Monday, September 20, 2010

Celebratory Masochism

This afternoon, I received a sudden flurry of good news - both on the financial front, the South Cackalacky Unemployment Commission, and a few more interviews lined up, and my guy at the agency is going to tout me as the best candidate, cause he's cool like dat. All this took place on the phone within a half hour, like a hailstorm of good karma.

Feeling buoyantly optimistic and cheerful, with significantly more money in the bank than I was expecting to keep (relatively speaking, the sum total of my liquid assets could only be referred to as "significant" in third world countries), I decided to go hit up Target for some things I've been needing for myself and for the house.

Let me be clear. I loathe shopping. It isn't that I don't like acquiring new things, but that is what the internet is for (besides porn). I can't stand large chain stores, the huge parking lots, the crowds, the seven trillion square feet of consumables. I have not set foot in an actual mall in nearly eleven years. I have to give myself a pep talk to run to Publix for a basket full of groceries. I can't really pinpoint what exactly it is about it that causes me such anxiety, but it does, and there's no reasoning my way through it. Sometimes, though, making a quick run to Target or someplace like that is the only option that makes sense. When I do this, I have a list. I get in the door, grab my air filters and eyeliner and DVD-Rs, beeline it to the checkout line, and am normally in and out in less than fifteen minutes.

But every so often, the things I need cannot be snatched up in such a frenzied, focused mission. Sometimes I need things that take consideration. Color. Texture. Quality. Size. Patterns. Price. Things like curtains, sheets, dinnerware, lampshades, gifts for others, thank you notes, whatever. Or, god forbid, clothes. These are things that require me to stand around in aisles considering the array of choices before me. This is the kind of shopping I did today.

For these occasions, two xanax does the trick. I can wander about the stores for hours without feeling the need to abandon my cart and bolt out of there. Problem is, that's exactly what I do. Wander about. For hours. Putting stuff in my cart, and often taking it out again later when I remember that's not what I came for. Sometimes I get obsessed with finding the perfect X, and will even go to the adjacent stores (World Market, Bed Bath & Beyond, Pier 1), looking for the tangible exact match of whatever I have pictured in my head. This NEVER works, because my imagination is too vivid, and dammit, if I suddenly want a cast iron bistro table with a white and green tile mosaic of vines, I will accept no substitute for the table I just conjured up in my mind's eye.

There are exceptions to every rule - I need not psych myself up to go places like... Staples. Most of you know how much I love office supplies, with an inexplicable enthusiasm. So when I noticed that the back to school supplies at Tar-jay were 75% off, I cheerfully zombie-shuffled my way over there in happy expectation.

I got nothing. Know why? Because EVERYTHING looked like this.


No folder, no binder, no notebook nor pencil nor backpack was free of vampires and werewolves.

If Stephanie Meyers ever comes near here for a book signing, I am going. I will camp out on the sidewalk all night. When my turn finally comes and I get up to the table, I am going to go all Buffy (pre season five) on her ass and make some snarky remark as I ram a broken table leg into her left ventricle. Sparkle sparkle, bitch.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Conversations With Strangers

The other day two Mormon boys in their white shirts and ties knocked on my door in the afternoon, introducing themselves as "Elder Josh" and "Elder Adam." I'm afraid I couldn't hide my smile of amusement at the titles. I know what it means in the context of their church and has nothing to do with age, but they looked all of thirteen or fourteen. For the first time in my life I actually thought "I'm old enough to be your mother, Elders." I stopped smiling then, because that was a bit disconcerting.

I'm always polite to people who come to my door in the name of religion (and politicians door-to-door campaigning), I never shut the door in their face, but I'm also quick to interject before they can begin that I'm perfectly happy in my own beliefs, and simply don't want to waste their time. In the case of the two Mormon boys, I explained that I'd actually been through this before. I've read the Book of Mormon, I'd had Elders and others come to my house and talk to me about it, I'd attended a Mormon church for about six months to check it out. This is all true, several of my friends during the first two years of high school were Mormon, though I left out the part in telling Josh and Adam that I was fourteen or fifteen when I did this. This seemed to trip them up a bit, and they seemed genuinely baffled how I could have done all that and not become a part of their fold. Their faith was true and sincere, that much was apparent. They got back on script and asked me why I left, and I told them the same story I tell the Jehovah's Witnesses, that in my late teens and early twenties I studied and explored a number of religions and philosophies until I became a Buddhist. Adam, who did all the talking, actually said "Oh, cool!" at that point, then immediately had that sheepish look of "I shouldn't have said that." It was becoming clear that this conversation was out of the ordinary for them - I suspect most people just don't answer the door, close it in their face, or are polite but firm and shoo them away. Again he went back to his script and told me he was sure that if I read the Book of Mormon and prayed about it, I would have all my questions answered. I told him that I didn't really have any, that Buddhism had given me the answers I had sought. I repeated again that I appreciated their stopping by, but I didn't want them to waste their time as I had checked it out before, did not join, and was happy in my current beliefs. (To clarify, I'm actually no longer a fully practicing Buddhist, and my beliefs are more complicated for me to label it strictly Buddhism, but again, I kept that to myself.)

We shook hands and I told them it was nice to meet them, and offered them something to drink before they went, or to take with them. They declined, but I got the impression they would have liked to sit on my porch and drink sweet tea for a while before going on to knock on more doors. Truth be told, I wouldn't have minded engaging them further in a dialogue about religion and their faith either, but their agenda and their mission is to convert the non-believers, and a conversation of that sort can't be had when one side is trying to convince the other to change their mind, not without giving them false hope, anyway. Still, it was sort of nice to chat with them for a few minutes. I never consider these people a nuisance, certainly not young boys who honestly believe they are doing God's work. I hope my cantankerous neighbor two doors down wasn't too rough on them, but he probably was.

My neighbor. Once I ordered pizza, and because the house numbers are hard to see on almost all the houses here, including mine, the delivery girl passed me and made a u-turn in the street in front of his yard. Apparently her wheel ran up on his lawn a few inches. As she was handing me my pizza, I heard yelling, and over her shoulder I saw him in the street, on a cell phone, hollering at the on-shift manager at Papa John's demanding she be fired. He's perfectly polite and civil - until his fuse is lit, which doesn't take much.

Just now, I got home from a few errands. My last stop was the gas station. When I pulled up, I noticed another car on the other side of the station parked next to a pump at a very odd angle. I didn't see anyone standing next to it. Thinking nothing more of it, I went inside, paid for my gas, came back out and filled up the tank. As I was closing the fuel cap I glanced over. Next to the sharply angled car was a frail, hunch-backed, tiny old woman with a cane, fumbling with the flap that covers the fuel cap. I pulled my car into a parking spot, locked it, walked over, and asked her if she needed some help. I half expected her to say no - it was a hot day, I was wearing a spaghetti strap tank top, nearly all ink visible. Most southern elderly women tend to have very visible thought bubbles above their head when they see me in the summer. Instead, she said yes, with a beautiful and grateful smile.

She was so tiny, her hunchback so severe, her arms so birdlike and liver spotted, and moved so slowly and gingerly with her cane, that I'd guess she was in her late 80's, early 90's even. There was no way she ever would have been able to remove the fuel cap, even if she'd gotten the cover open, let alone pump her gas. So I took care of everything for her - she handed me her Amex to swipe, even, and I filled her tank while she called me an angel and thanked me. "Sometimes I pretend I can do things I really can't," she said. I nearly teared up at that. I told her I was the same way, stubborn and independent, and how I nearly broke my back moving a four trillion ton sleigh bed by myself. "Be more careful, honey. No one is invincible," she told me. I wanted to say something about being careful of handing her credit card over to strangers like that, but bit my tongue. One of my biggest pet peeves is people talk to the elderly as if they were children, and I told myself that this woman had half a century of life experience on me, at least. She was old, she was fragile, but she wasn't confused or lost.

I topped off her tank, gave her her receipt, and helped her back in the driver's seat, and we wished each other a lovely evening. I walked back to my car, and was about to pull out, when on impulse I swerved and pulled out of the way to the side of the lot. I wanted to make sure she got out of there okay. I watched her car on the other side of the station for five minutes. It didn't move. I circled around, parked, and approached her window, asking if everything was alright. She looked frustrated to the point of tears, and grateful to see me. "It won't start," she said. "I don't know what's wrong." She turned the key again, and the engine rumbled to life.

"You brought me good luck," she grinned at me. I wanted to hug her. Instead I just smiled back, told her goodbye, and got back in my car. I waited for her to navigate towards the exit and pulled out behind her. She was going my way, towards my house. I made up my mind to follow her. Unless she was getting on the interstate, she was either going to Fort Jackson (unlikely) or my neighborhood, or through it to one nearby. I was nearly sure she hadn't seen what I was driving, and even if she had, I didn't care. I felt protective of her now. I wanted to make sure she got home safely.

But she turned left suddenly into a parking lot that either takes one to K-Mart, or used as a cut-through to another street. Cars were backing up behind us, so I kept going, and circled back around at the next intersection. I looked for her car in the parking lot and didn't see it. I pulled out through the connector, and she was nowhere to be found. I headed home.

Sweet lady, I hope you're home safe tonight. You made my day.

Monday, June 28, 2010

And this is why I will be single forever.

Riley used to sleep with me every night. She hasn't done so in a few months; a combination of moving bedrooms, lack of rugs that she needs to get a running start, and I've been sleeping on the couch a lot lately as it helps my back. Then there's Molliewog, who makes it difficult for me to spend quality one-on-one time with my Taterhead.

Last night, I waited till Mollie was snoring soundly in her dog bed in the living room, and I quietly scooped up Riley and carried her to bed, so she could curl up next to me and I could rub her ears till she fell asleep, like in the old days. Riley does not like to be carried, and she freezes, sort of like those fainting goats that go stiff and fall over when startled. I put her on the bed and climbed under the covers, and eventually she decided that shifting and settling down would not bring Armageddon down upon her, collapsed against me, and sighed contentedly.

I enjoyed about six minutes of this peaceful bliss, and was just about to drift off, when Mollie must have awoken in the living room to find us gone. I heard a plaintive whine, and turned my head to see a slightly crooked shape with big bat ears silhouetted in my doorway. "Hi Mollie," I said, and she immediately gimped over to the edge of the bed (she, with her 2.8 legs, has no issue with the hardwood floors, of course), tail wagging furiously. I lifted her up, there was no other option. She reacted as I expected with "OMG RILEY IS HERE TOO WITH MOMMY HI RILEY HI MOMMY HI HI HI" as she stepped all over us. To my pleasant surprise, this only lasted a minute or so, till suddenly she collapsed, draping herself over my legs like a sack of potatoes. This was okay. I could deal with being pinned down, Riley was content and spooned up against me for better ear-rubbing access, and I could sleep.

Then came the cats. One by one. Bun first, settling on the pillow next to me. Dewey, his plaintive "Murr?" announcing his presence, tromping on my head, then bashing his face into Mollie's as a sign of affection, which led to much stirring and rearranging of all the animals. I sighed.

The tinkling bell of Wobbly's collar alerted me to his entrance. Wobbly, not being the most graceful of felines, made a flying leap up, landing directly like a furry cannonball on my stomach. Which caused me to fart, scaring Riley, at the same time Wobbly immediately fell off the bed, and Molliewog attempted to leap after him. Tangled in the covers, I managed to catch her before she landed, and set her down gently, but the peace was over. Dewey lept and skittered from the room, Riley, startled by my trumpet butt noises and the chaos, wanted off the bed NOW. As scared as she is of hardwood floors I didn't want her jumping down and landing with no traction, which would scar her for god knows how long, so I picked her up again. This sent her into full-blown panic mode, and she immediately dribbled pee down my leg.

The bed was a tangle of now fur and dirt covered sheets. Only Bun was nonplussed, happy to stay curled up on his pillow, while the rest of the zoo thundered around the house either in play or neurotic flight. I heard glass break in the kitchen. 

I cleaned up the broken bud vase, took a shower, grabbed a clean blanket out of the closet, and slept on the couch.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Flowers in the Attic

When I was six months old, my father was transferred to serve in the Royal Military Police over in England, so we moved to Bulford Camp, on the Salisbury plain. Behind our house was the Buford Kiwi, a giant kiwi carved into the chalk on the side of Beacon Hill. Stonehenge was only a few minutes away by car, and my parents tell me you could see it on the horizon from the top of the kiwi hill, up to which they would walk me every day. We moved back to the states when I was three, so I take their word for it.

While we were there, my young parents with their first (and only) child, a little girl with blonde curly hair and big blue eyes, my mom bought me a dollhouse. This was before my Dad got a hold of me, and stole away her little southern belle in training, teaching me how to swing a bat, which snakes were okay to pick up and which to stay away from, and how to make a piercing whistle using an acorn shell.

Me, in England, on my 2nd birthday.

A few years later.

So my dollhouse was handmade, wooden, three stories, and fashioned like an old english cottage with a thatched roof, that could be lifted off to reveal the attic. Looked something like a three story version of this.

I was too young for dollhouses then, only a toddler, so she saved it for me. Problem was, by the time I WAS old enough to be into dolls, they were more of the action figure type (see above).

I did have some barbies though, that my babysitter had given me, and even at the age of four or five, I could tell how disappointed my mother was when I paid little attention to the beautiful dollhouse in my bedroom, and how happy it made her when I played with it. Unfortunately, handmade dollhouses bought in England aren't proportioned for Barbie and Pals. Much too tall. As I mentioned above, however, the roof did come off, and in the attic, Barbie, Skipper, and Ken (less their noses, which I bit off, and flattened, flipper-like feet that I gnawed on) could move gimp around with ease. So there they dwelled, a happy, vapid, deformed family of three.

But this was not an entirely satisfactory solution. They could not fit down the wooden staircase to the rest of the house. They didn't know the roof was gone. Trapped! Unable to leave the attic, how would they eat? They would starve up there, and the next residents would find their bones. My dollhouse would be haunted. That would make Mom even more sad, and simply would not do.

So, I recruited a couple G.I. Joes and a Transformer or two. They could walk around in the house just fine. Up and down the stairs with ease. I pulled them from their current mission assisting He-Man in his battle against Skeletor, and reassigned them to Domino's Pizza, where they could deliver pizza to the Noseless Gimpy Blondes in the attic. They were full and happy, and I made sure to include a Flintstones vitamin on occasion. Mom said eating pepperoni pizza every night wasn't healthy. (She was right, I tried this for a while as an adult.)

So Barbie, Ken, and Skipper continued to live in the attic for years, never leaving. I'm not sure what they survived on when my G.I. Joes and Transformers and Masters of the Universe disappeared after the epic Battle In The Slime. Which took place in the living room. Apparently the green goo doesn't come out of carpet easily.

Years later (but not enough, reading far above my level introduced me to some concepts a little early), I read V.C. Andrews' book. I was mortified. Had the G.I. Joes been poisoning the pizza? Were Barbie, Skipper, and Ken engaging in vague taboo adult acts? What had I done?!

The barbies, action figures, everything else is long gone. My mom still has the dollhouse. It's beautiful. Someday I hope to find a little girl to give it to, with some dolls that fit, who will fill it full of furniture and play Loving Non-Dysfunctional Family in it. It would make my mother happy. Me too.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sweep the leg, Johnny

Woke up feeling better. Calmer. Stronger. Ready to get back on my feet.

Then the mail came.

SC has ruled I will only get 14 weeks of unemployment benefits, instead of 26. Not just that, but I have to wait out the 12 weeks first. So no income till mid-August unless I get a job before then. I can (and will) appeal, but there is little chance of overturning the ruling. Been on the phone for hours with banks and creditors, passed around from department to department, supervisor to supervisor. Apparently, no help or temporary payment arrangements can be made until I have an income again for them to base it on. Figure that one out. So the bills, interest, and late fees continue to rack up at current rates. The protection plans I had in case of loss of employment? Gone when the banks scrambled and changed all the rules and rates right before the feds cracked down on financial regulations. Fucking wonderful.

Thanks to everyone who has called, emailed, commented, visited, and offered a shoulder to cry on and an ear to vent to. I love all of you and appreciate it more than you know. I will probably be incommunicado for a few days. It's not personal. Right now it's just too exhausting to talk about, and I have a lot of thinking, planning, and work to do. Apply for anything I can, send resumes to everyone in the Yellow Pages, and figure out what I can sell.

I am, and will be, okay. I am fortunate enough to not have to worry about losing the house, and generous parents who will make sure I can pay for my medication (retail price - ouch), and won't let me or the critters go hungry. That's a whole lot more than most people in my position have, and I am acutely aware and extremely grateful for it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Okay, I totally lied.

I declared an end to my Shift Lock hiatus. The two or three of you who still occasionally check this page may have noticed this update takes place two months later. Six posts a year isn't much of a blog. It isn't much of anything at all.

Four days ago, I joined the ranks of the unemployed. That was Friday afternoon. It's Tuesday night and I'm half-watching the L&O SUV SVU finale. I've held up remarkably well, optimistic even. I know things will be hard, life will suck for a while, maybe a long while, and there will be days when I don't even want to get out of bed. I also have a chance to start a new life, and when I'm back on my feet, I'll be better than I was before.

Likely contributing to my calm demeanor is the fact I've been unable to stop worrying about when certain property tax bills are due, if anyone will remember to process the intercompany checks, or be able to decipher my notes about who needs to be called back about what. I just put a load of laundry in to wash all the hot weather blouses that aren't t-shirts. It feels like a really long Sunday. I'm not delusional, I've thought for four days about everything I need to do now, made a bunch of lists, and have checked off the most important ones. It just still feels like being on vacation.

Until just now, when reality hit me like a ton of bricks. Not all at once, but as though someone hurled them at me, one by one, until the pile was gone. I'm almost out of some of my meds. I have no insurance and not a lot of money.  It's not that this isn't something that didn't already occur to me, but opening up my little pill case and seeing those last two blue tablets, that was all it took to get my mind off and running. A mental list of all the hundreds of things I have to worry about now, for the first time in my life. The voice in my head went on and on, like reading the list of ingredients in Chicken McNuggets. Yet here I've been, instead still stressing out about a job that I no longer have. As the bricks smash into my gut, those worries finally lift from my shoulders. At least there's that. Right now, that doesn't feel like much. This is the "oh, shit" moment. This is panic. This is for keeps.

However! This is good news for you both. If I can't find time to keep up with a blog when I have no job, this page has no business clogging up the intertubes. I'm not sure my rambling, pointless internal monologues do anyway, but writing here gets me writing more elsewhere, and that's a good thing. I might occasionally have something relevant to talk about now. No more Dear Diary, Today I went to work and did a bunch of finance stuff that makes people wished they hadn't asked me to elaborate on what I do, came home, fed the quadrupeds and tripod, watched the news, played with the dogs, considered cleaning, lay on the couch instead and A) watched TV, B) a movie, C) futzed around on the computer, or D) some combination of the above, fell asleep.

So, this has been the exposition post. I had some other things I wanted to say, but as usual, I rambled more than I intended and I'm tired.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Okay, so it's been almost half a year.

I miss writing a blog. I think about updating often, but it's not been a particularly lovely half a year, so I usually have some rant in mind, and I don't want one of those emo woe-is-me-I'm-crazy-and-no-one-understands blogs. That said, my Mom started a blog, about their cat Gus my parents recently adopted from me. It is here and my Mom is funny and you should read it. Gus is funny too.

I think my blogging hiatus is done. Angry, sad, wry, or a ray of sunshine, I'll be writing here more often.