Sunday, December 26, 2010

Amidst the Holidays

It gets weird when the kids get big, grow up, become adult-like. They are no longer within your grasp. They come and go; free will seems to be at work. Anyhow, we went and visited the daughter and son in law, an hour away, two days before Christmas. It was a nice visit, and we were introduced to the X-Box Kinect, an interesting piece of technology that seems to know what you are doing out there, flailing about in the middle of the living room, chairs pushed safely aside. Well, almost safely, but that's another story.

The son came with us, and he has been back here around the house for most of the time. The daughter and son in law showed up late Christmas eve and stuck around for Christmas morning and the opening of the gifts, returning later for a game and a laugh.

Now we are contemplating a trip back to my homeland, abbreviated to only two full days, but still worth the drive, just to see my small family back in the land where I grew up.

Linda has suffered through Christmas with a bad cold (as if there are good ones). Let's say a vicious cold. Missed the Christmas Eve service. Missed the service this morning. Missed the quick, fast-food breakfast with the kids after church. But she's up and moving about now, packing and committing to making the trip.

Trips back "home" are always fun affairs, staying up late, sleeping in, then running around to make the most of the remaining hours. The return trip is usually kind of bittersweet - great recent memories recalled, a return to the comforts, pets, and Christmas presents abandoned all too soon for the road. Of course, our son will shortly be on his way to the bright lights and the big city, which is only right; not too long ago, we spent New Year's out for the night with sizable groups in that very same city.

I guess today is the eye of the holiday hurricane; a little recuperation, a little tinkering with my new toy (a USB turntable, for converting my considerable LP collection to MP3s).

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and that you are in a position to be looking forward to 2011.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot

No, that's not my house. It's a few blocks away, and every year we circle around the loop to gawk at it, at least three or four times. Ohio Edison is very fond of these people. They do it up big wattage style.

Seems like a new fad on the scene is musical lights. There are at least two houses within a block of us that are treating their neighbors to the sights AND sounds of Christmas, piping out electronic bleep versions of the old chestnuts. I am okay with it, since the volume is kept pretty low, and hearing any Christmas tune chord progression tends to implant the song in my head for more than a few minutes, which is fine with me, as it often blots out those creeping thoughts of stressed-outedness.

'Tis the season, and if you let it, it can wear you down. We all have our checklists and try to move through them as best we can. On top of that, however, I have a couple deadlines at work which require a concentrated effort. Fortunately, the family has gotten easier and easier to shop for over the years, and sometimes a big package from some far away place only accessible via the World Wide Web can take care of someone's "list". And Linda and I seem to get easier to please, too, as there is some recognition that a house full of "stuff" does not really beg for more "stuff". A couple good books, the newest World Almanac, something to do with music, a sweater, and maybe one surprise, and I'm pretty well pleased.

I think I have at least all the major events leading up to the 25th charted in my internal Blackberry brain. The square-dance party Saturday; potential in-law meal on Sunday. See the daughter and son in law next Thursday. Work in a band practice or two for the flurry of activity at the church between the Christmas eve services and the Sunday morning-after (Boxing Day for the Canadians and British Empire affiliates among you) service-as-usual.

Christmas Day at our house is, as far as I am concerned, as it should be. I go nowhere; dinner has already been ordered, picked up, and put in the fridge for the re-heat. Getting dressed involves sweats and slippers. It is a day of peace and quiet, which is part of the point. An oasis of rest between the gift purchases and the gift returns. A time to ponder the whole Christmas story, read the silly poems, but also perhaps a gospel chapter or two; get out the book about the dog that had a Christmas eve adventure; play a game; work on a jigsaw puzzle. Enjoy the solitude with the family; a little snowfall helps embellish the whole scene. In many respects, it really is the best day of the year. Nothing fancy; nice, plain, and simple, like a birth in a manger.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

pictures don't do it justice

Had to make a road trip to a town along the Ohio River today. Picked up a co-worker around Akron and took a succession of back roads I have never seen in my life. It is amazing how much there is to the Buckeye State. It is also interesting to be in an area with towns named Lisbon, Calcutta...

I recommend the Route 7 trip along the Ohio River valley. The panorama presented is an odd mix of natural topographic beauty and icons of an industrial age that has largely passed. One particularly fascinating icon for me was the W.H. Sammis power plant. Its smokestack, at 305 meters, is one of the tallest in the world. Plus, Route 7 tunnels right under the plant's baghouse, the part of the plant that filters out much of the noxious stuff. Barges with coal on the adjacent river were offloading as we drove by, but I could only safely keep the camera phone trained on the plant directly ahead of me...
That stack on the left is MASSIVE!

Perhaps next trip I will try to capture some of the more pristine natural beauty in between the electric plants and abandoned mills...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

I guess we've always gone to Christmas tree lots that handle a decent mix of urbanites or neophytes or whatever you want to call us. Places that wrap the tree up to make it slender so you can pop it in the trunk of a sedan and get it home safely.

This time we went down into the more rural reaches of our county, and got a tree for a very reasonable price. It was overgrown and the lot owner wanted to part with these monstrosities for cheap.

Armed with a tree saw, I faced a formidable task. Well, down there on that lot, people are a bit more wise about how to acquire a tree. They come prepared with (a) chain saws and (b) pickup trucks. We, on the other hand, had a hand saw and a labrador retriever who just wanted to meet everybody and, if we had let him, leave a little something on some of the trees.

We found a tree that suited us, and one of the chainsaw brandishing customers offered to cut it down, size it up, and trim off some of the unnecessary lower branches for us. He felled the pine and held it up, asking if it was to our liking. We said yes and offered him a few bucks for his time; he wouldn't take any money.

Then I began to realize this baby was not the typical pliable pine I have always gotten. It held rigidly to its ridiculous girth, and the sight of the tree and our meager trunk looked like an absurd optical illusion. We gave it a shot, but even with rope, there was no way this was going to happen. About this time, kindly stranger number two came along with the requisite pick-me-up truck. We were pretty far from home, but our daughter's brother in law's family lives about a mile from the tree farm, and this fella was happy to deliver the tree up there for us. I think he didn't mind sitting in his warm cab for a while, while his family was making a selection out among the pines.

So he followed us up to their house, where we left it. We are pretty sure a member of that family, with a pick up truck, heads to our town in the morning, and they are willing to complete the journey of the pine for us.

I was fairly perturbed about this whole experience, and we rushed home to a childrens' Christmas program at the church. We are of the age where we have no dog in this fight, and know fewer and fewer of the little cherubs up front, but there is something about the tiniest of the kiddies in their little angel outfits, reciting Christmas poems to the best of their ability, that takes the edge off of silly little scenarios like our tree procurement. And if the carols with the kids didn't work, the potluck dinner that followed completed the task.

So now, attitude adjusted, I am looking at the whole thing as a big plus. My faith in humanity, soured lately by the likes of North Korean wackos with weaponry and that Wikileaks guy, has been reasonably restored by all these people who just up and volunteer when they see someone who, appearing perhaps too "citified" for their own good, is in a bit of a pickle. I can only hope that I can pay it forward sometime when someone needs a more urban-style favor.