Saturday, May 28, 2011

Stuart in the Sky With Diamonds (or How Minnie Got Her Groove Back)

The scuffling woke me up at 4:00 am. Already curled up like a well-cooked shrimp I tried to hunker up more - well as much as my stiff knees would let me. “What could that racket over my head be,” I wondered as my phenomenal dream faded, and the annoying noise continued to crescendo. Was it a mouse?

Indeed, I had been aware of some errant scratching within the walls a time or two, and on more than one occasion had even discovered some suspicious globs of fabric under the sink, the tell tale crumbs beneath a sheared off corner of a box of cereal in the cupboard, and later a few small remnants of that meal.

However, my two Amazon felines had always been able to keep any type of rodent infestation down to a minimum, and in fact had often been busted bringing home neighborhood contraband critters still wriggling in their mouths (to that extent I am certain my neighbors had been grateful of my frequent collared prowlers.)

Still, one of said Amazons who nightly snoozed on my feet continued to remain in cat dreamland and I was apparently stuck being the sentry for that particular morning shift.

So, barely breathing I concentrated on the noise. With audio effects being difficult to translate into words my best attempt, sadly, will be far from the actual sound but it sounded much like “scritch scritchscritch” and then the sawing of a tiny little hand saw (I swear that’s what it sounded like).

“Yes, that sure sounds like a mouse,” the voice in my head remarked. And then a board groaned overhead. “Uh no, mice aren’t that big” my inner voice squeaked and I felt my breathing pick up in tandem with the increased beating of my heart. I quietly straightened my posture out in the bed, and the scuffing immediately ceased. Whatever it was had Six Million Dollar Man hearing AND was bigger than a mouse.

My mind started working overtime. I envisioned a bloated Jabba-the-Rat wiggling in a corner, with her army of little rat minions bringing her trash scraps to feed all of the little baby Jabba-the-Rats.

I pictured a more than likely vicious Mama Raccoon nesting about and redecorating the attic in anticipation for her upcoming dating, mating and then blessed event of octuplets.

I saw a surplus of squirrels creating quite a bachelor pad for sleepovers and the subsequent squirrelettes.

And even worse, I pictured all of the above.

Sleep finally came to me at 4:45 when the nestling stopped, and I tossed and turned until the alarm clock went off at six. I woke up knowing that I had several hours of daylight to figure out what to do next. I also knew I needed to at least walk around the house and look for the Studio 54 entranceway and then go from there.

So, after a week of walking around the house peering and looking and gazing from every angle I could from the safety of my yard, I finally went to the official website of the State Division of Wildlife to reaffirm my fear. I found out that squirrels are definitely not nocturnal but rats, mice and raccoons are. Yikes.

Now convinced that I most certainly had a ferocious mother raccoon inhabiting my attic, I commenced to tell everyone I knew of my wild life, and how inconvenient it would be to have a nest of raccoon adolescents padding about overhead throughout the spring and into the summer. How it would be far too dangerous to even attempt to interrupt the upbringing of these youngsters as everyone surely knew it was a certain reorganization of one's face to come between a raccoon mother and her children. I dramatically regaled how miserable my sleep was surely to be for the foreseeable future, and apologized profusely for the expected bags under my eyes. I firmly stated that the wild life had taken over and I was at its mercy.

And therein was my downfall.

After borrowing an extension ladder, my very best friend and hubby cat walked about the rooftop. He tottered like an acrobat across every inch of the roof trying to ascertain just where a wide-bodied raccoon would be able to gain access. I expectantly watched him, again from the safety of the ground. finally, after finding not even a shingle loose, he came down. As did I.

Still, not willing to give up my argument that there was danger to be found in the top story of the house, I insisted that he take the ladder into the house and venture into the very abyss of peril. Grudgingly he did so. With cautious steps up the metal rungs of the extension ladder and firmly clutching a flashlight – nay, a heavy flashlight - in his hand, he unceremoniously poked his head, hair by hair, into the darkness of the void.

Hearing and seeing nothing he dared to go further. I stood at the bottom of the ladder, sighing that I had a knight in shining armor to ward off the beasts of the wood and waited. His body disappeared into the attic and I held my breath.

Hubby's face suddenly popped above the hole in the ceiling and he smiled. “There isn’t anything up here but mice, hon.” And I let out my breath somewhat indignantly but secretly relieved. “How do you know?”

He quickly climbed down the ladder and instructed me to take a look for myself. I’ll tell you it took all of my courage and then some to mount those rungs and peer about the dusty innards of the creaky house. But I did, and discovered a maze of little mouse corridors crisscrossing everywhere through the insulation like rodent superhighways, complete with bridges and blockades.

So that’s what had been keeping me from sleeping!

As I climbed down the ladder the thought struck me how similar the hallways of those little, albeit heavy, mice were to the mazes of just about any office building.

And then I stopped as a thought struck me - and then shook my head.

“Naw, we are all more than mice in a maze – we are here to learn and discover what life has to offer. We crisscross our own hallways in pursuit of happiness, to gain enough money to live on, and to enjoy that pursuit."

I nodded in agreement with myself, because the next day I had documents to type, and emails to send, and people to smile and greet as I passed them in the hallways. I had money to make, for heavens sake!

And even better, I was sure I was going to get a really good night’s sleep that night knowing that I didn’t have the beast from “Alien," or even a furry little Monty Pythonesque bunny over my head.

However, before I climbed into bed I knew I would need to sit down and have a heart-to-heart discussion with those darned Amazonian cats. They would surely be a bit petulant, being caught sleeping on the job and all. I was sure that, abashed, they would probably slink off to find a dark alley, where they could hone their rodent-hunting skills a little bit better.

Well, it's off to bed because work awaits!

Say “Cheese!"

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Inside Trading

I don’t think I will ever forget it – the phrase a friend of mine said to me several years ago. And I distinctly remember the day she said it to me. I was in a rush when she called and asked if she could drop by to tell me about a new endeavor she had become interested in. I hurriedly said ok but instantly remembered that I had a long list of other very important things to do that evening. I almost retracted my invitation but after a quick thought I was sure it wouldn’t take too long to listen to what she wanted to tell me about, especially when she realized just how busy I was, so I hastily said goodbye. As I hung up the phone, I put down the bills I had been looking at while I had been talking to her. Dinner needed to be cooked, the house definitely needed to be picked up before she got there, I needed to make sure the kids had their homework done and dammit, my feet were hurting from the high heels I had worn to work that day. And I knew once those things had been taken care of there was so much to do after that.

I raced through my first set of chores and was almost finished when the doorbell rang. I ran to the door, opened it up and there my friend stood, broadly smiling at me. That’s the thing. She always smiled at me - so positive and supportive and wonderful to be around. As I invited her in, the question briefly crossed my mind about why I had waited so long to see her. But then it was gone as I ushered her into the office. As I sat down next to her on the settee she asked me what I had been doing. I rolled my eyes and sighed and told her I had been so busy I had little time to think. And the worst of it was, I admitted, that I really hated my job. I dramatically recounted to her the day I had just had, of all the people I had to deal with, of all the things I was expected to get done and how I was unappreciated and how little I was being paid for all of my hard work. She looked at me, blinked her eyes twice and that’s when she said it. Yes – The Phrase. “What are you trading your life for?” My mouth hung open without words to fill it. I mentally backpedaled. “What?” was the only thing I could utter. She smiled at me again. “What are you trading your life for?” Those seven words hit me like a ton of bricks. Indeed. What WAS I trading my life for?

Seven simple words but words that meant so much – I took her question to heart.

Since then I have mentally tried to change my life. I’ve tried to make it simpler, tried to brush away the little things and to enjoy them as much as the big things. I’ve learned that en error isn’t a mistake, it’s just a harder lesson. Tried to think about how quickly life disappears and how easy it is to make it do so. Tried to know who I am inside and out and to accept, without judging, who people are outside and in. Tried to tell the people I love how much they mean to me and tried to appreciate the days I have left with them.

Sure, I often forget that I am trading my life for something. But when I remember, I hope now that I am trading it for things far better and happier and grander than those days when my house needed to be spotless for a guest, and my kids needed to get their homework done before dinner. If I’m trading it for a goal, that’s a good thing. But if it’s just biding time, it’s not. I know that there are priorities to enjoy, people to love, and life to live.
So - What are you trading YOUR life for?

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Lighter Shade of Pale

While scrutinizing some important merchandise in the aisles of a very popular discount store a few years ago, I overheard one woman whisper to another ”Do you think she dies?” Startled, I snapped my head around and, after quickly and inadvertently meeting the green eyes of the speaker, and then noting her red-haired female companion, I abruptly looked away. They sure didn’t look upset, I thought as I bent my head down to peer more closely at the box I had been reading. “Oh I really can’t say for sure. But just to be absolutely certain I think we’d better look again” I heard her companion whisper back. Oddly transfixed, I stood where I was.

"What were they talking about?" I wondered as I turned the box over in my hands and blearily stared at the writing on the back. For some unknown and peculiar reason I found myself curious with their conversation. It was certainly more interesting than trying to decipher the index of ingredients listed on the box I was holding. Were they mulling over the latest episode of “Desperate Housewives,” I pondered as the smiling woman on the front of the box brightly looked up at me. If so, I felt an affirmative response bubbling to my lips but I quickly bit it back, chagrined at my own cheeky eavesdropping. The green-eyed woman moved behind me and then stopped at the end of the aisle. Without turning around she quietly sniffed.

“Oh, I definitely think she does die” she murmured ominously. Her companion sidled up next to her effectively blocking the entrance and exit of the aisle. “I think you very well may be right," the redhead replied quietly. Sneaking a furtive peek at them both I noticed that they were watching a very blonde woman who was perusing the greeting cards.

Worried now, I observed the card woman myself for any signs of trouble. “What’s going on here - Am I in an episode of “Desperate Housewives?” I fretted as the box trembled in my hands. I certainly didn’t know the two women in my aisle and for all I knew they were plotting something nefarious just like one of the characters on the show had been a few nights before.

Just as I was about to blurt out a warning to the very blonde lady, she moved to leave the profusion of cards she had been looking at. My two aisle companions quickly turned their backs and huddled together. “Oh yes, yes, yes she definitely does die – no one naturally has that color of hair” I heard the two wicked women chortle as I dropped the box of Clairol I had been holding and fell on my knees to the floor.

Okay – so that really didn’t actually happen but I have been the recipient of inadvertently overhearing conversations regarding the shade of someone’s hair. The truth is, even my own hair has been a few unnatural shades of the hair-color rainbow. I have had my hair, somewhat embarrassingly, almost a platinum blonde, an orange-red, a dark, rich mahogany color (quite a shock, I might add, immediately on the heels of the blonde) and even a pale color that resembled the young green branch of an ash tree. Colors I certainly would not have chosen on purpose as my wild streak never actually made it all the way up to my scalp. While some daring souls aren't afraid to shout out their own forays into "counter-culturalsim," mine have been more akin to trips to the corner convenience store. Or, perhaps, I have a covert wild streak.

No matter, as it is my own opinion from years of experience that it is incredibly difficult to get any “natural” shade from a box of store-bought hair dye.

For all of you budget-conscience color consumers who know what I mean, it sure would be nice not to have to worry about all of that. I mean really, it sometimes takes hours of being yanked at, poked at and being placed under double clipped caps in desperate attempts to obtain those “natural” hair colors. That’s if you can find a friend good enough and willing enough to give up a perfectly good block of their time to fiddle with your hair. And if I could, I certainly would forego sitting for too many timed minutes at my kitchen table with the smell of malodorous concoctions wafting down and making my eyes water and hoping that no one, absolutely no one, rings the doorbell. Yikes! When they say “Process” on the box – they aren’t kidding!

But for many of the box-buyers, the alternative is – shall I say it? Grey? Never! Ever! Ever? (dot dot dot).

Be that as it may, I envy both the younger and the older generations in ways. There are the pastel-hairs, with blue, lavender and rose on one side, and the florescent-hairs, with hot pink, midnight blue and blazing green on the other. Each seems so – er – at home in their colors. And none of which are “natural” hair colors at all.

So, since I must admit that I am a tad older than the younger generation these days, I know my hair will never take on any shade of truly vibrant color. At least not on purpose anyway.

But to join the ranks of the blue, lavender or rose-hairs that drive the Buicks and Cadillacs and Lincolns of the world would mean that I have hoisted the white (or grey) flag of surrender, right? Right?

Astonishingly,that day actually came a few years ago when, after the gentle prodding of my older sister, and the somewhat more persistent pushing of my husband who had taken up the "colorist" banner and whose passion (if there had been any) for the perfect color had waned considerably, took a leap of faith and let the boxes of “Candleglow”, “Crème Brulee” and Caramel Kiss” moulder in my linen closet. I had finally decided that they really weren't to dye for anymore, and I wished to embrace the "real" me.

And I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised at the result, after awaiting months with nail-biting trepidation for all the colors to meld together. In fact, I have been very fortunate to have a light gold-platinum as my locks and have actually received compliments (yes! On grey hair no less!) as to the color from perfect strangers and family alike.

As for those few who ask me, in all earnestness, "Is that your real hair color?" I can now proudly say, "why yes, it is!"

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