Monday, January 22, 2007

The Keeper

A pestilence descended upon the house.

It struck the child, though the parents were spared.

The child awoke vomiting in the middle of the night.

He heaved again and again, until there was nothing left to spew, and then, he heaved some more. And cried.

His mother spent the night holding him, trying to give him sips of water, catching the bile he heaved up in a towel, for hours, until, finally, some water stayed down.

Then he slept.

And then he woke up and vomited some more, and more.

Then he drank some juice, and stopped vomiting, and slept again. When he awoke, he began to play.

Just when the parents thought that perhaps the child might be on the mend,

he vomited again,

all over his recently-showered mother's hair.

The mother did not flinch. She did not retch. She did not turn away. She held the child while he vomited. Then she hugged the sobbing, vomit-soaked child to her vomit-soaked chest, and told him it was not his fault. Then she and the father washed the child, and changed his clothes, again.

When the child was clean, the father looked at his sleep-deprived, filth-encrusted wife, and said, sincerely, "My beautiful love."

And the mother, strangely, felt beautiful.

(And the mother showered again, and the child felt better in the evening, and managed to drink a whole cup of Gatorade without spewing it back out all over himself.

And then they all went to bed).

Because We Need to Lighten Things Up Around Here

Especially after all of the vomit I washed off myself today. Boy, that doesn't go with this picture, does it?

You Are a Jam Cookie

On the outside, you project a straight-laced, innocent vibe.
But on the inside, you're complex, exotic, and full of flavor.

This cookie test, it was surprisingly accurate in its assessment of my personality.

Unfortunately, I really don't like the jam cookies much. Too bland on the outside, too gooey on the inside.

Luckily, I just ordered some Thin Mints from the girl across the street. Because even when my house has apparently been temporarily converted to a vomitorium, I cannot resist the siren song of Thin Mints.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Oh My Goodness Gracious,

I feel better after letting that rant out. (See immediately previous post). I really do.

I didn't even tell y'all everything, and I still feel better.

However, thinking about it today, I realized that I totally gypped my readers by not providing photographic evidence!

So, without further ado:

This is a photo of the tree that was damaged during the December 1st ice storm that I took during the walkthough just a few days before closing:

Click on it to see the bigger version to get a detailed view of some of the damage.

This photo here, also taken during the walkthrough, shows a wider view of the extensive damage, and also shows how close the tree is to the power lines:

This is a picture of part of the tree lying in my yard after the January ice storm, on top of my phone and cable line, taken the day the branch fell:

Yes, I know my fence is rusty. Thank you. We'll be replacing it eventually. Sometime after we get around to fixing this:

Which is the nice hole the cable line left when it was yanked out of the house.

Thank you, real estate agent who refused to negotiate with the sellers over trimming the tree that was damaged while the house was under contract. Thank you very, very much. I've always wanted to learn how to hang new siding!

Ah, now, moving right along, let's check out my bathroom! (It's a tradition here, after all).

Come on, click! This really has to be viewed full-size to get the full effect. Here you see the remains of the ancient towel rack the sellers oh-so-skillfully re-replaced the nice one we'd seen during the house showing with. The one that fell down the very first time we tried to hang a towel on it. If you look not-too-carefully, you can see the poor spackling job they did to attempt to hide the holes where the nice towel rack had been.

And this would be why the re-hung old towel rack would not stay up:

See that gaping hole in the wall there behind the towel rack hardware? Uh huh. This is what happens when you remove a towel rack carelessly, spackle the old hole poorly, and then attempt to re-hang the old towel rack half-assed-ly in the exact same poorly spackled spot.

And now, the piece de resistance:

See that empty screw-hole in that first pic? Did the sellers bother to screw this cheap replacement toilet paper holder in after they damaged the wall ripping the nice one out? Oh, no. They glued it in. Crappily. Apparently, we buyers are not even worthy of a pair of screws.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say . . .

I've written a number of blog posts in my head over the past two weeks. I haven't committed any of them to magnetic patterns on a disk. Not even in a draft folder.

It's been rough, the move, rougher on me and the family than I thought it would be, and I've been angry, and sad, and tired a lot lately. It's been hard to strike a balance in my head about what I should and shouldn't write about. Am I overreacting to things? Am I being selfish, or diva-ish, or ungrateful? I feared posting a complaint about this or that inconvenience here, only to be chided, perhaps a bit justifiably, in my own comments section for raining on my own damn parade. After all, I got what I wanted, didn't I? I got a house. A house that will, eventually, with work, be a much better place to live than my previous apartment.

But still, I've been angry, and sad, and tired.

I've been angry at the sellers, who really left the house a mess on their way out. I mean, really, in more ways than I alluded to two posts ago.

They tore down pictures and curtains in such a manner as to leave gaping holes in the walls. They scuffed the walls, and the floors, on their way out. They tore a hole in the carpet in the living room, which they concealed during the walkthrough with a rug. (They left us the rug. The damn cheap ugly rug. I suppose as compensation?)

They took out decorative outlet covers and switchplates. They replaced some of them with cheaper or broken plates, and others they just left bare. They took out a nice new towel rack in one of the bathrooms and replaced it with the the original 50-year-old towel rack that originally came with the house, which I suppose they had been saving for that very purpose. They did such a poor job reattaching it that it actually fell out of the wall the first time we hung a towel on it, leaving a gaping hole.

They ripped out the cable connections from all of the bedrooms (which, incidentally, they had advertised as a feature of the house in the original listing). Not just the terminals for the cable connections, but the cables themselves. Ripped them right out of the walls and the floors. Ripped out the junction box allowing for multiple connections.

They cut holes in the walls to bring some plumbing up to code, as required by the contract they signed. As part of a list of code-required repairs that they delayed our closing, twice, to complete. And they left the holes there, in the walls. 12"x6" holes. Left them.

They left random piles of leaves, and piles of sweet gum balls, and piles of yard waste, and piles of dog shit in the yard.

The thing that gets me the most, I think, though, is the fact that they tore out the built-in toilet paper holder in the bathroom, damaging the bathroom wall in the process, and replaced it with a cheaper one, WHICH THEY GLUED IN. Crookedly.

Who knew it was even possible to care about a toilet paper holder so much. Apparently that toilet paper holder was a family heirloom or something.

I've been angry with the utility companies, every single one of which managed to mess up something major with the process of transferring our services from our old home to our new home. I had no phone service at my new home for four days. I had a slack electrical wire sitting in the branches of a tree in my backyard for nearly two weeks. A situation which, incidentally, the sellers had promised to have fixed before the sale, but did not. Then the phone company and the cable company both overcharged us on our first bills.

I spent something like 25-30 hours on the phone during my first week here just trying to get all of the utility problems fixed. On my cell phone, of course. Because the regular phone didn't work.

I've been angry with the mortgage company for telling me again and again when I asked them again and again that yes, they had all the paperwork they needed for closing, and then calling me AFTER closing to tell me they had forgotten things that I would have to fax to them immediately. Because, you know, I know exactly where these things are in all my half-unpacked boxes. And I have a working phone line, and a fax machine. Sure I do.

I've been angry with my real estate agent for refusing to talk to the sellers about possibly trimming or cutting down a tree that was severely damaged during the December 1st ice storm, a tree which had dropped branches during that storm that tore down the electrical service drop to the house and ripped off siding-- all damage which happened after we made an offer on the house, but before we closed the sale.

I am angry because right now I can look out my kitchen window, and see the very same dangerously damaged branch I pointed out to my real estate agent sitting on the ground in my backyard, on top of my downed phone line, that took a nice chunk of the just-replaced siding with it. The phone line that should "Probably get fixed by the end of the day on Friday. Probably. If they can get to it. Big storm, you know." (I know. I had no electricity, no cable and no reliable phone for days. Thanks).

And I've been sad. Sad to see my two-year-old shaking in his bed each night until midnight, unable to fall asleep because his new room is "weird" and "scary." Sad to see him refuse his lunch three days in a row because he "doesn't feel good." Sad to understand him so completely when he looks me in the eye and says, "Mommy, THIS IS NOT RIGHT." I've been sad, sad, sad, that fate has seen fit to gift my beloved child with an ability to adapt to change in his environment about as well as the average person could adapt to a punch in the face.

And I've been angry with myself, and sad, over the fact that I haven't been able to roll with these punches better myself. Because I DO have what I wanted. And I AM grateful. And somewhere under all of these, what I know will one day seem, petty annoyances, I am happy. And in love with the old bones of this old house.

But I'm tired. So tired. Of being tangled in packing tape, and painter's tape, and red tape. Tired of staying up even later than my son to fix all the things here that are broken.

Swing away, Pollyannas.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Time to Mail 10,000 Copies of the Bill of Rights to the White House

Guess who recently added a signing statement to a postal reform bill granting himself permission to open and read any piece of domestic mail, at any time, without a warrant, without notifying the sender or the recipient, without documenting the fact that the mail has been tampered with?

I'll be happy to give him the opportunity to read a postcard that's actually addressed to him, from me, bearing the following text:

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Scenes from a New Old House


WIFE: So, I guess at some point we should get the ladder out and check out our new attic, huh? I mean, since we own it, and all.

HUSBAND: Uh, yeah, I guess you're right.

WIFE: You know, I'm kinda scared to go up there.


WIFE: Yeah, I mean, you know, what if there are like, dead bodies hidden up there, or something? (Giggles).

HUSBAND: Um, actually, to tell the truth, I'm kind of scared to go up there, too.

WIFE: Well, I mean, the home inspector did go up there. And he said everything was fine up there. No mention of dead people. I'm sure he would have mentioned that.

HUSBAND: What if Aragog is up there?


WIFE: Look at all this stuff we need to unpack! We can look at the attic tomorrow.


MOTHER: Hey kid, I'm going down to the basement now to do some laundry. Don't try to come down after me without telling me, because these stairs are really steep and kind of old and rickety and there is no hand rail and there is nothing but cold hard concrete at the bottom, so if you want to come down the stairs I need to hold your hand while you climb down, okay?

CHILD: (Singing eerily from the next room)

Mommy, oh Mommy, be very careful
Going down in the scary basement!
Do not fall down the stairs.
Do not fall. Fall. FALL!

MOTHER: Uh, thanks. I think. I'll be careful. (Under her breath) Sheesh, kid, I was already afraid of the attic.


WIFE: So, what do you want to do about dinner? We've been eating out too much during the move, I think. I'm afraid we're spending too much money.

HUSBAND: I know. That's why I brought this frozen toasted ravioli and frozen potatoes and some tomato sauce and this cookie sheet, and these canned vegetables. I thought maybe you could make us dinner tonight.

WIFE: Well, the thing is, I'm not sure I feel like making dinner. I'm really tired. I spent all morning unpacking. I finished the tree and I finally put up the Christmas lights in the window, but they keep falling down, and they're driving me nuts. I tried masking tape. I tried packing tape. I tried duct tape. I tried those new clippy things we got at the hardware store. Nothing works. The lights hate me.

And did I mention that I have been cleaning this damned kitchen for the last six hours straight? I spent three hours cleaning the refrigerator alone. And I used half a bottle of Murphy's Oil Soap already on these cabinets! Do you see how clean these cabinets are now?

Do you remember how incredibly dirty they were before?

I swear, I don't think anyone had cleaned these cabinets out thoroughly in the last forty years! I had no idea they were this dirty inside when we first looked at the house. I had no way of knowing, because the sellers had all of their food in the cabinets still. Can you believe they had food in these cabinets?

HUSBAND: Um, so . . . dinner?

WIFE: Do you see this blender the sellers left behind in one of the cabinets?

They used it and then they put it in the cabinet without even cleaning it! It has chocolate shake or something all over it. (Verging on utter hysteria) They put it in the cabinet WITHOUT CLEANING IT, even though most of the parts say they are dishwasher safe, and THEY HAD A DISHWASHER. HOW HARD IS IT TO LOAD A DISHWASHER?!?!

HUSBAND: Um, so, do you want me to make dinner?

WIFE: I just can't believe it! I can't believe anyone would leave a house this way when they knew someone else would be moving in to it! It looked so clean when we looked at it a month ago! Their real estate agent must have made them clean it up for the showings by threatening them at gunpoint!

HUSBAND: Because I mean, I can totally make dinner-- I don't have a problem with that at all. I can start right now. The stove looks really clean. You did a great job cleaning it--

WIFE: I used three different kinds of cleaner on that stove! Three kinds!

HUSBAND: So, I'll just make some dinner now then.

WIFE: No! No! Wait, don't make dinner. You've been moving heavy boxes all day. I'll make dinner. Although, toasted ravioli is not exactly what I envisioned as our Christmas Eve dinner . . .

HUSBAND: Well, I mean, we could eat out. I'm sure someplace is open.

WIFE: No! We are spending too much money eating out! I will make dinner!

HUSBAND: Okay . . .

WIFE: So, did you bring some aluminum foil, or some vegetable oil, or some cooking spray or something so the ravioli and the potatoes won't stick to the baking sheet? Because this is an aluminum baking sheet. It's not the nonstick one. And last time you made ravioli on this baking sheet without using any cooking spray, the ravioli burned and stuck to the pan.

HUSBAND: Um, no . . . I can get some at the store . . .

WIFE: It's Christmas Eve! It's after five! The stores are closed! (Pause). Did you bring a can opener for the vegetables?

HUSBAND: Um, I forgot.

WIFE stares murderously at HUSBAND for several silent seconds.

WIFE: So, we are having a one-course Christmas Eve dinner of burned ravoli stuck to a pan?


HUSBAND: I'll be right back.

WIFE: Okay! I'll just get to making YOUR burned Christmas Eve dinner in the kitchen I spent all day cleaning for YOU, then!

Unreasonably distraught WIFE bangs random things around in kitchen while poor, beleaguered innocently forgetful HUSBAND scurries out the door. Minutes pass. Husband returns.

HUSBAND: Look! I got some Pam!

WIFE: Where on earth did you get that?

HUSBAND: I borrowed it from the neighbors. They were outside. They said we could just put it in their mailbox when we're finished with it.

WIFE: That is amazing! You saved Christmas Eve dinner! I'm sorry I was so terrible to you before. I'm just so tired, after all the cleaning, and painting, and fixing, and moving. I was at the end of my rope. We still can't open the cans, but really, who needs vegetables with dinner, anyway?

WIFE prepares baking sheet, pulls ravioli box out from freezer, pauses.

So, uh, dear, just out of curiosity, what were the neighbors doing outside anyway? I mean, it's dark, and it's like, 40 degrees out there. And it's Christmas Eve.

HUSBAND: They were in their hot tub. They have a hot tub in the backyard.

WIFE: You mean, you called our brand-new, just-met-us-yesterday next-door neighbors out of their hot tub, in 40 degree weather, just to ASK THEM FOR SOME PAM?

HUSBAND: Uh . . . well, you see, it was very dark outside, and I just heard them talking in the backyard, and I didn't realize at first that they were actually sitting in a hot tub . . . But they were really nice!

WIFE: OH MY GOD. Now we will be known throughout the neighborhood as the obnoxious new neighbors who call people out of their hot tubs at night in 40 degree weather just to ask them for Pam! Oh. My. God. I am totally mortified. I am totally, totally mortified. Excuse me while I die now.

WIFE dies.

(Okay, so I didn't really die. I had a child to make Christmas happen for in the morning, after all. Happy Belated Holidays!)