I can't say I had the perfect birthday: Emily worked part of the day and I ran some errands, including getting some maintenance done on the car. However, we had fried chicken and chocolate ice cream, and if that doesn't make for a good day, what does? Also, I introduced Emily to Smoky and The Bandit ... and since she liked it, I guess I'll keep her.


We also had the grand-twins over during my days off, watched Lego Batman, cooked hotdogs over a fire, and slept. The only way it could have been better would be if I'd gotten some writing time in, but sometimes the days are just full.


Thanks for all your birthday wishes! I'm of an age where birthdays are a mixed blessing: You don't really want to admit to getting older, but it's nice to be thought of.


Oh, and the twins got to go swimming. I supervised with the camera.

Yeah, life. It's a thing, ain't it? You're rolling along, way too busy, doing too much of what you don't really want to do and not enough of what you do.

Then, one day, you find out you're going to be a grandparent, for the third time.

Well, that's the way it happened to me, anyway.

In the great tradition of our family birthdays being either in mid-summer or in December, my daughter Jillian is due to give birth around December 11th (Jill--it's Jill now, not Jillian--was born on the 27th). I've known for awhile, although shockingly not as long as Jill did. She posted the news on Facebook in June, but I think a lot of people missed that.

I assume that if it's a boy, the first name will be Mark, and if it's a girl the first name will be the feminine version, which is Marka. But I suppose I should actually talk that over with Jill and Doug, and be satisfied if they merely gave him/her the middle name of Mark or, um, Markma. Or, okay, they could use my middle name Richard, which has the feminine version of Ricarda. Or she could name him Hunter, but then he'd have a cousin also named Hunter, and I'd have two grandkids named Hunter, and you'd never know for sure who's being yelled at. Probably me.

So anyway, Jill's life is essentially over--and she's started a new one. Way different, but in its own way just as fun, more exciting, and crazy expensive. The next generation is well on its way.

Jill practices her baby cuddling skills with the closest nephew, who survived and just turned nine.

Emily and I helped celebrate Hunter and Brayden's 9th birthday Friday with a pool party, which is pretty much the only way to do an outdoor kid's birthday party in June.


That's Hunter on top and Brayden on the bottom, despite the fact that Brayden is taller (for the moment).


Did I mention the pool part?


When you're about to turn nine, opening presents is a group activity. There were adults there too, but our group activity was hamburgers and German potato salad.



It's always better with ... Batman.









Bonus video! If it works.


Emily and I gave them a telescope -- always good to keep your eyes on the stars.

ozma914: (Dorothy and the Wizard)
( Feb. 13th, 2017 11:50 am)

My grandson Hunter got to visit the ER over the weekend, with a fine and extra-special case of gastroenteritis. Apparently he felt his tonsillectomy from a couple of weeks ago just wasn't enough contact with medical professionals.

If you're thinking, as I did, "aw, just a bad case of stomach flu", look it up and be scared. I know I am.

I dropped off a care package of Pedialite, Gatorade, and crackers, and discovered that I can hold my breath for exactly four minutes and fourteen seconds when properly motivated. That's how long it took to open the back door, throw the bags into my daughter's kitchen, and jump off the porch into the car. 

But in all seriousness, take the time to throw some good thoughts/prayers/vibes their way--the family's had a really rough winter, and it's not over yet.
Note to self: When taking an eight year old to the playground, please remember that you yourself are not eight years old, and neither is your spine.

On a related note, remember to stock up on ibuprofen and that stinging green slime stuff you get from the chiropractor.

On another related note to self: Steal a photo from Emily to illustrate this cause and effect, and how the dog was certain this activity was crazy human stuff:

Emily and I hitched a ride with my oldest daughter's family for trick or treating around Albion.


My son-in-law was nice enough to drive, but he didn't talk much: Vince had a splitting headache.


My daughter Charis has always loved Halloween. Me, not so much since the doctor made me cut down on candy ... please don't tell him I collected a treat tax from the grand-twins.


That's Brayden on the left--what, you don't recognize him? and Hunter on the right. I asked Brayden why his character has an eye patch but doesn't use it, and he replied, "He does, sometimes". Maybe that's how he picks up girls.


I wonder if the grand-twins were nervous to have a zombie and vampire sitting behind them? That's not my costume, by the way: On my days off I always look like that.


Grand-twins … and horse


Why? Because I haven’t posted a photo of the grand-twins for a while, that’s why. Also, because it was taken last summer, and I miss summer. A lot.

Twins horse






            This time of year, as leaves turn to glorious multicolor, steamy hot days of summer vanish, and autumn decorations go up, I can often be found … crying.


            But it seems everyone else can be found at harvest festivals.


            Harvest fests, as you might imagine, are annual celebrations that take place around the time of the harvest. Makes sense. This would be the harvest of food crops, you understand, not the biannual politician harvest that’s often rotten, anyway.


            Ancient people celebrated the harvest every year because they didn’t like starvation. That was pretty much it. Why else celebrate fall? Did the hunter/gatherers look at each other and say, “Oh, look! The sun is disappearing—we might freeze to death again this year. Let’s party!”


            They did not.


            But possibly the only thing worse than freezing to death is freezing to death while hungry. They were happy to wrest a few grains away from the bugs and birds, so they could fill the storehouses with boxes of Pre-Ricestoric Crispies and Frosted By Next Month Flakes.


            “Good news, honey—we won’t have to eat the kids this year.”


            “Oh, good. Now, about that vacation trip across the land bridge …”



My home town has a harvest fest in mid-September, and at first glance that doesn’t seem to make sense. Remember, Thanksgiving was originally about being thankful for the harvest, and that’s in November. Unless you’re in Canada, in which case it’s earlier and more polite. (“Do you mind terribly if we take your land and give you smallpox? Thank you so much.”) )


            At second glance, harvest festivals in Europe often took place near the Harvest Moon, which is indeed near the autumn equinox, which this year is September 22nd. I know, because for me it’s a day of mourning. It marks that time of year when we get those aforementioned beautiful colors, apple cider, hay rides, cursing over faulty thirty year old home heating systems, covering your entire home with plastic, sobbing into your heating bills …


            Where was I?


            So, it’s not unusual at all for harvest fests to come at the same time as Albion’s, which this year is September 20th and 21st.  I’m okay with that, because there’s at least a chance that the weather will still be warm enough to actually want to go outside to a harvest fest. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, you know you’re going to be having your holiday indoors, and that you should have your snow boots ready, just in case.


            You know what’s a crazy holiday? Halloween.


            “Hey, there’s frost on the pumpkin—literally! Let’s dress up in costumes that we’ll have to hide under winter coats, then go running around the neighborhood until we’re so cold we have to pour the hot chocolate over our hands so we can thaw them enough to open the candy!”


            Talk about a transition period. I still don’t understand why these controversial sexy adult Halloween costumes ever got popular outside of southern California. “Ooh, your pasty-white skin and uncontrollable shivering are so hot! I mean, not literally hot …”


            The local harvest fests generally come before that, but after the August days when you can’t walk in the streets because your shoes melt. They also give us a chance to spend a weekend ignoring that storm of hot wind-blown bull scat, otherwise known as election season. But there’s one problem I always had with September harvests fests:


            Did anyone ask the harvesters?


            Places like England, where harvest festivals date back to pagan times, have shorter growing seasons, so maybe the harvest was over by then. But here in Indiana, there are still a lot of crops in the field at that point. I mean, Albion’s Harvest Fest has a corn maze. This requires corn.


            Corn crops have to stay up for some time, to provide cover for deer as they lie in wait to jump out in front of innocent cars. Now, I’ve never been a farmer,  because I don’t like to work hard. And I’ll grant you, there’s no time of the year when there’s no work for farmers to do. But if we’re going to celebrate a harvest, shouldn’t there be a harvest, first?


            Maybe this is a break time, giving them a chance to celebrate what they already picked, and rest up for the harvesting to come. Maybe the corn isn’t ready, and they’ve already finished picking from the apple, cake, and lunchbox trees.


            What? I told you I’m not a farmer. Maybe the lunchboxes grow underground.


A wagon ride tour of Albion at the harvest fest in, yes, Albion.


My daughter, son-in-law, and grand-twins a few years ago at the Albion Harvest Fest ... the kids are about twice this age, now.


            Summer update: I haven’t been online much, because I’m both having fun and being miserable.

            It turns out those things are not exclusive. I’m on vacation, and when someone goes on vacation during the summer they need to be outside, where the vacation-y stuff is. We especially had fun the first week, when Emily and I took the grandkids to, among other places, Science Central in Fort Wayne and Black Pine Animal Sanctuary. We’ve also done some trail walking and camping (photos to follow).


            Also, I started physical therapy on my tendonitis. The therapist said I needed to cut back on keyboarding as much as possible, and there’s where the irony kicked in: I probably would have had medical instructions to take a week or so off work … but I was already on vacation. So at least my sick days are saved.


            But I could do some typing, so I had to decide between hanging around on the internet or writing. Guess what I chose? Even though I went back and did some revision on my SF story Beowulf: In Harm’s Way (because revision doesn’t take as much typing), I’m still up to 30,000 words on the story. I also did some plot changes that make me very happy—I love it when adding something in early on leads me to a great plot twist idea for later in the book.


            It also takes my mind off the pain. On a related note, kids: Don’t get hurt to begin with. Because, apparently, the only way to stop the pain is with much more pain.

            I had a chance to watch my grandkids playing in Albion’s splash pad the other day, and it took me back to my childhood: Jumping in the water, splashing around, screaming …
            A splash pad is a really cool place for kids, because you get the splash part, but not the worries of going into water too deep. Plus, it’s clean water. There’s no such thing as a play area where you absolutely can’t get hurt at all (and what a boring place that would be), but that beats the heck out of the “good” old days.
            When I was a kid, there were several places you could go swimming, if they were within biking range, or you could talk an older person with a car into taking you there. Some of them were beaches, and occasionally we’d even find a lifeguard at one.
            We avoided those places. The lifeguards were too much like … adults. No roughhousing, no throwing stuff at each other—it never occurred to us that they could save our lives.
            No, we’d go to the places where the beaches consisted of gravel, or to good old fashioned swimming holes. I’m not sure what the difference is. I can tell you that lakes beat ponds, if you were at all disturbed by stuff squeezing between your toes. Clean water? Never entered our minds.
            One of our favorite places to go was the Skinner Lake beach, and it’s a perfect example of the revelation I had while I sat there, safely out of the water, watching the grandkids:
            When I was their age we’d get out of the car at Skinner Lake, and it would take me five minutes to cross a gravel driveway. I’m one of those kids who always wore shoes, and now I was barefoot, on my way to the water. It never occurred to me to take shoes with me, or wear what, in those days, we used to call thongs. Believe me, the thongs of forty years ago protected an entirely different area than the thongs of today do.
            Then I’d work my way down the beach, and put one toe into the water. The water was freezing. It was always freezing, no matter where we went. Heated swimming? Unheard of.
            My brother, along with whoever else my parents made drag me along, would dive right into the water, which was of a temperature about the same as what Jack and Rose dropped into during Titanic. After a while, I’d recover from the shock and dip a foot in.
            Then a toe of the other foot. Goose bumps popped up all over my body, including inside my ears. Every hair stood on end. By the time the water reached my knees, I’d be shivering uncontrollably. The others would be tossing a Frisbee back and forth, or splashing around in inner tubes.
            The water would reach my swim trunks, seeming momentarily less cold until it reached the top and touched my bare abdomen. My belly would suck in against my spine.
            Eventually, about the time the sun reached the top of the trees, I’d get just comfortable enough in the water—by which I mean, still freezing but now up to my neck—that I’d start splashing around a little.
            At this point the others would call from where they were drying off on the beach, to tell me it was time to come home.
            This was called having fun.
            It was many, many years before I fully understood that I just got colder than other people did. Others wear shorts, I wear pants. Others wear t-shirts, I pull on a sweater. Others enjoy autumn, I’m digging out long underwear and a winter coat. Others love winter, I … don’t.
            I should have just stayed on the beach.
            To this day, I love being on big bodies of water—lakes, rivers. By that I mean on, as in a boat, or a raft. It took me all these years to figure out that, as much as we used to beg adults to take us swimming, I rarely liked it much (unless we were there at least a few hours, by which time I was numb enough to have fun). The first time I remember completely enjoying myself from the start (outside of discovering heated swimming pools) is when my wife and I went into a river in southeast Missouri, where the water was almost bathtub-like, late in their hot summer.
            As much as I loved watching the kids running around in the splash pad, I wouldn’t want to join them. Well, not until the temperature touches 90, at least … let’s not get too silly about this whole cold water hatred thing. Goose bumps will never beat heat stroke for unwanted side effects.


ozma914: new novel cover art by Kelly Martin (Default)


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