Twelve Doctors of Christmas

tardis_by_homemadezombieFlashback time! This was first posted in 2014, and is being re-posted in keeping with the holiday season.

On the twelfth day of Christmas the Doctor gave to me:

  • Twelve guitar solos,
  • Eleven bow ties,
  • Ten cans of hair gel,
  • Nine leather jackets,
  • Eight pairs of shoes,
  • Seven hook umbrellas,
  • Six crazy coats,
  • Five cricket balls,
  • _479268_tom_baker Four long scarfs,
  • Three opera capes,
  • Two wood recorders,
  • And a lecture on courtesy!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

And a Happy New year!

The images featured are linked in from sites all over the place!

Louisiana down time

Operation Caracal, part 2

Unlike some of our earlier family trips, this one didn’t have a lot of frills. For me, this was a chance to put some distance between myself and the problems I had been dealing with for most of the preceding year, and try to determine how best to handle whatever came next. For Lisa, it was a chance to collect and prepare for her upcoming plunge back into the workforce. For Caitlin and Michael, this was a chance to spend time with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Days 3-4, December 23-24.

These two days were quiet days, devoted largely to recovering from the grueling drive. We did run some errands, such as acquire stocking stuffers for the kids and some other last minute things. One strange observation, for me at least, was the sight of teens and twenty somethings walking around in t-shirts, Bermudas, and Daisy Dukes. I know that Louisiana is one of the warmer parts of the country. But even so, the sight of so much traditionally summer attire at Christmas time created a cognitive disconnect.

As with the last time we spent Christmas here, Mr. Wayne prepared a traditional Lithuanian kūčios dinner. The main course contained fish, onions and mushrooms, while the side dishes consisted largely of, well, onions and mushrooms. Caitlin wasn’t very thrilled, because she’s not fond of mushrooms. She asked why there were so many onions and mushrooms in the meal. I told her that in the days prior to refrigeration, onions and mushrooms were among the few foods that could be preserved well into the winter. It was either eat these things, or go hungry until Spring. That’s not much of a choice when you think about it.

Day 5, December 25.

Christmas day was spent in Metarie, at the home of Lisa’s younger sister and her family. Michael had fun with his two young cousins, and Caitlin met her new good friend, a Kindle.

The dinner was amazing, with roasted Cajun-style turkey, a variety of vegetables, and some decadent Louisiana-style desserts. My blood glucose read me the riot act a short time later.

That evening, we did a drive-by of Celebration in the Oaks, a long running tradition in the New Orleans City Park. Lisa and I returned to Hammond, because Michael was falling asleep, but Caitlin stayed with the rest of the family and went through the entire display.

To be continued.

Caracal travelogue:

  1. Operation Caracal
  2. Louisiana down time
  3. Driveabout
  4. Michabelle Inn
  5. Arrival 2017AD
  6. Dems good eats
  7. First transition

Christmas Yet to Come


Twelfth Night: the final night of the Christmas season, and the more or less official end of the holidays. So ends another Christmas season. And I strongly suspect that Christmas of 2015 will be radically different from any other Christmas to date.

If you’re read any of my other articles about this holiday season, then you probably know that our big holiday road trip was cut short. Truth be told, there has been a cloud over my head throughout this holiday season, and it’s been hard to deal with.

A few days before we left for our trip, my mother was admitted to MedStar Medical Center in Montgomery County, Maryland, with something they could only describe as “very serious.” We came close to cancelling our trip because of this, but she talked us out of that. She didn’t want us to miss this chance to see family and friends that we haven’t seen in a long time, just because she was cooped up in a hospital.

At the time I asked her, flat out, if the Grim Reaper was at her door. She said no, but she’s pretty sure he’s only a few blocks away. The problem is, I know my mother well enough that I could tell she was apprehensive, if not worried, and she was probably holding something back.

Half way through our trip, Mom asked me to come home. That pretty much told me everything I needed to know.

She has stage four cancer. The cancer started in her uterus area, and spread to other parts of the body. Of particular interest was some swelling against the heart, which was causing shortness of breath and fatigue. That’s what caught the attentions of the doctors, actually. I remember at Thanksgiving she was complaining about shortness of breath. Apparently that was this strange growth, and it was moving fast. Radiation has brought this particular issue under control, but the original cancer remains a problem.

In all likelihood, Christmas of 2014 will turn out to be her last.

And that is what has me in a funk. My mother has always been a strong willed and determined woman. Sometimes she was like a force of nature. She was widowed at a fairly young age, and watched several members of her family succumb to a variety of maladies over the years. But it looked like she had beaten the odds on that front. Roughly 18 months ago she sold her long time house in Homer, New York, and moved to Silver Spring, Maryland. She moved into a retirement community where she could be closer to her grandchildren, and the plan was that she would enjoy this relaxed, retirement lifestyle for several years.

Mom with her four grandchildren.

Fate apparently had other plans. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease just over a year ago, so her ability to do a lot of things had been stunted. But she was managing, and the disease was being controlled. This cancer took us by surprise, though in hindsight the signs had been there for quite some time. We just didn’t recognize them for what they were.

She is now in the process of moving out of the retirement community, and into a nursing home. In her case, the nursing home will be serving as a hospice. Instead of several years, she only has a few months. My brother, largely out of necessity, has been handling most of the logistics of this transition, and it’s weighing very heavily on him. The next steps will involve dealing with her apartment and her various belongings. That will probably involve getting a storage area; I can help him with that part, at least.

Mom with her two boys, me (left) and my brother, James (right).

I suspect I’m projecting and/or deflecting, because this is proving very difficult to address. This will sound cliche, but mom has become a shadow of the woman she used to be, and it’s painful to see. The idea of life without my mother being somewhere in this world is a difficult one to consider. It’s one of those things that we all know is likely to happen, but when faced with the reality of it, it’s hard to truly fathom.

If there is a silver lining in this, she isn’t in any lasting pain, and she still seems to have most of her mental faculties. They are greatly slowed, but still present. At this point, all I can do do is hope and pray that these last few months will be peaceful and comfortable for her, and that when the Grim Reaper does finally arrive he has the decency to arrive while she’s sleeping. As for how these months will treat my brother and I, our wives and our children, is another story entirely.

Photo credits: Lisa and Richard Pugh.

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Christmas Present

The Vedeckis family Christmas tree, 2014

Christmas of 2014 was a break from tradition, in that we chose to travel. The reasons for this massive road trip are described in another article, but Christmas of 2014 will be spent in Hammond, Louisiana.

Typically we spend Christmas day partly at home, and partly in Maryland, where my brother lives. In recent years we have spent time with Lisa’s family during the summer months, but this particular year that didn’t happen. So this time around, we spent Christmas with Lisa’s family. Her parents live in Hammond, while her two sisters and their families live in the surrounding area. The Vedeckis home in Hammond will be hosting a large family gathering worthy of Norman Rockwell.

My father-in-law is largely Lithuanian in extraction, and for many Christmases he sets up a traditional Lithuanian-style Christmas Eve dinner. I’ve been to two of these in the past, and they were both great. I suspect this one will be no exception. For my part, I brought some Virginia red wine to go with this dinner. I hope it goes with the entree.

My father-in-law and son at the Christmas tree.





Vedeckis Clan portrait, Christmas 2014
Front Row: Caitlin Pugh, Nicholas Farley.
Middle Row: Lisa Pugh, Kathy Farley, Mary Vedeckis, Michelle Bardwell, Zoe Bardwell, Mya Bardwell, Fox Bardwell.
Back Row: Richard Pugh, Michael Pugh, Wayne Vedeckis, Ian Bardwell, Gabriel Farley, Gregg Farley, Darren Bardwell.


Photo credit: Trevor Dunaway

Christmas of 2015 may be a totally different story.