The Sweet Taste of Success


A mysterious fist pounded at the door. Bang, Bang, Bang.  Without carpet or better insulation, the sound reverberated around the room and immediately annoyed me.

“Mrrwhaf?” I yelled through the door with a mouthful of peanut butter.

It was lunch time and there was a sign on the door stating in very neat and uniform letters, “CLOSED,” which did not leave much room for an alternative interpretation.

Bang, Bang, Bang. The knocking continued, shattering the golden silence of noon like an errant bullet through the front window of a retired school teacher, scattering a million shards of glass on the ground where previously there were none.

I bit into a fat baby carrot, severing it in half with my very sharp teeth. It broke with a loud CRACK that was surely heard in the hallway indicating the eating of lunch. Thoughtfully, I rolled the carrot chunk towards my molars for the most efficient mastication of the vegetable.

Then, I focused all of my energy on the door. It was made out of cheap and cracking wood, held together by a coat of white paint, scuff marks were at the bottom from multiple feet.   Narrowing my eyes, I stared with the intensity of a brain surgeon preparing to remove a tumor and fixated on whoever stood on the other side.

I was gratified with a few seconds of silence which were without a doubt too good to be true, as no footsteps followed. At first, I only assumed that the would-be intruder had not vaporized as I intended, which was then confirmed as fact when the aggressive knocking continued.

“Nobody’s home,” I yelled and launched into a period of self-reflection.

Was it selfish to want just one uninterrupted lunch? Was it wrong to take that time back for myself and to declare that it was something beyond want and was actually a need?  I struggled with the boundary of giving and balance of self-care with professional responsibility, recognizing only afterwards when I had nothing left but resentment that I was already to the emotional land of no-return for the day.

At last, the knocking stopped and the sound of footsteps were heard heading out the door.

It was a small victory, fleeting and hard fought which somehow made the rest of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich taste that much better.

The Benefits of Strep Throat

Image result for cup of tea

“Something is off,” I said in a rasp.

It was still dark outside, an early morning in the Midwest, as I prepared for the day. Two cats lounged in front of me, licking at their fur and stretching.  They were thoroughly unconcerned with the trials of their human-keeper.

I tried to swallow and felt razor blades cutting into my throat which was slightly more concerning than the sound of my voice.   Gingerly, I reached up to touch the affected area and discovered a golf ball sized gland just under my jaw and felt certain that it was not there last night.

One feline stopped grooming just long enough to acknowledge my ailing presence and meowed with a rather mean expression that seemed to say, “Just make sure we get our kibble.”

The two bullies left the room and their mistress for a pursuit of a higher calling, kicking litter out of their boxes.

Flushed with fever, I fanned my face. I had to get to work; there was the already overdue report that was only halfway done, clients in need of bus tickets, referrals, supportive listening, and my new coworker with a history of forgetting to return to work after lunch breaks who required constant supervision.  There was so much to do and such little time.  I couldn’t waste a single minute before Christmas, New Year’s, and the time off in between.  Could everything wait, I wondered with my soon-to-be-boiling-from-fever- brain?

“Yo, this some B.S. right here,” I could hear my coworker’s most used line as I felt the massive lump on my neck and tried to swallow again, as though the last time was an anomaly. The lump and pain were both still in place. After a quick inspection of the back of my throat in the mirror, white spots were added to the list of issues that led to a trip to Urgent Care where I was diagnosed with strep throat and kept from work for at least a day.

How dare they take me off work? I raged for about a minute and then accepted my quarantine orders. I read, napped, dutifully took my medicine and provided kibble to the gang of cats that rove through our tiny house and remembered the importance of taking care of me.

Sometimes it takes getting physically stopped in one’s tracks, rendered unable to eat or drink, and restricted from work to actually stop for a break and realize that if you give everything away, there’s nothing left for you or those who love you at home. I took the day and my antibiotics and returned to work rested and ready for the final push before the holidays.

I slowed down and re-prioritized, de-stressed, drank more tea than booze (until 12/31/16) and started saying no to unnecessary responsibilities.  And that’s how strep throat saved me in a painful and contagious sort of way from self-destructing over the holidays and with any luck in 2017.

Float On

This post is about a very expensive bath.

It happened at a float spa. Although, I suspect that a very similar experience could have been had at home with low lighting, a big, bath tub and a generous handful of Epsom salt. I was lured in with promises of relaxation and untold health benefits. All I needed to do was soak in salt saturated water, Dead Sea style, without the sea part, for 90 minutes.

Did I mention it was in a pod that was meant to be completely dark and silent? Sensory deprivation was part of the salt-water-soak to cure what ails a person that added the potential for psychedelic visions and enhanced creative abilities. So maybe, it couldn’t have happened at home.

How’s that for a selling point?

The salt soak was the newest in a long line of health and beauty fixes with which I have experimented, ranging from algae for breakfast to healing stones strategically placed under my pillow at night. If someone tried to sell me snake oil, I would stop them and say, “What, just one bottle? I need the entire case.”

With each approach, I hope to find a type of magic, a way to reverse the aging process or to replace good old fashioned diet and exercise. Could floating in several hundred pounds of salt and water for 90 minutes be just what Dr. Merlin ordered?

I had to find out.

I booked two floats, one for me and one for my mom (who has dabbled in even more quackery than me). When my brother and I were kids, she sat us down at the kitchen table each morning and dosed us with charcoal, strange pills, and foul smelling liquid vitamins, as she used a whirring machine that guaranteed youthful, hairless skin for just six payments of $19.99.

I was in good company. We are a pair of believers and adventurers, willing to take a risk for what could be the next big thing as long as it comes neatly packaged, more or less.

There were three rooms each with its own shower and glowing pod. We entered our neighboring rooms with a parting wave and prepared to have a real experience.

Sliding into the lukewarm water, I closed the overhead hatch, like the last member into a submarine with one last wistful look behind me. Settling in, I bobbed up and down on the water, surprised at my own buoyancy.  I tried to relax in spite of being naked in a glowing pod full of room temperature water but just couldn’t bring myself to turn out the lights.

So much for sensory deprivation.  Maybe I should have asked for a partial refund?

Afterwards, I admitted sheepishly that it was too creepy to float in total darkness, to which my mother said with her usual lack of a filter, “You are such a wimp.”

If I were to further analyze the situation, I’m sure this could be key in understanding my unresolved childhood issues stemming from the same mother who happened to be floating next door as free as a bird.

Really, who has time for rehashing the past?

The first thing she asked when we rejoined in the lobby was, “What spirit animal led you? I actually became a starfish.”

Still lethargic and covered in salt, I was speechless. Nothing was how I expected it to be after 90 minutes away from the world.  I’m not sure where I was during that time, but it was nice.  I came back too relaxed to have a conversation.

I should have guessed that she would have an out of body experience (OBE) as a spiny, multiple armed, opportunistic sea creature. While she was spinning and stretching her extra arms to embrace sea life, I refused to admit that I too had an experience as a sea snake, gliding from one end of the pod to the other.

She didn’t need to know. Sometimes, OBE’s are not meant to be shared. Of course, the same could be said for bathwater, but that didn’t stop me from stepping into the pod of recycled water or writing this post.