Displaced Stay At Home Californian in rural N. Carolina

The Many Faces of Joy

The Many Faces of Joy

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sally Tomato

We live in a duplex. We live in a duplex for a myriad of reasons really, the biggest reason being mostly financial, because the duplex we live in is relatively cheap. We also live in a duplex because we don't have a ton of stuff or need a lot of room. We have found that there are downsides to sharing living space with people we don't know very well as well as upsides.

One of the downsides is when we moved in, I asked how much you could hear between the units and I was told you could hear nothing. I realized that maybe if your hearing is not that good, you won't hear anything but my hearing is pretty good and I can hear quite a bit. One of the upsides is when you need help with a quick fix, such as my neighbor who has a baby, she can poke her head out the door and yell, "come and sit on my couch for a minute while I run and pick up my daughter from school?" and the problem is easily solved.

We live in a duplex and we have a dog. We also have a cat, but this is about the dog. Our dog comes from a long line of dogs that are bred for their ability to guard. He is a very good guard dog and when the person we share a wall with, the duplex neighbor, lets her dogs out in the backyard or walks into her backyard, our dog notifies us by barking. He also barks at one other neighborhood husky that he truly hates but the majority of the barking is at our duplex neighbor's dogs and the neighbor herself. He loves this neighbor by the way - she is a dog person and he loves her to pieces and loves to lick her and sniff her crotch when he sees her out on the street. But he has to guard his family and so he tells us when she is out and about in the back yard. This causes a problem for us because our neighbor is also the property manager and she feels like she cannot enjoy the summer and her backyard because of our dog raising up a shit storm of noise whenever she sets foot in the backyard. She has asked us to take steps in training him to not guard his family that involve a can and noisy coins or a cup of water in the face. We have assured her we will try whatever it takes because 1) we would rather not be evicted and be homeless and 2) we need to try to settle this amicably and 3) putting him down or using a bark-less collar or a shock collar is inhumane to us.

Did I mention she has 2 dogs? She has 2 dogs. And they are nervous barkers. They bark at the mailman. They bark at the UPS truck. They bark at the PG&E man. They bark at the Mormons. They bark at the Fed Ex man. They bark at the Arrow water truck. They bark at the garbage trucks. Sometimes in the winter they get started barking for no reason and they just bark and bark and bark and they don't stop for a really long time. One night at 3am they started barking and they barked until I was wide awake. I have been really patient and understanding of our living situation and the fact that we share space and have not made it an issue. I once tried to bring it into conversation casually just to say, "Wow, your dogs do not like it when you are gone" and I got shut down. I got shut down again last night when I tried to bring up that mutual respect and admiration of each others pets is important. I have come to realize that there is not any situation that is going to allow this neighbor to see things from my perspective or my side of the fence.

The biggest bummer in this situation is that I really like this neighbor with the 2 dogs. I really like her a lot. But no matter how I try to bring up the dog situation I get shut down or she gets defensive and I don't know how to progress or how to handle this. No amount of good communication on my behalf is helping me with this. The single hardest thing for people to do is self assess and I guess this extends not just to their kids but also their animals.

I think it is time for us to buy a house.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bathing Suits

One of the things that accompanies having children and getting old is the betrayal of a woman's body. I remember thinking that things weren't too bad after one child and that as long as I kept active and ate healthy things like salad, (all the time) I would be back to pre-baby weight and tip top shape in no time at all. For those of you out there with children, you know this will never happen. You can get back to the pre-baby weight but the bits are never the same. That is to say that nothing will ever look like it used to before it all got stretched out and swollen and then you let the air out.

Combine this with the need to find a good bathing suit for a family vacation that involves lots of swimming and water and chasing kids and hot weather. Keep in mind that the swimming I am doing includes one child holding on to my back and another gripping my arm and so the bathing suit has to withstand being tugged at, held onto by little fingers and all the wrestling, grabbing, tricks and handstands that will take place in the pool. The suit doesn't have to be pretty but it does have to stay on. And it doesn't have to fit like a glove but if it is loose in the wrong places I could end up with embarrassing slippage even though we will just be hanging out with family, there are things that even family members shouldn't have to see.

Next is finding the places where bathing suits do not cost a fortune. Gone are the days when I can throw down big dollars on material the size of a postage stamp and feel good about the hours I will spend at the beach. I remember the most expensive bathing suit I ever bought and I remember being scared to pay that much money for just a bathing suit - I think it cost $120 dollars. And just for the record, I kept that bathing suit for 8 years or something like that because I had spent so much money on it, I couldn't bear to part with it. And when I got tired of it after 8 years I believe I gave it to my friend Julie and she took the remaining elastic out of it.

After losing 20 pounds I definitely want to splurge on a 2 piece bathing suit, who wouldn't? I remember once saying I would NEVER wear a one piece bathing suit EVER. But after trying on 20 to 30 bathing suits in the last month I have compiled the following research data:

1) If it rolls down when you sit down, you shouldn't buy it
2) If it rolls up when you sit down, you shouldn't buy it
3) If it has buckles, ties, belts, straps in areas that require adjusting, you shouldn't buy it
4) If it takes longer than 10 seconds to put on or take off, you shouldn't buy it
5) If you see girls in their 20's or younger perusing the racks, walk away

And remember, buying a cute hat, trendy flip flops, a sassy cover up and a hot beach tote bag can minimize the boring and sensible, black, one piece, 20 dollar, bathing suit.

Happy Summer everyone!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ode to a Dad

You make breakfast for our kids every morning and you make them whatever they want. That means if Fiona wants toast with peanut butter and blueberries on it, that is what she gets. And if Chloe wants 2 pieces of pizza, one warmed up and one not warmed up, that is what she gets.

You changed far more diapers than I ever did or will, and that includes the cloth diapers that I made us switch to after Fiona was born to save lots of money and the environment.

You have put the girls to bed almost every night of their lives. You have read them the same books over and over and over until you can recite them from memory. Including that Snow White book that has 3 million pages.

You held Chloe as she screamed and screamed and screamed and you waited until she stopped screaming. I swear it took 10 months for her to stop but one day she stopped and you outlasted her! We found out later it was called colic.

You make up the coolest game, like that game where they push you over and they have multiple levels and they have expert and that means they can roll you onto your back. I love watching you guys play that game, it is so creative.

You wake up every time Fiona screams out at night or cries or has a night terror. I never wake up. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning and look at you, I know you are very tired because you were up most of the night.

You make the best weekend lunches, the best! When I ask the girls they tell me that potatoes and chicken nuggets and ramen and macaroni and cheese and noodles are their favorite lunch.

You take them to the park every weekend and sometimes 2 parks. You take them on your errands, you give them a bath, you tuck them in, you carry them when they fall, you hold them up high when they can't see, you know all their best tickle spots, you sing them Beatles songs, you play the guitar for them, you help them with homework, you make all the lunches for school and I could be here all day - you are just that amazing.

The list of stuff that makes you a great dad is long and I could type all night. Thanks for being such a great Dad to 2 little girls. Happy Father's Day Gabe!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Servicio al Cliente

I used to be a Customer Service Supervisor and Manager. Before I chose to stay at home with my kids and do ten times what I used to do that generated a paycheck I worked doing a lot of different jobs that applied to management, anything from Restaurant Management to Call Center Management. I worked really hard at trying to keep my customers and my employees happy and prided myself on being fair and exacting, consistent and personable. These are all traits that all managers should have but lets face it, for those of you out there working, these qualities rarely come all bundled together. I was not a perfect manager but I am a people person and working with people allowed me to focus on my ongoing comedy routine.

I have a good friend that used to work for me at an Internet Service Provider in the late 90's - you know who you are - and she has always been one of my biggest fans. She calls me occasionally with nightmare Customer Service stories that make me laugh, gasp and swear, sometimes they sound like stories that only happen in books or movies but they happen nonetheless. She and I have always wanted to keep a list of the worst offenders so that people know to avoid those companies and maybe someday we'll get the list off the ground. In the meantime, here is a short list of the things that make us crazy.

1) Companies (like Target) that let their employees smoke outside the front of their stores so that everyone who enters has to first walk past the tired and pasty looking folks that are slumped on the benches out front sucking down that last cigarette that will help them get through the shift they are scheduled for.

2) Companies that require you to give an explanation for why you are returning items. Who cares why I'm returning it, you have a return policy and I am returning it, give me back my money.

3) Retail stores (like TJ Maxx and Marshalls) that have one line for returns and 6 lines for purchases. Because these companies resell clothes that have holes in them, the returns line is always longer than the purchasing line. (read my previous blog titled Fashionista for a clear explanation of what I'm talking about here)

4) Sales people that shout out "Next in Line please!" when there is no line established or clearly marked. Mayhem.

5) People that sidebar conversations while they work, such as when you are buying a t shirt for $6.99 and you have to listen to Mary detail her night out on the town and how "twisted" she got and how the "hook up" was not unplanned. I don't care if you don't ask me how I'm doing or if I've found everything I'm looking for, I don't want to hear about your Saturday night out on the town.

6) The people that stand at the front door of Walmart and say over and over "Welcome to Walmart, Welcome to Walmart, Welcome to Walmart" in a monotone and bored tone. They really could care less if you are at Walmart and are only paid to stand there and say "Welcome to Walmart" and would be better suited to to collect shopping carts or work one of the two cash registers in use even though they have 32 of them standing empty for some reason.

7) When I am at the movies and I ask for a Medium sized popcorn for $12.99, I know full well that a Large is only 50 cents more but I only want a Medium, so pointing out that for only 50 cents more I can get a Large which comes with free refills still hasn't convinced me to change my mind.

8) This one appeals to the parents out there that take their kids shopping and then release them once they have entered the store to run around and generally treat the store like a daycare center. You will find these kids ripping into packages that are supposed to stay closed, you have them popping out from under the racks of clothes because they are playing hide and seek. You have them chasing each other around displays because lets face it, their parents are shopping and they are children which means they hate shopping. Parents, seriously, find a park or a play area and take your kids there. I end up leaving these stores quickly because I find myself wanting to trip these children when they run past or complain to the manager.

9) When you call me on the phone and you start to read in a monotone voice, "Hello, my name is Trish and I am calling you today Mrs. McKee, McKay, McKoo, to tell you that we have a wonderful offer for you . . . " try to sound like you are not reading. I already know I am not buying what you are offering but at least try to convince me that you know what you are selling and not reading a script just handed to you. When you go to a fine dining restaurant and you ask what the specials are (aka the stuff the kitchen is trying to get rid of before it rots) the server always tries to beef it up for you rather than pull out a paper and read. Sell the product you are selling or find a job that doesn't include reading.

10) The tour de force for me is Counting Back Change. What happened in schools and jobs and homes that involves not teaching people to count back change? If for some reason the price rings up as $12.73 and I give the sales person a $20 and at the last minute I find 23 cents and they have already entered the $20 into the computer and opened the cash drawer, that 23 cents can actually shut down a grocery line. This requires a call to be put out to the floor for a manager. And then we have to wait for the manager to bring the void key. And then there is an explanation. And then they have to actually rescan the item and enter the $20.23 and now I just want to put my item back and leave the store because the employee doesn't know basic math and the company didn't bother to teach their employee how to count back change. Shocking.

I can tell you that I don't see a lot of Now Hiring signs out there in store windows and local businesses. I know that unemployment numbers are very high. And when a good job gets posted in a newspaper or online, sometimes hundreds show up to interview. Companies that are doing the hiring can be choosy now, they just had 20 people show up for the job of the Walmart Greeter - so get picky and train that person well!

Stop making me crazy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Personal Assistant

It is summer vacation and I've been making plans. Plans for camping, plans for trips, plans for activities, plans for the beach, plans for cooking out, plans for bowling, plans to visit grandparents, plans for (deep breath) vacation bible school, plans for bike rides, plans for amusement parks and plans for playdates. There are so many plans and so much time, two and a half months feels like a lot of time on the first day of summer vacation.

Let me start out by saying that I have all the tools I need to be organized. I have a datebook - I got it for tracking the bills I pay and to put papers in that I need to hang on to so they don't get lost. Like the traffic ticket I got for ignoring a "No U Turn" sign and got slapped with a $410 ticket by a guy cop who didn't fall for what I thought was batting my eyes and smiling my sweetest smile. Surprising to me because it seemed to work wonders in my 20's.

I also have a wall calendar that I write down appointments and weekend events on. What days the husband is on call and what nights he will work late. I even put school events on this calendar so that when the kiddies looks at the calendar, they can see what fun event we are going to hit tonight, International potluck or ice cream social! The best part of the wall calendar is the birthdays. I like to put the cousins' birthdays and the relatives' birthdays, the kiddies get a kick out of seeing their birthday up in writing.

Finally I have an android phone that has a fabulous scheduler thing on it, I believe it is called an "app" and it allows me to put all my events and activities down in one place so that my life is streamlined and seamless. It wins the prize as the best phone I have ever had, hands down.

And yet, with all this technology and all these calendars and all these day planners my life is a scattered and confusing labyrinth of double booked appointments and play dates, two picnics on the same day and camping trips that fall on weekend trips to Los Angeles for my friend's birthday. It is a nightmare sometimes and instead of getting better, it seems to get worse and worse. And so I have come to a very serious decision:

I need a personal assistant.