Thursday, October 04, 2007

8 Random Facts About Me (Adrienne): Chocked Full of Hard-Earned Life Tips

When Heather at Rookie Moms tagged me in an "8 Random Facts About Me" meme, I heard the unused unicycle in my garage start rattling for attention. But I'm opting to ignore it (and my lime green ukele) for the moment to pass on eight important life tips (mostly the products of experiential learning).

Meme Rules:

1) Post these rules before you give your facts

2) List 8 random facts about yourself

3) At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them

4) Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged

Life tip #1- When your washing machine's drain cycle mysteriously fills your bathtub with murky drain water, it is not a good time to experiment with the drain system by flushing the toilet. The morning we discovered this gem I was heading to a job interview and hadn't yet showered or brushed my teeth. The bathtub filling is a symptom that your main drain line is blocked (tree roots were eventually found to be the culprit). When I saw the tub filling, I wondered what would happen if I flushed the toilet. This, I should mention, was a completely academic question and unnecessary flush. Short answer- the toilet does not drain into the bathtub (which is kind of a relief), BUT I ended up learning how quickly I could bail a rising toilet into a trashcan with a Dixie cup.

We fought with a horrible implement called a toilet snake (way worse than any deadly viper) for about hour, but just couldn't get the line clear. This turned into our first call for a professional plumber which brings us to...

Life tip #2- Plumbers are almost always worth the expense. And treating them as superheroes when they work on your house doesn't hurt either.

So I met the plumber at the front door in my robe (which probably freaked the poor guy out) and with a handshake and exaltations of his speed fit for Mercury. The plumber offered to come in through the back door (I joke not). Our house was less than grand, so I laughed. He said that it wasn't common in our neighborhood for people to ask him to do exactly that. Wow, you'd think we were living somewhere classy- but the truth is our 1950s era mass-produced neighborhood had floorplans where you had to walk through the entry room no matter which door you chose. Silly people.

Jim quit wrestling the toilet snake (this sounds like a very twisted horror movie). Normally Jim offers his hand to shake, but in this case, I'm sure the plumber appreciated his standoffishness. We also now always offer the plumber a drink (no one has ever accepted), but that didn't seem so appropriate after having hands-on contact with the toilet.

Jim offered to help the plumber and we'd already moved everything out of the way (this is especially nice when there are large appliances involved like clothes washers). It ended up the plumber was able to use a clean out line in the backyard and get the drain cleared so I wasn't even late for the interview.

As the plumber was friendly, Jim said "How's your week going?" We heard a great story about how half a wine glass got lodged in the neck of a bar toilet at such an angle that it couldn't be broken by a snake. It was really funny. This wasn't the best bar in town, actually it was a place where you're pretty surprised to find a wine glass on the premises, so the bathrooms were horroshow much like the one in Trainspotting.

Plumbers aren't surprised to be treated as untouchables (at least where we've lived) which is really shabby because they are usually taking care of some pretty dire situations in a very heroic capacity.

That house had 6 more years of plumbing failures and we never paid full price for any service call. We also got fast service because the plumbers came to recognize our name and address.

Life tip #3- The inevitable experience of caring for barfing kids can be improved by preparation.

Life tip #4- Sometimes it's just "too big to split." Confused? So were we. There was this restaurant called "The Hole in the Wall" a little North of Upland, Indiana that specialized in baked potatoes with a variety of dressings. When they hauled these GIGANTIC mutant potatoes as big as your head out to the tables near ours, my friend and I decided to split one.

When the waitress took our orders, she refused to let that potato be split. "It's too big!" My friend said, "That sounds perfect..."

The waitress wouldn't allow us to split the mega-giant potato and she was getting irritated by our stupidity. "HONEY, it's TOO BIG TO SPLIT" (the additional "how can I say it more plainly, you absolute idiot?" was understood by everyone in the place.'

So we stupidly ordered one each to answer the old vaudeville joke "Well, how big is it?"

Flipping huge. The table creaked under the first one and I think it came to rest on all our knees with the second one. They had a gravitational pull that drew small objects like silverware across the room. I could easily see splitting one in two with an axe or chainsaw. Or splitting it in twenty to feed everyone in the place and a few people passing by on the street.

"Too big to split" is now code in the Jones family for anything fervently believed by others but completely inexplicable to us. Some mysteries in life are not to be answered: They're simply too big to split.

Life tip #5- Mommas need posses: Not long after my week-long hospitalization for mastitis and Ranger's cold-turkey weaning, I went back to library group. Ranger was hungry, so I started looking through my bag for still-foreign formula supplies. I'd left something essential at home, but a friend loaned me the missing supply and peace was restored after a short Ranger meltdown. The whole situation left me sad and rattled and a mom next to me said (with a strong dose of self-righteousness) "Well, that's why I breastfeed my daughter." About the time my eyes started to burn, but before they filled with tears my momma friends jumped to my defense. It immediately made me smile to watch them go after this woman. If it's bad to anger a momma bear, it's apocalyptic to anger a den of them.

Life tip #6- Few things are more empowering than helping others.

This sounds really trite, but the second major life event for the Jones in 2005 (shortly after the birth of Ranger in chronology and significance) was being hit by a 2 AM F3 tornado. As was the case with many tornado victims (and I suspect other disaster victims in the wake of Katrina), our insurance company was using every dirty tactic in the book to not pay enough to repair our damaged home.

I was so angry and felt completely subject to the company's decisions. I was told there was no appeals process and I had to settle on their terms. We just wanted a fair settlement (a working house). No one had any idea what to do to get our costs covered. One Friday night I decided to give up an accept their paltry offer and work to make up the $10k+ deficit on our own. I was broken. Thank God it was a weekend. On Sunday, my Dad told a funny story about grandpa and the federal credit card regulatory agency and the penny dropped. While insurance is regulated on a state by state basis, our state has a great Department of Insurance. Talking to one of their investigators gave me enough information to scare the insurance company into meeting our costs. That made me feel a little better, but it was a still a painfully long and frustrating process.

In the meantime, I invited the Department of Insurance to return to our city about 2 months after the tornado for two public meetings. They were WONDERFUL. They came and worked individually with every one who attended the public meetings. It turned out our insurance problems were minor in the grand scheme of things. Fines were levied, some people who had previously been cheated were given 100% or more of their policies' benefits. You can read about it here. This particular settlement is the product of a lot of hard work by a lot of fine people, but the egregious treatment by the insurance company only came to light in those public meetings. The fact that people cared about our community (not the message conveyed by some insurance companies) was more healing than any restoration of our home. Knowing I could still help others when I had felt so subject to circumstance helped me get out of bed during those terribly dark months.

(Side note: Our absolutely horrible experience was with Horace Mann and their subsidiary Teachers Insurance Company- I know you were wondering.)

Life tip #7- Look everyone in the eye. I stole this from Mother Teresa's playbook (I doubt she'll pursue me for copyright). Not necessary long, lingering looks, but enough to realize you're interacting with someone. I honestly think this changes the viewer more than the viewee. It's improved my life greatly and goes well with a smile.

Life tip #8- (also known as the Jones family motto)

So Jim and I went to this arts fair over a decade ago and watched a master baker decorate cakes (see, adventure around every corner!). This guy could created contest-worthy creations in record time. He then took questions. An observer asked him to show the best technique to make a rose. He pulls out something that looks like a giant thumbtack and pipes a perfect rosette on it in less than 30 seconds while giving good narration.

His questioner looked perplexed. "That's how I do it and mine never look that good." She probed for his trade secret, "How do you do it so easily?"

Through a wide grin he offered a secret to success in life as well as rose-making "The first thousand times are the hardest."

To further this "8 Random Things About Me" meme, I'm passing it on to:
Anyone else have life tips they want to add?


Anonymous said...

I love this post! Thanks for making me grin today :^)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for playing. I liked the Jones family motto, but I'm still perplexed about the potato!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for tagging me, Adrienne! I had fun writing my 8 random facts and passing on the meme.