Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Guest Post From Dean

We had a good run my old friend.  You were white and painted with little orange pumpkins when I first found you in a tray of miscellaneous pens and pencils Cathy keeps in her junk drawer.  I am sure you came to us via one of the girls' trick or treat bags.  Obviously you were unwanted.  You had never even been sharpened.  I decided on the spot you would become my Sunday crossword pencil.  I sharpened you up and started that Sunday's crossword puzzle sometime in the fuzzy distant past (more than 10 years ago but less than 20).

You were used almost exclusively on the Sunday crosswords and usually the AARP crosswords once we started our subscription.

When you grew too short to handle easily I added one of my art pencil lengtheners and we carried on.  I don't know how many times I lost you.  I mostly found you tossed in Cathy's junk drawer when I had absent mindedly laid you down somewhere other than your special place.  I found you once in the Subaru's map pocket after being lost for weeks.

We have gone quite the distance my old friend.  I decided that today would be your final time in the sharpener.  Once you wear down doing today's puzzles you will be retired to an honored spot in my art room where you will live our your days ... unless I think of a juicy art project to use you in.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cut The Cord, Larry!

How much television do you watch?  Do you think you watch too much?  Too little?  Just the right amount?  Do you think your cable or satellite subscription costs too much?  (I’m not even going to ask if you think it costs too little because if you think that you have way too much money and I would like to be added to your Last Will and Testament please). If you didn’t watch television what would you do with that time instead?  Would you miss it?   
That’s the dilemma Dean and I are wrestling with now.  Or more specifically, I am wrestling with it because I am the household banker and I am tired of spending $92.00/month on 120 channels just to get the five or six (okay, maybe eight or nine) we like to watch. So we’ve been considering dropping our cable subscription and buying an internal or possibly external antenna so we can still get some live television for those times when I’m too tired after my 10-hour workday to load up Netflix and try and decide what mindless drivel will complement my vegetative state.  

The concern is, what stations will we get with an antenna.  Will they be the stations we want to watch?  We must have PBS of course.  If Dean had to live without Brooks and Shields on Friday night he would probably be almost as traumatized as he was the time I threw away the huge bag of our sheepdog's fur.....................................which he'd been saving for me to spin and knit into a sweater because of course I would magically know how to do that by the time he'd collected enough fur.  Too bad we'll never know how that would have worked out.  Oh, wait.  We might.  Since now he has started saving Angus fur.  Gosh, I just hope I live long enough to see that magical transformation of my abilities take place.
In Sheridan we’ve been doing just fine without a TV but we're only there for long weekends and in the summer there’s so much to do outside that we don’t have time for TV.  This winter I’ve been reading more, or watching the birds land on a branch without having to calculate the speed and direction of the wind first.  We did finally bring up a small television in December and installed the internet, but we still find it easy to limit ourselves to infrequent Netflix selections.  In Casper, though, after a ten hour day at work, finding the energy or brain power to do more than stare at a TV screen might be tricky. 

I’m fine on the weekends without (much) television … when the weather is good anyway.  Today we took the boy on a nice long walk along the river.   

We weren't the only ones enjoying the bright blue skies and barely noticeable wind.  Look how relaxed the squirrel is.  He doesn't even have to grip the branch to prevent himself from being blown off.

And this guy looks sleek and trim without wind-blown feathers.

 I don't speak geese but I think I heard them honking to each other how great it was that the lack of a tailwind made it easier not to over-shoot the water when they landed.

This guy.  He doesn't care how windy or cold or snowy or rainy or hot it is.  He's just glad to be outside.

After about an hour we turned around to head back and discovered our gentle breezes had been blowing in this.   

Within minutes after we'd gotten home it was beginning to spit snow.

Which quickly increased.  And now, two hours later, looks like this.   

Maybe I don't need cable or satellite.  I have the Animal Planet and the weather station any time I want them.

What do you all have?  Do you have cable?  Satellite?  Roku?  Chromecast?  A library filled with books?  Convince me to cut the cable.  Or tell me why I will regret it. 


Monday, January 20, 2014

Ms. MacGeyver Hates Plumbing

It started with a spurt of air and water in the sink when the guest bathroom toilet was flushed.  Not every time, just some times.  I wondered if it was some quirk of plumbing that was related to the sub zero temperatures we’d had.  Dean didn’t seem to care about it at all.  I wondered if we should call a plumber.  Dean just shrugged.  But after a day or two it stopped.  It didn’t happen again for three weeks………until last night.  Last night it happened again.  And it’s not subzero anymore.  I thought we should call a plumber.  Dean wanted to “try something first.”

Have you ever wondered how people know what they know?  Men, for example.  When the spurting air and a thin spray of water began again in earnest today how did Dean know it might be related to the plumbing vent? Or that there even is such a thing as a plumbing vent?  During the epoch we’ve been married, we have never ever had air and a thin spray of water shoot up through the bathroom sink when the toilet was flushed.  Never.  So how did he know about plumbing vents?  Are men just born with that kind of knowledge?   Why aren't they born with knowing when it’s time to give up or when it’s better not to start at all?

Dean wanted to check the plumbing vent to make sure nothing was blocking it so up on the roof he went.  Down the vent went the metal coil of the plumbing snake.  All of it.  Out of his mouth came one word.   From my assigned position holding the ladder I called up that I would be happy to call the plumber.  “They probably have just the right tool to fish out snakes.”

I’ve heard the Dean Mantra “you never know, I might need that someday” for so long that I assumed a long rod with an end just right for retrieving a long string of metal would have been hiding among all the boxes and shelves and stacks and piles of junk stuff Dean hoards has collected, but  I was wrong.  The boat motor he dragged up from the old chicken house has been sitting in front of the house for six months because “you never know, I might need that someday wasn’t going to work. The old parts from the irrigation pump that have been lying by the side of the yard for nearly 18 months because “you never know, I might want to do something with those someday” weren’t going to work either.  But I found something that would not only fish out snakes but didn't come from a pile of usele ... uh, treasures.  I thought of a ski pole.  Me, I thought of it.  My plan to ski today didn’t work but I could still put the pole to use. 

 I handed the pole up to Dean but his first attempt at grabbing the snake failed because the plastic tip was too slick.  He could pull the metal coil partway up the vent pipe but then it would slip back down into the hole.  So I thought of wrapping the end with duct tape, sticky side out.  Me.  I don’t want to brag … okay, 

yes I do … I thought of that too.  And it worked.  Dean was able to push the sticky end of the pole onto the snake and push it up to the top so he could grab it – all without losing the pole down the vent as well.

But that did not solve the air/water spitting sink when the toilet was flushed issue.  And soon after we discovered the kitchen sink wasn’t draining either.  I offered to call the plumber again but Dean wanted to snake the sink.  But before that he wanted to snake the shower which hadn’t drained very well the night before.  After that he snaked our bathroom sink.  But there were still gurgling noises and spurting air when the toilet was flushed only now it happened with all the sinks and both toilets, not just the guest bathroom.  On top of that, the toilets drained slower and slower with each flush.

Again I offered to call the plumber but Dean wanted to snake the guest room toilet first just in case that would solve everything.  It didn't.  I really wanted to call a plumber but Dean thought he should snake our our toilet first so he would know if that was the problem area.  Maybe that would take care of it and we wouldn't have to call a plumber at all.  So he tried, but the snake wouldn’t go very far.  He pulled it out and I said “let’s just stop and call the plumber.”  But he wanted to try again and this time he really worked at it and got the snake to go much further although it still didn’t get rid of any of the problem.  I offered to call the plumber again.  I had my phone in my hand.  But Dean wanted to check one more time to see if he could find a clean-out drain.  So down to the basement we went again.  Nothing.  Down to the crawl space we went again.  No clean out drain – but now there was a big puddle of water that had not been there before.  “I must have broken the seal on the pipe when I forced the snake down our toilet.” 

This time I didn’t ask.  I called the plumber.  But today is, of course, Sunday so I left a message begging  asking politely if we could be first on their list tomorrow morning.  Then we went to the brewery and drank beer, which may not have been the wisest decision considering the antique outhouse in our yard is not sitting over a hole. 

At least for tonight it gets dark early, we live outside of town with a lot of trees and bushes, most of the snow has melted, it’s not subzero, and I have a flashlight.



Saturday, January 11, 2014

So No Snow Isn't Always Good

Dean can sometimes be as hard to buy gifts for as my father who refuses to give me any birthday or Christmas gift ideas.  Not even a hint.  I’ve thought now and then I should buy Dad his own personal on-call computer technician (do they have those?) but what fun would it be for Dad to watch somebody else reload all his programs and data after he “pushed the wrong button …. again.” If he wasn’t spending eight or nine hours fixing his computer he’d just have to find something else to do anyway. 

Actually, Dean can be harder to buy gifts for than my father.  I can always fall back on chocolate or a Pendleton shirt for my dad but what do I get a husband who has so much already?  What could I give him that he would value as much as his boxes of empty beer cans, zip lock bags of dog fur, containers of wine corks, bins of broken trophy bits and pieces, cans of bent nails, the guts of a piano, a cookie jar filled with used staples and oh, so, so much more?  Finding the gift that will elicit an ahhh…….that’s perfect. I didn’t even know I wanted that response is almost as hard for me as finding one of my eight pairs of reading glasses.  

This December I accidentally stumbled upon the solution to my gift-buying dilemma.  Travel.  But not just any travel.  Travel during inclement weather.  Blizzards and ice-coated interstates worked for me but I’m sure winds strong enough to tip over a semi, dust storms or torrential rain would work just as well. We experienced a bit of weather when we flew down to Tucson to see Abby and Jorge for Thanksgiving.  (Oh, did I forget to tell you they are here in the U.S. now?  Hmmmm…..if only I would blog more……)

Even though it rained the first two days (watch how the weather and travel is beginning to factor in) it was good to be warm since we’d already experienced three snowstorms in Wyoming in October.  

We even took a couple of days and traveled to Yuma to see our good friends John and Deirdre. 

As you can see from the photo above, Dean likes rocks.  The whole time we were in Arizona I was on the lookout for a Christmas gift for him.  A really pretty rock would have been a great gift idea but the last time he tried to carry rocks onto a plane he had to leave them with the security folks because apparently rocks can be considered a weapon and this year TSA wasn’t on my Christmas list.  When it was time to leave Arizona, I not only had no Christmas gift for Dean, I had no idea of what to buy.   But that was soon to change. 

As we sat in the airport waiting for our flight back to Billings, a voice told us our flight was going to be delayed, or cancelled, or we were going to be re-routed en route because of weather in Billings. (Pay attention, weather is becoming more important in the gift buying endeavor). The flight wasn’t cancelled, it wasn’t even delayed, and when we landed in a blizzard we knew we hadn’t been rerouted.  I was so proud of myself because I had planned ahead and put the parking lot number and section in my phone so we could quickly get to our car and head out on the two hour drive back to Sheridan.  I should have noted the physical location of our car instead though because the parking lot markers were completely covered in snow.  We had no idea where our car was.  Dragging our bag through eight inches of blowing snow, in sub-zero temperatures, we began the search.   No luck.  We split up.  That was a mistake.  Blowing snow muffled all my cries of “where are you!?  Did you find it?  I can’t find it!  Where are you?!”  Cell phone!  I called Dean and incredibly, he answered.  He had found the car, scraped it and had it warming up by the time I found him, my hair stiff with snow and my toes aching with cold.  It had been almost 30 minutes since we walked out of the airport.  

It was dark, snowing hard, blowing, and colder than a well digger's boots (as my mom liked to say) but Dean still wanted to drive to Sheridan.  I said no.  He really wanted to drive to Sheridan.  I said no.  At some point during the discussion we called Leslie and she said, “What would you tell Ryan and me if we told you we were going to drive on icy roads with blowing snow?”  We stayed.  Ryan’s sister and husband graciously welcomed us into their home, late in the evening, with only a 20 minute notice.  We walked in, dripping with melted snow, to the inviting sound of Christmas music filling the rooms, sparkling lights, a warm cup of tea and a cozy bed.  The next morning, warm muffin in hand, we headed for Sheridan – still over icy roads with some blowing snow but at least it was light enough we would be able to see what was coming at us if we slid off the road. 

Sit up straight and focus now.  This is where the weather solves my gift-buying dilemma.  Music.  That was my answer.  The music in Michelle and Jacob’s house had great sound, AND I saw Jacob change the song by just a touch on his iPad.  Turns out the music came from Sonos* speakersDean loves music almost as much as rocks and used staples.  My gift buying dilemma had been solved.  If we hadn’t flown into a blizzard and been forced to spend the night I would have never found this perfect gift. 

The cool thing about this system is you can have a speaker in each room of your house and you can play something different on each speaker.  Really!  Dean can play his favorite 300 songs in one room and he won’t have to listen to me play Mumford and Sons for six hours straight in another room.  And it’s easy to use.  For a guy who only learned how to turn his phone off and on a month earlier, Dean picked it up really quickly.  He only had to be shown a couple of times how to open the app and load a song or find a radio station.

But you know what the absolute best thing about it is?  I can turn down the sound on his speaker whenever I want to.  I don’t even have to sneak over to the stereo when he’s not looking to do it.  All I have to do is pick up my phone, tap the Sonos app and move the sound bar.  THAT was worth flying into a blizzard, dragging a suitcase through snow in a parking lot with sub-zero wind chills and driving home on icy roads!  Oh, what a feeling of power. 

*Feel free to use my awesome and amazing gift idea for your special someone.  And if you’re feeling a little charitable, let me know and I’ll send you a referral link.  Enough referrals will get me a free speaker.  And if we send each other enough referral links we can all have speakers EVERYWHERE!