Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dog Days of Summer

   As a hurricane nears ours shores and a faint, cool breeze blows the remnants of summer away, the Fall football season is upon us and with that comes football games, cheerleaders, and a strong need for a professional organizer and a personal dry cleaner armed with a "Tide To Go" stick.  Let me explain...
   My daughter is one of those cheerleaders and great effort has gone into preparations for our Fall kick off event known as "Dog Days" where kids are given their first opportunity to take to the football field and show the world their skills.   After selling hundreds of dollars worth of ads and bulldog magnets, securing just the right outfits with matching bows, t-shirts and rain gear, and paying for private lessons with Cirque du Soleil to perfect a tumbling pass on the sidelines, we were ready for Dog Days and all the joy that comes with it.    

   The afternoon of the event, my child was missing in action as she and her father were tooling around town running errands, sipping on snow cones and enjoying their afternoon without a care in the world.  They are much alike and operate in their own timezone, not shared with any other people that I know. Like a crazy woman, I tracked them down and redirected them back to our house so we could get ready and go.  In minutes, she was dressed, packed and out the door.

   As we arrived at the field, my daughter hopped out of the car with great excitement.  Before I could exit the vehicle, she had rounded the hood and was coming at me like a freight train with that look on her face of complete panic.  I've seen this look many times before and knew that it meant we had either forgotten something vitally important, I had just run over a kitten, or that I was about to be introduced to    some type of problem that would require precision time management skills and a race to some store twenty miles away. 

   This time, it was simply a bow we had forgotten, and I raced home to retrieve the black and silver hair accessory that went with her crisp, white uniform.  I had five minutes to drive ten miles and decided it would be wise to entertain moving closer to the school and save myself a nervous breakdown sure to be drawn out slowly over the next five years of school.     

   Back at the stadium again, the girls in white, ran off to practice and we took our places in the stands armed with a variety of cameras, zoom lenses and mobile upload devices.   It was sweltering hot as it had been all summer and the occasional hint of a breeze was a welcome relief. We had been in drought conditions for the past three months and I would like to state that the odds of locating a puddle of mud were a million to one, unless you were my child and you were dressed in a bright white, shiny uniform with matching bow.  It didn't take long before I spied her coming at me, once again, like a steaming freight train, seeking me out in the midst of a crowd, wearing that same look of panic.  I took a deep breath and waited to see what impossible task was about to be thrown at me in hopes of a quick resolution.  I heard the panic in her voice and sensed a tear in her eye as she called out "Mom!"    She looked perfectly fine, so I couldn't imagine what could be wrong, until she turned around and it was clear to all that she was covered in mud from the bottom of her skirt to her neckline.  "How?" is all I could muster up.  It had been over a hundred degrees for months.  There was no water anywhere around.  And yet, somehow, she had managed to tumble right into the only mud puddle within 500 miles.  With a precision landing, her feet stuck firmly in the small body of watery goo that instantly shot mud splatters straight up the backside of her crisp, clean uniform.   

   With no time to race home, I pulled her into the nearest restroom, stripped her of her muddy white uniform, hand-washed it in the sink, beat it against my own jeans to try to dry it as much as I could and sent her back out on the field.  No one would know that her uniform was soaking wet. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for me, as I took my place back in the stands looking like I had been hosed down from my waist to my knees.   Eventually, Dog Days began and as the band marched around the field and the teams took their places, I looked out and saw both of my children, all of their friends and a sea of proud parents, none of whom would be focused on my child's wet uniform.  I settled back and settled down and enjoyed the show!

   Before the first game is upon us, I know that we must come up with a better plan that places both of us in the same timezone with a pre-flight checklist we should review before leaving the house.  I cannot continue to race against traffic or take over public restrooms without prematurely aging and knocking off years of my life.  It's time to truly get in the game.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Moose Cleaners Doesn't Clean Moose

   There is a small business in town which goes by the name Moose Cleaners.  The name, alone, brings me happiness and while I have never actually taken any clothing to Moose Cleaners, I enjoy knowing such a place exists.  We have passed by Moose Cleaners a million times as it serves as a landmark that sits on our path from the bookstore to Olive Garden.  

    Just this weekend, we turned that familiar corner on our way to get tasty Italian food and discovered, much to our chagrin, that Moose Cleaners was no more.  It had been replaced by Asian Nails and a Liquor Store.  We all stared in silence as we grasped the fact that change had come and our favorite cleaners, that we never used, was now gone. My daughter spoke up from the back seat and said, "Where will people get their moose cleaned now?"  This question begged more questions like, "Really?"  and "How many people do you know that have a moose... a moose that needs to be cleaned?"  She smiled and said, "Yeah, but wasn't it nice to know you could clean your moose if you wanted to."  I realized that my child did not truly think one could clean their moose there, but had grasped the fact that change had taken something away, even if it was just her belief in the possibility of something very cool.  Perhaps we should have supported Moose Cleaners and dropped off some dirty laundry there.  I could always do with less laundry.   Of course, an interesting thought crossed my mind.... what if I toted in a basket full of wrinkled shirts and pants only to discover that they only cleaned Moose.   That would have made my day! 


Friday, August 3, 2012

In Search of Downy Goodness

If ever an intervention was needed, it would be led by a group of concerned friends and family as they tackled my large appliance issues.  I am currently on my third washing machine in a year as I cannot find one that actually cleans clothes and leaves them smelling Downy fresh.   

My first choice for cleaning laundry was a matching set of front loading appliances that were energy efficient and saved on water.  It only took a few wash cycles to realize that a tablespoon of water, spritzed on dirty laundry and spun at high rates of speed, would not clean one's clothes. I sat in front of the tiny oval window of the washer and watched as my clothes were spun around for almost an hour and wondered when the water would actually fill the unit and begin washing away dirt and grime.  After 57 minutes of gaping through the window, waiting to see bubbly suds, I had a better understanding of energy efficiency and water savings.  It wasn't long before the Lowe's truck arrived to haul away my high tech washer and replace it with a Whirlpool Cabrio, top loading unit, that appeared to be built to fill with sudsy water. I suspected I had violated some unspoken appliance code by breaking a set as the delivery man looked at me in disapproval. 

  Satisfied with my new purchase, I loaded the new unit with shirts and shorts and all kinds of dirty laundry and waited for my clean clothes.  A locking mechanism in the lid prevented me from looking in to see if the unit was full of water.  It was the first red flag that I had no control over this washer.  If I stopped the unit in mid wash, it would drain the water before it would unlock and allow me to peer inside as if it was hiding some great energy efficiency secret.   No matter how I tried, I was never able peel back the layers of locks and drain cycles to see if my clothes were swimming in glorious suds.   After 57 minutes of trying to outsmart my washer, the lock finally opened and my clothes were ready.  As I pulled them out, I noticed that they felt almost dry and were so wrinkled that no fabric softener or dryer sheet could ever get them smooth again.  

  A little internet search led me to groups of angry people who detest the Cabrio washer and it's wrinkled clothes.  I was not alone in my despair. Over the course of several months, I attempted to jimmy the lock and gain a better understanding of the ridiculously high rate of speed in which my washer spins my laundry. It became a madness of mine to resolve an issue that Whirlpool would not acknowledge and to figure out how to wash clothes in a tub of soapy water and have them finish in a semi-dry state without wrinkles.  It's not a big thing to ask for, but it's been completely out of my reach for almost a year. I studied this washer and learned about the Coriolis effect and the centripetal acceleration that spins my clothes into a giant wad of wrinkles. Without a physics teacher living in my laundry room to solve this problem, and no help from Whirlpool, I accepted defeat and ordered yet another washer.  

  I went to the store, with a crazed look in my eye, and my clothes not quite Downy fresh, and asked for the most energy inefficient, non-locking, environmentally unfriendly tub of a washer that they had.   My requirements were simple:  Fill with water, don't lock me out, and clean my clothes.  My very basic, super size washer arrived this week.  The same delivery man was sent to my home and unfortunately, he remembered me.  As he hauled away the perfectly fine $800 washer and replaced it with a simpler, kinder washer, he gave me that same look of disapproval.   As he stood in my all too familiar laundry room of mis-matched appliances, he looked me in the eye and asked, "Why?" All I could say is that I have washing machine issues.  As he drove off, he said he would see me again in a few weeks.  Sadly, I knew he was probably right. 

  I was instantly thrilled with my new unit that washed an entire load of clothes in 22 minutes and left them smooth and looking good.  It's been almost a week of laundry satisfaction and then, just this morning, I pulled my son's clean shirt out of the washer and noticed the faint smell of his cologne still lingering on the shirt.  Instant panic sat in as I suspected that this unit, while full of water, doesn't actually agitate properly, leaving the washing process completely ineffective. I'm back at square one and afraid to tell anyone of my new realization, as they may think I'm crazy.  I'll sit in front of this washer today and watch to see if an acceptable level of shaking and stirring is occurring.   I do hope it was my imagination and that nothing is wrong with my washer, because my next and only choice is a river rock and rapidly flowing water.   It is with high hopes that I will wait to see if my agitator agitates, my washer washes and my dryer dries. 

Early Retirement and the Great Resignation

        At the age of 57, I stared at my 35 year career, whispered a polite thank you to the heavens and hit the send button on my retiremen...