When I Dreamed of Working From Home, This Isn’t Quite What I Had in Mind

I just attended my first online church service. The sense of community was as strong as ever, although the congregation experienced each other’s presence as words on screen in the comments column rather than handshakes of greeting in the pews. To me, it was every bit as comforting as a live service, and good to feel the virtual presence of “church family.” As usual, our pastor came through with a message of love, kindness, common sense and respect for science, that comes from the brains God gave us, to think and take care of one another.

So, first, gratitude. For health care workers on the front lines, and for everyone doing their part by practicing “social distancing,” hand washing and taking care of themselves, which in turns reduces the risk to others.

Gratitude that, although Angelic daughter is tired and sleeping a lot, she’s ok. I think the sleep is a manifestation of her exceptional emotional radar – she picks up on the anxious vibes, and how they come from worries about illness.  That goes straight to the core of her grief and worry – if Dad got sick and died, and now lots of other people are getting sick, what’s going to happen to Mom and me? Are my Uncles and my friends and my pastor and my church family OK?

I’m trying to be a source of calm for her.  I’m OK, so far. I’m allowed to work from home starting tomorrow. I filled the freezer two or three weeks ago, stowed bins of canned and dry goods and some olive oil over the last week. I already had enough toilet paper stashed to give some away to a home in need. I keep hand sanitizer around the house anyway. I keep reminding myself to be careful, not to cut or sprain anything, because the ER won’t have room for me right now.

Then I get on Facebook and see local bars and restaurants urging people to come out for St. Patrick’s Day and making unsupported claims about alcohol and coronavirus.

What fresh hell is this? What madness, what impenetrable level of science denial, could possibly be behind people actually encouraging others to go out and infect themselves, so they can merrily move on to infecting others? Is it fatalism, or just stupidity? I understand business owners who fear losing their businesses altogether, but are you really willing to put the economic survival of a bar or restaurant above actual survival of human beings?

At least the message about “flattening the curve” has reached a lot of people. Why bars and restaurants haven’t been ordered to close yet is beyond me. Must I link to op-eds by medical professionals pleading with the public to stop buying masks, stay home and stay the hell out of the way?

OK, I guess I must:

Young and Unafraid of the Coronavirus? Good for You – Now Stop Killing People

Boston Doctors Plead Don’t Be Cavalier About Coronavirus

In my area, good ideas about how to support local businesses have circulated – things like buying gift certificates online, etc. One local business has figured out a way for patrons to make a donation that they will then use to purchase gift certificates from other local businesses and to hold a place on a list for a future “all clear” party.

Hate to break it to you, guys, but as far as I know (and I’m not a doctor or scientist – but docs and scientists, chime in here – oh, wait, you won’t have a spare second to do that until at least September) there is no such thing as an “all clear” on a virus, until an effective vaccine is ready and everyone has been inoculated. Or until everyone who is going to get the virus gets it, and most survive it and become immune, thereby conferring “herd immunity” on those who remain. If you have the medical credentials, please correct me if I’m wrong about that.

So where does that leave us? All I can say is where it leaves me:

I’ve been a germ freak for years. So I was already really into washing my hands, and giving dirty looks to people who don’t cover their coughs and sneezes.

Then came the caregiving years – I found myself performing previously unimaginable personal tasks for my parents and my husband. Gloving up and sanitizing for them, not for me.

So now this: I feel reasonably calm. If I learned anything from losing Dad, Mom and Mike, it’s this: “in the end, only kindness matters.”

The sun is still there, behind the shadow. Sending love and hope and prayer for strength, safety and stamina for health care workers, affected families, and those at greatest risk, I remain,

Your uncharacteristically calm,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by Jan Haerer from Pixabay

In the Meantime, Carpe Diem

How better to spend whatever remaining minutes I may be allotted than to participate in an open mike night of storytelling. Since it has become apparent the apocalypse has begun, at least in part (I think we can tick the boxes for war and plague, anyway), I chose to carpe the damn diem by getting up in front of an audience of about 80 or so Friday night to tell a story – a compressed mash up of pieces of my memoir –  one incident among many of my ridiculous moments during Mike’s illness.  I wrote it out beforehand, memorized it and signed up as the first to brave the open mike at our local community center to “tell,” as a “teller,” which are what people who do this kind of thing are called, apparenty.

I had an absolute blast – I hit a few bumps, when I didn’t realize the “ting” of the gong was just the one minute warning and not the cutoff, but the takeaway is, I could get used to this.

I decided to do it because last year at the Midwest Writer’s Conference, I pitched my book to an agent who ultimately didn’t offer representation, but told me my pitch was the best she’d heard in a long time and asked if I did spoken word performance. So, OK, pivot – I’ve always loved performing live in front of an audience and if I can’t get an agent for my book (haven’t even had time to try sending out queries, much less essays, lately – got to get back to that discipline) I might as well try packaging it for live performance.

Below is the “script” of the story I told Friday. It really is written for live “telling,” but you’ll get the idea. It’s longer than my usual posts, so I leave it to you if you choose to read through it.

I did get some compliments and expressions of astonishment that it was my first time storytelling. One woman flat out asked, “did you f–k the Bulgarian?” No. Twenty one years older, fat, husband dying – remember? Not that I didn’t fantasize about it, but come on, seriously?

Anyway, here’s the tale. I’ll definitely be signing up for the next open mike as soon as they have one, to relate another of my ridiculous incidents . Hope you enjoy.

______________________________

I told Mike, “do not, DO NOT, shovel that walk.”  Mike had an extreme obsession about shoveling. He would set his alarm for every two hours during blizzards, suit up and go outside to shovel the driveway at 2 am, 4 am, 6 a.m., even during Snowmaggedon, when the wind was blowing 60 m.p.h., so hard that it would all just come right back again.

The “do not shovel” morning was in 2016, when we had three inches of snow followed by rain followed by a hard freeze.  The driveway and walk were coated with a kind of heart-attack broûlée. And it all was due to melt the next day. So I told Mike, “don’t you do it.” And I hopped in the Subaru and left for work.

I worked five minutes away at the time, so I could come home for lunch. That day, when I did, I saw that Mike had shoveled the front porch and the walk to the driveway.

I was furious.

Because Mike was 13 months into the 18 to 24 months he had been given when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. Exertion like that could kill him. Why would he risk dying before he had to die?

Maybe it was an Alpha Male thing.

Because a year before, when I was 54 years old and weighted 35 pounds more than I do now, I fell madly, schoolgirlishly and very obviously in love with 35 year-old Bulgarian carpenter –  right in front of  my dying husband – which was reprehensible, ridiculous, sad, embarrassing – and funny.

When we were confronted with the certainty that Mike would die within the next two years, I thought, what are we going to do?

I know! LET’S REMODEL THE KITCHEN!

Mike spent a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking for and cleaning up after cooking for our angelic, autistic daughter. He was a stay-at-home Dad. He spent his days toiling away on hideous, multi-colored, striped, 1970’s indoor-outdoor carpeting, blackened with decades of grime. He spent hours washing dishes in a harvest-gold double sink. He cooked on a cheap department store stove with no hood that barely concealed the mouse highway running behind it. I just couldn’t let him die without ever having had a decent kitchen in our house.

So, I found a contractor and signed the checks. I hadn’t figured on falling madly in love with the crew chief. But I did. I don’t know what came over me – I couldn’t help myself. He was young and strong and he knew how to do everything, He had black hair and green eyes and a magnificent deep voice. And I didn’t care that he was getting paid for it – it still mattered to me that he listened to, and actually remembered everything I said to him . He did what I asked him to do- eventually- and he never yelled at me. Anyone who has been married for more than twenty years knows how rare that is.

The day of the Alpha Male shoveling, when I got out of the Subaru at lunchtime, I grabbed my cheap plastic grocery store shovel and tried to shovel the driveway, just to keep Mike from doing it.

And the Bulgarian appeared, and grabbed my shovel.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m going to shovel a path, just a path on the driveway for you, Annie.”

“Oh no you’re not. You smoke. Nobody who smokes lifts a snow shovel on my property. Don’t you do it.” And I was sort of dancing around in front of him (and he’s at least 14 inches taller than me) trying to block him from shoveling the smoking-man-killing heart-attack snow with the ice on top, but he shovels right by me, and then he stops and looks at my plastic grocery store shovel and says, “Dat’s not a shovel.”

And he marches right back into my kitchen and through the door into my garage and grabs my good stainless steel garden spade and starts hacking away at the smoking-man-killing heart-attack snow with the ice on top while I’m following him down the driveway shouting at him, “please, please stop! It’s upsetting him – (meaning shoveling was meant to be Mike’s exclusive domain, even if he intended to die doing it). Please stop!”

“God Dammit! The both of you! I can’t come home from work and find the two of you face down in the driveway and neither one of you with enough strength to call 911! Jesus! Everyone wants to give Mommy something more to worry about!”

And I jumped in my Subaru and drove off, back to work, still cursing. And as I drove away I saw the Bulgarian turn around and give the strangest look, as if he didn’t understand – or as if he did, all too well.

He knew I had a crush on him. At first he was embarrassed, and then he played along, and then he just started openly making fun of  me, in a subtle, Eastern European kind of way.

Like the time his drawers came off.

Three weeks after the kitchen was finished, I had loaded the heaviest pots in the middle, rather than the bottom drawer, because that’s where Mike wanted them. When the drawer fell off its rails, like I knew it would, and then the bottom one did too, the Bulgarian came to fix them.

When he squatted down to look at the drawers that had fallen off,  he looked up at me with his gorgeous green eyes and he said with that magnificent voice, “Annie, what have you done to my drawers?”

Which is quite possibly the best set-up line I had  ever been fed.

But did I say, “Why, my dear, as you well know, to my infinite regret, I haven’t done a damn thing to your drawers. These kitchen drawers, on the other hand, came off all by themselves.”

No, I didn’t say that. I just blurted out,  “You didn’t stop smoking!!!” Because it was after New Year’s and he still smelled of cigarette smoke, even though he had told me it was his resolution to quit.

The Alpha Male incident was the last time Mike shoveled, but it wasn’t Mike’s First Last Thing. There was his last birthday, his last Thanksgiving, his last Christmas.

The first time I realized I was witnessing a last thing was before all of those, in the fall, when I came home and found Mike on the roof.

He could barely stand up for ten minutes and he had hauled the ladder out of the garage and climbed up to the roof, intending to clean out the gutters – one last time.

Mike lived long enough to cook his last pot of spaghetti sauce and his last batch of chicken soup in the new kitchen.

And now, when I rinse dishes in the big new white farm sink, before I load them into the new stainless steel dishwasher, I see Mike there, by the new stove with the new hood, doing what he loved to do – cooking something for Angelic Daughter.  And I also see the Bulgarian there, puzzling over how to cope with some weird previous do-it-yourself modification from some past owner.

That kitchen is filled with memories of love, kindness, bravery, humor – and forgiveness – for, and from, two men I loved.

Yours,

Ridiculouswoman

 

What He Said

Here’s a different take on fasting, or giving things up for Lent. To me it’s a description of how I want to be all the time, not just in the forty days before Easter.

The quote below appeared today on the Edge of the Atlantic, one of the blogs I follow.  I’m not Catholic. I haven’t made a habit of attending church on Ash Wednesday, or “giving something up” for Lent.  So when I looked through my followed blogs on the WordPress Reader today and found this, I realized it expressed what I was going to try to express, and did it much better than I ever could:

 

via are you ready to fast this Lent? (take your pick) — Edge of Atlantic

I’ve been trying to stay in my lane, and to avoid investing my energy into worrying about things I can’t control. Instead I’m thinking about how I can control my response to both small everyday frustrations and the monumental, unrelenting shit storms that seem to have enveloped our planet. These past weeks, it just seems like it gets worse every day.

Losing Mike and living as a widow has helped me understand, “this too shall pass.” It has made me want to remain unperturbed by everyday stresses and to learn to be still and silent enough, to find sufficient serenity, to tune in to more eternal things:  love, compassion, gratitude, simplicity, patience, joy, reconciliation, hope, kindness – prayer and God.  These things don’t pass with the passing moments of each day.  I want them to reside with me in each present moment, and stay with me as that moment passes to become the next.  It’s far more difficult than it should be, and unsurprisingly, I fail at it much more often than I succeed. I succumb to petty worries and mundane stresses. I lose patience. That’s why I appreciate reminders like Bill Schulz’s post today. They help me regain my perspective.

Angelic Daughter is my guiding star. I admire her more than I can say, and I am more ashamed of succumbing to impatience with her than I am of any of my other many faults. She marks one of life’s milestones tomorrow. Today she described handling an uncomfortable situation by using a strategy we had practiced. She solved the problem of feeling anxious in one environment by asking to move to another, at a place where choices like that are available to her. She continues to assume more responsibility for the moments of her day – being on time and prepared, adapting to different types of transportation and advocating for herself if she needs accommodation, as she did today. She does all this without dimming her angelic, compassionate, loving, emotionally intelligent self one bit. The strategy she used today worked, and she’s realizing that she has more control over things that bother her sensitive, autistic self than she used to, or that she believed she could have. My pride in and boundless love for her is wrapped in hope.  May there be a future in this world for Angelic Daughter, where people choose compassion, kindness, good stewardship for the earth and all that’s in it, love and reconciliation, and where we work together to solve problems that touch us all.

I hope your present moments are infused with calming little bits of the eternal, and may those  moments bring you peace.

Yours with gratitude to God for the gift of a daughter whose spirit is far more naturally generous than mine, and who inspires me every day to try to be a better person, I remain, your one-moment-to-the-next,

Ridiculouswoman

 

 

Hired

Featured Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

The other shoe has dropped: I got a job. I GOT A JOB. Not just any job, either – it’s a writing job. Full time, with benefits starting the exact day I must have them. I start mid-November. And the best part about it is that I’m not anxious about it at all. I know I can do it well and I won’t get all squirmy about it. A little of that is inevitable, of course, as it would be with any new job.  But I’ve signed the offer letter accepting the job and I have enough to do before I start that I don’t think I’ll spend any time worrying about the myriad ways I could imagine screwing it up.

Because I’m not going to screw it up. As God is my witness, I’m not going to screw this up. If I can avoid it. And if I can stop worrying about screwing it up over something I didn’t realize would screw it up. OK ENOUGH, Annie. YOU GOT IT. THEY WANT YOU (Note impressive self-restraint in not going the Sally Field quote route, here).

I wrote the below about 10 minutes after the call offering me the job. As you can see I was a bit excited. I still am, I’m just not going to scream at you in ALL CAPS. But reading it through it was kind of funny so I thought I’d go ahead and inflict it on you.

So here’s my brain on “holy crap I actually got a job I’m going to like that pays a living wage!”

I GOT THE OFFER AND THEY BUMPED UP THE PAY RATE SO IT WILL ACTUALLY BE WORTH THE COMMUTE I GOT THE JOB I GOT THE JOB I GOT THE JOB THANKS FOR ALL YOUR GOOD VIBES SORRY TO SCREAM AT YOU IN ALL CAPS BUT I’M SO EXCITED BECAUSE I’M ACTUALLY GOING TO LIKE THIS JOB IT WILL BE FUN IT IS WRITING AND I WILL GET PAID FOR WRITING HOLY CRAP WITH HEALTH INSURANCE AND EVERYTHING GOD IS GREAT FAITH WORKS HANG ON GOOD THINGS WILL COME OMG OMG OMG NOW I HAVE TO HIRE SOMEONE AS A COMPANION FOR ANGELIC DAUGHTER BUT WE CAN HANDLE IT OMG OMG OMG AN ACTUAL JOB WRITING WRITING WOWEE ZOWEE AND ON TOP OF THAT ONE OF MY LIFE’S AMBITIONS JUST CAME TRUE OF HOSTING A FAMILY MEAL IN THIS HOUSE I’VE SPENT SO MUCH MONEY AND ENERGY ON MY BROTHERS AND ONE OF MY SISTERS-IN-LAW CAME AND WE HAD SUCH A FUN MEAL IT WASN’T LONG ENOUGH AND I WAS RUSHED MAKING THE SOUP AND OH BY THE WAY I DID MAKE THE SOUP HERE’S A PICTURE IMG_20191022_141943840~2.jpg AND NOT EXACTLY PIE BECAUSE I DIDN’T HAVE  TIME FOR THE CRUST SO I MADE A FRENCH FRUIT TART CRUST WHICH WAS OK BUT NOT MY BEST IMG_20191022_141935304~2.jpgAND I BROWNED THE ONIONS IN THE SQUASH SOUP BUT THE BURNT-ISH FLAVOR WAS ALMOST COVERED UP BY SOME EXTRA APPLE JUICE AND BROWN SUGAR AND THEY SAID THEY LIKED IT BUT EVEN IF THEY WERE LYING I DON’T CARE BECAUSE THIS HAS BEEN A SPECTACULAR DAY EVEN THOUGH IT IS COLD AND WINDY I DON’T CARE MY GOD I ACTUALLY GOT A JOB OFFER AND BESIDES THAT ONE OF MY CNF ESSAYS HAS BEEN ACCEPTED IT’S A BLOG BUT IT IS A BLOG ASSOCIATED WITH A MAGAZINE AND IT MEANS SOMEONE WHO KNOWS ABOUT WRITING THINKS I CAN ACTUALLY WRITE THIS IS AMAZING WHAT DO I DO WHAT DO I DO AM I SUPPOSED TO POST A GIF LIKE THIS

OR MAYBE THIS

THAT REMINDS ME I’VE NEVER SEEN THOSE MINIONS MOVIES I SHOULD WATCH THOSE ANGELIC DAUGHTER WANTS POPCORN SO MAYBE WE CAN HAVE MOVIE NIGHT OMG OMG OMG A WRITING JOB WITH HEALTH INSURANCE I HOPE I DON’T HAVE A HEART ATTACK WITH JOY BEFORE I EVEN START BRING IT I CAN DO IT I CAN WRITE ANYTHING TO ORDER LIKE FALLING OFF A LOG THIS IS SO AWESOME I’M JUMPING OUT OF MY SKIN WHAT DO I DO NOW I HAVE TO WAIT FOR AN EMAIL TO SIGN OFF ON THE OFFER WHICH MEANS I REALLY SHOULDN’T BE CROWING ABOUT THIS SO MUCH IN CASE I JINX IT BUT LIVE WITHOUT FEAR I GOT IT I GOT IT I GOT IT I WILL BE AN EMPLOYED PERSON AT A JOB I ACTUALLY WILL LOVE WITH ENERGETIC FUN PEOPLE WHO LOVE WHAT THEY DO IT DOESN’T GET BETTER THAN THIS OR MAYBE IT DOES KEEP DREAMING KEEP BELIEVING MAYBE GOOD THINGS WILL KEEP HAPPENING OK ANNIE DON’T GET GREEDY JUST BE GRATEFUL GRATEFUL GRATEFUL I AM I AM I AM WHOOP WHOOP THIS IS AWESOME

Trying to resume decorum, I remain,

Your newly hired,

Ridiculouswoman

Run Away, Run Home, Don’t Run

The butternut squash is roasting in the oven, for the curried soup I will make for my brothers and sister-in-law, visiting tomorrow. The bag of orchard-bought Macintosh apples is in the fridge, waiting to become pie. Seven pumpkins (one big and six little) and ten gourds cost $24, total, which is another benefit of driving several hours to an actual farm to buy your fall decorative stuff.

I wonder if indulging in an extended (two overnight stays) fall excursion this year was a way of running away from waiting to hear about a job, and from the approaching end of my year-long redecorating project.  I’m starting to think it all was just prolonged “displacement activity,” to avoid being still and letting the grief soak all the way through.  Stillness is when the waves come, of grief, sadness, regret, anger, frustration and sense of incompleteness about a marriage that fast-forwarded to caregiving, skipping the “happy retirement rediscover one another” phase.  The rediscovery came only in those bittersweet, final weeks of hospice. I was and am so grateful for that, but I also feel cheated by the brevity of it, and feeling cheated makes me feel ungrateful, and feeling ungrateful makes me feel ashamed.  I should be grateful for just waking up alive in the morning.

Finally decorating and furnishing this house, a house that remained largely undecorated and unfurnished, except for hand-me-down furniture and the odd Black Friday deal on a couch or a glider or a new mattress, feels like closing the circle, doing the things we didn’t get done, as the years passed toward a future together that never came. Mike saw the kitchen, the deck and the basement. I want to believe he sees the rest, from where he is, and that he likes it, and that he approves of me making this house look like what I had hoped it could have been when we still had time here together.

The painters in the front hall got the wallpaper off in about half an hour.

“If I had known it would be that easy, I would have done it myself.”

“We’re pros. We make it look easy.”

Their van said “drywall,” so I asked for a little extra help repairing the hole in the downstairs bathroom wall, where I lifted one of the mirrors off and took one of the screw anchors with it.

The head guy agreed to do it for no extra charge. Maybe he thought what I had said meant I thought I wasn’t getting my money’s worth. I didn’t mean it that way, exactly. Just that I shouldn’t have spent the money if it turned out to be easy.

But then he took out all the old screws, and drilled four new holes and put new screw anchors and screws in, and patched the old holes, because nothing would have held through a patched hole.  And then they hung up the mirrors for me.

After I asked them to turn off the fans they were using to dry the front hall because the loud sound makes my daughter nervous, and they saw how I had to coax her downstairs to get past them to go to work, they asked me if I had paint for the front hall.  When I handed the can to the lead guy, he said he’d paint it for me.

“Really? You’ll make me cry.”

“Do you have paint for the trim?”

“Here it is. ”

“I’ll do the walls. You do the trim.”

Then he left and his guy did the trim anyway.

So yes, I cried a little.  I’m at the end of my rope with the work, and close to being done, and feeling stupid for spending so much on it all, and now these guys have gotten me closer to the finish line faster than I thought I could go.  I won’t be up until 2 am after chorus rehearsal tonight doing it myself, just to get it ready for my brothers and sister-in-law tomorrow.

When I feel defeated, like when that screw anchor ripped out of the wall,  I let go. Then kindness comes from unexpected places, helping me keep the faith that maybe I will actually get a job before I run out of money and have to start dipping into the already too-small retirement fund.

Sell more stuff on eBay,  lose the the cable, scour the house for more stuff to sell to Half Priced Books. We’ll have this house, for now, and this town, so familiar and comfortable.

The colors are more brilliant here than they were on our excursion. Yesterday we finally got our bright blue October day, and the sun just came out again.

Time to make soup. And pie.

Until pictures prove I actually made them, I remain,

Your grateful-but-spendy-and-anxious-but-hopeful,

Ridiculouswoman

Non-Toxic Love Challenge: Double Whammy Edition

How do you show love and compassion to someone who has just done something spectacularly disgusting, or said something hateful, in public?

Last night I took Angelic Daughter to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra play the score of West Side Story along with the film at the major summer music festival near here – a festival where I have been attending concerts and dance performances for over 50 years.

We had aisle seats, by design, in case of need for an early exit, and had to rise three times to allow those sitting toward the center of our row to pass. Once everyone was seated, I began to peruse the program while waiting for the show to start.

It was then I noticed that the elderly lady next to me was rummaging around in her large purse for something.

The next time I glanced up, it turned out that something was…

dental floss.

She was flossing her teeth, right next to me, in public, with visible chunks of her dinner dangling from the floss, which she was using to make at least two, maybe three rounds of her mouth.

This was without question the grossest thing I have ever seen someone do at a concert performance (or anywhere in public, for that matter, and that includes the guys who routinely used to pee against the fence of our city townhome’s backyard, which bordered an alley).

I put my program up next to my head, to shield my hair and face from chunks of her dinner flying from her mouth, or dropping from their tightrope of floss. I was thinking, “what the hell is the MATTER with you? In what universe is this anywhere close to acceptable behavior? THIS IS THE GROSSEST THING I HAVE EVER BEEN FORCED TO SIT NEXT TO! Couldn’t you have done this in A CLOSED STALL IN THE LADIES’ ROOM BEFORE THE CONCERT?”

When I slightly lowered and peered around my program, she was still at it, and continued for another two or three minutes, whereupon she began rummaging around again, and produced some kind of lollipop which she popped into the now flossed-and-flung orifice.

It occurred to me that maybe she had some medical condition that made her behave this way – maybe the lollipop was medicinal? Or calming or something? She seemed not to have noticed or was unperturbed by my shielding myself.

Then the orchestra, instead of launching right into the overture, began to play the national anthem. I don’t know if that was because it was the opening night of the orchestra’s summer residency, or if it was a gesture toward unity based on the theme of the film – hope (tragically dashed, in the movie) of overcoming differences based on background.

Never one to miss an opportunity to overdo it, I launched in to singing it, along with most of the rest of the audience. But my rendition comes with the showy high note toward the end — “o’er the la-and of the free-EEEEEE!”

And as the anthem ended, dental floss lady turned and, with an utterly innocent smile, complimented me on my voice.

I said thank you, and added a little flourish with my “fit and flare” dress and the black petticoat (worn as homage to the dance number “America” in the film, which has a lot of dress-and-petticoat flourishing in it).

When she looked at me with that wide-eyed smile, I didn’t tell her how disgusting and gross flossing her teeth in public was, because I decided she genuinely didn’t know that’s how others would view it, or that she had some medical reason to do it and had to do it there, because otherwise she’d be late for the concert.

Then today, I attended a town hall hosted by my representative in Congress. There was a couple there, trembling with anger over anything having to do with what they called “illegals,” especially extending health care coverage to them. The magnitude of their anger, fear and hatred was loud and clear to everyone in the room.

After the meeting, I was walking back to my car, and there they were, Mr. and Mrs. Angry.

I asked Mrs. Angry if I could ask her a an honest, genuine question. She stopped ranting long enough for me to ask, “if you tripped over someone who was obviously dying of thirst, would you ask them about their citizenship before giving them a drink of water?”

And she said, “never.”

So somewhere in there, hiding in the cracks between fear, anger and hatred, there was an teaspoon of compassion.

She continued her rant but I was able to tell her as I walked away that I was glad to know that she didn’t lack compassion.

Instead of getting into a heated argument about what an ignoramus she was.

Biting my tongue, I remain,

Your high-note singing, dress-swishing, hoping-for-unity,

Ridiculouswoman

A Chipmunk, A Jeep and a Free Lunch

A chipmunk bought my daughter lunch today.

Allow me to explain.

Waiting in a long line of cars at our usual Thursday lunch drive-through fast food place (autism, routine, usual place) I noticed a really cute chipmunk zipping out from under the fence that enclosed the trash bins.  It kept zipping out, assessing the situation and zipping away again.

Suddenly it decided the moment had come, to zip across the drive-through lane to the shrubbery on the other side.

A lady got out of the jeep ahead of me, and looked under her car. I knew she was looking to make sure the chipmunk hadn’t stopped under her vehicle.

I rolled down my window, to ask her if she saw him under my car, but she immediately said she had accidentally squished a turtle once and didn’t want to squish that chipmunk.

She looked under my car for me, and gave the all clear. Then she got back into her Jeep.

It wouldn’t move.

The parking lights kept blinking. She clearly was shifting into drive, and the thing just wouldn’t go. It revved and blinked. But it wouldn’t move.

I put my car in park, reassured my daughter that I’d be right back, and tapped on the Jeep’s window to see if I could help.

The lady explained it was some kind of safety feature, “auto-park,” that came on when she got out of the car. It had happened before, but she couldn’t remember how to fix it.

She was going to call her son to find out. She felt really bad about holding everyone up and asked me to tell the people behind us what was happening, and I did.

Then I went back to my car to wait.

Nothing happened. Just another round of lights and revving.

Assuming she hadn’t been able to reach her son, I tapped on her window again, and tried to help her look for some switch to flip or button to push.

Nothing.

Then I heard that chiming.

“What if you put on your seat belt?”

She had undone it when she got out of the car, but she hadn’t buckled up again.

She fastened the seat belt, and voila! The car shifted out of park.

I confess to using my “outside voice” to holler one of those big “you’re welcomes!” to the several cars still waiting in line (how humble and gracious, of you, Annie, when the poor lady already felt so bad, and now she was probably embarrassed too, that something so simple solved the problem).

Angelic daughter was nervous, but I told her I had been given the opportunity to do a little thing to help someone. I solved the problem, and that felt good.

We made it to the ordering speaker thingee, placed the order and pulled up behind the lady in the Jeep, who was just finishing up paying for her order.

Or so I thought.

She pulled ahead and and drove off.

I pulled up and stuck my hand out the window, holding the debit card to pay for Angelic Daughter’s lunch.

The kid at the window was clearly pleased about something.

He opened his window, smiled at me, and said, “the lady in the Jeep says thank you.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” I said. I honestly thought he was just conveying a verbal message. I kept holding the debit card out the window toward the kid. He didn’t take it.

“She covered it. Paid for it. All you have to do is pull forward.”

“Oh, how sweet!’ I was really surprised.

And, then of course, (Anxiety! OCD!) worried: is this one of those things where everyone is supposed to pay for the person behind them? Because, for stupid reasons I won’t go into, I couldn’t pay for anyone else’s lunch today. I felt bad about that.

But, I reasoned, I had done everyone in line a service by helping the lady in the Jeep, getting her going so the line could start moving again. It was a long line, but only two or three cars pulled out to park and walk inside the restaurant.

So I decided it was OK to just enjoy her gesture of gratitude, and in turn to extend mine to that cute little chipmunk (usually my nemeses, chipmunks  – they tunnel around in my vegetable garden and dig holes in my yard).  But today a chipmunk was the genesis of an opportunity to help.

So thanks, little dude.

Now get off my lawn.

Thankful also that the sun is emerging, and summer (technically – still cool and rainy) starts tomorrow, I remain,

Your appreciating-the-little-things-today,

Ridiculouswoman

(PS – OK, I know that Bitmoji image up there is supposed to be a gopher, but you get the idea. Feel free to share funny Caddyshack references, though).