Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Low-Key Christmas

Our big Christmas celebration was actually on Christmas Eve, and early on Christmas Eve because I had to work from three until ten last night. Just part of the job.

We're open 365 days a year, 15 hours a day, and someone needs to be there for our guests, so the desk crew works out who needs which days off so we can cover for each other. It was a bit trickier this year because one of my co-workers is recovering from hip surgery and the manager, who often covers morning hours, is on a well-deserved vacation. But we made it happen.

So for Christmas Eve, Thomas and Erin came over with their roommate Tammy and her Boyfriend Paul. There was a brunch buffet and a Yankee gift swap, and lots of time to talk and visit, even if I did have to leave early.

But for the actual day of Christmas, we took it easy. Thomas and Erin were visiting Erin's parents. Most of the gifts at our house weren't even wrapped, breakfast was done in stages and kept simple. There was a lot of TV watching, some video game playing, and some fun playing around with gifts, like a great little lens that Karen got for my phone camera which takes wide-angle pictures, and Karen's new tablet, which we're going to use to watch movies on the bus.

Daniel got money toward a game console he really wants, and William got art supplies. As I said, pretty laid back.

And we're kind of stretching out the family celebration, with a trip to Tom and Erin's apartment planned for tomorrow.

Of course, there was one very, very exciting even on this Christmas day: Tom and Erin officially announced their engagement. We're brimming over with delight to hear that.

Monday, September 03, 2018

A Bus!

We're on pins and needles a little this weekend. Karen went southwest, nearly to the Vermont border, and bought a bus. I still can't believe I'm writing that. Not the sort of thing I usually write. But there it is, Karen bought a bus.

The bus is still near the Vermont border, because the dealer couldn't put temporary plates on it, for reasons too complicated to go into here, and we couldn't get to the DMV, it being the weekend, when the DMV offices are closed. So the dealer agreed to deliver it to a local mechanic using his dealer plates.

That was supposed to happen yesterday or today. The dealer called and left a message saying there was a snag. Probably something else related to the holiday weekend, but it's still left us a bit nervous. We'll feel better when the bus is at the shop, only about ten minutes from our house, getting its inspection and, with luck, an inspection sticker.

The bus is not like the ones we've been looking at. For one thing, it is not now nor has it ever been a public school bus. This has a big advantage because it means there are a lot of things that we'd have to worry about taking off the bus that, well, were never there on this one. Things like the flashing lights and the stop sign on a swing arm. Not to mention the yellow paint, because the bus is white.

And, being white, the perfect canvas for whatever creative painting Karen wants to do on it. The bus, apparently, belonged to a private academy in Vermont and was mostly used to take the students skiing. It has the right kind of tires for the task, and racks inside for the ski equipment. We're taking those out, but the need to have room to stow equipment also means this bus has fewer seats to remove.

And the seats that are staying are, according to Karen (for I have not sat in, or in fact been anywhere near, the bus yet) quite comfortable. All that's missing is shoulder belts, but I think we can manage to add those without too much trouble.

This is an exciting step for us. The bus is not only intended as our new camper, a substitute for the unwieldy and cramped trailer we've been using for a few years; it's also meant to serve as a long-term traveling home during our upcoming retirement.

Karen was very anxious to get a bus, and there were a lot of false starts. But looking at what we got (the pictures at any rate) I'm very happy that she waited. I think she got a good one.

When it finally arrives.

Friday, August 10, 2018


Well, we have another licensed driver in the family. That's right, William passed his road test and is now the proud holder of a New Hampshire driver's license. Yesterday he drove himself to and from work for the first time. Well, at least the first time by himself.

William and I spent more than 30 hours on the road together before he got his license, practicing on a lot of different roads and under a lot of different conditions, including the 10 hours of required night driving. He did well. There were mistakes, of course, but I felt safe with him, and because of that, I feel better about him being on the road on his own. Not perfect, of course, because I'm his father and I worry about him, but better.

William on wheels will clear up a lot of conflicts in our crazy work schedules, and keep William from having to worry about walking to a from work in the pouring rain or the blazing heat, two things we'd had more than our usual share of this summer. It's not a long walk to work, but it's up and down a steep hill, so the car will definitely make him happier.

When Winter comes, William and I will go back out together to get him some snow driving experience, and I'll feel better once again because William has a Subaru Forester, and I already know that they are good in the snow, once I make sure that he is.

My boys are growing up, and while that's a little scary and makes me feel a bit old (not that I didn't already because, well, I'm old), it's good to see them getting ready for adulthood. William will get there officially in just a couple of months.

And then it's one to go.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Thirty Years

Yesterday marked thirty years since a certain incredible and beautiful lady said "I do" to me, and has, much to my perpetual amazement, stayed with me all that time. The actual day was a quiet one. Karen had to work, and we ate at home, so the only indication that anything was different was a pot of violets on the table and a card. A couple of days before, though, was a different story.

On Saturday we had a party at the resort where I work, in the area known as "The Barn" because, well, it used to be a barn, a couple of hundred years ago when the property was still a farm. We had food and drink for lots of guests. Didn't have that many guests, it turned out, but the quantity mattered far less than the quality, and we had a very good time.

Among our rarest of guests were our friend Sue and Brad, who drove up from Virginia to spend time with us, and our niece Katherine and her fiance Mike, who are now living in northern Massachusetts. Erin's parents and her sister also came for a while. We had a lot of opportunity to talk to everyone and it made for an unforgettable evening.

I sang two special sets of songs for Karen, using them to tell the story of how we met and how my singing made her notice me. Three of the songs I sang were specifically written for her. Karen loved the songs and the stories, and that meant the world to me.

But, as I said, a lot of people couldn't make it, most because of other obligations including work, some unfortunately because of issues of either personal or family health, and others because of distance. So we had a ton of leftovers, and that's why Karen and I ate at home on Monday, because we're trying not to waste food.

We will go out to celebrate, likely next week.

Meanwhile, having let a lot of things slide while preparing for the party, we're getting back to what passes for normal in our household. I'm scrambling to get William his driving hours so that he can take his license exam. As of this writing, he needs less than 14 hours but (and here's the catch) eight of them need to be after dark. He works evenings. Often I work evenings. Often Karen works evenings. It complicates things.

But that's life at the Brooks Bunch house. Complicated, with a lot of running around. But also with a lot of love and laughs.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Sad Good-Bye

Two years ago, our cat Sukkie nearly died from kidney disease. With some amazing help from our veterinarian and a lot of love and patience, we managed to keep her alive and reasonably happy, though annoyed at us for the frequent hydration treatments that took three of us to administer. But ultimately, her age and the disease were too much, and today we had to say good-bye.

Sukkie was doing fairly well until the winter, when she was finding it very difficult to stay warm, and being very picky about food. She lost a lot of weight, and the vet said that we might as well feed her whatever she wanted to eat, because keeping her happy was probably more important than controlling her diet.

That worked for her for a couple of months, and she got quite excited by her new diet of rotisserie chicken, roast beef, cottage cheese, turkey, and cream cheese, with some cat food thrown in.

But this month she took to hiding out on the rim of the bathroom sink, then on the counter next to the kitchen sink, and then in the kitchen sink. She wasn't nearly as interested in cuddling, and seemed to want to avoid a lot of stimulation. Yesterday, she vomited, and then just stopped eating. I think she was trying to tell us that she was ready to go.

The vet came to our house, and the four of us were present when she died. It was as peaceful as I would have expected from Sukkie, who fought through all of the two years of her disease. We all miss her very much.

This will be, for awhile, the first time our family has been without pets since 2003, when our dog Jenny got struck and killed by a car. It will take some getting used to, but it will probably be a bit longer this time before we take on another pet. We're glad to have given Sukkie a second chance, but it's been a long two years.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

New Look!

Okay, yes, I've been playing around again. Partly because I was getting bored with the old look, and partly because there have been a couple of things bothering me about it for awhile. I won't bore you with the details, but I hope this new version will be easier on the eyes, especially with the bigger pictures (which should still load just as fast).

I'm not done making changes (but then, I'm never done making changes), but they will come a little at a time, since both Karen and I are getting into our busy season as school comes to a close. I promise I will do my very best not to break the site as I continue working on it.

The first change coming up is to update the portraits, all of which are at least six months old, and thus remind me of winter, which is the last thing I want to think about right now. Even the snow thrower is completely covered up so that I don't need to be reminded.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

William on Wheels. Kind Of.

William has a car. It's a 2003 Subaru Forester, and it's actually a nicer car than either of his parents' cars. It even has a sunroof. William just needs one more thing to complete his summer transportation needs: a driver's license.

So why does a 17-year-old young man buy a car (for William did in fact buy this with his own money, earned in a job last summer) when he doesn't have a license? Well, it all comes down to size. Or, more precisely, length.

William is long. We haven't measured him lately, but he's at least 6'3" tall, and that makes it difficult for him to fit into the driver's seat of some cars. Including, unfortunately, my Honda Civic. Now, William is taking driver's education, in the classroom and behind the wheel. But in addition to the time he spends with his licensed instructor, William is required to spend 40 hours on the road with a licensed driver over the age of 25. That would be me.

While he doesn't fit in my car, he does fit comfortably in Karen's Forester. But Karen's Forester is at her work at a large number of very inconvenient hours, and so to get that required experience, William needed something else to drive.

We were going to go to an auction and try to find a midsize. But Karen talked to our mechanic, who also has sold us four cars previously, all of which were good deals, and he said that he had not had good luck at that particular auction. But he did have a good car on the lot that he would make us a deal on. And it was, indeed, a very good deal, and a really nice car with low mileage.

And so now William has a car but no license, to make it easier to get his license so that he can take advantage, finally, of having his own car. And so now, starting this coming week, I will be taking him out on the road as much as possible so that he can get his license soon after the school year ends and finally ease the terrible logistical problems that come from having three workers and only two cars in the family.

Until Danny gets a job. But I don't want to think about that now.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Old Mac is Back!

I finally got my new hard drive, installed it with the help of some very generous people on the Internet who've been down that path before, and got my software installed, all of which means that I can now edit video, record audio, and do my websites with my favorite familiar tools. That also means I can update the site more regularly.

I was able to get some pictures up using the Windows machine, but the pathway for getting pictures onto the computer, particularly from the family phones, is much less convenient, for me at least, than the system I had with the Mac. I've already got some pictures queued up, and I'm going to try to get the family, all of whom have phones with cameras now (hint, hint) to submit pictures to me on at least a weekly basis.

Spring is here, at least the New Hampshire version of it. There's still snow on the ground in patches, and we are expecting one or two small, slushy storms before the temperature really starts to rise, but we can feel it coming. And in this house, in the Spring, a young man's fancy turns lightly to thoughts of driver's ed. Much to the chagrin of the young man's parents.

William will definitely have a job this summer, and might have two, so it has become imperative that he learn to drive. He hasn't been champing at the bit. The one job last summer was cycling distance, and he has enough friends who drive that his social life has not been too restricted by the lack of a license.

On the other hand, William will be an adult come this October. Yikes. So it's about time.

Right now, though, it's about time for me to move on to other things, with the promise that there is more to report soon. But if I spend to long with this, those pictures I have in queue will not be transformed into pictures that are actually posted on the site.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Coming Back Soon

My poor Mac Mini is not going to be back to working order anytime soon. It needs a new hard drive, and I have to install it myself. It's very time-consuming, once I've even found the right hard drive, and I don't have a lot of spare time right now, so it's going to take awhile.

For now, I have moved the files for the website over to the old Windows machine I inherited from William (when he bought Tom's), and I'm gathering the tools I need to process and upload pictures from that operating system. I should be posting new pictures for the new month.

I'll try to do some catch-up, too. We haven't taken a lot of pictures during January. It's been cold and snowy, and not having the tools to process the pictures has made it kind of hard to remember to take them, but there are some, and I will post those for you to see.

Meanwhile, we are all just going along, already looking forward to Spring, working, going to school, staying reasonably healthy. See you on the site.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Frozen New Year

This isn't the first time since I moved to New Hampshire that we've had a period of bitter cold to deal with. Not even the first time since we moved into our current house. But I don't remember having one this early for this long.

The one water line in the basement that freezes, not hard enough to split the PEX water pipes, but enough to block the feed to the basement sink and the water line to our refrigerator, usually does so sometime in February. But we're keeping a little electric heater turned on in the basement sink base right now to thaw it out. For the second time this season.

So, yeah, it's cold. If we're lucky, about a week from now, the weather will break and we will look forward to temperatures in the 20s. Meaning daytime highs in the 20s. I know it doesn't sound like much, but it does make a difference.

I know that I have been neglecting the blog and the site for more than a month. There have been computer problems, schedule problems, and some family issues to deal with, including losing our beloved Ambush to kidney disease and having Karen take a tumble on the stairs from which she is still recovering.

It will be at least a week or so before I can start posting pictures on the site again regularly, but I will begin doing so as soon as I have alternate computer resources (or have repaired the ones I normally use for the task). I'll try to be better about blogging, too. I don't expect the schedule to be much better this year (Karen and I are still on conflicting and unpredictable schedules, and William will be back at work this summer, possibly doing two jobs), but I'm going to try to develop better writing habits all around.

As usual, I have my plans and goals for the year to come. I'm sure that most of them will not turn out as I plan, but working toward them will get me closer than if I'd had no goals at all. 2017 had its good moments and some really terrible ones, which only serve to make 2018 seem like a good fresh start. A blank page, to be sure, that thing dreaded by writers the world over. But a blank page still promises to be something worthwhile if you just keep your fingers on the keyboard.

That's what I'm hoping for this year, even when the keyboard is only a metaphor for my musical instruments, my cameras, and my recording gear. When 2019 rolls around, you will, I hope, have an inkling of how I did.

Meanwhile, I wish you all the best in this fresh new year, no matter the weather.