Monday, November 30, 2009

Today was a good day. We started off in Tenn and were on the road before 8. We arrived at my son's home in Chicago before 6 pm.The only traffic we saw was during rush hour heading into Nashville. Even the police took the day off.

Jeanne is reading a civil war era book. Once she understood that Sherman was going to burn Atlanta and Savanna, she became a lot more communicative. We enjoyed our time together without Sherman getting in the way.

An observation, Kentucky has to have the best interstate roads in the nation. They were clean, wide, without pot holes and a pleasure to drive.

When I travel, I go super cheap. I pick up a book of hotel discounts at a rest stop and find a hotel that cost under $40 for the night. I try to find a hotel that has free wireless and a free breakfast. What can I say, I'm cheap. Besides,we register at the hotel about 6 pm, go out for dinner and leave it before 8 am. Paying a $100 a night just does not make much sense. When traveling, hotel rooms are for sleeping and sex and at my age spending a lot of money for either of these is a waste of cash. Last night we paid the price for my thrifty habits. The heating unit at the hotel kept clinking and clunking off and on all night. Needless to say, we didn't get a great night's sleep. Hopefully we will spend tomorrow night at home.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

On the Road but not moving

I never appreciated how many people travel over Thanksgiving until the last two days. When I drive home from my mother's home in Port Charlotte for Minnesota, my first stop is outside of Atlanta, next is southern Illinois and then home. Three days max.

Yesterday, we never got out of Florida. Tonight we are outside of Nashville. Still not even in southern Illinois. At every major intersection where interstate highways join, there were massive slow downs. I am talking about traffic jams that had no reason to exist except high levels of autos. Traffic jams that lasted hours. Hours of going 13 miles an hour with cars acting like water bugs as they jump around from lane to lane. And it was not just a single junction, EVERY intersection of interstate highways meeting other interstates was the same way. Georgia posted a message on their highway information phone service saying expect high levels of traffic and they were not kidding. They also posted an army of police cars on our route.

Our journey down to Florida was pleasant. Jeanne and I talked, listened to the radio and to CD with music from the 60's and 70's. On the way home, Jeanne got into a book. Not a word from her side of the car, EXCEPT when we needed to stop for oranges and grapefruits. Twice. No singing together. No communication. No help finding the right road. Just her with her nose in her book. By the end of the day, we were talking. I was telling her to get her nose out of the book. I also blamed her for our slow time with all her stops. (I almost blamed her for the traffic but I could not think of a good way of making that argument work). We did listen to the radio, but it was a weak, static filled, station broadcasting the Vikings win over Chicago. So high traffic, dark interstate without streetlights, rain, cars darting into and out of my lane and Jeanne listing to a static filled broadcast. Oh Yeah! I was also hungry.

Well, we are in out hotel room; she is watching the rest of the Vikings game as she reads her book. I want to go get something to eat. She says she is fine and not hungry. Pray we both arrive back in Minnesota still married and both of us a live.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Florida: On the road again...

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend to Everyone!
We're "on the road again", taking a road trip to Cape Haze, Florida for a Family Reunion! We rented a five bedroom house so that Scott (our oldest), Tammi (Scott's wife), Josie (age 8) and Sasha (age 5) from Salt Lake City, and Mike (middle son), Jessica (Mike's wife), Andrew (age 5),
Joey (age almost 3), and Catherine (age 9 mos.) from Elmhurst, IL. could join us for the week.

Both families flew in to Orlando a couple of days early to visit Disney World, which they loved and then joined us at the house last Sunday afternoon. The house had a small pool, just the right size for all of us and was heated to about 86 degrees. It was great for blowing off steam and for having some fun with grand kids.

We chose Cape Haze as it's close to Boca Grande on the Gulf - wonderful white sand beaches, great shelling and fairly safe swimming (not big waves like the Atlantic side). It is also located near Port Charlotte, where Bob's Mom is living in Lexington Manor - an Assisted Living facility, about twenty minutes from the house. We picked her up Monday, Wednesday and Thursday about 1:30 p.m. and she was able to stay and eat with us and "bond" with the grand-kids - she especially enjoyed holding little Catherine, who is all smiles right now and just a charmer.Then, we would drive her back home (to her own surroundings and bed) by about 9 or 9:30 p.m.

Mom Finch (Bob's Mom) is doing very well, for being almost 90 years old! She gets around well with her walker on wheels - she is only 87 lbs., so the lack of weight and being in pretty good shape are to her advantage. She is very thin - says that she eats like a horse, but metabolism burns it all up. She still smokes and enjoys a drink of Scotch that she nurses slowly. Doctor is not concerned at this point - at her age, we just want her to be comfortable and positive about life. She was kind of bummed on Wednesday as two residents had passed away the previous night and that very morning! But being with our gang brought her quickly out of her funk. I was glad she was with us this week.

We had a nice Thanksgiving dinner about 5:30 p.m. on Thursday - next time we will make sure our house has seating for all of us. We had a formal dining table that we avoided like the plague (for fear of breaking something) and a large table that seated 6 comfortably, adjacent to the kitchen. So we fed the kids first and then the adults sat and ate (most meals). It was really helpful to have a favorite DVD for a "show" after dinner so that all of us adults could linger before cleaning up the kitchen.

What did we do all week? Wake up early (7 a.m.) - little Catherine decided to be nocturnal this week (teething, perhaps?) and got both Jess and Mike up several times during the night. They were so considerate of us, trying not to wake us up. Catherine stayed in Mike and Jess' room in a pak n' play - but adjustments to a new sleeping arrangement are tough on infants. She is a little doll - she had a little green tennis dress outfit that was just darling.

We would eat breakfast together and then go swimming, or one day, Mike & Jess and kids visited friends in Sarasota, and the rest of us went to Boca Grande. One day, Bob and Mike & family toured Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte and Scott & family and I went to Costa Cay (a two hour boat trip to an island state park) for some shelling and walking the sandy beach and a picnic lunch. We were so excited to see bottle-nosed dolphins up close and personal, they were trying to race the boat that we were on and were about six feet away from us near the propellers at the back of the boat. They were so sleek, powerful and beautiful.

Evenings were Scrabble, Cribbage, lots of beer and wine and trading stories and memories - Mom Finch loved watching all of us laugh and tease each other. It was truly a wonderful week - we were so privileged to have all of us together - altho' we missed our youngest son, Eric - our first reunion without his presence. He spent Thanksgiving with his girlfriend Rachel's family in Ohio and is driving home to Chicago today. We are a close family and even having one sibling absent is noticeable (at least by me).

It is so neat to cuddle and be physically present to my kids and grandkids - to hug, to blow kisses on a baby's cheek and to roughhouse in the pool; to take long walks and tell bedtime stories and to ache for my adult children as they navigate the trials and tribulations of raising active, strong-willed and curious children. I so want to support them and assist, without interfering. They are such good parents - but, as we all know, lack of sleep, strange surroundings and lots of opportunities for testing limits while on vacation can cause challenges. Both Bob and I were so grateful for their willingness to be with us this Thanksgiving.

So...we are now on the way back home...left this morning and followed both kids' cars as we slowly drove through central Florida for one more day in the lush green and clear blue skies of Florida. We stopped for lunch together at a roadside small campground restaurant, next to The Peace River - Bob had a home-made crabcake sandwich and I had a barbecued sliced beef sandwich. One more opportunity to hold Catherine and hug kids and grandkids. We parted ways just south of Orlando and we headed for I-75 and headed into a massive traffic jam of Thanksgiving weekend returnees. At one time, it took us an hour and a half to go forty miles!
What a pain! Just before we got onto the freeway I scored a box of Florida citrus for $10 - grapefruit the size of Bob's fist, navel oranges the size of grapefruit back home and some wonderful tangerines.

We are in a Super 8 in Lake City, FL - will probably get an early start tomorrow morning and avoid traffic, if we can. We ate leftovers for supper (we cleaned out the house's refrigerator this morning) so had juice boxes, snack applesauce, salami/cheese/spinach sandwiches, celery sticks and the last of our homemade oatmeal raisin cookies. Last night we had a great buffet of leftover Thanksgiving leftovers - didn't want too much left to clean out this morning. Missed going out for a family dinner at the seafood restaurant in Placida this time. There will be plenty of opportunities in future years - plus, the grandkids will be older.

More on the road, later...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

She is well over 60, works hard all day, has bad knees, and on her day off decided to paint the trim on the house. So while I was picking up another truck full of leaves, Jeanne is out painting.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Jeanne and I have three great boys. Scott has a blog and is the one that showed us how handy it could be in keeping touch with our grandkids in Utah. He was our "inspiration" for starting our blog.

Eric is still single and lives with his girl and a puppy in Chicago. No grandkids from his side (yet) so communicating with him on the phone seem to keep us all in touch.

Mike, on the other hand, has three kids and refuses to have a blog. However, he has a talent with words so I am going to print some of his comments about his children and blogs in general on our blog.

When asked to start a blog, Mike response was:

“I actually suggested a one-page blog with the following caption:"The Chicago Messersmith Family Blog - If you are wondering what we are up to, pick up the phone loser!"

Not the response we wanted but at least colorful.

Jeanne and I have rented a house in Florida over Thanksgiving. Eric can’t make this trip because of work. Mike and Scott will be flying down with their families. Jeanne and I have decided to drive down since as a retired person, I have more time than money. I asked Mike if we should stop by Chicago so we could take some of his stuff with us. His reply:

“No need to stop in Chicago. We can handle everything. We plan to leave Sunday late morning for Cape Haze. We are staying on the Disney property at the Port Orleans Riverside Hotel. We would love to see you guys whenever - not sure why you wouldn't just join us Saturday during the day as well as the kids would enjoy having Grandpa and Grandma along for their day at Disney???? Don't you love your grandchildren??? The World's Largest Ball of Twine in Indiana is worth a casual stop but not Josie, Sasha, Andrew, Joe and Cate??? And you call yourselves grandparents.......I learned my guilt-tripping from the master - I think you know her. I have cc'd Eric to this email for maximum effect. Hope to see you at Disney.We are very much looking forward to the trip - it should be awesome. Mike P.S. This would be my blog entry if I had a blog: "Things are good. Cate is sick. Her tears, snot and drool are pooling together on her face as I write this. It does not look attractive, but apparently is edible."
Like I said, Mike has a colorful way with words.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What a beautiful day! Bob and I were busy outdoors - kind of our last gasp for fall. I decided to scrape and sand the trim on the north side of the house, painted a primer on some bare spots and then a coat of exterior. Lots of ups and downs on the ladder. The garage has a west side that is peeling so I scraped that and hope to prime and paint it tomorrow. I enjoy painting, as long as I am not stressed out or in a hurry. While I was painting, Bob was busy getting the remainder of our neighbors' leaves off our lawn. I told him that he's starting to obsess on the leaves - he wants a perfectly clean lawn - it ain't gonna happen! So, off he went to the local landfill in Maple Grove to dump the leaves. The neighbor kids were outside, too, with questions and wanting to borrow rakes, bags, climb trees and just fool around in the sunshine. It's fun to see them having a good time.

Tonight, after an early supper of leftover spaghetti, Bob and I set a bonfire going in the back yard and nine neighbor kids and Bob and I made s'mores (graham crackers, roasted marshmellows and chocolate). It gets dark early, so it was a perfect evening for telling ghost stories and singing songs ala "American Idol". The kids got a little crazy and Bob and I kept having to remind them not to run close to the fire, not to hold sticks in the fire, and only two s'mores each! We were all sticky - one little girl said that she was going to go home and throw up! Oh well! It's evenings like this that I really miss our kids and the grandchildren. Neighbor kids are fine, but I wish I could celebrate a fine, fall day with my own family.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jeanne just called and said she didn't feel well. I feel like I have been ridden hard and put way wet. So what does the H1N1 flu feel like? For the past week we have been getting to bed late and up early. Going outside in the rain or near rain can't have helped much. I just don't feel well.

This morning I spent time at the doctor's getting more blood tests and giving them samples of my urine. I am trying to get into a study on the effects of a drug to prevent the development of cardiovascular and renal health problems for people with diabetes. I would love to say my only reason for being in the study is to help mankind but I am not all that altruistic. To get into the study, you need to have a physical exam that is not ordinarily covered by my health insurance. The blood work alone would have given Humana, my insurance company, a stroke. Besides the exam, they actually pay me to participate. So I get elevated health care, get paid and help humanity. Everyone wins.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The rains are back again. In the past few weeks we seem to get rain for a week or more and then a day or two of sunshine. Friday night we had Leah and Henry over for dinner. I made lasagna and if leftovers are any indicator, the meal went over very well. Saturday was a nice day so we went out to camp and raked up our leaves. I am not sure how such a small lot can hold so many leaves. Sunday we watched the Vikings. Kind of nice to have a football team (two if you count the university) that wins on occasion. Monday no school so it was outside getting ready for winter time. I raked leaves all day. I took over five trips to the garden waste deposal area in Maple Grove. I was not the only one taking advantage of the nice weather. The line into the deposal area had to have had 50 cars in it on each of my five trips. I had one more trip today and the pile of leafs were as tall as a two story building and the line was still long in spite of the rain.

Today was a good day at school. It is amazing how smart some young people are. In my Ancient History of the West class, I was in a small group of four students discussing a letters written to Hellenistic leaders by the common folks of that time. The kids did a first rate job of analyzing documents 2000 years old. I enjoyed listening to their comments and just added one of two of my own to keep them on track. It makes me feel a lot younger associating with young people with sharp minds. The experts say that one way to ward off dementia to keep your mind active. College sure does that for me.

I am trying to get my middle son to start a blog so we can keep track of him and his family. Jess, his wife, is open to it, I think, but Mike response is as follows: "The Chicago Messersmith Family Blog - If you are wondering what we are up to, pick up the phone loser!" He has ‘forbidden” Jess to start a blog. Jess is a very independent, smart, self reliant woman who just may start a blog because her husband said she could not.