Monthly Archives: March 2012

Our Maiden Voyage

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Today is the first day Bianca and I were alone together.  She looked rather dubiously at Telva this morning while she was preparing to leave. A kind of doggie look that said “You are going to leave me with HER”?! I can’t really blame her. Just today she has seen me drop the mail key in the closet. I had her harnessed up to go for a walk and she was very excited-then exasperated as she saw me crawling around on the floor. I decided to take her outside and come back later to look for the key. I’m not cruel.

The reason I decided to take her for a walk to begin with was that I couldn’t remember her word for pee. Obviously it is not pee. I was frantically trying different words on her. Tinkle? Potty? Pee Pee? Nothing worked and arm gestures weren’t getting the job done either. I knew she needed to go and didn’t want to have a repeat of the ShamWow (as effective as that was) moment so I thought of the leash which equals outside. She happily left a trail of “piddle” all around the block. I’m going to write that down. On returning I spent ten minutes emptying out the closet to find the mail key. No key. Now Bianca is REALLY starting to lose confidence in me. So was I. I decided to use my problem solving skills and look where the key might have fallen “into” something. The last item left to search was a large box of those mini bags of chips. In the very bottom was the mail key. What are the odds?

I decided to tackle the floors today. Vacuuming the carpets and cleaning the Pergo floors. I have come to realize this is a rather large freaking house. Queen Victoria said that “food tastes better in small houses”, and I’m thinking what does she consider small? I like 7-8 hundred square feet. This feels triple that. I am a simple person (not moronic) and I like five steps or less in most things. Anything more and I lose interest and don’t pay attention to directions involving the mundane. Remember all those Wal Mart-grocery store demonstrations of the Swiffer and the Jet thingy sprayer that mops floors? I ignored them. I thought they were stupid and a waste of money. If I had paid attention I would have realized there ARE only five steps or less to using them. I had to figure out on my own which of the four boxes of pads went on what tool and how I was supposed to attach them (with no directions) and it  felt like 42.  I accidently squirted Bianca while mopping and I know she is having serious doubts about who is qualified to take care of who.

I proceeded to vacuuming. That went well except that I ended up with an extra carpet runner. Bianca didn’t seem to be afraid of the vacuum. She saw it as the enemy. She barked furiously at it, but NOT at Eddie, the seven foot replica of a medieval knight in full armor in the foyer? Go figure.

I arrived here a week ago tomorrow so no more stories about household disasters. I will be fully acclimated by then. Yeah right. I’m not stupid. I know you read this to find out what stunt I pull next. My stuff arrives here Sunday and I promise to have my books read by then. Those of you who don’t know me will see I’m much better at reading and talking about books than using appliances and doing chores. I know I bonded tighter with Bi today…I know where her favorite dog biscuits are.

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Ten Points

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I made a gorgeous pitcher of iced tea today with the tea maker, Telva threw yesterday’s away. I cleaned three bathrooms today, dusted and successfully used the vacuum cleaner. All and all a good day. I realized it is very satisfying cleaning someone else’s house. Maybe it’s because you know how much someone else will appreciate coming home and relaxing instead of cleaning. Cleaning my own seems like a good thing to put off.

The only challenge today was getting frozen chicken out of it’s bag  to cook in the crock-pot. Bruce had to help. Did you know you can put a hunk of frozen meat in a crock pot for six hours with nothing else and have perfect meat with it’s own gravy?  Since arriving here, there is nothing I’ve written about in this blog I haven’t done myself a time or two, but when you move in with someone else you have to re-navigate everything to see it through their eyes. This is their home, not mine. They have their own way of doing things and I have mine. The trouble begins when you start to think your way is better. Look how many ways there are to make iced tea. Look how many crock-pot methods there are. Look how many kinds of Sharpies there are. Oh wait a minute, there is only one. I never KNEW there were knock-offs out there!

I can’t believe how much I’ve learned since I got here! Did you know that ShamWow soaks up animal pee instantly? I discovered that today when I forgot to let Bianca out. I would have gotten a wad of paper towels and stood on them until my socks were wet.  Not all my ways are better. All because I have finally gotten better at doing things differently. That hasn’t always been the case. When Telva met me at the airport she asked me “What’s with the Mullet”?  Hey…it’s a great haircut for people with no necks. Why don’t hair salons have pictures of hair styles with models with no necks? Not all of us have two feet necks you know. I guess Telva has a few things to learn from me too. So I’ll give myself ten points for the iced tea and look forward to what tomorrow will bring.

Captain’s Platter Please!

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I have been dreaming about fresh seafood. One of the many highlights of moving here was being near the bread basket of the Pacific Ocean. I was treated to Telva and Bruce’s favorite restaurant tonight called The Peppermill. They have raved about it since they moved here three years ago. Surprisingly their favorite menu item is tater- tots. NOT fresh, delicious, delectable fish from the bountiful sea, but tater tots. For a minute I thought I was hearing things.

I had imagined this place to be very slick with dark mood lighting and lots of glass. Nope. It was a laid back family restaurant, warm and inviting. We walked in and this adorable waitress called across the dining room “Hey you guys, where have you been? I missed you!” I felt like I was with movie stars. She came to our table and kidded around and graciously shook my hand when they introduced me. I asked her what she would recommend and she said it was all good.

I went with the Captains Platter, a mouth watering array of halibut, shrimp and calamari deep fried. I asked if I could substitute  tater-tots for the french fries and she smiled and answered no problem. I normally don’t get crazy over spuds, fried or otherwise, but these tater-tots almost eclipsed the calamari. The platter was huge and heaped with a mountain of fish and tater-tots. I was speechless. The fish was good too.

I thought I was pretty sophisticated. I’ve been around a while but even I wasn’t prepared for Skerple.  I had to label a tray of potting soil where I had planted vegetable seeds and went digging in the miscellaneous drawer for a Sharpie. Everyone usually has one (David Beckham comes to mind) and I wasn’t disappointed. I start writing the names on the tray only to find a pale, watery imitation of what I expect from a Sharpie pen. I’d remembered that I had thrown a black Sharpie in my purse before leaving for the airport. Doesn’t everyone travel with a Sharpie?  After retrieving it, I beautifully (if I say so myself) labelled the tray. I thought I would gracefully replace their crappy old marker with the fresh one from my purse so the old Sharpie went into the trash.  Pretty generous of me heh? I don’t share my Sharpies with just anyone.

A discussion starts later after a t.v. program about Bruce being Skerpled. I’m thinking huh?!  Maybe this is a Portland word or some local skin rash, OR maybe there was something in those tater-tots! He starts digging through the same drawer as I had earlier as he is mumbling the word Skerpled. He proceeds to tell me that they had bought a whole pack of Sharpies at a flea market only to find out later they were creepy knock off Skerples that were designed to “look” like Sharpies to poor chumps trying to save a buck. “I know I have one in this drawer somewhere, I want to show it to them at work” I over hear him say. I start to sweat. It seems I had been Skerpled without ever having gone to the flea market. Thankfully it was still in the trash. So watch out…you don’t want to be Skerpled, I mean scammed, when you need a water-proof pen.

Life has gotten so interesting that my books aren’t the priority. I maybe got one chapter in each of my books read today. I like both of them so far. It’s kind of funky reading the oh-so-proper “Real Downton Abbey” and the bizarre “Swamplandia” simultaneously. It’s hard to compete with a castle but the gators are holding their own.

Tomato-tomahto?

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I KNEW the dishwasher would get me in trouble. And don’t get me started on the iced-tea-maker! I thought these devices were to make ones life easier? It will take more training than I realized to become a domestic diva. My friends are helping me start over, or is it do-over? Anyway, I insisted on working off my moving expenses that were kindly provided for me. I needed to feel that I had some stake in my new life and it was the right thing to do.

I am creating a dog nanny/housekeeper/girl Friday job description . I’m not sure what girl Friday means but it sounds good doesn’t it? I’d guess that would cover everything that isn’t covered under the other two. Now everyone knows that arguments over how to load the dishwasher can bring about talk of divorce, or at the very least sleeping on the couch. I’m not  covered by the sanctity (or paperwork) of marriage but fortunately am covered by guest/trainee. I’m having problems remembering that you can put the dishes directly into the dishwasher without rinsing, scrubbing or generally washing them first. Loading them is a whole other nightmare. I learned tonight that the way I had loaded the dishes (Wedgwood bought in England at great sacrifice) would create mosaic tiles. Evidently there is a clearance issue. I have had many dish washers in my career (the cheesey- wash -your -own- dishes- first kind) but never the responsibility of good china. Pretty much anything that I treasured in my family got busted, flooded, dropped, chipped or mysteriously disappeared. It’s a lot of pressure.

The iced tea maker I don’t get. At home I got a pitcher with water, threw in a couple cold brew tea bags, put it in the fridge and when I looked again I had cold tea. Here, iced tea requires a special container you plug in, measuring lines for ice and water and a special basket to put the tea bags in. I stood there for ten minutes this morning before I got the nerve to ask Bruce where do I put the tea bags? When Telva demonstrated this all to me on Sunday I obviously was more concerned with the KINDS of tea  to use and missed the part on where the tea bags go in the special basket. The special basket ironically was in the dishwasher. The tea when it was finished looked like very pale, brown water. Evidently I didn’t put the tea bags in the right direction in the basket. Who knew?

I’m really not an idiot, I just feel like one. I hate not knowing what I’m doing or how to take care of things that aren’t mine. That is the miracle we take for granted in having our own home. We develop our own routines and no one knows when we drink out of the milk carton. You should have seen Telva’s face when I joked about doing that. It’s only fun when it’s your own house. I have been hanging by a cuticle the last year and am trying to relax now but it isn’t easy. My daughter reminded me that I got here Saturday night after an exhausting week of cleaning and moving and it’s only Tuesday.  Oh yeah. I forgot.

I put the pressure on myself, my hosts are generous, loving and flexible with this awkward room mate in their midst. I feel at home already and feel very grateful. Still, I can’t help feeling like a very old little kid, or maybe a foreign exchange student? I need to start singing that song “What a difference a day makes…24 little hours”.  Life completely changes in a day. I did fix a nice dinner tonight that was greatly appreciated. I need to chill out, have some iced tea.

Bianca taught me a lesson today. I took her for a walk to the mailbox and realized half way there that I put her dog harness on wrong and it was listing to one side.  She never even noticed and could have cared less. She was excited to be outside and in the moment. I knew she’d be training me!

Training to be Bianca’s Nanny

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Training to be Bianca’s Nanny

I LOVE this dog!  Telva and Bruce rescued a Bichon six years ago and her name is Bianca. She is now twelve and I’ve fallen under her spell. She is the sweetest thing. She was just groomed and had cute little bows on her ears for my arrival. I will be caring for her at home while I am unemployed so I was getting instructions today on her feeding schedule. I started to put a scoop of food in her bowl and Telva barked, (sorry, I couldn’t help it…really) “She has to lay down first, don’t talk in a baby voice to her, you must be the alpha dog”. Now those of you who know me will agree that I don’t have a problem being an alpha dog but I looked at her big dark eyes and crumpled like cheap shoes. She started eating out of her bowl and Telva  MADE me make her go lie down first before I could let her eat.  It was agony. It is so much easier to do this with your own children-I mean dog.

I feel like her granny all ready and want to do things like invite her up in my lap and eat with me at the table.  BUT I am not a total moron, I know that is not good for her tummy so I will do the right thing and be the grown up nanny when she is left in my care.  I don’t mean to insult my kids but there is a mothering thing going on here that I seem to need right now.  Bianca is very sedate and lady like and doesn’t bark or fart. In fact I fart more than she does, it’s embarrassing. She stares at you when she has to go outside to do her business and she also stares at you when she wants water so I’ll have to practice recognizing the difference. Hope she doesn’t fire me.

Telva taught me to make Chinese soup today, yum, and we caught up on all the embarrassing stories of our childhood which I am not going to repeat. Too many of them are about me. We talked about my potential resume and job possibilities and goals, ugh, I’m not there yet. I got here Saturday and already feel the clock ticking even though my welcome here has been relaxed and laid back. I am in training and will learn a lot from Bianca.

I Don’t Think I’m in Iowa Anymore…

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I realized that when I woke up to green all around me. It resembles a rain forest here, although they have trees that are budding out too. There are so many evergreen trees, more varieties than I’ve ever seen in one place. Telva and her husband Bruce were welcome faces at the end of a long journey. I had two great flights on Frontier and had a great visit with my wonderful son in Denver during my four hour layover. I did get choked up earlier when the plane headed out of Iowa. Fortunetly I was sitting by myself. I couldn’t stop if I tried. Can’t you just picture a guy sitting next to me when I start bawling? He probably would have asked for a different seat- thinking it could be terror at thirty thousand feet from the Twilight Zone.

I saw downtown Portland last night and it was spectacular. So beautiful all lit up. Went to the library today, one of many. It was  striking with a children’s area that was all glassed in. It was seductively familiar. Have to wait till I get some mail to get my library card so send me a note! I feel like the country mouse in the big city…wait, I am the country mouse in the big city! There are many stores here that are nationwide but also ones that are unique to this area just like in Iowa and Colorado. Public transit is huge here and a bit overwhelming to me. That will take some getting used to. I got my first key today for my key ring and that felt good. I will get to see a beloved niece (who lives here) I haven’t seen in too long. Baby steps…

I am taking one day at a time and reminding myself I’m in a huge transition. It has been great talking to my friend and all the childhood memories we’ve shared and reminiscing about our first apartment together. Seems like yesterday. Bruce is a very patient man. Talked to my daughter today and she is surviving very well without me. We all must develop our own lives if we want to move forward. It’s good to miss loved ones, you appreciate them all the more. I found it hard to read on the plane and was too fried when I crawled into a wonderfully delicious bed and crashed.

I started “Swamplandia” by Karen Russell in Iowa but was too distracted to read but I will pick it back up this week. It is very odd but entertaining so far. I mean what’s not to like about a girl raised in a gator-wrestling theme park? Just in case I didn’t want to read it on the plane I felt “compelled” to wander into a book store in the airport and purchase “Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey” by The Countess of Carnarvon. She is the current owner of the estate where the BBC is filming Downton Abbey. Fascinating look into the last of the immensely wealthy but fading aristocracy of Great Britain. If you haven’t seen the latest two seasons of the wildly popular BBC hit check it out at your local library. You won’t be disappointed.

I saw a woman reading a Kindle on the plane and was a bit jealous because lugging books around can be a challenge in an airport. Although used books are my future for the pleasure of owning them, I won’t regret purchasing new books  because they are eye candy for me. Unfortunately so is chocolate, a double whammy.

No more doors to unlock.

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For the first time ever I have no keys on my key ring. Very odd feeling. I truly have given up all my ties to Iowa (except for Elyse and Gene) and will have a new set of keys soon. I officially finished cleaning my apartment today and handed in my last key, I sold my car and gave those keys to the new owner and gave my daughter back her spare key. I don’t like having keys that are mystery keys so I stay on top of what they open. I have been flummoxed a time or two but use the adage if I haven’t used it in a year throw it away. I know I don’t have any treasure chests lying around so I think it’s safe.

Speaking of my empty apartment…I was truly ready to throw EVERYTHING in the dumpster by the end of the day. How do we get so much pieces of stuff? Cleaning supplies, paper towels, rags, scrub brushes, garbage bags, doo-hickies that you don’t dare throw away but want to. It took countless trips to the car and dumpster and then had to drag the vacuum cleaner out to the car and I TRULY wanted to put that in the dumpster. Everything got heavier and heavier the more tired I became. I’ve been too tired to read and have resorted to glancing at magazines. They are just my speed for the next two days. I’m VERY excited to get a library card in Portland. A whole new horizon. The next time I talk to you I’ll be in Oregon.

I have been showered with cards, gifts and lots of lunches and dinners the last week and have been touched by all the outpouring of love. I was frankly surprised. I wish I could have done it back at them because I have met some wonderful people at our library and feel so lucky to connect with these special Iowans. When you see Elyse give her a hug from me. I will miss her but I know she will blossom on her own in her cute little nest. Being a parent is about saying goodbye from the moment they are put in your arms.

The movers said they would be here a day later than planned then called a day early and said they were coming. He walked in my house and said “We were told you only had 20 boxes…what happened”? I had 47. Now some of them were things like pillows and lamps and beloved junk that wasn’t heavy. I told him 20 boxes was an estimate from six weeks ago, it looked like I had a lot less stuff before I started packing. Just like moving takes three times as long as you think it will, so does estimating how much stuff you have. Just guess and triple it.