Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What a bunch of turkeys

The company I work for gives us turkeys every year for Thanksgiving. Not little cheesy ones, either - these suckers are almost 25 pounds.

Almost every year there are a couple left over for whatever reason, and the shop guy brings his and the extras to a battered women and children's shelter. Last year, not only did we not have any extras, we didn't have enough. It didn't make sense because the lady who does the ordering accounts for every single employee, and orders a few extra just in case. On top of that, even though she orders for herself, she is a Jehovah's Witness and never takes hers. They chalked it up to an error in calculation and this year did it a little differently.

She ordered for every employee, including 2 people out on disability, including Opie's family, even including one for the cleaning guy. Then she ordered 8 extra. With her turkey, the shop guy's turkey, the prez's turkey, and another lady who's out of town and asked for her's to be donated, that should have been 12 extra.

They were personally delivered to the construction guys out in the field or out on disability. There was a list of names to be checked off as each office person or service tech took their's, honor system style. Not everyone got their's by the end of the day, so they were all put into the fridge. This morning there are only 2 extras left.

There are some understandably furious people in the office today. How much free turkey do you really need? 25 pounds wasn't enough you greedy bastards? With the amount of money the people around here make, it is unbelievable that they would even think about taking more than one. I cannot imagine the sense of entitlement you would have to possess to be able to take an "extra" turkey literally right out of a homeless child's mouth.

It's despicable and I'm disgusted.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I published this by accident. I wrote it weeks ago, but then my Gram died and I didn't want so much death on my blog. So I kept pushing it back every week, I would put the next week's date on it for "Wordless Wednesday". I meant to hold off until after Thanksgiving, but put today's date on it instead. It stays up, now. Sorry for the bummer, but I guess this was my subconscious telling me to remember what I am thankful for this week.

In September, one of our field guys died in a tragic car accident. His jeep went off a back road in a torrential rain storm and hit a tree. He was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the vehicle. They had to have a closed casket.

This kid was literally one of the nicest people I have ever met. He always had a smile (the kind that lit up his whole face) and never a bad word. I'm not just saying that. He was so sweet and well liked, the guys nicknamed him Opie. This from a pretty rough crowd - most of the nicknames given are not flattering. The loss felt throughout our small company was immense.

I think one guy summed it up gracefully when he said, "God must have had an incredibly special building going up in Heaven to have called him home so early.". He was 31, and left behind 2 young children.

I was asked to get quotes to have hard hat stickers made, maybe with his initials or something simple. I suggested OPIE instead, and it was met with a resounding yes. Every single employee in possession of one of our hard hats now proudly bears a memoriam to one hell of a guy.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cold, or just old?

My internal thermostat usually runs pretty high. At the first sign of heat and humidity, sweat starts pouring off me at an alarming rate. I'm not joking, I don't even wear makeup in the summer because as soon as I put it on I start sweating it right off.

In the winter, I almost never turn the tstat above 62deg and I'm usually still running around in a tee-shirt. That was the way we grew up, conserving money. If you were cold, you needed to go bundle up. Christmas presents were almost always warm bathrobes or those blankets that you zipped and snapped around you (I believe mine may have been Holly Hobby), with the occasional electric blanket thrown in.

So imagine my surprise this year when the cold snap hit and I can't get warm, no matter I do. Granted, it is colder than normal for this time of year, so maybe I just haven't had time to adjust, but I think it's deeper than that. I right now have the tstat set to 64deg, I have on socks, slippers, sweat pants, a long sleeve tee under a sweatshirt, and a velor robe protecting me from my leather and metal chair. And I'm still freezing.

I don't remember ever feeling the cold like this before. Oh, I felt it in different ways. My hands don't work as well in the winter thanks to carpal tunnel and arthritis. My hips and knees hurt a lot, especially on the stairs - but as my doctor pointed out to me a few years ago, those are Weight-Bearing joints. Yeah, fuck you very much, Doc. Helpful. I've got a new doctor now - ha!

So what is it? It's not just at home, I feel it at work, also. Is it age? I'm not technically that old, but I feel like I'm 70. Do I need to get a rocking chair and a fire place and take up crocheting? Do I need to start planning my retirement to a warmer climate?

Next thing you know, I'll be complaining about those youngsters and their loud music, while shaking my cane at them hollering, "Get off my lawn, you hoodlums!".

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

General whining, way too much personal information, and stuff

Whoever said that money can't buy happiness obviously has never laid awake at night worrying about how to keep the heat on when it's 13 degrees outside. I know it wouldn't make me spiritually happy, but not having to worry about money would definitely cut down on the stress level.

To say I am struggling financially would be putting it mildly. I'm not talking unsecured debt, I don't own a credit card. I'm talking basic living expenses.

I knew I really, really needed new tires before winter hit, but every week I'm already robbing Peter to pay Paul, juggling shut off notices and trying not to be late on the rent. I also needed a tune-up on the car, but have been putting everything off until the last possible moment. That moment arrived at about 11:30am on Tuesday.

I was backing out of my parking spot at work, put the car into drive and heard:


or something very similar to that. I turned the radio down, threw her in park and sat there for a minute. Certainly I didn't hear that correctly, must have been something on the radio. I tried again, but didn't even get past reverse before the horrible noise started again. This time, when I put her back in park she was still rolling. Not a good sign. I turned the car off, put on the emergency brake and found a big strong man to push the car back into the parking spot.

I called my mechanic, whom I totally trust. He coincidentally went to work at the little business I bought the car from who financed me. I just finished paying the car off the month before I had to start making payments on my son's tuition. My mechanic told me to have the car towed and he'd take a look at it. I don't have AAA, but my sister does and she let me borrow her member number. The tow was free as it was under 5 miles.

I got the news this afternoon. It was not the transmission as I had feared, but both front drive axles were shot, and the car could no longer be driven on those tires. When he told me the price, I couldn't breathe for a minute, like someone had kicked me in the solar plexus. When the lungs started functioning again I said, "let me call you back". I grabbed a cigarette and my ball-sac, and headed out back into the shop where I could smoke and talk in relative privacy.

I called back and asked for the finance guy. I explained the situation and asked if there was any way they would finance the repairs, offering my title as collateral. He agreed, as long as I brought a down payment to them on payday. He went as low as he could on the weekly terms, but I still have no idea how I'm going to do it. I'll figure it out as I go along, I guess. I told him while they were at it, throw in a tune-up. What the hell, it's only money, right?

Here is where I'm going to stop whining and realize how lucky I am. I am lucky that I was in my parking lot at work when my car broke down, and not doing 65mph on the highway, stuck in the middle of moving traffic, stranded without a cell phone. I am lucky that my sister has AAA and was willing to let me use it. I am lucky that I work less than 5 miles from my mechanic and didn't have to pay for the tow. I am lucky that my company not only had an extra vehicle handy, but were willing to let me borrow it indefinitely. I am lucky that the shop guy was thoughtful enough to go out and fill the vehicle with gas on a company card. I am lucky that the auto place was willing to finance a repair charge that would have been impossible for me to come up with all at once.

I know we're all struggling in one way or another. May your struggles today be made a little less hard by the people around you. I know I'm being corny, so I'm going to take it a step further with an old nursery rhyme that just popped into my head:

"Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat. Please put a penny in the old man's hat. If you haven't a penny, a ha'penny will do. If you haven't a ha'penny, then God Bless YOU."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The five of us

There are very few pictures of my siblings and I together that aren't staged. There are a few group shots at a professional photography studio, more often with our children thrown in. Or there are awesome shots of our children, but not much with us. There are few in between. We have a million pictures taken of each other, but not of all of us together - only us, without one of us looking drunk or somehow not up for the picture.

The window of opportunity officially closed when my brother Jimmy died in 1993, at the age of 26. My sisters and I swore we would never take another group picture of "us" if he couldn't be a part of it. And we stuck to it.

After my grandmother's memorial, last weekend, I found pictures I did not know existed. I scanned them and sent them to my sisters, who also had never seen them before. They were from our grandparent's 50th anniversary in 1984. They are awesome. My sisters are smokin' hot. And I am, well, I am 13. I swear I got prettier. From the left, it usually goes Kouf, Bouf, me in my May Day dress, Jimmy, and Shouf.

Kouf, are you wearing a white satin jumpsuit? With black "fuck me pumps"?

Bouf emailed me from Arizona to tell me that she remembered buying that dress. In a size zero. Bitch...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Gram's memorial

My Grandmother's memorial service was yesterday. She died very peacefully on October 21, four months before she would have turned 100, and she wanted everything to be the same as when her husband died in 1984. No wake; just a cremation, memorial service, and scattering the ashes off a ferry in Long Island Sound.

I honestly thought that because I really didn't have much of a relationship with her, it would not be a big deal. I would fulfill my familial obligation out of respect for her, and it would be over. I guess I'm more sentimental than I thought, and I shed a few tears for the old battle axe.

The memorial service itself was beautifully done. I'm sad my father couldn't make it up from Florida, but he's still not physically able to travel. My Aunt C, who was Gram's only daughter, is the one who has taken care of everything for Gram for years, and planned it all down to a tee. Both my uncles got up and read passages, the hymns were gorgeous, and three of my cousins offered eulogies. The eulogies were all well thought out, and 2 of them lovingly poked fun at her. One of my cousins said it best when he said (and I'm paraphrasing), "If I just painted a rosy picture of my grandmother, I wouldn't be doing to justice to who she really was." Another pointed out that "she was a difficult woman". But they all were able to talk about good memories they had and lessons they learned from her.

After the memorial, we went back to the assisted living facility for a reception in the dining room. It was a very simple affair, highlighted by extended family and friends sharing memories, and a ton of photo albums.

When all the other people left, Aunt C asked us to go back to Gram's apartment and go through the remaining possessions and take whatever we wanted, or that we have given to her, or held sentimental value to us. In addition, Gram had a Hummel collection that she had written a list of years ago, assigning one to each member of the family that was alive at the time. No small task considering she left behind 4 children and their spouses, 13 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and 2 great-great-grandchildren. I was incredibly touched that she specifically left something to my son.

What I treasure most is being entrusted with the pictures. I promised to scan them all and put them up on the family website I started, so everyone can share them.

Today, my sister Kouf and I drove to New London for the 11:15 ferry to Fishers Island. 15 of us boarded the ferry, with Gram in a backpack getting her last free ride. There were probably only 5 other people on the ferry, besides the crew. I cannot tell you what a beautiful day it was. It was windy, but the sun was shining and the swells were only about 4 feet. Considering what Long Island Sound could have been on a November day, we agreed that Heaven was smiling down on us this day.

My uncle had called ahead to make arrangements. As it was off-season, they were willing to accommodate us. About 2 miles off Fishers Island, they slowed the engines and allowed us down on the lower deck that would have been full of cars peak-season. We gathered around in a circle as my aunt recited one last poignant reading. My uncle handed the biodegradable urn to my aunt, and she simply said, "Goodbye, Mom" and tossed the urn over the side, along with a huge wreath of pink and white fresh flowers. We all rushed along the side and then to the end of the ferry, watching as the current took the urn and the flowers away. We waited until we could no longer see it, and then we dissolved into group hugs and tears.

Kouf and I hugged and cried until the engines started back up and they made us go above. We all still stood right at the top of the stairs, watching the waves even though we couldn't see anything any longer. We marvelled that the urn didn't sink right away, even though we knew it would float for a couple of minutes before filling with water. We joked that the old bird was stubborn even in death, and would somehow find her way over to Lord's Point, where she and Gramp had lived for so many years. We even joked that we hoped Aunt C had put her name and number on the urn so that when it showed up on a beach, someone could return Gram's ashes to her.

And that is how we will heal. We shared an incredibly intimate moment together, and immediately diffused it with humor - that is what we do. I will never forget how beautiful it was.

I took pictures. The bright blue thing amongst the flowers is my Gram's ashes in the biodegradable urn. Rest in peace, Gram, I think we honored you today in the best way we could have, and I hope you know it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Will I never learn?

When my son joined the football team at his new high school, he only had one year of midget football under his belt, and that was 2 years ago. The less experienced kids don't get as much time on the field, but it doesn't seem to bother him. It didn't help that for a week during practice he didn't have a helmet. He thought he had lost it and didn't say anything to me about it. I knew it was sitting in the trunk of my car, but didn't know he needed it. That was the week they started practicing tackling and running plays, which they wouldn't let him do without a helmet The extras they ordered hadn't come in yet. That was also the week they assigned first-string positions.

He loves the exercise every day, the weight training, the pasta party Fridays, and just generally being part of a team. There are 3 teams, Freshmen, JV, and Varsity. The older kids watch out for the younger ones in the hallways and during study hall and lunch. It's nice to be a freshman and have a senior acknowledge you in the hallway, right? There are only about 750 kids in the whole school, and they are pretty tight. I think we had over that number in my graduating class at Public High.

I've only missed 2 away games this season - of course those were they only 2 games they won. My son suggested maybe I should stay away more often... They are just starting to really come together as a team, with 3 games left to go. Not many of them had a lot of experience, and the coach only has so much to work with. Being such a small school, only 19 boys signed up. You can tell some of them are really into it, and so frustrated by their losses. My kid is just happy to be there!

I was at the game this past Friday, and let me tell you, those kids put their hearts into it. It was a really great game, they played hard and tried out some new strategies. There were some really excellent passes and catches. I walked around taking pictures, and at one point in my wandering up and down the sideline I came across a fellow mother who was video taping the game. They try to video tape as many games as possible. At the next practice they review the tape as a team and Coach gives them feedback. At the end of the year, from what I understand, some technologically advanced parent splices them into a Best Of dvd for each player to have as a keepsake.

So, I'm talking to the videotaping mother, just chatting about the game in between plays, and she asks, "Which one is yours?" I tell her he's number 35, and she looks out to the field to try to find him. I say, "Oh, no, he's on the sidelines - where he usually is". And then I look down at the video camera in her hand and start to panic. "Oh my god! Are you RECORDING?!?!"

Her eyes went as wide as mine as she pulled the camera up to her eye in what seemed like slow motion. Sweet relief, she had stopped recording in between plays. "Good thing", she said, "cause I don't know how to rewind this thing!". "Yeah, good thing, cause it would have been a tragedy if Coach's video camera accidentally got broken!".

Why can I not just once in a while think before I speak? Especially when there is a video camera around?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

WWJD, Halloween style

My son and a group of his friends went trick-or-treating together last night in an affluent section of town where one of them lives. I was pretty amused that both he and that boy wore Hillary Clinton masks, bought separately and unaware of each other. And no, he wouldn't let me take his picture, the little stinker.

My son brought his athletic bag to hold his candy, and came home with it filled. The thing must weigh 10 pounds! I checked it out this morning, it was unbelievable. I've never seen such an assortment, nor have I ever seen so many full sized candy bars. The boy will never want to go trick-or-treating in the ghetto, again; although this should be his last year of trick-or-treating, anyway.

We were talking earlier today about what a good time he had. They covered about 3 miles of territory to get all that candy. Then he told me that some people had left a bowl of candy on the front porch, honor system style with a sign asking to please just take one.

"And did you all just take one?"

"Hell no, mom."

"But, J, that's cheating!"

I look at him, still in his pajamas - a WTFWJD shirt and Family Guy Stewie flannel pants. His eyes are puffy from sleep, and he looks like a big, huge version of my little boy. When I hug him, my head doesn't even come up to his shoulder. But that doesn't mean he's too big for me to try steer him in the right direction.

"J, what you did was wrong. What would Jesus do in that situation? I mean, really, look at the shirt you're wearing. What the fuck would Jesus do?"

"If he was in a group with his friends, he would probably have done what we did. Run to get as much candy as you can before anyone else got there."

"No, J. Jesus would have taken just one...

And then he would have performed a miracle so it would be enough to feed the whole crowd." As I was saying this, I was also using jazz hands.

He had to turn and leave the room.