Tuesday, August 31, 2010

On a scale of 1 to 10 ....

... this past weekend was a 12. Seriously, no exaggeration. And it had nothing to do with the presents I got, although I received some awesome things! It was a birthday weekend for me, and a relatively big birthday too. The big 60. When I turned 50, I had months of anxiety and dread before the date actually came. It was bad enough that I  sought professional counseling to help me get through it. So, in comparison, 60 was a piece of cake (although now that I think about it, I never did have any birthday cake. Hmmmmm). I wasn't anxious, I didn't obsess about my age - nuttin - like it really was no big deal, a non-event.

Johnnie asked me several weeks ago what I wanted to do for my birthday. We're having a big celebration of my 60th and John's 60th (he turns 60 in 2011) this coming February by taking all of our kids on a cruise so that's the big celebration. But birthdays are a big deal to me -- I try to celebrate everyone's birthday as specially as I can. While lots of holidays are enjoyable, birthdays are unique and celebrate the individual as a person -- and that means a lot to me. I send cards to lots of people to remember their birthdays and in our close circle of family and friends, I make as big a fuss as I can for each person's birthday.

So when Johnnie asked, the first thing that popped into my mind was to go miniature golfing and ride go-karts. There's a place in our area that has both activities on site along with a video game arcade. We (Johnnie and me) went there on Sunday with Erin, Mike, Emily and Lucy and we had a blast. It was at least 90 degrees in the shade and we were thankful the place had some shade while we played miniature golf. The little girls did reasonably well at miniature golf. After our game, we took refuge inside for a while to rehydrate and cool off.

For go-karting, Lucy rode with Mike and Emily rode with me. Erin and Johnnie had single karts. I've never ridden in or driven a go-kart before in my life. Emily laughed the entire ride as did Lucy. It was a blast. Hotter'n Billy Blazes but just a blast. As a first-timer (Erin was too) I thought the karts went plenty fast. Johnnie and Mike both were disappointed they didn't go faster. Figures!
Then we went inside again and got 200 tokens that we divided up among the six of us to play the games. It wasn't my most favorite part of the day (go karting was everybody's hands down favorite) it was still fun and it was great to get inside and cool off for a while. Everybody left there grinning from ear to ear.Afterwards we came back to our house where the little girls watched Cars and the grown ups napped. We had a picnic supper on the deck, then went out for ice cream. Yum. No diets this weekend! 

On Monday, Johnnie and I took SUNNNNY for a ride and then out to dinner. Another 90+ degree day. It was so hot ("how hot was it?") that we stopped along the way on our ride and put SUNNNNY's convertible top up so we could run the air conditioning more efficiently and cool off. Blessed cool air.

Anyway, it was a perfect birthday and, while I don't remember the details of each of my foregoing 59 birthdays, this one ranked right up there as being just a perfect time.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Summertime Pleasures, take #2

Commenting on my earlier Summertime Pleasures post, Courtney reminded me about how wonderful the smell of newly cut grass is. Definitely one of the best scents in the world. I remember being out in California in January or February one year and smelling newly mown grass near an office building and it transported me right back into summertime in the dead of the cold season (here at least, not in California obviously). Newly mowed grass always smells good but right then it smelled better than anything I can describe.

Another pleasure is listening to the night sounds of the crickets, cicadas and tree frogs with the windows open. Just heavenly.

When I'm working at my computer, usually at least one or possibly both windows are open and the ceiling fan is silently sweeping the air around behind me. I love it when a gentle cool-warm breeze, whether from the fan or coming in from the windows, slips along the back of my neck and reminds me that it's summertime, even if I'm in here working. Or surfing or whatever I'm doing at my desk. Awesome feeling.

I haven't seen them much this year but mostly because I haven't looked but watching fireflies at night. They always seem kind of unearthly and mystical to me. It's great to look over the deck railing into the ravine and focus on the darkness of the ravine and then hone in on the fireflies going on about their business completely heedless of our lives taking place right on the edge of their forested world.

Summertime is pure bliss. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Relative found, take #2

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have relatives in lots of places and rarely hear from most of them. Last weekend I received an email from my cousin Mark who (last I knew) lived in Wisconsin. I haven't seen or heard from Mark in roughly 10 years although we send he and his wife a Christmas card and "catch up with what we've done in the last 12 months without boasting and flaunting our accomplishments or airing dirty laundry" Christmas letter each year.

He had found our 2007 Christmas letter and decided to write. Cool! Since we saw him last, he has divorced, remarried and moved to Arizona. (No, I don't know his position on immigration laws and policy.) It was great to have him get in touch and fill me in on a little bit of family news from the Wisconsin connection (his mother is still kickin at 94 and his sister is also getting divorced).

Anyway, I was really tickled to hear from him and have an unsolicited offer to keep in better touch. Yeay! I fired off an email back to him and can't wait to hear more about what's up with him. Another family connection at least somewhat reestablished.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Relatives found

We've lived in this area for 19 years. While Erin and I were transplants from Minnesota before that, my family on both sides is actually from Western New York State, from Buffalo, Rochester, Avon and all the way over to Schnectady. There are relatives scattered here and there from Cheektowaga to Oriskany. You have to love those Indian names, huh?

Anyway, in the 19 years we've lived here, we've visited a grand total of four relatives out of probably 15 or 20. Not a great total. In my/our defense, I never grew up around most of these people and I'm sure none of them could pick me out of a lineup. And vice versa. So getting together with the living ones hasn't really been a priority at any time.

Our friend Bridget and I took a guided hike in an area of our metropolis a couple months ago and the guide mentioned in passing that a large cemetery nearby (where my grandmother and grandfather on my mother's side are buried - that I remembered) had an interactive kiosk on which you could find the graves of the people buried there. Ever since, I've wanted to go there and check it out, finding my maternal grandparents.

So Johnnie and I went there yesterday on a little adventure. Obviously I know their names but my grandfather -- Edward Connor -- has a relatively common name, especially in a state where thousands of first and second generation Irish immigrants settled in the mid-1800s. Luckily, my grandmother's name, while still common, had a unique spelling, Kathryn Connor, so it helped narrow down the search.

The kiosk listed several Edward Connors but the death dates didn't work except for a couple of them. We found my grandmother quickly and printed maps that gave us great directions to both of their supposed gravesites and we were on our way. The first Edward Connor had passed at about the right time (according to my more-than-hazy recollection, almost 45 years later) but my grandmother wasn't buried next to him and I was pretty certain she would be.

We then went in search of Kathryn and found both of them snuggled up to the base of a huge tree that couldn't have been there when they were buried. So we had the wrong Edward Connor to begin with but found them both within the space of half an hour. The neat thing is that, while I doubt that any relatives have visited their graves in at least a decade, the flat in-the-ground markers were cleaned off and easily visible so it was not difficult to read the inscription on their graves or any of their cemetery neighbors.

It was big deal for me who has so few relatives of whom I am aware. It also got me to thinking that I haven't any idea where my paternal grandmother (who lived with us in the Detroit area when she died in the late 1960s) and grandfather (who died in about 1952 or so) are buried. Could be in Buffalo. Could be (grandmother only) in Michigan. But it's a cinch that no one has visited their graves in several decades -- wherever they are. And there's no one left to ask who might have a clue.

So that led to a conversation between Johnnie and me about where (and how) we want to be buried. John's parents are in suburban Ohio but he and I have little reason to be buried there. My mother is interred in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and my dad is buried in Dearborn, Michigan. No relatives living anywhere near those places and fairly far-flung from any destination we ever visit. We haven't been to my mother's grave since she died in 2001. We get to my father's grave about one every decade when we are in Michigan to visit Erin's dad and stepmother.

So figuring out where to plop our remains is a bit of a conundrum. I drive past a cemetery nearby to our house where I see people all the time visiting and tending graves to put up markers or flowers. Our little family is so spread out that I/we have no illusions of frequent visits to pay respects or take care of putting flowers or holiday wreaths on our graves. I've always joked that we're kind of a bunch of nomads and that's true. But it would be nice to think that at least someone in our family was in the vicinity and might stop by once in a while. At least until our granddaughters are grown and they (and/or their offspring) lose the memory and continuity with our lives.

One of those things that causes me to go hmmmmm.We're all going to face it some day. How 'bout you -- any thoughts or great solutions to this issue?

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Since I have been carrying my cute Vera Bradley purse, I have been inducted into a select society of Women Who Carry Purses Worth Complimenting. In all my purse-carrying years, I have never been complimented on a purse before. That gives you some idea of the boring kinds of purses I usually carry. But I have had women in check out lines, at restaurants, in bathrooms and in church come up and tell me how cute my purse is. It has been a surprise each time. But I like it. Each time I feel compelled, for some reason, to explain that it's my first cutesy purse and I'm not really a cutesy purse kind of person. The ladies all nod politely but I know they don't really care and, truthfully, shouldn't care anyway. All this new-found purse attention will cease when I return to a boring (but new) leather purse in the fall.

I love my little purse but it occurred to me early on that I had to be really careful of where I plopped it (something I've never been concerned about before - what can you do to a brown/black leather purse by putting it on the floor?) so it didn't get dirty. Also, in grabbing it, I've been deliberate in grabbing the handles rather than grasping it by the fabric top so I didn't get any spots on it from whatever might have been on my hands. So far it still looks great and hasn't accumulated any coffee stains or anything - quite a miracle for me!

We went to the closest outlet mall today and on the way back I was lamenting to johnnie that I couldn't find the aroma thingies (a diffuser I guess). And, in talking through it, I thought of a couple more places to look for the box. Guess what? I found it! On top of the buffet cabinet in the dining room, underneath a couple baskets that I stash up there and use for bread or rolls when we have company. Yeay! Now if I could only find those pills...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I wish...

there was a search function for houses and things like there is for the Web. For example, I've misplaced two things in the past few months and I can't find them anywhere. Despite the enormous amount of stuff that we have tucked away in closets, the basement and in the loft above the garage, I pretty much know where to find things when we go looking for them. And I know they'll all turn up eventually, it's always just a question of when.

Over the past week, I've been looking high and low for two things: (a) a little plastic bag that contains four or five prescription pills that help the inflammation in my plantar fasciitis (seriously, it has two iis together, I Googled it) and arthritic thumbs and (b) a box containing a year's worth of those aromatic stick things and little bottles of liquid to put the sticks in. The box is probably about 12 inches by 15 inches by 2 inches deep. I can't find either one.

If there was a house/thing search function, I could sit down, enter: plastic packet with Etodolac pills, press Enter and voila! A picture of their location would appear or a siren would sound or maybe one of the dogs would go and point at its location. Or, I could enter: aromatic stick things (since I can't seem to remember or come up with the proper name) and maybe the closet door or drawer they're secreted behind would glow or pop open or something. Or one of the dogs could go over and sniff and scratch at it while looking at me significantly and wagging.

So far, that's not happening.

Several years ago we were looking for a pair of cross country ski boots that had been lost and gone for quite a while. We eventually found them, packed in with an old ice cream maker. Apparently when we moved from one house to another in Minnesota (we're talking 1987 now), we took two strange basement-dwelling things (ice cream maker and ski boots) and packed them together, completely guaranteeing that we'd never find the one we wanted in the proper season. Who looks for ski boots when it's ice cream making season? And conversely, who looks for the ice cream maker when you're searching for your cross country ski boots in the middle of January? So we tossed them both out.

I know we'll find the pills and the aromatic thingie sooner or later. In the meantime, I've called the podiatrist for another prescription for the pills and I can live without the aromatic thingie but it would be fun to open it up and use some of the scents.

If you hear of a house/thing search function, I'd appreciate knowing about it. Or better still, maybe I can invent it!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Summertime Pleasures #1

A. This summer I've made a big effort to hang laundry outside to dry rather than using the dryer. Yeah, it's more work but the sensory effects of freshly laundered, and in some cases bleached, clothes then hung outside to drive are swoon-inducing. I love to bury my nose in bleached, line-dried t-shirts or towels and just inhale the freshness. The scratchiness of bath and hand towels and the feel of line-dried sheets when we put them on the bed is heavenly as well. Yum! So the economic benefits of not running the dryer are only second in my mind to the tactile and aromatic advantages that can only be obtained with laundry that's hung out to dry. If they could only bottle that scent accurately, I'd buy a ton of it to get through the winter months. As a side benefit, if I do use the dryer, I keep the lint and put it into the composter along with vegetable and fruit scraps and lawn/leaves. Don't I sound all Mother Earth and everything? Really not doing it for that reason - just enjoy the ultimate benefits.

B. While we escape into air conditioning in the house (we are indeed whimps) whenever the humidity gets too oppressive, leaving the windows open at night, particularly when it's raining is heavenly.   The sounds are fantastic and it's wonderful to wake up to birds singing. A couple weeks ago, we went to bed around midnight and as we were climbing into bed, we heard the most unearthly noise from the ravine that borders our lot on one side and across the back. It continued for quite a while and Johnnie was looking out the window toward the ravine to try to place the sounds. It wasn't a bird, a cat in heat or a dog.

We ultimately decided that it was foxes. We could pinpoint where the sounds were coming from and it sounded as though there were at least three of them in different parts of the ravine and across the street. At one point, Johnnie saw one of them, sort of silverish-gray, streaking along the street itself under the streetlights. Whether they were hunting or trying to get the pack organized in one area, we haven't any idea. The next day, Johnnie found fox sounds on the Web and we confirmed that it must have been foxes calling to each other. Awesome. We regularly see deer, raccoons and wild turkeys but sighting any of the resident foxes is still rather unusual. Since we live in a well populated suburb, we count ourselves lucky to have such a front row seat to wildlife in their (more or less) natural habitat.

C. Walking in comfort for exercise. Bridget and I went walking this morning and saw three pileated woodpeckers -- the Woody Woodpecker kind. We were hoping that it was two males courting a female but they flew off before indulging us with a demonstration of their mating and courting behavior. No snow to worry about, no extra layers to encumber us. Sure we sweat but it's a great feeling to get out and walk in minimum layers and be comfortable.

There could be more so I'll just leave the list open ended. What are your summertime pleasures?

Sunday, August 1, 2010


To say the least, my last post was a bit bleak and despairing. Since then, we've effectively stopped drinking. We had a glass of wine at our anniversary dinner and another at a party last Friday night but other than that, our drinks of choice are water, lemonade, coffee and iced tea. Most of the time I don't have any longing for wine. And the memories of how I felt almost a month ago are still vividly with me. I've stopped beating myself up constantly but my determination to make this work -- the wine drinking and weight loss -- is as strong as ever.

In that time, I've lost 10 pounds and Johnnie has taken off about 15. The first 10 and 15 of about 40 for both of us. Awesome. We've been reading more, going for some bike rides, going to bed late then sleeping in and generally just relaxing. It feels great.

I'm at peace and that feels wonderful.