Snowflakes (Real Ones)


The post is late this weekend because Atlanta literally got buried this weekend. In my neck of the woods, it was almost a foot of snow, which in Atlanta is basically the equivalent of encasing the entire city in Amber to be fished out and mined for DNA by overzealous scientists in hopes of making dinosaurs many millenia in the future.

I know, I know. Much like the “blizzard” of three years ago which sealed the city in an icy tomb from which it didn’t emerge for five days, the rest of the country is laughing at us. The south can’t handle snow. We get it. This time is legit, though. Below is a horrible-quality picture (thanks smartphones for not knowing how to handle flash settings and low light) of me standing by our fence. Notice that it’s literally deep enough to cover my entire head, were I to stand on my head, which is a thing I might be likely to do, given that I’m a southerner and do not know what snow is for. (You can cook with it, right?)

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(No, those are not my wife’s pajama pants. They are mine. And they are most comfortable.)

Snow would continue to fall for twelve more hours. I’d have more pictures of the coverage, but a) do a little google image search for “Atlanta snow” and you’ll come across scads of pictures better than anything I could take (and funnier jokes, too!) and b) my kids ruined the pristine blanket immediately, because that’s what kids get paid to do.

More to the point, though, the heavy snowfall was bringing down branches and trees like Mueller is bringing down Trump associates, leaving us (and hundreds of thousands of our closest relatives and neighbors across the state) without power all night and most of the day on Saturday. And there just isn’t enough liquor in the county to deal with problems like that. So we did what any red-blooded, 21st-century humans would do: saddled up the kids, loaded up the minivan, and drove to Grandma’s house to charge our phones spend some time with family.

Luckily, aside from a bunch of power outages, a healthy share of downed trees, and a truly maddening array of pictures of people on their back porches sticking measuring tapes and rulers into the snow (rest assured, I have my own pictures, but I won’t cross that particular line of insufferability), there does not seem to have been much loss of life or injury caused by this little winter surprise. Which is to say that, after a second straight day of sun in the wake of the storm, life will quickly return to normal. As life is wont to do.

Which means that when I’m late with the Saturday post next week, I’ll have to make a much more pedestrian excuse. (Which may or may not involve actual pedestrians. Stay tuned!)

This post is part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday.

 

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Metaphor Monday: Mr. Fix-It (Eventually)


How long does it take to fix a leaky faucet?

The google answer: About thirty minutes.

The real-life answer: Give or take, three to six months.

To elaborate, that’s: roughly a week to even properly notice the thing is leaking. About a month to get well and truly sick of it. An additional month (at least) to decide it matters enough to make time on a weekend to get around to fixing it. Half of a weekend spent watching youtube videos until you have enough confidence that you won’t flood the entire house to even begin the project. About thirty minutes to actually fix it. An additional couple of weeks to finish cleaning up the tools you used. (It might not actually be fixed, after all, and you might have to get back in there and re-fix it — so you might as well keep the tools handy.) And finally, an indeterminate number of months spent testing your repair every time you walk past it to make sure it’s actually fixed.

Or, if you ask my wife, how long does it take your husband to do a household project? Her answer will invariably contain the somewhat snarky, somewhat literal “does that include the six hours he spends watching youtube and staring at the thing to ‘think about it’?”

Okay, so I don’t set speed records for fixing things around the house. You could say I’m methodical. (You could say other things. I’m sticking with methodical.)

But the point is, for me at least, these things take time. Case-in-point: the slow drain in the bathroom. My sink was slow to drain. Had been since we moved in back in July. I noticed it immediately after my first shave in the new house, but it wasn’t that bad. In the intervening weeks, though, it got worse — to the point that the sink was taking close to a full minute to drain. Being the permissive sort, I was generally happy to let that go — it’s easy enough, after all, to just shave, pull the plug, walk away and get dressed, then come back to rinse out the bowl.

As much as I’m happy to let little things like this slide by in the day-to-day, on some basement sub-floor of my lizard brain, it irks me when things don’t work as they should. (Ask my wife how often I point out poor design — a drawer that opens into the path of another, or a cabinet hinged on the wrong side. Of course, I don’t do anything about it when I point it out — but I NOTICE!)

So for months, the piss-offs mount. I shave, it takes forever to drain the sink. Shave, drain. Shave, drain. It gets to the point where I have to rinse the bowl, then re-rinse to catch the stuff that backed up in the little water that was leftover from the rinsing. (Have I strayed into the verboten territory of too much information? I can never tell.)

Finally, something must be done. I get on google. Type in the problem. Read the likely culprits. Best advice: I need to get a plumber’s snake. Okay.

Four weeks later, I make the trip to Home Depot to pick it up. Ready to go.

Three weeks after that, on the afternoon of nothing in particular, I put on a pair of rubber gloves and set about it. Clear out the cabinet under the sink. Unscrew the trap thingy. (It doesn’t even take tools — that’s how easy this fix is.) Pull the plug up out of the sink. Send the snake down the drain.

I’m gonna be honest. What comes out of the drain is horrific. It damn near triggered my gag reflex, and that’s saying something — my wife is the sympathetic puker, not me. I’m not going to describe it, except to say that for a clog made of hair, the texture was entirely not what you would expect.

Much gagging and dramatic sealing-of-the-horror-in-multiple-plastic-bags later, I wipe out the sink, replace the plug, screw the trap thingy back in, and that’s that. Sink drains like a dream.

Two days later, I move the snake back down to the workshop where it belongs. About a week after that, I have most of the stuff from under the sink back off the bathroom counter and properly under the sink. (A few lotions and a shaving brush are still on my bedside table.) And now, two weeks after the fact, I’m still checking under the cabinet for leaks from where I re-sealed the trap.

Fixing the problem was easy, it just took me forever.

Or take our downstairs bathroom. We had a suspicion of mold behind the wall in there — a company came in, tore out the drywall, tested and gave us the all-clear. I have to replace the drywall and the sink myself.

Needless to say, that bathroom has been drywall-less and sink-less for the better part of (what month is it now? December?) going on four months.

Well, two weeks ago, it was time to fix it. (Why? Don’t ask silly questions.) Off to Home Depot to buy the panel and the drywall goop, and this time, I actually start the project that day.

Okay, FINE, the next day, but the same weekend.

Problem is, I mix the drywall goop wrong, it comes out too thin, and I have to lay a second coat on. Which means another trip to Home Depot. And you know what that means.

A week and a half later, I get over to the HD and pick up more goop, and finish the job properly.

Well.

One leg of the job.

It still needs to be sanded, then painted, and then I can re-set the sink and … long story short, if we have that bathroom back in order by next summer, it will probably be a victory. (Don’t let my wife read this post. She thinks I’m gonna have it done in another week, tops.) (No, she doesn’t. She knows as well as I do.)

So what’s all this metaphor for?

Writing is kinda like a house sometimes. It does the job it’s supposed to do, albeit often imperfectly. It takes maintenance, it takes some TLC — sometimes it takes putting on some gloves and digging some truly gnarly stuff out of the drains.

Unfortunately, I have the same relationship with my writing issues as I have with my around-the-house issues: I’m happy to let them slide as long as I’m still able to write somewhat. Sink drains slow? No problem, I can work around it. Words aren’t quite coming out the way or speed I want? No problem, I can write bare minimums, cut down on the blog, write something else.

But, in exactly the same way a poorly laid-out parking parking lot gives me a thudding headache, it irks me to my soul when the writing isn’t working. (Okay we don’t have souls, life is meaningless, and all our struggles, triumphs, and heartaches are contained within a blue grain of sand in a bottomless void, but YOU KNOW.)

The bad news is, it took me a series of months to admit to myself that the problem was there and it was worth fixing. And if my 3-6 month timeline to fix a problem holds accurate, it feels like I’m in month 4 or so. It feels — in an abstract way? — like the problem could be fixed, but my tools are still all over the place (in case I need to go back in and operate again), and the confidence that things are fixed is nonexistent.

I’m on the upswing, in other words — I’m writing again, feeling productive, but still in a flimsy, going-through-the-motions kind of way. Like the bottom could drop out at any moment. My sink could drain just fine, in other words, but only because it’s dumping the slurry of water and shaving cream and discarded beard into the cupboard under the sink. Which is, you know. Not precisely ideal.

This stuff takes time to work through, is what I’m getting at, and I’ll come back to that word again: methodical. I’m being methodical in my writing fixes. I’ll allow myself to tell myself that for a little while longer.

And, you know. Maybe you’re in the same boat, be it on something you’re writing or something else. I’ll share two things to close.

First of all is this tweet that landed in my feed today:

Which is the kind of encouragement I thrive on, and it was particularly uplifting today.

And then this:

fix it

So, you know. Fix up your stuff.

Maybe sooner rather than later.

(Yeah, I know. I didn’t even almost make Monday — I almost didn’t make Tuesday. I’m just gonna keep calling it Metaphor Monday. Alliteration trumps reality.)


Just GO (A Terrible Reviews Short: Thor: Ragnarok)


New parents:

Did you know that it is possible not to take an ill-tempered child to a crowded movie theater on a Friday night?

It’s true!

Yes, it’s a little bit unfair that having a kid cramps your style a bit. You want to continue doing the things you’ve always done. Having the fun you’ve always had. And you can, but you have to give a little bit of consideration to the squalling anchors tethered to your nethers before you do so.

Consider:

A movie theater is a great environment for adults! It’s dark and comfortable and conducive to naps if you so choose. There’s only one thing to focus on, which is great news for our aging, overwhelmed brains! (In point of fact, instead of staying home last night stressing about the tax bill that was just passed, or getting my blood in a good boil over the latest news in the Mueller investigation, I headed to the movie theater to block all that out for a few hours and relax. Best choice of my week!)

A movie theater is also a great environment for teens! It’s dark and private and a great opportunity to suck face with your selected face-sucker without the possibility of your parents barging in. And with all those hormones raging through your system, you can easily ignore the loud sounds and bright lights of the film. Win-win!

But a movie theater is not a great environment for young kids! It’s dark — which deprives them of the stimulation they so very much crave! There’s nothing to do but sit there and watch the movie — which deprives them of the stimulation they so very much crave! You can distract them with food, but your popcorn tub and extra-large drink are only so deep — they will run out of things to stuff in their face before long, and then you’re back to the first two problems, except now they’re full of sugar and caffeine! And don’t forget, a five-year-old probably can’t follow the thread of the film without help, which means he will be bombarding you with questions for as long as he is paying attention (to say nothing of the two-year-old you also brought with you for some reason).

Your kids, in short, are likely to make going to the movies an unpleasant experience for you — their parent, who has a biological imperative to love and not murder them — to say nothing of the unsuspecting members of your community upon whom you are about to inflict this pain. And you’re paying to bring your kids with you — you pay more for the experience of going to the movie and pissing everybody off than we paid to come to the movie to have a nice time not thinking about our country circling the drain. Put another way — we put in nice, sensible bids to have a delightful little evening, and you outbid us to pee all over our nice little thing. (Incidentally, you might make an excellent Republican senator!)

Lastly, and not for nothing, not every movie is appropriate for children — let alone children whose ages can be counted on one hand! When the movie contains four of the seven words you can’t say on television, numerous references to sex and orgies, and a literal orgy of violence and terrifying imagery, you might be doing your child a favor to not bring them along for the ride.

It’s just a thought!

You have options:

  1. Accept that, as a parent, the life you knew is over. Stay home from the movie theater and check out your movies on Redbox or Netflix like a reasonable sleep-deprived adult. Watch them after the kids go to bed. You’ll fall asleep halfway through, sure, but that’s part of the fun.
  2. Find a sitter. Yes, this is inconvenient, and depending on your arrangements, possibly expensive. But weigh it against, if not the displeasure of everybody you’ll be in the movie theater with, your own annoyance at sitting through the movie with your toddler-anchors talking and crying and whining and kicking the seat in front of them and generally doing all the things toddlers do. You may find that the investment is worth it!
  3. Go to the movie anyway. It’s not illegal, but everybody will hate you, and if you have a soul, you just might hate yourself.

Finally, if you do find yourself in a movie that’s inappropriate for children with your little bundles of joy, and they start acting exactly the way you would expect a child to act in such a situation, it’s okay to leave. You don’t get bonus points for staying and prolonging the pain for everybody. It’s really okay. Just take the kid (who doesn’t want to be there anyway), your spouse (who also no longer wants to be there), and your self (who should now be fully dead inside), and go.

We won’t hate you for it. On the contrary, we’ll love you.

This has been a public service announcement.Image result for thor ragnarok

In other news, we saw Thor: Ragnarok last night. It was pretty good, I think. I can’t be entirely sure, because we were distracted by something totally unrelated.

I do know that Chris Hemsworth’s abs may have single-handedly given me an eating disorder.

Image result for chris hemsworth abs

So there’s that.

This post is part of Stream-Of-Consciousness Saturday.


Puzzling


This kid, who cannot go for two minutes without shouting for his mom or dad, who cannot even be in a room without an adult for more than the space of a few hastily-snatched breaths of child-free air, has sat for the last twenty minutes contentedly working on this puzzle while humming Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

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I don’t know how it works. I’ve never understood the appeal of puzzles nor had the patience to attempt them. But I’m not going to argue with it.

In the time it took me to post this, he’s moved from Rudolph to “Believer” by the Imagine Dragons. (I guess it’s just Imagine Dragons but somehow The Imagine Dragons sounds fancier. What kind of dragon? An Imagine Dragon.)

 


Metaphor Monday: The Stray


My runs lately have me in more rural areas than I’m used to.

I’m still deep in the suburbs, mind you, but the suburbs here are a little more “trees and dirt roads” and a little less “convenience store on every corner.” Zoom out a little bit from my house on the old Google Maps and you quickly find yourself in a sea of green: sprawling forests and rolling hills all around.

So I have a lot of encounters with wildlife, especially when I’m hoofing it before the sun is up (which is almost always). Usually it’s squirrels and rabbits — I could basically feed my family bunny meat indefinitely if I had a hankerin’ — but I’ve seen more than a few deer, too, and there are almost certainly coyotes out here. Which is why I carry a big stick with me when I’m pounding the pavement these days: I don’t want to be caught defenseless if I come up against a crazed or frightened critter out there. (Sure, my dog is usually with me, but something tells me she’d be even more useless than I in an unarmed tussle with local wildlife.)

I should have started carrying that stick a week earlier, though.

I’m out for a pretty routine jaunt, not even a mile from the house, when I hear the unmistakable sound of padding footsteps and panting breath. I look toward the trees, and sure enough, here comes a sizable shape out of the dark, beelining right for me and my dog.

If I were hooked up to an FMRI, my head would light up like a christmas tree. Every fight-or-flight response I have goes off all at once. I can’t quite make out the shape of the thing. It’s coming on too quick to be just checking us out, but too slowly to be on the attack.

I start doing math. I don’t hear anything but its feet, so it’s not collared. Which means it may or may not be domesticated. Home is over a half mile away; no chance I can outrun the thing if it decides to chase. Nothing around me that I can even see, let alone grab, to use as a weapon. I’m on that stretch of no-man’s-land where there’s not even a streetlight in sight to help me see by, just the soft, useless glow of the stars. Meanwhile, my idiot dog is losing her mind at the approach of another animal: tugging at the leash, dodging this way and that in an attempt to sniff the intruder’s butt, or whatever dogs think about.

I’m stranded and screwed, in short, if this thing turns out to be hostile. I shout at the thing — sometimes that’ll scare a stray away — but no avail. It’s close enough now that I can see it’s a big, dark dog, a little bit bigger than my golden retriever.

I should detour to say that my warm feelings toward dogs are tenuous — generally I like them but I’m wary as hell about them, because once I saw a neighbor of mine reach down to pet a friendly-looking stray and it latched onto her arm and started thrashing around like it was tearing the throat out of a deer. Not an image you forget, as much as I love my dumb mutt.

Anyway.

It pulls up just short of my dog — I’ve slowed to a brisk walk, to avoid my own dog tripping me — and begins sniffing at her. My dog sniffs back. I yank her away and shout at the dog again to get lost. I stomp in the thing’s direction. It backs up a few steps but keeps pacing us, trotting along in the grass while we stick to the pavement.

Last thing I want is for something bizarre to happen, so I turn it around and walk back home. The dog falls right in with us, haunting us every step of the way, sometimes a little in front, sometimes a little behind — I try to feint it off down a side street here and there, but it always wanders back.

I get home. Stray dog follows us up onto the porch. I open the door; it tries to follow us inside. I slam the door to keep it out, go to put my dog in her crate because she’s well and truly losing her mind by now. I go back upstairs — the dog has opened the door and pushed into my foyer. In my mind, this thing is Cujo. I shout at it and shove it back outdoors with sweeping feet, then close and lock the door. It sits there staring at me through the side window, its breath fogging the glass. Thank goodness that’s over, I think, and begin the slow process of decelerating my heartbeat and preparing to go to work.

WHAM. The house veritably shakes, I drop my glass of water. SCRATCHSCRATCHSCRATCH WHAM.

I run to the front door. The dog is almost hurling itself against the door trying to get in. It starts barking. My own dog starts barking in response. I feel sweat beading on my forehead, and it’s nothing to do with my interrupted workout. It’s five in the morning. Do I call animal control? 911? I can’t ignore it; this thing is about to wake the house, to say nothing of the panic attack I’m about to have.

I run downstairs. Grab the broom. Back upstairs where the critter is furiously scratching at the door. Take a deep breath — open the door.

Its muzzle flashes in through the gap in the door and I whack it good with the butt of the broom. It yelps and skitters backwards, leaps down the steps to the sidewalk, and turns to stare at me. I follow it, waving the broom for good measure. It takes the hint and crosses the street.

Then we go to work, and I try not to think about the dog for the rest of the day.

I come to learn later that the dog then went and harassed my neighbor across the street a bit later, when the sun was up. She (being the sort of person who has the time and, dare I say it, the good heart required for such things) collared the dog and took it over to a veterinarian and checked it for a chip. The dog belonged to a house on the other side of our neighborhood. She drove over to return the dog — and found the house vacant. She asked around the neighbors of that house; they had moved away about a week ago. Sure, that’s their dog. Guess they didn’t take it with them.

Further, what I couldn’t see in the dark of the morning is that the dog did have a collar. It didn’t make any noise because the collar was too tight and it had actually grafted itself to the poor creature’s skin in some places.

So a neglected animal saw me out with my dog, followed me thinking I’d be a fair source of attention and, possibly, care, and I smacked it in the nose for its trouble.

I have my own moral indigestion over what happened (my neighbor has now taken the poor thing in, which is a little balm to my conscience), but this really demonstrates to me the power of prejudice. I saw this animal in a certain light (or lack of light), made a few snap decisions, and was unable to distance myself from the perceptions that followed. As soon as the fear started boiling in my bloodstream, the capacity to think and make a rational decision went right out the window. It wasn’t a helpless, harmless stray looking for a home; it was Cujo trying to force its way into the house.

As it turns out, it first approached my neighbor by — you guessed it! — jumping into her vehicle as she was loading up her kids to take them to school. (Imagining it gives me the shivers. I probably would have done a lot worse than bop it in the nose, at that point.) The difference? It was daylight by then. She could see the dog clearly, get a sense of its demeanor. She’s taken it in, now, and is giving it a measure of care it may never have known in its life.

Long story, that, so the writer’s tie-in will be short.

Ideas can come out of nowhere, and it’s not easy to see them clearly at first. Maybe they follow you around at the edge of thinking for weeks, months, years without ever coming into the light. And maybe you hesitate to engage, because it’s impossible to tell if these ideas are the good kind that will love you and bring you your slippers and turn into bestsellers or if they’re the bad kind that will bite you and leave you bleeding and on the waiting list at the ER for a series of rabies injections. (Did I mix up my metaphors there? Or am I writing the wrong kinds of stories? You decide!) But if you’ve got an idea sitting there on your porch, staring you down through the windows, chucking itself against the door, demanding to be acknowledged? That just might be an idea worth entertaining.

All the same, I’m carrying my stick when I go out running by moonlight from now on. After all, if I had known I could defend myself if things went south, I might not have turned the pitiful little abandoned dog into a bloodthirsty monster in my mind.


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