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.




Sunday, December 3, 2017

Bullies

I keep hearing about anti-bullying campaigns in communities and at schools all over the country. Some schools have even initiated "sit by me" programs to make sure that no one is ostracized in the lunchroom. Schools claim to have "zero tolerance" policies in effect. Awareness of bullying is at an all-time high.

You know what, though? I honestly think bullying is worse than ever. I was bullied in middle school but at least I could go home in the afternoon and be done with it until the next day. These days, social media allows kids to engage in bullying behaviors 'round-the-clock.

One of my nephews is heavily bullied. He's in 8th grade. Why is he a target? Who knows.

My nephew is kindhearted and impossibly good-looking. He's got green eyes that melt his mama's heart (his crazy Aunt Claudia's heart, too!) He's tall and thin. He loves legos and is a good brother to his other siblings. He's very bright and has developed a passion for theater. He just had a performance over the weekend and received rave reviews (from his mother, but I'm sure they were legit).

Like many middle school kids, my nephew walks the line between conformity and self-expression. He likes to wear bow-ties. He's not opposed to wearing a pink tee shirt to school from time to time. His clothing choices have somehow resulted in a handful of boys believing they have the right to yell "FAGGOT" at him in hallways and the cafeteria.

They tell him he's too skinny. They tell him he's a faggot. They say he must be gay because all of his friends are girls. They tell him he should just kill himself.

These despicable little cretins tell my nephew that he doesn't even have a right to exist. What. The. Fuck.

My sister was beside herself on Friday. She had to drive to the school and pick him up because the bullying was so bad in first period gym class that he couldn't take it anymore. I kept picturing my nephew sitting in the school office, still in his gym clothes. The image broke my heart. My sister called me as she was headed to the school to get him. I could hear the anguish in her voice. She always demands to speak to an administrator but it seems like nothing ever gets done.

Normally, bullied kids don't like to name names. They worry about repercussions. This time, my nephew named the students who have taunted him. So . . . Xavier, Joe, Charlie, Erik, and Ian . . . I sure hope your parents are proud of the fine young men they've raised. Imagine the things they'll be able to brag about in the future! Maybe you'll be able to reward them with a free soda from the vending machine in the visiting room at prison someday.

I couldn't help but feel a little vindictive towards these little punks. I talked to my father on Friday and suggested he go old school on the boys. My dad said he would rip out their guts and then feed their guts to Grover (my dog). I think my father is particularly pained by this situation because he, too, was once a tall, skinny boy who loved comic books.

As much as we'd all love to shove these kids in their lockers and dish out a little justice, I know my sister has to follow the proper channels to try to make things better for her son. The other thing that always bothers me is that bullied kids inevitably try to fight back at some point. They are called a name and respond by calling the bully a name. But the power never shifts - the bully keeps the power, always. But, someone can point at this minor attempt at retaliation and say, "Well, he did it, too." And that's bullshit.

I hope parents will commit to asking their children periodically, "How are things going at school? Are you getting along with other kids? Do you struggle with any kids in particular?" I think the idea is to find out if they are being bullied but also to find out if they are doing the bullying. If I ever found out that my daughter called someone a faggot and suggested that they kill themselves, she'd be in a kind of trouble that she doesn't even know exists yet.

I wish I could do something to fix things for my nephew. I know my sister has considered homeschooling him. That's its own kind of injustice, though - why should those little mothertruckers get to stay and he should go?

One day, my nephew will get to college and he will find his tribe, his people. He'll find more theater kids to befriend. He'll find that not only will no one on campus care if he wears bow-ties, he'll find that many of them roll out of bed in their pajamas and attend class just like that. I know adults who love Legos, so he never has to give that up.

In the meantime, I guess he just has to hang in there and hope that karma swings its head around and notices Xavier, Joe, Charlie, Erik, and Ian soon. I wouldn't want anything "bad" to happen to them, but surely it wouldn't be the worst thing if their zippers broke at some inopportune time or their eyebrows fell out or something.