Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Misadventures in Flying. . .

The headlines in recent days and weeks have been filled with stories of airline misadventures - people getting dragged off planes by the police, fistfights between passengers, rude treatment from flight staff, and on and on.  I really can't relate to much of what we're seeing lately - Jenn and I have flown exactly twice since 9/11, and while air travel wasn't exactly pleasant back in the day, it has gotten noticeably less pleasant since then.  Anyway, the recent stories remind me of one egregious tale of airborne awfulness. . .

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It was June of 1998, and my youngest brother was getting married in Missoula, Montana.  Jenn and I duly made our plans to fly out and be with my family in celebration of the joyous nuptials.  7M was 2 months old at the time, and in those days, you could still take an infant-in-arms on a plane, well, in-arms, without a child-seat (or, more relevantly to the cash-flow, another ticket).

In the week or so before our flight, a couple of our friends, who flew a lot more than we did, came to us, asking which airline we were flying on.  It turned out that the pilots' union for the airline which, indeed, we were flying on, was approaching the end of their contract, and had set a strike deadline for the weekend we were travelling.  Naive as we were, we didn't overly concern ourselves over it, and continued with our travel plans as if nothing was up.

Flying to Missoula from OurTown was a bit of an ordeal, all by itself, involving two planes, and four separate take-offs and landings.  From OurTown, we flew to another Michigan airport, about a 20-minute flight (and east of OurTown, so we began our journey traveling backwards.).  From there we flew to Minneapolis, where we changed planes and flew to Great Falls, Montana.  At this point, we were starting to relax, since it was only another 30 minutes or so in the air to Missoula.  We landed in Great Falls, and stayed on the plane, taking on a few more passengers, then taking off to our final destination.

Now, Missoula sits in a little bowl in the mountains, and whereas it had been bright and sunny all the way from OurTown to Great Falls and beyond, it was cloudy and rainy at Missoula (such are the climatological vagaries of mountainous terrain).  Even so, we broke through the bottom of the clouds, and the whole valley laid out below us.  We could even see the lights of the airport.  So we began to pack and stow our stuff in preparation to land.  The plane began its descent, and about halfway down, the pilot suddenly pulled up, aborting his landing, and went back into a holding pattern, informing us that conditions weren't favorable, but he would line up and try again.  We started down once more, but this time, he pulled up even sooner, telling us over the intercom that flight rules required 1000 feet visibility to land, but visibility was only 995 feet, so he was taking us back to Great Falls.  Which he did.

We arrived back at Great Falls (it was still bright and sunny), and taxied to the terminal building.  But not to a jetway.  Or any other means of leaving the plane.  The pilot engaged in some, uh, negotiations with his bosses about getting back in the air, and getting us all to Missoula.  While we sat in our seats on the plane.  For an hour.  With the plane powered down.  Including the air conditioning.  Finally, the pilot came back on the intercom, and told us that he was going to try to take us back to Missoula, even though conditions there hadn't improved, and he personally didn't think it was wise.

So we took off again, and in 30 minutes we were back at the bowl in the mountains where Missoula sits.  Again, the pilot made an attempt to land, but pulled up halfway down.  From the holding pattern, he told us that he'd make one more run, and this time, he descended virtually to ground level.  Except that, when we got to the airport, we were about 20 feet off the ground - AND THE RUNWAY WAS 20 YARDS TO OUR LEFT!!  He flew along in that configuration for virtually the entire length of the runway, before pulling back up, announcing that it just wasn't safe to land in Missoula that day, and took us back to Great Falls.  Again.

When we arrived back at Great Falls this time, we got off the plane, and the airline hastily arranged a fleet of buses to convey us all to Missoula.

The bus ride was pleasant enough, as bus rides go, but it was three hours, instead of the 30 minute flight we'd signed on for (and which - bonus points! - we'd already done twice, and twice more in reverse).  It twisted and wound through some beautiful montains.  At one point, the driver came on the intercom to tell us that just over the ridge to our left was the Unabomber cabin, so you know, more bonus points.

We eventually arrived in Missoula, just in time for dessert at the rehearsal dinner, and about five times more bedraggled than we started out.  The wedding the next day was lovely (some years later, Jenn and I rented the movie A River Runs Through It; the church in the movie is the same one in which my brother and his wife were married), and the day after the wedding, my brother took us for a hike in the mountains, which was pure bonus points.

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The airline and the union settled their differences over the weekend, and we returned home without incident.

But there remains a special place in Purgatory for the pilot who used the lives of a plane-load of passengers as a bargaining chip that day.  Oh, he made a nice show of following the rules (that last 5 feet of visibility made all the difference, I'm sure), and he gave us a nice stunt-flying performance (flying 20 feet off the ground, exactly parallel to the runway; if he could do that, he could land the plane on the runway; asshole), which we were privileged to view from inside the plane, no less.  And he used up six hours of our lives in the process.  All to flip the bird at his bosses.  What a guy!  But hey, we got to drive past the Unabomber cabin, and we did eventually get to Missoula, so there's that. . .


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Talkin' Baseball. . .

Baseball season has begun, and that's always an occasion of joy in my own psyche.  I grew up loving baseball, and had some middling success at it, mostly before I was 15.  Once the other guys hit puberty, and started throwing real curveballs, and fastballs too fast for me to get around on, I sighed, learned how to drink beer, and moved over to the softball diamond.

Since I've been a father to sons, I've taken a lot of joy from watching my sons play (I've enjoyed watching my daughters play, too, but none of them played baseball; or even softball. . .).  All of my boys have been ballplayers, and among them, they've had at least as much success as I did in my day; and, what I'm happier about, they've come to love the game almost as much as I do.  My three oldest boys all learned how to play catcher, because I told them that coaches love a kid who'll volunteer to catch (and I wasn't even a catcher; but I did coach for a couple years).  I took 'em to see the local minor league team a few times every summer, and I'd point out to 'em how the catcher would subtly 'drag' a pitch into the strike zone, and sometimes get his pitcher a strike call that wasn't quite, uh, true.  And the first time I saw one of my sons do that in a Little League game (it wasn't exactly even minor-league subtle, but it worked on the teenage ump who was calling the game that day), I burst out laughing, which is to say, busting my buttons with pride. . .

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But that's not really the story I set out to tell you today.  It's really just setting the stage for me to tell you about my friend Todd. . .

I first met Todd probably about 10 years or so ago, when his son and mine were on a Little League baseball team together.  For most of that time, our relationship has been defined by our mutual fatherhood of athletically-inclined boys.  7M and Todd's son Joel were on baseball, basketball and football teams together, roughly from age 9 all the way through high school, and were often among the better players on the field for their respective teams.  I blogged five years or so ago about a memorable weekend of baseball, during which their team won six games in two days, in 95-degree heat, winning the championship with a suicide squeeze play in the bottom of the final inning of the final game.  Todd was the coach of that team (and I had some complimentary words regarding his, um, endowment afterward).  When Joel and 7M were on the high school football team, Todd and I ended up sitting together for most of the games, all the way to the state finals their junior year (they lost), and another run to the state semifinals their senior year.  And along the way, Todd and I built a really nice friendship.  We had both grown up as jocks of one degree or another (his degree was a lot higher than mine, at least in terms of actual athletic success), and we enjoyed talking through the games with each other.  When our sons graduated, our two families joined together for their open house.

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Todd is a bear of a man, thick and muscular, and strong as an ox.  You can easily imagine him as a football player, and he was.  But his first love was baseball, and as a young man, he had more-than-modest success.  When he was in high school, he was probably the second-best high-school ballplayer in Our Town.  The best was a young man named John Smoltz.  Todd played for the Catholic high school, and he and Smoltz were actually teammates during their freshman year.  After that, though, young Mr. Smoltz moved to Waverly High across town, and he and Todd would play against each other a few times every season.  As you might imagine, Smoltz cut quite a swath through the baseball world of Our Town, as all future major-leaguers do.  But Todd held his own, and even hit a home run (or two?) off young Smoltz.  In those days, John Smoltz was the kind of high-school pitcher that young ballplayers would congratulate themselves for even fouling a pitch back off him, to say nothing of actually putting the ball in play.  Much less getting an actual hit; much less hitting a home run.

I don't know what happened with Todd's baseball career after high school, if he ever played college ball, or what.  I don't think he ever got a pro contract.  For at least the past 20 years or so, Todd's life has been the typical, ordinary grind of work and raising kids.  And putting in his time on aluminum bleachers, sitting next to me, watching our kids play. . .

John Smoltz, on the other hand, did get a pro contract, and went on to a distinguished 21-year major-league career, virtually all with the Atlanta Braves.  He was eight times an All-Star, pitched in five World Series (winning one), and won a Cy Young Award as the National League's best pitcher in 1996.  Pretty rarefied air for a guy who grew up playing on the sandlots of Our Town.  Heck, along with Magic Johnson, he's one of the most distinguished athletes to ever come from here. . .

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Since our sons graduated from high school last spring, I've seen less of Todd, but we still enjoy the occasions when we bump into each other.  Two summers ago, John Smoltz was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.  A short time after that, I bumped into Todd, and he started reminiscing about when he and John Smoltz had been the two best ballplayers in Our Town, back in the day.  So I stopped him, and said, "You know what this means, don't you?"

He looked at me.  "What?"

"You hit a home run off a Hall of Famer."

He grinned, as big a grin as I've seen him grin (and he's got a pretty big smile, just normally).  "I did, didn't I?  How many guys can say that?"

Indeed, my friend. . . Not very many, indeed. . .

Friday, February 3, 2017

Howcum Izzit. . .

. . . That so much of what I see flying under the banner of 'Love Trumps Hate' looks more like 'My Hate is Cooler than Your Hate'?

Just, you know, askin'. . .

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And, under the heading of 'People Coming Unhinged', you have people (more than one, including a former official in the Obama administration) publicly advocating the military overthrow of the President of the United States.

I mean, wouldn't it be easier just to move to Chile, or Uganda?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Visitor From Beyond. . .

This Christmas, I'm re-posting a favorite old cartoon of mine, with a really cute take on the Incarnation. . .


If the SETI folks only knew. . .

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Deplore THIS!

Those of you who've followed my blog for a while know that I basically don't talk politics here.  I'm mostly of the opinion that most of my fellow-Americans, for a variety of reasons of their own, vastly overestimate the significance of politics, and its ability to affect their lives in meaningful ways.  Perhaps that's a quirk of my own, but I'm far more interested in the ways things like love, family and friendship work in my life, than I am in politics.  But I don't live in a vacuum, and there are strange doings afoot these days. . .

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Holy crud!  I don't know how or when it happened, but we are clearly living in some sort of strange, Twilight-Zone alternate universe or something.  I mean, the evidence is there for anyone to see:

- Bob Dylan wins a Nobel Prize (which he himself doesn't even seem to accept)
- The Cleveland Cavaliers win the NBA championship
- The Cubs win the World Series (and beat the Indians to do it)
- Donald Trump (I mean, Donald Freakin' Trump!!!) is elected President of the United States

What in the world is going on here?!?

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Let me start by saying clearly what I've been saying all along (mostly in comments on other people's blogs) - I am not, and have never been, a Trump supporter; I did not vote for Donald Trump (the guy I did vote for was so far off the radar that I haven't even been able to find anywhere how many votes he actually received; so no, you probably haven't heard of him).  I regarded both of the major candidates in this election as catastrophic in one way or another.  So please, don't take this as any kind of gloating on my part, because it isn't.  I am just as concerned about the future of our country as I was before the election, and I wonder what the future holds for all of us, not least for me and my family.

I will admit, however, to a certain measure of schadenfreude at the discomfiture of my friends on the left (I'll probably end up taking that to confession someday soon, sinful man that I am) (and yes, I do have friends on the left). . .

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I went to the polls on Tuesday to do my civic duty, and exercise the privilege extended to me as a citizen of this free republic.  Along with most of the rest of you (even you Trumpkins, if you're honest with yourselves), I fully expected that, sometime before my normal bedtime, I'd turn on the TV and learn that Mrs. Clinton had won the election, and become the president-elect, on her way to becoming the first woman elected President of these United States, and blah-blah-blah.  But the polls had been tightening up in recent days (as they always do), and I was curious as to how it was going. . .

Almost absent-mindedly, I turned on the TV, sometime around 9 o'clock, and saw the drama unfolding.  It was the most incredible, dumbfounding thing - it couldn't be happening, but it was.  One after another - Florida, North Carolina, Georgia - big electoral-vote 'battleground' states fell Trumpward, all close.  The juggernaut just kept rolling and rolling, and no matter how much my better judgement kept telling me it was time to go to bed, I couldn't look away.  Finally, sometime around 1AM, when Pennsylvania rolled over from Clinton leading to Trump leading, I could see where it was headed, and I finally called it a night.  Even my home state of Michigan, which is pretty reliably 'blue-leaning' for the national offices (the previous six presidential elections, and one single Republican Senate term in the last 40 years), fell on the Trump side, by less than 11,000 votes out of almost 5 million cast (less than a quarter of a percent, the closest margin of all the 50 states).  I mean, this wasn't supposed to happen. . .

But happen it did, to my astonishment as much as anyone else's.  I hasten to be clear - I had no horse in this race.  I'm not happy that my guy won, because my guy didn't win, and the guy that won is, let there be no doubt, NOT my guy.  It's just an astonishing, didn't-see-this-coming occurrence.  'Dewey-Defeats-Truman' astonishing.

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And now, the bitterness and rage from the losing side have commenced in earnest.  And thus, my schadenfreude. . .

See, I have this in common with the the Trumpkins - both of us are loathed by the Democrats.  They used to be better at hiding it, but lately, not so much.  As far back as 2008, Barack Obama, on his way to becoming President, spoke of those who are "bitter, cling[ing] to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them. . ."  And in this campaign cycle, Mrs. Clinton herself spoke of the Trumpkins as a "basket of deplorables".

It's really hard to miss what's being said - "You people are losers; we're smarter than you, we're more virtuous than you, we're more educated than you, we make more money than you.  And besides that, we're on the right side of history, 'cuz we just see more deeply into the future than the rest of you. Hell, our kids are cuter than yours, and they take oboe lessons.   We're just better people than you in every imaginable way.  So, the best thing for you is just to shut up and do what we tell you, because we know what's good for you, better than you know it for yourselves."

And increasingly, they have shown an inclination to make life hell for those who dissent from their vision of how things are.  I'm thinking bakers, florists, and photographers; even pizza-parlor owners who will probably never be asked to cater a wedding reception, but have the poor judgement to offer an unpopular opinion when asked.  I mean, really?  These are the people you're goin' after?

So, as I see it, all these 'bitter', 'deplorable' people people just stood up and said, "Yeah?  Well, deplore THIS!!"  (*insert finger gesture here*)

So now I'm seeing a lot of borderline unhinged stuff coming out in the news - it was 'White Nationalists' who won the election for Trump (I'm sure the KKK wishes they had that kind of clout).  Or all the standard 'Rural = Stupid' tropes we've seen for the past few years.  There is no such thing as a 'disagreement' with these folks; the only possible explanation is that you are wicked or stupid, or both.  And seriously - email-bombing Republican electors to change their votes?!?

I suppose it's understandable, on one level; I mean, these are people who've come to regard it as their birthright to hold hegemony over the culture; they have not tired of admonishing the rest of us not to be on 'the wrong side of history'.  So, when history proves not to be quite so co-operative as they had imagined, these all-knowing wise ones don't know what to do. . .

I'm thinking, they don't get it; they just don't get it.  They live in an insulated world where they're so convinced of their own superiority as human beings that they just can't imagine that everybody else can't see it, too.  Or that we'll all be anything but happy about having our noses rubbed in it.  I mean, for people who fancy themselves as tolerant, there sure are a lot of people they can't tolerate.  And, for people who claim to stand for the interests of 'the little guy', there are an awful lot of 'little guys' they regard as 'deplorable', and they're awfully eager to stomp on those same 'little guys' when they don't get in line.  For people who profess to hate bullying, they bully awfully well. . .

Anyway, that's what passes for political analysis around these parts. . .

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One more time (realizing that I risk seeming to 'protest too much'): I'm not a Trumpkin; I didn't vote for Trump; I'm as concerned as anybody about his character, and what kind of President he'll be.  In particular, I keep telling my evangelical Trumpkin friends that I think they're kidding themselves if they think he's their friend, but we will see what we will see (I also tell them that it's not a good look when you go after Bill Clinton for his sexual peccadilloes, but wave off Trump's; do you stand for principles, or is it just a matter of which side is engaging in the debauchery?  Just askin'). . .

But, come next January 20, he'll be our President - all of us, whether we voted for him or not, whatever we think of his character.

I also think that one of the most amazing things about this country of ours (maybe THE most amazing thing) is the unbroken string of 44 consecutive orderly transfers of power, spanning 228 years.  Now is not the time to break that string. . .

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And, if you're interested, here is an article that captures my thinking very well. . .

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

. . . To Make a House a Home

My friend Xavier has been telling the story of the house that he and his family have lived in for the past several years. It's a great story, and I encourage any of my readers to go and read it (here, and here and here and here). His story also provoked my own memories of how we came to live in the house we do, which is a pretty decent story in its own right. . .

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It was 17 years ago this month, in November of 1999, that Jenn and I went on a 'couple's getaway' to a bed-and-breakfast in Pentwater, MI, a lovely village on the shores of Lake Michigan (honestly, if you ever get the chance to spend time in Pentwater, take it). We had a lovely time together, walking on the beach (the rapidly-chilling fall weather notwithstanding), and enjoying the ambience of an off-season tourist town, and each other's company, glad for a weekend's respite from our seven (at the time) children. Reluctantly, when it came time to return to home and the real world, we got in our car for the three hours' drive home.

We were maybe 20 minutes into the drive when Jenn turned to face me and sighed heavily. "We need a new house," she said, soberly.

Clever woman, my wife; get your husband all softened up with romantic walks on the beach, and, um, you know, romantic stuff, then drop the hammer on him.

I continued driving, my eyes fixed on the road ahead. "Why do you say that?" I asked.

Honestly, I knew what she was talking about - our 1400-square-foot domicile had long since become too small for the two of us and the seven children God had blessed us with. We had taken some measures to squeeze as much 'living space' as we could out of the increasingly meager space we had. I had built a loft in the three boys' (3M, 4M, and 5M) bedroom, so they could all sleep in their tiny 10x12 bedroom, but still have a bit of open floor space in which to play. And Jenn and I had taken to sleeping on a hide-a-bed in the 'back bedroom' which mainly served as a playroom for the 'little kids' (6F and 7M) during the day. But no matter what we did, it was becoming impossible to cram the nine of us into the house we had.

I had floated some ideas about expanding the house - adding a second floor to the back addition, converting the attic into 'liveable' space - an office, or play space, bumping up the liveable square-footage to something closer to 1700 or so, and I was in the planning stages of financing the project, but now Jenn was weighing in with her thoughts on my plan.

"None of those things does anything about sitting all our kids, and their spouses and kids, around our table for the holidays," she noted. "We'll just end up needing something bigger in another few years, anyway."

I had to admit, her logic was pretty flawless. Leave it to my wife to be thinking ahead to holiday dinners with our kids' families, years in the future. We talked some more, and then I mulled her words over for a while as we drove ever-closer to home. I really didn't want to move; the last time we'd sold a house, we'd ended up owning two houses for two years or more, and ended up selling our first house at a loss, just to get out from under it. So I was not exactly looking forward to going through another round of buying and trying to sell a house.

Finally, I collected my thoughts into a pile and told her, "Okay, I'll agree to move, if three conditions are met. One, we're walking distance from the kids' school right now; I still want to be walking distance from the same school." (It was our parish school; we knew and were comfortable with the school and all the teachers, and were well dug-in with lots of good relationships there). "Second," I continued, "it has to be at least 2000 square feet, or it's not worth moving. And third, it has to be affordable." I named a price which was about double what we were paying for our house-at-the-time, but wouldn't strain our budget more than we could handle. "If you can find that house," I said, "I'll buy it. But I don't think you can."

You can see why Jenn likes to call me 'Mr. Supportive'. . .

We got back home, and life returned to normal - including the cross-bar in the hide-a-bed that ground against my ribs every night - and I almost forgot about our conversation in the car on the way home from Pentwater.

Then one day, Jenn came to me, more excited than usual (and you know, she's usually pretty upbeat and energetic, so this was notable). "I want us to go look at a house tonight," she enthused.

Damn; so she'd really meant it.

I agreed, so she called the realtor, who came by and let us into the house. It was three blocks from the kids' school (on the opposite side of the school from where we were living), on a dead-end street with a large park at the dead end. Okay. . . so far, so good. We drove up, and it was obvious that it was much larger than the house we then had. Okay. . . that's two. And the neighbors on both sides of the place were good friends of ours. Hmmmm. . . bonus points?

We went inside and looked around. Which wasn't easy, because the power had been turned off.

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At this point, I need to go off on a bit of a digression, which (I hope) will, in the fullness of time, add detail to the story. . .

The house was originally built in 1922. At the time, it was a large-ish single-family house. In fact, it was a farm house, just outside of the 1922 boundaries of OurTown, between OurTown proper and East OurTown, the college town five miles away. In time, both OurTown and East OurTown expanded, and the small farm for which our house was the farmhouse was broken into lots, and it all became part of the surrounding city. And so life went for the first 50 years or so of its existence.

Then, sometime in the 70s, the neighborhood we live in went through a kind of mini-collapse, and slumlords investors came in and scooped up all kinds of newly-distressed properties, of which ours was one.

The slumlord gentleman who bought our house reasoned, with flawless logic, that he'd wring more money out of his property if he could collect two, or even three, rents every month than if he rented it out as a large single-family dwelling. And it was certainly big enough, if a slumlord fellow were a little creative, to do just that.

He boarded up doorways and dolled up one end of the basement (including punching a hole in the foundation wall for an egress door), and turned it into a three-unit rental. Then, sometime in the 80s or early 90s (we think, from the neighbors' stories), they had a whopper of a flood, and the basement unit became functionally useless (at least, he couldn't muster the motivation to clean it up and render it habitable again).

I'm not sure what, exactly, precipitated the crisis, but in the fall of '99 the slumlord (who may or may not have been living in one of the units) abandoned the property. And when I say he abandoned it, I mean he abandoned it. . .

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So, when we came for our first look at the house, it was December. The first thing I remember about the house that would eventually become ours, is the puddles of ice on all the floors. The slumlord previous owner walked away from the place, and didn't even bother to drain the hot-water heating system before winter (it wasn't his house anymore, so what the hell did he care?). So, all the old cast-iron heat radiators cracked and spilled water on all the floors, which (mercifully) quickly froze.

But, as we looked around, I started to see possibilities in the place. The front door opened into the living room, and just to the right of the door was a small 'parlor' which whispered to me, 'Study'. I'd long wanted to have a study, where I could retreat for some short relief from the chaos of seven kids. It was part of my plan for the old house, to finish the attic. But. . . here was a study, ready-made and waiting. Nice. . .

There were other nice features - the built-in china cabinets in the dining room (which we found out later were mahogany that the slumlord previous owner had painted over; in fact, all of the trim in the living and dining rooms was painted-over mahogany. . . aarrgghhh!), the honest-to-goodness master bedroom (good-bye, hide-a-bed!), and a spacious family room in the back (at the opposite end of the house from the 'Study'!)

To make a long story a little less long, the house was to be sold at auction, and the 'nominal' price was exactly the number I'd given Jenn in our talk in the car. We could have put in a lower bid, but we thought, why try to grab it on the cheap and risk getting outbid? So we made a full-price bid (plus $10, just to remove the possibility that another bid might tie ours) (yeah, we were probably a tad over-eager. . .)

The day we closed, our new neighbors ripped out the fence separating our yard from theirs, opening up the three back yards together for their kids and ours. . .

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We were still left with the problem of selling our then-current house. We interviewed four realtors. Two of them took the attitude that our house was a slum-house in a slum-neighborhood, so we should just low-ball the price and get out as quick as we could. The other two actually saw some possibilities in the place, and were aware of a swell of demand in our part of town. Obviously, we chose one of the latter, and set the price at a level that I thought was extravagantly high, but our agent assured us that it was well-priced, and if it didn't sell, we could drop the price, but let's give it a chance. . . And he gave us a set of 'assignments' to get the house ready to sell. We pulled up the dingy old living-room carpet, only to find a full hardwood floor underneath it; we painted, we pulled up the carpet from the upstairs bathroom (yes, you read that right), painted, finished the living room floor, and then painted.  He even told us to put our books (35 boxes worth!) in storage, to make the place look more spacious. We rang in the New Milennium painting the living room (and duly rejoiced when the lights stayed on past midnight. . .)

Lo and behold, within less than a month, we had a full-price offer. In fact, the buyers specifically asked if we would mind leaving the loft in the upstairs bedroom. Which I was only too happy to accommodate, since I didn't really want to deal with the hassle of dismantling and disposing of it. . .

One final bit of the story. Our buyers were financing through the VA, and VA inspectors are notoriously, um, I don't want to say 'capricious', but you get the idea. The inspector wanted us to reseal the flat roof on the back addition. Well, I had just resealed it the previous year, and I told him so, but he wouldn't budge. Thing was, it was early March, which is still winter in this part of the world, and you can't seal a roof in early March - the tar just won't flow. He wanted us to set up an escrow account to have the work done the following summer, but I just told the guy (and not with a smile), "First 75-degree day that comes along, I'll seal it." And lo and behold - I think it was the very next day - we got a 75-degree day. In the single-digit days of March. So I took the day off work, went and bought a 5-gallon bucket of roof tar, and sealed the roof. Never let it be said that I'm un-cooperative (and, uh, hat tip to God. . .)

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Turns out, we turned enough of a profit from the sale of the old home to fix the new place up and revert it back to single-family status. We replaced the broken hot-water system with forced-air and central A/C for the same price we would have paid for a new hot-water system, restored the basement apartment to useability (which was nice for us, since our older kids were just approaching college age, and it was a nice feature for us to have the basement unit for them to use as a kind of 'launching pad'), and we even discovered 100-or-so square feet of 'dead space' which we added to the two second-floor bedrooms.

And we bought a brand-new queen-size bed for Jenn and me to sleep on. . .

There are more stories I could tell, but this is already waaaayyyyy too long. We've been living here for more than 16 years now, and even welcomed another kid into our family.  And we've made a few more improvements along the way (those mahogany china cabinets are magnificent without the paint; to say nothing of the skylights in the family room; or the kitchen remodel that Jenn's brother did in '07). The place has its idiosyncracies even still, but we have no doubt (and perhaps you'll agree) that God gave it to us. . .

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Bliss 36. . .

36 years of Connubial Bliss. . . and counting. . .

Thank you, My Beloved, for throwing your life (and your DNA) in with mine, these 36 years.  I am utterly grateful. . .

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It might have been six years ago, when we were celebrating our 30th, that I stopped at the store and, in preparation for the anniversary festivities, bought a dozen roses, a box of Jenn's favorite candy, and a magnum of champagne.  As I was checking out, the clerk, a woman about my age at the time, looked at me with wide eyes, and sputtered, "WHAT DID YOU DO?!?"

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And it seems a fitting observance that this coming weekend, Jenn and I will be helping to put on a retreat for married couples at a parish Up North, not far from my hometown (of course, when you're Up North, 'not far' is still an hour's drive. . .)