Tuesday, December 28, 2010
In reality though, it goes something like this...
At my baseline, with no outside influences, I can't sleep through the night, and I certainly couldn't ever sleep in. But nowadays I've got the animal menagerie... Here's Cinnamon, tapping me ever so gently with her paws on my face, "Can I have three bites of food?" So I give her the food dish, she eats three bites of food, and off she goes. I generally fall right back asleep until 15 minutes later when she'd like three more bites of food, and so on through the night.
And there's Decker who has lost his sense of smell and can't find the food dish unless I put it up in his face, so about twice in the night there are the insistent pawsandclaws on any exposed flesh (usually my face), and the "Why do you keep hiding the food dish???" panic until I point out to him that it's RIGHT THERE where it always is.
Tolliver at least is a self serving unit, but for some reason, even though there's a food dish on both night stands now, he always wants the one on the other side of the bed, so there go 12 pounds of feline trotting across the bed, navigating the hilly terrain that is my body.
And the reality is, I really don't mind all the interruptions. I mean, hell, I'm awake anyway... But regardless, these are not the Sunday mornings I once envisioned for myself.
And on this particular Sunday morning, I awoke to four inches of glorious snow and eventually roused myself to feed, medicate, and let outside my friends' dogs, who I was watching for the holiday. The snow meant I was walking, so I layered on two pairs of sox, boots, scarf, hat... the works for the four-block trudge.
And off I went, mine the first foot prints in the snow, crunchcrunchcrunch down the street. Silence. The snow still falling, and each tree a new photo opportunity, each path a classic Christmas card photo with the white glaze and tree branches iced. My camera, of course, sat comfortably useless on the dining room table...
I was almost at my destination when a car pulled up, his window unrolling as he stopped. And if I were living "," this would be one of those moments when the scene freezes and Clarence narrates about the main character's, well, character...
"You looking for a dog?"
Ah, the fateful words I've heard so often.
"Well, there's a shepherd up there, he seems really sweet..." I'm approaching the car now, my neon SUCKER FOR A LOST PET sign shining brightly. Dude says he wishes he could take the dog home, you know, given the snow, but he's got a dog of his own (so do I), blah blah blah. I firmly resolve to not look for the dog, but say instead, "Yeah, if I can get him to come to me, I'll grab him. It'll be ok." And dude drives off.
I literally take about two steps away from where the car had stopped, and there he is, all goofy smiles, all snow-trimmed fur, all happy, sweet, easygoing dawg. He walks right up to me with total tail-wagging sweetness. I grab his collar, he falls into step, and we trudge together all the way back to my place, where I drop him in the backyard, awake the MAN OF THE HOUSE, and we make a quick plan to introduce the dogs and keep everyone safe, warm and dry while I trudge off to take care of the pets I was sitting. More trudgetrudgetrudge in the snow.
So much for my resolve. I didn't want to look for him, which the Universe obviously knew, so he came to me. Walked right up. Like he was mine. Walked all the way home with me, like he knew the way.
So now I have this German shepherd, who, it turns out, is ancient and has difficulty walking, especially on the wood floors. His hind end drags unless he's moving in a straight line, and although he can jog and play with Eddie when they're out in the grass, he's really quite pitiful in the house, where his feet twist out from under him and he slides about. But he has a wonderful spirit and great energy, and is all smiley and adorable. His favorite thing to do is sit at Bill's feet and hang out. Of course, being a shepherd, once in position, no one else can get near Bill, so now Eddie is all shaky neurosis that his Daddyhuman has traded him in for a bigger, more chill model. No amount of reassurance and love seems to counteract that worry.
So, we're hoping to find the shepherd's humans. A search of craigslist determined that he'd been out there for several days before I picked him up, and posting our ad with our phone number prompted a call from a rescue lady, who offered to find him a home in case we can't find his owners. So we feel pretty good that he'll have family soon.
But in the meantime, I have the near-constant sound of clawed feet skittering across the floor, a more-neurotic-than-usual dawg, and three terrified cats. Not exactly the peaceful Sundays with coffee and a book. Not exactly...
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
It was probably three weeks ago when Bill announced he would be doing a presentation IN the prison. He and the gentlemen he had been speaking with would be doing a panel presentation to the men awaiting release--a chance to build a hopeful vision for their post-release experience, to warn them of pitfalls, to help them stay focused on success and avoid bouncing back.
Oh, and Jenny, I'm going to need you there with me...
Whoa, what? Run that by me again? IN the prison? You want me to go IN the prison? With you? WHAT?
Which brings us to 6:00 last night when I pull into the parking lot of the Orange County Corrections building in Hillsborough. The razor-wire-trimmed fence was eerily lit by the streetlights, but behind it is a simple courtyard, a few buildings, the smiling face of someone I know holding her sweater around her in the cool fall night.
We were half an hour early, but not at all alone as several people were getting out of cars as we were, and all celebrated a little minireunion in the parking lot. Volunteers, people we know from the Unitarian Church in Hillsborough, and friends Bill had known "inside" were all gathering in the parking lot, hugging, slapping backs, catching up.
We wandered eventually through the entry way where the guard asked for ID. He looked at my license, looked at me, "What's your last name?" Really? That's what you want to know at this point? Holding my license...? "Um, Edwards." He looked again at my license, clearly had trouble reading it, held it to the light, bent close, leaned over, jiggled it... "OK." And let me pass.
The other side of the fence led to many more greetings, hands shook, names going by, Ted, John, Stone, Blink, Chris, Tim, etc. Handshakes were accompanied by locked eyes as I tried to get a sense of who could be trusted and who not. A recent (work-related) training taught me that only 25% of people in prison are sociopaths. The rest can make solid, trusting relationships. I wonder how much information you need to tell the difference. (This, btw, is a minimum-security facility, so the 25% number will be much lower.)
We stand around as a few gentlemen inside the dining hall re-arrange the tables. People are chatting; Josh, the photographer who has been documenting Bill's experience of the American Dream, is there as well. We take a second to notice the menu, photocopied pages tacked to a bulletin board, encased in a glass-faced cabinet that has a HUGE padlock on it. We wouldn't want anyone to steal the menus...
I notice some highlights, the little details that make the daily experience real. "Flavored drink" is served at several lunches. The day they serve hamburgers (with buns), "mustard" and "ketchup" are listed as individual menu items. There are vegetarian alternatives, and one day it's "cheese sandwiches." Mmmm, tasty. And while I know lots of people like liver and onions, I assume I'd be eating the cheese sandwich on that day.
We head inside, and it's another flurry of handshakes, name after name sliding by, gentlemen in green pants and white t-shirts. Some hats, some beards, everyone smiling, everyone really nice. Some of the "wives" at the event try to sit, unnoticed, in the back with the volunteers, but we are called out and must sit on the back-facing seats at the front, part of the panel discussion to come.
Blue starts the presentation, letting everyone know we'll be talking about jobs, housing, money, transportation, and relationships. He offers the prompting question about jobs, gives the floor over to the speakers, and one by one, men who have served time at this facility and are now making their way on the outside, tell their stories. One started back as a landscaper, hated the work he was doing, but within a few months of being out is making more than I am. Another told of the struggles of rejection after rejection because of his record, but he persevered and eventually got hooked up--making it now, with the help of his wife.
I eventually got up to speak—after some of the women told their stories of how they met their now-husbands. I chose to talk about one small piece of our journey together—to focus on the people who support you, cut out the people who bring drama and strife. This was a theme that would come up again as the evening wore on. Don't let the toxic people get you down. It's better to go it alone than with people who hold you back. The crowd had been attentive throughout and listened politely to me as well, but the phrase, "sometimes the toxic people are in your own family," got the largest response as I spoke. This was something they knew all about.
The speakers shared their stories of resiliency, perseverance and success. They assured the listeners they would succeed with the right preparation and appropriate help. Look, we did it. If we can, you can.
I had noticed a friend in the audience--his presence blocked from my view till I stood up to speak—and I went to him afterwards. He has a few more months to go, and is preparing to get out. He said he looks forward to spending time with his now-grown kids (he's been in about six years) and hoping for grandkids when the time is right. He's smiling the whole time we talk. Every time I've seen this guy, he's been smiling.
I figure if you can smile in there, you can make it out here.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
However, Bill manages it every day. And yes, even though he's a weirdo who stands out in a crowd, that's a whole different matter.
But here are some of the new experiences we've had over the last few weeks.
First, don't forget, it was only a few years ago he took his very first escalator ride. He still says, "That just ain't right," every time we get on one, which, thankfully, isn't often. I'll be planning a trip out to the airport to ride the people-movers, just to see his face. I've already got a few people who have said they want to come along to watch.
More recently, if you read my previous entry, you know I was in the ER last weekend. Come Monday, it was Hawaii 5-0 night, and we needed dessert. I was feeling better, but not quite 100% yet, and I had worked all day, and by the time we were in the Food Lion, I was exhausted, a little green around the gills, and struggling to maintain. I leaned heavily on the cart, even going so far as to forego milk till later 'cuz I couldn't lift the jug.
Bill, meanwhile, had finally succombed to the seriousness of his leg injury and followed the inevitable path to crutches. (For the record, this led to a much speedier recovery, and he's doing great now!) We had gathered the necessities when I remembered the dessert, and I headed off to the frozen foods. SquiCHUNK squiCHUNK squiCHUNK I hear his crutches behind me. I pull up to the frozen pies. I immediately spot the berry cobbler and remember the vanilla ice cream in the freezer. He spots the Key Lime pie. And then he sees the Coconut Cream pie. And then he sees the Turtle pie. And then his eyes become like saucers, his face the picture of a perfect, angelic little boy on Christmas morning--frozen cheesecake! apple pie!! cobblers!!! chocolate cream pie!! vanilla layer cake! chocolate cake! cream pastries! pastry puffs!!! His eyes roam the shelves in front of him. He breathlessly inventories the options. In seconds, he has mumbled the names of dozens of creamy wonders. And then he looks at me. "HAS THIS AISLE ALWAYS BEEN HERE?!!??!!!? Why have I never seen this before?!??!!??"
We decided on the Turtle pie, which, even happily shared with friends, meant plenty of leftovers. It was quite the miraculous recovery the next day when we, both still not quite ourselves, hobbled through the house, racing-the-race-of-the-gimpy to see who would get there first when it occurred to each of us we could have turtle pie for lunch.
The week prior he had come to me about the kitchen. We've had a long-standing debate about whether to hand-wash dishes or use the dishwasher. To me, the dishwasher makes a great drying rack after you've washed the dishes by hand. To most people, I think, that is weird. So Bill does most of the dishes and he gets to decide, and lately, he has decided to use the dishwasher. "So I put the soap in, and then there were suds EVERYWHERE!!!"
He described his efforts to mop it all back up, running the rinse cycle several times, and "Tell me how I'm supposed to do it."
So I take him to the kitchen, show him the automatic dishwasher stuff, and go to point out how they are different--how of course, you couldn't possibly know without looking but once you look... wait!!! The two bottles have nearly identical wording. "Dishwashing liquid" vs. "Dishwasher liquid." In TINY letters. NOWHERE does it mention hand-washing or automatic dishwashers.
How could anyone be expected to know the difference? OMG. This is definitely not a world for strangers.
But I explained the difference, and of course, that made perfect sense, and then... it dawned on him. Months ago, we had run out of dish soap, but he'd found some under the sink. He put it in the dishpan, but it didn't sud up. So he figured it was "old," and rather than risk upsetting me for throwing something away (LOL!!) he put it back under the sink and forgot about it. Voila.
So other firsts this time of year include the haunted house last weekend (he laughed while I screamed bloody murder), the pumpkin patch, the Renaissance Festival coming up this weekend, and soon, carving pumpkins. He has his phtographs hanging at a local coffee shop, and last night he had his first photography class (thanks Hank!!!)
I'm sure there will be more of these entries. And hopefully he'll survive the pumpkin carving unscathed!!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Even though we'd only been gone a mere minute, he was at the door. OH MY GOD!!! I DIDN'T KNOW WHEN YOU WERE COMING BACK!! I'M SO GLAD YOU'RE HOME!!!! It was all tail wagging, full body presses, dancing on the back paws, love nuzzles, love love love love love.
And then Bill grabbed the harness and the high-energy greeting turned into armageddon-proportioned waves of energy and whole-body wags and canine CHAOS that undulated through the barking, snuffling, lipstick-sharing, OH. MY. GOD. YOU'VE GOT. THE. HHHHAAAARRRRRNNNNNEEEESSSSSSSSS!!!!
You know those money-collector game thingies at the science museums? They're roughly cone-shaped and you roll your quarter on its edge, and the quarter makes slow arching circles around the outer edge of the cone, lapping ever so slightly faster until it nears the bottom and for a few milliseconds, the quarter spins so fast you can't see its edges, and it hovers, suspended in air, spinning blindingly fast for a bizarre eternity... That was Eddie at the sight of the harness. No lie.
Now imagine, slipping a harness over that quarter. OMG. I got him in the neck part and then--oops, he's out--and back in, and he was shaking and nosing and lipsticking and yelping and shaking and I had to slip his foot through the loop--and he's out again, spinning circles, yelping, screeching, wagging--and Bill is "SIT! Eddie, SIT!" and Eddie is doing LOTS of things that are definitely NOT sitting.
We finally get the harness on--twisted of course--and get it untwisted. And then we open the door and ahhhhhhh--off we all go, tumbling down the street. Eddie pulling on the harness like he's pulling Santa's sled, and Bill stubbornly stopping him every few seconds to teach him how to walk sanely on a leash.
Eddie's inner dialog, I suspect, was something like this: I'mwalkingwithmyfamilyI'mwalkingwithmyfamilyI'mwalkingwithmyfamilyI'mwalkingwithmy
After several minutes we were able to exert some control, except, of course, when we came upon a bulletin on the Doggie News Network. We had to sniff every inch of the ground, stopping at the interesting news about Snoop Dog or Bow Wow (among others), and of course, add our commentary. Piddle piddle piddle. Who knew a dog could store that much piddle?
The one news source no one is interested in? The red hydrant on Timmons. So much for the stereotype of the dog and the hydrant. This one must surely be a Fox news outlet.
We sufficiently tuckered the dawg out and took him home. Then on Sunday, we actually took him to the coffee shop with us. It went surprisingly well. We expected five minute increments at first, but were happy to see he lasted over 30 minutes, and all was good until it just wasn't any more, and we took him home.
The dog days of summer, that took over so much of last month, have given way to the doggie days of fall, and it's good.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Now, depending on how much you know about cows, the following scene may come as no surprise to you. The humans earnestly herding the cows, who are soon joined by a bull, by the way, are clapping their hands, stretching themselves out to create a visual barrier, one with a large, large stick, working together to convince the cows to move back toward some spot in the fence that I can't see behind the bushes but I assume is the break where they got out. The cows, of course, are wise to their methods, and they, in all their cow brilliance, move slowly and cowly along the shoulder, slyly pretending to go toward the spot the humans want, but at the last second (oh no!), they shuffle along past.
One thing I tend to forget about my life is that the cowboy hat covers a real live cowboy, who promptly jumped out of the car to help. Good thing too, because the cows were genuinely avoiding the human intervention, and about this time decided that running pellmell down the shoulder toward Southpoint Mall and interesting points beyond was a GREAT cow idea!! Off the humans go, Bill among the first, chase chase chasing the cows (COWS, people, COWS!!!) down the road.
Now, at this point, I have a very important role. Being vaguely afraid of cows (no lie), I decided to stay in the car and use my very powerful, large, red vehicle to block the path of the cows, and, well, let's admit it, laugh at the absurdity of the drama unfolding before me.
At some point they get one of the cows into the pen, and the woman with the stick turns to face the next cow. With her back turned, cow number one pops back out onto the shoulder, and then they are able to herd cow number two back into the pen, who also pops back out just as they're bringing cow number one back again. One of them starts to get irritated and is running willy nilly about the road, snorting a bit, getting up quite a bit of speed. (This is where I get really scared, but the people wisely give this cow some room to express her frustration...)
And I continue to watch as they get one cow in, herd the second, first cow comes out, herd the third, second cow comes out, and they basically play musical cows for about ten minutes. I am reminded of times (yes, I admit it's happened more than once), when I pick up Tolliver, shut him in the bedroom, pick up Decker, open the bedroom door, lose Tolliver while I'm putting Decker in. Rinse, repeat, ad nauseum.
And finally, in the perfect, no-good-deed-goes-unpunished moment, Bill lost his phone (set on silent, OF COURSE) in the deep, snake-infested grass, and we admitted defeat after a few minutes of looking. The best part, though, was meeting the VERY NICE farmer who invited us for home-grown burgers any time. His gratitude at our assistance reminded me of how busy and into ourselves we get, and how so few people think to stop and help out. Ten minutes of our lives made a huge difference for him, and I got a fun story out of it too.
Oh, and we went back after the fireworks, in the pitch-dark night, called the phone, and its light-up screen led us right to it. Not bad for a day off...
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
She wrote the blog entry I wish I had, about Bill. Please, take a minute and go here. It's worth it:
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Fired.Asked to resign.
There are several things I love about this story. First of all, I was released because I couldn't work 20 hours a week, a fact I made clear throughout the hiring process, that was not an issue until they decided it was. Several of us were in the same boat. No biggie.
But I love that first of all, the guy I was working for (Ken--LOVE him), said, "They're asking you to resign. You don't have to, of course." I was happy to do it by then--the work had become quite burdensome, frankly, in addition to everything else going on. So I said, "Sure, no prob.," but he said he wouldn't. Hmmmm... I asked why. "Cuz if you don't, then it's on THEM." Yeah. To FIRE me. LOL!!
This was all discussed at our 8:45 p.m. meeting, and I said I would talk with the Crew Leader more in the morning to figure out the details--how much notice did they need, etc.
Oh, no worries about that--I was released promptly at 8 a.m. the next morning. Do you know they have a FORM? It's their usual "Info-Comm" form, where you check the box "Other," and attach another form where you check the box "Resigned," and it's that simple. REALLY????
But the BEST part of the story is when I got the text from my bestest ever gf--she has been with me through the worst of my experiences, and right there with me through the best. BEST FRIEND EVER. I told her I was no longer working for the census, that I'd been let go, and she, always with my back, called right away. What happened? I told her about the hours. She said, "Oh, I just assumed you got fired for talking too much."
Bahahahahahaha!!! Thanks for the vote of confidence best-ever-sister-friend!! LOL!! THANKS!!
But at the end of the day, I won't be coming to count you. And I won't mind.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Hey everybody!!! Here's the first installment of Jen's grand adventure!! :o)
As with all brushes with history, we start with the mundane. If you think there's something exciting in this email, think again... And feel free to skip it entirely.
As I write this, Nick is getting ready to test his tomorrow outfit. He's bundled up a la "A Christmas Story," and we all need to know, is it enough? He's about to venture out on the deck, where he will be banished for 20 minutes, to see if the outfit will stand up to tomorrow's torturous temps. The prediction is a mere 29 degrees. Holy shit!!!
I made the drive yesterday without incident. Well, unless you count the fact that my stereo died as I crossed the VA line. That meant telephone entertainment. And for all the children watching, texting at 70 mph is never a good idea...
The traffic was minimal. I occasionally saw cars decorated with Obama stickers, a few painted with slogans on the windows, and many of them packed with people. One poor woman bearing the "Sportsmen for McCain/Palin" sticker looking quite irritable as she maneuvered among the damn liberals clogging up her highways.
It's been a year since I've seen the family, and in that time Casey has become some gargantuan GROWN-UP easily as tall as me, and, as she proudly announced, nearly my weight. (We joked that all she needs is my boobs and she'd be tipping the scales right along with me. And those she'll probably have by next week.) Oh my god!!! Nick has basically shaved his head a la the major sports star he's destined to be. (And to catch you up on the weather-testing process, he just stepped out side, full of drama, "Aunt Jenny? Start the timer!" and the the primal yell as he hit the cold.)
Last night was a cozy family affair as the Steelers made their way to the Superbowl--a phenomenon that created quite a frenzy in this football-crazed, Steeler-loving house. Breakfast was started with a passionate chant of "Steelers goin' to the SOO-perbowl!" in the deep tones of full-grown Mark and the enthusiastic squeals of 10-year-old Nick. Oh yeah, a year passed and it feels like yesterday that I had my cupboard under the stairs. But this time, without an ounce of heartache. Yay!!
You would think I might have received a grand welcome, but honestly, the kids were way more interested in my iTouch. LOL! Such is the fickle love of adolescents! :o) My basement nook was meanwhile usurped by a new air hockey table (HELLO! My FAVORITE!!) and a new Ping Pong table (Nick's fave, at which I suck. Aunt Jenny is SUCH a disappointment...).
In a few, we're off to Target for a phone charger (how did I come away with every cable known to an iPod, but no phone charger? Grrrrrr.), wool socks, and an old-school am/fm radio. If we see NOTHING, we will at least hear the speech live. (Thanks, btw, to the villager who had that idea. Was it Vinny? You are SO RIGHT.)
I will keep you posted as interesting, or totally dull, things happen!