Dust-Covered

The work on our upstairs bathroom proceeds.  We knew it would take weeks, and that there would be workers in the house during that time, and that we’d need to use the downstairs bathroom, but the project had one byproduct I didn’t fully anticipate.

Dust.  Lots and lots of dust.

mezzanine_409When the tile was removed from the drywall in the bathroom, it produced dust.  So did pulling down the drywall.  So did prying off the floor tile, removing the shower basin and toilet, and taking the medicine cabinet off the wall.  I’ve concluded that most bathroom fixtures and coverings must be made of about 90 percent compacted dust.

And here’s another fun fact about dust that I’ve learned:  dust is adventurous.  Dust likes to explore.  Dust apparently wasn’t happy about being trapped in the bathroom for all those years, and now it wants to get out and see the world — or at least the upstairs of our house.  And dust must be curious, too, because it seems to be ending up in virtually every nook and cranny of our upstairs sitting room and bedroom and closets.

Every night when I walk upstairs, I enter the dust zone, and I think of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl of the 1930s and photographs of thin, sad-eyed women holding babies and children and staring forlornly into the distance.  There’s a fresh layer of fine dust everywhere, on the floor, on chairs, on my desk, and on the clothes in my closet.  We’re probably being covered with dust as we sleep, too.

But here’s the worst part — every time I see the dust, the Kansas song Dust in the Wind runs through my head.  It’s unquestionably one of the most morose, whiny, annoying songs ever recorded.  What could be worse that coming home from a hard day’s work and hearing Dust in the Wind, over and over again?  (Well, I suppose hearing Gordon Lightfoot’s  The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, but that’s a bit off topic.)

I’ll be glad when the bathroom project ends, and we can shake the dust off and move on.

 

Why I’m Glad The Republicans Of The Family Aren’t Around To See This

I’m glad the long-time Republicans in my family aren’t around to witness the 2016 campaign.

Don’t get me wrong:  I wish they were still among the living.  But, with every new slide into cheap slurs and sophomoric behavior, I can’t help but shake my head at how those lifelong Rs would react to what we are seeing.

trump-lead_3512719bTake Grandpa Neal.  He first voted for President in 1920, for Warren G. Harding, and I’m confident he voted Republican in every presidential election for the next 76 years, making his last vote for Bob Dole in 1996.  After the 1968 election, he proudly displayed a plaque he received for his contribution to the Nixon campaign on his bookshelf.  He was a banker who voted Republican because he thought it was the party of fiscal responsibility, growth, and individual initiative, the party of prudent foreign and domestic policy that didn’t go in for the flash and dash of the Ds.  The Republican Party and its sober image fit him to a T. He was a modest paragon of propriety, always carefully dressed and primly mannered, with no flashes of crude humor.  He and Grandma Neal slept in separate twin beds.

Grandma Webner also tended to pull the lever for the Republicans.  She despised the Kennedys for the ostentatious displays of wealth and power that she thought let them get away with murder, and she was appalled by the scandalous behavior of some Democratic politicians.  She thought the Republicans were the more respectable party.

So how in the world would Grandpa Neal and Grandma Webner react to a Republican contest that has seen the leading candidate make a not-so-oblique reference to his sexual capabilities during a televised debate?  Could they rationalize a campaign in which the appearances of candidates’ wives become an issue and where trading crass insults seems to have replaced knowledgeable discussion of policy?  How would they respond to a candidate who routinely brags about how much money he’s made, who was a reality TV star, and has encouraged thuggish behavior by his followers?

I suspect that they would say that this is not their Republican Party anymore.

The Trump supporters say that he is giving the staid and stodgy Republican Party a much-needed shake-up and bringing new voters into the GOP fold.  Maybe that’s true — but maybe the Republican Party is just losing its way.  If Donald Trump is the nominee, what does the Republican Party stand for, really?  

Always A Castle Builder

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Richard’s on vacation in sunny Mexico, and his fiancee Julianne snapped some photos of him building a sand castle.  It’s some good castle-building work on his part — part of a long line of castle-building prowess that dates back to his childhood.

I have happy memories of building castles with Richard and Russell when they were kids.  Good to see that the architectural tendencies still run strong!

Down To The Studs

IMG_0754When we bought our house we knew the upstairs bathroom was a do-it-yourself job and that we would have to fix it some day.  Today, that day came.  The bathroom is being stripped down to the studs, exposing the brickwork of our middle-of-the-house chimney, and then completely rebuilt from the two-by-fours up.

Because we live in a two-bathroom house, this means that, for the next two weeks, we’ll be exclusively using the shower and toilet in the downstairs bathroom.  Nothing wrong with that, right?  Not unless you’re a guy in his late 50s who typically makes at least one trip to the bathroom every night.  Until the upstairs bathroom is back on line, I’m going to have to be very careful about my fluid intake.

Mom’s Birthday

Today is Mom’s birthday, the first one since she left us almost a year ago.  She would have been 86 today.

00019463It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a year since Mom’s death, but time has a way of moving on.  We’ve all moved on, too, which is how Mom would have wanted it.  I think of her when one of her sayings or deliberate word choices suddenly pops into my head, or when I remember an incident from when the five little Webners were growing up.  It just demonstrates the many ways in which a mother can touch one of her children and leave a lasting imprint, and the memories are all good ones.

I’d rather think of Mom on her birthday than mark the day she died.  Birthdays are days to celebrate.  In the Webner household of days gone by, birthday were always celebrated with a light, airy angel food cake baked by Gramma Webner and ice cream.  The angel food cake never left the baking pan quite level on top, so when Gramma Webner iced the cake with her trademark frosting she would try to use extra frosting in the tilted down area to make the cake look perfectly level.  That meant one or two slices of the cake got more frosting than the rest.  As kids, we always hoped we would get one of the pieces with the extra icing.  Today, I’m hoping that Mom gets that special slice.

College Visits

One of my friends from work is on the road, doing some college visits with his daughters.  They’re on the upper eastern swing, looking at schools in Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, and probably a few extra places added in.

I never did any college visits when I was a kid.  I knew that Ohio State had a good journalism program and I was interested in journalism, I knew it wasn’t expensive, I knew I could get in, and I was a fan of the football team.  It was an easy, if not particularly informed, decision.  And it worked out pretty well, because that’s where I met Kish and I got a pretty good, reasonably priced college education to boot.

vassar-libraryBut sometime between the early ’70s and, say, 2000, the world changed dramatically.  Perhaps because of the U.S. News and World Report rankings of the “best” colleges, or because there seems to be more information available now, or because high schools are far more focused on student placement — or because parents are much more competitive about their kids’ college destinations — the college decision has become a super big deal.  College visits are now an expected part of the selection ritual, and Kish and I accordingly went on our share of them with Richard and Russell.

My friend reports that he is enjoying his trip, and I enjoyed them, too.  I think parents inevitably do.  Why not?  You are visiting idyllic green quads filled with old trees and young students, touring beautiful old buildings and libraries, walking past pillars and under stone archways, and listening to student tour guides tell you about the campus traditions — all of which end up being pretty similar.  The visits fall into a kind of rhythm, with breakfast and a drive to campus in the morning, a guided tour followed by an information session, then lunch and a drive to the next nearby campus to do the whole thing again.  You get to spend lots of quality time with your kids, trying to talk about an important decision they will be making and sharing some funny incidents.  The student tour guide who had a clothing malfunction on Richard’s visit to Brown University, and the “Buddy incident” when Russell first visited Vassar, have become part of Webner family lore.

I don’t think it’s as much fun for most kids, though.  They’d probably rather be hanging out with their friends than their parents, and I’m sure the school choices seem overwhelming.  Kids fall back on first impressions and gut instinct — whether it’s sunny or raining, and whether students are friendly or distracted, seems to dictate a lot of the decision-making process — and often seem to just want to get the whole thing over with.

I think college visits are important, but I think parents have to guard against making them into high-pressure events.  It’s one area where the perfect definitely can be the enemy of the good.  The goal shouldn’t be to find the “perfect” school; instead, the visits are a good way to show that there are lots of good schools out there that offer the kinds of options that fit with the kid’s interests and that would be good places to spend four years.  I think that’s a healthier message than endlessly debating whether one school is marginally better than another in the quest for the transcendent college experience.

 

On The Bourbon Trail

9a8b74fa-da18-4735-870c-d27f65c1a73dEvery year Kish and her high school friends take a trip together.  This year they decided to hit the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky.  Today the merry band visited the Woodford Reserve Distillery, where Kish snapped a few photos and sent them along.

Interesting, isn’t it, how alcoholic drinks seem to wax and wane in popularity?  One year everybody’s drinking scotch, another year it’s vodka, and once in a while it’s tequila.  Bourbon seems to be a hot choice right now, with lots of artisanal bourbons being aged in special barrels and people sipping high-end bourbon on the rocks.  Bourbon is not really to my taste — I’m more of a wine and beer guy — but the distilling process is interesting, and ancient, and I can think of worse ways to use wood than building fine barrels.

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