Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Game On

“That’s it!” I huff, entering the job trailer with a sharp slamming of the door behind me. New Boss looks up from his desk, a startled expression on his normally placid face. Stripping my heavy fleece lined jacket off my shoulders, I stomp the moisture from my (slipper clad) feet.
“It’s freaking summer everywhere else! 90 freaking degrees! I finally got a day off and it freaking snowed! And there’s bugs in the portajohn!” Freaking is my new favorite word.
The coat snags on my belt buckle. I give it a harsh jerk that snaps it free.
“What kind of bugs?” New boss asks.
I shoot him a sharp look. “An arctically-adapted spider.”
He nods knowingly. I return to my desk and crank up the heater. Civil Soup enters, leaving the door ajar while he helps himself to a fresh cup of coffee.
Shoving away from my desk, I stalk past him and re-slam the door. He looks up.
“This coffee smells funny.”
Smart mouthed Girl struggles against captivity. I fold my arms across my ribs in a vain attempt to thwart her escape.
“Did you put something in it?”
My lips part. The word arsenic balances on the tip of my tongue, wings spread. I clamp my jaws shut and go back to my desk.  The last time I checked, Smart Mouth Girl had nearly gnawed through the duct tape.
“What’s this?” he asks, dragging the can of Folgers Secret Blend out of its hidey hole behind the napkins. “Cinnamon Swirl? Who made this crap?”
I think about my words, measuring inappropriateness against getting fired. “I did. And no one else is complaining,” is what I decide to say.
“Well I am. It tastes like sh*t.”
The door opens and a young man enters. He is dressed in camo and a hard hat, his boots just as muddy as the next guy, and yet he likes froofy coffee in the afternoon.
Smart Mouth Girl breaks free with a gasp. “Civil Soup says the coffee tastes like sh*t,” she tattles. I sigh, slumping my brow into an open palm. Here we go.
“Well,” The Kid says. “Maybe he shouldn’t drink it.” He fills his thermos, winks and puts a dollar in the cup.
Later, after Civil Soup has retreated to his office, I am summonsed to New Boss’s doorway.
“Who buys the coffee?” he asks.
“Me.  Safety. Sometimes The Kid chips in.”
“Then make whatever you want,” he says, “and tell the runner to buy bug-killer for the portajohn. Make sure it’s for ‘arctically-adapted’ spiders.”
I turn to go, feeling both validated and dismissed... Smart Mouthed Girl sticks her tongue out at Civil Soup’s closed door.
Game on, she whispers.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Oh Happy Day!

This week has been totally crazy. It started out with a personal issue: a bit of a legal disruption… apparently my attorney didn’t file all the paperwork he was supposed to file. This is causing ummm… stress. With an emphasis on the SSSSSSS!
For a few days, while he was avoiding my calls and I was developing an intimate phone-relationship with his voice mail, I started to wonder whether I was divorced or not. I mean, all the papers were together. Maybe he didn’t file those either?
I did the only logical thing: I began doing an online file search on myself. I even subscribed to one of those invasive people-finder thingies that allow you to have an insane amount of information on perfect strangers.
Except I was spying on myself.
This is just… wrong. On so many levels.
Not to mention, it was embarrassing. No wonder no one has stolen my identity! I'm boring.
He finally emailed me. Yes, I’m divorced, but no, we don’t have an LLC. So now either my ex-husband or myself could destroy the ranch financially, should we so choose. Ironic.
And then, at work, we had an evacuation. Whoo-hooo. Could it have been on a warm day? Could it have been after I went to the blue room? No. I got to stand on the highway for 45 minutes on the coldest morning of the week tweaking like a puppet on meth. Of course.
At the end of the week, I got a call that someone is going to arrive at work to serve someone else with some sort of mystery papers. Nothing like a little tension in the office. Apparently, no one is immune to fear of the words ‘you’ve been served.’
In the words of my granddaughter: Oh Happy day!
Happy, happy day!
You know what? I’m starting to get a little pissed off. I’m ready to have one of those 'happy days.' I’m ready to have several in a row. Like… whole years of happiness. I don’t know what it’s going to take to get there. I don’t know what it’s going to cost me. I don’t have much left to give… but today I am going to choose to move toward that goal. Purposefully, intentionally, deliberately.
One step at a time.
I will get out of this house today. Go somewhere. Even if it’s only Walmart.
(Looking outside)
Sigh. I suppose it would be a good idea to go drag out the winter coat first.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Woman at the Well

I been doing this forever, God, turning hours into days
And I know I’m only worth what a man sees fit to pay
Don’t even whores need bread and water, even whores too tired to pray?
I guess not.  I’m just a woman at the well

I wear bells to hear them jingle
Like the laughter of a child
That I will never hold against me
Never kiss them as they cry

And I wear veils because they cover
All the things I want to hide
All the scars the wars the battles
All the weary working miles
Dear God, I’m tired. I am the woman at the well.
I clean the house and pay the bills,
take out the trash, wipe up the spills
Drive kids to school and football games and home again…
After the kids are bathed and fed,
the dishes washed, school papers read,
I take a shower, climb in bed and try to feel
Like a real woman,
not just a woman at a well.

Alarm clock rings, I’m out the door
It’s barely quarter after four
To beat the rush and be the one who offers more
Coffee for breakfast, and for lunch,
served over schedules, reports and such,
I don’t have time for nine to five
I just survive. I am a woman.
I am a woman at a well.

And I wear suits because they cover
All the things I want to hide
All the worries and the hurries and
All the weary working miles
I have to fake it til I make it, but oh
Dear God, I am so tired.
Because I am a woman,
I am the woman at the well.

I been sitting by this well for nearly twenty seven years
And in all this time of waiting Lord I cried a million tears
Thinking surely someone somewhere’s gonna see me sitting here
But all they see is just a woman at a well

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why Not?

Not a big Shania fan. Nope. Maybe that’s because her star was on the rise while I was changing diapers and heating bottles. My fave song back in those days ended in, “Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?”
I’m sure it didn’t help one bit that she was so dang pretty and I was carrying around 30 pounds of extra baby weight.
Anyway. No love lost.
And then I happened to catch the showing of American Idol when she was the featured guest mentor. She cracked me up. She was funny. Vulnerable.  Sarcastic. Still too darn pretty, but hey, I guess it’s not her fault she has superior genetics.
This year, I live in a house with a television. The only night I am ever awake long enough to watch it is Sunday. But guess what? Shania has her own show called, Why Not? On Sunday night, no less!
It’s cheesy.
Utterly and ridiculously cheesy.
I hate it.
But I am glued to the set as I watch her and her sister and her new husband traipse across the country in search of wounded hearts in need of healing (and a little splash of celebrity). I listen as normal people tell their tales.
Parents died in a car crash leaving behind a houseful of orphans.
Husband unfaithful, wife left in lurch.
Kids gone astray.
Shania listens. Sometimes she talks too much, I think, but that’s okay. She’s only human.
It’s like Reality TV meets Prayer Chain.
Last Sunday, as Shania described the choking sensation that had overtaken her during the year of her divorce, describing it as ‘that feeling like you have a lump in your throat, like you’re going to cry…,” my hand crept to my neck. For four years I have struggled with that exact malady. I lost the ability to speak. I sometimes struggled just to breathe.
And I realized why I love/hate this show. I hate it because it serves me no purpose to watch it. It’s a complete waste of an hour of my life. But I love it because it gives voice to so many people who just want to say “I’m hurting,” and not be told to suck it up, get tough, get over it.
And… okay… I admit that I totally want Shania’s hair.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sharp Pencils

About a year and a half ago, I was sitting in a Chinese restaurant in late afternoon sharing a bowl of Chicken Chow Mein with Mr. Minor Navigational Change himself.
If there is such a thing as a kindred spirit, he is mine. He is also balding, has one crooked tooth and I really hope he doesn’t know that I blog.
We hadn’t seen each other in over a year, though we’d spoken on the phone a few times. Still, it was as if we’d stepped back in time, comfortable in a relationship that was as worn as a favorite pair of Levis.
He’d seen me through the shooting. Through the PTSD that followed. Through the realization my marriage had died, but my husband and I were still entombed within it. Through a loss and regaining of faith. We’d shared some funny moments. Sad moments. Fear. Through it all, our friendship became its own drama and we were now just bit players.
So, there we were, talking about the latest and the greatest events in our lives – his health, my divorce. He asked me what the split was doing in my life, how was it affecting me. I just shrugged.
I’m finding out things about myself that I didn’t know, I told him. I didn’t realize how many concessions you make within a marriage. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s just when it’s over, you have to sort through your possessions, but also your life, figuring out yours mine and ours.
Okay, I say and I try to find a way to quantify it for him. I like to go barefoot.       
It takes a divorce to figure that out?
I like … I like sharp pencils.
He laughed, head thrown back, crooked tooth twinkling. Sharp pencils, huh? As opposed to nubby pieces of pencils or just other writing utensils in general?
I plucked a piece of chicken off his side of the bowl, my chopsticks faster than his.
So tell me about this blood clot, I say, changing the subject.
Yesterday, eighteen months after the Lo Mein, I felt an urge to contact him and reached for my phone. The display said I had one text message barely two minutes old. I knew who it was before I ever opened it.
You remember saying you like sharp pencils, it said.
I felt a tug in my heart. I know the road he’s on, though his reevaluation is vocational, not marital. I know it’s scary and dark and feels like it will never end. But I also know he’ll make it through to the other side. Finally, in a life that has become so unrecognizable, I find a familiar thing: a compassion. And I’m strangely relieved. I can do this. I can help. Because I’ve been through this chaff-burning process before and even though I hate it and it hurts and thinking of it brings back horrible memories, I will go there, just as others went there with me.
That’s what friends are for.
And I’m beginning to realize, that’s what pain is for. It is our friend, not our enemy. Like a good trainer, it pushes us to places we don’t want to go, so that when we need to lead others through, we can do so. Sometimes, it is God’s way of saying no.
And sometimes, it is his way of saying, no…for now.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Good Enough Mothers' Day

There are certain holidays I simply refuse to participate in.
Let’s take Easter for example. Hate the whole dress parade. I will indulge in chocolate marshmallow eggs, however. And, while I celebrate the original reason we have Bunny Day to start with, I can’t (even with my fertile imagination) figure out how we ever got from an empty tomb to a basket of candy delivered by an oversized rodent.
Marti Gras. Not flashing these girls for a string of beads. Nuh uh.
Not big on St. Paddy’s day. Beer isn’t supposed to be green and I can only come up with so many good reasons to have a hangover. Leprechauns aren’t one of them.
Ahhhh and then there’s mothers day.
It is so far from a celebratory event, I won’t even capitalize it.
And since this is an anonymous (well sort of anonymous) blog, and since I’ve never been known for being circumspect, I’m going to say the thing that every single mother out there has thought at one point in time or another:
                I Am Not A Good Mother.
Good Mothers are selfless.
I’m not selfless. I confess. I have eaten the best pieces of fried chicken, the fluffiest rolls, the edges off the cobbler that have the gooey syrupy fruit baked right into the crust so they taste like a cookie-pie… all before they ever made it to the table. I’m a food-thief. I have taken food from my children’s mouths.
Good Mothers always place themselves last.
Not when it comes to standing in line for the potty after a four hour drive. This bladder’s played the trampoline for three fetus-sized humans. It goes first, one way or the other. Preferably in the bathroom.
Good Mothers don’t stand sideways when they look in the mirror and think “This wasn’t here before I had kids, dang it.”
They also don’t look at their kids and think, “Who are you? And why are you not perfect?”
Good Mothers are fluffy and comfortable to sit on and they wear glasses with a chain around the neck. Their houses smell of vanilla and they drive the neighborhood around like a chauffeur in capris and sweater sets and are always on time and never forget their children.
I forgot my children once.
It was on mothers’ day, ironically. The last mothers’ day I ever darkened the doors of a church. After a hectic morning of dressing four small spider monkeys, I threw on my own clothes and loaded the van with the potluck and diaper bags and purses and Bibles and enjoyed the long quiet drive to church with my well behaved brood. Except when I got to church…well, two of the four were missing.
Which would explain the peaceful journey.
You know, that one is worth repeating.
Good Mothers don’t forget their children.
I will never forget my son at five, asking me to dance on the freshly cut lawn.
Or my daughter, at 17, going to prom with a strawberry colored armpit because I couldn’t manage to work the depilatory process.
Or my other son, riding up behind me in the canyon, pausing his horse beside mine, saying, “Thanks for letting us grow up to be men, Mom.”
Or the surgeon, who, while removing the bullet from one sons’ rear end, looked at me and said, “So, you homeschool and you have 3 kids. Which means, 33.3% of your students just shot 33.3% of your students?”
That stuff doesn’t happen to Good Mothers.

But, you know, I wasn't a Bad Mother, either. I didn't sell my children's toys to buy drugs. For that matter, I didn't sell my children, either. 
I guess it's this: My kids deserved the crème de la crème. They deserved Martha Stewart and Donna Reed and Mary the Mother of Jesus all rolled into one. They deserved the best. Because they are amazing and smart and beautiful and compassionate, caring humanoids that somehow survived being raised by Lucille Ball and Carole Burnett and all Three Stooges.
So there: That’s why I hate mothers day.
Because I am not the mother I wanted to be. I’m not the Good Mother. But, apparently, I am the Good Enough Mother.
Can we have a Good Enough Mothers’ Day? I could rock that one. I might even circle it on the calendar.
Heck, I might even wear beads.

So this one's for all you other Good Enough Mothers out there....

I love ya!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Confused Shoes

I do believe I am my roommate’s worst nightmare.
She winds cords and uses bread ties to secure them.
I don’t.
She organizes the refrigerator and cabinets, always placing the partially consumed articles on top or in front to ensure they are consumed first, with the newer items in the rear.
I eat out of the carton.
She parks her vehicle always facing out of the drive, with the drivers’ side closest to the front door.
I park half in and half out of the yard.
She, being Native, believes in the importance of placing inanimate objects appropriately. Shoes, for example, are to be next to one another, facing forward, left and right in the correct location.
Why, I asked?
Because they will be confused.
I don’t care if my shoes are confused, I tell her. Have you seen my room?
Her eyes flicker nervously toward the sliver of floor visible through the open door. It scares me, she admits.
Shoes litter the floor, harem-skarem, randomly paired. What happens if you have confused shoes, I ask.
They will confuse your feet. And you won’t know which way you should go.
Maybe she’s on to something.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Missing

Outside beyond the glass,
gold leaves flutter gently past,
bare trees shiver in the blast
and I am missing

Acrid smoke falls in a whisper,
summer flowers quake and quiver,
seasons rolling on forever
but I am missing

Green to amber burning,
leaning inward now I’m turning
with a whispered, hollow yearning
All is missing

Colors fade upon my gaze,
drifting into shades of gray,
desperate shadow-passing days
I am missing

Words unfaithful once my friends,
turn their backs to me again,
refusing to be penned
for I am missing

One grain of sand beneath the sea,
one spray of ocean on the beach,
one prayer, Oh God to know you see
that I’m missing.

Spring-leaved branches pull apart,
filtered light illumines dark,
with fresh hope and a new start
God, I have missed you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Smart Mouthed Girl

You will remember that one of the conditions of my employment was that I would leave the ‘smart-mouthed girl’ at home.
That isn’t working for me.
I tried. I really did. I have bitten my tongue. I have liberally dispensed the word ‘Sir’ often after the word ‘Yes’.
 Ahh, but the tension finally cracked me. And, apparently, the sound of my crumbling resolve was a siren song to Smart Mouth Girl.
It was a replay of so many other days. One bust after another, disaster narrowly averted, tempers flaring.
Boss has a temper. You might have missed that.
I have a temper too, but, to be on the safe side, I duct taped it into a box and left it at home in care of the Smart Mouth Girl. A week went by. And another. A month. I thought I was home free. 
But alas, no.
Smack dab in the middle of a report, Smart Mouth Girl and The Un-Holy Temper rode in together on the West Wind. Smart Mouth Girl was wearing striped stockings and a black hat, if you need help with the visual.
I sit staring at the report, the spaces where a supervisor is supposed to make comments on employees. Spaces that are now blank.
Just put something. Use your words.
What am I? A freaking WordMaster? 
Make something up.
Okay, I decide. If I’m going to make something up, it’s gonna be good.
I type. I hit send. A few moments later Boss calls me into his office.
“I don’t know what to put there,” I declare in my own defense. “I don’t even know this person.”
“Ask Soup.”
“I did. He said to use my words.”
Boss scratches his beard. “Mr. Blah Blah lays golden eggs and is therefore indispensible to the company,” he reads, then looks up at me.
My mouth goes dry. I got nothin'. “It was better than the first thing I wrote.”
He leans back in his chair and asks the dreaded question, “Which one of us is the boss?”
I think about it for a long moment. I always get this one wrong. “You are.”
“You sure about that?”
I purse my lips.
“Obviously, you are the boss. And I am but a lowly receptionist, struggling to keep up with such superior intellect,” I say in a tone I hope is recognizably satirical.
The door to his office is open to the rest of the trailer. And, like the parting of the Red Sea, that room clears, miraculously. Well, except for Foreman, who is reviewing ISOs, oblivious to the coming storm.
Boss's expression is unyielding. “Just put on your big girl panties and deal with it, Stella.”
“I left my big girl panties at home,” I inform him. “With the Smart Mouth Girl.”
He fakes a smile. “Not a problem. I’ll lend you a pair.”
I give him The Look, which he ignores.
Turning on my heel, I exit his office. It’s all a bit of a blur now, but I may have inadvertently flipped him the bird over my shoulder.  Boss is hot on my heels, so I know he sees it, but he doesn’t say a thing: just slams the door so hard on his way out that the entire trailer trembles.  
I hate it when men get mad and slam stuff.
And I hate it even more when they think they’re the boss of me.
Especially when they are the boss of me.
Foreman clears his throat.
“Don’t say it,” I warn.
“Wouldn’t dare,” he answers and returns to his ISOs.
I reseat myself at my desk, taking a deep breath and shuffling the reports into order.
An unsuspecting employee ventures in a few minutes later - a burly man in a hard hat, an unwitting lamb to slaughter. He stops in front of my desk.
“Where’s Boss?”
“I killed him,” Smart Mouth Girl quips without even looking up.
I frown. Crap. Where’d she come from?
I rub my forehead, alarmed at the small nubby horns I feel sprouting.
He waits for a few seconds, unsure how to respond. He looks to Foreman for an answer. Foreman looks away. He is the King of Denial.
“No. I’m serious. Where is he?”
I open my mouth to say he’s in the field, but Smart Mouth Girl is fully in control now, and defiant. “I killed him and cut him up in little pieces and stuffed him down the portajohn.”
Burly’s eyes flicker nervously toward the door to Boss’s office. “I know you’re lying.”
“How, exactly, do you know I'm lying?”
“Because you aren’t allowed to have sharp objects.”
Ah. This is true. He has made a valid point. (No pun intended.)
Smart Mouth Girl cocks her head, lips pursed. “Plastic utensils, second shelf, behind the paper towels.”
He pales. “You killed him with a plastic spoon?”
“Plastic knives have a serrated edge,” she answers with saccharine sweetness. “It takes a little longer, but still gets the job done.”
 “You’re demented.”
“I know. That’s why they hired me.”
He shifts his weight from one foot to the other. “I’m just going to… wait... outside.”
Later, Boss calls me into his office, taking me to task for my insubordination. He twists a pencil between his fingers. “I, um, thought I told you to leave the smart mouth girl at home.”
“I tried. She found me.”
“Well, send her home. She’s scaring the employees.”
"Not a problem,” Smart Mouth Girl quips, and I quickly cover my mouth with my hand. But Smart Mouth Girl, fairly gloating now, rocks onto the toes of her pointy toed boots, determined to have the last word. “I hear you have a pair of big girl panties to lend them.”