Wednesday, January 08, 2014

I Survived the Polar Vortex

Like many people in the United States, my friends, my family, and myself have all been coming up with innovative ways to stay warm.

Some people hang curtains in strategic places:


Some people bundle up:
Face changed to protect the innocent.
And some people stay warm by posting complaints on Facebook about how cold they are.  Especially the ones who live in Florida.

The following is a conversation I had with one such relative who shall remain faceless:

ME:  This is dedicated to my poor cousin "ETHYL."* She is trapped and suffering in Florida's frigid 50 degree weather. She had to wear REAL SHOES today, shoes that neither flipped nor flopped. I don't know how she did it. She is so brave. Please, join me in celebrating her courage and willingness to KEEP FIGHTING despite these dreadful circumstances. #polarvortex

Face changed to protect the guilty.
ETHYL:Also, this is hilarious and you are the BEST and have given me the strength to carry on.

ME: No, Ethyl, YOU are the best. Your bravery inspires me. Sniff.  I had to walk over a large snow drift to get to my mailbox today. Seems that the snow plow people thought that putting all the snow from the entire subdivision in front of my mailbox was the best idea ever. I don't know how I would have gained the courage to collect my circulars and water bill from the mailbox if it wasn't for your example.

ETHYL: Well, I had to wait like 2 WHOLE MINUTES for my car to warm up this morning. It was really hard.

ME: That's the kind of thing that keeps me warm as I use a bucket to scoop giant piles of snow off of my car.

ETHYL: I am here to inspire others.

MATILDA: Real shoes?! Whatever shall she do?!

ME: She soldiers on, Mat. She soldiers on.

ETHYL: Thank you it is SO HARD.

Editor's note:  Fonzie is the spouse of the very bundled friend pictured previously.

ME: I know, Fonzie. Doesn't her suffering put your burned out furnace and frozen sump pump lines in perspective?

*Names changed to protect the posters' privacy.  And/or make me laugh.

Wherever you are my friends, stay warm.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The One About The Tire

An interesting phenomenon I have discovered since moving to Maryland:  a lot of people do not pull over for emergency vehicles!  I just don't understand this:  if it was you or your loved one that the emergency vehicle was responding to, would YOU want them delayed because some jerk who could get out of the way chose not to?


As I mentioned a few days ago, we recently had to deal with a flat tire.  We were slowing down for a red light at a busy intersection when we heard a siren blare, and in the rear view mirror,  see a police car speeding down the road behind us, blue and red lights flashing.  The Hubs, not a Maryland native, attempts to pull over to let the police car pass.  On this one way, two lane road, there wasn't a LOT of room to pull over without pulling into a ditch.  If the cars on both sides pull over, there is JUST enough room to make a third lane in the middle.

Anyway, the police car very aggressively nosed its way through the sort-of path created by the reluctant drivers - most of whom did not or barely moved their vehicles.  We ended up pulling off the road more than would have been safe had the ground not been frozen.

The police car passed, we pulled back into our lane.  Seconds later, another set of lights and sirens.  Fewer drivers were willing to get out of the way, so we actually changed lanes and pulled off on the other side of the road.  This time, the police car barely  managed to squeeze past.  When we pulled back onto the road, the light was green and we proceeded forward.

It was immediately apparent that there was a problem.

thump smack thump smack thump smack

The car was shaking.

thump smack thump smack thump smack

"I think there is something wrong with our car," I observed quietly.

I saw the Hub's hands tighten on the steering wheel, his knuckles turning white.

"I think we have a flat tire," I continued.

He didn't say anything.  I pointed ahead to the entrance of a subdivision on the right where we could safely pull over.

"We could pull over there to ch...." I began.

His voice curt, stern, emotionless, the Hubs replied, "I am making a U-Turn."

As he said this, he flicked the blinker on aggressively (he's from New Jersey, he can do anything aggressively if he wants to), changed lanes, and pulled into the left turn lane at the next intersection.

Stung by his curt response, I replied crossly, "Hey.  Don't take it out on me.  I didn't make the tire flat."

He didn't respond.  His knuckles on the steering wheel grew a little whiter.

I knew what was going through his head.  He wasn't really mad at me.  He was replaying the memory of the pothole, the loud metallic thunk as the right front tire dropped and rose a dramatic six inches.  The money spent at Firestone trying to assess and repair the damage.  The discovery that the car now shakes at 65 mph.  The additional money we were going to have to pay to fix a mistake that wasn't our fault.  And on top of that, everything else that has happened in the past year.

He still didn't say anything.

"Where are we going?" I asked, timidly.

The light turned green and he made a U-Turn.  After a moment, he replied, "To the gas station."  His voice was still curt, devoid of emotion.  In a word, terrifying.

See, the Hubs is generally a pretty jovial guy.  He tends to take things in stride and find the humor in situations that make me panic.

His ability to find amusement in not-amusing situations may or may not have resulted, at times in the distant past, in me stamping my foot and demanding that he "take me seriously right now, I mean it!  Stop laughing.  It's not funny.  NOT FUNNY!"

With the exception of his curt replies to my questions, my husband was silent.  I use that word because there isn't a word to describe a void of silence.  All sound was sucked into a joy-less vortex, the atmosphere a vaccuum.  The only sound that could withstand the black hole of his anger was the

thump smack thump smack thump smack

of the tire on the pavement.

A minute and a century later, we pulled into the gas station.  The clock said only sixty seconds had passed, but my soul lived 100 years in that moment.  100 years of

thump smack thump smack thump smack

and the sound-eating vortex that was the white-knuckled Puerto Rican sitting next to me.

In most situations where life deals us the two of clubs, I am the panicker, the anxious

arm waving
sky falling
chaos predicting

partner in this marriage.  The Hubs is my rock.  He keeps me level-headed(ish) and tells me everything is going to be okay.

Sometimes, very rarely, I am the sane one.  Usually, this happens when I realize that the Hubs is the one about to lose it.  During the drive to the gas station, I texted my mother-in-law to tell her what had happened.  She knows me so well, so she just reminded me to calm down, to trust, and that was it.  So by the time the Hubs stopped the car, I knew everything was going to be okay.

When his voice - rusty with a century of disuse - broke the dreadful silence, I jumped.

"Do you have change."

It wasn't a question.  It was a statement couched in a slightly-polite format, as if he were trying to remember the niceties of a more civilized age.  An awkward attempt to avoid my snappish demand for civility.

"Yes."  I replied.  "I have a dollar fifty in quarters."

Before I had completed my sentence, he was out of the car, standing next to my door.  The look on his face said his foot would have been tapping impatiently if he wasn't attempting to be polite.  It was clear that he was waiting for me to get out.  As I exited the car, he tilted his head to indicate the tire.

A visual inspection did not reveal any obvious tears or holes.  We couldn't even see the tire bulge that had been obvious for months.  A very brief discussion (I use that word loosely, it was more like a half a sentence and a grunt) saw him back in the driver's seat, backing up slowly, so I could inspect the part of the tire concealed by the ground and slushy snow.  I still didn't see anything.  He pulled forward.

I shrugged at him as he stepped around to my side of the car.  "I didn't see anything.  Do you want me to put the air in it?"

Having imagined the worst (both in my reaction and in the state of the tire), the Hubs seemed slightly puzzled for a moment.  Apparently, the universe was not actually crashing around our ears.  Gruffly, he replied,

"I'm going to go buy you something to drink in the store."

I had mentioned being thirsty much earlier, before the sirens, before the tire, actually, about five seconds after leaving the house.

It's a thing I do.

"Okay," I thought, "apparently, his humanity is returning."  Oh good.  No more crazy husband.

Well, almost.

It turns out that the tire had a leak.  I added air to the tire, we waited for five minutes, and then we drove around the parking lot once.

Unfortunately, a lady had the nerve to pull into the gas station to put gas in her car, which briefly delayed our return to the air pump as she had the right of way.

She even made eye contact with the Hubs.  It was a tense .2 seconds.

When we checked, the pressure in the tire had dropped from 44 psi to 35 psi.  His eyes briefly glowed red (normally, a delicious chocolate brown).  That's when I suggested fix-a-flat.  His agreement obtained, I went and purchased a can from the gas station.

Then I tried adding it to the tire.

I should mention here that I was wearing a knee-length dress, that the ground was covered with an icy-snowy-slush, and that there was a bitterly cold wind blowing.  I couldn't get the angle on the can right.  I made a mess.  The Hubs was not amused.  His silence speaking volumes, he added the fix-a-flat.  I chattered nervously in the background.  We got back in the car, and he asked me what we were doing next.

"Uh, the can says to 'drive slowly for three-to-four miles.'"

"What does 'slowly' mean?"

"I don't know, that's what the can says."

"Five miles an hour? Ten? Thirty-five?  How slow?"

"I don't know!"

Dear authors of the label on the fix-a-flat we used - I promise he didn't mean what he said next.  I'm sure you didn't hit every branch of the stupid tree on the way down.  And some rocks are really smart.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Still Not Done

I had a meeting this morning and a long afternoon.  My medicine wore off just about the time I sat down to finish the blog post I have been working on for three days.  I am finding this a little frustrating - I have something to write about, but I can't seem to finish it before the end of the day rolls around.

So I end up writing a little nothing post just to meet my commitment to blog every day this month.

I feel like I'm cheating.

I'm not, though.  I am building new habits by making myself work on this even though it frustrates me.  I am not giving up.  I am not throwing my hands up in the air and giving up.

I will do this.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

What Happens At Dennys

I am not going to fail on day 5 of the new year!  I am disappointed that I didn't finish the post I've been working on, but I've been sick for the last week and this morning was really bad.  I didn't get out of bed until 2:30 p.m., and I had other things that HAD to be done.  So, without further ado:  a picture and a quick story:

Recently, the Hubs and I decided to act like college kids and make a midnight dessert trip to Denny's with our friend Saige.  The waitress was not terribly attentive, leaving us alone for more than an hour before she brought the check.  This is the result of our boredom.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

The Story Before The Other Story About The Tire

I'm really bad at knowing at what point in the story one ought to start a tale.  Maybe it is a remainder from those tort classes about proximate cause, but I often seem to find myself saying, "But wait, for you to understand this, I have to go back to that one time...."

Today we got a flat tire.  I have a funny story about this flat tire. In order to tell you about it, I first need to explain why this tire went flat. The beginning of that story is in March 2013.  At least.

The first story isn't really funny, it's just background.  So we can credit the flat tire to 2013's account.  And also so you can fully comprehend why my husband turned to color of a boiled lobster.

Round about March 2013, Firestone received lots and lots of money to replace our worn-out brakes and tires. Shortly after that, I went into the hospital for a week, and then onto short-term disability for the next seven-ish weeks.  (I had mono and gastroenteritis, the exact dates are fuzzy.)  Right after that, we discovered an unfortunately placed pothole in the middle of the road.  It was not as cute as this pothole, but was just as large and almost as destructive:

We did not immediately notice any damage, and, with relief, we went on our merry way.

Awhile later (later enough that it was near to being autumn), I noticed a blister on the same (brand new) tire that was eaten by the giant pothole.  That same day, the heater got stuck on defrost.  The Hubs decided to take the car to Firestone to have it checked out.

After replacing some random part on the heater, the folks at Firestone told the Hubs that we had a bent rim, but that the blister wasn't anything to worry about.  The rim was (supposedly) fixed.  The next day, we started noticing the car shaking a bit when we hit 65.

We probably should have taken the car back to Firestone at that point, but life was crazy and we aren't made of money.  Honestly, we didn't really think it was related to the tire thing, we just thought it was yet another annoying problem with our car.

When we visited my in-laws recently, we mentioned the shaking thing.  My father-in-law took the car to his "guy,"  who informed us that Firestone had not properly aligned something-or-other, blah blah blah, car talk.  This was right after I lost my job, so it was kind of one of those moments where you say, "Alas.  That stinketh" and go on with your life because you don't have money to fix it.

Towards the end of November, I had to put air in that tire.  This isn't uncommon with the advent of winter so I didn't really think anything of it.  Unbeknownst to me, in December, the Hubs ALSO had to put air in the tire.

And then today, in the middle of crazy traffic, we realized we had a flat tire.  For real-thunk smack thunk smack-look for a place to pull over-flat.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Cathartic Retrospection

2012 was the best of times and the worst of times.  2013 just felt like the worst of times and even now I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.  Without regard to MY feelings in this matter, Facebook keeps encouraging me to create my "year in review" to "celebrate the highlights of 2013."  The thing is, a few pictures from our family vacation and some posts about my cats an ongoing source of misery and humor don't really make up a picture of my year.  If you ask Facebook, my "word of the year" for 2013 was "glubs." I have no explanation for this.

Also, Facebook keeps recommending that I like the page "Duke Athletics."


Clearly, there is a lot about me Facebook doesn't know. The serious stuff, the scary stuff, the life-altering stuff.  I can't just put that kind of stuff "out there" on Facebook, I would sound like a hormonal tween.

That's why I blog instead.  It's, like, totally more mature.

Okay, it would be a lie to say that NOTHING GOOD AT ALL happened in 2013.  I mean, seriously, I have a roof over my head, I have family and friends, and I have cats.

Two out of three ain't bad.  

Initially, this post wasn't supposed to take two days to write.  I was just going to do a quick-and-dirty 2013 "highlight reel." In spite of my feelings about the year in general, I thought I could improve upon Facebook's efforts. Yes, I knew it was cheating - posting a bunch of random pictures is not stretching myself as a writer. I told myself that it was "just for one day.  I'll do something better tomorrow."

I started going through pictures yesterday and then... I just didn't stop.  I've spent the last two days combing through my photographs from the last year.

It turns out that I captured a lot of good little moments.  Things about this year that I don't want to forget - but in light of difficult situations we have dealt with, things that are so much harder to remember.

Ultimately, I created this slideshow as a memorial to 2013.  It might be premature to say I'm feeling better, but I think that, maybe, I am starting to.

So, these are the little things that made this year survivable. Except for that one hospital picture.  That one is just for the LOLZ.   

Before I close this post, let me pretend to accept an award for a second and say thank you to some not-so-little people.  The people with me in these photographs.  I have an amazing family and a small but wonderful group of friends.  Without them, I wouldn't have survived this year.  These are the people who let me stand under their umbrellas for a few minutes.  Thanks, Rihanna.  I am also so incredibly blessed to have a husband who stood next to me in the rain even though I couldn't always see him through the downpour.  Thank you, guys.

Okay, enough of the rain analogy.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Dodging Raindrops

For the last year and a half or so, I have been living my life like someone trying to dodge the raindrops.  Raindrops are the little things.  Laundry that goes sour too fast.  Cats that refuse to use the litterbox properly.  Related carpet stains.  Lost thread.  A sink full of dirty dishes.  Someone at work yells at you.  A driver on the interstate cuts you off, gives you the finger.  Spring termite swarm.  Late frost killing off your flowers.  An argument with a friend.

And in the middle of all that, you get lightening and golf-ball sized hail.

Unemployment.  Infertility.  Mono.  A spouse with kidney stones.  Medical bills.

In the end, you are standing in the rain, clothes plastered to your body, shoes squishing with every step.  Dreading the next hailstone or lightning bolt.

Sometimes I just want a moment to catch my breath.  Dry off a little.  Instead, I'm caught in the middle of an empty parking lot without an umbrella.

This year things are going to be different.  I'm gonna buy a raincoat.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Post For A New Year

2013 was a really tough year for me.  2012 was hard, but it had a lot of high points.  2013 felt like a lot of valleys that we never quite made it out of before sliding back down.  I had health problems throughout the year.  I had mono that went undiagnosed for a long enough period of time to do serious damage to my immune system and required more than eight weeks of recovery.  Probably due in large part to the mono, I have had some sort of antibiotic-requiring illness eight or nine times this year.  There have been a lot of other complications in my life due to my lovely bout with mono - but 2013 is over.  I am hopeful dare I say optimistic even, knock on wood that 2014 will be a better year.

On Facebook yesterday, I joked that I needed an "achievable" resolution for 2014.  I keep typing 2013.  Worst part of the new year, training my fingers not to type the old one.  I keep a running list of the usual "goals for being a better person" throughout the year each year:

1.  Eat better, exercise more, get healthy
2.  Become more disciplined in my spiritual life
3.  Working on overcoming bad habits
4.  Treat my family better
5.  Keep my house clean
6.  Put my laundry away more than once a quarter
7.  Blog more
8.  Learn to fly and/or turn invisible

Like many people, these have been ongoing goals in my life for years.  So I want a new goal.  Something realistic but meaningful.  My cousin Erin suggested that I resolve to "win 2014.  Now I just need to figure out what "winning" means.  I'll let you know if I think of anything.