Posts filed under ‘Timmy Sawyer’

Sell Out for Sweet Potatoes

Greetings from Ottawa, Illinois.  I’ll be here until Friday morning on business.  The coming weeks promise to be incredibly busy.  Next week is Thanksgiving week where I’m due to go back up to northern Virginia to be with family.  The week after that I’ll be in Wisconsin on business.  The week after that isn’t in stone yet, but it looks like I’ll be in Indiana for business.

That’s a lot of travel

When I was driving the four and a half hour trip to Stacy and Louise’s wedding I thought, “You know what?  Maybe this is the year where I just stay in Blacksburg for Thanksgiving.”  Who could argue with me wanting to stay put for a week? Plus I have gotten to see a lot of my parents this fall with the groomsman dress purchase, the dress fitting and the dress wearing.

I started to pitch the idea to my mother and then I found out we are going to Aunt Maria and Uncle Timmy’s house this year AND Aunt Maria’s sister is coming and bringing her fabulous sweet potatoes with that decadent brown sugar pecan crust.

Suddenly, I was definitely coming home again for Thanksgiving.

I sold out my sanity for sweet potatoes. 

It’s going to be worth it.

November 13, 2007 at 10:42 pm 8 comments

Is This Worth $30?

The professional photographer from our Wednesday night family dinner (55 strong!) at Bethany Beach has made her pictures available for purchase.  I think the Pictage interface for previewing the pictures sucks (even though it claims to be “Trusted by the World’s Best Photographers”).  With all the necessary zooming, it is really hard to decipher which pictures are actually the best and frustrating to confirm no one is blinking.  This is particularly challenging in the shots that feature the entire family.  Do you know how long it takes to inch the zoom little by little to see everyone’s faces?!?!  Luckily, one of the many shots of our entire clan clearly differentiated itself:

Something is far superior in this shot

Uncle Timmy is putting bunny ears on Uncle Steve!!!!!  With a number of crappy, slow clicks I was able to zoom in:

Uncle Timmy’s face looks hilarious!

The photographer is charging $12 for a 4 x 6 and $30 for an 8 x 10 (which I think would do Tim’s gesture more justice).  Is Uncle Timmy’s bunny ears worth $30????

I think it just might be! 🙂

August 21, 2007 at 12:03 am 26 comments

Bethany Beach – Kayaking, Beetles, Fighting Couples

Whew.  Had a great time at Bethany Beach as well.  Here are some of the adventures from just our first two days there! 

My family has a strong background in engineering.  We have numerous civil engineers in our ranks.  We had a well-established electrical engineer.  And thanks to my generation and our spouses, a solid force of software engineers are represented.  But it was not an engineer who displayed the most ingenuity this week.  It was an auto mechanic. 

One of my favorite beach activities is kayaking in Assawoman Bay (where my glasses met their demise last year).  On Monday, we got our crew all ready to go.  Everyone got lathered up in sunscreen, had their swimsuits and hats on and we were all ready to go…. when we discovered my father’s vehicle was blocking us in the driveway.  There was only one set of keys which were with my father.  And of course, my father was no where to be found.  And of course, he would not answer his cell phone.  We appeared stuck. 

Then it was Uncle Timmy to the rescue.  Using the skills of his trade, he got underneath my Dad’s car and (forgive me if I mangle this) disconnected the linkage to the transmission. 

Timmy tinkering with the transmission link

He then pushed the car out of the driveway.

Timmy backs car out while Frank watches

His wife backed her car out to freedom so the kayakers would have transportation.

Yay the minivan is free!

Then Uncle Timmy and his son, Frank, pushed Dad’s car back into the driveway.

Timmy pushing the car back in the driveway

Frank does not appear to be struggling with this task

And just to be nice, Timmy reconnected the transmission linkage.

This year we had the biggest group of kayakers ever!  Unfortunately, we had our biggest gusts of wind as well.  It was extremely windy.  

Timmy demonstrates the wind.  That life jacket was dangling limply until the wind caught it 

We started out going against the wind.  That was a little demoralizing.  You would be paddling and paddling and paddling and you’d look to shore and see how little progress you made.  And then if you decided to take a quick sip of water, suddenly you were 20 feet behind where you had just struggled to get to.  My cousin Samantha had the greatest success paddling against the wind– she got the furthest.  I was the next furthest person (though there were many boat lengths between Sam and I).  When Sam noticed our relatives had given up and were standing on shore, we turned around.  At that point, I felt like Superman.  With barely any rowing, I was zipping through the bay.  Watch out, world!

It has become a kayaking tradition that Frank and Jordan have their Assawoman Bay wrestling match.  To do that, they actually rowed with the wind to get out of sight.  This brought much dismay to the Coastal Kayak employees, who determined Frank and Jordan needed to be rescued.  An employee went after them and I’m told he got really pissed by the spectacle he saw.  Like last year, Frank and Jordan ended up walking their kayaks back to shore.

Frank walks his kayak…and the children…back to shore.

Jordan walks his kayak back

Clint’s Hidden Talent
Monday night, I realized that my brother-in-law has great vision in regards to what is going to be entertaining.  Samantha, Carolyn, Clint and I were mini-golfing.  There was a lot of congestion between holes.  At one point, we were waiting for our chance to putt when we noticed an overturned beetle on a nearby window sill.  Samantha and I both instinctively reached for it to turn it over.

“Hold on….” Clint said, “This could be entertaining.”

Instead of intervening, we watched the beetle struggle to right himself.  We oohed at his close calls and cheered when he got himself back on his feet.  It was a good 45 seconds of entertainment!

A picture of a different beetle to remind us of the mini-golf beetle

Later that night, the same crew was hanging out on the boardwalk.  We were sitting on a bench watching the ocean when Clint’s ears picked up on another entertainment opportunity.

“There is a couple fighting over there,” he pointed, “and some police over there.  This could get interesting.”

Police (in yellow on left) monitor the fighting couple (far right).  See Flickr for Notes.

At that point, we all turned our backs to the ocean to watch the fighting couple.  And sure enough the police slowly moved in to assess the situation.  Samantha ran up on the boardwalk to pretend to pose for a picture and I took a picture of the couple.  It was a good thing Sam was there as a decoy.  As soon as the flash went off, the couple turned my way.  When they saw Sam, they resumed fighting.  That’s a good thing.  Neither appeared to be in the mood to be especially amused by me!

Thanks to Sam’s decoy work– a picture of the fighting couple

The fighting couple soon stormed off, but then later they reappeared and the fighting continued.  At one point, the man was on one side of a bench and the woman was on another and they yelled at each other….even though there were strangers actually sitting on the bench with front row seats to the whole thing.  They stormed off again and later they came back again!  Clint was right.  The fighting couple proved to be quite entertaining.

Dave Devito.  Look in the background– the fighting couple is at it again on the benches.  See Flickr for Notes.

August 14, 2007 at 9:02 pm 5 comments

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

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

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