Monday, July 31, 2017

I'm So NOT Melania!

My mother has taken to calling my husband and me "the Trumps."  (If I wanted to be at all political on this blog, which I DON'T, I would tell you that that is not nearly as much of an insult to me as so many of my close friends and family members think it should be).  Mom does this because we now own two homes--which makes us proverbial real estate magnates, I suppose.

Our lake house, which we bought about two years ago and dubbed "Oyster Haven," sits on a parcel of land that is probably more priceless and more idyllic (more heaven-on-earth-spectacular) than anything the Trumps own.  I may be biased, but I'm serious, I really am; I mean, look at this view from the deck of our circa 1830's farm house-cum-VRBO vacation rental.
Not too shabby, eh?  And hopefully someday, once we've whittled down the mortgage with rental income, we'll be able to spend whole summers there and provide our kids and grandkids with a yearly vacation getaway courtesy of Papa and Grammy.

But just because we've taken our first tentative steps into the vacation rental business, you can hardly compare us to POTUS and his glamorous (and Catholic! Yes, Catholic!) wife, Melania.  As I remind my mother every time she calls us "the Trumps," I doubt that Melania does as much cleaning as I do.  I sincerely doubt that FLOTUS scrubs as many tubs and toilets.

And that, my friends, is what I've been doing every weekend this summer.

My husband and I are the cleaning/maintenance/hospitality crew that gets our place ready between the 10:00 a.m. check-out time of one set of renters on Saturday or Sunday morning and the 4:00 p.m. arrival of the next group of guests the same day.  It's a grueling six-hour process that involves vacuuming and dusting and making up all the beds; scrubbing the bathrooms and kitchen until every surface gleams; restocking the towels, toiletries, K-cups, and the gifts of chocolates and wine; making sure the grill, boats, and outdoor furniture are clean and stored appropriately; trimming away the overgrowth on the bank by the beach; hauling away the garbage and recycling...It's a lot of work, and I am always bone-tired at the end of cleaning day. 

We have a great routine, though; we make a good team.  My husband and I usually make up all the beds together.  Then he drops off the dirty linens at the laundry service while I get to work cleaning the interiors.  If we need anything, he picks it up at the store on his way back from the laundromat, and then he gets to work on the exteriors.

No matter how respectful our renters have been or how relatively tidy things appear when we start out, the process rarely takes less than the full six hours to achieve the kind of quality we both want.  Sooner rather than later, we will have to hire a professional cleaning service to do this for us--especially now that we live in VA and not NH, and the drive to Upstate NY takes almost twice as long.  We can't just "pop up" here anymore to take care of Oyster Haven.  Luckily, we are able to spend the summer months (peak time) at my husband's childhood home on the lake, just 3.5 miles away from our property.

But until we can find a reputable cleaning service to get the job done, it's up to us to do it.  I am the maid, the help, whatever you want to call me (and so as you see, Mom, I am so NOT Melania!).
That's me (on the right--ha ha!); so, so NOT Melania--and that was
about four years and several pounds ago!
I'm not going to show you the Oyster Haven bathrooms, no matter how proud I am of the sparkling sinks and toilets.  But would you like to see the bedrooms?
The Norman Rockwell Room.

The Little Cherubs Room.

The Aviation Room.

The Master Suite.
I guess that last picture doesn't really show what the whole master bedroom looks like (there's a twin bed in there as well).  But isn't this queen bed pretty?  I like the hotel look we've given to all the beds in the house, using mostly crisp white linens with touches of color thrown in via the bed scarves and decorative pillows.  In fact, our beds look an awful lot like the ones in the hotel where my husband and I have a room booked for tonight.

The reason we're staying at a hotel is that my mom is in a hospital across the lake in VT, and we're going to visit her there tonight before flying to the Midwest tomorrow out of the airport just a few  miles down the road from the hospital.  Mom was supposed to have surgery early tomorrow morning to remove a cancerous kidney, but she has some other health issues right now and the procedure has been postponed.  Please keep her in your prayers, because she needs to get well enough to have this kidney removed ASAP.

Also, please keep my husband and me in your prayers, as we will be transporting some very precious cargo over the next few days, all the way from Chicago, IL to Pensacola, FL: our oldest son's wife and four young daughters, who have been separated from him for the past month while he's been in flight training and are joining him for the rest of the summer.  (They have an adventure planned that includes spending the next few months living together in a furnished Airbnb house.)

I don't know how much blogging I'll be able to do in the coming week, because I can't bring my laptop along (the minivan will be bursting at the seams, so I can only pack a small carry-on bag for our flight out to Chicago).  But when I get back, I'll fill you in on our cross-country road trip with our girls, I'll update you on my mother's health, and maybe I'll even continue with the VA house tour that I started but never finished.
Our new southern home is very nice, but I'd be willing to bet that it's not nearly as sumptuous as any of the lavish abodes the Trumps own.  Just one other way that I'm NOT Melania!

Hope you're having a good summer, dear readers!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Flying High, Like His Dad

Our oldest son is currently in the process of training for a new career.

Actually, he's going back to his roots, going back to the career he first had when he graduated from Notre Dame and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army: he's training to become a pilot.

He flew Chinook helicopters in the Army, and now he is learning to fly a fixed-wing aircraft.
I don't think our firstborn ever imagined that he would choose this as his career path.  He never expressed a desire--at least that I can remember--to follow in his dad's footsteps, by transitioning from military flying to commercial flying.  When he went through flight training in the Army, he just thought that flying helicopters would be a fun and interesting way to spend the years he would be in service to our country, repaying the Army for the ROTC scholarship that had made it possible for him to earn a degree from one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the land--and I say that about ND without any bias whatsoever!  ;)

While "fun" might be an unusual adjective to employ when talking about a career that included difficult year-long deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan and having to watch the birth of his firstborn twin daughters via Skype, our boy did get a lot of satisfaction out of being good at what he did and using his abilities to aid his brothers out in the field.  But when his eight-year stint in the Army ended, he assumed that his days as a pilot had ended, too.

For several years after returning to civilian life, he worked as a project manager for a major corporation out in the Midwest.  About a year ago, he left that job when he moved his family to his wife's hometown, and he tried his hand at selling life insurance (which he soon realized is not the type of work that is suitable for every personality type!).  He was unsure of what his next move should be; then his dad reminded him that he was a good pilot and he seemed to enjoy that kind of work, so perhaps he should not discount that as a possibility when thinking about his future career.

Not too long after that conversation, he made the decision to get back into flying.  And he is once again the happy boy I remember, the guy who is comfortable in his own skin and quietly confident without being arrogant.

No matter how old he gets (he's 33 now--how did that happen?), I still have vivid memories of him as a little boy.  From day one, he was an "old soul," as firstborn children often are.  He was a sensitive little guy who always wanted to do the right thing; he never wanted to disappoint us and caused us few worries through the years.  Growing up, he gave 110% at school and in sports.  He was humble. He was kind.  He took his Faith very seriously.  He didn't get into trouble.  At the risk of embarrassing him, I have to say that he truly was a dream to raise.

When he was in 7th grade, he learned a hard life lesson.  He was on his Catholic grade school's junior high basketball team, and as usual he was giving it his all in practice.  There was an 8th grade boy who had had back surgery over the summer vacation and had recently been given the green light by his doctor to get back into playing sports.  He had been the star of the team the previous season, and he was anxious to cement his positon in the starting line-up.  He was playing a bit timidly (so obviously, he wasn't really ready to be back in the game yet--at least not mentally ready), and he began to spread rumors that our son was purposely trying to re-injure him in practice in order to take his starting spot on the team.  The boy's mother told the coach that our son was intentionally targeting hers, even going so far as accusing him of biting (?!) when the two of them went up for a rebound.  Everything that mother-son duo claimed our boy was doing was so out of character for him, if you knew him at all, and we didn't believe a word of it.  The coach had known both boys for years and didn't give the accusations any credence whatsoever either.  But there were still kids at school who believed the lies and gave our poor son dirty looks in the halls.  Ultimately, we told him that people can say things about you that aren't true and there's really no way you can stop that; but you can live your life in such a way that when people hear what they're saying, they won't believe it.  It was really tough on him; but he held his head high and didn't retaliate at all, and eventually, the rumors died away.

This boy of ours has four daughters of his own now.  His twin girls are six.  In the blink of an eye, they will be in junior high, too, and they might have to deal with jealous or insecure peers who want to slander and hurt them.  I have no doubt that with him as their dad, with his loving guidance and his example of faith and fortitude in action, those girls will live their lives in such a way that no one will be able to believe any ugly lies told about them. 

Meanwhile, he'll be flying high--just like the dad who raised him and taught him what it means to be a good dad.

Time Flies When You're Having Grandchildren

Hey, remember me?  I'm a blogger.

It's true.  Pictures don't lie.
That's my trusty laptop behind me in this nerdy selfie.  I opened it up for the first time in weeks today, with fingers itching to get at that dusty keyboard.  (I could have sworn I heard the old girl say,"What is going on here?!"  She thought she was getting the whole summer off, but no dice.  It's back to work, my little beauty.)

I remember when I used to blog every morning, first thing, with a mug of hot coffee parked close at hand and a head full of potential topics, any one of which I just knew would be the perfect subject for the BEST.BLOG.POST.EVER.  (Not really--but I was very enthusiastic about this blog--it was my baby; and after decades of dreaming of becoming a writer but never writing at all, I couldn't wait to write about EVERYTHING.)

I know I sound like a broken record here...but I really am going to try to get back to blogging more regularly. Really.  Pinky swear.  No more of this weeks-and-weeks in between posts.  I'm not going to promise daily activity, because I have found that life gets in the way much too easily these days, so that's a promise I can't possibly keep.  But I can do better. And I will.

But time really does fly when you're having grandchildren!  They keep you young and they keep you entertained and they keep you busy.  Our latest addition, a wee lad I'm going to call "Jedi" here at String of Pearls, was born to son #2 and his wife Ginger in mid-June, and we were able to attend his Baptism in early July.
Papa and Grammy with the new little Christian.
Our youngest son was able to come home on leave from Germany just in time to play the role of godfather for his new nephew. 
Our baby holding his godson; Papa holding Jedi's big
brother, Junior.
We also attended a big, lovely party in Jedi's honor on the Fourth of July, with all the rest of our VA gang, before we headed north for the summer.  Our baby's girlfriend--she's another match!--joined us, too.  (Eight of our twelve grandchildren are present in this photo, four of them in utero; our other four granddaughters are currently living out in the Midwest with our oldest son and his wife.)
For the months of July and August, we will be staying through the week at my husband's childhood home on Lake Champlain, which is only about three miles down the road from our Oyster Haven VRBO property.
This is the view my husband grew up with.  Not too shabby, eh?  (That's his older
sister, owner of Valcour Brewing Co., in the middle, one of his younger
brothers on the far right, and his brother's wife next to him.)
On the weekends, we clean our place and change all the linens as soon as one set of guests leave.  Check-out is at 10:00 a.m. and check-in is at 4:00 p.m., so we have a six-hour window to get everything done for the next set of vacationers.  It's exhausting but so worth it!  (Because someday, hopefully, we'll be in a position to actually spend the summers here and have this little slice of heaven available to our kids and grandkids whenever they wish to visit!)
Our view isn't too shabby either!
One great motivator for me to keep up with this blog is that I am planning to attend the CWBN Mid-Atlantic Conference in Front Royal, VA (not far from our new house down there!) on August 26.  If you follow Time Flies When You're Having Babies, then you know who Catholic blogger Ana Hahn is.  She is hosting this event, which will feature some other popular bloggers you might have heard of if you spend any time in the Catholic blogosphere.  I'll most likely be one of the few ladies in attendance at this shindig who's grown children are the ones having babies; but maybe being an older blogger--old enough to be the other attendees' mother, in most cases--will make me seem wise.  ("Fake it til you make it," as one of my dear Pearl sisters-in-law likes to say!)

But Catholic bloggers are only called bloggers because they engage in an activity called blogging, so I'd better keep at it, right?  No more neglecting this here blog of mine.  I almost-promise.