Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Harriet The Tear Duct Slug

I have a really disgusting story to share. Common sense tells me to never ever speak of it to anyone. But I decided to share it on the off chance that there might be one other person in the universe who has had a similar experience and is feeling like a lonely freak about it.

Obviously you will want to stop ready now if you have a delicate constitution. Whatever that is.

A few months ago I got a blocked tear duct in my right eye. I pretty much diagnosed myself, thanks to Dr. Google, and in the process I learned a lot about how our tear ducts work and are connected to other stuff in our face.

I always thought our tears came from the tiny holes on the inside corners of our upper and lower eye lids. I've thought that for 48 years. I was wrong...for 48 years.

The little holes we see on our eyelids are not where the tears originate, they are the drain holes for our tears. The tears originate from tiny glads that are located under our upper eyelids. I swear it. This video proves it:

So after diagnosing and educating myself, I also researched ways to eliminate blocked tear ducts. They are quite painful and can become infected. Warm compresses and gentle massaging seemed to be the way to go. I tried this for several days and was unable to make it go away so I ended up at the eye doctor. She gave me some antibiotic drops to stave off infection and some steroid drops to shrink the swelling then asked me to come back in a week.

Shortly after I left the eye doctor's office, I felt something in the back of my throat and assumed it was a sinus thing or post nasal drip since I'm no stranger to either one. Whatever it was worked its way into my throat and out of my mouth where I spit it into a tissue. Those who suffer with chronic sinus problems can relate to how common this is for us.

But this time it was different. I looked at what I had spit into the tissue and was horrified. It looked exactly like a chewed up stick of Juicy Fruit gum...about an inch long, gray and rubbery. I swear I thought I had coughed up a piece of my brain.

I didn't ever want to see anything so disturbing again so I threw it away then went back to Dr. Google to find out if it was possible for chunks of grey matter to break loose and slide down your throat.

I learned that it was unlikely that my brain had broken into pieces but I also learned that whatever it was is not something that happens very often because I only found 2 other references to similar experiences on the whole internet. I deduced that the chunk I had spit out was the infection or whatever that was blocking my tear duct. It was the exact same shape as the little sac that runs alongside your nose and carries your tears into your nose and throat. Basically, I coughed up my infection. This was confirmed when I felt around my eye and nose and there was no longer any swelling or pain and I didn't even need to use the drops the doctor gave me.

Disgusting, right? On my follow up visit I told my eye doctor what happened and I told her my theory that I had hawked up an infection loogie. She sort of smiled, nodded and patted the top of my head. Figuratively of course.

I wrote that off as one of those inexplicable things that our bodies do sometimes and I only told a couple of people about it because ... well ... eww.

My right eye started watering excessively about a week ago and I thought it was allergies because evidently I had blocked the traumatic tear duct infection from my mind. Then a couple of days ago the pain and swelling showed up and triggered my memory. I immediately went after it with the warm compresses and gentle massaging. Or screaming hot compresses and rubbing as hard as I could to make it go away so I wouldn't have to relive the chunky nightmare from last time.

Yesterday was the worst of it and I decided if it wasn't better by today I would go to the eye doctor. When I woke up this morning I immediately felt the corner of my eye and the side of my nose and discovered there was no longer any swelling or pain. Thank you Jesus! I laid in bed for a while, reading email and Facebook notifications as is my usual routine, then I felt a tickle in the back of my throat. I swallowed and felt something long, thin and solid work its way into my mouth.

I bolted from the bed to spit it out before I puked and sure enough it was a gray rubbery chunk just like the last time.

I don't know why my tear ducts get blocked and I don't know if the blockage is from an infection or a foreign body or just one of those things that happens. But I am certain that the weird thing I've coughed up each time is the blockage.

So the moral of this story is...don't panic if you puke up a chunk of something that looks like your brain and instantly cures a tear duct problem you were having.

When this happened the first time I told Jayson about it but he never saw the evidence. Since I wasn't nearly as freaked out this time, I felt like I needed to share with him the mystery that is the human body so I texted him a picture of the yucky chunk:
JAYSON: Thank you for sharing your slug with me. Have you named it yet?

ME: Harriet The Tear Duct Slug.

JAYSON: Make sure you use it in a collage, or maybe as an earring.
Not gonna happen but he knows me well.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

AT&T overcompensates and then I grow a beard.

AT&T is cracking me up. I sent them that email on Tuesday explaining how I felt like they should send me a MicroCell for free, right? Less than 24 hours later, I had the free MicroCell in my hands. Problem solved. I think. I haven't actually hooked it up yet.

Just a few minutes ago I got a call from the manager of my local AT&T store saying he just got my email and would be glad to send me a free MicroCell. I did cc that email to a couple of different people so I can understand the communication breakdown. I don't know who forwarded it to my local store but I really think that was kind of a cool thing to do.

I told him that AT&T already shipped me one and he asked if they credited my account for it. I told him they never charged me in the first place. I felt like I shouldn't have to pay anything extra for cell service that I'm already paying for. He totally agreed and just wanted to make sure that I got what I needed and wasn't charged for it.

I'm not a big AT&T fan, but I am a loyal customer more out of habit than anything else. I'm happy with the results in this situation but definitely not happy with what it took to get there.

It reminds me of the Baby Lock ordeal. After it was all over they sent me an email asking me to remove my negative blog post since the situation was resolved. I refused because even though it was resolved in the end, it was still a negative experience because of how much trouble it was to get to the resolution! Der! 

The other day I was trying to figure out why I run into trouble with companies on such a regular basis. I decided I might be slightly high maintenance and probably bring on some of the trouble myself. I admit that. I wouldn't have had any trouble at all with AT&T if I'd just bought the MicroCell like they wanted me to. I guess most people would have done that and called it a day. But that didn't feel right to me so I made an issue out of it. Because it wasn't right. In my mind anyway. And I like to be right things to be done right. According to me.
This will be me after I get blacklisted by Tweezerman.

Okay fine, I'm a high maintenance control freak and I'm probably on my way to being blacklisted by corporate America so that no one in this country will ever let me buy their goods or services and I'll have to turn into one of those no impact people who lives "off the grid" (aka in a treehouse) and uses leaves for toilet paper.

Even in that situation I'm pretty confident that something won't go the way I think it should, I'll find someone to blame for it, and I'll have to carve my complaint letter on a piece of bark with the tooth I just lost.

That's my destiny.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I paid for your maxi tower, can you send me a mini one?

Today at 1:22 p.m. I sent this email to Glenn Lurie, the new President of AT&T Mobility. Just to make sure all my bases were covered, I sent copies to Ralph de la Vega, who had that job before him, and to Richard Lindner, CFO and Senior Executive Vice President. I decided not to bother the CEO unless these guys proved to be useless:

 Dear Mr. Lurie,

Congratulations on your promotion! I hope that dissatisfied customers such as myself aren’t sucking the fun out of your new job. I took a guess at your email address since Google doesn’t know what it is and you probably want to keep it that way.

I’m having issues with my wireless service that your company is not able to correct in a way that reflects good customer service. I’m sure you hear this daily but I hope you will hear me out. I will try to be as concise as possible out of respect for your time.

My family moved from NW Houston to SW Houston on August 25. We failed to verify whether or not AT&T provided coverage in our new neighborhood. To be honest, it never even occurred to me to do such a thing. That’s why we have AT&T…so that we know we’re covered everywhere.

We have 3 iPhones, older 4S and 5 models, but no landline. We haven’t needed a landline for the past 4 years since our cell service was more than adequate.

Now at our new home, we get 1 dot of service on our phones inside our house...sometimes 2 dots if we sit in the sweet spot on the back porch. We often have no service at all and the majority of our incoming calls go straight to voice mail.

We are paying over $200 a month for 3 phones that we can’t use in our own home or surrounding neighborhood. I have been reminded repeatedly that AT&T cannot guarantee coverage in all areas so basically I’m screwed. I didn’t see this coming because I don’t live out in the boonies or in a valley as one tech support guy suggested. Bless his heart. I’m in the Houston suburbs, for Pete’s sake, I expect to be able to use my cell phone. 

On September 12, J**** determined there was a problem with my local tower, assigned me a case number (CM*********-9*********), and told me it might take a week for the problem to be taken care of. On September 28, I received an email stating that the problem with the tower had been resolved. I still have 1 dot of service.

Today I called and spoke with a random tech support dude who said that I live in a 2 block area where there is only moderate coverage so I need to buy a MicroCell, which I understand is sort of like a mini tower. I don’t understand why I need to pay for a mini tower when I’m already paying for the maxi tower with my $200 a month. When I asked tech support dude to send me a MicroCell for free, he said that just isn’t done. Ever. I asked to speak to a supervisor and he informed me that supervisor would just tell me the same thing. And she did.

L*** verified my state of screwedness and said that a MicroCell is my only option. She confirmed that they are never ever ever sent out for free but she would be happy to fix me up for $149.99 plus shipping. When I asked her why my friends in B*********, Texas got a free MicroCell from AT&T just 4 weeks ago, she had no answer. I could give you my friends’ names but to be honest, I’m afraid if I do you will charge them for the MicroCell you’ve already sent them for free and as desperately as I want this situation to be fixed, I’m not ready to throw my friends under the AT&T bus. Yet.
I got a phone in my room with my very own phone number when I was 16 years old. That was in 1982 and my service was with Southwestern Bell. I stayed with SWBell while they morphed into SBC and then later became AT&T. We did have a short stint with BellSouth when we lived in South Louisiana but we’ve never strayed from Ma Bell’s family. I have been with your company for 32 years. I’m willing to bet that’s slightly longer than you’ve been with them.

I’m not asking for a gold watch. If I leave AT&T no one will notice or throw me a going away party or mourn my absence for one second. I get it. All I’m asking is to receive the service I’m already paying for without incurring any additional expenses. OR, I’m asking to be let out of our contract without having to pay the $305 cancellation fee. The second option is not desirable to me since AT&T has taken care of all my communications needs for literally all of my life. But it is preferable over buying a device that I shouldn’t have to have.

Would you be willing to help me? There’s not much I can offer in return except for my continued loyalty to your company despite feeling unappreciated for that loyalty, and my promise that I will never contact you again.

Most people jump on that second thing. Just so you know.

Thank you,

Shannon Green
Richmond, TX *****

(***) ***-****

At 2:02 p.m. I got this reply from OOP-Non-Regulatory-Mobility:

Please refer to Clarify case number C*********_9*******
My name is C***** H***** and I work within the Office of the President
for AT&T.  Our job is to resolve issues on behalf of senior leadership
for the company.   I will be your point of contact on this issue through
resolution.   To ensure that I have a full understanding of your
requested resolution, I will be trying to reach out to you over the next
few days, or feel free to call me at *** *** ****.
Thank you for contacting AT&T.

Okay, standard form letter response but still it was a response so I was happy about that.

Then at 3:18 p.m. my phone rang so I ran outside to answer it. It was C***** H***** who apologized for the inconvenience, confirmed the problem and said there are quite a few MicroCells in use in our neighborhood. Then he asked me to verify my address so he could get my free MicroCell shipped out today.

Obviously this makes me happy but it also makes me frustrated that I've been jumping through hoops for the past 4 weeks trying to get this taken care of through the appropriate channels when it could have been resolved in 2 hours if I had contacted the president's office first. When I mentioned this to my new BFF he said it just depends on who you talk to since not everyone is aware of all the options available to settle a complaint...even supervisors. Despite what I was told, AT&T does send out MicroCells for free but only on a case-by-case basis. I took that to mean only if you're fortunate enough to talk to someone 'in the know' or really good at annoying company executives enough that they'll do anything to make you leave them alone.

That second thing would be me.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Amazon, Light Bulbs, and The Dead-Eyed Zombie UPS Guy

I sometimes order light bulbs from Amazon, right? Especially the decorative CFL globes for the bathrooms. They can be hard to find and Amazon has good prices on them.

I order from Amazon pretty regularly and usually just include the light bulbs with my order. Amazon ships the light bulbs with the rest of my stuff and when they arrive, there is at least one broken bulb. EVERY time.

In the past I've gone through the return process where they send UPS to come pick up the broken bulbs and they ship my replacements usually within a day or two. The replacement bulbs always arrive in tact because they're the only thing in the box.

They're Amazon. Surely they ship out hundreds if not thousands of light bulbs every day. You would think they would have realized by now that shipping them in the same box with my computer paper is a bad idea. I guess I need to start ordering them separately or ask for them to be shipped separately or something. Bless Amazon's clueless heart.

So this past week I ordered 2 globe bulbs and I received 2 broken globe bulbs. I did the return procedure thing and got a confirmation that my replacements would be shipped out pronto and UPS would come pick up my broken bulbs. As usual.

But then I got a separate email from someone at Amazon who I'm pretty sure was contacting me from New Delhi because she typed with an accent. You know what I mean. She was very nice and apologized for the inconvenience, promised that my new bulbs would arrive shortly and told me that it wasn't necessary for me to return the broken ones. She told me to dispose of them safely.

Great! That saved me the trouble of packing them up again, printing out the label and the return info, and watching for the UPS guy.

When I checked the status of my replacement order the next day, I noticed that yes my new bulbs were indeed on the way but there was also an alert reminding me to return the broken ones or else I'd be charged for them.

I contacted New Delhi Gal and asked her to confirm that I was not required to send the bulbs back. She confirmed that I was not required to return them and should dispose of them.

So I took a screen shot of my account page showing that Amazon was waiting for me to return the bulbs. I sent that to New Delhi Gal and told her that I don't want to be charged for bulbs that I was told to trash.

Again, she told me to trash the broken bulbs and she would make sure that I didn't get charged for not returning them.

Perfect...problem solved.

The next day my replacement bulbs arrived safe and sound and I didn't think about light bulbs again until later that night when my doorbell rang at 8:30 p.m. It was the UPS guy ready to pick up my broken bulbs. The broken bulbs that I was told to dispose of because there was no need to return them.

I'm pretty sure I just glared at him and I think I said something like, "ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??!!" It was 8:30, clearly he'd had a long day so he just sort of gave me a blank look with tired eyes. I wanted him to understand my frustration so I told him the whole story about the broken bulbs and how New Delhi Gal told me to toss them but there was an alert on my account so I didn't and I can't believe she forgot to cancel the UPS pick-up yadda yadda yadda.

UPS Guy stood there completely silent, looking at me with tired blank eyes.

Okay, fine. He didn't care about my frustration and was just doing his job. I hated for it to be a wasted trip for him so I asked him to give me a minute to box up the return items. Thank goodness I hadn't thrown them away yet.

The box for the replacement bulbs was still sitting on my kitchen table so I tossed the broken bulbs in there then asked the UPS Guy if he had some tape to seal the box. He said no...which I thought was weird cuz he handles packages all day every day. You would think they'd keep a roll of packing tape in the truck just in case.

I probably rolled my eyes at him a little bit then asked him to wait some more while I went upstairs to get the packing tape. I sealed the box without including the return print out thing that you're supposed to put in there but I wasn't prepared and really didn't care. I handed the sealed box to UPS Guy and asked if he had a label then explained that I didn't print one out because New Delhi Gal told me not to return the bulbs so I wasn't expecting him and didn't even have any tape handy and blah blah blah. I was rambling again and he was even more disinterested than the first time I whined about it.

He held up the label in his hand, slapped it on the box, told me to have a good evening, then did the zombie walk back to his truck.

The whole thing was weird but whatever...I was just glad to be done with it. I had intended to check my Amazon account to make sure they weren't still threatening to charge me if I didn't return those bulbs but I sort of forgot about it. Until a couple of days later....yesterday.

Replacements ordered AND refund issued. No one thought that was strange?
I got an automated email from Amazon letting me know they'd processed my refund for $16.64 and it should show up in my bank account in 2-3 days.


I checked my Amazon account and sure enough the alert was gone and there was a notice that my broken bulbs had been replaced AND my money had been refunded.

This bothers me because I now owe Amazon $16.64 and if I don't say anything to them about it, it feels like stealing. But I also know without a doubt that if I contact Amazon and try to explain to them that they shouldn't have refunded my money and I owe them $16.64, it will result in mass confusion which will cause more mistakes and I will get alerts on my account and probably end up being charged double and then, just because this is the kind of luck I have, Dead-Eyed Zombie UPS Guy will show up at my door again.

So I will just say a heartfelt thanks to Amazon for the free light bulbs.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Finish all your seed beads, then you can have dessert.

You know how when you buy cheap seed beads at Hobby Lobby they come in the clear plastic tube with the twist-off cap? 

You know how there's usually a paper label that covers the cap and part of the tube which can sometimes make it difficult for (arthritic) hands to unscrew the cap?

You know how you sometimes use your teeth as tools even though you know you're not supposed to but it just takes too much dang effort to get up and go get the right tool you need?

So last night I was taking seed beads out of their plastic tubes and putting them in little zip bags to consolidate them and make them easier to display for my upcoming garage sale. I had been unscrewing all the caps with my teeth because my poor little hands are angry with me about the work I've made them do over the past couple of months.

Everything was going fine until I came across one particularly stubborn cap that wouldn't unscrew. I tightened my grip on the tube then bit down harder in an effort to get the dang thing open. When I twisted the tube it broke and because I was holding it so tight, it squeezed a whole bunch of seed beads straight into my mouth.

I mean a WHOLE BUNCH. Like probably a tablespoon, and that's a lot of seed beads.

I just sat there with a mouth full beads, laughing, wondering what to do about it, and hoping I didn't choke on them or end up snorting them outta my nose.

That's a common problem for me because about 20 years ago I had a uvulopalatoplasty which removes your soft palate and uvula from the back of your throat. I had this done to eliminate sleep apnea because I snored like a gentle purring kitten. Or a freight train, depending on your proximity to my sleeping self.

A few months after the surgery I was eating a chocolate covered cherry (as I am known to frequently do during the holidays) and I bent over to get a pan out of a lower kitchen cabinet just as I swallowed my delicious cordial.

Instead of going down my throat like it was supposed to, it went up because I don't have that little mud flap (uvula) in the back of my throat. When I stood up, I thought my nose was running which is common with my chronic sinus and allergy problems. I wiped my nose with a tissue and saw that it was chocolate.

That's right. I had chocolate snot coming outta my nose. It was disgusting and fascinating.

Where was I going with that story? Oh. The beads. Right. Swallowing them was a not desirable thing to do but blowing them outta my nose was even less desirable.

I made my way to the bathroom, struggling not to gag on seed beads, then delicately spit the beads into a tissue. And then another tissue. And another. And 10 minutes after I thought I was done, I had to get yet another tissue. Gross, right?

When Jayson got home I was telling him about all the seed beads I had for lunch and I kid you not, another one magically appeared in my mouth. I guess it was hiding between teeth or something.

I have an appointment with my dentist today to get my pearly off-whites cleaned and polished and I'm a little nervous that the hygienist will find another hidden bead and think that I'm one of those freaky people who eats weird stuff. I'm totally not. In fact, I'm one of those freaky people who flosses every day.

And occasionally stores seed beads in her cheeks like a crafty chipmunk.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Fought The Palm And The...Palm Won

I finished the last of the yard work today and I'm too exhausted to write a narrative so I'll just give you my stream of consciousness. These are the thoughts I thunk while I worked:

Great, it's early and it's already hot. 

Where are all these wasps coming from?

Oh yeah. Now I remember. On moving day some home security salesman guy came to the door which irritated the snot out of me since clearly we were JUST MOVING IN and a little preoccupied. He made a comment about how the wasps almost got him and there was a nest under the porch overhang. I made mental note to find out what wasps like to eat then give them a treat for at least trying to scare off a salesman.

Then I forgot about them.

Oh well, I'll just spray their nest so they'll go away.

I sure hope I don't kill these sago palms by trimming them too much but their pokey fronds are painful for people trying to get to the front door. People like home security salesmen. Okay, I'll leave a couple of pokey fronds.

If they die, I'll swear they looked diseased when we moved in. 


Why are these things so thorny?! I had no idea this was going to be painful.

I always wanted one of these plants but now I'm glad I didn't let my mother steal the ones from a neighbor's yard in Lafayette like she wanted to. They were being neglected, she was just concerned for the welfare of the plant. 


Note to self: buy leather gardening gloves.

Clearly these are Satan's favorite tropical ornamental.

It's so quiet around here, I guess everyone works during the day. 

I wonder why no one in this neighborhood mows their own yard? Okay we don't mow our own yard anymore but we could. Theoretically. Seems like everyone has a yard service. Maybe I'm committing some kind of Property Owner's Association violation by working in my own yard.


Oh. There's a person walking down the street. There's life here!

Ah, looks like a toddler and her nanny.

She didn't even glance my way. I bet she assumed I'm the gardener.


I think the wasps are confused about what happened to their home so they're holding little community meetings in the bushes to try to figure it out.

I'd better get some water out of the garage fridge. 

OMG is that a foil wrapped chocolate egg on the garage floor???!!!

Oh. It's just the gold center from one of the fake magnolias on the cheesy 80s garland I put out here for the garage sale.

Well that's disappointing.

Actually it's a good thing that wasn't a chocolate egg cuz I would have eaten it...knowing full well that I haven't bought those kinds of chocolates in years.

Thank God the palms are done. One more pokey frond and I'd be in danger of bleeding to death. Now, on to the more pleasant bushes.

Oh. A holly bush. Perfect.

This was a topiary at one time. I think it needs to be a topiary again.

Okay I think I skipped topiary and went straight to bonsai. Oh well. 

More wasps. I'll just whack the bushes with a rake to scare them off.

Ligustrums. I hate ligustrum. They're such a boring bush. I miss our camellia and azalea bushes we had in Lafayette. At least they had the decency to bloom every year which I took as a sign of gratitude for trimming them.

Despite what Jayson says, I do NOT trim the bushes with nail clippers. But maybe I should, these little pruners are crap.

Note to self: buy decent handheld pruners.

P.S. to self: throw away the 4 pairs of indecent pruners that you already have. 

I wonder what kind of bushes these are. Their current haircut just isn't working for me. I don't like a uniform hedge. They're going to have to endure a growing out phase until I can decide what kind of style will be most flattering for them.

I should probably get more water.

The trash guys are going to hate me.

Ouch. Oh great. More fire ants. Why do I always step in them with my left foot?

Why do I always step in them?

That's it. I'm bagging up the trimmings then spraying for critters. It worked great in the backyard. But I should probably using something stronger than Sevin up here since there's a lot of wasps and I don't think Sevin works well on them.

I wonder if this Ortho Bug-B-Gon kills wasps? There's a picture of a wasp on the bottle so that means yes. I wonder if it's safe for sago palms? There's a picture of a plant on the bottle so that means yes. I'll use this one.

Oh good, it looks just like the Sevin bottle so I already know how it works. Just attach it to the hose, turn on the water, open the valve on the bottle then spray everything within reach.

Why is there water coming out of the connection? Did I not screw it on tight enou.....

I don't think the bottle was supposed to separate from the hose connector and go flying across the yard like that.

Oh, it didn't break, it just separated. I see...it snaps back together. Maybe that's some kind of safety feature or something.  I'll turn the water down some and try again.

I smell pesticide, that's probably not good.

Well crap! It came apart again! This is going in the trash, I'll just use the Sevin.

Am I wearing anything see-through? Good, I need to be hosed down.

Good ol' Sevin. It didn't have a picture of a wasp on the bottle but I know it'll kill the fire ants so that's good. Maybe I should actually read the bottle.

Am I getting sunburned? Oh great. Just what I need. More instant age spots. With any luck I'll grow a giant skin tag to cover them up.

I need a cold shower.

Oh my gosh my arms and legs are completely chewed up.

I wonder if Neosporin comes in a body lotion?

At least I didn't get poison ivy from working in my own yard. That's a first.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Just Call Me Paulette Bunyan

This morning I managed to finished the yard tasks I started yesterday with minimal injury or incident. My goal was to get rid of 3 pots of junk trees in a back corner of my yard. One of the pots was full of weeds and grass but the other two had small hackberry trees growing in them. I don't like hackberry trees and consider them just an overgrown weed so I had no problem helping them to meet their demise.

Yesterday's fire ant treatment worked well since I only saw one today. He stung me on the top of my foot but when I looked down I saw that he was alone and carrying a suitcase so I assume he was just expressing his anger at being evicted. There's also a slight chance I was hallucinating from the heat.

 Other than that, the only other critters I ran across were some worms and a cute tiny frog that I shooed out of the way so he wouldn't get hurt. Before he hopped off I told him to tell his Dad to knock off the late night chirping right under our window since all the nice girl frogs are in bed by 10 and he should be too. 

Getting rid of those pots was a lot more work than I was anticipating. The first one wasn't too bad. I pulled out all the weeds then with a great deal of huffing and puffing I managed to turn it on its side and empty out the dirt.

I could see that the next 2 pots were going to require some tools so I grabbed the good pruning shears, the dirt rake, the leaf rake and a shovel. You might notice that the leaf rake and the shovel are a little small. That's because they're made for a child. We bought those for Taylor when she was probably 7 or 8 years old but Jayson and I have always used them a lot more than she ever did. They're real tools, not toys, they're just kid sized. The shovel is perfect for me because I almost can't lift a shovel full of Texas dirt which is dense and full of heavy clay. But I can lift a tiny shovel full of it!

I used the pruning shears to whack off manageable sized branches from the first tree then grabbed the trunk with the intention of pulling it and the pot over on its side to empty out the dirt like I did with the first pot.

This one didn't budge. All of the pots were about half full of dirt so they were heavy but not so much that they couldn't be moved. It didn't take long for me to figure out why this one wasn't moving. The tree's roots escaped the confines of the pot using the drain holes so it was firmly rooted in the ground.

This made me mad so I yelled at the tree. It didn't seem to care.

Fortunately the first tree was only about an inch in diameter so I was able to pull on it enough to expose the roots which I chopped with the shovel while chanting in my head, "don't chop off your toes, don't chop off your toes..."

The second tree nearly did me in. It was about 2" in diameter so I couldn't cut the trunk down short enough to grab it and pull on it. Once I had all the branches removed, I just wedged myself up against the fence and used my feet to push on the trunk, hoping that would expose some roots that I could chop.

It did. Eventually. But it wasn't easy. My feet slipped off the trunk a couple of times causing me to land on my backside in the pot, straddling the tree trunk and pulling earth worms out of my shorts. That was fun.

By the time I finally got the roots cut and pulled that stupid tree out of the corner, I was so hot and exhausted that I considered drinking water from the hose. I didn't actually do it, but I thought about.

I used the dirt rake to spread out the dirt from the pots while in my mind I made plans to call Comcast later in the day to tell them that if they don't get someone out here NOW to bury that cable, my dog might chew off a section of it and choke to death. Then I will tell the world that Comcast killed my dog.

Okay, I don't really have a dog but if I did that could happen. Maybe. That cable was supposed to be buried 10 days ago so every time I look at it I become angry enough to consider lying just to get it taken care of. That's what having Comcast as your cable/internet provider does to you.

The corner looks much better now and I'm hoping that some day I might have the energy to drag the pots and the bags of branches out to the curb.


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Woman vs. Nature

We have one of those rainwater collection barrels that attaches to your gutter downspout. Today I decided to clean it out even though we will probably never ever use it. But it's clean. 

During that process I angered a family of yellowjackets whose home I accidentally destroyed when I cleaned out the section of downspout below the diverter using water from my high powered hose spray nozzle. They came after me but I valiantly fought them off by running in circles with the hose nozzle wide open and spraying like Old Faithful.

I managed to avoid any wasp stings but I did step in fire ants which is pretty normal for me. In fact I'm surprised that I only did it once.

After that, I tried to take an old spray nozzle off a water hose that was here when we moved in and that we planned to throw away cuz it's cheap and yucky. The nozzle wouldn't come off. At all. Not even after soaking it with Liquid Wrench then trying to pry it off with a hammer and chisel. The hose was a cheap piece of junk but the nozzle was heavy duty metal, let me tell ya. I worked on that thing off and on for several hours before I finally decided to just beat it to death with a hammer. That worked. The metal finally broke and when it separated from the hose there was corrosion in there that looked prehistoric.

Once that long difficult job was done, I was satisfied and chunked the hose and the nozzle in the trash. Why would I spend so much time removing the nozzle that I was going to throw away from the hose that I was going to throw away? Because I am a crazy person!! I couldn't stand that I couldn't remove it! It was winning and that can't be! I just had to know that it could be done. And it could even though the nozzle did not survive the separation procedure.

Then I decided I would get rid of 3 old plastic pots, the kind you get when you buy a tree, that are sitting in a corner of the yard gathering weeds. One of them even has a chicken tree or something similar growing in it. I could see some plastic fence mesh in one of the pots so I tried to pull it out with one hand while steadying myself by grabbing the edge of the pot with the other hand. That turned out to be a bad idea when I felt something stinging me and looked down to see that I had a hand full of fire ants. I just kept thinking to myself, "Well, it's not quite as bad as stepping in them twice".

I abandoned my plan to get rid of the flower pots and concentrated on the fire ants instead. They are common and abundant in Texas so this is nothing new. We've been baiting them since we moved in but it usually takes a couple of months before they finally decide to move on. You don't really kill off all the fire ants in your yard. You basically just chase them into your neighbor's yard.

I didn't think sprinkling bait in the plastic pots would be a good idea since I would have to reach through all the foliage to get to them, increasing my chances of a third fire ant episode and two is my daily limit. So I chose to use some Sevin spray that hooks up to the water hose. I screwed the hose to the bottle, turned on the water, turned the valve on the Sevin bottle to the 'on' position, then sprayed the heck out of the tree pots and everything else in that corner just for good measure.

I think I probably should have read the directions on the Sevin bottle before using it because when I was done, the bottle was more full than it was when I started. Apparently I filled it with water and failed to flush it out or something. I don't know. I still haven't read the directions. Maybe some day I will.

Tomorrow I will try again to get rid of those pots and with my luck will end up destroying the home of some angry scorpions or some other stinging creatures. It's never a roly poly house.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Two Men and A Truck and A Chronic Headache

We recently hired Two Men and A Truck (the Northwest Houston franchise) to move us 35 miles from our old home in Cypress to our new one in Richmond. I chose them not just based on the price they quoted me but also because I felt like they were reputable, knowledgeable, and truly cared about what they were doing.

Because of the size of our home we actually had Four Men and Two Trucks: double the capacity, double the manpower, double the body odor. 

We packed our entire house ourselves and meticulously labeled everything according to which room it belongs in. I even put neon sticky notes on all the furniture to make it as easy as possible for the movers to get stuff into the correct rooms. This turned out to be a huge waste of time since they either asked me where stuff went or they put it in the same room where it was in the old house even though it was clearly marked to go to a different room in the new house. I would estimate that 80% of our stuff was placed where it should have been even though 100% of it was labeled.

At 8:30 a.m. on moving day our team of guys showed up and seemed very grateful that everything was boxed up, sealed, labeled and ready to go. All they had to do was pack and/or wrap our furniture then load it all up, drive it to the new house and unload it.

Local movers charge by the hour instead of by the pound like interstate movers do. My estimate was for 10 hours and I felt that was going to be pushing it. We've used moving companies several times in the past so I have an idea of how it takes to load and unload our stuff. We have a lot of stuff. Fortunately, if it took longer than the estimated time, I would not be charged more than 10% over the amount of the estimate so I didn't worry too much about it.

The guys started working and after about 2 hours one of them asked if I had any water. I didn't have any bottled water since all of our food had already been moved to the new house and I didn't have a glass for them to drink tap water from since everything we owned was already boxed up. The guy said he had a cup in the truck so I told him that of course it would be fine for him to fill it from the tap.

He then asked where he could buy water. I was a little confused by his question but told him there was a grocery store down the street in one direction and a convenience store in the other. He asked if it would be okay for them to stop at the store to buy water on their way to the new house. I really couldn't believe that they didn't bring water with them. These guys are professional movers who know they are in for a long and very hot day. Water should have been their first stop first thing in the morning. I told them that would be fine, of course they need to have plenty of water on hand.

It took 6-7 hours for the movers to get the trucks loaded and when noon came around I asked one of the guys if they took a break for lunch. He said no, they don't take any breaks until after the job is done. On the one hand this is a good thing since I'm paying by the hour but on the other hand this is a very bad thing because I knew these guys were going to get tired pretty darn fast if they didn't take a break to eat and fuel up.

I don't know if this was their personal choice or if this is the way the company wants it done but either way I didn't like it. Not only is it unhealthy for these men to work all day with no break and no food (especially in August in Texas where 100 degree temps are the norm) but I knew that by the end of the day my personal belongings would likely suffer from their fatigue and hunger. And sure enough, they did.

When it was time to head to the new house, the guys reminded me that they were stopping for water but would be there shortly. I was fine with that and told them that I also wouldn't mind if they wanted to stop someplace to eat as well. They declined and said they would just pick up water.

I don't know what happened to this water they were picking up but I never saw it and about an hour after they started unloading the truck at the new house, one of them asked me once again if I had any water. I was more than just a little irritated since they were supposed to have stopped for water along the way but what could I say?

"No, you can't have any of my water because you were supposed to stop and get your own so go back to hauling my valuables up the stairs with no water while I sit here and drink a nice cool bottle in front of you."

I don't think so. I pointed to the fridge and told the guy to help himself. A few minutes later one of the other guys asked for water. I bit my tongue and pointed him to the fridge. He grabbed 2 bottles, one for him and one for another guy then he spotted the nice cold soft drinks in the fridge and asked if he could have a Sprite instead.

OMG! Seriously?! Again, what could I do? I told him to go ahead and after that they all made repeated trips to the fridge and completely wiped us out of water and soft drinks. I'm really surprised they didn't make themselves a sandwich or heat up some leftovers. It was totally unprofessional, inappropriate and just plain inconsiderate.

The largest pieces of furniture were the first ones on the truck so they were the last ones to come off at the end of the day which ended up lasting 12 hours. This made me nervous because all 4 guys were tired, hungry, and very obviously just wanted to get this done and get home. I think this is at least part of the reason that 4 pieces of furniture were damaged and 3 items packed in boxes were broken beyond repair. Since I packed everything except furniture I can't really place too much blame on the movers but they were at least partially responsible because more than one box that was labeled "fragile" was crushed under other heavy boxes. Common sense should tell you not to put boxes labeled "books" on top of boxes labeled "china". It's too bad that common sense wasn't a member of my moving team.

We sustained more damage in this one move than all of our others combined. We paid $95 for the additional insurance so we might as well use it to get our furniture repaired, right? It took a week of repeated phone calls and emails to get the insurance gal to send me a claim form. She said that once I turn in the claim form and pay the $250 deductible, they will send someone out to the house to give an estimate on repairs.

Wait a minute. I pay the deductible BEFORE the damage is even assessed?? I told the insurance gal that's not the way insurance works. She said that's the way she was trained to handle it. So I said what if the damage is less than $250? Then I tried to explain how insurance works to the insurance gal while I jabbed forks in my eyes. She said that since I've waited so long already, she would go ahead and call the repair company or whatever and have them contact me to schedule a time for them to come look at the damage.

Of course that hasn't happened yet and here's what I'm afraid of. I have a feeling that someone will come out here and quote a ridiculous price to fix everything then I will pay my deductible and they will spackle over all the gouges. And then I will be homicidal. Or more homicidal than usual.

That's just me speculating but based on my experience so far with Two Men and A Truck, I'm expecting red tape, poor quality, poor service, and more delays. Does that mean that Two Men and A Truck is a bad company and I wouldn't recommend them? Not necessarily. It's a franchise situation so each location is independently owned...which makes it a crap shoot. Reading online reviews for your local franchise might help but, as in my case, it might not.

I will report back after I hear from the repair company and I will wait until after everything has been taken care of before I give Angie's List and the rest of the internet my review, which at this point is not exactly favorable.

Someone owes me a case of water and soft drinks and I'm a little bitter about that.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Death by CFL Bulb

I broke a CFL bulb today and just learned that I didn't clean it up properly so now our house is contaminated and we're all going to die. Or something like that. If you freak out about the dangers of mercury exposure, just look away. When I was a kid I had a dime-sized blob of mercury that I kept in a baby food jar and played with. For years. And look how normal I am!


I cleaned up my broken CFL bulb just like I would any other broken bulb...I handed my daughter the large pieces and she carried them to the trash can in her bare hands. Then I vacuumed up the rest. Later, I remembered the whole mercury issue with the bulbs so I Googled it and discovered that I did pretty much everything wrong.

From what I understand, here is the procedure for cleaning up a broken CFL bulb:

1. Open all your doors and windows then move your family and your pets out of the house for about a month. And for the love of God, whatever you do, DON'T use a broom, vacuum cleaner or your hands to clean up the broken bulb!

2. Without using your hands, collect the large broken pieces and place them in an air-tight lead container.

3. Without using your hands, collect the small shards with pieces of duct tape, or a slice of bread that you must remember not to eat later. Then, also without using your hands, wipe up the area with a damp paper towel to collect any white powder that came out of the bulb.

4. Without using your hands, place the small shards, the duct tape, the bread and the paper towels inside the air-tight lead container. If you accidentally touched anything with your hands, go ahead and seal up your hands in the container as well.

5. If by some miracle you managed to not touch anything, then you should thoroughly scrub your hands a la Karen Silkwood.

6. There's probably still mercury vapor in the air so just go ahead and put your house up for sale. Or better yet, lease it out. I have the perfect property manager for you. Call me.

7. Now call the EPA to come out and pick up your air-tight lead container full of hazardous waste which might include your hands. Make sure you wear a hazmat suit when you make that call in case there are mercury vapors hiding inside your phone.

Now sit back, relax, and be satisfied with how energy efficient you are now that you're required to use these awesome, expensive, toxic, difficult to dispose of bulbs. Yay us!

Many thanks to c|net for cluing me in.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fasting, Dieting, and Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream

I've just ended a 3-day spiritual fast and I didn't die like I thought I would so I'm going to continue with a modified version of it to see if I can drop about 30 of the excess pounds I gained when middle age caused my metabolism to come to a screeching halt and my thyroid went haywire all at the same time. I gained the pounds very quickly so I want to lose them very quickly.

Matthew 6 says I'm not supposed to talk about or brag about fasting but it's over now so I hope it's okay to talk about it afterwards. I won't share any details about the spiritual part but I will talk about the food part and my plan to continue it as sort of a diet. I guess if I get struck by lightening or I gain 15 pounds, then I'll know I shouldn't have said anything at all.

For 3 (excruciatingly long) days I drank only fruit juices, vegetable juices, broth, green tea, and water. I ended my fast last night with a bowl of plain white rice and found it difficult not to eat the bowl and spoon when I finished. My plan for now is to continue consuming massive amounts of mostly liquids (and a multi-vitamin) but I will add a few sensible solid foods each day just to maintain normal brain function and the ability to hold myself upright.
The first day of the fast I went to the grocery store to buy juices and bottled water. That was a huge mistake. If you're planning to fast for any reason whatsoever, take my advice and go to the store BEFORE you get started. It was a cruel punishment to walk up and down the aisles looking at all the food I was intentionally denying myself. I broke down in the ice cream aisle and bought a half gallon of Blue Bell Sea Salt Caramel ice cream. I will reward myself with a small bowl of it when I reach my weight loss goal or when I reach Thursday. Whichever comes first.

Before I go any further I should probably address the juices lest anyone suggest I buy a juicer and live happily ever after. It works great for some people and I'm happy for them and wish them a long and healthy life with their juicer. I have tried juicing. I was not impressed. I found juicing to be time consuming, expensive, messy, sometimes gross, and more of a lifestyle commitment than I am willing to make. I am not looking for a significant lifestyle change. I do need to adopt some healthier eating habits but the key word there is "eating".

Before I started I had to Google for information on exactly how to fast. I researched the different types of fasts, chose the one that I felt led to do, then read everything I could find pertaining to it. Most of what I read said the second day would be the most difficult. In my experience, the first day was the most difficult. My stomach growled all day and was not the least bit appreciative of the gallons of liquids I tried to use to satisfy it. Evenings were the worst but maybe that was because my family was home and they selfishly made themselves food to eat. Food that smelled really, really good.

The second day was actually a little easier and I was surprised to find that there is a limit to how hungry you can get. Well...for me anyway. I have no idea if it works the same for everyone. I thought that each day I would get progressively hungrier until it became unbearable. Instead I found that I plateaued at a level of hungry that was miserable but tolerable. Maybe it was kept in check by the liquids I was drinking, I don't know.

I had initially intended to fast for 4 days but by the 3rd day I could see that I had reached my limit. I wasn't any hungrier than I was the day before but I was still starving, becoming more forgetful than usual, and having unreasonable thoughts such as, "Wow, I sure could go for some moldy cheese right now or maybe some tripe tartare." So I made peace with the idea of ending my fast a day earlier than I had originally planned.

I really didn't expect to last for more than a day but since I made it for 3 days and didn't drop dead or eat anything weird out of desperation (after doing a load of whites, the dryer lint looks an awful lot like meringue), I felt like I might be able to turn this fast into a temporary diet and keep going until I've lost the extra pounds I'm tired of carrying around.

I've never needed to diet before so this is new territory for me. I don't really have a specific diet plan yet but I do have some ideas. According to the girls on those Gypsy reality shows I need to eat a lot of foods doused with malt vinegar. I like malt vinegar and I have a cast iron stomach so this shouldn't  be a problem. I also need to consume some lemon juice every day. I like lemon juice so this will be easy to do as well.

Asians are generally very thin so I thought about what they eat. I know they consume a lot of fresh vegetables but that requires frequent trips to the grocery store or farmer's market which I've already determined to be extremely painful. Plus there's a lot of prep work involved and even when I'm at my best it's risky for me to...ya know...hold a knife. My diet brain is even fuzzier than my normal fuzzy brain so I will keep the fresh veggies limited mostly to what I can buy ready-to-eat, like those baby carrots that I love. I'll make an exception for the cucumbers that I can't wait to soak in vinegar.

Asian people also eat a lot of rice so I'm going to eat that too. I know it's not particularly good for you, but I'm a carb addict and I think a bowl of rice would be slightly better for me than a box of donuts, which is what I'm really wanting right now. I'm going to eat baked potatoes too for the same reason. I love carbs and starches so if I allow myself to eat them in some foods then maybe I won't be so tempted to cheat with that box of donuts. That's my theory anyway.

I am going to do my best to avoid empty calories and simple sugars as much as I possibly can. No ice cream, snack cakes, Oreos (God help me), Thin Mints, chocolate, etc. I will allow my usual fat-free nondairy creamer that I put in my coffee every morning. And I will allow myself a spoonful of honey in my afternoon hot tea. Other than that all sweets will be accompanied by self-loathing and guilt, which I am morally opposed to so no sweets. Except that bowl of ice cream. But it has salt in it so it's practically a vegetable.

Today I have had nothing but liquids and a bowl of tomato soup. I'm making a cup of green tea right now (with lots of lemon) and later I'll have either a bowl of plain Basmati rice or half of a plain baked potato.

It's funny how small amounts of bland foods sound really, really good when they're the only thing you've had to eat all day. Maybe that's why "watching what I eat" has never worked for me before. I didn't allow myself to get hungry enough before I started.

I also discovered that small portions are really all I can handle which is strange because portion-wise I can usually eat more than my husband. I don't think my stomach has shrunk, it's probably too soon for that. But when your stomach has been void of all solids for several days, it sort of freaks out when you reintroduce them. Even the tomato soup I had earlier today made me a little queasy. I'm okay with queasy, it keeps me from overdoing it.

I should probably add a disclaimer: Don't do what I do. This is not a healthy way to diet, I am well aware of that fact. This is an attempt to drop some pounds really fast and then go back to eating normally...but hopefully smarter. I gained this extra weight several years ago but it has remained steady all that time so despite my lousy eating habits I haven't gained any more weight in several years. So in my mind I'm thinking that all I have to do is shed the excess pounds and then I can maintain that weight with little or no effort since I'm not actively gaining. Yeah. We'll see.

If you want to see how this adventure turns out, check my Facebook page. I'll be posting updates there. Or "update", depending on how long I can stick to the plan.