Friday, January 25, 2008

The Washing Machine Blues

If your automatic washing machine's instruction manual says to be sure to "remove the cotter pins," take my advice and be sure to.

Have you ever thought you were doing everything right and later realize you hadn't done anything right at all and had one of those head-smacking "DUH!" moments? Well I have, and it was just yesterday...

For the past several weeks, well months perhaps, my washing machine had been making some strange sounds - some clanking, clunking, and chugging sounds to be exact. And since I love to live in the surreal reality of Denial, I heartily did my best to ignore it. As the days went by I noticed that every time I put a load in the washer I winced, cringed, or otherwise jammed my fingers in my ears and singsonged, "I can't hear you! La!La!La!" as I skipped away as fast as I could.

Friday, when I went down to take a load out, lo and behold, the clothes were sopping wet and soapy. Of course I fiddled with the machine and set the dial to "spin," forcing myself to believe that the power had gone out, hence the reason why the clothes hadn't finished washing. Ah, the Power of Denial!

Instead of the usual mystery sounds emanating from the machine, I heard the overwrought sounds of the motor as it struggled to kick into gear, replaced by a horrid buzzing, and then, nothing at all. The washer had finally given up the ghost.

"Aw, great!" I muttered. "What else can go wrong?"

Most decidedly, I was being very unfair. My poor old washer had given me twelve faithful years of service - it hadn't failed me once. How could I complain? At the time, I think I had a reason to grumble as in the span of a few months the dryer had died, the furnace blower had clunked out, and the car had needed several repairs and new tires... I just couldn't help myself but wonder, "What could possibly break next?"

I had to rinse and wring out the clothes by hand and this pleasant task forced me to remember the good old days when I worked as a turn-of-the-19th-Century washer woman. I picked up the phone and direct dialed my hubby.

"We're buying a new washer this weekend!" I threatened.

He had a more practical approach. "Let's see if we can fix it first," he said.

I reluctantly agreed. After all, we're not millionaires and if we could save a few hundred bucks by doing a homeowner repair, why not?

On Saturday, after consulting with a few friends, we replaced the belt, but even with the new belt we found that the problem was the motor, it just couldn't do it anymore. We ended up buying a new washing machine online - the mate to the dryer we had purchased a few months before - and we picked it up on Sunday morning.

It was a pain hauling the old machine out to the curb and bringing in the new one, well, I wouldn't know as hubby and a friend were the ones who did the heavy-work, but they sweat and swore a lot, so I suppose it was difficult. After the new machine was installed, we did our best to get it level, and then, thrill of my day, I would be the first one to try it!

By this time, hubby had wanted to go out for a bit. I didn't mind. I was going to wash skool clothes and get the kids ready for bed, no big deal. What happened when he was gone? I heard the worst rumbling I had ever listened to in my life. At first I thought it was a snow plow. The dog barked ferociously. Then I thought it was an earth quake, but those are few and far between in this area of the country. And then I knew what it was...the washer.

I ran down the stairs to find the washer "walking" all over the place, most specifically "spinning" and ready to rip the hoses from the pipes. Needless to say, my first thought was that the machine wasn't leveled properly, so I spent the next hour or so fiddling with that and trying to finish only the necessary laundry.

At the time I didn't think too much about it and decided that I'd take care of the machine later. When I returned to the machine in preparation to wash I started from zero, re-leveling the machine from square one and liberally referring to the instruction manual. I washed some more clothes but, when it came time for the final spin, was still having troubles.

I was covered with lint and spider webs and my knees were aching from lifting and tugging at the machine, to say I was a little bit upset was an understatement. I had been over and over the instructions and could find nothing in the troubleshooting that was helpful. There was a brief mention of washer walk, but nothing more.

I called my hubby to complain and he promised that we would fix the problem as soon as he came home from work.

After dinner and dishes we went downstairs to try again. He leveled the washer from zero and we put a load to wash. The Walking Washer Syndrome persisted and we didn't know what to do. Call the manufacturer? Return it to the appliance store? Beat it with a monkey wrench? We didn't know.

Finally, with a flood light at hand and the instruction manual, we propped up the machine and looked underneath, feeling the undercarriage with our hands to see if something was amiss. Then I saw it.

A long silver pin attached to a plastic strap in which the electrical plug had come encased.

What did the manual say? "Make sure the cotter pins have been removed," and nothing more.

I gave the strap a hearty tug and pulled it out. We put the washer on its feet, checked for level, and commenced to spinning the last load of clothes.

What happened?

The machine worked perfectly. Actually, it worked like a dream.

If that wasn't the biggest "DUH!" moment, I don't know what was.

Freelance Writer, Extraordinaire

Just as in the 1994 release of "Little Women" starring Winona Ryder, I, too, can exclaim as Jo did when she discovers that she has sold one of her stories, "I'm an author!"

Yes, it's true. I was given a freelance assignment and the piece was published in a local magazine. And, while it's not like "The Lost Duke of Gloster," it is something I've written and now my name is out there for people to see. Even though it took quite a while for me to become published for pay, it has happened and I couldn't be more pleased.

I've entered contests and worked on fiction and poetry pieces since 1999 and, while I've won a few of these contests, I have never had anyone purchase something I've written. It's a good feeling, and a strange one, too. There's something about looking in a real magazine and seeing the article that you took such pains to write and, despite looking it over with a critical eye, when your name is in the credit you realize, "Wow! This is mine, this is me, I wrote this!"

The thing about magazine writing is that, technically, the article isn't mine anymore - they bought exclusive rights - but, it's mine in the sense that I wrote it and the editor did make some changes for consistency in style and space limitations, but it's still mine. Now I have a real "clip" to add to my credits and another entry for my writer's resume. Cool!

The next step for me? My dream would be to find a part- or full-time paying writer's job, but a goal can be to begin and continue as a freelance writer; either way I'd still be the happiest Real Writer around!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Holidays Are Over

Where does the time go between Thanksgiving and the New Year? They say time flies when you're having fun, and I ask, Are we having fun yet? It was all a blur for me and now it's over. But I guess I'm not too sad. While preparing the house for Christmas has its nostalgia, it certainly is tiring. And I'm not even including the presents and the food and the partying!

We have loads of decorations and, with kids in the house, we can't get away with not putting them all up. So, every nook and cranny had a decoration - swags of greenery over the doorways, strings of lights, candles, various nativity scenes, lots of Christmas tree decorations, door hangers, and window decals - you name it, we've got it. Well, one thing we didn't put out was the giant inflatable snow bear...I cleverly forgot to unpack it this year! (tee-hee) All in all, we decorated for a day straight and then had to maneuver around it for several weeks.

The kids helped me decorate the Christmas tree, of course. I handed over the ornaments and they hung them. Each and every one. And since they are restricted by height, the decorations were clumped around the middle and bottom of the tree. Mom had to do some rearranging. And I'm forgetting to mention that I absolutely can't dispose of any previously crafted item - children have memories like elephants. "Mom, where's that paper advent ring I made in preschool? How come we can't put that out too?" I have an entire box dedicated to these treasures of Christmases Past. It takes some fast thinking to fire off reasons why we can't put them on display.

Like every year the present wrapping takes place two days before Christmas. By the time I got the kids to go to bed and go to sleep, it was eleven o'clock, and then mom and dad had to spend an hour up to our elbows in wrapping paper. To top it off is the cat. Scotty, my Scottish-Persian Sailor Cat, is fascinated by anything and everything rustley and crinkly, so his favorite part of Christmas is the bows and plastic shrink wrap. As I put the finishing touches on each present - name tag and bow - he was waiting patiently in the wings. I'd place a present under the tree and, when I'd turn my back, he'd pounce.

After he ripped off the fourth or fifth bow, clamped in his mouth like a prize mouse, he bounded into the dining room to devour it. I snatched the bow away and hubby replaced it with a smidge of scotch tape stuck to Scotty's ear. If you have a cat you know that they hate to have their ears messed with. Boy was Scotty mad! He sat in the corner and pouted for a while, ear flicking furiously because of the tape. He finally pawed it free and, thankfully, left us alone and we finished the wrapping.

The next two days went by too quickly, but we managed to pull it together by the afternoon of Christmas Eve day; went to church and then got everything ready for our guests. We had a great time, lots of friends and family came to eat, drink, and be merry (hey, there's only one of me, but you've got to want to try!) and pass the time together. The nice part is that even though many of our friends don't have family living in Michigan, we made them feel like they were a part of our family.

Christmas morning was nice, even though we slept until ten (perhaps a world record in a house with kids). The children seemed pleased with their presents and spent the rest of the day playing and enjoying and us relaxing and recovering.

The days between Christmas and New Year were full - I would have to say that this year was very nice and we truly enjoyed ourselves with all the get-togethers and gatherings. Before we knew it, New Year was upon us, and then it was time to take down the decorations and return them to their respective bags and boxes to guard in the attic until next December.

One thing is certain, it seems if I don't blog about things as they happen, when I do have time to muse on them I can't seem to remember their pertinence, if they had any to begin with. Not that Christmas doesn't have pertinence, but that there are many things that happen in our lives that do and if we don't make note of them, the fine details slip away. But I won't cry over what is done and gone, only look forward to more Christmases to come. And it is on that note that I am glad that January has begun.