Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Life Goes On

Nothing fun here, folks - move right along...I'm recovering from another 10 hours of driving this past weekend to see my dad.  He managed to fall and break his hip a few weeks ago; but he was sent home from the hospital without surgery because the surgeon thought it might kill him.  So now he is stuck in a hospital bed at home and pretty much what was left of his mind has gone bye-bye.  I brought the 3 oldest with me to see him, hating myself for not getting them up there a month ago when he could understand who they were and could hold a reasonable facsimile of a conversation. 

Too late, too late, too late....

I reserved rooms for us in a decent hotel, knowing that I would need a good night's sleep to drive home.  Especially since I had been up since 3:30 AM the morning we left, because Susie was still sick and tossing and turning at night.  Unfortunately, the other guests on our hotel wing were holding a multi-room bachelor party, complete with running up and down the halls, banging on doors, yelling, slamming doors, etc.  ALL NIGHT.  I don't know how I managed that drive home on Sunday.

But I did, and here I am.  There's no point calling my dad anymore, he can't seem to understand me on the phone.  I had been in the habit of calling and saying hi every day.  So, in a way, it feels like he is dead, even though he obviously he isn't.  I feel guilty, guilty, guilty for feeling as though he isn't really there anymore.  "Dad's doing great - he was really alert this morning and talking!" claims my brother.  But he doesn't remember we visited, and he's talking about things that no longer exist - his defunct accounting business, etc.  He keeps asking to get up out of bed, not understanding that his hip is broken. 

So, yeah, not too much fun.  But I made more peach jam today and signed David up for a lifeguarding course and did my Tuesday drive to Civil Air Patrol.  Life goes on, and maybe that's what feels weirdest of all.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Why I Hate Craigslist

My beloved
Some of you may recall that, last December (while Larry was busy wrecking our house), I indulged in a teeny bit of revenge shopping that involved my finally buying the IKEA bedframe I had been coveting for at least 3 years.  You know, the one Larry didn't like much, averse as he is to all things IKEA and most modern furniture.  Oh, we had tried to compromise for a while - he kept scouring Craig's list for what he thought were similar bedframes that he liked, leaving pictures up on my browser of heavy pieces of furniture, old-fashioned monstrosities of the type that someone's grandparents most likely drew their last breaths in.

Seriously, people, these pieces of furniture all but screamed COFFIN.  If you want to be depressed by the knowledge of just how much ugly furniture exists in this world, just browse Craigslist for an hour or so.  Make sure you have Prozac handy - you'll need it.

Cheaper than a bed frame
The upshot being that, despite having been married for over 20 years, we were sleeping on a mattress on the floor like 2 cohabiting college kids.  All we were missing were the cinder-block bookcase and the lava lamp.  This situation was bearable until Larry turned our living room into a construction zone, at which point I snapped and made a therapeutic trip to IKEA.

Where was I going with this?  Oh, yes, so now I should be happy, right?  I've got my bed frame, Larry put our living area back together, things are great.  EXCEPT one thing - every single night, I tiptoe into our darkened bedroom (Susie falls asleep in our bed every night, because we are lousy parents who can't even figure out how to make an 8-year-old fall asleep in her own bed and we are okay with our ineptitude, thank you very much) - I tiptoe into our dark bedroom and, without fail, slam my hip into the footboard of my long-desired Hemnes black-brown queen bed frame.

Every. Darn. Night.

Sometimes Larry is already in bed, asleep; and, awakened by my cursing, he smiles into the darkness (I can feel it, I swear) with a special sort of pleasure -- you know, that pleasure engendered by the knowledge that poetic justice does indeed exist, if you are but patient enough to wait for it.  He who laughs last, indeed...

[Lava lamp image: ThisNext]

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I Want A New Drug

Not a cure-all, apparently
My children are busy trying to push me over the edge with their various summer ailments. I've been up 2 nights in a row with a suffering Susie, who's been running high fevers and complaining of earache and headache and sore throat. Aside from overdosing her with antibiotic ear drops for her swimmer's ear and Advil for her aches and pains, I hadn't done much. Until this morning, when -- having spent several hours last night listening to her cry and expecting her eardrum to burst any moment (all while thinking But it's only swimmer's ear, dammit, what the heck is going on here?) -- I dragged myself out of bed, showered, dressed, and made an appointment at our doctor's office.

Grabbing my purse, I said, "Susie! Let's go! We're seeing the doctor in half an hour!"

 "What about me?" asked Brian, who was sitting at the dining room table and reading the comics.

 "What ABOUT you?" I asked back, rushing around looking for my phone and my sunglasses.

 "Don't I get to go to the doctor, too?" he asked.

 "Why? You're not sick," I said.

Maybe I should have noticed these.

Folks, the look that registered on that poor kid's face all but screamed I guess I really am on my own here.

"I've been using David's old CRUTCHES for 5 DAYS," he said.

 "Oh, oh that," I said, my sleep-deprived brain registering that I might have just dropped the ball in a major sort of way. "Um, tomorrow - I'm taking you tomorrow.  We, uh, need to make sure the swelling is down before the x-ray is taken.  Yeah, that's it - the swelling."

"Oh, okay, then," said Brian, turning back to the paper.

Kids!  They're so trusting.  But they shouldn't be.

Just felt like a little music here...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Editor's Lament

Well, when I can spare time from my busy schedule of blogging and avoiding housework, I have been perusing careerbuilder.com and monster.com for gainful employment.  What I have discovered is, despite having had a real job requiring real skills for the past 4 years, I am still not remotely qualified for any of the positions in my field that are posted on those sites.  You see, a typical job announcement reads as follows:
Requirements: the ability to produce an entire magazine (including but not limited to brainstorming innovative, Pulitzer-worthy article topics; producing fresh content daily for magazine website and its Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest/Vine accounts; overseeing production of print layouts and web graphics), while directing a team of people to help you do same.  Minimum 100 years experience doing similar work needed.  Working familiarity with every single computer program known to man required. 

Yes, something like that...
Someone tell me - where are the jobs for moderately skilled people with a few years experience in their field?  Whither the introverted copy editor with the unerring eye who checks galleys and proofs?   Must we all be creative team leaders?  Who the heck is on the teams, anyway?  I never see job openings for those positions.

Also?  If you foolishly upload your resume to one of these websites (in order to apply for a job for which you are not even qualified), you will receive phone calls and emails from EVERY SINGLE INSURANCE COMPANY IN EXISTENCE, offering you a marketing position.  Even though you are not looking for a sales job - no, not one bit.

The worst part is, I know I'm needed out there, people.  Just look - on Tuesday, The New York Times (the gold standard so far as quality journalism is concerned) published this headline:

Three Men, Three Ages.  Who Do You Like?*

As far as I'm concerned, that is a blatant cry for help.  Who is writing their headlines, anyway?  Honest Toddler?

*Three Men, Three Ages: Whom Do You Like?  You're welcome, NYT.  Call me.

[image credit: EagleiOnline]

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Well! Our summer fun has come to a CRASHING halt, what with Susie's case of swimmer's ear and Brian's sprained ankle.  What really bugs me is that I PAID GOOD MONEY for swimming lessons for Susie this year, just so she could swim in the deep end with everyone else without my having to worry (much).  That great idea really came back to bite me, didn't it?

What's that?  How did Brian sprain his ankle?  Gosh, wouldn't it be nice to know?  Unfortunately, that will always remain a mystery.  Apparently,  he woke up in his sleeping bag at the Boy Scout camp-out this past Sunday morning and couldn't put any weight on his foot.  We don't know if he was sleepwalking (he's done that a few times over the years, and let's just not think about the scenario of his wandering into the woods at night in the mountains of West Virginia) or if he slept on it funny, or what.  The upshot is, he gets to hobble around on David's old crutches whilst enjoying just a little too much the privilege of being waited on. 

Golly, I miss band camp.  Those were the good old days, weren't they?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Boogie Lessons

Apparently, a VERY complicated device
The girls and I bought boogie boards for the beach yesterday (only $5 at 5 Below!).   I can't remember how many years ago it was that we first discovered boogie boards cheap enough that we could afford to get them for all the kids, but I do remember Theo and Anna's joy (I think they were 9 and 8 at the time) as they grabbed the boards and ran pell-mell into the surf. Even with their limited experience of the ocean, my distinctly non-athletic kids grasped instinctively how to throw themselves and their boards in the path of an incoming wave and ride that baby onto the beach.

Best. Toy. Ever.

Anyway, yesterday we discovered, once we got the new boards home and unwrapped them, that they now come with a full set of instructions.

Illustrated instructions.

And, to add insult to injury (at least for this particular grammarian), the instructions are titled "How To Lay On Your Bodyboard."

Lay!  How about "How To Properly Conjugate Verbs"?  Or, "How To Distinguish Between Transitive and Intransitive Verbs"?  Instead, apparently, we're stuck with the illustrated guide to "How To Do The Most Obvious Thing In The World."

This guide has a picture showing you, the apparently clueless reader, how to lie down on your stomach on your boogie board, with the warning that one should "practice lying" on the board before even entering the surf.  The instructions explain where to grip the boogie board (top corners) and add that your legs are supposed to hang off the back.  The reader is advised to "rest on your elbows and arch your back with your head up."

Who knew?

The last illustration labels the different parts of a wave, in case you aren't sure what the term "whitewater" might mean when you encounter it in the directions on how to catch a wave ("...start paddling..."). 

You know what?  This must be the same company that put the warning sticker on Rachel's scooter a few years ago...you know, the one that said, "This product moves when being used."  Which has me thinking, maybe there should be a warning on the boogie-board instructions: If you actually need these, you are too stupid to use this product.

Too harsh?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Above And Beyond

You'll have to excuse me today - due to an unfortunate confluence of events, I was required to sit through 5 youth orchestra concerts and 5 youth band concerts over a span of 6 hours.   Despite my intense physical training efforts of this past month, this trial nearly broke me.  By the time I got home at 4:30, all I could do was lie on the couch with a pillow pressed over my head to drown out the entreaties of young children who still wanted to go to the pool after this ordeal.

True, it was 98 degrees out.  But my answer was still no.  There is only so much one woman can take in a single day.

[Band image: Walnut Street School]

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Desperately Seeking....

Comes with pre-loaded Invisibility Cloak app
I spend half my day looking for where I left my IPod Touch.  I'm not proud of that fact, but there it is.

I managed to do a lot with the 50% of my time today that was not spent seeking my IPod Touch, however.  I rode my bicycle.  I showered (hey, that counts).  I weeded (before the shower, of course).  I finally bought Brian some new swim goggles, rather than making him borrow a pair from the pool's Lost-and-Found yet again.  I made peach jam (still can't quite believe that one, myself) and salsa.  I even allowed myself to sit down and read for a bit. 

Can you tell the girls are still in band camp

[IPod Touch image: TechnoBuffalo]

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Teen Dependence Syndrome

The great thing about having a larger-than-average family is that you are never lonely.  Also?  The bad thing about having a larger-than-average family is that you are never lonely.  I just sent everyone (including Larry) to the pool, because if I don't get 2 seconds of privacy/quiet around here, I will go stark raving mad.

Only, I just realized that a teenager managed to stay behind by hiding in my basement.  Luckily, he doesn't seem inclined to talk to me much, anyway.  And it happens to be David, so maybe I can get him to fix a few of the things that went wrong while he selfishly went away for a week to learn how to fly gliders. 

Larry and I, vis-a-vis technology
It's sad, really - Larry brings him home from the airport last night and the kid has barely put down his bag before we're all "Oh, hey, can you get the desktop computer to stop making this loud buzzing sound so we can watch all these YouTube videos that have been piling up all week?" and "The clock on the kitchen radio keeps blinking 12:00 at us and we can't fix it" and "The printer's been doing this weird thing..."

I don't know if I want to be able to see what we look like through David's eyes.  Also, I don't know what we'll do if he decides to skip out to college early, taking all his crazy computer skills with him, the way Theo did with his mad cooking talents 4 years ago.  I haven't had a decent stir fry since, I'll have you know.  I guess that, once David leaves, Larry and I will be doomed to a life of blinking clocks and unintelligible flash mob videos, is all. 

Hey, it's always 12:00 somewhere, right?

[Confused sign image: California PsychCare]
[Clock image: Grey Ghost]

Friday, July 12, 2013

Record East Coast Rainfall In August

That's my prediction, folks, because the vacation die is now cast.  We've decided on a Cape Cod campground - and I'll admit that, due to my perennial quixotic quest for sanitary plumbing facilities, 6 separate raves about "cleanest bathrooms ever" on TripAdvisor definitely swayed me.  Add in laundry facilities and a mid-Cape location (plus the fact that the campground actually had a spot open for the dates we were planning to visit), and this particular reluctant camper was convinced to put some money down for August.

Potato Chip Mecca
Watch it rain.  In fact, I bet it rains.  Lord help me.  I'd better start compiling a list of indoor activities right now.  Let's see, a visit to the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory is, of course, essential.  9 or 10 years ago (when we were living in Rhode Island), Larry took the 4 oldest there.  They still talk about that field trip, which was obviously a watershed moment in their young lives.  It may have been the little plastic beach buckets filled with chips and emblazoned with the Cape Cod Potato Chip logo that impressed them - Larry's a big spender.  David still recalls fondly the samples of chocolate-covered popcorn.

What can I say?  My kids are (or, at least, used to be) easily amused.  I hope they remember that when we end up trapped in a camper for days on end, playing UNO to pass the time, as the raindrops patter on our (thankfully, waterproof) canvas roof.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Information Glut

Larry has just informed me that we are going away for a week in August.  After complicated negotiations, wherein he learned that we are NOT driving all the way to Maine and wherein I learned that he considers a week in the deep woods far from a laundromat to be a fun idea, we settled on Cape Cod as a camping destination - a little wilderness for him, civilization for me, and hopefully his relatives will decide to join us there for a few days.

Please, just tell me which is the best part...
And now here is where I curse that formerly beloved creation known as the Internet.  Used to be, you'd find a campground (somehow) and make reservations.  Then you'd show up and you'd either like it or hate it.  End of story.  Now, however, I have wasted countless hours of my life reading reviews (which contradict each other) on Trip Advisor, squinting at photo galleries on the campground websites, and trying to familiarize myself with Cape geography well enough to make a good decision about our camping destination.

Did you know that, if you research 10 campgrounds all at once, you can't remember which one has the lousy laundry facilities and which one has the tent sites too close to the road?  Fun fact.

And I've done all this while knowing that really?  It is a total crapshoot.  I should just make a list, use a randomized number generator thing-y to pick a number, and - voila! - the campground decision-making process would be complete.  Will I do that, however?  No.  Of course not.

Any recommendations?  The one campground I had confidence in is full, by the way - Nickerson State Park.  Maybe it would have been a good idea to plan a Cape vacation MORE than one month ahead of time? 

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Prodigal Knitter

This past Saturday, I was facing a 3-hour train ride with no new reading material.  Desperate, I rummaged through my Ravelry queue and came up with a fingerless mitt pattern that would use some sock yarn I had handy.  No harm in trying it, I figured.  But really, it was a leap of faith.

You see, there's something been happening lately that I haven't admitted to you folks.  In fact, I've had a hard time admitting it to myself.  Recently I had to face up to a disturbing fact: I'd lost interest in knitting.

These meant nothing to me.
Remember, I have numerous bags of knitting stashed around the house.  There is an entire dresser devoted to storing yarn and knitting/crochet sundries in my bedroom.  Many hours of my life over the past 6 years have been spent deciphering patterns, searching for missing needles, and perusing websites like WEBS and Knitpicks.  So this sudden discovery that I felt no urge to pick up the needles, no urge whatsoever to cast on a new project, was unsettling, to say the least.

It all started 2 weeks ago, when I worked up the nerve to confront an uncompleted lace shawl project that had been haunting me.  Realizing that it held no interest for me anymore, I frogged it (meaning, I pulled it all out, for those of you who aren't hep with the knitting lingo).  Ah, I thought, that'll do the trickThat unwanted project was blocking my creativity.  Now I'll go find something I WANT to knit.

Was this what was in store for me?
Only, I couldn't.  I clicked listlessly through endless pages of patterns on Ravelry and nothing piqued my interest.  It's summer, I reasoned to myself.  Maybe I just need to crochet with some nice cool cotton.  A market bag, maybe?   But, no, not even that could entice me.  Apparently, my love affair with all things yarn was over.  Was it turning 50 that did it?  Menopause?  Do crafters have midlife crises that cause them to dump their needlework and take up bungee jumping instead?  All I knew was that I just couldn't fake it - I didn't want to knit.

So I ignored my yarn.  I know!  It's a weird way to live.  I read all my birthday books (6 in one week).  I felt strangely content with my new post-knitting life.  Maybe that whole knitting thing had just been a phase, a fluke, I thought.  It's sort of a relief, actually.  No more cruising yarn shops; no more wasting hours of my life on Ravelry, looking for the perfect market bag pattern...

But, Reader, I'm happy to report that, on that train ride to my Dad's, the magic returned.  I knitted contentedly all the way there.  I knitted while I was trying to cope with the voodoo priestess.  I knitted on the way back, glad I had something to do other than watch soaps on an IPad, as my seatmate was doing.  The handwork was comforting, like a homecoming.  And, truth to tell, I was relieved to find myself back in the knitting saddle, as it were -- because I really didn't want to try that bungee jumping.

[Yarn image: Living Large With Less]
[Bungee image: Spirit of the Himalayas

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Dementia Diaries 2

Just back from another super-quick weekend at my dad's, and there is not one bit of funny left in me.  Dementia is simply a monster, folks - especially when the person suffering from it is semi-aware that he's losing his marbles.  "I can't...think," my dad says, frustrated, clutching his head.

And, yes, the voodoo priestess is still there.  To be fair, I've observed that she really does understand how to handle a person with dementia - she keeps my dad on a schedule for sleeping and eating; she allows him to do some things for himself - tying his own shoes, combing his own hair - even if it takes longer; she makes sure that he is clean and well-fed.  But, still, the kindness in her is of a very rough sort; and - control freak that she is - when things don't go totally her way, she gets noticeably angry and impatient.  It's a mixed bag: just when I am thinking that no, this caregiver needs to be dismissed RIGHT NOW, she does something caring and compassionate that I know few caregivers would have had the insight to do.

Meanwhile, my father is still (erroneously) convinced my brother is stealing all his money and is planning to put him out of the house.  It wrenches my heart to see him trying to make sense of things with whatever scattered pieces of his brain he has left.  No matter how senile a person gets, apparently, he never stops trying to derive meaning from what is happening around him.  And, really, what can be more human than that search for meaning?

So, thinking that maybe his long-term memory would be better than his short-term one, I spent the weekend reminding my dad of happier times.  "Remember, Dad?" I said, pointing to a spot on the driveway by the garage.  "Remember when you surprised me by putting a kickstand on my purple bike?  You brought me outside and it was right there."  Or, "Remember when you planted that dogwood tree, there by the side of the house?  The day I was born, Mom said.  50 years ago!" 

Remember, remember, remember...I needed him to remember, I wanted him to know that he once had a life -- and a good one, at that.  I wanted to make him smile, remembering.  But the most I got was a confused nod/shake of the head and an uncomfortable laugh. 

I don't think he remembers.

[Memory image: BetterThan50]

Friday, July 05, 2013

Picture Imperfect

My new driver's license arrived in the mail today.

Please note - in my home state, you are not allowed to smile for your driver's license photo.  If there are any teeth showing, they make you take it over.  Last time this requirement caught me by surprise, and I ended up with a picture wherein I looked like a sour old hag.  You know how they say the camera adds 10 pounds?  Well, in my case, it adds 10 years. 

Kittens are photogenic.  I'm jealous.
Seriously - you know those mug shots of apprehended women criminals that are published in the paper sometimes?  With the stringy hair and the dour expression and the haggard face?  Those photos look downright attractive compared to what I have been carrying around on my license the past few years.

This time, I was determined to beat the system.  For several days beforehand, I worked on attaining what I thought was a pleasant, smiling look without moving my lips.   It's all in the eyebrows and the eyes, I decided.  I've GOT this.

So, as I've already said, my new license arrived in the mail today.  I tore open the envelope and steeled myself to view the results.  Would it be as bad as last time?  No.  No, it wasn't.

It was WORSE.  I look positively insane.  Eyebrows up, eyes sort of bugging out under droopy lids (and where the heck did those come from?), and lips pressed together in a crooked line.  INSANE. 

My only comfort is knowing that I cannot possibly look this way for real.  If I did, people would run screaming from me in the street.  Friends would beg me to wear a bag over my head.  My children would burst into tears whenever I came near.

8 years, people - I've got 8 years to practice for the next one.

[Kittens image: SPCA Otago]

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Mr. State Trooper

Sitting up late with a weird-feeling stomach,  I'm busy (when not running to the bathroom) enumerating all the horrible things that could be wrong with me.  Let's see, I went swimming this week - can cholera survive chlorine?  Or maybe it's e coli from the bagged lettuce, like last time.  Or...I don't know...a dreadful stomach virus that is going to move through the family and effectively ruin our 4-day weekend.  So many choices!

In the meantime, the past few days have resembled nothing so much as living at the bottom of a swamp - drizzly, high 70's, and humid beyond belief.  Going outside and taking a deep breath feels as though someone is sticking a plastic bag over your head.  What's more, the wet weather has brought out masses of mosquitoes, all lying in wait for us to walk out our front door.

So yes, I AM having a good time this summer.  And you?

Oh, and have I mentioned that, on my birthday last month, I glanced at my driver's license and realized it expired that very day, and not at the end of the month, as I had thought.  Naturally, I  said, "Well, I'm NOT going to spend my birthday sitting in the DMV!"

That turns out to have been a bad decision to make.  In fact, it  resulted in my having to make TWO trips to the DMV, as an expired license meant that I needed to present a birth certificate, an item which I did not happen to have on my person the first time around.  My second trip to DMV included a heart-stopping moment as I drove through a tollbooth with my still-expired license (birth certificate tucked safely in my purse) and saw a state trooper step into my lane and put up his hand.  There followed approximately 10 seconds during which I died a thousand deaths, until I realized that it was the guy in the lane to my left who was being pulled over, after which the super-nice trooper waved me on, expired license and all.  Whereupon I drove the rest of the way to the DMV at approximately 35 mph...

You know, this stomach ache could simply be a stress ulcer from living on the wrong side of the law.  I apparently lack the sangfroid needed to live as a fugitive from justice.

[State trooper image: eHow]