Five

moiI didn’t note the day or the month, or even the year, for that matter. We say “when we were twelve” because that’s our best guess (though she probably remembers better than I).

It doesn’t really matter, the specific date, or even the year. What matters is that we met, and talked for a while one random, long-forgotten night. And then again another night, and another.

It was lost for a while, changes in life, adjustments in time zone, we didn’t connect at all and eventually lost touch completely. Until another random, long-forgotten night, when I decided to clean out my contacts list. She happened to be online, so I asked who she was. We talked some more, and eventually made a connection to an event we both remembered (something about underwear and pyromania).

Even for this, it doesn’t really matter, the specific date or time that we found each other again. What matters is that we did, and that we talked again, and again, and again, and then some more.

312570_10150300651507539_1218378609_nTime went by, and the story evolved in the way so many do. Boy meets girl, boy decides he likes girl and girl decides she likes boy, they get together and make the best of it. But that’s where we are a little different, because we are so far separated. Not in a Romeo/Juliet kind of way, our families didn’t hate each other – they didn’t even know each other. We faced a different challenge: isolation. I lived in Wellington, New Zealand, she lived in a small town somewhere in Virginia.

Somehow, though, we made it work. Through plane tickets and immigration paperwork and moving and money and more immigration paperwork, we made it work. And so here we are. Today marks five years since we committed to what we had in front of friends and family, what we had essentially committed to a few months before that by beginning the application process to USCIS, what we had almost committed to just by stepping foot on the planes the very first time, flying to meet the other, meeting the friends and family, seeing the home towns and environs.

Kelly, I love you. Here is to another five years, and then another five, and another five after that, until how long it has been doesn’t really matter anymore, until what matters is that we met that random, long forgotten night, so many years ago. You were, are, and maybe always will be the best decision I ever made – to ask who you were, and not to just hit “Delete.”

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Trains from Broadway

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Last night I happened upon a large number of old train documents that have been added to Google Books recently. I haven’t scanned for more recent dates, I just looked at 1906 and found three trains in each direction served the small town of Broadway, VA. That’s six a day, and four of those went to or came from Washington DC!

What’s more interesting is that I know where all of those locations are. And that the trip took upwards of five hours! Five! Today, we drive most of that in two hours, maybe three if you skip the interstates!

For more old train timetables, for anyone who is interested in the history or other parts of the country in that era, here is some more information on how to find the books in Google’s archives: http://www.naotc.org/oldguides/index.html

Photo Friday: Working Late

One of the few benefits to working late in Harrisonburg is that I get to watch, or at least listen to, the late night workings of the Chesapeake Western. They don’t often work late, but when they do I’m usually around to know it’s happening.

Photo Friday: Picnic, Anyone?

This looks like it should be on a campground somewhere, back in the woods maybe.

No, it’s Hillandale park in Harrisonburg, VA. It’s signposted off of VA-42, a little north of Walmart and Food Lion at the south end, and south of Downtown. They have a good walking track, and even some fixed exercise equipment that can be used on the way around.

A True One-Day Project

Do you hear about one-day projects? 24 hour turnarounds? Things to do in a weekend?

Have you ever looked at the instructions, and the expenses and decided that it is way too expensive, or that there is no way you could ever finish the job in the time suggested?

I know I have, on many occasions. So many things I could have accomplished if I had twice the time allotted. Or twice the money suggested.

This project is slightly misleading, because the most expensive part was actually the cheapest. On Saturday we took two trips to Harrisonburg, firstly for a wedding and the second for dinner. On the way out the second time, I noticed sitting in a driveway a large piece of furniture with a sign saying “Free You Haul!” This was to be the cornerstone of our Sunday activities.

We’ve been meaning to clean up “the green room” for a while, it is where a lot of our stuff is stored, it is also where my desktop is, and was a work room before we realized there was nowhere near enough space. We’ve also been looking for more storage options, because while bookshelves are good, they aren’t the be-all and end-all of our problem. This item, which turned out to be a buffet, seemed ideal.

And so that is how my Sunday morning started. We got in the truck and drove the mile or so to the place, were excited to find it still in situ, and loaded it. We drove home, unloaded, and assessed.

The two end doors were off, and needed to be reattached (we pulled them right back off again after we started actually planning..). There was putty or something along the top and the sides, which appears to be filling in a design, but it would have been too time consuming to take it all off and so we elected to sand it smooth and just paint it, like the rest.
This is what we started with. Two drawers, and three doors to a long combined shelf. According to the stencil on the back it is made of Walnut. It was light enough (until we painted it) and in relatively good condition. We presume it to be fairly old, as the center and right-hand doors don’t seem to fit quite right. We may never know!

Anyway, this is what we started with. We began by eating lunch. An excellent way to start, in my opinion! We then headed to Harrisonburg where we visited Walmart (Crash needed food) and then Home Depot where we purchased unto ourselves a quart of red paint ($14), a spray can of chalkboard paint ($5) and a roll of masking tape ($3). Total cost was approx. $24, including tax.

The first job was to sand down. There was a layer of varnish, easily taken care of. We also pushed back the layer of…whatever it was…to about where the fascia was showing through in most places.

Next Kelly painted the doors while I started painting the top surface. Crash hung out and supervised.

With one layer of paint on, we moved inside to start working on cleaning the room.

Two hours go by…

We came out to check how it was going. It was supposed to take around two hours to dry, and parts of it needed a second coat. While Kelly was working on that, I masked off the doors and broke out the chalkboard paint. Kelly wanted blackboard surfaces to write on so she could write lists of what was in the drawers and such, and be able to rub things off and such without having to completely relabel things, or be crossing things off on paper and being messy. She has suggested the same thing for a future kitchen, but the idea of chalk dust and food in the same vicinity makes me a little uneasy. This will, however, give me a chance to see how it works in practice (without the food!) and be able to make a more educated choice.

Now, the chalkboard paint is a spray on. It dries to a point of touch-up after 20 minutes (which we utilized), and after 24 hours is safe to draw on. Something to keep in mind if you are planning it for a child’s room, or similar. Don’t give them the chalk until the next day! For us, we didn’t have any chalk and so Kelly was planning to pick some up while at work, which meant it would be around 22 hours anyway.

Around this time we organized food. Two medium pizza’s from Dominos, please! Good times. I finished mine on Monday.

We touched up the doors and finished clearing a path in the green room to where we wanted to put the thing. The plan was to put it under the window (where we had storage boxes and such).

Crash approved.

Once the chalkboard paint was finished (another 20 minutes later), we reattached the handles and then reattached the doors.

We gave the other paint a few more minutes to dry while we checked clearance for moving it inside.

Now in place in it’s new home, it actually looks pretty good. The plan, for now, is to use it as an art/storage cabinet where it won’t be seen by a lot of people. If it moves to a more public location after we move then we may need to consider at least touching up in places that we rushed.

Looking at the photo time stamps, we took about 3.5 hours from arriving home with the supplies (we picked the thing up at about 11 in the morning, arrived home with paint and such at 2:45. We moved it into the house around 8:10-8:15).

Not bad, really..

Field Trip!

It’s been about a month since the last writing, and much has happened since.

The trip to Boston went flawlessly, the trip back almost as much. One interstate on-ramp that didn’t look nearly as sharp as it was at the top, and a couple of instructions either from the GPS or the ones I had written down the night before that were interpreted too late and meant we had to detour a little. I was loathe to use the GPS entirely as I had mapped the route from our hotel room and found that the quickest way home had 3 tolls to pay. I changed a couple of things and found that by adding a few minutes (pocket change on our 10 hour journey) we would only pay 1. I feared if we used the GPS too much then it would lead us through the other two as well.

We had initially planned for Kelly and I to share driving, once we got out of New York (she wasn’t excited about driving through New England – I didn’t care), however we left later than we intended to and were into New Jersey right around dinner time when it was getting dark. I did get a 20 minute break right before Harrisburg, PA, before Kelly decided it was too dark and simply unsafe for her to be driving, so I took the wheel again right after Harrisburg. We eventually arrived home at around 1-1:30am.

The next week we headed for Mississippi to a friends wedding in Jackson. Another long drive! We ran into several large storms on the way down. The first happened while Kelly was driving and inspired a panic attack. We, like several others, pulled off to the side of the interstate to let it pass. At the earliest opportunity we switched seats again and I think I drove the remainder of the trip from there. As we were entering the city limits of Chattanooga, TN, the CD I had in started playing a track I had forgotten – Chattanooga Choo Choo. It was too awesome to not mention! The trip to Jackson went well, at least as well as a trip can go when you’re relying entirely on other people to decide when and where you need to be, and usually not providing good directions to get there 😉 I enjoyed myself, at least.

After Jackson we headed south to New Orleans where we spent a Sunday afternoon in the French Quarter. Staci, who had been there before, was more than happy to lead us around and show us things. I discovered trains (having correctly deduced that of the three rail lines, two were right for the trolleys going up and down but the third didn’t look right) and was able to photograph a New Orleans Public Belt maneuver going by. NOPB has to be one of the only shortline railroads to do business with 7 Class I railroads. The only that gets missed is Canadian Pacific (who don’t come nearly that far South). We had a good time walking around the area before eating (at IHOP of all places!), parting ways with Staci who caught a cab back to her hotel and driving back to our hostel for the night.

The trip home was also mostly uneventful. No storms to drive through, and all was well. Until Radford. We had stopped a few miles south in Wytheville, and in hindsight I vaguely recall noticing the vibration at 70mph had increased a little just before that point. Thinking nothing of it, we got back in the car and continued on. Just a few miles later I noticed loud noises and heavy vibration coming from the car. Thinking it was a flat tire I pulled over, put on hazards and walked around the car with a flashlight. All 4 tires were fine. “Weird,” I thought, and we got back in the car and started driving again. Less than a tenth of a mile and the noise was too much, I pulled over to give the wheels a closer look. I pulled in closer to the grass, just a few extra feet from the traffic going by at more than 100 feet per second. Starting with the front left (a lucky guess, apparently) I put my foot on the top, and shoved. You know, the wheels on a car aren’t supposed to have that much horizontal motion, and the first thought that went through my head was “Oh s**t, I hope it isn’t a wheel bearing..”

At this point I decided we were not going anywhere. I had taken a quick look and noticed we were missing two (out of 5) lug nuts. A closer inspection later would reveal that they hadn’t just fallen off, but the studs/bolts had been sheared off. We called the insurance company who kindly informed us that we had reimbursable roadside assistance coverage (great!) and worked with a nearby towing company to get us home. The cost to get us home was $800. And they wouldn’t take a check (Oh, dear). In all of this the lifesaver and the reason to be home that night was in the back seat – our friend Doreen volunteered the use of some of her savings (knowing it would be reimbursed) and worked with the parties concerned to get us to where we needed to be.

Long story short, we got home in one piece. After talking with the tow truck driver at the rest area near Roanoke (both Kelly and Doreen needed to use the facilities) it was determined it was my fault, having borked the tire rotation done 3 days and 2,000 miles earlier. The upside being I now know how to get it right? The repair to the car itself was only $80, including a brief overview of what will be needed for inspection later in a couple of months. The receipt for the towing has been forwarded to the insurance company for review.

And this weekend we traveled again, not nearly as far. Our friend (who was in Boston) was moved to Winchester for intensive rehabilitation and a van full went up to visit (Her husband invited us if we took him, and so me, Kelly, Kelly’s brother Matt and his girlfriend Anna, and their parents Randy and Tammy elected to take the trip). While there is certainly some ways to go, she is doing so much better in just a few weeks. We had been in talking to her, and the nurses came and kicked us out to prepare her for dinner. Stepping outside all I could think was “Wow!” – me, the ever under-estimating, was surprised at how well she is doing. Her vision in her right eye is working (though not perfect, she was able to see things better than before), she seems to have either more energy or more willpower to use it (or both), and she is actually interacting in a way that is much more like a ‘normal’ person. I know when family and friends visit, there is a tendency to sugarcoat the responses fed back to the masses who are watching for news and hoping and praying based on it. One thing that I’ve noticed is that when she has a bad day, it is also fed back to the group. But it’s one thing to read the reports, it’s another to actually see the results for yourself. I can imagine how disturbing it might be if someone is expecting to see their bubbly energetic friend laying down and not seeming quite themselves, but having seen her just a week after her stroke I can only say the improvement over the 4 weeks since is amazing, uplifting and very optimistic.

In other news, I am waiting to hear about two job applications I have in within Rosetta Stone for full time, day shift positions. Expecting announcements early this week, but family and Facebook will likely be the first to know, posted here shortly afterwards. Today I am inspecting, double checking, looking again and triple checking an envelope to be sent to the USCIS processing center in Vermont which will contain my paperwork for becoming an unconditional Permanent Resident of the United States. Initially, when I came I was a non-immigrant (the K-1 fiance visa is considered non-immigrant). After filing the paperwork correctly (we took long enough!) I was issued a work permit pending processing of my residency application. Once that came through I was granted Permanent Residence, conditional on marriage to Kelly. That card expires next month and so the next step is filing to remove the conditional status. No, I’m not going to be a citizen, I’m not even eligible for citizenship yet. I suspect I will take it at some point when it is possible, so long as I can retain my New Zealand citizenship. We’ll need to review our options before that time depending on various factors, but that is still a year or few away.

Mixed Feelings

Is it acceptable to be excited in the face of fear and sadness? I have all three emotions flowing up and down although very simultaneously.

Just under a week ago a very good personal and family friend had some very serious medical issues while on vacation. Her husband and mom raced up to be with her in the hospital (from here in VA to Boston, MA) – a 10 hour drive. We’ve been hearing mostly positive reports about what the doctors are doing and finding in their search for what went wrong and what they can do to fix it.

And so, I am sad. Sad my friend is in hospital, happy she is doing well but wish she was closer to home. It’s weird – we don’t often see each other, until recently maybe once a month. But she’s presently 10 hours drive away, not like I can just go for a random visit.

Earlier this week, her mom came back down in order to help organize a few things. This weekend she is trading places with her son-in-law – he’s returning home for work next week while she stays with her daughter to keep an eye on things. I believe the plan is for her to come with her daughter when the time comes to transport her closer to home.

But I am worried and slightly afraid. I am more than confident in his ability to function as a normal human being (well, as close to normal as he gets ;-)), but I can only imagine how hard it must be to have someone you love so much be so far away, unwell, and there’s nothing can be done about it except to keep on doing what you’re doing, as in-vain as it feels.

I am also excited. As a result of the above fear, as well as the fact that he would otherwise be the only driver for 10 hours (or more), plans are being finalized (tonight, in fact) for Kelly and I to travel with the mom to Boston by train, and help bring back the husband in the car that was left up there.

Excited, very excited. This will be the first time I’ve taken the train anywhere of great distance in the US. We’ll get to experience Amtrak first-hand. There is even a small amount of hope that I’ll get to see one of the heritage units Amtrak painted up for their 40th anniversary. I also greatly enjoy driving, and while I plan to share the wheel I would have minimal problem with driving the whole way alone. Also excited that in the space of a week I’ll have at least driven through if not set foot on the ground of at least 10 states, and have been within 250 driving miles of the Canadian border as well as seeing the Gulf of Mexico.

And on top of all that I get to actually DO something to help two very close friends in their time of need.