From Atlantic To Pacific, Gee, The Traffic Is Terrific
Well, that was a whirl-wind of a holiday visitation: nearly 600 miles on Big Red in four days travelling. Visited my mom, two brothers, two 90+ year-old Grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and friends. But, man-oh-man - all that driving!
Day One: Seattle-to-Longview Day Two: Longview, Kelso, Lexington, Castle Rock Day Three:Longview-to-Gresham-to-Portland-to-Beaverton-to Longview Day Four: Longview-to-Seattle
My Grandma in Portland (my dad's mom) is doing better than I expected. Although she's pretty much confined to a wheelchair, and her eyesight is almost completely gone, her hearing is still reasonably good (with aids of course) and we spent two hours chatting. She insists she's going to make it to her 100th birthday in 2015, and I have no doubt she's going to get there.
My other Grandmother in Kelso just turned 90 last month, and even though she had to move out of her house and in with my aunt and her husband, she actually looks - and sounds - better than I've seen in quite a few years. I think having the pressures - both physical as well as financial - of maintaining a home has taken quite a load off her, and she seems healthier, more alert and responsive, and just more energetic than she's been in ages.
(This means three of my four grandparents have lived into their 90's: so, I think I've got a pretty good shot at hitting that mark myself.)
Except for the white-knuckle trip across the Columbia River in 40 mph gusts on Saturday and the traffic accident on I-5 just south of Seattle that took over an hour to get through on Sunday the various drives were uneventful. But still, when you're the one doing ALL the traveling, it does get a bit wearying.
And aside from sitting in the driver's seat for hours on-end, that's about all I did for most of the rest of the time; I don't think I walked more than a 1/4 mile at any stretch during the time I was down there. And of course, the diet was completely thrown out the window - my mom's side of the family are strictly mid-western meat-and-potato types, and with the exception of boiled carrots with dinner on Friday and a canned fruit cup with breakfast on Sunday, I saw nary a vegetable for the entire four-day weekend.
So, needless to say, although I do enjoy getting together with family for the holidays, I'm really glad to be back home where I don't have to go anywhere that doesn't involve walking, and where most of my diet doesn't consist of dead animals and tubers.
You Know What The Sun's All About When The Lights Go Out
Strange, intermittent power outages at work this morning. A transformer blew out somewhere in the neighborhood, and we've lost phones, along with some power and lights. But, other outlets & lights are okay, and I managed to reroute power to get our computers, printers and Internet connection back on-line.
And there's this weird odor of burning plastic or insulation or something wafting through the air; very unpleasant.
Oh, and we just discovered that the hot plates on the stove in the kitchen are working, but for some strange reason the oven isn't.
Like I said, weird.
UPDATE 10:40 a.m.
We're back. Phones, outlets, lights - and the oven controls - are all working again.
Generally, I'm not terribly big on "the holidays". I'm not actively against them, mind you, it's just that I feel a certain amount of ambivalence. Some of it may simply be due to the fact that, in this part of the world November and December tend to be dark, cold, dreary months which sap your enthusiasm for just about anything besides sleeping and sitting around in your bathrobe eating warm chocolate chip cookies and watching bad television. And since I don't normally do either of those, there's not much to motivate me to get out of the house. In fact, if it weren't for being surrounded by full-spectrum UV lamps all day at work, I'd probably have a case of S.A.D. that would make an Existentialist feel positively cheery by comparison.
The other part of it is that I don't have much in the way of family in my immediate vicinity. My closest relatives (aside from a cousin who just moved into town recently, but with whom I've never been terribly close) are just far enough away that I don't have a great deal of regular interaction with them. This compares with a lot of my local friends who truly are locals: they have parents and siblings and aunts and uncles and cousins galore living within a few miles of them, so obviously there are a lot more opportunities to get together outside of the holidays.
Thirdly, I think I've just developed a stronger sense of independence over the years than some other members of my family. I'm the one who pursued a career in "the big city" away from the nexus of either side of my family, whereas many of them have maintained much closer ties. Two of my brothers live within a few minutes drive of my mom (well, one still lives at home - maybe someday I'll get into that), who in turn lives just a few minutes drive from her mom and sister. Two of my dad's siblings have side-by-side condo's in Portland, not very distant from their mother, and some of their kids and grandkids are relatively close by as well. In short, they're all pretty tight-knit. I'm one of the few notable exceptions.
In this respect I think I take more after my father (who just celebrated his 70th birthday yesterday - and who is probably reading this, "hi dad!"), and who I think in some ways got it from his dad. While each of us has exhibited varying degrees of sociability in our personalities, I think there's also been a tendency on all our parts to feel that we didn't really require the sort of close attachments that other members of our family seem to embrace. It's not that we're ANTI-social or ANTI-family, it's just that we don't seem to desire the constant contact with them that they do with each other. Also, I think each of us inherited a bit of the "wanderlust" that reaches back down the trunk of the family tree: the same urge to move that brought our ancestors here from Europe and Britain and who-knows-where in the first place. Maybe I'm off base a bit on that, but that's my impression anyway.
And it's not that we don't like our families, although I grant we've all had our portion of issues with individual members over the years (but really, what family doesn't to some extent?), and I think, at least for my dad and myself we genuinely appreciate the occasional opportunities to reconnect. But to some extent it's the fact that we don't see each other all the time that imbues those more infrequent encounters with greater meaning and significance; if we saw each other as frequently as some members of our family do, we might take it too much for granted and it wouldn't feel as "special".
Things are finally starting to wind DOWNWARD as I hurtle, like a snowball rolling down a ski-slope toward the Christmas Holiday.
We held our annual Open House on Monday afternoon, which was the main reason I was in such a frenzy to finish up some of the remaining remodeling projects. Spent the entire day cooking (thankfully we have a full-sized kitchen including a four-burner stove, dishwasher and TWO refrigerators): a 10 lb. spiral-cut ham, 5 lbs of Swedish meatballs, 5 lbs of Cajun shrimp, 5 lbs of pot-stickers, 5 lbs of roasted potatoes, 75 mini-quiches, plus prepping and laying out the obligatory cheese-and-crackers, fruit and veggie platters, cookies (made by my friend Leslie), and other assorted goodies. If that sounds like overkill, well in some measure perhaps. But, we had about 60 RSVP's - about twice the number we get typically - and probably had about 75 come through the door throughout the afternoon and evening, which is roughly half again as many as I've seen in the four years I've been participating in these. Had it not been for the incredibly cold evening temps (our office actually had no heat and was a chilly 49 degrees when we came in Monday morning!) we probably would have seen an even better turnout; that's the thing with these events - you just never know how many people are going to show up.
(Strangely, we had lots of fruit, veggies - and cookies - left over, but very little of the meaty snacks. Also, the three cases of beer remained veritably untouched, but the case of wine was completely emptied.)
Now, if the above sounds like a lot of overworking on my part, keep in mind we do adhere to the time-honored rule that, "those who cook don't have to clean", so I was excused from the post-open house clean up, which left me time to shiver down the hill to see some friends play their Weimar/"Cabaret" era inspired music.
After that, the rest of the week seems positively sedate.
Plus, it's really, really quiet now, because I'm the only one in the office.
Tired Of Playing The Game Ain't It A Crying Shame I'm So Tired
Things have been (relatively) quiet the past couple of weeks - at least the frenetic level of activity has been dialed down to a simmer, as opposed to a full rolling boil.
We're settling in to the new office, and most of the finishing projects have been completed. Spent 10 hours last Saturday wrapping up several of the remaining large projects: putting up drapes in the conference room, painting some kitchen cabinets, a bit of touch-up painting, leaving only one moderate-sized project to complete, plus some little things I hope to check-off this weekend - just in time for our annual Holiday Open House, which of course, I have to do all the shopping for. On the plus side, the other two people in the office are going to do most of the prep work itself, so I should be able to just sit back and enjoy most of the proceedings.
Have also been working on a few "beautification" projects at the theatre: carpeting our stairwell landings, stripping out and replacing some vinyl tiling in our entryway, and am about to experiment with stripping and refinishing some of the steps themselves. That's going to be a piece-meal project and will probably take me several months to complete, assuming I don't just chuck the whole idea because it turns out to be more hassle than it's worth. But, we'll see.
Otherwise, it's a slow creep-up to Christmas. Assuming we don't get snowed in again this year, which according to the usual sources may be a distinct possibility (can you say repeat of Snowpocalypse 2008? I knew you could), I'll head south on Christmas Eve and try to do the Longview-Kelso/Portland loop over the long weekend, and then MAYBE find some time after the New Year to take a little vacation - even just a few days out-of-town would be nice, because lately it seems that even when I get an extended weekend, such as last, I end up spending half my time working on some project or other.