Posts Tagged ‘Sparkles’

The trip begins

My vacation schedule was a little light last year, so I’ve decided to start this year’s travel season with a trip to Florida to see the last launch of the space shuttle Endeavor before it is retired.

Today started at 5 am so I could shower, pack, and walk the dog. After a brisk walk to the train station, I was actually early for Caltrain, so I caught an earlier train.

Sparkles is not having as much luck getting a rental car to the airport. He is coming in from New England. Mountain Man and the kids are coming from the Rockies. Today is like our own version of the amazing race as half a million people, including The President and his family, descend upon Cape Canaveral.

Wish us luck, and hope for good launching weather!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Computer retirement home

Two weeks before Christmas, I was standing in Brother K’s kitchen with Sparkles for that 36 hours in Boston. We learned that my uncle wanted to get a computer for our Meme.

We thought the idea of our grandmother finally getting online was a brilliant idea. A couple years ago, we gave her an HP printer that calls home three times a day and gets her email. I started to occasionally send her posts from my blog. She loved it. So I’d send her crazier and crazier posts until I finally gave up and just had my blog automatically email her whenever I posted.

I know what you are all thinking. There is no way that you would send your grandmother some of the stuff that I write. Well, what I learned was that Meme has 50 years of experience on me. So even though she is sometimes surprised by my stories, she appreciates my candor, and we have the best conversations when I call weekly. I may live 3000 miles away, but I feel closer to Meme than I ever have.

I was so excited that she thought she might want a computer. So we quizzed our Grizzly Uncle on what the specs are. Turns out, she has been using Grizzly’s girlfriend’s laptop a lot lately. To play hangman.

Um…

So, she wants a laptop. To play hangman. We all kind of sighed in disappointment. But then talked about teaching her to use email. And video ichat. And how nice it will be to include her in the crazy family emails we send.

But a laptop? Well, we had all agreed we needed to get her a mac. There was no debate. But a 13″ MacBook wasn’t going to have a big enough screen when we lowered the resolution. And we couldn’t justify buying a new 15″ or 17″ MacBookPro.

Then I came up with the crazy, sleep-deprived idea. What if we gave her my laptop? It is a three-year-old, 15″ MacBookPro. And I’d been thinking of getting a new one lately. Since I do a lot of programming and use Aperture often, I need speed and lots of harddrive space. My laptop had already run out of space, and was feeling a bit slow during compile time. It was getting time to put her to pasture.

So I dumped the contents of the hard drive onto Brother K’s Drobo just in case my Time Capsule hadn’t backed up everything. He reformatted the drive. I mailed him the original box and cables when I arrived back in Cali. He wrapped it up to look like new.

Who better to get my old laptop than Meme? She will love it and care for it and appreciate that I used it to write all of those crazy blog posts she has read over the last three years. And hopefully she won’t care that I scratch the hell out of the ‘d’ ‘n’ ‘s’ and ‘m’ keys. I don’t know what it is that I do exactly, but The President has my old 12″ PowerBook and turns out, it has the same keys scratched up. I’m trying to keep my fingernails shorter now.

So my old machine has been sent out to a computer retirement home in Maine. May it live a good long life!

I’m already enjoying receiving email from Meme—although she still occasionally sends me notes in the post.

Goodbye and Goodnight, Uncle George

As an adult, I find it curious what triggers the memories of my inner child. I was reminded of two of these triggers today: cigars and chainsaws.

Uncle George was not my uncle as defined by my family tree. But he was an uncle in every other sense of the word. Growing up, I don’t recall many of my parents friends. Most had very little impact on me, except for one couple, George and Ruth. They were Flatlanders, hailing from the state of New Jersey, and wielding thick Jersey accents. Sparkles recalls Uncle George’s accent and how the number 33 sounded like a gruff “turty tree” George perpetually smoked cigars, which seemed exotic in a world of Marlboro and Camel cigarettes. His voice, husky and thick from the smoke, made him seem scary to small children, but we all knew him as gentle and kind.

But what I remember of Uncle George the most is the sound of chainsaws, waking us up in time for church on Sunday mornings in the summer. I don’t know when it started, and I don’t know when it ended, but for the entirety of my childhood memory, every Sunday, Dad and Uncle George would fill up the chainsaws with gas, grab a case of Budweiser, and head out into the woods with the Jitterbug. For those of you unfamiliar with a Jitterbug, it is a big-ass, old, rundown truck, bigger than a pickup truck, but smaller than an eighteen wheeler. Ours was this green monster with a wooden flat bed in the back. Dad and George would toss in the chainsaws and beer and head out into the three hundred acre woods in search of trees to cut for firewood.

They would start in the spring after the snow melted, and finish up in fall sometime before the frost. The sounds of the chainsaws on Sunday morning through the open windows were hard to sleep through. And by the time we started running the fireplace in the late fall, we had about fifteen cord of wood stacked up under the tree.

I remember helping sometimes. I’m not certain, but if my memory of the story is correct, Uncle George was witness to my first word. Dad would take me with them into the field while they were splitting wood. Whenever Dad missed the log with the ax, he would say, “Shit.” Me, as bright as I was, took in the situation. And when I was ready, and Dad missed with the ax, I said my first word. “Shit.”

I hear it was funny until I was in church, during a very quiet part of the service. I dropped my book over the pew and said, “Shit.”

I didn’t swear again until I was eighteen.

I helped again as I was older. I don’t remember ever being taught how to use an ax or chainsaw, but my job was stacking. I remember hating to stack wood. As a teenager, I would dread hearing the Jitterbug come back out of the woods full of trees because it meant time for us kids to work. We knew it was a necessity, but like any kid, we didn’t want to participate.

I know that Uncle George must have taken a portion of their cut back to his house. He too had a large house and many children. But I don’t recall ever seeing his black truck full of wood. I do remember, however, using his truck with the carpenter boxes on the side, as a horse trailer.

For a while, I borrowed a pony from a family down the street. Their kids had grown up and gone away, and the pony was just hanging out in the field, so Dad made arrangements for me to borrow it for a few years. So yes, when I asked for a pony, I got one. I was as spoiled as my parents could afford to allow.

To transport the pony the three miles to our house, Dad and Uncle George used a couple 2x4s and loaded the pony into the back of Uncle George’s nicely painted black truck. I can still see the image of my pony in a pickup truck.

After their kids had left the house, my parents sold George and Ruth a parcel of land where they built a little cabin in the woods. Just one bedroom, a bathroom and an integrated kitchen/living room. Easy to heat during the harsh Maine winters, and beautifully constructed by George and his sons. And Meine Schwester. At that time, Uncle George referred to her as Punky Brewster. We always complained that she never helped with anything. But Uncle George knew better. He let her help build the cabin by nailing down floorboards.

A picturesque cabin in the woods. Made with love. The summer they were building it, my friends and Brother K and I would sneak out and meet there to play strip Trivial Pursuit. No one knew how to play poker and we never got further than bathing suits. Brother K was Tom Sawyer, sneaking out his bedroom window and climbing down the back tree. I was Huck Finn, going down the stairs, picking up the snacks Mom had left for us as I walked out the front door. I remember one night, walking home from their cabin through the woods and seeing my first meteorite streak down the dark trail. This is where George the Carpenter would retire. This is what made George and Ruth better Mainers than I would ever be.

Uncle George was an integral part of our lives. Through good and bad. Again, I don’t know the details, but I know that he was there the day tragedy struck and I learned the lesson about operating heavy machinery while drinking. Uncle George’s truck flew down the driveway as if it was defying gravity and friction. It was a few hours before we found out that Dad was in the hospital. Meine Schwester recalls seeing Uncle George’s torn up thigh. The only detail I recall is that my father’s hand had been cut by a chainsaw. Dad’s tendons were cut in the last two fingers of his left hand. This wouldn’t have been as tragic if Dad wasn’t left handed.

Dad used to play guitar better than anyone else I knew. Of course, I probably thought that because he was my father, but he was incredible at picking and created pure magic in the air with his twelve string. Dad and George would play and sing, and no matter how bad things seemed, we always had music. It is what kept us all together. Dad’s injury wouldn’t have seemed so tragic, except that he does everything left handed except play guitar.

That was the day the music died.

I don’t blame anyone. I don’t know what happened. I don’t even know what year that was. But I feel like it was a turning point for my parents. Eventually, my senior year, they divorced. I wasn’t upset. They weren’t in love. I was excited that they were moving on with their lives and they could stop being miserable. I went off to college, Dad moved away. My family moved out of the big house and into a smaller house that didn’t require fifteen cord of wood to heat. My pony moved back to his home. I was busy learning about differential equations and stress/strain curves of materials. The sounds of chainsaws and guitars, and the smell of cigars faded into my memories.

Until today, when I learned that Uncle George had passed away. I hadn’t known he was ill. I hadn’t heard much about him for the past few years. I read the obituary and saw that his kids had all grown and married and have families of their own. I don’t know how long he lived in that little cabin in the woods. I don’t know if he still played guitar and smoked cigars and forced trees into works of art. But I do know that he made a difference in my life. And I never took the opportunity to tell him.

Thirty-six hours in Boston

I couldn’t blog about it earlier, but I spent the weekend in Boston. Although that isn’t entirely accurate because it is hard to spend a weekend in Boston when I live in California.

I took a redeye flight on Friday night. It was supposed to leave at 10:30 pm, but didn’t leave until after midnight. So I didn’t land until 9 am, which is the time I told my high school friend I would meet her for coffee.

It was freaking cold when I landed, and I was half an hour late, but I managed to get to Mike’s Pastries. I hate to admit it, but Facebook makes it possible to call up someone I haven’t seen in over a decade and say, Hey, I’m gonna be in town for 36 hours. Wanna meet for coffee?

It was great catching up. So many things have happened over the years to get us to where we are.

We talked for a couple hours, then my mom arrived and was double parked. I picked up the cake my brother had ordered and said my goodbyes.

My mom and I went to CraftBoston and saw a lot of really great work. It was great to have a chance to spend some time with her since I won’t get to see her at Christmas.

I do feel bad that I passed out in the car on the way to New Hampshire to pick up Motorcycle Man. Hard to stay awake after taking a redeye.

We then went down to Brother K and The President’s house for The President’s 30th birthday. I am surprised that it was actually a surprise. I thought that Sparkles may have ruined it when we were at our Cousin’s 40th surprise party two weeks earlier. Luckily, the jug o’ wine from Olive Garden had clouded The President’s memory.

My apologies to The President for not keeping up with drinking. I know that is my duty as resident Asshole, but I just can’t live up to the expectations. ‘Tis the problem with getting older.

Sunday I slept in just a little, that is until MiniMe woke me. Hung out with the fam for a little bit, then my cousin dropped me off at Logan.

And that was where I was, a week ago, as I wrote this post while sipping a winter solstice ale—deep red in color, malty and generously hopped—at the Boston Beer Works. So it is only fitting that today, on the actual winter solstice, I find this post half written. No, it wasn’t the beer that made me forget to finish it, it was because the WordPress iPhone app had crashed, lost half of what I had written, thus pissing me off.

This was the last of my travels for the year.

Cousin C’s Surprise 40th Birthday Party

The whole reason for going to New England for Thanksgiving was for this party. How could I miss an opportunity to get together with iDad’s side of the family? It was well worth the trip.

These aren’t my best photos, but there are a lot of them. You can find the full set on My Gallery, but here are the teasers.

Cousin C was surprised—mostly that his boys could keep a secret this big!

There was a good bit of dancing done by all. I have the blisters to prove it!

In addition to dancing, there might have been some drinking and some goofing around. Especially by my siblings and myself. If you get to the end of the full album, you can find the photos where Sister-In-Law T tried to convince me that I could lick my elbow or touch my elbows behind my back. I’m still convinced I can do it.

Just one word says it all. “Gov-nah!”

And apologies to Aunt K who wanted to stay up and party into the wee hours of the morning. As I explained, most of my adventures happen before midnight. Otherwise I turn into a pumpkin. ;-)

Time with The Girls

I’m trying to catch up on some photos from over a week ago that I haven’t posted yet. I took a break from the internets for a little while.

When I went to New England over Thanksgiving break, I had a chance to spend some time with The Girls. They just keep getting bigger. I guess that happens to kids.

You can see all the photos in My Gallery, but here are a couple teasers.

The first night we went bowling. The black lights were pretty cool.

At the kids museum, we made towers. Do you like my use of non-90 degree angles? I thought I was being so clever.

But Sparkles and MiniMe had to show me up by making theirs the tallest.

Photos from Frankie’s Memorial Service

I felt a little awkward taking photos at a memorial service, but there were so many memories there. So hopefully, I will be forgiven for that—and for not using a flash, which produced a bunch of blurry photos.

I’ve attached a few below, but you can find all of them in My Gallery








Girls in Trucks

I hid this weekend, as much as I am capable of doing. After running my errands on Friday, I settled—yes, settled—into a weekend of reading. Yes, there were a number of parties I was supposed to attend, and I managed to go to two, but I really needed a weekend to myself. So Perl and I laid out a blanket in the backyard and I began my adventures reading Katie Crouch’s “Girls in Trucks” while Perl stalked unsuspecting squirrels.

I’m not sure how I heard about the book. I assumed it was mentioned on NPR, but I can’t seem to find a…no, I thought I knew where, but I can’t seem to find the reference. Well, when I saw it in the bookstore Friday, I used some of my store credit to get it. And it was worth every sold book.

It is about relationships. The sexual relationships between women and men, and the societal relationships between southern women. Katie introduced me to Sarah Walters as a child in Cotillion class and follows her until she is 35 and still single.

I won’t tell you how the story goes, you should read it for yourself, but I will tell you how familiar the storyline seemed to me. It wasn’t my exact life, but I could relate to Sarah’s trials and tribulations of dating. The flings. The love of her life that she just can’t release, no matter how bad he is for her. Trying to settle. It is all there.

But it is the settling part that is most interesting to me. The other day, a friend sent me a link to an article in The Atlantic by Lori Gottlieb titled “Marry Him!” and it is subtitled, “The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough.” My friend has been anticipating my reaction, and I think it is because he believes that I will start ranting and raving about how this woman is a lunatic for writing this article.

I can’t.

Because she is right.

And I started to believe her with this paragraph.

To the outside world, of course, we still call ourselves feminists and insist—vehemently, even—that we’re independent and self-sufficient and don’t believe in any of that damsel-in-distress stuff, but in reality, we aren’t fish who can do without a bicycle, we’re women who want a traditional family. And despite growing up in an era when the centuries-old mantra to get married young was finally (and, it seemed, refreshingly) replaced by encouragement to postpone that milestone in pursuit of high ideals (education! career! but also true love!), every woman I know—no matter how successful and ambitious, how financially and emotionally secure—feels panic, occasionally coupled with desperation, if she hits 30 and finds herself unmarried.

She goes on to say that yes, there are exceptions but if you are the exception at 30, then by the time you are 35, you will understand.

I understand.

As much as I love my life, as much as any number of people are jealous of all the crazy things I do, I would give it up in a moment for kids and a husband. For someone to help me make the day to day decisions and endure the monotony, and for kids who would make that monotony all worth while.

I’d do anything that is, but settle.

She continues on to recommend settling when you are younger. Before you have kids. Before you lose your looks. Before the pool of eligible bachelors dwindles to just kindling. If having a family is important to you, then knock it out of the way before it is too late.

And I can’t disagree. She makes some fabulous points. One of which is that she and her friend went to a sperm bank to have their children. So now, they are single moms. At least if they had settled, even if they had gotten divorced, then they could ship the kid to Dad’s once in a while and have a night off. Not so when you decide to do it all on your own.

So why won’t I settle if I agree with her view? Because it is too late for me. I’m past the settling years. I’ve resigned myself to knowing that I probably will never have children of my own. I might get to share parenting of someone else’s children, and I will always adore my kids from school, but I probably won’t ever pass down my own genes. My brother, Sparkles, has admitted that this has been his plan all along to keep me single and childless so that I will spoil his children as if they are my own and pay for their college education.

I’m also working against a stereotype. As I read once in Maureen Dezell’s Irish America: Coming Into Clover, being the oldest female in an Irish family, we are known to be headstrong and independent. And this often leaves us unmarried. I’m difficult, and I know it. And I need someone who can deal with that. As much as many guys would like to try, very few have succeeded. Some think that I’m broken and they need to fix me, which just pisses me off. Others let me get away with shit because they can’t tell me no. I can’t tell you exactly what I need, but I know it when I see it. There have been a couple guys that I’ve truly loved. These are the guys that make me soft. Expose my feelings. And it isn’t because they treat me like a girl instead of one of the guys. It is because there is something about them that makes me want to expose my vulnerabilities. That is rare.

And I know you all think I’m too picky, but I’m really not. I don’t let my brain make the decision when it comes to love. One of the last guys that I fell for is nothing like what my brain thinks I should find. But my heart says yes. That is why it is so hard to explain who I’m looking for—my brain doesn’t know.

One last quote from the article. Who can argue with this?

But then my married friends say things like, “Oh, you’re so lucky, you don’t have to negotiate with your husband about the cost of piano lessons” or “You’re so lucky, you don’t have anyone putting the kid in front of the TV and you can raise your son the way you want.” I’ll even hear things like, “You’re so lucky, you don’t have to have sex with someone you don’t want to.”

The lists go on, and each time, I say, “OK, if you’re so unhappy, and if I’m so lucky, leave your husband! In fact, send him over here!”

Not one person has taken me up on this offer.

Easter Birthday Weekend

I’m a little slow, but here are the photos from my weekend in DC for meine Schwester’s 30th birthday. We wandered around the monuments, drank and danced in an Irish pub, and made easter baskets that Mom sent.


Promising peanut allergy treatment

Recently, Sparkles and my Life Partner discovered that Baby Sparkles has an allergy to tree nuts. It wasn’t too severe, but they were told that it could become worse with time.

Today, the NYTimes reports that scientists at Duke University and Arkansas Children’s Hospital are working on a treatment that involved giving children very small doses of peanuts at an increasing daily rate. Eventually, the children built up tolerance to peanuts. A similar study using peanuts and a placebo is being conducted in Britain.

It makes me wonder if telling parents and pregnant women to avoid nuts is causing children to not build up normal tolerances. I couldn’t find any studies on a first pass, but I don’t know of anyone in my parent’s or grandparent’s generation with a peanut allergy. I guess the reason could be that they were miscarried or died mysteriously as children. But it does make me wonder.

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