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Monday, December 26, 2011

~Christmas Carol's Weeper~

For the seventeenth Christmas in a row, we took the family to Crown of Life Lutheran Church for the Christmas Eve service. I ironed clothes for every member of my family with an element of red, and I spent an hour applying Christmas Party make-up. I wore my favorite outfit--tight black sweater, a-line grey skirt and nylons that look like tattoo's of coy fish.

I cried off the first layer of sparkles during the opening song. My daughter was sitting next to me, and at first she was amazed and perhaps compassionate, but as the songs wore on and snot started dribbling out of my nose she lost her compassion and began to started to mock me. She made her dad trade her seats after I used her hood to clean the snot/tears off my cheeks (she spent years using me as a napkin, she owes me.)

I was completely fine during the sermon and the speaking parts, but as soon as the music team started singing, my eyes started weeping.

For many years, my family was the music team--my mother, my aunts, my uncles--beloved friends I have known my whole life. When I was a kid, we sang Christmas Carols and I was overjoyed, when I reached my teens I was so cool that I was bored with the sounds of my family. And now I am an adult and the people singing the Christmas Carol's have been replaced.

The primary crying problem is that Dave and Rudy and Ken playing together harmonize so well that it sounds like my Uncle Roy is in there singing. Which of course he isn't. And recognizing the abscences of his voice, I begin to recognize the absence of all of the voices that sang to me when I was a little girl who still believed in Santa Claus.

The voice that I miss the most is the voice of my mother.

My mother is very much alive and kicking, but she gave up the singing when Roy died. She doesn't sing with the church choir anymore, and she doesn't sing at home and she didn't set down to the organ to play demanding that my sisters and I sing along with her.

My eye's weep during Christmas carol's because they have been very much absent this year--I didn't even fill my cd player with the collection of cd's that my mother made for me back in the days when she was still making music. I have a collection with over 50 Christmas cd's--music of every genre and all of the classic's sang with every composer that you might suspect had a Christmas album.

The music was absent this Christmas, and I am not the only person who has noticed it.

There are a whole lot of new things present:

Jacob has been making paper cranes for the last two Christmas' and the tree is covered with them. They are made out of envelopes, and newspaper and Kid's homework papers and colored paper.

It is the sixth year that we have had Christmas dinner in this house, and the Christmas table is decorated exactly as my mother would have it be made. I know this is true because the Christmas china, sivlerware and candleabra's are all from the gifts that she has given me. The tablecloth is the linen one that she purchased, and the silk damask napkins go into the silver napkin rings that she picked out.

I can't make the music come back, because I can't sing the music without crying--but what I can do is create the picture of the Christmas meal cooked to perfection and placed about a table set for twelve.

The gift my mother gave me when I was a child was the music and the imagery of a beautifully made Christmas table.

The gift that I give my mother is that imagery set up exactly as she had imagined it might be.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

~The Answer Isn't in a Bottle~

Yesterday, the sheriff came to my house with a Writ of Execution, he needed me to give him $2218.94 or he would have to take some of my stuff.

He reminded me of my first husband, with his sandy hair and the fact that his face was flushing. He stood on the door step with papers in his hands, looking official and a little embarrassed at the same time. I told him I had $20 in my wallet, and then I invited him into my house.

My boys were obviously curious and I allowed them to stay in the living room, Jake stood next to me--I think he was manning up by standing next to his mother. Ike was watching from the couch, I read the papers and realized that this was because of that credit card that I had oh so many years ago and I never paid it off.

The officer was explaining the paperwork to me--he asked me to give him the $20 that I had in my wallet and he said that if I didn't file a claim of exemption they would be back to get some of my stuff--he told me that they could take just about everything, even the couch.

I invited him to come into my home because having a sheriff at your house does cause the neighbors to wonder. We have had plenty of sheriff's in the last couple months--some kids broke into the Durango in July and the police got them, I have been getting subpoena's to testify.

And I, the woman who walks at night so that no one can see her invited him in to get him off my doorstep, and into my home.

When I left the living room to get my purse, I thought about that me that didn't want the meter man to ask to come inside her home, she had an officer of the law standing inside her home...her home that had clean floors and dinner cooking and two clean health boys. I left my bedroom door open so that he could see that my bed was made and I wished he would notice that there were not shoes and backpacks all over the floor.

I wanted to prove to myself that it really was okay to have a stranger inside your house, because their judgement of you would be good, even though he was coming to collect money for a debt that I had not paid.

When I came out with my wallet, I discovered I actually had $23, and asked him if I had to give him my extra three bucks. He blushed and hung his head and said, "Yeah, I am sorry I have to take all the money that you have."

Jake stood next to me and asked what was going on, and I reached out and brushed his hair: "this is from a credit card that I didn't pay many years ago and they are here to get their money. It is my fault--I am responsible for the money."

When I said it, I really meant and I--the woman who is afraid to talk to people in the grocery store because she might say the wrong thing--realized that I was telling the absolute truth, and accepting responsibility relieved me of the burden of shame.

The officer wrote me a receipt for my $23 and told us that he hated this part of the job--taking people's money--and that he was having to do it more and more because many people were defaulting on credit cards. He had also defaulted on a credit card, and he gave me paperwork to file for exemptions--I can keep $750 worth of furniture, and $1000 of jewelery and my tools.

He left on a friendly note, letting me know that there were ways around having my personal stuff taken and as he left I shut the door and understood that the woman who had panic attacks at the thought of answering the phone because it might be a bill collector was perfectly calm and collected when the sheriff came to my house to get some of what I owe.

My boys, of course, were a little bit shaken up. I suppose that having the cops inside of your home is disturbing for a youngster, probably one of those memories that get so permanently embedded that not even Alzheimer will shake them free.

"What are YOU going to DO?" my daughter asked when we set down to dinner using that voice of panic that I recognize so well because it uses the same tone as the thoughts inside my own head.

I think it is telling that she didn't ask me if I had called her dad to see what plan her parents had devised. She wanted to know specifically what I was going to do, because she holds me personally responsible for all of the big problems in life. She holds her dad responsible for acquiescing to her desires, and she holds me accountable for making sure that home and hearth are secured.

The woman who could barely make herself walk into a parent teacher conference set at the dinner table with the sum of her daughter's worry and she realized that her daughter was looking to her for a path. She is learning how to be a woman from me, and her disappointment in me stems from the fact that she believes that it is possible for her mother to take care of everything because SHE will be able to take care of everything in the future.

I told my daughter that I was going to fill out the exemption paperwork so we wouldn't lose our furniture or our computer and I told her I would let them have the four TV's that were in the garage.

"They are all broken" she said.

"I know. They can also have the refrigerator and the stove in the garage."

"Neither works"

Jake chimed in, "They can also have the hide-a-bed and the two recliners!"

I looked out the window at the stuff piled in the backyard and began naming things that were in less than perfect condition--"They can take the red transAm, that must be worth something, and the trailer and those two lawnmowers."

She brooded as only a sixteen year old girl can, her disappointment stinging my nostrils and making my eyes water.I have felt the weight of her panic and disappointment in me for losing my job, she was most thrilled when I was earning enough money to support this family. She liked to take me for drivers so that I could tell her about the insurance, the 401k savings plan and the commissions that were automatically added to America Express cards. Many times during my physical illness, she asked me why I wasn't back to work yet and many times she asked me what we were going to do if I lost my job.

The fact is, the sheriff would have shown up last night even if I had not gotten sick and lost my job--but I wouldn't have been there to greet him, I would have been at work and the children would have been here alone. The truth is that even if I had stayed my course that I set on Independence Day, Pay Up day was still coming.

Last night, after feeding my kids brownies and washing the dinner dishes the woman who has been hiding inside house lying to herself when she believes that she needs to start taking pills to balance her endomorphines so that she can function in society.

I am not panicky and anxious and despondent and sleepy because of something that is imbalanced inside of my body--

It isn't something that I need to start taking to make me the woman I want my daughter to someday be--it is the things that I need to stop taking.

Friday, October 14, 2011

~I Prefer Hermit~

After my youngest son was born, I went through a phase where I didn't want to leave the house because I didn't want people to see me. I remember having logical conversations with myself and trying to figure out WHY I didn't want people to see me.

I told myself that I didn't have any disgusting deformities that would make people gasp and point, I did't have a speech impediment that would cause me to say foul things to people, I did't smell bad. In a nutshell, there was nothing wrong with me that would make me a sideshow if I were to buy groceries.

I went to great lengths to stay in the house for an entire fall and winter, and I did so in very devious ways. One more than one occasion, I let air out of my car tire so that I couldn't go to the grocery store, I made up grating sounds on the car that made it impossible for me to stick my babies in the car.

I was very good at never stepping out of my door, and the more days I stayed inside, the more panic I felt at the idea of going anywhere. Even to the mail box at the end of the driveway. The pinnacle of my avoidance of people was the day that the meter reader came to read the meter, and I hid in my bedroom closet.

It was in that closet that I realized my cheese wasn't even close to my cracker and I reminded myself that I had no reason to be afraid of the meter reader--I didn't have a meth lab that he would discover, my children were not being abused, there weren't stolen goods in my house.

Looking back, I have always assumed I was suffering from Post Partum Depression and that time of the crazies was done and gone. In fact, I have spent most of the last eight years very much in public, where anyone driving by could see me. I went to school, I found a job in a cubicle, I made friends, I went places, I went to the grocery store everyday!

The creepies snuck up on me this time, and it started with the telephone attached by a three foot long cord that tethered me to a computer. Talking on the phone has never been one of my things, but I did it for nine hours a day and I was pretty damn good at my job.

It started slowly, with just a jolt of panic when the calls were piled up back to back. There were days and days when I could answer the same question, offer the route excuse, sell the mandatory product. But then, one day, the jolt of panic happened with each beep of every call.

In my cubicle, with my headset and my earnest attempt to sell a product to a person who was trying to cancel their service, I was acutely aware that all of my calls were recorded and that there were people walking around with headsets listening to me at anytime--all the time.

I did talk to that panic and explain it didn't matter because I was great at my job, and they were probably recording me specifically to use as a training aid.

Then came the viral infection that landed me in bed for a couple weeks and by day ten the idea of leaving the house caused my heart to pound, my brow to sweat and my chest to heave.

And now I am Unemployee of the Month and once again I have no desire to leave my house and I make up ingenious excuse why I can not: "I am painting the basement. I am looking for a job. I am cleaning the house. I am babysitting someone's kid. I am Writing. I don't have enough gas to go anywhere."

I recognize where I am right now, even though I haven't hid in the close from the meter man. I know the panic that wiggles in when I must go somewhere.

Yesterday was my children's Parent teacher Conference, and I told them all that I couldn't go--to busy painting and writing and not enough gas and it would be just fine if I didn't go because they are all doing great.

Baby Girl insisted because she wanted the extra credit, and she cried and begged so that I shut down the panic voice and put on clean clothes and brushed my hair and reminded myself that there was nothing odious about me, the crazy was all inside and no one would notice.

When we arrived at the High School, the parking lot was packed and I suggested we just go home, since there was no place to park. Kate explained she was doing so good at school and she wanted me to hear it from her teachers, and she wanted them to see me so they would know where she got all of her good looks.

We found a spot and before getting out of the car I said, "I am currently experiencing a Social Anxiety Disorder and being around people makes me feel panicky."

"Get Over It" she replied.

Which is great advice, that I shall work on.

But between now and then, if you see me in public and I don't acknowledge you, it isn't because I am ignoring you. It is because I didn't notice you, I am concentrating on what it is that I need so that I can get back to my house.

If you can't get ahold of me on the phone--it isn't personal, I am avoiding everyone. To be honest, I have turned off my ringer because when the phone rings I get the jolt of panic and I would prefer not to feel that.

The root of this problem is obvious: I don't want to talk about how I am doing. I don't want to admit that my degree is in an envelope in my closet and I am not doing anything with it. I don't want to have a conversation about my habit of staying inside of my house until I gets dark, I don't want you to know that the job hunt is not going well because not many people are looking to hire people who would prefer to be invisible.

Friday, October 07, 2011

~Twelve Boys~

I have three favorite things about this blog:

Before you can access it, you are warned about adult content and you have to acknowledge that you understand you are about to trip into some adult language. This means my kids can't access it from their account, or from their school.

When I was a compulsive blogger years ago, I ran into some flack because of the things that I was writing about the people in my lives. It isn't that I was writing anything particularly salacious, just that they were being mentioned at all, especially not in a less than favorable light.

My girl wasn't thrilled when her teacher read the blog and laughed about something that I had written about her. my husband was adamant that I not write about him ever--EVER--and my outer family gave me suggestions to write about them and began prefacing every conversation with the words, "before I tell you this, you have to promise not to put it on your blog."

Towards the end of my blogging 'career', I removed content per request of people that I love and I began to think about privacy. Afteral, the people in my life do have the right to privacy, and I can understand that some of the stories that I shared were pretty personal and I didn't expressly get permission to write them. I agreed with my kids when they said it wasn't cool for me to write about their tantrum or growing pain in a public forum where their classmates could access it.

I stopped blogging when I realized that I could really only write about myself, and what is of interest about me if I omit talking about the people with whom I interact?

My second favorite thing about this blog is that it has been dead and gone for so long that nobody is reading it, it gives me the freedom to write without believing I am offending someone that I am close to.

And now I can commence with writing a blog that has adult content and thus, it is banned from all school computers, most work computers and certainly my home computer. I can write about anything I want...

and I want to write about those twelve boys at the boys camp. I spent an afternoon driving in the mountains with my dad, and he asked about the boys camp experience and I realized that I had never really talked about those twelve boys with my father. I always planned to write that story--because it is a good one about a twenty-one year old girl who goes to work at a camp for abused and neglected children believing she is going to make a difference.

I spent two summers and a winter with those boys, and I always meant to write about them, but I was reluctant because telling my story meant revealing their story--and I didn't feel as though I had the right to violate their privacy. Now that twenty years have passed, it seems okay to talk about them--wherever they are, they are far removed from who they were at the ages of 12-17.



My third favorite thing about writing this blog is that I am writing at all and that I can legitimately say to my kids, "Give me a moment of Privacy, I am WRITING!"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

~Twelve Words~

When my Uncle Roy died, I said that I could write the eulogy and the obituary and make the music video. He had cancer and I had plenty of time to prepare.

When it came time to write the obituary, I went to Aunt Carols house with my lap top to meet with the family to get the words--and I simply could not do it. I handed the project to my cousin Kim who is brilliant and she did a great job of capturing him in words.

I set down to write the eulogy and I came up with twelve words.

Twelve words for the man who rode in on a motorcycles with a guitar when I was four years old and my father had left.

Twelve words for the man who taught me to fish and cook eggs and row a boat and sing songs and feed pigs and love unconditionally.

Twelve
Words
for the man who built a closet in the middle of my living room and saved my house from foreclosure and sang me songs when the wind was howling and the wolves were at my doorstep

My brother was the guy to read the eulogy and the night before the funeral I sent him a text to let him know I had twelve words and the obituary that Kim wrote and he could ad lib from there.

Long Story short: I let that twelve word failure define me.

I gave up on the writing and decided to just do something else: something corporate that paid the bills and didn't require a whole lot of creativity.

I went for rules and regulations and a job where every second was accounted for. I tied myself to a machine that gave me 667 seconds to deal with a customers problems and a written warning if I spent 2 minutes extra in the bathroom.

I got sick.

I got my walking papers from the job

And now I realize that I have Twelve Words for many different people:

I admire you and your ability to create beauty on a budget.

Stick with me kid, and I will have you farting through silk.

He is twenty years younger and you are doing a public service.

I am not avoiding your phone call, I am avoiding everyone's call.

If you make a break for it, I will pay for gas.

Don't pretend that your past didn't happen. Your story includes dumpster cookies.

If I had a million dollars, I would buy you a monkey.

If you decide you don't want your kid, I have first dibs.

I remember you in the blue princess dress crying in the corner.

Come snuggle on my lap, I will tell you a musical story.

I am overwhelmed to have a woman like you in my life

When we were kids you stated your dream and you achieved it.

He is a cocksore, but I understand why you can't leave him.

Get a haircut, get a job, chest up to your responsibilities mister.

I am not crazy, I am just chafing up against your hide.

You are a good mother, your baby smells likes Johnson's Downey heaven.

I miss you so much that I am afraid to write it.

Monday, January 31, 2011

I know the Heimlich Maneuver

I graduated from college on December 17th 2010 with a degree in Mass Communications and minor in Women's Studies. When I first picked those classes it was because I was going to be a writer who wrote about women's issues.

Now that I have the degree, I realize it makes me look like I am a gossipy lesbian. Had I been wise I would have gone to school for something like nursing or maybe business management--but NO! I was following my dream.

And that has led me where I am today, unemployed and counting the minutes til nap time or beer thirty, whichever comes first.

I should probably have a better attitude, I have only been unemployed for two months and in this current economy that isn't a terribly long time. However, I expected my dream job to arrive the same day I got my degree and so all this 'applying for jobs' crap is getting me down.

I spend the first part of my day reading want ads and applying for jobs. I made a professional resume and a cover letter using all of my college expertise so that all of my accomplishments were spit shined and highlighted in a Times New Roman Font. I have sent out more than 50 of these resume and cover letters and have received three computer generated replies thanking me for my interest.

That means 47 of the people I have applied for haven't even bothered to program their computer to send out automatically generated letters!

In the last two days I have applied for a vast array of jobs; it is amazing how a month of unemployment can make you reasses your job needs. I have applied for administrative assistant jobs, telephone answering jobs, receptionist jobs, health nutritionist/yoga instructor jobs, marketing, advertising and nuclear energy jobs.

With my new list of possible jobs comes a new series of cover letters. I figured that since no one was responidng to my anyway, I might as well vary from the professional/serious cover letter and mix things up a bit, thus pulling away from the pack.

On all of the administrative assistant jobs I have said, "I know the Heimlich maneuver and CPR, if someone in the office should choke on a bagel I can save their life. Now I ask you, what could be a better than an administrative assistant with life saving capabilities?"

For the yoga instructor/nurtionist job I said, "I have taken many yoga classes and I can lock my ankles behind my head. As a forty year old woman, I know about the struggle life can be when you have a fat jiggly buttocks. I would be a valuable addition to your team as I can feel the pain of others with pudgy mid sections."

I'm thinking on my next administrative assistant cover letter I will add the words, "As a professional member of your team, my first order of business will be to draft a cover letter that you can send to potential candidates that let's them know they are not the right person for the job because of that one thing they did that one time and perhaps they should get right with the lord before applying again."

I doubt if any of my new cover letters will land me a job, but at least I got to brag about my gossipy lesbian degree.