First of all, let’s just clear the air. Yes, it’s January 17th. Yes, I’m just taking down my Christmas tree today. The only thing I can say in my defense is that it was a week into February before I took my last Christmas tree down. Improvement!

As a child, I only remember my family putting up an artificial Christmas tree. I am not sure if we ever had a real tree. If so, it must have been before I had a working memory. The arrangement was simple: Dad pulled the tree out of the attic. Dad assembled it. Dad fluffed the fake limbs. Dad put the lights on the tree. Then Dad got a mug of eggnog and watched while Mom, Sis, and I put the decorations on. For a long time, we had a hodgepodge of ornaments (homemade, handed down, gifted, etc…) and garland. We each had our special ornaments we liked to put on the tree. As we got older and Mom’s (at best, just a hyperbole for the sake of my story and at worst, pretty mild) OCD kicked in, she switched it up on us and bought all new ornaments in white, gold, and silver. It would take a whole post to get into her request that we all now wrap our gifts in those same colors so they look pretty under the tree. That aside, we maintained the artificial Christmas tree tradition.

As an adult living in my own home, I’ve put up a Christmas tree exactly three times. Considering I’ve been out of my parents house for almost ten years, this is not a very impressive number. The first two times, I had real trees. They were lovely. The one I put up two years ago was crooked for the majority of the holidays, but that didn’t bother me. When I finally took it down (in February), it made a mess of dead needles, but I just hauled that sucker right out to the street and the garbage guys picked it up the next day. End of story.

This year, my parents donated their old artificial tree to me. I was so excited! And I do appreciate it. It’s a pretty tree and a breeze to put together. My Fella and I had it up and decorated in a matter of a couple of hours, and that’s with him skipping a few steps and moving straight on to the eggnog/watching part after the tree was standing.

Here’s the thing though, and one of the reasons it’s taken me so long to get it taken down this year. The floored storage area in my attic is about the size of an open pizza box, and it previously held my small collection of ornaments that, this morning, still hung in the tree. I do not have a home for this tree. I considered leaving it up year round and being one of those people who decorate a tree for every major holiday (and, now that I think about it, my Christmas ornaments lend themselves well to a Mardi Gras theme, I should have just left it up and saved myself some trouble…), but the idea of a Halloween tree made me feel like an old, lonely cat lady already. My other options included:

  • Forgetting it was artificial and leaving it on the street for the garbage guys/people who love to shop from the things I leave on the street — I’m not kidding…
  • Hiding the separate pieces of the tree in each of my closets…
  • Storing it in the trunk of my car…
  • Or finding a weather proof container to store it in my garage instead of the canvas bag it came to me in.

Luckily, I had an extremely large container that I figured would do the trick out in my garage already, so when I got all set to start the project at hand this afternoon, I went outside to gather it.

Side story: It is seriously VERY cold outside today. I think my reaction to the cold had something to do with the fact that it’s been 70 degrees out for weeks, winter be damned. But the weather shifted and darn if it wasn’t SNOWING when I went out to the garage in a tank top and flip flops. I retrieved the giant plastic tub, plus two slightly less giant tubs to store my ornaments in, thinking I might could use the attic space for something else if all the Christmas stuff made it to the garage. Only problem, they were disgusting. I mean, GROSS. Covered in dirt, spider webs, spider remains, spider EGG SACS (you know how I feel about spiders from the previous post), and other assorted bits of detritus. I hauled them over to my covered patio, praying that I would be able to both endure the cold and the threat of a spider attack. Those tubs were NOT going inside my home in that condition. So I went inside and dressed slightly more appropriately and set to work cleaning the darn things, basically out in the snow. It took awhile and my hands were numb for some time afterward, but with the three tubs clean and inside my house, I was ready to start work on the tree itself.

The next hour was a breeze. I packed up ornaments like a pro. I wound up lights. I smushed the branches and limbs into a more compact creature. The top piece is tiny, no problem. In the giant tub. The middle piece had me a little worried, it was rather massive, but I decided not to worry and instead plow forward. When I saw the length of the bottom piece, I knew my tub was not even CLOSE to being giant enough. FINE. Fine fine fine… I decided it would just have to go back in the canvas bag and into the attic, hanging over the edges as it might end up, and the ornaments could be out in the garage instead.

Only, these pieces are a little awkward to mess with, and shoving them inside a bag is not as easy as it may sound. I knew something was wrong after I put in the first piece. The zipper made a weird noise. But I ignored it. I got the whole tree inside that bag and went to zip it in and, as I’d feared, the zipper was entirely non-functional. Not stuck, but the bits of zipper both above and below the pull were wide the eff open. I know of no way to remedy this issue. And let me tell you, that bag is not going into my attic without being hermetically sealed or I’m not touching it next year.

So I sat down to ponder my options, and I’ll tell you, I was cussing. Not a happy LizHarrell. Here is what I came up with:

  • Give it back to my parents…
  • Put it on the street for some other lucky owner/garbage man…
  • Plant it in my yard and hope no one notices…
  • Toss it in the garage and let the spiders do as they please…
  • Write a blog post about it and wait for my Fella to come and fix it for me.

Best idea I’ve had all day.

Today is my day off and I have done quite a lot of little errands and chores. One of the more dreaded tasks for the day was mowing my grass. Yuck and awful and all that. But it had to be done, so I did it.

All was going really well until I finished up and had stored the mower and was walking back to my house. I was wearing ear buds attached to my phone that was in its normal storage place. Which may or may NOT be a pocket. Anyway, I looked down for some reason and I’m like 85% sure I saw a GIANT spider crawling up my chest. Well of course I flipped the eff out and brushed it away. But I was wearing a deep-ish cut shirt and I couldn’t tell for sure of I brushed it off of me or down my shirt. Which of course was an unpleasant feeling. In the process of brushing myself off in my gravel driveway, my phone fell out of my “pocket” and landed in the driveway, pulling out the ear buds. I tossed my sunglasses next to it, stepped out of my flip flops and started looking down my shirt.

Clearly I looked quite absurd dancing around my driveway fluffing my hair and staring down my shirt. So I ran over to my back patio and stripped down. Never did see another hint of the spider, but as I’d pulled my shirt over my head, I got worried it was in my hair, so I ran inside and immediately into a cold shower.

Needless to say, I never saw the spider again, except for that fleeting glimpse that sparked the whole mess. Once I was clothed again, I went to retrieve all the items I’d discarded outside. The one thing I was most concerned with finding was the key to the lawn mower. Everything else was big enough that I knew I’d track it down. The phone was undamaged and my sunglasses unscathed. But that key… it wasn’t anywhere. Not in my jeans pockets, not on the pile of clothes, not in any visible spot among the gravel where I’d dropped my shoes, glasses and phone. Damn.

I thought for a moment that I might have brought it inside after all, but I’ve looked in all the places I can think of in the house and no luck.

So… do I call John Deere or a locksmith? I imagine a replacement can be acquired, but at what cost and how long will I have to wait? I’ll be honest though, I’m looking forward to the short reprieve from lawn mowing. Can’t do much without a key!

As I went out to mow my grass today, I honestly thought lawn mowing issues were a best-forgotten part of my past. Perhaps that was my downfall. A disaster was looming.

This is an issue that’s been creeping up in little mini-disasters since my grass started growing again this year. The dreaded flat tire.

At first the disasters were ingorable. Sure, every row I mowed was cut higher on one side than the other. But it wasn’tbad, it was just a tiny little thing that no one but me would notice. Over time, that lopsided nature of the rows became less easily ignored, but still I mowed on, week after week. One afternoon while getting my mower out of (yet another) impossible position I’d managed to wedge it into, the Fella pointed to the back left tire. “That’s flat.”

And yes, it was. There was no denying it. I’d managed to convince myself that I was leaning to the left while riding along in the seat because my left side was significantly heavier than my right. Had nothing to do with my completely flat back left tire…. Nothing at all.

But once the Fella is on the case, he is quite persistent. He wouldn’t let me ignore the issue any more. He took my patched together cigarette-lighter charged air pump and checked to see if it was still functioning. It was not. An evening was spent re-patching, trying the cigarette lighters of both our cars, checking the fuse, and finally dumping the old piece of shit. A few days later, he bought me a new tire pump.

That was a little over two weeks ago.  The pump has been in its bag in my bedroom since. I had big plans for today (as I always do on my days off), and first on the list was eliminating the foot-tall yellow flowering weeds that had sprung up in my yard since last I operated my mower. I checked the gasoline, pulled the mower (with exceptional difficulty — flat tires make rolling heavy things difficult) out of the garage and up next to my car, where I’d assembled my tire pump. I was excited to get going on the thing until I took a closer look at the flat tire. Well F-ing A. It was the same tire Dad and I removed ages ago to such disastrous results. And when we’d put the hub cap back on (again, with exceptional difficulty — nothing about this machine is user-friendly) we’d neglected to note that the little air refill nubby thing was NOT poking through the designated hole. Essentially, this amounts to me having to REMOVE the hub cap in order to pump air into the tire.

I cried a little. Don’t think poorly of me, I know this is nothing, under normal circumstances. Removing a hub cap should be an easy business. BUT IT ISN’T. The ‘nut’ or ‘bolt’ or WHATEVER holding the hub cap on is entirely round and perfectly smooth. HOW DOES ONE REMOVE SUCH A THING? It’s about a quarter of an inch wide and butted right up against the cap, which is fairly indented at that point itself. I don’t know how else to describe this except that in the moment I saw this, I had flashes of a memory of Dad struggling to remove it before. It came off somehow after a fair amount of time on his part, but unfortunately, my flashes of memory (mostly blocked because of the misery of the experience) did not include a solution to my current predicament. Sigh.

Fortunately I have my Fella, who said he’d look at it later. Unfortunately, I’m afraid by the next opportunity I have to mow the grass, my weeds will have developed consciousness and started fighting back.

And to top it all off, I just drank a swig of a diet coke that’s been sitting on my bedside table for three days. Blurgh. But it’s been awhile since I’ve had any frustrations to vent in this forum, so cheers to that!

PS, Happy Birthday Mom!! I love you!

I’m completely used to retail now, it’s been so long, but I can still remember what it was like to work a desk job. God, I loved weekends. They were magical beacons of hope, a time for rejuvenation, something to look forward to during a stressful week.

Weekends

  • Pro: Fridays are awesome.  Con: Mondays suck.
  • Pro: You’ve worked too hard all week to clean.  Con: Your house is dirty and getting dirtier.
  • Pro: Your friends are off work too.  Con: You can’t invite them into your dirty house.
  • Pro: You only have to work five days in a row.  Con: You have to work five days in a row.
  • Pro: You have time to cook a delicious meal.  Con: Who wants to grocery shop with half the city at the store at the same time?
  • Pro: You have no choice but to relax, no one else is doing business.  Con: You can’t get any business done on the weekend if you need to.

But I’ve grown fond of the retail system over the past year and a half. Taking days off in the middle of the week can be pretty satisfying too.

Days Off

  • Pro: You can get things done while other people are doing the jobs you need them to do. Con: You have no excuse to not get things done.
  • Pro: You get to rest as much as if you had a weekend off.  Con: Weekends in retail are god-awful.
  • Pro: Dreading Monday is a thing of the past.  Con: Two days off in a row is a rarity.
  • Pro: You sometimes only work two days in a row before you get another day off.  Con: You sometimes have to work six days in a row before you get another day off.
  • Pro: Your friends that work normal jobs can hang out with you at night.  Con: Your options for social engagements are limited to what can be accomplished on a week night.
  • Pro: Your house is typically cleaner.  Con: You are probably doing the cleaning on your days off.
  • Pro: You value time with your significant other more when your days off don’t overlap.  Con: Your days off with your significant other don’t frequently overlap.

All in all, I’d say the two are pretty equally matched. I guess that’s why I’m fortunate I get a weekend off every month. If it weren’t for my fella working a ‘normal’ job with regular weekends off, I wouldn’t change a thing. Except vacation time. I’d get much, much more of that. 🙂

And if God is laughing, I might as well laugh too. And for bonus points, I’ll share the laughter with you all!

Last time I tried to mow my grass, I would say the venture was half successful. I declined to share the story here because it seemed a bit like complaining, but it adds a little flavor to my woes of today, so I’ll throw it in for good measure.

I mowed the front yard without incident. I thought “Hey! This is actually gonna be easy! For once!”

Then I hopped off to open the fence to the back yard and the whole endeavor fell apart. I attempted to restart the mower to no avail. I pushed pins, lifted levers, turned knobs, clutched cranked and eventually, almost cried. The darn thing wasn’t even trying to turn over. Nothing I did worked. Nothing was happening. Gah.

Even worse, my eight hundred pound lawn mower was stranded quite some way away from my storage shed. Though I am not a frail little lady or particularly unwilling to get my hands dirty and sweat a little, there was no way I was going to be able to push that mower to the shed in less than an hour’s time. Ridiculous.

Fortunately, I know some clever people and only a couple of days later, it was determined that my battery was not well connected. Or whatever. Anyway, that was remedied and I was able to DRIVE that monstrosity back to the shed.

And today  I was bound and determined to mow both front and back yards again. The front yard was already beginning to look bad again and the back? Oh my, it was atrocious.

So this morning I got started early. I threw open the shed door with enthusiasm for the task at hand. I pulled (with all my might, may I add) the darned thing out into the driveway and started it up. With ease! Oh, finally, this time was going to be easy. Surely I had dealt with all of my mower issues and all would be well.

Once I’d driven into the grass, I engaged the mower blade. No, I take that back. I turned the lever to engage the blade, but nothing happened. Sigh. Of course nothing happened. Why would I ever think mowing my grass would be EASY?

My wonderful Dad suggested the owner’s manual for trouble shooting. Amazingly, MY MOWER BLADE WON’T ENGAGE is not among the trouble shooting topics. Really?

But I began to notice a pattern among the other mower deck/blade questions – the belt. So the belt was a potential problem. Ok, so back out in the front yard, on hands and knees, butt sticking up in the air checking the belt. Voila! The belt was unlooped from the little pulley things. And that’s as technical as I can get 🙂

For real though, for it being as easy as it obviously was for the belt to come unlooped, it was ridiculously difficult to re-loop it. There’s this bar sticking up that’s supposed to prevent the belt from slipping out (obviously a failure) that made it nearly impossible to get it back in place. I ended up using a pair of pliers (ummm… or a wrench? I’m not really sure which is which) to pry the bar away from the pulley so I could re-loop the stupid belt. All the time, butt sticking up in the air in my front yard. So attractive.

BUT I DID IT! I felt absolutely unstoppable after solving this dilemma. I plowed through both the front and back yards,  beautifying my property with ease.

Then I got a little cocky with it. I started taking corners at excessive speed.  I finished the yards proper and there’s this tiny little bit of grass near my shed  that is awfully difficult to mow with my gigantic riding lawn mower, as I have a gravel driveway and the mower blades don’t like the gravel driveway. But I can do anything and so I tried it out. It went smoothly for 0.267 seconds. I made a sharp turn and ran half the mower into a flower bed up against the fence. If you’re having a hard time visualizing this scenario:

Lawn Mower Situation

So don’t worry too much about scaling… obviously the mower in the upper left hand corner is far too large to ever to have found itself in that position, but let’s just assume it did.

 
The barrier into the flower bed (which, let’s be honest, is hosting honey suckles and weeds at the moment, and maybe a few chipmunks) is an old telephone pole laying on its side. It protrudes quite a lot from the ground. I drove over it too fast. I could not build enough reverse speed to undo my damage. Nor could I pull it out from behind. Nor could I push it from the front. That particular attempt resulted in a LARGE bruise on my thigh and quite a few scratches up my leg as I slid rather forcefully to the ground.
 
Fantastic.
 
It was at this point that I started laughing hysterically. Honestly, who else could get themselves into this much trouble JUST trying to mow the grass? I’m pretty sure God is trying to tell me that I just need to let the weeds be. To hell with being a good homeowner.
 
However, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that I am just trying to excuse myself from further attempts to dominate this machine that clearly is intent upon dominating me. Time after time. Not next time! I will prevail!
 
Only… can someone come help me un-stick it first?
 
 

I had four cavities. FOUR. Now I just have four more fillings in my mouth. And a numb face.

Here’s the worst thing about this morning, and perhaps the worst thing one can ever hear while enjoying a visit to the dentist: “Oh, you aren’t supposed to be able to feel that.”

Fantastic. Apparently my mouth requires about eight shots of Novocaine as compared to the original three he figured would do the trick. I have to be honest though. What exactly is accomplished by having nerve endings in one’s teeth? Teeth don’t obey my commands, they can’t wiggle about in my mouth if I so desire. Just don’t get it. The only thing accomplished by the presence of nerves in my teeth today was that I now understand why people are afraid of the dentist and that awful drilling noise.

I’m sure most of my readers take much better care of their teeth than I do so you’ve probably never found yourself laying in the chair in the dentist’s office, face numb, four different apparatuses sticking out of your mouth, wishing your dentist would realize that though one side of your mouth is numb that doesn’t mean the other half is and his hand resting on your lip which is poking into your canine doesn’t feel great, and wondering, ‘What the hell is happening in my mouth right now,’ but that’s where I was this morning. And it is impossible to ask any questions during this process, though it sounds like the dentist and hygienist have no relationship and a forced conversation about Survivor is taking place over your head when the nice thing would be for them to explain what they’re doing as they do it.

But since that is apparently unnecessary, the only knowledge I gleaned from my appointment is that Boston Rob is apparently just as devious as ever and it’s shocking the producers of the show are allowing him to do whatever scandalous thing he’s doing this season. And of course now I’m on CBS.com watching episode one of this season. I think perhaps my dentist is being paid to sponsor Survivor.

Since I had a few questions (ie, Why must they DRILL into my teeth when they are trying to patch a hole? and WTF is that blue light thingy?), I’ve done some research while my face regains some feeling. For those that are curious, they drill to remove the ‘brown’ part of the filling (this is disgusting…and also highly questionable as I found this information on YAHOO Answers) and then to rough up the tooth so the filling will stick. And the blue light just sets the filling and dries it quickly. And now that I’ve read this, I remember that my sweet dentist I had most of my life back home actually DID explain the process and I knew all this already. Apparently, old age is setting in.

As a bonus, I will quickly relate the fun doings from my birthday gathering last night. I think the whole thing can be summed up by saying that the advent of camera phones makes letting loose around friends and coworkers a risky undertaking. They look like they are texting! But they are actually taking a photo of you stuffing your face!

Also, I must thank a few people for making the time to hang out with me last night. I have yet to create nicknames for any of my coworkers at this job (crazy! I’ve worked here for over six months!), so I suppose it’s high time I rectify this situation. The Café Queen gets a special shout out for spearheading the whole event. My Rock-Star-in-Businiess-Casual friend, I think (I was still feeling the effects of my margarita at the time), apprehended my bill and paid it, which was incredibly generous and I thank her whole heartedly. Off-the-Grid Friend made a late appearance and I hope I didn’t embarrass myself too thoroughly. Apologies, if so. Not that he’ll read this… And Sweet-but-Naïve friend rounded out the gathering. All in all, a good time was had. By me. I can’t speak for them 🙂

In closing, I would like to say that I’m quite pleased that my face is numb because I went to the dentist, not because I am still drunk from last evening. A win for my ever-tested self-control!

Sometimes I take a step back from my life and I think to myself, “Thank God I have the blog, otherwise there is nothing redeeming in this situation at all.”

Today was one of those days.

I won’t bore with the details of my atypically awful day at work – aside from saying that our network was down and we couldn’t process credit card purchases for an entire hour and a half, which lead to the extreme displeasure of a great many dissatisfied customers and culminated in a heinous bitch yelling at me at the highest volume imaginable in front of a line of customers and demanding that I give her her wasted hour of shopping back. I am told I should have suggested she do the hour’s activities in reverse and see what happened. However, I simply told her that there was really nothing I could do to help her with that and offered a free drink from our cafe. She declined in typical heinous bitch fashion and stormed out, still yelling.

But the day had hope! I needed but a bit of a pick me up in the form of a shower, but I had big plans for my evening. I was going to make the two-hour trek up to Birmingham to attend a wedding shower for my delightful cousin and his charming fiance being hosted by my parents (among others) at their home. No matter that I have to make the two-hour trek home again tomorrow around lunch time in order to work another nine hours and then fall without thinking into a blissful sleep for the next seven hours before I have to get up and go BACK on Sunday… yeah I’m off the subject again. The point is, I was  hopeful despite the promise of a busy weekend to follow.

Almost immediately upon pulling out of my driveway, it began to sprinkle. I don’t mind driving in the rain, except:

MY CAR SUCKS.

The back windows fall down with alarming frequency. One side is being held up with a broken paint stirrer. The other by an ink pen. Neither solution is ideal or completely functional, though the paint stirrer seems to be the more useful of the two. Anyway, this works out just fine in the summer months because my air conditioner doesn’t work either, and if the windows fall down, all the better.

EXCEPT: When it is raining.

But it’s fine! The pen is wedged in pretty tight and I have to stop and get gas anyway so I can fix things then if (rather, when, if we’re being completely honest) the window falls en route. My plan is clearly foolproof.

PLOT TWIST! The plan sucks. The window fell almost immediately and I was wet and freezing. And I was half-way to Birmingham when my car reminded me that I did indeed need to get gas, so I pulled over in a lull in the storm and started the process of locating my debit card. Which was not in my wallet. Or my purse. Or my pockets. Well. F.

Ok, cash! I had cash in my pocket. $4.30 of it. And gas is… oh. $3.69  a gallon. I was out of gas and had another hour of driving ahead of me. Fantastic.

I went into the gas station and gave the lady the $4.30 and she told me that it was not embarrassing  that I only had that much money, that she’d seen people pay $1 sometimes. Well, I wasn’t going to make it to Birmingham with only one more gallon of gas, but I could get closer, at least.

I’ll be honest, though. There was a young-ish guy sitting there eating something and I tried to engage him in the conversation about my silly mistake of  (apparently) leaving my debit card at home. Yeah. I smiled at him. I made eye contact. I was sort of hoping he would pony up a few bucks to get me to Birmingham. He did not.

By the time I left the building, dejected and rather unsure if I was soon to become homeless and stranded in Sylacauga, it was pouring again. I pumped my 1.23 gallons of gas, getting soaked the whole time. But apparently that woke up my brain, as it was then that I remembered I still had my check book in my purse! Perhaps this amazing establishment would take checks! I would be saved!

And I was. 

I got myself a half a tank of gas and carried on. Soaking wet and being blown about by the open back window, but successfully transported all the same.

Folks, the moral of this story is, before you get in the car to drive more than ten miles, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A WAY TO PURCHASE GASOLINE. Otherwise, you will have to call someone to rescue you. And no one wants to do that. They will not be getting that hour back, they can yell all they want 😉