A Baby Lizard to Start With

2 Oct 2009 In: Babies & Kids

Living in a sub-tropical climate certainly has its benefits  - and its drawbacks.  Chief amongst the drawbacks are the assorted beetles, spiders, snakes & lizards one must constantly contend with.   Even more terrifying than an actual encounter with a bug, snake or lizard are the horror stories everyone shares about these creatures inhabiting homes, cars,  food, or bodies (that’s another blog post, my friends).  Any casual social gathering where a pest story is recounted can quickly move the evening’s atmosphere from festive to group therapy session.

“We once had a snake loose in the bathroom for 2 months while my husband was away on duty,” one friend told me in response to someone else’s spider encounter.

“Oh my god! What did you do? Did you trap it?” I asked in horror.

“Eff that! I moved out and lived with my sister in law until he got back and took care of it,” she replied.

We all nodded our heads in agreement with her remedy to the problem; a logical solution to a terrifying problem if you ask me.

“Well, if you think that’s bad,” our other friend chimed in, “let me tell you about the time I had to kill a bat that was trapped in my A/C unit.  Let’s just say it required a new $1500 condenser coil and the smell of rotting meat emanating from every air vent in my house made you want to vomit.  Truly, I still have nightmares, it was so awful.”

A hush fell over the group at the thought of bat rot permeating our own homes. 

Someone said, “Jesus, bats? I’d never even thought of those.  Now how am I going to sleep tonight…”

I chimed in with my own horror story.

“Well when I was in my early twenties, I was leaving for work one morning and as I backed out of the driveway, I felt a bump.  When I got out to see what I’d run over, it was a lizard.  Except, I’d only squished his back half and the front half of him was still alive, trying to crawl away.”

My friends eyes widened. “Ew!  What did you do?”

“I was crying and I called Dick at work and asked him to come home.  He was super pissed that I called him over an injured lizard and he talked me into backing over the lizard again to end its suffering.”

“Did you do it?” they asked, leaning forward ever so slightly.

“I tried, but I couldn’t.  So I stood there sobbing for a few minutes and then walked two doors down to my in-law’s house and asked my 16-year old future sister-in-law to kill him for me.  She didn’t want to do it either so I bribed her. I told her I’d let her drive my car to her boyfriend’s house if she’d finish off the lizard for me.  But by the time we’d worked out a deal and she came over to kill him, he was already dead. I felt awful and there was a horrible, bloody stain all over my driveway.”

“How awful…,” everyone agreed.

My friends and I completed our therapeutic sharing by engaging in a silent group hug.  We knew each other’s pain all too well – the lingering jumpiness at every little movement out of the corner of your eye; the hesitancy to turn the light on in a darkened room for fear you’ll hear or see something scurry into the shadows; the imagined presence of beady eyes encased in impact-resistant exoskeletons lurking around every corner.  We may be moving on, but we will neverever forget.

*****

This year’s sub-tropical Florida summer has been long and brutal, producing ideal conditions for our plant beds to flourish with vibrantly green-hued flora & fauna.  Apparently all that extra vegetation has created an ideal breeding ground for lizards, frogs and other assorted uglies.  Every walk to our front door is like running a gauntlet through a reptile exhibit – lizards on the walls and the door and tiny frogs jumping over your feet with every other step.

As the children hold the front door open each morning, I usually have them pause to perform what I call the “critter check” to make sure no creepy-crawlies are clinging to it as it swings inward.  In my haste to leave one morning I neglected to do an adequate check of the door and a baby lizard, no longer than 2 or 3 inches, scampered inside and promptly disappeared under a table in my foyer.   As my eyes were distracted trying to follow the zipping lizard in my foyer, a second baby lizard slipped in through the open door and scurried up the wall adjacent to a planter.  I screamed.

The kids began to squeal in response to my screams of “NO..NO…NO…NO!” as I flailed my arms in disgust.

Dick responded to the commotion, remaining un-phased as the children recounted the terrible events leading up to two baby lizards being on the loose in our home.

Glancing at the clock, I realized I couldn’t stay and watch the lizard extraction process.  “I’ve got to go”, I said to Dick as I pushed the kids through the open door.  ”You’re the one who deals with pests so you get these things out of here!”

“I’m on it. I’ll get the broom.”

As I pulled out of the driveway I could see Dick sweeping in the direction of the open door.  I breathed a sigh of relief.

*****

Later that week I was preparing dinner when I glimpsed something small and green darting across the floor of the children’s nearby play area.

“DICK!!!!” I screamed at the top of my lungs.

“What is it?”

“Get in here RIGHT NOW. You didn’t get the lizards out of here, did you?”

Sheepishly, Dick admitted that he hadn’t been able to locate either lizard, let alone sweep them outside.

“So you were only pretending to sweep them out of here the other day? Why didn’t you say something to me?”

“I knew you wouldn’t want to sleep here if there were lizards on the loose.”

(Gotta give him credit for being right on this one…)

I was furious.  “Well, get them outta here!  I’ve even found one of them for you.  He’s hiding behind the kid’s toy box.”

Dick pulled the toy box away from the wall a bit so he could see where our little reptile roommate was residing.  He stood and scratched his head.

“Do you want me to get the broom again?” I asked.

“No. I think I’m going to try a different tactic.  Get me a plastic cup or a bowl. I’ll put it over him and then gently slide it and him across the floor and outside.”

I returned seconds later with a Glad disposable plastic bowl and lid.

Carefully, Dick leaned over to place the bowl over the lizard.  The kids were silent with anticipation.  I stood on a chair several feet away with one eye closed trying not to hyperventilate.

Just as Dick was about to lower the bowl, the baby lizard zigged and Dick zagged and then…SNAP!

Dick sighed.

“What? What’s going on Daddy? Did you catch him?” the kids begged.

“I’m afraid the poor little guy perished.” Dick explained.

“But what happened?”, we all demanded to know.

“He started to run away as I was lowering the bowl and the edge of the bowl came down on his neck and, well, let’s just say it killed him.”

“EWWWWWWWWWW!” we all screamed.

As the children and I looked on, Dick retrieved what was left of the deceased critter and unceremoniously flushed him down the toilet – a burial at sea.

Naturally, the children we’re horrified that their Daddy had actually killed a poor, innocent baby lizard. Dick and I went on to explain that it had never been our intention to harm him, rather it was an unfortunate accident.  That story worked –  for a few minutes.

*****

A few minutes later, as I chopped and then sauteed veggies on the stove, I noticed something moving near the philodendron I was watering in the kitchen sink. I put my spatula down and moved in for a closer look just as baby lizard #2 bolted from the planter into the garbage disposal…as it was running.

The sounds of mincing steel blades grinding up the baby lizard combined with my screams prompted the children to run over to see what was going on.

“Mommy, what happened??”

Dick emerged from another room with a “what-in-the-heck-is-going-on-now?” look on his face.

I pointed to the sink and said, “Baby lizard #2 fell in there.”

His face went a bit pale as the realization sunk in.

“Seriously?”

“Yep. He was in the plant and he was trying to jump from the edge of the pot to other side of the sink and he, well, he fell and…and, um, now he’s down there.  

Adam, never one to skip a beat these days asked, “Daddy, are you getting the baby lizard out?”

Me, not being so swift to catch on responded to Adam with, “No, Daddy can’t get him now.”

Dick shot my an annoyed look and leaned toward me, his voice in a low whisper.  ”Are you dense? I was going to pretend I’d caught it and fake an escape outside. Now he’s on to me.”

Adam looked up at us with a hint of a tear in his eye.  “Is the baby lizard dead?”

Dick rolled his eyes at me and nodded his head in Adam’s direction.

“Daddy, what happened to him? He’s just a baby!!! His mommy & daddy and brothers & sisters will all be looking for him!”

I made a pathetic attempt at addressing Adam’s concerns.

“Maybe it’s just his mommy & daddy looking for him now since we killed one of his brothers or sisters earlier.”

“Sam, that was so NOT helpful,” Dick quipped.

I leaned over and grabbed Adam & Tabitha in my arms and pulled them in close for a group hug.  “It’s all over,” I said in a soothing voice as I rubbed their backs. 

But even as I hugged them close I knew the memory of the baby lizard massacre would live on.  The combination of the grinding noise of the garbage disposal as it made mincemeat out of one baby lizard and the sight of the limp, lifeless body of the other baby lizard circling the toilet bowl would leave a lifelong imprint.  In the years to come, the children would reflect on this day as the day their parents slaughtered two innocent baby lizards.  I imagined their horrific tale being recounted in a group therapy session with other suvivors of parental abuse would choke back cries of horror.  Dick and I would not fare well in the re-telling of the tale.  At least we could take some comfort in knowing that the group hug at the end of the session might help them move on.  But I knew they would neverever forget.

 

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I’ll make a deal with you fellow parents: you stop sending my kid home with cheap, messy or destructive toys in birthday party goody bags and I won’t tell your kids where you really put all the “art” projects and worksheets they bring home from preschool…if you get my drift.

Look, I understand that you don’t want my kid to leave your kid’s birthday party empty-handed.  It makes you look cheap in the eyes of the other parents.  However, the problem with your logic is this: giving away crap also makes you look cheap.  Your thoughtfulness about the feelings of my child would come across as a lot more sincere if all the “goodies” you provided didn’t speak to an overwhelming sense of obligation on your part.  So, allow me to share these thoughts with you – to free you from this ridiculous burden:

I’m just going to throw away or recycle those shitty toys (after my kids are asleep of course). If you really don’t want to send my kid home from your kid’s party empty-handed please give him something the entire family can enjoy, like coffee beans (dark roast, please), alcohol or chocolate.

There.  Feel better now?

No?  Well, if you absolutely can’t resist the urge to gift and coffee, booze & chocolate for 25 is out of your budget, for godsake, please DO NOT send my kid home with any more of the following:

  • Brightly-colored choking hazard-size toys that are far too deadly for my child to actually play with
  • Ink stamps that will result in every hard surface in my home being covered with stamped quasi-inspirational phrases like ”Way to go!”, “You Rock!” or worse, a happy face
  • Those sheets of stickers with the surface-etching, epoxy-like adhesive that NASA should use to secure heat shield tiles to the underside of the space shuttle
  • Noise-makers, horns, harmonicas or other alleged musical instruments designed to induce parental migraines or seizures
  • Any toy that mimics the noises of bodily functions.  We’ve got plenty of things that burp & fart already, thank you.
  • Any substance described on the package with the words “goo”, “poo”, “slime”, or “boogers”.  Again, we’re good there…

I acknowledge that my stance on “goodies” is harsh, and somewhat self-serving (particularly the request for booze & chocolate).  I’m sympathetic to your situation. We’ve all been in your shoes – crippled by minimal planning time and budget.  I know that it’s easy to grab handfuls of those cheap crap toys in the dollar bins at Michael’s or Target and shove them in a cute bag tied with ribbon.  However, I think (and I’m hoping you’ll agree with me) that it’s time to stand up to parental peer pressure and say, “Kids, in real life you don’t leave other people’s parties with gifts. The best gifts in life are not the ones you receive, but the ones you give from the heart – thoughtfully and with care & consideration for the recipient.” 

For those of you who remain concerned about your reputation with other parents, allow me to sweeten the deal a little. You promise to keep these so-called “goodies” out of my kid’s hands and I won’t send your kid home from our next party with something like this.

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Brutha’ can you spare me some change?

29 Sep 2009 In: Working

Apparently Dick and I are very fortunate.  In a brutal economic climate, we have managed – miraculously – to remain employed and yet I, for one, feel no sense of good fortune and little of anything resembling genuine gratitude – only the begrudging gratitude of a prisoner apportioned his daily ration of bread & water by the guards.

I certainly don’t mean to come off as unaware of my good fortune.  I do recognize how lucky we are and how bad things could have gotten.  But even before the economy started heading south I felt a sense of gloom about my long-term prospects in the corporate world.  Perhaps it was the lack of options for us working parents with small children that got me started on the slippery slide into full-blown disillusionment. Or maybe it was hearing senior leadership refer to co-workers with the same smug disdain they usually reserved for our clients. Whatever it was that finally pushed me over the edge, there’s no doubt that I’m only one of many facing a state of jobful despair. There are scores of people like me simply collecting a paycheck and lacking passion for their job despite the fact that they love their work.  What’s worse: I’ve realized that my disillusionment isn’t because I don’t feel hope or see potential for companies and their workers to succeed together, but rather, I’m disillusioned because I do.  Call it my Jerry Maguire moment if you’d like but I can’t stop asking myself, “Isn’t there more to life than this?”

*****

It was in May, amidst this tough operating environment where workers give more and get less and with a larger climate of uncertainty looming over the American consumer, that my company’s new management team made an “important” announcement.

“Clearly, we can’t go into 2010 doing the same things in the same way,” they said.  ”It’s time we leverage our ingenuity, initiative and drive to achieve our goals.  In short, it’s time for some change.”

We all leaned forward, hands cupped to our ears in anticipation.

Saying that you want to change things always has the effect of generating excitement, unless it’s abused, in which case it’s just another in a series of empty promises, full of sound & fury but little meaning.

Largely, we all remained optimistic.  New leadership and new vision at the top might actually bring about the change we knew we needed.  Months went by…

And then, one sticky September day change arrived in the form of an email announcement with the subject reading:

“Let’s ‘Dress for Success’: A Corporate Pride Initiative”

(That thudding sound you just heard was the sound of a 400+ foreheads simultaneously banging their desks in frustration)

The email announcement went on to describe the importance of “wearing our corporate pride” and then laid out the plan (with full-color flyers and examples of well-dressed vs. inappropriately dressed workers) for shifting from a semi-casual dress code to a business casual dress code.  Sadly, all of this was positioned as a visionary concept sure to pull us out of our dire economic straights and back into the black.

Oh wise corporate dynamos, what were you thinking?  You went off into your plush corner office for several months while we all plowed ahead under what could best be described as minimal guidance and this is what you came back with?  A new dress code? That is your big idea for fostering change, ingenuity, and drive?  You want us to change our company culture starting with our pants?  With the odds stacked against us and the going getting tougher and tougher, the tough – according to your logic – put on a sharper outfit?

And then came the realization: we are so, totally, SCREWED.

*****

I know I’m not alone in my feelings of worker disillusionment.  Everywhere I go I talk to men and women who are working the jobs of 3 or more people and haven’t seen a raise or even a cost of living increase in more than 2 years. When I talk to these friends about what keeps them afloat, it’s always the same: a steady wage and their dreams.  And those dreams are coming true for some of us – women in particular – who are smarter than Corporate America seems to think we are.  Smart enough to know when to get out, at least.

According to US News & World Report between 1997 and 2004, the number of businesses owned by women grew by almost 20 percent, compared with only a 9 percent increase overall.  While I’m sure our current economy has stifled this growth, I find this to be an astounding figure – a clear message in the form of a single-fingered salute; a message which says: “We will do better than this”.

Unfortunately, it’s a message many companies seem to be ignoring in the face of more recent economic turmoil.  But economic conditions are cyclical and, indeed companies do need to change to retain their relevancy to both workers and consumers alike. But it’s women who are showing they have the will and the smarts necessary to realize potential.  So if economies are cyclical and change is a constant in the universe, and the pillars of the modern American workforce are burnt out, pissed off and planning their escape, then aren’t we about due for a perfect storm?

I think there’s a chance – albeit a slim one – that we can avoid a messy break-up with Corporate America by exercising better communication skills.  After all, most of Corporate America is still run by men and we all know that men don’t understand 90% of what we’re saying.  Perhaps we’ve been talking them to death (like we do…)?  Maybe it’s time we lay it out in a way that even they can understand.

That got me thinking. What if I could write a “Dear John” letter to Corporate America and tell this thug of a mate, clearly and unambiguously what I want out of a relationship and why our current one just isn’t working for me? What if we all did?  Would we really make the change we want to see in the world?

Dear Corporate America -

You may not know me very well, but I’ve been working for you for the better part of 20 years now.  It’s because of our long-term relationship that I am compelled to write this letter and let you know about the serious mistakes you’re making. These mistakes are so unforgivable that I may soon be forced to leave you and join the ranks of my bolder, more entrepreneurial sisters. But before I allow my emotions to carry me away, I’d like to point out your mistakes to you in a way that’s constructive so that, hopefully, you’ll do your part to turn this relationship around, or at least prevent your behavior from destroying all of your future relationships.

Following are the keys to making our relationship work.  They’re pretty easy and there’s only four of them (to keep you from feeling too overwhelmed).

I need…

to be inspired – just a little bit – so that I don’t feel like I’m wasting my life on a venture that’s destined to fail while working for people whose cluelessness would engender my pity if I weren’t so damn angry.  I want to be made to see the potential in what I’m doing – and as a leader it’s your job to show it to me.  Make it clear and make it matter.

the right amount (and type) of challenges to stay intellectually engaged and empowered.  I don’t want to do work that I suck at just to collect a paycheck.  If I wanted to do that, I’d go back to working in food service.  I want to be skilled and I want to learn new things so I can become a better me.  You can and should want that for me as well.

to be treated like an adult. I “get” that not all of us act like adults all of the time (myself included), but I think I deserve the benefit of the doubt.  Didn’t your mother ever tell you that it’s always better to treat people the way you want them to behave?  Besides, when you invite me to be part of the solution instead of treating me as though I’m part of the problem, I’m far more interested in furthering our relationship.

to be compensated fairly for my achievements. We all sell-out, that’s the nature of working for someone else.  Consider compensating me fairly as a form of business insurance so that the next time I get restless about my decision to be a whore – the money doesn’t become the focus of my angst.

As a working mom, I’ve already got a leg up on you in terms of mental agility and a general willingness to embrace risk. Voluntarily turning one’s life upside down to raise children – now that’s some risk-taking!  The ability to maintain one’s sanity while juggling a job, a marriage, and  a 4 year old and a 5 year old who are all simultaneously screaming for your full-attention requires, shall we say a “generous” amount of talent, time & resource management.  These things come easily to me, but I’ve seen how you operate and it’s not pretty.  That means I’ve realized that I don’t need you to be successful.  If I can spend my days solving your problems, my problems and my family’s problems then I can certainly succeed in business on my own terms.

The ideas I’ve shared here are nothing new or terribly revolutionary.  You may be apt to dismiss me or label me as naive, but I know from my highlighted hair to my peep-toe pumps that good business is all about people  - and if there’s one thing we women are keenly aware of it’s people.  It is our sociability that feeds us and provides us with our amazing ability to relate to one another. That power coupled with our desire to do things right and make things better in this world is the reason more and more of us are leaving you and not looking back.

So unless you can turn this relationship around in short order, I see no choice but to move on before you leave me or force me out.  Either way, you should know that I’ll be walking away with more than a severance check and a reference.  I’ll be taking my amazing intellect, my innate understanding of people, and my mad PowerPoint skills with me.  I may not be the last woman you’ll ever have, but I’m certainly going to be one of the best.

Sincerely,

Sam

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