Feeling stronger every day

For a few hours today, I was the strong one.

I mean physically strong. I was using my core strength to power a battery-operated screwdriver through wood and masonry. And I was doing it because suddenly my sister Therese’s arms were too tired to provide enough strength to accomplish the job.

It felt amazing. I picked up that tool, put some muscle behind it, and attached board after board to the garage wall while Therese held the boards in place.

Holding boards in place is my job. It’s what I always do.  I am the helper. It is usually her vision, her tools, her know-how and I have to fetch and carry.

I think the last time I was stronger than Therese was when I was 4 years old. At a year behind me, surely her 3-year-old self had to be weaker than me.

But she soon surpassed me. By high school, I was writing for the school newspaper and she was winning state medals for hurdles, sprint medleys and other athletic feats.

My athletic endeavors included biking to my job after school.

I was so pumped up about this change in circumstance that I insisted we call Mom over the lunch hour so I could crow about my newfound status as Queen of Strong.

“I’m calling you now,” I told her, “because I feel like I won’t be able to keep this up through the afternoon.”

Sure enough, by mid-afternoon I had sore knees, an aching back and arms that felt like jelly.

“I give you back the crown,” I told Therese as I turned the tools back over to her.

Sure, she’s back in control now. But for a few hours on a sunny July afternoon I was the Queen of Strong. She admitted it to me. She admitted it to Mom. That makes it true.

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Dad is in the garden

On a hot, sweaty day like today, I think of Dad.

I was planting some clearance-priced perennials ($1.24 at Shopko, can you believe it?) and I felt the urge to call Dad and talk about my scoop on plants. I guess he knows, anyway, so I called Mom instead.

Though Dad was many things, he was first and foremost a gardener. In another life, with other opportunities, he would have been a farmer. He composted before composting was cool. He drove around town picking up other people’s leaves because he didn’t think the giant maple in our yard was enough for his grandiose gardening schemes.

Every time I do an interview about a new gardening technique, I think of him. I’m sure he would have been straw bale gardening since that would have given him a couple extra weeks of fresh vegetables. He would have loved anything that extended the gardening season.

Though I came late to gardening — in my 30s when I bought my house — I took to it with fervor and enthusiasm. It amazed Dad to see what a diehard gardener I had become. He was used to seeing me sitting in front of a fan with a book and a glass of lemonade. Toiling in the soil seemed so not me.

One by one, most of his 10 kids took to some kind of gardening.  Some, like Tim and Mary Jo, do vegetables with the same fervor Dad did. Some like Therese and me stick mostly to flowers. But we all benefited from knowing the best gardener I ever met.

I’m sweaty from gardening, Dad, and I’ve got questions. Wish you were still here.

Technology hell

I have not been an early adopter of technology.

Quite the opposite.

If I could still be using a manual typewriter to communicate, that would probably be my favorite option.

Alas, unless I want to share my thoughts with one reader at a time, that’s not working so well.

So, yes, I use a computer. But I do not embrace it.

I am justified in my feelings of animosity considering the events of the last five days.

On Saturday, after a two-hour power outage, my router refused to return to action. This is not the first time. In fact, whenever there is a power outage I end up buying a new router.

When I called the router company, I was told my free telephone advising days were over. But the woman from India with an accent I could barely decipher told me she would be happy to help me for a fee of $129 a year.

I believe I called her horrible and an employee of a horrible company. I then hung up and called Charter, having decided I would rent a router that Charter would then fix  for free.

“It will take you 10 minutes to hook it up,” said the cheerful Charter employee when I expressed dismay about being able to install it myself.

“How optimistic of you,” I replied, trying to keep a scowl from my face.

Hate to say I told you so, but I ended up calling Charter to talk me through the process before the phone helper decided she would have to send out a technician. (I am proud to say that my complete lack of understanding for all things bytes has broken more than one would-be helper’s spirit.)

The technicians arrived the next day, did their diagnostic thing and got everything running and tightened the connections. So by Tuesday afternoon I was back in business.

Have I forgotten to mention that automated phone operator from hell? I talked to her at the router company and again at Charter. She is so relentlessly cheerful that she never listens to what I’m actually saying and tries to help me until she finally concludes, “I’ll let you talk to an agent.”

It was exhausting, but I got through it. My technology was all operating now and all was right with the world.

Then I left the house this morning only to find a UPS box on my doorstep. The name on the package was not mine and the address listed on the package does not exist, so UPS chose my doorstep as the next best thing.

So I called the number on the package. That turned out to be for tracking hazardous waste.

That person gave me a  number for Amazon Prime. More automated operators, more agents who couldn’t help me. They told me to call my UPS office. That automated message told me to call the UPS 800 number. And waiting for me there was that relentlessly cheerful automated voice who would not accept my statement of my problem. My package wasn’t missing or damaged or late. It simply wasn’t my package. After a few minutes of yelling into the phone, “Let me talk to an agent,” she relented and said, “I’ll put you through to an agent.

Now I had to read off tracking numbers and explain again that this isn’t my package and this address doesn’t exist.

“Just pick up the package,” I said, creeping dangerously close to my yelling voice. “I’m leaving it on the back step and you need to send someone to pick it up.”

“And what was that address?”

So I had to tell her the whole story again.

When I hung up, I advised myself to step away from the computer. And for once, I ‘m taking my own advice. I’m getting out in the garden where I belong.