Borrowed Air

How to get lucky with the Lotto

mega mill

Sadly, our chance to win half a billion dollars ended two nights ago in California along with our dreams of paying off the house and student loans, traveling to exotic locations, starting a charity, and buying a monkey.  I was really looking forward to casually handing in my resignation notice with a “no real plans from here” kind of attitude.  Instead, I return to work and ruminate on how things could have gone differently.

I find myself thinking about the man who parks outside of the office in a beat up, old white car with dents that are well distributed around ugly and jagged spots of rust.  As he waits for someone to come out, he frantically scrapes away at multiple scratch-off Lotto tickets.  He holds them just outside of the window to allow the silver bits and pieces to flutter to the ground as he works towards the potential prize, hidden just one layer down.  What drives his urgency to finish the task?  Is he feeling a rush of adrenaline or is he in a rush to finish before his expected passenger arrives?

After recently playing a few numbers in the Mega Millions, I understand the man better in my own burgeoning fascination with gambling.  We play to win and in that ever-so-unlikely chance of winning, there is an excitement about a new life and potential change requiring no work, like losing weight without diet or exercise.  It’s a fantasy for the lazy or over-worked.

On the night of the drawing, we carefully weighed our options.  Play and win, play and lose, or don’t play and definitely don’t win.  My hubby explained our odds of winning quite simply, “We are more likely to both get struck by lightning.”

So it wasn’t an impossible dream.  I frequently see lightning and signs of past strikes in tall trees and power lines.

With a boosted confidence in our winning potential, hubby was commissioned to buy a few tickets, given the money and sent out on his mission to be completed with all due haste.

Fur coats, diamond dust lotion, fancy cars and trips were just the beginning; we were going to start a school, a homeless shelter and a bad cat rescue.

And then we lost.

Maybe we got carried about with the dream, and surprisingly, I wasn’t even that disappointed when I discovered that we didn’t hit it big. I expected to lose, but suspended that belief while scheming during the night of the drawing.

The fun was in the dream, it was in the possibility of winning and that we had a shot at a different life, the same as the thousands of other Dreamers who took a chance and bought a ticket(s) for mega millions of dollars, and in retrospect, it was worth every cent of the investment.

Sharp Edges

gummiesEveryone’s voices are too loud and the lights are too bright.  Two women laugh by the copy machine. The sound saturates the air and is broken by the code being keyed into the door. Beep, beep, beep, beep.  A third woman joins in at the copy machine, their heads lean in and their voices fall to whispers.  They share the kinds of secrets that sink ships.

Just around the corner, sits the subject of their conversation.  A powerful sitting duck.

“He needs to get up off his rusty dusty and do something about…” a voice rises from the cluster of three and falls back to an inaudible whisper.

I am unable to cope with the drama and leave the office.  While wandering the long hallways, people pass with purses and bags on their shoulders with appointments and parking validation on their minds.  Conversation is light or heavy depending on the room from which they left or to where they are heading.

Finally, I reach the safety of the coffee shop.  Dim lighting makes it a cozy nook, plus it’s harder to see stains and spills in the dark.

“A small coffee and…”

Feeling impulsive, I look around.  I need something to make me feel better about life and work and getting through the next 8 hours.  There are energy drinks in the cooler, a tray of rock-hard rice crispy treats, and barrels of healthy snacks like nuts and apples.  And then I see it, the barrel that I need.

It is filled with baggies of brightly colored, freshly packed gummy bears.

“…and this.”

I casually throw a bag on the counter like it’s no big deal.  Like I am not going to open it immediately after purchase, rip it open with my teeth if necessary, and begin to annihilate the cute little red, green, yellow, blue and orange bears.  The clear ones are garbage and will be spared, while the rest are about to be put on the once endangered and now extinct species list.

Soon I will be intoxicated with a combination of gummy-bear power and caffeine, and once again ready to take on the world.

When nothing is simple.

mouse

The couple sat next to each other, inches apart, but separated by a thousand emotional miles.

“There she goes again. Won’t let me talk,” the man started cutting at his wife with a tone as sharp as razor.  He wore a baseball hat and dark glasses, sweatpants and a t-shirt that showcased a blurry tattoo on his bicep.

His wife stared down at her planner.  The cover had a pretty floral pattern of pinks and purples, outlined in gold and protected by a clear plastic coating.  She flipped it open.  The pages were mostly blank aside from an outline of the same floral pattern from the front, traced onto the background of the calendar days, in black and white.

Her hair was dyed a honey blond and carefully curled and sprayed into place. Still, dark roots showed through, a brown base from which a fountain of fake gold flowed.  The truth always makes itself known, eventually.

“Would you please listen to the woman?  She has a job to do and you are slowing her down.”

“She said she wanted to understand where we are coming from and that is just what I was trying to do when you interrupted me.”

“Sir, I asked that question so I could get you directions to the clinic where your next appointment is scheduled,” a woman on the other side of the desk explained.  She had long, black eyelashes like spider legs and equally long, red nails.

A line formed behind the couple, the woman looked out from under her lashes and sighed.  She glanced down at a tiny Mickey Mouse clock on her desk with a sigh.  The little gloved mouse hands were both straight up.

Five long hours to go, she thought.

What’s in a name?

name

When we heard the baby was on the way, we waited nervously for the phone to ring all night.  I turned my ringer all the way up, just to make sure that I didn’t miss the call.  Periodically, I checked for a missed call and was continually disappointed by the lack of activity.  It could be hours before we had any news, but still I checked every few minutes for an update.  Separated by thousands of miles and an ocean, this was the closest that we could get to the soon-to-be parents and their bundle of joy.  

Random text messages from friends came in with push notifications from facebook which were quickly dismissed without notice.  We were waiting on a baby and couldn’t be distracted by social media and questions about the weekend.

Finally, a picture arrived with a ding like a kitchen timer going off to pull a tray of cookies from the oven.

A perfect pink baby boy was in the center of the screen with a wisp of reddish gold hair, arriving in a text message without words or a caption.  His image was enough until I realized that the picture was without a name, weight or length.  Additional messages and calls went unanswered and the baby boy remained without a name for the next 12 hours.

Could he be a Byron, Ryan, Thadeus or Drake? A Zander, Adam, Corn-Nut, or Ray-Ray?  

What’s in a name, anyways?  A rose is rose is a rose, after all.

It can create the first impression of a person, carrying the power to normalize or ostracize.  A name can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, shaping a child into the adult foreseen by their parents, likely why there aren’t many Corn-Nuts out there.  It is a gift that can last a lifetime and must be carefully considered and given.

The pressure to make decisions is heavy on parents-to-be, they must decide between breast milk and formula, to vaccinate or not to vaccinate, daycare, nanny or stay-at-home mommy (let’s get real, who can afford to stay home).  Some decision are made for them based on income and availability, but perhaps the greatest responsibility in which a parent has absolute power is in picking the right name (a close second is vaccination).

So when the next text came with another ding, our nephew had a name.  It fit him and would take him from infancy into his manhood with little room for silly rhyming nicknames or negative associations.  He suddenly became a real boy, not just an adorable anonymous baby, and soon-to-be cousin to another yet unnamed babe back home in Indiana.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.” 

William Shakespeare

 

The Roses

roses

Early Friday morning, the office is satisfyingly empty, aside from the constant hum of the air conditioner and occasional ring of my coworker’s phone. There is no chatter or gossip, no questions about the weekend or last night or comments about the weather.  For the first time in months, it seems, I am alone with my thoughts and my computer and thereby the internet, which is far from quiet.

I have started reading the news in the past few months with a morbid curiosity that borders on obsession regarding the offensive movements of the President and his cronies as they work to dismantle the foundation of the country and the protections of its people. Every time I pull up CNN or the Washington Post, there is a new story of bullying and cruelty from the top down.  The new standard of conduct is one rooted in selfishness, fear and ignorance that sets a disturbing example for those watching.

In spite of the destructive actions between big business and workers, rich and the poor, black, brown and white, there is still beauty in the small things and kindness in the everyday interactions that get missed when one is focused only on the big picture. For example, when a massive cockroach broke into the office last week and backed me into a corner,my co-worker snapped into action and smashed the monster with her shoe thus becoming my new hero.  Her courage saved the day and potentially my life.  It was a small thing for her that meant the world to me.

I am intentionally trying to recognize kindness and pay it forward, as well as to ground myself with the sounds of the morning, the smell of freshly cut grass and the intense blue of a cloudless sky. Recently, I took a break from the swamp to follow the amazing international effort to rescue the Thai soccer team and now a further break to watch the World cup.  Go Croatia!

While I am trying to permanently break away from the news and its negativity, it is tempting to slip back into the stories of “fake news” and Russian indictments, and the never ending tiffs between the Donald and the rest of our world leaders, the good ones, the ones who celebrate diversity and human rights, who live by a personal and professional moral code that is stronger than the lure of money and connections. Again, I digress with so many distractions.

By the time I come back to finish this piece, my mind and body are worn out like a cheap t-shirt. I feel threadbare; it is finally the end of the day.  The normal workplace drama has transpired and somehow almost everything got done except for one thing.

I have yet to stop and smell the roses.

So I make a new to-do list, reprioritize and try again tomorrow.