Sunday, April 30, 2006

The neverending celebration

Kathy and I certainly had a nice surprise this weekend. Some weeks ago, we planned to go to dinner with Lois and Greg and maybe John and Priscilla to celebrate my birthday and our anniversary in one fell swoop. We went to a Bonefish restaurant (owned by Outback, but there are rules at Bonefish, I suppose). Uncharacteristically, we got there a little late, and thus the surprise: Joe and Carol, our friends from the Ireland trip were there, along with Greg and Lois and John and Priscilla. They made us sit on the bench along the wall in the center of the table, and we realized it represented the head table at our wedding! Unbeknownst to us, Shane had conspired with Greg to remove photos from our wedding album and print up posters and even guest name plates from them. Dad’s photo of us standing in front of the church was the one they used for the place settings, and one of us cutting the cake was up on the wall behind us. There were photos of us leaving the church placed in plastic holders, standing up on the table. It was quite the production. We had cards and presents, and a great dinner and lots of fun reminiscing.

Monday, April 24, 2006

April 24, 1971

It was a cold, blustery day for an April 24th. But it was the beginning of our lives together, and we hardly noticed. Snow flakes whipped through the frigid air as we waited outside the front of the church for the car to come around for us. The photo my dad took that day shows us looking off together at something. Our future?

It was 35 years ago today that Kathy and I were married. We started celebrating back in January with the cruise, and that ring. We have spent the last few days happily reminiscing about that April day, and the days that followed.

Our honeymoon—consisting of one night in the Columbus Sheraton because it was halfway between Cleveland and Athens, where I was a junior at OU. Our first apartment—the landlady never did install that heater, though that place probably had the biggest kitchen we’ve ever had since. The soundtrack was Carly Simon, “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be.” I used to hear it when Kathy was working 3-11 at the hospital. Very depressing.

For our tenth anniversary, I put together surprise photo album for her. I just pulled it out now. Here is the poem I wrote for the introduction:

“Ten Years”

“I used to think that ten years was a long time.
When I was ten, I couldn’t imagine being twenty.
When I was twenty, I felt that thirty wasn’t far off.
When I was thirty, I knew forty was coming fast.

Now we have been married for ten years.
We have had three cars and thirteen addresses.
We have had eight different landlords in three states.
We have celebrated thirty-seven birthdays for five of us.

We have paid twenty thousand, eight hundred and forty dollars
in rent.
We have driven one hundred and one thousand miles.
Now we don’t pay rent.
Now we can walk to wherever we want to go.

We have had three children.
Or have we been had by three children?
Anyway, we used six thousand, four hundred and fifty-six Pampers,
And washed six thousand, five hundred and seventy bottles.

You have cooked and served 33,047 family meals,
While working 17,420 hours in two hospitals,
Two nursing homes and one summer camp;
On days, nights and afternoons.

I just thought you might be interested in these few facts.
Figuring all this out gave me time to think about all we’ve done,
And I decided it would be good to put it all in a book.
And dedicate it to the one person who shared it all with me—you.”

So today, we went to work like any other day, but I delighted in telling different individuals at the office just what day it was. The flowers I had ordered for Kathy hit about 2pm and had the desired impact.

After all these years, I still got it.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


This past week I was in Peoria for a couple of days for meetings. There is a woman in our group who travels all the time and I was very jealous of her flight times, since she was leaving at 11am on Thursday and returning at 1pm on Friday. I was stuck having to get to the airport at 4:30 in the morning and not getting home until 11 at night on Friday. It turns out I beat her to the meeting because she wound up six hours late when the airline discovered a crack in a cargo hold.

When it was time to come home on Friday, she suggested I try going stand by. I was a little skeptical, since the last time I did that was back in the 70’s when I was in college. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I gave it a try. In Peoria, it was a snap. I just walked right onto the plane instead of sitting there for six hours. In Chicago O’Hare, it was a different story. I did have to wait for two hours, but that was better than the six I was supposed to have to wait. I said a little prayer that I could make the earlier flight and sure enough, I was the only standby person they took.

During my short wait, I did get a lot of work done, transcribing minutes from the meetings I had attended, with my iPod plugged into my head. I use it to drown out cell phone conversations around me, fascinating as the eavesdropping might be. With over a hundred albums to choose from, I can usually find something to listen to that’s more entertaining than some blowhard’s business deals, or a teenager’s mumbled sweet nothings to her boyfriend.

O’Hare is crazy busy. I went to the gate and tried to tell them about my wish to go standby in two hours and the gate guy told me to wait, it was too early. Then I noticed that the arrival/departure screens only cover about an hour of activity. That’s all the space there is. They can’t handle any more. Outside, planes crisscross all the runways like SUV’s at suburban intersections. A few hundred feet above those runways, the planes ascend and land in a wonderfully choreographed dance. One after another, layered like lasagna—they come in they go out.

Leaving O’Hare, I always have the sensation that they are just going to drive the plane out to the interstate and travel overland—it takes that long to taxi to the runway. I had time to make a quick call home to say I’d be in early, and son Shane picked me up in Cleveland.

I came home to a nice spring day. The tulips are up—at least the old ones. The new ones are starting to come in, but they are much shorter than the colorful brochure promised. I bought a few more pansies for the backyard. Many of the originals from last summer survived the winter and look great. Everything just seems so much better on a warm sunny day.

Monday, April 17, 2006

What is it outside?

A little over twenty five years ago, we moved into this house. We were so happy to finally have our own place, after renting for ten years. My parents came out to see the house. My mother went off garage sale-ing with Kathy. My father and I hit the hardware store. He insisted on buying one of those thermometers that tells you the temperature both outside and inside, with two mercury filled glass tubes and a thingie on a wire that you stick outside the window. I installed it by the window in the kitchen where everyone could see it.

Year after year, season after season, we would come down in the morning and peek at it to see what was happening outside. It was especially fun when the temperature slipped below zero and we knew it before we turned on the TV. Maybe it was a scorcher and we’d root for the temperature to go even higher. At least, in the microclimate in our driveway, we knew everything we needed to know.

It was part of our morning ritual. Snap on the light, check the thermometer and go on from there. Knowing that sometimes school would close if it was too cold, the kids would check it as well, willing the mercury to fall just a smidge more.

Twenty-five years. The other day I came downstairs and it read “100”. I thought hmmm, something’s wrong. I wonder what happened. Later I found the temperature probe lying in the driveway. Oh. That’s what happened.

I had to replace it, of course. What good is a thermometer that’s only going to be right a few times a year?

Have you ever looked for such a thing in the store? Nowadays they are selling wireless ones with clocks and humidity sensors that take batteries. Why does every electronic doo-hickey have to have a clock on it? Microwaves, stoves, phones—really, how often we need to see the time? All I want is a thermometer, not a weather station that NASA would envy. Besides, I never had to put batteries in my old thermometer. It just plain worked, all by itself.

After checking three brick and mortar old fashioned actual stores that you drive to, I couldn’t find anything resembling my old precision instrument. The only ones that measured both indoor and outdoor temperatures were those super dupe electronic whiz bang LCD-laden sterile boxes. They are even grey, just as drab as can be. At least my original had something bright red to look at.

So, the end of this rant is the purchase of something resembling Old Faithful, made by the same company, found on the Internet at (hey—it was good enough for Wile E. Coyote). Price-- $7.95. Shipping- $7.44. Finding an old fashioned thermometer that will do a simple job in a simple way: priceless.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The four of us

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The Happy Couple

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Plus nephews

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Phone home...or is it?

We had the best time in New Jersey last weekend! Our trip got off to a rough start though. Here’s what happened. I am not making this up:

This trip was going to cover a thousand miles in just a three day visit. Get there on Saturday, party on Sunday, leave on Monday, so we knew it was going to be tiring. We set off on Saturday morning at about seven, no great rush. The fun started when we were about ten miles from home and Kathy asked me,

“Do you have the cell phone?”
“Um, no. I left it right by the back door. We’re not too far away yet, let’s go back and get it.”
“No, I’m not going back. We’ll just have to do without it.”

So we fussed about that for a while, and finally settled down. One hundred and fifty miles later, I started in my seat, remembering that I had forgotten to do something. I had left some booklets that the lectors would need for Palm Sunday sitting on the dining room table. I had to call the church office to tell them to print the booklets out again! We had to find a phone.

Kathy managed to maintain, I’m sure suppressing a whole bunch of “I told you so’s”, as we pulled off the interstate and into a restaurant parking lot. I poured quarters into a pay phone and couldn’t get it to work. After several tries, I got back into the car and we tried a Holiday Inn down the road.. There was something strange about the hotel though, as we realized there were no guests, just contractors’ vans. They were renovating the place—it was closed. I was getting frantic when Kathy pointed out that there was a Wal-Mart down the hill.

It was my turn to suppress something—my distaste at having to shop in the Heart of Darkness. I left Kathy circling the parking lot while I went in and bravely asked the greeter where the cell phones were. She directed me to Electronics and a very nice salesperson named Shannon. I asked if they had the kind of cell phones you just buy without contracts and such and she said sure. I was standing right in front of them .

“You’ll need one of these and one of these and one of these. Do you need a car charger? And one of these.”

Realizing we were in the middle of our trip, she very nicely called the cell phone company and activated the phone. This all took about twenty minutes, but I wasn’t worried about Kathy—I knew that she would know that something good must be happening if I hadn’t come right back out of the store.

The phone came with a whopping ten minutes on it, so I bought a card with 120 minutes. Shannon said, “See this little triangle on the lcd screen? I can’t add minutes until that little triangle goes away.” Fine, I said, and sixty dollars later, I triumphantly went back to the car with my new communicator.

I used my ten minutes to call the church secretary and explain the problem and asked her to print what I needed and she said sure.

I dutifully read the little book that came with the phone and discovered the “little triangle” meant I was roaming. Well, I was going to be roaming for three days, so this wouldn’t do. We stopped at a rest area and I called the customer service number. Another very nice person was on the other end, but she was very difficult to understand. We both kept shouting “What? What?”, until she was speaking very slowly, as if to an idiot (yes, I suppose I did fit the bill). We finally got my minutes loaded after she made me enter an impossibly long string of random numbers. I’m sure she only did it for fun.

We went tootling down the highway, happily playing with our new toy. I plugged in the charger and left the phone in the console tray.

After a while I went digging in my backpack for something and I pulled out...our Verizon cell phone. Again, Kathy maintained. She refrained from snapping off the turn signal and lunging at me with murderous intent. After a moment of absolute speechlessness, she philosophically remarked, “Well, we always said we needed another phone.”

After wasting hours chasing around after a phone, we finally got to the hotel at about 5pm on Saturday. It was a wonderful place. Our room had a panoramic view of the mountains and was very comfortable. Even though we were tired from the trip, my brother had invited us to his house that night, so he picked me up while Kathy slept. I saw my nieces and sisters and nephews and just sort of chilled for couple hours there.

On Sunday we went to church and the choir was magnificent. They brought in a kettle drum and some brass for Palm Sunday. The cantor had such a wonderful voice, Kathy whispered to me that he could sing on Broadway! I answered that he probably did, since many artists live in North Jersey and work in Manhattan. Later brother Brian told me that actually the man we heard was not good enough for Broadway—he drove down from Connecticut just to sing at this church.

In the afternoon we put on our finery and made our way to the restaurant for the extravaganza. We were celebrating Brian and Gail’s 25th anniversary as well their 50th birthdays, so this was kind of like a wedding reception. The two families pretty much stayed separated, but that was OK because we wanted to visit with our own kind, after all.

I loved seeing everyone doing so well. My one nephew has had internships with newline cinema and has a chance for a good job in the film biz in New York. His brother is a junior (I think) in college. We have five nieces, two in college, two in high school and one teaching in Boston. They are all gorgeous. Pix to follow.

We danced; Kathy got a kick line started during “New York New York”—she characterized it later as doing what other people wish they had to nerve to do anyway. We talked, we ate, some of us drank, including a certain underage nephew, but hey—it’s all in the family. Brian put together a funny and touching Powerpoint of photos of his wife Gail and his family growing up, and each of the girls made a speech about their mom.

At some point, Kathy blew out her knee on the dance floor and could barely walk to the car. That ended our plans to go to ‘afters’ at Brian’s house. We drove back to the hotel, put our feet up and fell asleep.

I wish I could say that the drive home was uneventful. It wasn’t. We were stopped on Route 80 for an hour and a half due to an accident five miles down the road. We were sitting for so long, that people just turned off their engines. After a while, you could see individuals leaving their cars and racing into the woods to go pee. Mind you, there are no leaves on the trees yet, so you had to find an evergreen for protection. Thus, you were screened from our side of the road, but not the other.

When we reached the site of the accident, there was only a mangled guard rail to mark the spot. It struck us then that what was a minor inconvenience for us was a devastating moment for someone else. The embankment dropped straight off at the point, so if a car had gone over the rail, it’s unlikely the people survived. Chagrined at our insensitivity, we said a prayer for the people involved and hoped they would be OK.

We pulled into our driveway about ten hours after we started out, tired but happy that we had been able to go at all and see my Dad and the sibs and their children. The only downer was that our own children could not go, but maybe another time. It was just important to share at least a little time together, check each other out face to face instead of always over the phone or email. I hope it doesn’t take so long for us to do this again.

Friday, April 07, 2006

25/50 Party

My brother has called for a kind of family reunion this weekend in New Jersey. He and his wife will be celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary soon and they each have a 50th birthday coming this year, so that's the reason for the summons. None of our children can make it, so we are going, my sisters will be there, their children (I think), Dad, a stray cousin or two, and some brothers-in-law. Oh, and my late brother's girlfriend, which is not as weird as it sounds because she is a delightful person and has sort of been grafted onto the family.

Kathy and I are both so tired we kind of wish we could just stay home and sleep this weekend, but we'll soldier on. Oldest son will be caring for Kodiak, in case anyone thought we were abandoning him to his own devices.

All this to say that this space will be quiet for the next few days. See you when we get back.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Mirty could relate

Mirty could relate

My blogger friend Mirty could relate to this past week at my work. I usually don’t talk about work here (despite my purported interest in careers) because if someone from the office found this blog I would have to start all over to preserve some measure of anonymity. There is one person who keeps saying she wants to read this, but I hope she never does find the time to look.

So anyway. About my week at work. We were “converted” to a new email and calendar system. One part is a webmail system to use to access from home. The other part is an upgraded version of Lotus Notes to use in the office. We all had a training session on the webmail part, but not on the Lotus Notes. The security people told us we may no longer have a generic account to use at the reception desk, so the eight people who need to access calendars at the front counter would have to log in as themselves. In theory this is fine, but it turned into a ton of work for me.

In order for the eight people to see fourteen individual calendars, I had to set up quick links for all fourteen people in the accounts of all eight staff people. To do that, I had to delegate fourteen calendars eight times to all eight people who have to view the calendars. Then test it all to see if it worked.

Of course nothing went the way it should. None of our student workers could see the calendars, even though I had done everything correctly. I think I know why, but now the email administrator has to come up with a fix for that.

I had to work late on something else two nights last week, my boss was getting nervous about the calendars, the other people were getting upset that the calendars were all messed up, so I came home late one night and just sat down at my home computer and banged it all out and tested and re-tested until I got it all in there.

Then I took a half day off on Friday (guess which half) and fixed a bunch of bugs I discovered and now I don’t want to even look at another computer screen, and here I am anyway.

So as long as I was home anyway on Friday, I had the Pella window guy stop by. We were thinking about replacing the big window in the family room with those cool windows with the blinds inside. Kathy saw that commercial with the barbecue exploding in the background, and she knew she wanted that window. Now you have to understand, we need a window that is ten feet wide and four feet high—it’s huge. I had the saleman figure everything in for the top of the line window—exactly what Kathy wanted. It came to $3800. For one window. That’s probably more than the whole addition the window is in cost to build! Kathy freaked when I told her the price, but today over lunch in Mavis Winkles, she said she still wanted it, and we will work out a way to get it.

I love those lunches. Every once in a while we go out alone and talk about our future, our past, our hopes, our fears. Our children, our Max, our parents living and gone. Our brothers and sisters and their children. Our house, our car, our kitchen floor. Our faith, our God, our church, our friends from church. Our neighbors. Everything in our life together that’s ours. That’s what we talk about. It draws us back together after a hectic week of being apart.

Gosh, I love those lunches.