Category: Family

Thanksgiving Weekend

This year, Thanksgiving was held at SIL’s place. This required the dinner being pushed back to Sunday due to BIL’s work. The Wife and I both took off Black Friday, so we had a four-day weekend. Well, I had a four-day weekend. The Wife had use-or-lose, so she took off a bit more time.

Thursday, since we didn’t have a dinner, was more or less a standard day – except I didn’t have to work. The Wife’s Halloween/Fall/Thanksgiving decorations went into storage and the plethora of The Wife’s Christmas decorations came back to the house. Then, The Wife fired up her Cricut to do some party favors for the Sunday dinner. Little turkeys with M&M’s in them.

Friday was The Wife decorating the house. Decorations are her passion. While she was doing that, I took my grandfather’s 100-year-old shotgun and mounted it in my office. Yeah, we have different ideas of how to decorate.

Saturday was a cooking day for The Wife as she prepared what she was bringing for dinner. Namely her deviled eggs and “Christmas Crackers.” Which was kind of like peppermint bark on a saltine. Different, but yummy. While she was doing that, I actually finished a couple of scenes on my fantasy novel. Slow progress is still progress. Which helped with the frustration of watching the delivery status of my new iPad go from “By End Of Day” to “Delayed”.

Sunday morning was labor intensive. MIL’s been sleeping on the transformer couch bed since she moved in. She wanted something smaller so she could get a recliner into her room. A new bed was purchased, but we needed to move the transformer couch out to the garage. It will be retrieved by BIL at a later date. Yeah, that wasn’t a whole lot of fun. Particularly when it decides to transform in mid-move. Then I had to put together the new bed. That wasn’t too bad, but it had its moments. Frustration burns calories, doesn’t it?

The Wife’s niece and great niece came over to go with us to dinner. The toddler was generally well behaved. She played well with the kitten. For some reason, she was under impression that the most exciting thing at Ward Manor was to go up and down the stairs. Okay, not a problem as long as there was an adult to go up and down the stairs with her. Except, the only adult that was available was me. Going up and down the stairs burns calories doesn’t it?

My mom, recently retuned from the great white north, and The Brother joined us at Ward Manor. It was a chance for them to meet the new kitten and drop off some items from my grandmother’s estate. Plus that large print of Starry Starry Night that The Wife and I bought up in Idaho. And a box of ammo that I bought. Then we all convoyed over to BIL’s.

Shortly after we arrived, I got an alert that my iPad was delivered. Not wanting it to sit on the front porch, The Brother and I jumped in the Ward Wagon to fetch it. Except it wasn’t there. WTF? I looked at the picture in the delivery photo. No, that’s not my house. Unable to locate it, we returned to BIL’s house for dinner. During which, I figure out the issue. I fat fingered my address when ordering the iPad. It was delivered a few houses down. Jump into the Ward Wagon. Fortunately, the neighbor had the parcel. Success! I returned and we finished dinner.

Relief burns calories, doesn’t it?

Weekend at Ward Manor

  1. The Wife and I walked up to the neighborhood’s “Vendor Fair”. Honestly, it was kind of pathetic, but I’m chalking that up to it being the first year. Hopefully, there will be more stands next year. From there, we went up to the local market. That was much more fruitful, as we needed to pick up some gifts for the holidays. We also joined the local civic association – something we’ve been discussing for a few months.
  2. We did an initial pull of the holiday decorations. The Wife has a lot of holiday decorations, and we just brought home the first load. The Ward Wagon will require more trips due to its smaller cargo size. I also helped pull out one of her trees. She wanted to put it up to get Freya used to it. Hopefully, that will keep the destruction down.
  3. During our shopping, The Wife and I discussed pulling weeds on Sunday morning while it was still cool out. We came home to find the neighbor girls pulling our weeds. Apparently, they offered to pull the weeds for some spending cash. Well, okay, it was something that we didn’t really want to do anyway. They did a real good job too. The Wife asked if they could come over every couple of weeks and take care of the weeds. I do love rewarding entrepreneurship. Particularly when it relieves me of having to do hated chores.
  4. We did manage to hang a couple of paintings we bought a few months back. I found a print of Monet’s Impression, Sunrise and The Wife found another print we liked. The hard part is that we hung them on the wall facing the stairwell, which meant reaching out from the second floor.
  5. I ordered a new iPad. My current one is getting long in the tooth. I mean, long enough it wasn’t even worth trading in. So, now I get to wait a bit for it to be delivered. Still, it should be powerful enough to last me the next four or five years. Particularly since I don’t do a lot of heavy lifting with the iPad.
  6. If you are going to do a gender reveal party with some fireworks, it is considered polite to let the rest of the neighborhood know. Particularly those that sound like shotgun blasts.

There’s A Baby In The Clowder

Since we lost Titus a couple of months ago, the house felt a bit empty. We discussed adding another cat to the group. What sex? What kind? The Wife wanted another hairless, but those are few and far between. Plus, in the aftermath of Ian, there was a heightened scrutiny on all listings. Just as tragedies bring out the greatness in humanity, it also brings out the worst.

Finally, we made an appointment at a local shelter. We looked at several, but ended up with a tiny kitty. A tiny Siamese kitty.

There was much discussion on a name. The Wife prefers old-fashioned names. I prefer non-people names. She started with Alice. I countered with Mab. She offered Hazel. I offered Inara. Finally we settled on a name.

I present to you the newest member of the Ward Clowder – Freya.

Photo of Freya, a siamese mix kitten, laying on a polka dot mat

You Are Testing The Limits Of My Blood Pressure Medications

Last week, The Wife’s job flew her up to New York to meet with her co-workers in the offices around there. Since I can do my job from anywhere with internet access, I tagged along. We stayed in Morristown, New Jersey, which is a very pretty town from what we saw. I mostly stayed in the hotel room working while The Wife gallivanted around with her boss to the various offices.

The title from this post comes from a comment made by The Wife when we realized that I had left my phone at the ticket counter when we checked in for our flight north. Fortunately, we were able to get back and retrieve my phone with little issue, but it was about ten to fifteen minutes of high stress.

Then, The Wife “returned the favor” when she accidentally left her work headphones at one of the satellite offices. We both use Jabra headsets for our work, which aren’t cheap, but immensely worth it for when we have multiple and/or long teleconferences and meetings. And I was running a major multiple-day meeting from the hotel room. Fortunately, one of her coworkers found the headphones and mailed them back to us. They were waiting for us when we returned.

We are done with traveling for the foreseeable future. After three weeks on the road, it’s so good to be back in our beds and in our routines.

More Life At Ward Manor

  1. In the last week, I crossed 2,000 days of calorie tracking. To be honest, I put in calories every day, but some days are less accurate than others. Let’s just say not staying on budget for the better part of a month, I’m not doing good on my weight goals. The pants are a bit on the tight side. But dammit, I refuse to go up a pants size when I worked hard to get it down. Plus, the pain is motivation.
  2. After playing with The Wife’s cousin’s airsoft set up (Glock-style CO2 gun and target trap) during our recent trip, she and I discussed me getting a similar set up. So, we ordered a pistol (M&P instead of Glock) and a trap. Except, when the trap came, it was much smaller than we anticipated. That doesn’t bother me, as I’m hoping it will help with my accuracy (i.e., aim small, miss small). I’ve even set up a spare belt with one of my old holsters for practice. The only issue is The Wife wants me to practice outside, and I want to do it in the garage. If we had real fences, I wouldn’t have an issue, but since we don’t, I don’t want to tempt the neighborhood Karens. Or shoot a bunch of airsoft bb’s into the pond. (Because my aim isn’t always perfect.)
  3. My SIL sent over pics of my niece going to homecoming. My niece looked very pretty. Still, when did my niece get old enough to go to homecoming? Damn, time flies.
  4. I came home from the trip with more toys for my office. Yeah, it’s starting to get crowded in there. May have to do a culling. Many of them are just displayed, but some are my fidget spinners. Those are mainly transformers. The two new ones (Coronation Starscream and Cobb Vanth from Mandalorian) are both display items. Just figuring out where stuff goes. I may have to take everything down and re-org the office. And I still need to mount Grandpa’s old shotgun.

Derek’s Travel Log

For the last couple of weeks, The Wife and I travelled out west to meet parts of each other’s family. The Brother joined us for the first week. This is going to be a bit of a long post, so don’t feel to bad if it’s TLDR. The gist is that we had lots of fun, but damn were we glad to get back home.

The Wife, The Brother, and I flew out Friday, October 7. That was a long day of travel. Essentially, it was Tampa to Seattle, long layover, and then onto Boise. About a 20-hour day.

Saturday, Oct 8, was one of the main reasons to come out. My maternal grandmother passed away back in April, and Saturday was the memorial service. Anytime I meet relatives out west, most of them I don’t or barely remember. The difference this year was that included “the littles”, or the children of my first cousins. I imagine by the time we get back out there, the next generation will be included.

Sunday, Oct. 9, the family went up to Sun Valley to see “The Trailing Of The Sheep.” If I’m remembering local lore correctly, the local sheepherders had some trails to move their flocks. At some point those paths got paved (not clear who was responsible). At some point, bikers and hikers started using those paths for their activities. These newcomers got very annoyed that when the flocks were moved, “their” paths were littered with sheep dung. They complained to the authorities, who pointed out that, the bikers and hikers were technically in the wrong, and no, they weren’t going to tell the ranchers jack shit. Someone on the sheep rancher side came up with the idea of a parade to raise money for some charity or other and to bring peace to both sides. It’s evolved since. It was interesting to watch contingents from the local Basques, Peruvians, and Highlanders marching. There was also someone in a slightly disturbing sheep costume that may end up in one of my urban fantasy novels.

From the rest of Sunday through Friday, we did sightseeing around the Twin Falls area of Idaho, as well as meeting family. The Wife got to see my family’s farm, try my uncle’s homebrewed mead (first time trying mead for her), and go to some local antique/second-hand shops.

On Friday, Oct. 14, The Wife and I travelled up to Lewiston, Idaho. We had to make a short stop in Meridian (which I think is kind of a suburb of Boise). The jacket I brought was good for rain, but crap for wind. So, we found a 5.11, and I picked up a new jacket. Along with other stuff, because I can never get out of that shop for cheap. We also found out that a doughnut franchise we’d found in Williamsburg had expanded to Idaho. The drive was mostly nice, but I don’t like driving in the mountains. It makes me nervous when I we’re doing turns with a several hundred foot drop on the other side. We did see a couple of A-10’s flying around Mountain Home, so The Wife learned the BRRR meme.

Friday night and Saturday was meeting The Wife’s family around the Lewiston and Clarkston, Washington area. This included everyone meeting a “new” cousin. I don’t have my scorecard to keep all of my wife’s relatives straight (I’m getting better, I promise!). From what I gathered, this new cousin was the daughter of some folks the others had a few interactions. New Cousin was discovered when she moved in near some of The Wife’s cousins and relations were discovered. So, both New Cousin and I got to hear a bunch of family lore. While we were in the area, The Wife and I went around to found old family houses and other areas she remembered.

Sunday, Oct 16, we drove to the Tri-Cities in Washington. There was a stop over in Pomeroy, a small farming community in Washington. MIL’s family was from there, so we stopped to visit some graves and find old houses. There was some detective work on that last bit using an old photo and Apple Maps.

From Sunday until we left on Friday, there was a lot of meeting The Wife’s family and going around the Tri-Cities to see places The Wife lived, her relatives lived, and other areas she remembered fondly. It was also a chance for The Wife to catch up with her childhood BFF.

We made a trip out to Fort Walla Walla, which was a neat museum and historic village. That was really neat, particularly the display of a thirty-mule mechanical combine. Then, The Wife made a couple of the workers slightly jealous when she told them about where we got married in Florida (since it was kind of a similar thing). We also made a trip up to Leavenworth with The Wife’s BFF and BFF’s husband. From what I understand, it was an old logging town that was facing hardship as logging fell off. So, they decided to go the tourist route and converted their town into a “Bavarian Alpine village”. I use the quotes because apparently BFF brought a German foreign exchange student who was amused by the attempt. Anyways, Leavenworth has a bunch of nifty little shops and restaurants. We had some really good German food and bought a bunch of stuff. The only drawback were there were some nasty fires going, so the smell of smoke was heavy in the area and the mountains were obscured by the haze. BFF’s husband pointed out a bunch of neat stuff on the trip up and back.

The trip home wasn’t quite as long as the trip out. The only major hiccup was making our connection in Seattle, since that entailed having to travel across the airport. It was so nice being back in my house, my bed, driving the Ward Wagon, and playing with the clowder.

Scenes From Vacation

The Wife and I are currently on vacation. There will be a fuller accounting of our travels when we return, but this was kind of amusing.

The Wife and I are getting ready, and she comments her bruise hurts.

Me: Where did you get the bruise?

The Wife: Falling off the wagon.

Derek’s Mind: Wait, she doesn’t have addiction issues. Could she be talking about food? But how would she have gotten a bruise from food?

The Wife (seeing my confusion): When I fell off the feed wagon feeding the horses?

Me: Oh yeah. I’ve just never heard that phrase used literally before.

Derek’s Hurricane Ian Travelogue

Okay, this is me putting down what is essentially a long journal entry. The TLDR is that the Ward clan came through the storm relatively unscathed. We were much luckier than many of our friends and fellow residents. I also found some gaps in my planning. Some were lack of imagination, some were thinking I had something until I went looking for it. We were very fortunate that we didn’t discover a discrepancy because we desperately needed something and found out we didn’t have it.

Let me take you back to Friday, September 23rd. This was when I first saw that what was, at that point, an unnamed storm, was projected to become a hurricane and smack into the Gulf Coast of Florida in a week. Worse, Ward Manor was smack in the middle of the cone. Feck. Hurricanes are like tactical nukes. They only need to be close to do some massive damage. That morning, The Wife and I discussed some of the probabilities. First, we were set for most supplies – food, water, and other consumables. The big issue was power. We couldn’t afford a generator, but what we could afford was a power station. We also found a deal on a big fan that ran on the same batteries as some of our power tools. I placed the orders. Home Depot said the fan would be there on Saturday. Amazon said the power station would be there Tuesday. I go back to work because I have a half-day. We’re supposed to get our COVID boosters and flu shots before some upcoming travel. As I’m working, I realize I either misread the initial track or the NHC updated their data with the projected hurricane coming Wednesday. Which is uncomfortably close to when the new power station is supposed to be delivered. The Brother could get the same power station delivered on Saturday. We decided against it because it would require time and gas on Sunday that we didn’t really want to spend.

As more information comes in, the NHC and the news started saying that it was going to be at least a Cat 3 storm when it hits us. Cat 3 is usually my normal threshold for deciding whether or not to evac. This was when I hit my first hurdle – I had not updated my evacuation plans when we downsized to just the Ward Wagon. Okay, technically we could also take MIL’s car. Still, I had to mentally plan for how to fit five cats, three humans, and necessary supplies and equipment in the Ward Wagon. Then there was the question of where to go. From the track, I wasn’t sure if my normal evac points would be reachable. Further discussion was derailed by my "Twelve Hours of Suck" that always happens after I get my COVID shot.

Saturday was recovering from the THOS, which was helped as we watched the track go north. Heck, we wouldn’t need to evac. Heck, we might not even need to put up the storm screens. I continued to sip down Powerade Zero and get caught up on anime. Then, the track started to creep down. At the very least, we’re going to need to put up the storm screens. Next issue – we no longer had a ladder tall enough to reach a couple of the windows to put up the screens. Discussions on how to procure such a ladder showed that: A) those fuckers are expensive, and B) there was a bit of a run at the moment, and C) there wasn’t a huge supply to begin with.

Sunday was more planning and discussion on how to get up the storm shutters. Fortunately, there were some greedy and mercenary handymen advertising on social media. In addition, the neighborhood Facebook group started up a list where volunteers would come around and put up folks’ storm screens. These are two solutions that warmed my voluntarism heart. I started doing more prep for losing power and internet. I have a stash of "dumb" light bulbs for if we lost internet but not power. What if we lost both for extended periods? Well, I have a battery radio. Wait, where was it? Um, it must have been lost during the move. Fuck. MIL offered to go in search of one on Monday since she had to go out for other appointments. Yes, please. The only other excitement was when there was a low pass by a quartet of fighters. I first thought they were F-16’s, but later photographs showed them to be F-35’s.

Monday had the track returning to smacking us – but with even more gusto. We began the process of getting everything behind walls. This meant shifting furniture around to make floor space. It also meant I found out that the dining room chandelier is approximately two inches lower than the top of my head. I would lose count of how many times I hit that iron frame. Damn thing hurt. Then, after The Wife logged off of work, we put up the storm screens on the first floor. The nice thing about the screens is that they are light and the mounting went up relatively smoothly. I was still sore as hell from using a bunch of muscles that don’t normally get used.

Tuesday was anxiety continued. We knew the handyman we hired was coming, but there were a couple of houses ahead of us – and time was running short. I kept busy doing storm prep. There was a lot of shuffling in the garage to clear out enough floor space to bring the Ward Wagon behind the walls. For those outside of Florida, since the water table doesn’t allow basements, and since our attics are around oven temperatures even in winter, garages tend to be the storage space. It is common to have the garage stuffed. Fortunately, ours wasn’t too bad. It still required a lot of shuffling, moving stuff about, and even bringing somethings back in the house. By the time The Wife got finished with work, we had the space to move in the Ward Wagon. As we did that, the handyman and his trusty assistant showed up, and quickly threw up the screens. As we shut and locked the garage door, it felt kind of like we were bracing for a siege.

Wednesday had the track going further south of us, but Hurricane Ian was now projected to be a monster Cat 4. That storm was several hundred miles across. And it was supposed to follow Charley’s path across the state. We were going to get some really nasty weather. Even before daybreak we were getting rain and some wind. A fraction of what we would get later, but enough that I was glad for my rain parka as I did an early morning perimeter sweep. I just wanted to make sure we hadn’t missed anything critical. The cats weren’t dealing with a newly crowded house and the inability to get on the back porch. We ended up having to drug one of them who was really having a hard time. Then, the wind really starts up. The whipping of the screens on the windows was on the unnerving side. We made cookies and threw some extra meat in the crockpot in anticipation of losing power some time during the day. Well, The Wife and MIL did all of that. I just supervised. Watching the news, it was odd to see Tampa Bay being pushed out by the storm.

In addition to watching the news, we monitored the neighborhood FB page. Several of the neighbors were reporting leaks around their windows. So, we start periodic window checks. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when one area turned out just to be the cats marking territory and not a window leak. Most of the day consisted of working a bit before drifting out to watch the news for fifteen or twenty minutes as the weather continued to get worse and worse and worse. Power was dropping all over the county. It finally got bad enough that the county put everyone under water restrictions due to so many lift stations being without power. So, it was "Let yellow mellow, but flush down the brown." Joy. By close to 1700, our neighborhood was part of the maybe 15% of our county that still had power. As the heavy stuff came through, there was a bit of water blown in through the bottom of the front door. If this happens again, we’ll need sandbags. As we continued to watch the news, Tampa Police updated on a couple of folks who decided hurricane was a good reason to try and break into the Tampa IKEA. Then the winds and rains were bad enough that the county said it was pulling first responders off the streets until things quiet down a bit. We get news that The Wife’s niece’s car managed to get whacked by a falling tree. By 1930, our street is part of the less than 5% of customers still with power. The BIL and SIL are some of those who have lost power. Throughout the night, we have a couple of flickers, but power and internet stay up.

Thursday morning comes and both of our bosses tell us not to worry about logging in. Good, because I was really kind of worried about what we would find once we cracked open the front door. At the 0800 perimeter sweep, we find that the tree in the back is leaning over enough that we’ll probably lose it. Well, I never really liked having an oak back there. The wife and I discussed replacements. If we have to replace it, I’d really like a palm tree since pines are not allowed. We took our battery powered fan and a spare power bank over to BIL’s. On the trip over we saw a lot of tree and fence damage. Fortunatly, we don’t see a whole lot of catastrophic damage. We ended up bringing home meat to store in our freezers for them. We made a couple of more stops to check on friends before going home and decompressing the house. We took down the screens on the first floor and moved stuff back out to the back porch. On the plus side, a lot of the stuff that had just been lain around the garage was now put away, and the garage is more organized than it had been in some time. We’ll see how long it lasts.

Friday saw BIL’s and SIL’s power restored and things getting on their way back to normal. For us, it will be much easier than a lot of folks south of us. As I write this, a lot of Manatee is still flooded. Heck, they had to shut down part of the interstate due to flooding from the Myakka. Yet, we’re on the road to recovery.

Overall, we were lucky that we didn’t get hit harder. I hope this is the only major storm of the season. If not, at least I’ll put the lessons learned to good use.

Fun Show Time!

Over the weekend, the BIL and me went to the local gun show. It was mostly a chance for him and me to price out a couple of items (each) and just gawk.

For my two items, I was looking for a semi-auto 12-gauge and a .22 double-action revolver. I was really hoping someone had Mossberg’s new 940, but to no avail. I did see their 930 Tactical and a couple of Beretta’s 1301’s. As for the revolver? I’ve decided that even though they are cheaper, I can’t go with an LCR for my 22 revolver. I just can’t get a good grip on that gun. I’d really like an SP-101 in 22, but we’ll see what’s available when I finally have the cash.

The BIL was looking at some uppers for his AR pistol and some pump shotguns. The local gun store chain was running a special on a Maverick 88 for $300. Which honestly, wasn’t a bad deal for a budget shotgun. He was also looking for a .22 plinker, and was looking at a couple of GSG’s MP5 clones. Which, honestly, are also tempting for when/if the niece and nephew come to get their 22’s out of my gun safe. Or, I could just fix up the other ones in my safe like I’ve been saying I was going to.

As for other neat toys, I played with some CZs and a nifty B&T TP9. What was interesting was that I saw a couple of HK unicorns in the wild. One of the stands had the semi-auto version of the UMP sub gun. It was interesting, but what really caught my eye was someone selling an SLR-8. I’d never seen one in real life. I’ll admit to being intrigued. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I do not have the $2k they were asking.

I really wish one of the booths had a Just Right Carbine. Just so I can check the ergonomics of them. I’m tempted because they’re one of the few PCCs you can get that will take M&P mags.

I almost came home with a really pretty knife, but I have a hard time paying good money for something that’s just going to be displayed. If I buy a knife, I want to know that it will be used. Or at least, have the probability of being used. Or at least have the probability in my mind of being used.

All the fun at the gun show.