Category Archives: The Joys of Home Ownership

Storm Warning: Falling Hammers Predicted

My son is going through puberty, either that, or its some kind of neuro-toxic brain frenzy that can only be communicated via decimating household fixtures. He is a raging tempest of mass destruction. Not to mock anyone in Texas or Puerto Rico going through their own recovery efforts, but, I swear my son is a force 5 hurricane leaving ruin in his wake. I am suffering my own tropical depression as a result.

In the past few weeks, my son ripped the hand towel loop from the wall, broke the stairwell banister rail by kicking it senseless and lastly, this weekend, tore the shower curtain rod from the bathroom.

My hulking teen has declared war and there is no Geneva Convention to protect me from his intermittent rages. The house is the ultimate casualty. Due to financial constraints, I can no longer throw good money away hiring someone to undo the damage on the home front. So, instead, I try to tackle repairs myself.

Cue Maniacal Laughter…

As a result, I swear, my house is laughing at me. It’s a soundtrack that erupts in evil snickering whenever I hunt for elusive tools.*

I managed to get through reinstalling the towel rack—placing it just far enough away from the patch to expose my inept sanding job—I have blindingly bright towels to keep people from noticing.**

Well-Hung Towel
It is hoped that the next homeowner will never look under the bracket cap to discover the third hole…

The bannister was actually the easiest fix of all. Though, dragging a reluctant teenager on a Dora Explorer hunt for the replacement part wasn’t fun. We wandered the lonely, orange-bedecked Home Depot aisles hunting the rare and mysterious hook thingy that connects the bannister to the wall. I really wished a talking map would pop out of nowhere to sing me some directions.

 

Handrail Bracket and Flanges
This is called a handrail bracket, in case you ever need to find one. I’d advise you hire an experienced sherpa to guide you.

 

Wisely, I took the broken parts with me when I went to replace it. My ability to identify obscure fixtures by name is not a key skill set. Hell, I can’t even remember most people’s names, none less the crazy vernacular home repair people give to their doohickies and whatnots!

Me at a hardware store: “I need a thingamajiggy for the whosie-whatsit that holds the toilet floaty ball rooster in place!”

After tackling these minor household projects, I had unrealistic expectations that I could fix whatever came next.

Hanging Brackets - Take Two
Note: these can be installed in several directions…but only one of them is correct!

 

When the shower curtain came crashing down, leaving the bent remains of the bracket drunkenly stuck to the side of the wall, I was given an opportunity—to fail. It was a most ego-mashing, hubris-drenched experience. I would like to point out, my ultimate goal in this project was to do the replacement as easily as possible—to reduce my stress.

If you would like to take a moment and let that sink in…my goal was “Easy” and “No Stress.”

Okay, you may continue reading…

The War of the Shower Curtain Reenacted In Agonizing Detail.

I highly recommend you turn this into a drinking game and do shots whenever I do something boneheaded or death-defying that makes you laugh snot bubbles.

Dear Diary: It’s been five days I haven’t had a shower; things are beginning to smell.

I have purchased no less than four…COUNT THEM…FOUR shower curtain rods—two on the same day. Goldilocks wasn’t this frickin indecisive.

First Curtain Rod--Some Assembling Incomprehensible
Warning: Comes With Steep Learning Curve.

 

The first one had the wrong holes—they wouldn’t line up with the ones originally drilled into the wall. The second one (see above) had the right holes…but to hang it, they had to be drilled vertically, not horizontally. Did not figure this out until I got it home though. Back to the store I went.

On my third trip to Home Depot, I found the exact same pole as the original one my son wrecked. Brace yourself for the victory song of the misguided:

“Ah ha.” I said to myself, “This will be easy. This will take seconds and it costs next to nothing compared to the more elaborate options. Bingo, Bango, Bongo. Kiri for the Win!”

Then I got it home and this happened:

Third Curtain Rod
No, this is not a tension rod. I’m a moron, not an idiot.

I could have tackled this using my hack saw. I could have measured and asked the store to cut it down. I could have listened to several wise friends who point-blank told me, “Get a tension sprung rod and stop b*tching about this.”

I could have saved myself…but I didn’t.

Faced with the unconquered space of drilling and hanging something that absolutely required precise measurement—on opposite walls, no less—with an uncertain hand-and-myopic-eye coordination, I feared installing a curtain rod the way some untrained people might have qualms about performing open-heart surgery or tackling Mount Everest in a blizzard.

But I was on a suicide mission and no amount of reason or serendipity was going to save me. I was going to tackle this monster project if it killed me. It almost did.

I gave myself a home improvement pep talk:

“You are a curtain coward. You have hated that poorly hung rod for over a year. That awkward draping fabric that clings, molding to your naked torso in a taunting embrace, whenever you shower. F*ck that clammy liner sideways! You can drill that bastard a new one! You will level that line. Your plumbs will hang straight down!”

[I have mentioned I don’t have a clue what I am doing in this arena, right?]

So, unwarranted optimism in tow, I purchase a fourth curtain rod in three days and drag it home, like a dead, brushed-nickel deer, an impending trophy to be hung.

FOUR HOURS LATER…

Of my talents as a home project installer, the less said, probably the better. However, I shall impart some things I learned from my major effort of that fateful Tuesday:

    1. Before leaving the parking lot, check to make sure you already own all the tools you will need to install said product. When in doubt, buy that 3/16th drill bit just in case.
    2. After a second run to Home Depot to buy the missing bit, you will then discover that the reason your previous curtain rod hung funny is because it was installed crookedly. One of your shower walls is ½ an inch shallower than the other. It will take you 2 hours of repeat measuring to figure this out however.
    3. No online video will warn you of the ‘exceptions’ to installation. I at least did not attempt to videotape myself while drilling the walls. I’m not a complete moron. (I.E.–There is no proof that can be held against me in a lawsuit—or to undermine one if I decided to seek damages.)
    4. However, I was dumb enough to balance a hammer on a towel rack, set a tape measure, dry erase marker, and several other miscellaneous items on various soap-covered surfaces in the tub while I danced drunkenly along the ceramic balance beam twirling this way and that trying to find the center point where I would start drilling. I’m lucky I didn’t break my neck. No, I am not exaggerating
    5. If you get the bright idea to:

a.) use left-over window cling film to try and create a drilling template, be warned that,

b.) the blue hairspray you were saving for your Halloween Costume will bleed through said holes, leaving an indistinct mess on the film, and it will strip the color from the hardware that it touches, so, please, for the love of all that is holy. DON’T!

c.) don’t try this because it will turn out that, while ‘fake frosted window film’ does cling to surfaces, no amount of static electricity will keep that rubber disk from spinning out of alignment when the drill bit whirrs to life. (I am totally not making this up. This was my genius solution to the problems of installing level holes.)

6. If you leave the extension cord draped from the wall socket over to the bathtub and back, you will trip over the orange rip cord and bring the drill crashing down perilously close to impaling your foot and/or knocking a chunk of ceramic out of said tub. Flailing to avoid said impalement, you will knock the hammer off the precarious perch as homage to your Rube Goldberg reasoning skills.

7. If, against all odds, you do manage to get the mother-fracking $&@*! holes drilled correctly, you will discover upon mashing the screw anchors, and taking yet another trip to Home Depot, that they don’t sell the exact same size, frickin, anchors.

 

8. Once the entire ensemble is installed, and you are crowing that you managed to defy expectations and get it done right, you will find the last step—the simplest step–of snapping the mount cover in place does this instead:

 

I wonder what the recycling guy will make of the empty vodka and wine bottles in the trash?

Oh well…I can always buy more wine when I take the THRESHOLD 2-WAY MOUNT CURVED SHOWER ROD BRUSHED NICKEL FINISH back to the bedamned store where I bought it.***

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Let the Great Phillips Head Snipe Hunt commence! Is there some rule of home repair that says whatever drill bit you need, that’s the one that is missing? ‘Cause sure as shinola stinks, even if you do own one, it won’t be in your tool box when you need it.

**Leading people to say, “That is one well-hung towel!”

***I’m thinking the ‘Bull’s Eye’ logo on the building is a clue that someone is about to get hurt shopping there.

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Down For The Count

Life is funny. And tragic. Sometimes it’s both. But mostly, it’s a fight to the finish.

*

Bathos Theater in Conjunction with the Below-the-Belt Boxing Federation Presents:

“A Low Blow”

 

Announcer: “In this corner, weighing it at 8000 pounds pressure per square inch, the reigning champion: LIFE!*

[LIFE bounces around in the corner wearing hardened leather gloves. Shiny, red satin shorts jiggle as the mammoth boxer warms up.]

Announcer: And in this corner, weighing it at… (looks down at card)… None-Of-Your-G.D.-Business, and facing the wrong way: The Czarrrrina of Pain!*

[Czarina looks down at pink Hello Kitty boxing gloves with perplexed bewilderment.]

Kiri-Czar: “Hey… there’s been some kind of mistake here.”

[Announcer walks to center ring, dragging reluctant Czarina along with him and holding a hand up to stop LIFE from plowing right over her before the bell rings.]

Announcer: (grabs dangling mic) “This fight will go ten rounds until one of the fighters is knocked out or their manager throws in a towel.”

Kiri-Czar: (looks frantically around) “Where’s a towel? Wait…where’s my manager? Somebody get me a manager…or a towel!”

Announcer: “Are you ready to RumbbbbbbbbBBBBBLLLLlleee?”

Kiri-Czar: “NO!”

LIFE: (snorts like bull, nostrils flare) “AaaROOOOOoooooOOOOOO!”

[Bell Rings *DING*]

Kiri-Czar: (holds up Hello Kitty clad hands) “Wait! You wouldn’t hit a girl with glasses, would you?”

LIFE: (swings) “Snarl!”

Kiri-Czar: (ducks frantically) “I guess you would.”

[The next five minutes are a slap-stick routine where the Czarina runs around the ring trying to hide behind an annoyed announcer while LIFE tries to pin her to the ropes. Brace yourself, sports analogies are not her forte.]

LIFE: (growls, dances back and forth) “Stop running away!”

Kiri-Czar: “Stop chasing me!”

[The Czarina grabs an oar from an audience member and WHACKS! LIFE over the head with it! LIFE shakes head as tiny yellow birds tweet in a circle around LIFE’s head.**]

Canoe 1
One hour into a 4 1/2 hour Canoe Trip. Still had energy to lift cell phone to take a picture.

 

LIFE: “Oh, so that’s how you wanna play it?” (grabs tweety bird, throws it at Czarina) “I whip the bird at you then!”

Kiri-Czar: (ducks bird) “That’s not how you whip someone the bird…” (tries to whip bird…stares at boxing glove) “Oh…right.”

[The Czarina raises the oar once again as LIFE stomps toward her. She swings. Misses. LIFE snatches oar with dismissive snort.]

LIFE: (breaks oar over knee) “You can run…but you can’t hide!”

Kiri-Czar: (slips behind Announcer) “Oh yeah!? Watch me!”

LIFE: “I’ll find you in the end. You should just give up now.”

Kiri-Czar: “Screw that.”

LIFE: “Oh, I plan to!”

[LIFE doubles back, pushing the announcer aside, and advances on the Czarina. Czarina grabs a tent and camp stove—holding them in front of her.]

Camping Tent
Before The End Came

 

LIFE: “Where do you think you’re going?”

Kiri-Czar: “Camping. What does it look like?”

LIFE: (rears, one arm back) “Hah. I don’t think so…”

[SWOOSH. SMACK. THUD.]

Announcer: (Counting) “One Mississippi…”

[Czarina lies on floor, dazed, babbling about recent events.]

Kiri-Czar: “All I wanted to do was take him camping… he likes camping… ”

Announcer: (Counting) “Two Mississippi…”

Kiri-Czar: “Two nights, we made it two nights…and then…BAM! We are off to the emergency room at midnight.”

Pooped at the Hospital
Turns out he was just badly…uh…compacted. Took 3 hours and x-rays to confirm the problem. Sigh.

 

Announcer: (Counting) “Two-and-a-half Mississippi…”

Kiri-Czar (eyes announcer): “What happened to Three Mississippi?”

Announcer: “If I don’t count…LIFE gets to come over and stomp you until you get up again…”

Kiri-Czar: “What kind of crooked game is this?”

Announcer: “It’s the game of LIFE. Two-and-three-quarters Mississippi.”

Kiri-Czar: (scrambles upright) “Does that mean LIFE always wins?”

Announcer: “It means, no matter how you play, sometimes, you gotta lose.”

Kiri-Czar: “Well that’s just great.”

LIFE: (charges) “ROAAAARRRRRR!”

[Czarina drops to her knees and crawls through LIFE’s legs.]

LIFE: “Get back here punny human!”

Kiri-Czar: (stops to correct LIFE’s spelling): “I think you mean ‘Puny!’ ‘Punny’ would be like if I said I would called you a banana…except you have no appeal!”

Boxing Bananas
Found in Google search of ‘boxing puns’. Stolen from long-ass webpage link.

 

LIFE: “PUN THIS!”

[LIFE lands a sharp jab—a sweet kiss to the Czarina’s glass jaw.]

Kiri-Czar: (staggers back, one drunken blue bird whizzing before her eyes) “Now, that’s a bird of a different color!”***

LIFE: (Feints left, crosses right) “That was a play on words. Not a pun!”

[SMACK, SMACK, KA-POW! THUD.]

[Announcer looms over Czarina, counting while LIFE gloats.]

LIFE: “Just for that, your son gets chronic constipation and an addiction to popcorn.”

Kiri-Czar: (aghast) “Noooooo!”

LIFE: “Plus you have to give him this medicine for three days until he goes ‘Pop!’”

Kiri-Czar: “Don’t you mean poop?”

LIFE: (*evil smile*): “You’ll see.”

Announcer: (wheezing) “Two and ninety-nine-one hundredths Mississippi…”

Kiri-Czar: (staggers to feet) “That’s it. Go ahead. Pick on the little guy!”

[Wildly swinging, the Czarina advances throwing haymakers as she goes. She lands a glancing blow to LIFE’s bread basket.]

Kiri-Czar: “How do you like that, you…you big bazooka?”

LIFE: “Do you mean ‘Palooka?’”

[Czarina continues to piffle away at LIFE throwing more dope than rope. LIFE holds her off with one leather glove pushing against her sweaty forehead.]

Kiri-Czar: (winds up and swings): “Whatever! I’ve had it. I go canoeing. I go camping. And wherever I go, I get no peace. There is always this counter attack waiting to knock me down, every damned time I step in the ring. I’m beginning to feel like a punching bag. When am I gonna get a break?”

LIFE: “You want a break?”

Kiri-Czar: (Hello Kitty balled fists on hips) “Yes. Yes I do!”

LIFE: (shrugs) “Okay. If you say so.”

Announcer: (bellows into mic) “LIFE feints left and then crosses with a right hook to the head. Czarina’s glasses go flying. She’s blind now, ducking a barrage of punches. Hello Kitty gloves are no defense against LIFE. LIFE isn’t pulling it’s punches anymore. LIFE delivers a damaging blow to the kidneys. The injustice! There’s no Marquess of Queensberry here, folks! Next, the Czarina dodges a jab only to walk straight into an uppercut. Oooh, the Czarina’s on the ropes. The blows are pounding her like hail on a Kansas wheat field. LIFE is raining down. Rain is raining down. LIFE switches to KickBoxing and the Czarina takes a roundhouse to the noggin. The Czarina’s on the ground. She’s taken a beating, ladies and gentlemen. I don’t think she’ll be back up again for quite some time. I’m calling this fight. The Winner by KO and Ultimate Fight Champion of the World is…LIFE.”

[LIFE dances around the ring, both arms raised, pumping the air in victory. Stops to stand over the inert form of the Czarina sprawled on the floor. In the distance, the final bell *DINGS*.]

LIFE: (shouts) “Get the cutman…we’ve got a bleeder!”

[The crowd departs, LIFE raised on its shoulders. The loser is left in a pile on the floor, the white towel of surrender shrouding her face.]

 

*time passes*

Cutman: “C’mon, let’s get you patched up.”

Kiri-Czar: (wakes confused) “What…what happened?”

Cutman: “It’s 3:00 A.M. LIFE dropped a tree on your house and took out your electricity. Your kid is on the power laxatives for two more days. You get to stay home and wait for the shit to stop pouring in.”

Tree on Roof
My poor house and formerly new roof.

 

Kiri-Czar: (jaw drops) “WHAAAAAT? You’ve gotta be kidding me!”

Cutman: “You asked for a break from the routine chaos, right? You were tired of everything you’ve been dealing with, yeah?”

Kiri-Czar: “Uh…yeah. But, I didn’t ask for…” (looks around, gestures to the dark and utter chaos)… “THIS!”

Cutman: “LIFE’s tricky that way. You asked for a ‘break’…it gives you a ‘break.’” (points to tree on roof, shakes head) “You just gotta be grateful it wasn’t your leg! Or worse.”

Kiri-Czar: (holds ice to black eye) “Right…just, ask LIFE…no more breaks for me for a while, okay? Please?”

Cutman: (packing up gauze, tosses loose pinecone to the Czarina) “I can’t make any promises. But let’s agree…we won’t be complaining about ordinary LIFE so much after this, right? That’s what LIFE gives you…perspective. It can always be worse.”

Pinecone FInger
Yep. That pretty much sums it up.

 

Kiri-Czar: (raises pinecone in disbelief) “If life gives you lemons…you make lemonade. What’re you supposed to make with pinecones?”

Cutman: (looks around and the devastation/deforestation) “I don’t know…Pińa Coladas, maybe?”

Kiri-Czar: (wincing) “Ugh…what a terrible pun.”

[With a flourish, the Cutman whips off the surgical mask revealing the grinning face of LIFE.]

LIFE: (taps Czarina gently on the chin] “Nuh Uh! It’s a play on words, not a pun! I think someone’s had just enough PUN-ishment for one day.”

Kiri-Czar: “Ugh.”

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Or, as my friend put it when she heard the news: “You’re some kind of shit magnet, you know that?”

**LIFE looks a bit like the HULK and MR. CLEAN had an angry, bilious baby.

***Look, coming up with sports-related puns was definitely not in my wheelhouse. And, even if it were, someone would probably drop a tree on it.


You’ve read the whole thing bonus:

I will be selling Roof Killer Pinecones at a reasonable price of $25.00. Drop me a line if you too want to plant this decimating conifer in your backyard.

And if anyone wants me, I’ll be at a cabin this weekend watching the campfire with a disturbing amount of pleasure as I watch the kindling burn.  Burn baby, burn!

This Tree Is Not a Metaphor

I wish editing were as easy as gardening.

Wait…

*Does some actual yard work*

…scratch that.

I wish editing were like hiring someone to pluck unruly overgrowth from your plot.

WARNING: Mangling of Metaphors, Shameful Similes, and Tree Torture Ahead—Proceed with Caution!

*

I have, on occasion, taken a side-long look at my collected literary efforts and sighed–gusts monsoons would envy.  In those glances, I have seen the colossal effort it would take to shape them into something even vaguely resembling sense. Instead, each year I write a new, rambling incoherent piece like a prolific procrastinator of pandemic proportions. *

Do you remember my promise that I would provide the critique of my work following winning a review at last year’s writer’s conference?

*crickets chirping*

Well, you are all still waiting. Because the biggest take-away from that evaluation is that my story is starting in the wrong place. Book one of a three-books-at-least series, is mis-planted. It isn’t a weed, exactly, but it is a sprawling volunteer in my literary garden. It is like the tree in my backyard–it is a moss-encrusted mess!

Tree - 2 Weeps
Ask not for whom the tree weeps–it weeps for demolition!

It isn’t a bad tree. Yeah, sure, it has oozing cracks running down two sides, but it is lush and otherwise verdant. It’s just planted in the wrong place and threatens to split in several directions. And like my over-grown novel, it has got to go.

Tree - 3
Crude attempt at foreshadowing!

 

Faced with massive edits and rewrites, I say: “Bring on the shredder and let’s make some confetti!”

It would be so much easier to chuck my writing aspirations and plot a life without creative expectation. To slash and burn every word I’ve placed in a holding pattern, using up the data of an entire computer until I have to buy a new one to store version 15.2 of the same damn novel.  At least, that’s how it feels. It’s either that, or actually sit down and try and straighten out the mess I’ve created.**

Tree - 6
Taking a little off the top! Good thing they aren’t barbers.

 

Trees are unlike writing, as it turns out. They are actually pretty easy to dismantle. At least the guys from 1, 2, Tree made it look easy.

I watched them turn probably fifty-year’s worth of growth into so much mulch in less than three hours. I admired their editing talents greatly. ***

I did learn something from watching them. They didn’t start at the base of the trunk, trying to tackle it all in one go, but a piece at a time.

 

First a little here. Then a little there. And, before long, Cal, the stump man, was there grounding down what little remained.

There’s part of me that wants to do this. Instead of taking pruning shears to the 150,000-plus word opus, I’d chainsaw that forest of typographical nightmares and run-on story tangents and turn them into wordy wood chips!

Hacking Good Time
A metaphorical depiction of me grinding my words to digital dust.

 

But that isn’t what I want for my novel. I don’t really want to render its multi-syllabic magnificence into so much mulch. But, trim its excess maybe? To make sure it won’t crush my house in the next strong breeze to come through our neighborhood? Sure.

Reason to Worry
Because no matter how well you fill up the cracks, a story isn’t done until it’s one seamless effort!

Now all I need is a studly team of guys on standby who will cart away the bits that fall away as I work.

Dont Call Him Lambert
Don’t call him Lamont!

 

A big shout-out to Jacob, Jeremy, and Mick at 1, 2, Tree for very considerately not dropping anything on my head while I took pictures! I’m sure the temptation was overwhelming.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*I will also assault you with assonance.

**Looking at un-edited work without protection is like staring into the sun…while masturbating—you’ll go blind and you won’t have any fun while doing it.

***I so was NOT ogling them. I’m old enough to be their…well…aunt, at the very least. And an aunt does not ogle young men no matter how bulgy-their muscles are.

 

———————————–You Read This Far Poet-Tree Bonus—————————————-

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

—From “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer

*

I think that I shall never write fiction

That isn’t pruned of coherent diction.

—From “This Tree is Not a Metaphor” by Me

 

 

 

SNOW

Snow, as heavy as death,

How you break the frail back.

Shoveling is a gladiator sport, and

Winter is the lion which slays you.

 

Roar the oncoming hordes of flakes.

Sodden mittens clench the staff,

A blade against an unrelenting foe.

Blisters in anticipation.

 

Hurl the churlish weapon in futile rage.

A pain given is a pain received,

For every shovelful is death to someone.

And snowmen weep when the sun comes out.

 

Latticed crystals mock in six-sided glee

Covering once more the open ground.

Laying the monstrous earth to sleep.

Writing epitaphs in mounds of white.

A Creep In the Nighttime

“How Girly Am I?” You Ask. Let’s find out!

The Horror, The Horror.
The Horror, The Horror.

I read a lot of science fiction, chock full of heroines who kick ass and take names…and then grind those names in the dust of a thousand incontinent camels. I was in the military*. I have managed to change a plugged up sink. So, you’d expect that I would be able to face down your basic household pest with some equanimity. You’d be wrong.

I’m doing laundry in the basement. It’s night. It’s dark. The room is full of ominous shadows. I’m wearing shorts and have bare feet. If I were a cute, eighteen-year-old co-ed there’d be someone lurking in a corner wearing a hockey mask intent on resolving some mommy issues with a chainsaw.** Instead, I am a middle-aged frump reaching for a pile of wet towels.

(Cue the horror music.)

I’m lifting a piece of laundry when suddenly a creepy mustache bolts from its hiding place and races like a deranged zipper past my toes.

EeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeekK!

(I hit the ‘K’ extra hard, about two octaves above middle C.)

House Centipede Meme

I chuck the laundry and bolt up the stairs. After my heart stops trying to choke me and drops back into my chest cavity, I gird myself (with long pants, socks and shoes—I wasn’t messing around) and tiptoe back down to the cave of the beast. I manage to finish throwing the laundry into the machine, glurg some detergent in and skedaddle back up the steps—leaping a bit in case one of those hideous creatures had laid a trap for me. Relieved to be alive, I celebrate with ice cream. Like Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones from Men In Black, I thought the danger was past.

A few loads of laundry go by and I start to relax. I’m doing a load of black clothes and I reach down and grab a pair of pants and I’m just going to check the pockets when one of those creepy mother… [expletive deleted] …crawls out and drops into the wash. I don’t have much of a killer instinct. I’ve never hunted despite firing several types of fire arms*** But that sonuvabitch [expletive not deleted because DAMN!] was going down. I quelled the squeamish notion that I was washing my clothes with a monster and that I’d be wearing dissolved bug bits for days and moved the dial to the ‘Extra Heavy’ setting. I wanted to be sure to drown that bastard but good. I later asked my eleven-year-old to move the wet laundry to the dryer so I wouldn’t have to face touching the shredded corpse—thus answering the question, “Would I ever implicate my child in a murder in order to hide my crimes?”

The gripper - for all your laundry emergencies.
The CLAW! For all your laundry emergencies.

I now use the payload retrieval device left over from my surgery to grab each piece of laundry and give it a shake over the utility sink before I attempt to check for crayons. (I deserve a bloody medal for this act of bravery.) Laugh if you will, but I have no interest in become a ghoulish headline:

WOMAN FOUND DEAD IN BASEMENT, BUGS TO BLAME

Neighbors report they heard screams in the night and called police. Upon arrival, the officers found a woman (name withheld pending investigation), wearing full hockey gear and holding a meat mallet, lying in a pool of fabric softener. A can of industrial strength Raid was beside her.

A preliminary hunt for signs of a break-in turned up nothing as the victim was home alone and all the doors were locked.

“It was the oddest thing,” a source at the crime scene reports. “If I had to guess, I’d say they got her during the rinse cycle because that’s when she dropped the Downy.”

Evidence suggests giant house centipedes may be to blame. The crime scene investigators drew straws to see who would have to collect the multi-legged bodies recovered from the scene. The monster-sized insectivores were identified by a local expert. “It’s unusual to see so many of the creepy buggers in one place.” Said Bern “The Bugman” Bukowski, an entomologist attached to the County Sheriff’s office. “They are very territorial. But a swarm, while rare, would make sense if the nest felt threatened.”

A follow-up report revealed massive bruising, which was apparently self-inflicted, to be the cause of death.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*My military service was not the AHOY kind or the HooRaaaaah gung ho kind but the Stand-in-Line-and-Pretend-to-Be-a-Tree kind. I do an excellent impersonation of a Baobob.

**Considering what happened next, I’d have preferred the saw-wielding maniac. Then maybe my brain would have done something productive.

***Firearm training included a grease gun—an odd weapon like a caulking gun with bullets. Slow as the firing mechanism was, I suspect throwing the ammo would have been faster and more accurate.

House Centipede death

Race to the Finish: A Limping Victory

SHHHHHHHH! 

Shhhh with Clock
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/stockimages

I have been keeping a secret from you. Two really. I think it’s time to come clean. I have been emboldened by Karen Copeland, a writer who shared her struggles about being honest in the blog-o-sphere. Sometimes it is easier to write about that which is funny, or at least funny in retrospect, than it is to contemplate the scary that is the now or immediate future. As most of you know, I have been trying to buy a house…well…find a house first and then buy it. Who knew finding it was going to be the easier of the two prospects?*

I did it. I found the perfect, tiny house in Grandville, Michigan. Perfect in that it was way over budget and still had toxic gas seeping through the floor boards.** (Everybody chant: Mediation is Salvation!) Okay, so it was perfect in that it was still on the market and would actually pass an inspection. Why didn’t I just wait and see what the spring influx of housing would bring? Because, I was running out of time.

I have been juggling two major life changes. I have only told you about one of them because, to be honest, if I think about the second one, over which I have absolutely no control, I want to vomit. So instead, I have focused exclusively on the house purchase to the point of wearing blinders to the other big, scary thing in the hopes it would go away. It hasn’t and it won’t; and the stupid thing is, I knew that. I’ve known it for about four years. What I hadn’t known then was that I would be in a race between buying a house and facing the ‘Big Scary Thing’ and that the race would come down to a matter of days between the two cataclysmic events. Today, they collided.

I have been waiting on tenterhooks for a call from the mortgage company regarding the closing date. And waiting…and waiting… I finally get the call and I am chatting with my broker before he takes off for spring break. Bad news, he’s going out of town. The good news? I get to close this week. Yay! Which is critical because, if I didn’t, my two big secrets were going to meet and it was going to get ugly.*** And then I get the call…

“Hi, this is Shelly from Dr. ReallyDutchName’s office. I’m calling to let you know your total hip replacement surgery has been scheduled.”

I am mid-conversation with the terminally perky nurse who is informing me that my surgeon will be slicing and dicing me open at 1:30 p.m. Monday and that, oh, by the way, I can’t eat or drink anything after midnight the night before…the man hates fat people and this is his way of ensuring I know, at least once in my life, what raving hunger feels like…when my phone interrupts to tell me that my realtor is calling.

I get off the phone with little Miss Ray of Sunshine RN and find out that my closing can take place either Thursday or Friday this week, which would I prefer? So there you have it. Thursday I will be buying my Barbie Dream House and Monday I become the Bionic Woman—thus fulfilling two lifelong goals. Now I just have to figure out how to move into the new house without leaving my bed. The universe is a perverse bastard sometimes. 

Old-lympic Hopeful--my dreams of running in the Olympics aren't necessarily dead!  Check the story out at: http://www.olympischstadion.nl/en/53_news/?news_id=2028
Old-lympic Hopeful–my dreams of running in the Olympics aren’t necessarily dead! Check the story out at: http://www.olympischstadion.nl/en/53_news/?news_id=2028

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Those of you who have read the past few (thousand) whiny posts about my poor judgment in housing prospects are rolling on the floor laughing. In review: Bad House#1, Bad House #2, and Lament for a House

**I got over my fear of mutant radon when faced with the fear of not finding a home in time.

***Like day-two in re-hab ugly.

Being Girly

Pink Tool 

Sunday, I’m staring into the abyss—the bottomless well of muck and despair that is my bathroom sink. I’m about to yell at my son for his new hobby (filling the sink to watch it empty) when I realize the drain plug is open; the water just isn’t creating the tidal spout of happiness that indicates it is rushing back to the sea from whence it came. Crap on a cracker, the sink is plugged up.

Thankfully, I am not a completely helpless female when it comes to home repair. My son’s propensity for investigating all things mechanical means I have had to learn how to put doorknobs back on, realign toilet fixtures* and learn how to avert or avenge myriad other small household disasters. I am a woman with tools, hear me roar.

On my knees in the bathroom, I crawl under the cabinet to disconnect the thingamajiggy from the whosie-whatsit that causes the stopper to move up and down.** Then I can pull up the drain plug and see what the problem is. There will now be a brief theatrical reenactment. Those of you with genteel dispositions may want to leave the room.

The Downstairs Bathroom Players Present: The Creature

Woman: “Okay, here we go. I’ll just pull this drain plug out of the way so we can see what we’re looking at…and…oh… Oh my god. Please dear merciful heaven, what is that thing?”

[Runs to phone, dials frantically.]

Woman: “Hello? Is this MacDonald’s Emergency Plumbing? Help! There’s some sort of black, slimy thing living in my sink! Do you do exorcisms? You do? Hurry, please!”

[Enter priest/plumber.]

Can you believe I found this picture? God bless the internet.
Can you believe I found this picture?  God bless the internet.

PP: “I understand your bathroom has been possessed?”

Woman: “Yes, it’s in there.”

[Plumber/priest waves holy plunger, recites the plumber’s prayer.]

PP: “In nomine Padres, Domino’s pizza, and spirits of cactus—tequila be thy name—I call you up from the depths of the p-trap. The foul odors of hell reveal your wickedness. I cast you out, demon. Be gone from here and never return.”

[Time passes.]

Woman: “Is…is it safe to enter?”Dirty Plumber

[Priest/plumber turns.]

PP: “Run, save yourself.”

Woman: “Aiiiiiiiiiii.”

[Fade to black]

Okay, so maybe I like to exaggerate a bit. But, truthfully, the stuff that came out of the sink was an unholy nightmare—a year’s worth of hair, dirt and soap congealed into a slimy plug that blocked all but a tiny aperture for water to pass through. It looked like the plumbing had caught my cold and was congested with grey phlegm.

(Not my actual clog.)
(Not my actual clog.)

As a parent, I have had to learn to take all manner of gross things with equanimity: booger eating, vomit hurling, and fecal fixation. You name it, I’ve handled it. But I’ll admit, I did hurk a bit seeing what was coming out of that pipe. So, here’s where I confess that I am a bit more girly than I really want to be. Dozens of feminists reading this will drop their heads into their hands mortified by this admission, but, if I had a man in my life who came with a set of tools, I’d have been on the phone to him before touching that nasty mess. This brings me to today’s topic: What does it mean to be girly in today’s culture?

When I was young (back when dinosaurs roamed the land), being girly meant more than liking the color pink, wearing make-up and a fondness for chick flicks. It meant that you were weak-wristed when you threw a ball, that you screamed when you saw a mouse and you couldn’t do math. It implied all sorts of helplessness and was a catch-all excuse for avoiding dirty, hard manual labor. When I was eighteen, you could have accused me of being girly and the label would have been appropriate. But then, I joined the Army and I began to see how accepting that definition was a cop-out.

I was on DIC duty one day and it was just about as pleasant as the acronym implies. We were given the task of hauling bags of salt from a truck bed to a shed about ten feet away. The bags weighed about sixty to seventy pounds each. As luck would have it, assigned to DIC duty that day were two men, me, and about ten other women. The sergeant in charge sent one of the guys to go count money at the officers club—a nice, easy task. That left the one guy and eleven women to haul that shit stuff. The guy set to, lugging a crunchy bag on his shoulder and heaving his way to the shed. I could just barely lift one and it wasn’t long before I started to tire. Another woman and I worked with the guy to get the job done…and the rest of the women stood around and didn’t even make a token effort to help us. There were a few

P-trap from hell.
P-trap from hell.

mumbled excuses: “I can’t lift it.” “It’s too heavy.” Two women working together could have helped out; but none of the slackers did…and no one called them on it.*** After that day, I have done my best not to make excuses or blame my limitations on my gender. My failings are my own. But then, so are my victories.

Faced with the terrible prospect of a backed up sink, did I succumb? Did I fold in the face of failure? No! Wearing my pink rubber gloves, and suppressing my gag reflex, I tackled the drain monster. It fought a hard fight, but I took that mother down. No priest or plumber required. Now that’s what I call being girly!

The rushing waters of victory...
The rushing waters of victory…

Asterisk bedazzled footnotes:

*I really don’t think saying “I know how to handle a sticky ball-cock” is wise.

**I can fix it, but I can’t always describe it. For those of you who absolutely must know, I was removing the drain plug adjustment arm by unscrewing and taking off the ball valve from the sink trap. There, was that any better? No? I didn’t think it would be.

***In defense of female soldiers, I saw an equal number of women who buckled down and tried to do whatever was set in front of them. I’d like to think I was one of them.