Busy busy busy

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The last week has been a blur. I’m able to crank shit out as well as most people for short bursts, but the perfect storm of upcoming holiday and simultaneous work crisis has left me running on zero tolerance, high efficiency mode pretty much nonstop. In short, I’m totally wiped out.

My work situation is a random, not for cause, regulatory inspection of which I have been given 75% of the total responsibility to prepare for. Unlike previous years of getting to leave early on Good Friday, I instead was given the unfortunate reality of having to work frantically up until the last possible moment and then having to come in on Saturday as well. While we are as prepared as we can be for the inspection, the air of tension will not be lifted until we are certain there are no errors and can resume business as usual.

That’s IF nothing goes wrong. If the inspector finds something, then we have to go through a regulatory nightmare, the worst of which could leave us all jobless. I’ve heard too many horror stories to not be concerned. I’m hoping that we’ve prepared all we can for it and done things right, but I won’t know until Friday when all is completed. Right now, all I can do is look at the closed door to the conference room and wait.

Time

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I can’t hear the song “Time” by Hootie and The Blowfish without thinking about it. The endless loop of that song was my weeklong companion amid the chaos of the disintegration of my family unit. It was a cool autumn Friday night, and I had gone to the mall with my friend. We stopped at the music store, and I bought a few CD singles of songs I’d liked on the radio, thrilled at how they only cost a few dollars.

I was to spend the night at my friend’s house afterward, and when we got back to her house, a message was waiting on her answering machine. It was my mother. She said something happened, that she had left, but wouldn’t say to where. I had to scrape my memory for the ancient phone number of her friend’s house and when I called, she told me in crocodile tears that my father had pushed her, that he’d killed our pet rabbits, and she and my brother left before he would turn on them.

My other brother was sleeping over at his friend’s house as well. The next morning, she came to collect us and took us to the battered women’s shelter. I recall the intake coordinator asking my mother what happened, and as another worker came in the room, she rushed to hug her and broke down in tears. To them, she seemed to be the authentic battered wife. To me, though, it seemed fishy.

They helped my mother get a Protective Order against my father, which was delivered to him by the county sheriff, one frigid afternoon. He’d been without us for several days by then, fearful of what my mother would do with us, or to him. The sheriff took all the guns from the house, and told my father he would have to leave. He didn’t have anywhere to go, so he went to the VA hospital and told them he was having flashbacks from Vietnam.

We spent a week in the shelter, surrounded by women and children who’d been through much worse than the simple shove my father had given my mother. From their previous arguments, she would just get up in his face and refuse to move as they argued. I don’t excuse his behavior, but her claim that she was a battered spouse was flimsy at best. Had she actually paid attention to the abuse he levied on his children, she might actually have a case, but after realizing her true intentions, it became clear that this was part of a larger plot.

What we didn’t know at the time, was that my mother planned to leave my father for the man she’d been having the affair with. She did leave for a weekend, staying at a hotel with him, but after her lover told her to go home after he was done with her, she rolled up the driveway like nothing happened. But, after we went to bed, my father gave her a dose of reality. She imagined creating a love nest with this man, taking our appliances with her to furnish this new place. The kids weren’t welcome to come, of course. My father told her she couldn’t take a thing, and if she did leave us, he’d sue her for custody and child support.

Not realizing this would put a crimp in her style, she began to refocus her attention on ways to simply remove the man who she no longer wanted. Maybe she watched a few too many Lifetime movies, maybe she and her lover came up with the plot together, we’ll never know. But, what she still has no recognition for is the inherent damage that her children would suffer as a result of her plot.

At the shelter, we were all shell-shocked, unsure of how to feel and not provided any kind of counseling while we were there. We missed a week of school, our friends were worried about us. We couldn’t talk about it, nor did we really want to. But people talked anyway. The sheriff showing up at the house is something people notice.

When we returned home from the shelter, my father was spending a month in the mental health ward at the VA hospital. In those days, I had a phone line in my bedroom, with a different phone number than the house. My father called me every morning, violating his restraining order, begging me to “fix this” and “get him out of there.” I didn’t know what I should do, or how to feel. But in hearing the desperation in his voice, knowing that no one would be able to fix it but me, I felt compelled to do something.

Slowly, I began to bring it up in family conversations. At first I was shot down, but eventually my brothers came on board. We convinced my mother to allow him back in the house when the order was lifted. He spent the next six months sleeping in the basement. As atonement, he agreed to go to AA meetings, fix up the house, and be more active in our lives. He gave up drinking, which was nice. But the AA meetings began to bore him, and he didn’t want to go anymore. He drove me to my after school activities, only to complain about my mother the entire time.

I hated being alone with either parent because they would constantly badmouth the other. Even though we were all living together again, the issues that lead up to the fight, supposed assault, and separation, were never addressed. There was never an apology. Even my mother’s affair continued unabated.

Soon after, my middle brother (who had just turned 12), began experimenting with smoking, drinking and drugs. He spiralled into a pattern of self-medication that he’s never been able to recognize or remedy. My younger brother isolated himself from my father, and was the first to estrange himself permanently from any member of our family. I continued to battle my depression and anxiety, finally entering therapy at 19. It would take me another decade to come to terms with my family’s abusive, manipulative patterns, and to finally estrange myself from them.

Time
Time, why you punish me?
Like a wave bashing into the shore
You wash away my dreams.
Time, why you walk away?
Like a friend with somewhere to go
You left me crying
Can you teach me about tomorrow
And all the pain and sorrow
Running free?
Cause tomorrow’s just another day
And I don’t believe in time

Cheater

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I was a lot younger than anyone would like to admit when shit hit the fan. Although to be completely honest, it was hitting the fan pretty much from the moment sperm found the egg and I fatefully implanted into the uterine wall. All of this went down as a result of other people’s misdeeds. I just happened to be stuck in the middle of it, audience to a train wreck, with no way to stop it.

It was a warm summer night, our home’s windows all open to promote some kind of cross-breeze that barely existed. I may have been twelve, maybe younger, at the time. It was before I was 13, when I got my first of many diaries. It was dark, the hour late. My parents fought a lot in those days, often about money, often in front of us.

After supper, when we could no longer play outside due to the surrounding darkness, my brothers and I would often hole up in our rooms, watching TV or playing video games until bed time. My mother came into my room, closed the door, and sat on my bed. She seemed like she wanted to talk, but I wasn’t in trouble. I don’t really recall what she wanted, but soon we were interrupted by my father.

Clearly, they’d been having an argument and she’d come into my room in search of refuge. They were yelling at each other now, my mother pushing me in front of her as a kind of human shield. He kept asking if she thought he was stupid, that he knew what “that” smelled like.

I had no idea what they were fighting about, just wanting it to end. My mother kept pushing me in the back, until I finally yelled at my father to leave her alone. He looked at me, disgusted, muttering “fine” as he left. I don’t remember much after that, only the argument was over for now.

My mother was probably crying, but maybe she wasn’t. I think I just want to remember it that way, that she was capable of feeling, of remorse. As I would find out later, much later, was that my mother was having an affair. The “that” he had found was the stained pantyhose she’d worn home from work and carelessly tossed into the laundry.

He must have suspected her for a while to go through the dirty clothes like that. In all the years up until that moment, he’d only done laundry once and even then it was only because my mother got fed up with him leaving it as a pile on the floor and not in the hamper. She’d “taught him a lesson” by not doing his laundry. But only his. He only realized it late Sunday night that he had no clean clothes for the week, staying up well into the night, running his laundry, grumbling under his breath.

My mother was so proud of her victory, in that moment. But it was just one of those mean and petty things that unhappy married couples do when they no longer like each other, swatting like petty roommates stuck together until the lease is up. The lease in this situation being the time until the kids are grown and out of the house.

Things got worse after that, the drinking escalated, moving from habit to coping mechanism. Each of them began to poison us kids against the other, mostly taking shit, but at times openly questioning whether the other actually cared about us at all. What none of us realized at the time was that my mother was gearing up to teach my father the “lesson” of a lifetime. By the time we would finally realize what had happened, it would be too late.

Deny as she might, my mother was indeed having the affair of which she was accused. As family history would document, but we children were unaware, my mother was no stranger to stepping out on her husband. (Ironically, this was how I came into being in the first place.) Her current love interest was a man from work, her boss, who in exchange for sexual favors, gave her carte blanche to clock as much overtime as she pleased.

As round after round of layoffs yielded dozens of her colleagues fired, she nearly doubled her salary by going in to work before sunrise and coming home late. The increase was so substantial that the year prior to this, our family’s low income qualified me to attend a college preparatory program for “underprivileged students,” but two year’s later when my brother applied for the same program, he was denied because we made too much money.

My mother had thought she and this man were in love, which may have been true in her bizarre understanding of the word. Still, when the topic of divorcing their spouses so they could be together came up, he would hear none of it. Can you blame him? By maintaining the status quo, he kept his home life (not to mention his financial life) intact, all while getting the milk for free. But in our home, the secret was out and in spite of being caught by my father, my mother continued to have her affair, all the while denying it to us. But she had a plan, one that could have easily been lifted from a Lifetime screenplay, to get rid of my father for good.

Harried Potter – Part 3

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The final day of pottery class came too soon. In my previous experience, I’ve had courses for an entire semester. But only three classes didn’t seem like enough time for me. I wanted more.

Our last course was the painting phase, which was always my downfall for even a perfectly constructed piece. It’s a blind gamble too, because you don’t know how certain colors will look until they are fired and then it’s too late. Once something’s fired 1650 degrees, it’s pretty hard to undo.

I painted one piece with a layered colored glaze, hoping for the neat black on white effect. The second I got more cute with, incorporating black, red and blue. Hopefully they don’t suck. I won’t know until next week, when they’re fired. The problem with pottery, too, is that it’s hard to destroy. Centuries later, archeologists will unearth my piece and find it’s craptacular color scheme and know that mediocre humans existed here.

Busy Bee

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This was a weekend of getting shit done. A year ago, I was still reeling from the tiny life I brought into the world. This year, we’re taking our happy little dude along with us on errands, since we really don’t have a lot of choices. He was relatively tolerant for most of it.

We began Saturday morning with passport photos. It was as challenging as we expected to get his photos taken, since toddlers aren’t very good at sitting still and looking straight ahead. But on the ninth try, we got him centered and “close enough” for rock and roll. Now, we have to schedule an appointment to get his passport documents submitted and he’ll have official, government issued ID and can get on a plane, should we ever decide to travel further than a few hours drive.

Then it was on to the monthly electronics and hazmat disposal that our county conducts. Talk about an easy solution to decluttering! We pull into a school parking lot, and don’t even have to get out of the car. Volunteers unload our aging television, old computer, and expired lawn products into waiting pallets for proper disposal. We saved so much time and effort that we treated ourselves to a little lunch.

I must commend the little guy on a job well done. He was really well behaved at the restaurant, eating his grilled chicken and high fiving the random strangers who passed by. Afterward we went to the play area for a little energy burning before heading home.

He had his nap then, and while he was down, I ran out to the cable distributor to return the obsolete equipment we had, the now-orphaned extra cable box and the old modem, which I replaced with a combination unit. The wait was really short, so I got in and out in record time. Then I stopped off at the eye doctor to pick up the documentation my FSA requested for reimbursement for my new glasses before heading home.

After the little man woke up from his nap, we headed back out to the grocery store and picked up a rotisserie chicken for dinner. We had a nice meal at home and then crashed for the evening.

Sunday, we met with another realtor, who gave us a better feel for what our options are for getting the house ready for market. Of course, though, our little dude took a few stumbles which produced the cringeworthy howling that accompanies the inevitable falling down that kids do at that age.

After that, I was supposed to have a hand from my sister-in-law, but she was having car trouble. Little man went down for a nap and I sent my husband out for a bit of R&R at the golf course, while I tied up loose ends at home. I also treated myself with a little iPad time. (shh! don’t tell!) Then we went over to the home improvement store and finished the grocery shopping before heading out for a nice dinner. Of course, the little dude wanted to run around, so we had to cut things short. He did really well though, for the most part, and we knew we were pushing his limits with all of our errands. So, all in all, a busy weekend, but still so much left to do.

Harried Potter – Part 2

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Perhaps it was the two beers my friends were so kind to ply me with before class. Perhaps it was the cell memory finally coming back to me after 15 years. Perhaps it was just luck. Whatever it was, the second day of grown up pottery class went easier than the first.

Our task was to trim down the pots we’d thrown the previous class. This was a bit easier than the original throwing, since the clay had dried out some and taken on a texture I was more familiar with. The pottery wheel moved as I asked it to, the pedal setting itself at a speed I was ready to work with. The tools even seemed to make more sense.

The pot I’d made the previous week now kicked off long thin streams of excess clay under my sure hand. I hunkered down over the thing with a concentration that I recall having in the pre-internet era. I carved that bitch down and I was the zen master.

Once it was done, we were given the option to make a plate or throw another pot. Since plates would be frivolous, I decided to opt for the latter. I still needed a hand to get the lump centered, but after that, my luck stayed true and the wonky clay yielded to the imagined design in my mind.

It’s not often that I get good at something quickly. But the moment like this when I shine makes me feel invincible, if even for a small moment in a carefully manufactured moment in a tiny corner of my otherwise chaotic life. And for that blink of an eye, when things go exactly like I want them to, even if it is just asking a malleable piece of clay to not bend and flop over, I am invincible.

Long, strange weekend

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It’s been a long weekend. Not for the “Whee! Fun times! Long weekend! Let’s tear shit up!” experience I would have so longed for in my pre-baby days. No, those days are long gone. And, honestly, while those days were fun, my liver didn’t always appreciate them as much as I’d like, so it’s probably for the best.

No, the long weekend was due to a strange set of circumstances, that were set in place by the unfortunate reality of having a child in daycare. The call came in at the most inopportune moment: Thursday afternoon – my husband’s regularly scheduled overnight. He called me at work, which hardly ever happens.

Uh, hi, honey. I just got a call from the daycare and the baby has a 103 degree temperature.

There are few things that set me in motion faster than news that my little one is one degree away from potential hospitalization. I’ve moved quickly when I realized the tickle on my arm was indeed small spider. I’ve jumped pretty high at the sudden backfiring of car. I’ve screamed involuntarily at the sound of lightning cracking too closely over my head. But the reality that my little guy having to go to the emergency room is one that puts all those adrenaline filled experiences to shame.

I put my out of office on at work, call my boss, who’s literal reaction was “Go! Go! Go!” but then “Did you update your payroll?”

Go! Go! GO! Wait, did you update your payroll?

So, taking a minute to do the accounting of my newly earned then quickly burned vacation time, I sigh and sign off for the next day. Because the daycare’s rule is that my son has to be fever free for 24 hours before he can return, I have to burn the next day too, since my husband won’t be home from his business trip until late Friday afternoon.

I pick up the baby, only to find they didn’t give him the tylenol we’ve left for him for a reason that didn’t make sense. So, in spite of depriving him medicine to help his fever, he doesn’t really feel that hot. The new girl (who I am on the fence about to begin with) doesn’t have the incident report for me to sign (standard practice), which sets off another red flag for me. I get him home and am only able to register him at 100.3 degrees. Still not great, but not as scary as 103. We give him some advil, his sippy cup and he falls asleep on me until it’s time to go to the doctor’s appointment.

At the doctor’s office, they aren’t able to read much of a fever either, by now the advil helping him significantly. She doesn’t find anything wrong with his ears, throat or sinuses. She thinks he might just have a cold and wants to wait it out before putting him on yet another round of antibiotics. I’m fine with this.

But, as the weekend progresses, his low grade fever doesn’t go away. His cold seems not to be resolving, so while we’re doing our best to get him rested and back to school, it’s not looking good. Graciously, my husband gets him an afternoon appointment for Monday, so hopefully, we get an answer. I hate putting him on antibiotics unless it’s absolutely necessary, but we’ll know soon either way.

Hopefully the fever breaks and he can go back to school. I’m planning on discussing my issues with the daycare, specifically with the new girl they’ve hired, who’s demonstrated nothing but general incompetence to me. I want the old girl back, but she’s transferred to the other center. My son misses her too. She’s the only person he’ll literally run to, and she genuinely loves him. The new lady seems just frenetic and shady, and while she does okay with the kids, she has no idea on how to work with the parents.

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