Monday, January 25, 2016

A Pause

So, there was snow. A LOT of snow. It was pretty awesome, really. It snowed and it snowed, and then it snowed some more. The kids in the neighborhood have been playing non-stop. The girls created a sled track that starts at our front door, goes down the steps, across the sidewalk, down a little hill, and ends at the neighbor's brick wall. Naturally, everyone wants to try it. I don't watch, because really, the whole thing is just a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Turns out, this guy was modeled after a real person!
All the plows came and pushed an extra 2 feet of snow (on top of the 2 feet already there) behind all the parked cars around here. Able-bodied teens, therefore, are in high demand. Brian netted a cool $160 over the past 2 days, simply by wielding his snow shovel. By the end of all this, we expect to find him dressed like the guy from the Monopoly game, holding wads of cash and strolling around the house smoking expensive cigars.

I got out there and shoveled, also. My arms hurt. My legs hurt. But, hey, exercise! Larry was off work today (nothing was open, because no one knows how to plow the streets around here), so we're having a hard time remembering which day of the week it even is. Monday? Tuesday? Who cares?

Real life will start up again soon enough. There's a dentist appointment on Wednesday (tomorrow? Day after tomorrow?), and a history class that is held here on Thursday, and all the rest of it. But for now, we have this wonderful snow-filled caesura in our lives, where all that matters is dry mittens and hot cocoa and walks along car-less streets between towering banks of snow. It's like a vacation, only less expensive and more peaceful. And NO CAMPING.

I'll take it.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Be Prepared. Or Not. Whatever.

We're hunkering down, people. Blizzard of the century and all that, but what was really epic was the fact that folks around here have been mobbing stores and gas stations since Wednesday. Actually, earlier, because I tried to buy a snow shovel at Home Depot on Wednesday, and the salesguy just laughed at me when I asked where they were. "GONE," he said. "They're all gone."

The Holy Grail, in these parts
Oh, well, I thought. The grocery stores have them. So the girls and I went back to the car and drove to Harris Teeter. Where we couldn't park, because there were so many people prepping for the blizzard. We drove to Target. The shovel aisle was empty. We drove to KMart, which had a sign on the front door saying, "We Have No Snow Shovels."

This was Wednesday. I gave up on prepping for the blizzard and went home. Maybe tomorrow, I thought, as I scrolled through a Facebook newsfeed replete with photos of empty shelves at Trader Joe's and Safeway. Everyone else is shopping today, so I'll try tomorrow.

I still couldn't park at Harris Teeter on Thursday. There were long lines at all the gas stations. So I did what any responsible person would do in the face of an impending storm of cataclysmic proportions: I spent the evening at my friend's house, catching up on Downton Abbey.

Friday morning (or D-Day, meteorologically speaking) dawned, and I realized time was running short. Brian still needed snowboots, for heaven's sake. I looked online - LLBean had not one pair of size 10 waterproof boots left. NOT ONE. REI had a pair, however, so I grabbed Brian and sped to the store, which was being mobbed by irresponsible people like myself. Salespeople were dashing around as if they were on speed, but I managed to collar one and shouted, "I need the Keens size 10 waterproof boots!" He tossed a box at me, which I handed to Brian, warning him, "That's the last pair in this entire area, buddy. People are desperate. DON'T LET GO."

We headed to Harris Teeter again, where the third time was the charm, at least so far as finding a parking space was concerned. I was still hoping to find a decent shovel. No such luck, but I scored some Sudafed and 3 $5 subs. Who says I don't know how to prep for a blizzard, hey?

Larry came home from work early and sealed his status as Most Favored Husband by driving all over town looking for a gas station where he could fill up my car's tank without waiting in line for an hour. He also brought home propane for the camping stove, so I guess he would definitely outlast me on a Survivor episode. But that's okay, because I have no desire to go on existing after the demise of civilization as I know it. Life without hot water just isn't worth it to me.

So here I am, in the middle of a storm that seems not nearly as dramatic as its build-up, popping decongestants, goofing off on the Internet, and thanking the powers that be that I actually remembered to sign the neighborhood snowplowing contract this week. If our battered old shovels hold up, we just might make it through this thing.

[Snow shovel image: Southern States]
[Sub image: Yelp]

Friday, January 15, 2016

Choice Is Not All It's Cracked Up To Be

"Everyone who comments on my blog is telling me to get a Shark Navigator vacuum," I told a friend last week.

"I have one, too! It's great," she said. "But get the Lift-Away model - it turns it into a canister vacuum."

Well, that settled it. I knew which model to get and everything. I marched myself over to Target, confident for once that I could accomplish an appliance purchase with little effort. No agonizing for 2 years, like we did with the dishwasher. No multiple marriage-wrecking visits to Best Buy, the way we did when looking for stoves. Nope - I was just going to walk right into that store, select a box that had "Shark Navigator LiftAway" printed on it, and sashay up to the cash register with my Red Card in hand.

Folks, there are a LOT of Shark Navigator LiftAway models, all with lots of different parts. There was the professional model, and there was the LX model, and I don't know what all. I stood in front of that vacuum cleaner display for almost an hour, messing with the various displays and staring at the boxes, while  Rachel and Susie continually circled back to me and asked, "Can we go yet?" 

"No!" I told them. "I can figure this out. I just need a little more time, that's all." And the girls would head back to the stuffed animal display, or the Valentines Day candy aisle, or wherever children spend their time when they are trapped in Target by a parent's chronic indecisiveness.

Yeah, I did leave empty-handed. I couldn't HANDLE the choice.

As luck would have it, a few days later in Costco, I noticed a Shark Navigator LiftAway displayed on an end cap. It was 20% off. It looked okay. Most importantly, there were no other models to compare it to. I put that box in my cart and strolled away, trying to look as if I were a normal adult who could make everyday decisions.  All the way through the store (and it is a BIG store), I agonized over whether I should buy that vacuum cleaner. Was it lightweight enough? Would I lose all those attachments? Was it too much money? Was there a better model somewhere else? 

I managed to pay for it by telling myself Costco is great at handling returns. And, with Rachel due to babysit a neighborhood preschooler in our home the next day, I had no choice when I got home but to unbox my purchase and actually, you know, use it on the playroom carpet. The vacuum worked great, once we figured out all the buttons. I even tried out the special speed brush attachment to clean under the end tables. I figured I might as well do that right away, before I lost it. I'm nobody's fool.

So, yeah, decision accomplished. I'm sure my neighbor is happy that I'm no longer borrowing her vacuum cleaner. And, with any luck, this thing will last until I am too senile to care whether the carpet is clean or not. That's my only hope, because Lord knows I don't have it in me to keep making this sort of wrenching decision year in and year out. 

You know, it's a good thing I had my kids when I was younger and able to make decisions more efficiently. Otherwise, they might have had to go without names for years, while Larry and I agonized over which ones to give them. Not that I don't tend to call them by the wrong names now, anyway, but still...

[Vacuum cleaner image: Vacuum Cleaner HQ]

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Is Nothing Safe?

You know, I don't receive many comments on this here blog anymore (thanks a lot, Facebook), but one thing hasn't changed: the ones I do get are invariably positive, helpful even. Which is why it doesn't surprise me that AlisonH, upon reading that I had borrowed a neighbor's vacuum cleaner in order to clean up for our New Years party, felt compelled to share the following cautionary tale:

I borrowed a vacuum cleaner exactly once. Used it in the master bedroom, set it still a few hours, came find carpet beetles crawling out from underneath its beater bar. Yes its owner had wool wall-to-wall. No she didn't know what carpet beetles look like. She thought they were ladybugs telling off-color jokes.

Thanks, AlisonH. That triggered my bug phobias quite nicely. Heading out NOW to find a vacuum cleaner I can call my own....

[Vacuum cleaner image: Clipart Panda]

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Resolution-Free Post

This is what my week felt like, only less cheerful looking.
The last week of December turned into Hell Week, what with having to get the house ready for our annual neighborhood party on New Year's Day. I cleaned up all the junk that accumulated in the corners of our dining room and on the dining room hutch. I wiped down baseboards, picture frames, and switchplates. I kept tossing things into my bedroom for storage, until I had to climb over storage bins just to get to my bed. And THEN I tackled the family room in the basement.

Now, the basement (where all the toys, books, etc., are) had been neglected for months. I mean, it was so overwhelming, I just gave up. There was an extra file cabinet in the way, and Larry's rowing machine (which I had moved out of the guest room down there) and TOO MANY BOOKS. Also, an electronic piano no one uses because it is shoved behind the extra file cabinet and a TV area covered in loose DVDs and remotes for I know not what.

I remember when we owned one VCR tape. ONE. And we were HAPPY.

Anyway, I borrowed a working vacuum cleaner (don't ask) from my neighbor, plus some extra book boxes (how convenient is it that she owns a bookstore, huh?), and got to work. While Susie gathered up loose game pieces and put them away, I purged the main bookshelves (mostly kids' books) and emptied the extra bookshelf (also floating around the basement) that held the grown-up books that I never read because I can't find them and they get too full of dust there anyway.

I think I was half crying from exhaustion by this point. Larry came down to help get rid of dead crickets because I just cannot bear those things. He started pawing through the boxes of giveaway books even though NONE OF THEM WERE HIS, and we would have had an epic argument if we hadn't both been so goldarned tired and rushed.  As it was, he put all the boxes in the back of his car with plans to go through them later. Heaven forbid I give away that tattered old copy of Charlotte's Web with the pages falling out.  

This was how we spent New Year's Eve, people. We're festive like that.

Larry helped me pull the big couch away from the wall so I could vacuum behind and under it, and we checked to make sure the carpet pad wasn't wet and the old mold stains near the baseboards hadn't spread. Because homeowning is fun, right? Then we shoved the extra filing cabinet and the extra bookshelf sort of out of the way and Larry moved the rowing machine back into the guest room, which wasn't very fair to David, who happens to be living in there this month, but that's the way things are around here. 

Lo and behold, the basement actually looked good. Susie started happily arranging the toys, which made it clear that she hadn't played down there in 4 months because it felt so awful to be surrounded by that mess. Guilt - don't celebrate New Year's Eve without it!

So I dragged myself back upstairs, swearing I would keep the basement clean and tidy this year, all the while knowing that I am a big fat liar. And then I lay on the couch until midnight, because who goes to bed early on New Year's Eve?

Susie made this for our party. I love her.

The party the next day was a success, although I ordered way too much food and we've been eating Cafe Rio leftovers for 3 days now. We usually don't have food catered for this event, because expensive, but we were also celebrating Larry's and my 25th wedding anniversary, so I decided to go all out. We didn't have a wedding reception and we never even had a honeymoon, so I figured we were allowed this one extravagance. I told the kids that they were on the hook for planning the 50th, since their father and I probably wouldn't be speaking to each other by that time and would therefore be unable to coordinate anything.

No one argued with that. 

Saturday and Sunday? I goofed off.  Because I could. How's 2016 treating you so far?