Friday, May 30, 2008

Disaster Recovery, Part III

I'm disconcerted by the hole in my dining room ceiling. It is a very neat hole, a deliberately cut hole, but a hole nonetheless. It measures about 18" by 18", and through it I have a lovely view of my home's entrails. PVC abounds, folks. And one of those pipes has loosened it's grip enough that a rivulet coasted along the seams of all of the drywall forming my ceiling. This has turned the perimeter of the drywall into drywall mush. While I'm thrilled that we will only need to repair/replace one measly pipe, it is clear that we will need to replace all of the drywall of which my ceiling is composed.

As confident as I am in my skillz, this is not a do-it-yourself for someone who finds herself sans nail gun, ladder, burly assistant, or height. So, we will be hiring a contractor. Luckily, my next-door-neighbor is a contractor who's lived in our townhouse community for 30 years and has done loads of work on most of the homes on our block. Huzzah for not having to suss out a competent, honest contractor!

More about this hole, though. As I encounter the gaping maw above my head at mealtime, I can't help but imagine gremlins or elves or a murder of crows emerging from it. If you want to know what I'm talking about, go ahead and sledgehammer an opening in your wall, and tell me if you're imagination doesn't do a little overtime.

One thing is resolved, though: during the repairs, Super Ninja and I will sneak something creepy la The Changeling) somewhere betwixt the beams.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Have I told you about "yestermorn"? It is the Boy's way of indicating that something happened in the past. The nap that he took earlier in the day? That happened "yestermorn." That time he got car sick on the way home from Gram & Fa's? "Yestermorn." Oh, and the pizza that he had for dinner yesterday? He ate it "yestermorn."

I share this because it is not only adorable, it is a sure sign of genius since Samuel Taylor Coleridge is credited with coining the term in the poem, "Christabel."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dear Holiday Inn Hotels & Suites,

Putting a teeny fridge and microwave in a hotel room does not render it a "suite." It's a dorm room.

Monday, May 19, 2008

I Think My In-Laws Are Plotting Something Against Super Ninja

We all have a stack of books we haven't read but fully intend to read, right? At least I hope we do. My self-esteem will take a knock if I find out I'm the only one...

Anyway, my in-laws have given me some fabulous books over the past couple of years. Problem is, since about July 2004 (i.e., the Coming of Child the First, a.k.a. the Boy), I haven't had much time to hunker down over anything more substantial than a petit four. Don't get me wrong -- I haven't fallen out of love with the written word. But I feel like I've gotta give fine works of literature the time they deserve. So, while I've read loads of magazines and short stories and books with pink covers, I haven't read any critical darlings.

That is, I haven't read any 'til now. It's training season at my office, which means that I'm travelling a little. By myself. Cue substantial reading.

So, what have I tackled? The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (thanks, Playwright!) and The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion (thanks, parents-in-law!). Holy moly, these books stick with you like spackle long after you've read the final words. That's a good thing. I won't spill the beans on the The Time Traveler's Wife, but the title conjures a woman left behind, eh? And The Year of Magical Thinking...well, since the second paragraph of the flap copy reveals that the author's husband suffered a major and fata coronary, you can't accuse me of being a spoiler.

Things don't go well for the husbands in these books. Consequently, life is tough for the wife. The fact that my parents-in-law gave me a book about a widow's grief in the year following her husband's death....well, that's a little odd, don't you think?

Anyway, I'm feeling like I'm plugged back into the world of words. Okay, fine, I'm feeling plugged into the 2004/2005 world of words. If these trends continue...hey, I could be reading a book published this year!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Disaster Recovery, Part II

Yeah, so it's never a good sign when there's a small pool of water on your dining room floor. After squishing through an unexpected puddle, the homeowner (yours truly), engages in a frantic game of Find the Source.

I quickly ran through the easy-to-resolve theories -- maybe an ice cube melted on the floor? Maybe one of the kids left a juice cup under the table that we didn't see? And I looked up. And I saw the spot on the ceiling.


A few months ago I noticed some spotting on another part of the ceiling. But since it was the first time I noticed it, I figured it could have been there for ages and I just didn't see it. I'd just keep an eye on it, right?

I really, really need to learn to trust that I have keen observational skills, and that if I notice spots on the ceiling, they probably weren't there before.

There's no denying this, though. These spots and bubbles weren't there before. We have a Leak, a professional, hulking leak that is turning the ceiling into mush. And for what it's worth, it's not from the recent monsoon-ish rainfall. Oh no. This is an interior leak, baby. The best kind. The excavate-the-ceiling kind.

Time to research the merits of home equity loans vs. refinancing the whole house. JUST how I wanted to spend my day.

Disaster Recovery

A few days ago, a couple of people in my company (myself included) met to discuss what systems we need, and when, should we experience an emergency. The person who lead the meeting made a critical mistake: he thought the conversation would follow a logical tack.

There's a Dwight Schrutish guy who was included in the meeting, and he kind of took us off course. The Leader* asked us what systems we would need, figuring that we would discuss when we'd need them as we outlined what constituted an emergency. So, he posed the "What do your departments need" question, Dwigh spoke up.

"Well," he said, "first I think we need to assume that if there's a nuclear attack in Washington, then no one's coming here. We'll probably need a site that's geographically far away."

I kid you not. He casually mentioned the possibility of nuclear holocaust. Me? I was thinking about a multi-day power outage a la 2003. Not World War III. I can promise you, emphatically promise you, that if a nuclear bomb is dropped on the nation's capital, I'm not going into work, and I'm really, really not caring about how long it takes us to get our systems back on line.

Moments later, Dwight took it down a notch. He moved on from the Baltimore/Washington Metro Area suffering from nuclear fallout to our building crumbling down around us.

"I think it's naive of us," he said, "to assume that, if this building collapses, it'll be while none of us is here. I think we should realize that everyone on the 5th floor is just gone, and we're probably gone too."

We were all slightly horrified. We were talking about the disaster recovery of systems. It should be a cut-and-dried, mechanical kind of thing. Not a grisly decision tree. "If X and Y die in a car accident together, what do we need to do to keep the business running?"

Yeah, so, if my part of the country is wiped off the map, never fear, customers o'mine! We've got it covered.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Two Great Tastes

Yesterday was a loooooong day. I was up at 4:30 a.m. and out of the door a half an hour later so that I could catch my train to New York City. (The Pace Picante commercial of yore renders me incapable of saying "New York City" without adding a yokelish twang.) I'll pretty much jump on any opportunity to go to Manhattan. I've been there enough that I feel comfortable navigating the subway, but not so many times that I don't get caught gaping at buildings like I'm some kind of half-human, half-goldfish tourist.

I stepped off the train just after eight, hoofed it to the subway, and clickety-clacked my way to Harlem. The training went fine, and we broke for lunch. I hounded one of the locals for lunch options, and she started naming chain restaurant -- KFC, Wendy's, etc. I furrowed my brow. WHY would you go to a franchise when you could sample some local fare? Intuitive as my teacher compadre was, she came up with another option: Amy Ruth's. And that, Dear Reader, is how I found myself sampling chicken & waffles for the first time (and, by the way, how I came to weigh like seventy-four pounds more than when I climbed aboard Amtrak's Regional Service train that day).

Good Lord, chicken & waffles are delicious. Not the wisest choice when you need to maintain on-pointedness for the afternoon training session, but definitely a wise choice when you are looking for a tasty lunch.

By the time the training broke up, I didn't really have time to gallivant around the city like I would've preferred. I felt kinda guilty about leaving Super Ninja to tend the Boy and the Girl all day -- getting them up, dressed, brushed, out the door, picking them up, going to gymnastics class, then to Chick-fil-A. When he goes to New York, there are three things he likes to do:

1) Visit friends/family;
2) See a show;
3) Eat an authentic New York slice.

Well, there wasn't much I could do about #1 and #2, but I could definitely bring home some pizza. When I sauntered through our front door, you would think that I was carrying the Chachapoyan fertility idol or something. Since it was right around the kiddies' bedtime, Super Ninja hustled them off to dreamland so that he could tear into the slices without sharing with our little mooches.

There's no real point to this post, except to point out that I love living on the East Coast, because it affords me the opportunity to go to New York for a Day and pick up pizza for my husband. How cool is that?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

We Need to Retire this Whole "Jealousy" Theory

Among afterschool programs, very special episodes of sitcoms, and the comments sections of popular mommy blogs, a theory is advanced that makes me wince so hard my husband thinks that I'm having a labor flashback:

"They are just being mean to you because they are jealous."

NO. No. Many times no. People can just be mean, plain and simple. I know you don't need evidence, but here's a little slice of my adolescence...

There was this kid, Joey, on my bus in middle school and high school. He was mentally challenged, and he didn't take any crap from anyone. So he'd volley insults with the kids that sat at the back of the bus. This would stoke their desire to pick on him even more, and it would continue until the bus driver or one of us intervened on his behalf. Those kids weren't picking on him because they were jealous of him. They were picking on him because they were bullies.

Here's the real deal: it is human nature to want to be valued. In the absence of feeling valued, people will substitute feeling better than someone else. And some jerks decide that by highlighting someone else's flaws, it will be clear to their audience that they are better than their victims. See? Jerks.

Also? Sometimes people don't agree with your beliefs, your humor, the way you conduct yourself, the way you raise your child. And they are uncouth enough to voice it, or type it, sometimes with swearing. That's the unfortunate side of living in a society instead of going all Howard Hughes and spinning a cocoon around ourseles. The thing is, people are allowed to have differences of opinion, and while it would be nice if they expressed their exuberant disagreement in nicer ways, well, sometimes that doesn't happen.

Maybe knowing the motivations of someone else's ire is the spoonful of sugar that makes the insults, the negative opinions, easier to swallow. But calling it jealousy does us all a disservice, don't you think? Because when we do that, we (a) weave this fantasy that everyone would be nice if they didn't have unfulfilled desires, and (b) imply that bullying is not a result of another person's flawed personality so much as it is the fringe benefit of our own qualities. In other words, we must be better than them for them to pick on us out of jealousy.

So, yeah, anyway, before you get the wrong idea: I haven't been the target hateful comments or anything like that. I've just seen this "they're jealous of you" rationale popping up in loads of places, like Wack-a-Mole. And since I have a kid that will be joining the Pre-K fray, I know that we are teetering on the brink of bullies and nastiness. I'm just trying to get my philosophy in order before it creeps up on us. Expect the best, plan for the worst, right?

But, if you hear me telling the Boy that other kids are picking on him because they are jealous of him, you have my full permission to give me a swirly.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Boy's Education Is Shaping Up Nicely

A recent conversation with the Boy:

Me: Who's your favorite superhero, Boy?

The Boy: Batman!

Me: And who is Batman's best friend?

The Boy: Robin.

Me: And who is Batman's archenemy? Who's the villain?

The Boy: [quizzical expression]

Me: Do you know what a villain is? [I expect him to say, "a bad guy," if anything.]

The Boy: The villain is a goon, and his name is [dramatic pause] the Joker!

Super Ninja melted into a puddle of giggles. The pride that he has in his son's proper use of the word "goon" cannot be overstated.