Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Football! Basketball!

Lately Husband has taken to lying his head gently on my belly at bedtime while talking to our son. Oftentimes Little Husband will move around and "thump" at Husband's head which never fails to delight us. Last night, however, Little Husband was steadfastly unmoving as we tried to cajole him into responding to our voices.

Then husband started talking about the upcoming football season and my son became a whirling dervish.

Tonight Husband laid his ear against my belly and again started talking to the baby but there was no movement. Then, as a test, husband said, "Football". The baby thumped against Husband's ear so hard that it physically moved his head! "Football! Basketball!" Husband called out. Thump thump replied the baby. I was incredulous yet laughing to the point of tears.

My hope is that the baby was responding to the excitement in Husband's voice as he named off his two favorite sports. My *fear* is that I am surrounded by sports nuts and will never again have control of the TV remote!

Sunday, August 3, 2008


From my perch up in our office loft I stare out the window that overlooks our front yard and can't help but notice the comings and goings of my neighbors. I guess, unwittingly, I am the neighborhood busybody. Since my busy street is on a bus line there are a number of characters who pass by my house daily. Truth be told, I worry about them if I don't see them for a few days.

There's "Sundress Lady" who wears thin, brightly colored cotton sundresses and walks with an osteoporadic stoop that belies her years. She has the dull skin and gaunt frame of someone who prefers to nourish her body with drugs rather than food. Then there's "Crazy Box Guy" who can always be found wandering around the corner bus stop at 1:30 in the afternoon. With a file box tucked under one arm, he curls his free hand into a fist and pounds at the sky while cursing his enemies, real or imagined.

And then there's "Santa"...

I've mentioned my quirky neighbor Santa in a previous post. I see him no less than twice per day as he makes his way to and from one of the many bus stops that line our street. I always make it a point to wave and call out "hello" to him, even if he doesn't always return my greeting. Santa is quite a mystery to me as I can never quite place a pattern on his comings and goings. He leaves his house at all different times and never sits at the same bus stop twice. Some days I've seen him waiting for the bus for as long as two hours yet I've never actually seen him board a bus. I assume he has a job somewhere as he carries a lunch thermos and sometimes wears what appears to be a uniform. Other days find him wearing a ratty t-shirt and shorts. I can't imagine what type of job he's reporting to in that attire, but the lunch pail lends credibility to the fact that he's going somewhere that involves a lunch break.

While backing out of our driveway this morning I noticed someone stopped dead on the sidewalk, as if I'd cut off their walking path with my car. Embarrassed, I glanced over and saw that it was Santa and he was staring at me with a very level gaze.

"Hey there, how are you doing?" I called out, all friendly-like.

His rheumy eyes continued to stare at me as if he found it difficult to focus. Finally, in his deep east Texas drawl he spoke.

"Ah been good. It's a mah-ty nice da-ay. Say...Ah got sumpin' fer ya. It's fer the new addition to yer household."

For one confused moment I thought he was referring to the sunroom addition that we built last year. I was thinking that he intended to gift us with a potted plant, or something. Then I realized that he meant the baby.

"Well, wow!" I called out. "That's incredibly nice of you!"

"Ahhhh, ain' nuthin' to it. Ah, kind of found it, actually. Yew see, it has to do with some property that was stolen and then replaced. Ah cleaned it up good and got it workin'...yew see, some property was stolen but it didn't cost hardly nuthin' to fix it'll be somethin' for your little baby to learn with over the years."

Stolen property? Cleaned up? What on earth...

"Well it's wonderful of you to think of us. I can hardly wait to see it."

"Okay now, well...yew just holler at me next time yer home and Ah'll bring it on over."

As unusual as the gift might turn out to be, I am touched. Unbeknownst to me, all this time we've been keeping tabs on Santa, he's been keeping tabs on us as well. In thinking about it, I realize now that his front window looks directly up into our nursery. He's probably seen me puttering around up there--moving a picture here, placing a lamp there, and dreaming of our little baby. Somewhere along the line, I guess he got caught up in the dream too.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Defining Wealth

"What's on your mind?" Husband asked as we walked along the shore of Seven Mile Beach.

"Oh, nothing!" I replied, a little too quickly.

Husband knows me better than that. "Out with it," he responded.

"Oh--it's really nothing. I was just worrying about Maria a little bit. I think she's having financial problems. I mean, her cell phone's been cut off..."

Husband groaned outwardly, knowing all too well what was on my mind.

"Don't worry," I assured him, "I'm not going to do anything about it."

The truth is, I was at that very moment planning exactly what I was going to do about it. I was going to find stuff to sell on Ebay in order to help her out.

"We can't save everyone, you know."

Husband was right. We can't. Still...if it was money that I earned from selling something of mine, then it wouldn't impact our family. Six months out of work and I still feel bad about blindly spending the money that Husband works so hard to earn. One day I will get over this, but for now...

"I was thinking about finding some of my stuff to sell on Ebay!" I blurted out. I can't keep secrets from him. "Then I could give her the money a bonus, or something!"

"A bonus?" husband asked.

"Yes, I mean, she's done a fantastic job as our housekeeper so why shouldn't we give her a mid-year bonus. Honey, I really think she's in trouble financially and her daughter's birthday is coming up."

It doesn't take much to convince my sweet husband to do something nice for someone else. He is extremely generous.

"You don't need to sell your stuff, that's silly. Let's give her that bonus!"

A few days later I shyly (I don't know why I was shy about it) approached Maria with the money. I explained to her how grateful we are for all of her hard work and wanted to show our appreciation. Much to my surprise, she burst into tears.

"Oh God bless you, God bless you!" she said in her thick, Hispanic accent. "You have no idea how much I need this right now. May God bless you and give you much more! "

I was dumbstruck that my instincts were so right but aware enough to at least give her a warm hug.

"You absolutely deserve it," I told her.

A few nights later found us dining with some friends at a moderately priced Mexican restaurant. We only get to see this couple twice per year but still consider them to be dear friends. The conversations are usually lively and informative and tonight was no different as the husband half of this duo waxed eloquent about the real estate they just bought, the fancy cars they drive and the private school they send their children to.

"I mean, I make a lot of money--a LOT of money--and if I want to buy property and flip it for profit, why, that's good for the economy! If the politicians raise the taxes of the wealthy, then I couldn't afford to buy that second house which would be a shame because I am providing jobs for people!" The husband was on a roll.

Something told me that even if his taxes were raised, he could afford that second home. Something also told me that if the taxes of the wealthy aren't raised, then the burden may be distributed among all economic classes. My mind flashed to Maria.

I don't profess to be a Rhodes Scholar when it comes to political matters and I don't argue points that I myself don't understand. For this, I kept my mouth shut but inside I was churning.

Later that night as we walked the dogs I noticed that husband seemed down.

"What's the matter?" I asked him.

"Oh---I just wish I could provide for you more than I do."

"When you say 'provide', do you mean that you wished you made more money?"

"Something like that," he said.

I stopped walking, stunned. We *just* returned from a trip to the Cayman Islands. He bought me a piano for my birthday. Our home is nice, our cars are new and we eat out regularly. We have a housekeeper, for crying out loud! We manage all of this without going into debt. We want for nothing.

"Sweetheart," I stepped in front of him and looked at him earnestly, "You are a fantastic provider. Flawlessly so. You provide a loving home and immense security. More importantly, we have a happy home and you are the primary reason why!"

"I don't know about that," he hesitated. "I just wish I was as successful as some of my friends."

"Do not compare yourself with others for either you will become vain or bitter," I quoted.

"True." he replied, but I could tell that he wasn't convinced.

"Honey--first of all, you are successful. Second of all, we are wealthy--just in a different way. We may not have the tremendous monetary wealth that some of our friends do, but do you know what? Even if we did, there would always be someone who has more, so don't fall into those trappings. Instead, think about all the things we do have. We have our health. We have wonderful families. We have a great marriage, great dogs and a baby on the way. We have fantastic friends. All of these things mean so, so much more than a bank account that boasts seven figures. The truth is, there are far more complications tied to wealth than there is happiness. I love our life the way it is, and I love the way that you provide for us. You're home at a decent hour every night, you can take time off whenever you want, and you're never too tired to give yourself to your family. In my opinion, we are wealthy beyond measure."

I know I said a lot more than this because I talked non-stop for a quarter mile. When I know what I'm talking about, it's almost impossible to shut me up.

As his spirits raised mine sank a little. It always breaks my heart when I discover that something's bothering Husband. Glancing inwardly, I thought about that new car I've been hinting for. The home renovations I keep suggesting. The fancy gym I'd like to join. Husband always responds to these requests in good humor, but my materialistic streak must put a strain on him. When is enough enough? I realized that it is my actions that make husband feel like he's not making enough, and this has to stop. If there's anyone who needs to remember to be content with what they have, it's me.

I think about Maria and how she must feel as she makes her way through our home, carefully wiping the dust off all of our possesions. I think about the things I take for granted such as cell phones and birthday parties. I think about how wealthy Husband and I must seem from her perspective and I feel ashamed for ever wanting more.