Toxic Workplace

The long conference table was full of drinks, notebooks, buzzing cell phones, tubes of chap stick and napkins with cookie crumbs. A different woman sat in front of each microworld of her own creation.  Some had a place at the table for years, others only months. There was no cohesion between the co-workers, they were better termed as workers in the same agency rather than teammates or colleagues.

Another client had just been reviewed. Opinions about how to move clients forward or out of the program were tossed about as carelessly as the meeting had been planned and executed. The tension kept everyone on edge, outbursts and barely veiled insults took the place of constructive feedback or actual planning. This was all normal for a Wednesday.

One woman, a graduate-of-the-program-turned-employee-human-behavior-expert, ran her long black nails through her jet-black bangs, over and over. Someone had just suggested the use of empathy and another chance in making a major life change.  

Staring up towards the ceiling as though summoning strength from her higher power, she declared, “Y’all don’t know sh*t about sh*t.”  

And since that time, I have surrendered to this new understanding. I don’t know anything about anything. Everything is new and amazing with this perspective, especially all the potential job listings, as I also reached the realization that this unique environment is not the place for me.

Small Wonders

Inside of the car are two little boys, one of whom is refusing to wear his seatbelt or sit in his car seat. He has settled into the nook between his brothers’ feet on the far side of the car, beyond the reach of my arms. This is after multiple escapes from his seat and my best efforts to strap him into it.

We are both winded from the ongoing wrestling match but neither one of us is willing to concede.

Of course, we are late. We are always late. It has become our standard mode of operation after the last four years of having to run back to grab a forgotten sippy cup or change a last-minute diaper or getting everyone in the car only to discover that no one is wearing shoes.

And of course, the brothers think the entire situation is hilarious. Baby Brother giggles and Little Legs proceeds to hide him under a blanket.

In contrast, I am not laughing. I am about to scream like a teakettle reaching the boiling point.

I will not engage in the tried-and-true techniques of “behavior correction” from my childhood.

Instead, I close the car door. I take a deep breath and notice the cool air as it enters my nostrils and fills my chest. I blow out the warm air through my mouth.

I do this again and again until I have enough space to see myself standing outside of a vehicle with the two most precious people in my life trying to play and get my attention.

When I reopen the door, Baby Brother is in his seat like a perfect angel, smiling the toothy grin of a naughty two-year-old. Little Legs has already taken his shoes back off, but they are nearby on the floor, and we are only a few minutes late.    

It’s another day filled with a million small wonders.    

Boy Versus Cat



Running feet.

Before me, Baby Brother appears with blood dripping from his face and hands.

He cries and holds his arms out for comfort.  

My brain is unable to process the scene, it is temporarily out of service and off-line.

“Little Legs, what happened?”

I demand an explanation from the most likely guilty culprit. I assume, wrongly, that Little Legs smashed his brother in the face with something heavy.

“Bad tat,” Baby Brother says between sobs.

He speaks for himself now.

“Tat scratched me hard.”  

Little Legs casually walks into the kitchen where his brother’s blood continues to drip and spill to the floor.

“The cat did it, not me,” he says with a shrug.

Apparently, he has become a cool-guy teenager at age four.

Next, the cat slinks into the room, sits and disinterestedly watches the humans of the house.

I gather myself and with a deep breath step into action, wiping the blood from my son’s face revealing a deep slice between his lip and nose.

We don’t need an ambulance, but this is beyond the power of a glob of Neosporin and a Paw-Patrol band-aid to treat.  

I call Daddy Longlegs for help locating the nearest urgent care with the shortest wait time and begin the process of peeling the bloody mess of a shirt from the still crying Baby Brother, getting socks and shoes on both boys and heading out the door for Destinations Unknown.

How did it all turn out?

Baby Brother got two stitches and now has a terrific scar about which he can brag of a knife fight or cat attack when he is older. His brother got a lollipop for being so patient. And the cat, well, she got a new home. Somewhere far away between here and there.