Learning By Living

In an effort to convince myself that I am really am on the mend, I spent the day out with the family. A beautiful day of driving to and fro observing the colors and wildlife, although are cows and horses wildlife? For this purpose, as we drove past, yes they can.

I think I have mentioned how having a home, not an apartment, is a constant learning experience for us. I am hoping that by the second go-around with the seasons we will be ready, for example having gone through one winter here I know the following:

  • Get the windows sealed in October
  • Purchase at least 150 pounds of salt before the first snow fall, we have a HUGE driveway
  • Purchase a snow blower, but allow the snow to compact a bit before blowing the driveway
  • Purchase a third shovel, because three people shoveling is much faster
  • Put at least 70 pounds of sand in the trunk of the car for the ice rink that the driveway can become

We moved in at the very tail end of summer last year, thus have no frame of reference. All I know from last year is mow the lawn in stages to avoid collapsing from exhaustion. However, since the warm-up began we have learned the following:

  • We should purchase some form of riding lawn mower, not because we are lazy, but because almost 2 acres is a lot and instead of having to mow for a month and a half or so, going to have to mow for at least four months
  • A hose is a necessity
  • A second rake is a necessity
  • Lots of charcoal for grilling, lots
  • Opening one window does nothing to improve the internal temperature, however opening a second window on the opposite side creates optimal air flow, fans are not a necessity
  • Outdoors is fun when you don’t have to share your backdoors with neighbors less than twenty feet away, thus lawn furniture is a must

I know we are missing out on several other things, I watch the neighbors do “stuff” and I know we are not doing what they are doing, so I wonder what do they know that we don’t know…I guess we will find out over the next few months.

So while we learn we continue to enjoy our time here, the kids attempted to fly kites, mostly running around dragging kites, and we cooked out. Both of these things are activities we have not had an opportunity to do or see and both, especially the kids playing outside, make us smile…even if the kites crashed into trees, were drug along the ground, or in one bizarre case ended up wrapped around one child’s neck…don’t ask us how and we were watching.

500 And 1 Words At A Time: Storyteller Takes A Day Off

My apologies if you came here looking for your noon (ish) fix of Puddles and Whiskers, Nail Clippers, or the soon (ish) to be restarted Worldship Horizon. Typically I have a week’s worth of posts ready. I schedule all of them on Sunday or Monday for the week, weekends excluded, and keep on working. This week was different.

I do not know how many days you can stay indoors without much contact with the outside world before you start going a little crazy, bonkers, cabin fever, or whatever term you like. My record is now five days. Due to Barb’s schedule, I have essentially been home with the kids for five days and nights. Yes, I have seen her off and on and I have been out in public, but nothing of long enough duration to break the spell of being stuck at home. Sorry, picking up the kids with a borrowed car or checking the mail again with a borrowed car, is not the same as having a day (read several hours) away from the house interacting with the world.

I will spare you the gory details of my descent into paranoia and anger as cabin fever set in. Instead, I will focus on the cure for cabin fever. Yesterday, after ensuring there was a fun post, I left the house for a long time. Staying in writing and reading is good. At least I think it is good for me, allows me to focus on the task at hand which is producing good content with an eye on the prize of a book or two. The downside is that I am not interacting with anyone or anything other than the kids and the characters in my head. From a writer’s standpoint, interaction and observing interactions is where I get character exchanges.

In public I see all sorts of behavior that I can then turn into bits for a story or a quirk of a character. The exchange between a table of people and a waiter becomes a scene of Puddles and Whiskers at NiHo’s enjoying a bowl of noodles. Watching two gamer uber-enthusiast nerd out until everyone around them is turned off becomes Devin and Chaz. Nothing is easier than writing about life and I needed to see some of that life, because in my head, where the characters live, things were starting to get stale.

What did I do? I went out to as many places as I could and I watched what happened around me. I interacted with as many people as I wanted, not always with the best results, but that’s life. Most of all I got the cabin fever out. I recharged my batteries. I found some new material…lots actually. And once the weekend is over, hey I still have some relaxing to do, writing resumes.

Make sure that you get out and about; interact with the world, observe the world, enjoy the time away from the computer, and write about it. Easy and fun. 🙂

A Day of Rest

On the 7th day, despite needing to unpack, they rested. Okay, it was another rebellion, this time lead by my body who said, “Enough!”

Break 1The realization that we have moved has not sunk in completely yet. Part of me is still stuck in move mode, which means “go-go and don’t stop” until the work is done. Move mode also comes with dick mode me, where I expect…no demand…everyone work as hard as I am working. This is not possible. I should realize this, but in move mode I want one thing, the move done, and until the move is done I remain in dick mode. A break was necessary for me to switch off and move into Unpack Mode.

Unpack mode is a slower more methodical process. However, in two days I have blitzed through more boxes and stuff than I can count: kitchen done, pantry done, laundry room done, living room done, books done, and games unpacked. A lot unpacked and yet I saw more and more.

Break 2So, my body said nope.

Which meant taking a breath, letting everyone who I had been working hard know today was a day off, and figuring out what to do. We stepped out for a bit.

But before we left, I made rice and prepped for kabobs. Cut up some vegetables and meat, nice thing about kabobs minimal prep compared to some dishes. This grill thing is a lot of fun, saves on dishes, and is getting us to expand the diet again. Plus, I need to practice with the wok before my debut. Speaking of practice, tomorrow I plan on making some Kung Pao chicken for lunch. I don’t know if the kids will eat it, after all there is a red sauce (red means spicy around here), but they may enjoy watching me use a wok or be able to dial 911.

We didn’t go anywhere special; picking up odds and ends to solve various issues around the place along with some sides for tonight. An interesting issue has been the floors. Prior to here, we had carpeting, here we have wood floors. While the kids love sliding around the rooms, I prefer to have something down on the floor for heat in the winter and to give the kids less room to shoot from one end of the house to the other or at least a “softer” place to land when the inevitably fall. Nowhere special was a break and taking a break was the point.

Another break, we broke out Rivet Wars and played a few games. I will write about Rivet Wars in its own post later when we play a few more games, but first impressions fun and quick.

Break 3Back to the day off. 🙂

Scratching That Shitty Chinese Itch

Everyone has their shitty stuff. Things in this case books, movies, and food that they enjoy even though the quality is not…well not that good doesn’t apply because despite the word shitty the stuff is enjoyable, good, edible, fun and so on…how about less than optimal? This leaves room for improvement and does not imply that shitty stuff is bad or the bottom of the barrel.

Today was all about shitty stuff. What kind of shitty stuff? Chinese food for one. Big Rapids does not have shitty Chinese. Big Rapids has outright bad Chinese food and not bad as good, but bad as in I do not recommend that anyone eat the Chinese food in town. Take the hour to drive elsewhere. For the record, shitty Chinese is Chinese food served in malls, really shady Chinese restaurants in strip malls, and most Chinese takeout that I have had. The food is always shiny with thick gloopy sauces and while the food shares names with other Chinese or Chinese-American dishes has a taste that is similar amongst all shitty Chinese places and unique to them.

Shitty ChineseOrange Chicken, honestly that is what the menu said; menu in the sense of five pictures of shiny food with prices slapped over them. I have only seen orange chicken like this at shitty Chinese places. It does not look like that when I make it at home. It does not look like that when I pay around $10 a plate. For less than $6, it does. And you know what, it was AWESOME!

Shiny, thick, orangish flavor, thick breading, and chicken. I love this stuff. I won’t make it home, but every once in a while I crave it. In a similar way that I don’t eat fast food regularly (this is NOT a regular time of our lives), but every once in a while I have to some. A craving for shitty Chinese is worse, because there is none in town…you know, the itch you cannot scratch and all of that, but only better in the original Klingon.

itch pagh scratch SoH

-Thank you Klingon translator, but come on mice, Roman, itch and scratch? Get with it Klingons

The sauce was so thick and sticky that instead of using chopsticks to pick up clumps of rice, I dipped and dunked orange chicken balls into the rice. Maximum effort, I tell you, and so mouth pleasing good. Did it taste like orange chicken? Only in the same way as a frozen TV Dinner taste like home cooked meal; there is food and it tastes like “food,” but not like real food. Only in this case, AWESOME!

And the rice, fried it was not, but good it was. Totally not clumpy, which would have been handy, but the sauce took care of that. That egg roll, could have come directly from the freezer to fryer, I don’t care it was exactly what this shitty Chinese itch needed to be scratched. Healthy dollops of hot mustard and damn that was good. 🙂

I Could Have Melted Out There

101 HeatThat is a picture from our car today. Triple digits. So hot out that a friend had to apologize to our boy because she burned her fingers on her car after telling our boy that a car could not get that hot. I believe the conversation was around cooking eggs on a car, but the apology was given none-the-less. 🙂

Apologies given what do you do when it is the second blistering hot day out and you have no air conditioning? If you are us you look for places that have air conditioning. If you are us and you live here, you know that you will be spending at least an hour in the car with the air conditioning. This is one of those times where being an hour away from everything is a good thing. Two hours in an air conditioned car, sign me up…yesterday and today only.

Because Barb has to work on her birthday we celebrated her birthday yesterday and today. She wanted sushi and I found sushi in Mount Pleasant: Midori Sushi and Martini Bar. If you like sushi, avoid Midori. If you have a date that you want to impress because your date is:

  • impressed by wasteful spending
  • average sushi
  • overpriced rolls
  • bland flavors
  • rolls that look large, but are actually overstuffed with rice
  • “fancy” looking dinnerware (I have most of what they use to serve, I bought it at Meijers, just in case you want some)

Then I highly recommend Midori. The silver lining, Barb got some sushi. The gold lining, we will be taking her for better sushi later. I would make sushi, but everything I need to use is packed up. 😦

Walking to Midori, hell (ha) walking anywhere, was an exercise in darting from shade to shade, standing in other people’s shadows, and praying for a stiff breeze or a torrential downpour to strike us as we walked. The craziest sight, an outdoor yoga class. Yes, outdoor yoga class. I love yoga, but as much as I love yoga and as excited as the instructor sounded over the PA system, even I would not be caught dead in this heat yogaing.

Tired of the heat we headed to Target, because surely they have air conditioning. They did, but it seemed to be struggling mightily to keep the building cool. Wandering around slowly I kept finding things we will need for the new place, such as a microwave. If I am to have a hated microwave, it will be a good one. Good as defined by powerful enough to actually “cook” stuff like the package says instead of having to multiply the time by 1.5 and hoping it all works out. Never did.

While looking at microwaves I stumbled across clearance copies of Munchkin Legends and Wizard of Oz. With most of the games packed, Munchkin has been our go-to game. Cart filled with Munchkin and another box fan, I could create a windstorm in here if I set them up right, we headed out. The cashier was excited to see us, “her people” as she kept calling us. A recent transplant from Traverse City, her and her husband play a lot of Munchkin and was excited to meet other people who played. I imagine the gamer quotient in Target lines is small. We chatted for a bit before heading out into the heat. Thankfully the car had not melted. That car ride home was bliss.

Now I sweat with fans blowing on me.


Seeing the Sights And…

What a day.

First and foremost, who ordered the 90 degree and muggy as all get out weather? If it was you, please post why and an apology to everyone who did not enjoy their day in a bowl of soup as the reality lady said. Why did the reality lady say that, because we were at the house looking over the paint on windows and around the garage. Why were we looking at that, because it is a bone of contention with the loan. A small bone after seeing the problem, a half-day at most of applying paint and done.

That being said, there are other issues that continue to prevent us from obtaining the house of current dreams (my dream house is closer to sushi and noodle restaurants where I know the owners and they treat me as a welcome customer). I have no desire to go into the issues other than to say we spent the bulk of our day on the road.

If the loan drags out much longer we are moving into an apartment. We needed to find one and that was where we spent our day. Not afraid of a lot of road travel, unless children begin to puke (they did not) we headed off in two directions, one at time. Direction one, Reed City which is close to us and would allow the children to remain in their current school. Reed City has a couple of places, one of which caught our attention.

Direction two, Mount Pleasant. Mount Pleasant is much closer to Barb’s job. If I get into graduate school, Mount Pleasant is where the school is located. Other than that, Mount Pleasant doesn’t have much appeal to us. Oh, we love to visit, but really don’t want to live there–at least the kids and I don’t want to live there (Barb needs to be near her Target and Tim Horton’s and has been five years away). What Mount Pleasant has is a lot more places to look at and college kids, which is something we are hoping to get away from.

I don’t know what to day other than because we started looking now, we have a better idea where to go if the shit hits the fan AND we stayed out of the heat and muggy conditions; car with air conditioning for the win.

Our immediate future consists of either someone making a decision for us or in a few more days we make the decision that we would rather not make. At that decision point we do what we need to do, which hopefully is move into the house of our immediate dreams or into an apartment somewhere for a year and try again later.

Cross your fingers for the better outcome. I know we are.

Priorities and Perspective

There are times when you drop what you are doing and do something. Today was one of those days. Big Man, a long time friend who was in state because of a death in the family, let me know he was returning home much earlier than expected. Thankfully, timing worked out in our favor. We were able to drive down to meet with him and his wife for a much longer and more satisfying visit than our meeting a few weeks ago.

Today was one of those days that puts things in perspective and allows a person to look at their priorities. I wasn’t sure how out of whack mine were getting. For me, there has been this overwhelming sense that a large portion of life is out of my control and when that happens I tend to overcompensate the other way, to create some sense of control. So far as I can tell that overcompensation has not occurred.

I am thankful for that. Everything we have been doing has been thought out. Sometimes over thought out. While there have been some hurt feelings, nothing has been malicious or because I/we have acted without thought in an attempt to gain some semblance of control. In the past, I would have lashed out at anyone and anything around me in an attempt to feel in control. Maybe age. Maybe experience. Probably a bit of both. We have weathered uncertainty before, maybe not on the scale of this home issue, but in the past when faced with uncertainty we acted. Often just to feel like we were doing something. Not so much now.

So while today initially seemed to be built solely on reacting to various stimuli from people, today was well thought out. In the case of Big Man, he has been my best friend for a long time and he means a lot to me. Thus, it was important to move heaven and earth to make every effort I could to see him. However, it was also important to me that I keep a previous plan with Paul without disrupting those plans.

With some thought, a little luck (Barb’s day off), I/we were able to do both. A pleasant lunch with Paul with the entire family who have been dying to see him and then onto the road. Several hours, one small flurry-the disappointing McDonalds things* (children needed to use the bathroom)-and a whole lot of construction later we had pleasant dinner and said our “see you laters” (with plans to visit them when they get back to Utah).

In the past, we would have done all of this and a whole bunch of other stuff, usually spending money we didn’t have in an effort to feel in control and soothe our battered sense of being. Taking a breath, analyzing the situation, and looking down the road is something new for us during times like this. Visiting with friends new and old helped put priorities and perspective on our situation. Not bad for a day.

* If you have to choose between McDonalds and Burger King for ice-milk deserts, go with Burger King. Why? Cheaper and larger. For the $8 I spent at McDonalds I would have been able to feed four more people and have some pocket change left over at Burger King. Note, I am not espousing their food, just their ice-milk treats…sorry ice-cream (ha).