I used to watch Oprah years ago, when I first started my business. She inspired me with phrases like, "Be more splendid, more extraordinary. Use every moment to fill yourself up."
Yes. I will do that. I would think. And then would immediately forget in the next moment to fill myself up.
Or, "The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be."
Yes, complete yourself, BG. Write those headlines! Bill those hours!
Or, "Just appreciate the fact that you breathe."
Inhale. Halleluiah, Amen, say it again, Sistah! Exhale.
Then, she started focusing way too much on celebrities and those enormous multi-million dollar give-a-way shows. Couldn't stand Dr. Phil or the discussion about her weight. The make-over shows bugged me, Tom Cruise jumped on her couch much to her insincere delight, she misrepresented Steve Kuusisto...and! She bought an apartment for her best friend in New York City.
That was it!
No one's ever bought me an apartment in New York City.
It was finally more than I could tolerate.
I still do buy her magazine every now and then, though. I did last night before ducking into Starbucks for some coffee, people watching, and to read about Michelle Obama's Brand New Life!
As I was reading about our First Lady, I noticed a rather extraordinary woman walking slowly towards me.
She looked to be in her 70s, fairly tall and rail thin. Her white hair was done just so-so; teased slightly on top and sprayed into place with soft curls falling on her cheeks. Her skin was smooth and her make-up was perfect. She wore plum colored velvet slacks with a short black jacket over a white starched blouse. She took a seat next to me, scrunching up her shoulders and eyes as she smiled at a little girl who was playing cards with her father at a table a few feet away.
The little girl looked at the older lady and waved. The older lady waved back and said softly, "I'm Dorothy."
The little girl ran a few feet to the woman and stopped at her knee. She was fidgety, clicking her tongue, bouncing up and down on her tip toes. She quickly tilted her head sideways, jet black hair flopping onto her thick glasses and said excitedly, "I'm Vera!"
"Vera? That's a pretty name!"
Dorothy held out her wrist toward Vera, "This is my charm bracelet. Would you like to look at all my charms?" As Dorothy was explaining the meaning behind the different gold and silver hearts and angels, her cell phone rang. Vera ran back to her father and plopped herself in her seat.
Dorothy talked, staring down at her lap.
"Is he ok? Should I come home? I can. I just got here but I can be home in five minutes."
She hung up and shook her head, "Always hard to leave the house." And then she looked at me and said sadly, "My husband's not well."
She gathered her things and as she walked to the door, Vera jumped from her chair and yelled out, while shaking her hips, "Bye, Dorothy!"
Dorothy scrunched up her shoulders and eyes as she smiled back at Vera. Then she shook her hips quickly --- back and forth, back and forth, left to right, left to right --- laughed and waved goodbye.
I watched Vera skip back to her father, who hadn't said a word while pretending to play cards between reading the newspaper, glancing at his watch, and sipping his coffee. And I thought of a Charles Bukowski poem I had read last week.
59 Cents a Pound
I like to prowl ordinary places
and taste the people---
from a distance.
I don't want them too near
because that's when attrition
but in supermarkets
I can look at their bodies
and their faces
and their clothing---
watch the way they walk
or what they are doing.
I'm like an x-ray machine
I like them like that:
I imagine the best things
I imagine them brave and crazy
I imagine them beautiful.
I like to prowl the ordinary places.
I feel sorry for us all or glad for us
caught alive together
and awkward in that way.
there's nothing better than the joke
the seriousness of us
the dullness of us
buying stockings and carrots and gum
buying birth control
and toilet paper.
we should build a great bonfire
we should congratulate ourselves on our
we stand in long lines
we walk about
I like to prowl ordinary places
the people explain themselves to me
and I to them
a woman at 3:35pm
weighing purple grapes on a scale
looking at that scale very
she is dressed in a simple green dress
with a pattern of white flowers
she takes the grapes
puts them carefully into a white paper
that's lightning enough
the generals and the doctors may kill us
but we have
I went back to my magazine thinking it was all splendid and extraordinary, if only for a moment. And I thought of building a great bonfire.
I am very good to our pets. Excellent even. I am a superior pet owner. I love them and they love me. I feed them and pet them. And make goo-goo-gah-gah noises at them.
Well, most of them. I've never petted Squirtle the Turtle. Actually, I've never even touched him. Gives me the heebie jeebies to even think of it. His head is off-white and looks slimy. The skin on his neck is thin and flabby. His mouth is freakishly flat and wide. His black eyes bulge. He has nubby things sticking out all over his brownish green legs, and crazy, scary looking miniature dinosaur feet!
That is nothing to goo-goo-gah-gah at.
But, I feed him lettuce and carrots and whatever else comes in those bags of salad and as a special treat, I always give him grape tomatoes. He never quickly pops his head back into his shell in fear of me. He loves me. Especially because I call him "Squirts" in a very adult voice that I reserve only for him.
We had three guinea pigs. Harold, who we thought was a boy when we brought him home from the pet store but turned out not to be a boy when she gave birth to Charlie Brown and Scruffy the night the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. I helped. When I wasn't rooting for Manny downstairs, I was rooting for Harold upstairs. And then I goo-goo-gah-gah'd at the little fluff ball babies as they sat shivering alone, their mother oblivious, off in the corner of the cage drinking water and eating carrots. She did not seem to appreciate their adorable fluff ballness at all.
I loved them more than their own mother did!
We have a two year old kitty named Jack. A total love muffin. When I'm lying on the couch at night reading, he'll crawl up on me and then slyly make his way up under my book. He'll reach his small, whiskered face up to mine as if to say, "I wuv you." Then, he'll plop down on his side really fast, curl up into a ball and fall sound asleep. And I always go, "Awwwwww."
When I am sleeping at night, our 10 year old cat, Lego, will stalk me in our bed. He'll skulk up to my pillow and start biting and pulling at my hair. He'll thwap me on the cheek with his gigantic, black fury paw. After about five minutes of this, I am the one curled up in a ball at the bottom of the bed while Lego is stretched out asleep on my pillow.
I do not awwwww at this, but I rarely throw him out of the room and slam the door.
So, why is it that whenever I take one of our pets to the Vet, I feel like the people working there are going to think I am an abusive, irresponsible, terrible pet owner? I always feel accused. Of something.
I never feel like that when I take Blue Kid to the pediatrician. And all he does when we're there is sneer and grumble in my general direction.
No one's ever threatened to take him away from me after I've told him, "You are an awful, awful person. You know that? Awful. Now, straighten up! Or you're really going to get it!"
Did you know February was Pet Dental Health Month? I didn't. I learned that yesterday when I took Woody, our old man cat, to the Vet.
And even if I did know that February was Pet Dental Health Month, I'm not going to be brushing and flossing animals' teeth!
Squirtle doesn't even have teeth in his freakishly flat mouth inside his off-white, slimy head.
After I filled out the form yesterday that asked "When did your pet last get such and such shots?" And I wrote, "I don't know" I took a seat in the lobby, and saw and read all kinds of things I don’t do and it made me paranoid. These people are going to judge me!
I have never taken a photo of our pets into the Vet so that they can display them on their cork board with the hundreds of other photos, taken by their proud and loving owners. It's not that I don't think our pets are photogenic, they are. But, they're camera shy.
And. I. Respect. That.
I don't tie bandannas around their necks or knit little sweaters for them. I've never attached a jingle bell to one of their collars.
I did buy a red and green striped elf hat with a jingle bell sewn on the end of it last Christmas to stick on Jack's head. But, The Skimmer wouldn't let me do it.
"He won't know!"
"Stop messing with his dignity!"
I don't offer our pets fresh-baked, all-natural treats or bath them in state-of-the-art steel tubs. I don't bathe them at all! I've never taken them to Le Petite Pooch, who cater to cats and dogs of all sizes, for an ear cleaning and plucking. Or even for nail trimming and filing.
And, hey, that's a good thing!
Because two of our cats our indoor/outdoor cats. And you don't de-claw cats who go outside, let alone trim them!
Oh my God. Do I admit to these people that our cats go outside? Isn't that considered a bad thing? What if that subject comes up? I'll avoid answering! I worried and thought to myself as the nurse came into the lobby to say that the doctor was behind schedule. We made small talk, me smiling a lot, trying to get on her good side. I felt she was onto me. For something.
As she glanced at her computer screen, she said, "Well, your family has a lot of pets!"
"Yeah, I know. We really love animals and they love us!"
"I should update these records since we have a little time. Ok. Who do we have here? Annie? How's Annie doing?"
"Oh. Well. Annie died. She was attacked by a dog in our front yard." Oh no! I brought it up! Front yard equals outside!
"Oh. I'm sorry."
"Ok, how about Harold."
"Oh. Harold's dead. She died in the Fall. But, she lived a good life!" I sputtered. She died at 4 1/2 years old. That's the life span of a guinea pig! I looked it up on the Internet. She lived a happy, long life."
"Aw! Sad! What about those babies?"
"Oh. Well, Scruffy's dead. She died six months almost to the day her mom died. So, that was normal. Normal life span. She lived a good life, too. Charlie Brown's doing A-Ok."
"Oh. How ‘bout Jack?"
"Jackie's great. He's fine, not sick or anything!" Phew.
"Ok. And Oliver?"
"Oh. Um. Died."
As I imagined her viewing me as some sort of brutal character out of some Stephen King novel, the doctor walked around the corner.
"I'm sorry you had to wait so long! Let's bring Woody into my office."
I picked up the laundry basket, lined with a bath towel. Woody was hunkered down in one corner, peering at me with frightened eyes.
"We have cat cages for sale you might be interested in."
Cat cage! I've been meaning to buy one of those. For, um, ever! "Oh yeah, ok. Thank you."
"What brings Woody in today?"
I told her he's almost 19 and he’s peeing everywhere. And the other two cats are following his lead. Ick! Stupid cats! Maybe he has kidney problems? Awwww. I told her how he'll walk slowly over to one of us and stand sort of crooked, leaning to one side, and freeze, staring at us for long stretches at a time. And that we think he might be deaf. And because we think that, we don't let him go outside anymore because that wouldn't be right. He couldn't hear cars! And that would be dangerous for him. And irresponsible of us. So, we keep him inside, all safe. All cozy and safe inside his home where his loving family attends to his every need.
She looked at him and rubbed her hand down his back, "I think he's got dandruff."
Oh my God! The no bathing!
The she felt a tiny round lump in his neck. "Oooh, what's this?"
"He was shot in the neck by a bb gun. We think it's a bb. Long time ago. Before we had him. Long....long time ago. We didn't do it."
"Aw, poor guy! Well, we'll need to take a urine sample and do blood work. I'll be back in a few minutes.
When Woody came back, he looked traumatized. I held him and petted him while I paid the bill.
And I said to him in my very best goo-goo-gah-gah voice, "Would we pay $237 for tests if we didn't love you?! Yes! That's right! $237! Do you know how long it takes me to make $237? A long time! You don't care, do you? Of course you don't.”
We got the test results back today. No diabetes, no thyroid problem, no kidney problem. At 19, he’s healthy as a horse. He’s just peeing all over the place because he feels like it.
I can never find anything when I need it. Two days ago I couldn't find the toothpaste. The toothpaste! Where does toothpaste go? I ended up having to go to the store to buy another tube.
Yesterday I needed to charge my cell phone. But, I couldn't find the charger that's been plugged into the same outlet for more than a year. I took a deep breath. Searched on top of the breadbox. Not there. Searched through the mail basket we keep in the kitchen. No. Looked in the cabinets, the food closet, the junk drawer, the oven, the freezer! No!
I tried to stay calm. Whatever! The Skimmer's phone is fully charged, I thought and got in the shower. We were going out to dinner with a friend and I needed to get ready.
An hour later, I was lying on the couch in my dress. Arm resting over my eyes with one leg hanging off the couch.
"What are you doing?!" The Skimmer half yelled, half laughed.
"I can't find my shoes!"
"Ok, what do they look like?" He laughed.
"They're black pumps."
"Have you looked..." And then he proceeded to name every possible place in the house that I had already searched.
"Yes, yes and a million times yes, I have looked everywhere!"
He started looking. "What do they look like?" He was in the front foyer looking through closets and I was in the mudroom, looking through closets.
"They're black pumps!" I yelled.
"Well, what are those? I don't know what you mean!"
Within an instant I had two thoughts, Oh my God! Who doesn't know what a black pump looks like! and Don't be mean, he's trying to help you find your black pumps!"
"They're high heels with a closed toe! Pumps! Black pumps! They're my new ones. I love them. And now they're gone forever!"
"They're not gone forever."
I heard him go upstairs and decided to follow him up. He opened the closet door in our bedroom.
"Are these them?!"
"Yes. Thank you."
"They were right in the middle of the floor! Not even covered up by anything! They were right there!"
Embarrassed, I said, "Well, thanks. Thanks for helping. I looked there but didn't see them."
"They were right there!"
Whatever! I was sweating by this time. I put on the black pumps and looked in the mirror. I turned to The Skimmer and said, "The top of this dress dips too low if I don't keep a check on it. You need to be on Cleavage Patrol tonight to alert me when it dips too low."
I grabbed my purse and he grabbed the keys and said, "You want to drive?"
"Yes, I am so wound up that I know I won't be a happy passenger."
"And you'll be mean to me!"
"Shut up! Let's go."
As I got into the driver's seat and The Skimmer was about to get into the passenger seat he said, "Hold on. I forgot something."
I sat in the car waiting, for what seemed to be a thousand and two years. I was watching the time ticking away on the clock. Tapping the steering wheel, getting a neck cramp from turning to look so many times at the door he would be walking out of.
"What took you so long?!"
"It didn't take long!"
"Why are you looking at me like that?!"
"I'm not looking at you any way! What is your deal?! Last night, what did I say? Something and you bit my head off!"
I laughed, "I'm very sensitive!"
"You sound like Brian on the Family Guy! Rrr..rrr..rrr..rrr."
"Are you now calling me a dog? That's it! You're fired from Cleavage Patrol!"
The rest of the night went splendidly. We had a lovely evening with our friend. Talking and laughing at a fun Mexican restaurant.
On the way home I said, "You never mentioned my top. Must've been ok?"
"Well, you fired me! So, that meant I couldn't tell you. Good thing, too. It was the best part of the night."