Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The only thing that keeps me going

August 24, 2006

We have a million socks in this house but none of them like each other. Since when did socks learn how to increase, multiply and separate? They are everywhere, except together and never where you can find them. I hate them. The person who invents and markets disposable socks and manufacturers them cheap will solve all the world’s problems. Somewhere in Afghanistan is a woman with sock issues. Trust me it’s a global problem and Al Gore needs to get working on it.

We stopped sorting socks years ago. We decided we’d put them in a basket, exerting some modicum of control over them....and they never get paired. They get tossed around the house, while they seek out their mates in the dog’s mouth or attached to some pair of pants that was recently folded. Brown socks like to hang out with white ones and the pantyhose loves to twist around them both. The socks invade my inner peace with their “just try to find my partner” attitude. Sometimes, I gather the courage to throw them all away, but then there might be the chance that I saw the match to that green Boy Scout sock somewhere… these are real goals, people and this is war.

I aspire to come up with the perfect system for laundering socks. Color coding socks, putting them in mesh bags and other great systems are only as the good as the person doing laundry. The kids define laundry as anything in their room that needs to be picked up and out of sight. Socks, rocks, balls, wrappers, clothes that haven’t been worn since 1997 all make it to the laundry pile, and the wayward socks are with them all.

We have multiple college degrees in this house, but it’s the mystery that never gets solved. My husband gave up trying to figure it out so he buys his own bags of fresh socks and stopped looking for the old ones. The old ones are left to me. They torment me. If socks were children; C.P.S would have collected me years ago.

My washing machine hates the socks as much as I do. It likes to hide them in places I haven’t found or somewhere between the rubber boot seal and the door. Once they are caught there, they never rinse completely, they smell worse than before and they take on a more menacing appearance when they are soaked and alone. It’s the little girl socks mixed with the big old teenager boy socks that wreak havoc on a whole system of peace and harmony in my home. The laundry piles up, laughs at me and I swear I’ve seen movement, Nah.

Occasionally some eccentrics in the clothing world, something we haven’t seen in years make it to the laundry pile after a long absence. It reappears like a prodigal child, usually out of season and many sizes smaller than its original owner. I have friends with large families and we talk about the laundry behind its back. We are especially catty when discussing clothes that end up in the laundry pile with their hangers still attached to them. The kids deny knowing how those clothes got there or why they need to be washed again. No one knows. I pulled a full parka and a basketball out of the laundry basket yesterday and wondered if I missed a ski trip with the basketball team this summer. Amazing as the piles are…there is an unspoken rule in this house that if a particular article of clothing has had contact with the ground; it is somehow contaminated and must be laundered immediately. Once it has escaped its folded capacity, and unless it is attached to the body of the person to whom it belongs, it’s officially dirty and therefore must retreat to the pile where it meets all its other friends who have no place to go. The concept that closets and dressers welcome these clothes completely escapes my family and as the laundry piles grow, the only solution I see for my family is to move to a Laundromat.

The towels are a whole other matter which in polite company I refuse to discuss, because not only do they hate their appointed towel racks, they must hang around the dark corners of our house while they are wet. They only like being wet one time before they officially make it to the laundry pile. For some reason, once they make contact with a dried fully bathed body, they rush to the laundry pile to mix with the smelly socks and underwear thereby staking claim to their official status as “dirty” and there they lie in wait for me. If I were rich, I’d have a big incinerator…well you get the point. As I write this, at my feet are a fresh bag of JD’s socks from Costco waiting for their big release.
My only friends in the laundry pile are the pants. When I wash them, they pay up. You have no idea how much money I made from the pants last year. It’s the only thing that keeps me going.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

No crying in Chemistry!

Published August 10, 2006

I had an epiphany after taking my chemistry final last Thursday. First of all, I would never have taken a chemistry class at my age, had it not been for my father’s health crisis this last year. Second, I am a crazy person who has abandoned her family for 8 weeks to study chemistry (my kids have done everything - laundry and cooking-I love these children). Put that in a recipe with a husband who has basically what it takes and I'll handle everything else and you get one blessed woman who is a glutton for punishment in the land of acids and bases.

I dropped out of chemistry at age 19. I was not a serious student. I always took the easy way out. This summer, however, I spent 40 extra hours per week outside of class working on chemistry. This is a science class you cannot (despite your best attempts) bluff your way through. Those of us with BA degrees now know what those with BS degrees found out. Bluffing cannot fit into a chemical equation anywhere. So I had to start from scratch. I took a hard class, the hard way. What a whiner. I know I drove my tutors to drink.

It was difficult....I didn't do great on exams...I did average and poor on exams....I flogged myself to death because of professor was patient and said to hang in there. I hardly believed her until my (two), count em' 2 tutors....encouraged me to keep going. I was at the tutors every minute I wasn't in class. I turned in every stitch of homework, every lab report, my research project (a short dissertation on oxygenated hydrocarbons...yeah, take sound effect of one big yawn), and then I showed up for every class, every lab and suffered through my younger counterparts' ability to balance equations and chew gum and listen to I-Pods for two months.....I was the old lady in the class who had a binder full of calculations and a book from Borders called “Chemistry for Dummies”. My research project was about gasoline. This was ridiculous. It took a tutor drawing an ‘Electron Hotel’ for me to understand how electrons fill their orbital shells in atoms.

However, little epiphany revealed something big I hardly expected to happen. I did well on quizzes, I got full credit for homework plus I turned in detailed lab reports... but for some reasons on major exams...I made stupid mistakes...old lady stuff....) I hit rock bottom two weekends ago when I thought I had aced an exam....and got a 65. (8 points were from not transposing answers correctly). Test anxiety syndrome….bad contacts, blurry vision…whatever. I then put myself to bed for one day and believed everything I ever heard about people who wanted to become nurses but couldn’t because of the chemistry class they had failed….I started to despair about the last 8 weeks. A friend in tutoring said “Oh this is the class that made us cry. Hang in there. It will pay off. Trust me.” A week ago, I listened to those encouraging voices and went to bed early. I decided not to cram for the final. I looked over the book, my notes and the quizzes I had done so well on, and said “I’ve studied enough”. This class is over. I did my best. It’s not up to me anymore, either I pass or I fail…”God, you take the final tomorrow…I’ll bring the calculator”. It was time to take the final and get on with my life. I talked to myself until I fell asleep for the first good night’s sleep I had in 8 weeks.

I took the final, and finished early. My professor agreed to let us wait so she could give us our grades. After putting the ScanTron into the machine to grade my final....she handed it back to me and all I could say was, "thank you God"....I got a rock solid "B" on the final..... My grade for the class cumulatively was “B” because of the work, the hard stuff....and I cried...then I cried all the way out to the parking lot thinking, ‘Hey, maybe I actually learned something this summer”.

The gift in finishing this class was watching my father take some steps this weekend with his bilateral leg braces and his walker. It’s been 10 months since his aneurysm surgery. It was a priceless. His tan is coming back and the hospital bed was picked up a couple weeks ago. I asked him if I could take a sledgehammer to his wheelchair someday, but he’s not ready for that yet. We have to save something for Christmas.

What a ride. Don't ever quit- God can work miracles, even with old ladies who cry over chemistry. Folsom Lake College – You rock! Next semester is Nutrition. Compared to summer school, this should be a picnic. I can’t wait for the class to start.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her at