Tuesday, February 19, 2013

907. Routine Maintenance Is Ruining My Life

I am pretty much shocked when a light bulb burns out.  I take it as a personal affront.  Don’t get me started on when the smoke detector goes off because the battery is dying.  Put gas in the car, you say?  I just filled it up 300 miles ago! 

Routine maintenance sneaks up and punches me in the face several times a week. 
Dishes need to be washed, laundry needs to be done—sure, I expect that.  But when I suddenly see a thick layer of dust on top of a picture frame?  A frame that I know I just dusted a mere few days ago, or was it months now? 

I want my life to be more fun.  More going to Broadway musicals and Paris for the weekend and less having my shoes re-soled.  Since when do shoes wear out?!  I have only been wearing these lovely new shoes nearly every day for, can it be, a year?  They were really expensive, so shouldn’t that guarantee that they will last forever? 
Roofs apparently need to be replaced every 10 years.  Dryer vents are supposed to be cleaned out after every load of laundry.  Toilets require scrubbing, at least on a semi-annual basis.  Who knew? 

I have this almost child-like sense of wonder when a sock gets a hole in the toe.  How did this happen?  I should buy a pair of socks, wear them as frequently as I like, and then throw them out in 20 years if I get bored with them.  Not the other way around.  The socks shouldn’t get to dictate the duration of our sock/ person relationship!      
But somehow the things in my life are ganging up on me and calling it quits.  Just this week, two light bulbs in two separate rooms flickered and went out forever.  It was almost like they were saying, “Ha!  We know you spent $2.37 on each of us, and it’s over now, baby!”  You know, mocking me.  Last week, the doorknob to the laundry room came off in my hand (luckily I was on the outside of the laundry room, or I might still be stuck there and writing this blog via Morse code or smoke signals).  I was so taken aback—since when do doorknobs need to be replaced or reattached? 

“Have you changed the oil in your car lately, Hon?” calls out The Husband.  I don’t even know what that means.  Change the oil?  I put gas in recently, maybe it is the same thing. 
“MOV, what are you, like, Amish now?  Change the oil.  You have to do it every couple thousand miles or so.  If the oil isn't changed often enough, you can end up with accelerated wear and all the engine problems that come with it (loss of performance and fuel economy, and increased emissions and oil consumption),” he concludes, sounding suspiciously like Wikipedia or Yahoo Autos. 

“Will you do it for me?” I beg, trying to appeal to his macho husbandy side that wants to protect me from dragons and avalanches and talking to gas station people who want to overcharge me for car-ish things that I don’t understand (“Ma’am, you’re going to need a new carburetor.  And I hate to tell you this, but if you keep driving your car the way you do, you’ll have a cracked engine block in no time.  And it also looks like you let your windshield fluid drop to dangerously low levels.”). 
“No, MOV, you are perfectly capable of driving your car a half mile to the gas station and having them change the oil.  It’s not a big deal.” 

Just then, my younger son storms into the room. 
“I am not doing my homework,” he announces with a mix of anger and despair.  “Homework is dumb!  Every day, we have to do homework, and just when you think it is over and you don’t have to do any more, then guess what—even more homework.  It never ends.” 

I know exactly how he feels. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

906. Tall, Taller, Tallest

I have always been tall.  I was the girl in the back row of every photograph in elementary school.  I was always last in line when we had to line up shortest to tallest in junior high.  I was chosen first for basketball and volleyball teams (well, until it was proven that there was zero sports talent to complement my height). 

Eventually, I stopped growing at 5’8”.  The perfect height. 
Unless you are shopping for clothes. 

For some reason, women’s clothes are made for short people.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that 99% of the clothes we buy come from China and the Chinese are not known for their tall stature.  Maybe designers are just playing a cruel joke on tall women by forcing them to buy t-shirts that will shrink to expose their edge of their stomachs, and sweaters that will show their wrists.  Who knows.  What matters is that I have no choice but to buy the majority of my clothing in the teen boys’ department of Target.  Because Target understands that teen boys are eight feet tall with long arms. 
I am getting tired of wearing these Target t-shirts.  I would like to buy a lovely floral print t-shirt that fits in length as well as width, and does not show the world my belly button.     

I ask The Husband if he has this issue. 
“You do know I’m 6’4”, right?” he asks.  “My whole life has been one long series of discrimination.” 

I wait for him to tell me the horrors of never finding the right size plaid shirt at L.L.Bean, but then he goes and surprises me: 
“Well, for one thing, doors can be too short, especially in older buildings or attics.  I bump my head a lot.  I am forced to crouch, and I don’t want to crouch.” 

I had not thought of the door thing.    
“Also, people are always asking me to do things for them.” 

Do things?  What kind of things? 
“Reach stuff, hand them stuff, put stuff back.  They just assume, ‘Hey, he’s tall!  He won’t mind handing me something from the top shelf.’  This happens a lot.  At the grocery store, Costco, work, you name it.” 

I had not been a victim of the Perpetual Handing Demands myself.  This was a new form of tall-ism that I had yet to be exposed to. 
Now The Husband is on a rant.  “I’m like, buy a step-stool, people!  Geesh.  And the worst is when someone wants to merely look at something on a top shelf and then two seconds later they want me to put it back—like I’m their own personal valet or something.  And I can’t say no, because then how rude would that make me look?”    

I nod sympathetically but he continues.   
“The worst was that lady at that musical we saw in New York that time.  Remember her?  The lady sitting behind us?  She wanted me to slouch down in my seat so she could see better!  The nerve.  I wanted to say, ‘Lady, should I just remove my head?  Would that work for you?’ I mean, I can’t help it that I’m tall!  And heaven forbid if I want to wear a hat to a baseball game.”

I ask if he wants to be shorter, if that would help ease his perpetual pain of bumping his head or having to help others on a daily basis. 
“No.  No, I don’t want to be shorter.  I want them to be taller.  Or at least say thank you when I do hand them something.  I guess it boils down to that:  people expect me to hand them stuff, like it is their God-given right or something, that of course I must not mind because I have nothing better to do than reach stuff for them.  Honestly, I am sick of it.” 

Right then, our two sons walk in the kitchen from the backyard.  “Pop, our football is caught in the tree.  Can you get it out?”
He doesn’t hesitate.  “Of course!”  

Then he turns and smiles at me.  I guess it must depend on who does the asking.   

Saturday, February 16, 2013

905. Cynthia

We knew it was him because he came to the front door.  No one uses that door, it is really far from the driveway and the garage.  Who can blame him, though—it had been over 20 years since he’d been to the house. 

“Cynthia?” he called out.  Geesh, you’d think he’d know she goes by Cindy.  “Cynthia, darling, time to go.” 
Mom was late for everything her whole life, she wasn’t about to be on time now. 

“I’m not ready,” she squeaked. “Can you at least wait ‘til my kids get here?  They’re flying in.  I would like to say good-bye to them.” 
He adjusted his shadowy black hood and gave a sigh.  It was a lingering sigh, the kind that steals the energy from a room. 

“Cynthia, I’ve been waiting for over two years now.” 
“Then what’s five more days?” 

She had a point.  He walked out without turning around.  I heard him say, “I am coming back, though, you do know that, Cynthia.”  It sounded like a threat.  And then he was gone.    
My sister flew in, as did my uncle, my step-dad, and assorted random cousins who I only saw once a year or less.  What is the saying?  Families always come together for weddings and—

“Funerals.  I hate funerals,” said my brother-in-law, as he got an apple out of the refrigerator.  “They’re so … so … final.”  He sort of whispered the word final, the way we had all been whispering cancer. 
The nurse told me someone was at the back door, and I was relieved to see that it was my brother.  Mom moved her pillow and struggled to sit up in bed a little when the nurse escorted him into her bedroom.    

“I’m so glad you’re here,” she said, and then she began to cry.  I couldn’t tell if they were tears of joy or sadness or just relief.     
“Me, too.  Me, too.”  He hugged her tight, and she groaned in pain.  Cancer is not for the weak. 

As promised, Death showed up exactly five days later.  We were hoping he’d forget.     
“I’m sorry, Cynthia, I know this is hard,” he extended his hand to her.  “But look at the bright side:  you already know some people up there!  Your mom, your dad, your aunts!”

It was strange hearing him talk about a "bright side."  I always believed he was all doom and gloom, but it turns out he was more sympathetic than I thought. 
Mom reached for her purse, out of habit, and Death stifled a small laugh.  “Cynthia, you won’t need that.  I promise.” 

And like that, they were gone. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

902. Public School Is Turning My Kid into a Hoarder

We live in one of the top school districts in the country, which is why we moved here in the first place.  I figure what I save in not paying for a private school education I can spend on race cars* and fancy chocolates.  (*This has not happened yet, but I remain hopeful.)   

But savings has a price.  And that price, my friends, is hoarding. 
The school receives money from the efforts of our hard-working PTA, the financially secure parents contribute and volunteer frequently, plus the teachers and admin workers generously use their own money to buy extra items not covered in the budget.  Much of this money is spent on Smart Boards (computer chalkboards), books, and other supplies. 

But some of the money, apparently, is spent on treats.   
My six-year-old has never met a little plastic doodad he didn’t like.  Tiny globes, pencil erasers, rubber robots; if it is colorful and fits in the palm of your hand, he wants to keep it forever. 

The problem is:  our particular school tends to reward our children with stuff.  Think party favors on steroids.  My son fills out his reading log for a week after reading 20 minutes nightly?  He gets a prize.  He has good behavior in class for a week?  Another prize.  Sits still in Spanish class while the teacher introduces the names for Spanish fruits?  That is a prize-worthy moment. 
We are drowning in these miniature tokens of my child’s myriad first grade achievements.  Is this education or consumerism?   

If I “accidentally” throw away one of these carefully guarded treasures, the sky fills with angry clouds and vibrations of impending thunder and black doom. 
“Noooooooooooooooooo!  Mommy, I can’t find my parachuting ninja!  You know, the special one the librarian gave everyone?  Mine was red.”  Tears, tears, and more tears, which quickly morph into full-blown sobbing. 

I sheepishly go to the trash can when he is not looking and retrieve it.  It was buried underneath a gum wrapper—that’s how small these rewards are. 
I give him back his prize (an item that he had not played with in three months), and I am suddenly the hero—if only for a moment. 

Please don’t think I am a mean person.  If you came over to our house, you would see that we already have plenty of things like these from birthday parties, dentist visits, fast-food outings, and a year of kindergarten at the same school.  We have reached a saturation level of cheap plastic junk.  It is everywhere.  I step on it in the middle of the night.  It lodges in the vacuum (who am I kidding—I am too lazy to vacuum).  The cat bats the stuff around like it is her God-given right. 
I find mini-alligators under pillows, bouncy balls in the tub, and neon green erasers in coat pockets. 

When will it end? 
Oh, yeah, when they are 18 and go off to college.   

And then I will be sad. 
Note to school:  Please send more symbols of childhood home with my son.  We will make room for them.    


Friday, February 8, 2013

901. Guard It with Your Life

Museums are my own personal therapy.  As soon as I look at a painting up close, any tension I had disappears.  My mind swims with the colors and the brushstrokes, I get lost in the art. 

How can you not love this painting? 
Or this one? 

The talent of the artists shines.  You can see the years of training and hard work and study and perseverance.     
However, there is some art I just don’t understand.  It is what I call "Lazy Art."  Art that really serves no purpose, art that can be done by a preschooler. 
Now, I know there are critics who pan the work of Jackson Pollack, because they see it as merely drips of paint on canvas. 
I beg to differ. 

I feel the movement of the piece, the energy.  I respect the idea and the abstract nature of the piece.   

Here is what I don’t get: 
It is a set of three doorknobs. 

That you could buy at Home Depot and then paint and glue onto this board. 

For about $12. 

Not only that, but someone has to guard it. 
Seriously?  They pay a guard to watch over that? 

Guess what else was in the same room: 
To me, it looks like a big clump of leftover plaster that would be found in the trash.  Yet it is worth 50 million gazillion dollars.  Better retrieve that crumpled up aluminum foil I threw away last night-- might be worth something!   

I wonder if this guard is very happy. 

A whole museum of things like this …

… and yet he gets to stand by the stripes of colors that remind me of paint sample swatches.  Poor guy.  Makes you wonder what he did to piss of the museum admin people. 
“Harold was late to work three times last month, give him Room 9-B to guard today.” 

“Are you sure?  Ellen was a no-show yesterday, I think she deserves it more.” 
“Good point.  And Mike got a great compliment from a customer the other day, so he can guard the Van Goghs.” 

** Disclaimer:  Signs in the museum said photography is allowed as long as the pictures are not for commercial use.  My blog is pure content with zero advertising and does not produce revenue, so I believe this meets their criteria. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

899. The Curse of Inconvenient Things

I am not a mean person.  If people cross me, I am not the type to wish that their car would be stolen or that their house would burn down or that they would lose their job. 

But I am still human. 
I merely wish that the Curse of Inconvenient Things would fall upon their heads.  Nothing horrible, just inconvenient.  Miss the green light and be forced to wait at the intersection a whole three extra minutes.  Be in the shower when that important phone call comes in and then forget to check voicemail.  Run out of creamer and not realize it until after brewing fresh coffee.  That sort of thing.

Remember in Sleeping Beauty when the evil witch places a curse on Sleeping Beauty that on her 16th birthday she would prick her finger on a needle and die?  And then the good witch “softens” the curse by making it be so that she would not die but instead just fall asleep for 100 years? 
Okay, maybe that is a bad analogy because falling asleep for 100 years is not really that great either. 

I digress. 
The point is, our kids can learn from us.  Instead of having a fight with someone and screaming out, “I wish you were dead!”, why not say, “I hope you get a ‘C’ on your test and your Mom is late to pick you up!” 

Oops, I gotta run.  I am waiting for an important call and I think I forgot to charge my phone battery.