Thursday, April 30, 2009

Serenity Now

I hate to generalize, it's beneath me, but I believe that everyone has talent, not just Susan Boyle. Not all of us go on national TV to display our gifts. Sadly, some of us remain unsung. Take me, for instance. I have a skill that could raise a few eyebrows. It doesn’t involve my voice or my funky-town dance moves. To give you an idea, picture me up on stage, dressed in slinky, see-thru attire, draped across something large, foamy and luxurious. My performance might not get a zillion hits on YouTube, but I guarantee snickering, cringing and an outcry of, “Oh, no, she didn’t.”

Since no one’s about to pony up a free makeover for my debut, I went out and freshened up on my own. I bought new glasses, expensive ones to boost the economy. In record time, I changed my look. Within seconds, I went from “relatively-hip” to “much-hipper-than-you.” The frames cost more than my first car, and despite the permanent dent in my nose, it was worth it. I didn’t stop at glasses, I kept going. My hair needed some love. For five dollars per follicle, I got myself a new cut that looks a lot like the previous cuts, only better. The stylish results impressed the nice folks I cornered on the street for their opinions. Once I promised to leave them alone, all ten of them agreed that I looked remarkably young. I ask you, what’s a little extra debt when you can walk out of a salon looking 21 again?

Sure, Susan Boyle might hit the high notes like an angel, but I bet she can’t… drum roll please… fall asleep in under a minute. Yes, put me on automatic snooze and I’m a genius. My head hits the pillow and I’m out. I could win awards for my mad abilities. My acceptance speech would go something like this:  I’d like to thank the Academy of Sleep for recognizing my life-long accomplishment. I’m so honored I could scream, but I might wake people in the audience, so I’ll keep it down. I owe it all to me. It would be misleading to thank anyone else, especially my father, a very tired man who hasn’t fallen asleep once in 87 years.

Of course, I’d have to hide my award, or sell it quickly on Ebay, once the Academy discovered a slight deception. I can fall asleep fast. But stay asleep? Well, that’s another matter. Here my level of mastery takes a sharp dip. The slightest noise or movement and I’m awake. I snort or drool or turn over and startle myself conscious. Or my bladder nudges me out of bed, usually when I’m burrowed down and cozier than a girl has a right to be in these troubled times.

On many occasions, a bad dream boots me out of slumber. Someone chases me or my teeth drop out of my mouth or I’m naked in the high school parking lot or I lose control of the car and go barreling off a cliff. Whatever the scenario, it pumps me full of adrenaline and I’m done for. If it’s not a nightmare that disturbs me, it’s my hubby, hobbling around the room, cursing loudly because his calf muscle seized up again.

No matter what wakes me, whether it’s myself or the fellow beside me, once I’m up, I can’t fall back to sleep. My mind starts flooding with worries. I try all sorts of tricks, deep breathing, staring at the ceiling, but nothing works. I’ve even tried counting sheep, but I can never decide what to do with them once they leap over the fence. It gets crowded in the pasture and they start bumping into each other and going “baaahhhhh” and there’s no way I can fall back to sleep with that racket.

Recently, I hit upon something new to count. It worked so well, I thought I’d share it with you. Feel free to thank me with gifts, or make a donation to the nearest Sleep Disorder Clinic in your community. They’re usually located next to Starbucks.

Rather than count sheep or backwards from 100, I count Seinfeld episodes. I’ve seen all of them, many times over. All I have to do is conjure up a few snippets of plot and I’m back on the sleepy-bye train. I don’t go season by season. It’s all fairly random:  Kramer forces Jerry to wear the puffy shirt on “Today.” Elaine tells Jerry when they were together, she faked it. George suffers humiliating shrinkage. The Soup Nazi won’t serve Jerry or Elaine. Yada yada yada. Serenity now! Kramer turns his apartment into the Merv Griffin show. The stinky valet ruins Jerry’s car. The early bird special. Top of the Muffin to You. Who can go the longest without… oh, don’t make me spell it out.

So, the next time you can’t fall asleep, or stay asleep, try counting Seinfeld. It’s cheaper than a sleeping pill. Side effects may include less drowsiness, no heartburn or flatulence, and a few giggles. Nine out of ten doctors recommend counting Seinfeld. What are you waiting for?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Clean-up Time

Once a week, I flit around the house, noticeably crazed, cleaning up after three or four slobs, depending on the college boy’s whereabouts. The ritual varies little from week to week. It begins with the scooping up of random dog hair, baggies full, enough to form a whole new dog – preferably one that doesn’t consume a bar of soap, upchuck its bubbly contents, and amass a $500 vet bill.

Next comes the rapid Hoovering of school books off the kitchen table. Loose papers, index cards, pens, pencils, quarters and pennies, old gum. In a domestic frenzy, I do my best to hide the clutter, shoving it into whatever space I can find. The hall closet, the trunk of my car, the doggy crate. I’m not proud. I will do whatever it takes to win the approval of the short and saintly figure scheduled to arrive momentarily.

Speed it up. Hop to it. Look sharp. Let’s roll, baby. These are a few of the helpful words of encouragement I pepper with expletives, as I dart hither and yon, maneuvering the chaos into something halfway presentable. In the midst of this quest, I ponder a few questions:

Why is my son’s belt looped around the chair, instead of his waist? Why is his sock under the sofa and not his foot? Why can’t he bury his CDs under his bed, with the 900 empty water bottles and Coke cans, and not dump them atop the toaster oven? Why are his basketball shoes crushing the dinner rolls on the counter, and not tucked into his smelly gym bag, where they belong?

I conclude that there are no answers to these questions. Plus, I have no time to figure them out. I’m on deadline, people. I must keep moving before the angel sent from above arrives to judge my place of residence, and the oddball characters inhabiting it. Oh, dear God, I don’t want to disappoint her again. Or make her weep, like that time I left towels in the dryer. I meant to iron and fold them, but I was hobbling around on a foot that wasn’t broken after all – still milking it for sympathy, of course – and forgot. I’m human. Forgive me.

And so, I keep going. Picking up after people I love 99 percent of the time. If I stop to scream, I’ll lose valuable seconds… seconds I need to cram dirty forks and spoons and crusty cereal bowls into the dishwasher. Hurry up, she’s coming. There’s trash to throw out, tchotchkes to dust, a few spots that need repainting. She’ll be here soon. Make it look nice. Don’t humiliate the family again. Yes, I’m referring to the moldy sponge incident. She hasn’t recovered from that debacle. The paramedics were a little rough trying to revive her.

Ding dong. Damn! She’s here and I haven’t even scoured the toilets or remodeled the laundry room to her specifications. I’ll have to live with the shame. I open the door and in walks Blanca, the beloved housekeeper who’s been putting up with us for eight years. Or is it nine, since the last one quit? I give her a hug and apologize for the mess. The dog jumps on her and she smiles, beatifically. She’s on damage control. It’s time to work her magic. I better get out of her way. But I’m here if she needs me. Rumor has it I’m pretty good with a mop.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

When Are We?

It’s 1989 again, and big hair rules the day. I hardly recognize myself but look, there I am. It’s me. I’m 31 and wrinkle-free. Check out my pink and blue plaid shirt with shoulder pads out to here. I’m a tiny line-backer with rosy cheeks and coiffed-up, fancy hair. Mousse much? Lacquer up with extra-hold? Why yes, as a matter of fact. I goop it up every day. Doesn’t everyone?

I’m in the living room of my parents’ condo, waiting for guests to arrive. That’s you on camera, hun, tilting it this way and that. Artsy balloon shots. Cupcakes from various angles. You’re making me dizzy, you know. Pull back. Keep it simple, if you can.

Now friends appear in the hallway, with precious babes in tow. Little ones crawl on the carpet, walk a few steps, plop back down. Some cuddle in blankets, suck on bottles and coo. Ah. Ambrosia.

The toddlers take turns on a rocking horse that’s not a horse at all. It’s a duck, that’s right. A duck. A rocking ducky is cooler than a horse. Spread the word. Remember that.

Oh, my God. There’s my mother. Look at her, so pretty at 62. Happy. Healthy. Full of life. Her hair short and stylish, too. There’s that laugh of hers. I miss it. It’s great to hear it once more. Been a while. Go back. Let me hear it again.

Hey, there’s my dad, working the room, cracking people up. There’s my grandma and who’s she talking to? Your grandma. Turn it up. What are they saying? Too much background noise? Too bad.

In the corner, there’s my cousin. My brothers. Your folks and brother. How thin he is. He’s got hair. All the men do. Look at our friends, hun. How they mingle… laugh… sip drinks. And whoa, check out the couples that didn’t stay married, in a time warp, back together again. Smiling, holding hands. How strange is that?

Now the room sings “Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday to You.” All the people in our life, hun. The ones we lost. The ones still hanging around. Singing to our eldest boy. He’s chewing wrapping paper. Scooting on his butt. Our youngest son… where is he? Oh, right. He hasn’t been born.

Shut it off now, hun. That’s enough for today. Time travel takes its toll. Wherever it went makes me wonder. Any chance we can get it back?