Aug 23

You can eat peaches with everything — and we probably will

Another succesful weekend in the books, but first, let’s get to the site’s most popular weekly feature, checking in with the kitties.

Phoebe has rediscovered a high quality hidey hole.

She clearly doesn’t want me to tell anyone where it is.

Poseidon also wants me to stop typing, but, I’m sure, for different reasons.

He wants the attention, and typing gets in the way of that, you see.

As we tell him frequently, he’d get more pets if he spent more time being charming and less time causing trouble.

They are both, however, spending as much time as possible enjoying the sunshine.

It’s kinda weird when they’re both doing the same thing, but, as you can see, the kitties had a great week.

We had a nice little bike ride on Saturday morning. It was headwinds for the first 10 miles. And it rained on us for a while, as well. And that’s when the humidity rolled in.

When we turned out of the headwind to head for home, there was no tailwind, somehow. We were on a parallel road, but somehow that breeze had disappeared.

I set four new Strava segment PRs, though, so it was a nice ride overall.

I need to ride more.

Afterward, I had to do a little yard work. For reasons I forget now, after deadheading a few flowering plants I took a quick photo of some of our very own pollinators.

Annnnnnnd then there were … the peaches. I spent a fair amount of time, I don’t know how long, working under our peach tree on Saturday. This was a start. Seven baskets of peaches.

I added five more baskets worth to the total.

Here’s the thing, I didn’t pick the first peach from the tree. These are the ones that had fallen to the ground. This does not include the discards, or the two small batches of we’ve frozen already, or the few dozen we’ve eaten.

We have a lot of peaches.

The god-nieces-and-nephews-in-law (just go with it) came over for a cookout Saturday night. And we sent them home with plenty of peaches. They even helped me get a few of the hard-to-reach fruits from the ground, and they were, of course, fascinated by picking their own peach right from the tree. That was really cute, and I hope they’ll come do that again a few times so it burns in as a memory.

One of them took home a peach pit, and I sent some info on growing a peach tree. Maybe that will launch a new interest for her.

Sunday was a quiet, lazy day. We spent the afternoon outside with the in-laws under a sky that looked like this.

And before dinner I worked on my new hobby, peach smoothies.

I am so passionate about this hobby that we broke the blender, and had to get a new one today. Peach smoothie making will continue apace.

My in-laws headed home this morning, and they took some peaches themselves. And then I picked up another basket-and-a-half of peaches.

We are rich in stone fruit.

Aug 23

So maybe I dozed off as it rained

Not every day, he said to himself in the sort of conciliatory fashion that usually comes with hair being tossled, or a sweet jab on the shoulder or the word “Slugger,” is meant to be the most productive day of the week. And in a week of slow productivity, that day was today.

I returned to Lowe’s to pick up the garbage can lid I forgot yesterday. It’s a fair drive over there, so I had time to work up some material. And I had a tight four minutes of poor comedy ready for the person at the customer service desk. But here’s the thing about the person at the customer service desk: they don’t care.

That’s not fair. This woman seemed perfectly fine and approachable. She’s just been trained, either by corporate decision or reasonable experience, to not be bothered by anyone that walks through that door and the story they share.

She did explain the corporate red vest policy. Apparently, they aren’t allowed to take them home. So they’re never clean. That’s a long way to go to avoid Halloween photos on the ‘gram. I said, because it was obvious she caught herself saying something that was too much. She agreed. And she let me get that garbage can lid. And she also rung up a few extra purchases. I got some specialty bulbs for some recessed lighting. I picked up some new air filters, because we have a lot of air to filter, and I also got some packing tape, because I need some crispy, sticky, prrrrrrrrbt! PTSD in my life.

I made two other fruitless stops, which built to a nice little mood. Then I hit an upscale UPS store. I say upscale because this place was built for a certain clientele in a certain part of town. You could tell by the “light fawn” shading of the stucco out front. Our last UPS store was in a tired little strip mall. Twice, within the last year or so, someone drove through the store. Going there for more than a few seconds at a time felt like a gamble for that very reason. Today, I was given two things to drop off at the UPS store. One was going back to Amazon. No problem. The other, the young man straight out of Disinterested Young Clerk Central Casting, vaguely assured me he didn’t want the package.

“Uhhh, these instructions usually mean they’ll pick it up?”

Who is they?

“The UPS driver.”

Well see what brown can do for us this week then.


I got back to the house just in time for the heavy rain to start. Some of our flowering flowers haven’t recovered from Sunday’s rains. This, then, made for a demoralizing scene. Maybe in a week they’ll pick themselves back up, the flowering flowers. Maybe they won’t. This is the headspace I’m reaching for.

After all, I have to simultaneously deal with things like this. This is American fireweed. It’s fire.

As in burning. It’ll burn the flesh right from your bones.

(No, it won’t. — ed.)

It’s actually named that because this is one of the things that first pops up in great abundance after forest fires. It’s a broadly indigenous plant. It has some medicinal uses. Mostly, you forget about this stuff and then wake up in August and this thing is interfering with air travel lanes.

It can grow up to eight to 10 feet, almost over night. I pulled up a lot of it today. All of it in a hard-to-reach spot. I am wondering if it was nature or a person that thought this was a great practical joke.

I looked in some storage for a few items I can’t put my hands on. Still can’t find them. But I did pull out some good thread, high quality envelopes and some thank you cards. I am sitting on some weird, arbitrary fine line of “Will this be useful? Or should this be stored and forgotten until after it would have been useful?”

Which is to say, how many times have I purchased a batch of thank you cards while six other blank cards sit in a drawer and I’ve forgotten about them?

The next thing to do — that’s probably not true, but this is on a long list — is to make sure that all of the things are placed in rooms and drawers and shelves that make sense for when and where they’ll be used. All of that tape I picked up today was placed in a cabinet in the mudroom. Because it doesn’t need to go in a kitchen cabinet, and we might forget it if we put it in the basement somewhere. There are dozens of these little decisions.

And why is that large nail protruding from the wall at almost eye level? I spent a few minutes solving that problem, because the nail is in use, but it is inelegantly applied. Martha Stewart would just cringe.

Also I disguised a bit of floor under the stairs in the basement. This is the area where things with no daily demand will go. But you can build a little box fort around that area, so that, one day, when you are cleaning up down there, and you find the old seashells that would have been useful for that one project, and the extra wood flooring and such, you’ll smack yourself in the head remembering that you did have some walnut-shaded maple, and a bunch of broken bits of ocean life. And you’ll wonder why you built up this box fort. Because it made sense on a rainy day in 2023.

Oh, I changed the air filter, and added an innovation. I wrote the date on the air filter, so I’ll know when to replace it. (Don’t worry, there’s a notation in my calendar, as well.)

The best part of the day is that my in-laws arrived safely this evening. They’re going to spend the weekend with us. They sampled our peaches.

Like that new basket, don’t ya? I surely do.

Anyway, they said the peaches are delicious. And they are! I had a few after dinner tonight.

If fresh fruit is involved in the best part of your day, no matter how productive the day was, it was a pretty good day, Slugger.

Jun 23

An anniversary post

I took this photo of my lovely bride 14 years ago, yesterday, the night before we were married. Today, on our anniversary, and every day, I think of the many smiles and laughs and quiet times we have shared. It’s an ever-growing list of wonderful history and adventures both grand and regular. We have a lot for which we are grateful in our relationship, but that the regular is such a delight is one of the most important parts of all.

It’s a special thing, to know and love someone for a great length of time, a great gift to still find new things to learn from one another. It’s a comfort to do all of that in the company of someone invested in you.
Fourteen years, all a blessing.

Tomorrow, it’ll be just a bit better; the day after, a little better still …

Happy anniversary, love.

May 23

A photo in tin

I didn’t know this photo existed, but when we stopped by to see my grandfather, who is always full of surprises, he fished this image out of a stack. There were a handful of photos of him as a little boy, posing in a studio with his beautiful mother, and even some of his grandmother, who I knew.

Think of it. I have real memories of a great-great-grandmother who died, at 92, when I was in high school. I also had a great-grandmother who died when I was in college, and another great-grandmother who lived until I was 28. But this isn’t about those remarkable people. This is about this new-to-me photograph.

These people are my mother’s mother’s parents, my maternal-maternal great-grandparents. She died when I was three, but I don’t have any memory of her. He died when I was five, and I have a few glimpses of him in my mind’s eye.

Here, he’s holding my great-aunt. We estimate she’s about three years old in that photo, putting him at about 24 and his wife at about 21. She’s holding a great-uncle I never knew. But look how young!

My great-grandmother here looks like my grandmother. And from a few photos of this young woman I can see traits of most every woman in my family.

Earlier this month my mom texted me a photo of when she was a child, some four decades after the picture here. It looks like a vacation photo. She’s in oversized glasses, with her parents and her grandparents, the ones pictures here. Behind my mother is her grandmother, a mid-century grandma out of central casting. Her daughter, my grandmother, looks impossibly young in that way that never makes sense when you’re only accustomed to seeing someone in a different stage of their life. My grandfather is there, short sleeve button down, shiny watch, comical shorts (though I never knew him, I never think of him wearing shorts) and shin high dark socks. Now, except for those socks, it all works, because he has the mod haircut of the time and he’s wearing the best sunglasses 1960s technology had to offer.

Behind them all is my great-grandfather, my mother’s grandpa. That guy above. Long pants, long-sleeved shirt with a large windowpane print, with a neat little banded fedora on top of his head. He’s holding a cup with a straw in his left hand. They all look like they’re posing for a serious rock band photo, or as if something important has happened in front of them just as the photo was taken. They weren’t ready for a modern posed photograph, except for my great-grandfather, who is smiling just a bit.

He’s probably, let’s say, mid-early-60s in the image I just described. I remember him as an even older man, of course. Here he is, with two of his great-grandchildren. (He’d have 15 or so great-grandkids, but he wouldn’t get to meet the all. The best one is standing to his left, anyway.) He’s sitting in a creaky old lawn chair in his daughter’s lawn. I remember those chairs, and I spent a lot of time in that grass, beneath the kitchen window, around the little well building, and in front of the giant shop building.

He’s been posed in front a big building for both of those photos. It’s rather poetically symmetric in a way.

Trying to find a way to wrap up this post, I looked up some of that young woman’s lineage. With a few clicks, I was able to trace my great-great grandmother’s ancestors back five more generations, to when her great-great-great grandfather immigrated to South Carolina from Ireland aboard a vessel called the Lord Dunluce in 1772. He was 17-ish, came over alone, and had 100 acres coming to him, somehow. He got married, at 19, in 1774. He died in 1808, and is buried in South Carolina. Another part of her family, the Internet tells me, came from North Carolina after crossing the Atlantic at some point in the middle of the 18th century. That branch can be traced back, with no effort on my part, to the 16th and 17th century and places like Aarau and Zurich, Switzerland. Still others came over to Massachusetts, seemingly from England, in the early part of the 17th century.

But I’m going to wrap it up this way. My great-grandmother, in that first photo above, was picking cotton one morning. She was full-term, and, the story goes, delivered one of her children around midday. In the afternoon, she was back out in the field picking cotton again.

May 23

Sitting around the table

We drove all afternoon and into the evening on Friday. We got to my mom’s just in time for dinner, barbecue that we’d picked up in Nashville. The three of us sat at the kitchen table and spooned out brisket and sides and had a wonderful and tasty time of it.

Saturday felt like a good day to sleep in, but my shoulders didn’t feel like sleeping in. I’d lay on one side for a while, get a bit achy, roll over to the other side, get a bit achy, and repeat. But with all of that extra time, from the not sleeping in, I pestered my mom to give me things to do to help her around the house. She doesn’t like to give me things to do, because I’ve come to visit her and not to work, but then she likes the help. Also, having had a full lifetime of learning how, I am good at good-naturedly pestering my mother.

So I vacuumed the pool. Then I shimmied up a tall ladder to change a light bulb. After that we upgraded her security system.

She had some homemade chicken salad, which I requested, and bought our dinner. The way I see it, I was working for my food. Also it kept her from having to do a few things and cemented my status as The Best Child.

Sunday morning we went to church with my grandfather. The sign on the outside says the church dates back to 1939, which is a fairly decent amount of time for that hill and holler. Some of my grandfather’s people have lived up there since the state was a territory, so the church is half as old as the roots. I’ve written about this before. My great-grandfather gave the land to the church. He and his wife attended faithfully.

He led the singing, he offered prayers, he oversaw the Lord’s Supper and he helped run the business side of things. When we were visited, he and I would walk back down the street to his home. We raced the rest of the family, who took the car back. This was a big event for a little boy. Sometimes we won. But, always, my great-grandfather was game for the race, even when we started going a bit slower. Their son-in-law, my great-uncle, is an elder there today. There are still relatives from three different sides of my family tree that attend there.

It’s also getting grayer and thinner. My lovely bride and I were probably the second youngest people there. But they are lovely and inviting people. Always have been. I’ve visited there my entire life. I am a decades-long visitor.

A few years ago they went to a multimedia format for sermons. The preacher can point to his right and show you verses and illustrations from a PowerPoint or a Presi. This is nothing new, but it still amuses me to see it in this particular place. Occasionally they’d put a song on the screen, something that wasn’t in the hymnal. It’s odd, to me, when that happens. The songbook is an important part of everything.

Yesterday, you couldn’t help but notice the three cameras in the back of the building. This tiny little country church is streaming to the web. Someone writes them, my grandfather said, from another country. This tiny little, graying, country church is going global.

The preacher, a man who’s preached for 50-plus years, surely, mentioned the URL at the end of his sermon.

They’re still working on embedding those videos, though.

Today we chatted with a friend in Germany, giving him all of the best Memorial Day wishes, but as a joke. He’s active duty and it aggravates him to no end when people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day, as they often do. I was going to let it go this year, but then we heard a DJ in Nashville on Friday make the error, so then I had to incorporate that into the joke.

He’s going to be retired in the next year or two, but I’m sure we’ll still be sending him fake cards on the wrong days. At least he knows they are fake and in a properly sarcastic spirit.

If he wasn’t overseas we’d have invited him over for lunch. We had burgers and ribs and my grandfather came over, so we played dominos. Here’s my partner, ready to score all of the points.

Over the last four or five years, maybe, my grandfather has been teaching us. That sounds like it takes a long time and that we’re lousy students, but it’s a couple of games a trip, so our progress is uneven. My grandfather and my mom are a team, The Yankee and I are a team. They usually win. There’s no end to his joy at trouncing the college kids. And that is what they often do. All this education, we struggle counting dots. Two years ago, as a gag gift I received my own set of dominos and, to his eternal delight, a little solar powered calculator. We still win about the same amount, despite having the opportunity to practice. And, despite that opportunity, I am still very slow, because I am counting and doing math and trying to remember the rules and see the larger strategies and so on.

We win one or two here or there. The goal is to get to 500 points. He’s doing this math, two or three levels of it, really, in his head. My mother is crunching the numbers in her head. I am pointing at dots and mouthing words, “26, 27, 28 … ” For a good long while this amused him. Now, I think, he just wishes I would get better at it and hurry up and put down my bone so he can score 35 points with a simple flick of his wrist. Probably he’s going to put a time limit on me. That might not be a bad idea, actually.

I am the butt of a lot of jokes while we are playing dominos, but I earn them, and I own them. Once, he sent me a video of him counting dots, fiddling with his dominos, dropping them on the table, counting more dots. It wasn’t trash talk, it was trash gesturing. Without saying a word, he deconstructed my entire game, such as it is. He was completely absorbed in the tiles in his hand, and he only looked up at the camera at the very end, to smile. How can you not love that? Plus, my being the punchline makes him laugh, which is one of the all time best things.

Occasionally things break our way in the game, and we’ll win a hand. Today, for the first time ever I think, we won two games in a row. Also, late in one hand I found myself understanding the dominos that were still in play. I may have to count the dots, but I am learning to count tiles.

I resolved to get my dominos and start practicing even more.