The Fork in the Road

fork in the roadTypically, I am not given in to whimsy, but the other day I was walking to Starbuck’s to work and I saw a fork in the road.  Literally.  Well, it was off to the side, but it was actually a fork.  I smiled to myself as I thought about the meaning of seeing a fork in the road at this juncture of my life, a time when things are so chaotic and messy.

I am not one to snap endless pictures, probably another one of my “flat” features, so I walked by the fork that day; although I was still thinking about it the next day.

Seeing it still in the same place when I walked to get my daily chai tea, I decided to take a picture.

The forgotten fork sitting amongst the dirt and pebbles with little tufts of grass struggling to grow in the harsh Nevada weather, trying to figure out if it is winter or spring, has caused me to consider my path.

Do I go left, or do I go right?  Or is there another path somewhere down the middle?

I Have Been Ungrateful

The Box

The Box

Yesterday while I was unpacking, I found a box I had not seen in quite some time, in fact, I had all but forgotten about it.  Not quite, I had thought about it a while ago, but I did forget about the contents of the box.

The box is made of wood more than 100 years old, handcrafted with love and care, and it plays “I will Always Love You”.  I remember when it was made for me by the stepfather of my other; he made it was because he liked me instantly and had always had a strong disdain for the previous wife of my other.  The box was a symbolic welcome to the family.

I know it took him hours to construct; the hardware alone took him time to find exactly what he wanted.

While I was sorting through boxes I had not seen in almost 15 months (some years longer than that), I came across my little box; I recognized it instantly. I smiled when I remembered how much I had been thought of at the time when it was made for me.  However, as soon as I opened the box, my heart dropped; the contents of the box flooded my mind and my heart with a pain I was not prepared to endure.

There were only three things in the box: my other’s class ring, a diamond necklace he had given me, and a breast cancer pin.

It seems silly to be my age and to have a class ring hold so much significance; however, it means so much to him so it means so much to me.  The fact that he once loved me so much that he entrusted me to have a ring that he has had since the early 1980s, when the most important things in life were Lettermen’s jackets, class rings, cool cars, and prom dates… at least in his world.

The diamond necklace was one of so many gifts he gave me I do not even know where to begin, other than the fact that when it was given to me, I was ungrateful because I am certain I would have preferred more diamonds.  It was in the box because the chain was broken.  I was that way with every gift he gave me. Ungrateful.

As for the breast cancer pin, it is a complete conundrum; I do not know where it came from, or why it is in the box.  The strangest coincidence about the three items represented in the box is that, his mother has breast cancer.  I would have not known that when I put those items in there, as I have not seen that box for at least five years…

I spent the rest of my evening thinking about how ungrateful I had been with his generosity over the years: when he gave me a $300 portable DVD player for my birthday, I had wanted a new laptop; when I got a Fanch Ledan for my office, I wanted the Fabien Perez; when I got a new Tiffany necklace, I had wanted a $30,000 diamond engagement ring… it never ended.

As I continued unpacking, I threw away boxes of ruined Bath & Body Works lotion, body spray, and body wash because it went rancid from being in storage.  I thought about the monthly trips where we would spend no less than $150 a month so I could buy whatever I wanted to smell good and have soft skin.  I threw away bags of countless dollars of skin care products purchased at high-end makeup counters because they were outdated and sour.

There was no end to his generosity and my spoiled behavior.  I always said “Thank you”.  I felt it.

But I think it fell flat.

I look at that class ring now; I feel it in my fingers, imagine him wearing it, think of him giving it to me, imagine him loving me… and remember.

***

As an aside, I had not always been so bratty and spoiled; in fact, I had never been treated this way before, never had anybody buy me things, love me, or want to do anything for me.  I truly did not know how to behave.

Fanch Ledan "Interior With Max" hanging in my apartment

Fanch Ledan “Interior With Max” hanging in my apartment

Come Fly with Me

airplane

It is that time again… time for another plane trip and another bout of paranoia.

Do I have anything left to confess?  Oh, my closet is full of so many skeletons I could charge admission during Halloween… but for the simple stuff…

For those of you that do not know, each time I travel by air, I am certain I am going to die and I want to purge myself of little bits about myself so I can be remembered.

***

I do not get mean girls.  If you do not like somebody, simply move on.  Is it that you do not have anywhere else to focus your energy, so you beat up on people you see as weaker?  Or is it just low self-esteem?  Either way, get a hobby.  Honestly.  The mean girl card is so overplayed it is time to leave it behind.  If you are a mean girl, you know who I am talking to; if you are being affected by one, hold your head high and walk on by… they do not get it.

***

Even though I am a super picky eater, when I find something I like to eat, I can eat it day after day and I truly do not mind at all.  I have eaten spaghetti for dinner four nights in a row, and it has not bothered me in the least.

***

I do not think food and sex is erotic are provocative in the least.  In fact, quite the opposite; as soon as I am finished eating, I feel the need to wash my hands and douse myself with body spray so I do not smell like food or have any food smells near me whatsoever.

While I love food, cooking, and eating… mostly; I do not think it belongs in the bedroom or in an erotic setting.

Not judging… just confessing.

***

I drink far too much, especially coming from a long history of alcoholics.  I cannot recall the last time I was drunk, but I drink every day.

***

I feel like I have been a better friend to the people in my life than they have been to me, and it hurts.  I try to let it go, but it is hard.  I feel selfish and small when I dwell on it.

***

I am going to be back in the area where most of my family lives (mother, sister, brother, children) for at least four days, but I will not be seeing any of them.  While my children will not know because they could care less, the rest of my family does.  Still, I will not be seeing any of them.  Knowing that I do not know when I will be back in the area, it does not feel good that nobody has the time to see me; but, I have to “suck it up”.

***

So goes another trip out of town.  I will be returning soon…

Met My Old Lover in the Record Store

imagesRemember the song about the man who saw his high school girlfriend in a grocery store and he waxed poetic about their relationship.  The song has been remade hundreds of times; no, not literally, but figuratively.  Everyone looks back at their past during troubled points in their life and yearns for a simpler time, or thinks about a lost love and wonders “what if”.

Those are precisely the reasons I have never joined any social networking sites; I have not wanted to be found by anybody wanting to reconnect with me, nor I them.  I have never been curious about anybody from my past.  I have lived a very cyclical lifestyle; aside from family that I am bound to by DNA, there is nobody in my life that was here 10 years ago; three people that were here 5 years ago, and only one that I speak to or see regularly.

If I had any desire to know people from my past, or they me, I am assuming we would have continued (or even started) a friendship while we were in high school, which is where I assume most of the connections on these sites begin.

However, due to a very recent career move, I was required to join several of these dreaded sites; I reluctantly agreed, but made no move to advertise my presence.  I simply signed up and existed.  All was well until approximately a month ago when I received a “chat” message from somebody:

“Wow, I loved your work on that piece.” Him

“Thank you.  I appreciate you following.” Me

Mindless banter regarding my work.

“So, do you still have that ’57 Chevy you used to drive?” Him

A few minutes of stone silence on my end.

“Uhmmmm…” Me

“Are you still there?” Him

“Yes, I’m still here.” Me

“Don’t you remember me?”  Him

“No, not really.  I apologize.” Me, completely clueless as to who I am chatting with.

“We used to date, in high school.” Him

“Oh.  We did?  I am so sorry.  I guess I dated a lot.”  Me

“Lol” Him

“So…” Me

“You used to drive a ’57 Chevy BelAir.  You lived in the ghetto, remember?” Him

Yes, I am thinking, I know who I am, who are you?

“We dated for like three months, junior year.  I don’t remember why we broke up; but I remember making out like crazy, until my jaw was sore.”  Him

“Oh, yeah, now I remember you.” Me, still having no clue, but trying to be polite.

The banter continued for a few hours that night; he told me how he was unhappy in his marriage with his wife of 10 years, how he had lost his passion for life, how life was basically dragging him down.  He was nostalgic about our relationship and wondered about me all these years; he was happy to have finally found me and hoped I was doing well and was happy.

We ended our conversation that night wishing each other well; I told him that I hoped he would find peace in his marriage, but that I thought he deserved to be happy, I believe everyone does.  He thanked me for some advice I gave him and we said good night.

For the next few weeks, we said hello in passing, wishing each other a happy holiday but nothing more.

Then, a few nights ago, the inevitable happened; he said hello and we chatted for three hours.  He opined how unhappy he was with his wife, and asked when I would be in town again.  When I told him I would be there next week for work, he asked if we could go to lunch because he wanted to say some things he never had a chance to say in high school.

I asked how his wife would feel; he said he did not care anymore about how she would feel.  I told him I was in a committed relationship; he said it was all right with him, he still needed to say what was on his mind.  My heart ached for him.

He remembered why we broke up; he admitted that he had been a virgin when we were in high school and that he feels I wanted more.  I confessed that I was a bit “fast” in those days and gave myself away far too often and to too many people; like the tacky country music song lyricizes, “looking for love in too many places”.  However, it made me remember him.

As we ended our conversation again, I realized how dangerous these sites and this new genre of communication can be.  I longed to tell him that if he put those three hours of chat time into his marriage, imagine what he might get in return; but I did not want to judge or imply.

He is holding onto a memory of a girl that no longer lives; maybe she never did…  But each time somebody sits behind their keyboard and holds out hope searching for a lost love from high school from 25 years ago, they can only be looking for memories.  It is like pulling out a dusty old scrapbook and looking at photographs, the pictures are static, they cannot change; time has passed, things change, people change, but the photos are the same…

 

I Feel Selfish

indexFor a lifetime, I have wanted so much for others.

When I see homeless people, I long to give them food and shelter and to help them learn to live with any mental health issues that may have caused them to exist in a life on the streets.  I want to pass out my phone number so I can help with any program to free those people who have suffered by being wrongly convicted as I learn about injustices.  Every scrawny dog I see wandering the streets garners my empathy and a place in my heart.

I used to purchase lottery tickets each week when I lived in Nevada; I would go with a co-worker once a week to the California border.  We would drive the 10 miles to the California border each talking about what we would do with the money if we won.  While I cannot recall what she would do with the money, I would talk about how I would hire an attorney and find a way secretly to pay off the bills for my parents, brother and sisters since they were not speaking to me.  However, I knew they were all struggling and could use the infusion of cash.

After I ended my second marriage and started a new relationship, I made a myriad of mistakes.

My ex suffered from Chrohn’s Disease and, at times, was gravely ill; it was part of the reason our relationship continued as long as it did.  I told my new love that if my ex ever underwent one of the prescribed surgeries removing parts of his intestines and needed me, I would go back, regardless of the fact that he had treated me very shabbily.  I knew he would have a challenging time in future relationships due to his abrasive personality and social awkwardness.

Additionally, my new love’s ex-wife had an instance a few months into our relationship when she believed she had breast cancer.  She received some test results indicating she had to undergo further testing to determine the issue.  She was understandably upset.

Despite her previous attempts to run me over with her car and get me fired from my job when she thought I was having an affair with her husband, I encouraged my boyfriend to go to her side.  I thought she would need him; after 18 years of marriage, I thought it was his place to be with her.  My rationale was love and commitment simply did not stop with divorce and he must surely still have some feelings for her and not wish her to suffer alone.

He thought I was nuts, not compassionate… with both of our exes.  Fortunately, neither situation presented, and we were spared.

When my mom killed my dad, she was ill prepared to face the world as a convicted felon.  She had a 10th grade education, no coping skills, and had lost her job and her home.

I wanted desperately to do something right in her eyes and to provide for her in the only way I knew how.  Using the contacts I had through two internships and school, I found a way for her to get her GED and counseling, but she turned down all of my help.  My husband was able to get her a job at the plant where he worked, but only making less than half the pay she was used to, and the work was monotonous.  We offered to sell our home and purchase one with a mother-in-law quarters, opting instead to stay with my other siblings in spare rooms.  However, I really wanted to do more.

My girls…

I could write an entire book of things I want for my girls; but, I am afraid the tears would start to flow and I could not stop.  Therefore, I will say only that I love them and wish for them all of the love and happiness in the world.  Material things are not enough for them; they deserve the riches of the heart.

***

My life has been filled with wants for others, but I find myself at a turning point of sorts… I want.

I want for me; just me.  I want happiness, happily ever after, love, life, fulfillment, joy, laughter.

It does not mean I do not still want for others, I do.  Though, now, I want for myself as well.

But… I feel selfish for wanting.

Things “Right” or Good About Me

making-good-things-happen1This is one of the most challenging pieces I have ever had to write; but as I have been challenged by “CoastalMom”, (and it was “seconded” by others) I felt compelled to oblige…

Besides, I know it will be good for my psyche.

***

I am writing about all of the things I can think of that I have done right or good in my life; please note, these may not be in chronological order, simply in the order I can remember them.

***

When I was a sophomore in high school and rode the bus, there was a new kid in school riding who got on the bus the stop after mine.  He was tall, awkward, wore glasses, and was one of the shyest kids I had ever seen.  Well, to be fair, since I have no filter on my mouth and will talk to anybody, I have a challenging time distinguishing shy from quiet…

When he would get on the bus, the other kids would scoot over or put their book bags on the seat so he could not sit down.  He would walk down the center aisle of the bus with his head hanging low, eyes downcast, looking for an available seat.

I had been the “new kid” only a month before and had felt the same stinging humiliation he was feeling, but I handled it a bit differently.  I bounced down the aisle wearing my yellow mini skirt and Rick Springfield printed tee with the lettering stating, “I love Rick” on the back; I dared anybody not to notice me.  With confidence, I walked up to the cutest loser on the bus and demanded a seat next to him… it was never ending love for the next three weeks.

After a few days of watching the nerdy kid trying to get a seat I looked at the empty space beside me as he walked by, “You can sit here,” I loudly called out as he passed by.  I could see by the looked on his face he was stunned.

“Hey, thanks,” he said as he sat beside me listening to the taunts and jeers from my ex wanna be a professional skater boyfriend and his equally talented buddies.  We sat together every day after that and he said later he was always grateful for my simple gesture.

***

As challenging as my relationship with my mother has been, I have never lashed back at her.  Often, others have suggested I treat her in the same shabby way she treats me, but I have always understood she has had a difficult life and probably only treats me the way she does out of a lack of knowing any better.

***

I used to work at a large corporation where my position was accounting/payroll and backup human resources.  The majority of the employees had a challenging time with the woman who was the human resources manager, she was cold, indifferent, and did not embrace the company’s open door policy; as a result, many of the employees would come to me with their personal problems.

One particular man would come to me with issues such as an issue he was having with the IRS; he could not understand the paperwork.  He simply needed to fax some things, so I looked it over and faxed the information for him.  He would always say, “I’m just a dumb ole’ shop guy with an eighth grade education, I don’t know nothin’ bout office machines or anything.  Thank you so much for the help.”  I was more than happy to help him, and it really did not take much time.

The human resources manager would often comment how it was not part of my job and I did not have to do it; I imagine that was part of the reason nobody liked her and preferred to come to me.  I actually liked that employees felt they could come to me; I realized it was not my job, but I enjoyed helping them.

The same employee with the IRS issue was casually talking to me one day about his elderly mother; she lived in a trailer and had been duped by a dishonest contractor who promised a roof repair.  The man took $800 then had not performed the promised repairs.  His mother lived on a fixed income and could not afford any more money; to make matters worse; this man only made $9 an hour at our company and could do little to help his mother.

After listening to him, I could not ignore the situation; I called a friend of mine that I had not talked to for several years and sheepishly asked for help.  I knew he had many contacts in the area and had done a lot of this nature.  In a matter of a few days, he coordinated a roof repair, an air conditioning unit, and some much needed yard work.

I suppose I really did not do anything other than get them in contact with each other, my friend really did all of the work; I was simply a catalyst.  Perhaps this should not be on my list.

***

While working at a manufacturing company, I had the opportunity to hire an employee through a temporary agency.  I asked for some specific qualifications such as the ability the prolific use of Excel and other Microsoft Office products.  After screening several candidates, the organization sent over a young man they felt would fill our needs.

The first day, it was apparent he did not know any of the computer software programs I had required; however, he was brilliant.  He spoke several languages and held a degree in international business studies; I was confused about why this young man was looking for work through temporary means.

I soon came to learn he was working to get his passport and other documentation to become a teacher in Beijing, teaching English to elementary school children.  I was thrilled for him; he was such a wonderful young man.  Over a few short weeks he became like a son to me; he was a doppelganger of my daughter’s boyfriend, a smarter, taller version.  He had a few socially awkward moments, but he was witty, intelligent, and could be incredibly funny if you understood his humor.

Then, one day, he came into my office and confided in me; he was a felon.  Seven years earlier, he had been convicted of killing his brother when his brother had come at him in a drug-induced state while they were boarding together at college.  As I listened to him describe the scene, how he tried to resuscitate him after stabbing him, and was still giving him CPR when the police came, then how he was convicted, and how his dad could not forgive him, my heart broke for him.  He was so young, and so innocent; he may have been twenty-six, but he was just a boy.

I shared my story with him, about how my mother had killed my father; we bonded over trials, lawyers, and the court systems.  He was grateful I had listened and not judged.

I protected his secret for as long as I could; until somebody who went to school with his brother recognized him and printed everything he could find from the Internet.  Afterwards, people in the office started talking about him; I even had one close friend ask me about him and call him a murderer.  She asked me if I had been afraid the time I took him to lunch… all I could do was shake my head thinking about the time she met my mother wondering if she had been afraid of her.

It has been two years and we still keep in touch; he has often said I was the kindest person he had ever met.  I feel like all I did was to be compassionate to a kid who needed it at the time; the same thing anybody would do.

***

In 1997, my second husband (then boyfriend) broke his back snowboarding; he was in the trauma unit for five days.  I only left the hospital one time, to pack a bag.  Other than that, I slept on a cot next to his bed in ICU, then in a chair in his regular room until the day he left.

The hospital had a program called the VIP Program, Very Important Partner Program; they encouraged family members to stay with patients to help them recover.  The person could help the nurses perform simple tasks such as getting ice chips, blankets, or anything else the patient may need; it made for a more pleasant stay for the patient and freed up the time for the nurses.

He has Crohn’s Disease so was hospitalized two more times; I stayed each time, playing games, performing as a liaison between him and the nurses, and taking care of anything he wanted or needed.  I heard the nurses talking about him in the hallway, they were thankful I was there, to say the least; he was an extremely difficult patient.

***

My nephew was in the hospital for a burst appendix when he was sixteen; it had been ruptured for a few months before the doctor had discovered it, so he was extremely sick.  As my sister’s family lived about 45 miles out-of-town, she stayed with him while he was convalescing.

Every morning before I would go to work, I would stop by and bring her breakfast I had prepared for her at home; usually an egg on English muffin with cheese and ham wrapped in foil to keep it hot.  Then on my lunch hour I would go sit with him so she could go to my house and shower; for being sixteen, it was remarkable to me how needy he was and could not be left alone for an hour.  After work, I would go home and make dinner for my family, then take some down to my sister.

A month later, my husband was in the hospital for 5 days and I needed some help with my daughters; I asked for them to spend the weekend at my sister’s house because they had already spent 3 days at their grandparents, she declined.  My husband did not understand, and thought I should cut her out of my life; I could not do it, citing the tough life we had as children.

***

As a little girl in New Mexico, there was a girl who wore the same thing to school every day, she wore a long denim skirt to her ankles and a blue shirt.  Her hair was always a mess and she smelled like urine; her name was CB.  Nobody would play with her on the playground, and even the teacher seemed to treat her differently; she was smelly and dirty.

After school, as the bus drove by her place it was easy to see why CB was so unkempt; her home looked like Sanford and Son’s place.  There was litter strewn about and dilapidated outbuildings and cars all about the property.

We sat together on the bus and chatted, because I cannot help myself no matter where I go; we played together on the playground; because that’s what kids do; and I asked her to stay overnight, but she was never allowed.  I think I was her only friend.  However, I only went to school there for a year, so I don’t know whatever happened to CB… sometimes I imagine her leaving Thoreau and growing into a beautiful princess…

***

I used to work with a woman who everybody thought was highly unpleasant to put it nicely; and she was.  She was abrupt, challenging, and sometimes downright nasty; however, if you took the time to talk to her, you would find out that she had a nine-year-old daughter who lived with her ex-husband, she now had a lesbian life partner, and she could actually be quite pleasant at times.

When she found out she had cancer and was put on disability, most people in the office really did not seem to care; especially our human resources manager who was neither human nor resourceful.  So, when she came in to turn in get some help with her disability paperwork and was getting nowhere with the HR manager, I sat down with the daunting stack of redundant questions and powered through them one at a time with her until we finished the packet.

The next time she came in to complete her forms and collect signatures from her supervisor I gave her a basket of goodies I had been collecting for her and had shrink-wrapped.  I bought her some candy, a candle, some crosswords, magazines, and other stuff to while away the time while she was at her chemotherapy appointments hoping to bring a smile to her face.

She thanked me; that was the last time I ever saw her.  I hear she recovered well.

***

I suppose I can think of a few more, but I am starting to feel this post is getting quite long, and I have to fight the urge continuously to interject the negative…

Thank you, CoastalMom, for the inspiration.