Wicked Weather Witchery (#367)

I usually like rain.

I mean, aside from the time it stormed during what was supposed to my outdoor wedding–with lightning and hail.  Or that time the out-of-season atmospheric river hit during Baby D’s outdoor baby shower. Or when my new car was destroyed by a hailstorm while driving across the country.

And no, I did not love the surprising hail (AGAIN) that hit us in southern England during our one vacation that didn’t involve visiting family.

Ominous hail clouds approach St. Mary’s

While we were sheltering in a church in Thornbury, we chatted with some locals.

“We expect rain,” one man told us. “Hail is rather…odd,”

“I’ve not seen hail before,” another agreed.

Andy nudged me and said, “It’s her. If she has an event or vacation, there will be rain, hail, or snow.”

“Shhh, honey, they used to burn witches around here,” I joked.

My Lawyer Sis, on the other hand, is the good weather witch. The day of her wedding, in Washington, D.C., (notorious for summer afternoon thunderstorms) not a drop of rain fell until she slipped indoors at midnight. Then it poured.

But just as my (admittedly imaginary) rain witchery is ultimately no match for Southern California’s dry climate, Lawyer Sis is stuck with D.C.’s cold and gray winters. In an effort to combat seasonal depression, she sometimes flies to SoCal for a visit in the winter. She spends days sitting on our south-facing patio, yelling, “No! Get away!” at me when I offer her hats, umbrellas, and sunblock.

This year, her trip was from last Thursday through the weekend. I had warned her about the incoming atmospheric rivers: one was scheduled for Wednesday-Thursday, the other for Sunday-Wednesday.

On Wednesday, as the rain fell, Andy asked, “Is she still coming?”

“Yep.”

“She’s counting on her sunshine witchery?”

“Yep. It’s a solid gamble. I don’t have any events and it’s not my vacation.”

But what we did have, hidden under the asphalt shingles on our roof, was a problem.

The rain was much heavier than expected on Wednesday. We got two inches overnight. As soon as Andy left for work on Thursday morning, I heard dripping. Water was falling on the hall bookcase, coming from an HVAC vent in the ceiling. I headed into our unfinished attic with my phone and a flashlight.

Sure enough, water dripped from the roof, splattering insulation around the ducts. I rigged a bucket to catch the water and dried up the wood and insulation as best I could. Then I set up a fan and called my husband.

“It’s leaking where they put in metal flashing and vent for the new furnace and AC three years ago,” I reported.

“Shit. Want me to come home?”

“Nah, nothing else to do here and you have to pick up Lawyer Sis. Her flight is early and I have to get back to cleaning while I file an insurance claim and call the roofer. But I’m behind schedule so DRIVE SLOW and pick up something for lunch!”

Since the rain, of course, stopped the second my sister’s plane touched down and Andy is firmly committed to breaking the “slow Asian driver” stereotype, they made it home while I was still cleaning. By afternoon the sun was breaking through the clouds when we walked the dog.

“Sorry it’s not as sunny as usual,” I apologized.

Lawyer Sis waved my apology away. “It’s just nice to be where the air doesn’t hurt my face. We had a whole week of twenty degrees or less!”

It rained again that night, but Friday was gloriously sunny. Saturday was also unexpectedly sunny.

“Looks like your sister’s weather witchery is stronger than yours,” Andy chuckled, after he’d climbed on the roof and applied some roofing patch to the flashing. (We have yet to hear back from the roofer and insurance companies are currently as inundated with claims as California is with water.) “I think we can get rid of the bucket!”

“Not for long,” I countered grimly. “Now that I have a hole in the roof, just wait…”

Sure enough, meteorologists began predicting even more rain, starting Sunday. Maybe more rain than SoCal normally gets in an entire year—in 2 days. They also predicted wind gusts of up to 40 mph.

Andy grudgingly put the bucket back. It was filling up again Sunday evening.

I sent Baby D into the wind and rain to take out the trash. Upon his return, he announced, “There’s a plant in our backyard.”

I envisioned someone’s airborne potted palm landing our yard. “Wind must’ve blown it there.”

I grabbed the flashlight, headed outside, and discovered…

…that my son is a master of understatement.

Our twenty-foot Ficus tree had been uprooted and lay across the backyard. Next to it was my beautiful fuchsia bougainvillea, its trellis ripped off our cinderblock wall.

The downed tree Dalton casually described as “a plant” in daylight.

Later, after Andy checked out the damage, he asked, “What kind of replacement tree do you want?”

“I don’t want a replacement,” I grumbled. “They had matured to the perfect height to block the view of Cop Neighbor’s ugly, oversized Chino Hills tract house. Plus, I wanted the bougainvillea to continue dumping leaves in his yard because it pisses him off.”

I glowered out the window, where the wind was driving sheets of rain nearly horizontal. “Stupid rain.”

Andy patted my shoulder and said, “At least your perverse weather witchery is stronger than your sister’s?”

“More like, at least there’s no hail.”

Yet.

Uprooted and de-trellised.

 

The Hoarder (#342)

As a child, the conversation at my family dinner table was always better than the food on the table. (I kid you not–Kraft Mac & Cheese was the best meal of the week.) My dad might have political anecdotes from Capitol Hill.  My stepmother might tell us how one high school gang tried to break into her classroom to get at another gang. Or we might get a story about our great-grandfather learning how to swim by diving off a piano in a flooded southern parlor from my mom.

My Chinese American husband’s family was all about the food. I learned the hard way that no one expected conversation at the table. Everyone concentrated on eating. This makes sense when the food is both tasty and served immediately (e.g., dim sum). It also makes sense if you’re eating a dish like chicken feet, which involves considerable mouth aerobics, ending in spitting out chicken toenails.

Young boy grimaces as he bites down on a fried chicken foot.
Baby D meets chicken feet.

Andy’s dad also wasn’t much of a talker, unlike practically every person in my family. My family told jokes, made fun of each other, and competed to get the best laughs. We all also like to show off share information.

Maybe this is why Andy’s a better cook than I am. He tastes as he goes and even plates artistically, believing the food should always take center stage.

I love good food, but I also want to hear about spouse/ spawn’s days. The breakfast/dinner table is the place where I find out what’s going on. I believe that communication is connection and sharing is caring.

Andy, on the other hand, hoards information. And he hoards it as long as he can.

I’d walk into the kitchen and say, “That smells good. Whatcha making?”

“Stuff.”

“Sooo…what’s for dinner?”

“Food.”

“Oh my God, would it kill you to tell me what’s for dinner one time?!”

Apparently, it would. Because not once did Andy actually volunteer to tell me what he was making. I had to piece together clues from ingredients and cookbooks on the counter.

Now, when Andy asked me what I was making for our Christmas party, my response was: “Oh, I’m going to do cream cheese sugar cookies with buttercream frosting with about one-quarter teaspoon almond extract, plus candy cane and chocolate meringues—and I’ll need the food processor for both the candy canes and to chop up the chocolate chips extra tiny so they don’t get stuck in the piping tips and also maple sugar rugelach and did you know that I had to order maple sugar from Ben’s Sugar Shack in New Hampshire this year?! I can’t find it ANYWHERE. Or and I’ll make those chocolate cookies with white chips that are your favorite, do you want coconut in them or not?”

It’s a point of pride that, when asked “why?,” by Baby D, I never once responded with “Because I told you so.”

Instead, I dumped elaborate reasoning and detailed explanations on my child until he either fled the room or could out reason/ argue me into changing my mind.

Storage containers and boxes crammed on wire shelving units.
Andy’s least favorite view

The only information my husband shared freely was how much he hated all the boxes in the garage. We had many boxes. That happens with a house less than 1200 square feet and minimal storage space. Heavy blankets, comforters, and winter clothing were stored in the garage in the summer. Window fans and tubs of light linens got stored in the garage in the winter. There were two bicycles, suitcases, pet supplies, cleaning supplies, the extra refrigerator, extra chairs, an extra banquet table, portable chairs for soccer matches, a team soccer canopy, a team bench, and 8 containers of holiday/ season decorations.

Every so often, when Andy got snarly, I cleaned out/ donated anything we no longer used. Andy’s grumbles subsided, especially when I pointed out we’re one of the only families on the block that actually put a car in our garage.

I kept tabs on all the storage containers with decorations, though.

Not long into the pandemic, packages started arriving for Andy. There were at least a dozen. Some were large. One was very heavy. A few were small.

“Gardening supplies?” I guessed.

Andy said, “Stuff.”

I rolled my eyes and let it go. The following weekend, Andy spent an entire day moving items around the garage. He went to Lowe’s and returned with giant mobile shelves—the kind that you can roll together so they take up less space but then roll apart for access once the car is out of the garage.

Also the kind of shelf energetic offspring will try and ride down the driveway when Dad is carrying “excessive” Christmas decorations to the garbage bins.

After rescuing child, shelf, and decorations, I planted myself in front of Andy and announced “That’s it. You’ve been bitching about the garage more than usual and there all these mysterious boxes. What are you DOING?”

“Stuff—”

“NO! No more bullshit ‘stuff!’ For all I know you’re setting up a fucking meth factory!”

Andy said, “It’s not a meth factory.”

I crossed my arms and inhaled. Deeply.

Andy hurriedly added, “We can’t go to the gym so I’m turning one of the bikes into a stationary bicycle so I can ride it to get cardio because I can’t run anymore on my bad knee and walking takes too long. I’m trying to make more space in the garage to set up the bike.”

“That’s…great. But…why wouldn’t you just tell me that?”

Andy shrugged.

“You know, mouths are for more than eating!’ I told him. “They’re for talking! For sharing information! If you’d just explained what you wanted to do, I would have helped you. I could have gotten rid of some boxes, consolidated a few things, figured out how to make more space.”

“Really?”

“What, did you think I’d say no?! To something as important as you being healthy?”

“Uh…”

And that’s when I realized that Andy HAD thought I’d say no. Just like his parents always said no—no sports, no extracurricular activities, no curfew extensions. Andy was so used to his family saying no, he’d learned to never offer information which could result in a “no.” It was maddening…but also understandable.

I consolidated a few boxes of decorations and donated some boxes of older blankets to charity.

Andy’s cardio area, with gardening/ soccer hat on bike.

Andy set up his bike. He rides it several times a week.

Sometimes, now, he’ll tell me what he’s cooking.

The other night, at the dinner table, Andy stopped eating long enough to ask Baby D, “So, little boy, what did you do in school today?”

Baby D replied,

“Stuff.”

Power Trip (#340)

I didn’t plan to take the summer off from blogging. Every day, I’d think, “I’m going to write the post about rescuing the cat! Or the one about husbandly information hoarding!”

And every day something would happen. Maybe an ant invasion. Maybe non-stop emails about soccer. Maybe another volunteer organization needed something handled. With the country opening up again (sometimes in very stupid ways), I had more visitors this summer than ever.

It was also summer vacation, which meant Baby D was home. I dread summer vacation. Yes, Dalton is more independent now that he’s older, but also more argumentative about chores. About screen time. About EVERYTHING, actually. Continue reading Power Trip (#340)

What Bugs (#338)

My Chinese American husband doesn’t see dirt. At least, not in our house. He’s got a whole dirt manufacturing thing going on in our yard with multiple compost piles, but can he spot an errant leaf or Lego on the floor and pick it up? Haha, no. Not even after he’s experienced multiple late-night Lego fire walks into our son’s bedroom.

Back when we were dating, Andy would get mad about his roommate leaving crumbs on the kitchen counter.

Now that we’re married? Andy leaves crumbs on the kitchen counter. Continue reading What Bugs (#338)

Cold Wars (#334)

My Chinese American husband grew up in tropical Hawaii. When he moved to Los Angeles, his mom sent him with an electric blanket.

Years later, I laughed over that blanket before donating it to charity. I grew up on the East Coast, spending many holidays in New Hampshire. “Southern California is not cold,” I told Andy.  “Twenty below on a chairlift is cold.”

The disparity in our experiences was highlighted during vacations. I ignored Andy’s advice and ran up a sand dune barefoot on the island of Kauai, yelling, “How hot can it be?”

Answer: “Hot enough that you wind up whimpering with ice packs on your burning feet.” Continue reading Cold Wars (#334)

Something Is Under the House (#236)

I thought I’d made peace with the freaky-assed crawl space below our house in Los Angeles. It’s not a nice, solid basement, but makes sense to have easy access to plumbing and the electrical lines for our drip system. And after multiple years, the only scary thing lurking under our house had turned out to be our own mischievous dog.

Until recently. Continue reading Something Is Under the House (#236)

Red Flags (#226)

You know what I was excited about when Andy and I bought our house?

Putting up a flag pole. I couldn’t wait to fly seasonal house flags.

I envisioned a flag with flowers for summer, an autumn flag with falling leaves, a black cat for Halloween, and Christmas flag with a polar bear. Of course I would fly the Stars & Stripes for Independence Day. Continue reading Red Flags (#226)

Sprinkling Stupidity (#215)

Look at how my neighbors water their green lawn…and the cement sidewalk.

I grew up in a swamp. D.C. is ridiculously hot and humid in the summer. A blanket of oppressive, immobile air suffocates the city for weeks at a time, only stirring for the occasional afternoon thunderstorm. But the thunderstorm doesn’t wash away the misery, oh, no. It just makes the ground steam.

All the water makes for lush, green lawns with minimal watering. I never saw a sprinkler system until I moved to Los Angeles. Continue reading Sprinkling Stupidity (#215)

Cracked (#192)

Like most couples, my husband and I divided up our chores based on our abilities. Since my husband was unable to see dirt, I cleaned. Since I was unable to see any problem with eating Kraft Mac & Cheese mixed with Hormel Chili several times a week, my horrified husband cooked. He grew vegetables in the backyard; I maintained planters of flowers in the front.

I walked and trained our rescue dogs. I cleaned the cat litter box. I fed/ vetted/ medicated/ washed all four animals. I did the laundry. I swept the patio and front steps. I mowed the lawn. I washed dishes. With 4 shedding animals, I vacuumed every other day.

Andy washed the cars. Continue reading Cracked (#192)

What Lies Below (#187)

I live in Los Angeles and there’s something under my house.

Don’t freak out.

It’s just a crawl space. Continue reading What Lies Below (#187)