Thursday, April 30, 2009

something cute...

I thought it was pretty cute...every time we took a picture of Justin, he would throw his arms out to the side...

Then yesterday, I saw this:


some texts from justin...

Friday, April 24
7:50am – We’re leaving our company now
7:53am – Roger, remember to record it!
10am – We look good?

Saturday, April 25
3:20am – I’m almost to the gate. Thank you for coming.
7:16am – I’m getting another weekend pass till Monday.
7:19am – Not sure, my dad is going to maybe stay again.
7:28am – My dad probably won’t stay. Charlie has to be home by Sunday for something in Winchester.
7:32am – Okay mom, thanks, it’ll be nice just you and me.
7:36am – I will, I’m in the van right now. I’ll let you know ASAP.
8:59am – I’m at my briefing.
9:13am – Yeah, it might be around 12ish maybe, we’re all afraid to ask him.
9:14am – I’ll let you know what’s going on, is that okay?
9:22am – Yeah, they’re going to release us he said.
12:02pm – Yeah, I’m filling out the paper for the pass now, can you head here now?
12:34pm – Give me 15 mom, we’re in formation.

Justin's Graduation from Basic Training; Columbia, South Carolina (Day 3, 4 & 5)...

Everyone got up on time and was showered and ready to go. The B&B got out of making us breakfast that morning since they do it between 8-10am. They left us donuts and coffee. We hopped in the car and were back at Hilton Field by a little after 8am.

While I made sure I purchased the DVDs for Basic Training and the Graduation, D and Cookie bought themselves breakfast from the food stand. I will make copies of the DVD for Danny and Justin.

For a moment, we were sitting on the wrong side of the bleachers. It wasn’t until I spoke to Danny on the phone that we realized this and moved to the left side. We saved them a seat and he met up with us later. It was D, me, Danny, Trevor, Charlie & Cookie.

It was pretty hard to find him – he was in the back – he said that they ordered them by height.

The graduation was relatively short. They were all lined up and marching in formation. There was an awards ceremony for the outstanding soldiers and drill sergeants. As the graduation was ending, they had the soldiers do a walk by. Later we looked at the video I was recording and it seems that as I panned the crowd, as soon as Justin’s face was in the frame, I started panning the other way. I guess I had trouble seeing him.

Then a mad dash to the barracks having to deal with the traffic jam in the parking lot. We missed the demonstration at the barracks. I guess they did a bit of PT for the parents. Then it was time to sign him out for his overnight pass. Danny took him to the PX for “civilian clothes” and then met us at the B&B. We decided to go for lunch at the Lizard’s Thicket; a southern cooking restaurant. Danny paid the bill without our knowing. Then on to get some ice cream at 31 Flavors. Then to see a movie “Monster Vs. Aliens 3D”. That was pretty good.

We split up at that time – I got to take Justin. We went back to the B&B to relax before dinner. Met back up with Danny at around 7pm at the Motor Supply Company Bistro. That was a nice restaurant with patio seating. We were told by the waitress that the menu changes daily. I had some pasta which was very nice. The temperature was perfect and we had a pleasant dinner all together. Once again, Danny footed the bill. Justin went with his dad and brothers for the rest of the evening. Justin needed to be back at post by 4am.

Saturday was the day that I had planned on leaving. D and Cookie’s bus wasn’t leaving until 7pm. I got a text pretty early in the morning from Justin saying that he was getting another weekend pass. So, I decided that I would stay one more day.

The B&B made us some nice breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and fruit. Then we were off to go pick him up.

He seemed extremely tired and would have liked it if we had a room already for that night, but as it was, we didn’t. We stopped at ZoĆ«’s Kitchen for lunch and then headed to the Riverside Park in West Columbia. Justin took a nap in the car while me, D and Cookie sat by the river. It was a nice day and people were out kayaking and fishing.

When Justin woke up, he told me that Hillary, an old girlfriend, was going to meet us at the park. We had her meet us at the restaurant in the park; The New Orleans Riverfront Restaurant. We had Margaritas and some cheese sticks. D and Cookie joined us after their walk.

Hillary seems like a nice girl, a little abrupt and says what she’s thinking, but I liked her. She came with us to the bus station to drop off D and Cookie. There were concerns about this girl that she delights in Justin’s misbehaviors, but I think it’s really what you would expect from a 19 year old girl.

Justin and I then invited ourselves over to Hillary’s house to meet her parents. On the way we stopped at a couple of hotels and decided on a Holiday Inn Express. Justin took a shower while Hillary and I watched Mr. Deeds.

Then on to Hillary’s parents house. They live in Lexington, SC. They moved here from Washington DC about a month ago and are still unpacking. It was a nice house in an impeccable neighborhood. Elke and Wolfgang were very hospitable and accepted the little invasion with grace.

It was a nice evening of chatting. They are both originally from Germany and have lived all over. He works for the government. They were an extremely nice couple.

Hillary has two pets; a mouse and a rat. They are so cute. She let me hold the rat.

Said our good-byes and headed for the hotel. Later Justin reminded me that he had spent a week living at their house in DC during this whole process of trying to get into the Army.

As soon as Justin's head hit the pillow, he was out. Reminded me of when we went to Florida when he was little. The days were filled from morning til night and as soon as he got to bed, he was sleeping.
However, it didn't work the same for me. Around 11pm or so, there was a bunch of commotion in the hotel, with girls hooting and loud laughs. Around 2am or so, I heard someone trying to use their credit card key in my door. I had to get up and let him know he was at the wrong room. All I kept thinking was they had better not wake this boy up. He was so happy to hear that we were going to set the alarm for 7:30am - he'll be able to sleep in, he told me.

Got up, showered and had our breakfast downstairs. Heard on the news that day that Bea Arthur had passed away and that Swine flu had killed some people in Mexico.

Dropped Justin off at church on the base. He's been going to the Jewish services. Apparently he likes this girl that he goes with.

Then I headed home. Took me a little over 12 hours to get home - with all the stops.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Justin's Graduation from Basic Training; Columbia, South Carolina (Day 1 & 2)...

Left work at a quarter after noon on Wednesday. I wanted to make sure that I got a jump on the trip. Since Debbie wouldn’t be joining me and I’ve been having issues driving at night over the past few years, I wanted to make sure that I was done driving for the night by the time it started getting dark.

I stopped at the West Virginia/Virginia border. I went to the Welcome Center to get the coupons for hotels and turns out the hotel that I got did not accept coupons. I stayed at my favorite chain hotel; The Hampton Inn. The sheets are so comfy and it’s always clean and offers breakfast (and cookies when you arrive).

It was an expensive hotel and so to justify the cost, I made sure to use as many of the amenities as I could. I ran on the treadmill for around 15 minutes, I used the computer in the lobby, I made the coffee that was in the room, I had the chocolate chip cookies. The next day I took the remainder of the shampoo and conditioner and grabbed a bagged breakfast and was on my way.

I had 4 more hours of driving. Today was Family Day, which was starting at 9am. There was no way I would make it that early, so I just made sure that I would be there in time to pick up D and Cookie from the Greyhound Bus Station and get them to the B&B to freshen up – then head out to Ft. Jackson.

I arrived at the Chestnut Cottage B&B right around noon. They were not yet ready for me – the room had not been changed over from the previous night. So, I waited in the garden. The weather was beautiful and clear. It was not a normal humid South Carolina day. I realized at that time that clearly, I had not packed correctly. I had checked the weather on-line all week; it had said that it was going to be 80 degrees for the whole weekend. Well, it was getting warmer as I sat there. Turned out to be in the 90’s for the rest of the weekend.

Picked up D and Cookie at the Bus Station at 1:20pm. The bus was only 10 minutes late. Brought them back to the B&B and by 2pm we were on our way to see my soldier.

Drove to Hilton Field and called Danny to let him know we were there and waiting. He started right away with his “sense of humor” and asked me why I was at the Hilton when I should be at Ft. Jackson – so before I would start getting upset with him, I said “maybe I should speak to Justin”. Then they drove up over the hill where I could see them.

Justin looked so good in his uniform; all trim, tan and clean shaven. He was smiling really big – me too!

Danny had been with him since 9am, so he allowed me to take him at this point. First Justin showed us around. He brought us to his barracks. They were brand spankin' new. He showed us where he does his PT and then we walked over to Victory Tower where he told us it was pretty early in the training that they had to climb the tower using the ropes, hoping not to fall. He said he did fall and he was pretty scared when he did. Justin wanted to go to the PX and buy the Macbook, so that was the next place we went. This was fine for Cookie; she likes shopping. We spent a lot of time there. While there we purchased the Macbook; he paid half. Cookie bought some t-shirts and D & Cookie both purchased some sunglasses. We had lunch; Taco Bell and later we had some ice cream, however Justin didn't want any. We sat outside at the tables and looked around at all the soldiers and families.

Later, some more sightseeing of Ft. Jackson where we stopped at the museum. We were just a few minutes too late; it was closed. We walked around and looked at the planes and tanks that sat on the lawn. We ran into one of his fellow Alpha Company compadres. He was walking around with his parents showing them the base as well. We sat and listened to these two talk about all of their adventures thus far. It really sounds like both these kids really enjoy the Army.

He needed to be back by 18:45 so, we headed back to the barracks to drop him off. We would be seeing him early the next day for graduation.

We went back to the B&B and decided on where we were going to go for dinner. We decided on Hennessy's on Main Street in downtown Columbia.

This was a very upscale looking place. It was a little on the dark side and kind of loud upstairs. We were told that the waiters were getting the place put back together after a party from earlier. It was like a bunch of 6 year olds were running around and tumbling.

The food was fantastic! I had the She Crab soup. D and I split the Jumbo Lump Crabcakes. Along with the crabcakes came some Adluh Grits - I have never had grits like this before. For dessert, creme brulee and a half a cup of coffee. The waitress was great as well and by the end of the meal, she had split the bill, D's being the most complicated since she shared the entree with me and the dessert with Cookie.

I highly recommend this restaurant if you're ever in Columbia, SC.
Afterward, back to the B&B to get some shut-eye since we needed to be up and rarin' to go before 7am.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More to come, but I wanted to post some of the pictures from the (graduation) weekend.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

edible bouquet...

My sister Terry sent me an edible bouquet today for my Birthday. It was yum-olicious!

Thanks Terry!

i cried like a baby...

I've been having a very emotional week with things that disappoint and things that piss me off. I've been stressed at work; probably because I'm finally expected to do something after being on this program for over a year.

Anyway, after stressing most of the day yesterday and after the guys came back from lunch (I didn't take a lunch), one of the guys called out my name and I barked at him "I don't have time right now" before knowing what he wanted. Then another one of the guys came to my desk and asked how much longer I would be using the UNIX. I told him that I didn't know, but that I would be in a meeting at 2:30 so if he needed to use it, he could feel free to use it then. Well, he persisted and said he really needed me to help him with something at his desk. So, I got up and followed him. He walked past his cube and then I started getting the clue. There was going to be something in the lunchroom.

When I arrived at the entrance, all the guys (and the one kinda part-time girl) were all standing in the lunchroom and there it was, a big chocolate birthday cake with "Happy Birthday Yvonne" written on it!

I couldn't help myself, I immediately started crying. I wanted to run away because I was embarrassed about the outburst. The girl asked "why are you crying???"...I said that I've been really stressed...but I wish I had said that it was an unexpected surprise and a very sweet gesture (because it was).

They all took it well and I suppose it was a very good reaction; but one they were not expecting. And neither was I.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

ok, on to the thing that disappointed me...

I’m not sure if I’m more disappointed in the doctor or in myself for having had the procedure done.

April 25th will mark the 1 year anniversary of my lasik procedure. I’ve never been completely satisfied with my vision ever since. Anytime someone would ask me about it, I thought that I was coming across as being so “Debbie Downer”; pessimistic.

Each appointment after the surgery, the doctor would not ask me how I was feeling; he would tell me. He would make statements like “you must be so excited that you’re able to see so clearly” or “it must be fantastic that you can see 20/20 now”. Those types of shrewd statements started making me angry right away.

I would bring a whole list of things to address at my appointments, but each time I would just get “yeah, you still have some swelling, give it time” and other manipulations. I asked for a prescription for Restasis, since I had read about how this helps healing by making your eye wet, but he didn’t feel that my eyes were dry enough to justify a prescription drop.

By May 24th, I noticed that my left eye was weaker than my right. But when I mentioned it to the (assistant) doctor, he would say “you still see 20/20”.

At the last appointment I had with the assistant lasik doctor in October, he stated that he didn’t believe that he would need to see me any longer unless I had some major issues.

So, at this point I gave up and decided that I would just live with the problems.

Lately I had noticed myself squinting to see things like road signs, etc. So, I finally made an appointment with an Optometrist.

I went on Tuesday evening, prior to the VF Committee Meeting as described in my earlier post.

I told her that I had had lasik a year ago and that I’ve noticed lately a lot of blurring and the left eye is not as strong as the right. I felt that my eyes were dry and I am always yawning to bring up natural tears since they seem to work better than the drops that the assistant lasik doctor gave me; Refresh and Optive. I will use Visine in the morning and again in the evening. She told me that typically she would not prescribe Restasis unless the person really has a bad dry eye problem. It takes several months for the drops to kick in and there are complaints that the drops sting.

She did the typical eye test where you have the optical refractor (phoropter) up against your face and you read the letters at the other end of the room, and then she put some drops in my eyes and looked into them through a microscope kind of tool reflecting different color lights off the corneas.

She asked if this had been the only surgery on my eyes or had I ever had more. I told her this was it. Hummmm. After her exam, she said that she was not really impressed with how my corneas look. She also felt that the scar tissue was really large and that is why she asked if I had had more than one procedure on my eyes. She is not sure if it was the result of shoddy work or if it’s just the way I healed. Also, my prescription has changed and I am becoming near-sighted again. I will need to have glasses in order to drive if I want to see clearly during the night or other times where vision is hampered. She told me that she would be writing me a prescription for Restasis because even when I blink, my eye is not creating enough lubrication. So, I am suffering from dry eye. She would like to see me again in 4 months.

She asked how the lasik doctor responded to my complaints and I told her about his leading statements. She said “yes, you may be seeing everything on the chart, but it’s not a quality 20/20”. She also suggested that it wouldn’t be a good idea to get a “touch-up” because of the condition of my scar tissue.

The surgery cost me nearly $2400 and I feel that if the assistant lasik doctor could have done something for me like prescribe the Restasis and it would have made things better, why wouldn’t he?

I think that the lasik doctors are only interested in the high price you are paying and once you’ve done that – they don’t want to get a bad name, so they manipulate you to make you feel like you are pessimistic and you just need to wait a little while longer; be patient. No bad press for them.

I am tempted to make another appointment with my lasik doctor to see what he has to say now.

the thing that made me angry...

I have a couple of things that I’ve been upset about lately. I’ve been thinking about them endlessly for the last couple of days. Not sure that I will be able to get the point across as to just how angry the one makes me and just how disappointed the other makes me. The story about the thing that disappointed me will be in another post. This post will deal with the thing that is grinding me at the moment.

I’m still having a hard time as to whether it’s something that I “should” be angry about, or should I just swallow my pride and let it be.

You may remember from a previous post (application submitted...) from February 11, that we were asked by the Victorian Festival Committee to work on this years posters and fliers for the festival. We agreed to add this to our already crazily-busy schedule because it's good to get involved in the community.

We worked on these posters and fliers, putting other things aside, because we were told that they needed the posters by the end of March.

They supplied us with the images; a Victorian woman and an old town scene, and the event list. Both images were sketches, with a yellowy antiqued background. I thought a cute idea would be a theme of “silent movie”. So, I looked on-line for a special font (Silentina) and researched how a silent movie slide would look. Seems that a silent movie slide is black, sometimes fading to white in the middle (because of age) – they usually have a frame or a border and they are simple.

We used this idea to create 4 posters; 2 with white backgrounds and 2 with the dark background that fades to white in the middle.

In order to have the look we were going for, Jerome had to use his computer talents to remove the yellowy antiqued background from the sketches so that the sketches would be only black and white. That took some time and effort.
We took them to the Committee Meeting on March 10 and got nothing but praise…no major changes.

A week later, we went to the printers and had her (Christine) print out some trial posters. Made some updates, but all in all we liked how they looked. Sent her an email with the requirements and expected that before long, the posters would be printed.

Then we needed final approval on the fliers since they had the majority of the information on them; the map and the events of the day. We met up with the organizers; Sue and Janine. They had a lot of updates and changes for the flier. We went home and were done with the updates the next day and sent the .pdfs to the printer.

In the meantime, had another Committee Meeting…more additions to the flier.

It took another week before the printer had 500 fliers for us to pick up. Jerome called and told her that we would be picking them up on Friday and was informed that Sue had already picked them up and had mentioned some issues with the font size. However, Sue would still use what we had to drop off at the few events that she would be attending that weekend.

I already started feeling at this point like my toes were getting stepped on. I felt that up until this point, Jerome and I were taking care of all the poster, flier, printer responsibilities and I was pretty insulted that Sue would take it upon herself to pick up and then judge the quality of the fliers. By the way, we still didn’t have the posters! Remember, we had sent the .pdfs to the printer on March 17 – it was now April 3.

The next Monday when we got home from work, Sue and Janine were in our driveway. They were dropping off a flier and poster with all kinds of marks all over them. So, as soon as we walked in the door, I was on the computer making the changes so that we could send the files to the printer.

Jerome suggested to include in this email the PowerPoint files as well as the .pdfs so that if they need to lighten something or darken something, they could do it on the fly.

Fast forward to this past Tuesday; another Committee Meeting. We arrived a few minutes late. I immediately noticed that Sue had passed out the latest fliers. They were completely different from what we submitted. Yes, they still had the border that we created and one of the two types of fonts, but the list of events, the other font (Silentina) and the layout were all different. I said immediately “oh, you changed the orientation”…Sue said, I didn’t change the orientation, the printer did.

I got a better look and the map on the back was almost the same, only things that were different were the font and the shading.

I spent a lot of energy telling myself to let it go. I could barely concentrate on the meeting. Then I noticed a big pile of posters in all different colors of paper. We had told the printer pale yellow and lavender for the posters that had white backgrounds and white paper for the posters that had the darker background. These posters were dark yellow, dark purple and dark green. As the meeting came to a close and Sue was handing over the posters to Janine – it seemed to me that she was hiding them from my view. I asked “could we see how the final posters turned out”. Oh yes, sure. The printer only used one of the four we sent her and she incorporated both sketches into one – she moved everything around - she didn’t use the font and it just looked overly busy, messy.

Sue said they decided on only one poster, "the one with the dark background looked like a negative". We said in unison, "that was the point". The rest of the Committee Members laughed. Sue then said the printer had to recreate the whole poster. That she didn't have PowerPoint. This was not true. But she did screw up the nice k.i.s.s. (keep it simple, stupid) design that we did.

I just can’t get over it and even while I’m writing this, I’m getting so angry. We worked on those posters and fliers for hours. We were told over a month ago that everything looked so fantastic.

Jerome said as we were leaving that he is happy because now that they have all the files, they can make updates and we don’t have to be involved at all. We don’t have to attend any more meetings and we don’t have to go to the Festival if we do not want to. Plus, they can use our “base” for whatever they need in the future.

Since this post is so long, I had decided that I would not mention the complete disorganization of the meetings and agendas. It will be just amazing if they can really pull this event off.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

DAY 3 & 4 (Saturday & Sunday, April 11th & 12th)...Trip to New England

We woke up to the smell of bacon. Our breakfast was served at 8:30am. We ate with the other guests; Gillian and Steven. They were from Long Island, NY and New Jersey, respectively. A sort of trendy NY couple. The Inn Keepers; Jeanne and Don, also ate their breakfast with us. I was surprised about that, but it was really nice. We talked and ate for nearly an hour and then got up to get ready to leave.
The day was rainy and cold, my friend. Drove to Wheaton. Met Miss Erin under the arch (not McD’s). We took a gander at her room – met her roommates (Libby & Lina) and then got the 2 cent tour of Wheaton. In my opinion, I prefer Wheaton to RISD. It’s more my element; small town, old houses – is more like what I had in my mind’s eye of what a campus really is.

Then we started toward Foxboro for lunch. Prior to, we drove around trying to find the house Terry & Bill used to live, but couldn’t find it.

We ate at the Foxboro Common’s Eatery. Jerome and I were full from our blueberry pancake breakfast from the B&B, so we just got soup and onion rings. Erin got real food.

We drove by Oma’s, but it didn’t seem like she was there. I wanted to show Jerome where Bill grew up. Then we decided to go to the Old Country Store. Erin was really happy in a sentimental way when we entered. She wanted to buy her mother something for Mother’s Day…the $$ was at the burning point in her pocket, but she then remembered something else she wanted to get her mom so she showed self-control.

Erin said she needed to do some homework, so we dropped her off and headed off to RISD where Nick was doing a presentation called “What We Do”. He spoke on the extra curricular activity “Thunderdome”. This is an activity where the kids make their “soldier” costumes out of cardboard and fight using pool noodles all the while having the battle accompanied by the soundtrack to Thunderdome the movie.

While trying to find where the poster was that had the presentation schedule, we were helped by these two girls who walked us through the campus. Then they also helped us with directions to the Moore Center where Nick was presenting.

Well, unfortunately, we didn’t remember the exact time of the presentation until we saw the schedule and we missed it :(

We walked back to Carpenter House and knocked…and knocked…eventually, the same girls that walked us around campus, came and opened the door. We told them that we weren’t really following them.

We then took Nick’s earlier advice and broke into his room via the bathroom. Wrote him a note and got the GPS to figure out what we could do for a couple of hours. Nick’s phone had run out of minutes prior to our arrival the day before. We had given him some money to add minutes but he hadn’t yet done so. We called Erin to let her know that we didn’t make it to his presentation and that we had broken in to his room. She took it upon herself to call Fabiola and have her come and wait with us until Nick showed up. Fabiola seemed to us like the most normal person we had yet met at RISD. Sweet and soft spoken.

Nick arrived in full armor! We apologized that we were late. I asked him to show us his presentation and he obliged.

We dropped Nick and Fabiola at the mall so that Nick could put the money on his phone. We told him we would be back by 6:15pm to pick him up so we could go to Wheaton to see the play Macbeth.

In the meantime, we drove back to the B&B to freshen up and change. Drove back to RISD…no Nick. Luckily he now had minutes on his phone. Called him and found out he was across the river at a friends. Drove to pick him up and were on time to meet up with Erin at her dorm. Sat for a bit and talked with her roomies. Cute, cramped little room. They are all excited because next year two of them are moving into a house and the other is moving into another dorm where she will be in a “single”.

Walked over to the theater to watch the Shakespeare play “Macbeth”. Shakespeare is very difficult to understand if you are an English speaking person…so it’s miles harder for the “English is not my first language” person. Jerome was lost nearly the whole presentation. I was not sitting next to him because I wanted to be near my niece and nephew. So, poor Jerome didn’t have a clue…not to say that I had much of one either, but anyway we mottled through. I had seen a presentation of Macbeth at the RSC with D when we visited Statford-upon-Avon, UK - but it doesn't make it much easier to understand.
I can say that the witch costumes were really great; the scary “jigsaw” masks and the way the witches undulated throughout the whole play was impressive. Also the set design was really well done. It’s also amazing the amount of lines these actors needed to remember and recite.

One of the actors was a young man that Jerome and I met in Austria while visiting my sister. A friend of Nick and Erin; his name is Adam Wilson and he is trying to become a real actor, so keep his name in mind.

Took the kids, including Adam to Applebee’s afterward. Dropped off Erin and Adam (hugs), and then started for RISD. We were about 10 minutes into the drive when Erin called and said Adam had left his laptop in the car. UGH! Well luckily she already had a plan on how to get it back that would not involve us turning around. She is clever and fast. Dropped off Nick (more hugs) and headed back to the B&B. Once again getting in nearly at 1am.

Sunday; Easter
Beautiful day; cool and clear.

Once again awoke to the smell of bacon – YUM!

8am breakfast, this time it was only Jeanne and Don, me and Jerome. We really enjoyed the conversation. Later Jerome let Jeanne use the laptop to access her email. While doing that (which took a long time since Jerome’s laptop is soooooo slooooow), I saw that they had a player piano. I put a roll in and tried to pedal away. It took a little while and by the end, we all had a chance at pedaling.

We left at 10am.
The only things that were noteworthy on the trip was that one toll road ticket blew out of my hand when I was trying to pay for the toll. It seemed to piss off the toll booth guy...and the long lines at the borders; both in and out of Canada.

Got home just before 10pm. Exhausted!

Monday, April 13, 2009

DAY 1 & 2 (Thursday & Friday, April 9th & 10th)...Trip to New England

We were out of town for the Easter weekend. We drove out east to visit (nephew) Nick and (niece) Erin.

Left work around 3:45pm and drove until 12:45am to Amsterdam, NY. We stayed at the Motel 8 that night.

I smelled like cigarettes in the morning…

Had their continental breakfast; tried to make an English muffin and run the microwave at the same time and blew a fuse. Too many electrical things going on at once. We met some old folk from Vermont that were driving through to Ohio to visit their cousin. I assume for Easter, but didn’t want to ask since they could have been Jewish…

We left around 7:40am.
Arrived Rhode Island School of Design at 10:40am. It was a beautiful day – parked in front of the Prospect Terrace Park on Congdon Street. Looked over the capital of Rhode Island. It was really nice view. Walked down to Nick’s house; The Carpenter House. Beautiful old wooden building painted several different colors; could be Victorian or Federal-style Architecture. Those seem to be the two styles that Providence is known for.
Nick took us on a tour of RISD – we got to see some of his classrooms and labs. Met some of his classmates and friends. We grabbed lunch at the Jolly Roger Cafe. I had a “Funky Monkey” sandwich wrap (made up of peanut butter, Nutella, a banana, raspberry jelly and chocolate syrup) and Jerome had a Chicken Fajita Wrap (with guaq). We took our food outside to sit by the river. Got to talk with Nick for a bit before he had to go to his 1pm class.

We had the greater part of the day to do some sightseeing. First we stopped at our Bed & Breakfast; Gilbert’s Tree Farm B&B. When we got there, stuck to the storm door was a note from our Inn Keepers.
"Welcome Yvonne & Jerome, here are directions to your room. Come into the kitchen; go up the stairs near this door, turn right. Your room is the first on the left. The entire upstairs is yours. Help yourselves to beverages in the refrig. Enjoy this beautiful day. Jeanne & Don"
As I’m reading this now, I’m realizing that we may have stayed in the wrong room…we stayed in the middle room. Oh well.

Anyway, they don’t have locks on their doors – just a little flimsy latch. However, they never leave the door latched, just in case guests are out late. The doors are thin wood doors; the walls are thin as well. I’m sure it gets pretty chilly in the winter. The house is a 170 year old farmhouse. It is styled like a “Cape-Cod” with the clapboard in the front and the cedar shakes on the other three sides. I asked about this, since I observed on all the houses in New England that are in this Cape-Cod style have one color of clapboard on the front (usually white) and then cedar shakes; some natural color which could be bright brown all the way to gray – others are stained. So it looked sort of out of the ordinary to me to have a two toned house. Jeanne told me that the settlers wanted to have the house in clapboard but it was expensive, so they would only put it on the front of the house; the rest would be shingled with cedar shakes. They just had two sides of their house re-shingled and it cost them nearly $8000. I think the cedar is more expensive these days.

Another observation that I asked about were all the rock walls. She said that they call them “stone walls”. When the farmers were first settling the area and tilling the soil; they came upon all these stones in the fields – so they created stone walls to keep their animals penned and also to make property lines. Some of the "stones" we came across were huge boulders lodged into the ground in some front and back yards.

Anyway, as we were getting ready to leave, the inn keeper, Jeanne showed up. So we got to meet her and then head out.

We drove around – wasn’t sure we could make it into the Cape, so we went to Horseneck Beach, Buzzards Bay, Mishaum Pointe and finally Scusset Beach.
I believe it was Buzzards Bay that was a “gated” community. We drove to the gate and turned around. Just then a truck pulled up. It was Vladimir the gardener. He asked in his broken English if we would like to go in. We said “sure, if we are allowed to”. Vlad said “follow me” – and we did. It was a long drive to the end; all the houses seemed to be vacation homes and since this was not season to be vacationing, most, if not all the houses seemed to be empty. The house on the end was a massive beach house.
We took pictures of some oddities: a stone wall, complete with a cast iron bathtub and a refrigerator and a large green dinosaur.
As we drove around, we were starting to become dog-tired. So, once we figured that we still had an hour before we needed to head back to the kids, we decided to find a beach and take a nap in the car. We raced to Scusset Beach and took our nappy-poo.
Woke up semi-refreshed and drove to Norton, MA. to pick up Miss Erin. She was already showered after her rugby game and we drove to pick up Nick. Tried to decide where we were going to eat. I told them that I wanted Lobster, so Nick suggested Hemenway’s, right in Providence. Nice place; nicer than what we were dressed for…I had the steamed Lobster and Jerome had the Pan-seared Scallops with Mushroom Raviolis. YUM! It was really nice.

Dropped off the kiddos and headed back to our B&B; in by 1am!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

justin report...

Only two more weeks of basic training and then graduation.

Just found out yesterday that my good friend Debbie will be coming along with me on the road trip down to Columbia, South Carolina. That will be really nice. We haven’t traveled together since NYC or maybe Tennessee…

Justin left a voice mail on my phone today telling me that I shouldn’t send any more mail after Wednesday, April 15.

So, this is for all those folks writing him letters.

Monday, April 6, 2009

crude drawings done by moi...

Robert, the architect, had sent us emails during the week with the local ordinances so that we could review before giving him the final go-ahead to draw up the sketches.

We met with him on Sunday and talked about the non-refundable $1000 charge that we would need to pay the ZBA (zoning board) in order to have them review our plans. The charge was because our plans exceeded the square footage allowed by the Ordinance. They only allow 790 square feet which would include both floors. So, we either needed to concede and pay the $1000 or brainstorm and figure out a different plan.

Our original plan was to build a second story; keeping within the same footprint of the current garage. The second story would be accessible from the hill. This second story would have an area in the back for storage and an area in the front designated a “living space”, but without running water or heat. A shed roof would come off the side to allow for a future covered porch or deck. In a year or so, we would build a deck off the side into the yard.
If we had continued with that idea, we would have 600 sq.ft. of garage space and 600 sq.ft. of living space on the second floor – surpassing the 790 sq.ft. allowable space.
So, brainstorming needed to be done. In order to follow the ordinance and keep a nice storage area at the top of the hill, I thought that maybe we could move the “deck” onto the top of the garage.We would have a 200 sq.ft. enclosed storage space at the back and a deck or balcony at the front. The roofline would cover the storage in the back and be brought forward to the front of the garage to act as a covered porch. The garage would keep one of the same footings but then become more square allowing a wider but less deep garage. Losing the depth will also make possible keeping the trees at the back of the garage. I was pretty happy about that since one of the trees flowers in the spring and the other turns yellow in the fall.

This idea would also kill several birds with one stone: We would be following the ordinance. We would not have to pay the $1000. We would not have to go in front of the ZBA, nor the Planning Commission; only the HDA. We would have our porch/deck/balcony right away and we would save the amount of money we would have paid for a deck in a year or two. The deck would be nicely covered and going along the same shaped roofline as our house; rather than an additional shed roof off to the side.

Let’s just hope that the HDA will approve of our new design and that we find a good contractor to make our idea come to pass…at a reasonable cost.

Real sketches to follow, drawn by a real architect.