It started two weeks ago with a harmless chirp. A tiny tweet. I heard it, but deep down in my bat cave, I was not alarmed. My eccentric sonar-like echolalia informed me that a smoke detector must be beeping...somewhere...
Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, already know, and those of you that do not really should. I have a rather quirky relationship with smoke detectors. Actually, more precisely, just ONE smoke detector.
The one in the bedroom.
The one I talk to.
Well, the one I talked too, once, a long time ago, in the middle of the night, when I was all alone in the house, and couldn’t sleep. I even made a little party out of being alone and ate chips and crackers in bed while curled up with a good book, and ended up with crumbs everywhere, and then had to get out the vacuum cleaner, and then looked under the bed and had to find the vacuum attachments for a really thorough cleaning, and about two hours later found myself wide awake and irritable and staring at the ceiling.
At the smoke detector staring at me. So I yelled at it.
And it blinked back at me. A little red light.
We had a conversation. The smoke detector and I. One blink for yes and two for no. We talked about life and love and parenting, our fears, and whether a Dyson was the best vacuum in the world, and it was a lovely conversation, as it made me feel so much better that I fell asleep.
I was thankful for being watched over, tended to, cared for day in and day out, that I began to wait for the red light to blink good night.
It made me smile.
I mean where else in the world does anything care that much about your personal safety, that it is willing to watch over you, for the simple meal of a 9 volt battery once a year! Talk about a cheap date!
However, taking someone or something for granted, being negligent, not returning a favor, forgetfulness, can result in a loss of trust.
May lead to a lack of quality assurance. Poor performance. Distancing. Separation and oh dear, even abandonment.
A little forgetfulness can lead to a little chirping.
And herein lies the moral of the story about to unfold:
A little chirping, one solitary blip, one miss, and then another and another, is a recipe for disaster. For like all things in life, it doesn’t take much for a small oversight to create a ripple effect that can spiral out of control.
Week One: 11 PM. One chirp.
Week Two: 12 AM. Two chirps. 3AM.
Two much longer and more insistent.
The beginning of the wild goose battery chase. No more chirping, now it is 11PM and the smoke detector in the bedroom is screaming at the top of its lungs, or is it? Maybe it’s the one in the hall. But wait, oh no, now the one in the guest bedroom is....the scream slowly winds down like a leaking helium ballon with a slow whining shriek. Okay. Okay. Ladder out. Change the battery of the smoke detector in bedroom #1 and Lights Out.
One hour later. Full on screeching. Screaming alarms. Full tilt. Heart pounding OMG where is it coming from? It will not stop. It will not stop. Maybe there IS a fire. Check the porch. Check the attic. Check the stove. Are the red lights blinking? Some are red. Some are green. Which one? All of them? Together? Get the ladder. Find the batteries. Hurry this sound is piercing my pajamas and my skull...eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee...it stops. Just like that.
Tiptoe. Walk on tiptoes. Pull back the covers and slide in, eyes averted. Make no eye/blink contact. The smoke detectors are detecting. The smoke detectors are on steroids. Shhh. Don’t wake them. Maybe the new battery upset their equilibrium and since they are all connected, yes connected, now they need to reach electrical homeostasis. Balance. Smoke Detector Nirvana. A Zen State.
We need a ZZZZ state. A state of ZZZZ’s. Ah.
Three thirty AM. This is not a drill. This is not rocket science. I smell a rat and leaping out of bed begin what will be a two hour wild goose chase involving ladders and batteries and swearing and cursing and hoping neither of us fall down and break a hip, because no one would ever hear us screaming over THIS LOUD MIND BLOWING ENDLESS SHRIEKING SCREAMING TIRADE.
At 4AM a thought belatedly crosses my mind. We have an alarm system. Our smoke detectors are connected to it. Why is no one calling? THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO HEAR IT IN THEIR OFFICES TEN MILES AWAY. Nope. I called them. Nothing showing up on their screens.
NOTHING. Ah. Their three, they remind me, are not yelling. The ones that are yelling are the EIGHT other naughty children we installed to meet city code. That means we have ELEVEN smoke detectors and only EIGHT are screaming.
What a relief.
4:30 AM. I don my swimming ear plugs, my husband is digging through the drawer for more 9 volts, and I decide to turn to the Internet. The Internet knows everything. Even at 4:30AM. So I type in my ardent search....
Why are my smoke detectors going off...in the middle of the night...and will ...not...stop...WILL NOT STOP!!
Aha! A forum. A chat room on smoke detectors that scream in the night. Ceaselessly. Endlessly. Help is near.
Page after page of desperate pleas across cyberspace. Over and over mindless pleading. Why oh why oh why? And then like all chat rooms, some smart aleck fake electrical wizard posts a two page directive on how to rewire your fusebox, disconnect and restart and reboot and upload or was it download, and then the site blossoms into line after line after line of profanity.
Followed by the extremely helpful and considerate fellow who plays his punch line by simply typing....Beep...Beep...Beep...and the profanity shatters the screen.
Five AM. It is quiet. We needed the REALLY TALL ladder for the last one and we are trying not to bang into the walls moving it back into the garage. We are bleary eyed and wary and not sure if the siege is truly over. We are not speaking. We are not angry. We are frightened. They might hear us. Shhh.
Besides. Dawn is peering in through the windows and the little devils never chirp during the daytime.
Only in the middle of the night. Just like when our kids were little. Projectile vomiting at
midnight. Night terrors at 2AM.
When morning comes, we sigh. Safe.
Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. NO!
I decide to call the only other people I know who have a command of the keeping people safe at all costs protocol.. The Fire Department. My husband refuses to call. He is embarrassed. But not TOO embarrassed to coach ME while I call. I do not use the emergency number and the woman who answers is an angel An angel, I swear. She tells me that they deal with this all the time and she can send a fireman out to help us.
Imagine that. Help is on the way.
And so is the bright red fully loaded firetruck. Right in front of our house. And three fully armed and prepared for battle firemen striding up the driveway. And our neighbors hovering across the street looking on. I laugh and wave, then think, no, this is SERIOUS and these men are here to HELP. But the fire truck? I hope the smoke detectors can’t see it through the venetian blinds. They might play dead and make us look very very foolish.
The firemen are kind. They are brave. They walk right up to each and every one and stare them down. No yowl, no growl, no shriek or whoop, not a wail. Not even a twitch or a chirp. Because. The news is not good. The detectors are past their sell date. Kaput. The aging virus has contaminated them all and they must be replaced.
Thus the firemen take OUR vitals, smile and wave good bye as we begin the long and arduous surgical removal of EIGHT detectors and replace them with new ones. Up and down the ladder once again. Out with the old and in with the new. It takes almost all day. But when the lights go out, we crawl in bed, and hold our respective breaths...silence.
The red light blinks at me. My husband carefully read to me the information on the side of the package before installation....the red light beeps every 40 seconds as a test.
But I know in my heart that we are responsible for this fiasco. We should have returned their attention. Should have checked much sooner. A little TLC on a regular basis. Some recognition of service rendered. Attention paid.
So when I hear his snore, I crawl out of bed and find the box in the garage with the tossed out detectors, and lean down and say...
Thank you for your years of service.
As I climb into bed, I have one final task. I look up...
Welcome Home, I say.
Then I count...1..2..3...4..and at 5...not 40...
Never discount the power of kindness.
Or the importance of keeping the conversation fresh.
Friday, May 23, 2014
Showers the Sky
Light after light after light...
Memorial Day fireworks, our traditional display of honor, cannot compare to the spectacular display overhead.
Tiny pinpricks of light.
Flashes of brilliance here and then gone.
Those brave hearts lost to us forever.
It is the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend, and soon festivities will begin. Barbecues, festivals, trips to the Farmer’s Market, late night gatherings, friends and family huddled nearby. Perhaps there will be a parade. A fireworks display.
A long weekend, a race at Indy, the goose bumps on my arms as Jim Nabors sings “Back Home Again In Indiana” for the very last time. Overhead, jets will buzz the infield. Thousands will doff their hats and headgear, place hand over heart as the National Anthem soars over the loudspeakers.
Did you take a moment?
To recall that Memorial Day is a day to honor the fallen. The lost. Those who will not return to us again. The names on the graves, the known, and those who lie in fields marked by small white crosses dotting the country side across the sea and here at home in Arlington, the nameless. The soldiers at their posts guarding the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
It is our job, the ones left behind, to bless those who mourn, who weep, to remember them. To make them...
Known for their bravery, their steady determination. their strength of character and their dedication to preserving the welfare of a free nation.
Remember them not for where they fell, but for where they stood.
They stood up for you. They stood up for me.
If nothing else, look up at the night sky as the tiny lights flash and stream. Perhaps Mother Nature does know best. Perhaps, She, felt we all needed a reminder that they are still with us. Tiny pinpricks of light, each a soul flying through the universe, sending us a glimpse of eternal light.
Reach up. Raise a hand. Wave a greeting and you just might catch one in the palm of your hand. Hold it close and be sure to simply say...
And if you are a clumsy oaf like me and not particularly lucky when stargazing, do the next best thing....
Say it with your heart.
I remember you.
Comet 209P/Linear is transmitting a Memorial Day message.
Like every poppy in the field...
Each shooting star in the night sky...
We salute you...
With hand over heart.
We remember You.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Equals a lot of hot air desperate for escape and reminds me of...
Stay with me here a minute.
Say it to yourself over and over like a mantra.
Junior High. Junior High. Junior High.
Remember? No? Wanna forget? Yeah.
The windy years. When everything blows up in your face, including your face. You have an attractive picture of yourself from Junior High. Nope? Didn’t think so. Did you know that it is a scientific fact that with the onset of adolescence, one’s nose grows disproportionately faster than the rest of one’s face which causes your appearance to appear less than symmetrical. Now add the sprouting of facial hair, boys AND girls, acne, boys AND girls, the painfully aching desire to stand out and fit in at the same time, which leads to wild and sundry experimentation with hair styles and clothing choices as upsetting to your parents as possible, and you have...pictures that should be buried in a landfill and never unearthed, especially if you are a candidate running for office.
When the wind, which was once the rough and tumble frollicking breeze of childhood, suddenly changes direction and only blows one way, and anyone who disagrees with you is just plain stupid. Dense. Dumb. Ignorant. Out of touch. Old.
Just like your parents.
Once the object of your affection, the source of your personal safety, the cheerleaders at your side from crawl to walk to run. Your personal chauffeurs, your buddy in the tent at camp, the nurse holding your head so you won’t fall into the toilet while you heave over and over in the middle of flu season. Your 24 hour ATM machines. Your Get Out Of Jail Free Card thank God it’s only a dent and no one was injured ambulance chasers.
Those parents. The ones who held your hand while you crossed the street, now you beg to crouch down behind the steering wheel when they drop you off at school. The ones with the black socks and the weird hair. Them. The ones who used to know everything, now know nothing. Well, they know something. But they are so old. So out of touch. So out of date. So inferior in intellect. So slow to change. So unaware. Sigh.
It starts with the hot air of a sigh. Then eye rolling. Then shoulder shrugging. Then an air of dismissal. And soon, it goes from hot air to really steamy. And the venting begins. You don’t understand. You don’t get it. You’re stuck in the past. Jeez. Please.
Leave. Me. Alone.
If you can’t or won’t or don’t agree with me, then you are, you must be, you surely are WRONG.
And as there are few Junior High pictures that any of us would care to post, the parents of Junior High Schoolers rarely have pictures taken during that same era that they would like published. For this is about the time hair starts to fall out, balding patterns develop, crow’s feet and worry lines are etched, blood pressure soars, sleep deprivation develops and bad nutrition from eating while standing at the counter after screaming up the stairs one last time begins. We, the parents, do not worry about the poor, care little about the earth’s resources, wear shoes made of leather, gasp, or drink tap water unaware of the parasites leeching into our pores. We are politically incorrect, intolerant of change, incapable of mastering technology, listen to the Carpenters on the radio for God’s sake, and emit carbon willy nilly while mowing the lawn.
It is at this point that the hot air swirls ever higher, rushes ever faster and is soon a developing storm on the horizon. So we bend like the trees, but we do not break. Because parents have been to the dark side, remember those doomed days, can hear our own voices railing against the parental machine and collapsing the day we heard the words slip out of our own mouths followed by a slap to the forehead and...oh I sound like my mother...
You see, in the grown up world, the art of conversation is a two way street. Or it used to be. With two people, standing on the same street, face to face. Once upon a time in a land very far away, people spoke and others listened. Then a pause and others listened while people spoke. And guess what? They didn’t have to AGREE. Oh sometimes they did, and sometimes they didn’t or sometimes they agreed to disagree, or to simply avoid the arguments because they just wanted to spend some time being TOGETHER.
Young and foolish is one thing. Older and intolerant is quite another.
On the Internet. In the marketplace. At school. On the highway. In Tweets and on Facebook. Commentary on blogs and in social media. In politics and across the globe. Across the fence into our neighbor’s yard.
A lot of of hot, grandstanding, bull-throwing, gossip mongering, vile and hurtful rhetoric. Hot air rising off hot headed blowhards. You knew these people in Junior High. You know you did. Maybe you were even one of them once upon a time. We all were. We all thought we knew it all. And if you didn’t agree with ME, there was something wrong with YOU.
Well, I think I know how to let some of that hot air out of the balloon. Just a small tiny leak. To let in a pinprick of light. Take the Anonymity out of the Avatars and require that anyone posting a comment state their real name, not some clever screen name, and in place of their Avatar photo...post their Junior High school picture.
Be brave enough to put their braces, rat tails, Goth piercings, bad hair, geeky, goofy, and underdeveloped selves on display.
OR...a picture of the real you...the face you want the world to see...to match the voice you want the world to hear...
I promise I’ll do it too...if I could just find that picture...I’m pretty sure I used a lot of hairspray on my helmet hair...and is that a unibrow...ummm...that one is not from my good side...
The Yard Yetis A Gardeners Tale continues...