Monday, August 31, 2009

Vacation Fun and Dead A/C Blues

Arriving home from a really enjoyable vacation with family in lovely, cool weather to a Texas home that registers 93 degrees at 8:00 pm seems like a bad practical joke. Our first thought? Someone turned the heat on by accident. Okay, it seems far-fetched, but we did not want to face the possibility of our A/C unit being on the blink.

We have lived in this house for 17 years. We have replaced floors, repaired or replaced a variety of major appliances, installed new storage systems, and, thanks to Hurricane Ike, we had a new roof put on last December. Why are we surprised that our A/C compressor gave up the ghost?

I'm not surprised - I feel betrayed! If the compressor had to go out, how about when we were home, and on a Monday, when service is readily available? Perhaps the lesson here is don't come home from vacation on Friday night...

Okay. That's off my chest. I don't intend to waste anymore energy on the air conditioner than absolutely necessary.

Vacation this year had some very special elements to it. First, Michael and I traveled without children! What a lovely change. We started and stopped whenever we felt like it. No one asked "Are we there yet?". No one had urgent potty issues in the middle of nowhere. No one complained about the snacks we packed or whined for special treats. (All right, Michael may have whined for coffee once or twice, but he wasn't too bad.)

Second nice thing, we shared the driving and we didn't push ourselves. And that worked out so well. The first day we drove from home to Oklahoma City, arriving at dinner time. The trip takes about 7.5 hours. Since we wanted to visit the Oklahoma City Murrah Building National Memorial after dark, it worked out perfectly.

If you haven't ever visited Oklahoma City, I strongly recommend it as a destination. The OKC Memorial is one of the reasons. This is our third visit to the Memorial, the first being during it's construction. The designer did a fantastic job of conveying the solemnity and sorrow of this loss. Each lost life is represented by an empty chair which rests on a glass cube. During the day, the cubes seem to disappear and the chairs "float." At night, the individual cubes are lighted from within, creating a beautiful night-time scene. There are many other poignancies about the memorial, and I encourage you to check it out for yourself, preferably by visiting in person.

The second night out, we stopped in Omaha and spent the night with my brother and sister-in-law, Mark and Judi. We had the pleasure of a delicious family dinner with Mark & Judi and my niece Jenni and her family. Lots of conversation and a comfortable bed rounded out the evening. The third day turned out to be the hardest driving-wise. It took nine hours (including stops) to get from Omaha to Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Grand Forks is my hometown. Better yet, my sister Janet and her husband Dave live in the house we grew up in, so Michael and I got to sleep in my childhood bedroom. It seems to have shrunk since I left home in 1968! Janet and Dave bought the house when my dad took over the state public health department for North Dakota and he and my mother moved to Bismarck (state capitol). Mom designed the house and Dad built it with the help of a carpenter and my brothers in 1959. No one outside our family has ever owned it or lived in it and this summer is the house's 50 anniversary. That made our visit seem special.

Even more special - my parents were there on an extended stay. They are both elderly and my father is frail, so they rarely travel from their current home in Helena, Montana. In fact, most summers, we go to Helena to see them. Getting the chance to have my annual visit with Mom and Dad at Janet and Dave's house really made me happy. The icing on the cake? The weather was unseasonably cool in Grand Forks, actually requiring sweaters on occasion. Now that's a treat in August when you are from the Houston area!!

A lot of very interesting things happened while we visited Grand Forks - a fabulous photo exhibit at the North Dakota Fine Arts Museum, a field trip to Alvarado, Minnesota to buy handcrafted jewelry, the acquisition of a bass chime for the backyard. Yes, there is much to tell, but not tonight my dears.

I will pick up the story tomorrow if I don't have a heat stroke before then.