Sunday, July 30, 2006

At what price absolution?

At the end of a very stressful roller-coaster sort of week, I find myself in the position of being beholden to The Prince of Darkness, the guy who decided from the moment I walked through the door of my current employer’s establishment that he didn’t like me and never changed his opinion. And that’s a very strange and disturbing position indeed.

This began when I made a huge mistake on a print job. I know that this is not the end of the world. I’m not in the kind of profession where mistakes mean someone lives or dies. I don’t tinker with human innards or bottle prescription medications; I don’t secure payloads to space shuttle bays or assemble a product that might blow someone to tiny little bits if not created just right. I do graphic design. And short of typos that might get your company sued, the biggest mistake I could possibly make would only result in losing money for my employer and/or being shown the door.

Some mistakes are just more costly than others. And I’ve come a long way from perfectionism to admitting to myself that it’s OK to be human.

Sometimes I forget about that. And re the consequences of this one, the dust has not quite settled.

To make a very long and complicated story somewhat shorter, through my inattention, I created approximately 60 pages of a catalog (the back half of a lovely guidebook that sings the praises of living and doing business in the Hudson Valley) using not a US standard 8 ½ x 11 page but an A4 European size. This was because the plug-in program I used to spill the membership database into uniformly and neatly designed pages of catalog listings came from the UK; the documentation was incomprehensible so the nice tech guy not only walked me through the process but created a template for my use: An A4 template. And I merrily went my way paginating the data, proofing the pages, passing on the section to be proofed by the client; doing the changes the client gave back, etc., all on an A4 page size.

Then we went to press.

The printer discovered the error and reported the information to my boss, who pulled me into her office at about 3:45 on Wednesday to deliver the news.

I apologized profusely and said I would fix the error, then hunkered down to change the page margins, re-flow the text, fix the line breaks that resulted from moving all the text…and knew by about 4:45 that there was no way in hell I could get all 60 pages done in time for her to leave that day with the updated files on CD like she wanted, so she could drop it off at the printer in the morning. I know this doesn’t ameliorate the problem, but she often has unrealistic expectations of how long it takes to get certain things done.

Anyhow, I was already punchy, at that point of diminishing returns, and even if I stayed that night, I wouldn’t get done until 7:30 or 8, probably making a lot of errors in the process, so I didn’t offer to stay. I did offer to come in early the next morning when I was fresher, finish it up and then send it by courier in the morning. I knew the printer; I’d worked with the owner personally for fifteen years, eight at my last job where I was the print buyer and swung a ton of work (and money) his way, and knew the couple of hours between when she’d drop it off and when he’d get it by courier wouldn’t amount to the proverbial hill of beans. But this didn’t wash with her.

“The courier will cost fifty dollars,” she snapped. “And the client won’t approve it.”

I said I would pay for the courier, since this was my responsibility. Or I would drive it down to the printer myself.

She merely walked away.

And then I drove home, certain I would be fired. I barely slept that night, even with Husband telling me to put it in perspective, that everyone makes mistakes, etc. I still thought I had to have that damned cape at the ready.

But somehow I managed to strap on my confidence and go into work early, determined to fix what I’d screwed up. And discovered pretty soon that in making the changes, we would gain four pages and the client hadn’t approved that expense, either.

Reluctantly, I reported this news to my boss.

“I can’t justify that to the client,” she said, and these were the last words she said to me all day.

Enter the Prince of Darkness. Who came up with the brilliant idea (and it was seriously brilliant, and I told him so) to make the type a half-point smaller. I ran a ten-page test, showed him how much we would save, then I did this for the whole of the document.

Not only did we get back to our original approved page count, but we also lost two pages.
Princey couldn’t have looked more pleased with himself than if he’d discovered a cure for cancer. I have no illusions that he did this solely to save my ass. He did it mostly to look good to the boss and partially to save the company’s face.

But even though we now had a solution, my boss still refused to speak with me. Anything she had to communicate to me she delivered through him. And the news was that we’d lost a day on press and ran the possibility of losing the client. In addition, she was taking both him and our other designer off the work they’d planned to do that afternoon to proofread all 60-some corrected pages, item by item, against the last proof the client had approved.

I felt like I was in boot camp, and the entire platoon was made to scrub the latrine floor with their toothbrushes because I screwed up during maneuvers.

After a long day of powering through the changes, waiting, and being given the silent treatment, I burned the CD at 6:00 that evening and P of D ran it over to FedEx.

Then I went home and collapsed.

I don’t know when I walk in on Monday (with a box of pastries for my platoon) if I’ll still have a job. But at least I know that I owned up to the error and did everything in my physical power to correct it.

At least I’ll have that.

And if I still have a job, I’ll owe it to the Prince. Just wonder how long I’ll have to kiss his ass to make up for him saving mine.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

All hail the Borg Queen

Last night I packed up my penguin jammies, a mindless bedtime book, medications, pillows, earplugs and my usual ridiculous amount of vitamins and supplements, then went to a local hospital for a sleep study as if, Husband pointed out, I were going off to Mars.

When I landed, a nice but much-too-young tech named Mindy ("Don't call me "Missy," she'd said. "Or Mandy. God I hate that.") acclimated me to the atmosphere and showed me to my quarters. It resembled a smallish hotel room, down to the neutral color scheme and the fake armoire hiding the television and defib apparatus. She gave me some paperwork to fill out, asked me some questions, then invited me to put on my pajamas and "relax," and she'd be in soon to hook me up.

I don't know. "Relax" and "hook me up" somehow don't belong in the same sentence.

But I tried. I changed, took my nighttime medications, had my bedtime snack, feathered up my nest and then, exhausted from my long day of work, from being sick as a dog half the night before (bad reaction to Naprosyn...another drug off my list), from fretting about the test itself and from hauling all my stuff out of my car and into my room, I simply collapsed onto the bed, spread-eagled and slack-jawed. I didn't want to move. Ever. Then, as the buzz of the fluorescent lights began to sink into a hum and the calls from the paging system drifted into the background of my brain, I was beginning to fear that I'd fall asleep before Mindy could hook me up in order to go to sleep.

At about 9:30, Mindy flounced into my room with a smile and a tray full of gewgaws and whacha-thingies that put me in mind of a combination of the Borg Queen's beauty salon/spare parts lab and Dustin Hoffman's trip to the dentist in "Marathon Man."

While it wasn't as horrific as some had warned me (see comments from AaA, Irony Board, 7/21), my cyborg transformation wasn't all that bad. If you don't mind having your face, neck and scalp exfoliated to accept electrode pads (spa services were on the house), two velcro bands across your chest, a tube in your nose and strapped behind your ears, one hooked over your lip and a tiny camera aimed to follow the movements of your eyes. The whole operation took about twenty minutes. I was already starting to nod off in the chair. Then she bundled all my wires into what she called a "ponytail box," which could be quickly disconnected if I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, stuck an oxygen monitor on my finger, and attempted to get me and the twenty yards of hardware I was trailing comfortably into bed.

She'd told me what the wires were for. This one to measure heartrate. This one to measure brainwaves. It knows when you are sleeping. It knows when you're awake. It knows when you've been--

"You'll forget about that stuff in about fifteen minutes," Mindy said. Owing to the drugs which were now lulling me into my usual pre-beddy stupor and the amount of gear constricting the movement of my lips, I think I said something in return. Something to the effect of "Yeah, dandy, just leave me alone so I can pass out already." At least the falling asleep part of my sleep disorder wasn't going to be a problem that night.

Mindy said she was going to her command post, and would give me a series of commands through my earphones (I had earphones in this thing? But I was wearing earplugs!) so she could calibrate the equipment, and I was supposed to answer her back. Apparently the thing hooked over my lip was a microphone. Then she left, and I heard this weird voice in my head, like maybe I was flying to Mars or had gotten lost inside a video game. She had me move my eyes this way and that, blink a few times in succession, move my feet, take some quick breaths, some slow breaths, then hold my breath.

Then she said she was signing off.

The silence was freaky. The wires were strange. The electrodes and finger-cuff I couldn't feel, but this tube in my mouth and nose...what if I pulled them out during the night? How do people who aren't tanked on Ativan handle this at all?

But Mindy was right. Very soon I stopped feeling the wires.

But I was feeling cold. Now I like sleeping in a cold room as much as the next semi-menopausal woman. At home, I crank the AC down so low that frost forms on the windows and my hands get stiff if I leave them outside the blankets. It got me wondering if the Sleep Center shared an HVAC system with the morgue. But I pulled the bedspread atop the whole concoction of me, machinery, top sheet and blanket, and I was fine.

As zonked as I was, it took me a while to go under. Maybe it was the silence, the unfamiliarity of the room, the bed, the air, the realization that this was finally underway. I only woke up once, at about 4:30, after this really vivid writer-type dream which included foreshadowing and metaphors and would probably make a great novel if I could remember all the details. I didn't think I fell back to sleep after my bathroom break, but when the little voice in my ear told me it would be coming in to remove my wires now, Mindy and the Great and Powerful Oz said that I had.

Then, after wire removal, a shower to get the adhesive off, and not the worst hospital breakfast I've ever had, I packed up my caravan and reentered Earth's orbit.

As odd as the experience was, the odder one is that once I fell asleep, I slept better than I do at home.

Perhaps now I know the answer to my sleep problem. Exfoliate my skin and attach a bunch of electrodes to myself before I turn in, set the AC on "stun," and hire someone to talk to me on a tiny microphone and watch me sleep from the next room.

Or just give in and join the Borg Collective. Resistance is, after all, futile.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

I can't decide what's worse: the inanity of what passes for reality television this summer, or that I, doped up on muscle relaxants, found it somewhat entertaining.

What caught my eye the first night on the drugs was "Master of Champions," this idiotic (And to use this term is to insult idiots, so I apologize to all you idiots out there.) American-Idol-ripoff which is a very bad, probably coke-and-testosterone-inspired hybrid of "America's Got Talent," David Letterman's "Stupid Human Tricks" and "Jackass." (from MTV, remember that, kids?)

It was the kind of entertainment that must have been popular just before the fall of Rome. That and the state of the Middle East (at the time, on fire) made me very, very scared for our the future of our country and the world. Or my state of mind. Or the potency of my dosage.

As in any good ripoff reality show, the contestants are judged by a panel of B-list celebrities, but in this case they were D-list sports celebrities (and to use this term is insulting D-list sports celebrities, so I apologize to them, too...Suzy Chaffee, Marv Albert, Tara Lipinski, I'm talking to you) including Oksana Baiul (who was probably wishing she'd gone into Celebrity Boxing instead, but guess what?? She's making a few bucks as a motivational speaker, but apparently not enough), Steve Garvey (guess he couldn't get a color-commentary gig, or his wife's tell-all book tanked his cred for life), and Johhny Moseley (also an Olympic athlete, but his Wheaties box went stale long ago. What, the Flying Tomato was already booked?)

The lead-in teased the show with a preview of ridiculous, contortionist, pyromanaical or just plain maniacal stunts, but featured (that night) the art and science of competitive pizza-tossing. Like those guys who used to twirl the dough in the window of the parlor. Except this group was the winning team in the I'm sure very popular sport of competitive pizza tossing. Of all the groups of Team Pizza Tossing In America (you know, Dough-Re-Mi, Toss Your Cookies, Rolling In Dough, Doughboys..relax...none of these names are real. Come on. You knew that.) this team was the very lucky winner among all pizza-tossing teams and that earned them the right to perform on national television and meet Oksana (or Steve, depending on their orientation). All were young and mostly boneless guys who twirled while they flipped, while they limboed, while they moonwalked, all in synchronized formation. I was just imagining the parents of these guys, grumbling to themselves that for this, they sent their progeny to some large, East-Coast party college where they should have been playing Ultimate Frisbee or Hacky-Sack instead.

And during the obligatory soft-focus background fillers, the guys were interviewed - how they got started, how they grew up spinning everything in sight, how one of the guys used to spin the dough at his family's pizza parlor.

I didn't stay awake long enough to find out what the esteemed panel of judges thought about the winning team's performance, or what came next.

But at least I felt it was my obligation to you, my faithful reader, to report what I'd seen so that you don't make the same mistake I did and waste a moment of your precious time on this crap without being seriously medicated.

And, as always, these are professional pizza-tossers. Kids, don't try this at home.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

So Long, Old Paint

Yesterday, two young men came to our house. One, a neighbor’s son; the second, a friend of his to whom we’d promised my old car. He didn’t seem to mind the rust and wasn’t spooked by the odometer reading or the age of the thing and was willing to shell out for a new catalytic converter, so it would probably make him a serviceable set of wheels.

For nothing, yet. Frankly, I didn’t care about getting any money for it. Right now there are enough things in my life taking up space reminding me that I can’t yet deal with them; I just wanted this one gone.

And all I had to do was say the word. Call the neighbor’s kid and tell him the paperwork was done, so all that remained was to take off the plates and transfer the title and his friend could drive it away.

The guy brought his own tools.

I was caught off-guard by the whole exchange. I missed the phone message that they’d be over in twenty minutes, so I was on the treadmill, at the end of a difficult day, and Husband, huffing his annoyance all the while, couldn’t find the title (admittedly, in my fuzzy brain made fuzzier by muscle relaxants, I told him I was certain it was in my top file drawer when it was in the bottom.) or my extra set of keys.

By the time I got off the ‘mill, the guys already had the plates off. Then I found the title (annoying Husband more by asking him to open the bottom file drawer), the keys, and the thought occurred to me that he should see if there was anything left in the car before it left my possession forever.

Husband cleaned it out. Huffing his annoyance at me while loading tote bags, old clothes, old journals, etc. into the garage. “How could I be such a slob?” “Why didn’t I ever clean my car?” “Now this house is going to be filled with more junk,” “When are you going to learn how to bend?” This added twist I’m sure he threw in just to get back at me for having the nerve not to recover as quickly as he wanted me to. Or having another back episode (which he could never seem to remember) when I was supposed to be better already.

I took a deep breath and told myself that neither of us are perfect and he was simply having a compassion meltdown – which is what happens to the person thrust in the role of caregiver when they don’t take time out to take care of themselves.

The kid knew enough that he had to write out a bill of sale, that we would both sign, which would be proof that the car wasn’t stolen. So we did that, I signed the correct places on the title, we shook hands, and the guys left, pretty satisfied with themselves.

“You don’t want to even say goodbye to it?” Husband said. “She served you well for a long time.”

I shrugged. “It’s just a car.”

“When did you get so unsentimental?” he asked.

“Life is short,” I said. “And it’s just a car.”

And this morning I started thinking about that. When I got rid of my last car (more specifically, when I got tired of not knowing when I put the key in if it would start or not, when I got tired of being afraid that it would die in the most inconvenient places in the area, when I got tired of putting the equivalent of a new car payment into my mechanic’s hand almost monthly, when I called a salvage company and had them tow the damned thing away), I was more sentimental. It was, after all, my first car. I’d saved up for it. To cover what I couldn’t, I got my first car loan. The heat didn’t work, as I found out when the weather got a smidge colder, and with a little help from the Consumer Affairs Office and Regional Toyota, I caught the dealer in a loophole and got them to fix it for free. And when the tow truck was on the way, I lovingly cleaned it out, got a neighbor to help take off the plates, and pried off the model name from the back of the car, just to have something to remember it by.

And this one: When the old Toyota died, we’d driven all the way to Montgomery (about 45 minutes) on a day that was hotter than hell to look at an automatic Toyota with low mileage and air conditioning, and I knew immediately it was to be my car because of the color. It was teal. I touched up the scratches. I never missed an oil change. I had all the recommended maintenance done. And yes, she served me well.

But when the time came I didn’t even watch her go.

There are still several boxes and tote bags downstairs that I have to go through (Left on the floor, of course, the equivalent of that episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” where neither of them will give the other the satisfaction of removing the suitcase from the stairs). One of them is one of those Riuniti wine boxes that people use (or used to use, before CDs) to keep cassette tapes in. I used mine for hats and gloves. Kept them from getting separated.

There’s something else in that box. The nameplate from my first car. I probably won’t throw it away.

Who says I’m not sentimental?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Irony Board

So often it seems that Friday is the day that irony settles over our happy home. Maybe it’s because by then, my mind catches up to what I’ve been doing to my body all week. Or maybe it’s all a coincidence; who the hell knows.

Either way, anyone who knows me well knows that for about four weeks now, I’ve been struggling with the same stupid pain in whatever flesh is anchoring my hip to my back (mainly, this is a big fat pain in my not-so-fat ass). Answers to what is causing this are in short supply, but all of my bodyworkers think they have a solution. Spine-oriented sorts think it’s in my spine, muscle-oriented sorts think it’s in my muscles, body-mind connection types think (and I was leaning this way, too) that it’s something with an emotional component, as in someone or something in my life is a pain in the ass. My PT (not a pain in the ass, but someone whom I’ve been trusting for over a year to have the answers) is stumped, and recommended cutting my exercise/stretching routine to every other day and using more ice and possibly, a referral to pain management where I will get shot up with cortisone, a route down which I do NOT want to travel. But whatever most of my team has been doing - be it needles or massage or joint manipulation – has only been making the afflicted area angrier.

And during all of this, sleep has also been in short supply. Fearing a return to last year’s Summer of Endless Nocturnal Torment followed by subsequent physical breakdown, my GP (who sometimes can be counted on for an answer) finally decided that the sleep study I’ve been bugging him about for a year might be a good idea.

So it is prescribed, so it will be done.

Meanwhile, (more specifically, Wednesday at 9 AM) I decided to hell with all of them. I was tired of therapies that made this worse (isn’t the caveat of the medical community “first, do no harm?”), tired of the reduced exercise program having no effect, tired of not being able to stretch (one of the few things that’s been bringing me relief from the fibro), so I called once again on my GP. Maybe someone had missed something. Maybe I should get another MRI.

I saw the Physician’s Assistant, who in many ways was more thorough and patient than my GP. She gave me a physical evaluation that rivaled the ones my neurosurgeon used to inflict on me, minus getting poked with pins (he used to do this to determine nerve sensitivity). She didn’t think I needed another MRI, nor would my insurance company pay for one if pain wasn’t radiating down my legs. But she did suggest that I was having some sciatic inflammation.

Which made more sense than what anyone else was telling me.

So it’s back to the horse-pill anti-inflammatories and the muscle relaxants. And, in a few weeks, or earlier if my good good friend Linda can work some magic with Tom’s schedule, it’s back to physical therapy, now that we have a new road map.

And the irony is that, for now, the medication is making me sleep like the dead.

And the sleep study is scheduled for Monday night.

And even though Husband gave me shit about why I was bothering to get this done at all, that it would only result in no new answers like every other test and doctor I’ve been to (don’t worry, I gave him shit back), I was sort of looking forward to this one. For scientific purposes. Getting covered with electrodes and going to sleep while an intern monitored my respiration, heart rate, brainwaves, etc. from another room and generated roughly 900 pages of data (or so the information packet claimed) to try to figure out why, if I actually get to sleep, why I can’t seem to stay asleep.

They were even going to let me wear my penguin jammies (if you laugh I’ll hunt you down and kill you).

I was going to blog about it, or maybe even use it as a basis for a magazine article.

But I guess I can always reschedule.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Smile Revolution at the DMV

Yes, you read that right. Someone at the DMV was smiling. On purpose. And trying to spread it around.

Prior to making this discovery, I was at work, waiting for clients to approve various things (Why does it always work like this? Do they conspire behind our backs? I wait and wait and hear NOTHING all morning and afternoon and then ten minutes before I have to leave, everybody comes back with their changes all at once and of course they need them all NOW.)

So I went out to take care of a long-overdue trip to the DMV to change my registration. Finally I was retiring the old clunker; the one you couldn't drive unless the window was open lest you suffocate from the fumes, the one whose battery died more frequently than a Soviet president. I'm not sure why, but a neighbor kid's friend wanted the car, without so much as a test drive. So before I could hand it off, I did the change-the-insurance thing, then took that long, slow walk to the big glass building (a modern thumb in this coloniol city's eye) where they house the DMV and other license and registration type behavior.

And was handed a fistful of forms to fill out.

Then directed to Room Number Two to get more forms filled out have my fifty-eight dollar registration fee collected, which I know will not be used to fill the potholes or remove the snow.

That's where I met the Smile Woman. She was being helped by one of the clerks ahead of me. She looked like your average Woodstock resident. For those of you not familiar, this would be a baby boomer, of either male or female persuasion, who just hasn't quite gotten it into their heads that the 60s are over, that chunky beaded necklaces are simply not coming back, and have a complete wardrobe of earth-toned, natural-fiber clothing, reusable hemp shopping bags and comfortable, practical footwear.

Plus they often smell like patchouli. Or the natural sort of ripe, human aroma which is not especially appreciated within a ten-foot radius.

Anyway, she announced to the clerk (and to everyone else in the room) that she was part of the Smile Revolution, and she had her own radio show, and a blog that I just have to Google to satisfy my curiosity, (here it is: and her mission was to make the world a better place by telling everyone to smile more.

Frankly, this would just make me worry more. If everyone I passed were smiling for no apparent reason. I'd think I had something stuck in my teeth or my blouse was unbuttoned.

Or I'd think they were all up to something.

Perhaps this is part of her Bush Survival Therapy. (Yes, in the Woodstock area, there is such a thing. This, the Bluest of the Blue states, actually experienced such a wrenching case of the blues that Prozac was introduced into the water supply and alternative therapists rubbed their hands together with glee.)

I don't know...or perhaps she's on to something. Can I...can I...(I'm really trying now, my lips feel the cheeks are starting to burn...and I'm smiling. Yes, people, I'm smiling, and you know what? I feel so much better! It doesn't matter that the ozone layer is depleting so quickly that Woodstock is going to become a beachfront doesn't matter that my house is a mess and I can only work part-time and the Middle East is blowing itself to hell and our government is an international joke and...

For Christ's sake. Can I stop now? My face is starting to hurt.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Planning To Be Spontaneous...Someday

Remember the days when a good hot day was fun? You got into your bathing suit and jumped around the neighbor’s sprinkler, if you weren’t lucky enough to have a neighbor with a pool, and maybe somebody’s Mom had ice pops in the freezer, or the Good Humor truck would come around, and that was enough.

Yesterday I was trying to remember those days. It was hot (though not as hot as today) and we went to the local volunteer firemen’s fund-raising barbecue, and ate chicken and corn on the cob and lost a lot of money on raffle tickets and watched a bunch of neighbors with big bellies drink beer and watched a bunch of kids dancing through a sprinkler set up on the lawn.

God, I wanted to do that. Drink beer. And run through the sprinkler.

“So go for it,” Husband said, watching my longing looks.

I thought about it for a second. The beer wouldn’t be the best thing to have with my various medications, or for my fibro. And I also thought about my sneakers, they were my good sneakers, and then they’d be wet, and covered with grass clippings, and I’d get them all over my car and all over the treadmill later, and it would make a big mess. And I was wearing light gray cotton knit pants, if they got wet they’d twist up heavy and clumpy around my calves, and…

When did I get so freaking old?

Maybe I was just born old. Except for one (ok, maybe two) brief periods of my life where I did some irresponsible things, I’ve been fairly buttoned up, quiet, and not the type of person who’d run through the sprinkler with the kids. In fact if I remember correctly, I don’t think I even did that when I was a kid. I had a bathing suit. I swam in the pool, I ate ice pops from the Good Humor truck (actually, the orange Creamsicles were my favorite), but spontaneous, I wasn’t. When I was a young child, I’d cry if I thought we were doing one thing and then someone changed the plan. I wanted to know what to expect. I still want to know what to expect. Every doctor, every bodyworker I go to, I ask them to tell me what they’re going to be doing before they do it, so I can mentally prepare to have my hamstrings stretched or extra pressure on the knot under my scapula or an acupuncture needle stuck in my fingertip. I bring too many things when I go somewhere overnight, and for a whole week – forget about it. That’s why God invented suitcases with wheels.

The closest I came to spontaneous was during one of those two adult irresponsible periods, where I went on a road trip with a guy I’d been dating only a short time, and one of his buddies. I had no idea where we were going, or for how long, I just knew that the buddy had a convertible and a gig somewhere in the Adirondacks and I really wanted to get out of Syracuse for at least one night or, hopefully, the whole weekend. And I really wanted a ride in a convertible.

I brought nothing but the clothes on my back, and in my purse, a toothbrush, deodorant, a pair of clean underpants and a t-shirt rolled up very, very small. Even still, I agonized for a while before I made that final determination. I was too shy to ask what the plan was beyond the gig. It was a two-some hour ride to the place he was playing. If I packed a bag, did that mean I was being presumptuous, that this would be an overnight? It was such a casual invitation; something like, “let’s go hear my friend play tonight.” None of us had enough money for a hotel room. Would I look like an idiot if I brought an overnight bag? Still, I felt this was the safest alternative. It was just a purse. No one would have to know what was inside my purse. Yet my girl-scout background couldn’t let me bring nothing at all.

Turned out we were gone the whole weekend.

Turned out the gig was in a beautiful rustic-type mountain lodge, in a town I don’t remember.

Turned out the guy was so buddy-buddy with the owner that he not only gave us three rooms for free, (business was slow) but also let us have free reign at the bar and in the kitchen after hours. We invented drinks and made sandwiches and told jokes and I had…get this…fun.

And was returned on Sunday night to my Syracuse domicile unmolested and unscathed, though grateful for a hot shower and a change of clothes.

I would never do anything like that now (if I wasn’t married, of course). I’d wonder if the guy was secretly a serial killer and I’d want the phone number of the place we were going and I’d ask how long we were staying and plan accordingly. Probably I’d Google both of them for any priors, too. And bring my Triple A card.

But I know I have a few sprinkler runs in me yet.

I just have to plan when to use them.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Things that have been ticking me off

I've been a little cranky lately, and - lucky you - you get to hear about the latest things that have been sticking in Op's craw:

1. Why, in sixteen-plus years of cohabitation, am I the only member of the household who puts the new roll of toilet paper in the holder? Did this skill evolve off Y chromosome or simply become a vestigial instinct? Or does the XX combination give me super powers of knowing when a thing is empty and needs refilling? Note that this only seems to apply to items within the walls of the house.

2. One of our cacti is really pissing me off. OK, at first it was merely phallic. Then it grew a reservoir tip. Now it has become grotesque, like some kind of vertical balloon animal with spines. I know that this is a cactus survival skill, but when left out in the rain, it draws all the moisture up into the very top, and I’m afraid it will snap in two from the weight of its head. If a cactus is smart enough to draw water up to the top, why is it not smart enough to grow in an efficient manner? But then, I should realize that it is only a plant. Perhaps I need to lower my expectations.

3. Speaking of lowered expectations, what’s going on with children’s names? If you assign your offspring certain names, could you be cited for child abuse? If you name your child “Coco Krisp,” (currently an outfielder for the Red Sox) do you really think he’s going to the White House? The Supreme Court? I know that these are not the high aspirations they used to be, and in some households, valued about as much as a Burger King night manager. Say this guy was your boss. Could you take someone named “Coco Krisp” seriously? But then again, Coco’s got the laugh on us. He probably makes as much as the president does in a year just for putting on a jockstrap. I bet if he were a girl, she’d wind up as an exotic dancer or porn star. Give a guy a weird name – say, Estes Kafaulder – and it gives him character. Give a girl a weird name and if she’s not smart enough to change it, she’ll be working in the entertainment industry. But then again…

4. Brittany Spears. Just in general. Honey, put the baby someplace safe, put down the cigarette, put on some clothes and listen up. Whatever you think you’re doing to advance your “career,” it’s not considered shocking if Madonna or Cher or Demi Moore has done it before.

5. And speaking of the entertainment industry, exactly when did a pregnant belly begin being called “the bump?” The bump was a dance from the 70s. A bump on your body is something undesirable, and probably something you want your doctor to look at. Now all of a sudden the media is what they’ve been referring to as “bump watch,” publishing pictures of Reese or Angelina or whoever is the celebrity breeder of the month, in clothing or positions that not only show how far along they are but the sex of the child. I was annoyed enough when celebrity reportage made it seem as if a baby is Hollywood’s latest “accessory.” (I certainly hope that movie-star moms don’t truly feel this way) Now they make it sound as if they’re carrying a tumor to term. Or, perhaps they’re all so skinny that a bump-like protuberance is the only indication they’re carrying anything at all, other than a bunch of credit cards or the dead weight of the latest lousy movie they agreed to make.

6. Shephard Smith. Husband, a conservative and a news hound, likes to watch Fox News. Some of the anchors are tolerable. I kind of liked Tony Snow, but he’s gone now. But this guy they have on after seven – tone it down a bit, OK? He seems happiest when things blow up. He reminds me of someone who should be hosting “Entertainment Tonight” or some other gossipy tabloid show where they have a “bump alert” segment. Learn to blink, man. Get Ted Koppel to show you how.

7. Summer Replacement Series – Used to be, summer was the time when the networks either trotted out good shows that hadn’t been given a fair shake in the fall, or fun and edgy things (remember “Grapevine?”) that might have a shot at being picked up down the line. Now they’re rolling out a bunch of reality show crap. And not even good ones – just rehashes or new combinations of ones that have been successful before. At least there’s baseball. Not only are the Mets not sucking this year, but when I can catch a Red Sox game, I can watch Coco Krisp earn more money than Bush. And somehow that makes me happy.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Can you help me find....?

I have become a magnet for lost people. Every time I leave my office for a walk, which is about three or four times a day, I am stopped, hailed, assailed, and I'm afraid. Do I have this look of authority, like I know where I am going therefore I can tell them the best way to go, or have I simply, over the years, become so much of a local that of course I'm the one they should stop to ask how to find every side street, dive bar and tourist attraction in the area?

Christ. Maybe it's time to invest in a pair of Jimmy Choos and have my hair highlighted and develop that air of entitlement that most of the people who come up from the city for charming country weekends seem to have.

Or pretend I don't speak English.

Or simply resign myself to my fate.

Two parts of this alarming trend annoy me most of all.

One, that nobody asks for easy stuff, say, how to get to the post office or the grocery store or the nearest ATM. They ask for complicated things. Like how to get to the library (which requires navigating a maze of one-way streets, and should I tell the two very obviously moneyed and quite metrosexual gentlemen in the convertible Porsche who stopped to ask me for directions that the neighborhood where I'm sending them is a wee bit dicey and perhaps one of them should stand guard over the car while the other goes in and gets what they need?). Or how to get to some restaurant in a part of the city that requires my use of hand signals indicating that when they reach the part where road forks six ways they should take the tine that's three from the left, then veer right to avoid the car-eating pothole. Meanwhile, the drivers in the cars idling behind us are starting to get that look of road rage.

The second scary thing is that I know all this stuff. Some of it so well that it's damned near impossible to describe it to anyone. This is your typical, complicated, cowpath-based, sprawling colonial city with several commercial centers, and to direct a visitor to some places, it would be easier for me to go back to the office, get my car and have them follow me.

Even before the age of Mapquest and GPS systems, it's a smug comfort to have lived in a place long enough to know your way around. I felt this way about Boston, about two or three years in. And I've felt this way about this town for - my God - more years than I care to admit to.

But with cities being bombed and the crime rates going up and every other day a report of someone simply disappearing, it's a smug (and probably false) sense of comfort to know that in this small town, when I am stopped, hailed and assailed, chances are low that I'll be robbed, kidnapped or assaulted.

And I can put up with a lot of annoyance for that kind of comfort.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Chicks Dig The Long Ball (and other things that make me smile)

My favorite Met David Wright's performance at the Home Run Derby (second place!) was just one of the things that made me smile this week.

It's also our wedding anniversary. Thirteen years ago this week, it was a hundred degrees and the humidity was almost as high. It was a week of frayed nerves and tried patience as a man and a woman tried to put the final touches on their wedding. Which included a seating chart that would satisfy two sets of divorced in-laws. Which included coordinating many, many relatives from out of town. Which included sending the best man, already grumpy, on a scavenger hunt for wedding favors (a hundred and ten Pez dispensers). Which he brought in a box into our tiny apartment, then dumped the contents of the box, unceremoniously, onto the floor, leaving me, already frazzled with final gown fittings and sewing seed pearls onto my sneakers (a blog onto itself), to remove a hundred and ten tiny sticky price tags from each of the plastic baggies in time to make the UPS cutoff in order to have them to the hall on time.

And we'd yet to create the cake topper. We still have it on a bookshelf in our home. Onto a standard plastic platform, we'd hot-glued one Charlie Brown Pez dispenser (hand-crafted by Husband to look like him, down to creating tiny glasses with the wire from a twist-tie) and one Lucy Pez dispenser, made by me.

We, like Lucy, were all crabby, cranky, and ready to yank everyone's football away just as they were running down the field with that look of determination on their faces.

And then the weather broke.

And it was a beautiful day at the wedding castle on the river.

And a hundred and ten people showed up to watch the bride walk down the aisle 45 minutes late (for the record, she was ready. She was ready even though her cousin-in-law, the hairdresser, realized halfway upstate that she'd forgotten her dress. Even though her sister-in-law dropped a lipstick, which slid, business end down the length of the wedding gown, while doing the bride's makeup. Even though the florist screwed up and delivered the eight thousand (it seemed) boxes of flowers into her dressing room, where there was barely enough room for the big damned dress and the seven or eight women who hovered around waiting to help yet nobody brought her the Diet Pepsi she'd asked for a half-hour earlier.

She was late because of the rabbi. Who schmoozed around finding two people who could write their name in Hebrew (guess it's part of some tradition, or something).

And then the glass was broken, and hundred and ten people, relieved from the sudden break in the heat, ate the food that I never got around to trying (too busy having pictures taken), danced to big band music and told us it was the best wedding they'd been to in a long, long time.

And our wedding night consisted of eating pizza (neither of us got to eat the food that everyone else told us was so wonderful) with two good friends who'd come for the weekend.

Not a bad way, all told, to start a marriage.

My mother, cleaning up her house, found my gown and asked if I wanted it back (now that I live in a place with enough room, I think it's time) and speculated whether I should get it dry cleaned. "There appears to be a lipstick stain," she said.

No, I told her. Like the wine spilled on the ketubah, like my uncle's videotape that mostly showed the ceiling, that stain, like certain Clintonian artifacts, is part of history.

The good parts of our marriage would take up many, many blogs. But to make a long story a little shorter, how else, other than sharing a heart and sometimes a brain with someone else for nineteen years (the official years and the unofficial years) how could else could it lead to conversations like the one we had this morning.

Me: What's this sudden media fascination with world leaders and their preferences in American pop culture?
Him: Huh? (he hadn't had coffee yet)
Me: Well, that guy from Japan went to Graceland and I just heard that Kim Il Jong likes Daffy Duck cartoons.
Him: A lot of people like Daffy Duck cartoons.
Me: Yeah, but Daffy's the schlemeil in the story. Bugs is the cool one. He always gets the upper hand. It says something about him that he prefers Daffy to Bugs.
Him: So, we're judging world leaders on what cartoons he likes? I bet Kim Il Jong likes the Stooges.
Me: Yeah, probably Saddam Hussein does too. I bet they both like Moe.

So Happy Anniversary to my husband.

And I hope we have many, many more silly conversations left to go.

And maybe next year David Wright will take first in the Home Run Derby.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Moving Opus

Not much blog-worthy today, but it’s been a while. SuperGirlfriend’s “Flashback Friday” ( got me thinking about my own disastrous moving-of-large-items experiences, which got me thinking about moving experiences, which got me thinking of moving.

No, I’m not planning to call on any of you to help me move large objects any time soon, so you can just keep sipping your coffee and cruising the ‘net and relax.

But I was thinking about my years spent in Boston (there is a nostalgic theme building, if you’ve been following me). How every time you saw an awning going up on your building, it would mean the place was going condo and you knew you’d be moving soon, ‘cause no way could the average bullpen artist afford to buy instead of rent (Unless you came from mucho dinero, which some of them did. One owned her own coop in the South End, furnished in to-the-moment Laura Ashley (it was the eighties, after all) courtesy of her trust fund. None of us liked her.)

The first time I was forced out of my rented abode, I had to get rid of a dog (a beautiful Australian Shephard named Cutter, a good jogging companion, but sadly, had some indoor behavioral problems and was not welcome in my perfect soon-to-be-new living situation), tried to get rid of a live-in boyfriend (but like a bad check, he kept coming back) and because he was conveniently out of town on Moving Day, I had to beg and plead a male coworker with a drivers’ license to bail me out (which wasn’t too hard, but still, the whatever feminist Bad Boyfriend hadn’t intimidated out of me hated to have to do it). He was a cool guy, and played my stand-in date while Bad Boyfriend was out of town having whatever wanderlust Peter Pan-ish adventure appealed to him at the moment (roadie with a traveling circus, bartender at various seasonal resorts, probably sleeping with anything that would stand still long enough to be drawn in by his Svengali charm). But was he crazy enough to help me move?

Yes. Even crazy enough to drive the moving van I rented (standard only) while (since I claimed I knew how to drive a stick) I would follow in his yellow Bug.

Turned out my knowledge of standards was theoretical at best. In the middle of the main artery that feeds through Allston, I stalled out. And stalled again. And again. Finally, he had to call a buddy to help out while I rode shotgun, feeling about three inches tall but grateful that it wasn’t me behind either of those wheels.

Bad boyfriend had it in for Cool Coworker ever since. Even though no funny business was afoot. The coworker had a girlfriend (actually, a series of them, depending on how well he did in the bars over the weekend) and was smart enough not to mess with the girlfriend of a guy who imagined he was a ninja, was built like a fireplug and owned a series of lock picks and knew how to use them. So I continued to accept rides to work, escorts to movie premieres, invites to parties when my Designated Asshole was out of town. I sensed the inevitable pissing match coming, but until then, I was not about to walk three miles to work (I was living in one of those dead spots in Allston with no public transportation close by) or sit in what was becoming an increasingly claustrophobic formerly perfect living situation when I could be at a free movie premiere or a party.

Finally, it came. His Wonderfulness came “home” for a week, where he expected me to feed him, wash his clothes, and generally spend every waking minute paying attention to him, and only him. He got crabby when I had to work late, crabby when we had to stay in (a tenet of my ridiculously cheap rent was that I had to babysit my roommate’s two-year-old on Thursday nights while she went to art class), and very crabby that some guy was knocking on my door at 7:45 in the morning to drive me to work.

There were words. There were threats. If there were rulers, they would have been used.

Cool coworker started meeting me downstairs. (Heck, he had an original Bug. I could hear him coming a half-mile away)

And Bad Boyfriend starting getting jobs in town.

Finally, as it inevitably did, it became time to move again. And guess-who managed with all of his strength to stay in town and help.

And that was the last time he helped me move.

Because by the time the next awning went up, he’d moved on to someone younger and more gullible, but he’d yet to move his things out of my apartment.

And the “man with the van” I’d called and sent a deposit to never showed up and had his phone disconnected.

So once again, I had to become Penelope Pitstop and ask for help. Fortunately, I had eager assistance in the form of an old friend of Mr. Wonderful, who’d also been screwed over by the guy. The only price he asked was that I never, ever, ever to give the guy his new phone number or address.

We left the a-hole’s worldly belongings on his new girlfriend’s front porch, I bought a Diet Pepsi with the magic quarters he’d left behind, then we took off to my latest soon-to-be wonderful living arrangement (which was pretty damned good) and partied the rest of the day.

A little tipsy and a lot tired, I stretched out on my brand-new futon (No way I could keep the old one) and thought, this is all mine. He’ll never be back here again. And tomorrow I could go to the grocery store and get the kind of peanut butter I liked, not his, could buy the kind of bread I liked, and didn’t have to be cowed by that steely-eyed glare ever again.

Even though in my new, small bedroom, I was imprisoned by still-packed boxes and up to my eyeballs in debt, I never felt so free in my life. And that was the most moving experience I’d felt since I left home for college.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Go Forth and Fourth

I’ve lived in small towns and large, and perhaps this is remembered through the filmy haze of nostalgia, but some of the best Fourth of July celebrations I’ve ever experienced have been in Boston.

Initially the idea of half the population of the city jammed onto a small spit of land between the highway and the Charles River, a crowd that starts early in the AM to get the best real estate and builds until the first of the rocket’s red glare at nightfall, made me want to lock myself in my apartment and watch the ‘works on my grainy black and white television. Or, high-tail it to the Greyhound station and catch the Fourth in my home town, where the evening would end when somebody set something on fire or threw up in the barbecue pit.

But where else could you have an all-day picnic, meet new friends and get reacquainted with old ones, watch buff, half-naked guys (if that’s your thing) jogging down the Esplanade, watch holiday-themed rafts drift down the river, and, as darkness settled in, listen to the Boston Pops and see one of the most dazzling fireworks displays outside of Operation Shock and Awe – all for free. Which is especially appreciated when you have no disposable income and an apartment the size of a broom closet.

These were the days before security guards and bomb-sniffing dogs searched you for merely leaving your building, so I don’t know what kind of restrictions have been placed on this event since. But back in the early-to-mid-eighties, it was one giant citywide party. The chicks on the next blanket with the Coke bottle full of margaritas and the guys with the Trivial Pursuit game were your new best friends.

And some years, the best part was the trip back home. Screw the subway, even though it was free (the only other time you could go tokenless was on New Year’s Eve). It was hot, and took forever, and how cool was it to walk home along the river, safely because of the numbers walking along with you, enjoying the company, the night breeze off the water, and the way the moon was in a different place relative to the Prudential building every time you turned around to check?

And then I got older. And the idea of a day spent in the hot sun surrounded by the great un-deodorized got less and less appealing. So I began to get better ideas. Like altitude. Surely I could find an acquaintance, or an acquaintance of an acquaintance, or a coworker’s friend’s cousin with a rooftop view of the Charles?

It wasn’t happening. And at the time I was dating Husband, who lived in a small town and had come to visit me for the Fourth and wanted to do something in the big, bad city which didn’t involve become so intimately close with the big, bad city.

So we went to the top of the Hancock Tower. It, along with the Pru, had an observation deck back then (again, before security guards and bomb-sniffing dogs) and for a couple bucks, you could go up and see forever. On a clear day, of course.

We were smug with the realization that this was the greatest plan ever. Everyone was going to be down THERE, sweating and packed in like sardines, and we could be up HERE, living the good life.

I was anticipating something decadently cool, like the time I was able to transcend my usual standing-room-only seat in Fenway for a boyfriend’s corporate box, where you had your own entrance and waiters bringing you icy cold beer.

And it was cool, but turns out a lot of other people had the same idea. And you couldn’t hear the Pops except through a tinny speaker they’d hooked up for the occasion, which didn’t work that well, and while Husband continued to praise our cleverness, I kept feeling like something was missing.

I didn’t feel like I was part of it.

The view was spectacular, but I couldn’t see the rafts on the river. The fireworks were pretty, but I couldn’t feel the air vibrate and become a chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” with the crowd as each new payload was launched from the barge.

But I didn’t want to ruin his buzz.

By the next summer I’d moved back to New York, to his small town, and we went to the small-town Fourth of July celebration, because that’s what everybody did. First a barbecue at somebody’s house, then the drive to the field, because it was much too far to walk. There was a strategy. Where to park so that you could get out first. Otherwise, you’d be stuck in traffic all night.

And boy, I felt like such a fish out of water you could serve me at a sushi bar. Husband knew everybody; I only knew him and his friends. Dress was small town casual; the girls had mall hair and blue eye shadow. (I am less of a snob now, thank you. But then you could just call me “quiche woman in a barbecue town” – not my own line, I stole it from a country-western song) The ‘works went off at dusk and were, frankly, a little disappointing.

But I got used to it. And then we stopped going. Turned out it wasn’t Husband’s thing, either. He didn’t like crowds. I was losing my taste for them. Except when a baseball game was involved.

We have mellower Fourths now. A cookout at a neighbor’s, their kids setting off bottle rockets in the field. And the evening usually ends when someone sets something on fire or throws up in the barbecue pit.

And that’s fine.

Monday, July 03, 2006

And now a word from our sponsors...

Among other things, my marriage has been an education in sports I never dreamed I’d see telecast in my abode. Golf, for one. And, for another, NASCAR racing.

I never did and still don’t see the point in a bunch of cars zooming around a track for hours at a time, but I’m finding some of the personalities and definitely the pop-culture persuasiveness of the damned thing kind of interesting in a social anthropological sort of way.

For instance, sponsorship. Husband tells me that in days of yore, when the race was done, the winner would thank God and his team and his pit crew for seeing him to the checkered flag. End of story. Today, they’re thanking everyone who coughed up enough bucks to have a logo printed on the Mylar wrap around his car and stitched into his Nomex suit. I actually watched the end of Saturday’s race (Well, to be completely accurate, he was watching it on tape, and I was doing the Sunday Times crossword puzzle, in ink. Now don’t think that’s total snobbery. Occasionally, you will find a NASCAR or Formula One question in the venerable Times. The frightening thing is when I know the answers.) and heard the three top finishers rattle off a list of whom to thank that was so long I worried for their lung capacity.

“Well, I’d just like to say that without the unflagging support of the Home-Depot-Coca-Cola-Allstate-Sobe-Energy-Drink-don’t-be-drinkin’-none-of-that-Red-Bull-crap team, we wouldn’t have pulled it off today. No way no how.”

And I’m sure that some of the younger guys, who don’t have all the patter down yet, were counting on some pit crew jock or handler to prompt him on all the people to thank, like maybe he couldn’t read that one patch sewed onto the ass of his suit.

Then Husband came up with the idea that we should get sponsorship for our house. Heck, we give all these people most of our money anyway, so why shouldn’t we get something out of it? A new deck, a couple new appliances, maybe a sunroom. Some college kids have offered to change their names or get the Nike swoosh tattooed on their foreheads for a break on tuition, so why shouldn’t we look for a little outside help for household expenses?

Any time someone comes over or sticks any kind of recording device in our faces we’d have to say – by contract – “Welcome to the Home-Depot-Allstate-Sears-Hannaford-Apple-Sony-Opus house, happy to have you aboard. Or if we had a barbecue, and someone complimented our cooking, we’d say – again, by contract – “Well, none of this would be possible without the help of Kenmore, Danger Men Cooking and Wal-Mart.” And then, Husband said, to save money on repainting, we’d just get a huge Mylar wrap printed up with logos of all of our sponsors and cover our house with it.

I reminded him that no one can see our house from the road.

Then he said they’d probably demand we clear-cut all the trees that impair visibility.

A small price to pay for having our expenses covered? Why not? The guy across the street has a chainsaw bear statue that he dressed up for different holidays, why should I worry about what the neighbors think?

So looking forward to the next time we see you at the Home-Depot-Allstate-Sears-Hannaford-Best Buy-Microsoft-Adobe-Apple-Sony-New Balance-Doritos-Hess-Wal-Mart-Valvoline-Opus house (we’ve picked up a slew more interested parties in the last two paragraphs).

Don’t forget to patronize our sponsors, who thank you for your support.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

On Losing June

On the surface, I was glad to say “good riddance” to this particular calendar page. I didn’t actually sit down and do the calculations, but this had to be the Hudson Valley’s wettest June in the history of human settlement, or at least since somebody started keeping records of such things. Another day, another bunch of random, stupid pains, another sinus headache, a whole bunch of rotten nights.

Then I started to think about previous Junes. And, at least for the years I worked in the lighting industry, I’d always seem to lose June. The industry’s major trade show, Lightfair, was always scheduled some time around Memorial Day weekend. Which, for most lighting companies, meant you had to scramble through the spring designing, building, testing, documenting and finally creating beautiful marketing literature for your new line of fixtures – or at least if they were not new, what you brought to the show would represent barely-working samples and the beautiful marketing literature for the products you started to launch the year before but never quite got off the table (or the engineer’s AutoCad program, or the sample-builder’s studio, or got UL approval, or figured out a way to get the goddamned ballast into something tiny enough to make all of your marketing claims about how beautiful, sleek and minimalist the thing is actually true enough to spin into something you could sell.)

Which, for me, second banana in the Marketing Department, meant that June would be lost due to several factors: 1. Recovering from Lightfair by taking on all the “urgent” projects we’d let pile up, earmarked “to do immediately after Lightfair”; 2. Feverishly producing the price book for not only the new products from the show, but the adds/drops and increases across our entire product line, which involved sometimes infantile infighting among product managers and hours of horrible meetings and major, major nagging to get all the input on time; or 3. Feverishly producing the sales literature for the products that we only had laser-printed spec sheets for because they were ready enough to show at the Fair (if you didn’t examine them too closely) but not ready enough to sell. And by God, the company president wanted to be ready at the first phone call from some architect or lighting designer who had been in Vegas or New York (the show alternated every year) and saw the such-and-such luminaire, you know, the one hanging from the ceiling that had that great new lamp in it (which, unbeknownst to them, was only available in Europe and we had to wheedle, beg and plead some Austrian product manager for a sample in time for the show and it only arrived that morning) and wanted to place an order for a hundred of them to install in his new office building.

Christ. After seven and a half years of this, is it any wonder my back gave out?

But it always meant losing June in some way. Last June, even though I wasn’t working, I was preparing my mind and body to go back, and ate up so much time with physical therapy and general angst that I missed, again, so many of the hidden joys of the month. Not things you notice as you dash between appointments, or randomly look out a window. But the things it really takes time to see.

And I did have a few of those moments this past month. If I’d lost June I wouldn’t have taken time to watch the birth of a fawn. I wouldn’t watch for it each morning after it mysteriously vanished, then felt the relief when, after a week, it reappeared, bounding after its mother. Wouldn’t have watched the doe pause to let the little one nurse, its tiny tail whirling like a fluffy propeller until Mom decided he’d had enough.

And I wouldn’t have solved the mystery of why the bark is disappearing in long strips from the pine tree in the back yard. I was home alone one afternoon, and while washing a few dishes I looked up, and watched as a squirrel doggedly worked at removing it (can a squirrel work doggedly?), then sheared off one long whip and ran off with his booty. But why? Is pine bark a great squirrel treat, like beef jerky, or would it become part of a nest? Is there a squirrel S/M parlor somewhere? As curious as I was, though, I wasn’t about to chase down the squirrel to find out. Some days my self-esteem is low enough without being bawled out by a squirrel.

And I would have missed how the sky looked in the early evenings, when our - it seemed - daily tropical deluge was passing through and we’d have swollen blue clouds on the east side of the house and a glorious pastel sunset on the west side.

And this one, if I hadn’t taken the time to notice, I would have missed completely. Husband was away working on a project, and called about eight to let me know he’d be at it a few more hours, so not to wait up. Since our garage is directly beneath the bedroom, he asked me to leave his bay door open so he wouldn’t wake me coming in. Doing this involved me putting on shoes, taking on yet another flight of stairs for the day (I have very little energy left at that time of night) crossing to the other side of the garage and pushing the button that automatically opens his bay door (for some reason my bay has two buttons – one just outside the door from the house and one by the garage door. I get the concept, but if you could put one button in at the top of the stairs, why not both?) Anyway, I’d just opened his door and the roar and vibration had just come to a stop. The nightly deluge had also just stopped. Maybe. Because I still heard rain. Yet nothing was falling from the sky. I heard the rush of wind, but the trees weren’t moving. I stood at the top of the driveway, very still, and listened. And all I could surmise was that this was the sound of water from the downpour (if you know Florida, we’d been having those kind of rains – sudden, severe gully washers) rushing down the mountain. And if I’d grumpily trudged over to the door, opened it, then huffed back inside, I would have missed this moment entirely.

Happy July, everybody. Stop and take a look around you some time. You don’t know what you might be missing.