Saturday, April 14, 2018


When I was in my very early 20s, I worked for a German-born retired USAF general who owned a small international marketing company. One time, I left work a few minutes early for an appointment. The next day, I saw a note on his desk that he had written to himself: "Claudia left at 4:56 today." He was probably my weirdest employer. He paid me next to nothing and routinely referred to me as his sexetary. But then he would do outlandishly generous things, like taking me to lunch at a fancy restaurant or buying me crystal for my birthday each year. Thanks to him, I actually own a lead crystal ice bucket - not everyone can say they own one of those.

I've had the good fortune to have some very nice employers over the years. For some reason, though, I keep thinking of a scene from one of my favorite movies, The Muppet Christmas Carol. (Hey, I didn't say that I was a sophisticated movie-goer here!) The bookkeeping rats urge Bob Cratchit (AKA Kermit the Frog) to ask Ebenezer Scrooge if they can have some more coal for the fire. Scrooge flies into a rage and asks the rats if they'd like to be "SUDDENLY UNEMPLOYED!" The rats, in turn, break out into a Caribbean-style dance and start chattering about a heat wave.

Why am I thinking about that goofy scene? Well, because (as of yesterday) I am  . . . SUDDENLY UNEMPLOYED. I am still reeling from the shock of it. My emotions were (and are) all over the map: fear, worry, sadness, and stuff I can't even articulate. I mean, I've always had a job. I have been working steadily since I was a teenager. I think the last time I was unemployed was in 1988 when I was a student at Texas A&M, and then a brief period after the mister and I moved to the Midwest in 1995.

My career path has been interesting. I started as an administrative assistant at a local IT company in 1996. Later, I transitioned to the company's web development department and eventually got into project management. In 2010, the web department (which had been spun off as a separate company by that time) was sold to another local IT company that specialized in web hosting and managed services. Fortunately, I was offered a job by the new company and worked there until 2016, when the owner sold the company to a very large IT company. In 2017, the very large IT company sold the web development division to a small marketing agency. Got all that?

I was excited to get into a new field and to learn about content marketing (in addition to continuing to serve the clients that were part of the acquisition). I did everything I was asked to do. I earned two HubSpot certifications. I wrote blogs to support the company's inbound marketing campaigns. I managed web projects. I trained clients. Plus, I liked my boss and my co-workers (I still do, honestly). And then, suddenly, I was sent packing. I can't say that I took it well. I cried all day and I'm pretty sure I still have more tears to shed. It's hard not to take it as a rejection of me as a person instead of simply "we can't afford to pay you anymore."

Of course, I have to be very careful about what I say next. It's very easy for me to go down a path of being very angry. So, I am trying to stay positive, focus on the future, and hope that a great opportunity comes along. Why was I let go? I was told that the decision was purely financial (my salary was not huge, but I'm assuming that I made a bit more than my much-younger co-workers), so I'm trying to take that at face value. I was told that there was nothing I could have done differently and that I didn't do anything wrong. I keep thinking about how I worked with some of the same clients for a decade or more. I have to think that some of them may wonder where I am. I feel bad about that, like I've let them down in some way. 

Just recently I told a friend that after being acquired three times, I sometimes wondered when my luck would run out. I was hired by each company and held onto my job even when others were let go. It's kind of like when my husband hit a deer a few months ago. We live in an area where it happens pretty routinely. His number was just up. It was his turn to mangle a deer. Now, my number is up (not for the deer thing, though, I hope).

We're snowed in (yes, in April - Mother Nature can go suck an egg), so I've been working on my resume and gathering references. One positive thing is that I've managed to build a good network over the past 22 years and am reaching out to people who have offered to help me in my job search. Several have agreed to serve as references. I filed for unemployment this morning (for the first time in my life). As if getting fired isn't enough of a blow to the ol' ego, the unemployment forms just about finished it off. "Were you fired for stealing? Were you fired for drug use?" Geez.

What makes me sad (well, almost as sad as being unemployed) is that it just feels like loyalty doesn't mean anything anymore.  You can check your work emails on nights and weekends. You can beat the drum for the company. You can do everything you've been asked to do and more. But in the end, it won't save your job. And that's a tough lesson to learn.

Telling my daughter that I lost my job was almost as hard as absorbing the news myself. She is a very empathetic kid and I knew it would make her sad to see me down in the dumps. I assured her that it's my job (ouch) to worry about this stuff. I will do my best to make sure that very little changes in her world. I assured her that we'll still have her birthday party as planned. I did her laundry while she was at school yesterday (I normally make her do her own laundry), so that's one little bonus for her. I have more time for her, at least temporarily (I hope).

When I posted a note about my job search on Facebook, my friends were very supportive. According to them, I'm talented and smart and lots of other adjectives, too. You know what? They're right. I may not have tons of confidence when it comes to my appearance. I worry that I'm not a great mom. I certainly have my insecurities. But, I am confident in my ability to do a good job, wherever I land. They say that integrity is what you do when no one is looking. I'd like to think that I have integrity. I'd like to think that I've developed some valuable skills over the years. Plus, there has to be some employer out there who wants to hear my terrible jokes all day long.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Middle School Talent Show

My daughter participated in a music gala at her school last night. It was essentially a talent show, with a fundraising component added (raffle, admission, etc.) The show benefited the school's music department.

The kid sang the song "Colorblind" from Glee. Because of time constraints, she was only able to sing one verse. However, she had the opportunity to sing it in its entirety at church a couple weeks ago (see below) and she's sung it for me and her dad about a hundred times, so I think we're all set. She also had a small solo in a number performed by the advanced mixed choir.

I have to say . . . some of the kids really blew me away with their talent. One group of kids performed a step number. It was so much fun to watch. We have a local tribe that's very prominent in our community. Quite a few tribal kids go to my daughter's school. A group of them performed a water song (in the native tongue) and then later they did a smoke dance to a drumming soundtrack. I think I was just extra impressed because I think it takes courage to be in middle school and to proudly wear tribal garb. Middle school is usually more about fitting in than standing out.

One act shattered my heart. The screen came down and the music started. A student named Jocelyn came out and sang a song about her brother. It was a sweet, simple song with lyrics like "I love you to the stars." Meanwhile, on the screen, dozens and dozens of photos of her family flashed by. In each, the focal point was a dark-eyed boy with nasal cannulas sending oxygen into his lungs. He looked happy but there was clearly something wrong, health-wise. I wondered if it might be cystic fibrosis. The photos kept coming and I started to think, "Oh no, I don't think he makes it." Second later, a photo of his headstone appeared. He died in 2017 at the age of 10.

I have no idea how she sang so clearly and beautifully. It's only been a year since she lost her brother. The auditorium, which was packed, was silent. I was crying openly at that point. Oh man, I feel a little weepy just thinking about it now! Brave girl, for sure.

A couple of acts were less memorable, but it was obvious that all of the kids had worked hard. My husband felt compelled to whisper his editorial comments throughout the show but I shushed him because you never know when the kid who just performed has family sitting directly behind you. A band performed an original song. P leaned over and asked, "Do you have aspiriiiiiiiiin?"

After the show, the kids who performed were running around, taking selfies. I spotted one girl, an eighth grader who had performed in the step routine. She has vitiligo, made all the more noticeable because she is African-American. She's lost the pigment on her forearms, neck, and hands. Part of me wanted to grab her and take her aside. I wanted to tell her, "You're beautiful, hold your head up, wear sunblock at all times."

However, she was already holding her head up just fine. I noticed her walking confidently across the cafeteria, three friends following a half-step behind her. She was laughing, calling out to other kids. Later, my daughter told me that the girl is one of the most popular kids in the whole school.

I couldn't help but wish I'd been more like her in middle school. I had the same medical condition (plus a couple others, just for extra fun) and my experience was pretty much the exact opposite. I'm still bearing the mental scars from being told that I was ugly, unpopular, and simply "less than." Geez, I think I'm secretly jealous of an 8th grader! Seriously, though, I hope bullying isn't as bad as it used to be.

The talent show was one of the more memorable evenings I've had in recent memory. Say what you want about "kids today" but you know what? I think the kids are alright.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Because poetry is cheaper than therapy

People tell me all the time, "You're such a great mom!" Memo to those folks: my kid wants to run track at school and I told her that she can do it, but only if she takes the city bus home. I'm pretty sure a great mom would figure out a way to pick her ass up. I sometimes wonder if people believe that an adoptive mom needs extra encouragement. I dunno. I think all moms appreciate hearing that despite all the yelling and all the times we let our children eat doughnuts for dinner . . . we're doing okay.

I haven't been writing a lot of blog posts recently. One reason is that my daughter is getting older (13 in a few weeks!) and I think her privacy is more important now than it was when she was a toddler who pooped her pants on the regular. The other is that I'm finally writing that book that everyone always tells me I should write. I don't know if anything will come of it, but I'm enjoying the challenge.

At my church we have an annual "Poetry Sunday." It's basically just what you think it is - a celebration of poetry. I am a fairly crappy poet. I know I was an English major and all that, but I've never written a lot of poetry. However, I threw together a piece for this year's service and read it to the congregation today. So, here 'tis:


Convinced I was carrying a boy, I named him Seth Patrick
Deep brown eyes like his dad, but with my completely reasonable nose
I watched the ultrasound monitor closely, squinting at the foreign images
The room was dark, the paper-covered pillow crinkling beneath my head
The doctor pointed, a tiny flutter. “The heart,” she said, matter-of-factly

Soon, that flickering heartbeat fell silent, my wailing the only sound
We had tried before and would try again, not comprehending the futility
Four tiny spirits tried to break through, each flying away in succession
A cliche, I know, but my arms ached for the infant I would never hold
I gently shook a toy frog in the nursery, a soft chime emanating from its belly

We sat across the desk from the social worker at the adoption agency
“Start with these forms,” she said, sliding them across with a smile
Months were spent with forms, home visits, security checks
I created a photo album about our lives for pregnant women to peruse
I was careful not to make us look too poor, too religious, too anything

“A birthmom wants to meet you!” The social worker was almost breathless
Days later we sat in plastic chairs at the agency, nervous and afraid
Did I have lipstick on my teeth? Did I look like a woman who could care for a baby?
J arrived shortly thereafter, her blue-green eyes and ready smile putting us at ease
“I know your baby will be beautiful,” I remarked, wondering if it was okay to say

I cried at my desk at work when the official word came. We had been chosen
I painted the nursery and confided in the frog with a chime in its belly
Would she change her mind? Would she decide that I wasn’t meant to be a mom after all?
Days clicked by. I stared at my phone around the clock, wondering when labor might begin
The due date passed and an induction was scheduled. The baby was in no hurry

On May third, Patrick and I stood at the foot of J's hospital bed, making small talk
We endeavored to be respectful, lighthearted, not at all presumptuous
At 5, we retreated to the cafeteria for dinner, though we were not hungry
Suddenly, a rush of excitement. “She wants you in the room!” We scurried to the elevator
At 5:56 PM, a pouty-lipped baby girl made her debut, her tiny red fists punching the air

My arms, all at once, stopped aching. The ache, perhaps, had been passed to J
My soaring joy would be forever tied directly to her abject sorrow, and we both knew it
I caught my breath and then called my mom on her recently-acquired cell phone
I tried to keep my voice steady when she answered.
“Mom,” I said. “Would you like to hear about my daughter?”

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Spare parts, forcibly removed

Ordinarily, my husband is not the world's most attentive guy. He doesn't notice if I get my hair cut or buy a new sweater. I tell him what I'm making for dinner and five minutes later he asks me what I'm making for dinner.

Last Tuesday, however, he did listen. We had an ice storm and school was canceled. I worked from home. Ever since I had two car accidents in one day back in December, I get a little squirrely about icy conditions. Since my daughter was home, I suggested that she make herself useful and make me some lunch. I handed her a recipe for chickpea salad. She loves chopping stuff and this recipe calls for chopped celery.

I started feeling not-so-great at around 3 or 3:30 that afternoon. I called my husband and suggested that he pick up dinner for the two of them since I didn't think I felt up to cooking. I told him that he'd also need to take the kid to her haircut appointment at 5:45. I worked until about 4:30 and then climbed into bed. For the next three hours, I writhed in a relentless kind of pain that originated in my abdomen and then seemed to take over the world. One minute I was hot, the next minute I was cold. At one point, I tried to make myself vomit in case that might help. I had no idea what was wrong. Had my daughter accidentally poisoned me? Did I just have one of the weird illnesses that have been flying around all winter? I kept waiting to turn a corner on the pain.

Finally, at around 7:30, my husband came in to check on me.  I am normally the decision-maker in our relationship, but I just kept saying, "It hurts. I don't know what to do."

"We're going to the hospital," he said. "Let's go."

We left our daughter (and the dogs) at home and journeyed across town, our car's tires seeming to find every bump along the way. I walked into the emergency room just before 8 p.m. I remember the time clearly because the joint switches from urgent care to straight-up ER at 8. I did my best to sit upright in a chair as I watched the chick flip over the sign in the window. Fortunately, the ER was not crowded and an admissions person came out to fetch me fairly quickly. I told my husband he could just hang out in the main waiting area. I sat on a large chair in a small room while she took my blood pressure, temperature, and whatever the thing she attached to my finger was meant to do. The blood pressure cuff wouldn't work and she had to try a couple of times. I thought I might expire in the meantime. I couldn't stand for anything to be touching me.

Finally, mercifully, she ushered me into an exam room. I all but dove towards the bed and curled up on my right side. After that, everything was pretty much a blur. I remember a nurse named Jesse who struggled to get an IV into my right arm. It wasn't his fault - my veins are generally uncooperative. He had slightly better luck with my left arm and hooked up an IV. However, it didn't work quite right and required almost constant fiddling. "It's positional," I heard him say. He injected morphine into the IV. If my pain dissipated at all, it was not by any measurable amount. I remember peeing in a cup at some point. I remember being given a gown. I remember not caring what parts of me were hanging out of the gown. I heard someone say, "I like your tattoo." I may or may not have said, "Thanks."

I almost forgot one fun detail. A steady stream of people came in and out of the room. I asked one of them, "So, um, if I need to vomit, where would you recommend I do that?" She handed me a puke bag. Not two seconds later, those carefully chopped bits of celery left my stomach at high velocity. Thinking I was done, I handed the bag to a member of the small crowd of medical personnel that had gathered at the door (they were waiting for me to finish, apparently). I quickly realized that I'd been too optimistic in my belief that I was done. I gestured in such a way to indicate that I needed a new bag, and a new bag was promptly delivered. No one flinched during this whole process.

With the puking out of the way, the doctor proceeded to examine me and ask me some questions. Blood in the urine? Nope. Back pain? Nope. She thumped on my back and listed to my lungs. Then she applied pressure to my abdomen. I thought the pain was coming from, you know, everywhere, but when she pressed on the right side, it intensified significantly. "That's your appendix," she said. She indicated that a CT scan would be needed to confirm the tentative diagnosis of acute appendicitis. At about this time, I asked a nurse to fetch my husband from the waiting room. I didn't think he should miss out on all the fun.

Soon, a technician came to wheel me down the hall for a CT scan, where she was joined by a second person. They moved me to the CT bed and then they injected dye or something or other into the IV. "You'll feel like you've peed yourself," she told me. "But don't worry, you won't actually have peed yourself." Sure enough, I felt oddly warm. The bed was more like a conveyor belt, moving me in and out of the big vertical doughnut.

I was transferred back to the wheelie bed and taken back to my room. I was still in pain and received a merciful dose of Dilaudid in my IV. Before long, the doctor came back to confirm the diagnosis: acute appendicitis. She explained that I would need surgery right away. I didn't bat an eye. I was just glad to know that the pain would be gone soon. They were welcome to cut me open and take whatever they wanted. I didn't even care. The good news was that my appendix had not yet burst (props to my guy for getting me to the hospital so quickly!) The doctor told me that they were just waiting for an operating room to be available and then I'd be in surgery. I know people complain about doctors and hospitals and waiting, but I have to say that things moved along pretty efficiently. A steady stream of people came in and introduced themselves. I met the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, and a series of nurses.

By around 11:00, I was wheeled down the hall and into an operating room. I think the nurse who was pushing the bed said something about the room being "cold and bright." I shifted to the operating table and my arms were placed at right angles to my body. My brain developed a half-formed thought about a crucifixion. Someone said that they were going to ditch the not-quite-right IV in my left arm and put one in my right hand instead. Warm blankets were laid across my legs. A mask appeared over my face. That's about all I remember.

What's weird about general anesthesia is that when you wake up, the time is simply gone. It's not like waking up from a nap and having a rough idea of how much time has passed. Anesthesia just removes that chunk of time from your personal clock altogether. When I woke up in the recovery area, two nurses were tending to me. My husband was there. I feel like I was probably asked a lot of questions, but I don't remember much.

Within an hour or so, I was discharged from the hospital. I could have stayed overnight, but my husband had to go home either way.  We could not leave our daughter home alone overnight. So, once I could stand upright, I left. They gave me a morphine tablet for the road. After dropping me off at home, my husband found an all-night pharmacy and filled all of my prescriptions. For the next few days, I was supposed to alternate between ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and morphine. I was given ice packs for my swollen abdomen (which now had three glued-together incisions). My husband took the next day off so that he could take care of me. He made a schedule for my meds and handed me everything right on time. Since narcotics sometimes cause constipation, I had a prescription for a remedy for that, too. In our nearly 26 years together, I don't think my guy has ever said anything quite so sexy as this: "Hey babe, it's time for your stool softener."

A week has now passed since my surgery. I went back to work on Monday. It hasn't been smooth sailing. I am not a "take it easy" kind of person. I am letting stuff go as much as I can. The pain has been worse than I expected. The morphine makes me feel all oogy so I only take it at night. I have been wearing stuff like yoga pants to work because my mid-section is not interested in having contact with denim or any restrictive garments of any kind.

So, that's the news from here.

Keep your appendix if you can. If I had to give appendicitis a Google review, it would be looking at one star. "Would not recommend."

Heavily medicated? Napping a lot? These two will console you by taking up the whole bed.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

I dreamed a dream of days (in cars) gone by

I haven't written in a while, as my reader may have noticed. For the past few months, our lives have mainly revolved around our daughter's budding theater career. She was cast as Brigitta Von Trapp in her middle school's production of the Sound of Music. Those performances were held a couple weeks ago. I have to give the directors a ton of credit for their savvy casting. A wanted to play Liesl but Brigitta turned out to be the perfect part for her.  Brigitta is sassy and honest and gets all the best lines. The kids worked very hard and did an amazing job.

Meanwhile, she was also cast as young Eponine in the high school's production of Les Miserables. The high school (which she will attend starting in the fall of 2019) is about a mile from the middle school. They ended up adding on to her part, so she also plays a member of Gavroche's gang and shows up at the barricade scene as well (a generic orphan? I'm not 100% sure). She sings in the chorus on a couple of the big numbers and she is also the understudy for young Cosette. She wanted that role but didn't get it. I think it was good for her to learn that she won't always get the plum roles. Being part of a high school play has been pretty exciting for her - it's a great opportunity. Les Mis premiered last weekend and will end after three performances this weekend.

The Les Mis directors also tried something new: they held an understudy performance on Tuesday night. It was invitation-only and included the full pit orchestra and all of the cast members - the roles were just scrambled around a bit. So, my songbird got to sing Castle on a Cloud, which she loves. Our church has been very supportive, with our UU friends attending both musicals.

So far I've seen the Les Mis production three times (two of the regular performances plus the understudy show). This is no sacrifice on my part because I love the musical. My daughter has busted me for singing it around the house ("IT IS THE MUSIC OF THE PEOPLE WHO WILL NOT BE SLAVES AGAIN!") "Mom, you're in the wrong key." Awwww, it's cute that she thinks I'd know the difference. The kids in the show, on the other hand, sing beautifully. I've cried every time Fantine sings "I Dreamed a Dream."

A lot of good things have come out of this partnership between the schools, but the part I like best is that the high school kids have been so great with the middle school actors. Really taking the younger kids under their wing. In fact, a bunch of the older cast members came to Sound of Music to support the middle schoolers. I thought that was really sweet. I did notice that my daughter gets all googly-eyed around a couple of the handsome Les Mis leads. I'm not supposed to mention it, though.

So yeah, that's what we've been up to. Many days, the kid had rehearsals for both musicals. We had to pick her up at one school, drive her to the other, and then pick her up again after Les Mis rehearsal. Now we're just down to the one musical. On Sundays nights, I have to drive her to rehearsal for her touring choir. Sometimes I don't know if I'm coming or going.

In other news, I celebrated my birthday yesterday. The mister really went all out. He gave me several bottles of wine (one per day in the days leading up to Valentine's Day), some headphones, a tee shirt from the Elephant Sanctuary, a subscription to Vegan Cuts Beauty Box, some iTunes gift cards, a beautiful necklace, and half a dozen vegan cupcakes (which I shared, in case you wondered). I was one happy birthday girl. I also bought a new phone. I had an iPhone 6 but was always frustrated that it didn't have enough memory/storage to hold all of my music. So, I caught a sale and got an iPhone 8. I had to wage a small battle with iTunes to get my music to load, but it worked eventually. #firstworldproblems

The only other bit of news is that we're fostering a Boxer. She's a nut. She's not housebroken but we're working on that. Also, she's a humper. The funny thing is that Grover and Glinda do not correct Bluebelle when she humps them. They basically carry on with drinking out of the water bowl or whatever they were doing before the molestation started. I'll keep you posted on that one.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Memories and Mistakes

This morning's sermon at church was about mistakes. Sometimes, good things come out of them, of course. Sometimes not. The one thing I tell my daughter is that if you make a mistake, just own it. If you've wronged someone, apologize (even if you don't think you're entirely at fault). I'm reflecting on two recent mistakes I've made, and kicking myself quite a bit.

We have a roller rink in town (well, there's a church that sort of doubles as a roller rink, but there's only one "real" roller skating joint that I know of). The rink gets abysmal Google reviews. A lot of people around town have a lot of anger aimed directly at the owner. As far me, I know the rules of the establishment so I basically just abide by them. You have to put your gear in a locker. They will give you part of your change in quarters just so you can't say you didn't have quarters for the locker. I'm sure that they've had people (on skates) trip over errant jackets and boots (plus the occasional theft, I'm guessing), so that's the policy. If you get caught with gum in your mouth, you might end up in a headlock. I assume that the owner has spent time scraping gum off the skate floor, so there ya go. And for the love of God, if you know what's good for you, you will tuck in your laces when you return your damn skates. So yeah, it's a bit strict around there.

The kid and I were looking for something to do yesterday, so we decided to go rollerskating. Unbelievably, one woman was working. She would let a few people in, collect their money, and give them tickets for skate rental. Then she would run over to the skate rental and help a clump of people. Then back to the front door again. "Here comes another shitty Google review," I thought to myself. The place had been open 1/2 hour and we still didn't have skates. The session only runs from 1-3 p.m. Eventually another employee showed up and started helping with the skate rentals. At one point yesterday, they turned off the music until the people who left jackets sitting around a) admitted to it and b) locked them up. "Locker Nazi!" I heard one guy mutter.

A few minutes later, we had our skates and were having a good time on the skate floor. I heard a commotion and then saw a young woman lying on the carpeted area. I heard someone say her wrist was broken. Yikes. She stayed there until a man came into the building and led her out. I tried not to stare but she looked pretty wrecked. I'd be surprised if it wasn't broken.

There were a lot of younger kids there for the afternoon session. The rink offers those PVC pipe contraptions on wheels to help new skaters get around.  I spotted a couple of girls shooting those plastic wheeled helpers across the skate floor to each other. An adult was with them and I was surprised that he didn't put a stop to it. It was clearly stupid and dangerous. About an hour later, as the skate session was winding down, I was doing a few last laps around the skate floor. I saw these same two girls, about to whip the wheeled pipe thing from one to the other. It was going to cross my path directly. I decided I would just lean down and try to grab it. Apparently no one else was going to do anything about it. However, something went wrong and my feet went out from under me. I ended up running into a little girl who was skating nearby. She was also clinging to a training apparatus (but was not involved in any of the shenanigans of the other girls). I knelt down near hear and offered to help her up. "I"m so sorry!" I said. I exited the skate floor. I saw that the girl's mom had retrieved her from and had her sitting in a chair. I clip-clopped over to them, doing that awkward skates-on-carpet thing.

"I'm so sorry I ran into your daughter," I said. "I was trying to stop the wheeled thing from whipping across and hurting someone, but I fell. I feel terrible."

She was not having it. "You hit her hard! I saw what you did!" All I could do was to apologize. I had made a mistake and I did in fact topple her daughter. Honestly, if I were her, I'd be mad at me, too. She didn't see the other stuff that was going on. I'm not in the habit of tattling on children but in retrospect I should have made one of the frazzled employees get out there and stop it.

The mom then proceeded to round up her other mom friends, exclaiming loudly and stabbing her finger in my direction. I felt terrible. She doesn't know me. She doesn't know that I'm not the type of person who run into someone on purpose, particularly not a child. I still feel shitty about it. It was the first thing I thought about when I woke up this morning.

The second mistake of the weekend happened this afternoon. My daughter and I served a meal at a local homeless shelter along with some friends from our church. Because A is under 13, she can't be in the kitchen area serving. However, she can serve desserts from a table in the cafeteria. Today's lunch included nachos, so I was serving cheese and sour cream, while the kid was doling out brownies and cookies.

A youngish kid came through the line. I don't know how old - late teens, maybe? He seemed to be on his own. He was wearing a McDonald's visor and a big black jacket. He pulled out his phone and started talking to my daughter. He said he was putting together a musical and wanted A to audition. He started talking about a movie that's currently playing, "The Greatest Showman." I could see that my daughter was flattered that he was paying attention to her. I smiled politely and said, "Thanks, but she's already in two productions plus a touring choir." He said something about how I was getting in the way of her dreams.

Finally, he sat down to eat but then he came back once the shelter's meal supervisor called for seconds. He kept wanting to show my daughter various pictures on his phone. I glanced over to make sure it was nothing that seemed inappropriate. We were trying to serve people while he was talking. Then he started telling her how he is going to take this big production on tour and that he will be traveling the world. The story was getting bigger by the moment. I heard him say that she'd get free tuition and that she could bring her parents when they tour out of the country. He also seemed to be talking about the movie Moana for some reason.Then he said she should find him on YouTube. Um, no.

As our shift neared its end, my daughter and I went back to the kitchen to dispose of our serving gloves. We were both covered in sour cream spatters. "Mom, is there a back door we can go out? He's still out there."

It was then that I realized that I should have done more to protect my child. While she had been flattered at first, I had let it go on for too long. We headed back into the cafeteria to cut through and walk back to the parking lot. He swooped towards us immediately, waving his phone at us. He started to say something but I cut him off. "She's 12. She can't talk to you anymore." He started to protest but I guided my child out the door. Once again, I had done something stupid and was feeling awful. If this ever happens again, I will throw politeness out the window and fix the situation ASAP. I probably should have been more like that mom at the roller rink who was so mad at me for hurting her child.

My daughter and I talked about it on the way home. I had become distracted with serving food and hadn't fully seen how uncomfortable she'd become. "I think he was harmless," I said, "But I'm very sorry that I didn't do a better job of protecting you." I tried to explain that I think the young man was probably a bit delusional. I didn't want to say, "He's being served at a homeless shelter - I don't think he's about to tour Europe." And yet, odds are that he's not working with famous artists and putting together a massive production. Maybe talking big is how he copes.

Tomorrow is a new day and I'm going to do my best not to stew over these incidents. Like I tell my daughter, all you can do is to apologize and try to do better next time.

2017 is winding down pretty quietly for the most part - at least in our home. I'm currently doing laundry and, I don't mean to brag, but I just ran the steam cleaner over all the carpets. P is working tonight and the kid is having a friend over for a slumber party. Here is a piece of good news: it's been exactly one year since our girl Glinda joined us. She has been such a wonderful addition to our family. Sure, she has allergies and is awfully clingy, but she's really just the sweetest dog.

For about the past week, I've been painstakingly downloading over 1500 images and videos that I had stored on Photobucket when my daughter was a newborn/toddler. I no longer store anything there (or at least I don't add anything new), but the site has become full of ads and spam and is impossible to use. I guess I can't complain - I got about 12 years of free storage out of it. I wanted to download everything before I lost access to it altogether. And wow - what a walk down memory lane! I kept finding myself thinking, "I remember those shoes! I remember when she only wore dresses and called her dad 'Father'!"

Anyway, just for my own amusement, I'll add a few of my favorites here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

After you get a tattoo, I recommend getting hit by an uninsured motorist

My mom flew in for a visit on December 7th. She was here until the 16th. The first few days of the visit went swimmingly. We attended a festive Holiday Pops concert at a local theater on Friday. The next morning, she and I headed to my favorite (well, only) tattoo artist lady. We got matching tattoos of Bobby Shafto from the Richard Scarry Mother Goose book. When we got to the shop, I opted to go first. I wanted to get it done so that I could run to a nearby shop and do a little Christmas shopping while my mom was getting inked. About an hour and a half after I climbed into the orange tattoo chair, Bobby Shafto came to life on my left ankle, forever waving to his love on the shore as he embarks on his sea voyage.

Then, it was my mom's turn. She got situated in the orange chair and Tara got started with the needle. The look on my mom's face put me in a bit of a panic. Clearly she was not expecting this level of discomfort. I was worried that she'd bail on the process and then be left with a couple of random (and very definitely permanent) black marks on her leg. "Keep breathing," I suggested. "In through the nose and out through the mouth." She gave me a look that made me wonder if she was thinking of taking away my ability to breathe permanently.

By mid afternoon, we had matching tattoos. My mom was glad she did it - just a little surprised at how sharp the pain is. It's very difficult to describe the pain of a tattoo until you've had one.

Later that evening, we headed to the annual winter concert for the city choir of which my daughter is a part. It was a beautiful show and made all of the driving to/from rehearsals worthwhile.

Sunday was when things took a turn. The kid and I headed to church that morning. My mom wasn't up for it as she was tired from being dragged all over town by her daughter. After church, the kid and I drove home and grabbed a quick lunch before heading out again - this time, with my mom in tow. We had 1:00 tickets for a Christmas show about 30 minutes from home. I bought the tickets back in October to make sure we had great seats (fourth row). I'd been looking forward to the show since then. At a few minutes past noon, I was running out of time to finish my sandwich so I threw it in a baggie and we headed out.

Just steps from my house, there is a fairly sharp curve in the road. The neighbors who live on that curve mostly hate the damn thing. Drivers tend to miss the curve and take out mailboxes. People drive far too fast coming through there. I rounded the curve and straightened my wheel. After the curve, the road is a straight shot until the next intersection. I could see a white car coming towards me from the other direction. As he got closer, I could see that the car was moving way too fast and would never make the curve. There was a little bit of snow on the ground from a recent snowfall. This was a residential street with no shoulders, nowhere to go. As the white car crossed over the yellow line and came right towards our car, the best I could do was to brake and bank right into what little space was available there.

The impact came immediately, hard and fast. The white car hit my Equinox head on, forcing my car to jump the curb and plow into a mailbox post. The three of us were stunned. I had a jumble of thoughts all at once: Was my baby okay? My mom? Why hadn't the airbag deployed? We were going to miss the show. I started to exit the vehicle. The bulk of the impact came on the driver's side (head-on for the other car). The metal crunched as I struggled to open the door. I tried to make eye contact with the other driver. He looked young. Maybe 20-22, with dark hair. Skinny. Suddenly, he threw his car in reverse, backed up, and then drove forward. He looked up at me and held up one finger as if to say, "One minute. I'll be back in one minute."

Meanwhile, one of my neighbors ran outside in her bare feet and yelled, "GET HIM, STUART!" at another neighbor, who happens to be a retired police officer. Stuart jumped in his Jeep and drove after the kid. Moments later, the white car (with its wrecked front end) and the Jeep came back to the accident scene. I'm not sure if the kid was going to come back anyway, but I appreciated that my neighbors were so quick to pitch in. To be honest, the mister and I tend to stick to ourselves so I felt especially grateful that they came to our rescue even without knowing us very well.

I called my husband and then called 911. Or at least I think I did. It's a bit of a blur. My attention turned to my daughter, who was crying her eyes out and shaking. She was physically okay but was inconsolable. At the moment of impact, her first words were, "Mom! Are you okay? Are you okay?" I get on her case about being self-absorbed, but she really is a caring person when it comes right down to it.

While we were waiting for the police to come, my ex-cop neighbor guided me into taking photos of the accident scene. The snow told the whole story - the tire tracks from the other car crossed WAY over the line and headed straight for my car, which was currently in rough shape. The windshield washer fluid tank had been punctured and was spewing the blue stuff into the snow. The front wheel on the driver's side was bent inward, meaning the car could not be driven. The people whose mailbox had been hit were standing in their driveway. I felt bad for them.

Meanwhile, my mom and daughter were ushered into my neighbor's Jeep so that they could keep warm. My daughter had stopped crying by then. I was glad we were mostly uninjured. My neck hurt from my head snapping to the right when the impact happened. My mom was developing bruises from her seat belt. My daughter had been sitting behind my mom. I was glad that the point of impact was on my side instead of theirs.

I could hear the kid who hit me wailing about how he doesn't have insurance and is screwed. Honestly, I might have felt a little bit sorry for him (I mean, he is young, and young people make mistakes) if he had not tried to leave the scene of the accident. That was the part that seemed unforgivable to me. Apparently, he had been driving his girlfriend's car. She walked up to the scene and read her boyfriend the riot act. She then surveyed the damage to my car and apologized. She was crying, so I gave her a hug. She seemed nice. I felt like telling her that as far as boyfriends go, she could do better.

The police came and made their report. The other driver was given tickets for no insurance, and for driving too fast for conditions. Much to my surprise, he was not ticketed for leaving the scene. After the police were done, we managed to pull my car off the broken mailbox post and pushed it so that it was parked near the curb.

Still stunned, I walked home and started the claims process with my insurance company. They said that a tow company would come in a day or so to get my car and haul it to a certified collision center. The rest of the day passed pretty quietly.  Our day had been ruined, but I decided to give my mom her Christmas gifts just to lighten the mood a little.

At around 7:30, I took a shower and put my pajamas on. At just after 8, I heard a hard knock at the door. I didn't plan to answer it but thought I'd better check the peephole. It was the neighbor who had run outside in her bare feet eight hours earlier. "Your car's been hit again," she said. I was having trouble processing what she was saying. Nonetheless, I got dressed, threw a hat on my head, grabbed my license and phone, and walked back over to where my car was.  The tow truck, clearly, had not come for it yet.

I saw another car attached to the back of my car on the driver's side. A young woman was nervously pacing and puffing on a cigarette. "My insurance was just canceled," she said. "And now I'll probably be fucking sued."

I'd had a couple of drinks that evening in order to calm my anxiety after the first accident. This may be why I was relatively calm at the second accident scene. It was just surreal at that point. I basically just stood on the periphery and waited for everything to be done. I did have one bitchy moment. In talking to the police officer, it started to sound like the driver wasn't going to be charged with anything. I asked, "Shouldn't she at least be charged for driving with no insurance? This is the second time today I've been hit!"

"I'm getting to that," he said. He looked annoyed. He then had me exchange contact information with the chick who plowed into my car. Before he left, he asked me to confirm that my name is Claudette. Okay, whatever. I was just over the whole scene.

I walked back home through the snow and called Allstate again. I had to file a second claim. The woman who took my claim could not believe what she was hearing. Twice in one day?! At about the same time, I realized that I'd lost my driver's license in the snow after the second accident. The next morning, it dawned on me that the missing driver's license was going to cause a big problem. First, I called the collision center and suggested that they tow the car sooner than later. I wasn't at all convinced that it wouldn't be hit again. Next, I called Enterprise to find out about the rental car. They informed me that it would be a no-go without the physical driver's license even if I could supply the license number and proof that it was valid.

It was at this point that I finally lost it. I burst into tears and called my husband. I really did not know what to do at that point. He came home from work and searched the road between our house and the accident in hopes of finding my license. I had done so as well. We gave up and he carted me over to the DMV. I had been crying all morning, so you can just imagine how sexy I look in my new driver's license photo.

Once we had the license, we headed to Enterprise (the insurance company works directly with Enterprise, so using this company seemed like the easiest way to go). They didn't have any cars in stock. At all. Honestly, at that point I wasn't even surprised. They told us to come back at 2:30, so we did. I am not sure how they had no cars at 10:30 and a full assortment at 2:30, but logic means nothing to me anymore. I ended up renting a Hyundai Veloster. It's a weird little car. It has one door on the driver's side and two on the passenger's side.

The accidents happened on a Sunday. By Wednesday, I'd received the verdict: my car was totaled. Now I'm just waiting for the paperwork to finish churning. Allstate will pay off the lien holder and then send me what's left, which I will use as a down payment on a new vehicle. I test drove a car last night and have decided to buy it. I decided to go with another Equinox. I really liked the car that was demolished. And, of course, I had just spent $250 on the brakes (a mere six days before it was hit). The new one has a couple of features that the old one didn't have, like rear camera and remote start.

Once my mom and I were mostly over the shock of the car accident, we made the best of our time together for the rest of the week. We attended a school choir concert (my kiddo had a solo) and visited a cat sanctuary. We went out for Ethiopian on Friday night.

There's a whole other sub-plot to this story. It involves my husband's car and a flat tire and a harrowing experience on a busy road. However, I've decided to suppress the memory for now and just focus on the fact that we are physically okay and that I will have a car shortly. My daughter has struggled a bit since the accident. She's afraid to walk to the bus stop because she thinks a car may come careening down the road and wipe her out.

After so many crappy things had happened in a row, I'd started to wonder if I was cursed or something.  I got a salad from a grocery store salad bar the other day. When I saw that they had my favorite dressing available, for a second there I wasn't even convinced that I deserved the good fortune brought about by balsamic vinaigrette.