Old habits die hard

November 3, 2011

During the first windstorm of fall, the lights flickered, but never went out. Our power providers have taken great strides when it comes to reducing outages in Newcastle. I remember when we used to have long spans without power, dark times that the Sainted One and I took in stride by drinking far too much alcohol and griping about the fact that the south Bellevue hills — which we could see from our cold and gloomy house — always seemed to be lit up like a rolling sea of massive Christmas ships.

Perhaps the most galling thing about power loss is how it shows you, time and time again, just how stupid you can be when it comes to mindless daily action, those little things that you do automatically and unconsciously, like flipping on the light switch upon entering an internal closet. You know that the electricity is out. You know it because you’ve already entered the windowless closet three times since the outage began. But you still flip that switch as if you expect the lights to magically come on in spite of that knowledge.

I believe that’s one of the definitions of insanity.

To make ourselves laugh and feel better about our misfiring brain synapses, The Sainted One and I always call out the number of times that we hit the switch, e.g.: “Number 7!” But since we’ve also named that closet “The Sound-Proof Booth,” most of those admissions go unheard, which might be best for all egos concerned.

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Laughing all the way

October 9, 2011

Born to walk

By the time you read this, the Newcastle Days 5K will be over. Winners will have been crowned, and times posted. This year, the Sainted One and I signed up for it.

Let me pre-face this by saying that I am not a natural runner. I believe in “nature” as well as “nurture,” and I think that some people have it in their nature to run, while others — like me — with a low center of gravity, extra weight and a distinct lack of desire, just don’t have it in them to move faster than an occasional trot. On the other hand, I have a little sister that shot out of the womb wearing tennis shoes, and she ran everywhere: to the bathroom, to school, out the door, down the hall.

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Laughing all the way: Zombieland: Newcastle

September 2, 2011

I’ve always been missing a few vital brain synapses. My friends and family are well aware of this, most especially The Sainted One, who is forced to bail me out on a regular basis. This would be a whole lot funnier if there weren’t unsubstantiated rumors of Alzheimer’s in my bloodline. But when I do something brainless and ask The Sainted One if he’s worried about me, his response is always the same: “How could I tell if you have a problem? You’ve always been this way.”

For years I’ve pretended that my fogginess is just a sign of a certain kind of genius — something like Einstein not being able to dress himself — but now I’m starting to wonder. Am I, in fact, a zombie in search of a total brain replacement? Witness a recent trip to town:

I was proudly carrying my new organizational over-the-shoulder bag, a bag made specifically for folks like me, or so my girlfriend told me when she gifted me with it: a pouch for your phone, a pocket for your money or credit cards, a special place for your keys. Thus armed, how could I go wrong? Let me count the ways …

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Laughing all the way – 10 things I learned about house remodeling (and lived to share)

August 5, 2011

1 If you are not actually changing the footprint of your kitchen, then according to my status-conscious friends, it’s not really a “remodel.” But you know what? No matter what you call it, it’s still a big, giant pain in the butt.

2 If you can’t find your favorite 15-year-old cutting board a month after moving all of your stuff from the kitchen cabinets to the garage and back, then just face it, honey — it’s gone.

3 If the brand new refrigerator has an irritating whine when it runs, your significant other will claim that he can’t hear it at all, which I find very hard to believe.

4 If you’ve had knobs on your drawers for years, consider adding them to your new cabinetry or risk fingernail loss from trying to pry the cabinets open.

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Laughing all the way: Garden of heedin’

July 1, 2011

I tried to clean a spot of sunlight off the kitchen floor the other day.

Pat Detmer

Pat Detmer

Because of the work being done in our home, I’m hyper-aware of primer and paint and other goopy stuff showing up where it doesn’t belong, so when I saw it, I armed myself with a wet dishrag and gave it a swipe, only to realize that what I was seeing was far more uncommon than construction goop: It was a slice of sun streaming through the windows.

To say that this year has been sun-free is like saying that Charlie Sheen has a little problem with self-control: We all know it, and it’s such a given that it’s almost not worth talking about anymore. Almost. Read more

Laughing all the way: Olympus garage sale mania

June 3, 2011

We have managed yet again to survive the onslaught of garage sale aficionados who annually take over our hill. For those unfamiliar with the yearly rite, the sale occurs on a Saturday in May and involves up to 50 homes, not including those from surrounding neighborhoods who put out signs and goods to cash in on the drive-throughs.

We learned long ago not to leave our garage doors open that day in fear that we might inadvertently sell something we may need later. We’ve also learned to drive very, very carefully when leaving the hill, because shoppers criss-crossing the streets don’t always look both ways when their arms are laden with juicers, bread-makers, and other goods that they simply could not live without.

We’ve never participated in the sale. We don’t have the patience or the storage space to hang on to stuff past its usefulness. The people at Goodwill drop-off sites know us by name, and my sister’s cabin and the homes of the youngsters in our family look very much like ours did about 10 years ago, since they’ve put our old furniture, rugs, curtains and lamps to good use.

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Sainted, but not perfect

May 6, 2011

I’ve written here about my husband, The Sainted One. I told you what a great catch he was, and how he was anointed “Sainted” because I do not carry that moniker and can be a holy handful.

He loved the column. Others did, too. Our hairdresser said she wanted to frame the cartoon. Someone recognized him as we waited for our Valentine’s Day table at The Calcutta Grill and suggested that since he was ordained, he could renew their vows. And Dana Sullivan, cartoonist extraordinaire, said (and I quote verbatim): “I think anytime we can poke fun at Fred, we’ll have a better column.”

Hmm. And here I thought I’d been turning out pretty decent columns for years without poking fun at Fred.

But I get it. If votes were counted tomorrow, The Sainted One would win Mr. Newcastle Congeniality and I most likely would not. But let me tell you something: He is not perfect. Witness:

  • He cooks, but does not bake.
  • If asked to do anything on the home repair front that requires much more than hanging a picture, I will be able to find him by following a trail of blood.
  • He doesn’t know how to properly fill a dishwasher, but then I don’t know a man who does.
  • He insists upon opening food boxes on the wrong end, and if you look in our pantry, you’ll find that most of our boxed foods are wearing masking tape diapers.

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Laughing all the way: Hyla regilla vs. anas platyrhynchos

April 1, 2011

BWhen we moved to Newcastle more than 20 years ago, one of the compelling reasons was the treed catch basin behind our house, our very own seasonal pond. I remember parking near the house one dark and quiet night as we considered our potential purchase. We were talking about whether or not to make the leap when I held up a quieting hand.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“That” was the chirping of the hyla regilla, also known as the Pacific tree frog. I found it enchanting, and had I had the mortgage paperwork in front of me at that moment, I would have signed on the dotted line without another thought.

For years we delighted in their spring-announcing choruses. Some years they were so loud that it was actually a bit frightening. We would find them clinging to our windows and doors, and sometimes had to chase them out of the house. But when some trees went down in a windstorm, it opened the pond to the sky, and the anas platyrhynchos started spiraling into our personal Discovery channel.

At first we found the new visitors — ducks, in case you’re not up on your Latin — a fun addition. The baby ducklings were darling. Unfortunately, they were loud to the point of rudeness, especially at night, but we’re bird lovers as well as frog lovers and believed that all was well and that nature knew best.

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Old dog, no new tricks

March 4, 2011

In the fall of 1989, back when Harry Met Sally and Taylor Swift was about 3 months old, and probably around the same time that construction workers were leaving empty beer cans in the crawl spaces of our home that we would only find years later, someone affixed a garage door opener to the wall.

Pat Detmer

He placed it on the left side of the door jamb between the laundry room and the garage, precisely 59 inches from the floor. There was a single button on this control. Raised one-half inch above the surface of the apparatus, it was round and smooth and the size of a nickel. For more than 20 years, when leaving the house via car, I entered the garage, turned slightly to my left, and with my right hand and without looking, pushed that button.

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Laughing all the way: The Church of the Sainted One

February 4, 2011

We had a second home on Whidbey Island, and for six years I wrote for the Whidbey Marketplace, a bi-monthly tabloid. The first time I did a reading there, a man came up to my husband and introduced himself. My husband shook his hand and said, “Hi. I’m Fred Canada,” and the column reader frowned and said, “Funny. I always thought your first name was ‘The.’”

I’m not alone in using a nickname for my husband in a column. When I attended the Erma Bombeck writer’s conference in Ohio, I found that most columnists used them: The Mechanic, The Terminator, Mr. Beer Man, Barbecue Bob. When they asked me about The Sainted One, someone said, “He must be pretty bad with a name like that. You’re being sarcastic, aren’t you?”

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