Sunday, December 18, 2011

Friday Frothingslosh Fellowship...

Well well well, this has been quite the week this has. Yes sir and mam up here in The Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea we've been busy as one armed wallpaper hangers. Ya know, now that we're in our middling years, you think we would figure out that pretty much this time each and every year, we go from manic to spastic to exhausted? And usually there's one point in particular where it all goes straight to wherever and what are these hand baskets for?

This week was *that* moment, and it certainly was? The week started
out innocently enough, but then everything kinda piled up on top of us, all at once? We start the week with a sparkling clean house, and a tidy interior. Somehow, as soon as the tree goes up, the annual Christmas devastation begins? Soon, there's wrapping paper and bows, boxes and gifts all strewn about the place in a willy nilly fashion with no further thought to organization, much less fire safety. It looks like the wrapping department at Macy's suddenly jettisoned their entire workload in our living, family and kitchen rooms? But that's really not the worst of it as we usually do sort and wrap together, and soon enough the house looks quite festive and fun.

On Wednesday, however, we drive about two and a half hours downstate for a funeral of a close family friend's mother. Then luncheon after the funeral, stop for shopping quickly, and onto one of their homes for some social times. Also, as the family rarely gets all the kids together, they ask me to take some pictures. Mind you, I really don't care for doing family photos and portraits, but how can I say no? So really a good time (funeral notwithstanding) and we get back home late Wednesday evening.

Thursday we make a bit of progress on the gift front, even thought we have far more boxes set upon out front stoop than under the tree. We are also on-call with Red Cross as local Disaster Action Team volunteers, and guess who calls? Aye yup, right around 5pm the phone rings and guess who it was? So Barb and I don our RC shirts and vests, and go see what we can do to help. When we arrived at the scene, it was a single family dwelling fire, and the house, along with all of the contents, was completely destroyed! The family was at a regional hospital as two of the children has suffered minor inhalation and minor burns. So we provided the volunteer fire department with water, Gatorade, cookies and coffee for awhile. I also obtained the owner's name and phone number, and left a message. After about two hours there, we come clumping home through the very cold rain and wind. We stopped in our town at the local watering hole and had a quick dinner, then home again, yay. So after we clamber into our jammies and watch a bit of tv, guess what? Aye yup, the phone rings again (?!) and the home owner had called RC again and was now requesting to meet with someone. At this point it's half past ten, and we re just about to think of turning in, alas. So, once again we clamber into our RC togs, and drive out to meet with him. Happily we were able to provide some much needed money to assist in his recovery plans. He has a family of six there, and Red Cross helped him with the cost of food, and clothing for the next two days. Since he had a place to stay we didn't need to put the family in a motel. But doing all that takes paperwork, which takes time, which means we didn't get back home till 1:30am. Ah well, we helped someone in a real and physical manner, and so polished our halos a bit.

Thence comes Friday in all it's glory and splendor. We did sleep in a bit, but knew we needed to start sorting thru the gifts and doing the wrapping. so we get up and get going. And, as I'm wrapping, I'm *also* multitasking. (just had to be, huh?) I needed to burn 50 dvd's of a movie that we made for the Youth Christmas Play at Church. (another very long story for a different blog) At about 1pm I was outside and a silver van sweeps up our driveway. It parks, and then four guys proceed to exit the vehicle, all dressed in typical Up North style (jeans, flannel shirts, hunting jackets, etc) and they merrily, and loudly proclaim that they were all there to drink beer with me as each one raises a cooler of beer to show me? Huh?! What?! We had met the guys last September, at a social event in the nearby village. After the event (The Other Bridge Walk) we had all finished by hoisting a few cold ones together, and (of course) invited each other to come around "anytime" and we'd do it again. So for the first time since September, these guys decided that *now* was the time to come see Jamie? Oh... my... gawd... and yup, this is *that* moment when it all fell apart. They really are a great group of guys, and it was nice to see them... but did they have to do this now? Apparently so. Seems they had been drinking since about 11am, and finally got around to taking the adventure on the road? Nooooo.... oh yeah. They weren't sloppy or sloshy drunks, and they did behave well, and were simply having a good time, and a pub crawl. So... we finally got rid of them about two and a half hours later. *giggle*

Then, that evening we had a Solstice Party to attend at Barb's sister and husband's place, which featured a buffet done by a chef friend of theirs. Very swank, lots of good food and more drinks, and great people. We manage to make it home relatively unscathed. Which leads to Saturday, which finds us still wrapping, and burning and such... and then yet another Solstice Party that night, at one of the Friday Frothingslosh Fellowship friends. Less swank, better fun, more food and drinks. This time the specialty was eggnog. Family recipe that went way back, and is aged for a week before serving. This stuff is so smooth and mellow you don't taste the alcohol (brandy and bourbon) until about your third glass, and then it's too late! Oh did I mention that when we got home I needed to design and print out labels for the dvd's? Oh and did I forget to mention that today at Church, not only was the movie shown (in place of the sermon, yay) but that I was the liturgist? Yeah... *that* moment... *giggles*

Well, Church goes off well enough, everyone loved the Christmas Movie (which Barb pretty much did all the production for, it was great!), and I only lost my place one time? On the way home, we chat about how we really are kinda tired of the constant partying and need to get stuff done... yeah right. When we get home we call the next On Call couple for Red Cross to make arrangements for delivery of all the RC "stuff" that goes with being on call. And yup, you guessed it, they invited us over for a glass of wine! So much for that afternoon nap!

It's all good though, we had a busy week, we really did wrap a few gifts, and we did some good. So really, even though sleep deprived, we're happy to have the love of good friends, and the joy of the season. And so it's our wish to each of you that get to do some good, and spread some joy! Merry Christmas to all...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Time To Give Thanks

Well, in our annual trip around the sun, the planet Urth has inevitably returned to almost the same spot as last year, when we Americans take a day to give thanks. Granted the idea of Thanksgiving is nothing new, nor uniquely American, but a tradition that we follow enthusiastically. And since the Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea is firmly contained within the borders of this country, our own home's traditions have been formed by the cultural milieu of being stateside since inception. Yet, I find that as I get to know, and befriend, more good people from all over this globe, the real ideas and main points, are really quite universal in reach.

And much like America, our personal Thanksgiving tradition has changed over the years, and been updated, or even upgraded, as we go along. So just where did this mighty tradition really originate?  After all, "Turkey Day" as it's known colloquially, had to  start somewhen? As a much younger lad, in school, we were all fed the notion that during Autumn, the locals (Indigenous People, although we always called them Indians. Wouldn't old Chris Columbus be proud?) brought turkeys to the Pilgrims. As soon as Chief Woo Hoo arrived with the baked birds, then all the Pilgrims and Indians sat down at one really, really, really long table, in the yard, and proceeded to pig out. Or would that be poultry out? Later they all played touch football, and the Pilgrims cheated to win. (oh wait...)

In the pictures that accompanied the text, I always wondered how an Indian would walk through the woods with an already baked turkey sitting atop a silver platter, with a bounteous variety of fruits and veggies surrounding the bird?  And how come each and every Indian looked like they were clones of each other? And what's with the feather that all the guys wore in their hair? Suffice it to say that I really was the child that just had to ask "why"! Happily my teachers mostly put up with me. Mostly.

Ahhh... what a wonderful myth. So warm and cozy. Too bad it's not true. The real first Thanksgiving was a much more disparate event. Seems the Puritans and the other Pilgrims didn't get along at all. In fact, they argued and fought so much about the event itself, that it was finally decided that each family  would enjoy a dinner in their own home. If there were any Indians around, they were not invited as guests, and probably just stood on a nearby hill to look and laugh at the new neighbors.

So we Fast Forward to my little corner of this planet, in this time zone, and just what do we get? This year, we get a house burgeoning with families, dogs, food, laughter and love. Both sons, with families and dogs arrived Wednesday evening. Older SuperSon DJ, and WunderWife Katie rolled up in the Soccer Wagon (MiniVan ~ Maxi fun) and took the requisite three and a half hours to unload their two children, and then all "that stuff" they need for a quick trip to GranMa's and GranPa's house. As soon as GranDotr dearest is released from the prison like setting of her  The World Will End And I will Survive Child Safety Seat (she's in her Terrible Two's now... has been since birth really) she flies out the door of the van, and with all the unmitigated joy and volume that only a toddler can muster, screams for our dog, Ace, at the top of her lungs. Having said animal in her sights is reason enough to let the chase begin! Then BabyGrant gets unloaded, and in his six month old phase he's a happy caterpillar, eating, pooping, and burbling away merrily at Life. Soon WonderSon Rob and SuperWomanWife Megan pull up, with their dog, and now it's a party.

So yes, we had a full house! Happily, we own a farmhouse next door, that we have remodeled to accommodate Summer Vacation Renters, s well as Holiday Family Members and guests. This is probably the only reason Barb and I still have eardrums, or some shred of sanity? Part of the beauty of having the house next door is that when anyone wished to nap, or shower, or read a book, they are not constrained by the activity at Turkey Central over here. It means that you really can find a quiet corner somewhere and take a break from the kitchen shenanigans, constant conversation, tv, toddler tantrums, and doggy chases. And believe me, everyone appreciate a nice quiet moment here and there!

But back at Turkey Central, that's where the action is! Family members milling about, strolling through the kitchen, flopping on the couch, playing with the GrandKids, noshing, and simply being under the same roof and enjoying each other. I also need give some wonderful props here as the kids really did a great job of helping in the kitchen! Each couple picked a meal to be in charge of, and made a side dish for the feast! This was thier own idea, and Barb and I couldn't have been more happy or proud! My favorite was when Megan decided that for her meal, we all needed to go out to Fusions (Asian food, very yummy!) for dinner! It's her (and mine) fave eatery up here, and (by her own admission) she really doesn't cook. Although she can frost the heck out of a cupcake, and no longer uses the smoke detector as a timer to boil water?

Barb got smart this year too as she (yes with my help) prepped as much as we could beforehand. Everything seemed to be going well, but the bird was taking for fracking ever? I know we thawed it properly, and we had all the side dishes lined up and ready to go go go! Well our gobbler took an additional two hours, but seems that's just another part of the whole tradition? Next year we're thinking of cooking the bird a day ahead to be done with it? As I was scooping the stuffing out of the bird, I discovered just what went wrong with our well planned effort. Apparently, leaving the neck inside the bird, even after having removed the boggy o' bits, interferes with cooking time? Who'da thunk?!  But in the end, it just delayed our dinner, and in the meanwhile we each grazed on snacky stuff and it was just fine!

So yes, GranDotr dearest did her part by having as many tantrums as possible, and sometimes would pitch such a hissy fit that only the dogs could hear her. And sure, one of the dog's tail did sweep an end table clean of those half empty (empty or full, never really know for sure) drinks and plates, and yes the house was a complete Disaster Area with FEMA asking if we needed assistance. At one point, we decided that Grandotr was truly a Democrat (to the sheer horror of her staunchily Republican parents) as she was "redistributing the wealth" of her toy box, and also of Ace's toy box, to far ends of the family room. Apparently the family room is the 1%?! And yeah, at the end of one meal, she was helicoptering around the table, basically in Helen Keller fashion, to grab bites from each plate. So what does she do when she gets to the end of line at my plate? Aye yup, that's where she spits all those bites back up! This brings much sudden laughter, and my only comment was along the lines that I'm glad was done anyway! ;)

And GranSon is such a delight too! As an earnest six month old lad, he is in the eat, poop, be cute phase of life. And he does it quite well too! Barb has remarked that every time I come into the room, he looks for me, and then lights up. He smiles and burbles merrily, and when you hold him, you just know that life really is good! And it has befallen to me to teach him how to burp. Seems that he just wouldn't get a good one off unless he's in my arms? Well, always go to an expert when you wish to learn is my motto!

As for the rest of it, sure we watched football, the girls went shopping, everyone (except Barb and I) napped, and later dessert was phenomenal! (Pumpkin Lust Dessert... bye bye good old pie). As Americans, I think we forget just how much we have to be truly thankful for? We let our careers, or our children, or our parents, or pets, or whatever, get in our way of realizing that this is where the good stuff is! This moment, this now, this reality, this place... it's where our hearts and our minds come together to simply be with those we love. That is the basis of my Thanksgiving, and I hope you find something with Love to give Thanks for as well!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's What We Call Deer Camp... sorta...

Well as everyone knows, when the day's air turns crisp, and there settles on the lawn a bit of frost, it can only mean one thing... Deer Camp! Deer Camp has as many traditions as the men, and families that follow it. When you live in Northern Michigan, hunting deer has the fervor of a religion, and the spirit of a two week long Super Bowl. Point of pride up here, in The Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea, is that many businesses, and almost all of the local schools, are closed on Opening Day!  The businesses realize that not only will they not have any customers strolling in to make purchases (unless they sell ammunition or shelled corn), but most of their staff invariably call in sick. The schools finally got wise to the when somewhere around half of the teachers and students were mysteriously ill, and they just planned it into the School Year. So, yes, you could say that up here, Deer Season is indeed a Big Deal.

Our family has it's version of Deer Camp which goes by the name of "Man Of The Year Weekend". Said weekend was instituted when older son DJ brought his buddies from University home, ostensibly to hunt, for a weekend. This year marks the 11th annual pilgrimage to these hallowed hunting grounds, and it has been such a delight so see these young men assume the mantles of career and family, without shedding the brotherhood of camaraderie. Younger son Rob also comes when he can, but his career path since college put him onto a job with extensive travel.

WunderWife Barb gets to be Den Mom for "her boys" for a weekend, and I get to play with them, and also help with cooking and cleaning duties. even though yes I do hunt, I usually won't go out during Man Of The Year Weekend (MoY), as I wish to make sure the lads all get their chance to bag the ever elusive Thirty Point Buck. The aforementioned megadeer has never been spotted up here, much less actually shot at, but give a man his foibles! And believe me, we eat oh so well that weekend! In fact, this year I baked a 13 pound beef brisket, with gravy, that was an absolute hit! Last year I grilled just about an entire New York Strip.

Ahhh... but what about all the blood and guts you ask? Oh pshaw, you can get that anywhere, so you needn't bother with it in this blog. The real magic of our style of Deer Camp isn't field dressing an animal. The annual event isn't really to see which guy can drive home with the most ginormous carcass on the rooftop of his car. These guys have all been great friends while in the frat house at University, and ever since. They have been in, or at everyone's weddings, and now are all proud papas with WunderWives and papooses to boot! They take pride in each other's various accomplishment's and share in each other's frustrations. Somewhere along the way each of them made that transition from college student, to post college, to oh my gawd I'm a hubby and a daddy too! And they each did it in their own particular style. So for them, to be able to come up here, once a year, and just hang out with the friends, swap stories, drink beer, burp and fart, plus maybe actually do a bit of hunting, well there's the draw!

And as for the "Camp" itself... well... ummm... errr... it's like this... since we have a farmhouse next door that we use for vacation rentals in the Summer, the guys really don't suffer too overly much! Last year for one evening's entertainment, they drank beer and ate an entire brick of hotdogs! This year they went to a nearby casino, and also went bowling. Like I said, not really roughing it much! ;) I will say this however, one fine morning this year, the guys all pitched in and made breakfast! And yes it was a treat! Never underestimate how much goodwill can be gained by making a hearty breakfast for the Hosts! Now if they only would learn to do the dishes...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Be Afraid... Be Very Afraid...

Being fearful seems to be the main message that American Media is spewing forth these days, isn't it? This enlightenment came to me (completely unbidden) when I was channel surfing the other day, just too see what was on. Mind you, I have about half a dozen channels that I routinely check on, and most of the time, our mighty tv just plays whatever music we happen to be in the mood for, at that moment. So, as I was listlessly hopping up and down thru the programs (or the Channel Channel as we call it), I started to notice some rather disturbing trends. I wondered what a foreign tourist traveling across the land would make of all this?

Namely that it would appear to her, or his, uneducated eye that we Americans spend a disproportionate amount of time, and money, on medicine, or medical procedures, and on lawyers to bring forth compensation from those very same medical companies that were formally saving our lives, and now had either killed us outright, or were causing us to suffer a horrible life. It's also highly suspect, to me at least, that the pharmaceutical corporations are the ones that set the "National Standards" by which the entire medical field has sworn allegiance!  And if said corporation isn't pocketing a few trillion in profit, why then they can simply change the National Standards to be a bit more strict, an "update" for the health of our mighty nation. Yeah... right... In a mere stroke of a pen, potentially millions of Americans who otherwise were just fine, thank you for asking, can now be included as having some disease that (oh thank gawd) this particular company just happens to have drugs for?! And have you noticed that nobody seems to be talking about actually *curing* a disease anymore? Oh no, why that will not do, no sir! No, there's no money in curing a disease, instead we need to be able to manage it. Just ask the Insurance Cartel that runs many billions of dollars of profit each and every year, while  giving less and less coverage at the same time.

Well supposing that your health is good, and you're not dead, then you should worry about your home. In fact, you probably should have a little camera in every corner of every room, so that your entire life at home can be monitored by someone. Hmmm... sounds like a professional voyeur to me? And of course, you can get that same type of "secure feeling" when you drop off the kid at Daycare, or the dog at Doggy Daycare! Ummm... ok... didn't we used to call this Big Brotherism? I mean, do I really need to be on camera for all of my waking, and sleeping moments? Maybe they can put a camera in my toilet, and then I won't need to go see a Proctologist?

Well then, if we continue on our magical mystery tour of tv, hopefully we can run across some idiots blathering on about the Economy, Politics, Religion, and/or how all three need to be fixed in some manner. It still amazes me that we supposedly live in The Information Age, and yet every two bit politician, or televangelist believes that the louder they yell, the "righter" they are? Speaking of Politics, which I am dread to do, neither party in this country that I dearly love, are showing any signs of intelligent life! The Republicans seem to have adopted their mascot, the Elephant, as a way of life. They continually blow and snort, and make it a point to trample any idea that is not from their own particular herd. Meanwhile, the Democrats appear to be acting much like their mascot, the Donkey! They dig in their heels at the thought of actually getting anything accomplished. Then they loudly bray and whine about how the elephant isn't being fair?! I can personally assure you that the infantile way that this Congress has been posturing and behaving, is NOT what I voted for! It's as if they all have been watching way too much tv drama, and never realized that there are millions of men, women and children that need for them to do a job! Is Congress afraid of working together and getting it right? Does whatever issues really have to be skewered and pillared and set into Old Testament overtones? How about we move ahead with the issues we all agree upon, and then agree to calmly, rationally, discuss the rest? 

Let's see then, you're not dead, not suffering, and not been home invaded by a squadron of terror mongering thieves, or run over by an enraged elephant nor kicked in the solar plexus by a donkey? What else can we be afraid of? Not sure? Don't worry, they'll tell you....

Friday, April 8, 2011

Spring... Sprang... Sprung...

I alluded, ever so briefly, in my last blog that Spring has sprung in The Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea. This annual miracle of Nature is always a welcome, and much longed for, event. Up here, we have a (not particularly funny) joke that goes along the lines of having four full seasons. Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter, and Road Deconstruction. (told ya it wasn't that funny) And that pretty much sums up our weather calendar.

But now that March is a memory, and we're past Fool's Day, we can consider the season to no longer be Still Winter, and officially Spring. Spring up here is usually mandated by longer days, and more snow. but now, we know that the cold, white stuff won't be around for ever, and the robins will eventually stop wondering just why they came back? But, as every college basketball fan knows, Spring is when March Madness happens.

I won't delve too deeply into the mechanics of basketball, and this really isn't a sports blog (we have ESPN for that). Suffice it to say that March Madness is the college basketball round robin style tournament that crowns a national champion. But to say that's all there is to March Madness is a walloping under statement! Most everybody gets a copy of the draw for round one, and then makes their own predictions to the winning spot. Often a small entry fee is included so that the winner gets most of the cash. But there's just as much excitement to be had for entering an online pool, with your buddies, for talking trash and bragging rights.

Every year I enter two or three of the "bragging rights" variety, and usually lose handsomely. When my late mom was around, she would beat me regularly by picking teams according to mascot, team colors, and other various and highly suspect reasoning. So she handily beat me year in and year out. Which meant that year in and year out, I would owe her dinner at a restaurant of her choosing, and happily she would choose a nice, medium priced place. I think I still her owe a couple dinners, come to think?

This year, March Madness did not really feature an "Upset Round" (when some underdogs beat what was supposed to be a much better team) as an entire tournament of them! At the end of the first weekend, my boards (also known as brackets) were suitable for use as toilet paper.... barely. But watch the games I did, (and this where the real magic happens) found myself cheering for a team that I had picked to lose, but they sure were playing a great game! Point of fact, just about everybody I know did the same thing. It may seem somewhat self defeating to not cheer on "your" team, but hey, that's why they play the games.

And so it went, this year, round after round of continuing upsets. By the time we got to the Final Four (these teams played against each other to go to the National Championship game), I was so certain of impending doom and disaster, that I just didn't look online to see how badly my brackets were suffering. I usually pick one or two of the Final Four, and on rare occasion even get three of them. This year I had none, nada, zip, nuthin. So I mentally shrugged and decided to just enjoy the sports spectacle for what it should be; a showcase of the best talent in college basketball in America. I was quite surprised to learn that I had actually *won* one of the  betting pools! What?! *utter facepalm* It's true! Even tho my boards were completely shredded, everyone else had even worse boards! Well, we all had a good laugh at that, and then turned our collective attention to the National Championship game.

Which turned out to be possibly the worst example of athleticism ever in a National Championship! At the end of the first half, the commentators wryly noted that both teams were shooting under 20% (a number that should be at least two or three times higher), and so it was "a defensive struggle", meaning that neither team could score a basket. Or that the kids certainly "played their hearts out", meaning that it was a very sloppy game, and that this game was an "intense competition" to see who could make more mistakes. In short it was appalling. Towards the end of the game, the sportscasters were no longer sugar coating the lackluster performance by each team, but still tried to put a positive spin on it. Not easily done, I assure you. And in the end, one of the teams just had to win, so it was University of Connecticut (UCONN Huskies).But as bad as that particular game may have been, they still reached for, and got, the brass ring. They kept all the marbles, and really are our National Champions of Men's College Basketball. And that's just the way all those student athletes should remember it too.

So now our snow is *almost* all the way gone, and the yards are starting to green up. We have a Ruffed Grouse that we named Evin (short for Evinrude, because when he flaps his wings against his chest, it sounds like a small motor boat), that proudly announces to any available female that he's here and ready for action. You can see buds at the ends of tree limbs, and the deer are patiently stalking day lilies and other garden delights. There is no more snow in our beach, and Ace the DufusDog has already been in for a swim. Good thing he takes his fur coat along! Sap buckets are sidled up to maple trees for their sugary sap, and the buzzards have returned to Hinckley Ohio.

And I have *finally* shed my articles of Winter Clothing. Namely I am sans my long johns which so ably kept me nice and cozy during those long, bleak, dismal, dark days. And, perhaps even more importantly, I am now sporting just one pair of socks. When I would venture out of doors, I would wear two pairs of socks, and a pair of toe warmers under Antarctic Survival Boots.  To say that my feet get cold would be an understatement comparable to the Titanic nudging a chip of ice. So, you see, it must be Spring, and now that I've shed those wintry woolies, I feel like a UCONN Husky!   

Once again I took the pictures, with the exception of the shot of me watching a game, which was snapped by the lovely Barb...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sure It's Spring... Just Look At All The Snow!

Aye yup, it's Spring in the Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea. This can only mean one thing... more snow?! No really, we can have snow on the ground for anywhere from four to six months here. This year, March actually came in like a Lamb, and left like Hyena, laughing all the way out!

I realize, after looking at the calendar, that it's been just about a month and a half since I've blogged last, so please forgive me. It's not that I haven't thought of you, and even missed you, but I somehow lost my Muse! No, really! It was late in February, and I had the germinations of two or three blogs that were percolating in my insides. Whatever inner region it is that such things ruminate and propagate in, was quite contentedly ruminating and propagating along very handsomely, thank you very much. I knew I was experiencing the rather typical middle of the Winter blahs, but still enjoying the season, and the beauty of Nature, and generally making the best of it. Until a certain afternoon. (cue dark music here) I still remember it very clearly. It was sunny (for a change) and the temperature was about 20F (or -7C if you are of that particular bent), and I was middling between sitting down and writing one of the aforementioned  blogs, or running to the store. Since food, and in particular this evening's dinner (or tea if you are of that bent as well) was my responsibility, I decided to make the supreme sacrifice, and go into town. (again, not easy being me)

So I was driving along merrily, listening to the classical music station, composing a blog in my mind, and generally enjoying the day. I make the six mile drive in the usual ten minutes, and proceed to the nearest, and only,  grocer. After rummaging around for what I wanted, I then proceeded to make stops thru town for various, mundane errands like the drugstore, and then finish by emptying my wallet by filling the gas tank. So it was, that on the way home that afternoon, I suddenly realized that I had nothing?! What?! It was gone. She was gone. My Muse had deserted me as if the Moon no longer followed the Sun! I felt an empty place inside, as if someone, or some thing, has taken away a dear friend, and with no notice. Confusion was left in it's wake, and then sadness.

It really took me some time to come to grips with this loss. I mean, I could still string words together and frame a good idea when I was talking. I could still Comment and Reply online, in emails and in social media. So why the frack couldn't I blog?! I would (literally) sit in front of the screen, hands on the keyboards, and nothing would come. I couldn't even get to the blogs I was in the middle of writing earlier? It just wasn't gonna happen. Period.

So... I finally had to admit to myself that I simply didn't have it, and so would "Stay Calm and Carry On". I never gave up on blogging, I just needed to wait till my Muse returned... and guess what kidz? She came back to me! I have absolutely no idea why she left (oh crapolla, did I piss her off?) nor why she returned (did she miss me?), but she is back... and so am I! Taaaa Daaaa!! Gawd I feel better now!

So now where were we? Oh yeah... Spring. We have a joke here in The Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea. We enjoy four full seasons: Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter, and Road Deconstruction. Last Sunday morning we saw diffuse lightening flashes, heard thunder grumbling, and had a squall of fat snow flakes pelting us! Oh sure it's Spring, I've even quit wearing my long johns, but the snow ain't gone yet kidz.

Oh, by the way, once again, the pics are all mine, and they were taken at the end of March, of this year.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mucking About On Mars

They say that this planet is all about war. I would completely disagree. Mars is all about survival. Survival in the extreme, survival of not just your soft flesh, but your mind, and your sanity. Oh sure, were it not for the First Interplanetary War we wouldn't be here now, but that conflict was between the Chinese held Glorious Lunar Settlement, and everybody they could drop a few rocks on. Including my beloved US of A. But, we're not here to debate history nor politics, no sirree. This particular tour guide is just happy to be able to take you on a small journey thru my part of the planet.

I know you all have signed the If I Die I Won't Sue This Stupid Tour Group Form, which I really don't give a plug nickle for, but even here we just have to have lawyers, don't we? What's that you ask? Well, it's true enough that until what was left of the United Nations granted us our sovereignty, we didn't need any damn attorneys, if you'll pardon my saying so.

Well then, since it looks like everybody has arrived here in the Porch, I'll need each of you to find a booth with your name above the curtain. Inside, you will find what looks like a diaper, and a couple of pairs of long johns. There's an instructional video to show you how to clamber into all these, and when you're done just meet out here. When you get back into this area, we'll fit you into your ExoSuit, helmet, and go thru all the checks necessary before we depart.We also have some very nice Wardrobe Assimilation Service Personnel, or WASPs,  that will wander by and give ya a hand if need be. So don't be bashful folks, that's what they are here for, to make sure you get the maximum possible enjoyment from taking a stroll on Mars. And believe you me, there's nothing more irritating than a sore spot rubbed raw by an ill fitting EnviroSuit! Unless maybe it's having a Glorious Lunar Meteorite dropped on your hometown and killing your entire family and neighborhood. Oh, oops, better to not go there, huh?

Since there are still a few good souls struggling a bit with the hard suit and helmet, I'll invite the rest of you wander around in here a bit, take a look thru the various view ports, and if you have any questions, please feel free to pipe up! Now, if you take a gander thru the portal just behind me, that's the real Mars, in all it's wonderful glory. The temperature is a balmy well below what it would take to freeze dry your working parts, and the atmospheric pressure is far less than when my dog farts. In other words, you ain't on Earth anymore, and it really takes us an hour just to get ready to go check the mailbox. Hey, does anybody even have an actual mailbox anymore?

Right then, if you all will step this way, you've been cleared for your first walk on the Red Planet. Which you will see is not really red, but then what can you expect from a bunch of nincompoops a few million miles away? Oh, oops, I meant highly respected dead guys that were persecuted and tortured by the Church. Oh whatever, everybody into the Cargo Resultant Atmosphere Pressurization of Personnel Routine, or what we fondly refer to as the CRAPPeR. Just a little joke there folks, step right in and please have a seat in the buggy. Once the techs have secured your safety straps, the obligatory Safety Video will display on your individual monitors and the sound will come thru your helmet. If you're looking for a barf bag... well let's just say that I seriously doubt that you will really want to vomit in this comet, since you'll be wearing it for the next two hours or so inside your helmet. Ewwww.

Alright then, let's go! Your first sojourn on Mars! Takes me back a few decades to mine, except our buggies were only four seaters, and had a very limited range. Oh, and we didn't get any fancy TV's or rest stops. But you my friends, you get nothing but top of the line today. Course, for what you gladly paid for this trip, you deserve a bit of luxury. So anyways, we have us about one third the gravity that you had back on the home world, or about twice what you get on Luna. Seems just enough to keep our bones healthy, and with some dedication to working out, your muscles will be too. Believe me, playing baseball here is a real treat, unless you happen to play outfield, that is. And as for water, fuggedabouditt, we're really close to the Northern Ice Cap, so we got all we need. In fact, you will see actual snow and ice on the ground up here! Not so lucky all our settlements in the middle of the planet, you know the Valley Marineris and the Tharsis Bulge? They hafta work a whole lot harder to continually recycle each and every drop of this precious stuff. But up here, we actually get to shower in it! And yes, that is true and real luxury on this planet people.

Now that we've been toddling along for a good few miles, I think it's about time we all got out, and stretched our legs a bit. But before you even think about moving, I release the safety straps from up here in what passes for a cockpit, and then each of your seats will swivel to face outside, at which time you will notice a rather wide running board to step down upon. Our two techs will be there for anyone who needs a hand in getting your feet under you, so don't feel bashful. And yes, I have fallen quite a few times, and not all of them due to Brown Bottle Swallow, if ya know what I mean. but if you slip, don't worry, you really won't crack your helmet or tear your suit. Cause if you did why then you'd look like a fountain of watermelon jetting up thru the cracks, ha! Oh, um, never mind.

So yes everybody, there's a reason I brought you to these coords. We are going to approach, on foot, the very site that, well, actually that I discovered many decades past, where I found what is commonly referred to as The Skeleton. A billion, that's with a B not an M, years old, and just stuck out in the desert. Now, the real one is locked up in a lab somewhere, and no I don't where and I don't want to, that's way above my pay grade. But what we have here is a mold of the actual item, painted to match exactly. Anyways, you can imagine just what was running thru my mind when I quite literally stumbled over this thing! Let's face it, an old, ex mil type with too many years in, and basically put to pasture here, and what do I do? I fall on top of the as yet only proof that there really is some other sentient life in this galaxy! Yup, right over there it is, go ahead and slowly amble around it. Remember, any fast or sudden move usually means one thing, you get reintroduced to Mr. Ground again. As you can see, it looks like the head is pointed South, and made of bones of some type, and the legs and such are up above it, and appear to be a mesh of various fibrous wires? I was glad that Fido, that's my personal nickname for him, wasn't alive when I came around. I imagine that just one chomp from that ugly beat would seriously ruin your day! Gawd what I wouldn't give to see Fido's spaceship!

Alright, listen up folks, if we've all had a chance here to see the only specimen of life from Somewhere Not Home, we're gonna get back aboard the buggy, and go to our next destination, The Enclosed Sea Of Mars! Keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times, and here we go. Now, no matter what you've heard about The Enclosed Sea, it really lies in between two ginormous ice rifts here at the Northern Cap. What some of our bright boys discovered was that this here terrain actually sits on top of a volcano, that could provide enough heat to melt the water, if only we could keep it there. So then some other bright boys came along and figured out how to make genuine glass from the materials we have here, namely the aforementioned water, and all this sand, and so keep the sea from literally evaporating into the sky! Well sir, that worked quite well for a good long time, and then some really bright gals decided that we could actually extend the enclosed sea, and make it a tiny ocean. Now, don't ask me what the difference is, except that part is under glass, and part isn't. And why the part that isn't, is, well I just don't know. But I never pretended to be an egg head, so I just admire it for it's beauty.

Now if you look forward, at about the 1:00 position, you can see where the last Mars Rover, Desperado, yeah they were running out of names then, finally came to it's last resting spot. Our little friend there made a lot of important discoveries in it's day, and as we drive close to it, you can actually view on your monitors the last image it took. If you remember your history books, does anyone read books anymore? Anyways, that last image is what decided that we could build the Enclosed Sea, something to do with the particular silicates in this area.  Now, as I said, I'm just an ex mil type with a flat top haircut, and just enough nanotech to keep my gizzard running, but even I can see why we want an open sea on Mars. I just don't know how that picture told the nerds and geeks down in Marsdome is all. You can see right away it's a False Color Image, and I reckon that all those false colors musta meant something to somebody, cause our next stop is the sea itself folks. You are in for a very real treat, yes sirree, you good folks are going to watch the sun set over that same sea, and it is a sight you will never forget. So let's drive to our next set of coords, and then we can all get out and unkink our backs again, what say?

So yes ladies and gents, I decidedly did save the best for last! Sunset on Mars, over the Eternal Sea, which is what they're calling it now, stupid name if ya ask me, is a memory you will take with you to your grave. You know here on Planet Four, or just Four, our day or Sol, is just about forty minutes longer than on Planet Three. Yes young lady, that would be Earth, very good! We'll make Martians of all you folk before the day is done by golly. Oh yeah, we get an additional forty minutes here, and it's my decidedly unscientific opinion that those same forty minutes come at sunset. It just seems that the sun hangs above the horizon, which you notice is quite a bit closer than back home, and truly is magical. I'm no poet, gawd knows, but if I was, it would be for those incredible moments of beauty then. Now you might just have noticed that we miraculously have gone around the entire ring of Hab Modules, and are right back where we started. I assure that this was in fact our intended Flight Plan, and you goodly folk have kept me quite entertained on our tour. I do hope that you take full advantage of your time on this planet; whether you're here on holiday, as my Brit buddies would say, or business or even planning on becoming a neighbor of mine. Once Mars gets under your skin, you realize that this is a frontier, and hopefully not our last. Now, lets all go enjoy that sunset, then we can go in and have a barbecue that will knock you outta your boots... Martian style!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Joueaux Noelle... {meow}

It was a dark and stormy night. No, really it was! OK, how about this; twas the week before Christmas, and all thru the house, a new creature was stirring, and she is no mouse. No? Well, then lean back, get a cup of hot cocoa, and I'll relate how my beloved Barbara and I came to be found by a just too adorable kitten.

It all started the week before Christmas. Up here in The Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea, it's *almost* guaranteed that we will enjoy a White Christmas. This year certainly lived up to The Weather Channel's considered opinion that we indeed would have snow. Not enough that they sent out Jim Cantore, or even Mike Bettis, but a good, old fashioned White Christmas to be sure. If you're across the pond, in Merry Olde England, or Scotland, you probably have some not so fond memories of that blizzard. I know of more than one dear friend that complained about bitter cold, stiff wind, and too much snow. Over here, in contrast, that's simply another wonderful day Up North. Yeah, we're used to it, and actually enjoy it. We even have a saying here, "There's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing choices". Oh, and we mean it.

In fact, there are people that will blithely choose to don Arctic Survival Gear, and go traipse thru the woods to a blind, in hopes of stocking the freezer with fresh venison. Happily, your humble narrator already had his freezer stocked, and so didn't feel the "Call of the Wild" to go on such an aforementioned misadventure. But two of our hale and hearty (and young) nephews did feel that call, and so drove up to spend the weekend with us. Blizzard be damned, they are men, and deer will be bagged. Well, with a true Northern Michigan Blizzard (40+ mph winds, heavy snowfall, no end in sight, repeat daily as needed) they wisely chose to spend most of the time indoors.

To help ease their pain and frustration, that fateful evening, we bundled into Steve's pickup truck (hurray for 4 wheel drive) and snow plowed our way to Rosie's Place. Rosie's is known far and wide for having the best burritos and pizzas within an easy drive. We were just about the only crazies in the place as most sane folk stayed at home that evening. So we noshed on a great pie, and a pitcher of beer, and very much enjoyed each other's company. Both Steve, and his brother Edward are made of sterling stuff, and we enjoy them immensely.

Soon after warm, satisfying meal, we decide to brave the blizzard once more and more or less "snow plow" our way home. {cue music} We slowly proceed, and Barb decided that we should divert from the normal route, and take a back road as it might be less windy? You see, the wind was still whipping about 45mph, and the visibility was just barely beyond the hood of the truck. As we crawl down the road, thru the deep and deeper drifts, we spot some red flashing lights ahead in our path. {music intensifies} We inch along, and stop a couple of car lengths behind a small car, with it's Hazard Lights blinking. Whew... well the nephews decide that we should render aid if we can, and we trundle out. Turns out the car belongs to neighbors, and yes they were stuck. since they had a cell phone, they had called for a tow truck, and it's arrival was imminent. Well, we couldn't just leave them, and uh oh, our truck can't turn around either! So no real choice but to wait for the wrecker, which would pull out the car in front of us, and we'd follow in it's tracks.

Well that was a nice plan, wasn't it? Only problem was that the tow truck arrived *behind* us! But the driver smartly stopped quite a ways, and walked up to survey the situation. Which, as we had guessed, was impassable from our rear. Plan number two; he drives around the country block (getting semi stuck at least three times) and arrives in another 45 minutes or so, from the front. Now we'll get somewhere! Good thing as we all had to take turns warming up in the truck, in order to avoid frostbite and freezing appendages. Speaking of which, two of us really, really, really had to go (pitcher of beer?) and believe you me, I have never, ever been so concerned about freezing *that* appendage before!

Well, Mr Tow Truck Driver decides that no, he can't even get the car out from the front! In fact, there is no way for him to recover that vehicle with all the snow it's in (?!). Great. Hey, we're hearty folk, we can deal with this! So we pile the neighbors into the truck, and the rest of us walk along the truck to guide Steve in his quest to drive in Reverse to where he can't see. {ok forget the music, you get the idea} It takes a few running go's for him to clear the truck, but he still has a good quarter mile to backup before he can turn around. So we form an escort to guide Steve rearward along his snow covered way... inching backward, neck craning, eyebrows furrowed in consternation.

He finally gets to a nice wide spot, and starts the cautious Y turn procedure, and the escorts huddle for warmth. I was the last one of the walking warriors, and as I approached, I heard a very distinct, pitiful mewling! I called for the poor kitty to come to me, but could not see thru the dark, into the trees where I heard her plaintive calls. So, I hustle over to Barb, who has a flashlight, and she then scurries back to where I had stood. Soon enough, she comes waltzing over to the truck, with a precious bundle of black and white fur tucked in her jacket. The young kitten would either cry loudly, or purr even louder all the way home. This miserable creature had endured one of the worst blizzards we've seen, and appeared to be quite happy, healthy and very much at home with us. She greedily chowed on food, and guzzled water loudly that first night. when she wasn't busy endearing us to her oh so cute face and vibrato purr.

We put out the word to neighbors and nearby friends, in fear there was a child missing that special Christmas Kitten. No word made it back, and Noelle, stayed put in her new abode. The two other cats were appropriately put off by the new intruder, and Ace the DufusDog made friends quickly. It's amazing how quickly we all adapted, and how cunningly she stole our hearts! Each moment to be treasured, by turns either a black and white tornado, rampaging thru the house, or a completely limp noodle in our lap. She grew a bit and settled in.

And then last week it happened, something we never expected... our new kitty went into heat. No good deed goes unpunished my friends, and this was no exception. That, however, is another blog for a different day. Suffice it to say that even tho Noelle is clearly not broken, she has an appointment to get fixed.