The Ups and Downs

The first house I ever owned was a little tract home with a yard the size of a piece of lunchmeat.

The long hallway was lit by two absolutely uninteresting overhead lights.

There was a light switch.

In the living room was pair of track-lights.

There was a light switch.

In between them was a light switch with two switches, one that controlled the hall lights and one that controlled the track lights.

Here is a schemata. (This is the technical term for silly drawings that want to seem more important than they are.)

Isn’t that impressive.

So there are two switches that control each sets of lights. Convenient, yes?

Switches A and B controlled the hall lights, from either switch. If light A was up, you could turn the hall lights off from switch B.

Switches C and D controlled the track lights, from either switch. If switch C was down, you could turn the lights on from switch D.

So convenient. Yes! Yay for modern wiring!

Until one of the light switches broke and needed to be replaced.

This should not be a big deal. It’s not like we were rewiring the switchboard for AT&T’s customer service line.

A light switch. One. Simple. Light switch.

We replaced the light switch. We turned off the breaker and followed the instructions.

Something went wrong. Horribly wrong.

Turning one switch up and the next switch down stopped turning off and on the light. A up B down no longer meant a light going on or off. C down D up no longer had anything to do with illumination in the living room.

Instead we ended up with this:

A up B down C up D down meant one light on and the other blinking morse code.

A down B up C down D up  caused the garage door to open.

A up B up C down D up launched the space shuttle.

A down B down C up D down caused Donald Trump’s hair to eat the nearest journalist from Mother Jones.

A up B down C down D up made blue chips stocks on the Dow Jones dance the polka.

A down B up C up D down meant six more weeks of winter.

A down B down C down D up caused guacamole to turn black.

A up B up C up D down made 80’s pop groups to go on reunion tours.

A down B down C up D down caused a flock of migrating Canadian geese to become disoriented and poop all over our yard.

People would walk down the hallways and we would fling ourselves at them to keep them from flipping a light switch and potentially reversing the earth’s polarity, or, equally bad, causing reruns of “Who’s the Boss” to air on all available cable stations.

Having influence over the earth this way was just not as much fun as you’d think.

Nor, I must say, was walking down the hallway in the dark for fear of turning on a light switch.

I had lots of stubbed toes during that period of my life. But, it was for the best. I really hate black guacamole.

I’d Be a Wicked Good Nature Show Host

This weekend I took my life in my hands.

Armed only with a cup of coffee (a disaster in its own right- we ran out of coffee creamer and tried to buy a carton at Whole Paycheck Foods, which meant we ended up with a soy product that while labelled “hazelnut” would have more appropriately been marketed as “Wooden Spoon”) I embarked on one of the most hazardous of all house-taming missions: dealing with accumulated mail.

I had no tranquilizer gun. I had no net.

I had no smooth-tongued narrator.

I did not have Jim to wrestle the beasts to the ground.

I had only the crappy tasting coffee and my wits, which, frankly, have been listed recently on the endangered species list.

Step One: Identification and Tagging.

Mail taxonomy is often tricker than it seems. For while the major species  junkus prolificus and correspondus personalis are easy enough to identify, others can be more difficult. For instance, some very crafty species of junkus mimickus can actually resemble legitimate strains of mortgage ginormica, in hopes of tricking the unwary home-owner into forking over muchas dineros. And in the sorting phase it’s not at all uncommon to discover a violent species of HOLY  %$#&ICUS that needed to be identified, processed and transported several weeks ago. Specimen growth and the discovery of penalty offspring often accompany the identification of HOLY %$#&ICUS.

Step Two: Processing and Habitat Re-Introduction

Once you’ve identified your various mail species, you must move to the crucial processing and habitat re-introduction phases. Some species can be immediately relocated into the circular-shaped habitat receptacle of your choosing. Some require return to their habitat of origin along with a donation to ensure the continued reproduction of the species. Some cannot be properly handled without additional research, most typically the “Didn’t I already pay that?” or “Why the hell do they need the serial number from the refrigerator?” academic inquiries. And then, there’s my personal favorite, that particular species of mystery mail that if left alone, dies a quiet death. Also known as, ignoritandit goesawayicus. In this case, the proper course of action is to put the creature into a NEW pile, and forget about it for at least one mail life-cycle (about 30 days).

So despite not being filmed or featured on a nature program (although would that NOT be a killer episode?) Himself and I did manage to tame most of the wild mail-life in the house. Although there was a brief altercation over who was meant to take custody of certain specimens, no tranquilizer guns were fired, and the creatures were ultimately handled without injury.

But I’m still bummed that nothing got wrestled to the ground.

The Baby or the Candy?

Much like that classic story of temptation, “The Lady or the Tiger,” there was a choice before me. My adorable, one-month-old nephew (who I’d not been able to meet yet owing to the rampant plague that kept swinging through our house), or Easter candy.

You know me. If there’s chocolate to be had, keep outta my damn way or decide that you are not emotionally attached to your fingers.

So here I was…torn…how would it go?

Baby?

Candy?

Baby?

Candy?

Baby?

Candy?

Baby.

Yeah, like there was any question.

Giant Fireplace Doom Plumes

Is there anything in the land of home decorating that says “coziness and charm” more than a fireplace? Ok, yes, an actual sign that says “coziness and charm” would probably do better but I am known for my subtlety and nuance.

In SOME places where people have not actually MET me I am known for subtlety and nuance!

Fireplaces. We all want them. You can live in Mesa, Arizona where the average temperature is higher than my credit score and still want a fireplace.

I, and this will be a shock to no one, haven’t had the best luck with fireplaces.

The fireplace in my first home was decent, but I had a baby/toddler, so I was too afraid of it.

The fireplace in my home in England was fake. It was a heating unit with exposed coils that had fake glowing coals mounted on top that “flickered” by way of a fan that would spin when heated by the lightbulbs within. Except one of the lightbulbs burned out the month after we moved there, causing our “fire” to only glow to the left which made the little fan function like a merry-go-round being operated by a drunk, hostile clown.

The first home Himself and I lived in had the worlds most menacing looking woodburning fireplace, and I wouldn’t touch it for fear that it would come to life like some demonic parody of the stove from “Beauty and the Beast.”

And then, there is the house we live in now.

My track record remains untarnished.

Allow me to illustrate. Literally.

Here, we have your typical piece of urban charm.

Is this not what we all want? Is this not WHY we buy the magazines and the chotchkies and the pets? To get this nummy swatch-o-comfort?

Exactly.

So, then we have MY fireplace.

My fireplace does not give me that picture.

I know, I know….you’re stunned and fanning yourself with a Venus catalogue, aren’t you?

Here is my fireplace:

Our fireplace does not like to do anything that might involve it coming close to an actual open flame.

Our fireplace maxes out its comfort level at the heat of your typical pair of hands rubbed together as long as it’s not TOO briskly.

There is some updraft vacuum vortex that makes the lighting of actual logs with actual matches about as likely as Amy Winehouse winning the nobel prize in physics and/or hair.

Fortunately, my fireplace comes with a gas starter.

Note that I did NOT say I have a gas fireplace.

No, cause that’s what those goddamned annoying NORMAL HOUSES have, and we can’t have any of THAT now can we?

We have a gas starter.

So, what we have to do is: turn a valve, listen for the outrageously loud hissing that communicates that gas is flooding into the box, then strike a match.

And then we have this:

You know those drag cars with the two giant columns of flame that explode out behind them as they take off at 176,000 miles an hour for nine-and-a-half feet?

Yes. I have that IN MY FAMILY ROOM.

My family room can go from zero to pile-of-ash in 14.6 seconds.

Do you not all wish you were me?

Or, do you not all wish you were my insurance agent?

But the good news? I can toast a marshmallow in that fireplace while sitting in my bathtub.

So take that.

MORE things I do wrong.

Once upon a time I had to be on a yucky medication.

The medication, in addition to doing what it was supposed to, made me feel horribly fuzzy-brained and exhausted.

And then the medical fix-it part stopped doing its job. So I was left still having the problem AND feeling fuzzy-brained and exhausted.

(And yes,  there is a difference between the normal me and the fuzzy-brained me. Commence with the up-shutting, please.)

When I asked a doctor how come I acclimated to the therapeutic effect and not to the crappy side-effects he said, “Cause sometimes it sucks that way.”

Which, as an answer, I found oddly refreshing.

It seems to happen that way ALL the time.

If I need to take Tylenol regularly for something, every few days I’ll have to take MORE because I acclimate to it.

If I drink wine with any frequency, I’ll become immune to the WINE effect but not to the headache caused by drinking three glasses of it.

If I use salt too liberally, I’ll get so used to it that I end up needing to put a crispy coating of the stuff on my food just so I can TASTE it.

So clearly if left to my own devices I’d become an acetaminophen addicted alcoholic with high blood-pressure.

How come I only acclimate to things in a NON-HELPFUL way? How come I don’t become immune to all the annoying crap?

Here are the things I WANT to get so acclimated to that they don’t affect me any more:

The calories in chocolate.

The hyperactive consequence of four double mochas.

The skin-break-out-factor caused by my favorite foundation.

Pollen.

Teenagers who drive. And live in my house.

Angry Birds.

Angry teenagers.

TV news anchors who say “noo-kyoo-lar.”

Sexy stiletto heels. (Wearing them, I mean.)

Neighbors with overly cute exterior decorations.

Wouldn’t those things be FAR more practical to be acclimated to?

I’ll put that on the list of things to fix when I’m queen.

Along with dressing room mirrors.

THOSE things have GOT to go.

Bear in mind I MEANT well.

It really all started as a way to commune with nature.

*thump*

Since it’s been well documented in the blog that I really am pretty dysfunctional at houseplants, and although I’m better with things that grow in pots outdoors, I’m still not a crazy need-t0-be-outside-in-floral-gloves sort of person. So it seemed like a nice idea.

*thump*

At the time.

*thump*

And it wasn’t like it took a lot of effort. One trip to the hardware store and I really had everything I needed. I didn’t need to get any books or anything.

*thumpity-thump*

We didn’t even need to wait very long. A week or so, maybe? In terms of instant gratification it was pretty good for a yard. I mean you have to wait two years to get lemons off a baby lemon tree. Or four years, if you’re me.

*thump*

It’s just that sometimes when you plan these things you can’t really anticipate all the problems that might happen. It’s easy to get yourself locked into the idyllic picture and forget all the logistics.

*thump*

Or consequences.

*thump*

Or…mortality.

*thump-a-lump*

So we did a fair amount of research. We did all the things the books and websites say to do…

*thump*

…when you’re trying to deal with…

*thump*

…this problem. But nothing seems to be working. So I wonder if…

*thump*

…any of you have any inspired ideas…

*thump*

…for how to keep the…

*thumpity-thump-thump-thump*

…GODDAMNED BIRDS FROM FLYING INTO ALL OUR WINDOWS!!!

Cause if this keeps up, the Audubon Society is gonna be all over my ass.

Who’s On First, British Version

The scene is a ward of a hospital in Southern England.

I am chatting with a friend, another speech therapist who’s from South Africa. She and her roommate are joining us for dinner that evening. She’s asked if she can bring anything. I suggest that she could bring a dessert.

As we are parting company, she says, “So I’ll see you at six with pudding!”

I reply, “Pudding? How nice!”

She looks at me oddly. “But that’s what you asked me to bring.”

I answer, “Well, I just said dessert, but pudding’s great!”

She starts to frown a bit, “Isn’t that what you want?”

I’m worried that I’ve offended her by suggesting that I don’t like pudding. “No! I love pudding!”

“But you seem surprised. Do you want me to bring something else?”

I’ve really screwed this up, it seems, and I’m not sure how to fix it.

“No! Pudding is fine! Really. Any flavor.”

A nurse sitting at the desk is swiveling her head back and forth like she’s watching Wimbledon, but played really awkwardly by two people who don’t quite understand the rules and are using salad tongs instead of racquets.

“Flavor? Did you have something specific you wanted me to bring?”

“No, any kind is great.”

“But you want me to bring pudding.”

“Only if you want to.”

“But you asked me to!”

“Any dessert at all is fine! Really!”

“But that’s what I’m bringing!”

I’m worried now that 1) She’s going to pelt my front door with ambrosia salad, and 2) the nurse is going to sustain a neck injury.

“But anything is fine, really, pudding or whatever you want.”

“So you don’t want me to bring a dessert?”

Maybe we should just give up food.

“I would love for you to bring a dessert. It just doesn’t have to be pudding.”

About this time I’m seriousy considering that I’ve made a monumental mistake becoming someone who helps others with communication. Cause I suck.

The friend says, after a pause, “Wait…do you think pudding and dessert are different things?”

“Umm…I think pudding is a sub-class of dessert. Creamy stuff, comes in chocolate and vanilla? Sold by Bill Cosby?”

“Who?”

“Never mind. Do you think pudding and dessert are different things?”

“No. In this part of the world they both mean the treat you eat after dinner.”

“Really?” I ask.

The nurse looks at me. “I could have told you that.”

“Well what do you call the creamy stuff made from milk?”

My friend asks, “Like a custard?”

The nurse says, “No, I think she means a blancmange.”

“No!” I say, “Pudding! The stuff made by Jello!”

“We don’t say ‘jello,’ we say ‘jelly.'”

And now all I want is a gin and tonic.