What A Strange Trip It’s Been

So, the Hoyts are back in town.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that I wrote at most 1k words while out of town.  Mostly because of heat.  We were clocking in the eighties and nineties.  Okay, nothing weird for CO at this time, but 50% humidity or better, and local culture hates fans.

We actually don’t have air conditioning in the new house.  This will be fixed once I finish Revenge and get paid.  It will go to that, mostly.  BUT even without air conditioning, we’re a mile high, which means we can open all the windows at night.  And we have frigging airplane-sized fans moving the air, so even in the heat of day it’s not that bad.

With nineties, high humidity and no air movement, I was sweating like being in a shower CONSTANTLY and at night, I just couldn’t sleep.  My own skin touching my skin HURT.  I was in a constant state of sleep deprival.

Maybe that’s why this trip was sort of a midlife crisis rolled into two weeks.

I know this will sound daft, but I didn’t realize that when I moved away to pursue… well, my life, I was cutting drastically down on the amount of help and support I could give my parents as they aged.  They don’t really need it yet — not really — rather they’ve felt stymied by not being able to help me, at least to the extent of taking the kids so I could work on my career when I was younger.

You see, Portugal is … tribal?  Clannish is more like.  Tribal too, but not as much as other societies.  It was part of my parents’ duties to further my progress in my chosen career and they really couldn’t do that, except by sending us gifts which sometimes kept their grandkids fed, but which to them is neither enough nor the form they would have chosen.

I’ll confess part of me wishes I could have sent the kids over in Summer when they were late elementary through high school.  I probably would have done it, if it weren’t for 9/11.  9/11 meant I’d have kitten fits putting the kids on a plane without me.  I’m also not sure how either of my independent-minded not great at reading different cultures kids would have done.  I think my older son would have got it, but the younger would have spent a lot of time speaking the unspeakable, so to put it.

Anyway, what’s done is done, and can’t be undone, and regrets won’t mend anything.

Weirder and more revealing was my realizing — now I’m about the age she was when I left — that my mom does love me.  She just has issues of her own, which makes expressing that very hard.  She spends a lot of time talking through forcing me to accept gifts and buying me inadvisable food.  If you’re sitting there saying “Duh, of course your mother loves you” you don’t understand.  I spent most of my life there fighting mom, and absolutely convinced she loathed me.  There’s reasons for that and issues I will not go into in a public blog.  BUT … yeah, she loves me.

And we still can’t live together.  Give me another week there, and we’d be at each other’s throats just like when I was a teen.  Part of it is that mom lives within certain parameters and that I was born with fists clenched and disposed to ask “You and whose army?” even at sensible solutions, much less at weird, culturally dictated ones.  Just an example, before the big family party, I was cautioned not to talk to anyone about my work.  Now, look, mom has done this before, where she threw herself across a big room when someone asked “so what do you do for a living?” and yelled “she’s a housewife” before I could open my mouth.  This time — I’m 53, and I have very little space for nonsense in my life anymore — I said “WHY?”  And she looked confused and blinked and said, “They’ll say your husband doesn’t make enough to support you.”  I appreciate her attempts at protecting my husband’s honor, and hell, she might even be right for the village grapevine, but gods above, she’ll never get that “we won a million dollars in the lottery” would be followed by “cool, more time to write.”

So, my internal parameters have shifted (it’s nice to know she loves me) but it doesn’t change anything.

The whole mid-life crisis bottomed out on the plane home, probably because I hadn’t slept in 20 hours and had slept no more than 4 hours a night for two weeks before that.  I went into this big depression because I felt like I had — to put it in a  weird but the only way I can — “lost me.”

I don’t know how to explain this.  I didn’t regret moving.  I didn’t regret my marriage, and I’ll never regret the boys, but I felt like I was holding two halves of me, and I couldn’t make them meet in the middle.

Part of this is that I met a lot of me in airports.  Slim Portuguese girls with adidas bags on their shoulders, rushing along.

But understand 99.9% of them will go back and live quietly wherever they came from, in the expected path.

Portuguese immigrate, sure, but usually as couples.  And there the big thing is “don’t let the kids marry abroad or you can never return.”  And if single males immigrate, they usually come back, marry a local girl, settle down.  Or at least (like a cousin of mine who married an Englishwoman) they send their kids back.

It’s not a normal thing for Portuguese Women to go away and not return, and it’s even less normal to BECOME something else.

And on the plane, in the midst of a depressive crisis I couldn’t figure out how to reconcile the two halves.  It took older son noticing I was crying and starting with twenty questions, until he elicited that I could FAKE fitting in Portugal when I was young, not now, but I always felt like an exile.

He says the way to reconcile it is simple.  I just was an American born tragically abroad.  If that requires pre-existence of the soul, so be it.  If it requires my being a genetic freak, so be it.

He says I am what I am and shouldn’t feel the need to justify it.  And perhaps he’s right, even if I still feel guilty I couldn’t be what family and tribe wanted of me.

As for the more material regret: My parents are well, but I can see the bend in the road.  I’d like to be able to visit them every year for the next ten years.

Yes, you know it, that means I must make a lot more money.

So, I’ll go unpack bags, then unpack boxes.  And then work.

I guess this midlife crisis ends where they all do: I am what I am.  I don’t regret my major decisions (Oh, some of the details, but who doesn’t?)  Now I’ll make the best of what I have.

It is perhaps symbolic that we returned home on the day of my civil ceremony anniversary, when Dan and I got legally married in York County Courthouse in South Carolina, so it would make getting religiously married back in Portugal six months later, easier.

Those promises I made?  Best thing I ever did, even if it send me careening down a path my younger self would not be able to understand.

All is as it should be.


245 thoughts on “What A Strange Trip It’s Been

  1. Agree, welcome home.

    We didn’t do too much damage while you’ve been gone. 😉

        1. I’ve got a bid from a plumber willing to attempt the issue with the non euclidiean entities’ room.

          1. As long as it doesn’t require gold in payment. The aardvark can get anything else from the treasury, but it’s not safe to get gold past Fluffy AND the sea serpent in the minion pool.

          1. Don’t let the roses get their roots into it.

            They do neutralize it nicely, yes, but just as they turn red when they get their roots into blood, they get fluorescent from explosives. It’s painful to the eye.

    1. Here it never made it out of the eighties this past night and the humidity here is high. I managed my morning walk, but finished feeling more like a steamy washcloth than a person. They say this heat wave should be breaking around Friday. I hope so.

      Thank the powers that be for the invention of air conditioning…

      1. Oh, you too?

        The last few weeks I’ve been getting up at 5 so I can garden from 6-8 before the heat drives me inside.This morning, I got up, glanced at the weather thingie, read “84 degrees, RealFeel Tee Em 92 degrees”, and went back to bed.

          1. Courtesy of scattered thunderstorms training through we finally got some much needed rain in our area yesterday. While the temp was down a few degrees the humidity was up, so that was a wash. All the plants which had been getting a bit wilty have perked up, including the trees. The shafts of early morning light filtering through the trees and the mist was beautiful.

            1. My garden was looking a bit wilty a few days ago. It’s rained twice since then, but this morning’s was a bit harsh. The thunderstorm brought some fierce winds with it and now most of my corn is laying on the ground.

              1. It rained earlier this week. My garden was still looking wilty by the next afternoon.

                1. UGH. That is harsh weather.

                  Back to singing to self, ‘Ain’t it awful the heat, ain’t it awful.’

  2. > air conditioning

    Unless you have an existing system that’ll be cheap to repair, check into a “mini split” system. They’re more expensive up front (of course…) but instead of a normal SEER of 12 and “super efficient” of 15ish, the mini-splits mostly run in the low 20s.

    You buy the air conditioner once, but you pay the electric bill every month, forever.

    The one I bought has an SEER of 23. It reverses to work as a heat pump. It has built-in electric booster heat. It has HEPA filters. And each head unit has its own remote control.

    1. My guess (or opinion) is that Colorado gets way, way too cold for a heat pump to work efficiently ; at least the one my mother has fights hard at 25F and won’t cut the mustard below 20. If you know different, I would love to hear it.

      1. When we lived in Kansas (lower elevation but Wichita is roughly the same latitude as Colorado Springs) our heat pump worked fine, even into the high 20s.

        In Tucson we still have a heat pump, but over the past 12 months I think it went into the heater mode less than a dozen times.

        1. Tucson gets pretty cool at night. When they sent me down there for DM I’d be shivering in AM and melting soles off my boots in pm (I literally did melt the glue holding soles in a pair of thorogoods)

          1. This time of year, no… If we don’t get a storm in the evening, early night – well, it’s just like Sarah describes Portugal. Past midnight, it was still running low 90s past midnight here (I’m right outside of DM on the east side, north of the plane graveyard).

            Last night and tonight, we finally got the storms back in, though. 80F as I write this at a bit after 9PM (and I hope to be able to write tonight – no a/c in this place).

            1. Yeah, you got the storms back because the HI is shifting east again to park on top of me next week. 😛 I vote we send it farther east.

              1. It does make a pretty good hurricane wall, though. Sure you don’t want to keep it? (Besides, you know the SE Huns will only bat it back this way again!)

            2. It also depends exactly where you are in the valley, we get some relatively strong variations over a relatively small area. (Thank you mountains.)

              Not to mention the fact this year our monsoon has given us a pretty dry July – except for the first week and the last few days.

      2. The heat pump mode is built in to all the mini-splits I’ve looked at, so it was “free.”

        I expect it’ll only get used if I munged the design of the hydronic heating system. I have a thousand feet of tubing under the floor and two stainless-steel heat exchangers from the gas water heater.

        Why, yes, a simple repair and remodel job *did* get away from me…

    2. Ditto CCO’s comment about the inefficiency of heat pumps in winter. Even here in coastal VA, where it has been in the 90’s the whole week, my highest electric bill is dead of winter.
      The downside of mini-splits is the fan noise. Better than portables/window in that the compressor fan noise is outside, but you still have the airflow to listen too. YMMV, depending upon the ductwork you have. I have all flexible duct and the central A/C is very quiet.

      1. Heat pumps are fine when there’s enough heat in the air that heat strips don’t have to pick up the slack. It used to be in the 30s, but in some instances it can be in the low 20s now, with the greater the insulation the lower the ambient temperature can be before the heat pump need heat strips. Heat strips are resistance heat and is probably the most expensive heating you can buy. So if your heat strips have to stay on to warm your house in the winter, heat pumps aren’t going to be cost effective.

        Heat strips also come on during the defrost cycle, but it doesn’t run up the bill like being on for hours. And there’s a very nasty malfunction where the AC runs at the same time as the heat strips. It will make your electric bill skyrocket, and it’s not that uncommon a failure, either. Usually it’s a unit installed or repaired wrong, or sticky solenoids.

        Ground loop systems cut out the need for heat strips to pick up the slack, and are more efficient as the earth temperature is usually warmer or cooler than air temperature. There’s a problem in more northern latitudes of more heat taken out of the ground than is replaced in the summer, and all I can remember about that is it’s an issue in northern tier states.

          1. We have electric forced air in our manufactured home and despite rather good insulation, December and January are very happy months for Pacific Power. We have a propane “wood” stove for backup and help for when the temps get to “Minus OMG” We’re southern Oregon, but medium high (4350 feet). Lowest I’ve seen it is -28F, but -20ish happens every winter.

            OTOH, when it hits 95F (like yesterday), we can get some of the heat out in the evening, and more in the morning. I get it as cool as possible and hope for the best. We don’t sleep with the windows open, since the local cats range from feral kitties to mountain lions. I don’t like swamp coolers (see -20F), but they’re popular around here. Our neighbors used to run a heat pump; Carrier brand, judging by the logo on the repairman’s truck.

        1. A heat pump system can still be a win in cold-weather areas when the house already has a gas (or oil) furnace. You get a thermometer that handles dual-fuel systems (a Nest, for example) and it’ll cool with the heat-pump, warm with the heat-pump until outside temps drop enough for that to become inefficient, and then switch to the gas furnace to handle deep cold.

          You probably wouldn’t install such a system if you were building new, because adding the extra heating system is spendy. But if you already have a furnace…

        2. My parents have a heat pump system using a groundsource, which does not rely on air, and can handle colder.

      2. We have reversible A/C stuff. I don’t find the fan noise noticeable. But yeah they do have a problem with extremes in exterior temps. Mind you in heat mode they really help you figure out if the house is insulated or not. If it is, they stop running after a while, if it’s not well insulated they run continuously

    3. The HEPA filters might be very good for Sarah, but I would think she would want an alternative heat system to a heat pump. Besides the issues with them in cold weather, you also have the issue of no heat if the power goes out. I always recommend a secondary heat source that doesn’t require electricity a fair number of gas furnaces do not work without electricity, I would always recommend getting one that works without electricity, even if less efficiently. (ie, no fans to distribute heat, but the furnace still runs).
      Two heat sources is always a good idea, anyways.

      I’ve always managed well without AC, because it generally cools down nicely here at night. At Sarah’s altitude I’m sure it does also, and without kids going in and out all, it should stay fairly cool in a well insulated house if you open the windows at night, and then close windows and heavy drapes (not those lacy things) at daylight in the morning. A minor investment in some cheap heavy drapes should get you through this summer, until you can afford an AC system, anyways.

      1. I’m wearing a quilted flannel as I write this because the thermometer in the house reads 57 right now (4 AM), but it is supposed to be in the 90’s today, so I will close all the windows and drapes before I leave (just don’t want to until after I finish cooking breakfast) and it will only get up to about 70 in here, as long as I’m not around going in and out, letting the heat in.
        I am helping build a house for my grandma, and it is better insulated (and has better insulated windows) and it does considerably better than mine at staying cool.

        1. Yes. Running the fan all night and then sealing up the house as tightly as possible helps. Blackout curtains for the windows, if you can get ’em.

      2. A lot of the gas-fired “wood” stoves use a millivolt system, where the power is sourced by a thermopile and an oversized pilot light. Not completely fool proof (thermocouples last 5 years or so, and propane can be sooty), but you get heat, just no blower when the power goes out. Ours runs up to 30,000 BTU, enough to keep us from freezing.

        I use a millivolt wall heater in my wife’s shed/shop. Same issues, but it does a great job of keeping the place just warm enough.

    4. I’ve given thought of late to those new single room A/C devices. Not window units, but the kind that are freestanding in the room and use a small port (2″ diameter, IIRC) at the window for their exhaust. This enables you to control temperatures in each room according to its use, rather than household units which chill an entire floor as one. It also allows you to chill, say the bedroom or kitchen, according to its demands without having to cool the entire floor.

      Prices seem reasonable, on the order of $250 – 350 a room as compared to $4 – 5 K per floor.

      Mind, as we already have central A/C my explorations of the cost/benefits have been cursory.

      1. All I’m getting on a web search for “single room AC” are returns on “ductless”, which seems to be marketing-speak for mini-split.

        Can you help me zero in on this? I wouldn’t mind something like you described, for my workshop.

        1. Try searching Amazon (or any Home Depot/Lowe’s in your area) for Whynter, Haier or Honeywell portable Air Conditioners. I have seen some on sale at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, if you’ve one of those in your area. Looking at some Amazon reviews I get the impression that you want to be careful to thoroughly insulate the outlet (it looks like it requires a 4″ hose and, from my own experience with dehumidifiers you will want to be careful about the drainage for that.

          This video gives a decent starting point and offers a link to a site for product reviews. Be aware that I do not vouch for their information nor their independence, but presume you can Google for that information if it seems necessary. You will also want to look into useful life expectancy for these units and whether there are repair & service providers convenient — I have found every dehumidifier we get for our garage tends to last 3 – 5 years, and the nearest certified repair shop for the brand is an hour and a half distant.

          A quick check at the web sites for Home Depot and Lowe’s shows they both have a number of these on offer.

        1. Yes, I would stay away from those, too – this is by experience.

          We actually did get two of them one summer. Okay, one did a decent job on the office space, which isn’t all that big. The other one out in the open-plan living/dining/kitchen – hardly anything. They both did dehumidify quite well – which meant endless bucket emptying (and a serious annoyance if we forgot). With the horizontal opening windows we have, it was also a real headache to put the exhaust ducts in so that they would stay in.

          Expense – just about as much as my neighbor with a very similar floorplan but with good central A/C he installed himself (retired commercial HVAC guy). Can’t afford to run them this summer, in any case.

          Next year, unless we somehow have the money to do the roof removal and complete ducting rework this place really needs, I’m getting two window units (maybe three) and fairing them in.

          1. Look at the SEER figures for the window units before you buy. That was my original plan during the remodel, but the efficiency of everything on the market at the time (5 or 6 years ago) was way down in the single digits.

            1. Cooling with windows units is expensive and you have to be careful about the wiring. Another thing to be careful about is sealing around the unit, not just to prevent air from coming around the cracks, but creepy crawlies as well. Been there, done that, with all of the above, and it was how my wife found a rat snake looking down at her from the curtain rod.

              In the old, uninsulated, house we rented, we paid through the nose for window units and for the gas space heaters to keep warm in the winter. When we finally bought our own place, with a modern insulated home and central heating and cooling, our energy bill was a faction of what we paid at the rental.

              1. That’s the plan. The long-range one. But the roof needs to come completely off, be reframed about 18″ higher, and a batch of ductwork.

                Over the short haul, just keeping things in the mid to high 80s and having it be less like a swamp will be sufficient. (Which is really only about six to eight weeks worth – when it’s dry here, which is most of the time, evaporative works like a charm.)

                1. Something that needs mentioning is the cost of systems. I have long been impressed by ground-loop systems, but when we changed ours out, I opted for a standard model. The issue was cost verses our lifetimes, and while I hope we don’t kick the bucket any time soon, I didn’t think we’d see much of a pay-off verses initial cost.

                  For a similar reason we went with the most common model that company installed. It wasn’t the bottom-level unit, but neither did it have all the bells and whistles. Our reasoning was there was less of a chance it wouldn’t be correctly installed, they would have a better idea how to work on, it, and there would be a greater chance they would have parts in stock. So far, so good.

                  BTW, I insisted on a hard start kit. A hard start kit is basically a starting capacitor that used to come standard. It’s also interesting the short run of tubing inside the unit didn’t hold up to vibrations and ended up cracking at the solder joint. The repairman installed a short coil of tubing so that there was some play, which helped prevent damage from vibration.

                2. A simple dehumidifier can provide significant benefit in areas prone to high humidity. Not especially expensive (in my experience, $250 – 350) to buy, easily installed with no need for outside venting (although some might want a drain-hose) they keep room humidity down to a level at which evaporation can keep you comfortable.

                  While daily bucket dumping can be a nuisance (see note above about drain-hose) it isn’t excessively burdensome and the collected water can be used to water plants or for rinsing whatever wants rinsing. While I wouldn’t recommend it for drinking by either you or your pets, I have found that houseplants seem to thrive from it.

                  If the period when you need cooling is sufficiently brief you might find such a device your best option. As mentioned before, the one we use in our garage typically lasts 3 – 5 years, but that is running constantly about nine months a year and attempting to dry a very large space — two car bays and about a sixteen foot ceiling (I keep contemplating installing a loft for additional storage or work area.)

  3. He [older son] says I am what I am and shouldn’t feel the need to justify it. And perhaps he’s right, even if I still feel guilty I couldn’t be what family and tribe wanted of me.

    Ah, such wisdom from one so young, you must be very pleased to see him grow into such a young man.

    From my own experience I have found one cannot help but feel some guilt at not living up to the hopes and dreams of the family that raised you. We spend our formative years surrounded by them — both the family and their aspirations and ways. So, even if we knew from the start that would never have really fit that life, might even have ultimately crashed and burned if we truly tried, there is that haunting pain at letting down the family.

    Thankfully you found the place you were meant to be, however rough the journey. We are the richer for it.

    1. … even if we knew from the start that would never have really fit that life, might even have ultimately crashed and burned if we truly tried, there is that haunting pain at letting down the family.

      This. So very much this. No matter how hard I try, I cannot escape the guilt of not living up to both what I know I could be AND my family’s expectations.

  4. We are the sum of what we were. We stand at the intersection of where we’ve been and where we could be.

    Your intersection looks like a place where you’re mostly happy, with no more than a usual basket of regrets. If you could go back and ask Young Sarah, I’ll bet she would be pretty pleased to see where she’s going.

    1. If you could go back and ask Young Sarah

      I suspect Young Sarah, like young RES, was full of confidence, unconstrained by doubt, ignorant or indifferent to the way the world confounds expectations and destroys plans. Experience ought teach humility if nothing else.

      Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth, “rip down all hate, ” I screamed
      Lies that life is black and white spoke from my skull, I dreamed
      Romantic facts of musketeers foundationed deep, somehow
      Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now

  5. local culture hates fans.

    So, arranging a bus tour to tour Teh Author’s ancestral home and squee is right out then?

      1. Sorry. All I can muster at this moment in time, having just returned from running necessary errands out in the Carolina sauna, is to quote Hancock: ‘Please, Colonel McKean — it’s too hot.’

  6. Now to the important question.
    How long before the cats forgive you for neglecting them?

    1. Never. They might at some point ACT like they’ve forgiven you, but cats keep lists on these things….

            1. Just let him or her out into the yard or if it’s raining really heavily, just use the potty pad.

      1. Cats are like “oh, you’re still alive, that’s nice. Where’s the food?”

      1. Well, the size of your current house, it must seem to him like he can hide a block or so away, as in the old neighborhood.

  7. I haven’t had to give up nearly as much in life as you have, and I still find myself thinking with a certain degree of…if not guilt, then at least wistfulness, about the roads not take. What if I had chosen the most prestigious graduate school rather than the one close to my family? Where might my career be now? What if I had gotten married younger? Would some of the family issues I’m dealing with now be easier if I’d had a longer experience being part of a couple? What if, what if, what if…

    I guess that it’s just part of being human. I think Older Son is right, and we are what we are, but it doesn’t really stop you from wondering.

  8. Maybe that’s why this trip was sort of a midlife crisis rolled into two weeks.

    Well, that’s efficient; I told my sister that I got my mid-life crisis out of the way early by joining the Army and ordering a Mustang on my two weeks leave after advanced training.

    I’m from the South so I can relate to the whole clannish thing; my neighbors growing up were: great-aunt and uncle across the road, aunt and uncle next to them then another aunt built across the road before my parents built, aunt and uncle down the road across from the store my uncle we lived with and another great uncle who lived down the other road in the ancestral home. Now all these homes are lived in by cousins, except for my mother and her sister in law catty-corner across the road and my great-aunt and uncles house across the road is rented since she passed.

    I can relate to the whole see corner coming thing too.

    1. In case you were wondering, the link is to Jeanne Robertson’s “Don’t Send a Man to the Grocery Store” video.

    2. It’s not just southern. More generational. My grandmother on my father’s side helped watch my siblings and I when we were young. I see folks neglected in nursing homes too often and even in their own homes. Too many have to move everywhere for work and we try and hand off care of the elderly to someone with a slick brochure. All we can do is be mindful and plan.

      1. My mom was in a rehab center/nursing home last winter after she broke her hip. My internal question almost every time I visited: “Why is this parking lot so empty?” If there was another car in visitor parking, I could almost guarantee it was driven by one of my siblings.

        1. My step-grandmother was in a nursing home for a while, and not only did she look forward to having her (step-)grandkids visit, all her friends looked forward to having any and all visitors: seeing new faces in the communal dining room was a treat. I got the impression that being responsible for visitors won you status points. I did see other visitors on occasion, but … not generally at common meals, which were in a communal dining hall. (Everyone also had small kitchens, but not many cooked, I think.) Granted, their food was terrible (it didn’t seem to bother the residents) but grandma was so happy to have you there, I don’t see how anyone could visit and not come. Maybe their relatives had more of their taste buds left and were more interested in going out to eat than showing off their visitor.

          1. My mom varies from hermit on a good day to misanthrope on a bad. Plus her broken hip made getting around difficult. So she always ate in her room.

            My mother-in-law was in the same facility two years earlier for hospice care. Parkinson’s had her close to immobile. So the nurses fed her in her room.

            So I never even thought about dining in the dining room. Sounds like you did a very good thing there.

          2. My Dad had a stroke and was in rehab for a couple of weeks. There was a big status thing about families coming to visit during mealtimes.

          3. My Mom was in a nursing home for 5 years and after I got home to live with my Dad(90) unless my brother or sister were home (3 weeks a year) I visited her everyday. At first they let me eat lunch with her but after awhile they stopped that.(Ownership change)

          4. You don’t have to eat the food. My father-in-law was in a nursing home (and way across the country, unfortunately he would not move out of one of the Socialist Republics of New England).

            But on one of our visits there when we could afford a family trip, my son and I pushed him into the TV room in his wheelchair, and then pulled up seats to watch the ball game with him. He and everyone else there were tickled pink. (Especially talking baseball with the son – IIRC, he was twelve at the time?)

    3. My mother’s clans suffered a small-scale diaspora when the state flooded Fontana Valley during the Depression, and the Buchanans and the Calhouns spread about the South trying to find work.

  9. Of all of you posts, I found this to be the most personal and revealing … and touching.

    I’m not much for “… this is my life and today I did this and tomorrow I’m gonna do that…” blogs. Because they are myopic. This post, however, transcended all of that. It was universal. I saw myself as I read it.

    Thank you.

  10. It might be a regional phenomenon but as best I can determine, a true mid-life crisis involves the purchase of a convertible, a sports-car, or yes. About 25% of said purchases are followed by a mid-wife crisis.

      1. Trophy wife crises?

        BTW, human nature doesn’t change. The way Proverbs advises a man not to turn from the wife of his youth, it sounds like the mid life crises thing is old, indeed.

        “What that on Ogg head?”

        “Him lose hair. Him cover.”

        “Huh. That no help. Ogg hair never look like skunk.”

        “No tell Ogg. Him bad enough.Him get flashy club. Him say he find young wife.”

        “Him trade old club?”

        “Yes. Ogg wife get back.”


        “In case he find young wife.”

        1. (Only slightly tangentially vaguely relevant aside to groundlings:)

          Ogg’s vanity and midlife crisis predicament brings to mind a pet peeve I’ve found myself pondering of late: Why does popular media associate metalworking with the ability to comb and braid hair?

          Never do you see any representation of stone-age folk with anything other than masses of long tangled unkempt hair. It’s as if somehow the ability to manipulate hair in regular patterns magically manifested with the first copper tool, and this in spite of first hand evidence from the many, many encounters in reliable historical record with people who only had stone-and-bone to work with (Amerindians, Polynesians, etc.) yet somehow did not appear thus. Even shaving quite closely was well within the skill set of anyone with access to flint – certainly if the skills and technology existed to butcher a mammoth, someone could cut your hair, and I cannot conceive that hair braiding is somehow a modern invention.

          The internal contradictions just keep popping out of Hollywood: On the one hand, obviously these cavemen have to look all animalistic and such – we are after all up here at the pointy end of the Arrow Of History, so we have to be more modern and advanced looking compared to them in some way, but on the other hand, they were after all noble savages living in harmony with Mother Gaia and all her parasitic bugs and diseases, and thus had wisdom that us modern air-conditioning users lack.

          The result: If we see nomadic hunter gatherer stone tool users of North American plains after 1500 or so they have to be well groomed, well spoken, and wisdom spouting, but if we see nomadic hunter gatherer stone tool users of Eurasia circa 10,000 BCE, they will be wearing rough untrimmed skins as ‘clothing’, sport tangled shaggy hair and vast untrimmed beards, and communicate their nasty brutish and short thoughts in grunts.

          It’s a wonder there are any unexploded heads left in Hollywood.

          1. they will be wearing rough untrimmed skins as ‘clothing’, sport tangled shaggy hair and vast untrimmed beards, and communicate their nasty brutish and short thoughts in grunts.

            In fairness, I understand this accurately reflects a large number of Hollywood executives and (when not receiving the attentions of studio make-up, hairdressing and speech-coaching personnel) many major Film & Television actors.

      2. Mid-wife crisis: The period between the finalization of the divorce and the selection of a younger, flashier model (of spouse. Although in one case he had to get a replacement airplane. Wife #1 took the dog and the Piper. He got the business, the bank accounts and the house.)

        1. At one point, we determined that a requirement of being a trophy wife is extensive self-maintence (hair, nails, makeup, plastic surgery) which prompted me to quip that I must be a booby prize.

          1. Waaaay back when, I read about half of Sidney Barrows Biddle’s book about being a madame and running a call-girl service. Her “girls” only worked four nights/days a week, and on their off nights they were expected to be doing at-home beauty treatments, studying manners and current events (to be able to discuss things intelligently with almost anyone), and they had certain kinds of clothes, including undergarments, they had to purchase and wear. And they still made a lot more money, and were apparently a lot happier, than a lot of “escorts.” So yes, very high maintenance, but SBB pointed out that it was their job, and jobs require effort and preparation.

            1. Reminds me of Heinlein’s quote (i think as Lazarus Long) on judging whores by the same criteria as other professionals.

          2. I have been under the impression that, these days, a booby prize entails at least a C cup, so: If the brassiere fits, wear it.

      3. I find I experience that whenever I try to recall the name of the one between Ivana and Melania … which is fortunately quite infrequent.

      4. Mid-wives are much cheaper than hospital births, and a lot of insurances don’t cover mistresses. The crisis comes when the wife picks up the mail, with the bill from the mid-wife.

      1. When one of my cousins turned 50, he told his wife that his mid-life crisis would involve either a sports car or a blonde. She chose the sports car. 😉

          1. A husband and wife were having dinner at a very fine restaurant when this absolutely stunning young woman comes over to their table, gives
            the husband a big kiss, then says she’ll see him later and walks away.

            The wife glares at her husband and says, “Who the hell was that?”

            “Oh,” replies the husband, “she’s my mistress.”

            “Well, that’s the last straw,” says the wife. “I’ve had enough. I want a divorce!”

            “I can understand that,” replies her husband, “but remember, if we get a divorce it will mean no more shopping trips to Paris, no more wintering
            in Barbados, no more summers in Tuscany, no more Infiniti or Lexus in the garage and no more yacht club. But the decision is yours.”

            Just then, a mutual friend enters the restaurant with a gorgeous babe on his arm.

            “Who’s that woman with Jim?” asks the wife.

            “That’s his mistress,” says her husband.

            “Ours is prettier,” she replies.

        1. When he turned 50, my dad got a 20 year old, high maintenance sports car and my mom dyed her hair blonde (on accident, went too light trying to cover the gray). He said it was cheaper to do it that way than the other way around.

  11. I think there have always been people who ‘didn’t fit’ — that’s part of the reason why people have spread out over the whole earth instead of congregating in one spot a la Tower of Babel. You are blessed in that you were able to leave where you didn’t fit and find the place where you did fit. Doesn’t make it easier when you go back, I know.

    For me, the place I fit is where I grew up, the place I didn’t fit is back East where we lived for a while (and the ex and one daughter and the grandchildren still live there, so I have to go back there once in a while). It was funny when I came back here after having lived elsewhere for so long, it felt like I was coming home, like I could breathe freely again. I really wasn’t expecting that.

    We lived with my grandmother the last few years of her life, then when she died I was planning to move back East to be near my daughters and grandchildren (Cedar hasn’t yet moved to Ohio at that point). That didn’t work out, and now I’m glad even though I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like, because we are where we belong.

    I understand how hard it is to be apart from your family as they grow older and get to where they may need your help, too. I was on the opposite side of the country for the deaths of three of my grandparents and didn’t have the funds to even come home for their funerals. My dad lived in Alaska until he died ten years ago, and I was either back east or here in Oregon and couldn’t help him during his last few years. I’m so thankful now to be living within a few miles of my mother, who turned eighty this year, and be able to be there for her when she needs me.

    I don’t know if you’ve looked at Cedar’s blog this morning, but this topic, or something similar, has been on her mind, too.

    1. I believe I have fit anywhere I’ve ever landed, but it has struck me how frequently those around me did not fit. I have learned to practice restrain and tolerance.

  12. Fascinating that in Portugal, a working woman means an unsupportive husband and here a stay-at-home woman means a misogynist husband.
    Expressing emotion is cultural, I tell family members, love you daily and they do too. My Grandfather was from a Polish family, and he managed to tell Mother that he loved her one time, 2 days before he died.
    The only real problem you have is being so far away from your Parents as they get older. Parents are supposed to be a burden to their Children in their old age. But, “Without change something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.”

    1. My dad was Polish (his parents were the immigrants and met in the U.S.) When his family members visited us, we laughed at how they ducked hugs. It seemed to be more of an East Coast/West Coast thing, though.

      1. Hugs are *not* a thing in this part of Dixie.

        Enough that the reaction might involve a fist or pepper spray.

        What’s that? “America is not a monoculture.”

        1. On my trip to the DC area to work in the home office for a week, I was surprised to find that most of my female team members were huggers. Didn’t expect that in that bastion of SJWs.

          1. Most of the Caribbean people that I know are huggers. Never figured that out – when the weather here is anything close to their climate, I flinch away from a warm hug…

          1. I have reached that stage where I would rather not hug even myself. Both brothers and my sister have become huggers and I’ve yet to find the empty pods.

  13. So, if you’re an American born in a Portuguese body, does that make you a Transnational?

    1. Don’t say that too loud, the Colonel might hear.
      Although that does bring up an interesting question: is there such a thing as a Transnational Conservative?

  14. Dang — I’m glad you’re home. Seriously I understand your feelings very well. Growing up in an Old Mormon house, leaving to become something else, and then come back to visit the fam– yes it is a shock to both them and you.

    I am definitely not what my parents expected or wanted– Still I am me and you are you– You are in my tribe and my family– the wanderers and explorers.

        1. Please note that there were no attacks in Portugal the entire time the Hoyts were there.
          Now that’s a reputation to envy.

          1. …that you know of. They’ve got in-house medical advice on how to dispose of bodies, for heaven’s sake. And a network of relatives there. Any of the usual suspects missing a light armored division recently?

            1. There was a far right coup in Andorra, which has invaded France and started rounding up members of the Socialist Party.

              1. It says something about the current state of Europe that I actually looked that up to see if it was really happening.

                  1. But what about the King of Ruritania? You don’t hear much about Ruritania. It worries me.

                1. I wish we could get rid of the Islamic Terrorist Menace. There isn’t one in Marion Harmon’s Cape series.

                  1. I think those types in his Universe supported the Caliphate and Europe got smart before we met Hope.

                    1. He doesn’t say how but I think that the Caliphate was squashed flat and the Israel keeps a close eye on whatever crumbs are left.

                    2. Don’t forget the large part of Turkey that became a US territory (on the way to become a US State).

                      Of course, there was a major Islamic Terrorist Group that included Super-Beings but I got the idea that Europe & the US weren’t playing “pat those poor Muslims on the head” games.

                      IE Muslims who wanted to live in peace with non-Muslims were allowed to do so but Heaven help Muslims who caused trouble.

                1. I’ve been thinking of convincing the good people of (state of residence) of the need for our own foreign intelligence service, as the Feds have proven incapable. Would you prefer that I ask the county commissioner if we can field some Contras?

            2. One of mom’s second cousins owns a funeral home. We have more doctors in the family than you can shake a caduceus at. My dad is an expert on Roman ruins…

              1. Okay, now I want to write the heartwarming story of a poorly-advised military division vs. a small Portugese village…
                “…and here we have our ancient catacombs.”
                “Er, those bones look rather fresh, Father.”
                The priest shrugged. “Oh, we do that for the tourists. Stay with the tour, please…”

                1. Everyone who mentions Portuguese talks about them going overseas to find work, but they don’t mention what kind of work it is.

                2. Only one small village of indomitable Portuguese still holds out against the invaders?

                  1. The invaders are reduced to this one village or perhaps it’s the 1st village encountered during their recon.

  15. The first verse of Rocky Mountain High comes to mind

    He was born in the summer of his 27th year,
    Coming home to a place he’d never been before

    It’s good to find a place to fit in. Some of us never really do.

    Can’t claim to know what you’re going through, but that tension was a part of our family, something I used to attribute to a Scotch and Irish background, but may not have been. After they get a certain age you sigh and bite your tongue and go on because you realize some things aren’t worth the words that might be said.

  16. I’m not sure that high intelligence has much survival value in most family situations.
    Now, when I was responder #7, that was the beginning of my comment. However, it expanded to a blog post, which was almost complete, and then exertions in the heat (I was looking for my copy of ‘Cartridges of the World’) lead to a blood sugar attack, and there are no forks, so I am eating a salad with a spoon whilst trembling and sweating.
    BUT! I have a bodaciously wonderful blog post, as soon as I stop shaking.

    1. My copy stayed in the throne room for almost a year. It finally got relocated to the bookcase right over *there*…

        1. Wait, what? It’s on Kindle Unlimited???

          Here it is (I think I correctly included the hook to Sara’s Amazon partner bucket).

        2. Gee, IIRC, I’ve got 4 paper editions. Even the one where they let the Australian edit it and put in all those 303 based wildcats.

          1. Wot? .303 wildcats? What edition was that?

            I was saving my shekels for Nonte’s cartridge conversions book next, but…

            1. There are multiple editions of COTW on KU, if you want to explore. I would NEVER have thought it would be KU, so maybe the other is KU as well.
              And btw, I had no chopsticks, and I drew the line at using toothpicks.

              1. Unless it’s really drenched in dressing, salad is a first rate finger food. I’ll put my dressing in a salsa bowl and dip the salad bits in it as I eat at the desk. Of course, I make my salads rather chunky in the first place.

                1. Wife was looking over my shoulder waiting to ask me something. Okay, I don’t make salads, I make veggie platters…

                  Sigh. Need to keep her out of here.

            2. Some of my bookshelves are inaccessible right now, but I was able to narrow it down to either the 9th or 10th edition.

              1. [walks over to shelf] Mine’s a 12th edition, with bupkis on .303 wildcats. Interessssting.

                I have a 6.5/303 “semi-wildcat” I made by trimming down a 6.5 Mannlicher die to clear the .303 rim and chambering the barrel with a Mannlicher reamer. So it’s just a rimmed Mannlicher, but it’ll feed through a .303 magazine.

                1. He only did one edition, and the next one had all his oddball stuff taken out. I spent way too much time looking at this stuff back when I was single. Don’t know anybody else who’s pining for a pocket pistol in 8mm Roth-Steyr.

                    1. Didn’t see that one in the COW. The Roth-Steyr has the same rim diameter as 32 acp, and is only slightly longer. Ballistics are quite a bit better.

          2. I got my paper copy for Father’s Day a few years ago, mostly to help me with reloads, but secondly to help me make decisions about future purchases. However, what I found myself doing mostly was looking up the rounds fired in print by Ringo, Correia, Williamson & co,
            TODAY, however, I was going to read up on .38 Special loads, because we are getting into Cowboy Action Shooting, and my pistols (when I get them) are going to be .38/.357; I just bought an 1892 lever action rifle in that caliber.

            1. Small bit of advice, avoid the use of pointy bullets in tube fed lever action rifles. Either use flat nose rounds or bullets specifically designed for tubular magazines.

              1. I’m pouring my own lead for the booletts. None of the designs are primer-detonating pointy tops. I’m partial to wad cutters, but I’ll make some of everything I have on hand, at least at first. I haven’t done s fluff n buff on the 1892, and it’s still a little stiff about loading in the side gate.

                1. I always liked the ’92. You need to take some feelthy peekchurs when you run your first match.

                2. roundnose feed really nice, and the mold I have is almost flat across the front, perfectly safe in a tube. But semiwadcutters supposedly* have much greater stopping power if you ever need to shoot somebody/something.

                  *I’ve only ever used jacketed bullets out of the .357 or 44 on game, and the molds I have for the 45/70 are flat roundnose, but 405 or 500 grains of lead tend to have a noticeable impact, regardless of shape.

                3. Don’t try wadcutters in a lever action. They don’t give the elevator a chance to rise before the next round pushes out of the feed tube. It’s a nasty jam, and requires taking the weapon completely apart to clear. My $0.02.

                4. With cast I like a Keith style 158 grain swc in either 38 or 357. The .357 magnum lever guns are quite popular here in the Alabama woods and brush country for deer and hogs. The Nosler 180 grain jhp in a Marlin, Winchester, or clone has filled a lot of freezers in these parts.

              2. This. Historically, blunt bullets in tube magazines were the only option. Some years ago a company released a lever action round with a soft, plastic, point attached to improve aerodynamics, but the thing gave me pause. Then again, Browning has a lever action with a vertical magazine instead of a tube version, and yes, it comes in a 30-06 and –

                Hmm . . .

                Need to check prices.

              3. From some presentations we’ve had here at work, I understand Henrys were especially vulnerable to what you’re warning against.

      1. It took me a while to master chopsticks, but I regularly amuse patrons and staff at Chinese restaurants by holding a book in one hand and eating with the sticks without looking at my plate…

  17. Leaving or not leaving… You did what I wanted to do. And why I didn’t even try is due mostly to family. I am an only child, my mother had her first heart attack when I was 16 and died ten years later, that one summer I worked in Canada, a year after my mother had died, my father cried at the airport when he took me there… and because of the problems I have had with SAD I was not able to acquire the kind of education and start a career in Finland which would have given me some sort of guarantee that if I left I’d be able to visit regularly.

    So it might have worked if I had left very early and gotten most of my education somewhere like southern USA, but I didn’t know.

    And at that time I just couldn’t leave them, especially with mother being very sick.

    You know, that is one of the problems with small families. If there are several children more likely at least one of them wants to stay where he was born, and that gives more choices to the one or ones who don’t (not that it necessarily goes like that, my grandfather lived in USA for several years but came back, and it’s always possible he was pressured to do so – there were four children, and all moved to USA, two of the brothers and the only sister stayed). Okay, being an only child means you have your parents’ undivided attention (no pressure there…), and they will give you only all the resources they have decided to give to their offspring, but it does limit you too. In order to get where you would fit best you may have to abandon your parents, for one. Maybe for good if you are unlucky. Or give up your dreams for their sake.

    1. “Okay, being an only child means you have your parents’ undivided attention (no pressure there…)”

      I remember reading a young adult novel where a character was complaining about precisely this aspect of being an only child. She got tired of being the focus of all their attention all the time and wished that she had a sibling or two so her parents could go hassle them for a while and leave her in peace.

        1. I wouldn’t want to be Ivan Vorpatril for any amount of money.

          Spoiler for the most recent Ivan book:
          I think he’s much calmer and happier now that he’s married and living (as a member of the Imperial Diplomatic Service) far away from Barrayar.

    2. For me, having lots of siblings has been awesome (most of the time). You are never the sole focus of parental attention and worry, you always have allies and someone to fight with. And since sibling relationships are generally the longest lasting relationships of your life, I know that I’ll be arguing with my brothers and sisters until I die.

      1. From experience, there is almost always somebody to take the mantle of the black sheep for a while, too… My mother had a rotating s**t list, so I got some rest at least.

    3. Okay, being an only child means you have your parents’ undivided attention (no pressure there…), and they will give you only all the resources they have decided to give to their offspring, but it does limit you too. In order to get where you would fit best you may have to abandon your parents, for one. Maybe for good if you are unlucky. Or give up your dreams for their sake.

      The good news these days is that Skype and the (relatively) low cost of international travel means you can stay in touch despite being continents away without that much trouble.

  18. We all find our niche sometime. I had to travel 3000 miles, my brother 5000. My other brother might manage within 100 (still far in RI miles).

  19. I used to go to church with a Portuguese lady who’d married an American and lived with him in Utah. She was usually “pretty normal” in disposition, but my ex once said something to her that she didn’t like and that whole “hand on hips and speak ‘directly'” thing that you mentioned a couple of weeks ago came very much to the fore. And I finally learned that “glaring daggers” is a literal thing, not figurative……. She’s the only Portuguese woman I’ve ever met, and I grew up in a melting pot near Chicago where I was surrounded by people and immigrants of all stripes so… I think when you say it’s rare, you sure aren’t kidding.

    1. Not yet, but she may still be standing in Hallway Number D staring at the beer-can architecture with awe and wonder. (At least, what I heard her say started with “Awe.” I was re-relocating two pallets of Precious Dragon (TM) high-calorie chow that ended up too close to the minion pool and couldn’t stick around to hear the rest of what she said.”

      1. Talking about that, has anybody seen that dragon lately? The non-sentient pet one? The stall seems to be empty. Did somebody take him for a flight or walk?

        1. Hmmmm. *goes to check list of lists, hunts around, finds other list* He went camping with some of the kids. Yeah, they checked out his harness, dishes, and everything. I think they won’t be having problems with people crowding too close to their slot in the campground this year. Yes, there’s a note that they took him by the vet on the way out to get his distemper? *squints, tilts screen* foul temper? shot updated.

            1. Are you sure that’s what he said? I could have sworn the aardvark muttered, “yep, him getting shot would be a good thing.”

      1. No, but the Mavericks and rocket pods do need to get moved out of the way if the Hoyts are going to have room to unpack.

      2. Not hide – just put the lampshade back on in.
        I know it’s 21 feet long; around here just a bit of misdirection will suffice.

  20. I guess this midlife crisis ends where they all do: I am what I am.

    Fighting to change your nature is likely to do damage more extensive than allowing it to follow its normal course.

  21. she’ll never get that “we won a million dollars in the lottery” would be followed by “cool, more time to write.”

    To quote an old gag:

    “If I were Rothschild I’d be richer than Rothschild,” quipped a scholar.

    “How could you be richer than Rothschild?” asked a skeptic.

    “I would have his money and do a little teaching on the side.”

  22. I know what you mean. That is,about the elderly parents. But I am the elderly parent.
    Almost 20 years ago we moved away from where we had lived back to my hometown where my sisters and my mother were. My children had been here every summer and holiday so they also feel this small, Texas coastal resort town as a home town. But, my daughter and her family continue to live in Cajun Country, Louisiana and I left them them.
    Now I am almost 80 and she turns 60 and she feels the need to nurture her parents, and I feel the guilt of not seeing her grandchildren. We all have some conflicts and this is a big one.
    I wish I had some comforting thought for you, but your situation of the parents will only get worse as they age. But you have a life to live and children here and a very, very wise son.
    BTW my daughter also reads your blog so she will probably see this. She knows this situation and will probably identify with you.

  23. Having vampires source from the blood bank is fairly standard. Anyone ever have witches go to Planned Parenthood for takeout?

      1. Well, maybe not that, but the original source material is not so nice as the Wiccans paint it.

        1. Yep, not to insult any Wiccans here, but the witch of folklore was definitely a being of evil using its magic to cause harm to people.

          The African Witch-Doctor was a “medicine man” who counter-acted illnesses (and other harm) caused by witches.

          1. Witchcraft — the malicious use of magic — is a belief in every known culture except modern industrialized ones (emphasis on modern because France still had trouble with it as long as the 1900s), and certain hunters and gatherers.

          2. Well, the secret spells the archeologists dig up aren’t exactly ‘people are nice, and I want to do nice things for them’.

              1. Secret as in “Written down, invoking a god/demon to cause harm to another, then buried so people of the writer’s day didn’t know you did it”.

                1. They also buried them if they thought that’s how to get it to the underworld. At one time around the Mediterranean, they would slip the things into graves because they thought that had access to Hades

                  1. Springs were another favorite. Lead curse tablets were a bit thing.

                    I recommend Witchcraft and Magic in Europe, Volume 2: Ancient Greece and Rome.

        1. If someone is going to pick one fight about which version of prehistory is made up from whole cloth revisionist history, one might as well provoke all of them.

          1. Due to modern technology we don’t have to wait for revisionism; it’s part of the system between observation and broadcast…

  24. I try not to worry about the Might-have-beens and the roads not taken. Sure, you can think about how wonderful they might have turned out, but you can’t know what the tragedies that go with them would be. If I had given Nancy Gardner a second chance back in ’89, would I be struggling now to pay for my kid’s college, or bitterly divorced struggling to pay the rent?

  25. I suppose I’m at (or around) “mid-life” right now. Truth be told, it’s remarkably drama-free. Deployment’s done. Life at the civilian job (after a month back) is surreal, in that it’s low stress, with a vastly improved commute, and I am not feeling like butter scraped over too much toast. Publishing career continues to go fine. Wife and child are healthy, and doing well. And so forth. Hell, the weeks I spent on leave (using up the days between Qatar and Poland) were like a second honeymoon. My wife and I had a bang-up good time. 😉

    But there is an additional awareness that’s come on, since turning forty — just over two years ago. The fragility of my own physical health, indeed my mortal existence, is more tangible than its ever been before. Which makes me think about the fact that I may truly have fewer years in front of me, than I do behind me.

    If I am “doing” anything about it, I am proceeding in a very deliberate manner — rearranging my habits to be in line with a refined set of important objectives and goals. Things I know need doing (with a few “wants” in there too) but they could all easily slip through my fingers if I let myself pay too much attention to the Urgent, Not Important quadrant, and not enough attention to the Important, Not Urgent quadrant.

    To this end, learning to say a polite (but firm) “No,” is helpful.

    Especially on an internal plane. To moods. Impulse desires. My tendency to want to sit back on my haunches, and rest.

    I figure these next 20 years are going to be my “made” years. Or not. And it’s the “or not” that preoccupies me. Wakes me up at night. The entropy (atrophy?) of motivation.

    Two decades will go by so very, very fast.

    Gotta make ’em good ones. No, better than good. Great. My best ever.

    1. My Dad told me “life speeds up as you get older.”

      I didn’t doubt him, but I didn’t expect it would go into “turbo” mode…

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