Category Archives: work

Bricked In

Snapshot of this moment: I am sitting in the breakroom at work, surrounded by tupperware containers and an assortment of old condiments. I am eating a peanut butter sandwich with homemade jam. It is delicious. Still, someone forgot to order paper towels, so I am using a tissue as a napkin. This lack of basic supplies has taken an already bad mood and made it worse.

My boss asked earlier if I might be willing to work a fourth day every week. We are, she said, woefully short staffed. Taking a deep breath, I told her yes. Yes, although it will take my already scant time with my daughter and make it scanter. Yes, although this job numbs my brain and makes me, at least occasionally, hopeless for the whole human race. Yes, because we need the money and that’s a fact. Times are tough. Comparatively so, at least.

And they’re about to get tougher, at least for one small girl at my house.

This morning, when MJ–in a repeat performance of incredible endurance–cried about my going to work, I told her, “you know my great, great, great grandmother had six kids. And she had to work building bricks out of mud every day. Just to put food on the table.”

“Out of mud?” MJ replied.

“In the cold.”

“Whoa,” said my daughter, suitably chastened.

This story, I should add, is true. Or true-ish. The ancestor in question did spend some days making adobe bricks in exchange for food when living with the Mormons in Utah. It’s a small detail in an exciting and hair-raising tale, but it may not be totally accurate to portray her as solely and purely a brick smith. Still, her road was hard– her husband’s, too. I figure if they could survive starvation, wolf attacks, Indian abductions, and the shockingly ill treatment of the early Mormon leadership, then certainly I can survive working an extra day in high end retail until my husband is working again.

So maybe I told the mud brick story for myself.

And maybe it worked.

Still, I shed a couple of tears into my Trader Joes pretzels as I sat here. Fortunately no one was here to see it happen. Also, I happened to have a tissue to hand.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

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Banging Out Bad Titles

OK, let me just say for the record that I realize now that “Big Bang, Little Girl” is by far the worst and most disturbing blog post title ever. It only occurred to me after I’d hit “publish:” Shit, thought I. That doesn’t sound like a post about space at all. It sounds like the name of a webpage my teenaged-boy-babysitter in Nova Scotia might have found awfully appealing.

Ugh. I blame it on my iPad Mini. Trying to blog from it is like trying to give a massage with oven mitts on. Impossible. Useless. Unspeakably frustrating for all concerned. Add to the that the time constraint of trying to post during my lunch hour and you get exactly the kind of ill-conceived, uncomfortable-making prose mentioned above. I apologize. I have recommenced lugging my laptop to work. It may be six years old. It may weight three kilos. But it doesn’t make writing so labor-intensive that my brain stalls out.

I also apologize for saying–somewhat smugly, I now realize–that I intended to teach MJ everything I learned in the “Big Bang.” It was an ambitious statement, made when I was only 40 pages into the book. Now that I’m knee-deep in Einstein’s theory of special relativity I have rethought my position. I aim to teach her everything–provided that a) I understand it myself, and b) it requires no discussion of alternate dimensions. Since this effectively rules out everything from page 41 or so on, we will officially be concluding our little talks. On that subject, at least.

Now, if she wants to talk about the relative merits of iPads versus laptops? I have a lot to say.

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Salt And Pay-Per-View

A couple of nights ago I ate a jar and a half of pickles. In one sitting. A jar and a half. Admittedly, it was spread out over three episodes of “Girls,” but still. That’s a lot. Enough to make me wonder, at the time, if there is such a thing as saline poisoning. And, if so, whether I had contracted it. Turns out I was fine–just really, really thirsty. A bottle and a half of Gerolsteiner later I was as right as rain. No worse for wear the next morning, either. If salt bloats me I am unaware of it. Having eaten such ginormous quantities of it, I believe I’ve become immune to its water-retaining properties. I could ingest it the way a deer does–right off of a salt lick in the middle of a frozen woods–and be completely fine. Except for the hunter gathering me in his sights.

At least I’d die unpuffy.

All of this is to say that I’ve not written in ages. But after the pickle incident I knew it was time. One can only, after all, watch so much TV–especially when such ruinous culinary conduct accompanies the endeavor. I have, since my last post, consumed not only many high-sodium foods, but also six seasons of Sons of Anarchy, half a dozen episodes of “Downton Abbey,” and an hour and a half of “Girls.” Before I start watching–or should I say shooting up–whatever brilliant entertainment comes next, I’ve got to break the cycle. I am becoming a TV junkie. A VOD fiend. The Sid and Nancy of Amazon Prime.

You may say I’m being hard on myself. After all, I’m just doing what most people do, right? This is the American Way! I work hard, I have a plethora of responsibilities, my days are full and dizzying. This gives me leave to vegetate at the end of the day. I’ve earned it. I have sold, clientelled, fundraised, cooked, cleaned, shopped, swept, laundered, counseled, bathed, and entertained. I have played “babies” with my daughter for hours. I have read multiple dinosaur books. I have walked the dog, fed the cat, made the bed. I have stain-treated, book-clubbed, bill-payed, friend-helped,  thank-you-card written,  photo-uploaded,  battery-charged,  filter-changed,  customer-service-called,  paperwork completed, password updated, breakfast-dish-washed, lint-filter-cleaned, and toilet-scrubbed for dozens of waking hours. I have fulfilled my responsibilities. No one in my charge has gone unattended. I am done.

The last thing I want to do now is concentrate. On anything.

So I watch. And watch. And man, it feels good.

But then I think of my readers, the few, the quirky, the persistent. And the historians, the ones for whom I claim to write. And my daughter, for whom I really do. And I know I need to put. Down. The. Remote.

For just five minutes.

So I have done it. Bravo! I will again tomorrow, if I can. And the day after. For if I don’t I’ve left nothing behind. Nothing. Except some empty jars, a crumpled napkin, and the scattered palpitations of other peoples’ stories. Rape? In the servants’ quarters? How could it be???

Anyway. I’m back.

And now I’m going to go watch an episode of Boardwalk Empire. Just one. Heck, I’ve earned it.

Pickle, anyone?

Faire Weather Friend

I know. Lame. Three days since the festival, and nothing. It’s not that I’m being a jerk. I’m certainly not trying to keep anyone in suspense. I simply haven’t had a second. I went to work the day after. Worked at MJ’s school the day after that. Working now, in fact. But it’s my lunch break, and I have a few minutes to fill you in. Actually, it won’t take long, because I can sum up the entire outcome in one word:

Miracle.

But we didn’t think so at first. It poured all morning–poured!–in the hours before the Faire started. We had to set up in the rain. We threw up every pop-up tent any of us had, then rented another big one a half an hour before opening, spending extra money we were sure we wouldn’t make back. To say we were hopeless and discouraged is a massive understatement–I spent the whole early morning stomping around in a grouch so profound even the local mice knew  to stay away from me. But we soldiered on. At eleven AM we were ready.

And then, right at “doors open,” a cessation. Of the precipitation, that is. It went away, never to return that day.

In its place? People! Lots of them! Arriving in boots, slickers, and hats, prepared to participate even in a deluge. Which it turns out they didn’t have to. But God love them for being willing.

And suddenly, after days of panicking, cursing, crying, raging, preparing for the worst, knowing we wouldn’t be ready…we were. And it happened. Suddenly there was a band playing, and food being served, and kids crafting, and money–lots of it–being spent.

I won’t go into too much more detail. I couldn’t even if I wanted to, because I spent most of the event at the front table selling tickets and squealing “it’s not a disaster! It’s not a disaster!” to anyone who would listen. I didn’t even take any pictures. (Go to my friend’s blog for some). But I know fun when I see it, and happiness, and relief. And consumerism! And cookie eating! And booze drinking! And I saw all of those things writ large, in adorable pre-schooler scrawl, at our little event.

At the end of the day, as the Faire wrapped up, an explosion of deep golden sun shot through the late-afternoon clouds. Parents, drunk on homemade beer and relief, lounged at tables with legs stretched long. Kids, facepainted and nail-polished, swarmed the small stage, banging the abandoned drum set and yelling into the mics.

And I, surprised, exhausted, stunned, and happy, just laughed. 

Never again do I question that there is a God. Or that he has a twisted sense of humor. Still, I am beyond grateful. All the more so because my father won the iPad raffle. And guess who he gave it to?

Onwards to Christmas, with one more device to smooth the way!

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To Done, 12/1/13

  • On early shift. Woke up at 6:30 with MJ. Gave her breakfast, read half of “Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs.” Played six rounds of Candyland. Won more than I would’ve liked.
  • Fed both animals.
  • Put in a load of laundry.
  • Did breakfast dishes.
  • Said good morning to Mike. Apologized for forgetting to make his coffee.
  • Still didn’t make it.
  • Swept part of living room.
  • Stripped bedroom sheets.
  • Put in another load of laundry.
  • Showered.
  • Got dressed.
  • Went to put on makeup. Found cat in the toilet, where he finds his happy place.
  • Took cat out. Dropped him on floor.
  • Realized toilet was filled with pee.
  • Tried to clean up. Promptly stepped in cat-wet floor in stocking feet.
  • Realized I did not have time to change.
  • Said goodbye to Mike and MJ and ran out, cursing cat, in wet-footed haste.
  • Worked from 10:00 AM to 6:30.
  • Raced home.
  • Changed clothes.
  • Put MJ to bed.
  • Had quick dinner with Mike.
  • Washed dinner dishes.
  • Switched laundry again.
  • Worked on raffle tickets.
  • Checked weather for the weekend. Worried in spite of good forecast.
  • Wrote 23 e-mails re Saturday’s fundraiser.
  • Made a double batch of candycane cookie batter for same.
  • Talked on phone to girlfriend about her romantic problems. Her boyfriend is allergic to her cat. Told her I am allergic to mine. Or at least my feet are.
  • Put batter in fridge.
  • Checked weather for Saturday again. Still worried.
  • Wrote 21 more fundraiser-related e-mails.
  • Shooed persistent racoon away from front porch so dog would stop growling.
  • Walked said dog.
  • Checked child.
  • Put cat in back room. Away from all toilets.
  • Left pantyhose soaking in Woolite.
  • Checked weather.
  • Went to bed.
  • Worried some more.

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Sums of Manicky

If this blog is the second kid I never had, I’m guilty of some serious neglect.

I’m sorry. I want to be more regular about writing. I have been in the past. Why, back in the day, when I was home with MJ all the time, I was a veritable posting fool. Before she went to a co-op preschool, that is. Back when she napped! But now, this life! The work–in high-end retail at holiday season–the fundraising, the childcare, the housecleaning, the pet chasing, the board meetings, the volunteer days at MJ’s school. The giant event I am planning for same. The need to consume great amounts of “Sons of Anarchy” on my scant downtime. I swear to God, there aren’t two spare moments to rub together. At least two spare moments when I have a functional brain cell left for creative thought. I’m a zombie. A never-stopping, always-behind, constantly number-tallying, guilty-binge-TV-watching zombie.

Even now, I have nothing to say. I am tapped. Zapped. Sapped. My every moment, in these last two weeks, has been consumed with selling raffle tickets, (when I am not at work), and selling overpriced jewelry, (when I am.) In between I try to sell my family on the idea that I am a competent wife and mother. They’re buying, but only because I’m the only shop on the block. God forbid a Walmart should open up next door. Figuratively speaking. Although what a figurative Walmart looks like is anyone’s guess.

Finally, I clean poop. Because our new cat has feces that stink viciously, absurdly, brutally, like dead bodies on crack. If we don’t scoop it out right away the entire house becomes an intolerable, unbreathable haz-mat zone.

He also likes to pad around in our sinks and toilet bowls, leaving dirty little footprints on the porcelain.

So glad we got a second animal.

Anyway. I just wanted to tell you that I’m here–that the blogger in me is still alive, if currently buried in receipts, petty cash, and five-dollar raffle tickets. She will re-emerge. Probably after December 7th, when this damn event will be over, and definitely after December 25th, when the other damn event (otherwise known as Christmas) will be similarly behind us.

Until then, exhausted, distracted, and enfeebled by her desire to raise funds, she will poke her head up only occasionally, with some effort, and with predictably mediocre results.

Then she’ll poke it back down, to watch her favorite motorcycling sexpots run more guns.

A girl’s got to decompress somehow.

Raffle ticket, anyone?

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Four for Four

Birthdays come but once a year. And it’s a damn good thing. Any more, and parents would be dropping like flies.

Or I would, anyway. MJ’s party was four days ago now, and I’m only just feeling human again. As for my pocketbook, well, it may need a bit more time to recover. Because you know what? It turns out that even a super casual, bagels-in-the-park,  cupcakes from Vons, no favor bags birthday party can be extraordinarily expensive. It might’ve been cheaper to rent a yacht. Who knew?

But it was worth it. I think. Myra-Jean seemed to enjoy it. Mostly.  I mean, let’s be honest–by the end of such a party pretty much any preschooler is in a stage five meltdown. What with the sugar, the attention, the pinata, the grownups goosing their cheeks–it’s enough to make even the most phlegmatic of four-year-olds blow a gasket. MJ, being no exception to this rule, spent the last half-hour of the party refusing to acknowledge departing guests and screaming “I just want to open my presents!!” I thought we were going to have to sedate her. Good times.

But then it was over–the invitees headed home, the cups and plates cleaned up, the smashed Jupiter pinata stuffed in the trash, the remaining cupcakes tossed. We headed up the hill to our house and ate takeout lunch with our family. Everyone was starved. One thing you forget to do at these things is eat.

As for MJ, she was all over the place. One minute she played with a new toy, the next she was sobbing over getting served the “wrong kind of chicken.” She said she’d enjoyed the party, but it was hard to tell. She was tired. She was mean. She was edgy. And this edginess lasted for the next three days.

It only seemed to lift yesterday–the actual day of her birthday. I’d had to work–a fact deemed unforgivable by my daughter–and it looked like the day could be a total debacle. Myra-Jean was furious when I left.

“You may never go!” she screamed. “Ever!”

The four birthday-themed postcards I’d left her notwithstanding, I felt like the worst parent alive.

But as the day went on, I heard that she cheered up. School was fun. The weather a bit cooler. In the afternoon she did some gardening with her father.

And then I was able to get off early to meet them for dinner! At our favorite restaurant!  We ate pho and crayoned pictures of Walter and Mina on small white pieces of scrap paper. MJ chewed french fries with fish sauce and seemed ecstatic to be up past her bedtime. After dinner, we went to ice cream; when we were done eating it I watched, grinning stupidly, as my husband and daughter danced to “American Pie” in the middle of the empty parlor’s floor.

There, in that moment, I found the joy of her fourth birthday. And, judging by their faces, I’d have to say Mike and MJ did as well. No pinatas, no space decorations, no craft table, no hats. Just a quiet dinner, a sweet dessert, and the hard slate floor of an empty shop.

Perhaps next year we’ll just skip straight to that.