Friday, December 14, 2018

19 October, Mount Pleasant PA USA
The month is half over and I haven’t had time to start this.  Ugh!  A quick-and-dirty recap of October to date.  
Finished up the Sleep Study at UPMC.  Day of tests, including EKG and ultrasound of my carotid artery.  I asked to have results sent to my primary care doc so I’ll know what’s up.  I wasn’t selected for the final phase — 2.5 days, mostly awake without caffeine.  
Started annual exams with eye doctor and gynecologist.  More tests to be done; nothing worrisome:  follow up on cataracts and bone density and mammo scheduled.
Rainy day in Delmont
Got soaked at the annual Delmont Apple Festival, which we’d attended last year with Glenn’s 89-year-old uncle and aunt.  When the heavens burst, we were sooo glad we hadn’t brought Victor and Louise this year.  The rain started shortly after we alit from the shuttle bus.  We took shelter, such as it was with the high winds and deluge of rain, in a giant tent that was set up with tables and chairs for the food area.  When we could finally leave the tent, the sun shone again.  We got shivering me a cup of hot coffee, then started to visit some of the 300 artisan vendors.  I bought a lot of holiday gifts here last year.  Not so this one.  We had only visited half a dozen spots when a festival official came through.  She announced the police were closing the festival, another — worse — storm was due in half an hour; we needed to evacuate ASAP.  The waiting line for the shuttle was already a block long and winding through the admin building and out the other side.  We were soaked through when we finally boarded about 30 minutes later.  

Sara & Glenn enjoy ice cream
Thankfully the next day was sunny and warm.  We took our oldest granddaughter Sara to a rabbit show at Penn State.  And made the mandatory stop at The Creamery, PSU’s famous ice cream shop.  We bought several half gallons for Michelle, Glenn’s older daughter, and one for Glenn.  I wasn’t willing to over-spend my Weight Watchers’ points so early in my weight loss effort, so I passed on a pint-sized cone.  That was hard (understatement of the year!).

Glenn and I and our friends Gary and Johanna went to see the reproductions of two of Christopher Columbus’ ships, the Niña and Pinta.  The ships were incredibly small, even the Pinta which was upsized to make room for more tourists.  Afterwards, we went over to the South Side for lunch.  I’m really enjoying spending time with Gary and Johanna and Glenn.  Oh, they’re teaching me how to play pinochle and are very patient with my need for a cheat-sheet scorer.

Lots of birthday celebrations.  Middle granddaughter Emma turned four the day before “Blue Pappy” (Glenn) turned 73.  Emma calls Glenn that because he wears blue shirts a lot; her other grandfather works for the highway department, wearing an orange protective vest, hence “Orange Pappy.”  I’m Gramma Suzi, and I love it!  Big party for Emma — her mom went all out with the decorations.  Kids placemats were handmade with photos of that kid and Emma, then laminated, treasure chest piñata.  I took Glenn to dinner at Altius on Mount Washington for his birthday.  Another spectacular view of our city.  Glenn said his steak was the best he’s ever had.  We took Lyft both ways so wine was consumed without worry.  We’ll celebrate my 73rd when we get to West Springfield MA.

Celebrating Glenn's birthday
22 October, Squirrel Hill
I’ve been having trouble shifting my “baby,” a standard transmission Ford Focus, into reverse on very cold days.  Happened again when I was leaving Mount Pleasant on Sunday afternoon and yet again today. I called the garage that did my inspection, and the owner recommended a transmission specialist in West Mifflin.  That guy agreed to take a look this morning.  Glenn met me at the garage, and after drop off, we ran errands that we’d both planned to do.  On the way back from The Waterfront, the huge shopping area that was built on the old Homestead steel works site, we crossed the Monongahela River via the Homestead Grays (High) Bridge, something we’ve done together and individually hundreds of times.  This time Glenn noticed and pointed out some houses nestled in a forest of trees near the river to the right … but we couldn’t see any roads leading down there. So, off we went to figure it out.  

And we did.  Took a few wrong turns but eventually we descended on a narrow road toward the river, crossed a one-lane bridge, made two sharp right-angle turns and right around a corner was this little village of homes isolated by a forest.  It could’ve been a village in the mountains of West Virginia.  Just a handful of narrow streets and probably a dozen houses, no two the same and most 30+ years old.  Life with Glenn is always interesting.

Oh, BTW, I’ve officially lost 12 pounds although it’s more like 15.  I guessed at my starting weight, using what I’d weighed at a doctor’s appointment last January.  

23 October
Well, the transmission worked just fine for the mechanic, even on the first try this morning.  Isn’t that how it always happens?  He said the fluid, clutch etc. were all right and if I have more trouble, he can pull the transmission and check some hydraulic thingy — $1100.  Hopefully it won’t be necessary.

25 October, my 73rd birthday, West Springfield MA
Glenn and I spent last night at his older daughter Michelle’s, so we could leave early this morning (4 am).  But first, we went to the Berlin PA Halloween parade last night.  Sara dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and one of her rabbits was Toto, sitting in her basket.  She’ll do the same thing for the “dress up” portion of the rabbit show but add the Cowardly Lion.  Michelle found a cat costume that had a lion’s head hat that fit the rabbit.

En route here, we stopped near Harrisburg to caravan with Brian and his six kids.  We exchanged Michelle for Abigail, age 8.  Michelle and Brian wanted to work on their pitch to the national board; they are seeking the 2020 show for PA.  (Brian’s wife Ruth-Ann is in National Guard basic training for two years.)

26 October, Happy Birthday to niece Dyana

27 October
I cannot believe there was a shooting this morning at a synagogue very near my flat in Squirrel Hill.  It happened during morning services and details are still sketchy.  I emailed Shannon, my water ex instructor at the JCC, and Aaron, my landlord, to see if everyone was okay.  So far, that seems to be the case. 

Michelle gave Glenn a Groupon for a tasting and tour of a distillery across the border in Connecticut.  We went this afternoon, then had dinner in Hartford to celebrate my birthday.

Distillery tour was a hoot.  I got the giggles after a few sips of our “introductory cocktail” — their vodka and lemonade.  Mmm mmm good.  The giggles continued through the tasting, tour and dinner: a combination of booze on an empty stomach and a need for relief from the horror of what my neighborhood is experiencing.

More details are coming out about the shooting victims and shooter, a racist anti-semitic ultranationalist.  I’ve gotten messages from so many friends who know I live near there.  This isn’t a political blog, and I’ve steadfastly avoided that … but this kind of atrocity is a direct result of the change in our country’s culture and norms.  We have seen way to much of this in the last few years.  

29 October, Happy Birthday to friend Johanna

30 October
Congratulations to granddaughter Sara on her knowledge of rabbitry.  She was second best in the entire nation in her age category (6-8 years old). 
Sara at National Show
Her friend and roommate during the convention, Abigail, took first place.  The PA group did well overall in the knowledge competitions.  All five of Abby’s brothers placed, often first or second, and Zach from Westmoreland took fifth place in his age group.  Zach had led the Rabbit Bowl team to an upset victory in the state competition earlier this autumn.  But he wasn’t very confident about his chances here, so we were all extremely happy to see him place.

Organization was definitely not a strong suit overall for the convention planners, obvious in so many ways even to me who knew little about anything.  But tonight’s Youth Banquet was the biggest mess of a banquet I’ve ever attended.  A taco bar, a slider/hotdog bar, a popcorn/pretzel bar and a dessert bar with churros and deep-fried Twinkies — all buffet style with very, very, very long lines.  I got a hotdog because that line was shorter than the taco line, which I preferred.  I talked to a woman who had waited 30 minutes!  By the time we got to dessert, all of the churros were gone … and deep-friend Twinkies are disgusting, even with chocolate sauce.  Yeah, I tried them.

Organization won’t be an issue in 2020 — the show will be in Harrisburg PA under direction of the same team that handled the 2013 show so well. Congrats to Michelle and Brian!

31 October, Castleton VT
My nephew John & his family
are ready for Halloween!

Glenn went to the conference center very early with Michelle after she carried Sara to our room.  While they unpacked the show and repacked vehicles, I organized Glenn’s and my suitcases for our next trips.  I really don’t want either of us carrying the big suitcase when we really don’t need too.  It now includes bottles from the distillery tour!  

With a green wire rabbit cage on the roof and several smaller cages in the Jeep’s cargo space, we left for VT in late morning. Most of our stuff was on the backseat.  Michelle and Sara drove home with the owner of the cages.

We arrived here in late afternoon.  Haven’t seen Dianna in three years, and she looks terrific, and seems to be doing well.  It was nice to see her husband Robert again.  I met him once when he came to see Dianna when we were both managing projects in Skopje, Macedonia. I’m so glad I got to introduce them and Glenn.  After time to settle in and start catching up, we took a drive around this historic area, then had dinner at The Wheel, a real down home, home cooking cafe with incredible food.  And desserts to die for.  I had a mixed berry crisp too big for one sitting.  Saving half for tomorrow’s breakfast.  

Castleton, where Ethan Allan &
Benedict Arnold staged before a major
Revolutionary War battle
Lots of colonial and Revolutionary War sites in the area.  This is where Ethan Allan and Benedict Arnold organized their “troops” for the Battle of Ticonderoga.  

1 November
Rainy day.  Slow moving morning and late breakfast, then drove around to a cider press and local markets and a huge local book/gift/coffee shop in a nearby town  We were going to have coffee at the bookstore but that section was closed for renovation.  We did get some cider straight from the press during another stop as well as a few other local artisan items.  I wanted to get a few things for Larry and Karen since we’ll have dinner at their house on Friday.  We had a late lunch at a resort/spa — really nice to have roaring fires in the nearby fireplaces as it was still rainy.  

2 November, Newton MA 
I love having a driver!  I can enjoy the scenery, and there’s sure a lot of that in Vermont and New Hampshire.  Even though too many trees were still green, we saw bursts of color — firey reds and rusty oranges — every so often.  At one point the clouds were below the mountain tops but above us, hanging over the evergreens like gauze on shrubbery at Halloween.

The rain continued most of the day but thankfully took a short break when we needed one.  We stopped for lunch at a glass workshop/store/restaurant in Quechee.  I had an excellent fish soup, Glenn an equally delicious sandwich.  We perused the glass shop but way too expensive for our budgets … plus I can get beautiful glass for a lot less when I’m in Poland.

Oh, you’ve probably seen those commercials for Southern New Hampshire University — they take a big bus around to hand out diplomas to online students.  Well, we passed SNHU — it’s a real place with real buildings, not just something in the cloud.  Kind of a fun discovery.

We didn’t have as much “down” time between checking in at the Newton Marriott and going to Larry and Karen’s for dinner as we’d’ve liked.  But such is life on this trip.  Both of their moms, their siblings and kids were at dinner.  I’d met many of them at older son Jonah’s bar mitzvah three years ago.  Jonah was my first adopted grandson.  Now he’s 16 and learning to drive!
Spike had shorter straight hair instead of the mob of longish curls I remembered.  But he’s still Spike, full of energy and enthusiasm.

Small world story.  After dinner, Karen’s brother-in-law Joe leaned over to Glenn and said, “You’re from Pittsburgh, right?”  That led to a conversation about how much Joe loved Pgh — he’d gone to Carnegie Mellon, stayed on afterwards for a job at PPG for less pay than one in Detroit.  And Joe lived in Squirrel Hill, across from the high school, in the building with the underpass to the parking lot in back.  THAT’S MY BUILDING!

4 November, Alexandria VA
Spike’s bar mitzvah service yesterday morning was all Spike despite sharing it with another boy from the synagogue.  His “sermon” was about Isaac sending his servant to find a wife for Isaac’s son and how the servant selected Rebecca because of her innate kindness.  Not only did she offer water to the parched servant, but without asking she brought water for his many camels.  Using his family’s 16 oz. dinner water glasses, Spike calculated the tremendous about of water Rebecca would’ve need for the camels, who as we are told need a lot as they can go for days without.  

That evening, we all chilled out at Hard Rock Cafe in Boston with a DJ who kept the dozens of kids in attendance busy with trivia, games, and such.  One new idea to me was for pairs to develop a secret handshake that involved at least five moves.  You should’ve seen some of those — what creativity and moves!  Thirteen birthday candles were lined along a baseball bat (Spike plays baseball), and as he lit each, he honored people — his parents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, etc.  I was overwhelmed and honored to share a candle with a friend of Larry and Karen’s from their Kenya days.  Spike cited my willingness to bring contraband (KinderEggs) for him as well as send him post cards as I travel.

Spike & his source
The drive to Glenn’s cousin Donald’s house was interesting.  We first stopped in Salem, having promised his daughter Jen a tee-shirt from there.  We had breakfast, wandered the infamous town and took a tour of the witches’ museum, learning a lot about the Salem Witch Scare.  For example, it only lasted 13 months, 19 witches were hanged (one was male); colonists didn’t burn witches, Europeans did.  A local sheriff had a custom of acquiring the property of “convicted” witches and was thwarted by a male witch who refused to declare himself guilty or not.  Thus the witch who couldn’t be convicted ran away, the sheriff died of a heart attack and the witch returned, stole his body, and held it for ransom — the return of his home.  The sheriff’s family finally did.  After that tale, it was time to head homeward.

Using the GPS, Glenn drove “the fastest route”, through New York City where traffic actually did move quite smoothly, then onward to an Applebee’s for food.  Back on the road, we passed the I-695 exit that I had suggested and went further south, through Baltimore tunnels toward Annapolis,  finally westward toward Washington’s National Harbor and finally Donald’s.  Whew!  We were pooped and gladly accepted Donald’s offer wine.  Now one of us is going to bed … guess which!

5 November, Bethesda MD
Youngest granddaughter Callie had to be taken to the ER as her chest congestion was significantly worse, affecting her breathing.  Whatever the doc tried didn’t work as hoped. Glenn decided to return to PA tonight and drove me to Inga’s in Bethesda first.  It was dark, rush hour and a nightmare of a drive, but here I am.  Tomorrow I’ll go to Aideen’s for 10 days with Mickey.  I already have my train ticket for Thanksgiving trip home.  

15 November, Arlington VA
Here I sit watching the snow fall, wondering if Mickey’s school will close early and trying to play blog catch up again.  Schools and cities here just don’t know how to deal with snow and ice and that’s a shame considering how much more snow and ice they’ve seen in recent years.  I’ve been in the area for at least two major blizzards (20+ inches of snow).  Anyway …

Mickey’s in 8th grade now, last year of middle school, and very involved in music, fencing and tennis, and Latin.  He continues with the saxophone, tennis and fencing lessons, making for a varied and interesting schedule.  His interest in Latin as an oral and written language and the history and culture of ancient Rome has increased.  This coming weekend we’ll go with his school’s Latin Club to the Sunday-Monday state convention where he’ll compete in oratory.  Togas are required at the banquet, and I need to find out if I have to have one too!

Have reconnected with a few friends for lunches and a few more planned.  I haven’t reached out as much as I usually do because I’m pooped from traveling.  It’s been nice to just take a walk to Clarendon, then sit and binge watch something on Acorn or Netflix.  I’m enjoying Robson Green in “Wire in the Blood” on Acorn and Julia Roberts in “Homecoming” on Netflix.  

I’m also being more domestic than usual — baked banana bread and have chocolate chip cookie dough in the refrigerator ready for baking.  I thought if Mickey got home early he might want to help.  I promised cookies to my niece Dyana for her birthday and because I was in New England, didn’t get a chance to bake.  Today’s a good day for that!  I’ve also make a couple of soups and enjoyed some salmon-vegetable soup that Aideen left.

Last weekend Mickey and I joined Inga, Craig, Tosia and Beza the dog at Inga and Craig’s new cottage at Bryce National Park.  Had a good time vegging out.  Too cold to take the ski lift to the mountain top but Mickey, Tosia and I drove up and down the mountain roads, including several unmarked dead-ends (thankfully all cul de sacs for easier turn around).  Saw some incredible houses, one was round with a pond partially beneath.  Saw the reservoir and the airport.  Yes, lots of small planes fly in/out, and the biggest house we saw apparently belongs to a pilot.  It’s literally hotel size so we agreed we could move into the lowest level, and it’d take him years to discover he had guests.

Beza & Tosia relax at the new cottage
20 November
From rabbit convention to Latin convention in less than a month, how’s that for transitions?  Mickey’s been studying Latin for several years, language, culture, history and all.  Something he loves and excels at.  So when Aideen mentioned that the Virginia Classical League Convention would be in Richmond while I”m here, I agreed to attend with him.  I did two years of Latin in high school, and Mrs. B., my Latin II teacher, firmly believed it wasn’t a “dead language.”  And I thank her for that every time I work a crossword puzzle.  

Reenactors at Latin convention
Must’ve been a couple thousand middle and high schoolers in the Richmond Convention Center, and the Sunday-Monday program was jam packed with oratory (in Latin and English), tests of grammar, vocabulary, mythology, and more, competition in arts (all media), a banquet for toga-clad guests … the only downside was getting up Sunday morning to catch the 6:30 am bus from the school (upside was no driving either way).

Mickey did a surprisingly good job of self direction — actually pre-selecting activities, then getting to them on time as well as touching base as we decided.  As a non-official chaperone, I was in charge of “guarding” the luggage, coats and such — all piled in one spot until hotel rooms were available, and then again after Monday breakfast and checkout.  (Reminded me a bit of my Peace Corps group’s layover in Frankfort, Germany.  It was so long that we had to get our luggage which we piled in one place and took turns guarding.)

Two other chaperones found an outstanding Korean cafe a few blocks away and stood guard while I had a chance to verify their review.  I had the leftovers for dinner last night.

Cold and windy today.  Mickey called to ask if he could go to a school friend’s house after jazz band practice.  So he will return in time to eat and go to his choral group rehearsal.

21 November, Bethesda
Aideen arrived home after a harrowing series of flights from Bishkek — one of her tickets was cancelled plus she didn’t know she’d have to leave the security in AMS, get her luggage, re-check in and then get to her next flight … in just over an hour.  Thankfully she was able to get things squared away.  Inga picked me up and I’ll stay here tonight and take the train home tomorrow.  Craig is making a turkey for midday celebration of Thanksgiving.

Craig & Inga, chef & assistant on Turkey Day
22 November, Mount Pleasant, Thanksgiving Day
After a huge and delicious dinner thanks to Inga, Craig, Frankie and Tosia, Inga drove me to Union Station and the trip home.  Amtrak’s Capitol Limited was beyond my expectations — legroom that exceeds first class on an airplane, clean, friendly and helpful staff, a smooth ride that was only about 20 minutes late due to another train, clear communication about stops etc.   Glenn was waiting for me in Connellsville, about 30 minutes from here.

Tomek, Frankie, Tosia ready for

23 November
Mount Pleasant made the television news in Pittsburgh today.  Roadway repairs and upgrades that went on forever are finally done.  Work on sidewalks required removal of parking meters, the old fashioned kind that require coins, and storage for re-placing in the heart of downtown.  Except the parking meters are missing.  Apparently someone (or -ones) stole them from the contractor’s storage facility.  According to the mayor, it’s unclear who has to pay for the new ones, the city or the contractor.  

26 November
Been a bit of excitement.  We went back to Squirrel Hill so I could check the apartment, empty my overflowing mailbox and prepare for my next trip.  All accomplished plus dinner at Murray Avenue Grill to honor “Shop Small Saturday.”  MAG was featured in one of my Amex emails and since it’s also a favorite of mine, I took Glenn there for dinner.  The next morning as we prepared to leave for breakfast at Pamela’s, another local favorite, Glenn couldn’t find his wallet.  We looked high and low to no avail, packed the car and returned here.  Perhaps he hadn’t brought it with him.  Nope, not here either.

Today I suggested a return to SH to re-check for the wallet, get mail (my forwarding order seems to be ignored) and do some shopping at The Waterfront.  Funny story — we were leaving Costco when we saw a lovely seven-foot Christmas tree for $45 — looked real but Glenn thought it was fake.  After much discussion via phone with his daughter Michelle, they both decided to get one.  Back we went, and I used my membership to buy the trees.  At the trailer where we went to pick up the trees, Glenn learned they were real … back to Costco to get refund.  Who’d a thought Costco sold live Christmas trees?  Obviously not us.

Then back at my apartment, Glenn found his wallet under the edge of the dust ruffle of the bed.  He probably dropped it and kicked it into this hard to see spot.  Phew!

28 November, Minneapolis MN USA
Up at the crack of dawn to get to PIT for my flight to Minneapolis.  Because of possible bad weather, we left from Squirrel Hill, not Mount Pleasant.  Smooth flight in upgraded seat.  Getting rental car was not fun.   No one at the Thrift desk and after I waited about 15 minutes, a Dollar agent offered to help.  I didn’t know they were owned by the same company.  He said someone would be out in the parking garage to help me get a car — Not.  I finally found an agent in a small office, and he pointed to where I needed to go and told me to read the signs!  So much for customer service.  Won’t be using Thrifty again.

Had a lovely visit with my friend Lois in Northfield, doing well at 93, and on the way back to Minneapolis, a nice visit with friend Mary, whose husband Ted and I had been friends since my St. Paul Companies’ days.  Mary also is doing well, reshaping her life since Ted’s death earlier in the year.

Snowed while I was “down south” so I drove very carefully up Lyndale Avenue; no freeways for me when it’s bad weather.  Now I’m settled at Janet and Ed’s.  Ed is fixing dinner and it smells delicious.  Feels like home — a man in the kitchen!  Speaking of which, Glenn said his physical therapy is going well and helping his hip.  Hurray!  I’ve actually missed our early morning walks at the Mount Pleasant YMCA outdoor track.

30 November
Yesterday was a whirlwind:  Birthday lunch with Susan, teeth cleaning at my old dentist, update with my financial planner, progressive dinner with Jan and Marilyn who now live next door to each other. 

I started today with water ex with Andrew and old friends, then coffee with Barb from class.  It was great to catch up with another traveler.  (Barb helped me with the donation of much of my furniture and household goods to Bridging, a charity where she volunteers; it helps immigrants and others making transitions.)  She and her husband were recently in Winnipeg, and I’m trying to talk her into another trip to Pittsburgh.  

Vector & his toy cube
Met my sister's new pet, Vector.  He keeps Stu, her lap-obsessed cat, busy while she works from home.  Her company is remodeling its offices.

Tonight dinner and handing out with Sabrina and Mark, Peace Corps friends, and their son Christopher.  In between, a trip to Urgent Care for a bladder infection.  Nice way to end the month, eh?

Oh, and I wish I hadn’t kept the rental car — it’s supposed to snow tomorrow.

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