Tuesday, July 18, 2006

V.I.P.

I was in Target last night by myself (a rarity--not that I was in Target, but that I was there by myself). Going at night is such a different experience than going during the day. During the day, I usually run into many other moms with kids doing the same thing I'm doing: buying the 24-roll pack of toilet paper and a kid's birthday present for an upcoming party. At night there is a much different crowd--more college and young professionals. If I had had the time and stomach for it, I'd park myself in the snack bar with whatever they sell there as food, and people watch. But I was on a mission and I tried to stay focused. I had toilet paper to buy and Ellie turns four on Thursday. My people watching skills was reduced to eavesdropping due to EVERYONE talking on their cell phones. It was not just two or three people using their phones but rather, just two or three of us NOT using them. Perusing through the dollar spot, I caught part of a conversation of a woman telling someone on the other line, under no circumstances, to pay "her" (whoever they may be) what she wants. "Like she's worth $68,000," she said sarcastically as she dug through $1.00 candy packaged in tiny little tin lunch boxes. I found myself wondering who "she" was and why $68k and not $65,000 or an even $70,000? I used to be a recruiter and my old negotiating self kicked in: why wasn't she worth it? Could a little polish and better presentation get her top dollar?

I moved on to plasticware to look for buckets (by the way they are only $1.49, so I bought two--who couldn't use another bucket? And they are red!). As I was trying to figure out if the $1.49 price was a mistake, I noticed a man was standing beside me staring at the mops, deep in thought. I was intrigued and hung out to see where that was going to go. After a VERY long while, he picked one mop up and twirled it around slowly, kicking the tires, I guess, and then put it back and continued his studying stare. At mops. I left, to compare prices in the back-to-school section to see if I could get a shower caddy for cheaper than $1.49 (I'm crazy like that) and realized quickly that I couldn't (not even close--$5.99!) So I went back to get another cute red bucket. Mr. Decision was STILL standing there staring at mops! Oh come on now, I wanted to cry out. Then a guy in a very tight t-shirt begged his pardon and reached in front of me and Mr. Decision and grabbed a mop, without so much as glancing at the price and went on his way. Mr. Decision and I shared a now-who-does-he-think-HE-is side glance. I left that section pondering which guy I would recommend to a girlfriend to date. I was still arguing both sides when I came upon a very tall man in bedding with long white hair asking someone on the other line if they thought he was funny. What if they said no? He laughed loudly at their response, so I moved on.

It was in the gift wrap section that I became disheartened. There were two men unrolling a roll of vinyl gift wrap the width of two aisles. They tried to ask in their broken English if it was a table cloth. A very unfriendly, condescending employee, said without stopping what she was doing or making eye contact, no, and vaguely pointed them to the section where tablecloths were sold. They neatly rolled up the gift wrap and left. I looked at the roll once they had left and found that it would've worked fine for a bright table covering and at $2.99 you couldn't find a better deal (HGTV designers would've loved it). I'm only sorry I didn't seek them out to tell them so.

As I was finally making my way to check out, I got distracted by a sale on batteries. As I was trying to find a pack with less than 64 batteries in it, I overheard a guy say loudly, "I don't date teachers or secretaries". Oh, I have to see this jerk, I thought. I turned to find a skinny guy clad with jeans, t-shirt and a ball cap covering curly shoulder-length hair. He picked up a Duncan Hines cake mix as if to read the ingredients and said again but louder, "I don't date teachers or secretaries!" I saw him turn and glance around quickly as if hoping to have an audience. "I will date a mom, though, that's fine," he said, maybe trying to rectify himself? I rolled my eyes and then continued my battery search when he said, "yeah, have them call my publicist". Oh, the guy was a fraud. I glanced at him again, squeezing the bread loaves and turning to see if anyone was watching him, giving him the respect that he so desperately lacking in himself. Knowing there was no one on the other line of his phone, I looked at him less harshly. I pitied him. I thought about him the whole way home.

All the genuine humanity (or lack thereof) that I saw in Target last night, that guy's lack of feeling important struck me as the most humane. We all have felt that way, invisible, uninteresting, just not to the extreme he did. Or maybe we have. I will pray for him. It's hard to go to Target without coming out with more than you planned.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I AM BLESSED

I am truly blessed to be surrounded by incredible people. Everyday people. Extraordinarily diverse in every way people. And I am better for having their company.

We have Orkin come and spray for bugs and critters every other month throughout the year (it took us six years before we figured out that we should leave some things to the professionals). Greg, or "Bug Man" as the girls and I call him, is someone that I always look forward to seeing pull into the driveway. He always is smiling and he seems to thoroughly enjoy his job--no kidding. Yesterday I was blessed with his company and I asked him about his summer. He said he cooked 900 chicken wings last weekend for his son's graduation party. He went into some detail about how he carefully arranged them on his five grills and the multiple homemade sauces he prepared when he stopped in mid-sentence. "But if that is all I have to complain about in my life, then, I am truly blessed". I have been thinking about that statement ever since.

I just threw a surprise 40 1/2 birthday party for my husband. Several months of planning all came together in one weekend of putting up out-of-town guests, cooking and cleaning house. I was pretty busy and felt like I didn't sit down for three days. Even though it was a success and everyone had a blast, I was having a hard time recovering from the whirlwind weekend (my sleep and my attitude--no more cooking!) when Greg said what he said in my living room yesterday. If this is all I have to complain about in my life, then, I am truly blessed. To have family and friends, that when asked, are willing to travel by car or plane to surprise a brother or friend, is to have wealth beyond measure.

I have to admit, that I found myself frustrated by our small house in anticipation for the surprise weekend. I knew how many people were going to be here and scrambled to make sure everyone had something to eat and a place to sleep. I kept reminding myself of my grandparents little farm house, half the size of our house, yet the spot where we still all gather comfortably for holidays. If my grandmother ever stressed about food or sleeping arrangements, she never showed it. When my grandfather was dying, he confessed to my mom some regrets in his life. One of them was that he never bought my grandmother a larger house. It seemed so silly when Mom told me, so materialistic! He was dying and we all knew that my grandmother would trade any house for just a few more days to hold his hand. That little house has more love in it than any mansion. I will remember that the next time I grumble about not having enough closet space or find myself checking out the real estate listings in the paper. Love has a way of expanding square footage.

We have a wonderful handyman named Mike. Our house is old, so our need for him has been pretty constant, so he has become a member of the family now. My girls run to hug him when he walks through the door. Today he stopped by to chat since it had been some time since our last visit. He was proud to announce that it had been four days since he had had his last cigarette. I asked him what finally made him do it and he said that he had gotten out of breath one evening which annoyed and then scared him. While he was lying in bed trying to catch his breath, several things ran through his mind. One was a billboard he saw in Detroit some fifteen years ago of a woman trying to kiss an ashtray filled with cigarette butts. "This is what it's like kissing a smoker" the billboard read. The other thing that ran through Mike's head was my daughter, McDaniel, asking me if Mike was going to accidentally set the house on fire by smoking, even outside of it. Never underestimate the power of words--especially those from a child. Some past memories strung together in his present thinking was all it took to quit. He asked us to pray for him to stay smoke free. McDaniel reminded us before dinner to do just that.

While we were entertaining our friends over the big surprise birthday weekend, one of them asked me, "Isn't it amazing how good you feel doing this for Monte?" I lied. "Sure it's awesome" my mouth said as my mind was lying out enough sheets and pillows for everyone and making sure there was enough lemonade and ice tea. I didn't take two simple seconds to let it feel good. But thanks to a bug man and a handyman, I've taken the time, and it feels great. You should have seen Monte's face when he saw everyone sitting in the backyard. I am blessed.