Monday, June 19, 2017

Thank You for Not Sighing

Yes, I know we're behind schedule.


I knew we were behind schedule even before you started following me from room to room, only to stand there. Waiting. Silently.

And P.S.? Thank you for that. The silently waiting. Because if you were to audibly sigh, giving voice to your frustration, I would have to have to throat punch you. And then I'd probably feel bad and I'd have to take you to the emergency room and we would be really behind schedule.

I'm ready to go, now. Sort of.

I've been ready to go, sort of, since before you started following me from room to room, etc. It's just that about the time I was ready to go (sort of) the first time, I realized no one had fed the cat or cleaned his litter box.

So I fed and watered him. And cleaned his litter box.

And then I put everyone's breakfast dishes in the dish washer. Because I emptied the dishwasher right before I finished getting ready to go (sort of) the first time. Before you all finished breakfast. But that's beside the point.

Before that I had to round up the charging cords, double check to make sure I had the tickets, turn off the lights, sweep the floor, paint the hallway, re-roof the house, fell the tree, bale the hay, build the barn and check again for the tickets.

I wish I could be more spontaneous. I wish I could just walk out the door without a second thought.

But I can't.

Because I'm the Mom.

And if I don't feed and water the cat and clear the dishes, I will spend all day wondering how long it will take before the cat throws a fit and tears the house apart, or he at least jumps up on the counter and knocks all the dishes off. Or how long it will take before those dishes start growing mold and attracting bugs.

Or how disgusted the burglar will be when he breaks in and smells the dirty litter box and sees the moldy, bug-infested dishes scattered on the floor, and finds the cat happily stretched out on the counter, playing with the papers that should have been put in the recycling bin before we left.

Or how we will explain to the police that this is the mess the burglar made when he/she broke in, but that is the mess the cat made because we forgot to feed/water/clean his litter box, and there is the mess that we left on the table because we didn't want to be late.

And then the policeman will probably sigh.

And we'll really be late.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Double (Stuf) or Nothin'

The Health Food Tyrants have gone too far.

Have you seen a Double Stuf Oreo lately? I mean, have you actually taken the time to examine the ratio of mystery cream to bland cookie before stuffing it in your face?

There is no way Double Stuf are doubly-stuffed. They are barely single-stuffed.
Double Stuf? I don't think so.

A math teacher (with too much time on his hands) actually weighed and compared Double, Single and Thins in 2013 and – indeed – found that Double Stuf do not contain twice as much Stuf as Single Stuf. But that's not my point. My point is that Double Stuf don't contain as much Stuf as Double Stuf used to. I'd go so far as to say you have to eat double the Double Stuf to get half as much Stuf as Double Stuf used to have.

(BTW: Don't even get me started on “Thins” which look like someone whispered “stuf” from the other side of the factory as the stacks of cardboard cookie shapes were packaged.)

(While we're off the subject: Yes. I did walk five miles, uphill – both ways – through snow, while being chased by velociraptors to get to school.)

I did not buy Double Stuf Oreos because I was being health conscious. I did not buy Double Stuf Oreos thinking they were a low-calorie food. I did not buy a family-sized (Pfft! Family of pigmy mice, maybe!) package of Double Stuf Oreos, sneak them into the house under cover of darkness, hide them in the back of the cupboard behind the expired canned goods, then quietly open them at 6:30 a.m. after my morning workout while everyone else was sleeping, because I thought they were good for me.

No. That's what the bananas, which are conveniently located on the counter – splotchy brown and drawing fruit flies – are for. That's what the shriveled up apples in the crisper drawer are for. That's what the bag of mushy, liquifying, slightly grey and fuzzy . . . well, I'm not sure what it is/was . . in the veggie drawer is for.

You do not need a PhD in nutrition to know that Double Stuf Oreos (or any Oreos) are not a type of health food. Nothing that creamy and delicious, nothing that melts so delightfully on your tongue, leaving that slightly buttery, vaguely nauseating film in your mouth could be good for you. Without even looking at the package I could tell you the ingredients for that mysterious but crave-able filling are, most likely: sugar, sugar, fat, soylent green, and more sugar.

And I'm OK with that. In moderation. On occasion.

I bought this particular package of so-called “Double Stuf” cookies because I was feeling a little down and needed some comfort food. I needed to do a little emotional eating. I needed a chance to wallow in a bad food choice and then regret it and vow never to eat them again. Or until I was feeling blue again.

What was I sad about when I bought them? I have no idea. See? It worked.

Why am I sad now?

I'm out of cookies.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

There's No Nest, Like an Empty Nest

It is 9 a.m. and I am alone in the house.

I have forgotten what silence sounds like.

There is no chatter from the other room. No laughter, no muttering. No radios. No doors opening and closing.

My car is the only one in the driveway.

The nest is empty.

There is no pitter-patter of workboots on the stairs, no hiss-bang of an air compressor, no smack-smack-smack of nail guns, no whirrrrrrrring of a radial saw.

The contractors are gone.

After an intense three-month push – a daily parade of electricians, drywallers, woodworkers, painters, insulation-ers, flooring-ers, and multi-taskers – the kitchen is finished and the contractors are gone. Work continued right up to the last minute to finish and polish, clean and stage for a builders' “parade of homes” – a sort of graduation party without the cake.

And now it is done.

I sit alone in my office – my office, not a corner of the living room, not a corner of The Princess's room/overflow storage – my office, sipping coffee I made in the kitchen – the kitchen, not the craft room/temporary kitchen, not The Princess's room/overflow storage/temporary office – the kitchen, basking in the delicious silence, and trying to remember how to think in solitude.

The cat, who has spent the last three months hiding under the bed from noises and strangers and strange noises is . . . well, hiding under the bed, because he is a cat, after all, and who knows why cats do anything. But now his movements are languid as he oozes out from under the bed skirt, stretches lazily, and saunters to the hallway. Despite his sanguine manner, his half-lidded stare, his lackadaisical yawn, there is an attentiveness to his posture as his sits, ears erect, keeping watch down the hallway, ready to growl and retreat at a moments notice.

And he is right.

They will be back.

A year-and-a-half into this project – beset with setbacks as are all remodeling projects – we are about three-quarters of the way done. A large portion of the basement ceiling is MIA, a casualty of plumbing and heating repairs, replacement and upgrades. There will be more insulation, more flooring, more painting, more air compressors and saws and nail guns.

This empty nest, like most, is welcome but fleeting.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Cell Phone Fable-tale

Once upon a time, a family of four bears got new cell phones.

Papa Bear and Baby Bear got their phones first. They transferred the data from their old phones to the new phones with no problem.

“Easy peasy,” said Papa Bear.

“Lemon squeezy,” said Baby Bear.

“So, all I have to do to make my new phone work is read the instructions and follow directions?” asked Mama Bear.

“That's right,” said Papa Bear.

Baby Bear rolled his eyes.

Sister Bear got her phone next. She transferred the data from her old phone to her new phone with no problem.

“Easy peasy, lemon squeezy,” said Sister Bear.

“So, all I have to do to make my new phone work is read the instructions and follow directions?” asked Mama Bear.

Sister Bear rolled her eyes. Then she went online and found instructions on how to activate “Grandparent” mode, making the Galaxy s7 “super easy” to use. Then she rolled her eyes again.

At last, Mama Bear got her new phone.

“So, all I have to do to make my new phone work is read the instructions and follow directions?” Mama Bear asked Papa Bear.

Papa Bear rolled his eyes.

Mama Bear carefully took the phone and all the accessories and instructions out of the box. She read the instructions thoroughly, because the instructions had big pictures and few words. She followed the directions and called the 800 number to transfer service to her new phone. She followed directions to turn off her old phone. She followed directions to turn on her new phone. She watched the spinning circle and read the cheerful greeting.

The cheerful greeting said it could take up to five minutes to transfer service.

She waited and watched the spinning circle spin some more.

“Is it supposed to take this long?” she asked Papa Bear.

“It takes a while,” he said, rolling his eyes, “but it's easy.”

Mamma Bear waited and watched and surfed the net on her laptop and looked at all the pictures from Billy Joel's latest concert at Madison Square Garden and played a game of spider solitaire and checked her email again and repainted the Sistine Chapel.

Finally, the spinning circle stopped spinning.

The cheerful message told Momma Bear the data from her old phone could not be transferred to her new phone.

Mamma Bear considered throwing the phones across the room, but it was a very small room and she figured they would probably ricochet and hit her in the head, killing her or causing extensive brain damage. At the very least she knew she would have to clean up the mess herself.

Mamma Bear cussed and read the instructions even more carefully. She Googled “How to Transfer Service” and cussed some more. She followed the directions she found on Google. She looked through her secret files to find the WiFi password. She found the WiFi password. She found her Googlemail password, her social security number the name of her great-great-grandmother's dog's veterinarian's cousin's neighbor's first-grade teacher, the square root of Pi, and her natural hair color. She typed it all in.

None of her information transferred.

“That's OK, “ Mamma Bear sighed, “I can put all those numbers in by hand.” Then Mamma Bear tried calling the home phone land-line number, just to check out her fancy new cell phone.

It didn't ring. Service had not transferred.

Mamma Bear tried to call from her old cell phone. No service there, either.

Mamma Bear considered punching a wall, but the contractors had just installed new drywall and she didn't want to impede progress.

Mama Bear took a nice, hot, relaxing shower. She poured a glass of wine. She poured a BIG glass of wine. She took a deep breath.

Mama Bear turned the new phone off. She did another Google search. She told Google what they could do with their search results. She told Samsung what they could do with their 3-step instructions. She took a wild guess.

It worked.

“Easy peasy,” she said.

“My ass.”

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Greetings From The Great Beyond

If you are reading this without an Ouiji board or a crystal ball, color me surprised.

Apparently, without my knowledge or consent, I have expired and passed to the other side. At least that is my conclusion after trying to communicate with my son – the boy child formerly known as The Little Prince, when I was not so annoyed with him.

I have become accustomed to talking at the boy, but lately I've noticed my words seem to bounce right off him and fall to the ground at his feet without so much as ruffling the bushy mass of hair hanging over his ears.

At first I assumed that the poor thing had had been struck deaf – perhaps as a result of playing the drums, or from listening to heavy metal music. But he seems perfectly capable of hearing the TV, his friends' cars arriving curb-side, and the ding of the microwave.

I accepted the increasing one-sidedness of our talks as typical teenage boy behavior. After one recent exchange – which I took to be a semi-active discussion, but turned out to be a monologue – he replied with his usual noncommittal shrug and vague grunt.

*Shrug* Eh.”

I interpreted this as “Yes, Mom. I understand what you're saying, agree with your conclusion and will endeavor to act in accordance with your wishes.” Especially after I point blank asked him “Do you understand? Can you do that?”

Instead, what he really meant was “*Shrug* Eh.”

Or perhaps, “    .”

Maybe even, “     !”

But more likely, “      “

There is a chance I've brought on this escalation of indifference myself. Frustrated by his ever-shrinking verbal exchange rate, I told him I was going to set a daily word goal for him. I was hoping to squeeze 20 words per day out of him.

He was thinking of a smaller number.

Like zero.

Of course, if he is purposely rationing his responses, that means that he can hear me – even if he chooses not to listen.

Which is good.

Because I really hope hears me when I tell him I hope that someday (in the far, distant future) he has a child just like him.

Friday, April 7, 2017

If You Can't Stand the Heat, Get Rid of the Kitchen

The remodel reached the critical mass stage – or perhaps that is critical mess stage – as destruction of the kitchen commenced.

Right now, the area once occupied by cabinets, appliances and food is utterly and completely empty. It is also much larger, as we succumbed to the HGTV mantra of “open concept.” It is now a straight, open shot from front to the back of the house, from the living room through the kitchen to the dining room. One caveat not disclosed on television programming: no walls to obstruct the view also means no walls on which to place light switches.
Open concept, front door to the back door.

But that is a different worry for a different day.

My immediate concern is organizing a makeshift kitchen in the recently completed craft room. Recently completed as in I had just enough time to organize and then completely dis-organize this cozy room, before pushing all that mess to one side to make room for totes and boxes filled with kitchen stuff.

Totes and boxes which are, of course, completely dis-organized.

Despite my haphazard planning and chaotic implementation, I have absolutely no idea where anything is. I tried to be methodical, packing like-items together, but that requires time, energy and attention – resources I exhausted in about 15 minutes.

My original plan was to pack the contents of each cabinet in its own tote, tote the totes downstairs, then recreate the same cabinet layout with the totes. This may have worked, if my cabinets hadn't been so poorly organized to begin with. Then there's the whole time/energy/attention thing.

Actually, when I had all the boxes and totes scattered about the kitchen, it made some sort of sense (to me). I packed all (most) of the pots and pans together. I packed all (most) of the dishes together. Same with the glasses, bowls, spices and all that stuff that had been pushed to the back of the cabinets and forgotten about. I packed it all (most) together.

It's that (most) part that gave me fits. Somewhere along the way I had to tweak the ratio of “all” to “(most)” in order to create the proper ratio of “weight” to “breakage potential.” Then I started filling in the cracks with “what the heck is this” and “why do we have this” in order to balance the ratio of “time is running out” to “just get this crap packed up.”

It was much easier to move the food items. Once I culled all the foods that were past their expiration dates I only had about half as much to transport. On the other hand, I found twice as many snacks that I had hidden from the rest of the family but then forgot about. I dutifully found new hiding spots for them, then promptly forgot where I stashed them, so that's a wash. Unfortunately my new food-organization system is so well organized (unlike my previous system) that I still can't find what I'm looking for, despite the wide-open shelving concept.

All it not lost, however. One of the first things I did was to set up the coffee maker and necessary accoutrements in my temporary office/ the Princess' bedroom/ the cat's refuge.

It's all about priorities.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Fake It Till You Make It (Down the One-Way Street)

I learned something the other day, while in the People's Republic of Iowa City:

If you find yourself driving down a one-way street going the wrong way, you should look surprised – nay, irritated – to see another car coming at you in “your lane.”

If you look irritated enough, the driver of the other car – the car going the right way on the one-way street – may question whether or not they are actually driving the right way on the one-way street.

At least, they will if that driver is me.

There I was, driving in the left lane of the 2-lane, one-way street (Clinton St.) where it swoops around the back of the Johnson County Administration Building, cursing my luck for being in the left lane, which becomes a turn-only lane at the stop light at South Gilbert and wondering which of the nice people in the long line of cars zipping along in the right lane would be so kind as to let me merge in front of them when I looked up and . . .

Saw a car ahead of me. In my lane. Coming at me.

At that moment I discovered that when a crash seems imminent time slows, and your senses are enhanced so that you can take in a plethora of information.

What I thought: “Oh my! That car is going the wrong way on this one-way street. Surely they will pull into that driveway up ahead so as to avoid a head-on collision.”

What I actually said: “Ohshitohshitohshitohshit.”

What I could plainly read on the face of the driver of the oncoming car: “I refuse to let my driving be restrained by the arbitrary assignment of directions to streets. Maybe this street has self-identified as a two-way! How dare you impose your bourgeoisie ideas about 'way-ness' on this street. Get out of my lane, you capitalist, sexist, 'way-ist' pig! (And don't call me Shirley.)”

What I thought: “Crap. That driver looks pretty confident. Maybe I am going the wrong way. Maybe I should try to get over.”

What I actually said: “Ohshitohshitohshitohshit.”

What I could plainly read on the face of the driver of the car beside me in the right lane after I pulled as close to the center line as I could and they honked at me: “What the X@! do you think you're doing? Oh, hey, look at that! You are about to have a head-on collision with someone who is going the wrong way on this one-way street. Sucks to be you.”

What I thought when I turned my attention back to the oncoming car: “Oh crap! They aren't pulling into that driveway!”

What I said: “Ohshitohshitohshitohshit.”

What I could plainly read on the face of the driver of the next car to zoom past me in the right lane: “Hey, look at that! You're about to have a head-on collision with someone going the wrong way on this one-way street. Sucks to be you. But I'm not going to let you merge in front of me because I have an old clunker of a car and you would be doing me a favor if you would crash into me.”

Me: “Ohshitohshitohshitohshit.”

Driver of the third car in the right lane: “Hey! Look at that. Someone is going the wrong way on this one-way street and they are about to run head-on into this car which has come to a complete stop and is trying desperately to merge into my lane. Sucks to be them. But it would suck even more if they ran into my nice, new, shiny car, or if debris from their head-on collision were to dent my nice, new, shiny car, so I suppose I will let them merge in front of me. But I will scowl at them menacingly, so they will realize how put out I am by them driving down a one-way street the right way and their narrow-minded insistence that everyone pay attention to and follow road signs.”

Me, as I pull into the right lane seconds before the car going down the one-way street the wrong way hit me head-on: “Thankyouthankyouthankyou.”

Driver of the car going down the one-way street the wrong way, who still has not pulled over or slowed down, as they pass me: “Idiot. I scorn you and your weak, lane-changing, bourgeoisie avoidance of a head-on collision. Question road-sign authority! Viva la Revolution!”

My take away from the whole situation? Fake it till you make it. Or until you make someone else get out of your way.