Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Alas, Poor Genius. I Know Him Well.

Genius is living the hard-knock life.

By hard-knock life, I don't mean he is singing his heart out with a bunch of ragamuffiny lovable orphans scrubbing a brownstone under the thumb of Miss Hannigan, waiting for Daddy Warbucks to adopt him. No. He is learning what it's like to be out in the real world. Even if the real world is in the guise of university housing.

Genius is renting a house with three other guys. He is back from his summer of Garmin, having moved into the house on Saturday. While they were all off honoring summer commitments, the house they took possession of on July 1st was doing its best to thwart their efforts toward self-sufficiency. The basement flooded due to a frozen air conditioner coil. Mold took hold. And Genius made a trip there to have it abated.

Saturday, Genius found mold in the freezer. Yeah. The freezer. Part of his very own Frig. He scammed a gallon of vinegar from me to clean it.

"You know, bleach would probably kill mold."

"Yes. But bleach would probably kill us if we ate it. I've been researching this on the internet, and vinegar does the same thing without killing us."

Yesterday morning, BEFORE 8:00 A.M., Genius reported that he went to clean the freezer, but also found mold in the freezer vent. Which he cannot clean clean enough. So he called the university housing office entity that one must go through to rent such abodes, and told them of the mold problem. Even though they had bent over backwards for him with the coil flood, they informed him that they could not clean a freezer for him. That must be done by the residents. Even though it's not a normal freezer cleaning. Then they said they COULD send someone, but it would cost at least $50.

That's split four ways, you know. So it would cost Genius $12.50 to not eat mold for three years. So he paid in advance, and was told someone would be there that day. Didn't happen. Now he's beside himself with anger at those money-grubbing liars. Not his words. I'm glad he didn't tell me his words for them.

When I last consulted with Genius, innocently asking at 8:30 p.m. if he was cooling food, he informed me of his day wasted waiting, hoping, starving, ready to let in the cleaning crew. That never arrived.

He plans to go to the housing office when they open at 9:00 a.m. and stay there berating them until a crew is on the way to his house. Genius is not one for idle threats. I hope there is enough money in his college fund for bail.

It's a hard-knock life.

Monday, August 3, 2015

MAYDAY! And I'm Not Talking About Weaving Ribbons Around a Pole.

Oh, what heap of crap Val piles when first she struggles to open files.

I was trying to get into my work info yesterday. Trying to get a jump start, see my rosters, watch required videos, check on whether my personal playlists transferred during the migration to Google this summer. You know. Val was being a model employee. Without much success.

It all started with that blasted turn-of-the-century-style program in which we keep our grades. I swear. If we didn't have to reinvent the wheel every time we access or input data, there would be more time for Val to practice her stand-up routine with her captive audience. Just joking. Unlike my stand-up routine.

I had already taken a peek at the new data on July 17th. It worked fine then. I followed the directions and downloaded and completed each step before I could open the file. But yesterday, it would not open. Just out of spite, I'm sure. Or there was a newer update in the last two weeks. So I looked everywhere. In my downloads. In my All Programs. I did a search, which yielded 8 items. Five of them were from the date of July 17th. I tried to open the file with one of them. Nope. Couldn't open. My computer couldn't read the file. Did I want to delete the shortcut? Why sure! What good is a shortcut that won't let you in? NO good. No DARN good! So I merrily deleted it, and another one that did the same thing.

Then I came to a download that asked me what program I wanted to open the file with. It had Adobe Acrobat, 64.2 version. Not really. But you know how they are always coming out with those NEWER versions, that never work as well as the older versions that Val is used to. It asked if I wanted the internet to find the best program to open it with. SURE! That helpful internet! I clicked on that button.

Alas, Microsoft said that version was not yet ready. Can you believe it? There was a little highlighted word that said ENGLISH, as in, did I want to view that version. Why sure! Val speaks English! But then it did nothing. Not a thing. So I logged out of all my work stuff, and shut down my browser. Perhaps I've mentioned how it hangs up if FireFox is open for a while.

Well. My desktop was full of red squiggly thingies. The Adobe Acrobat! Doing a routine all over my desktop! No FireFox. It was gone, baby, gone! I sent a quick text of distress to Genius. That's what we're paying for him to go to college for, you know!

Within one minute, Genius came to the rescue.

"Let me remote in. Don't do anything for the moment. I'm connecting." Yeah. The best thing I ever did was give Genius remote access to my New Delly.

"Should I restart? Do a system restore? Help meeeeeee!" Jeff Goldblum as The Fly could not have been more plaintive.

"I have no idea what you've done, but we'll figure it out." Genius has a great deskside manner on the occasional blue moon.

I confessed to what I'd done.

"Don't let it search for what to open with. And this won't happen again."

It was scary, watching my screen go through a bunch of quickly-clicked steps.

"Reboot your computer."

"Waiting for your instructions before I touch anything."

"You seem to be fixed. You're welcome."

"I WAS typing thank you, you know. I'm just slow." No need for him to act like Nick Burns, your company computer guy.

So...my New Delly is fixed for now. But Wednesday morning, Genius is coming home for three hours to set up my NEWNEW Delly and transfer my valuable data. Not sure of his official name yet. It's the computer Genius built. Maybe I can get a picture. Maybe not.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

These Were the Times That Tried My Sister the Ex-Mayor's Wife's Soul

Mom had a way of driving Sis crazy. Well, me too. I mean, Mom had a way of driving ME crazy. Not that I have a way of driving Sis crazy. Okay. I do. But this is about Mom and Sis.

"I never knew what she was thinking. I took her to her skin doctor in St. Louis. We were gone all day. As we drove home, I said, 'Mom, do you want to stop for something to eat? You must be hungry. We've been gone all day.' And she said, 'No. I'm fine. I'm not hungry. Let's go on home.' So the minute we come through the door, she elbows me out of the way and runs straight to the freezer! She grabbed a pieced of sausage, and a biscuit, and slapped the sausage patty on the biscuit and shoved it in the toaster oven! I said, 'Can you cook it that way?' and Mom said, 'Yes. I do it all the time.' She wasn't hungry. But she couldn't wait to get that sausage biscuit in the toaster oven!"

"I know! At Babe's party, for her first birthday? Remember how we drove Mom home? You put those cupcakes in a box for her, because she wouldn't eat one there. She said she wasn't hungry. The minute we got in the car, she wanted one of those cupcakes! She ate it on the way home, and when we got there, she ate another one. AND I warmed up some meatloaf for her. She was always doing stuff like that."

"And she always turned off the water to her washing machine! I went down to the basement to wash some clothes for her, and she hollered, 'Don't forget to turn on the water!' Who does that?"

"Um. I do. Because our friends came home one day to find their living room flooded in their new house, because during the day, something went wrong with the water hookup at the washer. So we always turn ours off now. Besides, in my $17,000 house, the same thing happened, and flooded the basement."

"Oh. I thought it was just another thing Mom did."

Yeah. Like not let people in her driveway when it snowed.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Something Old, Something New, Sometimes Hick Has Not a Clue

All of this finding and touching and sorting and dividing and dispersing of Mom's household goods is driving me crazy.

It's not like she had a treasure chest of gold doubloons tucked away in a closet under the stairs. She wasn't one for fancy jewelry, or collectible art, or fine antiques. My sister the ex-mayor's wife and I both knew the riches were in the stocks and the CDs, not in the giant industrial-size safe parked against the front wall of the family room, where Mom stored envelope upon envelope of clippings of her grandchildren's school successes, and their own original artwork. Oh, and a needle for a stereo that has long since been sent to live on that farm where plastic 1960s stereos go after wearing out their welcome in the basement for two decades, and wearing a fine coat of mold.

Sis utilizes the tactile, long-goodbye style of clean-out, and I have enough laziness for the both of us. A fine-toothed rat-tail comb through the hair of a woolly mammoth looks like a rake combing frog hair compared to our efforts. We don't want to accidentally toss out family mementos. Heirlooms, perhaps, in our haste. No baby is being thrown out with OUR bath!

We have half the kitchen cabinets, and the dining room left. Hick harps every day that we should be careful when going through the china cabinet. "Your grandma told me that when she died, there was a platter in her stuff for your mom. A really old platter, kind of off-white, with what looks like cracks all through it, because it's so old. But they're not cracks in the platter. So DON'T THROW IT OUT! It has a sticky note on it that says it's to your mom from your grandma."

Let the record show that this grandma was my dad's mom. She and Mom didn't get together much, just holidays if Sis and I asked to include her. They weren't enemies or anything. But my mom wasn't much for socializing with the in-laws. More slaw for her, I guess.

Let the record further show that Hick used to visit my grandma at her house every Sunday evening. He did that for ten or fifteen years. The boys and I used to go along, until they got older and had other endeavors eating up their time. Hick would chat for a couple of hours, fix anything broken, take leftovers from our supper, and generally act like the adult child grandma didn't have around, what with my dad and uncle and infant aunt deceased, and the remaining son several states away.

So...here we are, back at that heirloom platter. I warned Sis every day we met. "Don't forget, there's a platter in the china cabinet that is old, with a note on it from Grandma. We have to make sure one of us takes it. It's not for the auction or to throw away." Sis would agree. She spoke for a platter she wanted, a plastic one with a turkey on it, for sentimental reasons. We're not really dish people.

Hick has a bit of the snoop in him. When he would go mow Mom's yard, and enter the house for the bathroom, or for water, he would take a look around. "I looked in the china cabinet, and I didn't see that platter. Did you guys already get it?"

"No. We have not gone through the dining room yet. We'll get to it."

"Make sure you don't throw away that platter! It should have a note. It will look old and cracked. But it's special. Don't throw it out!"

Criminy! You'd think Grandma grabbed him around the neck and spoke those platter words to him with her dying breath, so keen was Hick on relaying that information.

I think Mom might be getting the last laugh. Okay. Probably not the LAST laugh. But putting one over on us again. Tuesday, as we boxed up items from the living room, and a couple of cake plates positioned on the floor against the wall behind the curtains, Sis found a dish we had not noticed.

"Look at this? What is it? Have you ever seen this before? Mom didn't use it. Look. It was right here in the corner, on the floor beside the sideboard. What is this?"

"I don't know. A soup tureen? A bowl for gravy? It has a lid. But no ladle. I don't know what you'd call that."

"Oh, look! There's a note in it. A sticky note. But it's dried out. Just laying here. 'For Dot. From Helen.'"

"Do you think...?"

"I don't know. It's not a platter. It's not white. Or yellow. It's more pink. And it has that pattern. But what would you use it for? It kind of looks cracked. Do you think...?"

"Maybe. There's that note."

"But Mom could have just put that in there. You know how she was."

"I know. It might be something new and cheap, and she put that note in because it fell off the special platter."

"Huh. I'll set it here on the dining room table until we get to this room."

I guess we won't know for sure until we go through everything in the dining room. Either Mom is having a good laugh, or Hick was sadly misinformed.

Let the final record show that Hick IS the man who, in 2006, described Katharine Hepburn, deceased in 2003, as "Betty, the famous author who just died."

Friday, July 31, 2015

Oh, Sweet Irony of Life at Last I've Found You

Hey! Remember how Val used to have such trouble understanding irony? So much that she had to consult her non-driving son in order to determine whether a situation was or was not irony? Those days are done, my friends. For today, this very day, the 31st of July, in the year 2015...Val found irony. Contrary to popular opinion, it did NOT bite her on the butt.

My sister the ex-mayor's wife was cleaning out papers from a bill and letter holder on Mom's kitchen wall. No bills. No letters. But some interesting items. The capstone, the topper, the piece de resistance was a page ripped from a magazine. From the test kitchens at Taste of Home.

IT WAS A CHART OF FOOD STORAGE GUIDELINES!

Indeed. The woman who once served me 4-YEAR-OLD ranch dressing at Thanksgiving dinner, the woman who gave my boys Kraft Macaroni and Cheese that was still orange but tasted like stale cardboard, the woman who did all her shopping at Ye Olde Expired Food Shoppe...all along had a table of storage guidelines for various foodstuffs, right there in her kitchen! FYI, the recommended time for a bottle of commercial salad dressing is 6 MONTHS.

Oh, yes. I am positive that is a prime example of irony.

But that's not the best laugh I had today. Nope. Mom, even in absentia, is able to turn over my giggle box. We found a copy from some book, page 46 and 47, on the subject of "Make Your Own Slime." But that's not the funny part. I'm sure Mom had a reason to read these slime-making tips about two cool slimes you can make at home. The best part was her handwritten notes, around the corners. Notes which had nothing to do with slime or slime-making. I hope.

E. Welch. Ben R.'s mother. Fell out of bed. 93? Broke both legs at hospital. Okay. Sis and I were not laughing about some long-ago nonagenarian breaking her legs. And we think the note meant that the lady was IN the hospital, not that the hospital is where her broken legs occurred. It struck us as funny that Mom would write such a note on the slime instructions and leave it in her kitchen for decades.

There was another note on the opposite corner.

Jim. 16 ft driveway. no head trom. cracked ribs. a lot of ribs. Sorry, Jim. This one had us roaring. No idea why Mom would make these notes. She had a phone on the kitchen wall across from  this letter holder. Maybe one of her old lady friends called to fill her in on the infirmary list. Maybe it was a prayer request chain from church. Maybe it was just Mom. No idea.

In between Jim's ribs and Miz Welch's legs was this number: 1-800-AAA-HELP

This tops the dream I had about Mom last night. Where she took the whole family out to eat at McDonalds, gave the raised eyebrow to a lady who had a blanket wrapped around her son, and proceeded to enclose us all with a black piece of canvas, like a rectangular privacy tent.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Now You Know Why the Aged Val Screams

One aspect of my upcoming retirement (Have you heard? Only one more year to go!) that I am NOT looking forward to is that of Hick being all up under me 24/7. Like a baby chick poking its head out from under a hen's wing, like a cold dog nose poking a stomach up under a shirt hem, like a tack placed point-up on the piano bench under the descending rear end of a middle school choir teacher...Hick will invade my space. Heck, he's already practicing.

Now don't get me wrong. I do not wish for any harm to befall our Hick. I simply want him to realize that we are not going to follow each other around and remain within arm's reach of each other. And by that, I mean HE is not going to follow ME so closely that at any moment he can reach out and touch me. Not gonna happen. Hick needs to get himself a routine that involves as much time away from me as possible. Like when he takes off for a haircut at 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday, and returns around 4:00.

Tonight, I was at the sink washing dishes while waiting for a meatloaf to heat itself in the oven (NOW WITH TWO ELEMENTS!), and getting ready to shuck some corn. Storebought corn. We don't grow our own, despite what people may think about Hick's access to cobs. The phone rang, and announced that I had an incoming call from Genius Thevictorian. Of course I dried my hands on my sweatpants with the hole in the left hip area (who needs an apron in these modern times, asked the woman without a dishwasher) and ran to answer.

Because it was Genius, right before suppertime, an hour of which he is quite familiar, I knew that the call would last a while. So I went into the living room and sat down in the La-Z-Boy. Let the record show that the TV was not on, the shades to the front window were closed against the evening sun, and the room in no way was a welcoming haven to one returning home from work.

On any given night, Hick comes in the kitchen door, grumbles a few words mostly about my sister the ex-mayor's wife and how my day went, and then goes out the front door to reunite with his animals. When supper is ready, he sometimes comes back in, but in the summer, he sometimes stays out and eats later.

Tonight Hick walked into the living room and plopped himself on the short couch. Let the record further show that I was in the midst of a phone conversation with Genius. Hick sat there like a creepy creeper. Did he voice any greeting to Genius? Or have questions for him about Saturday's upcoming move? No. Genius said he had already called Hick this morning to work out the details. So there sat Hick. Not watching TV. Not looking out the window. Not talking. Just listening. In the dim living room, while I was in the middle of a conversation.

Am I the only one who finds this rude?

You'd think it was enough that I have some government entity (surely you have not forgotten that Val is a well-known conspiracy theorist in her spare time) monitoring my calls, without the added snooping of Hick. He stuck it out like a champ, through the mumbles of "Uh huh. Yeah. I'm not very talkative tonight. I've had somebody sitting right here listening to me for 15 minutes now."

Hick is not one to pick up what I'm layin' down. Sometimes, a mom just wants to talk to her oldest son, her shining star, about his Garmin exit evaluation, on which he received two top ratings out of three areas, and a personal comment from the evaluator that he would hire him back, any time, and that it had been like having a regular employee, not an intern. Or about how I saw some Totino's 79-cent frozen pizzas in Save A Lot today, and thought of him and that dog, Gage, who stole his last slice in his basement apartment last summer. Or listen to him give me a pep talk on standing up for myself against Sis in the Battle of Inherited Knick Knacks. Hick was the fifth wheel in that conversation. And the tiny spare. And the itty bitty one on the end of a stick the patrolman uses to measure the distance of the skid after an accident.

I'm not saying that I would ever feed Hick to a wood-chipper. But I understand how that happens.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Could It Be...the Summer of VAL?

Remember way back when Val announced that she had sent off seven submissions? The results are still out on two of them. But five have reached fruition. Out of those five, Val has garnered an honorable mention, a first place, and ANOTHER FIRST PLACE!

Yes, I just found out about my latest bragworthy accomplishment success on Monday. You don't know how hard it's been to keep this tucked up under my hat until today. Here's verification, lest you suspect Val of stretching the truth, gilding the lily, falsifying the manifest. It's right there at the current end of the winners' list, last column, last contest. This submission was for the Saturday Writers theme of "Air." My piece was called, "Let the Breather Beware." Uh huh. You might guess the subject of my entry. It starts with an 'H' and ends with 'ick.' It will be published in the Saturday Writers anthology for 2015, which will come out in November or December.

Don't worry. I have not entered this month's contest. So you don't even have to think of me crowing about anything at the end of August.

Could this be The Summer of VAL? So far, three places out of five submissions. That's not too shabby. If I was a baseball player, I'd be batting .600! Cheer for me as I run out onto the field in my 100% cotton uniform. I hope you can all make it to my next home game, on Fitted Hat Day. If nobody calls in a fake bomb threat, that is! I couldn't be happier if I had a special desk at work where I could take a nap all day, complete with shelves under it for an alarm clock, coffee cup, magazine, and Snickers bar!

Yes, The Summer of VAL. I am going to be extra careful around steps and invitations.