Monday, July 31, 2017

City of Looms

It's kind of a thrill when you're on a road trip and your phone GPS flashes those three magic words: faster route available. Despite no evidence of congestion, I eagerly exited I-85 when that happened just north of Charlotte this afternoon. As we cruised up the ramp, I spotted a backup on the road ahead that stretched as far as my eye could see, and so it was with glee and the knowledge that I was saving time that I navigated the local byroads. And secure in that knowledge, it didn't bother me a bit to stop at this light or that intersection.

"Kannapolis?" Heidi read the town welcome sign at one such stop. "Where did they get that name?"

"Hey, Siri!" I called, and soon we were treated to a Wikipedia article about the history of that little burg. It seems that over a hundred years ago, it was a company town built around a textile mill owned by the Cannon family. From there it gets a little fuzzy as to whether it was named after the mill (Cann-apolis) and changed, or whether it was named for the Greek kanna (reeds or looms) and apolis (city).

Personally, I favor the second on poetic principle, but either way it's a great story, and a little while later we were back on the highway with time to spare.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Search Term Success

There was a little bit of a hubbub across the way in WH Stiles Fish Camp as I waited in line to order lunch at Ponce City Market this afternoon. Lights, cameras, and reflectors surrounded a shiny-headed gent seated at the u-shaped oyster bar.

"Who is he?" the people around me asked as they craned their necks to watch the action without losing their place in the slooooooow moving line. He looked vaguely familiar to me, too, but I couldn't place him, so as other diners dodged onto the makeshift set to snap a selfie I used my phone to Google  bald food channel guy. The first hit was Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods fame, and that's exactly who it was.

Around that time? It as my turn to order, so I never did find out what strange dish brought him there today, but our Vietnamese salad with crispy fish and steelhead trout poke was 😋 delicious!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

There's no other word but 'bustling' to describe the scene at the mall near my sister's place in Atlanta today. Shoppers were nearly at holiday numbers, so many that entering and exiting the flow of foot traffic required some serious merging maneuvers. And why not? It is a holiday of sorts for the parents, if not the kids, down here.

School starts on Tuesday.

Friday, July 28, 2017

This Friday Night

"Do you guys have any dances in middle school?" Heidi asked soon-to-be 6th grader Richard the other day.

"I think maybe one or two," he answered.

"How many do our sixth graders have?" Heidi turned to me.

"Two," I replied, "but they have that mixer in the beginning of the year."

"What's a mixer?" Richard asked.

"It's a thing where they have a variety of activities," I explained. "There is some dancing, yes, but also games and contests, like donut eating."

"Donut eating!" both Richard and Annabelle repeated.

"Yeah," I said, "we tie Krispy Kremes to strings and hang them from a pole. Then the kids put their hands behind their backs and see who can eat one the fastest."

They looked at each other in stunned amazement.

"Why don't we try it while we're here?" I suggested, and it was easy enough to purchase a half-dozen classic glazed the next time we went to the grocery store.

AND, that's how we found ourselves out on the driveway this evening with four donuts hanging from a broom

Oh my gosh!

I have not laughed that hard in a long time!

Richard had the edge going in, but he quickly lost the advantage by chewing too thoroughly and chasing his donuts in circles trying to get the biggest bite.

Annabelle was the tortoise to his krispy hare-- she methodically consumed her donuts until the point where gravity took control. On donut one, she caught the last bite in her mouth, but when the second one hit the pavement? So did she, eating fast enough to stay within the five second rule, and handily defeating her brother who was still pirouetting around his second.

And their mom caught it all on camera! 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

I. De. Clare. Fun

Growing up in the South Jersey in the late 60s and 70s meant lots of muggy summer days with no air conditioning. To be honest, it was barely a hardship, especially since we didn't really know any different. Once it got so hot inside that the box fans in the windows weren't enough, we moved away from the TV and its game shows ans soaps and out to our shady side porch to read or play cards and drink iced tea with lemonade.

These days I spend most of my time in climate-controlled spaces, and there are many summer afternoons when I walk out of school or home with flesh so chilled that the blast of heat and humidity almost, almost, feels like a nice little hug. And even during the laziest days of summer, TV and card games are rarely on the agenda. 

Even so, today when the sweltering blue Atlanta sky turned thundery, Heidi and Annabelle and I took the dogs and headed out to the front porch. Torrents of rain spumed up into clouds of spray on the roofs and sidewalks as we played first War with an incomplete deck of Star Wars Hero-themed cards, and then Corn Hole with just one board pushed all the way to the end of the railing.

It was a perfect summer afternoon.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Touch the Sky:)

Hi I'm Annabelle, Aunt Tracey's niece. I'm nine years old and yeah. Today I went to SKYZONE, it's a trampoline park if you didn't know. Today I am going to tell you what I did there. The first thing I did was  get signed in and get socks. Then, we started bouncing on the normal trampolines. My brother Richard and I chased each other, he is really fun.

Next, Richard and I played dodge ball. We almost won. Then, we went to this thing were you try running up a hill, I couldn't do it though. There was also a line you have to try and walk across and jousting. Richard went against me and won every time. I went against this guy who was almost three times the size of me. I almost won against him but he pushed me down. This other girl was really strong and pushed me right off.

After that, Richard and I went to the foam pit which is really fun. I did front flips into the pit, but Richard was a lot better at the flips than me. We got bored flipping into it so we went and tried to climb a ladder across the pit. Richard went across and back twice but I didn't make it across once. The last trampoline activity we did was normal jump.We decided to do it again because we wanted to do flips, run up the wall, and run all around the trampolines.

Finally we had to go, but we got snacks and played some games. For example we did the hurricane simulator. At first I didn't really like it but then it turned out really fun. One of the games took our money and didn't give it back.We also tried a photo booth but that didn't work either.

When we got home Aunt Tracey and I played war. Then, we baked a cherry jello flavored rice krispy treat with vanilla frosting. It's really yummy.I haven't eaten yet but I'm about to. I'm having steak and the adults are having sword fish. we are also having salad. Richard is eating the same thing as me. After dinner we will all talk. Then I will get ready for bed and go to sleep.

 I really liked my day today it was really fun!
Thanks for reading my day everyone! I hope you enjoyed it and Bye! :)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Go Ahead-- Be a Square

When we were kids we were lucky enough to travel a lot. Our dad worked for TWA, which meant unlimited standby flights, and my parents believed it best for us to literally see the world. Honestly? It was fantastic! (Thanks Mom!)

Of course, such privilege involved a lot of time spent on planes and waiting in airports, and so in that time long before smart phones and tablets we became experts in entertaining ourselves with cards, comic books, and paper. One of our favorite games involved creating a matrix of dots and taking turns connecting them. Anyone who closes a box, scores a point, and such a deceptively simple game involves quite a bit of strategy.

So, today at lunch when Richard and Annabelle had exhausted the tic-tac-toe boards on their kid menu place mats and our meals still hadn't arrived, I flipped one mat over, grabbed a crayon, and began to make a grid.

Some things just never get stale.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Southern Hospitality?

We were just outside Durham, NC when we stopped for gas and a restroom break. The gentleman at the register was surprisingly dapper; with white hair, mustache, and beard and a matching white suit he seemed a little more suited for KFC than the modest little Family Fare convenience store. In truth, he couldn't have been more than five or six years older than I am, but his look was definitely from another time.

"Would you like a bag?" he asked after ringing me up.

"No thanks," I shrugged as I scooped up my three bottles of water.

"Well, aren't you the independent little lady," he noted in a nasal drawl.

"I like to think so!" I winked as I pushed out the door.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Just Pull the Plug

Oh my!

2 inches of water filled our nearly vintage Jeep this morning after a summer boomer last night. No worries! I simply pulled the plugs on the floor and let it drain. A few towels later and the vehicle was cleaner than it has been in years. Well, maybe the upholstery was a bit damp, but a hot July sun steamed most of that moisture away.

Good thing, too--

It rained again this afternoon.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Morning Stroll

Dogs need exercise, even when the temps top 90, and so we tried to beat the heat today by taking the top down on the Jeep and rolling down to the Tidal Basin before 10 AM.

It was an eventful little stroll. We walked through an actual wedding that was taking place across from the Jefferson Memorial. Heidi, Lucy, and I skirted the group of 8 just as the groom began his vows. Unfortunately, the German Shepherd who was also in attendance barked energetically at the little puppy who dared near the ceremony.

Next we walked past a group of young folks carrying colorful, homemade posters. Meet a Muslim! offered one. I'm Muslim; ask me anything! invited another. They were a jolly assembly, and if I had had any questions, I would have approached them willingly.

A little while later we found ourselves trailing another group of young people with a very different vibe. "She almost gave me a Corgi playdate for my birthday!" gushed one guy, "because I love them so much!"

And when we passed by four generations of a family, Lucy was a good enough girl to sit and let the two-year-old pet her and (smooch her on the lips!)

At the Jefferson Memorial I got a facetime call from my sister, and through the true marvels of technology we chatted in the shade of live oak at the bottom of those famous steps.

Back at the Jeep, it was too hot to consider another trip around, but to be honest, it didn't seem necessary!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Staying in the Kitchen

This year my strategy for beating the heat has changed drastically. Instead of blasting the a/c? I open the windows whenever I drive and let the hot air cool the sweat from my brow.

It works.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Time is Not a Palindrome

We are just off a string of palindromic dates, which is definitely one of the unexpected delights of living at the turn of the century. The turn of the century? Wow. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe that that time is this time.

Forgive the banality of my observation, but time is a funny construct. I have found myself writing and thinking about it much of the, time, actually. My last two blog posts were unrelated but for their examinations of time and its passing, which I did not address consciously; those trite observations just happened to be the intellectual highlights of a couple of slow steamy days in July.

Perhaps it’s the uncertainty of the times that inspires such meditation on time, or perhaps it’s my age that draws me to the ages. Certainly rubbing away my wrinkles every morning with a product literally called Regenerist is symbolic if not sub-consciously thought-provoking.

Maybe living with an older person who casually dismisses pleasures of the past with such phrases as that ship has sailed and those days are gone is what sparks my scrutiny. I suppose it could be the time I have spent researching my family tree this summer that has led to a greater contemplation, but somehow I feel that such research is more an effect than a cause.

I confess that I do get lost in the generations, though, and all the lives that led to mine. Four grandparents, eight greats, sixteen great-greats, 32 three times greats-- sixty souls and two and a half centuries, and me a dead-end on that ever-branching highway of humanity.

Oh, but it turns out that I am in good company in my genetic cul-du-sac. Other childless folks throughout history include George Washington, Harriet Tubman, Queen Elizabeth I, Nikola Tesla, and Betty White. I’m sure they were all wonderful aunts and uncles, as I like to think I am too. Well, maybe not Elizabeth. She had the habit of executing her relations.

That was a long time ago, of course, but I have recently been a witness to the cold complications of cutting off your kin. My elderly cousin is living with us now because she has been so forsaken. Their story is double-edged, as always, but none of the players can see their side of that blade. There’s a lot of blood, but very few tears.

This is the week of the year when it seems like almost every kid I know has a birthday. Two on the 12th, one on the 13th, two on the 16th, and one each on the 17th and 19th. It used to be our dog’s birthday, too, but 13 x 7 was the end of that happy equation.

There are so many mysteries when researching your ancestry, and some regret that you didn’t ask the right questions when you had the time and opportunity. Now you are at the mercy of vital record-keepers, newspaper-digitalizers, and hucksters peddling suspect intelligence for a monthly fee.

What surprises me most about my family tree is that no one seems to know my grandmother’s birthday. Her children are all gone, but none of the remaining 22 cousins know the date. We do know it was sometime in 1902. I hope it was in February, preferably between the 10th and the 19th.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

File Under "Time Flies"

Regular readers know that we love us some documentaries in this house. I happen to be especially partial to those that cover the history of my own life. As such? The CNN series that documented the 60s one summer, 70s the next, and 80s the following year was a big hit. But honestly guys?

When did the 90s become historic?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Go-to Philosophers

We had a lunch today with a friend and former colleague. Chris has been gone from our school for three years now, and as we chatted about this person and that, it became clear to me that, as usual, Calvin & Hobbes had it right.

Monday, July 17, 2017

What You Pay For

My friend Mary and I took some time out of our summer to write a little curriculum today. (Oh! Don't worry! We were well compensated for a time, as teachers always are.)

Our school happens to be a part of an international organization, one you may have heard of, and as such, the majority of our teaching is to be documented in a prescribed format. And so it was we found ourselves at 10:30 on a Monday in July anxiously scanning and rescanning our laptop screens, desperately trying to make sense of the comments on the work we had already done.

"I don't understand a word of this!" I said in disgust. "It's gibberish!" And I read a few sentences to emphasize my point.

"I know what you mean," Mary answered. "Every word is in English, but I have no clue what it is trying to say."

Still, we persisted.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


There are a couple of young squirrels who have taken to lounging on our little deck whenever nobody's out there. They relax on the railing and even go so far as to nap on the Adirondack chairs. In fact, they act like they were born there, which I'm beginning to suspect they were. Welcome home, little squirrels-- don't wreck anything!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Heart of It

We were shopping the farmers market this morning when a sign at a meat vendor drew my eye: they were selling beef heart for 4.99 a pound. It seemed just the thing to add to our pets' raw food diets, and so it was that I found myself butchering the two pound aorta of a beast who lived a happy and dignified life, they assured me at the market. It was muscular, but not tough, and had no sign of fat or other disease. It was a pure heart, and Penelope and Lucy will doubtless appreciate the sacrifice.

Friday, July 14, 2017


Heidi can not stand having Lucy spend the night in a crate when she might be snuggling with her. Well, snuggling might be the most accurate of terms, especially since my wife has been known to send a beloved pet flying across the room in the middle of the night for the smallest of transitions. Still, they adore her, but from a distance on the bed.

That means that our pets wind up sleeping on my side, because it turns out that I am a very compliant sleepmate. On any given night you can find me in a variety of yoga-like poses clinging to sleep while trying to accommodate the dog or the cat. But Lucy has introduced a new wrinkle into our nocturnal activity. Last night she licked my feet clean for at least 10 minutes.

In that twilight state between wake and rest, my complaints were feeble; I think I may have groaned and wiggled my toes in protest. What she got out of it I have no clue, but tonight?

My feet are going under cover.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Fresh Produce

We saw Spiderman: Homecoming today, and while it was definitely a big explosiony summer confection, it was made it even sweeter by an extraordinarily low body count for such a movie. One. Just one single character died in the whole 121 minutes.

Oh, and Michael Keaton as the disenchanted blue-collar joe turned villain Vulture wasn't too bad as , either.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Ask a Silly Question

I stopped by the gym today to reactivate my membership after it lapsed a while ago when my credit card expired. We exchanged polite small talk as the sales manager updated my account. "So, you're a teacher, eh?" he started. "Do you have any plans for the summer?"

"Well," I answered, "I'm going to join the gym!"

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Founding Fathers

My mom and I spent a little long-distance genealogy time this morning. The website we use has changed a bit since last she was actively using it, and so I was answering her questions as best I could. We chose an ancestor at random to use as a study case and started from there. Jones Temple is my five times grandfather on my mother's mother's side.

With a few clicks and a little analysis we traced our line back a few generations from Jones to a family living in Virginia in the early 18th century. "Well," my mother laughed, "it's not William Bradford, but it's pretty good." She was referencing my last big family tree discovery, which happened to be on my father's side.

"Who knows?" I replied, "maybe someone is descended from the Jamestown guys."

We turned our attention to more recent relatives, but our conversation stuck in my head. So after we hung up I kept digging, and? Believe it or not, it turns out that my 11 times grandfather did indeed immigrate to Jamestown, not in 1607, but just twelve years later.

I called my mom to give her the news. "He got here in 1619," I reported. "Which, I would like to point out, is one year earlier than the Pilgrims."

Monday, July 10, 2017

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled...

As summer vacation continues routine is out the window, and the days expand and contract to take on shapes of their own.

Take today for example:

Lucy and I woke at 6 and rose 30 minutes later; our young new neighbor breathlessly approached us as we made our first exit to ask what to do when your car is towed for no sticker; after assisting him as best I could, there was breakfast for all and Heidi, too, when she made her way downstairs around 7:30.

There was plant-watering and dog-visiting until it was time to meet a colleague at the dog park and then head over to try a new kebab place for lunch, dining al fresco at iron cafe tables in the shade outside the library. Arriving home with our exhausted puppy we decided to let her nap as the housecleaner did her job and take in a movie.

The Big Sick was entertaining, and finding Lucy still a little sleepy, we headed off to the pool for an hour. Now Heidi and Lulu are out on a walk while I prepare zucchini cakes, grilled chicken, and sliced tomatoes with basil for dinner.

From here? Who knows what the evening will hold? But isn't that the beauty of it all?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Like Cats and Dogs

Still no sign that Penelope is embracing the whole puppy thing; there is spitting and growling and hissing and yelping whenever the two of them get even a little close. No worries though- they have the rest of their lives to work it out.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Not so Lazy Days

Summer school starts at my school on Monday, and I am thankful not to be involved. One argument against summer vacation from school is the documented lapse that many students experience after so many months away. Not every kid has the summer full of reading and unstructured playing and  swimming and listening to the radio and doing chores and taking day trips and vacations and having conversations at dinner that I had when I was younger. Those activities were stimulating and involved critical thinking and problem solving that exercised my young brain, even if the game shows and soaps I also watched did not. Or did they? Maybe summer is kind of like the R.E.M. sleep of a kid's life, an active rest essential for proper development. Now if only they could find a way to measure that.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Kayak with a Twist

"Sure!" I said when my friend Mary asked if I would help her put her kayak on the roof of her new car to take to the beach.

"Ew!" I said when she flipped it over and showed me a season's worth of wet leaves and rodent-chewed styrofoam.

"No worries!" I said when the hose splashed me as I held the boat up at an angle so she could squirt it out.

"Hold that while I pull!" I said once we had the tie-downs around the kayak.

"Oops!" I said when we noticed the roof was bowing in beneath the styrofoam blocks.

"Let's Google it!" I said during the test-drive when Mary predicted she wouldn't be able to last the 6 hours down to the beach listening to the high-pitched vibration coming from the roof.

"Wouldn't it be funny if that fixes it?" I said after we read that if the straps are flat they will vibrate like the reed in a saxophone and sing the whole way, but if you give them a twist it will stop.

"There you go!" I said when it worked.

"Right!" I said when Mary laughed that at least I had something to write for the blog, and I should call it Kayak with a Twist.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Jiggity Jig

It was a zippy 7 hour trip along Lake Erie, up the Southern Tier, through the Alleghenies down to the coastal plain, and through this undrained swamp we call...


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fair Play

We spent part of today visiting with some of Heidi's extended family. It was breakfast with one of her aunts, a cousin and her cousin's daughter, and then lunch with a cousin from the other side and her 2-year-old son, Henry. They were very nice people, and I did a pretty good job holding up my end of the small talk.

And? Since one of my cousins is actually living with us, it's not like I had any room to complain.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A Wee Bit Homesick

Being on vacation is fun, but there are always some comforts of home that can't be transported along. I miss my cat and in summer, my garden, too. "Oh you don't have to do that," Heidi's mom said when I started pulling weeds from her flower beds this morning.

"I want to," I answered,"and I'd be happy to water later, if you like."

Too bad they don't have a cat.

Monday, July 3, 2017

I Tumble For You

Niagara Falls is one of my favorite stops any time we are in Western New York, and since Heidi's family is here in Buffalo, I have been to the falls many times. And yet, with a nod to Heraclitus, it really never is the same place twice. Depending on the season, who else is along on the trip, and where we end up parking, the experience is not only different, but new every time.

Ten years ago, you would find us in line with four little boys clad in yellow plastic ponchos and disposable sandals, waiting to take the elevator 185 feet down to the Cave of the Winds and the craggy path that leads to the decks on the edge of the falls.

Four summers ago we parked in town and made our way through an early Canada Day festival to the well manicured park just north of Bridal Veil Falls. From there our group of 2 seniors, 2 adults, a 12-year-old boy, and our dog walked over the foot bridge and on to the Horseshoe Falls overlook.

A couple of Christmases ago, Heidi, her mom and brother, took advantage of a warm December day and wandered the nearly empty park. All the concession were closed for the season, giving the place an air of abandonment, and letting us have the falls almost to ourselves.

That summer, we visited the Canadian side with my mom, sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and niece, marveling at how, well, Canadian,everything seemed even though we were within view of the U.S. the entirety of our excursion.

And today the sun was shining, a cool breeze was blowing, and from we parked we walked over another bridge and into a section of the park I've never seen before. A trail ran right along the rapids and made detours over raging tributaries to get out to the Three Sisters Islands. Then we followed it down the river toward the rainbows and mist rising dramatically ahead until at last we were at the top of the Horseshoe. From there it was around to the visitors center, which, to my disappointment, was under construction, meaning the statue of Tesla was in storage.

No doubt he'll be back soon. And so will I.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

WNY State o' Mind

Lunch on the patio
River walk
Corn hole

Let the vacation continue!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Handful of Weeds

On our walk yesterday, we passed a lady picking wildflowers as she went, creating a colorful little bouquet as she wound along the path. It was such a lovely idea, that I picked the next flower I came to, a sunrise-hued blossom appropriately named Butter and Eggs. We were distracted after that by other joys-- dogs and kids and creeks-- and when we met the lady on her way back, I presented her with my flower to add to hers. "They're beautiful!" I told her.

"Thank you," she said. "Other people would call them a handful of weeds."

I remembered her words today when we took another walk with Heidi's folks. The pace was slower than I might have made on my own, but I picked a couple Butter and Eggs and started from there. The enterprise occupied my mind and slowed my sometimes anxious feet.

Once around the little pond, and Heidi's mom declared my bouquet "florist-worthy"!