Friday, December 30, 2005

Christmas in Switzerland

My next door neighbor had a garage that was honest to goodness tied together with turnbuckles. You know what turnbuckles are? They are cables that you tighten to draw two things together. Without them, his garage would have collapsed.

It’s funny how one person can hold a family together, and when she is gone, any semblance of tolerance for inlaws’ idiosyncrasies melts away. The person you put up with for the sake of Mom’s wishes is suddenly persona non grata once the force of her will is no longer there to bolster the family network. That’s our situation these days.

We had seventeen people at the house for Christmas Eve dinner: Kathy’s sisters, their husbands, children and their children’s children and one miscellaneous boyfriend. Kathy did the catering, making German potato salad and this meat stuffing that she grew up with—all from scratch. Honeybaked ham and two kinds of turkey, green bean casserole—all kinds of stuff filled the kitchen.

As people arrived, the pile of presents by the tree grew and grew. The little kids passed the presents out to everyone and we all tore into them. This has been the tradition for at least the thirty-six years I’ve known this family, so it’s become my tradition as well. It was funny to see how grandson Max opened a box that had shirts in it, and he made a face and tossed it away. Already at three and a half,he disdains clothes as Christmas gifts.

All this happened at our house because it could never be held at any other house. Our place is neutral territory. Feuding parties lay down their barbs, snide comments, major eye rolls and general snippiness before they enter, and exhibit some measure of politeness. I slip around and take photos of the different family groups and make sure they get copies of them later.

The one guy no one likes usually falls asleep on the couch—in an upright position—while the party swirls around him. If you want to talk to him, and I do because to me, it’s worth the effort to be civil to everyone, you have to go to wherever he is sitting, since he doesn’t circulate. He uses puns, jokes and mildly insulting comments to keep you at arm’s length. He just always has. You get the feeling he has to be on top—to know more than you do, to be blasé about it all. I don’t think I’ve quite captured his vibe in this description, but it’s close.

Kathy is not feeling well and just called her sisters to cancel New Year’s Eve at our house. She’s just not up to all that cooking and entertaining. She needs to rest to be ready for the cruise. So, it will be a quiet Eve this year. Maybe we won’t even stay up till midnight, but we threaten that every year and at 12:00am, we’re out there on the porch popping those little paper champagne poppers into the night sky while the neighborhood sleeps on.

If I don’t write again (though I’ll try), Happy New Year dear readers (and to you lurkers, too!).

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Plumbing Lecture

Tis the season for that migratory bird known as the houseguest to make its annual journey over hill and dale and even Atlantic Ocean to land in our home for its short-lived visit. This particular species, Scanlanus Childrini, often comes with an assortment of baggage and colorful native costumes. Plumage might range from denim overalls to raggedy t-shirts to severely distressed footwear. Oddly enough, the ‘rents invariably wind up at the mall replacing said worn out gear, though they are happy to do so.

Being a minimalist group, backpacks are the favored luggage, as they strain the meaning of the designation “carry-on.” The male of the species usually arrives with a soiled stinking sack which morphs into recognizable garments after a run through the laundry. The smart traveler stuffs an empty duffel into a backpack—something to carry off Christmas treasures.

These “snow birds” (aptly named since they seem to seek out wintry conditions as they currently nest in more temperate climes) often arrive unprepared to deal with the harsh conditions to be found in their temporary quarters. For instance, the thermostat in this birdhouse is set at 66. They may be accustomed to toastier temps, but will have to adapt to a slight chill. Acrylic blankies and thick socks sometimes need to be applied to exposed extremities.

In addition, they must all receive the plumbing lecture. It goes as follows: The water upstairs sometimes does not shut off completely without a little help. It can run stealthily down the drain as the user blithely leaves the bathroom without a thought to checking the faucet. Don’t crank down on it with your hand—it’s liable to snap off. Just a little tap should suffice. Also, please note that the flush lever on the toilet may not come back up on its own and you may have to lift it into place. Otherwise, same problem as above: water running all night. Don’t use the shower upstairs either. The water is likely to come through the kitchen ceiling like it did that one time. Yes, you have to go into the basement. Yes, it’s cold down there, but too bad. Just jump out of the way when you first turn the water on so you don’t get hit in the face with a flood of frigid water. In the downstairs bathroom, mind the flush lever as well. The chain has a tendency to kink and the flap stays open and there you have it: running water.

Oh—if you want to do laundry, just use the left hand side of the dryer control and set it for 50 minutes. The other side doesn’t work.

Be a nice houseguest and put the remote back where you found it, put your dirty drinking glasses and empty Coke cans in the kitchen. The blue trash can is for recyclables (which you taught us to use, after all) and the gray one is for trash. You can find the gray one in the downstairs bathroom where it’s safe from the dog.

“Why don’t you get this stuff fixed?” they invariably ask.

To which we respond, “Why? Is it broken?”

It’s all a matter of what you are used to. We like it like this. Quirky plumbing, frugal thermostat setting and hidden trash can.

So welcome—make yourselves at home! Just be careful of that first step.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Youngest son Patrick flew in today. So begins the Christmas pilgrimage season. Daughter Ann will be here Christmas Eve, but then Patrick leaves on Christmas Day. They’ll have to pull an all nighter just to have a few hours together. I betcha that’s exactly what they do. Their clocks are different than Kathy’s and mine. They can still do things like that.

Have you noticed that when you do something like stay up way too late and get too little sleep, you can actually function pretty well the next day. It’s the day after when things really catch up with you. Fortunately, I’ve been able to avoid things that keep me up too late. Seven hours and ten-fifteen minutes. That’s what I need. So I set things up so I get it. Sleeping in is tempting, but makes me feel fuzzy and slow the rest of the day. Better to jump up and get my day started. Even Saturday and Sunday? Especially the weekend. Kathy is baffled, but that’s OK. She can sleep, I’ll do the wash, clean the bathrooms and blog, then run to McDonald’s for her coffee when she gets up. It’s a good deal for both of us.

Later, if it’s a Saturday, she may go off mall walking with her friend Cookie while I put on my music full blast and clean the house. Again, a good deal all around.

Hey, our cruise documents arrived yesterday. I expected some standard stuff, like paper airplane tickets. Well, not tickets for paper airplanes, of course…Instead we opened the box and found a spiral bound notebook that had everything we need: e-tickets, itinerary, transfers, tip vouchers, descriptions of all the side trips available, clearance forms, contract—everything.

Did I already tell you? I talked to an Anthropology professor who made his reputation studying the Mayan ruins in Belize (one of our stops). He gave me great advice on what to see and what not to bother with, and even where to shop! He advises trying a Bailey’s colada. Too bad I don’t drink.

After this last week at work, I am really ready to escape to a Caribbean island. Too much important stuff to do, with too many distractions.

“Aruba, Jamaica, ooo-I want to take you
Bermuda, Bahama, c’mon pretty mama,
Key Largo, Montego, baby why don’t we go…”

Jan. 2. Can’t wait!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Round Three

Antibiotic number three seems to be working now, slowly but surely the bugs are being beaten back. They're huddled in a bunker, considering suicide, I'm sure, by jumping into the bloodstream running with poison.

It's been a long hard week at work and I'm shot. Maybe I can write tomorrow.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Coming out of it

The past two weeks I’ve been fighting some sort of infection that started as a cold and moved to my chest and wouldn’t leave, like that green blob monster in the commercial that sets up housekeeping in the victim’s lungs.

My own doctor was out of town, of course, when I called for an appointment when all this started. I am usually pretty stubborn, much to Kathy’s chagrin, about bothering him about a cold. I typically wait until I’m in dire straits before breaking down and calling for help. The office called me back with a prescription for Keflex. Six days later, I wasn’t any better so I got back on the phone.

Fortunately, my guy was back and invited me to drop by early the next morning before office hours so he could fix me up. Woo-hoo, I thought—just a quick visit and I’ll be on my way to work in minute.

Alas, it was not to be. You see, my doctor is a DO, and as such, he occasionally brings in medical students for a few weeks to observe his practice and get to do some real work with patients. Wouldn’t ya know it? He sent in the current student to assess me. I gave up on the idea of a quick getaway as I could see that this guy was going to take forever.

It took him a long time to get my blood pressure, look down my throat, listen to my chest and back. Then he started to do these silly neurological tests, like running his fingers up my legs and asking me if it felt the same. The same as what, I wondered. I’m not having a stroke, I’m having a bronchial event that’s kicking my butt. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind students at all. Granted, the paramedic students learning to draw blood in the ER do make me a tad nervous, but how else can they learn, if people don’t give them a crack at their bodies?

So he left the room, shut and door, and I could hear him discussing my case with the doctor. “What would you prescribe?” my guy asked. “Levaquin”, the student replied. Ah-ha! I thought—I’m allergic to that. Wonder what else he’ll come up with.

In they come, and my guy does the exact same assessment (minus the silly stuff) in a fraction of the time, and reviews my chart. He taps his finger on the list of allergies. The student is foiled! My guy turns and asks me what I would suggest. “How about z-pack?” I offered. Sure enough, that’s what I came away with, and that’s what seems to have kicked back at this bug.

On Friday, my co-workers sent me home at noon so I could get some rest. Considering I’m in charge while the director is away, could there have been an ulterior motive? I don’t care. I came home and slept for four hours and was on my way to feeling human again.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Another Mirty Meme

Here we go again: Mirty suggests the following:
1. Turn on your mp3 player.
2. Hit Shuffle.
3. Put the first fifteen songs that come up in a post. No matter how embarrassing. no cheating!

Here are mine. My interests are wider. Honest.

Don’t Pass Me By – The Beatles
Dear Mary – Steve Miller Band
Tears of Rage – Joan Baez
Forever Young – Joan Baez
Tears of Rage – The Band
Absolutely Sweet Marie – BobDylan
Everybody I Love You – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Wild Horses – Rolling Stones
One Way Ticket- LeAnn Rimes
Pachelbel’s Canon – Pachelbel
Me – Faith Hill
Bob Dylan’s Dream – Judy Collins
The Dawnreader – Joni Mitchell
Spoonful – Cream
Girl from the North Country – Bob Dylan

Sunday, December 04, 2005

new blog photo

new blog photo
Originally uploaded by jscanlan.
Perhaps this is the real me.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The past three days

My fever broke about 5 this morning. I knew I was getting a cold on Tuesday, and by the next day it had knocked me out and kept has kept me home for the past three days.

Let me explain. When I get a cold, it’s not the sniffles; it’s a full blown biological event. There is a little tickle in my nose that serves a warning to start taking Cold-Eze. After about twelve hours, it goes into my chest and sends me back under the blankies where I sleep for hours at a time. This is good because I can’t seem to get any rest during the night. This is interesting because you get to see what’s on TV in the wee hours. Let me save you some insomnia—it’s pretty much what’s on during the day. There was one period when you could find the original Superman TV series on at 1:30am, but alas, no longer.

It’s so disappointing to be home on a workday and not feel up to doing anything. I take my days off very seriously. There is always a list of things I want to accomplish and oddly enough, relaxing is never on that agenda. Fortunately, I was so sick these past few days that I didn’t feel my usual frustration at being unable to do the wash, straighten the house, finish the Christmas cards, fix the snowblower, catch up on reading the back issues of PC World that piled up over the summer, get the upstairs ready for Christmas visitors or work on church stuff.

Oh. Wait. Fix the snowblower. That, I did. Kathy warned me that if I went out to the garage she’d slap me. So I didn’t tell her. I replaced the scraper bar and the paddles and fired it up. Works great now. Why did I risk a beating over a winter appliance? We’re supposed to get a bunch of snow tonight over the weekend and I’m not allowed to shovel and I didn’t want Kathy to have to go out there either. Of course I was out of my head while I was doing it, feverish and goofy, but hey—I couldn’t feel the cold that way.

So now I’m feeling much better. I hope I’m inoculated now against this sort of thing for the next little while.