Friday, December 17, 2010

Looking into the Eyes of the Angels

On October 20th, 2010, at exactly 10:55 p.m., the most beautiful baby in the history of humankind was born and I was there to witness it.  Seeing that baby enter this world was so incredible that it defies description.  For once in my life, I was at a loss for words.  My midwife buddy said it perfectly. "Now you understand why I have the best job on the planet." And she does. 

For five and a half weeks I stayed with that baby.  He cast his spell over me, until I was totally enchanted!  Time stopped and the world revolved around his pleasures and needs. That was okay by me.  I wanted to stay even longer - say, perhaps until he left for college?

My daughter and son-in-law were exceedingly gracious and the time flew as we all watched the baby grow and change.  He went from the sleepy infant to being the wide-eyed baby.  Now every day we Skype so Grampy and I can gaze at him lovingly and see his new tricks.  It makes us all feel like, although we are separated by the miles, we are still a part of his life.  That matters to us more than we ever could have imagined.

Next week he will be making his first airplane ride, coming to Granny's for Christmas.  (Of course Gramps lives here too and we will vie for holding time with each other and with Auntie Kate.  I've been plotting my strategy now for weeks and am confident I will win!) 

What they say about being a grandparent is true.  It is joy beyond description.

Merry Christmas!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Laundry night from Hell

Yesterday was Halloween and here's the scariest story I know:  going to the laundromat.

Okay, so millions of people probably do this every single week, but I have been married with washer for many, many years.  Imagine my surprise to walk into the laundromat in 2010 and find that to wash a load costs as much as four giant Hershey bars.  I don't mean the check-out size guys either. I mean the JUMBO ones like you get at Christmas IF Santa smiles upon you.

I have been washing our clothes at a coin laundry for a half a year now.  When I add up the quarters I have fed the machines, I figure I could have bought and paid for a cheap washing machine on clearance about now, especially when you factor in the entire large load of clothing that got ruined when I washed them in a machine that either was leaking oil or had just had a bunch of oily rags washed in it.  Big splotches of oil appeared on every single shirt and pair of pants in that load of "darks" which included a substantial portion of my husband's work clothes.  Oops!

Now comes the scary story.  "It was a dark and stormy night...."  Actually it was Sunday evening around eight o'clock when we decided to throw our stuff into the back of the car and make a quick trip to wash our clothes.  The laundromat closes at ten, so we were cutting it short but we calculated we had about thirty minutes to spare.  As we roared off, we realized that we had forgotten our soap and only had a ten dollar bill, another bad omen.  We should have thrown in the towel right then but we didn't.  After careful consideration, we decided we had just enough money to purchase a couple of those teeny tiny detergent boxes that they sell in the vending machines on the premises and to wash and dry our clothes.

The laundromat was having a sale!  Wow!!  Ever heard of that?  In my mind I could hear quarters falling like in old-time Las Vegas.  Wait a minute.  I really did hear coins falling like in a slot machine.  It was the sound of the coin changer giving us ten dollar's worth of quarters. That was the only fun part of the entire experience.  It always makes me feel like I hit the jackpot!  Of course I always count the quarters to be sure that the machine didn't cheat me.  I have no clue what I might do if it did but I still count the quarters every single time.  So far, so good.

The small load washers were only a buck.  If you add a quarter you can get a second rinse, which is a good thing in my mind, especially when using public washing machines.  The soap dispensers are over my head, so Jerry bought the dry soap and filled up the compartments, put in the quarters and hit the "extra rinse" button.  Soon, we were lulled into a (false) sense of security by the swish, swish, swishing of the water.

Weirdly, we were the only ones in the entire laundromat, except for the Mexican gal who was casually cleaning out the machines and waiting to close the place.  Soon, I glanced over and wondered why there were no suds in the water.  Jerry checked and realized that not only had he put the soap in the dispenser meant for softener, but he had pushed the "extra wash" button instead of the "extra rinse" one.  This meant that we would watch our clothes wash twice without any soap and then see suds in the rinse cycle.

It was at this point that it dawned upon us that our laundromat trip was cursed!  Nothing could be done....we were going to need to re-wash the clothes.  Sigh.  After the first cycle was done, we realized that the soap in the rinse cycle compartment had not all dissolved which meant that, unless we intervened, the entire show that we had just watched would repeat itself. 

So that is how we get to the part of the story where Jerry is disassembling the laundromat dispensers, trying to wash the soap out during the actual wash cycle.  Thank God the gal who worked there was in the back watching Univision!  I kept going into the unisex bathroom (that's another story) and bringing out massive amounts of paper towels.  She could see me from where she sat, but obviously wasn't curious enough to investigate.  Spanish prime time TV can be pretty racy.  Maybe she just couldn't tear herself away.  It was just as well.  She probably wouldn't have taken kindly to seeing all the plastic parts of the dispenser laying on top of the machine.  Truthfully, it didn't do that much for me either.

Now, we are in a serious time crunch.  It's 9:45 and at last our clothes are in their final spin but the place closes at 10:00 and that's not enough time to dry the loads.  We grab our clothes and, as we go to put them in the dryer, the gal appears and indicates that the end dryers are the hottest.  She urges us to use them and so we do.

Meanwhile, I can hear her talking on the phone.  My high school Spanish is kind of rusty, but I understand she is telling someone over and over again that we are using "the hot dryers."  Obviously there is someone waiting for her who is not so pleased that we are just starting to dry our clothes fifteen minutes prior to closing.  She keeps telling us it's no problem, but we know it is.  So at the stroke of ten, we grab our damp clothes out of the dryers, pile them in the back of the car and drive off in search of a twenty-four hour laundromat.

When we finally find one, we go in and throw our damp clothes in the dryer and Jerry starts to feed the machines quarters.  We realize that we probably don't have enough money left to dry the loads totally, because of the fiasco at the last place.  We decide that when we run out of money, we will take the laundry home and if it's still damp, we will drape it all around the bathroom. Turns out we must have chosen the hot dryers here too, because our clothes dried rapidly.  We folded them, threw them into their baskets and rushed off. 

We make it home just before 11:00.  If I had had my wits about me, I could have pressed Jerry to buy us our own washer and dryer at this juncture.  I'm pretty sure he would have seriously considered buying at least one of the banged up models in the center aisle at the local Lowes.  

Timing, as they say, is everything.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Another Disaster in the Name of Environmentalism

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever..." ~ John Keats

...Or for one week, if you live at our house. 

Jerry had spent two weeks and more than a couple trips to the big box stores assembling his project, a replacement mailbox.  He primed the box and painted it a bright blue.  He put gold numbers on the front, then decided red would look better so he made the switch.  He took a 1976 Michigan bicentennial license plate and affixed it artfully to one side. 

He searched high and low for the perfect post and couldn't find one shaped just right. He explored the option of crafting his own.  Many of his specialty tools are still back at our Ohio home, so eventually he discarded that idea and eventually found a suitable post at the fourth (or fifth) store he tried.  He primed it then coated it three times with cherry red latex.  The color was a perfect match with the red on the license plate.  He put large reflective numbers down the side.  It couldn't have looked better.

Finally, it was time to erect his masterpiece.  He consulted the U.S. Postal website for the exact height they require.  He then dug a deep hole with the post hole digger.  (This was no easy feat in the land of the kiln-ready red clay.)  Jerry mixed and poured concrete and I helped him hold the post "just so".   

The concrete had set nicely by Monday.  Another job completed by my handy husband!  There was even a functional little flag for outgoing mail that our former bashed-up box did not possess. It was the Cadillac of mailboxes, a thing to be admired.  And so it was.

Neighbors noticed and were quite complimentary.  Jerry glowed with the pride that cometh with the knowledge of a job well done.  People immediately started using it as a landmark.  "Go past the Michigan mailbox....."
 
On Wednesday, Jerry decided to add a little hanging sign, indicating where our house is located in case we ever order pizza or, God forbid, need an ambulance.  Now it was perfect!
 
On Friday the recycling truck accidentally grabbed our mailbox instead of the container sitting next to it and snapped it like a toothpick.  I'm told the driver got out of his truck, and "cursed".  

I discovered the mailbox lying on its side on the lawn when I went to get the mail.  At first I was confused.  It briefly crossed my mind that perhaps a rabid Ohio State fan had rammed into it.  Then it dawned on me what had happened.
 
I called the recycling company on the spot to report the murder of our beautiful mailbox.  I feared they would give me a hard time but actually they couldn't have been kinder.  They said they would build and paint an exact copy of our mailbox and nobody would ever know it wasn't the original. 
 
They, of course, are wrong.  I will know and so will Jerry.


 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Answer

And the answer is….

Thirty-nine.


The question:

How many golf balls did my husband find in our woods after reading yesterday's post?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sneaking around in the woods

I was sitting at my desk looking out the window when I saw a neighbor from the top of the hill scurrying down into the woods that surround our house. He was dressed in blue jeans, a blue hoodie and he had a white plastic bag in his hand. I couldn't see what he was doing, but he was moving rapidly, bending down every so often and putting something in his bag.

I was about to call out when the thought occurred to me that I don't really know him all that well and perhaps he was harvesting a crop of weed that he had planted in the spring. I have read about people doing that in National Forests. Who would notice here?

Did I really want him to know that I was observing him? I decided to just keep quiet. (I did wonder why he wasn't wearing camos though. They seem like a better choice if you are going to engage in risky business. Women really do think differently than men do, don't they?)

He ran around in the woods for fifteen to twenty minutes and then, like a Cullen, he vanished as mysteriously as he had arrived.

Later that evening I was walking with a mutual friend and entertaining her with this very story. At the exact moment she was belly laughing, whom should appear but Mr. Woods Walker himself? "Hey, Doug," she said, "Chris was wondering if you were harvesting pot in the woods this afternoon?"

"One hundred and seventy-seven." He replied cryptically. Then, before I could ask any questions, he was gone once again.

One hundred and seventy-seven? My mind rushed. "Should I rush home, pack a quick bag and get out of town?" I thought. Overactive imagination? Guilty!

On the other side of the woods, there is a golf course. He had picked up one hundred seventy-seven golf balls.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lunch at home

Yesterday the rain gently fell. It's been a long time since this has happened here. The earth was parched and fissures large enough for a toddler to drive his big wheels into began appearing. The rain was definitely welcome. At least before lunch.

My husband is the kind of guy who doesn't brown bag his lunch. I'm not saying he won't, just that we've been married over thirty years and he hasn't yet. This last move from OH to SC, we bought a house so close to his office that if traffic is light and he eats fast, he can come home for lunch. Not only is this a cost effective measure (as I see it), it has the added benefit of better nutrition as well and no one is arguing about that. It's just a fact and we both know it. It's pleasant too and kind of breaks up the day for us both. He's not able to come home every day, but he does when he can and yesterday he did.

I have no idea what we ate, which seems odd since it was only twenty-four hours ago. I do know we were eating watermelon when we heard the first loud boom. Boom! Bang, bang, bang. A limb from a tree fell, not remarkable in itself since we live in the woods, but worthy of note because it fell on Jerry's car. We didn't see this but we heard it and knew at a glance what had happened. The limb wasn't large - the diameter was about the size of a lady's forearm but it did a lot of damage. The point of impact is unclear, but the roof is smashed in, the windshield shattered and the hood and the side panel over the wheel are all dented pretty badly.

A tree limb altered how I spent my afternoon. Instead of doing laundry, I called my insurance agent, filed an insurance claim, talked with an auto glass repair shop, conversed with our assigned insurance adjuster and made an appointment with an auto body shop. I was assured that this claim wouldn't significantly raise our insurance rates, since we haven't had other claims with this company and they consider this an act of God. I prefer to think of it as an act of Mother Nature rather than God. In my mind, God isn't spending lunch hour throwing branches at cars, but, of course, I cannot be certain.

Today (instead of doing the laundry) I spent the morning at the auto body shop getting an estimate. This shop has insurance people on staff, so my claim was expedited and I now know that the repairs for the vehicle will run $2,005.00, which means the insurance company and the Zimmermans will split the bill almost 50/50 because we have $1,000.00 deductible.

While the gentleman was appraising the damage, he point out to me that the car had sustained significant hail damage somewhere along the way as well. There are tiny dings everywhere. He said that these can be fixed using some paintless procedure but that it will probably cost in excess of $2,500.00 and it is a separate claim, thus necessitating another $1,000.00 expenditure on our part and, of course, if we file another claim so soon, it will raise our premiums.

I'm not quite sure what I am going to do with this new-found knowledge on hail damage to my husband's car. He hasn't noticed these dings himself yet. Jer's pretty fond of his vehicles and I think if he knew, it might drive him nuts. Nuts!! That reminds me! The adjuster said the damage might be caused by nuts falling out of trees and bouncing off the car. If that's the case and we get the car fixed before all the nuts fall....

How many lunches could a person buy for two thousand dollars? Maybe it's not so cost effective to serve lunch here at home after all.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Phantom Phone Calls

Late last night my husband and I were sitting at the table talking when his phone rang. He looked down to see who was calling him and it was.....me. Unbeknownst to me, my phone had called him from my front pocket. We were both kinda surprised because we knew he wasn't even the last phone number that I had dialed from that phone. How did this happen?

To place a call on my fancy phone, I have to touch a button to turn the screen on, slide my finger across the screen to unlock it, press the phone icon and then either dial a phone number, push a button to see recently dialed calls and choose one or scroll through my phone book. It just amazes me that even with all these safeguards, I still am able to accidentally automatically call random people and not even know it. Once - and I swear this is true - it was nearly midnight when my phone that was sitting on my nightstand just dialed a friend. I could hear it ring from the bed. I picked the phone up just in time to hear her answer in her sleepy voice. I panicked and hung up on her. How stupid was that? All cells have caller id. I had to call her back, explain and apologize.

As uncomfortable it is to make these types of calls, it's even worse to receive them. The moral dilemma is how long do I listen before I hang up? Anyone who has ever met me knows I am in love with the spoken word but to be an unknown presence privy to a private conversation creeps me out. I have a powerful whistle, but even whistling at top volume won't alert the speaker to my hidden involvement in the conversation. The only thing to do is to hang up and do it fast. And yet....

Our son called in the middle of the afternoon (that alone should have been a tip off). When I said "hello" I heard what I thought was him finishing up a conversation to somebody else before focusing his attention on me. While I waited, I half listened to his voice and eventually I realized that he was talking to a couple of residents about a patient's diagnosis. It was kind of like an episode of ER and I was mesmerized. Still, I waited patiently to hear why he'd called me until it finally dawned upon me that he had "butt dialed" me. It was "take your mother to work day" and he didn't even know it! 

I hung up and called him back. He didn't answer of course.  He was at work.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Focus

August is turning into September and the first cool breeze since I moved to the Cay in South Carolina is blowing. I opened all the windows to smell the fresh air and immediately I heard raucous birds calling to each other, crickets chirping, the buzzing waves of cicadas and the hum of some industrial strength mowing machine on the golf course which lies on the other side of our woods. It's amazing how loud it is inside my house! I have never had the pleasure of open windows here before because with the summer (that some say is the hottest they remember) came oppressive heat, humidity and air conditioning. As a rule, I am not crazy about air conditioning but rules are made to be broken. Even I can see its charm when summer heat is at its most brutal.

What a wonderful way to start the day! Open windows, gentle breezes, nature sounds. As I sat down to type, I heard some twigs snapping in the backyard. Maybe somebody is back there! I have a fertile imagination and so already I am mentally calling 9-1-1. About this time, I realized that I didn't know where my cell phone was which could impede my ability to make the aforementioned call, should I truly deem it necessary.

There's a lot to be said for land lines. One of their best features is that they are always in the same place and you know right where that place is. (Unless you buy a cordless model and then you'd have the same drama that I was facing.) We don't have a land line, so I was faced with the chore of finding my cell.

I went into the bedroom to search for my phone, realized that my bed wasn't made, grabbed a corner of the top sheet, yanked it halfway up the bed when I heard a "thunk" outside the window. I dropped what I was doing and looked out. There is a nut tree behind the house - I don't recognize what kind it is. The nuts look sort of like hickory only a little larger but they are not pecans. Anyway, nuts are dropping off the tree onto the deck below and making loud noises. Also there is a squirrel in the tree running up and down the trunk, probably looking to score a few of those nuts. That explains the noise. In thinking about the noise, I realized that I was supposed to be searching for my cell phone, so I turn around, left the bed unmade and started looking anew.

The first thing my eyes fell upon was some laundry, so I started picking that up. Then I remembered the cell phone and wandered off into the bathroom where I found more laundry, but no phone. Then I meandered into the guest bathroom to pick up the towel and put it with the other laundry.

I went to the basement bathroom, grabbed the towels and walked to the laundry room where I deposited all the laundry in the hamper. I then check out the new paint job in the lower level bedroom. I decided I really like the color we chose, felt satisfaction, basked in its glow, came back upstairs where I heard something outside again. I went back to the bedroom, realized I was hearing rain on the leaves, turned away from the window, saw the unmade bed, walked around to the other side, pulled the sheet up to the top, then remembered I was supposed to be looking for my cell phone. Next I went to the living room where I saw yesterday's paper on the sofa, so I gathered it up and took it to the recycling basket in the basement.

Back upstairs, I remembered I was searching for my cell phone, and I had been downstairs twice but neglected to check for it. I went downstairs for the third time and this time I actually looked around but saw no cell. Once more I came upstairs, looked in the bedroom yet again, still didn't find the phone but did notice that the bed wasn't made so I stopped and made it.

When I walked into the kitchen I saw my cell phone sitting directly behind the computer screen. I heaved a sigh of relief. I am no longer worried about a possible break-in, have found my phone and (added bonus) I have made the bed, taken the newspaper to be recycled and picked up the laundry. I settled in to type, put my fingers on the home row keys and realized that sometime during the massive search for my phone, I took my glasses off and don't know where I laid them down.

It is now noon.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vacation on the cheap

If adults ever sat around a campfire, here's the kind of (true) story we could tell:

You are a newly single dad with two kids. It's your daughter's sixth birthday and you want to do something special to "wow" her, but on a tight budget. You decide to take her and her little brother camping on the beach, the perfect vacation on the cheap.

Can't you just smell the disaster brewing? I swear I can hear ominous background music!

First, he tells the kids. Mistake Number One. (If you tell the kids, you can't back out when you realize the error of your ways.)

Next, he searches for the tent he used to camp in before he got married. When he finds it, he decides to erect it in his living room. He does this and then discovers that it is a pup tent. Of course he knew this, but had forgotten just how small a pup tent is. There is no way he can cram all the junk he's going to need for a long weekend camping into this tiny square footage. And, he's already told his kids.

So he goes to WalMart and buys an eight-man tent. Mistake Number Two. (Ask around, fella. Somebody you know has a tent you can borrow.) It costs just shy of a hundred bucks, but it sure will be cheaper than a motel. (This remains to be seen, but I don't want to spoil the surprise.)

Now Mr. Dad lives in Cleveland and is going to take his kids to a beach on the coast of South Carolina. I can't remember the exact name and it is irrelevant to the story anyway except that Ohio is a long way from South Carolina. That is relevant (and obvious to anyone with access to a map). His plan is to pick up his kids from his daughter's birthday party, toss them in the car and hit the open road. He figures they will go six hours or so and crash in some cheap motel along the interstate. It's a double-header! Mistakes Number Three and Four. (He can't drive that far - he has two little kids who are going to need to stop every fifteen seconds and there is never a cheap motel around when you need one.)

Prior to the departure, our hero goes to the grocery store and spends an obscene amount on food. (Mistake Number Five.) He buys staples for the actual camping trip, as well as lots of juice boxes and snacks for the car riding portion of the trip. It costs more than it should have, but he will make it up by not having to stop and eat at restaurants, right? Mistake Number Six. (Everybody always thinks that they will make every meal when they go camping, it's part of the charm of "roughing it." They all end up eating out more meals than they had imagined they would. He will prove no exception.)

The ex doesn't know of the plan and this is on purpose, so she can't throw in a monkey wrench. Or can she? In fact, she is able to pull off a minor coup, in the form of allowing the birthday party to stretch out for about an hour longer than it is supposed to. A small, but crucial point because, as we know, timing is everything.

Finally the happy group is on their way, beachward bound! It's evening, but it's a pleasant night and the kids are groovin' to the kid music in the car. They listen to the same CD over and over the entire trip. (You probably thought I would count this as a mistake, didn't you? Well, it's not. Kids love repetition and Dads are used to tuning it out. He gets a "bye" on the music. It's a freebie.)

When they get to Beckley, West Virginia, they are all pooped and a bit crabby from the drive. (No surprises there. It's hours past everyone's bedtime.) They decide they'll pack it in for the night. It's not quite as far as he thought they'd get but, allowing for the late start, it will do just fine. Mistake Number Seven. (Unbeknownst to Mr. Happy Camper, Beckley, West Virginia, is roughly half way between Cleveland, OH and Charlotte, NC. He does not know this, but the owners of the motels certainly do. Location! Location! Location! There is not a cheap room to be found.) Everything is over a hundred dollars and a hundred dollars is a little rich for his blood. He gets his second wind. They hit the road again and drive a couple more hours where the rates are more hospitable and the names of the motels all start with "econo."

Next morning, bright and early, up they get. Motels with "econo" in the title, don't offer free breakfasts. They decide to eat out because Dad doesn't want to unpack the car for just this one meal and, besides, they can economize at lunch and supper because they have all the camping food. (See what I mean? Everybody does this.) After breakfast, the road warriors ride the highway and the rest of the trip to the campsite is uneventful. Of course, they stop a couple of times for the kids to run around and they enjoy putting quarters into the vending machines at the rest stops. Everyone is in good spirits and looking forward to some serious water fun. It's vacation!!

They arrive at the campsite, choose a prime spot and set up camp. Then they go off to the beach. Finally! Looking forward to some water fun, they barely notice Mistake Number Eight. They've chosen to go to the beach in August. Not just any old August! No, this is a record breaking summer - the hottest ever.

Like all little kids, our four-year-old exuberantly engages in a bit of "sand throwing." He only gets a couple of handfuls into the air before he is told to stop and, being basically a very good child, he does, indeed, desist. However the damage has been done. Everyone was within range so all three got rained on - they had a little sand shower. There's grit in their hair! They feel dirty because, well, they are. They pick up shells on the beach, lots of shells and put them in the trunk. Mistake Number Nine. (All of us have done this and all of us know how those things are going to smell after a fifteen hour drive home in the heat.) They go back to the campsite for supper.

Time for bed!! Oops...we need to shower first because there is sand everywhere. It was about this time that it dawned upon our hero that he had made Mistake Number Ten. That's right, his tent site was across the entire campground from the bathhouse, something that grownups wouldn't necessarily notice (or care about) but when the group includes little kids, well, there are gonna be more than a couple of hikes to the latrines in the night. You can't leave a four-year-old (or a six-year-old for that matter) alone in a tent. When one of them goes, they all go. And, of course, they don't go at the same time. That would be too easy. As soon as they'd return from one bathroom excursion and get settled, there would be this sweet voice saying, "Daddy, don't get mad but...."

The next morning it's overcast. The group goes to a reptile type place, one with live snakes and alligators. I have an aversion for these sorts of creatures so I'm not going to dwell upon this portion of the vacation. Suffice it to say that it cost thirty bucks to get in.

After some more fun on the beach, it starts to cloud up. By late afternoon, there are ominous black storm clouds on the horizon. Hurry, hurry! Back to the tent! As the storm approaches, it becomes clear that it is a doozy and it is electrical. Our father here is no dummy and he's not about to be stuck in a tent with his kids in a nasty storm. He zips up the flap, throws the kids in the car and leaves. Sadly, he did not have time to put on the rain flap. [Mistake number....I can't remember any more. We are well into double digits now anyway. With this many errors, somebody better hit a home run fast!]

He drives for a while down the inter coastal waterway, stops at a pizza place to feed the kids supper and then he drives some more until he finds a place to stay. He doesn't care how much it costs, he just wants to be dry and safe in a nice room somewhere. It is from here that he calls us and says he's coming to visit us a day early. We can expect the group to roll in around noon the next day because we're four hours inland.

The next morning he calls us at about nine o'clock. He hadn't realized that they had driven about an hour and a half before finding a room, so it took them longer than they thought to get back to the site to collect their tent. Oh, and a raccoon had gotten into that tent during the night, enjoyed their camping food, generally messed up the interior of the tent and all its contents, then left - maybe. It was unclear at this point if there was a raccoon in the tent or not and they couldn't check right now because they were in the middle of another ferocious storm and were sitting in their car at the gas station near the campground. Oh, and since the rain flap wasn't on the tent, everything in the tent that the raccoon didn't destroy was drenched. Nice touch. (Truth really is stranger than fiction. I couldn't make this stuff up!  My imagination simply isn't this fertile.)

Locals say there is a time to go to the beach and there is a time to leave the beach. If you deviate from this window of time at all, you will get stuck in the tourist traffic. It turns out that you are not the only family from Ohio who thought an August vacation at a Carolina beach sounded like fun. That is why our soggy campers rolled into our neighborhood at four o-clock. Clearly they aren't local.

We had them immediately erect their tent in our driveway so it would dry out, which it did. We took the kids over to the playground to run off some steam, then brought them back and fed everyone supper. The kids needed baths to wash off the left-over beach party and then - around 8:00 - their Dad laid down with them until they fell asleep. He fell asleep, too. (No surprises there. He was exhausted. Being a single parent isn't for sissies.) They didn't wake up until morning. Nobody even heard the booming thunderstorm in the night.

Bright and early the next morning, the group tried to sneak out, but we are old and used to arising at the proverbial crack of dawn. We caught them writing us a note and persuaded them to stay for breakfast. After eggs and toast, my husband wound up the children by tossing them in the air, running after them, pretending to be a dinosaur, all the usual. They were pretty hyper as we strapped them into their car seats and waved good bye.

Was this a memorable vacation? Definitely. Was it "on the cheap"? Probably not. Either way, it's a good story.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

Books!

My current relationship with books (2010)

Our household goods haven't even been shipped yet. We just brought the bare bones basics - table, chairs, bed. Yet somehow (even though my bookshelves back in Ohio are overflowing) books have crept into my living space and are stacked on closet shelves, by the bed, on the table and in windowsills.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Is Hoarding the Eighth Deadly Sin?

My relationship with books when we lived in Hudson,Ohio, circa 2007:

Lately, two themes are dominating my life, economy and simplicity. Illiterates and family members alike would say that I read to excess and acquire books like a redhead gets freckles. Every now and then without warning, there's a new crop.

Books were clogging up my life kind of like French fries clog up my pores (no matter what McDonald's publicists might say) and the heaviness I felt maintaining them took away the joy of reading them, not to mention the free time I would have were I not trying to organize books I own but have not yet had the opportunity to read.

The obvious answer was to get rid of three-quarters of my wardrobe, so I donated six garbage bags crammed full of clothes to Goodwill. None of my friends can believe it when I show them my winnowed closet. Men are particularly impressed. I have never gone naked even a day yet -- actually, the thought rarely even crosses my mind. I enjoy pointing that out.

With all this newly found space, I was able to convert half the closet into personal book shelves. (An added plus was that I could hide new purchases from those who might realize and object to them.) In a heartbeat, that space started to overflow, too. Our house was built in the 1960s and closets in this era house are not the same size as the kitchen. They are small because back in the 60s, all the builders were single guys so they didn't know how much closet space women wanted – that's just my guess.

At a yard sale, I splurged for a nightstand with shelving. When it too was bursting at the seams, I found a funky old basket and loaded it up. Part of my kitchen shelving was magically transformed into a home for most of my cookbooks.

When I started to stack piles of books around the house randomly, my son suggested that I fearlessly cull my collection. At first I thought he was a traitor but after he explained himself, I gave him credit for being the genius that he is. "What will happen if you have empty shelf space, Mom?" he prompted. Right! I will have space for more books - and no guilt! (Being guilt-free is becoming more and more attractive the older and closer to death I get.)

I set about the task of paring down my books. I had a little three-day garage sale then donated bags and bags and bags of books to the library. Then I went through the shelves again and gave fifty more to the Salvation Army. Wow, did it feel great! The burden was lifted and I felt physically lighter with this odious task behind me. Immediately I enjoyed the peace of being in my living room now that I could actually sit down.

Everyone knew it was only a matter of time before book piles started spreading like summer kudzu in Georgia, but for the moment we all reveled in the knowledge that folks who dropped by could actually come inside without danger of stumbling over a pile or two of books.

We all even knew the exact date that the parade of new books would occur. Our library book sales are the first Saturday and third Thursday of every month. Need I say more? Only dire circumstances keep me from attending a library sale. If blood is spurting from someone I really care about, I will detour to the emergency room but after the wounded have been cared for, we will stop at the library on the way home. This is a fact that surprises no one.

My salvation seemed like coincidence but was a simple answer to a heartfelt prayer. I stumbled upon a website where you can swap books! The idea is that you send books from your library to others who want them and then you can request books from someone else in an even one-to-one exchange. So, for every book I send out, I can get another one free! The key words in that last sentence are: send out. In order to receive, you have to give. This way, the books I've read can find new homes and I will have space to store the new ones. It's deceptively simple and economical, as well. All ya have to pay is the postage of the books you send out.

Media mail rates are a lot cheaper than a home addition.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mystery solved

Dear Carol,

I thoroughly enjoyed the article you sent me from the Cincinnati Enquirer entitled "Ohio Mason's Labor of Love." "So Old-Fashioned they're Trendy," a history of Graeter's ice cream was on the opposite page and that was good reading, too. Oh, and the comics were on the back page so I read them as well. Across from the comics was the puzzle page - Sukoku, which I did until I got it right, then both the beginner's and advanced crossword puzzles and the cryptoquip. They were all fun!

It's eleven-thirty in the morning and I'm not dressed, the bed's not made and Jer's on his way home for a lunch that isn't ready, but the up side is that I finally figured out why my first-grade teacher never checked the "stays on-task while working independently" box on my report card. 

Mystery solved!

Love,
Chris

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Daytime Nightmares

The cable installer guy said, "You have a lot of black widow spiders in your yard. Your cable box was full of 'em."

The meter reader said, "Don't worry about the black widows, worry about these brown recluse spiders. They're nasty."

The concrete repairman said, "Did you see the big snake in your driveway?"

The utilities man said, "The snakes don't bother me nearly as much as when a lizard drops out of the trees onto my head."

Turns out we've moved to phobia heaven.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Parenting Advice

The young mother posed the question, "When is a child old enough to go to the mall alone?"

My short answer, "Never."

Oh, and a word to the wise - it's safer to leave a two-year-old home alone than it is a sixteen-year-old.

Don't even bother to ask how I came to embrace this as truth. Clearly this isn't my first rodeo.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Be careful!

My niece helped me empty the car when we arrived home. She was a big help and carried in several loads. 

Later I heard her talking to her friend:  "Aunt Chris gave me her beloved art supplies. I took in her computer. She even had me carry in a stained glass window. Then she gave me her salt and pepper shakers and she said, 'Be careful with these.'"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Good News, Grace.

Good news, Grace!

The "water" that you slipped in that we thought was sewage actually was water!

I arrived at this conclusion with the help of the utility guys who came and dug up our entire side yard to replace the sewer pipe only to find that it wasn't broken. They said they didn't even know that a water pipe ran down the hill and would come "some other time" to fix it.

So maybe you'll want to come back and visit after all?

American Roads

I just found out that in the United States of America, roads that run east to west are even numbered and those that run north and south are odd numbered. Wow! "Information I could have used yesterday!" (Adam Sandler, The Wedding Singer.) In my case, I could have enjoyed awareness of this tidbit for the decades I've been driving. Wonder why nobody ever mentioned it to me?

In an informal poll of three women, two did not know this and the third, when grilled, admitted that her husband told her. Every man I queried knew this and appeared stunned that I did not.

It's no secret that I am directionally handicapped. Not only do I not know north from south, I have to look at my wedding ring to determine left from right. Even clockwise/counter-clockwise have been known to give me grief, especially when playing games.

Once, in seventh grade, our school band went on a bus trip to a solo and ensemble festival. It was on this outing that I first realized I am directionally deficient. We had a couple of hours between when we performed and when we were to leave for home so we walked downtown to explore. We went into a store and when we emerged from it, I had no idea - none - which way to turn to go back to the school. Panic!! Lucky for me my friends knew. (Note to self: Always shop with a friend.)

To this day, when faced with a decision to turn left or right, I almost always will choose the wrong direction. It would be funny if it weren't so frustrating. I make the correct choice just often enough that I can't say "I think I should go right, so I probably should go left." I do better with the landmark system. "Go to the red barn and turn right. When you get to the lake, turn right again."

The best way by far for me to get from Point A to Point B is to let my husband drive. He never, never gets lost. If he goes to a city once, he will know how to navigate it sixteen years later. He is gifted, I am handicapped.

Opposites really do attract.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Africa Hot

I'm trying to figure out how to describe the weather in my new state without sounding whiny. When I first arrived here in mid-May, it was already blazing outside and I told pretty much everyone I knew on the planet (and even a few strangers) how I felt about it. "If it's this hot in May, what will August be like?" I said one too many times. Turns out that this line of thought was irritating my husband more than a sore tooth. I had to stop.

I decided upon the phrase "Africa hot." It's descriptive and yet not offensive. I liked how it sounded when I said it, kind of perky and cute, a cheerleader of description. It also had the added plus of not annoying hubby. That in itself is reason enough to adopt it, so I did.

Yesterday, I was standing in my kitchen and a tear rolled down my cheek. Only I wasn't crying - it was sweat. And, I did mention that I was inside, didn't I?

Perhaps Africa hot is not accurate enough. From now on, maybe I'll just say I live east of Hell.

Friday, June 18, 2010

It's Relative

Some days start out innocently enough only to blossom into disaster before your very eyes. Yesterday was kind of like that.

Often I stay up too late and I had played one too many video games the night before, making that knock at the door at 8 a.m. seem evil. Guys had come to bury the cable at our new house but when they arrived, they found our lift station oozing sewage and that changed their plans. And mine. Before yesterday, I had no idea what a lift station was or why it was that I wanted one.


Just about the time I was figuring this out, the plumber (my new best friend) was figuring out how to get rid of it. "Sh** don't flow uphill" is the saying and, unless we want to spend a lot of money quite often, the saying is accurate in our case. To achieve the coveted downhill flow will involve excavation and roughly two years' worth of college tuition, but flushing toilets is rapidly climbing my personal "top ten" list of fun things to do. Like so many things that we take for granted, when we can't do it anymore, we realize just how much we enjoy doing it. Right about now, I'd pay pretty much anything for that privilege.


As soon as I broke the news to Dad that we wouldn't be able to flush our toilets for the next three days, he started packing up. He's decisive like that, able to make snap decisions and act upon them. I envy that trait. In ten minutes flat, my dad and his wife were in the car driving with ease up our remarkably steep driveway. 


I ought to give my little brother a heads-up call, but why spoil the surprise?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Manners

"Ain't no excuse for bad manners," my daddy would say. He would say that.... he has made a bunch of pronouncements like that since he arrived three days ago. Right now he is sitting in my dining room. I am hiding in the basement.

"Who's gonna tell Charlie about the hat?" my husband whispers to me. I have zero idea what he's referring to, so I just adopt my normal puzzled look and he takes the lead, walks in and says to my father (who has just spent two long days riding in his car to get to our house), "Charlie, you have to remove your hat at the supper table. My father was adamant about this rule: Shirts have to be worn, hats have to be off at the table." 

"Shirt?" Dad says in response. "Your Dad made you wear a shirt to the table?"

The question bouncing like a tennis ball around my mind is this: Which one of these guys is ruder, the one who wears the cowboy hat to the dinner table, or the host who tells him to take it off?