead of stringing her along saying they were going to hire her, like the last place did for over a year). The apartment they are in is great - so much more grown up and nice than the last place. And she's got a good setup.

The only thing she needs now is a new car, hers won't pass inspection at the end of December, so she can take a failure and get 30 more days on it - and will need to have a new solution by the end of January.

Again, I'm sure all things will work out.

It's been a bummer for me not being there to help her out with things in person. But her roommate Liz' mom (for years I thought her name was Tammy. Found out it is Evelyn) lives right around the corner and keeps them in laundry detergent and other things from her job, has a key to the place for emergencies, and is the certified Mom for the team. I'm happy about that.


Here's a picture of us from October, without Geoff because he had work and school. My cousin Billy's daughter got married in Maine, so Doug and I made a trip up, grabbed Jess, got to see the great apartment and the great roommate for a minute. We spent a lovely time with my parents and sister, and the overall My Mom's side of the family.

Doug and I then took a trip across NH and VT (after a lovely night's stay at a beautiful Cabin In The Woods provided by my girl C). We drove down into NY State, went to Poughkeepsie, found a great brewery with a super restaurant. We walked on the footbridge over the Hudson, and it was a gorgeous day. We stopped in Philadelphia at the Eastern State Penitentiary, which Doug has wanted to visit for his whole entire adult life (of all things).

That was the most fun we've had since the summer. I think.

Anyway.

Me
Work is fine, nothing overly exciting or pressing. For Halloween my team dressed as Bob's Burgers, and it was tremendously funny. The only person we were missing was Gene. Couldn't get anyone to play along as him. But we did get Little King Trashmouth, the Raccoon, and that was incredibly funny. Famous people where I work tweeted about us. We were temporary stars.



My sister came to visit. We went to see Guster in Baltimore and had a girls' weekend. She hadn't been down to see us yet, so this was a welcome and fun visit. She's coming back again this weekend and we're going to see Ghost. A band much unlike Guster.

But if they did a mashup thing, they'd be Ghoster, and that would be a riot. I can imagine Tobias singing "Fa Fa" and Ryan doing "Square Hammer."

TM! TM! TM! TM! I'm totally trademarking that so no one steals it.

We had Thanksgiving at our house and Jess came to visit. It was pretty fun to have all 4 of us together again. We went to a brewery and the arboretum to see the Bonsai trees. Most of them were put away for the winter, but some were still there and it was a nice time to go, because no one was in our way.

We'll be bringing her down again for Christmas but right now I'm trying to get Doug to maybe, just maybe, go back to Massachusetts with her for a couple days to help her find a car... she needs a Certified Dad to come be with her and help her pick one out. Someone from her work offered to help but she said he's condescending and annoying about it. I told her that is what a Certified Dad would be like, and she kind of agreed.

I turned 52. We went to a brewery at a horse farm. The last time we were there no horses wanted to come see us. This time, we had lots of fans. It was kind of lovely.

This big guy was kind enough to let us rub his nose and cheeks. And we had mighty fine beers and sat by a fire pit on the patio.

It was a nice way to mark the end of 51.

Except.

While we were there, blissing out with horses and chocolate porter, my mom called.

My dad ended up in the hospital with congestive heart failure so that was ... interesting. My sister went to be there, and spent a week with my mom, while they got him all figured out.

He's out of the hospital now but will be having a day procedure to put a plug in his heart valve (forgive me for not knowing all the exact medical terms and things). Because he'll be 79 in May, he's not a candidate for a valve replacement. It would probably kill him. So they'll put this little plug in to stop the backwash into the one chamber of his heart, and hopefully keep him going for a couple more years.

I do believe this happens a week from now. Will call my mom and find out.

And that's right now. Up to the minute coverage of us. Doug has an in person job interview a week from today for a position he really wants so... cross your fingers, kids.




Sunday, August 26, 2018

Late August and the Civil War Defenses of DC

It is a Sunday morning, and I have to say that it has been 11 months since we've been to church. Doug was itching to pick a church for us, but then dropped it. Everything was too conservative or way too liberal. There was nothing that spoke to us and made us feel like it was home. I miss the congregation of the church back home. Ha. Look I still call it home.

Sunday mornings we fellowship together. After all, I have said it before, if you can't find God in the sacred space of your backyard or your front porch, you sure won't find God in a building that people claim is sacred. Coffee, news reading, game playing on the phones, dog watching the other dogs going down the street, and the ever adorable watching of people running the stop sign on our corner keep us entertained.

When coffee time fellowship is over, usually right around now, we get ready to do errands and go places and look at things. About a month ago, Doug suggested that he wanted to start visiting the Civil War forts and defensives all through the DC. Sounds cool and historic. Let's go!

We started just across the border from Silver Spring in DC at Fort Stevens which was restored but sits in the middle of a neighborhood in the beating hot open sun.

Walking around the earthworks and modern materials walls of concrete imitating wood, we recounted the story told of Lincoln being there during the Battle of Fort Stevens in July 1864 when he was nearly shot in the head.

I guess if you're supposed to die by being shot in the head, eventually it gets you. Hmm.

Next, he wanted to walk to the small national cemetery  where the dead from this battle were buried. It was brutally hot, so we got halfway up there (it is probably a half mile north) and we weren't seeing any signs or sights of it so we turned around and went back to the car, and drove.

Again. I cannot stress how much I hate how hot it is here.

The cemetery was small, well documented. The visitor's center was closed, which if you ask me is a crime on a Saturday when tourists might want to visit? Not sure if that's just part and parcel of budget cuts but I'd close on Monday and be open Saturday. We weren't the only people there to see the place.

It is a very small cemetery but a very important piece of the history of the District and the Civil War.

We drove over to Fort Slocum, which is now a large open field with a small pavilion. A family was there setting up folding chairs, the grill was starting up, and music was playing. It looked to be a nice afternoon where you could get shade, and I was happy to see the spot being used for life affirming activities.

Next we tried to go to Mr. Lincoln's Cottage. After driving around and getting totally lost in the North Capitol Street area, we knew we were close but we were not sure we were in the right place. Upon reading articles like this delightful one in the Washington Post, I think we were spot on and this was just part of the deal. A guarded gate, a military feel, and the cottage was probably just beyond our reach. We bailed and drove around another section of the cemetery that was not so closely guarded, and it was a mini-Arlington National Cemetery with perfectly measured white tombstones filling every corner of the grounds.

We opted to go home at that point. It was just too bloody hot to make any more effort to try and see something else. We were close to Fort Totten but want to save that for a day when I can walk without dying. Again. So hot. So very hot.

Yesterday was a gorgeous day. Humidity was gone, it was in the mid 80s which felt like winter compared to the weeks prior. We were up for another attempt at Civil War defenses touring!

First stop was in  Rock Creek Park, which a US National Parks Service property running through the center of DC. It hosts miles of trails, an equestrian center, planetarium, public golf course. There is a lot to explore there.

We parked at the planetarium and visitors center and walked north past St. John High School to go up to Fort DeRussy, (see map) which has not been restored to its original or close to its original condition. It is overgrown and wild. It made me think of the Talking Heads' song "(Nothing but) Flowers" as trees and brush and plants all grew up over what used to be the walls and parapets and  defenses.

After DeRussy, we headed west to Fort Reno. It is the highest point in Washington DC, 409 feet above sea level, and Doug read that the views were great.


Unfortunately, it seems the property belongs to the DC water authority and there is a reservoir there, and the entire area is fenced off with chain link and barbed wire.

One cool fact is there have been many concerts in this park, and there is an information sign about Fugazi playing there in 2002. That's badass.

It struck me as the kind of park I might have picked for a Rebel Shakespeare show back in the day when I was booking tours for the teen program. There is a high school across the street, the field is wide open and beautiful, there is a stage there, and the backdrop of the tower would make an impressive sight. It made me sense possibility instead of feel like we were ripped off by not being able to get to the tower after all.

We drove home through Tenlytown, which looks like a lot of fun, and a lot more affordable for food and shopping than its neighbor to the north of Chevy Chase.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Rescue

I have a friend who set out to hike the Appalachian Trail by herself. She trained through the winter, prepared by hiking around her home in Tennessee and working with experienced veterans of the AT to get ready. I feel that's pretty badass, and a younger me once wanted to do this, when we were campers and hikers and I was in a shape other than round.

She set out in March, and has a Facebook page and Youtube page where she posts videos that she has been making as she goes.  I've been following her steps from afar.

Early in the journey, she injured her foot and has a hairline fracture which is making hiking exceptionally painful, as you may reckon. She saw a couple of specialists, had her shoes checked out for anything that could be done footwear-wise to make this less difficult. She took a couple weeks off the trail in very southern VA about 3 hours from me and rested up, doctor's orders.

Last week she got back on the trail with high hopes. Knowing she is so close, relatively, and wanting nothing more than to go hug her and buy her a great dinner, this has been exciting for me. I've been eyeballing Harper's Ferry, WV, as a destination where we can connect. I know I'll cry when I see her.

Because she lost a good chunk of time, she revised her north-south plans a little, and was hoping to get a ride up to Western Massachusetts to hike up to Maine from there, instead of trying to do it all straight up to Maine. In September and October, conditions change up through that end of the journey and it can be unpleasant and they eventually close the trail to hiking up that way.

I was encouraging her to make it to the halfway point to Carlisle PA, because there's nothing better than yelling "We're Halfway There!" when you're on a journey. My kids still do it, and funnily enough, even when we are less than halfway or more than halfway. It's a thing with us.

Hikers call this "flipping" on the trail, and there's no harm, no foul. doing things where you get a ride north to hike back south to where you left off, whether in short spurts of several states at a time, it doesn't matter. You are stepping every mile of the trail, so who cares if it is not in order. I thought it was a good plan, especially if worried about the weather. Heck, in my brain starting the trail in the North in May and hiking south all the way until you get there, you still have to struggle through the heat of July and August but at least you may not have to worry too much about snow maybe when you make it to Tennessee and North Carolina. You may get a little extra time before the Smokey Mountains are blessed with winter.

I'd been trying to figure out a way to assist her in getting to Massachusetts. I can't take her - we have no plans to head up that way now, but maybe in a couple months. I asked a few friends who live down this way who drive up that way and they were in similar positions. Not traveling until late August. Waiting until Columbus Day.

She has told me that "The Trail Provides" is a philosophy that everyone has while doing this. People are willing to drive hikers north and south, into town. Entire towns have festivals for the hikers, called Trail Days. So she is looking to connect with someone possibly who can help get her north that way.

She messaged me today saying that she may not be able to do this at all any more. She wants to stop. She is about an hour and a half from me and I think I may go rescue her. She wants to go home to Nashville, and stop.

I'm torn about what to say to her. Encourage her to continue, believe in her ability to do this. Or congratulate her on this and get her and a bottle of wine and help her figure out a way home knowing she has accomplished so very much.

It's not my journey but she is my friend. I know what she wants, and she wants to complete the journey and not fail at it, but also she wants to heal her foot and go home. How do you help someone decide what to do?

We'll see what happens, but if nothing else, if she stops here I'm more than willing next year to help her pick up and start from the very same spot and go on with a healed foot.

I've enjoyed following her steps, her tears, her laughter, and each of the white trail blazes she has shared.


If you want to follow the journey so far, visit her videos at Act Old Later on youtube. She'll take you along for a walk. Several times her little screen captions have been just perfect for me. Watching at the office with a message that says to just stop what you're doing and listen, or look at these little purple flowers, or see how the clouds walk across the mountains from here... these videos have been a kind gift from her. Whether they continue after this weekend or not, so far the journey has been interesting.

One of the things I've been pondering on this experience is how alone she is. That may be what is breaking her heart and making her want to quit more than the foot issues. Once in a while she gets to overlap with other hikers, but for those who hike as a team or as couples, they get that moral support and that encouragement that you sometimes need to push through. And here she is alone as alone can be.

I'm sure I would enjoy the solitude at first in hiking alone but after a while, no.

Send her good thoughts to make the right decision for her.


Friday, July 13, 2018

New Guy

Since our move here to DC, our department, which was already understaffed, has become even more understaffed. We lost one colleague to another department, we lost one person to unforeseen circumstances (and God, I miss her so). Another person agreed to stay on and work remotely from Boston, but she found another opportunity and a step up the ladder so she opted to take that on.

I kind of feel like it's been me, JW, and my work wife R against the world. The three of us have grown closer. We've fought some battles, won some, lost some.

We just hired a new guy. New Guy started on Monday and it's been a whirlwind of orientation meetings, trainings, and time with us learning our trade.

He asks a lot of good questions, sometimes I have to tell him to slow down, I'm getting there! He's eager. And I like that.

But I'm also exhausted. I kind of like going through my job, my cases, my everything at my pace. And finding things to show him and teach him as we go is sometimes a challenge. Luckily for me there was a tech support emergency yesterday with JW traveling to a conference and R working at home. So he got to see how we support each other and take tasks and duties.

"I'll send out the email."
"Do you want me to update Slack and Facebook?"
"I will call the station back and check in with sys/ops."

We've got it down. We've had it down, as it were, for a long time. I'm sure we will find plenty of ways to fit the New Guy in.

He told me he took a ginormous pay cut to come here. I hope it is worth it for him. I hope he stays happy and enjoys it incredibly. I'll do my best to play the part to keep it that way.

When I told him that JW and I went to R's baby's first birthday party, I said "we're kinda close like that," he said "Yeah, I picked up on that. It was a little intimidating to realize that I was walking into such a strong fellowship." He said that it initially made him nervous, but we've made him feel a part this week - and not like an invader or interloper. He was relieved.

I took him out for a beer at the end of day one because I could tell he was just over all the work stuff. We had an excellent conversation about music and dogs and the DC metal scene.

We have another position to fill, and that is taking place now. Interviews are flowing in. We'll see how that goes. But for now, I'm happy to have someone to train and am hoping he can become as adept as possible on the products that neither R nor I know much about that we've been trying desperately to learn but don't have the time.

We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

First Birthday

My "work wife" as the term goes has a little boy. He just turned 1. I'd share the pictures I took of him, but she's not wanting him to be on the internet, and I honor that.

But hell he is so stinking cute I can't even get over it. I mean ... holy cow he's a beautiful little man.

I drove up with our boss and her two boys. The younger one, Isaiah, is four going on old man. When I picked them up, he bemoaned going. Then, he bemoaned our leaving. We got in the car and he said something along the lines of "I just don't want to go home yet. I want to go somewhere else."

Where is that you want to go?

"Somewhere that has a dog."

Meaning my house. They only live about a mile and a half away, and they lovingly took old Brodie in while we had our going to Pennsylvania for Gary emergencies in February. Isaiah has a love/hate relationship with her. She is always begging for his food, and it makes him uncomfortable. So there is sometimes whining and complaining. And then she won't come to him when he wants to pat her. She will go to his big brother for pats and loves.

I told him he was very welcome to come over and see the dog. I texted Doug to give him a heads-up so he wouldn't be napping when we arrived.

There was tail wagging, and sock carrying (Brodie will find a sock and bring it to guests, or bring it to us when we come home from work). "Her tail! It's touching me when it goes back and forth!" he hollered, horrified.

Lots of petting happened. And then when it was time for them to go home he was very sad. He didn't want to leave. I guess we are so amazing.

I gave him hugs and told him I couldn't wait to see him again and we'd have more fun but he needed to go to his house. Eat dinner. Get ready for the week ahead.

He cried in the car, and when we got to their house he said "I just don't want it to end! I have had so much fun, and I don't want it to be over yet!"

I wish everyone I knew felt that way about spending time with me, that they'd cry because it was time to go home.

All told, it was a great day. And now it is Sunday, and I feel like Isaiah, and I don't want it to end either. So I'm feeling you today, little man. I may cry.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Crabs and Colleagues

I kind of let the time get away, didn't I. Lots to cover in updatesville. I did get a visit from Carrie, and we had a wonderful time of food and toenails. I miss her the most.

Most of May went very quickly, without much note. Except that Jess and her friend Molly came to visit. They drove down on a Thursday night late and got to us at about 2:30am. Friday they came to visit my office, and we had a lovely time. We took them to the zoo and it was so hot. A taste of things to come there for Early May!

Molly likes Elephants a lot.


I was sad for them to go. I miss my kid, and I miss the drop-by visits from them in their grown up lives. No more "Can Molly and I swing by?" texts in the middle of a Sunday afternoon, this makes me sad.

 My uncle Ken passed away right around Memorial Day and his funeral was the beginning of June.

Doug and I had planned a weekend trip to Atlantic City for our wedding anniversary, which then turned into a trip up to Cape Cod for the funeral.

It was lovely to see my sister and parents, and my cousins. Jess couldn't come down because it was a work day. We were so close, yet so far.

My aunt seemed very tired, the past year has been a toll on her. I feel very sad for my cousin's kids who spent a great deal of time with their grandfather. I remember talking to him once about his great grandson, and boy did that fire him up. "I live for that kid," he told me, while flipping through pictures on his phone, showing me how cute the little guy is.

I'm glad he lived for him.

Doug and I drove back from the Cape right after the funeral which is a 9 hour trip. Not something I enjoyed, all in one fell swoop like that. We used to drive 12 hour trips like it was nothing. now I feel I need to break trips back up there in half. Luckily, for a Monday, we managed to only run into bad traffic between Providence and

While we were in Atlantic City, we saw billboards for Brian Setzer's Rockabilly Riot show, and decided we'd buy tickets for it, knowing we were going to have to come back in a couple weeks. No problem! It's close!

It was a phenomenal performance. They only played 90 minutes or so, but every minute was full of awesome. We also noted that we were not the oldest people there. In fact we were almost on the younger end of the crowd. There were some folks in their 30s or 40s, but the vast majority of attendees were in their 70s!

Way to come out for the Rockabilly and represent, lady with the walker and guy with your oxygen and scooter!

Our experience at the Tropicana was kind of miserable otherwise. We won't be staying there again. It was loud and rude. Everything wants to be a dance club, and the layout of the joint was ridiculous. I think we walked 5 miles inside the building just trying to get from point A to B. I vastly prefer the layout at Caesar's or Bally's.

We had a good time walking up and down the boardwalk the next day, playing Pokémon and people watching. Atlantic City is close, and sometimes we get affordable deals. Summertime is expensive though. Doubtful we'll be back there again before the late fall.

Our lovely crab picking instructor
This weekend we were invited to one of Doug's co-worker's for a day of "Crabs and Colleagues," as he called it. 

They live down the Eastern Shore in the Easton area, so about 2 hours from our house. The place was outstanding - what a house! What a spread! Big beautiful home on a couple of acres with waterfront, dock, and a 21 foot motor boat. 

Geoff came with us, and the host has a daughter about Geoff's age, maybe a little older. Her boyfriend is a med student at Georgetown, and both of them were incredibly kind and welcoming to him. They took about 8 people out for a ride on the "creek" which looked more like a full river to me. Creeks are where you catch frogs and there is a piddly flow of water. This was beautiful. Geoff texted me from the boat to say he was having a great time and that made me very happy.

Meanwhile, Doug and I were with the "colleagues" that Matt had invited over. Matt's party was focused on colleagues from every job he'd had. So he went back 20 years to invite people over.

Doug was only 1 of 2 of his most recent colleagues. We got to spend time with neighbor friends of Matt's Del and Patty.

Patty gave us "crab picking" lessons, and told Doug he was a downright natural. They used to live in Gloucester, MA, and they were just in Newburyport for a wedding, so we had a "small world" moment and great talk about living here vs. living there. There are pros and cons.

Baby's first official Maryland crab. 
We asked Del if they had a house with waterfront, and he said no - that's about a $400,000 difference for properties. He said he's perfectly happy not having waterfront but being friends with Matt and his wife Peggy!

Peggy got home from work, at a local gallery, and she was delightful and vivacious.

Crabs and Colleagues was turning out to be a great time.

I am usually of the mindset that I should not have to work this hard for a mouthful of food. Patty said that it isn't about the amount of food you get but the fellowship, the conversation, the beer and the sunshine.

Not able to disagree with her on that, I had my second crab

Doug and Patty went to task on these crabs, which were picked up that morning by boat by Matt from a local marina and crab shop.

After Geoff got back from the boat ride, he wanted to take a kayak out. 

Matt hooked him up and he took off like lightning. A natural. And the smile on his face was amazing. Matt was amazed at how fast he jetted off, and was really impressed. Boy Scout muscle memory comes right back. The incredibly calm "creek" and miles of places to paddle... this was a perfect day and a perfect time for him. I'm so glad he came with us. I really should have taken a picture of him, but am happy to see that smile in my mind.


A small amount of the post-crab picking carnage
We stayed through the sunset, which we didn't intend. The fireflies filled up woods, blinking from ground to crown. It was virtually middle earth as we walked down the drive to the car.  On the way home Geoff expressed how much he missed being on the water. Near the water. Access to the water any time he wants it.  I completely agree. 

We have got to get him a kayak. But thankfully we have a "colleague" that maybe we can visit again.

We had fun down the Eastern Shore, including a stop in to grab some beer to bring to the party at the Eastern Shore Brewery in St. Michaels. There seem to be enough little places up and down these roads to visit in the future. Most likely not affordable this time of year, but good to note for the fall and early winter when it isn't totally freezing and horrible. 

So that's where we find ourselves so far. More to come, I'm sure.




Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Weekend Flowers

Doug is somewhat of a gung ho gardener. At least, he starts off each season that way.

The first spring and summer in a new house, you don't always know what is there already. Stuff is planted, and there may be perennials, and you don't just want to dig it up and ruin everything. So you sort of wait and see.

We had daffodils in the yard, but no tulips. There are hostas and some other green leafy things. We have some hedges and azaleas that are coming up and around the front and side of the house.

Doug is a firm believer in just letting the bushes grow into the shapes they want to be. He doesn't shape things into boxes or globes... he leaves them to find their own paths. He'll trim back a particularly exuberant and unruly shoot, but for the most part, grooming isn't his style. It's like the English romantic poets... let nature be nature and we shall cower in front of how it grows, its beauty and wildness. None of the Enlightenment man controls nature hoo-haa. She cannot be tamed and restrained.

But once in a while, she needs a good haircut.

We were at the national arboretum a few weeks ago, and they have a national Bonsai and Penjing museum, all very orderly and beautiful, all very well kept. Some of the trees are hundreds of years old. It's quite astounding and inspirational to the gardener who aspires to greatness. Doug brought up the romantics as we stood in front of a pine tree cut, tamed, trimmed to grow against a wall, and how the tree probably hates this. Just freaking hates it.

Doug's heart is in the right place, ever the romantic poet.

This weekend, we bought four nice hanging baskets for the front porch. There are wildflower seeds to sow, as is his style. He is monitoring the gardens for what is coming up, what we like and what we don't. The aforementioned hostas have some friends growing way in the back corner of the yard, which is disorderly and wild, so he thinks he may replant them, and move them over to a spot where they can be seen and enjoyed.

Oh, and the Ivy. We have a lot of ivy.

It's nice to see him puttering around, and I'm hoping that he is able to make it look like what he wants it to look like, and my involvement will be minimal.

I'll take some pictures of the progress I guess. Missed out on the daffodil pictures but will try and do a better job of the other things.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

I love things that happen at my job, Episode 1

My job is simple. I help radio stations. I work for a major news network, not going to say who, but my job is to help the stations out in the world with problems and issues. My company builds products and provides services to these stations to get content out into the world. Digitally and terrestrially. 

I wanted to share a funny anecdote about something that happened yesterday. I was working with a small station out west, and they have been struggling with under staffing, tech deficit issues, and general confusion about some things. One of these things is SSL certification. 

A while back, Apple decided that all streams and audio coming into their iDevices had to be in HTTPS Secure format. 

This sent people scrambling. Stations that hosted their own streams or who weren't working with our preferred provider had to do a lot of work. If you were a station working with our partner, - no problem. It was done for you, seamlessly. 

So this sweet little station out west was having a bad day. Ransomware attack over the weekend, stream invisible in smart speakers, issues and complications. 

I was working with the Program Director (PD for those in the know) John, and he was working with his streaming provider. They got the stream secured, and over to me. I tested it for him. They were playing some strange ambient music, followed by the Doobie Brothers...

I said "what's your format over there?! It sounds like crazy town!" 

John said "oh, our hosts... they're free spirits! They play what they want. I'm sorry!" I told him that I loved when stations do that - and I said "You should play Guster!" 

So he ducks into the studio and says "Hey! You got any Guster in there?" The host said they had Endlessly, Amsterdam, and Careful.

Now, Careful is one of my favorite Guster songs so I said "ooooh! Careful! Play Careful for me!" 

So he hollers in and says 'Play Guster's Careful! Dedicate it to Christine, our Station Support manager in Washington DC! She is the super most amazing dedicated helper ever! Say that on the air!" 

And they did. 

I sat here at my desk just laughing hysterically. No one else was sitting in my area - it was on the later side and most of the team had cleared out for the day. But wow. What a giggle. I've requested songs before from stations. I try to listen to a station while I'm reading a helpdesk ticket, or following up on a call. They are all varied and different, big and little; music or news or a nice mix of both... they're all unique and lovely. 

So that made my day. And reminded me why I do this job.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

This is a Great day, an Historic Day!

We had a really nice visit up to Doug's homeland.

Doug's great aunt turned 103 on Saturday, so part of the reason for our trip was to go celebrate her.

85, 103, 87.
She's a sharp cookie. Doesn't see too well, but is top of her game for the most part, and loves to have little conversations. She has a great memory.

She remembered before Geoff was born we came to visit with Jessica on our way to NY (she and her husband were living in Connecticut). And we didn't visit more than once with Geoff because he was hell on wheels when he was little.

But she remembers them, and remembers details and stories. She loves to tell them to the kids (us) and our kids.

Doug took me on a nostalgia tour on Saturday night, we drove all around back and forth across the rivers that run through the valley where he grew up. It was dark, and he couldn't make out some of the places that he wanted to point out (again... I identified one of his relative's homes on the main drag because I knew it was across from the seamstress) and he was happy I knew.  We went to the Hot Dog Shoppe, which is an amazingly delicious heart attack in a styrofoam box, and ate overlooking the river outside of the insurance company his dad owned for many years (family still owns it, and family still works there...)

On Sunday, we went to Gary's church. I call it Gary's church because for many years Bonnie didn't go there. Not exactly sure why. But she seems to have been going back more in the last year. Gary was very active in his church, and was clerk of the Session (i.e.: Secretary/Record Keeper for the Governing Body) and was chair of the search committee for a new pastor.

Gary was very involved but Bonnie didn't really go there much. I'm not sure of the back story. I think some feelings were hurt or something was said. For a long time she went to the Anglican church that my sister in law and her husband go to.

Lately she's been back at Gary's church. So I guess I can call it Bonnie's church too. They all seem to love her. And everyone has been incredibly supportive to her.

When Gary died, they didn't have a pastor picked yet. Their pastor had retired, and they were using substitute pastors, one of them very regularly. They wanted that guy to be their pastor. He wanted to be their pastor. Gary really wanted him to be the pastor.

His name is Lee. For a long time he actually was their pastor but had gone somewhere else for a while. He was retired, and the rules and bylaws of his retirement as interpreted by The Home Office (shall we say) stated that he couldn't be hired back to the church he'd retired from.

But. After a while, someone put the pieces together and realized he had not retired from their church, but from another. The paperwork was faulty. The truth won out.

He was offered the position (and accepted) and announced it while we were there on Sunday. How fortuitous for us to be there. Almost like we knew it was going to happen that this announcement was going down.

Gary got his pastor.

Lee said "Gary used to say things like "This is a GREAT day! An Historic Day!" about things when decisions were made. He was maybe partly kidding, but he was enthusiastic about getting things done. So Lee quoted him, and looked to us, and told us he was going to do his best for Gary and for us.

It was humbling.

And then he skipped a whole section of the service. Completely blew it. Because he was probably flustered after having just made such an historic and great announcement. When everyone was laughing I called out "Tell 'em it's your first day!"

It couldn't have been more perfect.

Well. Actually, it could have. Gary could have been sitting in his seat. He always sat in Row 4, Left side, 2nd seat from the window. He would call Lee's phone and leave messages saying that. "Hello, Lee, this is Gary. Fourth Row, Left Side,  2nd seat from the window..." and then leave the rest of his message.

Lee said whenever he would be in the church he'd walk by Gary's seat and touch the back. I am tempted to get a small copper plate engraved with that on it.

We had a good weekend.

Bonnie's family has a big family reunion every summer. I don't think we've been for over 15 years now that I think of it. We intended to go last year but decided not to with the move and house hunting. The year before we planned a vacation and didn't know the schedule of the event, and were in town the wrong weekend.

This year, we have no excuse. It'll be nice. It'll be a great day, an historic day!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

A Visit North

My husband and I gave away the free passes that I got to go to a big beautiful Bluegrass Festival today in Baltimore, and we're going to go visit his mom.

We haven't been back "home" there since Gary's funeral, and Doug talks to her about once a week to check in. She initially indicated that she was wanting to clean, organize, purge, give away the clothes, donate the books to the library book sale (ironic since that is where most of them came from) but in the weeks that followed Gary's passing, she waved us off from coming to help.

All normal, all expected.

This weekend we have an ulterior motive in going up. Doug's great aunt is turning 103, and they're having a nice open house party for her today. I really like her. She's sharp as a tack, full of amazing stories. She's a delight to spend time with, and I'm looking forward to this.

Doug let his mom know we are coming, and she said this was great. The AC in her car doesn't seem to be working, so Doug is going to bring the refrigerant recharger and see if that helps out. Gary's car hasn't been driven since we were there and she wants to get it an oil change (I'd be happy to do that). And I'm sure we'll probably do a thing or two, and if nothing else, spend time.

And that is very nice.

Yesterday I took the day "off" but ended up working about 6 of the normal 8 hours of my vacation time. It's the way it goes sometimes. I don't have a problem with it - I think I goof off enough at work sometimes that it all balances out in the end.

After Doug was finished with work, we went up to the county park and gardens just north of us to take a walk. It is a beautiful place. He came upon it during the week before I moved down, and we've gone back five or six times. Even in the winter.

It is adjacent to a big park where there is a playground, merry-go-round, and a train that covers a couple acres.

The gardens are slowly revealing themselves. Last time we were there it was all daffodils, and now the tulips and the lilacs are out doing their shows. Slowly the wisteria will begin to drip and bloom, and all sorts of different friends will shine their faces to us as we walk past.

The cloudy, gloomy day gave way to sunshine, and there were people gathered to take prom photos. Tons of pretty girls and handsome young men, done up nice, smiling in front of the rows of tulips and the newly budding trees. Couples posed in the small pavilion opening, and I noticed the light was behind them, and all the parents' cell phone photos were going to be lame or need some sort of filter and fix in order for them to look halfway decent.

There was a group of young ladies, all together, "I don't need no man" attitudes as they marched about the grounds taking selfies, and posing so parents could take their pictures. Doug and I came upon them at this spot, and the entourage of family and friends taking pictures was delightful.

As I approached from the left side of this photo I stopped. I noticed that there was an opportunity for a really cool shot from my perspective. One (I presume) dad had a super nice camera and I called out "Can I suggest an angle for a shot? Come on over here."

I started to describe that if the girl in purple leaned backwards, the girl beside her in burgundy lean a little bit back but not as much, the two girls in the center stay where they are and the two girls on the end lean forward, it was a pretty cascade, with them looking over to their right.

"Oh, you got the vision! You got the vision yes!" he laughed back and came over. He stood up on the wall to avoid having the black fence post be in their faces, and they followed direction as I assembled them. Willing and giggling, they got into place and the moms and aunties and friends were all laughing and saying "yes! yes! perfect!"

As I walked away I grabbed this shot for me, and I heard the dad say, "Okay now everyone turn and look over your right shoulders..." as he perceived another angle and another shot. More giggling and cheering resulted from the entourage.

I was so relieved that there was someone there with their kids with an actual camera. I know a lot of cel phone pictures come out just absolutely shitty, so it is nice to know someone had an actual tool for the job. And yes, yes, I know that cell phone cameras have come a long way, but so often if the light isn't perfect, if you aren't in the right spot, the pictures just look a mess. Like the one I took here below. It's not perfect, it's kind of meh. It is blurry. It isn't something that I'd want to frame as the memory of the moment. So kudos to the dad with his DSLR and what looked like the perfect lens.

Doug was standing on the path about twenty feet ahead, laughing at me. I shrugged my shoulders and said that I couldn't resist making the suggestion in what I hope is a penultimate shot of a great memory before these girls go off to their prom together.




Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Flowering Trees and lots of Beers

March just kind of passed us by, didn't it? I didn't have much to update. Was kind of feeling really bummed out. Work has been very busy. And I've been missing my whole Boston team. Some things happened that I don't think I should write about or mention but suffice to say, there has been upset.

Thank God for my girls in the office that I know and love, or else I'd be feeling really alone here. Doug and Geoff are great, don't get me wrong. They're my world. But the icing on the life cake is always what makes work life balance happiness, and right now my home life is the only happiness I'm feeling.

So let's talk about home shall we?

We got a bed for our guest room, which is kind of exciting. No more camping air mattress for weary travelers, but a full blown IKEA queen. A colleague in another department was moving to Spain and he and his wife were literally liquidating everything.

The day before they moved he called me "No one wants our couch! You seemed to like the couch. Do you want it? Free! Come get it!" He gave it to me free but after we've finished our taxes, he's getting some money from me.

So we got a 7ft IKEA sofa, and rearranged the living room so we are "couch rich" now. lots of surfaces to plop buttocks down upon.

As of right now, two people can sleep in the living room, two people can sleep in the guest room. And in theory, two more people can sleep on both of the air mattresses in the basement. So we can sleep 8. If need be. Or more even. Come party down!

So far, only Jess has come to visit and stay over. I had two colleagues from the Boston office here, but they had hotels and didn't stay. And on New Years Eve I did rescue a friend from a night of either some rando hookup on Grindr, or sleeping on the floor at the Baltimore airport.

Maybe this spring and summer people will want to visit?

One of the more popular things to see in the DC area is happening right now. The Cherry Blossoms are in full peak and we tried to go see them right before they go "boom" as it were. The traffic and tourists and buses and everything were so awful that we bailed and left.

Allegedly, the blooms should still be good through this weekend. Maybe we'll try one more time?

Then, we tried to go see the Great Falls again, but the road is a two-lane, and we sat in traffic not moving for 20 minutes before Doug decided we'd give up, again. I guess you have to get up before dawn to go see the great falls.

We ended up at a semi-decent Irish pub. So not a full loss of that day.

What else did we see recently? We have been getting out and looking around quite a bit lately. We drive around a lot, playing Pokemon Go and taking walks in parks and stuff. Doug does a little research on a destination, and we go. Sometimes Geoff comes with, if he thinks beer may be involved (he's becoming a craft beer fan, don't ya know).

 Doug likes to go into DC on Sundays when the parking at the Metro is free. So we went in to the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers museum, which was really cool. They had a special photography exhibition called "War on our Doorsteps," which focused on the photography of Alexander Gardner's photographs of Antietam.

We've been kind of on a Clara Barton kick lately, the woman is a freaking national treasure. Doug has been very into the Civil War sites and museums. We live right near the Walter Reed National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM), which is primarily dedicated to the advancements in medicine introduced during the Civil War as well as special exhibits on things like robotics, modern field hospitals, technology, and head injury recovery. That was cool. They have the bullet remnants that they pulled from Abraham Lincoln's brain... (cool!)

We took a day trip to Frederick for Restaurant Week, and they have a fantastic Civil War museum that focuses on the medical aspect of things as well...

We stumbled upon Clara Barton's homestead at Glen Echo which was unfortunately closed due to renovations.

In the woods next to the house, there were signs about a place called Glen Echo. Through the trees I could see what looked like an amusement park, and I was kind of confused. Turns out, there is an amusement park, small aquarium, and summer camp... None of the rides work or do anything, but there was stuff going on, and there was a bakery, and there were these cute little huts where you could take art lessons for glass blowing and stuff.

I'm sure at a more lively time, the place is as freaking packed as everything else around here. The history is pretty cool though, if you want to read about it.

The other day, we decided to go down to Union Market near my office to grab lunch, but that place was a shit show - completely mobbed, absolutely the most crowded food market I've ever been to. So much so that I couldn't figure out what to do and had to get outside. People were just stopping in the middle of the aisles, on the phones looking for their friends (take 2 steps to the left and get out of the middle maybe?) And a yoga class was just let out - so there were all these people with bags and yoga mats, swinging around to talk to people. I think I got hit in the face three times with a mat.

Kind of ruined my overall experience, ya know?

Probably not the best place to go at 2pm any day but especially a Sunday. It was a complete waste of time, and disappointing on so many levels.

We went to the Chinese New Year parade in February, welcome to the year of the Dog. It was beautiful and fun, and there were a lot of dogs. And we were able to stand on the steps of a church in a not-crowded side street and really enjoy the festivities, and the dogs.

On the beer front, we've been frequenting some taprooms in the area to sample their offerings. We went to the Hellbender Brewing company tap room, which was alright. The room itself left a little to be desired. There was music playing but we couldn't hear what it was, so it was literally an aural torture of some sort of bass line or noise. Ceiling speakers may be a good idea, or no music at all. I think I would prefer the patio if I go in better weather. The beer was fantastic though. I'd go back and get more of that, for sure.

We went to Waredaca brewing company  up north of us in horse country. Maryland gets really rural really fast around here. The taproom there was fantastic. What a beautiful room. Like the comfiest living room, perfect wood walls and lighting. The staff was lovely. The beer delightful. We walked around the grounds and I wanted to take pictures of the horses on the property adjacent, but they seem to be kept far away on purpose. The signage was very clear that you couldn't go beyond certain points. And I didn't have the courage to ask. Because who the hell am I to even ask, right?

Over in Rockville (yes, go ahead and sing the REM song) there is a place called 7 Locks Brewing Company. Hidden in an industrial park, they have a really large room with lots of games and lots to do. They even have a lovely library with assorted history of beer and how to drink your way around the world. Great stuff. Oh, and the beer from them is fantastic. Simply perfect. So far a favorite, and very close.

Tap rooms thus far sometimes have snack, sometimes do not, but places like 7 Locks encourage you to bring your food with, or order out from a local spot. So we got some delivery pizza there and it was only half horrible.

That's one of my biggest complaints - the vast majority of pizza in these parts is just plain awful. We've found one place that has decent pizza. Two locations, the Pizzeria is in Downtown Silver Spring, and the Trattoria is closer to our house.

I feel like I need a vacation, but I also feel like there is stuff I need to do around here, and get done, and make the house more enjoyable. I am hoping Doug and I can go get some yard furniture, or at least something for inside the back patio, and kind of fuss that up nice.

Especially now that we have the guest bed.



Thursday, February 15, 2018

Kind and Generous

We laid Gary to rest on Monday.


I was standing in Burger King, in my dress blouse, hair done, yoga pants, sneakers without socks, and big black winter jacket. Geoff had woken up early, as is his wont, was restless and annoying bumping around the hotel room. This hotel has no gym or pool, sadly, so he was like a caged animal. I figured it would be a good idea to get up, get ready, and go grab breakfast for Doug and Jess, sleeping behind.


We ordered breakfast sandwiches, things like croissants with eggs and sausage, and an "Eggnormous Burrito," of all things. The hash browns were dropped into the deep fryer, so I knew they'd be fresh and delicious for us.

Burger King was empty, and after I placed our order, I stood there waiting. Natalie Merchant's voice came over the speakers, and she was singing the Thank You song, "Kind and Generous."

I'd always been a big 10,000 Maniacs fan, in my younger days, R.E.M. and Indigo Girls and their ilk filled my heart with poetry.


I never liked this song.


I found it repetitive, pointless. It wasn't to anyone that I could detect, it wasn't about anyone or any one event. It started with "la la" which always drove me nuts. Get to the words, not the la la part.

But I stood there and began to listen to her. I began to think about all the Thank Yous I gave Gary, and many that I never had the chance to deliver.


And for the first time ever, at the end of the song when she sings "Thank you, thank you" over and over again, it stopped sounding to me like a pointless waste of time and lazy songwriting.

It sounded like "I can never thank you enough."  Never, ever enough. No matter how many times it is sung, to the point of fading out or the next song beginning, there would never be enough thank yous delivered.

You've been so kind and generous, I don't know how you keep on giving
For your kindness I'm in debt to you, for your selflessness, my admiration
And for everything you've done
You know I'm bound...I'm bound to thank you for it
You've been so kind and generous, I don't know how you keep on giving
For your kindness I'm in debt to you, And I never could have come this far without you
So for everything you've done
You know I'm bound...I'm bound to thank you for it
I want to thank you for so many gifts you gave with love and tenderness
I want to thank you
I want to thank you for your generosity
The love and the honesty that you gave me
I want to thank you show my gratitude
My love and my respect for you
I want to thank you
I want to... Thank you thank you, thank you thank you, thank you thank you, thank you thank you....

The pastor delivered his sermon, and then he opened the floor to people to come up and share their thoughts and feelings. Danny, one of the fellow elders in the church, came up and shared his peace. Michael Q Neely (the Q stands for Quality Keyboardist... inside joke) spoke at length on his friendship with Gary, and how he wasn't attached to the church or God, until he kind of started "dabbling" with this experience, and Gary was there to be his friend. Not be anything more, but to just be his friend.


I knew Doug and Diane both were not going to get up and share. Doug told me that I could, and should, and that his dad would appreciate it. Gary told me on more than one occasion that "Christine, you just got a way about you..."


Wanting to honor that, I got up to speak.


My nephew Craig (Diane and J's son) came to join me. I asked him if he wanted to speak, but he did not. He wanted to just stand with me. Perfectly cool. I'm down with that.


I told everyone that the first time I came out to visit the family, probably in 1987 or so, Gary insisted on taking me around town. I sat in the front seat and Doug was in back. Gary tootled us around town, and he pointed out things and places to me.


He took us to the river to show me the mighty Ohio. There was a coal barge making its way along, pushed by a tug boat. He talked to me about its destination, and the comings and goings of boats up the river. Where the Beaver would meet up, and the locks that were over in another location that he wanted to show me.


Doug was in the back seat cringing. He groaned to his dad that "she knows all this stuff already, she's from Long Island..." I had a big smile on my face, because I knew Gary was showing me this stuff because it was such a part of their life, and their heritage, and their town... even if there were ten thousand sailboats on the river, it still would have been his to share and show. I felt honored, not insulted or upset.


He was being a dad. Such a dad moment. And Doug, well he grew into those dad moments himself for sure. I see a lot of Gary in him.


Another story that I related was when we went to see his mother "Middie" in her nursing home one day when I was waiting for Jess to finish her finals so I could bring her home. Middie told me about this nurse... she had a tattoo! on her NECK! and she got her hair all cut short so everyone could see it! Imagine that!


Right in front of the nurse, who waved politely to me. I asked if she'd turn about and show me her razor short haircut in back, and the tattoo.


It was very nice.


Gary, like Doug before, was rolling his eyes and groaning about his mom. I said to her "Hey Middie, where's your tattoo?"


"My tattoo?" she asked, confused.


"Yeah, I bet you have a wicked awesome tattoo. Show it to me!"


Middie at first was confused and then started laughing and said "oh my! You think I have a tattoo!" and she laughed, hysterically. She told the man at the table next to us that I asked where her tattoo was. He kind of nodded. Gary was holding his head in his hands.


"You don't have one? C'mon, I'll spring you outta this joint and we'll go get you inked up. How 'bout it?"


She laughed maniacally. It was delightful. Gary was cringing, but I could see this smile.


When we left the nursing home I asked him if he wanted to go get tatted up. And he laughed.

A little while later, he sent me a tear-out from a coloring book of a little girl with flowers and bunnies, and he'd written "Death Before Dishonor" on her arm.


That shit was funny.


Finally, I told them the story of Burger King, Natalie Merchant, and the line " You know I'm bound, I'm bound to thank you for it..."


I thanked him for all the kindness and love he had shown me, for welcoming me to his family. For laughing with me, and for times he cried with me like when I lost the baby between Jess and Geoff back in 1994, when I was quite broken and distraught. I thanked him for making me his "outlaw" which is so much cooler than an "in-law" and I told him there were no thanks that I could give that would equal the amount of thanks I have.


We sang "I'll Fly Away," which always breaks my heart. And there were military honors with guns and a full flag folding and presentation to his mom.

We didn't go to the cemetery, Diane did because she felt it was very important to do so when you commit a body to the ground, that it should be attended by Family. I considered going, but thought it more of a love to take her son, my nephew, Craig, with me to the restaurant. Bonnie didn't want people going to the cemetery, because it was cold, and not good for the 90 and 80 year olds who would have to be standing out there in the cold and wind.


All told, I liked Bonnie's choice, but recognize the importance of Diane's choice.


I'm still numb from this. I have not cried yet - I've kind of kept it together with a dose of "this didn't just happen." I'm not sure why I'm not a quivering mess, a lumpy wet pile in the corner. But it will hit me. It will break my heart. It will come at me like a rogue wave, unexpected and out of the blue. It will happen.


I won't be ready, but I'll accept it.


And will shed the tears and say "Thank you," as many times as I can.


Friday, February 09, 2018

Over and Out



I love this picture.

Gary sent it to us in a Christmas card a couple years ago. It's been hanging on our fridge since. Made the move, and was one of the things I set up first.

We got a Christmas card this year from "the White House." In Gary's hand, the message on the inside is from the President. It welcomes us to town, tells us not to bother dropping by because they are rarely ever home, and says to keep our dog out of his lawn. Hysterical.

Before the card arrived, he called Doug and warned him that the card was from him, and it was a joke. He didn't need to tell us that, we would have gotten it. For sure. But the fact he felt the need to warn us is kind of hysterical.

We have boxes of post cards that he sent the children over the years from their travels. They are usually animal related. And Gary would talk about the weird and/or amazing things they were seeing on their trips. I saved all of these post cards.

Gary had a great sense of humor.

Gary passed away on Wednesday at 5pm, on the nose. Like, quitting time on the nose. Doug thought it completely appropriate. He was military punctual (Unless something was slowing him down, like his companion for the moment - i.e. my mother in law). By his side, was his wife of nearly 53 years. I only know when their anniversary is because when we were scheduling Geoff's Eagle Court of Honor, she begged me not to pick April 21st. But we didn't have another day. So we did. And they came. His daughter and her daughter were there. And his son, my husband.

In a lot of ways, this whole event was Wayne all over again. But it was also very different.

I have to say that my thoughts on my friend Marcia, Wayne's wife, carry through to my mother in law. Bonnie... wow. She held such grace, and such poise. The surgeon put everything on the table, including surgery, but he said he'd do whatever Bonnie told him to do.

She told him that if there was no chance Gary would come back as Gary, would need round the clock care, would never speak or walk again, that he would not want that. She said he'd also be mad that he was occupying a bed in the ICU if someone else could come in and be saved, someone with hope. When he has no hope, he would say (if he could) it's time to go.

I reread this post I wrote about Marcia in 2014, so many of the things that I said about Marcia, I could say about Bonnie. Like this:
She knew her husband, knew his wishes, knew exactly the person he was. And she abided by that so beautifully.  
And again I echo, if I'm ever in that position, may I have just an ounce of that grace.

That's all I have to say right now. There isn't much more I can.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Weekend At Chrissie's

Doug and Geoff are on their way to the Pittsburgh area to see the fam. I'm staying here with the dog, so Geoff can get a little trip out and have some fun. We thought it was a good idea for them to go and spend some time.

This is the first time since Doug left to move down here at the beginning of September that I'm actually alone. I miss them both already. But I'm looking around here, and I have a lot to do that will keep me out of trouble for a couple days.

First, my husband hates the vacuum. He hates the way it sounds, the way it smells in the air after you're done doing the deed. I think he was a small domesticated animal in a past life. A dog probably. So I tend to try and vacuum when I know he's going to be gone for hours, and, when I can open the doors and windows and let the fresh air in, thus removing the post-vac stank.

Second is the fact there is still a box of glass Christmas ornaments on my dining table. They need wrapped and put away. Awesome. I'll do that next.

Then, find a home for the crock pot. There isn't enough space in our kitchen. It doesn't fit on the shelf of the small table I have. It is just sitting around and I have to move it any time I want to do something. It will probably end up on the shelf in the basement. I already keep the wok and giant roast pan down there.

But first, I'm running to the market to get me some mimosa makings!

__________________________________

I started writing that on Saturday morning. 

None of those thing happened.

Well, I did vacuum. But that's when everything stopped. Doug called, our car broke down on the interstate just south of the Pennsylvania line, they could see it. 90 minutes from our house, about 2 hours from Pittsburgh.

I went and rescued them.

Normally I'd say, "get a rental car or something and figure things out." But there was nothing anywhere near them. And they needed to make it the rest of the way to Pittsburgh. I couldn't really mention, and still shouldn't, why they were going.

My wonderful, lovely, amazing father in law had a stroke on Saturday morning. The boys were en route to be by his side and be there for Doug's mom and sister, and whole family. To be part of whole family. I couldn't really mention their reason for going. My mother in law doesn't like it when I "announce" things on the internet and then other people approach her about it. That's what happened when I "announced" we were moving on Facebook, and my husband had not yet told her (I thought he had).

Ugh.

I figured, this is all going to work out fine, and he'll need rehab or something, and I'll come see him soon.

Well, he's not going to need rehab. He's not going to rebound for this. It is much worse than anyone expected. And we're waiting for him to pass away.

Weekend at Chrissie's turned into weekend in a hotel, and by a hospital bed.

I can't write more about this right now. There are vignettes and images that I want to share. There are things I want to say. But I can't in respect to my mother in law who doesn't like it when people talk about stuff like this on the internet.

Suffice to say, this is a blow to the family, one I didn't see coming really. I kind of thought it would one of my parents first. But here we are.

Hearken back to the post about "How did we get here," and that's kind of where I am again.