Friday, November 11, 2005

Hey diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped out of the pillow...

Nothing wakes a parent from a dead sleep (and for those of us with small children, there's rarely any other kind) faster than the blood curdling scream of one of their children. Tuesday night was no exception. The husband and I were both instantly on our feet desperately trying to gain our bearings while knocking each other down running for the bedroom door. It probably had a Keystone Cops funny to it, you know, if you weren't us. I raced into the boys bedroom and in the glow of their lava lamp (it's their choice of nightlight, does a hip mama's heart some good) I could see they were both sitting upright, so it wasn't a good clue as to from where the scream had come. At least no one was in a limp pile in the middle of the floor. I soon realized that the sobs were coming from the lower bunk...the crabby muttering from the upper. Little Ly's cheeks were covered in salty tears and he was near hyperventilating, so I coached him on his breathing for a few minutes (after doing a quick scan for obvious signs of damage). "Smell the soup...blow the soup...smell the soup..." Thank goodness for the bright ideas of school counselors. He agreed that he'd had a bad dream and all four of us headed for mom and dad's bed (the oldest was still grumbling).

When we all crammed into the queen size bed that no longer makes the family bed such an appealing prospect, Ly started quite literally burrowing under the blankets. I begged him to stop, but he kept crying "da cow is coming, da cow is coming..." I sighed heavily.

"Honey, apparently the cow is coming."

"Don't worry, I can take a cow, Elyas." the husband offered.

The lip quivered. More burrowing ensued.

Rather like pulling a very large hamster out of a habitrail, I plucked Elyas out of our bed, leaving the husband and the grumbler to get some rest. Someone should have some, it is, after all, a school night.

As we made our way from the sofa, Ly enlightened me on the demon of his dream, a large orange and white cow (a calico, perhaps?), which I gathered was trying to jump on him. I was now awake and trying to figure out what where on earth this specter had entered my three year old's imagination.

"Is it from a book you read, or a TV show?"

He shook his head seriously, "No mama, it from da pillow."

Oh well, we need new pillows anyway.

Friday, November 04, 2005


Sometimes you just have to say, "Whatever."

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of the attitude ridden teenage behavior that drives grown people and the youngest of children to roll their eyes, put up their hand in true diva fashion and say “Whatevaaah…!” In fact most days it makes me want to choke someone. It’s strident apathy, an intentional shut down of the communication process, and frankly doesn’t showcase anyone’s creativity or vocabulary skills. It’s worse than a cop out…it’s thumbing your nose at someone while you cop out. Which is usually completely uncalled for. Unless you’re me and it’s today.

It really started last week…I went to pick up my boys at the sitter’s and she had that familiar look on her face…that look that makes me feel like I’m in trouble, even though I know one of my boys has probably been flipping through my old Calvin and Hobbes “Revenge of the Babysat” book, looking for ideas. But today she just shook her head and said it was her land lord. Not much else was said, but I knew she’d be looking for a new house soon.

Flash forward to Monday, All Hallows Eve, a day no accountant looks forward to particularly, because while you are giggling at each other’s costumes, snacking on the tons of chocolate in the break room, planning where to trick or drink, we are trying, as we do every month, to close up the previous month neatly, thoroughly, as quickly as possible with a pretty bow on top. The reason this is so important is that there is a ton of the new month’s work that has to be done when it comes in, and can’t be until that previous month has been officially closed. Maybe that makes sense, maybe it doesn’t but it’s a huge part of my life, so please, nod empathetically. The thing is on this Halloween I got a trick…a dirty rotten 108 page trick. The largest magazine I’ve ever had to bill…and I had to bill it today…and did I mention that it came with a 2006 calendar (of course sponsored by our customers so it had to be billed too)? My day sucked so bad I’m sure Wyoming could blame it on ME that day. But I smiled through it. I’ve been trained to lie when it’s appropriate…work. I’m really a good girl. (Keep nodding, please, it helps).

Monday finally ended and off I went once more to pick up the boys…this time when I walked in the room I knew that it wasn’t the boys that were in trouble. Her eyes were puffy and she instantly assured me that she hadn’t cried in front of the kids, she’d got it all out while they were sleeping. Dev promptly announced to me that he’d seen a “real live land lord today.” The big news…her landlord had not held a rental certificate on the house for the entire two years she’d rented from him. The city said she had to move…by Tuesday November 8th at 5 p.m. She had ONE week, before the city came and boarded up the windows and door. Her landlord had known about this for sixty days.

Her scramble ensued, trying to find a place, and I did all I could do to help her. It really didn’t help much. Yesterday I finally had to make the decision I didn’t want to make. I enrolled Elyas in preschool and Dev in the Y after school care. And I cried. My boys have been with her in one form or fashion since the day we moved into our house three years ago. I knew we’d move Ly to preschool soon enough, but I really hadn’t wanted it to come down like this. I feel like I’m deserting her in her hour of need, and the woman is really like a grandmother to my children, she’s like family to us. But I am a parent first and I have to know that my children are safe and secure and that I have some place to take them so I can provide for them. She was understanding and she cried. I know Elyas will cry for her come about Wednesday of next week. It broke my heart.

My work week continued to be one catastrophe after another. Publications turned up that were supposed to have been billed weeks ago, but no one had bothered to tell me that they’d arrived. An event was scheduled that I was supposed to work, but couldn’t find someone to get Dev to school, so I missed it.

Then yesterday we had a meeting at church, a committee on which both DJ and I both serve, so we had to take the boys. Childcare didn’t arrive until 6:30 so I was sitting in the nursery with a few other parents and kids when my darling Ly came and climbed on my lap amidst the chaos. He sipped a little milk left from his highly nutritious Happy Meal and propelled himself back into the fray. The reason I tell you this is because as he pushed himself off my lap, Mr. Big Hard Head thrust his head backward into my mouth. He didn’t notice my yell (hell in that noise no one did) but I think someone eventually noticed the blood in his hair. There was a huge debate about whether to take me to the emergency room for stitches. Ultimately I told them all to leave me alone and I volunteered to help very little at the upcoming Family Holiday Night. Dorks.

So this morning standing at the copier with my fat lip and deposit, I knew it couldn’t be good when the receptionist paged me. No one ever pages me. It was the husband, who had just received a call from the alarm company. Someone had opened our front door. I raced home as the police made their way there too. I was sure my husband hadn’t locked the door last night after he’d picked up the mail. I was also sure that a case of mistaken house-dentity probably prompted someone to open the door (I won’t go into details, but it’s happened before) realize it was the wrong place and close it again quickly. And I was right…and a lovely $75 fine for false alarms later, I’m here talking to you. As the officer handed me the neon pink false alarm sticker that they normally stick to the front door, I sighed heavily.

“It’s better than if someone had been in the house.” He said sternly, in that way that can only annoy you like a police officer can.


I’m sure he thinks I’m stridently apathetic. He’s right.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

What's in a name?

It happens at least twice a week, I can count on it. The phone rings and with my own special brand of eternal optimism, I jauntily pick it up and nearly hum “Good morning, Accounting, this is Eileen!” It’s my commitment to customer service, I really DO want to do a good job for that kind, nameless, faceless voice on the other end of the line. I’m THERE for him…I’m his secret weapon at my company. Well, at least until he answers me. “Hi Amy, this is Ted from XYZ Company and…” He might as well stop talking right there, because I’m no longer interested in helping Ted or his stupidass company. Oh I do, because, you know…it’s my job. But the doofus can’t tell the difference between Eileen and Amy…UGH…how can he deserve to live?

I know it’s irrational. I know it’s stupid. And I also know it’s probably my own fault because I don’t hit my plosives hard enough or my voice is too soft or I just have a name that’s too far off center for people to relate to readily. Ok, so that one is my mom’s fault. But it’s not Ted’s fault. And Amy, that’s not a bad name. I have a niece named Amy, a couple of internet friends named Amy, and a Survivor she-hero named Amy who I think are all amazing people. It’s actually a very good name. The problem is it’s not MY name.

I know I shouldn’t care, but I do, and admit it, you do too. When was the last time someone slaughtered your name? Didn’t you silently want to jump on that person’s head? At the very least pop him upside it while correcting him? On my first job (ok, first 9-5 grown up job), I had a boss named Mike who couldn’t remember my name, so he called me Verlene. I called him Mork. The retribution was the only thing that kept me from quitting.

I think about this from time to time. The mother was maybe more of a self-help addict than I am when I was a kid. Then again…I was reading her copy of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” when I was eleven, what does that say about me? Anyway, in that very book is where I learned life lesson number one…of the ones they don’t teach you in school. “Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” I remember this twenty-six years later for a reason. It’s truth.

The fact is the name defines our very essence. There is no other word assigned to that which we are…this amazing intricate package of heaving emotions, writhing pain, blind ambition, explosive love, scattered thought, and tapestries of experience. Everything we’ve experienced, know, care about, and hope for is packaged, albeit uncomfortably at times, in one small word. It can never be as specific as we desire it to be…what could? But it is our own and we can cherish that.
So dear Romeo, the next time some broad asks you to refuse your name, run…run fast, run hard. Rosaline might have been a tease, but at least she knew what to call you when she sent you packing.

Iowa is a state of mind

My favorite television show in the universe was Northern Exposure, it had everything dry wit, pithy symbolism, and a hot disc jockey who was a bad boy poet and had a cute butt. It had a wise woman who had girth and a beauty queen who was so dumb she made sense. It had a man in a bubble and it had a retired astronaut and it had Ed…if I told you that Ed reminds me of the beauty of a flower would you mock me? Ok, well any way…it gave me the same feeling a LOTR book does….or did when I had time to read.

Mostly what Northern Exposure had was this doctor who wanted above all else to leave Cicely and go back to NYC. He obsessed about it for years missing the beauty and amazing culture that was all around him. And then when he finally got it, he snapped the other direction and ran away so embracing Alaska that he couldn’t face a future in New York. In the end he “walked” out of the Alaskan wilderness into his picture perfect New York. Only months later did Maggie get a post card from him with the simple message “New York is a state of mind.” It was a message mirrored over and over again in the context of the show. When Chris lost his voice to beauty, and Maggie had to give it back to him. When Ed’s spirit guide made him buy a cheese burger so he could smell it (spirits can’t eat, but it sure smells good) . When we met the “boogie man” Adam and learned that he was a gourmet chef with a flaming attitude. Life is all in how you look at it.

Beautiful…so simple and elegant and what a hard lesson to learn. I thought for years that it was perfect that he realized what he idealized about NYC or Alaska for that matter was all about how he was thinking, not where he was. But the lesson hasn’t been learned. We left Denver three years ago in search of an ideal…a place, a perfect place for my family. A happily ever after place. And I’ve been mad that it hasn’t panned out. After all this time I’m finally beginning to realize I put quite a burden on Des Moines…it is after all just a little Midwestern burg with it’s own beauty and perfection and it’s own problems to boot. Marcel Proust said: "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." That’s what it’s all about. I’m trying to have new eyes. It’s hard some days. But I’m trying.

Yes, I did.

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