Near Miss Weekend

I have three older brothers who from the sound of it were quite a handful as kids. Apparently, when they were young, they played a game on their bikes that involved riding as fast as possible straight into one another, sometimes missing, sometimes not. They called this game “Near Miss.”

Of course as a girl child I had no interest in any kind of game in which I intentionally risked my safety. But now, as an avid cyclist, I intentionally risk my safety just by getting on the bike, although I try my best to prevent accidents. And there are other risks I take, just like everyone else, to get “life” done. This weekend I came as close to Near Miss as I like to.

On Thursday after work I rode with Sherpa and another friend (ON MY NEW PINK TIRES), and afterward decided to finally stop in to the bike shop to get a lax rear brake fixed up. I’d been smashing the brake lever into the handlebar just to get it to grip, and a few weeks before I’d had a horrific experience with trying to get those brakes to grab with near-frostbitten hands on a 45-degree rainy ride. Anyway, I went to the bike shop and they took care of it.

Near Miss Part 1: On Saturday Sherpa and I did a ride with one of our best friends, who has earned two nicknames, Sister and Roomie. From the beginning of the ride, I was shocked at how responsive my brakes were — I barely needed to touch them and they grabbed the rims instantly. Wow, my brakes work! I kept saying. The ride was tough (I am fairly sure I was near fainting on the way up one of the hills). We were tired. Well, Sherpa and I were tired; Sis/Roomie was just peachy since she’s training for the Iron Man (she’s awesome).

So, at mile 44, with one mile to go, unexpectedly we came to a Y-shaped intersection where we had a stop sign and the oncoming traffic did not. Sherpa was ahead of me and saw a car that had no turn signal on, so he yelled “Stopping!” and I swerved to the left to avoid hitting him, and clamped my brakes – HARD – instinctively, falling back on the muscle memory from the brakes needing a lot of grip.

If you’ve never fishtailed a bike, I don’t recommend it. My brakes worked this time – the tires were completely stopped and I slid side to side all over the road and somehow had the wherewithal to let up on the brakes a little and stay upright. I don’t know how. The car ended up turning right, into the opposing lane that I would have skidded off into had I lost complete control. I rode for a few hundred yards, saying “Oh my god,” over and over. There were a few tears at the next intersection. Near Miss.

Near Miss Part 2: Yesterday, I had planned to paint the kitchen. I rolled color out on the walls, using a stepstool for the tall bits, then I switched to a ladder to get the ceiling edges with the brush. A few minutes into the edging, I stepped back, muscle memory thinking that I was still on the stepstool. I missed the step. Sherpa was, of course, on the other side of the oven that we’d moved out to paint around. He watched me fall, in slow motion, flat onto my back off the ladder. Amazingly, although I didn’t put down drop cloths or wear painting clothes, I landed with a full tray of paint upright in my hand and spilled only ONE drop on the floor, which probably flicked off the end of the brush.

Unbelievably, I am not seriously hurt. I mean, yes, everything hurts, including my legs from the tough ride and my back from hitting the floor. But I am really lucky. I keep thinking it has something to do with the residual magic that Manya left with me last week. I spent the night laying on ice packs and marveling at my near misses.


Very Superstitious

I suppose I’ve always known that there was a different Catholic saint that could be called on for every possible reason. But I’d never really put much thought into it, not having grown up Catholic.

When I sold my first house,  I was in a bad way. I had actually just purchased the house a few months prior, and I was almost done with a complete kitchen renovation. Then the Divorce Fairy came to visit. I finished the kitchen and then listed the house. It was on the market for months, and it was a scary, horrible time – for me, and for the housing market.

After it had been on the market for about 6 months, my realtor asked me if I was a superstitious person. Why? I asked. He mentioned that yes, he knew I was Jewish, but many people trying to sell homes would bury a statue of St. Joseph upside down in the back yard. I’d never heard of that before, and thought it was amusing. (Even more amusing was the suggestion that I bury someone ELSE in the yard.)

I never actually followed through on the idea, and in about three more months the house finally sold. I hear the family who bought it is still happily living there. (They’d better be enjoying that quartz countertop!!!)

Fast forward three years and I’m helping Sherpa dig up half his lawn to put in a gravel patio. We are unearthing all sorts of little knick-knacks and treasures: bottles, doorknobs, tools, toys. Rather fascinating, actually – apparently before the houses had been built there the property had been an orchard. And then, out comes a little statue.

Look, a little plastic statue! He says. My jaw drops.

Do you know what that is?! I ask?

He didn’t have any idea what it was. I explained that the previous owner of his house must have buried it there when they were selling the place. He propped it up with the other doodads he’d found in the excavation and it stayed there all winter.

And now another year later I’m selling yet another house. So the little St. Joseph? It’s on its way to my garden. I know I’m Jewish, but hey, any port in a storm, right?

The “Angry Girlfriend” Door

My house is listed on the market, and I’ve pretty much completed the move to Sherpa’s hut. Unfortunately his hut looks as though it’s been bombed. The “spreadsheet” spawned a rip-the-house-apart kind of project: replacing the flooring on the entire first level with laminate hardwood.

“It’ll take a solid weekend to get it done,” said Sherpa. Remembering how long it took to complete the renovations in the kitchen of the house I owned back in ’06/’07, I held my tongue and hunkered down.

So, we ripped up the flooring. No… HE ripped up the flooring. That took a week. Then there was painting. That was all me. Then there was laying floorboards. Things were moving along. We got to a point where the couches could be placed back onto the areas that had floor. We set the TV up in the dining room.

Then, a lightbulb moment stalled the whole thing. Perhaps we should replace the beat-up old sliding door in the back? It’s leaking, it’s bent out of shape, and you can’t unlock it with a key from outside… the door will make things much easier and look so nice! We might even be able to have a dog door that way, if the “fence project” page on The Spreadsheet ever has its day.

Sugar, exhausted after painting the living room.

Well, this meant putting a halt on the floor until the door’s installed. And when Sherpa bought the door, they said it could be installed soon… until they called back and said they’d oversold the doors by one. We couldn’t have the door for another 4 weeks. Nope, no other nearby store has one, and nope, no one else will be able to get one.

Oh, punishment and pestilence! Oh, torture! Another month with an unfinished house, with JUNK EVERYWHERE! Sherpa was decidedly more upset, outwardly at least, because he’d been living full-time with the mess. I had heretofore been able to escape to my pristinely neat condo when the clutter got my blood boiling. Now this place is my home, and it hasn’t been awesome for my psyche.

Well, apparently Sherpa used this to our advantage. I got an email from him yesterday, “Door is being installed Tuesday!”

“How did you do it?!” I asked, unbelieving.

“You really want to know?”


“I told them my girlfriend was so angry that we were held up, and I begged them to help.”

So… aside from the fact that I’m now a little afraid to visit [large home-improvement store] with Sherpa for fear that they’ll smirk about “the crazy girlfriend,” it is pretty interesting that an angry woman is such an effective playing card. Do they have a special stock of items just for the frazzled customers with harping spouses/partners? Amazing.

The Spreadsheet

I offer up this story as a piece of good advice for any couples considering moving in together, especially those who might be a little older, with a lot of stuff.

Turns out my current roommate has decided to take the plunge and move in with her boyfriend. I was sad to hear it, because she’s so fabulous. I put a new ad in on, trying to block out the memories of Vladimir. When I mentioned this at my brother’s Super Bowl party a week later, my sister-in-law asked what I was going to do. I said I would probably look for a new roommate. She blurted, “Oh, Jen, come on, just move in with Sherpa already.” He and I looked at one another and shrugged. My brother said, “What have you two decided about that?” He said, “Well, honestly, this is the first we’ve talked about it.”

And now the decision has been made! I’m moving in.  He said he’s wanted us to live together for a while, but didn’t want to rain on the “Independent Jen” parade. I admit I’ll miss having my own place, but I’m really looking forward to sharing a place with him. He’s never lived with a girlfriend before (MWA HA HA HA), yet he has been so completely accommodating as we plan.

And I mean PLAN. A couple of days after we decided I’d move in to his house, he shared a spreadsheet with me on Google Docs. In it is a page for every room of his house, with columns for furniture items, current location, planned location, “degree of desire,” notes, and moving considerations. Hilarious. Degree of desire! Ha!

I have done my part and filled my share out, and the spreadsheet has turned into rather a life-planning document, with pages for flooring project planing, costs for moving, potential future home improvement projects (that include fencing if there is to be another dog someday!). It’s actually been quite helpful!

I told my best friend about the spreadsheet, and added, “Well, I guess now that there’s a spreadsheet, I’d better tell my mother.”

2010, a Springboard

I like to tie things up into neat packages, and I’m trying to do that with my year. How can I describe it? Was it just a year like any other? No, definitely not – I started the year with a lot of hope and an open heart, working on my own Happiness Project, jumping in with both feet. I tried and learned new things, went new places, had a wonderful year with El Sherpa (“Aunt Jen’s New Boyfriend”), met new people, made new friends and kept the old. Was it a year of revelation? A little bit, in that I discovered what a truly healthy, adult relationship is like, but in essence – and thankfully – nothing earth-shattering happened in my life. Was it all sun and sparkles? No, I had surgery, and there were those AWFUL bits with Vladimir the roommate from Hades. And I crashed my bike. And really stressful stuff happened at work.

But when I put all this together, it feels like maybe the energy I put into focusing on good things when going got tough earlier this year finally came back to me, multiplied, by the end of the year. It feels like I jumped on a giant springboard, which sank, as they do, but then propelled me up. I have high hopes for 2011.

How to Electrocute Your Boyfriend

Step 1: Run lots of space heaters, and overtax your wiring.

Step 2: Shrug helplessly when roommate says,  “Oooh, guys, this outlet feels kinda warm…”

Step 3: Look to Boyfriend to take the reins as Mr. Fix-It (Asian MacGyver, in this case).

Step 4: Plug lamp into socket and yell OK when he flips off the right fuse.

Step 5: Stand over him with flashlight while he takes apart the socket.

Step 6: Drop jaw to floor when he jumps and yells “THAT HURT A LOT” because the outlet is apparently hooked to TWO fuses.

Step 7: Ask if he is OK.

Step 8: When he says yes, laugh and sing all songs you can think of that have the words “electric” or “electricity” in them.

The Twins

I’ve got another “touched” neighbor, and we had a run-in last night. For the first few months after I moved in I would see her on her patio every morning when I walked the dog. We would say hello. She seemed very friendly, even chatty – complimenting my jacket here, my shoes there.

The first sign of the crazies showed up when she knocked on my door and asked if I’d vacuum her house. I said no. She said, “Oh, you don’t clean houses?” I said no. Then, right before Roomie moved out, she and this woman passed one another on the sidewalk – Roomie dressed in black, this woman in white. Roomie says, “Hey, we’re opposite twins!” And my neighbor glares at her and says, “NO. There’s no way we’re related – at all.” After that, I heard through the rumor mill that she’d had to be hospitalized after an episode in which she was running around the complex screaming about the Germans coming to kill us all. I shall refer to her as “The Twins” – for the “twin” exchange and because she seems to be more than one person.

Last night I saw The Twins getting out of her car as I was pulling in to my parking spot and rushing to walk the dog and meet my trainer at the gym. I popped back out of the house with dog in tow, and walked down past The Twins’ house. The Twins was still standing in the door of her car, and then yelled down at me, LOUD: “Stay out of my condo, you F^@&!#& B!*@%!!!! You and your dog!”

Stunned, I looked up and saw her facing my way. I looked down and tried to walk calmly around the back side of the neighboring building. Was she talking to ME? I was the only person I could see around… so… yes? Does she think my dog pees on her garden? Or worse, does she think I was trying to get into her house?! Rattled, and thinking, ANOTHER nutjob? I walked slowly around the back of the building and decided to pretend I hadn’t heard her.

As I came back around toward my place, she was coming up the sidewalk. We have to interact if I’m not going to turn and run. We reach one another, I say hello, and she says, “Hi! Are you a new neighbor?” No, I live right there, I say. “Oh! I don’t recognize you. How long have you been here?” Uh, about a year? “Oh, it’s nice to meet you.” And she extends her hand to shake mine (although mine were already shaking…) and we part ways.

Unbelievable! When I got home from the gym, my bad-dog neighbor ran out to say she’d seen everything, and she asked me what The Twins had said, and was amazed by my story (but also had other similar stories to share). Then she told me she’d seen The Twins come down the sidewalk and knock on my door while I was around the back of the other building. She also told me she and her dog “had my back.” So now I’ve got one crazy neighbor protecting me from an even crazier one!

(On a serious note: I hope she gets proper treatment for what seems to be a true illness.)