I’m pretty sure The Poodle is actively scouting for new digs. In fact, if he possessed opposable thumbs I’m certain he’d be doing web searches now looking for a new place to move his bed to.

Let’s be clear.  I am not abusing my four-legged love though he would be quick to argue otherwise.

Since we’ve moved into our Northern Virginia home it’s been one fix-it problem after another.  In just shy of nine months we have endured a steady stream of contractors and the accompanying noise.  Some of course, were entirely optional, such as painters in the house for over a week.  However, vent cleaning, replacing the defunct water heater, toilet replacement, new appliances being installed, tree removals, and even replacing the rotting deck weren’t planned.

So now we’ve been able to enjoy a week of quiet after replacing the decaying wood deck with a lovely new screened-in one.   It’s been tranquil around these parts without incessant Poodle barking due to drills, pounding and such.  No sooner than we all exhaled into the bliss of our screened-in porch another shoe dropped.

I was sitting in Italian class when the call came from my son (yes…he is STILL in the basement)….and, in light of recent headlines about a man-child in a New York basement, let me not digress….

I excused myself and went out into the hall to take the call.  Actually, I was thinking my son was going to tell me he had lost this job.  Instead he said:  “Mom, there is water dripping from the ceiling in the kitchen. I placed a bowl there….thought you should know.” 

Ya think?

“What?” I roared, causing heads to turn.

Santo cielo (good heavens)….per l’amor di Dio (for the love of God)….can we not catch a break!?

“Mi dispiace professoressa. Ho una problema con il tetto di mia casa!”  (I’m sorry teacher….I have a problem with the roof on my house).

In two minutes flat I was on the road home.  In the meantime, I called my sis asking if she’d look in on the situation before I arrived.  She called me less than five minutes later as I was still in transit to confirm the news.

“The drips are coming down a good six seconds apart,” she reported.  “Your master bath is directly above the area. Maybe its a plumbing issue?”

Naturally, I nearly lost my mind.  What else could go wrong with this house?

Off and running I went to address the situation.  With the help of my sis I figured out how to turn off the water via the main shut-off valve.  I scrambled to submit an on-line claim request to the home warranty company and within minutes received a work order number.  I followed up with a phone call just two blinks-of-an-eye later only to learn that it would be a week before a plumber could come out.

A week?!

I’ll confess I was not….um… calm.  This is my first time with a home warranty company.  Is this going to be the norm?!  I could feel the Purple Minion bubbling up from the pit of my being.

“A week?”  I refrained from adding: Are you nuts?!  “I have water steadily dripping from my ceiling….around the light fixture, I might add!  I cannot possibly wait a week to address the problem!”

So, kicking “you might not be able to go out of network” to the curb, I called my plumber George.  He installed a pretty white potty in my powder room soon after we moved in.

“What’s up?” asks George.

I launch breathlessly into a tirade about the problem finishing with “can you please come out today?”

“Um…no,” was his reply.

Before I had time to erupt in frustration over his answer –which would have been my second lava flow of the day–George says “Lets walk through the problem over the phone.”

So, he Face-times me.  I can see that he is on his back in someone’s bathroom.

“Oh my God George, you’re on  job now!  I am so sorry to bother you.”

“No problem.  It’s what I live for,” he deadpanned.

He walks me through things to check as he continues working on his back on his client’s floor.  Hmm…no, it’s not the toilet in the master bath.  Hmm…all looks good in the shower which is directly over the area that’s leaking.

I’m yakking on Face-Time with George as I rack my brain.  As I pace the floor George makes a request. “Hey, boss lady, can you please stay in one place, you’re killing me here with sea sickness!”

Oh…jeez…right….I’m sorry!  “If it is not coming from the master bath …where is the water coming from?  Though we have been getting soaked with rain lately it cannot be the roof….I mean how can it be?  According to the previous homeowner, It was replaced in 2013.

I walk into the other bedroom and continue chatting with George as I look out the window.  It is then that I can see that a portion of the roof just above the area in the kitchen that is leaking is wet from water dripping from the gutters above me.  I look left, then right.  Everything is dry as a bone except for that wet spot.

“By George, I think I’ve got it,” I say to George.  I think this gutter system is the culprit.”   I profusely thank George for his help and promise to call him soon as we will need another pretty white potty installed.

I call Rocket-man to let him know that I may have diagnosed the problem.  “It’s the Gutter Helmet system.  I tried to schedule a cleaning for it just a few days ago and no one would service it because…well…it’s a Gutter Helmet system.”

Note to anyone thinking about Gutter Helmet for their home: DON’T DO IT. Don’t believe them when they say it keeps stuff out of the gutter. It’s a hassle–fifty-fold, and more–to clean. and if not done just so (read: By a Gutter Helmet professional) it voids their “lifetime” warranty;  most other gutter cleaning companies don’t want the headache particularly since the helmet system is placed UNDER the first row of roof shingles.  It’s by no means easy-peasy to remove the helmet and it’s also EXPENSIVE to do so.

Before I digress into a long diatribe about my first world problem suffice it to say customer service with Gutter Helmet was terrible!  The service technician from Gutter Helmet never showed up.  Naturally, as not one but two pots in the kitchen were steadily receiving water from the ceiling, this warranted plan B.  Replace Gutter Helmet with a more user-friendly leaf guard system.  I called another gutter company and the next day, bright and early….and on time….they new gutter folks showed up.  The guys were super.  They were practically giddy to show me how horrible the Gutter Helmet system was.  There was so much mud and debris in the gutters that they were incredulous the gutters didn’t fall off from the sheer weight of all the gunk.  So, I’m pleased as punch to have new gutters and downspouts.

Who says a gal needs shiny baubles–or new shoes– to be happy?

You’d be wrong however if you thought that was the end of that little drama.

Of course not.  How silly.

The next day my first world drip problem was back.

Another round of sleuthing (and expletives) began.

So it turns out it was not the gutters causing the problem.  It was the HVAC system in the attic.  Apparently the home inspector (the one we paid $875 to perform a thorough home inspection before we bought this house) overlooked YET ANOTHER problem.  You’ll recall the mountain of lint in the basement ceiling because the dryer vent was not venting to the outside! Yep….THAT home inspector.  Grrrrr.

Anyhoo….A call to the HVAC company yielded a quick response.  Within thirty minutes I had a definitive diagnosis: the primary condensation line was clogged which meant the secondary condensation line to the outside would need to come to the rescue.  It would have been able to do its job had it not been THREE INCHES TOO SHORT.

Breathe missy….breathe.

Therefore most of the condensation water was dripping back into the house.  The HVAC guy said, “Your home inspector should have caught that right away.”

I held up my hand.  Don’t get me started was all I could muster.

Rocket-man has dubbed our house “Aquarius”.  “We are waterlogged.” Between all the drainage issues in the yard, leaky faucets, replacing a water heater, leaky toilet, and now water damage to walls and ceiling…..I see his point.

I pull The Poodle up into my lap moments after the HVAC technician, who had worked for more than three hours to resolve the problem, finally pulled out of our driveway well after happy-hour time.

Rocket-man hands me a glass of red wine as we kick back on the deck.  As he takes a swig of his beer, He’s tallying up the fix-it expenses… so far…less than a year of living in our Aquarius home.

I caress The Poodle and ask Alexa to play some smooth jazz.  For a moment I’m lost in the music.  It’s our first world problem.  Too many folks in the world don’t even have a roof that leaks or a condensation line that is too short.

I let Chris Botti and his trumpet, along with the beating heart of my poodle-love, soften the worry and anxiety in my heart.

“First world problems,” I say to Rocket-man.  “I’m chilled.”   Without a shadow of a doubt,  I am grateful for Aquarius and all of her problems and possibilities.



Stress Busters!

My sis is the greatest.  In the mail today I was surprised by a tiny little package.  I didn’t open it right away as I was knee deep in leaf raking.  My back yard was a mess of leaves.  Wet leaves, mixed with dry ones, I raked and bagged leaves for a solid two and a half hours.  I had my earbuds in listening to native American Indian music on Spotify as I worked.  The music selection seemed to fit the quiet of the afternoon.  The rain had pretty much stopped.  The sun was straining to make an appearance after a couple of days of gloomy weather and there was just a whisper of a breeze in the autumn air.  I’ll admit that I’m a tad sore from the effort though It could be a heck of a lot worse if I didn’t work out on a regular basis.  I figure an extra glass of wine is in the cards tonight for the fruits of my labor.

After a luxuriously long hot shower I sat down with my glass of wine and opened the package.  Inside was a little squishy toy.  A skull….specifically a”Los Muertos” stress skull.   

 A huge smile erupted on my face, followed by a joyful laugh.  The Poodle was at my side in an instant to see what was going on.  He jumped up to inspect what he thought was a toy for him.  

No, my four-legged fluffy love!  This one is mine!  And, how perfect it is!  I can squeeze it this way and that as I pace back and forth while I talk to Rocket-man about the pressing issues with his mother.

My Sis gets me (and, I’d like to think I get her!).  For all the deep breathing, punching a heavy bag, and my still sporadic meditation practice, she knows that managing stress can sometimes be a challenge for me (and for her as well I’m sure she’d admit!).  

So my stress du jour is dealing with Rocket-man’s mother.  Or rather….sitting helplessly on the sidelines and watching what is unfolding.  Dementia is draining the personality right out of her.  For weeks now she has been calling many times a day demanding  her car which we have taken away, for obvious reasons.  Her calls have escalated in frequency (sometimes four or five calls over the course of an hour), and her voice has reached a new crescendo.  She is angry. Very, very angry.  Her diatribes at every call are virtually identical, down to the last sentence.  It is not a rehersed script; she truly does not remember five minutes ago. On the one hand my heart breaks.  This behavior is not her fault.  Her mind is  disintegrating.  Her life and her mind are out of her hands now.  Still, it is extremely difficult to be on the other end of the phone listening to the diatribe. The latest call I took while I was trying to find an item at Bed, Bath and Beyond.  I stood in the middle of the aisle next to the coffee makers listening to her red-hot anger.  Thank goodness my next stop would be to my favorite fitness studio. There I would be able to forget for an hour at least.  Naturally,this heart-wrenching decline is causing Rocket-man a great deal of angst. Together, we are trying to be patient because the woman that was is simply (and sadly) no longer.   I am more mindful than ever….but for the grace of God, there go I.  This could be me …or Rocket-man in just a few short years!  This glaring potentiality is just another in a long list that keeps me awake at night.   

Rocket-man is trying to handle the situation with his mother from afar as best as he can as he works long hours and travels near and far.  His sister is the one that lives minutes away from their mother and SHOULD be tackling the immediate stuff (powers of attorney, financial assessments, researching care options, etc.) and communicating …without drama…to her siblings who are at the ready to help.  So many steps need to be taken to get Rocket-man’s mother in a better place and nothing…nothing …is happening!  It is making my head explode.  

I take a deep, deep breath.  

This is not my mother.  There is no use in turning into a purple minion over this.  I have to let it go.    


Having gone through hell last year  dealing with my mother, I can only whack my other stress buster, my “Dammit Doll” in frustration…and then let it go.  Let me assure you, I can do this!  

I think of all that happened last year.   My sis and I–with the loving support of our husbands–had things in place and on the road to manageable within a month after our step-father passed. It took a little over four months,  but we had our mother moved and settled into a wonderful care facility.  We could rest a little easier knowing that she was being cared for in such a beautiful place.   I literally want to smack Rocket-man’s sister to China and back over what must be done and hasn’t been done!   Months have ticked by!   There is no excuse for her inability (and, to some extent, refusal) to dig in and get things done in a timely manner for her mother.  It’s sad. Extremely sad.  We’ve barely recovered from the ordeals of last year –emotionally and financially–and here we go again.  God is giving us more. Aren’t we special


But, in all honesty, as I sip my glass of wine and ruminate on all that is happening in my world and the world around me, I realize that more than ever, I need to give thanks to every. little . thing in life that lifts my heart and brings me even the slightest joy.   If  I don’t, I’ll find myself down the darkest rabbit hole without the hope of any way out. 

So, this silly little stress buster arrived at just the right time!  Every time I look at my little stress buster sitting on the kithcen counter a smile erases that moment of sadness or  frustration bubbling beneath my complicated surface.  When I think of the pain associated with my mother…or the ravages of dementia….or the loss of friendships over the past year….or a host of worries big and small….all I need to do is squeeze my silly little stress skull, or whack my Dammit Doll against the granite counter to get a sweet little release that, surprisingly, brings both clarity and levity to the moment.

There is bliss in that.