Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Family Time (minus 1) - September in the NC hills

Back in the spring we had an idea to plan a family gathering. We knew it was going to be risky. Four adult offspring in different states with jobs and responsibilities can be hard to wrangle. We picked a time that J was still in country, before N headed out to California, that R would probably be between projects, and K could take time off.  It almost worked.

Unfortunately, the time right before N went to California ended up being the time he was in quarantine before travel.  Thankfully, we also decided to have him visit us in VA the weekend prior to his quarantine period, but the time in the mountains just would not pan out.  We tried, we really did. Because even though N is full-vaccinated and he might have been able to make a quick couple days with late night flights and hopes that no one would be looking for him while he was gone, it wasn't worth the risk to his military career.  Understandably so.  

Instead, we spent one of our evenings with N over facetime, propped up on a floor lamp facing the TV and group JackBox on the screen.  It wasn't perfect, but hopefully it broke up his quarantine boredom and it helped a fill the Marine shaped gap in our trip a tiny tiny bit. We had to accept that missing him was just going to be part of the trip.

The rest of the week was very loose.  Everyone arrived when they were able.  They brought significant others if they could. The house had plenty of rooms for everyone to have space to get away from the others. A movie room, a pool/game room, a firepit, a yard, a nearby trailhead, cubbies and hide-a-ways. Coffee was had on the deck in the morning, smores were had by the fire at night. Scrabble, Code Names, poker, Settlers of Catan were open to everyone and anyone could play or not.  The only thing I asked was that everyone participate in making meals.  Bec and Max made vegetarian tacos, K and Erich did vegetarian and meat lasagnas, Jonathon created fancy ramen bowls, Ian and I did omelets. And of course there was a night of leftovers.  

But really, the week was meant for everyone to just destress.  Nothing, even if there was some unintentional stress, was meant to be stressful.  Mornings were lazy. We planned only 2 days of something outside the house - one day to go to Boone and complete an escape room, and another to go to the Banner Elk metropolis for an easy brunch. A quick note on the escape room - we do not recommend it. The room was OK, but the owner/game master was of the mindset that only he was the clever one and any team that escaped was not to be commended for their success. He was so dismissive before we even entered the room because we paid for two consecutive times and he was doubtful that we mortals could win in groups of 3 and 4, rather than all going in as a group of 7.  Trust me when I say that the room was linear and there was not nearly enough for 4 people to do, much less 7.  Anyway, the owner was not amused, and his form of "pride" seemed to come from stumping people and beating them, and not from folks having fun and escaping. ANYWAY...

The house was amazing. The getting there was harrowing for someone with a fear of heights, speed, tight turns, narrow roads, and darkness rolled into one. But the being there was awesome.  Becca brought the Mokka, who got to bark at the woodchucks in the yard, the deer along the street, the echoes of other dogs barking, and then basically just lay in the sun outside for hours between pleading starvation. Some of us went for a short hike at the nearby trailhead. Most of the time was spent talking and playing games. There was a lot of pool. We just hung out, and hanging out with your grown "kids" is a lovely thing.  I don't care how different we all are - and boy are we different - they are each and every one fascinating and fun people.  They are fun to talk to.  

They also have vastly different paths and plans, their memories are different, they see their world through different past experiences, hurts, and joys. Having the time to talk to them one on one and in groups, and more than that, knowing they are talking to each other without a parent around, really touches me.  Our family is close in some ways and not close at all in other ways - and *newsflash* I'm and only child and I just Do Not Understand siblings. Siblings confuse me. I don't get how they are so different, nor do I understand how deep past hurts and misconceptions run and how those same things shape them.  I understand that those things DO shape them, but I don't understand WHY they run so deep and more than that, are so long-lasting. I haven't experienced it, so I can never truly understand how my children feel towards each other and how they have formed each other. 

I had a dog as a kid.

I'll add one more note that every time there are discussions with the childrens, I learn something.  Mixed in with their hopes and trials is usually something about how I've failed them. That's OK, I have, I own that. As a parent you can't not fail your kids. Some of those failures were biggies with long-lasting repercussions. They are mistakes I cannot fix. It's a reality, it hurts, and their disappointment, frustration, anger, and struggle, hurt too. I love my kids especially for being able to tell me when and where I've screwed up. Do I get defensive? Yeah, sometimes that's a knee-jerk response that pops out, but I'm trying really hard to take what they tell me and study it. I made mistakes and a lot of times I didn't notice, and you can't get better if you don't even know you did it, so I thank my kids for showing me where I went wrong in parenting them - because what I did I did out of some sense of it being the right thing and as they've taught me, often it hurt and I didn't even know. I can't go back, but when they tell me what's weighing on them we can all go forward.

My kids are awesome.  They are who they are, and I'm thankful they are my family.

Saturday, June 26, 2021


I will confess that we watch a lot of TV.  Pandemic, heat, everything can be delivered - even though things are opening up and our whole family is vaccinated, we're very aware that we live by a packed shopping mall (that we walk through to get to the metro) and take an ever busier metro system (where masks are required), work in offices with some folks who still aren't vaccinated, and COVID variants are coming stronger and faster than we're prepared for... so, staying home is still where it's at.  Ian has a new personal project, I have a couple books I'm working on as well as a few projects, Jonathon does his thing, and we all enjoy the view of the outdoors from the comfort of home - I guess it's a lot like reverse winter, huh. Oh right, and we had a cicada season that no one really wanted to be out and about it.  They are quite the fliers, it surprised me that we had them on our balcony 11 floors up.  But now they are gone. Seeya BroodX in another 17 years.

So, TV.

I tried "The Sopranos," I really did, because Ian though I'd like it if I gave it a few episodes.  I gave it a whole season and after just about every episode I reiterated just how much I didn't care about a single character. I watched, I asked questions, but I just. didn't. care. Sorry, Tony. I'm pretty sure I'll never watching "Breaking Bad" for the same reason.

On the other hand, he encouraged me to watch "Deadwood" and I'm hooked.  What a great show to sink into with its scene setting, acting, and stories. The characters are wonderful and several are based on real folks which makes it that much more intriguing.

Jonathon suggested we try "Twin Peaks."  Neither Ian nor I watched it when it was first on in 1990, and... wow, it's weird. Just plain weird.  From the bird in the intro (a varied thrush, we looked it up) to the limited and odd music themes, to the odd cadences of speech, it's just all weird. Thankfully we've finished the first 8 episode season and have now plowed into the second 22 episode season. That's it though, so the weirdness won't last too long.

We've restarted the new "Battlestar Galactica" - always great.  It still holds for acting, storyline and effects.

And our weekly fun, "Loki," now that we've seen "WandaVision" and "Falcon and Winter Soldier."

Which brings me to the MCU... we've tasked ourselves with watching the MCU movies in timeline order from Captain Marvel to Spiderman Far From Home. One movie on Saturdays and one on Sundays, so.... a lot of weeks, and it was a lot of fun.

There you go. Pretty much caught up. 

Stay inside, wear a mask, be safe.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

We bought a house in May

It's not a stunner, but as we told Rebecca (who we co-bought the house with since she'll be living in while in Georgia), the outside is a blank slate for upgrades.

I'd put a photo up, but folks can reverse search images so I'd rather not post the address for those who do such things :)

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Last month was our 25th milestone

I'd already written a third of this and then magically deleted it, so that was fun.

All to say that in May we celebrated our 25th anniversary, and it was awesome.

Originally our plans had been to do an all-inclusive in Cancun, but as the time drew near (we'd scheduled back in November) we realized this pandemic was still going strong and leaving the country wasn't a great idea. So after more thought we settled on an area we'd seen on TV for the Outdoor Classic (ice hockey).... Lake Tahoe. Booking our flights there routed us through Atlanta, so we were able to visit with Becca both ways for a bit too.

All during this pandemic we've been up to Maryland a few times to see K, been to NC a couple times to see N, and seen R a couple times in Georgia. No luck getting to the UK to see J, and he didn't make it home even for Christmas, worried about the quarantining both ways or possible last minute country closures. He is scheduled to come home for the summer tomorrow... cross your fingers it all goes well. First on the scheduled... vaccinations.  Ian and I were both vaccinated back in January, but still mask up when we go indoors with crowds (we live next to a mall) because of these highly contagious variants making their way over.  But vaccines still matter, so he's going ASAP.

So we made it to (south) Lake Tahoe on a Saturday, for a week of relaxation. Our anniversary fell in the time between the closure of winter activities and the opening of summer activities - no people! Several things were closed or limited hours, but that's right up our alley anyway. 

Tahoe is not a secret, but it was completely new to us who usually hit the beach for our vacations. On Sunday we checked out the little town that's split by Stateline Road between Nevada casinos and hotels on one side, and a California ski village with shops and restaurants on the other. Monday we drove around the entire lake, with stops at the 1960 Olympic Games village in Squaw Valley (currently undergoing a name change for obvious reasons... which meant that there were no souvenirs to be had that didn't have SQUAW all over them), and then the Donner Memorial Park in Truckee.

Sad remaining snow.

These cones are massive.

Not many countries in the 1960 winter Olympics

When the Donner's were traveling, the snow was THIS high.


On Tuesday, our anniversary, we decided that the weather would allow us to take on what so many people go to the Tahoe and the Sierra's for... hiking.  So we're not real hikers, obviously, but the Eagle Falls hike was nearby and super easy. So easy in fact that we decided to go ahead and take our time up to Eagle Lake, into the Desolation Wilderness.

Desolation Wilderness is beyond the normal bounds of the park authorities, and usually requires registering with the park rangers before entering.  Eagle Lake is a natural and easy destination, but the trails continue on for miles beyond to more lakes and higher peaks and if you don't know what you're doing (like us) you don't go there.  But Eagle Lake had an obvious, if slightly more challenging than Eagle Falls, path and we didn't have anywhere else to be, so off we went. Huffing and puffing and taking breaks, the only person who got hurt was me (on level ground, I might add, and here we are weeks later and my ankle is still a little off), and it was a delightful time.

On the way up...

"Flat" ground

The Lake was lovely and a great place to take a snack break.

We were wiped and ready to get some lunch and return to the hotel. The afternoon was lazy with some time in the outdoor hot tub to proactively treat the sore muscles to come - and it worked.  We weren't sore the next day when we took on a couple escape rooms, played in a casino hotel arcade, and attended a live performance magic show. If you're in Lake Tahoe, check out Puzzle Room for some escapes that are fun and affordable.

Thursday we completed a third escape room before going to an early dinner at Sage Restaurant in one of the hotels. This was our official anniversary dinner and we'd wanted a view of the sunset over the lake. For a number of reasons, it wasn't a perfect dinner, and that included the lack of a sunset due to a snowstorm blowing in over the lake. 

Over the course of the week we had every season and it was kind of delightful to also have snow, even the next day when signs popped up on on our drive out of Tahoe that said the road was treacherous and cars should be equipped appropriately. We did make it over the ridge and the downward stretch towards Reno was completely dry and deserty. Since our flight was early Saturday morning we'd decided to overnight in Reno across the street from the airport, but with time on our hands we checked out one of the local casino hotels and did... yes, one more escape room at the GSR.

Throughout the week we'd grocery shopped for some snacks to keep in our suite, we are not against spending time together indoors watching movies, reading, snacking, and enjoying the fireplaces while on vacation. We did go to a few restaurants. Base Camp Pizza (get the Thai chicken) was good with nice outdoor seating, Kilani's was excellent for the food if not the decor, Sage was fine but for the price it should have been better, Creative Crepes were good (though do plan to give them time as they only have 2 crepe pans and each is made fresh), and a couple times at Joe's Sports Bar to watch the Capitals lose in the playoffs.

It was a fantastic time for both of us, and we're reminded once again how much we enjoy traveling and especially traveling together.

Happy Anniversary, love. Let's do something fun again next year. Or in June.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

OK. So what do we do when we're now in double "lockdown"?

Pandemic and... post-insurgency military presence? *sigh* 

We watch TV. A lot of TV. Eventually there will be no TV left to watch.

"Heaven's Gate: The Cult of Cults" - We both assumed this would be a crazy, over-the-top documentary, even knowing the ending before it started, but it was so much not that. It made us both sad.

"Murder on Middle Beach" - A documentary made by a former SCAD student about the murder of his mother. It's a story we hadn't heard and while we'd hoped for a better resolution, the story is compelling.

"Lovecraft Country" - filled with mystery, monsters, and science fiction, and set in segregated 1950s USA, this one really entertained.  We recommend it (yes, there's sex and violence and some language) for being so different and well-told.

"Mr. Robot" - a great series that hadn't been spoiled for us so we didn't see the ending coming. It's a mind-bender and a lot of fun to watch in a sort of "alternate now."

"The Masked Singer" - what's not to love?

"The Masked Dancer" - I was curious, Ian indulged me.

Yes, more 90-Day Fiance.  Does it get old? Yes, yes it does, but it's also mindless and we do other things while it makes noise in the background.

But guess what, hockey is back and with the funky scheduling there is So Much Hockey to watch! Yay!

Pandemic related stuff:

Food: We've started a Blue Apron subscription for 3 meals a week. The program supplies all the ingredients and the recipes, and it's so nice to avoid the "what's for dinner?" especially on work nights. We've really enjoyed it and are slowly learning some cooking techniques as well. Some of the recipes have been amazing.  I'd say 2 or 3 have kind of missed the mark.  We make our meal choices several weeks before they are delivered and it's been a great adventure in new foods and flavors. It's also great to keep us out of the grocery store, so now we're investigating whether grocery delivery make sense for us.

Fogging: Our glasses fog when we're masked, like everyone else. We tried NerdWax and found that it just doesn't cut it. First off, it has to be applied every day. Just be aware. Then, it doesn’t prevent your glasses from fogging, it just fogs.... differently. Normal fogging is opaque, still happens over time. But if you’re only walking into the store, this can work for you because the first minute or two, it really seems to work - the glasses fog some and then immediately unfog with each breath, which is nice. But after a few minutes, the moisture gathers not so much as fog but as a watery film that is just as hard to see through as fogging. Everything goes wobbly, like if you open your eyes while swimming underwater. Wipe it off a couple times, and eventually, you’ve wiped off the NerdWax.

Vaccine: Due to weird situations with the deployment of the vaccine, somehow the State Department received a number of vials and those who wanted were able to get it beginning Dec 29. I had my first on Dec 29 and Ian on Dec 30. Ian had minimal reaction, I had a pretty sore arm for 24 hours. I had my second shot on Jan 15 and was pretty uncomfortable for 24 hours with a sore arm, headache, fever/chills, upset stomach. Ian's second isn't scheduled for a bit yet.

Game: We've done a boxed escape room game (Exit) and a boxed mystery game (HuntAKiller). A few tips - If you play the Exit game, photocopy all the pages prior to playing the game.  The reason? It's one-time use, and it felt SO wasteful after a 1-hour game to just throw it all away. After completion, I looked through to see if there was a way to kind of rebuild it, but no. So - make copies of all the pages in color. and sort of rebuild the book (the one we did was only about 8 pages) before you play.  Having said all that, the game was fine.  The puzzles were similar to basic escape room puzzles and there wasn't really a story.  For HuntAKiller we chose a "premium" all-in-one box (rather than a current monthly subscription or an older subscription that's boxed) and truth be told, it was just OK. The biggest issue we had was there was no real starting place, we didn't know who we were in this game world.  While there is a bag of stuff to filter through and some on-line clips to watch (for us, they were about the town we had just moved in to), that was it. And at the end when we'd figured out the puzzles and made a guess, there wasn't a way to figure out if we were right without being told the final answer. Unlike an escape room where if the key doesn't fit you try something else, in this if you guessed the key the only way to know if you were right was if the answer was handed to you.  We didn't care for that.  Thankfully we were right, but still, ya know?

That's what's up with us.  How about you?

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Monday, January 4, 2021

2021 arrived.

Hello 2021

2012: GO


2014: CHANGE



2020: PACE


If I'd known what 2020 was going to be like, Breathe would have been last year.  But now that we've been holding our breath for nearly a full year, it's a good reminder that that is, well... unsustainable. We're all turning a little blue.

So - Breathe. Yeah. Good word.

Now that's out of the way.

Here are some ideas for how to start this year off, some thoughts on how to make the next few months, or even year, a little better right off:

Learn your blood type

Make your To Read list for the year.

Clean out your Inbox and your saved items folders.

Buy/Make a new face mask. (You deserve it.)

Clean out your medicine boxes.
Store your expired meds, unsafe for flushing, for the next drug takeback day.

Dump out your ice cubes.

Buy a succulent.

Hand wash your sweaters.

Replace lightbulbs that are burned out, or ones that aren't. Maybe use these.

Clean out the tray under your toaster.

Run your coffee pod machine with a cleaning cycle.

Snip the vacuum brush roller clean, and wash the vacuum filters.

Launder your kitchen and bathroom mats.

Vacuum under your couch.

Turn/flip your mattress.

I realize that it's been a while. You understand. What with the election and the pandemic, my sleep was disturbed and trying to read didn't transport me away like TV and movies and Animal Crossing did. Now with brighter skies ahead, there's definitely a glimmer of calm seeping in to my brain and reading is back on the menu. I'll finish A Promised Land.

The holidays were special this year. My youngest was in the UK by choice, even if it was a forced choice by restrictions, lockdowns, and quarantines, and called in by Messenger. My Marine was given 48 hours leave. My Marvel kid drove to Jax, NC to pick up the Marine and then made their way here. She stayed with us the longest and her best friend joined the day after Christmas for a few days. Our oldest came down for the holiday afternoon with her SO. My parents called in over Messenger. It was as right as it could be with games, gifts, laughter, annoyances, food, and more togetherness than we've had in a long while.

So here we are.

2021. May it never say "hold my beer."