Archive for the ‘Dance’ Category

Wrapped Up In Cookie Dough

October 10, 2012

When our oldest was in Girl Scouts my wife was the “Cookie Chair Person”.  That meant we warehoused cookies while the girls….er ummm their parents took the cookie sheet into work and danced the dosido to get their coworkers to buy a box of Dosidos, or Thin Mints or…Our phone rang night and day as Girl Scout parents called needing more.  My wife put a message on our voice mail mentioning the cookies.  My friends would all call and leave lewd comments about the cookies.  As the sale was wrapping up I was a little cukoo about the cookies.  So I changed the voice mail to say, “If you are calling about Girl Scout Cookies, my wife isn’t here.  She took the money and went on a vacation to Florida.  She’ll catch you when she gets back.”  Well one of the mom’s…one who was wound too tight…turned us in to the cookie police.  We were investigated and when it was determined that my story was half baked…we were cleared, but asked to turn in our apron and not return as a cookie chairperson again.

I still buy the cookies because I want to help the girls.  I also buy popcorn from the Boy Scouts and when the band kid comes around I shell out ten dollars for the scented candle with a scent only a great aunt could love.  That’s because her olfactory nerves were burned out by years of lavender perfume abuse.  I’ve bought cookie dough and then wondered what the heck I’m going to do with a ten pound cask of macadamia nut/white chocolate cookie dough…feed it to the birds in the winter?  One year I bought Chanukah wrapping paper to use at Christmas….just because.

So when our youngest, Grace, had an opportunity to go to France as a foreign exchange student I braced myself for “the Fund Raiser” speech.  Then a friend told me about Crowd Funding.  There are websites dedicated to helping you raise money for things like…an educational trip to France without schlepping peanut brittle.  I think we all realize that the company rolling in the dough when it comes to Girl Scout Cookies is the bakery not the girl scouts.  So why not cut out the middleman?    If we really want our money to go to good use…donate the 10 bucks we would spend on a pumpkin spice candle…straight to the kid with the cause…that way at the end of the day…the cause ends up with a lot more money.  It sounded like a great idea so we are doing that for Grace and her opportunity to be a foreign exchange student in France.  Here’s a link if you’d like to donate.   http://www.gofundme.com/1b20zg

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Grandparent’s Day

October 20, 2011

When I hear the name grandpa I have this visual in my mind and my face isn’t on it.  Don’t get me wrong I love being one.  I look forward to seeing the twins every week, but the title seems surreal.  I keep feeling like… a dad.  There is this age connotation that comes with the title, Grandpa, and I can’t seem to get past it.  Carly will say something like, “Girls, look at Grandpa”, and I turn around expecting my dad to be standing in the door.  Then I realize she’s talking about me and it’s…just …out of body.  There are certain titles that I’m good with like, Uncle Greg…I’ve worn that hat for eighteen years and I dig it.  Mr. Phelps is a little formal, but I can connect the dots on the right day.  Sir….that one strikes at the core of my internal struggle between young at heart and the fact that my high school graduating class just celebrated our THIRTY year reunion. 

On the other hand Keely has thoroughly embraced the title Grandma.  She found out on her fiftieth birthday.  She had been half a century for about half a day when she took the call from the home office.   By the next day she’d digested the news (with the help of soft food and tea:-)).  She picked up the knitting needles, reading glasses, and her Martha Washington cap, and began making blankets and sweaters.  Our house looks like a third world sweat shop with all of the yarn, patterns and needle point.  She even bought extra car seats so we’d have a set.  The girls will be a year old at the end of the month.   I think she’s knitting them a birthday cake.  She answers to Grandma…she is Grandma. 

Every Thursday and Friday evening at our house is Grandparent’s Day.  Alexis works evenings so the twins come over to magically transform our home from the teen lounge into camp run-a-muck.  We put up the barricades so they are confined to the family room where they drag, paw, pull, and chew everything they can get their soggy paws on.  Really at eleven months the only thing that separates baby humans from puppies is the fact that puppies are faster at learning where to poop.  They both chew everything.  When the twins first started pulling themselves up they were teething on our glass top tables, the frame of the tables, DVD boxes, shoes.  If you turn your back on them, they switch from chewing on toys to eating cat food and drinking from the watering bowl.  I saw it before with our kids, but our baby is fifteen now.  We haven’t covered the sockets or locked the cabinets for fourteen years.  They are also really good at showing us how inferior we are at mopping floors.  We can wash our floors three times a week and it doesn’t seem to matter.  The girls come over, crawl around for ten minutes, and their knees and socks look like they’ve been visiting the Clampett’s dirt floor cabin.  I should strap sponges to their knees so they can mop while they crawl.

I pick them up at day care each Thursday.  The first thing I had to master, aside from telling them apart, was juggling.  One baby is easy to manage.  I did that all the time.  When you carry one you still have a hand free for keys, a door knob, car seat straps…you get the picture.  Two is a whole different ball game.  The first time I picked them up it was raining.  I had two babies in my arms, their backpack, car keys in my pocket, rain on my head, and a locked car.  Nice!  And I thought Sales as challenging!  When I got to the car I found it easiest to hold them like squirming footballs together in one arm so I could unlock the door.  I really didn’t care what the passing motorists thought.  Years of hearing my coach yell “Don’t drop that football Phelps!” suddenly came rushing back.  You don’t want to be the guy who drops a baby in the day care parking lot.  The next challenge was strapping one in the car seat without the other one escaping.  If I put her down by my feet she’d immediately get wet in the puddle, crawl under the car like a turtle, and try to eat gravel…maybe if I stick her in my shirt like a kangaroo baby I can manage this!  Then we pick up Grace, take her to ballet, change diapers…theirs…not mine… and return home to the magical land of barricades, yarn, and soft food.  Thankfully the soft food isn’t for me either …yet.

 

 

Vom – Part 1

September 30, 2011

It was late one Halloween night.  The goblins had all come and gone.  The girls had compared loot and talked about their experiences.  The candles inside our jack o’ lanterns had flickered out and everyone was asleep.   Our dog Nick, a black lab who’d never grown up, decided he wanted in on the Halloween treats.  He ate all of the girl’s loot.  Every last piece of the candy was quietly consumed.  Sometime later that night as his stomach became upset he sought shelter in Carly’s room.  She was in preschool at the time.  In the darkness of her room he began to puke.  Immediately screams of freight erupted and late night mayhem ensued.  The sound of Nick’s Halloween lurching would torment Carly for years.  After the incident we had to rearrange her room so that furniture covered the area where the event occurred.   There wasn’t a physical stain, but there was a mental one.  Changing the view somehow made a difference.  Once we moved her furniture around and made sure the dog slept in another room we were able to reclaim our room and once again there was peace at night.

 Some people are better at coping with sickness than others.  As parents we are forced to deal with it.  I mean you can’t just move every time someone pukes and misses the intended target.  Someone has to play janitor and remedy the situation.  The vom episode as Carly now calls it has shaped her tolerance for the hurl.  I’d say her threshold is somewhere south of extremely low.  If she was married and starting a family today she would give the janitorial supplies to her husband and say, “Congratulations you’ve been selected.”  As Murphy’s Law would have it, Carly’s younger sister Grace is a world champion barfer.  So every year when school is back in session, the weather cools, and stomach bugs begin to sweep the nation, Grace’s number is called, and Carly does the, Serenity Now, chant until the storm passes and the sun prevails.  I’ve never seen someone so susceptible to stomach flues.  Luckily Carly, Keely, and I have pretty strong immune systems.  So the bugs Grace brings home seem to bounce off us more often than not.  However this year, we also have grand kids in the picture.  They brought over something wicked.  Forget the fact that we washed hands like we were OCD, we’re fit, and that we get more than our recommended dose of fruits and veggies.  None of that mattered.  This bug had claws or tentacles or little fists that grabbed us by the hair and pulled us kicking and screaming to the porcelain god.  Like an Olympic relay team we passed the baton to each family member and Grace ended up being the anchor of the team.  Apparently it gained some steam as it reached her.  The day I had it I received a call from the school nurse saying Grace had it too.  I couldn’t walk to the kitchen without falling down in a pile of sweat.  So I phoned a friend who donned her hazmat suit and picked Grace up from school. 

This semester Carly doesn’t have classes on Monday.  The night before, as we watched the Payton less Colts flop on Sunday night football, she made the comment that it was too bad that she would be home alone on her day off.  Twelve hours later when Grace came home and hurled she took it all back.  She was in hell.  Halloween came flashing back…again and again every hour on the hour all day long.  Grace doesn’t just vom.  She goes at it with a decibel level that is slightly less than lightning strikes, airport noise, and indoor concerts.  Relatives in California hear the sound, recoil, and call to make sure she’s alright.  Combine that with the fact she never hits the target and you get the picture of what it’s like…all…day…long!  Carly weighed her options.  Her friends were all in classes.  She saw me in the fetal position in my room.  I could have emerged to lay sick on the couch instead, but she didn’t ask, so I didn’t offer.  She could have fled to Starbucks, but she didn’t.  She stayed, found her happy place above the gaging…serenity now…serenity now!!!…and helped her sister.  That evening after Keely came home from the ER to find her home had been turned into a vomitorium she and Carly laughed about the episode as they sanitized the house.  She’d taken a step.  It took 17 years and a hurling sister to begin to exercise the demons of that Halloween night when her dog had one too many at the Snicker Bar.

Where the Wild Things Are

September 27, 2011

One evening recently I was working on my computer when Grace shrieked and in a panicked voice called for me to quickly come over and kill a bug.  The Phelps women hate bugs in the house.  Especially anything that might be a spider…I say might because two of the three Phelps women wear glasses.  If they aren’t wearing them at the time…anything including the cat looks like a spider.  Grace doesn’t wear glasses.  So when I got there and saw what it was…the term, “overreact much?” came to mind.  I could understand it if she was calling me to get rid of some rain forest freak of nature or a killer mantis from a 1960’s horror movie.  However this wasn’t a mutant 350 pound cricket with the voice of Barry White.  It was your standard half inch cricket, not rabid, carnivorous, or venomous.  Thanks to one of our killer cats this little guy was missing both hind legs.  So he couldn’t even kick to defend himself.  He was an emasculated cricket who was reduced to crawling around with his stubby front legs like a beetle.  None of that seemed to matter to my five foot seven inch, sure footed, dancer.  She wanted me to send him to the white light post haste.  I didn’t kill him.  I like the way they sing at night.  I picked him up and tossed him out in the back yard to sing for his supper.  If he was a millipede, different story,  I’d have smashed him in a…Tell Tale Heart…beat.

My grandmother was the Anne Oakley of Greene County.  She bought fur from the trappers, butchered chickens, processed deer, and yet she was scared to death of snakes.  Her mother chewed tobacco, dried it on the window ledge, and smoked it in a pipe.  So she wasn’t raised by softies, but the sight of a snake, even one the size of an earth worm, made her scream like a high maintenance debutante.  They must have sensed her fear because every summer at least one would end up sneaking in into her house.  She found them in her bath tub, curled around her sewing machine, and curled in the branches of an indoor tree like a baby boa.  I think they were trying to say, “Embrace us.  We will eat your mice.”  She never got their message, but she gave them one at the top of her lungs.  I’m sure her scream could be heard all the way in Brown County.  After she recovered from the initial shock she would flip them out the door and show them the business end of a garden hoe.  “Take that you no good varmint”, she’d say.  Then she’d fling it out in the field.  There were so many snakes on her farm the dead snake probably landed on one of the live one’s who were lining up to take his place.  When I was little I remember thinking, “Never tell her I don’t like liver and onions.  I could end up like the snake.”

Several nights after our cricket episode the Phelps women were sewing while watching some show about murder.  My wife loves those shows, Unsolved Mystery, Criminal Minds, Forensic Files.   She’s a walking encyclopedia of ways to kill your spouse.  Paul Simon sings that song, Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.  Keely could kill me fifty different ways and have fifty more to use on the next husband.  Not only does she know ways to do me in, she can sew a tasteful burial cloak too.  It’s no wonder she got along so well with Grandma Mengele, the snake killer.  A stitch in time…kills nine.  So as they watched the latest episode of murder by numbers (while taking notes) they heard a high pitched whine.  It grew louder and louder until they saw one of our cats with a mouse in its mouth.  Keely opened the door to the screen porch.  The cat ran out and dropped the mouse.  Thinking the mouse was dead, she picked him up in a towel.  Carly looked at him, cried a little, and named it Mickey.  That mouse needs to thank they were wearing glasses that night.  Just then Mickey opened its eyes, leaped to the floor, and began scurrying around the porch.  Carly opened the door and it scampered off into the night only to trip over a legless cricket and break its neck…kidding…or am I? Mwa hahahah!

Spats, The Badminton of Arguments

September 22, 2011

My friend Mike had parents who were married for life.  I’m sure they loved each other, but sometimes they argued over silly little things that didn’t matter.  One minute you hear, “pass the pickles” the next thing you knew they would erupt into some disagreement.  Opinions would ricochet between the two like a tennis ball in the US Open.  They’d spin their position back and forth.  It wasn’t the kind of argument that wasn’t upsetting so we would watch like spectators and he would comment to me.   “My parents will go through life arguing about the same things,” he’d say while shaking his head. The topic was always something life changing, like wiping off the ketchup lid.  They would volley back and forth.   Neither would give any ground and nothing would be resolved.  The Ketchup bottle would be wiped off by the irritated party in an overly dramatic way.  Maybe a sarcastic comment would accompany it from the other side like, “I think we will all sleep better knowing the ketchup lid is clean.”   There would be silence for a minute or two.  Then his mom would look at Mike and say, “would your friend like more milk?”  Mike would say, “Mom you can ask him he’s sitting right next to me.”  I would say, “Yes thanks” and suddenly the Ketchup cloud had passed and the sun would shine again.  The condiment issue would be tabled for further discussion the next time they had hamburgers.

Now that my wife and I have been together for nearly a quarter of a century (I said it that way because it seems longer than if I’d said twenty-five years)I understand what Mike’s parents were doing…aside from entertaining us.  Keely and I are a couple, but we are also individuals.  We may both be working together for the common good.  We love each other, our family, and our goals.  We just have different ways of daily living.  We both take our pants off one leg at a time.  However it’s what we do with the pants that can become the irritant.  I’ll give you an example; one of us reads the mail, shreds the junk, and files the other stuff.  The other places their mail in random piles around the family room.  Those piles grow and spread out incorporating magazines, textbooks, school papers, and other collateral in much the same way a glacier moves and collects things in its path.  The next thing I know our family’s counter top space has been covered in sprawl.  I’ll make a couple of attempts to rein in the debris field, but it’s like trying to contain an avalanche with a privacy fence.  The conglomerate takes over and there is no stopping it.  Keely knows where everything is regardless of the visual created by the filing system.  If I try to undo her system and she needs to find something…we have a ketchup lid conflict.  The flip side, if her system encroaches on the last bastion of open space on the counter I force a ketchup lid incident.  The jagged vibes I feel when I look at piles are equal to the ones that fly from her shoulders once I’ve uncorked the situation.   I understand.  I go there too.   I have to say that once she’s fueled by irritation she moves to dismantle the offending areas with speed and precision that would make Martha Stewart’s head spin.  It’s impressive to watch.  She multitasks.  While her hands are, filing, shredding, moving, and wiping.  Her lips are uttering things about me being anal, and my life insurance policy needing to be increased, and yet there is love in her heart.  Of course I don’t feel that love initially. I stay out of her way.  I learned early on to resist the urge to make sarcastic remarks or offer advice on clutter prevention.  I just let the magic happen while hiding the knives.  After the dust has settled and the flowers and card are received there is a feeling of harmony both visually and emotionally. 

The next day the mail comes, we get a magazine from her PA organization, a sale flyer from Kohl’s, and a coupon from Jiffy Lube.  Suddenly, subtly, there is a little bit of gooey ketchup forming on the lid again.

 

 

 

Pets Part 1

February 25, 2010

Driving home from ballet yesterday Grace was talking about the cute little lap dogs she wants.  I would interject, “When you move out you mean?” with a smile.  She would ignore that comment and continue on about these little dog hybrids and how badly we need one.   I can see it now; she’ll be walking down the streets of Manhattan with a little dog in a big purse.  The dog will be wearing a hat, cape, and go go boots.  It will have one of those names like Mrs. D.  It will only eat a certain type of food from a can and only when Grace feeds it to her with a certain spoon.  It will develop skin allergies and lose all of its hair.  The vet bill to fix this with steroids and follicle implants will be more than she makes dancing for SAB, but that’s OK.  She takes a third job to pay that bill and together they live happily ever after.

Then the conversation shifted to accusations that I hate all animals because I won’t drive right then to buy her this little furry bundle of love.  I hate animals?  Why do we have two cats?  We’ve had dogs, other cats, snakes, hamsters, and fish.  I don’t hate animals.  I have a full schedule and it doesn’t include adding more responsibilities to the list.  I’m not a pet person right now.  I don’t want to have to let dogs in, out, clean up after them, and feed them.  “I will,” she said sincerely.  Yeah she will for a week or less and then it’s on me.  We’ve done this experiment time and time again and it always comes back to me so…when you live in New York and you are dancing for SAB you can have a Puggle, Wiggle, Fuggle,  Piggle or any of the list of little shark bait dogs and I will visit it.

As a kid we had four dogs.  The first, Coco, was a brown poodle who didn’t mind.  The only way we could get it to come in the house was for me to run around yelling “charge!”  It would eventually follow me and I’d run in the house.  Once when we were visiting my grandmother Coco ran next door, knocked down a little girl, and bit her arm.  It was nothing serious…just a nip.  After that he took a ride with my dad and never returned.  Then they bought a poodle who behaved.  We named her coco # 2…because the kids were in charge of naming her.  We had cats.  I saw kittens born.  We had a Samoyed.  Those are white sled dogs.  She was hit by a car in front of our house, in the winter, on a snowy day.  I witnessed it.  Then our house burned to the ground and Coco # 2 and all of the other pets perished. 

My kids have seen their share of heart ache when it comes to our pets.  Nick, our lab, died of a heart attack in front of them.  That was…a life lesson.  Our coolest cat Henry was killed by a hawk on Father’s day.  Our oldest pet Tater just went to the white light earlier this month.  He was 22.  Yep he lived a long, grumpy life.  The older he grew, the grumpier he became.  He was older than Grace and Carly.  He missed Henry.  After Henry was buried Tater began this annoying habit of howling.  Not a normal cat howl.  This was more like a dying wolf.  It started low and would build like a storm siren.  It jolted you out of bed at three AM like a storm siren too.  Some times he’d do it when I was on a business call.  The person on the other line would always say, “Do you need to evacuate?” or “What is that sound?  Is everything OK?”  I’d cover by saying, “They are testing the sprinkler system in our office building.”  Tater had a stroke.  I had to use an axe to cut through the frozen tundra and bury him in a short ceremony in the back yard.  We are left with two cats, Tina and Tyler.  We rescued them when they were two weeks old.  We bottle fed them along with their brother Tim.  Tim lives with my brother…Tom and his kids.  Don’t worry none of them have names that start with a “T”.  It’s a hassle to keep the girls on task with the litter box.  I’m over the pet experience.  I like fish.  They are like living art and when they die…you flush them end of story.

Winter Olympics

February 16, 2010

I find the Winter Olympics more inspiring than the Summer Games by a land slide.  The beauty of the mountains, the snow, the ice, childhood dreams fulfilled.  Many of the sports seem to be games that kids made up and played long ago in their spare time after school. Like the luge, it’s sledding on steroids.  I remember daydreaming about being in that competition as a kid.  Since I lived in Indiana the day dreams were short because the hills aren’t very tall. Blink your eye and the fantasy is over and it’s time to walk back to the top of the hill for another brief ride.  We had a neighbor that lived on the top edge of a valley.  He had a sledding trail cut through the trees down the side of the valley’s edge.  The drop was steep enough the trees never came into play except to give it a more of an alpine feel.   No bank turns, no ninety mile per hour runs, nothing an energy drink would want to sponsor, but it kept us engaged for hours. 

Look at snow boarding, speed skating, down hill skiing, ice hockey, ski jumping.  Those are all sports that have kid ingenuity and fun written all over them.  Since kids will be kids they became competitive.  One thing led to another, parents got a hold of the idea, organized it, found support from local businesses and a cottage sport was born.  Then ABC’s Wide World of Sports found it or more recently, MTV, and the rest is history.  I think the only winter sport that didn’t evolve that way was curling.  That must have been invented by some grumpy old men who could no longer play hockey.  They liked the ice, they were still competitive, and they had cabin fever.  They told their wives they were going out to sweep the snow off the front porch.  One of their friends was ice fishing in the neighborhood pond.  They gathered down there to see if he was having luck.  It was cold.  The fish were frozen.  One old man pushed the frozen fish to the other with the broom and a sport was born.  Using fish wasn’t practical.  One of the old men was a stone carver, because that’s what they did before Wii was invented.  The rest is history.

Decades later their great grandkids grew to be successful business people who retired, moved to Florida, and invented Shuffle Board.

We have two ponds near our home.  Every winter we look forward to the days that are cold enough to freeze the ice to a safe thickness.  I drill a hole to test the ice and we skate outside in the evening.  That is inspiring.  The air is crisp, the stars are out, and the girls are laughing and acting goofy.  There is a freedom that comes with skating outdoors under the big sky.  The girls choreograph little performance pieces or we play tag.  They pretend they are tracking some type of alpine animal as they skate around.  We don’t talk about any of the pressures of life.  We just laugh, dream, and play in the winter night.  Those times are better than any of my childhood dreams.  Those are a few hours of perfection in our busy time that I carry in my heart.  We relive them as we watch skating in the Olympics.  The hours of dedication it takes to nurture your passion.   The childhood dream realized and the tears shed on the podium during the medal presentation.  Pride, passion, dedication, we live it every day as the girls train for ballet.  It’s nice to see examples of how that hard work pays off.  Their tears are real and their emotion is pure, as pure as childhood fun that is found on a frozen pond at night or in the daydreams of a boy, in a sled, on a small hill in Indiana.

Sexting the Wrong Number and Other Goofs

February 14, 2010

When Carly’s boyfriend went to college she lobbied for me to get a web cam so they could Skype.  She missed him and felt that if she could see him when they spoke it would make the distance seem shorter.  I was a boy in college once too.  If I had this technology I know what I would do.  I would enjoy talking with and seeing my girlfriend on the computer for about a week.  I would spend the next week trying to talk her into taking off her shirt.

After weeks of hearing her beg, I agreed to split the cost of a web cam provided she only used it in the family room when I’m there.  Using it in the family room if I’m gone …doesn’t work.  I can hear the conversation.  Boyfriend, “Just show me real quick while your dad’s gone.  Come on just real quick.  No one’s here.  No one will know.  If you love me you’ll do it.  Please!”  I know the tricks.  I was eighteen. 

Skype is only one of the tools boys can use to see the goods.  Sexting is another.  As much as I try to educate my daughters on boys and the do’s and don’ts it only takes one bad decision to cause heartache or worse.  Just ask Greg Oden or a parade of other public figures that have had candid photos posted on the internet. 

My favorite digital gaffe came from my ex boss who sent an email to all of our customers and prospects as we headed into the New Year, 2002.  He told them, (I’m paraphrasing), “Thanks for all of your support.  We are going out of business in 2002.”  That comment came at the end of an inspirational email that he sent without proofing.  We started getting calls from shocked customers almost immediately.  He was on suicide watch for about a week after that.  I was one of two sales people fielding the calls.  We asked him if he had anyone proof the email before he sent it.  He picked his head up off his desk, shook his head no, and went back to sobbing.  That was just one of a million things he did wrong, but it was my favorite.

Just recently my wife did something similar.  She sent me a steamy thought provoking text, but it didn’t go to me.  It went to a dance mom whose name started with “G”.  Wow!  Could you also copy Grace’s teachers?  Maybe my mom would like to know what you want me to do!”  After she hit send and realized what she’d done she called to tell me what happened.  I burst out laughing.  You can’t get it back…it’s out there.  I’d rather it hadn’t happened.  Now the mom will look at me with a little more knowledge of my abilities.  The mom responded saying, “I’m not Greg.  Maybe if you texted the right person he will grant your wish…good luck with that!”  Rather than letting sleeping dogs lie Keely tried to text an apology.  The mom responded saying, “Don’t know you or Greg, but good luck.”  Keely’s schedule hasn’t been dance class friendly for a long time so most of the moms don’t know her.  This one had forgotten who she was.  Add the fact that it was so out of context.  One minute this mom is in domestic mode and the next minute she is receiving a Penthouse Forum request.  So Keely sent another text saying, “You know us.  It’s Greg and Keely with the daughter Grace.”  I was saying, “Leave it alone you freak!  Who cares if she knows us?”  She ended up texting Keely the next day saying, “Oh yeah Keely!  It’s good to see you and Greg are keeping it fresh after being married all these years.”  Super!  Now she can put a face with the request. 

So Keely will be away at grad school for another seventeen months.  I guess the next step is Skype.  I’ll be content seeing her on the computer for a week.  The she’ll hear, “Are your room mates gone?  Take off your shirt!  Come on…no one will find out!”

Speaking in Code

February 9, 2010

We have a sump pump in our basement.  It’s a round concrete hole that’s about two feet in diameter and two feet deep.  Foundation water drains into the pit and is pumped away from the house.  My friend had one when we were kids.  During sleepovers we would pee in it and then turn on the pump to pump that water out of the house.  That way we wouldn’t have to go upstairs to the bathroom which would tip his parents off to the fact that we were still awake at three AM.  We probably didn’t really have to go to the bathroom.  I’m sure it was the lure of peeing in a hole in the basement that drove the necessity…boys!

There is no good way to dress up the pit.  You can’t drain it, paint it, and add fish because they would get sucked out every time the pump kicks on.  It would be cool to have a tiny water garden, but that would clog the pump which would be very bad.  It’s just a round cement hole in the basement that catches foundation water.  Ours also catches discharge from the water softener.  In the winter that softener discharge is the only thing going on in the pit because any foundation water is frozen or non existent. 

Six years ago we did some renovation work to our home and our plumber, ARS, changed the flow of that discharge.  It used to go into our septic tank.  Now it runs through a pipe that drains into a storm sewer out at the street.  It enters storm drain underground because of winter freezing.  As we all know, freezing plus pipes equals headache. 

Recently I heard the pump kicked on and continue to run.  The water was filling the pit from the softener, but wasn’t discharging out of the pit.  It was just spinning like a little whirl pool as the water level continued to rise.  I realized the basement was going to flood if I didn’t start bailing.  Yipes!  So it was like the Disney cartoon where Mickey Mouse is in a mad dash to fill buckets and bail.  He creates an army of brooms to help, then loses control of the brooms and…you know the story…a story written on acid apparently.  I didn’t have an army of brooms or acid.  It was just me, adrenalin, and two buckets.  The discharge pipe just outside our home had frozen.  Apparently the pipe wasn’t buried below the frost line.  So I took a heating pad and a blanket out side and laid it where the pipe exits the house….after the mad bailing episode.  Several days later the pipe was thawed.  However the morning after the bailing exercise I called our builder and explained the dilemma to an answering machine.  The office manager called me back and was less than helpful.  I reminded her that we had recommended their work to others and I knew we had given them new business.  If she wanted to continue that good will she would help to resolve the issue.  She reluctantly agreed.  Then I call a commercial construction friend who told me that there is no building code that requires discharge water be piped away from the house below the frost line.  I said, “We don’t live in Florida, we live in Indiana.”  He agreed with my assessment and made a derogatory comment about the people in charge of building codes.

Two weeks later our builder showed up with an ARS customer service rep.  He used the building code as a shield.  I said, “There are two ways to do a job, just good enough to get by, and great.  I didn’t pay you to just get by.  He shrugged.  I looked at our builder’s rep.  She said to the ARS guy, “What would you do if this was your home?”  He shrugged and said, “I wouldn’t buy a home with a septic tank.”  He talked with an inflection that led be to believe he smoked way too much pot in high school.  She said, “Well they are on septic, so what would you do?”  He thought for a long time and said, “Probably drain it with a soft hose out into the yard.”  That was his solution!  Use a garden hose that we would run though the basement window!  I can’t believe it didn’t incorporate duct tape and bailing wire.  Is that code?…maybe in West Virginia.

It’s been two weeks.  The company’s line is, “We built this to code”.  My position, “This code represents poor workmanship” Their counter, “Our work is up to code” My response, “It may be code for the word sucks”.  Their motto should be, “ARS, when it comes to plumbing…we’ll drain you!”

The BMV and Me

February 6, 2010

It was a rainy, cold afternoon in mid November 2009.  I was driving north on I-65 headed back to the office after meeting with a few clients in downtown Indianapolis.  A gold Saturn zipped past me at about 70 miles per hour.  Not super sonic, but he caught my attention.  That part of the interstate makes a sweeping 90 degree bank as it changes direction from west to north heading away from downtown.  As Mr Saturn pulled three car lengths in front of me he made a spastic, hard left maneuver.  He over corrected that with a hard right, then hard left again,  causing him to lose control and smack the inside concrete retaining wall head on.  That totally caught my attention!  I don’t know if he was texting, or fighting with himself.  I am sure there wasn’t a bee in his car because it was winter, but it was that kind of evasive move inside the vehicle.  His car went air born then landed perpendicular to my line of travel like a bad NASCAR wreck causing me to take evasive action.  He continued his series of crazy corrections then slowly limped to the shoulder of the interstate and stopped.  Miraculously no one was collected in the accident.  The angels were looking over me.  However the collision caused his car to jettison parts which flew right into mine.  Hub caps, headlight assembly, fender parts, all hit my driver side as if I were a magnet.   I pulled to the side of the interstate and called 911, then ran back to see if he was OK.  He had no idea who I was, why I was there, or that the state police were on the way.  There were so many cars whizzing past.  I still couldn’t believe no one was hit.  Eventually we swapped insurance info, spoke with the state police, and witnessed another spinout caused by someone freaking out when they saw the cop.  He spun a 180 and nearly ran over, The Man, while coming to rest facing on coming traffic in the slow lane.  Miraculously, no one drilled him either.  Plenty of drivers quickly switched lanes to avoid tragedy.  At that point the cop adopted that cynical, “Idiots” look on his face.  I’m sure he would rather be hiding in the median, near a bridge, with a radar gun, collecting revenue.  Instead he had to deal with bad drivers while standing in the mist!  “Why did I bother to press my uniform today,” he thought to himself in a stern voice.  (They always talk in a stern voice…with cop hair!)

Two months later on January 5th I received this threatening letter from the Indiana BMV stating that I was in an accident (No kidding) and if I didn’t provide proof of insurance & financial responsibility my license would be suspended.  I scanned it in…

Ahhh our government at it’s finest!  Two months after the accident they jump into action. Wow, they’re on it!  I had to fax the form to my insurance company, they took the time to fill it out and fax it back.  Apparently the proof of insurance we provide when plating the vehicle each year isn’t good enough.  The fact that this case was closed and I wasn’t at fault wasn’t good enough.  The fact that I gave proof of insurance to the state policeman wasn’t good enough either.  As my granddad use to say with a southern accent, “Ain’t they some distrustful sons a bitches!”  Is this exercise designed to keep state employees busy?  My insurance company complied and I sent the completed paper work back to the BMV…because I had no choice.  This week I received another letter from them.  It had the same look as the previous official letter which made my butt pucker.  I thought, “Now what?”….  I love the title, Notice of Suspension Cancellation.   They were letting me know my license won’t be suspended for something I didn’t do.  How back handedly nice of them!  Well here’s my notice to you, Indiana BMV – Kiss my ass!