Monday, July 30, 2007

National Fairytales

Most American school children know the sweet, heartwarming story of the Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock. How they set sail in search of religious freedom and arrived directly at Plymouth, stepping out on a rock at the edge of the harbor.

When I used to hear the tale, I thought of a fairly decent sized rock – more a boulder. Something impressive.

Have you seen Plymouth Rock? It’s closer to a pebble than a boulder, and wasn’t noted (identified? claimed?) as the rock until over a hundred years after the Pilgrims landed. It’s rather a let down.

There is, however, a larger, more impressive rock that entered Pilgrim history before any rock in Plymouth, albeit a mere days before. The trouble is, it’s on a privately owned island that has no electricity or running water (just a couple of generators), and that doesn’t make for a very good tourism business, either for locals or the National Park Service. In fact, Plymouth Rock isn't a national monument or historic site. It's run by the state.

When the Pilgrims, on the Mayflower, entered the area, they made a couple of stops along Cape Cod, looking for a reasonable place to stop. At some point, in some way, a decision was made for a search party to set out in a long boat, leaving the Mayflower anchored in Cape Cod bay, in search of this harbor that was known to a crew member. (There had been trading up and down the coast since before Columbus)

The long boat set out, and the weather turned very bad. With the boat in a bit of trouble, the scouting group made it into the harbor area, but couldn’t make it to the actual shore. They landed, after dark in a storm in December, on a small island.

In the morning, the group went to a high spot on the island – a large glacial boulder – at which they held a vote among themselves whether to go to shore in this harbor and make a home or go back to the Mayflower and work their way further down the coast. After the election (in favor of the region, I might add), since it was a Sunday, they held a religious service. It was December 20, 1620.

Thus this large, glacial boulder is called “Election Rock” or “Pulpit Rock.”

Every year, the local rural and historical society hosts a picnic on the island. They arrange for a few launches from the harbor, but otherwise it’s an “if you can get there on your own” affair. They also arrange from brief remarks from a local clergy person.

We managed to get seats on one of the society’s launches this year and I took the kids out for the picnic. We were some of the first out there – and so I took them directly to the rock to climb and play. It’s a lovely walk from the temporary dock to the rock.

And truly – you can climb it.

The day was lovely. The remarks by the minister were appropriate and brief (in the mid-day sun), speaking of the efforts made to get to this place and holy ground. The inscription on the rock reads, “On the Sabboth Day wee rested 20 December 1620”.

We were invited to wander the island. People do still live out there in the summer, and the picnic happens with their cooperation. The historical society owns the island (bequeathed to the society in 1969 by a descendant of the original owners), but certain homes on the island have been used/leased/something by some families for generations. Their descendants have continued residency privileges, but I’m not sure what the legal status is for their structures. There is a small cemetery on the island, too. The gravestones are 200 years old.

It’s a beautiful island. Quiet, too, even with several dozen people wandering about.

Our day ended in a downpour when thunderstorms came rumbling through the area. We were soaked to the bone by the time we made it in to the harbor.

A sign next to the Plymouth Rock says something to the effect of, “It matters not where they landed, but that they did land and stayed.” I suppose that’s true.

But I’ll take Election Rock over Plymouth Rock any day.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Lazy Saturday Morning

It seems like we’ve spent every possible moment in the last few weeks wrapping up our summer house projects in preparation for the house guests. Now that their visit is over and done, I feel a weight lifted.

As I said before, it was a nice visit. There were some cultural differences and I found myself getting a little resentful on Thursday morning – but pulled it together and the visit ended well.

This morning, we’re lounging for the first time in a while. There are dishes to be tended to eventually, and, yes, I’m quite behind on weeding in the garden, but there’s no imminent pressure to pull it all together. I should try to make it to the grocery store, too.

The summer has been plugging along nicely for the kids. C has been sailing and will be a couple of regattas over the next few weeks. M has been in a theater camp, and his performances are done tonight. S has been enjoying the beach and the playground and the library with our sitter and the sitter’s daughter.

C finished HP7 yesterday. M has completed six chapters thus far. He’s intimidated by the size of the book. I am considering photocopying chapters so he can read it in less intimidating chunks.

We’re having a couple of families over for dinner tomorrow. We know both well enough that we don’t have to stress out making the house pristine again. The kids will play well together in the yard while the adults hang out in the screened porch sipping wine. I am looking forward to that.

We have a few more weeks before the trip west. It’s started to stress me out a bit. C is counting down the days with excitement – I try to hide the dread on my face. My sister apparently is speaking to me again, yet I have not actually spoken to her. She sent me an email saying she was going to start answering the phone and expecting me to hop to it and call her right away. Um, no. We’ve exchanged a few emails, but the visitors were a nice excuse not to perpetuate her warped view that we all revolve around her.

Yesterday’s helicopter crash was a little surreal to me. The ‘copters crashed in a park that used to be the site of the local Indian school…directly to the east of the park is the VA hospital where my dad resided (inappropriately – because of his wife’s lack of ethics) for several years, and directly to the north of the park is my high school. There are high rise buildings just across the street and so it’s very lucky that the helicopters didn’t hit them, or land in a busy street, or closer to the VA, or the high school.

(The crash occurred while the two news helicopters were trying to follow a police chase. There’s a news report this morning that local police might charge the suspect in the chase with murder because of the crash. I think that’s ridiculous. The helicopters were not helping the police with the chase in any way, but were competing against one another in pursuit of sensationalist news.)

Between the helicopter crash at the site of the old Indian school, a visit with our guests on Thursday afternoon to a local historical site, and as we plan some of our trip to include some Native American areas, I've been thinking about the old Indian schools and how our government used to separate families and send the kids to boarding schools for assimilation. There are some interesting Web sites and articles on the topics.

I have a lot of memories of the mostly Navajo kids who were behind the chain-link fences at that school next to my high school. It never seemed right to me; these kids would look so sad, looking out on us walking to or from our school. I tried to avoid walking by at times I knew the residents/students would be out in the yards. Most of the adults around us still tried to tell us that this was "for their own good."

Though this particular school remained open until 1990, I'm glad the schools are long since closed. There is still much understanding that needs to be acquired and healing to occur around this portion of American (and not just western American) history.

Friday, July 27, 2007

First Sunflower in the Garden, Etc.

A couple dozen more should follow shortly.

Our out-of-town guests left this morning. As enjoyable as the visit was, I'm tired and happy to have my house back. We took them to the beach last night for dinner. The sky looked like this at sunset.

Back to laundry, sweeping, exercise, perhaps a nap, and (thankfully) quiet. Hopefully more interesting thoughts will be flowing in the next several days. They have been scarce lately (obvious given the state of this blog).

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It’s the Little Things

Good: Finished Harry Potter 7 this evening.

Better: Was carded when I picked up wine for dinner.

Best: By a woman who probably was younger than me.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Summer of Poop

S, for some unknown reason, has been regressing on potty training.

The dog has, too.


Monday, July 16, 2007

And Then There Was One

Goldfish, that is.

I suspect it was overzealous feeding by a certain three-year-old.

We haven't pointed it out to her yet. We did point it out to the boys after she was upstairs and then disposed of the remains.

(Can I just say how relieved I am that they didn't ask for a funeral?)

I never did pick up that new fishbowl.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Outdoor Shower ROCKS!

My husband finished the surround for the outdoor shower this evening. I was given the opportunity to use it first.

I thought we'd use the outdoor shower for just rinsing off after the beach - that kind of thing. But his evening's shower changed that. I'll be using this outdoor shower quite a bit, I think.

The warm water washing over me while looking up at the emerging stars, crickets chirping....aaahhhh....

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sweet Sixteen

Today is my sixteenth wedding anniversary.

When I think back to when we were married, I was so, so young. And so was he, really. We’d been together for five years already, so it’s not like getting married was a rash decision or anything, but still, so young. I loved him then, and I love him more now.

We’ve been through so much in these sixteen years of marriage, twenty-one years of being a couple. We’ve been together more than half our lives. There have been times it’s all been fairly smooth – and times it’s been really, really hard.

I’m glad we’ve stuck it out. I’m glad we both take our wedding vows seriously. I’m proud of what we have built as a couple and as a family.

I’m looking forward to a lifetime more.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


In the next few days I’ll reach an exercise milestone: 3,000,000 meters rowed on our rowing machine. It’s taken me almost two years to reach this milestone (22 months and 1 day, to be exact).

To put that in perspective, 3,000,000 meters is about 1,864 miles. In 5000m (3.1 miles) to 12,000m (7.45 mile) increments. I average 34,000m to 40,000m a week.

Given this milestone, you might think I enjoy exercise.

You would be wrong.

I hate it.

Hate it. Hate it. Hate it.



Hate it.

I have reached this milestone out of sheer discipline. I have an exercise schedule and I stick to it, even when I really, really, really don’t want to. Which is pretty much every single day. I participate in online challenges set up by the company that makes the rowing machine - I try to create goals and challenges for myself. Anything to keep going.

Every time I am supposed to get on that blasted contraption, I battle myself to 1) set up the environment (movie to watch, fans on, water nearby, etc.), 2) stretch, 3) begin actually rowing, 5) deal with the sweating and dripping (I really hate that), and 5) keep going when I want to stop – which is most of the time I’m rowing.

Clearly for me, exercise is a mostly mental challenge. I can do it – it’s a matter of making myself do it.

So why do I do it? Several reasons, and not necessarily in this order:

1) Understanding that regular exercise really is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

2) Balancing risk factors for health issues that may (or may not) arise as I get (ahem) older. My mother has pretty bad osteoporosis and recently had spinal fusion surgery, for example. I don’t want that in my future.

3) It’s always nice to look better than the moms in the snotty cliques around town. (Me? Catty much? No!)

4) A good example for my kids. Especially my daughter. There are eating disorder issues on my side of the family (me included, actually) and I want to break the cycle.

5) I like to eat.

I bought this rowing machine for my husband for Valentine’s Day in 2004. I had just done a little contract work and had some non-budget cash – and he’d long been looking at getting one. He rowed (on water) some in college and knew that it was great, complete exercise – a lot of results for time spent and non-impact. (I tried rowing when I started college, but gave up quickly when I realized I would be required to get up early most days. I am not a morning person.) When I gave it to him (“for your heart,” I wrote in the card), he declared that it was too much, too big a gift and he would only keep it if I would agree to use it, too. Did I mention I was 7 months pregnant when I gave it to him? I said, “Yes, I’ll use it,” while chuckling to myself, “Not likely.” I hadn’t exercised with any regularity since….since….well, I guess the correct answer is ever.

My husband started using it immediately. He loved it. It was still hard for him to integrate exercise into his schedule, but intermittent time on the rowing machine was better than no exercise at all.

A bit over a year after I gave him the rowing machine, I realized that my high school reunion was going to be during the same time that we were visiting out west. Not that I intended to go – I didn’t! But I felt that the possibility of running into someone from high school during our visit was high, and I didn’t want any of those old ghosts to see me as I was right then – with still quite a bit of, um, softness left over from that last pregnancy. And so it began.

By the time we headed west that summer, I almost had abs.

Shortly after that visit west, I started logging my meters online – and that was almost 3,000,000 meters ago.

As much as I hate getting on the rowing machine, I am proud of my efforts and that I’ve become fairly strong. My back doesn’t bother me as much as it used to (scoliosis, a car accident long ago), and even though the last couple of weeks don’t reflect this, I feel that my lungs are stronger and I need my asthma inhaler less often.

The kids see exercise as part of a regular routine. That’s something I never saw growing up. C plays around on the rowing machine, and I encourage him to do more. I bet it would help his baseball skills to just plain get stronger, especially upper body. S is too young to do anything other than push buttons on the monitor, and slide around on the seat. (M, however, isn’t allowed near the rowing machine due to his valve issue – this frustrates him, of course. We need to find another exercise example for him.)

So my online logbook stands at 2,990,449 meters. I’ll do 6000m on Friday, and either 6000m or about 12,000m (an hour) on Saturday to put me over.

And just like every other day on the rowing machine, I’ll curse it the entire time.

(As a side note, I’ve long since surpassed my husband in total meters rowed. He’s just over 1,000,000m, I believe. :-D )

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


My asthma has been pretty bad lately and I’m struggling a little to keep on top of it - but the inhaler hasn’t been helping as much as it usually does. Sunday night, I woke up a couple of times overnight needing the inhaler. I gasped through exercise yesterday.

I’ve been on some allergy medicine, too, to try to address the triggers, but it seems to be helping very little. I’m still congested and sniffly. I feel just tired and a little fuzzy.

Then it occurred to me on my drive in to the office this morning: it’s not simply allergies or asthma. I’m sick.


I have no time for being sick. I have work to do and a house and family to take care of. Kids to feed and shuttle. Deadlines. Projects. Laundry.

That line from Finding Nemo comes to mind, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.”

Time for some Tylenol Cold and Starbucks.

Monday, July 09, 2007

What My Husband Did on His Summer Vacation

My husband is a workaholic. He knows this about himself. I know it about him. We work with it. Most of the time.

Because of his workaholic ways, the end of the benefits years often comes around with unused vacation time. And at his place of work, it’s use it or lose it. So several times in the last few years, he has taken a week or so off at the end of June to use up some of that time.

This has been incredibly handy as there often is a week at the end of June when the kids need coverage but I’m already tight on vacation time or need to bank the time for an actual planned vacation.

Very often during these “vacations” he resolves to do some hose projects. Such was the case this year. We had two planned projects hanging over our heads – and visitors from Sweden arriving in less than a month.

So here they are….

The brick patio and outdoor shower (click to enlarge):

This area of the house is between a screened porch and a deck. It was a poorly, improperly done stone patio when we moved in (hadn’t been raked in years and the realtor didn’t even know there was anything under the leaves). It was just an icky area, and we avoided using it. Now that we’ve put in a proper brick patio – WOW! We’re hoping to find a firepit and a couple of cool chairs to put there. The grill will go on the right by the chimney. And see that gravelly area? That’s the outdoor shower. The surround isn’t done, but soon, I think Those are the pillars for them.

It will be so nice to have an outdoor shower! No more tracking sand through the house!

Just on the other side of the window back there is a bathroom that we had half-renovated a couple of years ago. Never got around to replacing the nasty old tub and tile in there – until now:

A beautiful new white tub and white tile surround. The band of mosaic pebbles at the top are small rocks, shells and seaglass we picked up at the beach.

Yes, we still have bits to finish in there – patching up the walls and painting the walls and ceiling, but it’s darn close. Heck, I might even start using this bathroom instead of the one upstairs.

I feel lucky to have a husband that is so handy. Sometimes it would be nice to just call someone to do it, but it’s tremendously satisfying to complete a project like this - even when it takes a little longer than initially planned. We really like doing projects together as much as possible (though it’s been less possibly in recent years with the kids and such), and often we can do it nicer than if we hired out.

(What's the "we" in these projects? I helped set bricks, and swept sand over the finished patio several times to lock the bricks in place. I helped set the tub in place, tiled and grouted. I'll be painting, too.)

So yes, another weekend or so of wrap-up and clean-up, a load of debris to the dump, but overall, great progress. A couple more little things inside, but we can do those things evenings. Just in time for our visitors….

Also just in time for visitors – lilies and hydrangea are blooming….

Echinacea, too.

And just for fun - sunset on July 4th.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Wishing the Internet Were Truly Anonymous

Family crap over a decade old rears its ugly head again.

All over us wanting to buy a chair.

I wish I could talk about this. I can’t.

I’m shaking and feel like I want to vomit.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Wakeupandsmellthecoffee has tagged me to share seven fascinating tidbits about myself. Whether this information is really fascinating is subjective, I think, but in the spirit of the game, here are seven bits:

1. (taking one directly from wakeupandsmellthecoffee) Favorite Celebrity Sighting: Carly Simon and Sally Taylor. It was ’77 or ’78 and my family was visiting relatives in LA. My sister and I were in a grocery store, and there was Carly Simon kneeling down and cleaning up the face of her young daughter.

When I was 10 years old, I was a ball girl for a professional tennis team. Even though I don’t play tennis.

3. I am good at trivia games. Which ties into the next item....

4. Favorite Time I Outsmarted a Teacher: In 9th grade, our Algebra teacher used to play trivia games with us on short days. During one such trivia game, the scores were close, and the teacher asked one last question, adding (because he was sure no one would get it ) that the members of the team that answered the question correctly would receive an automatic A on the next exam. The question was, "What was the name of the band Linda Ronstadt was in before she went solo?" I raised my hand, he called on me, I answered correctly, his jaw dropped, and my team mates were mighty appreciative. The answer, by the way, is the Stone Poneys. (I also answered "Warren Zevon" to a question in a trivia game in 8th grade, and all my classmates thought I made up the name. Losers.)

5. I went to grade school, high school and the same church as Lynda Carter's (Wonder Woman) niece. They looked eerily alike but for height and hair color. Seriously, there was no hiding that they were related.

6. I have a thing for china and crystal and flatware. Totally frivolous. I have five sets of china (two everyday, one medium fancy, one very fancy, one Christmas), three and a half sets of flatware (two everyday, one and a half fancy), two sets of crystal (currently slowly acquiring this pattern from overseas as it's not sold here), four tea sets, and lots of fun bits and pieces. Pizza and cheap chianti taste better on the good stuff, by the way. Which is to say, I do use it, and not always in expected ways.

7. I hate anything pickled. This made for an amusing Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. We invited a young couple that my husband knew from work, knowing they had no where else to go. Both are Russian and are in the process of immigration. They asked what they could bring and we said something that you would bring to a family dinner at home. They brought a dish that included several pickled elements. And I took a normal serving and ate it (to be a good hostess and set an example for the kids) and felt like I wanted to throw up for 20 minutes.

So that's my seven things. I'm still considering my tag-ees..