Thursday, July 28, 2011

How to back up a trailer

There are skills, every day skills, that our parents have taught us to make sure that we are self-reliant adults when they finally send us out into the cruel, harsh world.  Some of these skills are universal such as how to change a tire, how to read a map, how to swim, how to sew a button and how to parallel park a car. 
One skills that I'm glad that my dad taught me was how to drive a standard transmission. It amazes me that more people don't know how to do that. My dad gave me one or two lessons and then handed me the keys to our 1970 Ford Maverick. It wasn't 'four on the floor,' but 'three on the tree.' By the time I had access to the car, my three older sibs had already driven it, so shifting really only required the use of two fingers to change gears.

This past month, I have found that I lack a skill that would be extremely helpful to have. And I've learned that many of my girlfriends also lack this skill. For some reason, I've never been taught how to back up a trailer. Granted, I never needed to know how to back up a trailer until this past month, but that's besides the point.  

This past month has been all about moving. Moving into my new place, moving stuff to storage and moving stuff out of my Saint Paul condo. My brother-in-law Paul has a nice sized trailer and was letting me use it.  And as long as I didn't have to back it up, it wasn't a problem. Except there were going to be times when I would have to back it up. 
The first day of moving into my new place, I had the trailer filled with boxes and stuff to be moved into the new locale. I was on my own that day and I was going to have to back up the trailer eventually.  I made arrangements with my nephew to stop by at a pre-arranged time to back it up.  About 30 minutes prior to his scheduled arrival, I sent him a text telling him that he wasn't needed, I was able to turn the trailer around. 

It's important to notice that I said I turned the trailer around and not that I backed it up. There's an open field next to my new place and instead of having to back it out, I could just turn the trailer around by driving through the field. 

This past Sunday, my sister Sue and I were going to be taking the final trip up to the Saint Paul condo to get move out a few remaining pieces of furniture. We wouldn't need the big trailer, we could use an old van from Paul's business. The night before, Paul asked Sue what we were moving and then reminded her that the van had shelves! We would have to use the trailer. Sue doesn't know how to back up a trailer either.

Big points to my brother-in-law; Sunday morning, he checked the Northern Tool + Equipment website and found a solution. (Kudos to Northern Tool + Equipment for being open by 9 a.m. on Sunday morning) He got a swivel wheel for the hitch and a trailer dolly.  Once we got to our location, we unhooked the empty trailer from the SUV and then hooked the dolly to the trailer and Sue and I (okay, mostly Sue because I was giving directions) were able to turn the trailer around, re-hook it up to the SUV and we no longer needed to have the skills to back-up the trailer. 

I still would like to learn how to do it, there's just no rush right now.  

I would also like to have a standard transmission in my next car. I miss that clutch!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Recycling Convert

I am a late bloomer baby boomer ... okay, not really, it just sounded fun to say.  

Start again ...

I am a baby boomer born on the cusp of Gen X . The recycling movement really came into being during my college years and I remember recycling aluminum cans and later newspapers. 

I'll be honest, I've never been a good recycler, mostly because recycling bins always took up too much space in my traditionally small apartment/condo. I would recycle cans and newspapers since it never seemed a hassle to organize and recycle them. 

The condo complex where I lived in Saint Paul made it pretty easy to recycle with several labeled bins alongside our garages, but I was still only doing the cans and newspapers until my niece Kelly lived me for a summer. Kelly is a Gen Y kid and recycling to her is an expectation and just a part of keeping a home. She got my recycling going that summer, but the habit didn't stick. 

In my defense, I do use those reusable shopping bags. I just always forget to bring them in when I go to the store. 

In the last 10 months, while living with my sister and her family, I caught the recycling bug because Dodge County, where they live, makes recycling as easy as falling off a log. You don't have to separate your recyclables; they let you mix them together! (thus less space) One of the cabinets in their kitchen island is set up to hold two recycling bins, so you just have to dump things in there. Eazy peezy. 

So, now I've moved into my new digs in swanky NW Rochester. It's a newer building and is managed by a reputable company here in Rochester (Paramark). So, I was more than a bit surprised when I inquired where the recycling area is, only to be told that there isn't one. I was so stunned that I asked the question a second time because I was SURE that the manager had just misunderstood my question.

I'm not sure what was more unexpected - that there isn't any recycling at an apartment complex or that I was disappointed in the fact that there isn't any recycling at my new home. 

For the last two weeks, a good part of my living room had been taken over by a growing stack of flattened cardboard boxes that I had planned to put in the complex's recycling area. I had also started putting my cans, newspapers and plastic bottles into bags for recycling. Here I was all ready to be responsible and I got shot down.

With a new, and highly unusual, determination, I used the Google to look up "recycling in Olmsted County Minnesota." I found a recycling center on the other side of town where you can bring your recycling, they just can't be mixed together.  Okay, I can live with that. 

So last night, I loaded up my car with that stack of cardboard and the bags of newspapers and cans, ready for my first of many trips to the recycling center.  This morning, before going to work, I drove across town and went through the recycling drive-thru, with its several, clearly-marked bins for the various materials. I unloaded my stuff and drove on to work feeling highly satisfied and a bit smug.

I've also started thinking about how I can set up sorting bins in my new place ... When did I become a tree hugger? 

Maybe I am a late-bloomer, baby boomer after all.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Oh the gall!

I'm counting down the days till my gall bladder surgery. Nineteen days from now, I'll be going under the knife here at Mayo Clinic.

Lately, I've been doing a lot of video taping for various projects (Have flip cam, will travel) and since any personal medical issue I have is an opportunity to show what we do here at Mayo Clinic, I'm wondering if I can bring in my flip cam for the surgery.

"Oh hey, Dr. Jenkins, is it okay if I just put my tripod on the gurney with me?"

I've already signed a release to allow Mayo to video tape the surgery which they don't expect to do, so why can't it work both ways?  Think about would have the rare opportunity to see me in a loose-fitting gown that isn't in my color palette AND I'll be wearing those sexy compression hosiery.

Thinking about it further, maybe I should just do the pre and post-surgery. Shooting the surgery would mean exposure and let's just say "my core" isn't as toned as I would like it to be. (Not that it ever has been)

Many people have been surprised by the fact that I scheduled my surgery almost five weeks out instead of doing it immediately. "oh, you must be in so much pain."  I might be spontaneous on most parts of my life, but with things like this, my inner control freak comes out.

I couldn't do it in early July because of the move - can't lift more than 10 pounds after the surgery.  Then there were work retreats during the last two weeks of July that I didn't want to miss and, well, the first week of August is the Freeborn County Fair and my bestest friend will be home that week. 

My calendar appeared pretty open after that and Dr. Jenkins seemed fine with the date, so August 8th it is! He just told me that if I start to have a lot of pain or start to turn yellow, I have to go in early. Well, if it works with my schedule...

The whole gall stone thing surprised me because, after doing lots of Web surfing, Dr. Harty had diagnosed kidney stones and figured, "these, too, shall pass."  Only they didn't.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I'm trying to be positive here, but the first four days living in my new abode have not gone smoothly. Packing and unpacking and organizing was the easy part. Each day I've faced one failure after another and I'm beginning to think I may be cursed or something. 

It started on Saturday with the installation of DirecTV. I've had DirecTV for years and I love it. I got a great deal with upgrades and an internet bundle because of the move and I was feeling a tiny bit smug with not having to use the dreaded Charter Communications. The installer was coming between 8 and noon Saturday morning. I called DirecTV at 11:50 am because I hadn't heard anything. Seems the installer was lost. 

When he arrived, I showed him the deck where the dish would have to sit because of the restrictions of the apartment management company. He was quick to point out that I had a western exposure and not a "clear view of the southern sky." He wasn't going to be able to install it and I was now without television service. 

At least I wouldn't have to pay a cancellation fee to DirecTV because there was no way they could get service. On Sunday, DirecTV called to tell me that they have to send a technician out to my place to verify that they couldn't put a dish up before they would cancel my contract. "They'll call you to schedule a time." Seriously? I am not waiting for someone to show up when you just have to look at my deck from the outside and you can see the problem. I still haven't heard from the technician and DirecTV still hasn't confirmed the cancellation of my account. 

And now I'm feeling bad for telling the people at Charter to take a hike; I would have to grovel now to get cable service. 

The second part of my DirecTV bundle was Qwest Internet service and that would start on Monday. I called Qwest on Monday because I hadn't received my information and they told me that UPS was delivering my modem that day. Strange, I told them that I didn't need a modem since I already had one. The service was to be switched on Monday at 5 p.m., but I wouldn't get the modem until Tuesday afternoon (I had to reschedule the UPS delivery). 

There are seven combination phone/cable jacks in the condo; two in each room and one in the kitchen.  I followed the installation directions step-by-step, but it wasn't working. I called Qwest customer service and they were no help. They didn't know which jack was the one that was activated; I would have to check all of them. Customer service asked me what time it was - I said 5:50 p.m. "Oh, maybe the service isn't on yet. If you wait an hour or so, then try again." Their records said that my service was to be turned on at 5 pm on Tuesday not Monday. And it didn't say which time zone for that 5 pm. 

I checked all the jacks and then waited two hours and tried them all again. No luck. I called Qwest Customer Service a second time. They said that since I don't have regular phone service (who does anymore?), they couldn't tell me what the issue was. They would be happy to send a technician out and check the outside lines to see what the issue is. If they couldn't determine the issue on the outside, they would need to come in and check the inside wiring for "a nominal fee of $85." 

I laughed out loud and repeated what she said back to her - "a nominal fee of $85!? Forget it! Cancel my order. I'll ship you back the modem tomorrow." Oh, no, I would have to call a different number in the morning to cancel the order. UGH!!
I'll also have to call the Charter Communications guy and find out if they would add Internet service to my cable TV order.  Grovel, grovel...

Monday, July 11, 2011

The 800-pound squirrel in the room

I'm in the midst of an adventure that I less-than-lovingly call The Never-Ending Move.  This past weekend, I was finally able to move into my new apartment in NW Rochester.  It has not been an easy move and it has certainly not been a very well organized move.

Since I started my job in Rochester and put my Saint Paul condo on the market last fall, my worldly goods have been scattered to various locations.  In this case, various locations means three locations - a storage unit in Albert Lea, my sister's place in Mantorville and the Saint Paul condo.

I wish I could say that there was a thoughtful and organized plan behind it all, but there wasn't.  I took whatever I thought I couldn't live without to my sister's; put whatever seemed to be clutter at the condo in storage and left the rest in Saint Paul.

Now it's time to bring everything back together and I can honestly tell you, I'm a mess. The condo is a mess and I have no idea where anything is right now.

Two weeks ago, I packed up a few things from the Saint Paul condo (enough to fill the PT Cruiser) and then last weekend, we grabbed several boxes and pieces of furniture from the storage unit and put them into a trailer. I spent many hours last week, organizing my belongings at my sisters and prepared for the move.

Saturday morning, I unloaded the trailer into my garage and started moving things into the new place.  Since I was on my own on Saturday, I would carry up a couple of boxes and then unpack them before I go back down for another load.

Sunday was designated for moving the furniture and belongings from my sister's place. Due to unfortunate circumstances, my sister Sue and my nephew Riley had to help me move. Riley and his baseball team were supposed to be playing in the state tournament, but didn't make the final cut, so instead Sue and Riley got to help me move. (I swear I did not pray for that to happen, but I was thankful for the help)

In about 90 minutes, we got all the boxes into the apartment and got the bed set up. After that I sent Sue and Riley on their way (to Flapdoddles).

That's when the 800 pound squirrel broke into my house.

There must have been 50 boxes scattered between the kitchen, living room, bathroom, bedroom and office (oh, and the closets). Logically, you would take a box, unpack it, put things away and move on to the next box.

Logically isn't an adverb used for most people with ADD, at least not in the face of mountains of boxes. Here's an example of how my "unpacking" went yesterday.

Unpacking a box with clothing, I decide to sort them into two piles: stuff I can wear and stuff I wish I could still wear (wink, wink).
     'Oh, I should put these into another tub to put back into storage...'

I realize there is empty tub in the bedroom and wander in there to get it. I spot a box with stuff for the bathroom and stop to pick it up and take it into the bathroom, where I unpack it.

Then I go back into the bedroom where I found the box and start to sort the socks before I put them into the dresser. As I'm doing that, I notice that I haven't found the pillows for my bed yet and go back out into the living room to find the pillows, only to notice that I never got the tub for the "non-fitting" clothes. 

At this rate, I might be unpacked by Labor Day.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Moves in the field

The month of July will be all about moves.

The move into my new apartment.  The move into my new office. And, most importantly, the move OUT of my condo when (keeping my fingers crossed) the bank approves the sale.

The office move will be the simple part, at least for me. The move was at my request as I realized that my great experiment was not a success. Our division of Mayo Clinic Public Affairs decided to have a collaborative space for those people working on our intranet team.  This is an open space with six cubes, three offices with doors but no ceiling, and a meeting space that I call the penalty box, not because it is for bad kids, but because it is an glass enclosed meeting space.

I was one of the six people to share the cube area and although I was concerned how someone with ADD was going to do in a situation ripe with distractions, I said I would give it a shot. I gave it about five months and I told my manager that I need to get into one of the empty offices that has a door but no ceiling. The move is scheduled for next Friday, July 8th.

Also scheduled for next Friday, July 8th is the start of the lease for my new apartment. And I'm extremely unorganized for this move. There's an excuse a reason for that - I'm not sure where half my stuff is. Some things are still in the condo in Saint Paul. There's lots of stuff in storage in Albert Lea. And finally, there's a boatload of stuff crammed into my bedroom in the basement of my sister's house (with a small amount of overflow into the garage).

There's also the issue of I'm not sure what I can get into the new place. It's a bit smaller than the Saint Paul condo and I'm sure that my sectional will not fit. 

Unless I break it up into three pieces. 

It's a nice sectional and it's paid for. It's neutral in color and it's paid for. I would also have to find a way to get it from Saint Paul to Rochester - requiring both a vehicle large enough to carry it and strong persons to carry it down one flight of stairs (There's a sleeper in one part), put it in the truck and then carry it up the steps to the new place. I may have to pay out some $$ and get my friends at College Muscle Movers (LOVE THESE GUYS) to help out.

And then there's the need to call 1-800-GOT-JUNK to take care of the various items I have been trying to pretend didn't exist by storing them in the garage in Saint Paul.

I thought I would be able to get rid of my storage unit in Albert Lea when I found a new place, but there are several pieces of furniture that are either going to have to stay in storage or get put into storage (the dining room table & chairs, Mom's old buffet, the cedar chest).

I'm going to have to spend my 4th of July weekend thinking about this and that is just going to hurt my head. Maybe margaritas will help.

(my apologies to my skating friends who thought the title of his post meant that I was going to talk about skating. Really just wanted to get you to read my blog - I'm evil and manipulative that way)