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The Great Purge (Saws and Tight Underwear For Sale, Cheap!)

18 Sep

(Note: This will be the last post here at plumbananas.wordpress.com. New stuff will be forever at plumbananas.com. Adjust your bookmarks.)

One of the most exciting aspects of our impending move to London is what I’m calling the G-POOSH, or The Great Purge Of Our SHit. (Okay, I’m not really calling it that.) It’s the process of jettisoning everything but the essentials. For example, I have a shirt that pisses me off when I look at it because it fits a little funny. I like the idea of wearing it, but not the actual practice of it. At one point it had potential, but ultimately, it’s a huge disappointment. Needless to say, it’s not going to London. In fact, if it had a face, I’d punch it. Yes, I’m the kind of dude who would punch a cantankerous shirt right in the face without remorse. Pow!

Not me, not my shirt. This is the worst shirt I have ever seen in my life. Or the best. I'm not sure.

Not me, not my shirt. This is the worst shirt I have ever seen in my life. Or the best. I’m not sure.

That reminds me of my tight underwear. A year ago, I bought two pairs of tight underwear at Target to wear while I jog and exercise. You know, to keep things in place. I haven’t decided if they’ll make the trip. Sure, they’re small and take up very little space, but I haven’t touched them all summer. Each time I open the drawer where my underwear live, they’re like “You bastard, you better not abandon us!”

This will probably be a last minute decision. I’ll be at the airport with my tight underwear balled up in my hand, and the authoritative airport voice will say something like “Last call, get on the plane now or we’ll leave your ass in the United States!” and Jennifer will be, like, “Come on Mike, we have to go!”

Me: But what about my tight underwear? Do you think I’ll need them?

Her: Are you freaking insane?

As a family we have a thousand decisions like this.

But some have already been made for us. We have a Blendtec blender that cost about as much as a 1984 Honda Civic (with low miles) that is worthless in the UK. It’s not that they have strict anti-smoothie laws, but the thing just won’t turn on over there, or, worse, will electrocute my dumb ass for even thinking that a spinach-blueberry drink is a good idea. I would tell you why this danger exists, but I have no knowledge of basic electricity. I will just type words like “voltage” and “fire” and numbers like “120” and “240” and leave it at that.

Blendtec and 1984 Civic

Since I no longer know how to use electrical hand tools (I swore them off in 2009), I am especially happy that they won’t work over there either. Actually, I haven’t even checked, but I’m hoping really, really hard because I would rather read or sit around looking at the walls than saw boards and drill holes. Books will never, EVER tear my fingers off. (I especially hate circular saws. If I believed in hell, I would think there would be running circular saws all over the place.)Saw Injury

The most annoying problem so far are the toys we have accumulated in the “play room.” I would say that it looks like a tornado has swept through the room, but that’s an overused, boring expression. So I’ll go with this: it looks like three elephants devoured the contents of our kids’ youth and took giant shits all over up there.

I’ve collected enough broken crayons and pencils to choke a rhinoceros. No, a HERD of rhinoceroses. (If it were up to me, the plural of rhinoceros would definitely be rhinoceri.) I have amassed a pile of broken and mismatched toy parts taller than me. Tiny doll blouses. The smallest blue jeans you ever did see. Itty-bitty rubber shoes that won’t even fit on my pinky. (Where’s the doll wearing all this tiny shit?) Plastic pellets from exploded bean bags. Confetti. A headless Toy Story Woody doll that does absolutely nothing when you pull the string. And about four thousand pieces of paper with, like, one scribbled line on each.

What I don’t throw away immediately, I have been bringing down for Ainsley to go through, to choose what goes and what stays. So far–luckily!–she’s decided to “shitcan” about 95% of it. Since she’s discovered Minecraft, she’s much less interested in REAL blocks, like Legos. It’s pixels over plastic.

Okay, that’s it for today. If I continue to write about moving, that just means that I’m avoiding the actual work of preparing to move to the other side of the world.

We’re Moving to Freaking London, Mates

16 Sep

london-genericIf you want to continue to be updated when I post new stuff, which–I know!–hasn’t been often, go here, to the new site and sign up. Like, now! Please. You don’t want to miss anything because shit’s getting weird here in Edwardsville, Illinois, USA.

That’s because we’re packing up our underwear and spoons and plush toys and bras and moving to freaking London. And I’m not talking about London, KY either. (But I’m not making fun of London, KY because it’s the fourth largest city named “London” in the world!)

This is almost like moving to Manhattan, except everyone talks funny. You know, that crazy British English.

People are asking: Why the hell are you moving to London?

  • My wife received a promotion from Enterprises Holdings, Inc. Her new title: European Airport Properties and Relations Director. Don’t ask me what that means.
  • Of course, without the above promotion, there’s no way we’re moving to London because it’s expensive to move a family of four across the Atlantic. But her generous company is paying all of the related expenses, thus, basically, asking us “How would you like if we make it extremely easy for you to move thousands of miles away to one of the best cities on the planet?” We said heck yeah.
  • And on the awesomeness of London, straight from Wikipedia: “London is a leading global city, with strengths in the arts, commerce, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media, professional services, research and development, tourism and transport all contributing to its prominence.”

I expect the first six months to be difficult as we settle in. New schools. New job. New culture. New, smaller house. New car. New everything. The clothes washing machine is in the kitchen. Electric clothes dryer machines are, like, non-existent. Everything will be smaller than we’re used to.

People over there will say stuff like “After I get some petrol, I need to get my biscuits from the boot before I can take the lift up to my flat.” In the US this means, roughly, “Dude, I can’t find the cheese and my feet are sore.”

Just kidding. It’s “After I put gas in my car, I’m going to get the cookies out of the car trunk and then take the elevator up to my apartment.” Okay, it’s not like we’re moving to Russia. We’ll learn the little language differences.

But tears will be shed. Fits will be thrown. Someone will say “I want to go home!” That might be me. It might be each of us at some point.

But slowly, we’ll feel like we belong. We’ll wake up one day and realize that it feels like home.

Until then, you’ll find me under the bed sucking my thumb.

Our Dogs Kind of Love Uncooked Brown Basmati Rice

20 May

Warning: This post contains profanity and several references to feces. If you’re offended by this type of thing, you might want to skip this one.

*  *  *

I’m carefully crafting a blog post about how I literally almost crapped my pants on the evening of Wednesday, May 7 at approximately 8:30 pm.

Often people exaggerate and use the phrase “I almost crapped my pants” casually, like “This big, hairy spider came out of nowhere and was, like, right by my face; I almost crapped my pants!” This person doesn’t really mean that they actually ALMOST SHIT THEIR PANTS. I’m almost certain of this.

But once in awhile it’s real. Because I almost shit my pants thirteen days ago–FOR REAL! So check back every couple of days or, better yet, subscribe to this blog because you seriously don’t want to miss it. Now, for more poop talk . . . .

*  *  *

I wasn’t going to write today, but the dogs got into the pantry yesterday afternoon and helped themselves to a six dollar, 16 ounce bag of organic basmati brown rice, ripped it open and scattered it about the front room. (It was my fault; I left the door open.)

When I discovered the mess at around 2 pm, it was impossible to know how much they had eaten, if any. I mean, it’s uncooked rice. Eww. For humans, eating uncooked rice is not much fun. I can think of a 150 things I’d rather eat. But dogs? Who fucking knows. Dogs are crazy.

The mess our dogs made

riceCouch2

This morning while walking them, Dexter stopped and assumed his pooping stance while I jabbed my hand into a black shit-bag (because I pick up after our dogs unlike most people in this neighborhood) and waited. And waited. His eyes bugged. He strained. Nothing came out. The other two dogs were like What’s your deal? Come one, let’s get going! We ain’t got all fucking day.

Finally, after much effort, he pinched off this amazing little rice roll that put an end to me wondering if this particular dog had eaten any brown basmati rice. He definitely had. The rest of the way home, I fretted about all that rice sitting in their guts soaking up water, wreaking havoc and wondered what all this meant for our future walks. Alas, I predict much standing around staring at dog ass today and writing more about rice rolls tomorrow.

(I didn’t snap a photo of the rice roll. If I had known it was coming, I probably would have. But since I was standing there with a ready poop bag instead of a camera, I had it scooped up before I could think about it. Too bad for you because it was pretty awesome, though still gross, because, well, it’s dog shit.)

Since this is a shit-centered blog post, I’m sitting here trying to think of another incident I can talk about, but I can’t think of anything significant. I mean, I walk the dogs 3 to 5 times a day, so I see a shit-ton of dog poop. “Shit-ton” is a word that means “a lot” if you’re unfamiliar. I pick up so much dog poop, such a shit-ton, that we buy pet waste bags in bulk, 700 at a time, like the people who have pet waste removal companies.

Okay. I agree. Enough shit for today.

 

The Great Summer Peach Fail of 2013

27 Sep

On a hot Saturday morning in late July, my wife and I walked down to the local farmers market. We came upon a busy stand selling one thing: large, perfectly ripe, locally grown peaches. I slid in line and began to study the options. How many peaches were we able to haul home without a car?

The options and prices were confusing: a peck, a half peck, a bushel?

Five dollars for a half peck, that’s like, two big peaches. Isn’t that kind of high? How much more are we willing to pay for local peaches?

To make things worse, we had brought our puppy who was attracting attention. Every kid in the city was petting her and she was acting a bit flustered, as was I.

A Peckel of bushes? A Bush full of peckers?

Then I spotted a large box of slightly inferior peaches under the table. Written on the box: Seconds, $10. My bargain radar–my bardar–went off. At “above table” prices this big box would cost forty bucks. I squatted and inspected a couple.

Hmm, minimal squishyness. A young girl behind the table noticed and said the peaches were not rotten or anything, just bruised or otherwise inferior to the peaches above the table.

I threw down my ten triumphantly. Ha suckers! I wondered why all these people ignored the Bargain Of The Day. I knew I could cut ’em up and freeze most of it, and Jennifer said she could make peach preserves. In fact, she even mentioned she was excited about it. It’s going to be so good!

I imagined myself spreading deliciously sweet preserves on many slices of toast. And we’d have peach smoothies throughout the fall and into the winter.

Yes, life was good.

The heaviness of our bargain box combined with the brutal heat made the walk home uncomfortable. I arrived a sweaty mess, but I was riding a peach fuzz buzz so that made everything okay.

Immediately, I got to work slicing the peaches. I grabbed a small bowl to hold the icky spots, but it quickly proved too small. I replaced it with a larger one.

As I made my way down into the bowels of the box, my peach high was wearing off. I found entire peaches that couldn’t be saved, completely gooey and icky. Fruit flies zipped from the box and into my face. With each toss into the discard pile I imagined a meter like a speedometer with the needle moving incrementally from “bargain” to “rip-off.”

I despise rotten produce. Once in awhile, in a bag of spinach, I’ll find a slimy, black piece among all the nice looking, green leaves. I seriously have to suppress gagging. I have to beat back this urge to toss the whole freakin’ bag because it’s been contaminated by this rot. So, at this point, I’m hesitant about reaching into this big box of sketchy peaches.

And it’s not my nature to stomp down to the vendor demanding a refund. I can be assertive, but I knew the young lady thought the peaches were in decent shape. They were probably much firmer when they were placed into the box. And then maybe they sat there for a couple of days. Who knows.

Anyway, I put some in the refrigerator, some in the freezer, and I took two miserable trips to the compost pile for a wet peach dump.

Jennifer took what she needed for the preserves, and later I found it simmering on the stove. Let me say here that I don’t know a thing about making preserves. I didn’t even know it involved heat.

Before I poke fun of her, I have to admit that I also abandon ideas and put off projects. In June I wrote about ripping the dryer apart, finding the broken part, and ordering a replacement. I still haven’t fixed it. We have a replacement part for our dishwasher that I have not installed, so I’m still washing dishes by hand.

I’m not here to make fun of myself, so let’s get back to the brown peach stew on the stove that would soon be preserves. Later in the day I noticed it had been transferred to the fridge.

Let me remind you that this was late July.

It hasn’t been touched since.

PeachMess

Though I look at it every day, I haven’t said a word about it to Jennifer. Normally, I’d be all sarcastic like “Are you saving that for NEXT summer?” I’m afraid to open it. But even if I could muster the courage, I’m kind of curious to see how long it stays there. Heck, maybe it’s supposed to age like wine. As I said, I’m clueless.

If you add up what we tossed into the yard with what we wasted for the preserves, the bargain box of second-rate peaches turned out to be a disaster, a totally shitty deal.

If you didn’t think it could get any worse, the frozen peach chunks are so stuck together that it takes a chainsaw to dislodge enough for a small smoothie. I’m almost certain I’ll lose a finger this fall screwing with the massive peach iceberg.

Peach season next year I’m staying above the table.

Bipolar 2: The Sequel?

13 Sep

I haven’t been posting here because my creativity tank has been pathetically empty. I’m running on goddam fumes, folks. It’s been frustrating and led me to this realization: I must be more depressed than I even realized. That’s how it goes, it seems; you get depressed and the depression screws up your brain so you can’t even see that there’s a problem. It just becomes sort of a normal. You have to think back a year and then it’s oh I remember enjoying writing and posting. I remember how it felt to hit that publish button, why the f**! isn’t that happening anymore?

So I went to my doctor in Maryville and told him that my Effexor wasn’t working and that I wanted to try something else. I said, dude, I’m up for anything, but I didn’t use “dude” because I never, ever talk like that. I’ve never began a sentence with dude.

Anyway, Dr. Kopjas recommended a psychiatrist in Edwardsville, blocks from my house. Dr. Hammer. I sat there wondering how I failed to know there was a psychiatrist with such a kick-ass name right in my neighborhood. I’ve been to four other mental health professionals, two psychologists, and two master’s degree-level counselors. I liked the idea of talking to a psychiatrist.

Ten years ago, before I talked to a psychologist in Springfield, IL, I felt funny about talking to a “shrink,” a little embarrassed. I didn’t want to be seen walking in her door. That was stupid. I now believe that every human should be talking to a trained mental health professional. We’re all flawed in some way.

One of my flaws: I have a tendency to avoid using the phone, so I didn’t call “the hammer” right away. I understand that this is insane. Just pick up the phone, dude! Yeah, well, it’s not that easy. I finally called and got an appointment for three weeks out.

Zoom ahead three weeks, I walked into Dr. Hammer’s office and found an old, plump man wearing suspenders. His large expressive eyes sat under bushy brows. I was expecting more in the line of Alan Thicke, or Dr. Jason Seaver, from Growing Pains, but it’s not like I almost walked out.

I sat down as he was looking over the questionnaire I had just filled out in the waiting room. Then I got right into it. I said “I think I have dysthymia,” and I told him why I thought this. He asked questions for just ten minutes before diagnosing me with bipolar II disorder.

Uh, what?

Oh great, I’m bipolar like freaking Charlie Sheen. I told him that I don’t have those wild crazy-ass mood swings. When I think of bipolar I think of various damaging “sprees,” whether it’s gambling or shopping or killing. That’s not me.

“That’s typical,” he said. “You’re describing bipolar I, you probably have bipolar II, your lows aren’t as low and your highs aren’t as high.”

I was stunned I hadn’t read anything about this. He went on to argue his case quite superbly with a slideshow on his over-sized monitor.

Finally he got around to a treatment plan, which I was eager to hear, of course. First, he talked about the the meds I wasn’t getting: lithium, depakote, and others I can’t recall. Finally, the one he was going to prescribe: Lamictal (generic, Lamotrigine).,

He compared the possible benefits to The Wizard of Oz when it switches from black and white to color. Or maybe he meant I’ll feel like singing and dancing with midgets, not sure. I’m hoping he meant that I’ll wake up one morning and think holy shit, is this how I’m supposed to feel?

Unfortunately, I have to start with a low dose and bump up every two weeks. So now I just wait.

So, yah! I’m bipolor. Go me! And I’m being honest. I’m thrilled with this because it sends me off in a new direction in hope of squashing some of the demons.

Attack of the Squash Puddle

3 Jun

The post-storm, 48 hour blackout ended last night. The flashlights, after discovering a renewed sense of purpose in their empty “flash lives,” were again ignored. One minute they’re essential; the next, they’re stuffed back into dark, dusty drawers.

But I need to back up and cover a few things about the storm that left us in the dark. I know, I’m reporting out of order.

* * *

Back story

Months ago, we were given a giant squash that I thought I’d need a chainsaw to cut up. I dragged it down to the basement through our storage room and into the little room under our front porch. I’ve talked about how our house is too large and this is a perfect example: Our large storage room has its own walk-in closet.

At some point the large squash, sitting right in the center of this smaller room, began to decompose. To help you visualize, two words–squash puddle. Yeah, I know, gross.

Attack of the Squash Puddle

* * *

I love experiencing severe storms, preferably from a covered outdoor area where you can feel the full force of the wind and hear all the sounds. But that was B.K., or “before kids.”

Now, A.K., my job is to hug, to comfort, to protect, to be responsible. I hear the stories and see the photos of far-away monster tornadoes, tornadoes that kill, and I think about the kids.

So when the psycho storms blew into Edwardsville Friday night, we headed down to the basement where, fortunately, we have several options for hunkering. I decided the little room under the front porch would be perfect to ride out the storm if a tornado were to rip away the rest of the house.

So we’re in this tiny room, under a  bare, flickering light bulb, looking at this horrifying mess on the floor. What’s more frightening, the squash or the storm? Nobody can say. I’m holding our puppy, Coco, in my right arm. I want to put my arms around the girls, pull them close, but I can’t put the stupid dog down because of the squash.

The bulb goes dark. We can’t see the squash or each other. The girls are scared. The puppy is strangely silent and still. Ainsley’s asking me over and over Are we going to have a tornado? I tell her the truth: I don’t know but probably not. I tell her I’ve never seen a live tornado, only on TV. I tell her that even if a tornado comes into our city, it’s unlikely to come to our street, even less likely to touch our house.

From the sounds, it’s obvious that the storm is almost right on us. Jennifer delivers a small flashlight and disappears back up to watch from a window. Now we’re at the point where I should be saying “Okay, girls, get down on the floor, put your head between your knees and cover your head with your arms.” Instead, here are a few things that were uttered at the storm’s peak:

  • Ainsley, your blanket’s almost touching the squash.
  • Let’s all scoot towards the corner away from the squash.
  • Daddy, why did you leave this squash in here so long?
  • Oh my God, that squash is seriously disgusting.
  • Scoot over Chloe, you’re pushing me closer to the squash.
  • Girls, I’m sorry, I really, REALLY wish I had taken care of this squash before tonight.

It was the most disgusting storm experience of my life and I haven’t even mentioned that we keep the litter box in the storage room in front of the squash room entrance. Any time I get near the litter, the cats are like “I think I’m going to take a crap right now.” The smell of cat poo combined with the sight of squash puddle was almost more than I could handle.

We left our hellish, mess-riddled shelter a little sooner than we should have–according to the radio–but we’d had enough.

Of course, it’s too early to know but I’m already worried about how the girls handle future storms. Will thunder and heavy rain forever bring forth visions of menacing squash puddles? Have I unintentionally ruined–for life!–their appreciation and enjoyment of acorn, delicata, butternut, spaghetti–pumpkin even?

Anyone have a hazmat suit I can borrow? Today I’m sopping up the squash puddle.

Wish me luck.

Oh shit, I broke the dryer . . . like nine months ago.

2 Jun

Many months ago, I washed my running shoes and then tossed them into the dryer. They clanked around in there for thirty seconds and then stopped.

Oh shit, I broke the dryer!

I’m not the type of guy who immediately grabs his tools and digs into the guts of a broken dryer to figure out the problem. I’m the type of guy who shrugs his shoulders, hangs more clotheslines, and buys more clothes pins. Sure, it’s a little extra laundry work (I hang socks for crissakes!), but I’m sure we’ve saved money by decreasing our electricity use.

Hanging laundry to dry outside has been surprisingly pleasant except when dry clothes are left to be rained on, which has happened only once in the month since I constructed this high tech “solar dryer.”

So I can’t explain what drove me to YouTube last week to diagnose our dryer. I watched half of one video before tearing into the big, white box to find a broken drum belt. I felt like an appliance repair technician. I ordered a new belt for four bucks on ebay and felt pretty good about myself. I’m like a freaking handyman or something!

On the same day, I cleaned a clogged gutter down spout, caulked a gutter leak, and replaced a missing shingle. I was so surprised at my ambition that I almost passed out while atop the ladder. I had to run inside to look in the mirror to make sure I was still me. When faced with the choice between, say,  caulking and not caulking, I’ll not caulk 99 times out of 100. 

And then on that rare time I do, I’ll most certainly hand someone the tube and say “Here, hold my caulk,” before spazzing with giggles.

Yeah, you’re lucky you’re not married to me.