Friday, May 24, 2013

Where is Warren Buffet When I Need Him? My Tub's Hot/Cold Dial Spins Round and Round like Linda Blair's Head

It has been 39 days since my plumber Roosevelt plumbed the depths of my faceplate hole and splayed open my diseased tub-anatomy, right there, in the open air.  Then he left for Thailand.
Tumblr, Witch Feet

At least the exposure to oxygen and sunlight caused the fungi to stop pulsating and eventually curl and retract, like the Wicked Witch of the East's shoes.  Plus I sprayed Tilex on the exposed parts and within minutes, they shone like new!

It seems that last month, my plumber couldn't access that "special tool" from his colleague to adjust my chainmail sinker’s flexion-pinnacle.  

The coveted tool was being utilized on a large job by someone I will name Roosevelt II, who was not available during any of the past 39 days ... to use the tool himself, or to pass this tool on like an Olympic Torch to other plumbing champions.  It may turn out this is the root of our delay:  the tool-torch may only be passed every four years.

I am curious that Roosevelts I and II are forced to share a single tool. They work for a plumbing, gas and oil company the size of a modest Saudi sand dune, which in a town the size of mine is like dropping Pluto on my driveway.  This company is relatively "healthy" via mass and fiscal assets.

So as I said, I am curious that Roosevelt I and II must share a common tool between them. 

They are not even the only two plumbers that perform house calls or furnace tuneups.  There is a FLEET of employees upon whom the company draws for house calls. Yet among probably 15 skilled artisans, there is one tool that can adjust the sputum-flange so my chainmail fish sinker seats itself inside the slattern-divot, in order that the tub may fill. 

Or maybe the tool – I’ll call it Roosevelt III – wasn’t needed for the fish sinker.  It MAY have been needed to adjust the thermal titrate-sprocket that allegedly controls Hot vs Cold water.

It’s the circular dial that – if you are lucky and are very good to your oil company – can be placed in the High Noon Position to combine the Hot and Cold water, making "Warm".

We must not have been very good to our oil company, though we have always tried. Back in 1991 when Roosevelt I came to fix a dripping hot water tank, our fourth child was 7 months old.

I answered the door in a kaftan-style sleeper that a Mom Of Four would wear at O Dark Thirty A.M.,  during summer vacation when their plumber arrives to address a dripping hot water tank.

He took one look at my Kaftan and said, “Oh, Jesus, you’re not pregnant AGAIN?!” 

I believe I said something that involved the 'eff word' -- as in, ‘EFF you, Roosevelt I’ or ‘You eff-ing eff-ass, shit-eff’ and that, technically, is not being nice to our oil company.   I blame hormones.

The last time they came to install new tub and shower and faucet and stopper fixtures – only five years ago – they managed to mis-install the hot and cold dial.  Cold is blue on the RIGHT, while Hot was red and on the LEFT.  But if you turn the dial to the left, you get COLD.  To the right, HOT.  And in the middle,  COLD.  There was no High Noon Warm on my Sprocket-Thermo-Dial.  Our warm resides toward the port-side – at 2 o'clock, or 1400 European time.

But none of that matters now because 1. We acclimated to the Left/Right Conversion and the 1400 Sweet Spot for Warm and 2.  The Rotisserie-Thermo-Dial now spins round and round like Linda Blair’s head and 3. The broken dial somehow permits water to run down into the faucet which has entered PRE-POUR MODE in a temperature common to inhabitants of Venus or the Sun.

Molten Lava Skin-Graft ...  is the temperature that drip-pours from the tub faucet. 

This causes the hot water heater to constantly call for hotter water, which causes me to not want to pour another six week’s of hot water funding down a stopper-less tub drain surrounded by gummy stem cell pinnacles and slimy flox deducers.  And that damned chainmail rope attached to a fishing sinker.

So we all take short showers in the morning up in the guest bath, shut the whole system down, run dishwashers, launder whites and do general cleanup with whatever hot water remains.  Then we go to the movies.  And let it get cold until someone with insomnia wakes up at 0400 and turns the emergency switch back to UP which signals that A New Day Has Dawned.

I explained this all to Roosevelt I, hoping our outright abuse of the system might impel him to find the rotisserie sprocket adjusting winch, or to go out and buy a new one.  Or tell ME where to buy one.  Or to tell Roosevelt II where to buy one.

This strategy did not manifest a new rotisserie sprocket winch.

It caused Roosevelt I to lecture me on how using the Emergency-Only Shut-Down Switch was "bad" for the furnace, and to, instead, go down to the water heater and look for a Yellow Valve and turn it until it forms the letter T.

 This will stop the hot water from reaching the bathroom pipes or even the dishwasher, kitchen, and spare bathroom, without interrupting the entire system via Emergency Shut Down.

In the time it took him to explain this to me, I could have sold my house and moved into a new one with a working rotisserie dial and drain-flange.

And if God wanted my yellow valves turned correctly, he would have provided me with staff:  skilled professionals trained to find the cobwebby water heater and search for a Yellow Valve Switch and try to recall from fourth grade geometry the appropriate X and Y coordinates necessary to create a proper T at a 565 degree angle… which begs the question, which part do I turn that MAKES the T?  The horizontal top hat… or the vertical pole? 

Fortunately, God did NOT give me staff.  Instead he gave me a Candy-Red Switchplate with an arrow pointing UP for “ON” and DOWN for “OFF” located one step outside the bathroom currently teeming with exposed tubinalia waiting to be repaired, treated and released to their rightful holes.

We are entering week number eleven with this problem, and day number 40 since I saw any of the Roosevelts. I have not heard from Darcy and I am not feeling like “Being the Scarlett to my Tara” . . . 

You know, I am now a Warren Buffett Berkshire Hathaway Stockholder.  I am pretty sure if Warren knew about the third world conditions I am forced to live in, he’d dispatch a team straight from Omaha that would install a first floor bathroom with a whirlpool tub and waterproof computer monitors with a live feed to the NY Stock Exchange.

And if I can’t reach Warren on the phone, I’ll just put the house on the market.  I hear it’s pretty ‘bull’ this spring.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Warren Buffett's 2013 "Grow Your Own Business" Challenge (I became a STOCKHOLDER!!)

It seems I may be a “little white liar.” Thankfully, I use my white lies for good and not for evil.

My earlier post about last weekend’s Omaha trip with student, Max Wallack, contained an act of misdirection. Yes, Max was a finalist in Warrren Buffett’s annual Grow Your Own Business Challenge.  He was one of five individual grand prize contestants, along with three teams, invited to present  business-concepts to a panel of judges.  The first place award for individual and team innovations was $5,000, and a chance to meet and talk to Warren Buffett as well as the movers and shakers of the investment industry.

My act of misdirection occurred when I referred to a Max Wallack initiative different than the one he technically presented in Omaha.  I mentioned Max’s non-profit that produces products for those suffering from Alzheimer’s.  This initiative is slated to receive profits from Max’s ‘Grow Your Own Business’ invention, so it is related.  But I didn’t want to divulge his real concept, prior to its presentation to judges.

Now that the event is over, I can share with you that his entrepreneurial endeavor is a Bed Bug Exposing Device.  That works! 
Warren Buffet and his GYOB 2013 National Finalists

Bed bugs are more of a problem than some think, taxing multiple U.S. industries, most notably real estate and hospitality.  This invention is greatly needed with unlimited potential.

Just like Max.

Max has been inventing things his whole life.  As a young child he watched his great grandmother fall victim to the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease, which spurred him to invent a variety of adaptive equipment for her use:  a great-granny booster step so she could more comfortably board the family van, and a walker-to-bench that offered her a rest while standing in any sort of line.

Since then, Max has gone on to help others in need, including the homeless with his temporary shelter called, The Home Dome, made solely of recyclable materials. Max's non-profit Alzheimer's organization soon followed, and now, the Bed Bug Exposing Device.

I was lucky to meet Max eight years ago when he was barely 9. He had been double promoted to grade six when he enrolled in a start-up charter school where I taught, an educational site I am proud to say that I, Max’s class and a handful of dedicated teachers and administrators jointly founded.  Today it is a highly successful STEM school (Science, Technology, Electricity and Magic) . . . [sometimes the E and M stand for “engineering and math” but I teach English and like alternative endings]

Max turned 17 about a week ago, yet this summer he begins his junior year in college, which includes several medical school courses.  A neuro-science major, he will likely become a geriatric physician specializing in Alzheimer’s research.  

Many say Max is gifted.

Max says he likes to work hard.

I say his philanthropic bent is a gift, at which he works very hard.

In any event, Max's non-profit Alzheimer's initiative is positioned to receive profits from his Grow Your Own Business submission, the Bed Bug Exposing Device, so at least my “white lie” was relevant. 

It turns out my choice to omit data about his real entry was wise.  Panelists in attendance at the May 19-20 event – sponsored by the Fairholme Foundation and its By Kids For Kids (BKFK) program – urged Max to patent his concept. Quickly. These are renowned investors and at every turn, each encouraged a swift patent.

So without divulging unpatented specifics, Max’s invention is a sensitive but simple system that detects the presence of a bed bug mating pheromone.

Applications are profound for folks looking to rent apartments, buy homes, check into hotels and motels.  Better may be its use by exterminators to determine the success of treatments.  Or for hotel chains to assure themselves and their guests of the pest’s absence.

Of 4,000 student entries, five individual business concepts and three team projects were chosen as finalists, one of which was a Bed Bug Detecting system invented by my student, Max Wallack.  There: The truth is out there.

His project won much attention, but not the final contest, about which none in our group was disappointed.  The whirlwind weekend was filled with workshops, a trip to the Omaha zoo, chances to meet other like-minded students, parents and teachers, opportunities to shares these concepts with Warren Buffett and countless notables in the investment and entrepreneurial worlds.  And we were all flown out, fed, made to feel like kings and queens in breathtaking suites at the Embassy Hotel.  Each of us had already won so much.  
Moments after Max presented his Bed Bug Device to Warren Buffett

The event’s individual winner was 10-year old Matthew Meyer of Cincinnati who won with a brilliant invention, the Write-Right.  It’s a wrist band with finger supports that keep a child’s hand in the correct position to support proper handwriting.   

Matthew is easily one of the most energized, magnetic 10-year olds in the history of Energy and Magnetism (more STEM alternative-endings).  Upon learning he was the event’s grand prize winner, Matthew took to the limelight like a bed bug to a Dickens’ waif. 

My first encounter with Matthew was at dinner our first evening in Omaha. He and his Mom, Elizabeth, were seated at our table. It took a few moments for him to warm up to our little ‘crowd’ but once he did, he was volcanic.  Someone asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, and at first he noted prudently he wanted to get old enough to acquire his driver’s license and a job. Then he segued seamlessly to his other interest: to ultimately grow armpit hair.

One of the parents at our table, the Dad of a contestant who had invented a sensor that could detect a child in trouble in a family swimming pool, asked Matthew why he was so intrigued by this endeavor. 

“Well, so I can pluck them all out … of course.”

Well … of course.

I confess, if Matthew had invented a wristband with finger supports to hold tweezers in an ergonomically-relevant way, to effectively pluck one’s underarms, and I were a judge, I’d have voted for it.  Humor-points plus bonus-points for body hair discussion at dinner with perfect strangers (elite, national contest-winning strangers) …well.  That’s a winning combo for me.

In other armpit-related news, never until last weekend was I SO focused on effective antiperspirant. Our Omaha weekend included briefings on how to best present oneself to the media, and in our Welcome Kits was a packet including Do’s and Don’ts regarding television, radio, phone and print-media interviewing.  Apparently, there are novices out there who violate rules like, “Don’t lie.”

It had never occurred to me that, if interviewed, I MIGHT lie.  But this thought took root, tormenting me constantly, evoking a mammoth flopsweat-response.

I have never been interviewed per se.  I have been the interviewer.  The journalist trying to catch a politician in a lie.  But I have never been in position, personally, to lie.

According to our Kits, “Don’t make up an answer” was so important, it appeared on my media sheet as bullet point number 5 and again as bullet point number 15.

As media personnel swarmed the two-day event with fuzzy microphones on booms and shoulder-hoisted cameras fitted with high-beam spotlights, my armpits threatened to runneth over.

When did Max get five inches taller than me?
Fortunately, I did not end up telling lies on camera, radio, or in print media. Because, technically, I was not interviewed. But I’ll tell you, my new phobia about lying to the press put my Secret Clinical to the test which, alongside Matthew Meyer, won the day!   

Hearty congratulations to Matthew and his teaching mentor and Mom, Elizabeth.  Such a treat being there for the weekend and meeting them, and so many other gifted student entrepreneurs, families and educators.

Meanwhile, I must share that, next to not having to lie to the media, and getting to talk to Matthew Meyer about body hair, my favorite part of the event was Warren Buffett’s speech.  It began not with praise of the Fairholme Foundation or By Kids For Kids sponsors, nor of judges, or investor-panelists who’d completed a robust Q&A. (Oh, Buffett, would indeed acknowledge all of this and each of them.  Just not in the beginning).

He didn’t even launch his speech with praise of the contestants.

He started off lauding teachers.
Finalists, parents and teachers, 2013 GYOB Challenge
It was an impromptu intro that drew upon school-day memories more than 70 years old.  He reminded us that, back then, women only had three career options should they find themselves in need of work: secretary, nurse or teacher. And they were paid next-to-nothing. Despite these obstacles, Warren credits who and what he is today to the successes of multiple teachers who instilled in him a desire to be the best he could be, to do the right thing.

He went on in that vein, then had contestants and their sponsoring teachers stand to be acknowledged.

And then, he gave to each contestant – and their teachers – 10 shares of Class B Berkshire Hathaway stock.

He was quoted in an interview later that day saying his decision to give stock to teachers “just came into my head,” adding that the amount of effort teachers invest in students amazed him in that moment, and so, he chose to make us all shareholders.  Wow.

I set out to support someone who, at the tender age of 17, has already devoted his life – past and future – to the disenfranchised, the homeless, the afflicted.  Max has always inspired me.  And yet, it was my profession – a pretty humble one in many regards – that inspired Warren Buffett.


There I was, thinking the highlight of my weekend was learning about the biochemistry of a bed bug’s love life and the concept of plucked underarms.  Things I, frankly, could not wait to get home to share with my family.  

Should they respond with, ‘Where do you think such ideas come from?” it pleases me no end that Warren Buffett might say, “Well, from some inspiring teacher, of course.”

Well … of course.

  (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o),

  ga('create', 'UA-42003016-1', '');
  ga('send', 'pageview');


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Warren Buffett and Me, Rachael Ray and Michelle Obama

   First of all, my exciting news is that I can’t find anything to wear for my Omaha trip where I accompany my student, Max Wallack, to a formal judging – by Warren Buffett and his team – of his enterprise, The Bed Bug Exposing Device.


   I am very honored that Max considers me a teacher of influence and that I am able to be  part of his experience!

   If ONLY my closet were as effective in exposing appropriate travel attire as Max's invention is in exposing bed bugs.
Horror-Closet: photo, CGiven

   Meanwhile, it seems that while I was looking for a Spanx vessel with whalebone stays and elasticized gussets, I noticed another celebrity I like as much as Warren Buffett and Max Wallack… has cut her bangs. Oh, Michelle.

   Back when she told Rachael Ray that the new 'do was her Oval Office Version of buying a midlife sports car or bungee jumping, I applauded Michelle's bangin brand o' bold.

   Here’s the thing, though:  I had to have a friend send this breaking news to me in a private email. And as of last Thursday, Michelle and I had become Twitter Friends.

   How did I miss Michelle’s tweet to me about her bangs?

   Oh, I know. I don't know how to access a twitter feed.

   The only way I see that I have ever tweeted is when strangers FOLLOW me and I click on them, and THEN I can find myself.  It's like pre-latency erotic discovery. 

   Well, Michelle's bangs are gone and I for one could not be more confused.  Olivia Baker’s USA Today piece did not give specifics so I am left wonting.  Did she force-grow them out of her face with gelatin capsules and sinful thoughts, or did she hold her breath, concentrate and push?
   Which brings me to my photos.  See how they have photo credit, given to myself, by myself?  I learned that I should have been doing this all along.  
   I should have even asked Max Wallack for the official logo for his Bed Bug Detecting Device with a trademark sign if I had proper litigious phobia or a sliver of blogging civility.  And, yes, while there are countless images of Michelle Obama out there I could likely use on this blog, I am now too afraid of copyright infringement and prison.
NOT Michelle's actual hair:  photo, CGiven
In fact, I am officially afraid of my own blog. And all of this hysteria comes from recent efforts to develop marketing skills. Yesterday, I became ‘a registered community member’ of countless online support groups such as Bloggerz’ World Dot Com, designed to offer new bloggers free promo advice and unlimited exposure. They’re like the virtual version of Shoppers’ World, only more expensive.  More anonymous. 
   But some of their tips have already paid for themselves! For instance, I discovered that, unless I credit myself for my own photographs, I am committing plagiarism. Possibly assault.
   Also, while I continue to be unable to learn if I even HAVE followers due to computer disabilities acknowledged by Social Security, I learned that there are humor blogs out there that are so famous, you can’t ‘follow’ them at all.  I know, because I tried.
   ‘Following’ someone, I thought, meant you receive an email that a new post is up.  The weird thing is that I may only enjoy this stalking-convenience once I've entered my private email address into an Unsecured Stranger-Registration Prompt.
   Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away, there appear to be bloggers with such healthy 'follower' numbers, they do not need me to 'follow' them. Which means to read them, I have to Google their site, if I even remember its name, or -- God forbid -- have to bookmark it, which I’ll accidentally erase once I’ve searched for something embarrassing to my family like “building tolerance to Klonopin” or “symptoms of anal worms.”
   I also learned there are blogs with tons of followers that do permit new subscribers, but only through a process so intricate, I had to build an Exel Spreadsheet to cross reference the sites with related pass-codes and security-questions and back-up riddles like, “What was the name of your third-grade imaginary friend’s invisible fish?” I need to hire hackers to help me find these sites. Anyway, I store this data-base on my desk top for quick access.   
   Which means it's gone for good.
   If I knew how to make a screenshot of my schizoid desktop, I could show you my icon-and-folder mosaic. It’s so dense, my wall photo is obscured. The only visible portion of our family portrait on a waterfront dock is the heel of my son's foot, pressed to the corner of a pressure treated plank.
   But my self-marketing effort paid off, because I was able to find a legitimate site that allows people to post their work, spike readership and receive payment in advertising!   
   Hold  Me  Down.
   Having studied at LEAST two successful blogs for fully eight minutes -- of folks who garner income by publishing on this same site -- I thought, “How hard can it be?  I’m as good as MalamutePoacher and ILUVHOHOS.
   I submitted for review one of my finer pieces –'finer' defined by my blog's algorithmic code which lists it as 'Most Popular' -- and in less time than it took me to register with my blood and tissue type, my inbox contained their rejection email.
   Of greater trauma, it was a form-rejection, generated by code similar to that which originally flagged my piece as ‘popular.’ No human eye, in the traditional sense, had been involved in the rejection of my piece.
   I took heart once the auto-rejection letter mentioned poor formatting and lack of graphics.  Thank GAWDI I thought.  THAT’S the problem. I’d hastily cut-and-pasted it from this blog, without reformatting, so it had funky artifacts. Little squiggles and dots. I thought they added a unique je ne sais quois to my offering. 
Worse yet? I purposefully opted to NOT embed photographs or images. It took months for me to learn to embed photos and images onto my posts.  With fame and fortune a mouse-click away, I didn't think I had that kind of time. 
   So part of me was like... yeah, it auto-didn't fit their Greatest Hits criteria.  I'll just reformat it and find appropriate art and--
   Here's where the generic rejection suggested OTHER reasons my piece was rejected, to include the helpful reminder that proper spelling and grammar go a long way with readers. That, often, readers enjoy content with actual appeal. 
   “Why didn’t you tell me your standards were so high? I thought.
    This reminds me of a Model Lesson I once taught, after several successful final interviews. So successful, the admin-team demo'd my future White Laptop, explaining how easy their  grading software was.
   Without knowing their criteria for Model Lesson Success, I failed.  They expected me to Pre Know I must "Involve The Students, As Facilitators Of Their Own Active, Movement-Based Learning" within the first 10 of a 45-minute lesson. I had my kids 'participate' at the end when they took over.
   I could tell I didn't get the job simply by looking at the observing team’s faces.  The same five that previously regarded me with kinship and affection were obscured by mourning shrouds. It was a GREAT lesson I gave, but their own criteria – which they were not allowed to divulge -- spelled doom. 
   My online rejection was like that. 
   There was no ‘style-sheet’ given in advance. No rubric.   No advice like, “Read this sample we accepted in May of 2011.” Or, "Wait. You can't even find your own follower-count? Please unsubscribe."
   The most intriguing feature of this rejection was an invitation to try again, but only after this same site accepts a half dozen of my [far better] pieces to launch to their Greatest Hits Album. Centerfold-worthy articles where backlinks and hyperlinks and an actual lynx lay in wait to further promote me.
   This is like telling someone trying out for the Special Olympics that -- although you qualify, technically, as 'disabled' – you seem unable to paddle a canoe without your prosthetic limbs, which is one of our qualifying events. For you to EVER be allowed to try out again, you must learn to pole vault, crochet and eviscerate wild boars with your MIND after appearing as a finalist on Survivor Disability and winning, at least six times.
Max presenting his business-concept to Warren Buffett 
   And so I remain here, unread, unfollowed, no marketing tools -- and no fricken OUTFIT with which to meet Warren Buffet on Monday.  
Max & Carolyn before we meet WBuffett

Er-ahh... wait.   I may not have it so bad after all . . .       

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Learn to Fix Your Own Tub Drain (and other work of the devil)

I feel so Faustian with the title I just wrote.  My keyboard is Satan's handmaiden.

The truth is that I want to learn to fix my own tub drain.  I want to be "that woman," like my niece, Darcy, who is a single Mom-of-two living in a rambling farm house in rural Vermont.

Last winter, Darcy disassembled her entire oil burning furnace and ... did things to it.  Essentially, she transformed a cold, muted appliance -- something you'd see in the establishing scene of a post-apocalypse movie --  into purring machinery that heated her home.  I remember her Facebook post:

"Well, it took three hours but I did it! I disassembled my oil burner, found the problem, repaired it, then put it all back together," as though she had simply completed a hundred-piece puzzle of dimes.

I get jazzed like that when I find an old tube of mascara -- its wand fused from age to the applicator -- then run it under hot water until it shimmies out of its reservoir. This, too, takes me three hours and I, too, would post a Facebook update.

Oh, if only I had hot water today, to run mascara under.

Unfortunately, my tub drain ... misfired... meaning, horrible things happened that forced me to shut down my hot water heating system.

Weeks ago, the tub exhibited early symptoms of disease.  First the handle wouldn't shut off all the way so the faucet dripped.  Last week, the drain lever snapped off in my hand.  I had to use a screw driver to disassemble the front plate and remove it, lest one of us rip a shin against the sharp metal stump.

When my insomnia worsened from the oil burner cycling on and off all night, due to the now-pouring tub faucet, which only drips scalding water, I shut down the system completely.

Forgetting to turn it back ON evokes certain disadvantages.  Like harsh words and a marriage counselor.

Eventually, my husband decided one of us should watch a Youtube video on how to install a new tub kit:  thermostat, handle, faucet, drain stopper with face-plate and working lever. He watched the video. I went to the hardware store.

The sales associate I randomly selected ... was new.   He knew nothing about drains or tubs and had to ask a colleague where plumbing supplies were hidden.  Without a GPS he was unable to follow her directions, so "Alice" had to walk the two of us over to a wall labeled PLUMBING.

The new guy began pawing at random boxes which contained outdoor hoses and a kitchen sprayer.

"Um, none of this stuff is for tubs," I noted, rummaging through different boxes until I found a tub kit all by myself.  I tore it open to ensure it had the right parts and discovered ... it did not.

"But I don't need a new shower head. I DO need a new faceplate for the drain.  This $100 kit is the opposite -- in some Perfect Storm kinda way -- of what I am here to buy!"

Which is when I noticed across the aisle a wall-display of separate components.  I tore open a packaged faceplate because, if I was going to buy a new one, I was going to test the lever first and you won't believe me when I tell you this, but I jammed then bent the faceplate lever, right there, in the store.

The sales associate was horrified.

"Well I hope you don't think I'm buying this NOW," I huffed, then stomped off to my vehicle and drove directly to my plumber.

It was 4:03 p.m.  The office closed at 4:00. I released their locked door-handle and walked to a parked plumbing van to read their phone number off a logo, dialed my cellphone right there in the parking lot, and left a dramatic message on their answering machine.

Early this morning at 9:12 AM, my plumber -- I'll call him Roosevelt -- arrived and I won't keep you in suspense.  No, wait.  I WILL keep you in suspense because that is what I am in right now. It is 3:59 pm and my bathtub parts are wholly exposed to the air looking pretty vulnerable and, frankly, in need of antibiotics.

Back when it was 9:12 AM, Roosevelt had explained that, although my message claimed all new hardware was needed, I probably did not need ANYTHING.  He could replace a tiny coil-rotor here and a flywheel there in about ten minutes.

You know that faceplate with the lever I broke in the hardware store?  And you recall how I already removed our faceplate after the lever snapped off, to avoid injury?  Well, it became swiftly apparent that there were multiple crises involved in that faceplate removal.  It is best if I just number them.

 #1.  Roosevelt and his ENORMOUS van which could store hundreds of dead bodies inside hundreds of tubs, alongside thousands of replacement faceplates... today did not happen to have ONE faceplate.  Apparently this is unusual.  I am buying a lottery ticket.

 #2. Once you remove that plate, there is a HOLE, inside which lives this long string of chain-mail attached to a heavy fishing sinker.  It's an intricate pulley system I have seen many times on dumbwaiters and the flying buttresses of Notre Dame.

#3. Mine had been living inside that hole doing God knows what for so many years, it was covered in green slime and disease.

#4. Roosevelt handed it to me.

#5. I stifled a scream and walked it to the kitchen trash, which is when Roosevelt informed me he just needed me to hold it.

#6. Meaning I had to fish it back out of my trash.

#7. It had already coiled itself around an egg shell.

"Well," I reassured myself, "at least I am in the hands of an artisan capable of salvaging perfectly good -- albeit slimy -- parts, saving me a fortune!"

And then he was gone.

In about an hour, I received a phone call from the office noting that Roosevelt needed a very unique tool to finish repairing my coil-rotors and flywheels to attach to a shiny faceplate with a working lever.  He had to acquire this special tool from one of his colleagues.

That was five hours ago.

In my tub right now pulsates gray, mushroomy stoppers and flow valves, spigot-joists and ruminators all waiting for Roosevelt's return because he is determined to salvage parts that resemble necrotic muskrat genitalia, and it was easier for him to acquire a special tool to access some coil-rotor than it was for him to go to the hardware store I went to yesterday to break a new one out of its package -- unless it was the one I already broke.

Oh look.  Officially 4PM.

Well.  I could think about all this tomorrow -- or I could take a lesson from my own blog title:  "learn to fix my own tub drain" --  become 'that woman' ...  be the Tara to my Scarlett ...   get Darcy on the phone.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Thoughts From Paris -- About a Man Who Ate a Cat Whisker

There are apparently SKILLIONS of humor blogs out there and, given my personal success and acclaim where I average about 20 hits per day OR per week, depending, I want to promote one that caught my eye.  It is called Thoughts From Paris and you can find it  here

I was especially moved by the author's post about consuming a cat whisker.  He even posted an image of the whisker in question.  And then -- there were no additional images of the whisker, proving he had, in fact, ingested it.

This has caused me to revisit his blog, and even watch some of his podcasts.

Podcasts impress me deeply.  It is a form of technology that involves many things I like to think I could be good at under hypnosis:  wearing effective eye makeup, finding my 'good side' and using only it, remaining within camera-frame. . . by sitting still, and having something interesting to say.

This last podcast feature is most troublesome to me.  DJ at Thoughts From Paris is pretty darned good at being interesting.

A lot of teachers?  Not so much.

I had teaching colleagues who were excellent at producing uninteresting podcasts for their students to watch and I was always uncertain how this enhanced learning.  Is this not just an additional lecture steeped in narcissism, destined to fulfill the professional development goal of 'integrating technology into the classroom'?

Being forced to use a Smartboard and create podcasts essentially forced me out of teaching in the first place and into ... well.  Blogging isn't really 'technology' is it?

Anyway, now that I have purchased several Mother Of The Groom dresses and Mother's Day is over, I really have nothing else to do except promote someone else's blog and book *(a collection of posts edited by volunteers, entitled, Holy Crap I'm Bathing In A Rose) AND to note that, this weekend, I am flying to Omaha to promote one of my STUDENTS!

MAX WALLACK and his project The Bed Bug Detecting Device is being reviewed by a panel of judges that includes Warren Buffett.  Max and I are actually having LUNCH with Warren, so I will have much to post about next week.

In the meantime, go hang out on Thoughts From Paris while I look for something to wear to Omaha this weekend.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How To Buy A Mother of Groom Dress: (I Am An Oracle: Build Me A Cave PART I)

Before I went dress shopping for a Mom O’ Groom dress and before Mother’s Day, I wrote predictive posts about both occasions.

I was largely correct in a generalized way – but I was spot-on precise about dress shopping. So accurate, it seems I exist within a fabric of space-time about which theoretical physicists only hypothesize:  a ‘foam’ which conjoins the world we see with one we cannot.  

I am an oracle. Build me a cave with hallucinogenic vapors. 

Or cordon off a spot in my basement by the cat box. 

As expected, I returned from the Hunter Gatherer Dress Safari disoriented and swatting at things that weren’t there, but in my hand was a giant Lord and Taylor bag containing between seven and fifteen dresses, perhaps more, plus others I ordered in-store.  All in addition to the dress I'd ordered in February that allows people from as far away as Jupiter to visualize special Jabba-The-Hut effects that four run-ins with childbirth and 54 years of gravitational pull have exacted.

And I need all eleven dresses. 

I have no idea what mood I’ll be in this far in advance of my son’s wedding, in 31 days. Each separate  style, hue, fabric and length provides options. 

If – God forbid – it is cloudy, I will go with a color and fabric that complements a storm. The same with ornamental dogwood blossoms should the ceremony take place outdoors, and Big Bird should he make an appearance.  There isn’t a climate-based, celebrity intensive event that one of these dresses can’t accessorize.

And the shopping part?  SOOO fun and memorable. There are photographs of body parts once belonging to me that got symbiotically woven into back straps and satin liners.  

Once, I was entombed in silk like an ex-pharaoh  – unable to move, quite like when I was six and had my tonsils out and two surgical nurses rolled me in a bedsheet with both arms locked at my sides so that, in this mummified position, I could not uppercut the anesthesiologist again (I had an issue with ‘masks’ over my face. Just like I have issues with 'gowns' over my face).

Inside the 'dressing room’ -- a cruel misnomer --  I wound my way into a different dress by feeding my arms into waist-gussets and passing my head through a wrist-hole. At one point a built-in bra strap coiled itself around my carotid artery and cut off brain circulation, so I had to head-butt the swinging door and lurch toward the opposing wall, which was when Emma and Abby and Alexa extricated me from rubberized hypoxia.  
I still have residue of a headache which I think is from a carotid blood-clot that broke loose and lodged itself in a piece of neural tissue I’m pretty sure I use to interpret my GPS.  Because I got lost this morning on my way home from a local gas station.

But I do have eleven mother of the groom dresses and I may wear all of them, because I am bringing staff:  two personal dressers and coif a expert who will assist me in seamless extractions and donnings, before, during and post-ceremony and its aftermath. 

 I shall move through multiple bedecking-phases like the inconstant moon. . .

 To be multiply-bedecked -- or not to be. 

 Is that even a question?

I Am An Oracle: Build Me A Cave PART II

Totally wrong was I, however, about Mother’s Day.  I built my kids a Vegan Legume Gas Dish (see post below, Lentil and Black Quinoa Salad: Pass the GasX and Happy Mother's Day) as a prize for  gathering not JUST to celebrate me, but the imminent sale of waterfront property we partially own and, therefore, must make room in our basement to take occupancy, real quick, of stuff the new owners don’t want that we don’t want either – but it has to get OUT of the residence.

I was SO excited to divest myself of decades of crap our four adult offspring purposefully left here to ‘store’ … that I forgot all four of them are connected to social media:  Facebook, Twitter, the Telephone, Each Other.  Meaning, news that the buyers backed out of the deal actually reached them.

THE Multi-Colored Roses
Cleaning the basement was not to be. 

They arrived at high noon with a breathtaking array of multi-colored roses and cards and hearty pirate appetites and several favorite board games, infragrant cigars and less fragrant internet links to hour-long boxing matches between Ali and Frasier and video of Mike Tyson Knockout Highlights set to music – all of which we enjoyed together on Mother’s Day … instead of removing from my basement amplifiers the size of a Kia Sportage and chunks of actual ex-vehicles and furniture pieces so horrifying, even our pets avoid them because, frankly, I believe they are haunted. They have lived in so many dwellings over the centuries, they have seen . . . a lot.

I never could have predicted our day would involve boxing and cigars, not even if I lived inside a cave with hallucinogenic vapors – which, I DO, given the Hazmat stain and urethane byproducts languishing as I write this in my basement, next to gym equipment abandoned by our kids so long ago that sheer neglect caused one weight lifting apparatus to star as the centerpiece in what my husband defacto claimed as a man cave.

But neither could I have predicted the beauty of the multi colored roses with which they bedazzled me upon their loud arrival.  It has long been my secret desire to receive a bouquet of multi-colored roses!

Oh, I have received roses. Last Mother’s Day our Canadian Son Nicholas sent me TWO dozen long stemmed red roses, along with a carefully-selected excerpt from author Ellen Key, “At every step, the child should be allowed to meet the real experience of life; the thorns should never be plucked from his roses.” 

A thing of beauty and joyous memory forever.

Until the multi-colored version arrived with the American children on Sunday. 

Once my Rose-Of-Many-Colors-Wish came true on Sunday, I felt like Dolly Parton with her coat -- or a child with tragic illness en route to Space Camp, which reminds me: I need to schedule a colonoscopy. And THAT brings us to the Basement Evacuation Project we were to embark upon on Mother’s Day. The event for which I made Vegan Lentil /Quinoa Salad as a reward.

Having discovered there was to be no sale of the waterfront family property, my children made other plans, starting with distracting me with multi-colored roses.  

And a multi-purpose greeting card.

My son Zachary is famous for acquiring greeting cards unrelated to the holiday being celebrated. Last Easter he bought everyone Hanukkah cards decorated with dreidels and latkes and honey puffs. He brought Passover cards for Christmas.  This was his Judaic phase.  

Last year's Mother's Day card was filled with the rich heritage of Africa.  "Mama," it began.  "When I was little I thought a mama was someone who could always make everything all better. Someone who could kiss the hurt right out of a fall and turn a serious pout into a giggle." 

There was a rendering of a beautiful African American woman, her hands clasped together in loving delight.

The inside goes on, "Now that I'm older, I realize there are some things even a mama can't fix, but that you'll always do your best and . . . " etc. etc.   
It was similar to the 'Do Your Best' pep talks I'd given to our state's most disabled youth at a site for the post-adjudicated. 

But the best part -- as I read it aloud in front of available family who still live in this country -- was the Mother’s Day ending at the bottom. 

“I love you, Mama.  Happy Birthday.”

And seeing the look on Zach's face.  

Even HE had not intentionally purchased a Mother's Day greeting card that technically celebrated my birthday.

This year, for Mother's Day Chore-Sunday, he outdid himself. "You're Like a Mother to Me." 

Receiving a display of roses in every hue known to nature totally made up for the Clearinghouse Chores we did not get to and the cigars we smoked and the boxing matches we watched on Youtube.  And a greeting card noting I was "like a Mother" to him. 

We even ended our blue-sky perfect day by playing the board game, Carcassone, which relies on rudimentary knowledge of geometry, on remembering rules and not losing your game pieces or forgetting which color your game pieces are – none of which I can personally do – but it always seems to bring my offspring joy when they can re-teach me, year after relentless year.  I apparently always select the color ‘green’ for my game pieces, my PIG cannot run a religious cloister and a round castle-style ‘edge’ cannot line up with a body of water or … a goat… to complete a puzzle piece to claim territory and garner 'points.'

Anyway, it was not the Mother’s Day I had planned, but it was the Mother’s Day we all enjoyed and I, no really, would not have changed a thing. 

Next up?  

Memorial Day where I am sure to open the greeting card, “Congratulations on your bris” and we can play Settlers of Catan Deluxe Expansion Pack and smoke stogies made of rolled bat droppings and watch video of wild boars eviscerating pygmies, set to the musical stylings of Nine Inch Nails.