27 November 2012

Remembering My Dad

27 November 1920 –26 August 2011

This picture of my dad must've been taken sometime around 1947. I think it says a lot about him. For one thing, he could be a total doof. It was not something he ever grew out of. He enjoyed being funny, and he liked to laugh.

He could do that thing with his eyebrow. In fact, he could do it with either eyebrow, at will. He could wiggle his ears, too, which my brother and I used to think was absolutely hysterical, but you can't tell that from the picture.

He wore a mustache. I'm not sure I ever saw him without one. He let it grow out some in later years, but it was always there. I don't know why. It never occurred to me to ask.

He was fit at 27, or whenever this was taken, and kept fit all his life. Never much for team sports – he was too little for most of them anyway – he did some wrestling and Golden Gloves boxing in his youth. After he retired from his day job, he'd leash up the dog early most mornings and go for a long walk. Usually multiple miles, at a pace that I found challenging even when I was mobile. On his 90th birthday he walked down to the beach, a jaunt of over a mile, going down and coming back up a serious hill. Just to see if he could do it. That's the kind of guy he was.

My mother must've taken this picture. Like every other picture she took in the 60-some years they spent together, she cut off the top of his head.

22 November 2012

Empty-ish Nest

Tuffy lived at home while she was going to University of Washington, so this is our first holiday with an empty nest and her first holiday as a fledgling. She'll be sharing a Thanksgiving potluck with other JETs in Nagahama. The organizer assembled the contributions into the following menu:

Suzie: mac and cheese
Sandy: a pre-made meat of some sort that you will buy at Heiwado because I know you don't cook
Kayla: roasted root vegetables, pumpkin soup, maybe hummus
Amy & John: roast chicken
Melissa: eggplant side dish
Michael: mashed potatoes
Leslie: drinks, paper plates and cups
Tuffy: okonomiyaki
Caitlin: disposible utensils, and..
Willie: drinks, maybe a side
James: chocolate
Ellen: pie, & stuffing maybe

Tuffy was not much of a cook before she left for Japan. Now, she not only has to feed herself, she has to do it with unfamiliar ingredients, in a kitchen that has a stovetop and broiler, toaster oven (with no temperature control), and microwave. Like many Japanese kitchens, hers does not have a large oven. The one thing she says she can reliably pull off is okonomiyaki. Her Thanksgiving grocery shopping list (from creepy stalking on Facebook):

☆天ぷら flakes
☆green onion

Basically, ingredients for okonomiyaki.

Scarecrow's Thanksgiving menu is somewhat more traditional, although he's planning to roast a small-ish turkey on the grill rather than in the oven. Not as far from the beaten path as a potluck in Nagahama, but adventurous in its own way. Our nephew, Sparky's son Arkman, will be having dinner with us. This will be the first time we've seen him since he moved up to Bremerton from southern California a month or so ago for a new job. I don't expect he'll make an appearance until after the football games are over. Scarecrow warned him that we don't have a TV.

So it'll be different for all of us, but we'll all be celebrating the holiday with good food, family, and friends. I hope all my blogger buddies in the US have as much to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!

20 November 2012

Set Me a Good Example

Somehow, I expected Tuffy to be diligent about posting on her blog, and somehow I expected that would motivate me to post on my own. (Not that I'm competitive or anything.)

It's not working.

I suppose I should be glad that she's too busy having real life adventures to sit down and write about them, and I am glad. I am. I don't want to be the needy, nosy parent, and I know she's busy and she has a lot of stuff going on and all that, and that's all good, really. Really really. Neither of us have ever been much for chatting on the phone. There is Skype and it's a fine thing and we've done that a couple of times but I should probably let her know that if she ever wants to, you know, talk, that would be OK. In the meantime, I have to admit that Facebook status updates and photos are a lot more than my parents ever got from me when I was her age.

Scarecrow went out and got a mess of Indian food for my birthday. Not much else planned by way of celebration. But birthdays? Sure, I'll take as many of 'em as the powers-that-be see fit to send my way, and happy to do it.

15 November 2012

Fair's Fair

It occurred to me that my previous post might have left the impression that my mother served in the military during World War II, and my father didn't. That's not true.

This was my father's main contribution to the war effort:

Between 1941 and 1945, Willys-Overland Motors in Toledo, Ohio, built a small four-wheel drive utility vehicle called the Willys MB. Production of this vehicle, popularly known as the Jeep, was considered essential to the war effort. It was so essential that, as a machinist employed by Willys-Overland, my father
was granted three deferments from military service.

He was finally drafted in 1944, and served in the Army Corps of Engineers. It was not a good fit. Fortunately the war ended in 1945, and the Army spat him back into civilian life. He went to the University of Toledo on the G.I. Bill, where he met my mother, and on to grad school at Caltech, which is how I came to be born in California. You knew this would eventually turn out to be about me, didn't you?

When my cousin was here for a visit earlier this year, he told me that our grandfather moved from Chicago to the Detroit area to work for Ford Motors. The story goes that Ford was not hiring Jews, so he went to work for Willys-Overland. This must've been before May 1914, because that was when my uncle was born in Toledo. (If you're not from around here, Toledo, Ohio is very close to Detroit, Michigan.) My grandfather was a cabinetmaker, and at the time, much of a car's chassis and frame was made of wood. My dad said my granddad was proud of the fact that he worked on the showroom models, the ones that had to be perfect. I don't know how long he worked there. In 1915 and 1916, the Toledo city directory gives his occupation as woodworker. By 1920, when my father was born, he had opened a grocery store. So this has nothing to do with my dad's military service, and it's not like my dad and my grandfather worked shoulder to shoulder on the production line or anything. They just worked for the same car company, 25 years apart.

Another digression: From 1926 to 1931, without help from anyone in my family, Willys-Overland produced a small car called the Whippet:

This also has nothing to do with my dad's military service. It doesn't really have anything to do with whippets either, but there it is.

My mom's family worked in the auto industry in Toledo, too, but that's a story I'll inflict on you another day.

12 November 2012

Veterans Day

Marie Helen Couturier Spevak
13 September 1921 – 13 January 2012
photo c1945, U.S. Navy WAVES 
(Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service)

Thanks, Mom.

10 November 2012

I Think I Need One of These

The wheelchair guy was here yesterday. This is a new wheelchair guy, one who belongs to the new insurance network, but he seems OK. We're working with a new PT, too, because the old one (with whom I'd worked for many years and who I liked a lot) didn't belong to the new network, but the new one seems OK, as long as I don't actually have to go in for an appointment, because the bathrooms in that building are really not very accessible even though it's a rehab medicine facility, for cryin' out loud! What were they thinking?

Where was I?

Nothing exciting in the works, chair-wise. A new seat cushion, because the one I have is getting distinctly butt-shaped. Taking a switch I can no longer work by hand no matter where I put it and moving it to my head array someplace, although we haven't figured out where, yet, exactly. And upgrading the electronics so the chair steers and tracks better, although the previous wheelchair guy said they couldn't do that in a chair this old, but this guy says they can. I guess we'll see about that.

Like anything having to do with medical equipment, it won't be cheap, which has me wondering how much I want to spend to upgrade a five-year-old chair. But whatever.

After a long blogging sabbatical, there are several things I want to catch up on, and I can't decide where to go first. Nothing that won't keep 'til another day, I suppose. Nice, not having a deadline!

06 November 2012

Signature Required

Scarecrow put our ballots in the mail a couple of days ago. All voting is by mail in Washington state, which is very convenient, although I admit I miss the ritual of going to the polls in person, carving out time before or after work, braving crappy November weather, crossing paths with friends and neighbors, waiting for a little stanchion to open up so I can step up and mark my ballot. With a mail-in ballot, Scarecrow can fill in the circles for me. Voting is easy. The tricky part is signing the outside envelope, to assure the powers that be that the enclosed ballot was submitted by a registered voter.

Yesterday we were notified that the Powers That Be are not too happy with the signature on my envelope.

I understand that. I'm not too happy with it, either. My hands first went numb in spring of 2002, and signing my name has been a problem for me ever since. Some of that time I could do it, kinda; the result just didn't look like my signature. Now I have trouble making a mark on paper, even if Scarecrow shoves a pen into my fist and moves a piece of paper underneath. It does not look like a signature. It does not even look much like an X.

If I ever gave any thought, before I became disabled, to the ways MS could make your life interesting (which, I admit, I never did), not being able to sign my name would not have wound up on my top 10 list. Or my top 25 list. Or probably my top 100 list. I don't think it would've ever occurred to me. But it's a real problem. It surely is.

Really, you wouldn't think it would be that hard. I can't be the first person with this problem. I just need a way for Scarecrow to write my name for me. (He has terrible handwriting, and although mine was never that great, the thought that anyone would take that signature for something I would've written causes me almost physical pain, but I'm willing to cope. That's how far I'd go.) There's the whole power of attorney thing, and making Scarecrow my attorney-in-fact makes sense, but it's kind of scary. It says I can no longer manage my own affairs, when really the thing I can't do is write my name on a piece of paper. It's not that I don't trust Scarecrow to act for me. I do, absolutely. It's just a control thing, I guess.

We're supposed to close on a refi here pretty soon. In case you've never had the pleasure, closing a mortgage loan entails signing your name 8267 times. I'm really looking forward to this.

04 November 2012

Catching Up

It's fall, and the leaves are doing that. With the shift back to standard time and the typically gloomy November weather, it starts looking like it's getting dark right after lunch. Scarecrow went out to scoop the dog yard and get the current batch of leaves off the deck. It appears he got carried away, and is raking leaves off the roof and removing a season's worth of compost from the gutters. He'll just have to do it again when the rest of the leaves come down, but he knows that. Won't hurt to do it twice.

I've been reading about what my Blogger Buddies have been doing while I wasn't looking. Honestly, for plot twists, and suspense, and cliff-hangers, authors of fiction have nothing on you folks! Being lazy, I'd always rather read about your adventures than write about my own, and your combined output for the past year or so will keep me in reading matter for a while yet.

02 November 2012

Hang Time

It's almost a straight shot from the kitchen, through the living room, and down the hall. At first you just hear the thunder of whippet feet as they rip through the kitchen, then the frantic skratchel of their nails (whippets are hell on hardwood floors) as they accelerate towards the bedroom and gather themselves to leap…


After an improbably long silence they fly from the middle of the hall, through the door, across the bedroom, and 70-some pounds of whippets thump onto the bed. (For whippets, gravity isn't really a law. It's more of a guideline.) If you happen to be in the bed when they do this, particularly if you're asleep, it can be very exciting.

Where was I going with this?

I last posted not quite a year ago. In some ways, it's been a very eventful time. My mom died last January, in June Tuffy graduated from University of Washington, in July she left for Japan, to teach English to high school students, and Scarecrow and I became empty-nesters. In other ways, it seems like nothing much has changed at all. We still have two whippets. They are still thieving, cowardly, and disrespectful (as much as I would like to take credit for this wonderful if painfully accurate description, I got it from Terry Darlington, from whom I also appropriated the term "narrow dog". I am not clever. I admit it. I just steal from clever people). I still have MS. I still have an unhealthy obsession with stalking dead people.

So why now? Tuffy started a blog to record her adventures in Japan. I thought that would be motivation for me to start Howling again (not that we're competitive or anything), but it wasn't. Why now? Beats heck out of me. Really. It does.

Maybe it was because I came across an interesting article, and the only way I could think of to share it was to resurrect my blog. Who knows? An awful lot of bloggers don't have a reason, or seem to need one. Why should I be any different?

Where was I going with this?