Dispatch From the Front – Happiness is ….

One of my favorite lines from Alice in Wonderland is when the king tells Alice to begin at the beginning, to go on until she comes to the end, and then to stop.

So I will begin at the beginning of a day that was strange and beautiful, brutiful, as Momastery would say (which I think is actually brutal and beautiful, but you know what I mean).

It all sort of started the same, that internal clock that makes me feel I am up late, when really it is somewhere between 6:43 and 6:47. I cannot look at the clock until the coffee is brewing (because I have strange and beautiful habits), and so I always know too late that I could go back to bed. In reality though, I couldn’t, because there are large rabbit-soft cats twining themselves betwixt my ankles, and a dog who forgets every. single. day. that we have done this dance a thousand times and the order of things as he dances around and click clacks on the kitchen floor, slipping and sliding in some demented dog dance.

He gets very happy in the morning. He goes out, usually sticks around, sometimes goes on an adventure in which contingency I am forced to swear (before 7am!) and go back in the house and wait for his pathetic little scratching on the door. We come in and have coffee and let the cats eat and then we think about maybe waking up the children. The demented dog gets very excited at this prospect and the dance begins again. He jumps onto Kaia’s bed, he chuffs and moans and talks, he lifts the covers with his nose and shoves that same moist and cold thing into her armpits. Avery is offended every day that he can’t get onto the top bunk, like I said, its like people forget the order of things.

We discuss breakfast, daddy gets up, we eat and daddy goes to work. Our friends arrive and we have 20 glorious minutes of Spongebob or Minecraft and then its off to school. And then I come home and its just me and the dog and the rabbit-soft cats and the last cup of coffee in the pot, the stale one.

And then I work. I think this is the part that gets left out when people hear me say I work from home. I think all they hear is, from home. But I am actually working, tethered to a desk and an incoming phone queue, an ever increasing amount of calls that do not pertain specifically to me as the season for those collector cars gains speed.

I’m sure Maybe it’s my own fault. I’ve inherited somehow this specific character trait of my father’s, where I don’t talk about work, it stays at work, And when I do people’s eyes sort of glaze over, and thinking myself the intuitive sort, I just sort of…change the subject. But what I do is pour over estimates and photos, issue thousands of dollars every day in payments on damaged vehicles that are so much more than vehicles to the people who own then and love them and polish them… and crack them up.

I argue over what a supplement is, what a covered loss is, what policy language means, insist that I am licensed in all the states (because I AM!). I talk to my boss, I go to meetings where I am piped in via phone. I talk to other carriers and send a million emails and read a million more. And inside of all that I have a doddering old boy who wags his tail when I walk by, and an electric kettle eager to brew up an English instant coffee.

And a neighbor who loves to talk me if he can catch me, a mailman who is the same. And another phone that rings.

So its a different sort of challenge, I can’t enter the glass doors of an office and board an elevator and sort of leave it behind. It’s right here: clogged toilet? I’m on it. We’re out of coffee? Its being handled. Bad internet connection? I’m troubleshooting.

So there’s all that.

And there was 4:15 today, which came and went, as I tried to tread water and also climb out of the pool to go and work at the soup kitchen. You have the gracious ones, the new ones, the creepy ones. It takes all kinds to make a community and I’m not purposely being cruel, just stating facts. If I was creepy I think I would know that I was being creepy.

We popped open four cans of soup when we ran out of Carolyn’s homemade soup, we promised to pass on the rave reviews for her creation. We made more salad and more coffee. We opened packets of cookies when we ran out of pies to slice and serve.

There are small moments inside all of this. Small moments that are, I truly believe, the saving graces. There was a call to a former supervisor in which we giggled and laughed in a way that bordered on hysteria, both of us tired, with young families and demanding jobs. There was the way my friend’s very green eyes filled and her nose turned red when she talked about missing a daughter, about the 85/15 ratio, which I get.

There was sitting and drinking coffee with our last guest as he finished his meal, in the frenzy of tables being broken down and dishes being washed and cutlery clinking in the kitchen. There was him saying frankly, as he scraped his soup bowl, so how ya been? What’s new? What does the D on your hat mean?

There was my Cindi taking one look at me and knowing I was at the very end of my rope and ready to jump, and also that the best thing to do when I am that way is to show me she loves me and simultaneously not make a big deal out me.

I visited our refugee family tonight, the children don’t really speak with an accent, and the dad has gained a comfortable paunch, and the mother hugged me and nodded and agreed that housekeeping in a hotel is such hard work. I wanted her to know that I see her, I see doing that, cleaning up after others and washing and folding sheets and towels, because I’ve been there and done that. The dad gestured to the lease, which is an astounding length and said, what does it all say?


What does it all say?

There was choir and my dear friend. There are four F’s and then four E’s and we kept dropping the third one and the pianist sight read beautifully because she is just made that way I guess.

And finally, coming up the stairs from the choir room/bomb shelter with new music and seeing a friend approach me with open arms and teary eyes and telling me he is so proud and so honored to serve on my discernment committee.

And coming home and my children, one in inside out pajamas and proudly sporting no underpants, a dog who has, again,  forgotten the order of a things, and a husband I saw for ten minutes this morning and that’s all.

Except for a clean house and homework that is done.

Except for three people and a demented dog who are happy to see me. And two cats who are happy but would never overtly express such emotion when it can be pitty-patted out on the living room rug.

And tomorrow, tomorrow! My column will be published, something very different, I hope, than the responses I’ve read. Something that is true to who I want to be. I am not perfect, I get the giggles during rehearsals, I say things that aren’t nice (little side story: Kaia told me that some girl on the bus told her, in a snotty way, that she liked her outfit and how nice it must be to wear pajamas. I was horrified when the first I thing I responded with was, well you should ask her if she has something on her face or if it always looks that way. SCREAM. So you see, I am not a nice person, I obviously do not PRACTICE WHAT I PREACH).

I hope you see, when you read it though, when you chime in with an anonymous screen name on the paper’s website, that you see I am right. That we do have a duty, a call, all of us, to respect other people. I like much more to write like this, to not stir all the people up, but sometimes it is necessary for the people to be properly stirred, like a roux; if you don’t stir it will be a lumpy and burned mess.

I’m listening to the Beatles and smelling the lilac candle lit down the hall, and hearing the quiet, and seeing the huge cat looking at me with dragon eyes on the bed, willing me in.

I think I will go. But now you know, in my rather lengthy dispatch, a true day in the life. 

I’ve started at the beginning, gone on rather long, and have arrived at the end.

So I will stop.



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