Friday, April 21, 2017

Everyone Needs a Lift Sometimes

Today I bought a lift chair.

I’ve been preparing for my upcoming joint replacement surgeries: one shoulder, two knees and, most likely, a new ankle—all before the year’s end. Jeff and I rearranged the TV room, removing a chair and an end table in order to fit my new used stationary bike (for recovery) and my new used lift chair (for recovery from doing the stationary bike).

I had a lift chair once before, following six weeks in the intensive care unit after Clare’s dramatic and near-fatal birth. It was probably the ugliest chair I’d ever had in my possession, boasting an outdated maroon print the likes of which I’d never choose for normal furniture. But damn, I loved that chair. After awaking from a 14-to-16-hour sleep, I would, with Jeff's help, maneuver from the hospital bed in our bedroom to the living room, where I would park my broken ass in that blessed lift chair for a couple hours until I was exhausted and ready for more sleep. But the funny thing was, no matter how high the lift chair would raise me toward being upright, I still needed Jeff to boost me those last five inches to standing. When we finally got rid of that chair, I felt I had accomplished a feat greater than any of the marathons I’d run in the past. I had graduated from needing a lift, so to speak, fully capable of standing by myself.

My new lift chair is, thankfully, not as ugly as the first one. And, being used, I found it on Craigslist for a mere $50. Which is about 1/10th of what I would’ve spent if I’d bought it new. My husband and I were set to pick it up yesterday, but the seller got busy with something else and said he had to cancel. Then my husband left town for a weeklong business trip early this morning, so the seller offered to deliver the chair to my home all the way from its current location 45 minutes away. At first, I was thrilled because these things are heavy as hell and I’m not exactly in lift-chair-lifting shape (see: joint replacements, above), and I really, REALLY wanted to get my in-home recovery area set up well in advance of my first joint replacement surgery on May 9th.

I thought about the seller’s offer to bring the chair right to my home. And then I thought about a new client of mine, a real go-getter of a woman whose only hint of past trauma is the substantial scar peeking out from her neckline. Twenty-four years ago, my client tried selling her car on Craigslist and wound up with a serial killer—a literal serial killer—coming to her home, purportedly to check out the car. At night. In the rain. My client sustained a broken neck and multiple stab wounds before a neighbor heard her screaming and called 911. (My client’s attacker was later caught and charged with the deaths of several other young women and is now serving life in prison.)

So let’s just say I was a bit nervous about having a stranger deliver a used chair to my home. I tried reading into the seller’s text messages. His two young daughters were mentioned. His mother was mentioned. His work and class schedules were mentioned.  All details that indicated he wasn’t a serial killer. Then again, anyone can lie in a text, right?

But I really wanted that chair, wanted to cross one more item off my pre-surgery to-do list. So I said I’d be delighted to have him deliver it. And then I made sure someone was here with me. And I kept RuPaul home from doggie daycare—not that poodles are known for their prowess as bodyguards, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to have a (not so) menacing dog in my presence.

The seller—Jay—arrived this afternoon with the lift chair in the back of his run-down pickup truck. He walked with a limp, but was strong enough to handle the chair with the help of a neighbor of mine. And then, as I am wont to do, I started asking him questions about his need for the chair. What can I say? I believe everyone has a story and I was curious about his. In other words, I’m nosey.

At 30 years old, Jay began experiencing searing pain in one of his hips. He reported the pain to a doctor, who recommended an MRI. But Jay had no health insurance and couldn’t afford the MRI, so his doctor loaded him up with opioid prescriptions and sent him on his way.

More of Jay’s joints began to deteriorate and his level of pain continued to increase, as did his dependency on the pain medications. When he realized he had a problem with addiction, he worked hard to get off the meds before turning to alcohol for escape.

“Alcohol ruined my life,” he said, humbly. No whining, just a deep sadness within his voice.

“When Obamacare came along, I was finally able to get the surgeries I needed,” Jay said. To date, he has had total joint replacements in both shoulders, both knees and both hips. He still has deep pain in his hips, and his ankles are shot too. I asked if ankle replacements were coming.

“No,” he said, somewhat resigned. “The next stop for me is a wheelchair.”

Jay is only 34 years old. My heart broke when he told me this.

I paid Jay twice the price he was asking for the chair, thanking him profusely for delivering it.

And now, I’m sitting in Jay’s chair—my new used lift chair—with a greater appreciation for the hardships that so many people face, day in, day out, often with no sign of relief on the horizon. Ordinary people with extraordinary challenges. 

Despite the surgery-palooza that I'm in the midst of (1 down, 4 to go), I'm feeling pretty darn grateful about my own situation, about the people in my life who have offered support as I continue my own journey back to mobility and a less painful daily existence. 

And I’m hopeful that one day I can offer assistance to people like Jay, people who are struggling with their own medical burdens. 

Because everyone needs a lift sometimes.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

I've Been Zeked!

In the fifth grade, a new girl moved to my hometown of Wenonah, New Jersey. She was tall, like me. She was goofy, like me. She had a pool, unlike me. We were instant BFFs.

Throughout middle school and high school, Mischelle—whose name was misspelled her entire life until she decided to go by “Shelly,”—and I became fairly inseparable. Except, like, that time I told her I’d be over in ten minutes to pick her up for the mall and I completely spaced and went without her. (My mother ended up driving her there when she learned from Shelly that I’d forgotten her.)

After graduating from my MBA program back in (cough, cough, mumble, mumble), I decided to spend the summer before my job started traveling the country to visit friends. I met up with Shelly and her fiancĂ©, Matt, at her parents’ home in Wenonah. After a few days there, we caravanned in two cars to Shelly and Matt’s apartment in Durham, North Carolina. At one point during the drive, Shelly and Matt pulled off the road even though we’d just had a rest stop. I pulled off too and asked them what was up. 

“Weird noise in the back of the car,” Shelly said. “I’m guessing Dad is behind this.”

Sure enough, when we opened their hatchback and unzipped one of their larger suitcases, there was a wind-up alarm clock nestled into their dirty clothes, still making a muffled clanging noise. And next to the clock was this little gem—the head of Zeke, a homemade ragdoll Shelly’s grandmother had sewn back when Shelly was still Mischelle. Time had not been kind to Zeke and he was missing his felt hat, one eye and entire body. 

“What the hell?” I said, as Shelly and Matt laughed.

“We’ve been Zeked!” Shelly exclaimed. 

She then gave me the background on this odd little doll head, telling me how Zeke had lost bits of himself over the years until one day he was nothing more than a bald one-eyed head. As kids, Shelly or one of her two sisters would often discover Zeke’s head tucked into their coat pockets—a favorite prank of their parents, who hoped to give their daughters a bit of levity on their walk to school.

I spent a week or so with Shelly and Matt in North Carolina, doing long training runs for my first marathon and lounging by the apartment complex’s pool all day while they were at work. We got into the routine of “Zeking” each other. I floated Zeke on a Tupperware lid in their toilet and shut the lid. The next morning, I awoke after they were already gone, but I found Zeke in the toe of one of my running shoes. Shortly after we went to bed one evening, I heard laughter from their bedroom. Clearly, they had just discovered Zeke tacked to the ceiling over their bed.

When I left Shelly and Matt’s to drive to New York for my new job, I stole Zeke. (Wouldn’t you?) When Shelly called me a few days later to accuse me of theft, I had my story ready. I told her I had put Zeke in an empty bag of Goldfish crackers on top of the refrigerator as my farewell Zeking. Neither could find the bag (because I’d already thrown it out), so they assumed they’d accidentally tossed it. Sadly, Zeke was gone for good. So they thought. 
Shelly and Matt’s wedding was scheduled for several months later. In speaking about the details with her a few weeks before the big event, she mentioned that they would be honeymooning in Aruba, but given the mischievous tendencies of Matt’s friends, they weren’t telling anyone where they would be staying.  

I expressed concern about no one knowing their whereabouts and promised to keep it a secret if she told me, that I’d feel better knowing that at least one of us knew where to find them in the unlikely event of an emergency. Shelly acquiesced and gave me the name of the resort. 

The day Shelly and Matt left for Aruba, I was giddy with joy over the devious plan I had hatched with the staff at their hotel. I had FedEx-ed a small box to the concierge so she could have it waiting in their room upon arrival. Zeke was tucked safely inside and the lid of the box was inscribed with a little rhyme: 

                          You tried to keep it a secret, 
                          But the locale of your honeymoon leaked.
                          Then a mysterious box arrives in your room.
                          Hey, honeymooners—you've been Zeked!

Remember, this was pre-email-and-texting days, and international telephone rates were high, so I wasn't surprised when I didn't hear from Shelly that day (though in hindsight, I'm sure she'd been dying to call me given the sheer awesomeness of this particular Zeking). Unbeknownst to me, she had her own plans.  When Shelly and Matt returned home, I phoned her immediately. 

"Well?!" I said, exasperated. 

"Well, what?" she replied, giving an Oscar-worthy performance of feigned ignorance.

When I asked her to detail every moment upon arriving at the hotel, she told me they had reserved a nice suite, but when they opened the door to their room the smell of cigarettes was so overpowering, they shut the door and demanded different accommodations. They never even set foot inside their original room according to her. I was crestfallen. And Shelly had me completely fooled. Now it was I who thought Zeke was lost for good. 

Two months later, my boyfriend decided it was time I met his parents. We both flew to Albuquerque, where we rented a car and drove to his folks’ home in Los Alamos, arriving after midnight. His mother had waited up for us and after an introductory hug, she immediately guided me to the Christmas tree to admire it. Ok, a tad weird, but what the hell. I admired the tree. But one compliment wasn’t enough apparently, and she insisted I continue to take in the tree’s beauty, her hands on my shoulders as if to hold me in place. I complied. And then--I screamed. 

Right in front of me, in a glistening hand-blown bulb, was Zeke, staring out at me through his glass confines. Shelly's dad had taken up glass blowing and she had obviously decided to put his talents to good use. Well done, Shelly. Well. Done. 

It took me years to bring myself to smash the bulb, freeing Zeke from his glass prison, but as they say in show-biz: the Zeke must go on! (or something like that). And what better time to do so than the occasion of Shelly’s first pregnancy. 

I was living in Los Angeles by then and had a good pal who worked in character licensing at Disney (read: had access to more Disney-character crap than should be legal). I bummed a half dozen miniature Winnie-the Pooh stuffed animals from her, as Shelly had already told me the baby's nursery would be decorated in Pooh motif. I then savagely cut off the face of one of the mini-Poohs, inserting Zeke in the gaping hole and stitching him in place, in effect creating a sort of FrankenPooh—cuddly body, creepy face. I stacked the Poohs in a tight box, three facing up, three facing down. FrankenPooh was facing down. I giftwrapped the box and mailed it to Shelly’s parents’ home, where she and Matt would be spending the holidays. Then, I waited. 

Unable to sleep for long stretches at that point in her pregnancy, Shelly woke up early on Christmas morning and sat in the living room killing time until the rest of the family got around. She scanned the gifts under the tree and found mine. Seeing no harm in opening a non-family gift without the rest of the gang present, she opened the package. And then--she screamed. Suffice it to say, the rest of the family was now wide awake as well. 

Um, thanks for the hat?
As the Zekings increased over the years, so too did the level of creativity involved. Zeke had been stowed inside a thick book entitled, appropriately, Zeke (the pages within having been carved out to fit his head), sewn onto a hat that was presented to me at a class reunion, and even baked into cranberry bread (a feat which required constantly pushing his head back to the bottom of the bread pan with a fork throughout the baking process, as it kept rising to the surface). 

Not even a death in the family was reason enough to put the Zeke-centric shenanigans on hold. Shortly after Shelly left town following my step-dad's memorial service, I found Zeke lurking in my refrigerator. 

Perhaps the greatest Zekecomplishment came to fruition the day Jeff and I picked up the developed photos from the thirty or so disposable cameras we’d left on the tables at our wedding reception—again, we’re talking pre-smart-phone-camera days. 

Aside from the 40 or so throw-away pictures of the ground and the sky that my four-year-old nephew had taken, there were loads of nice shots of our friends and family members. 

We flipped through hundreds of photos until we got to them—the photos of various wedding guests, each holding or kissing or cuddling Zeke. One of Zeke at the hors d’oeuvres table. One of Zeke at the urinal in the restroom. Even one of Zeke hovering over Jeff’s and my heads as we cut the nontraditional wedding pie!  

I still have no idea how Shelly pulled that one off, bringing Zeke to my own wedding without my knowledge. I'm perhaps even more impressed that none of my friends ruined the surprise. I tend to hang out with people who are as incapable of keeping a secret as I am. Bravo!

Me and Shelly's Mini-Me, Mary
When Shelly’s second child stayed with us last summer during a post-college road trip, I accused her of having Zeke with her, as surely her mother had put her up to something and we’d find him in the cupboards or dirty laundry when she left. 

I was on high alert for days after she departed, certain I’d discover him hiding in the next drawer I opened. But Zeke never materialized. 

Recently, I was thrilled to learn that Shelly and Matt themselves would be visiting. 

They showed up for a couple days last week, a stopover on a road trip from Utah back to North Carolina. I threatened Shelly that Zeke had better not be in her luggage. She swore he wasn’t with her. And she was telling the truth. Sort of.

Two days after she and Matt left, a box arrived in the mail. It was addressed to me, though now that the dog has a monthly subscription to Bark Box, he believes every package that shows up is for him. 

I tend to do a lot of online shopping, so boxes arriving are commonplace. I opened it thinking it contained vitamins or books, two things I order online with regularity. Nope. It was a red water bottle, the type I don’t use. I wondered if Amazon had made an error. I handed the bottle to my daughter, figuring she could have it. She unscrewed the lid and then--she screamed. (Are you seeing a pattern here?) Tucked inside the bottle was, of course, Zeke. 

And so the burden of Zeking Shelly rests at my feet once more, and I take this responsibility with great pleasure. Ideas? Send ‘em my way! 

And down the road, when my body is old and giving out, I will likely request an open-casket viewing at my own funeral...just to give my childhood BFF the opportunity to pull off the ultimate Zeking: tucking a creepy little doll head into my cold dead hands. I mean, come on—what are friends for, right? 

Zeke Buddies for Life

Saturday, March 25, 2017


Something happened five months ago and I still can’t shake it. And I still haven’t resolved it. Not to my satisfaction anyway.

A newer local friend of my daughter’s—let’s call her Jane for the sake of anonymity—told her she should connect with a summer camp pal of hers through Snapchat because “he’s really cool.”

Mr. Cool—let’s call him Dick—lives in an affluent town in central New Jersey and had been going to the same summer camp as Jane for several years.

My daughter, who’s outgoing and goofy and loves meeting people from all over, asked me what I thought. I said, “Wouldn’t be something I’d recommend since you don’t know him. On the other hand, he’s a friend of Jane’s, and she’s nice so it probably wouldn’t be a problem.”

Big Motherhood Mistake #1: Ignoring your own rule about your kid connecting online with people she doesn’t know. I’d made that rule when Clare was much younger and needed greater guidance with online activity. At 16, I figured she could make that call. Plus, he was a friend of a friend. Stupid me.

Clare accepted Dick's request to connect on Snapchat. Then they, well, chatted. Simple stuff, pretty benign. She read most of their exchange to me as it was unfolding—admittedly, with me rolling my eyes inside because I could think of about a thousand things I’d rather do than carry on an inane conversation with someone I didn’t know, like read a book, clean the refrigerator, or stick a knitting needle through my eye.

Eventually, the conversation wound down and Dick sent a message something along the lines of “I’m bored.” Clare read that one to me and I repeated my oft-expressed belief that only boring people get bored. She messaged back to Dick, with the slightest touch of irreverence, that maybe he ought to download a new video game if he’s bored and “might I suggest one of my favorites, Plants vs. Zombies?”

His reply? Send me some nude pictures of yourself.

Seriously, dude? This is your idea of wooing a girl? What kind of warped mind is in that pea-brained head of yours, anyway?

Jeff and I had already had this discussion with Clare before—the one about never sending nudes and never being coerced into doing something you don’t want to do, and how asshats who pressure you to do something unscrupulous or unsafe are just that: asshats. And no one likes hanging out with asshats.

I knew Clare wouldn’t allow herself to be pressured into complying with Dick's demand, but she asked my advice on how to reply. I suggested she drop the conversation and ignore him. She did.

Apparently, Dick—ah screw it; let’s just call him Asshat, shall we?—doesn’t like being ignored.

The next morning, Asshat sent an ugly follow-up message. And the thing about Snapchat is, unless the recipient quickly captures a screenshot, the message disappears in a matter of seconds after being opened. But the thing about Clare is, she has a quick mind and quicker fingers. She grabbed a screenshot. Here’s what this little d-bag from my home state had to say (with the real name of "Jane" whited-out):

Clare ignored the message, but Asshat couldn’t leave well enough alone. Twenty-one minutes later he sent another Snapchat to her:

Wow. Just fucking wow.

I was volunteering at school that day, so Clare found me in the office of her theater instructor and showed me the screenshots of Asshat’s messages, seeking guidance on how to deal with them. I told her to immediately block him from her Snapchat account. She already had (smart girl).

Clare had also already approached her friend Jane and showed her the messages, telling her that she planned to address the issue because Asshat’s remarks were nasty, uncalled for, and bordering on verbal assault. Jane apologized, but then begged Clare to “just drop it,” stating that Asshat was an important friend to Jane and she couldn’t stand the thought of losing him. WTF?!  

Clare’s theater teacher, a kind-hearted and easy-going mid-westerner, was also in the office with us, and to say he was pissed about Asshat’s behavior was an understatement. He suggested we meet with the high school’s assigned police officer to get input on how best to handle the situation. In my mind, Asshat didn’t need to be arrested, but did need a parental intervention lest he grow up to be an adult asshat, or worse. Sometimes, as kids—or even as adults—just being confronted about our stupid shit is enough to prevent us from repeating it.

We set up an appointment with the on-campus cop to review all the details of what had occurred in the last 24 hours. It was extremely helpful and we learned several things:

(1) Asshat’s messages, while vile, are not illegal.
(2) Asshat is a “predator”—this is the term used by the police officer, who had seen more of this sort of ugly bullying bullshit than he cared to. 
(3) If Asshat moved so quickly to demanding nudes from my daughter, then it’s fairly certain he’s doing the same with other girls. And if he was quick to become a bullying d-bag when Clare wouldn’t comply, it’s fairly certain he’s responding the same way to other non-complying girls.
(4) If left unchecked, Asshat will likely assume he can continue getting away with this douchebaggary. And at some point, the thrill of online verbal abuse would wear off and he might want to take his dickishness up a notch. So what comes next? It’s a slippery slope, this propensity to denigrate others.   
(5) If we confront him via his parents (I’d already done a bit of googling and know his parents’ names, address, occupations, and phone numbers.), there is a slight chance of retribution by Asshat—or hell, even by his parents. After all, we don’t know much about this little prick—or his parents—beyond the basic details.
(6) We should contact Jane’s parents and let them know that their daughter is communicating with a predator. For her safety.
(7) Clare should not communicate directly with Asshat in the future. (No chance of that, My kid prefers kind people.)

It was a lot to take in and both Clare and I left unsure of our next steps.

And now, it’s five months later and this little creepozoid still pops into my mind here and there. Because I never contacted his parents. Because I allowed fear to keep me rooted in non-action. Because I want to believe the best in others, yet have been around long enough to know that not everyone is a basically decent person. Some people are simply messed up, mean, cruel, violent and dangerous. Because I don’t want to take the chance that this kid could be the type to seek revenge on my daughter.

What would you do? I genuinely want to know. Because I don’t know.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Unfinished Portraits

There was a woman. 

Her name was Eileen.

Duke by Eileen Potts Dawson
She sent me an unsolicited portrait of my sweet four-legged boy, Duke, shortly after his passing two years ago this month (see: The Kindness of Strangers). 

No request for money. Not even reimbursement for the matting or postage to ship it to me. 

Her only motivation: make the world a better place by sharing her art. 

Eileen’s art consisted of countless pet portraits that managed to capture each subject’s unique trait—their imploring eyes, that crooked smile, whatever it was that made each of them so loveable to their humans. 

Months after hanging Duke’s portrait in our home, our ornery rescue Dachshund, Jack, equal parts decrepit and endearing, passed. Without Duke as his guide dog, our blind, deaf and incontinent little guy had lost his way. And by way I mean marbles.

We gave Jack the best transition to the Great Beyond that we could: a five-egg cheese omelet, a fireside nap despite August temperatures in the 80s, and a home-visit from the Dr. Kevorkian of the pet world, Home to Heaven, who, with great tenderness and compassion, helped him cross the portal into life’s next big adventure.  

A week or so later, another unsolicited portrait by Eileen arrived. Jack—sans cataracts—looking every bit the 12-pound badass that he was.

Jack-Jack by Eileen Potts Dawson

Eileen and I developed a friendship, albeit from a distance. I sent her clients for her art. She sent me edits for my latest novel manuscript that features a dog as its protagonist (and even gave me a much better title, which I’ve since adopted). We both sent each other comedic election memes that kept us laughing instead of crying over the political climate of our country. And inspiring dog rescue videos when the political memes weren't enough.

Not All Projects Come to Completion
In December, when the Great Dane belonging to family friends passed away, I sent Eileen a check and a photo and asked her to work her magic. Because Eileen had already gifted me two portraits, I insisted she accept payment for this one. 

A month later, when the check still hadn’t been cashed, I emailed her, playfully chiding her for being so stubborn about accepting payment. The response I got stunned me.

"The truth is I'm not doing so well. Rose will be here on the 12th and I'm hoping she will get me going so I can do one more portrait."

Eileen had already shared her recent ALS diagnosis with me and I knew she’d left her 9-to-5 with the Madison public school system to focus on health. But it never occurred to me how swiftly ALS could fuck a person up. I insisted she forget about the portrait for my friends, but she said it brought her joy to do her art and so she was hoping she could complete this one for me.

A couple weeks later, Eileen’s sister, Rose, with whom I’d also become online friends, flew to Wisconsin to help her. She found Eileen so weak she had to be carried from her bed to her couch and back to her bed each day. She could no longer speak at all. With Rose's encouragement, Eileen managed to eat one piece of bacon and a bit of baby food—the most she’d eaten in days. 

Twenty-four hours later, Valentine’s Day, Eileen was gone.

It didn’t take long before people began posting their pets’ portraits, compliments of Eileen, on her Facebook page, a makeshift memorial to a talented artist and a generous soul.

It’s likely that Eileen donated and gifted more portraits than she sold because her heart was far stronger than her capitalistic instincts. If she was touched by the story of a cat or dog—usually a rescue animal—she poured that emotion into her art. And then sent that art to the humans associated with each portrait subject, regardless of whether or not she knew them.

I believe this was Eileen’s way of confirming that these pets had touched more lives than their humans knew.

And by doing what she did best—sharing her talent and compassion with the world—Eileen herself touched more lives than she knew.

You will be missed, friend. Woof!

Eileen Potts Dawson
1947 - 2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nice Balls!

I was sitting at lunch today with the kid, who’s not quite 17, has gorgeous hair down to her butt and is still as concerned about people being kind to one another as she was back in preschool.

At the table behind us were three college guys. One of said college guys was bragging about how he loves to cat-call girls and laughing about the fact that they get so mad about it. He even went so far as to say women like being cat-called and that their complaints are phony. One of his friends tried to argue with him, but Cat-caller was having none of it.

“It’s a compliment to yell ‘nice tits!’ to a chick,” he added.

Clare had stopped eating so she could focus more on eavesdropping (weird how that works – the inability to both eat and eavesdrop at the same time).

“Mom, that’s bullshit,” she whispered to me.

“Yep,” I replied. “Dude’s a bit of a douche.”

“What he’s saying contributes to the rape culture.”


“I want to say something to him.”

“Go for it.”

The guys all rose to bus their table. When Cat-caller walked past us, Clare sat up straighter and said, “Excuse me.”

Cat-caller turned around, looking a tad surprised.

“What you were saying just then—about cat-calling women. I have to tell you that I disagree with you. In fact, I get kind of scared when men yell stuff at me about my body.”

Clare had begun to tear up so I jumped in to add my two cents.

“It’d be like me yelling, ‘Nice balls!’ at you,” I said, staring at his crotch for added impact.

Okay, admittedly not as diplomatic as Clare’s approach. Need I remind you that I am originally from New Jersey, while Clare grew up in Boulder? Thus, our communication styles on sensitive issues can be quite different.

Cat-caller blushed. Looked really embarrassed, uncomfortable even.

“When you cat-call women it contributes to the rape culture in this country,” Clare added, finding her voice again.

Cat-caller was, mercifully, rendered speechless.  And then he did something quite unexpected. He apologized.

“I appreciate that,” Clare said.

Cat-caller and Friend #1 walked out. Friend #2, the guy who had argued with Cat-caller about his warped views on verbal harassment, stayed behind. Slowly, almost deferentially, he approached Clare, his gaze lowered a bit, hands tucked in the front pockets of his jeans.

“Can I ask you a question?” he said to my daughter.

“Sure,” she replied.

“So if I said to you, ‘you have really nice hair,’ would that be okay?” There was nothing sarcastic or caustic in his tone. Just a genuinely honest question.

“Yes it would,” Clare said, “because that’s a nice compliment.”

“Ok, thanks,” Friend #2 said. “Because I think you have really nice hair.” And then he slipped away to catch up with his pals. I watched them all pile into an SUV and drive away.

“Well done,” I said to Clare, giving her a fist-bump. “You handled that beautifully. Didn't even lose your cool.”

“Well, when you’re trying to change someone’s perspective, yelling or being rude doesn’t really seem to work.”

“Good observation,” I said, feeling a bit guilty about that Twitter account I recently opened for the sole purpose of letting a certain someone in the White House know how I feel about him at least five times a day. Sometimes, closer to ten.

“What do you want to bet those three guys are talking about us right now?” Clare said, smiling.

“Pretty sure they are, honey. You gave them something to think about. And that’s a good thing.”

This girl. She makes her mama proud. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
Download a PDF of the first 4 chapters of Lauren's memoir, Zuzu's Petals: A True Story of Second Chances, free.  Click here and go to the link below the "Buy the Book" button.  Zuzu's Petals is also available on Kindle and Nook.  Hardcover signed and inscribed copies are available at Happy reading!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Few of Her Favorite Things (APIWATWOL #10)

#10 in my "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words Or Less" series. (For a description of how this series works, see Installment #1.)
The Video Station: Mom's Home Away From Home
For Mom's birthday three years ago, my sibs and I decided to treat her to some of her favorite things. And Mom has definite opinions about what constitutes her favorite things. And Mom is very loyal to her favorite things.

Among these favorite things are:
     (1) Video Station (DVD rentals, great recommendations and fun conversation),
     (2) The Rio (Great margaritas, passable food and fun--probably due to great margaritas),    
     (3) Ozo (Great coffee, nice baristas and the place she always meets up with her pal, Anita)
     (4) Big-screen Movies (because sometimes you just can't wait for the DVD release)

With my sibs all living out of state, I volunteered to drive around and get gift cards for Mom from all of us. At each stop, I asked the folks working there to also wish my mom a happy birthday, the photos from which would be made into a giant card.

Over the years I've learned that Mom isn't big on surprises. (Case in point: even when traveling, she likes to know in advance exactly what size bed she'll find in her hotel room. Queens only. No doubles. No kings. I'm not kidding.)

But I've learned that some surprises are okay, such as, say, being serenaded. So I rewrote the lyrics to "My Favorite Things" for the waitstaff at The Rio to sing to Mom when Clare and I took her there to celebrate on the big day. And sing they did! (Based on their performance, I suspect some of them may've dipped into their renowned margos beforehand.)

“My Favorite Things”
The Loretta Version
(Original Score from The Sound of Muzak)
"Happy Birthday, Loretta!" (Now can we get back to work?)

Lattes at Ozo with my pal, Anita
The Rio with Clare and a cold margarita
That stack of more napkins that Blake always brings
These are a few of my favorite things!

DVDs and wine with the local Larsen Clan
Dinner and the big screen with my good bud-dy, Nan
The praises of movies that Bruce often sings
These are a few of my favorite things!

When the news bites...
When it's too hot...
When I'm feeling sad...
I simply cash in on the gift cards I got
And then I don't bad!

When we got home, we gave Mom another gift (below) with a card that read: Today's your birthday and we should do special birthday things like eat pie and swear.  And so we did...
Nothing says "Happy Birthday" like pie and swearing.  

If you haven't figured it out by now, we are not a normal family.