Eleventy-Billion Degrees With a Chance of Toys

I really love the week-ends.  The only problem I have with week-ends is that they are never long enough.  There really should be more week-end than there is week.  That’s a movement I could get behind.

This was a good week-end for sure.  Much too hot for my liking the first half, but otherwise pretty good.  Not a whole lot happened, really.  It was hotter than blazes on Friday and my little apartment with no air conditioning was still eleventy-billion degrees at 1:30 Saturday morning when I finally went to bed.

I imagine Mischa has mixed feelings about days like Friday.  His fur coat certainly didn’t help any in the keeping cool department and you know it’s hot when he doesn’t even want to sit with me in the recliner, preferring instead to sprawl himself out on the floor to sleep.  On the other hand, on days like this it gets to be much too hot in my bedroom to sleep with the door closed.  For that matter it’s much to hot to sleep with any thing covering me and without the fan blowing directly on my body as I attempt to sleep. Since the door remains open, Mischa is allowed to come into the bedroom with me, which is normally not allowed.  It must be quite the toss up for him, be cool all day or get to sleep in the room with daddy?  Decisions, decisions…

Anyway, with it being the eleventy-billion degrees that I mentioned it was difficult to sleep.  But sleep I did… eventually.  My alarm clock went off at 9:30 because it was laundry Saturday and I didn’t want to be too late getting to Michelle’s house to do my laundry.  I was hoping the whole way that it would be cooler at her house than it was at mine.  I always feel bad going off and leaving the cat in the closed up house when it’s so hot, but really there’s no alternative.  I open all the windows that I can open and still consider my house secure, close all the shutters so the sun isn’t shining right in and turn on all the fans (there are five) maximum blow and oscillating to try and help matters, but on these days it often reaches 90 degrees (or more) in my apartment while I’m gone.  Poor kitty and poor me when I come home to it!

Another problem with this situation is with the extreme heat comes a loss of kitty appetite.  He hasn’t eaten much in the last few days and his already too light weight has gone down by three quarters of a pound (10% of his body weight – I wish I could lose 10% of my body weight in three days, but then it wouldn’t be any healthier for me than it is for him) and if he doesn’t start eating again, he’s building up to another trip to the vet.  Don’t know what they can do, though.

Anyway, I gathered all my dirty laundry, and cooler bag (Michelle gives me ice from her ice maker when I come over), opened the windows, closed the shutters and started the fans.  I headed out to the car and loaded up.  I arrived at Michelle’s house about 12:45 and hauled everything inside where it was just as hot as at my house, dang!  Nothing like running a clothes dryer all day in an already hot house, right?  I started my first load of laundry and we headed out to lunch at Red Lobster, Michelle’s a sucker for Red Lobster and they had a shrimp promotion – plus she was paying.  It was 102 degrees in Vallejo where the restaurant was.  After lunch we went to Target and Safeway and got back to her place around 4:30.  Three more loads of laundry waiting and it was obvious I was going to be there later than I anticipated.

I put the first load in the dryer and started the second load in the washer and we sat down at the dining table under the ceiling fan and played a couple games of Yatzee!

While we were playing I noticed that her balcony door was closed and I asked her if she really found it to be cooler with the house closed up and the blinds closed and the fans on.  She said she did.  So we sat in the heat with the house closed up and played the game.  It was fun, but man was it hot.  Finally about 6:30 she asked me to go out on the balcony and start the grill so she could start dinner…

Folks, it had cooled off by, like, 20 degrees!  It was actually very pleasant outside while still a steam room in her apartment! We ate dinner and watched Race to Witch Mountain while I finished my laundry.  I didn’t get home until nearly 11:30.  Fortunately, it wasn’t nearly as hot in the house as I feared it  would be and it cooled off pretty quickly when I opened doors and windows.  At 1:30 it was still pretty warm in the bedroom, so I went to bed with the door open, uncovered and with the fan blowing again, but around 3:30 in the morning I woke up somewhat chilly so I evicted the cat, closed the door and pulled up the covers.  I slept until around 10:00 Sunday morning.

When I awoke on Sunday, I set about taking care of some household chores while simultaneously trying to keep track of the time while trying to not  think about the fact that I was having my first “date” with Little that day or the nerves and anxiety that came with the anticipation of that.  I put away the laundry from the day before, swept the floors and cleaned up the kitchen.  Then I cooked and ate some hot dogs while I watched a little television and then it was time to shower, dress and head out.

I arrived at Little’s apartment a couple minutes before 2:00 prepared to take him for a fun-filled (I hoped) afternoon of Miniature Golf.  I was invited in and Little’s mother informed me that when the Big Brother of her other son came over, they hung out at the apartment for a couple hours so that the Little Brother and the Big Brother could get used to each other and would I mind doing that and we could go out the next time.  It made perfect sense to me; I just didn’t want to presume to invite myself to hang out at there house for a couple hours.

I asked Little to show me around, show me his room and his toys.  We sat on the floor in his bedroom for almost two hours and played with toy cars, ninja figures a batman figure and a…  He said it was a power ranger?  (I’m a little out of touch when it comes to such things.)  Then we did a jigsaw puzzle.  “It’s not mine; it’s my cousin’s.  It’s for girls,” he told me.  Then he pulled out some coloring pencils and paper and we drew pictures for each other.  He drew a turtle, a shark, a dolphin and a fish and colored the paper blue for the water and he wrote my name at the top.  I drew a bus for him (he starts the second grade today.)  He said it was cool and could I draw a car.  So I drew a red sports car, complete with racing stripe and smoking tire marks where it had peeled out.  Then he asked me to draw a motor cycle.  I’ve never drawn a motorcycle before but it turned out OK.   The rider was supposed to be a man in jeans and a leather jacket with a helmet but by the time I was finished it was clearly a dog… In jeans, a leather jacket and a helmet.

Then he asked me if I could draw a robot and when I was finished with that he asked me if I could draw it fighting with Godzilla…  Quite the imagination on this kid!  I am, by no means a great artist, but I did OK.

We checked in with his mother before I left and she said she could tell he was more comfortable now, so I guess you’d call the “date” a success!  I asked him  if he’d given any thought to what he wanted to do next week and he said he wanted to go to “the lake”.  I asked him if he meant Lake Merritt and he said, “Yes I want to go to Lake Merik.”

So, next Sunday, it’s Lake Merik!

Slaying The Beast

Wow.  Who… What was that?  Hmmm.

OK.  Let’s talk turkey shall we?  It’s not really as bad as all that… Most days.

Most of my readers already know that I’ve struggled throughout my life with clinical depression.  It runs in the family.  It wasn’t formally diagnosed until  about seven years ago when I went to the Employee Assistance Program  office of my company for advice on how to deal with a co-worker with whom  I was in conflict.  I never did get the answer to my question.  The EAP person asked me why I was there, I told her, she proceeded to ask me a litany of  questions about things that had nothing to do with the problem and then  finished the session by saying, “Sounds to me like you’re depressed.  You should get some help with that.   Have a nice day.”  OK, she wasn’t quite that cavalier about it, but pretty close.

I was irritated by this, but not really surprised by what she had told me and with great trepidation, I did seek help, first from the Adult Psychiatry department of my health care provider, which was a joke and then from medication which was a stop-gap measure at best.  Even more to my dismay,  I sought out and found a therapist who operated on a “sliding scale” fee,  meaning the fee was based on my income and often, as in my case,  discounted from her regular fee.  My health insurance doesn’t cover this and  I am paying out of pocket for her services.  Its money well spent, but it’s a lot of money that could be well spent in many other ways.

About a year and half ago, I hit a slump and on the advice of my therapist I took a leave of absence from work and took part in an “Intensive Outpatient Program” for depression.  I was in this program, three days a week, for three weeks and I felt like it was a complete waste of time with the simple  exception  that it kept me from having to go to work.  Three weeks away from work and I was feeling a whole hell of a lot better.

Then I decided that five years on anti-depressants was more than enough and it was time to stop taking them.  I weaned myself from the pills very slowly to ensure there were no side effects or withdrawal type symptoms.  When it was done, I felt even better.  Actually, that’s not quite true.  Or it is true but  entirely too simplistic.  In a lot of ways I felt exactly the same.  I felt the same level of depression, same amount of fear about what happens next.  But at the same time, I felt good about having taken control of the situation, taking it  upon myself to manage my life and my symptoms.

For almost ten months, I’ve been “drug free” and it’s been going fairly well.  My job is still a trigger for me and often times I feel like crap while I’m at work and then snap out of it when I leave.  (My job, in a very real way, is killing me and I have to do something about it.)

This past week has been a real struggle for me.  Money is tight. I’ve taken on additional responsibilities. I’ve made some positive steps, but I’ve also had  to make some difficult decisions. And yes, for a couple of days, I felt as if the darkness might win out.  The interesting thing is I immediately started to feel better after I wrote my last post.

 

Through all this, I have learned something new.  It seems likely that the  depression may never fully subside, though I pray with every fiber of my being that it will.  What I’ve learned is that “happiness” is sometimes a conscious decision, one that I’m sometimes not strong enough to make.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not talking about being artificial or dishonest.  I’m not talking about pretending to be, and to feel, something that I’m not.  I know people like that – I work with people like that – and I hate them.  No, I’m talking about making conscious choices about how I’m going to allow what I feel to affect me.

I wish, with all my being that the darkness would turn to light, that the beast would take his last breath.  I wish that I had the strength to take that plunge  into the “molten thoughts” below my narrow path.  There’s a lot there.  I know there is.  I suspect if I could just find a way to tread those waters, I’d  find a lot of healing.

 

I stared at that last sentence for a long time trying to figure out exactly what I was trying to say, how to phrase it.  And the thing that kept coming to mind  was, “If I could just find a way to safely tread those waters…”  I think that’s  really the point, though.  There is no safe way.  The only real answer is to dive in head first, to take the risk.  It will hurt.  I will get burned.  But hopefully, when it’s all over, I’ll be whole.

This process of healing is work.  It’s hard work!  I don’t mean to imply that I  have all the answers or that I know what to do, because I don’t.  I’m still too scared to take the leap.  And there’s a lot that gets in the way of it, but I suppose knowing what’s needed is a big step in the process.

 

Anyway, I just wanted to say that I’m OK.  Things are moving along.  Some days are worse then others and I have some big decisions to make and steps  to take, but I’ll survive.

 

I will live to post another day!

Volcano

I can feel the darkness creeping in.  I’ve tried to ignore it, to deny it for a very long time.  But it’s stronger, more oppressive.  It’s wining, and I don’t know how to conquer it.  There’s a beast in the darkness.  It’s been awakened and I  can hear it breathing.  I can almost feel it’s hot, heavy breath on me and I’m  scared.  I run from it and sometimes, for a time, I gain some ground, a higher  level, giving me a false sense of security.  But I tire.  I must rest, rebuild my strength.  I can not, for it is in these moments of respite that the darkness gains.  I’ve come to feel, to fear, that this is all there is.  Can the darkness be  banished completely?  Is it possible to truly see the light?  What must one do?

The ground on which I run is soft; the path narrow.  There’s an inescapable  rock face to my left, a long drop over a sheer cliff to my right and at times I  fear I’ll fall.  Below the cliff is rolling, boiling magma: my thoughts.  There’s something more.  I catch glimpses of it from time to time, but I can’t see it  clearly.  What is it?  Salvation, perhaps?  Escape?  This is torture.

I need time to think, to examine my situation and find a way out, a new path.   I need a guide.  But there’s no time for thought, no time for examination.   There is no guide in sight. If I stand still the darkness will overtake me and the beast shall surely devour me.  If I dive over the side, destruction is  imminent.  I’m sure to be burned, consumed by the molten thought below.

I must scramble along this treacherous path; maintain my narrow, desperate lead, searching all the while for the light, the secret escape that brings rest,  the solace that finally will bring this chase to an end.

Stuff Good!!! Want Bad!!!

I can clearly see a correlation between my mood and how I perceive my current financial status.  I can also see a correlation between how I perceive  my ability to buy stuff and how I perceive my financial status.

I recent days, I’ve been feeling pretty good about my status.  Things are  getting better.  I mean they must be.  I was able to make a couple on-line purchases, recently all but the last of which have been received.  Stuff good!!!  Want bad!!!

This morning as I was backing out of my garage to head to work, feeling somewhat guilty about how late I was… AGAIN!!!, I had the thought pass  through my mind that “Hey!  Today is payday and I made it through with money still in the bank!  I must be getting better at this money thing!” and suddenly I felt better.

Three pertinent thoughts did not cross my mind.  1)  I happened to win $156.00 in the lottery on August 4th and that money was my “walking  around money” for the last two and a half weeks.  Good for me for not blowing through it, but still that’s money that didn’t have to come out of my pay check.  2) I only had about $80.00 still in the bank, which means if I hadn’t won the lottery money, I wouldn’t have had any money left by today.  3)  Those mail order purchases?  Those were made with a credit card.  One I’m TRYING TO PAY OFF.

I have three credit cards that I’m trying to pay off and not have hanging over me.  I got them all paid down at one point.  Not paid off, but paid down.  All three of them are maxed out again.  Damn it!

One of my many habits as a bad employee is that I make use of my internet connection and local printer in my office to pay my bills each payday, during office hours, of course.  It makes me feel good to know that I’m staying on top of my expenses and making them a priority and making sure everything is current.  I was doing pretty well for a while, though I did get a bit off track  when I went on my vacation.  So I sat down with my homemade spreadsheet to look at what my bills were and I very quickly realized that I don’t have enough to cover everything that is due right now.  By the time I pay my rent,  my car insurance is deducted from my account, I pay my therapist and I paid the bills I deemed essential, I’m left with very little money at all for things  like groceries, gas, etc.

My outing with Little has been postponed, due to a family matter that requires his family to go out of town this week-end.  I’ll touch base with his Mother early next week to set up a “date” and then the following week Sunday, we should be getting together again.  We’re encouraged to keep these outings cheap because it’s out of our pockets, and since we’re just getting to  know each other, I don’t want to set a precedent for expensive outings so I’m sure it’ll be something simple.  I’ll probably take him for ice cream and a chat the first time, maybe a walk by the estuary in Alameda.

Anyway, I started out feeling pretty good about my situation and by the time I finished paying, or should I say not paying, my bills, I was depressed.  Which brings me back to my point.  There is a clear connection, for me,  between positive outlook and financial stability.  I place entirely too much  importance on money but I really don’t know how to change that.  People need stuff! I need stuff! Often, I find myself in a situation where I have an  opportunity to purchase an item that I have been wanting and I “have the  money”.  Spending the money on the item may not be the best use of the  money but I can’t seem to see that in the moment.  I only see that I have the opportunity and the means to take advantage.  My rationale in that moment  is, “When am I going to get this opportunity again?  And I have been wanting one of these.”  So I do it.

I’ve known for a while that there’s a problem there.  I have a “negative relationship” with money.  I do.  There must be a way to separate myself from this.  There must be a way to better manage the finances from an intellectual  level without having it be a reflection on my life and my worth and have an  impact on my happiness.  There must.  I just wish I could figure out what it is.

Oh Brother

Bbbs_logo Two years ago, I decided that I wanted to become a Big Brother with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of American organization.  At the time there was some question about it because one of the requirements is that you can not have had a DUI within five years (or more than one, ever).  I won’t go into details at this juncture but at the time I had one DUI on my record that had happened a little over three and a half years prior.  However the BBBS website also said that they had a real need for Big Brothers, so I thought maybe that would out-weigh the restriction and I submitted my application anyway.  Several months passed before I got a response to my application but unfortunately they weren’t able to accept me until the DUI was five years old.

I was disappointed but I also learned that the wheels move slowly with the organization so when I decided that I did, indeed want to pursue being a Big Brother, I decided to reapply in August, even though the fifth anniversary of my DUI wouldn’t happen until January.  The wheels did, indeed, move slowly and it wasn’t until November that I even got an interview.  The interview went well, the time passed and before long the fifth anniversary of my DUI had come and gone and there was nothing to hold me back… Well, almost nothing.

Jenny, the Match Specialist, told me the day of the interview that it would probably take awhile to match me with a Little Brother because, even here in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are a lot of people who are unwilling to have their children matched with a homosexual, so I was prepared for it to take a long time.

Finally, around mid-May, Jenny contacted me about a potential match with a young boy whose father had been out of the picture for a long time and was just starting to come back around.  Dad saw his son for a few hours every other week-end and Mom wanted a more steady male influence in the boy’s life.  Jenny hadn’t discussed my sexuality with Mom and wanted to make sure that I was interested before she addressed that subject but felt like Mom wouldn’t mind.  It turned out that Mom didn’t mind, but Dad, who had abandoned his family and is hardly around now, apparently did.  Imagine how happy I was to have it inferred that it is so much worse to be gay than it is to be a dead-beat dad.   It’s just as well, really.  I wasn’t completely sure about being matched with this boy and it was probably providence that we weren’t.  But I was disappointed and began feeling like maybe me being a Big Brother was a mistake and this was a sign that I should not do it.

I left it in God’s hands.  I would wait to hear from Jenny.  If being a Big Brother was right for me, she would call me again with another match and if it wasn’t right for me, I probably wouldn’t hear from her again anyway.  All these months later, I was pretty sure that it was never going to happen.

Jenny called me on July 20th to tell me that she had a potential match.  I was still on my trip and it took a few days for me to get back, get the message and call her back, and when I did we played phone tag for a few days.  Finally, Jenny and I spoke and she told me about the little boy she had in mind for me.  It sounded like it might be a good match, as much as you can tell from a three minute conversation with a third party, so I agreed to meet him.

One thing that is heavily stressed in this program is protecting the anonymity of the child so I will be very frugal with the information I share.  For the purposes of this blog, I shall refer to him only as Little, Little Brother.  Little’s family has gone through a rough patch and his father is no longer in the picture.  I suppose it’s somewhat harsh of me to say, but I’m relieved to know this.  I can’t help feeling like Mom brought Little into this program voluntarily to introduce a stable male influence in his life and therefore will be glad of my involvement.  Dad on the other hand, no matter how absentee he might be, might still be inclined to have opinions and judgments about me and as much as I wish it weren’t true, I’d feel self-conscious about that, at lest at first.

I had my “guided introduction” to Little and his family yesterday afternoon.  Little has a brother a year older than he who is also being matched with a Big so we had a group introduction where I met both boys, their younger sister, Mom and the other Big.  I’m concerned about the outcome of the other match.  The Big Brother seems unavailable in my opinion, but that’s not my responsibility, Little is.

Little is a cute kid.  Seven years old, he was shy at first but came out of his shell after a few minutes.  I can understand that.  I was pretty nervous myself.  But we talked about the things he likes to do and when would be a good time to hang out.  It looks like Sunday afternoons are the best time and we have our first outing this Sunday at 2:00.  When Hadley, the Match Support Specialist we’ll be working with moving forward, asked Little what he liked to do he said, “play.”  Thanks kid!  That narrows it right down.

We did determine that he likes to play Soccer (which I do not know how to play) and he enjoys going to the park (where I’m likely to spontaneously combust.)  Lesson number one: The importance of sun screen.

Since this will be our first outing, I want him to feel comfortable.  I will take him to a park where he can “teach me” how to play soccer.  I imagine this is going to amount to him kicking the ball at me, me missing it and him laughing at me.  I guess I can live with that.  Hopefully, he’ll open up a bit more about the kinds of things he’s into and we can find some other things to do on our future outings that we will both enjoy… not that I don’t think I’ll enjoy this… maybe.

This Could Have All Been Prevented If SOME PEOPLE Weren’t So Selfish

I had a craving today. For the first time in quite a while I had a craving. What usually happens to me is it gets to be time to eat and I know I need to eat something but nothing sounds particularly good, but today I had a specific need. I am craving a cookie.  But not just any cookie, a specific cookie. I need an M&M cookie. There are a number of places that sell cookies around here but I doubt that any of them sell M&M cookies.

So I asked my resident cookie expert about it. “Do you think Aroma’s sells M&M cookies?” I asked her. I’m sure that K, will be exceedingly grateful to be thought of as the resident cookie expert.

“I do not believe they do,” was her considered response, followed by, “I have a recipe for those at home.”

“Great!” I said with false exuberance. “I would like to you to run right home, whip up a batch for me and bring them right back!

“No,” she said without hesitation. “If I go home, I’m not coming back.”

“Imagine that,” I replied. “Not to mention that whipping them up and bringing them right back isn’t really possible.”

“If I go home, I’m not coming back,” she said again. “Besides, I don’t think I have any M&M’s.”

“I’m sure there are stores between here and your house,” I encouraged.

“No. If I go home I’m not coming back,” she repeated.  Just in case I hadn’t gotten it the first time.

Realizing I would get no satisfaction from K, I turned to my friends at Twitter, where my friend Stacey had just reported the following:

@ieatsnowmanpoop: im hungry

I told her:

@riggledo: I want M&M cookies but none seem to be in the offing. Dammit!

@ieatsnowmanpoopi haven’t had those in forever

@riggledoMe either and suddenly, I have a craving. I needs me some M&M Cookies, Pronto!

It became apparent that K, known on Twitter as @unsvelteangel was not going to accommodate my craving so I was going to have to fend for myself.  Soon I announced for the whole of Twitter (or at least the 161 people that follow me) that:

@riggledoGoing in search of the holy grail! Well, M&M Cookies anyway. Since @unsvelteangel won’t go make me some!

And so off I went, in search of my M&M cookie.  I was fairly certain I would not find one and fully expected to have to settle for something less but at least I could try.  I marched up the street toward one of three possible locations in search of my prize and of course, there were no M&M cookies to be had.  They did have three, large, old-looking chocolate chip cookies but I was hoping for something better.  So I left.

I turned back toward my office building and toward the bakery that is right across the street from my office but that I was confident enough wouldn’t have M&M cookies that I didn’t go there first.  I walked in the door of the bakery, looked in the case and froze in my tracks.

The proprietor, “Not Emil” looked at me.  “Hi Kevin.  What can we get for you?”  “You don’t have any cookies?” I asked incredulously.  “What the hell kinda bakery is this, doesn’t have any cookies!”

Not Emil told me that he had just sold his last one, but I could go up the street to their other shop and buy cookies from his brother, Emil.  When I walked in the door to that location the case where the cookies generally are was also nearly empty and I was beginning to feel as if it were a conspiracy and then Emil said, “We’ve got a whole bunch, fresh in the back.  What kind do you want.”  Emil’s cookies are $1.00 a piece or three for $2.50 so naturally, I was required to purchase three cookies.  He wasn’t kidding when he said they were fresh, I could feel the heat emanating from the bag as I walked the three blocks back to the office.  Once in side the building, I passed through the lobby, entered the convenience store and picked up the final ingredient.

Returning to my office, I took the chocolate chip cookie out of the bag, placed it on a plate and dumped my final purchase out next to it and I posted this:

@riggledoThis is the best I could do. (sigh) M&M1

Since I had to buy three cookies anyway, I purchased one Chocolate Chip, one Sugar Cookie and one Snickerdoodle.  I pulled the Snickerdoodle cookie out and ate it straight away.  I then pulled out the sugar cookie and took a bite of it and popped an M&M in my mouth.

You see,  I have had two kinds of M&M cookies in my life time.  One kind is of the Chocolate Chip cookie variety where either the chocolate chips have been replaced with M&Ms or there have been chocolate chips & M&Ms.  The other variety has been sugar cookies with M&Ms in them.

Furthermore, I don’t generally eat Plain M&Ms when I’m going to be eating M&Ms… plain.  I prefer the Peanut variety.

Let it be known now and forever after, that peanut M&Ms and Sugar cookies do not go well together!

I finished off the sugar cookie and then I started in on the chocolate chip cookie with the M&Ms and finished off every morsel…

And then I posted this:

@riggledo: Because @unsvelteangel wouldn’t make me any M&M Cookies, I had to go out and buy three cookies and a package of M&M’s and eat them all….

And a few minutes later:

@riggledooh and also… ooooooo, I don’t feel so good…..

I’m sure there’s a moral to this story…  I’m too sick to figure out what it is, but there must be one…  Perhaps you’d be so kind as to supply it in the comments field below…

A Month of Travel, Part 4

Two weeks in Tulsa. Mostly good times with a little frustration and tongue biting. Good visits with my best friend. Healing with my mother. Two weeks in Tulsa.  Two weeks is more than enough!

Finally, on July 14th, I left Tulsa and went on to the next leg of my trip. The one I had been planning for months before. While in Tulsa I had done a bit of shopping and purchased some additional clothing items I hadn’t had when I got there. When I arrived at the Tulsa International Airport at 6:30 in the morning, I walked into the Delta Airlines doors to find a crowd of people standing around and no semblance of any sort of line or order.

I walked up to the crowd and stood in what I hoped was a line for a few minutes not sure what was going on. There were three kiosks in the middle of the crowd, each with three separate terminals for self check in, but I’ve found those difficult to use in the past, especially when you do not have the credit card that was used to purchase the tickets so I stood for a few minutes hoping to move forward in this line and be invited to the counter to check in. Since I was checking a bag anyway, it only made sense to go to the counter, but after a few minutes it became apparent that this was not a line and there was no order or logic to the goings on. A ticket agent would call out a name and someone would randomly step out of the crowd to go to the counter.

I decided to give it a shot and much to my surprise, I was able to check in using the kiosk, without incident. I returned to my spot in the “line” when I was finished and not five minutes later my name was called as a ticket agent held up a long, white strip of paper, I recognized to be a luggage tag. I politely made my way through the crowd to the counter, guilty that I had such a short wait when so many of these people were standing around when I arrived but relieved that things were going so smoothly and that I would have time to avoid a repeat of my experience at the San Francisco airport on the first day.

I walked up to the counter, hoisted my suitcase onto the scale, made note of the weight and hoped no one else would. As I was making my way to the counter, the woman who had called my name turned around and walked back toward the other end and now as I prayed to the luggage handlers union gods for leeway she came back to where I was waiting.  “What do we got?” she asked loudly. Apparently, we were putting on a show for the entire group. “Oh. That’s 54 pounds.”

I stared at her, blinking. “Is that a problem?” Every airline has a limit and I didn’t know what Delta’s was but surely it couldn’t be less than 50 pounds. Surely this wasn’t enough over to matter.

“Yes sir! It’s gotta be fity pounds.” She hollered back at me.

I thrust my weight onto my left hip and threw my shoulders back in my best attempt at incredulity as I looked at her and said, “Seriously?!”

“Yes sir!” she hollered again, “it’s gotta be fity pounds, otherwise I gotta charge you fity dallahs.”

Now I ask you, honestly, what do they expect you to do in this moment? You’re standing at the airport. You’ve probably been dropped off and left to your own devices. It’s too late to change your mind about anything. There’s a crowd of people around who want you to hurry up and finish your business and get the hell out of the way so they can be next. There’s no time for hemming and hawing. No time to evaluate what you’ve brought and think about what you could give to friend or family member who drove you. No time to do anything. It’s a racket, plain and simple. And I could understand if my bag was 70 or 80 pounds and the limit is 50 but 54 pounds?

Fortunately, I remembered exactly how my bag was packed and what was where. I realized I could reach into the top most part of the bag and put my hands on a plastic bag with three books in it. I tugged on the zipper and opened the bag far enough to shove my arm down inside, felt around for the familiar feel of plastic and the block shape of three stacked books and pulled the bag out. I reached for the zipper to close the bag back up when she said, “Now it’s fity-two pounds,” as if that was all that needed to be said.

“Really!?!” I was exasperated now, “You’re going to charge me for two pounds?!?”

“Yes sir,” she said. “If it’s fity-one pounds it’s fity dallahs.”

“There’s nothing else I can take out of there besides my dirty laundry,” I said. Can you at least give me a shopping back to put it in?”

She looked dumbly at me and said, “I don’t think we got any a them.” And she walked away.

My dirty laundry was neatly folded and stuffed inside a plastic grocery bag, one of the not very thick variety and while it was, therefore self contained, it was not particularly private. I pulled the bag of laundry out of my suitcase and noticed that the weight was now 47 pounds. Might as well shove these books back in there, I thought. With the books back in and the dirty laundry out my suit case weighed 49 pounds. I was just zipping the suitcase back up as she came back.

“How’s it lookin’ now?” she called boisterously.

“Did you find a shopping bag?” I asked, knowing she had not looked.

“Nuh-ah!” and she turned and looked at one of her co-workers. “You ain’t got any shoppin’ bags back there do you?” And before the co-worker could even respond she turned back to me and said, “Nah, we ain’t got any of them.”

“Mm hmmm,” I replied, seeing how much effort she had put into my plight. “its 49 pounds,” I said stretching out my arm and placing my hand in front of her palm side up. “I’ll take my fifty dollars, now, thank you.”

She looked at me, confused.

“Well, if it cost me fifty dollars for 51 pounds, then I figure I should get fifty dollars for 49 pounds.”

She laughed. Clearly I must’ve been joking. “’Fraid it don’t work like that,” she said, her gold tooth sparking back at me. “But you do get my service with a smile.”

“Yeah. That and the fifty dollars you’re not giving me won’t get me very far.”

We completed our business and I headed on my way, once again, without any direction about where to go for my gate. This time I learned from my previous mistake and looked at the boarding passes in my hand carefully to make sure I knew which one was for my first flight and found the gate number. The signs were clearly marked and I found my way to my gate with no problem and with time to spare. I even had time to stop in a gift shop where I found another t-shirt I liked, bought it, and was graciously given a big enough bag to put the shirt and my grocery bag full of dirty laundry into.

Five hours and two bumpy flights later I landed in Albany, New York. Having been seated in seat 1B for both flights, I was once again, the first one off the plane. My Brother-in-Law David showed up with my two nieces, just in time and with suit-case in tow we headed out.

It’s funny how when you don’t know where you’re going, it feels like the trip takes forever, and this trip was no different. It couldn’t
have taken more than 15 minutes to get from the airport to my sister’s house, but it seemed a lot longer. I told David when I got in the car that I had an envelope I had to mail from a blue mailbox. Mom had given me a piece of ministry related mail that had to be mailed that day and had to go from a blue mailbox. I didn’t matter what city it was mailed in, just as long as it was mailed that day. I looked for one at the airports as I went along but never did find one so I needed David to take me to a mail box. Since I hadn’t eaten yet I was also quite keen on the idea of lunch. Of course David and the girls had already eaten so there was no rush and he thought it would be wise to go to their house first to drop off my suit case.

At the apartment, the girls went directly to the play ground outside their front door and David lead me in the house where he introduced me to a young man by the name of Brent who has been staying with them for a couple months…  Everything is relative and when I say, “young man” I’m talking about a 22 year old. We spoke briefly and then David and Brent started talking about going to the Garage to work on Brent’s 1951 VW Bus.

I reminded David that we had to mail this envelope and he told Brent they’d work on the Bus later. I then reminded David that I was hungry. He asked me if I wanted to just find something at the house. I reminded him I needed to mail this envelope today and we headed out again, dragging the girls away from the playground.

We drove to the post office where David and Erin get their mail and while he checked their mailbox he told the girls to show me where the outgoing mail was. They lead me around a couple of corners to the desk where there were two people in line in front of me. As we stood waiting for our turn, my younger niece, Regan, decided she wanted to show me how fast she can run. There’s little that I find more enjoyable than watching small children running around unattended in semi-busy, public places…. Especially when I’m the one responsible for them.

Several minutes past and just as David came around the corner to find out what was taking so long, I was called up to the counter. As I was walking up to the counter I looked across the space at a wall we had passed coming over and saw several slots in a wall, with a clearly marked “Out-Going Mail” sign over them.

I looked at the woman at the counter, who fortunately had a smile on her face, and said, “I’m from out of town, and my nieces were being helpful and showing me where the out-going mail goes.” I mouthed an apology, to which she smiled, nodded and said, “No problem,” as she took the envelope from my hand.

After the post office we headed to McDonald’s so I could get some lunch and no sooner had Regan gotten out of the car but she made a b-line for the yard next to the building and the flowers planted under the windows. She promptly grabbed hold of one of the flower buds and snapped it off. As she walked back toward me she carefully and meticulously pulled the extra leaves off the stem and then held the murdered blossom up to me which I gratefully accepted with proper grandeur and adulation.

While we sat in the restaurant, I with my Big Mac and Fries and the girls with their Oreo McFlurries, yes ies, David looked up and out the window to see at large pick up truck with some sort of lift kit installed pull into the parking lot and park next to his Nissan Exterra. He started craning his neck as it drove in to get a look at what kind of “package” it had and finally determined that it was some sort of substandard, “generic package”.

As we backed out of the parking spot next to the truck, he looked it over again. “That’s a [insert vehicle specific nerdy boy knowledge which I do not possess here] with a [insert more nerdy boy knowledge about after market lifting equipment I also do not possess here],” he said. To be fair, I recognized it to be a black four door pick-up truck with a full sized back seat and a full sized bed and a brand name that anyone would recognize but which has now escaped me.

“Erin says that’s what I should get,” he told me, “a pick-up big enough to haul the family around in and put my own [insert more nerdy boy knowledge about lifting equipment here] on it.”

Without batting an eye, I turned to him and said, “So you’ve got a small penis, huh?”

 

When we returned to the house, and entered through the garage on the other side of the house from the playground the girls were only too happy to stick with me instead of going out to play… Especially after I pulled out the presents I bought them. They were lame presents to be sure, but presents nonetheless. Well, anyway, I thought they were pretty lame presents…

You see, while in Tulsa, I had bought a box of honey nut cheerios for my breakfast. Inside the box was a silly little pencil topper with a springy figurine from the latest Ice Age movie. One morning, my mother said, “I think we need to get another box of that cereal and get some pencils and notebooks to go with them and you can give one to each of the girls. Woo hoo! I thought. Pencils and spiral bound notebooks, how exciting! The eye roll is implied.

Turns out, my mother knew what she was talking about. I bought Spiral Notebooks with dog pictures on the fronts (different pictures for each girl) and matching pencil bags and pencils. The girl’s loved them and immediately began “writing” me things.

Regan is four (will be five on Wednesday) and while she can’t write letters and words yet, she “wrote” or more specifically “writed” me several pictures. One was a picture of me as the sun, shining down on me as a man, in a field of me as flowers. One was a picture of Family Trees (which I found particularly amusing). They were trees… a family of them. A momma, a papa, and a coupla kids. And then she writed one more, described it as she drew it and then she augmented the picture, tore it out of her binder and brought it to me where she said, “Here. This is you, naked in the trees, at night, in the rain.” And then she pointed at an accurately placed dark square and a dark line and said, “And these are your pee parts.” Then she folded the paper several times into a small square and said, “Don’t let your mommy or daddy see it.” (Naturally, I showed it to my sister when Regan wasn’t around.) Come to think of it… I don’t know if I wasn’t supposed to let my mommy and daddy see the picture… or my pee parts… I’m not planning on showing them either one really so it’s OK.

Caitlin will be seven in November. She is learning to read and write and was able to actually write a few things in her book for me, before she got bored and started writing me pictures as well.

While this was going on David and Brent cracked open a couple of beers (at 3:00 in the afternoon) and parked themselves in the living room to watch old episodes of Star Gate on DVD. I found myself babysitting the kids while we sat on the stairs. I decided to pull out my computer so I could show the girls some pictures of them when they were younger. Every time a new picture came up Regan would call out, “Oh that so cute!” Um, yeah, honey? Half these pictures are of you! As we were getting close to the end of the picture review, David and Brent were finishing up an episode and came back to the kitchen for another beer. They came over to the stairs to see what was going on at which time Regan magically produced an elastic band of sorts that she wrapped around her head before pushing it back up shoving it under her bangs.

I looked up at Regan and began to laugh as I said, “She looks like Olivia Newton John.”


Ladies and Gentlemen, let me tell you it’s amazing how much difference three years can make and how old a person can be made to feel in the span of a few seconds.

“She looks like Olivia Newton John”, I said as I glanced at the boys.

There were crickets chirping.

I looked at Brent who, again, is 22. “Do you even know who Olivia Newton John is?” He just shook his head.

I looked at David who is three years younger than I. “You know who Olivia Newton John is, right?”

More crickets.

“Sandy?”

“Greece?”

“Let’s Get Physical?”

“No?”

In unison they shook their heads and said, “No.”

So I sent them to bed without any dinner.

I thought I was going to finish this story in this final post but it’s become apparent to me that is not possible so stick around for more, soon.