A Girl Who Reads

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Volunteering

I stuck up an old post because I feel like I should put something up.  It’s a good post.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  It’s entertaining.

I’ve started training for my two volunteer positions.  Last week, I started at the Family Justice Center, a referral agency for domestic violence.  I’m going to be doing intakes, working on the support phone line, and doing clerical duties around the office as needed.  It’s a great place — the services it offers are just phenomenal.  We didn’t have anything like it back home.

The FJC offers survivors of domestic violence pretty much everything they could need in order to manage their situation, from continuing to stay in that situation but needing safety plans to help it be not so bad, to getting protective orders and leaving the situation for good.  It has a forensic medical unit where injuries can be documented and addressed (it can handle anything up to rape, where the nurse refers the patient to the ER for a SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner) exam. Also, the FJC has an officer from the Buffalo PD in house, a legal services group that works with low-income and disabled persons, a teleconference room set up so survivors can talk to the Judge, and basically everything they need to get their protective orders without going to fifty different places. It is an awesome set up, and they need more volunteers, so if you’re in the WNY area, please don’t hesitate to check out the website and get more information.

On the wall at the FJC:

That being said, the training has been a real bitch.  There were two computer based modules that I had to do at home, and a ton of reading that I wasn’t prepared for.  It wasn’t that it was so bad, it’s more that there wasn’t proper communication to let me know what to expect. And I hate that.  I want to know what’s going to happen and when and where and how long. Having a butt-ton of stuff to do and organize at home in just a few days would have been nice to know. (And yes, part of it is that I am totally anal retentive and had to set things up MY WAY – which isn’t actually required but took a good chunk of time and energy.) I feel it could have been handled in a better way.

I’m supposed to start on the phone tomorrow.  I don’t feel prepared.  I’m a little concerned. But I’m still technically training, so there will be people to ask if I run into problems. Please keep your fingers crossed that it goes well.

Tonight, I started training for the Crisis Text Line, an online chat/text based crisis intervention line. I will be a “crisis counselor” and will take “calls” for any kind of crisis that may come up – from a fight with the parental units to suicide to sexual assault.  Users can text from their phones or use Facebook messenger to contact a counselor and get crisis intervention services.  It’s like a suicide hotline only in text.  I think the concept is pretty nifty, and so far the training has been good.  Thorough but easily digested.  I think I’m going to enjoy it.

I’m glad that I’m getting back into volunteering.  I think it will be good for me, not just to get me out of the house for a day or two a week, but to reach out to people beyond my limited circle.  Not in the least is it going to remind me that I have life pretty good in comparison to a lot of other people. And I admit, sometimes, I need that reminder.

I’ll let you know how they both go.

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Stellar Customer Service

Work has dragged on for an interminable amount of time these last few weeks.  I mean, it’s had me seriously considering if it is, in fact, possible for time to move so slowly that it’s going backwards.  When work is that slow, I take whatever moments of entertainment that I can find and enjoy the hell out of them.

A week or so ago, I just get ready to have lunch (a *cough*healthy*cough* lean cuisine sort of frozen thing).  The microwave beeps and I’m waiting the required one to two minutes that you’re supposed to leave frozen meals in the microwave (it’s on the box, in the directions — I promise) and then the phone rings.

I will admit, I muttered a few non-work appropriate comments as I pick up the extension to see what was going wrong at that moment in time.

“Hey, we have a few guys up in the pharmacy and I think they’re trying to steal something. You’d better come up here.”

It’s nearly 3am in the morning.  I’m cranky, I’m hungry, and now someone is trying to be badass shoplifters. ARGH.

So, I look longingly towards the still beeping microwave and head towards the pharmacy area.  Sure enough, there are three kids huddled around one of the shelves, giggling.  Yes, you heard that right.  These badass thieves are GIGGLING as they fiddle with various condom packages.  It was all I could do to not roll my eyes and let it go.

But I have an evil streak.

I also have a push up bra, low cut shirt, and more than decent cleavage if I do say so myself.  And, I have an evil streak.

The boys don’t realize that I’m walking up behind them until I tap the one in the middle on the shoulder.  When he turned around, I had to really struggle with not busting up in laughter.  This kid couldn’t be older than 17 if he was a day old.  The whole “crew” was around that age.  It was really kind of cute when they started to blush and kind of stammer as they looked anywhere but at me.

I leaned in and used a stage whisper to somewhat “conspiratorially” tell the boys — “Hey, you know, you don’t have to steal condoms. The health department gives them away for free.” And I just smiled very sweetly as my words sunk in, their faces brightened even more, and they just couldn’t get out of the store fast enough.

I doubt that I’ll see them anytime in the near future.

The girl who called me up in the first place looked at me after they hightailed it away and she was more than a little stunned.  “I thought we weren’t supposed to accuse shoplifters.”

“Well, you probably shouldn’t, but being management, I have a little more discretion in how I choose to handle situations.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that I was providing stellar customer service.  I was simply advising the boys where they could find the product they were looking for (condoms) at the price they wanted (free) without the threat of me calling their moms and/or the police.  What better customer service could they ask for?”

She didn’t have an answer.

Originally posted summer of 2011

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Bizarro Universe Strikes Again

I don’t know what it is, but apparently there is something about me that just SCREAMS for people to share their deep, dark secretsr with me.  Their personal kinks, scary hijinks, and anything else that can’t be contained behind a filter. You know the filter I’m talking about. The one that slams down on a thought and tells your subconcious that no one else wants to know whatever it is that you want to share …. I apparently have a gift that nullifies this filter. So people tell me things.

Like my last trip to the doctor.

I came down with some kind of bug, and I decided that the best option was to go on to the urgent care clinic on my lunch hour instead of waiting until I had a day off to see my doctor.  I waited the requisite 45 minutes to be seen into the back, and then I waited a little while longer, trying desperately to keep my eyes open and my lungs from jumping out of my chest. And finally, the doctor walks in. No, she didn’t walk in. She swept in. With a vengence.

She looked like somebody’s grandma.  She probably is somebody’s grandma. And before I knew it — before I could raise the shields, this little old lady stood nose to shoulder with me and started talking.

“They were talking about that book on Dr. Drew last night. You know the one.  About that millionaire who takes that sweet young girl and grooms her into his sex slave. YES!He groomed her, he taught her and it had all kinds of sex and sado-masochism and I just don’t know why anyone would want to read a book like that? I mean, would YOU want a read a book like that? That man, he treated her just like a pedophile treats children. He groomed her into exactly what he wanted her to be, and she just couldn’t help it. She was just so innocent, and he hurt her. And Dr. Drew doesn’t think its a good book. And I don’t either. I mean, I don’t want to read anything about whips and chains and gags. Do you?”

And mercifully, she paused for a breath. Cause I’m sure she didn’t breathe at all during the whole tangent about “the book.” I blinked slowly at her, pulled back, and croaked, “well, I think that what consenting adults do is their own business, and that as adults, people can read whatever they like, and if you don’t like it, don’t read it. The freedom to choose is one of the perks to living in America, but I’m running late and my lunch hour is over, so could you maybe take a look at me and see what’s wrong with me?”

BAM! She snapped into professional mode, stood back and shook her head. “So, dearie, what are we seeing you for?”

Weirdest. Doctor. Visit. Ever.

Originally published April 14, 2012

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My Neighbor had a Cat

Throughout my life, I have often joked about being the “untalented” one out of my group of friends and family. I know songwriters, actors, singers, pianists, photographers, scenic designers, graphic designers, cartoonists, writers, dancers and storytellers — just to name a few. And me…well, I’m just me. My talent is less obvious and somewhat more entertaining, if not a whole lot more bizarre.

You see, I’m cursed blessed with a gift that encourages people to talk. And I don’t mean talk about the weather. I mean they tell me the shit they feel they can’t tell anyone else. Some people may say that I’m just a good listener. I think perhaps its more. As Elfie recently told someone, I’m a good confessor because I must have it on good authority what will send people to hell. I’m not sure that I agree with her, but I like the sentiment.

So, people tell me shit. Like the weird ass doctor a few months ago. That was strange, but it wasn’t intensely personal. The confession I’m about to share is about as personal as it can get between a man, his neighbor, and a cat.

To set the scene, picture a man, easily over six feet tall, weighing in at 250 pounds. A relatively large man who has a physical job hauling crap from one store to another. A manly man. More or less. We will call him Doug. Names have been changed to protect the innocent and the tragically comic. And Doug owns a man sized dog. A boxer. That is important to the story about to unfold.

As Doug tells it, the story begins…

So, my neighbor had a cat. (yeah, you read that right. Had a cat).

Doug came outside to his front porch where he found his neighbor’s cat, unfortunately deceased. The cat appeared to have been the tragic victim of a man sized dog, such as a boxer. The fur was matted and dirty, bloodied and torn. Doug said his heart broke when he saw it, and I assure you, my heart broke when I heard it.

After hearing the pieces of his heart hit the front porch, Doug immediately went into “fix it” mode. It was obvious that his dog had killed the neighbor’s cat. Now, Doug had three options. 1) Man up and tell the neighbor what happened. 2) Hide the evidence and deny, deny, deny. or 3) Lie.

Not up to telling his neighbor of his boxer’s antics, Doug decided to combine options two and three. This manly man took the cat corpse from his porch, bathed it, blow dried it, groomed it, and gently placed it on his neighbor’s porch. He carefully, gently arranged it so there were no visible marks and it appeared the cat had simply curled up to sleep and never woken up.

In case you missed it, he went so far as to blow dry and comb out the fur to cover the tracks of his best friend.

Then, Doug went about his normal routine like nothing happened.

Until his neighbor had a conversation about a week later, during which he expressed some concern for the strangest thing. Two weeks prior, his cat died. The family had a funeral and buried it. And then somehow, it showed up. CLEAN. ON HIS PORCH. The neighbor was, understandably, more than a little freaked out as he reburied the cat before the kids got home from school.

By this point in the story, I was crying, and out wasn’t because of the poor beloved deceased pet. He WASHED, GROOMED, AND STAGED the poor thing in order to spare his neighbor, and managed to evoke images of pet cemetary and brain eating zombie cats from hell instead.

I managed to choke out a question, “Doug, what did you do?” And he just shrugged with a sheepish grin. “What could I do? I finally told him the truth.”

Originally published April 24, 2012

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Music as my salvation

So I was in a car accident in December.  It was bad. I ran off the left side of the interstate going 70 mph, went through the median and the guardrail, went airborne into oncoming traffic and then landed on another car.

accident

I was lucky.  I only broke my back.  Fortunately, the driver of the car I landed on lucky too.

I spent almost 5 months in a back brace, living with my parents, before I was able to have the necessary fusion to prevent paralysis.  It was life altering.

I came home to Buffalo via Columbus and life continued. And then I made the 9.5 hour drive back to Bristol again.  That wasn’t so bad. It was the drive home that was shattering.

At first it was just a feeling of unease, disconnect, unreality.  And then the tears started. Finally I was forced to pull over to attempt to get myself together.  The depression and disconnect are still with me.  I sat at the rest area and sobbed.

It’s like that drive home finally brought the reality that I had broken my back and nearly killed someone.  I don’t know why the accident happened?  I don’t think I was tired.  I don’t recall being distracted by my phone or the radio or anything else.  But I don’t know for sure.  Maybe it was a freak accident.  Or maybe I did something that made it happen. I just don’t know.

I feel disconnected from everyone.  I interact with people through a hazy film that sets them far from me, almost like a mirage.  The part of me that used to feel so much is just… gone. It hurts so much that sometimes I think I can’t stand it.  But it doesn’t hurt near enough.  I KNOW that I should feel a lack of something. All I feel is numbness and guilt.

About two weeks before the accident my psychiatrist put me on a new medication, Seroquel.  It was a low starter dose to help control my hallucinations.  It was supposed to help with my insomnia.  I don’t know if it is a contributing factor to either the accident or my lost feelings.  I know that I stopped taking it about a week and a half ago, and I don’t feel any different.  I still don’t feel.  I just pretend.

My doc has put me on a different medication that is supposed to do everything the Seroquel should do but it should also  help the depression.  It should help me to be more motivated. More up. More lively.  She says it should help with the disconnect.

I’ve started volunteering again.  I used to really enjoy it when I worked with CASA. Now, I’m going through the motions.  It’s good for me, I think.  It gets me out of the house and interacting with people who, let’s face it, are in much worse shape than I am.  I should feel good about it. The reality is that I’m hoping it will provide enough of a distraction so I don’t think about I can’t feel the adoration that my cat has always provoked.  I scritch her ears and watch her stretch and listen to her purr, but there’s no feeling of a mama loving her baby.  She’s just a cute cat who sometimes lets me snuggle her.

I’m trying to work through it.  Going through the logical steps and making some very necessary changes in my life and in my relationships.  Spending six months out of my reality was eye opening on a lot of levels.

Driving home felt like I was waking up from a long sleep.  I didn’t remember the roads I was driving — it was like I was making the drive for the very first time.  I found that I was grieving for a relationship that ended years ago.  Maybe it was my playlist.  I remember thinking that it was like a road trip down Heartbreak Hill.  It was a compilation of my favorite music, accumulated through the years from friends and lovers alike.  It takes me back to some of the best times of my life.

Music has that tendency to relive the past.  It’s like smelling fresh baked cookies and thinking of Grandma.  It transports you to the moment when it first touched you.  Sometimes its the first time you heard it.  More often its the time with something important happened while you were listening to it.  You associate it with the thoughts and feelings and people that shared it with you.  It’s a time machine.

My favorite playlist could be mistaken for a depressing list of songs because it reminds of the past.  But I feel when I listen to it.  I feel the echoes of those moments — someone sharing the music they’ve written and performed, the first time I made love with a man who fundamentally changed my world view, the laughter of a dear friend.  I see snapshots when I listen to it.  I recall former road trips and the memories made.

I feel the pain of those things that have happened and will never happen again.  I feel the gratefulness in having had those experiences in the first place.  I sense the joy (and sometimes despair) of the moments that made the music precious to me.

And somehow, that’s saving me.  I am losing myself in the music of the past, and I realize that I need to start collecting new music.  New associations.  New memories. New feelings.  If music is what allows me to feel anything, then that’s what I’m going to do.

What music holds your memories? What songs are important to you and why?  Where do you go when you listen to them?  Share your music with me so that I can start my new playlist with friends and family that are important to me.

What songs should I start to lose myself in now?

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How to help slow people get faster results

Originally published March 24, 2012

So, we’ve established that I live out in the middle of Crazytown, county of Dogfuck, State of Nowhere. It isn’t the most remote location in my past, and usually not even the scariest.

 
Unless you lose all sense of reality and cross the tracks, finding yourself without salt for dinner or to banish demons and a lack of common sense sends you to the scary grocery store and pharmacy that is physically closest to my house.  Personally, I don’t usually shop there. I’m particular about what I purchase, and frankly, if I felt the need to hunt my meal, I’d buy a gun and go shoot something edible, and relieve some stress while at it. I believe that if it comes packaged at the store, I should be able to leave the safari gear at home because I’ll find my ingredients in ordered aisles with signs to point the way.

 

Until this weekend when a friend needed a prescription picked up.  This friend, I’m gonna call him Sparhawk for reference, Sparhawk is less discerning than I am. It’s the most convenient store for his needs, also being the closest pharmacy to his house. And one pharmacy is much like the next…

 
This is my yeah right face. See how I believe that.

 
So anyway, when I dropped the prescription off, the tech told me it would be about twenty minutes.  Which is less time than it took me to find the grocery items that I needed, because this very scary location doesn’t believe in stocking their shelves, and they certainly can’t be bothered with putting things where they might make sense — such as putting potatoes with other potatoes so you can see all options for your potato needs. No, you have one choice (which is a honkin huge bag for way more than I’m willing to spend on even my most favorite of foods) and then you have to hunt for other variety. Please, see my above opinion on hunting for my food.  Potatoes should either be in the ground in a garden, in a bag in the produce department, or on my plate. There is no need to hunt for them because they CAN’T HIDE. Where’s the sport? Anyway, that’s a tangent for another day.

 
Half an hour later, with potatoes and without milk (they carry chocolate drink but chocolate milk is too decadent apparently), I went to pick up the prescription, and it wasn’t ready.  Normally, waiting wouldn’t be a big deal, but I had used up my patience and silence when I had to stalk and hunt my frickin potatoes, so I was not in a mood to wait, especially considering that there was no one in the pharmacy.  Two techs, a pharmacist, the store manager, a sales clerk, and me.  And my prescription wasn’t ready.  It isn’t like they even have a drive through that needed attention. They don’t.

 

So, I’m not a pharmcist. I haven’t been to pharmacist school, and I don’t know latin and can’t even pronounce some of the names of medications in my medicine cabinet. But I’m smart enough to know that the prescription I was picking up was simple enough to consist of taking six boxes off a shelf and putting them in a bag with Sparhawk’s name on it. That’s it. It didn’t need to be counted, measured, compounded, or mixed. There was no shaking, no signing, no explanations necessary. Move six boxes from a dusty shelf and put them in a bag. NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. And it’s now been 40 minutes since I dropped it off and it isn’t ready.

 
But the pharmacy tech was nice enough to offer me a seat while I waited.  “Are you kidding me? Sick people sit in those chairs.  I can’t sit there. I don’t know what I could catch.  Do you have any hand sanitizer? I couldn’t find it on the shelf. I would think in a pharmacy, you’d want to have that stuff all over the place, because even if you can’t see them, germs are everywhere.”

 
She winced. And I waited. Huddled at the counter, talking about germs. And sick people. At one point, I wandered off and found a “flavored” type of hand sanitizer — sunburst citrus or something that was supposed to smell good and not like alcohol.  So I asked, “Does this really work? I don’t think I want something that smells good. I just don’t trust it.  Where’s the good stuff? You know, the one that knocks the germs right off ya?”  And came back to the counter to huddle, carefully avoiding touching anything, holding my purse to my chest and probably looking like a crazed squirrel trying to decide if someone was going to steal my nut.

 
That’s when I heard it.  “Do you have Sparhawk ready? This woman’s been waiting and we really need to get that for her.” To which I just nodded sagely, and used my sleeve to wipe a germ off the counter.

 
Eventually, they managed to get the six boxes into the bag, and asked me to sign for it.  But I couldn’t use their pen. Sick people use that pen. So I made the girl wait while I rummaged through my purse to find a suitable writing utensil. There’s a lot of stuff in my purse that needs to be cleaned out. This weekend, it worked to my advantage. I’m sure they all thought I was crazy.

 
Which was exactly what I wanted.  My brand of crazy motivated them to get me out of their store and that suited me just fine.

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