The Zen of Chandelier Cleaning

How odd to notice
My hands channeling my mom:
Sweet inheritance.
—————————————-
I have many memories, only some of them fond, of helping my mom clean the gi-normous chandelier that hung in the hallway of the home I grew up in. Once a year or two, she would devote an entire day to cleaning the beast, usually a few weeks preceding Thanksgiving. Here is a picture of a chandelier like it.

A83-52/2MT/24+1  Maria Theresa CHANDELIER Chandeliers, Crystal Chandelier, Crystal Chandeliers, Lighting

Mom would do half at a time, so that she could use the other half as a template. There were at least 10 different prism designs (I would guess 250+ prisms?) and figuring out what went where was a nightmare. The process was long: Remove them to a bucket in stages.  Then, soak the crystals in ammonia and water to clean them before laying them out to dry, with some manual drying assistance. Then back to hang them up before starting the second half. To this day, I can’t smell ammonia without being instantly transported back to Rogers Avenue and a mind-numbingly long day up and down a 10 foot ladder (did I mention the ceilings were 12 feet tall?), nervous the whole time I would drop something.

I have a crystal chandelier in my house, a marriage of two small ones that once hung in that same house. Two and a half years ago when we moved in to our current home, I washed it with loving care… the kind of love present when you first clean things in your new home.  I enjoyed bringing it back to life, as it had been in a box for many years. Today I washed it again, but I discovered something that I hadn’t known before – not the first time I washed this one, nor in any of the times I helped my mom. There is something peaceful and zen-like when you wash a chandelier, and I enjoyed it very much.

I think the main cause of this is the fact that your attention must be 100% focused on what you are doing at that moment in time. Each prism has metal bits (sometimes several), that will snag your cloth easily and go flying away.  Getting each dry with no fingerprints requires dexterity (often carpal-tunnel-inducing). Wiping down the naked fixture, ensuring no dust or cleaner is left behind is a rigorous, meticulous affair. All done on a ladder, your arms raised.

And I loved it. I now feel at peace and satisfied at a job well done. I am sure my blood pressure is lower than when I started.  Granted, my chandelier is small, so I’m not sure this now Mom felt… Here is a picture of mine naked and dirty.

2012-12-26 14.54.41

It only has 72 crystals and 4 swags across its 8 arms and center pillar. Took me about 2-3 hours across the afternoon to complete the work.  Here it is clean and dressed:2012-12-26 16.57.08 

Beautiful! I had been avoiding cleaning it for a while, but next year I will remember how I feel now, and gladly set the time aside. It’s easy to forget the power of being present.

Elevator Sociology 101

Society’s ills
born out in a few moments;
True modern warfare.
————————————————–
There are certain “social” situations where I think you can tell a lot about a person or a society. Driving rules – written and unwritten – are a good example. I think if properly examined, you can draw many parallels between how a country/city manages its traffic and how its citizenry behave. Along these same lines, I am beginning to believe that how a person interacts with elevators is another indication of their approach to the world.

About 6 months ago, I moved from my company’s suburban location to the downtown corporate headquarters. The suburban building was 2 stories and for the most part, we all used the stairs unless we were sure no one would notice us using the elevator. (I had so many good excuses in my vault for why I couldn’t walk up or down a flight of stairs, I never actually got to use them all.) In the corporate building, there are many more floors, so the main mode of travel is the elevator.

Here is how I would categorize people when it comes to elevators, based on 6 months’ observations:

The darter: This person sees you ahead of them, approaching an opening elevator. They speed up and as soon as they are within 4 feet of it, they dart forward with some part of their body or extension thereof to ensure the door doesn’t close and strand them for an incremental 20 seconds. They are assertive, demanding and mostly get what they want from this world.

The meander-er: This person may notice someone ahead of them approaching an opening elevator, but they have zero intention of hurrying to get there. Their laid back approach is such that they either believe it will still be open when they get there, or it will close and they’ll catch the next one. They don’t really care one way or the other.  In their world, hurrying usually doesn’t make a lot of difference, so they might as well enjoy themselves when they can.

The delayer: You’ve seen this person… they deliberately slow down when they see others ahead of them entering the elevator. Unlike the meander-er  they decidedly don’t want to ride with the people ahead of them. If you happen into an elevator they have already occupied, they shrink back near the buttons, coveting that front-line spot, eyes down. They are uncomfortable with you so close and bend their body awkwardly around the still-opening doors when it comes time to exit. They cherish invisibility and the opportunity to pass gas alone in a quiet space.

These three individuals are joined by three others:

The clueless: This person gets on the elevator so totally engrossed by their phone, companion or the floating spec of dust they just noticed, that they fail to see you juggling coffee, a gym bag and a rolling laptop case that most people mistake for an overnight bag. They don’t see you standing in front of the then closing doors – free-appendage-less – unable to stick a body part in the door’s path – whimpering and puppy-dog-eyeing them in hopes they will hold it open.  The darter sees them as a personal challenge and purposefully waits to the last moment to slide in the elevator in an effort to get them to take note. It rarely works.

The over-considerate: This person notices everything.  When they realize someone is coming, they push the “open door” button, waiting. When you don’t arrive in the timeline they’ve allotted  they lean out the door, peering expectantly at you and ask “are you coming?”  Not only do they hold the door for you, they ask what floor you want, and even try to small talk you for the 7.8 seconds it takes the elevator to lift from one floor to the next.  The Delayer hates this person with a passion and is known to rush in the opposite direction when confronted with this level of attention and grace.

The spaz: I personally like the spaz, because whether I get a ride or not, that moment of approach, when the doors are closing with them on the inside and you on the outside, is pure delight. First, they see you at the last second. Then they shout out loud, lunge across the space, feverishly attempting to find the right button to push to reverse the door’s inevitability. They always pick the wrong button… every time. But they helpfully meet your eyes in that moment before final separation and provide a pathetic, breathless apology – eyebrows furrowed, concern in their voices.  Their call of “Sorry!” lingers for a moment, echoing in the corridor.  And for that moment, I feel loved.

The asshole: There is no way around it; there is one in every society. This person is observant. They notice you coming toward the elevator. They have been known to make eye contact prior to stepping into the elevator itself. However, they in no way, shape or form make any, and I mean any, effort to help you attain your goal of an elevator ride.  I personally encountered this person just yesterday – lunch order in one hand, water bottle in the other.  He made eye contact – saw me coming I’m sure. But as I stepped to the doors, they began to close and he made no frantic gesture of help. I stood there astounded. “Who does this?” Before the doors closed, I loudly stated “Seriously?” in the hopes he would get a clue next time. I feel quite sure it will make zero difference.

So there you are: modern society through 6 elevator archetypes. I welcome your observations from your corner of the world, and importantly, confessions as to which one you inhabit most often.  Perhaps I can convert a few assholes and console a few delayers.

The Power of Giving Up

Peace comes easily
When you listen, act, accept
Truth over worry.
—————————————
It is a little early for Lent, and, well, I’m a little not Catholic, but I’ve been reflecting on the power of giving up. I’m not talking about giving up when the going gets tough. When I’m working out and my arms are begging me to stop yet I know I have 3 more reps in me… I won’t give up. When my daughter complains because everyone else on the basketball team makes baskets but her (not true, by the way), I won’t let her give up.

I’m talking about who gives a shit other than the pissy-little-tyrant-in-my-brain ‘giving up’. I’m learning a lot from this brand of release.

I experienced this a few months ago. A devoted audio book listener, I had heard an enthralling book by David McCullough about the year 1776 in the Revolutionary War. Each night after listening to it during my bedtime bathroom routine, I would crawl into bed and tell my husband how amazing the book was and how I couldn’t believe we actually won the war. This foray into history long forgotten (had I ever learned it?) made me long for more about our Founding Fathers. Up next, Ben Franklin’s biography.

Oh jesus help me. It was horrible. I could have lived through the dry points in the story where it took the author nearly 6 hours to fully describe a few simple things about his early life — that he fled his brother’s apprenticeship for Philadelphia where studiousness , daring and little luck helped him on his way… But the narrator would have made Fifty Shades of Gray un-listenable. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how people like him get and keep these jobs. Doesn’t anyone listen to his work? Have they spent even 5 minutes trying to understand how someone can read a sentence with action and intrigue and still make you want to take your own life?

I was a solid 9 hours into this book (it was 24 hours overall) when something amazing occurred to me. Why did I need to finish it? Who would care? No teacher would scold me. No book report would go un-written. Not a single bad thing would happen.   Yet, if I stopped listening, I realized that several good things would happen. I would no longer want to smash my iPod player. I would stop telling my husband what a horrible listen it was. True, I wouldn’t have any new and interesting tidbits about our earliest years as a country to share with others, but… It just didn’t matter.

So I returned the book to Audible. They gave me a partial credit. No one mocked me. No one sneered. Such new territory I was treading.

Today my daughter asked me, “Mom, have you ever quit a book before?”

I replied that I had… and asked why she brought it up. Given she reads almost nonstop, this was an interesting question.

“I quit a book today,” she said sheepishly. “The Hobbit. Just didn’t want to keep reading.”

“I totally understand. That’s a tough one to get into. There is nothing wrong with quitting a book.” And with that, she was done worrying. Oh to have had that role modeled for me early in life.

So I began reflecting on what else I could just “give up” without anyone noticing or caring. And it came to me. I can give up holiday baking. For many years, I baked away an entire weekend, making tons of cookies and candies for our friends and relatives. But I haven’t really done a mega-baking fest in years yet I allow a ton of guilt to overtake me in early December when I realize I can’t fit in two days of baking in a now kid-filled life.  I feel horrible. So tonight I decided I am no longer a Christmas baker.  I’m done, I’m over it. I will continue to make Bourbon Balls, because frankly it is the only thing everyone remembers about my baking anyway, and it’s fun to get a little tanked while I make them.  And I’ll likely keep making caramels. But I am giving up the rest. All the guilt associated with a  no-longer-relevant tradition is released.

I feel lighter already. I’m serious… this is a joyful feeling. I must explore giving up more things (or more guilt). Try it yourself. Instead of giving something, give up something. Best gift under the tree.

The next best gift under the tree is Bourbon Balls. Recipe below. Enjoy. I plan to in a few weeks.

Bourbon Balls

3 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers (about 75) (one normal sized box)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup finely chopped pecans
¼ cup cocoa
½ cup bourbon (get the good stuff… and sometimes I do closer to 3/4 cup)
¼ cup light corn syrup
Granulated or powdered sugar

Crush the wafers by putting them in a double layer of zip bags and beating/rolling the crap out of them with a rolling pin. Mix the crushed wafers with the powdered sugar, pecans and cocoa. Stir in bourbon and corn syrup. Shape mixture into 1 inch balls as you watch a good movie. Roll balls in granulated sugar. Eat several as you go, just to be sure they are good enough. Refrigerate the ones you haven’t scarfed down in a tightly covered container several days before serving. Open the fridge a few times a day to get a wiff of the Bourbon and to sample them to be sure they are mellowing nicely. Yield: About 5 dozen cookies minus two dozen or so you have eaten in advance.

Eye-bola

Red is for sunsets
And planets and Feb 14.
My eye disagrees.
————————————-
You know how some people in your life are crap-magnets? No matter what they do, crap is just attracted to them? They swirl in it, stew in it, and at times, seem to relish their unique ability to survive it…?

I am a pink-eye magnet. Find another parent out there right now suffering from it when none of their children have it. Go on, try. I bet you won’t find one.

I’m not sure why this attraction exists. I tend to be from hardy stock, don’t get sick very often, am able to withstand discomfort, etc. etc. (Any laughing you hear right now would be my husband, hysterical at the thought that I’m hardy; don’t listen to him.) But if there is conjunctivitis anywhere near me, say within a 2 mile radius of my current position, it seeks me out.

I could feel it coming on this afternoon. At one point, in the middle of a meeting with someone, I stopped abruptly.

“Is my eye red?” I asked.

“Yes…” she said tentatively…

“Hmmm. I think I have pink eye.” The meeting ended soon after that.

When I lived in England, and contracted this malady, our local GP prescribed the requisite medicine, but then said, in an offhanded way, “You know, just wash your eye with shampoo. That will cure it.” Really? I started to dismiss this piece of advice as slightly ludicrous at worst, and at best driven by socialized medicine’s desire to keep costs down. However, that night, in a strange moment of dread mixed with curiosity sprinkled with repressed mad-scientist tendencies, I tried it.

It hurt like shit. Tear free shampoos (yes, I grabbed the kids’ bottle) is NOT pain-free. Especially if you don’t lather it up and instead simply smear it undiluted into your eyes. My eyes, which seconds earlier had thought me a benevolent hostess, now screamed obscenities at me and tried desperately to beat a hasty retreat only to be betrayed by my brain which wouldn’t get out of the way.  I went to bed convinced I had blinded myself…

And yet… the next morning I was cured. Well I’ll be damned, it worked. And I have used this cure every time I feel pink eye coming on. I have passed this idea on to others, who ponder the concept for a moment before turning slowly away. And sure enough, the next day, they return to tell me how they did it and how it worked.

So tonight, once the kids were in bed, I turned to my trusty cure.  Just a little bit of shampoo, lathered up nicely (this, I found, is a crucial requirement for this cure to move beyond medieval standards), and swished it confidently into both eyes.

Holy crap on a cracker! I forgot my new H&S shampoo has some tingle-y ingredient in it — is it menthol?!? — and that ingredient does not, repeat DOES NOT, agree with my eyes. I continued on — in for a penny, in for a pound — rinsed, and then toweled off.  A return to the mirror revealed two of the angriest eyes I have ever seen. And now, nearly an hour later, they are still pissed at me.  Blinking is rough. The infected eye is throwing off more goop than you can imagine. The healthy eye feels like it is now goop-ing up too.   Could it be my great remedy has gone terribly wrong? Have I damaged myself permanently? I take it as a positive sign that I can see clearly enough to type, but am concerned for what I may find tomorrow.

Stay tuned. The pink eye was fairly far advanced when I washed, perhaps so far gone that my lather approach will fail. Perhaps the offending ingredient is a slow-acting blinding agent… All I know is that I’m not sure working in the office will be a smart idea tomorrow…

Post script. Do not, under any circumstances, Google “pink eye” and click on images. Not only will you be disgusted, you will be amazed at the sheer number of people who have taken pictures of themselves or their kids and posted the image in a searchable location. I was looking for a fun, laughable image to include in this post — in a feeble attempt to increase my odds of being Freshly Pressed — and have come away deciding that an image is not the way to go…

Reflections on Insanity

I understand why
Some animals eat their young.
But it’s too late now…
———————————————–
I took part in something extraordinary yesterday. A room full of masochists. I was one of them. Viewed from the outside we surely looked insane. From the inside, well, the view was about the same.

Where was I? A Cincinnati Pops Concert for Children – Barnyard Serenade.

What in the ***k was I thinking? What were the other parents thinking? What made us think that our kids even remotely wanted to attend the concert… I’ll tell you what: delusion. I can personally attest to thinking the following: Wow, my kids like music. They like kid-themed events. They know I like classical music… And Music Hall is a cool, old building. Plus, and this is important, they will “get something out of it” and likely someday become symphony loving patrons who disdain popular music, have 20 more IQ points than their friends, and will be able to describe why a tambourine is both a membranophone and an idiophone.  So, all those things add together to equal complete and total insanity on my part.

It started well enough. They did indeed think the building was cool. But it pretty much went to shit from there. I mistakenly thought the kids activities were in the wrong place, so we only got to look at a few instruments; no crafts or kids’ stuff like I promised. This caused my son to fall to the floor crying.  We made our way to our seats, which I thought were really good. My daughter, however, thought they were the worst in the house and began what had to be the longest sustained pout in her nearly 10 years. I tried to engage them — look there, the harp! The piano! Aren’t the kettle drums cool? Nuthin’.  Once the music started, my son asked me every 5 minutes or so “Is that the last thing?”  At one point, my daughter managed to start a good cry, silently weeping while Haydn’s Chicken Symphony was playing. She totally ignored me when I tried to point out how the violins sounded like chickens and the flutes like little chicks.

It was at this point, at a point of total desperation and shame at what a horrible parent I really was, I started to listen to what was happening around me. And I noticed that although in the audience participation parts there seemed to be interest from a lot of kids, between shouting out farm animals pretty much every kid there hated their parents for making them come.  I’m fairly sure that by the end, the young boy behind me was duck taped to his dad. The two kids in front of me engaged in a silent but wicked tickle fight before their mom nearly came of our her skin to get them to stop.  When the Old McMaestro bit happened toward the end, it really was only adults doing the sing along… the kids had all but departed the building.

The only shimmer of hope I kept alive at this point was that the concert was mercilessly short – less than an hour. And surely my children’s joy at the end’s arrival would bring them out of their uber-negative state. How very wrong I was. Once my son realized that we weren’t now going to try to find the kids area, he began to wail. And pump his fists and shake his little body.   I was actually proud of him — I am perfectly ok if he gets mad, he just has to behave appropriately (i.e. don’t hit anyone). His outburst was completely reflective of his state and involved only himself. Well, himself and 1500 other departing parents whose own children had morphed into grateful, well-behaved angels now chattering excitedly about what they had just witnessed.  I could see their IQ points ticking up as we walked to the parking lot. I could feel the other parents’ eyes on me, judging…

During the walk to the car I resolved to be more mature than my kids in my reaction. I really wanted to grab them by the shoulders, tell them how disappointed I was at the immaturity of their behavior and that their lack of gratitude was going to cost them dearly.  The problem was that in each version I dreamed up, I looked more and more like a deranged lunatic. There was no way to claw them back to happy, no way they would ever change their mind about the last hour of their lives.

So I put them in the car and stood outside of it for a good 10 minutes. Frank joined me. We talked about how to deal with this and decided we would pursue the “We are the grown ups here and should probably act like it” route. (I did agree to use this, at the right time, as a teaching moment with our nearly 10-year-old daughter… she is old enough to know how to behave or at least fake it…) Several meditative minutes later, we got into the car, informed them we were going to Costco (“this is not open to input,” Frank smartly added) and proceeded to try to drive faster than our moods could follow us.

I am happy to announce that my decent, well-behaved and generally fun children returned shortly after we plied them with hot dogs and pizza at Costco. Shopping was a joy. They were funny. They helped find things and load the cart. They acted like hyenas the exact right amount given then ages. Our family was reborn.

So what to do now… there are two more concerts in the series, and the tickets are already purchased. I have 80% decided we will go again… I will NOT be defeated by two who cannot yet master the can opener. But I sure as hell will figure out where the kids activities are taking place and get there in time to enjoy them. The rest is a total crap shoot…

The Teachers’ Lounge

Intimidation
Stops me cold, keeps me standing,
Twenty five years on…
——————————————–

Every year, during parent-teacher conferences, my school’s PTA does a teacher dinner. Warm, home-made sustenance to help them get through repeating 20 minutes of report card hell.

This is one volunteer activity I jump at.  I usually sign up to bring in plastic wrap and forks, or extension cords – easy stuff that either Frank or I can do, usually sourced from current stock – simple. Finally, last year, I ventured into bringing consumables — Chicken Noodle Soup. It was a huge hit and I felt not the slightest amount of guilt showing off the Costco soup container when pressed for the recipe. (Their soup made from roasted chicken is amaaaazing.)

There is only one thing that bothers me: Going into the teachers’ lounge.

You remember it from school, right? The room off the side hall where you couldn’t really see into… where teachers would disappear into, whispering to each other and glancing around furtively. The few times you were told to go there to find another teacher felt like entry into an Egyptian tomb… I was convinced I would be cursed and never spoke of it. It was sacred space. Teachers only.  There was free soda and chips in there. They talked about you in there.

So when I volunteered to do the dinner set up the first year, I had to take a few deep breaths before stepping into the teachers’ lounge. I kept my eyes down. I asked permission before opening drawers. I acted as if the furniture was museum quality and tried desperately not to make a mess of any type.

Net, I was totally taken aback at how the mythological status of the teachers’ lounge remained so many years after my education ended. I know many of the teachers at my kids’ lower school. They are way cooler than any teacher I ever had, not to mention about 3 decades younger. I can honestly say they are — to a person — women I would enjoy hanging out with. But their space? Noooo, can’t do it…

So tomorrow is the dinner. The soup is ready to go, the crock pot is clean and I’ve dug out 40 plastic forks, knives and spoons. But I’ve given up on the set up. I just can’t do it. I am thoroughly convinced Mr. Etheridge or Mrs. Vogt or Mr. Lawson is going to burst around the corner, catch me in there, and ruin my chances of getting into a good college, not to mention whisper about me to another teacher.  I’ll just stay on this side of the door…

Travel Blues

Hear that sucking sound?
That’s my soul being swallowed
By lady black hole.
——————————————-
So there I was, in Hartford, Connecticut, trying to get back to Cincinnati. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon and I had thoroughly enjoyed my journey from the retreat center back to the airport — lovely trees still in full fall bloom, not too much traffic and good tunes playing on my rental Ford Focus. (A mini commercial for the Focus: it was a great car. Peppy, nicely styled, comfortable… thumbs up.)

Anyway, I arrived at the airport with time to kill and enjoyed reading, journaling (a luxury) and listening to music. But then… the dreaded announcement that our flight had mechanical problems and we were on a delay. People in need of a re-route clogged the desk with requests to change flights. Me? I stayed put. I only wanted Cincinnati, and I decided that a positive attitude would save the day.

About two hours later there were only about 15 of us left at the gate, all aiming for Cincinnati, waiting to hear the latest. We had watched the nice young mechanic doing something to one of the engines, but he had been missing for a while. And although we could still see the pilots through the glass, there were no telltale blinkey lights or buzz of activity that spelled “boarding soon”. The waiting group of people had started to talk together – a gentle camaraderie born from the sense we were all in this together. I alone proclaimed my steadfast belief that the plane was well, and we would be boarding soon. And not two minutes later, the older gentleman at the desk pulled out the microphone to address the anticipating group.

“I’m sorry folks, but it looks like the flight will be canceled as they are unable to fix it…” Bastard made me look like a fool.

We all wandered to the counter and rebooked into disgustingly early flights the following morning, none of them direct, took our sparse little $6 food voucher and hoped that the hotel they chose for us would be suitable and clean. (I think my exact words were: “Please book the closest ‘non flea bag’ hotel possible.”

Through this all I tried keep my sense of humor and positive outlook (flea bag comment not withstanding), because frankly, the opposite just sucks. Although I can get as outraged and indignant as the next person, it just gives me a headache, and it never seems to progress my situation in the slightest.  However, I found myself repeatedly standing next to Sulky Sue and her strangely quiet husband time and time again. She had no trouble with outrage and indignation.

When generally categorizing people, I have a system that breaks people into two camps: those I would be happy to be trapped in an airport with, and those I would not. (Ironic, huh?) Care to guess which group Sulky Sue falls into?  About 5 minutes into waiting for the hotel shuttle, I wanted to gouge out my eyes and puncture my ear drums. Not only did she have zero nice things to say about the situation, she had to keep retelling about the fit she threw on email a few years back to get a $500 voucher from Delta after a flight was cancelled. “It’s been long enough since I did that, I should be able to do this again,” she repeated to anyone who would listen.

When she turned to me a few times for reassurance of her feelings, I would state something befuddlingly optimistic — “better a broken airplane on the ground than in the air.”  When she was sure the flight was cancelled only because so few people were left, I found myself telling stories of being on flights with less than 10 people all the time, trying to puncture her defenses. When we parted at 8pm at the hotel, all having signed up for the 4am shuttle back to the airport the next morning, I counted my blessings for a few Sue-free hours.

The next morning, having managed to snag the front seat in the shuttle bus to avoid all conversation, we arrived to check in and manage the confusion our flight cancellation would cause. As I approached the counter, I felt compelled to shield the agent from the Sue-Onslaught that would be his next customer.  “Despite what others might tell you,” I whispered to him conspiratorially, “I think you’ve all done a nice job on this flight cancellation. Thanks for taking care of me.”  And then as soon as I was done, I headed to the gate hell-bent on being done with Sue.

The flight to Atlanta was nondescript and easy. We arrived a little late and although I had to ‘OJ Simpson’ through the terminals (that’s Hertz, not homicide), the deep morning fog had slowed everyone down so I was fine.   I waited until the end to board, as I hate sitting in overheated airplanes, sweating, trying not to touch the elbow of the person next to me — and I knew this flight was totally full of early Monday commuters. Finally I got on, and sashayed my way to the back of the plane. I looked up, anticipating which open seat was mine.

There was only one open seat at the back of the plane. Care to guess who it was next to?  I silently cursed the travel gods (“I have been nothing if not positive and helpful; piss off.”) Yes, I had to sit next to Sulky Sue for the flight.

Well, it turns out that not only is she negative, she’s incapable of reading social cues. I pulled out a book instantly and began reading. That did not slow her down in the slightest. Talk talk talk… About 20 minutes into it, I rescued my finger which had been holding my place in the book, naively thinking that perhaps she would notice and swiftly beg me to return to my reading (“Please, don’t let me keep you from your book”). No such luck. So I made nice. Found out we knew a few people in common (Cincinnati is terribly small). Endured more travel hell stories.

When I got off the plane in Cincinnati, I didn’t look back. I bolted. When I passed a bathroom that few know about, I took refuge inside, hoping she might pass by and be long gone before I arrived at baggage claim. I could take no more. I felt toxic, stained, drained of all happiness and joy (oh my god, she’s a dementor, I just figured it out).

While driving home I tried to shake it off;  I visualized my kids snuggling me the next morning, cold toes pressed against my legs, butterfly kisses to spare.  That seemed to buoy me.  But it wasn’t until I had my kids actually in my arms later that day that my aura cleared — ahhh, my patronis had arrived.

One final note about the trip: be careful who reads your texts. Below is an actual text exchange during the flight delay:

Me: hi. flight on maintenance delay. no details. snf snf

Me: still here. no word. they have rebooked half the flight… i still have faith

Frank: Mom I hope you’l be here – AP [my daughter]  (Note: I did not see this text before sending the next one)

Me: faith be damned. they just canceled flight. shit. once i know what i’m doing will call.

Frank: Mom i’m useing dads phone and watch your language and we made you cookies waaaaaaa flight canseled

Me: hi sweetie. sorry about that. i am VERY sad too. thanks for the cookies.

Nonchalance

My inner coward,
revealed, welcomes you to join;
Judgment optional.
———————————————

non·cha·lant: adjective \ˌnän-shə-ˈlänt; ˈnän-shə-ˌlänt, -lənt\

Definition of NONCHALANT: having an air of easy unconcern or indifference

The word nonchalant is a beautiful word. First, it sounds French, which makes me sound instantly cool. Second, I can spell it, which doesn’t happen often for words exceeding two syllables. And third it is almost onomatopoetic, which is a word I can’t spell but can pronounce.

Let me share some things that I am nonchalant about.

1. Missing a turn while driving.
2. Whether my kids eat dessert with dinner or after dinner.
3. The 10 feet in front of me on the road; go ahead, take it.
4. Coffee

Some things I am decidedly not nonchalant about.

1. Snakes. We will not have one in our house, ever.
2. Bathrooms. See my collected works on the subject.
3. My hair. I’m hair involved. There, I said it.
4. Earthquakes.

Wow, why earthquakes you might ask? Because yesterday I was freaking in one!!! And apparently, in Costa Rica, the number one thing people are nonchalant about is earthquakes. This was not a tiny one. It lasted easily 30 seconds. It rumbled and shook the room quite nicely. Immediately after, upon reflection,  I decided to leave my room, passport/phone/credit cards in hand, and spend a little time outside on the off chance than being inside wasn’t a good idea.

I was alone.

No one else gave a crap.  They laughed in the hotel bar. They were not spilling into the streets, peering up into the sky waiting for the building to crumble. They did not suffer from flashbacks to 1970’s disaster movies about fire or airplanes or natural disasters. They are, it seems, Latin. I am, painfully and obviously, white.

Well, I don’t care. I have decided that earthquakes have taken over the number one spot of things I’m worried about that I can’t control. Number two is tornados, but at least Jim Cantore calls me to let me know when one is coming. When they make an “Earthquake Notify” service, then I can reorder my irrational fears again.  In the meantime, please join me outside.

Let the Babysitter Fold Your Underwear

Desperation wins
And ego takes a back seat.
Pride mellows when gulped.
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A few months ago, my stay-at-home husband returned to the workforce after 8 years. It was a planned event – timed to when our boy started full-time kindergarten. It required us to decide between after-school care or an in-house babysitter for the hours between 3:30 and 6, and we chose a sitter. (Plug here for Care.Com – that’s how I found our sitter; site was very easy to use and they offer loads of support.)

One reason I loved the idea of a sitter was that she would be able to take up some of the house-chore burden, namely laundry and some light cleaning. We have someone coming weekly to clean the house, but I want to make it every other week with our sitter filling in the gap. And the laundry is self-evident — this family of four seems to wear 6 or 7 outfits a day and it piles up.

Here’s the deal: I haven’t been able to ask her to do the cleaning or laundry yet. On the cleaning side, I really haven’t figured out what I want her to do versus the cleaner – just haven’t taken the time to map it out. On the laundry side, it is pure embarrassment: I don’t want her to see my underwear.

For starters, I’m not svelte. Further,  I don’t chose to spend my money on underwear that matches my bras. I have plain old cotton panties in a variety of fruit based colors, and some are so old they would horrify my mom if she saw them (‘what if you get hit by a car and have to go to the hospital?!?’). But this past week our sitter spent the day with our mildly ill daughter, and I asked her if while she was at home she would do some laundry. We had a bunch, I was leaving town in a few days and I figured they were housebound any way. So I took a gulp of my pride and showed her how to work the machine.

When I returned 8 hours later every single bit of clothing was clean. All of it. Folded or hung up.  The baskets empty, the floor visible. I felt like the cobbler the morning after the elves visited. Somewhere, angels sang while violin music gently crescendo’d.

Yep, I am sooooo over the underwear thing.  I might never be able to look her in the eye again, but it is a small price to pay for the lightness it brings.

Silent Breakfast

pleasure abounding:
up with the sun, kids asleep.
surreal silence
———————————————-

I went on a short weekend retreat recently. It took place at Kripalu, a yoga center in Massachusetts – you’ve doubtless seen the beautiful pictures of it in the back of women’s magazines. I wasn’t there for yoga reasons — I’ll talk more about what I did in future posts. But since we were at a yoga place, we had to abide by one of their practices – silent breakfast.

I can honestly say that I have never, ever experienced silent breakfast before. Maybe, once… when I was single?? No, I’m sure the TV was on. And there was that one time in 2010 when both kids took too big a bite and spent 30 seconds chewing. Otherwise, nope, never. Regardless, I think we all can imagine a silent breakfast alone, but it is quite another thing to experience it with 400 of your closest friends in a spacious, airy cafeteria. Let me share…

I actually found it pleasant at times. Being fully present. Being one with the food. Ahh, the food. Did I mention it was yoga center? Think vegetarian meets hippie meets macrobiotic meets green – that about covers the food selection, morning, noon and night. It was tasty for the most part (I will never like kale, I should just stop trying), but not exactly recognizable for this mother-of-two-who-thinks-pancakes-for-dinner-is-a-solid-choice sometimes.

Anyway, back to the nothingness. The first morning I experienced it I frankly spent most of the time trying to figure out what to do with my eyes. Do I just stare at my food? Do I look around? Am I allowed to smile at someone if I catch their eye? Is it creepy to watch the person across from me eat? I ended up looking about a foot above everyone’s head and maintaining a banal smile in an attempt to fake contemplating-ness. I did ok.

The second morning was brutal.  I was totally annoyed by the people around me who, for some reason, seemed incapable of abiding by the rules. There was the guy in the serving line who looked like he should have been a puppeteer — felt shoes, wild, gray hair, a bouncing step. He could not quit talking to himself about the food. The worker stocking the line with more tofu and edamame ‘shushed’ him vigorously, but Muppet man continued. I kept my distance from him because he started to act more like a homeless guy who wandered in and less like a friendly creative type.

Next were two women, clearly friends, who sat at same table as me. They just faked it. They whispered. A lot.  It wasn’t like they just did it a few times – they did it the whole time.   I was looking around for Shush-man but he was nowhere to be found. I realized what a total rule follower I am — who do they think they are by talking?! How dare they. I was going to say something to them (or at least mime something so as to not stoop to their level) but I then noticed zen lady.

Zen lady sat on my other side. Her lack of talking seemed to create a black hole. She made no noise. No clink of silverware or tink of cup. She was a ninja. She also was part bird (clearly a yoga type) so perhaps that made her lighter than air. I suddenly became aware that although I spoke no words, I was breathing like a linebacker. When I raised  fork to mouth, I heard the sound of my forearm peel from the table. (No, I wasn’t sticky — this was just a normal flesh-meets-wood-and-separates-again sound. Try it. It’s a little loud, right??) I felt like my swallowing was disturbing her. Was that the sound of me blinking? Good god! I inhaled the last of my quinoa cream and organic nuts and beat feet as fast I could lest I stand on the table and shout “Okay, who farted?”

Prior to this, I would have told you that on a normal weekday morning, when the kids are whining about eating cereal (again…) and my husband has made himself hoarse repeating “put your shoes on” 100 times, a silent breakfast would be a welcome alternative. But trust me, I’ve seen the other side and I’m not sure I can take it.

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