Lyrical Laughs

Friday, September 16, 2011

Half price hangover

In this day and age when we find ourselves carpooling with people we might find ourselves stepping over if they were unconscious on the sidewalk, just to avoid filling our tanks for these prices, who’s going to pass up a bargain? With that thought in mind, I signed up for every discount deal I could find in the hope that I could continue to enjoy the lifestyle to which I had become accustomed. Oh wait – I mean the life to which I had always wanted to be accustomed.

The first deal I found was for a deli that I always wanted to try (always as in, I heard about it a year ago). I purchased two coupons, which would be enough for 3 sandwiches - perfect, since they had nothing YK (youngest kid) would eat.  The purchase was made in December and we had until the following June 23 to use them. Six months - plenty of time!

Maybe if I had paid attention to the details on the deli’s website I would’ve realized they are only open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., in a town nowhere near where any of us work. That’s all right, no hurry. It’s only March.

Wait, what’s today? June 22??? Nothing like waiting until the last minute, right? Fortunately, my youngest daughter who at 16 is a new driver and more than eager to drive to even the most mundane destinations, was able to pick an order up for us on the last day. Hurray for teenagers!

A rose is a rose. A museum, not so much.

The second deal was for the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath which we used in July for a family day trip. This museum was really a great choice that I would recommend to anyone. It was chock full of interesting exhibits and we had no trouble spending all afternoon exploring. It was a successful outing - an accomplishment with kids who are no longer kids, and a husband who always will be.

There was an accommodating outside picnic area, which we took full advantage of with our packed cooler. It was a bit awkward though, when we sat down and started rifling through our supplies just as a seasoned volunteer began an hour-long talk on the museum’s history… right in front of the picnic area. Oddly enough, we were the only ones eating. Everyone else seemed riveted to their spots listening to every detail from the museum’s beginning to today. We sat munching on our sandwiches, trying to chew the chips quietly and use head nods and hand motions rather than saying, “Pass the potato salad.” It felt like all eyes were on us. They may have actually been on our Doritos.

It turned out to be a very inexpensive day. At half price for the four of us, I felt very accomplished having purchased something that would ensure a day of quality family time. That is, until my husband came across an even better bargain the next day – four tickets for the price of one. How did this happen? How did I let him beat me out, the one who takes 5 minutes to two-finger type out “deal”? Luck of the draw, I guess. But I had an even better bargain in the works!

I had managed to snag half price tickets to – are you ready?? – the only cryptozoology museum in the world, which happens to be right in nearby Portland. I was beyond excited! We planned our Sunday afternoon around exploring this unique display. In total, we needed about five minutes. There’s a reason there is only one museum of this kind in the world.

Taking on the project of developing a never-before-created museum is quite ambitious, and I don’t want to take anything away from the creator’s obsession. Accomplishment. I meant accomplishment. Plus, this guy has been interviewed for several different documentaries and his museum has been featured on the History Channel and the Travel Channel. No, really! But still. Foot casts? Fecal matter? I tried to take it seriously. I took my time meandering around the display cases (when I wasn’t sucking my gut in trying to get by anyone else in the same very cramped vicinity), even trying to ask pertinent questions about the more elaborate adaptations of various… various… I’ve got nothing. I know this guy has to have a real job, but darned if I could figure out what it is. Our brief time at the only cryptozoology museum in the world was amusing and entertaining. Yes, I’ll go with that.

We did manage to walk away with a permanent display of our adventure – a picture of the family with Big Foot. How many people can make that claim?

We won’t go there – because we forgot to...

Another little “deal” that I snagged was a half price coupon for Lowes through a Border’s “OO” (overwhelming offer) program. That was last December 31, when I was told the coupon would be valid until this December 31. Has anyone else heard about Borders going out of business? Has anybody not heard about it? So at this point I’m not absolutely sure we can use this overwhelming offer, which has to be done online where you can’t yell at anybody if they suddenly virtually seize the coupon when you attempt to use it. I keep telling S (Spouse, for those new to my blog) it’s fine, we have until the end of the year. If we get to that last screen and the offer implodes, Plan B would possibly resemble a scene from I Love Lucy where Lucy is crying and gulping air, hysterical over something that went wrong [because of her], and Ricky can’t get mad and he even lets her cry on his shoulder, and I do believe usually buying something for her (in my head that’s how it plays out). Unless S reads this – then I’ll need a new plan.

I get offers every day for great deals from various sources, and most of the time I pass them up. Truth is, we are in the top 10 of the world’s worst procrastinators when it comes to using coupons or gift certificates – basically anything that saves us money (which is ironic because if you heard our budget discussions this would not compute). At the moment we have two gift certificates for restaurants, the most recent one given to me two and a half years ago. But wait – there’s more.

Somewhere in my bureau are gift certificates that we bid on - and won - at our annual church fair auction from several businesses that go back at least 9 or 10 years. Does this make sense? Of course not. I could have had a deal on merchandise from a consignment shop (changed hands twice since then), RV supplies (out of business), and a will (the attorney retired). Sadly, deals like that are only a ‘deal’ if you actually use them. Stupid details.

Never put something that expires in a junk drawer

Life is fleeting. Time is not our own. Seize the moment. Live like there’s no tomorrow. I’ve heard it all, and I firmly believe it. It’s time to use those gift certificates and cash in on those coupons! Indulge! Live it up! Enjoy!

It is interesting to note, however, that gift certificates in Maine don’t expire. So I could wait until next week…

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Who ate the last string cheese?

It is 6:30 a.m. on a weekday. There are four people awake, all vying for the same table, counter, general living space. And there is one bathroom. This can only mean one thing.

School is back in session.

There is something about this time of year that brings out the ugly in the morning routine. It’s bad enough that three of us are attempting to get ready for work at the same time – add an almost-17-year-old high school junior to the mix and there is sure to be added stress, hostility, and the occasional not-so-veiled threat. Our house, not necessarily the picture of tranquility on a good day (except those rare weekend mornings when I can sneak a full mug of coffee in before anyone else wakes up), morphs into a battle zone slash whine fest.

There’s not enough milk for cereal. There’s not enough bread to make lunches. The dog has to be fed. The cat is yowling by the door and her ears are back, which is a very bad sign, and someone had better let her out before she uses a piece of furniture as her personal litter box. The cat puke has to be cleaned up in the hall before someone -- never mind.

Flush(ing) with anticipation

In my dream state every morning has the potential to be a ‘good’ morning.  Everyone wakes up at the right time, exits the bathroom at the right time, and switches places effortlessly so that we’re all able to get to work/school on time. I’m even able to brush my teeth before I leave for work. Hah.

In the real world, we have this.

6:23 I am wolfing down breakfast and staring at the kitchen clock as YK (youngest kid) is making her breakfast, knowing if S (spouse, or you can use your imagination, as I sometimes do during these scenarios) is not out of the bathroom in the next two minutes, OK (oldest kid) won’t have enough time to use it before YK is done eating and needs to get in there.

6:25 I start with a single ‘reminder’ tap on the bathroom door – “Are you almost done?” I know this is more information than anyone wants, but it’s relevant. I usually get a salty, “In a minute!” Greattt.

6:26 I am pacing, knowing I can’t wake up OK (yes, everyone – everyone has made me their official alarm clock) until I at least hear S brushing his teeth. For some reason it seems to be a long process, and in the past I have foolishly roused OK before S was actually out. Complete disaster.

6:27 I’m standing at the bathroom door, trying to yell softly. I must be sure OK has a clear path to the bathroom, because she – unlike YK (who tends to need at least two mom/snooze alarms) – gets out of bed almost immediately after I chirp “Time to wake up, Sweetie.” It’s really more Barry White than birdie – I’m all lower register before 7 a.m.

Yelling softly is an art. Your voice is raised but your volume is – not. It’s like aggressive whispering. “You’re supposed to be DONE. She has to get IN there NOW.”

6:28 S (and we’re not thinking Spouse at this point) strolls out of bathroom, daring to look back at me before he heads to the bedroom and say, “What?? I got out early.” I note that he quickens his pace and closes the bedroom door hastily when I turn his way.

It was my fault, I admit it. Anticipating a roadblock nightmare the first morning of school, I had initially asked that he finish his bathroom routine earlier than his usual 6:30, instead of specifically saying 6:20 or 6:25. I made this mistake once and only once. He now has very specific instructions as to what time he needs to vacate the premises, along with a play-by-play of what will happen if he doesn’t.

In a perfect world, we never run out of waffles

There are several factors that keep us from humming along like a well-oiled machine on weekday mornings.

1)    We don’t share kitchen or counter space well during lunch prep. YK is bright enough to make her lunch the night before. She also readily admits to a touch of OCD, which is a plus in a disorganized household (not mine – I’m just saying it would be).

2)    We don’t plan what we’re wearing the night before – which could be disastrous (stain, still in the laundry, lost in one of the filled-to-overflowing-and-still-unfolded laundry baskets in the living room). YK almost always prepares and knows where her clothes are and their condition ahead of time. Of course, she is a teenager whose wardrobe is much more varied than mine. She has options. I usually have one option - toss it in the dryer with a dryer sheet on tumble for 10 minutes.

3)    We forget to bring the waffles/bread/water up from the downstairs freezer or spare fridge the night before, which often leads to a contest of who has the best reason to not go downstairs and replenish the supply that morning. I am the slowest so I’m usually not part of this argument, thankfully. It can pay to be physically challenged.

4)    One bathroom. I may have mentioned this issue before.

Baby you can drive my car - except for Tuesdays and Fridays

Now that there are four drivers, the next thing is jockeying the cars. OK has her own and would prefer not to share, but when absolutely necessary she will allow us to borrow the car [we gave her] on occasion. YK just started driving six months ago. This is the first school year that she started out by driving herself on the first day. My heart broke. Then I remembered that she’s much better at cluing me in on her whereabouts when she has the car than when she gets rides (and I don’t hesitate for a second to call her cell and track her down, which is particularly mortifying to a teen). Sometimes this driving thing isn’t so bad. Unfortunately, our auto insurance bill indicates otherwise. The trick school this year will be how to borrow the car back from the newest driver.

Fifteen weeks and counting

One day our beautiful daughters will move out and on to their own lives. I guarantee they will insist on no less than 2 bathrooms wherever they live. It will be too quiet here, and my tiny house will then seem cavernous. I will miss them so much I can barely think about it without tearing up. Those manic weekday mornings hardly matter in the grand scheme of things.

Until then – only 66 more school days until Christmas break.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Two and a Half Cats

We have a rather unique pet situation in our home. Our friends and neighbors (you know who you are) have a winter home in Florida, and for about 5 years now we’ve been taking care of their indoor/outdoor cat (Midnight, formerly Ophelia – another time) in their absence. In the beginning it was only for a couple of weeks at a time, so we basically catered to the cat. Each morning one of us (whoever couldn’t get out of the house fast enough to avoid being volunteered by default) would cross the street to our neighbors’ house and let Midnight out in the morning before school and work, then call her back in at night, often to the sound of her dry food container being shaken. That was fine for the short term, especially because Midnight was usually cooperative and willing to head back to the old homestead even if it meant being alone at night. I believe she probably relished the solitude – she had plenty of food and water and the queen size bed was finally hers alone. She didn’t even use the litter box, preferring instead to do her thing outside once she was released the next morning. I’m amazed she held out considering there were some weekend mornings where we all “forgot” about her until nearly noon.
A couple of years into this arrangement our neighbors began staying in Florida for several months and we needed an alternative plan to cat-sitting (insert t-shirt slogan: My neighbors went to Florida for the winter and all I got was cat duty). Remembering to run across the street to let her out when we were often already leaving the house late for school and work, and trudging over to let her back in to her house each night (in Maine, winter is any time after September, possibly before) just got to be too much. Attempting to make her an indoor cat would have required cement walls and metal curtains. We decided to introduce Midnight to her winter abode – Chez House #8.

Who’s Doing All The Adjusting Here?

I was sure we were probably crazy thinking Midnight might willingly enter our home, what with two resident cats – one clearly not accepting of any type of visitor and the other a descendant of Tigger who pounces on anything that moves (or doesn’t) – and a giant dog who is a big mush but still an intimidating presence (did I mention our golden retriever’s head is bigger than Midnight’s whole body?). Once she figured out where dinner was being served, though, it wasn’t such a hard sell.
In the beginning, we brought Midnight’s food over to our house and tried to feed her in a separate room from our two cats. Not surprisingly, our creatures decided Midnight’s dinner was just as good, if not better, than their own.  Our oldest cat is on a prescription cat food from the vet for kidney issues, so switching to Midnight’s brand wasn’t an option.
Cats are little Houdinis at conquering all obstacles when they find themselves on the other side of the barrier. After several failed attempts at feeding them separately (I had to wonder if one of them took a door opening class from Friskies or something), we opted to let Midnight eat our cats’ food. We definitely lucked out because she has had very few “digestive issues” by dining at her temporary digs and returning home to her less expensive, more colorful food.  At least she hasn’t left much evidence of it in our house. What she leaves at #5 stays at #5.

Kitty calisthenics

For the first couple of winters of this winter home arrangement it would take as much as a week before Midnight would appear at our door on her own when we called her, preferring instead to sit saucily on her own front porch, even in the middle of a snowstorm, until we trudged over to drag her across the street. Many times she would play “catch me if you can – and you can’t” and leap off the porch as soon as one of us had climbed those nine (felt like 20 in January) narrow steps to the neighbors’ front door. Eventually we would snatch the little fur ball up and carry her into our house where she would skirt the walls like a SWAT team member and ninja crawl her way down the basement steps. Somewhere still undiscovered by us (no amount of bribery would suffice in unveiling her secret), she found a sufficient hiding place, and from there she would cautiously slip out and scoff down a ration of food during the night, slink back to her niche and remain there until morning. Well, her version of morning. We’ll get into that in a little bit.
As time went on, Midnight adjusted to this arrangement as if she had made a reservation with us for the winter months. This past winter she appeared at our door on the same day the neighbors left for warmer weather, immediately tolerating the shaggy shadow of our dog Cubby and the playful pounce of Sophie the acrobat cat (who is not the brightest bulb on the tree of life) as well as the disdain of the eldest cat Reeses, self-appointed ruler of the roost.

Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.

Fortunately, Midnight is a well behaved little fluff of a cat, not destructive or aggressive, and beautifully decked out in long black fur.  She is, however, a feline. Read “entitled”. She will not tolerate being held unless she can climb onto your chest, neck, head and any other area she deems acceptable. A lap does not cut it. Attempting to dry her with a towel after she returns from her escapades on a rainy day is laughable – she can wiggle like a worm from your grip. And then there’s the slight debate about what constitutes an acceptable waking hour.
Midnight entered our home with the expectation that her schedule is “The Schedule”. Hmmm… no. Our version of dawn and a cat’s version of dawn are – as we discovered –often in very different time zones. One of us needed to adjust to the fact that there is no 4:30 a.m. in our house on weekdays, which was when our neighbor Steve wakes up to leave for his usual work-out when he’s home, releasing this 5 pound mountain lion to the great outdoors while it’s still dark (thanks for that, Steve).
I’ve always thought Midnight has the cutest little pathetic cry, similar to the first sound an infant makes upon waking, a soft warning that things can get messy if someone doesn’t respond soon. When it started an hour before anyone needed to be up during the week, Midnight’s adorable little cry was akin to nails on a chalkboard. It sounded like someone had shoved a siren into her tiny mouth, emanating across the room until one of us broke and lunged after her as she tore down the hall to the kitchen door. When she continued her little kitty tirade at “don’t-even-think-about-it-o’clock” on Saturday mornings the game was over. Initially we both tried to pretend we were still sleeping, but inevitably one of us would grumble (loud enough to wake the other and try to force their hand – self-preservation, my friend).
Eventually we learned – and I stress the we part - to not heed the (cat) call until we were good and ready, which was anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours from when she started her screeching. Sometime in the last few years she has learned to wait – semi-quietly. Once in a while she will leap onto our bed in an attempt to jostle us from our sleep by hiking (with a sharp stick, I do believe) across a stomach or back and usually disturbing Reeses who sleeps between our pillows and doesn’t respond well to surprises. My husband once sneezed in the middle of the night and we thought he might need stitches once he removed her claws from this head. This is a no-win situation, because as much as I’d love to lose a few pounds, having an arm lopped off in a cat fight is not the preferred method. This is a round that Midnight usually wins, unless I can convince her (by a gentle nudge with my foot) that it’s not 'officially' morning yet.

I Feel Purr-dy

By early spring, Midnight’s lustrous fur develops a texture similar to something that came in contact with an egg beater and glue. Globs of her beautiful hair have to be combed, cut and occasionally shaved off. If you have ever received an email forward explaining the steps to giving a cat a pill, you really should look it up. I can attest to the fact that combing knots out of a cat has very similar results. When you see my husband don 2 pairs of jeans, wrap gauze around his torso and arms, cover up with a long sleeve sweatshirt and get out the welding gloves and a bike helmet, you know Midnight must be in trapped in a bedroom somewhere just waiting for a chance to take him and the comb on. By the time he is weakly yet triumphantly holding up clumps of black fur, his face is red, he’s often sweating profusely and the top layer of jeans has too many holes in it even to work in the garage. Great – her left side is done – only her right side, back and stomach to go!

Is there a method to this madness?

While some may call us insane for being so willing to take care of someone else’s pet, let me just explain. Money talks. Our neighbors compensate us for Midnight’s care. It has worked out well for all parties involved as a business deal rather than just a favor. Not that we would abuse the little hairball if we weren’t getting paid – we are animal lovers from the get-go. And generosity goes both ways. While this agreement has thankfully helped supplement our oil bills in the winter, our neighbors, who are first and foremost our friends, know they can count on us to check their mail and forward it if necessary, water the plants and generally keep an eye on the house. We even got to watch and report on the progress of the addition they contracted for this past winter and I kept them apprised of what was being done - and what wasn’t. There’s nothing like a nosy neighbor (remember Mrs. Kravitz on Bewitched? She had better housecoats than me but our goals are similar) to ask questions about what’s going on with the builder, lawn guy, and mail carrier (who isn’t supposed to be delivering mail from December to May but occasionally slips one by) at house #5.
We did have to make sure Midnight didn’t decide to re-visit her summer digs and creep into the garage when it was left open. For the most part this didn’t happen. One day, however, the contractor’s wife mentioned that an animal had “left a deposit” in one of the bedrooms. What other creature would come into the house when strangers were there, leave that kind of message, and simply exit? I imagine in true warrior fashion, Midnight infiltrated her target, completed her mission and withdrew before anyone could notice. Point made: Lock Me Out And There Will Be Consequences.

(Not really) Minding Midnight

There are no words of wisdom in this monologue. I’m sure many others have done it better, offered superior care and grooming for a friend (I lost her brush for 2 years), made sure the pet involved had the best of everything during their temporary stay (Midnight gets the best of what we have, which I wouldn’t necessarily call the best), ensured that she was tucked safely inside on cold and stormy nights (said cat has on occasion pulled an all-nighter, but since we have neighbors who are in bed shortly after dusk, we try not to be hanging out the door bellowing her name or shaking pasta boxes after 10. Maybe 11).

Adding Midnight to the menagerie and hairball collection is easy. Animals are entertaining even when they don’t plan to be, and Midnight is no exception. For as long as she will winter at Chez #8 we’ll leave the light on for her. And she will continue to ignore it and honor us with her presence in her own good time.