The Couple That Hangs Together…

You know that saying that goes, “If you really want to get to know someone, travel with them?” I’ve got a new one for you: “If you really want to know the state of your relationship, wallpaper a bathroom together.”

I know, your first question is probably, “Wallpaper? Isn’t that completely out of style?” Well, actually no. Wallpaper is enjoying a moment right now and there are a lot of very cool patterns available.

Our house was built in 1950 and at that time there was such a building boom that tile manufacturers couldn’t keep up with production. Instead, they made “tiles” out of the new wonder substance called plastic (also in horrid colors but that’s another story). When we bought the house the bathroom walls were green plastic tiles halfway up and the rest painted yellow. Obviously that had to go. So, when I was pregnant with our second child, I popped off those awful tiles and scraped off thick layers of mastic as best as I could, which left the walls a bit of a mess. They either had to be wallpapered, drywalled over or have a skim coat of plaster applied. Wallpaper was the cheapest option.

I put up a beautiful striped wallpaper with a border at the top that went with the rest of the house at the time. That was 25 years ago and the wallpaper no longer goes with the rest of the house. Plus, I was sick of it.

So, thinking that I still remembered how to hang wallpaper, I found about five patterns that I liked and C and I agreed on one called solitude.

I didn’t pay any attention to the fact that the pattern on the paper was an offset pattern (meaning that you will waste a good deal of paper making the pattern match). C removed all the cabinets (which I painted) and hardware from the room and I scraped off the old wallpaper and conditioned the walls for the new paper.

We knew that when you hang wallpaper the first piece you hang should be on the wall that is the most seen and completely plumb. This we did perfectly. Then we began hanging the rest of the room and got about halfway around and realized that we probably also needed to restart on the panel next to the first one and proceed the other way so that the end of the project (where there is always a mismatch of pattern) would be over the door and hardly noticed.

If you’ve never hung wallpaper I will tell you NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER attempt to wallpaper a bathroom for your first wallpaper job. It’s just too difficult. Besides the fact that bathrooms are generally small, they also have lots of things to maneuver around. Add to that walls that are completely out of plumb and you get THE TOUGHEST WALLPAPER JOB YOU WILL EVER ENCOUNTER. And that is why all the wallpaperers I called wanted $1,000 or more to do the job.

But I thought that since I had done this once before that I would be fine. And we mostly were, except for places where we weren’t and I’m not going to point them out because when you come to our house you’ll just look for them.

In a rush to finish, I decided to cut the last four panels for the job all at once. I thought I was meticulous at cutting them because they all matched, except I measured the length of them perfectly but didn’t measure the proper length from where the pattern matched so they were all a foot too long at the top and too short at the bottom. We had to shut down work until another roll of wallpaper arrived.

The new roll of wallpaper arrived and C cut it all because he knows how to be patient with cutting and not mess it all up. He drew the plumb line so I could keep the paper straight in spite of an inside corner that was over 1” out of wack and I hung the rest of the panels.

So the wallpapering is all done, but I still have some painting and fine fixing to do, but the bathroom is usable and the house is less of a mess.

Here’s the point: though working in a space so small we were almost on top of each other, making mistakes, having issues with hinges and hardware, shelves, medicine cabinet and the new light, not to mention the mess that extended into three other rooms of the house we did not scream or threaten, insult, scowl or threaten to divorce. In short, we just forged ahead and figured out how to make it work. Together.

To me, it is absolutely a testimony to us as a team. Clearly it would have been a lot easier to hire someone to do this work, but doing it ourselves made for a much better life experience. And now we have another $1,000 for a well-deserved vacation.


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Inspired Independence Day Words

I thought a lot about what to write in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage and its proximity to our national Independence Day holiday and then read what Harold Jackson of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote. I think he says it all.

Ruling shouldn’t change right to religious freedom
Were he alive today, I believe my younger brother who lived in San Francisco would have married his longtime partner, with whom he had lived for several years, long before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized gay marriage nationally.
Being a Christian, as was my brother, I would not have recognized that union as a Bible-blessed marriage sanctioned by Scripture. But as an American who believes this nation was founded on the promises of freedom in the Constitution, I would have accepted the right of him and his partner to be a committed couple with all the legal guarantees granted to heterosexual spouses. I would welcome them in my home, invite them to my church, and love them as my kin.
I can’t say that I have always felt that way. My brother and I grew up in a different time, when most homosexuals who wanted to succeed in life kept that part of themselves hidden. I was in college before I found out that one of my favorite Sunday school teachers when I was a child was gay. Apparently, so long as he didn’t do anything that might be construed as attracting undue attention, he was accepted just like any other upstanding member of the congregation. In retrospect now, I think of how tortured his life must have been in trying to always present an image that wasn’t really true.
That was before gay men and women came out of the closet. Today, gay couples hardly get a second glance as they stroll down streets hand in hand, embrace in movie theaters, and, depending on the church, pray together in pews. Many are also getting married in churches that believe biblical references to homosexuality as sin are either misinterpreted or somehow no longer apply. God will make the ultimate ruling on that. In the meantime, churches that do not believe they should be required to marry gays are wondering if the Supreme Court decision will force them to do just that. It shouldn’t.
Religious freedom was one of the most important reasons, if not the most important reason, that so many colonists left Europe to establish a new home in America. It’s why the very First Amendment to the Constitution both forbids the establishment of a state religion and guarantees the free exercise of religious practices. That means the same Constitution that the Supreme Court cited to remove all prohibitions of gay marriage can be cited by churches, synagogues, temples, and other religious institutions that want to continue to place restrictions on whom they will marry.
I don’t know if my brother would have wanted a church wedding. He died in 1996 of AIDS, having kept his illness secret for years. To admit the disease would have required him to admit other secrets that, 20 years ago, he didn’t feel he could. I will always be sorry about that.
I’m glad that gay couples today no longer have to live secret lives. The Supreme Court says they also can marry. But it is important that the court did not invalidate religious objections to gay marriage. That keeps the constitutional separation of church and state intact, which, as I understand it, is also what the Bible prescribes. The Good Book also tells us to love everyone as we love ourselves, and to leave the final judgment of each of us up to God.
Harold Jackson is editorial page editor for The Inquirer.  

May we all celebrate Independence Day together!

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Neither a Quitter nor a Joiner Be

after 18 months of enjoying the same zumba class i am suddenly out on the street. the business has been shut down.

when i first began my newest fitness habit, i started by hiring a personal trainer. that’s not because i’m some kind of snob but because i was a gym neophyte and i was tired of feeling like an uninformed idiot when i walked into a gym. maybe i didn’t want to use the equipment, but at least i would know how to use the equipment and what i was supposed to be accomplishing while using the equipment.

but personal trainers are expensive so as soon as my time with him was up, i joined the la fitness near me. there i continued what the trainer had taught me and pretty much just did my own thing. i would watch the group classes but i just didn’t feel comfortable enough to join in. the fact that the classes are offered in a room surrounded by mirror on two sides and glass windows where all the gym can ogle probably had something to do with it.

after discovering our town’s new recreation center, i quit la fitness with all of its lunks, filth and social nonsense and worked out at the rec center with c. working out at the rec center gym was fine, but there’s only so much time on an elliptical i can stand.

when i was in college i was a dancer as part of my theatre curriculum and i loved every minute of it. but in case you haven’t noticed, there are very few dance classes offered for adults and if they are offered, they’re usually very late in the evening after all the kid classes are over. i don’t mind going to a dance class at 8pm when the weather is nice but when it drops to 30 degrees it’s out of the question.

so when the rec center offered zumba i thought i’d give it a try. the first time i was self-conscious and kind of shy and hung toward the back of the room, but all that dance training and years of aerobic classes came together and made zumba a fun fit. i kept up with the classes until those too got shut down for lack of participation.

sans zumba, i took some late night dance classes, which were a lot of fun, but it got to the point where there were just too many people packed in a room. then too, the classes got moved to an even later hour and i don’t know about you, but if i don’t work out as close to when i get home from work, i’m just not going to.

finally, i found a zumba class that was nearby and which started at a reasonable hour. there were no windows in the room and the classes were usually small and most of all the times were convenient so i stuck with it for a year and a half. and now that’s gone too.

ugh. i am, and c will confirm this, a creature of habit and not a person who transitions well. i can go back to the gym at the rec center, which is small and very nice, but i can’t find a zumba or aerobic activity class that’s interesting and convenient.

so i’m thinking about joining the new ymca that was built in our town. it’s a very large facility with a big gym and two pools and lots of group classes or smaller classes if you’re willing to pay a little more. i’ve resisted joining the y because the place is huge and it’s expensive though less expensive if c and i join together as a family. but, i’m not much of a joiner and i’m not terribly fond of social interaction while i’m working out.

in spite of all that, c and i toured the y and i asked to attend a zumba class before we committed to joining. i enjoyed the class, but it was pretty big – about 60 women – though there were all age groups so that made it better.

so now, i’m still struggling with the whole hugeness of the facility and coming to grips with the fact that i’m just not a joiner and i’m not big on crowds. on the plus side, since there are a lot of classes offered at the y at all hours and including sundays, i could deliberately schedule workouts at less crowded times. maybe it’s not as convenient, but it will mostly likely be more enjoyable.

i know, first world problems…

but at least i know what i’ve learned about myself in the realm of attempting to maintain fitness: that i can only rely on my own self-discipline for so long and paying for access to a facility makes me feel guilty and beholding so i am more likely to go. and that, having outlasted three sets of zumba classes, i’m not quitter.

now i guess i just have to work on being a joiner.

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Summer Shaming

Summer’s here! Well, maybe not by the calendar yet, but certainly by the change in the weather and absolutely when it comes to summer’s main event: body shaming. Of course, little of this is pointed at men, unless you count Bruce Jenner after his transformation to Caitlyn.

I don’t know about you, but suddenly I can’t go near a magazine stand or log into online periodicals or blogs without being assaulted by a series of photo montages that focus on a single part of a woman’s body. The first one I saw was, of course, breasts, then came butts, followed by legs. I didn’t see any montages that were pictures of an entire female person. I didn’t see any photo montages that featured men.

Oddly nowhere among these montages were any other identifiable information about these women like education, accomplishments, contributions to community or society, area of expertise, or even a name. Clearly the only thing of importance was how pleasing their singular body part was to a man in one man’s opinion. Actually, I’m not even sure I can target only men here because women seem to be becoming ever more vicious in judging one another’s physical appearance.

I even caught some dumb tv show where the cast attended a fashion show put on by a plastic surgeon and the “models” were women who had all had a procedure done. In fact, they were organized by procedure with introductions like, “here comes the parade of butts!” and a dozen or so women all dressed in white jeans with white T-shirts tucked in, marched down the runway proudly displaying their newly enhanced butts. Family, friends and potential patients vigorously applauded. Then there was the parade of women who proudly announced all the procedures they had done… in great detail.

As if the outward body changes weren’t enough, now there’s a growing narrative that women need to have a labiaplasty to create the perfect labia. Huh? So we still maintain our horror at female genital mutilation, but willingly schedule cosmetic surgery that could carry serious negative results on our genitalia.

I’m never going to dispute that sometimes corrective surgery for any number of issues is a godsend, but when it gets to the point where we don’t know what our bodies are supposed to look like and therefore think we need to subscribe to an artificial standard, then it’s clearly time to hit a reset button.

Listen, I’m not one of those all natural, crunchy women who ignores all manner of conventional enhancement. I dye my gray hair, I shave, I get pedicures and I’ve had laser hair removal. And whatever manner of body celebration or objectification that takes place between my husband and me is just fine because it involves all of me along with the body part. And vice versa.

But I wonder where the line is between tweeking yourself for your own sake and getting a major overhaul to try to fit some false illusion of women’s beauty.

Certainly body image is something you carry inside yourself, but the constant bombardment of rubber stamped images of “beauty” can’t possibly be helping everyone’s self-image. By the same token, our hyper attention to these kinds of superficial topics and vacuous people (Kardashian kabal) rather than humans of worthwhile knowledge, action and accomplishment speaks volumes. Can we all just get a brain?

If you really want to explore images of some individual body parts, check out this Instagram account: mrs_angemi. It might not be for the faint of heart since she posts pictures of actual body parts, but if you want a little truth to your version of body “normal” maybe you need to see what bodies actually look like and her commentaries are spot on. One of her latest posts is a picture of a liver damaged from wearing corsets.

So happy summer to all and celebrate the individual that you are.

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Speak to Me

i have discovered another new pleasure. i’m probably one of the last people to have actually begun listening regularly to audio books, but i find that i have quickly become addicted. our daughter, e, has been listening to audio books for quite some time – she is a person who has spent a lot of time touring on busses while performing in drum corps or more recently, driving to and from her job so audio books are a godsend. she actually bought the subscription service because it is immensely more cost effective than paying for individual books. i’m not quite there yet, and i have to admit that there is a part of me that still feels obliged to make sure authors are compensated.

i started listening to audio books by accident when i was downloading the brief and wonderous life of oscar wao by junot diaz and i clicked on the option for the ebook and audio book combination instead of just the ebook. i could have cancelled the transaction, but i thought i would read some of the book and then listen to some of the book just to see if i like it. well, i was so enraptured with the audio version of the book that i never went back to reading the text of the book.

i’m glad this was the first novel i listened to because diaz’s writing is so lyrical and story so startling that it transports you sometimes to a place you want to go and sometimes to a place from which you want to quickly escape. on more than one day i had to take a pause and clear the story out of my head before i got out of the car.

sadly, i finished the book and went on an all-out search for another. it was hard to imagine how some of the bestsellers would sound compared to diaz’s writing so i decided to search for another literary book. i’m not a really fast reader of literary books since i tend to mull over words and sentence construction and ponder a bit. i looked at a lot of classics and as tempting as they were, the reviews of the narration were often bad. there’s some kind of crime in hiring an unskilled actor read extraordinary writing.

i finally decided to download wise blood by flannery o’conner. i always loved flannery o’conner’s writing but hearing it read is equally as satisfying, maybe even moreso because this narrator is very good.

to spend my drive time being submerged in the story and the language and vivid description contained in these kinds of books is extraordinary. i find myself repeating some of the most exquisite lines out loud. by the time i get to work or home from work, i feel as though i’m in an entirely new world, on in which the ordinariness of just another day has been transformed.

i also find myself positively influenced in other ways like using a broader vocabulary, an enhanced descriptive ability and suddenly being able to notice more interesting characters around me than just mundane stereotypes.

trust me, i’m still reading books – often two at a time – but listening to a book, especially and wonderfully written book, has been a transformative experience for me.

it’s commonly said that “you are what you eat”, and i believe the same is true for what we listen to and watch. well, I still watch some junk tv but the balance has been tipped.

fyi, the app i’m using is audible
but i know that books are also available on itunes.

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From Wonderful Day to Bewildered Haze

i really wanted this post to be just about a wonderful mother’s day, because last sunday was just that: a wonderful mother’s day. we spent part of the day visiting c’s mom then c got all three of our kids and some (not all) of their significant others to come over for dinner.

every time our kids are together i just marvel at how smart and funny and caring and thoughtful and opinionated and interesting they are. and how much i learn from them. and mostly, just how much i enjoy spending time with them. it’s great to see them mature and settle into their lives. my thoughts and actions now is for c and i to take good care of ourselves so we can spend as much time as possible with them all.

and then… monday came and along with it another f*&%ing computer equipment failure. yeesh!

this time some idiot drove their car into a utility pole and took down the electricity for about 2,000 households and businesses in our area. when the power came back on, the spike fried two of our network switches and knocked out the programming to our modem and router. in short, no internet.

wow, have times changed. without internet at work we can… um… or maybe… er, well, maybe we could or… in short, we can make phone calls to people who ask us to send them an email and take notes by hand (horror!) and fax stuff. pretty much back to the stone age.

i was able to diagnose the problem and then flounder around to try to find a solution, which was to call in some networking professionals. i know enough to replace the blown hardware but to reconfigure a network? not a chance. after watching two networking professionals and all the intense detail it took to interface with verizon, configure network settings and solve issues, i’m more convinced that before that this area is completely out of my league.

now, it took these guys five hours to get us back up, but in fairness to the technicians, they would have been able to finish their work in about three hours if not for the sd effect.

there are four men in our office, all of whom are fairly technically illiterate, not to mention severely handy-man crippled. yet, and always, when there is a technician or workman here in the office they each have to saunter out of their offices and pretend that they know something and attempt to engage the workmen in endless irrelevant conversations, which pulls them away from working the problem at hand. i call this the swinging dick effect. frankly, it drives me nuts. it wastes time and amounts to nothing except to make these guys feel like they are not the soft boys they really are. but hey, if they want to run up the bill by running up the technicians clock…

in short, my wonderful sunday turned into another monday from hell (which extended into tuesday this time).

i wonder if i we could avoid yet another computer catastrophe if i stay home on monday. it’s worth a shot.

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Here Comes Your 19th PC Breakdown…

<img src="broken computer photo: computer computeronfire.gif” alt=”” />

back when we were held hostage to comcast for our cable tv, the service when out pretty regularly and one of the explanations was that the outage was due to sun spots. no lie. sun spots. i have since read that sun spots actually can disrupt electrical fields and could pose a problem to our devices, which in no way absolves comcast and rather just proves that they will pluck any story out of the news to explain their shitty service. btw, we have long since moved to fios and our service almost never goes out and i’m pretty sure there are still sun spots.

i bring this us because i’m searching for an explanation as to why my laptop suddenly went berserk to the tune of a couple hundred bucks and about five other people had the same thing happen to them around the same time and finally because i walked into work on monday to find the blue screen of death on my work pc.

now nasa is saying that we’re actually in a period of time when there are fewer sunspots which would lead me to search for another explanation as to why it seems that many of the computers around me are suddenly attempting suicide, or in the case of my pc at work, actually succeeding at suicide.

i guess suicide is a dramatic term for my work pc since only the hard drive failed. given that i work for three independent businesses who are all in investment and insurance, and run the overall office for yet another insurance and investment business, having a dead computer means i can’t do a single thing. and other people cannot scan/email anything because my computer acted as the server.

it also means that i’m the tech department. i have a tech resource that i can call to do some things, but not purchase and install a new computer.

so off to microcenter to pick up a new computer. now, my tech friends are wondering why i don’t just pop in a new drive instead of buying a new computer and to them i say, “you could volunteer to come out an pop in a new drive for me” but i’m going to take advantage of the situation and buy myself a computer i really want to replace the five year old one i had.

i did not purchase the last computer and i would not have purchased it because it was not robust enough to be used in an office environment but the person who purchased it didn’t bother to ask me for my input. the person who bought my last computer is constantly crashing his by clicking on all kinds of links that install malware, etc. on his machine and also still doesn’t know how to attach a document to an email.
over the years i have purchased and installed a fair number of computers at various businesses, but these days the process involves nowhere near the kind of agony it used to. of course i say that because i use a cloud based backup service and enterprise software and connect to a server through microsoft exchange. the tricky part is networking to the shared copier/fax/scanner, which i didn’t even attempt and instead called the it dept. at the company from where we leased the machine. trust me, it’s a damn tricky process that involves an on-line interface for which i don’t even have a login.

i now believe in planned obsolescence of these devices. isn’t it interesting that just about the time that there’s a new operating system coming out you start to see all kinds of failures on machines? alright, so “about the time” is a relative term since we’re talking about windows 10 and no one knows when that’s really going to come out, but still. oh, and don’t send me any of your cult comments about the almighty apple because the fact is that those machines are waaaaay to expensive and don’t play nice with the software and enterprise systems necessary to conduct our business.

personally, it’s not too far-fetched to believe that a windows update did something to fry a bunch of machines and a welcome side effect of that was a spike in new purchases. so i got my new smokin’ fast computer at work and all updated software, which makes up for the small agony of installing a new machine.

now if i can just get through the next few months without the other three office computers failing. trust me, installing a new computer for the guys i work for – that is people who stand over your shoulder and second guess or try to control or change every step of the installation when they haven’t a clue as to how the damn thing works — is an agony not even comcast could match.

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