Monday, October 31, 2011

Spooktacular Halloween edition

One of my favorite things about Halloween is the frequent usage of the word “Spooktacular.” I don’t know why I have such a fondness for this word, I just do. And for that reason, I offer you this Halloween edition of the blog, dedicated to things that are Spooktacular. (Say it again, like you are a contestant on the $10,000 Pyramid game show: Things that are Spooktacular.)
  • Halloween savings: If you are a business, selling absolutely anything and also offering a sale at any time within 6 weeks of Halloween, you should definitely say that the savings are Spooktacular. Personally, I would be tempted to buy your product if I knew I was getting Spooktacular savings.
  • The hairballs in my bathroom: I wanted to take a photo of them for you but they’ve gotten so repulsively bad that I kept gagging and the movement blurred my photo. I’m not sure where vacuuming up hairballs falls in the division of labor at our house. I should think about that.
  • My lunch today: Chips and salsa and mini candy bars. Maybe that’s not technically Spooktacular, but just gross (also, possibly verging on jejune). But I think if it’s Halloween, it’s Spooktacular.
  • This decoration, one of my personal favorites, purchased at Walgreens in 1996 and well worth the $2.99 I probably paid for it:
Oh no! A ghost in danger of asphyxiation by
candy corn. But wait, he's a ghost, he's already
dead. Damn, that's a clever decoration.
  • This blog post: Technically, perhaps just stupid, but Spooktacularly stupid.
Enjoy your Halloween! Hope it’s Spooktacluar.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Doing the dirty work

This is not me
My daughter is not a milk-drinker. To ensure she gets at least the tiniest bit of calcium in her diet, she has a yogurt smoothie with dinner every night, and no, it is not a nutritious, organic, low-sugar smoothie, it’s a Dannon™ danimals smoothie and it’s probably chock full o’ sugar but we are not discussing my abilities to properly nourish my child right now. What are we discussing? I’m getting to that… My daughter is not careful, is somewhat jerky in her movements and not terribly aware of where her body is, so when the smoothie was knocked off the table the other day, it did not come as much of a surprise. Fortunately, Carson, our dog, also likes smoothie so he helped clean it up (No, Carson, don’t put your paws in the spilled smoothie, tip toe around the spill and lap it up from the edges inward. Nobody listens to me around here.) I willingly crawled around under the table with a wet, soapy rag, repeatedly wiping up the spill and the subsequent spill residue and the spill splatters that landed several feet away, all the while wondering if my husband would find it humorous if I asked him, “hey, does my butt look big when I crawl around on the floor wiping it with a rag like this?” (FYI, the answer is no, it would barely elicit even a chuckle.)

Not many moments later, Martha spilled a glass of water in virtually the same spot on the floor where the smoothie had just been, thereby reassuring me that all remaining stickiness from the sugar-laden, strawberry yogurt would be rinsed away from the floor. How handy. It was all I could do at that instant not to declare that it was my husband’s turn to wipe up the spill, that I had already expended my daily allowance of floor-wiping on hands and knees. I decided instead to just be an adult and wipe it up myself. Wait, did I say adult? I meant to say martyr. No – adult, I definitely meant adult.

Because not everything comes out even-steven when it comes to parenting, managing a household, caring for a dog, and earning a living, right? Right?? I mean, I’m not sure where exactly I fall in my feminist beliefs but I am pretty sure that you just can’t equate full-time, salaried, out-of-the-home employment with stay-at-home parenting. It’s like comparing apples to oranges, if you will pardon the tired phrasing. Or, it’s like comparing a filet mignon to a spam sandwich, if you will not. You can’t equate mowing the lawn with cooking dinner. You can’t equate cleaning the bathroom every week with cleaning your child’s tushie throughout several years of un-potty-trained evacuation. So how do couples achieve a division of labor in their household that feels fair and just and tolerable and not provocative of a midnight escape to an undisclosed location?

I don’t know. I’m still studying the map, myself. When my husband and I were just boyfriend and I and we had moved into our first apartment together we only established one rule of labor-sharing that remains in place. Actually, to say we established it is maybe a stretch because I can’t recall the concrete discussion. In my mind, it just happened. Regardless of who actually prepared the dinner, every other night is your turn to clean up the kitchen. We have never wavered from this schedule, except for a few weeks after our daughter was born when I was incapable of doing anything other than holding a baby, crying and producing excessive amounts of breast milk. It was a joy to finally get back to cleaning the kitchen. OK, that’s a total lie, I loathe washing dishes, but it did imply a small degree of normalcy when I was able to get back on the schedule.

Other than this, however, there are no rules at our house about who does what. A few weekends back I spent an hour moving piles of bricks from our old front walk while my husband cooked dinner and I like the fact that this is fairly standard that I do dirty yard work while he slaves away over the hot stove. I’m not a good cook. He is more proactive at keeping the bathtub clean while I am the constant picker-upper-of-crap that accumulates daily and without my work in this area I’m pretty sure our family would end up on an episode of Hoarders before too long. Laundry is done on a strictly first-come-first-served basis. As in, whoever wants clean underwear badly enough gets to start the Sunday laundry operation. Often my husband will start a chore just to quiet my complaining. I’m not sure if that amounts to consideration on his part or simply fear. Whatever, the kitchen floor gets cleaned.

But there are so many other tasks that just can’t be divided equally. His realm is the dog, my realm is the child. Equal? Not really. But I am still grateful it is not me getting up at 5:00am in January to walk the dog seven days/week. He earns the cash-mo, I pay the bills (and probably spend the majority of the cash, but more often on toilet paper and laundry detergent than a cute, new pair of shoes). Can a dollar value be attached to the attention I give our daughter? I doubt it. When it comes to duties like this in a marriage, it’s best not to try to draw a line and balance everything out. I sometimes think my husband is more fortunate than he realizes because he has a job to go to where he interacts constantly with intelligent, interesting people and I have a job where I talk to the dog or myself all day. I am not a scintillating conversationalist. He has a job where he has to get up at 5:00am Monday through Friday and I have a job where I can take a nap in the middle of the day if I want to (this has happened only once or twice). Who has the better job?

Is it all my quiet time that makes me contemplate this simply in response to spilled smoothie? Could be. There are many ways to organize a life and even more ways to obsess over the organization and fret about whether one has discovered the correct way. When my daughter was an infant and I was fairly depressed all the time, lots of people would tell me encouraging stories or offer bits of advice but my sister, Cindi, gave me a more honest perspective, which may have helped only marginally but has always stuck with me as a brilliant statement. She said to me, “if you ask me, all parents of small children are depressed. You’ll be happy again when they grow up.” Ha ha, I’m sure that strikes no one as hilarious but I like it anyway. Parenting is hard. Marriage is hard. Dog ownership is a lot of work, not quite as hard as parenting. Managing the household is hard, as well as a giant pain-in-the-ass, but undoubtedly much more pleasant than homelessness. I’m just keeping my chin up here and hoping yours is, too.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

When good hard drives go bad

A dog using a laptop is way funnier than me cursing at it
Monday morning my laptop died. I don't know why it died. I guess, yes, it had seemed a little under the weather lately, but I've never just had a computer go blank and say "fuck you, I'm not working anymore" quite like the laptop did. It has now been reborn and I really should be showing more gratitude about that fact, but instead I am just sitting here mourning the loss of the old laptop.

As I readied my child for another day at school, I heard something beep once, twice, maybe three times. I didn't think anything of it because, as anyone in touch with life in the 21st century can tell you, there are butt-loads of things in our lives that beep at random. Mysterious beeping? Don't sweat it, it's just some piece of electronic equipment doing some thing or telling you something or not doing something or something like that. I had a sip of coffee, I made a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, I went to check my email. The screen was black except for that short message that said something about "No hard drive disk detectable" and some other stuff about trying to reseat the hard drive or press F1 to reboot or press F5 to run diagnostics or press all the buttons at once and say "What the fuck" really loud and then explain to the laptop that you are very busy today and that you just arrived home from an 8-hour drive from Chicago at 7:45 last night and you need to get to the grocery store and do five loads of laundry and the electrician is due to arrive in 10 minutes and the dog pooped in the basement and that means you should clean the carpet and the child has violin lessons this afternoon and you really wanted to get in a workout this morning because you skipped it the last 4 days and you are feeling a bit antsy and therefore you do not have time to figure out what to do with a blank screen and mysterious beeping and diagnostic thingies and all that crap.

Another problem here is that, apparently, I have turned into a seemingly helpless and somewhat ditsy blonde. No, in fact, my hair is not naturally blonde. It is naturally very unfortunate, in many ways. It is artificially blonde now, however because. Just because. I am also not naturally helpless. I am naturally lazy. And I am not naturally ditsy either. But there are just too many things to keep track of and any woman who has raised a child from infancy can tell you that these tiny beings just don't allow for much "me time." So when I have "me time," I have no desire to spend it downloading updates or renewing subscriptions to McAffee or LoJack or backing up data or whatever window is popping up on me now. Instead, when the computer tells me something needs to happen I stand up, make a little disgusted guttural noise, wave my hand at the laptop and say "husband, the computer needs you." And voila, usually just like that, something happens and I can get back to my important blogging.

So I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled, I tell you, when I walked into Best Buy and up to the Geek Squad counter and started telling them the problem and they asked me a bunch of questions and I heard myself answering "I don't know, my husband takes care of that. I don't know, my husband downloaded that." Dammit, when did I turn into such a slug? These Geek boys are clearly not impressed with my handle on technology. I know they made fun of me after I left. They are so much cooler than I.

So, they called to tell me "Yep, your hard drive is bad." Then I said, "How much money should I pay you to make it go back to being good?" They named their price, I said ok fine. They instructed me to bring disks over to the store, which I did, whereupon they informed me that none of those disks were the right disks and I drove home and tore my house apart, swearing loudly, and I found some more disks and drove them over to the store and the Geeks said thanks, we'll call you. They called, said my computer was fixed, I made the husband go get it and now here we are and I am still not happy. I have a headache and my face feels like I got a bad sunburn because I spent the better part of the day under the influence of a massive cortisol and/or adrenaline-induced fugue state, which made my face extremely flushed. My core temperature has been elevated all day, I'm probably suffering from dehydration. Cool under pressure? I am anything but.

I have visited the Dell DataSafe website to retrieve my backed up files, which were backed up online because of the error messages we started getting when backing up the computer to a disk, an evil forewarning of things to come. Dell DataSafe tells me "Server error in '/' application."

To enable the details of this specific error message to be viewable on remote machines, please create a <customErrors> tag within a "web.config" configuration file located in the root directory of the current web application. This <customErrors> tag should then have its "mode" attribute set to "Off".
<!-- Web.Config Configuration File -->

        <customErrors mode="Off"/>

How do I enable the 'bite me' error message? Yes, this is what I have been reduced to. I don't even understand what the above message means, but I am going to take a wild guess that it means I am not downloading my backed up files just yet. I'm sure, in time, I will get this resolved, perhaps not quite to my satisfaction. It's going to be a busy day today. I have a lot of wallowing in self-pity to do.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Road trip

Hello dear friends and readers, I’m blogging to you today from the road. Can I say that? Can I say I am blogging to you? I hope so, because I just said it. My daughter and husband and I are taking a little road trip from our beloved Minneapolis suburb to Chicago for three days and there is not much else to do in the car. Plus, the car trip makes me think of a story about a long, long, very long car trip I went on as a kid and I’d like to share it. It’s not terribly profound, you probably won’t learn any lessons from it but maybe you will. And even if you do not, hopefully it will entertain you for about five seconds.

The year was 1978. My parents had been divorced for a few years and my father was remarried to a woman with three kids of her own, although I think only two were living at home by then. And lest you start thinking we were like the Brady Bunch incarnate (since I am one of three kids, also), I should dispel that little myth right away. My dad is no Mike Brady and my sisters and I, well, we are sisters, as in, girls and Mike Brady had boys, as you recall, so that kind of ruins that parallel. And my step-mom had two sons and a daughter so you see that is distinctly un-Brady-like, as well. Plus I lived with my mom, not my dad. And I’m the youngest and I definitely do not want to be compared to Cindy Brady because my hair could never in a million years be that bouncy and cute and I cannot tap dance and sing ‘On the Good Ship Lollipop.’ And, in case you haven’t noticed, I really should have abandoned this whole Brady Bunch compare and contrast exercise a couple sentences back but I can’t help myself. Maybe if I had grown up with an Alice in my life things would have been different for me. How many poor souls before me have made the same lament?

Ok, so anyway, my dad wanted to take his new, blended family on a big, happy family vacation that summer. It was going to be epic. We would traverse the country, see many sights, visit many relatives and friends, swim in many awesome motel swimming pools, and eat at all the best Ihops in the country. It would be grand. With my dad and step-mom, her two younger children, my two sisters and I and my grandmother, our ensemble would total eight people. Well, that’s a lot of plane fares, plus if you want to make several stops there is only one way to go, no? Yes, we were going to drive across the country, our cozy little crowd of eight packed into one car. You better have a big-ass car for that car trip and what better reason to drop a good bit of cash on a new Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser station wagon? Well, as it turned out, we only had seven passengers because my older sister refused to go; she was 15 and any self-respecting teenager knows you cannot afford to sacrifice two weeks of summer vacation to a family trip. And we also dropped my grandmother off in Chicago so for the Chicago to Pennsylvania/upstate New York to Michigan and back to Chicago portion of the epic family vacation by automobile, we actually only had six passengers. But we still needed a big-ass car, because if I had had to sit too close to my younger step-brother for long I would have poked his eyes out with a broken crayon and everyone could recognize the pure malice in me so I guess the “Olds” turned out to be a pretty good investment.

Our trip originated in Denver, since that’s where I grew up. The farthest eastern point of our journey was western Pennsylvania, which was where my dad grew up and a stop at his father’s home was included in our itinerary. We spent about two weeks getting there with several stops made along the way. My dad always referred to his childhood home as the farm, which was very curious to me since there were clearly no farm-like accoutrements there. But the farm was kind of fun because there was a pond there for “fishing” and skipping stones and there were trails through the wilderness and it felt very rustic to this city child. Plus my grandfather had this kickass organ we liked to play with and this unbelievably tacky rain lamp that had little drops of oil that dripped down nylon wires surrounding a tawdry, bizarre, 70s scene of funky-ness. And those right there are pretty much all of the highlights of visiting Pop-pop’s house in 1978. Sure, the liquor bottle hidden in the closet was worthy of a little wonder and the playboy magazine stash held our interest for an hour or so but the pond was really the coolest part.

By far the most interesting part of the epic car ride, though, was the “mix-up” over the actual timeline of the excursion. When my bitterly divorced parents met for the bitter parent conference to discuss the proposed vacation that would take my sister and I away from our mother for an extended period of time, the one where dad pitches all the benefits to my mom and she relinquishes control of us for the good of the father-daughter relationships, he presented the trip as a two-week long affair. Ok, two weeks, fourteen days, that seemed like a doable separation from the parent to whom I had always been extremely attached. It would be hard for me to say good-bye but I would have my sister with me and we would be doing fun stuff, so okay, yes, I could go away for two weeks with my dad. But, as you may have noticed, astute reader, two weeks into the trip we were located in western Pennsylvania on “the farm.” My 10-year old brain spent many, many hours calculating out distances we had covered in 8-hour driving shifts and again and again I just could not make our trip end in two days. Or three days. From Pennsylvania we were going to head up to Niagara Falls and then drop down into Michigan for a visit to my step-mother’s sister and then, of course, we had to get back to Chicago to pick up grandma before we turned our assembly westward and headed home to Denver. It began to dawn on me that, perhaps, I had been lied to.

But what father would lie to his child? More to the point, what father would lie to his ex-wife who just happened to be a woman with some serious rage issues? My mom could be scary. She was not a woman to be trifled with. Unless you were her youngest, adolescent daughter, then she definitely needed some trifling but that would come later. After much thought, I brought up the mysterious time discrepancy to my sister and we agreed that, yes, there seemed to be a bit of a problem. We spoke to my mom on the phone from Pop-pop’s kitchen and I revealed to her this small glitch that would seem to push our ETA in Denver back several days. She was none too happy. And although I recall sobbing and crying a great deal during that episode, I will also admit there was some tiny part of me that was pleased as punch to be ratting my dad out to my mom. He was so busted and since I was screwed any way you looked at it, stuck in the Custom Cruiser with my step-family for several more days than planned, I intended to find some remote sense of vindication in this deal. Ah, the joys of divorce…

Needless to say, I survived the epic-cross-country-car-ride-vacation-that-was-supposed-to-be-two-weeks-long-but-turned-out-to-be-three-weeks-long relatively unscathed. And I guess my dad survived the wrath of my mom. I suspect he didn’t really care how mad she was. In the end, we made it back to Denver and life continued although I did have a few moments in fifth grade when I was convinced my social standing had, indeed, suffered, as a result of my three-week absence during the preceding summer. Eventually I would claw my way back.

The only other thing I should mention is that I am taking a bit of a risk by writing about this for the whole world to read. In a recent phone conversation with my dad, I learned that he had read my “digging for treasures” post but was previously unaware of this blog. Whether or not he will return here to read more remains to be seen. He is not terribly tech-savvy. However, since I really have no idea who my potential audience could be at any given time, I do try to write for myself only. And I really don’t feel that I have told any untruths, this story is simply a fact of my life. If I have embellished at all and my dad should find his way to this page, he might feel a sense of pride for if humor and the art of story-telling are genetic, they most definitely came to me through the Thompson side of the family. My mom, while quite nice (although sometimes a little scary) is a fairly unfunny person. This story is just where my mind turns as my family and I make our way along the interstate from Minneapolis to Chicago. I’m not even exactly sure how long this trip is supposed to take. Initially I told Martha it was an eight-hour drive but when she balked at that prospect, I revised it to six. I hope she’ll forgive me when she figures out the truth.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rule of Life #343: A play date is a fine time to showcase one's skills

Martha's best friend
As I type this Martha is enjoying what will most likely end up being one of maybe three “play dates” she has for the year, because, as you well know, I am not a fan of the play date. OK, the play date itself is fine, I don’t have to be quite so bitchy about it; it’s the arranging of the play date that I find so cumbersome and, therefore, rarely do it unless pressured into it by my relentless child. Today, as soon as she leapt off the bus, she asked if a boy from school could come over to play. Uh… well, um... okay, sure, I stutter. (The anxiety is closing in on me already as I anticipate the demands that will be put upon my social abilities just making a simple phone call).

But actually Martha makes the call, which temporarily relieves me of my parental responsibility. I soon realize my intervention will be necessary as Martha has initiated the phone conversation with “so, do you want us to come pick you up or do you want to drive over?” without even so much as a hello. I speak with the friend’s mom, who is super nice and just as amused by the kids’ conversation as I am. A time is agreed upon, driving arrangements made. The play date is on.

Now the kids are in our basement doing what passes for “playing.” I love the idea of playing, how vague and undefined it can be, how it doesn’t have to mean anything specific and, in fact, it’s usually best if specific activities are not agreed upon beforehand so as to avoid any unnecessary restrictions. I remember when I reached high school and the “new” invitation had to be “do you want to do something?” instead of “do you want to play?” because obviously a 15-year old is way too old to “play.” (What I wouldn’t give to just play right now, screw my age.) Martha’s version of playing consists of a long series of questions that all seem to begin with “Do you want to watch me...?” as in, does the friend want to watch her play piano, play violin, play Beatles Rock Band, play Nintendogs, jump rope, feed her stuffed animals, etc. Someone stop me before I holler at her “ASK HIM WHAT HE WANTS TO DO, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!” (At present, Martha is singing ‘I want to hold your hand’ on Beatles Rock Band. I don’t know if the friend is playing an instrument, or simply acting the part of Martha’s groupie.)

He is very adept at asking questions I see. He is asking about her best friends and she is regaling him with stories about her best friend, Olivia, who is an imaginary friend and also a pig and also on a tv show that was adapted from the popular children’s books by Ian Falconer. He asks if he is her best friend. Yes! She answers enthusiastically. My heart is melting.

“Are you hungry?” he asks. “No,” she answers. “Neither am I.” Man, you can’t beat that subtlety.

I am actually really pleased that Martha is playing with a boy today. She has several very sweet little girl friends, but I have always wondered if boys would seem less complicated to her and therefore be easier to really connect with. Girls can be confusing, capricious and fickle. I should know. I was a horror show of ever-changing loyalties to my friends when I was young and maybe that is why I worry so much about Martha’s feelings getting hurt unexpectedly by a girl who has suddenly chosen to take offense at my child’s obscene burping or the appearance of unerring confidence she can display because she does not know that when friends shower her with compliments, as a female, she should act demure and downplay all positives so as to give the impression that she really thinks she has no self worth whatsoever. Or, at least, that’s what I was brought up to believe. I can’t imagine there’s a flaw in there anywhere.

Well, the play date is ending, and if I could possibly tear myself away from the computer and stop ignoring the kids, which is undeniably the best part of the play date, I will be driving our little friend home. I think he had fun. I hope he did. I’m sure Martha did because pretty much everything is fun in her mind. At least she didn’t have any angry outbursts at me like one other play date I remember when she told me I was so mean and then later, when Martha wasn’t paying attention, the friend came up to me, laid a reassuring hand on my shoulder and told me “I just wanted you to know, I don’t think you’re mean. You’re good people.” I’d say her social skills are coming along. Maybe mine are, too.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Buried treasures or how far should I dig before I decide I need to seek help

As many of my facebook friends know (and let’s be honest, no one else reads this blog besides the occasional facebook friend because no one else has any idea this fabulous talent is on display out here in the blogosphere except for maybe that mysterious person from Germany that Blogger stats tells me is viewing my page from time to time, although that could be someone from facebook, too, I really don’t know), wait… Where was I? Oh yes, I had a little work done at my house last week. It involved a backhoe digging a deep trench in the middle of the front yard from the house to the curb and when you dig a big hole like that, turns out there’s a bunch of dirt to move. And since the dirt had to be deposited somewhere close by so that it could be put back into the hole later, the other half of my yard got a huge pile of dirt dumped on it. Long story short, the entire yard was trashed.

Now, I’m not tremendously fastidious about my landscaping, but I like a nice garden with some flowers, colorful and a little wild but I like a little order, too, just a touch of tidiness to the overall look. And neither a 9-foot deep trench, nor a 6-foot mountain of dirt qualifies as colorful or tidy. Mostly it just qualifies as big fucking mess in your front yard. Creating order from chaos is a favorite hobby of mine, so it’s always a tiny bit stressful for me to watch things go in the opposite direction.

However, once the digging got started, the project took a most unexpected turn. As I peered into the emerging pit in my yard, I spotted something in the grit: it was a bottle; an old, clear glass bottle. Admittedly, this doesn’t really sound all that exciting – to a normal person. But I’m not really normal, that should be clear by now. “Hey, it’s a bottle!” I exclaimed. Jerry, the helpful Gene’s Water and Sewer dude whose job it was (at that stage) to signal directions to the backhoe operator, held up a hand so that he could retrieve said bottle and hand it over to me. “This one’s worth something,” he told me, “it’s an old cork top.” Wow! Cool! An old bottle! I was thrilled.

Now, let’s ask ourselves, why is it so thrilling to find an old, glass bottle buried in my yard? It’s hard to say. There could be many reasons. It’s unexpected, it’s a piece of the past, it begs the question, what is an old bottle doing buried in my front yard? How did it get there? It’s a little mysterious and since the bottle must be at least 90 years old it’s a curious little relic from the past. While not under the impression that this bottle is my key to immeasurable wealth, it does seem remotely possible that it has some value to say, a collector of antique, glass bottles, although I have no intention of selling it or even taking it to Antiques Roadshow to see if one of the Keno brothers will knock my socks off with an eye-popping valuation. To me, the previously listed reasons to be thrilled are worth more than any attached dollar amount (within reason).

Well, this little piece of 1923 garbage that just appeared in the dirt put a whole new face on the sewer-line-replacement project. Shane, the backhoe operator and my soon-to-be-other-best-friend-in-addition-to-Jerry, kept scooping and Jerry kept obliging me whenever a little glass bottle would roll down the piles of dirt in and out of the big hole. A few times I was pretty sure I spotted something they missed but I felt too embarrassed (and pathetic) to keep shouting “wait! I see some junk!” I was waiting for the two men to roll their eyes and tell me “listen lady, we got a job to do and it doesn’t really involve fishing stuff out of your dirt for you just because your life is kind of boring and you don’t appear to have anything better to do than stand here like a vulture despite the fact that it is painfully obvious you have not showered or washed your hair yet today and you are looking a wee bit scary if we do say so ourselves.” (Truth is, I may have even forgotten to brush my teeth that day, but mercifully, my new pals did not mention it.) In the back of my mind, I kept thinking that maybe after they left I could sift through the pile of dirt and find those treasures that went undiscovered.

And maybe since I actually did attempt just such a task it may possibly mean that it wasn’t so much in the back of my mind as it was in the very forefront of my mind. As simple as it sounded, however, it actually turned out to be way more trouble than it was worth. Mostly I just ended up scooping loads of dirt into my tennis shoes which promptly adhered to my sockless, sweaty feet, adding to the air of filth and disgustingness that I was already sporting. I failed to uncover anything interesting after about 20 minutes so I made up my mind to just sit tight and wait for the part where they scooped the dirt back into the hole and then I could take up my post again, scrutinizing the dirt for any fascinating tidbits.

Which is exactly what I did. Before the refill started, though, I did (sheepishly) ask my new friend Shane if he pretty please wouldn’t mind just hopping into that ditch and digging something out for me that I had been staring at for the last 12 hours. It turned out to be not another bottle but an unbroken light bulb. When he noticed the metal rim of something sticking out from the side of the trench and dug that out, too, we discovered an old, dented, rusty bushel barrel; not necessarily that cool but the pieces of newspapers stuck to the bottom of it were pretty interesting. One was dated January 1922, which would be about right if you assume that Jacob Jarnig, the initial owner of my house, finished up construction in 1923. Maybe when he, too, was faced with a big hole in his yard that needed filling in, as well as a lot of garbage, old ashes and broken china and empty bottles (who the hell needs an empty bottle anyway?) and old newspapers he simply put the two together and killed the proverbial two birds with one stone. Very efficient, Mr. Jarnig!

When all was said and done and dug up and refilled, I acquired 15 bottles, 2 small jars, 2 large Horlick’s Malted Milk jars, 3 remnants of decomposing corks, one small drinking glass, one light bulb, one bushel barrel (dented and rusted), a few pieces of broken china and tons of shards of broken glass. I obsessively scrubbed the bottles and jars and poked tiny pieces of rag into them with an old coat hanger to scour off rust and dirt and the remains of some roots or something growing inside them. And now, obviously, I have quite a nice little collection.

The problem now is, if you are me (and I am), you are left with a large section of the yard as yet unexplored and possibly containing many more treasures like the ones you have recently found. It’s hard not to wonder what else might be buried down there. Again, I’m not under the illusion that there’s anything more valuable down there than what I already have. But I am drawn to it all, and drawn to spot in my yard where I know more garbage might be lying there waiting to be unearthed. I could find out. I could start digging. I mean, how hard is that? All I need is a shovel and a place to throw the dirt and since my front yard is already an eyesore, what’s the harm in digging some more holes? On the other hand, it would, realistically, take quite a long time to dig up the rest of the underground trash pit and is that what I really want to do with my time? An amateur archeological dig is a far cry from flowers and tidiness.

I ask myself, what do I hope to find? I don’t know. I could find history, little pieces of what life used to be like right here in this exact same spot where I live my life every day in 2011. Is it worth it to become the crazy lady who climbs into a hole in her front yard every day, furiously digging in the remnants of a 90-year old trash pile, clinging to the hope that another little glass bottle will appear? I don’t know. Should I just be content with the treasures I already have and the possibility that similar artifacts might be buried in my front yard, awaiting rediscovery? I mean, there is something to be said for order and tidiness and clean feet.

I don’t have the answer just yet. What I do have is a wasteland of a front yard with a smallish hole in the middle that I started digging on my own the other day. And I found an old toothbrush. Is that something?
'A clean tooth never decays'