Saturday, January 30, 2010

Time To Visit

We're down in new Jersey this weekend for a chance to visit with Karen's family. Today we went off to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to take the kids skating. The rink is right next to the site of the long-abandoned Bethlehem Steel. The rink was very nice, the kids had fun skating, and the derelict buildings were, well, at once fascinating and sad.

The plant was put on a historical preservation list a few years ago, after more than a decade of neglect. The neglect shows. What's strange, though, is that in the middle of all of this deterioration, a new Sands casino has been build in part of the old steel plant. Perhaps this will stimulate an effort to preserve the site, if it is not already too far gone.

I wish I had more time to just explore places like Bethlehem. Karen and I were dying to stop and photograph the old plant, the row houses, and even the new casino, but had time only to catch fleeting glimpses as we drove back to New Jersey.

We'd love to have more time to travel. Not only to far-off places (would love to return to Scotland and Hawaii, for example), but to interesting places closer to home. Pennsylvania. Nova Scotia. Toronto. Even northern New Hampshire and Maine.

Something worth making some positive life changes for.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Something New, If It Works

I've created a forum using Google Groups, which I hope might end up being a place where our family and friends can connect with one another. You will have to ask to join, and you need to have a GMail account to participate (not hard to sign up for and 100% free). If you think it's a good idea, send me an email. Don't have my email address? Well, it's my first name at There, I've given it to you without giving it to the spambots.

I'm going to give you another way to contact any of us soon, using a form here on the Web site. And once we have a few members for the forum (if anyone's interested), I'll put a link to it on our front page as well.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Not What I Had In Mind

I was all pumped. A day alone with my wife, a rare and delightful treat. I expected snow, as forecast, but not so much that school would get called off. The phone range at 5:30 in the morning, announcing a two-hour delay. Not surprising. Then I looked at the window.

Sure enough, the phone rang again an hour later, and school was cancelled. To top it off, Thomas called in late because of the snow, and Home Depot decided to call someone in his place and give him hours on another day. So instead of an empty nest for a day, we had a full house.

The day was not without its highlights, two being the delightful cookie/brownie combination that Karen whipped up and a trip to a local cabinet maker to have the initial cuts done on the Cub Scouts' Pinewood Derby Cars. But those came at the expense of a lot of shoveling (and a backache to go with it) and a lost opportunity for some premium time with Karen. Out next opportunity to have the house to ourselves comes February 20th. If it doesn't snow.

And even these chances to spend time alone are an anomaly caused by the need to shorten the school schedule to accommodate construction at the high school. Next year it will be the same thing as always: when I'm off, the kids are off. And Karen's schedule is anyone's guess.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Home Alone!

The kids had to go to school today, for reasons that can't be explained without putting everyone to sleep, but the short explanation is that it was a make-up for a snow day. Karen had to work. Thomas had to work. I didn't have to work! So after seeing the boys to the bus this morning, I had the whole day (save for a quick trip to the mailbox and library) at home by myself, something that rarely happens.

I watched movies without worrying about whether anyone else wanted to watch them. played around on the computer, played a few video games, and found the time to make a nice dinner, all without being interrupted by the sound of fighting children.

At least until they arrived home on the bus.

I had planned to have Monday at home with Karen. The boys also don't have Martin Luther King day off this year (another long story involving construction at the high school) and Karen does (just because of her usual rotation). The problem may be weather, which would trigger another snow day, spoil my day with Karen, and send the boys to school on yet another Saturday (this time just before the Winter break; at least they get that this year).

So I'm hoping that the predicted storm is either headed someplace else, or mild enough or timed properly to allow the boys to go to school as scheduled. Karen and I have not had a day alone in a very long time.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Let There Be Heat

We finally have our propane heat installed. I can feel the difference already! You can see the Monitor heater behind Karen in this picture. We still need to do some work in the basement so we can install a propane heater down there. That will not only help with the cost of heating the basement, but it will make the floor upstairs feel warmer.

Cub Scouts tonight and skating tomorrow, which leaves me scrambling for time on the way home because Karen's schedule doesn't let her get home in time to join us.

On the other hand, I get a rare opportunity to be alone in the house on Saturday and alone with Karen on Monday because of an odd school schedule designed to accommodate construction this summer at the high school. The kids have to make up a snow day on Saturday, and they don't get MLK Day, but I do (and Karen just happens to have that day off).

I need to enjoy it while I can, because it's not going to happen next year.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Daniel's Party, Finally

It took us awhile to arrange Daniel's annual trek to Chuck E. Cheese's to have his birthday party with his friends, but we finally managed it yesterday. At first we didn't think we'd get in because the place was so crowded, but we made it even with more than ten children. The kids all had a good time, and the adults managed to squeeze in a little time for talk. The party lasted almost three hours, and the four of us were there for more than four hours.

Before the party, we went to see Disney's re-rentry into traditional animation, The Frog Princess. We all enjoyed it, and although Karen and I, in our usual shop-talk, could find things to fault, we felt it was a good start. We hope to see much more traditional animation coming out of the studio in the future. Maybe Karen would even be able to get back into the industry.

Notice the picture above. I'm trying to take advantage of a new feature in the land of Google that automatically makes pictures I post to Blogger blogs available in PicasaWeb albums. That will add to the number of pictures I make available to you, though it means we have to take even more pictures, which you may have noticed I have been a bit behind on of late. But I keep trying.

Another feature coming soon to the site is a page for sending any one of us email without my publishing our emails addresses on the site, which is a sure way to collect unsolicited emails from automatic address collection programs. Somehow I don't want my two young boys getting sent emails advertising Viagra, or products of even less interest to grade-school boys.

I'm also thinking of setting up a forum using Google Groups that would be by invitation only as a way for friends and family to communicate online. Almost like a Facebook for just our little group.

Right now I have some chores to do. It's trash day (we have no pick up and I have to take the trash to the dump), and I'm trying to get one of our computers connected to the Internet and a hard-wired phone to the upstairs studio.

So I'd better get to work!

Monday, January 04, 2010

We'll All Be A'Shovelin'

Shoveling snow has got to be one of the most aggravating things about living in New England. It's not the physical act of moving snow from one place to another--it's not difficult and it's good exercise--but the sense of futility. Not only will you have to start over again with the very next storm, but once the season is well underway to have to be thinking about the storms to come three or four months in advance.

It's all about storage. From our little 900 square feet or so of active parking space, we have to toss the snow far enough to either side so that we don't end up with a tall pile that keeps falling back in, leaving the space too narrow for the three cars that have to share it. If that happens we end up having to move big piles of snow, which have by then become wetter and harder, to the edges of the property. It pays to think ahead.

Yesterday's snow was even more aggravating because after a couple of hours cleaning up the yard in the morning, a second wave of storm clouds dropped another four or five inches, and we at least had to go back out to shovel a couple of paths.

But I don't have so much to complain about; the North Country (the part of New Hampshire north of the White Mountains) got as much as two feet of snow from this last storm. I have no ideas where I would put all that snow. I hope I don't find out later in the year.

Friday, January 01, 2010

January Blues

January is not usually a good month for me. Some have been downright disastrous (both the Northridge quake and my father-in-law's death occurred in January), but most are just annoying. This one is starting out with a virus of some sort that yesterday morning went right for my throat and chest. Not enough to keep me away from work (especially because I do not get sick pay), and I muddle through for a trip with Karen and the boys to the First Night festivities in Wolfeboro (which was worth the effort), but by the time I got home last night I was exhausted. I went to bed a little after 10:00 and woke up a little before 10:00 this morning.

I'll take it easy today to help me recover, but I can't play at that game for too long. This is going to be a busy year. I've been reviewing my list of goals for 2010, and they're ambitious. I have a house to finish (and not just finish, but help make into a home), at least one play (and I'm hoping for four, because the entire Village Players line-up is just too good to resist), a landmark birthday celebration to plan for my lovely wife, and a family vacation back to California.

And I would like to get myself back on a real career track. When I connect with so many old workmates on Facebook and remember the kinds of things I used to do for a living, it pains me to think about where I've ended up. We've had some difficult years since we arrived in the Granite State, but we've come through with our family intact, and it's time to turn things around. Onward and upward!

But first I think I need to have a little nap (cough, cough).