Saturday, December 3, 2016

Let's hear it for the boy!

I have a bit of a problem with stalking. As in, I do it.

Long-time readers know that I am mildly obsessed with one of the check-out guys at my grocery store. When he started a few years ago, he wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone. He didn’t interact. He was very focused on bagging, and it seemed to be a real challenge.

A little while after that? Well, I noticed him smiling broadly while restocking carts. His teeth were gorgeous – big, lovely pearls. Like, movie star teeth. And when he got picked up at the end of his shift? Well, he opened the car door, let out a whoop, and hopped inside.

I swear, I’m not just loitering about the grocery parking lot. I’m just there a lot because my husband is ridiculous and seems to think he needs to eat every single day. Completely irrational, I know.

So, on my many trips to the grocery, I always make a point to thank My Bagger Boyfriend for sacking my supplies. I’m used to him looking down and, at most, acknowledging me with a barely perceptible nod. It’s cool.

But this week? This week, he sacked my udon noodles and bag of salad because kitchen remodeling has shocked any meal planning skills right outta my system. And then? Before I could thank him for said bagging? My Bagger Boyfriend looked in my general direction and said, “Have a good day.”

Now, it is nothing short of a miracle that I didn’t permanently scar this poor guy by immediately grabbing him in my arms and proclaiming my love and pride. But because I’m all emotionally strong and shit, I acted chill. No big deal. Nothing to see here.
But really? It was the highlight of my week. And this is coming from someone who got a new refrigerator this week. More on that later.

It’s a privilege to watch this young man blossom, to watch his story unfold.

It makes me hope that we all have secret cheering societies, our own little pep squads of which we are completely oblivious. The other day, when you managed to pump gas without dribbling it all over your shoes? That gas station attendant who wears sandals year-round saw you, and he was full of stoic pride. And you don’t know it, but he will report it proudly at the weekly pep rally in which your fans cheer you on and revel in your successes big and small.

There will be confetti.

Friday, November 18, 2016

In which my husband saves the day yet again.

I'm sorry to say that I'm not feeling funny. I'm sad and everything is terrible. People are hating each other and it makes me sad. My 12-year-old labradoodle is having trouble walking and has stopped sleeping through the night and it makes me sad and very, very tired. The oak mites are still dropping from the sky and biting poor, innocent people and it makes me sad and itchy and welty.

So, to combat this, I'm delving into a deep well of joy. Obviously, I'm talking about the notes I've scribbled hither and yon, based on conversations with my husband. My Guy pretends to be a mild-mannered software architect, but really? Really, he's the funniest human alive. Here are a few of his direct quotes.

"I'm sorry to say we no longer eat on Thursdays."

"I ain't refurbishing no damned IHOPs."

"He has curry sweat."

"My jokes are varied and rich."

"You don't know shit about beach towels, but I do!"

Sometimes, you have to find joy in the small things, the one-off comments, the way the light of the super moon reflects off your geriatric dog when he decides he needs to sit on the patio at 2 a.m. This is one of those times.

What's keeping you afloat? And can I have some?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Use the "good" soaps and the fancy "guest" towels.

I know it's not appropriate to stomp your feet and yell, "No, no, no" upon reading the obituary of a 92-year-old woman. But that didn't stop me.

My mom sent me the obit for our family friend Bea. The Cliffs Notes version is that Bea lived life to the fullest and 92 years is a good, good run. We should be celebrating her life.

And I am. But there's more to it.

Back in the day, Bea finally got me to try online dating. First of all, she wanted to set me up with her ENT doctor. That didn't quite work out - something about him being not-quite-divorced and the dad of, like, 17 kids. But Bea led by example ... and met a man when she was in her 80s. Her exact words were, "I'm just over the moon! We don't have a lot of time, and I don't want to waste any of it!"

Bea's son walked her down the aisle. And I figured if Bea could find joy, I could, too. So I got off my couch and started interacting with the world again after a long hiatus.

My memories of Bea are of lipstick and laughter and being involved. She was on a committee with my mom. She helped out at the church with my grandma. She made my dad laugh with her funny stories.

Today, reading her obituary? I learned that Bea's mother died when she was just 4 years old. She was eventually sent to live with a cousin. But what could have been a heartbreaking situation was a house filled with love, a home where Bea was welcomed as a sibling and as a daughter, not as a stranger. I'm so thankful. They helped fill her tank for a lifetime of loving everyone she met.

I can't help but think of the Erma Bombeck column, "If I had my life to live over." Bea burned the fancy candles and used the "good" soaps. And I feel like that's the best way to honor her. Live it up. Use it up.

I always found it comforting to know that Bea was in the world. I think now the task is to be the Bea. If you need me, I'll be out with the girls, enjoying fou-fou cocktails and wearing an outfit that's a little too fancy because, well, why not?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Three people who change my life every day.*

My dachshund attempted to eat the tennis balls off of an older lady's walker while my giant labradoodle made sweet, sweet love to his human girlfriend.

Let me back up.

The dogs and I walk every day. If it's actively precipitating and we can't go, there is great unrest in the pack. We walk! That's what we do!

Maybe 18 months ago, we made a new friend on our jaunt around the neighborhood. There's a family-owned barbershop a block over, and the mom of the owner does nails. She was sitting outside on a bench in the sun when we came by.

Big Doodle basically attacked her with slobber and love. He just knew she was his person. Their love was mutual and immediate.

Since then, the barbershop has become a can't-miss destination. When Big Doodle hurt his leg at the beginning of the year, our goal was for him to be able to walk to the barbershop. It was necessary for his emotional well being. They are his pack.

The pack has expanded to include the owner of the shop and the lovely woman who does hair. They let us come in and shed all over. They then ply the pups with dog treats and popcorn.

Yes. They save day-old popcorn and bring in treats just for Big Doodle and Lil' Frankfurter.

At first, Lil' Frank was scared and did his usual cowering routine. But now? Now, he feels completely safe and will get a little pushy about wanting - nay, requiring - his recommended dose of popcorn.

So, Lil' Frank lets folks pet him, and Big Doodle makes the rounds, gooing on whoever will talk sweet to him and offer a few pets. It's clearly the highlight of their days - mine, too.

Today, an older lady was getting her hair set when we stopped by. Her walker was standing next to the barber chair. No big deal.

The dogs enjoyed their popcorn and their pets. And then? Lil' Frank noticed the walker. It had split tennis balls on the bottom of the legs so that it would glide easier.

Tennis balls! Lil' Frank lost his mind. He was so excited! He then attempted to remove the balls from the walker.

Meanwhile, everyone laughed and Big Doodle slobbered on his girlfriend and she cooed, "Oh, Doodle, I just love you so much!"

Is it any wonder that when we walk by on Sundays, we must all stand forlorn at the door, pouting?**
I'm thankful for these kind people who welcome our ragtag crew.

*Except on Sundays.
**One Sunday we were pouting and the owner pulled up right then and there, as if on a mighty white steed. He let us in and of course provided popcorn. Now, Big Doodle thinks that if he just pouts long enough, this should happen each time.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

What's your breaking point?

I found mine.

We are in the midst of a kitchen remodel, so our house is filled with dust and the basement is now our primary living area. I work from home, so I basically never leave our basement. If you need me, you can find me underground, attempting to work and simultaneously comfort our sweet geriatric Big Doodle, who is very unsettled by all the traffic and noise in our house. Lil' Frankfurter isn't as emotionally invested, but barks about every two minutes, just to cover his bases.

There's a lot of panting.

But one of the calming activities for our pack is our daily walk. Combine that with our usual afternoon session of TENNIS BALL MADNESS in the backyard, and you have a couple of pooches who just might be too tired to freak out at full-force. Or at least that's the idea.

It's autumn. The days are lovely. Walks are pleasant. Except ... my fair city is in the midst of an oak mite infestation of epic proportions. These microscopic bugs drop from oaks and bite whatever they land on. You can't see them, and they are immune to bug spray.

Every street in my neighborhood is lined with trees. Oak trees. Big, huge oak trees.

You can see where this is going.

I have oak mite bites all over my neck and d├ęcolletage. I know they are oak mite bites because my book club got real personal the other night and we all compared bites. Everyone has them, so I'm not a total leper.

However, as we have seen this summer, I tend to have crazy reactions to bug bites. Or, as my brother so aptly put it, "Ugh, you have a weird relationship with insects. Weird and potentially fraught with inflammation."

Needless to say, my neck and lady d├ęcolletage aren't just covered with oak mite bites, but with giant, welty bites that hurt. I must say that I'm pretty proud of how I fashioned what appears to be a scarf ...
... but is actually a dishtowel wrapped around an ice pack. Because a) I was able to find a clean dishtowel amongst the kitchen remodel madness; and b) I finally bought a real ice pack for $2.69 instead of just using a bag of frozen peas. I have passed some sort of adulting milestone. Also? The ice pack can also be microwaved and become a heat pack. I had no idea such a thing existed! This technology is amazing!

So, I've been trying to keep it together, me and my neurotic dogs and painful oak mite bites and fashionable neck accessories and dust-filled house with no kitchen. I was pretty successful.

Then, my husband called me. He has to travel for business in about a week and wanted to know if I'd like to tag along. This was sweet of him, and is a perk of working from home. But leaving in the midst of a remodel and abandoning our neurotic dogs who can't be boarded didn't seem like a smart move. I pointed this out.

My darling husband considered for a moment and then said, "Oh. I forgot about the kitchen."

I clutched my ice pack and surveyed my basement lair. He forgot. He forgot because he gets to leave every day. He forgot.

I got gracious because when there's a homicide, they always investigate the spouse and I'm a bad liar. We both agreed it wasn't a good time for both of us to be gone. Fine. We moved on and I only held the tiniest of grudges.

Later that night, I realized that at some point, some worker had removed the light fixture from the ceiling of our kitchen. The fixture that we were still going to use in the kitchen. It was nowhere to be found.

I had a bad feeling. I emailed the contractor, whom I like very much. His response was basically, "Hmm. Well, if you don't see it laying around, it probably got thrown out. Were you going to use it somewhere?"

Yes. We were going to use it RIGHT WHERE IT WAS.

You wanna know what my breaking point is? My breaking point is when people remove my light fixture from the ceiling of my house and then throw it away. That is my breaking point.

And to add insult to injury? If you weren't sure, you could have asked me. Because I never leave the house. Because I'm in the basement with a freaking-out dog and a freakin' ice pack. Man up, look past the welts, and ASK. Ask before you remove pieces of my house and throw them away.

Words were said.

Thank God My Guy and I take turns freaking out, because he was calm and nonplussed. "I'm sure it was an honest mistake. We can get another fixture," he soothed. Eventually, I believed him. But not before gaining some valuable self-awareness.

This. This is my breaking point. Good to know.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why I live in the basement.

When My Guy and I bought our house, we took one look at the kitchen and promptly announced that we couldn't possssssibly live with it.

That was five and a half years ago. We've totally been living with it.

We weren't being pretty, pretty princesses - someone had taken a hammer to the countertops. They were cracked and big chunks were missing. The cabinets had once been nice but had been beaten up. And the entire space was dark and tiny and not maximized.

So, the kitchen we couldn't possibly live with? We've been living with.

Until we were just done living with it and dug all the loose change out of the sofa cushions and started a remodel.

Now, God love our contractor. He lives in our neighborhood and is familiar with these old houses. And the subs are clearly artisans and doing stuff right.

However.

It's been 10 days. The house is filled with dust. Big Doodle is losing his mind and chewing himself some new hotspots as stress relief. I'm starting to feel like a troll who never leaves the basement. Because the basement is the least dusty area of the house, and I work from home.

Sounds swell, right? Join me on a photographic journey of remodeling a kitchen ...

The before. Yeah, those aren't bad looking cabinets at first glance. They will be great repurposed in the laundry room. And yes, that's as bright as the room ever got. I took this photo when the afternoon sun was at its brightest. No small-print cookbooks in use here!
This is the entire kitchen. Envision two adults attempting to cook together while an 80-pound labradoodle does his best throw rug impersonation. Good times!

This extreme close-up shows the worst of the broken countertop. Why yes, yes that is a jagged faux-granite top. Why yes, yes I have sliced my hand open on it more times than I can count. Hurray!
So, My Guy and I emptied all the cabinets, which was something because I had crammed stuff in every possible space. And then we moved the fridge in preparation for demo. Of course, the best place to put the fridge just happened to be right next to the front door.
I thought this was mega-tacky until I realized that it means I can offer my guests a cold beverage the very second they arrive. You know, with all the entertaining that one does during a major remodel.

So, demo day came. And at the end, the kitchen looked like this.
My mom said it's the minimalist look and is totally in. That kind of squelched my panic. Kind of.

So, now the different dudes are doing their different flavors of magic. The plumbers have been here, and the electricians were here for two and a half days (!Viva la old house wiring!). Everything is dusty. I'm still in the basement.

I was astounded and a little bit jealous that the electricians can just write their to-do list on the wall in Sharpie. Wouldn't that be pretty fun?
I decided a little vandalism was OK. After all, it's my house.
It's my house ... and have I mentioned the dust? We've mopped like three times, which is kind of like slamming your head against the wall for no good reason. So, that's a bummer. But Big Doodle is really enjoying the paper that's down to protect the floors.
Yeah, that's totally our dishwasher. Out in the open. It's the latest style.

Big Doodle is also enjoying lounging in our makeshift kitchen area in the basement.
It's not a bad set up, really. I was really proud of myself for using the little shelf thing as a mini pantry. It's about the same amount of food storage that we had in our old kitchen, actually. But you might notice that something is missing.

Our sink is in the unfinished part of the basement. And yes, I have logged approximately 43,729 steps between the card-table kitchen and the sink just in the last three days.
I'm thankful we have a sink in our basement. It was my birthday gift a few years ago because I am a wild and crazy birthday girl. The challenge now is that the back wall of the kitchen is open directly above the sink. (See also: unfinished area of basement.) So, every time the worker dudes drill or pull out more plaster, crap comes raining down into the basement, to the sink area.

Yes, we're using a lot of paper plates. I figured Mother Nature would understand. Uh ... I'm conserving water by not washing plastic dishes every time somebody uses a drill. You're welcome!

So, all this to say ... don't remodel your kitchen. Or, if you do? Go on vacation while it's happening. Or, just make sure you have a super luxurious basement because you will be living there. Like a hermit. A hermit who has to wear a bra alllllll the time because people are constantly in and out of the house. Clearly, no one has ever faced such a terrible hardship.

If you wanted to share stories of remodeling triumph, that would be cool. Right now, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Two things that changed my life.

1. I got a massage.

This is my one great splurge - I get a rubdown every four weeks. After years of searching, I have finally found My Life Partner Massage Therapist. Or massage technician. Or stress engineer. At any rate, My Life Partner Massage Therapist The Divine Ms. M. is just a joy. She has such a positive energy and caring nature that I want to get a massage every day and be her BFF.

I saw her in the grocery once and it was all I could do not to fling myself atop the citrus fruits and demand that she massage me right then and there. Because I have a great deal of self-restraint, I refrained from bruising all the fruit and instead enjoyed hearing about how she was going to make spring rolls.

So, I got a massage the other day. And it was glorious as usual. It is truly the best I ever feel. But this was a little different. My Life Partner Massage Therapist The Divine Ms. M. was working on my neck, her intuitive thumbs kneading muscles that felt ... well, normal. And she kept working, and zeroing in ... on two tiny knots I didn't even know where there. But she knew.

Tears filled my eyes. Not because I was in pain, but because I was known.

It occurred to me that being known is the kindest gift we can give each other. I see you. I acknowledge you. Obviously, this is a theme lately. But it takes on a special poignancy when you're head-down in a face cradle and trying to not cry and snot all over but you know that if you did, it would be just fine.

2. I made up a story about a fellow gym-goer.

So, there's this guy at the gym. He rides the recumbent bike mega-slow while holding his iPad up to his face. He's a hipster, probably in his early 30s, and he slow-rolls that damned bike. I burn more calories attempting to braid my hair than he does riding the bike for an hour.

I should also mention that all I do at the gym is walk on the treadmill. I'm still nursing my old-lady foot, so I don't run, and I don't walk all that fast. I walk. But I walk enough to get sweaty. Or maybe it's all the judgment that makes me sweaty. Because I judge, and I judge hard.

Recumbent Bike Guy wears Crocs.

Crocs. To the gym. To slow-roll a recumbent bike.
Do these look like gym shoes?
I'm judging you! I'm judging you and your clear plastic glasses and ironic t-shirt and pansy-ass "workout" and inappropriate footwear!

Except.

I had an epiphany. I don't know this guy at all. And as someone who wants to get a shirt that says, "Don't judge me, fellow gym-goer! I have a foot injury!" I should probably not, you know, judge someone else. Something about do unto others?

So, I decided that there's a reason why Recumbent Bike Guy does what he does in his unconventional footwear. I just up and decided that he donated a kidney to his mom and the recovery has made him unable to do any kind of workout but the recumbent bike for lo these three years I've seen him on said bike. And the crocs are related to some sort of lymphedema, surely. All this he went through for his mom, a lovely woman who works with sick kids and spends her free time teaching ESL.

Maybe if you don't know someone, making up a sympathetic backstory is the next best thing. It helped me look at him with kinder eyes, and isn't that the important thing?

What's changed your life lately?