Tag Archives: humor

April column for Michiana House & Home Magazine: Monitoring the leaks

      One of these days, I will learn. Nine years ago, we moved into our new home and upon settling in, our washing machine began to leak water onto the laminate flooring. As President of this operation, I pointed the problem out to the Secretary of Home Improvement and he acknowledged that Houston, we indeed had a problem.

He proceeded to monitor the situation for the next decade.

Now, I don’t like to nag, but I am the kind of person who was born with a lot of get up and go whereas my counterpart…was not. In fact, he is a big proponent of the wait-and see-method of dealing with problems. Perhaps if we pretended not to notice the washing machine leaking, maybe it would stop doing it.

“It’s not a naughty child making a play for attention, you know,” I commented wryly.

When it became a more pressing concern a few weeks ago, he agreed it wasn’t faking and decided to take a look at it. That’s when he decided I must be overfilling it with clothes.

“You’re kidding, right?” I responded. “That washer can hold up to 12 pairs of jeans in its largest setting. It should be able handle a baseball jersey and a pair of sweatpants without its water breaking!”

“Well it only does it when it has a full load,” he offered.

I asked him if his honest solution to this problem was to divide the clothes in half and do double the laundry. Admittedly, it was a solution, but not a very practical one and considering the washing machine was a high efficiency model, it seemed like a bit of a cop out. In the end we decided to purchase a new unit.

Before it arrived though, I insisted he replace the floorboards I knew to be warped underneath the old machine. We had some extra ones that were included when the house was built. I showed him how they fit together and felt relatively confident that he could handle the repair.

I really have too much faith in that man. My floor is now a unique jigsaw puzzle of mismatched boards with wood putty filling in where there were gaps. Take my advice, if someone tells you they only had two boards, even though they needed four and “made do” by using wood putty, check their work, I beg of you. Don’t try to make sense of it, just check the work.

The other solution of course is to order additional flooring, have it installed or address the original leak before it becomes a bigger concern. Of course you might want to reconsider your relationship choices before they become a permanent part of the household “cabinet!”

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January 2017 column Michiana House & Home Magazine: The Dixie Cup Debacle

dixie-cup     When my mother and father were married in the early ‘70s, they moved into an apartment a few blocks away from the neighborhood where they would eventually buy a home. It was a tiny cracker box of a place with scant furnishings and few accouterments however it did have something that was a bit of a luxury at the time and the envy of every kid who came to visit: A Dixie cup dispenser in the bathroom.

Now, my folks did not entertain much, but their frequent guests included my male cousin who happened upon the cup dispenser, mastered its features and decided to share the discovery with his three sisters.

“Psst, guys…come here, you have to see this…it’s amazing,” he hissed while gesturing wildly. The trio scampered into the bathroom, gathered around the innovation and marveled at it as though it were the Eighth Wonder of the Modern World.

“What is it?” One of the girls asked.

“Then you take a cup from it, a new one appears in its place every time. It’s like magic!” the boy declared. He yanked a cup from the dispenser, got an ounce of water from the tap and gulped it like a shot before throwing it into the pastic trash bin with a flourish. His dramatic demonstration was rewarded with a round of enthusiastic applause.

“Ooh, I want to try it!” His oldest sister said.

“Me too!” Another replied.

“No, me next.”

One by one they all took a cup, got a drink and threw their waste away going around in turn until their were no cups left. The adults in the living room continued their conversation oblivious to the fact that my cousins were holed up in the bathroom hosting happy hour. It wasn’t until everyone went home that my mother found a trash can full of Dixie cups and an empty dispenser on the wall.

“I’m going to kill those kids,” she vowed as my father tried to stifle a laugh.

She didn’t of course, but she did remove the Dixie cup dispenser from the bathroom the next time they stopped by and kept close tabs on their whereabouts whenever they were on the premises. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust them, but she wasn’t about to deal with the aftermath should they find her pop up box of tissues, discover dad’s electric tooth brush or try to get a piece of candy out of my brother’s Mickey Mouse gumball machine without putting a penny in it first.

After all, they may have been curious, but my mother wasn’t crazy.

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May Column for Michiana House & Home Magazine: A Space Jam

Mars

Mars

Recently, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when a sponsored Groupon advertisement caught my eye. Evidently, for the low, low price of $15, I can buy an acre of land on Mars. Now, I do not pretend to be an expert on interplanetary Real Estate deals, but I have a few questions about this.

For starters, who exactly owns Mars? It’s not that I don’t trust the oh-so-official-sounding Lunar Embassy, which is located in Nevada of all places, but how did they get to be the official Realtor of the Red Planet? Did the little guy from the Looney Tunes shorts hand over the deed to Mars in order to lay claim to Bugs Bunny’s hole? Was it some kind of a trade deal like that whole Michael Jordan thing in Space Jam? Why is he so keen to get rid of Mars in the first place? What does he know about it that we don’t?

Secondly, how did the head honcho of this Galactic Realty firm decide $15 was a fair price for Martian soil? According to the advertisement, this price represents a 57 percent discount off of the suggested retail price, which by anyone’s definition is an incredible deal, but I remain skeptical. For example, how do we know that an acre of land is the same thing on Mars as it is here? What if it is a different unit of measurement entirely? Has anyone actually seen the comps from other neighboring planets to tell us whether or not Mars actually appraised for this price and has it passed its inspection?
Exactly where are these available acres? Is the entire planet up for grabs or only a specific neighborhood? Will we be given the XY coordinates to our little corner of the universe or is Google Mars already up there taking a more modern image for us to see? I may not be a genius, but I do know location is a key factor when buying a piece of property. Does $15 get me an enviable spot in downtown metropolitan Mars, a sweet spot in suburban Mars or a remote, pre-war, pre-fab, previously uninhabited plot of Outer Mongolia Mars? I think we have a right to know. I also think we should be told what our taxes might be, what kinds of schools we can expect for that money as well as the government’s plan for a steady water supply, but hey, not everyone is as picky as I am.

I know I am probably going to kick myself for not jumping on this ground floor opportunity, but there are just too many unknowns for me to plunk down some cash on my Martian estate just yet. Although my friends tell me to stop analyzing the logistics just do it, I’m content to let other folks cough up their closing costs, invent a way to get there, fight off whatever they find and pave the way for the rest of us.

In the meantime, I am going to do something safe and have a star named after me.

 

 

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March Column Michiana House & Home: Who ya gonna call?

phone           As a general rule, good things do not happen at 2:30 in the morning.

No one tends leaves the house that early unless they work the graveyard shift, have a family member in the hospital, or need to respond to another emergency. And if the phone rings at that ungodly hour, it’s a pretty safe bet it’s not the call telling you that you’ve won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.

So, the other night when I was jolted awake by the phone, I knew it wasn’t good news. I fumbled for the handset in the dark, pushed the talk button and croaked out a greeting. It was a dispatcher from my alarm company who wanted to let me know that my phone was out of order.

“Let me get this straight,” I replied, dropping my head back to my pillow. “You called to tell me that my phone isn’t working?”

The woman sounded perplexed by my response. “Yes, ma’am. You see, we received a code that the phone line was down and we wanted to call and tell you about the problem.”

Had it been any other time of the day, I would’ve laughed, but nothing is funny at 2:30 a.m. I told her I appreciated her concern, assured her I was in no immediate danger and politely explained that since we were talking from the phone line in question, she could feel free to disregard the code.

“I hadn’t thought about that,” she said. “That’s a good point. I am so sorry for bothering you.”

“Not a problem,” I told her, preparing to hang up.

However, she wasn’t quite finished. “Now, before I go could you please tell me your passcode so I can confirm that I am speaking with the homeowner?”

Now I am all for precautions, but I’m not always prepared for a pop quiz in the middle of the night. I rattled off the first four digits that jumped into my head and was told they were incorrect. I tried another set that was either my son’s birthday or my high school locker combination, but that wasn’t right either. I tried three more times, told her to give me a hint and asked to use one of my lifelines before finally giving up on trying to pass the math portion of her SAT.

“No offense, ma’am, but it is 2:30 in the morning. I applaud what you are doing here however; I can assure you that I really am the homeowner. If I were a burglar, I wouldn’t have answered the phone in the first place. I wouldn’t have taken the time to reason with you and I wouldn’t conveniently know Julie Young’s birthdate, her son’s cell phone number, her billing address and her mother’s maiden name!”

After giving her the digits of my landline, the one she had dialed only five minutes before, the dispatcher let me off the hook. I tried to go back to sleep but I couldn’t help hoping that the next time she fears there is something strange in the neighborhood, she calls Ghostbusters instead of me!

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February Column Michiana House & Home: A gift from the heart

gift-wrap-station-4      My mother was not – by anyone’s definition – a pack rat. She did not see the sentimental value in “stuff” and did not hang on to anything that served no purpose. She harbored no collections that needed regular dusting and avoided any activity that required a large supply of some-assembly-required supplies.

She did, however, have an unusual horde of gently used gift-wrap, boxes, tissue paper, ribbons and bows that she kept in the doors and drawers of our basement cabinetry. It was the kind of wrapping paper she used throughout the year and not the huge box of Christmas paper that was stored in the attic and only brought down during the holiday season. This all-occasion cornucopia was the closet thing to a craft closet that we had and it was an irresistible treasure trove to a creative type such as myself.

It always seemed like such a treat to be sent to the basement in order to find the perfect wrapping paper for someone’s present. I took great care to rifle through the remnants in search of something that was an appropriate size for the gift it would cover along with coordinating accouterments. There were some guidelines associated with this prized task of course: I was not allowed to use any gift-wrap still in its cellophane package. I was to be extra careful with the scissors because my mother did not have time to take me to the hospital if I stabbed myself. (Yes, I swear she actually said this.) And naturally, I was not allowed to waste transparent tape.

Despite this exhaustive set of rules, I still managed to make a few mistakes. Chief among them was my inability to connect the right kind of gift-wrap with the recipient. I was fine when it came to my friends because I chose paper I recognized from my last birthday, but how was I to know that I could not wrap a gift for my grandma in paper that read “For the Ancient One?”

I also discovered it was wrong to encase an end-of-the-year teacher gift in gold wedding paper…especially if your teacher happens to be a Catholic nun. (In my defense, I thought the doves on the paper were supposed to be the Holy Spirit.) However, my finest moment came on Valentine’s Day when my brother and I presented our parents with an assortment of hand-painted rocks (yes, real out-of-someone’s-driveway-rocks) festooned in a bright pastel pink and blue print.

“Oh look,” my mother said, trying not to laugh. “Baby shower paper!”

“Is this your way of trying to tell me something?” My dad asked.

Although I didn’t get the apparent joke in what I’d done, it was my way of telling them how much I loved them. I chose the paper I liked the most because in my young estimation, it was the best of the bunch. Nothing was too good for my mom and dad and there was no better paper to cover a truly pointless, but well-intentioned gift from the heart.

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Michiana house & Home Magazine: Head’s Up!

IMG_0417      There is nothing that will bring your day to a grinding halt like a case of head lice. It doesn’t matter if you are working out, cooking dinner, catching up on your e-mails or having an otherwise productive life, all activity will come to an unceremonious end the second you find some creepy-looking bug crawling around in someone’s hair.

When the College Man contracted a case of this crud during a recent school break, it’s no exaggeration to say that the house went on lockdown as if it were under attack. The beds were stripped and sheets washed in the hottest of temperatures. The mattresses and furniture were fumigated to prevent further infestation. Every surface was scoured with the most powerful concoction on the planet while the affected individual was quarantined to a barstool and told not to touch anything. (For the record, he sat there looking wide-eyed and panicked as if he might spontaneously combust at any moment.)

Over the next several hours, as I combed through the boy’s follicles to remove his little “friends” and their demon spawn, I couldn’t help wondering why we freak out as much as we do about this condition. (Keep in mind; the child has a LOT of hair so I had plenty of time to devote to this issue.) It’s not that lice isn’t a serious problem that must be dealt with immediately, but why does such a small bug illicit a reaction typically reserved for a declaration of war? We see insects doing all kinds of things all of the time, but we usually don’t flip out about it. In fact, if we spot a unique specimen in the yard, we might even call our families over to take a look at it. Lice, on the other hand, usually causes people run for the hills.

So why is it different? My guess is because bugs aren’t supposed to be there in the first place. It’s not unlike finding a mouse in the house. We understand mice exist and were created to perform several important jobs. They eat cheese. They give cats something to chase and they head up major entertainment corporations, but we don’t want to see them rooting around our kitchens. The same goes for lice. I’m perfectly fine with them being in the yard or garden, but settling a colony in my son’s hair? Not so much.

In the weeks that followed, I had a minor freak out every time my head itched and I could not pass a mirror without searching my scalp for signs of life. Although I had done everything to rid my home of these unwanted guests, the memory of their visit lingered, as did the sympathy scratches. While I am not one for using this column as a PSA, in this season of hats, scarves and other cranial coverings, consider this your heads up to be on the lookout for these creatures and to get a jump on them before they bite out a huge chunk of your day!

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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: Holy Week

Jesus-Picture-On-The-Cross-It-Is-Finished-Crucifixion-WallpaperMost Catholics consider Holy Week to be the highlight of the Church year. The events commemorated are the cornerstone of our fundamental beliefs and culminate in an occasion more glorious than the coming of the Word made Flesh that we celebrate each Christmas.

Needless to say as a child, I was not a fan.

First of all, NOTHING in a child’s mind is better than Christmas! I mean, Easter is great and all but it always struck me as a watered down version of a much better holiday. If Spring Break corresponds with it, that’s a little better, but you only get one week off instead of two. There is the half day on Good Friday that public school kids didn’t get and that was kind of fun, but again…it’s like a consolation prize for a shorter break. There are fun scavenger hunts to go on and a small cache of toys involved, but then you also have to endure seven weeks of sacrifice and an entire week of Massapalooza, which centers on a rather grisly death before you even get to the Main Event. I just had a hard time looking at Easter as a “happy” time.

Don’t get me wrong, I understood that Jesus died for my sins and Lord knows my teachers liked to point out how He made this big sacrifice for our benefit, but I have to tell you…I would have been fine with a less gruesome sign of His love. However, if you are going to do something to save the world, I guess you have to go big or go home, right?

With time and maturity, my attitude toward Holy Week has mellowed considerably and I am pleased to announce that I actually enjoy it nowadays, but not to the same level my youngest son does. If you think my reactions to all things church related are unique, this kid is going to seem downright peculiar!

Vincent     I can’t remember a time when “Boy Wonder” wasn’t wacky for Holy Week….or more specifically Good Friday. From the time he was very little, I would often catch him staring at the illustration of the crucifixion in his Kids’ Bible fascinated by this particular style of Roman execution. I’m not kidding, he had that page of the book open so much, he broke the spine at its location so if you stood the book on end, it would open to that scene.

“Wouldn’t you rather look at another picture?” I asked. “There’s a really nice picture of Baby Jesus in His manger bed.” Honestly, I wasn’t trying to dissuade his interest, I was just concerned this was going to become an obsession.

“No Mommy, I like this one,” he’d say.

Although there was nothing wrong with his enthusiasm, it occurred to me that it might be misinterpreted by others who didn’t understand or were unfamiliar with the prevalent images of the crucifixion that exist in the Catholic Church. Sure enough, when he was four, I took him to a local Christian church that was having a big Christmas event including barn animals and a live nativity and afterwards the congregation invited us to stay and hear “the rest of the story.” Now, I suspected I knew where this was heading, so I took the kids into the sanctuary to watch what I correctly surmised to be a passion play.

Everything started out fine. Jesus rode in on a live donkey while people waved palm branches and sang “Joy to the World (The Lord has Come)” Side note: I really kind of thought that was a cool tie-in and would pay big bucks to see a Catholic Church sing that song on Palm Sunday for a change. The scene then shifted to the last supper, Judas’ betrayal and the trial before Pilate, who of course, sentences Jesus to death.

As the actor playing Jesus was stripped of his garments and “nailed” to the prop cross, some women sitting in front of us became so moved by the scene that they started crying. Not Boy Wonder. With his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open, he picked that moment to holler, “Check it out, Mom! They’re stringing Him up!”

Now, I don’t want to imply that he was delighted by what he was witnessing…but he was. This was his illustrated Bible, Jesus of Nazareth and every other Gospel-based movie he’d ever seen brought to life. It was dramatic. It was wrenching. It was real! I cupped my hand over his mouth to shush him, lest anyone get the wrong idea, but I’m sure there were a few people in the audience who were convinced I was raising a heathen.

“You know, you really can’t get that excited about the crucifixion,” I explained later. “People get the wrong idea.They think you actually LIKE it.”

“I do like it,” he told me. “You can’t have Easter without it.”

Astonished by his simple wisdom, I knew that I had been beat and every year, I can count on him to get giddy over Holy Week knowing he will hear his favorite Bible story on Palm Sunday, announce “Today’s the big day!” on Good Friday and ask me  if I think they actually commemorate this event in Heaven. (I’m not being sacrilegious when I say I KNOW that kid has visions of party hats, balloons and a cake that says “Happy Crucifixion, Jesus!”) He actually gets excited if the weather is gloomy on that day because he is convinced it’s God’s way of reminding everyone about His son’s sacrifice and I have to admit, more often than not, it is kind of gross and rainy on that particular day. Who knows? Maybe he knows something the rest of us don’t.

They say that the worst punishment a parent can get is having a kid that acts just like them, but sometimes think the greatest gift is having those who are complete opposites, because every once in a while they teach you a thing or two with that child-like faith Jesus admired so much.

Happy Easter Everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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