Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fall Projects aka That Time The House Nearly Killed Us All

So, the FFG household is abuzz with fall projects. 

Sunday kicked off bright and early when Hubby and The Boy marched out the old washer and dryer and installed the NEW washer and dryer, and while that might SOUND straightforward, the statement itself doesn't come NEAR actually capturing the angst, the straining, the smashed fingers, the dented drywall, the blue flames of profanity that were muttered into shirtsleeves to spare the children (by me, not Hubby) upon discovering that the pedestals from the OLD Whirlpool set that look EXACTLY like the pedestal bases that they NOW sell for $500 bucks won't fit on the NEW Whirlpool set since some sadist made sure that almost NONE of the screw holes match, and the ones that do are only accessible by disassembling the entire pedestal which seems to be made of 17 pieces of sheet metal that have each been honed sharper than a Ginsu knife.

This is ALL eclipsed by the excruciating agony of dropping and losing forever the impossibly tiny, custom-so-that-none-of-the-bajillion-screws-in-your-kitchen-junk-drawer-will-work screws that attach the electrical cord that you MUST have or apparently the ENTIRE machine will burst into a flame ball and take out the entire house, and of COURSE the guy at Lowes barely conceals his horror upon encountering a sweaty, crazed, breathless, angry, menopausal female in his appliances department shoving a miniscule bolt into his face and shrieking about the end of days.

Of course, while you continue to hyperventilate and breathe into your purse, he steps back and smugly informs you that they are machined in Germany, and he chuckles under his breath when you ask if he could give you one off of a floor model, and then his chuckle turns to bald-faced fear when you start to shriek louder and throw yourself against the stainless steel Maytag french door refrigerator on sale this week and he somehow comes up with a makeshift replacement just to get you out of the store before you scare the customers.

When it was over, the washer and dryer were in place with no hint of the human suffering they had caused and Hubby refused to acknowledge me unless I called him Sisyphus.  

Barely recovered from that, and apparently still crackling with the frustrated adrenaline generated from planning the painful and untimely demise of the Lowes guy, I unpacked the flatscreen TV mounting bracket that had been patiently waiting for us to have a lapse in judgement, and today was the day.

I tapped nail holes into the wall above the fireplace with the precision and pace of a sewing machine, looking for the elusive studs, having flung the "piece of s*** studfinder" across the room 45 seconds in. Hubby, with a mixture of exhaustion, resignation, and abject fear that I would turn my wild-eyed frenzy back on the good people of Lowes, looked on while I sank the lag bolts, spinning the ratchet like a spider monkey on crack.

Of course, in the light of day, I can now clearly see that we all risked our lives installing a hulking, aging, 54" 80 lb. monster TV over the fireplace.

Along the way, there was a near fall from a teetering stepladder which I'm pretty sure was straining to accommodate 40 more pounds than it was ever designed to, gritted-teeth cursing of the TV manufacturer, the mounting hardware manual writer, the builder, and anyone who had ever smilingly demonstrated the project in 10 minutes on HGTV.

After the fourth attempt, we heard a satisfying "click" which we all determined was either success, or an indication that the entirety of the fireplace structure was facing imminent collapse. Holding our collective breath, we gingerly released our hold on the hulking bastard of a TV one finger at a time, wincing as we carefully stepped back to either admire our handiwork or watch the house implode.

And there it hung, in all of its majesty, silent and magnificent.

Dusty, sweaty, tear-stained and beaten, we all were barely able to summon a feeble "Yea!" when the infernal thing blinked to life like the Eye of Sauron, pulling us all into its hypnotic trance and dissolving all bitterness that we had harbored into sheer awe of the 8 square feet of blaring, shiny, subconscious-boring media stream.

But those feats of strength were only warm ups for the hell that is to come. The ONE thing I have avoided, nay DREADED since moving here 11 years ago. I am painting the rest of the house. Loyal friends might remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth that occurred when I painted the master bedroom earlier this summer. Like David, I am gathering up my meager tools to slay Goliath. I swear I can already hear the barely-perceptible-but-I-can-hear-it-so-don't-call-me-crazy trash talk coming from the highest pinnacles of our 18 foot ceilings.  I can already taste the chalky castoff drywall dust that will infiltrate my every pore as the never-ending walls stretch out lonely and desolate like a Kansas prairie.

I've committed to putting on one gallon of paint per day until I'm done, which I estimate will be around Valentine's Day 2015. I'm trying to keep my courage up, though. Counting the slapcoat I slung on the wall before the EofS took it's permanent place above our fireplace, as of today I've actually painted 2 walls (if you don't count cutting in the edges, or putting on a second coat, or painting the trim, or removing the electrical plugs and lightswitch covers, or cleaning up the drips, or actually finishing it.) Two walls down, and 19 miles of drywall to go.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Retail Fairytales: Sears Mattresses

Gather 'round kids! It's time for Retail Fairytales!It all begins last May, Sears sends a Memorial Day sale email with huge, one-day-only savings on mattresses. It just so happens I have been looking at mattresses, and see the one I am interested in for a great price.   I proceed to buy it online during the 6 hour sale marathon.   I schedule delivery for July.   

A few days later, Hubby and I, while at our local mall, stop by Sears to see the bed and quickly get the bum's rush by a sweaty, wild-eyed close-talker mattress salesman.

His spittle-fueled patter basically drove home the point that we were sold a TERRIBLE product but not to worry . . .

that he had a MUCH better one for the same price, and he could cancel the first transaction, and take care of everything!

Memorize it!  MEMORIZE IT!
He proceeded to give us a 1 hour and 20 minute dissertation on every mattress in the store.  At one point, there was a PowerPoint presentation and an audience quiz.   Hubby had long fallen asleep on the tester mattress, and I had developed a nervous tic from the indoctrination/reprograming, and would have agreed to ANYTHING at that point.

Sensing our weakness, he showed us a Stearns and Foster mattress that was apparently made of clouds and ground-up unicorns.  It SEEMED quite comfy, but then again, we would have walked across hot coals to escape to the food court.  We gratefully signed the sales slip and watched him scuttle to the back like a roach under a dishwasher.

So, fast forward . . . mattress is delivered, and it is literally like laying on a fabric-covered marble slab. 

Disappointing, yes, but no fear: Mr. Mattress at Sears said that the mattress had a comfort guarantee, so I immediately call Sears to return the slab. The Sears troll that answered said that returns were not allowed, so I battle on to the Assistant Manager troll, who asserts that there IS a comfort swap allowed, for $250. I dodge and parry and encounter the SENIOR manager troll, who admits that the fee was brand new, but waived for us. 

SO . . . Another mattress is purchased, old one is picked up on a Monday, and the new one arrives Wednesday and all is well.


I fully paid for the first one and was told the funds would be refunded upon its return. In the meantime, I also bought the second one. Weeks go by, no return. Hours on the phone with the Sears mall trolls, who have VERY short memories, Sears customer service, Sears delivery, Sears warranty. Nothing.

Today, I traveled the world via conference call, zinging through space from one overseas Sears Oompa Loompa to the next, each less able to help than the previous one. Records are incomplete, computers are frazzled, every Oompa Loompa says they have no proof of the return despite having all of my scrolls in order, my Sears card number, my receipt number, my local store number, the dates of the purchases and the return.

All hope seems lost.


I kept a teeny, tiny, little, eensy, weensie slip of inconsequential paper that the deliveryman gave me when he picked up the slab.   It had his initials, the date and a magic code. Once uttered to the Searsians, the heavens opened up, and I was instantly transferred to a chuckling, bubbly Glenda The Good Witch of a woman who uttered the beautiful words, "I have processed your full refund, Mrs. Martin."

Moral of the story: Keep your paperwork. And don't trust mattress salesmen.

Friday, September 13, 2013

All skate . . . EVERYONE skate, please!

All skate . . . EVERYONE skate, please . . .

In 1976, Boogie Nights was THE song to roller skate to on Dollar Night at Jonquil Skating Rink. Usually following a couples skate, you'd wait with breathless anticipation for the DJ's "All Skate" announcement and the dreamy opening harp of "Boogie Nights". 

It was a free-for-all, everyone pushing for the floor like salmon swimming upstream, a human flurry of wheels and elbows. From the chaos emerged the elite . . . and woe be unto you if you stepped in the path of the satin-baseball-jacket-wearing Jonquil Speed Club, each with their custom boots and wood speed wheels. 

There's no room for wall-huggers or crybabies when the mothertrucking Boogie Nights started spinning, y'all. 

It was a mesmerizing choreographed drill team, taking curves in sync at 60 mph, executing perfect crossovers and death-defying backward spins on the straightaways. Combs in the back pocket of Jordache jeans, winged bangs shellacked down to withstand the hurricane-like gale force winds of their passes, round and round and round the rink, wheels and floor like ice on glass.

All skate .... everyone skate, please. 

It was a call to arms, a dazzling introduction, and a sinister warning, all contained within the confines of a prefab metal warehouse with a high-gloss wood floor, carpeted mushroom seating, super sized pickles and the promise of greatness.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Eternally vigilant

Today's a tough day for him.

He was there when the towers came down, you know.

He was there to witness the carnage. He lived through the soot, and the screams, and the sirens, and the shock, and the semblance of life that the survivors were forced to cobble together in the aftermath.  He walked through the streets and the dust and the ash among the confused mass of humanity.

The names of the dead aren't just names that grace a memorial wall - they were people that he joked with, laughed with, welcomed into his bar, talked football with, celebrated births and marriages with, and mourned death with. The normal passages of life, not this horrific hell on earth that no one was prepared to face.

The people that died that day were real.  They were his friends and then in an instant, they were gone.

Like everyone there, he grieved.  He mourned.  He tried to make sense of the whole horrible thing.  When he couldn't shake the visions, he forged the fury and the helplessness and the grief into a hardened steel resolve to love his city and his people.  He marked his body to honor the fallen, and to commemorate the spirit of the city, and the people - both those that perished, and those that survived. I see that symbol on him every day, and I try to imagine what it was like to offer his flesh up as a living memory of the worst day in our country's history.

I try to imagine, but I really can't.

My world is so much smaller than his. I've been sequestered here, in the state of my birth, never venturing more than a few miles from the city I grew up in. I've tried to equate anything in my experience to what he endured.

I don't think I can.

I mean, how do you gain an understanding of that horror and that level of loss? How many words would I have to hear? How many pictures would I have to see? How many times would I have to watch the clips of the attack on the towers to grasp the reality of what happened?

It's human nature, I guess, to try to compare and contrast things that you encounter with the Rolodex of memories and experiences in your own head.

That's what we do, us humans. Compare and contrast. Is this better or worse than that was? Is this anything like what I have seen before?

It's how we cope. We try to make sense of everything that we encounter, and draw parallels to it, dissect it, turn it over and over in our minds to find the logic in it so we can file it away.

And then we do file it away.

So on this day, every year, I put myself through the exercise of reliving that day, or my version of it. Like most of the world, I was far removed from Ground Zero. It almost feels like I don't have the right to participate in the mourning - certainly not in the same way that he has earned the right to mourn.  I've been able to continue on with life, without being continually reminded of the pain and the anguish. I've been allowed to compartmentalize it and distance myself from the fear and the shock.

I think that's one of the most upsetting parts for him in the years since - the "filing away" that seems to have occurred as a nation.    Day to day, that event takes up less and less conscious thought for us as a nation. Fewer channels devote the time to broadcast the ceremony that is held on every anniversary to commemorate the passing of all of the victims.  The memorials are a tour bus stop, along with Rockefeller Center and Seinfeld's diner.

Which sounds cold and unfeeling, and in a way, I guess it is, but the parts of us that allow us to continue on after a tragedy are the same parts of us that "file away" the horror of the experience.

Survival mechanism, I guess.

But for him, and thousands more like him, there is no filing away. It was too big, and too senseless, and too . . . much. So the survivors commemorate the day, and watch the ceremonies, and relive the horror with the rest of us, and on September 12, we go back to our lives, and they are left to process and reprocess, without being able to file it away.

Call it survivor's guilt. Or maybe the mind's inability to handle something that monumentally evil.

Regardless, it never goes away. It just gets tumbled and turned over in the sea of their subconscious like a rough stone, the waves never able to smooth the jagged edges, never able to dull the piercing that hits them out of nowhere when they least expect it.

For some of us, remaining eternally vigilant is a choice.  For others, it's a life sentence.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sifting through the ashes

Wow . . . while resurrecting this blog, I revisited the comments that were left on some of my prior posts.  Mostly, I clicked on the links back to the commenters, and with the exception of 2, all of them had deactivated their accounts.

Kinda like coming back to your hometown and finding that it burnt down.


Monday, January 21, 2013

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