Monday, July 27, 2009

The Best Nest

"'I love my house, I love my nest! Of all the rest, my nest is best!' sang Mr. Bird.

'It is not the best nest,' said Mrs. Bird from inside the house."

Alas, my precious castle of a house is, likewise, not the best nest. However, quoting one of my favorite books should not mislead you into thinking that Joseph and I disagree about our nest. It's just that he's outside it and I'm inside it, so my view is just a tad darker about just how bad the nest now appears to be.

The a/c is off again. After a long day of the temperature slowly climbing inside, with the unit going at a steady pace, there were already a number of reasons to feel less that genteel about our environmental control systems. However, a concurrent problem pushed me over the edge--so far over the edge that I broke my cardinal rule and called the 24-hour maintenance number. In my downstairs hallway, the little tiny puddle of unexplained water on the carpet was slowly growing. Not only that, but he was reproducing.

With a saucer-sized wet spot at the kitchen doorway and about $2.50 worth of silver-dollar-sized wet spots in attendance, I called The Man. The Man was concerned, and asked me a list of "is ..... leaking?" All my answers were nos, so he said, "Well, if you've got it coming up through the carpet, whatever damage that'll be done is done. We'll be there first thing in the morning." Wonderful. Not my house, I only rent, so it doesn't hurt me at all.

Still, with my totally awesome family in residence, the mystery was just too good to pass up. What on God's green earth could possibly be producing water from beneath my house? Brother suggests we look at the outside closet/utility space that houses the downstairs water heater and all the ductwork for the a/c (the physical unit is upstairs). Voila. Merrily trickling down the ductwork is a steady stream of supposed condensation, which has pooled about an inch deep upon the concrete foundation of my house.

This is now a bigger problem than we thought--the electric boxes for the house are in that closet, the grounding wires run amok within as well, and the framing of the house is steel. They're going to have to shut the power off at the road to clean all that up. ("Well, cow poopy," I say to my father, oh the phone, as I survey the closet.) To confirm my opinion, we notice that water is actually seeping to the outside of the house along the edge of the foundation, as well. How nice.

Now we're really intrigued, so I send my brother upstairs with the phone in hand. He inspects the unit's actual location (along with, vicariously, my father) and calls down: "Yeah, there's water here in the floor, too." Wonderful. So dad sends us looking all over for the drain line, hither and thither, because we want to find out if it is clogged. We look, and nothing is to be found. However, in the meantime, I had the good sense to really think about the layout of my house, and did determine that the water we were seeing come through the carpet had made at least the 3-foot journey from that closet floor, underneath the corner of the kitchen linoleum, to the visible location under the carpet.

How far has it gone along the other three compass points, I wonder? That's what got me up at 0430 this morning. The refrigerator, downstairs bathroom, pantry, and washing machine are all within reach. I feel like a geologist. Whence cometh the magma? When will the volcano explode?

But back to the drain line. We couldn't find anything that looked point-blank like a drain line. I reminded dad that this was not a traditional a/c unit, and he said, "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmm...........ugh. Yeah. It's that energy efficient thing, isn't it?"

Yes, it is.

My a/c unit is 10-15 years old, and was one of the original "green" large appliances. Rather than using a fan unit and a big compressor outside the home, my unit pumps ground-cooled water from below the house, runs air across the ground-cooled water (supplemented by a little compressor supplying freon-cooled air), and feeds it into the house. It uses less energy, less fuel, less freon, and works like an absolute dream in temperate climates. Unfortunately, this is not a temperate climate. The best the unit can do with the ground-cooled water is 10-15 degrees cooler than the outside temperature. Not only that, but it tends to break down fairly often because of its highly organic nature--fewer moving parts, but more parts that can get dirty, clogged, or otherwise become nonfunctional. Not only that, but the entire unit is twined up inside the house, instead of having an outside unit that can easily be accessed and serviced (oh, yeah, and when it leaks it does so outside).

Not only that, but when you have water leaking, it doesn't have to be a drain line. There are two major supply lines of plain old honest groundwater that run up through the center of my house--my father has realized that we might be dealing with a bigger demon than we thought.

Unfortunately, it's still four and a half hours until The Man comes to look at everything, so you'll have to stay tuned for what happens next. We turned the unit off at 2030 last night, both to stop further water accumulation (we hope--do the supply lines run all the time?) and because it had ceased cooling sometime late the night before. It's now pretty miserable in here, and I feel so bad for my family having to deal with all this. Thankfully, they can use the fans I have. I can't run a fan in my bedroom, unless I want to have my pregnancy equivalent of an athsma attack. So, it's hot, nasty, mytersious, and five o'clock in the morning.

Sigh. I love my nest.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Land of the Free, Home of the Brainwashed

So, after my lovely week with family on the Jersey Shore, I've returned to "my" America. The one where people wave on the highway using all their fingers at the same time (except in Atlanta) and when you buy a Sweet Potato it will be both sweet and a potato.

Not that I haven't been to or spent time in "The North" before, but a solid week's time to live among "Them" was a little different than my previous forays into the region. For one thing, I was the only person in the house who was born south of the Mason-Dixon line. Well, except for Uncle Luis who was born in Cuba, and my littlest brother-in-law who was born in Japan. Close enough, though. Jerseyans in large groups of fellow Jerseyans are not the same as those encountered singly while in the company of fellow Southerners. No, they are a breed unto themselves. For one thing, some of them really do believe that little baby chickens stay cute and yellow. How funny.

[Oh, minor digression: I'm talking about the Jersey within sight of New York City and the vicinity. Like, industrial and urban Jersey. The part of the state where they only say "Jersey." In the rest of the state, especially away from the coast, there are normal people who farm real farms and use all of the hard consonants provided by the English tongue for our enjoyment. It's a pretty state, and don't think I'm lumping it all into one giant borough of the Big Apple.]

Also, no matter what you're told by the media, "They" do not drive small cars, eat organic foods, and wear hemp in order to help the environment. We in the South, my fellow Americans, are not the only ones driving trucks and killing trees en masse. On the direct and opposite contrary. The only small cars I saw on the Shore were the ones that locals drive there year-round, meaning the ones that they don't mind ruining with sea salt corrosion. Everything new and shiny weighed at least 3800lbs and got less than 30 miles to the gallon. Escalades and Pacificae were especially prevalent. Every 6th car was a sedan or compact, and that's being generous (every 4th and 5th car was from New York and was also an SUV, and every 7th car was a police cruiser running a red light).

It was fun. The guy in the Italian bakery really did talk like the guys in Italian bakeries in movies. It was awesome!!! I loved it! I giggled myself unconscious, in fact, and we left the place with more really good food than you can shake a stick at. They really do have four-lane roads from which one may not legally turn left (one must go to the right and complete what's known as a "jug handle"). They really do never use their turn signals. They really do shop at Lacoste, Crocs, Fossil, Pottery Barn, Saks, and Bloomingdale's.

I can't wait for next summer. :D

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town

Someone I admire has written an interesting piece about, in a nutshell anyway, how telling the truth to children is better than "protecting" them with a lie. I agree with everything she said pretty much wholesale. (I'd caveat my agreement on a couple small points, but the principle of the thing is solid. No lying to kiddies, or else the boogie man will come out and eat me.)

However, she's got me thinking on this fine muggy morning about this whole "truth to children" thing, in the wide context of all the peeps I know and their varying opinions on the subject. The ready example is Santa Claus--ought we or ought not we lead children to "believe" in Santa? A very old friend staunchly insists that to do so is tantamount to mortal sin, is a grave lie, will damage forever the little child's ability to trust adults, and those who do so ought only suffer by riding the buffer of Parliamentary trains. His children have never even heard the name--Santa has about the same household standing as Eminem: should he come up in conversation via something the children hear outside the home, he is dismissed as "Oh, he is a bad person that we do not talk about." And this, I sincerely hope, is the outer limit of anti-Santa in the world. Personally, I think it's a bit much. After all, one could always thoughtfully reintroduce the history of where "Saint 'Claus" came from in the first place.

I feel a need to digress at this point, though. First of all, are there those of you in the world who really and truly believed with all their hearts, after reaching the age of reason, that Santa Claus did in fact exist and came down every chimney on Earth every Christmas Eve? Perhaps my whole take on this subject is skewed, because I was never one of those children. We had Santa, we knew he was "coming," there is amusing video evidence of my disappointment that he "had to use the front door" for a particularly large doll house one Christmas. (I was skeptical, too, because I knew how careful we were to never let any strangers have our keys.) But I was four.

I have a convenient break in my childhood memory between "before the age of reason" and "after the age of reason," as my family moved when I was six years old. Post-Move Jen did not have any idea that Santa was really really real. She never felt that all adult humanity had led her gravely astray by telling her that he existed in the first place. He has been a character of fiction for as long as I can honestly remember. We watched the old claymation movies, we sang Santa songs, when my sister was a very wee thing we did the milk and cookies thing one year--but I drank the milk and my brother ate a cookie, to help preserve the illusion. By the time she was five for six, my sister certainly knew that there was no Santa of the flesh-and-bones variety. For once thing, with a birthday falling less than 30 days from December 25th, she learned the hard way about "this is your birthday and your Christmas present." Perhaps my whole stance is based on the fact that my parents were so seamlessly able to give us both the fun of the popular icon along with the reality that he isn't real, that I'm just a little dismissive of those who have such a stinkin' hard time reconciling the two. And I'm done digressing.

The larger question of telling chilren the truth is not confined to Santa Claus, though, and I know this. Similar fictional characters, likewise, are not really the limit of the issue. The tooth fairy, Easter bunny, cupid, Father Time, and all the rest are just imagery. But do we "believe" in imagery (of the secular sort!!!)? Does Uncle Sam have to appear in the parade for July 4th to be complete? If I find out he isn't real, will all my future celebrations of our country's birthday be void and empty? This goes back to the Santa-after-sixth-birthday thing--I never really did believe he existed, at least not past the time when I also believe that the tub drain would suck me underground and Big Bird was actually a bird and not a person in a suit. If I had, my parents would have done me a disservice, and I suppose that's what is at stake. To put one's children in a position where will have such a strong belief in something that they are truly shaken to find it is not so, well, that is a crime indeed.

And I'm out of brain cells for the morning. More on this later, if I remember I was thinking about it.

p.s. For the record, there are Santa books on my shelf and they shall be read aloud with gusto every Christmas.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Happy Birthday!

It's my darling-baby-buggy-bumper-boo's birthday!!

Since I'm pretty sure he doesn't read the blog, I feel fairly safe about putting up a photo and some goopy tributary nonsense. He's done things to me on my birthday (or whatever other day he feels like it), so this is my shot. After all, revenge is a dish best served online.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Pot Hath Been Stirred

I love how my wonderful husband has gone and put up something on Facebook meant for me--meant to sooth the savage incubator in her hour of teary need--and has stood by it tooth and nail, philosophically and theologically, historically and categorically, instead of going, "Oh, for pete's sake, people, get a life. I was just trying to make my wife feel better. Get off my back!"


This makes my heart smile. Love is beautiful!

Incidentally, the comment has elicited the typical broad-ranging response to be expected from our nimbus of friends. However, rather a Franciscan mentality prevails, which is what brought me to my afore-mentioned state to begin with. [The previous sentence ends with a preposition.] Am I a bad person, I asked him last night, to not buy cribs and car seats at yard sales? Am I a materialistic and snobby human being to feel that certain things are best paid for at market value? That something new for your most precious possession is something worth buying? I cry, I fret, I sniffle.

He assures me, he pats my had (via phone), and says that I am not a bad person. First of all, he made the excellent observation that very little of this "new" stuff is stuff I'm actually shelling out the dough for. [The previous sentence also ends with a preposition.] On the contrary, my more or less affluent extended family is shelling out their democratic cash to pay for it. Lord and Master has a point ("Let them loose, I say! Onward!"). Second of all, he made the also excellent observation that paying little for something does not mean getting a good deal. We have furniture in this house, at this very moment, that breathes a fiery example of this truism every time I walk into the living room. What we paid little for is headed out the door, in fact, as soon as I can find a way to cheaply get it movng in that direction. In might even cost us more to dispose of our "great deal" than it cost us in the first place. Alas, what looks good on first sight may hide terrible faults!

Thus assured by Joseph, I slept well last night, and was greeted today by his little Facebook gift, along with the Franciscan onslaught that ensued. Not sure about how sleeping is going to go tonight, but I'll endeavor to put them from my head all the same. After all, I have my own ways of being thrifty, of being careful, of being thoughtful with what kind of material environment my child will enjoy. For someone who has spent 4 of her last 12 months of married life alone, I'd say knowing what things are really important in life is a fairly easy knowledge base to acquire.

And I'll tell you, money is not one of those things. Neither, to be quite frank, is penny-pinching. There is nothing I have willingly parted with in this world that God has not returned to me tenfold. An investment can be made in people, whatever the "cost."

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Time Travel

Too bad it doesn't work...I'd fast forward to August.

Anyway, back in NC at long last, after enjoying a fun week with family. Unfortunately, being "home & relaxed" means I have all kinds of duties and projects staring me in the face--duties and projects that ought to have been done months ago. Spent yesterday fixing all the books upstairs, at least as far as categorization goes. The literature is easy to alphabetize and deserves more attention. The political-historical-tactical-reference books, on the other hand, are a little tougher to cubbyhole.

Sigh. And I really should unpack these last three boxes. And finish the books I'm reading. And finish all 8 sewing projects.