Saturday, April 30, 2011

They Shoot Lawnmowers, Don't They?

Today was the day -- my narrow window of opportunity to mow between the raindrops. No, I hadn't yet mowed this year.  Quit looking at me that way.  We had snow on the ground a month ago, for Pete's sake! And I think we've had exactly three days of sunshine in the interim, none of which fell on the weekend. Unless it was when I was in Austin.  And that doesn't count -- a girl has to have a vacation every now and then!

Anyway, excuses aside, my yard was beginning to scream "lazy hoosier" louder than I could bear.  So, knowing that we were set for some dry weather this morning, and that Riley's softball practice didn't start until 12:30, I resolved to tackle the yard at 10:00 a.m. sharp.  (I hate people who mow too early.)  This, despite the fact that I've been nursing either a wicked head cold or a bad-ass allergy episode for the past day-and-a-half.  The thought of adding dust and grass clippings to the mix had me positively giddy.

Knowing that the lawnmower hadn't been put through the paces for five plus months, I hit the shed shortly after 9:00, figuring it might take a bit of tweaking to get the old nag up and running. After prying open the rusty Master lock (note to self - add "new lock" to Lowe's List), and yanking open the rapidly-becoming-too-warped-to-yank shed doors, I eased the mower out of its hovel and unscrewed the gas cap to peer into the tank.  Yep, just as I suspected: dry as a bone.  Thankfully, I had my trusty gallon jug of gas-scientifically-mixed-with-just-the-right-amount-of-oil (and if you believe that, you don't know me at all) handy, and filled her up. 

Next, I prodded her on up to the front yard (the back yard would have to wait for some other sunny weekend day, a month or so from now).  Recalling that my mower has a tendency to sludge up sparkplugs, I removed last year's replacement and gave it a good spit shine, before tightening it back up. 

It wasn't 10:00 yet, but I figured I'd at least give it a quick start, to make sure all was good.  Pumped the primer and gave the cord a good yank, and...sputter.  Okay.  That was to be expected.  First start of the season is always a bit rough.  Multiple tries later, the nothing but sputtering had me muttering.  Or maybe just plain old swearing. 

Another check of the sparkplug gave me no insight and brought me no closer to an operational mower. Knowing the ease and inexpense of replacing the little boogers, I decided to go that route.  So, off to Lawnmower Land I went in search of my $4 magic pill. 

While there, I went the extra mile and casually inquired if one needs an appointment to bring a mower in for a tune up.  Mine hasn't had one since I bought it.  Four years ago.  And I abuse the hell out of it.  My yard is about a third of an acre of mish-mash grass, interrupted with vast patches of mud or dust, heavily pockmarked, and obstacle-laden.  The back quarter of it is wilder than The Outback. Frankly, I figure it's only a matter of time 'til a dingo ambles out of it.  Still, I regularly (okay, semi-regularly) subject Old Bessie to its hazards.  And most of the time, she obliges. 

I'm simply not all that great with "regular maintenance" type responsibilities.  The only reason my car gets its oil changed anywhere approaching "on schedule" is the hottie in the Service Department at the dealership.  He may be serious cougar bait, but he's a right fine incentive to hand over the keys and the dough on a quarterly basis.  If only he did yardwork...

I'm told there's no need for an appointment to get the mower checked out.  One of these days, it would probably behoove me to do so.  But, today, I was on a mission.  Had to get that front yard tamed, and time was a-wasting.  So, back to the house I went, new sparkplug in hand.  Snapped that puppy in place and gave it another go.

Nothing but a sputter.  I was stumped.  And what's a girl to do when she's stumped with a mechanical/mower sort of question?  Why, call her big brother, of course.  I wasn't holding my breath.  He'd be the first to tell you this isn't exactly his area of expertise.  Sadly, he had no great insight to share. 

I was verging on a meltdown now. It was closing in on 10:30, and I'd gotten nowhere.  My head was stuffy, my throat hurt, my yard was begging for a citation, and I had a dud mower taunting me from the driveway.  Time for the panicked call to Mom.  Who handed me off to Dad.  In a fit of desperation, I floated the idea of borrowing THEIR mower.  We agreed this was doable, so I shoved my heap of junk out of the way, and sped up the road to their house.

Dad had the mower out on the patio and had just gassed and oiled it up when I arrived.  We dragged it around front and then set about folding the handle down so we could lift it into the back of my car.  It isn't supposed to be that difficult a thing to do.  But we had quite a time of it.  Finally, we got it collapsed enough to heave it into the vehicle.  It was at that point, I realized, I'd need Dad's help to heave it back out of the vehicle at my house.  He graciously agreed to follow me, and back we went.

Once there, we lugged the mower back out.  And began wrestling with the handle to get it back into its proper place.  But something seemed wrong with the pull-cord.  It wasn't sliding back into the right place.  This might be an appropriate point to insert a "How many lawyers does it take to..." joke.  Apparently, two wasn't enough.  Well, eventually, one was.  (I love my Dad.  He's a million wonderful things.  Mechanically-inclined isn't one of them.)  I finally got it to settle into its proper place, and, after making sure the mower started, Dad headed back home. 

Thirty seconds into the mowing process, I noticed the oil cap hopping up and down like a jackrabbit on speed, and spitting out splotches of oil onto the mower's lovely red housing.  Whoops!  I laughed, leaned over and tightened it up, and proceeded to mow...about an eighth of the front lawn.  That's as far as I got before Dad's mower conked out.

Numerous attempts to restart it were met with evil bursts of mower laughter.  The tank was full, so it wasn't that.  I cleared out all the sodden grass I could find lurking within the mower's gut.  Primed it a few times.  Nothing. 

I was on the edge.  About ready to snap and sink into a sobbing heap in the yard.  The only saving grace is that the grass was still so high, it likely would have hidden such a disgraceful display from neighbors or passersby.  What actually saved me is that my nose was so full of snot at that point, I couldn't stand it anymore and had to take a Kleenex break. 

By the time I came back outside, I was ticked.  So ticked, I decided to set upon my mower and beat it into submission.  It must have sensed that I meant business, because lo and behold, this time, when I pulled the cord, it suddenly issued a more encouraging sputter.  A cough, in fact.  And then a few belches of smokey oil-laden exhaust.  Followed by full-on engine engagement. 

I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.  So I mowed.  At breakneck pace, given that it was now fast approaching noon.  I wonder if running behind a mower counts as a workout?  If so, I got a good one in today.  And only hacked up half a lung full of grass dust in the process. 

It probably won't surprise the reader to know that at various points during my misadventures in mowing this morning, I gave serious consideration to just waving the white flag and hiring a lawn service.  I'm stubborn, though.  Pigheaded, even.  And can't quite get past the notion that, since I am capable of mowing the lawn myself (at least in theory), it's stupid to pay someone else to do it. 

Plus - you know that old saying, "If you want something done right, do it yourself."  Only, in my case, it's more like, "If you want endless blog-fodder, do it yourself."

Oh -- a post-script.  After softball practice, I attempted to get Dad's mower started again, to no avail.  He came back over and we packed it up and trundled it back up to my folks'.  I guiltily volunteered to help him cart it into the repair shop if he needed to have it looked at.  My Mom called a few minutes after I got back home.  "By the way, the mower started right up for your Dad." 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Love Notes

Rainbows are a rarity. Three in one day? Practically unheard of. A perfect, complete, end-to-end rainbow deposited squarely (elliptically?) in front of the Arch? Once in a lifetime.

Thankfully, I had my camera close at hand to capture this evening's magic.  Or, at least the first two.  (The third one revealed itself shortly after I got home this evening, but the camera wasn't able to capture it hiding behind the trees in my backyard.)

The first one, though, was pretty amazing. Seemingly endless days of rain were pleasantly interrupted this morning by sunshine. In fact, I could swear we were promised an entire day of sunnyness by our omniscient weather wizards.  However, as Frost long ago observed, nothing gold can stay.  Not long after lunch, the clouds rolled back in, and we were back to our usual gray and gloomy. 

I had my office blinds drawn, so it didn't really register that the sun had slyly sneaked its way back into the afternoon.  Until, the sound of needles pelting my window suddenly drew my attention back to the world outside.  "What the heck is THAT?!" I wondered aloud.

I pulled the blinds aside and was astounded by what I saw: bright sunlight mixed with pelting sleet-like rain.  I don't suppose it really was sleet - not cold enough for that.  Small hail then?  Whatever it was, it was popping and prickling at the window even as it wrestled the sun for control of the sky.  And then I looked toward the river and saw it:  A well-defined, perfectly whole rainbow.  Though shorter than the Arch, its stance was broader.  Still, both ends were readily visible.

I yelped, snatched up my camera, and ran to the east end of the building, where I could access the balcony and take what promised to be some amazing shots of Mother Nature at her finest.

Speaking of's about damn time.  I've remarked to several people lately that I get the sense she's been seriously PMSing. Or, perhaps, even menopausal.  Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, flooding.  All in a BIG way. Nothing subtle about Gaia's latest exploits.  She is woman, hear her ROAR. 

With Good Friday's tornadic trouncing of the airport, we were stunned, but thankful - no loss of life, no serious injury.  I've even grown slightly accustomed to the sirens anymore.  With the flood waters rising, and threatening much of Southeastern Missouri -- including farmland belonging to my dear friend, law partner and mentor, Sam -- we've been holding our collective breath.  Will they blow the levees, and sacrifice this part of Missouri for that part of Illinois?

Then, yesterday's monstrous beast of a tornado tore through Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, and left us all stunned at the complete and utter devestation in its wake.  I watched videos and clicked on photos much of last night and even today, shaking my head at the incomprehensibility of it.  How insignificant we and all our worldly goods are in the face of something like that.  There, but for the grace of God....

Which brings me back to the rainbows of today.  I think of them as love notes from God. For they serve to remind us of His promise.  And, in their untouchable, but undeniable beauty, to give us hope -- that even in our darkest days, the sun will still find its way through.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

People Are Not Fungible

Okay - I admit it: I consider myself reasonably intelligent, and my vocabulary a tad more extensive than that of your average bear.  So it was much to my chagrin that I found myself stumped by a classmate's comment during my first year of law school.  Our Contracts professor had erroneously called me by my roommate's name.  Or perhaps, vice-versa. 

After class, said classmate remarked on the mix-up (presumably) jokingly: "Well, you two are essentially fungible."  While my external response was something akin to a half-laugh and a "whatever" smirk, my internal response went something like this: "Fungible?  Fungible?! What the hell does that mean?!  Is he calling me some kind of mushroom?!  Who uses a word like that, anyway?!  Jackass."  (With sincerest apologies to said classmate should he ever happen upon this entry.)

Naturally, the first thing I did upon returning to my dorm room was bust out the dictionary and look up this mystery word.  (Yes, I'm old -- this was long before such handy things as smart phones and Google existed.)  Okay, so, essentially "interchangeable."  Still no compliment, but arguably understandable.  My roommate and I were of a similar "type":  blonde, slender, young for our class.  And, being roommates, and not yet knowing many others, we did tend to travel as a pair in that first semester.  

Though it happened 20+ years ago -- Dang I'm old!  Have I mentioned that lately? -- and the roommate and I have long since moved past fungibility, the story of how I first added the word "fungible" to my vocabulary is one I've told on several occasions since.  Mostly, just to poke fun at myself.  And maybe a little bit at people who use "big words" in pretentious fashion. 

Lately, though, I've pondered that concept a bit more:  Are people fungible?  Are certain folks, at least, interchangeable?  I think, perhaps, that as to mere acquaintances, the answer may be, "Yes."  But once they breach the Inner Circle, I think not. 

I wasn't always convinced of that.  Even when it came to relationships.  I'm not certain why I thought so, but it simply seemed that, although different actors were cast to play the part at different times in my life, they all were playing essentially the same role.  I consider that now and feel more than a little embarrassed at it.  I'm not sure if that was naivete or simply self-absorption.  But it prompted me to make some seriously stupid decisions along the way.

For instance, after my marriage ended, I felt very much like a failure.  Yes, it takes two to make it work, and, in fairness, we both fell down on the job.  But I wasn't supposed to.  Maybe it's my Virgo-perfectionism.  Maybe ego.  Maybe just leftover little girl fairy tale fluff.  But I allowed my disappointment in my failure -- in myself -- to convince me that any relationship could work if one simply committed fully to it and worked hard enough at it.  Any one could fit if I just found a way to let them. I would not fail again if I just tried harder.

Sometimes, I wish I could go back to the "me" of that time and slap some sense into myself.  Because, of course, that theory simply isn't so.  And I subsequently made the terrifically unfortunate choice of testing it out on a person who couldn't have been more ill-suited to me.  It's tempting to bemoan the many reasons why, but also unfair and unkind.  I voluntarily went there, after all.  I can only say that I now have a full understanding of what people mean when they refer to "toxic relationships." 

You'd think, perhaps, that I'd have walked away from that situation with the realization that, no, of course people are not fungible, and relationships cannot be readily swapped out like iPod/iPhone chargers.  But I don't think I fully came to accept and understand that until quite recently.  Though the ideal leading man in the play of my life has remained the same for, well, essentially all of it, I've tried several times to recast -- usually, with less than stellar results.  And though not long ago there was one who held much promise, this time it was I who became the not-quite-right puzzle piece.  I could not sufficiently fill the void left by another.  Cinderella's slipper didn't fit after all. 

In recent months, listening to some dear friends face similar dilemmas has really driven this point home for me.  Finding that perfect fit -- the missing puzzle piece -- is not at all an easy thing.  Which is why commercials for services like "" and "e-harmony" bug the bejeebers out of me. They bill themselves as the savvy, modern way to meet "that special someone."  But it's the same mentality -- you're auditioning others (and they, you) for a role. Building a solid relationship isn't simply a matter of finding someone with a decent resume; someone who's "qualified" for the job. 

The problem, of course, with this mentality is that it prompts us to try and make someone fit where we think they should. But no matter how hard you try to mould and reshape another, you inevitably come to the realization that you cannot.  And attempting to do so most often results in pain and/or disappointment for both parties.

We don't do that with any other meaningful relationships in our lives:  We don't audition family members, and try them on for size.  Even friendships -- at least those of a lasting nature -- arise from genuine affinity and affection; an appreciation of and respect for the special qualities they bring to our lives.  And none of these souls, if we truly love them, are interchangeable.  Nor are they replaceable. 

No -- people are not fungible.  Each person we let into our hearts leaves his own unique imprint on it.  That is as it should be.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I've frequently acknowledged my inner-tech geek.  While I'm far from savvy when it comes to technology, I'm nevertheless drawn to it.  I don't necessarily feel compelled to acquire the latest and greatest gadgets -- or, at least, I usually manage to resist the temptation to impulse buy on launch day.  But I do love my iPhone, and my laptop, and, even moreso, finding and learning about new apps and how they work and how to integrate them with other newer, cooler apps.

When I encounter the inevitable software snarls and snafus, my standard response is to lock on like a pit bull and not let go until I'm able to unsnarl them.  Not that I ever really know what I'm doing.  Mostly, it's a matter of searching Help files and Google and bumbling my way through potential fixes until the little bits and pieces finally fall into their required places and the program(s) at issue begin chugging along as intended.

Such was the way I spent (wasted?) much of an afternoon last week.  You see, my work calendar syncs seamlessly with my iPhone.  This, I cannot claim credit for -- it was achieved via the magic of "Exchange" and our IT wizards long ago.  I don't know how or why.  I just know that it works.  This, I like! wasn't enough.  Now that I'm all laptoppy, complete with Office 2010 and Outlook, I wanted to figure out a way to sync my iPhone calendar with my laptop calendar, as well.  "Oh, no problem - just use iTunes."  Yeah.  Um.  iTunes and have a longstanding feud, characterized most notably by the fact that I. DON'T. GET. IT.  It never seems to do what I want it to do, and insists on swapping out musical libraries on a whim.  Once, it even ate all my contacts, all while pretending to "upgrade" my iPhone software. 

Ahh, but you see, there's this new magical fairy dust cloud thing called "Mobile Me," which lets you do it all wirelessly!  It's a cinch!  You just set it all up here and there and all and...ERROR! "Either there is no default mail client or the current mail client cannot fulfill the messaging request...." can that be?  Of course I have a default mail "client."  (Why is it called a "client"?  I'm the one using it!)  But...yes - I have one.  It's Outlook.  Duh!  Well, actually, okay, it might have accidentally been set to Windows Live Mail in my pre-Outlook days.  Obviously, I'd just need to flip some switches here and there and get that straightened out.

Several hours later, after numerous attempts to skin that cat, I was still receiving the damn error message.  Even after uninstalling Windows Live Mail.  My foray into on-line help led me down the daredevil path of repairing registries and the like.  Now I was really getting crazy. 

Finally, after more cursing and hair pulling than I'm comfortable admitting, I stumbled across this tasty little tidbit of information:  "There are no add-ins to work with 64-bit Office 2010 yet. Microsoft recommends that you use 32-bit Office 2010 and only install 64-bit Office 2010 if you need the ability to use very large spreadsheets or documents. If you install 64-bit Office, third party applications which need access to Office programs will not work until the add-ins are re-written with 64-bit compatible code."

Oh, well, of course. Silly me.  I got the swanky new version of Office 2010 and the rest of the software world just hasn't bothered to catch up with it yet.  In short, my laptop software and iPhone are simply incompatible at present.  The timing just isn't right.  They're just at different places in their lives right now.  Star-crossed software.  It just wasn't meant to be. appropriate.