Sunday, January 27, 2013

Happy Worthday

After much introspection, I have decided to sum myself up…literally. I’m not talking about financial net worth but my human worth. To calculate that, I will have to begin at the beginning and combine the Richter/Joule formulas to examine every nuance, every quirk to determine the effect my actions have had on me and on others. To reserve Internet terabytes, you will receive the condensed version. At the end of my calculations, I will have the mathematical number that will yield my true value.

I was born with a Calcium deficiency that I was told caused me to have mild to moderate seizures until I received a Calcium injection in the superficial temporal vein, located on the side of my head.  This is proof enough to me that I just wasn’t right in the head, so I will have to receive a Richter of 6.7 and Joule of 708 for damage to myself and to my mother for making her worry.

When I was two, I wandered out of the house when I was supposed to be taking a nap and was somehow able to get into our car that was parked in the driveway. After releasing the parking brake and pulling the gearshift out of park, the car began rolling down the driveway. My mother happened to be washing dishes at the time and through the kitchen window, saw what was happening. She screamed and ran from the house but was unable to get to me as I was refusing to keep my arms and legs inside the vehicle until it reached a complete stop. As a result, my right leg was caught under the front left tire and if it weren’t for my flexible toddler bones and the miracle of the wheel missing my pelvic bone by centimeters, I escaped being physically disabled for the rest of my life. I give myself a Richter of 7.8 and Joule of 31.6 for being disobedient, causing damage to myself and giving my mother a halo of gray hair at her hairline… and of course for making her worry.

On a beautiful spring day, when I was five, I was standing at our front door screen gazing at the beauty of the giant Sycamore tree in our front yard. A large stray dog happened by on the sidewalk. He stopped abruptly and looked directly at me before bounding toward our door. I couldn’t have imagined what happened next. He slammed though the screen door, knocking the door off its hinges while running over me. It seems he spied our cat standing on the back of the couch behind me and acted on his basic instincts. It took both of my parents to evict the dog from the premises. I have to give myself a Richter measurement of 5.5 and a Joule of 2.0 for causing damage to the door, inconveniencing my father, having screen impressions on my face for three days and of course for worrying my mother.

When I was ten, I had my tonsils removed. The medical field considers this a minor procedure however it wasn’t for me. I hemorrhaged. My throat had to be packed and as a result, my Uvula healed to the back of my throat directly over my nasal passages. My nose was useless, nothing more than a face ornament. I needed a second surgery to clear my nasal passages and bring the Uvula down to normal position. I believe my surgeon resigned from surgical procedures shortly after and became a dietician.  I have to give myself a Richter of 8.0 and Joule of 63.1 for ruining someone’s career, running up a large medical expense and causing my mother to worry.

So far, in the early years of my life, I had accumulated a total of 28 on the Richter scale and a whopping Joule of 804.7, numbers never before recorded in history; a destructive force needing to be reckoned with.

My teen-age and adult years have been packed with continuing drama resulting in an even larger accumulation of shocking numbers due to personal problems, divorce, financial challenges, work related issues and loss of loved ones, all of which worried my mother.

My life has slowed to a comfortable pace now, which gives me time to ponder. I am more at peace. I think the reason for this might be my willingness to go back and find that drama has served a purpose in my life and in those I have come in contact with. Since I am a writer, I can complete the stories and imagine outcomes that explain the reasons for the need to perform these dramatic acts in this mysterious stage play called life.

I can imagine that the doctor who injected my infantile noggin went home and cried to his wife that he had to perform a ghastly procedure on a two week old infant. This display of emotion caused her to rethink her decision to divorce the man she thought was void of feelings. They went on to have three children of their own.
The neighbor that drove us to the hospital when my leg was run over became more vigilant to secure the safety of her children. My Pediatrician gave me the nickname, ‘Lucky’ and had a positive tale of the miracle on Cohasset Street for the rest of his patients.

The dog that trampled me under the screen door was taken to a nearby animal shelter where he was adopted by a family with six children and no cats. His quick instincts made him a hero when he alerted the family of a fire in the laundry room during the night. He saved the entire family and the house.

The doctor who removed my tonsils, and as I said, went into the dietary field? Well, his wife made the worst brownies in the world. They were really bad…dry and chewy. He decided to market them as an appetite suppressant; they became so popular by his patients, he started a company and became a millionaire.

Someone said, marriage is grand, but divorce is fifty grand. Truer words were never spoken. My divorce and the financial difficulties resulting from it created a stronger me, and as sure as broken bones have more strength in their broken places once they are healed, my confidence has grown, my inner strength has emerged and I am blessed with the knowledge that I can rely on myself. I am resourceful, smarter and more creative than I ever imagined and from these experiences. I have learned the lessons I have needed to learn.

Sad to say, my ex suffered minor injuries in a car accident when his girlfriend at the time began swatting at a bee. She hit my ex in the face several times with a rolled up Cosmopolitan magazine before a gust of wind caught her skirt and wrapped it around the steering column, locking up the steering wheel. The red mustang convertible careened up a curb and into a vacant lot before plowing into a gigantic pile of manure waiting to be picked up by a local landscaping company. 

To end my fiscal year and sum up my accumulated Richter and Joule numbers would be impossible because you see there are so many lives we touch that we aren’t even aware of. The serendipity of life threads its way through our experiences, our lessons, and we all have a hand at creating the most breathtaking tapestry that remains hidden to us until we step over to the other side of the experience.

My mother passed away over twenty years ago but before she died, she had the most beautiful silver hair I have ever seen.  When the sunlight shown on it, I swear it looked like she was wearing a halo. I’m glad I was able to help in creating it by making her worry so much.

And the other loved ones I’ve lost? Well, they weren’t lost at all; they were a gift to me and to the many other lives that they touched.  I’m happy to have known them, to have loved them and to know they loved me. That is without measurement and is priceless.

Love the people you love. You never know the last time you will see them.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

One Bad Apple Spoils the Lunch

Last week I decided to spend my lunch hour at the mall. People watching get my creative juices flowing. I don’t know why I just wrote that because it is so cliché and there is only so much creativity that can be juiced but I haven’t written anything for a couple of weeks and I need to get back into my habit of daily writing.
Since I am entitled to an upgrade, I decided to visit the Apple store to peruse the latest iphones before going to AT&T to renew my data plan. I like to think that I know a little about the device I have been using for the past three years, but in truth it is as much of a mystery to me today as it was when I bought it. Oh sure, I can make a call, answer a call, send a text, take a picture or research something on the Internet and recharge it, hey maybe I do know a lot.
 I was stunned to see the amount of customers milling about the store in the middle of the day in the middle of the week.  This Eden was packed with Apple fans, faces aglow staring into monitors large and larger with eyes intent on accessing information for what I don’t know. One look at the technology on display sent the notion that I had any understanding of it scurrying.
I walked past the iMacs, lined up like soldiers at attention and ready for active duty. The Macbook pros stared back at me with ingenious arrogance just daring me to take an ignorant whack at them. Ipads and Ipad mini’s took up large islands of counter space for freer access. I smirked at the thought that they were named after feminine products.
A friendly voice came from behind. “May I help you?”
I turned to face a young man who barely looked to be sixteen.
“I’m interested in upgrading my phone and I would like to see the newer models.”
“What are you using now?”
Luckily I didn’t have to dig through my wastebasket of a purse, my phone was in hand. “This.” I proudly held it up.
“Wow, that’s a sturdy case, do you work in construction?”
“No, I don’t, but I can’t trust myself with electronics and the salesman told me if I threw my phone it wouldn’t break.”
“Do you throw your phone often?” He grinned.
I stared dumbly at his forehead and wondered if I threw my phone at it if it would leave a mark.
“Just kidding,” he snorted. “Is that a 3G?”
“You know you were due for an upgrade a long time ago? That model is really old.”
Suddenly I felt like a rodeo clown at a mime convention.  I glanced at a young girl standing nearby, oblivious to her surroundings. She was deftly typing a message with her thumbs. The average hummingbird pecks at the rate of 20 per second and I swear this little girl was faster than that.
“Yeah, that’s why I’m here…just looking.”
“Okay, ma’am, let me know if you need any help.”’
I hate that. When did I turn into a ma’am? Probably when Microsoft and Apple began their war and I was caught by friendly fire. When the lead pencil and ball point pen became a threatened accessory and typewriters ended up in the junkyard.
I watched the girl’s thumbs scroll, twirl and pirouette until she glanced up and promptly turned her back to me.  She’ll be sorry when she gets older and those texting thumbs turn into arthritic stumps. Texting thumb will be the new carpel tunnel syndrome and evolution will have to compensate by transforming infant thumbs into bamboo styluses.  
I type with my index finger, slowly poking at the screen, often deleting fat finger typos and swearing at my phone for trying to correct my spelling and often putting wrong words in my messages. I usually get several text messages asking if I am okay before I successfully send one back.  Maybe I am hesitant to speed up because my parents would have thrown a tizzy if I touched the TV screen when I was growing up. It’s conditioning.  I was also warned I would go blind if I sat too close to the screen but now everywhere I look there are people with their noses pressed up against their iglass.
I turned to leave and take my sour grapes with me out of the Apple store.  Lunch was almost over and I needed to get something to eat. I settled for a hot dog on a stick. At least I know how that works.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Truss Me, It's Your Turn

In 2005, on Christmas Day, I was picking up a dozen croissants to contribute to the holiday feast. It was exhausting. I sighed heavily as I waited in line behind a thrifty rotund woman who for some reason needed to cash in every coupon she had saved since Groundhog Day. She then insisted on scraping the bottom of her purse for the exact change that had escaped her coin compartment. I shrugged and resisted irritation; I would not allow this to spoil my mood. 

As my eyes scanned the checkout crowd, I noticed they all seemed to be content, almost euphoric. I nodded knowingly... they are the detailers. Their job is to purchase sparkling cider, lovely floral candelabras, dinner rolls or perhaps a fireplace log. It showed in their eyes, they were enjoying the holiday because someone else was cooking.

I smirked as a distracted driver swerved in front of me, I recognized him, my neighbor frantic to get home to deliver the forgotten sticks of butter to the hysterical cook. A woman who vaguely resembled his wife who’s job it was to produce a six course meal for thirty-five, serve it by three p.m. and arrange it attractively on china plates donated by Grandma Tucker, a true veteran of holiday cookery. Grandma Tucker doesn’t cook anymore; she just plants herself in a strategic location and watches the kitchen activity with the corners of her lips tipped up and a double shot of bourbon in her glass. An honor truly earned.

My eyes misted at the memory of being the crazed one in the kitchen. Over the years I have stuffed my birds, casseroled my beans and crusted my pies.  I have paid for my retirement with frazzled nerves and kitchen disasters such as undercooked birds, lumpy gravy, stopped up garbage disposals and the roasted marshmallow that mysteriously flicked into my sister’s eye upon offering yet another helpful hint from the comfort of the family room. 

Then there was Aunt Dorty who would pass through the kitchen to leisurely drag her index and middle fingers over the surface of the gravy to sample for consistency and seasoning. She developed calluses over the years from this practice; at least I hope it was from gravy tasting. Each year, I would complain that I couldn’t remember the exact measurements of flour, rosemary salt and pepper. Her croaky voice would ring out, “Just forget about what you don’t remember…cook dammit.” And cook I did, for the next twenty years. 

Yes, the baton has been passed to new stuffers, new casserollers and new crusters equipped with younger hands and virgin nerves just begging to be frazzled. Their young faces still lack character, but in time definition will be added with deep forehead furrows and sturdy anxiety lines.

My niece was cooking, her wide-eyed innocence was refreshing and her anxious desire to produce the perfect banquet quite heartwarming. The new generation stepped forth to select a healthier genre of turkey, drug free… the free-range type. 

I can almost imagine this lovely creature standing on a grassy knoll, its wattle gently swaying in a soft country breeze. No access to steroids or antibiotics, a noble beast bravely awaiting humane euthanasia. Alas, its flavor is also lacking in definition, I think it’s the absence of preservatives or perhaps it was just devoid of personality.

My niece began to hyperventilate; a blue line is formed around her lips yet she refused help. She dashed about the kitchen arranging platters and spooning gravy into a boat big enough to seat six. With deft fingers she spells the words Happy Thanksgiving atop the green bean casserole in dried onions then paws the stuffing from the free-range cavity into the family crock.  All would have gone without a hitch if she hadn’t slipped on the bit of stuffing that had dropped in the middle of the floor.  It was unfortunate that Animal World wasn’t there to film the turkeys’ last greasy flight beneath the recessed florescent lighting.

My sister and I sat in our strategic location sipping sparkling cider from Waterford glasses. Our eyes met in a rare moment of understanding; there was no need for words.  

A few Christmases have passed since then. I have remarried into a family with different traditions. My husband and his brother cook the holiday meals now, no more turkey, no more stuffing, no more casseroles. They have been replaced with the most delicious spinach dip scooped up on fresh bread rounds and a divine pan of flavorful lasagna. Am I lucky or what?