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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Splat-ospheric has moved!

Hello, faithful readers (that's you, Mom)! Splatospheric and all of its content--the good, the bad, and the ugly--has made the switch to wordpress.

The new HQ is at http://www.splatospheric.com/. You'll find the same great taste with 40% less fat! No wait, it's as bloated as ever. New look, same great taste. Yep, that's what I meant. It's much more user-friendly, too. Hope to see you there, and as always, thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sweating the small stuff


My family and I are getting our Christmas trees today. For some people, the process consists of driving a couple miles and braving the wilds of the parking lot at Home Depot.  For us, it’s an expedition. 

We trek to the Virginia countryside and spend hours wandering its rolling hills, combing acres of spruces, firs and pines in search of perfect specimens. The Yanks apply more care and scrutiny to the process of cutting down a Christmas tree than we do preparing our tax returns. 


Last year I didn’t pick out a tree of my own because I was living with my sister and her family.  In 2012 I’ve got a house and am excited about getting and decorating my own tree. 

My collection of ornaments had lived in a box for two years, seeing daylight only briefly last year when it became an unexpected source of controversy during my and Mark’s divorce.

I understood that, when the decision to divorce isn’t made jointly, arguments can arise about anything, including who gets the rights to specific oxygen molecules.  But since Mark and I had a very large fish to fry—unloading the enormous house we’d built, through the For Sale By Owner process no less—I was surprised to find myself caught up in a melee over holiday tchotchkes one Saturday last November.

I’d spent the day at the Yuppie Prison getting estimates from contractors on the few items the prospective buyers required us to fix before the sale.  As one of those contractors talked me through his plans to bridge a gap in the seal between the custom mahogany front doors,  I phoned Mark so he could hear the contractor’s plan and consent to having the work done.  He didn’t answer so I left a message. 

Seconds after leaving the voice mail, an email from him appeared on my Blackberry.  The note didn’t relate to the door, or the pile of paperwork I’d put together for the house sale, or my request to meet to review the documents in light of our lack of real estate credentials. 

The email was about… Christmas ornaments. He asserted that I’d intentionally taken them when I moved out and he wanted to meet to claim his share.    

A person of average intellect would grasp the transactional significance of the Christmas ornaments and agree that they warranted a separate meeting whereas the imminent sale of our home did not; however, since my intellect was sub-par—Mark had pointed this out more than once over the course of the divorce—I was able to vault right past his common sense approach and suggest that we meet first about the house. 

After several rounds of discussion, he agreed, perhaps because he recognized that sometimes you have to compromise on minor stuff before you can get to the big-ticket items.  

That Mark even thought about Christmas ornaments,  much less cared about them, surprised me.  He claimed not to want any reminders of me and hadn’t owned any holiday trinkets before he met me (he didn’t bother with a tree during his single days). 

The baubles that adorned our joint trees were pretty much all mine.  Friends and family had given them to me, with a very large influx in 2003 courtesy of a intervention two of my friends staged when they saw my first tree.  

“Oh, honey, that is the saddest thing we’ve ever seen,” they’d said, sizing up its unintentionally minimalist style.  They couldn’t bear to let me persist in a state of decorative famine, and they still feed me to this day. 

It was true that Mark and I had picked up some solid colored balls and a dozen or so other ornaments at after-Christmas sales, along with a tree-topping angel. 

Unbeknownst to me, it was also true that I had the contraband.  The items were packed in a large plastic bin that I hadn’t opened since moving, thinking it housed only my Christmas stuff.  

I had no sentimental attachment to the jointly acquired ornaments and most were not exactly my taste, by which I mean I’d have thought twice before donating them to a foundation for the blind.  (The angel, in particular, had a face that could’ve ruled the nightmare kingdom every bit as effectively as the clown from Poltergeist.) 

I had no qualms whatsoever about giving up that stuff and did so immediately.  Mark wasn’t satisfied but eventually agreed to drop the issue.

Obviously, pettiness had me in its clutches, too, or I would’ve resolved the debate immediately by giving him all the Christmas stuff, no matter its origins.  Had I been thinking clearly, I’d have realized that the people who gave me those ornaments were what imbued them with sentimental value.  My loved ones weren’t going anywhere even if the trinkets left me. 

Still, I’d be lying if I said I’m not excited about opening the bin this year. I can’t wait to see my little buddies and hang them up, no strings attached.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Splat of the Week: Marriage in the golden years


National Blog Posting Month ends with a splat, exactly as it should. (Thanks to everyone who's stuck with me!)

This time the weekly title goes to the beleaguered institution of marriage.  

Divorce has been pummeling it for decades but  I figured divorce had the decency to hit above the belt and aim mainly at recent unions among the relatively young.  It came as a surprise when I read an article in the Daily Mail this week (and an earlier piece in the New York Times) and learned that long-time married Baby Boomers are splitting in record numbers, too.  It’s a punch to the marital gut.

Both articles cite financial independence as a divorce enabler.  On reaching their sixties, many couples have dealt with major expenses like college tuition and want to enjoy a little bit of single living before they transition to the assisted kind.

Given the size of the aging Boomer population and the increasing tendency of younger generations to eschew marriage altogether, marriage may take a beating for a while.  

But bad news almost always has an upside if you look hard enough for it, and that’s true here, too. If divorce among forty-somethings caused a boom in the cougar population, the tide may be changing for the once-endangered snow leopard.  


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Stream of Unconsciousness

Insomnia, a steady companion over the course of my life, turned into a stalker during my divorce.  A couple months into the slog, my doctor gave me a prescription for Ambien. 

“Now’s not the time to skimp on your sleep,” he said.

Because I’d taken Ambien before, I knew it could give me eight hours of uninterrupted sleep on command but would want a little something in return.  We live in a quid pro quo world, after all.    

Some people give up their short-term memory, others lose the restraint that used to keep them from sleepwalking to the kitchen and scarfing down a pallet of Ding-Dongs.  Ambien made me surrender the dreams my subconscious weaved, or at least my memory of them. 

During the divorce this was probably a blessing, but eventually I missed the mini-movies that used to play in the theater of my subconscious.  There, new flicks came out every day.  And though you never knew which show you’d bought a ticket for, it was pretty much the only place with a vast selection in the “musical romantic comedy thriller” category.   

The actors varied almost as widely as the genre.  People I knew often took center stage and sometimes shared it with celebrities, whether from the A-list or further down the alphabetic ladder.

That’s a lot of subconscious entertainment to miss in exchange for a pharmaceutically assisted snooze. I resolved to scale back the Ambien as soon as my life stabilized, which happened in May when I settled into the new house and finalized my divorce.

The theater opened its doors again just after that, playing one-dimensional shorts at first and gradually expanding in both duration and breadth of genre.  

I knew my sleep state had returned to normal a few weeks ago when my subconscious showed a multi-genre epic. When I woke up, I wrote down as much as I could remember, knowing that I may never see it again. 

Here’s the CliffsNotes version (dramatically reenacted in the present tense for enhanced realism, and with the occasional editorial note because someone has to defend me):   

Setting: The yuppie prison my ex-husband and I built together, only the house belonged to a former real-life crush. (I’m just visiting, apparently.)  The dream opens in the kitchen, where all the details appear exactly as they did in real-life, right down to the slate floor I hated because it made my feet cold.   

Plot: Crush and I are talking and informs me that he’s decided to dump me on the grounds that I snore. [Editorial note: When it comes to snoring, the line between dream and reality gets a little smudged; however, I have never been dumped for that. As far as I know.]

While leaving the house, I run into John Mayer, who rents Crush’s basement.  John isn’t one to give the buzzards a chance to circle the newly singled, so he asks me out and suggests that I meet him at a house party he’s going to that night.  I agree and drive there in a beat-up red Civic hatchback, which I proceed to have valet parked. 

I walk into the house wearing an outfit that came from the way, way back of my real-life closet, cerca 2003.  [Editorial note: The ensemble, a white miniskirt with stretchy black lace top, earned its place at the back of the closet.  I’d bought it in 2002 as a joke when my friends and I decided to go, fully glammed up, to a Poison concert. I wore the outfit exactly once. Twice, if you count this dream.]

Things go poorly with John –turns out he’s a womanizer-- but apparently my outing with him is enough to give Crush some food for thought.  Crush calls first thing the next day and we meet for a walk in his neighborhood. While we stroll I’m singing “Kiss On My Lips” by Hall & Oates at top volume.  

As I’m belting out the line that goes, “I’m just better off not listening to frank advice,” a pedestrian approaches us from the opposite direction. It’s John Oates, in all his 1980’s, mustachioed, mulleted  glory.  He points at me and says, “It’s ‘friends’’ advice, not ‘frank.’ Sheesh,” and keeps right on walking.

My faulty rendition seems to be just the kind of thing Crush is missing in his life, because he tells me he wants to get back together. To cement the reunion, he offers to treat me to dinner.  As he puts his arm around me, he says, “C’mon, I’ll take you to Subway. I’m a regular there so we can cut to the front of the line.”

Thank goodness the theater is back in business. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The rest of the story, specifically, The End


I'm back from the UK trip so the story of the epic battle waged by the plumbing in my old house finally ends today.  

In case you've lost the thread, or never picked it up to begin with, the first parts covered the pipes' initial rebellion, which occurred in 2003, a few months after I bought the house and twenty-four hours before I threw a large party.  Four years went by without incident.  The plumbing let me know in late October of 2007 that the war had not, in fact, ended, and that's where the story resumes today.   

(No doubt that extra day in between the prior portion and the finale really added to the dramatic tension. And it gave my sister a chance to write another guest post, which she's been gunning for since October.) 
___________________

Several friends had come to town for the Marine Corps Marathon and were staying at my house.  One of them, Harry, was running the race with me.  Each of us was running in support of a charity.  In addition to hosting boarders, I had also decided to throw a huge party right after the race to thank the dozens of people who had made donations to my cause. 

The pipes’ patience had paid off: after a four year wait, the time was ripe for an ambush.

At 5:30 that morning I was in the kitchen, pulling out peanut butter and jelly to make pre-race sandwiches for me and Harry, when his wife rounded the corner, forehead creased with worry.

“Is everything okay?” I said.

“No, not really.”

“Uh-oh, is it Harry?”  I assumed he was struggling with pre-race adrenaline, and  I understood better than most the way nerves could wreak havoc on the body. 

“Oh gosh no, he’s fine,” she said.  I let out a sigh of relief.  “It’s your shower. And your toilet.  They’re both backing up.” 

She looked ashamed, perhaps because this scenario tops the list of horrors catalogued in the Handbook of Houseguest Nightmares.  But I knew my friends hadn’t strained the plumbing.  The tree roots had mobilized and were staging a sit-in.

I needed to restore order to the pipes, and fast. This wouldn’t be easy on a Sunday morning. 

I considered staying home from the race yet couldn’t bring myself to do it, not after raising $4,000 and training for months.  But perhaps someone else could.  Lisa, a close friend since college, would soon be en route to my house to join our group of spectators and help with party prep. 

Though it wasn’t yet 6 a.m. I called her.  On any other Sunday morning the home phone could have rung with no fear of being answered for several more hours, but today Lisa was up.  I explained the situation and asked the unthinkable: Would she stay behind and babysit the plumbing?

She laughed. “Of course I will.  I don’t mind at all, and it’ll give me a chance to nap. You know I’m usually not awake til ten!”

With one problem solved I got to work on the other: finding a plumbing professional on short notice.  If I couldn’t do that, I would throw myself at the mercy of Port-A-Potty people and hope they could summon up enough compassion for a last-minute rental. The call to Roto-Rooter bore fruit.

They agreed to send a technician sometime before noon, a mere hour ahead of the party start time.  It wasn’t ideal but I had no other choice.  I grabbed my race provisions and at the last second, my cell phone, just in case we had trouble finding our friends at the finish line.  Harry and I made a break for it.

My phone rang somewhere around Mile 13.  Marathon etiquette frowns on taking calls mid-race so I didn’t intend to pick it up.  A glance at the caller ID changed my mind. I answered.

“Karen? Hi, this is Pam from Roto-Rooter.”  As Harry and I ran, she gave me the diagnosis I expected.  

Other marathoners passed us, casting strange looks in our direction when they heard me say things like, “So you think he can snake it? Tell him to go for it!” at top volume and without breaking stride. 

We crossed the finish line at Iwo Jima a couple hours later but didn’t have much time to bask in the post-race glow because we had plumbing and a party to attend to.

The catering truck pulled up in front of the house seconds after we did.  Harry and I had started to stiffen up.  We made our way gingerly up the stairs of the long walkway that led to the front door. 

The caterers were moving at a much faster pace despite being loaded down with huge trays of Mexican food, and they soon made a bold passing move.  In doing so they narrowly missed a direct encounter with my Roto-Rooter hero as he exited the front door, loaded down with bags of sodden tree roots.  

Half an hour later, seventy-five revelers descended on my house.  We spent the afternoon celebrating our fundraising feat.  When they left I spent the evening celebrating my victory in the latest campaign on the plumbing front.  A respected foe had tested my mettle and I proved myself a worthy adversary.  This time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ooopsie...

Ok...so I am the blogger's sister.  I 'guest blogged' once for her while we were away on a mini vacation together in South Beach.  Today is the second time and, believe me, it's under duress.  You see, I had the simple task of posting Miz Yank's blogs daily while she's away on another vacation...This one overseas.  I have to say that I had been getting comfortable with the whole posting thing -- you know a click here, a click there and SHAZAM, the blog is published!! -- until today, that is.  I know you're all dying to hear the end of the toilet story trilogy however, unfortunately, that's going to have to wait another day or two.  Somehow, and I'm SURE it wasn't my fault, today's blog was deleted.  OK...maybe it was my fault...but I swear it was an accident.  I had posted it and realized there was an error on the blog.  As the editor-in-chief while Miz Yank is away I felt compelled to correct it.  Once I made the correction I accidentally hit 'delete post' as opposed to publish.  C'mon...we've all done that before, right?  Deleted something by accident???  My only issue now is that I can't figure out how to get the darn thing back.  (Lord hopes she has it saved somewhere else!!)  As I sit here typing away I am just going man up and grab my own golden pancake!!!  In my humble opinion it's well deserved! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Rest of the Story, Part II (or III, depending on how you count)

Today's story stays in the plumbing vein (pipe?) and resumes where yesterday's left off, which was right after my sister chaperoned a visit by Roto-Rooter.
---------------------

“Well don’t get too excited,” my sister cautioned me. “The technician said this’ll probably keep happening. Eventually the roots take over and cause some part of the pipe to collapse. When that happens they’ll have to dig up the front yard with a backhoe and put in new pipes.”

This news made me want to break into the liter of vodka I’d bought for the party.  “You’re on borrowed time,” she continued, “so you should do whatever you can not to bog down the pipes.”  I didn’t foresee having any trouble taking care with the pipes but how could I expect dozens of partygoers to share my concern?

“Put a sign up,” my sister said.

“Good idea. What should it say?”

She held up her hands to let me know her work here was done. “Hey, I suggested the sign. You figure out the rest. Besides, I gotta get home.”  She left me alone to work on sign verbiage.

After some deliberation, I put Sharpie to paper and wrote: “Please use the plumbing gently.”

Buford, my realtor and friend, was the first party guest to arrive.  After hugging me and laying his coat on a chair, he headed for the hall bathroom. The sign brought him to a dead stop.

“’Please use the plumbing gently’? What the hell does that mean? Did you invite a band of vandals with angry stomachs?”

I explained the events that led to the sign and said, “So tell me, Mr. Mensa, do you have any bright ideas?” He had none. Or none that were fit to display.

The sign stayed (and did double-duty as a conversation piece), the guests complied, and there was peace in the pipes.  A year of detante passed.  Then a second, and a third.   The cease-fire stretched into a fourth year, lulling me into the belief that the trees had gone off the cardboard and clay pipe diet.

I learned otherwise just before sunrise on a cold Sunday morning in the fall of 2007.