Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Vast Household Conspiracy--Our Appliances Are Watching Us

I am convinced I am about to uncover some major conspiracy that will shock every American household. Our appliances and electronics are plotting against us.

In the past few weeks, everything seems to have gone on the fritz. After I blogged a few weeks ago about problems with our photo printer, I took a copy of a photo up to the Geek Sqaud at Best Buy to see if they could help me figure out the problem. I was told it was probably the printer head gone bad and was advised to give the printer a proper burial.

This week, our computer decided to crash and now cannot load Windows. Yesterday, I once again made a visit to the Geek Squad and left them our computer. We are becoming best friends and will soon be going out for drinks and inviting each other to family functions.

Now my carpet steam cleaner is making noises that probably resesmble an elephant in labor. The cats run off and hide in terror every time I turn it on.

How is it that they all know to break down all at once and at the worst possible time? Last year, my oven and water conditioner went at the same time as our roof had to be replaced. Right now, Cliff's company is about to run out of work and the newspaper I work for is about to be sold, so neither of our jobs has a very stable future.

I am convinced our houses and everything in it talk to each other. They know exactly when a major expense or financial hardship is coming, and they take turns breaking down.

There was a movie back in the 1980s where appliances, cars, and anything else than ran on electrical impulses starting attacking people. I tell you this is coming! They are plotting against us and biding their time until they can take over the world!

The people in the movie were forced to take refuge on an island where there was no electricity. I would try to do this, but I would not survive two days without checking my email.

The dryer has just started making strange noises. I think it's plotting with the dishwasher. I need to go unplug a few things. The toaster looks like it wants to lead a coup.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Tribute To One Amazing Woman

It has been a difficult week at our house as our family has lost a beloved member. My grandmother, Elizabeth Sorchilla, passed away last week at the age of 96.

She never had much education, but you certainly couldn't put anything past her. Born in 1912, she was second oldest of we think ten children--no one is quite sure how many there were as some did not survive past infancy. Her mother recognized early on that she had strength and character. She would keep her home from school to help with her younger brothers and sisters. When the truancy officers would get after my great grandmother, she would send her to school for awhile but would inevitably keep her home again. She never made it past elementary school.

Her education was the world in which she lived. She grew up through World War I, survived the Great Depression, and was a young wife and mother during World War II. She raised her children through the prosperous '50s and the turbulent '60s. She watched her grandchildren grow up in the '70s and '80s, and was a great grandmother in the '90s. She was the 20th century personified.

Her generation was not raised to show affection through words, but she expressed it through actions. The wonderful family dinners on Sundays, generous gifts on special occasions, and taking a grandchild or two to visit relatives and stopping for ice cream on the way home were the ways she showed love for her family.

She was also raised to believe the man was the head of the house, but we all knew differently. Once when my grandfather was fixing something in the basement, he hit his thumb with a hammer. A stream of obscenities rose up to the first floor. My grandmother marched over to the top of the stairs, yelled down, "If you don't stop that swearing I'm going to come down there and hit you over the head with that hammer!" and slammed the door. Not another word was heard from the basement.

Her faith in God was always unwavering. She would pray for everyone--family, friends, neighbors, people she heard about on the news. And she was honest to the core. My sister tells a story of going to the mall with my aunt and grandmother. My grandmother needed to purchase paper plates on one end of the mall, and my aunt was picking up her wedding gown at the other end. When my grandmother reached the bridal shop, she realized the she had walked out of the store without paying for the paper plates. She walked back to other end of the mall so fast that her younger companions could not keep up with her. To this day, my sister cannot believe that someone in their seventies could move that fast.

She was probably the most stubborn person I have ever known. If she did not want to do something, she was not going to budge. If she had an opinion, you knew it. But her determination would serve her well late in life. Widowed in 1987 and losing her eyesight to glaucoma, she refused to surrender her independence and remained in the house where she raised her family. And she stayed there until she entered the hospital shortly before she died.

I am convinced that the prospect of losing that precious independence was what led her to finally let go. Her worsening eyesight made it impossible for her to continue to live on her own, and plans were being made to place her in a nursing home. And she knew when the end was near. Her final words were ones that no one in the family had ever heard her say: "I love you all."

I am hoping I can learn some valuable lessons from this one amazing woman with this one amazing life. Find courage in whatever situation you are placed, stick to your guns, trust in the Lord, and let those you love know how you feel before it is too late.

We love you too, Grandma.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How Many 14-Year-Olds Does It Take Make You Lose Your Mind?

I recently read a quote in a book that described 14-year-olds as emotionally four years old one minute and 30 the next. As a mother of a 14-year-old daughter, I would have to disagree. Emotionally two years old would be more accurate.

The last few days at our house have been full of drama for no apparent reason. A friend she chats with occasionally is no longer logging on to the computer. This has resulted in a full-blown emotional meltdown.

One minute she seems fine. The next minute she is crying. She won't talk about what's bothering her because "no one understands."

She came home upset from school one day last week because she claimed no one at her lunch table would talk to her that day. When I suggested she call one of these girls who is a good friend to find out if there is a problem, she looked at me as if lobsters were crawling out of my ears.

I had to remind her that I was not born a 40-something woman with a harried look on my face and bags under my eyes. As difficult as it is to believe, I was once fourteen as well. I don't think she believed me.

Apparently, at this age, it is easier to be upset than examine the root of a problem. The only saving grace is that these situations and moods seem to be fleeting. After a weekend full of trauma and crying jags, she is now fine.

I can remember going through similar trying times at that age. Although my mother was not willing to listen, I had a grandmother, an aunt and many good friends who weathered those storms with me.

At fourteen, I know now that hormones are changing and it is perfectly normal for mood swings and emotions to get out of control. What I can't understand is that you would want to go through such emotionally trying times alone when there are family and friends wanting to help. I would also be willing to let her talk to her doctor or even a good therapist if she feels she needs to.

I suppose we will just have to weather this emotional hurricane and hope she realizes that a sympathetic ear is always nearby. In the meantime, I'm not sure I will get through this phase without a good therapist of my own. And a glass of wine.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Customer Is Usually Wrong

What happened to the old saying "The customer is always right?"

A recent odyssey I had with Best Buy stores tells me that this saying no longer applies. My daughter bought a DVD (she saves allowance and babysitting money to buy DVDs of a certain television series), and found that one of the disks was missing when she opened the package.

Unfortunately, some time had elapsed between when she bought it and when she opened it. When I brought it back to Best Buy, I presented them with a crumpled-up, illegible receipt I found in her room for what I thought was the DVD. A computer scan of the receipt showed that it was the correct series but wrong season.

The customer service rep asked if it was possible to find the correct receipt. Anyone who has a teenager knows that, at times, Jimmy Hoffa could be buried somewhere in their room and you would never know it. I cannot get her to put a shirt in a hamper let alone put a receipt where anyone could find it.

The customer service rep refused to exchange it without a receipt because I could not "prove" it came from their store. Every DVD she buys from comes from their store because they have the best price, but that did not matter.

She suggested I contact the web site listed on the back of the package to see if I could get it replaced. When I did, I was basically told it was not their problem--the retailer has the obligation to stand by their product.

At this point, I did what any red-blooded American would do. I called the store manager and--excuse the expression--bitched. I was told to come back in the next day and they would exchange it, no problem.

Why did it have to take going to the top of the store's food chain, complaining loudly to the powers that be, and driving back and forth to the nearest Best Buy twice (30 minutes from my house) to get something done? Several years ago I returned a duplicate DVD that my son recieved as a birthday gift to Walmart with no more that a small bit of one of their price tags on the corner. I did not have any problems.

Are retailers getting stingy in this economy? Or perhaps they are falling into the trend that seems to permeate every aspect of our society--courtesy and cooperation are being overtaken by rudeness and laziness. A check of the store's records would have shown that I have a rewards card that lists most of the DVDs she has purchased.

I plan to complain to their corporate headquarters about this incident, but a small fish complaining to a big corporate whale will probably have little effect. Still, it is the little fish in the school that keeps the whale alive, and I intend to get out my harpoon on this one.

Ahoy, maties! Captain Ahab is on the hunt!