Thursday, July 10, 2008

I Haven't Run for a Few Days. In Recovery Mode...

I haven't quite decided how I feel about this last vacation/family reunion. I guess it is best to say that I have mixed feelings. Unfortunately, everything did not quite meet my hopes and expectations.

The house we rented, called Blue Too, is situated lake front. It had a very large deck with sturdy railing that ran nearly all the way around the house with plenty of deck furniture and a gorgeous view, plus a new wood walkway from the house to a wood patio area under the trees near the shore. The house had one and half baths, plenty of linens, washer and dryer, refrigerator, stove, microwave, dishwasher, dishes, utensils, pots & pans. That's where the luxury ends.

The not-so-good experiences:

The house was secluded and to get to it, we had to navigate a long stairway ~ about 45 stair steps ~ from the parking pavillion. And, we brought a ton of boating accessories and toys, luggage, coolers and a barbeque. Taking all of that back to the cars ~ up those 45 stairs ~ was even more fun than taking it down to the house. Tommy and Jacob really helped with that.

The house was really cute, but filled with tons of stuff ~ furniture, knick-knacks and lots of artsy, decorative, completely unnecessary stuff, most of which was breakable. So, with 4 adults and 3 kids going in and out, playing, sleeping, cooking, eating, playing games, showering, changing, etc., plus entertaining 28 people, including 7 kids trying to keep themselves occupied, I was a nervous wreck, probably overly so. We finally had to move some of the furniture around (even though our written instructions specifically read: "Do not rearrange the furniture!") because most of us kept running into end tables and side chairs that were arranged in odd places and we kept kicking or running into them trying to get from one side of the room to the other.

We also rented a small room and bath "on the way" to the house, which is where Tom and I slept and showered. The room had a private access, but was added to the basement of the Blue Too owner's house, which was at the top of those 45 stairs. But, this room, too, was filled with stuff ~ art stuff, craft stuff, Christmas stuff, personal stuff ~ plus furniture. We had a queen size bed with about 10 big decorative pillows. The huge headboard was just leaning against the wall and not attached to the bed frame, so every time one of us would get in or out of bed or roll over during the night, it would thunk against the wall. There was an overstuffed love seat with decorative pillows, overstuffed chair with decorative pillows, a wall lined with shelves and a lower cabinet (filled with stuff), two cabinet-type end tables (filled with more stuff), a bedside table with drawers (filled with stuff), two dressers ~one rattan, one wood (filled with stuff and with decorative stuff on top), a shelf in a corner (again, filled with stuff), a canvas covered shelving unit against another wall stacked and packed with all kinds of stuff, and two closets filled to the top with craft supplies, Christmas decorations, personal items and clothing. If that wasn't enough, the "artist"/owner had large blank easels and paintings stacked against two walls (between a wall and the rattan dresser and between an end table and the wall beside the couch). Essentially, we paid her to stay in her storage room. Furthermore, the room was freezing most of the time because it was cooled by the same air conditioning unit that cooled the owner's house, the thermostat for which was located ~ you guessed it ~ in the owner's house, and baby, she liked it COOL.

And, do you know what lives and thrives in dark, cool rooms filled with tons of stuff shoved in every single nook and cranny? Spiders, that's what. We arrived on Wednesday afternoon and by Thursday night I had spider bites up both my arms. By Friday morning, I had spider bites on the back of both of my legs, across my chin and all over my hands and arms, about 75 bites in all. Sleeping was difficult. Tom would bring a bowl of ice up with us when we went to bed, so that I could cool the itching in the middle of the night, but it was so bad that it made me sick to my stomach. By Saturday morning, I was so miserable I was ready to leave, but we didn't. We stuck it out until Sunday.

It also rained a lot (thank God, we weren't camping this year!). Tom tied the ski boat near the shore so it would be convenient to use. He attached the anchor rope the stern and set the anchor out a ways, then tied the bow between two trees on either side to stabilize it. It worked fine until the storms...yes, stormS ~ plural ~ came in. The first storm hit Thursday night, just after we arrived back from dinner at Christina's. Tom and Chris ran down to the boat and caught it just in time before it got bashed on the rocks on the shore. Tom would have taken the boat back to the marina, but once he got back to the marina he wouldn't have had any way to get to shore or the main dock. This has not been a good year for the lake. The water level is so high this year that all the roads and sidewalks to the boat slips are under water, so the marina has to provide shuttle boats to take boaters from their boats to shore and vice versa. The shuttles stop running about 6:00pm, about two hours before the storm hit. So, Tom and Chris secured the boat as best they could and kept tabs on it throughout the night. Chris was able to check it from the deck of the house with a flashlight (luckily, Tom had thought to bring two big ones). Tom was up several times during the night, navigating the 45 stairs, in pouring rain, to make his checks. Another storm hit Friday afternoon. Same drill, only this time it was during the daylight hours. When another storm hit Saturday afternoon, Tom gave up and drove the boat back to the marina.

Then there was getting in and out of the boat while it was onshore. The shoreline was either rocks or silt ~ silt so thick that if you stepped in it, you'd sink in up to your ankles and it would suck your shoe off your foot. The kids called it quicksand. The rocks and silt went out only a couple of feet from shore, then it dropped into deeper water. It was fine for swimming for the kids. We had plenty of life jackets for those who couldn't swim very well, but the shoreline made it impossible to step into the boat from the shore or from shallow water. The only alternatives were to swim to the swim deck on the stern of the boat or climb into a small raft on shore, float out to the swim deck and climb out of the floating, very unsteady raft onto the swim deck ~ and feminine! I chose the latter...once. I didn't go again. And, nearly everyone had bruises under their arms from all the maneuvering.

The good experiences:

Chris and Kelly and the kids made the trip. They slept in the house, while we slept in storage. It was wonderful spending time with them. Chris made breakfast one morning (Eggs Diana) and I made breakfast the next (a waffle, ham and egg dish) and the kids had cereal and waffles the next two mornings.

I planned to do my run Thursday morning and Chris got up and went with me. We did it together, although I didn't do well because the hills were so steep. But, Chris kept encouraging me and asked me to come to Savannah and run the Shamrock 5K with him next March. I said okay. I'm committed.

It was great seeing everyone from Tom's family. All of Tom's sisters and his brother made the trip, along with some of their grown children and their children's children. I was very happy for my in-laws, since this was in honor of their anniversary (which isn't until November, but who wants to travel to a family reunion just before the holidays?). Tom's dad was emotional at the sight of all of his "children" (ages 44 to 62) together in the same place for the first time since...God, who even remembers...maybe Christina and Bill's wedding over 20 years ago. No one has changed much. Some a little grayer, a little rounder, a little thinner (this would not be me), a little balder, a little blonder, but by and large, just the same. I loved meeting my nieces kids. They were fun and funny. Hagan, my granddaughter, was thrilled to have another girl to hang out with (Danielle, my niece, Jennifer's, daughter) ~ 2 girls against 5 boys.

We had three evenings of "family" time; Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For Tom, Chris, Kelly and me, Friday was our big night to host. We were happy that the Friday storm passed fairly quickly and it stopped raining. We were going to be able to cook and eat outside after all. We started the evening with Bacon Bread. No, it's not bread made with bacon. This is how it is prepared:

1) take a large slab of unsliced slab bacon and cut it into about 5 inch squares and score the meaty side at about 1/2 inch intervals, going across both ways so you have squares scored in the meat;

2) cut two holes in the rind side so you can run a skewer or stick (wood stick is preferred) through the two holes to hold the bacon over the fire (the meaty side should be down);

3) slice thin four or five tomatoes, four onions and four or five bell peppers and set them aside;

4) have ready two loaves of sliced hearty rye bread:

5) start by holding a slice of rye bread in one hand, on top of which you have placed a layer of sliced tomato, onion and bell pepper;

6) with your other hand, hold the bacon over a hot, low wood fire until the fat of the bacon starts to render and drip;

7) put the dripping bacon on the bread and allow the vegetables and bread to absorb the grease;

8) do this several times until the vegetables are covered and the bread is sufficiently soaked with the rendered bacon fat;

9) set your bread aside, and place the piece of bacon on it's side and slice off the top of the cooked bacon squares onto your bacon-grease-soaked bread and vegetables;

10) it. Not the piece of bacon. You eat the bacon-grease-soaked bread and vegetables topped with the cooked bacon bits.

I know what you are thinking. Oh...My...God...then you find yourself gagging. That's okay. Everyone does that at first...even me. But it's a Powers family tradition, handed down from their maternal Hungarian heritage and it is a must for every family gathering. Every morsel was devoured ~ and, yes, I had a piece.

Then came dinner. Christopher made his barbecued ribs from his own recipe. They are awesome; the best ribs I've ever eaten. We had salads, asparagus (Kelly's recipe) and Oreo Crunch Brownies for dessert (my recipe). The kids played games, swam, got muddy, got hosed down, and played more games. The adults ate, talked, laughed and got as caught up as you can in a few short hours.

Saturday night, again at Christina's house, the siblings had "therapy" in front of the whole family. Each person was instructed to answer questions about what it was like growing up, share their favorite moments and asked what they thought they had passed on to their children. Their stories and answers were funny, poignant and heartwarming.

Then, it was time to say good-bye. After so many years, good-byes take a long time. There was lots of "let's keep in touch," "it was great seeing you," "loved spending time with you," hand holding and lingering hugs.

Were the 45 steps, claustrophobia, spiders, storms and near boat accidents worth it? You bet. Every single second.

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