Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Blue

I want to paint our front porch ceiling blue. Tom thinks that’s stupid. I don’t actually care what he thinks. But…I have to figure out how to tell him that gently without hurting his feelings. He’s not used to me not caring what he thinks. I’ve mentioned that he has an opinion on everything. Well, sometimes, I don’t actually want his opinion. I just want him to let me do what I want to do and accept that I’ve done it. Like painting the porch ceiling blue. I’m not talking some heinous, bright blue. Duh. Lots of people paint their porch ceilings blue. It’s an actual thing. And honestly, our porch ceiling is currently nasty. Rust, wear and tear, twenty four years of yuck have accumulated on that thing. You’d think he’d want me to paint it because I’d obviously have to do some pre-paint prep which would involve cleaning, priming, etc. So…just let me do my thing. Here’s the thing…I want to start living more authentically. Gosh, that sounds so…pretentious. But even if it is pretentious, it’s also true. I want to stop tiptoeing around other people, even my husband and just live my life how I want. I want to paint my ceiling blue and I want to bring more green into my bathroom. I want take more walks and be in less pain. I want to enjoy moments of every single day. I know I have to continue to work. I know Olivia will continue to have homework. I will keep doing what needs to be done but I also want to do things that just make us happy. As long as those things aren’t hurting anyone else, what’s the harm in finding and doing things that makes us happy every day? Like painting our porch ceiling blue.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Lunch Detention

Since it was mentioned in yesterday's post: Olivia came home one afternoon with a note in her agenda that said she had to serve lunch detention because she didn’t complete her morning work. The teacher noted that O had been given three hours to do the work. Well. Yes, I can very easily imagine Olivia sitting in that classroom with a worksheet in front of her, staring at it and just…not doing it. I mean, hello. Have you met Olivia. Don’t worry, she didn’t get in trouble at home for this lunch detention. I told her that I understand that sometimes, she simply cannot make herself do the work. And if there isn’t someone sitting next to her, keeping her focused on the work, explaining and re-explaining what she needs to do, the work is not going to get done. I reminded myself (and Tom, who was a bit huffy about the lunch detention, both toward the teacher and toward Olivia) that this teacher is still getting to know Olivia. We have to give both Mrs. H and Olivia time to get acclimated with each other. O and I did the work together at home. It was fine. Later that evening, I asked Olivia exactly what ‘lunch detention’ is. She said she had to stay in the classroom with the teacher and work on her classwork during lunch. She was able to take a bit of time and eat her actual lunch. I asked her if it bothered her that she had to have lunch at her desk in the classroom. What do you think? I think that perhaps lunch detention isn’t much of a punishment as far as Olivia is concerned. She likes being away from the prying eyes of her classmates. I’m betting there will be a parent -teacher conference sooner rather than later between me and Mrs. H and perhaps even Ms. P, the aide. And that’s okay. That’s probably for the best. I think that in the beginning, Mrs. H had very high hopes for Olivia. I want us to continue to have high hopes for her while tempering those hopes with patience and understanding that perhaps those hopes are too high. I think that maybe Mrs. H went into this year with Olivia much like the fourth grade teacher Mrs. K. She took one look at Olivia, beautiful, perfect Olivia and saw a child she honestly believed was capable of so much more than she was doing. She truly believed that Olivia was playing me and Tom; that Olivia had figured out that if she ‘played dumb’ she could get away with doing the bare minimum. I don’t think Mrs. H has had that extreme a reaction to Liv but I do think she believes that Olivia might be doing some of her behaviors on purpose; that is, she’s doing some of it to get out of doing the other, harder work. All of that is simply not true. And we have to understand that some days, the connections in O’s brain work great. She can sit there with a worksheet and answer simple math questions with minimal assistance. She can read a book and answer questions about it, she can do simple social studies questions. But other days, those same connections in Liv’s brain don’t spark. She cannot be left alone with a worksheet and be expected to fill it out. She will scribble the hell out of the worksheet. She will poke holes in it with the point of her pencil. She will sit there and stare into space imagining out all sorts of ‘fan fics’ about TicTockers and YouTubers and classmates. She will not do the work in front of her. Not because she doesn’t want to, but because she simply can’t force herself to focus without someone sitting next to her keeping her focused. It’s not a stall tactic. It’s not an attempt to get out of doing the work. She’ll do the work; hell, she wants to do the work. She just needs someone to remind her every few minutes exactly what she’s supposed to be doing. Believe me, I really think that if she could do the work on her own, she would. Does anyone want someone next to them reminding them every few minutes to write the word? I think not. We’ll get there. I truly believe that too.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Motivated

The four-day work/school week following Labor Day was long even though it was a ‘short’ week. Olivia had loads of homework each day, including the day she had to serve lunch detention for not doing her classwork in, you know, class. Because of all this homework, we did not get to go to my mom’s house on Tuesday or Wednesday. I told her, though, after we finished just under an hour of homework on Wednesday that if she worked really hard at school the next day and then came home and did the required spelling work (writing her spelling words four times each…yikes!) that we’d go to Gram’s for a little while. I even suggested to Olivia and her dad that perhaps they’d like to get a head start on her spelling homework before I got home on Thursday. Did I mention that she had to write each word four times? Yes? Well, did I also mention that there were 21 words on that list? Have I pounded it into everyone that Olivia struggles with her handwriting? Excellent. We’re all on the same page. Any bets on whether or not she’d started the spelling work before I got home? How about if I tell you that I was fifteen minutes later than usual because I had to go to the pharmacy after work and pick up a refill of her medicine? Yeah, you’re right, of course she didn’t start the spelling before I got home. Why would she? And, the better question is why would her dad bother himself to encourage her to get started? Okay. I will reel in my bitterness over being the sole homework helper in our house. It’s how we’re dividing the labor these days, get over it, right? Ahem. So we sat down and I told her that if it took her too long to write all 84 words we wouldn’t be able to go to Gram’s because she, Olivia, not Gram, needed to bathe that evening. Do you think that girl sat there and wrote her words without stopping for a straight twenty minutes? Well, she didn’t. But! She didn’t erase all that many and she didn’t ask for chocolate after the second word and she didn’t need constant redirection. Yes, she paused a few times to shake out her cramping hand and she did get up to get a drink of water about halfway through. But she got them done with minimal bitching from me and we were able to go spend about forty-five minutes at Liv’s Gram’s house and everyone was refueled by the visit. We may have found a source of motivation for this girl…maybe. I mean, it worked once but that doesn’t mean it will work ever again. But don’t think I won’t try it again very soon. Will report back on the success or lack of success in any future attempts at bribing her with a visit to Gram’s.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Impersonator

Tom’s been looking for a used car to purchase for his and Alyssa’s use. The one she currently drives to school and work is fine as long as it starts but that’s the iffy part, so he wants something a bit more reliable. He’s been perusing FB marketplace for vehicles. But see, the thing is, he doesn’t actually have a FB account. He doesn’t seem to think it’s necessary for him to have an account because I have one and I can keep in touch with his sisters and extended family for him. Huh. Of course this means that he’s using my account to look at vehicles and message the owners. I don’t actually care that he’s doing this. What’s the big deal? Well, the big deal comes along when he messages these people and pretends to be me talking to them, saying things like, “My husband is the one who will be coming to look at the car. I’ll hurry him along.” Yeah. I have never ‘hurried him along’ in all the years of our marriage. But this isn’t even that big a deal. It’s kind of funny to read the messages he sends out in which he’s impersonating me. But then he was communicating with a woman who is selling her vehicle and she mentioned that her son would be the one to show my husband the car because she is in the hospital receiving chemo or leukemia. Tom, pretending to be me, said to her, something along the lines of: Sorry to hear about the chemo. I went through that for breast cancer a few years ago. Just keep the faith and everything will be fine. You guys, please tell me that you KNOW I wouldn’t say that? Okay, so no, I didn’t actually say it but she thinks I did and it’s just so trite. No one who has been through cancer treatments would say that! We’d say something like, “Oh, I’m so sorry you’re going through chemo. That sucks so much. I’m wishing you the best.” We would not tell her to ‘keep the faith’ and ‘everything will turn out okay.’ It doesn’t always turn out okay, damn it! And those of us who have faced serious health issues know this. We don’t say that to each other. We just don’t. It’s kind of like those of us who’ve had a child in the NICU or suffered a loss. We don’t say things like, “Well, at least you know you can get pregnant” to a woman who’s recently suffered a miscarriage. We don’t say things like, “Hey, at least you have one baby” to someone who’s lost one of their twins. We know the odds aren’t always in our favor. We know that things can go bad from one heartbeat to the next. Keep the faith? Are you fucking kidding me? I ought to slap him for that. I know he meant well. I know that; which is why I’m taking deep breaths and thinking before I speak. I just…I don’t know how to explain to him why what he wrote was wrong. I don’t think he’d get it and it would probably hurt his feelings. So…I’m letting it all out here and reminding any readers who haven’t been through sucky times to maybe think about this stuff and how they might want someone to respond to them if they were to suffer something horrific. Just think about it.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

A Week at the Post Office

I’ve mentioned (ad nauseam) that I go to the post office every single day for work. Some days, weeks, months, I only have to go into the part where the post office boxes are so that I can pick up the incoming mail from the six post office boxes that my work has. Why yes, I feel quite important when I pull out the key ring with SIX post office box keys on it. I’m way cooler than you over there opening your ONE PO box. Ha on you, only having three envelopes. Look at me with my bags of mail. Yeah, mail is super fun, except when it’s not. See, one recent week, the post office was getting on my last nerve. I had to go in and talk to the ladies (it’s always ladies. Why are there NEVER any men working the stupid counter?) at the counter. They’re the ones who deal with the general public and I feel for them because the general public is stupid. I feel stupid when I’m a member of the general public. Just saying. So that week, I had to go up to the counter every single day. So frustrating. The first day is was so I could try and sent a garment back to the UK. It was a return. The company send a label and everything; except, since it was an international return, I had to fill out customs paperwork. And apparently, the label they sent was just an address label. It didn’t include postage, which was going to be $14.95. The hell? So I took the stupid customs label and told Kathy behind the counter I’d be back the next day. The next day, not only did I have my return, I also had a check from work to pay for the six post office boxes for the next six months. AND I had a yellow ticket (of leave? Alas, no, no yellow ticket of leave for you, prisoner 24601.) that indicated there was something that hadn’t fit in the P.O. boxes. That’s SUPER fun. First, I gave her the check my boss had given me for the P.O. boxes and…it wasn’t made out for the right amount. The label with the amount they’d sent in was faded and the last number, a 6, looked very much like a 0. Kathy asked me if I wanted make up the $6 difference. I did not. While I might have had cash on hand, I didn’t want to part with it even though I know work would have reimbursed me. But damn it, I shouldn’t have to pay for stuff like that with my own money. Then I gave her the yellow ticket that had been in the box from the day before but that I hadn’t seen until I got back to the office because there was so much mail it had been buried in there amidst the checks and catalogs and invoices. Kathy took my yellow ticket, disappeared behind the wall that separates the general public from the VIPs of the postal world. She returned with a big ass box (not so big, but it was heavy, which is actually just as annoying as being big…I HATE big, heavy boxes. This is probably a bit PTSD from when Tom used to send ridiculously large and heavy boxes with me to my previous employment to be shipped via UPS, which pissed me off to no end and was one of the very few things we’ve ever had actual fights about. This box, for the record, did NOT have a P.O. box number listed. It actually had a street address, which was not the street address of the plant I work at. My place of employment has four plants within a one mile radius. I work at plant 1. This box was addressed to plant 4. The hell? Why was it waiting for me to pick up when it could have been sent with the freaking mailman to the actual street address on the box? That this point, I was very near my last reserve of patience. So finally Kathy perused my customs forms and asked me the company name for the return. I don’t know. I didn’t buy the stupid garment. I was returning it for Alyssa, who’d bought it for her sister, bless her heart. But it didn’t fit her sister and who wants a $40 bra that doesn’t fit? Not us. You want a bra sitting around your house that doesn’t fit anyone? Give me a call, the stupid thing is still in my purse. Anyway, I told her I had no idea what the business name is and took the package, the customs paperwork and ANOTHER customs form because Kathy had helpfully stamped the one I’d already filled out with that day’s date and so I’d need to do it all again for the next day. I told her I’d take the check back and have my boss issue a new one. Whatever! The first was empty. Wheee!!! But guess what? As I was checking the first, empty post office box, I realized I’d forgotten the heavy-ass box Kathy had brought up for me before the whole customs issue came up. It was still sitting on the counter beside Kathy’s workspace. So, I went BACK to Kathy’s counter to retrieve that stupid box. But there was this DUDE standing there talking to Kathy about I don’t even know what. And he was in my way! Instead of standing directly in front of Kathy, where there is plexiglass protecting her from creeps like this, he stood off to the side, directly in front of the stupid heavy box I didn’t even want. Except I needed that box because it wasn’t mine, it belonged to plant 4 and I needed to take it there. Or, you know, back to plant 1 where I could then send it to plant 4 via ‘interoffice mail.’ Sigh. Kathy’s coworker saw my frustration and retrieved my box from its purgatory in front of annoying dude who does not understand personal space. I took that stupid heavy box out to my car and then went in to actually get the mail out of the other five post office boxes. The next box I opened…had another stupid yellow ticket. Are you freaking kidding me? I had to go BACK IN TO THE COUNTER for the THIRD time for anyone who’s counting to get whatever was waiting for me behind door number two. It ended up being a packet of mail that was just too much to fit into the box. Figures. The next day (third day of the week, for those counting) I had to go to the counter to try and send that stupid bra back to England AND pay for the P.O. boxes with the corrected check. Somedays, I think the post office is more trouble than it’s worth. Then I remember that Kevin Costner movie, The Postman. Did you guys see that one? One scene has the bad guy about to kill two of the postman’s mailmen. These two boys stop and introduce themselves to each other and the bad guy realizes that if these two don’t know each other, his rival for world domination has already gotten away from him. That’s not really a good description of the scene but close enough. What I’m saying is, that movie reminds me that we’re lucky to have mail service and it keeps us connected in a way that even the internet can’t quite do so I’ll try and not let my trivial annoyances stop me from mailing a letter every now and then.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

I'm Sorry

There are a few words/phrases that Olivia simply cannot say.

A couple of years ago, we had a stand-off over her inability to tell me she was sorry for something.

These days, she is quick with “I didn’t mean to.” She says this in lieu of saying, “I’m sorry.”

She will tell Travis the turtle she loves him but she can’t say it to anyone else.

Don’t worry, I know she loves me. I don’t have to hear the words directly from her mouth.

She had a really hard time with Thank you for a while but seems to have gotten past that one.

But the other night, while we were in the car at the sketchy farm looking at the crap-mobile the two creepy dudes were trying to sell to Tom, Olivia did something that caused me physical pain and before I could even react, she said, “I sorry.”

That’s not a typo. She didn’t say “I’m.” She said “I sorry.”

It was said in a slightly baby tone but you know what? I don’t care.

She looked at me in shock after she said it. I stared at her. We were both stunned that those words had come out of her mouth. She smiled and I told her I was so proud of her for being able to say it.

It’s not that she doesn’t want to say some of these things. It’s just that there is some kind of mental block that stops her from uttering those phrases.

But the fact that she said that to me without prompting (sometimes, I think the prompting is what puts up the block) means that she’s continuing to grow, to learn, to mature.

I didn’t think she’d reached her peak but seeing actual progress is so heartening. It makes the struggles that much more worth it.

My girl is trying. She’s growing. She wants so badly to do right by us all and all we want is for her to do right by herself. Every day is a step forward…even if it’s a small step.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

A Long Drive

Alyssa’s car has been acting up lately. Tom thinks it might be the fuel pump. Sometimes, it just won’t start. The battery is fine, it has a spark, it just…won’t start. After a couple of tries, it usually fires up but it can be very frustrating when you’re somewhere that is not home and your car isn’t starting.

I supposed it’s a rite of passage to have to deal with an unreliable car. We’ve all been there, right?

My first car, a 1975 Gran Torino Elite was a wild ride. By the time I finally retired that thing (around 1990) I had to have a bottle of gasoline in the backseat of the car so I could prime the carburetor each time I wanted to start it. I couldn’t fill it up with gas because there was a hole in the top of the gas tank and every couple of days I had to top off the power steering fluid.

Yeah. Those were fun days.

But…because we can, we’re looking for a different car for Lyss. She has a lot going on and we want her to be safe while doing all the things.

Tom started searching on FB marketplace. He found a car with 90,000 miles that was for sale for a decent price. It was in Huntington. He contacted the seller, who told him there were no issues with the car. He gathered some cash and away we went.

Okay, that sounds simple enough. It wasn’t quite so simple. We left at about 5:15 on a Tuesday. Olivia and I had already done her social studies homework and her spelling homework at home. But we took her math worksheet with us so she could finish it in the car. We had a 73 mile trip ahead of us.

I sat in the backseat with Olivia so I could help her with her homework. For what it’s worth, she did it mostly by herself. Go Liv!

Alyssa sat up front with Tom, who drove. Even though he’s very familiar with Huntington, Tom had Lyss use the GPS on her phone; which was the first mistake.

Wait, the GPS was the second mistake. The first mistake was even bothering with this car, though maybe that’s not fair, the pictures posted on FB marketplace were excellent pictures, they just didn’t tell the whole story.

Anyway! We drove, Olivia did homework, Alyssa studied for two exams (physics and anatomy) and I sat back and enjoyed not having to drive.

We followed the directions given by Alyssa’s phone…sort of. Tom did make poor Siri recalculate the directions a couple of times. But whatever.

We finally made it after driving for an hour and fifteen minutes. Tom pulled into the driveway of an out of the way farm. There were about a thousand chickens running around along with at least fifty cats and kittens.

There was only one dog loping around with a woman and two men. One of the men was in filthy shorts than hung to below his knees, socks that came up to mid-calf and a greasy T-shirt.

Tom got out of the car to go talk to the dudes about the Fort Taurus they had for sale.

The girls and I watched the chickens. At one point, a rooster attempted to accost one of the hens. Olivia saw the action and said with glee, “They’re going to do it!”

Let’s remember, she’s 13 and so is surrounded by 13 year old boys. Yikes.

The hen did not consent and so nothing untoward happened beyond the rooster making overtures that were firmly turned down.

After about twenty minutes Tom and one of the dudes got in the car that was for sale and went for a drive.

It was at this point that I realized that Tom had taken the keys to my car with him.

Let that sink in. He drove away with a stranger (neither of them wearing a mask!) with MY keys. The girls and I were left in my car with no way to leave if the need to leave happened to arise.

I told the girls to lock their doors. We continued to watch the chickens and the kittens. One chicken hobbled toward the car and we realized she was missing most of her right foot. It was so weird and creepy.

The dude in the filthy shorts stalked around the farmyard. The woman and her dog went about their evening business.

The car continues to get hotter and hotter. It wasn’t exactly hot outside but with three of us in that enclosed vehicle, breathing our hot breath and occasionally laughing because of the insanity of the situation, the windows steamed and the interior temperature rose.

Tom and Dude 1 came back. They talked a little more. The girls and I cracked our doors open, scaring some chickens and getting fresh air.

Tom came to the car and told Alyssa she should drive it.

Then Tom and Alyssa got in that sketchy car and drove away, WITH MY KEYS AGAIN. This time, they left just me and Liv in my car, in that farmyard with BOTH of the creepy dudes hovering.

I felt like we were writing the first few pages of a horror story.

We locked the doors again and waited.

And waited.

And I got antsier and antsier. Olivia announced that she had to pee but she was going to wait until we got home to do so. Smart girl. (Spoiler: we took her to a grocery store in Huntington; she didn’t have to wait another two hours to relieve herself.)

Tom and Alyssa FINALLY got back from their little drive. Alyssa returned to the car, where she declared, “It’s a no.”

Tom continued to talk to the dudes, who tried to convince him that this car was totally a most excellent buy for our teenage daughter. It had a WOOFER in the trunk.

Tom told them Alyssa wasn’t quite the woofer type.

Then he told them that the pictures they’d posted did not show dents in the hood, the broken cruise control or the weird cobbled dash.

They argued that the cruise control being broken didn’t make the car undrivable.

Okay. I mean, that’s technically true but when you’re thinking about spending money in the four digits, you want something better. Or, if nothing else, you don’t want to feel like you’d been taken by some well-angled pictures.

Tom finally pulled himself away from the owner (though, apparently, the guy selling the car was actually the grandson of the owner…which…okay…that’s sketchy as hell) and his mechanic friend (that was the dude in the filthy clothes) and made his way back to the car.

We left as quickly as we could and made our way to town where we all used the facilities in the local grocery store and then went through the drive-thru at McD’s.

Tom drove into the McD’s parking lot and started to hand Alyssa a pad of paper, telling her to write down exactly what she wanted.

I offered, “You want me to do the ordering?”

He took me up on that offer so fast you’d think he was shy. Nah, dude just really hates ordering at the drive-thru.

So he took my place in the backseat, I took the driver’s seat and ordered food for my family without a single word being written down.

Tom was stunned by the low, low price of the food but then realized I hadn’t ordered anything for myself. My jaw had ached all evening and I just couldn’t bring myself to eat anything. I offered to drive us home so he could eat.

We made it home safely and were in bed a half hour later. It was an exhausting trip, is what I’m saying.