( The largest county fair in MD )
( The largest county fair in MD )
( Week of August 9: the Howard County fair )
Cake display, highlighting this year's Owl theme for Home Arts.
In the 300+ lb. category, which is a very, very good size for this early in the year!( More pictures behind the cut )
When one enters the fair from parking, one is in the vendor area - mostly farm equipment vendors. There was also a mechanical bull ride set up there (with super-easy settings, so no minimum age or size limit other than being able to comprehend the instructions without a parent holding onto you) and a few farm-related, non-equipment booths. And a couple of churches. Anyway, one walks up a ramp to the "midway," the main paved corridor through the fairgrounds, and right in front of one is the first building. This one is actually three long buildings in a row. The left-hand one is the dining hall, which is one of the really nice things about this fair. For one thing, staff had told us on the phone, it's open even for breakfast, so if we had arrived at 8 a.m. Monday to see the rabbit show, we could have eaten breakfast there. We decided to go through the largest, middle building, first. This fair is entirely a 4-H & FFA fair, so all exhibits are by kids - no outside adult entries. There were pieces of restored farm equipment being judged, and lots of furniture, both made and restored/refinished (in fact, the restored/refinished was a very popular category.) Lots of the standard 4-H dioramas. Their theme this year is "Feeding Carroll County in More Ways Than One" along with a sub-theme of "4-H is open to all." By the content of the dioramas and displays, they mean that they are handicapped-friendly; nothing to do with diversity. Carroll County is, if I remember my census bureau stats correctly, the least diverse county in MD, over 90% pasty white, non-Hispanic, non-Asian, non-African-American, non-Pacific Island, etc. And certainly our time spent at the fair bore that out. So 4-H may be open to all there, but all is still going to be pretty homogenous. Anyway, at the end of that building, one could exit out the side and down a few steps to the Poultry Barn, which had a nice assortment of poultry. I love the various Wyandotte Laced, that's such a pretty breed. Some of the silkies, the ones that don't even look like birds. Some impressively sized Orpingtons - that's a large breed. Walking all the way through poultry brought us back to the first end of the first building we had been through, and it was almost noon, so we went into the dining hall for lunch. Now mind you, there was plenty of fair food along the midway. But we had heard about the dining hall and wanted to try it. It's a big, air conditioned hall, seats about 150 at long tables, and has a cafeteria line right in front of the kitchen. (Staff refer to it as the cafeteria, rather than the dining hall.) An $8 platter got us some excellent fried chicken, 2 sides (we both chose corn on the cob and baked potato) and a roll and a drink. They had unsweet iced tea in the big dispensers, as well as sweet tea. Larry reports that the sweet tea had lemon flavor in it, something he's not fond of and that wasn't mentioned on the signs. Other than that, we can say that that was a really good deal, and it's run by the fair - all the proceeds go to supporting the 4-H and FFA, rather than to commercial vendors, and the servers include some of the older kids, as well as a few supervisors. Friendly and chatty people. Given that admission is free and parking is free, if you happen to be in the area, go over and have lunch in the fairgrounds dining hall to support them, why not?
After lunch, we headed down the other end of the grounds, to the Shipley building, the largest one - it contains an arena and is the main livestock barn. What we noticed right off in livestock is that there were a lot more sheep and swine than we'd seen at the first two. Goats are still the most numerous livestock; at least in MD, 4-Hers seem pretty big on goats. But there were a good number of sheep. The swine were mostly asleep; pigs sleep as much as cats do, it seems. Not all the cattle were there yet, but the area for them wasn't that big - goats would be more numerous even were all the cattle stalls filled. When one goes out the far end of the Shiply building, one comes to the Rabbit Building, and since the rabbit show is Monday morning, all the rabbits were being checked in this Sunday afternoon. Really a large bunch of them, biggest we've seen so far, and I think probably at least as big as the rabbit selection at the MoCo fair. I don't like the cages they use - not enough ventilation - but they had a lot of them, and all in good condition, and the building IS air-conditioned, so not going to get as hot as some. We saw a few lionheads, and a couple of Rhinelanders, as well as the usual assorted lops and so on. As I say, looked like it was going to be a large rabbit show. Walking out of that, we came to the truly large farm equipment, the stuff too large for the vendor lot. The stuff that costs in the six digits. That was the largest combination furrower-seeder I have /ever/ seen, and Larry wondered, what farm anywhere around here is big enough to need that big a piece, and who can afford it? It's not like the Midwest where there's miles of corn on one farm.
From there, I hopped a ride back uphill on one of the many "gators" (small cross between a golf cart and a pick-up truck) and Larry walked up, back to the midway ice cream booth. Where we had a BIG serving of ice cream, better bargain for the money than the Cecil County one, of the same Turkey Hill flavors. We then walked into the last third of the long building, which was the Home Arts stuff, and it was a small selection. Every single jar of canned something had a ribbon - it was a little silly-looking, so many ribbons it nearly obscured the shelves. I'm not sure about that as a teaching tool. And we walked over to the pig races, back in the vendor lot, and watched a couple of those - cute. It turns out that the main motivation/training tool for the pigs is: Oreos. That's right, the pigs love 'em. Then we went back over to Shipley, to watch the pet show - the juniorest division of 4-H is called the Clovers, and they are little kids new to exhibiting, so a general pet show is easy on them. Everyone gets an award and their picture with the King and Queen of the fair. Cute stuff, nothing cuter than a five-year-old hugging her pet chicken for dear life. We could have stayed for more shows after that - there was going to be poultry judging, and then an animals-in-costumes contest - but it was getting quite warm for us. So we took a short-cut across the track/stadium/thing-where-big-outdoor-
Week of July 26: the Cecil County fair, up in Elkton. Admission to this one is only $2 for seniors, and that's 60+ so that we both count as seniors, so we didn't bother aiming for Senior Day, though if we had, according to the schedule, there would have been several hours of senior-specific things going on. We went on Wednesday. This fair opens to the public at 9, but several of the shows aren't until afternoon, so we aimed for getting there at noon, as with last week. This is our longest drive, 75 miles to get there, and thanks to roadwork and random traffic, it took us nearly 2 hours, so we actually got there at 12:30. This was instantly, obviously, a better-run fair than Washington County; they had guys directing parking, and marked handicapped spaces, and an actual front gate with cheery young people staffing the admissions kiosks. We asked about food, and the young lady pointed us toward it. The midway wasn't open at this one either - according to the website http://www.cecilcountyfair.org/ it opens at 5. So no fair food here, either - the Lions Club has their own little permanent building and they were serving lunch, a limited menu but the fair special of "Chicken Fingers and Freedom Fries" was quite reasonably priced and lots of food, and despite the silly name, the french fries were good. They have a picnic table area in the shade. The food area has wi-fi - of /course/ it does; there were several people with their laptops, who appeared to be exhibitors (you can sort of tell them - the uniform of shorts and well-worn tall boots tells you who's mucking out stalls.)
After lunch we started walking around - this is still a small fairgrounds, compared to some, but they have enough permanent buildings to put on a good show. We went through the commercial building first, which was pretty dead in the water except for a Tupperware lady and a Bible Association; all the other booths were unstaffed. There was an additional tent with more vendors out back of that, nothing I wanted to buy, and 2 whole booths taken up by a Baptist church - even though we didn't meet anybody's eye, they still started calling out to us. Anyway - Home Arts, small but larger than Washington County. Several quilts, some crocheted items, lots of sewing, and lots of canning - three multi-shelved stands full of jams and pickled veggies and corn relish and so on, very attractive. Lots of kids' art. Decent array of baked goods, though since the building isn't air conditioned some things were sagging. Lots of fans - the temperature was comfortable enough in the shade, and they did not stint on the fans anywhere. Next building over rabbits and pigs. A very few pigs - not a great swine turnout. There were probably as many rabbits as at Washington, but they were poorly caged and poorly labeled; I felt quite sorry for the poor buns; they didn't have enough space or enough ventilation, and a lot of them weren't even labelled by breed. Then on to Poultry, of which there was a decent assortment, a few turkeys and quite a few varieties of chickens. Not as wide a variety as Montgomery County (more later on that) but still a decent variety for a small show, including some of the really silly ones where it's difficult to tell that it's a bird, let alone what species of bird it might be. Onward: goats, and more goats. A few sheep, lots of goats. In fact, the goats took over one of the horse barns as well. Goats like Larry; we always have goats trying to stick their faces up into Larry's face. A couple of cow barns.
By then it was getting warmish; we didn't slog all the way over to the other horse barn, the big one, because it was set off from the
rest, and besides, it was almost time for the afternoon entertainment to start. That's right, real scheduled entertainment, during the day! (The night-time entertainment Wednesday night would be a rodeo; we weren't going to stay for it, but it's apparently a big deal there, and people come specifically for that.) First up, Skybound Canine Entertainment - trained dogs catching discs and jumping through hoops - well, sort of trained: these are all rescue dogs, and part of the point of the show is to show how much you can do in the way of training and playing with even an older dog. The fanciest part of the show was the dock-diving: they had several dogs doing dives into a large pool, and a mini-Australian-Shepherd name of Ray-Ray did a 21 foot dive into the pool. Ray-Ray truly loves his job. A few seconds watching the chainsaw-wood-carving guy (the carvings weren't for sale during the day, but were being auctioned and raffled off at night.) Then over to the Kachunga Alligator Show. Yes, real alligators. No, one can't teach an alligator to do tricks. It's mostly an educational thing; the guy sits on an 8-foot alligator and opens its mouth and explains the teeth, and the alligator's various water adaptations (did you know that alligators can hold their breath for up to an hour?) and then after dragging the alligator around by the tail, he let it go back in its shaded cubby, and brought out 2 baby alligators, and invited all the kids in the audience to come have their pictures taken holding a real live alligator. I found it educational; Larry hadn't though it would be real alligators, so he was surprised. Then, after a few minutes' break, a magic show - nice enough, though the fancy showgirls painted on the sidings were in reality one young man assistant dressed in black. The neatest trick, to me, was turning a white dove into a much larger white rabbit into a full-size white standard poodle. The magician did have each of them wave to us before turning them into something else. He asked for a child volunteer from the audience to help on one trick, but the 2-year-old who volunteered wasn't quite up to the task. Part of the problem was that we were all sitting in the upper bleachers in the shade, rather than the bleachers closer to the stage but out in the direct sunlight. That made it difficult to talk people into things. And it /was/ getting hotter. So, at that point the Young Farmers had opened up their ice cream booth, and we went over and had ice cream, and then headed home, having spent almost 3 and a half hours there.
Verdict? A bit of a long drive for us, but the cheap price of admission, plus the vast improvement in most things over the Washington County fair, made us feel that we did get our money's worth at the Cecil County fair. And if it wasn't so hot and Larry didn't have to work Thursday, staying for the rodeo (included in the price of admission!) might well have been fun.
We are visiting fairs this summer - Larry's semi-retired, so we can travel in the middle of the week, when the crowds are reduced, though as it turns out later, that's not as important as we thought. What's more important is that he's over 65, so he gets senior admission rates every day (sometimes I qualify for them too) and we don't necessarily have to aim specifically for "Senior Day."
Week of July 19, we went to the Washington County Fair - in Boonesboro, in between Hagerstown and Antietam battlefield. About 60 miles, a very pleasant drive, since as interstate slabs go, I-70 is a scenic one. We went on Tuesday, which was Senior Day - free admission for 65+. So it cost us $7 for me to get in; Larry was free and parking was free. Now, the website http://agexpoandfair.org/ had told us that the fair didn't open to the public till noon - lots of 4-H stuff and judging in the mornings, but the public isn't let in for it. And the midway didn't open till 3 p.m. That seemed odd, but off we went. We got there about 11:30, and sure enough, no one at admission. So we spent half an hour in the Museum of Rural Heritage, which was nice. If we go back that way in September to visit Antietam, we might stop and look at a little more of that museum. They had some interesting types of looms, and lots of quilts, and a complete scale model of a farm, a set-up about 10 feet by 20 feet, in the years-long process of being built and improved by a local resident - a re-creation of his family's farm from the 30's. The ladies running the museum were very friendly.
Anyway, finally, at noon, a few guys appeared and opened up the booth in the parking lot that serves as admission, and we went on in. We were able to park right up near the fairground entrance because there was virtually no one there. Well, it being lunchtime, lunch was in order, and there was only ONE place to eat open - none of the midway food, and most of the tents for various organizations were closed up tight, too. The oyster sandwiches from JB Seafood were quite good, but we really would have liked a choice. Extra thumbs-up for JB's: they carried Gold Peak UNSWEETENED iced tea, which is drinkable and most places only carry the sweetened and diet stuff, so yay for unsweetened.
Well, the rest was a let-down; this is pretty much the teeniest fair I have ever been to. Really teeny. Home Arts was pitiful, not even a full table of jellies and canning, ONE quilt and a few beginners' crocheted things, really not much at all. There were some ladies demonstrating weaving; there's a strong heritage of weaving from the German original settlers of the area. The produce was also piffle, very few fruits and veggies. A few awards for decorated baskets of vegetable arrangements, but no decorated gourds or painted potatoes or weird mutant eggplants. The Rabbit and Poultry Barn - which was just a large put-up tent - was more rabbits than poultry, and most of the poultry that was there was plain white turkeys. There was a good assortment of rabbits, though, all nicely labeled; a few families of 4-Hers appear to specialize in them, and had dozens of entries apiece. Lots of Holland Lops and mini-Rexes, some meat rabbits. Anyway, that was the highlight of the livestock; there were a few goats and sheep; a few dairy calves, one cow barn, one small horse barn. One commercial building, and I have to say probably for me, the highlight of the fair was stopping and talking to the agent for Modern Woodmen - if you don't know what a fraternal insurance organization is, then you're in company - most people don't, but I of course do, having worked for the Texas Department of Insurance, and so I chatted with the guy for 15 minutes, and picked up some swag. I did get a tote bag from one of the county agencies that had a table, and a pen from an Allstate agent as well. No special activities or exhibits for seniors, even though it was senior day; they didn't have anybody from a county agency for the elderly or Social Security or Medicare or even anybody trying to sell Medicare Advantage health plans. Which is probably because they knew no one would be there; there were exactly TWO other seniors wandering around the whole fair. What, nobody over 65 in Hagerstown is looking for something free to do??? Anyway, in an hour and a half, we had done absolutely everything the fair had to offer, and didn't feel like waiting around another hour or so doing nothing until the opening of the midway. So we left, and drove over to the outlet mall in Hagerstown to shop for shoes. Overall? Not worth the price of admission. We were disappointed that a rural county such as Washington didn't have more to offer.
All the birds and beasts were there
Well, maybe not all, but lots. The Montgomery County fair is a big one, much bigger than Howard County (where I live, and which was back a week and a half ago) and almost as big as the State Fair. In some areas, bigger. Although the State Fair has lots more Home Arts (arts and crafts) it's got a really pitiful rabbit and poultry section, whereas the Monty Cty fair has an entire rabbit barn and an entire poultry barn. Now, I do miss visiting fairs with Steve, who would have looked at every single animal as closely as I do, and talked to every single rabbit, and laughed at every single chicken, but on the other hand, with Steve, I never would have gotten to the Montgomery fair at all - we only went to the State Fair up here. (Back in TX, we didn't make it to the State Fair every year - Dallas is a bit of a hike and hotels are often quite full those weeks - but when we did, of course that's an enormous fair, and some years we went to the Travis County fair, which isn't as interesting animal-wise but certainly had one of the hugest exhibits of new farm equipment I've seen.) And Steve really didn't care about the Home Arts stuff that much, despite that I do all sorts of crafts; it's nice to go through the quilting and knitting and needlepoint with someone who does want to look at it (if not quite as closely as I do).
So we got there shortly after opening, early enough to get one of the closest handicapped parking spots and to have first pick of the rental electric scooters, the availability of which at fairs is one of the great innovations of the 21st century, I think. The one I got was pretty peppy - it did hills surprisingly well compared to some. Not that great a turning circle, but I didn't get horribly stuck anywhere. Today was Senior Citizens Day - discounted admission for those over 62, which Larry took advantage of. One of the neat things about Senior Citizens Day is that lots of the old folks older than us just thought we looked harmless and therefore stopped right next to us at random moments to tell us interesting facts about how the fair was in their day, or to chat about whatever object we were all standing near. It's nice to be able to serve as a harmless ear for people who need to convince other people that they still have something worth saying.
There was a raptor show going on over at the community stage, with some lovely owls, and we stopped by their booth later, too, to peer more closely at the owls. Some interesting information about owl hearing and about owl flying, especially as compared to other raptors. They did have a red-tailed hawk, too.
The rabbit barn was dominated by Dutch, mini-lop, dwarfs, and mini-rex, but there were a couple of multi-colored full-size rex (polka dots in more than one color on white) and one really nice Rhinelander whose ears were a gorgeous tortoiseshell mottle. A couple of Jersey Woolies and an American Fuzzy Lop. And a few Lionheads, which caught Larry's eye. They're still a relatively new breed for showing, and there weren't a lot of them. One Flemish giant, a medium 15-pounder, not terribly big as Flemmies go. There weren't many of the giant breeds at all, that one Flemmie and a couple of NZWs, no Californias and no Checkered Giants (my favorite breed). Checkered Giants seem to do best further north - the Massachusetts state fair always had a good assortment of them when I lived up there. A full-sized angora and a fair couple dozen English lops rounded out the large rabbits. I gotta say, I've never been that fond of the really smushed-in faces of Netherlands Dwarfs of show quality. When we were looking at the Jersey Wooleys I was explaining about spinners who keep them and angoras as pets and then spin their own rabbit yarn.
We made the mistake of going in the "Chilly Mall" (the air-conditioned commercial vendors' building) before we ate lunch, which meant that the pick-your-own-candy booth sucked us in, and we walked through the maze of candy bins and came out with 3/4 of a pound of assorted root beer barrels and Squirrel Nut Zippers and caramels and Atomic Fireballs and so on. Other than that, we didn't spend any money on stuff or souvenirs, just on food, which was, of course, bad for us. Pit beef and sausages for lunch. Hey, at least we avoided corn dogs and fried Oreos. The county fairs have much less fried stuff than the State Fair or the average RenFair - no fried cheese, no fried ice cream, no fried peanut butter... We were too full to try the roasted corn ears and limeade when we got to them.
The Home Arts was, as I said, somewhat smaller than the State Fair, but there were a couple of nice quilts and a spectacular quilted table runner, and quite a few nice cross-stitch pieces. In the knitting and crochet, there were almost no sweaters at all - one women's sweater and a couple of kids' sweaters, that's it. There will be more of those at the State Fair, I'm sure. Some felted pieces that are best described as "interesting." And, there was a spinning exhibition, and sure enough, there was a lady hand-trimming her American Fuzzy Lop, who was mostly hypnotized lying on his back in her lap while she trimmed him. Very relaxed rabbit.
There were not many ducks or turkeys in the poultry barn - just a couple token ones. We saw quite a few sheep and goats being sheared over in the sheep barns, but that's not as funny as watching the rabbits. The only alpacas were the ones in Old MacDonald's Barn for the kids, where there was also one full-grown camel, but no llamas. I guess the camelids aren't as popular in Montgomery County as some places. There was a goat judging going on, and it was interesting watching the kids pose their goats, adjusting their legs a couple inches one way or another. Some nice large horses in the horse barn - a Belgian, a couple American Drafts, and one Clydesdale, and a Percheron who looked a tad small compared to those guys, though Percherons are not a small breed. You can tell I've been to more ag fairs than the average urban dweller; I can tell those apart, as well as being able to spot a Silkie chicken at 100 paces and tell a Barred Plymouth Rock hen from a Laced Wyandotte at 50 paces. I will say I remain as ignorant of cow breeds as ever - I know that Holsteins are the "cow-patterned" white and black ones, and recognize a Brahma, but other than that, I'm just, "oh, there's a brown one, there's a black one." Larry, on the other hand, can tell a Jersey from a Guernsey. His grandad had a farm, and used one of the red brand of tractors - I forget the name of it now, but one of the red ones. Me, I recognize big green, but really don't notice the other brands that much - though when I see the orange Kubota equipment, I can't help but think of kabocha squash, which is a Japanese pumpkin, not an orange one but a pumpkin which makes me think of orange and so... well, maybe that's silly, but I think of them as Japanese Pumpkin equipment.
Anyhoo, around 2:30 the overcast burnt off, the temperature rose 10 degrees in half an hour and I started to worry about sunburn, so we headed back to the midway, ate some fried dough - it ain't a fair if you don't eat fried dough or funnel cakes - and headed home around 3, with Larry a bit tired from doing all the walking and me a bit tired from that last half hour of heat and sun. I feel fairly well Faired.
( More about visits )
Now I can take my time moving the computer and printer over to it, and unpacking several of the boxes marked "office" which may contain genuinely useful office supplies, or may contain ancient torn-out-of-magazines knitting patterns, or may contain some of Steve's vast collection of pens, pencils, pencil holders, and spiral-bound notebooks from college, which I managed to get rid of some of before I moved, but some of it got packed because the house sold so fast that I had to finish packing in a hurry, throwing everything into boxes without making any decisions. With luck, at least half of what's in those "office" boxes will be destined for Goodwill or other similar efforts, and only half, or less, to stay here. The quest to unload STUPH continues.
( Stuff about the pets )
I am still not completely used to the higher dose of carvedilol, but I have had it pointed out by my cardiologist that I am some 9 years older than the last time I titrated up on this stuff, and hey, guess what, adjustments DO take longer when one is fifty-mumble than when one is forty-mumble. So I am being patient, and I'll grant that it's a little better now than it was 2 weeks ago. Some of the heat we had for a few days last week did NOT help, but today is a lot cooler, and I think I'll take advantage of that by doing something exciting like, oh, maybe taking out the garbage!
Working backward, I have been feeling as sad the last couple of days as I was back in January. Lots of reasons for this - for one, a year ago exactly we were on our wonderful RV trip - I look at my post from May 15, 2010 and note that it was snowing in Wyoming, and that I stopped at Cowgirl Yarn. We got to Denver that evening, to stay with C&V for a visit. For another thing, it's been raining for a couple of days, and Calvin-Junior-next-door hasn't been able to mow my wet lawn, so the place looks a mess from the outside; Steve's rosebushes, the Double Knockouts, are blooming like mad but are surrounded by weeds. And for a third thing, this past week I paid the annual homeowner's insurance bill, the home warranty bill, and the last of the winter heating oil bills, all of which reminds me that I really must watch my pennies far more closely than I have been. I've been indulging myself into eating lunch out several days a week, and I really can't afford that - gotta cut back to once a week. Yesterday I dropped Cindy off at the airport for her annual visit with her nephew, and swung by the vet and finally picked up Gizmo's ashes, which are in a beautiful little box. Anyway, this combination of things has slid me a bit backward from last month, when for a bit I was feeling as if things were a bit lighter, as if I could breathe easier.
April felt better for several of its own reasons. When Gizmo died at the end of March, I went ahead and paid for a necropsy, and when the results of that came back, it showed that he had a rare and obscure infection of the liver, which couldn't have been detected in any well-rabbit vet visit when he was acting normally, and that by the time it showed symptoms, there truly was no treatment we could have used that would have reversed things. So I didn't have to feel guilty that I had somehow missed a chance to cure the Big White Bunny if only I had done *something*. Then, also in April, I went to Stitches South in Atlanta, and had a good time. I took the train there, and I enjoy train rides; I met up with Angela there and we split a hotel room; I spent several days totally involved in stuff that has never involved Steve and so didn't keep reminding me of him - and at the same time, there were several other women there who had also lost their spouses within the past year or so, so we could spend just a brief amount of time sharing our grief but also making jokes about how we weren't going to have to figure out how to hide how much yarn we were buying from our husbands. Being away from reality, and totally involved in an activity that has always been mine, made for a break in how I felt, and that left me feeling lighter as a lasting aftereffect. I was still missing Steve every day, but I began to see that I had a life without Steve, and even if it wasn't the life I had hoped for or planned on, it was a life that could still include some enjoyment.
I can still see that, sort of, but it's been fogged over these past couple days. Seeing Cindy off reminds me that I don't have any other really close friends here - people I'm close enough to to say "I'm lonely, I'm coming over to your house to hang out this afternoon so I don't have to be alone." I could probably drive up to my sister's place (2 hour drive) to hang out, and they'd be happy to see me, but it would be all noise and chaos, and everyone would be, quite rightly, more concerned with getting dinner on the table and homework done than with patting me on the head and making soothing murmurs. All my other really close friends are far away - Austin and Denver and Akron - can't exactly drop by or call and say let's meet up to split a dessert and tea at the diner. And I have lots of band acquaintances, but none of them are friends in that sense, and anyway most of them live just far enough away that by standards that aren't used to Texas, they'd think it was crazy to drive 20 miles just to hang out. In Austin, driving to Round Rock or Buda (or vice versa) for dinner and a game of Scrabble is something people would think quite reasonable to do frequently - every weekend, no problem - here, though, many people to consider that to be a distance that they'd only do for more special occasions (other than commuting to work).
And part of it's my own fault - if I weren't so self-absorbed, I'd be paying more attention to other people's journals, and to mailing lists I'm on, and more involved virtually in other people's lives, which really can help - no, it's not the same as hanging out in person, but it IS social activity and a reminder that there's stuff outside my own thoughts, and that other people's lives are interesting and they're willing to share. I know that, but I can't seem to break my laziness and read more than a couple of minutes of my flist page, or of the NEDoD list. How does one kick oneself in the pants to do something that one knows should be done and that will make one feel better? Just telling myself to do it isn't working, obviously.
So today, I couldn't think of anything reason to get out of the house that wouldn't wind up costing money, even apart from gasoline use, and I've sat here stewing instead. I probably look a little like a stewed tomato by now, too.
I'm getting positively closed-loop, whining about my own whining, aren't I? Hey, you all whose journals I've been neglecting, tell me something interesting going on in your lives that I should go read about.
Today I was going to have gone to see my niece Hanna in her spring play, but I woke up this morning sneezing like mad, and even if it's allergies rather than the cold I thought at first, it wouldn't be a good idea to drive 130 miles there while either sneezing or under the influence of antihistamines, (The non-drowsy antihistamines do zilch for me.) So I let them know I wasn't coming, fed the critters, and went back to bed. When I woke up again in the afternoon, Gizmo had not finished his food and was not able to move properly. It seemed as though he had had a stroke. He hasn't, and at the emergency vet's, he's doing better - staying overnight and getting IV fluids, antibiotics, etc. But right at first, when I tried to see what was wrong, I was just saying shit, shit, shit over and over again. Because today is also exactly 8 months since the ventilator was disconnected after the organ donation people were finished - technical date of Steve's death. And I was already a bit teary-eyed. But, I had been thinking about writing a post about what I feel like now, and so I think I still will.
Here's the thing. The grief isn't any less - I still wake up every day thinking how unfair it is that I'm still alive and Steve's not. I still find that something brings me to tears every day - including writing this post. But what is, finally, diminishing to a detectable extent is the panic and anxiety that goes with the grief. Although I still wonder, every day, how I'm going to manage without Steve, I also notice, every day, that I have managed to muddle through. When I'm driving, I'm no longer so greatly distracted by thinking that "last time I was on this road. Steve was driving" or "I didn't used to have to drive here; Steve always did it." By now, I've driven most places I go to by myself several times, and I so I feel like I am doing the driving, not waiting for someone else to be in control. I still hate having to do it alone, but I am recognizing that I can manage most things. Maybe not the way Steve did them, maybe not as well, but I am managing. And that lessening of anxiety and panic is, I guess, a "feeling better."
There's still stuff not getting done, but I am managing to remind myself every day that I will get to it, even if it's more slowly, and/or less often, than I should - I will get it done. When I hit obstacles, I will manage them or work around them; I've figured out several work-arounds for things that I can't possibly do myself already, and have ideas percolating on several more. I finally found a charity that would pick up the brown recliner sofa for free - Goodwill around here doesn't do free pickup any more; they contract with College Hunks Hauling Junk, who charge a discount rate but nonetheless charge. I had offered the damn loveseat on Freecycle a couple of times, and while a couple of people expressed interest, they never followed through. And nobody was interested in buying it on Craigslist. But some internet research finally found a web site that will show one who picks up donations for free, in a given ZIP code. (Yes, Salvation Army still does, but I am not in the mood to give things to that brand of religion.)
And, while the vet bills from Gizmo's emergency today means I'll have to put it off for a couple months, I've found a company that will refinish the pink bathtub in white, reglazing it, so I don't have to buy a new one and pay a contractor to remove the old one and install a new one. The reglazing will be quicker, cheaper, and will feel more acceptable, because I really hate the thought of throwing out a perfectly good fixture where the only fault is extreme ugliness. I think with the tub white, and I can get a new white toilet installed (much less expensive to remove and replace than a bathtub), then the rest of the bathroom, including the peculiar sinks, will seem much less awful. So there's a plan for that, even if deferred a bit.
Baltimore County sent Steve a jury duty notice, so I got more copies of the death certificate last week and tomorrow I'll mail them one to explain why Steve will not be answering the notice - I'm sure they wouldn't just take my word for it. I have to get more copies of the "Letters of Administration" also - the estate execution stuff - to finish up some other stuff, and I haven't done that as fast as I should have, but at least I know I have to do it and how, so it's progress, if slow.
So. "Feeling better." No less grief, but less panic, and that does make life a teensy bit easier. I went to a grief support group run by Gilchrist for 6 weekly sessions, and that did help, too, talking to other people - I hadn't thought it would, but it did - certainly did more for my peace of mind than NOT going to one, if anybody else is wondering about whether they're worth it. The people in the group decided we'd keep meeting occasionally for lunch, to continue to talk to each other, so we're having lunch tomorrow at Panera. There are 6 of us, and 3 of the others are also in the 55-65 age range as I am, and the other two not too much older. That was a coincidence - it wasn't planned specifically to be a "young widowed persons" group or any other specific age range, so it could have been all older people my parents' age - the age where, forgive me for saying it like this, one starts *expecting* people to die. Most of the groups that are for "young" people are for up to age 50, and most of the rest tend to be seniors over 65, so it was a bit of serendipity to have a group turn out to be people in the neglected middle-age range. Anyway, as it turns out, it is a great relief to be able to talk to other people who are going through the same thing - even if it's not identical, we have more in common than not, just by the fact of losing a spouse. Some lost theirs to long, drawn-out illnesses, one other person to a sudden event like mine. There are people left worse off organizationally and financially, and people not as badly off, but we all have the struggles with those things - even the people who had a couple of years of their spouse battling cancer find out, apparently, when it's over, there's no way you can have remembered to take care of everything, and there's no predicting what details will pop up out of the woodwork that it never even occurred to you could exist. Everybody turns out to have SOMETHING in their bills, paperwork, or housekeeping that they didn't know had to be taken care of ahead of time.
There was going to be a very depressing paragraph here, about what we also have all learned about illnesses that can't be detected or prevented, about how even early treatment doesn't stave things off forever, but after writing it three times, each time was more depressing, and I decided to leave it out. Even my attempts to summarize it in a sentence are depressing. Let's just say, we all beat ourselves up about what we might have done to prevent things, or save our spouses, and we all need a long time to realize that the should have/could haves are (a) likely not true, and (b) definitely not useful.
So that's the update. I'm coping. I'm still lonely and sad and heartbroken. I would still like someone to come live in my spare room so I have some help. I'm still alive. It's still unfair - and it's still true that there is no such thing as "fair." If there's a pattern in all that, I haven't figured it out yet.
I did some repairs to wooden toys this afternoon, with mending plates and angle brackets. An internet seller of rabbit play tunnels and such was going out of business, so I ordered some of the last of their stuff (half price!), and, as in previous orders, one piece arrived broken - which may explain part of why they went out of business. Well, no refunds or returns, so I put the tunnel aside for a few weeks. But finally decided that I needed a clearer living room floor, so it and a previous "play station" that had a leg broken off got fixed. We had previously tried gluing the broken leg, but it didn't hold up for long. Metal mending plates should be able to withstand a four-pound rabbit. I traded around who has what kind of tunnels and toys - now Chippy chin has the smaller play station, since the Funnybunnies didn't like it so much; the Funnybunnies have a second litter box to chew on and scatter around; Fern has the refurbished large play station, instead of a tunnel where she can hide herself too much; and the repaired tunnels are now what's between cages - one between Fern and Funnybunnies, one between FBs and Gizmo, and one between Gizmo and the big plastic bin that keeps the hay and Carefresh more or less safe from rabbits. Fern actually seems to like the new setup - she jumped up and down and up again from the new tunnel, and perched on it for a while, which she hadn't when it was in her cage; she had only ever gone under it.
Wednesday MVCB had just a library work session, not a rehearsal, so I didn't have to bring my bari sax. So I emailed my teacher that I was gonna bring my soprano sax for my lesson instead, and then bungeed said soprano onto the back of the bike and rode over there, instead of using the cage. Great weather for it. A big accident on I-95 diverted me onto an exit I wasn't familiar with, so I even got in a little wandering around on strange roads. And after lesson, most of the staff of the music store where I take my lessons had to come out and admire the bike; I am not sure they previously believed me when I said I rode, as they've only ever seen me when I've had to be carrying 30-something pounds of nearly 4-feet-long assymetrical bari sax, which does NOT work on bike. (I have calculated that if I were 6 foot 2 inches or taller, and weighed at least 200 lbs, then I could carry the bari back-pack style and it would not significantly screw up my balance, center of gravity, or wind resistance. But as I am 5'4"...) My Evolve fish carrying a wrench was their favorite of all my assorted stickers and stuff. Then I ran a bunch of errands, since I had a couple hours before the band session. Had to carry the sax in to various places, since I couldn't just leave it bungeed to the bike; it's not a super-expensive sax, but I still don't want it stolen. Luckily, a straight soprano in a grey plastic case looks pretty innocuous. Silver Diner at LakeForest Mall (avoided rest of mall). Gaithersburg Library. CVS. Then Stedwick Community Center. I wasn't expecting Steve - but he decided why should I have all the fun, and rode his bike out to join us, so then we could ride home together - which we did entirely on back roads, no highways at all, during the very long dusk at this time of year. Lots of lightning bugs everywhere; it's so neat to ride through a whole flock (?) of them on a bike! We stopped at the Double T in Ellicott City, on Route 40, for supper. I was pleased to get an overall 60 mpg on this most recent tank, including as it did the stop-and-creep caused by the traffic accident, and the slow riding behind what seemed like every cement truck in Montgomery County.
I told Perry, if rain will kindly hold off on Wednesdays, he can expect me to bring the soprano to lessons for the rest of the summer. Gonna work on some Baroque oboe concerti!
And Fern bunny is fine, after the application of quite a bit of money at the veterinarian.
All of which is to say, we're not going anywhere this summer. No RG in Pittsburgh, sorry M-friends. No Knit and Crochet Show in Buffalo. Nowhere that we can't drive to within a couple of hours and stay at someone's house for free.
We are fixing up the other house for sale, since we haven't had much luck renting it - it goes on the market in a week and a half. A bit of interior paint, repairs to the sidewalk, replace a couple doors, stuff like that. We won't get what we paid for it; we bought it at the peak of the market, and that's not going to come again any time this ten years. But we should clear enough on it, if all goes well, to pay off the mortgage on the current house, replenish savings that were depleted by the new roof, and maybe, just maybe, enough to let us replace the pink bathtub with something we can stand to look at with our glasses on. There's no chance it would be sold and closed on in time to use the money for any of the afore-mentioned summer travel, though.
Anyway, that's what's been happening around here lately. I've gotten in a bit of reading, some crocheting and knitting, and have written some reviews for the Tea Review Blog -check out the blog here:
and a few of my reviews, specifically, here:
And, just so this has a bit more content, a picture of the most recent sweater I finished:
I've already worn this one a couple times and people seem to like the little sunflower, even though squirrel_magnet says it looks like a large-winged insect has landed on me.
Let"s see. The first two, Locke & Key and Johnny Bunko, have some tweets that"ll show up, so I don't need to say too much more about those. L&K is a good fantasy, lots of content, nice spooky premise. I actually look forward to the next volume of this one. JB is confused about who its audience might be - it claims to be a book of serious career advice, that happens to be done manga style, but it seems as though people reading manga want story, not advice. Luckily, the story is pretty funny - magic take-out chopsticks!
Para by Stuart Moore - I wanted to like this one, because it's got lots of text - some pages are illustrated text, rather than cartoons with words. And the starting premise is good - an alternate history where the Supercollider in TX turns into a big radioactive pit... and it's some 20 years later and researchers want to find out exactly what happened. The FBI is hampering their efforts. Unfortunately, for my tastes, it turns into paranormal bullshit, woo-woo pseudo-science. Despite that, though, I have to say I actually liked the UFO guy as a character - he has a nice sense of humor about his own endeavors. And the nasty FBI agent turns out to have her good spots. Drawing style: realistic tending toward dark, lots of grey-blue; aliens are stupid-looking. And the frogs never do get explained.
WE3 by Grant Morrison - reminded me a lot of Dean Koontz's Watchers. Three weaponized animals - a dog, cat, and rabbit - escape the termination of their project. I love how they have bits of speech; I was sad that the bunny was the one that died; I liked the ending. Style: colorful (the shell armor looks like a cross between pastel easter eggs and water lotuses, crossed with pillbugs).
The Book of Lost Souls by Straczynski and Doran. Fantasy, dark; not always sure who the good guys are. The episode with the battered woman- interesting. And the hired killer, who finally gets his - good. Still, though, sorta woo-woo in here about tortured savior and how people are "saved." But I like the Road.
Also read: Aya of Yop - couldn't get into it; teenage angst is teenage angst even if it's in Cote d'Ivoire - just as pointless as Ghost World, to me. Not enough story. And Megillat Esther, which I had seen reviews of - sort of a must-do, if one is of Jewish background. It does a nice job of pointing out some of the ridiculousness and some of the repetition-but-with-contradictions that occurs in many bible stories.
OK, now to take these over to the return desk.
I got back Saturday. Coming back on the LIRR to get to Penn, there were many, many college students, and many, many open cans and bottles of beer, and much shrieking. Which made the conductor change the announcements a bit: "Watch the gap. And take your crap with you. This means you. Take your beer bottles and crap off the train with you." The Amtrak regional back to here was quieter. Train really is a very comfortable and easy way to travel. And do it late enough at night, and the fares are less than half what they are at peak times.
Today we went to the State Fair, as this is the last weekend of it. I looked at all the "home arts" - needlework and cooking, mainly, and I was interested mostly in the needlework - and we went to the Sheep and Goats pavilion and the Swine Judging pavilion and the Cow Palace - skipped the horse barns, since there were signs saying no strollers allowed past this point, and I assumed that applied to my scooter, too. Yes, same scooter that I took to Europe. It makes wandering around several crowded blocks' worth of fairground doable. Let's see, then a tiny chickens-and-rabbits building, then the Exhibition Hall, with vendors of all sorts of stuff Ginsu knives!, waterless cookware!, handwriting analysis!, Jews for Jesus!, Electrostatic brooms! (we bought one of those); candy apples (I bought a couple of those...), cinnamon pecans, Jack Daniels mustard and barbecue sauce! For those of you not familiar with State Fairs in the USA, this is a pretty typical vendor selection. All sorts of crap, mixed with some good stuff, mixed with booths from the political parties and several government agencies and a few more charities and a lot more crap for sale. Then through the 4-H petting area, which included a very attractive llama and a snooty alpaca. Walked through the Midway a bit, and the food pavilion featuring locally made/grown foods - everything from corn-on-the-cob to lamb sandwiches to pit beef, not just junk food but some halfway real food - to get to the last hall, the Agriculture Hall, which featured lots more state agencies' booths, and a John Deere tractor, plus all the prize-winning individual pumpkins and apples and corn and flowers... chatted with the people from the Maryland Insurance Admin for a while, wherein we shared a few laughs about Inland Marine insurance. I don't often get to talk to other people who think Inland Marine is as funny as I do. Outside that pavilion were the armed forces recruiting trailers, and the Motor Vehicle Admin's trailer (guess how many people wanted to visit that) and the county fire department's safety training trailer. And then a last glance toward the Midway, and we were done. We would have spent longer, but they don't have as much of a rabbit show here as they have at the Texas state fair or the Massachusetts state fair, nor nearly as many hysterical-looking chickens. No emus. No pig races. And we skipped the learn-to-milk-a-cow parlor.
So, now that I'm back from being sick (previous post) and going to NY and going to the fair, I have about two weeks worth of y'all's posts to catch up on, ha ha. If there's something I absolutely need to know, give me a comment here so I can go check it out, 'cause otherwise I am going to just read the last couple days' worth.
2. Finally got around to doing our taxes - it's not complicated, it doesn't take long, but I always put it off. Hardest part is finding things. Anyway, we're due $1K refund from the feds, and then conveniently, we owe $1K on state-and-local for Maryland/Baltimore.
3. I am transcribing music into Finale, from handwritten parts; the great-grandfather of one of the Montgomery Village Community Band's flute players wrote several marches, in little teeny handwriting, and without parts for any instruments that the village band he originally wrote them for didn't have. So I'm entering the tuba part and transposing it for bari sax and bass clarinet, entering the Bb clarinet parts and transposing them for flutes, etc. Finale is not a perfect medium, and I still haven't figured out how to put in a "repeat the previous measure" sign.
4. We'll be flying back down to Texas 4/16, and returning 4/22. The estate sale is Thursday-Friday-Saturday the 17-18-19.
5. I am putting off cleaning the remaining one of the three rabbit litter boxes, and also cleaning the hedgie cage. Procrastination is my second middle name!
Then, also finished my on-again, off-again reading of Atheist Universe by David Mills, which is subtitled "The Thinking Person's Answer to Christian Fundamentalism." There are some good points in the book, and some ways to give quick, yet scientific, answers to people who claim there are miracles, or who tell one that one is going to hell. However, Mills has a tendency to confuse the Intelligent Design anti-evolution movement with Fundamentalism as a whole, and there are much better resources than this book available if one is specifically setting out to counter the IDers.
I've also just re-read the entire Liaden Universe series, except for the two Crystal prequels, which may account for the increased sentence length in this entire post. It's probably not a good idea, in general, to re-read Brust's Viscount of Adrilankha series and then Lee & Miller's Liaden series, in such quick succession, as both leave one talking funny and with a strange impulse to bow when greeting people.
Boots guinea pig is getting elderly and slowing down fast; usually when this happens, it's not long, unfortunately. Boots is a long-haired breed, a Silkie - and a Himalayan Silkie, at that - and it's my experience that the long-haired breeds always seem to be more fragile and short-lived than the short-hairs or silly-hairs. I think it's all that effort and calorie consumption that goes into producing the beautiful hair, instead of building up body reserves and strength. We are coddling him in what we expect are his last days, chopping up carrots into smaller bits, giving him applesauce, and just generally talking to him lots.
Which is how I spent yesterday, alternating building a new, larger, cage for the Funnybunnies (Farfalle and Domino) with talking to and feeding Boots. The Funnybunnies seem to like the new cage - it is half again larger, and has two upper levels to hop around on, instead of just one. I'm still waiting for the metal litter tray I've ordered, since they've just about chewed the current plastic one down to the ground (they go through entire plastic litter trays in 3-4 months). I will take pictures sometime real soon.
World's Toughest Rabbit
**I got it by email from a friend, who got it from a friend, who got it from who knows where?
We cleaned bunny cages this afternoon, and everybody starts the new year off with assorted new chew toys. It's funny how different the tastes are of the various critters. Gizmo prefers plastic things he can pick up with his teeth and FLING; Fern prefers wooden things with lots of parts and a nut in the middle, or else woven grass or wicker to be shredded; Farfalle and Domino will ignore all of those in favor of shredding a large piece of cardboard down to its component molecules. They all like "Carrot Slims" treats, as do the piggles and chinnies, so there was happiness and munching all around afterwards, despite our ruining of their homes by cleaning them.
Susan Witting Albert's Bleeding Hearts - latest in her series about herb shop owner China Bayles, in suburban/exurban Texas. OK, but I could see each plot turn coming a mile away.
The Untied States of America by Juan Enriquez - some interesting ideas, and some scary thoughts, but easily the winner of "Most Annoying Mush of Fonts/Typefaces of the Decade" award. Every sentence is its own paragraph, each a different type size, alignment to the left, right or center rather determined at random, it seems. Like a person whose voice is too emotional, who alternates shouting and arm-waving and hissing, the style distracts from the content. Which is fragmented, but contains enough facts to back up Enriquez's contention that we would be stupid to make any bets on whether the US flag is going to have more, or less, than 50 stars 50 years from now, or even 10 years from now.
And then, to get back to something well-written and well worth reading, the John McPhee I mentioned a couple days back. I had read several chapters of this book when they appeared as articles in The New Yorker, but they were worth re-reading. John McPhee can make anything sound interesting, including driving a chemical-carrying tanker truck across the country. Talking about how much weight trucks can carry:
The more axles you add, the more you can legally carry. In 1979, westbound at Rawlins, Wyoming, Ainsworth, in a reefer hauling pork, came up behind a "LONG LOAD OVERSIZE LOAD" surrounded by pilot cars, a press car, a spare tractor, a tire truck, mechanics, and bears. A lowboy, it had eighteen axles and a hundred and twenty-eight tires. From Argonne National Laboratory, southwest of Chicago, to the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Palo Alto, California, it was carrying a super-conducting magnet that weighed a hundred and seven tons. At close to half a million pounds gross, this was the largest legal load ever to move in the United States, a record that has since been eclipsed.And then, next chapter, he's at a pilot training school - ships' pilots, that is. And we get this:
The word "lapin" is not to be uttered on a French ship, remarks Yvon Satre, of Compagnie Generale Maritime, who is captain of the Pascal, which, like the full-size Normandie, shuffles containers between southern Europe and the Far East. Rabbits were carried as food on old French wooden ships, and - sometimes with disastrous results - they chewed not only the rigging but also the ships' wooden structures. You do not say "lapin" for fear of very bad luck, Yvon tells us. You might mention a small, flexible-bodied lagomorph with very long ears, but you never say "lapin".
On the other hand: Farfalle and Domino are living happily together in the same cage now, which makes things much easier in the pet room. The new chinchillas have also settled in pretty well, although there are still moments of agitation where the two cages of chinchillas are adjacent.
I finished Tom Bodett's The Free Fall of Webster Cummings and it was funny. Not a perfect novel, but an OK one with very funny moments here and there, certainly worth adding to a reading list if you are running out of things to read. The title refers to a character who falls 4000 feet out of a commuter airplane, without a parachute, and escapes unscathed, at least physically. The moral of the story is that family is important even when you don't know it, and we're all interconnected somehow.
Gaaaah, I am going to scream. First, though, I am going to nag squirrel_magnet to call Verizon yet again.