Friday, December 31, 2010

Fender Bender

It's been relatively quiet since Christmas. That goes for home cooking too. We've barely have had any food in the house to cook. We've been going out a lot lately. Apparently so is everyone else. Last night we decided to go out for dinner and the first three places we went to all had 50 minutes to an hour wait. What? On a Thursday night? What is wrong with you people.

I did finalyl make it to the grocery store and frankly I wished I hadn't. I ran in and did my shopping. Came out and got in my van. Looked left and right and in my rear view mirror. All was clear or so I thought and started to back out - right into the side of a pick-up truck. Somehow the driver had managed to pull in behind me after I had checked right and left and the way she had pulled behind me when I checked my rear view mirror, the cab of the truck was out of my line of sight and the bed of her pickup was below my rear window level so I couldn't see it. She was quite upset and crying. It was her husband's truck and she said he didn't want her to take it to the store, Why she did then I have no idea. The damage to both vehicles was minor, but needs to be fixed. More so on her truck then my van. This is what the rear bumper on my van is suppose to look like:

This is what the damaged side now looks like. At first I wasn't going to have it repaired. It's more cosmetic damage then anything. After talking to my insurance company though, I've decided to get it repaired. Parking lots are such a pain in the ass.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Follow Up and Things

In a follow up to yesterday's post, Maryland gave Coach Friedgen a proper send off by beating East Carolina 51-20. I was happy to see plenty of Maryland fans had brought along "Thanks Ralph" signs. I'm glad his team was able to send him out on a high note. The team has a lot of young talent. Ralph didn't leave the cupboard bare for the next coach. Things should be bright for next year if the new coach is any good at all. Maryland has said they want to name a new coach by January 4 - the official start of recruiting. Lets hope they stay on schedule.

Given the name of this blog you would think I would mention rowing every once in a while. Well it is winter and the temperatures have been below freezing for an unimaginable time for Virginia. For sure on water rowing is done until 1 April, weather permitting. So it's time for that all so popular winter conditioning. Like in most years past once our last race is over (1st weekend in November), I fall off the wagon during the rest of November and most of December only to try and drag myself back out of the fitness abyss. I have dug my erg out of Daughter#2's old bedroom put on a new handle and did my first 5,000 meter indoor row yesterday. It was painfully slow, but not unexpected given the long layoff. It's just about getting a bit faster and stronger with each workout. I'll be doing another 5,000 meter row tomorrow. If I manage anything close to respectability for my age, I will certainly post it here.

Today was also my last workday for the year. I'm off until Monday and low is the work backed up. That first week back is going to be pure hell. Retirement is sounding better all the time.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

End of an Era

Tomorrow marks the final game for Ralph Freidgen as coach of the Maryland Terrapins. His team will face the East Carolina Pirates in the Military Bowl in nearby RFK Stadium. He was fired after refusing to retire by the brand new Athletic Director Kevin Anderson. That after Anderson declared The Fridge would be back next year. Anderson comes from a similar position at Army. Army! Well qualified I'm sure. Ralph deserved much better then how he is being treated by his alma mater. He was just voted Coach of the Year in the ACC after what I believe was the second biggest turn around in NCAA history. Who gets fired after being named Coach of the Year? The man took the Terps to 7 Bowl games in 10 years. Thats pretty remarkable given Maryland's football history. When it comes to football, Maryland isn't Texas. It isn't USC. They have a hard time recruiting the blue chip football players. Maryland is first and foremost a basketball school. I've been a Maryland season ticket holder for over 30 years now. I've seen the ups and downs of this program. More downs then up. Ralph was a bright spot during that run of years. The rumors have it that Mike Leach recently of Texas Tech fame will be the new head coach. That he will bring some sizzle to the program that was lacking under Ralph. That he will fill the seats and empty luxury suites at Byrd Stadium. He might ultimately be able to do that, but he will have to fill some big shoes to do it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ah The Weather

Nothing like discussing the weather to make for a snoozefest of an entry. I was thinking of writing about the weather as I was walking the dogs at 7:30 this morning. I walked three of our four dogs at the same time to minimize the time I had to spend out side. While we didn't get the snow that those to the east and north of us got, we certainly got the wind and the cold. The cold as propelled by the wind became that stinging, biting cold that hurts your face just to be out in it. It was hard to judge which was producing more liquid - my watering eyes or my running nose. As we walked along I kept repeating my silent mantra to the dogs - "Please go....Please go..." Of course they took their own sweet time about it. By the time we got back home, my cheeks and chin were numb as were my hands. And to think I get it to do it all again tomorrow as the winds will remain and the temperatures will be dipping into the teens. Such fun and what a wonderful vacation time.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Aftermath

I hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas. We did here at the old hacienda. While not quite the mayhem as when the kids were little. it still ended up being exhausting as ever. I was up at 6:30 to prepare the family breakfast (for 6 of us) while Ann handled all the dogs. Five of them in all. After a breakfast of bacon and eggs, toast and OJ. We retired to the living room to dive into the packages left to us by Santa Claus. As we started the only one not in attendance was The Son who, although up, was running behind and still at his condo. He did tell us to go and get started and so we did. We had opened almost all the gifts by the time he arrived, but we sat him down and let him open all his presents. By the end I think I can safely say that everyone was quite happy with the presents received. After all the presents had been opened, Daughter#1 and her husband retired to the kitchen to prepare appetizers for the family to enjoy while the Christmas dinner was cooking away. We enjoyed a game of sorts (the name escapes me) the The Son managed to win. By late afternoon the turkey was ready and The Son had made his garlic mashed potatoes and we sat down for dinner. After saying grace for the many blessings we enjoy as a family, we proceeded to stuff ourselves silly. That included apple pie ala mode and pumpkin pie with whipped cream for desert. All I wanted to do afterward was to lay around and take a nap before heading to bed. After tending to the dogs one last time thats exactly what I did. I was in bed by 9:30 and glad of it.

Because of the threat of a major storm heading up the coast, Daughter#2 and her husband decided to head home to Harrisonburg Christmas night rather then stay the night. They ran into the leading edge of the storm during the drive home. The pickup they were driving skidded on the slick surface about 30 minutes from home and hit a concrete wall. They were safe, but the truck was undrivable. A call was made to his parents to come rescue them. They finally made it home around midnight.

This morning Daughter#1's husband was kind enough to make us blueberry pancakes. That was the last thing he was able to do before being felled by the stomach virus that has struck Daughter#1, Ann and myself in the past few weeks. I feel for the guy as I know what he's going through. The good news it doesn't last more then 24 hours.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Thoughts

I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and I'll leave you tonight with a few Christmas quotes - the ones I used for the past last three years, which I love. They represent to me the meaning of Christmas.

"Perhaps Christmas doesn't come from a store. Perhaps Christmas means a little bit more." - How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess. '

From "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. The meaning of Christmas as told by Scrooge's nephew Fred:

There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,' returned the nephew. 'Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that- as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!'

And from Dr Suess and the Whos, the lyrics from the song "Welcome, Christmas" from the TV version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas":

Welcome, Welcome
Fah who rah-moose
Welcome, Welcome
Dah who dah-moose
Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas,
Come this way!

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas,
Christmas Day.

Welcome, Welcome
Fah who rah-moose
Welcome, Welcome
Dah who dah-moose
Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas
Bring your cheer
Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome all Who's
Far and near

Welcome Christmas, fah who rah-moose
Welcome Christmas, dah who dah-moose
Christmas day will always be
Just so long as we have we

Fah who for-aze
Dah who dor-aze
Welcome Christmas
Bring your light

Welcome Christmas
Fah who rah-moose!
Welcome Christmas
Dah who dah-moose!
Welcome Christmas
While we stand
Heart to heart
And hand in hand

Fah who for-aze
Dah who dor-aze
Welcome welcome

So to one and all a Very Merry Christmas and as Tiny Tim observed: "God Bless Us Every One"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Movies

I was going to write about our family Christmas traditions tonight, but frankly the day got away from me and now I'm a bit too tired to think and write about them. So I'll just talk about a subset of our Christmas traditions, which is Christmas movies. I'll be the first to admit I'm a sucker for a good Christmas movie. I'll watch them over and over every year without fail. The first comes out on Thanksgiving because the movie itself starts on Thanksgiving Day. Sometime between getting the turkey in the oven and starting to peel the potatoes, I'll watch "Miracle on 34th Street".

Miracle on 34th Street Poster

I watch the 1947 version with Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn and Maureen O'Hara. In black in white and not "colorized". Occasionally I'll watch the 1994 remake with Richard Attenbourgh, Elizabeth Perkins and Mara Wilson, but I prefer the original.

The next four I watch in no particular order. It's whatever strikes my mood at the time.
First up is "Love Actually". I love this movie. Love the stories, love the music, love everything about it. The scene at the end where Colin Firth proposes to Aurelia always gets to me.

Love Actually Poster

The next one I just watched tonight - A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott as Scrooge

A Christmas Carol Poster

I'll watch other versions if I see them om TV, but I happen to own the above version and I've watched it a lot. I've given a copy to Daughter#1 as well. I really like the 1938 version with Reginald Owen as Scrooge and Gene Lockhart as Cratchit, but it's hard to find on TV. Some trivia - Gene Lockhart also played the Judge in the 1947 version of "Miracle on 34th Street".

The next two movies took me a while to warm up to. I really didn't like them at first, but having watched them a few times I've really gotten to like them. The first of these is the "Polar Express".

The Polar Express Poster

It's the one Christmas movie I watch that I don't actually own. I have to catch it on TV. At first I didn't like the animation. It looked kind of creepy. However over time the message of believing and being able to hear the sleigh bell won me over. At times I think its a bit overdone and could have easily been shorten by 30 minutes, but thats just nit picking. Besides who doesn't like Tom Hanks?

The next movie, which I bought about two years ago is "Prancer".

Prancer Poster

At first glance it appears to be just another cheezy kid Christmas movie, but Rebecca Harrell's performance as Jessica Riggs will win your heart over. We should all believe as sincerely as Jessica. Watching her save Prancer as he in turns saves her will bring a tear to your eye.

This final movie is what the family gathers together to watch every Christmas Eve before we turn in for the night to await Santa's arrival. Even now that the kids are adults, we still watch it as a family. The movie - "One Magic Christmas".

One Magic Christmas Poster

It has sort of a "It's a Wonderful Life" twist to it. It's always interesting to contemplate how changing one small thing changes all that follows it. The scene where Mary Steenburgen (the Mom) reads the letter she wrote as a child to Santa that her own child has brought back from the North Pole is the high point of the movie for me.

What Christmas movies are your favorites?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Dog's Christmas

Today was my last day of work for a while. I don't have to commute down to my place of work until after the New Year. That being said there is always work to be done around the house. The first and foremost is taking care of our pack of dogs. We have four total.

The old lady of the Group: Rosie She turns 17 in February. She's a Schnauzer mix.

Mischief personified: Emily on the left Amy on the right. Miniature Schnauzers. They will turn 3 in February

And the only other male in the house besides myself: Scruffy. He's 11

All our dogs are rescues.

Ann and I take turns walking the dogs or at least letting them out to take care of business. Scruffy gets the longest walks as he's the biggest dog by about 30 lbs and he's also the easiest to walk. At 17, Rosie isn't that interested in walking. She's more about the treat waiting at the end of the walk. The twins can walk as far as Scruffy, but walking them is a disaster waiting to happen. If we run into someone, they go berserk with the barking, pulling on their leashes and carrying on. Their bark is just at the high pitch level thats it's like fingernails on a blackboard. No one wants to hear that. Especially first thing in the morning. So Scruffy gets the long walk. Since its currently Canadian weather here in Virginia, I limit the walk to one mile round trip. We walk to the local elementary school, which is a half mile away. This time of year school is in session so there are two crossing guards at the school. One always carries a treat for the local dogs. Obviously she is a dog person with three of her own. Scruffy eagerly awaits for her to dig into the pocket of her uniform to produce the prized treat. He gets a bit mystified on weekends or school holidays when we walk to the school and there isn't a treat waiting for him. Last week, after giving the Scruffy his treat, she said she had something for us. She went to her car and brought back this enormous chew bone. She told Scruffy he had to share it with his sisters. We placed it under the tree too hand out Christmas morning. Its for a Dog's Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Organization from Chaos

For years our kitchen pantry had been a thorn in my wife's side. She hated how it looked. She hated how disorganized it was. Hated how it was just a giant mess in general. You couldn't grab an item from the pantry without several other items falling down off the shelves. It was that bad. Of course not so bad that she was willing to take on a job she felt a bit overwhelmed by. Ann had been not so subtlety hinting to Daughter#1 that she would love it if she would take on the project. Its a project right up Daughter#1's alley what with her anal ways and all. Heck she has already sent us all itineraries for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. However Daughter#1 has been pretty busy with the move back home, starting a new job, coaching crew and starting back to school. But tonight after dinner she dived right in. Determined to get the job done before the rest of the family arrives on Friday. After the first few minutes I was drafted to help out. Shelves were emptied. Old stuff thrown out like the jar of oregano that expired sometime in the 1980s. Other things placed aside to be donated. Spices arranged alphabetically. Different things grouped together logically (i.e., things for baking, soups, oils, etc). In a little over an hour we had a decent looking pantry ready for the big cooking days ahead. Thanks Daughter#1. A look at the finished product. I just wished I had taken a picture of the mess before we started.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fosters and Rescues

I mentioned in an earlier post, how we enjoy getting Christmas cards. How they help set the mood for the holiday and how it lets us reconnect with old friends, even those we haven't seen in years. The other day a card arrived and I didn't recognize the address. It had a Virginia return address but it was from a town I wasn't familiar with. Upon opening it, we discovered that it was from the woman who had fostered one of our dogs before we adopted him. Back in 2009 we had lost our miniature schnauzer Winifred after 17 years. We still had one dog, a schnauzer mix, Rosie, that we adopted through the Mid-Atlantic Schnauzer Rescue . Ann decided she was ready for a bigger dog. One that she could take walks with. Not that you can't walk with miniature schnauzers, but they can be, shall we say, a challenge at times. I thought a second dog would be good if nothing else to be company for Rosie. Because I'm allergic to some furry animals, cats especially, it was important to pick a breed that has minimal shedding. Schnauzers had filled that bill hence why we had picked that breed in the past. As it turned out I had been donating to a local rescue organization HART - Homeless Animal Rescue Team. Occasionally I would visit their page to see what dogs were available. I came across a dog that would seem to fit the bill. He was a terrier (low shedding) and mid-size (about 45 lbs) so Ann could have a dog to walk with. He was a Wheaton terrier. We ended up adopting him this past February. Here was Scruffy on his ride home

And trying out one of our dog beds.

Anyway back to the Christmas card. In it, the former foster asked how Scruffy was doing and how he had been a favorite foster of hers. She had fostered him for just over a year. It was obvious she missed him. She asked if we could send her a picture of him. So today we broke out the camera and took a few pictures of Scruffy in front of our Christmas tree.

Ann was off camera bribing him with a treat to look her way while I took his picture. This of course drew the attention of our other dogs. Thats Emily in this picture with Scruffy.

I hope she enjoys the pictures (we sent her three). My hat is off to those who take in these unwanted pets and foster them until they can find a forever home. It must be difficult giving them up when the time comes. She did a wonderful job with Scruffy. He 's about the most well behaved, laid back dog ever. We're so glad we found him and he us.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What a Lousy Sports Town

Washington may be many things - the home city for the Federal Government, home to some great monuments and famous buildings. Not to mention the famous people that live and/or visit here. But Washington, when it comes to sports, is just plain rotten. Long gone are the glory days of Super Bowls and an NBA Championship. Washington's sports teams are mired in the bottom in just about every sport. The Redskins? Last. The Wizards? Last. The Nationals? Last. The Capitals seem to be the only franchise with a glimmer of hope, but seem to disappear come play-off time. Since December 3, Washington's NFL, NBA and NHL teams were a combined 0-17. (Thanks to Parker and Parker for that tidbit). The Caps finally won tonight breaking their 7 game losing streak. Thats just all around bad. The Redskins and Wizards both seem to have so many holes to fill it's not realistic to think they will be contenders anytime soon. The Caps have the talent. It's just a matter of bringing their A game come play-off time. The Nationals? Who knows. Certainly they have some promising young talent, but thats all it is - promising. Not proven. Plus they turned around and traded two of their more popular players in Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham. They have a "plan" supposedly, but who knows. It doesn't look all that promising for next year.

Another part of it is that we can't just lose gracefully. All season long we've been tortured with the Albert Hayneswoth debacle. Then the unseemly benching of Donovan McNabb. Over at the University of Maryland (within spitting distance of Washington), football coach Ralph Friedgen is being forced out after taking Maryland to 7 bowl games in 10 years. Then there was Gilbert Arenas and the gun affair. It's just crazy in this town.

Is it too late to ask Santa for a winning sports team for Washington?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Making A List and Checking It Twice

With Christmas just a week away, today was the day for Ann and I to sit down and see where we were in terms of getting our presents taken care of. We have set up an Excel file to track who is getting what. We try top keep a somewhat level playing field between the kids and the two sons in law. Our review showed that we had done a pretty decent job to date. There were a few smaller things that we had missed, but overall we look to be in pretty good shape. Heave a big sigh of relief. After checking our list and checking it twice, it was off to do our Christmas cards. Doing Christmas cards is sort of a mixed bag for me. I certainly enjoy getting them, but it can be arduous task if you let it be. I like to put on some Christmas music to set the mood and jump right in. We don't do a Christmas letter like a lot pf people do. Just a card with a friendly greeting. We also don't send out a large quantity of cards - maybe 25 to 30. The one with the longest distance to go goes to a relative in Largs, Scotland. It's also nice to reconnect with a number of my friends from college. The one time a year I do so (although Facebook has changed that a bit). It's always good to relive old times.

So gifts ordered and mostly wrapped. Cards are done. House is decorated. Now just the Christmas dinner to buy and we're good to go for the big day. Somehow it didn't seem as hard this year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

House Tour

In participating in Holiday Homes Tour 2010 hosted by Jen of Jen on the Edge fame. The idea is to show how you decorate your home for the Holidays. We don't really go overboard on decorating for Christmas. Mostly because no one in this household has a speck of Martha Stewart in them. And we're lazy. So there you go, but on to the tour. Lets start outside.

For decorating outside there has been no better invention then light nets. They look better then individual strings of lights and they are much easier to put up and save untold amount of time. What you see is 8 nets with another triangle net for our Holly tree. The lights look great with a little snow on them. I do the lights and Ann puts up the wreaths on our front door

We set our tree up in the living room. This is a Douglas fir bought from a local nursery. Picking out a tree usually takes us over an hour as we literally look at every tree on the lot. This year we found our tree in less then 15 minutes. Pretty amazing for us. I put up the lights and in theory the rest of the family puts the ornaments on the tree. With adult children this becomes somewhat problematic. We couldn't arrange a convenient time for everyone to get together so Ann and I ended up decorating the tree ourselves. We assign a section of the tree to each of our three children, which contain the various ornaments they made in elementary school plus each has an ornament from their respective colleges - Daughter#1 - Ohio University, The Son - Radford University and Daughter#2 - Virginia Tech. I also have an ornament from my alma mater - Auburn University. This year Daughter#1 has the left side of the tree, The Son has the middle and Daughter#2 has the right side of the tree. Daughter#1 has already wrapped a fair number of presents which are now residing under the tree waiting for Christmas morning.

The only other room we really decorate is our family room. We add lighted garland to the fireplace mantel and a lighted wreath. Add in a Nutcracker or two and a couple of poinsettias and you have a festive room. Even more so if there is a fire going in the fireplace. Currently I'm out of wood so that is a bit of the problem. Back in the days we would always have these somewhat shady looking dudes from mid Virginia or West Virginia driving around the neighborhood in their loaded pickups full of firewood to sell. They have all but disappeared in the last three years. The only thing I can think of is so many of my neighbors have switched their fireplaces over to gas that it's not worth their while to try and go door to door selling the wood. I sure could use some though.

That ends my tour. Fell free to drop by anytime this month as I will be updating everyday as part of Holidailies. I hope you and yours have a Merry Christmas and the best during the New Year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

First Snow

Today was the first measurable snow we've had since last winter. It snowed about 6 hours and left us with about 3 inches. Not quite Buffalo standards, but enough to cause concern among those who either hate to drive in snow or those that are bad at it. I love watching snow fall. It evokes such a sense of quiet and peace. It doesn't hurt that it snowed so close to Christmas. It fits right in with the spirit of the season. Who knows as cold as it has been, the snow might stick around long enough for us to have a white Christmas. Those are few and far between here in Virginia. Because it started to snow after I was already at work, I was worried about how long the commute home would be. Epic delays are not uncommon around here whenever it snows. Add in the fact that there was only two of us in the vanpool today, I figured I was due to be the driver on the way home. As it turned out, the other guy, much younger then myself, volunteered to drive both ways. That made my day. I promptly fell asleep coming and going leaving the driving to him. As it turned out, the commute home took us about 2 1/2 hours with a stop for gas thrown in. Frankly I thought that was great time given the circumstances. Of course my car was covered in snow when we got to the commuter parking lot where we leave the van. It was a fairly dry snow so it was easy to clear off without getting too much snow all over my shoes. Ann called me on the way from the parking lot to say she had hired two teenagers to clear our driveway and sidewalks so score one for that. Our outside Christmas lights look great glistening from under the fresh coat of snow. It really is looking a lot like Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12 Days of Christmas

Like most males, I shudder at the thought of going shopping. The trips to the mall, the wandering around, the endless looking and looking. Going from store to store. Having to park out in the boondocks, the crowds, the mayhem. Who needs that? Now what I do like is shopping on line. Give me a computer, a credit card and a shopping list and I'm good to go. Shopping on line is like the 12 Days of Christmas. I type in a few choice numbers and give them an address and just like that, presents ordered. Almost every day Santa disguised as the UPS guy or the Fed Ex guy pulls up to the house and unloads his Christmas treasures. It's like Christmas every day. To top it off, this year I have an elf working for me in the basement. I just turn my gifts over to her and she wraps them for me. That spares me that task plus my elf wraps things a whole lot better then I can. So this year I won't be up to 3:00AM doing last minute wrapping. Perhaps I can sit around and enjoy the specialness that is Christmas eve surrounded by family. Now wouldn't that be special?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oh Baby It's Cold

As I sit here and write the temperature outside is a chilly 18 degrees. The wind chill is approaching zero. These temperatures may be par for the course for places like Minnesota or upstate New Your, but this is Virginia. It's not suppose to be this cold in December and certainly for not this long. All I can do is groan when I wake up in the morning and ask Ann what the temperature is. "It's 16 and the wind chill is 8" she gleefully intones. "Have fun on your walk". I grumble as I layer up hoping to keep the cold at bay. I harness up the twins and we're out the door. The wind is so cold and it stings my face. My eyes are watering and my nose running. All I want is for the dogs to go so we can get inside. Of course they don't cooperate. They are more interested in the squirrels running around them. So we walk and walk and walk some more. My hands are frozen. Eventually there is success and we quickly retreat to the warmth of the house. I'm in the house long enough to blow my nose and then begin round 2 as I harness up Scruffy and we head back out into the cold. Thankfully Scruffy is a lot more cooperative and we're out and back in a reasonable amount of time. We get to do it again in 4 hours. Spring can't come fast enough.

Monday, December 13, 2010

One Of Those Days

Ever have one of those days? You know the ones. Where the days starts out bad and just goes down hill from there. Today was one of those days. My first chore of most days is walking the dogs. The devious twins, aka Amy and Emily, go first. I try to get them out in that time between when the middle school bus has picked up its charges and when the elementary school kids begin their walk to their school. I do this to minimize the chance of actually running into anyone. The twins tend to go ballistic if they see any one (as terriers are want to do) and who needs that racket at 7:30 in the morning? Upon opening the garage door there at the end of our driveway walking passed our house was another person walking their dog. Clue in the barking, the yelping, the carrying on. As the Grinch noted: "The noise...noise...noise...noise..." I dragged the twins back in the house to wait a few minutes and tried again. This time with success. After walking all the dogs, I showered and was getting ready to leave the house when I got a phone call from Ann. She had gone to Mass and was calling to report she had a flat tire. Great. Luckily a few kind men offered to help her change the tire so I was off the hook for that one. Dodged one bullet. Then I was off for an appointment with my eye doctor. I'm having continuing problems with my eyes due to the fact that some of my lower eye lashes grow back toward my eye and scratch my eye. Today was a scheduled treatment where the offending lashes are literally burned out of existence. Sounds painful doesn't it? Actually that part isn't bad at all because your lower eye lid is numb. Now getting the shot in your eye lids to numb them - that's the painful part. That and they bleed like crazy. While waiting for the doctor, Ann calls and informs me that they tire has been changed. Great news! Except the spare is also flat or just about. Crap. The kindly gentlemen that help change the tire direct her to the nearest service station to get both tires fixed. I hang up and I'm then directed into an exam room and given three injections in each of my lower eyelids. It's as painful as I remembered. I'm left alone to give the shots a chance to work. And alone and alone. The doctor finally returns with an apologetic "Oh I forgot all about you!" Oh how nice. Three eyelashes from each eye meet their end and I'm released. Thank goodness. I now get another call from Ann who is sitting at Starbucks while the tires are being taken care of. Someone or something has tripped the alarm at our house and the police are on their way to investigate. She thinks she may have forgot to cancel our dog walker or maybe not. I finally arrive home and no police and no note. I assume that they found no forced entry and no one home and figured it was a false alarm. A bill should arrive from the county in a few days for that. Merry Christmas. Driving into the garage, I notice the door into the kitchen has blown open and thats what tripped the alarm. Not to self - make sure the door is securely shut before running off to appointments. The rest of the day in uneventful. The quiet before the storm. Just as we are about to sit down to dinner, The Son calls. A phone call from The Son is almost always bad news. Its just a matter of degree on how bad. Turns out his car battery is dead. He wants me to come take care of it. What? He wants to use our car (flat tires now having been fixed) to go to work in the morning. I tell him to call AAA and they will install a new battery for him. Grumbling ensues, but he agrees to do it. 30 minutes later he calls back. AAA has arrived, but they don't have the right battery for his car and will have to return to the shop and pick one up. Oh and by the way, they're showing 2 different types of batteries called out for his car and would I know which one is the right one? Of course I don't so they leave to get the one they do have and we're all praying it's the right one. AAA returns and all seems to be ok. We'll see come morning. The car will be sitting out all night during the coldest night so far. The wind chill is already down to 3 with 25 mph winds. We finish dinner and Ann and I immediately fall asleep in front of the TV. We're old. Its what old people do. We wake up and face the dreaded job of taking the dogs out for the final time before bed. Its cold. Its windy. We whine a lot about it, but we walk the dogs. Scruffy's business looks terrible. We get home and unleash the dogs. We notice an unsettling smell coming from the dining room. Apparently Scruffy isn't feeling well and the dining room has borne the brunt of his intestinal distress. I watch the dogs while Ann does the clean up. We are keeping our fingers crossed that he isn't all up night having problems. After all who needs another day like today?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Long Distance Romance

Daughter#1's husband Matt was here for the weekend visiting his bride and trying to make the most of their time together. Daughter#1 is living with us for the moment here in Virginia. Her husband is still living in Connecticut while trying to find a job in the Washington DC area so he can rejoin his bride. Watching them reminds me of my own long distance romance I did with my now bride, Ann.

I met Ann back in January of 1975. We were both just out of college and trying to make our way in the world. We both worked for the Government, but at different locations. I was living in Charleston, SC. Ann was living here in northern Virginia. We were both in an intern program and required to take a lot of classes as part of the program. The first was a 4 week course usually taken at Ft Lee, but occasionally offered elsewhere. Where Ann was working had a large number of interns and, therefore, it made sense to being instructors to her workplace rather then send a lot of interns off on travel for 4 weeks. They still had some open spaces in her class and I managed to get one of them. It made sense for me to take the class in northern Virginia as my family (Mom and Dad) lived in suburban Maryland at the time and I could stay with them while I took the class. I made a great first impression on the class as I was over an hour late the first day due to traffic. Nothing like getting off on the right foot. The days were long - 8 hours of classroom lectures. By the second week, during one of our breaks, Ann came up and introduced herself to me. Not that I hadn't noticed her before. She and her two friends were hard to miss. But being the shy clod that I was, it was well she made the first introduction. She invited me to join her and some of her friends at the hotel bar next to where the class was being held. The rest as they say is history. We got together everyday after class for drinks or dinner or a movie or just going to her apartment and watching TV. On weekends I would drive from my parents house to take her out. All to soon the class was over and I was back in South Carolina. We would talk on the phone during work hours as I was too poor to have my own phone in my apartment (remember this is way before cell phones). We planned our next class so we could take it together. This time a 3 week course in April. This one was also as her workplace and this time I stayed at a hotel close by rather then stay with my parents. Seeing her everyday first for 4 weeks and then for 3 weeks was like speed dating someone. You got to know them well pretty quickly. After the 3 week course, we decided we were a pretty solid boyfriend/girlfriend and made weekend plans to see each other when we could. Back in those days, the trip from Charleston, SC to Alexandria took 9 hours. The speed limit was only 55 and their were portions of I-95 that were not yet completed in North Carolina. It helped that I got let out early on Fridays if I gave blood. So every 6 weeks I would. That would get me to Ann's place by 10:00PM. Otherwise I'd roll in at 2:00AM Saturday morning. We'd have Saturday together and part of Sunday. I was usually back on the road between 1 and 3 PM. The drive back to South Carolina always seemed a lot longer then the drive up. We did the long distance dating for over a year. Most of the time I would make the drive up to see her, but occasionally she would make the drive down to see me. Rather she found a Navy CDR with his family still living in Charleston and the two of them would drive down using her car. I was finally able to arrange a job working where Ann worked and moved up in July on 1976. We were married that September. It's an anniversary hard to forget these days. We were married on September 11.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holidailies 2010

Wow. I can't believe I haven't written anything here since the twins birthday in July. That is down right embarrassing. I'm glad December has rolled around and the chance to participate in Holidailies once again to get me writing. This is my fourth year to participate in Holidailes where bloggers are asked to update their blog every day for a month. As I stated last year at this time, I'm looking forward to joining in for two reasons: I usually find some new blogs every year that I didn't know existed and look forward to following as we start the new year. The second is a bit more selfish in that it exposes my blog to a much larger audience then I could ever hope to drum up on my own. I typically get a big jump in readers in December over the rest of the year.

I don't have a Cast of Characters listed on my blog so let me introduce everyone that you might run across on these pages. I'm Frank, author and creator of Ready.....Row. I'm a 50ish Federal Worker who resides in Virginia and works in southern Maryland. I have been reading blogs for quite a while and it seemed like having one was fun so with a little encouragement, mostly from Beth of So the Fish Said, I set up this blog. This is my fourth year of writing in this blog. As the title of my blog might indicate, my main hobby is rowing. I belong to two rowing clubs in the northern Virginia area. I've been rowing since 1995. I got into rowing via my oldest daughter, who was a coxswain on her high school and college teams and now coaches for one of the rowing clubs I belong to. I row in 8+s and 4+s primarily when racing in Masters events and I also row a single for fun and exercise. When not rowing, I also like to bike and I have been know to brew my own beer from time to time.

Others you will run into here:

Ann - Wife of 34 years who puts up with me.

Daughter#1 - Our oldest child and who is currently living with us. She is working for a University Medical Hospital in Washington, DC while pursuing a Masters degree from Boston University online. She graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism, which to date hasn't quite produced a paying job, hence the work on the Masters degree. Her husband Matt is still residing in CT and trying to get a job down this way. He visits as often as he can.

The Twins:
The Son - Twenty something IT Geek. Graduate of Radford University. Only one still living close to home. Video gamer obsessed.

Daughter#2 - Twenty something VA Tech grad living out in the Shenandoah valley with her husband also named Matt and their dog Gracie, known as the Black Demon. She is an environmental planner and current University of Florida grad student. Former soccer player extraordinarie.

Rosie - Our 16 year old mini schnauzer mix. Obtained through a schnauzer rescue organization when she was 9. Bottomless pit when it comes to eating.

Scruffy - Wheaton terrier. A rescue from the Homeless Animal Rescue Team (HART). A truly lay back dog in a house of chaos.

Amy and Emily - Affectionally referred to as "The Twins". 2 year old Miniature Schnauzers. Sources of endless energy. As mischievous a pair of dogs you will ever meet. Rescued from a West Virginia shelter in the middle of last year's record snowfalls.

If you're reading this, I hope you take the opportunity to come back over the next month and see what this crew is up to.