Sunday, August 31, 2014

You shook me up

I’m a California native, so I thought I’d be used to earthquakes by now. Nope. Never going to get used to being tossed around in bed in the middle of the night, books flying, glass shattering and dressers bouncing against the walls.
This Sunday’s earthquake was like some psycho wine country version of “Poltergeist.” Mother Nature grabbed hold of us that morning, shook us around like she was really pissed off and then walked away with her middle finger in the air.
I like to think I’m cool in a crisis, but when that quake hit I was screaming like a teenager. So were the girls. By the time I’d gotten to them in the hallway, it was over and all we could do was just clutch at each other.
Put shoes on, yelled my husband.
Shoes, right.
What are those again? My brain was not exactly working at that point.
Back next to the bed, I searched for shoes but a 2-foot pile of books covered them.
College Girl had spent the night at a friend’s house, so the first thing we did was try to call her. Amazingly, the phones worked. She was fine, physically.
Stay put, we told her. I had visions of a traumatized kid trying to drive on buckled roadways around fires and fallen branches.
In the hallway, the girls grabbed a small battery powered emergency light that had been plugged into a wall socket since after the 2000 earthquake. The week before, I’d thought of throwing it away because it’s old and has a pretty feeble light. Sunday morning that little light never looked so good.
Downstairs almost every step cracked as we walked over broken glass. The fish tank broke, said my husband. There was tank gravel and water everywhere. Balsamic vinegar had shattered all over the kitchen floor, mixing with spilled sugar. Actually, I think the sugar conveniently soaked up some of the vinegar.
Think you need to do some spring cleaning of your cabinets? Don’t waste your time. Just wait for an earthquake.
Like a lot of other Napans, we lost most of our dishes. Wine glasses fell into drawers that had been flung open, leaving glass shards inside them. Ceramic pots stored on the top shelves had broken into bits on the floor. I picked up one lid, still intact, to put it away for safekeeping.
Don’t bother, said my husband. The bowl broke.
Making my way to the front door, I peeked outside to see neighbors walking outside with flashlights.
You OK? they called out.
Yep, I answered feebly. I felt like barfing.
The rest of the downstairs was more of the same. Contents of every shelf facing east/west were dumped. Most north/south shelves had held firm.
I braced myself as I opened College Girl’s room, already filled to the brim with the contents of her school apartment.
Looks just like normal in there, I said with a laugh.
A firefighter neighbor came over to turn off the gas and check out our hot water heater. As it slowly started getting lighter outside the sound of broken glass falling into trashcans could be heard. The cleanup had begun.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Shred it

Free community “shred day,” read the ad from a Napa bank this past week.
That got my attention.
Free shredding? Count me in.
Who wants to sit for hours feeding old 401(k) statements three pages at a time into some wimpy home office shredder?
I’m into shredding. If you don’t shred, Identity Stealers can get a hold of your Important Info and then next thing you know you’re trying to convince it wasn’t the real you that bought that plasma TV, fancy sneakers and those $200 headphones.
I imagined the star of free shred day to be some super-sized shredding machine with giant gnashing and cutting jaws, ready to make mincemeat out of my old bank statements and health care EOBs. That’s my kind of shredding. Fast. Effective. Identity Stealer proof.
To get ready for shred day, first I cleaned out two file cabinets in our home office. Then I hit the mother lode in our attic.
Napa Garbage bill from June 1999? Got it.
Sears statement from December 2002? Yup.
I’m sure no one else cares about my Target receipts from November 2003 but I had kept them all just in case the IRS came knocking on my front door. Because no one wants to come up empty-handed when the IRS comes calling.
Hello IRS guys? You need receipts? Come on in! I got your receipts right here. Boxes full, and neatly labeled by year and month.
I hear I can get rid of receipts that are seven years or older, although as I write this, a tiny part of me worries I may be jinxing myself by doing so.
Dear any IRS receipt inspector people reading this: Our receipts are all very boring and uninteresting. Especially the Target ones — unless you need to know how much a mom spends on toilet paper in a month. With three toilets and five people in one home, a lot, I tell you.
On shred day I took a trunkful of my old receipts to the bank where a friendly woman helped me unload my car.
I took the lid off one box to show off my color-coded, organized folders.
Very nice, she nodded, before unceremoniously dumping my carefully filed and archived receipts and bank statements into a large gray garbage toter.
I felt a worrying twinge as I looked down into the bin at the jumble of papers. All those years of archiving, down the toilet.
I had to see the shredder in action. The garbage toter was dispatched across the parking lot to a man with a large white truck. My papers would end up as confetti-sized pieces, the shred man assured me.
Metal arms clamped around the container, hoisting it up into the truck and jettisoning the contents.
A video monitor of the inside of the machine showed the piles of paper being fed into the industrial-sized grinder. The shredding was even better than I imagined.
It was loud.
It was destructive.
It was completely Identity Stealer proof.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Ninja Mom

The Huffmans have “discovered” a new TV show. Well, it’s new to us. The rest of the country has apparently been watching “American Ninja Warrior” for a couple years, but we only just got hooked.
The show is a battle but no one’s getting their throat cut “Game of Thrones”-style on ANW (as we Ninja fans call it). “American Ninja Warrior” is a battle to complete a crazy obstacle course where competitors run, jump, dive, climb and pretty much act like superhuman monkeys.
The ultimate goal for ninjas is to make their way to the top of 70-foot “Mount Midoriyama” and be crowned “THE NEXT AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR!”
It’s a TV show that the whole family can watch. Who doesn’t want to be a ninja? Even better, a ninja warrior?
Would–be ninjas are all super-fit and mostly 20- and 30-somethings, and they know how to put on a show. Some have come up with their own Ninja themes. One guy ran the course wearing a Tarzan loincloth. Another wore something like a “Phantom of the Opera” mask. Another was cloaked in a shiny Superman-style getup including a cape he flung dramatically to the side before dashing across the ninja route.
My favorite Ninja is my new fitness superhero — 24-year-old Kacy Catanzaro. Just 5 feet tall and 100 pounds, Catanzaro was the first woman to climb the 15-foot Warped Wall AND make it to the top of the 25-foot-tall Spider Climb. She even has her own hashtag (#mightykacy). I don’t want to be 24 again, but I wouldn’t mind having Catanzaro’s ninja muscles.
The ninjas make it look so easy, but the ANW obstacles are meant to take out all but the most ninja-iest competitors. Even the obstacle names are intimidating: the Bridge of Blades, the Rumbling Dice and the Devil Steps. Fall off or drop off any of them and you’re out.
Channeling my inner Kacy Catanzaro, I decided to inject some ninja moves into my own life. During my last run, instead of staying on the sidewalk I ran — get this — on a dirt path. Then I jumped over a culvert, parkour-style. I know — radical, right?
I’m not going to stop there. I’ll use ninja moves to elude wayward drivers on the way to Target. I’ll scale shelves to reach the toilet paper on the top shelf at Raley’s. I’ll balance two baskets of laundry while running up steps to the second floor. Walking through downtown at lunchtime I’ll evade wandering tourists with ninja-like steps.
We moms also have mental ninja powers. We can keep track of multiple doctor/dentist appointments, memorize school bell schedules and the Social Security numbers of both our spouse and kids, simultaneously brush our teeth while quizzing a teenager about her curfew and can tell you exactly how many more days that gallon of milk in the fridge will last.
It’s no surprise. After all, it takes an American Ninja Mom to make an American Ninja Warrior.