Carrots, Anyone?

It started in line at the grocery store.  And since I live in a very small town with only one grocery store, it quickly escalated into one of those uncomfortably memorable moments in life.

I was waiting for the cashier to finish ringing up a six-pack of Vernors when I heard it from behind me – that unmistakable sound that any mother can identify at any distance: Gag, splatter, and a pitiful little cough.

I didn’t need to turn around to confirm that my son had just defiled the checkout lane at Wagoner’s Grocery Store.  But as usual with me, there is so much more to the story than just the tale of a seven year-old vomiting in public.

You see, I had just interviewed for a job at that store a few days earlier.  My job at the school is about to end for the summer, and I am in a full-out state of panic because I can’t find employment anywhere.  The government says I am not disabled, but I am having one hell of a time finding anyone who will hire a forty-nine year old former hairdresser with a twenty-pound lifting restriction. Every job, even basic cashiering, requires a certain amount of lifting.

So I’m not disabled, but I’m not physically able to get a job. Go figure.

The manager at the grocery store was very honest with me. She liked me and thought I’d be a valuable addition to the team, but . . . what if a customer had a 25-lb bag of dog food or some other heavy item that had to be lifted back into their cart? I told her that I understand, and I really do understand; nobody can afford to hire an employee who can’t do every aspect of the job.  I assured her that I would still continue to shop at the store and there would be no hard feelings. After all, it’s a small town.

Remember that.

When the school called to tell me that my boy was feeling sick and needed to be picked up, I really didn’t think he was all that sick. He said his tummy felt bubbly, but there was no fever. He certainly didn’t look sick, but I’ve learned over the years that a bubbly tummy should never be ignored. I’ve also learned that the best treatment for a bubbly tummy is a few sips of room-temperature Vernors.

vernors

Okay, for all of you unfortunate souls who have never experienced the joy that is Vernors, let me explain. Vernors is the best ginger ale in the known universe. Don’t argue with me that you know of something better; Vernors is simply the best. It just is. Any Michigander will agree.  And any Michigander will also tell you that Vernors has medicinal uses during flu season. Whether it’s the carbonation or the ginger or just the firm belief that it really works, Vernors always seems to do the trick.

vernors2

But my boy is only seven; he was not old enough to leave at home or in the car while I ran into the store for his Vernors. I took him in with me, grabbed a six pack for him and a Diet Coke for me, and headed for the register.

Where the new cashier was being trained for the position I had so desperately wanted. She is the mother of one of my daughter’s friends, and I was so happy to see that she got the job. She has more kids than I do, and I know for a fact that she is one hell of a hard worker with a reputation for being a fantastic employee. I can’t think of anyone in the world who deserves the job more than she does.

In fact, I was in the process of opening my mouth to congratulate her when Young Faithful blew behind me.

I grabbed the child as he let fly with a second stream of partially-digested carrots. I started apologizing profusely and asking for a mop while simultaneously trying to swipe my debit card. And like any good mother, I was also desperately fighting the urge to join the Puke Party. I mean, let’s be honest here. When it comes to parenting, I am not one to gently rub the puker’s back while murmuring words of comfort. No, I am more of a “If you’re gonna hurl, hurl that way” kind of mommy.

I have to say that the grocery store staff reacted admirably. They cleaned up the mess and told me they hoped my little boy felt better soon, and they have asked about him every time I have gone into the store since then. Everything about that store has just gained about 100 more points on my personal rating scale for a business. They are all such nice people, so professional and caring toward every customer, even the ones who decorate the floor with a slightly used lunch.

On the other hand, I am now the woman who let her sick child blow chunks all over the woman who got the job I wanted.

I have just officially forfeited all rights to ever again say anything to anyone about being a good sport.  About being gracious. About accepting defeat with honor and dignity.

And I may never eat another carrot.

This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “It started in line at the grocery store . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Nicki from Redboots, and Dawn M Skorczewski.  Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!

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Why I Filed for Disability

My Aunt Marian walked around on a broken leg for twelve years.

Unbelievable, isn’t it?  Before that happened to her, I had never heard of a non-union fracture.  I had no idea that something like that could happen.

Marian dealt with it.  Just like she dealt with RA, MS, GERD, COPD and colon cancer.  Oh, she complained about it; don’t get me wrong.  She was no hero who suffered bravely in silence.  We heard every day just how much she hurt and how angry and bitter she was toward the world in general, her nieces in particular.  She wasn’t a nice person before her body started falling apart, and years of constant pain did nothing to improve her disposition.

I was asked to speak at her retirement party, and I repeated a story that we had heard all of our lives.  Supposedly, Marian got fired from her first job, when she worked in the fields in her small town.  It wasn’t her fault that she lost the job; she was unable to work because the state mandated that she must stop working so she could start Kindergarten.

I assume the story was a bit of an exaggeration, but I also got the point of the story:  Go to work.

Marian was the youngest of seven siblings, children of an illiterate woman and a drunken jack-of-all-trades.  They were one of the first families in Allegan County to go on Welfare, and the youngest kids helped earn money by working in the fields and coming up with crazy schemes, like selling celery door-to-door from a battered little wagon lined with wet newspapers.

Dad drank like his father.  Lawrence and Don drowned together when they were 21 and 31.  The Girls –as everyone called the remaining four sisters—moved in together to pool their money and combine expenses.  Noni owned a beauty salon, Verna and Ida worked as secretaries, and Marian climbed the ranks of the Upjohn Company.   They scrimped and they saved and they taught my sisters and me the value of hard work.

If you don’t work, they seemed to believe, you have no worth.

I earned my first money in fourth grade, when I cleaned the neighbor’s house on Saturdays.  I was babysitting by the time I was eleven; at age fifteen I got my first waitressing job.  Later, I worked in fast food to support myself in college.  I often worked two jobs at a time, and even tried three jobs for a while during my twenties.  I have been an ice cream parlor hostess, waitress, babysitter, tutor, cashier, jewelry sales clerk, lingerie salesperson, secretary, hairdresser . . .sometimes, it seems as though I’ve tried it all.

I didn’t want to file for Disability.

When people see me, they see bad posture.  They see laziness, perhaps.  They see a woman who spends a lot of time sitting on her ever-increasing butt, a woman who is too lazy to hold her head up straight like the rest of the world.

What they don’t see is how hard I have to work just to keep my head upright.

Do me a favor.  Stop what you are doing for a moment and think about your head.  Is it staying up there on its own?  Or does it wobble to the sides and occasionally flop forward?  Are you able to hold it straight up and look people in the eye, or is it canted forever to the right?   Can you get through as much as a single minute of your day without having to focus on where your head is?

My neck, my shoulders, my arms, my upper back, my abs, my lower back . . . every part of my upper body must be tense, tight, on-duty 100% of the time.  Alert, working, exhausted.  All the time.  Every waking moment of every single day for the rest of my life.  Until the day I die.

And that’s just to keep my head up.  That doesn’t include the bolts of pain that shoot across my back and shoulders when I raise my arms for very simple tasks like washing dishes.  Lifting a pot of pasta to the sink to drain it.  Carrying a laundry basket up the stairs.  Walking to the mailbox.  Trying to sit on the bleachers long enough to watch my son’s football game.  Wishing I could tilt my head back far enough to see stars in the night sky instead of forever staring at the ground.

It’s not laziness.

I’m not asking the government to support me while I party.

I don’t spend my days sitting on the couch, eating bon-bons and watching soap operas.

I filed for Disability because I want to contribute to my family’s income like I always have.  To do so, I had to swallow my pride and devalue my worth as a human being.  Filing for Disability went against everything I was raised to believe, everything I was taught, every example that was set for me by the adults in my life.

None of that matters anymore, because I was denied.

When you see me in public, you don’t see me cry.  You don’t see the exhaustion caused by never-ending pain.  You see me talking and laughing and smiling, and you assume that I am just fine, that I filed for Disability because I am “milking the system”.  You can’t see my depression, my feelings of being a worthless human being because I am not working,  You can’t see what it takes just to get through a day, because some days my greatest accomplishment is just being alive by bed time. Because some days, all I can think about is that I wish that damn tree had been just a little bit bigger, fallen just a little bit harder.

Before you rant and rave about people “milking the system” and being on Disability when they don’t deserve it, stop and think for a minute.  Sure, you may see people out there who are “worse off” in your opinion.  Maybe you think you are “worse off”.

You have no idea what that person is going through until you are living it.

You know what hurts even more than my neck?  The comments that you all think I can’t hear.

I have pain, too.  I chose to work and live with it.

Why should we have to support you?

You could go back to work if you really wanted to.

Get over it.  You think you’re the only person who ever broke a bone?

Must be nice to be able to stay home all day and sponge off the government.

Oh, just cheer up.  You have no reason to be depressed.

 

Maybe I don’t deserve Disability.   But I do deserve understanding as to why I filed for it, and what I go through every day.  And maybe, just maybe, I deserve an ounce or two of respect for being stronger than you think I am.

Because some days, being strong is all I’ve got.

LOL, JK, OMG

I’m a bit grumpy today.  Maybe it’s because it was just too humid to sleep well last night, or maybe it’s because somebody ate the last Amish doughnut this morning.  It might even be due to the fact that our enormous Astrolorp rooster decided that today was the day to assert his authority by chasing my five year-old around the yard. While I galloped after both of them and hollered at the top of my lungs and the Big Guy laughed his ass off, I made a conscious decision that everything about today is going to piss me off.

For starters, I’d like to tackle “just kidding” and its bastard cousins “lol”, “jk” and the demented colon-parenthesis-smile of idiocy.

Basically, people seem to think they should use these adorable little tidbits so they can say any horrible, insulting or demeaning thing they want — so long as the offending words are followed by some form of “just kidding!”

But you know what? It’s not okay.  Hurtful words are hurtful.  Period.  Spoken or texted, saying something mean and spiteful should not be given an automatic pass just because it’s followed by “just kidding!”

Maybe I’m just a bit hormonal this week, but I’ve decided to respond here to some of some of the things I’ve heard in recent days, and I’m going to reply in the spirit in which these humorous words were offered.

“I wish I could just sit around on my butt and do nothing all day like you. Gee, I want to be disabled too.  Just kidding!”

“And I wish a tree would fall on YOU and break YOUR spine in five places so you can be in constant pain, too.  Just kidding!

“You’re such a beyotch.  Lol.”

“And you’re a worthless asshole sponging off society.  Lol.”

“Your husband needs one night with a real woman.  Can I borrow him?  JK!”

“Only if you can list the names of the fathers of all seven of your kids. Or did you forget to catch their names while you were catching their social diseases? JK!”

Oh, wait; is this the point where you all roll your eyes and protest “It was just a joke!  Don’t take it so personally!”

Followed by my personal favorite:

“Don’t you know how take a joke?”

“Don’t you know how to tell one?”

No, I’m not over-sensitive.  Yes, I do have a sense of humor.   I just don’t see anything funny about hurting other people’s feelings and then pretending that you’ve done nothing wrong.

I’m not suggesting that we all have to be nice all the time.  But if you’re going to blurt out some nasty, snarky thing, then have the balls to own it.  Want to call me a bitch?  Then don’t hide behind some giggly little mutation of the word and weaken it even further by adding “I’m kidding!”

If you think I’m a bitch, call me a bitch.  Don’t like me?  Hey, Snowflake, chances are good I’m not fond of you, either.  Drop the games.

And here’s a suggestion for the men out there.  If your wife makes you a special dessert — after picking the cherries, washing and pitting them, digging through your mother’s recipes to find your favorite cherry pudding dessert, and then baking the whole damn thing on a hot summer day in a kitchen with no air-conditioning — do not say “It’s just not as good as Mom’s.  Just kidding!”

Because you may wake up the next morning to discover that leftover cherry pudding has been stuffed up your ass while you were sleeping.

Just kidding.

If . . . Then

Okay, boys and girls, it’s time for Mama A.J.’s Words of Wisdom (aka Ten Things That Are Pissing Me Off).

  1. If you call in sick but feel good enough to spend your day on Facebook talking about how sick you are, then shut up and go to work.
  2. If you can drive yourself to the ER to get shots of pain meds for your Migraine, then chances are good that you don’t really need the shots.
  3. If you get Disability for a “bad back” but get cash for doing roofing jobs “on the side”, then you are slime.
  4. If you get Disability for Narcolepsy but can still get a Driver’s License, then our system is totally screwed up.
  5. If you get Food Stamps and WIC but can afford $300 extensions and bi-weekly gel manicures, then we have a problem.
  6. If you have lost a lot of weight and you feel the need to whine and wheeze about how hard life is now that you are skinny, then shut the hell up and eat a damn cheeseburger.
  7. If you bitch about your employer and co-workers on Facebook and you are surprised when you get fired for it, then you are an idiot.
  8. If you use social media to make public announcements about private matters, then you forfeit the right to tell anyone to mind their own business.
  9. If you post your writing on a public site and bawl like a little baby the instant someone doesn’t praise you, then don’t post your work on a public site.  Hang it on your mommy’s refrigerator and get a new pacifier.
  10. If you can’t remember the last time you said something that wasn’t a complaint, then suck it up, Snowflake.  We’re tired of hearing it.