Posts filed under ‘Mom’

Video: Thanksgiving 2001

Yesterday while I was cleaning the computer room, I found an old video tape which included our Thanksgiving 2001 celebration.  That is the Thanksgiving where the oven broke– which threatened not only our Thanksgiving Day meal, but also our traditional cookie decorating for the Day After Thanksgiving.  At the last minute Dad called around and found an oven that fit our unique measurements.  He rushed out to pick it up.  Alas, by the time he got to the store, the oven with the measurements he needed was already taken.  (“How could it be gone?!? I thought you were holding it for me?”  “Well sir, we thought that was you!”)

So for Thanksgiving, our entire clan ended up eating at Market Street– which is a buffet.  It’s safe to say Sean was not impressed.  On the way in, Mom mentioned that Market Street used to be my favorite restaurant, which is true (When you have emetophobia and you are never sure what your nerves will let you eat, buffets are perfect– you don’t have to commit to a single dish).  Sean quickly snapped his head around, “Wait a second, let me get this straight– this was your favorite restaurant?!?”

The others weren’t quite as skeptical.  It turned out to have its benefits.  We had a giant TV where we could watch football.  My cousin, Frank, got to eat lasagna instead of turkey and no one had to clean up.  It was such a hit, my mother talked about doing that every year.  That following Easter, we made a return trip.  Luckily for Sean, since then we’ve opted for the more traditional home-cooked meals instead.

Anyway, Sean gave me a quick tutorial on digitizing the video and a lower quality copy is below.  I think it is probably of more interest to family members or friends who are familiar with the Occoquan house.  I’m missing a lot of key footage to fully relay the details above, but the stuff I do have summarizes the experience and hints to the four-dog chaos of a Sawyer Thanksgiving.  Plus it has my late Grandpa in it.  That was such a welcomed surprise to see him again.

One day, I’ll have to do a version my “directors commentary” or something along the lines of “Popup Video” to point out little details that are meaningful to me five years later.  For now though, you can read my timestamped notes.

Remaining Time In Comment
07:06 00:11 I love Dad’s theory about how the oven got broken– sabotage!
06:58 00:16 This shot shows my Dad’s beloved conference room table. He got it from some office and it used to be the kitchen table. When my parents moved to the new townhouse, my father insisted his table come along. It’s in the computer room now. I also like how an issue of The Enquirer is present in the foreground. To me that is part of the experience of visiting my parents— reading The Enquirer.
06:30 00:46 You can see my priorities. Mom is making a list of everything that she needs the oven for our feast and the first item I mention is the cookies on Friday. Nevermind the holiday and all the guests— what about the cookies?!? Oh the humanity!
06:19 00:56 An ashtray was caught in the shot. In the old house, my parents smoked inside.
06:03 01:12 You can hear Mom’s finches singing in the background.
05:42 01:31 I did not cut out any suburban footage. The sound of the diesel engine and the sight of a white suburban will always remind me of my father, particularly him picking me up at high school.
05:40 01:35 Mmm…. all that polluting goodness.
05:09 02:05 Dogs are locked up, a measure we still use today.  We now lock them in cars– less barking, but there is a downside.
05:05 02:10 This is the end of Mom telling the surprised guests we are going to a buffet.
04:46 02:28 Frank looks so young! Who knew in a few years, he’d be throwing Jordan around like he was a rag doll!
04:40 02:34 Aww…. my heart melted to hear my late grandfather say, “Aren’t you a good dog? Aren’t you a good dog?” I heard him saying that to Hans too.
04:39 02:36 I like that you can hear Henry sniff the camera.
04:07 03:07 Timmy reprimanding Sunny.
04:04 03:10 Grandpa is telling a story about a woman sharing liquor with him. Meanwhile, Grandpa is inadvertantly sharing liquor as he speaks.
03:41 03:34 They are looking at Mom’s wedding gift to my cousin. Mom sent the wedding invitations out to get custom framed, but by the time she got them back, the new bride had already left the marriage.
03:22 03:50 I love Maria’s cheering. “Do it yourself!”, “Aww, you blew it!”
03:11 04:03 This is how desperate we were to keep the cookie tradition going. We were cooking batches of six at a time— in toaster ovens!
02:52 04:21 2001’s gravy looks much better than 2000’s. Somewhere I have video footage. My parents proved the saying about “Too Many Cooks” by contradicting each other’s efforts.  Dad would add more flour and immediately afterwards Mom would add more water.  The end result was this nasty mess that no one ate.
02:35 04:40 I love Mr. Yuk!
02:31 04:42 Sunny’s wearing an electric collar for the invisible fence. At my parent’s new house, the dogs have a regular fence.
01:59 05:16 I stitched those spice labels (thus the attention)
01:23 05:53 My Dad was sporting bed head long before it was a fad.
00:32 06:43 My parents love to buy in bulk. That explains all the Chunky Soups.
00:27 06:46 My mother used to always buy Wedgewood for her mother. When grandma died, my Mom got all the Wedgewood back. So it was sort like she was buying gifts for herself all those years.
00:21 06:53 I love Sean instructing Henry in the background, “Go see what’s scary.” Henry did not obey.
00:12 07:03 I got that framed collection of pressed flowers for Mom for Mother’s Day.
00:03 07:11 Dad always eats the more disgusting bits of the turkey (somewhere I have video footage from another Thanksgiving where he takes the neck out of the trash, wipes off the cigarette ashes, cooks it and then eats it like corn on the cob).

January 28, 2007 at 12:09 am 4 comments

Anne T. Sawyer Letter: Halloween 1970 and Lost Dog

Next week Sean and I are getting hardwood floors installed on the entire first floor of our house.  As part of that effort, we have to move everything off the first floor (And by “we”, I mean those of us who don’t have crutches).  I was going through some papers and I found a number of letters from my mother to her parents.  From context, I believe it was fall of 1970, but I don’t know for sure because my mother did not date the letters.  Tsk…tsk… Just like Ashlawn.

My parents were newly married (they wed July 22, 1970) and were living outside of Savannah, Georgia where my Dad worked in the army.  They lived in a trailer park with two dogs — Chico and Susie.

Anyway, I found the letters to be incredibly interesting, so I’m going to share installments:

Letter Dated “Monday” (Early November 1970)

Dear Mom and Dad,
     I decided to write a new letter instead of continuing Friday’s.
     Another weekend went by very fast.  We went to a party Friday night.  It was fun and something different, a halloween, ETS and birthday party all in one.  ETS means getting out (End of Term of Service as far as I can figure).

Now I love this next part.  My entire life, my mother was picking up stray animals.  We had quite a zoo in Occoquan (goats, dogs, cats, ducks and a pony).  Nowadays, my mom is pretty satisfied with two dogs and three cats.  She takes her dogs for long walks regularly and knows all the other dogs and dog owners in town.  This next tale just really sounds like my mother.   But my father’s reported behavior– doesn’t sound like him at all!

     We found a new dog Saturday.  It had a leash and collar on and our dogs were playing with it under the trailer.  I walked around with it a little and started talking with my neighbor down the road.  I have never met her before, and she seemed very nice.  Well, Lowell came home from golf and thought it was Chico, then realized it wasn’t and wondered who resembled me so much.  We kept it a couple of hours and Lowell gave it a bath, then I suggested we walk around with it and see if someone happened to recognize it. 

Hold up.  My *DAD* gave the dog a bath?!?  That doesn’t sound like him at all!  My Dad’s job is to pretend he doesn’t like the dogs and then cook hamburgers for them (my mother got yelled at when she started to throw away meat Dad was planning to prepare for the dogs), slip them food (like Carolyn saw him do for Henry on Christmas) or take them for rides in the surburban.  But baths?  That’s not in his repertoire. 

So we walked around the trailer park for the first time, and it was really a lot of fun.  It was the first time we ventured out of our little area.  Chico and Susie followed us and we acquired five more dogs along the way. 

I wonder how many of these 8 dogs I would recognize as trailer park dogs

We passed one trailer and this cute little baby chihuahua in a red harness came out barking at us and I went to pick it up and it screamed the way Chico used to.  Lowell told me to put it down before someone thought we were dognappers.  Finally a little boy came running out of a trailer and our little orphan went running to him. 

My mother always refers to Henry as “my mother’s little orphan” because my grandmother died when he was just a puppy (Sean and I inherited him).  It appears that Henry wasn’t the original “little orphan.” 

I really think Lowell was disappointed.  I sure wasn’t.  I wouldn’t have minded the chihuahua, though.  I just realized I forgot something – the dog was a Pekinese.
     Halloween was exciting.  We stayed here to answer the door and really got into wild moods.  Lowell made snowballs from our undefrosted freezer and went outside and threw them at trailers, we dressed Chico in a towel to look like a ghost and laughed at the kids.

My Dad was throwing snowballs? 

I forgot to mention, one time we were sitting here and there was this hug[e] bang on the door.  It was two little girls on bicycles who Susie was bothering.  So Lowell went outside, asked [their] names, told Susie who they were, and had them pet her.  They got carried away, and stood next to Lowell and said he was taller than their fathers.  Well, Halloween we had this big bang on the door, and I said it must be Sherry and Michelle.  Sure enough.  Michelle’s mother was with them and she was as cute as she could be.  I would say she’s about my age.  Well, Michelle dropped her trick or treat bag, so Lowell got a flashlight.  The mother told them not to pick up anything that wasn’t wrapped.

There’s a sign of the times– unwrapped food given away at Halloween.

Then she saw Susie under the trailer, so she handed her a cookie.  Chico appeared right then, so she emphatically said, “Share it!” It was really hilarious.
     We didn’t do anything yesterday but sleep.  We went to the movies last night to see The Landlord.  It was an interesting movie.
     How are you doing there?  I hope the job is going along fine and you find a buyer soon.  Write back soon and tell me all the news.


January 26, 2007 at 1:11 am 3 comments

Leesylvania State Park

This afternoon, my mother and I took our four collective dogs down to Leesylvania State Park for a “hike”.  Very few people were at the park, which was helpful for us… since we had four dogs to control! 

Mom poses with all four dogs- Moon, Sunny, Henry, Jimmie

Although it was right in the middle of winter, the area was beautiful and we enjoyed the sites.  We took the Bushey Point Trail which took us along the shores of the Potomac River and Powells Creek.

Silhouette of a Gum Ball Tree

View along the Bushey Pointe Trail

Right as we started back, a peaceful drizzle of rain begun.

“I like this kind of light rain,” I told my mother, “Because it makes my hair curl.”

Mom started to comment on how people like the opposite of what they have and cited my cousin Louise who straightens her naturally curly hair.  Then, as if to spite me, the weather changed drastically.  The rain started POURING!!!!  We picked up our pace to head back to the car.  Mom had a little extra challenge.  Her dogs kept stopping, so they could shake the water off.   A lot of good that did. 

By the time we got to the car, everyone (human and canine) was soaked, which meant Mom’s newly cleaned car got soaked as well:

Snippets of wet dogs.  You can see the rain in the back windshield.  You can also see how much water was brought into the car by the dogs.

A wet… and very pathetic looking… Henry

Luckily, I was traveling with a good spirited woman.  My mother took everything in stride– the rain, the wet car, the traffic home.  I think, maybe, just maybe, she’ll accompany me on an an outing again.

All my pictures from our trip to Leesylvania State Park can be found on my Flickr site.

December 27, 2006 at 12:51 am Leave a comment

Etymology of Vicky’s Vocabulary

And for those of you curious about those Word origins I mentioned below, here is a quick list of some of the words I identified with Carolyn and Stacy:

Supper (From Stacy M)
I say supper because that is what Stacy says and I thought it was endearing. Before high school I always said dinner.

Consolidate (From Carolyn L)
When I use the word consolidate, I think of Carolyn who used it once when organizing her audio tapes.

Chit Chat (From Dad)

Pass Gas (From Dad)

Frivolous (From Dad)
Dad used this word a lot to describe about other people’s complaints about him to the director during bridge tournaments.

Renege (From Dad)
Dad used this a lot in the context of bridge– basically when I told him I would play and then I tried to change our plans. I was reneging on a commitment!

The Good Lord (From Dad)

Christ [as an emphasis to a point ie, “Christ! Even the buzzards thought it stank!”] (From Dad)
Last time I went to confession, I told the priest I use this word a lot, but I wasn’t likely to stop anytime soon. It fits so well in stories, especially when I’m quoting Dad. It’s reminds me too much of Dad to stop at the moment. The priest didn’t seem too concerned– I guess there are bigger sins in the world.

Kibitz (From Bridge)

Follow Suit (From Bridge)

Trump (From Bridge)

Scapegoat (From Christina Geyer)
Even though it was in a Metallica song, I really did not understand and absorb this word until Anthropology class with Christina.

Fret (From Angie H)
Angie once told me not to fret… right before she stole my boyfriend. 🙂 Anyway, I still use that word a lot today.

Of Course [as an explicitive] (From Sean H)
If something unexpected or bad happens, Sean starts his complaint off with “Of course…” Now I do the same and I’ve heard some others picking it up too.

Menstruation (From Carolyn L)
Carolyn blew my mind once in fifth grade when we were watching a commercial and she said, “Mom is that for menstruation?” I didn’t ever use that word before.

Dude (From Tony Airaghi)
Tony used the word a lot in 1998 (In fact I have video footage of him and Brent Walsh doing so). I tend to get mocked when I use this word…. but I still do and probably will for a while.

Like a Bump on a Log [as a description of laziness or uselessness] (from Mom)
Yeah, turns out this isn’t a universal saying! I’ve gotten a few confused looks when I’ve used that phrase in a sentence. In particular, Sean had never heard the phrase before.

Anyway, this list is by no means complete. I’m sure there are plenty of other contributions to my present day vocabulary.

August 11, 2006 at 10:44 pm 2 comments

Bethany Beach

This past weekend, I spent a few days at Bethany Beach.  At one point my cousin Jordan asked my Uncle Jonathan, “Why Bethany Beach?”

“The Sawyers have a strong family history here,” Jonathan said.  He went on to explain how this was where his parents (my grandparents) took all seven of their children for a two week vacation each summer.

This kept on for the next generation.  When I was a child, different branches of the family convened on the very same beach.  Here is a picture from my childhood days.  Three branches are represented here.  From left to right:

Jennifer (JULIE), Vicky (LOWELL), Adam (MARK), Louise (MARK), Carolyn (LOWELL), Jordan (MARK), Jay (LOWELL)

Now that we are grown and the fleet of great-grandchildren increases each year, the Sawyers continue their way each summer to Bethany Beach. 

I only made it for a couple of days this year.  Here is a recap:

Journey There
Keeping with my whirlwind week, I left work at 5 PM on Wednesday evening.  It gave me an ETA at the beach around 12 AM.  Such a long journey would have been a bit of tedious for me alone at the late hour.  Luckily, I had a companion!  Christina Geyer, still visiting from Germany, agreed to brave a household of Sawyers for an extended weekend!  I picked her up in Herndon and drove the remaining 3 hours captivated by great conversation and memories of our high school days.  The trip whizzed by.

We did have a little bit of a hiccup.  We arrived at 2nd Street at Bethany Beach and lo and behold the lowest house number was 97.  That made our address of “5” a little bit of a quandary.  I tried calling every cell phone number I had.  Uncle Jonny, Uncle Mark, Mom, Jay, Carolyn, Dad, Cousin Sam.  The only phone that was answered was Dad’s and that was answered by a complete stranger.  It turns out my father lent his phone to a friend who was still in the Occoquan area.  The stranger asked if he could take a message.  Somehow that didn’t seem like it would help me find a bed for the evening, so I declined his offer.

After another iteration through all the family cell phones, we reconsulted the email and saw the address was South Bethany Beach.  No biggie, we drove down there where we found two different 2nd Streets.  Of course the first 2nd Street we tried hosted a house number 5– but no familiar vehicles.  So finally on our third 2nd Street– we found our home for the next few days.

Sleeping Arrangements and the Turtle
Christina and I got to relive one particular high school experience– the sleepover.  We shared a room in the beach house.  She slept in a day bed and I slept on a mattress on the floor.  Christina reported my snoring was not that bad– but she did note something peculiar.  She described me sleeping all curled up in a ball with my legs and arms underneath my body.

“Oh no!” I gasped, “That’s the turtle– you’re supposed to wake me when I do that!”

I told her what she couldn’t possibly know— that when I slept like that, all my extremities fell asleep.  Waking up with one asleep limb is painful (and unnerving) enough.  Two arms and two legs at the same time were unbearable.  Sean was trained to wake me when he saw me sleeping like that.

So I thought…..

Later during the trip, I was telling Sean that Christina spotted the turtle.

“Yeah, you’ve been doing that a lot lately,” Sean said.

“I have?  How come you didn’t wake me up?!?” I said.

Sean’s response?


First Day at the Beach – Dad
Thursday brought quite a surprise— my FATHER, yes, Lowell Sawyer, actually went to the beach.  Even as a child, I recall my father’s visits to the actual shoreline to be fleeting.  Everyone was surprised.

“Does Dad even have a bathing suit?!?!” I had asked.

It turns out (despite my mother’s original answer) that my father did not in fact have a bathing suit.  He did, however, have burgundy underwear.

Anyway, I rushed out to document such an event, but I was too late.  The biting flies had already scared my father away.  Hopefully this is proof enough– my father retreating from the beach with his chair:

First Day at the Beach – Nail Color
My cousin Samantha and I enjoy coloring our nails at the beach.  This year my mother brought some new supplies– Instant Manicure by Avon.  It’s a weird product.  It comes in premade strips where you can rub on color and it is instantly dry.

It seemed to take longer to apply than regular nail polish and it left quite a bit of trash, but it turns out the color was pretty persistent.  I made numerous trips to the ocean and went kayaking and the color still seems to be going strong.

First Day at the Beach – Swimming Challenge
While we were in the ocean the first day, my Uncle Jonny made jokes about swimming a half mile out in the ocean and then a half mile back.  My mother compromised and pointed to an umbrella down the shore and told us to see if we could swim parallel along the shore to that umbrella and back.  Little did my relatives know– I swim laps at the Blacksburg Aquatic Center!  I can almost do a mile in 40 minutes.  Of course, it would be a lot rougher in the tides, but the distance was significantly shorter, so it turned out to not be a problem.  My mom was so convinced I wouldn’t make it, when I was almost back, I passed my brother swimming towards me.

“Mom sent me after you,” he said, interrupted by a wave, “She was worried.”

It’s nice to surprise your kin once in a while.

First Day at the Beach – Controversial Place Setting
For dinner, Mark and Denise made homemade sauce and pasta.  As the hour of the meal arrived, Uncle Stephen and Aunt Kathy joined the beach house for a quick visit.  When they entered, they explained immediately their company would be short lived.

“We’re supposed to be buying rolls,” Aunt Kathy said.  They further explained that their dinner was almost ready and they would have to hurry home.  That was an important fact that my grandmother missed.

Shortly afterwards Mark announced that dinner was almost ready and asked for someone to set the table.  Christina and I, anxious to earn our keep, went ahead and set the table.  A little while later, Steve and Kathy departed to return to their casserole and their immediate family.

Dinner came along and we all held hands and said the blessing and sat down at our various tables to eat.

“Boys and Girls,” Grandma said, “I have something to say.”

I smiled and leaned in, expecting to hear my grandmother talk sentimentally about how nice it was to see so many family members gathered at the shore.


Grandma reprimanded us for setting the table in front of our “guests”.  She thought it was rude.  I think she even used the word “appalled”.  I believe she thought our act accelerated Steve’s departure.  She had no idea that he was invited for dinner but declined the invitation.  She had no idea he established an exit plan the moment he set foot in the house.

I apologized afterwards and she told me to never let it happen again.

I took the wrap for my Uncle Steve that night.  I doubt he or my grandmother will ever know.

First Day at the Beach – Jay and Vicky Bike
When my siblings were young, we biked excessively– especially at the beach.  For the first time in at least 15 years, my brother and I biked together.  We went from our beach house in South Bethany Beach to the Dickie’s Frozen Yogurt in downtown Bethany and back.  My bike was a little rustic.  I had dry rot on back tire and it liked to shift gears without my consent.  Nonetheless, I loved the ride.  It was invigorating and our return had us riding at dusk– my favorite time of the day.

First Day at the Beach – Nostalgic Second Wind
That evening, a number of people went to go see the new Superman movie.  Christina and I were deterred by the 10:10 PM start time.  We both believed we would fall asleep and lamented how old we were now.

Turns out we aren’t as old as we thought.  We ended up sitting in our respective beds and chatting….until 3 AM! 

Second Day at the Beach – Different Generations, Different Perspectives
The next morning, I spent some brief time on the beach.  I sat with my grandmother a while and chatted under the newly purchased beach umbrellas. 

At one point Grandma shook her head and said, “I can’t believe the swimsuits nowadays.”

Right on cue, a wet Uncle Jonny returned to the beach blanket.

“I need to get my sunglasses,” he said, “So I can admire these bikinis!”  🙂

Second Day at the Beach – Kayaking and Glasses Lost
Finally we got to do my favorite beach activity– Kayaking in Assawoman Bay!!!  This year it was Cousin Sam, Cousin Frank, Cousin Jordan, Uncle Timmy and I on the adventure!  It was a wonderful outing.  I got to chat with Sam.  I got to watch Frank and Jordan joust, capsize and wrestle in the bay.  And I got to have a secluded lap through a salt marsh.  The most predominant sounds were the rhythmic strokes of my paddle and the calls of various sea birds.  Then, periodically, off in the distance, I can hear Jordan and Frank yelling, talking smack! 🙂

Earlier in the week I discovered I left my old glasses (with transitional lenses) at home– which meant I didn’t have viable sunglasses.  Then later I made the chilling discovery that I also left my contacts at home.  The only thing I had with me was my brand new, week old, pink glasses.  Glasses with the most expensive, thinnest, clearest lenses money could buy (pictured below with my brother Jay).

“If I lose these glasses,” I told my family, “I’ll be screwed.”

This is what Sean would call an “Of course” moment:

Of course, I would lose those glasses!  I was very cautious kayaking.  In fact, I kept my distance from the rambunctious Jordan and Frank to ensure they wouldn’t flip me during their horseplay.  The journey was almost over– we were nearing the return spot when I got some sunscreen in my eye.  I went to rub the stinging eye and WHOOSH– my glasses flew off and directly into the bay.  Immediately I jumped into the water and started to fish around.  Soon all my relatives joined in the search, but to no avail.

My brand new glasses were long gone…. and I was left blind.

The scenario turned out to not be as bad as I had originally thought.  I was able to get a Lenscrafters in Salisbury, Maryland to fill my contact lenses prescription.  Not without its frustrations however– the whole ordeal took 6 hours and I was less than impressed with my eye doctor here in Christiansburg, Virginia.

I owe Christina Geyer and Stacy McMahon a big thank you for putting their plans on hold and chauffeuring me around to regain my sight.

This incident is making me think twice about two products:

  • Sweatproof sunscreen
  • Lasix Surgery

Second Day at the Beach – Walk and Story Telling
When we returned to the beach house, me the proud owner of new contacts, I decided to go for an evening walk on the beach.  It was a nice walk.  All over the waterline, I could see the silhouettes of little birds digging in the wet sand for food.  Every time a wave would arrive, they would run away and when the wave retreated they would run back towards the sea.  As a result, I had a living border to show me where the waves were.

When I returned to the house, I rotated between visiting with Christina and Stacy in the bedroom and visiting with my relatives in the kitchen.  My timing could be improved upon.  Christina reported that one two occasions, Stacy was in the middle of a story and I got up and left the room without a word.  Poor Stacy! 🙂

One surprising highlight was hearing K’naan playing from the house CD player.  My brother had borrowed it and liked it enough to play it twice!

Third Day – Departure
On the third day, we scrambled to finish up leftovers and reclaim everyone’s sheets.  All the Sawyers met in the road to say our goodbyes and get one last group picture.  My cousin Melanie walked around and hugged everyone goodbye.  I watched her as she made the rounds.

“Goodbye, Frankie!” she’d say and give him a hug.

“Goodbye, Sam!” she’d say and give her a hug.

She came to me and embraced me, “Goodbye……….Person.”

Apparently, I’ll have to make more of an impression on my youngest cousin! 🙂

Other Recaps
Christina Geyer’s Recap

August 7, 2006 at 9:43 pm 8 comments

Newer Posts

Flickr Photos

3D Printed Products