The Road to Farley

The Road to Farley

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's 10:29 p.m. on New Year's Eve, and I've already been in bed for 30 minutes. Party on! That's me.

Part of the problem is that New Year's Eve 2010 was the coup de gras of all New Year's Eves (I'm not sure if I have properly pluralized that, but whatever...). Last year at this time, I was partying it up at the Grand Harbor in Dubuque at my niece's wedding. What a night! Never mind that it took me nearly two days to fully recover.

Me and nephew Ryan -- No idea what we were singing!
When the shots started flowing, it was all down hill.
I have a feeling NYE 2010 will never be topped. Although tonight was not as grand, a low-key spaghetti dinner with the breakfast crew was just as nice. And, I'm pretty sure it won't take me two days to recover.

Bailey and I are sitting in bed. I flipped over to ABC to see what was happening in Times Square. I'm sorry, I'm just going to say it....Dick Clark, for the love of God, it is time to retire. I couldn't watch it...

After I sign off here, I think I watch a couple of episodes of Californication. Nothing scary there.

Good bye 2011 and hello 2012! Be good to us, OK?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Traditions

Through the years, every family develops traditions that are carried on from one generation to the next. Well, sometimes they are carried on. For one reason or another, traditions sometimes fade away. On this Christmas Eve morning, I wanted to take a few minutes to reminisce on traditions past and present.

It all started when mom and I made our yearly attempt to get a cute picture of the dogs in front of the Christmas tree. It's a circus. We go through the same thing every year. The dogs hate it, we get covered in dog hair, and eventually throw in the towel. One year, we had all the dogs neatly lined up in front of the tree -- perfect....except they were all facing the tree instead of looking at the camera. It was a nice butt shot. Then, we tried individual photos instead of a group shot. Those attempts were hit or miss, too. Like this one of Annie, taken a few years back. She was sooo tired.

Then, this year, here is Lucy...with Pearl trying to corral her. Not happenin'.

Jack is disinterested and uncooperative and looks like your typical disheveled old man.

My girl is picture perfect, of course.

Here are some of my favorite Christmas Eve memories, in random order.
  • Until I was in high school, Christmas Eve was always reserved for going to Grandma Scherrman's house. The day seemed to d-r-a-g on forever. I couldn't wait to get to Grandma's house, with her cute little 3 foot tree she had decorated on a table-top in her living room. Presents were stacked up around the legs of the table. We would have a huge dinner, after which the adults cruelly made the kids wait until *after * the dishes were done before we could open presents. As you can imagine, most of us were pretty hyped up. One Christmas, the boys were all running around in Grandma's unfinished basement, and my cousin Tom smashed his head into one of the support columns in the basement. I think that necessitated a trip to the emergency room for some stitches. Grandma Scherrman was always the center of attention. She held court with her stories. And, if she had just enough wine, she would start reciting. I can't actually recall what she recited -- poems, songs, dirty jokes? I just remember all the adults laughing, so it must have been funny knowing that Grandma was a little tipsy. My Grandma's spinster friend Meta was always there, too. She was the nemesis of us kids -- picture crabby old lady. Yep, that's her.
  • Also, growing up, I would awake on Christmas morning to the aroma of freshly baking cinnamon rolls. My mom would be up at the crack of dawn with her trusty circa 1950 Betty Crocker cookbook on the counter making fresh bread and cinnamon rolls. Nothing smells better. She got out of the pattern for a few years. I guess kids, college, and work got in the way and she said "screw that...we can buy rolls at the grocery store." But, after some cajoling, she has resurrected the tradition...using the same food-splattered and worn-paged Betty Crocker cookbook from the 1950s. As I type this, the dough is rising in the kitchen. OK, so maybe I didn't get the pleasure of awaking to the smell of baking bread, but I will give her a pass. I wouldn't want to be up at 4 am making dough either. The fresh-out-of-the-oven rolls will be my lunch today. Mom says they should be ready by 1 pm.
  • I think the only Christmas that I wasn't in Farley was in 1997. I had just moved to Indiana and did not have vacation time built up. I had to work until about noon on Christmas Eve. The plan was for everyone to meet in Janesville, WI for Christmas at my brother's house. I was picking up my sister in Waukegan, IL, and we were driving together. I said I would get to her place about 2 pm, and we would head out. When I left Gary, IN at noon, it had started to snow. By the time I was on the Dan Ryan, it was a full-blown blizzard. I didn't get to my sister's until nearly 4 pm because of the traffic. And, get this -- SHE WASN'T READY! WTF? I am over two hours late, how can you not be ready. So, by the time we actually got back on the road (after a short tiff because she suggested we not go -- and I said I was *not* spending Christmas Eve in her undecorated apartment with no food and her cat...) it was after 5 pm. Now, I hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast, I was starving. We stopped at a gas station/McDonald's along the way. They had just closed, but I could still see hamburgers lined up under the heat lamps. I pleaded through the closed gate for the guy to let me buy some. I said I would pay double. He refused. I blurted out "Well, Merry Christmas to you too!" There was no one on the road to Janesville, because it was seriously still a blizzard. We saw cars in the ditch everywhere. We tried singing Christmas carols to pass the time and quickly realized we didn't know all the lyrics for shit. We'd get halfway through the song and then kind of mumble the rest. Needless to say, Janesville never looked so good and a lot of beers were consumed on arrival.
  • My Grandma McBride always insisted on bringing something to Christmas dinner. Every year it was the same thing. An 8x8 glass pan with red jello. That's it. Oh, maybe if she was really fancy, she would add pineapple chunks or bananas. Let's just say cooking was not Grandma McBride's forte. Sometimes, now, to be funny, Mom will make a square pan of jello as a joke. We get it, some of the grand kids don't.
  • Mom always made a strawberry dessert for Christmas. It had a graham cracker crumb crust, frozen strawberries, and a whipped concoction of eggs, sugar, and butter. It's the only time of year she makes it. We all look forward to it. Except this one year, after she went on a Tupperware buying frenzy and put all the "dry goods" in Tupperware containers instead of the original packaging, there was an epic fail when she inadvertently used Shake and Bake crumbs instead of graham cracker crumbs. My uncle Father Jim took the first bite (because, of course, you had to serve the priest first), and all of us busted out laughing when he practically spit it out and threw his fork down.
  • Our new tradition, now that all the "next generation" kids are of legal age, is to just have a little par-tee at the house. We had a rousing competition of Wii Let's Dance in 2010. This year, we are seeing who can wear the ugliest Christmas sweater. Prizes will be awarded.  
Most's being together as a family, celebrating the season, and taking a few days to just have fun together.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Solstice

Whenever it is the winter solstice, I am reminded of the Astronomy class I took in college. After struggling through a semester of biology and barely eeking out a "C", I looked for alternatives to fulfill the rest of my science requirement. Thank God my advisor suggested Astronomy. First of all, the professor Ulrich Hermann, was this eccentric German who spoke with a thick accent. When we had to go into the planetarium as part of our lab work, he always had Bolero blaring. Then, there were the nights we had to go out for field labs. Where our class of about 300 students met at a remote park outside at 10 o'clock at night. We would all lie down on the grass while he used a high-powered flashlight to point out the planets and constellations. It was during this class that I finally understood the whole winter solstice and vernal equinox thing. Secondly, the class was actually interesting. Way more interesting than stupid biology. And, to this day, I can still identify Jupiter (the brightest object in the northern hemisphere), Cassiopeia (the mother of Andromeda who is sitting in a rocking chair), along with Ursa Major and Minor (big and little dippers).

What is always exciting about the winter solstice is that it is the shortest day of the year...shortest in terms of daylight. For the record, today there is 9 hours and 9 minutes of daylight. Praise Jesus...there is at least some small satisfaction knowing that from here on out we'll gain a few seconds of daylight each day. Not to mention that we've basically gotten through November and December unscathed in the weather department. Just two more months of true winter to go.

Four days to Christmas, and I'm still not quite ready. I managed to get my Christmas cards finally all sent out on Tuesday. I have two more presents to buy, and all my presents need to be wrapped. I've gotten a really late start this year. The month of November was a total blur. Beginning the first full week of November, my travel schedule looked like this:

  • Arlington, Virginia
  • East Chicago, Indiana
  • Lawrence, Kansas
  • Burlington, Vermont
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Arlington, Virginia
Bailey had an extended stay at the farm, but that's another story. When I finally had a full week in the office, I was buried working on a huge project. I've got a short reprieve until mid-January, then it will probably all start over again.

What I haven't been lacking during this time is food. In fact, all this traveling and stress has exacerbated my emotional eating. At the rate I'm going, I'll probably be like 300 pounds by February 1.

So, I've resigned to owning my lack of restraint and lack of exercise to just enjoy the holidays and my birthday. January 9, 2012 is my new red letter day.

When I committed to being a blogger for 2011, my "hook" was to blog about what it was like leading up to 50. I am feeling fat and lazy. I guess that's what I've really been leading up to all year. All my so-called training for the 5K went right out the window.

A friend asked if I was going to continue blogging or was it the end when I hit 50. Tonight on the news, there was a story about baby-boomers needing joint replacements earlier and earlier. The doctor interviewed said the majority of his patients are between 45 and 55. What the ??? I was pleased to hear that power walking is favored over jogging to save your knees. Whew -- no more guilt for giving up the running regime.

That said, my 2012 blogging hook will be my campaign to save the joints! But, ummmm, don't look for any serious efforts to begin until January 9th. I've got to get through Christmas, New Years, my actual birthday, and my birthday soiree!