I’m sitting in my Mom’s living room sipping on a Genessee Cream Ale, enjoying the pursuit of doing nothing important for the day. We did go out and clean out her flowerpots, and we wound up her hoses and brought them inside, and we also moved her outside furniture into the garage. The big thing we did was divide Dad’s ashes up into smaller amounts on the front porch, and seal a bunch of them up into an urn so that we can inter him at the church in Aurora tomorrow. Mom has a spot set up for him in a columbarium facing the lake, where he’ll be steps away from their old house.
After we stick him in the wall, we’re going to scatter some of his ashes in the lake, maybe some in the garden of the old house (if the renter isn’t home), then drive up to the farm and scatter the remainder of the bag in the field behind the house. I’ve got four containers that I think I’m going to bring to the beach. Some of my best memories with him are of the beach, throwing us in the waves, wearing his floppy yellow hat, and I have had a love of the beach ever since.
The verdict on the AirPods Pro: Worth the money. I called Jen this evening with them, and the sound was crisp and clear. She was able to hear the noise I was making with Finn’s whittling knife two feet away from my ears.
I’ve been needing new glasses for a while now; a month ago I put a big scratch across the left lens that has been bugging me ever since. I went to Warby Parker and reordered my current frame/lens combo and was disappointed to learn that my prescription was six months expired. Not all that keen on doing an in-person eye exam, I called and asked if I could bypass the prescription. They told me no, but I could do an online eye checkup (!?!) that could get me through until a new exam was possible. I downloaded the app to my phone, logged in to the website, and it stepped me through a rough exam for both eyes. I’m supposed to hear something from them in the next 12 hours, and I hope it’s good news, because I would love to have new glasses.
In the meantime, I did some investigation and found that I could order prescription safety glasses and from what it looks like, I wouldn’t need to give them a current prescription.
We split up Dad’s remains on Mom’s front porch into small Tupperware containers while Finley sang Funkytown. Don’t ask me to explain.
On Monday, we took advantage of warm weather, sunny skies, and a day off from school to hike in Gambrill State Park north of Frederick, which features an incredible 360˚ view of northern Maryland. We’re about 3 weeks too early to see trees changing color, but it was still fantastic to get outside.
I love you, blondie. Happy birthday!
I’d hoped we could do something a lot more interesting to celebrate, but as with everything else, COVID has put the kibosh on that. So we have steamed crabs on our menu for tonight, with a scratch-made German Chocolate cake for dessert.
Quarantine blows, and the fact that we’ve been holed up in our house dutifully waiting out the Covid while half the fucking country has decided IT’S PARTY TIME Y’ALL doesn’t make things easier. All of us intelligent science-loving rational folks have been self isolating, driving each other nuts in specific ways only nuclear families can, while the tinfoil morons have bitched and complained en masse and busted heads in the WalMart yelling that it’s their God-given right to wander the housewares aisle without a mask coughing on anybody they please. Two weeks later, they are shocked, SHOCKED when the Covid flattens them and they’re on a ventilator moaning about how they never thought they’d get this thing, not even considering the eighty other people they infected. It’s those morons I’m afraid of.
We can’t vacation like we normally would, we can’t stay overnight anywhere because things are either closed or infected, and we can’t day trip without the dog because she would FLIP OUT if she realized we all had left without her. There isn’t a strong enough dose of Trazadone in the world, and they haven’t perfected the three-day time release yet. Puppy daycare has basically told us thanks, but you don’t have to come back, and we’re keeping the deposit on those other days you already paid for. So Jen compiled a list of things we could do together under those very exacting stipulations and we set about doing them this past week.
First, we checked out Antietam Battlefield two Saturdays ago, which is out on the border of the big part of Maryland and West Virginia. It’s been hot and getting hotter for the past two weeks, so we dialed up the air conditioning and packed a ton of water for the trip. There’s a lot to see on the battlefield without having to go in any of the dog-restricted visitor centers, so we used the hike to tire out the dog. We checked out the Sunken Lane and then drove over to Burnside Bridge, where a short walk down from the parking lot puts you under some leafy trees and in merciful shade. A couple of hours of hiking and sweating were all we needed to feel like we’d seen the place, so we retreated into Sharpsburg for some burgers at the Dairy Queen and hydrated the dog. Then we continued west into Berkeley Springs where we showed Finn where the two and a half of us had gotten spa treatments when she was still a cantaloupe and the masseuses wouldn’t touch Jen for fear she’d spontaneously shoot a baby across the table and knock over their scented oil displays.
On Friday we drove north to the Maryland border to go check out Rocks State Park, a place our friends had taken Finn and I a couple of years ago to see the overlook and the waterfall. We were able to wait out the line at the small parking lot (they are carefully monitoring visitors) and hiked in to the river area. We found a quiet spot downstream and let Hazel approach the water at her own pace; she’s nervous around the river and wanted to take things slowly, so I followed her lead and let her follow her nose in until she was up to her paws. I think she was surprised to find herself that deep, because she would suddenly want to retreat to the bank and sniff it out, and then slowly go back in again. The water was cool and delicious in the humidity so we stayed in as long as we could. Then we found a way to get across the river and hiked up among the maskless morons so that Jen could see it for herself. There’s been a lot of flood activity lately so where the falls were clear four years ago there are several huge tree trunks leaning over the rocks now, which is kind of a bummer.
Saturday we returned to the Sharpsburg area and hiked up the C&O canal on the north bank of the Potomac above Harper’s Ferry. It’s a challenge to find parking in places like this on a good day, and Covid has made it even more difficult. We picked this trail because it’s lightly traveled, and thankfully there were not a lot of people out there. It was even hotter than the previous day, so we hydrated continuously and enjoyed the shady pathway.
On Sunday it was too hot to do any damn thing so I dug our inflatable pool out of the basement, washed it down, and blew it up with the compressor (oh, thank you lord for the wonderful compressor). I switched our water over to unfiltered and filled it up in a sunny spot on the back lawn, and Finn and I jumped in around noon. I’m happy to say I didn’t get out until 3:15, but the price of all that leisure was a bright pink sunburn on the tops of my legs. The rest of the day was nothing but relaxation (and a sunburn-induced nap, if I’m honest).
I got Finn outside on Saturday morning to help change the plugs in the CR-V and it went a million times better than last weekend. I must have got her on a good morning because she was pretty well focused for the whole thing, even when I had to run around hunting for a 10mm deep socket in my various toolboxes—turns out the only one I have is in a cheap set I bought to change the battery on the CR-V in a Columbia parking lot last winter.
It was pretty straightforward, and I talked Finn through the function of an engine and what the plugs do, and we talked about the difference between the Scout’s engine and the CR-V. She’s learning! After the plugs went in we changed both air filters and then scrubbed the engine down with Simple Green.
After a pressure wash, the whole thing looks much better. We drove out to the Gucci Lowes in Columbia that afternoon and Jen was shocked by how different the car drives. The idle is steady and there’s loads of acceleration response. It’s nice to make a huge difference like that in a few hours’ work.
After we got back from Lowe’s I went back out and swapped the plugs in the Scout. We grilled some dinner and hung out together on the porch, which is really turning out nice. There’s a plant hung in the corner, we found some shades for IKEA lamps I’ve had since Lakewood street, and we found a cool metal plant stand for the area next to the front door.
Sunday I was more tired than I was expecting, and the day was hot with high humidity, so I did some minor things on the porch—wired in a USB plug by the table, fastened the five seats of the couch together with metal plates, and touched up some paint. The rest of the day we all spent quietly hanging around; I wound up napping in the air conditioning for two hours towards dinnertime and caught up on some sleep. I feel terrible because I didn’t do anything with Finn or Jen, and the days are creeping by while we could be out hiking or biking or doing other activities; I have to make a serious effort to plan some physical activity for us. The trick is finding something away from other people who have stopped wearing masks.
The Lockardugan clan has settled in to a loose daily quar-routine. Hazel gets us up anywhere from 6:30-7 and we drag Finley out of bed. I put Hazel out back for a wee and set the coffee up while the girls get themselves ready, and then we take a mile and a half walk down past the school and back up the trolley trail. I then meet up with a neighbor and Hazel and I do a quick walk down the street with Harvey, his dog, in an attempt to normalize her around other dogs. She’s actually taken to these walks with Harvey, and she’s content to follow behind him (10 feet, naturally) while he does his daily business. She doesn’t jump or whine or bark or strain to be with him, which is definitely progress.
Back at home, we all get our breakfast together and slowly settle in to our individual days: Finley attempts to get her schoolwork done (this is hit or miss), I settle in to my workday at my desk, and Jen alternates between her work, riding herd on Finley, and working on the porch. For me, work has been just as busy as before, so I’m often working through lunch at my desk, which is not how I like things. It’s getting warmer now and the draw to go sit outside in the sunshine is stronger; the trick is getting everyone on the same timeframe to eat together. And I need to order a new picnic table from Lowe’s next week.
I think I’ve eaten better in the last two months than in the last two years; we were eating out much more often than was comfortable, and both the quality of the food and my wallet show the value of making things at home. Jen has knocked menu planning, food delivery, and cooking out of the park.
After we eat together, Finn and I take care of the dishes while Jen lights a fire, and we sit around the fireplace to read chapters of our book together. Hazel works through her evening ya-ya’s and I play possum or rope with her to work some energy out so that she’s not running from window to window whining about the fat bunnies in our yard munching on clover in the twilight. After a few chapters, we talk about our favorite parts of the day, say our goodnights, and when the girls go upstairs, Hazel and I settle into the den where she curls up in the beanbag while I play on the Xbox.
Wednesday I was troubleshooting a network issue on my work laptop and narrowed it down to the little dongle I’m using to connect up to USB devices and a hardwired network port. (Modern MacBook Pro’s have reduced the number of available ports down to 2 USB-Cs.) From what I could tell the dongle, which was hot to the touch, had failed and wasn’t passing network information through to my laptop. At the same time Finley was having issues with her school laptop (which finally arrived Tuesday evening) so I switched her to her MacBook with a wired connection and then fought our wireless network for about a half an hour before getting completely fed up. Our Airport Express is a refurbished replacement I bought several years ago and it’s been working well up until now, but I think the heavy load of wireless devices on the network has finally revealed its shortcomings.
The Wirecutter reviewed routers in January and I chose their budget recommendation, which will be here sometime on Friday. It’s built to handle multiple loads with band switching, so it should be able to cope with four laptops, two phones, an iPad and any other devices that pop onto our network. With that addition and the new switch in the basement, everything inside the FIOS router should be as modern as possible. I did some sleuthing pre-COVID and realized that said FIOS router is over 10 years old, so I think it’s time to have them update that piece of hardware—maybe next week.
We’ve been working with the stencil out on the porch for the last couple of days and it hasn’t been going as planned. The stencil itself is a very sturdy piece of plastic, surpassing my expectations, but the floor paint we’re using does not roll through the stencil cleanly—there are lots of blobs and fuzzy edges as a result of the paint curling under the edges and getting trapped between the floor and plastic.
We started considering alternatives, and I thought of a little device I’ve had squirreled away in my Scout stash for a while: a little sprayer that will aerosolize all kinds of paint. I’d earmarked it for stuff like touch-ups and spraying rust inhibitor in tricky spots, but after digging it out of my bins I used it for a test run of the floor paint. The paint flowed pretty freely and it laid down a lot cleaner than the roller, so I sourced a latex paint gun at Lowe’s and picked it up with Hazel right after work on Wednesday.
On the way out of the parking lot, while waiting at the light, a guy in a black sedan pulled up next to me, trap music blaring, and rolled down his passenger window. Over the sound of the beats, he yelled out, “THAT shit is TOUGH!” with a huge smile on his face. The Scout reaches across all boundaries.
Back at home I set up the sprayer and laid the pattern down four times, finding the right pressure and spray pattern through trial and error. When I’d gotten it right, it laid down clean and crisp through the stencil, using much less paint, and looked worlds better. So our next step is to roll black over the floor to set everything back to zero, clean up the edges, and prepare for a Saturday of stenciling.
Finn decided that Nox needed to be walked over the weekend. It’s easier to take his picture when he’s at chest height than when he’s skulking through the front bushes.