Sunday, November 23, 2014

Opening Doors

“Want cereal for breakfast?” Mr. Wonderful said setting bowls and spoons on the table.
“Nah”,” I shrugged still wearing my robe and slippers.
“How about some toast?”

Some Saturdays you jump out of bed with a long list of things you want to accomplish and the energy of a Grecian Army to get it all done before the clock strikes midnight. And other Saturdays you just read thick books and lounge in your robe and slippers all day. After all, why change your pajamas when you’re just going to have to put them on again—in 16 hours.

This Saturday I was struck with this “robe and slipper” malaise. First I blamed it on the weather changing to fall, then I realized it was due to being home again after several stimulating trips, finally I decided it was just Mr. Wonderful’s fault. The benefit to being married is that when things go well I can say it’s because of me and when things go south, it’s because of him. He’s so useful that way.

“How about some lunch?” Mr. Wonderful said taking the cheese and sandwich meat out of the refrigerator.
“Nah,” I shrugged not looking up from my 900-page book.
“What’s wrong with you?” 
“Fall. Vacations. Life.” He kinked an eyebrow.
“It’s HGTV,” he said clapping his hands. “Ever since HGTV didn't choose to redo our room, you’ve been bummed out.” 
“Nah—” I shrugged. But he had a point. It just so happened that HGTV vetoing me coincided with the fall nip in the air, returning home after some great getaways, and being married. To be fair most things coincided with me being married now.  “Okay, yes,” I said closing the book. I hate it when he’s right. But more than his correctness, I hated moping around. 
“Just because HGTV doesn’t want to redo our house doesn’t mean that we can’t,” Mr. Wonderful said sitting down at the lunch table with a loaf of warm bread.

My eyes scanned the room. Then moved moved to the hallway, and buzzed through the whole house. How right he was! Yes! We could still improve things. My breathing increased with pent-up excitement. We could redo the bathroom, expand the closets, build a wine cellar!

I sprinted to the bedroom swapping the robe for my painting pants and sweatshirt, my slippers for work boots. Yes! Dirty work! This is what I needed to lift me out of my funk! HGTV be darned! I want my own DIY-ing!

“I’ll start stripping the bathroom walls of paint and you can rip out the closets!” I said marching into the kitchen with a hammer.
“Whoa,” my spouse said dropping his turkey sandwich. “One project at a time.”
“Then let’s build a wine cellar. I want one just like Baron de Rothschild—”
“Let’s start smaller.”
“Expanding the closets?”
“Think tiny.”
“Putting in a whole new bathroom?”
“The bathroom door needs to be stripped of paint.”
“That’s perfect,” he nodded. 
“We could remove the door from its hinges, set it on its side and pour paint stripper all over it.” Starting small was a good idea. I love it when he’s right. 
“Are you going to help?” I said tying my boot laces.

“You get started. I’ll be there after I finish this,” he said lifting the sandwich to his mouth and opening my 900-page book to the first page. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Decision from the HGTV Application

“Remember that HGTV application I submitted for The House?” I said scanning my email inbox.
“Hmm,” Mr. Wonderful said sipping his coffee.
“They haven’t written back yet to say we’ve been chosen.”
“They haven’t called.”
“Which means they’ll be knocking on our door soon.”

After filling out an application for having total strangers—but professional ones!—from the HGTV cable channel redo part of our house, I hoped they’d let us know that we had been chosen soon. I really wanted to be chosen especially since our space needed so much help, our lives needed some weekends free of DIY-ing and I needed to drink some Rosé by the pool and watch others work on The House. Selecting our room to be redone on national television was a slam dunk in my mind.

Unfortunately my mind was not making the decision. So hours turned into days, days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into a long time to wait without word from HGTV.

“Why didn’t they choose us?” I said flopping on the sofa.
“Maybe because you described our style as ‘Mid-century modern, Mediterranean, contemporary, traditional’,” Mr. Wonderful said sitting in an armchair.
“I used all those terms because we’re eclectic.”
“Instead it sounds like we’re schizophrenic.”

Maybe Mr. Wonderful was right and it was my complicated description that made our project untenable for HGTV and knocked us out of the running. Although, if they were professionals wouldn’t they know how to combine those styles for us?
“Let it go,” Mr. Wonderful said because he is wise.  I couldn’t because I’m... not wise.

“They could at least do us the courtesy of letting us know that we weren’t selected,” I said sighing on the sofa.
“And get an angry response from you? Why would they?” Mr. Wonderful said moving toward the kitchen.
“I’m not angry. I’m disappointed.”
“They don’t want to hear from disappointed homeowners,” Mr. Wonderful said making another espresso.
But this disappointed homeowner wanted to hear from them.

Growing up in the Midwest when I was selected or not selected for things, I was informed with a letter: “Congratulations you’ve been selected to attend ____ University.” Or a phone call: “Congrats you made the cut and are on the Spring Soccer Team!” Or the radio: “Due to the heavy snowfall, classes at ____ School have been cancelled.” Hooray!

But not anymore and not in Los Angeles. Now if you aren’t chosen, aren’t selected or don’t win you only know by not hearing anything from emails, phone calls or iChats. Instead it’s the big silence. It’s like inviting people to an event on Facebook. If they don’t RSVP, then you know they aren’t coming. I miss the days of knowing what happened concerning selection or non-selection.

Outside sweeping the front walk clean of the neighbor’s leaves which the wind had blown in, I saw my 86 year-old neighbor shuffling up the street.
“Hi Harold,” I said tossing him a smile.
“A palm frond from your palm tree blew into my yard,” he said matter of factly.
“Sorry. I’ll clean it up,” I said spotting the offending brown frond, and avoiding its jagged teeth, stuffed it into the green bin.

Harold walked to the stop sign and circled back. “There are two of your palm fronds in Jerry’s yard,” he said.
“Thanks, Harold,” I said dropping my broom and rushing over to clear away the fronds from Jerry’s yard and stuff them into the green bin, snagging my fingers on the jagged teeth.

Harold stopped in my driveway. “And there are three of them in the boys’ yard.” I looked over at Charles and Stephen’s yard and noticed three dried palm fronds. They could have come from my trees or they could have been from Charles and Stephen’s own palm trees.
“Ok, Harold,” I said grabbing the three plan fronds and stuffing them into the green bin snagging my hand on the rough teeth. At this point I hadn’t swept a bit of my front walk, I’d ripped my hands to shreds and I was disappointed that the dead palm fronds had made me a bad neighbor.

“And another thing—”
“Stop with the bad news, Harold! I can’t stand hearing bad news!”
He looked at me from behind his eyeglasses, his pale blue eyes the size of dinner plates. He had never seen me like this.
“I was just going to say," he continued. "Thanks for always cleaning your fronds up. You’re a good neighbor.”

The anger faded. The disappointment dissipated. I smiled. I didn’t need to hear bad news about me because it didn’t make me—or others—happy. Give me the big silence on the bad news but shower me with the good news! Bring on the good news! Hey, good news, I'm listening!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Halloween Download

“Morning,” my 86 year-old neighbor said retrieving his Wall Street Journal from the driveway.
“Hi Harold!” I said plucking my LA Times from the sidewalk. “Did you have many trick-or-treaters?
“Not a one.”
“I’m sorry.”
“And it was the best Halloween ever.”

Some neighborhoods embrace Christmas with plastic Santas and a herd of reindeer gallivanting across the lawn, others celebrate Hanukkah with blue lights and menorahs as big as mountains, and others celebrate Halloween with cobwebs, spooky witches and gravestones listing your name and “RIP”. My neighborhood did none of these things. The holidays—those beginning with trick-or-treating, continuing to Turkey Day, progressing to the busy-ness of Christmas-Hanukkah-and Kwanzaa only to collapse on New Year’s Day from decoration exhaustion—totally skipped my neighborhood.

Instead my ‘hood preferred summer fun, like pool parties, white wine and Speedos, which was just fine with Harold. This was not to say that Harold hosted our local pool parties or sported a swim suit. On second thought, if he ever donned a Speedo, that would cure the neighborhood of its pool fiestas.

Instead it meant that Harold didn’t like celebrating the scariest holiday, decorating his house for it, or handing out candy free-of-charge because Harold was… a Halloween Scrooge.

Growing up I loved Halloween, its costumes, and earning a stash of chocolate that would last until Easter. So now it was time for payback and making it possible for my neighborhood’s kids to enjoy the spookiest day of the year. My plan for Halloween included: 1) Buying candy—big chocolate bars bars for every kid with teeth. 2) Getting my costume—a Sassy Cowgirl—because I had to be costumed up to hand out treats and “sassy” sure is scary. And 3) Decorating the exterior of The House, which is the national sign to kids: “Get FREE SUGAR here!”

Since our front door was tucked against the house, kids coming from Jerry’s or Charles and Stephen’s house wouldn’t be able to see or find our front door. Therefore I wanted to decorate The House two weeks before Halloween so kids walking through the neighborhood would see that we would be handing out goodies on October 31st. Due to life however, I didn’t get the exterior decorated two weeks before Halloween, or two days before Halloween or even two minutes. Finally at 6:15 PM on Halloween night, Mr. Wonderful set out three carved pumpkins and I hung lights and spooky spiders outside. We weren’t the only ones opening late for business. Across the street Charles and Stephen quickly hung strings of spooky ghost lamps and on the corner Jerry swapped the white light bulb in the lamp beside his front door for a red one. Harold didn’t do anything, of course.

Ding dong. I opened the door to find eight kids standing at the front door dressed as Iron Man, Captain America and Super Woman.
“Trick or Treat!” they screamed in unison. Mr. Wonderful gave each one a big chocolate bar and the kids were blown out of the water. “Look how big this candy bar is!” they screamed in unison.
This Sassy Cowgirl loved it. Handing out candy as an adult was as fun as getting it as a kid.

The doorbell kept ringing and the kids who got huge candy bars from us showed their friends, “Look how big this candy bar is!” Which made this Sassy Cowgirl happy.

Then the doorbell ringing stopped. Why? I had more big chocolate bars to hand out. There’s nothing sadder than a half-full bowl of candy on November 1st for a Sassy Cowgirl.

The next day I compared numbers with the neighbors. I had the fewest trick-or-treaters, Charles and Stephen had more than me and Jerry had the most of all. But they were equally disappointed. Why had so few kids visited our houses for candy?

“Our houses weren’t decorated for Halloween early enough,” I said stamping my foot.
“Our neighborhood isn’t known for trick-or-treating,” Charles said scratching his beard.
“The kids trick-or-treated in another neighborhood,” Jerry said with a shrug.
“They can’t find our front door,” I said shaking my head.
“… Interesting theory,” Charles and Jerry said giving me a look that said it wasn’t “interesting” but borderline “wacko”.

After several days of eating chocolate candy leftovers, I made some realizations: 1) We don’t have a tradition of celebrating trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood. 2) Since we didn’t decorate our exteriors early enough to tell the neighborhood kids and their parents that we would be distributing candy; 3) The kids made other plans and went to neighborhoods that were decorated and had traditions of handing out candy. And 4) They couldn’t find our front door. We were all right.

Several days later while removing groceries from my car trunk, some kids walked past our house and I heard one say, “That’s where they hand out the really big candy bars.”
The Sassy Cowgirl in me smiled. That’s how you start a Halloween tradition: do something the kids will remember all year long.
“But,” another kid said “where’s the front door?” 

Although we couldn’t change things for this Halloween, we could make changes to get more kids for next Halloween by: 1) Decorating the exteriors of our houses earlier; 2) Handing out great treats; and 3) Making the location of the front door super-duper obvious.

Hey, kids! Just wait until next year!