Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Get Off My Property

The twins have taken up playing a game they call “Get off my property!” Here is how you play get off my property: run up to individuals nearby and yell “Get off my property!” Then laugh diabolically until they either a) hit you or b) get off your property. Which may not even be your property. It might be, say, your mom’s property, and maybe she doesn’t want you jumping on her property and throwing all of the pillows off of it.

Repeat above steps at random times throughout the day.

Yesterday, I was trying to get the kids to put their shoes on and get out the door and into the car. I don’t get these people. They stood by the door, crowding into one another while screaming “Get off my property!” They were holding various items they simply had to bring on the car ride. Can’t go to Grandpa’s house without the red matchbox truck lacking back wheels. They were wearing their jackets, but not one of them had on their shoes.

I turned to Caleb, because he is the oldest, and is therefore supposed to be the most proficient at “getting ready to go outdoors.”

“Why aren’t your shoes on?”

“Oh. I forgot.”

So they all dropped their heavy loads and plopped down in our tiny entryway to put on their shoes. Just then, the doorbell rang. It was a rather pushy Andersen Windows salesman. They always say: “I noticed your house has its original windows.”

I don’t want strange men checking out my windows unless I specifically ask them to check out my windows. It’s just this thing of mine.

Then he started a whole spiel about saving the world by purchasing energy-saving windows and he wanted to book me for an appointment blah blah blah. He went on and on while I shuffled one child after another past him toward the mini-van, all except for Ella, who was and is usually last, because she is small and slow about putting her shoes on.

“I will be back in your neighborhood next we-“

“GET OFF MY PROPERTY!” yelled Ella. Then she laughed diabolically and ran, shoeless, into the van.

And guess what? He did. And I don’t think we’ll be seeing him again any time soon.

Friday, September 16, 2011

When I Worked At Borders

I’ve had a lot of jobs. I’ve been a retail clerk, a waitress, a childcare provider, a receptionist, a high school English teacher, and now a freelance writer extraordinaire (tell your friends!) I even had a three-hour stint as a telemarketer, where I harassed people at home for money. I called myself Cassandra, because I’ve always liked the name Cassandra, and because I was so ashamed I couldn’t admit my real name. I may have also talked in a hybrid English/ Scottish accent unique to the region of my head.

My favorite job, however, was the year-and-a-half I spent as an employee at Borders Books and Music in Buffalo, New York.

You can see where this post is going.

If you love books, there’s obviously no better place to work than a gigantic bookstore. God, I loved that store. After I was unexpectedly fired from a position a week after September 11th (a sad story for another day), I applied at just one place: the bookstore I retreated to when I wanted to get away from it all. I was hired and put in charge of the children’s department. Soon after, I was promoted to training supervisor. Later, I popped out a 9.8 lb child. It hurt so bad, I decided not to work again for a long time.

I’ve got great stories from that place. My second week there, I overheard a guy talking about me in the back warehouse. (I was the new girl, so I was subject to scrutiny.) No one noticed my searching for a book among the warehouse stacks, because I am quiet, like a little library mouse. (I was skinny back then.) One of the sales clerks said to his girlfriend, and I quote: “Yeah, she’s hot, but she’s dumber than a bag of nails.”

Now, if this had happened yesterday, I would’ve dismissed the dumber-than-a bag-of-nails bit and focused on the hot part. I would’ve been delighted! Back then, though, my skinny butt was mortified. And stuck.

How was I going to get out of the back room without being discovered?

By crawling! On the floor. Where I came face to face with my newly-formed arch nemesis. Or rather, face to knee.

“Just… getting something,” I whispered. Then I got to my feet, walked briskly out, and cried for twelve hours straight.

“They think I’m stupid!” I sobbed to my husband.

“Who cares?” he said.

“We’ve never even had (snivel) a conversation (snivel) before… why would he say such a thing? Why does he hate me?”

“He didn’t say he hated you.  He said you were dumber than a bag of nails."

“I won’t go back there! I WANT TO DIE!”

I went back. Aside from a few awkward encounters that involved me shoving my GRE scores in a certain person’s face, all was forgiven.

The store was large, with books that lined the walls from floor to ceiling. Literature, biographies, memoirs, books about science, business, anthropology, cooking… you name it; Borders had it. The literature was on the far left, bargain books toward the front, the expansive music department filled the back. Borders employed people from all walks of life: freaky looking teenagers with shaggy hair and rings hanging out of their noses to grandmotherly types who manned the registers during the holidays. Some employees had been there for many years, taking comfort in the daily routines, the quiet of the store in the early morning, and the assurance that there would always be books to stock, people to help, titles to track down.

As a training supervisor, I made sure new employees knew where popular books like Tuesdays with Morrie, Founding Fathers, and The Millionaire Next Door were located. I taught café workers how to make a frothy cappuccino and music employees how to re-wrap CD cases that had been ripped open.

The store was full of interesting, quirky people, including the customers. I mainly resided in the children’s book department, where I stocked shelves, gave impassioned readings of The Monster at the End of this Book and There’s a Wocket in my Pocket during Saturday morning story hour, and was a brave arbiter during a divorced couple’s weekly Sunday morning child swap.

One evening, a graduate student came in and demanded books that had pictures of Lake Ladoga in Russia. She needed it for a presentation that was due the next day.

“I find it hard to believe you don’t even have a calendar with a picture of Lake Ladoga in it,” she said.

“We have calendars of the Finger Lakes,” I suggested. “Your classmates probably wouldn’t know the difference.”

She left in a huff.

Another day a Krispy Kreme opened next door, and we welcomed a whole new breed of clientele, like the man who came in every Saturday, selected five different magazines, and carried them (along with a half-eaten donut) into the bathroom for a mid-morning poo. I was made aware of this tradition by the café staff who had been watching this take place for weeks, but were too fearful to say anything.

“He goes to the bathroom, and then he returns the magazines to the shelves!” We agreed this was gross. I confronted him, and it went really, really well. I offered to hold his magazines while he did his business, he handed them over, and we never saw him again.

Another time, I confronted a woman who was taking advantage of the free coffee sample promotion we had going on. This did not go as well. To this day, I argue that filling your travel mug with coffee meant for sampling is “stealing.”

I had close encounters with celebrities. I sold Ani DiFranco some tea, took Rudy Giuliani to the bathroom, and helped a woman chase down Johnny Cochran at the airport after he gave a talk in our store. (She really believed he would take her case.)

And then there were the perks you weren’t supposed to talk about. I read The Lovely Bones, I Don’t Know How She Does It, Stupid White Men, and The Nanny Diaries before they were released to the public.

I listened to “Sweet Baby James” over 100 times on the loudspeaker.

The first time I puked after I became pregnant was in the Borders women’s bathroom, and the first book I bought for my son, I Am a Bunny by Richard Scarry, was purchased on a Monday before I left the store for the night.

Every now and again, I would go back and visit. Two years ago, I was unnerved to discover that the music selection, once the largest in Buffalo, had dwindled down to a few paltry shelves full of movie soundtracks, copies of Bach’s Greatest Hits, and the latest Britney Spears. There were, however, shelves full of stationary, lip gloss, journals, iPod cases, and other gift items.

I cried when I heard they were closing.

I don’t want to discuss why they failed- it’s moot at this point- I just want to say that my store was a really great store, and thousands of other Borders employees feel the same way about their stores.

Borders employed stores full of book lovers. And what better people to work with than with book lovers? And is there a better work environment than one filled with books? (And scones. Lots of scones.)

This Sunday, the last Borders stores will close their doors forever, including the flagship store in Ann Arbor.

I will miss them.

Think you could have worked at Borders? Take the quiz! It’s fun!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ralph Waldo Emerson vs. Peggy and Pam

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Emerson.

There are many drawbacks to working from home. Here’s but one example: Ella has, for whatever reason, removed all of the erasers from my Papermate pencils. Curses!

On the domestic front: lately, my house looks just like the shack featured at the end of The Blair Witch Project. Dingy with children’s hand prints all over the walls. There are no dead or possessed people standing in any corners, however.


We’re having serious problems over here. Like biblical plague-type problems.

We had a moth infestation in our pantry. I had to open the pantry doors and then duck for cover, lest I should inadvertently consume a moth. They got into the flour, cereal, pancake mix, oatmeal, rice, etc. I had scrub the shelves, throw out a lot of food, and vacuum up larvae (yes larvae) attached to the ceiling.

Our front yard is also crawling with moths. (A completely different type of moth, by the way, which you have to admit is a little freaky.) They burrow into the dirt and subsist on our already plagued-with-weeds grass. If you look, it appears that our front yard is mobile. So, we have to call the lawn people in to spray more poison all over the yard. I don’t get why no one else in the neighborhood seems to be suffering. I hired a lawn service this year just like everyone else.

Something is eating the leaves on my large maple tree in the front yard. This appears to be a different type of insect. I love that tree. If something happens to that tree, so help me God, I will throw a fit.

But you know what’s really disgusting? Going to get some meat out of your freezer to find that said freezer apparently died a couple of days ago and all of your food is rotting. The smell of death is overwhelming. You might throw up a little in your mouth. Which will happen again after you go get the rubber gloves and begin pulling decaying chicken carcasses from bacteria-ridden water at the bottom of the freezer. Goodbye ice-cream sandwiches, fish sticks, freeze pops, hamburgers, and hot dog buns.

I’m contacting a priest to exercise the demons.

That doesn’t look right.

Exorcise the demons. Though exercise works. Run them around and really wear them out, then give them a mop and bucket and put them to work in the kitchen.

I shouldn’t joke about the demons.

The messy dirty house is of course mostly my fault. Well, my kids’ fault, but I haven’t been on top of things. I need to get proactive. I’ve contacted a maid service, but I feel compelled to clean before they come. I don’t want them to think I’m a slob. God forbid.

So I ordered another self-help book. This is why self-help books continue to fly off bookshelves, or rather, electronic databases, faster than copies of The Bible: suckers like me who truly believe one truly excellent self-help book will solve all their problems. This particular one is called Sidetracked Home Executives. I was drawn to the term “Home Executive.”

The authors, sisters Pam Young and Peggy Jones, are funny. They list a “table of excuses” messy people use to avoid cleaning, which include:

I don’t have enough energy.
It’s too hot.
It’s too cold.
I’m not in the mood.
I’ve got too many kids.
I’ve got cramps.
My house is too big.
My house is too small.
We just moved in (three years ago).
I don’t have enough time.
Nobody cooperates with me.
I’d rather play solitaire (updated for 2011- Angry Birds).
I don’t want to do it.
I’m too intelligent for such remedial work.
I hate housework.
Nobody appreciates it anyway.
Creative people are messy.
I’m pregnant (I’m not).
I’ll start tomorrow.
I was up all night with the baby.
It’s the flu season.

My additions:

I’ve got moths.
I’ve got rotting chickens.
I have no more edible food.
We’re recovering from hurricane Irene.
I have an excessively hairy and destructive dog.
I’m currently very busy creating a playlist of New Wave love songs.
My husband works too much.
I think my house is haunted, and I don’t want to be in it.
I’m exhausted; I’ve been exercising the demons.

People keep telling me I need a routine. That sounds horrible. I don’t want to know what I’m doing every Monday, especially if it’s: “cleaning the upstairs bathroom, washing all the whites, making lasagna for dinner, and changing the sheets.” How very the opposite of droll.

Nothing scares me more than thinking that all the weeks of my life will ride the never-ending waves of laundry, dirty dishes, grocery shopping, and scrubbing stains off the toilet seat.

Yet, Peggy and Pam insist that if I get a routine going, cleaning will take up a small portion of time, and I’ll have the rest of the day to read romance novels, watch Dr. Phil, and take naps.

They said that. I’m not even joking.

I don’t like Dr. Phil.

But there’s no other month like September to get it together. I think I’d be happy if it was September all year long. And the other day, a friend called to ask if I could keep an eye on her son for a few hours, and I almost said no because I didn’t want the seven-year old kid to see my house. This is a problem.

Honestly, I’m tired. I go through dramatic mood changes. One day, the sun is shining and I truly believe: I can do this! Today, I will prepare three meals, dress my children in appropriate attire, put them on the bus, workout, take a shower, play hide-and-seek with the twins, write for three hours, do three loads of laundry, make doctor and dentist appointments, update my calendar, clean at least one bathroom, correct Caleb’s homework, scrub the crayon markings off the wall, sweep the kitchen floor, fix my hair before greeting the husband, and floss.

Other days: This is pointless. I am useless. Who ate the last oatmeal cream pie I will kill you. I hate flossing the dental hygienist can kiss my @#$.

The doctor calls it bi-polar disorder.

I call it motherhood. Some days are decidedly better than others. Would a routine help? Or is it just another goal I will fail to meet?

Also- someone has broken into my house and taken ½ of every pair of socks. I am sure of this, but the policemen think I’m crazy.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely...” Emerson.

(The serenely part is really funny.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Toothless Miser

Ben lost a tooth today. It was so gross. There was blood all over. He lacks those two front teeth, the ones so many children covet at Christmas-time. The gaping hole in his mouth doesn’t seem to bother him, however. He had other things on his mind, like how much his tooth was really worth.

“I’ve heard of kids getting $5 for their teeth,” he said.

“I’ve never heard that,” I responded.

“But I washed my tooth and it’s very white.”

“What are you saying?”

”I’m saying that you should call the tooth fairy’s boss for me.”

I may have called the tooth fairy’s regional manager once to complain about lack of service here on our street. The tooth fairy had an appalling habit of arriving late to our house.

The regional manager was quite apologetic. She even had the tooth fairy call to tell Ben she had been suffering from flying sickness and was very sorry for her tardiness.

“You really think your tooth is worth more than other kids’ teeth?” Ben nodded his head fervently. “Why?”

“Because it’s so cute. Look at it.”

Good grief.