Thursday, December 28, 2017

Tits on a bull

     It's been a tough day.
     We're tightly staffed at work due to vacation season. Because of that, I've been literally running back and forth from my office to lobby to fax/copier to the teller windows. It's a fine line trying to balance appointments, walk-ins who want to be serviced immediately, the phones, breaks for my two co-workers (I didn't get one), all the management responsibilities and last minute staffing crises in other locations that I'm sort-of responsible for coordinating assistance.
     For those of you that know me well or have worked with me, you know that I'm not one to shy away from hard work. I've always believed that managers are supposed to work for their people, not the other way around. I take this very seriously. You won't find me sitting in an office while you're working your heiney off. We're in this together, and we're all trying to get home to our families, babies or cacti. If I don't take an active role, it's going to take longer to get to my babies and that's not going to work for me.
     This afternoon, in between two appointments, a well-known client needed some help and I was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, one of my co-workers was tied up with another client and my assistant manager was taking care of the teller line. It was a long line honestly, and as I ran back and forth to the printer and my client and then putting away his paperwork, I could hear the beginnings of rebellion being fomented by a woman who was less than pleased to be waiting. I will tell you that usually more than half the people that stand in line don't have to at all. They could use an ATM, online or mobile banking or transfers. They don't have to wait; they have options, but they only want to do it their way, and then they complain about waiting. Before you tell me that older people don't want to use computers, I have plenty of clients 70 and up who recognize how valuable their time is and want greater convenience.
     I was back in my office finishing up with my client when I heard the rabble-rouser raising her voice with my assistant. I only caught the tail end of the exchange, when my assistant said, "you don't know what you're talking about ma'am. She does more than the rest of us on any day. Good day." When everything had calmed and all the clients were gone, I asked her what the woman had said. She told me that the woman had continued to complain all the way up to her turn. I wasn't doing enough. I should be helping the line instead. On and on until it was her turn (and she had nothing ready, by the way) and as she was done, she looked at my assistant and told her I was as useless as tits on a bull. That's when I heard my assistant coming to my defense.
     Now before you think I fell all to pieces, I didn't. A - There's a ton of assholes out there. B - I've been called much worse, and C - I'm far from useless. But I will tell you, that no matter how hardened your exterior, and no matter how long you've worked in customer service, every so often someone will say something that gets you just enough to put the tip of the dagger under your doublet. You see, being of service to others is a big aspect of my existence. When I say I live to serve, I ain't kidding. It comes out of Romans 12: 4-8 and the great philosopher Uncle Ben from Spider-Man. Romans tells us there are seven spiritual gifts: prophecy, serving, teaching, exhorting, giving, organizing and mercy. I've always felt called to serving and mercy, and since Uncle Ben said with great power comes great responsibility, that's what I do.
     Thus the poke-y power of her blade, because no longer being of service to others or those I love and care for is a dark fear. Once I'm no longer of service, what use will anyone have for me. How easy then to walk away from me forever. (Akin to a common concern that many women grapple with once realizing that their childbearing years are over. If I can no longer have babies, what purpose do I serve in this world.)Then it's one small two-step to buying individual chicken breasts and small bottles of condiments at the grocery store. I'm fully aware that it's not completely about me outgrowing my usefulness. That sounds so callous. People change, have different needs and desires. If my service is no longer needed, I shouldn't take it personally. Someone else may need me along the way. I could be like David Carradine in Kung Fu, instead of searching for my brother I'd be looking for ways to serve. Or Dr. Banner, hulking out from town to town, one lone duffel bag slung over my shoulder. Alas, I'm not evolved enough for that yet. Maybe my next lifetime.
     So being called "useless as tits on a bull" has really capped off an unexpectedly bad week. Here's to hoping that that 2018 sucks a whole lot less than 2017 sucked.
       
     
       

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Moore

     I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand why Roy Moore hasn’t been run out of town on a rail. He hasn’t attempted even a half-assed apology with an I’ve-been-washed-clean-in-the-blood-of-the-lamb explanation. Instead he says he’s leading in the polls but the people who are trying to change this are, "liberals; they don't hold conservative values. They’re the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered who want to change our culture. They're socialists who want to change our way of life." So why hasn’t he stepped aside given all the decent humans who’ve denounced him? Why should he given the President has now decided to endorse him fully. The RNC in Alabama is now funding him again due to the President’s urging.

     I ask what’s at the root of the problem. Is it the potential for false allegations? This is a fallacy. 2% of all reported allegations of sexual assault, harassment and rape are false. It’s statistically impossible that all of Moore’s allegations are false, or all of Trumps are false for that matter, yet Weinstein’s and Conyer’s are true. That’s hypocrisy at its finest.

     I think the root of the problem is that women as a whole really aren’t believed, and teenagers and women of color are believed even less than that. I think there are some who believe these teenagers were Lolitas enticing Moore into his acts. They don’t view 14 as pedophilia. The age of consent is 16 in Alabama, by the way. (If you’re curious, here’s the rest of the country. https://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/age-of-consent-by-state.html)   

     There are some who believe that victims have a level of responsibility in all of it. While researching, I was shocked to learn that there is a segment of evangelicals that think older men have a responsibility to take young girls “under their wing.” http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-brightbill-roy-moore-evangelical-culture-20171110-story.html or https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/roy-moore-evangelicalism_us_5a05f4f8e4b0e37d2f37573d

     Just as those that voted for Trump were presented with the more than 20 women who allege sexual assault, harassment and attempted rape, as well as evidence of his misogyny, racism, xenophobia and lying, there will be people who will vote for Moore. He denies all the allegations, says he hasn’t met these women. They have seen multiple women come forward and present proof of contact even though he says he never met them. They have heard that he was allegedly barred from the local mall. [The Gadsden Mall doesn’t keep records from that time anymore although multiple sources have reported that he had a propensity to hang around there, met girls there and at least one former mall employee came forward to report him due to his behavior with her.] He called a teenager while in school and took her out of a class to ask her out on a date.  

     On top of these heinous allegations, he also thinks homosexuality is an inherent evil and should be illegal, thinks Putin’s right about gay marriage, thinks there are US communities under Sharia law, thinks 9/11 happened because we distanced ourselves from God by legitimizing sodomy and abortion, thinks President Obama wasn’t born in the US and that the first Muslim elected to Congress, Rep . Keith Ellison, shouldn’t be allowed to serve.

     There are going to be people who go to the voting booth knowing all these things, and they’re going to vote for him anyway for any or all of the above excuses or because they think anybody is better than a Democrat. I reiterate, there are people who will vote in Alabama on Tuesday for an alleged pedophile who assaulted a 14 year old, because they think that’s not as bad as a Democrat.  All the #metoo statements and truths don’t matter a hill of beans to these people. They refuse to believe facts, and I don’t know how we change that. There also people that believe the earth is flat, or that the holocaust didn’t happen or that lizard people are running the world. Those people vote, too.


     As more and more people continue to come forward with their stories of assault and harassment, more men, and some women, are becoming increasingly uncomfortable. They know they’re wrong and they don’t want to be called out for their behaviors and for what their future will mean. They won’t be able to have their perception of “business as usual.”  But we have to apply these standards to assault equally across the board, from the common man to the Senator to the business person to the leader of the free world. If you’re a pedophile, you don’t get a pass because you made it to 70 or your accuser didn’t or couldn’t come forward until they were 50.You also don’t get a pass if you’re the President.    

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving Eve

On this eve of Thanksgiving 2017, I pause to think of all the things that I am grateful for:
  • Three children and five furry babies who are in good health
  • A smart, funny, prolific partner who loves me
  • A warm, safe roof over our heads
  • Food in the cupboard and the refrigerator
  • Family & friends who love me, care about me and treasure me
  • An inspected 2013 minivan without any warning dashboard lights on 
  • Health insurance and good dental care that I can still currently afford to pay
  • The ability to get out of bed and go to work
  • A sharp brain and a quick wit
  • Access to books, the Internet (for now), newspapers – and the ability to research and form opinions based on facts
  • In all likelihood, I will not wake up any time soon and discover that I, or my family, will be deported or chased from our home
  • I will probably never be targeted, assaulted or murdered for my gender identity, sexual orientation or gender expression … something that people I love will never be able to say
  • No one in my family has died in a hurricane or its piss poor management aftermath, or from escaping an international crisis, or under military crackdown and martial law, or from political dissent. None of them have washed up cold and blue on the shores of a country that they hoped would shelter them.
  • No one in my family has been harassed, belittled, spat on, ignored or taunted for the color of their skin or their religion. This is the benefit of privilege, and to deny this is ignorance.
  • I am embarrassingly ashamed while still thankful that although I have talked with my children about being careful and respectful with every word when and if they have to interact with the police in the future, in all likelihood, there is little chance they will be harmed if they don’t heed this advice. No disrespect is meant to any one of my friends or family in law enforcement. There is a known truth that families of color worry about police interactions with their children and have conversations about staying alive.    

And hey, before you think I’m all doom and gloom, that the daily subversion of our rights and attempts at writing a “new normal” by the current administration and Republican led Senate and House have caused me to lose all joy in my life, fear not. I am thankful for chocolate and wine and the perfect dirty joke. I am grateful for sex, no matter how sporadic it may be, and the remembrance of every first and last kiss. I’m thankful I’ve made it 45 years, that I had my mom as long as I did, and in a note of pride, this year my first Amazon bestselling poetry collection was released from Nixes Mate Books. I could rattle through hundreds of other truths, but I’ll spare you.  As we enter this holiday season, one with more unease and stress than many of us have had in a long time, I hope that you can recognize all that you have, my loves. And how little so many others do.          

Friday, October 13, 2017

Country Songs

     As much as my mother liked to believe that I sprang from her thigh with no influence from my father, there is unfortunately, more of him in me than I care to admit most days. I can enjoy the hell out of an adult beverage when the kids are all in bed, although unlike him I know when to stop. I have a dark temper, but I have learned how to choke it back or at least kick things in private. But when I'm in a funk, and if we're being honest the funk is strong, every sappy, morose, shitty love song was written for me.
     My father tended to mix the alcohol with the music -- country being his preferred avenue of self-flagellation -- for a one, two punch for why we all sucked as wife and children. When in his cups with that radio on, the temper wasn't far behind, so you best be out of reach of his hands. On a side note, I think that's why I hold my anger in, because I imagine I know what I'm capable of so best to just direct it to my spleen.  Anywho ...
     He could transplant himself into any country song and take on their indignation or sadness. It was suddenly his pickup truck, his dog and his cheated heart. This may be why I've never really cared for country music. Oh sure, there's a song or two that's quite catchy, and I know a ton of the older stuff by default, but it's just not my jam. Tonight we grabbed dinner at the Texas Roadhouse, which for those of you who aren't familiar with that chain, is all about the yummy food, country themed decor, servers who line dance in the aisles during certain songs, a birthday saddle that you are serenaded to whilst sitting on it, and very loud country music. We haven't been in some, and usually I can ignore the other stuff and focus on the food, but as I mentioned earlier, I'm in a funk so that music needled its way into my brain.
     Nothing destroys the sweet joy of a loaded baked potato like thinking about all the boys that don't love you anymore. Like I'm sitting there trying to keep a jovial look on my face while the image of being dumped in the sixth grade is going through my head. Boys are my kryptonite, and I can fall in like/love with you at the drop of a hat. Craig Fuller of Pure Prairie League singing "Amie" ... check. Voguing to Madonna during the high school talent show ... check. Diving into the third base stands to catch a Trot Nixon pop-up in the 12th inning ... check. Multiple mix tapes filled with an interesting array of songs that oddly all fit together ... I'll probably marry you.
     We left the restaurant, saying goodbye to the stuffed armadillo on the way out, and once in the car I hoped to turn on some sweet loud rock to drown out those dumping images. Instead we talked about how the world was falling apart, that the people of Puerto Rico are dying and how different and safer everything felt just 11 months ago. Suddenly, thinking about all the boys who might have adored me a million years ago didn't seem so dreary. I'm still in a funk though. Maybe, I'll go kick something.  
        

Friday, September 15, 2017

Whirlwind

     Matthew walked into my office today looking a little skinnier than the last time I had seen him. We'd worked together on a couple things over the last 2 years but nothing major. He handed me his checkbook and said he wanted to close his account, and while I was at it, I should close his credit cards, too. That's not a common request, so I asked why. He paused long enough to lean forward and put his arms on my desk. Then he said, "They told me I have three weeks left, so I want to tie everything up now."
     I probably blinked three or four times slowly, before I told him how sorry I was for him. He told me what cancer it was, but heaven help me, I can't remember it now. He tossed all the cards on the table and told me he would appreciate my help.  Meanwhile, his long term girlfriend came into the center, and I could see her over his shoulder through my office windows looking a little frantic. I motioned to her, and she came in. During our conversation, she several times mentioned that maybe the treatments would work and maybe he shouldn't close everything and maybe and maybe, before he took her hand and looking at me said, "There's no coming back from this."
     I took care of what he needed done, tried not to cry when the help desk representative asked why he wanted to close his cards, leaving it at "he's quite ill" and tried to make it as quick as possible. When you're measuring minutes, small talk and a casual pace seems like an unforgivable injustice. When he left, we all shook hands, and I wished them peace. He thanked me and said he was sorry that we wouldn't be working together again.    
     Not 15 minutes later, I was helping another older client who had come to remove his wife's name from their accounts, as she had recently died. He had brought his daughter to put her on the accounts, and although he was a tall man, he sat slumped beside her barely lifting his head to look at me. All his statements directed to the floor. In the middle of our conversation, my assistant manager needed to ask me a question. She had an irate customer who wanted what he wanted and was pitching a mini fit. I agreed with her decision and went back to my client.  Mid-way through collecting a death certificate and trying to draw out answers from my client, I head a thud in the next office and immediately excused myself.
     The irate customer in the next office was clearly trying to bully my assistant by emphatically banging his hand on her desk. I assessed the situation, asked him a couple questions and everything was exactly as she had explained to me. He didn't want to pay check cashing fees and was going to open and close an account every week in order to avoid them. I told him we wouldn't be doing that. He got louder and angrier and demanded things to go his way, not quite getting in my face. I reiterated this would not be happening and within another sentence or two, I told him he could leave or we'd call the cops. He threatened to call them himself, then quickly changed tactics and said he didn't want this to get out of hand and he just wanted to open the account. I asked him if he was going to close it next week ... did he want to shake my hand on his word? "I'm not shaking your hand," followed with something close to just open the fucking account. I said we were done and no account was going to be opened. I made sure he was out of her office and then went back into mine.
     I profusely apologized to my client, the widower I had left behind, as the jackass knocked on the windows of  my office on his way out. It seems as though it's a never ending whirlwind of emotions every day now.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Dan

     Dan told me yesterday that he has pancreatic cancer. He's a older client that I've befriended. One of my co-workers found out in advance and gave me a head's up, trying to ease my grief, but it didn't make a difference when he looked me in the eye.
     In his early 80's, you'd never guess it. Smart and quick witted, funny, and always on the move, Dan just doesn't slow down. He spent his working life as a man of finance and industry, made a fortune and protected it all for his kids and grandchildren. The last ten years have been spent in twice daily visits to a nursing home where his wife resides. She's long since forgotten who he is, but he goes morning at night to help her eat, to sit by her side, to just be there.
     He told me that he's got weeks of chemo scheduled, then weeks of radiation, and then finally surgery to cut the remaining tumor out. Dan told me that he's going to remain positive, but he's concerned.  His kidneys function at about 30%, and although he's been taking all necessary measures to mitigate any issue from that for years, his doctors are concerned about what impact the cancer treatment will have on them. He told me he's had a good run.
     This caused me to get weepy and say that his wife needed him around, and that's when Dan quickly shut my sentimentality down. He told me that she was extremely well cared for in the nursing home. She wants for nothing. But she has no idea who he is. He comes and goes without acknowledgement and with no expectation. He said, Heather, she stares off into space, has a hard time swallowing and has long since stopped being able to dance with me. And at that last image, my facade broke and I had to stop looking at him while he spoke.
     He told me about his upcoming plans and that I would probably not see a lot of him over the next couple of months, as he figured he'd be wiped out from the treatments. He also told me that he's going to a show downtown next week and he bought orchestra seats for himself and his daughter, figuring, what the hell ... why not. Why fuss and fret over the cost at this point, he said. He stood up and told me that he was going to be positive and that I shouldn't worry. Then he hugged me goodbye -- hugged me hard -- and whispered in my ear that it had been nice knowing me.
     It feels some days as though the older I get, the more I say goodbye.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Tonight's thoughts

     It's been a rough couple of months for me and mine since I last wrote to you, my loves. May is a really icky month, between Mom's birthday and Mother's Day, and this year it was made all the tougher by my job not honoring my request for the day off. My sister and I still went to Mom's grave, but it was two days before her birthday. We had to turn and burn to get there and back in a day and a half. It also impacted Mother's Day morning with my kids, which led to a whole other level of guilt. The schedule hasn't gotten any better, and it's wearing me thin. So thin in fact that I got the flu and was sick throughout the bulk of June. And now here we sit in July, the year half complete, babies older and hopefully we're a little wiser.
     But amidst this brouhaha, an amazing thing has happened. My first book of poetry has been released with Nixes Mate Books. I tell you this not to shamelessly hustle, but to share the enormity of this moment. Over these posts, I have described that my faith, music and words have in various parts of my life kept me alive, and sometimes not in that order. I'm not speaking in hyperbole. Books were a means to escape, to learn, to change, to become a better version of me. I've been writing poetry since the fourth grade. In  my teenage years, I kept most of it kept to myself and shared only occasionally with mom. Man, it was angsty and dark and filled with unrequited love.
     In college, I spent more time writing non-fiction, getting my poetry fix through Forensics and hours spent in the theater, my longed for vocation. Later in my twenties, I would ride the subway in Boston and write in notebooks. There were poems for babies that didn't exist yet, for worries for the future, for boys I loved. Then the children came and everything changed, as it does for most of us. Meanwhile, I worked for a bookstore, so I was around books all the time. I was always waiting to be found out as a fraud. Everyone I worked with read fiction and the classics, some could wax on about esoteric themes in literature, others had read every bestseller ever. I was the girl who read comic books and poetry and philosophy, so I memorized all the book jackets and learned how to confidently upsell something I had never cracked open.
     Books are light. They are freedom. They are hope. Unlike your pants, they never stop fitting, although you can outgrow them. They are knowledge, commiseration and growth. The first time I saw one of my poems online and then in print, I was giddy. Mom made sure we had library cards the moment we could print our names. To have a book with my name on the front cover would thrill her to no end. She was a writer, too. Honestly, she could do anything creative if she gave thought to it. I wrote her a poem for her birthday more than fifteen years ago. It was super sappy, and she ate it up. After her death, we eventually moved her desk into our bedroom. I haven't removed a thing from its original spot, other than to give my siblings their baby books that she kept in the lower right hand drawer. I've added a few items of mine in the hope that they will absorb her magic. I found the envelope with that poem I wrote her tucked between some files. She's in a lot of this book. I think she'd like that.