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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

On Monday, on our way back from our annual Christmas week trip up to Massena to celebrate my Mother's birthday (which is on December 28), we encountered typically treacherous weather on the strip of Rt. 81 around Pulaski, just before Syracuse. I have endured many terrible winter trips on this road, and Sunday's trip wasn't even the worst of them. The worst in our history was in January of 1985, right after I had moved to Rochester, where massive snow and white-out conditions made Rt. 81 disappear and extended the trip between Watertown and Rochester from two hours to eight hours. That night it seemed like we would never make it home, and after that trip I vowed we would not make the trip during the winter months anytime in the future.

But, as of last weekend the forecast looked favorable for a fairly uneventful trip weather-wise. And, it was uneventful, at least for the trip up North. Sunny and warm, we got there in our usual four-and-a-half hours. We had heard rumblings of bad weather for our Monday return, so we decided to get on the road right after breakfast (and a quick visit to an old aunt). The conditions were snowy and slick, but we made our way driving carefully until the patch outside of Watertown (a notorious snow belt region). The slush and icy conditions were forcing many cars off the road, and as we moved along a white Ford spun uncontrollably in front of us until it left the road and came to a rest in the right-lane ditch. That's when the trouble started.

Mark was concerned about the couple inside the white car as he noticed they were a little older, so we pulled off the side so he could be sure they were okay - they were. But, they didn't have a cell phone so we offered to let the man, Chuck, use ours to call a tow truck (it turns out Chuck and his wife, Stephanie, were traveling from Ottawa to Florida for the winter). While Chuck was making his call, in my rear view mirror I spotted an out-of-control car veering directly toward us, and I told everyone to get ready for the impact. The hit was over quickly (complete with left-side airbag deployment) and everyone, though shaken, was okay. Chuck was in a little pain, saying his back and neck hurt, so we called an ambulance to get him checked out.

After a visit from the ambulance, the fire crew, and the State Police, all the information was exchanged and the tow truck hauled our car out of the bank. There was extensive damage to the back and a little along the side, but the car was driveable. By 1pm we were back on the road, and got home safe and sound. We all thanked our lucky stars that no one was standing outside the car when it was hit and that we were in the Pilot, our SUV, and not the little Civic compact.

Because we were hit, the liability for repairs and related expenses (towing, rental car) will all be billed to the insurance of the young man who hit us. Today we found out the Pilot has $13,000+ worth of damage, and it will be about 25 days until we get it back, during which time we've arranged for a rental car.

I guess our good fortune in the wake of the accident is just one more thing we have to be thankful for. And to my relatives in the North, see you in the spring! You won't be seeing the Baker's until the winter is officially over!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's NOT just like riding a bike

Last night, one of a handful of times in the last five years, I went ice skating on a friend's backyard rink. Before I laced up five years ago, the last time I had been skating was probably 25 years ago. Most of my childhood winter activities revolved around skating, as my friends and I went out just about every night to the rink at the Little League field or a shallow pond nearby. To this day I think I have some nerve damage as a result of the many times I came home with frozen toes, and I remember parking my feet (and butt) atop Nonnie's old-fashioned radiator, blasting out heat, in attempt to thaw them.

BUT, some things are lost over time, like the ability to ice skate. How awkward I looked out there, trying to regain my old stride and perform my old tricks (which were basically stopping quick and skating backwards). Who knows? Maybe practice makes perfect and I can get those ankles back up to par and speed around the rink like that long lost teenager once again!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Longest Day

Today marks one of the days I look forward to all year: the Winter Solstice. Although this day officially ushers in a long winter, it also marks the day when the amount of light begins to increase every day (which means: Spring!). Am I too optimistic wanting to skip winter altogether??

Today the sun will rise at 7:39am, and set at 4:38pm - giving us a whopping 9 hours of sunlight! In case you need something to look forward to, a month from now we will have already gained 1/2 of sunlight.

This longest day is the start of what will be the longest work week as we have to work through Wednesday. And how slowly those days will go until we have a week-and-a-half off to regain our sanity and ring in the new year!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Welcome to Cookie Land

Last night we held our Sixth Annual Fourth Avenue Cookie Exchange, and hosted our neighbors from the street and a couple beyond the Fourth Ave. realm. It's always pretty obvious how small our house actually is at times like these, but I always feel that the fun of inviting without limits outweighs the fact that people are packed into our three major party rooms: the kitchen (very bad, indeed), the dining room (a little better except for the big table in the middle), and the living room (open enough for a bunch of people to sand in the middle).

This year, as always, there was a great selection. As with the last couple of years, the Baker kids request "Christmas Windows," which aren't so much a cookie as they are candy (mad with three ingredients: chocolate, butter and colored marshmallows). Apparently the either (1) have no imagination, or (2) just can't get enough of those Christmas Windows. Ironically, I didn't get a chance to try any of the cookies folks brought, but the best part of all: we get to keep all the cookies people didn't take. Linda: this year I'm going to finally get a taste of those Kahlua brownies!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

He Lights Up Our Life

Just like we lit him up!

Christmas - A time for...letting go?

Something has happened to me in the last couple of years. I've really started evaluating how I spend my time and the "things I do" to determine what's worth continuing and what has run its course. I've always been one of those people who sees a need or an interest in starting something up (like my bookclub or the New York State Chapter of my professional organization), and "just does it." But, lately I've been forcing myself to do some tough self-evaluation to determine my motivations for taking things on. Does it come from a desire to belong? Do I think if I don't do it, nobody will?

Such self-examination comes with maturity and feeling more comfortable in one's skin, but I've been thinking a lot lately about my relationships and things I've been involved in. This year in particular, has been one of those where I've said "I'm all done with that," and have practiced letting go of some long practiced (and loved) activies and traditions.

Because the holidays have so many milestones and events associated with them, this year has caused a noticeable drop-off of a couple of things I've always initiated over the years. One example is that I stopped coordinating Mark's extended families gift exchange ("drawing of names") for the Christmas Eve party at his Aunt and Uncle's house. I've initiated this activity for about five years now, and this year when it became apparent that there were a couple of schools of thoughts about ways we might do it differently (i.e. just draw for the kids, donate to a charity), I didn't feel it was my place to make a recommendation to the family. So, I decided it was time to pass it onto to another family member. In effect, "I'm all done with that." (A relief.)

The next example is an event that I thought would cause protests among my kids if I suggested ending the tradition, but no one even noticed: St. Nicolas Day. Every year since Cameron was born we've gotten together with Mark's cousin's family (who have children the same age) to celebrate St. Nicholas Day (you can read about last year's St. Nicholas celebration in the Baker blog here). Again, sensing that I was the only one who really cared about this tradition I decided not to remind the kids about it, and did not contact our cousin a month ago to pick a date and time. Guess what? The day has passed and no one noticed that we did not celebrate. I guess I'm all done with that, too.

I'm learning that's the way of life, and that everything evolves, including relationships and traditions. It's neither bad nor good, it just "is." Be assured, that for every activity or tradition that I've discontinued over the last couple of years, there is always one (or two, or three) to take its place.