Saturday, May 19, 2018

Miser Family update: travel & togetherness version

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Household.  This week I was particularly rich in car time.  Because my office is only 2 or 3 blocks from my home, I'm hardly ever in a car (especially compared to other people I know).  So the sheer amount of time I spent in our little old Prius this week is really unusual for me. 

Cars weren't our only big transportation modes this week, either.  There was still a wealth of walking, a riot of running, and a bit of buses, a ton of trains, and (of course) a bunch of biking.   On Tuesday, in particular, we did just about all of those modes -- N-son took a bus to school while I biked to our local rescue mission. Then my husband I and took trains (he, to Tuesday with Toomey, and me to give a talk at another university).  After school, N-son walked over to the local polling place and voted for his first time ever!

The car got put into serious service later in the week.  On Thursday, my husband picked up J-son, who came into town in the morning to take care of some important paperwork; after that administrative stuff was taken care of, we went to N-son's school to have lunch with him. It's awesome having a child in culinary school, right?  This was the first time the boys had seen each other in months, and they were glad to be back together. After lunch, we drove J-son back to his current home with his former foster mom.   So for me, that was 76 miles in the car, with 3-4 co-passengers.  Phew!

But the next day made Thursday seem tame by comparison:  164 miles in the car, with 4-5 co-passengers [my husband took the train one way, and joined us in the car on the way back]. Because that day we traveled out to see the Savoy company perform Iolanthe, that totally awesome Gilbert&Sullivan operetta.  It was K-daughter's first time seeing the show, and she was really surprised -- she'd been expecting something lofty and weighty like Carmen or Madame Butterfly, not like the Three Stooges with British accents and fancy music and intellectual depth.  The rest of us have seen it, like, a gazillion times because of family connections.  We had a blast together, getting to appreciate something we love, while simultaneously seeing it for the first time through K-daughter's eyes. 
Nothing venture, nothing win –
Blood is thick, but water's thin –
In for a penny, in for a pound –
It's Love that makes the world go round!

And we got home after midnight . . . tired but super happy.  Saturday was super rainy, and so I spent much of the day peacefully at home, enjoying staying dry.
When tempests wreck thy bark,
And all is drear and dark,
If thou shouldst need an Ark,
⁠I'll give thee one!
And that's the news from the Miser Family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.   

Monday, May 14, 2018

Wenches with wrenches, for Mother's day

Okay, I know that I'm not exactly mainstream when it comes to gift giving.  I wasn't really terribly surprised, then, to hear that my daughter's best friend was horrified and offended by the Christmas present I gave my daughter.  What kind of mother would give her kid radiation sickness pills for Christmas? she wanted to know.  (Um, . . . maybe the kind of mom who doesn't want her daughter to die from radiation poisoning?  I mean, that would be my answer.)  So, yeah, maybe not all parents give their children emergency preparedness kits as a way of saying "Happy Holidays".  I get that.

Although I do think it was an awesome gift, and kind of funny, too. 

I tread carefully when it comes to gift giving, because I really don't want to spend money on stupid excessive waste that just adds to landfills, or promote mindless consumption of non-renewable resources.  On the other hand, I don't really want to go around offending people either.   So it was with a bit of trepidation, a few weeks ago, that I asked I-daughter what she wanted for her upcoming birthday.

She didn't even hesitate one second.  "I'm SO glad you asked!"  I heard this and wondered if this meant I'd be headed for the mall for the first time in . . . I dunno, a decade.  But instead she said, "One of the boards in my back porch stairs is starting to rot, and I was hoping you could replace it."

A birthday gift for my daughter: a new stair tread.
K-daughter, sitting nearby, overheard this and immediately joined in, "Oh, now I'm jealous!  That's the kind of thing I want to ask for, but I don't have back porch stairs that someone could fix."

So, apparently I raised my daughters right.  Or at least, right for me.  Yay!

It turns out that I-daughter's front porch stairs also need to be replaced, and we turned this into a Mother's Day gathering.  Eventually, we'll need to get new lumber and replace the whole set of stairs, but this past Sunday the three of us gathered to take measurements and shore up the existing stairs to make things more steady.  The old fence around my yard that I dismantled a few years ago keeps being reincarnated in new forms; the latest form is porch stairs, apparently.

Me watching K-daughter use the
circular saw.
I think I really look like
*my* mom in this photo!
It was good to be together.  K-daughter loves to work on projects with me, and so I led her through using the circular saw, and the cordless drill, and -- because the battery on the cordless drill died -- how to use a chuck to switch out drill bits on a very old but very serviceable corded drill.  (It is possible that my daughters might have gotten future Christmas gift ideas from this experience, but I'll let that be a surprise to me and/or others in the future.)

It was also good to futz around with an imperfect repair before we bought supplies for the replacement steps.  We spent no money, but got valuable insights that will help make the eventual, more permanent stairs, better (the ground slopes so the supports need to be at different heights, etc).

I-daughter says that her neighbors have priced out getting a new porch roof (she'll go in on this with them, because it's a duplex and therefore they share the roof). She says they also priced out getting new porch stairs, and the estimate was $2000.  So I could do the whole yada-yada thing and say I gave her one of the most expensive gifts blah blah . . .

But really, the gift was a big mutual one.  It's the gift of time we spend together as a family, even with my "kids" grown and out of the house.  It's the gift that we actually like spending time together, which is kind of a miracle, I figure.   It's the gift of getting psyched about using power tools, or about finding needs that we can somehow fulfill.  It's the gift that my daughters give me by loving me for who I am, mall-phobic and all.

I-daughter and K-daughter on the stairs, with my fancy
"construction vehicle" in front.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Miser Family update: sticker version

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.

When I was a kid, my grandfather used to send me and my sisters letters on manilla paper, with hand-drawn pictures and stickers.  I loved the manilla paper, because I always thought people were saying "vanilla".  And the stickers were absolutely the most wonderful thing I could imagine putting in a letter!  It's hard to imagine, what with modern-day scrapbooking and craft stores selling stickers left-and-right, but stickers were a rare and wonderful treat in my childhood.  I have such fond memories of getting mail from Grandpa.

That being said, here's my husband's Tuesday morning email message to me, written because he left the house before I got back from serving breakfast at the mission:
I left for the train 🚂 at 815 so I left dog 🐕 out assuming you would be home soon. I did not feed her. I have the usual protest followed by a Friends of the Earth 🌏 protest followed by phone ☎️ banking. See you around 945. Love ❤️ N
My husband isn't that far in age from my grandfather's age when he was writing those letters. What goes around, comes around, I guess.  My husband has been busy in Philly with the get out the vote movements.  Don't forget to vote on Tuesday!
My guy says:  "This is me with candidates mother.
She is younger than me."
N-son had a big, final squash match this weekend, and specifically asked me to take this picture of him as he got ready to take the train to his match.  He won his very last match 3 games to 2.

As for me, I'm in the stage that always seems to happen in May: there's all this metaphorical dust that I'd swept under the metaphorical rug during the semester, and these weeks in May involve lots of random spring-cleaning type activities to get that dust back out and cleaned up properly.  I wrapped up a bunch of committee work, sent out a paper (yay!), got seeds in the ground and pulled weeds, took care of some email archeology, and did other random things that kept me busy in ways that are mostly non-newsworthy.   But even if it's not newsworthy, it might be sticker-worthy.  I'll think on that. 

That's the  📭 from the Miser Family, which continues to be 🔆 in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly 🔌.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Miser Family Update: Big Day version

Well, life certainly continues rich and full in the Miser Family household!  In recent times, we got to go to N-son's end-of-year squash banquet, and see him give a speech.  Woot!
N-son explains why he loves playing squash.  
By "we", I mean his adoring mom and dad, two of his adoring sisters, and his one-and-only (adorable) niece.
A-child knows the future is so bright,
she's gotta wear shades.
J-son went to his senior prom (but I don't have photos of that yet).   My husband successfully advanced in years, and so now I'm officially married to a senior citizen.  I-daughter also successfully advanced in years, to the point that she's a mathematically perfect age.  The next time she'll be this perfect, she'll be 496 years old, so we knew we had to celebrate big. 

How did we celebrate?  Well, we went to a rock-n-roll theater show that had at least one of us dancing in the aisles.  Also, I gave her a new porch stair for her birthday.  (She asked for it.  Don't be jealous, y'all!)

Also, I dressed (with the help of my granddaughter's costume bucket, advice from I-daughter, and a yellow umbrella that doubles as a light saber) for a "Jedi Mindfulness" workshop.  Costumes were encouraged, and at the urgings of my daughters, I managed to get a blurry photo with all the other people who were in costume.
T-shirts are costumes, too, say my friends.
And that's the latest news from our family, who continue to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Miser family update: academic advent version

Many people think of the time leading up to December 25th as a time of activity and advent, either for religious or secular/commercial reasons.   But here in the Miser neck-of-the-woods, it's the end of the school year that brings frenzied, anticipatory, and celebratory activity to the forefront.  I've been going to parties, to lectures*, to dinners, to meetings, and all-the-while gearing up for the big unwrapping of the final exams I'll gift my students with (or they'll gift me with?). 

*lectures:  in addition to a few math talks,
in just one day, lecture by best-selling author Paul Tough
and then economist James Galbraith (son of economist John Kenneth G.)

Indeed, life is Rich and Full in the Miser Family Household.

And the rest of the family has been likewise full of vim and vigor.  My husband gave a presentation at a nearby synagogue on US/Israel military cooperation, in honor of the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel.  He also continues with yoga, with ESL volunteering, with protests (Tuesdays with Toomey) and with feeding our children the occasional restaurant food. He's getting ready to flee town for some kind of chemical conference, which I can't quite remember the specifics of, for reasons on paragraph #1.
Apparently, I have reared a fuzzy child.
Sorry for the blurriness.

N-son and I-daughter kicked off the week for me by singing in a concert nearby.  N-son then did his usual culinary arts stuff, and for extra excitement tossed in some drum practice at church (tomorrow I'll get to hear him live again), plus a field trip with his squash team (called the "Aces").  This is their last match before he graduates high school, and he texted me to say

I won my last squash match as a squash ace
Another fuzzy child with his chorus-mates. 
He sounds good, though!

Go, N-son, go!

J-son came down to town for some important legal meetings that turned out really, really well.  I was so glad to spend time with him (but as usual, my joy was nothing compared to the utter ecstasy that our dog Prewash showered upon him).  When our time together was done, I offered him a snack for the ride home -- peanuts I'd packaged up -- and J-son laughed and laughed and said, "it's been so long since I've seen canning jars!".  Yeah, I'm your mom, kid!  I fill up jars of love for my children.

And that's the latest news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures. May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A little love for an ugly car

My car is almost old enough to vote.  I think that's kinda cool.

I bought my car back in 200X, with X = a very small number  (2?  3?  I can't remember).  It was the Greenest of Green cars, back in the day:  Green because it was a first-generation Prius.  Green because I bought it used, not new.  Green because it was actually the color green.

I paid real money (!) to add gold-and-silver swirls, partly so I could tell it apart from other cars in parking lots (I'm not exactly a motor head), partly because making my car look different helps with theft prevention, and partly because I wanted my car to be even prettier.  My car.  My pretty green car.

My car was the clean car.  It was clean in the eco sense (did I mention it's a Prius?), but also in the sense that *I* was the driver.  My passengers were told in no uncertain terms that they took their garbage with them when they left the vehicle; my husband got to leave bottles and chargers and spare change and whatnot in his car, but my car was pristine, goshdarned it.  My pretty green car.
Passenger door,
with texture added.

Over the years, Things Happened to the car.  One of my kids, while driving it, got extra friendly with a pick-up truck, and part of the car got crumpled.  I loved my car, but I didn't love it enough to shove many-thousand$ of dollar$ into one crumpled side panel.  So the car got crumpled on the outside, but at least it was still mine on the inside. 

Then I bought my bike (the SPDM), and I bought my sons some bikes, and I worked hard on reducing our family's car usage, which mostly means reducing my own usage, because I try to not be obnoxious about other people's habits.  This means I used my car less and less frequently . . . nowadays, I climb inside my car maybe 6 times a month, and the majority of times I'm in the car, there are many of us together.  I'm not doing much solo driving these days. 

Eventually, we got to the point where we agreed to sell "my husband's" car and just have this one car between us.  And so, now the inside of the car isn't mine any more.  You can tell it's not "mine" by the potato chip bags and gatorade bottles that rattle around on the floor . . . it's a family car, not a Miser Mom car. 

Last month, on a particularly icy day, my husband decided to introduce the car to somebody's fence.  The car and the fence didn't get along particularly well, and both came away from the encounter needing a bit of TLC and counseling.  My car, in particular, needed a "new" bumper.  The body shop we took it to found a salvaged bumper somewhere and put it on.  They called my husband to tell him about it, and to add that the color of the bumper didn't quite match the color of the car . . .

. . . and while my husband was recovering from his laughing fit, they added, "This is the point where we usually point out that for Z-hundred-dollars, we can paint the bumper to match . . . "

. . . and while my husband was recovering from the next round of guffawing, they added, ". . . but we're going to assume that you don't want us to paint the bumper."   My husband assured him that, married as he is to ME, why no-thank-you-we-don't-want-to-fork-over-money-for-bumper-paint. 

Given the gold and silver swirls I paid for long ago, the silver bumper actually doesn't look horrendously bad . . . on this car that's so danged old it has a cassette deck, I kid you not. 

My car, it's not a pretty green car anymore.  It's gotten a lot of use, and more and more, the use is coming not-from-me.  I kind of like having a car with a cassette deck that no longer works, but a radio that works fine.  A car that's so ugly, and so distinctively colored and dented, that we don't have to worry about auto theft. 

I kind of like having a car I don't need so much. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Miser family update, here and there edition

So, I haven't done a family update since Easter.   "Easter", as in, church dishes that give Prewash a happy opportunity to live up to her name.   Prewash thinks life is rich and full here in the Miser Family household.

Easter was awesome for a bunch of reasons, more of which follow below.  But first, I promised I'd post a few photos that N-son took on his various travels.  His Squash team visited a military academy and Yale.  Which are kind of alike, and kind of not.  He ended up taking photos of various ivory-colored objects at these various places:  hat, cube, marble ring.  Photos attached. 


N-son cooking for L-daughter.
N-son ended up visiting (with his dad) a completely different kind of school from either of those places, and he might have found his favorite post-secondary institution of all.  More on that later, if it happens to work out.  It has dorms; it has a culinary arts program; it has [most important of all, apparently] intramural basketball teams. 

N-son also visited his sister L-daughter, taking a train all by himself to see her.  He ended up doing a bit of cooking for her.   And he came back with some new-to-him shoes, which are apparently awesome for playing basketball.  Thanks, L-daughter!

With all that traveling N-son has done, it's not so surprising that the rest of my family has also been on the road a bunch.  I-daughter went to Florida for a week or so, and came back with no sunburn but lots of good memories.  My husband went to DC for a chemistry conference, and he also visited a potential post-secondary school for N-son, and he also biked the 80 miles to Philly where he got to participate in the March for Science.  Yes.  Because they didn't have the "bike for science", apparently.

A-child came over to the house to play a couple of times.  The first time, almost the first thing she asked me when she walked in the door was "Can you read Ferdinand?" (which I did).  (Ferdinand's travels including being taken to the bull fights in Madrid, by the way).   The second time, she came over for our annual family Money Dinner.  I delegated Ferdinand to the next generation that night.  Adorable.

Me, I took a bunch of trips, too. 
  •  My smallest bike trip was to our soup kitchen, where I serve breakfast. 
  •  My next smallest bike trip was to the dermatologist. The doctor says I still have skin. It still keeps the inside inside and the outside outside and it seems to be functioning just fine. She'll see me again next year.  In spite of the weather being lovely, I was the only one who biked to the dermatologist today, apparently.
  • My longest trip was to Erie, Pennsylvania (by rental car), where I gave a bunch of talks and got to appreciate even more snow.  Erie does a lot of things, but they're especially good at snow.
  • My favorite trip, however, was on Easter, when I got to go visit J-son.  
Like N-son, J-son loves basketball.  We had an awesome time on the court together.  I don't have any photographs of myself doing two-handed dunks or nailin' those lay ups . . . would you believe me if I said I did?   But it's only because it's so hard to hold a camera and a basketball at the same time. y'know.  But I have an awesome photo of J-son mid-air. 

He asked me what I thought about what he's been through.  I told him, "You've been through a lot of bad experiences; a bunch of those aren't your fault, and some of them are your fault.  But you're working hard toward a better life; you're working toward redemption.  When I think of you, I think of redemption." 

He asked, "wait, isn't that in the Bible?"  I admitted, yeah, it is.  In fact, that's kind of the whole story of Easter, the day I saw him.

So maybe J-son has been on the biggest travels of all.  Those are the travels of our family, who continue to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.