Friday, 22 July 2011

Day #124: The one with the never ending electrician

I would like to submit a follow up to day #118: The One with the Electrician. Yes, he is still around and no, the job is still not done. I have decided to write a poem to Mr. Wires commemorating his time with us. Don't worry, I will let you know how this whole thing ends...if it ever does.

Dear Mr. Wires,
For months it seems you've been around,
and tried so hard to not make a sound.
The holes and gaps you've put in our wall,
are surely what has made this job stall.
You claim to arrive early so you won't be around late,
but the last five nights you've been at our house till eight.
With each plug you try to fix, five more problems arise,
our damp, rusty sockets always jump out and say, "SURPRISE!"
There is plaster in every crevice, corner, and nook,
your time with us could fill a book.
Yesterday was the filled me with terror,
when you said you were fixing our gas oven through "trail and error!"
Will the job ever finish? I am pretty sure not,
That is why a second bedroom and bed have been bought.
Just move in Mr. Wires, you already have a key,
With you, our London family just went from two to three.
We cannot wait to introduce you to everyone,
Do you hear that Dad? Now you have a son!
Caution to all who want to use your connection for a deal,
having an electrician in the family isn't always a steal.
You might think he's coming over to help with one thing or another,
the next thing you might have a new brother!

Lesson Learned: Plaster is easier to clean off of your kitchen floor when it's dry.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Day #123: The one with the Shuttle Cock

This week, I have been filling in for our office secretary at school. I was told that I should bring a book because I basically would be answering the phones and getting the mail. I thought, "I am going to get paid to check the mail? Awesome!" Turns out, the secretary left on holiday and decided to leave me the most annoying job in the entire world.

That's right all you fellow teachers, I am unpacking, checking in, and distributing ALL of next year's school supplies!

Let me just add here as a sidenote (PS: the names and places have been changed to protect the innocent) that I have a new respect for the amazing lady, Marharian, who is in charge of this task at Cage Sanyon. Shout out to you - you are incredible!

Dear Journal:

Monday - July 18, 2011
The first day was the hardest because all of the boxes had been stockpiled as they awaited my arrival. Day #1 consisted of 63 boxes, 492 glue sticks, 9 missing orders, and about 20 phone calls to the respective shipping offices. I was just getting my feet wet folks.

Tuesday - July 19, 2011
The second day was a bit better. Only 52 boxes; however, the markers arrived. They were organized by COLOR - not by set, not by teacher. Therefore, I had the pleasurable job of making 108 (0h yes, one for each child) rainbow packs from one box of red, one from orange, one from yellow...are you with me!?! Classic UK - who would ship items like that!?! I will tell you who - General Learning Supplies Company. Instead of having a think-tank of problem solvers, they probably send their employees home by 15:00 so they don't miss happy hour at their Local (pub that is!).

Wednesday - July 20, 2011
The third day was smooth sailing. I had completed the boxes in the hallway of hell and was down to just checking in boxes as they arrived - now THAT is what you call an efficient American worker! I had established all of our contacts at each supply company, spoken to them, and when an order was faulty, could call and ask for them by name.

Thursday - July 21, 2011
Now, here I am on Thursday. All caught up, sipping coffee, and blogging. Confession, I hacked into our neighbor's wireless internet to make this happen.

Love, Shayne

I know it's only Thursday, but I have really learned a lot this week. A plethora of experience and new knowledge has come my way. I would hate to deprive you of the life lessons I have learned.

Please enjoy:

1. File folders, rainbow tabs, a table of contents, and cross-references go a long way when organizing order forms, shipment details, and invoice paperwork. Shout out to Kristyn Braund for showing me the joys of a rainbow tab system and Monica Geller, the cross reference queen (just watch the first 3 minutes of that video - it's all you need!).

2. Per the sticky label on the outside of box # 5 of 27, "Scissors have sharp blades." Thank you TTS School Supplies!

3. The delivery men from the TNT shipping company in the UK could use a bit more on-the-job training. My conversation yesterday with Corey, the TNT employee, follows:
Corey: Hi, am here to pick up a package.
Shayne: Yup, I have it right here! The address label is all filled out and the shipment has been prepaid.
Corey: Great! Do you know the address it's going to?
Shayne: Well, it's the one written on the label I just showed you.
Corey: Oh, I see. Is this box being returned?
Shayne: Yes, the company sent the wrong item, so we are sending it back.
Corey: Hmmm, ok. Do you know how I am supposed to do that?
Shayne: Well, I filled everything out. I think you take it from here.
Corey: Yeah, I am not too sure what I am supposed to do. You don't know how to do it?

4. They make shatter-free rulers.
Seriously! Where were these when I was teaching art? These bad boys could have helped me avoid the blood, carved tables, and ruined pencils each year when the kids discovered new and exciting ways to use a common classroom item as their weapon of choice. Think rulers are safe? Think again!
Each year, I needed to start drawing lessons with the following schpeel...
"Rulers are for drawing a straight line. You will not use them to play 'Rock Band' on the edge of your table (AKA - poking your eye out! Notice the sunglasses in the video!). You will not put them on the tip of your pencil and spin them around like a helicopter (AKA - slicing open your forehead). You will not use them to fling paper balls at the ceiling (AKA - Oops! I missed and my ruler went flying across the room!). You will not use them to have a sword fight with your friend (AKA - 'accidentally' whacking the person across from you). And finally, you will not pick the metal strips out of the side and use the rusty, razor sharp piece of scrap metal to clean out your fingernails, scratch the person next to you, or brand yourself (AKA - DA!) (Also AKA - Noma Pride - Keith's, that one's for you!)."
Shatter-proof rulers...genius!

5. And the most amazing lesson of the week: Badminton Birdies are called Shuttle Cocks in the UK. Yes, you heard correctly. When unpacking the PE box, I couldn't figure out what a Shuttle Cock was! When I found out, I couldn't help myself:
"Hey, have you seen that rubber-tipped Shuttle Cock?"
"Whack that Shuttle Cock over here!"
"How far can you project your Shuttle Cock?"
"When serving, make sure to arch your Shuttle Cock."
"My Shuttle Cock broke!"
"Oh no, my Shuttle Cock is stuck in that net!"
Yes, I realize I am horrible and probably going to teacher hell.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Day #118: The one with the electrician

About a month ago, we got an email from our landlord letting us know that some of our electrical sockets needed to be updated and an electrician would be out later that week. He also informed us that our power would be out all day. I cringed. In the back of my mind I knew this 'casual and quick' fix that our landlord was referring to simply does not exist in the UK.

Being that Paul was in town at this time, I asked our landlord whether or not we could reschedule. I sent him a list of dates that didn't work for us and said, "Other than those, turn off our power at anytime!"

The date of service was rescheduled for later in the week. I got the house ready that morning....moved things away from the sockets in the wall, made sure the dishes were done etc. and left for work. When I got home that evening, everything seemed to be back in order. There were no gaping holes in the walls and I could turn on the lights! I thought, "WOW - the UK has proved me wrong!" That's when I found out the electrician never showed up.

We have done this dance about 5 more times.
The electrician is coming...I get the house ready...the electrician doesn't show up.
I have gotten really good at the steps to this routine.

That is why, when I got an email that the electrician would be here this past Thursday at 9:00 AM, I just disregarded it and moved on.

Wouldn't you know, there was a knock on our door at 11:30 and, our hero, Mr. Wires - the rock daddy of all things electrical, was standing on our door step with his toolbox. I had to smile. Of course he showed up on the one day I had nothing ready and was still in Jake's boxer shorts.
I ran through the house, got everything together, and was out the door to let the man work. He told me he had about 3 hours of work to do, so I headed to Keston with my computer and journal. When I got back to house 4 hours later, I walked in to find tools everywhere, plaster all over the carpet, and Mr. Wires standing in a pitch black kitchen with a battery operated headlight strapped to his head. (Shout out to one, Mrs. Jessica Jackson!)
"Sorry," he said, "I keep finding things that are wrong!"
I just stared at him with nothing to say.
He continued, "Did you know that you are missing part of your wall behind the oven? Whoever installed this thing just left a hole in the side of your house!"
Two things crossed my mind at this point: 1) Trevor and 2) That explains the spiders.
"I am gonna need to come back for a few hours tomorrow," Mr. Wires admitted.
I had to be honest with myself, I knew this was coming.

So, round two on Friday. Mr. Wires showed up and I was ready to be kicked out of our powerless house. However, the first words out of his mouth were so perfect, I must share.
He said, "I hope you didn't touch any of the new sockets last night. I forgot to tell you that they were a HUGE safety hazard."
"Well," I said, "Unless you count us turning on the TV, plugging in our computer, and using the light next to our bed as touching the new sockets, then NOPE - we are good!"
"I guess I should have remembered to tell you that," Mrs. Wires said.

I gave Mr. Wires my cell number and just asked him to call me when he was done. After about 7 hours between the park, Starbucks, and Keston, my phone rang. He let me know that I was safe to come home; however, the job was not finished yesterday. He will be back on another day next week from about 9:00-12:00 (UK translation - 11:00-6:00). YAY!

Lesson Learned: Comically enough, the 1:7 ratio still a tee! Mr. Wires told me he would need about 3 hours to complete the job and, instead, we are looking at three full days at 7 hours apiece. You do the math! Classic.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Day #115 - The one with the world premier

When I hear the song "Torn," by Natalie Imbruglia, I am instantly hit with the memory of driving to Oregano's for lunch with the girls on the last day of our Sophomore year of high school. When I hear "Barbie Girl (oddly, I find myself hearing this crazy song at least once a year)," my mind is infiltrated with screaming girls at cheer camp and the memory of getting so fried that my ears peeled. I can't see the cover of "Francie's Paper Puppy," and not remember my first year as an art teacher. And I can't see a Harry Potter book or movie without eleven years worth of memories and associations flying back to make me smile!

When our kids ask me, "Were you around when the Harry Potter series was first released?" I will laugh and say, "OHHHHH yeah - I remember them ALL!" (PS: You MUST watch that video)

This is why I forced myself to wake up last Thursday and throw myself into the throng of fans at the world premier for the final movie in London. Do I need to admit that I am one of those crazy fans? Probably! Am I ashamed about beating my 5th graders at Harry Potter trivia? Not in a million years!

A guy standing next to me on Thursday was interviewed by a reporter from the BBC and was asked, "What is your favorite Harry Potter book?" His response was so great!
He said, "For those of us who have followed the series from the beginning, it's hard to pick one. When I read the first book 12 years ago, it meant something different to me than when I re-read it now. For fans my age, we have grown up with it...we have grown up with them! Now that it's coming to an end, it's hard to say goodbye."

Thinking back on my Potter journey has reminded me of momentous occasions I associate with the books and movies!
* Begging my dad to take me to the book store in Las Vegas when I first finished book one
* Wearing thick, black-rimmed glasses with Lauren Miller when we saw the first movie in Pine Top for her 20th birthday
* Seeing the third movie with Chase in London when we were studying abroad
* Getting held up at gun point with Jake, Chase, Suzanne, Kevin, Lowe, and Shea when we were alley romping in Suzanne's jeep on our way home from picking up book five at midnight (true story! - for another time)
* My husband, sitting through movie five with my mom and I, ABSOLUTELY covered in melted crab butter that I spilled on him at dinner before the movie
* Seeing movie six with my incredible husband in Ireland

This London premier was the icing on the cake, the butter in the beer, the snitch in the Quiddich, and the Hog in Warts.

When our kids ask me, "Where were you when the last movie was released in the most epic film series of all time?"....I will have an answer.
Sidenote: Literally, this series beat out Bond, Star Wars, and Pirates of the Caribbean as the highest grossing movie of all time. Worldwide, these films have made $6,413,576,303 - sit with THAT for a moment!

Enjoy my play-by-play of the comedy filled day I spent last week in downtown London - all in the name of Potter!!!

  • I go online Wednesday night and find out people are camping out in Trafalgar Square to get wristbands for the Harry Potter world premier
  • I kick myself for not knowing about the premier and not being there with our tent, canteen of Butterbeer, and battery operated tent fan
  • I set my alarm for 7:00 AM to get down to the premier ASAP first thing in the morning
  • 7:00 AM Thursday – wake up giddy
  • I throw on clothes (no, I did not wear a Griffindor scarf, draw eye-liner glasses on my face, or strap a stuffed owl to my shoulder) and hop on tube
  • I exit the tube at Westminster and find myself in a down pour of glopping rain!
  • Umbrella up
  • I fight my way through the umbrella-less tourists huddling in the covered passageways outside of Big Ben
  • I round the bend and see Trafalgar Square up ahead in all of it’s Harry Potter glory
  • I can’t stop smiling at the red carpet, waving banners, and barricade fences covered in Griffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw house crest tarps
  • I get yelled at by a Harry Potter security nazi for looking through the fence to the “I’m so cool” Wristband section
  • I decide this demon of a guard’s favorite character is probably Voldemort or Malfoy
  • I gawk at the thousands of people crowding the streets
  • I sneak into the National Gallery to take photos of the gated section of Trafalgar Square
  • I pat myself on the back for getting some great photos

  • OOPS! I get kicked out of the art museum
  • I get herded down the back staircase with the other art museum posers
  • I happen to stumble upon a small group of people, a rolled up red carpet, and a smiling security guard
  • I decide this jovial guard’s favorite character is Luna Lovegood…or maybe Professor Sprout
  • I ask what’s going on
  • I find out that we are standing in what will be a red-carpet section beginning at 3:00 and the nice guard is going to let us stand here and claim a good spot when the section is built
  • I do a little excited dance
  • I call Jake to share my stroke of good luck
  • I look ahead and see the outside of the Ollivander’s store front set being put up along the walkway
  • I do another little excited dance
  • I meet friends, carry on, take photos, and smile at the full-grown-adult wearing Radish earrings in homage to Luna Lovegood

  • I take down my umbrella when the glopping rain stops (yes, I stood in the rain for 3 hours)
  • I watch as the rosy cheeked security guard’s shift ends and wave goodbye to my new friend
  • I watch as the security guard of doom takes over
  • I, along with my 20 new Potter buddies, get kicked out of our secret section by Mrs. Nasty
  • Children are crying all around me
  • Adults are screaming all around me
  • I decide Mrs. Nasty doesn’t even have a favorite character…she is a Death Eater herself!
  • I cut my loses, stroll through the streets, and see all of the people who have secured great spots along the carpet
  • I feel homeless and alone
  • I see the best outfit of all – a women dressed in a homemade Dobby the Elf outfit

  • I find the theater where the premier is going to occur

  • I see reporters
  • I see miles of red carpet
  • I smile
  • I think to myself, “Maybe I have found a better spot!”
  • I see a section of barricade that isn't STUFFED with people
  • I walk over to the barricade and am bombarded by a group of Armenian women screaming at me
  • “Jump over the barricade!!! Join us!!!”
  • I quickly hand my belongings over the gate as I put my trust in, what I am sure, are the ladies from the final scene of Sex in the City 2 (you know the ones that start out in burka's and reveal that they are wearing Chanel and Lois Vuitton underneath!)
  • I scale the barricade and leap the metal wall
  • I feel like a sycho fan
  • One of the Armenian women drops our camera
  • I pray the camera is fine – IT IS!
  • I tell the women I am from California
  • Their first question, “DO YOU KNOW KIM KARDASHIAN?!?”
  • I think about saying yes, but realize that these accomplices in my barricade break-in don't deserve to be lied to!
  • My saintly husband arrives on his lunch break to bring me food and drink
  • I decide, for the 100th time that day, that I am married to the most amazing man in the entire world
  • I bond with the Armenian women over the next two hours
  • I watch as a truck supply arrives and two huge walls are constructed in front of our view of the carpet
  • People around me begin screaming
  • The wall is taken down
  • The wall is reconstructed
  • I face the bitter reality that this premier is in classic UK style and no one knows what the hell is going on
  • I can’t understand how this thing is still being sorted out just a few short hours before Daniel Radcliff shows up
  • I chalk it up to the 1:7 ratio and am reminded that this will haunt me for the next 1.75 years
  • I decide maybe I should just go – didn’t I just come to see the hallabaloo anyway?
  • I decide I am in it to win it now…what have I got to lose?
  • I hug my Armenian friends goodbye and relocate as the wall is constructed and taken down once more
  • I find another area only about 5 or 6 people deep
  • I make new friends
  • I laugh
  • I watch live footage of the interviews happening in Trafalgar Square
  • I send nasty thoughts to the security guard who made me leave that area
  • I meet a nice gay guy dressed in a Hogwart’s cloak
  • I find out the premier is 2 hours delayed because of the rain
  • I realize I am committed to this event and not going anywhere
  • FINALLY….the people start coming down the red carpet!
  • I see the kids who play the sons and daughters of Harry and Ginny/Ron and Hermione
  • I laugh with joy
  • I spot Lavander Brown, Luna Lovegood, and Neville
  • I fend off a screaming Spaniard who has decided to use my shoulders to steady her camera
  • I fend off the Spaniard again
  • I tell the Spaniard to STOP TOUCHING ME!
  • My new gay friend tells the Spaniard in Spanish to stop touching me
  • The Spaniard relocates
  • I wish my husband was with me to witness this hilarious mayhem
  • I proceed to live out my Harry Potter dreams and see….
    • Voldemort
    • Hagrid
    • Bellatrix (on the balcony in the long green dress)
    • The Weasley Twins
    • Ginny
    • Dean Thomas
    • Seamus Finnigan
    • Professor Slughorn
    • Professor Sprout
    • Blain from Glee
    • Some people from Made in Chelsea – PRICELESS!
    • The band McFly – and was informed by my new friends that since I didn’t know who they were I was ‘SOOOOO American!’
    • Filch
    • Fleur Delacour
    • Gregorvitch (engaged to Ginny by the way!!!)
    • Tonks
    • Lupin
    • Lucius Malfoy
  • Finally, there is a lull in the madness and we know who was coming next!
  • 10 minutes pass
  • 30 minutes pass
  • I remind myself that even if I don’t see the 3 Amigos, I got to see more characters than I EVER expected to see when I woke up that morning
  • I watch (and photograph) as three mini-vans come down the carpet
  • I am informed that Harry, Ron, and Hermione got held up in interviews and were required to drive to the theater
  • My fingers cross that they will still make an appearance
  • I fall in love with Ron as he quickly flies out of his car and runs down the carpet before going in to see the movie
  • I try not be bitter and angry that Harry and Hermione did not follow in Ron's heroic footsteps
  • I try to steal a piece of red carpet for my scrapbook
  • I get yelled at - oops!
  • I arrive back home 13 hours later and feel like the luckiest girl alive
Lesson Learned: Waiting for 13 hours in the rain was TOTALLY worth the world premier of the final Harry Potter movie!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Day #109: The one with the purple hair

With it being so expensive here in London, I wasn't sure what to do about getting my hair done across the pond. At a nice salon - the kind you aren't scared to walk into - we are looking at about 60 pounds for highlights, 40 for root color, and another 50 for a cut. So add it together and we have reached 150 U.K. pounds - do the conversion and you end up with 3 hours in a chair, lighter hair, 300 American dollars, and a partridge in a Pear tree....enter Groupon.

Until London, I never knew how this thing worked. I have had friends fall in the cyber line to get laser hair removal and the like, but I never thought about using this source for highlights! The first time I purchased said hair care package, I waited with bated breath to see if I would be the chosen one and receive the deal. I was in fact selected and did a victory dance until my husband informed me that I was not hand picked and this was not a lottery. Nonetheless, I went to the salon for an epic day of hair care treatment and left the Chelsea area trimmed, rootless, and smiling.

When it came to round two, I entered the event with much more confidence. This time I shopped around and waited as I saw deals hit for 59 pounds, 49 pounds, and finally, I snagged the one for 43. Victory was mine!!! I should have known this was too good to be true when I google-mapped the location the day of my appointment and found the salon to be an hour away. But, with my positive experience the last time, I viewed my excursion as an opportunity to read. In my mind, I pictured Groupon scouts traveling to all of these wondrous deal-bearing salons and getting their hair done to see if they were worthy of being on Groupon. This approach was seemingly a concoction of my mind.

As I exited the tube (yes, at least the tubes went out this far) I called the salon to get their location. Earlier, when I tried to find it, google-maps couldn't pull it up and the receptionist told me to call when I got in the neighborhood...clue #1 to turn and run in the other direction. The receptionist answered and I was greeted with a latino accent that just kept yelling into the phone:
Receptionist: "Where are you?"
Me: "Well, I am looking at..."
Receptionist: "OH - do you see bus number 43? Follow that bus!"
Me: "Wait what? A bus? I don't see a bus!"
Receptionist: "SHOOT - I don't know where you ARE! (Panic was starting to take her over the edge)"
Me: "Calm down, I am right in front of a ...."
Receptionist: "AN AMBULANCE! Do you hear that? Follow that ambulance!!!"

Finally, I did locate the salon, was placed in a chair, and was greeted by a frenchman. He told me that my deal did not include highlights and I assured him that it did. I pulled out the voucher and pointed to the package. He needed to ask someone else to read the details of the deal....clue #2. As I was describing to him what I wanted done to my hair he kept saying, "Yes, yes," before I was done and I didn't know if he understood. When he said, "Blonde," I knew I would be ok.

I did, however, become concerned when he whipped out the lavender color dye that I associate with salons in the mid-90's. You know the one. Thick, purple, and probably used by Madonna in this photo:
But, in an effort to be rootless, I proceeded. Halfway through the color processing, I noticed the hair on the top of my head turning kind of a whitish-pink color and asked about it. The frenchman said, "Blonde!" When he washed out the dye, he was right. The entire top half of my hair was WHITE and the bottom was still my normal brownish color. I looked like a skunk...with really long hair.
I told myself not to freak out and called the manager over. I explained the problem and she said, "You didn't ask for the top of your hair to bleached?"

The solution was to weave some low-lights into the top to tone it down. I left feeling a bit better and my amazing husband comforted me in my time of need.
"Just wear your hair down," he said, "That way you can't see the splotchy blocks of whiteness."

I got through our anniversary weekend with white polka-dots and immediately purchased another Groupon. When I got to the next salon (in a much nicer part of town), the colorist said she had never seen anything like it. "Green," she said, "I see green in your hair!"

All I could say was, "Please, please fix it!"
I know she did what she could and tried to clean-up the mess created by someone else. However, when the toner was washed out I could plainly see that my hair was eggplant purple and cut to my chin. That night, Jake and I had a memorial service for my hair. There were tears, anger, and bit of regret as we grieved the loss of my dirty blonde locks. All I could think was that the Braunds were arriving the next day and I was going to look like Jem the Rocker in all of the photos.
My solution was round 3. I arrived back at the same salon at 9:30AM when the doors opened. My colorist took one look at my hair and knew something needed to be done. She explained that, with bleached hair, it sometimes takes a few times for the new color to lock in. I asked if my hair was going to fall out and she said that it shouldn't...comforting.

So, back to the sink I went! I left the salon with wet hair so that I could fly to the airport to meet our visitors at the gate. When I embraced Kristyn in a huge hug and she didn't laugh and point at a purple head of hair, I knew that the third time was the charm.

Curious about my new dew? Check out our photos of Scotland in the next blog or two.

Lessons Learned: Read above.