Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Road Trip

Things are crazy around here.  On top of all the other craziness, I got a call a few days ago.  My job just ended suddenly as of this Friday.  It was always meant to be temporary job, but the sudden termination was sort of unexpected.  On top of my Dad getting remarried at 87, my world is rocking on its foundations. 

We're planning a trip to Florida -- actually several trips throughout the winter and early spring -- and the rental car companies really rape you during the Christmas season.  A typical car goes for $1100/week!!  So we've developed the practice of taking an old car down there in the fall and leaving it until the spring.  But this year we didn't get around to it.  Jeff's been working crazy hours, so I insisted on taking the car down last weekend. 

It was a long long drive, but it was sort of fun.  It was nice to get away from the crazy and be alone for a few days.  I had a couple of good books on tape to listen to and I was able to stop and see the sights whenever I wanted to.  In fact, I stopped here:  (Jeff would NEVER have gone along with this one)

In fact, it was a nice little tourist trap with free cheese samples.  I bought two hunks of cheese and a cool cheese knife. 

Most amazing of all, though, I FINALLY got to See Rock City!  The most venerable tourist trap of them all!  Ever since I was a child, I've begged to go to Rock City and nobody would take me because (a) we were always in a hurry to get somewhere else, and (b) it's a tourist trap. 

For the unenlightened, Rock City started out as a pleasure garden for a wealthy couple who lived on top of Lookout Mountain in Georgia.  The views are stunning and it's said that you can see five states from Lover's Leap (Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama).  When the depression hit, the wealthy couple -- now not so wealthy -- opened their garden to the public for an admission charge.  The husband then had a stroke of advertising genius.  He agreed to paint barns throughout the South for farmers, as long as the farmers agreed to allow him to paint "See Rock City" on them    "See Rock City" became part of americana -- and I'd never seen it! 

So, I took golden opportunity while there was no one to complain that we'd be late to our destination or that they didn't want to go.  I paid my outrageous $20 entry fee and had a pleasant walk around some beautiful rock formations, and lovely gardens, and I saw beautiful views.  I SAW ROCK CITY! 
The entryway to all that is Rock City (and the gift shop -- who knew they would have a gift shop!?)

A stream running between enormous rock formations

Looking up into a Douglas fir

Most of the flora was labelled for identification

A damp but interesting passageway

The swinging bridge -- talk about a thrill ride -- it wobbles hundreds of feet in the air

Lover's Leap, where you can see five states

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trying to Hold It Together

Geez!  It's been crazy around here for the past few weeks.  The girls both had personal crises towards the end of the school term, Jeff is working himself to death, and my Dad announced that he's getting remarried ... right NOW.  My world is a little off-kilter at the moment. 

I'm trying to be happy for Dad.  I know he's lonely and Harriett seems like a lovely person, but I don't know her at all.  I've only met her once, briefly.  I'm finding it hard to imagine her in my Mom's place.  I know that she isn't trying to fill that role, but in my mind my Mom and Dad are a matched set.  It's disorienting to think of him sharing his home with anyone else.

And the way they've gone about it is ridiculous.  Let me vent for a minute here.  Not only did he spring it on me, but they decided to get married on Christmas Day.  I guess that made sense for her side of the family because her son from Chicago would be in town, but neither my brother or sister could attend on that day and, if they were excluded, I was seriously thinking about boycotting.  Of course, all of the planning and information was being transmitted through my Dad, who is often a bit confused, because I don't even have this woman's phone number or address.  I asked Dad yesterday for her address and he didn't know it.  He just knows how to get there -- he doesn't know the apartment number. 

Anyway, it may all work out.  They agreed to postpone the wedding until Jan. 21st so everyone can attend.  And they also met with an attorney yesterday to sort out a pre-nup.  He's 87 and she's 88.  I want them to enjoy the years they have left and keep each other company.  I want to be happy about this.  I'm trying. 

So, on top of everything else, when I came downstairs early Saturday morning I noticed water near the kitchen sink.  When I opened the cabinet, water spilled out on the floor.  I turned around and went back to bed.  It was too much.  Later, after I'd screwed up my courage, I pulled all the sodden crap out from under the sink.  It was a lot of wet stuff but it wasn't the first time I've had plumbing issues with that sink, so most of it was in plastic containers or wrapped in plastic.  The pipes were dripping in three different places.  And continued to drip after I turned off the water supply taps.  It was a mystery.  I sopped up the mess and put bowls under the drips and called the plumber. 

Of course, since it was Saturday, the plumber didn't answer and I left a message.  A few hours later, I left another message.  A few hours later, I called another plumber, picked out of a hat.  Fortunately, the second plumber came right away and showed me that the 25-year-old faucet on my kitchen sink was kaput.  The water was still flowing because the cut-off taps were so old and stiff that I hadn't turned them all the way off.  He didn't have a faucet in stock to replace it, so there was nothing he could do for me except charge me $100 for the service call. 

Then Jeff called from the airport.  He just flew in from Colorado and his car wouldn't start.  Would I come and jump him?  I tried, but the car wouldn't start and he went into a rage when I insisted that we leave it and deal with it the next day rather than waiting who knows how long for AAA to come.  He had had a long and difficult day and a dead car was the last thing he wanted.  In the end, I took him home and headed back out to Home Depot -- armed with an Internet video on "How to Replace Your Kitchen Faucet." 

It was after midnight when I finally finished installing the brand new chrome finished Delta faucet with two spray options and a built-in spray wand.  Everyone else had gone to bed.  It worked and it didn't leak (although I didn't put everything back in the cabinet until I was SURE).  It was a victory. 

Out goes the old faucet

In goes the new faucet

Waiting for the cabinet to dry ...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

What a difference a year makes!  Yesterday was the anniversary of my weight loss surgery.  There's no denying that I'm still plump, but I'm 85 pounds lighter, no longer diabetic, off my blood pressure meds, off my cholesterol meds, off my CPAP, and much more energetic and full of life.  It wasn't easy, but I can say definitively that it was a good thing. 

For the first time in -- forever -- I've got most of my Christmas shopping done early.  I might actually ENJOY the Christmas season for the first time a long time.  I remember distinctly a few years ago when Sherri Buckley and I were in the bell choir together.  We were playing the bells for midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and both of us burst into tears because the stress of the holiday was coming to a head and we both had hours of gift wrapping ahead of us.  I don't want to do that again ... ever. 

The Christmas season starts for me with the Friendship Spinners' annual retreat at Shakertown.  Like many of the members, I'm not very good at attending the monthly meetings -- which usually involves driving a couple of hours to a location central to the scattered members --  but I try not to miss the annual retreat.  I've never met a warmer group of about sixty ladies (and several men!).  We joke, we laugh, we discuss our lives, and we go out of our way to welcome new people and shy people.  It's probably the most comfortable group I've ever been a part of.  I can sit alone and spin quietly or pick up my chair and join any group.  No one will freak out if I take a walk by myself and everyone will welcome me if I join in their conversation.  It's such a blessing and a release to be there. 

This year I brought curried sweet potato soup and spinach dip to the potluck.  I didn't make my usual springerles embossed with the lady spinning, and some people were disappointed.  Maybe next year.  The potluck spread was perfect for my new dietary requirements!  I could sample some soup and have crackers and a cookie any time during the retreat, so I could eat little bits all day long.  Perfect! 

I scored big on both the gift exchange and the raffle.  As my gift, I brought a Christmas angel made out of roving and 4 ounces of suri alpaca for spinning.  In the exchange, I received a brightly colored handwoven floor rug made of those little pot holder loopies!  It's so cute and cheerful and perfect for me since I don't really weave and couldn't have made something like that for myself.  My number was called in the raffle and I went home with a lovely skein of brown handspun shetland.  I also brought home one of the wonderful baskets that Ken was selling.  They're made in Africa by tribal women and the money goes directly to support them -- and they're fantastic baskets. 

Our room at Shakertown,  the cabinet cleverly hides a TV

The West Family Wash House, where we hold our meeting every year

Shaker woven coverlets in the textile museum

A shaker dress

A shaker shirt

Colorful beeswax candles for sale in the gift shop -- I bought some red ones
Shaker collars and underthings

The wagon ride all decked out for Christmas

Shakertown, of course, provides the perfect atmosphere for a retreat.  It was all decked out for Christmas -- but simple and serene as usual.  Lorain and I shared a hotel room, which brought my expense for the weekend to a grand total of $44 since I didn't eat in the restaurant. 

After the spinning wheels were packed up and everyone dispersed, I drove to Lexington and picked up Linda.  We went back down to Danville to attend a "Lessons & Carols" service where Kate was performing with the Centre Singers and the Centre Choir.  Danville's main street was breathtaking.  All the trees lining the street were festooned with white lights and it looked like a wonderland.  The performance/church service was lovely, consisting of congregational caroling and choral performances punctuated with pertinent bible readings.  Ally met us there, so we got to see both girls.  It was a moving ending to a happy day.