Sunday, March 31, 2019

Today I am grateful for Great-Grandma-on-a-Stick.  Ouch!  That sounds uncomfortable.  What did my sister and I do to our poor mother, now?  Nothing untoward.  My sister is visiting from Wisconsin and mom, at 92 and no longer able to endure travel, wanted to come along.  She was very sad she is unable to make the trip anymore, so my sister printed a life-sized picture of her and mounted it on a paint stick.  She’s here.


We met the Pennsylvania families for lunch yesterday at Andy’s Diner, a great restaurant in Conshohocken, PA.  They were unbelievably accommodating for our large crowd and I will write more on them another time because they deserve more accolades, but this one is about Great-Grandma-on-a-Stick.


My kids though we had lost our minds when we were taking pictures and my sister hauled out the paper photo-bomber.  The grandkids were mortified, therefore we had done our jobs.  Isn’t the mortification of the younger set the responsibility of the elder set?  In our family it is.  Apparently.


“Builds character,” my dad used to say when he was dancing with a mop at a high school dance he was chaperoning and I wanted to crawl under the linoleum.  “It wasn’t even that much smoke,” said my mom when she lit sparklers in McDonalds for the birthday of one of my sons and the fire department was called when the smoke alarms went off.  The older generation mortified us and now it’s time for us to carry that torch.  It’ll give those yungins something to talk about in later therapy sessions.


At one point our grown-ass sons got ahold of Great-Grandma-on-a-Stick and started messing around.  Big shocker there!  She got balanced in front of the face of Marilyn Monroe who is in subway statue pose at the entrance.  You remember the one. . . with her dress up around her waist.  That old woman, sitting in assisted living in Wisconsin would have loved this!  Just loved it.


Then another son balanced her in a cocktail glass where she looked just like another olive on a stick.  And she would have loved that, too.  Most importantly, she would love being remembered, not left out.  Included.  And loved.  Isn’t that what all of us want, even if we are put in silly situations by our families?  Like my good good-sport mom, who will forever after be referred to as Great-Grandma-on-a-Stick.

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Household Disorder

a kitchen curio

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Today I am grateful for household disorder.  And boy do we have a ton of it these days.  Through the magic of tax refunds, 0% interest, acts of God and equity lines of credit, we are making some home improvements.  Yea!  Yikes!


The carpeting in our entire downstairs main living area has been buckling like a damned washboard for years.  Years!  It makes me crazy every time I look at it and I live here so that’s a lot.  It’s buckled in the bedroom, the hall, the living room, the dining room.  We’ve been talking about getting it stretched for years. We talk and talk and then say, forget it, it’s too much work to even think about it. . .and table it for another six months.


Now we’re not tabling it anymore.  We pulled our heads out of the sand and realized that you don’t go to work emptying every single hutch. . .two huge ones in the dining room and a large three piece one in the living room. . .only to have 15 year old carpeting stretched.  You get new.  So we are.


The contents from my china hutches are now beautifully displayed on the living room shelf, which has been moved to the kitchen.  The hutches are pulled out from the wall and the room has been painted.  They can’t be reloaded until after the carpeting is in.


Our bedroom will be painted next week so our son is coming on Sunday to help us get some furniture out of there, which will land in the living/dining room.  We will take our box springs and mattress out on Tuesday night and “camp” in the living room until the job is completed.  Won’t that be fun?  Glamping with a wall of windows without curtains and a stop light on the corner that blinks red, yellow, green all night long in 30 second increments.  Himself could sleep through a level 8 earthquake.  I have a sleep mask and a remote control.


My mind is atwitter with where what will go and for how long and what can be put back and what should stay put until the carpeting is installed in two weeks.  Picture that little toy with the numbers we had when we were kids.  Move the one to get the eight out, slide up, slide down, slide over.  Or if you’re too young for that comparison, a Rubiks Cube that someone keeps messing with every time you’re close to getting it right. That’s us.  And our house.


Himself thought I was insane when I told him we were putting the pottery on the patio.  We have a lot of pottery.  Huge pottery.  I love it.  But it’s not as fragile as you think.  I hauled it from Indonesia and Mexico and it lived through that better than I did.  Plus all of it was outside when I bought it.  It’s pottery.  Pottery in any other land is utilitarian.  So it can sit out there and do its job.  Utilize the elements.  It will be fun for it.  Like visiting it’s childhood.


Our pantry cabinet is on a different wall because the “curio” shelf wouldn’t have fit otherwise and it’s throwing Himself into a tailspin.  The sunroom will be our POD, where everything we don’t know where to put will go.  Then there is the basement.  Oh my.  The basement.  I do not allow Himself to go down to paint his D&D creatures without taking something along that I won’t need right now.  It’s the same with upstairs.  If he’s going to play games on the computer up there, he has to take some crap up, too.  We have a lot of crap.  Cool crap.  Very, very cool crap.  Just a lot.


My sister is coming tomorrow for a visit so I’m going to have her help me box up the rest of the crap from the living room hutches.  Won’t that be a fun bonding thing?  I bet she can’t wait.  Timing is everything.  That crap can sit in the Sunroom-POD and count its blessings.  After all it doesn’t have to live in a box forever and actually has a home.


My possessions need to remember to be grateful.  Like Himself and me.  Otherwise we’ll never make it through this little spell of household disorder!  It’s going to be beautiful. . .?

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Muscle Memory, U-Tube & Natural Ability

a hairdo-long

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Today I am grateful for muscle memory, U-tube & natural ability.  Wow!  That’s a load to bear on a Sunday morning.  I tried to pick one but it didn’t fit the bill. I needed all three.


I was asked by a good friend to do the hair for the prom, of the German Exchange Student who is living with her this semester.  Wow!  (There will be a lot of “wow’s” through this piece, because it’s my word of the day.)  The girl could not afford to get her hair done professionally because it’s so long and of course that costs more. A lot more.


You already know I said yes, although after doing so I wondered if I had lost my mind.  I have not done hair professionally for 33 years.  Himself gets a haircut.  A few others have, too.  I might have done a style now and then, but never, ever in my life have I done hair this long.  It was brushing her hips, well below her waist.  Wow.  (Told you)


Before even saying I’d do it, I had her look for pictures of styles she liked and send them to me.  Okay, partially down with the top pulled back.  Easy peasy, right?  Except her hair is curly and all of the styles were of straight hair.  That meant I’d have to straighten it first, which, full confession now, I had never done before in my life.  Wow.


Also, when I became a hairdresser it was all about brush rollers, pin curls and sitting under the dryer for 12 hours.  It was about “teasing” and “backcombing” which is basically the same thing.  It was about wrapping huge curls aka Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl”.  It was nothing like I was about to do.


Also under the full-disclosure heading, I learned to use a curling iron on the job.  It was just getting popular when I was about to leave Wisconsin and move east.  While I know the concept and can manage, I’m not great at it.  I’m reminded exactly how clumsy I am whenever I watch my hairdresser fly through someone’s hair with one.  Wow.


When they arrived I had everything set up on the kitchen table, not because I wanted to be prepared, but because I was scared to death.  Himself thought I was opening a salon.  Clamps, clippies, combs, a flat iron I didn’t know I had, but probably someone who stayed here forgot to take with them.  If it was you, I have it, so let me know.  I found a very old curling iron and electric rollers. . . just in case.  Baffle them with equipment when you’re not sure if you have the necessary skill.  Wow.


The sweet young thing and my friend arrived and I sat her down to talk about what she wanted most.  I always did this when I worked as a hairdresser, because half the battle is communication.  Middle part, side part, looser curls, tighter curls, ears showing, not showing, etc., etc., etc.?  Then when I get some answers I talk reality.  Will it work with their hair?  Back in the day every white-haired-100-year-old lady wanted a cute bowl cut, “just like that ice skater, Dorothy Hamel.”  I’d tell them, “I only do the hair.”  Wow.


I had asked my friend to bring a flat iron and curling iron, too, not at all sure that mine would work, but mine were already hot so I started in.  I swear I almost had to lay on the floor to brush that hair all the way to the ends.  Even though I was cumbersome with the tool, I managed to get all of it pressed straight so I could begin styling.  Hello arthritis in my hands!  Wow.


Since I had never done this style, with the twist-braided-sort-of sides, I went on U-tube a few days ago and watched about a hundred videos of people doing long hair.  All in fast motion and all on hair a foot shorter than my girls. Geeze.  Slow it down so an old broad can get a clue.  I picked up just enough to think I could do it, which is probably why you hear so many bad singers on U-tube.  Ha-ha-double-wow!


My friend had to go run a few errands, which is a good thing, because at one point I panicked so badly that I got the flop sweats.  Good thing there was no mirror and I was standing behind her.  How in the Hell am I going to manage all of this hair and cover all of the pins and rubber bands?  My U-tube experience showed me how to cut out the rubber bands out so I felt very smug about that part, but boy, twisting that hair gave ME the bends.


U-tube also reminded me that curl will fall out of long hair unless you make big pin curls and clip them until it cools.  I knew that, but had forgotten, just like I have forgotten how to say, “No, I don’t think I can do that.”


After my panic-sweats, I got a grip and was wielding the curling iron like. . .well. . .like an arthritic old lady who understands brush rollers. . .but it was working.  I sent my young client on her way with bobby pins and clippies holding up the curls.  When she was dressed and ready to go, I instructed my friend to remove them, but don’t brush.  Just move them around with your hands.


I had put more hairspray on that hair than it had ever seen before, so I was concerned it would look crunchy and I wouldn’t be there to fix it.  No worries!  It turned out great and I couldn’t be more pleased.  Neither could she which is the absolute BEST!


She was thrilled.  And nervous.  And excited for her first dance, in a new country, with a nice boy. . .and a pretty, different hairstyle.  Whew.  It’s amazing what muscle memory, U-tube & natural ability can accomplish when set to a daunting task!  I needed every one of them!  Wow!  Wow!  Wow!

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Reality Check

a smiling seal

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Today I am grateful for a reality check.  Last Wednesday, a week ago, was the first time I had been back at my water aerobic class in almost a month.  I had missed it terribly along with the tribe of people I hang out with after.


Then last Thursday the pool was shut down for mechanical repairs.  Oh boy.  I barely started up again and now this?  I knew I could go to a different Y.  One is probably even closer to me and it’s a beautiful facility, except my tribe doesn’t go there.  Nice people do, sure, but not my tribe.


I bagged Friday, figuring I’d call MY pool over the weekend to see if they were functioning.  They weren’t.  They still aren’t.  So Monday I packed my 200 pound bag, 400 on the way out when everything is wet, and headed to the “other” Y.


I had an attitude like only I can, grousing about walking five miles up hill from the parking lot, then another two miles inside the enormous building, then to the women’s locker room which was the farthest from the entrance, then. . .blah, blah, whine, whine, you get the picture.  Of course, all of this was in my head.  I know I’m still facing a little more fatigue than usual so it was okay that I was tired, but that knowledge didn’t stop me from head-bitching.


Then the locker room floor was slippery, I couldn’t find the right pool and when I got in it was so warm it felt like a bath and there were 900 people so it was an exercise in not killing someone while exercising.


The showers were annoying, too.  There were no benches to put my stuff or rest and only two hooks on the wall.  I hung the bag with my shower stuff on one hook and it spun like the head of the girl in “Rosemary’s Baby” and puked my stuff to the soggy floor.  Swell.  The shower head was so high and poorly placed that if I stood under it I got smacked in the face.  I had to do a sort if wash ‘n rinse, like I was at a carwash without the big brushes.


Although the hair drying facilities are much better at the new place, by the time I left I had myself in a state, wishing against all hope that my regular pool would open soon.  By today.  But it didn’t.


So I packed the aforementioned 200 pound bag and headed out again this morning, parking in the hinterlands, schlepping my asthmatic self to the check-in desk and finding my way to the pool without throwing brownie crumbs on the floor to find my way back.


The pool was still too warm for me.  The music was too loud, yet the class was great but very intense and difficult, with the instructor accustomed to land aerobics and not allowing for water resistance movements.  Or was she?  Yikes.  Or am I still tired?  Yes.  I was working myself up to a full blown, Mary-on-a-mind-rant when I saw him.

He was led by a tall, straight, strong young man, who patiently held his spindly hand.  You could see the tension in his bent back and scrawny, underdeveloped legs, rigid and unforgiving as they maneuvered their way to the zero entrance ramp.  He was young, probably early 20’s give or take.  If I had to guess I would say he has cerebral palsy but I might be wrong.


His face was working as hard as his legs were trying to, as if by twisting his mouth he could straighten them.  He looked frustrated and in pain.  Down the ramp he went, helped off of the two steps by the railing and his caretaker, moving like a broken crab.


Then he hit the water!  The tension slid off of him like a snake skin in spring.  The anxiety in his face. . .gone.  He was a seal!  A slender, agile, fluid, smiling seal.  He glided across the water as if he was flawless, with strong legs and a straight back.  And for 30 minutes he was.  He didn’t have to think about moving, or mentally will his body to move.  He just moved.  Easy peasy.  Floating and paddling.  Buoyant and leaping.  Like a seal.  A happy, smiling seal.


Watching him through the gasps of my own workout was a major reality check for me.   I need to adjust my brain and count my blessings.  I should shut up about my pool being closed, the bad parking, the 200 pound bag and the annoying shower.  Going to a “different” pool is not a problem.  It’s a minor inconvenience.  Very minor.  I’ve had a reality check.  Reality?  Check!


I still miss my tribe.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Today I am grateful for warnings.  Aren’t circuit breakers great inventions?  It used to be that if you had a water leak into a plug or wiring it just started a fire and poof, your room or house are gone.  Wow.


It turns out that when Himself accompanied the gentleman from Bergey’s Electric to the basement to look at that reset button, it stayed it.  We could have had bathroom lights for most of the weekend, but I’m glad we didn’t.  If we had tried it again and it worked, we would have been settling for the quick-fix, not the correct one and might have cancelled the electrician.


I had no idea our problem was connected to outside plugs.  They have caps on, so how can water get into them?  Well guess what?  It did.  For some reason they were not installed correctly or sealed around the edge of the plate.  I’m pretty sure that rust on a plug is a bad thing.


Mr.  Electrician Gentleman asked if he should check the back plugs, too, and it’s a good thing we said yes.   When he took off the cover, water ran onto his fingers.  Yikes.


Everything is fixed and I didn’t have to flip out a credit card because they’ll send us a bill.  I was shocked because usually repair people won’t come in the door without payment.  I’m bracing myself for the total, but encouraged to know that it won’t be for an emergency call. . .and we won’t have a fire from faulty plugs.  Let our warning be your warning.  Be safe.


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Going Old School

a address and phone book

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Today I am grateful for going old school.  I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad, Willie, these days because he would have had his 95 birthday on the 14th.  My dad was old school all the way.  And he had a natural ability to problem solve any mechanical situation.  Wish he had been here this weekend.

Himself recorded the Villanova basketball game last night, even adding an hour to cover any overtime.  In the last five minutes, during a thunder storm, the power for the TV and our bathroom went off.  He missed the end of the game.  Oh boy.


That event set off a flurry of trips to the basement where he flipped every breaker and pushed every button,  including mine!  Up and down, up and down, up and down.  He turned the TV on, turned it off, turned the cable on, turned it off, tried to turn the bedroom lights on and there was nothing.  Repeat with the main TV until nothing worked, including my brain.  We were melting from the grid little by little, like the Wicked Witch under Dorothy’s house.


Outside and inside and up and down and I was exhausted from not giving a crap anymore so I just went to bed.  Without the TV on, which is odd for me. . .and using a flashlight in the bathroom, but hey I don’t want to look in the mirror anyway, so I kinda liked that part.


This morning began a series of marriage communication non-conversations the likes of which sent me into a storm of confusion and gave me a raging headache.  I had no clue what that intelligent man was trying to tell me about our situation.  It simply made no sense.  “. . .this is plugged into that and when the outside gets wet it trips the breaker and the bathroom lights are connected to the same breaker and I don’t know why the cable when out except it is plug into the same place. . .I think. . .”  What?


“So do we need Verizon or an electrician?” I ask, dialing Verizon, which as we all know is like taking all of the forks from your silverware drawer and stabbing them in your eyes and up your fingernails, then rotating them.  I was on hold with the twelfth recording of “your call is very important to us” when Himself re-appeared and said we needed an electrician.  Swell.


Having just gone to the local home show last night I pulled the card of an electrician that I had picked up and called him.  I put Himself on the phone even though he has difficulty hearing even if it’s on speaker.  He told the woman on the line what the problem was.  This time he was so articulate I understood.  Sort of.  Except he was talking to the answering service, not an electrician.  Swell.  Again.


She explained that because it was a weekend, emergency call, there would be a flat fee of $250 on top of whatever it cost to fix the problem.  Thanks, but no thanks.  I was prepared for a weekend of no lights in the bathroom and no TV, no internet, no landline, no sanity, but Himself was so looking forward to the NCAA that I had to re-think my frugality. “I could get tickets at Madison Square Garden and see the game in person for that price!” He said, totally delusional but I didn’t say so.


“I’ll look up another electrician on line,” I said.  Except we had no cable.  Silly me.  And no internet so even my cell wouldn’t go on line.  And no land line phone where I have so many numbers and could dial a friend, but probably not an electrician.  And no TV.  And I had no patience left.  “I’ll look in our address book,” I said.  “I must have an electrician in there.”  Yes, I did, but no phone number, just the name.  Why would I do that?  No clue.  “Do we have a phone book?” I asked Himself.


I remember the day that paper phone book was tossed on our porch.  Himself asked what to do with it.  “Recycle it,” I said.  “We’ll never use it.  I look numbers up on line.”  But he didn’t.  So I’m eating a phone book today on top of everything else.  I found the most common name in our area and called, getting a human with a brain on the line.  Oh boy.  Swell.  Yippee!


It was the showroom, but there was an electrician there and he was soon put on the phone.  “It will cost $225 just to come out today because it’s an off day and an emergency,” the guy said, then added, “I’m sorry about that.  What’s the problem?  Maybe I can help.”


I put Himself on who explained our situation in the most articulate detail I had heard to this point.  The man listened to every word, then said, “It sounds like that outlet is the problem.  If you can run a cord to another outlet and plug your cable into that, you should be good for internet and TV.  DUH!  Then if you can live without the bathroom lights for the weekend, we can come out Monday morning and save you a bunch of money.”  Bingo!


Himself ran to the basement like his butt was on fire and Jury-Rigged an extension cord making us internet, phone and TV operational.  Someone from Bergey Electric will be out on Monday at 8 a.m.! They haven’t even fixed it, yet and I’d hire them again. What a joy to talk to a human who believes in customer service, problem solving and not just the almighty dollar.  Old school. . .just like my dad. . .and that not-gonna-ever-be-recycled phone book!

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a water aerobic comic

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Today I am grateful for routines.  We all have our routines.  Maybe you grab a coffee before your eyes are even open.  Maybe you spend hours in the bathroom before you can become human.  Maybe it’s all about the TV or music or social media for you.


My routine for Monday, Wednesday and Friday (at least) is to go to the YMCA water aerobics class.  They say if you want to keep up with an exercise program, do what you love.  I love the water.  It nourishes me and feeds my soul. I’ve also made a lot of friends at the Y and I don’t even know some of their last names, but they are still friends.


Being down with pneumonia for almost a month kept me away from the pool. . .and my friends.  I kept in touch on email and social media, but there is nothing like the face-to-face communication I love so much.


Yesterday I felt like I had enough energy to go to the pool.  That might sound silly because the class isn’t that difficult, but weeks ago I had to sit in the shower because I didn’t have the energy to stand.  And if I went to the kitchen I’d have to rest in the dining room.  I had to plan bathroom trips so I wouldn’t have to rush.  Wow.  You get a greater appreciation for any kind of continuous movement when you have a spell like that.


So going to the pool meant I had to have enough energy to walk from the parking lot, organize my locker, get into the pool area, get out of the pool and shower, do my hair and sit and chit chat for an hour after.  Nailed it!


But the best part of it was all of the “welcome backs” I received.  Is there any better feeling in the world than seeing the faces of your friends light up when they see you?  One would notice I was there, tell another and soon there were happy waves all around the pool.  For me.  How nice.


Even during class people were checking with me to see how I was doing.  “I’m great except I feel like I’m wearing lead britches!”  It doesn’t take long to tank those muscles you work so hard to keep active.  Apparently only a month.


I will go back on Friday and can’t wait.  I’m so glad to be back in my routine.  Maybe soon it won’t include a two-hour nap when I get home.  I can dream.


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