Thursday, April 29, 2010

Humidity - Fountain of Youth or Just Another Bad Hair Day?

I'm sitting in a waiting area in a hospital in Miami, trying to read a book. But really I'm listening to one side of a cell phone conversation. A young man, probably in his late twenties, is telling a friend all about his recent trip West with his parents. They'd been in Las Vegas and to the Grand Canyon.

"Dude, if you ever get the chance to go to Vegas, do it. Dude, it's amazing."

He talks about the glassbottomed skywalk that goes out over a tiny part of the Grand Canyon.

"Dude, I was freaking walking on glass right above the Grand Canyon."

And he also mentioned the dry air.

"And Dude, there's no humidity in the air."

I've been thinking a lot about humidity since I've been here in Florida. I've been feeling a lot of humidity since I've been here in Florida. I grew up in a humid climate and I've been having flashbacks to my childhood: towels that never dry completely between showers or trips to the beach, sheets that are slightly damp when you slip between them at night. I don't think I really knew what dry was until I moved to the desert.

But I'll say one thing for humidity - it's great for my skin. Within two hours of getting off the plane, the alligator skin on my shins was gone. Gone! Here in Florida, I always feel like I've been recently dipped in a really good brand of lotion. I'm convinced that I look five years younger here than I do at home. No wonder Ponce de Leon searched for the Fountain of Youth in Florida.

But my hair looks terrible. Ugh. And it takes me longer to dry it here because of the humidity. I straighten the curly part with a gigantic round brush and then add volume to the straight part using the same gigantic round brush. And within five minutes of finally completing this task, the straightened parts are going curly and the voluminized parts are flat against my scalp. In Utah, after completing this process, my hair can still look pretty good four or five days later! I know, that's gross. But try camping in the mountains with no hot water and no place to plug in a hair dryer.

"Dude," the young man tells his friend (and he sounds like Bill Murray in "What About Bob?" when Anna invites him to go sailing on her friend George's boat and he says "It makes my lips numb to think about it."), "My lips feel like they're, like, burned up."

Yeah, I think, but I bet your hair looked great.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lost In Miami - Not!

During the past year, my parents moved from New England to Florida, where my father promptly suffered a massive heart attack and landed in a hospital in Miami for by-pass surgery. Knowing that our mother is not exactly (big understatement) directionally gifted (she's never gotten anywhere on the first try), and would never be able to get back and forth between home and the hospital by herself without a lot of worry, my sister flew from Virginia to be with our parents.

My sister has never been lost in her life. She has a built-in compass. She's also one of those uber-practical people which probably helps a lot. It wouldn't be practical, for example, to be thinking about that family visiting their elderly mother in the hospital room closest to the sitting area on the eighth floor, and wondering how the daughter-in-law ever managed to get into those pants, let alone zip them up, when you were driving in an unfamiliar city. What would she have on tomorrow? And which one of them got stuck with the baked potato chips for lunch? My sister would only be thinking of turning the right way as she exited the parking garage and getting onto the on-ramp without wasting any time. My mother was in good hands. Marcia stayed for a week, and then our brother took over for a few days.

He's a guy. Even if he did get lost, well, you know... (He'd never admit it.) And Mom would never know the difference. She'd be busy thinking about several other things, especially since someone else was driving.

Next it was my turn.

"Be careful and watch her if she drives anywhere," Marcia warned me. "Sometimes she goes the wrong way."

I waited, thinking she was going to add something like "and ends up driving into the canal that runs through the neighborhood."

But she didn't.

"Oh!" I finally responded. "You're kidding! Goes the wrong way?"

So I found myself in Florida for my shift. I would need to drive my mother to Miami to visit my dad every day. It's a four hour round trip. My siblings had confidence in me. At least they pretended they did. I was prepared to banish all superfluous thoughts from my brain and encourage my mom to do the same in case I needed her help navigating. We could only afford to think of one thing at a time, and unfortunately it had to be the road ahead of us.

Or so I thought.

My parents have a G.P.S. in their car. I've never used one. I live in Utah - a huge, living coordinate plane. Everything is laid out on a grid. Every address is an ordered pair. The mountains serve as a compass rose, and you can see for miles and miles in every direction. Even I can get anywhere I need to go.

So we set the G.P.S. for the hospital and off we go.

My mother starts saying things like "She'll tell us to take the Federal Highway to Cove Road." At first I think she's talking about my sister, but soon it becomes clear that she isn't.

"Marcia went another way, but She'll want us to get on I-95 further down." I realize who She is and that She merits capitalization. My mother is refering to the G.P.S.

"It's not a she," I tell her. "It's an it."

"Well, I know, but it's a woman's voice," she insists.

"Mom," I say. "It's a computer."

But the closer we get to Miami, the more I slip up.

"She said to keep right in point seven miles," I tell my mother as she hangs up her cell phone from talking to my dad. By now I'm picturing Her as a glorious ship's head out in front of the car. I'm thinking about my driving with the left side of my brain, but indulging the right side as well. I'm imagining Her with long red hair flowing out behind Her, strong, confident facial features, seashells with cleavage... What does she do when she's off duty? Family? Probably a daughter named Marcia.

My mom and I love Her. She allows us to think about as many things as we want all the way to the hospital.

Unfortunately we leave Her in the glove compartment when we go inside. We would have liked to have taken Her to lunch. My mother and Marcia had been to an Au Bon Pain near the hospital one day the previous week, but naturally Mom can't remember how to get there. She calls Marcia for directions as we stand outside the hospital entrance. Marcia gives them to her from memory. Naturally.

"Okay, thanks!" Mom tells her and hangs up the phone. Without missing a beat she turns to a tall, capable-looking nurse with beautiful brown skin, a friendly smile and blue scrubs who has just exited the hospital.

"Excuse me," my mother says. (She loves to talk to total strangers.) "Do you know where Au Bon Pain is?"

This friendly, capable woman starts to give us directions, then insists "Just follow me. I'll take you there!"

When we get back into the car to go home that evening, I find I have a new mental image of Her: tall, capable-looking, blue scrubs, beautiful brown skin and a friendly smile.

We ask Her to take us home.

She does.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Art of Gift Giving... And Receiving

Ever notice how we tend to give people things that we like as gifts? We think something is great, and we’re just sure that the recipient of our gift will be equally excited about it? I know I’ve been guilty of this. And so has my husband. He loves containers with lids. It was one of the first things I realized about him after we were married. One year for Christmas, I got a set of Rubbermaid containers for the kitchen. I made sure that never happened again. Every year, while we’re out shopping for the kids, I pick up a set of them for him.

“Pretend you didn’t see those!” I tell him. “They’re your Christmas present.” And every year he loves them. We have so many plastic containers floating around inside our kitchen cabinets. It’s really hard to keep them organized. Lids everywhere. Every so often I take a bunch and put them in the basement or donate them to Deseret Industries.

A few months ago Kent gave me a watch for my birthday. He loves watches. He buys himself watches all the time. Well, not all the time. I should be fair, so let’s say “fairly often.” I’m not sure how many he has. Probably not as many as it seems like to me. But he does have quite a collection.

“Do you want your present now or tonight?” he asked me on the morning of my birthday. I could tell he was excited. I was a little nervous. My daughter says I’m a terrible gift-getter.

“You never like what Dad gives you,” she accuses me every Christmas. “You always end up returning it.”

Really, that’s only happened once or twice.

 Three times at the most.

“How about now?” I said. He disappeared upstairs, and then returned with a beautifully wrapped gift.

“Happy birthday,” he told me and handed it to me. I took the gift nervously, avoiding his eyes as I thanked him. Looks a little too big for jewelry, I thought with relief. Sometimes he buys me jewelry. Not because he likes jewelry. I think it’s because jewelry is easy. I know I’m not an easy person to buy for. Okay, I admit it: I am a terrible gift-getter. As you are about to see. There’s not a lot I want. I’d rather he saved the money. And I really don’t wear jewelry. I wear earrings, but that’s it. I haven’t even worn my wedding ring in over sixteen years. And I only wore it sporadically before that. I think I have a little bit of claustrophobia or some related phobia; if my fingers swell up the least bit and I can’t slide the ring off easily, I get panicky. I like to tell people I don’t wear my wedding ring because it makes me feel trapped. Kent doesn’t appreciate this. I think it’s funny.

I slowly pulled the paper off, revealing a beautiful, shiny black lacquered box. With a lid.

I gasped, and then

“A box with a lid!”

“Open it,” he insisted after rolling his eyes. He’s a good sport about his obsession.

I opened the lid and I’m sure my face fell. It was a watch. I knew he sensed my disappointment.

“A watch,” I said lamely.

“Yeah, I remembered hearing you talk recently about wearing a watch,” he said, trying to sound enthusiastic after my poor reaction.

Yes, I thought. I think what I had said was something like “Nobody wears watches anymore. They’re becoming obsolete because everyone just looks at their cell phones.” I didn’t say this aloud.

“It’s beautiful,” I exclaimed, and it really was, but I knew I was too late.

“It’s a really nice watch,” he told me. “And I got a good deal on it,” he assured me, knowing I worry about cost.

I felt terrible about my reaction for the rest of the day.

I have very small wrists so I had to get the watch sized. I took it to Precision Time in the mall. I secretly hoped they wouldn’t be able to take out enough links to make it small enough for me. (That had happened once years ago, before I decided that wearing a watch made me feel trapped, too.) Then we could return the watch and it wouldn’t be my fault, right?

“Oh, we can definitely make it small enough,” the girl assured me. “By the way, this is a very nice watch.”

Oh? I thought. It was beautiful. Just what I would pick out if I were ever inclined to wear a watch.

“You don’t think he spent a lot of money on it, do you?” I asked the girl as she worked with her tiny tools.

“He probably spent quite a bit,” she told me.

Suddenly, I had this strange feeling come over me. I wanted to wear the watch. I didn’t want to return it. I hoped it wouldn’t make me feel trapped.

I must be turning into a real girl, I thought. One who likes expensive presents.

So what kind of a person does this make me? I wondered guiltily.

I don’t think it was because I found out it was a really nice watch that I suddenly wanted it. I think I realized that I liked it because Kent did. He had picked it out and bought it for me. It was beautiful. He loves watches. I could share his enthusiasm for watches enough to love this one and wear it for him. And guess what? I’ve loved my watch. I wear it almost every day. I don’t have to dig my cell phone out of my purse every time I need to know what time it is. And I feel so grown up wearing it. It’s not too tight, but not loose enough to slip all the way around to the wrong side of my wrist. And besides, it has a really quick release mechanism if I start to feel, well, you know.

I’m actually looking forward to Mothers’ Day.

No pressure, Kent.