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“Have you seen my socks,” my husband Brian asked me.
It was his first day returning to work after taking time off to accommodate our recent move from an apartment to a house.
I stared at him blankly, trying to force my brain to think, something it stopped doing approximately two hours into the move.
I’m convinced that cardboard kills brain cells.
“Socks,” he said again emphatically. “I have to get dressed for work.”
“Socks,” I muttered. Socks? Where had I seen socks?
“They were in a box,” I said dully.
We stared into our dining room. Boxes packed it so tightly from floor to ceiling that not even a nimble cat could enter the room.
Brian sighed. “They’re probably in the far back corner.”
I wept silently at the thought of opening even one more box.
“What am I going to do,” he asked. “I have to go to work.”
“Do you have to wear socks,” I asked.
“Yes, I have to wear socks! I work on my feet all day. I don’t want to get blisters!”
Wearily, I found a box cutter.
He grunted and shifted a box of books.
I wriggled through the opening he’d made in the wall of boxes. Carefully, I shoved my way through the stack. I ignored boxes that didn’t have “socks” written on the side. When I made my way to the far corner, I located a box labeled “Brian’s socks.”
“Found it,” I shouted triumphantly. I sliced open the tape, grabbed a pair of Brian’s socks and tossed them to him.
“Thanks,” he shouted. His voice was somewhat muffled by the wall of cardboard between us.
“Do you know where the ironing board is?” he asked.
“In the office,” I replied. We shoved boxes until we reached it.
“Do you know where the iron is?”
“In the bathroom,” I answered. We lifted four stacks of plastic bins and pressed through until we found the iron.
“Have you seen my work shoes?”
“They’re in a box labeled ‘Shoes, mostly Brian’s,’” I told him. “It’s in the hallway.”
We stared into the hallway. The box with the shoes was under the bins we’d just removed from the bathroom. With a sob, I began putting the bins back into the bathroom.
When he was dressed, Brian kissed me goodbye.
“Don’t leave,” I begged. “Don’t leave me here with all these boxes!”
“I’ve got to go to work,” he told me.
“Ha,” I retorted. “You mean you’ve got to escape.”
“Call it what you will,” he said. He dashed for his car.
I rolled my eyes. Brian might have been off to his job, but he knew he was leaving me with the unpacking: the real work!
At 1 a.m., my eyes snapped open. A sound I had not heard in years roused me and ended all possibility of sleep.
It was too insidious to contemplate, too horrendous to imagine. Though I had not heard the noise in a long time, I knew what caused it at once.
A cat was on the counter!
But how and more importantly who? We live with two cats, Seti and Mimi, and neither gets on the counter, ever!
A feline form at the foot of the bed assured me that the offending cat wasn’t Mimi. She snored by my feet.
If it wasn’t Mimi, that could only mean one thing. My precious, sweet, angelic, boy, Seti was on the counter!
I didn’t know if I were more angry or astonished.
Friday and Hemmy, two of our cats who’ve since passed on, spent more time on my counters than they did on my floors. They ignored the prohibition of animals on kitchen surfaces with a degree of contempt that only a cat can manage.
“Busting” them in the act required stealth, cunning and a bit of courage since Hemmy wasn’t afraid to put up a fight.
A great lover of food, Hemmy made hourly forays across the counters to search for dropped crumbs, forgotten leftovers and, once, an entire slice of pizza. Seizing the slice in his mouth, he made a dash for the safety of his favorite hiding hole: under the bed.
His philosophy was that it was better to have food in the mouth while getting in trouble than no food at all. He would desperately gobble his prize even while we pried it from his jaws.
Friday was far more devious. He took the approach that it was better to have the food and avoid detection, though when he was caught he cared very little: the greater my fury, the greater his tranquility. He often scouted the house to make sure no humans were looking before he leapt onto the counter.
Bearing the expertise of Seti’s two predecessors in mind, I eased silently out of bed and crept into the kitchen. My stealth was unnecessary. Unaccustomed as he was to being in trouble, Seti didn’t know he wasn’t allowed on the counter. He purred at me happily.
I scooped him up and carried him to bed.
I’m not sure if Seti has a philosophy regarding countertops but I realized that I had a new approach when it comes to cats: it is pointless to have rules. They will only break them and derive pleasure in ignoring you; even the ones who never “ever” get on the counter will surprise you.
This is a repost from last year, but it’s timely. For my part, I’ve abandoned the fight.
My best friend Lexi gripped my arm. “Don’t go out there,” she said. “It will be the end of you for sure.”I knew she was right but I’m stubborn. “I can do it. I’ve been training for this.” I patted her arm. “Don’t worry. I’ll be ok.” I shrugged her off and headed for the door.
“Nora, no!” She lunged at me, threw her arms around my waist and dragged me back into the room. “You don’t know what you’re doing. I know you’ve been training but you’re not ready. You have to live with the decision you make.”
I turned to face her, sighing. “Lexi, we’ve been over this. I’ve done Booty Butt Crunch, Ballet Bar Buster, Ab Agony Explosion and I’m running my first half marathon next week. I can do this. I am ready.”
She hugged me, tears pooling in the corners of her eyes. “Good luck,” she whispered. “I love you.”
I turned, confident with her blessing and headed into the bikini department.
Ah, swimming season, that magical time of year when women over the age of 18 are faced with a choice: one piece or two? At 34 with a nasty carbohydrate addiction, this choice gets tougher and tougher for me to make. Should I aim for modest or punish the people sunbathing around me?
As Shakespeare might have put it, “To see or not to see, that is the question.” Should I suck in my gut the entire day on the beach or surrender to the Tankini? And since the development of my second rear end, that’s the bit of fat at the top of my thighs but under my actual butt, I’ve begun to wonder if I not only need to cover my mid-section but everything down to my knees as well.
Perhaps we’re a nation too concerned with body image. Perhaps I should let myself, all of myself, be free to experience the sun. Then again, I’ve seen some of you and perhaps we’re not concerned enough with our appearance. I recall one notable day on a Florida beach ruined when I witnessed a bathing suit gasp its final breath, burst and succumb to a watery grave. Oh, if only that woman had considered her options more carefully and made an honest assessment of her body, that old man with cardiac disease might still be alive today.
So here’s to bikini season. Whatever you suit you choose to wear, wear it well and should it cause a heart attack just assume it’s because you’re so stunning and not because you should have chosen the one piece.
I can think of no better punishment for criminals and miscreants than to force them to move to a new home every six months. Moving is the worst punishment to endure.
My husband Brian and I are moving next week. Prayers are welcome.
Next week’s move will be our second in two years. The previous move took us from Augusta, Georgia to Greenville, South Carolina, our current home. Now, we are vacating the apartment we’ve rented since our arrival in SC and we are moving across town to a charming (read tiny) home in a historic district.
Our last move was major. We moved roughly three hours away, changed states and changed jobs. We sold our home in Augusta and I sold my pet sitting business. We rose early on a Saturday morning and with the help of family, loaded a truck, drove it to Greenville and unloaded it all on the same day. It was a Saturday that lasted ten years.
There is no language, dead or living, that sums up the exhaustion we felt at the end of that interminable day.
The experience taught us several things about moving.
First, not all of our belongings will fit into U-Haul’s largest truck. I’d always thought our possessions were modest until we moved from a charming three-bedroom house (read tiny) into a small, two-bedroom apartment (read microscopic).
Secondly, paper cuts are bad, but paper cuts from cardboard boxes make you cry like a four-year-old. To this day, Brian won’t handle them without work gloves. It makes receiving shipments from Amazon both a joy and a terror.
Finally, even in our thirties, we are too old to move. Ibuprofen, medicated muscle relief patches and sadistic massage therapists couldn’t relieve the back pain we felt. We limped and moaned for days, stretching to no avail.
After that hellacious experience, Brian and I have a few tricks to make the next move go more easily.
We scheduled two days instead of one for loading the truck, driving across town and unloading our furniture.
Brian has his trusty work gloves with which to confront scary cardboard boxes.
But most importantly, because my back is still in bad shape and Brian is forty-one now, we bribed several of his employees to help us.
They’re neither criminals nor miscreants but they are twenty-somethings. They won’t feel this pain for at least ten more years.
Roald Dahl once said, “A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.”
Dahl would know. He was a writer and is famous for such works as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach and my mother’s favorite, Matilda.
It’s a poetic statement and in large part, I agree with Mr. Dahl on all points except one.
I agree that a person is a fool to become a writer. (Who would do this on purpose?) It’s hard work for little reward.
I also agree that the only compensation is absolute freedom. After I filed last year’s tax returns, several IRS agents called me to offer their condolences. They assured me that I’d needn’t bother with the forms this year if my earnings continued to be so low.
However, Mr. Dahl is wrong when he says that a writer has no master except his own soul. It is true that the soul is master, especially where writing is concerned. I often say to friends that I did not choose to be a writer. It chose me. As I must breathe so must I write. Yet there is one other master that is more demanding, more exacting than my own soul.
While the rest of America spends their workday in a cubicle, I spend mine under a cat. People who say cats aren’t needy have never met Seti. As I sit before my computer, he sits on my lap, or my shoulder, or my head, or anywhere he can cram all eight pounds of his feline frame.
Other people have bosses who demand reports I have a “boss” who demands catnip. Other people have coworkers who want to chat over coffee. I have a “coworker” who chatters at the birds outside my office window. Other people have staff who try to get away with doing as little work as possible. I don’t have staff. Cats work for no one.
It is plain to me that Mr. Dahl, though a brilliant and celebrated writer never lived with a cat. If he had, he would know that like writing, cats chose us, and once chosen by one or both, you are indeed a servant for the rest of your days.
I have two nieces and both are gymnasts.
My oldest niece, Callie, is eight and quite advanced. Two Christmases ago, her parents bought her a balance beam and a set of uneven bars so she can practice gymnastics at home. She spends eight hours a week training at the gym and more practicing on her home equipment in the garage.
Her younger sister, Nicole, has learned a lot from watching her. Nicole is four and takes a fun one hour a week gymnastics class at the same gym where Callie practices.
It’s a class designed to get small kids moving and stretching. They practice important life lessons like paying attention, making friends and stretching their legs while they are still young enough to reach their toes.
Nicole is a spunky kid. She had the forward roll (what we called a somersault when I was a kid) mastered before she ever entered the class. Her older sister has even taught her how to use the balance beam and uneven bars in their garage. If the beginner’s gymnastic class was graded, Nicole would blow the curve.
One day in class, when Nicole should have been learning to pay attention, she decided she was bored. Like most small children, she’s dangerous when she’s bored.
Instead of stretching her legs and somersaulting, I mean, forward rolling, with her classmates, she abandoned the class and climbed onto the balance beam. She twirled with skill cultivated from practicing in the garage with her big sister.
Her classmates were mesmerized. Who knew this class could be so much fun?
In seconds, she fomented a rebellion of tiny people. Like a short Pied Piper, she led her classmates around the gym, over exercise balls, under the pommel horse and through the legs of a practicing cheerleading team.
Tots, too young to master the potty, teetered on balance beams designed for much longer legs. Short people, too diminutive to reach the uneven bars leaped and capered for them anyway. One small boy, being more adventurous than the others, climbed up one side and swung like a monkey from the bar.
Gymnastic coaches panicked. This was a full-blown, often cited but rarely seen, code blue.
And my niece was the orchestrator of the chaos.
“She cannot come back to this class,” a frazzled coach told my sister after the errant children had been corralled with animal crackers.
My niece was kicked out of toddler gymnastics.
However, she was invited back to try out for advanced placement with the larger kids. The coaches may not appreciate being undermined, but they know talent when they see it.
If people in business were as honest as children are every day, it would so radicalize the marketplace that only the greatest ideas would survive.
Children aren’t afraid to tell the truth – unless they think they’re in trouble. Then they’re capable liars. (I once knew a used car salesman who filmed his nine-year-old son’s explanation of why his report card was so poor so he could use it as study prep for selling clunkers to an unsuspecting populace.)
When you ask a child for their opinion, they’ll give you the hard, honest truth.
Take my four-year-old niece for example. While visiting over the holidays, she asked me for a cup of hot chocolate. I don’t keep hot chocolate mix in my house for fear I’ll eat it straight from the package.
I can make hot chocolate from powdered cocoa, coconut milk, vanilla extract and honey. It’s low in sugar so naturally, I knew she wouldn’t like it. I quadrupled the amount of honey and hoped for the best.
“How is it,” I asked her.
“It’s a little bit,” she thought carefully.
What, I thought, too hot? Too sweet? Too chocolaty?
“Yucky,” she finished. “It’s a little bit yucky.”
I considered how I might make it less “yucky” and stared into the pantry for inspiration while briefly lamenting what commercialized hot chocolate has done to our youth – and my waistline.
Then, I spied my inspiration: confectioners’ sugar.
I loaded her chocolate down with powered sweetness and handed it back.
“That’s better, Aunt Nora.” She gave it her stamp of approval and chugged.
I considered the quantity of sugar she was bolting and was relieved that she wasn’t spending the night with me. Yep, I’m that aunt.
When I consider my niece’s brutal honesty, I wonder how many products would have never make it to market if they had been tested by kids first.
Kids will tell you that birthday cards for dogs are dumb. Dogs can’t read.
They know that while grandpa probably needs a nose hair trimmer, he isn’t going to use a nose hair trimmer. Grandpa stopped wearing a shirt and brushing the hair on his head four years ago. Why would he care about a little thing like two-inch nose hairs?
And I’m certain that children could have stopped the great New Coke Debacle of the 1980’s.
In a taste test between Coca-Cola Classic and New Coke, my niece would have deemed New Coke, “A little bit yucky,” and saved the company a lot of hassle.