Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Rough, The Smooth, This Weekend

We are back from the Woolfoot tour of the family haunts in old New York state. It was a looong drive back to the Last House. We made the drive on Thursday evening because I had to work Friday. We live almost an hour and a half from my office, and it wasn't easy after all that driving to get home to climb back in the car first thing Friday morning and head out again.

I was feeling a little sorry for myself because I practically live in my car when, at a stop sign in Stowe, Vermont, a small car passed me going the other direction with an enormous St. Bernard hanging its head out of the passenger window. If dogs could smile, that dog was smiling. This cheered me up and got me thinking about how we've got to take the rough with the smooth. Driving all the time stinks, but once in a while you get a St. Bernard hanging out of a Corolla, and that helps.

Other rough/smooth aspects of this weekend.

Thinking about the fact that my brother in Dallas is getting married at the end of the year. Smooth.

Checking Hotwire and everyplace else to find out how much it will cost to buy plane tickets from Burlington to Dallas. Rough.

Playing with the Wii game system we got just before our trip. Smooth.

Facing body mass index measurement that Wii Phit gave me yesterday. Rough. Very rough. The Wii more or less called me names.

Looking forward to having the air conditioner I got from my ex-stepfather while I was on my trip. Smooth.

Installing said air conditioner in the bedroom window during this torrid weekend. Rough, and sweaty.

The fact that that the air conditioner doesn't really work. Rougher.

Friend and her daughter visiting for lunch today. Smooth.

Whusband's menu choice of slow-cook stew and having to wash a million dishes in torrid weather. Rough.

All four of us hanging around the house all day on a Sunday. Rough and smooth in nearly equal measures.

OK - Must go and practice some reading with Shackleton. Best wishes for a smooth Monday.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Visiting the Family

This post comes to you from my Dad's home office near my natal city of Albany, New York. Later today, he and I and the Understudy and Shackleton will head west on the New York State Thruway to "the Farm" (there is only one in our family); the Farm where my father and his 11 brothers and sisters grew up.

My aunt took over the house after my grandfather's death about 10 years ago and two more of my uncles still live in adjacent properties. One of them is still a dairy farmer. The other, with his wife, built an off-the-grid cabin in the woods on a corner of the Farm property. (During the 70s this same couple also converted a school bus into a house and went back and forth to Oregon a few times, so you get the picture).

Dad is the eldest of the 12. This picture above is all of them, with my grandparents. The grandparents were both born and raised in Indiana and were responsible for the completely mid-western tone of the place. This snapshot, in a format which has been repeated many times at weddings and anniversaries and family reunions down the years, was taken around 1970. A few of us older grandchildren are there in the front. I'm the little kid in the terribly short dress or long shirt or something, stamping my foot. My cousin Phil is next to me. My hand is being held by my beautiful Aunt Susie, the only one of the 12 not still present in this earthly abode (breast cancer at 50).

I could go on and on, as is sometimes my way, about this place and these people. Just a few details this morning for your sake and mine and for Shackleton's - who just came downstairs and wants to play Club Penguin:

When I was little, all the aunts and uncles were coming and going from the Farm all the time, and the youngest two girls were teenagers. There was something happening with somebody every minute of the day. There were always new kittens somewhere (generally hidden from us if possible); there was a big chest-freezer off the kitchen that always had many half gallons of ice cream in it; there was a big TV in the living room where a person could watch Monster Movie Matinee; there was a tractor that my grandfather let the grandchildren drive; there was a pony or three in the barn. There was a pond. There was perfect darkness in the front yard on summer nights, ideal for hide and seek, and a hay mow which was also fabulous for that purpose, that is if you dared to play hide and seek in the dark places of the Farm.

The aunts and uncles all had ghost stories to tell about the place, mostly centering on the bedrooms upstairs. The house was on the route of the Underground Railroad and a black man in chains was sometimes seen along with a small black boy. The boy was suspected of contending with one of my uncles one night to steal the covers off his bed. UFOs had been seen in the field across from the house. For this reason, when I stayed overnight there, I learned from my youngest aunt (nine years older than me) to put a magic shield over my bed. This is done by laying flat on your bed, waving your arm overhead and saying "magic shield protect me." It worked too.

My own kids have been to the Farm only a handful of times. It's a long way from northern Vermont. But they are looking forward to returning today for a visit. My aunt in residence there is one of my favorites. She has a way of laughing where she doesn't make any noise but her shoulders move up and down quickly. She calls a grocery bag a "sack" and the word "always" comes out "oise". (midwestern usages, I think). Her greatness is further revealed by the fact that she informed me (without my asking) that I didn't need to bring any kid provisions for our stay because she has 18 boxes of Kraft Mac and Cheese (bought at Costco some time ago - it's my kids' favorite food and appropriately junky in keeping with the family tradition). She also recently bought a Wii that is set up in the kitchen. She does the bowling game there in the evenings with her off-the-grid brother and sister in law who are not, thankfully, so far off the grid they can't come down to the Farm house and play Wii games. We can hardly wait to go play, too.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Family Fun for a Sunday

Is everybody on vacation? I have been hopping around the old bloggish neighborhood and hardly anyone is home. We are home but busy, mostly setting up this NEW COMPUTER. In an uncharacteristic splurge, Whusband acquired a snazzy Dell Laptop that does everything. I think it will even regrout the tub. I don't know yet how to make it do any of its tricks, but that's OK. Having a keyboard with all the letters still attached is a luxury.

Soon the aforementioned husband will come back in here and wrest control of the laptop away from me so time today only for a quick hello. I have also been wanting to post, since I saw it months ago at Belgian Waffling (see the sidebar) this amazing little YouTube video. Suitable for family viewing and guaranteed to cheer you up if you need cheering.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Good Night...

Isn't the moon beautiful tonight? It's nice to think that where ever we are, the whole world over, we can look up and see the same moon. I tried to get a picture just now - even dragged out the old tripod, but this was the best I could do.

Thanks to all who sent good wishes for relief from my recent ear ache. It wasn't mastoiditis or celluitis or Dengue fever or anything particularly catastrophic after all. Just an ear ache. It's going away. As a result, all the reporters from the cable news networks and their satellite trucks have now disappeared from the front yard and Oprah has cancelled my appearance. I was sorry about that last bit. I still think I would have made a great guest for her. I am still hoping at least for a segment on Fresh Air. Ooops. There's the phone. It might be Terry Gross. I am glad I can still hear the phone and I can't keep Terry waiting. Bye for now and thanks again.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Speaking of Red-Hot Pokers....

I have been speaking to myself of red hot pokers for the last day and half, and now, at 2:39 AM, I am down here on my laptop to speak of them to anyone who makes the mistake of dropping by here.

The topic is much on my mind because I have managed, through a combination of apparently injudicious swimming in a friend's pond (really, it's a beautiful pond) and our backyard paddling pool, to pick up an ear infection. After introducing the bacteria to my ear canal, I made them especially welcome by using a cotton swab to establish a fertile furrow in which they could blossom and grow. (Well, it was itchy in there!) As they bloomed, I invited them to have an orgy by jamming in my ear buds for a couple of hours (so I could listen to Adele on my daughter's iPod as I mowed the lawn on Thursday evening).

I had the sense things weren't quite right in that ear by Friday morning. So, in what I thought was an abundance of caution, I got into see a nurse practitioner before going in to work. She practically recoiled at the sight of my ear canal. "Oh my goodness!" were her exact words, which was quaint, but she looked alarmed.

My ear canal was, apparently, like Bourbon Street on the first day of Lent - actually - Mardi Gras, bacteriologically speaking, was still in full swing. She pointed at some kind of emergency kit in a red plastic case in the examining room and said that the inside of my ear was the same color. The "p" word - ok - "pus" - was thrown about. "Really?" I said. "Ewwwww. It actually doesn't hurt that much." Did I actually say that? Am I stupid? (Don't answer that). Anyway, I think the bacteria took that as a challenge.

I thought I was ready for them. I took my prescription for ear drops and penicillin straight to the pharmacy and got started straight away.

And yet, things got worse all day and are still going downhill. Did you know there are lymph nodes in front of and under your ear? Mine are now asserting themselves in a very unpleasant manner. They are practically big enough to get names of their own, like puppies. I'll call the one in front "Sparky" and the one beneath "Hotspur." Every heart beat is registered on what's left of my ear drum. Making matters worse, the infected ear is my "good one" (those who have borne with me here know my right ear is already shot).

My EAR INFECTION has me wondering how people, and you have probably heard of such people, those who have actual major health problems - war wounds, cancer, terrible burns, etc. manage to cope. How do they, for instance, get any sleep?

It is Sunday morning, at least officially. My ear had me saying my prayers, and this helped. I am also hopped up on ibuprofen. No doubt this is also helping. Sitting up also seems to bring a bit of relief. So, I'll go read a few blogs now.

Since I know how fascinating this is I will be back with an update, if I live.


The first blog I went to is the ever-fascinating one kept by "the Projectivist." She has a link on her current post where you can make yourself over into a character suitable for the show Mad Men. This is sort of what I think I would look like if I were in the show:

Here's a close up:

I don't smoke, but if I had been an adult in the 1960s I am sure I would have. Wasn't I just talking about cancer? OK. Off to do more reading.