Monday, March 31, 2008

What?, There's Gas Leaking? (Part II of CO)

After the terrors of the previous night, I was determined to stop CO-habitating immediately. First thing that morning, I call up the apartment help line. You can eavesdrop on our conversation:

"Hi, this is Amy in apartment C13 and I would like to have maintenance come look at our apartment because I believe that carbon monoxide might be leaking from our stove."

"What, there's gas leaking?"

"No, I think it's carbon monoxide."

"Can you smell it?"

"No, I can't smell anything. It's an odorless gas."

"So you can't smell it?"..."Well, I'll have maintenance come over as soon as they can and take a look."

I hang up with little confidence that a decent explanation would make its way to maintenance.
Surprisingly quick, and unusually prompt, a maintenance guy pounds on my door. He says, "You have a gas leak?" Expecting this from my previous phone conversation, I let him in and re-explain the whole situation about how I got sick the night before and had gotten sick one other time from, presumably, the same thing, which I suspect from my research was carbon monoxide, which doesn't smell, leaking from our stove. He swaggers over to the stove and preformed the "sniff test". "Well, I don't smell anything. Are you sure it was leaking gas?" He opens the oven door, peers in, shuts it and says, "I don't see anything..."

After a few minutes of indecision and no further inspection, our maintenance guy decides to call the fire department to see if they know anything about carbon monoxide. He asks me if I have a phone book and, after not being able to find the phone number there, he walks out the door muttering to himself. I have no idea what is going on. Ten minutes later there's the unmistakable pounding of the fire department on our door. They pound as if they intend to break the door down if you don't come. One time earlier that year the fire department had come to our apartment looking for some sort of water leak and just about gave us heart attacks with their unexpected and incessant thumps. Holding Timmy on one hip (I'm babysitting) and corralling Dominic with my leg so that he doesn't escape, I open the door to two firemen in full get-up. The tanks, masks and everything! Timmy takes one look and immediately starts to wail, really loudly. Dominic just keeps on trying to escape but every few seconds confusedly(and cutely) look concerned that Timmy is crying.

The firemen immediately go over to the oven and check for natural gas leaks. Reporting that they can't find any, they remove their masks and tell me, over Timmy's screams, that they are going to be checking all of the apartments in the building for gas leaks, especially on the balconies where the furnaces are located. In vain do I try to redirect them to carbon monoxide instead of natural gas. In vain do I tell them I have never smelled leaking gas. And in vain, do the fire men come. Out they go onto our balcony. They came back in and Timmy re-commences his wailing.

They leave and just when everyone is calmed down they return to tell me there did not find any natural gas leaks and are going to leave now. Timmy begins to wail again. Walking outside to see them leave in the fire truck, I am astonished to see that there is not one but five fire trucks outside my apartment for "carbon monoxide". Wow.

The maintenance guy returns and makes fun of the fire department and their big to-do. He tells me that a guy from PECO (the electric company) is going to come since the fire department didn't find anything. Thirty minutes later a very boring looking man in a blue collar shirt knocks normally, comes in and asks me if I'm experiencing a gas leak. Almost completely exasperated, I again explain that no, there is no gas leak, I think it's carbon monoxide... Without missing a beat, this man, says, "Oh, well I wish they'd told me that. I'll have to go to my truck and get the carbon monoxide detector." (!) So he comes back, uses his little CO honing device and discovers that yes, the stove is producing some CO.

Very knowledgeably he explains that all stoves produce some CO when they are used, and that this stove, while it is a little high in its CO production, is still within the acceptable range for a stove. When I ask him why our carbon monoxide detector didn't go off, he says that it is only programmed to go off if there are large amounts of CO in a short amount of time. It doesn't register a lower amount over a longer amount of time. Some people are also simply more sensitive to CO. There isn't a window in our kitchen, so try to open the glass door in the living room to get a little circulation and take breaks so that you're not by the stove for so long. He then explains to maintenance that they can turn down a certain valve a little bit and the oven won't produce as much CO. I thank him profusely for actually dealing with my problem. He unceremoniously leaves, and I feel much better.

An hour later I get a call from the same maintenance guy, we're getting you a new stove. It should be there tomorrow. Apparently no man on the maintenance crew is capable of turning down stove valves and therefore this situation required that I get a nice, new shiny clean white stove. Hey, good thing that I didn't clean the old oven like I meant to last week! (and this one is self-cleaning). Hurrah for CO...

4 Reasons to own Shakespeare

1. Impress your friends (if they're of that sort...). They're usually pretty on the shelf

2. Woo anyone, anytime (or re-woo)
  • Her passions are made of nothing but the finest part of pure love. ~Antony and Cleopatra
  • Hear my soul speak: The very instant that I saw you, did My heart fly to your service. ~The Tempest
  • But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?it is the east, and Juliet (insert name) is the sun. ~Romeo and Juliet
3. A treasured source of clever insults
  • I do desire we may be better strangers.
    As You Like It (3.2.248)
  • There’s no more faith in thee than in a stewed prune. 1 Henry IV (3.3.40)
  • Thou whoreson zed! thou unnecessary letter!
    King Lear (2.2.61)
By the way, if a you are curious, you can create your own very clever Shakespearean insults at

4. Complete volumes have innumerable uses.
See picture at the right.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


CO-Habitating produces unseen and disastrous, even deadly, results. Forgive me if you've already heard this story, I needed to write it up. (this was two months ago)

A dinner party seemed like a good idea. We love to entertain and since we had six dozen pierogi taking up a large portion of our shrinking freezer (see the "Pierogi Pinching" blog entry), we invited our friends the Fords over for pierogi fried in butter, drizzled with butter and some carmelized onions and peppers on the side. Just as I was almost finishing up in the kitchen a pounding headache started. The kind that stops your thinking and sort of debilitates you. Thinking that maybe I just needed more coffee, I reheated the several hour old coffee and dumped that into my system. But I continued bustling about for a few minutes, determined that we would have a nice, complete dinner.

We all ate pierogi, I think, and I tried to remain calm on the outside while the gray matter inside battled against it's restrictive cranial case. Feeling something of a hero, we finished up pierogi, and I even managed to swallow a few myself. It would be a shame to let all of those delicious cabbage pierogi get eaten by other people. Then I asked Matt to move every one to the living room for dessert (I thought that I might feel better if I sat there for a little while). Then I had to excuse myself for a minute to use the bathroom, puked in my (fortunately) just-made-sparkly-for-company toilet and felt better, sort of. An hour later, after resting for a while, I felt much better.

Now, all suffering aside, what could this have been caused from? If it were just this one time, I would dismiss it as just some fluke, probably underestimating my addiction to coffee. But that's simply not the fact. Almost this exact scenario had happened about a month before. So I got to thinking, always dangerous, I know... The result was that I deduced that the Fords were causing my sudden illness. Clearly, I was allergic to them at our dinner parties. Adios. No more of you. Both times--no, the only times--that I became ill like that, they were the only ones here! Coincidence?

With the help of the Oracle (Google), I looked up my symptoms and matched them to the only thing that Matt and I could relate it to: the kitchen, in particular, the oven. Each time I had been in the kitchen for several hours while laboring closely to the stove. The hypothesis? Carbon Monoxide leaking (CO) and lengthy exposure. In case you you're not up your your CO stats, lots of people die for Carbon Monoxide each year, both unintentionally and intentionally. This is what suicidal people rely on when the stay in their car in the garage with the exhaust collecting.

So what next? We had a CO detector, it didn't go off. But I don't really want to use my stove until we figure it out... So I call the apartment's maintenance department and the typical drama that normally results from calling maintenance ensued... Tune in for that adventure next post!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Too Good To Pass Up

Joining The Lord In Loving

"The challenge of the cross demands that I give
my ego into Jesus’ hands, not so that he may
destroy it but so that in him it may become free
and expand...Thus a great deal of patience and
humility belongs to this way, just as the Lord
had patience with us: it is not a headlong leap
into heroism that makes someone a saint but
patiently and humbly walking with Jesus, step
by step. Holiness does not consist in
adventurous achievements of virtue, but in
joining him in loving. Hence the real saints are
also quite human, quite natural people in whom
through Easter transformation and purification
what is human appears afresh in its total
originality and beauty."

Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
The Yes of Jesus Christ

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Super-Mom Syndrome

What possesses a mother to spend an hour baking a cake and then two and half more hours with a crusty, barely squeezable pastry tube (or ziploc bag) with a star-tip carefully poked into the corner? Clearly, an abundance of love, overzealous party-planning, and too much DIY-ness (do it yourself). But it didn't turn out half bad. I also painted that little Mickey Mouse picture out of desperation that I couldn't find any Mickey decorations in the party stores because he has been rudely shoved aside by Nemo, Cars, and SpongeBob SquarePants.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The (Dis)Organized Nightstand

I am reading lots of books in my abundance of spare time. Perhaps that's why they are all half-finished. Or half-begun. As much as I love being caught in the middle of a book that I just can't put down, a book that makes me sad when its over (even if it was 850 pages long, like David Copperfield), there is something really exciting about beginning a new book. Introductions are great. I love it when the author tells me about what they are going to tell me. I finish the introduction and I think, "Yes, this sounds interesting. I shall begin Chapter One tomorrow, when I'm more awake." And this, I think, is how I have collected so many books on my night stand.

Right now there is George Weigel's A Witness to Hope, Chesterton's Biography of St. Thomas and Francis, Annie Dillard's Teaching a Stone To Talk, Aeneid, Danielle Bean's Mom to Mom, and a copy of the magazine Real Simple. Now you have a picture of the quantity of reading material on my nightstand (try to imagine that none of it is in disarray, please). In all but Aeneid, I have actually gotten very far into all of these books, at least 100 pages, I would say. What is it about finishing a book that eludes me? Les Miserables is back on the shelf and I only made it to page 600/1000. It's not quite that I lose interest because whenever I pick the book back up I'm instantly interested. I think that the real problem is that it becomes buried under another book and then is not in my line of sight. I was reading yesterday, in Real Simple, if I recall correctly, about different types of organizing personalities. I don't remember them all, only the one I identified with: the visual organizer. These are people who intentionally leave things out to remind themselves to do them. Like leaving bills on the desk so you remember to pay them. These people hate to put things away immediately because they are afraid that they will forget about them.

This is me. I leave boxes out to be put away, I leave ingredients on the counter so I remember what I was going to make, I leave lots of papers in my purse, and I leave my books on the nightstand. I think it works like this, I leave them all out, so I will keep reading them, but then they get covered by the latest book and my method fails. Maybe someday I'll try to switch to another organization method. Any ideas?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sell Your Old, Heavy, No Good Laptop

For $$$$

So I'm cleaning it Spring Cleaning (if you have a low view of "cleaning"). I went through the closet and took three garbage bags of stuff to the clothing drop box. Lots of old books are posted on, though I still haven't figured out what we'll do if they don't actually sell there. I'm even getting rid of tupperware! I'm telling you, all this junk is just getting on my nerves.

My latest purge is the old laptop that I bought during college. Except for threatening a "system failure" when I was trying to print a copy of my not-back-up thesis for my defense, it was a great computer. It had a few quirks, the g, h, and backspace would randomly stop working resulting in really funny e-mails where I said "i, ow are you? tins are ood ere." But now it's gone. I sold it to for a good price. They sent me a pre-paid box. I sent them the laptop. They sent me money. Not bad!

Now, do I sell Matt's old, angering me every day, every second computer too? Then take the proceeds and buy something that actually works? That's probably what we'll do. I hate computers.

Who knows what'll be next to go. Maybe Dominic. He is taking up more and more space and never stays tidy. In fact, he even makes everything else a mess. I think that'd solve most of my problem. Yes. Dominic has got to go. Any takers?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Latest From Dominic, A Video

This is the short version of a little video that I'm making for Dominic's first birthday. This one captures the last two and a half months, which have been full of new adventures like walking and babbling. This will kind of be like seeing it live...I hope.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Few Tips from Maestro Dominic

Should you ever desire to touch an object that is off limits for some reason, you will benefit from a few of the tactics that I have gathered in my observations of Dominic. This is pure will, unspoiled by the experience of life. He is not even one yet! Here is how he would advise you:

The first method is, of course, the easiest. Simply touch the object. There is no need for subtlety or stealth. If this should fail, wait until the "guard" looks away and then attack.

Now, if the direct method is not working, perhaps you should resort to using a secondary object. I would recommend something familiar like a stuffed Doggy or sippy cup but in a pinch blocks or a little book will work. Here's how this works. While you are playing near it, casually drop your Doggy or cup onto the keyboard, trying your best to make it look like an accident and then, as you pick up your Doggy, extend the time it takes to pick it up as long as possible by grazing all of the keys and pressing a few if you can manage.

While the keyboard is clearly the most fun, it is still fun to touch any part of a computer. I like to try to poke the screen with one finger or come up to the computer from the back side and feel the logo. But my very favorite is to come up along the side of the keyboard and try to eat the side with all of the holes for things. If you can't get to the keyboard, the power cord is also very tasty, especially the little end.

I have just a few more tricks for you. Though of course you cry whenever they strike down your efforts with, "No" and a hand slap, cry whenever you walk by the computer, even if nobody says, "No". It will get you some sympathy and maybe they will let up their vigilance. Try to rest your head on the laptop, as if you are really, really tired. They think that's cute. My most recent tactic, though, is my special invention. It's called hover hands. Here's how you do it. Hold you hands about two inches above the keyboard for about thirty seconds moving them back and forth but making it clear that you are not touching the keyboard. Then, when you have them convinced, drop your hands onto the keyboard. Presto!

Just be sure that you don't get in trouble when you actually weren't trying to get the computer. For example, as happened to me yesterday, if you happen to lose your balance and your hand accidentally falls upon the keyboard, straighten up immediately and put your offending hand straight up in the air away very dramatically and away from the computer. "Hands up" they call it.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Dominic Hits The "Snackpot"

He toddles across the apartment, his chubby legs move his rolly little body, and his diaper crinkles at his every "stride". Often he struts about enjoying the pure pleasure of it; he is tickled by his newfound skill and utterly pleased with himself for walking as a biped. Now that he can walk around and bang two objects together (usually blocks or balls, but it is never limited to that, shoes, cups, coasters, lots of things will work), he thinks his little life just couldn't get better.

This particular time, however, he seems to actually have a purpose for his toddle across the apartment. Curious, I sit back to watch where mischief will take him. That's the nice thing about a small apartment, I can watch him play almost anywhere from just one comfy spot on the couch. Dominic moves out of the living room, past the easy chair, and through the dining room chairs, to his high chair. His high chair affords him plenty of entertainment aside from eating in it for hours every day. He has figured out how to push it around, he scatters the cheerios beneath it, or he plays behind it in his "cave". Today he does none of these. Instead he walks right up to it, full of purpose, and thrusts his chubby little hands into the seat of the high chair, to pull them back out laden with "snacks" which he promptly shoves into his mouth, giggling between his snacks. It seems that our little saver was thinking ahead and had dropped (intentionally?) a few snacks there 'for later'. Dominic hit the "Snackpot"--and scored big time.

Just to save my housekeeping image which is probably in shambles now, I would like to say for the record that I do clean his high chair frequently. Just not immediately after he eats because I get occupied with cleaning him up, changing a diaper, or doing dishes. But it's not typical that there are lots of "snacks" there for him. :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Guess the 13th President of the United States...

If you said, Millard Fillmore, you are the winner!

If you're like me, however, failed by public education and your own memory, you probably can't name very many presidents according to their numerical terms, and Millard Fillmore probably wasn't on the top of your list. In fact, when I recently mused to my brother, "Can you believe that we had a president named Millard Fillmore?" he replied with all seriousness, "No way! We did?" Precisely my point; who knows anything about President Fillmore?

For starters, he served as Vice President from 1849-50 and then acceded to the office of President from 1850-53, after President Zachary Taylor's unexpected and early death. Millard is actually his mother's maiden name (at least there's some explanation for it, right?). He was a self-fashioned man from New York who eventually became a lawyer and started his own law firm and also founded the private University of Buffalo. In 1828 he was elected the the New York Assembly and then Congress until 1843, when he resigned to campaign for Governor of New York (an unsuccessful campaign). Fillmore was against the extension of slavery in the new lands, but he oversaw the Compromise of 1850--which, if you remember your American History was an attempt to solve the disputes over slavery in the territories after the Mexican-American war. The Compromise was to alternately admit slave states and free states to preserve the balance as a means of preserving the unity of the United States.

After his term in the White House, though, he was not very popular because he signed the Fugitive Slave Law which required the capture and return of any escaped slaves, even if they had made it to free territory, and was not re-elected (he later ran on the Know-Nothing ticket opposing Democrat James Buchanan and lost again). Although he is credited with the installation of the first bathtub into the White House, this is actually a tall-tale created by H.L. Mencken 1917 in a fictitious account on the "history of the bathtub." Too bad. That 's a pretty cool legacy. Boo :( He is said to have been quite a pleasant person with a soft eloquence and perhaps low self-confidence. See his picture below. I hope you've this episode of Who's Who?

Portrait of Millard Fillmore
Portrait of Millard Fillmore

The Young and the Restless

Do we not know how confused and weak people are, how everday matters endlessly distract us and fill our thoughts and emotions? It's funny to think that we allow these same matters, silly trifles that we won't even remember the day after tomorrow, to fill our short lives which, you would think, we would treasure above all else. All this cuts us off from our Lord, shutting us off from heaven and choking off prayer, like smoke from a funnel rising and obscuring the light from the sun. And what is smoke? It is made up of tiny black particles. In just the same way, our sins and restlessness (italics mine) rise and obscure everything like smoke -- so that our life ceases to be Christian and becomes vain and pointless.

Father Alexander Men

Isn't this just so true? I think Father Men really hits the nail on the head with this little meditation (Magnificat 3-4-08). Sin obviously obscures our "connection" with heaven, but so too does restlessness. As much as we are to be forward-looking as Christians, we are also supposed to bring in the kingdom of heaven, now. Augustine understood this well when he said that 'Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee'. I found the following entry on restlessness quite interesting (Webster). How often I am guilty of these various forms of restlessness! Even my resting is sometimes restless. So we pray, "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul." (Psalm 23)

Restlessness (n.)

1. The quality of being ceaselessly moving or active; "the restlessness of the wind".
2. A lack of patience; irritation with anything that causes delay.
3. A feeling of agitation expressed in continual motion; "he's got the fidgets"; "waiting gave him a feeling of restlessness".
4. Inability to rest or relax or be still.