Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A little love for an ugly car

My car is almost old enough to vote.  I think that's kinda cool.

I bought my car back in 200X, with X = a very small number  (2?  3?  I can't remember).  It was the Greenest of Green cars, back in the day:  Green because it was a first-generation Prius.  Green because I bought it used, not new.  Green because it was actually the color green.

I paid real money (!) to add gold-and-silver swirls, partly so I could tell it apart from other cars in parking lots (I'm not exactly a motor head), partly because making my car look different helps with theft prevention, and partly because I wanted my car to be even prettier.  My car.  My pretty green car.

My car was the clean car.  It was clean in the eco sense (did I mention it's a Prius?), but also in the sense that *I* was the driver.  My passengers were told in no uncertain terms that they took their garbage with them when they left the vehicle; my husband got to leave bottles and chargers and spare change and whatnot in his car, but my car was pristine, goshdarned it.  My pretty green car.
Passenger door,
with texture added.

Over the years, Things Happened to the car.  One of my kids, while driving it, got extra friendly with a pick-up truck, and part of the car got crumpled.  I loved my car, but I didn't love it enough to shove many-thousand$ of dollar$ into one crumpled side panel.  So the car got crumpled on the outside, but at least it was still mine on the inside. 

Then I bought my bike (the SPDM), and I bought my sons some bikes, and I worked hard on reducing our family's car usage, which mostly means reducing my own usage, because I try to not be obnoxious about other people's habits.  This means I used my car less and less frequently . . . nowadays, I climb inside my car maybe 6 times a month, and the majority of times I'm in the car, there are many of us together.  I'm not doing much solo driving these days. 

Eventually, we got to the point where we agreed to sell "my husband's" car and just have this one car between us.  And so, now the inside of the car isn't mine any more.  You can tell it's not "mine" by the potato chip bags and gatorade bottles that rattle around on the floor . . . it's a family car, not a Miser Mom car. 

Last month, on a particularly icy day, my husband decided to introduce the car to somebody's fence.  The car and the fence didn't get along particularly well, and both came away from the encounter needing a bit of TLC and counseling.  My car, in particular, needed a "new" bumper.  The body shop we took it to found a salvaged bumper somewhere and put it on.  They called my husband to tell him about it, and to add that the color of the bumper didn't quite match the color of the car . . .

. . . and while my husband was recovering from his laughing fit, they added, "This is the point where we usually point out that for Z-hundred-dollars, we can paint the bumper to match . . . "

. . . and while my husband was recovering from the next round of guffawing, they added, ". . . but we're going to assume that you don't want us to paint the bumper."   My husband assured him that, married as he is to ME, why no-thank-you-we-don't-want-to-fork-over-money-for-bumper-paint. 

Given the gold and silver swirls I paid for long ago, the silver bumper actually doesn't look horrendously bad . . . on this car that's so danged old it has a cassette deck, I kid you not. 

My car, it's not a pretty green car anymore.  It's gotten a lot of use, and more and more, the use is coming not-from-me.  I kind of like having a car with a cassette deck that no longer works, but a radio that works fine.  A car that's so ugly, and so distinctively colored and dented, that we don't have to worry about auto theft. 

I kind of like having a car I don't need so much. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Miser family update, here and there edition

So, I haven't done a family update since Easter.   "Easter", as in, church dishes that give Prewash a happy opportunity to live up to her name.   Prewash thinks life is rich and full here in the Miser Family household.

Easter was awesome for a bunch of reasons, more of which follow below.  But first, I promised I'd post a few photos that N-son took on his various travels.  His Squash team visited a military academy and Yale.  Which are kind of alike, and kind of not.  He ended up taking photos of various ivory-colored objects at these various places:  hat, cube, marble ring.  Photos attached. 


N-son cooking for L-daughter.
N-son ended up visiting (with his dad) a completely different kind of school from either of those places, and he might have found his favorite post-secondary institution of all.  More on that later, if it happens to work out.  It has dorms; it has a culinary arts program; it has [most important of all, apparently] intramural basketball teams. 

N-son also visited his sister L-daughter, taking a train all by himself to see her.  He ended up doing a bit of cooking for her.   And he came back with some new-to-him shoes, which are apparently awesome for playing basketball.  Thanks, L-daughter!

With all that traveling N-son has done, it's not so surprising that the rest of my family has also been on the road a bunch.  I-daughter went to Florida for a week or so, and came back with no sunburn but lots of good memories.  My husband went to DC for a chemistry conference, and he also visited a potential post-secondary school for N-son, and he also biked the 80 miles to Philly where he got to participate in the March for Science.  Yes.  Because they didn't have the "bike for science", apparently.

A-child came over to the house to play a couple of times.  The first time, almost the first thing she asked me when she walked in the door was "Can you read Ferdinand?" (which I did).  (Ferdinand's travels including being taken to the bull fights in Madrid, by the way).   The second time, she came over for our annual family Money Dinner.  I delegated Ferdinand to the next generation that night.  Adorable.

Me, I took a bunch of trips, too. 
  •  My smallest bike trip was to our soup kitchen, where I serve breakfast. 
  •  My next smallest bike trip was to the dermatologist. The doctor says I still have skin. It still keeps the inside inside and the outside outside and it seems to be functioning just fine. She'll see me again next year.  In spite of the weather being lovely, I was the only one who biked to the dermatologist today, apparently.
  • My longest trip was to Erie, Pennsylvania (by rental car), where I gave a bunch of talks and got to appreciate even more snow.  Erie does a lot of things, but they're especially good at snow.
  • My favorite trip, however, was on Easter, when I got to go visit J-son.  
Like N-son, J-son loves basketball.  We had an awesome time on the court together.  I don't have any photographs of myself doing two-handed dunks or nailin' those lay ups . . . would you believe me if I said I did?   But it's only because it's so hard to hold a camera and a basketball at the same time. y'know.  But I have an awesome photo of J-son mid-air. 

He asked me what I thought about what he's been through.  I told him, "You've been through a lot of bad experiences; a bunch of those aren't your fault, and some of them are your fault.  But you're working hard toward a better life; you're working toward redemption.  When I think of you, I think of redemption." 

He asked, "wait, isn't that in the Bible?"  I admitted, yeah, it is.  In fact, that's kind of the whole story of Easter, the day I saw him.

So maybe J-son has been on the biggest travels of all.  Those are the travels of our family, who continue to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Money Dinner: stopping on a dime game

The Miser Family annual Money Dinner (to celebrate Tax Day, naturally) took place Friday night.  Of course, the dinner included some now-familiar staples, such as Dollar pretzels . . . 

and lettuce and (bringin' home the) bacon, all of which was served on our home-drawn Dollar-themed tablecloth . . .
(I love the fact that our table just happens to be the right size
for a tablecloth made from a fitted twin sheet).
But in addition, we also had two new twists.  In particular, this year featured . . . The Goose that laid the Golden Eggs!

Or, perhaps, the wooden duck that laid the yellow eggs.  But, y'know, pretty close.  

Also, this year featured the first annual "Stop on A Dime" game.  The rules are that you are allowed to use anything that you find in the garage (a place full of random sports equipment) . . . 

. . . and try to be the person to land your object closest to the dime, which we'd taped to a piece of paper and placed in the yard.

We played several rounds, with each winner getting a gold (chocolate) coin.     
In this round, the player who tossed the tennis racket won.

Eventually, we realized the kids had been in and out of the garage, and decided they counted as "objects". The little ones turned out to be highly uncooperative with "sending" out to the dime, but  I-daughter won the championship round, beating out a tennis racket, several basketballs and frisbees, as well as a plastic wheelbarrow and a baseball mitt . . .

. . . by bribing her brother, N-son, to go stand on the dime.  Because, he'd been in the garage, y'know.  

Maybe next year we'll have to modify the rules to include only inanimate objects.  

Monday, April 2, 2018

A thirty-year-old towel

We're not throwing in the towel; we've mended it.

My husband came to me with a blue towel he's used for his showers, showing me a large rip in the middle of an even larger threadbare patch.   "Can you fix this?" he asked.

I mean, I could fix the hole, but to do so I'd have to add a patch.  And given my currently available patching materials, the patch would be pretty ugly . . . on a towel that's frankly pretty old already.  I could patch it, I told him, but scrapping the towel and using a new one probably made more sense.

He nodded his head, and put the towel aside.

And then a few days later, he showed me the towel again.  Could you fix this? he asked.  At this point, I realized the towel was more than an object.  I asked him about it.  He's been using this towel for 30 years, he told me.  My mind boggled . . . but then I thought about how much I love using and reusing the large yellow towels my mom got for me when I graduated from college . . . about 30 years ago.  We're a pair of 30-year-veteran-towel users, apparently.  Our towels are older than our kids, and we're not getting rid of our kids when they get a bit banged up, so why get rid of the towels?

So patch-and-mend the towels, it is.  As promised, the patch is ugly, or at best highly visible. I sacrificed a blue terry-cloth kitchen rag that I'd made many years ago from a discarded bathrobe: I cut off the hems and zig-zag stitched it to my husband's towel.  I then flipped the towel over and zig-zag stitched the tear in the towel to the rag.

The time and effort involved was minimal -- I think that patching the towel took maybe 5 minutes.  This was definitely faster than buying a new towel (not to mention exponentially cheaper).  When I was hesitating, it wasn't because I was reluctant because of time or effort; I was reluctant because of aesthetics.

See the scar?  Not too bad from this side.
But aesthetics be hanged.  Now my husband has his towel back, with a scar on one side, and a blue diamond on the other.  It's not lovely to look at, but it's familiar and comforting.  My husband is glad to have his old favorite back in use, and that's worth a lot to both of us.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Miser Family update: familial inspiration version

What a rich, what a full life we've been living here in the Miser Family!

Way back in December, my sister wrote to tell me about her birthday.  She said,
I was nervous to tell you for fear of failure or being run over, but in September I set the goal of 50 push ups on my 50th birthday.  I did all 50 in 1 min 50 seconds -- only stopping in the plank position.  I'm grateful for your inspiration and grateful not to be doing push ups every morning.
To back up a bit and set her letter in context . . . when I turned 50 years old two years ago, I vowed to somehow, sometime "do 50 pushups in a row" at some point during my 50th year.  My sisters quizzed me about what counts.  Does "resting" in the plank position "count"?  I didn't know, and I didn't find out because about 3/4 of the way into my 50th year a car crashed into my bike and broke my arm.  So I did my best to recover, and I reset my goal to do 51 pushups in a row sometime during my 51st year instead. I didn't want to let this slide so much I'd be facing the task of doing 70 pushups while I was 70, y'know.

Fast forward to Monday, which was my 52nd birthday.  I'd had a pre-birthday 5-mile run on Sunday, courtesy of my good friends; I had another pre-dawn run with another friend on Monday morning, and then I did 52 pushups "in a row".  Now I know what that means: resting in the "lying on the carpet while the dog 'helps' by licking your face after #20 and #37" is okay; but getting up and walking around in the middle of the set doesn't count.  Also, it probably took me more like 4 or 5 minutes.  Any 52-year-old women who want to dispute the rules with me are welcome to try to set me straight.

The week also involved a surprise party -- one of my former students blew into town Monday night, and I called my daughters and said "surprise! I'm having a party tonight!"   We played a mean game of Jenga and of Boggle.  I ended up doing notably in both, crashing the Jenga tower and not-quite-crushing my Boggle opponents.  Great fun.

In fact, it was a great week for spending time with family, including a Sunday with my granddaughter (we read Ferdinand) (again).  (and again).  And we dyed Easter eggs together late in the week.  and Easter fingers, too.   And celebrated the 3rd birthday of A-child, who didn't do any pushups at all, but who did convince me to read Ferdinand to her.  Again.  Twice.  While dyeing eggs, we got to call J-son and make plans to go visit him (updates next week!)

N-son took a trip with his squash team to Connecticut.  He had a blast.  And my husband got to become "royalty", getting a new crown or two inside his mouth.  He's at Seder at our local Synagogue tonight, and looking forward to Easter services tomorrow morning.

And that's the news from our family, who is glad for the wealth of inspiration from my sisters, and who is likewise glad to not be doing pushups every morning, also.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Miser Family Update

N-son shoveling a neighbor's walk.
The first day of spring brought a record-breaking snowfall* for the Miser family, with shoveling and school cancellations, ensuring that our lives remain rich and full. Wednesday brought the snow, and then Thursday N-son went to work shoveling 16 inches of the heavy white stuff from the sidewalks and driveways of our neighbors.

* This isn't the biggest snowfall we've encountered, but it was the biggest spring snowfall that our city has seen in the past several decades.  Hence, record setting.

Earlier in the week, when it was still "winter" (but before the snow), I had a wonderful day granddaughter-sitting.  A-child is about to turn three years old, and so she's a lot of fun.  She loves coloring (she seems to know all her colors already, and loves geometric shapes, exclaiming about "circles!"), and planting things it dirt in canning jars, as approved by her Miser-Nana.  She loves playing with the dog.  We get along well.

Also during winter, I-daughter went to an awesome weekend of square dancing.  She tells me she did "almost ten miles of dancing" according to her pedometer.  How cool is that?

A light fixture, mid-fix.
My husband has been living the life of retirement that I can only imagine and lust after:  this week, he fixed a toilet clog by removing the toilet from the floor and replacing it (jealous); he went to a protest for Women's rights on Tuesday, and a march against gun violence on Saturday, and we repaired a broken light fixture in the kitchen together.  (That last was a kind of a marital bonding experience, albeit the kind that involves standing on chairs with our arms in the air holding heavy objects and also sticky electrician's tape).

Mid-week, a bunch of our family went to our local production of Guys and Dolls, and we got to have bonding experiences of a different kind.  I got to hear my daughter ranting at intermission about how anti-feminist the show is.  That's not the phrase she used, but "anti-feminist" was at least part of the sentiment --- and it's usually me ranting to my kids about the freakishness of musicals where women end up "falling in love" with men who annoy them, merely because the guys do one kind act, or maybe because the guys get mildly less annoying. What a terrible example that is for our daughters! So it was lovely to be the recipient of a rant from my daughter on that same theme; Sarah and Sky didn't belong together, and she knew it..

But also, "Sit down; you're rocking the boat" -- wow!   What a totally fantastic, amazing, kick-butt song!  We were hollerin, yellin', dancin.   Bring it on!  It's so much fun to go to live theater with my family.  At this point, I need to pause and say

. . . thank you, Mom and Dad, for taking me and my sisters to operas and operettas when we were kids.  I'm so glad that we got to share these experiences with each other, and with the people around us.  And I'm so glad that I get to take my own children to live theater now.  

Sunrise over the newspaper box.
The week ended with my husband at one of his marches (srsly, can we make some progress on gun control now?) and with me taking eight students to a mathematics meeting where we got to give and listen to some beautiful math talks.  Not the same as a Loesser/Swerling/Burrows musical, and yet still a great way to spend time experiencing heady material together.

So that's the news from my family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The dark recesses of my linen closet

In one sense, my linen closet is pretty danged well-organized and de-cluttered these days.  There was a time, the towels and sheets and what-not were jammed in every which way, and they overflowed the shelves.   Nowadays, some of the shelves are nearly empty; and well-labelled boxes collect odds and ends like lightbulbs (and lightbulb receipts), toilet paper, towels, and first-aid stuff, each to their own box.   It's easy to put things away in the right place, and it's easy to find things when we need them.

But in another sense, this closet is an Ebenezer Scrooge, with the ghost of Hoarding Past rattling its chains and prophesying future unhappiness.

The closet looks fine, as long as everything stays put in this particular place . . . but in a year or two, we're hoping to move to a new, smaller house.  And for all that the visible spaces of our home are looking more-and-more clutter-free, I know that means that the clutter has gone into hiding.   I've started looking into the backs of our closets, trying to figure out how to get rid of the long-forgotten, no-longer-wanted things we don't even realize we own -- get rid of them before the days when we're moving the whole house at once.  When we start pulling out boxes to pack them into that moving truck, what's in the closet that we don't want to move?

Well, we have more towels and sheets than my husband and I will need . . . but probably, a bunch of the linens will go to N-son and/or J-son as we help them get started up.  So no purging needed there, at least not yet.  I'm also not worried about having too much toilet paper.  Um, yeah.  And probably the lightbulb box is fine, although I admit I haven't scrutinized it closely lately.

But the first-aid box yielded a treasure-trove of objects that deserve a place in someone else's home now.    Because, really, do we need three slings?  (Actually, we had four slings, but one of them had a foam pad that disintegrated and left yucky dust on everything it touched, so we ditched that.  Therefore, we only had to wonder if we need three useable slings, not four).

No, we really don't.  We're not planning to break three arms anytime soon.  My husband and I discussed this briefly, and we agreed we actually don't need any slings at all:  even if we do decide to break an arm again, we're pretty sure we can get a sling from the hospital along with some lovely matching non-skid socks.  So, good-bye, slings!

Except that saying good-bye to slings isn't as easy as it sounds.  A Freecycle post yielded no takers.  I called a local health center that serves a lot of the low-income neighbors, but they had no way to accept donations.   I offered the slings to the missionary who travels to Haiti (the one who helps us connect with X-son, a child-turned-young-man we've supported), but she's incommunicado right now.  It's possible that our local rescue mission -- which has it's own health care team, could use the supplies -- we're working on that that now.  So it's good that we've got  a long stretch of leisure time for re-homing these things.

Also formerly in the first aid box, but not any longer: hot and cold things.  We seem to have acquired a rather amazing variety of hot water bottles, ice packs, and microwaveable heat pads.  We sorted these out into the (small) pile we do use, and the (larger) pile we don't use.    The larger pile got listed on Freecycle, and went within 48 hours to someone who does massages.    So, they've emerged from the dark recesses of our closet, into the light, and from there to a home where they'll get used and appreciated.  Good.

We also decided to keep a knee brace and a wrist brace, and so those will stay in the closet with the small pile of hot/cold packs, when they're not on our knees and wrists.  Therefore, one box in the linen closet of our upstairs hallway is now streamlined for usefulness.  Phew.

But our home has a lot of closets.   A lot of spaces where it's easy to put things and forget them.  I have a feeling that the next few years are going to give me a lot of reasons to poke around into the past.