On Love

Dear Readers,

Today I have a gift for you from one of my clients. 

It’s not much, just a little piece of relationship advice.

 

When you start sticking and stabbing your partner

and you know the day is coming

when you’re going to cut him too deep and he won’t stop bleeding

then it’s time to go.

 

She was married for 54 good years.

The secret?

They lived in different states.

 

Her separated husband told her one day that he had a dream.

The Lord came to him and said, “Hang on, Georgie, she’s gonna come back to you.”

She laughed and said, “That’s funny, ‘cuz I’ve been praying to the same Lord to never see you again.”

 

He passed away a few years ago on July 15. Lord rest his soul. 

 

As I opened the door to leave, a tiny cross-eyed man arrived at the door.  He peeked over my shoulder from the doorway.  The woman spotted him and yelled out, “Oooh-wee, you ain’t brought nothing for me to eat, but get in here anyways.” 

He shuffled in past me and jumped into her outstretched arms. 

I left with the woman’s sage advice and knowing that In the end, love prevails or something close enough to it. 

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.

Bail out

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The girl punched the gas pedal to the floor and lunged forward.  Speed made her feel powerful and she laughed with delight.  She watched her brother standing where she had taken off from in the field.

He could never handle going this fast, she thought, as she raced through the path.

He was, in fact, thinking how much faster he would be able to drive the go-cart. 

He pondered the injustice of the situation and said to himself, “I should be test driving, she didn’t spend as much time putting it together as I did.”  

Why did she get to try it out first?  She was always doing things like that claiming it was her birth right.  Impatiently, he crossed his arms across his body and waited.

Her ponytail bounced up and down as she flew over the uneven terrain, throwing dirt clods and grass up into the air behind her.  She left the path and drove straight towards her brother, swerving at the last minute to miss him. 

“Hey, it’s my turn!” he yelled.

He stamped his foot down as he watched her laugh and drive back to the path.

The sun was high and bright in a clear sky that neither the boy nor the girl noticed.  It was warm with a gentle breeze that kept them from getting too hot.  It was the kind of a summer day that they wouldn’t truly appreciate for years to come.

The girl raced past her brother again, waving and laughing this time.  She waived with both hands and laughed.

“Look, no hands,” she yelled and stuck her tongue out at him.  

“No fair, it’s my turn,” he cried as he watched his sister zip past him for another loop on the path.

A mole hole caught one of the small tires and jostled the driver and go-cart sideways.  She stopped laughing and suddenly remembered why she felt so powerless.  It was like a jolt into her brain and heart at the same time.

Not now, she told herself.  She punched the gas and felt the sun on her face and shoulders.

This will be the last time that I will feel happy for a long time, she thought with absolute certainty.  She looked up at the sun and let its warmth rest on her face.  How could she know what was to come, she was impulsive and twelve, hardly the qualifications for a soothsayer or psychic.   

Something shuddered in the engine at the same time, cutting the speed in half and pulling the go-cart and its driver forward in lurches.  Her body jerked back and forth with the misbehaving machine.

The boy saw his opportunity to overtake the go-cart and ran towards the girl, “Get off, it’s my turn,” he demanded.  

His mouth dropped in angry shock when the go-cart lunged forward and then took off, faster than ever before.

“Slow down, you almost killed me,” the boy shouted.

“I’m not doing it!” the girl responded.

The steering wheel locked in place.  She slammed her foot onto the brake to find it slack, completely useless to stop her from hurtling into a grove of pine trees straight ahead.

“I can’t stop!” she screamed with terror in her voice.

Her brother sensed the urgency of his sister’s predicament and yelled, “Bail out.”

He watched his sister head directly for the trunks of several big and unmoving trees.

“Bail, bail, bail,” he shouted as his sister rattled forward towards her destiny, unable to hear her little brother’s pleas.  

Author’s note:

We must be able to recognize the right time to bail.  It’s not quitting, it’s merely surviving.  Sometimes, we are able to roll out to the soft grass of safety without any issues.  Yet, other times, we can’t bear the short term pain and end up smashing into the trunk of an unforgiving tree, bearing a much longer and more painful recovery.   Is it because we are too in love with the thrill to stop, too unaware to sense the danger, too lazy or afraid to make a change? It’s a funny thing that we are able to easily see the crash course that others set for themselves, but so often can’t see our own until we are right in front of a grove of trees and about to crash. 

Bail for yourself and for the love of those around you, don’t think about it, just bail.  

Have a heart

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I’ve seen more scars than I care to remember

From women who were once vain about their beauty

Now angry at the ugly marks left by careless surgeons

As they remember their glory days

And forget the reason they went under the knife 

Chitlins’ just for you, darling.

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“They gon’ stink, ok, so warn your husband.  He might want to leave while they cookin’.”

The old, black woman explained from a broken down couch.  Holding her hand up, she stopped me from asking more questions.  She started coughing and wheezing as she tried to catch her breath from so much talking.  She wore a blue and yellow dashiki with wooden earrings that swung violently back and forth as she continued to cough and struggle to breathe.

“Should I be writing this down?” I asked with my pen poised to take notes.

“No,” she rasped, “I’ll tell you what you do.  Get the water boiling and call me, I’ll walk you through the rest of it.”

The conversation started when the visit should have been ending.

I couldn’t help myself but to ask the loaded question, “Any Thanksgiving plans?”

After the woman regained her breath, I went home ready to boil a pot of ‘chitlins’ or chitterlings, as they are formally called.  However, it didn’t take long before I was stopped cold in my culinary tracks – temporarily.

“I’m not eating those,” my husband declared, when he discovered what I was about to make. “You know what they are right?” he asked.

“Of course I know, they’re a Southern treat served at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter,” I replied.

Anxious to bust my Southern cooking bubble, my husband grinned, “Pig intestines, hog guts- that’s what they are and I’m not eating them.”

I quickly re-strategized to gain his support and sweetly asked, “Won’t you at least humor me and try one?”

The bad man laughed, “We aren’t courting anymore.  I don’t have to eat anything I don’t want to anymore.”

I knew he meant it and that’s when my next plan hatched, bigger than just a pot of chitlins.  I thought, poor husband, you will be hungry this Thanksgiving when I prepare a feast that you refuse to eat.

In the true spirit of Southern cooking, I enlisted the help of my mother (the rock climber) to try out as many recipes that I can gather from my clients.  My clients are giving me tips and food combinations that I’ve never considered, but make my mouth water to think about, which I frequently do.  None of these recipes are written down, they come straight from memory more or less the same as their mammy’s taught them and their mammy’s mammy taught them.

Collard greens, fried chicken, macaroni salad, pineapple and brown sugar encrusted turkey, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, chitlins (of course), and sweet potato pie and any other dishes, sides or desserts that I can glean from my clients over the next few days will be served.

We’ll open the windows as the chitlins stew to let out the smell into the open air, and when my husband complains, I’ll say, “I warned you, they gon’ stink.”

The Angry Bear

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She made me pick up her heavy paw to sign her name.

“Girl, you know I can’t see.”

Her aide said, “Diabetes,” and nodded in agreement from her perch in front of the television.

The weight of her hand was like a bag of sand, solid and surprising in its movement.

Her skin was cracked and rough, an ashy black in my smooth brown hand.

“I’m only signing this because you pushin’ the issue,” she declared as she scribbled illegible letters.

Finished, she dropped the pen and looked straight at me with one yellow-grey eye, while the other eye remained tightly shut under a heavy fold of dark skin.

Her sightless gaze pierced me and in the puncture mark she left me with a certainty.

I knew that she saw everything.

All this and more

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They won. The fear mongers won.

Sunday was spent waiting for the epic storm that never arrived.

The mega-storm was predicted on Friday, with hype continuing to build through the weekend.  Ridiculously good looking weather forecasters excitedly projected the storm’s path, guessed at wind speeds, and called for large hail.  On all the stations, they agreed that the possibility for tornadoes was too great to ignore.  It was going to be bad for the Midwest, just how bad was yet to be seen.

“Stay inside and stay tuned,” they begged and pleaded to be taken seriously.

To prove their point of fear, the forecasters flashed images of entire communities destroyed by tornadoes in previous storms and panned down to the damage done to single homes.  They took live calls from the field, interviewed experts, and showed video footage from storm chasers.

“All this and more could be coming within hours,” they threatened with serious faces and perfect hair.

Meanwhile, I paced back and forth in front of the sliding glass door watching the wind blow the few remaining leaves from the trees.  I expected to see a massive funnel cloud reach down from the grey sky and rip into our apartment.  A few drops of rain fell and the sky looked heavy, promising more to come later.

I texted my friends and family to seek shelter and stay inside just like the fear mongers recommended.  Admittedly, I felt a bit of the thrill that the forecasters must experience in spreading the word of dangerous conditions.  It was empowering and also brought me dangerously close to becoming an amateur fear monger until my very calm husband said “Just relax” and patted a spot on the couch next to him.

Still, I wore my boots all day, anticipating the need to run for cover.  I assumed that I would soon be exposed to the elements when the apartment roof was lifted off of the building and the rain and hail started.  I kept an eye on the cat in case I needed to grab her in my frantic sprint for safety.

However, now it is nearly 10:00 pm and the forecasters have disappeared from the television without so much as an apology for terrifying the viewing public all day myself included.

The fear mongers may have gotten a day out of me, but it was not a day wasted; rather it was one well spent.  I got to do the things I wanted to at home without feeling the need to leave.  My husband and I snuggled on the couch and prepared for the worst, once I stopped pacing and stressing.

All this and more may not have been possible without the insistence of the fear mongering weather forecasters.  So thanks for keeping us in and keeping us safe, sort of.

Drill ’em and bill ’em

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My first dentist always called me ‘sis’.

He was tall with a full head of hair and a perfect smile, of course.  His hygienist always took too long with the fluoride treatment.  I’m not sure why she felt it was a good idea to leave a child with so many cavities alone in a room with shiny curiosities in every drawer and cabinet.  Clearly, with that many holes in my mouth, I did not have a history of good decision making.

Nonetheless, it was not totally on my account that a new family dentist was necessary.

The breaking point was over a bill that was not unlike other bills for cleaning, x-rays and cavities.

“That dentist is ripping us off! How can she have so many cavities, year after year?  There’s no way.  I’ve seen her brush.”

“Yes, I’ve seen her brush.  You’ve seen her brush. That dentist is a hack!”

They went back and forth, egging each other on in their dental self-righteousness.  Really, how dare that dentist tell them what they needed to do with their swarmy kids.

My next dentist was deaf.

He confirmed my parents’ worst fears; the first dentist wasn’t ripping them off.  I was a bad brusher, a lazy flosser, and a secret late night candy eater.

The chairs in his office faced a wall of glass windows towards the woods where 6 or 7 different types of bird feeders were set up.  I watched cardinals, wrens, and finches hop amongst the feeders with an occasional blue jay swooping in to scare off the little birds.

While preparing her tools for a cleaning, his hygienist noticed me watching the birds instead of the tv hung in the corner of the office. “Those are the doctor’s birds,” she said with a smile.  “He feeds them the best seed that why they are so bright, that what he tells us anyways,” she finished with a laugh.

One time a deer wandered up while I was in the chair and looked into the window with sad, brown eyes.  “Why so many cavities?” she seemed to ask without judgment.

That dentist will always hold a special place in my heart for those birds and that he never caused me to give a shriek of pain that he couldn’t hear.

From there, I went to Aspen Dental for a cheap, fast exam and treatment.   Much to my surprise, it was not a nice experience or cheap or fast.  No one called me sis or took the time to feed the birds outside.  It was like sitting in the BMV waiting to have my license renewed.  I was just a number with a set of good teeth to drill and bill.

Now, I’m back to an independent dentist with a no fuss, no muss approach to dentistry. I’m going in tomorrow for a check-up that is just a year overdue.  Toothfully, I’ve going in because the old familiar pain is back and I suspect a cavity.  It reminds me that I’m alive, even while my teeth are experiencing a slow death.  Tooth pain gives me a reason to reflect on dentists of days-gone-by and an even better reason to floss, at least until my new cavity is drilled and filled.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dentist

Rock Climbing Mama

It was over dinner at a little Vietnamese restaurant that I learned my mother has taken up rock climbing without any underwear.

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Shall I set the scene for you, reader?

We were out for a special birthday celebration.  The room was cheerful and cozy with red walls and clean white tile floors.  My husband sat beside me and my mother was across the table from us.  The restaurant was quiet with the occasional peal of laughter from the back of the kitchen.

“Guess what I’ve been doing?” she asked.

I should have known that the question was fully loaded by her wicked grin, as she waited for a response.  Of course, she didn’t wait long sensing the cruelty in unanswered questions.  There was no need to force her dinner companions to fill in the blanks of her life on a cold and rainy Tuesday night.

“I’ve been rock climbing without underpants,” she explained.

Our faces must have appeared shocked, as she laughed and said, “Don’t worry. Everyone does it.  Plus, I had my spandex shorts on, so there weren’t any free looksies.”

Somehow, I had become a prude whose fine sensibilities had been offended and I just realized it in this moment of twirling of spicy egg noodles and listening to my mother’s tale of the weekend.

Forking a chunk of sweet potato from the mess of red curry and veggies from my husband’s plate, she exclaimed, “It’s the only way to climb.”

Popping the orange bite into her mouth, she continued with a tone of concern for my perceived lack of adventure, “You really should try it sometime.”

I left unsure if she was recommending the rock climbing or the underwear free rock climbing, but I do know which one my husband was hoping I would pick in the future.

———–

Thanks for the dinner and great company, Rock Climber and Birthday Boy.

———–

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.