Geniuses Prevent Them


“Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them.” – Albert Einstein

Hey people, guess what? I’m no genius.

Sooooo… Turns out I signed a contract with Number 4 Window Company and that said contract, like most* contracts, is legally binding. Good news: I’m getting new windows and doors. Bad news: I’ll be paying through the nose for them. I can only hope that they are worth the money and anxiety I have invested in them.

Turns out I’m no genius, but hopefully I can prove myself an intellectual by solving any problems that may arise by paying ALL THE MONEY to Number 4 Window Company. Problems like destitution and copious Ramen-eating.

*Not all contracts are binding. I once got out of joining the Army – a mistake I made by being spineless and fearful of telling the Army officer “no thanks” – by crying and telling the recruiter guy that NO ONE would want to be in a foxhole with me because I laugh when I get nervous.

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The Acceptance Of Not Knowing


“Maturity, one discovers, has everything to do with the acceptance of not knowing.” – Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves

I have lived in my house for a year now, so the time has come to make some changes. Last year I nearly froze to death because my windows and doors were no better than openings plugged with newspaper. Determined not to spend another winter wrapped in fleece and burning my furniture for heat, I set out to fix the problem once and for all.

I have 8 windows, 2 doors, and 1 sliding glass door. P.S. All of them suck.

I have met with and/or spoken to at least four different window companies. Their estimates ranged from $3,000 to $11,600. The cheap estimate was for the windows only. While it made my check book smile, the windows themselves were only slightly better than my current ones. The next estimate came in at $9,500. These windows were Jeld-Wen fiberglass windows, and the estimate included the sliding glass door in the basement but not the front and back door. If I downgraded to vinyl, the price dropped to about $7,500. The third estimate included the front door and back door, not the sliding glass door, and was a bit more than $10K. I was put off by the hard sell of the salesman and my gut told me that I could do better.

Enter the final estimate.

The last salesman brought samples with him. (The only one to do so.) He set up a heat lamp and showed me how heat came through different windows. He addressed issues I had brought up with other companies and told me that all of my worry-tasks were included in the installation fees, including replacing the wood of my exterior sills before sealing them off. Every little thing I had haggled about with other companies were part of the deal. He talked about Argon, low-e ratings, patented pacer systems, and limit latches. He ran the numbers. Showed me the price. And I died a little (a lot).

We negotiated a bit – me looking sad and pathetic and too nervous to demand much less than what was being presented because, honestly, I had no idea if those numbers were good or bad – him looking sympathetic and making calls to his supervisor. The price came down a bit and I said, “To heck with it,” and decided to proceed. The price was mind-numbingly scary, but everything I’d seen and heard convinced me that, with these new windows, I’d weather the winter frostbite-free.

Now here it is, the day before the measurement appointment, and I’m having total, utter, coronary-inducing buyer’s remorse. Worried to the point of nausea, I contacted my father and told him the situation, told him the cost. When his response was, “Can you get out of it?” I threw up a little in my mouth. My dad thinks I made a bad decision.

Now, it’s at this point in the story where you’re probably wondering why I, at the age of 36, needed to call my father to validate my decision. I will tell you. I am petrified of choosing poorly, because I do it so darn often. My life is a string of decisions that were so clearly not the right ones but that I chose anyway. In certain areas, I do not excel at decision-making. Home improvement projects and money are just two of those many, many areas.

Talking with my dad catapulted me into near-hysteria, which resulted in one sobbing phone call to my sister, three poorly worded texts to friends (i.e., “OMG! I M FREEKIN OWT! 4 REALZ!”), and about 15 minutes of hyperventilating and staring off into space. Then I rallied. Sort of.

I postponed tomorrow’s measuring appointment and am waiting to hear back on if I actually committed to anything with the final estimator. If I did and I’m contractually obligated to proceed, then so be it. I will suck it up, remember that I had been impressed with the product (cost aside), and that whatever they do will be an improvement than what I currently have. Then I’ll just have to spend the next year eating Ramen and air while I pay for the damn windows and doors.

If I am not committed to the final company, then will get one more estimate, bringing the total number of estimates received to five. I got the name of a place from a colleague that I trust. I’ll call that company, set up an in-home estimate, see what comes of that, and then go from there. I will stop hyperventilating and will instead handle this rationally and like an adult, so help me God.

I have lots of choices to make and I don’t know which are the right ones (no surprise there), but I’m fairly certain that I never will. I waffle and hem and haw and worry until the deed is done and I am wading through the fallout. So. Maturity. Let’s get some. Moving forward, I have to find the right in-between place with the decisions I make, where my worry is manageable and my confidence just high enough to count as confidence. And also where I don’t bankrupt myself.

Finding that place will make my blood pressure so stinkin’ happy. And settling on new windows will make my tootsies so freakin’ warm.

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Was There Ever A Cause


“Was there ever a cause too lost, ever a cause that was lost too long…” – Robert Frost

Hey. You people. Do any of you know anything about wicker furniture? I need a wicker-knower to riddle me this: Is there a point at which a piece of wicker/rattan furniture is a lost cause?

Last week I was driving home and saw a chair in someone’s garbage. Something about the lines of the chair, all swoopy and swerved, made my brain go, “POING!” I needed that chair. In a fit of courage, I drove up the person’s driveway, knocked on their door, and asked if I could have their Garbage Chair.

“It’s broken,” the man said. “It’s garbage.”

“That’s okay!” I burbled. “I can totally fix it. I know all about wicker and fixing things and junk. I’m really super handy.” (<– LIE.)

So with his permission, I tossed his Garbage Chair into the boot of my car (<– I’m British!) and drove off, super happy and dreaming Big Dreams of Chair Makeover Madness.

Then I got the thing home and looked at it. Like, REALLY looked at it. It is gray and dry and brittle and the reeds that tie the pieces together are snapped and unraveling. There are nails. And cracks. And old flaky paint because someone painted that sucker an eon ago. There’s a piece missing.

Suddenly Garbage Chair actually looked like garbage.

I got on the Internet and researched how to repair wicker and it looks straightforward, though time-consuming. I could buy new reed and tie the thing all up with fancy knots and upholstery tacks. I could apply linseed oil to (in theory) make it less brittle. I could pray over it. But is it worth it? Oh, ye wicker-knower out there in the great webosphere of knowledge and lore, tell me if Garbage Chair is worth saving.

Here she is, in the back of my dirty car. The photo makes her look better than she actually is. Putting aside her busted up state, you have to admit that she’s swoop-tastically lovely. If I determine that she’s structurally sound, I think I may paint her Super Bright White and use neon plastic wicker to re-do all of her ties. Rattan Garbage Chair + white paint + neon = AWESOME.

P.S. This is what the chair would like it if it had been taken care of. These are the Garbage Chair, all supple and loved.


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An Empty Stomach


“An empty stomach is not a good political adviser.” – Albert Einstein

News flash: Albert Einstein was a genius. An empty stomach is a horrible adviser, and not just of politics. There is, after all, a very good reason we invented the word “hangry.” But since I’m neither political nor hungry, and am instead empty-headed and inundated with home improvement projects, I would like to say instead that, “An empty brain is not a good companion for home improvement.”

Sadly, I don’t have a snazzy portmanteau word like “hangry” to describe my confuddled state of mind.

I have a running list of home improvement projects but I cannot for the life of me fathom how to start them. Knowledge is the problem. As in, I have none. I fear that some time in my 36 years (my birthday is next week… GAH!) the contents of my brain oozed out of my ears and dripped quietly on the floor. If I once knew something, I know it no longer. This includes geography, the words to Eleanor Rigby, all card games, the basic structure of our government, and math.

Last night I sat on my driveway, contemplating my neighbor’s pretty planter boxes. I want to create similar boxes along the side of my house. I looked and looked at the boxes, noting how the tops were perfectly level. I stared at the base of each box, seeing the rows of wood stretch uniformly until they met the sloped ground.

Did my neighbor do math to make those boxes?

Did he determine the rise of the hill, the height and length of each wood plank, and then calculate how to cut and lay the wood to make the perfectly leveled boxes before me? Or did he just put a piece of wood on the hill, eyeball it, cut it, add another, eyeball that and cut it, and so on?

I don’t pitch my tent in the “measure twice cut once” camp, but I don’t think eyeballing this kind of lunacy is going to work. I am not Einstein. I cannot prove the existence of molecules, or explain the nature of space and time, and I certainly can’t figure out how to build a straight box on a slope. So people, my good Internet people, please tell me: HOW THE HELL DO YOU MAKE STRAIGHT THINGS ON NOT STRAIGHT OTHER THINGS?

Seriously, I need help. Or better yet, I should marry a landscape architect. Or a chiropractor. Or a chiropractor/landscape architect. Yeah, a chiropractor/landscape architect. Oh! And a chef. A chiropractor/landscape architect/chef that likes to clean and is handy with DIY projects around the house. That’s what I need.

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Marble And Mud


“Life is made up of marble and mud.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Several months ago, my sister came to me with the idea of registering for one of those mud runs. You know, the kind where people muck endless miles through festering mud pools, jump into pits of liquid dirt, and eventually die from dehydration or being trampled upon. “It will be great!” she enthused. “We’ll put together a team and make a whole weekend out of it!” I must have been high at the time because I somehow agreed to that ridiculousness.

If you know me at all, you know that I hate running. I hate it so much that if my very life depended on me running, I would sooner roll over like a stink bug and let Death come to me. This flaming ball of hatred makes my decision to participate in the Mudderella* somewhat mystifying. Like I said, I must have been high.

But despite all that, I made epic Plans and Resolutions when I got my registration confirmation. I was going to train. I’d download apps and do push-ups and eat protein like the In Shape and Muscled do. I was going to turn myself into someone completely Other and I would ultimately kick the Mudderella’s ass.

None of that happened.

In fact, the only thing I did to prepare for the mud run was worry about it. When worrying stopped being effective, I began planning the things I WOULDN’T do during the run. I wouldn’t climb walls. I wouldn’t go in tunnels. I wouldn’t do any challenge that required people to touch me, which meant the wheelbarrow and piggyback were out. In fact, I told my teammates, I would just go AROUND the challenges. Also, I was walking that damn thing. Because, you know. RUNNING. Eww.

As race day approached, my stressed-out heartbeat took up residence in my ears and all I heard was, “Mud mud… mud mud… mud mud…” I thought my stress level couldn’t go any higher, but then I read The Waiver.

“The Mudderella event is meant to be an extreme test of toughness, strength, stamina, camaraderie, and mental grit that takes place in one place in one day. It is not a race against other contestants, but rather a competition with oneself and the course. The object is to complete the course. Venues are part of the challenge and usually involve hostile environments that might include extreme heat or cold, snow, fire, mud, extreme changes in elevation, and water. Some of the activities include runs, military style obstacles, going through pipes, traversing cargo nets, climbing walls, encountering electric voltage, swimming in cold water, throwing or carrying or getting hit with heavy objects, and traversing muddy areas. In summation, the Mudderella event is a hazardous activity that presents the ultimate physical and mental challenge to participants.”

I officially panicked at “electric voltage.”

The Waiver went on to detail the various injuries one could sustain during the event, neatly categorized by Minor, Serious, and Catastrophic. The mildest of injuries was “scrapes.” The most severe was “death.” “Multiple organ failure,” “broken bones,” and “hypothermia” rounded out the impressive list, making it one of the most terrifying documents I have ever signed.

“It’s a challenge,” my sister said, when I mentioned the electric voltage. “No, it’s the HUNGER GAMES,” I replied.

The day of the run came and went and… I didn’t die. In fact, I surprised the hell out of myself. I abandoned all of my planning and actually went into the muddy tunnels. I tried to climb the walls (but failed). I clambered over cargo nets, slid over berms, and crawled through pits. I even ran a bit. I went five miles through the toughest terrain I have ever experienced and I lived to tell the tale.

My sister has already mentioned registering for our next run. I am considering it.

Seriously, I must be high.

*That’s what the event was called. It’s the girl-only version of the Tough Mudder.

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