Monday, May 23, 2011

Love and Clorox: Why having a Cleaning Lady is Risky Business

Poor Maria Shriver…she was all I could think about this week. As I watched her on Oprah’s finale, trying to smile and act like everything was OK, I thought about how devastated she must be. First she had to watch him run for Governor, then she has to stand by him while he got caught groping women, and then, to top it all off, he goes and has a love child with their cleaning lady…not a fun week to be Mrs. Schwarzenegger.

She has a right to be really, really mad. Think of all the time she spent getting Botox, plastic surgery, hair extensions, acrylic nails and not to mention starving herself, only to find out NONE of it mattered. She probably used to say things like, “I would love to have a margarita, but they have SO many calories, Arnold likes women that are in shape.” No Maria, sadly he doesn’t. As a matter of fact, you could have let it rip. You could have gone ahead and eaten some chips, had a bowl of ice cream, or hell, funneled a Pina Colada, it didn’t matter. He was banging the cleaning lady…and I know why.

A few years ago, I came home from work exhausted and tired. It had been an unusually rough day. As I slowly opened the door and took a deep breath, I was overwhelmed by the scent of what I imagine heaven smells like. As I took another long inhale, my lungs were filled with the intoxicating smell of Pine Sol and Clorox. As I looked around my house, a warm feeling began to fill my heart. With shiny eyes and joy in my soul, I cherished the fact that my house was clean, spotless, and free of dust bunnies. The best part was, I didn’t make that way, a woman named Claudia did. In that moment, I fell in love with my cleaning lady. Arnold I feel your pain.

My cleaning lady has been with me for over six years. You might think the feelings would have dimmed, but no, the love affair has only gotten more intense. It seems as if every year, my love for her grows deeper and deeper. Hiding these feeling from everyone has been exhausting, but I knew I couldn’t let my family know how I felt about her. Would they think I didn’t like to clean, couldn’t clean, or didn’t know how to clean? If so, what kind of woman does that make me? I was afraid it would wreck everything. Arnold, I understand your fear.

Luckily for me, unlike Arnold, she isn’t in my home everyday. I don’t know if I could have handled that. But every other Monday, around 4pm, I find myself happier than I ever thought I could be. A few weeks ago, right after she left, I had to get something out of my closet. When I opened it up and saw all of my fitted sheets, the ones with those stretchy corners, folded into perfectly neat squares, stacked one on top of the other, I could barely contain my joy. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, “She is so AMAZING! How does she do it? How can I get her to be in my home more often? What did I do to deserve this?” These questions still keep me up at night. Arnold, I understand how she changed your life.

In terms of us seeing each other, it varies from week to week. There are times when I get home before she leaves and times when I am just left with her memory…a clean refrigerator door, clothes hung perfectly on hangers, or shoes lined up in neat little rows. At those moment, happiness fills my heart and the love I have for her takes my breathe away. When she hasn’t been around for a week or so, I get nervous. I start counting down the days until I will see her again. My life begins to be about when she will be back, what she will do, and how good it will feel when it is done. As I think about these things, I realized that Arnold and I have a lot in common. I assume he also thought he couldn’t live without his cleaning lady. It is not easy to love two people so deeply. Arnold, I understand how you feel.

A few weeks ago, I walked into my bedroom and the smell of Pledge nearly brought me to my knees. Is there any better smell on Earth? That smell, along with the fact that she had wiped down ALL of my refrigerator shelves and organized my canned food by height, left me practically speechless. I wanted to find this woman, kiss her, hug her and tell her to never go away. If she were to have walked in that room, I might have physically assaulted her. I might have grabbed her and said the things Arnold said to his cleaning lady, “I love you. I can’t live without you. You are my everything.” Arnold, I don’t know if I would have gone as far as wanting to have a baby with her, but you obviously just got carried away.

I am grateful that my cleaning lady is female…I think it is safer for me that way. If I had to watch a man clean my baseboards, we might have some infidelity on our hands. The way she is able to take my dirty, messy house, and turn it into a hotel room, with tight sheets, mopped floors, and lined up shampoo bottles is a gift that I will never tire of receiving. Arnold obviously felt the same way.

The truth is everyone loves the people in their lives that make their world run smoother. Whether it’s the gardener, the maid, the nanny, the secretary, or the UPS man. Nothing is sexier than having someone help you do something you couldn’t or wouldn’t want to do yourself. The days I love my husband the most are days he has done some type of manual labor I could never do on my own. Nothing turns me on more than watching him lift something heavy or hoist a large storage box into the garage. I can’t help myself...I fall in love all over again. The other day, as I watched him fill a hole with dirt and carry a pile of old tree branches to a trashcan, I screamed out the window, “I have never wanted you more than right now!” To that he replied, “You are one sick woman.”

The truth is I believe if I ever ended up homeless, I would still find someone to clean my shopping cart. So Arnold, you made a big mistake and what you did was wrong. But I want you to know, we understand how it started...everyone loves their cleaning lady.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Brother's Wedding

There are times in life when everything just seems to fall into place. When you look around, smile, and say “thank you God.” For me that moment came at age 33, as I stood up on an old wooden deck, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, watching my brother and his beautiful fiancĂ© take their vows. As I watched the tears fall from my brother’s face, I felt so much love and peace inside. This weekend wasn’t just about my brother getting married, it was about so much more, and the details are as heartwarming as they are hysterical.

Thursday night: We land in Ft. Lauderdale and my aunt, uncle, and grandmother pull up in their 1990 white Conversion van. To entertain the kids, my aunt turns on the VHS machine (which in 1990 was included for a small extra cost) and we begin to watch a video titled “Wild America.” The sound of a lion eating a cheetah barely drowns out my daughter screaming. I realize we need to feed the kids quickly, and by something I consider the opposite of a miracle, we end up at a Chili’s. We order a round of appetizers that totals at least 15,000 calories and 750 grams of fat. The restaurant was full of large women in jean shorts and old men in tank tops…it was so good to be home! We wait almost two hours for our food to be delivered and the waiter finally says, “Sorry, we just got slammed. Tonight, is a school fundraiser…each time someone order potatoes skins or nachos, 10% of their bill goes to a charity.” Who am I to complain?

We check into our hotel, the kids jump on the beds, and my daughter almost flies through one of the sliding glass doors. My dad comes to help us with the kids, takes them for a walk, loses them on the beach, tries to whistle to get them back (like he does with his golden retriever), and eventually locates his grandchildren. He is exhausted and brings them back to our hotel room…approximately ten minutes after they had first left. They go to bed at 1:30am...awesome.

Friday: For some scientific reason, the kids stay on West Coast time at night and East Coast time in the morning. One of the lovely things they don’t tell you about in all those parenting books. We swim in the pool, we swim in the ocean, and we have great family fun. I try to do all of this while not getting my hair wet. We go through the rehearsal, everybody does great, and then unfortunatley, my daughter starts to cry. She can’t understand why she isn’t wearing her fancy flower girl dress and quickly begins to meltdown. In order to keep things under control, I start to give her candy and treats every time she does something right…just like you would for a dog.

After the rehearsal, we board a party bus with 60 people. When we get on, the bus has air conditioning. After thirty guys in suits sit down, hip-hop music gets played, and four cases of Michelob Ultra get drunk, the air conditioning doesn’t work so well. For the next hour, we resemble a reality T.V show…imagine Big Brother + MTV Road Trip (with no air condition) + Survivor (the water went quickly). We head to Buccan, the best restaurant ever, and eat the greatest meal of my life. My dad makes a nice toast and my husband asks for a doggy bag. I wasn’t sure about the etiquette on the last one, but I was in a happy mood and let it go. Can you say team player?

We get back on the bus and ride home. We dance to different songs, take lots of pictures, and enjoy ourselves. I loved every minute. We get back to the hotel and everyone discusses where to go next. I say, “Hey I am going to run upstairs, change, go to the bathroom, and come back down.” I run upstairs, change, go to the bathroom…and crawl into bed. The good news is, no one noticed I was gone. The bad news is, no one noticed that I was gone.

Saturday: I wake up after a 5 glorious hours of sleep, only 6 hours short of what I needed, and head down to the pool with my kids. I spray my kids and myself with as much sunscreen as possible. Then I spray my husband and really focus on his head, which has recently become a ‘highly exposed’ spot. We are greased up, glowing white, and ready to enjoy the day. We go in the ocean and jump around as a family…if you didn’t know better you might have thought we were Midwestern tourists filming a commercial for a Sandals Resort or Carnival Cruise Line.

After getting my hair and make-up done, I go back to the resort to get the kids ready. When I see my daughter, I notice she has terrible sunburn. I ask my husband what happened and he says, “You never told me I needed to reapply sunscreen…how was I supposed to know?” I want to say terrible and mean things to him, but I hold back. I remind myself this day is about new beginnings and love. Eventually we are dressed and ready to go. Because we are all dressed up, and in a beautiful location, I force my family to take a million pictures. My great hope is that at least one will turn out well. I scream at them, they scream at me, and eventually we are done. As we speak, my favorite picture is being blown up at Walgreens…the only downside is that my husband's head is cut off above his eyebrows. At this point, I don’t really give a damn.

The wedding is beautiful, the kids do their thing, and the bride and the groom are glowing. After the dances, my brother grabs the mic, and serenades his new wife with “I Love You” by Climax Blues Band. The song is passionate, amazing, and slightly off key. It makes me cry and cheer and laugh. The party begins, the band is awesome, and someone breaks out the worm. Around 11pm, the bride and groom surprise the guests with a touch of the Islands. As we stare outside, we watch as a steel marching band, made up of twelve African Americans in full costume and headdresses, begin to march into the country club. All of the extremely white guests rise to their feet and dance with such passion and rhythm that I believe many may have surprised themselves. As I watch this amazing event I think to myself, “Why is it that white people always include African American bands when they want to have fun, yet it doesn’t work the other way?” I have yet to meet a young African American couple that said, “Hey Honey, you know what our wedding needs? A little spirit and fun! Why don’t we invite a white band to come and play some Billy Joel, you know, liven up the place?” Nothing against Billy Joel, but white people still have so much work to do…

The groom makes his 3rd toast to his wife, and tells her again he would be nothing without her. I ask my husband if he feels the same way and he says “Of course.” I'm pretty sure he’s lying, but because I've have had 10 vodka sodas and only one mushroom cap, I accept it and move on. We party all night, go to bed at 6am, and wake up with the kids at 7:30am. I have lost both contacts, can barely walk, and feel like I might die without more sleep…

But at that moment, nothing really matters. Life is good, my brother is married, and I have a sister. I stumble into my bathing suit and put sunscreen on the kids. I will sleep another day…

Clegg and Kelli…thanks for an amazing weekend and an inspiring love affair…