Monday, December 30, 2013

I pulled her wings off and dragged her home

You know how sometimes you give a gift to someone else and it turns around and winds up giving you back far more than you put into it? I’m having one of those experiences right now.

My grandfather is one of the coolest people I know. He’s an engineer, pilot and tinkerer who has done a whole lot in his life, patenting radar and telecom inventions and rebuilding everything from antique clocks to old cars, motorcycles and even airplanes.

A few years back, for his ninetieth birthday, we threw him a party with eleven guests, and he made a cake-shaped template for the kitchen staff, so they could cut the cake into eleven equal slices rather than having one left over. They laughed, did as they were asked, and returned the template as a souvenir that we still have. For his ninety-fourth birthday, though, I wanted to do something different.

Back in the early 1970s, Grampie was at an airport, not in the market for a plane, when he came across a run-down old two-seat tail dragger: a 1947 Luscombe Silvaire 8E. He asked around, found out that she was for sale, made a deal, and brought her back to life, doing almost all of the work himself. For the next two decades, they were inseparable. He and Grammie went to fly-ins; he taught himself to do loop-de-loops, hammerhead stalls, and barrel rolls; and he and his friends flew in formations and danced with the clouds.

Eventually, though, things got harder. In his early seventies, he stopped flying over populated areas, figuring if something happened to him, he didn’t want to hurt anybody else. Then, when he was seventy-eight, he made the decision: he couldn’t do his own work anymore, which meant it was time to sell the plane. He found her a good home, of course, with a mechanic friend of his who had always wanted a Luscombe. He handed over the plane and paperwork, and all the spare parts he had accumulated over two-plus decades. And he said goodbye to flying.

Not long after, he and Grammie (with their little dog, Lady) moved into a senior facility close to my mom, where they made friends and a new life. The years elapsed, life moved on … Eventually, Grammie passed on gently, as did Lady, and it hit Grampie hard. A few years down the road, though, he’s doing amazingly well, squiring his girlfriend around on her scooter and making intricate models in the workshop of their assisted living facility, where he’s the go-to guy for small appliance repairs and inventing workarounds for senior-living problems.

He’s never forgotten what it meant to fly, though. His email address (yep, old Grampie emails!) is the tail number of that old Luscombe, and while he doesn’t do too much remember when-ing, he’s usually good for a flying story or two when I visit. So when it came to his ninety-fourth birthday, I thought, Aha! I’ll see if I can find his old plane! He’d love to know what she’s been up to, maybe get a current picture. So I turned to faithful Google, typed in the search …

And you’ll never guess what I found.

(To be continued!)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Men are from blowtorch, women are from hairdryer

First off, happy holiday-of-your-choice, ReaderFriends! I wish you all the very best of weeks.

I, too, plan on having a nice week, full of family get-togethers and lots of remember-whens. However, I'm coming to grips with the fact that the food-and-drink portion of the holiday’s usual entertainments just won’t be the same this year. Because, you see, I just started Invisalign.

This, for those of you who don’t know, is a system of orthodontia that, rather than metal braces, involves a series of 20 or 30 custom-designed (with CAT scans and everything!) clear plastic casts that fit exactly over my teeth and provide twist-turn-push-pull-shove force to urge them into their proper alignment. The ads (and my dentist) made it seem all so easy. They’re clear! You can take them out to eat! It only takes a year or so! Look at all the happy people wearing our product! Smile!

You might think that I, being a relatively intelligent human being who is used to looking beyond the hype, would have thought “Hm. This involves moving body parts that are pretty firmly fixed in my head. I bet it’s not as easy as they make it sound.” But, no. I, after many years of “gee, I wish my teeth were straighter” and a recent faceplant off my bike that added some new chips and made them even less straight, took the plunge.

Today is my third full day in my first set of aligners, and so far I feel confident in saying that: a) moving teeth hurts; b) I’m almost over the lisp; c) this is going to be a great diet aid, as it’s too much of a pain (literally and symbolically) to take the aligners out for a random snack and I can only eat soft foods anyway; and d) I wanted this, it’s paid for, and my teeth already look better. So my message to self is: Suck it up, buttercup, or this is going to be a long year! (But, oh, how I’m going to miss popcorn.)

In the spirit of sucking it up, therefore, I determined that I needed to grind down two spots where the aligners were cutting into my mouth. Having announced this, I went in search of an emery board … and Arizona volunteered his Dremel.

This, dear friends, is an essential difference between the male and female of the species (at least in my experience). Once, back in my farm days, I was stymied by a frozen-solid barrel bolt that was preventing me from lowering the ramp on my horse van. I busted out my hairdryer and eventually (like an hour later) got the thing loosened up, only to have my ex come out after the fact, survey the scene, and comment: “Blowtorch would’ve been faster.” Which it would have, darn it. But apparently I just don’t think of the Big Hammer first on a day-to-day basis!

In the end, Arizona and I compromised on one of the rasps that he uses to work on our mountain bikes, soaked clean of metal filings and applied with great care. Et voila, the aligners are intact, the sharp edges are no more, and it hurts far less to swallow and talk. And maybe the next time I come to one of those situations where I stop and think, “What tool would work best for this?” I’ll try the Big Hammer first. Maybe I’ll use the car to crack some eggs … or the air compressor to clear that darn clogged drain … or … or …

Monday, December 16, 2013

Where do you hide your presents? (I won’t tell, promise!)

Arizona and I have a cute little house, with rooms that are only nominally ‘his’ and ‘hers.’ I don’t spend much time in his office (whoops, that just autocorrected to ‘orifice’ which sooo isn’t where this is going) except for doing the dust-and-vacuum routine, and he only really goes in mine to root for printer paper and envelopes. But there’s no real privacy rule in Chez Hayworth—save for a closed bathroom door—our living space is a whole lot of ‘ours,’ which suits us just fine.

Except when it comes to hiding presents.

You see, it’s not that easy finding a Super Secret Hiding Spot when we’re both equally likely to dig into any of the closets and the basement is fully finished. Now, mind you, I would probably be safe hanging things in the back of the bedroom closet with the size 32 pants that hark back to his days as a high school math teacher, or in the storage room in the box labeled ‘Jess Foreign Editions.’ But the box is full and with my luck, he’d pick this week to dig through his old clothes, and I’d hear, “Hey, wow. I don’t remember getting this!”

Which leaves me with … What? Burying the Season One DVDs of Game of Thrones in the clean towels in the bathroom? Sliding the windproof fleece jacket between the mattress and boxspring? Rolling up the thermal biking tights and sticking them in an empty oatmeal container?

So help me out here, guys. Where do you hide your presents??

Monday, December 9, 2013

Do You Throw Like a Girl?

Back in the day, I played a ton of pickup baseball with the kid pack that roamed our suburban neighborhood. No softball for me—I played hardball with the boys, could handle any position, and hit from both sides of the plate. (Ha! Get your minds out of the gutter!) I played catcher with no more gear than a first-baseman’s glove, could hold my own on the pitcher’s mound, and even got a cheer from the guys in the Cape League (single-A ball) for snagging a fly ball deep in the outfield during the friends-and-family game one summer.

Suffice it to say that I didn’t used to throw like a girl. (And by that, I mean the goofy overhand flip-the-wrist-over-the-shoulder thing like this. Not the stuff that good softball players do! They could totally knock my block off.)

Yesterday, though, the scene went something like this:

Arizona (from upstairs): Can you toss me my brown fleece?

Me (with head in the drier): Yep. Hang on.

(I dig out the fleece in question, head for the bottom of the stairs where he’s standing at the top, and think, Gotta throw it hard to reach him. Winding up, I give the hardest underhand toss I can manage—And let go too late. The fleece flies straight up, whams into the ceiling, rattling the ceiling panel and sending down a shower of dust along with the fleece.)

Arizona (normally the most positive and if-you-can’t-say-something-nice-don’t-say-anything kind of guy): *hoots* Worst. Throw. Ever! 

Me (wearing a layer of dust and a brown fleece draped over my head): It slipped, or something!

But, really, it’s official: I now throw like a girl. I don’t know if it’s lack of practice, four decades of shoulder injuries and rotator cuff problems, or what, but the sidearm is gone and the curve ball is a fond memory. It’s even fifty-fifty when I toss a paper ball for the cats, whether it’ll go where I intended or wind up bonking the cat instead. (Much to the cat’s disgust, I might add.)

So how about you? Did you have your pitching arm and lose it? Were you always a girl-thrower (hm ... maybe not the right term, that?)? Or are you still a deadeye?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Do you measure twice or cut lots?

It feels like not that long ago that Arizona and I had our deck furniture adventure, which started as a quick shopping trip, but then morphed into 'power wash the house and clean up the yard so it doesn't look shabby in comparison.' Thus, by the time we called it quits and sat on the back porch with a couple of beers, we had to laugh, because we had started the day with 'You want to clean up the yard?' and both said, 'Nahhhh. Let's do something fun instead. Like shop for deck furniture.'

But that was back in the spring, and now it's autumn-going-on-winter here in New England, which means that this past weekend it was time to reverse the process. 

The day began with those immortal words from my beloved to me: "Morning, sweetie. Want to mouse-proof the upper shed with me today?"

Ahh ... romance.

Now, we've had many a fun Home Depot date picking out colors and patterns and such. But when it comes to actually installing things, one of us has to be In Charge of a given project, while the other has to be The Helper. Otherwise, we both try to be In Charge, and we come at things from very different directions.

Case in point was yesterday. I was The Helper in the Great Mouse Eviction, which was fine by me. So I sat off in a corner and snipped sections of mesh for Arizona to staple over the gaps that had become mousey on- and off-ramps. But when it came time for me to cut the long strips that would fold along the door hinges, it went something like this:

Me (after cutting a longish strip of mesh): Can you staple this up at the top?
Arizona: Sure thing. You know it's too wide, though.
Me: Yep. I've got a plan.
Arizona (after stapling as requested): And too long.
Me: Ditto on the plan. 
(five minutes later, after I trim off the bottom and cut the long strip in half)
Me: Okay, you can do the rest of the staples, and the one for the other side is ready to go, too. (Handing him the other half.)
Arizona (surprised): It's perfect!
Me: There's more than one way to build a better mouse barrier.

You see, if he had been the one cutting the mesh, he would have made painstaking measurements, then cut it to fit perfectly the first time. Me, I tend to get things close, then trim them to fit. His tolerance is around 1/32 of an inch. Mine is "do you think a mouse can get through that gap?"

So how about you? Are you the precise, measure twice and cut once sort of person, or do you kind of whack away at things and fill in the gaps with structural caulk? 

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Kingdom for a Gingerbread Latte!

Wow, can you believe how fast this year went? It’s a blur to me, that’s for sure—one of those ‘I’ve enjoyed every day, but where the heck did they go?’ years. Which means that it’s almost time to Release The Tree. And by that, I mean pull out the box that houses my 6’ faux tree, which resembles nothing more than a collection of giant green pipe cleaners, massage them into a vaguely conical shape, and decorate it with a variety of cat-friendly decorations (i.e., relatively sturdy and too big to be inserted beneath any kitchen appliance).

Last year was the first in a long, long time that I had any urge to dress the house up for the winter holidays (which I contend is, in New England, as much as anything a way to gird our loins for the coming winter). And this, along with my deep pleasure at Arizona’s having installed shelves in the storage room and feeling of accomplishment at trimming our electric bill with a combination of weather stripping and fuzzy blankets, tells me that I’m home now, in a way I hadn’t even realized I wasn’t before. And, more, that I’m home for the holidays.

For some people, the holidays begin when Starbucks busts out the red cups and the gingerbread lattes, or when Coke releases the ornament-shaped bottles (which Arizona calls “Coke balls” and adores). For others, it’s when the strings of colored lights go up in the neighborhood, and the candles appear in the windows.

Then of course there is the flip-side of holiday cheer—the stuff that sets you on edge. For me, it’s when my usual radio station switches over to 24/7 carols, forcing me to go elsewhere for tunes from now until the New Year. Or when the stores start with the holiday decorations in October (Home Depot, I’m looking at you!). Oh, and the deluge of junk mail. Seriously, people, I prefer shopping local, and if I want to buy something from you, I’ll go online!

But on the up-side, there’s eggnog, fruitcake, and red-and-green M&Ms. Oh, and candy canes! I’m not a big fan, but the horses at the rescue love them.

So that’s me, I guess—thumbs up on the tree and food, thumbs down on premature decoration and noise pollution. How about you? What are your loves and hates of this time of year?