Thursday, February 28, 2008

My dawg done ate my weddin' ring...

I promise I will stop belaboring my recent streak of bad luck. Really, I'm almost back to normal. I've got a surgery date to remove the extra hardware from my hand, and I can foresee a time when the "s" key will no longer be my nemesis. We're nearly done dealing with insurance companies. We'll be getting upgraded iPods and cameras in the mail, along with a check worth exactly a plane ticket to Paris and a new wedding ring. Which is handy, since we're one month away from a trip to Paris, where we might just do some romantic wedding-ring shopping. (I like to think that if their heirloom rings had to get stolen, Margaret and Helen would want me to spend the insurance payout on a new wedding ring in Paris.)

Things are nearly back to normal.

But this I just must share. Today I was telling a colleague that I'd had to ask for an extension on a project, having realized that I just couldn't make up for lost time on all fronts. I had to ask for some slack.

"Well, yeah," she said. "Your life has been like a country and western song."

And I thought, Yes! That is exactly what it's like. Not like the tragedy and hardship of people in Gaza, or Iraq, or New Orleans. We didn't lose our house to foreclosure or a family member to violence. No, for exactly one month there, it was like we were living the lyrics to a VERY BAD country song.

My dog done broke my finger,
Some som'bitch stole my weddin' ring.
My car got smashed by a big Ford truck,
Oh why oh why do I got such luck?

That is the perfect metaphor. Not tragic so much as absurdly depressing, or perhaps depressingly absurd.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Reclaiming our life

Bit by bit, the pieces are falling back into place. We got our car back today, with a spiffy new rear end, after a ten-day respite at the Subaru Wellness & Plastic Surgery Spa.

And I cleaned like a fiend today, not quite as fiendishly as my sister, but considering my gimpy hand and the state of our house, I'm pretty pleased with the progress. We cleaned up after the burglary, but that doesn't mean everything was in its place. Some things were just neatly stacked in random piles, giving the illusion of tidiness that wasn't really there. Piles of paper, especially. Papers strewn all over hell and yonder as they searched for something valuable to steal. I have definitely made progress on that front.

Plus for the first time, I can actually exert some muscle with my gimp hand. Poor Enrico has been valiantly washing all the dishes and walking the dogs and pretty much handling all two-handed lifting for a month now, but my bones have healed enough that I can scrub pots! And the toilet! And the troubling crusty stuff on the inside of the toaster oven!

It's all part of reclaiming our space after the home invasion. I know, the crusty stuff inside the toaster oven really cannot be blamed on the burglars. But I get to a point where I cannot focus on work, or anything else, with all the disorderliness around me. Like Jane Austen and Flora Poste, I cannot endure a mess.

Tomorrow we are hosting our good friends and their three kids for dinner, which is always great fun. The dogs love it when the girls come for dinner, because when you are a dog, CHILD = PEZ DISPENSER. I think we'll make turkey sloppy joes, with some gingerbread cookies for dessert. The girls, and the dogs, should like that.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Free from civic duty

There was a plea deal in the case, and thus our juror services are not needed.

Back to work then, after this brief injury-surgery-car-accident-burglary-travel-illness break. Work...what is that like? I can hardly remember.

But I won't be troubled by work for long, because we leave for Paris in a mere five weeks! Wohoo!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Doing my civic duty. Maybe.

Yesterday I reported for jury duty, my first time ever, which seems long overdue. I have to report again this afternoon, as part of a group of 35 potential jurors being whittled down to the necessary 12 plus an alternate. It would be a two or three day trial, which I could manage just fine.

It's a very interesting process, jury duty. (I won't speak about the specific case, of course, just the experience.) First comes a period of boredom, when you wait in a huge room of people to be put in a potential jury pool. When you get called to a courtroom for jury selection, I think the initial reaction for most people is curiosity - So this is how it really works? How does it compare to television and movies?

Then the judge and attorneys start asking the jurors questions as part of the selection process, and some of those questions can get pretty personal, so there's a weird voyeuristic quality to it, as well as a sense of false intimacy that gets created as you learn not only about other people's experiences, but their views on society, morality, the law. During the breaks and the waiting, you start to get to know some of these people. (Hey, you were burglarized too? How long did it take for the police to come? Have you checked the pawn shop?) A bit of bonding happens because you're thrown in together, because you can't talk to anyone else about the particulars, and because of what you've learned about one another whether you wanted to or not.

As the attorneys worked up their questions, there was occasional humor to try to offset the probing nature of the questions. As the jurors got to know each other and the routine, a levity crept into our interactions. And then I looked at the defendant, and was reminded of how incredibly serious this is for him/her. This is not an interesting experience for them. This will not just be a matter of mild discomfort from sharing a little more than you'd prefer among strangers. This has got to be excruciating, and frightening, and the most serious thing in the world. As the defendant sits looking at us, the people who will decide, can s/he tell that we're a little distracted by curiosity, and by discomfort at having to tell our story? - or even, at times, a certain enjoyment at the opportunity to hold forth with our story? Because at times, as the attorneys probed on our opinions about the fairness of certain kinds of laws, it almost felt like a lively debate in a coffee shop.

Anyway, back to the courthouse this afternoon. I doubt I'll get picked, just because of my ordinal number in the pool. But we'll see.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Miscellaneous shellfish

The car is in the body shop. We have a sporty rental car that I dislike, but whatever. The front door to the house has been fixed, both windows replaced with double-paned windshield-quality glass that will shatter but not break if anyone tries to bust it in again. The contractor was late and his carpentry work is not nearly the quality of the people who did our back door and our windows last fall, but that's ok. It makes me appreciative of the other guys' craftsmanship rather than disappointed in this work.

I went to LA on business and came back, and it was ok. I wasn't really in the mood for either the trip or for facilitating a day-long meeting, but it went fine. After having a snit about the airplane ride, my back is feeling much better, all of a sudden.

At the airport I bought Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, which I devoured and loved. I was already on the local food bandwagon - agriculture consumes nearly 20% of our fossil fuels in this country, three-fourths of which is for transporting the food after harvest. But reading this book nudged me down this path a little further, and on Wednesday when my brain was too dead to work I spent the day asking the Internet various questions about my local food options. I learned many interesting things - like two-thirds of the country's lentil production happens just east of here, and yet I can buy none of these lentils at my local markets. Or that many of the organic food companies I rely on have actually been bought out by large corporations (e.g. Cascadian Farms, Odwalla, Muir Glen) - not sure if that's good or bad, but it's news to me.

I'm sure I'll share more on this later, in that overly earnest way I have when I've recently had a moment of clarity on some new subject. Suffice to say that Ms. Kingsolver makes it seem a very joyous thing to re-connect with where your food comes from, and not a deprivation. I learned that making cheese is actually pretty easy. I am reconsidering my position on meat, concluding that a locally raised free-range turkey is probably a more ethical food choice than tofu from petro-thirsty soybean mega-farms using genetically engineered seed. I can no longer look at a banana without seeing a luxury item, and I'm ok with that.

I made another trip to the pawn shop in search of my wedding ring. I do not like that place, Sam I Am.

We are trying to finalize travel plans to France, which is behind schedule and therefore stressful. But I have faith that it will all work out.

I think I'm coming down with a cold. Tomorrow we have symphony tickets. Monday we are planning to see the Oscar-nominated shorts. I think that about brings things up to date.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

My first caucus

It does not fall to me to recount the contentious and convoluted history of the Washington state primary and caucus system; suffice to say that we have had both primaries and caucuses in this state, and at the moment we technically have both, but only the caucus counts.

So, we headed off to our caucus today, right across the street at the Vietnamese Presbyterian church. And let me tell you, the neighborhood was crawling with people, pouring forth from their homes and cars to converge on the overrun church and the overwhelmed Democratic party volunteers.

In the past, I have always scorned caucuses as elitist, making important decisions with just a tiny percentage of the voters. I realize it's pretty much the voters' fault for not showing up, but still: I chafe at the fact that 6% of the voters in the state of Iowa play such an inflated role in getting this party goin'.

But having attended one, I must say that I might just be a convert to the caucus. It positively hummed with civic spirit. Several precincts were caucusing here, and ours had no official chair, so the 42 of us who showed up just made do and figured it all out for ourselves. Scrunched onto the stage of the packed auditorium, we chose our temporary leader by acclamation, and strained to hear as he read our marching orders. Many of my neighbors made impassioned speeches on behalf of their candidate. We voted, discussed, and some of us changed our votes; then we tallied it up and elected delegates from among those who were present and willing. And that was that.

I'm sure there are more than 42 registered Democratic voters in our little precinct, so clearly, although the attendance today all across the state busted all precedent and expectation, it is not a model that would scale up well. But it felt like we owned it, just us regular folks of all races and ages, from the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance to the day's adjournment.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Where to begin? Or, finding grace in anything

When last we left off, I had just had surgery to insert two metal pins in my left ring finger. The surgeon had, against his expectations, been able to save my wedding ring from the metal cutters. The furnace was broken, again, but the problem had finally been found and a repairman was scheduled for Saturday.

Then, things got interesting.

On Saturday morning, I was rear-ended by the hugest Ford abomination you've ever seen, causing three grand in damage to our car and probably herniating (sp?) a disc in my back. At least that's what the doctor said, after "You're here again?"

On Saturday afternoon, the furnace repair guy showed up with the wrong part, leaving us for two more days with no heat. We spent the weekend holed up in the bedroom with a space heater and a stack of movies, which after my initial meltdown and in spite of my back pain, turned out to be kind of fun. The furnace got fixed on Monday.

On Wednesday, I came home in the middle of the day to find that our house had been burglarized, and our dogs let loose in the process. The burglars came right up to my front door and busted it open with my two large dogs barking inside. That takes nerve.

Fortunately - and this is a longer story - the two men who are redeveloping the property across the street (the arson house, with Garry the Exceptional Oak) happened to come by before I'd gotten home, and they saw the busted door, recognized my dogs and let them back in, and called 911. They also went to great lengths trying to track me down by phone, via directory assistance and google. They even called my church.

The police came, the nice neighbors boarded up my front door, and the dogs are unharmed. The wedding ring miraculously salvaged by the surgeon last week? Stolen off my dresser this week. The house was trashed.

So, I have spent two weeks dealing with insurance claims (medical, auto, home), making up lists of stolen goods, and arranging for various repairs (to my body, car and house). It's pretty much been my full time job.

While we are unable to distill any meaning or lessons from our baffling run of bad luck, we are also very conscious that with one exception - the sudden death of a family member a few weeks ago - none of this rises to the level of the tragic, and in fact there are bits of grace to be found along the way. The new neighbors who helped me. The friend who dropped everything to come help me clean up our thoroughly ransacked house (thank you Megan!). The fact that the dogs stuck together, stayed safe, and came home quickly. The incredibly kind police officer, a dog person herself, who helped me check Nelly and Toby for any signs that they'd been kicked or otherwise injured.

There are some other odd and even funny stories in all this, which might provide fodder for weeks to come, or not depending on whether I want to rehash them. I will say that one of the most bizarre experiences was going to the local pawn shop to ask them to look out for my wedding ring, as well as two other rings that I inherited from beloved departed aunts. Never been in a pawn shop before. Some of the humor came from my friend Megan's reaction to what got stolen and what did not. "Look at all this great camping gear! This is a high-quality backpack, who wouldn't want this? You have great books, I totally would have taken these."

Yes, I'm sure they would've stolen our poetry collection if they'd just had a little more time.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Furnace broken, again

Our ongoing battle with our piece of $%^&* furnace continues. The repair men have until now been unable to diagnose its woes - though one particularly incompetent one gave us what turned out to be completely inaccurate information. The next visit was free, but by the time he got here the tricksy tricksy furnace was on its best behavior again, and no malfunction could be found. But THAT guy gave me the secret decoder ring for reading the morse-code-like error messages that the furnace emits. It communicates its distress signals in the form of a tiny, cleverly hidden, blinking red light. So THIS time, I can give them the secret code! Ha HA!

But first I must go to the hand doctor and have my surgical dressing removed. So much drama lately. The relentless work deadlines continue as well. I'm really look forward to my stint of R&R on jury duty.