Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday, Monday

Mondays are always challenging in my house. My husband leaves for work before the sun comes up and my dog goes back to sleep. I stay up late writing so I don’t get up until the light of day when the dog starts barking because she is ready for her morning constitutional. She may be ready but I am not! Of course, I get up anyway because it’s easier to drag myself out of bed, pull on some shorts under my nightshirt and get her outside than to clean up the carpet. Besides, she is hungry for breakfast, the most important meal (and often the only one she eats) of the day. She is my alarm clock which is good I suppose.

What follows is the sad part. Once her little belly is full she starts walking around looking for my husband. She is a daddy’s girl so Monday’s are particularly tough on her. She gets up with Daddy at 5 AM, runs to the door with her little back legs crossed until he gets there with the leash. She no sooner gets outside and a puddle forms under her on the grass. Ah, she made it once again. Good girl.

Back inside, my husband gets his coffee and sits down in the family room half asleep. She crawls up in his lap and lays there with him. They are both happy. She lies across his lap or legs pinning him to the chair so he won’t get up. Eventually, though, the coffee kicks in and he has to roust her from her comfortable position and she slinks back into her crate to go back to sleep while he gets ready for work.

People keep telling me that dogs don’t have emotions. Maybe they don’t share the same kinds of emotions we experience but there is no question that on Mondays this little doggie is sad. Her companion and playmate is gone for the day and she’s stuck with me who sits at the computer for hours at a time, working. Sure, when she rings the bell hanging from the door knob I jump up, get the leash and take her out, but sometimes she just wants to play so when I get to the door she grabs a toy in her teeth and starts to run around the house like a racehorse on a track, expecting me to chase her at a similar speed. I stand in one place and stomp my foot and that seems to satisfy her as long as I growl when she runs by with the toy.

Then I’m back to work and she’s back on the chair next to mine. She has her own office chair to curl up on and sleep. Dogs sure do sleep a lot! In general, Mondays are a mopey day for her. On the weekends, even if my husband isn’t playing with her, he’s walking around doing things in the house and she follows him around like his white shadow. During the week, I sit in one place, at my desk, for long periods and that’s no fun at all. Then I get dressed and go out, leaving her alone. What nerve! Going out and not taking her with me. She looks at me with those sad questioning eyes, pleading to go with me. But this is not Europe. I can’t take her into stores or cafes (like I really go out to cafes during my workday, NOT!) and office supplies stores.

You can set your clock by this dog. She can tell by the measure of sunlight when it’s time to go to the front entryway and lay down by the window and wait for my husband’s truck to pull up. And then happiness returns to her home for a few hours.

All of this may seem normal to other dog owners but the one thing that is remarkable about this little white ball of fur is this. Every night we are sitting in the family room together watching TV, reading, working on our laptops or chatting and she is there with us. That’s where her crate is so it’s like we are visiting her in her room. At 9:20, not 9:19, not 9:25, the dog pulls herself up from wherever in the room she is sleeping, usually my husband’s lap, and slinks off to her crate for the night. In the past, we used to say “It’s bedtime,” and she’d run to her crate knowing that she’d get her favorite treat before slumber. We used to feed her the treat, close the gate on her crate and cover it with a blanket. She likes the dark safety of her cave. Now, we don’t have to tell her, she doesn’t wait for her treat, she just drags her tired ass into that crate, lays down, curls into a neat little ball and goes to sleep. Another day. Monday’s over. She knows that this is the beginning of a long stretch of days before daddy will be home for her on the weekend.

For her, it’s another day in her doggie life—or is that seven days in human for every one of mine?

She was so good last week I took her to the beauty parlor so you can see the before and after pictures.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Seeing Red

“What made you do this? I can’t believe it,” my neighbor said. “I would never have imagined you going this route.” And this is what I told her.

Well, you know those commercials for the red Cadillac CTS where the gorgeous red-haired actress from Private Practice smiles seductively while driving around a curve? Then she looks into the camera and asks, ‘When you turn on your car does it do the same for you?’ Well, I fell in love with that car, way out of my price range, because it was red. Red was always my favorite color. I’ve always owned a pair of red shoes, which I referred to as my ruby slippers since I was about 9. Then I saw this sleek red Cadillac—my favorite luxury car maker—and thought, “I want that.” It was totally irrational. I didn’t need it. My gold Ford Focus gets me where I want to go just fine. And still that red Cadillac CTS haunts me.

I am a person who wears concert tee shirts, specifically from various Eric Clapton and B.B. King tours, with a Willie Nelson and Leon Russell one thrown into the collection (none of which are red, by the way). I do wear some red tee shirts showing my loyalty to the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, and let’s face it, they were named for a beautiful red bird—or at least the male is a beautiful red bird while the female is just kind of brownish. I am not the type of person that would drive a Cadillac CTS. I certainly do not in any way resemble Kate Walsh, the tall, sophisticated red-headed actress who plays an obstetrician on TV. Perhaps Kate, or Addison, her character might be driving this car, but me? A two bit writer of articles about local people who make changes in our community?

After all, she’s famous and on TV. I just write stories about a determined Gulf War veteran who has been able to achieve her dream through the Habitat for Humanity program. And how the conductor and musician for Cirque du Soleil La Nouba, a world renowned extravaganza here in Orlando has volunteered his time to revive the jazz band in his son’s public school while he performs ten shows a week, gives music lessons and brings worldwide musicians to perform in his home while a local artist paints a masterpiece on stage during the music.

My job is just to find these special people and write articles about them, not to be seen weekly by millions of people who follow the scripts that Addison—I mean Kate—remember (or read) so well. And she gets to walk down RED carpets. She is so perfect in that car. I want that car. I want to be perfect in that car. I want to be seductive Kate in that car. I want to walk down red carpets after someone helps me step out of that car in my red stilettos and gown slit up to my hip (which would look stupid since I’m 4 foot 10 and my hip isn’t very high off the ground.)

Alas, I am a little, blond writer who has passed the time of midlife crisis although I never really experienced one. Maybe I was just a little slow, busy raising the kids and getting the grandchildren started in their new little lives. And now I have time for a midlife crisis. Perhaps that is what this is all about. Besides, my grandmother was a very successful businesswoman and always wanted a Cadillac. My grandfather was thrifty (that’s the nice way of saying cheap) and insisted they drove a Ford. That woman was my hero so maybe that’s the underlying reason why I want that car. And she had red hair, too. And when it wasn’t quite so red anymore, she went to the beauty parlor to keep it red, almost until the day she died. She had her red hair but never her Cadillac.

So it would seem that my reasoning here is two-fold, maybe three. I have an obsession with the color red that dates back to the Wizard of Oz, an obsession with red haired women which stems from my grandmother, mother, aunt and sister all having red hair and my being brunette (now blond with a little help from L’Oreal) like my father and I have an obsession with Cadillacs, especially this new CTS.

Knowing I could never own the Cadillac, I talked myself out of driving down the self pity route in my Ford Focus. And then I saw this new Dell laptop in the stores. It was red. I decided that since I was planning to buy a laptop anyway I would buy that red Dell computer. I went to the local Staples store that was advertising them, knew the price was within range about $549, then bought the software I needed to work, plus the case and the 3 year extended warranty, a package of DVDs and before I knew it I was checking out. They were still trying to sell me services when I looked at the total which was over $1,100! For a $549 laptop! What had just happened here? I got home looked back over the receipt to see what these extra charges were for. Some of them were ludicrous. I didn’t even take the computer out of the box and install the software. I was in shock.

The next day I returned it all except for the software which I knew I would have to keep because I had in fact broken the seal. I needed help so I went to Best Buy to talk to a geek or two. I expressed my obsessive desire for the red Dell computer. The salesman understood—he owned one himself! Then he asked me what I would be using the computer for and I told him. I’m a writer. I write articles and short stories. I am working on a book but it’s not War and Peace or the Brothers Karamazov.

“Do you download movies?” he asked. I thought he was joking. “Do you do a lot of gaming? How about programs, do you download a lot of them? Are you planning on loading a lot of specialized software?” No, no, no, no and no. “Then you don’t need this computer. Why don’t you go with this nice little HP Compaq that has a lot of gigs of memory and RAM and a DVD slot, etc. for $399? If you want to buy the extended warranty you’ll be insured against breakage from dropping the computer, spilling water on the keyboard, lightning strikes or anything else.”

Similar to my experience at Staples, I was asking myself what just happened here? I came in to buy the pretty red Dell and the salesman DOWN sold me to a less expensive model that will meet my needs and make me happy and be insured, with a case all for under $750 including tax. Ah, but there was that one little thing that I played down—it wasn’t red! I took my extra money and got over that fact in a hurry.

So now here I am again about to make a fairly large purchase. Larger than a laptop but nowhere near as large as a Cadillac CTS. Did I happen to mention that the car was red? This should be a simple decision.

We need a new sofa. My husband and I had made a final decision to buy leather this time. He said he was leaving the decorating to me because I’m the one that’s good about that stuff. We’re putting in walnut colored laminate floors and I took the large sample of the flooring with me today when I went to the furniture store just to start looking. The salesman approached me as I knew one would. He asked me if I knew what I was looking for and if he could help me find it. With no hesitation whatsoever I told him matter-of-factly that I was looking for a red leather sofa—oh and it had to have recliners on both sides. Yeah, right. Like they would even make such a thing.

“Right this way,” he said. I was starting to tremble. I had even gone online and Googled red leather sofas and came up with very little. The salesman led me to the most beautiful red plush back sofa with soft cushy arms and POWER reclining seats on each end. POWER! You sort of push a button similar to putting up and down your windows in your car. The foot bar goes slowly up until you stop it at the desired height or you can push the other way and it will go down a little or all the way. All I would have to do is plug it into the wall. And how much would this little baby cost me? $1,500, plus $99 delivery and $200 for a 5 year extended warranty that covered any spills, ink, marks, stains or damage to the sofa. For $200 less I could get the regular old fashioned recliner where you grabbed something on the side and the foot bar sprung up into place. It was just as comfortable but not as sexy.

When I got home it was time to tell the hubby that I had found the sofa I wanted. Then I showed it to him on the website. Even though we had discussed the topic and I had informed him of my intention to get a red sofa, he never thought I would find one so he had happily agreed. Surprise!

We got past the issue of color and started talking about floor plans and how I would like to move the furniture and then I told him about the power recliner as opposed to the standard one.

“We don’t need power. That’s silly. The old way works just fine. For $200 I think the price is a little steep but with the 4th of July discount it will be manageable with the zero percent interest for one or two years.”

I had only one word. Wrong! I can’t get the Cadillac CTS and I couldn’t get my red Dell laptop. By golly, or more to the point, Damn it! I want the new power recliner. I don’t want to compromise. I want the red one and I want the power one and I’d better go buy it tomorrow before I am utterly overtaken by rational thinking and the realization that we’ll have to paint walls and maybe buy a chair to go with it. The area rug we had already planned on would be easy to find and I’m creating the wall art myself, some abstract brush strokes on canvas using the colors in the room to tie things together.

I hadn’t thought it through beforehand. I just knew what I wanted. Now I know I am obsessed with the color red ever since equating a pair of red shoes with being home, wherever that was at the time. I am obsessed with my grandmother—her red hair and desire for a Cadillac the first of which she did not pass on to me but the second she obviously did. I even named my dog after her. And to some degree I am craving luxury, thus the power recliner as opposed to the manual. Now when they come out with wi-fi version I will really be impressed but for now I think I will be happy for a long time.

And that, my dear neighbor, is the answer to “Why?”

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Roses are Red—and Yellow—and White

This is my #Fridayflash story for the week of June 15. Comments and constructive criticism are welcome, as always.

Eduardo had been gone for four days this time, a business trip or so he had told Eve when he packed. He walked through the door and smiled thinking it was good to be home. His smile disappeared when he heard her heavy footsteps on the stairs. In her hand, Eve was waving a document. Her red face was screwed up into a snarl. Her pink scalp was showing through her thin, blond hair which was almost standing up from the blood rushing to her brain.

He took a step backward and felt the door behind him. He should have opened it and run back to his car.

“What the hell is this?” Eve wailed. “Flowers?” She was close enough now that he could see it was a Visa bill in her hand. “What the hell is wrong with you? You think I don’t know what you do when you go away on business? How could I not know? You send your whore roses and charge them to my Visa, you asshole! Were they roses?”

Eve had him by about eight inches and almost 50 pounds. He was obviously afraid of her but he could never leave. She owned the house and paid the bills. He had quit his job weeks ago but had failed to mention that to her. Being 12 years younger than Eve, Eduardo felt like a child.

“I’ll bet they were red, too, weren’t they?” she bellowed. It seemed like her face couldn’t get any redder and yet it did. The veins in her neck were bulging with anger.

“White, actually,” he said quietly.

Eve was trembling now. Eduardo was making himself smaller and smaller against the door. She had never struck him and he hoped he would be able to say that again tomorrow but he had never seen her like this.

“She’s just a friend, you know? I don’t love her like I love you. You know that, honey. I could never love anyone like I love you.” He hoped his voice sounded sincere and sorry enough to calm her down—at least a little bit.

“A friend? This one’s a friend? And what about the one last month, is she just a friend, too?”

“No, no, last week I was visiting my cousins in Miami. Really. You know I haven’t seen them in over a month.”

“And who did you send the roses to last month? Your cousin? And what color were they, huh? Go ahead and lie to me one more time, Eduardo, go ahead.”

“Last month?” He hesitated. “Yes, they were for my cousin. She’s getting divorced and she was depressed so I sent her roses to cheer her up.”

“What color?” Eve screamed. She didn’t believe they were for his cousin. He had so many ‘cousins’ that she hadn’t met that she didn’t know if he actually had any family at all.

“Yellow. They were yellow. It wouldn’t have been right for me to send her red. Red is the color for love.”

“You bastard! You send roses to your girlfriends and charge them to my credit card and then make up stories and expect me to believe you. Why did I ever marry you?”

Eve turned and stomped back up the stairs. He heard the bedroom door slam and then the lock engaged. The next sound he heard was crying. Tough as she was, she cried. He had been a bad boy. He had hurt her feelings—again. He smoked cigarettes and drank wine until he fell asleep on the couch.

The next morning he heard Eve make her coffee and pack her lunch. He kept his eyes closed and pretended he was asleep. His head hurt from the wine and he didn’t want another confrontation. He would have all day to recover. Well, until 1 o’clock when he was meeting Noreen in the park for a picnic. He would just go by the grocery store and buy a bunch of pre-packaged flowers and pay cash. He hadn’t sent her roses yet.

At work, Eve attended the early morning staff meeting. She wore her usual scowl. Nobody at the office had ever seen her smile. She was always mad at something or somebody. When she got back to her desk the little red light on her phone was blinking. She had a voicemail message waiting. She picked up the phone and heard the receptionist’s voice. “Hello Eve. This is Donna in the reception area. Please come up here when you get this message. Thanks.”

What on earth could Donna want? Eve walked toward the elevator. As the elevator slowly moved from the first floor to the second, she watched people walking in the corridors through the glass. The sudden stop startled her back to reality. The door slid open and she stepped out heading deliberately toward the reception desk. On the desk she saw the vase holding a dozen red roses with ferns and baby’s breath. They were beautiful!

“What’s the special occasion?” Donna asked.

Eve’s cheeks were pink. She was blushing. “No special occasion,” she said.

The flowers were heavier than she expected so she used both hands to hold the vase and carry them back to her desk. It was lunch time. She took out her pink insulated lunch bag and ate her sandwich. By the time she was done with her apple it was 1 o’clock. She picked up the phone and called the house. It rang four times before the answering machine came on. “Eduardo and Eve are not home right now. Please leave a message and we’ll return your call. Have a nice day.” She waited for the beep.

“Eduardo? Sweetie? Are you there? I called to tell you that they’re beautiful. I can’t wait to get home.”

Friday, June 4, 2010

Taking a Break -- #Fridayflash

This is a #fridayflash story. Comments, good or bad, are welcome. Constructive criticism is particularly welcome.

People in the bar were getting restless. They had come to hear some jazz. A 20 minute band break had turned into 30. The drummer was missing. Finally the musicians gathered on stage without him and started playing with the bass player picking up the rhythm on his own. Elena was singing the Girl from Ipanema. The guitar player looked at the sax player with raised eyebrows and shrugged. He hadn’t shown up in the underground garage to participate in the early coke break. Now after the second break everyone was buzzing along without him.

Cadillac Jim was sitting in his Toyota mini-van, tears running down his cheeks. Everyone wondered why his nickname was Cadillac when he drove a Toyota but that was not important now. He knew he should go back into the bar. It didn’t matter. He would not be able to contain his emotions and they would be incongruous with the jazz he was hired to play. But the demolition team, in the form of his future ex-wife, had turned his happy future into a slow motion implosion similar to the one he had seen on TV when the old basketball arena had been torn down last week. Both his life and the arena would be rebuilt in new locations with new designs.

Lily had slammed the Toyota door and run to her own car just minutes ago. She was hysterical. She had wanted to drive away immediately but her shaking hands prevented her from gripping the steering wheel. They had only been engaged two weeks and now they were not. She knew this might happen. His divorce wasn’t final when they met but his wife was already living with another man. The wildcard was his daughter. There would be a custody battle. His gigs were always at night so he had essentially been a stay-at-home dad raising his little girl while his wife worked long hours. He couldn't imagine daily life without his child. Lily understood that. During their relationship she and Janie had gotten so close that this was like a divorce for her, too. She was not only losing Cadillac but also Janie and there was nothing she could do about it.

Cadillac was startled by a knock on his car window. It was Jeff, the bass player.

“What are you doin’ man? You missed a whole set. Get your act together and get back inside. We don’t want to lose this gig. I brought you a little blow to get you back on track,” Jeff said.

“Sorry, Jeff. Lily’s gone. Kelly told me last night that she doesn’t want the divorce. She wants to try and patch things up. As soon as she found out about Lily she broke up with her Elvis impersonator boyfriend. I guess Janie told her about our engagement.”

“Wow, man. What are you gonna do? I feel your pain. You know how much trouble I’ve had juggling my wife and Liv. My wife plays dumb about Liv but I know she knows.”

“I just can’t imagine never seeing Lily again. Do you think there’s a chance she’ll still want to see me?” Cadillac asked Jeff.

“Trust me, man. She’ll go on seeing you. I learned long ago, when it comes to women in this situation they’ll always hang on. After all, 50 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing. Come on. We’ve got to get back. You want some blow or not?”