The Triumph of Trash Day

I came home Friday after a long day at The Young Human Factory and saw something beautiful – an empty garbage can on my neighbor’s lawn. Oh, happy day! All but one garbage bag and various loose debris have been cleared.

I haven’t blogged about him because, frankly, it’s a depressing situation. The family next door let their house let the bank foreclose. The bank removed the wood stove and put on a new roof, then sold it fast and cheap. ( So fast that when my parents called the bank, it was already a done deal.)

For the past two years, the “new” neighbor has been letting it fall apart. Continue reading

February already?!?

Please consider this my State of La Casa Address.

For the past several weeks months, I have thought of post-worthy topics. Then I’d become enthralled by whatever calamity struck, whether it was at work or en casa, or regarding…. politics.

Hoo boy! Whenever I speak or write of the presidential election, I shall refer to it as The Meltdown of ’16. Jill Stein’s recall attempt was bad, but I had no idea how many of my friends and family are lunatics.  I felt terribly stressed not by the election itself (I slept through the tallying), but by the subsequent denouncing, crying, gloating, and apocalyptic fantasizing.*

As luck would have it, I was distracted by work-related concerns. The latest is that the Young Human Factory is approaching a critical moment. After regular work hours, we front-line employees sat down to discuss our very limited options. Older co-workers can consider early retirement. Me? I’m less concerned with an exit-strategy than a re-enter-the-workforce strategy. I hear that there’s a program to train drone pilots for delivery services…

But on happier news, today I delivered my latest sculpture to its unsuspecting recipient. She exclaimed, “I’ve never gotten anything so beautiful from anyone!” (And to answer the question my readers will be thinking: No, I can’t sell my sculpture. I tried. Even at a gallery, interested parties balked at paying $75 – a price just covered my cost in materials and studio time.)

Meanwhile in La Casa de Tontería, I had a falling out with my Internet provider. I don’t want to name names, but its initials are A, T, and T. When I called about a loss in service (possibly due to an ice storm), the representative immediately declared my modem was bad and I could now rent a newer one for $7 plus tax per month.

Ha ha! Try pulling the other one! I called my pal the Attorney General (well, his office) and found out that the FCC doesn’t regulate providers. Drat.

When the technician came, he reinforced my belief that there’s a strange philosophy at work in that company. Customer service reps are paid evil-doers, while their co-workers work for the good of their customers. Thus is the balance maintained and the Universe doesn’t implode.

Anyway, the tech informed me that my modem was fine (although a refurbished model – what?!?) and he moved my connection to a closer box down the street (rather than in the neighboring town – WHAT?!?)  He also let me know that I still had DSL, not high-speed. I told him what I was paying, and he told me that newer customers had better rates. He suggested I cancel my service for two weeks and then offer to return for a better price.

Unfortunately, I can’t be without service that long. In the summer, I’m going to do it! In the meantime, I talked the price down $35. And that’s not even the deal that the neighbors get.


*Honestly, I laughed  at those who viewed Canada as a sort of bunker to outlive the new administration. First, Canadian immigration guidelines are much stricter regarding marketable skills and sponsorship. Second, there are less than 35 million Canadians, the minority population tends to be Asian immigrants, and pretty much no one speaks Spanish. The last time I took a long trip in Canada, the joke was “We brought our own diversity.”

Book Review: The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke

Gerke, Jeff. The First 50 Pages: Engage Agents, Editors and Readers and Set Up Your Novel for Success. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest, 2011. Print.

Summary: A guide to writing a novel beginning that hooks readers.

Jeff Gerke writes fiction under the pseudonym Jefferson Scott but teaches at writers conferences and writes advice under his own name. I bought a few of his guidebooks on the recommendation of honest-to-published authors. This is the first I’m reviewing for my ongoing Book Project. Continue reading

Dealing with the Budgetary Crisis

No, not Congress. La crisis presupuestaria de la Casa de Tontería. To non-Spanish speakers: Need mo’ money in da House o’ Nonsense, eh? (I added the last word so Canadian and Yooper readers would understand.)

Last week, I got one bid (and another pending) to replace the driveway and the walk. The previous neighbors had trees growing right at the edge of the drive, which heaved the concrete. The husband was reluctant to cut them down until I pointed out that they would undermine his own house’s foundation.

Since they left and the bank sold the house, the decaying roots caused the cement to tip sideways, creating a dam where the downspouts pour out.  The summer has been very dry, but marked by torrential storms that made a shallow pool between our houses. Not only was the tar-like sealant washing away, but air bubbled up when even a child on a bike crossed the drive.

The walkway problem is typical for the builder, known affectionately as Jerkface MacGuyver.  Because the backfill around the foundation wasn’t properly tamped, the soil has compacted and the concrete tipped. Now the sidewalk leading to the front step tilts toward the house. As with the driveway, it pours water toward the foundation.

I had money set aside for the Garage Plan (a three-year project so well-thought out and  thus far so well-executed, government project planners would weep over their relative incompetence. Not that I’m bragging. I’m merely stating the facts with a sneer.).  Since I envisioned a new driveway leading to the garage, I felt comfortable using funds for this masonry project. I still have time to add to the Garage Fund.

Or so I thought. Continue reading

Insects

A cicada is singing in the maple tree. For those unfamiliar with its song, imagine an electronic buzz growing louder until it crackles and suddenly stops. Several years ago, a friend from the UK was enjoying a trip to Stratford, Ontario, when I identified the sound.  Because it was high on an electric pole, she had wondered if it were a problem with a transformer!

August is the time of insects: cicadas, crickets, and spiders.

Every time I work in the garden, tiny crickets leap out of my way. Where there are crickets, there are their hunters, which means I must stroll around the garden before I mow. I haven’t seen any snakes (yet), but yesterday I had to herd toads out of the grass.

Spiders are everywhere.

I suffer a mild case of arachnophobia, so this afternoon I found myself explaining to a neighbor that I yelped because I was startled, not hurt. It was a false alarm anyway: a daddy longlegs isn’t even a spider.*

However, the grass spiders have been weaving their webs throughout the yard, especially at the base of the maple. A bright-coloured orbweaver made the not-so-bright choice of my car’s side mirror as a website.  Let’s not even mention the wolf spider. If you’re really curious, check out this link: Spiders of Michigan. (I double-dog dare you.)

I hate zebra spiders and always have. Sure, they’re harmless, but they love hanging out by the back door and they jump! So if I see them, I’m on alert for them to hitch a ride inside the house.

Inside the House of Nonsense, I generally have three arachnid guests. The main ones are funnel spiders, since they enjoy human habitats just like house sparrows.

Then there are the shiny black spiders that chase down other spiders. Yes, you heard that right. One of the worst moments in my first year at La Casa de Tontería was an evening when I collapsed into a chair after a long day. Then I felt a tickling at my neck and, by the light of the reading lamp, saw a funnel spider run down my shirt. It was followed by a small, determined black spider.**

Yet I continue to live here.

Last but not least is the cellar spider, which I have nicknamed the Bathroom Stalker. These spindly-legged spiders are easy to miss until you’re nekkid and bathing. Then they come creeping down from the ceiling to enjoy the steam from your shower, or climb up the side of the tub to hang out near your head. Because nothing says “relaxing bath”like turning and gazing eyeball-to-eyes with a spider.


*The crane fly that Australians call by the same name, we Michiganians call “mosquito hawk” because of its resemblance to our state bird, erm, insect. They’re harmless but occasionally annoying, like fishflies (mayflies) and midges.

**I see that it’s called a “false black widow.” I haven’t seen a real black widow, nor do I want to see one.

 

An inside job

I have written very little since my last check-in. I had guests, visited family, and started an intensive paper-taming project. How intensive? I had to “rest” the shredder until special-ordered lubricant arrived!

The weather inspired me to tackle this dreaded task. I started sorting files and editing content during record-breaking heat.  On rainy days, I hole-punched, created dividers, and labeled 3-ring binders. As I finish this project, flood watches are in effect. (Thankfully, I see no sign of locusts.)

The objective was to create a time-saving system for handling important paperwork like medical records and legal documents. However, the bulk of the files contain newspaper clippings, acceptance letters, and oh-so-many unpublished pages!

I wanted to rebury them as soon as I unearthed them – as I’ve done many times before – because they inspire strong emotions. Continue reading

The Heat Has Gone To My Head!

“It’s so hot and humid today,” I thought to myself after I mowed and ran errands. “I better take it easy.”

I didn’t iron – too hot. I didn’t cook – far too hot by lunch! I couldn’t focus on my self-assigned book. I turned on the fan and sat, surfing the ‘net and trying to stay cool.

“Oh, I know!” I thought suddenly.

And that’s how I came up with the bright idea of removing the shower doors by myself.* I’d like to report that it wasn’t as hard as I expected, but that would be a lie. Jerkface MacGuyver, the builder of La Casa de Tontería, employed excellent installers; too bad the doors were cheap garbage. Although the rust-encrusted caulk crumbled under a double-dose of elbow grease, the wall anchors will NOT budge.

However, I was pleasantly surprised that my klutziness didn’t interfere. Even gravity was my friend!  Once the doors fell off the wall into the tub, taking the entire top metal strip with them, it was MUCH easier to tear them individually from the lower strip.

I admit I grazed my right index and ring fingers on metal, but there’s no bleeding. So I put away the first aid kit unused.

I was quite pleased. Until I realized I desperately need a shower but there’s no curtain. Oops.


*My friend Daniel offered to help in exchange for homemade chocolate mocha cookies, but his work schedule is definitely hospitalish. Readers employed in the medical field will understand!