1. A tale of heroism!

As you might already know, my mother has moved home from Switzerland at last. When she left, I had zero children, and had published zero books. When she left, she’d never broken a single leg. It has been rather an eventful five years for both of us.

Anyhow, she bought a condo about three minutes from my apartment and is in the process of fixing it up. It is a fun, leisurely sort of process, as she hasn’t yet put her old house (where my brother and Jonathan still live as well) on the market. The condo is lovely, and so very beloved by both Simone and myself that it has prompted some covert research into Squatter’s Rights (only kidding, Mother!) (OR AM I??), and we have been spending a lot of time there.

A few weeks ago, my mother lost the key to the padlock on her condo’s storage locker. After an exhaustive search effort, she resigned herself to calling a locksmith, which would mean both dealing with strangers and paying for carelessness with money, two things that my mother dislikes immensely. As I’d been eating her cheese and drinking her wine and scattering children all over her gracious home, I felt that solving this particular problem for her was the least I could do, and so I promptly broke a paperclip into two pieces and headed downstairs to pick the lock.

I know how lock-picking works (though not, come to think of it, whether it ought to be hyphenated or is properly a single word): one pick piece is a little tension wrench, putting pressure on the turning part, while the other piece nimbly slides the pins or tumblers or whatever they are called out of the way. I had never done it before, but certainly my vague knowledge of the principles involved would be an adequate substitute for skill!

And so I shoved the one piece into the lock, and jiggled the other piece around inside, as one does. I had such confidence in myself, and was so looking forward to bragging about my accomplishment on Twitter. And I was honestly, legitimately, shocked when the lock refused to fall open. But I watch so much television! I have seen dozens of episodes of Leverage!
I had one exciting and dramatic moment when someone walked by on the way to their car and I had to hide my lock-picking tools and look nonchalant, but it was a thrill I did not earn.

Eventually I gave up, thoroughly disappointed in myself, but by then my competitive spirit had been aroused. I was making a Target run anyway, so I decided to buy a thing Google told me about called a Padlock Shim and try again. Only Target didn’t have a Padlock Shim. I went to the hardware store and asked if they had a Padlock Shim. They didn’t know what that was. I explained that it was for lock-picking, and they gave me a suspicious frown. I followed that up by asking about bolt cutters, and in the end they rented me a pair, roughly the size of Simone. Looking forward to the delighted surprise on my mother’s face, I drove back to the condo and marched the bolt cutters downstairs.

Now, if a thing is going to be called a “bolt cutter,” I am of the opinion that it should cut bolts. I know I’m going out on a limb here, but here Flotsam we (I) do not shrink from controversy. I feel strongly that a bolt cutter should be sharp and strong enough to do the work of bolt cutting, or else it should be called a Bolt Cutting Helper, or have some sort of notation that says “BOLT CUTTERS (Just Add The Strength of a Dozen Men).”

I opened the jaws and positioned them around the padlock, and…Huh. Hmmm. Well. Nope, not happening. By flinging the full weight of my body against the handle of the shears and resting there, I was able to muscle my way through the outer coating of silver metal to reveal a slim nick of inner, brassy metal, but this wasn’t really what I had in mind. It was like trying to garrote a particularly ropey-necked bodybuilder with a strand of dental floss. Happily, a fellow-resident saw me attempting to cut my way into a storage locker and, after deciding I wasn’t a threat (but the work of a moment, I am forced to conclude), came to my aid. By resting HIS full weight upon the handle of the useless implement, he was able to cut the padlock off in a flash of sparks—not, obviously, because he was stronger than me per se, but because he weighed more, and thus could lean more forcefully. I put on a new lock, marched upstairs with the pieces of the old one, manfully shouldering my bolt cutters, and allowed my mother to ply me with thanks and hors d’oeuvres. I was sore for DAYS afterward in the shoulder/wing area.

So, keep track of your keys to things, is the lesson here.

2. Vote NO.

I took Simone with me to vote, and after she got over the disappointment of not being eligible to win any elections herself (“But I want to win! When can I be the leader?”) (When you are 35 and meet the filing deadline and garner at least 270 electoral votes, young lady, that’s when), she was very interested in the whole thing. The nice Voting Ladies gave us a little table to sit at so that Simone could help me fill out the ballot, and I could lamely explain various ballot measures to her when she asked why we were filling in the little circle for No instead of Yes or vice versa. I was explaining the marriage amendment, and that I was picking no because I thought anyone should be able to get married, if they wanted to, and doing my little SOME PEOPLE HAVE TWO MOMMIES song and dance, and Simone piped up “But I don’t want ANYONE to get married!” and everyone turned to look at us, and I said “Well, that’s not one of the choices,” and reminded my daughter about no electioneering within 100 feet of a polling place, and we got our sticker and went home to make cookies.

3. I think I really outdid myself on the costume, but the attitude is all her.

You may have already seen this picture elsewhere (I am here, on Twitter! And here, on Instagram!) and it is over a month old, but it is my favorite picture ever and so I am posting it here on this poor, neglected Web Log of mine, because if even one of you has missed it that is one person too many, as I’m sure you’ll agree:


  1. A'Dell says:

    You’re making me think that the HEAPS of episodes of Leverage I have ALSO watched will turn out to be rather useless in the future.

    Perhaps the many hours of Grey’s Anatomy I’ve logged will make up for it and save a life some day?

  2. Melanie says:

    Her costume was outstanding, never in the history of pirates has one been so cute. I am also so very impressed that you were able to save the day with the bolt cutters. I had no idea how those worked, but yes I agree they should be able to cut bolts!

  3. Katie says:

    Similar voting experience here! I absentee voted in order to poll watch on election day, which meant a trip to the Ramsey County Board of Elections (which was surprisingly easy and accommodating). K was with me, and while sitting next to some folks who were getting their ballot translated into a different language by an interpreter, K points to the back of the ballot and the marriage question, and YELLS, “Is that the one about making sure everyone gets to get married?!?” We did not get thrown out for electioneering, but I did vote for judges really quickly just in case, and worried for about an hour afterwards that perhaps I had voted the wrong way in haste.

    The thing I hated most about the marriage amendment was that my daughter has no conception that her sister and grandma aren’t married to their respective partners in the first place, and explaining that there’s a referendum on the nature of those relationships means breaking a naiveity (is that a word?) and trust in the world that I’d have liked her to keep. At least we won, I guess.

    • Alexa says:

      Sigh. I know what you mean, and for that very reason sort of…glossed over the fact that there is an opposing side. Like it was just a resolution we were all passing affirming our collective believe that everyone can get married! Huzzah!

      I don’t know, man. This parenting thing is getting trickier every year.

  4. Damn, that is one sassy lady pirate. And I think it’s perfectly in keeping with her pirate moral code not to approve of marriage on any grounds. It’s a pirate’s life, after all!

  5. MJ says:

    So happy to have you back. I hadn’t realized that Simone was already a teenager. And I am very impressed with your lock-picking (I like the hyphen, at least when it’s used as an adjective) and bolt-cutting intentions, even if it took a little help to get the job done.

  6. Heather says:

    I love the costume! She’s adorable. I’m glad your Mom is now closer to you and that you were able to help her out. You’re such a good daughter.

    I’ll have to remember that lock picking thing doesn’t work (I haven’t tried it yet).

    We vote by mail and chose to do so after the boys had gone to bed.

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