A Turn of the Tides

Today is the last day of my first week on my new job.

I.  Am.  Exhausted.

My commute ranges anywhere from 50 to 100 minutes, each way, depending on the day, the traffic and the route I take.  I’m not complaining, mind you, I’m tremendously grateful.  It’s a good job, with a lot of opportunity for growth and advancement and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  I’m just really tired.

I have less than one month’s expenses left in my savings account and I was moments away from making the dreaded call to my sister to find out if it was still an option for me to move to New York to live with her and her husband, four kids (a fifth on the way), their cat and miniature pony, when I got the call for this job.  It’s the job I referred to in my recent post.  The one I didn’t get.  It seems their first candidate, for whatever reason, didn’t pan out.

Last week, I went shopping to buy appropriate work clothes.  I plan to get promoted sooner rather than later so I’m implementing the “dress for the job you want, not the job you’ve got” philosophy.  And since I didn’t have to wear dress clothes in my last job, it’s been well over a year since I’ve dressed for work (other than the white-dress-shirt-and-black-slacks penguin suit I wear when I’m bartending).

I haven’t gotten up this early on a consistent basis, in a very long time, and tomorrow I have to get up early again, though a little less early.  I’ll probably get to “sleep in” until 7:00. I’m bartending (and lead/sign-in person) tomorrow morning at the Cal football game and I have to be there at 9:00 in the morning.  Tomorrow night I have a date.  That’s a whole different post for another time.  And then Sunday I have an outing with Lil’B.

Who needs rest anyway?

Ol Blue Eyes

I’ve essentially been unemployed since last October.  I work two very part-time jobs bartending with catering companies, but I never earn a lot with those jobs.  It’s never enough to off set the unemployment money I’ve been collecting, it just makes that money stretch a little farther than it otherwise would.

Sleeping Beauty. Mischa Asleep on my lap… Just where he believed he belonged.

My last cat, Mischa, died in October 2012.  It was really hard on me and it took a long time for me to even be interested in animals.  When I went to visit my sister and her family in April, 2013, I never once touched their very sweet and tolerant cat.  This fact occurred to me only as I was on the plane flying home from my week-long visit.  It was not like me not to want to touch and pet the cat as she passed by.

At some point during the year or so that followed, my pain at the loss of my best friend of over twenty years lessened and I began to consider having a new animal in my life.  I was somewhat torn, however.  I’ve always been a cat person.  I really like them and I find them to be quite enjoyable.  I feel that anyone who says that cats are assholes (and I’ve heard lots of people say that), simply do not understand cats personalities.  Mischa was a fairly good mix of independent and loving.  Like all cats, he groomed himself.  I didn’t need to bathe him.  When he was hungry he helped himself to his food bowl.  When he was thirsty he got himself a drink.  When it was time to potty, he took care of his own business with no assistance from me.  My only responsibilities were to replenish his food and water bowls every morning and keep the litter box sifted.

But I like dogs too.  Call me a cliché if you like, but I like Chihuahuas.  I have a small apartment, so if I was going to have a dog, I was going to have to have a small one.  Chihuahuas fit nicely in a lap while watching TV, they don’t try to bowl you over the minute you walk in the door, and they’re easy to pick up and carry around when the situation warrants it.

The problem is, Dogs require a lot of attention and work.  They need to be bathed periodically.  They need to be walked several times daily and often at inconvenient times.  And they must be entertained, all. the. time.  I liked the idea of having a dog.  We had a family dog when I was a teenager.  Well, I say she was a family dog.  She was supposed to be a family dog.  She ended up being my sister’s dog.  Dogs are like that.  They pick one person and the rest of the family can hang for all they care.  (Really all animals are like that, but whatever.)  Life with this dog was much simpler.  Since my sister was her person, my sister “got” to do all the baths.  Feeding and watering was a quick twice-daily activity once before school and once at dinner time.  We lived in a suburban area, in a house with a back yard.  When it was time for the dog to take care of her business, we just let her out the back door and that was that.

But see, I live in a more urban environment without a fenced-in yard to just let a critter run around in.  Walking a dog, for me, would involve roaming the neighborhood side walks, carrying a plastic baggy to retrieve said business.  I’m not a morning person, and when I’m working full-time, I’m often rushing to get out the door and get to work “on time”.  I’m also a night owl who has a bad habit of staying up too late to “just finish one more show in my DVR backlog” and then wanting to go right to bed.  Much of the time I have to really force myself just to brush my teeth and put in my retainers.  Having a dog would mean having to go for a walk before I leave for work, no matter how late I’m running.  It would mean having to go for a walk before I can go to bed, no matter how late I’ve stayed up, or how tired I am.  So I was on the fence.

The only things I knew for sure were that I was not going to have another male animal, and I was not going to get another pet until I had a full-time job.

On Sunday, June 1st, at 9:40 am I received a text from my downstairs neighbor.

Found a stray kitten in the back yard.  Can’t keep him.  Interested in checking him out?

HIM.

I had no intention of taking in a new pet.  I still don’t have a full-time job.  I don’t need the expense of getting a new kitten all up to date with medical stuff.  I was in the process of saying as much in a reply text when this came through.

Frankie's First Portrait

My neighbor is evil.

I went down to talk to her.  I wanted to know more about the situation.  I had actually heard kitten meows from my bathroom window and I really thought there were a couple of them out there.  It turned out what I was hearing was this poor little guy in their bathroom where they had closed him up to keep him away from their other two cats.  But here’s the thing, while I was in my neighbors bathroom with her and the kitten and talking about the situation, she kept calling him “Blue Eyes” for obvious reasons.  Every time she called him that, I thought of Frank Sinatra and his nick name “Ol Blue Eyes”.  Then I thought “Frank Sinatra would be a cute name for him.”

Here’s a little pro tip for you.  If you have no intention of adopting an animal, DON’T NAME IT.

Frank Sinatra Riggs

 

This is “Frank Sinatra”, but his friends call him “Frankie”.  Frankie is currently about ten weeks old, which according to most conversion charts is the equivalent of about three to three and a half years old.  In other words, he’s a bit of a holy terror right about now.  But he’s a pretty darn cute holy terror.

Short and Sweet

Bwahahahaha!  Yeah, right!  If you’ve been reading this blog long, you know “short and sweet” isn’t really my thing.  But I’ll try.  I don’t have a whole lot of time for this.  (You like how I waste precious moments of my time, explaining how I don’t have much time?)  Anywhoo…

I’ve been so busy, and there are so many things to catch up on that I hardly knew/know where to begin, and with limited time for writing, I’ve been unsure of what to say to convey my current circumstances with brevity.  Things are pretty stressful right now and I’ve needed to spend just about every available computer time minute looking for and applying to jobs.  I’m still not working full-time, nine months since I was unceremoniously “released” from my previous full-time job.  I can’t say that the nine months haven’t been nice, ’cause they have!  I’ve loved having so much free time to do whatever I wanted.  I’ve loved being able to go about my day free from pressure to keep a certain schedule, or satisfy someone else’s demands.  I’m starting to see why self employment might be so attractive to so many people, though, in many ways self-employed people work a lot harder than the rest of the employed population. But the fact is, my money is running out and if something doesn’t come together pretty damn quickly, I’m going to be forced into some really difficult choices, none of which are pleasant.  By the end of August, if I don’t have a new full-time job, I’m going to have no choice but to move out of my apartment.  On September 1, I will have lived here for seven years.  I’m ready for a change and I do actually want to move, but I want to move someplace of my own choosing, under my own steam and without pressure.

If I’m not gainfully employed by the end of August, I’ll have no choice but to either move in with a friend (my options are extremely limited) or move out-of-state and live with a family member.  And again, my options are limited and very unattractive.  Moving away from my current life is the worst thing that could possibly happen to me right now (or very nearly – God forbid I should be accused of exaggeration…).  I have a lot to lose right now, if I have to move away.

Next month will mark the fifth anniversary of my match/friendship with L’il B.  He is 12 years old now and things are getting really interesting.  We had a conversation earlier this week in which he learned that Big Brothers and Big Sisters only serves kids from 6 to 16 years old.  He asked me, “So when I’m 16 you won’t be my Big Brother any more?”  I said, “I told you a long time ago, I will be your Big Brother for as long as you will let me.  But no, we won’t be supported by the program any more.  We’ll just be friends.”  It was just a little “throwaway” question from him, but it was clear that our relationship means a lot to him and he was bothered by the thought of losing it.  This is one of the reasons that I do not want to move away right now. I made a commitment to this kid and I want, no, I NEED to see it through.  Yes, moving away because of financial ruin, is a far cry from just dropping him from my life, but it still matters to me.

 

I’ve met a really great guy.  We’ve been dating for about seven weeks now, and while it’s still new and I don’t know what’s happening, or going to happen, we’ve been having a really nice time getting to know each other and spending time together.  He seems to be really sweet and kind.  He’s very intelligent and independent.  He has strong morals and isn’t afraid to share and stand by them.  Oh, and he’s really attractive.  🙂

Realistically speaking, it has only been seven weeks.  If our relationship were to end now, it would not be devastating.  I would survive and move on with my life.  BUT, I really like him a lot.  He seems to like me as well.  I have no sense of dishonesty in him.  Whether this relationship will turn to love remains to be seen, and it very well may not.  I could write a whole separate, rambling post about what love is, what it means to be in love, and how one knows when they are experiencing love.  I might sometime.  But for now, it’s enough to acknowledge that we are not in love, we just like each other, and are attracted to each other, and we’re each interested enough to continue to see each other and find out where that takes us.  The point, though, is that I’m interested enough, and like him enough, that I really do not want to have to move away and end this relationship right now.

 

I have been interacting with a representative from a local staffing agency which I have worked with before and I am hopeful that sometime next week I’ll hear from that representative to either send me on some interviews, or set me up with an assignment (preferably long-term, temp-to-hire, or even direct hire) to do some customer service work.  It’s not exactly in my wheelhouse, and probably won’t pay as well as I’ve been hoping, but it is more than nothing, and more than unemployment which is pretty much all I have going on right now.  Things will be tight, but at least it would keep me afloat, and at this moment, that’s what’s most important.

What else?  What else?

Oh yeah!  There’s also this guy!

IMG_0054

Swimming in the Deep End

There were two significant events in my young life that lead to my fear of swimming.  Oddly, I only have specific memories of one, though I know the other to be true as well.

When I was in the neighborhood of three years old, my father and his wife took the three of us, my brother, sister and me, on a trip to the Northeast.  I can’t honestly say for certain now, whether we were in New York City or Atlantic City.  I feel as though we went to both places on this trip.  No matter.  I remember, surprisingly vividly, walking along the beach one evening.  It was dark, or nearly so.  We all had our shoes off and we walked in the surf, feeling the cold Atlantic waters pressing against our legs as they washed over our feet and rolled back out again.  I was small, as we tend to be at that age.  The waters came a little bit higher on me than on everyone else, and I remember feeling in equal amounts fear from the pounding pressure that knocked against me, pushing me out of my steps, and joy at the experience of being at the beach, near the ocean, wet feet squishing into the sand as we walked.  Given that I was smaller than everyone else, it was no surprise when the unexpectedly large wave came along and knocked me right to the ground.  Nor was it a surprise when the wave washed fully over me and began to drag me back out as it made its hasty retreat.  It seemed like an eternity passed to my young, scared, oxygen deprived mind.  But before I knew it, I felt a strong hand on my back followed by the force against my body as the waves continued to pull and the drenched t-shirt I was wearing became the handle by which my father pulled me back to shore, out of the water, and to safety.  Immediately, I was in tears and I was coughing and sputtering as I sobbed the words, “The ocean tried to kill me.”  (Yes, I’ve been prone to over-dramatization since I was a wee young lad.)  Of course there was some truth that claim.  As we all know, tides are unpredictable, and if my father hadn’t pulled me out of the waves when he did, I could easily have been dragged out to sea and might never have been seen alive again.

At some point probably not long after that experience, I was at my father’s apartment complex during one of our week-end visits.  Apparently, we were out by the pool in his complex (when I say “we” I’m not certain what that really means.  I do not know if my siblings were around.  I do not know if my father’s wife was around.  I do not even know why we were near the pool.), and somehow I fell into the water.  I could not have been more than four or five years old.  Once again, my father was right there, and immediately pulled me to safety.

By then the damage was done.  For many years, I was afraid of water.  Period.  I was even afraid of the water in the bathtub.  After some time, and some forced bathing requirements, my fears began to subside somewhat.  I stopped fearing the water entirely.  I came into possession of a life support vest and I spent some time in swimming pools.  Always with he life vest on.  Always staying on the shallow end.  I learned to like the water, the sensation of the liquid surrounding the body, offering some support, cooling the skin on a hot day.  But still, I always felt I was missing out on something.  Everyone else felt free to roam the pool.  They swam to the deep end.  They played games and ducked under the water.  They enjoyed themselves.  And all I could do was hang out in the shallow end, with my life vest giving me a wasted sense of security, and watch as everyone else had fun.

Over the years in my adult life, I’ve had conversations with people which have eventually lead to a revelation that I did not know how to swim.  People were always surprised and astounded that at my ripe old age of (whatever age it was at the time) I did not know how to swim.  Repeatedly, I’ve been told that I “need” to learn how to swim.  Yes, I live in California, and yes the beach is only a few miles away, but I don’t live there.  I live on dry ground.  Why did I need to learn to swim?  But they were right.

Last summer, I spent the Fourth of July at the house of a friend who lives in the central valley of Northern California.  The average temperature in the summer where he lives is about one meelleeon degrees (should be read in Doctor Evil’s voice with a pinky at the corner of your lips).  Pools are common back yard fixtures and welcomed!

It was while we were all hanging out in the pool, most of us sitting on the expansive steps, but a few lounging on floats, that I had a turning point.  I won’t bore you with too many unnecessary details (first time for everything) but at one point I made my way from the steps to one of the people on a float.  Just as I was reaching her location, I felt my right foot slide over the edge where the pool floor began its downward slant to the “deep end”, which I have since learned is only six feet.

I contained my anxiety and acted like everything was normal, but the truth is, as my foot slid over that edge, I felt my heart rate speed up and my chest tightened to the point of restricting my breath.  I was over come with fear at the prospect of getting into a section of the water in which I could not control my circumstances.  I finished my business and casually made my way back to the step where I stayed seated until we were ready to leave the pool and go inside.  I decided that weekend, it was time to do something about my weakness.

I couldn’t do it on my own though. I needed help.  I needed a guiding hand.  I needed someone who already knew how to swim, to help me learn to swim as well.  I perused the local community college course catalog and I found a beginning swimming class for adults.  Somewhat unexpectedly, I even recruited a friend to take the class with me.  It was nerve-wracking to be sure, but I learned to swim.  Of course the pool was only 4’6″ in the “deep end”, so it was comforting to know that anytime I was in trouble all I had to do was put my feet down and stand up…  Until the last week of the class when our instructor informed us that the pool we had been using for months was closed and we would be having class in what we all referred to as “the big pool”.  The big pool is where all the experienced swimmers swam.  The big pool is split into twelve lanes, not three.  The big pool is 6’9″ ON THE SHALLOW END.  It wasn’t easy climbing into that pool the first time, but I did it.  On the last night of class, our “final exam” was to jump from the diving board (roughly three feet from the surface of the water) into the pool, and swim to the side.  Once I was in and able to tread water and swim the length of the lane, it was not so bad.  I even jumped from the diving board…  once.  But getting into that water felt like I might as well be hurling myself off of a cliff.  For the first time in my life, I was in water I could not stand up in…  And I lived to tell the tale.

As children we have innumerable experiences that shape our lives.  We learn many lessons, both spoken and unspoken, deliberate and incidental.  In general, I feel that people do not give enough consideration to that fact, and because they don’t, children learn and internalize many things they would be better off never learning.

A while back, I wrote a post in which I admitted to a significant fear.  The fear was, in large part, due to lessons I learned as a young boy and on through my teenage years.  It’s the kind of fear that just compounds the longer it’s allowed to go unaddressed.  It’s the kind of thing which, if discussed with other people, would result in exclamations of “You’re 38 years old and you’ve never…”  “You need to…”  And I did need to.  But I lacked the skills and the resources to resolve the situation and over come the fear.  There were no courses in the community college course catalog for that particular skill.  I needed to be a bit more creative.  More recently, I wrote another, very cryptic post in which I alluded to seeking guidance and assistance in over-coming my fear.  And then I’ve been virtually silent since as I pondered my actions and deliberated the likely responses I would get in sharing those actions.  It was all I could think about, really.  What should I share?  How much should I share?  How specific should I be?  And as all those thoughts went round and round in my head over and over again, my fingers fell silent.  The blog was quiet.

For various reasons, I’ve decided not to share the details of my experience, at least not at this time.  Somethings might slip in here and there along the way.  I may come completely clean at some point in the future.  I may keep it all to myself for the rest of time.  But for now, all you need to know is that I found an instructor.  I went to class.  I over-came my fear of the water, and swam the length of the lanes.  I even jumped off the diving board and swam in the big pool…  And I lived to tell the tale.

Being the Real Me

There is a certain amount of duality in every human beings life. There are the things we let the world see, and the things we keep quiet and out of sight. There are things we talk openly about and things we never talk to anyone about.

Sometimes that duality creates a separation that can be difficult to close again. When you build a reputation, a persona, based on the things you openly share, it can be very difficult, then, to open up about the things you don’t normally share.

Maybe that’s not even such a bad thing. The things you don’t normally share may not need to be shared. But what happens when you want to share those things? What happens when all you think about are the things you wouldn’t normally share?

The obvious answer is to share those things and not concern yourself with worries of how that sharing will impact peoples’ impressions, peoples’ opinions of you.

Easier said than done.

Conquering Fears

The only way to get over fear is to face it head on.  Easier said than done, to be sure.  With determination comes strength and courage.  Often, a controlled environment makes facing one’s fears more tenable.  Controlled environments can be like a stepping stone between a position of abject fear, and facing that of which one is afraid completely head-on.  It can be a process, but one which is well worth the struggle and the discomfort one faces along the way.

Sometimes, however, determination is not enough.  A helping hand is required.  A guide.  A mentor.  Someone who has already faced the things of which one is afraid.  Someone with whom one can build trust and therefore begin to face and experience the very things one has spent so many years fearing.

The world is full of surprises.  When one makes oneself available to be surprised, amazing, unexpected things can happen and when one takes a leap and asks (God, the universe, Craig, whatever the case may be) for a helping hand, a guide, a mentor, one just might get exactly what they needed, but more than they dared hope for.

In the end, when one is open, patient, and persistent, determination, a controlled environment, and the aid of a guide will ultimately lead to success.

One Non-Parent’s Opinion on Child Rearing

“Why do you have to act like that?” the woman asked her young child, anger and disdain dripping from her tongue.

This was the latest in a long stream of spewed venomous words that had me checking the transit app for a different route home just so I wouldn’t have to listen to it.

“Stop pushing her!” the woman had yelled so loudly, as soon as she and her three kinds were on the bus, that it startled me from my reading and made me jump.

“Stop whining,”  She snapped moments later, “I don’t want to hear all that!”

I don’t want to hear all the yelling, I thought to myself as I turned the volume on my phone up to what I had hoped would be deafening enough levels to drown it out. It didn’t work.

Finally she said it, “Why do you have to act like that?”

And I thought the only answer that made any sense: “Because you don’t love her!”

——

I have a friend with a six-year-old son.  I hear her yelling at him all the time.  The boy is just being a boy.  More importantly, he’s being a boy in a room full of adults.  He’s being a boy, in a room full of adults, who is trying to get noticed.  Because isn’t that what little kids want?  To be noticed?  Paid attention to?  Acknowledged and validated?  Isn’t that what everyone wants?  This little boy, isn’t trying to be bad.  He isn’t trying to be destructive.  He isn’t trying to be a brat.  He’s trying to fit in, to belong, to be part of the group, even though he can’t fully assimilate with the adult crowd.  But instead of trying to understand those things, instead of trying to acknowledge his needs, she yells at him to stop whatever it is he is doing, and when he looks at her with puzzled and hurt eyes, she gets indignant that he “just keeps behaving this way”.

——

My whole life I’ve been amazed when I’ve been out in public and kids have been asking for their parents’ attention and the parents ignore them.

“Mama!”

No answer.

“Mama!”

No answer.

“Mama!”

No answer.

“MAMA!”

No answer, but the objective observer can see the parent’s patience wearing thin.

“MAMA!!  MAMA!!”

“WHAT!?!?” the angry parent yells at the child.

By now, whatever the child wanted seems trivial and unimportant to the parent, compared to the annoyance she feels at the child’s persistent demand for her attention.  Because I generally observe these behaviors out and about, the child is usually asking the parent “Can I have this?” or something like it, to which the parent angrily answers “No!  Put that down!  Stop touching things!”

——

I want to be clear here.  Dad’s are just as guilty of these behaviors.  I’m not deliberately singling out mothers.  It’s just that my friend is a woman.  The parent on the bus today was a woman.  And misogynistic as it may be, it’s usually mother’s that are out doing the shopping with their children.  These are the examples I’ve observed.

—–

I understand.  I know it’s hard being a parent, especially if you’re doing it alone (though my friend isn’t).  I know it’s a thankless and never-ending job with no breaks and no vacations.  I know it can be tiresome.  But being a parent is also a job with no excuses.  You can’t take a day and just slack off.  You can’t put off being a parent until later while you relax and surf the internet and ignore the job.  Children are alive 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and that means that parents are parents 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Every interaction a parent has with a child is a moment in that child’s personal development.  Every one!  Each experience builds on the last.  While a parent might say, “He’s just working my last nerve, today.  He just needs to shut up!”  The child is thinkingall she does is yell at me.  I just want her to pay attention to me and love me.  Maybe this will get her to pay attention.

In my experience, children are far more capable of reason, than we give them credit for.  No, they’re not as advanced as we are.  We can’t explain every dynamic of a situation to a child and expect them to understand, agree and comply, but we can tell them what is expected of them in simple terms, for finite periods of time, and expect them to comply fairly closely.  We can, in small bursts, give them specific information about what we want from them in a situation and expect them to do as they’re told, even if they don’t understand why.  (And by the way, we can tell them why, even when we know it won’t make sense to them, because again, every interaction is a moment in that child’s human development.  Over time, it will come together.  They will begin to understand.)

—–

It’s raining buckets today.  When this woman and her three children boarded the bus at the train station, they had gone a long way out from under cover to get to the door of the bus.  Of course the offending child wanted to get on the bus and out of the rain, as quickly as possible.  Maybe the child shouldn’t have been pushing and maybe the mother should have addressed that, but there was no need to use the tone she used with the child and make the child feel unloved and humiliated.  There was no reason to attract the attention of everyone on the bus while she “reprimanded” her child.

My friend’s young son does not desire to misbehave, he doesn’t even know he’s doing it.  And while some of his behaviors are inappropriate and need to be brought to his attention and corrected, it’s not necessary to shout his name, in a room full of adults he loves, and yell at him to stop doing something.  It would be just as easy to say his name in a stern but loving tone and direct him to come to her before telling him why what he was doing was not okay and that he needs to stop.  Even if it happens again, the same tactic can be used before informing the child of the consequences of his actions if he persists.

And that parent and child in the store?  Gosh, wouldn’t everyone involved, including the innocent bystander, have been happier and better served if the parent was paying enough attention to the child to respond the first time he called out (and really, in a public place, shouldn’t a parent have one eye and one ear on their young child at all times?)

So often, I’ve observed parents getting angry at their children for behaviors that have persisted for too long, when the parent did not say a word to the child when the behavior began.  If the child wasn’t told from the start that the behavior was unacceptable, how was he to know?  At that point, really, isn’t the bad behavior the parent’s fault and not the child’s?  I think so.

—–

What’s the point of all this?

I know from first hand experience the damage that can come from a parent that is too self involved to give their children the time and attention they need, and the fact is, children need a lot of time and attention.  But you see, when a person makes a decision to be a parent, whether it’s by planning to have children, adoption, or choosing not to give up the child that was “an accident”, they are also making a commitment to that child to help the child become the best human being they can be and in order to do that, the parent must be the best parent they can be.  And that will never include ignoring a child when they need the parent’s attention, or yelling at the child for no good reason (and by my estimation, the only good reason is when their safety is in imminent danger and the parent needs to get the child’s immediate attention, or when the child has belligerently disregarded the parent’s direct orders and no other means of communication will get through.)

Children often need discipline, but that discipline can and should be administered with love and compassion, not anger and impatience.

There.  I think I’ve finished with the soap box if someone else would like to use it…