rooted, but still growing

Archive for April 2008

About a month or so ago, Steve and I got an adorable beagle puppy. Although the housetraining has been a little rough and she was totally spoiled rotten before we got her, it’s been a pretty pleasant experience. Waylon (yes, Waylon) loves people, has already learned to sit when told, and keeps us giggling with her silly puppy antics.

            Because we both work full-time, we keep her in a crate in the living room throughout the day, and it has helped with the housebreaking. I’ve only had to clean the crate once, and she’s good about “going potty” outside when we take her. Tuesday was the first day she didn’t make a single mess in the house, so needless to say I was pretty excited.

            Ah, but it was short-lived. All hell broke loose on Wednesday and my sweet little Waylon turned into Satandog.

            Steve hasn’t been feeling well this week, so he went home early Wednesday afternoon to rest. In his infinite wisdom, he decided to nap upstairs in our bedroom and left Waylon free reign of the downstairs area. Of course, the stairs were blocked with a baby gate so as to keep her from disturbing his slumber.

            I’ve taken to driving home barefoot because my feet get so darn hot in my shoes throughout the day. Imagine my chagrin when I stepped through my front door and sank my left foot into a fresh, squishy pile of poo on the entry rug.

            Then imagine my surprise when, upon entering the living room, I find that my sweet, well-behaved puppy had chewed up the newest issue of Rolling Stone magazine, one of my sandals, a couple of books and a few rugs. Itty bitty pieces of paper were strewn everywhere, as were toys and blankets.

            Steve? Well, he was snoring away, oblivious to the destruction downstairs.

            I scolded the dog (not that it did any good) and cleaned up the mess, resigning the situation to the fact that we had left things lying about and she had been allowed to roam. I wasn’t thrilled, but there wasn’t much that could be done. And hey, to only have one occurrence in more than a month isn’t such a bad record.

            This morning, though, demonstrated that my little girl is, in fact, a demon. She pulled one of Steve’s sweaters out of his closet, yanked one of my shoes out of my closet, crapped on the bathroom rug, peed on the bathroom scale and generally whined and moaned all morning. I suppose the food, shelter and love we’ve showered her with is just not enough and she’s decided to wage some kind of bodily fluid-and-chewing war against us. Her strongest strategy? Those darn puppy dog eyes. She’ll look you in the face, crap on the carpet and then look at you again like “I’m so sweet and cute and I love you so much that you can’t possibly be angry at me, can you? Can you? Can you? CAN YOU?” And this, I’m certain, is followed by an internal MWUHAHAHAHA.

            I suppose it could be worse. But I swear, if this keeps up, I’m calling a priest. One day of spewed pea soup is better than a lifetime of cleaning up dog dookie.

             

It is now 3:36 p.m. and I have just realized that I have my shirt on backwards.

It appears springtime has finally arrived here in the Mid-Ohio Valley, even if it was hog-tied and dragged in kicking and screaming. I was beginning to wonder whether the gray skies and rain would ever end, but I’m pleased to announce that I’ve got the patio door and several windows open, enjoying the warmer temperatures and evening sunshine. I’m definitely one of those people whose moods are directly affected by the weather (apparently I don’t get enough Vitamin D in my diet or something), because when it’s dreary, I’m sluggish and sullen. When it’s sunny, I get on this weird natural high and practically emit energy and optimism.

 

Another reason I’m glad spring is here is it signals the start of the planting season. I don’t have a yard of my own, but I’m looking forward to seeing the kaleidoscope of flowers and such that people in this area develop. Planting season also means garden season, and my parents are already hard at work laying their annual roots. My dad has had a garden – several, in fact – for as long as I can remember. Many childhood hours were spent pulling weeds, removing rocks and either digging or picking the bounties. His gardens were really quite something – onions, peppers, corn, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, rhubarb, squash and cucumbers all grew on the sides and tops of that West Virginia mountain they call home. The gardens’ sizes diminished a few years ago, as my dad is physically handicapped and my grandmother, another avid big-gardener and dad’s helper, grew older and more restricted in her abilities. It was sad, but understandable, to see that happen.

 

This year, though, my parents have plans to revive the old garden days. My mom is on some weird outdoor kick – while she always helped with the garden, it was more dad’s thing. Not anymore. She’s trying different varieties of the traditional vegetables and has already planted a grapevine and black- and raspberry bushes. I think they also want to grow a few fruit trees, if I remember correctly. I discovered yesterday that they had most of the trees in their yard chopped down (for fear of them being blown over onto the house) and are investigating other types of trees and plants with which to replace them. Although I was a bit disappointed to see the trees go (they’d been there practically since I was born!), I am really glad that they are remaining active and have found a way to not only spend time together, but also live healthy lives.

 

This whole vegetable garden thing has gotten me thinking lately, what with Earth Day approaching and the renewable energy aspects of my job. I’ve really made an effort to purchase only healthy foods like fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains and lean meat, while seriously cutting back on processed foods. But I went to the grocery store today and left absolutely appalled.

 

First, have you noticed how the produce sections comprise only about 1/6 of the square footage of your average grocery store? The meat and dairy sections are another 1/3, while the remaining space is filled with mostly processed junk. That’s bad enough, but wait, it gets worse. Guess which is cheapest – fruits, vegetables and meat (the essentials of a healthy diet) or the frozen, canned, salted, petrified, preserved and boxed crap?

 

Give yourself a pat on the back if your guess was “crap”. That’s right – the stuff that we need to live, the vitamins and minerals necessary to sustain our existence as human beings costs way more than the junk that can lead to illnesses such as overweight, diabetes and heart disease. I paid nearly $3 for three cucumbers, and two red peppers hit my wallet to the tune of $3.74. In addition to these two items, I purchased bagged spinach, a bag of spring salad mix, carrots, bananas, onions, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, green peppers, celery, string cheese, 2% shredded cheddar, whole grain tortillas, organic brown rice, frozen chicken breasts, a jar of spaghetti sauce, a carton of egg whites, a loaf of whole wheat bread, whole wheat hamburger buns, a tiny jar of green chilis, four cans of crab meat, a gallon of skim milk, turkey patties, hamburger patties and some breakfast sausage and my bill was $99.31.

 

Almost ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS for groceries that we could very likely go through in a week and a half. W. T. F?

 

Of course, with fuel prices on the rise, it’s easy to see why groceries are becoming more expensive. Everything’s becoming more expensive. I say this phrase all the time, but it truly applies in this situation: It’s ridiculous.

 

And eye-opening. I shopped at Wal-Mart today because I had to pick up some prescriptions for Steve, plus it tends to be cheaper than other supermarkets. However, I will no longer purchase my groceries there. I am choosing to patronize local stores and meat markets, and as soon as I can I will purchase vegetables from the many local farm markets in this area. There are tons in Ohio, not far from my office. I just can’t justify spending tons of cash at these large chain stores when I can purchase better products at better prices right here in my backyard, where I’ll at least know where my food came from. I’m also hoping to spend a lot of time this summer helping my parents in their gardens, as well as learning to can the harvest with my mom. I think it will be fun, plus I can definitely use the exercise and opportunity to learn something new.

 

I attended an event last night where all the food was grown or produced within the state of West Virginia. I’m looking into the organization behind this initiative, and I plan to write more about what they’re doing as soon as I learn more about it. In short, I’m excited that people are beginning to investigate ways we, as consumers, can positively affect our local economies while treating ourselves better.

 

Last night I had to give a presentation on electric safety to a group of firefighters a few miles out of town where I work. On the way home, I chose a different route and ended up taking the long way because I never carry cash and, thanks to the ignorant parents who made their young children whore stand in the middle of the highway collecting change for Little League, I didn’t have enough coins to pay the 35-cent toll back across the Ohio River.

 

It was only a few extra miles, but the path led me past the place I worked up until sometime in January. It was around 8:30 p.m., so there weren’t many cars in the parking lot – just the unfortunate few pulling the evening shift to ensure that everyone had the news waiting on their doorsteps when they awoke this morning. As I drove past, I glanced quickly through the windows – the only windows in the place are in the doors – and thought about my experiences there. This particular publication is owned by the company where I’d been employed for the previous five years, though I only spent 7 ½ months at this location.

 

They were the worst 7 ½ months of my life.

 

It’s funny how one area – no matter how large or small – can affect your entire life. I won’t get into all the specifics because, really, who wants to hear another hate-my-job story. I will, however, provide a brief summary if for no other reason than to feel at least a little bit vindicated in my truth-telling about this horrific establishment. In short, this newspaper is owned by a national chain that I’m fairly certain wouldn’t spit on an employee if she were on fire. The “management team” (in quotations because none of them are leaders and they certainly do not work as a team) appeared to have been recruited from the pack of misfits abandoned by the last freak show carnival that rolled through town. The employees are overworked, underpaid and, for the most part, completely unprofessional, which isn’t entirely their fault because they are not and will never be offered adequate training on how to do their jobs. Health insurance is an option only because it’s offered by the federal government, and the accounting manager doesn’t even want to pay travel expenses (travel, by the way, is a requirement of most of the jobs there). Cooperation is a curse word, and heaven forbid anyone try to do something that benefits a customer.

 

But the absolute worst part about that company was its ability to kill a spirit. Because my prior job was no picnic either, I remember how excited I was to get started, and how much I looked forward to a new opportunity. The duo who hired me blew a lot of smoke, complimented my education and experience, told me what a great asset I’d be and then put me behind a desk for six weeks with nothing to do. Nothing. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except it was a commission-based job. At every turn, there were promises and lies with absolutely no support. I wish I could say that it only happened to me, but unfortunately it happened to my co-workers, too – and it was worse for some of them.

 

I wish I could explain just how badly this job affected my life. I dreaded waking up in the morning and spent Sundays twisted up in anxiety because I didn’t want to face another workweek. I cried probably every other day. Steve and I fought so much there were times I truly wondered whether I’d find my bags packed and waiting on the front porch when I got home. I gained weight. And I worried – oh, God how I worried. That job made me question everything about myself – my education, my abilities, my worth as a person.

 

It was on a Sunday afternoon shopping trip to Charleston with Steve where the wheels to my new life were set in motion. I’d had enough – I was looking for a new job. We had picked up a copy of this publication during breakfast. A few hours later while waiting in the truck for Steve to come out of a store, I flipped through the classified section and found an ad seeking qualifications in just about everything I’m suited for. Steve and I agreed that I should apply – it wouldn’t hurt to send in an application and see what happened.

 

So I did, though for some reason I waited until the application period was nearly over. In the meantime, I received a promotion that temporarily relieved me of my hell and was the one promise that actually became reality (and I do remain thankful for that and the effort it took from my then-boss). A few interviews later, I got the new job, a fancy title and a heck of a pay raise. And despite the hell I’d lived through for the past several months, I still felt guilty about quitting.

 

Ha. There’s no trace of guilt in this girl now. I am happier than I can remember being in years. I work at a place filled with kind, knowledgeable people who actually care and who are there at every step to offer a helping hand. I feel respected and appreciated, and I enjoy my duties. I have numerous opportunities to learn new things, go new places, meet new people. I feel like what I do now actually affects my community and the world in a positive way. I am living in utter liberation.

 

I thought about those things in the moments between passing that office and arriving home. I also thought about the people still there – good, hardworking people just trying to do a good job and get by. Despite the horrors, I made a lot of friends and did a lot of laughing. The best part of the day was chatting with the girls, listening to their stories and giggling at their off-colored jokes. If they were here right now, I would tell them to never give up – to know that there is indeed more to life and it doesn’t have to be so hard. Every one of them is capable of so much more, and most of all, they DESERVE it. They deserve to know that their hard work is appreciated and that they are more than a sales goal or ad layout. They are more than the crap they take from their customers and their bosses. They are more than that shitty job.

 

I’ve often wondered why I had to endure such a difficult, albeit brief, time in my life. Looking back now, I have the answer. The hardship that I experienced gave me a greater appreciation for the blessings I do have. It also made me stronger, and it made me respect myself. I will never again question myself, and I will never again stand for such abuse. If anything, I now know that I – nor anybody else – has to simply shut up and take it.

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