Monthly Archives: March 2011

I am woman

If it comes in a cardboard box from Home Depot, I usually maintain a hands-off policy. The contents of those boxes tend to need assembly, and that requires either strength or manual dexterity, neither of which I have. And if I thought I could physically manage the project, I might still be defeated by pictograph instructions that I couldn’t interpret.

It’s rare that I accompany Andrew on a trip to Home Depot in the first place. I walk in with a sense of wonderment at how big and therefore promising it is, but within moments am disillusioned by how little of it entices me. This weekend, as a gesture of goodwill, I volunteered to go with him. I brought a book. When he wandered into the outdoor garden supply area, I retired to the heated room that sells tropical plants and lawn furniture. I chose a patio set I liked, settled in a chair and opened my book. I got a few envious looks. Apparently I’m not the only spouse who finds Home Depot exhausting.

In a classic Home Depot kind of way, the trip resulted in an eclectic mix of purchases; some kind of organic lawn care stuff, a spreader for said stuff, a bulb for the garage flood light, and two toilet seats. I had been concerned that we hadn’t measured the existing seats, but learned that there are only two types: round and elongated. Who knew?

When we got home, we dropped the toilet seats in the upstairs hallway. Andrew’s priority, however, was the lawn, so he spent the rest of the afternoon happily using his new spreader. The next day he went to work, the toilet seats still in the hall. Each time I passed those boxes I thought, what if I didn’t have Andrew? By mid-afternoon I’d made up my mind; I was going to replace the toilet seats myself.

I started by removing an existing seat from its toilet. I was amazed at how easy it turned out to be. Two big plastic screws held it in place; that was all there was to it. I figured that out without written instructions or pictures. And wonder of wonders, the new ones worked the same way! In a matter of minutes I was finished. I was inordinately proud of myself. I had tackled a cardboard box from Home Depot and prevailed.

I am woman, hear me roar! There is nothing I can’t do. I have proven once again that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. Hang on, I hear a drip. The sink in the upstairs bathroom seems to be leaking. It probably needs to have something tightened, or a washer replaced. I’ll ask Andrew to take care of it. Meanwhile, I’m going to go buy my fish a bicycle.

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What a beautiful…outfit

I used to say I didn’t like children, but I’ve softened my stance a bit of late. I don’t dislike them; it would be more accurate to say that I have no interest in them. Babies leave me cold. It’s much easier for me to admire the outfit the baby sports than the baby itself. (There’s a reason people make jokes about how all babies look like Winston Churchill.) I rarely ask to hold them, and never volunteer to babysit for friends. When I was pregnant, my sister said, “You’ll see, when you have your own, you’ll like kids.” She was wrong (not something I get to say with such authority very often). I love my own child, but that’s part of the grand design. If we didn’t love our own babies, the race would cease to exist, but other people’s babies continue to leave me cold.

A baby at rest in its bucket is relatively easy to ignore. A toddler is a horse of a different color. There is nothing remotely charming about a child with a runny nose, or sticky fingers, or a stinky diaper. I see no reason to cut them any slack when they kick the back of my seat in a plane or a movie theater.

Over time I’ve come to realize that my nemesis is not the child, but the parent. Why is it that parents assume that everyone will be as taken with their child as they are? If an adult was running around a café screaming and throwing things they’d probably be arrested. When a child does that, the parent smiles and shrugs. I don’t smile. I look stern and may even harrumph. Am I being unfair?

Many years ago, before I had my daughter, I got up in the wee hours of the morning to secure a spot as close to the action as I could get for the annual re-enactment of the start of the American Revolution. After standing in the freezing, pre-dawn darkness for almost an hour, a woman shoved her child in front of me and said, “You don’t mind do you?” Well, yes, I did. I honestly don’t remember what I said to the woman, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me that I asked her to remove him. I recount this with some shame, which is probably why I can’t remember my response, because I expect you to think I was being unreasonable. But was I, really?

Do you not cringe when parents put their children on the counter at Dunkin’ Donuts while they’re waiting for their coffee? Is it just me?

If it does take a village to raise a child, I can see why there are communities where no children are allowed.

Next week I may rant about people who treat their dogs like children. Those poor animals are trapped forever in a toddler-like existence. At least little kids grow up. And when they hit middle school, I find them very entertaining. I’ll tell you about that some other time.

No thanks to you

I may never sell my young adult novel, but nonetheless I’ve been thinking about the acknowledgements page, the writer’s equivalent to an Oscar-night acceptance speech. I have a good idea of who I’ll include; my early readers, the women in my critique group, my family, particularly my husband whose generous nature has enabled me to shun a paycheck to pursue my dream. But what I’d really like to write is an anti-acknowledgements page, a no thanks to you page.

I’m not vindictive by nature, truly I’m not. I would, however, like to heal the psychic wounds inflicted by those who innocently or otherwise professed a lack of faith in me along the way (including my sixth grade math teacher). To that end, an anti-acknowledgements page could be cathartic.

When I was twelve, I had a Hebrew school teacher who was probably not much older than nineteen or twenty, though he seemed much older at the time. One day I said that I didn’t believe in God and he replied, “You’re too young to know what you believe.” I was incensed that he could so cavalierly dismiss my admission. Later, sometime early in my freshman year at Brandeis, I was at the pub on campus when a man in his mid-twenties, a graduate student I guessed, pulled up the bar stool next to me. He was trying to pick me up when I recognized him as that Hebrew school teacher. I seized the moment. “I wouldn’t go out with you if you were the last man on earth,” I said. “And I still don’t believe in God.” Talk about cathartic.

Think about all the little indignities you’ve suffered in your life. Given the opportunity, wouldn’t you love to, just once, settle an old score? In twelve-step programs you are expected to make amends to people you’ve hurt. How about a one-step program where you track down the people who have hurt you and demand an apology?

There’s a great line in The Wizard of Oz when Hickory, the farmhand says, “Someday, they’re going to erect a statue to me,” and Auntie Em snaps back, “Don’t start posing for it now.” She’d probably tell me to forget about writing an acknowledgements page until I need one. Of course, she’d also probably tell me that I was being foolish and selfish, and to get over myself, that there was real work to be done. And she’d be right, but as we all know, that doesn’t mean that a girl can’t dream…

Where do old treadmills go to die?

My treadmill is broken. It could be repaired ─ for six hundred dollars. It would be less expensive if I bought the parts and did it myself, but I can’t even write that without laughing. So now what?

If I bought a new treadmill or some other piece of exercise equipment from Sears, they would deliver it and cart away the old one. But I don’t want a new one. I pay forty dollars a month to a local gym and I work out with a trainer every other week. The last thing I want to do is spend more money on exercise.

Our guest room has doubled as a gym since the treadmill moved in. Andrew thinks its presence detracts from the room’s feng shui. However, company always politely comments on how convenient it is to hang clothes on, though I suspect they’d rather have space in the closet. I wouldn’t mind reclaiming the space myself. The problem is figuring out where old treadmills go to die.

Even if I could put it out on the curb for the garbage truck, which I’m fairly certain the town would frown on, I don’t think Andrew and I could carry it downstairs ourselves. And I am green enough to want to recycle it. It has been suggested that I take it apart and offer the electronic parts to a tinkerer’s studio. Taking it apart doesn’t seem much easier to me than fixing it myself, although thinking about it isn’t as comical.

I looked at the web site for the service Got Junk. They let you schedule a pickup online, which is very convenient. I know it costs something because they offer ten dollars off if you schedule for that day, but nowhere do they tell you what that cost is. Wouldn’t it be amusing if it turned out to be six hundred dollars?

I offered the treadmill online for free, thinking some hardy do-it-yourself-er would be interested in the challenge. Instead I heard from several other people facing the same predicament. If I could figure out how to get rid of my own treadmill, I could start a small business doing it for others.

I could try to do something creative with it, right where it sits. I could turn it into a plant stand, rewire it and make it a lamp, paint it in neon colors and call it an art installation. Those solutions would merely postpone the inevitable, because at the end of the day, it would still be a big, heavy, awkward piece of equipment. The advantage would be that in another twenty or thirty years, I could pass the problem along to my daughter. Hmm. I think I have some paint in the basement.

Time to trade up?

I was just getting over a cough that had persisted for more than a month when a virus hit ─ our PC. It took over a week, all of Andrew’s non-working hours, input from our network of connections on Facebook, LinkedIn and elsewhere, and consultation with an uber-geek before the virus was banished. (Excuse me for a moment while I throw salt over my shoulder, knock wood and spit three times; I’m leaving nothing to chance.)

The virus hijacked our search returns and redirected them to ad sites. This made searching a royal pain, but it didn’t shut us down. The applications we use daily, like Word and Outlook, soldiered on, seemingly unaffected. Seemingly, for there was no way to know what we didn’t know about what else the virus might be doing. Fortunately, we have several computers, so I switched to the Mac while the infected PC was quarantined and coaxed back to health.

In our household we have over fifty years of combined high tech employment experience. Many of our friends work in high tech, and a number of relatives. If there’s a problem we can’t solve, we can reach out for help. What do other people do? Home computers are ubiquitous, but that does not mean that every home has someone who knows what a dll is, or what the registry is for. How do families without built-in IT departments (technically-savvy computer-literate spouses) handle these situations?

Getting rid of the search hijack virus wasn’t easy. We (by which I mean Andrew) installed and ran multiple anti-virus programs, including some that specialized in rootkits, those hidden problems that even anti-virus software can’t find. Some scans took minutes, some hours, some had to run overnight. The temptation to reformat the hard drive got stronger with each one. Every scan report beckons you down a different rat hole, unearths things that might be harmful, but they can’t be sure, brings you closer to the edge of despair. Finally, you hit the right combination of software, run in the right order, and magically, the problem goes away.

If you did not spend most of your career in high tech, and you know you don’t know what to do, you might purchase high end software to remedy the problem. Or, you might sign up for a maintenance contract with a company that provides IT services for home computers. Or you might decide that the iPhone does all you need after all and simply walk away.

But could you walk away? What about the things stored on your hard drive; photos, taxes, your unfinished novel? Are those things backed up? What? You don’t know how to do that? My friend, you need to get your priorities in order. If your partner can’t maintain your computer, it’s time to get a new one; partner or computer, you decide.