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I'm feeling a little like Lucy just yanked the football out from in front of me. The other half of the family gathering got stuck in New England, due to a combination of weather delays, missed connections, no available rebookings, and the logistical difficulties of widening the travel options. So it'll continue to be just the California half hanging out, watching football, playing card and board games, and indulging in food designed for a somewhat larger crowd. The original modified schedule (designate New Year's Eve as the official Holiday Dinner and New Year's Day as the gift exchange plus Open House) continues as planned. But it isn't the same as it would be with all of us here. I guess we'll add a ceremonial Packing of the UPS Box to the activities.

I think I may need to scare up a couple more dinner guests for the NYE roast beef.

On the up side, I still have 6 sewing days until 12th night and I'm well ahead of schedule. I'm doing two 16th century men's outfits comprising shirt, breeches, doublet, and coat. Of those, both shirts are done, both pairs of breeches are done except for lacing eyelets, one doublet is virtually done except for lacing eyelets and buttonholes/buttons, the other is cut out, one coat is completely done and the other is cut out. No time for slacking but I have no doubts of finishing it all.
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I've been corresponding in the last couple of days with a guy who maintains a historical website for the area that my great-great-grandfather Abiel (he of the voluminous Civil War diaries and correspondence) came from and who wants permission to include his writings, which I gave. But I reacted a little strongly to something he wrote in his letter and I though I'd share that snippet and my response to it.

him:

The items such as this diary are exactly the type material I have wished to share with others about our great ancestors. Mr. LaForge wrote with a simple grace that expresses the high values that our gritty ancestors possessed. Simple farmers, mostly, who lived for family, country and lastly self.

my response:

The funny thing is, a "simple farmer" is about the _last_ way I'd describe Abiel. The more I read through his writings, the more I appreciate what a complex, sophisticated, highly educated, funny, and contradictory person he was. A family man eventually, yes, but quite a "man about town" with the ladies (even after starting to court my g-g-grandmother) until he got married. While stationed near DC, excursions while on leave included avidly attending Italian operas and one of his letters home asks that they send his French dictionary (I believe he was reading some French novels). There's one vignette where he remarks "I have been reading Moors translation of Homers Odyssey, very interesting I find it. gave Lt Hepburn a lesson in french this evening. There has been a good deal of paper exchanging until the middle of the afternoon when the Rebs took the notion of firing which stoped it of course."

I love that the everyday detail in his letters demonstrates how very much he and the people he knew were just like us: complex human beings who loved and hated, who did good and ill, who were generous and selfish, who worked for the future and lived in the moment, who could be both kind and wise and in the next moment ignorant and bigoted. It does Abiel a disservice to try to frame him as some sort of plaster saint who "lived for family, country, and lastly self". And the great treasure he gives us is not a glimpse of some lost golden age of "high values" but rather his wonderfully articulate descriptions of the ordinary lives of ordinary people that demonstrate that "ordinary" should never be mistaken for boring or meaningless or trivial.
hrj: (Default)
In the context of showing off the tea set, it occurs to me to mention that I'm working on putting great-great-grandpa Abiel's diaries on-line. So far I've only got 1861-1863 up -- it's a bit tedious since I have to clean up the word processing files a bit as well as coding the links and doing a little indexing.

EDITED: Whoops, I forgot that this material isn't actually on-line yet. The html links in my original post pointed to internal files on my computer, which wasn't going to help anyone else in the slightest! I really do need to get back to this project.

EDITED AGAIN: Ack. No, the files are up, I just got confused while poking around in some of the related material on my computer. Sorry about that. So to reinstate my previous teaser: the foodies may enjoy this passage. Now I need to just leave this entry well enough alone!
hrj: (Default)
It is the ultimate judgement on how discombobulated this Christmas holiday has been. Normally, it is required that there be two (2) pecan pies. This ensures that everyone who wants some gets a piece. This year, we baked only one (1) pecan pie. It sat untouched until two days after Christmas. The final sliver was not consumed until last evening.

2009 still has one more opportunity to bite me: the de-icing delays at Newark (my transfer point) are currently 3 hours and climbing. And keep in mind that de-icing delays are experienced in the plane. This means that the deicing delays do not decrease the possibility that I will miss my (half-hour-window) connection entirely. Fortunately, they were able to double-book us onto the next flight out just in case. But at the moment I'm not betting on arriving in SFO this year. (Note: currently I'm posting from Portland, and Continental is still claiming that our Portland-Newark flight will be on time, so all of the delays are still potential at this point.)
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So far the stomach bug appears to have run through at least four members of the gathering. I may be the next to fall, although so far I just have discomfort and complete lack of appetite. But the evening is young yet. Since we have a couple more cousins in town for the east coast memorial service tomorrow, the epidemiological scope can only increase. (To say nothing of the entire membership of the Vassalboro Friends Meeting.)

I did go off to get in a couple hours of skiing this afternoon. The snow was a little grainy but they'd done significant trail grooming and it was quite enjoyable. There's rain scheduled for tomorrow and then snow the next two days, so I'm hoping for two or three more good sessions. Also on tap for the next several days is the movement of all the large furniture items out of my Dad's house, including the piano that my brother here is getting. The theory is to do this while we have lots of home-grown labor. By the time we get to it, hopefully the plague will have run its course.
hrj: (Default)
1. Massive doses of sleep seem to have mostly taken care of my cold. All that remains is general housecleaning on the various mucous membranes.

2. However, no jolly family get-together being complete without vomiting and emergency room visits, [livejournal.com profile] cryptocosm has embraced a stomach bug (or possibly food poisoning). No one else is yet affected except tangentially.

3. Other than a few drifting flakes yesterday afternoon, my promised snowfall is yet to appear. There's enough on the ground that I may take the skis over to Colby today anyway and see what the trails look like. I'd hate to have paid the extra luggage fee and then not use them.

4. Making significant progress on the first editorial pass through Part I of the novel. Mostly doing the naming thing and cleaning up a few details and transitions. The environment is too distracting for serious fresh composition.

5. Have made some initial stabs at the Xmas shopping problem, none of which involve running around to stores today.
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I have the best friends in the whole world. Just saying. They've helped me assemble a great refreshments spread for the memorial tomorrow. I have the photo-collage prepared. I have the music set up on my iPhone (and have acquired mini speakers to use with it that have quite adequate sound). I've delivered the text for the "memorial minute". The service runs itself, for all practical purposes. I still have no idea how many people are going to show up, but that was never in my control. All I have to do tomorrow is is an airport pick-up in the morning, pack the food and other paraphernalia (including passengers), get to the site in time to get the food organized before the service, figure out when the most appropriate time for the music is (I was originally thinking as people arrived, but now I'm thinking as background during the socializing afterwards). Pack up and deal with any leftovers. Deliver people back to my place. Do an airport drop-off Sunday morning. Then pack for Maine. At some point after that I may think about Christmas shopping. Or not. We'll see.

And that tickle in my throat better be the after-effects of presenting a training lecture this afternoon. Or else.
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I mentioned this briefly in passing in a previous post, but here's the actual pitch.

In the context of my mom's recent death, a lot of friends have said "Let me know if there's anything I can do." And since I keep reminding myself that I always like it when people take me up on offers of that sort ....**

I'm coordinating logistics for the west coast iteration of the memorial service (on Saturday Dec. 19) and one of the things I have to coordinate is refreshments for after the service. And it occurred to me that something concrete that my friends could do to support me in this is help out with food. This is definitely a case of "if it would be convenient and if it would make you happy to do it." What I'm thinking of is small appetizer-like finger foods. Bonus points for items that keep sufficiently well (in the fridge or otherwise) so that I can assemble them a day or so in advance rather than trying to coordinate day-of pickup or delivery.

(A couple of people have already volunteered and you're already on my list to get back to, but a reminder wouldn't go amiss either.)

And thank you again, everyone, for your support whether tangible or in-.

**Yeah, I get that weird dichotomy where on the one hand I think "Oh, no, I wouldn't want to put anyone to any trouble" and yet I know that I always feel much more loved and cherished by friends who ask me for things than by ones who never want to bother me.

Home Again

Dec. 2nd, 2009 01:53 am
hrj: (Default)
... and looking forward to some decompression time before it's back to the family whirl. I'll know in a few days whether I'm correct that my stress levels are way back down in the green zone again. It's really hard to tell when I'm not in my own native environment.
hrj: (Default)
I'm starting to long for some stretches of time unbroken by emergencies and sudden changes of plans. Between work and family, it feels like everything's been tilted off balance since ... hmm ... (checks old postings) mid-July when the big headless chicken dance started at work. December ... well, in December I will either have or be a houseguest for 20 out of 31 days. I'm sort of torn between figuring that being heavily scheduled will keep me moving through the tough parts and thinking that eventually I need some space to get my balance back. When I'm going to manage the xmas shopping escapes me entirely.

Tomorrow's tasks involve dealing with the leftover prescription medicines and contacting the local homeless shelter about whether they can use mom's clothes. Other than that, there's not much to do at the moment. In retrospect, changing my return flight from Monday to Tuesday was unnecessary, but who knew?

The Thanksgiving dinner leftovers have been whittled down to a few slices of turkey, a cup or two of mashed potatoes, half a pumpkin pie, and a stockpot simmering away at the turkey carcass. We haven't really cooked anything since then.

Thanks

Nov. 25th, 2009 09:18 am
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Thanks to everyone for your condolences and messages about my mother's death. I'll probably be posting some of my processing at a later date, probable f-locked at some level. In my usual way of organizing my life, I feel like I've done most of my grieving in advance of the event. The whole experience of hospice dying at home is ... interesting. More on that later as well.
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I got the call this afternoon saying "come now", so my original Thanksgiving travel plans have been changed to flying out tonight (instead of Wednesday) to Augusta ME (instead of BWI). Those of you who were expecting to see me at Darkovercon (or who might have been surprised to have seen me at Darkovercon, knowing what was going on) -- sorry to miss you. Next year for certain.

This totally validates my decision to pack my suitcase yesterday.
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1. The two local brothers showed up last night to stage for a flight out of SFO this morning, courtesy of HRJ's Park-and-Fly service. I set the alarm for 5:30 (assuming worst-case traffic and airport security). Somehow, in the process, I also managed to set the clock ahead two hours. I was up, dressed, had the car half packed, and pulled out the 'Phone to play solitaire while everyone else got ready when I noticed ... what the bleep? Why does my phone say it's 4am? (Quoth [livejournal.com profile] cryptocosm on his way to the bathroom, "I was wondering what you were doing up already.") I went back to bed in my clothes and managed to get most of another hour and a half of sleep. In retrospect, given that I had carefully planned to go to bed at 10am in anticipation of an early morning, I should have twigged to something when the clock read 12:30 as I turned out the light. And I thought I'd just gotten sucked into reading e-mail for too long.

2. Current news on the mom front is that they'll start making the arrangements tomorrow to move her home under hospice care. The mobility-unfriendliness of the house has become irrelevant. "Hospice care" still means we could be talking anywhere from days to months, depending.

3. I took the iMac to the local Apple genius bar for diagnosis and, alas, it seems the motherboard is toast. A bit more literally than the usual sense -- it seems to have overheated at some point and fried some of the capacitors. It's technically repairable, but the cost (instead of a couple hundred for new RAM) would be up in the same ballpark as a decent external monitor (see previous discussion of my analysis of my computing habits). So, with regret, I don't think I'll spring for repairing it. The Macworld expo will be soon enough to think about monitor shopping. The genius bar guy also pointed out that many components are still quite usable, e.g., I could stick the hard drive in a housing and use it as an external drive. If I can set it up with a usb connection, that would be nice, since my two current (non-Time Capsule) externals are firewire, which my Macbook doesn't support.

4. In view of #3, I would like to reiterate my love and wholehearted endorsement of Apple's Time Machine/Time Capsule automated continuous backup system. This is the first time I've had a major computer failure that involved absolutely no loss of data. (In fact, I've already gone ahead and moved all the iMac-based files onto the laptop.)

5. In view of #1, I am now about to go to sleep at 9pm. The last thing I need at the moment is to get sick because I ran myself into the ground.
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The last we saw our intrepid heroine, she had abruptly made plane reservations to fly East for a couple of days, and sent out various emails to cover necessary bases. Collegium classes went well on Saturday, although sparsely attended. At the potluck dinner afterwards, I made arrangements for my dirty platters to go home with someone else (rather than sit in my car at the airport) and around then my adrenaline charge started to wear off, leaving me dead tired. There was ... foo at the airport, which I'll leave to [livejournal.com profile] cryptocosm to tell, if he chooses. But we ended up on a plane, made it to Boston in the morning, picked up our rental car, and drove to Waterville with an hour to spare to make it to Randy's performance as Herr Schultz in Cabaret.

In the evening, we had an extensive family "path forward" discussion about my parents moving into something along the lines of an assisted living facility. I think they'd pretty much made the decision already, but we tossed around alternatives and did pros and cons.

Today is various errands and projects, then a birthday dinner for my Dad. Then in the morning [livejournal.com profile] cryptocosm and I drive back to Boston and fly home.
hrj: (Default)
Some time ago, I briefly toyed with the idea of popping out to Maine for a weekend to get a chance to see the middle brother performing musical theater (Cabaret) and celebrate my Dad's 80th birthday. But I'd just done a bunch of traveling, and the calendar was a little full. But then I got an email from my Dad this morning saying "[livejournal.com profile] cryptocosm is taking the red-eye out for my birthday party, would you like to come?". And after about 15 minutes of pondering the logistics, I decided, sure, why not?

Well, "why not" includes the question of how to e-mail my boss to ask/tell him I'm taking two days of unanticipated vacation. I have the vacation. I don't have any major deadlines pending. And if I'd simply gotten unexpectedly sick, everyone would cope and cover. But I still feel guilty. At least my boss is very understanding about family stuff.

I'm still very much in "Ack!" mode.
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Not only do I have all my travel arrangements made for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the brothers and I have succeeded in all being on the same flight to Maine for Christmas. Someone on the other end will be thankful for only needing to make one incoming airport pickup. (Although two outgoing ones.)
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The main event of the weekend was celebrating the 50th wedding anniversary of my mom's brother (and his wife, needless to say). They had come to my parents' 50th (the Maine iteration of the moveable party) but it's entirely possible that the last time I saw anyone else from that branch of the family was at my grandparents' 50th, back in '76. There are pictures behind the cut. )

There was a barbeque on Friday evening and then the formal afternoon dinner-party on Saturday. Given that pretty much none of the non-family guests had ever met my gang, the convenient default topic of conversation for both events was "who are you and what is your relationship to the guests of honor?" Although for some reason it only seemed to be at the BBQ that I spent the first half hour explaining repeatedly that no, I was not in fact married to any of the men I had arrived with.

There were a couple of amusing culture-shock moments for me. One was when, after I had explained that, no, I wasn't married to any of my brothers, and in fact wasn't married at all, my interlocutor said, "Oh, then you must have a career -- tell me about what you do." Because, of course, if I were married, I wouldn't have a career? The second was more of a repeated motif: chatting with people about families and where they live, and hearing over and over about multiple generations all living within the same local community. One person mentioned the offspring who had moved two hours' drive away who had then discovered that two hours was too far to expect people to come visiting and always had to drive "back home" to see anyone. There were all totally astounded that some of us had flown out from California just to attend the party.

My family was all staying at the Cortland Days Inn, about a quarter hour drive down the highway from the various party events ... and also the site of the New York Jets summer training camp. Of which we were reminded by signage every time we turned around. Non party time was filled with hanging out and playing games (the sacred rituals of my tribe). This morning, folks started peeling off to go home: [livejournal.com profile] cryptocosm took the youngest brother off to the Syracuse airport for a 6am flight, getting back just in time to wave goodbye to the Maine contingent driving off. Since my flight isn't until tomorrow morning (partly due to the schedule restrictions on my free airline ticket redemption -- I did this trip on my free ticket from volunteering to get bumped after Kalamazoo), [livejournal.com profile] cryptocosm and I did a little sight-seeing. The initial leg was to go to Ithaca to see if we could find the house our parents lived in right after they got married, when my dad was working at Cornell, and where they were when [livejournal.com profile] cryptocosm was born. It turns out the house is still there, and still renting rooms out to university folk (it being located literally across the street from campus). Picture behind cut. )

Then we wandered around campus for a while, taking in the cool neo-gothic architechture ...

You know the drill by now. More pix on facebook. )

And then did a loop up and around Lake Cayuga. (Still chuckling at the "two hours is too far to drive" concept.) It's all very lovely and green, and it would have been great to do some sailing on the lake. I can see the attraction in aspiring to own a lakefront house some place like this. And it's been lovely having an unprogrammed day to just relax.

More culture shock time: we ended up having dinner at a restaurant that was suffering from failed air conditioning. Prospective diners were turning around and leaving when told this. Me -- I just enjoyed being indoors somewhere I wasn't freezing to death. I can understand wanting to take the edge off the heat, but I can't understand spending all the energy necessary to take the temperature from "uncomfortably hot" all the way to "uncomfortably cold" rather than simply to "just right". Well, time to calculate when to set the alarm in the morning. My flight doesn't leave Syracuse until 10:30, but one must calculate backwards through security, driving, check-out, breakfast, packing, and getting up.
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Had a delightful grill time on the deck with the family today. Tried a pork roast on the rotisserie: The Hunk O Pork ) Take a boneless pork roast with some fat on the outside. Slice it so that you can open it into a large rectangle. Brine for a few hours in a mixture of equal parts salt, sugar, and wine vinegar in sufficient water to cover. Take sprigs of whatever fresh herbs you have available: oregano, marjoram, rosemary, bay, sage. Leave them on the stems and lay them on the opened roast so that the stem ends protrude slightly from the sides, then roll up the roast around them and tie firmly. Place on the spit and roast over a relatively high heat (with with the cover open) until a meat thermometer says it's done. (Took about 1.5 hours.) Take it off the spit and let rest for ca. 10 minutes, then pull the herbs out before slicing. (This is why you leave them on the stems and sticking out.) It had a nice delicate flavor and was very moist. We also had salad, corn on the cob, and grilled red peppers, portobello mushrooms, and asparagus.
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I just got off the phone with [livejournal.com profile] cryptocosm. The current evaluation is that his defibrillator is working properly and he didn't have an actual heart attack, so the path forward is to work from the theory that he needs his medications adjusted. He says they'll be keeping him for at least another 24 hours for observation once they've scared up some of the new drug they want to try him on. He also has some more local candidates for taking care of moving his car, so I'm working under the assumption that I won't be driving off to Sacramento after work today. I'll be checking in mid-afternoon to see if anything else has come up. At the moment, he's just massively bored but I can't do anything about that.

(By the way, for those who get confused by LJ handles, [livejournal.com profile] cryptocosm is my older brother -- you know, the actually genetically related sort.)
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Well, having individualized ringtones for my high-frequency callers does ensure that when the phone goes off at 6am: A) I know that it isn't a wrong number; and B) I have at least a couple seconds to guess at what it might be about. 6am calls from my parents' number automatically put me in mind of medical issues, although as it happens it wasn't their issues. [livejournal.com profile] cryptocosm is in the hospital, having been zapped several times in succession by his implanted defibrillator while at the grocery store (yesterday? last night?). No idea yet whether it's some adjustment needed in his prescriptions, the device malfunctioning, or a heart attack.

While it may have been pragmatic for me to be informed of this at 6am (which, to be fair, is when my alarm goes off and is the best bet for catching me without interfering activities), I suspect the hospital switchboard will consider it a little early for connecting me to a patient's room. So I'll wait until more 8-ish to see about that. There are details that may need to be seen to such as a car still sitting in a grocery parking lot. And who knows what else.

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