Monday, January 12, 2015

Frigid (part 4)

- continued from Frigid (part 3)

Again, I found myself missing my personal super-villain. If he had not been seduced by the temptations of evil, there would be no waking up to 45 degree (7.22 C) indoor temperatures or searching through closed suppliers for un-findable parts. Dippy Doo-Ha [fanfare plays] would not tolerate that kind of nonsense. He would buckle down and use his circuitboard-repairing super-powers to save the day.

That not being an option, I verified that Al's company accepts credit cards and let him know that he should order my new circuit board as soon as possible. Neither one of us had any idea how long it would take to get the part or find time to install it, so I gave him my cell phone number and told him that Anne and I would be at my parents' house until mine was warm again --he could get my key from my neighbor to get into the house and make the repair when the circuitboard came in.

I had Al help me disconnect my washer from its water supply so that I could drain the water from my pipes, then I sent him on his way. But before he drove off, he brought in two, temperature controlled, electric heaters to keep my house warm enough that my pipes would not freeze. I felt a little silly for having had him disconnect my washer for me. But I figured it would do no harm to drain the pipes. I would turn off my water main and open all my faucets before I left. It's better to be safe than sorry, after all.

After Al was gone, Anne and I proceeded to get busy getting the house as ready as we could, as fast as we could, for us to be gone for a long while. Mostly, that involved emptying out the fridge and taking my succulent houseplants over to my neighbor, but I also needed to pack my suitcase and take care of some other miscellaneous items (eg. putting out the garbage). We were ready to go by lunchtime, so we left the dog at home for a few minutes while we ran out for a very quick bite to eat then came back to collect him and were on our way.

Somewhere between 3 and 4 hours later, we rolled into Mom and Dad's driveway. They had already left for my brother's annual New Year's Eve bowling party, but the garage was open for us and we happily entered the house through it. Oh, sweet relief! Temperature-controlled furnished living areas! Anne and I removed our coats and turned on the television while we basked in the non-coldness.

Ice fishers on the lake behind my brother's house
That night, after missing the bowling party we made our way over to my brother's lake home to ring in the New Year. Appetizers, tacos, mixed drinks and birthday cake were our late-night fare, accompanied by a large gathering of family who all shared champagne after counting backwards to midnight.

Two days later, on Friday, we found ourselves again at my brother's house. I wanted a picture of the ice fishers on the lake behind his house to share with my friends from Texas. Besides, my nephew had volunteered to change my car's oil and I wasn't about to refuse a free oil change. (Oh, but he did not change my oil for me. My brother did that. Yay for brothers!) I was just pouring myself a Coke when my cell phone rang. It was my next-door neighbor.

I thought, "Uh oh. What's wrong now?"

It had only been one business day since Al had diagnosed my furnace and, the last time I talked to him, he was having trouble locating the part he needed to fix it. So I was reasonably sure the neighbor was not calling about with happy news. Our conversation went something like this:


"Hi. It's your neighbor."

"Hi. What's up?"

"I'm just calling to let you know that the repairman is putting in your circuitboard right now. You can come home whenever you want. Your house will be nice and warm when you get here."

"Really? So soon? Thank you so much for calling to let me know!"

And that is the story of how my furnace broke when it was 1 degree outside. It is also the story of how my furnace was repaired during the holiday season and within 48 hours of my distress call, when just about everyplace was closed.

The End... for now.

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Frigid (part 3)

-- Continued from Frigid (part 2) --
7:00 a.m. (roughly speaking) -- I awoke under the fluffy, warm, down comforter of my daughter's bed. Anne was still asleep beside me, the dog curled at her feet in his doggie coat. Poor puppy. If his dew claw was not torn, he would almost certainly be snuggled under the blanket with us. As it was, he slept atop the covers at Anne's feet to protect his paw from potential further injury. Still, the warmth of the down beneath him must have felt good.

We had turned off the space heater for the night and I could feel a sharp contrast between the warmth under the comforter and the cold skin of my face. I looked over at the space heater. I wanted it on, but dreaded getting out of bed.

I closed my eyes for a moment to steel myself against the cold that I was about to enter. It needed to be done. The temperature in the house (and in the bedroom) was dropping with each passing moment and I needed to get up, feed Snickers and call an HVAC repairman.

I decided that the best thing was to just do it quickly. Gritting my teeth, I quickly pulled off the corner of the blanket and slipped out of bed, putting it back with hurried motions to keep the cold from seeping into its warm folds then taking three steps over to the space heater and turning it on full-blast. Oh, brr... It was cold.

At the bottom of the stairs, I checked the thermostat before letting the dog out. The inside temperature was 45 degrees (7.22 C). I took care of the dog, then made a bee-line for my phone book. I chose a random ad and dialed. A woman answered right away. I explained my situation and asked how long it would be before someone could come over to rescue me. I could hear her muffled voice as she turned to someone and asked, "Do you want to take this one before heading over to that one?"
Then she came back to me and said, "He'll be over in about 15 minutes."

I put Snickers back into Anne's room to cuddle with her and fifteen minutes later, "Al," the HVAC company's co-owner was knocking on my door. (The dog then went nuts and made sure Anne was up. LOL) As we walked down the stairs into the basement, Al said something like, "Let's take a look and get this heater running." It suddenly occurred to me, "Maybe I won't have to go to Mom and Dad's, after all! If he can fix this, we can just stay home for another week like we planned."

Well, it was a nice thought.  As it turns out, Al tried his fix according to the code that was flashing on my unit and what he did didn't work. My furnace's circuit board needed to be replaced. That meant ordering the part. The furnace was new but Guardian is an off brand and Al did not know who sold it, so he called one of his suppliers to ask.

The supplier's office was closed for the holidays. So Al called the people who had installed the furnace for me. They should know where they got it. Right? No dice. They also were closed. Third time is the charm according to the saying and the third supplier answered their phone. But they had no idea who sold Guardian parts. As far as they knew, Guardian furnaces were not being sold anywhere in the area. So Al pulled out his trusty smart-phone and looked up Guardian. He called the number. They were closed for the holidays. Big surprise.

-- To Be Continued --

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Frigid (part 2)

-- continued from Frigid (part 1) --

My dad has never even looked at my year and a half old furnace. I don't know what Mom expected him to tell me to do to fix it. But she handed over the phone and he came up with something. He told me to call my neighbor over to look at it. Dad also encouraged me to stay at home until I could get a repairman out to my house for a diagnosis of the problem. After all, the thing needed to be fixed. That meant someone needed to look at it and I could not very well pop back to open my door from 4 hours away.

My neighbor definitely deserves some kind of baked goods in appreciation for trying to rescue two ladies in distress from quickly dropping interior temperatures. He came over within about two minutes of my phone call. Guess what? He figured out right away (and without looking at the manual) how to open up the furnace and find its "pilot light." (Yay neighbor!)  

Note to self: Newer furnaces do not have pilot lights. They have on-demand ignition. My furnace's on-demand ignition was lighting just fine. The fire stayed on for about 3 seconds, then it turned off. Half a minute or so later, the pilot went on again. Then it went off again and the process repeated.

The neighbor groaned, "Ohhh... I don't know if I can do anything with this." He opened another door to reveal a circuit board. "Yep," he confirmed, "It has a circuit board. I can't do anything. You'll have to call a repairman."

THAT is when I thought of my personal super-villain (who used to be my personal super-hero before he turned toward the forces of evil). If Dippy Doo-Ha were here and still serving the forces of good, he would peel out that circuit board, activate his superhero tools to figure out its problem and fix it. (He would also have a more flattering super-hero name.) Oh for the good old days! Alas, those days are long gone.

(Side note for disbelievers: Anne thinks that her dad would not have been able to repair the furnace's broken circuit board. She says repairing a circuit board is just way too hard. I disagree. That kind of repair might be too difficult for many, but I have seen her dad's super-powers at work and he could do it. He built and repaired circuit boards for a living when I met him, after all.)

I thanked my neighbor for his help, asked if I could bring some of my plants to his house in the morning, and let him go home. My next step was to call a local pet-friendly hotel. The last-minute price for a night's stay was very much more than I was willing to pay so I informed Anne that we were going to rough it for the night.

Before I called my mom to see if it was okay to come to her house, which was before she told me to ask for my dad's opinion and before the neighbor was called over to rescue me, I had told Anne to start getting her things ready to go back to school. I did not intend to return home after going to Mom and Dad's before driving Anne to meet her friend for their carpool back to the university.

Ice formed on the inside of the window.

By the time I was finished with the neighbor and the furnace, Anne had her things all ready to go. That left her free to help me batten down the hatches for the cold night ahead. I sent her to set up my small space-heater in her bedroom (my room has no door), start it going and close her door while I pulled out the plastic sheeting that I had not yet put up on my windows and called my mom to let her know what the neighbor had said.

When Anne came back downstairs, we covered all but three of my windows with plastic (One was so cold that ICE had formed inside of its glass!), let the dog outside one last time, changed into our PJ's and took the dog with us to bed in Anne's somewhat warmer (from running the space heater) bedroom.

-- To Be Continued -- 

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Frigid (part 1)

It was the day before New Year's eve and I was buzzing around, doing my thing. Anne, my daughter, was home from her university for the holidays and had decided to use the desk in my office to play online games with her friends. She wrapped herself up in a blanket and snuggled into my desk chair. Being winter in northern Wisconsin with the outside temperatures quickly dropping, neither one of us thought much about the chill.

Around 5:30 pm, Anne emerged from my office, still wrapped in her blanket to sit on the love seat in the living room and talk about dinner preparations. She was hungry.

Snickers, our dog, walked over to nuzzle her. He had been acting like he wanted to jump up into my lap all afternoon but would not sit with me. He had torn his dew claw earlier in the day and it was very sensitive. Now that Anne was in the common room, he went to her. I'm sure he was hoping that maybe Anne would figure out what I had not.

He was right. She did. No sooner did she touch him than she said, "Oooh! He's shivering!" Then she picked him up onto the loveseat, careful of his injured paw, and covered him with her blanket. He settled down instantly, resting his head on her leg and closing his eyes.

I went over to touch his head and sure enough, his fur was cold. Anne's discovery that the dog was cold led to a brief discussion between Anne and me where we both agreed that we were also cold. She asked me what the temperature inside the house was. I walked over to my thermostat and looked... all the while stating with confidence that it was 71 degrees (21.67 C) inside.

Well, the thermostat was indeed set to 71 degrees and it was turned on. My furnace is only one and a half years old, so it should have been 71 degrees inside the house. But it was not. The inside temperature was 59 (15 C). No wonder we were cold!

At Anne's brilliant suggestion, I went into the basement to see if the pilot light was on. (She had a pilot light issue in her campus housing earlier this year.) Unfortunately, I could not figure out how to open up my new furnace to see the pilot light. So I felt the outside of the furnace. It was cold. I took the furnace's information booklet into my hand and went back upstairs with it. Before opening the booklet, I turned off the thermostat and then turned it on again. I hoped maybe that would restart the pilot light. It did not.

Trying to read the booklet to figure out how to open the furnace and just check for the pilot light was an exercise in confusion, frustration and futility. So I did what any normal adult woman would do under the circumstance: I called my parents to tell them I was coming over. Mom tried to tell me what I needed to check on my furnace -- all of which I had already done. She then agreed that we could make the 3+ hour drive down to their house but first she wanted me to talk to my dad.

- To Be Continued -

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Nearly Impossible Accomplishment

Kenosha, Wisconsin
Just a short note today. My daughter is home for the holidays from her university studies. She hitched a ride from school to Chicago with her "BFF," Jenna. So I drove down from where I now live to pick up Anne in southern Wisconsin (courtesy of Jenna's mom, who drove up to meet me in Kenosha). That is a few hours' drive for me, so I packed the dog into my car and drove to my parents' house for a night.

*Bonus* My brother changed my reverse light for me while I was nearby -- in the heated garage of his new house. And with a dedicated waterline in his garage for a hose, he also gave my car a quick hand wash to get the road salt off of it! Sweet deal. Yay for brothers with kickin' garages!

Back to my story. What I described above is the normal routine for getting Anne for the holidays. I also drive her to and from school in the Fall and Spring, respectively. A once home-based travel agent, this is all the traveling I can afford to do, these days -- except for Thanksgiving, of course. I go to my parents' house for Thanksgiving, too. They feed me turkey (or ham) and I don't have to deal with the leftovers. It is a good thing for everyone.

Oh! Last year, I also drove down to my folks' place when my water pipes froze. Nothing was keeping me in my house (no children at school, husband at work or job of my own) and I didn't want to wait three days for a plumber to come out to unfreeze my water supply. So I decided to camp at Mom and Dad's until the weather warmed up a bit. I had to come back home much earlier than expected because of the fiasco with the handiman (another story entirely), but I did go away from my house for a week or so -- so I guess that counts as "travel."

Why am I going on about this? My neighbor (to whom I hand my house key when I leave town) asked me yesterday how I "have the money to do so much traveling." Money? Me? Travel? What?? I was momentarily dumbstruck. Ask anyone. Rendering me speechless, even for a moment, is quite an accomplishment. Yet the neighbor achieved it without even trying.

Congratulations to the neighbor for momentarily accomplishing the nearly impossible.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Fresh Beginning (part 4)

We have run through "C" the phisher. "R" is emailing me from afar and "B" is messaging me from in town.

On Day 7, I got another message from "B" before his work began. "R" and I are still emailing and he is kind of interesting. He has been checking out all my online profiles and found my Youtube videos.

I also received an email from "M" that told me he was not seeing anyone else and so he thought that I should not see anyone else. He demanded that I choose between him and "the other" guy.  Okay. I am not into being controlled by men I barely know. I did not know the other guy either, but I did not care. I just didn't want to play "M's" game. Besides, his written English was pretty poor for a guy who supposedly was raised in Chicago and has a Master's Degree. Something about him was fishy, so I let him go.

Done with that budding relationship (probably phishing scheme), I went on the site and guess who was there? "D!" (Yay!) So I opened a chat with him. This Ph.D.'s written English was not so good either, but he had told me that his mother was Hispanic and he had done his Master's degree in Spain, so I imagined that his primary language must be Spanish. I messaged him, "No hablo espanol, pero m'ija hablas un poco." Alright, I admit it. I really do know nothing and probably butchered that pretty badly. I was kind of expecting him to say something about it -- an answer in English to what I had said or even just an acknowledgement that I had made a bad attempt at his mother tongue.

Nothing. Weird.

After a minute or two more, he asked if he could call me. I said okay and gave him my number. He called and guess what? He did NOT have a Hispanic accent. His accent was more... English? No, upon long reflection, I identified it as African. But our phone call was short because my dog started to bark, so I did not identify the accent until well after the call. In fact, right after the call, we got back on chat. I asked about the "English" accent and he reminded me that his Ph. D. was acquired in England. With his written English being as bad as it was, I had to ask the burning question. Did he speak Spanish? His answer was no.

Think I am being too picky about the English? Yes, well. I am known to be a "grammar Nazi." So how about a sample" from "D's" 15 line email to me?

In 15 lines, this Ph.D. -- a native English speaker who has supposedly written and defended a dissertation, wrote,
"...thanks for replying back to my short message i am very glad about it..." (awkward)
"...i  was born in Chicago, my dad originally from Chicago and my mom from Spain..." (missing at east one verb)
"...i am the only child of my parent" (speaking of two parents)
"...i was getting responds from a lady telling me , shes gonna rap me..." (so many things wrong)
"...there is nothing like been happy with what you do, my job is like a fun to me..." (LOL I am adopting the term, "like a fun.")
"...listening to good music, most times the gospel music..." (Personally, I enjoy the classic rock and the new country music.)
"...i believe in God so much cos his everything to me, his the reason for everything...." (What if God is a woman? Is hers everything to you and hers the reason for living?)
"...Would love to get to know you much more better and also know the kind of man you looking for... bye for now and hope to hearing back from you." (If you're gonna do it, do it right. It is "Mo' betta." I not hoping to hearing back from this prize-winning stud. Ph.D.? Seriously?)

Needless to say, it was a real mistake for this man to call me. His accent sparked a series of questions that cinched it for me: He was definitely lying and almost certainly another phisher.

Wait. There is more for Day 7.

"B" asked me out on a date! I accepted and the date was set for Day 8.

This is where the story stops (for now) because the date was awful and I don't want to embarrass either "B" or, more importantly, myself (for not just cutting it short). Let's just say that "B" and the 37 year-old from the other day's chat had similar ideas. (LOL They really didn't know me at ALL. Did they? Oh, well. Their loss.) Wait. Let's also say that I very nicely allowed "B" to part my company without being smacked, and that I later learned he is a really bad tipper. (I don't date bad tippers if I know they are bad tippers.)

What happened to "R?" I'm not exactly sure. The last time he emailed me was several days ago. I responded but he was silent. Perhaps he found a more local woman to hold his interest? If so, good for him. Either way, I wish him well.

Maybe I will wait another few years before trying again to find a partner. Perhaps not. Perhaps I will just forget about romantic relationships altogether. What is available out there (for those who refuse to be homewreckers) is depressing. I really regret not having made a better choice years ago. I guess we will just have to wait to see what happens in my future.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Fresh Beginning (part 3)

So far, we have met "M," "R," "B," and "C." We had one unpleasant interaction with a younger man who talked about his "package" WAY too soon and we let go of "C" almost right away because he was lying about being a U.S. soldier deployed overseas. (As a former U. S. Army wife, I have quite a few incensed comments regarding this pretender. Note: I reported him to and then saw that "C' later checked out my profile under a new user ID.)

Day 5 came and lo! "M" finally sent me his promised response... and I got a response from "D," one of the interesting widowers -- this one in Chicago (a 5-6 hour drive away) and a Ph. D. Yay!! He gave me his personal email address, too. I felt like a kid in a candy store! I also began to feel overwhelmed. So I took down my profile. All I needed to do now was choose which one I wanted to keep. Right? Wrong.

On Day 6, "M" asked me if I was talking to other men. He said it was okay with him. He just wanted to know. Well, duh. I did not say this but is a dating site and I had just joined. I had not yet had time to build a relationship with anyone, so of course I was still talking to the few men I had touched base with. What I did say was that I had just hidden my profile and that I was talking to one other man. (I was only counting "D.")

"B" messaged me first thing in the morning. That was nice but, as previously mentioned, he was not really what I was looking for. Still, I intended to give him a fair shot. After all, I did not know him or his situation, and it was nice that he emailed me first thing in the morning. So I responded. He answered right after work. He seemed nice.

"D" and I exchanged email. He seemed nice. I was excited to learn more about him... that is, until day 7. Day 7 requires a post of its own.

-- To Be Continued --