Sunday, August 19, 2007

Blues, Blogs, and Budget Pains

An Update, in which we arrive home – and leave again. In which we hear the Blues and commune with family. In which we learn some basic financial lessons in a painful fashion. In which we have CT-scans and chemo. In which we think of returning to school and yet prepare to leave home once more before the official end of summer. In which we finally get rain.

It has been a while – obviously – since I last put something up. Mostly, this is because we have been traveling, recovering, traveling some more, receiving out of town guests, recovering, getting treatments, and recovering yet again.

For those of you who tagged along, you know that our trip to Europe was a great experience for all of us. We had a great time, saw beautiful places, spent time with family, met new friends, celebrated the beginning of a new family, and lived in each other’s pockets for three weeks. As good as it was, we were all ready to come home at the end.

We were there for all of two days, which were spent unpacking, laundering, and sorting mail. We tried to do the important things (catch the bills that needed paying for example) before we left again to go north for our annual, informal family reunion that loosely centers around a blues festival that occurs in my home town down on the harbor.

This year, we got six out of the seven siblings back with attendant children and spouses (though there were some that had to stay behind and keep the home fires burning and we missed their presence). As usual, we were spread out in various locations throughout the city, outgrowing the capability of any one home long ago. Those of us who traveled to be there shared the residences of those who live there and got together on a somewhat haphazard and informal basis. Sometimes we gathered at the music festival, sometimes at a specific home for a specific reason (like another graduation party), and sometimes in small groups around a dinner or a drink.

The weather this year was exceptionally nice, perhaps too much so, because one can only take so much sun when stretched out listening to the blues all day. The concert takes place in a natural amphitheater that is very beautiful, but without any form of natural shade. Thousands of people sat exposed to a brilliant sun for much of three days with results that could be anticipated. Beer sales were brisk and the predominant color was lobster.

Those of us who had four-day passes found ourselves taking a break when we felt too baked, returning after the sun had passed behind the western hills and the heat lessened.

This festival draws a lot of people to this little city on America’s largest inland sea and everyone dips from the trough. The festival concerts end early enough so that all the local venues can mount their own stage shows and draw upon the seemingly insatiable appetite for blues music exhibited by those who flock to the city every year round this time. Some of those venues are a bit unusual.

This year, I went for the first time on the “Blues Train” which is a musical version of a regular run up the shoreline of our “great lake” by a train operated out of the train museum housed in the old depot in downtown. It is a collection of old (and in some cases, antique) cars that travels slowly up the coast and back again. On this occasion, the six car train housed two bars and four musical acts playing under conditions that would normally seem unsuited to live music. The acts (a trio, two duo’s, and a solo) were all set up at the ends of various cars. Two of the cars were open and were once baggage or mail cars, and two of the acts were situated in cars with seats, which proved to be even more of a challenge in crowd dynamics.

Regardless of this, we had a very enjoyable time and actually found ourselves entranced by one performer who transcended the difficult playing conditions and treated the enthusiastic crowd to some truly exceptional music.

We wrapped our “up north” time up with a photo shoot for my daughter’s senior pictures. Now, the girl has to sort through all of the proofs for the select few that will go into the “official” portfolio.

It was upon returning home that we found ourselves in the middle of a “finance 101” crisis. I suppose we all go through a learning experience with how to handle our money and these days, that would not be complete without learning about the ups and downs of “plastic.”

A couple of years ago, we got our daughter a debit card that draws upon a checking account. The idea was that this would be an entry point into the world of “magic money” that seems to come out of machines at the touch of a finger, and the potential pitfalls that go with such an easy system. That she made it this far without experiencing the painful hit of overdraft charges is somewhat surprising.

I suppose it was the trip to Europe and the need for cash there that lead to it, but what ever the reason, my girl experienced a painful lesson. She rang up a sizable number of overdraft charges that will take her a long time to recover from.

As traumatic as it has been for her, I am glad that she gone through this now and in this form rather than later with a credit card. I hope that it has made a distinct and indelible impression on her and taught her a lesson about how the world of credit works. We will see.

As mentioned earlier, I have gone through another round of medical procedures upon returning from our travels. We have been juggling the scheduling of such things to accommodate our travels over the second half of the summer and I was just able to arrange the timing so that we could do the Europe and Blues trips in between treatments.

I am still feeling the effects of the most recent one, which occurred Friday. I am still pretty fatigued and not inspired to deal with the daily chores that lie in front of me. Still, all things considered, I look at this process as tolerable as long as the results are positive and so far, that seems to be the case. So, we’ll continue along this route with treatments every four weeks or so.

Finally, the weather. It is raining. After a long drought period, we are finally getting some much-needed moisture. All day yesterday and much of today has seen steady, soaking rain that is helping to revive the green that normally surrounds us. The forecasters are suggesting that this pattern might stick around for the next few days, which would be a very good thing for us.

We have about a week of time before we take our last break of the summer. We will be driving north once again to spend a week on one of the most beautiful rivers I know. This is a famous trout stream that meanders through northern Wisconsin before emptying into Lake Superior along the south shore. In my youth, I spent many a happy day at this cabin that belonged to the family of my best boyhood chum. Since then, my life has gone through many changes, but I have never forgotten the magic that I found there as a boy, and as fortune would have it, I have been able to arrange a week’s time there for my family and myself as a close to a notable summer.

Our plan is to spend a lot of time reading, playing croquet, canoeing, swimming, eating, hiking, and generally just relaxing. I can’t imagine a better place to do this.

So, to all you who have been wondering what we have been up to – there you have it. I hope to be more diligent in the future, but I always seem to say that. We shall see. Till next time, TTFN.


Blogger Cheesy said...

Oh this last summer trip sounds like it will be the yummiest of all!!
Stay possitive! hugs~

9:48 PM, August 19, 2007  
Blogger lime said...

'notable' seems a very understated word for the summer youall have had, but it has made me smile to knwo you all have been enjoying yourselves so much. hope this last summer adventure is every bit as lovely as the others.

9:51 PM, August 19, 2007  

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