Nope. Didn’t Need to Know That.

This morning I went to the dentist.  I’ve been seeing the same dentist since I was five and the staff there has always been great, so I don’t actually mind going.

Well, I didn’t mind going until today.

Promptly at 9am I was greeted by my hygienist and escorted back to the chair, and as I got settled in she started to.. um… “share.”  

She told me about her dog that died recently, and that they got a new one that they named after her dad who passed away a few months ago.  And she thinks that could have been prevented, because he had a heart attack 6 weeks before the scheduled EKG he was supposed to have. And her husband’s been out of work for the last 18 months, and he can’t find another job. And he doesn’t do anything around the house, even though he’s not working. And they have no health insurance. So it’s a good thing that she had those breast lumps removed before he lost his job (and the insurance). The doctor she went to was a complete butcher, I should see the scars. (No, thank you.) And her sister-in-law is moving in with them next month with her husband and their 4 kids. Now that dad died, they have extra room. The sister-in-law also just adopted a pit bull, which she thinks is totally irresponsible. The dog’s coming, too.  To join their 5 dogs. All of the dogs can’t fit in bed with them, so she and her husband sleep in separate beds. And the one dog has a bladder issue and very short legs, so she has to get up a couple of times a night to lift the dog on and off the bed and let him out. The dogs are her kids, because she can’t have them. And her nephew’s baseball team just won the regional championships. (OH MY GOD! A BRIGHT SPOT!!)  He didn’t look very happy after the win, but that was because he was so nervous about the big game that her sister had to pump him full of Immodium to make it through the whole thing. (Yep, should’ve seen that one coming…) She has a really bad stomach, too.  In fact her whole family does, and they all eat Immodium like candy. She was so glad she brought a whole purse full on her Florida trip…

At this point she has finally gotten the tools unpacked and is ready to start the cleaning.

Yes. Really. If it wasn’t so damn hard to get an appointment rescheduled I would have been sprinting for the door like… well, like her family without Immodium apparently. I began to pray for an emergency dental surgery that would require full anesthesia.

No such luck.

For the next 30 minutes she regaled me with stories of every ill visited upon her and her extended family while she gouged at my gums. Her mother’s recurring headaches. Her cousin’s cancer. Her dog’s incontinence. There was apparently nothing too horrible or trifling to dump in my lap as I lay trapped in the chair.  I was her captive audience.

Now I’m one of those people who believes that there are lessons to be learned from everything. So after the torture cleaning was complete and I was escaping driving home I realized that this situation taught me two:

Lesson #1:  Be thoughtful about what you share.  It’s perfectly fine to show your human side and let people into your world, but try to keep it reasonable. Even though it may be important to you, complete strangers don’t want to hear about your crap.  Save it for your therapist or BFF.

Lesson #2:  ”Whoever’s available” are two very dangerous words. Choose a hygienist in advance.

My Ears Runneth Over

The teachers tell me that at school my son hardly ever speaks.  I swear they are talking to the wrong mom.

Either that, or he just saves it all up for me, because at home he never stops talking.  He launches into a running monologue from the moment I pick him up after school until the second his head hits the pillow.  Something as simple as getting a fork out of the drawer launches him into yet another tangental story.

I hear parents mourn the good old days of family dinners when everyone talked to each other, instead of wolfing down their food and bolting from the table.  They should come to our house. Dinner takes twice as long to eat than it did to cook, and a “short” 45-minute meal only happens when I tell him to shush and keep eating. Seven times.

It takes an hour to read a 10-minute story.  Every sentence begs for embellishment. Every picture needs in-depth analysis.  His running commentary on the characters and plot is much more detailed than what’s actually written in the pages. Did the author realize he had left so much out?

It’s a good day when I can get a word in edgewise.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I love the fact that he enjoys telling stories, and that at this age he still enjoys telling them to me. I know that one day — all too soon — he will think mom is totally boring and want to run off with his friends. But sometimes my poor old mommy ears just need a break.

Anyone have an aspirin?

Lunch Roulette

My office is tucked in a little industrial park, pretty much close to nothing as far as lunch fare is concerned.  The closest thing within grab-n-go distance is a Wendy’s off the interstate, so that’s usually where I end up. Generally speaking, I like Wendy’s food — they’ve got a decent selection at a decent price, and have some reasonably healthy options on the menu.  But this one in particular has got to be the world’s worst.

We’ve nicknamed the Wendy’s noontime ordeal “lunch roulette” — akin to Russian roulette, except with food.  You pull the trigger on your order, and you’re never really sure what you’re going to get until it’s too late. They give you the wrong food, forget the salad dressing, or send you off with an inordinate amount of plastic knives.  What’s in the bag today?  It’s anybody’s guess.

This week they didn’t even wait until I picked up the food to fuck with me.

Speaker:  Welcome to Wendy’s. Can I take your order?

Me:  I’d like a plain baked potato with butter (polite pause for order entry), a side salad with French dressing (another polite pause), and a medium Hi-C*.

*I like Hi-C.  Shut up.

Speaker:  OK — a baked potato, and what else?

Me:  (mental sigh) A side salad with French dressing. And a medium Hi-C.

Speaker:  Um… we don’t have French dressing.

Me:  (strange… they had French dressing yesterday…) What are my dressing options?

Speaker:  We have Fat Free French.

Me:  Um.. (no, no, don’t go there — it’s just not worth it.) Yes, that will work fine.

Speaker:  Will that complete your order?

Me:  And a medium Hi-C, please.

Speaker:  (sounding more than slightly annoyed) We’re OUT of Hi-C.

Me:  Sorry, I was not aware.

Speaker:  Will that complete your order?

Me:  (Well, not really but…) Sure…

I proceeded to drive around, hand over my money, and collect my mystery bag.

The contents:  1 overcooked baked potato, no butter.  One side salad with Fat Free French dressing. 3 forks, 1 straw (??) and no napkins.

Lunch should just not be this hard.  Quite frankly, the stale Cheez-Its in the vending machine are looking better every day…

It’s Not You. It’s Me.

All suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their own happiness or satisfaction.”  — Dalai Lama

_____________________________________________________

He ate the last one, and he knows they’re my favorite!”

What do you mean it’s sold out? You just don’t want me to have one.”

I know he cut me off on purpose…”

Really, people. Let’s be reasonable about this. With the exception of maybe a few select sociopaths, no one plots over their Wheaties in the morning trying to find ways to ruin your day. They were most likely pondering ways to make their day better – and chances are you just stumbled into their way.

We human beings are inherently selfish animals, and we default to the path that serves our own best interests without thinking much more about it. Unfortunately we forget that taking that particular path might cause us to trample on other people’s interests along the way.  I’ve done it.  So have you. It doesn’t make us bad people, just occasionally inconsiderate and fallible.  Human.

We could all stand a bit more tolerance and forgiveness in our lives.  So the next time you find yourself getting your undies in a bunch over something “done to you” in the course of your day, try this:

  1. Take a deep breath or two.
  2. Grasp your bunched undies firmly with both hands and tug them back down where they belong.
  3. Treat it as a bump in your path instead of a collision, and continue about your day.

Try it. What could it hurt?

Even better – what could it heal?  

Is It Too Late to Purchase the Extended Plan?

It happened…  My warranty expired.

No, not the one on my TV or my car — the one on me.  My chiropractor warned me shortly after my 40th birthday (I had thrown my back out by standing up and sneezing at the same time — go figure), but I didn’t believe him. His theory is that once you hit the age of 40, your it’s all downhill from there.  Just like cars and major appliances, the day after the warranty runs out is when things start to squeak and rattle and break.  At the time I thought he was crazy.

Crap.  I think he was right.

Since he opened his big mouth, it’s been an annoying downhill amble.  Nothing major, just some extra cracks and pops and aches that I never noticed before.  Back pain, stiff neck, a swollen knuckle that looks suspiciously like the beginnings of arthritis.

Oh, and I can’t see for squat.  I used to have eyes like a hawk, and now I need to have my kid stand on the other side of the room with things just so I can read them.  This getting old stuff is for the birds.

Is it too late to purchase the extended warranty?

Evening Architecture

An orb weaver spider who has taken up residence in the open area just outside my condo.  I’ve been watching it over the last week, and I am utterly amazed by what this industrious arachnid accomplishes on a daily basis.  (I’m not a real big fan of spiders overall, but this one’s pretty cool.)

Orb weavers are responsible for making those perfect Halloween webs, long spokes with spiraling threads woven in between.  They are one of the most common spiders, with 10,000 species that make up about 25% of all spiders worldwide.  They’re found everywhere on earth except the poles, and come in all shapes, sizes and colors.  (Mine is one of the boring brown yet disturbingly large ones.  I guess when you’re that big, fancy coloring be damned.)

Every evening just around dusk this 8-legged behemoth drops from the oak tree in the field and somehow catches enough wind to swing over to the far building to secure the first anchor line.  From there he attaches the other spoke lines and then spins away from the center until the evening’s intricate architecture is complete, seemingly suspended from nothing.  He hangs there all night, the dark shadow at the center of a barely perceptible net.

(Thankfully the spider has the good manners to spin over the field and not across the walkway.  The web is truly a work of art, but not one I care to unexpectedly wear when I come home at night. Eww..)

By the time I leave for work in the morning it’s gone, dismantled at dawn by it’s creator. Every web a one-night performance.  A fleeting installation of natural artistry.

Dancing With an Armful of Daisies…

Back when I started writing Picking Daisies in Purgatory my life actually felt like purgatory — it seemed like everything in my life had stagnated, and I was just waiting around in some kind of holding pattern for something to happen.  So I figured while I was waiting I might as well entertain myself (and hopefully you as well) by writing about events and ideas that mattered to me.  I was trying to pick whatever daisies I could find.

I guess over the last couple of years I must have finally burned off the last of whatever bad karma I had hanging over me. Suddenly everything started to change. My stagnant little life started moving again.  Things started going right.  I got a fantastic promotion complete with an amazing boss who happily let me off the leash. The negative people that plagued various parts of my existence suddenly picked up and moved on. I met the love of my life and have experienced more personal happiness than I actually thought was possible. And after two years of searching I finally found the perfect house to call home.

This past year I haven’t been picking daisies – they’ve practically been thrown at me. And I am grateful for every last one of them. I’m not giving up the blog just yet, but it may still be a while before you see me around here again regularly. Now that I have all these beautiful flowers, this happy girl is going to sit back and enjoy them for just a bit longer. Can you blame me?

A Tale of Two Beaches

Yesterday marked the last hurrah at the Jersey Shore for our family.  The kiddo and I made our way down in the late morning to meet my dad and his wife who had driven in the night before.  It ended up being cold and rainy (not the best weather for a shore-bound day), but not even that could put a damper on our family’s generations-old traditions.

Now for those of you not familiar with South Jersey, the residents are generally divided into two types: those that go to Wildwood and those that go to Ocean City. Both beaches have sand, a boardwalk, and ravenous seagulls who will swoop down and steal food right out of your hand, but the similarities stop there.  Ocean City is generally quiet, peaceful, and (in my mind anyway) a little bit boring.  Wildwood, on the other hand, is a noisy three-ring circus of game barkers, flashing lights and wild rides. Just about every family has a history at one of these two beaches, and, much like migrating Canadian Geese, we return year after year to the one we grew up on.

Me? I’m a third-generation Wildwood kid. My grandparents started vacationing there in the 1950′s — back in the city’s Doo-Wop hey day — and it’s been the “family beach” ever since.  As a kid I didn’t even realize other beaches existed, and as an adult it’s still the only one for me. It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea (just ask the Ocean City people), but I love every tacky, gaudy, raucus, neon-flashing, Jetson-styled “watch-the-tram-car-please” inch of it.

Yesterday we started our Wildwood afternoon with a quick tour of the rides on Morey’s Pier, followed by lunch inside the hallowed purple walls of Mack’s Pizza at Wildwood Ave. We sat at the counter and scarfed down a couple of slices, and chased it down with Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer.  And yes, old Mrs. T is still sitting there at the end of the counter keeping an eye on things, just as she has been for the last 35 years.

Next it was back out onto the pier for another round of bumper cars, flying elephants, furiously spinning teacups and other assorted rides before the rain finally chased everyone under cover. We scurried down the boardwalk to Douglass Fudge, which is strangely where our family always ends up in Wildwood when it rains.  Stopping in there is a must, rain or shine, becuase a trip to Wildwood just isn’t complete without a pound of fudge to take home. (Although quite frankly a full pound has never made it all the way home with our family in three generations.)   After a soggy trip back down the boardwalk with our fudge in tow, we were back in the car and headed home.

Now back to that Wildwood vs. Ocean City thing.  As I said, I’m a Wildwood kid, born and raised.  My son’s dad is one of those Ocean City people.  (Should have known that relationship was doomed from the start!)

For now my son gets to enjoy both beaches with his respective parents, but I’m sure there’s an unofficial rule somewhere that doesn’t allow South Jersey residents  to have “dual summership” — to be a proper South Jerseyan at some point he’ll have to choose allegiance to one or the other.

I hope he’ll choose Wildwood. I need a roller coaster buddy and someone to help lug the fudge.

Bloodlines

Life consists not simply in what heredity and environment do to us but in what we make out of what they do to us.
— Harry Emerson Fosdick

I’ve always been a bit of a creative.  Ever since I can remember I was creating something — casting plays, writing stories, fabricating fanciful things. When I think back to my childhood I see a puddle of purple Crayola paints.  I smell Scotch tape.  I hear the sound of safety scissors pushing through construction paper. These are the remembered joys of my unboundaried young life.

As I grew older my creative repertoire expanded to include poetry, dance, drawing, and sculpting. I filled countless hours communing with the creative muse in one form or another, trying on all sorts of artistic expression to see if they fit.  And I never really took it all that seriously; it was something that was a part of me — just for me — that I didn’t share with many people.

It’s no surprise, really.  I come from a long line of closet creatives.  My grandmother was a housewife who had a secret talent for painting flowers with magnificent details of shadow and light. My grandfather was an auto mechanic who could turn a solid block of wood into a wonder of intricately cut detail. My mother was a customer service representative who could sketch people like nobody’s business.  Outside of the immediate family, nobody knew.

Art in our family was always something you kept for yourself.  It wasn’t a real occupation; it wasn’t practical.  As much as my family appreciated the personal pursuit of artistic expression, it wasn’t something you could make a life at. Not when there was a family to feed and bills to pay. It was just an amusement, a diversion from the drudgery of real life. What you really needed to find was a respectable and stable occupation.

I was the first person in my family to go to college, and everyone (myself included) expected me to follow a good academic career path  ending with the title of doctor, lawyer, teacher, corporate executive.  I tried; really I did. I studied biology, and then spent my spare time in the dorm writing poetry and sketching. I got my first full-time job in an admin positon, and used my down time to design posters for all of the company functions.  I went back to school for anthropology, and right after graduation I got a job doing marketing and graphic design.  No matter how hard I tried, I always came back to art in some form or another.

About 15 years ago I finally gave up on the guilt and reconciled myself to the fact that I’m one of those people who needs to create for a living. I’ve happily never looked back. Although as a  corporate marketer/designer I do have to make some fairly regular concessions in my “artistic vision,” it still keeps me happily engaged and gainfully employed. I figure it’s a small price to pay for the daily fulfillment I receive. I also still try to honor the family tradition of creating just for me when I can, simply for the joy of it.

At the end of the day I believe we all have a calling in life, an inner voice that speaks to us about what we should really be doing with ourselves. An inner compass that we may follow in our younger years, but all too soon give up in deference to what our parents, our friends, our culture think we should be.

What about your inner voice? Did you follow it or dismiss it? Do you still hear it call now and then?

I accept now that the need for artistic expression in my life is a part of my DNA, a gift handed down through previous generations. After years of fighting against it I now do what I can— whenever I can — to honor that voice.

I wonder how differently the rest of my family would have lived if they had honored theirs…