Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Dramatic Life

I'm a big fan of drama; my shelves are stuffed with films and books with it. Once I even dreamed of making a career of it. But I never get accustomed to the excess of drama in my day to day life. Everyone has drama in their lives. Mine just sometimes has more of a David Lynch aspect to it. Observe:

Last week I was reading a really good book by Eloisa James called – I dunno, one of the Duchess books. All of her books are really good and several of them are Duchess oriented. I particularly liked DUCHESS BY NIGHT if anyone's looking for a recommendation. And the one I read last week – OK, I'm looking it up, it's WHEN THE DUKE RETURNS. Also, I was wrong. While I thoroughly enjoyed DUCHESS BY NIGHT, I skipped ahead to the woman-in-man's-clothing reveal because it was inevitable and I wasn't up to the ring-around-the-shenanigans to get there. I did love A DUKE OF HER OWN (also known as Villiers' book). It absolutely paid off all the hype I've heard about it. Plus, Eloisa writes a kicking book, and she's a Shakespeare scholar, so major points there. Go pick it up.

Back to last week. I was reading WHEN THE DUKE RETURNS (it's fantastic) and I was totally involved with it to the point that I didn't want to stop reading just because I was leaving the office. Oh, didn't I mention that? Sorry. We were on the slow slide towards the end of the day that day so I'd begun reading while at work. Caught up? Good.

I should say here that I am notorious for being unable to put down a book. I power read – once I've begun, I usually don't want to stop until I've completed the story. If it's a really good book, I just want to consume it in one sitting. If it's bad, I just want out, but this doesn't mean I stop reading. I cannot seem to grasp the concept that the book will still be there in the morning, which explains my long history of staying up late reading, often by flashlight to offset parental interruptions and/or scolding.

Anyways. Last week. I knew that if I went home, I was unlikely to be given the space and peace to finish my book (see above: parental interruptions – some things never change). Cannily (I thought), I decided to stop at my local Starbucks, treat myself to a hot caramel apple cider (oh so yummy!) and settle into a chair to finish my novel. This I did, cell phone lying on the table before me set on vibrate, 40s torch songs blessedly playing over the store's speakers. I even had a patron vacate a leather chair just as I was picking up my drink. Pretty dang close to a good night.

So, naturally, I had to pay for that.

I came to the end of the novel and consequently up for air around 8:30 pm. Automatically, I checked my cell phone; there were four messages. The first was an hour old message from my mother (no surprise there) apparently stuck at the physical therapist office with no ride home. The second was from the Life Alert people (we have their system in our apartment in the event my mother should fall or have a medical issue while alone). The alarm in my living room had gone off and they were unable to reach her. I was very interested to hear this as, as far as I knew, my mother was still at the PT office. The third message was from the Waldwick Police Department, telling me that they'd been called by Life Alert because my mother's alarm went off and they, the Life Alert people, were unable to reach her or me as it turned out. At this point, I was beginning to wonder if my mom was really in danger, or if she thought somehow that pushing her emergency button would get her a ride home from PT. Really not out of the realm of possibility for her.

The fourth message was the imaging people at my doctor's office reminding me of my mammogram appointment the next day. Cause anticipating that was going to make things better.

In case you don't know, this is how the Life Alert is designed to work: If it goes off, first they check with my mom at the house. When they can't get her, they call my cell phone. Normally, this is where it stops and has stopped in the past when the alarm has gone off, because I've been able to say, I'll look into it, and there ends Life Alert's responsibility. If they can't get me on the cell, they call my office. If I don't respond to those two calls and no one is responding at the house, then the company contacts the police to go out and check.

An aggrieved call to my mother found her safe and well and at home, but very upset. With her relative well-being confirmed, I let loose my fury, selfishly consumed with the thought that I couldn't go off the radar for two and a half hours. And that was before I checked in with the police and found out that they'd gone into my apartment to search for my mother. Now I was desperately praying that they hadn't kicked the door in as not only have I forgotten the combination to the lock box I put on my doorknob for just these situations, I also neglected to register the combination with Life Alert. Yep, I was batting a thousand on the home care there.

Once home I found my mother visibly shaken, as in literally shaking, the scotch and ginger ale not making any dent in her reaction. Why? Because when my mom got home from PT, transport issue resolved, my landlord S greeted her at the door in hysterics. Apparently not one, not two, but THREE local police stations sent men to my house along with an ICU mobile unit from the hospital. S let them all into the apartment relieving my door-kicked-in fears, and they thoroughly searched it, and then they searched the backyard with flashlights, and then they searched the front driveway with flashlights and then – they all went home.

And why you may ask? Why did all these fine public servants arrive at my house? Why had the Life Alert gone off when not only was no one in the house, but the lanyard emergency button was with my mother, out of range, nearly two towns away?

Cats. The company told my mother the cats must have set it off. Riiiggghhhtt.

While it's not nearly the point, I'm compelled to defend my cats by saying that the device is in the living room, which is blocked by a child gate whenever no one is in the room to preserve my furniture from territory marking kitties. No, they can't jump the gate; two are too fat and the other is too scared. It wasn't the cats. The bloody box malfunctioned.

Speaking of my cats, it's about 20 minutes after I got home that I said to my mother "have you seen the cats?" I mean, the cops were all over the place, but did they close the door behind them? Thankfully, all three almost immediately came out of hiding, so it was a nonissue – but clearly I am a bad kitty mother because this concern barely fazed me.

All this – ALL THIS – because I went off the grid for a mere two and a half hours. And yes, yes, I lied to my mother and told her my phone had turned itself off (which it does) when I just hadn't been paying attention to it. I know, I know, I'm going to hell for that one, or at least it'll be one of what's sure to be many things to tick off at the judgment seat. Got it. Don't forget to add a fondness for vodka. Thanks.

But I learned one crucial thing from this experience. Figure out the lockbox code? Yeah, that's a priority right now, but not what I meant. Get a new alarm box? Boy. Howdy. But not that it either. Find the peace within to care for an ailing parent without regressing to the point that I need to hide away in a Starbucks to read a damn ass novel uninterrupted? Pshaw. Like that's gonna happen.

So what's the come-to-Jesus epiphany I've had from my latest you-just-can't-make-this-crap-up experience?

This, right here, this exact sort of thing, this is why I make my bed every morning.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Tax Man Cometh

It's 2:30 in the afternoon here and I'm just coming up from air from doing my taxes. I've done them myself for the last few years as I've little to interfere with a standard filing. I admit I actually like doing them. I've a sufficient grasp of what I'm doing to only mildly freak out when something doesn't come up right. I still do them first on paper, in pencil, natch, so I have a hard copy while I slog through the online efile process. Inevitably, my numbers don't add up and I have to go back and see where I went wrong. When I first started doing my own taxes, this checks and balances role was performed by my father. He'd carefully check my math and chuckle at my insistence in including every cent in the calculations. The first time he rounded a figure up, I nearly had palpitations, visions of audits dancing wildly in my head. I'm much more sanguine about it all now or at least am comfortable in my small chicken role to be reassured that neither I nor my missing cents are worth the trouble.

Simply put, I get a great satisfaction from the accomplishment. It's a small thing, but it's a bureaucratic portion of my life that I'm proud to have some mastery over. It's really just a puzzle when you get down to it and I like deconstructing puzzles and reasoning out solutions. When it involves math, though, I'm more than a little intimidated. My creative mind doesn't easily bend itself to numeric world. So even though tax prep on my level is mostly insert number A into box B, I still get a thrill from being able to do it myself and resolve whatever minor complications emerge. Some days, that's enough of a boost to brighten my day.

Nature gave that boost an assist this morning. I went out as usual to warm up my car. It's bloody cold in The Garden State these days and my CR-V needs a little loving before we strike out together for the great unknown of pharmaceutical editing. As I walked out the door, a cavalcade of sparrows launched into the air; a flurry of brown against the crisp blue sky. A few of the birds momentarily scooted around the asphalt in avian confusion, Charlie Chapman in brown tweed. As some pattered in my direction, I called out, "Hello there," and then, "Shall I burst into song?" the Disney-esque feel of the moment not lost on me. But I'm not remotely in line with the princess ethos, save for the inclination to randomly burst into song, and the sparrows elected not to join in electing to flee to the back yard feeder instead.

As usual, I simply amused myself.

I love that fresh quiet in the mornings. I'm not, by nature, a morning person, but I so enjoy the sharp newness of it, especially a fierce winter morning like today when the air cuts through me like brain freeze until the short-lived winter sun cranks up my internal heater. These moments were virtually nonexistent when I lived in Weehawken, the urban pangs of the day rousing way before me and often waking me altogether. Now that I'm back living in suburbia, I treasure these moments, sometimes the only peace of mind to enter my day, the still, quiet voice of silence echoing deep within me.

Nothing Disney about it.