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R.I.P. Maggie

My sister Katy texted me last night to tell me that our Mom’s cat Maggie passed away sometime during the day.

Mom had cats for just about my entire life. When I was born she and Dad had a cat named Dinah, whom I barely remember, although I dimly remember thinking she was someone to avoid. She died when I was still quite young. I grew up with an Abyssinian cat named Amos – I’m not sure if they got him before or after I was born – and he was around until 1987, along with our Welsh Corgi, Punkin, who joined us in 1976. I always found Amos somewhat aloof, even for a cat, just doing his own thing. I don’t really have strong memories of him, even though I was a teenager for part of his life.

In 1988, after I went to college and Amos passed away, Mom and got a couple of cats, a sweet tabby named William, and a feisty polydactyl calico named Jenny. William was my buddy whenever I visited, and I was very sad when he passed away in 2000. Jenny lived a couple more years, and I think enjoyed being an only cat.

We weren’t sure Mom would get another cat after Jenny – well, maybe Mom was less sure than the rest of us – but she found Maggie at a shelter, I think around 2003. The shelter said she’d been found pregnant and with a collar on her neck which was too small. And she was a small cat – maybe 7 pounds – a calico with smoky fur and a smudge on her nose. Mom adopted her, and really had to stick out caring for her for that first year, because she said Maggie took a long time to warm up to her, and even longer to really become her friend. But eventually she settled in with Mom, coming down for treats or to lie on the newspaper, and moving from room to room to lie in the sun in various windows. I guess she would growl and hiss loudly at cats who came into her yard, and avidly watched all the birds which flew into the yard.

She was not a very friendly cat, usually running and hiding when visitors came. It would take several days after I’d arrive to visit before she’d do more than look at me around a corner. She didn’t bite or scratch (much), she just wasn’t very friendly. She did warm up to me when I stayed at Mom’s house while she was recovering from knee replacement surgery in 2012, even getting into the morning paper routine. She’d even sit at the top of the stairs and meow for me to come to bed when it was Mom’s usual bedtime!

She had a bit of a mischievous streak: Mom said she once got outside, and Mom left both the front and back doors open for her to come back in. After an hour, she walked in the front door… and before Mom could close the doors she walked all the way through the house and went out the back. She did come in to stay later in the day, though. She also loved to play with tabs from plastic milk cartons, and would sometimes carry one to the top of the stairs and meow until Mom came out and told her what a good kitty she was. (When we were preparing to sell the house, I found dozens of the tabs behind the oven.)

Maggie had a hard time in Mom’s apartment in assisted living, with people coming in and out several times a day, and having a pretty small place to live. Mom played with her a lot, but as Mom declined (and I see in hindsight that she hid a lot of the symptoms of her decline from us) I think she became neglected and lonely.

The nursing staff told us that when Mom passed away she meowed loudly for a while afterwards, and then she had to endure several days in the apartment alone, with the occasional visitor to give her food and scoop her litter, until Katy and I came to clean out the place.

Katy volunteered to adopt her, and something remarkable happened: She moved into Katy’s house, with her son and her two young cats, and she totally took over the house. She whipped the young cats into line, and became very friendly to the humans. Katy says when she’d have workmen over, the other cats with disappear but Maggie would stay and supervise them. And last December, when Katy adopted a young dog, Maggie told the dog who’s boss, and used him against the other cats, since they didn’t like him.

So after everything, Maggie got her happy ending, a year and a half in a nice old house, with friendly humans, lots of wet cat food, and plenty of time lying in the sun on the porch.

Katy said Maggie had been getting small and thin lately, and we’re not really sure how old she was. Our best guess is that she’s 13, about the same as our calico Roulette, but she could easily have been a year or two (or more!) older than that. She always had kind of cruddy teeth, which is not a recipe for long-term health. So it was not really a surprise, though the suddenness was a bit of a shock. I don’t think Maggie would have done well with a long decline, anyway.

Katy says she’s having Maggie cremated and will spread her ashes over Mom’s grave next time she visits. I think they’d both like the thought of that.

(photo by Katy)

(photo by Katy)

Can’t Go Home Again

Our big vacation for this summer was in a sense “just” another trip east to visit our families. But actually a lot has changed since our last trip. For me, anyway, things have changed.

This was our first visit in over a year, since Mom’s memorial in May of last year. And really neither of our trips last year were “visits”, since they both primarily dealt with the aftermath of Mom passing away.

I’ve been staying with my Dad when I go to visit since summer of 2012 when Mom moved out of her house and into assisted living, so that part wasn’t really different, but the “routine” of the visit was different. The big difference, of course, being that I wasn’t visiting Mom. In past trips I made sure to schedule time at least every other day to visit with Mom, spend time with her, run errands with her, and do any tasks on behalf of her affairs which I needed her presence for (and there was always something). This meant I was always scheduling my trip to make sure I had time for that – and more, it meant I was just scheduling my trip, which made it less of a vacation. So it turned out that I had a bunch more unscheduled time on this trip than I’d anticipated, and in hindsight I should have set up some visits with one or two local friends, but I didn’t realize how it would work out.

Of course, more to the point is that I don’t have Mom to visit with anymore. On the other hand, this means I get to spend more time with Dad.

Well okay, I can still “visit” Mom, because as it happened the week we flew out the marker for her grave had arrived and been set at Mount Auburn Cemetery:

Mom's Memorial

The marker was designed by Karin Sprague, whom my sister engaged for the job and visited last summer and said she knew immediately she’d made the right choice on her visit. As you can see, it looks great! Elegant, distinctive, and with a sense of Mom’s personality. It’s certainly the most unique marker in the immediate area, and has a lot more character than almost any other marker I’ve seen at Mount Auburn.

The view from the marker is pretty awesome, too:

Lake View

Dad and I visited and I took a bunch of pictures of the area around Mom’s site, and then we walked and drove around the cemetery, including climbing to the top of the tower at its center, which has a great view of the surrounding cities. Mount Auburn is beautiful and a popular scenic place to visit, and I’d certainly recommend it if you’re in the area.

Dad and I also drove out to Waban where I grew up to see how things had changed. In particular I wanted to stop in Waban Hardware, which was purchased and renovated after the retirement of the previous owner (who had been there for as long as I can remember). They’ve done a great job sprucing things up, and doubled its floor space by opening up the basement. They also have many great old photos of the store and of Waban Square in the stairwell to the basement, so if you’ve lived in Waban yourself, stop by and check it out.

We also walked around the new Angier School, where I went to elementary school. The old 1920s build was knocked down a couple of years ago and has been replaced with a new, modern building, which looks pretty nifty. While I have many fond memories of the old building, honestly I was aware even when I was going there that it was outdated, with an inflexible, unexpandable design, and needed to be replaced. This was a long time in coming. (The next closest school, Zervas – formerly Beethoven – has also been demolished and was being rebuilt when we drove by.)

Finally, there’s the site of Mom’s old house, the house I grew up in. We sold the house in 2013, knowing that the house itself had relatively little value since – like Angier – it was outdated and difficult to expand and modernize. Sure enough, the old house was demolished, and a large new house was built on the site. The new house is huge – about three times as big as the old house – but honestly it fits in very well with the neighborhood, fixes many of the problems with the old house, and doesn’t look like it dominates the site. I am perhaps a little sad that some of the nice trees around the property were removed and not replaced, but that could be changed; otherwise, I think it looks great. Probably as nice as anyone could have hoped for.

It's enormous!

It’s enormous!

I’d say that this part was a weird visit, but it wasn’t really that weird, just another step forward in the inexorable march of time. I think emptying and selling Mom’s house in 2012-13 was the really difficult step, and it’s been a long – if sometimes traumatic – transitional period since then. And it never really ends.

Anyway, I spent the second half of the week with Debbi and her family. We spent a couple of days at a beach house they have on the south shore, which we’ve both visited in years past. We actually went down the first weekend with Dad to hang out for an afternoon. Mid-week we spent time with Debbi’s sister and some of her kids.

The Road to the Sea

The biggest downside to the visit was that it was hot and humid for most of our trip – I’d forgotten how ugly Boston summers can be. And we spent two nights at the beach house without air conditioning, which was okay since it cooled off reasonably well overnight, but it made the late afternoon and evening a bit ugly. It didn’t stop us from sitting on the beach, either, or making an excursion to the nearby coastal town. It also didn’t stop us from waking up early to watch the sun rise.

Sunrise

We had fun with Debbi’s other sister playing video games (she’s ridiculously good at Wii Tetris) and running around the back yard with their dogs. And then on Saturday we played frisbee golf with several of them on a forested course. I’d heard of disc golf and had some familiarity with it, but I’d never played before. It’s pretty challenging! None of us were great at it, but we did pretty well, making par on a couple of holes, and throwing the disc into the trees on others. I don’t think we actually lost any discs, though (which is more than could be said for at least one party we passed).

We spent the last night with my Dad and then headed to the airport on Sunday and flew home, getting in late and collapsing into bed exhausted. We were smart enough to take Monday off to get our bearings again.

It was a good trip, although I felt like the heat dampened my motivation to do stuff while we were there. (I’d thought of making a trip into Boston, for example.) Hopefully it will be cooler for our next trip. But, it’s always good to see our families!

Best Breakfast Week Ever

Since Monday was Memorial Day, Debbi made breakfast both Sunday and Monday. Four days worth of leftovers and four days in the week meant awesome breakfasts every day this week.

Chocolate chip scones (from Iveta):

Scones

And sausage biscuits:

Sausage Biscuits

Thank you, Debbi! It’s all been delicious!

Springtime’s End

You may have noticed it’s been pretty quiet around here. Life has been ridiculously busy this spring and I have not been in much of a journalling mood.

We’ll start on a high note, which is that in late March when my sister Katy and nephew Ivan came to visit for a week, on his school break. They visited back in 2014 with Katy’s then-boyfriend and his daughter and wanted to make a return engagement. While I failed to get tickets to Alcatraz, we did a lot of other stuff:

  • The obligatory visit to Half Moon Bay, including Katy’s “happy place” the Feed & Fuel, and lunch at Cameron’s British pub. It was surprisingly cold and drizzly, so we didn’t spend as much time there as we’d planned.
  • A visit to San Francisco to ride on the cable cars, ice cream at Ghirardelli Square, a trip to the Cable Car Museum, and visits to a couple of athletic apparel stores that Ivan really wanted to visit. Again it was a rainy day, and we got poured on while waiting for the cable car.
  • A walk through the Winchester Mystery House, followed by a visit to the San Jose Earthquakes stadium and store – Ivan is a big soccer fan. (Somehow Katy didn’t make me take her to the Sharks stadium.)
  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park, followed by a drive down to Santa Cruz.
  • A visit to Berkeley to see the Cal campus, with another trip to San Francisco (and the easiest drive into the city over the Bay Bridge I’ve ever done) with stop at Borderlands.
  • We also spent a bunch of time around my home town of Mountain View, including a visit to the Computer History Museum (where I learned that I now enjoy the self-guided tour rather than the docent tour – 10 years ago it was the reverse). And Katy and I went out for a couple of runs together on the Stevens Creek Trail.

It was a good trip. I think by the end Ivan both didn’t want to go, and was ready to be back home. 😊

The rest of March through mid-April was mostly given over to taxes. Since Debbi and I got married last year, that meant we had the option of filing our taxes jointly, which we took since it turns out to save us a hefty amount of money. Meanwhile I also had to file taxes for Mom for last year – her personal taxes through the date of her death, and for her estate for the rest of the year. All of this was slowed down considerably by one of her investment accounts not providing the final 1099 until early April (not entirely their fault – one of the funds she’s invested in seems to be very slow about providing their data), plus issues with one of the 1099s not being sent to me, since it was still targeted at Mom’s old address. And then juggling getting the form from the estate to my sister for her taxes, and correcting an error on our taxes. Hopefully next year will be easier – at least I’ll have a better idea what I’m in for. It was exhausting.

But not as exhausting as what came next, which was learning that someone had compromised one of my credit cards, and concern that they had actually stolen my identity (I’m not going to go into details here, but there was evidence that it was more than just a compromised card). So that involved a bunch of phone calls, filing a police report (!), and generally monitoring my accounts for a while. Not to mention the stress involved. So far, nothing more has come of it, so it’s possible that it was more lax security at the card company, though that’s a little surprising since my experience has been that their security is quite good. Anyway, crossing my fingers that that’s the end of it.

Work has been quite busy, as it always is at this time of year ahead of WWDC. One source of stress in my life is when I have phone calls or business I need to conduct during business hours (because that’s when things are open), but I would much rather just be tron’ed in to whatever I’m working on in the office. So I try to get those phone calls or errands finished before I go to work in the morning (especially for calls to the east coast), but it doesn’t always work out that way. And we’ve had a couple of other projects going on over the last month, so it’s been an unusually busy time.

Besides journalling, reading has also fallen by the wayside this year (well, except for the weekly comic book run). I feel like I’ve been picking up a bunch of mediocre books that I run out of gas on. For example, Laurie King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice was so slow and (ahem) droning that I gave up less than halfway through. I should just go back to reading space operas, maybe.

Though we have been watching more television than usual, in large part because of the TiVo I bought over Christmas. It’s been working really well, and we’re slowly working our way through Person of Interest. I also decided to dive into The Flash partway through the second season, which is a more entertaining show than I had really expected, although it has the usual superheroes-on-TV problem of having plot devices which make no sense whatsoever, and man, if it wasn’t for Wikipedia I would have had no idea what was going on for the first few episodes. I gotta say that the guy playing the “man in the iron mask”, when he was finally revealed, was a picture-perfect representation of that character.

So, I think that’s enough catch-up for now. We’re having a fairly lazy Memorial Day Weekend, enjoying the air conditioning since it’s been pushing 90 for the last few days, with a forecast of over 100 next weekend. Later today we’re having dinner with the neighbors – because we like our neighbors!

Maybe next month I’ll post as many as two or three entries!

Taxing

In honor of tax day (which is 3 days late this year because of Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia), I just wanted to write a little post to say:

Holy crap this was the most annoying tax year I’ve ever had.

On the one hand, it was a little easier because Debbi and I got married last year. And filing jointly saved us a bunch of money in taxes, and that meant two fewer returns (federal and state) to file.

On the other hand, Mom passed away last year, and I’m the executor of her estate. So that meant filing federal and state taxes for her personally, and then federal and state taxes for her estate, and an additional state return for California because (apparently) that’s where I live.

On top of that, one of the funds she’s invested in was astoundingly late getting their information to her investment company, so they sent out a preliminary 1099 in February, and then an amended 1099 in late March (!!). Fortunately I have my CPA do all the paperwork, and I know they do it all on computer, so it was mostly a matter of waiting, waiting, and waiting some more before finally dropping it off with them. Oh, and since I transitioned her account from a personal to an estate account, and the personal account records were still being sent to her old address, I had to contact her investment advisor to get the amended 1099 for that account sent to me. Ghaaa-aaah.

And basically everything else hinged on getting the estate returns done, so it could generate K-1 forms for myself and my sister (the estate’s beneficiaries) for our own returns.

Lastly, I found an error in our returns when I picked them up for review, which involved some more running around (but was worth it because it saved us a reasonable amount of additional money).

I am one of those luddites who still files my taxes on paper. Although that’s not really the issue; some of my Mom’s taxes cannot be filed electronically anyway. It did mean a wait at the post office to ship things off, but on the plus side the fact that so many people file electronically these days means the wait is a lot shorter than it used to be.

Anyway, I got everything sent off on Thursday, and hopefully that will be the last I hear of them. Where taxes are concerned, no news is definitely good news.

A Long Birthday Weekend

My birthday weekends get a little more low-key over time. Having a big to-do of a party seems less appealing than it used to. Maybe for my 50th.

This weekend I decided what I mainly wanted to do as play poker, so Friday night I had five friends over for an evening of our low-stakes game. Rooting around for the new deck of cards I knew I’d bought, I looked at my order history on Amazon, and found that it had been over two and a half years since I’d hosted a game. Probably almost that long since I’d last played no-limit, too. But it was a successful evening for me, more than doubling my buy-in. I was particularly pleased with a hand where I turned two pair with a 4-straight on the board, and realized no one had the straight when they didn’t bet the turn, so I was able to make a little more money on the turn and river.

(I’ve been listening to the Thinking Poker podcast, and find it’s maybe even more instructive to learn about hand-reading by listening to it than by reading a book about it.)

Saturday was my actual birthday, and I’d thought of going to the Magic Oath of the Gatewatch prerelease, but decided that poker was probably enough gaming for the weekend. Instead I opened presents, talked to my Dad on the phone for a while, and then watched the Patriots beat the Chiefs in the playoffs.

In the evening we went to Amber India with some friends for dinner. They moved a few months ago (I think their old strip mall is going to be redeveloped soon), and their new spot has a nice outdoor patio (not suitable for this rainy weather, but should be great in the summer). The inside feels a little cramped and warm, but possibly they just have a few kinks to work out. The good news is, the food is still awesome!

Sunday was had a relatively quiet day, though in the afternoon we drove over to Half Moon Bay hoping to catch some of the rain showers we were supposed to be getting. We stopped for lunch at Cameron’s British Pub, whose English pastie was exactly what I was craving. Then we drove down the side street the pub is on and ended up at the Wavecrest open space preserve, where we hiked around for about an hour, getting our sneakers muddy and (in Debbi’s case) soaked. But it was a pretty – if blustery – day, and we had a good time. We then drove up to Point Montara Lighthouse where we sat in the car and watched the waves crash on. Alas, we never got more than some drizzle on the whole trip, which was a bit disappointing.

In the evening we started watching Person of Interest, which I’d been curious about for a while, but it never aired at good time for us. (Now that’s a concern we won’t have in the future now that we own a TiVo.) It’s good stuff, a little over-the-top, but at least as good as other police procedurals, and I understand it gets more sophisticated over time.

Oh yeah: And my company’s “gift” to me for my birthday was that we have Martin Luther King day off for the first time. So today we took care of a bunch of chores in the morning, including having a plumber over to fix two of our toilets whose gaskets were having problems. In the afternoon we had some other friends over, who hadn’t been able to join us for cupcakes on Saturday, and I played with the kids for a bit, and they chased the cats and Debbi’s BB-8 robot around for a while. We wrapped up the weekend with dinner, some more chores, and some more Person of Interest.

A pretty busy weekend in a lot of ways, but also some nice quiet time. And we did get that rain I was hoping for, but it came in last night. Wish we could get a good solid day of rain during the daytime on a weekend. But for now it looks like I’ll have to be satisfied with another shower tomorrow.

2015 Revisited

2015 was a roller coaster of a year, with some great stuff mixed in with some bad stuff and a huge amount of stress.

The year opened with my Mom’s health in decline. The holidays were stressful with worry about her, and probably even worse for my sister who was her health care proxy. While there were periods of hope that she would stabilize, she never really did, and went on hospice care in early February, and passing away in early March. We held a memorial service for her in late May.

This is the first time I’ve lost someone this close to me, and I still have a lot of feelings and memories that I’m working through, especially regarding these last few years since she moved into assisted living. It’s a process.

At the other end of the spectrum, Debbi and I got married in April! After 14 years together we decided it was time, and we had a great small ceremony at the county clerk’s office, followed by dinner with our friends, and Debbi’s sisters flew in for the day to join us. We also used it as an excuse to take a mini-honeymoon to Monterey Bay in July, and a longer trip which we called our honeymoon to Walt Disney World in November (as well as visiting Debbi’s parents).

The cognitive dissonance of getting married while dealing with my mother’s passing was occasionally difficult to reconcile in my head, but it worked out smoothly in the end, and we’re having a good time together. Of course, we had a good time before, which I guess is why we did it!

I’ve been the executor of Mom’s estate, which has taken a bunch of time this year, coordinating filing with life insurance, tracking people down, working with an attorney to file the estate and pay taxes, and all the work that goes into that. I think probably more than half of the work is done now, and most of the rest will play out over this coming year.

Last summer I decided I needed to add more exercise to my routine, so in July I started running, and I’ve kept up with it through the end of the year. I started running a mile per day, and now I’m up to 2-1/2 miles 4-to-5 days a week. I’ve lost about 10 pounds since I started, though my stretch goal of about 13 did not get met. But so far so good. Listening to podcasts keeps me motivated and occupied while running, and some days I even look forward to it. My plan is to get to 3 miles and do that on a regular basis. It’s really more about sticking with it than getting a lot better at it – I don’t plan to run any marathons.

In August, something I never got around to writing about here: I traded in my trusty 2000 Honda Civic and its 137,000 miles for a new Volkswagen Eos hard-top convertible. I’d been thinking of getting a more “fun” car for a while, and 2015 was the last year for the Eos, so I decided to treat myself (with a little urging from Debbi, who knew I’d been putting it off for a while). It’s been a great little car so far – and no, it doesn’t have one of VW’s questionable diesel engines!

After Disney World we had a quiet rest of the year, with time off around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and mostly just hanging out and taking care of stuff around the house. Oh, and finishing up the paperwork for my Mom’s estate’s tax filing. Debbi and I did get out for a few things, though: We made trips to Half Moon Bay and San Francisco; had dinner with a new cow-orker of mine and his wife (recently transplanted from the midwest); visited my cousins who were hosting their parents, whom I hadn’t seen in over 20 years; and we upgraded our A/V system by adding a TiVo (which has been great, other than the expected hassle of enabling the Comcast cable card).

I am not one for making New Year’s resolutions, and I’ve been joking that I started mine back in July. But this year I would like to write more regular journal entries, maybe write some fiction, and ma-a-aybe get back to drawing (must resist buying iPad Pro for drawing I haven’t actually been doing). We’ll see. Mostly I’m just hoping that with most of the stress and hassle of handling my mother’s affairs behind me that I can clear my head of worrying about that and do things I enjoy without wondering if there’s Something Important I need to be doing instead.

And of course having Debbi along for things that we both enjoy, too!

The Dishwasher Mystery

As I mentioned last time, while we were on vacation in Florida our cat sitter wrote that our dishwasher was leaking. Specifically, the bottom of the machine was filled with water and was leaking onto the floor. This was right after the first of two big storms that hit home while we were away, so of course I worried that something had gone wrong with the dishwasher (bad), with the water supply to it (bad), or with the backflow valve on our house’s line to the sewer (worse). Still, despite my worrying about the worst case, apparently it was just water on the floor, and not any of the other wonderful stuff you would expect if you had a sewer back flow.

Our sitter, wonderful person that she is, brought over some super-absorbent pads to put under the front of the washer, and also turned off the hot water to the washer and to the sink, just to be safe.

For the rest of our trip, now news was good news; despite another storm hitting the house, we heard nothing more about the problem from her. That seemed like further evidence that it wasn’t a sewer backflow problem. We have not been thrilled with our dishwasher (a General Electric model which came with the house) as it doesn’t do a wonderful job of cleaning dishes, and we’ll probably replace it before too long. (Of the appliances our builder installed, it’s the only one we haven’t been happy with.)

So, we got back last Monday night and inspected the washer before going to bed: It was clean and dry. The next day I turned the water back on, and we kept an eye on it for the rest of the week, and nothing happened. So we planned to run the washer this weekend when it was reasonably full.

Late this afternoon Debbi noticed that the washer was filled with water on the bottom, and on the edge of leaking out. Very mysterious, since we hadn’t had any rain at all! My theory at this point was that there was some blockage in the side of the sink that the washer drained to and when we ran the water on that side of the sink it was draining to the washer instead. But I couldn’t see anything in the drain. So, after a short debate we decided to run the dishwasher as planned.

Two things happened: First, the dishwasher immediately started venting water into the sink drain as expected. Second, two of the front lights were flashing as it did so, which is not normal operation. Debbi checked the user’s manual, but didn’t find out what it meant. So I decided to stop the washer, wait a moment, and then start it again. This time it started normally, no flashing lights, ran to completion, and did not leak.

So my best guess is that the washer somehow got into some weird state while we were away, so that the drain from the washer to the sink was open, and thus the sink was partly draining into the washer rather than vice-versa. Maybe we bumped something before we left, somehow. Maybe our sitter was making sure everything was working and somehow triggered something with the washer by accident. Who knows.

But as of now, anyway, it seems to have been a transient fault which has been fixed.

Which is good, because I hate dealing with plumbing problems.

To Disney World – and Beyond!

We’re back from our big vacation for the year! Debbi and I flew to Florida to visit her parents, and then spend several days at Walt Disney World with Debbi’s friend Lisa and her husband Jeff.

We flew out two weeks ago, on Friday November 6, on United Airlines, which is the only airline with direct flights from the Bay Area to Orlando. It’s the first time in quite a few years I’ve flown one of the so-called major carriers (we fly JetBlue to visit our families in Boston, and smaller carriers around the west coast), so I was a bit worried about the experience, but it was actually fine: The flight was only slightly delayed, and the seats were not as cramped as I had feared they might be. Once we landed we rented a car and drove a couple of hours (with a stop for dinner) to Debbi’s parents’ house.

Her parents live in a nice community on the Gulf coast. Once we arrived, we stayed up a bit late that first night since we were still on west coast time (and we didn’t get in until close to 9 pm).

The one downer to the trip was that central Florida was setting temperature records for the first few days we were there; Saturday it got into the 90s and had very high humidity, which made for a pretty nasty day to be outside. Despite this we went out to an art fair and got lunch at a restaurant and did not completely melt. But we were pretty motivated to spend much of the rest of the visit with her parents inside in the air conditioning due to the weather.

Sunday Debbi’s uncle (her father’s brother) and his wife came to visit for a few hours, so I got to see a bit of the family resemblance (and hear a little of the family gossip). Debbi thinks she hasn’t seen her uncle since her sister got married almost 20 years ago, and everyone had a good time.

We got up a couple of mornings to go running (me) and walking (Deb), which was about as rough as you’d expect since it was mid-70s and muggy even at 8 am. But the humidity did start to go down so the second day was a bit more pleasant than the first, even if it was still hot.

Monday we went down late in the day to the Venice chalk festival, but we got there just as the one rain shower of the week kicked in, so we went back again on Tuesday. It was pretty neat, even though we were there for the early stages of the drawing! A big 3D painting from the previous year was done in latex paint and was still there, and the same crew were working on a larger painting to set a world record. And there were several smaller pieces in progress. I observed that the references the artists were working from were stretched onto a perspective grid so they would have a 3D look when placed on the ground – a technique I remember my dad showing me when I was a kid.

Otherwise we had a pretty relaxed time visiting her parents. I spent a bunch of time playing The Room Three on my iPad (which is great – each installment has been better than the last), and I read one book and part of another. I believe Debbi got through a few more books, too. So, it was a good visit.

Oh, one wrench in the trip was that our cat sitter e-mailed us that on Monday the dish washer had somehow gotten filled with water and leaked onto the kitchen floor. It didn’t seem to have gotten too bad, but it happened the day of a big rain storm, which made us worry that something was backing up from the outside or that something else had happened. The sitter shut off the water to the washer just in case and said she’d keep an eye on it for us.

Wednesday we drove back to Orlando and dropped off the rental car. Lisa picked us up and we spent the evening at her house before heading to Disney World on Thursday. We stayed in a suite at the Saratoga Springs resort and took the bus to and from the theme parks. This was a bit annoying as they don’t run enough buses (in my opinion), and sometimes they get bogged down in traffic. But, so it goes. The suite itself was nice, though.

We last visited Disney World in 2007 with Debbi’s family, so we did things a little differently this time: We didn’t go to Animal Kingdom, and we spent more time in Epcot. Thursday we first went into the Magic Kingdom, followed by Epcot Thursday night and Friday, Hollywood Studios on Saturday, and back to the Magic Kingdom on Sunday. We used the FastPass+ system to plan out rides for the various days, and used Magic Bands for admission. These are new systems since we last visited, and which are not yet available at Disneyland, but they’re pretty convenient.

A big difference between Disneyland and Disney World is that the parks at Disney World are much larger. This has the advantage that you do not feel as packed in with the other people as at Disneyland, but it also means you have to walk farther to get between places, and that though it might not feel as crowded, it might actually be more crowded, and thus the lines for attractions might actually be longer.

Among the most fun things on this visit was Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival. Epcot features exhibits from many countries around the world, and the festival set up booths where food and drink associated with each nation was available. And lots of it was really good! I especially remember some crispy pork belly, and an especially good glass of sangria. Of course, being Disney, I wondered how authentic the food selections were, and scratched my head at Argentina being referred to as Patagonia, and the lack of diversity of African stations (one was just called “Africa”!). But I didn’t worry about it that much.

The FastPass+ selections were handy for getting to some of the most popular rides, although it was strange not being able to just walk on to some of them if the lines were short as at Disneyland – because the lines were rarely short. It was also weird not knowing where many things were, or things being just a little different at the Magic Kingdom than at Disneyland (no New Orleans Square, no Indiana Jones). Some of the rides are slightly different too, such as some of the details being moved around on Pirates of the Caribbean or The Haunted Mansion.

Though we spent most of our time at the parks, we did come back on Friday to relax in the room for a bit, and came back early on Saturday and went down to the pool. Had we had more free time I might have gone running, since their running path was about the right length for the distance I’m currently running.

Anyway, we all had a good time. Debbi has been wanting to do this trip for several years, and we’d postponed it either due to my Mom’s health, or because I wanted to go to Cape Cod last year. I think she wishes we’d spent a couple more days at Disney World so we weren’t running around quite so much. Maybe next time!

On our flight home we bought first class seats, because for some reason they were a lot cheaper for this leg than for the flight out. And factoring in baggage fees and extra leg room seats – both included in first class – it was not a lot more than we would have been spending anyway. And it was pretty nice! Only two people per row per side, with a two-course meal for dinner (and better food than I’d expected), with wine and warm cookies added in. To top it off our luggage came out first on the other end. The only wrinkle was that we hit some nasty turbulence which caused Debbi’s wine glass to take a dive off her tray table and break, but at least it didn’t hurt anyone (plus it was empty).

We took today off from work to catch up on sleep and get some things done. And a good thing, too, since we both came down with colds, probably from the flight. Nothing too horrible, but definitely feeling under the weather.

Fortunately, no further incidents with the dish washer, even though there was another rain storm last weekend. Strange.

So that was our big fall trip! And now back to reality, and to brace ourselves for the holiday season.

The End of Summer

Even though the leaves have been changing color for weeks now, the end of Daylight Savings Time marks the end of summer for me. Thursday was my last day of biking to work for the season, mainly because I don’t like biking home in the dark.

Friday night we drove around looking at Halloween lights, and Saturday we hung out with the neighbors passing out candy together. We think our family is a “well-known neighborhood” because we think we got 200-300 kids over the course of 4 hours of trick-or-treating. We never quite got the sea of kids at one time that we had a few years ago, but it was still a lot of kids. We went through at least 4 bags of candy from Costco.

It’s cooled off considerably the couple of days since, and last night we got a pretty big rainfall which lasted until late morning. My jogging has been going pretty well, and I went out running in the rain this morning – the end of DST means it was light out before 7 am when I started, instead of having to wait ’til 10 past 7 to get started. Neither my Apple Watch nor my iPhone shorted out from the water, and I didn’t get totally drenched. But I don’t think I’ll run in much heavier rain than that this winter. I am trying to get braced for colder temperatures, though.

The big sycamore tree over our house is turning brown and dropping its leaves, and I’ll be raking them up for the next two months, I’m sure. Maybe a few more good rainfalls will knock most of the leaves out a little early – that would be nice.

This morning I also tested out the furnace to make sure it’s in good shape. Even with windows open, it started heating up the house within a couple of minutes. The smell of the heat in the brisk air made me smile.

Here’s hoping we have a nice normal winter, and take a bite out of the state’s drought.