One Perfect Moment

IMG_4750

Household chores are simultaneously uplifting and demoralizing.

Do you know what I mean?

I spend yesterday cleaning and doing household chores. Not the quick vacuum around the litter box and scrub the toilet, but the full deal.  I vacuumed and dusted.  I sprayed chemicals all over this house and scrubbed every surface.  I dug the cat litter out of the treadmill belt, wiped down the baseboards in the bedroom, and scrubbed the kitchen floor.

But I was just getting started. I cut the grass.  I scrubbed mildew and leaves off the back deck.  I hosed down the deck furniture.

I washed every piece of dirty laundry in this house. Well, except for the sheets.  They’ll have to wait another few days.

And when I was done, I surveyed the place and felt damn proud of myself. The kitchen sparkled, the bedroom was camera ready, the yard picturesque.  There are few feelings as satisfying as a clean house.

That’s why it’s uplifting. Today I feel energized, productive, and ready to take on the world.  A clean house can do that.

But.

It doesn’t last.

Because as soon as I was finished, I showered and threw my dirty clothes into my hamper. The laundry was officially starting to pile up again.

The grass is growing, even as we speak. The dust I whipped up into the air is resettling.

I made oatmeal this morning and spilled blueberries all over my perfect kitchen counter.

Jasmine found a prime spot to deposit a hairball.

The cycle is never-ending. Usually, I’m cleaning a bit here and there, and I’m in a state of equilibrium with the dust and dirt of life.

But we you do a full housecleaning, you get the satisfaction of perfection.

Even if it is only one perfect moment.

Advertisements

A Major Minor Inconvenience

cable2

Cable, internet, and phone installation…so easy!

 

I hate calling the cable, phone, and internet company. I realize this aligns me with approximately one hundred percent of the human populations, but still.

I’ve been unhappy with my current service for quite some time. Still, I hesitated switching companies.  I’m well aware that every cable, internet, and phone company is the pits.  Too expensive, hidden fees, bad customer service.  I detested the idea of making a switch—the flurry of phone calls, figuring out my options, and installing new equipment.

But last week when I had issues with my landline, and the company had to send a service man out for the third time in a month, I decided I’d had enough. (For those of you who want to know why I still have a landline, I just still want one, okay?  Don’t judge.)

So I made the call to Xfinity. When I told them I was a prospective customer ready to buy, it was amazing how quickly I was put through to a real person.  No torturous automated menus.  The connection was clear, the person on the other end of the line was a nice young man from Spokane, Washington.  He patiently explained the prices and options.  Could I get more tv channels?  Yes!  Could I keep my same phone number?  No problem!  Could I install it myself without having to pay for a service visit?  Nothing could be easier!

He had me hook, line, and sinker. We chatted about the wild fires in the west for a few minutes while he processed my order.  I hung up and sat back in my chair, feeling quite pleased with myself.  This was going to be wonderful.  Easy.  I was wondering why I hadn’t switched years ago.

The next day I picked up my new cable box and modem. The woman at the desk smiled at me.  As I walked away, I swore she whispered under her breath, “Let the games begin.”

My existing landline number was supposed to be ported over by Friday. As of today, this still has not happened.

Are you surprised? Me neither.

And we’re just getting started.

The young man from Spokane explained that the modem hooked into a cable line. No problem, as I had a spare cable outlet in the bedroom.  I hooked it up and plugged it in.  Then I realized you had to plug the phone into the modem.  Hmm.  That was inconvenient, as the phone jack was on the other side of the room and I didn’t have a cord long enough to reach.

No problem. I’d take the modem downstairs and hook it into the same cable outlet as my television.  The man from Spokane also said this would work, and the kit even came with a helpful splitter.

I hooked up the new cable box and the new modem. While the modem fired up, I turned on the television.

Welcome! scrolled across the television screen. Oh boy, I thought.  This was going great.

Then Welcome! turned into Sorry!  The lights on the modem never stopped blinking, as the instructions assured me they would do.

My stomach clenched. There were no other options.  I had to call tech support.  And it took quite a few automated menus before I spoke to a real person.

The man from tech support was no from Spokane, and my connection was not nearly as clear. It sounded like the poor man worked in Grand Central Station.  I could hear dozens of muffled voices all around, other techs servicing other customers.  The line was muffled.  We lost our connection three times.

Still, I give the guy credit. He called me back all three times.

Together, we tried everything. He rebooted the modem remotely.  I rebooted it from my living room.  I unplugged it and plugged it back in several times.  Same with the television.  I took off the splitter and tried hooking the modem up directly to the cable line.  Nothing.

No television, no phone, no internet.

After an hour on the phone, I knew where this was going to end. After two hours, he called it.

“Ma’am, we will need to send a service technician to your home. The earliest appointment in Monday morning.”

I panicked. This was Saturday night.  That meant I would have no phone, no internet, and no cable all day Sunday.

No phone was no problem. My phone had barely worked for weeks, and I had my cellphone.

No internet, also no problem. I could post this blog from the library, and a day without access to social media and the political news of the day sounded downright blissful.

But no cable. ON SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 11?

“I need my television tomorrow,” I pleaded with the man. “Please.  I need it on Sunday.”

“Yes, I understand,” he said. “I will see what I can do.”

“This is basically an emergency,” I said. I had help my temper throughout our two hour call, knowing none of this was his fault.  Even though I had wanted to scream at him.  I hoped my restraint would help me now

“Okay, yes, I can get you a Sunday appointment,” he said.

I sagged with relief.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “You will not miss your football.”

Football? I thought. What is he talking about, football?  Oh yes!  Today is the official start of the season (I don’t count that Thursday night madness.)  Steelers and Browns.  Of course I wanted to watch football.

But that hadn’t been the cause of my panic. There’s only one show that missing could give me heart palpitations.

OUTLANDER SEASON 3 PREMIER. 8 PM.  SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 11.outlander

So I’m waiting for the cable man. He is supposed to arrive between noon and two.

That gives him between six and eight hours to get Jamie and Claire onto my screen.

Heaven help him if he can’t manage it. I won’t be responsible for my actions.

Locked Out

193

Earlier this week, I set out for an after dinner walk around the neighborhood. I’ve always been a fan of walking, and after dinner walks in particular are a great way to clear my mind and wind down for the evening.  I was particularly excited for this walk, as I was listening to Elin Hilderbrand’s latest audiobook The Identicals and I couldn’t wait to find out what twin sisters Harper and Tabitha would do next.

I loaded up the audiobook, put on my headphones. The sun was sinking, the air was brisk.  I started up the book and started the timer on my GPS watch.  Three miles of bliss.  I took the first few steps, sinking into the words of the audiobook and suddenly stopped.

In the back of my mind I knew something was off, but it took me a moment to figure out what it was. I looked down at my hands.  In one, I held my mp3 player.  The other was empty.

That hand wasn’t supposed to be empty.

It was supposed to be holding the key to my house.

Knowing the answer, but hoping I was wrong, I walked back to my front door to see if I had left it unlocked. (I have never once left my front door unlocked, but I had also never left without my keys, so I was hoping there was a first time for two things.)

The door was locked.

And I was outside with no keys, and no phone.

Crap.

I looked around—the neighborhood was empty, of course. Neither of my two neighbors were home.  I could just start walking down the street knocking on every door, but that wasn’t an appealing thought.

Four people have a key to my house, but the closest by far is my parents. They live ten minutes away.

Ten minutes away by car.

How many minutes did they live by foot?

I was about to find out.

I left my GPS watch running and hit the road. I was out for some exercise, after all.  I was just going to get a little more than I’d bargained for.

Walking on roads I’ve driven thousands of times is a bit disorienting. I never noticed the trash on the side of the highways—plastic bags, beer bottles and cans, a smashed iPhone.  But I also never noticed the trees along the way, the leaves, and the chirping birds.

I was lucky. I didn’t run across any roadkill or creepy hitchhikers.  I made the walk to my parent’s house in forty-five uneventful—and surprisingly peaceful—minutes.

When I rounded the corner of the street I grew up on, the house I grew up on came into view. And there were my parents, just as I knew they would be, sitting side-by-side on the front porch reading.  Mom looked up first, and I saw surprise flash across her face when she recognized me.

I spent a few minutes on the porch with them, when we all updated one another on what we were reading—Dad was reading a Jack Reacher novel, and Mom had just finished The Identicals herself.  After that, Dad drove me home and let me in to my own house, and I walked in to see my keys on the tray by the door, as always.

We live in an age of cars, and smartphones, and thank god for it. But it’s nice to know that sometimes you can solve your problems with your own feet and a little help from the people who love you most.

Autumn Tease

IMG_8491

I grew up loving summer above all other seasons. How could I not?  Summer meant running around the yard barefoot without a care in the world.  There were endless hours for swimming, reading, and making up stories.  We went on family camping trips where I rode horses, collected firewood, and rode my bike all day long.

Even when I grew a little older, summer was still magical. I got a job scooping ice cream…getting paid to hang out with friends and make vanilla cones for victorious little leaguers.  There was no school to get in the way of riding around with friends or laying out in the sun.

But lately, summer has lost some of its magic for me. At thirty-six with an office job, it has finally sunk in that I will never get the summer off again.  And with that huge advantage removed, the other seasons now have a chance to claim my heart.

For example, this weekend in Pittsburgh I got my first taste of autumn and it couldn’t be any sweeter. The weather cooled down in the evenings enough that I had to dig a sweatshirt out of the closet for the first time in month.  It felt so cozy to pull it on, and to sit on the back deck with a blanket around my shoulders.

The leaves are just starting to turn on a few trees. The cicadas are singing all through the day.  The dark is coming on a little earlier each night, and clinging to the morning a bit more.

I know it’s just a brief reprieve, and that we’ll have at least another blast of heat before summer lets go for good in late-September. But the weekend excited me for all that is to come in fall.

Unlike the dog days of summer, or the long nights of deep winter, the brilliant changing of the autumn leaves is over in a finger snap. You don’t want to miss it.

I’m looking forward to everything about fall this year: the brisk sweatshirt weather, the apple festivals, the pumpkin patches.  Football and the start of season three of Outlander.  Good movies coming back to the Cineplex (you all know how I feel about the comic book summer blockbusters).  New books out by Tess Gerristen and Sandra Brown.

And the clerk at the Dunkin’ Donuts drive through will finally stop asking me if I want an ice coffee and start asking if I want a Pumpkin Spiced Latte.

Yes, yes I do. Bring it on.

 

Toothpaste

toothpaste

Pain free or fresh breath…the choice is yours

 

Let’s talk toothpaste.

Last week I told you I brush my teeth an abnormal amount. As soon as I wake up, after every meal or snack, and sometimes just for fun when I’m in the bathroom.  I wasn’t always this way.  I didn’t have an explanation for why my teeth brushing has escalated over the years.

I thought about it all week and now I know why: toothpaste.

Specifically, Sensodyne.

For those of us with sensitive teeth, Sensodyne is a godsend. It’s a toothpaste specially formulated for those with sensitive teeth.  If you have pain when you eat or drink hot or cold things, you should really try it.  It works.

The problem is that it works by using a gentle formula stripped of all the harsh chemicals and cleaners that leave your mouth smelling and tasting as fresh as if you’d just ate a garden of mint.

So now your teeth don’t hurt but they feel dirty.

All the time.

Even right after you brush them.

Those of you who use Sensodyne, back me up on this one, okay?

And as it states right on the package, Sensodyne “builds increasing protection.” In other words, you have to use it all the time.  You can’t brush once with Sensodyne in the morning and then use your Crest or Aquafresh the rest of the day.

No way. No cheating.  Even one brush with the good stuff will bring your sensitive teeth roaring back the next time you drink something cold.

So I brush my teeth all day long.

And here’s a secret confession: I keep a tube of Aquafresh in the back of the bottom drawer.  Out of sight, out of mind.  But it isn’t out of mind.  I’m always thinking about it, and wanting to use it.  Every so often, I give in.  I pull out the Aquafresh and look over my shoulder like a criminal.  Just one hit, I tell myself.

And my teeth feel fresh and clean all day long, and I am happy.

Until I drink a cold Pepsi and my teeth scream in protest.

Strange Habits

DSCN0773

My desk, with the chair pulled out, as always

 

I’ll admit it—I’ve got some weird habits. Things I do all the time without thinking about them.  We all do.

At least I hope it’s not just me.

I never push in my chair. I noticed this recently when I was cleaning up the house.  And not just cleaning up the house, but cleaning up because people were coming over.  Everyone knows this is an entirely different kind of cleaning.  You see your house with new eyes when you’ve got company coming over.  I see carpet stains, dust, and cat hair that was previously completely invisible to me.

But I’m getting off track. As I walked through the house, looking at it through the eyes of my guests, I noticed that my chair at the dining room table was pulled out.  As was the chair at my vanity, and at my desk.  And this wasn’t just a coincidence—I do it all the time.  I even do it at work, where you think I’d push my chair in at the end of the day.

But no.

Apparently I’ve been doing this for years without noticing. Why?  I have no idea.

Similarly, most of the closet doors in my house are constantly open. In this, I have some defense—it’s Jasmine’s fault.  She wants all the closet doors open, and if they are not, she will paw at them and meow and cry until I open them.  She normally waits until I am one nanosecond away from falling asleep to begin this assault and she doesn’t let up until I give in.  I’ve ceded all but the coat closet and the office closet to her.

Also, I’m obsessed with brushing my teeth. I wasn’t always like this, and it beats me when it started.  For most of my life, I’ve brushed my teeth two or three times a day like a normal person.  But at some point, I started brushing my teeth the moment I woke up in the morning.  Even if I have to brush them again within the hour after breakfast.

Probably many of you do this. None of us wake up with the breath of romantic comedy movie stars (or with the full makeup or bedhead-less hair.)  But I’ve taken it a step further.  I brush my teeth after coffee, then after breakfast.  After lunch.  After my 3pm snack.  After work.  After dinner.  Sometimes when I’m in the bathroom I just brush them for no particular reason.

As far as fetishes go, I suppose it’s a good one. I’ve never had a cavity.  Let’s just hope I don’t brush the enamel off my teeth.

I refill store bought water bottles from the tap but I only drink water in a glass poured from the Brita pitcher. I have underwear I only wear on the weekends.  I mute television commercials for pharmaceuticals.  I will only drink Pepsi—not Coke!—out of a can.

I have no idea why I do most of these things. And these are only the ones I’m willing to admit.  Fortunately, I live alone, so there are no witnesses to the really weird things.

Those are my secret.

Well, mine and Jasmine’s.

But she’s not meowing.

(As long as the closet doors are open.)

Cold Comfort

bedspread

New comforter, courtesy of my stupidity

 

I could kick myself.

Yesterday I decided to wash my comforter. I have a thick comforter on a queen bed, so in the past I’ve taken it to the laundromat once a year or so to wash it.

But in November I bought a new washing machine, one I though was large enough to wash the comforter.

As soon as I said thought, you probably know where this is going.

So, I took it down into the laundry room and did my normal pre-laundry preparation. (What is pre-laundry preparation?  Well, in my case, it means turning on a portable flood light and searching every area of the garage and laundry room for snakes.  Years ago I found snake skins—and then their owner—crawling across my dryer.  I’d prefer never to be surprised like that again.)

Once I verified I was snake-free, I opened up the washer and stuffed the comforter in.

As soon as I said stuffed, you should definitely know where this is going.

Normally I start the water and scoop in the powered detergent and let it dissolve before I add the clothing or bedding to the machine. This time I was in a bit of hurry, and forgot.  So after I stuffed in the comforter, I dumped the powdered soap on top.

I stood back and surveyed the machine. It was a tight fight, no doubt about it, but with the soap already on the comforter it felt too late to turn back.  I cranked her up to the highest setting and let ‘er rip.

I should’ve turned back.

I’d set the machine on the highest water setting, given it a fifteen minute soak, and a second rinse. Despite all that, when I opened up the machine, the top of the comforter was still pretty dry.  The soap hadn’t dissolved, but had turned into a paste that was stuck in all the folds of the comforter.

And the thing was heavy. Soaked through with water even though it had been rinsed.

Uh-oh.

But I soldiered on, repositioning the comforter so the top was now on the bottom. I ran the machine again, with full water and a second rinse.  I stopped the cycle a few times to push the comforter down into the water and move it around as much as possible.

It was no use. The thing was so heavy when filled with water that the machine couldn’t agitate it at all.  After two full washings, the thing was sopping wet and still had undissolved detergent grit all through it.

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t dare run a third cycle, fearing the washing machine would protest.  I thought briefly about taking it onto the back deck and trying to rinse it out with the garden hose.

But then I came up with a better idea. I’d had this comforter since I moved into my house.  It was a move-in gift from a dear friend, but I started to believe that maybe it had lived a long enough life and was ready to go to that big bed in the sky.  And maybe I could get a lighter one, one with flowers on it.  And then I’d have to get new throw pillows to match and wouldn’t that be nice.  And shams, I could get pink or purple shams….

I know you know where this is going.

And so that’s how I ended up with lovely new bedding.

That will be washed only at the industrial laundromat.

Superheroes on the Silver Screen

superhero movie

I don’t go to the movies in the summer as much as I used to. This is mainly because I’ve given up on superhero movies.

Superhero movies used to be one of my favorite genres—I couldn’t get enough of that original X-Men trilogy.  I remember Alicia Silverstone as Bat Girl.  And for years, I was on the Avengers train—Iron Man I, Thor I, Captain America I, Iron Man II, Thor II, Iron Man III, Avengers I, Captain America II and on and on.

But now it’s just too much. I fell off the X-Men train after Wolverine.  I fell off the Avengers train after Thor II.  I believe I am two Spidermans behind (last time I saw him, Kirsten Dunst played Mary Jane).

And I’m sorry, I’m not watching anymore Batman.

Somewhere along the way, keeping up with all these superheroes I love turned from a pleasurable pastime to something that felt more like a part-time job.

Which brings me to Wonder Woman.

When I saw the trailer, the old excitement bubbled up. Wonder Woman!  Yes!  Finally, a superhero movie starting a tough female.  (I thought Jennifer Garner’s Elektra was pretty good, but I’m in the minority).  This was just the flick to break my superhero movie hiatus.  I gave it a thumbs up in mind, and noted the release date on my calendar.

I would go see it opening night! (Well, the next day.  I’m not on board with this new trend of movies opening at midnight.  I don’t plan on paying top dollar to sleep through a blockbuster.)

But then opening day came…and went. I was too busy, too tired, had to clean the house.  The movie would be out all summer, so I’d have plenty of time.

But then the next weekend came, and the next. I had time to go to the movies, and I even looked up the Wonder Woman show times once or twice, but then just…didn’t go.

When I did get the chance to go to the movies, I found myself watching Baywatch (readers of this blog know my love for this one), Nicole Kidman’s The Beguiled (an unusual story worth watching) and then Dunkirk (the critics seem to love it, but I need some dialogue and plot in my films).

And here it is, two months later and I haven’t seen Wonder Woman.

And the truth, that I haven’t wanted to admit, is that I just don’t want to.

Superhero movies and I no longer just need some time apart. We’re broken up for good.

What the Hail?

124 (2)

Virginia Beach Boardwalk, before all hell broke loose

 

So today’s blog is late because I woke up this morning in Virginia Beach. After a week of fun in the sun and an eight hour car ride, I’m back at my desk in Pittsburgh.

When you’re spending the week at the beach, you expect certain hiccups—sunscreen in your eyes, lost sunglasses, even a bit of sunburn.

What you don’t expect is to get caught in a hailstorm.

Let me set the scene.

Mom, Dad, and I are camped out right at the water’s edge. We’ve got the full setup—beach bags, towels, cooler, three beach chairs, and two big umbrellas.  There’s a beach packed with people, and we’re all minding our business and working on our tans.  (Well, not me.  I don’t tan.  I cover every inch of my body with SPF 100 sunscreen.  I’m the only person on the planet who returns from the beach paler than when I left.  But sunburns are seriously not my thing.)

But I digress. The whole lot of us are hanging around when a dark cloud materializes in the distance.  It moves in quickly and a few drops of rain fall.  There’s some stirring on the beach, but we’re not amateurs—the three of us know how quickly these summer storms come and go.  We decide to ride it out.

Oops.

When the rain picks up, I offer to take our beach bags back to the hotel—that’ll protect our paperback novels, newspapers, and cash. Still thinking the storm is going to blow over, I leave Mom and Dad with the chairs, umbrellas, cooler, and most of the towels.  I dump the bags in the hotel room and head back out.

In the five minutes I was inside, all hell had broken loose.

I stepped out into driving wind and nearly horizontal rain. I wanted to jump back inside the hotel room, but I made my way back to the beach, knowing Mom and Dad couldn’t carry all our gear themselves.

I saw them both on the boardwalk, loaded down. The wind got hold of the umbrella Mom was holding and nearly lifted her off her feet. Dad’s hat flew into the sand.

“We left two chairs!” he shouted.

By this time, the rain was pelting me in the side of the head. My glasses were covered in raindrops and I was all but blind.  The rain grew harder until it started pinging off the side of my head.  It was then I realized that it wasn’t just rain, but hail!

I stumbled onto the beach, determined to find our chairs. Everyone else was rushing past me.  A beach umbrella flew by and nearly impaled me.  I felt like I was storming the beaches of Normandy in the wrong direction.

It was impossible to find our pervious spot, with everyone running around, hail pelting me, and wind blowing chairs and bags everywhere.

It was the closest to a hurricane I ever hope to get.

Just when I was about to give up, I saw the chairs, folded up and stacked on the sand. When I picked them up, the wind caught them and nearly pulled me off my feet.

One laboring step after another, I made my way back to the beach. Just as I was about to step onto the boardwalk, I caught a flash of blue in my eye.  I reached over and picked up my Dad’s hat.  I probably couldn’t have found that hat for a billion dollars if I’d been trying to find it, but there it was.

I stumbled into our hotel room. Mom and Dad were there—we were soaked to the skin, covered in sand, dripping all over the carpet and exhausted.

But we returned from that beach with every last piece of our equipment.

By the time we’d showered up and done our best to clean up the room, the hail was gone, the sun was out and the lifeguards were back at their posts.

It was like nothing had ever happened.

Such is life at the beach.

Shopping In the Modern World

grocery store

We live in a land of plenty. Sometimes too plenty.

Our ancestors would be amazed at how easy we have it. Instead of milking a cow, we pick a carton off a refrigerated shelf.  Instead of beating our clothes against rocks in the river, we throw them into a machine and come back forty-five minutes later.  Instead of hitching the horses to the wagon, we fire up the horsepower with the turn of a key.

I’m grateful for all this, even if I take it for granted 99.9% of the time. But I have to wonder if in the pursuit of convenience we’ve all gone a little insane.

Let’s start with the milk. I said it’s as easy as going to the store and picking up a carton, but can you imagine sending out our aforementioned ancestor with that task?  He would scan the shelves and see whole milk, skim milk, 1% milk, and 2% milk.  Then he would have to decide if he wanted antibiotic-free (good luck explaining that), or organic (ditto) milk.  And that’s just the cow’s milk.  There’s also soy milk, almond milk, lactose-free milk, all in a variety of flavors.

I’m exhausted just writing about it.

Same thing with the laundry. Sure, you just throw the clothes into a machine, but what kind of soap are you going to use?  Powder, liquid, or little plastic packets?  Bleach?  Fabric softener?  Fabric strengthener?  You’ve got an entire aisle in the store dedicated to dozens of brands of each.  And of course, you’ve got to pick a scent:  Lavender Dream, Mountain Fresh, Botanical Rain Storm.  That is of course, unless you are allergic or sensitive to scents, then you can get Free and Gentle, Allergy Free, or Scent Free.

And cars? Don’t even get me started.

A person can be forgiven for walking up and down the aisle of their grocery store and grabbing the same brand of toothpaste, mustard, and shampoo week after week. If I tried to evaluate the features, scents, taste, and price of every product I needed, I’d be in the store for hours.

It’s a workable system, and one we could give to our hypothetical ancestor. We’d give him pictures on his smartphone—actually, better just print those out—of all the products we wanted.

Presto.

Except….

Every shopper’s nightmare: the packaging change!

Now, instead of my minty fresh cool gel toothpaste coming in a red box with blue writing in the bottom left corner, all the boxes are yellow!

Why do they do this to me?

All I’m trying to do is buy is what I already have and love at home. Now I’m stuck reading all the fine print—does my toothpaste at home fight cavities and tartar?  Yes, I think so.  Is it whitening?  Not sure.  Fresh breath?  Definitely.  Or wait…is it fresh breath or peppermint?

It’s definitely a gel. Although, this box says “liquid gel.”  Is that the same as regular gel?  Is all gel liquid gel?

All I want is clean teeth. Is that too much to ask?

Here in the land of plenty, you can have anything you want. Exactly what you want.

Provided you can figure out what the heck it is you want.