Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pat Yourself on the Back and Kick Yourself in the Seat

Verily I say, "Pride goeth before a fall".

Yesterday was a busy, busy day. Last week the service light on the thermostat began coming on for minutes to an hour at a time and I had called my distant cousin Jimmie to come have a look. He could not find anything amiss at first. Then, he happened to be standing over the outside unit when it kicked off. He came back inside and told me we might have a problem. His opinion was the compressor was on its last legs. We contemplated whether to replace the compressor or to take a giant step and replace the entire system now instead of dealing with another piece dying next year. I am all for getting things taken care of and ridding myself of the feeling of impending doom, so I told him I was ready for the giant step.

His merry group of minions arrived bright and early yesterday morning and began the process of demolition, followed by installation. The dogs were a little disturbed by the racket, but settled down surprisingly well when I told them everything was fine. I, on the other hand, was a little jittery, wondering which thump was going to precede some tall lanky boy crashing through the ceiling.

I kept busy with my normal work at home routine, but the workload was light and not enough to keep me distracted. So I decided to sort through the big box of receipts, bill stubs and financial records that had accumulated during 2010 and maybe get a jump on the annual income tax cha-cha. I filed and discarded and by mid-day had that particular headache under control. In the process, I filled a carton full of paper to be taken to the office and put in the shred bins. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself and I arrived at the bottom of the paper pile just about the time the workers pronounced themselves done.

Three dreaded jobs completed! The house was heating up to precisely the point I had selected on the new digital thermostat without any moans and groans or flashing of lights. The yearly tangle of paper was sorted into an expandable file where I can find what I need when I need it. The shred pile was neatly packaged and ready to go into the car. I decided I should accomplish one more of the things on my to-do list and I set about loading a pile of elderly electronics into Big Red for transport to Goodwill.

Last weekend David had helped me remove disc drives from ancient computers and swap stereo components and swap out the dvd player in my bedroom. There was a small mountain of unwanted electronics and cables and connectors and heaven only knows what else sitting in the corner of bedroom, ready to be taken for a ride to the electronics graveyard. It took the better part of an hour to load everything into the car, drive it to Goodwill, unload it and return home.

I was really patting myself on the back at this point.

And then, it hit me. I had not checked the old dvd player to make sure it was empty before I had merrily tossed it on top of the pile headed out. It had been a good week since I had watched anything on that unit and I kept trying to remember what on earth it would have been. I began opening and checking all the dvd cases that were in the stand beneath the tv. I was just beginning to breathe a sigh of relief when I picked up the last case and I knew which one was going to be missing. I had watched an episode from a season set of a 1970s tv show, an episode I am particularly fond of and which was the reason why I had purchased the set in the first place. (No, I am not going to tell you which tv show because then you will know I have questionable taste and will never let me forget how much losing that disc upset me.)

It was late in the evening when I realized what I had done. Too late to call the store. I decided the only thing to do would be to show up as soon as the doors opened and plead my case to the workers and hope for a small miracle. At this point I had kicked myself mentally for not checking the thing before it left the house, kicked myself for letting such a small thing upset me, and kicked myself for getting upset enough that I was too agitated to settle down and go to sleep until way after midnight.

I was awake bright and early, not because of the task ahead of me but because I had set the thermostat where I used to set the thermostat for overnight and the new unit actually went to that temperature and I was freezing to death. It was a long time before it was time to leave to arrive at Goodwill promptly at 9 o'clock. As a good luck charm, I stuck an empty cd sleeve in the car, hoping I would have something to put in it.

I was indeed the first in line at the drop off point and I told my sad story to the lady at the dock. She gave me a dubious look but said she would go see if she could find the dvd player. I saw her through the glass door, telling another worker what was going on and the other worker shook her head doubtfully. But, a couple of minutes later, here she came waving the dvd player in the air. She brought it to the front table, plugged it in, and out popped my missing disc. The other worker commented that it was sheer luck I got it back, because that piece of equipment had been on its way out to the truck.

So I rescued my beloved episode, which has brought me full circle to again patting myself on the back. I fully expect that tonight I will be conking out early. All this back patting and butt kicking can wear you out.


Monday, January 03, 2011

1861 Navigation System

Just before the Christmas holidays, I decided it was time to see about getting a map framed to be hung above the fireplace. I got the idea while sitting at Chicken Express one day. They had an early Bastrop County map framed and hung in their dining area and I immediately wanted one for my own. I have a large blank area above the fireplace and it occurred to me that a reproduction of an old map of Bastrop County would be a nice way to fill up that big empty wall.

I had several reproductions of Bastrop County plat maps already in my collection, but they were all in black and white. I wanted a color one like the one at Chicken Express. So, a month or so ago when I paid a visit to the General Land Office, I took the opportunity to look at the available maps and pick out one that I thought would make a nice focal point for my living room. I selected the 1861 map because it was the most colorful.

When I went back later that afternoon to pick up the map, I realized how very big it was. It would definitely fill up that big expanse of white wall, but I was a little bit afraid of what it was going to cost to get it framed. Finally, I decided it would be a good Christmas present to myself. I braced myself and waltzed into the framing area of the nearby craft store and picked out all the pieces before I ever inquired about the cost. It was a good thing I did that, because I would probably have backed off and chosen more inexpensive elements. As it was, I swayed a little when they gave me the total, but gamely handed over my credit card and placed the order, telling myself it was another piece of furniture I had fallen in love with - rather like that platform rocker I brought home a few weeks ago that I didn't know I needed until I saw it.

The day before the holiday vacation was over, I got the call that it was ready for pickup. It was good motivation to get me back to the office after all that nice rest and relaxation. When they brought the box out of the workroom, I was astonished all over again at the size of the thing. But when they removed the wrapping and let me take my first look, I knew I had made good choices. I loved it.

I loved the aged look of the outer wood frame, with the delicate scrollwork that gives it an early, almost Pennsylvania Dutch air. I love the double mats of green and rusty red. I love that if you did not know better, you would think you were looking at an authentic old map and not a reproduction. I can't wait to get it put in its proper place up on the mantle, but I've decided it would be smart to wait until I have a little assistance to lift the heavy thing into place.

As a historian and as a 5th generation native born Texan and 5th generation native born Bastrop Count-ian, I feel like this is just the right touch for my living room. And down in the southwest corner, near Red Rock, I can point to the proof of my heritage. Jacob G. Lentz, my 3rd great grandfather, acquired a league of land from the Mexican government in 1831.

Sure wish Jacob's daughter Amanda, my great-great grandmother, had held onto her share of her father's land. Jacob's league was split into various pieces and sold down through the generations, but a portion of that original league is still in the hands of some of the descendants of Amanda's brother Thomas.

I am pleased that this map will be there in my living room for years to come to remind me of my deep Bastrop County roots.