Tuesday, July 27, 2010

when it rains, it pours

What a week. If it could go wrong, it did. From record setting rains and flooding to niggling little irritations, it was one thing after another. And it wasn’t cheap either.

First, the weather. By now everyone knows that this part of Wisconsin had enormous amounts of water poured on it last week. Last Thursday 7” of rain fell on us in just over an hour. Add that to the couple inches of rain that fell earlier in the day and we had a biblical measure of rainfall.

In any heavy rainstorm our sump pump works hard to keep water out of the basement. This was the first time that it was unable to handle the quantity of water rushing into it. We had to assist the pump by bailing with buckets until the storm subsided a bit. We considered ourselves lucky that we were able to handle the overflow.

Then Friday night the next round of thunderstorms hammered the area. At 7 AM Saturday morning, the power went out. No power, no sump pump. Panic. We had to do all the work emptying the sump crock by the bucketful, hoping and praying that power would be restored sooner rather than later. Our basement was in real danger of being flooded. We had to work fast and constantly to keep up. I emptied buckets into the utility sink while Mary lugged buckets of water up the stairs to dump it outside. With PD I’m not too fast doing anything these days, but I managed to hold my own. Mary had the more difficult task of going up those stairs. It’s amazing what strength and stamina you can muster when an emergency arises. For a couple of 62 year old seniors we held our own against the elements. Two hours after it went out, the power came back on and the sump pump returned to service and we took a moment to catch our breath. Whew.
So later Saturday morning, Mary went to Menards to buy a backup battery operated sump pump so that we wouldn’t have to face that situation again. She got the last one in stock. Good for us. Being the efficient errand runner she is, when she returned home she stopped at the end of the driveway to get out and grab the mail. In doing so she inadvertently hit the door lock and locked herself out of the van. Big deal, you say. Just get the extra key and unlock the door. Where is the extra key? In her purse of course. Where is her purse? Locked in the van. My car stealing skills are not quite up to snuff so my efforts to break into the van proved comically unsuccessful. AAA showed up nearly two hours later and within 30 seconds had the van opened. With the engine running that whole time we used up a third of tank of gas. And got really lousy mileage.

While she was out running her errands I was busy searching for the source of the leak that had water dripping from the ceiling during that last storm. I think I found the spot and luckily had some roof patching tar on hand to seal the offending leak. I hope so. Can’t really know until it rains again. Just add it to the list of things gone wrong.

We’re not done yet. Amidst all the other near calamities, the clothes dryer decided to stop functioning. Why? Who knows. But $120 bucks later it is working again.

With all the rain I haven’t been able to get the grass cut. Now four days after the last drops fell we still have standing water in the back and side yards. The ground is so saturated that it just won’t dry up.
You can practically see the grass growing. A minor irritant to be sure, but still an irritant.

We did manage to arrange for a plumber to come and install the new backup sump pump. We splurged and had him install a whole new pump and backup system so we won’t have to do the bucket brigade trick again. Now $1200 later we have some piece of mind.

Oh yeah, one more thing. The digital phone isn’t working either. So later today the service tech is supposed to be here to solve that problem.

I know, compared to those people who suffered basements full of water and sewage, we got away fairly easily. Several thousand homes in the metro area were damaged by rising waters. Some homes have had to be condemned as unlivable. So my complaints about not being able to cut the grass are rather lame. But still, everyone’s problems are relative to their time and place. There has been little to cheer about for the last week for anyone in this area. When it rains, it pours.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something. This has been a week to forget. When it rains, it pours

Thursday, July 15, 2010

in praise of boxers

All my life I’ve been a tighty/whitey sort of guy. Your basic cotton briefs seemed normal if boringly ordinary. I never quite got the notion that “fashion” underwear was desirable or even necessary. I mean, who goes prancing around in public showing off his underwear? And there was always a certain amount of security when wearing briefs that Little Richard and his two buddies were safely under control, tucked securely into their snug little pouch.

But recently I gave up my faithful and utilitarian wiener wraps to try living on the other side. I started to wear boxers. What precipitated this fundamental change was a fundamental change in the weather. Summer arrived and it got hot. I don’t know why it took so long for me to realize that my trusty briefs were basically uncomfortable when the temperature rose above 72 and the dew points rose above 60 bringing a constant state of sweatyness along with those summery conditions. Cotton briefs absorb a copious amount of that sweat and tend to get overly clingy in the process. I know, not a pretty mental image.

So in an effort to alleviate the constant state of clinging tightness (no more grabbing my ass and separating the sticky material from damp cheeks) I opted for the less confining and more breeze friendly looseness of some boxers. Wearing boxers under my golf shorts has given new meaning to the concept of air cooling. And the angle of the dangle is totally unimportant since there is no restriction of movement as there is in those notorious briefs where seemingly constant adjustments and rearranging of the furniture was common.
And while I was a bit apprehensive about possible damage to the gonads and company while they flopped along merrily unfettered, that has proven to be an unwarranted concern.

And while I have yet to drag my pants down below my hips in an effort to show off my wonderfully plaid new fashion statement as is the current fashion in the younger set, I can’t help but wonder if people are trying to figure out why I have this contented grin on my face whenever the breeze picks up. Ahh, cool freedom. But if I start grinning from ear to ear whenever that breeze is there, you can be sure I’ve taken the next step. Commando.

Monday, July 05, 2010

cottage history

We have a lake cottage in central Wisconsin where we spend most of the summer. It is actually a bit more than a cottage now that we have, over the years we’ve been here, remodeled and rebuilt it from the foundation up. Now it is quite livable as small houses go and we are content that we have it pretty much the way we want it now.

Over the years (we’ve been here twenty years now) we have come to learn some of the history of the place. It must be over ten years ago that a car pulled into the driveway and an elderly couple got out. She was driving since her husband was blind. They explained that they were the original owners of the place and had in fact built it. She went on to tell her husband that the huge swamp maple tree that he had planted was growing strong along the shoreline providing much needed afternoon shade. Having been an electrician, he was proud of the job he had done wiring the place. We got the feeling that this was a last visit they would make and were just renewing old memories knowing that they would probably never get by this way again. Kind of sad, but life goes on.

A couple years ago another car entered the driveway, delivering yet another former resident of our little cottage. This time there were two youngish couples, the two women sisters, and the two men the current boyfriends. The women explained that they had grown up here in the late 70’s and into the eighties as kids and teenagers. They were all very friendly and we invited them in to show off the place and let them reminisce about their time here as a family. Their parents had bought the cottage from the elderly couple we met earlier. We all hit it off and had a nice visit with them. One of the women, a veterinarian who still lived not too far away, even sent us some pictures she had of the place showing us what it was like when they inhabited it. We have since seen her and her now husband a couple more times since that initial visit.

That family then sold the place to he guy we bought it from. He had bought it as an investment, spending the necessary money to modernize it a bit with some selective remodeling. That was twenty years ago and that brings us to the present. We have basically rebuilt everything, maintaining the original footprint of the cottage. Needless to say it is quite a bit different now than it was for the previous owners. Just the lot alone has changed completely with the addition of a garage and total relandscaping of the property. Yet it still bears some of the original feeling to it, which is why we have gotten a somewhat strange request from the vet and her family.

Recently her father passed away. Her mother, now in her eighties, has asked that she be allowed to spread some of her husband’s ashes on the property where they, as a family, had spent so much time together. At first there was a decided “ick” factor on our part, but then after some thought, we were somewhat flattered that they felt comfortable enough with us to make the request in the first place. So we have told them that we would be honored to have them visit and leave a bit of the husband/father behind.

Have we done the right thing? Were they out of place to make the request in the first place? It’s kind of a sticky question. But now that we have committed to the spreading of his ashes, we can’t rescind the invitation. I just hope that I don’t have to think about desecrating him every time I am cutting the grass or pulling a weed.