Monday, June 25, 2012

Who You Gonna Call?

Friday, one of my colleagues commented, “You must have a guardian angel on your shoulder.”  My response was an indelicate snort, and "I don't think so."

My beloved tractor
We’d had a wild weather week. Torrential rains, flooding, power outtages, and straight-line winds ripped through the entire state. As luck would have it, our little pocket of Mendota Heights went relatively unscathed. Other than a few scattered sticks, I had no damage in the yard at all. All that rain, coupled with nitrogen-releasing lightening, and the grass was experiencing a major growth spurt. With the weather dweeb was promising a rainy weekend, I figured I’d better get the lawn mowed before Shabbat slid in at sundown.  Now, all things considered, Friday happened to be one of the longest days of the year, so I was safe planning dinner first, zen mowing with iPod and earmuffles second, all in enough time to talk to my folks promptly at 8.

The front was fast, and I was already making good time in the back when suddenly the mower stop mowing. The engine was running and I was still driving around, but the blades weren't doing the cutting thing. I drove up the hill to the driveway, hopped off, and immediately noticed the belt was off the cutting deck doohickey. I poked and pulled a bit and realized I didn't have enough understanding of how it was supposed to be attached to monkey with it myself.

The very last thing on the planet I want to do is call the junior son to say I broke the tractor. I knew he would give me the look thinking I wouldn't know he was giving me the look, so I just started thinking about radical options when I spied them down the block: a couple of guys on professional standing mowers. Hmmmm. I bet I could get one of them to come help this poor, tractorless widow. 

As I walk down the street, one of them sees me and I wave in a friendly fashion (note to mother: yes, this was a "Yoo-hoo, Dugans!" moment). The kid stops mowing and walks toward me. As he gets closer, I see the magic words and without thinking I holler, "I'm saved! I'm saved!" 

There it was, right on the t-shirt...those wonderful words: KLECATSKY BROTHERS. 

Tim Klecatsky
I couldn't have been happier if aliens landed! These are my guardian angels! Any time I get into homeowner trouble, the Klecatsky Brothers ride to the rescue in the shiny white pick-up truck to fix what's broken. They removed the jungle in the back and fixed the railroad ties on the side. The guys plowed out my 3 foot snow drifts...and just happened to be plowing next door the day I got stuck trying to go up my un-plowed driveway. Tim and the guys replaced the broken concrete walkway with the beautiful brick pavers. They are the trimmer of bushes and shrubs and the cleaners of stuck gutters....and Tim happens to be getting ready to mastermind the replacing of my buckled driveway. Mostly, Tim humors me... and my nitpicking emails. 

And there they were, the guardians of my sanity, mowing someone else's lawn. I told the kid what happened, and he said, "Don't worry, Bobby'll fix it." And from around the corner came Bobby Klecatsky. He was very kind; he didn't fall down laughing when I told him what happened. A scant few minutes later, he was lying on the driveway putting the belt back on the mower deck, explaining that I probably hit a stick or a rock and the thing fails safe and this is no  big deal. I thanked him profusely and said, "Tell yer brother to send me a bill." He just shook his head, "Don't worry about it. I hear we're tearing out your driveway next week anyway. This is nothing."

There are times when being a widow can be totally overwhelming. There are days I have no idea how I'm going to fix what's wrong. Those are the days I just pick up the phone and call Tim. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Day
Need a guardian angel of your own?  If you live in Mendota Heights, 
just call the Klecatsky Brothers at (612) 328-6862
and tell him the WP sent you.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Whether The Stone Hits The Pitcher......

Well, I was going to write a lighthearted, self indulgent blog when the weather began to unravel. Sirens went off, but they were only for severe storms, not tornadoes. Still, the house was shaking  from the thunder and the lightening was lighting up the sky much too often for comfort. I finally gave up and went upstairs where I could watch non-stop radar loops on the tube from under the covers. 

That's the thing about living on the tundra also known as Minnesota: the weather is frickin' relentless. We rarely catch a break. Either it's dry, frigid -20° or it's +95°F with a dew point over 70°...which means you walk outside and your bone straight hair frizzes into a perfectly natural Afro and any article of clothing is suddenly sticking to your body. And then it just stays like that. Doesn't snow, doesn't rain. It just stays extreme. It can be too cold to snow....and too hot to rain. No matter what the season, Xcel Energy has its hand deep in your pocket. You're either shelling out to keep the house above 60°F in the winter or below 80°F in the summer. You know how that works: heads they win, tails you lose. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...the elections are over in Egypt and gone is the lighthearted blog.

Alexandria - before the election
As I predicted over a year ago, the Muslim Brotherhood now has a president elect. However, before you get too excited, right before the election, the military junta running the country removed the military and the defense minister from presidential oversight and authority, at the same time Maj. Gen. Mamdouh Shahin told the populace, "Trust the armed forces. We don't want power."

They don't want power the same way I don't want a Ba-Tampte half-sour pickle when I get home from work. 

What choice did the citizens of Egypt have anyway?  An old Murbarak crony versus a member of the Muslim Brotherhood? Is that what they wanted back in Tahrir Square? Seems to me lots of folks thought they were having some kind of Arab spring that would catapult them into the 21st century. But the delicate shell of freedom being formed has already been hoisted up as some kind of political piñata just waiting to be smashed. 

Early reports are pretty much guaranteeing that there won't be much change. The junta that is asking for the trust of the Egyptian people are the same guys that declared parliament unconstitutional the week before elections, thereby insuring there would be immediate unrest. They're also not turning over that power they don't want to the new president. So what's he president of, exactly? And now that the Brotherhood is holding the top spot and a significant majority of the seats in the now unconstitutional parliament, anybody wanna bet on how long before women are required to wear headscarves and their jobs are "reassigned" to "better qualified" men? 

To date, the world has yet to see an Islamist government where freedom trumps power. While there is definitely progress in places like Jordan, it's only by the grace of a King and Queen who think outside the box on almost everything...and pay the price at home for that thinking. And even in Tahrir Square a year and a half ago, while freedom was being proclaimed and a government was being toppled, women without headscarves were attacked physically. Remember Lara Logan? That, folks, was a warning shot.

I truly wish the Egyptians fighting for a place in the 21st century great good luck and good fortune.  Nothing could be better than to hear that they’ve put in place a government that is for the people and by the people. At this time, however, it doesn’t look real good for the pitcher. 

And on that happy note, the weather warnings have just started up again. Time to shut down and watch the radar from the safety of my bed!

The Wifely Person Tip o’ the Week
Whether the stone hits the pitcher, or the pitcher hits the stone,
It’s going to be bad for the pitcher.
Don Quixote to Sancho Panza
Don Quixote 
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Monday, June 11, 2012

Happy 100th Blog! ...Now, Get Over Yerself!

I knew this day was coming, but I almost missed it. Had I not had to send my mother yet another copy of the blog (she doesn't do links in email) I might not have noticed that this week is my 100th blog entry.

Now, if Ziggy was here, he would throw his hands up for the happy dance and shout, "It's time for HOW TO TELL A JOKE!" and rerun that warhorse. People still write to me about that if you're of a mind, you can read it for yourself. 

However, these days there are bigger jokes to fry, and you can start with the Wisconsin recall election. To be sure, Governor Walker spit on a good chunk of Wisconsin's population and probably deserves not to be re-elected, and the process of getting the recall was pretty intense. But the recall failed and I can’t say I’m too surprised.

Recalls are for criminal actions, not for political disagreements, and had the recall succeeded, it may have set a precedent for "no confidence" elections, something we don't have in the States. In an exit interview, a woman from Madison said she was about as leftist as they came, and that she detested Governor Walker's politics and policies, but she was compelled to vote to keep him in office because she was afraid of the consequences. “If this thing succeeds, we will have one recall after another." The Republicans, she asserted, will make it frivolous, "like law suits."

Which brings me to the second item of interest: why a recall? Why not impeachment? Wouldn't that at least bring the topic of malfeasance to the table? Malfeasance is a serious charge, one that requires hostile actions with the intent to injure, if not the client in this case, the constituency. The crime currently under investigation has to do with the governor's pre-election campaign fundraising where he is not the target of the investigation, but his reluctance to release possibly damaging emails has created an atmosphere of mistrust. But is that an impeachable offense?
Now all things considered, I'm pretty much left of center myself. Not nearly as left as certain children would like to believe, but left enough to still believe in social justice. And no, I don't like Scott Walker and his underhanded policies. For the record, I do not live, vote, or work in Wisconsin, but they are the next door neighbors and what happens in their state inevitably impacts what happens here. (That and I have a kid in Milwaukee who can't get health insurance even though he works full time...but that's a whole 'nother blog.) 

I am not surprised Governor Walker survived the recall; while it was a passionate outcry, it was not well thought out. It was started in the heat of the moment, and the reality of what a disagreement recall would yield was not well considered. Still, the movement had merit. It rattled more than a few birdcages. And, just one seat changed hands in the legislature and that totally changed the balance of power to the Dems.

The success of the recall process was a strong indicator that the public is not standing idly by. Even if he was not unseated, there was a very clear message sent: that this is not the last time this will be tried. It behooves guys like Governor Walker to take that new conciliatory tone a bit more to heart.  Not that he will.

The Winkle In Wisconsin stands in stark and scary contrast to what is happening in Egypt. The Tahrir Square revolutionaries toppled the many would've liked to have done in Wisconsin… but unlike Wisconsin, they did not have a plan of succession. And now that election day has come, they have put forward no viable least no viable enough to survive the preliminary rounds. Tom Friedman's June 8th column in the New York Times indicates that he's surprised by what's happening now, but I find that disingenuous. How could he be surprised? The Kids in the Square were too busy tweeting to Google instructions for How To Run A County....which got me over 572,000 results.

It wasn't that they didn't know how to ask the question; it was that they didn't know how to think beyond the question.

Perhaps equally important: do we?

The Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week
If you happen to be an incoming freshman at Hudson High School
Shock your teachers ~ come prepared to think OUTSIDE the box ~
prove that if you were going to topple a government, 
you’d know how to replace it. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Roast Fingers - It's What's For Dinner!

Just about 35 years ago, a few weeks before I got married, I was making a "congratulations to us" dinner for my two best friends, Jann and Diane, and me as we were about to get our Master of Fine Arts degrees from the University of Minnesota. Veal Piccata was on the menu and I was happily sauteing the veal when it spattered...catching me on the inside of the wrist. By the next morning it was pretty clear it was pretty bad and Steve dragged me to the health service where my second degree burn was duly popped, cleansed, creamed, and bandaged. 

The next day I left for New York and first on the agenda was a wedding dress fitting. When  the nice ladies were helping me with my sleeve buttons, they noticed the thick bandage cuff. Oh, did they look at me with alarm! No, I explained, it wasn't that; it was grease. I'm not sure they believed me, but they treated me with kid gloves for the rest of the fitting. 

The morning after our wedding, Steve and I returned to the family manse for the requisite "out-of-towners" brunch, and my brand new hubby asked me to touch up his shirt since it had been squashed in the suitcase. Not wanting to bother with the big board that routinely ate my fingers, I put the little one on the floor of the den, started ironing with mom's heavy ol' 1940s behemoth...and promptly ironed my ankle. Steve insisted this was my way of proving I couldn't handle anything hot; my ironing days were, for a very long time, over. 

If Steve were here, he could tell you the story of my kitchen life by narrating the burn scars on my hands, arms, and even the one ankle. Let's suffice it to say there is always a supply of burn pads and a bottle of "New Skin" in the kitchen cupboard. If I had a buck for each "when are you gonna figure out yer hands are NOT made of asbestos?" conversations we had over the years, I'd be a very rich woman.

Well, this is one of those weeks when missing Steve is front and center. The counting of the omer is over, and then it's nine days to his yahrzeit. In shul on Shabbat, I went up for the 8th aliyah, the one for those marking a yahrzeit in the week to come. I happen to share this aliyah with several good friends who lost close relatives this same week, and they literally had my back... and kept me upright. Time seems to have passed in a flash, yet it seems forever since I held his hand in mine. Someone once told me that's the rubberband effect. Whatever.

So even for being a bit disconnected and distracted, I managed to mow the lawn, do laundry, and check off the rest of my usual Sunday stuff. I opted to make the easiest dinner possible:  a London broil on the grill. Moving between the rice on the stove and the steak, I was clearly on autopilot. At one point, I went out, raised the lid and turned the steak. There was a helicopter doing a flyby over the pond, so I was watching it, not my hand, and instead of grabbing the handle, I grabbed the lid.

Looking good...but hurting a lot
OWIE OWIE OWIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I scampered in the house and ran the faucet full blast cold on my fried fingertips. The wrap-able ice pack was right in its place in the freezer (Steve gave it its very own permanent position so I would always know where to find it) and I wrapped it around my hand. Seems most of the damage was mitigated by swift action...born out of practice as much as screaming pain. And there, my hand encased in ice pack, I could hear him: "JESUS H. CHRIST ON ROLLER SKATES, SUE! Could you possibly watch what you're doing ???????????????"

And suddenly I didn't feel the fingers so much. 

Looking down on me
It might sound silly, but it was the sound of his voice in my head that made me stop. It was as if I needed to hear him chide me about not paying closer attention to what I was doing. I wanted to hear him say, "Unscrew you hand and give it to me," as he dragged me to the closest natural light source. "Aw, you'll live," he would say as he would start cutting the burn pad into appropriately sized pieces. And then he would grumble, "Cheap way to get me to do the dishes," with a silly, lopsided grin...even though he would've done them anyway.

Tuesday night I will light a yahrzeit candle, and the boys will each light one in their homes. We really don't need the candle to remember that he left us 3 years ago on the 16th day of Sivan. But for 24 hours, there will be little flickers reminding anyone who happens to see them that he was here. And he is missed.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Remember to say hello to widows once in a while;
no one likes to be invisible all of the time.