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Lost and Foundering

Posted by on July 11, 2012

Yesterday was an uncomfortable one for me, but in a really confusing up-and-down sort of way.

It started with me driving the boys to their last day of summer school, because Maxwell had misplaced his backpack there somewhere at the end of the previous week and had not yet found it. I was determined that it had to be there somewhere and that we would find it before school ended, because it wasn’t our regular school and honestly, I don’t know when or if we’ll ever be back in that building.

Now, first: I should say (and probably have before) how much I despise losing things. Lost stuff makes me completely bonkers. I don’t know exactly what it is that rubs me so wrongly about losing items…the value/waste? The idea that ‘it should be there somewhere’? The notion that if I just looked hard enough, I’d find it? I’m not sure, but it’s like my life’s biggest pet peeve, losing things. And I know when it started: when I was in first grade. Yes. When I was in first grade, I walked to and from school. It was probably about 8 blocks or something, in a pretty peaceful portion of my small-ish suburban hometown. My dad had given me a small coin purse with a zippered top in which to keep my lunch ticket. I carried it back and forth each way daily, faithfully, safely transporting my red lunch ticket so I could eat my hot lunch. Except one day…I lost it. I had no idea where it had been lost, but I literally lay awake nights imagining it slowly being covered in dirt, decaying leaves, and underbrush along the roadside of 126th Street. I imagined it felt so sad, like I didn’t even care about it at all.

You can see, the experience is still fresh. And, as I’ve just confirmed time and time again here, I am incredibly weird.

Anyway, so the idea that my kids lose stuff ALL.THE.TIME makes me crazy. But I also don’t want them to be like me, because what parent wants their kids to lie awake at night crying over a tiny thing like a lost coin purse? Or even something larger, like a backpack? But also, why do my kids lose things so often? I almost feel like I had to take the job at school, just so I could keep a regular schedule of lost-and-found surveillance for my own family belongings. And wouldn’t you know…I could not find Maxwell’s relatively new, very nice backpack. We looked in lots of places together, and talked to many staff people (who all had heard about the missing backpack, proving that Max had been trying to find it, after all) and no dice. I walked out of the school, leaving Max to his last day, knowing that the backpack was just simply gone.


Sorry. That just happens sometimes.

Joe told me later that Max had been really upset about it, talking earlier that morning as I was getting ready to go, and felt very guilty about having lost it. And see? That’s precisely why I wish I could stop being so neurotic about this stuff and just drop it. But I also want my kids to value and take care of their things more than they have, historically, so there’s the dichotomy. Sigh.

After the unsuccessful search, I came home and took my bike out for an inaugural ride. Let me say this: you might not ever FORGET how to ride a bike, but you sure can get TERRIBLE at riding a bike after a many, many years have lapsed. I still had a good time, though…lovely morning, fresh breeze, our beautiful lake paths to ride on.

Then when I got home, I could barely sit down. OUCH.

I did sit, though, long enough to book a flight for my upcoming trip to NYC to visit Brad. That made me feel even more buoyant than flying along under the tree canopy in my Union Jack helmet.

Then I went looking for school uniforms for my boys. Ugh, I hate shopping. Painful. And largely unsuccessful.

I met the boys off their bus, and heard about their last day. Ollie was full of exuberant news of his bakery field trip. Max is just relieved to sleep in past six A.M. Happy energy. I got the kids registered for summer swimming lessons. More happy energy.

Then the HVAC folks called and asked if we would be around for them to install a new part they’d determined we needed during last week’s crisis. It was a day earlier than planned but hey, it actually worked better for us. Joe was around then, so he would be able to hear first-hand about what was being fixed and what to do differently going forward. But when they got here…

That’s when the boom really got lowered. BOOM. Because the new part? Well, it wouldn’t actually do us much good because our whole furnace needs replacing. Yes. REALLY. Like, “cracks in a part that would give us all carbon monoxide poisoning and kill us” kind of a necessity. And if we’re getting a new furnace, we should consider a new AC because ours uses obsolete coolant that is getting really, really expensive to replace. So why pay for the new part when everything needs to be replaced and we should use our money toward that. In a nutshell.

The very nice HVAC guys stood by awkwardly while Joe watched for my reaction. My response to this news was, basically, to drink the second half of my dinner beer without stopping once to breathe or taste or swallow, even. The numbers flying around! Sweet baby Jeebus.

We ended up getting on the schedule for another guy (pricing guy) to come out and give us a complete and accurate estimate of our costs, and sent the guys away without replacing the part or doing anything except picking up their tools and leaving me to hyperventilate.

As we all drove out to buy two fans (our air is now completely offline), I was trying to explain to Joe why it is that these kinds of situations make me so, so uncomfortable. And as I recount this, and knowing who reads my blog, I feel the need to qualify this explanation first by saying: I love my family of origin. My folks are great and raised me and my brother to be responsible and nice.

But my folks are very…penny-pinching. With good reason! They did a great job getting us comfortably through times with little resources, something I came to appreciate even more during the years *I* was a stay-at-home mom myself. If I were a comedian, I would have a routine filled with “My folks are so cheap…” jokes. My dad, in particular, was infamous. Once he bought enormous bulk boxes (like, multiple 14-pound boxes, as I recall) of POLISH SAUSAGE. I swear to God that my mom was slipping Polish sausage into any possible recipe for at least 6 months. I can’t eat one to this day, but hey! They were such a good deal!

Okay, disclaimers given: I am a product of my upbringing. At the same time, I am a pretty logical person* so I can see the LOGIC in what these HVAC guys are suggesting with our system. But my family always drove our cars until they died on the side of the road. Minimal repairs were made as needed, but we didn’t trade it in for a new model unless it was utterly hopeless. I myself have never kept a car long enough to have to make that difficult decision…one more repair, or time to call it a day? Instead, I gave up my lease/had a baby/had more babies to necessitate my transitions. So now I’m (we’re) faced with this kind of choice in the furnace arena and I am incapacitated. My instinct is: just replace the thing you said you needed to and close it up. We will do it (new furnace) later. Stop looking at me like that! Of course I don’t want my family to die of carbon monoxide poisoning, but that’s what detectors are for! Stop looking at me like that!

The cheap part of me and the practical part of me are waging a war as I sit here, in the direct path of one of our new fans. Trying to stay cool, body and head.

*I maintain that it is, in fact, possible to be both logical and highly emotional. So there.

18 Responses to Lost and Foundering

  1. mattie

    spend the money now. will be cheaper than a few years from now. think of potential for lower utility bills. peace of mind that the fam isn’t gonna choke out. holy sh*t would it be cold if it decided to crap out during a mn winter. previous comment probably leads to premium pricing.

    as a side note, check with the utility company to see if you can get a credit on your utility bill for installing a new system AND how soon you need to turn that paperwork in. i didn’t know i could receive a credit for the six windows installed and had the contractor at the house at 9pm the evening before the deadline signing paperwork.

    • administrator

      The energy savings and green-ness of the switch are basically the only things I’m in favor of in this scenario. I will try to focus on that, as the second opinion guy that just left says we need new units, too. And he knows our family, so hoodwinking is not likely.

  2. Charlie

    Don’t knock bulk meat purchases! I just acquired 100 lbs of pork!

    • administrator

      Good God. I must say, though I don’t know what kind of pork you’re purchasing, that it is generally more versatile than Polish sausage. POLISH SAUSAGE.

      • Charlie

        It’s a half of a pig. Mmm bacon.

        • administrator

          I really need to know how to get half a pig. I told Joe that the “less meat” experiement would exclude pork, because there is no way on earth that I am going back to that sad, cold existence.

  3. Kate

    Oh, Courtney, my kindrid spirit! I think one of the many reasons I love reading this blog is that I share so many of your little somewhat-neurotic personality traits. I share the lost item freak-out trait (although I don’t have as clear of a memory as to why) as well as the logical/emotional trait. It makes for very difficult decision making as you very well know.

    I would probably pick up a cheap window AC unit for our bedroom, make the kids camp out in the basement (or just suffer in their rooms because I survived my childhood without the luxury of AC) and then save my pennies to replace the whole darn thing before the freezing nasty winter comes.

    As for the backpack… What?!?! How can a backpack just disappear? Perhaps another kid accidentally took it home and never brought it back? Strange. Brady is my perpetual loser of items. Over the four years Caleb has been in school I think he has had one item in the lost and found. Brady didn’t even make it through the first week of kindergarten. I also share the bonus of working at the school and being able to monitor the lost and found like a hawk. I wonder if that is listed as a perk in the job description?

    • administrator

      Kate…you are speaking like a true 10-month employee. OF COURSE this would happen now when I’m not making any money! But alas, we’ve got some wiggle room so we’re biting the bullet and doing it now. Of course, we’ll be eating lots of cereal for a few weeks. Ha.

      So glad to have someone who understands the logical/emotional trait and how difficult it makes things sometimes. Like: should I be this paralyzed? It seems pretty straightforward, really: BUY THE STUFF. But even chugging beer in front of HVAC people could not bring me to the place where I had a definitive answer.

      And love the story about Brady. That is Maxwell, through and through. He loses things he’s wearing on his person, I swear to God. We once lost like 3 lunchboxes in a week. Garsh.

  4. Boompa

    It was RED polish sausage. Vibrant, spicy, succulent RED FOOD DYE #3 encased polish sausage. Max, your mama didn’t eat enough of it to eventually pass along the allergy thing to you. But she ate enough to satisfy Mr. Eat Everything On Your Plate missy! As a matter of fact, I believe she ate polish sausage for a longer period of time than the “vegetatian age’ that came later.
    Please call and talk to your cheap as all get out parents before you go buying anything. We have a story about a broken fridge still in our basement we’d like to tell you one more time.

    • administrator

      Um…I was too afraid to call and hear about the refrigerator. And if it’s true about the Polish stage lasting longer than the “vegetarian” stage, that must have been like 10 years of Polish because I “didn’t eat meat” (I am using quotes, friends who know better) for about 7 years. I can thank Maxwell for reintroducing me to bacon, as the meat cravings came while I was gestating him.

  5. Charlie

    Do you remember when my backpack disappeared from Sorin and ended up in the Willmar House? I think you should check there.

  6. Yolanda Ganong

    Sounds like you’re having a generation gap fight all inside your own head. I thought my generation was the last to remember how things were fixed ad infinitum before they were replaced -if they were ever replaced. Furthermore, in my country of origin they have kept fixing those 50’s cars for 50 years and now they have a treasure of trove of antique classic automobiles… When my father was still new in this land and his old 55 Plymouth developed a hole in the muffler, he innocently took it to the mechanic shop to be “repaired.” I still remember how he returned in shock after he heard that they didn’t repair holes in mufflers, that he needed to replace it. When I tried to explain that’s just not the way it is “here” he still had to check out a few more shops and the car got louder and louder before he accepted replacing the muffler. (I think he also kept the old “holy” muffler for a while in case it could be used for something.)
    A few years later I did something similar with a TV set for which the part that broke was no longer manufactured. I kept the old faded thing around until I just had to let it go to make room for something else. Then there was a lamp with the three prong bulb that couldn’t be found anymore, an old microwave that was probably leaking radiation, and the… never mind, the list is long.
    My sympathies are entirely with you on this. Yet you must accept fate on the furnace issue, I’m afraid. I also must tell you that you’ll handle these things better with practice, even as you never quite help lamenting the situations.
    As for hating to lose things and lamenting keenly and indefinitely when something disappears, I could say I am weird, given the fact that as a teenager, along with my entire country of origin, I lost everything I’d known and treasured as well as having to leave my whole family behind, all because losing my personal freedom would have been even worse. I arrived in the US with only three changes of underwear, two sets of outer wear and the shoes I was wearing. Then I lost the first thing of my meager possessions at the refugee camp (a warm skirt, which was actually stolen) and I thought I’d die of grief, until someone reminded me of the greater losses I had dealt with and prevailed over.
    Maybe we are not supposed to keep anything for very long anyway, so there’s no use fretting so much. Sic transit gloria mundi and all that…
    You’ll keep us posted, I’m sure.
    Hugs to all.

    • administrator

      I know 7-year-old Courtney certainly had more than you did when you came to the US, but I didn’t have very much compared to my school peers which was maybe why I felt the loss so acutely? Plus it was from my dad. In general, I prized the following in myself: my responsibility, and my excellent memory. Two things which I felt I’d failed in that fateful day. Who knows, it was maybe stolen, too. I’ve certainly got my suspicions about Max’s backpack…

      And I hope I get more comfortable in these decisions. I am sort of notoriously awful in emergency situations. I’d be the person in the next room pacing and exclaiming about the calamity until I eventually fainted. But I have lots of other excellent qualities. Ha.

  7. Shawna

    You know, the fact that you are frugal and good at money management sometimes effects your friends too. I don’t know how many money discussions over here at our house end with me hearing something from husband like, “You know, I bet Courtney would be able to grocery shop for a family of three without having to spend over a hundred dollars.” Because he is probably and usually correct, my only defense is often “bite me” and then to walk away. :)

    • administrator

      I am so sorry for the flak you’ve been given as a result of my frugality. I am not sorry, though, that this is inspiring me to start on a blog post I’ve been meaning to write for awhile now about money shortcuts and how much easier they were when I *wasn’t* working! So you’ll have to get your spouse to read that one when I’ve posted it. :)

      • Shawna

        Dude! I am now so excited about this and will patiently await its arrival and immediately throw it in his face. Okay, no. I will just subtly and respectively e-mail him the link to make sure he doesn’t miss it.

  8. Crazy Aunt Linda

    I love polish sausage and could [and have] eat it for breakfast.
    Grand Pierre would not ACCEPT anyone losing anything so you come by that naturally
    You can be frugal about lots of stuff but too hot/too cold family makes for a bunch of Crabby Appletons. Do it in the name of Peace.
    Shawna, “Bite Me” is an appropriate and succinct comeback to anyone on any subject.
    Boompa, can a person see this refrigerator whilst sitting on your Ishy Toilet!?
    Yes, Court, you have many excellent qualities. Especially the ones you share with me.

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