Saturday, October 25, 2008

I'm Sorry...So Sorry...

Lately whenever I give my son an instruction, he says, "Sor-REE!" with just enough sass to have me thinking this needs to stop. For instance:

Me: "Honey, please turn off the TV and put on your shoes."

Kiddo: "Sor-REE!"

I told him saying sorry is only for when he's done something wrong - not for when I've just given him an instruction - and that I don't want him to develop the habit of saying he's sorry inappropriately, to the point that it becomes meaningless.

So now when I give him an instruction and he responds with "Sor-REE!" I give him the hairy eyeball and he immediately follows with "I know, I know, it's a bad hobby.* Sorry."


* He's been confusing hobby with habit, but I sometimes think his word choice says a lot about his motives. ;^)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tears on His Pillow

Hoo-boy. I kid you not - the kiddo is crying his eyes out over the dark-haired hottie on the far left. He just watched a movie featuring this young actress, and came upstairs several times to throw a blanket over his head and moan about how jealous he was that the other actor in the movie got to kiss her. And the kiddo is seven...and the actress is about fifteen. I see a lot of heavy crushes in our future. *sigh*

Friday, October 10, 2008


I've been idly wondering what to write about, so how about this? The senior adult pastor at work refers to me as "the little girl up front." I'm 42, but he's about 84 years old, so I find it amusing. I know he means it in a good way, as in, "Did you see the posters the little girl in the front made for me this month? She's so creative!" (Yep, he said that.) Pastor F. has a bunch of kids and grandkids and great-grandkids, so he's the quintessential grandfather and I feel a little bit like I have a grandfather now.


The kiddo is in the shower (a few feet from my desk), getting ready for his dad to pick him up. The school district is on a two-week break. What is UP with these breaks?? When I was a kid, we had two weeks off at Christmas, and one week off at Easter. My son has two weeks off in the fall, two weeks off at Christmas, and two weeks off in the spring. And a shorter summer. From a childcare perspective, I'd much prefer it if the kids would stay in school more during the year and have a longer summer. Yech. Anyway, I'm lucky to have the kind of job in which it's okay to bring kids to work (within reason). The kiddo has come with me three days this week (and stayed with his dad the other two days) and hung out while I've gone about my business. He's great company and I got to take him out to lunch each day. Awesome! :-)


I'm a bad dog mommy because I accidentally dropped Suzy. She's nine years old and wary of being crated, so she mostly avoids me when I try to pick her up. However, this morning I was trying to hustle both dogs outside for potty time and she refused to walk past me and out the front door (lest it be a trick - the girl is on to me), so I tried to pick her up and set her outside. She panicked, leapt from my hands and landed a bit on her face (on the carpet) by the front door, then limped outside and held up her little paw. Oy. I scooped her up and cuddled her, carried her downstairs and set her in her potty spot, and she daintily trotted away. All better. Phew.


My son is splashing around in the shower. "What are you doing?" His answer: "Nothing. Well, nothing you should worry about." Okay then.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

But If I'd Dreamt This Years Ago Would I Have Known What It Meant?

The other night I dreamt I married the kiddo's dad. The reason for our marrying was unclear, but I was aware that we were doing it for the kiddo's dad's benefit.

I had to pick out my own wedding ring. By myself.

The ring I chose was a single piece of carved ivory and didn't match the kiddo's dad's ring at all. The image on top of the ring was rather intricate, something like a butterfly, a lion's head, or a strawberry.

When I showed the ring to the kiddo's dad, he was underwhelmed. "Good," he said, and looked away as I stood there expectantly.

I asked if I should go home to my house, or come with him to his, and he told me offhand to do whatever I wanted.

It's hard to remember any other dream of mine that was more clear.

But I'm Sure My Mother Would Not Approve

Tonight I ran into the kiddo's dad's landlady, E., when I dropped off the kiddo's baseball uniform. She's a batty old thing. Seeing as I almost never go to the ex's house (and for damn sure never go inside any more - my choice), he treated my visit a bit like Old Home Week, making sure E. got to say hello to me. I should mention that I have quite disliked this woman ever since she treated me like a friend, then turned around and wrote a letter on behalf of my ex when he took me to court for child custody.

So she showed up and acted all happy to see me, and asked me, "So did you do your chairs?" I had been all set to do a big art project right before my ex took me to court in 2004. I was caught off guard, so I told her no, but I was gearing up for a project again.

What I really wanted to say: "Oh, you mean the chairs I was going to do before my entire fucking life got derailed by the custody case in which you suported the petitioner? The chairs I was going to do before all the terms of my move 100 miles away from my family were completely changed and I was left adrift without support? The chairs I was going to do before I happened upon the kiddo's dad and his new girlfriend at the movies, when I didn't even know we were officially finished? The chairs I was going to do before I spent every day for over six months crying and could hardly function? The chairs I was going to do before I started having panic attacks over court appearances and sidestepping the new girlfriend and grieving my notion of how I'd thought my life would be? Those ones?? Well...NO, YOU TACTLESS STUPID OLD BACK-STABBING DRIED-UP BITCH, BUT THANKS A HELL OF A WHOLE LOT FOR BRINGING IT UP."

If my son hadn't been standing right there, I would've said what I was thinking. And now...back to not setting foot on that property. I just think it's better that way.

Wanting to Help the Unpleasant

So Imez asked if I wanted to fill people's immediate needs no matter how unpleasant the people may be. Well...not necessarily. The critical factor is time to think. If I have time to think about a situation, I can analyze it to the point that I come back to the root: need. If I don't have a lot of time to think about it, I can quickly justify not assisting someone. (Just saying I can; not saying I always do.)

For instance, if I encounter a person asking for donations at the onramp as I'm heading home from work, I might reason that I'm in a hurry, I don't have a lot of money in my purse, it's not safe to open my window, traffic is moving too fast, that person has been out there for at least three years and what is up with that?...the list of reasons or excuses goes on. If I think about it, though, as I sometimes do after passing the person, I eventually realize that the person wouldn't be standing there if they didn't need help. And then I feel like a bitch for not slowing down and giving them my last two bucks.

But that doesn't really cover the issue of an asker's being unpleasant, I realize. So...hmm. Let me think for a second. Okay. At the church, there was a big, burly guy who used to come in and ask to talk to a pastor. (We sent only male pastors out there because the guy once told us he didn't "do well" with women. Okey-dokey then.) He wanted help. However, he was also aggressive and had an anger issue and was quite capable of really hurting someone. I was more interested in seeing him go away than I was in helping him or even talking with him for one minute. Eventually he started to act entitled and more aggressive and then luckily (for us anyway) he encountered transportation issues and found another church to pursue.

I'm as human as the next person. If someone is too unpleasant, my first reaction is "You know what? GO AWAY." But if I'm dealing with a seemingly harmless homeless guy whose main offenses are coming around too frequently and stinkin' up the joint, then I do feel driven to help. (And, as June said in her comment earlier, I also am fairly sure the guy was going around to lots of other churches for "bus pass money." That doesn't necessarily bother me; I think he's just in really intense survival mode.)

It's hard, though, because I sometimes feel like I'm taking on other people's problems. I do have trouble separating myself from their issues, and I think that works both for and against me. On one hand, empathy and sympathy are great. They motivate me to do good things and they help me understand people. On the other hand, if unchecked, they can lead me to become way too involved, to the point that I forget to help myself.

It's like that commonly used analogy about flying and putting on your own oxygen mask before helping your child (or anyone else) put theirs on. You can't help others unless you're reasonably taken care of. I don't think anyone is ever 100% taken care of, or "full." We just have to be reasonably okay to help someone else. When I was Really Not Okay, I couldn't help people effectively. I just sucked up help from everyone else. It was necessary, but it sure felt crappy.

I don't feel like I'm totally out of the woods yet, but maybe that's a good thing. I'm kind of in an interesting place where I'm reasonably okay and can help some people, but I still need help with some things and that keeps me aware of others' need for help.

Does that make sense? I think I really deviated from the question, but hey, it's early and I have a head full of snot. (See? Excuses.) ;^)

Later, perhaps, thoughts on whether help matters more when given to the unpleasant...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bus Passes and Judgments


The bus pass man came into the church yesterday asking for a few bucks. Our financial secretary was out, so I told him he could come back the next day if he wanted and we would see if anything could be done. I wasn't optimistic, though. He's been frequenting the church office for at least the past few years, I'm told, and usually has the same story (or stories), and the general feeling was that the time was coming to direct the man to other services. I don't say that with judgment. Rather, I say it because it's evident that, for whatever reason, the man's life is in a holding pattern. I've been in many a holding pattern myself, and it makes me sad to see someone else so...stuck. Seemingly hopelessly.

Today he came back, as fate would have it, almost immediately after I met with a pastor to ask what we wanted to continue to do for this man. The pastor said she felt it was time to provide him with a list of social service agencies and tell him he needed to contact them for ongoing assistance. Most people see a church as a place where folks can't say no to giving. I think a lot of people have a slightly romanticized view of churches handing out bread on a daily basis. The truth is that each church has limited resources and just isn't equipped to provide ongoing financial support to those in perpetual need.

I'm sick and my voice is hoarse, so my lovely office mate from Zimbabwe, who is also a pastor, said she'd talk with the man. When he showed up, I handed her the printed materials I'd prepared for him, then left to give them some privacy. She told him that unfortunately the church isn't a social service agency specifically set up to provide ongoing financial assistance, and recommended that he contact the social service agencies that are specifically geared toward ongoing assistance with food, shelter, employment, etc.

He was not happy about this, but he did leave. Nonetheless, I have a feeling he'll be back.

Imez asked in an earlier comment whether there was something someone could do that would cause me to stop feeling like helping them. I've been thinking about that for the past few days, and every time I come up with something that could indeed change my mind, I ultimately go back to the person's need. Yes, people in need sometimes play us for fools, sometimes act entitled, sometimes ask for more than we can possibly provide, sometimes come to rely on outside help without making an effort to improve their situation. That certainly dampens my enthusiasm for helping. When someone is aggressive and threatening, that shuts me off right away. In most case, though, after I think about it, I see that the asker still just needs help at that moment and I usually feel driven to help them.

Is it our job to try to see beyond what they're asking for and figure out what kind of help they need? Do they really need money, or do they need food, mental health care, a shower, a drug treatment program? I personally don't feel equipped to discern this at this point. If I spend a lot of time with someone, I can eventually form an opinion about what they need, but in my job I typically see people for only short bursts of time.

The bus pass man had been coming to the church office for years. Everyone here had heard his stories over and over, to the point that they strongly felt they were a ruse. In the short time that I've been working at the church, he came at least once a month, but sometime two or three times a month, with the same stories. How many bus passes can someone need in one month? I'm sure it was just easier to say the money was needed for a bus pass than to say it was needed for food, for alcohol, for a motel bill, for...anything else.

This situation is keeping me up, but I'd better go back to sleep if I want to kick this cold and be useful to someone tomorrow. I have so many unanswered questions, but staying up all night won't answer them.