Saturday, February 11, 2017

Random Acts of Compliments

Tonight little kid and I were sitting in front of the television eating a picnic of Chinese food when he reached over and rubbed my back, "I just want to let you know that you are beautiful when you're driving."

I laughed. "Yeah? When I'm driving?"

"Yes. You're all graceful and stuff, like you know what to do."

(I do not know what to do. I've handed my keys to a stranger and asked them to parallel park for me. More than once. I probably shouldn't be allowed to drive, actually.)

"Well...thanks."

"I was just thinking that earlier and thought you should know."

Please everyone in the world be more like this kid.

Not just in the tell-me-I'm-beautiful way (but that too, thanks) -- on the constant lookout for the best of people in the smallest of ways, and generous about sharing it with them.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Play That Song

As we were driving to school this morning, I mentioned to little kid that we hadn't heard a song we both really liked in a while. He excitedly said he had just been thinking of the same song earlier in the shower, and agreed it wasn't being played as often and promised to play it for me later (he is both house DJ and barista, and honored to play both parts).

The song is "Play That Song" by Train which is a real nightmare for Siri to work out, so it remained unplayed as we drove.

As I pulled into the school pick-up line, he said, "I love you, mom," and paused before adding, "a lot," in a sweet and serious tone. "I hope you have a really good day, like the kind of day where you hear our song."

I was already feeling overwhelmed with wonder about what an incredible kid he is as he was hopping out of the car, and then just as he closed the door, the song came on the radio.

Magic.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Mom's Mad

I am sick with a sore throat and a fever, after a long weekend of taking to the streets with millions of other women and mothers to give Donald Trump the "Knock it off or I will take your ass outside for a talk so damn fast" mom look on a global level.

And I had a delirious dream that I walked into the White House and it looked like a college party had just taken place. I followed the detritus to the Oval Office where I found our president sitting at his desk with an empty chip bag, the floor covered in potato chip crumbs that had been spilled and crushed into the carpet.

"This is the EXACT kind of thing I knew was going to happen! You have been here for ONE day -- ONE DAY -- and this place is trashed. How hard is it not to spill the chips? Or to clean them up when you do? Who do you think is going to get all of this out of the carpet now? Huh? You? Not you. You know it won't be you. You live like a freaking pig and who has to deal with it? The rest of us. It's disgusting and you should be ashamed, you're like a spoiled child who cares about no one but himself."

I don't remember his reaction to this scolding, just my strained mom voice and utter disgust about the trail of chips. I knew they wouldn't vacuum up easily and I wasn't cleaning up his mess.

I told Big Kid about it on the drive to school. "That's funny and something the both of you would do -- him spilling chips everywhere, and you yelling at him for it. He has really messed up making moms mad, that's a group you don't want to fight. They don't forget and talking back will just make it worse."

Yep. Clean up the crumbs, Trump, or we won't let you play with Putin anymore.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Grapes on a Plane

So, today is the coronation of our new dictator.

I'm not happy about it, and as a result, I'm not happy with people in general. Add rushed airport travel into that general demeanor and I just wanted the whole rest of the world to go away as I sat in the O'Hare airport two full hours before my flight yesterday, bored to tears and ready to snap the neck of the next motherfucker who snapped their gum.

Just lovely and charming all around, I'll admit it. Being frisked twice in 24 hours will do that to you.

I had moved seats four times in the search of a more comfortable spot, before acquiring a highly coveted end row seat with a small table attached, with an empty seat beside it where I deposited my bags, creating my own personal moat to keep people at bay.

I was reading and some guy lumbered up, approaching the seat beside the one my bags were in. In a moment of softness, I emptied the chair between us in case a companion was joining him.

He set his grapes and water on it. I gave it a sideways glance and returned to my book.

"Thanks so much for making room for me," he said, too loudly.

"Not a problem. Always a long day in places like this," I said, barely looking up.

"I'll share my grapes since you shared your space."

I looked into the container his germy hands were in and looked up at him to politely decline.

He was older, maybe mid-60s, and his face was badly scarred, like it had been cut off and sewn back on. He was smiling broadly and obviously eager to talk. He reminded me of my dad. I set down my book and asked where he was going.

He told me about his youngest son who had just become a doctor and moved out to Phoenix. It's too hot for him in Phoenix but he's so proud of his boy and his new wife that he goes as often as possible.

I told him that I was there for a job interview and that it was too cold for me in Chicago and he agreed, despite living there his whole life, and we talked about Florida and how he dreams of retiring there -- "although I'll never be able to actually retire," he clarified. Same, I said.

I described our beaches and he grilled me about the humidity and the differences between coasts. We talked about our favorite beaches around the world and the places we had traveled and what we loved about each.

He did something in sales involving waste management that was becoming obsolete due to government contracts and I joked that it sounded like the Sopranos and he laughed a big belly laugh and said, yes, not far off but less glamorous and asked what I did. "I'm a writer specializing in content marketing," I explained. He shook his head and said he doesn't do computers but he could tell I liked my work by how I smiled when I said that, and he bet I was good at it, whatever it was.

About half an hour into our conversation, he said, "You know, this is nice. No one ever wants to talk. Everyone's on their little computers all the time. Seems like the only strangers who want to talk are the ones who want something."

He clarified that he wasn't hitting on me and I assured him that I knew and was very taken anyway, and that I was enjoying his company too.

"You sure you don't want some grapes? We got an awful long time left."

I took some grapes, mostly because he really wanted me to and also because I was hungry.

He told me how he was in Vegas and a guy approached him while he was playing a machine, and gave him a sob story. "I'll give you 20 bucks to go away, I told him. Don't come back. And I looked down and won $27,000. He came back."

"NO WAY! It was karma!"

He scoffed. "It wasn't. I wanted to get rid of him. I give lots of people $20 to go away."

"Would you give me $20 to go away?"

"No, because I don't want you to go away. I'd give ya $20 if you need it though. Do you?" He asked with concern and I laughed and assured him that I didn't, just checking.

We ate more grapes.

"So what did you do with the $27,000?" I asked. "Save it or spend it on something big?"

"If I was the kinda guy to save it, would I be flying Spirit?" Probably not, I agreed.

He told me about his past as a bookie, and how you had to call a dedicated number and all of the guys' code names like Joey Monkey Nuts and Billy Ball Buster. About how the internet had ruined it all, and that's one of the many reasons he hates computers. Then he hastily added, "Sorry, I know it's your work and all," as if I might take that personally.

"I get it," I said. "And sounds like Goodfellas or something."

He laughed again and nodded. "But less glamorous." He added. "It's all fun and games until you owe someone meaner than you lots of money." I told him that I've had that same experience myself, on a much less glamorous level.

"Yeah, life ain't easy, is it? You're a good girl, though, you've got a good head on your shoulders. You'll do alright."

We were on separate flights and mine left first. I stood up to leave and he told me his name was Randy and asked for mine. I extended my hand and introduced myself.

"Ashley, I hope this isn't creepy but I'm gonna miss you these next 15 minutes while I wait. Have a good life and when I don't retire in Florida, I'll swing by Naples."

"I'll miss you too. This was nice. Come golf and enjoy the warmth."

I'm glad he made me put down my drawbridge so he could set his grapes there.

No matter who is in charge or what is happening on a grand scale, there are millions and millions of nice people who are genuine and kind just like Randy and my job is find them and love them, even if they're kind of annoying at first.

Let's all be the kind of people who would share our grapes and our lives at the airport.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Invisible Intruder

My mornings are normally like something out of a scene from the movie Groundhog Day.

little kid comes in to snuggle me, he starts getting ready, I have coffee, Mr. Ashley wakes Big Kid up, he gets himself ready as I drive little kid to school, I come home and get Big Kid and drive almost the same route I just drove to drop him off at his school and return home the same way.

I'm leaving town tomorrow and my brain was full of to-do lists so I started my morning productively, packing and gathering what I needed instead of waiting until even more last minute than I already had. I did some laundry, cleaned the house, and was doing stuff in my bathroom when I heard footsteps.

I knew I was home alone. I also knew no one had opened any of the doors. I froze for a moment to see if it was the cats and my overactive imagination and the footsteps continued to approach.

My heart hammered in my chest and I looked for my phone which was out on the bed, which would put me in line of sight of where I thought the footsteps were. Someone must have come in the unlocked house when I was dropping the kids off and was now waiting for me, and I was trapped and defenseless.

Once in Key West a stranger cornered me while I was alone in a bathroom stall and flashed me, with the intent to do more. In my trapped panic, I charged straight towards him and pushed by him -- laughing hysterically, which I guess was a weird and convenient side effect of my shocked terror since it wasn't funny but it definitely is now -- and he was so taken aback that he flinched a little, allowing my escape.

So the plan was to scream like a maniac, hoping the grandpa next door would hear and come to my rescue, and charge this motherfucker in a flurry of fists and fingernails and feet.

The footsteps paused at the threshold of my room and my blood was roaring in my veins and I took a deep breath and leaned forward on my toes -- and saw a sleepy and confused Big Kid.

Mr. Ashley never woke him up and my brain forgot the second part of my trip.

"Oh my God. You just scared the crap out of me, I almost attacked you."

"What's going on?"

"I forgot about you."

"That's reassuring."

"You're telling me."

Much to his dismay, I made him get ready and go to school anyway. As we pulled up, I offered to go inside and explain why he was tardy.

"What would you say?"

"That I forgot I had two kids today and I'm sorry."

"No, that's okay, I'll just tell them I overslept."

Then I had to call my husband and explain.

"What the hell, Ashley?"

"Can't we just all be thankful that I didn't punch him in the face?"

But no, I guess not.

"There was a change in routine! This is how babies get left in cars, at least he was at home in bed."

"Well, and he's 13, I mean, even if you left him in the car..."

"Right. This isn't really a problem at all. Glad we agree."

Parent of the year right here. And by year I mean decade. Plus three years. And those 10 months of pregnancy.

It's a lot to remember, guys.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Notes for their Therapist

Last night Big Kid wandered into my room holding his toothbrush and came over for a hug.

"Goodnight hug before teeth brushing?" I asked, since this is not the order the nighttime routine goes.

"Nope. Two hugs," he answered. "If that's okay," he quickly added.

"Uh, yeah, that's okay. I'm like the Oprah Winfrey of hugs -- YOU get a hug, and YOU get a hug, and YOU ALL GET HUGS!!"

"Mmkay. You're not like Oprah though."

"Actually, I am. I didn't want to say anything because I didn't want it to go to your heads, but I am actually Oprah Winfrey."

They stared back at me, unamused and unaffected because they've been raised with this bullshit.

"But you're not."

"Prove it."

"Prove that you are."

"Well, have you ever seen Oprah and I in the same room?"

"No. But I've seen Oprah fully dressed in front of a live studio audience while you were sitting on that couch in your stretch pants."

"Yeah, that's pre-recorded though. I do that while you're in school. And these are yoga pants, I'm an athlete."

"Alright. There's the fact that you're not rich."

"I'm humble. Modest. Classy about it."

"Okay. Well, I think the main issue is with you not being black."

"Prove that I'm not."

"Mom."

"It's a state of mind, really. And stage lighting is tricky to get right."

"Okay, well, you're not Oprah."

"I am."

"I'll skip the second hug."

"You still have to pay taxes on that first one, though."