I’m a bad family member.

Filed under:General — eric @ 10:43 am

It was my father’s birthday this month. I don’t really know when it is, but I think it’s on the seventh. Maybe the ninth, but I don’t think so. Sixth? I don’t know when my mother’s birthday is, either. It’s sometime in August. Perhaps it’s the twenty-fourth, but I’m really at a loss. Some would say that I’m a bad son. Maybe so, but I’m hoping not. I don’t mean to be, anyway, and I’m trying to improve with age.

So my dad’s birthday has recently past. [If I don’t talk to you before you read this, happy birthday dad. I’m sorry I’m so late.] Not only do I not know when it was, but I don’t even know how old he is. Based on family anecdotes, I could make a guess… Fifty-two? That’s probably within two years. My mom’s a couple or three years behind him, I think.

I’ve been made aware this past year just how much I don’t know about my family. For every five questions Chris has asked me about them, I’ve only been able to answer two. At best. Her family is very close. Her extended family all hail (mostly) from the same small town in Minnesota. Even the cousin’s grandparents are like real grandparents. They’ve since spread around the world, but they keep in close contact.

Things are different with my family. My immediate family was very close-knit, but there are members of my extended family I don’t think I’ve ever met. I’m comfortable with that — it’s a feature of my family. There are extenuating circumstances, of course. My mother’s side of the family is large. She’s the eldest of nine, so that makes for lots of aunts and uncles and too many cousins to count. And there have been marriages and re-marriages. And I spent most of my childhood several states away from “the action”, so it was easy to go several years (now it’s fifteen or more) without even seeing my mom’s siblings. And it was another extreme on my dad’s side. The details are murky for me, but my grandfather married and had children. At some point, his first wife died and the children became adults. He married again, to my grandmother, but she died when my dad was small. He was mostly raised by his already-grown half siblings. By the time I was born, they had moved away and I hardly ever (if ever) saw them and their families. My grandpa, by now an old man, remarried again (I took my first steps at that wedding). This wife was the woman I know as grandma. She had a whole grown family, too, but they never became my family. That’s a very short description of my family tree, but you can see why my extended family was a distant group to my immediate family.

And then I moved far away to go to college. Far enough that I couldn’t afford to go home more than once a year, and then just for a quick visit. My sisters were younger than my, so I missed their adolescent years when they developed their adult personalities. My youngest sister is similar to me, so it’s easy for me to relate to her. But things are different with my other sister. When I see or talk to her (far, far too rarely — I make an even worse brother than I do a son, perhaps), we spend so much time catching up on news that I don’t really get to discover who she is as a person. That troubles me, I suppose, but I haven’t done anything to correct it.

So now, having been away from home for thirteen years or so, I can’t answer any but the most basic questions about my family. I counter the disbelief at my not knowing these things by saying “that’s just how things are with my family. We’re OK with that. We don’t need to keep constant tabs on each other, and we know (roughly) where everyone is, and we’re there for each other when the need arises.” But that defense only lasts so long.

Now, to further the point, let me say that I don’t know when my parentsí anniversary is. I know it’s in July sometime. Right about now, in fact. And, I can’t say for sure, because of “how things are with my family”, but I’m pretty sure that it is their thirtieth anniversary. Thirty is a nice round number, and given society’s preference of round numbers, I guess that thirty is an important one. It probably has a traditional gift of molybdenum or sapphire or something [note to self: research this.]. Thirty years is a long time, and I’m mighty proud of them for making such a difficult thing as a marriage (especially when you’ve got such a bad son) work for so long.

Friday night I’m leaving Georgia with Chris for Missouri to visit my family. The immediate family, anyway. My youngest sister is having her second child this weekend, and I’m going to be there for the event. I know my sisters’ birthdays (even though I’ve been known to be late recognizing the dates from time to time), and I know my niece and nephew’s birthdays. I’m trying to be a better uncle and sometimes even send gifts. Chris is looking forward to seeing everyone again (or, in the case of Adrienne, for the first time), but I don’t think she’s looking forward to it as much as I am. It’s my chance to convince everyone that I’m not really as bad a son/brother as some would say. At least for another year or so.

Mom and dad: Happy Anniversary. Every day I’m thankful for the lessons you have taught and the gifts you have given.


Spy Cars video

Filed under:General — eric @ 11:29 am

The local newspaper has added a flash movie to its online feature on the Athens spy cars. If you wanted to see the spy car parade in color, here’s your chance.


How does a hen lay?

Filed under:General — eric @ 12:41 pm

How does a hen lay her eggs? Like this.

We got eggs

Filed under:General — eric @ 12:37 pm

A few weeks ahead of schedule, one of our hens (the only white leghorn) has started laying eggs. When hens start laying for the first time, the eggs are rather small. If I were an FDA egg inspector, I’d grade these AA Extra Teenie-weenie.

Goin’ to the chapel

Filed under:General — eric @ 11:06 am

A year ago yesterday, I met someone and my internal calendar got reset. I’ve come to realize that I don’t want my calendar reset like that ever again, so yesterday while we were walking along a mountain stream, I gave her a ring and asked her The Question. She said yes.


Weekend escape

Filed under:General — eric @ 4:18 am

I’m christening the oven tonight with small pizzas and a leg of lamb (from a recipe from old Provence, when they used to use wood-fired bread ovens. The book I have, great in most respects, had the laughable line, “Legend has it the villagers used to bake the lamb in the communal wood-fired ovens after the bread had finished.” What a quaint notion of “legend”.). It’s a small family gathering, but we’ll open up the oven to the public with an all-out pizza party at some point. Maybe for my 30th, which will be here sooner than I’ll be ready.

And this weekend Chris and I are going camping with friends. Sunday’s a sentimental day for me; I expect I’ll have things to write about.



Filed under:General — eric @ 8:33 am

Busy, busy, busy.


That’s what I’ve been. Busy at work, making up for lost time. It’s much better to be busy this way — rolling out good software that customers are literally amazed at — than it was the previous two weeks when we were busy repairing the god-awful mistakes we made, with a livid customer watching and interjecting at every turn. I’ll even be working tomorrow, the fourth, and I don’t really mind because it’s good work.

I’ve been busy with theater, too. The play went very well. Every night we had twice as many audience members as the previous night. We only went on for three nights, though, so we couldn’t push that trend to its limits. I’ll be off the stage for a few weeks, preparing for the directing gig I’ve landed. [Note to self: change the sidebar.] Bus Stop will be fun. I’m looking forward to sharing my ideas with a whole new group of people, and having a whole new audience watch my work. And if leads to several extra thousand dollars a year, so much the better. I was wondering how to replace my tutoring income (my star student graduated), and Bus Stop will do more than that.

Things at home have been busy, too. After a week of rehearsals (and pizza), I hardly recognized the garden. With all the rain we’ve gotten, combined with the heat, the summer veggies have exploded. There’s probably a bushel or more of tomatillos growing from only four plants. The tomato plants are as tall as I am, and they’re loaded with green fruit. When I was young, in Indiana, there was a local saying about the corn, “Knee high by the fourth of July.” Mine’s ready to harvest. I ate the first okra today. There’re baby eggplants. The squash (spaghetti and yellow crooknech) and cukumbers and melons are fruiting. The chiles, all dozen varieties, dozens of plants, are loaded. I put away several quarts of beans yesterday, and the vines should produce yet for a few more months. I’ll put away what I anticipate needing for the year, and the rest will be sold at the local organic farmer’s market. Even if I only have a little to sell, it’ll be good quality and great practice for when I buy the farm (no breakthrough on that front yet) and grow enough to have the farm pay for itself.

And yesterday I finished the oven. I think it looks very nice, even though I didn’t do any fancy carvings. It’s a simple beehive shaped oven, and that’s just fine. I’ll build a few small fires in it this week and plan on making the first meals in it Friday night. I’ve lost my camera (I think it’s in the trunk of my car, along with theater materials, TiVo diagnostic equipment, odds and ends, and who knows what else), so there’s still no pictures. And I wish I could have taken some during the building process. I’ve been accused of being obscenely sensual, but this oven building thing was over the top. It was all hand-built, from the laying of the foundation (cement blocks), shovelling a ton or more of sand, building the wet sand form for the inside (”shaping the void”), mixing the clay. Especially mixing the clay. It involved taking my shoes off, wearing shorts, and dancing in the mud. I put the clay I dug out of the ground on a tarp, sprinkled with extra sand, and added a touch of water. And then I got right on and danced. I jigged. I twisted. I clogged. Had I thought about it, I would have actually put on some music to dance to, but the soundtrack in my head worked alright with me. The first batch of clay should have been barely damp, like that of from-scratch pie dough. I got it a bit wetter than that, but no matter. This was pressed onto my clay form, compacted as much as it could take, in small bactches with my hands. Five or so inches thick, two feet high and almost two feet across. That took two wheelbarrows of clay and planty of dancing. When that had dried sufficiently, I cut out the doorway and scraped out the sand form. The oven stood by itself, and already it looked great, ready to use. But I mixed up another batch of clay, this time with more sand and straw and water (and much more dancing) and added a second, equally thick, layer to the oven. This took another two wheelbarrows of clay. When that was put on and suffifiently compacted, I wet my hands and smotted it out. This was the best part, because it was just like fingerpainting, or turning a bowl on a wheel. I smoothed it out and made it pretty, and now it sits under a tarp, protected from the daily thunderstorms, waiting for fire to harden it.

Some of my friends have made a running joke of my self-sufficiency by judging me on how much of a pizza I’ve made by myself. I started with the tomatoes and basil, while living in my concrete apartment. I began making cheese, and that got added to the list (Someday soon, it’ll be from milk from my own animals.). I’ve begun collecting mushrooms, and they’re mighty good on pizza. I haven’t grown my own wheat yet, but I have ground whole organic wheat into flour. I’ve done it on a stone mortar and pestle, but I prefer to use a metal grinder. I don’t grow my own olives yet, but when I do I’ll press them for oil. And now I can bake them in an oven made completely by hand from raw materials. I’m almost there, but I know when I reach complete pizza self-sufficiency, the bar will be raised to another level. And when it is, I’ll be ready to build my house from cob/generate my own power/whatever. I’ve found that the more I live in harmony with my surroundings, making for myself what I can, my standard of living has only increased. Odd that, considering many people think only the poor do what I’ve been doing.

Busy, busy. That’s what I’ve been lately.