Bah humbug, Halloween!

Sharing in the seasonal love for the upcoming holidays, I got into the mood by festively decorating my cubicle.

I surprised everyone around my cube by going all out for the upcoming occasion; I brought in a new mug with a red leaf on it, set it on my desk, and filled it with candy.

“Wow,” my co-worker remarked, clearly impressed with my undeniable holiday spirit.

She quickly caught on that decorating for Halloween was not very high on my priority list.

By comparison, there is another cubicle with a huge cut out of a witch swinging from a broom stick, unburned orange and black candles lining the edge of the desk interspersed with gords and tiny pumpkins.  It’s a mini version of a neighborhood that I walk through filled with cotton spider webs hanging from doorways and windowsills with scary little black spider just off center.  Ghosts and ghouls line the drive ways and perfectly carved jack-o-lanterns sit on the edge of their porch steps.

While I do not care quite this much for decorations, I do care for my co-workers enough to put out more than hard mints or candy corn.  In fact, I like my co-workers well enough to put out the good candy: bite sized Twix and Snickers, Starbursts, 3 Musketeers, and little Hersey’s bars.

By the end of yesterday, I left the office feeling the joy of sharing and completely in the holiday spirit.  My co-workers were thrilled to have a mid-day chocolate break and even came back later to take a snack for the road. They were grateful for a treat and glad for a distraction from work, even if it was something as simple as a bite-sized Snicker’s bar.

Today, I returned to my cubicle first thing in the morning, beating most of my co-workers there, only to discover that I had been robbed!

My mug was empty, or very nearly.

I could only assume it was the cleaning crew who trick-or-treated all of the candy out of the mug, strangely leaving just the Starbursts behind.

They took my candy and my holiday spirit with them.

Bah humbug, Halloween!  Bah humbug, crummy cleaning crew!

Why do a few bad apples have to ruin the entire bag?

I suppose that is like asking why can’t a person, or people, (I’m thinking about you, cleaning crew guys) just do the right thing?  Why can’t a person just take one piece of candy and not empty the entire container into one of the many pockets of their big baggy cargo shorts?  Just because something is free, does that mean that one person (or a crew of two in this case) should take it all and leave only the undesirables behind?

As a social worker, this is my constant struggle in keeping my metaphorical mug filled with candy to share with others, which goes against the odds and in spite of all else.  In short, please, don’t give out tricks this Halloween, reader.  It’s hard enough to deal with the treats of the season.

Love is…

Sharing a set of hearing aids between an old couple who can’t hear anyways

A nearly blind wife making her own extra absorbent pads for her incontinent husband

Buying an extra quart of ice cream so a demented wife who refuses to wear her dentures has something soft enough to eat that she likes

Being a demented wife who refuses to wear dentures but shares her ice cream with the husband who just bought it for her

Understanding when your kids steal your narcotics because they have pain, too

Not always filing a police report

Keeping a terrible cat that smells, vomits hairballs and your husband hates

Watching out the window for your social worker to make sure they make it to their car

Spending hours on a dinner that is eaten in a few minutes

Letting your wife blog away the evening hours without too much of a complaint

Love is confusing, between people and things

Thoughts and actions

And sometimes, just sometimes

It’s the only thing that makes any sense

Indiana and pumpkin beer

It’s cold and crummy here, yet everyone continues to rave over the leaves.  It’s as though the reds, yellows, and oranges are incredible enough to replace the light and warmth, formerly provided by the sun.  The leaves are nice, but a poor substitute for a sun-worshipper, like myself.

We talk about the weather on a daily basis because there is little else of mutual interest, aside from the latest performance of the Colts and construction on the interstates.  I have a dream of a place where people have more than football and ‘was that rain or snow’ discussions for mental stimulation.  It’s a wonderful place, in this dream, where the people are open-minded, cooperative, and creative.  It’s warm and sunny and only rains enough for the grass to stay green and for the fruit trees to blossom.  Somewhere out there, I have this gut feeling that such a place exists but I have yet to find it.

Back in reality, there is a single and solitary redeeming benefit to life in Indiana during October: pumpkin beer.  The mere thought of a glass of freshly tapped pumpkin beer with a brown sugar dipped rim is the only thing able to pull me forward through the drudgery of this week.

Perhaps I am feeling a little bitter at the loss of summer, shorts and greenery; and I need to get a better grasp on the actuality of seasons in the Midwest.  This is how it’s always been and always will be because the weather, like the friendly folks of the state, refuses to change for better or worse.

In any event, cheers to the weekend and taking pleasure out of the small things.

Drink a pumpkin beer this weekend and think of your friend in Indiana, dreaming of someplace warm and sunny out there.

Bugs and drugs

“What in the heck is bug gear? “ a young woman spouted off after she slammed the phone down into its cradle.

The woman was rather sick of hearing about infestations.  It seemed that roaches, bed bugs, and mice were taking over the city, starting with the poorest and most vulnerable households.  Where ever there was a hole or a crack, the pests crept inside and kept coming.

Regardless of the attempts to trap and spray, the pests were there to stay, like it or not.

Another woman in a connected cubicle heard her co-worker’s frustration through the thin, partial wall.  She flatly replied, “Sounds like fun over there.”

“Apparently, this house has a roach infestation.  The nurse wouldn’t tell me what else is going on because she didn’t want to speculate, except that it’s safe enough and I should wear my bug gear,” the first woman explained.

“Is that it?” the second woman questioned, and rolled her chair closer to her co-worker with raised eyebrows and a grin.

“Oh, and that she thinks it’s a drug house for the neighborhood dealers who may or may not be the client’s grandkids,” the first woman responded.

The woman’s co-worker laughed.  Before rolling back into her cube, she said with a sense of finality, “Bugs, drugs, and you can bring the hugs.”

Slow down, maybe?

What does a haircut mean to you?  

Is it a necessary evil from which you spend multiple mornings gazing into a mirror filled with regret at having gotten yet another bad ‘do’?  Maybe the thought of sitting in a barber’s chair, covered in a cape, and vulnerable to a stranger’s hands is so traumatic that you don’t even go.  Instead, you head to the bathroom with a pair of scissors or clippers and do the work yourself.  Or you don’t cut your hair at all; a ponytail is fine by you for all of life’s events. 

Of course, there is another group of folks, those who actually enjoy getting a haircut.  They look forward to trims and new styles because they have a hairdresser who gets them and their hair.  Though many failed visits to Fantastic Sam’s and Great Clips, I made a discovery that changed my entire haircut philosophy and became one of these people.  What I found was that the secret to a good haircut is a good hairdresser, one you can trust with the hair that you present to the world.  Oh, and perhaps the most important thing, you get what you pay for; the quality of a haircut couldn’t be more differentiated than by this simple principle.

My hairdresser, or stylist, as she prefers to be called, dresses in black from head to toe.  Usually, there is a red or purple streak through her hair and a stud or hoop through her nose.  She takes her work very seriously and has no time for small talk.  In fact, she appears to be annoyed by questions and attempts to exchange daily pleasantries.  Sometimes she doesn’t respond at all, and if she does, it’s always in one word answers. 

When I sank down into her chair this last time, I expected these things.  I accept these antisocial quirks and have come to enjoy sitting in silence as she shapes and snips my hair without the need for pointless small talk.  It’s a relief to not have to entertain anyone; I can just sit and be pampered.    

However, instead of being pampered, I left her chair feeling that I had just paid to be roughed up and I didn’t like one bit of it. 

It started as soon as I sat down, she gruffly asked me, “What’ll it be?” with the hint of a smirk.

It was like I was ordering a burger at MacDonald’s instead of getting a trim in a nice salon where they usually offer filtered water or a glass of wine.  On this day, I’m pretty certain the only thing she was going to offer was a glass of shut-the-hell-up-or-get-out. 

Clearly, she wasn’t listening when I said “Work your magic,” as she rummaged through her drawer in search of something or another.

She pulled a pair of scissors out of her drawer and slammed it shut, and I should have suspected that I was about to be in trouble.

“So a trim, right?” she said.

 Without waiting for my response, she started attacking my hair in a frenzy of thousands of cuts.  She cut and snipped without slowing to check her work or to see my eyes large with fear.  I knew this wasn’t going to be the delightful experience that I usually had under her hands, but assumed this was a new technique.

Thank God, she slowed when she got close to my face and that was when I noticed how badly her hands were shaking.  They quivered and shook, while her eyebrows drew close in a fixed concentration on my hair.  My fear grew as I watched her work in the mirror with a complete disregard for the rest of the world.  Soon, she was back up to her old furious pace and hair flew everywhere.  She was a modern Edward Scissorhands, but she was all blades without any tenderness on this day.

“There,” she declared with relish.  “You’re done.”

“I am?” I asked, in a stupor at what had just happened to me, and all by my own admission through my silence.

I shudder to think about what else happens because of silence and misplaced trust.  I can’t go back in time and get my hair back, but I can trust my gut instead next time.  Whether she was getting the flu, fighting withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, or maybe just plain hungry, I should have stopped her when it first seemed wrong.  She needed a break away from the scissors for her sake, the clients, and future business. I knew it in my gut, but did nothing to stop her.

Fortunately, I can grow my hair back and use this experience as a reminder of what happens when a person sits in silence with their hands neatly folded, hoping for the best. 

Mice in Fall

Traps have been clacking shut on the little heads of mice all over the Midwest this week.

It’s getting to be cold and blustery outside and the little buggers have thin fur coats.  Who could blame them for moving inside to keep warm?  Of course they bring all of their mousey children, aunts, uncles, friends and acquaintances.  No one wants to be left behind, especially since the cool fall winds are blowing in with every intention of overstaying their welcome.

Simply put, there isn’t enough room for all of us and all of them to peacefully reside inside of homes and apartments.  Yet, I still feel that it’s terrible to set out a tasty piece of cheddar cheese on the edge of a snap trap at a time when it’s hard for a mouse to get a decent meal.  Who or what hungry creature could resist such a bright and inviting little snack?

Just this weekend, I was tempted to pull a piece of cheese off of a trap at a friend’s house where he was certain that he had detected “the smell of rodent” in his garage.  By the next morning, he proudly announced that his suspicions were correct; he had trapped a fresh mouse.

Today, I went into a home that was known for bugs, but not mice.  As I stood (for fear of sitting) interviewing the occupants, a sudden movement caught my attention.  A few minutes earlier, the sight of roaches crawling across the floor and walls had caused me to stop mid-sentence until I could regain my thoughts.  This was something bigger and furrier.

Glancing back in the direction of the movement, I lost my concentration again as a big, fat adult mouse scurried across the floor.  It ran right to the dog’s silver food dish and started helping itself to the puppy chow.  The rodent must have sensed my eyes on its grey back because it turned and looked directly at me, dropped its nugget and ran off back into the secret tunnels through the walls.

I asked the residents of the home, who were both sitting in broken down recliners mostly watching tv, “So do you have any problems with mice or bugs?”

The woman replied, “Oh sure, there’s just a few mice running around in here.  We’re going to get some traps and that should take care of them.”

Nodding my head, I moved down the list, while I wanted to say, “Don’t worry, it’s not just you.  Everyone on this street has a problem with pests: rats, bugs, lazy relatives.  What matters is how you deal with the pests and traps are a great start.” Image


She’s got those nails

The little woman slipped through the double doors into the restroom.  She passed an older black woman, who was on her hands and knees, scrubbing the grout between the floor tiles.

“How you doing today, sugar?” she asked, as she cheerfully scrubbed.

Meanwhile, the little woman sat on the commode with her bony elbows on her knees and her head in her hands.  Verging on tears, thoughts of the flashing red light on her telephone that another voicemail had come in and the stack of growing paper on her desk swirled through her mind.  It’s too much she thought and tried to calm her racing heart.  Taking just one thing at a time would be an easy if she were a dentist pulling teeth; but instead, she was in a field that required a professional level of constant multitasking.  A woman had been calling all week asking for updates on something that would take weeks to get into place.  In each call, the woman’s voice grew angrier and more desperate.  These calls continued and broke the little woman’s reserve down further and further, until she had to escape to the safety of a bathroom stall.

“You sure you’re ok in there?” the woman cleaning asked after she heard a deep sigh from the little woman’s stall.  “You sound like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders with the way you’re carrying on.”

“Oh, sorry,” the little woman replied.  She wasn’t aware how loudly her worries were escaping from her body despite her best efforts.

Shamefacedly, the little woman emerged from the stall and turned on the faucet to wash her hands. A stranger had heard her sigh and knew more about her current struggle than she knew about herself.  She did feel as though the world was on her frail shoulders, and it was heavy.

“Sugar,” the older woman said and stood up with a groan.  She leaned against the paper towel dispenser and continued, “Just remember why you are working.  Is it for the paycheck or is it to help people?”

The little woman sighed again, this time aware but unable to stop the sound from leaving.  “You’re right,” she conceded.

“Mmm…hmm,” the cleaning lady agreed and looked over the rim of her glasses at the little woman.  “Course I am.”

She held up her index finger to make a point, “You keep in mind that it’s just a job.  It doesn’t define who or what you are in life.  It’s just a part of it.”

Gesturing with her hands as she delivered her bathroom sermon/ therapy session, the little woman grimaced when she noticed the long fingernails that curled two inches or more over the tips of the older woman’s fingers.  They were 100% natural and a light brown, likely from cleaning materials and god-knows-what else.  How she was able to do anything with her hands was a feat and a mystery.  The claw-like nails created a self-imposed type of a disability which seemed a shame when many people with unavoidable disabilities would prefer to live otherwise.

“Thanks,” the little woman said backing out of the bathroom, still staring at her nails in disbelief.  “Really, I mean it, thanks for talking to me.  Sorry to rush out, but I’ve got a call I’ve got to make.”

The little woman held her head higher and felt ready to face the rest of her day as she pushed the doors open to the hallway.  The cleaning lady had put things into perspective for her without knowing anything else about her situation.  Yet, she had known just what the little woman needed to hear to continue.  The little woman mused over these things when she brushed past a co-worker on her way back to her desk.  The co-worker said over her shoulder, “Hey, you’re looking brighter than earlier today.  Good for you.”

The little woman replied, “I just got a pep talk from the cleaning lady in the bathroom.”

Chortling, the co-worker knew exactly whom the little woman referred to, perhaps having had her own pep talk on another day. She asked what they both had wondered about the woman who had done so much and so little at the same time, as the bathrooms were never very clean. “What about those nails?”

A Pervasive Problem

“Tell me about this new transfer,” a woman in a long blue sweater asked as she held a tea packet in one hand and ripped it open with her teeth.  Turning back around to the counter, she dropped the tea bag into a white mug and started to pour steaming hot water over it.

An older women with thick glasses and flat, dull brown shoes leaned on a table behind the other woman.  It was just the two of them in the break room, mid-morning, and it was quiet; this was an unusual lull in the usual constant stream of people and conversations around the coffee pot and ice machine.

The older woman smirked, and said, “To start, she has a little bug problem.  The last time I was there I saw at least three varieties of bugs crawling across the floor and on her legs.  There were even a few in her bed sores, which she insisted on showing me.”

The woman in the blue sweater had stopped pouring water and was turned completely around facing the older woman.  “What?” she asked, in disbelief.

Pleased with the younger woman’s complete attention, she continued.  “Yes, the client wasn’t even concerned.  When I asked her about the bugs, she said they were oriental beetles and that’s why they all looked different.”

She reflected for a second and continued, “As a matter of fact, the bugs have been with her for quite some time.  I can remember seeing them at the last two houses in which she lived.  She must pack them up with her wherever she goes,” the older woman laughed to herself.

“Oh, and one more thing you should know.  Her landlord is mad at her,” she added.

“Why?” the younger woman asked, with a horrified expression frozen onto her face.

“He’s mad because the bugs survived the extermination attempts.  Otherwise, she’s very nice.  I think you’ll really like her.”