Category: Family

Rough Couple of Weeks

There are some things you never want to hear come out of your wife’s mouth.

“Derek, what are the signs of a stroke?” is one such thing. We rushed down to the ER.

The good news? It wasn’t a stroke. Not sure what it was, but the docs are pretty sure it wasn’t a stroke.

The bad news? The Wife had to spend the weekend in the hospital. We don’t do well apart. And she had a “challenging” roommate.

Then MIL had to go in for planned surgery. She came home after a couple of nights, but it was a long couple of nights.

The cats were not pleased with all the disruptions to their lives.

We’ve spent way too much time at the hospital.

2023 Ward Family Wrap Up

It’s been another year of loss, gain, and change at Ward Manor – with a smattering of other notable events.

The losses. The Wife’s father passed back in March. In many ways, we’d already said goodbye when he went into the memory care facility. Still, there is a world of difference between saying goodbye to the memory of a person and saying the final goodbye.

On a much more minor note, we also lost the Ward Wagon for the better part of July after I was rear-ended at the end of June.

The gains. In June we welcomed the newest member of the Ward Clowder, Boo. He assimilated into the rest of the cats faster than any other previous. If we could stop him from jumping up on the counters.

Gun-wise, I added a Smith & Wesson FPC to the armory. Due to life getting it in the way, I didn’t get to take it to a range until the last day of the year. This is also where I found the Sig red dot I bought for it wasn’t doing what I wanted. Like holding a zero.

We gained some flexibility in our budget when we paid off the Ward Wagon.

The Wife gained a trophy for winning the Area Humorous Speech Contest.

I gained a lightsaber when The Wife and I went over to Orlando for my first concert since probably 2019.

House-wise, this was a year for doing upgrades. We added a retractable screen door – which The Wife and MIL have put to good use almost all of December – as well as new glass doors to our master shower. Also, we upgraded the robot vacuums. Having the self-evacuating ones is really nice. The Wife was really happy when we upgraded to a double-oven range – particularly during some of our big family dinners. I was really happy when I upgraded the monitors on my personal and work computers. We also upgraded the dishwasher – which leaves the fridge as the last original appliance since we moved into Ward Manor. I’m not sure I would consider our new main television as an upgrade, as it was more of a replacement that happened to be a better model.

Changes. The biggest change around Ward Manor was my accepting a new position at my day job. It was a promotion, but it meant leaving a position that I held for thirteen years. It also meant leaving a team that I helped found a decade ago. It also means having to learn a lot on the fly, which I will admit, hasn’t been the most fun I’ve had this year. It also meant a couple of work-related trips, which was something I hadn’t done in quite a while. At least I got to meet a bunch of folks that I only knew virtually – as well as see some people I hadn’t seen in person since the pandemic.

Familywise, my nephew graduated high school. When it comes to kids, it’s always long days and short years. Those long days were apparent when we had our great niece while The Wife’s niece transitioned into a new work-from-home position. On the blog side, I introduced anime recommendations. I’ve been getting back into anime for the last year or so, and it’s good to share some of what I’m finding.

There were some notable anniversaries this year. First, it was the twenty-year anniversary of my father’s passing. Which was an odd coincidence when we laid my grandmother’s (his mother’s) ashes in the same family plot around the same time he passed. Second, it was the fifteenth anniversary of the blog. It’s been interesting to look back through the archives and see how it evolved over that time. Speaking of blog-related anniversaries, it was also the tenth anniversary of Metal Tuesdays. Perhaps the happiest anniversary was the five-year anniversary of asking The Wife to marry me.

Ward Manor Christmas Time

The TLDR is that everyone had a wonderful little holiday and probably overstuffed ourselves on good food. I got some neat toys for my stocking stuffers and have another neat toy coming after using the gift certificate from MIL. The Wife’s niece got me an anime-style catzila t-shirt,

Last week, The Wife and I went to the optometrist. I hadn’t been in a few years and my prescription needed updating. It updated into progressive lenses. Yeah more aging.

I also renewed my concealed weapons permit. So now I have a permit with my current face.

The Ward Manor Chronicles

Last week was Mom’s birthday dinner. She came down with The Brother to Ward Manor. Original plan was to order some barbecue from a local shop. Which went awry when I found out that the place was closed for the entire week. Alternate dinner plans were hastily made with DoorDash.

Mom had The Wife for the family secret Santa. The Wife and I couldn’t make the family holiday party, so Mom brought her present for The Wife to the birthday dinner. Two pieces of uranium glass – and a small black light to make them phosphoresce. Dinner was good, and we played a pretty decent card game. Late night, but a good night.

Saturday, the plan was for Mom to come down to join The Wife, MIL, and me to go to Manatee Historic Village’s Old Florida Christmas. So, we came down to for breakfast to find the main television had taken a dump. Refused to turn on. I’m not an expert on televisions, so we consulted The Wife’s niece. Using his advice, a new tv was purchased, and he agreed to come hang it. Still, it was a fucking bit of frustration. And a non-inconsequential sum of money. Thankfully, it’s that time of year for sales.

The Old Florida Christmas was more bustling this year. Some purchases were made. Then we headed to Hobby Lobby. Because of course we did. Lunch/dinner was at Olive Garden after MIL stated she had never eaten in one.

Monday, The Wife’s nephew came over to hang the new television. Pulled the old one down, took off the rails, started to put them on the new tv – and the screws are the wrong size, No, none of my screws will work. Nephew is coming by later in the week to install the new dishwasher, so he’ll bring the proper screws then. I start going through the small parts bag. Huh, Sony has these spacers – just to make it easier to hang the television. So, now we have a brand new OLED tv. The Wife is ecstatic with how it looks.


Thanksgiving at Ward Manor

The Wife and SIL trade off who hosts the holidays. This year, Ward Manor hosted Thanksgiving. The TLDR is that we had a nice crowd and lots of food. Too much in my opinion, but I’ve been on a kick to keep leftovers to a minimum. Mostly to avoid waste. Personal opinion, not shared by most of the family.

We did almost lose one of the cats. Freya, our crazy yearling, decided that Thanksgiving meant Ward Manor had to be treated like a rally track. This resulted in her shooting through some gaps in the furniture at breakneck speed. She didn’t always judge the gaps the best – including the one between the couch and sofa end tables. Which had my laptop and fresh cup of Earl Grey tea. The good news is that I didn’t need to shell out a couple grand for a new laptop. The bad news is that I didn’t get a new laptop. Well, that and we had to go through the hassle of pulling up and washing the front room rug.

Just life at Ward Manor – even during the holidays.

Scene From Toastmasters

Our club recently had a former member return. This returning member left prior to my joining the club, so this was the first time I got to interact with him. He was commenting on my Galaxy Rangers t-shirt, and of course, the conversation went on to geek subjects. Meanwhile, his tween daughter was studying me.

Her: Are you a cowboy? Note: I was wearing jeans, t-shirt, cover shirt, and my Stetson.

Me: Why do you think I’m a cowboy?

Her: Well, you have that hat.

Me: I just like the hat.

Her: Then why are you standing that way?

Returning Member: It’s probably more comfortable on his back.

Me (to myself): Do not mention that it’s because of the pistol on my hip.

Me (out loud): Yeah, that’s right.

Her: Well, I still think you’re a cowboy.

Chronicles at Ward Manor

Last week was unusual because my job sent me to a conference in Orlando. I was presenting on a project I participated in while at my previous position. I was asked to go because the primary developer does not travel, and they needed someone who was familiar with the history of the project to be there to talk to it. Because it was just over in Orlando, The Wife decided to come along for a change of scenery.

Overall, the conference was good. I got the opportunity to meet people in person who I’d only met online. Including my new supervisor. It was also a good chance to catch up with a bunch of people who I’d worked with in the past, but who had gone on to other jobs across our area.

The bad? I missed the last day. Why? Flu shots are a requirement for my work, and the facility was nice enough to offer them at the conference. I took advantage of it because that means I don’t have to make a trip somewhere else, and it makes sure that it gets into my personnel file. Normally, I don’t have much a reaction to the flu shot beyond a sore shoulder. This time? I woke up at oh-dark-early feeling horrible. Not as bad as the 24 hours of hell with the COVID boosters, but pretty bad. Talked it over with The Wife. We could wait until daybreak to see how I feel, but I doubt even if I felt better that I would be up to the conference. So, we made the decision to trek back across the state at oh-dark-early. I shot off an email to the boss, we packed up, and headed home. We ran into more construction, but the lack of traffic evened it out. Particularly since we missed the Disney traffic and the I-4 buildup around Tampa. We did give MIL a scare coming in so early. The rest of Thursday I was kind of out of it. More due to odd hours than anything else.

Saturday was a day trip with The Wife, Mom, and The Brother. We went down to Arcadia. Mainly so The Wife and Mom could go through the various shops. The Brother came along to spend time with the family. Arcadia hasn’t fully recovered from Ian or the other tropicals that blew through there since. We spent a few hours there before heading back and picking up barbeque from a local place. All in all, it was a good day.

Sunday was a frustrating day. Work gave me a new dock that would allow for three monitors plus the laptop. So, I picked up an LG Dual-up monitor. It’s essentially a really big monitor that will mimic two monitors stacked on top of each other. Great. Neat. Except the ports on back of the monitor don’t exactly match up to the ports available on the new dock. There was an emergency run to Wally World to get an HDMI/Displayport cable. After some frustration with cables and settings, I finally got it to work. Mostly. For some reason, it wants to think that my bottom screen is to the right of the upper screen. No matter how I arranged it in settings, that was the only config that would work. Feck it. Let’s do some more testing by logging into work. Except, I couldn’t log into work. After multiple attempts, I call the help desk. Um, yeah, we can’t see you on the remote access list. WTF?

This resulted in me having to travel up to Tampa to log into work from there to request new access from behind the firewall. Which involved trying to find a place to work. That’s difficult because even with people on hybrid schedules, space is kinda scarce. Fortunately, I know folks who owed me favors. By mid-morning my accesses were restored, and my boss agreed to let me take a long lunch to go back home.

Now things are returning to their normal routines. For which I am very happy about.

I’ve Got a Bad Feeling About This

The Wife and I had a situation that raised our “this is odd” instincts. Essentially, a car was following us in our neighborhood. When we parked at our community center, it ran through the parking lot and drove around the surrounding area. Could there be an innocent reason? Maybe, but it was odd enough that The Wife and I returned home instead. After making sure that said car was not following us.

The Wife also agreed that maybe it was a good idea for me to bring along my little Beretta for our jaunts up to the community center.

Listen to your instincts folks. If something feels odd, then leave the area.

Halloween At Ward Manor

Last year, The Wife and I were out of town for the holiday. This year, we set up a table at the end of the drive and set out candy and other treats. The big fad was teal buckets with things other than candy for kids with allergies or other issues. Sounded like a decent idea. And heck, a bunch of party favors were cheaper than candy. So, we had that and a traditional candy bucket. The Wife and MIL put together little candy bags to ration things.

The grandniece came over and visited the neighbors. She was dressed up as a mermaid Escorting her was The Wife’s mother and The Wife dressed up in a Mama Shark costume. Let me explain this costume. Imagine one of those blow-up lawn decorations turned into a costume. Yeah. The cats were slightly terrified when she tried it on. Still, they enjoyed making the lap around the houses. The Wife’s niece then took the costume for a later shindig. We sat outside handing out candy and toys. I was surprised at how popular little slinkies were.

Plus we got to see the next door neighbors’ new baby dressed up as Mario.

The Wards Jaunt To Orlando

This past weekend The Wife and I traipsed across the state to the House of Mouse’s shopping mall – otherwise known as Disney Springs. Why? Mainly so I could go to a concert at the House of Blues. It’s kind of funny that out of a four-band lineup. I was only really interested in the two middle bands. It was also a chance for some couple time for The Wife and I.

Anyways, we decided to get that the smart thing would be to get a hotel on Thursday, spend Friday in Disney Springs, and head home on Saturday morning. We even got a hotel close to Disney Springs so we could walk rather than dealing with parking. However, since I was busy with my new job, I didn’t do my normal checklist for the trip. As a result, some items were forgotten. Such as The Wife’s neck fan, her portable bedtime fan – and my ear pro for the concert. There were some other interesting difficulties. I purchased a new safe for travel. It required some last-minute jury-rigging. That requires a full review in another post. Maybe after another trip.

We had fun exploring Disney Springs. There was a Diwali Dance shindig going on. We got to see a few dozen folks in colorful costumes dance up and down the way. This is the kind of multicultural stuff I like. Bring your neat stuff in and show off. We spent a lot of time visiting the various shops. The Wife loves handbags, so we stopped into a couple of stores for the brands she really likes. She has the same experience that I have with gun shops. It’s neat to see the new stuff but damn those things are expensive. At least The Wife can see if the items she was lusting after show up at the outlet stores near us. Then there was the issue of the lightsaber. Did I want the lightsaber? Yes. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pay what they were asking. The Wife, being The Wife, walked through the fact that yes, we could afford it, and I was just having sticker shock/repulse. So, a replica of the original Luke Skywalker came home with us. I will admit that it was neat when one of the hotel employees stopped us on the way back the room to see which one I got – and then proceeded to show us his collection.

The concert. At The Wife’s urging, I got one of the upgraded seats the House of Blues was offering. Expensive, but worth it – for the most part. I didn’t have to fight the floor crowd. Just sit back and watch the show. The only issue was that it felt like my seat was under a fan. If I do this again, I’m bringing a jacket. So, as I stated earlier, I forgot my ear pro. The lady running the VIP program was nice enough to find me some foam earplugs. From prior concert experience, I knew those weren’t really going to help. So, I decided to try using my AirPod Pros with the ANC turned on. Yeah, that helped out a lot. First band was Edge of Paradise. Their overall music isn’t bad, but I dislike how their vocalist sings. It sounds too shrieky. Next was Nanowar Of Steel. I was disappointed that they didn’t play “Pasadena 1994.” However, they more than made up with their stage presence. This is a band who knows they are there to make the audience laugh and rock. Between costumes and antics, they more than fulfilled their purpose. The third band was Amaranthe. This was the band that really drew me across the state. They were the first band I heard that did the clean female, clean male, and growling male vocal combination – and they do it so well. The funny thing with Amaranthe is that some of their songs I’ll recognize immediately, but some I need to hear a bit. They played most of the songs that I love hearing. The final band was Dragonforce. Yeah, I didn’t stick around for their show. It’s not that I didn’t want to see them. It’s more that I had seen the two bands I really wanted to see, and I was feeling the combined discomforts of fatigue and sitting on a metal barstool for a few hours. Do I regret not staying? No, not really. At that point, I don’t think I would have enjoyed the performance – and I don’t want that kind of concert experience.

Saturday morning was a nice drive back. And we even managed to pick up the groceries. Overall, it was a successful trip. I just need to find a place to mount my new lightsaber.