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...over-educated and under-experienced, or so they say...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Santa Was Done In By Vegetables

(On the drive home)

Pandora: It's almost Christmas.

Hope: Yep.

Pandora: Are you getting excited?

Hope: Yep.

Pandora: (looks over at Hope) Yep? Really? You don't sound that excited.

Hope: I'm excited, Mom.

Pandora: ...

Hope: You know I don't believe in Santa anymore, right?

Pandora: I had a feeling, yes, but we never really talked about it so... I was just going to keep going until you said something. Guess I can let it go now, huh?

Hope: Well, you can keep it going if you want to, but... I know he isn't real.

Pandora: (stays quiet for a moment) Well... that makes me kinda sad. When did you stop believing? Last year?

Hope: I started thinking he wasn't real two years ago, but you threw me off with that letter from Santa because I knew it wasn't your hand writing. That was a good one, Mom. You bought yourself some time on that one. But last year I knew for sure he wasn't real.

Pandora: What happened last year?

Hope: Last year I was at Dad's for Christmas.

Pandora: ...and?

Hope: ...and he had this stupid Video email from "Santa" to me and that's how I knew it wasn't real.

Pandora: Yeah, I saw that video. He sent it to me before he sent it to you. I wondered how it was going to go over.

Hope: It didn't go over well, Mom. As soon as Santa told me that I better be a good girl and eat all my vegetables I knew it was fake.

Pandora: (smiles to herself) It was the vegetable line that did it?

Hope: Yeah. I mean... eat my vegetables? Come on, Mom! I know enough from talking to you that being a good person has nothing to do with eating my vegetables! And all Santa Clause can tell me is to eat my stinking vegetables??? I knew right then that it wasn't Santa talking to me -- it was Dad. Dad and his stupid vegetable rules...

Pandora: Hahahahahahahaha!!!

Hope: (stares at Pandora)

Pandora: I'm sorry, Honey Girl. I know that had to be disappointing and it isn't funny but... I saw that video and thought the same thing about the vegetable line and hearing you say that just made me laugh. I'm sorry.

Hope: (smiles a bit) Yeah... I guess it is kinda funny, isn't it.

Pandora: Yes... it is... I am sorry though. I'm sorry that was how you found out.

Hope: Eh... it isn't how I found out. I just started to know and that made me sure.

Pandora: Well, it makes me sad. Having you believe in Santa brought some of the magic back to Christmas that I lost once I grew up. It was really nice to have it back for a while.

Hope: (looks at Pandora) I can still pretend if you want me to.

Pandora: No... no pretending. This is a part of growing up.

(they sit in silence for a moment)

Hope: That was a really good letter that one year though, Mom. I sat in my room and read it over and over. It said a lot of good things. And I thought maybe it was you because of what it said, but the handwriting... I knew the handwriting wasn't yours. I even took it to school and showed some of my friends and they all started thinking that maybe it really was Santa. We all talked about it. None of us could figure it out.

Pandora: (smiles)

Hope: How did you do that, Mom?

Pandora: That's for me to know and you to find out, Hope. Santa may not be real, but that doesn't mean I don't have a magic all my own.

(Hope smiles at her mom and they quietly drive the rest of the way home.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Power Ball Ramblings

I was at the work Christmas party yesterday and I won one of the door prizes -- a Power Ball ticket. My first response when they called my number was, "Wow... I never win anything." My second response, after seeing what I won, was, "Nothing like winning something I'm not going to win, eh?" (Of course, during the white elephant exchange, I won a flying monkey which is also a symbol for something like, "You'll win the lottery when monkeys fly.")

I won't know until tomorrow whether I hold a winning or losing ticket, but we all know the chance of winning that is slim to none. And since there wasn't some little old lady that foolishly spent her last dime on that ticket, I'm pretty sure God wouldn't help me out on this one so... no sense in uttering a ridiculous prayer of some kind. But as I stood in the shower this morning I found a lyric from a Barenaked Ladies song running through my head: if I had a million dollars, I'd buy you a house, if I had a million dollars, I'd buy you furniture for your house, if I had a million dollars, I'd buy you a car, if I had a million dollars, I'd buy you love...

I listened to that song continue to run through my head until finally I started thinking, "Why is this song stuck in my head? I just woke up! Why did I wake up with that in my head? Sure... it's a funny song but... when was the last time I even heard that song? The tune is annoying... Why?" Then I realized, it's that stupid Power Ball ticket lingering in my subconscious!

After I had a good laugh at myself and that song, I found myself thinking, "What would I do with a million dollars? I always said if I had a million dollars I would just go to school and be a professional student for the rest of my life, but I haven't thought about this question in a while. Would I still do that?" Then I started thinking about all the papers I had to write and the crazy research I used to do and I started thinking about how I enjoy reading and writing on my own time and ... "No... no... that was something I said in my twenties while in the midst of grad school. I'm over that one. Forget it. So... what would I do with a million dollars? Hmmm... Would I quit working? Most people say they would quit working, but I don't think they consider the boredom factor. And I wouldn't want to just waste it all. Truly... a million dollars could go away pretty fast if one wasn't careful with it. Let's see... I'm 35 so we could break it up as though I would live another 60 years... I would want to invest some so Hope would get a big chunk of change when I kick the bucket... I'd have to make good on my promise and make sure I have that Arsenal Of Funds to help people... I would buy a house, but nothing over the top, just something pretty and comfortable... Would I quit my job? Hmmm... Maybe I would just continue to work because I like the people there. Or maybe I would just focus solely on writing. I would have to do something. I would get bored. Hmmm... Maybe I could do something ridiculous like open a gluten free bakery. What am I talking about? Me? Run a bakery? Am I being serious? Where did that come from? Dang... Thinking about this million dollar question is taking me way out there. My own publishing company though...? One where I support the excellent writers who are regularly neglected by the mainstream and Oprah's stupid book club? That's more my style..."

And then I looked at the clock and realized I needed to step back into reality because I'll be lucky to win three dollars from that stupid ticket. (I do have that flying monkey though... I could win the lottery the day monkeys fly out my ass... now if I could just find a way to get that flying monkey toy to fly out my ass...)

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Promise

...and it's a long drive home,
and I often wonder if I'll get there.

I feel the weight of an unseen hand.
I hear a voice telling me to submit.

Submit to what? Some kind of lesson?
What lesson? Which lesson? And how many?

...this long drive home,
dodging this and that and sometimes failing
simply because I dared take time to blink.

I'm always pulling the fragments together,
this constant reconstruction,
this endless transformation,
into some kind of cracked form
that somehow stays mobile.

Perhaps it's a good work, waiting to be completed,
but right now I have nothing...

...nothing but the wheel in my hands
and the promise of home.

Midnight At The Library

It was raining the other day. I usually tie my hair back into a tight bun when it rains so I can maintain a sense of professionalism, lest my hair flair out into a giant and uncontrollable afro. That particular morning, I was standing in the copy room and...

Cowboy: (walks into the copy room and hovers in the doorway staring at Pandora for a minute before moving further into the room) Hi Pandora.

Pandora: Hey Cowboy.

Cowboy: You got yo hair pulled back.

Pandora: Ya, it was raining out this morning so I pulled it back.

Cowboy: What’s rain got to do with it?

Pandora: My hair gets fluffy in the rain.

Cowboy: What’s wrong with that?

Pandora: Everything

Cowboy: Everything?

Pandora: Yes, Cowboy, everything.

Cowboy: Well okay then, Pandora. You do what you want.

Pandora: Thanks, I will.

The next morning I was at the copy machine and Cowboy walked in again.

Cowboy: Mornin’ Pandora.

Pandora: Good Morning, Cowboy.

Cowboy: Glad to see you got yo hair down today.

Pandora: Yep

Cowboy: That’s good.

Pandora: Good.

Cowboy: I couldn’t take it if you walked in today like Midnight At The Library.

Pandora: What? Did you just say midnight at the library?

Cowboy: Yes, mam. Got yo hair pulled back like that looks like you spending midnight at the library and that don’t look good on you, Pandora. You ain’t no librarian. (pats me on the shoulder as he starts to leave the room) Now you remember what good ole Cowboy says: no mo midnights at the library.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

...Know When To Run

I'm not a gambler. Money is too useful to me to be toyed with, but I have dabbled a time or two. The few times I have gone with friends to Vegas or to some random Indian casino, I have set money aside that I would've otherwise blown on some other form of entertainment. I go in with the following attitude: if I win I win and if I lose... no big deal, I was banking on it anyway.

Now I have a friend, old enough to be my mother, whom I love dearly. She's one of those people that would take a bullet for a stranger while the rest of us would only take a bullet for the chosen few. She's absolutely golden, but like the rest of us, she's got her things -- her trials and tribulations in the midst of her glories and triumphs.

Now this friend of mine had fallen on hard times. She'd been struggling to get by, paycheck to paycheck, since I've known her. She was tired, she ached, and weekend television and the newspaper crossword puzzle was the extent of her happiness. So when her birthday came around I wanted to take her out, away from her little apartment, away from the television and the crossword, and watch her smile and feel free the way she did when she was younger and less burdened. So, knowing she had a love for the casino, I pulled out $200 ($100 for me and $100 for her) and took her to Wild Horse Pass. I figured, a gamble on my dime, win or lose, was worth seeing her smile and laugh. The problem was, I forgot to tell her to leave her purse at home.

We sat down at the Keno machines, because that was her game of choice, and we commenced our talking and playing and smiling. At one point I looked over at her machine and saw that she was up $350. I looked at her and said, "Cash that shit out! Pocket $250 and put the original hundred back in!" but she simply waved me off and told me the machine had more to give.

More time passed and when I looked again she was down to $20 and I was holding steady at $150. I figured, once she lost the twenty, I would just cash out and we'd go to lunch or something, so I just waited for her to tell me she was done. It wasn't too much longer before I saw her reaching in her purse to pull money from an envelope that I knew was designated for bills, but I said nothing. She put in another $100 and it wasn't long before that was gone. When I saw her reach into the envelope a second time, I turned and said, "Isn't that bill money?" She just held a finger to her mouth as if to shush me and told me not to worry because she would win it all back. At that point I didn't know what to do. Like I said, I'm not a gambler and when I do gamble I'm certainly not optimistic about it. And I wasn't about to tell a woman who was my elder what to do with her money, so I just sat there, a little bit sick, staring at the $75 remaining from my original $100 that still sat in my machine knowing this poor lady was about to lose it all.

Sometimes (hell, most times) I revel in being right, but when she left her machine so someone else could sit there and stood behind me empty handed I wished to God that I had been wrong. The purpose of me taking her to the casino was to have a good time and enjoy being out, not to end up in my car worrying about how she was going to pay the electric bill.

I still had $50 in my machine, and I stared at it for a moment wondering if I should just play it or cash out and call it a day. I continued to push buttons as I said, "You lost it all?" And she said, "Yes, but don't worry about it Pandora. I'll be okay. You just finish your game." But I couldn't help but worry; it felt like my fault. If I hadn't brought her there she wouldn't have done that. If I hadn't brought her there she would've had money to pay for her needs. Sure, she's responsible for her actions, but she wouldn't have gone to the casino if I hadn't shown up to take her there.

So I sat there, watching my $50 slowly dwindle to $40, feeling sick inside. And at some point I decided to play it out to the end. At some point I sat there staring at the stupid numbers on the machine and I started doing math in my head -- how many numbers did I need to hit to win her money back? And at some point I silently prayed, "Lord, I know this is a ridiculous prayer, I know you probably get prayers like this all the time, and I know you probably hate that I'm even saying this, but... would you mind helping me out on this one? I'm not asking for millions. I'm not asking to hit the big one. I'm not asking you to forgive me for this. I'm not even really apologizing for it. But... this woman just spent her bill money when my intention was for her to just use the money I gave her and nothing more. So, is there any way you could help me out here? I don't want anything for myself, I just want to give back what she lost so we can both go home and sleep in peace." And then I mocked myself for even thinking that stupid prayer.

I watched my money dwindle down to $18 and I knew it was only about twenty more minutes before I would be at zero. So I finally just closed my eyes and pushed the stupid button over and over and over until... all eight of those stupid little balls lit up and all the bells and whistles started going off as my credits started rolling in and my piddly little $18 turned into $400. Without hesitating I hit the cash out button as the lady sitting next to me said, "Oh hell ya, girlfriend! You take that money and RUN!!!" And I took the ticket to the cashier and I took the $400 and I handed it to my friend. She hesitated to reach for it and I said, "You take it. I came in here expecting to lose $200 but you're the one who lost $200. So you take what you lost and you take what I expected to lose. It's your birthday and this is my gift to you." So she took it from my hand and held back a few tears as we walked out to my car in silence.

As we got into the car and strapped on our seat belts, I looked at her and said, "You do know that was some sort of miracle, don't you? You do know that the odds of that happening were slim to none, don't you?" She nodded in agreement and I said, "That was a pass, a one time pass in a losing situation. So say a prayer of thanks tonight because for whatever reason you're going home with money to pay your bills. But I will say this: if I ever do this for you again, you're leaving your purse at home."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dinner With Hope

We sit down to a plate of steamed flounder, rice, and salad. We say a prayer and begin to eat.

Hope: Everything's gluten free?

Pandora: Yep.

Hope: We've been eating a lot of fish lately.

Pandora: It's good for you.

Hope: Good thing I like fish or you'd be in trouble.

Pandora: Hmm... I would be in trouble or you would be in trouble?

Hope: (smiles)

Pandora: How was school today?

Hope: Fine. Taylor cried a lot this morning when she got there.

Pandora: Did you ask her what was wrong?

Hope: Yes, but she wouldn't tell me. She just sat in the corner and cried for a while and there was nothing I could do to help her so I went out to the playground. She stopped crying by the time we went to class.

Pandora: And how was she the rest of the day?

Hope: She seemed okay. But she's been crying in the mornings a lot. I don't know what's wrong, but I know her mom has been sick a lot lately and I know that if you were sick a lot I would feel like crying too.

Pandora: Yes, I would cry a lot if my mama was sick too.

Hope: Yes, but you're an adult. It isn't the same. We still need our mama's and you take care of yourself now. But I need you to take care of me. And Taylor still has her dad around her and she's still crying alot. If you got sick like that, I would be scared because you are all I have. I don't have my dad here to help me, and even though I love my dad I don't want to be with him, I want to be with you. I think I would cry every day if you were sick. (her little mouth turns down)

Pandora: Well, don't get sad now, Honey. I'm not sick. I'm all good. I can't eat the fun things I used to, but I'm not sick. I'm actually very healthy right now.

Hope: (looks down at her plate) Do you ever wonder what life would be like if you had stayed with my dad?

Pandora: Not really, no.

Hope: No?

Pandora: Sweetheart, I know what life was like when I was with your dad, so no... I don't think about it.

Hope: (stares at Pandora as though she's waiting for more)

Pandora: (puts down her fork) Okay. If I were still with your dad we would have a bigger house. I probably wouldn't be working the way I do now. I wouldn't be up in the morning stressing out because I need to get you to daycare and get myself to work on time. I wouldn't be worried about bills and such because your dad was always good with money. I may not have graduated from college because he's military and we were always moving and I never had time to focus and finish, nor did he want to pay for it. The house would always be clean because I would be home cleaning all day. The laundry would always be done so you would never go digging through the basket for a pair of socks. There would always be a well prepared meal on the table when he came home at night, because that's what I did, and we'd probably be going to some Baptist church somewhere, just like he does now. We'd probably go camping alot, like he does with you now. We'd probably go on trips and vacations, like he takes you on now. We may have even been to Europe by now and I know we would've been to Japan because he lived there for a while. We'd go skiing every winter, like he does with you now. And who knows, you'd probably have a brother or a sister because I always thought we would've had more than one child.

Hope: (chews her food and stares at her plate) But you wouldn't be who you are right now, would you... You wouldn't be writing at night the way you do now, would you... You wouldn't be able to talk with me the way you do now because he would always be around and you wouldn't be free to do what makes you who you are. You wouldn't laugh with me and make the jokes that you do because you couldn't do that if he were here. You wouldn't be happy either because he would always argue with you the way he does with his wife now. (she takes another bite and swallows) We wouldn't have a quiet house like we do now because we would have a fighting house like he has in California. And I probably wouldn't be who I am either. (she looks up from her plate) And I wouldn't be free either. I might not even be as smart as I am right now because I wouldn't have you the way you are and you help me be who I am. I wouldn't know how to think the way I do now, because you taught me that. I might not be the soccer player I am because you let me choose the sports I want to play. I wouldn't even be allowed to play the games I play or listen to the music I listen to because you play with me and you listen to the music with me. Neither of us would be who we are right now if we still lived with dad because you've made a completely different life for us than what he would've made for us.

Pandora: (sits in silence for a moment, not sure what to say) I have done my best to make a calm and peaceful space for us. I have done my best to create an environment where we can both grow and develop our lives into something strong and positive. It isn't always easy and I make my own set of mistakes and bad choices at times. There is a lot that I can't give you because I am doing this alone, there's a lot that I wish I could do for you that I can't because of the circumstance, but I do my best to give all that I can where and when I can.

Hope: (smiles at Pandora) You have done good, Mama. Our house is small, but it's nice. You have put nice things in it and you have made it pretty and comfy. I like our little house. And I like that it's quiet here. I like that when we come home there is no fighting. I like that I can sit and talk with you. And I don't have as much as some of my friends, but they don't have a mom like you either. You always tell me how proud of me you are, but I'm proud of you too.

Pandora: (again, sits in silence for a moment, not sure what to say) You are a special little girl, Hope. I love you.

Hope: (smiles) I love you more.

Alarm Man

There's always the legend of the Sand Man, you know, the guy that comes and sprinkles sleepy dust in your eyes to make them close? But why isn't there a story about the Alarm Man? You know, the guy that bursts into your room unannounced like a blaring fire alarm because the only way to free your eyes from the the sleepy dust is to terrorize you out of bed? Why hasn't anyone made a story about that guy? I think this is an oversight on the part of purpose driven fairy tale tellers everywhere.

Fairy tales are often told with morals attached to them, like Little Red Riding Hood -- don't stray from the path your mother told you to take, lest a wolf eat both you and your sweet unsuspecting grandma and you'll be stuck in the wolf's belly, like Jonah in the Whale, until some hunter cuts him open and fills him with rocks. (Gotta hand it to the brother's Grimm... I'm not sure I would've come up with the "fill his belly with rocks" part.) Or there's The Three Little Pigs with the moral being build a strong fortress out of your life, lest that wolf escapes the hunter from Little Red Hood's place and picks up a taste for pork chops and you just happen to look like a tender morsel and... what's a house made of straw compared to a blustery day? Really... there needs to be a moral to The Alarm man story, and a wolf (because what's a moral without a wolf), so here we go.

Once upon a time there was girl named Pandora. She had to wake up at 5:00 a.m. every morning to get herself to work on time (don't forget to make a sing songy sound and hold the initial "eh" sound out too long with your voice when you hit the word "every"). So every morning at 5:00 a.m., when Pandora was sound asleep, the Alarm Man would burst in with joy singing BLANG BLANG BLANG BLANG BLANG BLANG BLANG!!! And he wouldn't quit until Pandora rolled out of bed, grumbled to all the way to the coffee pot, and then got in the shower.

One morning Alarm Man came to Pandora's house and found her sleeping with two pillows over head and quite possibly a few glasses of wine lingering in her system and no matter how loudly he BLANGED he just couldn't get through. He BLANGED and BLANGED for an hour straight, and sleepy Pandora just wouldn't wake up. After an hour, Alarm Man left her to sleep because it was time to wake the rest of the world. It wasn't until she opened her eyes at 6:15 with the light of the rising sun that she realized what had happened. "Oh Alarm Man!" she cried, "Why have you forsaken me?" And she jumped in the shower and she ran out the door in record time, in her feeble attempt to get to work on time. But on the road she got stuck behind a wolf (it was really a stupid city bus, but it sure looked like a wolf), and she sat there, frustrated and helpless as the wolf mocked her and said, "I don't eat gluten free, but I do eat those who aren't so timely." (see... it's important, even in spur of the moment fairy tales, to make sure the wolf rhymes.) And Pandora huffed and puffed and squeezed around the stupid Wolf (that was really a bus) as soon as she could and she got into the parking lot at 7:40 instead of 7:30 and she snuck in the back way and sat down at her cube and no one noticed that she had been missing.

The moral of the story? Not really sure. I wrote this so fast and thoughtlessly I didn't really get that far. To be honest, I was watching the clock. What happens when you listen to Alarm Man, but you end up late for work because you're blogging instead of fixing your hair and make-up? Hmmmm...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Take A Chance On Me

My decision to leave academics and cross over into corporate America was one based on financial necessity. I loved teaching, but to successfully get where I needed to go in the academic world required a PhD and, as a single parent, I was running out of time and money. I had spent a couple years as what they call a Freeway Flyer -- picking up classes here and there, contracted per semester, and paid per class. There was no benefit package and no job security. I was constantly worried and worn out. I knew I needed something more stable and so I went looking for it.

As an English Major, it made sense to find a job that required strong writing skills. I applied for advertising positions, technical writing positions, research positions, PR positions... you name it. Anything that said "good verbal communications" had my resume all over it. I always made it to the interview, but somewhere in the conversation the interviewer would say something like, "Master's degree in 19th Century Literature?" followed by, "Well, to be honest, I think you have too much education and not enough experience."

During that time, being the broke person that I was, I had taken out a payday loan that I was paying on regularly (for months...). As December drew near and the semester came to an end, I noticed a help wanted sign in the window of the Payday Loan shop. Knowing that I wouldn't get paid again until sometime in January and having made friends with the manager of the shop, I figured I had a fair chance at picking up some part-time work there, even if I was "over educated." The lady was more than happy to take my application. During the interview, much to my surprise, she said, "Master's Degree? You have a Master's Degree?" The next thing I knew they were offering me a full-time position as a manager with full benefits. Stunned, I told her I needed to think about it.

I went home that night and sat in a dark room feeling a significant blow to my ego. If I were to take the job I would go from Pandora The Professor to Pandora The Payday Loan Manager. When people asked me what I did for a living, I would no longer see their eyes grow wide after I said I taught English at the University; instead I would watch them cringe and feel they needed to take a shower when I told them I was a loan shark. But... a stable income with health insurance attached to it made more sense when looking at my little girl than not knowing if I would have enough classes to pay my way through life next month. Oddly enough, I got a phone call that night from the dean who informed me two of my upcoming classes had been dropped and one had been given away to a tenure track professor because she had lost a class due to low enrollment. That meant I would have one class to teach that semester, which also meant a mere $3,000 to stretch out over a three month span. At that point I sucked it up, told my ego I didn't have time for it, and took a job as manager of a payday loan.

Oh the irony of it all... I had all this crazy education that, from my perspective, big companies would've reaped great benefit from, but the only company smart enough to see my over educated self as an asset was the stupid Payday Loan that required a minimum of a high school diploma. They did benefit from it though. They stuck me in the middle of the ghetto in a shop that was dying and falling apart from lack of business, and in six months time I turned that thing into the biggest money making branch in the district.
(see Pandora's Payday Loan at http://www.dailyjuju.blogspot.com)

After about nine months in that hell hole, an acquaintance referred me to a mortgage company that was hiring. I went through three different interviews at that place. Each interviewer had an aversion to my education, but my time at the payday loan was my saving grace. The message that place conveyed on my resume was, "She wasn't too educated for us, she was one of the best loan sharks we ever had, and the girl means business." So... shady as that business was, I was thankful they took me in and gave me a chance because it opened the door for shady business number two to open the door and give me a chance.

I worked for a year at the mortgage company and was fairly successful, but just as things looked like they were on the up and up, the housing market crashed, all the lenders started closing their doors, and it wasn't long before I found myself unemployed. I had only been out of academia for a year and a half and, as I began interviewing for jobs again, I found, regardless of my time at the payday loan, I was still considered over educated and under experienced.

I spent three months unemployed. I had interviewed over and over and over and was rejected over and over and over. I had used up all of my savings and I was starting to panic because I knew I was sinking and about to drown. I was desperate and terrified. Finally a friend of mine called and told me to go to a contract agency and apply for a position as an administrative assistant he knew about. It only paid $11 an hour, but it was something and a foot in the door. So I went to the company and started filling out the application for the suggested position. As I answered the questions on the paperwork, I knew they were going to take one look at my resume and start laughing. There was no way around it. I was over educated and I knew it.

When I walked into the interview it was exactly as I anticipated; the guy took one look at my resume and said, "What are you doing in here?" So I gave him a brief synopsis of how I ended up there and said, "Obviously, I don't care how much I get paid. I just need a job. Surely you can find something for me, can't you?" He stared at my resume and said, "Well, I have one position that might work. It's only $16 an hour, and you're still over educated for it, but you have a good personality, I think they'll like you. If you play your cards right in the interview, you just might get the job. Let me make a couple calls and see if I can get you in." Two hours later, he called and told me I had an interview the next morning at 10:30.

When I pulled into the parking lot that morning I knew I had to keep my wits about me. I knew from all of my past interviews, despite all the pride I held in my education it somehow didn't work in my favor. I knew I had to say all the right things at all the right times, but more importantly I knew I had to somehow make it clear that my education was a strength, not a weakness.

When I walked into the office I was greeted by a tall man sporting a cowboy shirt, blue jeans, and a nice set of cowboy boots. He seemed rugged but personable and every bit as streetwise as he was business savvy. He was relaxed in the interview, which helped me relax, and everything seemed to be moving along very well until that moment he took a good hard look at my resume. I watched him stare at the page as he slowly sat back in his chair and said, "Master's degree in 19th Century Literature?" He leaned back and stroked his goatee and just as he opened his mouth to say, "Well..." I couldn't help it. My life flashed before me. It was do or die. I had nothing more to lose. So I piped in and said, "Wait. I know what you're going to say. You're getting ready to tell me that I'm over educated and under experienced for this job. I know this because they all say that. But before you make that statement, I would like an opportunity to explain something to you. I have a Master's degree in 19th Century Literature, yes. I know right now that if I had a Master's degree in Business Management I would've had a job yesterday. But I don't. And all that piece of paper really means to anyone is that we were smart enough to see the value in furthering our education and we were persistent enough to do it. The problem for me is that I was an English Major and no one sees value in that. But businesses need people who can think, and what business people don't understand about English Majors is this: all we do all day long is ask ourselves a question. And once we ask ourselves that question, we go out and find the answer to that question. And once we find the answer to that question, we come back, sit down, and not only tell you the answer to that question but convince you that answer is correct. And why corporate America doesn't see that as a valuable skill is beyond me."

After that, he smiled at me like a proud father smiles at the strength of his daughter and said, "Well... I guess we're all just a bunch of hill billies aren't we? All right then, Pandora. I'll give you the job. I know you're too smart for it and I don't expect you to stay in it for very long, but I'll take my chances and give it to you. It pays $16 an hour, but because of your education I'll pay you $19.50 an hour on one condition: You work hard for me. You show me that you can do everything you say you can do. And if you do that, when the time comes, I'll point you in the right direction."

I made good on my promise. I worked hard and if you spoke with him I'm sure he'd tell you that I went above and beyond the call of duty on more than one occasion. And nine months later, when the time came, he made good on his promise and he pointed me in the right direction. Ironically, or dare I say providentially, he pointed me in a direction where everything came together: my education, my experience in his department, my toes in the world of real estate, and even my time at the stupid payday loan pulled together in some beautiful way to make me the perfect candidate for the position I hold now. And I think of this and write this because I learned today that this man will retire next week. I think of this because I wouldn't be where I am right now if he hadn't believed in me. I think of this because I now hold a steady job with a solid income because one man took a chance on me.

...over educated and under experienced, or so they say...

Monday Morning Word Play

It's Monday and I am coming out of a long weekend of watching children and making sure they are entertained in addition to driving all over what seems to be creation (in my diminished scope) to make good on a promise to play an integral role in a Christmas Pageant I would otherwise have nothing to do with. I am tired. And so, it is unfortunate but....

I have nothing witty, nothing jocose, nothing waggish or droll, nothing whimsical, gleeful or frolicsome to share. The reasons being I do not frolic, frisk, or caper. I do not lark or romp or prance. I do not locomote in any way comparable to that of a sprite or fairy or brownie, elf or elfin. I am stuffy. I am prosaic, plebeian and platitudinous. I am humdrum and hackneyed, unable to elicit emotions evoking smiles from faces. I am a vacuous vat of picayune pansophism who can't even qualify for a spot on a stupid game show.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Have you ever spent about an hour working on something that you were certain was going to be good only to stop, just as you were about to finish it, take a good look at it, decide it's absolute crap and then delete the whole thing?

Yep... Me too.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Mail

So I'm sitting at work today and my office phone rings (what a shock). When I pick it up the guy informs me that he's calling from the auto loan company because the mail has been returned to them and they need a valid address.

Now, most of you just read that sentence and automatically assumed this is going to be some kind of scam, but it's not.

I listened to him and said, "No. You have the right address. I haven't moved. I just don't pick up my mail sometimes and then the post-office returns it all." He sat there in silence for a moment. I'm sure he didn't believe me. He sounded confused as he repeated his request as though I had said nothing beyond, "Land Department, this is Pandora. Can I help you?" So I listened to him again and again I said, "You have the correct address on file. I just don't pick up my mail sometimes and then the post-office returns it all." Again he sat there not knowing what to do. It isn't as though I don't make my car payments, so he had no reason to think I'm avoiding them. But at the same time he sat there with an unopened returned envelope and, well... can you blame the guy for being stumped? I'm sure he was sitting there, much like most of you, thinking, "Who doesn't pick up their mail?"

Anyway, after I assured him that all of my contact information was correct, I hung up the phone thinking, "I hate the mail." And no, it isn't because it's just one more chore or one more mundane detail of life that irks me. It's because I have a bit of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when it comes to the bad juju that possibly lurks in my mail box. And I know exactly when it began.

There was a time, before my divorce, when I happily walked to the mail box, when I dutifully sat down and paid all the bills right then and there just to get them out of the way, when I knew that today might be the day I got a nice letter or card from some friend that I hadn't heard from in a while, when I took advantage of the carpet cleaning coupons in the Value Pack, when I skimmed through the pages of the sale prints and such. But anyone who has ever gone through a bitter divorce, followed up by a three year custody battle from Hell knows that at some point the mail box becomes your enemy. The once happy jaunt to the mail box slowly turns into a dreadful trek because you know that there's going to be one more affidavit, one more grossly negative statement about why you should be considered an unfit parent, one more bill from the lame attorney who already sucked up the retainer, one more negative response you need to write in return for the low blow you just took. And it isn't too much longer before the bad debt starts to pile up in the background and debt collectors and their attorneys start hounding you to take care of the financial mish mash that remained attached to your once married name.

So, perhaps now you may understand me when I say, I finally reached a point where I just stopped going to the mailbox all together. Once the custody fight was halfway through its second year in court, I had pretty much lost interest in fighting anymore. I just wanted it to be over. And I believe that was the first time I had ever let the mail sit there so long that the post-office returned it. I remember it because the paralegal had left a message on my phone asking if I had moved because the latest affidavit was returned to them. I remember that because I didn't return her phone call. And I remember that because my attorney called the next day and left a message saying, "Pandora, I know you're depressed and I know you hate checking your mail, but you need to read this. Please call or come to the office and pick it up."

It was nearly three years before that fight was finally over. And though I feel no pain over that horrible time period anymore, I still have an aversion to the mail. The days of hoping for something good to come from it are long gone. Friends don't write letters or send cards anymore because that has all been replaced by emails, by text messages, by things like Face Book. Every so often, around birthdays and Christmas, Hope will get something from her paternal grandparents, but other than that... the mail is still nothing but bills and junk. I've given up on skimming through the sale pages because most of the time every penny has its place and I have learned to live by need way before want. And though I'm looking at my carpet right now and thinking I should find the cleaning coupon from the Value Pack, that thing usually lands straight in the garbage without being opened.

And as I write all of this, as I think about the lost hope of something good, I am reminded of the one friend I do have that recently decided to send a little light my way. We communicate "electronically" and write fairly often, but a few weeks back she sent me a message, giving me a heads up that something would be coming via snail mail. I made a joke about my poor postal processes, but I also made a promise to keep my eyes open for it. A couple weeks after that she sent me a message saying, "By the way, the mail I sent to you was returned to me. I will send it again in a few days. I'll let you know when I do."

Now, I could care less about the auto loan guy (they get their money from me with or without that stupid paper) but my heart sank just a little at the thought of missing something good that was sent to me by someone good. I apologized to her for my neglect and she was kind enough to make a joke or two about it, even made an attempt to relate to me and my lackadaisical methods, but I passed the mailbox that day feeling like a child that realized the only reason Santa quit showing up on Christmas is because I stopped thinking he would. There is no sleigh, no flying reindeer, and nothing good coming to me in the mail. But, as a believer in redemption, I not only checked the mail daily after that message, I checked it with a happy little step and bit of anticipation knowing that someday soon something good was coming. And it did.

On a Friday, upon my return home from work, I found a small package from a friend who had logged away in her memory my love for a show called Mad Men. She had included a little article about the authentic approach they give to every detail "from milk to makeup, letter holders to lowballs, no period detail on the 1960s set of AMC's Mad Men is too small." And she had made a little card with pictures of my favorite characters and wrote a note saying, "Have a Mad Men kind of day!! Though a kinder less destructive kind of Mad Men day. Have a Martini or a Pink Lady or something retro. Or think about Jon Hamm. Or the occasional cigarette while brooding." And as I studied what she had sent to me, I smiled. I smiled because this was the first good thing I had gotten in the mail in quite some time. It was so simple but so thoughtful and fun. And I realized today, as I talked to the auto loan guy, that I had already forgotten that happy mail moment and I had forgotten to tell her thank you. And I suppose this is a reminder that I should let go... because, the truth is, you never know for certain when something good is going to come your way, nor should you keep yourself from looking for it -- you just might miss it and it isn't often you get a second chance.

(and yes... I will go say thank you to her now)

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Weirdo Table

Yes, it's true. If you read yesterday's post then you know it's out on the table: Pandora has a gluten allergy AND a dairy allergy and pizza has become her worst enemy.

Oh how life mocks me. All that my taste buds had grown to love gives way to what my stomach has grown to hate. And Thanksgiving weekend was none too kind to my new way of eating. I used a vacation day so I could sit at home, terribly sick, and wait for my digestive system to finish its rant against me.

All weekend I sat by and watched as others consumed pumpkin and pecan and cinnamon apple pies. All weekend I had avoided the stuffing and the gravy soaked potatoes. All weekend I sat wide awake with my plate of turnips and carrots while others laid on the floor in a food coma. But when the turmoil began at 3:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, there was no one to blame but me.

After days of abstinence, I had allowed myself to give in to temptation and granted my palate the pleasure of a Chocolate Magma Cake. I knew it would probably do me harm, but it was a birthday celebration and to sit one more time over the long weekend and watch others eat a most tasty treat while I sat with my hands in my lap and my eyes averted to the ceiling was more than I could take. I had to eat it! I had to taste its chocolaty goodness! I had to feel normal! But as I hovered over the toilet in the dark of night I knew that "normal" was nowhere in my general vicinity. On top of that, I had to make yet another "family" appearance Sunday night and, though I did my best to avoid all things gluten and dairy, I don't know all of the ingredients that another has used to create a meal, and gluten has a way of hiding itself in things. Unsexy as it may be, I burped like an alien all night last night and when I woke up this morning I still wasn't well. I felt like the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood, after they disemboweled him so Grandma and Little Red Hood could escape and replaced his innards with rocks.

I really am not a fan of this part of my life. I'm like some kind of odd ball now. It's like I need to carry my own food with me no matter where I go. "Thanks for inviting me over for dinner. I hope you don't mind that I brought my own food. It isn't personal, I swear, I just don't want to die tomorrow. Not that your cooking is bad or anything, because it isn't, I'm just afraid it might kill me, but that's not a reflection on your cooking. I promise."

Seriously... What is that? I am a stickler for social grace. I was raised that way. It's a matter of respect. It's part of understanding people and meeting them where they're at. When someone invites you to their home and offers you a meal, you eat it, even if it isn't something you like! You eat it because you are rejecting their hospitality if you don't. Now, look at me! I'm some kind of freak! I'm the lady in the office that you all think is weird because she can't eat a burger and fries and smile while she does it! I'm the person that puts a lettuce leaf and a tomato slice on my plate while the rest of you make something called a sandwich! I can't walk into a room and eat just anything out of politeness, at least not without spending 24 to 48 hours sick after that. What did I do to deserve this? What kind of karmic punishment is this? What is going on? Is this some kind of argument for evolution? Am I one of the lucky humans whose body has evolved because it knows dairy and gluten are the biggest contributors to obesity and heart failure? Is this some kind of forced survival of the fittest? Natural selection? Or is this a downgrade? Does it mean that I'm dying because I can no longer biggie size something? Does it mean that the smiling people at the drive-thru will now spit on my salad with no dressing instead of my cheese burger? Is it going to be like Clan Of The Cave Bear where the people who were hurt by my refusal to eat pie will tell the witch doctor to throw down the bones and determine whether I can remain a member of the tribe? Am I going to be ousted to the weirdo table? Seriously! I need to find a white robe and a staff so I can at least present myself as some kind of guru and all people can sit at my table mesmerized by the fact that I would rather eat imaginary slack out of someone's hand than barbecued pork, because, well, taste is in the tongue of the beholder. Bring on the bland! The High Priestess of Hyper Allergenic Gastro Paresis lives!

I hate it, really, I do. I was making Hope's lunch this morning and I was talking to her and putting some of those cheesy bunny crackers in a bag when I absent mindedly popped one of the bunnies into my mouth and ate it. Then I stopped in mid sentence and looked at her and said, "I just ate that, Hope. I just threw that in my mouth without thinking and I ate it and I'm already sick!" And her little mouth turned down and she said, "I'm sorry, Mama. This is going to be really hard for you, isn't it."

Needless to say, I am miserable. I am miserable because I blew it on Saturday with the chocolate magma ice cream meltdown cake, because I most likely ingested additional gluten without knowing it, and my uniqueness has crossed over from the intellectual & spiritual into the physical where I can truly be seen as one crazy eccentric odd duck.

"See that woman over there? They say she's a writer."
"Which woman?"
"The one with a plate full of cranberry sauce."
"Cranberry sauce? That's all she's got? A plate full of cranberry sauce?"
"You know how writers are... always trying to be different."


It's okay though. At least I know I'm not alone. If the bones say that I have to pick up my zip-lock bag of nuts and berries and move on, at least I know the weirdo table to the north is more likely to hold stories about chemtrails and government conspiracies. Sure, they might smell like patchouli and tell me I'm really an alien from Planet Zircon, but at least I won't be lacking in the story department.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's A Penguiolles Thanksgiving

In the following dialogue:
Pandora -- Thirty-Something Menace To Society/Notorious Scribe
G.B. Wittington -- close friend of Pandora and fellow Thirty-Something Menace To Society.
OCD Wittington -- G.B. Wittington's older sister, also Thirty-Something Menace To Society.
Saucy Wittington -- G.B. Wittington's younger sister, mother of Baby Leham.
DownTempo -- Saucy's boyfriend and father to Baby Leham.
The Grand Ma -- Mother of the Wittington family.

The setting is the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving at OCD's apartment. The small family has decided Wednesday is the best time to have their Thanksgiving celebration.
Pandora and G.B. Wittington enter the room and it begins.

The Grand Ma: Oh! Look who's here! Pandora! So good to see you again! Come... come here and sit down. I will move so you can have a seat.

Saucy Wittington: Here Mama, you can sit here in the padded chair next to me. Pandora can sit on the other side.

The Grand Ma: Oh no. Pandora needs to sit here. Sit here, Pandora. I can go sit on the couch.

Pandora: At the head of the table? No. I can sit here, you stay there.

The Grand Ma: No no no... you sit here.

Saucy Wittington: Mama! Sit here in the padded chair next to me. You don't need to sit on the couch. I have a chair right here for you.

The Grand Ma: But I want Pandora to sit over there.

Saucy: She can sit there, but you sit here.

The Grand Ma: (wanders off to the living room a bit confused by the padded chair idea)

Pandora: (sits next to the padded chair, leaving the head of the table empty)

Saucy: Mama! Come sit here! There is a chair here for you.

G.B. Wittington: (makes himself at home in the kitchen)

OCD Wittington: (looks at Pandora) Get yourself some pizza and pasta, Pandora. There's plenty to go around.

Pandora: (steps into the kitchen)

G.B. Wittington: Go sit down. I'll fix a plate for you.

Pandora: (sits back down)

OCD Wittington: (looks at Pandora) Get yourself some pizza, Pandora.

Pandora: (looks over her shoulder into the kitchen and then looks back at O.C.D.) Apparently, G.B. is fixing a plate for me.

The Grand Ma: Well, we are just so happy you could make it, Pandora. It's good to have you here with us.

Pandora: Thank you. It's good to be here.

The Grand Ma: Have you met Baby Leham? (she smiles proudly at her four month old grandson)

Saucy: Yes, Mama. She's met the baby, but you'll have to excuse me for a few minutes. I need to go in the back room and feed him. I'll be back in a few minutes.

DownTempo: Pandora, welcome to the family dinner.

Pandora: Thank you.

G.B. Wittington: (places a plate of chicken and rice in front of Pandora and takes his place at the head of the table with a plate full of pizza and pasta)

Pandora: (cuts into the chicken when she notices The Grand Ma staring at her plate)

The Grand Ma: Where did the chicken and rice come from?

Pandora: Well, I have a gluten allergy so...

The Grand Ma: ...a what? You have a what?

Pandora: ...a gluten allergy, so...

The Grand Ma: ...a gluten allergy? What?

G.B.:(puts down his fork) Okay. Let's just get this out on the table.

DownTempo: (looks up from his plate) Wait a minute, what? Something needs to get out onto the table?

G.B.: Yes, we just need to get this out on the table, say it once, so everyone knows about it, and then we're done.

DownTempo: Wait a minute. Saucy just left the room. You can't get something out on the table without her. This sounds important. Maybe you should wait.

The Grand Ma: What's going on?

OCD: Yes, what's going on?

Pandora: (sits up in the chair) No need to get excited. Nothing important and significant to anyone's lives is about to be thrown out onto the table here.

G.B.: Pandora has a gluten allergy. She has a gluten and a dairy allergy. She cannot eat any kind of breads or pastas and because she can't have dairy, pizza has now become one of her worst enemies. Because of this, she has a plate of chicken and rice while the rest of us eat the pizza.

DownTempo: Aw man... that sucks!

The Grand Ma: Oh my! A gluten allergy? Is this new? Have you had it forever? You ate pizza last time you were with us, didn't you?

DownTempo: damn... man... that really sucks. Dairy too? Oh man... what are you allowed to eat then?

Pandora: I don't know how long I've had it. I've been going in for tests since July and they recently diagnosed me with the gluten and dairy allergy.

The Grand Ma: Oh my...

DownTempo: Dude... I went into my room and sulked for three days when I found out I was allergic to guacamole. If they told me I had a gluten allergy I think I'd off myself.

OCD: Well now I feel bad. I wish I had known that before you came over.

Pandora: It's okay. I've only been doing this for a few weeks so I don't always think to tell people about it.

The Grand Ma: What is gluten?

Pandora: It's in all wheat and flour based things, like breads and pastas, but it's also in some sauces and other things that I can't have anymore. I can't drink beer anymore either.

DownTempo: (puts his fork down and sits back in his seat) No beer! Really? Oh man... that sucks. That really sucks.

The Grand Ma: So they found out because you were having stomach problems and they ran some tests to find out what it was? Hey... Maybe you have the same problem, G.B. You've always had a gurgling stomach.

G.B.: What?

The Grand Ma: You've always had stomach problems. I think you have the same problem she does. I think you need to go get some tests done.

G.B.: Pfft... No.

The Grand Ma: No? You don't know. You should take a test.

G.B.: Mama... I've seen Pandora get sick from the allergy. I don't have that.

The Grand Ma: Well, how do you know? You've never taken a test. Have you ever taken a test?

G.B.: I took a test once.

The Grand Ma: You did? You took a test?

G.B.: Yes, Mama, I took a test once.

The Grand Ma: And? What happened?

G.B.: (chews his food, swallows, and reaches for his glass of water) I got a C.

The Grand Ma: ...

OCD: ...

Pandora: (waits in silence)

DownTempo: ... Bah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Pandora: (watches G.B. resume eating)

OCD: ...

The Grand Ma: What? You got a C? What does that mean? Pandora, what does he mean? ...a C?

Pandora: Don't worry about it.

The Grand Ma: Well, it makes me feel bad because you won't be able to enjoy the yummy dessert I brought for you.

OCD: You brought dessert, Mama?

The Grand Ma: (drops what appears to be packages of Hostess Cupcakes on the table) I brought cupcakes for everyone!

OCD: You brought Hostess Cupcakes?

G.B.: (picks up the package closest to him) These aren't Hostess Cupcakes, these are Penguiolles.

OCD: What?

The Grand Ma: They're Hostess Cupcakes.

G.B.: No, Mom, they're Penguiolles. Penguiolles are not Hostess Cupcakes. They are a Mexican rip-off found at places like Food City. Have you been shopping at Food City again?

The Grand Ma: They're Hostess Cupcakes and I have not been shopping at Food City.

DownTempo: (picks up a package) Yep, they're Penguiolles.

OCD: (opens her package) Mama, they're not even soft. They're hard like rocks. (takes a bite) It just crumbled in my mouth! (stands up and leaves the table)

The Grand Ma: Well, we had a social at the park the other day and everyone brings a treat and someone gave me these. Lewis eats them all the time. He loves them. So I just thought I would share with you kids. It's Thanksgiving and we need to have dessert, don't we?

OCD: Lewis will eat anything, Mom. Those are hard like rocks!

G.B.: (shows the package to Pandora) Penguiolles... yum yum. Gluten allergy saves the day.

Saucy: (comes back into the room) What's going on out here? (looks at DownTempo) You keep saying something sucks. OCD is in the bathroom washing her mouth out. What's going on? What sucks?

DownTempo: Pandora has a gluten allergy! AND a dairy allergy! She can't have pizza or beer ever again in her life!

Saucy: Oh wow! That's harsh.

DownTempo: Oh, and your mom brought Penguiolles for dessert.

Saucy: What? Penguiolles? (picks up a package) Mom? You brought Penguiolles for dessert? Have you been shopping at Food City again?

Monday, November 23, 2009

The D2 Button

The vending machine man finally came and fixed the D2 button, so I was able to enjoy a mid-morning snack of Grandma's Fudge Chocolate Chip cookies and a Dr. Pepper. It's a good thing too because I was walking down there thinking, if it doesn't work today I'm going to have to write the following note:

Dear Mr. Vending Machine Man,

You don't know me, but I am one of your valued customers. And as one of your valued customers, you may want to take note of the D2 button and that it has been out of service for nearly a month. Why is this important, you ask? Because I'm one of the few people that enjoy Grandma's Fudge Chocolate Chip cookies -- they make me happy and often spare individuals from enduring a grumpy me. But for the last month I've had to substitute my happiness for either a bag of Doritos or a Snickers bar, which really doesn't satisfy me. So please… take the time to repair this button -- for the good of my snack craving sanity and for the good of my coworkers. The cookies look sorry and sickly -- that same bag has been staring at me for weeks and I swear it's starting to look crumpled. And you really haven't made any extra money from this because, while the Doritos may cost 5 cents more, the Snickers cost 5 cents less and more times than not I choose the Snickers -- nacho cheese will never over power chocolate needs. So really, while I suffer so do you, even if you're unaware of it.

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention in this matter.


Grandma's Favorite Girl.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ding Dong! Windmill Dick Is Gone!

Despite the wonderful story telling opportunities and the character study he provided me, I feel no sorrow when I say: Ladies and Gentleman, Windmill Dick has left the building! *applaud here*

Just two nights ago I was woken up at 3:00 a.m. to the sound of him screaming "Mike! Yo Mike!" which was shortly followed by some inexplicable banging and clanging noises. I have no clue what he was doing down there, nor did I think it was in my best interest to find out. (The man disturbs me.) I did, however, lie there in my bed thinking, "How long, oh Lord? How long?? Surely his lease is up soon! Is it too much to ask that the guy find a new place to live and torment some other poor soul's sense of peace and harmony?"

Earlier last week I was sitting here, again with the windows open, and my daughter was at the table doing her homework. Windmill, as always, stepped outside for a smoke while talking on the phone. What I heard was, "She gave me The Clap, Dude! It's the second fuckin' time I've had it! The first time was from my wife! Women! They can't be trusted!"

So I sat there for a minute, wondering how much, if any, my daughter could hear and whether or not I should just forget the fresh air and shut the door. Before I could complete my thought and make a decision, he continued, "Ya, man. I got it taken care of, but I went out and bought a sign that says Never Trust A Cunt and I hung it over my bed. It's awesome dude! I'm leaving it there cuz it's the truth, Man! The other night I brought this other chic home with me and when we got into my room and she saw the sign over my bed she asked me what it said. So I said, 'I don't know. Let's turn the light on and find out.' So when I turned the light on she read it and got all pissed at me and she left. I didn't fuckin' care though. She was just a stripper anyway." At that point my daughter turned around and said, "Mom? What's that guy talking about?" And so I stood up and shut the door saying, "Nothing your sweet little ears need to hear." As I sat back down at my desk she said, "Mom? What's The Clap?"

Ah... nothing like an impromptu lesson in sex ed brought about by Mr. Dick himself. Thank you...

Now I don't know about you, but I have learned to cut my parents some slack in their inability to properly explain anything in regard to sex and sexuality. My dad's best attempt at helping me understand was at thirteen years old after a boy had given me some cheap ring he bought at the county fair. Once Dad saw the ring on my hand he said, "It's time for us to have a talk. Pandora, there comes a time in every young man's life when he learns that his penis can do two things instead of one. Remember that." After that he walked away and left me sitting there thinking, "What? What does this ring have to do with a boy's penis?" And my mother wasn't much better. All I got from her was around the age of fourteen and she said, "Your husband will know if you're not a virgin when you get married." At that point I hadn't even really kissed a boy so again, I just sat there thinking, "What is she talking about?" It is one of those things that I later wished they had been better at but what can you expect from a father whose parents thought giving him a book about the chicken and the egg was an ample explanation? And, having had a few random talks here and there with Hope, I understand how uncomfortable it is to talk about with your child. It takes busting through the wall of what you perceive to be a beautiful and necessary innocence to shoot straight with the kid. Each time it comes up I encounter this internal struggle with myself -- one half tells me that if she hears the truth from me it's better than hearing something skewed from one of her immature friends and the other half wants to say, "Sex? Who told you that? Remember Dumbo? Babies are brought down from Heaven by the stork."

I digress...

When faced with questions like, "Mom? What's The Clap?" I find that it's best to swallow your fear and shoot from the hip. This is a teaching moment, an uncomfortable teaching moment, but a teaching moment none-the-less. So I turned to her and said something profoundly parental like, "The Clap is a slang term for a sexually transmitted disease called Gonorrhea. It's a disease that attacks your private area. People that have careless sex with multiple partners are usually the ones that get it. This is why it's important not to go sleeping around with a bunch of random people. There are lots of diseases you can get from doing that. You know how your friend got head lice? Well, there's also something called crabs which is basically lice found in your private area. I could go on and on about this, but I think that's enough for now." With absolute horror she looked at me and said, "Crabs? Like... little bugs crawling around down there??" I simply smiled and nodded. She stared at her pencil for a moment and said, "That's gross, Mom. I need to finish my math," and she turned around, continued to work away at her homework, and that was that.

I, on the other hand, thought about Mr. Dick and how loathsome he is to me. Truly, the man is... well... (I really wish I hadn't sold my Dictionary Of Insulting English because I'm sure there were some good ones I could really use right now) repugnant is the best I can come up with, and that just seems too refined a word for someone like him. I would like to cut the guy some slack, but I just can't. The man has exposed himself to be low-brow porn star, a blatant supporter of violence, a disrespecter of women (as evidenced by his bedroom wall hanging), and a disgrace to the male gender. The man is lucky that I'm not some shaved head, camouflage and combat boot wearing feminist, because if he's a Windmill then that would've made me Donna Quixote and I would've gladly taken him down with much more than a letter regarding the proper disposal of garbage. I would also argue that men like him are the biggest reason militant feminists exist. And...give me a break. Are we supposed to show sympathy for the guy? So you got the clap. What did you think would happen when dipping your wick in the world of strippers and pornography?

Anyway, at least he's gone. I saw him and his cronies moving things out yesterday, and when I came home today I found his side of the garage completely vacant. As Thanks Giving approaches, I find myself grateful that I will no longer endure the stench of his trash in my garage, and I will be able to enjoy the fresh air without inhaling his cigarette smoke and listening to the sound of his voice.

Ding Dong! Windmill Dick is gone! I can now don my ruby red slippers and reclaim this space I currently call home.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Chain

It is quite possible that I belong to a minority group. You say, "A minority group?" And I say, "Yes. That's right." I apparently belong to the small group of people that find chain emails ridiculous and annoying and I am regularly oppressed by their constant appearance in my inbox. You say, "Oppressed? That's a strong word, Pandora. How can you be oppressed by the happy little baby with angel wings that promises to grant you great joy in your life as long as you send it off to ten people who could also use great joy in their life?" And I say, "Because when I come to work in the morning and find sixty emails waiting for me, most of them from the same people that need something from me, I find myself spending twenty minutes sifting through the tripe of 50 chain emails before getting to the point with the remaining ten!"

Ok. So maybe I exaggerate a little, but one chain email is one too many. Really, whose stupid idea was this and why must I be subjected to it on a daily basis? Yesterday morning I got some stupid email with one of those stupid pictures of Jesus where he looks like some kind of pansy or something, making the sign of the cross with his right hand, while red and blue rays of light come out of his belly button and it said something stupid like, "Forward this message the same day you received it. It may Sound ridiculous, but it is right on time. We believe that something is about to happen. Angels exist, only sometimes they haven't got wings and we call them friends; you are one of them. Something wonderful is about to happen to you and your friends. Tomorrow at 9:20AM somebody will address you and tell you something you have been waiting to hear. Please do not break this. Send it to at least 7 of your friends!"

Um... it may sound ridiculous? How about: it is ridiculous. The last time I checked, Jesus prefers it when I speak to him directly, not through some stupid email forward, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't take orders like, "...and would you please have this to me by 9:20 tomorrow morning? I promise to pray for seven of my closest friends via email forwarding. How's that? Pretty good deal, ain't it? Oh, and I like my steak medium rare. Thanks, Bro! You reign!"

And this whole, "angels exist" thing "only sometimes they don't have wings?" First of all, I think I said something about that concept in my Angels Or Aliens post and secondly, having worked with the dude that sent me this thing, assuming he forwarded after someone who sent it to him, I'm pretty sure the guy's temper is enough to prove he isn't an angel (with or without wings) and, despite what some other metaphysical humans might think, I'm not one either.

Seriously... these things drive me nuts. I've gotten everything from Jesus promising to send me something at 9:20 in the morning to Angel Babies sprinkling me with love dust to Buddhas promising world peace to Feng Shui emails granting health and wealth to Fairies bringing "wind falls" of coin to Leprechauns promising that this email is the end of my rainbow and a stupid pot of gold is waiting for me on the other side (as long as I help 20 more people find the end of their rainbow by forwarding the Lucky Leprechaun). I have even gotten some stupid email from the Dali Lama explaining the 8 Key Points Of Life that I should live by, which I admit were good points, only to be ruined by the something like: if you send this to 1 - 5 people your life will improve slightly, if you send this to 5 - 10 people your life will improve, if you send this to 10 - 20 people your life will improve greatly and you will know great joy and happiness all of your days. ...um... is it bad if I'm inclined to say, "Please shut the hell up."

Oh, and I particularly love the ones that come with curses attached to them: "If you don't forward this to at least 10 people something bad will befall you." Seriously? Are you kidding me? Something bad befell me as soon as I opened this stupid email! Something bad befell me on more than one occasion in my life before I ever had access to email. What is going on, people? Where are your brains? Why are you sending this garbage? Because you truly believe something bad will befall you if you don't? And who uses the word befall anyway?

My favorite chain email that promised something bad to befall me was a "genuine Chinese Proverb" that originated in Switzerland. I can't remember the actual proverb because it was just a tad bit overshadowed by the story of the guy that didn't forward the email and his son grew deathly ill two days later, but once he realized the error of his ways and sent the email off to ten people his son was miraculously healed.


Is there no end to our idiocy? At what point do you not notice that "genuine" Chinese Proverbs don't originate in Switzerland? And if I'm not mistaken, the purpose of a proverb is to enlighten you with its truth not threaten your well being with a stupid curse. Where oh where has common sense gone? Is this the work of some stupid liberal regime that also believes people should be paid for lying around doing nothing? Did you really think you'd find wealth and prosperity if you sent this email to me? I'm pretty sure you're still sitting there in that stupid cubicle with the same salary you had yesterday. I'm pretty sure the bills are still waiting to be paid by the usual means with which you pay them. And I'm pretty sure something bad will befall you even after you sent this stupid thing to me. Why? Because it always does. Because that's the ebb and flow of life, people. Because in the joy there is also pain. How's that for a proverb?

Here's a genuine American Proverb straight from the borderline ghetto of Phoenix, AZ -- something good will happen to you today and something bad will happen to you today, there is a high point and low point to every day, and well... that's what we call the human experience.

Now email this post to 20 people because I really need some more readers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Medium

This Eye does see the world.
This Mind inherits and begets.
This Ear does hear
voices, vehicles, and victims,
wind, words, and wisdom,
moans, mayhem, and music.
This Mouth...
speaks wit,
sings soul,
smacks love,
swallows life.

inhales experience -- exhales perception

This Body lolls on the berth and bathes in the light.
This Body lies with your thoughts on a sensual night.
This Hand does write -- taunt, tease, twist, and tie.
This Hand does...
hit and hurt,
bind and break,
soothe and stroke,
comfort and create.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ignoring The Toilet

A good friend of mine loves to call me Her Royal Highness because of the disdain I hold for dishes and laundry and such. He says it, of course, poking fun at me because these are tasks we all must do and my griping about them conveys, to him, a sense that I am above it all. Being someone who regularly does such chores without a second thought, I think I may very well be his first experience with a human who would prefer to leave the dishes in the sink for a night or two because I obey the call of my imagination before obeying the call of "duty."

This is not a rant against him, by any means. The man has come to my home on more than one occasion to eat a dinner I made for him (cooking is an art, by the way) only to willingly and ever so naturally stand up to wash the dishes with a beautiful smile saying, "Do what you need to do. This is a job for peasants, not for women like you." So no, this is not a rant against his playful statements.

I think of this now because, less than an hour ago, I sat down to write only to hear an ominous glub glub glub , followed by the sound of my daughter saying, "Oh no! Oh No!" and the bathroom door slamming shut behind her. As I went down the hall, I found her standing with her eyes wide open, hand still on the door knob, saying, "You don't want to go in there, Mom." I opened the door to find water spilling over the toilet, flooding the bathroom floor, and all I could do was stand there and stare at it thinking, "If there was ever a time I felt like a peasant, it would be now."

And, so, here is the part where all anal retentive cleaners of the house cringe as I tell you I simply shut the door, looked at my girl and said, "Use my bathroom to get ready for bed. I have writing to do. I'll get to this craziness later."

For the record, then, it isn't because I am above it all, nor is it because of laziness or lack of care. I put these things to the side for one reason only -- to live.

Anyone who reads my blog regularly should be familiar with my rants about the mundane as it actively opposes my need to be free and creative. And, in fact, somewhere in here is a post about Obsessive Lackadaisical Disorder where I mock myself for not taking the mundane duties of existence seriously. But the truth is, anyone who taps into their imagination now and again knows that when it calls to you it must be followed, lest it disappear and leave you with nothing but frustration and a sense of heartbroken sorrow like a lover that left you wanting.

There are things in life that can't be avoided. I can't avoid my job because it pays the bills, puts a roof over our head and food on the table. I can't avoid raising my daughter and doing my best to help her grow into a fruitful contribution to society. I can't avoid the obligations to friends and family that need me. But I can avoid the dishes for a while, I can avoid laundry as long as I have something to wear tomorrow, and I most certainly can avoid the stupid overflowing bathroom long enough to get my thoughts onto the page before time to sleep. Why can I do this? Because, if I don't, I am convinced death will soon follow -- maybe not a physical death, but most definitely a spiritual death of sorts.

Writing feeds my soul. The times that I neglect it are some of the darkest and most depressing times of my life. It makes me feel whole. It gives me a sense of purpose outside of merely existing. And the chores of life, though necessary, in my already busy schedule, threaten to consume every opportunity to create something outside of myself.

One of the strongest memories I have of myself is looking through a day planner when my marriage was falling apart and finding this:
Monday: go to the gym, clean the bathrooms and kitchen, wash the whites, iron, cook dinner.
Tuesday: go to the gym, vacuum the floors, dust the living room and bedrooms, wash the colors, iron, cook dinner.
Wednesday: go to the gym, clean the bathrooms and kitchen, wash the linens, iron, pay the bills, cook dinner.
Thursday: go to the gym, vacuum the floors, dust the living room and bedrooms, do the grocery shopping, cook dinner.
Friday: go to the gym, clean the bathrooms and kitchen, wash the uniforms, iron, cook dinner.

I remember calling my mother and sobbing because I had completely lost sight of who I was. I never wrote, I never read, I did nothing but keep the mundane tasks of life under control and I never felt more empty than I did at that moment. I had become what Brenda Ueland described:

Like many of the most talented and funniest people, ...too nice and unconceited to work from mere ambition, or the far-away hope of making money, and had not become convinced that there are other reasons for working, that a person like herself who cannot write a sentence that is not delightful and a circus, should give some time to it instead of always doily-carrying, recipe-experimenting, child-admonishing, husband-ministering, to the complete neglect of her Imagination and creative power.

In fact that is why the lives of most women are so vaguely unsatisfactory. They are always doing secondary and menial things (that do not require all their gifts and ability) for others and never anything for themselves. Society and husbands praise them for it (when they get too miserable or have nervous breakdowns), though always a little perplexedly and halfheartedly and just to be consoling. The poor wives are reminded that that is just why women are so splendid -- because they are so unselfish and self-sacrificing and that is the wonderful thing about them!

But inwardly women know that something is wrong. They sense that if you are always doing something for others, like a servant or a nurse, and never anything for yourself, you cannot do others any good. You make them physically more comfortable, but you cannot affect them spiritually in any way at all. For to teach, encourage, cheer up, console, amuse, stimulate, or advise a husband or children or friends, you have to be something yourself. And how to be something yourself? Only by working hard and with gumption at something you love and care for and think is important.
(_If You Want To Write_, Pg. 89-90)

So, in my well earned freedom, I have never forgotten that image of myself. I keep good house, I keep things afloat, and when people come to visit I do my best to present the best of myself and my home. But in my everyday existence, I have learned to shove that shit to the side so I can light a candle or two, I can burn some incense if I feel like it, I can turn on some inspiring music and shut out the world and write (even if all I come up with is a post to my blog). Why? Because it is the one thing that makes me feel alive. And I am convinced, if you were to talk with the people whose lives I have touched, this is the same reason why it would be said I am strong, confident, and actively help others get through some of the more difficult times of their lives -- because I work with gumption at something I love and care for and think is important, and it isn't the stupid dishes, or the laundry, or even the damn toilet.

The idea of royalty is always nice, but... let's be realistic. I'm a single mother living in a hovel with Windmill Dick below me. Last week I fixed my backed-up sink with a wire hanger, the week before that I fixed my backed-up shower drain with Liquid Plumber, and tonight, after I finish here, I will be mopping backed-up toilet mess and feel less than beautiful as I grab the plunger and give the toilet a run for its money. I am, as my colleagues at the mortgage company said, down here in the mud with everyone else, but the only reason most of you can't see what I'm looking at is probably because I'm one of the few that actually take the time to give my chores the bird and actually "look."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Online Poker Table Talk

setting: Briguystx just won the hand, knocking out two dumb people who went all in. Doughnut had apparently been booted by the system before calling the bet and returns to the table in a bad mood. Agent58 gets religious. Pandora, well ... the following chat is what took place:

Doughnut -- Stupid fuckin system booted me! I hate this stupid site! It sucks! Stupid fuckin pop ups always booting right as I had a stellar hand!

Agent58 -- (who currently holds 7,000+ in her bank roll) Calm down.

Doughnut -- What?! Don't tell me to calm down!! I had a stellar hand and I was just about to go all in Brig! But then I got booted! I had two jacks and two tens, bro!

Pandora -- Probably good you didn't go all in then.

Briguystx -- lol... yeah, probably.

Pandora -- Brig's full house killed the other two all ins. I'd consider it divine intervention if I were you.

Agent58 -- (who now has 9,000+ in her bank roll) A calm spirit breeds peace while a bitter soul dries up the bones... Proverbs 17:22.

Briguystx -- Amen!

Doughnut -- What the hell?

Pandora -- In other words, your bad mood gives you and all of us osteoporosis.

Briguystx -- Lol!

Agent58 -- What do you mean, a bad mood gives osteoporosis? Is that your perspective?

Pandora -- No, that's your perspective.

Agent58 -- That's not my perspective!

Pandora -- You just said, with your little proverb, that a bitter soul dries up the bones. Osteoporosis is a disease that causes brittle bones that break easily, hence Doughnut's bad mood = brittle bones = Osteoporosis.

Agent58 -- (who now has 11,000 in her bank roll and at this point I'm wondering how this dumb girl wins like that) I guess that's your perspective.

Pandora -- lol... I think you're missing it. I was just elaborating on your proverb.

Agent58 -- it's okay, I won't argue with you. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

Pandora -- ...

Briguystx -- Lol! Bitter doughnuts and broken bones!

Pandora -- It's all good Agent58. :-) (meaning, please shut up now before I get more interested in schooling you than playing poker)

Doughnut -- A baker, a doctor, and a preacher all walk into a bar. What kind of bar is it?

Pandora -- The kind of bar where the baker, the doctor, and the preacher can all get drunk together in perfect peace and harmony while reading the book of Proverbs.

Agent58 -- (who now has 13,000 points in her bank roll) UR Bad, Pandora!

Pandora -- And you're winning. I'll stop talking now.


Friday, November 13, 2009

A Response To My Response To Emily

I recognize, having been both a student and a teacher of English, that poetry is a lost art. I recognize that if the poet and the mathematician hold anything in common at all, it is that a select few truly understand where their mind is at and what they're doing with it. I used to write poetry all the time, it used to be my method of choice, until I realized that if I wanted to live my life as a starving writer, poetry was my best bet.

I still write a poem every so often (The Drain, which I posted a few weeks back, is the first one to come out of me in quite a while), and I still enjoy writing them. The problem is, I fear, my readers may not enjoy reading them, which is something I completely understand.

Poetry is a puzzle. It makes use of various stylistic and grammatical subtleties to get its point across, even as it's somewhat hiding that same point from your view. As a reader who may not enjoy poetry, this can be frustrating. As a reader who loves poetry, this is where the fun begins: this is your time to solve the puzzle, in which there is no complete way for you to walk around feeling 100% positive with your result, but you can be satisfied with your understanding and walk away with an immense amount of appreciation and fondness for the writer and the writer's ability to share their emotion and imagination with you in such an enigmatic and esoteric way.

I bring this up because one of my readers expressed some interest in what I was doing with yesterday's Response To Emily. I appreciate his question because I knew when I posted that poem, out of all the ones I have written and shared on this blog, that it was a difficult puzzle to solve. But his interest was enough for me to believe more of you may be interested and so... here is my answer to his question, and here is a breakdown on "the puzzle" that is "the poem."

Response To Emily is a response poem to Emily Dickinson -- a 19th Century American poet. I wrote this one a long time ago. I was still living with my parents, finishing my BA, and in the midst of divorce at the time. It was an assignment for a Whitman & Dickinson class I was in (I wrote Autumn Leaves, also posted to this blog somewhere, for that same class as a response to Whitman's Song Of Myself).

Traditionally, a response poem is both an exercise in walking in another writer's stylistic shoes as well as showing your ability as a writer to adeptly mimic their style. (I once wrote a dialogue between theorist Stanley Fish and 18th Century poet Alexander Pope called Tea and Crumpets With Stanley Fish for a Literary Criticism class. I did that one as a bet. Alexander Pope wrote in everything in heroic couplet -- every line is written in iambic pentameter and every two lines have a rhyme at the end of them. I had made a joke about doing it for the dialogue assignment and then two fellow English Majors dared me to follow through with it. They were betting on the fact I wouldn't be able to write in heroic couplet for five to ten pages. They lost the bet, which on a student budget meant I got two soft tacos from Taco Bell but still...) If you studied Dickinson, you would recognize that I mimicked her style as I expressed concepts of my own life and perception through her "voice." Both Autumn Leaves and Response To Emily were showpiece compositions that year, and they have followed me around all this time until I finally decided to post Emily's piece yesterday. She was never my favorite of the two, but as I dug through my past work the other night I ran across it and found it a worthy addition, even though I knew most people would not understand.

Dickinson's style, even more than Whitman's, is one weighted in symbol and metaphorical imagery, which is why I used so many images in this poem: the Dawn; the Moon; the Pinnacle; the Mouth; the Eye; the Sky; the Birds. When faced with something like this as a reader, it is important to see the image in your mind first and then think about the words and the grammatical tools that surround them -- and depending on the poet, use of rhyme and meter. Dickinson was known for the strange use of the dash and her use of capitalization. Her use of these is actually the topic of much research and debate and has a lot to do with the way the reader interprets the poem. I always believed they were simply there to direct the reader's attention to a specific image or metaphor, causing them to think on it for a while; at least that was the effect she had on me.

So, in this poem, the first thing you see is "At Once" followed by a dash. This indicates there is a significance in the sense of suddenness in the timing. Following that is "Arose the Dawn," also set apart with a dash. If you have ever sat and watched a sunrise, you have experienced a slow and peaceful observance of something that gradually rises and sheds light upon your world. It never rises "at once," it is never "sudden," so immediately the reader should notice that, despite the natural images, the author is using them as a metaphor to explain something else. The next line is "A Tirade to the Moon." Obviously, when the sun comes up the moon goes down. The Moon could be understood as the keeper of the night: it sheds a light of its own, but it never sheds enough light for an individual to see that clearly. And a "tirade" is bitter outburst. The last two lines of that stanza, "Brilliant Beams ascending O'er Pinnacle's said Doom" create the image of the sun beams rising over the mountains. So if you look at that stanza as a whole, you can interpret that the writer was previously sitting in the midst of the dark night, with no light except what was given by the moon, and suddenly, out of nowhere, the most powerful light that could possibly shine rises up over the mountain tops, shedding light on what could be understood as certain doom.

So then, stanza two helps the reader understand what that doom could very well have been. "In Lunar Light -- pale skin Does glow -- as Languid Lips Fabricate Amorous Mouthing -- An Eye, in deed, mislead." In other words, in the dark, underneath the limited light of the moon, you have a set of lovers, naked ("pale skin Does glow"). And in this darkness, words of love and promises were whispered like lies by an indifferent soul: "Languid Lips Fabricate Amorous Mouthing," which could also be understood as a sexual metaphor, supporting the concept of two lovers beneath the moon. "An Eye," something that can be fooled by a slip of the hand or visual action as well as a metaphorical image for an "I," that was "in deed/indeed" mislead -- play on words being, yes, "I" was indeed mislead, but also through the deeds of another "I" was mislead.

As the second stanza depicts the events of the darkness, the third stanza explains the significance of the light: "But Sweet the Light that shines, Condensing Careless words --, Unto the Boundless Sky -- And I, away with Birds." The light that suddenly rose over the mountain (metaphor for the uphill climb) is sweet as it shines brightly, shedding light and truth over all that was hidden by dark and false; "condensing [the] careless words" and actions of the "amorous mouthing" into nothing, like clouds dissipating into the "boundless sky," and therefor, freeing the "I" from the "doom" it was headed for, allowing the "I" (the same Eye that was in deed mislead) to make an escape into freedom -- flying "away with Birds."

So, there you have it. Maybe I should explicate myself more often. That was kind of fun. ;-) Remind me to tell you about my experience with T.S. Eliot sometime.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Response To Emily

At Once -- Arose the Dawn --
A Tirade to the Moon --
Brilliant Beams ascending
O'er Pinnacle's said Doom.

In Lunar Light-- pale skin
Does glow -- as Languid Lips
Fabricate Amorous Mouthing --
An Eye, in deed, mislead.

But Sweet the Light that shines,
Condensing Careless words --
Unto the Boundless Sky --
And I, away with Birds.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dark and Light

Sometime between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five my dad started saying something like, "What do I need to do to get you off The Good Ship Lollipop? When are you going to learn that people aren't inherently good?" And I'm pretty sure there were a couple instances between twenty-six and thirty-five where I told a story or two that evoked a "Well, I can see you still like to ride The Good Ship every once in a while." By that time I usually just laughed at him because I was well aware of my stupid naivete in those moments, but when I was younger those questions used to make me angry at him.

In my innocence I wanted to believe nothing more than all people were good, they just messed up and made bad choices here and there. Most likely I wanted to believe this because that's how I saw myself and, at that age, it's very difficult to see the world outside of your own perspective. I think it took me getting severely beat down by life and the people that comprise the various aspects of it before I realized his words held some veracity. But to this day, I still struggle with the concept of "bad people." Maybe it's the artist in me, or maybe it's that I believe in things like redemption and true forgiveness and second chances, but I seem to walk through this life convincing myself there is a light in all people, it's just that someone needs to fan the flames a bit so that light can grow to something more than a flicker.

Because I hold this view, I leave myself open to great disappointment and discouragement when I happen to run across people that not only lack a flicker but seem to take great pleasure in the darker shades of life. I had one of those devastatingly discouraging moments today.

On a last minute whim, I drove home for my lunch break, just to take care of a few things. As I sat here and paid a couple bills, Windmill Dick stepped outside, like he often does, to smoke a cigarette while talking on the phone. Of course, with my windows open, I could hear every word he was saying. As much as I would love to make you laugh about his conversation, I can't because I actually sat here stunned and sick and wishing I hadn't heard a word of it.

Apparently Windmill Dick has a son who had a birthday this past weekend. Mr. Dick was at the birthday party with the rest of the friends and family and the kid got angry with one of his cousins. So, in his anger, he went into the house, went to his room, picked up a baseball bat, walked back outside and cracked his cousin so hard in the back of the head the cousin fell to the ground, knocked out and bleeding. After that, his son went back into the house and back to his room where he shut the door and started playing with his toys. As if that's not disturbing enough, Windmill Dick laughed as he told the story saying, "Yeah, man, it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen! And everyone started screaming and my ex was crying and screaming at me because she wanted me to do something about it, but what was I going to do about it? I didn't give a shit. The kid pissed him off! Man, it was awesome! It was a completely premeditated action and when everyone was screaming and crying he just stayed calm, cool, and collected. He didn't give a shit about the other people. I taught the kid well."

Instantly my heart sank and my head started reeling in all different kinds of directions ranging from past conversations with stupid egotistical academics that argue evil doesn't exist to time I spent as a teacher where a kid pulled out a pair of scissors from his pocket, stabbed another student in the hand, and got away with it because he was "ADHD." I drove back to the office with a subtle sense of horror lingering in the back of my mind, along with the sound of my dad's voice saying, "When are you going to learn that people aren't good?" And my usual need to rise up and speak on behalf of all I perceive to be good and right was completely disabled because... what can be said to the person who takes pride in his child's premeditated act of violence? What can be said to the man who thinks good parenting is bringing forth a child with a taste for blood? What can be said to the person who has no respect for life? What can be said to someone who would spit on me in an attempt to douse my light because he prefers darkness? And damn it... I hate it when I hit a block wall with nothing but a soft fleshy fist that is easily broken. I hate it when I have moments where I think, "This person is a lost cause, a waste of time, a danger to society and the lives around him, including you and your own beautiful little light of a child, so keep your distance and don't bother."

It's obvious that this ran through my mind the rest of the afternoon and evening. It has taken me all this time to collect my erratic thoughts long enough to make something of it. When I think of him, my mind's eye sees nothing but darkness -- not a single spark of light and no hope of one. And the same people that would call me an angel would call him a demon. And the more charismatic lot that call themselves Christian would blame the work of "The Evil One" and do their best to exorcise the demons from him. And the bleeding heart liberals would say it isn't his fault because he was abused as a child. And the champions of postmodernism, cozy in the safe surroundings of the university, would call me close minded and say that this is his truth and there is no such thing as evil. And the clinical psychiatrists would give him Anti-Social Disorder and prescribe a few pills and send him to group therapy. And the court systems would let him off the hook because he's a victim of society. And I sit here knowing that he is a proud human that thrives off of his own destructive behavior and the destructive behavior of others.

"When are you going to learn that people aren't good?" ...lingers and lingers in the corners of my mind. And this is the reason I entered into the Martial Arts, but even as we learn to break necks and destroy life we are taught that life is precious and that becomes more and more obvious as we learn how easy it is to snuff it out. It takes more effort to make something grow and become fruitful and prosperous than it does to destroy it, and so we must do what we can to protect and preserve it. And why is it that anyone would want to do anything other than make life grow into something beautiful?

And as I ask that I hear the Principal I worked for saying, "Pandora, as you enter into graduate school and move forward with your life, I want you to remember that people like you are the backbone of society. We need you, so don't lose hope and don't lose heart." And I hear my friends at the mortgage company smiling at one of my more naive moments saying, "This is why we love you, Pandora. You're down here in the mud with the rest of us, and yet somehow you're still lingering high above where we can't see what you're looking at." And I hear the voice of my daughter saying, "I love you, Mom. You're my hero. And someday I want to be an astronomer so I can name a constellation after you." And I hear the voices of many whose lights are flickering, and many more whose lights have turned into warming fires, and more still that shine like beacons through the fog and yes... we are the backbones of society. And yes, not all people are good, but not all people are bad. So, like a million points of light, I guess it's our job to shine for those who are looking for it and for those who are just like us -- occasionally lost in the darkness, breaking a fist or two on the block walls we blindly run into.