Sunday, May 31, 2009

Part III -Conclusion of Robber and the Crazy Lady

Epilogue

A few weeks later, the teller and I were summoned to the police station. While waiting for the line up the police detectives and our own bank investigators gathered around to ask a few more questions mentioning that they had viewed the tape.  Teller asked, “So can you ID him from the tape?” “No, the only thing we can see is you,” the detective said, pointing at me.  Oh no! It’s all on tape?  For all to see? I cover my face with my hands.

“The guys had a good time watching that tape. We should show it to you some time.  He pissed you off when he pushed you, didn’t he? We saw most of that, but you eventually moved out of camera shot. But I got a question for you.”  The detective leaned forward,  “When you were standing behind him, we could tell you were thinking about doing something. Were you?”  When I said yes, he clapped his hands together as though he won a bet or something.  “What was it?”  So I recount how Mr. S kept pestering the robber and how, if and only if (stealing a quick look at the bank’s regional manager), the robber had assaulted Mr. S, that I would be compelled to act, that I don’t think I could have helped myself. 

Being experienced detectives they could tell from my body language that I had formulated a plan.  Boy those guys are good.  “But, what were you going to do? That’s what we wanted to know.”  I told him that I was sizing him up and realized that he wasn’t that big. “Yes, we could see that.” That I felt I could easily grab both his ankles and pull them out from under him. His head would have hit the countertop with a lot of force, which should have been enough to incapacitate him, so I could sit on his back and get his arms and hands under control. If he didn’t cooperate, I would have to (don’t say, kick his ass) use more persuasive measures, like using his head like a basketball if need be, because I wasn’t going to fool around if he had an actual gun in his pocket.

Smiling the detective said, “Wished you had.  It would have been something to see. All the detectives could see it coming. We were all sort of hoping, waiting for it.  You were going to KICK HIS ASS weren’t you?  Wished you had. Yup, that would have been something to see.”

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Robber and the Crazy Lady-Part II

PART II  (See below for part one)
He spun right into me and we were face-to-face, nose-to-nose, and I was looking at “The Fly.” He had his hoodie pulled down and tight obscurely his face completely and only his eyes were exposed, but those were covered by wrap around sunglasses. No wonder he was unaware that I was standing right behind him. His sunglasses were so dark, and wrapped from the one corner of the eye to the other, so I was nose to nose with those huge bug eye sunglasses. He was as shocked as I. The robber and I simultaneously said the same thing. We both gasped, “Whoa!”  (Owe me a coke.)

Then what happened next could only be described as “I lost it.”  He pushed me out of the way, and said, “Move, bitch.” 

“NO. HE. DIDN’T.  Did he just TOUCH me? Did that guy just have the audacity to TOUCH my person? Wait; did he call me a bitch? He PUSHED me and called me a bitch. Oh, hell no.” Call me bitch anytime, but just DON’T – TOUCH – ME.

I couldn’t help myself.  The monster that is always close to the surface, my lightning quick anger, came flying out as uncontrollable rage. I started to hit him. I started pounding hard on this back with both my hands all the way out the door. I kicked him and punched the back of his head and back.  I let go of so many MFs and FUs that I am embarrassed to this day for the language that came out of my mouth. “GET OUT, YOU MOTHER F! GET OUT OF MY BRANCH YOU MF, F YOU! SON OF A BITCH, F YOU, I’M GOING TO KICK YOUR ASS. GET OUT MOTHER F, BEFORE I KILL YOU.” Well you get the picture.

Terrified, the guy starts throwing money out of his pockets, screaming, “GET OFF ME!” He expected me to stop and pick up the money. It crossed my mind for a split second, but my fury was not yet spent. Five’s and ten’s went flying into the air cascading all around us. I smack him out the door.  In desperation he reaches into his pocket and pulls more money out and now it’s blowing around in the parking lot.  My anger spent, I stop long enough to order people to “Pick That Money Up, I’ll be right back.”  I ran in the same direction as the robber. I wasn’t chasing him down, (Really, do you see the heels I’m wearing?) but wanted to see what direction he ran. I got to the corner, just in time to see him jump in a car waiting for him in the alley.

When I returned, the dutiful customers that picked up money began handing it to me.  I thanked them, went into the branch and locked the doors behind me. I can hear sirens in the distance.

I look around the lobby and it dawns on me.  There were three men in the lobby, and one of them had two young children with him. There was Mr. S. (A man who would never know how much I had his back.)  still wondering what was going on. I cringe. They were witness to my total loss of self-control. They witnessed a woman go berserk and go monkey shit on some poor guy and probably didn’t know what just happened or understand why.

Will Dad bother to explain anything of what just happened to his kids as to why the lady at the bank went crazy?  At home they’ll ask, “Mommy, what does Mother F. and F. you mean?” 
“Where did you hear that Timmy?” 
“The lady at the bank kept saying it when she was hitting that man.”
“The lady at the bank?”
“Yeah, she yelled at him to get out and if he didn’t she was going to kill him too.”  
JIM, what happened at the bank?”

I was mortified. Only a select number of people have ever seen my Crazy, although, Queen Maker has seen more than his fair share, feel sorry for him. Many years later, I came to terms with my “episode” and hope that the stories told about that day and the crazy bank lady would include my masterful use of expletives making even a grown man blush, and how each precision strike landed with such power rendering the assailant into submission and reducing him into a man-child running from his mama’s whoop ass. (Yeah, I opened that can, industrial size.)
Tomorrow: Epilogue

Friday, May 29, 2009

Robber and the Crazy Lady

PART  I
I thought I would share this story with you.  Apparently it’s a story Queen Maker likes to tell because it almost always seems to impress the guys and shows how kick ass his wife is but in reality falls into the “You don’t want to mess with this crazy bitch” category.  After Queen Maker mentions the incident, his students look for me to recount the story.  It’s a long one, so here is Part I of a three part series.

This happened on a fine summer day at our branch.

I heard an irate voice in the lobby.  A customer was yelling at a teller, “Don’t you walk away from me. Don’t you walk away from me, bitch!”  I looked back in time to see one teller leading another teller away from her window.  That’s weird.  This guy must have been really abusive. Time to step in and take the heat.  I was always willing to take the heat from angry customers; one of my more endearing qualities. I went out to the lobby, hoping to diffuse the situation by inviting the customer into my office to discuss his problem.

The young man quickly moved to another teller window and pushed 70-year-old Mr. S out of the way. Mr. S didn’t get was going on, so he just kept looking up at the man with the hoodie and dark sunglasses and saying, “I was here first. I was here already.”  The young man ignored him and said something to the teller. 
By this time I am standing directly behind the customer, so he didn’t see me at all. Before I can say, “Sir, is there something I can do to help?”  I hear, “Hey do you want someone to get hurt?” showing the teller he had something in his pocket, supposedly something that might hurt someone.  Oh… this is not an irate customer, but an irate bank robber.

The teller looked up and her eyes asked, “What should I do?” I nodded and she began pushing money at him under the glass.  I stood very still.  I didn’t want the guy to see me, because I thought it might set him off. Not like I was trying to surround him or anything.

Mr. S, still unaware of what was going on, started to talk to the man, even pushing him a little with his arm saying, “I was here first.  You pushed me out of the way. I was here first.”

Terrified that the robber might try and shut up Mr. S. I held my breath. Please Mr. S, quit pushing the robber. My mind is racing. If the robber hits or pushes him, Mr. S is too feeble and unstable on his feet. He will hit the floor hard, break a hip, crack his head, or even worse.  If he touches a hair on that old man, I don’t know what I would do. No, he better not hurt him.  If he lays one hand on Mr. S., I’ll have to move quickly. I’ll have to KICK HIS ASS.”

I look the robber up and down.  Hmm, he’s not much taller than I am. As a matter of fact, he’s isn’t very big.  What can I do to immobilize him if he touches Mr. S? He doesn’t know I’m right behind him. I could grab both his ankles and pull them out from under him. Yeah, that’s the ticket.  That would make his head hit the countertop stunning him, then I’ll jump on his back, sit my knee on that arm keeping him from getting whatever is in his pocket out and putting the other arm behind his back with a vicious wrist lock.  If he struggles too much, then I will have to KICK HIS ASS. Luckily the robber was so intent on the money that he continued to ignore Mr. S.  I was relieved but poised just in case.

Now the ultimate goal is to get this guy out of our branch as quickly as possible. The safety of our customers and our employees is our primary concern. It is not worth anyone getting hurt over a few hundred dollars. And who would want a robber trapped in the branch with us anyways?  We prefer the police get him outside. My concern grew again because Mr. S. kept pressing the robber.  While I was focused on Mr. S, the robber spun around to leave, running into me.
Tomorrow, Part II

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Talented Ms. A.

Ms. A at five.

It’s seems rare to find others that you immediately have a connection.  They come into your life and it always seems to surprise.  It seems that many life long friends are developed in childhood when the odds of meeting lots of people are high. As long as you stay in school or work in a huge company, the percentage of meeting new friends is high merely because of the magnitude of population at your disposal.  But as you get older, some friends drift away over the years because of busy schedules and the usual rigors and demands of living a life. The odds seem against you in finding someone that might become a true lifelong friend. So when I meet someone that pleases me to the extent that friendship is immediate and zen like, it surprises me. It has only happened three times since my thirties.

What has really surprised me is that I found this connection of pure friendship with the most unlikely person.  When we look into each other’s eyes when we laugh or make jokes, or tell stories, it is an amazing feeling of camaraderie, sincerity, and friendship. The journey of our relationship got its true start when I was almost 40 years old.  At first I thought it was a fluke because she was so young. We liked each other right away.  I liked her because she always made it a point to come and talk to me. She saw me for whom I was and what I had to offer her. She would always ask me questions or direct me to her attentions. She was two years old.  

We were close throughout her young years; even if there were spans of time apart, when we came together it was always as friends.  I’m her aunt but our relationship didn’t resemble the typical aunt niece relationship.  I’m a mom of a single child, a son.  I have always wanted a girl and when my niece was born, my sister said to me that I could share her daughter, and I became her godmother.  But our relationship is not the surrogate mom or “ the daughter I never had” type of relationship.

I half expected, as she grew older, that her interest in me would surely wane and her attentions would turn elsewhere. Plus our visits have been farther and farther apart. Surely she is growing up and her slight “hero worship” may have been what kept our relationship going for so long. The talented Ms. A. is entering the tween years. She is eleven years old and I am a fifty-year-old woman (although my head and heart says I’m still 32). She may be putting aside “childish or childhood things.”  I thought I would eventually end up in that category. Our visits tell me differently.

 Beloved and his beautiful cousin, the Talented Ms. A.

 

Today I had the pleasure of her visit, while her parents went out to celebrate my sister’s birthday.  She came to spend the evening with me. She is older and doesn’t need me to shower all my attention by entertaining her, or crafting as we usually do every time she came to visit in the past. The last few visits have been just talking, no demands on each other except for time. We follow each other around the house talking and just being.  Her eleven-year-old conversations are never boring.  As good friends we are eager to hear each other’s thoughts and anecdotes.  We get each other’s jokes. The energy is so positive. We are never bored when we are together.

This visit reaffirmed that yes we truly are friends. Will she still see me as a friend when she is twenty years old or even at 30? I can only hope.

Writing a story together, Memorial Day 2009

I never thought that this relationship could have been possible.  Is it sustainable? If so and our friendship thrives into the coming decades, I will have to say that this is one of the most amazing developments in my life.  We are nearly four decades apart and I can’t get past the wonderment of it all. 

This is such a gift to discover that such a thing is possible. It is something so sweet, so pleasant, so unexpected, nothing I have ever experienced before in my life. Simply remarkable. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dud Dads

Most every holiday that comes down the pike is family time.  Not just my trio, but also all of my immediate family. We usually gather at Middle Sister’s house because hers is the largest and she has a fantastic back yard. That’s 24 of us.  Since everyone is out of school, all of us were in attendance for the Memorial Day barbecue.

After years of get-togethers, patterns have emerged. Young people liven up a party immediately. Great conversation, youthful exuberance, ready to have a good time.  With five of them in college, the conversations and insights are even better.  They are emerging adults and are now on equal footing with the rest of the adult family. They have the future firmly clasped in their hands and it’s exciting to be near them.

The small ones bring their own light to the party, as they always do, bringing smiles and laughs and demands for interaction. There are six of them ranging from ages 3 to 11. Family time is in full swing. 

The men (my brother is the exception)… are mostly duds. They usually plop themselves in some spot, barely speak unless spoken to, have little to no interaction, and look bored. Apparently the brother-in-laws have found over years that they really have nothing in common, they don’t really like each other much, and don’t even try anymore. Some of them stop coming to family get-togethers. Duds. Fifty-year-old duds.

But it’s my contention that there is so much more to family time.  They act like they are left out on purpose or something. Fun can be had if only they would seek it out. Come be with the silly young people. Come watch the kids play and run. Run around yourselves for a bit. Strike up a conversation with an eleven year old, or the fourteen year old, or the nineteen year old, or the twenty-two year old. Play a hand of poker with the young bucks. Play dominoes. Joke with the old folks, joke with the sisters. Bring fun with you, horse shoes, sling shots for the kids, water balloons. Make the new brother in law feel welcomed. Pick up a baby. Follow the family around. Become the family.
As I was driving my dud home, he said, “I’m not used to being so sedentary.” As though visiting family was a real strain on his arse. Sigh.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Triumphs in Adventure or When Sympathy Goes Out the Door

My friend and coworker Z  had a heart of gold.  Her grandparents raised her, so her attitudes and sensibilities were that of a generation before, which made her seem na├»ve and somewhat sheltered in the way she looked at things.  This made her all the more endearing.

One afternoon she spotted an elderly man sitting on the curb in front of the bank.  He sat there for a while then would walk up and down the street begging, but eventually would sit down again. As she watched him all day, she kept commenting on him. When he moved out of sight, she would look for him out the windows.  She wanted to offer him a seat in the lobby.  The manager said no.  Z became more and more agitated wondering what would become of this poor man. 

She kept saying, “We have to do something.  Can we call someone?  Maybe he’s lost.  Poor thing, he needs someone.”  Her concern started to become an obsession.  The other women in the office would comfort her or assure her that he looked in good shape and seemed content.  Besides they told her, he was begging, so he would probably get some money soon and then leave to get food or drink.

Being the sweet and caring person that she is, Z couldn’t watch the poor man outside and just sit by and do nothing.  “He reminds me of my grandfather, poor thing.  Maybe he is thirsty, he’s been out there so long.”  So Z took him water, twice.  Soon she decided he needed something to eat, so she took her lunch out to him.  He thanked her for her kindness.  Z felt better, but wanted to do more.  She asked if anyone else wanted to give up his or her lunch.  No takers or more accurately, no givers.  She went out a fourth time to ask if there was someone she could call for him, a relative or friend.  No, he told her sadly, he had no one in the world.  This just broke her heart. 

Soon she became upset, crying over the old guy’s plight.  Finally she called the police to come to his aid, to maybe take him to a shelter.  Before they came she ran out to give the man five dollars.  Z was beside herself with grief and sympathy.

When I worked downtown for a few years, beggars stopped me three or four times a day so my need to help grew less and less.  One day my husband witnessed a man in a wheelchair begging and the next instant, hail a cab, jump out of the chair to catch up to the car, and threw the wheelchair in the trunk.  To watch Z’s concern and generosity reminded me how callous I had become.

The police pulled up and talked to the old man as though they knew him and took him away.  The police officers returned to the branch to find out if there had been any problems with the old guy.  Z, full of concern, ran up to the officers hoping for information and when she returned she was livid. 

Apparently the old guy does this on a regular basis.  It’s an “adventure trip” for him.  He leaves the half way house or shelter and decides to walk in a new direction to see how far he can get, the farther the better, gathering points.  Then he waits for someone sympathetic to help him.  If he can get food and drink, he gets extra points.  If he can get a beer, even better.  He times how long it takes for the police to be called, more points.  When the police take him back, his friends are waiting for him on the porch cheering.  “He gets out of the car with his arms triumphantly in the air.  And the other guys greet him like he’s a conquering hero returning in his regal chariot.”

Z’s anger and humiliation was as intense as her worry and sympathy had been a few minutes before.  She went on and on about what a fool she had been.  “I gave him MY lunch. I gave him money. He played me.” We tried telling her it didn’t matter.  She did what she felt was right and that was the most important thing.  She was being true to herself and that she should feel proud of that.  But that did not console her.  She finally declared, “I will never help anyone ever again.” Maybe one day she can find the humor in it all. 

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Small Pleasures

Reading Chris's entry about her son's letter and love of writing, reminded me of my son's passion for writing stories and drawing. I wrote the following about seven years ago. My god, has it been that long ago. It seems like yesterday.

Small Pleasures

I have learned to take pleasure in the small things, to really see them. As I hurriedly moved from room to room putting away the daily clutter, I stopped all of the sudden and didn't move.

I came up and you were on the computer writing your story as you sometimes do. Something caused me to pause and notice a few things about the scene before me.

Perhaps it was the lighting, the way the ambient glow of light from the computer landed on your face.  I noticed how beautiful you looked.

Or was it the driven pounding on the keyboard keys, that decisive, percussive hit when you are on a roll. The fast and furious pace stopped me too.

Or was it the intensity in your eyes, the need to get all you had to say out before you lost it, looking satisfied with the results. 

Or was it that you looked so grown up, just turning 14 just two days earlier and sporting a slight mustache.  How mature you looked.

Or was it the pleasurable thought that I was looking at a budding artist, a writer at work.

Or was it all those things that made me stop in my tracks.

I decided to pause and sit in my chair trying to be inconspicuous. I sat in the dark, positioning my head as to not alert you to my viewing.  I pretended I was tired and glanced at you, but not to spy, but to take in an image I wanted to remember.

All these things made me pause.  I wanted to emblazon that image in my mind forever.

My son is at home, writing, and is content.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fortress of No

When I asked my husband for a favor, his response was,

“You know I can only say yes to you.  What ever you want, it is yes. Men will always say yes to a woman.  Yes, yes, yes to everything.”

True. But sometimes getting all those yeses makes me nervous.  That constant barrage of yes, yes, yes, coming in from all directions, makes me what to build a sanctuary, hiding from the yeses, until the sanctuary becomes a castle fortress, fending off the yeses with cannonballs of no, no, no.  Soon the yeses become overwhelming and “the rabbit trying to escape the trap” mentality takes over.
Now, my no, no, no become over zealous in their attempt to squelch the yeses before they even begin. Then as the years go by, the yeses no longer come at me from all directions, but just one most loving direction. Soon even his yeses become but a trickle.  Yikes! What am I doing?   My prince charming, my knight in shining armor is waiting.  Drop the drawbridge, open the gates, and let the trumpets sound. Yes, Yes, Yes.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Splish Splash


Middle Aged Woman, MAW to you, has presented me with the Splash Award. 


If she didn't have it already awarded for her blog Unmitigated, she would definitely been on the top of my list. Splash Award is given to alluring, amusing, bewitching, impressive and inspiring blogs. 

When you receive this award, you should firstly put the logo on your blog or post. 

Then nominate up to 9 blogs, which allure, amuse, bewitch, impress or inspire you too. 

Link your nominees within your post and. 

Let them know that they’ve been splashed by commenting on their blog.

Finally don't forget to link to the person from whom you received your Splash Award.

My nominees are:

The Bloggess

The UnMom

Us and Them

Csquaredplus3

I'm such a blog toddler, that my list is a short one for now. Plus MAW had the Unmitigated gall to have one of my choices on her list.  I'm positive that my list will grow longer as I discover new blogs that allure, amuse and inspire me.

Also Queen Maker keeps rolling by saying things like, "Are you still on that computer? Who are you reading now? How much time are you spending doing that?"

So I'm keeping it on the down low for now.  It’s just that it is such great Distracting Minutia that it blows my mind. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Shine In Your Eyes

Another thing I miss more than anything at times is the look I used to get from Beloved when he was a little boy.   Do you know it?   It’s the look that reflects pure happiness and unconditional love on my child’s face when I enter a room.  It’s a look that thrills me as soon as I see it.   It was immediate and electric, “Yes, Mom is home! Joy, Joy, Joy.  Please pick me up and love me.”

I’ve come to learn that the look will begin to fade, just slightly.   As your children grow older, it may not be as instantaneous or as powerful as it once was.   Some parents tend to greet their children with a barrage of questions and instructions.  “How was school?  How much homework do you have?  Wash your hands.  Where’s your lunchbox?”  And if a parent becomes too critical or demanding, the shine can be extinguished altogether.  Maybe you won’t see it again until years later, maybe a whole generation later, when a child lovingly calls you grandpa or grandma.

Time can rob you of the shine.  Lovers know the shine.  But as time goes on the shine fades. Couples in love that once showed the thrill in their eyes when their love walked into a room, have now become complacent, apathetic, or indifferent due to the stresses of life. 

Queen Maker coming home one evening said, “There it is, that look.  The look I love.  I’ve really missed that look.”  I realized that over the years, the look had turned into, “Oh hi, you’re home.”  No big deal.  Or during my cranky years (not sure I'm out of the woods yet) when I'm sure my look was anything but welcoming

In our school, we developed long term relationships with our students, some lasting between seven to thirteen years.  After class, a parent asked why our students stayed for so long.  Trying to come up with an explanation, I realized that we treated our students as though they were dear long lost friends each time they walked in the door.  Our eyes truly shine with delight and hugs of greeting are a norm around here.

We both concluded that adults rarely experience the thrill of experiencing shining eyes of love, acceptance, and welcome turned in their direction anymore.  Children grow up and daily life becomes mundane.  Marriages may be in peril, if the spouse finds the shine in someone else’s eyes.   Adults don’t even know they miss it, until they recognize the “instant joy” once again.   It was a look that was lost and it saddened me to think that this was the case for many people.

I realized that as human beings we want eyes to light up when we come into a room.  The shine has to say, “You’re here. Joy, joy, joy.”  People want, or more accurately, need for someone’s eyes to shine, happy, throwing out open hands in friendship or an enthusiastic embrace of unconditional love.  I crave it and feel joy when I see it.  Queen Maker no longer has to “miss that look” because he sees it every time he walks in the door.  Such a simple act to keep a relationship alive and fresh, deepening bonds of friendship and love.  My advice is to show all those you meet or love, the shine in your eyes and see what happens.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Will he live to be one hundred?

Check out the Raisin Chronicles for Fiction Friday.  I missed out on her latest offering, but I can't help myself.  Here is my story to Friday's prompt.

If he lived to be a hundred, he would never forget this birthday party. Hearing that he never had a stripper, the guys in the family decided to cross this one off his bucket list.  It was kind of mild which he appreciated, but she still managed to get his palms sweaty and his heart palpitating. The paramedics were called.

The guys feeling guilty asked for his forgiveness. He gave them a huge smile as they loaded him into the ambulance. The woody he hadn’t experienced in two decades was totally worth it. It was the best 99th Birthday ever!  

Random Minutia

randomtuesday

Check out Un mom.

I had to limit my viewing of the Stephen Corbert show. His narcissism is glorious. I kept getting smile-gasms.  If he keeps this up, I might fall for him.  

In order for me to watch a television program, I need to see real people. I can’t take it when every character in the episode looks like a model. It saddens me.

Speaking of model types. I don’t care for guys that are pretty boys. They don’t send me.  Give me a face with character. My gauge is if the guy were to masquerade as a woman, he would be the ugliest woman in the room. That’s my kind of guy. Oh wait, except for Johnny Depp. I always liked him, only because he plays such weird characters. Good looks and being a little askew, hot!

Speaking of characters, I loved the way he played the pirate, Jack Sparrow.  I used to tell my son when he was a little boy that I was a pirate once.  I would go around saying, “Aaaaargh, matey!”  I would tell him stories about the high seas, then look him square in the eye and ask, “Do you beeelieeevvvve me, Beloved?”  He decided he didn’t. So throughout his life, whenever I brought up my pirate days, he would sigh, roll his eyes, and tell me how he hated when I did that.

Speaking about rolling his eyes and sighing heavily, he used to do that when I told him I numbered all of his toys.  He used to come and ask me, “Mom, do you know where this toy is or that toy?”  Why do kids ask us that question? I’ll tell you why, because we truly know where everything is.  I was just so amazed that he would think that I would know where he left his Ninja Turtle or the broken piece of tubing that belonged to his space ship. Maybe its because his dad does it everyday too.  So one day I started telling him, “Oh yes. I numbered all your toys.  Let me see.  Um, that toy is number 237. No, No, it’s 239.  Toy number 239 is under your bed, near the back on the left side. “  Amazingly most of the time I would be correct because I am a very observant mother and wife. That’s suppose to be my job isn’t it.  Keep track of all of their belongings.  So after a while, whenever I would respond, “Oh, that’s toy number 1674,” he would sigh and say, “Never mind.”

Speaking of never mind, I never mind when people drive crazy.  I just keep an eye out for the zanies and realize that it might be my job to help keep them safe because it keeps me safe too. I see them coming, anxiously driving, or mindless driving, or stupid driving, or aggressively driving or old driving, so I make room. I make accommodations for their driving by slowing down, or speeding up, or cutting off access, or convoy with them until they disappear.  No thanks needed.

But thanks are extended to Jim Spyro of Speaking in Caps for setting me straight on the random path.  

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tongue Out and Belt Jumping

When Papi got mad it was an amazing sight.  He had a look that could stop you in your tracks. The phrase, “if looks could kill…” comes to mind and his were lethal.  I’m proud to say I have inherited that look, a look that stops people in their tracks, keeps children in line, and can make a husband turn on a dime and leave a room.   What power. 

If Papi told you to do something you did it immediately.  If he asked you a second time, you may or may not be safe, but don’t push it. He’d asked for quiet, but with five loud, screaming children, playing or arguing, some days he just had enough. Rage would overtake his face.  His eyes narrowed, his head would snap toward the offending child, and his tongue would settle on the side of his lips.  He’d begin to unbuckle his belt and everyone would scatter. Sometimes the guilty party would get away and he’d get the wrong person. So it was always best to scatter first, ask questions later. He was like a T-rex instinctually going after the slowest or the weakest at times, but his pinpoint accuracy to track and capture a known offender is also legendary.

He had no trouble with the prospect of chasing you down, even if it meant climbing the stairs two or three at a time or chasing you into the basement.  Sometimes it was better if you just stayed where you were and took it.  He always made sure not to hit too hard and never above the waist. But the belt did sting which is why it was so effective. Yes, occasionally he would just threaten, but if the unbuckling process had begun, it was going to be used, much like the code of the samurai, a sword drawn from its sheath is a sword that must draw blood. 

Experience taught us that if we started wailing right away and yelled the words, “Ow, ow, OW” each time he swung that he would stop sooner. Distraction techniques were deployed, such as pointing to another sibling and tattling on some heinous deed yet to be discovered. Another talent developed was avoiding the belt like a jump rope. Although this made Papi angrier, he got tired more quickly and we got away with hardly a scratch. We got so good at jumping, that we would compare notes afterwards to see who got the worse and who got away, offered tips, and reviews on particularly good performances.

The most comical moment was the time Papi holding Youngest Sister’s arm while trying to belt her and Youngest Sister jumping over it like a gazelle over and over again. Her rhythm was fantastic and when he tried to change up on her, she jumped even higher and matched every swing of his belt with a skillful leap that even Nureyev would have been proud.  Papi missed every time and finally gave up. What a girl!

With four girls in one room, we would talk and giggle for hours. Mami or Papi would yell up to quiet down and go to sleep. If we heard the first step squeak, we’d shut up and listen. At times, Papi would sit quietly on the bottom step, waiting. We would forget and the steps would creak heavily and we knew we were in for it.  We start wailing before he hit the top step. “It’s wasn’t me, it was Middle Sister.  I wasn’t talking, it was those two!”

Afterwards, we would compare notes. How many times did he land a strike and the percentage of swings vs. strikes?  We analyzed his particular striking method, soft or hard, which was a reflection of his particular mood that night, either very angry or slightly annoyed.

As we got older, Papi didn’t pull out the belt as often. Plus he was getting worn out by now, right? Wrong.

Only Brother, who was in his teens, decided to act all “alpha” and talked back to Papi. Judging from Papi’s reaction, Only Brother soon realized his peril and jumped the fence. Feeling pretty smug about getting away from the “old man” he looked over his shoulder in time to witness the “old man” kick down the fence without breaking stride.  The combination of fear and awe on Only Brother’s face was priceless as he sped away down the street.

Here are some tips on how to avoid the belt…

1) Start whimpering right away, crying “No Papi, No Papi, it wasn’t me. It wasn’t me. I didn’t do it.”  It is helpful to have at least three or four siblings you can implicate.  The art of misdirection, a much needed trait for survival.

2) Tattletale – Start the blaming right off the bat so you don’t get bunched in with the offenders.

3) Secret hiding place – No one must know where it is, because you’ll find another sibling there in your place, or they will surely fink on you.

4) Stay put – Take what’s coming, finding comfort that the real offenders will be chased down and  get a really good whooping.

5) Run – Easy to do, faster than Papi. Lots of places to run him out like running upstairs, then downstairs to the basement, then around and around the kitchen, dining room and living room doors or run out the back door if its a warm day. Stay away at least 20 minutes to an hour. If a new infraction has taken place and justice has been dealt to a new offender you may return because Papi’s already forgotten about you. Maybe.

5) Subterfuge – Scream “Ow” louder with each strike reaching a dramatic crescendo. The Pavlovian Response will kick in and he’ll stop. This important observation helped us create other verbal cues signaling we had had enough, triggering the response, becoming all Meryl Streep to sell it. (I want to thank the Academy for the Oscar.)

6) Learn to jump with great skill and timing.  Special skills must be developed to jump while he is holding your arm. Be a gazelle. Be the gazelle. You are the gazelle.

7) Learn the warning signs.  Head snap, eyes become like slits…. Swoosh, that’s me running out of the room. Don’t want to be there when the tongue comes out. 

8) Proximity - Sit next to Papi the whole time he’s home.  Watch his favorite shows and ball games with him, ask him questions about the ball game, and try to engage him. He will recognize you as the only child that should have survived and make you his heir apparent, because that’s all you really want anyway.

 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Banking Life Lessons

Practically my whole adult life I spent working at the bank. I finally set myself free about eight years ago. After twenty years, these are some of the lessons I have learned. 

Life Lessons Learned at the Bank - Lessons #1, #12, and #32

# 1) I’ve learned that the definition of poor is relative.

I had two customers that had nothing, lived sparsely, clipped their Beef Carver coupons and ate there three times a week, taking the leftovers home providing meals for the rest of the week.  Both of the their coats were old, tattered and need of repair. Both women would bemoan their poverty. But one had an account with just about sixty dollars, so she could cash her monthly social security check of $69.  The other had accounts with over a quarter of a million dollars.


# 12) That never buying yourself anything is no way to live.

Many customers had money in their accounts but could never bring themselves to buy anything.  They were obsessed with their large account balances and how much it would grow or didn’t grow, checking it four times a week to make sure it didn’t somehow disappear.  These were children of the depression. They fretted constantly. They were unable to buy a new coat, a new refrigerator, or a new roof because it would take precious money away from their balance. They lived poorly because they were afraid of becoming poor. They sacrificed quality of life for a sense of security. Living in fear is no way to live.


# 32) Do what you can, now. Don’t wait.

This is a particularly sad lesson.  I’ve watched elderly couples whose love seemed as fresh as when they met. They talked about their future retirement as though they were waiting to begin their lives anew. The trips to Hawaii, getting the fifth wheel and seeing America, the cruises, staying more often at the cabin and how long they have waited to enjoy themselves and their retirement together.  With only four or five more years to go they start to dream and plan in earnest. They would share their aspirations. But their dreams never came true.  A spouse becomes ill with cancer or Alzheimer’s, or suddenly dies. They feel robbed.  I’ve heard the same advice from so many of them. With tears in their eyes, they said, “Don’t wait.  You think you have all the time in the world but waiting until retirement is a lie. They tell you to wait until you retire, the golden years, but it’s all a lie. Don’t wait for a specific time in your life to go do the things you’ve always wanted to do together. Do what you can together now.” 

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Ice Cream

I have been having a hard time lately.  My craving for sugar is at a peak and has been for weeks. Every time I drive by an ice cream/donut shop (damn those that have both under one roof), I have to stop myself from jumping out of the car and getting a donut a la mode. At least I have my memories.

Friday Dairy Queen Runs

For a stretch at the bank the turnover was very low, so I had the fortune of working with the same group of incredible women for eight years.  We enjoyed each others company so the work atmosphere was one of the best I have ever experienced. During these years we started a tradition during the summer or at least as soon as the placed opened in the spring, Friday Dairy Queen.  Yum.

A Peanut Buster Parfait, strawberry shortcake, a banana split, a Hot Fudge Brownie Delight, a chocolate sundae, a strawberry milkshake, a Pecan Cluster, a Pecan Cherry Blizzard with extra pecans and extra cherries, a chocolate malt, and a butterscotch sundae.   I do miss those ladies.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Looking for the Ghost

Why the fire started I would find out later, but we know who started it, Youngest Sister and Only Brother, five and six years old respectively.

Our upstairs bedroom had access to two separate attic spaces.  One door about three feet high was along one wall of our bedroom. No one ever wanted their bed near this door because it was spooky. You never knew what lurked within. The second door was above the landing at the top of the stairs.  You had to take a big step up to get into this attic space.  Inside this door was a large cedar lined closet with shelves and poles for hanging clothes. Beyond this space was another 3-foot door that led to the rest of the unfinished portion of the attic. We never explored this area beyond the closet because it was dark and scary and you had to walk stooped over in that part of the attic, making it hard to turn and run from monsters if need be.   It was hard to feel secure in the cedar closet because who knows what lurked behind that other door, but sometimes you would find all five of us in there playing. 

It started when Mami decided to play a prank on us one day.  She was cleaning out the cedar closet and she thought it would be funny to go into the other section of the attic behind the second door. She decided to hide. Where is she? She’s gone.  Mami, Mami where are you?   She started making ghosts sounds that made us jump and run.  She started screaming pretending that the ghost was “getting her.”  We screamed and cried, and then she came out laughing.  It was a good prank, but some of us didn’t think it was funny at all. Mami always had a mischievous streak and she loved to watch the reactions she would get when she did or said something outrageous.

So that’s why I found it strange that Only Brother and Youngest Sister would be alone together in that closet a week or two after Mami’s prank.  When I realized why they were in there I thought them both brave and stupid at the same time. They were going ghost hunting. What they did next was very, very stupid. 

The light was dim so they took matches with them. And you know it; they dropped a lit match and tried to blow it out themselves. Only Brother sent Little Sister down to get a glass of water. Mami noticed the filthy glass in Little Sister’s hand and asked, “Where are you taking that glass?” Only Brother wants some water she explained. Mami took the glass and told her to get a clean one. Soon Only Brother had to raise the alarm, running down the stairs screaming that the attic was on fire.  No one believed him at first, until I looked up the stairs and saw a glow coming from the inside of the closet. Mami flew into action. 

First she screamed for Only Brother and Little Sister to get out of the house, and they ran out the back door.  Mami screamed, “Girls! Bring me water. Get the big pans and fill them up with water and bring them to me quick.  Hurry, hurry!”  Pretty much every kitchen had huge pots to make enormous amounts of rice or soup for their big families.  Luckily we had three good size pots. Mami jumped into the closet and started beating the fire with whatever she could.  She started tossing things out of the closet as not to catch fire. 

Sister After Me, Middle Sister and I were taking turns running the pots of water to her. We started out by trying to fill the pots to the top, but this was too inefficient. The pots were too heavy and water sloshed out before we could get them up to her.  Plus Mami was yelling down for us to hurry, she needed water, NOW! We realized that we couldn’t fill the pots too high, but at the same time there had to be sufficient water in the pots to do any good, otherwise Mami she would certainly lose the battle. And battle she did. 

Every time I went up I still saw the glow of the fire, sometimes against her face, her arms rising above her head, working hard to beat the blaze down. We ran up and down the stairs over a dozen times each, Mami grabbing the pot of water and throwing it onto the fire and screaming for us to hurry with more.  We decided to try the bucket line, where I would fill and the others would grab the pot and leave the empty one. But it seemed to take forever. Besides I was the oldest, the strongest to carry the heaviest of pots, so we went back to each of us filling and carrying our own pots.  I can’t tell you how long it took to put it out.  After a point, we realized that Mami was in danger.  We started calling and crying for Mami to come out. But she wouldn’t give up.

It seemed an eternity. I think it actually took about 10-15 minutes, but finally the fire was out.  We were amazed. She did it.  My mom was a hero, and one of the bravest women I know.  I was so proud of her. When she came out her hair was wild, her face black, and she looked exhausted.  We looked at her and started laughing because even the inside of her nose was black. She looked perturbed with us, but then gave a big smile.

I realized that not only was she battling to put out a fire, she was battling to keep her home. She was fighting to keep a roof over our five heads.  Mami saved our house. What a woman!

For punishment Little Sister and Only Brother knelt for hours on the bathroom floor.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bank Stories Introduction

My first grown up job was working at a bank. Like many young people, I worked in fast food and then retail before landing my first “real” job at the age of nineteen. Looking back on the twenty years that I worked at the bank, I am amazed how much the job has taught me. Besides gaining valuable skill sets, I learned about human nature and life.

As a bank employee, I saw the same people day in and day out. I got to know their habits, their eccentricities, and their fears. I knew where they worked, how much they made, and their account balances. I realized that my relationship with these people went far beyond the usual customer-service employee relationship. It was a relationship that had to be built on trust. Here they were laying their whole monetary life in front of me. It made them feel vulnerable. They didn’t have to say anything, it was all here in black and white and I could read it and interpret it all for myself. It’s amazing the kind of insight and understanding of a person’s life, habits and even their nature by looking at their relationship with money. This relationship based on money is a very intimate one.

Seeing the same folks every week, long-term relationships began to form. I heard about their children, their grandchildren, their bosses, and their spouses. I became a sounding board for their grievances or someone willing to listen to their stories. I sometimes felt like a therapist or a trusted confidant. Some of them became good friends.

Sometimes I represented the evil bank that wouldn’t give them their money, or charged outrageous fees, or lost their deposit, or denied them their loan. Intimidation, threats, anger, tantrums, anguish, insults, crying, and begging were part of the job.

My extended community of customers included senior citizens, veterans, blue collar, white collar, entrepreneurs, young adults, families, singles, divorced, old world, crazies, eccentrics, people with beginning stages of Alzheimer, stroke, heart attacks, dementia, those being taken advantage of and those taking advantage. Over the years there were loans, mortgages, deaths, garnishments, IRA’s, Christmas accounts, college funds, marriages, trusts, funeral accounts, divorces, and gift accounts. I was there to help them through every stage of life as well as the financial transactions that came to represent those stages.

The women I worked with over the years were another new learning experience. When you work with eight women in a fairly confined space you can either come together or fall apart. Throughout the years, there were many that came and went but there was always the core group of four. I’ve worked with some incredible women of all ages, creeds, and race. I learned so much about women. What I liked and what I hated about them. What camaraderie was about. Listening to their stories gave me insight to life's lessons and what it meant to be a woman.

Then there were the managers and assistant managers. Basically good men in every stage of life, from young bucks, career builders, womanizers, slobs, tyrants, in mid life crisis, lazy, industrious, leaders, hard working, sweet, funny, and always, always hungry.

I started out as a teller at the drive-thru. I worked a desk job as a financial representative. I became an assistant manager and then a manager. The bank taught me many things about running a branch and about dealing with people. As a financial institution there were so many regulations and regulatory agencies to appease that the list would be as long as your arm. You soon became an encyclopedia of procedure.

Then there are the scams, the frauds, the forgers, the embezzlers, the check kiters, the counterfeiters, the quick-change artists, the impersonators, the thieves and the robbers. You needed to be vigilante in protecting customers and the bank. More lessons learned about human behavior and its relationship with money.

Thus, yet another section called “Bank Stories” and will be added to my blog.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Asterisks

randomtuesday!-

You can say whatever you want as long as you have an asterisk after it. It seems to me that more and more information that comes our way requires a disclaimer, a warning, or a footnote. Remember Walter Cronkite. Whenever I heard him, I knew he was giving it to me straight.  I loved him. I wished he were my grandpa. But you knew that the news he gave you was thoroughly investigated, factual, and gee, real. I could never imagine an asterisk hanging around his head.

Everything, but everything seems to be developing a new identity. It’s called the asterisk. Products advertisements have asterisks.  Medicines have huge asterisks. Financing has plenty of asterisks.  Turn in any direction and you will find a big fat asterisk.  And even when you read all the print after that asterisk, you’re still clueless or resigned that they've got you, no matter what.

But there are far more asterisks out there that are not seen. Invisible ones. They float by your ear when you hear a product promise something or when the news is reported by card readers not journalists or when a politicians speaks for an issue, for his party and its a dozen parrot renditions of the exact same song, “More of the Same.” So the asterisk above reads, “I don’t really think for myself. This is what I am supposed to say.” Our government is a veritable garbage scow of asterisks.

My head tilts to the side like a confused puppy.  It all seems slightly askew or completely outrageous. Who do I believe?  But there doesn’t seem to be a big fat asterisk anywhere that I can see.  I beginning to imagine asterisks attached to everything I hear on the airwaves, the news, facts, reality shows, talk shows, and speeches.  How about people I talk to on the phone or in person. Do they all have big fat asterisks attached to them too?

My advice: Whenever anyone says anything it’s best to imagine an asterisk at the end of each sentence. 

Oh, don’t you look sweet*!  (Why don’t you wear something age appropriate you twit?)

Don’t worry. You’ll be next*.  (Yeah, first you have to start sighing audibly, then strum your fingers on my counter, look at your watch for the umpteenth time, then turn red in the face.)

The serviceman will be there between 10am and 3pm*. (Ha, ha. We didn’t say what day.)

We’re looking for someone with exactly your qualifications*.  (But…. not you.)

Your secret* is safe* with me*.  (I’ll just post it on my blog.)

I’ll have my manager call* you*.  (Sucker, like that’s ever going to happen.)

And watch out for those multiple compound asterisked sentences.

You can tap * into your * home’s equity * and make it work* for you*. (We can help you rob yourself blind.)

De-regulation* of the industry* will increase competition* increase your options* and lower your costs*. (Ho, ho, that’s a good one.)

Regulation* will increase accountability*, protect the consumer* and the environment*. (Another good one! Oh, please stop. Your making my sides ache.)

Our books* are audited* by a trusted independent* outside* auditing firm, with AAA rating*. (You believed us? Sorry, our bad.)

Soon, an asterisk is going to be at the end of the word America*. Oh wait; there are several asterisks after it already.  But we don’t need anymore.  Do we need a national enema to clean out our big asterisks? (Hint, hint, Unmom). Or do we keep our heads up our asterisk. Sorry this is becoming Ranting* Tuesday instead of Random Thoughts Tuesday. Just remember when you hear someone speak a so-called fact; there may be an asterisk at the end. The killer part is that everything after the asterisk is silent.

Monday, May 11, 2009

How Do I Explain the Unexplainable? - Mortgage Crisis Part II

Part I of this story below.
After I hugged her, she started to sob uncontrollably.  When we finally pulled apart, she said, “How do I explain the unexplainable? I couldn’t think about it anymore. I had to stop myself from thinking, thinking, thinking. He’s never going to forgive me.”  With that statement in mind, I had to put to paper the anguish that I felt within my sister that day and the struggle I had witnessed these past years.  I was trying to answer her question, to explain the unexplainable. 
To my sister:

“How do I explain the unexplainable?”  The final eviction notice came. Fear gripped me and I just hid.  I have carried this secret for so long, I hid things from my husband and my kids. My sisters couldn’t understand why I didn’t come to them and tell them of the terrible fears and hurt I was holding in. I couldn’t ask them for help; I couldn’t make myself do it. I promised I wouldn’t. We agreed to keep our financial problems to ourselves.  I couldn’t think about it anymore. I had to stop myself from thinking, thinking, thinking.  I hid by reading my books, finding work to do outside of the home, anything that could be a distraction. I wish I didn’t have this perpetual migraine, this headache that’s been with me the last six years, and the mother of all stress headaches these last six months, starting in March when we were informed that the house no longer belonged to us.

I would cringe when the mail came, knowing I would have to hide the letters from the taxman, the mortgage company, the school, and the insurance company. I kept negotiating, trying to work things out, hoping to save us.
Everything is on my shoulders. I must shoulder all. I shoulder all of it.  All the responsibility will be placed on my shoulders.  My perceived inept attempts to make a single paycheck stretch, I stretched it until it was paper-thin. Then holes and rips started to appear.  I would run from one end to another trying to patch the rips that were getting bigger and bigger until the only thing left was to stop. I had to stop myself from thinking, thinking, thinking.
A wall of debt stretched high above me. I was constantly under its shadow. The shadow was with me always. I could only wait until it decided to fall under its own weight. The wall was holding back the floodwaters of secrets, pride, shame, worry, anger and failure behind it. Slowly, the cracks appeared and the water started to push through. Even though he knew it might come, I didn’t tell him that it was finally upon us, that we needed to get out.  I chose to ignore it. I chose to hide from it. Finally, the trickle became a river, washing my home, belongings, and secrets away. I was at the same time in crisis and in relief.

Responsibility was the one thing I was given so that no responsibility or liability fell on anyone else. He didn’t want anyone to know about our situation. I couldn’t ask anyone in the family for help. He didn’t really want to know what I knew. He kept saying where is all the money going? I tried to explain, to lay it all out. As long as it was an abstract idea and no hard facts or figures came his way, he could go on.  If a hint of it touched him, he would fall into such a depression and anger that it made it very difficult for me to broach the subject again.  Clues such as garnishment of his wages, avoiding calls from collectors, or attempts at the ATM all brought his frustrations, temper tantrums, and accusations of my ineptitude. He ignored the lawyer’s advice. But the inevitable was still going to happen. Long ago, he refused to sell the one thing that could have averted this tragedy. I chose not to argue. That maybe was my biggest mistake.

It became impossible for me to bring the subject of our finances up any longer. He didn’t want to know. He never wanted to know the score. I was to keep all unpleasantness from his view and when I couldn’t he would shake his head and find other things to do or wallow in self-pity.  I was supposed to fix it.  I was supposed to fix everything. It is my job to make all of their lives easier.  I knew then that I was alone.  I would be the one to hold the brunt of the responsibility no matter what happened because no one else wanted to share it.

So alone, after years of struggle, I will forever be the fall guy. It was me that did this.  It will always be my fault.  Why didn’t I do this, why didn’t I do that? Consequently the debt is gone, and the credit that was for so long non-existent remains so. But the secrets, the inner turmoil, the thing that no longer needed saving is gone. I am finally free of the many millstones around my neck. How can I explain the unexplainable? I don't know how. My children and family supports me still; they don’t sit in judgment of me, sans one.  I await his verdict.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mortgage Crisis - Part One

My sister lost her house a few months ago.  The fire started in her bedroom.  The source of the fire was an electrical cord that ran under her bed to a lamp. Due to lack of closet space, my sister and husband store many belongings under the bed. This combination overheated the cord and started the fire.  Luckily my parents live next door and were able to raise the alarm.  Little Sister rushed home from work and we rushed to her aid to help with the clean up.  We wore old clothes, brought boxes, garbage bags and facemasks to protect us from the fumes. 
When we pulled up three men were in front of the house, one had a badge around his neck.  At first we couldn’t figure out what was going on.  They were taking things out of the house and so was my sister.  She was working furiously and with such a concentration that I don’t think she even knew that we were there. Were the men helping her save her belongings, getting them out of the smoke filled house?  Our confusion turned to disbelief when we finally realized that they were not helping my sister, but these men were here to evict her.

We asked her what was going on and she just kept on working to keep her belongings from ending up in the dumpster.  Soon we were helping her, dragging out soot-covered possessions before the men could get a hold of them.  We started filling my mother’s garage and backyard with the salvaged belongings, a stove from the garage, televisions, stereos, and other valuables from inside the house.  Luckily or not depending on how you look at it, the crew that came to evict her was a three-man crew when the number should have been six.  With a six-man crew they would have emptied that house quickly and more efficiently. They kept mumbling under their breath about the fire. They mumbled how they wished they had facemasks.  But when the fire marshal came in and gave his verdict that the fire was definitely an accident, the men became more sympathetic.

The three men seeing the scope of possessions that my sister’s family had accumulated in 25 years quickly became tired and became more concerned with their own health, inhaling all that soot. and so their resolved weakened. And when they saw my sister’s tenacity and single-minded determination of retrieving her belongings their resolve weakened further.  They started asking her if she wanted this item or that item and helped move a piece or two.

Apparently they were commissioned to take out only very large pieces and were not interested in the smaller items.  Besides with most of the surfaces covered in the house by papers, bills, books and the like they just tossed them to the floor.  Not only was there soot everywhere they added to the debris pile creating soot clouds, which made it harder for them to breathe and harder for us overall. We scoured every room making split second decisions on what was expendable and what should be left behind.

Her husband hurried home from work expecting to deal with the fire situation. To say he was taken aback by the eviction is such an understatement because it in no way describes the range of emotions that came over his face all at the same time. He kept asking the same question over and over to his wife. But she kept on working. He wanted to have a show down, but she kept on working.

The fire was contained in hallway and rear bedroom.  I had never been in a house after a fire and was shocked to see how every wall in the house was black as though charred but in reality covered in soot.  We worked until nightfall to begin again the next day.

My sister was still very quiet, exhausted, but still concentrating on all the work yet to be done. She wasn't ready to talk about it. It was too soon. I took a few moments to cry my eyes out.  I know how hard she has struggled the last few years trying to keep it all together and I felt her anguish.  As nightfall came, the work stopped for us, but it kept going for her.  She began the laundry, trying to remove the smell of smoke from the clothes we saved. Finally, I had to ask her the inevitable question, “Is it all right if I give you a hug before I leave?”  When she answered yes, I put my arms around her and as soon as I touched her, she began to sob uncontrollably.

The mortgage crisis has finally hit too close to home.

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