Holiday Trimmings

It is day one of the new year, and I’ve just returned from five blissful days on the southeastern coast where a stay at Darlings by the Sea accommodated both my luxurious taste and meager budget. The pristine and almost un-populated beaches provided the backdrop for Frisbee, long walks (at least, on Karen’s part), pipe smoking, competitive scrabble, dolphin observation and the occasional feeding of seagulls. The weather was glorious … sunny skies and light breezes.

My failure to apply sunscreen resulted in a cherry red face with two stylishly white polygons where my sunglasses had protected my vision from the glaring sun! Lest envy become a byproduct of this E-mail, let me just say that the combination of said sunburn and an unintended ‘new’ hair style left me looking a bit freakish. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that children were terrified, but I did get some odd looks and a giggle or two.

It happened only two hours before we were to join other travelers on the highways and byways for our trip south. I was up before sunrise. There were suitcases to pack, bank deposits to make, packages to mail and a picnic basket to fill. And let us not forget that there was the loading of Karen’s tiny Honda Insight that somehow must accommodate two large suitcases, one medium sized carryon, a camera case, a duffel bag filled with gifts, the food hamper, a cooler of soft drinks and a sports bag brimming with beach paraphernalia. We had to be on the road by 10:30 a.m.! My itinerary was firm. Yet my attempt to save money by deferring a much needed haircut had left me in urgent need of a trim. My once exacting and sleek hairlines now twisted and curved into grotesque shapes that refused to be tamed by even the strongest of palmades. What was a girl to do?

Karen was protesting furiously as I wrapped a towel around my shoulders and handed her the newly purchased GE Hair Trimmer. “I don’t think this is a good idea.” She said. But I wasn’t to be derailed from my plan of action. A half inch off the back to eliminate the wiggish look and a tidying up of the nape area was just the beginning. I had plans for the front as well. A trimming of the bangs and elimination of the over-the-ear hair growth would just about do the trick. Karen, however, was standing firm. “I’ll touch up the back but I refuse to trim the front. It’s a dangerous proposition and I’ll have no part in it.”

With the backside head hairs trimmed, I reclaimed the clippers from Karen. A promise to be careful accompanied her departure. Unable to decipher the correct way to apply the clipper prongs regulating the length of cut, I took the trimmer in hand and placed the fully exposed teeth against the base of my ear. It was at this very moment that things went wrong. Very, very, wrong. I swear to you that the clippers took on a life of their own as they progressed quickly above the ear sheering off four inches of hair in a two inch diameter in a matter of seconds. There are moments in one’s life when time stands still and the lens of the camera zooms in to capture the intensity of the moment. My lips moved in slow motion and the profanity that escaped would have sent my mother scurrying for a bar of soap with which to wash out my mouth. The profanity was quickly followed by a Charlie Brown AAAAAaaaaaahhhhhgggg! There was no time for thought or action. Karen’s quick knock on the door was followed by her entrance. The look on her face said it all as did her subsequent 20 minutes of helpless tears and laughter.

As for the bald spots, they are the unfortunate byproduct of misplaced confidence in my own abilities. And there are two … one by mistake and the other to even up both sides. The money I saved on a haircut had to be invested in hats, scarves and an extra eyebrow pencil to shade in the patches of missing hair. The past 10 days have found me attempting to pull strands from the back of my head forward to cover my bare spots. I’ve made up plenty of stories to explain the bald patches (shaved to accommodate stitches, lost a bet, radiation treatments, extra in a Frankenstein movie, etc.). I don’t think it would much matter if it weren’t for the fact that I am overcompensating by drawing on bigger lips and bushier eyebrows.In spite of or perhaps because of my misplaced confidence … (do I dare reference the slippery slope gardening or geese episodes) … 2002 has been a memorable year. I don’t know what the new year shall bring but one thing is for certain … the hair clippers are going in the trash and, as soon as I gather the nerve, I’m making a standing monthly appointment with my beautician.

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Narcolepsy

Today, I dusted off my heels, took a lint remover to my dark linen suit and with the assistance of some “super shaper panties” squeezed my rear into a tried and true ensemble. I was looking and feeling like a million bucks. Not only that … this time I knew the drill … where to go, which elevator to take and just how to announce my presence. I’d done this before and was getting pretty good at it.

Maybe it was the alarm sounding as I entered the building or the group of staff members appearing to evacuate a distant medical wing. As I waited for the elevator doors to slide open, my casual inquiry of those appearing to flee building was met with an unnerving response. “You’re okay, it’s only our quadrant that must be vacated.” As their footsteps retreated toward salvation, I weighed my options. Having glimpsed no signs warning of nuclear hazards and smelling no smoke, I decided to take the risk.

The lonely elevator ride to the top allowed me to straighten my suit coat and wipe the perspiration from my brow. What is it they say about not letting them see you sweat? I was asked to take a seat and perused the magazine selection while the receptionist attempted to track down the Chief Operating Officer to advise him of my arrival. As is my normal custom, I had arrived early and expected there to be a brief wait. It made sense to occupy myself with a bit of reading material the choice of which might reflect greatly upon one’s perception of my professionalism. While I wanted to reach for Reader’s Digest or Southern Living, I instead feigned interest in the Journal of Cardiology and Barron’s Weekly.

He appeared out of nowhere looking like a cross between a mad scientist and a diminutive accountant. His quick steps and hunched shoulders indicated a man carrying the weight of management issues inherent to a department the nets $50m. I liked him immediately. Understanding him was a different matter. His office was small and cramped. Filing cabinets overflowed with statistical reports, bookcases were piled high with spreadsheets and the plaques on his office wall indicated 18 years of stellar service as an Operations/Financial Administrator. He clearly liked his job and his job liked him.

I took a seat at his desk (the only chair in the room) and awaited his return with a secondary rump rest. Once he was seated, I realized that yet again I was in for an unconventional interview. The bottled water and wrapped sandwich hinted at a lunch uneaten, and I became immediately concerned as I noticed a slight shaking of the hands and eyelids that drooped significantly. I continued to make eye contact, which was no small effort given that his pupils were more often than not completely obscured. I had come prepared to use the appropriate lingo and with sample spreadsheets and strategic plans in hand. I had not come prepared to play nursemaid to a diabetic or epileptic. Thank God I was in a medical center!

As our conversation progressed, it became clear that my qualifications were not in question. In fact, as I had encountered in the previous interviews, I was coming face to face with someone interested in ensuring that any concerns I might have regarding the position were addressed. The right job fit makes for happy employees or so one hopes. While this was all well and good, any hope I had in coming away with a better understanding of the organization and it’s structure were soon dashed as the man sitting across from me began to slur his words. The fact that his responses were uttered at barely an audible whisper made him all the more difficult to understand.

Throwing caution to the wind, I waited for the most appropriate moment and suggested that he should feel free to eat lunch while we chatted.

“I’ve already eaten lunch.” He said. “But thank you.”

I was dumbfounded. Was I on Candid Camera? Was the Chief Operating Officer for the Department of Internal Medicine actually planning to sleep through my interview? And if he ceased talking altogether, should I slip out of the office leaving behind a note thanking him for his time.

“I have a sleep disorder.” He remarked casually with closed eyelids. “If I cease to make sense, just nudge me awake.”

The irony of the moment was not lost on me. How long had I spent in front of the mirror ensuring my eyebrows were properly plucked, lipstick applied perfectly, nails buffed to a high shine? I had used extra starch to ensure that my linen suit looked crisp. I had even used Crest Whitening Strips to add a sparkle to my teeth. And for what? I was interviewing with a narcoleptic whose most significant sleep episodes seemed to occur between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.! When I walked away an hour later knowing little more than I did when I had arrived, I was certain of one thing … these were my kind of people. I would feel right at home.

I have yet another interview. The final I hope. I’m recycling the linen suit and hoping this time around all parties will remain awake during our session.

Perils of Gardening

It wasn’t so much the striking yellow beam of sun against a crisp blue backdrop of sky, the warm summer breeze scented of flowers or even the monumental scope of the project that would take my mind off of a job market lacking in opportunities.  No, frankly, it was my competitive spirit that kicked in three weeks ago causing me to take gloves and spade in hand determined to make our yard the prettiest on the block!  My landlord had done little if anything to maintain the flower beds since she had purchased the home two years ago.  Rose bushes had become intertwined with honeysuckle, hydrangeas had become chummy with evergreens, and the weeds … well, the weeds had grown uncontested for such a long time that I’m sure I heard them scoff as I approached. 

But how hard could it be?  After all, millions tended to their own yards never complaining of chipped nails, bug bites, or an occasional sweaty brow.  If I played my cards right, perhaps I’d even burn a calorie or two.  And so it was that in a bright white t-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes I headed into the yard just after sunrise determined to make my mark!  I had all the right tools, a long uninterrupted day and enthusiasm that would not be deterred by the heat, the stubbornness of the weeds or the animals that had gathered to watch a fine display of “Stick-to-it-iveness.”  If only I had known of the dangers that lurked ahead. 

Apart from the rash (I’m apparently allergic to pine needles) and almost poking my eye out with a stick, my ass took the worse beating of all. First, there was the less than graceful slippery slope on which my tennis shoes held no traction. The down hill bum slide wouldn’t have been much to write about except for the fact that I, in my white t-shirt and shorts, ended the slide in a pile of sticks, prickly weeds, and thorny rose bush branches.  The chatter of squirrel laughter was drowned out only by the volley of foul words that were racing quickly from my brain to my lips.  Pulling myself slowly to my knees, I made my mud encrusted way back to the point of disaster and ascertained quickly whether my return to the house could be made without encountering a neighbor, the mail carrier, or one of the painters that was hard at work on the house across the way! 

With the mud removed from my exterior parts and a fresh change of darkly colored clothes, I returned to the yard certain that disaster would not strike twice.  After all, the tennis shoes had been discarded in favor of gardening clogs and the sun now high in the sky had long ago dried the formerly dew covered grass.  With the rhythmic chirping of young cardinals accompanying my efforts, I returned to the task determined that the pain in my ass would not deter me from accomplishing what I had set out to do.  Hours passed as I worked in solitude keeping my aversion to dirt in check. Leaning back on my heels to survey my handiwork, my attention was suddenly riveted to the left where the sound of hoofs was followed by the appearance of a four-legged, white horned, black bearded creature evading capture.  I was face to face with a large goat!  Startled I lost my balance and, as the goat darted back through the hedge, I toppled over backwards. It wasn’t exactly a backwards somersault but something close to it and, in an attempt to stop my momentum, I stupidly grabbed for the trash barrel bringing it and its contents down upon me. Covered in dirt and spewing twigs and leaves from my mouth, I stared up at the clear blue sky, which earlier that day had beckoned me out of doors. 

Had I just seen a goat?  Was I flat on my back for the second time in one day?  Where did Martha Stewart get off making gardening look like so much fun?  What had I been thinking?  Like automobiles, gardens should be left to the experts.  It took a few days but I did recover from my injuries.  The rash has subsided, the bruises are gone, and there has only been one more goat sighting.  I’ve added a few gardening books to my personal library, will study up before spring rolls around again and have purchased a harness to keep me upright and safely attached to the deck. 

There have been many lessons learned this year, not the least of which is that goats and geese are to be feared.  I was later informed that the goat had escaped from a farming exhibit at the local community college.  He and his female partner were apprehended four houses down in front of a “For Rent” sign, but not before I came home one evening to find our large bird bath dry as a bone and not a morsel of food to be found in any of the recently filled bird feeders.  Seems the goats had one last feast before their capture. 

Public Copulation

I am writing to advise all of my newest career venture, the joys of which are as much a surprise to me as to you. I am now involved in the field of Real Estate Development. It all began a few weeks ago with an ad promising rich rewards and a quick return on one’s investment. Many days of prayer and long conversations with Karen followed, and soon I had decided to throw caution to the wind and make my first real estate purchase. The research was extensive. Not only was I about to spend money I didn’t have but I had convinced Karen to invest as well.

Location, location, location. We couldn’t afford much, and so we settled on a small one bedroom unit with sound structure, good ventilation and a small parcel of land. All the place needed was a good cleaning, a bit of interior decorating and we would be ready for our first set of occupants. With the purchase complete, we set about advertising for tenants. Quietly, we had decided on the criteria … young, committed couple with colorful personalities … potential friends, if you will!

I was a basket case. Charlottesville does not lack for real estate opportunities and, in the scheme of things, our offering was quite minor!  We didn’t have long to wait. Within 24 hours, the first couple arrived. But not just any couple … vocalists. We had found our tenants!  Bud and Harriet Rose, as they soon came to be called, were overjoyed!

Bud arrived first having invited Harriet Rose to join him later. She, of course, had the final say and the nervousness on Bud’s part was quite evident.  Harriet Rose took her time surveying both the interior and exterior of the property while Bud did all the talking. I waited patiently at a distance praying that they would find all to be to their liking. Then it happened. Without even a nod in my direction, they began copulating furiously on the front lawn … not once … not twice … but three times! Bluebird sex is noisy. It is passionate. It is quick!

Then it was over. The flurry of blue feathers subsided and side by side Bud and Harriet Rose returned to their new home. Harriet Rose, now impregnated, had a nest to build and Bud, who had just scored, quietly surveyed his new territory!

I spent all of Sunday observing our new Bluebird tenants having moved my computer so I could work nearby. The nest building is almost complete thanks to a scattering of dried grasses conveniently placed in the vicinity by my own hand, and I am excitedly awaiting the first of the light blue eggs to take up residence in my small parcel of real estate.

The joys of motherhood have put a lilt in my step and a permanent smile on my face. It has also put a dent in my pocketbook. Two more bluebird houses were purchased on Sunday and will arrive some time this week.

Getting Goosed

I’ve never been one to enjoy a surprise especially when it comes in the form of getting goosed! The fact that the “goosee” was less than three feet high and didn’t understand the phrase “back off” further complicated the issue as did the fact that I was on a small strip of land surrounded by water with a single bridge my only means of escape.

My first mistake was agreeing to walk. Lured by the promise of a serene lake, fresh air and a bunny rabbit or two, I could not have comprehended the dangers that lurked ahead. The lakeside walking path, just a short stroll from our home, was a scene ripped from an episode of ECO Challenge. There were the exposed tree roots that threatened to topple the unobservant strider, the thorny branches that had formed swinging gates of pain and, of course, the oh so perilous slippery bank that beckons one closer to observe schools of fish feeding nearby. But all of these natural dangers pale in comparison to a very large and very suspect Canadian Goose!

I should have sensed peril lurked ahead. The Canadian Goose has been trailing us for some time. I, however, was focussed on the before mentioned roots, thorny branches and slippery banks all the while attempting to whistle a happy tune. My roommate and host in this walk of fear, strode far ahead her pace quickened in an effort to raise her heart rate. I, on the other hand, shuffled along panting from over exertion.

When the tiny island with bridge access appeared ahead, I welcomed the opportunity to rest for a moment in the shade of a tree and perhaps skip a rock or two across the still surface of the lake. It was here, on her own turf, that the Goose decided to make her move. I am a peaceable creature by nature. The Goose evidently is not. Visions of the two of us quietly sharing the tranquil lakeside setting were soon shattered as I found myself face to face with a large, quick-footed, long-necked, hissing female!

Stunned, I stared evil in the face! What had I done to illicit such a response? Furthermore, what bodily harm was she capable of? I weighed my options. Not knowing how to swim and certain that the water was much too cold for entry, the bridge clearly was my only means of escape. But did I turn tail and run exposing the one body part I’ve been using on a regular basis? Or did I back up slowly staring the Goose down as I made my retreat?

I did neither of these things. I stood stock still and attempted to negotiate!

“Hi there.”

HISS … HISS …

“It’s okay, I’m not going to hurt you.”

HISSSSSSSSSS …

“I’ll only be a moment. I just want to enjoy the view.”

HISS … HISS …

It’s not true what the say about communication. Talking is not always the best solution and, if it is, the Canadian Goose sure hadn’t been told. So, I turned tail and ran directly for my roommate, who was standing nearby and could serve as a body shield while I made my retreat!

My roommate tells me there was nothing to fear. That’s easy for her to say. She wasn’t the one staring evil in the face. Had she not seen Hitchcock’s movie THE BIRDS? I suspect the Goose was simply protecting a nearby nest. However, Mike could be right! Maybe there is a conspiracy and the Canadian Geese are a part of it. They have, after all, been camping out in numbers on the baseball field behind our home. I’ve taken safe refuge indoors and stocked up on toilet paper, water and chocolate just in case.

Getting Goosed once in a lifetime is enough for this gal!