воскресенье, 30 марта 2014 г.

Online Discount

Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life.
~Sophia Loren
I was an old hand at meeting not-quite-Prince-Charming online when I met Peter Parker (not his real name, just who he reminded me of, on my laptop screen). I decided to give him a chance. I’d been hitting the delete button on these online relationships before they’d really had a chance to start. I was going to change that.
I reminded myself to push aside my short-click attention span when Peter and I had our first date IRL (in real life). I spent a few hours with him, chatting. It was pleasant enough to lead to another date, and another. The next thing I knew, my byte-sized sample dates with Peter evolved into the whole enchilada: We became a couple.
I started to see True Frugality in action. I was all for saving a buck; I never paid full price for clothes, was a big fan of any value meal, and even downsized my online dating budget when I met Peter. After years of paying for memberships to dating sites, I had met Peter on a free site to give my pocketbook a break.
But Peter was more committed to saving a buck than I was. Most people read the weekend paper leisurely, flipping though the grocery ads in passing. Peter analyzed them as if he was discovering the true secrets of the Da Vinci Code.
“Aha! Safeway has twelve-packs of coke for $4.99 each, but over here,” he said, waving the ad in the air, “it’s TWO for $9.00.”
“But I thought you wanted to go to Safeway to get the two bags of chips for three bucks?” I said.
“I do,” he said. “I will just go to both.”
To save a buck? I just kept quiet.
Now I understood how he ended up with so many groceries. He lived alone, but there was always enough food to feed a frat house. He would buy one to get one free even if he already had three at home.
He seemed to keep track of every dollar that each of us paid into this new relationship. It was irritating, but I rationalized reasons to feel good about what was behind it. I thought he wanted to make sure I understood he thought of me as an equal. He wasn’t a scrub who expected me to pay for everything, and he wasn’t all cave man either, not wanting me to “worry my pretty little head” about ever picking up a check.
We tried some entertainment on the cheap, like hiking. It was a beautiful day when we headed out to Peralta Canyon. We spent a couple of hours hiking into the canyon to get a glimpse of the rock formation, the Weaver’s Needle. I took a picture of him with that ancient volcanic plug rising majestically in the background, and he took one of me. When some other hikers arrived, we got a shot of both of us. It was a great day.
But then, our relationship started to get as rocky as that Arizona canyon. I was starting to see that my new boyfriend was as frugal with his time and energy as he was with his money. I had a condo of my own, and really tried to do the Ms. Fix-it work, but there were times that I could’ve used some help. I struggled with my wrench for hours before I called Peter to help when I was fixing my toilet.
“Why don’t you stay for dinner so I can say thanks?” I asked when he finally came over. It was a weekday, and we rarely spent much time together during the week, unless I went to his place. The fifteen-minute drive was an inconvenience, he’d say.
He didn’t stay. And I could tell he was quite put out. So the next time I had DIY work to do in my bathroom, I did it myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the proper ventilation in my tiny bathroom and practically solidified my lungs. Oops. I drove myself to the hospital and was admitted for five days.
Off oxygen and slowly recuperating, I called my boyfriend and asked if he would bring me some food. I don’t like asking for favors, usually, but almost dying puts some things in perspective.
“You haven’t gone to the store?” he asked.
“No, I still get winded crossing the living room to answer the phone.”
I really tried to ignore the exasperated sigh on the other end.
“Okay, I’ll be over soon.”
A few hours later, he stopped by with a few DVDs from his collection and five cans of soup. I asked if he wanted to stay and watch one of the movies with me. We hadn’t spent much time together lately. He visited the hospital for fifteen minutes one day (hospitals gave him the creeps) and hadn’t come over much since (that long drive). He didn’t stay.
When I finally felt good enough to make it to his place, we spent more time together. He cooked me a few great meals, we watched some local fireworks; it was pleasant. I was on the fence about the relationship.
I walked into his home office one afternoon in time to see him reading an e-mail with a familiar logo.
“You’re still getting e-mails from Match.com, huh?” I remembered that they tried to get me to renew my membership the last time I decided to quit. It took a while for the e-mail pleas to fizzle out.
Like an employee just busted by his boss for fooling around on company time, Peter closed the window. “Oh,” nervous laugh, “I tell them I’m in a relationship when they write.”
“When who writes?”
“Well, you know, the women.”
“Why didn’t you deactivate your profile?” I knew that was possible. I had dated mid-membership before. “We’ve been dating for eight months!”
“But Tina,” he said, in all seriousness, “I PAID for a full year.”
Later, at home, I signed in to the Match site (browsing’s always free) and discovered his profile. “I’m a Clyde looking for his Bonnie.” Cheesy. There was nothing about him being in a relationship. But there he was, smiling away in the Arizona sun, his face a bit red, as if he’d been out all day, a big rock formation in the background. . . .
Hey! That’s the picture I took! On OUR date!
I sighed. Sometimes you get what you pay for.

Lessons from a Nursing Home

Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.
~Mark Twain
One chilly autumn day when I was ten my mom took my siblings and me to visit our great aunt in a local nursing home. As we entered the building, the smell of watery soup, mashed potatoes, and cleaning solution filled our nostrils. My siblings and I looked warily around the room, a large common area with a braided rug, wilting potted plants, and an old coffeemaker. Elderly residents napped in wheelchairs around the perimeter, and the only noise came from an old television. We started as an old man to our left started muttering in his sleep. An ancient woman wrapped in a yellow quilt clutched a plastic baby in her arms, singing a lullaby as if it were a real infant. Another woman stared into space with beady black eyes, nibbling on her bony fingers with toothless gums.
We gingerly made our way across the room and found our aunt asleep in an overstuffed armchair. My mom decided not to wake her, and my siblings and I breathed a silent sigh of relief. Now we could get out of this creepy room and away from all the strange old people! But then a voice sounded from our right.
“Sweetie, you have such pretty hair,” said a little old lady to my six-year-old sister. “You remind me of my granddaughter.”
“Oh, look at the kids!” exclaimed a woman with long white hair. “Aren’t they sweet?”
One by one, the elderly people noticed us, rolled their wheelchairs closer, and greeted us cheerfully. Surprised, but not as frightened as before, we introduced ourselves and answered the many questions asked by the eager seniors. They wanted to know all about us: our names, ages, grades, and hobbies. We met Ethel, a frail woman who loved talking about her three grandchildren. Mary, a crusty but good-natured soul, made sure we all had a chair to sit in. Rose still remembered all the recipes she used to cook, and told us what it was like to be a teenager more than half a century ago. My siblings and I left the nursing home feeling like we had just made a dozen new friends.
We visited the nursing home several times after that, sometimes bringing homemade cookies or muffins, sometimes just dropping in to say “hi.” Many of the seniors loved to talk and were thrilled to have so many listeners. My younger sister befriended the lady with the doll, whose name was Caroline. She was a sweet old lady who loved children and had a huge doll collection from when she was young.
We also made a surprising discovery — the old ladies loved playing beach ball! The nursing home staff taught us to stand five feet away from an old woman’s wheelchair and toss an inflated beach ball right at her. To our surprise, all the ladies in the home loved to bat the ball away with their hands, feet, and even heads! They could spend hours playing catch with us — we wore ourselves out from throwing the ball long before they tired of playing!
All these events helped me realize that underneath all those wrinkles, crooked backs and missing teeth, these ladies were just ordinary, friendly people. Although they looked different from me, on the inside we were very much the same. Despite my first impression, they weren’t crazy or scary or strange — in fact, they had the same feelings, worries, and hopes as normal people. Just like me, they liked to laugh, talk, and make crafts. And, like me, they wanted to be loved, and to know that somebody cared about them.
The nursing home taught me that appearances are often only skin deep, and that with an open mind and a caring heart, you can discover the beautiful person inside.

Blurred Lines

Any mother could perform the jobs of several air traffic controllers with ease.
~Lisa Alther
I work two jobs: the first is a Sales Executive role with a large North American company. My other job is CEO of Two Young Kids.
To be honest, I look forward to the days that I am going to the office. I know that no matter how busy things at work may be, I will find the time to drink my coffee while it is still hot. I can also be certain that I will be able to take a lunch break without someone asking me to paint their toenails or read them a book.
I do have it pretty good, though. Two years ago, as my maternity leave was coming to an end after the birth of my second child, my husband and I dealt with the difficult decision of whether I should go back to work or quit my job and stay home with the kids full-time. On one hand, I had spent four years in university, earned a business degree, and spent nearly ten years with the same company working my way up the corporate ladder. I didn’t want to throw all of that hard work away. At the same time, though, I love my kids, and I didn’t want to miss out on a single milestone or on watching my kids grow up in these early formative years.
So being in sales, I made a pitch to my boss asking to go parttime and work only three days per week. I promised I would remain productive and that I would stay connected to the office so that even on my days off, my clients and coworkers would always be able to get a hold of me. Thankfully, I made the sale and thus began the balancing act of being a working mom of two young kids.
During the workweek on my days at home with my kids, there are often important work phone calls and e-mails that I need to respond to urgently. Thankfully, my kids understand when I tell them, “Mommy has to make a phone call for work.” When I turn on the Disney Channel or sit them down with a bowl of fish crackers, they know they are not to come and interrupt my conversation. There are times, however, when my little ones are not so understanding.
The other day, for example. My daughter, Priya, was busy working on a craft and my son, Keegan, was in his bedroom intently lining up his Hot Wheels cars. I thought this would be a good time to return a quick phone call to one of my coworkers about a potential new client.
Unfortunately, I was completely wrong about my timing. Three minutes into my phone conversation, down the hallway and through the bathroom door, came a piercing yell from my (extremely) loud three-year-old son.
“Mommy! I’m done going poop. Come wipe my bum!” I tried to ignore Keegan for a minute and quickly wrap up my phone call, but my son did not like to be kept waiting. Again he hollered, “Mommy! I’m ready for you to clean my bum! Come to the bathroom!”
I couldn’t help but laugh as I stopped my colleague mid-sentence. “Sorry, John, but can you hold please? I need to wipe my son’s bum.”
I know I am lucky to be able to enjoy the best of both worlds. I can continue to pursue my career while still sharing in my children’s special (and not-so-special) moments. There are times when the line between my two jobs will get blurred. But you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Multitasking Mom of Multiples

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Friends told me I had the “best of both worlds,” as a stay-at-home, as well as work-at-home, mom. But some days could seem like the worst. I recall a particularly bad one when lunch at “Donald’s House,” as my two-and-a-half-year-old called her favorite restaurant, seemed a great idea.
Children skittered about the bright playroom in their socks. Moms sat at the tables in the fast food franchise and talked. Usually, we shared these lunch dates with my friend Janet and her two-and-a-half-year-old Jonathan. One day my friend joked that she told her husband she wished for a divorce just so she could count on a break in parenting every other weekend. We laughed about the current difficult stage in our children’s development.
But on this day, my daughter Elizabeth and I just sat and ate. Even talking was too much multitasking for mom and daughter. I also felt the sting of a bad parenting moment the night before that sent her scurrying under the dining room table, as I took out my ire on her older brother, a high school senior, for dropping his soccer gear by the stairs, and her junior high school sister for dropping out-of-season Easter grass used for a science project all over the kitchen floor.
Not that a clean house and a little responsibility aren’t important. But when the wrath of Mom broke loose, the older siblings looked up from doing their homework, and I remembered they are good kids, and perhaps I had overreacted.
So, maybe that’s why one mom in particular got my attention. She seemed unusually attentive to her three young children. Her smile, straight-combed hair and a denim skirt with a crisp white blouse made her look the role of a model mom.
I watched as she scooped up a struggling toddler, set him on her lap and Velcroed his shoes in place as she chatted with him. Then she released him with a hug and a smile. She did the same with a slightly taller little girl in a yellow dress. With a kiss on the top of her head, she released this wriggling tot with a smile and a hug, too.
This woman seemed as if she were on display, as if she knew others were watching. Was this genuine? Or was she just showing off how attentive she was to her children, and I caught her on a good day? I’d like to see her when her children are taking charge of their own lives.
Soon I had the chance. She chased down another little girl, dressed a lot like the first, except for the color of her dress. Little green dress struggled. She kicked and screamed. It required that seat belt maneuver that every parent recognizes, where you hold the child facing the ground, with one arm under the shoulders, and the other between the kicking legs, locking your hands in the middle.
As little green dress loudly protested, her mom gently jiggled her daughter as she walked, repeating softly, “I know, I know, I know, I know….” She must be very tired, repeating that to comfort herself, I smugly thought. But she smiled as she released little green dress, too.
I was curious about how old her children must be. They all seemed to be close in age. I got my chance to find out as her child in the green dress played near my daughter. I commented on “how cute” and asked her children’s ages.
“They’re two and a half years old,” she said proudly.
“Oh, your girls are twins?” I queried.
“Oh, no! They’re triplets!” She beamed.
I was floored. I wanted to exclaim, “How do you do it?” But as the mother of two teens and a toddler, I got that question a lot too, and hadn’t figured out the best way to respond. Now I understood why she seemed on display. Everywhere they travelled, the entourage must have drawn attention — and my unasked question. I missed my golden moment to be enlightened. Little green dress went one way and Elizabeth another. I didn’t even get to see the super mom and her triplets walk out. Did any of them want to be carried? Did they hold hands? What if one — or all — didn’t want to leave “Donald’s House”?
It left me hoping to meet up again with Multitasking Mom Times Three. In the decade-plus that has passed since then, I never have. I’ve always wondered about her possible words of wisdom. But her actions already said it all. Be kind. Be gentle — yet use the seat belt maneuver when necessary, and always remember to smile and give hugs.
I think we would both agree to be patient — because nothing lasts.

You Do It Your Way and I’ll Do It Mine

You Do It Your Way and I’ll Do It Mine

If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
~Vincent van Gogh
The hardest part about being the youngest kid in the family is not that you’re shorter than everyone else. It’s not that you can’t keep up, or that you’re the first one hurt when the roughhousing starts. It’s not that you’re the last to get a serving of whatever snack just came out of the oven.
All that stuff is pretty annoying. But it’s nowhere near as bad being told, “No, do it this way.” I used to hear that all the time.
If I asked to help Grandma when she was baking her famous crispy golden cornbread, she’d slide the big mixing bowl to where I could reach it and then tell me to mix up the ingredients. I’d grab that big wooden spoon and stir the batter, but Grandma would stop me and say, “No, do it this way or you’ll spill it.” She showed me how she wanted it stirred, and I did my best to imitate her on the second try.
If I asked Dad how I could help when he was working in the garage, he’d hand me a wrench and show me which bolt to loosen or to tighten. I could get about two cranks in before he’d stop me and say, “No, do it this way or you’ll strip the bolt.” I watched and did my best not to blunt the corners.
When my older sister Missy and I dressed up our dolls for a fancy dinner party, I was put in charge of doing the dolls’ hair. Three wraps into a lovely braid, my sister would reach for the doll and say, “No, do it this way.” She would twist the hair and pin it just right, and I’d try hard to do it that way on the next doll.
I couldn’t even color in a coloring book without the teacher pausing by my desk to say, “No, do it this way.” Color in the lines, she advised. Stroke the crayon back and forth carefully so it fills in the shapes thoroughly.
I knew they were all trying to teach me how to do something faster or better, or without making a mess. But I didn’t like feeling wrong all the time. I was so frustrated. I wanted to tell everyone, “Stop telling me what to do.”
One weekend, my family got together to help Grandma and Grandpa with spring cleaning and gardening. My cousin Brian, the oldest of all the grandchildren, got to work mowing the lawn. His sister Jaime and my sister Missy got to plant all the pretty flowers in the garden. The adults took up shovels and started cutting a route for a stone-paved walkway that would go around the garden.
I asked what I could do to help. Grandpa led me to the big juniper bush at the front of the lawn. The bush had once been trimmed to look like a big green square with blue berry bells. Now, long frizzy branches grew out in all directions. The bush looked like a big green porcupine. Grandpa used a pair of long-handled gardening shears to chomp off the green bristles.
Clip! Clip! Clip! Grandpa flattened out one side of the juniper in three quick cuts. He gave me the shears and told me to trim the other side. He waited to watch, but I didn’t do anything. I worried that as soon as I tried, I would do it the wrong way.
“I can do it by myself, Grandpa,” I said.
Grandpa tipped his hat with a wink and said he would come back to check on me. When he was gone, and when no one was looking, I lifted the big heavy shears and clipped at the jagged bristles sticking out of the bush.
I missed.
I clipped again. This time a big wad of green bits crunched between the blades. But they didn’t clip away. Instead, they jammed the blades together. I pulled and tugged and finally freed the shears. I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t trim the juniper the right way. I wanted to cry.
I leaned the big shears against the fence and ran into the house. I took a pair of regular scissors from the junk drawer in the kitchen and ran back out to the bush.
Snip. Snip. Snip.
Little bits and bristles fell to the ground.
Snip. Snip. Snip.
I took a step back to inspect my work. The porcupine pincushion looked flat and neat on my side.
Grandpa strolled back to the juniper. He watched me with the scissors and said, “That way will take all day.”
He picked up the big shears and I knew he was about to tell me: “No, do it this way.” But he stopped. He shouldered the big shears and looked at the side he had trimmed, then back at mine. After a minute, he lifted his cap, scratched his head, and laughed. “Your side looks better than mine.”
I gawked. “You mean my way isn’t wrong?”
“No ma’am. Your way works just fine.” Grandpa leveled the big shears at the juniper bush and said, “I’ll bet we can get this bush trimmed together in no time. You do it your way, and I’ll do it mine.”
I was so happy my way wasn’t wrong. Grandpa cut the really big and bristly branches and then I trimmed up all the pokey, prickly bits. We squared off all four sides in no time. The top of the juniper was too high for me to reach, so I showed Grandpa my little-scissor trimming techniques. For the most part, he did exactly what I showed him, but a few times he snipped in weird ways. I didn’t correct him though. His way might have been a little different, but it got the job done.
As I grew up I still learned from other people when they showed me new methods, but I realized the point is not always to imitate or copy cat. It is okay to do things just a little bit differently. Grandma’s cornbread was always so crispy golden good because she did it in her own, unique way. Missy’s dolls always had such beautiful hairstyles, and Dad never stripped a bolt, because their ways were different from anybody else’s. Being different is fine, which is why I figure out my own way of doing things.


God is with you always. Simply turn your face to Him.
~Kirpal Singh
Oh no! The moment the latch clicked, I knew I was in trouble. While owning a charter-fishing bed and breakfast business in Seldovia, Alaska often meant problems, nothing we had ever dealt with had been this frightening.
In 1986, in response to my urging, my husband Dave resigned from a job he disliked to do what he loved most—fish. We sold our home and most of our possessions, had a boat built and, having no income, and no insurance moved with our two children to a location accessible only by boat or by plane. Dave’s fishing business met with almost instant success. Clients soon learned to trust his knowledge of the sea and the sturdy craft he captained. Dave also knew where to find halibut, Alaska’s most sought-after fish. A stay-at-home mom, I cooked hearty meals and did whatever else was needed to keep our growing list of clients comfortable.
A few years into the business, we added freezing of halibut for our customers. When our two small freezers proved inadequate, we purchased a used 8’ x 16’ walk-in freezer from The Seldovia Native Association. That the older-model freezer had never been equipped with a safety door worried me not because its hinges were bad and the door required an extra shove in order to shut tight. I would go in and pull the door closed without letting it latch, so as not to waste electricity.
One spring, before opening our business for another season, we added foam insulation to the aging freezer. Dave tore its rotting door apart, reinsulated it and installed new hinges.
“This is going to be so nice,” I said, trying the latch, noting how smoothly the door worked.
We turned the freezer on the day before our first clients arrived. The next morning, following a hearty breakfast of pecan pancakes and reindeer sausage, I walked down to the boat with our clients and kissed my husband goodbye. Returning to the house, I cleaned up the kitchen and hurried out to the freezer to make sure all was ready for the fish Dave was sure to bring in. I stepped inside the freezer, turned on the light and pulled the door gently behind me as usual.
It latched! I had just shut myself in the freezer!
Maybe the door didn’t shut very tight.
Did I mention that I am an optimist? I pushed with both hands. Nothing.
Backing up, I ran at the door, shoving hard against it with my shoulder. The door refused to budge. Repeated slamming forced me to face reality. The temperature inside the freezer registered well below zero. Dressed for summer, I wore no gloves, no hat, not even a jacket to help keep me warm.
No one knew I was in there. Was I going to freeze to death?
Grabbing onto one of the heavy metal carts we use for packaging fish, I rammed it against the door, then backed up and rammed it again. My efforts proved futile. The new insulation no doubt muffled whatever sound I might make. Besides, our closest neighbors lived too far away to hear.
Pushing the cart away, I bowed my head and prayed aloud, “Lord, I know you love me. If I die, I know I will go to Heaven. But what is my husband going to do without me? We have all these charter trips planned. He will come and he won’t know where I am. Lord, I don’t know how I’m going to get out of this freezer. There is no way I can survive until five o’clock.”
Ice crystals brushed my cheeks as I closed my eyes. “God, you are my hope. If I ever needed a miracle, I need one now. If I can’t get out of this freezer, I’m coming to Heaven. I’m not afraid to die.”
Icy fingers of cold gripped my body. I shivered uncontrollably. How long did it take for one to freeze to death?
A gentle urging broke through the chill: Try the door one more time.
No problem. For as long as I could breathe I would keep pushing on that door.
Rather than back up and make a run for it. I placed both hands flat against the door and pushed. The door opened!
Stepping out into the warm sunshine, I began to cry. Raising my arms, feeling it’s heavenly warmth, I praised God and thanked him for saving my life. I then went in the house, grabbed the phone, and called in an order for equipment that would enable us to open the door from inside.
Sunday at church as I relayed my experience, a man who had worked for The Seldovia’s Native Association and had used the freezer for many years said, “Peggy, there is no way you can get out of that freezer from inside. That door cannot be opened from inside.”
“I know,” I said. “If God had not opened that door I would not be here today. It was a miracle from God and I thank Him!”

Secret Weapon of a Sleepy Working Mom

People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.
~Leo J. Burke
My husband and I had been sleeping champions. You know how some people love bacon, or traveling, or pets? That’s how we loved sleep. In our pre-kid years, we were known to sleep until noon on weekends. Our bed was an oasis of memory foam, the softest cotton sheets, a white noise machine nearby, and a cozy down comforter for cold nights.
Sleep. Was. Everything.
So, of course, when we began to discuss becoming parents, we reassured each other constantly.
It’ll just be hard those first few months.
We’ll tag team.
Most babies sleep through the night after four to six months.
It’ll be fine!
And then Baby Insomniac arrived — beautiful, bright-eyed, and not at all interested in sleep at any point, day or night.
At first, the pediatrician simply advised us that our infant’s days and nights were mixed up. He’d adjust soon. But when the mix-up was still going on at twelve months, then twenty-four months — yet there was no sign of a medical problem or bad sleep “habit” — the doctor eventually just shook his head and told us that perhaps our son was one of those rare babies who didn’t need as much sleep as “normal” babies. It happens, he said.
Yep, we were proud parents of a Baby Einstein, another person from history who notoriously didn’t need sleep. But here’s the thing: I really don’t think Einstein’s mother held down a fifty-plus-hours-a-week job at a fast-paced marketing agency. Because it wasn’t working out so well for me.
Our son was about six months old when I fell asleep for the first time in a client meeting. Thankfully, it was a teleconference, so the client didn’t actually see me nod off, and I had coworkers with me in the meeting who took over as I descended into sandman-land, virtually in mid-sentence. The only lasting impact was the coworkers’ chiding that continued for a week or so.
The next incident occurred on a business flight. It was a fairly short flight, and I was heading straight to a meeting once the plane landed. I had papers out on my lap, reviewing things in preparation for the meeting, when I feel into a deep sleep. The passenger next to me woke me up as everyone else was disembarking. My mouth was hanging open, I had an imprint of the seat in front of me on my forehead, confidential papers were scattered everywhere, and I basically had no idea where I was. Fun times.
In the coming months, I fell asleep in the middle of typing an e-mail. I fell asleep leaning against the office copier. (That hum, that warmth!) I yawned while the president of the company announced I’d gotten a raise.
But the worst incident happened during an in-person client meeting, one of those important meetings when a potential client is deciding whether or not to sign on with the agency — potentially leading to a huge chunk of change for my company. I was slated as the third person to speak during the presentation. But Baby Einstein hadn’t slept even an hour the night before, and as was often the case, the baby in question did not want Daddy — only Mama. Even with a triple shot of espresso, I was still in a bit of a daze.
As clients droned on about their needs for attentive account services, I willed my eyes to stay open. As our senior vice president vowed to provide a new energy to the client’s communications, I pinched my leg under the table to keep from dozing off. I jotted down incoherent notes, trying to stay focused. I swallowed yawns again and again, trying to hide it all with a mute smile.
But when it was my turn to speak, I’m not going to lie. There was drool.
I wasn’t even embarrassed — until I woke up to a strong shoulder nudging and a table full of client representatives looking at me in horror. At that point, it was quite possibly one of the most embarrassing moments of my career.
Colleagues were not amused. And we didn’t get the account.
After that, I knew a solution was needed, and stat. And since we could not in any way afford a night nanny, and drugging the kid was frowned upon, I had to think outside the box. Or outside the bed, so to speak.
My solution? During lunch, while other coworkers went to the gym, for a walk, or to the neighborhood restaurants for a quick meal, I headed away from the phone and e-mail and office chatter. And I slept. In my car.
That’s right. With an alarm set on my phone, I allowed myself to take a daily power nap in the reclined driver’s seat of a Dodge Durango, with no one to hear me snore, for forty-five minutes to an hour.
It was bliss. Short, sweet, close-my-eyes-and-check-out bliss.
It wasn’t a pretty solution — people often stared at me in the parking lot and several times someone knocked on my window to make sure I was indeed alive. And once I slept through my alarm.
But it was just enough to save my job and my sanity — until my son finally slept through the night at age three.

I Found Him

Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow.
~Dan Rather
I sat at a table, untouched drink in hand, near an exit sign in case I needed to make a speedy getaway. I had come to hear a man I’d recently met play in a band. Actually, this was the sixth time I had showed up some place where he was playing, hoping that we might actually go out on a date. I was fifty-six and he was sixty.
When mutual friends introduced us at one of his gigs, I showed up prepared to get his attention. Our friends had asked me if I’d like to meet a very nice guy—retired library director and jazz musician—and I said sure. (They had not asked him if he wanted to meet me. They thought that might have scared him off.)
I had been told, “He doesn’t talk. He’s very shy.” So I’d thought of at least ten good questions for conversation starters: How long have you played the clarinet? Do you play other instruments? Do you play in other places? My question strategy worked, and he did talk to me.
“Do you know much about jazz?” he asked.
“No,” I replied, truthfully. “But I’d like to learn.”
Smiling, he said, “I think I can help with that.”
Since he had answered my question about where else he played, I told him I’d try to catch the band at one of those places. He seemed pleased. So, I started showing up at his various gigs. He would always come to my table during his breaks. After the usual, “How are you?” we began to get acquainted. He actually seemed interested in learning more about me, asking about my childhood, my career, my interests.
He was very easy to talk to, and as the weeks went by, he seemed to relax and be more comfortable with our conversations. I learned that he had advanced degrees, including a PhD in French literature, so one evening I blurted out, “My daughter has a PhD in biological sciences from Carnegie Mellon.”
“Oh,” he said, grinning. “She’s a REAL doctor.”
After about a month of this I thought it was time we had a date. I couldn’t just keep stalking him in bars and restaurants. I knew he had not dated since his wife died three years earlier, and I had not dated since moving to Chicago the year before. Nor the year before that, nor the one before that, to be totally honest. Finding a husband wasn’t important to me—I was quite happy with my life—but I did think it would be nice to have a little romance in my life.
As the band went into their “break” tune, I started to get nervous. I slugged down a little of my drink, steadied my shaking hands, and told myself I could do this. I knew I’d have to be the one to broach the daunting subject of dating. If it goes badly, I thought, I’m near an exit and I can just shoot out of here.
Sure enough, when the guys put their instruments down to begin their break, he walked over to my table. Holding his usual glass of water (I felt a bit depraved with my vodka drink), he sat down. He’d brought me a CD his son had given him that he was sure I’d like. It was Norah Jones’s first album. I was pleased at his choice.
We talked a while as usual before I decided it was now or never. I said to him, “Does your band play every night?” knowing full well that they didn’t.
He said, “No, not every night.”
I plunged ahead. “Do you eat dinner every night?”
He looked a bit puzzled but said slowly, “Yes . . .”
I took a deep breath and asked, “So on one of those nights that you’re not playing but you are eating dinner, do you think we might have dinner together?”
Holding my breath, I was prepared to bolt. Before I could even break into a sweat, he reached into his pocket and whipped out his PDA, looked up and said, “I’m free Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday next week. Which night’s best for you?”
This nerve-wracking evening was ten years ago. We’ve now been happily married for nine years. Oh, and last year for our anniversary, he wrote a song for me. He called it, “She Found Me.”

воскресенье, 23 марта 2014 г.

I Don’t Date

Well, it was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together . . . and I knew it.
~Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle
He pulled up to the curb in a red VW bug all smiles, obviously unaware that I was not dating. I clenched my jaw and knew instantly what was happening. A blind date (or as I now call it: a deaf, dumb, and blind date) set up by my well-meaning friends, without my permission.
“It’s just dinner, Lori,” my girlfriend whispered. “It will be fun and you could use some fun.” She continued out loud now: “Everyone, this is Bob.”
Well, I was not in the mood for any fun. Recently divorced, a single mom to a sick two-year-old and working two jobs left me little time or energy to go out with friends, much less date. I was tired and bitter. The last thing I wanted right now was to spend time with this happy stranger in the red VW.
Halfway through the evening Bob leaned over and asked, “Do you want me to give you a ride home? I know that you don’t really want to be here.”
“It’s not personal,” I replied. “I just don’t date right now. I live more than an hour from here and my girlfriend is supposed to take me home.”
“Grab your purse,” he smiled. “Let’s go.”
Bob and I talked and laughed all the way home. I shared my story so easily with him. The details came out so naturally it surprised me. I explained my failed marriage as well as my daughter Missy’s illness. At one point I choked up as I shared the pain that I felt and how scared I was to do this all on my own now. Bob was so easy to talk to. Before I knew it we pulled up to my curb.
As I got out of the red VW Bob said, “Hey, maybe I could take you and your daughter to SeaWorld sometime.” He laughed, “It doesn’t look right for a grown man to go without a kid or something. It wouldn’t be a date,” he reasoned. “Just SeaWorld.”
I hesitated. “Maybe. Can I think about it?”
The truth was there was no way that I could afford to take my daughter to SeaWorld. I was working as a dental assistant in the daytime and waited tables at night. The bills were piling up and I was barely making it.
“Yeah, maybe.” I nodded. “That might be fun and thank you so much for the ride.”
Over the next six months, Bob, Missy, and I went to every theme park imaginable. We shared meals that always included a toy. He would spend hours on my living room floor playing with Missy and the little neighborhood girls. The kids would giggle as they called Bob “Ken,” grabbed their Barbies, and dressed them for adventure.
One afternoon I pulled into my driveway and noticed the red VW at the curb. I walked around the house and there was Bob mowing my lawn with that that big wide smile.
“I hope you don’t mind but I noticed your grass could use a trim the last time that I was here.” He went on. “Maybe some water too. I hope it’s okay with you.”
“It’s okay, thanks,” I replied. My hardened heart was starting to soften.
One evening as I cleaned my kitchen I caught a glimpse of Bob and Missy in the living room. They were walking around with pillows on their heads. I laughed, “What in the world are you doing?”
The pillow fell off his head. Missy shouted, “Bob and I are models! We are practicing walking with pillows on our heads.” Bob’s face turned bright red.
That evening, before Bob went home, I asked him if he would like to go out for a real meal, one that didn’t come with a toy.
“What will Missy do?” he asked.
“I just thought maybe my mom could watch her sometime and we could go to dinner, maybe a movie too,” I replied. “You and me.”
“Wait a minute. I thought you didn’t date!” he teased. “That sounds like a date to me!”
The happy stranger in the red VW won my daughter’s heart, and then he won mine.
Happy 25th anniversary, Bob!

Blue Waffles

If we’re not willing to settle for junk living, we certainly shouldn’t settle for junk food.
~Sally Edwards
We’re a busy family, but what family isn’t? My husband and I both work full-time outside of the home. Our two daughters are involved in softball, golf, basketball, theater, orchestra and church activities in addition to their schooling. They both volunteer with animals and missions and enjoy fun hobbies like swimming, running and reading.
But we’ve always strived to have dinner together. Unfortunately, that dinner was often called something like “Number Three Value Meal” and was eaten from a paper bag in front of the television as we all collapsed from our busy days. As much as I wanted to cook dinner for my family, I knew that I wouldn’t have time, or I’d spend a great deal of energy making something that would not be pleasing to everyone.
“I’ve got an idea,” I announced one Saturday as I sat down to make out our weekly grocery list. “What if each of you — even Daddy — took one day to fix dinner? Anything you want. You tell me what day you want and what you want to fix, and I’ll make sure that we have all the groceries you need.”
My ever-supportive husband jumped right in and said he’d take Friday nights. This week, he’d fix sausage casserole, his favorite meal.
Our daughters were a bit more reluctant. My older daughter voiced her concerns first. “You are sure we can fix anything we want?”
I nodded my head.
“Anything at all?” her sister clarified.
“Anything at all.”
“Even blue waffles?” my older daughter asked. Blue waffles? I wasn’t sure that I had even heard of blue waffles. “I guess,” I said tentatively.
“I’m in,” my older daughter agreed. “And this week, I want to make blue waffles, fried chicken and scrambled eggs.”
I nodded and wrote down her menu.
The night before she was to cook, my husband asked me, “What are blue waffles?” Honestly, I had no idea what blue waffles were, but I was willing to let my daughter make them in order for us to gain more quality family time and to give myself a break from the kitchen.
When her day to cook dinner arrived, my older daughter asked me if I had a recipe for blue waffles. I confessed that I didn’t even know what blue waffles were.
“They are just waffles that are blue,” she answered. I handed her the waffle recipe and the blue food coloring.
Since that meal, our daughters have turned out some mighty delicious pans of enchiladas, a great Italian quiche, homemade pizza and an awesome grilled steak salad. I did nix the pepperoni and oatmeal casserole — we’re not that adventuresome!
More importantly, we have a great time gathering as a family in the kitchen to assist the cook of the night, and we have come to appreciate being together at mealtime.
I’m no longer stressed about providing a good meal every night, our daughters are contributing to our household, and they’re learning some delicious culinary skills.
We all sit down together at the table to talk to each other about our days, and we’ve all learned to appreciate the effort it takes to put together a meal. We’ve also learned to appreciate blue waffles — they’ve become a staple in our meal rotation.