Saturday, June 07, 2008

really wild weather here

Right now the dog is cowering in the laundry room—it will take her a while to emerge even though the thunderstorm has passed—but she can probably hear, even if I can’t, it as it passes over Lake Huron because the lake magnifies the sound. If you take a look at this link to Wundermap showing Oscoda, my parents are located where it says Lincoln Junction, about a mile inland from Lake Huron (but maybe .25 mile from Cedar Lake, which one would have to cross over to get to Lake Huron from here).

It’s kind of a strange location here when it comes to the weather—I think there must be something about the geography that sets it up to be mostly located between fronts. I’ve been here when there were whiteout snowstorms to the north and south of us, but nary a flake here.

Today there was a series of wild storms that blew in from the southwest, and tornado warnings and watches—I don’t know if there were any actual tornadoes touching down within 100 miles or so, will have to wait and see tomorrow—but the especially wild weather was to the north and south of Oscoda. And tonight there was a storm around midnight that we watched for a while—Stanley was tired and went to bed, so he missed the best part. Here is the strangeness: to the west and south and overhead, there was lightening and lots of rain. To the far north and northeast, I could see lightening. But to the northwest, the stars were unbelievably beautiful. So I was looking at the stars while standing in the rain and watching the lightening. And it wasn’t the first time I’ve seen this up here.

Thursday’s thunderstorms set a record, the most rainfall on a single day in June: 2.8+ inches. Thursday it only got up to 71 degrees. Today, it got up to 90 degrees. Saturday, it’s supposed to get to nearly 90 again. I think the average for Oscoda in early June is something like 73 degree.

Besides seeing my parents, the best thing about being here now is that the lilacs are in full bloom—I can smell them now, along with the wet grass.

Now it’s time to go round up the cats and bring them in from the porch so I can go to bed.

posted by lee on 06/07/08 at 03:37 AM
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Sunday, June 15, 2008

wish we could’ve stayed a few more days

So we’re back from Michigan. Our stay there was too short. It’s always too short. And I wish we could have stayed until at least tomorrow morning, but we had to get back to Connecticut for Ginger’s chemo on Friday.

I’ve been poking around a bit—it always sucks me in. At any rate, I found the U.S. Census Record of 1930 for the inhabitants of 367 North Hawley [?] Avenue, Salem City, Ohio, a small town southwest of Youngstown. Living here in 1930 were John Fleming (32), his wife Mely [sic] H. (30), daughter Margaret (6), son John Jr. (4 1/2), son James (1 1/2), and brother Archie (35). My grandmother’s name was Mary, not Mely—I can only imagine that her Scot accent with its weird “r” sound came out as Mely to the census taker. James is my dad. Here is a portion of the entire page:

1930 US Census, John Fleming and family, snapshot

Here, if you click on the link, is the entire image, which is huge.

James Fleming, 1947

Dad was born in Washingtonville, Ohio in 1928. This town is even smaller than Salem, and due east of Salem. His father worked in the auto industry, and they moved to Detroit at some point, though I don’t know when (Dad, when did you move to Detroit?) Here is Dad’s graduation photo, from 1947. He lived at 7720 Vaughan Street, on the west side of Detroit, except for when he was in the Merchant Marines and later the U.S. Navy, with his parents and the above mentioned sister and brother plus Edwin, who was the baby of the family. Here are Dad and his siblings:

Edwin, James, Margaret, and John (Jack) Fleming
Edwin Fleming, James Fleming, Margaret Fleming, and John (Jack) Fleming Jr., c. 1949? (click to enlarge)

I love this photo, even though it’s pretty beaten up:

James and Edwin Fleming on the 'Flamingo'
Edwin and James Fleming aboard Dad’s boat, the ‘Flamingo’ (what else?) (click to enlarge)

Alice Elaine Dunn married James Fleming on November 6, 1954
Alice Elaine Dunn married James Fleming on November 6, 1954 (click to enlarge)

Dad was in the Merchant Marine, and later in the U.S. Navy (he served in Korea), and later a salesman. He was a salesman (selling sewing machines?) when he met my Mom at her workplace at a dry cleaner (?). They were married on November 6, 1954. They lived in Ann Arbor after they were first married, then moved to Wyandotte, then later to Trenton, Melvindale, then Southgate before retiring to Oscoda.

Dad worked as a salesman for Sherwin Williams, as a painter, and later had a couple of paint stores. But his most important job, the one he’s held for 52+ years now, is Dad. My Dad. Dad to Lee, Maureen, Jamie, Kelly, Scott, and Carolyn. Grandfather to Kristine, Aaron, Brian, James, Kate, Scott, Ben, and Leo.

Lee helping Dad paint, 1957
Dad and I argue over who gets the paintbrush, 1957 (click to enlarge)

James Fleming, 1968 (click to enlarge)

While working numerous jobs to support us all, Dad went to school at Eastern Michigan University to finish his degree and became a teacher in 1968. His first gig was as a science teacher at Davidson Junior High School in Southgate, Michigan, in 1968. I remember finding cow hearts and cow brains sitting in the kitchen sink—hands-on science project were never dull. He taught at the same schools I attended, first at Davidson and later at Southgate High School. It wasn’t too weird for me, except that he would bum lunch money off me in high school. He was a social studies teacher and the swimming coach at the high school, and was on the Southgate City Council for many years, until he retired.

Dad & Kristine in a campaign photo c. 1980
James Fleming holding granddaughter Kristine Mitroka (now Downey) for a City Council campaign photo, around 1980. (click to enlarge)

After Dad retired from teaching, he and Mom moved up to Oscoda, Michigan in 1993, to a big house surrounded by a golf course and very close to Lake Huron. Dad was the Zoning Administrator for Oscoda for a couple of years until the winters up there made the idea of spending winters in Panama City Beach, Florida, really attractive.

Here is another photo that I like a lot—there are more in a gallery I put up: go to the Gallery page and click on the category “Dad.” I haven’t had a chance to arrange them in any particular order yet, but I will. Please comment if you know more about the pictures that I do—I would love to get the dates and people straight!

Jim and Alice Fleming c 1980?
Jim and Alice, late 70s? Early 80s? (click to enlarge)

Maybe it makes me a rarity in this country, but I think I’m really lucky: I not only love my Dad, I like him. I love spending time with him and talking with him and even arguing with him, teasing him. He raised us to think, to question things, to learn. He always treats the females in his life like we have brains and deserve respect and he is a feminist, always has been (could be having a brilliant wife and five smart daughters had a lot of influence on this!)

Yep, I’m sure mistakes were made, slights went unforgiven by me for a while, but all of that was too long ago to matter now (I remember distinctly the moment I realized that I like my Dad and forgave him any mistakes—it was while dancing with him at my sister Jamie’s wedding way back in what, 1979? 1980?) Stanley and I look forward to going to Oscoda every chance we can because we just enjoy spending time with people we like. I admire my Dad, and respect him, and I’m in awe of his ability to handle taking care of Mom with such grace and such patience.

One more photo:

Jim Fleming, Oscoda, Michigan, taking a break on the porch
Dad, taking a break from caring for Mom to “read” on the porch, June 2008 (click to enlarge)

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

posted by lee on 06/15/08 at 06:32 PM
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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

june finalé

Well, this certainly has been a long month. It took me a few days to recover from traveling—longer than usual, I think, because I still haven’t had a real vacation since summer 2006 and, oh never mind. Just whining.

At Ginger’s last chemo treatment, the vet felt lymph nodes again in Ginger’s legs. So a lab test was done, but came back inconclusive. Next treatment, last Friday, the lumps were still there along with the lymph nodes in her neck being enlarged. So they re-did the earlier test and another one with a sample from her neck lymph nodes. Today we got the wicked bad news that Ginger is no longer in remission.

Thursday morning we go to the oncologist vet and start what’s called a rescue protocol, the MOPP protocol. Different chemo drugs. I’m not sure what the odds are or what to expect yet. Even though I’ve been kind of expecting this since she had such weird blood tests, it still felt like a kick in the stomach. She’s not acting sick or anything, doing ok (except for thunder and the dreaded fireworks). It really, really sucks.

While we were in Michigan, my parents added cable telephone so had to get a cable box, which meant a new remote control to learn. Mom was having a devil of a time mastering it. So, when Stanley saw a deal on Jumbo Universal Remotes on one of the cheap crap deal sites he haunts (he says Woot Two-fer Tuesday), we thought, “Hmm, a universal remote, bigger than the cable company remote, bet that might be easier for Mom to manage.” Program it once, if it works, and only have to master one damn remote for all the boxes. In theory, anyway. He ordered two, one for us to try (we have to use three remotes to watch our DVDs) and one to take with us in August and program for Mom and Dad if it works for us.

Only, well, he didn’t read the fine print. Such as the height and width of these Jumbo Universal Remotes. They came in a huge box, which I thought was really odd. And then Stanley opened the box—then I laughed so hard I almost peed:

Stanley with Jumbo Remotes
Well, we certainly won’t LOSE them ...  (click to enlarge)

We still don’t know if they work. Maybe we can wall mount one of ‘em ...

We got a new rug for the living room. It was waiting for us at Home Depot when we got back from Michigan. Lovely shade of blue and I can’t wait to see it—only it’s still not down yet. We meant to do it last weekend but got very busy outside, then on Sunday it was just so hot (dew point was 74°!) we just looked at eachother, too dull-witted from the heat to figure out how to tackle it. We decided to wait until the humidity broke.

We also did not replace the column on the porch yet—same story as above. And I haven’t vacuumed the house—right now there is quite a colony of spiders taking over all the corners, high and low. The cats are falling behind on their job of killing the little beasties.

But we did get a lot of yard work done. I am happy to report that my tomatoes and pepper plants survived us being away for more than two weeks—our next-door neighbor was nice and watered them for us. The black plastic cloth stuff we put down is working really well. A new rosebush we put in and weren’t sure was going to make it is now thriving. And a clematis vine we thought croaked came to life—just very late this year. A new one we planted last year is blooming and is beautiful—I forgot to take a photo of it today.

I wish it were easy to get back and forth between here and Oscoda—my parents are on my mind constantly and it’s hard not to be there. We’ll be back there some time next month, depending on Ginger’s chemo schedule and whether we can have a vet in Oscoda follow her while we’re on vacation. That’s one of the things I will figure out on Thursday.

Started craving it and finally dug out the recipe from the New York Times website—I’d forgotten how much better it is than icing hot-water-brewed coffee. I made it with a touch of Traverse City Cherry flavored coffee I brought back from Oscoda, a touch of my favorite French Vanilla coffee from Coffee and Tea Warehouse, and a third of Harvard Blend from Green Mountain. It’s wonderful. Here is the recipe:
1/3 cup ground coffee (medium-coarse grind is best)
Milk (optional).
1. In a jar, stir together coffee and 1 1/2 cups water. Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight or 12 hours.
2. Strain twice through a coffee filter, a fine-mesh sieve or a sieve lined with cheesecloth. In a tall glass filled with ice, mix equal parts coffee concentrate and water, or to taste. If desired, add milk.
Yield: Two drinks.

I think I’m supposed to put the coffee grounds in the rhododendron or something—have to look that up.

Time to go make dinner—we’re making an omelet with fresh eggs given to us from a woman who collects them from her own hens.


posted by lee on 07/01/08 at 12:29 AM
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