Monday, May 29, 2006

One Little, Two Little Three Little ...

Less Than A Month - And Counting...

Memorial Day weekend has traditionally been when we get the pool ready for summer. Not this year - that occurred weeks ago. We did swap off a leaking hose for a non-leaking one and topped off the pool. Said leaky hose currently resides in the trash barrel to prevent inadvertent use in the future. BTW, why ever would one save a leaky hose? That hose was replaced last year and never thrown out. Go figure.

There is PLENTY to do with the arrival of seven house guests (DD, her DH, and their 5 children 6 years old and younger with a set of two-year old twins bringing up the rear) in less than a month. Following them by a few days will be all of DW's siblings and a good number of their offspring for a family reunion. Plenty to do.

We started out Sunday (yesterday) with family finances followed by mowing the lawn with a sharp blade this time and the mowing deck set half an inch closer than last week. The outcome was much better than last week's really ragged cut. At Jean's request I got out the weed whacker and trimmed around the buildings, pool, flower beds, etc.

The next task was to disassemble our old picnic table that was left to us by the previous owner when we bought the house 19 1/2 years ago. I had "rebuilt" it a short time after we moved in (read: 1 - 3 years) and now it is simply too rickety to depend on for a picnic lunch. However, all those lag bolts that I put in years ago need to be removed before my neighbor across the street will take it for a July 4th bon fire burn pile. While we were at it, the small children's picnic table that Jean picked up beside the road in Hinsdale, IL, in late 1970s and which I had rebuilt a couple times also needed the same treatment and fate. Eventually both tables (One little, two little...) were reduced to a pile of boards ready for a bon fire.

Two (Old) Picnic Tables

The piece de resistance was the assembly of a new picnic table that Jean bought Friday afternoon. She checked two stores (WalMart and Lowes) finding that WalMart's had a lot of knots. Just getting it out of the back of the van I pulled a muscle in my left low back and have been taking Mobic all weekend to be able to keep moving. It took longer than I had figured it would take and I was starting to feel like a mosquito feeding station near the end. We found that while WalMart's had a lot of knots, the one that she got from Lowe's had a LOT of large splinters that needed to be removed leaving sharp edges and divots as well as a lot of mold/mildew. Jean scrubed it with water, soap and bleach then rinsed it down with clear water as night fell.

This morning we started out right after breakfast with a bicycle ride downtown for the annual Memorial Day Parade. We left after the parade and before the speeches began this year. We got home about 11 AM and as we put our bikes back in the garage, Jean remembered that she wanted to scrub the mildew off the door we were taking the bikes though. She set up with a bucket of soap, bleach and water with a scrub brush and was making very good time while I assembled items to swap off the pool hose that was leaking and found the chlorine table floater in the pool. When she finished that door, she started work on the entrance to our front door which had a similar affliction.

I changed my clothes and got a step ladder out to complete the job followed by a hose to rinse the siding down with. While I was at it I sprayed down the entire front of the house and garage as well as the side of the garage where the door she had worked on was located, removing large amounts of dust and dirt.

I sorted out the hardware from the two picnic tables saving only the reusable nails, screws and lag bolts with the majority being too rusted to be re-used. The rejected hardware joined its friend, the pool hose, in the trash can.

The next step was to tackle the numerous areas on the new picnic table that had splinters, gouges, rough spots or just plain black ink! Out came my trusty electic Craftsman "Mouse" sander which I used to wear out three pieces of 120 grit sandpaper before I was satisfied with the result. I vacuumed the dust up while Jean went to get sealer/stain. She came back with Thompson's Water Seal which I had heard (from a physician friend) did not work well. She checked an online forum and confirmed that there have been significant problems with that product. With 10 minutes left before the Sherwin-Williams store closed (early for the holiday) we headed off and got there just at closing time. We got some stain that we have applied and the picnic table is all ready for use as the stain dries within 3 hours and was dry in some areas by the time we finished applying the stain.

New Picnic Table

While we were applying the stain, Deb made delicous lentils for supper which we ate as soon as we got cleaned up.

A technological side note:

(Multiple Choice Question)

Which Microsoft product(s) qualifies for the installation of Microsoft PowerPoint 2003:

1. Microsoft Works Suite 2003

2. Microsoft Office Suite Basic 2003

3. Microsoft Power Point 97

A. 2 & 3

B. 2

C. 3

D. 1 & 3

E. All of the above


I was VERY surprised that Deb's Microsoft Office Basic 2003 did NOT qualify for the installation. Luckily, I have a standalone full installation PowerPoint 97 which I have given her to use as a qualifying software so that she can have the current version of PowerPoint on her computer in her room at college. I had it on my computer (uninstalled now) but never used it as I have PowerPoint 2003 on my laptop, which is what I use for that purpose anyway. Strange, really strange. Who can understand Microsoft's logic.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

This Weekend

Jean left for summer camp (Spring Escape for the Adventurers) before I arrived home from work Friday night so I walked alone, ate a solitary supper and went up to the church to practice with the praise team for worship. We practiced for a good 2 1/2 hours and things were still 'rough' to put is charitably. And we only had two of the projected 5 singers: our pastor's wife (with whom I enjoy singing very much) and myself. We were accompanied by a piano, keyboard, saxaphone and 12-string guitar (played by our pastor). Many modifications in the music were recommended, which seemed a bit dicey to me, given that over half the singers were absent.

Once home, showered and ready to cap off my Sabbath School lesson preparation, I found it was already nearly bedtime, save for 15 minutes. It took me a bit over an hour to complete. Not a propitious start for the Sabbath, it seemed.

In the morning I was awakened at 4 AM by feline yeowling - I'm not sure that I ever got back to sleep fully despite a diligent effort. I was at the church early, preceded only by the keyboard player. I set up microphones and got the A/V booth open, up and running by the time others showed up, in fact, I made a trip home for something I had forgotten.

Rehearsal went well, actually, though it was truncated to allow the academy handbell group rehearse some of their music briefly as they were playing 5 numbers for the church service as well. Our song run was 4 songs during the service and one closing song. Before our rehearsal I pointed out to the man who organized the slides that changes had been made the night before - late - that I figured he did not know about (he didn't) so that he could update the slides. As he was doing that, in came a couple with a non-functioning laptop containing the powerpoint slides for their mission talk for Sabbath School for troubleshooting and transfer of their file to our computer.

It turned out, the tech helping them and working on the worship slides, wasn't "on" this week for working the A/V booth! The one who was supposed to do it came late, didn't rehearse, and indicated that he'd likely make mistakes but it didn't really matter - he thought he'd go set up tables for potluck. The kind man who was helping the church out missed two other appointments Sabbath morning due to the combination of factors mentioned above.

After practice, with additional changes made, the pastor referred the pianist up to make sure all the changes were reflected in the slides. Later the tech got the keyboard performer to double check things and they found some more things that needed to be updated. Meanwhile, I changed the batteries in the handheld microphones to prepare for the service and ran the soundboard for Sabbath School.

During church I also ran it until just before I was supposed to be down front when I swapped off with one of the bell ringers - the pastor's son. As we all stood up front and the pastor's wife started the call to worship it became clear that her microphone was not working. Her son zipped down, took it, handed her another singer's microphone, fixed the battery problem (I must have inserted it incorrectly) and handed it back to his mom. During that time period we were singing a part where myself and the singer without a microphone were supposed to lead all the congregational MEN in singing the first verse of the first song. For my mess up with the battery, I got (poetic justice, if ever there was such a thing) to lead it by myself.

A couple songs later From there on things went quite well. The pianist quit playing after the 2nd of 3 verses. We all waited but that was it. She just forgot to play the last verse. Until the last song of the run. We had been told to repeat the chorus after we were done singing the song through. ALL the singers forgot! The pastor's wife (standing beside me) figured it out first and started singing again, after the first 1 - 2 words, I figured out what had happened and started which prompted the other two singers to join in. Otherwise, the service went uneventfully.

After the service one of the other singers (church secretary and mother of the young lady singing lead with me and who was getting married today) leaned over and expressed regret that Jean and I had not been given an invitation to the wedding but she wanted me to know that they really wanted to let us know that we were welcome to come to the service. So today Jean and I (after mowing our lawn and the front lawn for our next door neighbors who do not have an abled body individual to mow their lawns currently) got ready and went up to a really wonderful wedding capping off an eventful weekend.

By no means have I exhausted the activities of the weekend. Yesterday afternoon from 2 PM - 5 PM I attended a "Town Meeting" put on by the officers of our conference in a church one town over from ours. It was very good, very informative and with only about 2 dozen souls in attendance, there was ample opportunity for interacting with the officers to let my "voice" be heard on several issues, including pastoral sabbaticals.

The whole day was capped off wonderfully when, after repeated efforts to call Jean by cell phone (no coverage in the mountains of Maine), she called me to let me know she was about an hour from home heading south! When she got home we sat down, put our feet up and talked about our respective day's activities until midnight! The sun awoke me at 6 AM - so another short night. Early to bed tonight, I suspect.

Then this afternoon after the wedding I have gone online and increased my withholding for my 401k and gotten a quote for auto insurance from AARP that may save up about $800 per year! Not bad! I have submitted a request for a homeowner's insurance quote as well. We'll see - we may do it.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Graduation Is Over!

Our youngest daughter's (first) college graduation is over and we are home. Way too much happened to detail all of it so highlights will have to suffice for now.

Grammie, Deb, Me, Jean

1. Jean picked me up at work Friday at 2 PM, I left my car in the parking garage at work and we drove down in Jean's mini-van.

2. We stayed in a bed and breakfast (more later) that was about a mile or so from the college - Deb was allowed to join us for Sabbath morning breakfast (without an additional charge).

3. The speakers on Sabbath were excellent. Friday night was alright but in comparision not quite as good. The Commencement speaker was also very good with bulleted points and she has a moving personal story (not an SDA - naturalized Mexican of lower class, rose to be the treasurer of the US - the Seventh-day Adventist church has been there for her at a very difficult time in her life). The Commencement speaker was given an honorary doctorate today - she was very moved by this.

4. Lois Peters (black entrepreneur with a LOT of spirit and charisma) was the Sabbath morning speaker. She is on the college board and received an honorary doctorate from the college today.

5. The nursing student/graduate pinning ceremony was VERY good - clearly the high point of the weekend for us. Jean pinned Deb using her own pin from the same college/school of nursing! You have to be a nurse to pin a student/graduate. She also received "Lamp of Learning" pin presented by Mrs. Diller, which was to honor her for serving as a tutor (that came with a Dell Axim!). She also was honored as one of two who received an "Academic Achievement Award" - she was #2 in her class. The speaker for the pinning service was a college classmate of mine who was conferring with others on the platform during the service trying to determine if she was indeed the daughter of her former classmate!

Deb After Pinning - Recessional Notice that she has two pins - Lamp of Learning (her right) and School of Nursing pin (her left).

6. One of Deb's friend's had a cafe card with lots of monetary value (shared with him by his roommate) and fed our family two meals in the cafeteria saving use easily about $70.

7. After supper Sabbath evening and changing clothes we headed to the girls' dorm to load Deb's things in the van to bring north. When I checked in at the front desk they said I had to be out of the dorm in about 20 minutes! Did we ever move! We got over half of her things downstairs and loaded in the van in that 20 - 25 minutes during a relative lull in the disaster-producing rain that fell (the governor of Massachussetts declared a state of emergency today, as did the governors of NH and Maine - our home area in Maine was spared the brunt of the storm but did get a month's worth of rain Friday and Sabbath nonetheless).

8. Back at the bed and breakfast a party was going on - 50 guests honoring a graduating senior in the banquet/breakfast room. There is very limited parking at this place so when we arrived back we found no place to park. The proprietress called her adult son to come move his car so we could park. She said those at the party had been told they could meet until 10 PM. We expressed hope that would be adhered to, and she demurred thinking that they would likely not be timely in departing. Worse: she was directing them to the room next to use for use of a bathroom!!! I told Jean, we might as well try the TV (uncharacteristically). Rather true to form there was nothing fit to watch on. I tried to call Deb to see if she had a DVD we could borrow while Jean tried our hostess. The hostess quickly produced a DVD she had not yet seen: The Secret Garden. We finished it about 11:30 PM as the last guests were making their way out of the building!

9. After Commencement we went to Panera Bread for dinner: Jean, Deb, Beth, myself, Grammie, Uncle Lewis, Aunt Mary & Uncle David with their daughter Emily.

Mother's Day - Graduation Dinner

10. We finished packing Deb's room completely in ~2 hours this afternoon including the things she is keeping down there with her for her NCLEX review course (staying locally).

11. The drive home was through very heavy rain for New England for over half the trip - we shared driving with me taking the last leg after about a 1/2 hour nap.

Eventually, I'll drop some photos into this, but I'm going to post this before I accidentally lose it.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Eating Out - For Free!

The Great Impasta is where Jean and I were hosted for a "thank you" supper by PTA(who's web site is currently down, it appears) which we have supported with donations to the academy's physical plant endowment fund in 2005.

There was no appeal for donations - the after dinner presentation by the principal, however was a breathtaking, bold long-range plan for developing the campus. Developing, as in, removing old, hard to maintain deteriorated buildings and building new buildings with improved landscaping, land use, walking trails, additional facilities, and much, much better traffic flow and parking! I LOVE IT!! It takes the plans that Mick Hutchinson and I envisioned nearly 20 years ago when we started the development and expansion of the campus.

Ah, you asked about the meal? But of course!

Seasoned bread
Beverages (Sierra Mist for me, Lemonade for Jean)
Green Salad
Vegetable Lasagna
Dessert (Spomoni with chocolate syrup for me, Jean split a Cannoli, a dessert with sweetened Ricotta cheese and a sauce containing chocolate chips, with a friend, Mary P.).

It was a pleasant 2 1/2 hours after putting in 3 boxes of fertilizer tree spikes this afternoon, doing spring maintenance on the lawnmower, visiting Sears, Staples (20th Anniversary Sale that has prices rivaling Black Friday prices!), WalMart plus stopping by Allison's and Beth's places. The morning was spent catching up on family finances. A very satisfying day, all in all, though I must have eaten a gazillion calories tonight! The calories don't count, perhaps, if eaten in the cause of a very worthy non-profit Christian school??? One could hope, I guess.

We had a very good conversation with our friend, Mary P., whose son, a cellist, has been accepted into medical school at my alma mater! We also discussed a short term missionary trip that we are strongly considering for next winter to a very rural area in Mexico (following our vespers last night about this past winter's Mexico trip).