Friday, March 24, 2017

No spontaneity until Sunday

My grandson, Francis, wandered into the Washington DC adventure because our destinations might coincide, and he could use a favor. As you recall, he invited me to lunch to quiz me and assess the opportunity. I heard nothing more, and dismissed the possibility of seeing him, until the package intelligence surfaced.

A week and a half ago he asked if I could bring a package for him. Sure, what’s the plan? He hadn’t thought about that, and since he is a spontaneous kind of a guy, he’d just ship it.

I forgot about it again until his mother called, and explained what he was planning to do, which was to bike the tow path trails from Pittsburgh to DC, ship home the bike and other stray belongings, grab the package, containing among other things, his laptop and his photo ID passport, Uber to the airport and visit his South Carolina cousins on Tuesday. He would find us on the mall via his sister’s GPS.

Sounded like a plan to me; I signed off and forgot about it again.

I followed France several days on the trail via his morning and evening Facebook posts.  I was impressed at his determination. He was in it and would see it through. The snow, the frozen trail, camping several nights in primitive conditions, and then that eleven hour day, slogging uphill in mud, walking the bike. Poor guy came out several miles short of a town with decent food (France likes his decent food), and settled for outback poutine; French fries and gravy, served up in a crossroads bar.

But then it was downhill, and he rolled along beside the Potomac River in sixty degree weather, into his favorite lodging, an AirBnB, very near the National Mall. Good food, nice bed, clean clothes. Teddy Roosevelt thought about his safari porter, and texted me, at 6:30 this morning:

How would you like to coordinate package delivery tomorrow? My AirBnB is right by the National Park.

I smiled and went back to sleep. At 8:30, after a shower, dressing, breakfast, bed making and so forth, I replied:

Tomorrow I am driving to Alexandria VA. Expect to be on the National Mall around 10 am Sunday.

Five minutes later: Alright.

I expect he will be through with sister, cousin and grandma long before Tuesday, and change his ticket for a Monday flight.

The weather forecast is outstanding, half the cherry blossoms survived and will peak this weekend. The weather here was so lovely today that I had the front door open all afternoon. 

Toby was beside himself, between standing on the door closer, and peering through the chink at the bottom. I promised him I will get him an all glass storm door this summer and maybe an interior door with full glass this fall, though  that improvement will be more for me than for him.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Of course it’s not over

The sun is shining, the thermometer is just short of fifty, and there are cars in the nursery parking lot.  It’s good for both my expectation and purse that I’ll be out of town for a week. Else I would be looking to buy whatever is out, and add some color to my outdoors.

There is political news. The ACA vote is delayed. The house lost the propaganda value of overturning the ACA on its anniversary date. The World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan, 2017, must try again for votes.

In the meantime, the House inquiry into Russian interference in the last election is in doubt. Nunes, who chairs the committee, took confidential information to President Tweet. I’ve heard that compared to Donna Brazile passing questions to Hillary Clinton, pre-election. Grow up. Clinton was not the sitting president, and Brazile was not under oath. Scandalous, yes. A scandal, no.
This presidency is costing us so much. Trump sons travel the world on Trump brand business; Melania stays in New York; Ivanka inherits the west wing office and awaits top security clearance. Actually, I think all the Trumpsters are in Aspen this weekend, with a hundred secret security agents. Dumping Meals On Wheels cannot underwrite this expense, even for a day.

A terror attack in London, and its population does what grown up’s do. Gets on. Life goes on. We face down the terror by keeping on; living our lives, believing our beliefs, supporting what we care about, and not taking it for granted. Some more post cards and phone calls do not go amiss.

I enjoyed, and participated in a FaceBook challenge. Paul Ryan had disconnected his office phones and faxes at the beginning of the ACA replacement debate. I took up the challenge to land several tons of postcards in his drive way. Recently the challenge was to mail postcards to the White House, all on March 15th. What better way to have a president wonder about his approval rating and why it’s running low.

My post card stash is running low. I’m currently working on my wimp senator, Rob Portman, to oppose The World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan, 2017. Something is getting to him. His office phones weren’t answered today.

It’s too soon to hang hope on spring, but not too late to effect damage control leading up to the next election. In the meantime, some kitchen window photos.

Excess rosemary, drying in the egg separator.

 The orchid will be in bloom, when we are back next Friday.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Oh, the details and the reality

This morning Francis is on the downside of Mountain Top. He says, on FaceBook, it’s a gradual descent into DC. In spite of the mud, he seems intent on sticking to the towpath trail. It has been muddier than he expected. He spent eleven hours on the trail yesterday, the majority of it walking, and fell short of his goal of connecting from the GAP trail to the C&O Trail.

France is on the C&O this morning. He said he would start early, perhaps 2 a.m. It seems he did. He expects to be in DC Friday evening. He can just track his sister’s GPS from Cleveland to DC, all day Saturday. Knowing France, he will spend Saturday biking the National Mall, so he can tell the girls where to go. I’ll let you know if he conquers the road and arrives before we arrive.

I wonder when I emerged from spontaneity? When did I abandon “Get dressed; road trip.”  It doesn’t seem that long. But steering two youngsters and myself through a weeks’ getaway required planning. Looking into visiting Monticello, Mt. Vernon and Montpelier was an education.

Perhaps we paid a small admission fee back in the eighties; I don’t recall. Now you pay the fee and get tickets in advance. But, there’s more. You don’t just show up; you schedule a time. So much for spontaneity. I did some juggling and added extra driving to visit all three Presidential homes in two days, to accommodate George Washington.

The area temps will be in the sixties for the duration of our stay, but rain in the forecast, so I made sure everyone has a raincoat. I already learned the circulator bus for the National Mall is a dollar every time you get on, so I will bring a lot of dollar bills. Then I thought of the regular bus line that will get us to the mall, and made the call. It is $1.75, exact change only. I’ll add a roll of quarters. I think I’ll get hand warmers, too.

Laura and I need to think about efficient packing of the car, since I’ve added the push chair to the luggage. She is charged with getting audio books at the library Wednesday night, while I am at the trustee meeting. Laura and Caroline exchanged texts about the book selection while she and I drove home from shopping last weekend.

Suddenly Laura burst out laughing. “Caroline just gave me a list of books I can’t get. The sexual scenes are too explicit for Grandma.” I laughed, too, and had trouble keeping my eyes on the road, for wiping my eyes.

May, 2007. Bekka, blowing bubbles. Uncle Walt on the ramp. Caroline in pink; Laura in some of her clothes, and France, who couldn't catch all the bubbles himself, commiserates with his father.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ellen asks, “What’s in the package.”

These last two grandkids, Francis and Caroline, have been raised to think and do. Beth, their mother, owned and managed a well known restaurant in Cleveland for most of their lives, and they could bus tables, refill drinks and run the dishwasher as soon as they were old enough to see the top of a table. That hasn’t been a problem for France, though; he’s always been tall enough.

Then, there’s constitution. Their mother is Irish and German, their father Welsh and German (well, really Lithuanian, though Grandma Ruth doesn’t often acknowledge it). Grandma Ruth describes herself as a tough weed, and these two kids are, too. They used to go to Lithuanian Scout Camp, where they learned to shoot rifles and take care of themselves in the wilderness. Caroline, wisely, opted out, for home and hearth, but France carries on.

I didn’t see much of Francis until these last couple of years. He often was off with his dad, climbing rocks, sleeping in wilderness camping areas, hiking for miles. I got involved, to the extent of following his adventures, when he started the blog last summer, to cover his trip across the middle heartland.

That trip was with a group of people who were testing themselves, just as France was. The leader went all the way across the country, ending in Oregon. A couple from Japan went to San Francisco. France stopped in Illinois. Others were in for a distance, and out. It was a good group, not all speaking the same language, but united in purpose.

France was already biking hundred mile days around Cleveland, in preparation for this spring break jaunt, when we met for lunch, with his ulterior motive of enlisting courier service, and perhaps getting a hot shower and a place to bunk for a couple of days in DC. His details were completely sketchy, and I figured I’d hear more later.

“More” simply was that text about seeing me in DC. I ruffled his composure when I said I needed a plan and he said, “Fine, I’ll ship it!” His next destination is South Carolina, where he will meet his mother and visit cousins he hasn’t seen for a couple of years. I’m thinking he’ll Uber or Lyft  to the airport. I don’t even know which day, though I’ll either be on the national mall or visiting a founding father’s home.

His “courier” parcel contains his passport, his laptop, and probably some clean clothes and socks. He’ll need ID to get on the plane, and all he has is his passport. For good reasons, Beth doesn’t want to ship that to South Carolina. I’m interested to see what will become of his bike.

If you’ve had a look at his Facebook postings so far, tell me what you think in comments. He's posted a couple of videos. He was the only person last night in a little campground; he slept on a concrete slab. It was below freezing. This morning he had to bike six miles to breakfast, fueled by a surprise latte mix from his mother and sister that he described as, “Surprisingly, not half bad.” He hoped the trail was frozen, not muddy, and he was off. Whatever makes your latte, I guess.

So, Ellen, civilization is in the package.

The plaque Francis made for the leader of last summer's adventure. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

President Tweet

A news commentator on a PBS station this morning misspoke, “President Tweet trumped.” Several sentences in she caught herself and said, ‘I meant “President Tweet trumped.”’ And gave up. 

President Tweet, it is. Now President Tweet is quoting his “favorite” Irish proverb, written by a fellow in Nigeria, named Alhassan. Mr. Alhassan wrote a little morality poem, and its last verse certainly should be taken to heart by President Tweet.”

Always remember to do your duty,
And some kindness, day by day.
But never forget to live a useful and happy life,
That is the only way.

That’s my political remark for the day. Here is a grandmother tale, funnier than President Tweet.

Francis, my grandson who is two weeks younger than Laura, started on his spring break adventure today. He is biking “The Great Alleghany Passage” from Pittsburgh to Washington DC, by himself. Or fellow bikers he meets along the way.  I’m copying and pasting a description I found on Google:

The initial 125 miles of this tour are on the Great Allegheny Passage from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD, located on abandoned railroad beds. The final 184 miles from Cumberland, MD to downtown Washington, DC, are on the C&O Canal Towpath, which is the heart of the C&O Canal National Park.

I traveled this highway at least once a month in my show days. Let’s see if I can describe it. He’s starting in Pittsburgh, so we’ll skip the bit about the flat farmland in Ohio. He’s a little bit up the hill to start. Then, the road climbs the Alleghany Mountain. Before the top, my road went through the Alleghany Tunnel, and dropped down just a bit to Breezewood. From there the road climbs Mountain Top, before dropping down to Hagerstown, Maryland, and on to Washington DC. France biked the Alleghenies from West Virginia to Illinois last summer, so this is just a little spring break jaunt. He says.

Francis wanted to meet up in DC. He proposed the rendezvous back when we met for lunch, and even acquiesced to some chair pushing in exchange for courier service of a small parcel via Grandma’s car. He texted me about passing off the parcel. I texted back, in a Grandmotherly way, “We don’t have a meeting plan for DC.” He replied he was just going to be more spontaneous, and guessed he’d ship the package, instead.

For, in DC, Francis will ship his bike back to Ohio and take a plane to meet his mother in South Carolina.

Beth called me the next day. She does not want to ship the package. Here’s how the great meet up will work. Francis will find us in DC via the GPS on his sister’s phone. Who am I to question. The plan is on.  

Erin Go Braugh

I see Francis has invited us to follow him on this trip:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What to do with another snow day

Due to inclement weather and the other usual phrases, school is cancelled again today. It just occurred to me I cannot remark smugly that I used to walk uphill both ways. Actually, I did. 

However, there were way fewer cars on the roads then, and we walked strung across the roads that had no sidewalks. When we reached sidewalks, the homeowners and shop keepers had them cleared. The majority of kids these days seem to be on busses, and bus traffic on poorly cleared, early morning roads is a different matter.

I woke the second time to the front door slamming. I’d already told Laura there was no school, so I looked out the window. She tells me this is a far more efficient method of getting ice from the window than coming back in for car keys to get the snow brush.

I looked out the back window, at my neighbor’s car. This is what Laura started with.

Laura had a plan. She’d texted Deb and asked if she could help at Elements Gallery. She packed a lunch, I ate breakfast, and I dropped her off.

Back home, I perused Google news to see what new wheels fell off the clown car that is the presidency of our country. My current assessment is, the wheels don’t actually need to fall off. The Republican controlled houses of Congress are doing a fine job of shooting holes in them. And hopefully in their own feet as well.  The realization is dawning that replacing ACA with, and I quote, “The World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan, 2017,” is political suicide.

I used to send postcards to people in power, asking them to oppose or support things I opposed or supported. Or, I’d tell representatives doing a good job, “Thanks! Persist!” Now I’m thinking of sending post cards to, say, Paul Ryan: “Why stop at 14 million. Go for 24. No, 34. That’s a nice big number. Your seat is up in 2018; keep up the fine work.”

My real plan for today is to finish up the DC trip details, like the elusive Montpelier tickets, and get a firm grasp on transportation available in the city.  And, wonder if the ice will spare the cherry blossoms.

Picture credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sunday, March 12, 2017

This morning, this afternoon, and tomorrow

Another pancake breakfast this morning, this time in Geauga County, home of real pancakes, real butter and real maple syrup. Good sausages, too.

My daughter Beth, her mother and her husband here. Beth broke a lot of her arm last December, in an awful fall. It's not progressing as well as could it should, but she's a long way from where she started.

We all futility waved  the refill sign around, until Francis took the matter under his six foot charge.

Beth, her mother and her mother-in-law. You remember Grandma Ruth. There is no picture of Caroline and Laura today; they tend to move as unit when together, and fade in and out of sight.

Back home this afternoon, here is Toby, attempting to recover from springing ahead for daylight savings. I took a bit of a nap before supper, too.

I sewed two more quilt tops this afternoon, and Laura put several more together, before retreating to her room to exercise her thumbs.

The winter storm forecast starting tomorrow afternoon is now up to 9" of snow. I'm beginning to take this personally.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Stormy weather

The rain and wind commenced Wednesday, early.  It seems I'd only just heard Laura leave when a clap of thunder rattled everything. I looked at the clock to see if I should get my sorry self up to the bus stop, but, fortunately, it was 6:40, and the bus better have left.

I got to work early, to get payroll done, the rest of the bills paid, and everything in order for the night's board meeting. I had a project to finish at the house before the 1 pm knitting group meeting. That project did not happen because the electricity went out. It had stopped raining, so we neighbors commiserated up and down the street about the state of utilities, until the chilly air drove us in for warmth.

But, there is no warmth inside with no electricity to circulate it around the house. I decided to go to work to keep warm. Kendall Road, down into the valley, was closed near the top. Not a good sign. I turned around and went down SR 303.

The first clue was there at the bottom, in Peninsula. The traffic lights were swinging wildly in the wind, and not working. Most of us were politely making a four way stop of the intersection, but in waiting my turn, I counted more than a few had no idea why the car in front stopped, and went on through the intersection with them.

At the town hall, at 303 and Riverview, Riverview was closed. There was no problem apparent in the few hundred feet to the town hall drive, so I squooze the car past the barricade and went on down. One garage door was open, so I moseyed on in there to hear the latest. The road crew was just in from clearing roads of fallen trees, and it did not look good.

I came home and took a nap until time to pick up Laura from book club. The power was on in Hudson. I think the sun was shining, too. Laura and I went to a restaurant for supper, because you cannot cook in an all electric house with no electric. 

My neighbor texted me; the power was back in my little house on top of the hill. I texted the road super, expecting the same. However, no power in the valley. No word from the powers that be cancelling the meeting, though, and I went back down.

Our meeting was not cancelled, though it was among our shortest in my thirteen years. This morning the road super texted me, "Don't rush down here. Still no power." I didn't rush, but I did go, to get the bills in envelopes and mailed while there was sunlight to see. I still had to rig up a flash light to see well.

On my way home, behind a county road crew. The fellow by the middle truck swore at me as he waved me around. Road crews probably have not been to bed in the last 36 hours. That middle truck lifts tree trunks up and off the road.

Like this one, further up the road. Look at all the scrape marks across the pavement, to the other side. The winds were up to sixty mph, I read in today's paper.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Pancakes, snow and art

Pancake breakfast season is upon us again. I wonder how many organizations I could name that do not have a pancake fundraiser. And, so, it was the Hudson High School Parent Teacher Organization's event yesterday. Laura and I were in the crowd.

A sign at the door announced all pancakes were gluten free. In addition, all pancakes were donated by the local Perkins Pancake franchise, as were the accompanying sausages. 

Factory pancakes, re-heated in a steam unit, served over two questionable sausages. At the table, imitation butter and syrup. But, the coffee was real, and my $16 probably is well spent. We left the deafening cafeteria for the quieter student art exhibit in the gym.

There was a lot of good art on display, but these bowls held my attention. My mother would have loved these. All those church bulletins and colorful magazine pages she could have kept from the landfill.

Perhaps in my dotage I will look into the rolled paper art form and make all presents in-house.

This structure is at the end of one of the exits of the high school, and is where I pick Laura up after school, if she needs picked up. They call it The Gazebo. Ours is not to question, etc. I liked the lace edging the melting snow commenced making.

This morning the snow on my neighbor's roof caught my eye. Each section of his tin roof is sending down a a distinct unit of snow.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Weather, whether or not, and the spring band concert

 Counting Emily and Hamilton, I am approaching two dozen band concerts. Last night, another one.

She's spotted me. The stink eye.

"Take the picture I'm smiling for!"

Laura has been in band since fifth grade. Her band director reminded me of Uncle Tom playing the part of the Old Grey Goose at her first concert. 

I continue to be amazed at the discipline of band. As soon as the conductor stands by the podium, it's all eyes front, instruments ready.

When we left the concert, the snow had begun. It was falling hard, and looked exactly like it would be the two to three inches our road super was loading up for Thursday afternoon.

When I left for the gym, at 9:30, Laura had cleared the porch and steps, a path around the car, and swept the windshield clean of snow. The ice scraper is in the car and it's locked, so she has a pass, though I remain amazed at the responsibility she assumes with no asking. Perhaps you see, it has begun snowing again, in the picture. In the fifteen minutes it took me to clear the windows and leave, we were in a deep squall.

When I got home at 12:30, the porch and steps were full and drifted. I didn't stop to clean them; all I wanted was dry shoes and socks. It's been snowing all this time, so we need to do some work tonight, so we can go out in the morning.

I stopped at the river today, on my travels, and took this "color" photo of the black and white world. I must remember to ask if that small rill in the bend of the river is a natural formation or the residual of an old dam or bridge.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

In like a lion

I seem to be on a whippersnapper rant of late. After hours on hold to enroll the township bank account in on-line access, and another two hours of staring down a bank manager, yesterday I pulled the February bank statement. There were no copies of checks. The bank told me to call my account manager. I’ve left him two voice messages to date. Townships are required to have copies of all cancelled checks. Don’t ask why.

There was meeting in February for instructions on reporting the township’s waste. Don’t ask. 

It’s called the SummitAkronSolidWasteManagementAuthority. Tim and I used to call it Sa-swampa. It’s a quasi-governmental authority. They collect fifty cents per ton from all waste haulers operating in the county (Summit), and redistribute it to foster recycling. Every municipality receives a “grant” based on population. There is a not too complicated application involved, and an on-line report no one understands, including the people who run Sa-swampa.

I have not attended the mandatory meeting for the last several years because I cannot walk the approximately one mile from parking to the meeting and back again. Last year all the old employees of Sa-swampa retired, and new whippersnappers came in. I de-RSVPed the meeting. I downloaded, completed and sent in the application for our $707. I assembled our waste hauler information for last year. I called Sa-swampa, because I refuse to attempt this report unaided.

There is a new whippersnapper in charge of a new form. We both struggled. In my defense, it is her form, not mine. At some point she icily informed me “this is why we encourage you to come to the meeting.” Long pause as I attempted to regain my composure, but I failed. “You do know I cannot walk,” I replied in an equally uncivil tone.  She struggled on. In the end the form was submitted incomplete. She was crying. I didn’t care.

Oh, did I mention the tornado in the middle of the night as March first dawned. For thirty years I lived in a house with a basement dug into the side of a hill, and missed the only tornado, in 1988, because I was driving in it. Now I live in a trailer!

I knew this one could happen, and I slept restlessly, waiting for it. I listened to awful wind and wondered if my rain barrel would survive. I heard raindrops hit it like sling shotted rocks. At 5:45 my storm alert blasted me out of bed. I turned on the local TV, with the same message. We went into Laura’s closet, with pillows.

K texted from the old house, “Tornado warning. Want to come over?” I answered we were staying in the closet, it was that imminent. Straight line winds in the sixty mile per hour range raged past. The all clear was 6:30. We got dressed and went our ways to school and work.  Note to the future: next time go to the bathroom first. The next 45 minutes will be far more comfortable.

February friends. I've sat in my car fifteen minutes at a time watching them. Sparrows don't disperse until I get out of the car and approach them.

Aconite at the library. I neglected to add aconite bulbs to my list last fall. Next spring I'll have them, too.