Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Time to Repent

Here is a little background ...

A few years ago we remodeled our kitchen. The process was "supposed" to take about six weeks max. Six months later we were finally putting the finishing touches on the kitchen. I will spare readers the tedium of the details. Suffice it to say that my "favorite store" became a slur in my vocabulary and I had a desire to inflict grave bodily harm on bystanders whenever I heard The Home Depot Jingle!

Of course, The Home Depot was not spared. I conveyed my displeasure in a lengthy account of the proceedings, missteps, and neglect. I even went so far as to fill out an online job application for their kitchen and cabinet design department because, "I was certain I could do a better job than the designers that had worked with me!"

The comedy of errors that was our remodel has yet to become completely comical to me. In the years since I have boycotted the store as often as possible. When the occasional need for DIY home repair occurs I frequent any and all facilities available prior to patronizing The Home Depot. Then I send my husband!

Our toilet seat broke. He went to The Home Depot and purchased a new seat.

"Hey, I had four different people offer to help me at The Home Depot today!"


"Ya, it was quite refreshing."

"Ya, well,I still hate that store." (I love my new kitchen. It's the store that causes me grief.)

A bracket on one of my cabinet drawers broke.

He - "Do you want to go to Home Depot with me?"

Me - "No."

He - "Well, I think I can get a part to fix it."

Me - "They should have some kind of lifetime guarantee!"

He went to Home Depot. I looked online. He brought back some generic hardware. I found "Available Exclusively at The Home Depot. Lifetime Warranty. Contact The Home Depot."

I had to go to The Home Depot.

The attractive blond in the design department called the cabinet manufacturer. She ordered 4 replacement parts that will be shipped to my home "at no charge." One part will replace the broken bracket while the other three are spares. You know what that means? I don't have to go to The Home Depot next time the plastic parts fail!

We needed a vacuum belt. An employee directed us to the vacuum belts and I found exactly the one I needed! We encountered two more offers of help before we left the store!

He - "Wasn't that refreshing?"

Me - "I'm kind of in shock!"

I'm still in shock. The Home Depot might be my new favorite store!

Friday, February 18, 2011

How to Snow Ski

I know the temperatures flirted with 70 degrees this week, but I can assure you it isn't spring yet! I'm still hitting the slopes. For those of you who have thought about it, but are still a bit too timid to try, here is a tutorial to help you decide. For the avid skier, it's just fun to reminisce.

Step One: Find a Friend

The initial desire to snow ski most often occurs when one becomes acquainted with an avid skier. Just as yawning can be contagious, the excitement emitted by skiing enthusiasts promotes envy and curiosity not easily denied. Hopefully, the skiing friend is also blessed with good communication skills and abundant patience.

Step Two: Find a Mountain

Any mountain will do, as long as it comes equipped with snow and some form of mountain ascending apparatus such as a chair lift, gondola, tram, or even the ever eventful rope tow. Instructions will follow.

Step Three: Locate Equipment

A few items of protective gear are necessary to ensure fun and safety on his maiden voyage into the great white wonderland of downhill skiing. Clothing that is both warm and comfortable is most suitable. Style is underrated at this point in one’s skiing career. It is folly to don expensive clothing that will only call attention to one as he is careening out of control down a mountain slope! Something that screams, “I borrowed all these clothes because I really don’t know what I’m doing and don’t plan to invest in style until I have survived my first outing,” will gain the most tolerance and empathy from onlookers. Layers of clothing will provide the most warmth and cushion. Yes, cushion will be needed! Gloves, socks, and some kind of head wear will protect extremities from the cold and other occurrences. A helmet is recommended. Other necessary items are eye covering (sunglasses or goggles will do), ski boots, skis, poles, and Ibuprofen.

Step Four: Tap Savings Account

Skiing is not an inexpensive sport! After the obvious costs of equipment and ski passes, one must face the hidden costs associated with this winter sport.

Transportation to ski resort. Do you live in Vail, Colorado? Probably not. Then some sort of travel will be required, whether by train, plane, bus, or the ever affordable thumb. Yes, skiers do hitchhike.

Lunch money. It isn’t called a resort for nothing. Food is not cheap on the mountain. After paying the exorbitant lift ticket price, one will be determined to spend the entire day to “get his money’s worth.” Hunger will ensue. Depending on the notoriety of the resort, one may eat a sack lunch in the friendly local lodge, or he may pay as much as ten dollars for a bowl of soup and three dollars for the bottle of water required to wash down two Ibuprofen tablets.

Rental fees. Unless one is fortunate enough to have a friend with not-so-used equipment and the boots just happen to fit, he will be required to pay an average of $30 for rental equipment. This is not a year long lease. It only covers use for one day on the mountain!

Replacement gloves. See rope tow instructions.

Chiropractor or emergency room fees.

Step Five: Travel to Ski Area

Did you remember the Dramamine? The trip to the ski hill, unless originating in the mountains, will require some travel upward. If one is fortunate, a highway may deposit him at the base of the mountain. More often, several miles of sharp hairpin curves precede arrival at a ski area. One of the most notable is Bogus Basin Road. Located a mere sixteen miles from the busy metropolis of Boise, Idaho, Bogus Basin Ski Resort is a relatively well kept secret simply because the trip is not for wimps!

Step Six: Don Ski Gear

After piling layers of clothing onto a shivering body (the shivers may be due to slowed circulation promoted by nervousness) one must now insert feet into ski boots. This may take some time.

Ski boots, however expensive and attractive in color and design, are not typically user friendly, especially for the novice. Fortunately, the human ankle flexes! If one’s youth, agility, and multiple clothing layers permit, bend over and grasp top of boot with both hands, prying it open simultaneously balancing on one leg and inserting toe into top of boot. If one is still upright, transfer entire bulk of body weight onto leg sporting ski boot and attempt to force foot further into boot until sole rests on boot foot bed. If this method is unsuccessful, transfer entire bulk of body weight onto back of friend while said friend pries open ski boot. Insert toe as previously described. When foot is secure in boot foot bed, stand upright and suck in much needed breath. Take two if necessary. Bend over again and tighten buckle clasps, taking care to keep fingers, gloves, cute stocking cap tassels, and other significant items free of boot buckles.

Step Seven: Locate Ice Pack

Having closed boot buckle on index finger, one must quickly apply cold pack to reduce swelling and discoloration. Remember, you are on a mountain in winter. Locate nearest snow bank and plunge finger into the cold source.

Ask friend to buckle boots.

Step Eight: Repeat Step Six

Omit Step Seven if possible!

Step Nine: Click On Bindings

This is the process of attaching skis to boots. Once again, balance or the employment of a patient friend is necessary. Place skis parallel to each other on a flat snowy area. Flat is the operative word. Stand to the left and center of skis.

Ensure ski bindings are in the OPEN position. (You don’t really have time to learn the difference today so just ask your friend to check.)

Grasp a ski pole in each hand and plant firmly into snow on either side of skis.

Raise one foot in preparation to attach binding. This will be surprisingly difficult as ski boots are larger, heavier, and less comfortable than everyday footwear.

Insert right toe of ski boot into front binding of respective ski. In one smooth action, transfer entire body weight onto right leg and catch rear binding squarely with heal of boot. Anticipate loud click confirming binding is engaged.

No click? You missed, or you wimped out! Try again. This time, keep boot straight and actually transfer weight onto right leg rather than onto the security of ski poles.

Step Ten: Whoa!

I said “flat” snowy area. Skies will lie deceptively still until weight is applied, at which time they will travel in a downward direction – forward or backwards – depending on the slope of the snow they are resting upon!

If you maintained possession of your ski poles during your little ride, use them to help yourself to a standing position. Ski should still be attached to boot. If not, pick it up and repeat Step Nine.

Step Eleven: Locate Left Ski

Once you are upright, get a visual on your missing ski. Then get a visual on a nice looking stranger close to your ski and call to them, pleading for assistance. Your skier friend will be of no service as he is currently engulfed in tearful guffaws.

Step Twelve: Repeat Step Nine

Successfully. At this point your friend should have recovered from his belly busting bliss and is now ready to instruct you in mobility and control.

Step Thirteen: Mobility

Can you do the splits? Commonly known as a snow plow or piece of pizza, the wedge is the first ski technique (after apparel donning and equipment engagement) one must learn. Mastering the wedge allows for stopping and turning, two very important skills for an individual careening downhill on a tree lined slope.

This is accomplished by bringing the tips of ones skis almost in touching position while spreading feet and ends of skis far, FAR apart. When performed properly, the wedge feels as if one is attempting the Chinese Splits!

Step Fourteen: Quack, Quack!

Having perfected the “stop” skill of the wedge, it is now time to move. Maintaining wedge position, begin walking like a duck. This will allow you to move up or downhill, as well as apply brakes when necessary. Make your way to the rope tow.

Step Fifteen: Do the Shuffle

Failing to make skis move, tiring of the wedge, and desperately needing relief of wedge induced hip cramps, give up and do the shuffle. This is not an approved ski technique, rather an act of desperation. It is accomplished by attempting to walk in ones skis. Unfortunately, the forward motion of one foot forces the slick underside of the opposite snow ski in a backwards direction, resulting in one step forward – three-quarters step back.

Not to worry, skier friend will presently become frustrated and help you to the rope tow. This will involve holding on to his ski pole while he drags you forward, or having his gloved hands push you from behind. Either way, you get a much needed rest!

Step Sixteen: Encounter the Rope Tow

It’s not really a rope. It’s a cable! And you have to hold onto it while it drags you up the bunny (beginner) hill. You must now forget everything you have learned about skiing techniques to-date. In other words, “Don’t snow plow!”

Duck walk or shuffle your way to a position lateral (that means beside) the moving cable. Skis should be parallel to one another and parallel to the cable. Hopefully, the snowy surface beneath is flat!

Squat. That’s right, bend knees so that legs are flexed and springy! This may be difficult depending upon the time and energy exhausted while learning the wedge position!

Maintaining squatting stance and keeping skis straight, gently move hands into a position around the cable similar to that of a golfer’s grip. Patiently close hands around cable and allow it to pull you towards the top of the slope. Immediately the need for springy flexed legs will become apparent. Now the rope tow is in charge!

If one is able to maintain his stance, the cable will bring him safely to top of slope where he must quickly let go of the cable, move skis into a slight wedge to allow them to turn away from the cable, and then form a stronger wedge to come to a complete stop.

Unfortunately, this is easier instructed than accomplished.

Step Seventeen: Damage Control

That little stance while holding onto cable wasn’t so easy, was it? Having moved several yards along the tow path before losing one’s balance and crashing to the ground, skier must now repeat Steps Ten, Nine, Sixteen and quite possibly Step Eleven. In that order! Skier friend will once again be doubled over in uncontrollable fits of laughter.

Repeat Step Sixteen successfully.

Step Seventeen: Ski!

Having made his way to the top of a small slope – remember, bunny hill is short for, “You really don’t have any business being here” – it is now time to careen down the slope. Maintain a wedge! Point skis downhill and let ‘em run! Do one’s best to avoid contact with any object not made of snow such as other skiers and/or their equipment. It would be good to cover some control and turning points; however, the skier and this writer are nearly exhausted. Skier will most assuredly be too excited or scared to recall any techniques other than the wedge; therefore, those points will not be covered at this time.

Step Eighteen: Do One or More of the Following.

Take four Ibuprofen, see your chiropractor, or … visit the emergency room of the nearest hospital.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Just what did I accomplish?

I devoted a day to correspondence. I was not certain what I actually accomplished - a number of tasks fell under the "Correspond" category. Some would seem as though they had nothing to do with correspondence, yet their completion made it easier for me to correspond!

* I cleaned out a cabinet. I dumped outdated catalogs in the trash, dusted the cabinet, and restocked it with mailing labels, envelopes and copy paper. This simple act of de-cluttering freed some parts of my brain!

* I calendared some items and tossed the notes and reminders littering my desk. I have found that keeping an accurate calendar prevents missed deadlines and also frees up space in my brain.

* I deleted old and uninteresting email messages.

* I wrote and published a blog entry about my Christmas gifts.

* I put a new ink cartridge in my printer and plugged it in to my recently refurbished, not quite as good as new, laptop. It worked!

* I printed and filed several online receipts that have been in limbo while awaiting a functioning computer.

* I did the daily crossword puzzle in the newspaper to sharpen my word skills.

* I spent time on Facebook.

* I sent text messages to my daughter.

* I composed a scholarship renewal letter for my missionary son.

* I researched scholarship and application deadlines - also for the missionary son.

* I emailed my missionary son.

* I queried three literary agents about my manuscript "A Time to Heal" and I made a spreadsheet to track the queries. I netted three rejections!

* I recorded the correspondence tasks in a notebook and later shared them here!

Fourteen tasks. I suppose the day was fruitful after all.

What I learned?
Those days when you wonder, "Have I done any good?" Make a record of your tasks. You might surprise yourself.

Monday, February 7, 2011

It's All Uphill!

I live in a hole.

I am not complaining that my life is the pits or that I am stuck in a rut, the statement is literal – not figurative. I live in a geographical hole.

I was reminded of this around 5:00 am when the rich aroma of a local polecat found its way into my home and interrupted my slumber! Burning leaves, smoldering grass piles, and skunk scents from around the neighborhood often creep down the streets and into my space. The heavier the air – the richer the aroma. It was foggy this morning!

Living in a hole offers a bit of privacy. The neighbors above us view our roof rather than gazing straight through our windows.

Although the aromas are annoying, they are few and far between. The inconvenience of hole dwelling becomes a greater issue when one desires to exercise providing, of course, that one is a runner or a biker … and we are.

“It's uphill in every direction.” A common complaint in the Green household. This is only partially true. There is another path that begins on a downhill slope, but it is less desirable as it encounters more traffic and population. It also requires a hill climb at the end of the workout to return home!

So we run and we ride and we whine … and we pray that the wind doesn't blow, because the only thing worse than running uphill is running uphill with a headwind!

When someone quotes, “There's no place to go but up,” we take it literally!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Privacy Protection

My privacy is so well protected I can't hear myself think!

You know the instructions …

“Please reset your password. It must contain a minimum of eight characters with at least one upper case and one lower case letter and two numbers … and no special characters.”

“Please set three security questions. 1) What was the name of your first pet? (I was a kid. How should I know?) 2) The name of your college roommate. (I had lots of those.) 3) What is your grandfather's mother's maiden name? (Let me get out the family bible!)

My son is serving a two year proselyting mission in Brazil. He only calls outside the country on Christmas and Mothers' Day. He lost his debit card three months ago! I ordered a new one and he finally received it three weeks ago. In his weekly email he indicated he was having difficulty using it. I stepped in to the local bank ...

“Everything seems to be working. Did you give him the correct PIN?” I sent another email with the PIN once again. I assumed that was the problem. Another week went by and another email arrived - “Still having trouble with the card. Here is an 800 number for assistance.” I called the 800 number …

“Please give me the last four digits of your social security number to verify your identity.

“Please give me the number on the card.”

“If you could just ask him if it gives him an error message when he tries to use the card ...”

Me: I cannot call him. I have to wait for an email. He needs access to this account!

“If you could just call him ...”

Me: I can't call him! It will take two weeks to get an answer by email!

“I can't view his account because you are not him.”

Me: I am a co-owner of that account! I have all his information. I have Power of Attorney for him! HE NEEDS ACCESS TO THIS ACCOUNT! It will take two months to order another card and get it to him. Can't you just check to see if it is authorized for international use?

“I am a mother, too, so I understand, but because his name is on the card I can't ...”

Me: My local bank was able to access it last week!

“I would hate to give information to the wrong person ...”


“Well you could step in to your local bank and they could VERIFY YOUR IDENTITY.

Isn't that why I gave her the last four digits of my SSN?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Could Have Been Sunbathing!

I was supposed to be sitting on a beach in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands today, my skin softening from the humid tropical climate, toes wriggling in the sand, nails painted to match the waters of the Caribbean, lunching at one of the many restaurants at my all-inclusive hotel ...

Alas, here I sit at my computer, skin drying from the forced air, toes curling and uncurling as I work, fingers turning blue from the frigid northern air, wondering what I shall fix for lunch ...

Blame the weather. Blame the airlines. Blame poor luck.

I'm trying to keep a positive outlook. Maybe this is my lucky day? What about the other passengers of the 5500 flights that were canceled this week? Is it possible we could all be lucky?

I'm using the time to promote my writing. I rewrote my query letter. I searched out and contacted yet another agent for my novel. I'm blogging with a complete lack of humility (or is it in a complete act of desperation?) to gain followers that my writing might become popular and I may somehow hit the literary jackpot.

It is always a stab in the dark. This agent has an interesting name. This agent "says" she accepts historical fiction. This agent actually has an active website!

So I stab and then I wait. Then I scar! "Thank you for your submission, but ..."
"We don't feel we can effectively represent you in the current marketplace." Huh?
"Your manuscript does not fit our needs." But I only sent you a letter - you haven't read the mss.
"Your work has merit and your characters are well developed, but I represent writing set in North America, specifically, Maine." Doesn't that limit one just a bit?

More stabbing. More waiting.

Oh, to have been basking on the beach today!