Of Mice and Men June 8, 2001
Saturday June 8, 2001 23:27:12

I had big plans for this day. Sketchy, but big.

I wanted to

  • Put new front brakes on the van and get the suspension checked out to see why it's eating up tires
  • Investigate, and hopefully fix a section of the roof over the pantry that seems to have somehow buckled up
  • Help Ruth clean the section of the church building we signed up for. A group of us from church have recently agreed to undertake cleaning the building so we can stop paying a cleaning service and save some money.
  • Mow the yard
  • Go to the library to get some books for Isaiah and maybe me.

I had set my alarm for about 8:30, but ended up getting out of bed about an hour after that. It is Saturday after all.

About 10, I was showered, dressed, downstairs, and checking my email. The fact that there was nothing of interest in my inbox, or on the web (yet- only because Arizona is 2 hours behind us. Dad, you need to start getting up at dawn so that I can have a fresh website to read 1st thing in the morning.) didn't keep me from spending about 20 minutes online.

I decided it was time to get active, so I took the hard-learned first step in any major undertaking around our house- I called the automated bank account phone line to see if our account held enough money to buy the required materials. The rotors I need are about $25 each, and the pads are less than $20, so I figured about $70 would allow me to get everything. Earlier in the week the account had been voluptuously replete with excess funds, so I figured the call would be a formality, but I felt it necessary nonetheless.

It was a good thing I had called because although the account held more than none, it sure did hold less than I thought it should. When I asked Ruth what had happened to our money, she sheepishly admitted to a wild spree of frivolous spending- the power company, house and car insurance, the phone company, even the water company. No insignificant, stupid bill was overlooked; she paid'em all leaving us with enough to easily make it till the 15th but not enough for such whimsical treats as parts for the van.

I was a little peeved that my intention of working on the van was totally foiled and I stomped outside. I had somehow gotten myself into a mood to do something and I didn't want to sit idly. Yes, I know, that's very unlike me, I'll agree, but uncharacteristic or not, I wanted to be productive. "Well," I thought to myself "I'll just have a look at that roof, then."

I got the 6' stepladder, drug it around the house, and fooled around with it long enough to realize that it was just too short to be of use for the task at hand. By this time Ruth had come outside and asked what I was doing. I told her and went back around the house to get the extension ladder which would be plenty tall enough if I could just figure out a good place to put it to get me up on the part of the roof I needed to get to.

I drug the ladder around the house and stood looking up, scouting a good place to set up the ladder. I would have liked to put it right by the patch of roof I needed to work on, but a 2' eave didn't allow me to get up there if I leaned the ladder against the wall and the gutter (which I didn't want to smash) prevented me from leaning the ladder against the edge of the eave. I finally decided to lean the ladder on the edge of the roof covering the back porch. It didn't have a gutter or an eave, but the slope of the yard would make things a little precarious. I propped it up and discovered that it was too short without extension, so I stretched it out a few rungs and set it up again- still too short. I clicked out a few more rungs, got a good hold on the ladder to put the upper end against the edge of the roof, stepped back, looked up- and was blinded by the sun which had just that moment crested the upper peak of the roofline.

I couldn't see to set the top of the ladder with the sun in my eyes and I flung it down in disgust.

"What's wrong," asked Ruth.
"Whaddaya think? I'm blinded!" I retorted (rudely in retrospect).
"Blinded by what? What's wrong?"
"What do you think I'm blinded by?... The sun, of course. I guess I'll have to work on the stupid roof later after the sun's angle has changed."

Now I was really steamed. By this time I was getting sweaty from hauling the ladders around and I still didn't have anything to do. I went inside and paced around a little bit. I went back outside and looked idly around. I went back inside. Isaiah had asked Ruth to get his dinosaur set out and was creating a mesozoic adventurescape on the family room coffee table. I went back outside and hit upon an idea.

I had been thinking for a while that the back porch was a wreck- all junked up with, well, junk and messy looking with dead leaves and blown dirt all over the indoor/outdoor utility carpet that covered the floor. I decided to do a full-scale spring cleaning on the whole back porch, despite the fact that spring is just about gone.

I started moving the chairs out into the driveway and had begun relocating the vast and varying array of other stuff when Ruth came out and after asking me what I was doing, started moving junk herself. I was, to be honest, a little irritated by her help since part of why I went out back was to get some solitude, but I knew better than to say anything.

We cleared off the porch- nothing remained but the plastic Rubbermaid cabinet that contains and organizes more junk. I had brought out a radio we had and tuned in the Saturday morning bluegrass show on KDHX and not only had my mood improved about 100%, but I was now grateful for Ruth's assistance as the true magnitude of the task I'd set became more and more apparent.

We'd cleared the porch and while I cleaned out the inside of the cabinet, Ruth swept the leaves and crud off the carpet in preparation to vacuum. By this time, of course, Isaiah had realized he was alone inside and he came out to "help" us.

Ruth cleaned the glass on the back door while I vacuumed, stopping more than once to shout some admonitions to Isaiah. Then Ruth hosed off and cleaned the chair frames while I wiped down various surfaces that had become covered with the pervasive dirt of indeterminate origin that coats stuff left outside.

The chair frames dried quickly in the heat of the bright sun and soon I was rebuilding the stucture of the outdoor space by placing the chairs and other furniture that would be left out there. I had decided that a lot of the stuff that had been cluttering the porch would henceforth dwell in the basement so I went in the house and back out through the cellar door and started hauling stuff in.

I was far from being done lugging the junk to the basement before I got a fan from inside the house to cool me as I sat and rested a while. By this time I was very glad Ruth had come out to help me. I probably wouldn't have had enough steam to have finished if she hadn't. When we were finally done a check of the clock told us we'd been working on it for three hours.

It sure is nice to have it finished, though. As nice as it is to sit out on our back porch, the enjoyment is multiplied when the porch itself is tidy and uncluttered. I'm looking forward to spending some serious reading time out there in the immediate and distant future.

After lunch and a bit of relaxation, we headed over to the church building to clean our assigned area. The plan for members of the congregation to clean the building ourselves instead of paying a cleaning company to do the job is new and predicated partly on the fact that the outfit that was doing it was charging a lot of dough for a crummy job. Some vocal members of the congregation think this is a bad idea. It is somewhat ironic to note that none of those folks have signed up to lend a hand. Funny that they are the same people who never show up for work/painting days.

Once again, we had a great deal of "help" from Isaiah. Somehow to him "Go in the other room so I can vacuum in here without you underfoot" means "Stand right here beside me, please",but we got the job done anyway. Isaiah actually was a very good helper when I went out to change the sign.

Changing the sign is someone else's responsibility, but I figured that the title of tomorrow morning's sermon is not very likely to be exactly the same as last week's, so I flipped through a Bible and came up with a good verse of easily-signable length (The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom Proverbs 9:10), gathered up the letters I'd need and asked Isaiah to come along with me.

He seemed interested in "doing the sign" and held my hand as we trekked about 50 yards out to the sign. As I took down the old letters and put up the new, Isaiah stayed right with me and didn't mess with the letters. Our sign, like most, has a clear plastic cover, hinged at the top, that flips up to provide access to the sign itself. Our cover, though, doesn't have any kind of mechanism to hold it up, so while I was removing and replacing letters, my neck was bent as my head held up the sign- the top of the text area is probly 7' up and the bottom is about 3' off the ground so I was sort of enclosed in a plexiglas sandwich while I was changing it. This made the assistance Isaiah rendered of handing me a couple of letters I had dropped a very valuable service. He was pleased to have been a part of it and as we later drove off to go home he shouted "Read our new sign, Mommy!"

The day was about shot when we got home at 5 pm. It was too late to get started mowing- especially since I was too tired to do it anyway. I hadn't gotten to the two most important items on the to-do list I'd formulated this morning. In fact, the extension ladder still lay right where I'd thrown it down this morning. It's still laying there right now, too.

Ruth and I were both done-in, though. We sat out on our newly reclaimed back porch while Isaiah, who'd fallen asleep on the way home from cleaning the church building, slept in his bedroom. We decided that we could accomplish one more task on the list. We'd go to the library later and get some books. We also had to go to the grocery store for a few items and I'd decided it might be nice to go to our favorite local mexican restaraunt for supper. We may not have enough for a set of brakes, but we could afford to eat out after a long day of work.

All in all I'm satisfied with our day's accomplishments. My plans for maintenance of house and car were never acheived, but it sure is nice to have an uncluttered outdoor relaxation space now, and though I didn't mow, the grass doesn't really quite need it yet. Anyway, those of us who are married and especially those with children know how priorities shift and tasks get rescheduled. We got some stuff done, just not the stuff I had intended to do and we all had a good time at supper.

The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men Gang aft agley, - Robert Burns

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