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Saturday, January 30, 2016

To Catch a Thief...

Some of you may know that I've recently taken a part time job outside the home.
It's the first time in over 15 years that I've worked away from home, and the first time in over 20 that I've worked retail. It's been quite an experience.

This looks more familiar to me than the computerized register I use now.
It's been awhile since I've worked as a cashier!

First, I'm not giving up writing. I'm still a full time freelance writer and editor. I still feel that my teens need me more than the corporate world, and prefer my home-based work for full-time employment. This job provides supplemental income, but I'm not seeking a potential career, even though there are numerous opportunities to move up within the organization. Retail can be an excellent career path for those who are willing to work hard and who enjoy both the challenges of business and customer service. To be perfectly honest, I enjoy both. Yes, customer service has its moments, and we all like to groan now and then and share horror stories from the trenches about unreasonable customers or the ridiculous situations we find ourselves in, but overall, our regulars will be some of the nicest people we know.

Unless they're not.

There's an ongoing situation at my store right now that is surprisingly exasperating, and, I suspect, is representative of the root of most retail resentment. Our store is  being plagued by a thief. Not just any thief. We have the usual spate of children, teenagers, and even adults who think nothing of opening a package, pocketing the contents, and leaving the tell-tale trash tucked behind some product on a shelf. What they don't seem to know is; we'll find that trash within hours or even minutes of their theft. Every time.

Is it worth it? Seriously? Dude that DVD costs $2. Grow up. 

This particular thief has proven to be more nervy than most. He or she isn't just pocketing the items. They are consuming them in the store. While it's not technically "stealing" if you open and take a sip of your Coke before you get to the register, it's generally considered improper shopping etiquette. A lot of internal eye-rolling goes on in retail, but we stifle it. As long as the customer pays for their items, even if they're doing some illicit sampling first, the customer is always right.

Seriously. Nobody cares about a couple sampled grapes, or an open soda- as long as you're
not actually opening packages, taking a bite, and returning it to the shelf. 

The Ensure Bandit, however, does not bother with trivialities like actually paying for the items they steal- that's why it's stealing and not just bad manners. This person has apparently decided they are above petty considerations like the law, courtesy, or just plain common sense. They've been coming into our store every single day, and stealing a single bottle of expensive supplements- the kind that were designed for cancer patients and the elderly who have trouble getting enough nutrition from normal meals. They simply take one bottle from a 4 or 6 pack, leaving the opened package behind. They then drink their stolen loot while walking around the store browsing or shopping, and simply stash the bottle behind things on the shelves. I've worked there for 2 weeks and I personally have found four of these bottles. My manager tells me they've found one every single day. Since each package costs between $6-10, that's a hefty hit for a smaller store like ours to take.

Added up over time, thieves cost our store thousands. Not just in stolen
merchandise, but in extra personnel for security, as well as those expensive, annoying
little security tags that set off the alarm when you're walking out. 

Here's one of the things you might not know about retail- we're constantly checking shelves. It's called "recovery" and it's a big part of my job. I go around every day and straighten the product on the shelf, bringing things forward when someone's taken the first one on the shelf, moving things back to their proper space when someone's changed their mind and tossed it carelessly down.
(A hint for shoppers- if you've carried something half way through the store, and change your mind, bring it to the register when you check out. Never leave it out of place- it creates more work for the employees. We don't mind putting rejected items away, we all shop, too, and have changed our minds. We roll our eyes a LOT, though, when we find things out of place due to laziness. It's frankly a pain in the butt.)

Those annoyances are minor, however, compared with the anger that bubbles up when we find those empty packages. We tag everything with security tags for a reason. We are not amused when the tags are circumvented by "clever" thieves who think they're hiding their crimes by stashing the evidence behind product on the shelves. And we do find it. The theft never goes more than a day without being discovered.

We do inventory frequently. It's the only way, in a mid-sized store like ours, to ensure that we have enough of popular products on the shelf, and we don't over-order things that haven't sold. Even with today's electronic inventory systems, these counts are necessary for accuracy. We WILL find the empty package, and we will wish the fleas of a thousand camels to infest the thief's crotch and their arms be too short too scratch.

So beware, thieves. We know about you, and we are plotting your downfall.
Especially you, Ensure Bandit.
You're going down.

Pretty sure they don't serve Ensure in jail. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

For the Sake of the Children

"For the sake of the children..."

How often do divorce parents hear that phrase? How often is it spoken by well meaning folks giving advice?

"Stay together if you can. You know, for the sake of the children."
"Surely it can be worked out. For the sake of the children."
"You really shouldn't speak badly of your spouse, for the sake of the children."

Although the first two did not pan out in my marriage- we were not able to stay together, nor were were able to work out a compromise that included him staying in contact with an old girlfriend, I have done my best to remember the third. My kids have big, absorbent hearts. They soak up everything that is thrown at them, whether it's love or judgement or dismay or dislike. They've grown stronger as they've gotten older, and gotten better at discerning between the opinions of others and their own realities. They're old enough, now, to understand the deviance between their father's protestations and arguments and his actions.

I rarely write about the failures of my marriage, not because there are any secrets, but because it's a cliche'd story of a foolish wife who was blind to her husband's wandering ways. I actually encouraged his online friendship with the old flame, secure in our 15 years of marriage, and in the thought that he'd long gotten over his high school sweetheart and moved on. I had a similar teenage flame, and while I retain friendly feelings, even affection, I recognize the folly in trying to go back and even since becoming single again have not sought to rekindle the old spark.

If left unattended, it can burn everything.

I thought we were happy. I thought he was content. I thought she was no danger to my marriage... And I was right. She wasn't. The danger to my marriage was not a woman willing to cheat with a married man, disregarding her own family and marriage in pursuit of a teenage fantasy. The danger was in trusting in our past to cement our future. Trusting in a man who had proven over time to have narcissistic tendencies, favoring his own desires and needs over those of his family. One of our most frequent arguments was over the fact that he resisted taking our daughter for an eye exam, insisting that she "could see just fine," yet had money for his yearly hunting trips out of state and didn't hesitate to spend freely when a new gun or tool caught his eye.

To be fair, we lived comfortably enough. We spent nearly 10 years renovating This Old Heap, as I have titled the 200 year old farmhouse we live in. He invested in our home. We went on an annual camping trip, which were some of our best times as a family. When he left, he readily agreed to my insistence upon retaining the house- where else would I go with our kids? Physical custody was never really a question- I'd been a stay at home mom for over 12 years.

This Old Heap, with siding added, doesn't look so bad.The upper half
and porch were the results of our hard work. My brother added the siding,
in order to make the house more economical to heat, so that the kids
and I could afford to continue living here.

What has made me sad, since the split, what has taken me through the stages of grief, from anger to bitterness, and finally to letting go and to peace, has been the abandonment.
When he left, I understood that our life together had come to an end. It had, in fact, come to an end months before. I hadn't allowed him to touch me since learning of his second round of cheating. I no longer trusted in the safety of monogamy. To be blunt, I didn't know what he might have picked up in his illicit travels and wasn't about to risk an STD. I knew, when he left, that "we" were over. And, although losing the love of 17 years was devastating, I was able to accept it.

What I couldn't, and can't accept, is his continuing disregard for his children.

A father should not have to be ordered by the court to support his kids.
A father should recognize that children have ongoing needs, and that the "gift" of a house to the spouse who spent over a decade forgoing an income in order to raise the children does not buy them clothes or shoes, or food once he has decided to move on.
A father, even if he is financially strained and/or unable to be with his kids physically, should make a consistent, on going effort to maintain communication and a relationship with his children.

As I sit here reading this over, considering the words I am dropping onto the waters, to allow to drift out into the world, I am considering whether it's right for me to share these thoughts, to express the hurt and the anger. I am considering whether it's the right thing to do. I'm wondering if I should simply delete the post for the sake of the children.

The year he left, they both returned to public school, in order
to allow me more time to build my business. Because they're amazing,
empathetic hearts. #SoBlessed 

But, I feel to do so would be disrespectful to my kids. Although I try to use my words carefully, they are not stupid. It is not my thoughts or experiences that have molded their opinions. It is their own.
My kids love their dad, but they understand his limitations. They have a realistic view of what they can expect from him, both physically and emotionally. They take whatever opportunities they have to talk and spend time with him, but don't actively seek him out in defense of their own hearts. In spite of his assurance that they can "call him any time," they know that he is simply not able to be there for them in the ways the need him to be.
I can not, and will not, pretend that our circumstances are otherwise, or that by not sharing this post, reality will somehow magically alter. It is what it is.

I will, however, share this post, in hopes of reassuring other moms and dads who are dealing with this kind of situation- with a spouse who is not abusive or addicted, but is simply uninterested in doing their part as a parent. While abuse and addiction are horrors I am grateful we have avoided, abandonment carries its own consequences, and the scars are deep and painful.

If you've been abandoned by a spouse or parent, my messages to you are:
You're not crazy. Even if he didn't hit or yell, it's not ok to abandon children who depend upon you for support and emotional connection.
You're not alone. There are many of us out there.
You don't have to let this make you bitter. Anger is justifiable, but dwelling on the unfairness isn't healthy. Seek out healthy relationships, for you and your kids. Build supports into your lives. Let the person go- there's no sense clinging to someone who doesn't want to be there.

If you've read this far, thank you, for listening. May God keep and bless you and your loved ones. If you're a parent, remember, please, that divorce is not about your kids. It's NEVER about your kids. You really are responsible to be a parent, even if you're divorced. Even if you don't like your spouse anymore. Even if he or she is a raving lunatic- you're still responsible to BE A PARENT.
Your kids need you, and that is all that matters.
All of it.
Your kids are ALL OF IT. Never forget that. For the sake of the children.


To be in your children's memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today.” ― Barbara Johnson

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Been a while...

Hasn't it? It's been a while since I've revisited this page. The reasons are many and mostly mundane.
Holidays. Thanksgiving, and Christmas, while lovely, did take up a lot of my time and attention. I'm happy to report they were among the best we've had in the past 3 years. The kids were happy. I was relaxed. We all just enjoyed one another's company.

It was lean, as always. Their gifts required careful planning and saving, but the looks on their faces when they opened them, and the use they've put them to in the weeks following, have made it all worth the effort. I rarely see Babygirl without her phone (an unlocked, off-brand that works with our text-and-talk plan, with which she can pick up wifi when she wants "data.) Thing1 carries his camera- a beginner's DSLR with more knobs and twiddly bits than I could navigate- with him nearly everywhere.

And me? I got the precious hours spent with my kiddos. I got to welcome Thing1's girlfriend to spend time with us. She's got a very special place in his heart, and I'm dreading the day they split, and hope it won't be too high a drop from the clouds he's riding right now. Ah, young love... So precious, so poignant... and so fleeting. They've been friends for years. Dating for weeks. I don't know how long it will last, and, like, I'm sure, the adults in my life when I was young and in love, I'm not telling him that the ending will be inevitable and bitter-sweet.

The goofy pair at Halloween. 

They are too young, their lives yet unripe for the stresses of marriage and babies and commitments. (and yes, we've talked, extensively, and continue to talk about the more serious side of this floating infatuation he's in now. About respect. About care. About safety and using the upper brain to control the lower one.) Let's let it suffice to say that he knows, at the very least, to keep it covered or keep it zipped. I hope that, when they part, they will retain the depth of friendship they've enjoyed since he crushed on her in the second grade.

On a lighter note, I also got a gift from my kiddos, unexpected and beautiful. I had shown Babygirl a pattern online for an apron made of an old pair of jeans, and she tried her hand at sewing, with a little help and encouragement from her brother. The result was that I now have a beautiful apron, which I love. It has pockets. I love pockets. I also hate having flour all over my clothes when I'm done baking, and this is not only a beautiful gift, it's also functional. It's easily the favorite thing I've received for Christmas since I was 13 and got a Brooke Shields doll. (Hey, don't laugh! I'd just seen The Blue Lagoon, and Brooke was my heroine.)

You'll have to excuse the mess. It was the end of Christmas Day's
dinner and we were still cleaning up when Babygirl insisted on snapping this photo. :)

Life, especially life with the challenges of mental illness, is no easy task. I could say the same, of course, of life with Crohn's, or diabetes, or lupus. I don't think I have some special burden; just the same burdens that many carry, in different forms. Some days it's not easy to get up and get out of bed and keep moving forward, especially with the uncertainties of freelancing for a living. The income is sporadic, and a client's disappointment may mean the loss of a job. I have to strive, with everything I write, to stay on point, to stay relevant, to stay connected and to express the client's expectations and desires. That sort of constant effort can be exhausting, but it's also what keeps me moving forward. It gives me purpose.

Parenting is, in many ways, the same. We all carry our personal burdens, but the children we're responsible for must be shepherded, fed, clothed, sheltered, and led. Their disappointment doesn't lead to the mere loss of a job; it can leave lasting scars that destroy lives and carry forward into new generations. The time I've put in these past few months, the efforts to put together a simple holiday celebration and to invite in those who are connected to our family by the unfamiliar strands of teenage ardor, seem to me to be the most important job I could've been doing. I may be putting things too high, thinking that these  hours will have a stronger impact on my growing young adults' lives than they will. I could be wrong about Thing1 and his lovely young partner. They could go on to marry and have children of their own, as my own in-laws did, marrying when she was just 17 and he was 19. Fifty years and counting, they're a walking love story.

But for now, all I have is experience to go by. All I have is my own memories of young love, and memories of the hours contentedly dressing up a Brooke Shields doll while Mom prepared the meal and Dad smoked his pipe in his chair while watching the Macy's Parade. Those are the memories that reassure me that my son will come out of this relationship changed, with new experiences and a new perspective. Perhaps with new scars, but ones that will heal and that will shape him, and make him, in the end, a better man. Those are the memories that assure me that my own kids will look back, one day, and remember the holidays as a happy time with their family and loved ones, something that they will want to recreate for their own children.

All we can do is keep moving forward, and doing our best.
I hope, if you're reading this, that you had a beautiful ending to 2015 and that 2016 brings you new joys, new experiences, and new hope.

God bless, Friends.
A belated, but sincere, Merry Christmas to you and yours.


There is no such thing as a "broken family." Family is family, and is not determined by marriage certificates, divorce papers, and adoption documents. Families are made in the heart."-C. Joy Bell