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I’m struggling mightily tonight with the thought of the work week ahead, but I’m trying so very hard to stay positive. Here are my positive thoughts to focus on:

  • Tomorrow is the first day of my favorite season: AUTUMN!!!
  • My husband is an amazing guy who I love coming home to and who completely accepts my weirdness.
  • I’m not taking a college class this semester.
  • I still have another show weekend to go.
  • Two of my favorite people got engaged today.
  • My potential agent has still not said, “no”.
  • I have approximately one million new books on English history from a dear friend.
  • I saw all of my boys and the adorable lovely girlfriend yesterday.
  • I don’t have to cook Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday.
  • The leaves and temperature are changing.
  • I’m working on my next books.
  • SOMETHING WONDERFUL COULD POTENTIALLY HAPPEN (PLEASE, GOD).

Okay, those are my focus points. Do you have yours?

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Where do you come from?

Who are you?

Have you ever stopped to think what you’ve inherited from your parents? Your grandparents? Not monetary things or objects, but what makes you you. Your hair? Your eyes? Your sense of humor? Have you ever tried to sort out what you got from whom? Youngest Child looks like the male version of me and feels all of my deep feels. Middle Child says that he has my road rage. He definitely has my sense of humor and laughs like my uncle when he gets going. Oldest Child looks scarily like my father and has a combination of personality traits from Marty and me.

I thought about it after I was telling someone about where I got my (lack of) height, a definite gene from my maternal grandfather, who was also vertically challenged. Ordinarily, I don’t think that I have much in common with him besides that and then I tried to think what else there could be. However, I did come up with a few fun things.

  • My propensity for using mild swear words often. Grandpa used to use “damn” and “hell” a lot, especially when watching or listening to baseball and football. Watching him yell at the TV or radio during a game was always entertaining for us when we were kids. My brothers and I used to call them “Grandpa Nick words”. I don’t (voluntarily) watch sports, but I admit to using Grandpa Nick words quite often, especially from driving. I do use stronger words, but not as often. Grandpa Nick words are the way to go.
  • My temper, often punctuated by Grandpa Nick words.
  • Possibly my hair color. Both of my grandfathers had dark hair. My grandmothers both had light hair, so one of them is the culprit.
  • Not a gene, but my enjoyment of playing baseball. I don’t like watching a lot of sports, but I do like to play. Grandpa used to pitch to us in the yard and I carried on that tradition with my kids. I remember him when we play.

That’s probably not all he passed down to me, but he wasn’t a talker so it’s hard for me to know. He was quiet when there wasn’t a game on, but he did a lot for me throughout my life, including paying for cosmetology school when I couldn’t pay for college on my own.

I look a lot like my father’s side of the family. My cousins and I all look similar, like we could be siblings. I have my grandma’s attitude about cleaning and I’m a sucker for any animal, including the injured skunk I convinced my mother to drive to an emergency vet when I was a teenager.

My great-grandmother was involved in theatre, just like me.

According to my mother, I’ve said a lot of lot things similar to what my father has said. I never met him. I have my mother’s laugh.

I find it all amazing, these links. Seeing and learning all of these things makes me feel connected to my past, to my history.

I’m not alone. I came from somewhere.

Where did you come from?

Tell me.

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It’s been a rough couple of weeks around here, but hopefully all is back to normal now.

Just to give you a brief overview. Two weeks ago Thursday, I noticed that my shower was barely lukewarm. Ugh. We called in the company that had installed it 5 1/2 years ago. The technician came out, took one look at it, and said. “Uh oh. It’s no good.” I asked what he meant and he explained that there was a leak on the inside. Even worse, our warranty had Just. Run. Out. Of course it did. Sigh.

We set up a time the next day to replace it. The guys came out, did the job, and we thought all was well until we all got home from the theatre that night. When we opened the front door, we were greeted by a rush of natural gas. We got Middle Child out of the house and called the gas company right away. We must have been a sight, all out in the front yard at 10:30 at night, our neighbor cats winding around our ankles trying to play. The gas company came out, saw that we had a leak, and shut it off, telling us to call the other company in the morning.

Long story short, the leak did not get fixed the next day; we needed the pipes replaced. Our awesome neighbor hooked us up with a handyman who was able to come out Tuesday morning, which meant a few days of cold showers. Back up just a bit, though. Did I tell you that the power went out Saturday night? Yep. Good times. No air, no gas. The only utility we had was cold water. Luckily, my mother-in-law graciously let us bring our laundry over (and DID it for us) and our other awesome neighbors let me heat up water on their grill so that I could wash the dishes. It was hot, humid, and dark for a couple of nights. We took cold showers just to feel better. Of course, Marty had just gone grocery shopping, so we eventually added that cost to our losses with the exception of a big ham that hadn’t completely thawed in the freezer.

The power came back on Monday night, yay, and the handyman arrived early Tuesday morning to fix the line. (If you live in my area and need a handyman job done, message me and I’ll pass hi name along.) Marty, Youngest Child and I were leaving for Niagara Falls that morning, so my mother-in-law stepped in again to be there for the repairs. Middle Child stayed home because of work so he had a few more days of cold showers because one of the homeowners needed to be there when the gas was turned back on. We wouldn’t have risked it with him home alone anyway.

We got home Friday afternoon, called the gas company, and they eventually got there to turn it on. In the meantime, we noticed that it was rather warm in the house, even though the air conditioner was running. The problem was that it was blowing room temperature air, not cold air. I was really feeling at this point that the house was rebelling against us. I mean, come on! We called a different heating and cooling company to come and see what was going on. Apparently, the power coming back on had either created or worsened an existing leak and instead of the normal 70 PSI, our 30-year-old unit had 7. It would be a huge cost to fix it and it was easier to replace it. So, we chose a new unit and waited a few more days for it to be installed.

Truthfully, I grew up without air conditioning and we spent the first five years of our marriage without it, but I always hated summer. I mean, really and truly hated it. The kind of hate reserved for mortal enemies. Summer was much worse than winter. The sweat, the heaviness of the air, the stickiness of the air, not sleeping, general grossness. With air conditioning, summer and I have a truce; I always have an escape. Without air, misery ensues.

That brings us to this morning. The new company was here right on time and spent a little over five hours getting rid of our old air conditioner and installing the new, fancy-schmancy one. There was only one more attack of the house when the internet went out today, but that proved to be a simple fix handled over the phone. The period of house rebellion is, hopefully, over.

At this point, we have air, (hot) water, electricity, gas, and internet. Life is good, even if our credit card debt just went up tremendously. (The Big Red Eye will have to be mostly off-limits for a long time and I’ll be sending articles out left and right to make a little extra money.) I have rarely felt more relieved and blessed. I freely admit that I take it all for granted; we think these things will always be here but the truth is that they can go at any time. It made me really think about those who have no choice but to do without, who don’t have the credit to get things fixed or a home to go to. We are truly one of the lucky ones.

In the meantime, we’re going to make the house watch Dr. Phil for awhile.

God is good.

All the time.

 

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We just got back from a short vacation, three days. Originally, we had planned on taking a longer vacation, an Oceans and Dead People Tour Part II. (See my Oceans and Dead People Tour blog from a year ago to know what that was all about.) We were going to go down to Maryland and Washington D.C., stopping at Gettysburg on the way back, but due to several reasons, we decided on something shorter: Niagara Falls and Cooperstown, New York.

Niagara Falls has changed a bit from when I was there as a kid. It’s way more built up with touristy stuff: casinos, Hard Rock Cafe, Rain Forest Cafe, the Hershey Store, which I sadly did not go to because we ran out of time. To be fair, I really only remember the museum where I saw the mummy (see last post) so I didn’t have a lot to compare it to, but I remember it being a lot less busy.

What was amazing to me, though, was the diversity of people who were there. I can’t count how many different languages I heard: Chinese, Italian, French, Spanish, Arabic, just to name a few. Everyone was happy, taking pictures, having picnics, blowing bubbles, taking pictures, and having a wonderful time. I know it’s a tourist destination, but I couldn’t help wishing it could be like this all over the world, all the time. One can hope.

Niagara was amazing. I didn’t appreciate it as a kid, but just look at the power of the Falls:

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The edge of the Horseshoe Falls

I can’t post a video because I don’t have a premium plan on WordPress, but watching those millions of gallons constantly flowing over and down just grounded me for a while. I could quite literally sit there and watch it all day if there weren’t so many other people around. I felt at peace.

Taking the Maid of the Mist ride the next day was really cool. The boat goes almost right to the bottom of the falls and everyone gets wet, which feels great on a warm day. Cool little droplets of water sprayed and attached themselves to everything, so I tucked my phone away in the provided poncho when we got really close. The poncho is to keep your clothes dry and you can either keep or recycle it after the ride. We chose to keep ours as souvenirs.

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Taken from the rock trail along the American Falls

Leaving Niagara, we made our way via the New York Thruway, I-90, which is a toll road. Some people aren’t fans of toll roads, but I am. They’re usually in better shape than the regular interstates and I LOVE the service plazas. For those that don’t know, service plazas have large restrooms, a couple of fast food restaurants for food choices, perhaps a gift shop, and a gas station all in the same place, no getting off on a regular exit and driving between food and gas stations, hoping for a semi-decent restroom and negotiating traffic to get back on the freeway. Service plazas put it all in one spot and for someone like me who appreciate convenience, they’re a gem on a long road trip. Oh! And they have massage chairs. Three minutes of heaven for $1.00. Sidenote: I-90 is parallel to the Erie Canal Heritage Corridor, which is a lot longer than I thought. I grew up singing, “I’ve got a mule, her name is Sal. Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal”, and for some reason, I never thought it was as long as it is, which is 362.9 miles. Now you’ve learned something new.

We made our way to Cooperstown, home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, nestled in the beautiful rolling mountains of the Adirondacks and the Catskills. I can’t tell you much about the Hall of Fame, except that I thought it would be bigger. I almost drove right past it while dropping Marty and Youngest Child at the entrance. They told me all about it later. They saw plaques, baseball cards, and other stuff, like uniforms. That’s all I’ve got.

As for me, I found a delightful lake, Otsego Lake, to be exact. I had dropped off my family and turned down a side street only to drive right up to a staircase that led to the lake. It was surrounded by small mountains and was crystal clear. After a man and his dog moved on, I was the only one there and it was so calming, so lovely. I took off my sandals and waded in. It was rocky and surprisingly warm, but it centered me for a few minutes before I moved on. Here ’tis:

After my wow moment at Lake Otswago, I made my way to the Farmer’s Museum, also in Cooperstown. It’s like a small Greenfield Village, except that all of the buildings are all from New York. The highlight of my trip was seeing the little Jersey calf, Parsnip, who was born in March. Cows aren’t my favorite barnyard animal, but those big brown eyes were gorgeous. The Farmer’s Museum also has the famous Cardiff Giant, a famous hoax perpetrated in 1869. Here’s a link to the story if you’re interested: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/cardiff-giant-was-just-big-hoax-180965274/

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Parsnip

It was also at the Farmer’s Museum that I had a spooky happening. I was in the doctor’s office alone (I had sprinted to get ahead of the senior bus tour). There were only two rooms and no second floor. The first room felt kind of charged, like someone was there and when I walked into the second room, I heard three very loud distinct steps on the wooden floor behind me in the first room. I turned quickly, in case one of those seniors was faster than I thought, but there was no one there. Hmmmm… Here’s the spooky doctor’s office:

We began driving back the next day, stopping in Dunkirk, NY on the shore of Lake Erie for the night. It was the same motel we stopped at last year on the way home from Salem and we liked being right on the water for a reasonable price. It’s not a great part of town, but the hotel area feels safe. Plus, the sunsets there are gorgeous.

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Lake Erie, Dunkirk, NY

Yesterday, we came home, processing all of the new things we saw and the adventures we had. We settled in, unpacked, took the dirty clothes downstairs, and relaxed. Life was back to normal. (Well, almost. Our house is rebelling against us, but more on that in another post. Let’s just say it’s hot in here.)

Travel is good for the soul, even the short trips. Next year, though, I want the ocean again.

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We’re heading out on vacation next week, nowhere particularly fancy this year, just to Niagara Falls for a day and then to Cooperstown, NY so Marty and the Youngest Child can see the National Baseball Hall of Fame. (I’ll be going to the Farming Museum, also in Cooperstown, because while I support the Detroit Tigers and can tell you a lot about baseball, the thought of spending hours around baseball memorabilia makes me fall into an instant coma.) We don’t have a name for our vacation this summer, unlike last year’s Oceans and Dead People Tour, but there are plans for Oceans and Dead People Tour II, possibly next summer. We shall see.

I did, however, insist on being around big water, so Lakes Ontario and Erie will do nicely. I’ve only been to Niagara Falls once before when I was around nine or ten years old and Youngest Child has never been so it will be cool to experience it again. Plus, I’m getting a massage at the spa, so all is well.

I don’t remember much about my first venture to Niagara Falls, but there’s one thing I do remember: The Mummy. No, not the movie. I would have italicized the title if I were talking about a movie. English teacher here. I’m talking about a genuine dried up person that had been alive a few thousand years ago but was, for some reason, on display in a little museum in Niagara Falls. It was amazing.

There are a lot of overpriced touristy-things at Niagara Falls, so we didn’t do a lot of them, but we did go into this little museum. I could not tell you 99.5% of what was in the museum, but I will never forget that it was where I saw my first mummy. It was in this glass case, kind of up high (at least to a ten-year-old) and I was amazed. Not amazed in a grossed-out way, but amazed in a this-is-so-cool-it-used-to-be-a-person!!!!! kind of way. The mummy was touted as an Egyptian pharaoh and had been brought to Canada from Egypt through a collector. We didn’t believe for a minute that this mummy had been a pharaoh, but it was still pretty awesome to see. Unfortunately, it was very common and fashionable in the 19th century for Europeans and North Americans to buy “souvenirs” that had actually been looted from Egyptian tombs, including actual mummies. (Sidenote: Egypt would LOVE all of its artifacts back, by the way.) That’s how this mummy had crossed the Atlantic and ended up in a tourist trap museum in Niagara Falls, Canada.

To make a long story short, years and years later, in 2002 to be exact, a news story came out that this mummy actually was an Egyptian pharaoh! Hearing the rumors about the Niagara Falls mummy, Egyptian archaeologists had tested its DNA and found that it was most likely Ramses I, founder of the Ramses dynasty of pharaohs. You can read the BBC story here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3215747.stm

Since then, I’ve seen many more mummies. There’s one at the Detroit Institute of Arts, there are some incredible natural mummies under St. Michan’s church in Dublin, Ireland, one of which I got to touch, and there are dozens of mummies in the British museum. (Sidenote #2: The St. Michan’s mummies recently made the news because some arsehole broke in and stole a head from one of the mummies. I hope he’s being severely haunted right now. Like Poltergeist-style haunting. Jerk.) Here’s a link to see the Irish mummies: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/st-michans-church

There was also a TV show in the early 2000s called The Mummy Road Show, hosted by two professors. It was on when Youngest Child was a tiny baby, so I watched a lot of that. They also visited the Irish mummies (That sounds like a great band name, doesn’t it?). You can find details on that here: https://www.tvguide.com/tvshows/mummy-road-show/episodes/390281/

I know that many people, my family included, think that my obsession with mummies is a little odd, but I’m okay with that. I’ve always been fascinated with things that a lot of people find odd or disturbing. My mom used to say I was morbid, but to me, mummies are a tangible part of our long distant past. When we study ancient history, we are often limited to just reading about it, but through mummies and artifacts from civilizations past, we can actually see it, touch it. We like to separate ourselves from them, but these are people who lived, breathed, laughed, and loved, just like we do today. They had families, jobs, insecurities, worries, and joys. Somebody loved that face once. They were us, just 5,000 years ago. Mummies make me feel connected, somehow.

I didn’t know how that little visit would awaken such an interest in me, but I’m really glad it did. I’ve seen a lot, read a lot, and my life is richer for it. It’s also fun to say that my first mummy was a pharaoh.

I don’t know if that little museum in Niagara Falls still exists, but if it does, I may just go have a poke around inside. You never know what you’ll find.

If you have any “odd” interests, feel free to post them in the comments. I’m interested to read about them!

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After dropping my son off at jazz camp yesterday morning (yes, that’s a thing), I went to Greenfield Village for a walk before it got too hot outside.

I love the Village in the summertime. It’s delightfully busy, there are a lot of programs happening, and there are visitors from all over the world. When my boys were small, even though I worked there, I frequently brought them to visit on my days off. One of their favorite places was the 1885 working farm with the horses, cows, sheep, chickens, and pigs. They liked to get close to the pig pen, squeal, “Ooooh, stinky!” and run away, dodging chickens. They loved walking through the dusty barn to see which animals were inside for the day. Pointing out the piles of horse poop in the street after the carriages went by was also a popular pastime. It’s a great place to take kids, even if they don’t understand the historical aspect of the buildings yet, and lots of parents do just that.

Yesterday, just after I entered the gate, I saw an older couple with a young boy. The boy was probably around 6- or 7-years-old with white-blond hair and glasses, a real cutie. He was clearly excited to be there, especially when he caught sight of the horses in the paddock next to the carriage barn. What caught my attention first, however, was the mother roughly yelling at him to, “Get back over here!” when he was only a few steps away.

“Mama, Mama, look at the horses! Mama, look!” He wasn’t yelling, he was within a reasonable distance of his parents, and was simply being an excited little boy, wanting his mama to see what he was excited about. His parents were having none of it, though. I could hear them snapping at him as I passed, things like, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe this.” “I knew this was going to be a bad idea.” “I can’t believe we paid all this money…” “Get over here!” The father physically took him by the shoulders and moved him exactly in between the two of them. “You have to stay here“, to which the little boy said sadly, “I’m not having very fun”, just like that. The way he said it about broke my heart, since he had been so very happy only seconds before. His dad then told him, “Well, that’s because you make it not fun.” And that did break my heart, not just because that’s a mean thing to say to a little guy, but because it made me think of times when, as a parent of little guys like that, I had said something unkind to them in frustration or anger.

It takes a lot, and I mean a lot, of patience to be a parent sometimes. It can get to you, the messes, the crying, the tantrums, the schedule, and sometimes you say or do something that you’re not proud of. I’m not talking about being abusive, I mean that sometimes good parents have bad days and we don’t react as well as we should. We are definitely supposed to correct our children and teach them to be good humans, but we need to do it in a way that does not crush them. Should they feel guilty when they’ve done something wrong? Absolutely, but they should also know that making a bad choice doesn’t make them a bad person and that they are still loved even when they mess up. We don’t always model that well.

It still happens to me sometimes. I have a teenager who knows how to push my buttons. While I try to be calm when he tests his boundaries, I can lose my cool, especially when it’s blatant disrespect and I’m exhausted from a long day. It’s not easy, but we as parents have to remember that children’s brains are not done growing yet. They act out of emotion because they don’t know how to respond appropriately to emotions like anger and frustration, even when it has nothing to do with us. It’s our job to teach them how to handle those emotions in a non-destructive way, but it’s hard to keep that perspective when it feels like we’re being personally attacked. We have to, though. It’s our job and when we mess that up, we need to fix it.

I thought about that little boy and his parents a lot yesterday. As I had mentioned, his parents were older, I’d say early 50s. Were they tired? Is he a high-energy child and they have a difficult time coping with that? Had they had a rough morning? Were they at the end of a vacation and the parents were just done with it all? Or was that normal for them? I hope not. I have so many questions. I don’t know their story, but I hope that this was just a bad morning, that their day got better and this little boy doesn’t live with those words all the time. I hope that when they went home or back to their motel yesterday he got some snuggles, hugs, and kisses from his parents. I hope he went to bed feeling happy and good about himself. I hope he feels loved.

If you have kids, think about what you say before you say it. Words are powerful and what you say stays with them for a long time. Parents are human, we make (lots of) mistakes. The trick is to learn from them and make sure our kids know that we will always love them, no matter what they do.

Love to you all.

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Father’s Day is always a bit tough for me. My father died in an accident before I was born so I was never able to meet him. I always think about him on this day, what he would have been like, how we would have celebrated. Would he have been a BBQ type of dad? Would he have watched baseball or (ew) golf? Maybe a bonfire and s’mores with a beer or two? It does make me sad, but then I remember what I do have and that I am blessed.

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I had two wonderful grandfathers who loved me. This I know. They didn’t always say it, but they showed it through their actions, whether it was paying for me to go to beauty school, slipping Marty $20 to make sure I got a Zehnder’s chicken dinner in Frankenmuth, or just showing up on my birthday every year. Grandpa Nick didn’t live long enough to see me get married and have kids, but I had the privilege of seeing Grandpa Ballantyne hold and play with my boys. He was a real softy by that point and it melted my heart to watch them together.

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My uncle, my dad’s brother, stepped up seven years ago to be Uncle-Dad. He and Aunt-Mom didn’t hesitate when I asked if they would help me get my rightful name on my birth certificate and I love how they’ve embraced me as their Daughter-Niece. It means the world to me.

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Then, there’s my husband. From the day I told him he was going to be a father, he’s been all in. It’s been fun to watch him grow as a dad and see how his relationship with our boys has evolved over the years, especially as they’ve entered or are getting close to adulthood.

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So, even though I don’t have my dad here to spoil today, I have plenty to celebrate. I wish a very Happy Father’s Day to every father and father figure out there. I hope you know that you are loved and appreciated.

 

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