Sunday, January 12, 2020

Farewell to the King - Neil Peart

I have a lot of feelings. And news flash, there are a lot of bands that mean the world to me that are not Guster. Believe it or not.

This week, drummer extraordinaire and lyricist for the band Rush passed away. Neil Peart was 67.

Glioblastoma is listed in some articles as the cause. A colleague of mine was taken by that particular form of cancer a couple of years ago. Talent removed from this earth too soon by the same horrible disease.

The irony of the kind of cancer is not loss to me. Both of these men were of incredible intellect, amazing thinkers. My colleague was a web designer and always trying to figure out ways to game our CMS so they could make better more wonderful web presentations, and he would call me and ask "Can we test this. I have an idea..."  Neil? Well. I never met him, but listened to and loved his music, and his books, and the way the man could play the drums.

I don't think I've shared this ever, but it was 1987 and Doug and I had not been dating long. Our Christian College had certain rules about members of the opposite sex being "on the floor" at any time, and doors had to be open and feet had to be on the floor.

Doug had arranged his modular bedroom set to fit a dumpy assed recliner under it, putting the desk on the outside of the setup. We had to climb over things to get into this little cubby where we'd kind of go nuts making out whenever we had the chance. Doug would pull his bedsheets down off the bed up high, and we'd hide. And have some private time. He had a small record player and speakers set up, and we'd cuddle up and listen to a lot of music.

Doug's favorites were Bob Dylan and Rush. Mine were Genesis and Yes. We mixed it all up. And at certain points in our early relationship, there was some very passionate time spent making out to "Fly By Night." Especially fitting in all this budding prog rock romance was the song "In the End."

You can take me for a little while, you can take me you can make me smile in the end.

As far as Neil Peart's songwriting goes, it is not the deepest or most insightful song. I'm sure it is based on personal experience with someone, a private conversation that turned into a song, a story unknown to us at age 18 and 19 on a beat up piece of crap recliner hiding from the RA in Wood Hall. It's no "Dreamline" (one of my very favorites). No 2112, no Anthem, no Free Will, no Witch Hunt, no Roll the Bones, and certainly no Red Sector A.

We were young, and super hot for each other. We had to be just as sneaky as the protagonist of the song Red Barchetta, who sneaks away from the prying eyes of laws and technology (ie: the college RA and the rules) to go drive a car very fast and then hang out and laugh about it with his Uncle.

The whole album builds up to this sweet ending, and in a lot of ways, such the perfect song to put at the end of the album, and the perfect song for us. Rush was a soundtrack to our not-quite-lovemaking, as we didn't get to that point for a while (after all, we were good Christian College kids).

Here we are, all these years later and I get goosebumps when I hear songs off Fly By Night. We both probably couldn't fit in a recliner together like that anymore, and I chuckle just thinking about it.

Neil's songwriting and his books are a wonderful legacy he's left behind. I'm absolutely devastated that we lost him.  But in his own words from Dreamline, our lives are where we are "learning that we're only immortal for a limited time."

Here are some videos. Watch and listen.

By-Tor/In the End


And, because Rush is often named as the band most loved by young suburban men, I want you to remember that there are girls (like yours truly) who love and loved Rush. Girls who felt just as disenfranchised by the expectations of society and parents. Girls who were spoken to by Neil's songwriting. Girls who read the same books, thought the same thoughts, and though we were few and far between, we found the partners we needed in life, and now over 30 years later, we're still listening to Rush with those boys, recliner optional. That is a whole blog entry in and of itself, I'd say.

Nerf Herder - The Girl Who Listened to Rush

Sunday, January 05, 2020


Note, this isn't a food blog. But once in a while I make things and actually write the process up.
See the Caribbean Black Cake, and how Bread Bowls should not be feared.

I really like cheesecake. I love to bake. But I've never baked a cheesecake.

I borrowed a set of springform pans from a coworker recently. I wanted to bake with Jess while they were here but it didn't work out timing wise. I also wanted to give this a try before I actually buy pans, or a pan, because I don't like the idea of buying things I may use just once and never again.

Figured it was time to give it a go. After making some epic french onion soup earlier in the day on Saturday,  I kept the cooking ball rolling.

I did my preparation.

I watched an Alton Brown cheesecake recipe video. I looked at a number of different cheesecake recipes from plain to berry mix to oreo. I read arguments pro and con for water baths. I was ready.

Decided to make an Oreo cheesecake because I thought Geoff would like that for his birthday week. I planned poorly, using in my memory for Alton's recipe which called for 2 boxes or so of cream cheese, and this one called for 4 blocks, so I had to go to the market. Got a very late start in the preparations so we could not enjoy this last night.

For the first time ever, I wish I had a food processor. I crushed and used a rolling pin and mashed and squished oreos to make the crust. No matter what, the cookies didn't get crumb-like enough for my liking. They were large clods, and that disappointed me. 

Kind of feel it was a failure but after baking the crust it holds together nicely and looks alright. Good enough to put some mix in. 

Making the mix was easy enough, I crushed 6 extra oreos to put in the cake mix, and it all spread nicely into the baked crust in the springform pan.

One of the things I opted not to do was  something Alton does -  a water bath on the bake. Several people said not to do that, but instead to put a pan of water into the oven on the shelf below the cake, to keep moisture in, but prevent any moisture from leaking into the springform pan. 

Because I didn't think I had a really solid foil wrapping job, I wanted to go for the moisture but not the soaking of the pan. 

I put a baking sheet on the lower shelf with a 9x9 glass pan on it, filled with water. Set the cake in the oven on the shelf directly above it, and let it bake!

The cake bakes for 90 minutes and then you open the oven door a crack and turn the heat off.  Several people wrote about how they opened the oven all the way and that ruined the cake. I figured that would be bad, and was happy to discover our new oven has the ability to stay open a crack, instead of full half way.

The center of the cake is supposed to be jiggly a bit, but mine was pretty solid upon finish, and the cake was brown on top, appearing slightly over cooked to me. I was rather worried about it at this point. Would this be a fail?

Instructions said to put the cake in the fridge for an hour, or, cool overnight. I wrapped the tin foil from the bottom over the top and set it out in our back porch as it is cold enough overnight (and the fridge is super full so now is the time of year to use our natural surroundings.

This morning, not able to wait until say dinner time (or even lunch) I made whipped cream from scratch (why put cool whip or spray can whipped cream on top of something so carefully homemade!).

I always use very little confectioners' sugar, far less than the recipe calls for, and a lot more vanilla. I love making whipped cream, and love how it comes out! I wished that I had some powdered cocoa to toss in to make for a nice contrast to the cake, if the top of the cake had come out white. As is, the white whipped cream ended up looking fine against the finished product.

I was worried about taking the springform pan side off, worried that the cake would be completely stuck and all would be ruined, but everything came off nicely, with just a little pull off the cake in the end. Nothing major!

Cutting the cheesecake open, it was dense and heavy, the crust a lot thicker than I expected.  The cake part was not as thick as I'd expected, but it all held together beautifully and the extra Oreos in the mix looked wonderful. Broke them up into the just right size!

I suppose if I'd made an attempt to smoosh the crust  up the side of the pan a little bit it may have been a nice side lip of crust. But all told, this was alright in the end.

The pan that I used was rather huge I think, partly how the mix was so "short" in the pan. The slices are gigantic. But. Look at that cake.

A few other notes... The non-water bath approach seemed to work fine. I will butter the sides of the springform pan before filling the the pan with the mix. Next time, I'm going to make graham crackers and use Alton's recipe  (it calls for 20 oz of cream cheese and heavy cream, instead of the 4 boxes of cream cheese that the Oreo recipe called for). I'll mix in a little strawberry cream cheese to the mix and see how that goes, and make a strawberry reduction sauce to drizzle on top.

And, here is the boy, turning 23 this week. The one I made this all for. Should have cleaned the lens on my phone a little because this looks blurry to me... and he does look a little ... messy. But Sunday Geoff sleeps in and eats cheesecake for breakfast!

Verdict: It's a success! 

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Woke up today to everything grey

We tend to have a lot of milky colored skies here in the DC area. Lately, the weather has been very warm, it was in the 60s earlier this week. I'll say that weather-wise, DC in the summer is the pits. DC this time of year when I can drink mimosas on the porch while talking to my sister and not be shivering and whining, well, I'll take it.

But the grey. No matter the temperature, the grey is a lot.

Today was another grey morning. I didn't feel well last night when I got home from wor, so I pretty much fell onto the bed, played a game on my phone and fell asleep. I woke up when Doug came to bed at 9:30. I had no problem falling back asleep and stayed that way until the dog woke me at 6 to go out.

Doug decided it was a good day for french onion soup. So he volunteered to chop the onions for me (what a lad!) and I think he cut about 2x what Alton Brown's recipe calls for.

We'll make due. I'll double the stock and wine and everything and it'll be FOS for days. Sorry Amy. Thinking of you.

Jess was here for Christmas.

They flew down on the day of my sister's 50th birthday and I wish I'd been smart and planned another day for the arrival. Linda had quite a fun celebration, and I would have loved to have been there. While Jess was here, we did some fun stuff. We went to the Aquarium in Baltimore and out to Jimmy's Seafood for dinner.

We went to the horse farm / brewery up north of us a bit. That's always a great thing to do. Unfortunately none of the horses were out running in the back but it was still a beautiful day to sit outside, have some beer, dog and people watch. Again, DC December, I'll take it.

Before the horse farm, we went out to lunch at Brew Belly Kitchen & Sudhaus.  Doug took me here for my birthday and we figured both kids would like it.  I am sure some of you ask why on earth would Doug not take me somewhere lovely, romantic, fancy, but he knows me.

Beer. Cheesesteaks. I'm a happy person.

As you can see, Geoff fit right in with the branding. Wonderfully, the kids got along, no name calling, no fighting or insulting. This is kind of a first and I was pleasantly surprised at how they actually got along.

Jess and Doug went to the National Cathedral and took a tour, and they both really enjoyed it. Doug has been saying he'd like to attend a service there, so this may spur us in. They also went to Dumbarton Oaks even though the gardens are done for the year, had a nice walk, and spent good time together.

We then went out to Right Proper Brewing for dinner, and Jess really enjoyed it. We've been a couple times, and it was a good choice. The beers are great, the food is great. And the waitress bonded with us over Pokémon Go.

Jess hates having pictures taken but agreed to this. And I'm thankful for it. I know how they feel - I also hate having my picture taken, but sometimes you gotta just make the memory official and forever.

And look at that mural.

On the one day that both Doug and I were at work, Jess took a trip down to the Folger Shakespeare Library, which wasn't as exciting as Doug impressed upon them. They met me at the newest brewery in DC, which is right by my office. We had a nice sit and spent time with one of my colleagues from another department, and had a good visit.

The one thing we didn't get to do was head over to Annapolis, which was on Jess' things to do list. I asked why they had so many things they wanted to do because usually Jess comes to visit and does not really care about going places. They said that they usually are only here for a couple of days, and this time it was more than a week so why not do fun things.

So next time, whether or not we have three days or one full week, Annapolis is on the list. Grey skies or not.

At work we are gearing up to launch a new product, everyone will be moving onto it over the next year. A lot of work has gone into it and now I'm getting trained on what it will be like to use, so we can train the trainers. I'm desperately trying to be positive about this. I want to be positive about this. It has been a long time in coming getting here, and I'm hopeful.

But it has been a total stress for everyone. I just hope we can keep our wits about us. There is going to be a lot to do. We have a new boss starting in February, someone I'm already friendly with from outside our HQ. It will be interesting to see how their leadership works out, and how we do bringing someone into a team that has not had a direct supervisor for 9 months.

The only other kind of interesting thing to report right now is I borrowed some springform pans from a co-worker recently to make cheesecake, and so I've been gearing myself up to get that started for a week or so now.

Today may be the day.

I may take pictures of the process as it will be my first time ever doing this. It's been a long time since I've thoroughly blogged a cooking adventure. Visit the Caribbean Black Cake adventure of 2014. You've been forewarned, all four of you.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Looking forward to Twenty-Funty. or 20funty, whatever we want to call it

For my first post of 2019 I wished everyone love, and that the year wouldn't be a dumpster fire of epic proportions, or something like that.

Well, for a lot of people it sure the hell was. What a freaking year 2019 was, amirite? 

I have to say that this being the second solid year I've lived here in DC, I've grown a little more comfortable here. I made actual honest friends outside of work which is fun. I had some amazing moments. I saw my sister more in this year than most of all the 10 years before... it's super easy to get back and forth between here and NYC, so we've been able to really have fun and connect.

One of the highlights for me was getting to see my favorite band a lot. Twice in DC at the 9:30 club, then in Philly, Ft. Lauderdale, NYC which got rained out in epic proportions and rescheduled, Vermont three times, and the rescheduled NYC show. If you don't count the NYC Central Park rain show, that is a successful 8 shows. 

I even got to drive up to Maine and surprise my friends by appearing at a "Moth" radio hour style fan essay reading, where the drummer Brian Rosenworcel used some of our writing, and we kind of ended up making him cry a little. I wish I'd gone to the other shows that weekend but am super glad that I spent the time with Carrie at her cottage and had a wonderful dinner and lots of fun sleeping with the farting dog and giggling the night away. 

2019 didn't suck in the Fun Department, overall. 

Here are two pictures that sum up the greatness. 

This image is of me, Brian from Guster, his son, and my friend Sara, after the Moth story hour. Brian is just amazing. I love this kind and gentle human. And to have driven up to surprise Sara so we could be there together while Brian read our essay, well, this was great. Highlight of the summer if not the year for me. 

My sister won tickets to a Guster show in Fort Lauderdale. One of the Guster fans won tickets to every single show they did this year, and for the ones he could not attend, he had permission to give them away to other Guster fans. He raffled them off and Lin was the winner of that show.

Seeing as her best friend Ginger and family live in the Palm Beach area, Linda and I recently got Ginger into Guster, and we wanted for her to attend the show so close to home. Linda bought me a ticket so we could all go together. 

But she plotted and schemed to deeper shenanigans. 

She flew Jess down, and got Jess a ticket to the show. I arranged for after show time, so Linda had to also email Brian to let him know Jess was coming and to add her to the list but not tell me, because it was a secret. Brian was thrilled.

Linda also reached out to Michael and Jon, my dear loves who long ago moved to Florida. They couldn't come to the concert but Lin and Ginger threw a party for me to do the big reveal of Jess being there, and invited them to join. We laughed long into the night, it was a truly memorable time, and Michael took this group "ussie." I loved it. What a surprise and a blessing this entire night and weekend were.

There were a lot of stresses for sure, though. Doug ran out of unemployment and we were literally weeks away from having to borrow money to pay rent when he finally got a job in September. 

We didn't suffer a great loss, like of one of our parents. Doug's great aunt Mae just passed away last week, she was 104 years old, and I'm sorry we didn't get to go see her before she passed, but we did get to visit a couple other times this year. What a life well lived. And I so enjoyed getting to know her.

We had friends lose parents; friends lost children. Those were the hardest ones, the children. Friends got divorced or broke up. A couple of those are still struggling with these events and I'm heartbroken watching from away. 

The entire country has been stressed out. Working at a media organization has made me feel both extra stressed out over this whole year and also numb and not-caring. 

We didn't travel as much as I would have liked, but did get to go to Massachusetts, albeit for a funeral. I got to make a trip up for meetings and see Carrie and my parents and others. I did several Drive-By Hugs of many friends. I miss so many people that going home I try to make it a goal to see as many people as possible. 

I reconciled a little bit, but not fully, with a friend that I'd fallen out with. I'm happily watching from a ways off their life now and am happy to see them online and be reconnected. 

I'm looking forward to next year. 2020 as a number signifies a clear vision, focus, a real sense of sight. 

And at least one Guster concert coming up. 

Happy new year to you, dear reader. As Jim's Big Ego sings, "Thank God It's Over." Watch the video here: 

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Brodie Bean and the Close Call

We had a close call this week. 

All y'all know Brodie is an old girl. She's 13. She has outlived her two brothers, Jack and Gonzo, and made the trip with us to DC to continue her life. 

Old is hard. And if you're 13 well on your way to 14, things happen. 

In the fall she started peeing and pooping in the house. I took her to the vet, they did a lot of bloodwork and tests and thought she had Cushings disease. More testing to determine which kind of Cushings it was (so they could prescribe the right meds), and no conclusive results found. The vet said that she's just kind of old and encouraged us to limit her access to the parts of the house where she was going and making a mess, and for us to take her out more frequently to help combat her urgest and needs. 

On Thursday morning, I took her out before I left for Vermont to see some band named Guster (heh). She fell down a couple of times which is very unlike her. I brought her in, she went to sleep. Geoff texted me before he left for work and said she fell down the stairs to the back porch and she didn't pee or poop outside. I was in the car somewhere in upstate New York at that point, so I told Doug to keep an eye on her. 

He said Thursday she was restless and paced the house, didn't sleep hardly at all. Geoff was home all day Friday and reported that she didn't pee or poop all day. 

This was concerning. Doug kept an eye on her, and didn't tell me anything was happening - and I enjoyed my Guster experience with my friends and "GusFam" in Vermont. 

When I got home Sunday night, she didn't greet me at the door. I did some dishes that were left behind, I made a snack. I sat down to read email to get started for the work week ahead and she finally came out of the bedroom. 

She then began to pace. And pace. And pace and pace and pace - all night. Literally from Midnight until 7am, she paced the house. I thought she needed to go out. I took her. She did nothing but walk in circles around the yard. I made sure her water was clean and fresh and her food dish filled, but she had no interest. I called the vet at 7:30am, and they asked me to bring her in. 

Her temperature was 104.8, which is much higher than it should be. The doctor said that he wanted us to give her oral antibiotics, and take her temperature and get back to him. Over two days, the temp didn't drop and he was very concerned because all of her blood work indicated nothing abnormal. "She's perfect," he said. Literally for a 13 year old dog, all her numbers were just fine. Why is she running this "fever of unknown origin." He asked me to bring her back in on Wednesday morning. They hooked her up to an IV, and got her hydrated, and full of antibiotics, and continued to monitor her. 

He asked me to call him at 2:30pm and we'd see where we were. As the next day was going to be a holiday office closure, so we knew she couldn't stay there.  And we needed a plan if her fever would not budge.

At 2:30pm, she still had the very high fever, and the vet and I had a practical heart to heart. We could transfer her to the emergency vet, and she could spend the holiday at their office with 24 hour care. 

Or, we could just bring her home, get through the Thanksgiving holiday, continue the antibiotics, and if she still wasn't dropping we could let her go. Doug agreed. 

I left work early, met up with Geoff for a beer to talk about the plan. He understood and said we'd give her the best last 24 hours she could handle. I agreed. We talked about how since 1993, there was never a day in my life when I didn't have at least one dog. He said since the day he was born he didn't have at least one dog... we cried a little. 

He drank a little too much (he had a head start on me before I got to him) and was sad. I dropped him off at home, and I went to the market. Doug had not done any Thanksgiving shopping while I was in Vermont, and we were so focused on the dog, that we were unprepared. So we needed some something for dinner I guess.

As I was sadly dumping bags of stuffing and cranberries into the cart with no joy, no giddy anticipation, the vet called to report that her temp is 103.3... the fever broke. He wanted to keep her to 8pm to get another bag of antibiotics into her - but he wanted to release her to us, get through Thursday with two oral meds, and see how she was on Friday.

Her temp continued to drop through the next 24 hours. I'm completely impressed at how well Doug can give pills to dogs because hell I sure can't. And Geoff sure can't (Lord knows, he tried...). 

We opted to ... not put her to sleep. Her appetite had improved, mostly because we were feeding her hamburger and white rice since she wasn't touching her own food and the vet highly recommended we do that. 

It is such a relief that I didn't have to put my dog to sleep and then drive up to see Guster. I don't know that I could handle putting her down and then going to listen to my band. the sadness would suck. The spending time with friends would be in a fog. 

Doug texted me yesterday that her temp is 101.5, which is in the range of safety. We have antibiotics to get through to Wednesday - and will consult with the vet tomorrow to make sure we know how long to continue giving them to her. 

And I get to go home tomorrow to my pupper. What a relief. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

The dream of Bonnie

I usually wake up around 4am, go to the bathroom, and go back to bed. The sleep I'm able to get between 4am and the alarm at 6:50 is usually great. My fitbit shows that I literally do not move at all, no rolling, no tossing and turning and restlessness. The best sleep of the night.

And usually, that's when the dreams happen.

This morning I had a dream about my college roommate Bonnie. I don't get to connect with her too often, but she's never far from my thoughts, especially this time of year as we've recently passed the anniversary of her dad's death two years ago. His funeral was the day that I was leaving Massachusetts, and I couldn't afford to stay at a hotel, and stay for that event, and to this day I regret not going. It stings when I think of it.

Bonnie's mom and dad were always very good to me, and from the moment I met her family, I knew it was going to be a great relationship. We met when I was 17. It always breaks my heart when I hear about friends' kids who have horrible roommate situations in college now.

So sad that they are not finding their Bonnie.


In my dream, Doug and I are at our mechanic getting a tire replaced on our car. The tire is shredded, and it is kind of ridiculous. Our mechanic Danny is explaining to Doug about how the tire doesn't need to be replaced, he can repair it. Doug wants a completely new tire, not a refurbished one, because he doesn't want Geoff getting a flat or having a problem. (Sidenote: A year or so ago, Geoff was driving to work and the tire/wheel everything on the car came flying off. No joke. It flew off, as he was driving up 95 to work. I applaud Doug for his good dadding and concern about the boy).

He and Danny are hashing it out.  I am getting anxious because we are invited to the marina across the street (mind you, there is no marina across the street from Danny's garage here in Maryland but it's a dream, ya know?) I am looking across the street at the marina, which has a restaurant with a big deck and awning. Very nice place. And I can see everyone out on the deck, and the sunshine on the water. The awning is yellow and white. Everyone is laughing. And we should go there like ... now.

Bonnie had invited us to join her family there, she had an important announcement and wanted me there. So I was jazzed, and excited, and couldn't wait to see her. I get a little snippy with Doug and Danny and ask them to just settle up on the job so we can go across the street and come back later for the car. Doug and Danny finish their discussion, and I drag him across the street.

Bonnie is very happy to see me, her kids are there, and her siblings are all there. Her dad and her mom are there. I get great hugs and lots of smiles. A glass of white wine is placed into my hand. The sunlight on the lake is bright, and it's hard to see people down the deck, so I'm shielding my eyes with my hands like a visor.

A man stands up and taps his water glass with a fork to get everyone's attention. He's someone I do not know. He is about my height (5' 7") and has dark hair. He is beaming, very happy, and he thanks everyone for coming.

He turns to Bonnie's dad and says "Walt, I really want to thank you for this day, and this being Bonnie's 50th birthday I'm letting everyone know we are getting married! Thank you for giving me her hand, and I look forward to joining your family!" and he gestures to Bonnie with cheers, and we all raise a glass in a toast.

Now, I'm completely confused. I don't get to see Bonnie too often, but these things I do know.

1. Bonnie is already married and has been for a good long time, to a guy named Duncan. I was at that wedding. It was a very good time.
2. Bonnie turned 50 three years ago.
3. Bonnie's dad is dead (so this being three years ago he'd still be alive)
4. Who the hell is this guy?

I decide I'll roll with this, and I ask Bonnie who her new fiance is. "It's Austin," she tells me. Okay then. So I realize, and yell out, "Oh! You guys can have your own hashtag for your wedding! It'll be #BAustin."

Everyone things this is great and clever. B for Bonnie. Austin for... Austin. And it sounds like Boston. I get a good round of laughs and smiles from Bonnie's clan and other friends.

Damn, I'm good.

But Austin stands there looking at me and says "I don't get it. Why would we want the hashtag #Boston?" So I explain the B for Bonnie, Austin for ... him," and he is still just looking at me like a lost dog.

Oh this guy isn't any good.

I turn to Bonnie and say "Oh Bubble, where did you find this dipshit?"

And that's when I woke up.

My apologies to Bonnie's wonderful husband Duncan. And I guess Congratulations to the couple on their engagement three years ago. Wonder how they're doing today.

It was awful nice to have a visit with Bonnie's dad though. I guess even if Austin doesn't get how clever and smart I am, at least I know where I stand with Walt, if not Austin.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Day Off

I forgot to share this picture from the Dumbarton Oaks from last weekend. I loved it. These were pretty much the only flowers still in full bloom, along with some cosmos and some roses.

Next summer, I really want to get a pollinator garden going somewhere on our property. And these would be a lovely example of something to put in. Making a mental note for the spring.

Today is Columbus Day.

Up in Massachusetts, Columbus Day is pretty much a guaranteed holiday for most. Apologies to our first nations/indigenous friends who hate the day. I understand your feelings and recognize them, and know this is hard time of year for a lot.

When I moved to DC, I thought for sure that it would not be a holiday here at our office, but it is. It is a mixed bag here for who has today off. Federal holiday, not a county holiday, trains run on weekend/holiday schedule, banks closed. Some people are working, others are not.

Doug is working, Geoff is working.

And our trash schedule does not change.

I greatly appreciate a 4 day work week. I wish every week was a 4 day work week. I have enough vacation time stored up that I could make the entire rest of this year a 4 day work week if my boss would allow it. While Doug was unemployed for 9 months, we didn't travel anywhere really. I took a day off here and there. Recently my boss pointed out that I had reached the cap of what one is allowed to roll over into the new year already, so I should take time off. I didn't realize it was that much.

Most companies allow you 160 to 200 hours of vacation time rollover per year. It isn't intended for you to bank up and hold on to like a retirement plan. Vacation time is to be taken, says the philosophy. Otherwise, it's a financial liability for the company. Well played, company. Well played.

I worked for a company in Massachusetts, back about 20 years ago now, where they instituted this capping policy, but didn't grandfather in the fact that some people had a lot of vacation time stored up. They just capped it and "took money away," according to some. Even though we were told for a year that this was coming and were encouraged to use our hours over the X amount of the cap.

There was a guy, high up in the leadership chain, who had literally several hundred hours saved up. I think he was planning on cashing that all in when he retired.

But he was cheating the system and everyone kind of knew it, and when this announcement came a lot of things came to light.

He took off every Friday and Monday in the summer, and full weeks too, in order to go stay at his lake house in Vermont. It wasn't like he wasn't taking time off. He just was not reporting it. So when they announced this new policy he flipped the fuck out. All the way. Threw over a desk, screaming that he was getting a lawyer, that the company could not take away "his" money.

He was really wrong to do that. He got called to the carpet in a payroll audit about all the time he was out of the office and days that he didn't declare that he was out of the office. He made some big threats and ended up getting fired for his behavior.

I always thought it was dumb that I am required to do a timesheet for my hours, as a salaried employee. But the time sheets are to report those vacation hours, the sick hours, the bereavement and personal hours. And on days when I'm on vacation but actually end up doing work, you better believe I account for the time I'm working. So sometimes a vacation day is reported as 6 hours due to me getting called upon to help. And no one questions that. I'm nothing but lawful good when it comes to these things.

As today is a holiday, I am not working working. I've checked email, I looked at Slack. Several employees at the company are working (it is a 24/7 organization) so there is chatter out in the world. There is an event happening tomorrow that requires digital support so we got things ready on Friday and are standing by for any last minute changes.

But I'm not working. That's not work. That's just paying attention. Case in point, I just saw an email come up with some concerns about the thing tomorrow, and a reply from someone that I really want to jump on, but I'm literally ignoring it (and it is killing me) because it is a freaking holiday.

I've got a few days scheduled off this year to keep under the threshold. But I promise next year that we will go do some fun stuff. Doug doesn't have a lot of earned vacation time yet. He had two days and used them in September to come down to New Orleans with me, as previously reported. I want him to save up some hours so in the spring we can do something like maybe go see Aaron in Oregon, and the new boat business.

I did take the day before my birthday and my birthday off, for the first time. I have a colleague who always takes their birthday off and they told me once that people should always do that. And if your birthday falls on a weekend, take off Friday or Monday or why not both. Treat yourself. So this year, I do not think we'll go anywhere for my birthday (like the days of old when we went to Montreal) but I'm going to stay at home and treat myself. Mimosa Monday Morning and Birthday something or other. Why the hell not?

So, what have I done so far with my day off? Well. Every six or so weeks, my dishwasher is smelly, and I get mad at it, and I clean it. I rip it apart, clean it, bleach it, swear and yell at it. I have never had a dishwasher that does this. The trap/filter area in the bottom of the dishwasher never fully drains, and I do not think the heated dry/sanitizer works because when I open the dishwasher after it runs, everything is still wet. There's something not right, and after weeks and weeks it just starts to go afoul. That got done, and things are much less stinky. My new philosophy is to leave the dishwasher door open at night so it isn't sealed up tight, and it can air out. We'll see how that goes.

 Geoff and I baked cookies.

I am about to vacuum.

I scrubbed the walls of our upstairs shower and will be scrubbing the tub next (so I can take a shower myself, in a nice clean spot).

Doug did 6 loads of laundry over the weekend. It all needs to be folded. I will get it folded.

Geoff and I gave the dog a bath. We've been here two full years and have not bathed her here. Before that it was the summer of 2017 and we would take her swimming a lot, and she was always kind of clean and nice after, even without soap, so she never really needed it. We used to take her (and the other two, Jack and Gonzo) to a DIY dog wash in Salisbury. All three of us (Doug, Geoff and I) would bring the pack up there, and wash them up, get their nails trimmed (the dude that worked there was amazing). But we didn't do this frequently. So the last time must have been somewhere in 2016. I remember he had a cinnamon soap that was a homemade concoction for flea/tick repellant and I loved it.

So right now I have a big snoring clean dog. She needs a good brushing, but as I've traumatized her pretty badly with the bath, I'll hold off on brushing her.

And I'm going to make a pie. And a Tuna Casserole for dinner.

That's the story of my day off work. It's pretty exciting. And worth it. Time off is time on, in some ways. But very differently.

Right. Time to vacuum, since the laptop is about to die. Gotta get on with my many things of doing on this non-work day.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Am I Happy

Just celebrated our 2 year anniversary of moving here to Maryland.

And by "celebrated" I mean we did nothing to mark the events. It is what it is. Doug was here September 15th, and then I followed (if you want go check my update at that time, here's the blog entry).

It's been a weird two years for sure. This time of year I'm especially homesick for fall and the beauty of New England. I wallow in photos that friends are posting on Facebook of trees and stuff.

Trees and stuff here are not doing as much stuff. In fact. It is October 12th today and the weather is just what I want. It was in the mid 70s. All our windows are open. And everyone back north is whining about rain and cold.

But our colors have not changed, our September and October have been exceptionally dry, so everything is just brown.

On Monday I took my dog out and I was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops. My neighbor walked by in a parka, a winter hat, gloves, sweatpants, and her dog was wearing a coat.

"A true Bostonian" she pronounced me.

"It's not cold out," I replied.

"It is 45 degrees," she countered.

"I've been waiting for this," was my retort.

Our windows are open. a sheet is finally required for a good night's sleep. It is October. And I'm happy.

I just took a short walk up to a Pokéstop for a daily requirement, and am in the same t-shirt and shorts as the other day. Some guy drove down the street and looked at me as if I were naked.

Maryland, you are ridiculous.

Someone asked me if I was happy here and to be honest after two years, I do not think so. Things could be worse, and I shouldn't be sad but there it is. There it is.

There are a few things that make me happy.  I spend time thinking about this a lot.  Walking around my neighborhood tonight when I went up to the Pokéstop, I realized that while I can always hear the beltway in the distance, and sirens out on Georgia Avenue (seriously, I've never lived somewhere I can hear so many sirens) I'm in love with my sweet little quiet neighborhood.

I've gotten to know 3 of my neighbors recently. Pat and her dog Ollie are across the street and we have dog-sat for them several times. I call Ollie my fat little sausage. She is a nurse. Ollie is a 13 year old Jack Russell Terrier.

Catty Corner to us is Tony and Becky, and they had a baby in June. I've spent time with Tony more than Becky, but both of them are lovely. Tony likes jam bands and metal. And craft brewing. They helped us out with Brodie during our last trip while Geoff was out at work. We brought him back some beers and pralines from New Orleans.

And directly next door is a very old couple, only they are not a couple. Anna is the woman, and she is the caretaker for Bob. I thought they were married but she corrected me a few weeks back when they got a taxi back from the grocery.

People take walks, and a lot of people have dogs and babies or dogs or babies. Sitting out on the porch in the morning with coffee this time of year there are a lot of waves and hellos as folks walk past.

My neighborhood is delightfully quaint.

Doug continually finds things for us to do. Last weekend we went to the Dumbarton Oaks and went to the gardens. It was lovely. You had to pay admission, as opposed to the Arboretum which is free, so fewer people were there.

I loved it. I loved the grounds and the walk and the flowers and hills. I loved the building, and sitting in this pavillion reading a poem around the interior that read:

"Feathers in a row
Measured left to right -
How shall you chart the morning
How track the heels of night."

There is a library and museum there that are free, and we are saving that for a horrible winter's day for a visit.

We will for sure be back to this garden in the spring, and summer, and many more times, I'm sure.

But still, I am not at home here. I am planning Jess' Christmas trip here, and looking forward in two weeks to my sister coming to visit so we can attend a house concert at my friend Sara's place for Joe Pisapia.

I am not sure how long it takes to feel it is ... mine. Home. This. You know? I suppose that I should just let that longing go. Recently something happened at work that was people related and I was not happy about it, and my colleague asked me "what did you expect? Can you just let that go, that you want Boston while you are here?"

And I think I do need to let Boston go. But how do you do that?

So much a part of me, as the blog entry I link to reads,

17 years on Long Island. Up to Massachusetts in 1984, with little side jaunts to Oregon and Atlanta. Back to Massachusetts in 1992. There ever since.

That's a lot.

Anyway, I'm looking at the rest of the calendar year and it doesn't look like I'll end up back north before the end of 2019 unless (God Forbid it 1000 times) something happens with my parents.

So I need to embrace stuff about down here.

Here's something that makes me happy.  By my office, there is a vacant lot. Locals to the NOMA neighborhood use it as dog park of sorts. There is one a few blocks to the east that they are supposed to use but they don't.

I stop to look at dogs in the morning or the afternoon. It sometimes makes me late for work, or late for home, but, it is worth it.

There is this one guy with a yellow lab named Samson. I do not know the dog dad's name (oh I did at one point but cannot recall) and I love to talk to him. He does politics and policy and recently quit his job. He is so young and lovely. I really like him. He's so friendly, a Texan from Austin... he likes Pokémon (He's seen my phone) and we have a lovely chat when we see each other. His dog has a game he plays with two tennis balls. You throw one, he goes and gets it, and waits for you to throw the second ball and he brings both back.

This guy knows all the dogs, and will tell me their names and stories. Since he quit his job he has been walking dogs and dog sitting for his neighbors.

I have to say he's the highlight of coming to or leaving from work. I'll try and get a picture of him and/or his dog.  You have to see this DC power couple.

That's kind of a big part of my joy. I'm sitting here thinking on Samson and what's his name. How sad is it that this guy and his go are my favorite things about DC?

Maybe I need a therapist? Or maybe more time?

Friday, September 13, 2019

New Orleans, convention and weekend away

I attended a conference in New Orleans this week. It was a good time for sure.

This is the second time I've gone to this convention, last year was in Austin, TX. I love spending time with people in my field, people I give tech support for. I feel loved. And I get to meet some cool people from a lot of other fields in media.

I am happy and thankful that my manager sent me on this trip, and I got to go away for a few days. We have a booth at the convention, and I am pretty much a big fan of staying at the booth and repping for the company rather than going to sessions. We have people stop by all the time, just to say they love us. It's a good feeling. And it makes me want to keep working here.

Doug arrived last night to hang out with me here for the weekend.

He loves New Orleans, I can kind of take it or leave it at the end of the day, but I have a specific soft spot in my heart for the "city that care forgot" as it has been called since long before Hurricane Katrina.

We were here a couple of years ago, for a long weekend. One of my bit take aways if you don't have time to go read that blog entry from 2017, is this:

Stumbling upon a very real Mississippi river funeral with a brass band playing hymns like "I'll Fly Away" is very moving. Finding out the funeral was for a 14 year old boy who was a member of that band is even more moving. Especially when it was a suicide. You may find yourself standing on the sidewalk crying your heart out for someone you never knew, and a family you want to console but you know it isn't really the right thing to do, and you should just move along after the band shuffles across to Jackson Square.  
Knowing that these people are sharing an intensely personal moment in a very public venue that makes them look like they are simply entertainers like any other jazz group playing hymns in New Orleans is mind blowing. I thank them for being there at that time. And will not forget the roses flowing down towards the giant container ships and riverboats rolling out of the city.
Thursday night, we went to a bar that we "discovered" for ourselves that last visit two years, and I had told some colleagues about it. They were there when we arrived, and cheered when Doug and I walked in. The place was packed and we were shocked. We felt like celebrities or something. It was a great time with some fun people.

This morning, we checked out of our hotel, I ent to the conference and Doug walked all over New Orleans (he probably put 6 miles in before we connected again).

We went over to our new housing, Doug had scoped out a VRBO near Frenchman in the Marigny neighborhood, not knowing anything about the area, I didn't know what to expect.

The owner/host called me this morning to let me know the code for the lock box, and let us know we didn't have to check out in a hurry or anything. She's out of town, and basically Monday is ours for free.

Which is good, because we have a super late flight, and did not want to drag our suitcases all over the city with us!

I think I am in love with this spot. It is a tiny two-story cottage, with a gorgeous little courtyard. Doug filled the fountain, and ran it for a while this evening before we went out to dinner.

We had dinner at this cool hot dog shop called Dat Dog, it's where we sat and watched a 20 piece band play in the street last visit. We took a long walk (Jesus, if I were Doug I would have been like "no" but this was his idea to walk more). We sat on a park bench on the river and watched the full Harvest Moon rise over the Mississippi, talked about whether or not we'd take the ferry across to Algiers again, would we get a streetcar pass and go somewhere like back out to the Garden District. I had friends tell me about Willie Mae's and other restaurants I need to go to that are too far to walk but too good to miss. I'd like to go over to some of the breweries, like Brieux Carre near here, or Parleaux in Bywater.

I'm sure we'll see some great things.

Like this:

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Solo Labor Day Weekend, 2019

It is Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, I'm home alone. The last time I was home alone for the weekend, I unfortunately lost my Father in Law due to a stroke, so hey. Here's hoping for a better weekend, am I right?

Geoff has been desperately longing to go back to Massachusetts for a visit, so he picked this weekend so he didn't have to eat more than one vacation day. It was kind of weird to deal with. He just assumed he could take one of our cars, which we said a hard no to.

It isn't that I don't trust him, there are a lot of other reasons and that is not one. Primarily, I worry about either of our cars making the trip, and him handling it appropriately if something should go wrong. And him being alone.

Being under 25, he wouldn't be able to secure a hotel if he had to spend the night somewhere. I had that experience once driving back from Pittsburgh to my parents back in like 1987, and it was really scary. I still get a bit triggered if I'm ever near the Delaware Water Gap, so I really don't want him to be out there solo.

I also feel that without a navigator on the first trip north, the area around Elizabeth NJ going towards the GWB is kind of a nightmare for a first experience, especially one that can take up to 9 or more hours. I could have had him plot out a course that avoided NYC, but didn't want to add an hour or more to his experience.

Soon, someday, yes. He'll get to do it. Hell, I was like 19 when I was driving around the country in shitbox cars, so, I know he can do it. I just feel with these cars as my cars, I'll feel responsible if one busted down. So you can say I am momming all over it, but, I'm momming all over it for reasons.

After some deliberation, he took the Amtrak, which I am a big fan of taking up to NYC and I've done it a couple of times since we've been here. Up to Manhattan in no time. But the rest of the way to Boston is long.

But safe. And good. I was a bit confused by him going up Thursday and coming home Sunday, but... his vacation, his itinerary.

Baby's first vacation.

Thursday morning very early, I drove him to Union Station. I asked him if he just wanted to go in by himself and find the gate, but he asked that I come with.

I encouraged him to buy snacks and water for the trip since the food on the train is stupid expensive. We bought gifts for Thane, his pretty much oldest friend and Eagle mentor, who was hosting him for the weekend (he picked out t-shirts for him and his relatively new girlfriend).

He seemed anxious, but always is on his first experience of something. I showed him to the gate, got a real honest hug goodbye instead of a shoulder bump. Then I got a bagel and iced coffee at the shop near his track, and watched him stand in line from a distance, and then walked to work. Then, I walked to work.

He made it there safely, and texted me a few times with pictures of himself and Thane and the girlfriend. He went for a long walk Friday through the woods alone, and said "I can't believe you gave this up for a tech support job."

Yeah honey. Sometimes I don't believe it either.

That said, I did. We did. And I'm still unsure we made the right decision almost two years later. Doug, always the Devil's Advocate says "At least we don't get 100 inches of snow. At least it is summer here past Labor Day. You can wear flip flops until like October! At least..."

Yeah, there are benefits but. I do agree with Geoff.

I feel like we'll get him to his associates degree in Radiology. He'll get a job to get some experience on the books and build that resume, and then he'll move "home."

Can't say as I blame him. I know he's happy there, and while I'm glad he came here with us, and he's working so hard, I know he'll go back. And I am okay with that.

Maybe he can even drive his own car there, with his stuff in it.

He is on his way home on the train today. Can't wait to hear more of the stories of the things he saw and get his thoughts and feelings on the trip.

And I'm very glad he got to spend time with Thane. He loves Thane, and I know Thane has a life and a lot of other things to do. He has a full time job, has the girlfriend, has an apartment, but has always had time for Geoff. They had some bumpy and stupid things happen way back in Elementary School, but through time he's proven to be a good guide, and that Eagle Mentor Geoff needed.

So after two years apart, I'm truly hoping this was a positive experience and a great visit.

Baby's first, but not last, vacation.

Doug and I were both supposed to go to Pittsburgh together, and go help his mom with some things. Brodie has recently been having a lot of in-the-house accidents, and has been acting not her normal self, so without Geoff here to watch her, we decided we could take her with us and stay at a pet friendly hotel.

Then, she had some major accidents, and started to do these weird absence-like seizures where she just stood there, staring into space. Or she'd be laying on the floor, shaking and looking terrified. These are not normal Brodie things.

We took her to the vet and had her checked out. They did a lot of blood work and stuff but I didn't hear back by Friday. We decided I should stay home with her. So I did.

Doug has been texting me pictures of stuff he's helping sort through at his mom's. He sent me pictures of McDonalds collectable glasses, which were wrapped up and put away in 1981. According to the newspaper cocoons he defiled.

He told me these are coming home with him. And I hope he carefully re-wrapped them because maybe they are worth something? And if not, I really don't need them in my kitchen. I have enough stuff to deal with.

I am a little jealous that both boys got to go away, but I had a weekend in early August (I should write and tell the tale of that trip) so it's their turn to get away.

So what have I done with my Labor Day Weekend? I'm chipping away at a rather long to do list that I set out to do. Here are the highlights:

1. Laundry, all of it. Wash, dry, fold. All of it.
2. vacuum, sweep, mop all the rooms
3. Clean Geoff's bathroom
4. repot the plants
5. tackle the cardboard recycling in the back porch
6. all the bedsheets/wash/change/etc
7. clean the entire kitchen
8. Scrub down the basement stairs, and then sweep/mop basement main room
9. sew the buttons on the things now that I found all of the needles and threads
10. put the IKEA shelves we got in the right spots and get the TV up on it (I need Geoff for this so I'm glad he is coming home tonight).


Laundry, wash dry fold is almost done - last of the laundry is in the dryer
plants are repotted and all the spider babies into new homes/pots
sheets are washed, need to put on beds (Geoff's are not, I'm waiting for him to come home).
Geoff's sink and toilet and floor are clean - but I haven't hit the shower. I may show him now to do that...
Dining room swept, not yet mopped

Thankfully, I have all day tomorrow to do things left undone. And with the boy home, a few heavy lifting things will be wonderfully accomplished.

Hope your labor day weekend was fun and satisfying, and if you had to work - I hope it wasn't awful.