Surprise

Russ flew in on the red eye from the west coast this morning. He told me we were going to Bin 54 for dinner since he had been away all week. After he had a little nap this afternoon we looked at the menu online. I wanted all of the appetizers and all of the sides. Since our anniversary is Monday and my birthday is Tuesday I figured I would do a little celebrating tonight and eat what I wanted and not what I thought I should have, the only problem is that I wanted to order too much for just the two of us.
Little did I know that Russ had solved that problem for me by inviting a few friends to surprise me for a birthday dinner. When we got to the restaurant I thought it was a coincidence that I knew so many people standing at the bar. Should have guessed it was no coincidence.
I love surprises. I don’t understand people who don’t like to be surprised. How can it be bad to have your friends come out to spend an evening with you? It is especially helpful when they will share dishes with you, as my friends do.
Happy birthday to me, I got to have all sides as my main course, but share them with my friends since they were too big. Russ also snuck in a Thai Cafe coconut cake for dessert to complete the total birthday celebration. What a great husband he is. Jet lagged and all he still surprises me. I am one happy old lady.


Things Keep Breaking

As I am on the precipice of turning 55 it seems appropriate that all my stuff is falling apart around me. I wrote earlier about my six year old refrigerator needing replacement this week. Today, Mr. Boozer and Mr. Cameron showed up with my new, and apparently bigger fridge. It was quite an under taking to get the old unit out of my house and a complete dismantling and reassembly of the new one once it went through my smaller than needed doors. I am praying that this one lasts longer than the old one. Six years is too short.

The best part of the fridge delivery was that Mr. Boozer altered me there was a big black snake on my terrace and he could not walk there.  I went outside and looked at the harmless creature who was very fat in the middle from obviously just eating some rodent.  I told Mr. Boozer I would take care of it and went to get a broom. By the time I came back it was gone.  I told him I had moved the snake to the woods.  If I told him the snake had moved himself he might not have delivered the fridge.

Yesterday, on my way to an afternoon of back to back meetings at the Food Bank in Raleigh, I heard a strange and unsettling thunking sound come from the front of my car. It felt like it might have been a tire, but at 60 miles per hour on I -40 my car slowed a little, but no tire indicator light came on. My car, being high fangled, has indicator lights for almost everything and none of them came on. I went a couple of exits and knew I needed to stop and give my car the Dana mechanic visual test.  
Sure enough the front rubber baffle that protects the underside of the car from road shit going into the engine had come undone on the front side. The large rubber unit was hanging down and was folded back the wrong way. If I was not dressed up, it was not 87 degrees outside, I had gloves and a big ass roll of duck tape I could have fixed it. Well, fix is too strong a word. I could have laid down on the pavement and yanked the thing into the right position and taped it up on the front grill like some car in the third world, or Caswell County.
That was not what I chose to do. I called AAA and had them tow my car back to Durham. Thank goodness the executive director of the food bank, Peter took pity on me and came and picked me up. I was only ten minutes late for my first meeting.  
At the end of five hours of meetings I asked the roomful of mostly Raleigh people if anyone was going west on I-40 any portion of my trip to Durham. It was pouring rain and hailing at this point in the evening and I just did not think that it was a good idea for me to try and walk the 28 miles home.  
My friend Eddie, drove me to Cary where I had Carter come and pick me up. She had the fun of driving in rush hour traffic for the first time. It was good practice for when she is going to have to drive herself to camp this summer.
So, a car and a refrigerator in one week is too much upkeep for this old broad. I know these things usually come in threes, so I am trying not to use any other major appliances in my house for fear that I will break them.
I guess that machines going bad are better than me going bad, especially since my planed obsolescence should be happening any time soon. Seems like new fangled machines don’t work like they used to and humans work better than they used too. Why can’t we all just be better, last longer and work with fewer problems longer? Is that too much to ask for my birthday? 


Camp Cheerio Goes On

Monday night as I was making dinner Carter got a text from a Camp Cheerio staff member alerting all summer counselors that there had been a fire at camp. “The Hilton”, a building of four cabins and “the swamp” burned down. Carter had been a camper in the Hilton more than once and lived in the swamp with the other CIT girls one session last summer.
Quickly her friends and fellow counselors responded. One boy, JP, was first to ask if everyone was all right. “That is typical of him,” Carter said. “To be concerned about the people first.” Thank goodness no one was hurt.
After last summer’s terrible accident and now this fire it seems like Camp Cheerio has had its share of bad luck. But the spirit of Camp can’t be put down. They are figuring out the logistics of this summer and the rebuild. Russ and I both told Carter they might have something temporary for this season, but no matter what it is it will be fun.
Camp is not about a building. It is about the people. The staff and counselors are chosen because they love making sure that kids are having the time of their lives. Like JP, they are always concerned about everyone’s welfare.
Thank goodness this fire did not happen closer to camp opening or heaven forbid during camp. But Cheerio lives on in its people who I know will make sure that it is the best camp season ever. God bless “the Hilton” where many great memories were made. The swamp on the other hand could use a face lift since it was the cinder block basement of the Hilton only fit for CITs who are too tired to notice they are living in a cave.
For now I am praying that is the last trouble Camp Cheerio is going to have for a while. But even with the fire it is still the most magical place on earth.


Something Is Wrong In The Appliance World


In a tragic follow up to yesterday’s post the worst possible scenario came true. After many days, interrogations, interviews and proof that I was a registered American the repairman showed up today to look at the freezer on my fridge. He pushed many buttons, unscrewed multiple panels, had me help him pull the refrigerator out of the cabinets (which then involved my mopping the dirty floor) unplugged and replugged and after an hour declared that I should buy a new fridge.
“What? #%£. This one is only six yer old.”
“Well, it must have a leak somewhere. The part will cost $800 and we don’t guarantee it will work.”
That bit of advice cost me $95. The best part was the guy was from Affordable Appliance Repair, ain’t that rich?
So between the service call and a conference call I needed to be on, I went out to buy a new refrigerator. I told the salesperson under no circumstances did I want a Samsung since my last one only made it six years. “That is about how long refrigerators last these days.”
What is happening in the world? How could we go from fridges that worked nonstop for 20 years and never a service call to ones that only make it six years? The world has gone crazy. Seems like there is some work to be done in the keeping food cold business. At this rate I estimate that I am paying almost $3 a day, not including electricity, to keep milk at my house. 
I am certainly thankful that I don’t own like three of four houses, that would mean I was buying a new fridge every eighteen months. If I had to do that you would have to put me in a sanitarium. As it is I might go there now and let them worry about making ice.


Qualifying For A Service Call

It started with the slowing down of ice production, the loss of cold in my Samsung freezer. The flap on the ice maker door stays open and water drips out the hole onto the floor. I looked at the Samsung website to find service and filled out an online form. I never got a response — three months went by and I just kept living with the slow ice production.
Then I pulled a piece of ginger out of the freezer and rather than being the rock hard frozen root I needed to shave off into a sauce, I was met with a limp, soft, browning mess. The need to get a repairman got urgent. Back to the website, filled out the from with ALL CAPS. Two days later I got a call.
Hooray, I thought. I am going to get a repairman. The call starts with a man, clearly reading a script, asking me question after question, even though I had already filled out a lengthy form. Twenty minutes into the call the man tell me I qualify to speak to the service department. WHAT? I had no idea I had to pass a test to pay someone to come fix my out of warranty refrigerator. “Thank you,” I said sarcastically.
“Do you have a pencil, I will give you the number to call?” Double what? Why the hell don’t you just transfer me? Doesn’t work like that. I dialed the number and got a nice woman who begins to ask me many of the same questions. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Here is my case number.” I tell her. “I’ve already been through this. I just need a repairman.”
No dice. More questions. “Ok, you qualify. I will have a repair service call you in the next two days to schedule a visit.” WTF! I qualify for being crazy for buying a Samsung refrigerator. Who needs a system that takes one online form, two lengthy phone interviews and five days before I even get an actual appointment?
The service provider called me and the earliest available appointment was five days later. “You know you don’t have to go through Samsung since your refrigerator is out of warranty.” I explained that I could not find any information about their company online and that Samsung would not even give me their name and number. “Yes, it is a secret who the authorized service providers are.”
Tomorrow the secret agent repairman is coming to look at my freezer. I have little confidence that this is going to be a one visit repair. I can’t wait to learn about the replacement part interview. I am girding myself for the communist Cold War type interrogation I might have to endure before anyone decides if I qualify for a new compressor. I am considering going back to an old fashioned ice box, if only I could find an ice block delivery man.  


For My Protection, Yet Not

Tonight Russ and I went to the Bulls game with our friends Dave and Sara. We sat in our regular seats, the same ones we have had since the Bulls moved to their “new” ball park decades ago. For all those years we sat on the second and third row right behind the Bulls dugout on first base side and had the best view in baseball. We also were fairly safe there with only a few balls or bats coming our way during a moment of wild play.
This year the net that used to be right behind home plate was changed to extend it half way down the field on both sides. It was done to protect the fans. The old net used to also connect to the roof of the permanent covered area so if a ball ran up the net and it did often, it ran right back down on to the field. The roof netting has been removed because they made the netting higher.
Because of our seats being on the aisle that leads to the field and dugout the net has a little opening in it right by us. Tonight in the first ten minutes of the game a wild ball went off the bat of the hitter and few at 95 miles per hour right through the small opening in the net, over the heads of the two young boys in front of us and slammed into the seat directly in front of me where my pocketbook sat. Everyone came to check to make sure we were OK.
The protective net was not so protective. Through the rest of the game I counted at least eight balls that went up and over the top of the net and into the stands. Granted that they had slowed down a little after having climbed the net, but spectators still had to pay attention to the game if you wanted to ensure you were not hit by a ball.
I liked the old non-net view better. The net is only a false sense of security, and at our seats, with the opening not any safer at all. I think that one of the problems is a world full of nets. It takes some of your own personal responsibility way from you prematurely. You think you are safer than you actually are. Yes, a line drive hit off a ninety mile per hour pitch could hurt you and a net might slow it down, but from what I could tell it never stopped the ball, just drove it up and over the net.
I like when we have to all watch out for ourselves and not have some false sense of security. If I had not been paying attention, and that ball that went through the opening was just a inch higher I could have been hit, but I saw it coming and flinched in my typical not sporty way.  

I am going to continue to watch out for myself, net or no net, but personally I vote for the old net.


Family Night Out

Russ usually doesn’t like to go to the DPAC because his legs are too long. When our seat test offered us their tickets to go along with our for tonight’s Cabaret show I suggested that we just give Carter the four tickets. “In two months she will be gone for the summer,” Russ told me, “let’s all go as a family.”
So together with our bonus child Ellis, we went to dinner and the show. Actually we also killed time at Russ’ office between dinner and the show, where Carter and Ellis played fuse ball and took pictures of themselves running meetings in the conference room. The mood was light and we were having a great time. We tried to teach Ellis how to perfect chopsticks, but that was a longer term project than one dinner. We know these times are fleeting, but I hope we can equip Ellis with the chop stick skill before they leave for college.

Cabaret is no Mary Popins. It starts out racy and gets political suddenly with the introduction of Nazis in Germany. The man who played the gender fluid Emcee did a great bit at the end of intermission he called “audience appreciation” where he asked us if we got a drink or went tinkle during intermission. “I tried, but they wouldn’t let me,” he said in a nod to HB2, the ridiculous North Carolina law. The audience went wild.
Carter and Ellis liked the show, but the gravity of the subject matter hit Carter hard at the end. Keep an eye on your government because the party can be over before you know it. I couldn’t help but imagine Donald Trump in Cabaret.  
I am really beginning to lose patience with people who I know personally who are supporting Trump. They can’t exactly tell me why and that lack of concrete reasons to like him makes me feel like history can be repeating itself with Nazi Germany. Saying, “He says what I am thinking,” scares me even more.  
It may not have been the light hearted bonding evening Russ imagined, but it was a great night for serious issues. Our kids need to take hold of our country and make sure we don’t become a place none of us could stand to live. That and we all need to know how to use chopsticks.