Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lawn No-er

It seems this tale needs to be told. I have been waiting for it to be me. However, I am ready to claim defeat, and this story will remain as one of those things that really highlights the crux of the matter--the reoccurring communication breakdown--the "why the what"?

It all started early this past spring with our annual conversation about whether to just have the lawnmower serviced, or "treat" ourselves to a new one. That is when we pretend my husband is Lord of the Lawn, and he gets supreme power in related decision making. Once he decided we would get a new lawnmower, he put his faith in Consumer Reports. The magazine's snazzy charts and symbols helped him narrow his choices to two lawn mowers. I felt compelled to weigh in on some bells and buzzers I'd like to see in a new mower (trade in the pull cord for a slight turn of key)...In other words, I felt it was time to remind him that I cut the grass seventy-five percent of the time, and our son had made some mumblings about how he could make some money around here.

The first mower (oops-spoiler alert!) came home looking so fine and shiny. When my aunt mentioned that her lawnmower wasn't working, of course I offered her our old one because we had a candy apple red beauty in our garage. (I should mention here that legend has it that she has the strength of ten men, and had in fact pulled the pull cord right out of her mower.) The new beauty really did turn on easily (once I actually read a little of the manual). I wasn't winded before even starting the job. It was self-propelled, but apparently at a factory of the slowest walkers to roam the land! There was no override to the self-propelled mode, and the machine itself was so heavy and clunky, I might've ended up going even slower operating on my own power. I was willing to work out the kinks of slow and steady winning the race, but it was also very difficult to maneuver. I could've blazed a very nice, straight path, but you see how impractical that would be considering the more square'ish shape of our yard. I reported this information back to the Lord of the Lawn, and his eyes only looked slightly glazed over, so I thought the message was conveyed. I tried the lawnmower again, with similar results, and again promptly reported my findings. The third outing for that mower was conducted by Lawn Chief himself, and his findings were apparently so significant that it was agreed that a return must be made.

Consumer Reports had that alternate suggestion for us, but I had to give up my turn key ignition...fine. Our son got the glory of the maiden voyage with lawn mower number two...and I got the glory of running outside at least six times to PULL THE DEVILISH CORD when the machine kept stalling. (Let me add here that my cousin--clearly inheriting his mother's strength--pulled the start cord out of our mower, so they had both in the shop. OK, this part of the storyline is amusing.) Now I looked outside and did not see cows grazing in our yard, nor was our short dog getting lost in the tall grass. I determined that the lawn was not of a height significant enough to warrant such gagging and choking by the mower. I more
grumbled my findings, than simply reported them this time. When I had the pleasure of doing the lawn myself the following week, I more yelled my anyone in the vicinity who might've been outside or had their windows open, and only slightly more calmly reported them to the Lord of the Lawn.

I am sure I mentioned the issue a few more times as the grass was approaching its next cutting. Now that two out of three of us had been ruled out as worthy opponents of "the staller", the man of the house headed out. I thought I detected a swagger that said "The grass will bow down to the Lord of the Lawn. The mower will rev its battle cry, and all will be right in our yard!" The only thing I liked about that machine was that, as it claimed its defeat, I'm pretty sure I heard it say "You should've listed to your wife! I suck...and am not a vacuum cleaner!" I sprinkled a few inquiries here and there about what would happen next in Mowergate 2010.

I don't imagine my husband felt much joy at having to come home to tell me that Home Depot has a 30-day return policy...and his visit was on day 34. I also don't imagine that you think I was terribly exuberant at this notification. While he seemed annoyed with the store, I can assure you I was directing my lasers of dissatisfaction right at his forehead while announcing that I had sent up red flags at day 7!! He followed Home Depot's directions and took the mower to a licensed repair place for that brand. They service them there, but don't sell them anymore because of their performance...thank you Consumer Reports!

We finally got the mower back after they replaced the mulching portion of its program, and it better! An email was sent to the company (but not by me) explaining the situation, and the one in return ended with "we must respectfully decline your request for refund or replacement." I pondered whether I should unleash myself on the unsuspecting customer service reps there, but figured it was not my battle to fight...yet. They said he needed to bring the mower to a licensed service place (as in the same one we'd already told them we brought it to) and we'd be instructed how to proceed, once they talked to the people there (and probably told them not to talk trashy about their product--wah wah wah!) So now we've been without a mower again for a week, and have heard nothing.

(Note: Aunt's mower is now not working again, but our rejected one is getting the job done just fine. No, I don't want her to bring it to us!)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hanging by a thread

I would like to be able to tell you that I have much to report after my blogging absence...things like how well my quasi-exercise program is going, and the results it's achieved...or my success in the quest for better posture...the secret to grocery shopping for meals that might actually get cooked AND be appealing, but no. Sure, I experienced some things that made me go "hmmmmm", but I felt more like I would have been channeling Andy Rooney's curmudgeon spirit, than actually looking for the humor in anything. Then it happened! The blog gods shined back down upon me and threw something so divine in our path, that I had to return to the keyboard.

My daughter and I were walking thru the mall on a bustling Friday afternoon, not in an attempt to stay cool like most of the other people, we actually had things to DO!!! For starters, there was a fabulous wedding to prepare for, and once again I was faced with the reality of my son having no dress pants that fit! The reason he had not concerned himself with such things was that he was under the impression he'd be wearing a tux..."Um, that's what I wore to the last wedding I went to"..."Yes, that was 5 years ago, and you were in that wedding"...(mumbled under breath) "well I thought I was wearing a tux". I have a sneaking suspicion, based on the sighs over trying on a pair of pants, that there'd have been moaning if he'd been dragged to the measurement man to get fitted for a tux. OK, back to what we saw at the mall...

It wasn't even so much what we SAW, as it was what we nearly tripped over. There was a woman getting her face threaded...right the walking part of the in, NOT a store front--or preferably a store back! Now I admit that I was eerily drawn to gawk at the scene, as I have heard of the process, but have never witnessed it. However, since mall traffic was swimming upstream, I'd have been hard pressed to leap out of my spot for further inspection. I also would have had to practically stand next to the "threader" (or sit on the lap of the "threadee". I should also mention that the customer's daughter, who looked about 3, was in the mix as well, just kind of hanging around the chair...where her mother sat...reclined...with her eyes closed! As reported previously, I have my own issues with appropriate eyebrow maintenance techniques. My brief glimpse in to this fascinating world of threading was pretty much as I had imagined-tying thread around a hair and yanking it out-but I still can't fathom the dexterity it must involve. I also imagine it must still hurt, as the end result of a hair being yanked out of one's face still applies. I did not hear any yelps of pain, but I know she was crying on the inside.

The woman swimming behind us had to have the situation explained to her by her twenty-something daughter, as I was explaining it to my ten-year-old daughter. The part neither of us could explain was why...why this was going on in the middle of the mall. "Do I want coffee from Dunkin Donuts in those chairs...or to admit my facial upkeep needs to the general public in that chair over there?" I don't even make eye contact with the people who want to rub lotion on my hands, or the old school perfume sprayers. How did that sales pitch go? "Excuse me, would you like me to get my sewing kit and pull that unwanted hair off your face?" or "You didn't really mean to come out in public with your eyebrows so unshapely, let's fix that!"

Seriously, I was in need of some facial tlc, but I preferred to operate under the assumption that I was the only one who knew it. Yeah, I know, I wear my face right out there well, on my face, but I like to pretend that nobody gets closer than ten feet to me. I am not sure why it is that I cannot understand that my bathroom mirror is not from a funhouse...objects are not farther than they appear. That is what I look like even when I walk out of that space! I would have burst into flames just from the red hot embarrassment of some stranger suggesting I take a few moments in her magic threading salon chair at the mall!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cabin Fever!

It is in the 90's here today for the second day in a row. The forecast for the rest of the week is not showing any relief. The meteorologists got my hopes up last Friday when they showed it would be 76 degrees this Saturday. I rarely believe them, or even consider their long-term forecasts, but in the face of 90 degree weather I clung to whatever hope there was.

I see the people across the street milling about and getting in their car. I am concerned that they will burst into flames if they don't get their situation moving, but also worry that they will erupt if they do speed up. They didn't even have the car started with the A/C on the "frost" setting while they were pacing the driveway. Wow--my heroes.

I am sitting inside like most Central New Yorkers do every winter when there is a wind-chill advisory in effect. Today there is a heat advisory and an air quality advisory, and I might be the only fool who cares. I will admit right now that my fear of melting FAR exceeds my fear of frostbite. When I did leave the house earlier, there were people actually outside...moving and doing things! We past a house where a woman was pushing a wheelbarrow full of dirt to where her husband was doing yard work. She was clearly there to trick me into thinking it was a 65 degree day, as not one hair was out of place, nor did her clothing appear to be drenched with an appropriate amount of sweat (or any sweat for that matter), and I think she was smiling. Meanwhile, I was flushed from my walk to the car, and the two minute wait for the vents to start sending cool air.

I am starting to feel a little cooped up. The fact that I can't remember how long it's been since I didn't hear the central air churning is causing me some anxiety. It's as if I am afraid that I will use up the system's power. I think I'll raise the thermostat one degree, just so it will stop running. I am gaining some sympathy for those people who claim they have cabin fever in the winter. I'm usually just thinking (to myself...or, ok, out loud sometimes), "THEN GO OUTSIDE!" Now that I am being held hostage in my home by my surface of Mars yard, I finally understand their pain (kind of).

I maintain that it's better to be cold than hot. First of all, sub-zero temperatures do not cause me to fear that I might pass out...Oh my gosh-a guy just rode by on a bicycle!!! Anyway, the deep freeze also kills the outdoor cooties/allergens that also make my head ready to implode. I am not sure why I am trying to convince you that ice beats fire. Maybe I am just venting for all of the times I've listened to the snow complaints (or the misery of anyone who visits our 64 degree house in the winter...bring a sweater--or two).

"Bring on the blizzard and let me grab another layer of cotton or wool!", I say. I am not socially confident enough to follow any kind of "least amount of clothing necessary" rule. I don't want to be sitting around half-naked and STILL sweating, leading me to feel uncomfortable AND unattractive. Eww! I am going to resist the urge to insert several comments here about certain stores, their customers, and their choices of summer clothing (and what percentge of one's body should be covered outside of a swimming pool).

I did consider attempting to mow the lawn. I know, that prospect does not fall in line with my gripe of the day. However, I thought the 2 pounds of water weight that I would lose might be worth the effort. Then I decided that the sunburn I would get if I were to be passed out in the lawn for any extended period of time was certainly not worth the risk.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Who am I to like that?!

I was checking emails, hoping as usual for that mystical message that will transport me (and my messy house) to some sort of alternate universe. Really, what correspondence am I waiting for...or better yet, who will it be from...that will make me say "Well thank goodness I stopped at the computer. I can't imagine if I hadn't read that message for another four hours!" Even worse are the times when there is some message that entertains me, as then I feel compelled to wait around for at least ten more minutes-just in case something equally as promising comes through.

So, there were two messages from actual people, as opposed to being from stores like Lands End (who is starting to feel like a stalker...I KNOW how to reach you if I want to place an order!). I decided that I did not care for the tone of either email. I stewed for a little bit, as I am likely to do. I tried to think of responses that would respectfully voice my displeasure. I shared them with the Great Communicator...he just gave me that look. Then, I decided that perhaps I should not check for messages if I was going to assign cause and purpose to them, beyond what the words in type said.

I am not a fan of the overuse of "lol"; however, at least then I know just how amused I should be when I read a message. "Oh, apparently I should be laughing out loud here! Phew, I was oblivious to the sarcasm before seeing that!" My mother left out the "lol" in an email telling me that yes, in fact, whatever I was going on about was
just me. That took two more emails for me to find out she was joking! That was five rough minutes for me.

Maybe it would be helpful, if on occasion, there was a a character assigned to an email. If a message started with "Read this email as if I am Jack Nicholson telling you that you can't handle the truth"...well I would know to get all of my defenses ready. Or, "Pretend Brian Williams is delivering this" would tell me that I was about to just be provided with information. If I tell you that an email is channeling Tina Fey, then any hints of sarcasm are intended as just that.

How is it that I can so quickly assign a tone to an email I didn't even craft? I sometimes agonize over outgoing messages as well. I usually call in the Communicator (because when I need another adult's opinion, I like to pretend that he is some sort of Lord of the written word) to review my prose and certify its objectivity. There are times when I just pick up the phone because I am convinced that anything I write on a subject will be misconstrued. Just to clarify, those are times when I am not angry and do not want the receiver of my tidings to think I am...if I really am angry, why would I care what the person thinks!?

Even good old handwriting gives better insight into additional meaning to a message. It's hard to be angry in flowery cursive, but find a post-it note with jagged dark print...uh-oh!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Little Engine who wasn't so sure...

My role today was that of cake decorating supply coordinator. I had to keep playing this over in my head to keep me out of the hair of the two lovely ten-year-old girls who were filling the roles of cake decorators...extraordinaire! The cakes were baked and the cooled cupcakes sat waiting as I colored the frosting and filled the bags. I was instructed which tips to fit each of the bags with. (Note to self: if you get 13 tips dirty--there will be 13 tips to be cleaned). I did a quick demo of what each tip could achieve, and stopped quickly, realizing this was not the time or place to display my cake decorating prowess (or lack thereof). They quickly got started, and as part of me cringed noticing that their base coats were a little uneven, the more sane part of my brain took over to say "THEY are perfectly pleased with what they have going on! Walk away!"

When adults refer to someone as lacking good judgment, it carries a negative vibe. I will dare to say that these two girls were using no judgment, and it was absolutely beautiful! They didn't have the vision of Martha Stewart's scowling face hanging over their heads. I did not hear "I can't do it" uttered one single time. They set out to decorate baked yum-yums, and they succeeded...end of story!

After cleaning up the kitchen, I was summoned outside to take my rope twirling post for what would be SEVERAL attempts at double-dutch jump-roping. For those of you who have not tried, let me just say that the twirling portion of the program is no easy feat (and I do not just say that because I must've looked like my arms were being manned by two separate and uncooperative brains). There were many attempts that yielded no success in jumping over either rope. When one rope was eventually cleared, I was ready to give congratulations and be done...not these girls. Once again "I can't do it" was not proclaimed. We studied the ropes as they turned with no "jumper", we analyzed where attempts went wrong, we strategized...and then, they each lasted over a solid 5-count! I was so excited that I started to get distracted from my twirling! I admit that I was also surprised, but I don't think either of them were. Once again--success...end of story!

I remember when I was finishing up sixth grade, and my violin teacher asked me if I'd be playing the following year. I told her "Probably not". Her response was "Yeah, well you're not very good". Suffice to say, that instrument was returned that June, after four years of playing. Part of me harbors ill wishes for what became of her--wishes involving years of hearing screeching, out of tune strings at night. Part of me is relieved that, as a parent, I know that some flip comment made to an eleven year old, can stick in their mind until they are forty.

I also remember not making the cut for fourth grade chorus, but thought the music teacher just hadn't heard me correctly. I carried that belief into college, until a friend interrupted my belting out some Indigo Girls song to ask me if I was tone deaf. I was shocked...and he wasn't kidding! (I was in chorus in later, but now my lack of being offered solo performances makes more sense.) Since he was in a band, I deferred to his judgment (as poor as I thought it was), and just didn't sing...around him...quite as loudly anymore. Perhaps there is something also to be said for why my children played Rock Band several evenings with no singer...claiming they thought I was busy.

I realized just how much I stood to learn from being on the outskirts of the play of growing children. Sure, my kids probably thought they could do anything when they were five, but really, how credible was I going to believe a five-year-old and a two-year-old to be...especially with the lunacy the two of them created when they combined forces?! Unfortunately, some of my skepticism probably filtered down to them, as I was still a force to be considered in most of their decisions back then. Fortunately, we've all done some growing. I was probably the last to realize that you can DO something, enjoy it, but not necessarily be good at it...and that's just fine! It has also been drawn to my attention that, just because I may not be impressed by whatever I've done, somebody else might be...MIGHT!