Category: family

Degu Housing Crisis

Over Christmas break, one of the items on the family To Do list was to clean out the degu cage. Never a popular task, but one which we’ve followed for years without serious incident. Our degu lives in a two tier affair, the bottom made out of a 30 gallon aquarium tank filled with wood shavings, and the top being a wire construction complete with an exercise wheel and a second floor lair. It’s worked well for us these past eight years.

This time, however, when Tomas and DC went to dump the cage contents on the compost pile, the glass aquarium finally gave up the ghost, with an entire side of it shattering into the snow. This was, needless to say, Not Part of the Plan, and it left us in a bit of a jam. We had a cage top that was still fine, but no cage bottom. Without a bottom, there would be no place to contain the wood shavings. We could try putting it in a cardboard box (we had plenty of those after the holidays), but that would get nasty fast.

A quick perusal of Craig’s List and Facebook Marketplace showed us there were other glass tanks around, but none the right size. And a new one would cost upwards of $100. That’s a bit rich for my blood, especially for an eight year old degu and no plans to get a new degu once she departs us. So I did what any self-respecting American would do: I took the dimensions of the cage top and went to Walmart.

My mission? Find something (anything!) that would work for a cage bottom for the little critter. The trick? The cage top was exceptionally long. 31 inches long, 14 inches wide. And after scouring the entire Walmart, DC and I were coming up with nothing. I had figured a plastic bin would work, but all the ones we found were just an inch or two too short. We tried bookcases as well, but they were just too big, or too expensive.

Finally, we tried the Christmas section, and there we hit pay dirt, coming across a single bin that was 34 inches long and 18 inches wide. Better yet, it was all of $15. We bought it, brought it home, and set the degu cage top inside it.

Problem: it was so tall, the cage almost completely disappeared inside it. This made it less than ideal for our degu, since she couldn’t see out, and the kids couldn’t see in to watch her. So I did what any self-respecting American would do: I got out my Dremel and cut windows in the side of the bin.

I’m pleased to say that with about 20 minutes of work, our degu can now see out just fine. Better yet, her new cage has convenient carrying handles, so moving it around for cleaning and transportation is simpler. Would I recommend it if we were just starting out on our degu ownership adventure? No. But for the end portion of the ride, I think it should be perfect.

American ingenuity wins again!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A Taste of Farmington on Chester Greenwood Day

I’ve been going to Chester Greenwood parades since I first moved to Maine. A celebration of the town local who invented earmuffs? Who can’t get behind a thing like that? Though I will say that after nine or ten parade sessions, even the novelty of cars decorated with earmuffs can grow old. That said, it’s always been something to do, and the kids have been in it a number of times, so no complaints here.

This year, however, I heard about something they’d started last year (or the year before? I’m not sure.) It’s called the Taste of Farmington (sponsored by the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce), and it was a program where you paid $5 and got a voucher that could be redeemed once at 14 different restaurants and stores around Farmington, each of which would be offering something to sample. I figured it would be something small and snackish, but 14 of those can add up, and it seemed like something that would be fun to do with friends or family. This year, we gave it a shot.

Oh. My. Goodness. It was so much food.

I don’t think my mind properly comprehended just how much “14” is. True, some of the places just had something tiny to sample. A cookie and a bit of hot chocolate. A small cup of soup. But some of the places had a whole spread. Chips, a wrap, and soup. Soup and a chicken slider and a smoothie. We were with some friends, and a few of us made a pact: if they offered it to us, we would eat it. (We did have to make exceptions for three items: a beer sample, cup of coffee, and tea, which we had to pass up for religious reasons.) But by the end, I felt more full than I do at Thanksgiving.

It was a great idea for the businesses too, as there were a number of places I went that I had never gone before, even after being here for as long as I have been. Some of those places put on a real show, and I’ll definitely be coming back. Our favorites for the day were The Homestead (which served a delicious curry and a sample of chocolate pie), The Downtown Press Cafe (chocolate peppermint cookie and a to-die-for hot chocolate), and The Beaver Lodge (chicken slider, smoothie, and soup).

Will we do this again? In a heartbeat. I hope they do it every year. Could it be improved? Maaaaybe? A few of the stores were pretty swamped with people who were coming by to participate, so traffic flow could be improved. All told, it took us 2.5 hours to do the whole tour, and we were going pretty fast from place to place. There’s only so fast you can eat, though.

If you haven’t heard of this, put it on your mental To Do list for next Chester Greenwood Day. You’ll thank me later.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Who Are You Related To?

As I mentioned on Facebook, I was down in Worcester, MA yesterday to hear President M. Russell Ballard and Elder D. Todd Christofferson (two current member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) speak in the DCU Center. There were about 12,000 other people there. Tomas and DC got to sit on the fourth row, and Denisa and I were much farther back with MC. It was a great meeting. Elder Christofferson spoke of the need to involve God in our lives through daily prayer. I especially liked his observation that the things which seem of little consequence and things that are most important in our lives often end up being the same things. (After all, the way I see it, breathing is a fairly trivial thing we all do day in and day out. We take it for granted and don’t give it much attention, but when we’re suddenly unable to breathe, we realize quickly just how important it is to us . . . )

President Ballard talked about recognizing the hand of the Lord in your life. Acknowledging those times when He has helped you or guided you in miraculous ways. He told the story of John Howland, a passenger on the Mayflower. He was swept out to sea in the middle of the voyage, but he was able to grab onto a rope that was trailing in the water behind the ship and was hauled back on board. His survival has turned out to be key to much of American history, since he’s a direct ancestor of people including FDR, George Bush, Emerson, Longfellow, Joseph Smith, and 2 million others. It would be easy to dismiss Howland’s rescue as good luck. You can also view it as the hand of providence intervening in his life. How you choose to see it certainly depends on your personal views and outlook, but that’s probably a post for a different time.

President Ballard encouraged members of the audience to pray for the country and its leaders, a sentiment I can certainly get behind. (Indeed, I already wrote an entire blog post about it.) But it occurred to me in the meeting, what happens when people are all praying for the country, but hoping for different outcomes? When faithful Democrats and Republicans all think God wants two entirely different directions for the nation to go? For that, I believe it comes down to us bringing our own wills more in line with God’s. In an ideal world, as we all pray for the same thing (a bright future for the nation, the world, and all its inhabitants), hopefully we will begin to come together more and more, until our wills overlap in multiple places, and we begin to find ways to bring about the things we are all praying for. (If we choose instead to pray for detailed specifics, like “that Trump will leave office” or “that the Democrats will stop being idiots”, I don’t think the odds are high that such overlaps will ever occur. But then again, such prayers presuppose that we understand the will of God better than our neighbors. For prayer to really be effective, I’ve found humility is often a key ingredient. There’s little humility in partisan prayers. Again, probably a topic for a different blog post.)

As I was talking with Tomas after the meeting, we kept coming back to the story of John Howland. I told Tomas I knew we had ancestors on the Mayflower, but I couldn’t right then remember who. We decided it would be a good experience to discover more about our ancestors and look for stories like Howland’s: stories where we might think about where the hand of God interceded in their lives to make it possible for us to be here today.

Thankfully, we live in 2019, and there’s technology developed to help us out in these situations. (Assuming your family history is fairly robust, which mine is, to say the least, thanks to many generations of faithful genealogy-obsessed Latter-day Saint ancestors.)

If you go to relativefinder.org and log in with your familysearch.org account, it will look up your lineage and compare it to many different people’s, from presidents to movie stars to athletes to you name it. It’s through this tool that I now know Neil Armstrong is my 13th cousin once removed. Mark Twain is my 5th cousin 6 times removed. (I knew there was a reason I was so interested in studying Huck Finn for my thesis . . . ) Ben Franklin is my 2nd cousin 10 times removed. Muhammad Ali is my 14th cousin 1 time removed.

Too distant? William Bradford of the Mayflower is my 11th great grandfather. (And 8 other Mayflower passengers are my many great grandparents.) Of course, family history is only as reliable as the data you put into it. According to this tool, Henry VIII is my 14th great grandfather, but when I took the time to trace back exactly how that conclusion was come to, the results were sketchy to say the least. It also claims Grand Sachem Wyandanch, alliance-chief of the Montaukett Indians, is my 13th great grandfather. It would be awesome if it were true, but once again, the actual documentation is tenuous to say the least.

But that William Bradford connection is accurate. I traced his posterity down to Leonard Hill, a resident of Peterborough, New Hampshire (about 50 miles away from Worcester, where I went to the meeting yesterday). He and his wife Sally Forbush met early Latter-day Saint missionaries and joined the church in 1843. They were ostracized from their families and headed west. They both ended up dying on the eventual trek to Utah after the Saints were forced out of Illinois.

In any case, I’m out of time for today. It was a thought-provoking meeting, and maybe some of these tools would be interesting to you, as well. Not sure how much family history you have to have done to get results, but I will say that actually doing the research is fairly addictive once you start. (Or is that just for librarians?)

Who Ordered the Bomb Cyclone?

Today was supposed to be just a normal Thursday. A bit rainy, sure, but nothing noteworthy about that. At least, that’s all I was really aware of going into the morning. Unbeknownst to me, heavy winds in the night knocked down a bunch of trees in the area, killing power for a whole ton of neighborhoods. Our power flickered a little, but nothing went out.

At 7am, right when I was getting ready to go to work, we got message that there was a two hour delay for MC. That complicated matters, because Denisa would be teaching class right when MC was supposed to be getting on the bus. So we arranged it that she would drive MC to me, and I would walk her over to school during a break.

Fine.

Then I got a text from Tomas at the high school saying that the power had been out there since he’d arrived, and it was looking like he was going to be released. The school district finally decided to cancel school completely for the elementary school students . . . just when Denisa was already bring MC to me on campus. By the time she got here, we knew Tomas could go home early, since nothing was happening at the high school. I got the girls from Denisa, then drove them right back home, by way of the high school to get Tomas.

Meanwhile, DC’s been having some tooth pain, and we had to schedule a visit to the dentist for her. That’s supposed to happen at 2. Except now the school restored power at the high school, which meant Tomas has cross country practice after all. So the new plan is for me to drive back home, get all the kids, take Tomas to practice and DC and MC to the dentist, and then hopefully get through all of that in one piece.

I know to a casual observer this probably isn’t that hectic of a day, but speaking as someone caught in the middle of it, it’s been a whirlwind. Because of course this all happens in the middle of an otherwise busy day at the library for me. I’ve had four meetings and a sea of emails coming my way.

Definitely something to be said for those couples who have one of them just stay at home to cover the duties there . . .

How’s everyone else’s morning been so far?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Introducing the Classics to Your Kids: Rocky

Back when we went to Philadelphia, I took my kids to the Museum of Art steps. (Not the museum, mind you. Just the steps.) As anyone who’s anyone can tell you, that’s where Rocky runs up during his training montage. There’s even a statue of Rocky at the bottom of the steps, where you can stand in a fairly persistent, long line to take your picture in the Rocky pose.

“Who was Rocky again?” Denisa asked me back then. I explained he was a boxer. Sylvester Stallone.

“You mean he wasn’t even a real person? Why are we waiting in line to take this picture again?”

Denisa is nothing if not a good sport. (Though she declined to be in the picture, choosing to take it, instead.) However, I realized then and there that I had not fulfilled my role of husband and father, as someone from the Greater Philadelphia Area, of introducing my family to the Rocky franchise.

To overcome this shame, I gathered them all together the other night, and we watched Rocky I. It had been a long time since I’d seen it, but I’m pleased to say it’s stood up nicely, though I will admit it’s definitely slow in parts. However, the family all enjoyed it for the most part, though they declined my offer to start Rocky II as soon as Rocky I was finished . . .

They were also intrigued by the constant use of the word “yo,” and they wondered why I don’t use it all the time when I speak. For the record, I do use “yo,” but for some reason I use it to mean “yes,” which confuses people sometime. I have no idea why “yo” means “yes” for me, but it does. I tried to see if that’s a Philly thing, but I didn’t find anything about it online. (I also have been known to slip and say “youse” from time to time, but that’s getting increasingly rare.)

In the end, I think it was a success. I’m just ashamed it took so long for me to get around to it. They were surprised by the ending, but even Denisa enjoyed the film, so we’ll call that a success. Who knows–next time we’re in Philly, she might even get in the picture . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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