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Last night, Mr. Apron had to go to rehearsal for a quickie.  I’d just woken up from a 2 hour nap, and I felt as awake as I had all day long.  He said he needed to go to the drug store after rehearsal for deodorant, so I volunteered to do the deed while he was at rehearsal, so we could spend more time together.  Aren’t we just nauseating? 

I figured on heading to Bed Bed & Beyond, since ours recently remodeled and put in a decently sized pharmacy, where I am certain they stock Mr. Apron’s deodorant.  Because there’s nothing like hitting store after store in a cold January night while still recovering from a stomach virus.  Yum.  I figured I’d also buy the dog’s glucosamine.  Finley’s been slowing down a bit lately.  He’s shown flagging ability to jump up on our bed at night, resulting in the installation of a giant footstool to serve as a launching station/midway point between the floor and the bed.  He also sometimes groans a bit as he lies down, and has had more trouble getting his hind quarters up off the floor.  Yesterday he was skidding around on our wood floors like Bambi on ice.  I figured it was time to seek out the glucosamine. 

I’d put Mr. Apron’s sister (aka our personal Consumer Reports maven) to the task to research the most potent forms of the supplement, and all the other imformation one ostensibly needs to know about canine joint care.  She sent me a helpful text message, and sent Mr. Apron an insanely long e-mail, which I printed out and took to the store with me. 

I pulled into the parking lot at 7:22pm, and left ta 7:50pm, with only those two items in my shopping bag.  You must understand that when I go into Target for “one or two things” — even with a list — I walk out with my purse $70 lighter.  When I go to the grocery store for orange juice and eggs, I end up shopping for a week.  It’s not that I demonstrated such resolve, or put blinders on for fear of overspending; I just can’t seem to leave my money at that store.  Mr. Apron calls it Bed Bath & Beijing for the pervasively quality craftsmanship.  Try as I might, I can’t get excited about the As Seen On TV “Sham-WOW” or the contraption that turns your soda can into a bottle.  I can’t muster up much enthusiasm for their zillions of Keurig coffee “cartridges” or polyester beds in a bag.  And, for all the time I spent perusing the so-called Clearance section, I left with only my shopping list.  Oooh, a sham marked down from $14.99 to $9.99?  Thrill me.  A piece of silicone that fits onto the top of your olive oil bottle to make, um, some process easier?  Ecstatic rapture.  One curtain panel for $28.99?  Unabounding joy. 

I think I’m the only person who doesn’t get squishy in the panties about this store.  Everyone I know has registered there for their weddings.  Everyone I know furnished their dorm rooms with butterfly chairs and plastic “drawers” with “wood-look top”.  I fairly gag when I go in there.  Last night especially, the aroma of cinnamon-scented pinecones (Christmas clearance) was overpowering, and the selection of quality products, underwhelming.  “Heavy-duty” wooden hangers?  Riiight.  How long will those last with my wool coats of them?  “Premium” shoe racks already splintering in the store.  Melamine closet organizers just mocking me with their sheen of photolaminate.  I’m just not convinced. 

I guess I should be happy I find it such a wholly gratuitous store.  My wallet certainly should be happy I wasn’t able to leave more money behind.  If they can invent a product that keeps dog fur off the furniture and the floors, I’ll be first in line with my 15% off coupon.  Till then, you’ll find me, arms buried under a pile of things I need, at TJ Maxx.

So, while I was at home, sick, dashing for a plastic bag or the toilet bowl yesterday, I secretly cheered the auspicious nature of the sick day, because it allowed me to prepare for the return of the oven repair man, previously known as Mr. Amblyopia.  I’m developing a theory of our oven — that it hates cupcakes, and that it can’t stand to be watched.  Sure enough, I put in a batch of oatsies (but without pecans, ugh), hoping they’d be burning to high heavens by the time 4:30 rolled around.  I was really vested in this experiment.  I pulled myself off the couch, where I’d lain for the past 8 hours, and managed to stay upright long enough to mix up the batter and preheat the oven.  I couldn’t stay up long enough to wait for the right time to put them in the oven and babysit them, so Mr. Apron did that when he got home. 

He popped the pan in the oven, and we watched the clock’s minutes tick by, reminding ourselves that the VCR clock is now 3 minutes fast (it creeps up, no matter what we do.  At least the alarm clock is atomically synchronized.  Not that it helps my morning waking anxiety…).  Finally, he pulled in.  Mr. Amblyopia put his thermometer in the oven, and we waited.  The timer buzzed, and out came perfectly bubbling oatsies.  Mr. Apron dumped chocolate morsels on top and carefully spread them.  Still, we waited.  Mr. Amblyopia questioned me about the nail-polish painted temperatures on the dials.  I showed him the cupcake.  Still, we waited.  Mr. Apron left to go teach his student.  Finally, we checked the thermometer.  Dead on balls accurate.  Of course. 

So I dialed in some sympathy, hopefully, expressing how I understood it was his job to report back to the home warranty folks, and how he was supposed to witness first-hand what we talked about.  How I understood just anybody could make a claim, and it didn’t make sense for the warranty people to go around giving away new ovens.  Blah, blah, blah.  Then I turned it on.  An intermittent problem, when it comes to an oven, is really quite significant.  You never know if it’s going to ruin your baked goods.  And I do a lot of baking, I demonstrated.  You can’t just keep opening the oven to check when you have a souffle or a cheesecake in there; it’ll get ruined!  (NB: I have never made a cheese cake or a souffle in my life, but they’re great examples).  So, really, I concluded, an intermittently broken oven is just as bad as a broken oven.  If you can’t rely on it to work all the time, you can’t rely on it to work at all. 

I think I sold him on it.  He refused to take the burnt cupcake (as evidence) or a warm chocolatey oatsie (as a bribe), but he left saying he’d try to convince the warranty company to let him install a new thermostat.  I was hoping for a new oven.  Too bad these things aren’t so complex as all that, and you can just replace a part in a 30 year old oven and have it be, sigh, as good as new.  But isn’t that what we wanted all along?  I mean, assuming we weren’t trying to schlong the home warranty company?

Our lovely little home came with many “bonuses”, some advertised, like the powder room on the first floor, and some not, like the paper towel cubby built into the kitchen wall.  One of the advertised bonuses was a one-year home warranty.  When the renewal certificate came, I perused it, noticing how much money they wanted, and what coverage we could opt into.  Noticing that it covered ranges, I jumped to tell Mr. Apron, because our stove has been on the fritz.  I just never realized we could use the home warranty to get a new one!

He called the insurance company, who sent out an amblyopic local technician.  He stayed for about 20 minutes, didn’t find the problem we had been having, charged us $60, and left.  When I got home later that day, I was fuming.  Mr. Apron told me what had happened (or, rather, what hadn’t happened), and I became very upset.

“Well, did he check the temperature?”  I demanded.  Yes, he’d just a thermometer, twice.

“Well, how long did he stay?  Twenty minutes!  Well, of course he didn’t see the problem.  It hadn’t had enough time to warm up yet!”

Here’s the issue.  When we arrived, the numbers on the 30 year-old double oven’s temperature dial had completely worn away.   I spent a half-hour meticulously applying gold nail polish with a toothpick till we could read the numbers.  We also installed a back-up thermometer, because I never trusted that oven.  And never should have, either.  It sporadically has a spike in heating, where the pilot does not go out, and the fire stays on until three things happen.  1) The thermometer maxes out at 550 degrees, 2) I smell smoldering cupcakes, and 3) the smoke detector goes off.  I had to pitch an entire batch of homemade chocolate cupcakes because they resembled charcoal.

So we stopped using the bottom oven, in fear of more ruined food.  We switched to the top oven, which worked, for a time, but barely.  It’s about the size of a large microwave, and doesn’t accommodate our larger baking dishes.  So we adapted, kind of.  Till it started spiking in temperature, too. 

After I found out about the home warranty, my patience with the two malfunctioning ovens wore thin.  But of course, this being an intermittent problem, the technician didn’t find it, and left with our money.  Oh, but if it happens again within 60 days, he assured us, he’d come out without additional charge.

Feeling as though the technician had cured our oven by declaring it functional, we started using the bottom oven again.  Thus, I was able to put in a full batch of 24 cupcakes for  fundraiser today.  And this is how they turned out.

It happened again..  I think the oven just hates cupcakes.  I was upstairs addressing Valentine’s Day cards when the smoke detector started frantically beeping.  With hurried resignation, I grabbed all my materials and rushed downstairs, where the oven had surged past 550 degrees.  There was the smell of burnt sugar and waxed paper.  I wrenched the battery out of the smoke alarm, turned on the exhaust fan, and spent the next 8 minutes babysitting the oven.  I opened the door till the temperature went back down to 350, then, in a compulsive paranoid fashion, kept opening the oven door every 2 minutes when the pilot kicked back on to check on the temperature.  Alas, all was in vain.  The cakes on the right were from that first batch.  The cake on the left was from the second batch.  Where, of course, the oven behaved itself because I was sitting 2 feet away, daring it to budge from the assigned temperature. 

Mr. Apron called the home warranty people again, asked for the technician again, and then asked if there was any way to make our claim if Mr. Amblyopia didn’t witness the issue firsthand.  Nope.  Of course not.  Not even with photographic proof.  And herein lies the difficulty of the intermittent problem.  It’s the problem no one can diagnose. 

I know it’s the insurance company’s job not to approve our claims.  I know they’re not in the business of giving out free ovens because whack-jobs like us claim to have a mysterious yet unwitnessed problem.  But there must be a way to hold them to their entire purpose. 

I remember an episode of Car Talk a few years ago where a woman who had a crush on her mechanic called in.  She wanted to do a little light sabotage on her car, so she’d have an excuse to bring the car in, and “accidentally” leave her driver’s license in plain view.  See, she thought that he thought she was older than she was, and she wanted a way to let him know her true age.  Tom and Ray gave her some trick about the coil of something so she would have an excuse.  I think she could have just dyed out her grays and worn a short skirt, but we’re getting off topic. 

I wonder what light sabotage we could do to make the stove not work when the technician is here.  I guess a pickaxe sticking out of the oven door might be a little obvious, huh?  Well, I took the picture anyway, and I’m hoping to be home when Mr. Amblyopia comes.  Maybe he’ll be sympathetic and manage to “witness” the temperature surge.  Maybe we’ll just have to buck it up and buy a new stove ourselves.  It just steams me up, because we’re going to have to get a new stove anyway, and I’d rather that the company who has warranteed it pay for it.  Just makes sense, doesn’t it?  Just want them to do their job, so I can make a freakin’ batch of cupcakes without their ending up like rocks. Intermittently.  Of course.

John Robison writes in his book about having Asperger’s that other people find him callous due to his lack of reaction to the world’s catastrophes, natural disasters, and other tragedies.  He states that he can relate to the feelings others are expressing.  He understands why everyone is so upset, but he cannot get worked up over every human soul.  It would be too emotionally draining to personally mourn each person who perished in 9/11.  I think most of us can work up a little mass casualty sympathy, but I understand exactly what he means. 

One would have had to be under a rock this week not to hear about and care about Haiti.  The coverage ranges from tragic, to uplifting, to technical, to financial.  Some of the families I support have ties to Haiti, so it’s if it’s anything to me, it’s personal.  My little sister especially has a unique insight into the victims of the earthquakes, as she is currently a case worker in Pittsburgh’s Department of Children, Youth and Families, and was able to witness, first-hand, the orphans who had been given refugee status that they might be adopted.  She was at the hospital to witness the organized chaos that handed out 51 sets of clothing, toys, backpacks, and personal care kits to 51 soon-to-be-adopted children.  She was “assigned” a 5 year old child to advocate for during her shift.  She was moved by the entire process.

Though thousands may have perished, thousands more made orphans, millions may be homeless, and the infrastructure may be completely crushed along with the homes and livelihoods in Haiti, it took a different event this week to bring me to tears.

A former co-worker of mine, a fellow teacher from my days of preschool, passed away this week, suddenly, and too soon.  She left behind a husband, two sons – one of whom I taught in preschool, and one of whom they just adopted last year, after a many year struggle to bring him home – and a shocked community.  I have been fortunate not to experience the deaths of many people close to me, nor to witness declining health first-hand.  My grandparents have all passed, and their deaths, while painful, are the deaths of grandparents that we all seem to expect and experience.  The sudden death of someone so young, so vibrant, so caring and with so much life left to experience just shocked me.  It frightened me, too.

I was immediately thrown back to my childhood, for, during a period of time when I was 4 or 5, I wondered why it wasn’t me, each night, dying in my sleep.  Why was I allowed to live another day, and others weren’t?  I was able to be comforted by my parents, who assured me that wouldn’t happen for some time, when I was old, and that it didn’t (usually) happen to young children.  It seemed to help, and, except for the last 2 nights, those thoughts haven’t kept me awake.

Mr. Apron also suffered these fears.  He feared random home invasions in the middle of the night, thieves using silencers while shooting his parents in their sleep.  He regularly would ask the darkness, “Mommy?” just to hear her voice, reassuring him they were still alive and alright.  They tried to tell him that that’s why we go to doctors, to stay healthy.  I’m not sure it ever set his mind at ease, though.  When I asked him last night, reliving my earlier anxieties, why it wouldn’t be me, or him, or someone in our families, dying in our sleep, or suddenly collapsing, he didn’t have an answer.  Because, if it could happen to my friend, my coworker, G. and J.’s mother, it could happen to anyone.  For all the deadbolts and vaccines, all the seatbelts and sunglasses, the air filters and air bags, the fiberglass insulation and grounding wires out there, we are not in control, and senseless, incomprehensible deaths happen each day.  They happen to Haitians and to friends. 

I could not attend the funeral this morning because of work, but I wanted just to be there, with the family, with my thoughts and memories of my friend.  In the obituary, there was mention of a charity accepting donations in her memory.  I haven’t given to Haiti, not even with my cell phone, but I will give to remember a person I knew myself, someone who came into my life, and a friend who left too soon.

I’ll miss you, Jen.

It’s a Sunday night.  I’ve just cranked the heat up to a balmy 64 degrees, and I’m rocking out with my bad self.  Nearly a year since we moved into this house, I’m finally reaching the end of the struggle with the smallest bedroom.  

Mr. Apron is at rehearsal tonight – for principals only – so I’m at home.  Usually, on a Sunday night, on a rainy, dark, cold, wintry Sunday night, when Mr. Apron is out, I’m already in my pajamas, on the couch, or rotting my brain in front of Facebook.  Tonight, as he and I prepared for his departure, I lied and told him I’d bake something to stave off the Sunday night blahs.  I haven’t.  I’m into a project and I’m in headlong. 

I was possessed earlier today by the smallest bedroom, and I started attacking it.  You must understand that this room was the room into which we were permitted, before our closing, to store boxes, so that our actual capital Move might be a little bit easier.  For a week, Mr. Apron took boxes of books over here on his way to work, and single-handedly unloaded them, schlepped them up the stairs, and filled that little room to its gills.  As we had no particular designation for the room, it became the box room.   Since we weren’t planning on using it actively, we figured on filling it so we could arrange the other 5 rooms of our little home. 

When we did move in, there were 61 boxes, mostly full of books.  Heavy books.  For months they sat in a holding pattern because of wallpaper.  The downstairs needed to be stripped of wallpaper, so we could paint the room, then paint the bookshelf my father made for us, then assemble said bookshelf, and finally install the books.  That was a whole other adventure, dealing with primer sticking the shelves to the drop cloths, wood swollen with paint and Pennsylvania’s summer humidity.  Finally, though, the shelves and the walls were done, and the books were organized and shelved accordingly.  Still, 20-odd boxes remained in the box room. 

I’d love to visit England and actually see a “box room”.  I read about them in novels set in Britain, and I always picture them as dank rooms off of the kitchen, perhaps by some back entrance to the flat.  Calling our third room “the box room” is an attempt to infuse some élan into an otherwise awkward situation.

See, “the third bedroom” is kind of clunky, and “the baby room’s” double entendre was not fit for company who doesn’t need to know about our breeding plans, or our future intentions for the room itself.  So it remains, in my brain, the box room. 

Today is a blessing for me.  A Sunday of a 3-day weekend.  I usually get so depressed about Monday coming that I’m not able to enjoy an entire weekend day.  I am more likely to sleep in and feel bummed that I wasted precious daylight hours in bed, and to have a heavy, protein-and-fat laden breakfast which slows me down and makes me lethargic all day.  And Sunday night is the worst.  If there’s not rehearsal (which, more often than not, there has been since September 2009), then there’s making lunches for work, setting out the stuff I need to remember to take to work, making sure the car has gas to get me to work, and the dread of the impending work week in general.  “Work” is a 4-letter word on Sundays.

Except today.  Knowing I have an entire additional day tomorrow lets me enjoy my Sunday night.  And, though I might have intended to bake something Mr. Apron could enjoy for breakfast, or folded the laundry we washed earlier, or just sat around waiting for the Simpson’s and Family Guy, I’m only now taking a break from tackling the box room.

Folks, I unpacked the last 2 boxes of books this afternoon (architecture and photography), and, as of this writing, there are exactly four boxes left in that room.  I can see where the floor meets the wall, and it is un-obscured by boxes!  Two are full of LPs, so I’m going to leave them for when we get a shelf downstairs to house the records, and 2 have tchotchkes that sadly aren’t going anywhere till we get more shelves.  Mr. Apron’s police car models are safely ensconced in newspaper and can wait a while longer to come out.  The greatest triumph is that I tackled the hard boxes, the boxes full of random-ass desk droppings.  I can recall the awful moment I “packed” those boxes.  There was panic in the old apartment.  My brother, for once trying to be helpful, looking for lightweight boxes he could take down to the truck with one arm (his other being in a sling due to some shoulder injury), rushed me to finish a box.  I quite literally swept the contents of my crafting desktop into a box, and sealed it shut.  Staples, leaflets, old pay stubs, extra buttons, old daily planners, playbills, fabric scraps, unfinished projects, juggling sacks, you name it.  It’s not all put away or pitched yet, but the boxes are downstairs awaiting Mr. Apron’s crushing forces. 

He enjoys a good box-crushing session.  It helps him with his aggression.  Who am I to deny him that pleasure?

Going through boxes is, I imagine, like Christmas, except I’m opening things I already own.  I don’t quite know the feeling of Christmas, opening gift after gift in a frenzy, but I do know how delightful it is to mutter, “Oh, that’s where that went!” and “Wow.  I didn’t realize we still had this.” 

I came across an unfinished writing sample I did a while ago.  It has no date, but I can date it by my friend’s name, which I mentioned in the piece.  Since she became popular in 6th grade, and I stayed decidedly not, this must predate 6th grade.  I shall share it with you.  I bet you can guess which particular aspect of writing we were working on in school.  Note, too, the scintillating dialogue.  I never was destined to write scripts.  The misplaced modifiers are killing me. 

Chapter 2 (NB: Where’s Chapter 1, and what happened?)

I went to the mud room, pulled on my warm, red coat, the three-color hat my adoptive aunt knitted for me, from the floor, and slid my feet into my boots that were sitting by the door. 

“Mama, I’m going to go get Hannah!”

“Ok, don’t get too much snow in your books.  They take forever to dry.”

“Bye Mama!”


I swung open the back door and breathed in the crisp cool air.  The snow was gently falling and the world looked frozen.  I grabbed an icicle as long as an unsharpened pencil, that was dangling from a tree by the garage.  I figured it would last me until I met Hannah.  Then I headed up the driveway.  Dad wasn’t awake yet, so the few inches of now that had fallen last night still lay on the ground.  I crunched down the street, marveling at the… 

And there it ends.  I wonder if I dreaded Sundays as much in 5th grade as I do now.  Well, with the exception of tonight.  I’m feeling really good about the box room.  Maybe now that it’s almost cleared out, we’ll start finding a use for our smallest bedroom in the near future.  And then I’ll have to put away all the breakable things I just unearthed! 

Since receiving an ipod classic from my parents as an anniversary present/car accessory, Mr. Apron and I have started taking it on car trips.  He enjoys music more than I do.  I tend to tune out and just hear the music as background, while he is more of an activelistener, and is often able to repeat lyrics and melodies after hearing a song only twice.  In contrast, I was steadfastly convinced that “Night Drive”, by Garnet Rogers, was an instrumental song, and I insisted this until Mr. Apron made me listen and attend for more than the guitar intro.  Now it’s one of those jokes he’s allowed to tease me about.  It’s in our marriage contract.

 Because I’m lyrically deaf and don’t get as much out of music, I like to download podcasts from NPR.  We often miss Car Talk, tuning in just as the show is ending, and I still haven’t figured out when This American Life broadcasts, yet I enjoy both shows.  When we started downloading content for our new toy, I immediately thought of podcasts.  And so we’ve been listening to them since our road trips over the winter holidays. 

 This past weekend, we ventured up to New York City for lunch (literally – train, cab, long lunch in a Kosher vegetarian Indian restaurant, cab, train, home), and were entertained by Ira Glass’s contributors’ thoughts about the upcoming year, making predictions and the like.  His lead-in story was about a woman who keeps getting “dragged” to tarot readings where they keep insisting she’ll meet fabulous success, fame, and fortune by the time she reaches the age of 50.  She’s 46 now.  I want them to call her back in a few years.  Ah, fortune-telling.

 A few weeks ago, back in the old year of 2009, back when I could type the year without a major revolt of my automated finger movements, we had Chinese take-out at work.  The occasion was a best-wishes luncheon for a co-worker who will be out for about 6 weeks having and recovering from knee surgery.  The lunch came with a bonus – a roll-up calendar for 2010 (ahhh, fingers, learn thy strides) with adorable puppy dogs on it!  My stale fortune cookie read, “You will sleep well.”  I smirked, and, with careless thought, I tossed it to a corner of my desk to gather dust along with weeks of paperwork.

 I do not sleep well.  I used to.  I used to be able to let my body fall into instant slumber, barely stirring from sleep (though I’ve been told I do move around quite a bit), and not wake until the first alarm.  I was disciplined enough even in the liminal state to only allow myself to snooze 2 more times – 18 minutes – and usually greeted the first alarm as a relief I still had a little time to sleep.  That was back when the P’Jammer alarm clock was new to middling.  At long last it became crotchety and disagreeable, and downright unreliable.  Though I was loathe to let go of the only alarm clock I’d had since I was 6, oversleeping just one time sent me scouring the aisles of Target looking for a replacement.  (Mr. Apron may well comment that I kept ol’ P’Jammer around in retirement on the floor by our bed until we moved from that apartment to our home last February.  I’ll save him the effort.)

I haven’t slept well in many years, unfortunately.  These days the alarm clock, though reliable and bland, provokes anxiety that I’ve overslept, pushed snooze one too many times, or set the alarm for the wrong time.  I don’t trust it, I don’t trust myself, and I don’t trust Mr. Apron to have it on his side(ah, how the truth will out in a blog).  I often wake up a few minutes before my last alarm, freaking out that it hasn’t gone off yet. 

And that’s not all.  The dog decides he has to climb up at 2am.  He’s always been a stealer of covers.  Recently he’s been taking more attempts to climb all the way up, waking me up with his skitter-skitter-skitter-whump! and it’s just all too unpleasant, and not conducive to uninterrupted sleep, even if he is warm. 

And then there’s the bed itself.  My grandmother gave me the antique four-poster bed-frame when I was about 15, and it’s been nothing but trouble.  The bed rails never quite meshed with the mattress, leaving the box spring sinking unceremoniously towards the floor with a great crashing sound more often than is strictly acceptable.  Yet I’ve (and now we’ve) kept it.  My grandmother died about 2 months after our wedding, and I see the bed as her blessing over our marriage.  I even wrote an essay (which became a blogpost) about it, which became her eulogy.  We have kept the fool thing, and Mr. Apron has respected my irrational attachment to it. 

Until one night in December, when it fell, again.  Trying to pull the box spring back up through the frame, he strained his wrist.  I scraped my knuckles, but he was really hurt for several days.  That was the last straw for me.  I could stand my own suffering for the sake of the bed — that was my onus — but when it started hurting my buddy, that was it.  I was moved to action.

Well, I was moved to ask for help, which is almost the same thing.  Admitting defeat is one thing, admitting complete impotence is another.  Asking for help is difficult, but I did it anyway.  I reached out to a family friend, the father of a girl Mr. Apron went to school with.  We’ve gotten to know him in other settings recently, but we are convinced the man can do anything.  He runs sound equipment, builds sets, makes computers work, and understands the stock market.  He owns a beautiful and impressive home, yet his wardrobe consists of threadbare denim chambray workshirts and matching jeans.  He is a no-frills guy.  I e-mailed his wife, who passed on the request, saying to me, “Well, I believe he can do anything.  If anyone can fix the bed, he can.”  Which was exactly how I felt.  My last ditch effort for the hopeful miracle worker. 

He came over and spent all Sunday with us after the New Year, breaking only at noon to join his family for lunch.  He took us to Lowe’s in some awful neighborhood of Philly to buy lumber and hardware, and he fixed our bed.  Noting how chewed up the wood supporting the siderails was from 100 years of stress, he replaced the boards entirely.  Seeing how hodge-podge the mismatched hardware was, he chucked it all in favor of — gasp! — a standard-size screw.  He not only fixed, he analyzed.  He understood that this type of bed was meant to have slats, not just be suspended on side rails, which I never knew.  So he cut some slats.  He reinforced the corner joints, and obsessed over why they weren’t perfectly square.  This is how MIT graduates are, I suppose.  We kept telling him “good enough” about the non-matching wood — that the bedskirt would cover it — “good enough” about the corner measuring 89 degrees, “good enough” about the miniscule wobble that persisted after he’d reinforced the endposts and reduced the play by 85%.  And, finally, as the sun was setting, it was finally “good enough” for him. 

I prsesed a plate of home-baked goodies into his hands as he left out our front door. If I’ve learned anything from Car Talk, it’s that home-baked brownies are appreciated by men doing work for you.   He had refused to accept payment, as we suspected he would.  He said simply, “I enjoyed the challenge,” as if we’d given him the latest Car Talk puzzler as a present, instead of keeping him from his family all day dealing with our bed problems. 

I still have a little PTSD upon climbing into our bed at night.  I wait for the telltale creak, the fwump! the crash.  Yet it hasn’t come.  I sleep in half a dozen positions, the dog jumps up, I climb in on Mr. Apron’s side, and still the bed stands high.  The slats have had an unexpected effect of making our mattress firmer, too.  No longer do we roll towards the center pit in the bed.  I had assumed it was just the aging mattress; really it was the unsupported bedframe. 

Though I still do daily battle with the alarm clock, I am, indeed, sleeping.  I spied that fortune on my desk this afternoon as I was hastily cleaning up last week’s mess, and it suddenly made sense, in a way it couldn’t have back in December.  I count myself more fortunate than that woman on This American Life.  Maybe she’ll have success, fame, and fortune by the time she reaches 50.  Probably not.  But I’ll get a good night’s rest, and I get it right now. 

Good night!

I think I’ve been channeling some teenage rebelliousness lately.  I’m not talking about hitting bars, clubs, or hanging out past curfew.  It’s that too-cool-for-common-sense attitude I remember, the little things we used to do just to defy our parents, teachers, and mother nature.

My center-based job is housed in a former church campus, so the center is comprised of 5 different buildings surrounding a parking lot, a set-up I’ve heard someone refer to as a California campus.  In other words, a campus which only makes sense to people living in California.  For those of us in climates which get winter, separate buildings are a major pain in the ass.  I regularly visit three different buildings, keeping the person who buzzes us into them very busy as I jet across the parking lot for the fortieth time of the day.  Sometimes I bother to get bundled up, like when the kiddos are headed outside, or if the heat hasn’t kicked on indoors yet, but frequently I find myself marching across the parking lot without a coat, in stern indifference to the cold.  No matter how lightweight they are making coats these days, no matter how much “bulk” they promise to condense, coats are still a nuisance.  Put my coat on, button up, brave the 50 yards of cold air, then enter another warm building, pull layers off, find a place to stow my coat on an absent child’s coathook, forget where I put it, leave it in the wrong building, etc.  Even as we head into a cold snap that reminds me what winter is all about, even as the, um, wiser coworkers insist in their well practiced mothering tones, “Are you sure you don’t want a coat?” or, passive-aggressively, “Aren’t you cold?” I’m increasingly defying the weather and letting the cold air hit me as best it can.

We had a snow fall last night, enough to cause many suburban school districts to open two hours late as they rushed to clean off buses and plow roads.  I left the house a few minutes early this morning, my school district being obstinately open, in order to clear off my car.  I wore my mock-Uggs (Target, $19.99) which I have defiantly covered with multi-color Sharpie graffiti, so as to keep my grey argyle knee-socks dry while I tromped around the driveway.  As soon as I pulled into my first site this morning, I flung the car seat into its furthest back position, and wrenched those boots off in favor of a pair of decidedly unseasonable ballet flats.  These are shoes so unpractical the snow laughed in my face as I stepped from my car onto the icy road.  But frankly, I don’t care.  I am so sick of bundling up (and it’s only January, folks!)  that I must exert my independence against the confines of practicality and defy the common-sense conventions that are supposed to have taken root by adulthood. 

“Screw you, winter!”  I shout in my head.  “You can’t tell me how to dress!”

My new car, my 2009 Honda Fit, is the cutest car on the road today.  I still feel like the luckiest girl on earth because I got to choose my next car, and I didn’t even have to wait for my old car to die.  To top it all off, Mr. Apron let me use our new home buyer refund as adown-payment, and all I had to do was give him my old car.  So my car pretty much rocks.  Last week at rehearsal, we were all sauntering out of the Unitarian church (where all great theatre groups are made), and one of my fellow actors remarked, quite spontaneously, “Whose awesome little car is that?”  and I got to reply, “Mine!”  I love my little car.

My Fit is my 3rd car.  My first was a 1987 Cadillac Sedan DeVille, and yes it was my grandmother’s car, why do you ask?  It was powder blue with matching crushed velvet seats.  The front bench seat did not split, so when I scooted my driving position all the way up, my front passenger(s) ended up with their knees in their armpits.  Yes, all my friends are tall, and teased me mercilessly.  I loved my car.  However, when at long last I received my mother’s cast-off 2001 PT Cruiser upon graduating college, and it was still a relatively new car, I jumped at the opportunity for such modern conveniences as leather seats, remote locking and unlocking, cup-holders, junk bins, defrosters, fog-lights, intermittent windshield wipers, four functioning doors and four functioning windows (the doors and windows on the Cad had grown, um, temperamental in their old age, and, by the time we donated the Boat to Muscular Dystrophy or the Shriner’s, only 2 doors and 2 windows were functioning).  I loved the fact that everything worked, and I didn’t have to worry about the cracking upholstery, the alternator, the why-won’t-you-unlock gas tank, and other annoyances.  I was sad to see my first car go, but oh-so-happy to upgrade. 

Yet again, I appreciate all the new gadgetry they’re cramming into modern cars.  The poor PT Cruiser (which my mechanic calls PT Loser, because he’s compassionate) is looking a little like it’s headed towards its autumn years.  It’s now been in 2 “incidents” involving other cars, leaving it with a cheese-grater mark on the front bumper, and a gouge in the rear quarter panel.  The seats aren’t as accommodating as they once were, and it’s developed some idiosyncracies having nothing to do with the recall notices.  We’ve lived through a dead battery, shocks, struts, brakes, fuses, a new radio, scratches to the headliner, and fading paint.  Poor old girl.  That’s why Mr. Apron got it for the bargain price of whatever AAA charged to transfer the title.  And, given the depreciation of Chryslers, it was almost worth exactly that.

In 8 years, they’ve definitely upgraded, even in economy cars.  I miss the leather seats, but I have a leather-wrapped steering wheel.  I have a mp3 jack in the glove box for hooking up the ipod which my parents bought for us as a car accessory.  No kidding.  My father even asked if black or white would match the interior better.  The radio controls mimic the controls of an ipod, so I can scroll through my ipod’s playlists from my dashboard.  It’s truly the coolest thing I didn’t need in my car.  My car calculates its average fuel economy (it’s funny; the Cad did the same thing, but I guess luxury in 1987 has arrived in today’s econobox), and has 10 cup holders, two for each human being.  So we can double-fist our frappaccinos.  I have magic folding rear seats, which not only flip down to make a flat loading bed, but also flip up, to create a deep cavernous backseat perfect for bicycles, houseplants, or the Dog.  Other technical advances I’m discovering as I go along.  By this I mean the idiot lights. 

A few weeks ago, a new icon lit up as I motored to work on the first cold day of the year.  I panicked, and read through the owner’s manual at stop lights.  No, I didn’t have time to pull over; I don’t allow for broken down new cars in calculating my commuting time.  I finally located the icon, a circle shape, with an exclamation line in the middle, and a squiggly line at the bottom — low tire pressure.  Which is another way of saying, watch out, lady, you’ve got a flat.  Now I did pull over, I inspected each tire, saw no flat, and went to work.  I pulled into our regular repair shop on the way home from work, and asked Jack to look at my tires. 

Jack is Chinese, and presumably speaks English, but has never been heard to speak loud enough to be understood.  I pieced together something from his mumblings:

“Jack my tire pressure’s low!  My tire pressure light lit up!”

“Up?  You mean down” (jokes don’t go so well when you can’t hear them)

“Huh?  Sure.  Down.  Can you take a look?”

“Yeah, happens every year…cold day…everybody in here…stupid lights.”

Turns out, every year on the first cold day, all the modern cars pull into the stop with panicking women.  The air hasn’t gone anywhere, it just is, um, smaller because of the temperature, which makes the tire pressure lower, and all the idiot lights go on.  Jack put another 2psi in each tire, I thanked him, and went home. 

This week, as Mr. Apron moved my car from the street to the driveway, he noticed the same idiot light emblazoned in orange on my dashboard.  He told me about it, and I figured, as the entire country has entered a cold snap, that it was just the air pressure giving a false low reading again.  Finally today, on a whim, I pulled into the repair shop on the way home from work, and met Jack as he was moving a car from the garage.  Telling him my light was on again, he fetched the air hose and began to top off my tires. 

“See?  You get a new car, you in here more often!”

I heard that.  He moved around from the left front, to the right front, to the right rear, and finally to the left rear. 

“Oh, you need a repair.  Your tire need a repair.”

“What?  I need to get it fixed?”

“No, you fine.  Your tire.”

Huh?  I rolled back 18 inches, as he guided me, and Jack showed me a nail, sunk completely into the tread.  We, of course, blamed it on Mr. Apron, as he was the one driving when the light came back on.  Jack pulled the nail out, lying on the frigid tarmac, and stuffed some gunk in the hole.  He filled it up, and $12 later, I was on my way home. 

I had it all chalked up to the modern car, its idiot lights, and modern car makers’ disregard for Boyle’s Law.  Turns out it actually picked up the nail in my tire before it went flat, saving me a tire change in some unsavory neighborhood at 15F.  That makes me the idiot, I guess, for ignoring it!  Bravo, little car.  Bravo.  Have I mentioned how much I love my car?

When I was a younger, small(er) person, I helped my father hang French doors in the doorway leading from the foyer to the living room. For years we had had a ramshackle system of homemade gates designed to keep kids and dogs out of the living room and away from the musical instruments and breakables. Finally, we installed real doors, which had the advantage of keeping humidity out (instruments no likey humidity), letting light in, and sealing dogs out (instruments no likey dogs). My father handed me a hammer, a chisel, and a small ladder, and showed me where to carve into the virgin doorframe. Obligingly, and with utmost care to detail, I carved 4 perfect mortises (you come to this blog to learn vocabulary, right? A mortise is the rectangular inset in a doorframe where the hinge is attached, so as to make it flush with the wood. And now you know.) for the doors. I was called “The Mortician” for longer than was funny. I was 14, or 12, or 10. The age goes down with each retelling, the point being that I had accomplished this most difficult and adult task while merely a young child.

And a girl at that. The latter point being one of my own making, I was brought up without regard to “boy tasks” or “girl tasks”, and believed I could do anything presented to me, in spite of the model my parents set in their traditional roles. Mommie cooked, and Daddie took out the trash. Mommie sewed the clothing, and Daddie changed the oil in the cars. Daddie mowed the lawn, and Mommie picked out the wall color. Mommie stayed home with the kids while working part-time, but Daddie’s paycheck kept us in our home.

Yet I grew up learning and doing without regard to gender roles. As often as I’d raid my mother’s fabric scrap heap to sew quilts and clothing for my dolls, I’d raid my father’s supply of scrap wood to find boards to cut jigsaw puzzles from. I loved mowing our huge lawn, because that was a $10 chore; nothing else compared. I was even given my very own jigsaw as a birthday present. While my brother was perched on the counter baking cookies with my mother, I was in the basement with my father hot-gluing shingles onto a dollhouse. I seemed to feel equally at home doing both mommie and daddie things.

Even into adulthood, I see my parents’ view of me as one without gender roles. My house-warming gifts from them have included a Black & Decker power screwdriver, a sewing machine, a circular saw, and an ironing board. I feel as though they instilled in me a sense that I could do anything, that Girls were not limited to pink or dolls or the kitchen.

Now, though, I struggle internally as I see, again and again, the girls slink off to their corner to let the boys do “man stuff”. When it’s time to build a set, or take one down after a play, I see the boys leap into action, grabbing screw-guns and tool belts, and the girls retire to organize the costume racks, to inventory barrettes, and to wash stinky tights. As girls, and even teens, we struggled to appear competent and willing to pitch in for any activity. In college, as upperclassmen, we shared the burden of moving over-packed freshmen into their dorms with Suburbans full of stuff. And now, these same women, of my generation (they who wielded hand-trucks in the quad), gravitate towards costumes, make-up, and cleaning and stacking chairs while the men grab screwdrivers, don work gloves, and load up the trucks.

Am I now at a stage of life – wizened as I am at 28 – that I have nothing more to prove in this matter? I know that I can help out as willingly as any man, but do I care if anyone else thinks I can? I guess I can choose now not to. I now have excuses, if I choose to use them: my wrist has tendonitis which is aggravated by heavy lifting, my left hand never quite recovered its stamina after my brain surgery, so I lose my grip, and my acid reflux flares up when I strain to move scenery or furniture. I don’t use those, though. I need to be content that it’s my choice, not my ability, that has me scrupulously categorizing foundation and eyeliner during a set strike.

At home, we help each other with everything, Mr. Apron and I. We don’t share all home tasks 50-50, because things don’t work out that way. He likes playing in the sink, so he does the lion’s share of the washing up. I prefer to guard my delicates against the mean face of the dryer, so I do more laundry. I hate fueling up my car, so Mr. Apron helps me out when he can. Tonight, we were on the way back from rehearsal, and he made a point of stopping for gas, just because he knows I will need it in the week to come. Neither of us vacuum until we’re disgusted with the state of our rugs; it’s very balanced, you see.

I think this all relates back to feminism. You can call it post-feminism, you can say that feminism is simply refusing to be treated like a doormat, you can say my husband has a bridge-brain. Whatever. My brand of feminism, or whatever it’s called, means that I know how to check my oil, and add a quart. I know how to change a flat tire single-handedly, and I own my own air compressor. I can tell a ball peen from a claw hammer from a mallet. But…I’m just as happy to let Mr. Apron check my oil, call for roadside assistance if it’s 40 below, and let my mechanic top of the fluids in my car. I’d rather bake brownies to thank the man who fixed our lopsided bed. I’d rather bake brownies, period.

If you think that means I’m still not liberated from the shackles to the stove, I don’t believe you. It still pisses me off to watch women skulk back to their defined 1950s roles when the power tools come out, but I suspect there’s a good deal of social loafing going on. Or maybe they’re just exercising their preferences. Regardless of what we women choose to be doing, I just hope we’re all secure the knowledge of what we could do.

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January 2010