Category: Family

Conversations At Ward Manor

The Wife picked up crocheting in the last couple of months. While MIL is a big crocheter of afghans, sweaters, and such, The Wife is much more into making stuffed animals. Like a penguin, cats, a Hello Kitty. You get the idea. So, we’re sitting in bed and this comes up.

The Wife: What pattern should I do next?

Derek furiously searches and sends over a pattern.

The Wife: That’s cute. What is it?

Derek: That’s Totoro.

Derek furiously searches and sends over another pattern. The Wife looks and puts her phone in my face.

The Wife: Does this look like something that <The Wife’s name> would actually make?

Derek: But it’s Baby Cthulhu!

The Wife: Well, I guess it is kinda cute.

Not sure what she’ll make next, but I keep pushing the geek stuff.

Wards Going To The State Fair 2023

Monday links are going to be late this week due to the day job needing some overtime. However, there were some happenings around Ward Manor. Namely, as the title states, The Wife, MIL, and I trekked up to Tampa and went to the Florida State Fair. Since we had MIL with us, we got to use her handicap placard. That does make parking a bit easier. And much closer.

One of the nice things about the State Fair is getting through security when you have a CCW. Just walk up to the deputies, let them verify your license, and then you’re on your merry way. No need to empty your pockets or have someone pawing through your carry bag.

I’m guessing that FFA was having their animals judged because there was a sea of blue jackets all day. Damn, those kids were young. It’s hard to believe that it’s been thirty years since I wore my own blue jacket.

We walked around Cracker Country to see the old buildings. Then off to look at the entries and winners for the various arts and crafts contests. There were some very interesting paintings, photographs, and other personal crafts. Then off to the “Artisan Marketplace,” as the fair officials were calling it this year. Imagine your local craft fair vendors in a big hall, and that’s kind of what it was. We picked up some small kitty blankets with catnip sewn in as well as some scented wax melts. It still doesn’t match the crowd of stalls we saw pre-pandemic, but it wasn’t too bad.

Expo Hall was its normal mix of second-hand vendors, woo purveyors, and MLM hawkers. We didn’t buy anything, but it was interesting to see what was on display. Surprisingly, there was no one selling Watkins stuff. My mom sold it when we were kids, so there’s a bit of nostalgia there.

We did bypass the fair food. I don’t have the calories for the offerings. Although the big one this year was a Cuban sandwich with the bread replaced by funnel cake. I will admit some curiosity, but not enough to spend the money, calories, or time later suffering from the inevitable GI fun.

All in all, it was an enjoyable couple of hours.

Wards At The County Fair

Last weekend, The Wife, MIL, MIL’s BFF, and me went down to the Manatee County Fair. We went last year and had some fun. It’s much smaller than the State Fair, so it’s more of an afternoon thing than an all-day thing.

Of course, we get through ticket gates and security wants to see my carry bag. Understandable. Then comes this exchange.

Security Guy: Do you have any knives, firearms, or weapons on you?

Me: Actually, yes.

Security Guy: I just need to see your license. <<Examines license>> Just in case you weren’t aware, this expires at the end of this year.

Me: Oh, thanks.

Security Guy: Hey, at least you weren’t like the guy yesterday. His had been expired for over two years.

The rest of the fair was fun. We had excellent doughnuts, saw some neat arts and crafts, and learned about a museum we’re going to have to explore in the future.

Twenty Years Ago

The Brother and I lost our father, and our mom lost her husband. Fuck cancer.

In the intervening years, I realize how much I’ve grown to be like my dad. In my mannerisms, my speech, my way of viewing the world – at least on a personal level. To say my dad and I would have disagreed on politics…

When I wrote about this five years ago, I was still feeling the dichotomy of the event feeling like it happened last week and a long time ago. I’ve lost that feeling of immediacy. Some of that I’m just chalking up to my life going on – and all the changes that have happened in those five years. I still wish The Wife would have had the chance to meet my dad. They would have gotten on well. Plus, I think Dad would have known that I would turn out okay. Which I’m not sure he knew at the time.

At the time of his death, I was still living at home in my mid-twenties and marrying a woman I should have really known was not good for me. In the last two decades, I realized how much I grew up when Dad passed. I can remember the feeling of my “safety net” being taken away – and that I now had to step up. It wasn’t an immediate change. I still fumbled for years. But I can’t deny that Dad’s passing was a major turning point in my life – and how I approached life.

I miss you Dad. But thank you for helping me become the man that I am. And wanted to be.

Happenings At Ward Manor

Overall, the long weekend was uneventful at Ward Manor.

On Saturday, while The Wife, MIL, and SIL went out to explore Hobby Lobby and other commercial enterprises, I decided to lounge around and watch anime. This is kind of a golden age for anime fans. There are multiple streaming services dedicated to anime, and even most of the big ones have sections devoted to anime. It’s so much better than when I first got into it in the early to mid nineties where you might hear about a series at the comic shop and then go track it down at the video rental place or special order it.

Sunday we had planned to be productive. That failed. Although The Wife and MIL were semi-productive. The Wife has taken up crocheting and is in the process of making little stuffed animals. It’s been fun watching her take up a new crafting skill.

Monday was an early day for The Wife and me. The Ward Wagon managed to pick up a slow leak in one of the tires. We tried to get an appointment with the nearest branch of the dealership from where we purchased the Ward Wagon. Yeah, they didn’t return our call. The dealership we bought the Ward Wagon? They gave us an early morning slot. Great. It just means The Wife can’t sleep in on a holiday because the dealership is about sixty miles north of us. Turns out it was a nail, and road hazard took care of the replacement costs. Then we went down and had lunch with my mom and The Brother. Mom is trekking back to the Great White North this week, and this was our last time to visit with her. We had lunch at a nearby Peruvian place. If you’re in northern Hillsborough county, and you’re interested in Peruvian cuisine, I heartily recommend Costanera.

This was also the week that The Wife discovered why Freya sometimes comes in with a wet head. We thought she was just playing in the raised flower bed out on the back porch. That one has some tall plants. Nope. As The Wife put it, “Apparently we’re not done with the ‘playing in the toilet’ phase.” Yeah. Oh well, it means we’re going to have to be better at keeping the lids closed. Fun with kittens.

It Was Good To See Them…

Last weekend was the memorial service for my paternal grandmother. It was a short service at the family plot. It was there that I realize that my grandma was a couple months of surviving her husband by 20 years. My uncle read the obit and followed by a short eulogy. It was a good service, and I was happy I went.

It was also good to see some family that I hadn’t laid eyes for years. Some of the Oklahoma folks made their way down, including one I hadn’t met yet. She just married into the clan last year. It may have been a good thing she only got a short blast of dealing with The Brother and me. The Wife integrates seamlessly with them. Sometimes it’s like she’s more part of that segment of the family than me. It’s a joke, but not much of one.

We had hoped to see them this week, as they had traveled over to spend some time at the Mouse House. Except the Ward Wagon developed a slow leak in the tire. I wasn’t going to trust that thing on the warzone that we call I-4.

Hopefully, we’ll get to see them next year. The eclipse is going go through part of Oklahoma – and I’d really like to experience that again.

2023 Goal

Last year, my only goal was to get my weight back down to 200. To put it bluntly, I not only failed, but lost ground. So, I’m trying again this year.

I’ve found that my willpower is going in two to three week cycles. So, the main thrust of this goal is less working directly on my weight, and more working on my willpower. Building that “muscle” back to its strength back when I was in full “weight-loss” mode in 2017 to 2019.

Which means saying no to food outside my calorie budget. Saying yes to going to the gym, even when it’s cold, raining, or difficult to get moving.

I hope to have better news to relate at this time next year.

Ward Family 2022 Wrap Up

Finally after a couple rollercoaster years, 2022 wasn’t a bunch of crazy highs and lows. There were both, but not crazy swings.

The year started out with me having enough in my gun fund to finally upgrade my sidearm to a Smith & Wesson M&P9 2.0. It would be a bit before I could run some rounds through it, but it’s now riding in my holster. I have found that the aggressive stippling on grip likes to snag my cover garment more than expected, but I’m still liking it.

February the Ward household got hit with COVID. Damn, that was the worst sick I’d been in a very long time. The MIL, BIL, and SIL all got it. The Wife was like that one trailer in the trailer park the tornado just ignores. Which left her having to care for us. She was also the only one who could visit when BIL had to go to the hospital. Yeah, that wasn’t fun in any measure. It hit him hard and put him out of work for most of the year.

March was the first time since our wedding that The Wife and I actually go to go out to celebrate our anniversary. So, we moseyed up to St. Augustine for a few days. This would not be our only trips for 2022.

April and June were the months I lost both of my grandmothers – the last of my grandparents. In one of those odd coincidences, they died exactly two months apart. There were some heart wrenching decisions – such as whether I could make the trip out to see them. Fortunately, technology allowed me to have a final “face to face” call with my paternal grandmother. The one I made sure to call every Thursday. It’s still odd when I remember I don’t need to call her after work on Thursday.

May is also when I wrapped up reposting Zombie Strike on the blog. Which meant no Monday Fiction. It would be a while before Monday Links would become the replacement. Although, Monday Fiction might make its return. If I can get some things done.

In June, I did my first speech to my Toastmasters club in two years. The club finally began meeting in person again this year. And I felt it was time to get back up on the horse – so to speak. I would go on to give two more speeches this year. In addition, The Wife and I agreed to become officers again in our Toastmasters club.

August was the month we went down to one car. Well, The Wife and I went down to one car. The MIL still has hers. Yet, after much discussion, The Wife and I became the proud owners of the Ward Wagon. Later that month, we would host the great-niece’s second birthday party. The Wife and crew made the house look like Disney vomited inside it.

September was the month we lost our sphinx Titus. This was a hard loss because it was so sudden. Titus was one of the most people-friendly cats I’ve known, and his loss put a big hole in the house. Then we had to deal with Hurricane Ian. This was the first big storm in the new house, and we were afraid we were looking down at a Hurricane Andrew-type event. We had to pull out the storm screens and get things rearranged. Then it was twenty-four hours of watching the storm. Fortunately, our house came through without issue.

October was the month where three years of planning finally saw us going out west. Both The Wife and I have family in Idaho and Washington State. So, we spent a couple of weeks visiting/introducing each other to our respective sides.

November saw us on the road again as The Wife’s job had her come up to New York to meet some of her coworkers IRL. And since I can do my job from anywhere there’s internet, I went up with her. Which resulted in her going around while I stayed in the hotel room. After we got home, we had some discussions on the clowder. And ended up bringing home a new kitten – Freya. Adding a kitten has done some interesting things to the clowder. It’s been amusing to see which cats warmed up to her – and which ones were very annoyed by the new one’s presence.

December has been relatively quiet – except for the onslaught of holiday parties, holiday shopping, and prepping for hosting Christmas dinner. I also got a new iPad which helped with boosting my writing on my fantasy novel. Maybe I’ll finish it. Sometime.

Onward to 2023.

Happenings At Ward Manor

Last week was dominated by holiday parties and an internet outage.

Tuesday was our Toastmasters Holiday Party. It’s always interesting to see what luck comes from the potluck – and it was a pretty decent spread. Unfortunately, we needed to leave prior to the white elephant gift exchange. One of the cats decided to pull a disappearing trick. Missed dinner, missed treat time, could not be found. Very unusual for this cat. The Wife was worried enough that she couldn’t enjoy the party. So, with heavy hearts, we bid the club adieu and headed home to join in the hunt. Only for the cat to show back up when we were five minutes from the house. At that point, we were too exhausted to even contemplate going back.

Thursday the Ward family woke up to an internet outage in the neighborhood. This is something of a concern as both The Wife and I are teleworkers. Plus, we have a lot of smart home stuff. Okay, well, outages happen. They usually resolved by the time we have to go to work. Um, nope. Damn. The Wife and I manage to tether our work phones to our work laptops. The Wife gets almost as good speed from hers. Mine is… well, let’s just say anemic was being nice. Annoying, but outages happen. It should be resolved before lunch. Nope. By dinner? By bedtime? WTF happened? We awoke at 0300 the next morning, and I was still seeing the red ring of “no internet” on my Echo. The Wife informs the outage is resolved. Maybe for the neighborhood, but not for Ward Manor. We get on chat. Go through the usually “have you turned it off and on again” steps. They end up having to send out a tech. Who comes in early enough that we didn’t have to work most of the day off of our phones. Some sort of issue with the cable. Which meant I didn’t have to spend time doing maintenance getting stuff on a new network. Yay!

Which was really good because that meant I didn’t have to miss my office holiday party. Since most of us are fully virtual, this is one of the few times we see each other in person. Sometimes it’s a challenge for me because all of the normal meeting places are usually a good hour away. This year was at an upscale bowling alley/family fun place. Whatever. I wasn’t bowling. Shoulders said no. But the food was good – and it’s good seeing my teammates in person on occasion. Our supervisor always gets annoyed with us at the White Elephant because we don’t get into the larcenous side of the event. We’re just too laidback. I got a ten dollar bill stapled to a candy bar because one of our teammates left her present and that was what she could come up with on short notice. Hey, cash and sugar. I wasn’t going to complain.

Saturday was the Ward family holiday. Mom, The Brother, The Brother’s roommates (who are long-time friends), Rocket Engineer Brother and his family, The Wife and I traveled to Bok Tower for food and frivolity. The weather was cooperating and the food was plentiful. We don’t do white elephant for the family. The Brother runs a Secret Santa for the adults and everyone buys stuff for the niece and nephew. Secret Santa (SIL) got me a signed screenplay from an episode of Firefly and a little sign with my name from gun things. (You’ve probably seen the ads). The Wife got a small whiteboard desk cubby and some dry erase erasers in the shape of paw prints from The Brother. Of course, getting back home was a bit interesting due to one of the main state roads getting closed due to an accident. The only way to move traffic was an access road on the property of one of the major phosphate companies – who was reluctant to allow a large volume of vehicles go screaming through their area of liability. I think some of the deputies had a talk with security – who had a talk with their higher-ups – and we were finally able to get around.

All in all, not a horrible week. I don’t care what my calorie counter says.

Weekend Fun

Last weekend, The Wife, The Brother and I took my mom out for some fun for her birthday.

We started at Manatee Historical Village’s Old Florida Christmas. It’s an arts and crafts fair on their grounds. Generally, their heavily Christmas-themed crafts, but there’s often a variety. This year had a lot more vendors than last. We walked around and picked up some things. The Brother was interested in some hand-crafted pens – because he’s really into ink pens. Mom picked up a wreath and we got some ornaments. Not a bad day’s haul.

Then we went off to Hobby Lobby – because Mom and The Wife needed some things. And it’s Hobby Lobby. While The Brother entertained himself in the Ward Wagon, The Wife, Mom, and I meandered through the store. Some things were purchased, but not as much as was threatened. At least The Wife and I got our white elephant gifts for our Toastmaster’s Christmas party.

Dinner was at Rosemary and Thyme’s. Which if you are ever down in Sarasota, I would highly recommend. We all had a wonderful time, but I managed to tempt my mom to forego dinner there for another little gem of our area. For dessert, we went down to the American Honey Creamery ice cream shop. This is The Wife’s and my favorite little ice cream shop. The Brother and Mom were suitably impressed with their offerings.

It was good we had so much fun on Saturday, because Sunday was for labor. I had to pull some work hours while The Wife put together Christmas cards. As in assemble cards from parts she made using her Cricuts. The Wife is of the opinion – and I agree with her – that if she has the time, she will make people greeting cards rather than purchase them.

Then it was time to assemble her new standing desk. The side table she had been using for her Cricut station was nice, but not the most stable thing. We’d been talking about getting her something like my workbench – which is kind of a standing desk sold by Home Depot. We found an inexpensive standing desk on Amazon, which of course, requires assembly. This is the third standing desk I’ve assembled, and in many ways, it went together the easiest. Some of that was experience.

Of course, once the new desk was assembled and put into place, that required reshuffling furniture. Side desk to loft. Loft furniture to gathering room. Knight to king four.

Still, a semi-productive weekend.