Tuesday, October 13, 2020

On The Road

 It's been an exciting 2 weeks, because NY and NJ finally decided to permit the citizens of my apparently COVID-ridden state to visit, so we took full advantage of the opportunity. Susie and I jumped in the car and drove to the Jersey shore, to our favorite beach town, where we stayed cheaply in an almost empty hotel (its being midweek in October). 

Requisite not-so-healthy car snacks

The town was sparsely populated, so no worries about COVID, and it was warm enough (high 60s) to lie out on the beach for a few hours and pretend it was summer. Somehow Susie and I managed to log upwards of 25,000 steps both days we were there, just walking around watching sunrises and sunsets and looking at seagulls and really, these 2 days were just about the perfect antidote for the previous 7 months of pandemic craziness. Highly recommend.

Oh, just one of the coolest sunrise photos I've ever taken, is all

On the way home, we packed the car full of NJ hoagies (yes, they ARE the best) and NJ bagels (ditto), stopped at a farm market to pick up half a bushel of apples and a package of cider doughnuts, and then drove back to reality, all the while feeling as though we had plundered my birth state. But in a good way...

While we were at the shore, we met up with friends from home who were remodeling their beach house. This couple nefariously lured us onto their new rooftop deck to admire the view from all sides, which was indeed magnificent. While we were up there, however,  I - acrophobe that I am - realized that we were trapped. You see, the spiral staircase leading up to the deck was not quite finished - the platform between it and the deck had no railings on either side. Going from the spindly staircase to the solid deck had been only moderately scary. But going down would mean traversing what seemed to be a postage-stamp-sized piece of metal in an attempt to land safely on the narrow top step of the staircase. The mere thought of this maneuver made my legs feel like jelly.

So the whole time we were up on the deck, admiring the view and discussing the furniture to be delivered the next day, my internal monologue was running along the lines of "Pretend there are railings? Scooch on my butt? Live up here until the railings are installed?" Over and over and over.

Susie, it turns out, was doing the same. We're a fun pair.

Not bad for an amateur, eh?

The next week Larry and I took off on Wednesday night - without any offspring - to go hiking in the mountains of southern NY. Again, hotels were really cheap midweek and we packed food for the first day's lunch, and aren't we frugal? 

Not really. Its being Larry's birthday weekend, he got to choose where to eat for dinner the next night, so - lover of beer that he is - he opted for the local brewery/restaurant, which had ample outdoor seating (my requirement). That means we ordered what I considered to be overpriced food that took approximately 11 hours to reach our table, plus we overtipped the waitress, because pandemic. In short, we spent what seemed to me to be a buttload of money and time for no real return - the food was mediocre, at best, and I found myself pining for those NJ hoagies of the previous week. 

No matter, I thought, Larry's enjoying himself drinking locally brewed beers. It's his birthday, so it's worth it. The second day, as we were meandering through the town after checking out of the hotel, I said, "Hey, didn't you want to buy some of the local beer to take home?" And he said, "Nah, it sort of sucked."

We're not very good at this vacation splurge thing. I guess you can take the girl out of fast casual, but you can't take fast casual out of the girl.

The hiking was wonderful. I love the Catskills, it was autumn weather, and it wasn't crowded on the trails. 


This was billed as a "scramble over some rocks." Yeah, no. Terrifying.

It was so pretty up there, we got carried away and ended up hiking/walking over 12 miles that first day, although some of those steps happened because we decided to take the scenic route back to the hotel after our sad excuse for a fancy dinner and we got lost. Like, really lost. Like, walking by a graveyard in the dark and not knowing where we were, LOST. 

I blame Larry. I wasn't interested in the scenic route after sundown, myself.

Let me point out that this was the first time Larry and I have gone on a trip by ourselves in, oh, 29 YEARS. When we mentioned this to our offspring, I could sense each of them thinking, Yeah, I'm never having kids. All in all, it was very novel to go on a trip and not be worrying about keeping even one child or adolescent happy. Relaxing, even. I could definitely get used to it. 

But I'm choosing the food next time, for sure.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Dare To Repair (Or Maybe Just Call Someone)

So I woke up last Thursday morning and found Larry messing around in the laundry room where the magic Verizon box is and swearing quietly to himself. NO INTERNET. Thus started a 4-hour ordeal of his being on the phone with Verizon, trying to troubleshoot the problem, before they agreed to send someone to our house later that day.

These wifi thingies were all glowing an apocalyptic red Thursday morning

In the meantime, the rest of us wandered around the house, bereft and confused, but still too cheap to run up the data charges on our phones. Guys, it turns out we use the internet A LOT. ALL THE TIME. CONSTANTLY.

So, after we endured 4 more hours of living as though it were 1999, the repair guy came to the door and was treated as the conquering hero that he was. We all had to wear masks while he was in the house, which believe me, was no problem. Heck, we would have held our breaths if we had to. JUST GIVE US OUR INTERNET.

Which he did. Whereupon we all heaved a sigh of relief, put away our checkers and our whittling knives, and resumed a happily internet-dependent, 21st-century existence.

But somewhere in the middle of that - I guess while Larry was on the phone with the Verizon help line -- I heard him saying, "I have to set up a new PIN?" and I thought, Oh, no, not that.  You see, Larry -- security conscious as he is -- usually chooses passwords and PINS that no one (i.e., moi) can ever remember. 

And yes, we do try to write them all down, but we can never find the darn list when we need it. Look, I never said we were the most organized couple in the world, all right?

Anyway, Larry came up the stairs shortly thereafter to where I was busy sitting on the couch, missing my internet, and said, "Our new Verizon PIN is ****" (those are numbers, I'm just not telling them to you,because well, duh). Ever the optimist, I tried to make some sense of the 4 digits he chose, but I couldn't. Important date? Someone's phone number? Our old license plate number from the first state we lived in, which happens to be the only plate number stuck in my memory? No, none of that.

Me: How the heck am I supposed to remember 4 random numbers like that?


Me: Well?

Larry: It's the date we met.

And that's how I lost a whole bunch of marriage points in one fell swoop. (Although, as a friend later pointed out, I'm still way ahead because of all the points I won from the bagel-slicer incident.) AND I had to watch Larry act insufferably smug for the rest of the day. 

But I did have my internet, so I couldn't complain. Much.

In other news, I became seriously delusional at some point last week and decided that, in true Rosie the Riveter fashion, I was perfectly capable of stripping the old caulk from our kitchen sink and replacing it with new caulk. So I went to Home Depot and bought some tools and implements of destruction, waited until Larry went to bed (I was trying to surprise him, in a good way), and commenced my operation.

These are much harder to use than they look

People, it took me almost an hour to dig out all the pieces of rotting, moldy caulk, even with that handy-dandy tool pictured up there. But once I did, I thought, Hey! Now I just squeeze this stuff out of the tube, smooth it, and let it dry. Easy!

[Narrator: It wasn't easy]

In one corner, I managed to get that nice, smooth professional look of freshly applied caulk. The rest? Well, it looked like a 5-year-old had done it. And the more I tried to fix it, the worse it got. It reminded me of the time my parents left me with a sitter and I got Silly Putty stuck all over the bathroom faucet and I finally gave up trying to remove it and went to bed. It was all gone in the morning, and no one ever mentioned it, much to my relief.

So, hoping for a similar miracle, I taped off the sink and went to bed.

Back right-hand corner looks good, right? RIGHT?

Unfortunately, it still looked pathetic in the morning, but Susie had helped a little by leaving a note for Larry: "Mommy worked really hard on this, so say it looks good."

Larry said it looked good. But he was shaking his head a lot all morning.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

The Ties That Bind

 Today? I cleaned out the miscellaneous drawer in the kitchen. It had been bugging me for months, what with it jamming on the doohickey that spreads out crepes and the oversize pizza cutter my kids insisted on buying, so I tackled it. I did a darn good job, if I do say so myself:

I will absolutely need ALL of those rubber bands some day

But while I was cleaning it out, I found a zillion (more or less) twisty ties and plastic thing-a-ma-bobs that are used to close bread bags. I was throwing them away as I scooped them out, but it suddenly occurred to me to wonder where they came from. I mean, I have never made a point of saving one of these things myself. As you can see in the picture, we have those handy-dandy bag clips from IKEA that we use for everything that needs sealing. Yet, those twisty ties had been sitting in my drawer, unnoticed by me, because I (like everyone else my age, most likely) grew up in a house that had a drawer holding twisty ties. 

Maybe, in the back of my mind, I believed they were a naturally occurring phenomenon in kitchen drawers?

Later, all 4 of the at-home "kids" happened to be in the kitchen at once, eating breakfast or lunch or something in between, because really, who knows anymore what meal they are eating, as time has no meaning in this age of corona. I seized the moment to get to the bottom of this mystery: "Hey," I asked. "Which one of you is saving these twisty ties from the bread bags?"

They all denied having done any such thing, which means - stay with me here - Larry is the culprit. What's more, if he is the one doing it, that means he has been saving them for the past 30 years of our lives together and I NEVER NOTICED.

What's up with that?

"Why do you think Dad's saving them?" I asked the not-kids-anymore human beings at my table. To which question they responded - literally - as one: "Because that's what old people DO."

Okaaay...so that's another theory: Larry hasn't been saving these things for 30 years, it's just a habit that naturally developed once he hit age 50 or so. It's like your knees starting to get stiff or suddenly having eyebrows that attempt to grow all over your face. Suddenly, you find yourself tossing bread ties in the junk drawer like the self-respecting almost-senior citizen that you are.

This idea is disturbing. Also, just as FYI for my kids, we're not THAT old. Not saving-bread-ties old. I'm not, anyway. 

The rubber bands don't count, dammit.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Do We Even NEED To Use Silverware?

Remember April? When this whole pandemic/social isolation thing was still new and my dishwasher broke (AGAIN) and Larry -- after sexily trying to fix it -- ordered us a new one that arrived within a week and saved us from having to wash and dry dishes for 5 (now 6) people?

Remember how excited I was?

5 months, people - the shining, three-racked wonder pictured above lasted 5 months in this appliance-killing household of mine. Granted, in dishwasher years, it was over a year old, not a puppy anymore, given that we run it 12 times a week instead of the 4 its projected longevity is based on.

4 times a week - what is up with that, anyway? If I had so few dishes that I only ran this thing once every other day, I wouldn't really NEED a dishwasher, now would I?

So, yeah, it's broken. And, yes, Larry spent about an hour trying to fix it, which is just exactly what he loves to do with an almost-brand-new appliance. But it refused to respond to his not-so-tender ministrations (some cursing was involved), so I made an appointment with Maytag (it's still under warranty, because it's almost brand new - have I mentioned that? I think I have). 

The soonest available appointment? 8 days out. Okay, I thought, we're strong. We can make it 8 days. Maybe.

So last Thursday, while I was out waving my flag and trying to be an activist, Brian was home to let the repair guy in to, you know, fix the dishwasher. As I marched along, tired as I was, I reveled in the thought that there wouldn't be an entire sinkful of dishes (and silverware - it's the silverware that kills me) to wash and dry that night. Instead, having done my civic duty, I would go home and rest peacefully on my couch while listening to the familiar hum of a not-so-trusty kitchen appliance, repaired and restored. 

I think it was somewhere around mile 4 when I noticed Brian had posted a message to the family group chat: NO DISHWASHER FIX TODAY. 

Turns out, the dishwasher model I have is new this year and apparently there have been a lot of problems with certain parts, and because of COVID, all those parts are back ordered. Meaning, we have no idea when it will be fixed. According to Brian, when he asked, the guy just shrugged and said, "We'll call you."

So we don't even have a day to pin our hopes on, a goal to work toward. This ordeal (YES, it is an ordeal, dammit, you try washing a zillion forks every single day) could continue for weeks, or months. We don't know. And, gosh, isn't THAT a familiar feeling in 2020?

In the meantime, we're back to this:

My trusty Michael Graves dish-drying rack

Sometimes it's the tried-and-true that holds you up when everything falls to pieces. Family, friends, dishracks...especially dishracks...

In other news, Susie and I went to Michaels the other day and decided that they really should have rethought the Halloween marketing for this year:

Seems a tad tone deaf for 2020, you know?

Maybe just put out some cheerful pumpkins and scarecrows and leave it at that? Thanks.

And...Larry once again proved his ability to provide for our family by locating not one -- not two, even -- but THREE containers of Lysol-type wipes at Wegmans recently. This, my friends, is almost as sexy as trying to repair a dishwasher. At least, in 2020 it is...

Friday, August 28, 2020

Black Lives Matter, But So Do Bathrooms

So Jennifer doesn't just inspire me to risk all on an eggplant/tofu experiment for my daughter's 18th birthday. She also inspires me to step outside my comfort zone to meet up with a group of strangers and walk several miles in support of Black Lives Matter. 

I had a lot of reasons not to do this: strangers, the uncertainty of bathroom availability, hot weather, did I mention strangers? But Jennifer's posts about Walk the Walk -- a march from Charlottesville, VA, to DC -- made it all seem possible, so Thursday morning I got up early, filled a water bottle, borrowed a backpack from Susie, and set out to join the group for that day's walk. 

This pack is made for walkin' - just, uh, not too far...

I chose one of the shorter days, because I'm no hero. It was 12 miles, which I thought sounded doable, because I walk a lot. But you know something? Even if you have been walking a total of 4 miles a day for forever (well, since March, which in these pandemic times feels like forever), you still may not be ready to walk 12 miles in extreme heat and humidity. 

When we stopped for lunch, I sat down to put some bandaids on my blisters and guzzle an entire bottle of water and then tried to stop feeling weird in the head (it was HOT). At that point, another woman my age said, "My husband's picking me up. You want a ride back?" 

Reader, I said yes. Even though I really liked walking with that group, I felt that they just didn't need to be having to carry me when I passed out around mile 9. It was hard to admit to myself that 12 miles might be a stretch, because I still picture myself as being 25 years younger and able to do just about anything. Remember? I was the one who thought I'd be fine a few years ago, traveling cross country on a train and sleeping sitting up in coach.

So my day ended up with my walking only 6 miles with a group of really nice individuals. Part of the time I carried a Black Lives Matter flag someone gave me to wave at passing motorists. I'm a hardcore activist now, people. I had a flag. The rest of the group chanted things, but I had to save my energy for breathing. And waving that flag.

The group finished their trek this morning, walking from Alexandria, VA, to DC to join up with the larger March on Washington. And I'm sitting here at home, newly humbled, listening to the speakers and looking at the crowds on YouTube and thinking, "How are all those people standing up for so long? And don't they have to pee?"

I have high aspirations, really I do! But reality seems to get in the way of implementing them.