Monday, May 31, 2010

When the cat's away, the mice will play... or catch the house on fire

When I left my two-year-old at home with my 36-year-old for the weekend I was well aware that my roles as wife, mother, cooker, cleaner, motivator, and giver of unintentionally condescending looks were crucial to the functioning of this household, but when I walked in to find Story (the two-year-old) in a diaper and boots, covered head-to-toe in soot and blue Sharpie, and Justin (the 36-year-old) practically in tears on a pile of blankets on a pile of clothes on the couch, I had to re-evaluate my true value.

As it was told to me everything was going really well until Saturday morning when, after putting Story down for a nap and dozing off himself, Justin woke up to the smell of burning plastic and flames licking the ceiling of the bedroom. We knew that we had potential electrical problems, but for whatever reason these potential problems became kinetic that Saturday when the new alarm clock caught fire. Luckily someone was home to panic, consider calling 9-1-1, and then pummel the flames with our equally new pillows, slinging melted plastic and alarm clock organs all over the walls and carpet. After the fire, he said, he just gave up on the house-cleaning aspect of his endeavor. What did it matter to have a box of rice thrown from the counter top when the entire bedroom was covered in thick black tar-like dust? What is the point of putting the dirty dishes in the dishwasher when the side table has been reduced to charcoal?

Despite my hatred of walking in to a dirty house, I had to feel sorry for Justin (only after recovering some sense of what his weekend must have been like, and his knowledge of the fact that I would be extremely disappointed and probably furious). "I wanted so badly to for you to walk in and be impressed with me," he said half mad that I wasn't, and half acknowledging that I had no reason to be. I was impressed though, there was evidence that he really had good intentions, the curtain rods that I've been asking him to hang for months were hung, and while there was a black blanket of soot all over everything, the rice that was on the floor was cleaned up, the dirty dishes were at least in the sink, and Story seemed like he kind of enjoyed looking like a burned-up Smurf. So, as always seems to be the case, what was intended for evil, God made good because today the two of us cleaned, rearranged, and redecorated the house - redecorated as in we hung some pictures and moved a clock. It looks a lot better now, better than it did before I left.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Chapter Called Confusion

Do the rest of you have moments when you step outside the life you're living and into the world of all that could have been and is possible? And you feel this, well, I guess you'd call it potential welling up inside of you that is either being totally realized or completely wasted, only you don't know which it is because you're so busy realizing or wasting it on day-to-day functioning. I've always spent a lot of my time being very confused and frustrated because of these moments which can actually stretch out for days. I've never been sure of what I'm thinking or feeling. I can't distinguish between what I hope for and what I'm afraid of. I don't know if something is good or bad. I find myself thinking what, really, is my purpose? Where the am I and how the hell did I get here? Is it stress? Maybe it's a spiritual problem, maybe it's just problem with making decisions.

Sitting at Mom and Dad's house in Chicago this evening, in their bedroom/Dad's office, listening to Gillian Welch on Prairie Home Companion, a baseball game on mute on the TV, Dad doing his stretching after his walk, Mom changing clothes for about the 13th time today and organizing things that she'll never use the rest of her life, I had one of those moments. That feeling of things being intensely right, or intensely wrong. And I could have cried from happiness, fear, or frustration at not knowing which it was.

Maybe this is what it is to be 20-something. Maybe this is what it is to be me, being 20-something and having one child in one state and one in the other, to have parents who need me and a family who needs me too, to have all these un-realized dreams and all these other dreams realized. It's so confusing and I don't like thinking about it. The rest of you get those moments too right? This makes sense? Maybe my 30's will be different. Maybe I just shouldn't listen to Gillian Welch anymore.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Home Ownership

There are worse things that could happen to your feet than having cold water squish up between your toes whilst walking across the carpet in your two-year-old's room at 6:30 in the morning. Stubbing your toe on the corner of the dresser in the middle of the night with a glass of juice in your hand, for one, is pretty bad, or getting up off the couch only to step in what you're praying is milk-soaked Raisin Bran that has somehow been spilled on your new living room rug by a careless child, that's a bad one. The cold water thing is up there on the discomfort scale though, and that's what I've been dealing with, consistently, for a month. The other stuff has happened too, but not every day.

At first I thought there was water getting in from outside, so after inspecting the outside of the house on my hands and knees I found a few potential culprits and got a can of that silicone foam stuff that gets about 500 times it's original size as it dries. I didn't know that when I was filling holes though and now have giant yellow foam stalagmites all over the outside of my house.

Apparently what I did was fill every hole that was allowing the water to drain because about the time the foam was dry Story's room became a humid marshland. As I was walking down the hallway, discouraged, I felt water coming up between the slats of laminate flooring and finally realized that the water was coming from the air conditioner, which is in a tiny closet off the hallway. Now that I think about it I'm pretty sure I remember hearing dripping sounds when the air was on. I feel like a fool.

I tried to fix it myself, reasoning that it was condensation from a cold copper pipe, which I lovingling bundled with towels and then shop-vac-ed Story's carpet all prepared for it to dry thouroughly. That didn't work either and after putting pie tins and buckets to catch the now steady stream of water (it could still be condensation, it's really humid here) flowing from the cold pipe, I caved and called a plumber, or electrician, I don't know what he was. Not a plumber, I guess, when I asked him if he could fix the garbage disposal he said I had to call a plumber. I thought guys who had names on their shirts knew how to fix anything, I'd have had the guy look at my car which is slow to start these days if I had been home. He acted like the air conditioner should be a quick fix though, unknowingly insulting my efforts over the past month.

So, after a month of sloshing around and trying to fix it myself, it's finally running right. Now I've just got to figure out how to fix the carpet, the laminate floor, and the foam pillars outside.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Okay, it's been awhile since my last post and I apologize. I'm committing myself to writing more regularly... starting next week sometime. The series finale of of "Lost" is on tonight and after an entire season of actually watching every week (which is maddening) as opposed to waiting until they come out on DVD and watching them in one sitting, commercial-free, I'm not going to let any "responsibilities" ruin my night. The kids have been informed that they're on their own (Story too - no food or bath tonight), the husband has been tucked away in the bedroom with instructions not to talk, the air conditioner is left to spew water all over the floor (a story for another time), and dishes, laundry, and the sopping wet carpet in Story's room (air conditioner problem) are left to nature's course, just for tonight. I'll be back with it tomorrow, Story will be really hungry. Thanks for sticking with me.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Bright Light

From our black hole of fashion and acceptable sandwiches, my little corner of the River Valley emerges. Tonight all of Russellville is celebrating because TJ Maxx just opened it's doors for the first time in our town. For those of us who are too young for the over-embellished blouses in the women's department and too old for the shirts with the clever catch phrases in the junior's department at Belk this means that we can finally quit scavenging for clothes that are suitable for our age group, and we can completely remove the word "Belk" from our vocabulary (Is that a family name? It embarrasses me to say it, it just sounds weird). Not only that but Dover is getting a Subway - the sandwich shop, of course. Which is just as great because the nearest place for me to get quick food is Sonic, which is decidedly the best place on the planet to get drinks, but is lacking in their ability to prepare any food that tastes like something other than grease. They keep saying that we're going to get a Red Lobster, but they're having trouble with the liquor license, at least that's the rumor. No alcohol is sold in Pope County, unless you're the unsavory North 40 Club by the Interstate (40 - hence the name) where they also sell crack and women in the parking lot. We don't want Red Lobster coming in here with their fruity mixed drinks and tarnishing our good reputation.

Most days I miss the city, and I always miss my family but on a day like today I feel a little closer. Mom always liked places like TJ Maxx. She got so excited about all the deals on housewares, which explains her entire closet full of sheets and towels. Now I can exasperate and bewilder Story with that same excitement. There was a Subway right across from my apartment in Chicago. Dad used to go there and get their cookies, and I suspect that he only soldiered through eating the sandwich so that he could justify eating the cookies, and the walk over there in 0 degree weather. Red Lobster is awesome, I don't care where you live, but I'm not holding my breath for that one, and for what it's worth I think they deserve the liquor license way more than the North 40. I'm scared to drive by that place after sundown.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Big Green Egg

When got to work on Friday Trish said that the owner, who has to walk through our office and make sure we're working to get to his office, wasn't going to be there that day. She said he was going to some Green Egg thing. As Easter wasn't that long ago I my mind immediately latched on to that and tried to make sense of why someone would hold some sort of color-biased egg hunt weeks AFTER Easter. Apparently, and I've been seeing them everywhere ever since this incident, a Green Egg is a grill that is green and egg-shaped and is special because it smokes AND grills and costs over $1,000, which, I assume, is why people have entire conventions celebrating this wonder of grilling technology.

I asked Trish what people do at an "EGGfest," which we're were foolishly calling a "Green Egg Convention." She didn't really know, other than that people go crazy over these grills. I just now went to the official "Big Green Egg" website, which is how I know that they're called "EGGfests," and the people who attend them are "EGGheads." The website of course offers a full catalogue of Green Egg merchandise (including special charcoal), an events calendar, the "EGGhead Forum" and information about the annual "EGGtoberfest." There's also Dr. BBQ, who is "constantly on the go," traveling all over the country with his EGGS, autographing cook books and such. I still don't really know what happens at an EGGfest other than that people come from all over, campers in tow, with their Green Eggs and pounds of prime smoking and grilling meats, then I guess the husbands just talk and maybe play some music and trade grilling techniques while the wives laugh about how crazy their husbands are about their new grills and trade recipes and everyone hopes to catch a glimpse of Dr. BBQ.

I'm not much of a meat eater, but I like good grilled stuff, I'm sure the Egg would make fantastic grilled vegetables. I'm not much of a convention-attender, but I like good stories, and I'm quite sure I could find a few at an EGGfest. I never have gotten the nerve up to ask my boss about an EGGfest because I'm afraid he'll think I'm either trying to flatter him or embarrass him. The nearest EGGfest coming up is the "Green Eggs and Jam" in Branson, MO though, which is not too far. I don't have a Big Green Egg, but I think they'd be accepting of all kinds at an EGGfest, maybe I'll run into him there.

(Bring it on, Google Adsense).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Beware the Rickles

Today wasn't a great day. Story is sick, I'm not feeling good, work was a little overwhelming what with all the actual work to do after a week of secretive Internet surfing and two hour lunch breaks, plus today was payday which for most people is a good thing, but for me it just means I tap my feet all day and take deep breaths that make passers-by think I'm getting exasperated with them, all because I'm so anxious about paying the good people who provide our electricity, phone service, cable, and water, then pocketing the eight dollars that's left over - for emergencies. My day was not so bad as Justin's though. I didn't get stood up by a guy I was supposed to meet to get my paycheck for the past month of work, I didn't run out of gas on the interstate after said meeting, and I didn't get held hostage by Mr. Rickle.

Mr. Rickle is a mail carrier a county over from us. He has a yard full of stumps (notice my use of the present-tense) and asked Justin to come out and give him as estimate. So after getting rescued from the side of the road and given a little bit of money to hold him over until no-show-guy mails a check, he went to Mr. Rickle's house to measure the stumps. Estimates are free in the stump-grinding world, so spending two hours in the heat measuring tree stumps makes that price drop because the thought of doing all that for nothing is unacceptable. The figure Justin came up with was substantial, but it's about the best old Rickle is going to get for that many stumps. His wife didn't have a problem with it when Justin quoted it to her and she was ready to go on the whole deal, she just wanted to call her husband to run it by him. Justin was surprised when she handed the phone to him, but didn't think anything of it when Mr. Rickle asked if him could hang out for about 15 minutes, he was on his way home and wanted to talk to him, presumably stump grinding. Justin sat on the back porch and chatted with Mrs. Rickle and drank some sweet tea and was again surprised to see Mr. Rickle storming around the side of back porch accusing him of taking advantage of his wife. Apparently, after the shock of hearing a figure higher than about $30 and a one-minute phone conversation, Mr. Rickle was able to deduce that Justin is a crook, what he does for a living with his "glorified yard tiller" is a joke, that he was quoting an inflated price to Mrs. Rickle because she's a woman and wouldn't know any better (stupid women), and both he and Mr. Rickle knew it. About that time Justin got up to leave, saying that obviously he wasn't going to get this particular job, and that he didn't want to continue wasting Mr. Rickle's and his own time, only to find that Mr. Rickle had blocked his truck in by parking behind him - perpendicularly. As Justin was asking him to move his truck Mr. Rickle was threatening to call the Better Business Bureau, and Justin explained that in order for him to lodge a complaint, they had to actually do business, and in this particular situation he was the only one out time and money that he would never get back. But Mr. Rickle wouldn't let him go, kept insisting that he was not going to move his truck. His reasoning behind keeping him there neither Justin nor I can figure out, unless it was just to wear him down with accusations of indiscretions with his wife and being a crook, then, with Justin in a weakened condition, steal the stump grinder for himself (it's an enviable machine) so he can charge people "extravagant" amounts of money for doing hard labor all day long in ninety-degree heat. Mr. Rickle never did move the truck. About the time Justin was threatening to either take out the truck behind him or the flower bed in front of him Mrs. Rickle moved the truck, and here I thought women shouldn't drive. Justin left and that was it for Mr. Rickle. I assume he just went back to work (insert postal worker joke here). Justin came home dirty, penniless, and defeated. And I thought I had a long day. (Names have been changed to protect myself from getting in trouble by the Better Business Bureau).