Livin La Vida Loca

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Whew! Hello Again “Strangers”! My apologies for being away from you all for such a long time. I have missed writing, blogging, and my photography intensely these last few months. Life took an insane turn for the busy is the best way I can put it. (Those of you who are friends on Facebook will know exactly what I’m talking about) But for those of you who are not, or who I’m not in direct communication with – here’s what’s up in my neck of the woods:

I have scarcely had time to breathe or relax since August. Several family members – including my mother – have been very ill with serious medical issues and/or issues with aging. It is now time for me to step up further, along with my sister and step-siblings, as we continue to adjust our assistance to help meet the needs of our parents. The initial period of adjustment has been, shall we say, “bumpy”? – as diagnoses are mentally processed by all, and plans are put in place. I’m not a friend of Bill W – but I do find myself saying the Serenity Prayer frequently; as I’m learning the difference between what I can and can’t change in a BIG hurry; and finding my balance in the process (which is a good thing!) But I gotta tell ya – its tough when you live just down the street – jussayin….

As someone who went to school for Social Work and more importantly, as a Parent, my first instinct is always to be “The Fixer.” I see, I analyze, I solve…. Problem is, not everyone agrees with what to me are obvious fixes. Therein lies the rub…. I also need to remember that not everyone is looking for advice, sometimes they just need to vent. I don’t have to have a solution for everything. And I don’t. There are things that I have to let be, whether I like it or not. I can, figuratively speaking, grab a seat and some popcorn to watch the ensuing train wreck. I may have to do that – and I’m not happy about it at all.

Additionally, other friends and family are struggling with their own issues and I am doing my best to be supportive of them. Who ISN’T struggling these days? That would be the short list I think. That’s the list I would like to be on, even for a brief time. It doesn’t appear to be in the cards for me right now – but I’ll live. The Viking changed jobs and went back to his old company in CT. His former company has downsized considerably and cut all overtime for employees. Since we are trying to replenish the seriously depleted nest egg – this was unacceptable. Like most in the middle class – we can generally pay our bills on 40 hours, but saving appreciably? No way. So, he applied back with his old company and was pretty much re-hired on the spot. We had to get a second car for him, but well worth it. Good news in the midst of Mi Vida Loca!

For those who are interested, my weekday looks like this:

6:30 am – Hit the deck, get ready for work etc
7:30 – Commute
8-4 or 4:30 – Work
4/4:30 Commute
5pm-7/8/9 pm – Dinner Prep, Chores, Pet Care, Child Taxi Service as needed, Dinner, check in with family, friends, shop, run errands etc. etc…. (Wine, anyone? 😉 )
9/10/11 pm – TV/Read/Bed (depending on level of tired I am)

It doesn’t look like much when I write it down, but Boy Howdy! It sure takes the starch out of my knickers. And when the morning light comes shinin in I get up and do it again, Amen. And I remind you, dear readers, I am not 25 anymore. La Vida Loca, indeed. Weekends are spent catching up on chores I don’t get to do during the week (like the major housework) and helping the Viking with the outdoor stuff, plus doing whatever my Mom needs help with. So yeah…. Busy, busy. And its not like the girls don’t help. But Chaos is rarely around on weekends and busy with college and work during the week. Mayhem is helpful but also increasingly busy as her high school social life expands. She’s now involved in the Drama Club and the GSA at school; and Keystone Club and the PAL Mentoring Program at The Boys and Girls Club after school. Fortunately, one of her friends’ family and ours kind of “co-op” transportation duties so no one has to play taxi all the time. In many ways, it does take a village these days – or at least another family – to raise children. This weekend my friend Eve – of the aforementioned family transportation co-op – is coming over to help me regain some control of my house and the clutter therein. It’s a mess despite best efforts otherwise. She’s really, really good at organizing and de-cluttering so is going to give me a consult free of charge! Hurray!!!!! We have a really small house (approx 800 square feet) with only two micro-closets. Add two large breed dogs, a cat, a ferret, a teenager and three adults and VOILA – hot mess!

So that pretty much catches you all up my friends. I should have an op-ed post up about the Healthcare debacle in the near future, as well as whatever else strikes me or tickles my funny bone. I just need to find the time to gather my thoughts and write the darn things! Hahaha.

I’m out for now, Peace.

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Road Trip

There’s something to be said for seeing the country the old fashioned way.  I’ve been in the mood to take a road trip for quite some time and was fortunate enough to both get some time off to do so, and to have a friend willing to give me a destination point. There’s a connected-ness that happens when you put wheels on the road.  Very distinct, and much much different from air travel.  I’m always a little off balance when I arrive in a city by air ; and that’s not just due to my inner ear pressure being scrambled.  Travel by car allows me to experience the places I travel through directly; and allow my mind and body to acclimate.

Let me talk for a minute about the interstate highways.  Arguably, one of the most significant achievements of the Eisenhower Administration.

Dwight D. Eisenhower photo portrait.

Dwight D. Eisenhower photo portrait. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act on June 29, 1956.   American lives have not been the same since.  At this point our future as the United States was about to become a reality. (Coincidentally for you trivia buffs – Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller in White Plains, New York on that very evening)   There’s not an item you have that has not traveled on an interstate highway to get to you – thanks to the truck drivers of America.

As a child of the 60’s and 70’s I can’t remember a time when one was not able to travel on the interstate. My mom can tell you stories of literally all day drives to get from southwestern MA to upstate Vermont taking what we now call “the back roads” all the way. You can still take back roads anywhere but with the interstate, why bother? You can get there much quicker on the highway.  That said, there’s something very pleasurable to me in driving myself somewhere; and experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of each region.  My car wheels roll and hum on the roadway; the tires softly thudding at predictable intervals as they cross the thin lines dividing each section of pavement.  My navigator and sidekick for this adventure – my fourteen year old daughter.  Our destination:  The Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley – Virginia.

Our GPS guided path took us south through Connecticut and into New York City on the I-95. A hot concrete and chrome fast/slow crush – smelling of exhaust fumes and faintly, low tide.  The City Proper – hazily visible to our left under thundery skies.  The Freedom Tower a beautiful soft focus exclamation point on the mid-afternoon skyline. Next, the crowded hustle and bustle of Newark NJ and the Garden State Parkway.  Everything’s close together and moving fast.

Things slow down and spread out as we reach Pennsylvania on I-78.  Farm country, the Lehigh Valley. Rolling hills divided by neat white fences that  enclose single and twin siloed red barns. Barns with stone foundations that seem to come straight up from the ground itself.  White farmhouses with wraparound porches. Everything neat – spic and span; as the saying goes. The first haying has come and gone, the second, now rolled up and drying on the fields. Horses and cows graze contentedly in green gold pastures.  Closer to the road, fence lines are covered with fuzzy, dusty pink flowers,

Some of those dusty pink fuzzy flowers along the roadside.

Some of those dusty pink fuzzy flowers along the roadside.

wild roses, and creeping vines.  Thunderstorms are coming in from west to east and it rains on us sporadically. It also creates splendid cloudscapes as the afternoon sun  lowers behind them.  We stop for a break, and I’m struck  by how similar things are on and around the interstate.  Mile-high signs announcing food, fuel, and lodging. Restaurant and Hotel chains providing the same services all up and down the road.  There’s a standard level of service on the interstate; which gives the traveler a sense of stability as they go along their merry ways.

We resume after refueling ourselves – and the car, and as we leave Pennsylvania behind crossing the Delaware and the Mighty Susquehanna, I am suddenly aware of a difference in the air quality. It’s become softer.  The thunderstorms have now tracked well to our east, but continue to provide a spectacular sky show to my left – as the late afternoon sun turns the line of massive thunderhead tops berry-pink with alpen-glow; with bruised purple foundations underneath. A dramatic, stunning backdrop for the farms dotting the low hills.  On I-81 now, we arrive in Virginia where the air seems even softer and smells sweeter.  I later discover that the scent is a luscious, heavenly combination of honeysuckle and sweet pea.  The Blue Ridge Mountains live up to their name as the sun sets behind the last ridge in Virginia in a purple, gold, and peach blaze of glory. Getting off the highway, we now take the back road directly to my friend’s house. On the way, a white tailed deer is grazing by the side of the road. We slow down to take a look and startle her into bounding off – back into the woods.  It was a nice “a-ha” moment to appreciate.

After arriving at  TL’s house, we settle in and relax, chatting up a storm with her and her son Ceej.  Getting to know the rest of the family – the cats: Miss Katie Scarlett, Paul Newman, Jack Sparrow, and Gandalf. And the dogs: Ruby Thewes and Miss Daisy. (TL has an affinity for literary characters). Mayhem and I felt welcome and at home; bonding with the entire cast of characters instantly.   I  doubt TL and I stopped talking the whole time we visited.  It was great fun.  Next post will be about our profoundly affecting trip to the Civil War Battlefield of New Market  – with pictures – and then later, our trip home.

To end this particular post, I thought I would leave you with a list of my favorite “Road/Road Trip” movies.  What are some of yours? And, do you have a favorite recollection of a road trip you might like to share?

  • Duel (1971)
  • Easy Rider (1969)
  • Electra Glide in Blue (1973)
  • To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything. Julie Newmar (1995)
  • The Gumball Rally (1976)
  • Thelma and Louise (1991)
  • Psycho (1961)
  • It Happened One Night (1934)
  • The Wild One (1954)
  • The Long, Long Trailer (1954)
  • Smokey and The Bandit (1977)
  • Speed (1994)
  • From Dusk to Dawn (1996)

And the Rain Rain Rain Came Down Down Down

Finally. It’s been ages since Mother Nature’s had a drink around here. Not that the lawns are turning brown already or anything – but the brush fire danger is high. In fact, we had some IDIOT flick a cig out his or her window between exits 4 and 3 westbound on the Pike and voila – brush fire extraordinaire!  The day started off overcast, then cleared up with sunny skies. Late this afternoon it got that dark charcoal look. Downpour imminent.  No thunderboomer though. Just a cataclysmic waterfall from the sky – and right when I was leaving work for the day. I had to crank up the defogger to the max, as well as peg out the windshield wipers.

Didja ever notice that the road gets kind of greasy during the first rain after a long dry spell?  Believe me, I could see miniature rainbows in the runoff on the pavement. Not that it slowed me down any on the Mass Pike.  😉  Speed Demon – that’s me.  AKA Masshole Driver.  Muahahahaha!  Despite the flood I drove faster than I probably needed to. Strangely I don’t usually listen to music on the way to and from work. I’m too busy inside my head figuring out my day, and on the way back – my evening.

Anyhoo-I decided to be a good wife and pick up The Viking at work. Normally he rides his mountain bike back and forth every day (its a 2 mile trip one way). We’ve downsized to one car for the two of us and so far its working out OK. Those days where its bad weather I always try to make sure I offer to bring him to work or pick him up. 9/10 times he’s already got a ride – but I always offer.  I have the (much) longer commute so kind of got the vehicle privileges by default.  I had texted him as I left work, but he was unable to respond, nor did he pick up when  I called so I just figured to swing by on the way home. Good thing I did. The downpour followed me from Chicopee. And The Viking was glad to see me!   I made sure to park right next to the bike.

He got the bike loaded and we  took off towards home. Traffic wasn’t too bad – considering.  Clay Hill was awash with runoff and there was minor flooding at the bottom at the corner of Notre Dame by Mestek. The rain lasted till about an hour after we got home, and has subsided for the moment. Its still overcast, but” pink and grey” -ly so. The light is ethereal right now, and the grass has a neon green glow to it.  The mockingbird is kicking up a fuss down the street and the air smells of petrichor.  That wonderful, strangely melancholic, fresh after the rain smell that means green; and growing.

I’m thinking Mayhem will have a  date with the lawnmower this weekend, as she wants to earn some spending money for Anime Boston at the end of the month. Chaos’ cat – Guy Walworth aka Sir aka Sir Guy  – is hanging out with me in the porch window. So far, I have no allergic or asthmatic complaints – and I fully own up to the fact that I am a complete SAP and can’t say no when an animal needs rescuing. (Long story – but suffice to say that I do not recommend getting a pet with one’s boyfriend – pets are for long term, live together, stable relationships)  Anyway,  I’m hoping we get some more of the wet stuff tonight. The sound of rain on my roof will be lovely as I drift off to la-la land. But, I hope it clears up in time for the weekend.  I want to get out and about with my camera.

I also strangely feel the need to find our old VHS copy of “Winnie the Pooh and The Blustery Day”  The kids used to love watching that.  Mayhem’s favorite toy when she was very little was “Heppa”.  It was a Puff-a-Lump that she renamed after the song  “Heffalumps and Woozles”  I’m very confu-zzled…. ;).   Anyway, it still smells awesome outside, and I am so grateful to be able  to smell it. (normally I have no sense of smell due to chronic sinus problems). I’m enjoying my second glass of moscato white wine, and trying to decide what to have for dinner.  Here’s hoping for a pleasantly relaxing evening – listening to the rain on the roof.   Hugs to all.

Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day

Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The Baby and The Bathwater

I should be used to it by now. The knee jerk reactions that make it so difficult to really affect and effect change.  Somehow, we always end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater – despite our best intentions to do otherwise. And yet I find myself getting more and more irritated with stupidity.  Two great examples of this are the current hot button issues of gun control and dog ownership (particularly pit bull ownership).  Owning a gun and owning a dog carry many of the same responsibilities if you think about it.   You have to make sure your guns are well maintained (cleaned, oiled and stored properly), and you have to do the same for your dog (vet visits, shots, grooming etc) .  You have to make sure your dog is properly leashed or fenced in your yard, and you have to be sure your gun is stored safely and properly and the safety left on when not in use.

For some reason, we cannot seem to figure out a way to hold offenders accountable for their actions. For some reason, its easier to restrict the activities of the population at large than it is to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate criminal offenders.  I’ll use an example from the workplace.  Most workplaces have a dress code. Enforcing said code presents its own particular set of challenges that may or may not be quite humorous on occasion.  Like dealing with an employee who showed up to work in their jammies and couldn’t for the life of them figure out why they were being sent home – because they dress that way to go to the mall….. sigh.  Or, banning everyone from wearing sleeveless dresses, shirts or tops in the summertime because some of the men decided to cut off the sleeves of their t shirts and the gaping holes gave everyone a glimpse of nasty pit hair…. Instead of telling these guys they had to classy it up they just tell everyone – NO SLEEVELESS.  Baby. Bathwater…. and gone…..

So many people are negiligent when it comes to pet ownership and gun ownership.  Letting their dogs roam free to chase and bite people; leaving their guns out where children, toddlers, and flat out  crazy people can access them (with tragic results).  So what do we do?  Can I get a “Harrumph?” from you all? Because thats what we do. We get on our sanctimonious soapboxes and engage in inefficient hand-wringing – then we make ridiculous blanket laws that restrict and penalize mature,  RESPONSIBLE dog and firearm owners.  Look what just happened in Maryland with regard to pit bull ownership.  Look whats happening within the Gun Control Debate.  You only have to witness the political posturing to become really really annoyed. And I am. Annoyed. To the Max. I’m a centrist, basically. Common sense dictates we need reform -not blanket all or nothing restriction.  Nor do we need to jump into the Way Back Machine and head for the Wild Wild West.  Because we’re doing it again – throwing the baby out with the bathwater; instead of engaging in thoughtful dialogue and compromise to come up with solutions that work for the majority of responsible hard working Americans. Let me list a few ideas:

Brindle pit bull

Brindle pit bull (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dogs –

1. If you want to own a pit bull you must register them for obedience classes and give a copy of the certificate to City Hall in addition to the rabies tag number when you get the dog licensed.  You must demonstrate re-certification of obedience training every 3-5 years. You must be a homeowner to own a pit bull, or have sufficient assets to cover a lawsuit if the dog injures someone. This goes for other breeds like Rottweilers, Pinschers, German Shepherds, Chows, Dalmatians, and Akitas too – since all these breeds have aggressiveness bred into them. There may be a few breeds I missed here feel free to add…

2. Dog owners already pay increased  homeowners premiums, (depending on the breed, and they may not even cover you if you have a banned breed)  but all dog owners should be required to submit proof of vaccination and licensing to their policy carriers.

3. All dogs should be required to be on leash or in a fenced in yard  when outdoors- subject to fine and/or seizure of the dog if non-compliant. Not all communities have leash laws, and those that do may only sporadically enforce them – doing so only after there is a problem.

4. Dog owners should be required to notify the public that there is a dog on their premises.

There’s probably more but that’s all I can think of right now. It comes down to common sense , really – Which ain’t quite as common as it should be, sadly enough.

219px-Weapons1                                             (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guns –

1. I’ve listed several things in other posts so I’ll just summarize here: Background checks for all sales.  Private sales should be illegal.  No actual possession of said  firearm by the buyer until a training course is completed and certification of the ability to use and store said firearm safely is on file with the gun seller, and the new gun owner’s insurance carrier. Yes I do think you should have to insure your guns. No sale to anyone with a history of mental illness ( improve those background checks) Your right to be bat-guano ga-ga does not supersede my right to keep breathing safely.  No sale to anyone who lives with a family member with mental illness. PERIOD. No sale to anyone under the age of 16.. Proof of age required to purchase. Possession of a firearm by anyone not carrying an FID card and proof of ownership should invite criminal charges for both the possessor and the registered owner. Magazine clip size should be limited. Modification kits – illegal.  If a tragedy does occur and the investigation reveals that the gun owner stored the firearm unsafely or improperly or knowingly allowed  someone other than themselves to use the firearm – then the gun owner should be held civilly and criminally responsible.

I understand this may not curb criminal activity or criminal’s access to firearms, but it will damn sure make it less likely that a toddler can pick up his fathers gun and kill a Tennessee Sherriff’s wife with it. And it will make it extremely difficult – if not impossible – for idiots like Nancy Lanza to provide their mentally ill child with access to firepower.  I am in no way saying people should not have guns if they want them. But they need to assure those of us that don’t  they can own and use them responsibly.  SAFETY SAFETY SAFETY SAFETY. And,  SAFETY.

It is a great privilege to own a firearm, and be a pet owner. Both carry great responsibility with them .  If we enforce the laws we already have on the books, that will help also. But if people start understanding that they are responsible for the safety of themselves and others and will be held ACCOUNTABLE by laws that make sense for the majority of people  – then perhaps that baby I’ve been talking about can go get toweled off, powdered, and re-diapered instead of floundering around in the mud. Rant concluded. Thank you, that is all  (for now)

Give Me The Simple Life

On Father’s Day it was quite sunny and humid here in the wilds of western Massachusetts. We took the dogs for a walk down to the river in the afternoon. Senor Fluffy Pants (aka Chewbacca) immediately bolted for the water when let off lead; then promptly sat down in the river, grinning from ear to ear. Ahhh a dog’s life! If only such simple things could make me happy (I’m workin on it)…. But  that’s one happy dog!  😉  Photo by: Brent Erickson

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Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Wine

This, my friends, is what I was doing last evening before my lack of coordination reared its ugly head.  I repotted some of my herbs, then sat on my deck steps enjoying a glass of Pinot Grigio, whilst my family buzzed around like the busy bees they are. Jocelyn gets the photo cred for the picture of me. OMG  I definitely need to see my hair stylist soon….., and what the heck happened to my eyebrows?? Typical female, always over critical of any pictures I’m in.  The composition of the photo ….great, the subject…..  mehhhh.   And yes unfortunately that IS Sophie’s butt…. *sigh  😉

Photo By: Jocelyn Erickson

The weather’s been thundery and showery all week.  We are hoping it dries out for the 3 day weekend.  It made for some dramatic skyscapes though –  that I will be posting soon.

Of Rosebuds, Herbs, Puppy Dogs, and Saturday Chores

Today was my day to play catch up – with my usual Saturday chores – like the laundry and cleaning the bathroom.  And, also all the little chores I just didn’t get around to doing this week as I’ve been just plain too tired to tackle.  I’ve said this before – but it’s flippin difficult to work a 40 hour week, then also be the taxi driver, chief cook, bottle washer, and nurse (if necessary) – among other things.   It’s been a long week, and I was so glad to see the lovely sunshine this morning.

The Viking has to work this weekend, and he was up at 4:30 – which of course meant I also woke up at 4:30.  Didn’t go back to sleep really, just dozed on and off till about 8:30.  On these bright sunny weekend mornings I love to go outside and sit on my deck steps with my homemade “dunkaccino” ( coffee mocha, basically) . The puppies love to accompany me and lie on the sun-warmed deck (before it gets too hot). Of course they have to get their daily doses of petting and puppy cuddles.

Sophie Margaret

This morning the “McGootch”  (Chewy) got a little over zealous and nudged my coffee hand – my dunkaccino went flying all over the patio – which was a good thing because it was smoking  hot at the time and either the dogs or I would’ve gotten a wicked burn.  For a good picture of Senor Fluffy Pants (Chewy), visit my “About Me” page. So my first cup went to the sugar ants….oh well.  My trusty Keurig brewed up another cup in no time flat.   Once I “caffeined up”  I was ready to tackle some heavy duty cleaning chores.

This morning that meant taking on the entire bathroom from ceiling to floor.  I  have to be careful what chemicals I use because of my asthma; but I discovered a great cleaning product called Mr Clean Magic Eraser.  Gets rid of soap scum, mildew etc etc in the sink and shower literally like magic.  I was done with the heavy cleaning by noon- ish, which isn’t too bad.  The girls cleaned their rooms and we also straightened out the mudroom.  Then it was off to Six Flags New England for my oldest, and the Holyoke Mall for me and Jill. Got a great deal at Williams Sonoma on some all purpose wine glasses at less than $5.00 a glass.  I broke the last of my utility wine glasses a few weeks ago and I’ve been drinking my pinot grigio out of a Ball Mason Jar.  Anyway we got back about 4, and I was ready for a glass of wine and some deck time.  I also wanted to play with my camera and check on my herb garden.

One of my two Kitchen Herb Garden Containers, containing thyme, oregano, basil (unseen) and rosemary.

The Viking is tackling a larger garden project, but I am working on a much smaller scale.  Aside from my perennials, I always plant a couple of small containers of cooking herbs that I can leave on my deck steps.  When I need fresh herbs I can meander outside and clip off what I need.  My little system works well, and my fabled black thumb (I’m an infamous plant killer, jsyk) doesn’t come into play.  I love my herbs – particularly my rosemary and thyme.

Rosemary

Thyme, with flowers

I also planted basil and chives this year.  I’m hoping to make some fresh pesto – but as you can see from the photo my basil leaves are getting some yellow and brown spots on them. I have no idea what it is or what to do about it (if anything can even be done)

My poor basil, and chives

My Chives. The flowers are edible, faintly spicy and REALLY good in cold potato salad!

As I said, I have no real head for horticulture whatsoever. I plant it, water it, and cross my fingers…… unlike my mother – who could probably grow orchids in the desert.  😉   My roses are just starting to bud, they seem to love the new trellis we put in  a few weeks ago.

Rosebuds, trellis and spiderweb….

“Rosebud” (Citizen Kane?)

The siberian irises are starting to bud too, but it’ll be at least another week or two before we see any blooms from them.  Between 4 and 7pm  is the best time to enjoy my backyard, the intense sun is off the deck and patio by that time, it’s started to cool down, and the mosquitoes and mayflies are not yet out in force.

We grilled balsamic vinegar-marinated steaks for dinner -with garlic mashed potatoes and mixed veggies in a bechamel cheese sauce.  We also added cheddar cheese crumbles to the steak and splashed on some more balsamic vinegar.  I caught up on the season finale of Hawaii 5-O. Just gotta run downstairs and check on the laundry in the dryer. And, check on the teenager and her friends who are enjoying a fire in the outdoor fireplace this lovely evening. It’s 10:50pm here on the East Coast. Time for me to say Goodnight!   Love and Hugs!