Tuesday, May 28, 2013


With a warm chai latte at my lips, I scanned the bookstore and breathed in the comforting spice of leisure.  In my periphery, an eager cursor blinked at the ready on the screen.  My right ear took in the sounds of an awkward date: paper cups shuffling, superficial chuckling, recent dreams failing to conjure conversation.

And then in my left ear,

"How do you like your Chromebook?"  

I blinked.  I choked on foam.  "Oh, uh, it's great.  Perfect for what I do."  I sputtered.

Curiosity came closer and began to read my words.  My words.  I closed the laptop.

"It's also nice and sleek.  Very lightweight.  See?"  I waved my computer back and forth a bit.  Perhaps he would pick up on the subtle symbolism of my actions.  

"So, what do you do?  You know, that it's perfect for."  He stood firm, yet casual at my side.  He wore a white pageboy cap and checkered Vans.  He held a newspaper, a pencil and Rolling Stone.    

"Well, I like to write.  I blog a bit."

"That's cool.  I studied journalism."



"Do you do that now?"

I spoke the question with hesitation, but I was readily welcomed into his answer, a world I could not have imagined for myself.  No amount of precious alone time would have given me what he did.  

"Right now I am a dishwasher at my father's house.  He has terminal cancer.  My mom died when I was 14.  My sister is a doctor.  My dad is ashamed of me.  English is my second language.  I also speak an outlawed Iranian dialect.  Things were going well until 9/11.  It's hard for a hairy brown guy with a Persian name.  I went to college in Chicago.  I don't know what my goals are.  No one has asked me that before.  I guess I want to realize my full potential.  You go to church every Sunday?  You actually like living here?  Raising kids is a huge responsibility.  I want to be a father some day.  I am good at running a tight ship.  It's not like running a ship?  Maybe it is for the man?  I wish I had more friends.  True human connection is a lost art.  I've never had a girlfriend.  My family is ashamed of me.  It's like George Carlin once said..."

I didn't know how to ask him to leave.  So I asked him questions.  Eventually, I asked him to sit.  He nearly declined.  For one hour and fifteen minutes I shed skeptical and then sympathetic glances in the direction of my uninvited friend.

The bookstore closed.  I plodded to my car wrapped in the cool, evening air and exhaled any remaining frustration.  Under the glow of the streetlamp, I finally stood alone, my bag and my cardigan hanging by my side. I stared at the ground and tried to unwind from my time to relax. As I looked back up,
the story started to form. Easily overshadowed words began to flow through my mind and circle my soul.

I didn't get to write that night.

I got to write this.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Integrity Without Dignity

Matt's mobile number lit up my phone's display and I knew baby Angela must be here.  Like her older brother, she had arrived weeks ahead of schedule, but in my mind she was right on time.  Hearing her father's voice brim with joy and picturing her fresh life in her mother's arms gave me strength.

I had been "fake fired" the Friday before.  Informed that this was just not working out, I was encouraged to find a better fit somewhere else.  My boss gave me one week to decide how long I needed. 

My thoughts swung from slithering out to demanding to be kept on until my own baby was born.  I went from zero to six months every hour, every day, for a week.  It was emotional.  It was exhausting.  But, I finally decided.   

Readying myself for our meeting, I bear hugged my notepad, looked to the drop ceiling, and repeated the decision in my head, "My plan is to stay on two more months.  This will give me sufficient time to wrap up this season's big event and find a new job."

My cube was my corner, but it was time to enter the ring.  In her office, I was faced by my boss as well as her favorite employee, a fellow forty-something female incapable of finding a satisfying position of power in the for-profit world.  I could almost smell the cougar pee.  

I was going to speak first.   I needed to speak first.  I didn't get to speak first.  She didn't let me speak first.    

"Kristin, before you tell us what you have decided, we've been thinking..."

No, no, no.  My decision.  My decision.  This was my decision.  Let me make my own decision.

"We are going to consider this past week the first of your two weeks notice.  Next Friday will be your last day."

A powerful pink haze shocked my system.  I was going to have my first baby soon.  Maybe my baby would be a girl, too.  My mind clouded over.  I stared straight ahead.  I may have smiled.  I probably said something.  I always say something, but this time I am not sure.

"Why don't you head back to your desk and send us a list of your open tasks?  I'll have a copy of the severance terms on your chair on Monday." 

Decompressed and finished with the requested email, I hit "send" with vengeance.  Somehow I had been fake fired and then forcefully fired in seven short days.  And all I had was seven short days left.  I exited in a huff to seek solace in McDonald's and then my friends.  

But I returned to serve my sentence with all the integrity I could muster.  I signed my severance package and delivered it in silence. I stayed for eight full hours Monday through Friday.  I finished everything on my list and more.     

I packed my stuff.  I planned a trip to meet baby Angela and I physically moved on.  But nothing more.

I had nothing left.  I had let them take my dignity away.

Linking up with yeah write this week.  Click on the button below to read the other amazing storytellers that hang out there.  Come back on Thursday to vote for your favorites.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 17, 2013

It's All Fun and Games Until You Forget Your Feminine Protection

My little life is often boring, but it is always busy.  When you are a mother to young children you never sit still.  You are always answering questions, refilling cups, wiping things, kissing things (hopefully not the same things), packing bags, unpacking bags, and forgetting what you really needed to do in the first place.

On a recent evening, my husband and I were playing a round of "let's barely graze lips as you come home so I can get the heck out of dodge."  Normally, this is an exciting whirlwind for me.  I run around fixing my hair and macaroni and cheese simultaneously, stepping into neglected heels and the dog's water bowl.  The light at the end of witching hour tunnel is often a fun time away with my friends.  I am happy to endure the pain for the resulting pleasure.

This time, however, I was off to my friend's grandmother's viewing.  And I was late.  Not that viewings have hard start times, but the last thing I wanted to do was show up at the end of the evening viewing.  More quick kisses and I was off, driving my husband's manual transmission like the wind, feeling carefree, despite the destination.

About halfway into the 30 minute drive I got a cramp.  Not in my leg from shifting, but in my lower abdomen, in my uterus to be exact.  Rewinding the movie in my mind, I replayed the scene where I had used the toilet with a toddler around my thigh.  Yup, I had forgotten.  Not my phone, or my wallet, but my tampon.  I had forgoten to put in a new one.       

Short of fishing for the string at 60 mph, I needed to make sure.  I tried a squeeze check.  Was it in there?  I couldn't tell.  I did a few more kegels and considered my options.  I definitely could not brave the viewing without protection.

I could ask my friend for a tampon when I arrived, but that certainly had to be a breech of etiquette.  Besides, my friend was super athletic and hadn't had her period in years, that jerk.  It also seemed unlikely that any of the other guests at a 90-year-old woman's viewing would be flush with feminine products.

So what did I do?  I called my mommy, of course.  My parents serendipitously lived minutes from the funeral home.  Mom told me she was indeed armed for such a battle thanks to my sister's visit and, of course, I should swing by.

As I busted through the familiar back door in search of my quick fix, Dad greeted me.  "They have bathrooms there, you know," he said.

I guess daddy still doesn't want to accept the fact that I get my period.  Apparently, even I am in denial sometimes.  And honestly, I don't blame him.  I am certainly not looking forward to when my girls get theirs.

Minutes later, mission accomplished and mishaps minimized, I made my way.

Being a mom (even when you are not with your kids) is an adventure.  Most of the time I am prepared.  Because, well, it's all fun and games until you forget your feminine protection.

It's always a great weekend for some moonshine.  Click on the button below to read some other smooth and dry blogs that go down easy.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Home For Kiwi

It surprised me when she started to talk.  For weeks, she had refused to utter a word.  I rolled down the window of Lisa's old truck.  I didn't want to miss what my Anna finally had to say.

"Daddy, Daddy, I wanna show ya sumpin!"

"What is it baby?"

"Git outta Momma's car so you can see."  Anna pleaded with her voice and her bright, blue eyes.

Her fuzzy blond hair floated about in the breeze.  It was finely matted at the back of her head from leaning against me to sleep and watch TV.  Lisa used to wear her hair teased out when we first met, but she styled it that way on purpose.  I was no good at brushing my baby's hair.

I obeyed my little angel.  I stepped out of the old Ford, crunching the gravel beneath my boots.  As I slammed the heavy metal door behind me, the dust settled on Anna's bare feet.

"What is it darlin'?  I crouched down beside her, my wide palms completely enveloping her narrow shoulders.  "Whatdya got there?"

She was cradling something in her skirt.  Her dirty fingers clutched the fabric close and tight.  A careful peek revealed a tiny tree frog glowing green in a white, cotton cocoon.

Loosening her grasp a bit, Anna stroked its head with the tip of her pinky.  She looked up at me and smiled.

"He's cute," was all I could think to say.  My tears returned, having just been brimming before.    

And then she said, "Daddy, don't sit in Momma's car no more.  Help me with Kiwi."

I let myself fall back on the ground and blinked hard at the clouds.  Everything was always too much.  But then I sensed the grace of Lisa's patience.  I took a deep breath.  Exhaling slowly, I asked, "You want some kiwi, baby?"

"Nooo, Daddy.  I named the froggy Kiwi.  Help me with him.  Puh-lease."

I pulled her down into my lap and held her hard.  Rocking back and forth I buried my face into the top of her head.    She smelled so sweet.

Patting her bottom, we stood up together.  I brushed us off and  led Anna away from the truck.  "C'mon little one.  Let's make Kiwi a home."

photo credit: en.wikipedia.org

This piece is a work of fiction inspired by this week's the speakeasy prompt.  Click on the button below to read the prompt and the other amazing writers who hang out there.  On Thursday, you can vote for your three favorites.  Have fun!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I Am NOT A Failure, But I Feel Like One Sometimes

I am a stay-at-home mom.  I like to joke with my sister that while she makes piddly purse at her post-college job she still makes more money than I do.  If I did get paid, I think I might earn a decent salary for the "mom" part of my job.  My girls are happy and healthy.  We play lots of imaginative games.  I delight in showing them new things.  They are well behaved and generally a joy.

But, I am not so hot at the "stay-at-home" part.  I get antsy easily, avoid chores daily, and long for adult conversation hourly.  I am grateful to be a full-time parent and my husband is a full-time support.  At times, I contemplate looking for a job, but honestly, returning to work fills me with more angst than being snowed in with the kids for a week.

The first major I declared in college was Sociology/Christian Ministry.  I was most likely going to save the world.  However, the practical part of me kicked in quickly and I switched to Elementary Education my sophomore year.  My train of thought concluded I could still potentially save the world, but I would have a much clearer job search ahead of me.

Despite my 4.0 in student teaching, I experienced an after graduation crisis of epic proportions, balked at the idea of teaching anyone anything and got a job at Starbucks.  I justified this decision in the pre-Obamacare world because the coffee company offered health insurance.  And, perhaps, I could still save the world one latte at a time.

After about a year, during which I got married, I realized I owed it to myself to actually give classroom teaching a try.  I lasted four months.  Granted, my husband was transferred, but I was not complaining.  I wanted out.  Thanks to my uncle, I landed a job as a marketing assistant for the economic development arm of my hometown.  It was a good job, but I did not appreciate it.  I was often bored and, because of politics, often without a manager to provide the guidance I needed as a young employee.

Regardless, I managed to move up and, while only there three years, I coordinated most of the marketing for the city of Baltimore for business.  Yet, I was never content.  I wanted to get back to saving the world.  So I took an eight thousand dollar pay cut to pursue a position for a nonprofit with a mission I thought I could get behind.  After six months, when I was 12 weeks pregnant, they let me go.  And I cried a lot.

When I do the math, that's four full time jobs in five years.  I have been home full-time, now, for almost that long.

I feel like a failure sometimes.  My daughters are still very young, but I want them to see me devote myself to a career one day.  I desire to use my brain for more than building fun out of diaper boxes.  I want to stand in the truth that I am right where God wants me to be.  But, what I really want is to be more than just a mom.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Happy Mother's Day To Me (and our mom, too!)

Last Saturday I made the two-hour drive to visit my sister for the night.  I was so excited to spend 24 hours as a free human being that I had to stop at the Delaware Welcome Center to pee.  You have to pay four bucks to get in and out of Delaware so it was the least I could do to get something for my money.  

I know I am getting old because, while we did go out for food and beers, we spent majority of the time moseying about Longwood Gardens discussing riveting questions such as, "is that specimen considered a succulent?" and "what do you put in your egg salad?" 

Rachel, looking serious and sophisticated, in the conservatory
Me, daring to linger under the well-hung humongous hydrangea

But, please, do not get me wrong.  I would not have wanted to spend quality time with my sister in any other way.  It was an amazing day with an endless blue sky, warm enough to bask my toes in the sun, but cool enough to revel in my cardigan.

If you live anywhere near Longwood Gardens and have eyes (whether they work well or not) you should take time to visit.  The expansive grounds offer so much: walking trails, tree houses, ponds teeming with fish and tadpoles, fountains, waterfalls, great green spaces for kids to frolic and, of course, catch-your-breath beauty in the form of every imaginable flora.  
Glorious tulip garden

By far our favorite variety, the fringed tulip.  Have they used these on Project Runway, yet?
We endeavored to conquer as much as possible before I would have to return to my real life.  We were successful.  She encouraged me to put down the map and just walk, while I dared myself to observe my surroundings without my camera poised.  We left satisfied, with what we had seen, with what we had spoken and with what we had shared in silence.

I love my sister.  It is my hope that my own two daughters delight in each other as we do.  I was somewhat concerned that when I got married and then had kids that my connection with her might fizzle.  She is seven years younger than I am and lives a very different life.  And then she moved away.  But I believe we are as close as ever.  I am positive that even if Longwood Gardens were a landfill my sister and I still would have had one of our best days together.  Especially if there was egg salad.