Thursday, August 28, 2014

Just Call Me "Holly Hughes"

I'm a germaphobe. Well, that's what society likes to call me. In my mind, I'm just pragmatic. In my comfortable, black and white world, germs make people sick so by avoiding germs and sick people, I greatly increase my chances of remaining well.

In public restrooms, I am a pro at getting in and out, reconnaisance style, without touching any surface other than my own. I transform into a lithe contortionist, opening doors with my foot, locking and unlocking stall doors with my elbow, hovering like a ninja over the toilet, and flushing with my foot (even in the situations where it's a malfunctioning auto-flush and the only way to flush is pressing a tiny button on the back of the tank). While exiting, I'll quickly survey the sink/soap/towel situation and determine whether to wash up or hit the Purell. Then getting out the door without touching it is a final challenge. If possible, I wait for someone to go ahead of me and slip out behind them, letting them take one for the team. When alone, I'll use a paper towel, my elbow, my foot, or, worst-case, the bottom of my shirt, to open the door. I also hold my breath a large portion of the time so, when I do emerge, I can be seen sucking in a new, fresh breath.

I find myself holding my breath when in crowds, anytime I see or hear someone coughing or sneezing, and in restaurants when someone walks quickly by my table.

In the grocery store, I immediately use one of the provided wipes and give my cart a once-over as if it had just hauled a sick donkey.

At home, I use disinfectant wipes and Lysol on door knobs, phones, light switches, and remote controls year-round, not just during cold and flu season.

In hotels, I take wipes and hit the remote control (deemed one of the dirtiest objects in the world, by the way) and the bathroom before I ever open a suitcase. And I never use the glasses they put out with the little paper covers. I saw a 20/20 undercover story once where the housekeeping staff was seen using the same rag to wipe the dresser, the nightstand, the bathroom, then dumped out a used glass and wiped it inside and out with that rag and popped on a new, little paper cover. No, thank you.

If given the choice in restaurants, I prefer plastic/disposable cups and cutlery.

I find the smell of hand sanitizer comforting.

Some misconceptions about germaphobes, or, as I like to call us, "germ averse normal, rational people,” include:
-         “Your house must be spotless.” Ha. You make me laugh. No, I’m a normal person. There’s underwear in the floor. The hamper and/or kitchen sink are piled up. One of the cats has probably thrown up somewhere and I won’t find it for a couple more days. But, by golly, my door knobs are clean.
-         “Germs are good for you. You’re actually doing yourself a disservice by avoiding them.”  I respectfully disagree. I have been subjected to plenty of germs…I’ve been to Chuck E. Cheese.”
-         “People will think you’re crazy.” I’m OK with that. I think they’re all sick, so we’re kind of even.

So, if one day, you find me picking up everything with a Kleenex, sitting naked in the dark for four months, and eating only chocolate and chicken*, well, the least you can do is strap on a face mask before coming in to talk to me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Double Digit Day

My baby girl is 10 today. Ten. Double digits. One decade. How is it just yesterday, my doctor was giving her condolences on Mom’s passing and preparing me that high-stress and grief can bring on early labor? Little did I know back then, as we sailed right by the due date and planned your eviction, that it would be the first of many times I would have to push you out the door, saying “come on! We’re gonna be late! Let’s go!” 

Little did I know, when you came out with paper-thin yet crazy sharp fingernails, your face scratched, that I would overcome my fear of cutting your whole, little finger off, and have since clipped nails, at times, while reaching in the backseat without looking. 

How unprepared I was to fall in love with you at first sight. In the hospital, the nurses wheeled you away the first night so Daddy and I could rest. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, walking down the long, still hallway to the nursery, and getting buzzed in. “Can I hold her,” I asked. “Of course you can.” There were several babies in little plastic tubs, but over to the side, my sweet little bundle of a cooing blanket swung back and forth in a baby swing. “You may want to get you one of those if you don’t have one…she seems to like that swing,” the nurse told me. We made it about two days at home before running out and buying the best-looking swing we could find as it was the only way you would settle down and rest. 

As we drove away from the hospital on our way home, we made it about two blocks when I asked Daddy to pull over and I jumped out and sat in the backseat with you for the duration of the trip. Call me a “helicopter parent” and I’ll wear the badge proudly. 

As you grew, we celebrated milestones…first smile, first laugh, crawling, walking, eating people food. As you grew, so did our confidence. We took you to the playground and delighted in your squeals of laughter on the baby swings. We went on a trip and you swam in a hotel pool. We took you to the petri dish known as Chuck E. Cheese. Our first trip to the Zoo, we felt like real parents. Loaded down with a stroller and a diaper bag, snacks and bottles and plenty of extra diapers, we just about forgot you as we headed in from the parking lot. Lucky for us, the playground is right at the entrance. By the time we made it there, it was time for a meal, you swang for a little bit and then it was nap time, so we headed home, having seen zero animals on our first visit. 

You went nowhere without your trusty friend, Puppers. At dinner, he was crammed into your highchair beside you. In the car, he shared your car seat. At bedtime, he assumed his place by your pillow. And when you were on the move, whether we were leaving the house for a day of errands or just playing in the living room, he stayed neatly tucked under your arm. Puppers has been spilled on, thrown up on, nibbled by a goat, drooled on, left in shopping carts, and nearly left at countless hotels and grandparents’ homes. He’s flown to Texas and Florida and the Bahamas and, to this day, has his place in your room and in your life.

Although you’ve grown out of breakfast, our bed is still one of your favorite places to hang out.
Through the years, people have asked Daddy and me why we only had one child or if we had plans for more. Sometimes we’d joke that you were perfect so we didn’t want to press our luck with another one. The truth is, we just felt complete after you joined us and never felt like we needed anything, or anyone, more. We (and you) have been blessed by your cousins and are so glad you all are close to one another and live closely, too. They’ve been great buddies through the years.

People have asked whether you're a Daddy's Girl or Mama's Baby. I'm happy to say that you do a terrific job splitting your time equally. What's not equal is the number of photos. :) Guess I need to come out from behind the camera more often.

When asked what you want to be when you grow up, there are usually some rotating professions (Mommy, teacher, singer) but one which always makes the list is veterinarian. You've always had a love of animals and you seem to have a way with almost every one you encounter. Our pets have found a good playmate in you and, in return, offer their undying loyalty and protection.

Before I go any further, I will stop to say it hasn't all been rainbows and unicorns. You've had your moments, for sure, and tried our patience right to the very limit. We sailed through your "twos" and thought, "well, that wasn't so terrible," but then there were rough patches in the "threes," "fours," well, you catch my drift. As you got older, we got a little (emphasis on "little") wiser. We realized how to work schedules around your sleeping and eating timetable. We learned to better recognize warning signs that you were tired, over-stimulated, or on the verge of a meltdown. Occasionally, it would sneak up on us and we'd just hold on to whatever we could grab and ride it out.

At times, I would find myself feeling sorry for you because you've grown up only having three grandparents. It took me a while to become less pessimistic and see a cheerier outlook:  you have three grandparents! And they're all pretty awesome. They live nearby, we see them often, and they've all been very involved in your life. How many people get the opportunity to say that?


Through the years, I've had well-intentioned friends comment "it's such a shame Calleigh didn't know your Mom."  Au contraire! There is no doubt you know Grandmama. I've done a good job of telling stories and keeping her memory alive, but you have had a special tie that trumped anything I could do. From the time you were very small and could speak, you would talk about "the angels" and one, in particular, who wears a blue dress and has "white" hair. Before you could speak, we'd hear you giggling in your room when you were alone, or looking up and reaching for something invisible to us. As you grew, you were able to describe what you saw more. This picture was one of your first attempts at explaining it to us:

"This is me, you, Daddy and Grandmama."

In closing, I will say something that I tell you every night as I've done for the last 10 years:  "You make each day special just by being in it."

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Game of Life

Confession:  I love game shows. Not the current day versions with hipster hosts, electronic scoreboards and monitors, and silly contestants running around making a mockery of the art. No, I like the good, old-fashioned ones from the 1970s. You know the ones -- the host, decked out in a three-piece suit, holding a foot-long microphone, the cord snaking around his ankles, a serpentine swirl of cigarette smoke wafting above his head, exchanging small talk with his contestants and panelists.

What's your name, darling?
And where are you from, Sylvia?
And what do you do there in Poughkeepsie, Sylvia?
     I'm married and have two boys.
Well, isn't that wonderful. OK, Sylvia, let's see if we can't win some money.

In today's line up, I do still enjoy Jeopardy! and I've watched with some level of interest newbies such as Wipeout and American Ninja Warrior. But try stacking up a current Family Feud, hosted by Steve Harvey, with one from the 70s or 80s hosted by Richard Dawson. It's no contest.

Yes, Steve gets cracked up by his contestants and their off-the-wall answers ("Name something that follows the word 'pork.'"  "Cupine," one contestant answered.), he sweats a lot and he'll whip out a handkerchief and mop his shiny, bald head like a Baptist preacher in Hattiesburg in July.

But, to me, it's no match for Richard Dawson, kissing each female contestant (on the lips), holding his cue cards with his pinky out like he's at afternoon tea, and prancing around like a peacock between the two sides of the stage. No one can match the way he would summon answers to be revealed on the board with the magic words, "Survey says?!"

There was even a funny moment across the pond on their version of the Feud. Check out one of my favorites....the "Turkey Episode."

British Family Feud "Turkey" Episode

Of course, there was a time I could recite the entire opening for Wheel of Fortune..."Look at this studio filled with glamorous merchandise..."

And I honed my math skills and grocery shopping prowess by watching The Price is Right.

I'd be remiss, though, if I didn't mention my two favorites:  The Match Game and Hollywood Squares.

I can watch reruns over and over of Gene Rayburn on The Match Game, zipping around the stage between his panel of celebrity guests and his two contestants, quipping with the likes of Betty White, Richard Dawson, Brett Somers, and Charles Nelson Reilly.

But Hollywood Squares is probably my favorite. The ones with Paul Lynde made me laugh before I fully understood the art of double entendre and they make me laugh still today after having heard them over and over. Enjoy a laugh or two now, courtesy of Mr. Lynde.

Host:  According to the old song, 'At night, when you're asleep, into your tent I'll creep.' Who am I?
Paul:  The Scoutmaster.

Host:  In television, who lived in Doodyville?
Paul:  The Ty-De-Bowl Man.

Host:  Paul, why are forest rangers in remote locations ordering goats as standard equipment?
Paul:  Because the sheep are wising up?

Host:  The great writer George Bernard Shaw once wrote, 'It's such a wonderful thing, what a crime to waste it on children.' What is it?
Paul:  A whipping?

Monday, August 25, 2014

I Don't Know

I had babysat and worked odd jobs, but my first "real" job was at a local store in Nashville called Service Merchandise. Service Merchandise couldn't survive as the WalMarts and Targets and Amazon.coms of the world emerged. But, at the time, it was where local Nashvillians went to buy homegoods, small kitchen and home appliances, kitchenware, luggage, electronics and even jewelry. If you needed a watch battery, an alarm clock, or a new coffee pot, this is where you headed.

In addition to learning how to clock in and out, do time cards, check cash drawers in and out and count change back to customers, I was given another lesson that turned out to serve me, not just while I was an employee at that store, but throughout life. And when I run into today's youth who have obviously missed this lesson, it pains me for the up and coming generation.

We were instructed, should a customer have an inquiry that we didn't immediately have an answer, to do one of the following:

(1) Try to find the answer ourselves. If they have a question about an item in the store, read the tag or the box and try to figure it out together.
(2) If they have a question about the store (hours, return policy, where something is located), find the answer together. Don't point them somewhere when you can walk them over there.
(3) If all else fails, take the customer to another employee and stay with them until the question is answered. That way, you both will have the answer and you'll be prepared next time.

Too often, I ask a question of a store employee and am met with bewilderment, at best, or worse, complete and unaffected indifference. To my question, they'll answer "I dunno" or "Umm..." or, one of my peeves, "I think..." There's no confidence, no desire to serve the customer, and probably no ambition or desire to deliver stellar service. With so many options today, especially in retail, I would think management would make it a point to drive this into their staff to deliver top notch, grade A service all day, every day.

You are what you do. If you do boring, stupid, monotonous work, chances 
are you’ll end up boring, stupid, and monotonous.
  --Bob Black

The best thing in life is to go ahead with all your plans and your dreams, to embrace life and to live everyday with passion, to lose and still keep the faith and to win while being grateful. All of this because the world belongs to those who dare to go after what they want. And because life is really too short to be insignificant.  --Charlie Chaplin

Friday, August 22, 2014

Time Travel

This article popped up yesterday about an apartment in Paris, France, abandoned during WWII, discovered recently with its furnishings untouched. 

Here's the short story:  the granddaughter of a well-known Parisian actress of the 1800s, affluent and a bit of a socialite, fled her apartment in a ritzy part of town as the Nazis closed in on Paris. She never returned, but continued paying her rent. She paid her rent until her death in 2009 at the age of 91. Her relatives went in the apartment and were amazed that it not only was a fairly-well-preserved time capsule, literally untouched since the last occupant fled in 1939, but that it housed numerous antiques and collectibles. Among the items was an oil painting by Boldini. They sold that puppy and cleared $1.78M Euros (yeah, that's roughly $2.3M here in the States).

As if finding a beautiful, highly collectible painting by a famous artist isn't enough, they found out that the subject of the painting was none other than the former tenant's grandmother, an actress in her own day and a muse of Boldini.

That wasn't the most interesting piece of the story for me. Note the dust. I go on vacation for one week and feel like this is what my house looks like when I return.

And save for one piece of wallpaper hanging down, the place looks OK. Are you telling me in seven decades, there wasn't once a burst pipe, a leaky window, or a pest problem? Good for turn of the century Parisian contractors and their solid construction!

How about these creepy Mickey and Porky Pig dolls? If Hitler and his goons weren't bad enough, this could have run any sane person out of town.

Scroll back up and check out the third picture. That's probably my favorite. The beautiful carved vanity, all of the different brushes and combs, and the jars lined up. Hopefully, she had some travel sizes to take with her when she left.