Comforted

Girl child with a tiny head
Wears lovingly plaited braids
Each one tied off in a colorful bead

She reaches out from her wheelchair
With fragile fingers
To hold her mother’s hand

Brown fingers interlock

Together they are strong

Hunting for Houses

s and c

“Have you seen what our rent will be next year?” I asked the Mister, feeling panicked.

He was casually surfing the internet, searching for his next deal.

“It’s almost doubling,” I shrieked.

“Hmmmm….seems pretty high,” the Mister responded, only half listening.

I re-read the email from our landlord, hoping I had a transposed the numbers or even imagined an extra number at the end. The number remained the same, revoltingly high price.

This email was just a simple mistake, sent out too early and without being proofread. I justified the situation in my mind. There was nothing to worry about. Until the next day, when the same email came, asking for a decision on if we would stay or go. This one was signed with a smiley face emoticon after the landlord’s name, which should have been a skull and crossbones.

“Did you see the newest email she sent?” I asked the Mister the next night.

He was focused on disassembling a computer. He looked up at me with a screwdriver in one hand and nodded.

“Sounds like it’s time to move,” said the man of few words.

This was the very opportunity for which he had been waiting. It was just the push that I needed to agree with him to move, yet again. Only this time, it would be into a house that we would buy. No more surprise fees, changes in the rent, or upstairs neighbors stomping across our ceiling at night.

Since those emails, our search for a house started and continues.

Not to worry, we aren’t alone in this mission. It’s a big job to navigate the market, so we got help.

We found the most inexperienced real estate agent possible who has in turn taken us to the most colorful set of homes and locations. She even got us an exclusive peek at “the cutest house sure to sell quickly” that reeked of urine and rotting corpse. Some of the homes have fist sized holes in the walls and are missing minor things, like door knobs and handles. While some of the other homes are missing bigger things, like the walls and electrical wiring.

“She’s trying her best,” said the man of few words when I attempted to fire her.

Aren’t we all, I silently thought.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a quiet hero stand up for their potential in a world where intention and effort don’t hold much weight.

So the house hunt continues with our real estate agent, saved only by the good graces of the Mister.

Too close to the quick

The morning was dark and I felt too lazy to flip on the lights.  As I lounged on the couch and sipped from a mug of hot coffee, Miss Kitty purred next to me.  She looked lovingly up at me when I scratched behind her ears, pleased to have company for the day. 

I set my mug down on the table next to the couch and noticed a pair of forgotten nail clippers, abandoned by my husband after the previous night’s project (his toes).  It suddenly occurred to me as the perfect time to trim Miss Kitty’s nails.  The cat, the tool, and the time were practically bundled up and tied with a bow for me.  I would be a fool to ignore the chance to snip her claws, I foolishly thought.

“Miss Kitty,” I said, petting her soft, white head.  “It’s time to go to the beauty shop and get your nails done.”  

Her loving look turned to one of suspicion as soon as I picked up the nail clippers and tucked her underneath of my arm into a gentle but iron-strong hold.  She stopped purring and began squirming, wriggling back and forth, desperate to escape.  She knew what it meant to “go to the beauty shop” and it always ended in sore paws. 

“Not so fast, Miss Kitty,” I said and tightened my grip. 

I held her little paw in my hand and squeezed out the first claw.  She yanked her paw back and I lost my grip.  It was a wrestling match, woman vs. cat, and I’m sorry to say we were both losers.  In the struggle, I snipped one nail too close to the quick.  Miss Kitty screamed like a Hell demon and stared at me with wild and untrusting eyes.  I shrieked in surprise and she scratched me, afraid of more nail trimming.

She has not forgotten about the experience yet, but appears to have forgiven me with the help of Whisker Lickin’ treats, excessive apologizing, and more head scratching.  I knew we were on the mend when she started to purr again, and fell asleep next to me for a nap later in the day.  If only forgiveness was as easy with humans, to be cut to the quick and still able to forgive, but never to forget.  Remembering is what makes us human, right?  

Blisters

White feet

Used to socks and boots

Brought out into the light

By the warm day and a new pair of leather sandals;

Now wrapped in Band-aides and covered in blisters

They are keenly aware of the joy and pain

in changing seasons.

If only…

“When are you getting up tomorrow?” the man asked his wife.

The man focused on setting the alarm on his phone, while his wife sat on the edge of the bed and pulled off her socks.  She threw the socks, one after the other, to the floor.

“Whenever I feel like it,” she replied without looking at her husband.

The man raised his eyebrows, silently questioning the sock-less woman next to him. 

“I quit my job today and I’ll tell you why I did it,” she said calmly.

The man listened attentively and wondered how his wife had kept her little secret from him for so long.  Usually, she was bursting with excitement when she had a piece of news to share.   He felt conflicted, he was relieved his wife finally did what they had discussed so many nights, but upset that she waited so long to tell him.  I’m sure she has her reasons, he though t and waited.  She always filled the silence if he waited.

The woman continued speaking as she fluffed her pillows.

“They tried to make me work on Good Friday,” she explained with a straight face.

Her husband laughed in disbelief. 

“It wasn’t the guns, gang bangers, bed bugs, drugs or abuse that did it for you?” he asked.

“Nope,” his little wife said, settling down into her freshly fluffed pillows.

She breathed a sign of relaxation.  Her pillows felt perfect as her head sank down, surrounded by downy feathers and cotton. 

“I never minded all of that,” she said, reflecting on the day. 

Her husband propped himself up on one elbow and stared at her in confusion. 

“What? Really?” he asked.

“Yup, the clients were never really the problem.  It was always the management, safe in their clean, little offices, pushing papers and pressing for more rules and deadlines.   My clients were just trying to get by from day to day with next to nothing.” 

She reached over and turned off her bedside light with a click. 

“How could I begrudge them for surviving?” 

Unsolicited Advice

“It’s Jack,” a tiny girl with black pigtails shouted as she burst through the door.   

“Mama, it’s Jack.”

“What, hija?” Her mother asked, slipping into her native tongue.

I was sitting by the woman and took the opportunity to inspect my hand.  It brushed against something gooey on the couch that came away on my fingers.  As inconspicuously as possible, I tried to wipe the mysterious residue back onto the couch. 

The child spoke quickly in a combination of Spanish, English, and overly excited little girl gibberish.  She flapped her hands and danced back and forth as she tried to explain what happened.   Her mother grabbed her by the shoulders and calmly asked, “What happened to Jack?”

This was all the magic that it took for the girl to regain her senses and speak clearly.

“His batteries died and he’s stuck in the road,” she blurted.

“Oh my God,” the woman exclaimed and brought her hands to her face.  “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

The child escaped her mother’s grasp, ran across the room, and pulled herself onto the table where she began dancing and singing in Spanish.

I wasn’t sure what to do, rush to catch the girl if she fell, investigate the Jack situation, or pull out a bottle of hand sanitizer for a fresh start on the visit.  Not wanting to be rude, I sat and did nothing.

Meanwhile, the woman snapped into motion.  She jumped up and ordered her older daughter to find Jack and bring him back.  She lured her younger daughter off of the table and gave her a snack, and returned to sit next to me, unruffled from her activities.  A minute later, a laughing boy in a wheelchair rolled inside propelled by his older sister.  His little sister saw him and screamed, “Jack!”  She ran to him and hugged his arm.  

Just like that, all was well again.

My best advice when in the storm of conflict is to do nothing, just wait, especially when the conflict belongs to someone else.  People have the answers to their own problems; sometimes they just need the tools, time, or motivation to take the action that is right for them.

For Baby

Image

A polished, dark car pulled off of the highway into the parking lot of a rest area/truck stop.  The car parked next to one the last piles of dirty, melting snow, a memento of the long winter.  Crushed beer cans and a bag of discarded fast food was balled up by the trash can.  There was a set of restrooms with glowing vending machines.  Off to the side of the restrooms were wooden picnic tables with a swing set and a rusty slide.  Although being a place to accommodate most people in need of a break from the road, the rest area was eerily empty. 

The driver’s side door to the only car in the lot swung open and a pair of long legs belonging to a woman stepped out in a pair of perfectly tailored and pressed khakis.  She adjusted her sunglasses, straightened her jacket and took a deep breath.  Immediately, she started walking around the snow pile and scanning the brown grass under the slide.  Her phone rang from inside of her pocket; she squeezed it to silence the noise.  She was on a mission and not to be distracted or deterred.

—-

On the way to the rest area, the woman stopped at a coffee house and ordered a double shot Americano.  She thoughtfully stared out the window of the shop with the cup in one hand. 

The woman whispered, “For Baby,” as she brought the cup to her mouth.  

She drank the hot liquid with purpose; it was for the strength and speed to complete her single most important task.

—-

After the woman walked the entire grounds of the rest area, she dejectedly got back into her car.  She put her hands on the steering wheel and pressed her forehead against the cool steering wheel.  She was searching for a sign, a scrap of pink satin or ribbon, a white shoe or sock.  Anything would do, if only she had something to give to the family.

She felt a strange sense of responsibility that weighed heavy on her chest for what happened.  It was a thought on her brain before going to sleep at night and when she awoke in the morning, it was still there.

Baby was out there, maybe buried under that last pile of dirty snow, her dark, plastic lashes closed over real glass eyes, waiting to be found and reunited with her inconsolable four year old owner.      

Sleeping In

The woman scanned through her calendar. 

Perfect, she thought.  The appointment lines were blank, a clean white for the afternoon. She breathed a sigh of relief; there was nowhere to be and no one to see. 

She began to wonder who would notice if she disappeared for the remainder of the day.  There was so much of the world to explore beyond the heavy doors of Employer X.   She caught herself in a day-dream of a place without time, oh to be able to wake up naturally and lounge about God’s-green-earth at will.  She imagined kicking her shoes off to feel the grass under her feet and to squeeze warm mud between her toes. She ran along and followed a bee as it buzzed between flowers and rested under a willow tree to read a book for the afternoon.

Wake up, she told herself, staring back at the computer screen.  She was back in the climate controlled office, sitting in the middle of a maze of cubicles.   There was no breeze, no birds, and no life.  Plants had just been banned for being too distracting.         

That’s it, she decided.  I’m leaving, I can’t do this anymore.  

Not willing to waste any more energy trapped within the dingy blue walls of her cubicle, the woman grabbed her purse and casually walked out, through the door, and down the stairs.  Play it cool, she told herself, forcing herself not to sprint.  There was only one more door to make it through and she was free. 

“Yoo-hoo, Jules,” a voice shouted behind her. 

She felt her heart fall out of its place and into the pit of her stomach.  She knew that whinny voice.

“You forgot to sign out, Jules.  I was right behind you, silly.  I tried to get your attention but you just headed right down the stairs.”

The woman gritted her teeth; she hated to be called Jules. 

“Don’t worry, I signed out for you.  I guessed you were headed to lunch for the next sixty minutes.” 

“Hi there, Shelly,” Julies ground her teeth.  “That was really thoughtful of you. Thanks so much.  I’ll be sure to get you back sometime.”

“No prob,” Shelly said with a flip of her blonde hair.

They pushed through the doors together and stepped out into the world.  Sunlight streamed down onto Julie’s face and shoulders.  She took a deep breath of the air, it smelled fresh and warm.  

“Oh, I need my sunglasses.  It’s too bright out here,” Shellly complained.  She put her thin hand up against the blue sky to block the sun as she dug around in her oversized purse.

“This world was not meant for one as fair as you, Shelly.  You are better off staying inside, don’t you think?” Julie asked.  

Shelly pursed her lips, “Jules, why do you say things like that?”

Suddenly, a shadow loomed over the women.  It came so quickly, they hardly had time to react.   Shelly began to sneeze, again and again.  

“My allergies are going out of control…..” Shelly’s voice rose as she looked up.

Julie followed Shelly’s eyes above them and took a step back for a better view.

“Oh my God!” Julie shouted. 

It was a giant orange cat, bigger than tiger or lion.  The feline was on the same scale as a small Godzilla or King-Kong.  Where this creature had come from was a mystery as long as its whiskers and sharp as its teeth.   It stared down on the women, small and motionless, interested in what they might do next.  A purr began deep in the monster’s hairy throat.  It realized these were playthings, snacks, mere diversions in the very busy life of a hugely overgrown cat.    

Shelly sneezed and began to creep backwards, towards the heavy door.    

The cat got down low and began to switch its massive tail back and forth.

“Stop it, Shelly.  Just stay still,” Julie whispered out of the side of her mouth.

“NO!” Julie shouted as Shelly bolted.

Julie jumped out the way just as the cat pounced on her co-worker.   The cat grabbed Shelly gently in its mouth, gave her a playful shake.  A perfect mane of blonde hair bounced with each step as the cat carried the screaming Shelly off behind the building.

Julie stared in shock and wondered what just happened.  She noticed the birds chirping again and felt the sun on her face.  She glanced down at her wrist to note the time, and her watch was gone.   She rummaged through her purse to check her phone, it too was missing.   Strange, she felt different, lost.  Something had changed.  Suddenly, she realized, it had happened.  She was there.  She made it to the place without time. 

She laughed and thought, Finally, I get to sleep in on a Wednesday.

The Demoralization of a Work Force

It starts with asking the employees to sacrifice a little for the good of the company, first to share cubicles. According to the man in the bad suit, “There just isn’t enough space for everyone and not enough money in the budget for a bigger office.” The man in the bad suit does not have a cubicle. He has a very large corner office that he frequents every few days. “Guys, this is a temporary situation that’s going to take team work to overcome. We are looking at two maybe three months tops,” he explained about six months ago.

Next, the sacrifices increase with the pressure of guilt- just a bit off the top of each paycheck to prevent random lay-offs. The man in a poorly fitting suit and bad hair asks, “Reach into your hearts (correction: he meant to say “pockets”) and decide if you are able to come together to save the jobs of those around you. The solution is very simple. It would only take a 10% decrease from each of your salaries.”

It’s too bad the man doesn’t know the names of the employees to whom he continues to gesture with his hairy, pale fingers. It’s also too bad that his salary is not on the line and no one is asking him to look into his heart (correction: I meant pockets). His skinny neck and oversized shoulder pads make him look like a chicken, flapping his way back and forth in front of his employees. “Understand,” he asks, “that your case loads may go up and you may have more work, but hang in there. Think of the clients who will be helped by your sacrifices. Always remember, without you, each and every one of you, none of this would be possible.”

He is right; it does take each and every one of the employees to keep the ship afloat and sailing forward. Dare to speak up and prepare to walk the plank. The lucky dissenters have a life boat (savings, second job, wealthy spouse) patiently bobbing back and forth in the waters below; while the rest are forced to hold their tongues. The ones who are left behind meet in the shadows to whisper rumors and plans of escape or silently accept their fate of sacrifice.

The final blow is in the refusal to celebrate social work month – so as not to offend anyone who is not a social worker. A decision made by a faceless board to prevent hurt feelings or to prevent the unification of the work force in pride of the profession, and to mar the bond over the joys and sorrows of the field. What can be said of this decision? Nothing, silence is golden when sacrifice involves everything.

Keeping it real on a Friday: Distracted Driving

As I drove to the office, I glanced in my rearview mirror to merge to the left. I grew distracted by an errant grey hair amidst my mane of black. I began to plan the strategic removal of the single grey hair. When I took another glance in the mirror, I saw a rusty SUV smash into a little white car behind me. I stared at the mirror in shock and then turned to look out my passenger window to see the SUV race past me and through the changing yellow light. The little white car was left with its trunk peeled off like a potato skin to reveal a colorful Vera Bradley duffel bag, neatly packed inside for a weekend getaway. Red pieces of brake light skittered across the road between braking cars, trying to avoid the wreckage. The white car skidded to a stop with the bumper hanging on by an invisible thread. When the turn-lane light changed, I eased on the gas and slowly rolled by, trying to catch a glimpse of the driver’s face inside of the white car. Perhaps seeing the driver’s shaken face would compel me to take action and call 911 or chase down the SUV and make a citizen’s arrest. Much to my disappointment, I couldn’t see the driver and I didn’t feel compelled to do anything more than speed off to work to quickly pluck a grey hair in the parking lot.

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