It’s All in the Numbers

14 12 2009

A few numbers to consider:

In 1981 I graduated from college and got married a month later.  I mark that as the beginning of my adult life.  Since then:

I’ve had one husband.

I’ve had two kids.

We’ve owned five cars: a Mustang, a Subaru, a Taurus, a Prism, and a Camry.

We’ve lived in five locales: Newport News, VA; Williamsburg, VA; Somerdale, NJ; Washington  Township; NJ; Fairfax, Va.

I’ve owned one watch.  My mother-in-law gave it to me somewhere back in my twenties and I’ve been buying new batteries and watchbands ever since.  It’s a Timex, so it keeps on ticking.

I’ve owned two ironing boards.  The first one was bought with wedding money and was wonderful, very sturdy.  Until my husband was playing with my kids and they pretended it was a surfboard, which led to the purchase of the second one.  It is much more flimsy and using it as a surfboard is out of the question.

I’ve owned three blenders.  I broke the first one, so my husband gave me number two as a Christmas present.  The third one came into my house when it was bequeathed to my son by a classmate who wasn’t returning to college.  It’s actually an amazingly nice blender, though I shudder to think of all the underage drinking it was party to in it’s first life.

I’ve had three toasters.  The first was a wedding present.  The second I bought when the first one conked out.  The third one was a donation at the Restore Thrift Shop, and I love it. (It’s a Cuisinart.)

I’ve probably had four vacuum cleaners.  I don’t know why I’m so hard on them.  But I have learned that you should never just jam the sweeper hose down the back of your couch because if you should inadvertently suck up a pencil, it’s nothing but trouble.  Also, if  it starts making horrible sounds, don’t just sweep extra fast , thinking, “I’m almost done.”  Turn the thing off and find out what’s wrong.

I’m still on my first waffle iron and electric knife.

We’ve owned two mattresses.

We’ve had two gerbils, a lizard, for which I had to buy hundreds of crickets (YUCK!), and a cat.

I wonder how many pairs of tennis shoes (walking shoes, athletic shoes, running shoes, whatever) I’ve worn out.  Lots.

We’ve bought 28 Christmas trees.  Number 28 is sitting in the garage, waiting to be ushered into the family room.  (The picture clearly shows that some of our trees were not quite ready for prime time.)

That about sums it up.


A Husband Test: The Result

12 12 2009

The result from yesterday’s challenge: he noticed.

And while we’re cleaning up loose ends, I got my blood-alcoholVitamin D level test result.  After six months of 50,000 IU megadoses weekly, it went from 30 to 50 ng/mL.  (All the round numbers almost seem suspicious.)  I thought it would be much higher.

A Husband Test

11 12 2009

I’ve got a little unannounced challenge for my husband this evening, a test of his observation skills.  At the Restore yesterday I found a box of wooden cabinet knobs that are a perfect match for our kitchen cabinets.  So I replaced our old brass ones.  I like it!

The question is, will he notice?

My first reaction is, of course he’ll notice!  How could he not?  It jumps out at me every time I walk in the room.

But I’ve also added a little festive holiday decor (!!) to the room, to possibly confuse him.

Also, this is a man who went five days without noticing I had gotten my hair cut, at which point I finally told him.

I’ve had articles of clothing that I wore many times over many months, and one day out of the blue he’ll ask, “Is that new?”

I can vacuum the carpet after it is covered with cat hair and other assorted debris at which point, being the appreciative husband that he is, I’m certain he would say, “Nice job on the carpet,” if he were aware of the improvement.  (The vacuum cleaner sitting in the middle of the hallway doesn’t seem to clue him in to anything either.)

So really it could go either way.

(I must say that my own powers of observation are miserable.  Although at this point I’m not sure whether I don’t notice things or whether I just don’t remember what I’ve seen.  I’m not sure it makes any difference.  Either way, I come out looking hopelessly absent-minded.)

Never Enough

10 12 2009
  1. Cabbage Patch dolls
  2. Elmo toys
  3. flu vaccines
  4. nurses
  5. oil
  6. pumpkins
  7. whatever the latest and greatest video game/gaming system is
  8. wheat

Q: What do they have in common?

A: At some point in time, there was a shortage of them.  People took extreme measures to acquire them.

For the past several Christmases I have become aware of a little known shortage that threatens to cripple my holiday decorating .

I have a certain fondness for those candle-driven centerpieces where the warmth from the candles spaced around the outside rises to the blades at the top of the contraption, which then rotate and turn the scene below.

My first one, with a religious theme, was a cast-off from my mother-in-law, who warned me it didn’t turn too well, but it was nice to look at.  My father investigated the situation and surmised that a simple engineering adjustment would have that baby spinning like a top….and he was right!  When we get her fired up the wise men and the shepherds are circling so fast they look a little nauseous. What fun!  I found a second one, almost identical, at a yard sale.  Our third one, found at the thrift shop, has a Santa’s Workshop theme.

Each of these has six candles around the bottom.  And these candles are small (four inches tall, 3/8″ diameter), so they burn fast. When the decorations were all the rage it was easy to find the candles in stores.

But then the centerpieces fell out of fashion and nobody carried the candles anymore.  At first I would run across them in thrift shops, where people were unloading them.  It was great because they were dirt cheap.  Then that source dried up.

I found some in Merchant’s Square in Williamsburg and pretty much cleaned out their stock, which cost me a pretty penny, but what’s a gal to do? My sister-in-law supplied me with some Hanukkah candles, which are taller and thinner, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

I’ve noted two behavior modifications resulting from this perceived shortage:

1. I am a shameless candle hoarder.  Enough is never enough.  I buy every one I can lay my hands on.  And I don’t share.

2. I have become very stingy about burning these rotating marvels.  Okay, we can burn it during Christmas dinner.  But other than that, five or ten minutes at a time is all we can commit.  None of this leaving it burning all afternoon while we watch the football game.

Drum Roll, Please

8 12 2009

My Uncle Kenny died just before Thanksgiving.  He and Aunt Betty, my Mom’s sister, lived in Colorado since before I was born; I have always been an East Coast girl.  (Betty died a number of years ago.)  So we rarely saw each other over the years.  Most communication happened via the annual Christmas card.

Nevertheless, since I learned of Uncle Kenny’s passing, I have been reminded of them several times.  Take yesterday….


When my sister and I were youngsters we received a package from Aunt Betty and Uncle Kenny.  It was an Advent Christmas Calendar.  Made entirely of felt, it was a large red rectangle with a green tree on it, on which had been sewn 24 hooks.  Across the bottom were 24 pockets, each identified by a white numeral and containing a small ornament to be hung on the appropriate day.  I imagine Aunt Betty was responsible for that part of the project.

Accompanying all that was a full-scale diagram of the tree and its hooks.  By each hook were words to show which ornament belonged there and the day when it was to be hung.  In my mind, I imagine Uncle Kenny handling this.  (What sort of deep-seated sexist attitude am I revealing here?  That he does the project planning and engineering analysis while she does the hard labor!?! I blame society for this!)

Being the eternal rule follower that I am, I consulted the diagram every year, and followed it as if my life depended on it.  Ornaments went on the correct hooks, and when the season was over, they had to be packed back into the right pockets.

Felt being what it is, the tree eventually fell into disrepair.  But when I was away at college I rejoiced when my Mom made and sent me Advent Christmas Tree, Version 2, basically a duplicate of Version 1.  While finishing classes, studying for exams, taking the darn tests, and engaging in Christmas festivities, my roommate and I filled the tree as we counted down the days.

Having become a free spirit at this point, I managed to operate this wall hanging with no placement instructions.  Ornaments went into pockets and on the tree willy-nilly.  I felt so liberated!

As this one was also made of felt, eventually it began to look very ragged.  But my kids were of an age when they—should I say we? —needed our annual December countdown fix.  In the interest of longevity, I used “real” fabric for Version 3.  For the numbers, I used fabric paint, my first experience with the product.  (Yes, there’s a bit of a learning curve, evident in the numbers that march across the bottom.)  I even trimmed the wall hanging with red/green/gold braid.

I soon discovered the value of that original labeled set of instructions.  My boys alternated hanging days, odd or even.  There was much bickering about where to put which ornaments so each got the “best” ones.  They would secretly rearrange them when the other one wasn’t looking.  Kids can fight about anything.

Eventually they grew up and got busy with life, and I found myself reminding them to put up their ornaments.  And now, here I am doing it all by myself this year, till they come home on the eighteenth.  I’m saving their favorite ornaments till then.


There is a single ornament for this tree that survives from the original tree Aunt Betty and Uncle Kenny sent so many years ago.  It’s a small drum, and it still has the gold rick rack she attached for hanging.  When I peeked in the pocket and found it yesterday morning, it took me back….

The Gremlins Are Busy

4 12 2009

There’s always variety at the Habitat for Humanity Restore where I volunteer weekly.  That’s because

  1. The merchandise is continually changing. A sizeable shipment of chandeliers one week, a hundred hotel sleep sofas the next.
  2. While we have a group of hardcore volunteers, we also get fly-by-night helpers who drift in and out and who tend to be interesting characters.
  3. Our clientele runs the gamut. At one end we have the person who would have to do without a fridge if he couldn’t get a cheap one from us. At the other end, a wealthy shopaholic who burst into tears when we wouldn’t knock a dollar off a four-dollar lamp which she needed like she needed a hole in her head.  And every kind of person in between.

Still, some weeks are particularly lively.  Case in point…

It started when the guys arrived to hang signs labeling various departments—lighting, plumbing, hardware, cashier.  The store has a super high ceiling, like a Home Depot.  So the guys had a platform that expanded like an accordion to lift them way up to the top.  They planted the contraption right in front of the entrance to the cashier station.  We had to climb over the counter to get in and out.  (We don’t just sit around at the cash register when no one is checking out.  We’re out on the floor cleaning the clutter, tracking down prices, checking out the merchandise, running our mouths.)  It was an intriguing inconvenience having to clamber back and forth over the counter.

My partner and I both were at the register when the  CASHIER sign, printed on corrugated plastic to be suspended with plastic strapping, was being hung.  We weren’t actually looking up at the guy, but we saw a look of horror on the customers’ faces as they watched the proceedings.  At which point we looked up and saw the sign dropping through the space, heading right for us.  It could have been a bit nasty if it had sliced into either of us, but we were both unscathed.  But pity the poor guy hanging the sign.  He stood up there at the ceiling looking horrified.  His face turned ghostly white.  The plastic that had been sufficient to hold the other signs was not up to the task for this particular one.

A while later I happened to look down and saw a generous wad of cash on the floor.  I picked it up and wondered what the heck to do with it.  A lady ran up, obviously in a panic, frantic because she had dropped all her money somewhere.  I presume we got the money back in the right hands as nobody else approached us about missing money.

Still later a guy brought a storm door up to the cash register.  As he stood there pulling out his wallet he must have jarred the door in just the wrong way.  A small crack appeared.  It expanded into a bunch more cracks, like spider veins.  Tiny pieces of glass started dropping out.  The process seemed to do in slow motion, more cracks, more glass falling.  After thirty seconds or so, the floor at the front of the store was covered with infinitely many tiny glass pieces.  And the shopper was standing there with an empty metal framework.  Looking very sheepish.

The slogan for the store is “Miss a Day…Miss a Deal.”  Perhaps it should say “Miss a Day…Miss the Drama.”

I Need an Exit Strategy

2 12 2009

While President Obama has been busy planning war strategy for Afghanistan, I find myself mixed up in a game theory exercise of my own.

The players?

1. My neurologist, Doc J

2. My ob-gyn, Doc C

The goal?

Find the right dosing of vitamin D for me.  The specifics are a little cloudy.  Doc C frets about some not-so-glowing outcomes from a couple of bone density tests.  Doc J is addressing reports linking vitamin D deficiencies and multiple sclerosis.  They both definitely want it over 50.  Maybe at least 100.  It’s apparently a moving target.  But my early readings of 10 and 16 showed definite room for improvement based on any scale.  (Since then it’s been a bit of a roller coaster.)

The strategies?

Doc J supports a slow, steady buildup.  (Think Viet Nam.)  When the whole thing started, he  recommended something like 200 IUs/day.  That got upped to maybe 600.  Last year  it was 1000.  Yesterday he told me to take 2000 IUs/day, in addition to my regular vitamin.

Doc C supports surges—short bursts of megadoses.  (Think Iraq.  And Afghanistan.)  She must own stock in the company that makes those 50,000 IU green gel caps.  First I was on one tablet  a week for  three months.  Then twice a week for three months.  I just finished 50,000 IUs a week for six months.

Neither doctor will criticize the other one’s recommendations.  But each is quick to promote his own approach.  I feel like I’m the pot in a poker game and every move involves upping the ante.

I’m certainly eager to get the results from yesterday’s blood test to see where I stand.