Monthly Archives: February 2012

Hey, at least it’s evenly dented!

Our 1997 Dodge Caravan had survived nearly 15 years of life with nary a scratch on its exterior. Its bright, shiny, red paint belied its age. But look inside and the picture changes a bit.

The gray upholstery and carpet are showing signs of wear and tear, as are its innards — a second transmission, third set of tires, and so many serpentine belts that we have single-handedly financed the retirement of the CEO of whatever parts company makes the belts.

Years of travel with two teenaged drivers should have produced some dings along the way, but the only major trauma during their years at home occurred when the hubs and daughter number two were returning from her job at Stratton Greenhouses. Their version of the story was “The deer just came out of nowhere, just dropped from the sky.” Said deer left the van totaled, but the good body doc fixed it up right as new.

As the girls moved on to Athens and Bowling Green, then Kent and Cincinnati, the Caravan morphed into a moving van. Still…no dents.

But, as so often is the case with cars, fate interferes.  I’ve learned not to question these things…acceptance is best.

But…sigh…there are now two rather hefty dents on each rear side panels of the van. Both show signs of having collided with something painted white. Well, hey, at least it’s evenly dented.

As I understand it, here’s how this little scenario played out.

First, while the hubs was removing the middle and rear seats from the van (preparing it for yet another moving spree), one of the seats tipped over and smacked one of the rear lights.

A few days later, wearing his Chamber CEO hat, the hubs was —  as he puts it —  working “in the line of duty,” delivering signs to the Christmas lighting contest winners. It was dark and he backed over a post holding two mailboxes.

Lest you accuse him of a federal offense (which it is), rest assured, he reported it immediately to the owners and our insurance agent.

In a burst of insight, he pointed out that his procrastination in repairing the broken rear light saved us $70 because it most certainly would have been smooshed again in the mailbox fiasco.

Perhaps a month later, the van was parked on the street in front of our house when someone backed into the other rear panel, producing the matching dent. Said offender was remorseful and offered to pay for repairs. Why bother? Then we’d have to fix both sides.

At 15 years of age and showing 156,000 miles on the odometer, Big Red is showing signs of age. Most days when we start it up, the dashboard no longer lights up. But one smack to the top of the dash, and up come the lights.

It’s cranky in the cold, squeaky in the heat. The heat only begins to blast warm air after we’ve driven an hour or so. The air conditioning? Nada.

But hey, Big Red is part of the family. We won’t put it out to pasture until Gary Kirtland and Jim Kinn pronounce it hopeless. And those big dents? Like age spots, you can try to hide them, but why bother?

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Four-legged creature leaves trail of unstuffed toys

It is true that time dulls the memory. Once the kids leave home for college, we quickly forget the shoes strewn around the house, the backpacks covering the couch, iPods plugged into various outlets, and the Lego piles left in a corner. Well, the Lego sets really disappeared much earlier than the shoes, backpacks and iPods, but you get the picture.

A few months later they pop in for Thanksgiving break and new items appear in random piles around the house, only to disappear a few days later when off their owners head off again. Eventually, they move on to their own homes and somewhere along the way, learn to deal with their own piles of stuff.

What I didn’t realize was that a 15-pound four-legged creature can manage to make more of a ruckus that two teenagers can. Most days I return from work and pick my way carefully through what looks like a war zone.

The first clue is a path of bits of stuffing that, when followed, lead one to the little mutt’s favorite half-stuffed (or is half-unstuffed), one-legged lavendar bear. Although, at this stage, what was once a bear resembles not much more than a mostly chewed-up piece of fabric.

Nearby is the missing leg, which has oddly become a favorite toy of the aforementioned mutt, more formally known as Ike, the mini Schnauzer.

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, here is a photo lineup of the ravaged toys….all leading to the furry culprit, digging through his toy box for yet another well-chewed favorite.

What’s wrong with a little Valentine’s Day fun?

Today a coworker remembered that Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays and speculated on whether as a child, my family had observed it in some special way.

She’s right. I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day, beginning with those early primary school days of decorating shoeboxes with pink and red paper, doilies, cut-out hearts and cupids. We’d make a slot on the top and place it on our desk and each child would go around the room, subtly dropping home-made and purchased Valentine’s in our classmate’s boxes. Every year, at least one classmate stuck a few of the big candy conversation hearts in each card. I lived for those.

Silly, I suppose, but those memories are the ones that fuel my love for the holiday. But that’s not the story I told my coworker. The truth is that my best Valentine memories begin in my college days.

Every year my dad sent flowers to me at the dorm — even though his office was just across campus. And my mom? I’d return to my dorm room to find a package of homemade cookies or chocolate candy. I don’t think they ever realized how much those gifts meant to me.

Later when our girls were old enough to appreciate the holiday, they each decorated a shoebox with whatever scraps of fabric and paper, stickers, etc., that we could find in the craft box. That box sat outside their bedroom door for two weeks before Valentine’s Day. Every morning, they’d squeal with delight at whatever someone had dropped into the box overnight. I’m pretty sure they thought every family did that, but I think they’ve since learned that wasn’t the case.

One year I baked a giant chocolate chip cookie in the shape of a heart for my husband and each of the girls. Another year, we had a heart-healthy dinner than ended with a frozen ice cream pie for which I’d made a meringue crust from egg whites and sugar.

This year my husband, who can be very romantic when he wants to be, surprised me by writing “the Valentine’s Day column that will never be published.” I’m probably going to get in trouble for even revealing this much, but suffice to say that it was a rundown of all the girls he’d dated before he ended up marrying the girl next door. Well, technically, it was the girl who lived down the street, but you get the picture.

I alternately laughed and cried as I read it. It was the ultimate in thoughtful gifts — more meaningful that a dozen roses.

Note: The two antique Valentine cards included above are part of a collection of several hundred that my husband’s grandmother saved between 1890 and the 1930s. Clearly, our love for this often sadly-maligned holiday is genetic.

 

 

Constant practice makes a good loser

I lose things. Constantly. Sometimes I find them, sometimes not. Sometimes I replace the lost item and find the old one months later. I find some comfort in realizing that this is not a new (i.e. older-age) problem. It’s been ongoing since childhood.

My mom is still laughing over the memory of me diving into the Buckeye Quarry with my glasses on. Someday a giant trout will appear at the annual derby wearing a pair of tortoise shell glasses.

Periodically, one of my daughters will call and tell me she’s lost something. I suspect she is looking for sympathy but all I can do is laugh. It must be genetic. I wonder if my brothers lose things as often as I do? Of course, they’d never tell me so I might have to ask their wives. They’ll tell me.

Here’s the thing. When it’s something of little value or can easily be replaced/remade (i.e., a grocery list), there’s little angst involved. But since most of what I tend to lose is not so easily replaceable or something I need immediately (i.e., the car keys), well, you can imagine the scene.

This is when I start throwing things around, pulling things out of drawers, digging through pockets, searching under the seats of the cars, and generally causing havoc around the house. It isn’t pretty. Except maybe for my husband. He just ignores me and pretends to be immersed in some activity, probably smirking inwardly.

So…just for the record, I thought I’d list the things I’ve lost over the past month. If I can just remember…those little gray cells often fail me these days.

1.) Cho-Pat Dual Action Knee Strap — last I saw it was on Feb.1 when I packed it in the duffle I was taking to Cincy. When we got ready to run, it was nowhere in sight. This is not a good thing when running on hills. Now, 10 days later, I still haven’t found it. It wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t already lost two of them. So…now another is on order.

2.) Cell phone — Okay, truthfully, I lose this at least once a day. Usually, it just involves tracking down my husband’s phone and calling myself. He loses his more often than I do, so he has a little more sympathy for me when this happens.

3.) The car. Yep. Again, this happens on a regular basis…usually in large parking lots that don’t have helpful numbered aisle markers. This week, this involved my rental — a silver Chevy Cruze. There seems to be an inordinate number of silver automobiles of this size. Of course, it was dark and the lot wasn’t well-lit so that didn’t help matters. I had to quell my rising panic that someone had stolen it, while I walked up and down the rows until I finally saw the telltale license plate frame of Stratton Auto.

4.) Debit card. I know…everyone loses those. But this was really bugging me. I’d used it the night before, so it had to be somewhere…which is what I say about everything I lose. Debit/credit cards are scarier, though, because of the frighteningly obvious concerns of them falling into the wrong hands. Usually, when this happens, you have to call the bank quickly and let them deal with it. This time, though, I finally remembered that I’d stuck it in the inside pocket of my coat…so I wouldn’t lose it. Of course.

5.) Two — not one, but two — diamond solitaires. Not the actual ring…just the stone. The first disappeared on a dark and stormy night on a gravel drive. The second disappeared about 25 years later on a bright, sunny day. Both involved calls to insurance companies. Learned my lesson. Gave up on diamonds and replaced it with a genuine peridot.

6.) Library book on CD. I have the final CD…just can’t find the other six and their box. This could be costly. And much as I love Stuart Woods, I can only listen to Stone Barrington’s fascinating conclusion  so many times.

7.) A student’s folder. This happens once in awhile, but  it’s not always my fault. Sometimes they get misfiled. But this usually happens when I have a meeting with said student in about 30 minutes.  Which, by the way, has already happened today.

I wonder if it’s bad luck to admit that I lose things? Probably not. It would probably happen just as often if I never told anyone. But I’d better quit while I’m ahead. Besides, I’ve got to head off to that meeting. Now….if I can just find that Prius smart key fob. Anyone seen this?

 

Welcome to our zoo, part two

Late Friday afternoon, an energetic Havanese entered our lives with the force akin to a full-blown blizzard. My first hint at how the weekend might play out came when Ike bolted to the front door, sniffing along the doorjamb, whimpering only slightly.

Much to his surprise, the door opened and a white ball of fluff barreled into the living room, skidded across the oak floor and slammed into Ike. The moment he was off his leash, the two dogs were racing through the house. Watson barely stopped long enough to acknowledge his owners’ goodbyes.

Ike thinks he's hiding

This went on for the next three hours, with periodic time-outs to catch their collective breaths. In the meantime, the hubs and I vacillated between laughing uproariously to feeble attempts at creating order.

 

We finally gave up. At about 9 p.m., the Havanese was relegated to his crate in the basement and the Schnauzer collapsed at my feet, happily snoring within seconds.

This morning, Ike slept in like a teenager. Obviously, he was storing up energy for another day at the races. Fred finally dragged him from slumberland and took him out to perform his morning ablutions. When they returned, we fetched Watson from his crate and sent him out for his turn about the block.

Back in the house and they were back at it, running in circles, stopping only long enough for a gulp of water or to snitch a kibble.

For the moment, things are quiet. Ike has crashed in his favorite spot on our bed near the window…ever on guard for the next squirrel. Watson is downstairs — not sure he wants to navigate the steps.

I’ll say one thing for this dogsitting business. It has cured me of my urge to get a second Schnauzer to keep Ike happy. We’ll just borrow Watson.

Ironically, last night when my husband asked how big Watson will get, I told him that he’s already full-grown.  Besides, he’s mostly fur. This morning, Fred told me about the dream he’d had last night.

Turns out Watson arrived with a tag that read: This dog will grow to 2,000 to 3,ooo pounds.

In the dream, he’d said to me, “See, I told you so.”

 

 

 

Navigating the slopes of Cincinnati on foot

A few years ago, I decided to run a mini-marathon near Cincinnati — 10 miles on a “flat, fast course.” That phrase alone should have made me skeptical, but silly me….a pure-bred Northwest Ohio runner defines flat as in pancake. No hills.

About halfway through the third mile, it occurred to me that flat was a relative term. If one lives in Cincinnati, a “flat” race course in Mason could certainly be considered flat since Mason doesn’t sport the steep hills of downtown Cincy.

But as the race went on, it became more apparent that I’d been naive to believe that first hill would be the worst. By the end of the race, I swore I’d never run in Cincinnati again.

But oh, how time dulls the memory. So when my daughter suggested we go for a run on a balmy late January morning, I jumped at the chance to explore a new neighborhood. As we approached an intersection, I asked which way we were turning.

She snickered and said, “Well, we won’t be turning right.”  Curious, I looked right — I swear the road went straight up. In reality, it was certainly steep, but not quite the equivalent of Cincy’s Clyde Street, which rises at a 30 degree slope.

Steep Clyde Street

 

The rest of the run continued in gradual ups and downs, which can be almost as bad as a straight-up hill. You don’t realize you’re running uphill until you’re nearly out of breath, thighs aching.

But as is usually the case of running in a new locale, it was a route of surprises. Along the way, we passed my cousin’s studio, and later, her house. A short while later, I admitted I had no idea where we were. I wasn’t worried until daughter number 2 admitted she too wasn’t sure of our location.

But down another hill, and across a street, and she suddenly recognized her surroundings. Phew.

In retrospect, it was a good run. We had a great conversation, discovered a new bakery, and conquered a few hills. And it was 62 degrees, sunny, and we had worked up a good sweat outdoors in late January.