The Heat is On

No, seriously – the actual heat is back on.

I am pleased to inform you that I will not be sleeping in my Santa hat tonight.

After 5 days of heating water on the stove to wash dishes, carrying “dressing in layers” to ridiculous extremes, and keeping my Santa hat on 24/7 (I did do the kneel-next-to-the-tub-and-use-a-cup-to-pour-water-over-my-head hair wash thing, once – the novelty wears off, fast), we now have heat, glorious heat, and hot water.

Drowning in layers of wool (and it wasn’t even that cold – just one day under 30 – we’re lucky it happened now instead of next week when temperatures are scheduled to plunge) I have been staggering around trying to comprehend, process, cope with and respond to the impact of the cost of the new boiler.

Heat guy who lives pretty close by came Saturday morning.

“Sorry, ma’am, you’re going to need a new boiler.”

“How much?”

OH MY GOD! THAT MUCH?

Here I was, spending money on frivolities like new paint (at least the labor was me) and new carpet (which I’m expecting accommodation about, for the little bulldozer tracks in it that don’t vacuum out) when something as essential as the boiler decides to surrender, lower it’s flag, go kaput.

Turns out that heart-stopping amount was lower than the next guy and the first guy could install by yesterday.

So, you, first guy – your company has been servicing this house since before we moved in, anyway.

Sigh. Sell the mutual fund in the morning.

Miraculously, market rockets up and the value of the fund to be sold is calculated at the end of the day.

So there’s that, anyway. Small buffer.

Begin job search in earnest.

And I love looking for a job.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I wouldn’t say we’re exactly desperate.

Yet.

But I’d better get a move on, here.

A woman’s gotta make a living, until she gets a job that is actually a living.

I’m trying to turn writing into a living (HA!) but that takes time, so since I’m still determined not to allow ads on this blog, because I think they detract from the….well, blogginess of it, I have succumbed to the PayPal “donate” link.

Hence, the new “Donate” page on the menu.

So that explains that.

I will now penalize myself 500 words for the excessive use of italics. So gushy. Damn, there, I did it again.

May you never have to kneel by the tub with a pot of water heated on the stove, may your showers ever be hot and your radiators…uh, radiate.

I did it! Resisted the urge to italicize “radiate!”

Now, if we could just get a grip on those dashes and exclamation points…

Until then, I remain,

Your humble, devoted, loyal, always-willing-to-edit-if-it-makes-it-better-and-especially-shorter,

Ridiculouswoman

Dear Santa:

Look, I know this is absurd, a grown woman writing a letter to Santa.

Absurd.

Ridiculous, even.

But ridiculous is kind of what I do.

And here’s the thing: I believe in you.

When you are in the picture at this time of year, people are more likely to be kind. Caring, giving. Generous, even. (Battle lines at big-box stores excepted, of course).

Magical things happen. They do.

It snows magic Christmas snow when the weather nerds insist none is in the forecast.

Packages and invitations turn up unexpectedly, from friends you didn’t know were thinking of you.

Customer service people actually provide service.

I confess I was going to write a tearjerker of a letter, asking you to send us a new man.

Because we could use some company.

My daughter is feeling our two-of-us-that-used-to-be-three-of-us, hard.

She misses her Dad, a lot.

So do I.

I miss the way he danced (very goofy.) I miss the way he used to peek around the door of her room when we were sitting together at bedtime.

I miss us sitting in companionable silence, each reading our own books, pausing to identify and then listen intently to, whatever selection was playing on our beloved classical music radio station.

So I was going to ask you, Santa, for a little help, finding a new man for us. A little help, here?

But I changed my mind because of a few intervening events that put things in perspective since I started writing this letter:

Sophie cat became “Sophie the Christmas Miracle Cat.”

She had suddenly lost the use of her back leg.

Vet said prognosis dire. Probably blood clot.

Might have to say good-bye.

Oh, shit, at Christmas?

But Sophie the Christmas Miracle Cat, being, shall we say, un-enamored of said vet (who is a really nice lady, but Sophie sees her and thinks, “shot! run!”) managed to drag herself upstairs, do a pull-up with her front claws (and this cat weighs at least 15 pounds) onto my bed, and make herself well.

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Meaning she somehow managed to dissolve the clot, regain use of her left hind leg, and after climbing up and being carried back down twice (for food, and, erm, other necessities) she got down herself the third time, limping a little, but by the next meal was walking along just fine, asking for her next meal, as usual.

Then, just as we were preparing for our annual ladies’ holiday excursion downtown, I happened to go into the basement utility room (OCD, just wanted to check and make sure the previous night’s fireplace ashes hadn’t done something weird and dangerous while encased in masonry behind an iron door in the ash box – you know, the usual, rational concern) I noticed the boiler was leaking. A lot. And not from a pressure release valve – from underneath.

Call heat guy, who luckily lives pretty close by.

Sorry, ma’am, you’re going to need a new boiler.

How much?

THAT much? Oh, my God!

Try to retain calm during ladies’ annual downtown excursion, while also seeking bids from two other heat guys.

Enjoy lovely excursion, including breathtaking, moving and lovely performance of “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” at Chicago’s Lookingglass Theater. Wow. Stunning.

But while walking along The Magnificent Mile, between the Disney store and American Girl Place,  among the expensively dressed, happy holiday crowd, we passed many, many homeless people.

Every three feet, there was another person, huddled in filthy blankets, head bowed, cardboard sign propped against their knees, or wheelchair, or walker, plastic cup standing, hoping, for something. Just a little something.

I gave the only dollar I had, because I don’t really carry cash anymore, to a person who was propped up with a walker, legs trembling, speech impaired, seemingly brain-injured and desperate.

And turned to continue our walk past the next homeless person, and the next, and the next.

Overwhelming need, smack in the middle of the swankiest part of town.

I have never been so grateful to come home to an unheated house in my life.

Yesterday, I washed my hair with water heated on the stove, and was warmed by the hair dryer, before we headed off to church.

My dear brother brought over two space heaters.

We attended a last-minute, lovely, holiday party at the home of a family who have been exceptionally kind to us, especially my angelic, autistic daughter, who loves them, as they have come to love her.

I watched her make conversation with other guests without my cueing or help, or presence, really, beaming, like the lovely young adult she is, heart full of joy.

Today I’ll  make our traditional Christmas Eve clam chowder and cornbread, to be consumed after church, and then, we’ll put on our warm jammies, make a fire in the fireplace and we’ll make s’mores.

Camping! Pioneer ladies!

I have no heat and no hot water, Santa, and I won’t until Wednesday, when the first heat guys who came, whose heart-stopping bid was actually substantially lower than the next guy’s, will install a new boiler.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Because today, we have a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, two space heaters and enough blankets, hats, sweaters and sweatshirts to get us through to Wednesday.

Three years ago, our first Christmas without Mike, I burned the cranberry sauce for the first time in my life. I’ve been making it since I was twelve. I think that happened because of sadness, distraction and depression.

I burned it again, just now, for only the second time in my life.

Because I was distracted by writing a blog post about gratitude.

I’d call that progress.

So Santa, don’t worry about us  Please direct your attention to those truly in need, and we’ll try to figure out something we can do in our own small way. (But maybe could you save a package of cranberries for us at the local market for when we do our shopping after lessons and carols? They were out by this day last year).

Thanks for listening.

God bless us, every one.

See you next year.

Until then, I remain,

Your grateful, silly, burned-the-cranberries-but-thankfully-not-the-house-because-I-was-distracted-by-gratitude,

Ridiculouswoman

Problem? No, Learning Opportunity!! Or, How Not to Make Christmas Cookies

Years ago at work, right after I nearly had to call security, a colleague advised me that she didn’t see such things as problems – rather as learning opportunities.

Oh, well, thanks! Yes, I guess being in fear of your physical safety can be regarded as an opportunity to learn…hmm, let’s see..to get the fuck out of that job as fast as you can?

I had a day full of both learning and opportunities yesterday.

To wit: annual Cookie Press Conflagration.

You’d think after decades of Christmas cookie making I would remember:

  • how to assemble press (nope, three tries)
  • that dough would be way too dense and stiff (even if you follow the recipe, chill, warm up again, etc. – what’s the point of that?)
  • and that lemon juice or almond extract gives much better flavor than plain old vanilla. (Not. Zoned.)

Three ejected tubes of dough and a quarter cup of heavy cream later, a much softer, more pliable dough is loaded into cookie press. Viola! Fat, relatively flavorless but at least decorative cookie lumps vaguely resembling stars, trees, and ornaments.

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Bleh. Regard this an as opportunity to try again Friday, wised-up.

While dough is uselessly chilling, mix up a different batch of dough for peppermint thumbprint cookies that were so delicious last year.

Follow recipe. Dough is really crumbly. I’m supposed to be able to form it into balls, roll in egg white and sugar, dent the middle and put a peppermint kiss in the dent.

Crumbly dough rolled in egg white just sticks to hands. Mess. Manage to roll in sugar and form vaguely round blobs with dent in the middle for peppermint kiss.

Recipe says ungreased cookie sheets, which usually turns into a burned-sugar mess. I know! Parchment paper!

Recipe says cook 10 minutes, tops, don’t overcook.

25 minutes later, they still don’t look done, the peppermint kisses in the thumbprint are browned but not melted (supposed to be the other way around) and several cookies have little puddles of cooked egg white around them. Pull them off the parchment paper and put them directly onto the cookie sheet. Cook five more minutes,

Success! Kisses melt, cookies cook.

Sort of.

Too chewy, underdone, too much flour, not sugary enough.

Dump the whole batch.

An opportunity to do better when I try again on Friday.

At least the new carpet I splurged on has arrived and is being installed! But wait, what’s that? It looks like tread marks, right across the middle of the room, as if someone drove a miniature bulldozer across it.

Oh, that must just be from that loud old vacuum the installers use, right?

Except the tread marks don’t go away when you brush over them with your foot or hand, like they would if they were just marks from the vacuum.

Do you mean to tell me that this carpet, carpet I waited over two months to receive, carpet I splurged on because I thought remaking the bedroom would help me in my grief,  is damaged? Flawed?

I know what this is. I had to wait two months for it so the manufacturer could get enough orders for it to make it worth a run, and they gave me, probably the smallest order, the mangled-remnant-tail-end-of-the-run.

Breathe.

View as an opportunity to get a boatload of my money back, dammit!

And, bonus! The installers, who move the furniture, caused my headboard to fall apart.

Oh, Yay! An opportunity to spend an evening I was going to spend regarding the tree and listening to Christmas music with my daughter rummaging around in the garage to find that little wrench tool that came with the headboard (three tries to find, but at least I had saved it) which is the only tool that will undo the nuts that hold the bolts that hold the headboard to the bed frame, so I can remove it and rebuild it and reattach it, having tightened the cam locks around the screws…oh wait, they LOST one of the cam locks! And one of the wooden pegs that I had the opportunity to add wood glue to, to tighten the damn thing up, also lost.

I had been meaning to tighten everything up. I just thought I’d do it when I had all the parts.

Which I don’t, now. Found the lost wood peg in the wastebasket in my daughter’s room. Cam lock still missing.

Oh Yay! I have the opportunity to go the the hardware store (they are always happy to see me at the hardware store) and try to find a cam lock of the same type and size.

Needle, meet haystack.

Feh.

I thought I’d do the headboard repair on a day when my side wasn’t killing me, because while I was trying, in order to restretch them, to pull on the shrunken leather Ugg boots that my precious daughter innocently put in the washing machine because they had road salt stains on them, shrinking the boots and turning all her other clothes in the load a blueish green (toss) I sat down in a chair, bent over to pull the boot on, and

FOING!

What the hell was that? Something inside on the left went “bloop” and sort of slipped up over my rib! OW! Sit up slowly. Remember this is an old injury from a previous warehouse job. Not as bad as then, I can handle it.

An opportunity to go find that elastic corset-like thing that provides support to the ribs, and BONUS, acts like a waist nipper.

So I might be groaning in pain when I move, but damn, look at those curves, girl!

Lemons, meet lemonade.

Carpet guy who was supposed to call before he came didn’t call, but did show up.

Looked at the carpet.

Agreed with me.

Wait, what?

Where’s the learning opportunity in that?

I learned that sometimes, customer service actually serves. Wow.

We’ll see what happens when the store guy calls to offer solutions. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime,

Wishing you a day of learning actually sought and opportunities happily fulfilled,

I remain,

Your loyal, devoted, actually-looking-forward-to-baking again on Friday,

Ridiculouswoman