Tabatha Deans

Bringing Integrity to the Written Word

Me too.

One of my favorite columnists, Robert Kirby, was recently suspended by the Salt Lake Tribune for alleged inappropriate behavior. He is just the latest in a long line of men who have been terminated or suspended after a woman accused them of harassing her. Harassment is never okay.

So I am compelled to speak out.

I harassed Robert Kirby.

It was about ten years ago and I was doing contract work for the Salt Lake Tribune. I had a desk in the newsroom, and as I was setting it up Kirby came around and introduced himself. I was just one of many temporary writers who came through the newsroom, but I had been a fan of his writings for many years. I saw his head above my desk, and stood up to meet him. He shook my hand and I found myself staring at him, at a loss for words.  I stumbled but finally spoke.

“Hi, it’s nice to meet you. I love your writings,” I said. I don’t remember his exact words, but I think he bristled a little and stood up taller. He was pleasant and polite, and I realized he knew I was sizing him up. I knew his picture from his column, but here in front of me he was a bigger, older, grayer man , with facial hair that I found to be unfortunate.

I had just size- shamed, age-shamed and follically-shamed Kirby, all within the eight seconds it takes us as humans to make a judgement about a person. It showed on my face, and I could tell by the look on his face he knew what had just occurred.

“When was the picture taken in your column?” I asked, a bit weakly.

Kirby was very good natured, paused for a moment, and smiled. I didn’t think he took offense at the time, I felt we were just a couple of humans who had just shared an awkward moment.  I never personally interacted with Kirby again while I was in the newsroom, but it’s an open space so a lot is overheard. I don’t believe Kirby’s accused acts were based on the sex of the accuser. I suspect there are equal amounts of men out there who would say Kirby offended them as well.

I also harassed Dustin, a “Cutebutdumb ” bouncer from nearly 20 years ago. I encouraged him to stay after the bar closed and have a drink. Sometimes I encouraged him to make out with me, even when he said he had to get home.

And then there was the Layout Guy. I was working at a struggling weekly paper, and we were starting to turn it around. But the layout guy had been there forever, and used a Tetris format when putting the pages together. Often times above -the-fold stories got bumped just because he thought it looked better his way.

One week we had a spectacular paper. Big scoop, important stuff that was going to really make a difference. We were all psyched, but it was stuck at the layout guy. The editor and photographer had both been in the layout guy’s office, and came out threatening to quit immediately. I had watched this all play out over the last hour, and marched into the layout guy’s office. I don’t know if it was out of respect, awe of my written words or the fact that I had breasts, but the Layout Guy was always on his best behavior around me.

I asked him how the front page was coming, he blushed and smiled, and his knee bounced slightly. He said he was working on it. He moved stuff around on the page, as I watched over his shoulder. He listened to every suggestion I made without arguing, and within a couple of minutes the page was ready to send. He sent it, and we chatted for a few minutes before he went back to work.

Human or Harasser?

 

 

 

September 18, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our own perceptions

Once again, Petra, who is nearing 5 years old, reminded me of how our perceptions are our own, and everyone is entitled to their own reality. And of course, she taught me this lesson using boots. My boots.

It was a Grammy weekend, and Robert and I were getting ready to take Petra to the park. We had planned to walk all the way up to McDonald’s, about a half mile away, but realized Petra had left her shoes in Jessica’s car. No worries for Petra, she headed to my closet to raid my shoes, and returned with her favorite pair of red Gucci, spiked heel boots. I got them years ago because they were beautiful and free, but have been unable to walk in them other than the occasional trip around the house. She has loved them from the time she could walk, and every trip to our house involves her prancing around in them.

She came out wearing the Gucci boots, and was ready for the park. Robert and I, only concerned with whether or not she could make the journey in the boots, began talking her out of them.

“Those boots won’t work,” I said.

“Why?” Petra asked.

“Those aren’t good heels, you won’t be able to walk in them.”

“Yes I can,” she walked around the living room.

“Well, they won’t work. Find something else.” I knew I was right.

She marched back to my closet and returned wearing another pair of boots. Shiny black leather with two inch heels, that came up over her knee. She looked very much like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

“Those won’t work.” I said.

“Why not?” Petra asked. I couldn’t tell her that she looked like a tiny lady of the evening, and that Robert and I would be judged as the worst grandparents on the block.

“Those heels are too high,” I said.

“No they’re not,” she again pranced around the room confidently and steadily.

“Ugh, pick something else,” I said.

She returned with a third pair, a black suede pair with a wedge heel. Still had the look of Pretty Woman, but we were wearing down so I only half-heartedly tried to talk her out of them. Robert and I decided we would only go as far as the park, and figured it would be a painfully slow walk with her marching in oversized boots.

“These will work Grammy. Look, they don’t have a sharp heel,” Petra made her case.

“Okay, let’s go then,” we headed out the garage, Petra ahead of us, as we watched her clomp down the driveway to the sidewalk.

The moment her feet hit the level sidewalk, Petra began running, lifting her knees high, not the least bit wobbly. She had the biggest smile on her face, and her blond hair was blowing in the wind as she turned to yell back at us.

“Look, look what these boots can do Grammy!”

We heard the clomping all the way around the corner, as we hustled to keep up with her through the neighborhood.

September 7, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Our own reality

When I was about 11 years old, living in the small town of Vernal, Utah, I hatched an elaborate plan to get a brand new 10-speed bicycle. Bicycles were the mode of transportation for my best friend Kathy and I, and I desperately wanted one of the new, sleek bikes, but I come from modest roots, and knew the expense involved was not an option for my parents.

My plan was simple. The annual Jerry Lewis telethon was coming up, and each town held their own competition to raise money. The first place prize was a small black and white television. That wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted the second place prize, which was a ten-speed bike. I didn’t even have to raise the most money, just enough to take second.

All I had to do was go door-to-door through my neighborhood and get pledges for the town’s skate-a-thon. Then I had to skate for 24 hours straight, and the bike would be mine. I didn’t tell anyone I secretly wanted the bike, and when the time came for the skate-a-thon I was sure I was in the running for second place. My family, being ever so helpful and wanting to help me win first place, came in with some late donations while I was skating, elevating me to first place status. Although the first place winner got to be on live t.v. and travel to Salt Lake, I was disappointed to have lost my dream bike. I think I told my parents at some point of my disappointment.

I traveled to Salt Lake City and made my appearance on the telethon, and was a minor celebrity for about five minutes. I took my little t.v. home and set it up in my room, but we had strict t.v. rules in our home, and I was only allowed to watch it when my parents said I could.

I don’t remember how long I sat with my disappointment before my grandparents came to visit from Salt Lake. My grandfather was known for “finding stuff alongside the road,” and lo and behold, when they showed up at our house he had a  brand new ten-speed bike with him. A gift for me for doing so well in the skate-a-thon. I couldn’t believe my luck. I never really loved the t.v., but I rode the hell out of that bike for many years.

For forty years, every time I tell that story, I have marveled at my good fortune.

Recently, while my parents were in town for a visit, I told that story to Robert, sure he would be impressed with my good fortune as well. I had never considered there might be more to the story, as I, like everyone else, remembered only my own reality of the events.

It was only now, forty years later, that I heard my parents’ reality of the great skate-a-thon of my youth.

It turns out, after learning I wanted the bike instead of the t.v., my father visited the local pawn shop and pawned one of his guns, then in turn purchased a new ten-speed, which he had my grandparents bring to town and give to me. As parents they wanted me to be happy, but didn’t want to diminish my accomplishment of winning. So, for forty years, they let my grandfather take credit for giving me the bike.

As I go through life now I realize that we are all entitled to our own reality. Even though we might live through the same experiences, we all see them differently.

June 21, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Jesus on the 0 bus

I haven’t been on the 0 bus for a while…

I was listening to the wedding list songs on my iPod while I waited for the 0 bus at the Englewood Station, making my way home from work on a Friday afternoon. A man approached me and I checked him out closely. He had four or five bags he carried well, his pants were dirty but his boots were sturdy and he wore a well-worn leather jacket with a patch boasting some sort of military service.

I watched him as he unloaded all his gear onto the bench next to me. He stood up when he was done rearranging his belonging, which I was sure was everything he owned. Obviously homeless.

“Good afternoon Ma’am.” His smile was genuine and revealed the lack of front teeth. His hair was long and mostly gray, but some parts were still red–the exact red of my father’s hair.

I smiled and said “Good afternoon.”

We engaged in pleasant conversation and I learned he was an Army Ranger, and considered himself a soldier, rather than homeless, and he was on a mission. He was on his way to do his laundry then on to see his daughter and grandchildren. We boarded the bus and I sat one row back, as he filled the handicap space with his bags.

Throughout our conversation he said two unique things that touched me.

First, he said the kids are always first. He used some of his disability money to help his daughter and her children, but said he was okay because payday was only a few days away and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Second, we talked about being teased as kids for having red hair, and he recited a taunt that is very vulgar, that I knew well because I had heard it often as a child, but had never met anyone else who had been the subject of the taunt. He never asked me for money, just seemed to enjoy my conversation.

As we neared his stop I took a little cash from my pocket and scooted over next to him so no one else would hear me.

“I don’t want to offend you, but if you would take this to get you through until payday I would feel blessed,” I said, using a word my mother told me would universally make people feel better.

He choked up when I handed him the cash.

“Are you sure?” he asked, tears welling up in his eyes.

“Yes, please.” I said.

“Well, I, Uh, here,” he said through his tears, and he reached up and clutched some sort of talisman on a string around his neck. I don’t know if it was a cross or some kind of rock, but he held it to his lips, bowed his head and began praying. For me.

“Oh, okay,” I said, when I realized what he was doing. I sat silently next to him, I’d seen stranger things on the 0 bus.

“God, please bless this lovely lady, keep her safe and don’t allow any harm to come to her. Amen.” He kissed the talisman and thanked me again as he headed off the bus.

I was touched. He had nothing to give, but he used up some of his prayer requests for me.

His name was Glenn.

It gets better. Or perhaps worse, depending on how you look at it.

A few stops after Glenn got off the bus, a young man got on. His pants were hanging off him, he was bald and had tattoos in a script I didn’t recognize above each eyebrow, as well as on his neck. He had a serious look about him as he scanned the bus for seats, and being courteous I moved my bag off the seat next to me since the bus was full.

He sat down next to me and we sat awkwardly in silence for a few minutes, then he struck up a conversation in a quiet voice. He spoke in short sentences, and his eyes were dangerously calm. I tried not to be intimidated by the tattoos, but after a few minutes of talking to him I got a bad feeling. I felt a calm evil in him, and and tried to be polite, but I got the feeling that he was, at that moment, deciding whether or not he would hurt me today.

My stop couldn’t come fast enough, and finally I excused myself and squeezed past him to get off the bus. There’s little reason to get off the bus at my stop. There’s a church, a McDonald’s and the entrance to the canal road, which I take to walk the rest of the way home.

I got off the bus and headed south on Broadway, and was horrified when he got off the bus behind me. I felt then that he had made his decision, and I discreetly pulled my knife out of my bag as I quickly headed up the street.

What happened next seemed to be in slow motion, and the distance distorted. In reality the distance from the bus bench to the light is about 50 yards, but that day it seemed to be much farther. I continued south on Broadway, walking fast and looking over my shoulder at him. I was afraid and considered just walking up to the closest house and knocking on the door. But I knew an old man lived there, and thought it would be horrible if he followed and killed us both. So I walked faster toward the light, prepared to run into traffic on Broadway if necessary to escape.

I looked back and he was just standing at the bus bench, watching me. He took a couple of steps in my direction and stopped. My thoughts were he was trying to decide his best route to me. He seemed agitated, and began pacing back and forth along the bench, like an animal in a cage trying to find a way out.

I walked faster, and was almost to the light, where I planned to cross Broadway and run to McDonalds. I looked back, and he was still pacing. Perhaps he was having an internal struggle with himself as to whether or not he really wanted to hurt me. He was still agitated and pacing, but it seemed every time he tried to advance in my direction he hit an invisible wall. He stomped up and down and I could tell he was angry.

I made it to the light and we made eye contact as I pushed the button and waited for the light to change. He realized I was going to cross Broadway, and suddenly there were no cars on the street. He headed out into the street as I began to cross, I believe intending to meet me on the other side by the deserted canal road. He made it through the first lane of traffic and again stopped abruptly, as if there were an invisible wall. He threw a fit in the middle of the road, and as I looked back at him I could feel his rage. But he did not come in my direction.

I hustled across the road and as I looked back at him one last time, he returned to the sidewalk and began stomping back the direction we had come, away from me. I made it home safely, and remembered the prayer Glenn had said for me earlier.

Thank you Glenn. I hope we meet again someday.

March 27, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Run Grammy Run!

It was another lovely fall day, and especially good because it was a sleepover at Grammy and Papa’s for Petra for the weekend. She and I and Jess headed out for what I thought was a leisurely walk to the park. I admit I’ve been lazy since the wedding, and while I have been a jogger for the past 20 years I have slacked off in my discipline. I was feeling lazy, and not up for much effort in my walk.

As soon as we hit the open field, Jess decided to go for a run. She took off, and Petra ran behind her, dress flowing and her little legs flying as fast as she could go. She looked back over her shoulder at me, and seemed perplexed that I wasn’t running as well.

“Come on Grammy! Run!” she kept going, looking back at me.

“Oh honey, I can’t run right now,” I tried to excuse my laziness but she was having none of it.

“Oh Grammy, it’s easy. Watch me.” She exaggerated her steps, and I realized she thought I didn’t know how to run, so she was showing me.

I made a minimal effort, but she was not satisfied. She slowed down as I got closer to her, and held out her hand.

“Hold my hand Grammy, I think it will help you.” I took her hand and she drug me along relentlessly, until I finally gave up and actually started jogging to keep up with her. The look on her face when she looked back at me was priceless.

“You’re doing it Grammy! You’re running!” She was beaming with pride at having taught me something new, and I continued to run with her until we reached the park.

I can’t say I liked the running, but it was good to know I still had it in me, and her pride at teaching me was contagious. We played at the park until dusk, when Jess returned from running and Robert came to drive us home, so we didn’t have to brave coyotes through the field.

But wait, there’s more.

The next day, Petra had returned home and Robert was preparing to leave for Kansas, so he and I took a long walk along the canal road before he left. It was about a four mile walk, roundtrip, some of which included the field and park I had just been running in the day before.

We were still about a half a mile from home, well into the trail still, when Robert’s blood sugar dropped. He was halfway through a granola bar when it became obvious that one bar would not be enough.

“Do you want me to run home and get the car?” I asked, mostly to be nice. “Let’s wait and see.” He said. After a few minutes he conceded. “You should go get the car.”

And I was off and running. Not a fast run, but a steady jog. As I rounded the next corner I realized we were farther into the trail than I thought, and wondered for a moment if I would be able to make the jog all the way home. I kept going. When I finally left the trail and headed through the park and field, my lungs were on fire and I considered stopping and walking. But I didn’t. I kept seeing Petra’s face and hearing her joy as she yelled “You’re doing it Grammy! You’re running!”

I managed to jog all the way home, fetch the car and apple juice, and returned just as Robert was leaving the trail and headed for serious trouble. Disaster was averted, he drank the juice and eventually recovered.

All because Petra taught me how to run…

November 6, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All Grown Up

It was another wonderful Grammy day, with the smell of fall in the air and a crisp chill that made wandering the neighborhood pleasant. Petra and I were getting ready to head out, but she had to get “everything she needed” first.

Everything she needed included some new lip gloss I had just given her, two bottles of sparkly nail polish and a tiny stuffed unicorn. All of which she put in her black Gucci bag, a gift from the Universe several years ago. She slung her bag over her shoulder like any fine woman would do, and we headed out for a day of errands in the neighborhood.

She decided to take her pink tricycle, so she slung her bag over the seat and off we went. We headed to the park first, where we watched the squirrels going crazy over the hundreds of fallen acorns on the ground. We searched for treasure in the sand, as we always do, and found three silver beads, a popsicle stick and an empty Corona bottle, which we filled up repeatedly and moved sand from one side of the park to the other.

It was nearing time for me to catch my bus, so we headed to Family Dollar to get a treat. Petra stopped her bike, declaring she saw a “treasure.” She picked up a discarded scratch off lottery ticket, which had shiny green dollar signs on it. She asked me to put it in her bag, so I did and we went along our way.

We arrived at the shopping strip and Petra noticed a bike rack with a bike chained to it.

“Let’s park here.” She declared, maneuvering her tricycle into position. She dismounted, grabbed her purse, hiked it up on her shoulder and into the store we went. She chose sour gummy worms and I grabbed a carton of coffee. We reached the check stand and Petra tugged on my shirt.

“I’ll pay for this Grammy.” She said.

“Oh. Okay. Do you have money in there?” I asked, as she started opening her purse. By this time the cashier had rung up our order and given me a total. I was curious to see what she pulled out of her purse, as was the cashier. I slipped him the necessary cash on the counter, while Petra was digging for her money.

“Yes. I have money.” Just like every woman in a check out line, she rooted through her purse until she found what she was looking for.

“Here you go” She said, quite pleased with herself, as she pulled out the discarded lottery ticket and proudly handed it to the cashier.

The cashier and I both looked at each other and smiled. The ticket did have dollar signs on it.

“Well thank you,” He said to Petra, who was beaming up at him. Then he grabbed a few pennies and reached down to her. “Here you go ma’am, here’s your change.” She took her change and dropped them in her purse, then strutted out of the store like any fine woman who had just completed a shopping spree.

September 20, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spirit Lake 2017

Family Ties

Tensions were running a little high as we left Longmont en route to Spirit Lake, via Vernal and Kathy’s house. We were leaving a day late and going three weeks later than we usually have. I picked Jess and Petra up and we headed out, both of us concerned about how cold it would be this late in the year.

It had been a busy and stressful year for all of us—Me planning my wedding to Robert, she finishing up the barn, taking on new projects and getting divorced, and Petra discovering that every one dies, Grammys can sometimes be a “peanut head” and going through a divorce. If ever a trip to spirit lake was needed this was the year. They were both in the end stages of a severe head cold, and looked like they felt pretty lousy when i picked them up. Petra announced that she was “tired” when I arrived.

We loaded up Jessica’s ’88 Volvo wagon, which I must say is as smooth as they come, but this trip began with a flashing red oil light on the dash. I checked the oil and she ran fine, so we hit the highway. Last year we had gotten into such a heated discussion that I overshot our turnoff to Utah by 90 miles. So we took a different route this year, and I only overshot our turnoff by about ten minutes, then quickly admitted my mistake and turned around when she renavigated us.

The drive from Meeker to Rangely was truly incredible. Petra announced she was going to sleep for the night, since she had already had ice cream and realized we were indeed, very, very far from Kathy’s. We listened to music and looked into the darkness. The sky was dark, but the moon sat on the horizon to the left of us, not quit half full, but it was as orange as a Dorito. It seemed to sit be sitting on the land, taunting us to come touch it. It was a magical moment.

I remember when it was just Jess and I who made the spirit lake trip. We would have these moments of magic, both of us in awe of the world. Jess was seeing it through her young eyes, I was seeing it through my eyes. It’s beautiful both ways, and It took my breath away to realize that we now had a third set of eyes to see it all over again. I was proud of Jess as a mother for keeping the tradition alive. I had floated the idea of starting a new tradition someplace closer, maybe in Colorado. But she persisted. Even when Kathy, a tent camping virgin, tried to persuade her, she persisted. Spirit Lake it was. The ultimate test of camping stamina. Good luck Kathy.

We spent the day leisurely packing, running errands and hanging out at Kathy’s. The sun was low in the sky when we headed up the mountain, but we arrived with plenty of light to set up camp. We scored the number 2 campsite, a deluxe site that does not have a view of the water, but has an entire backdrop made of jagged boulders that protect the pure water source as soon as it comes out of the mountain. The site was spacious, so Jess pulled the Volvo up to the bottom of the boulders and laid out a bed for her and Petra in it. Then she helped Kathy and I pitch our tents.

The temperature was perfect, I couldn’t tell you the exact degree, but it was cool but not chilly. Just enough cold to feel great after the city heat. And there were very few mosquitos. Bugs are always a concern at Spirit Lake, ranging from swarms of mosquitos to horseflies that will bite you just for the fun of it, and bring welts the size of mothballs wherever they feast. This year there were nearly none. We sprayed up with repellant just to be safe. School was back in session and it was the middle of the week, so the campground was mostly deserted, and we mostly had the place to ourselves. Overall we scored quite well.

We built a fire and took our time making dinner, and after cleaning up we sat around the fire, officially kicking off the 2017 hen party. Petra fell asleep in her lap listening to our stories of old and thoughts for the future. After putting Petra to bed in the Volvo, Jess returned for more adult talk. Life, relationships, a touch of religion and men were popular topics, and I was happy that I was able to impart my wisdom upon Jessica, and turns out I learned a few things myself as well.

Sadly, I didn’t think to talk to Kathy about what to expect her first time sleeping in a “plastic house” as she called the tents. I remember when jess insisted in sleeping in her own tent for the first time. Granted, she was probably 9, not 49, but it can still be scary. I also remember the time Mitch decided to sleep in his own tent. There was a mutual reaction. At some point in the night they both woke up and were disoriented, and yelled out into the darkness of their own personal universe. Jessica sat perfectly still until sunrise, hoping not to attract attention from whatever beast lurked outside. Mitch declared he “couldn’t see” before realizing his surroundings. “Oh, I’m so embarrassed.” I could feel his head droop in shame in the darkness.

We went to bed, and after twisting and turning to adjust my many blankets and sleeping bags, I finally fell asleep. Suddenly I heard loud talking, coming from Kathy’s tent. Something about porcupines followed by “I’m okay now.”

Backtrack here. After realizing Kathy was serious about going all the way to Spirit Lake and sleeping outside in a tent all alone, her husband, DAVE, insisted she bring a gun along. He gave her shooting lessons, and she did indeed, inside her Rec Center polka dotted gym bag, have a pretty nice blue handgun, with a clip rubber banded to the handle. It was an impressive display, and she affectionately called him Big Blue. We shortened that to  BB, which comes into play later in the story.

Some late campers had been arriving at the campground, which resulted in much circling and lights on our tents, suspicious shadows and amplified sounds of people bickering in a still forest. When Kathy yelled out Jessica rolled down her window and asked if she was okay. Kathy realized her moment, and declared she was fine. She had passed the first mark. If she could stay in her tent until the morning, she would have passed the ultimate test of camping.

We all laid back down, and just as i was about to doze off, a really big RV decided to take up residence in site number 1, maybe 60  yards from my tent. It was 11:30 at night, and I unzipped my windows so I could watch the show, since all the noise meant I wouldn’t sleep for a while anyway.

“He’s gonna hit a rock! he’s gonna hit a rock!” I heard a distressed woman’s voice. Then some muffled bickering, then the rev of the truck engine as the driver starts to give it another round.

“Turn this way…Excellent, excellent, excellent…” I heard a single calm male voice through the darkness. The good thing about a tent is it seems to amplify the sound in the darkness.

“Turn it now…Excellent, good job, good job..shut up. Shhht. Excellent, excellent.”

The calm guider did the trick, the trailer was settled for the evening, and i attempted agin to sleep. I had chosen the Wild thing pajamas to wear, a striped thermal type outfit Robert gave me for Christmas, it was perfect for this occasion. I thought I had the best PJ’s to wear for this trip, but Kathy gave me pause for thought. She was adorned in a one piece, footed pajama , with some type of animal print on the outside. It had feet in it, but I think she put socks on over them sometime in the night, because the next time I saw her it appeared as if she were wearing cowboy boots.

Sometime during the new neighbor debacle, Kathy emerged from her tent, clad in her sleeping suit, and declared “What is the situation out here? I think we need to rally.” I wasn’t sure if she was fully awake, and I remembered she now owned a gun. Jessica “lit her up,” as we had come to call it, and Kathy assumed a stance that I wasn’t sure of—It looked like she was laughing her ass off and trying not to pee, which resulted in her dancing about from foot to foot, much like Yosemite Sam in the old cartoons. Which made me and Jessica both laugh, which resulted in all of us bouncing around trying not to pee our pants.

“Kathy, do you have Big Blue?” I yelled from my tent.

“No.” She gasped, and I realized she was laughing.

“Good. Jessica, do not let Kathy come out here with BB in her sleeping suit.” I was aware that what I was saying was out there, but the warning needed to be declared.

“I won’t mom. Go back to sleep.” Jess shone the light on me and my tent, before authoritatively turning it back to Kathy. “Are you okay?”

“Yes.”  There was some other small talk but I took the chance to try to go back to sleep. There were a few more hiccups throughout the evening, including me coming down with the seriously sucky symptoms of the nasty cold Jess and Petra were on the tail end of.

The next morning our new neighbor came over as soon as they saw us up and drinking coffee. She apologized profusely and we ended up having a wonderful visit with her. Their family had owned the lodge many years ago, and we reminisced about the magic of Spirit Lake.

We spent two days wandering, driving to Manila for a Coke, committing the crime of trespassing, both at the fire tower and the lodge, which was for sale and boarded up. We went in search of a treasure we buried nearly 20 years ago, but wasn’t sure which rock we had buried it under.

Weather wise it was one of the best years I’ve ever been to Spirit Lake. Emotionally and spiritually, I have to say this year was THE best year I’ve been to Spirit Lake.

September 17, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arguing with a 3.5 year old

The conversation started several months ago. I don’t know how or why, but Petra was trying to pin me down about when I would die.

“You’ll die Grammy.” She sobbed.

“Oh honey, no I won’t.” I tried to console her.

“Yes you will. When? When will you die Grammy?”

“Okay, not until I”m 100 years old.” I thought that would make her feel better. I was wrong. She immediately used it against me.

“See, you will die!”

“Want a treat Petra?” Conversation ended. I have avoided her repeated attempts to resurrect the narrative, and was successful until last week. She had come for a sleepover and we were outside when she brought it up again.

“But Grammy, everybody dies.” She said matter of factly. I turned her attention to the pictures we had recently hung in the basement hallway. She loved to see pictures of her as a baby and I knew it would change the subject.

We looked at the pictures and she was adorable as she “oohed” and “Ooowwed” over them. We came upon one with my grandmother holding her, while Jessica watched on.

“Who’s that Grammy?” She asked, knowing full well she was the baby in the picture.

“Oh, that’s my grandma. You met her when you were just a tiny baby.”

“Awww.” She was touched. “Is she dead? She’s dead isn’t she?”

Doh! She had me. We finally had the discussion, and although Petra is still not happy to know that we are all going to die, she has decided to deal with it by rationalizing that only old people die.

“I’m too young to die…” is her new mantra.

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Cleaning with a Purpose

Since my job at the Epilepsy Foundation ended earlier this year, I have been helping a friend out with her housecleaning business. It’s good physical labor, pays a few bucks and I get the chance to meet some interesting people.

One of the first houses I helped her with looked just like something out of a movie from my childhood. Red brick and white columns in front, I couldn’t help but be a little envious of the palatial-like abode. There were endless rooms, and clearly the elderly couple who lived there had done quite well for themselves in life. I was a little judgmental about what I assumed their lifestyle had been, and as we wandered about cleaning Mr. and Mrs. J kept to themselves in one of the many dining areas.

I noticed immediately the huge formal library, as well as stacks of books alongside each bed, in many corners and stashed all over the house. For some reason, I knew I had to bring this strange man, (I assumed he was the reader in the family,) a book I had at home. Robert brought it home, I think one of his patients recommended it, and it was a true story about the dilemmas spies face. I pushed the thought away, but each time I returned to the house I felt a strong urge to give it to Mr. J.

Two weeks ago I went to clean the house without my friend, and although I had not yet met Mr. J personally, I intended to give him the book. Why? I’m not sure. But I knew I had to. I made it a point to clean the kitchen while Mr. J was in the breakfast nook reading the paper. I was a little intimidated, judging by his home and things in it, he was obviously a man of substance, and I wasn’t sure how he would react to a strange cleaning lady giving him a book.

But I struck up a conversation with him, and he turned out to be very entertaining, as well as mentally sharp. He told me his life story, and it turns out he was sweet and unassuming. His wife liked to throw parties and hold bridge club, and he adored her and indulged her throughout their marriage. They were happy. I gave him the book and he was very thankful, and I think he liked having someone to talk to besides just his wife. I finished cleaning and felt a weight lifted from my shoulders because I had finally delivered the book. Before I left he presented me with a book of his own, and I brought it home, where Robert and I began to read it together.

I went back today for their scheduled cleaning, and was a little nervous about avoiding Mr. J, because we haven’t gotten that far into the book. I meant to read a few pages so I would have something to talk to him about if it came up, but didn’t get around to it. I planned to just stay busy and give him vague answers if he asked how the reading was coming.

The gardener was there when I arrived a little late, and she was ringing the bell to collect her pay as I walked up with my cleaning bucket. “Guess it’s a work day today huh?” I made small talk. “Yeah, she’s having a big event this weekend,” replied the gardener. Mrs. J came to the door and gave the gardener some cash, and invited me in.

I wondered what kind of party she was planning, and if I would have extra chores or different chores to help her prepare for the festivities. I put my supplies down and asked her where she wanted me to start.

She was flustered, and started to say something a couple of times then stopped. Finally she spoke.

“My husband died on Tuesday.”

I didn’t know what to say.

“But he started reading the book you gave him. He really liked it.” she said. I was stunned. He was old but had seemed in good health. Then I remembered the book was kind of intense in some places, and wondered if it had been too much for him. I shouldn’t have cared as much as I did, but for some reason I was very sad.

She was concerned about the dirty screen door, and asked for my help putting the covers on the couch and love seat. She asked me not to go into the master bedroom and bathroom, as they were still dealing with his things. Now, as a cleaner, many times people complain about “missing a spot,” and sometimes that irritates me. But today, I realized that Mrs. J could care less about spots on the mirrors or a streak on the floor. But I cared. I had a strong desire to make her home the best it has ever been, and I scrubbed the decorative iron screen door until my fingers ached.

She asked me about the book he gave me. I told her he picked it out for me, and as it turned out my stepson and my fiancé were both interested in it. I assured her that it would be passed on.

“Well, that’s good. It’s like he’s still going on then.” She said.

Now I know why I was directed to give him the book. He got some joy out of it, and now his book will make the rounds to everyone I know. I’m glad I listened to the voice within. I’m sure Mr. J is loving the great Library in the Sky.

I’ve always said that cleaning houses is about making people feel comfortable, and making their lives a little easier. Today I moved through the house quietly cleaning, privy to the intimate goings-on of a grieving family making final preparations for their father. And my heart broke for Mrs. J. As I walked past her open bedroom door, the bed, which was always immaculately made, was unmade. Mr. J’s side was mussed up. The book I gave him sitting on his nightstand. How long would it be before she would change the sheets and wash the smell off his pillow?

Every fingerprint I wiped off the mirror I realized I was erasing a memory. Every footprint I vacuumed over was one less part of him in the house. The water cup he had knocked over last week and spilled all over her, which had caused a tiff between them as I cleaned it up, was sitting on the kitchen counter. Half full. I suspect it will remain there for a long time…

June 8, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

What Can I Do?

I’ve been pretty hard on myself lately for my lack of political care for so many years. I have never cared about politics, I don’t remember being affected by it, (in retrospect my parents would have hid it from us if it had.)

And well…Hell..Here we are, with a Doofas in the White House. I am at least partly to blame for that. I’m angered at the direction our country is taking, but am more angry by the fact that, as a people, divided or not, a very large portion of the United States elected him.

I simply can’t think about it any more, my head will explode I’m sure. I can plan, however, for the consequences—you know, always hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

The question is, what can I/we do about it now?

I believe community newspapers are the way to go, I’ve seen the power of a community in strife heal itself after dealing with a community editor. By community paper I don’t mean the local mainstream media. I mean the hyper-local paper that most young people don’t even know exist anymore.

I remember writing for the Taylorsville Eagle, a little start-up that gained a surprising amount of traction in the community before its unfortunate demise. An elderly lady in the community had been hounding me about several “atrocities” that were occurring in the neighborhood, and each one sounded grander than the last one.

One day, unable to avoid her any longer, I met her at the local senior trailer park community. She warned me we had to be cautious because the seniors were afraid and didn’t want my visit to bring retribution down upon them. Okay.

I walked into a room with three elderly women standing there to greet me, and they did, indeed, look afraid. Frail and afraid. I finally assured them I was safe and wanted to help. They spent the next two hours presenting me with honest and compelling evidence that everything they were saying was true. The trailer park used to be a beautiful place, they said, a small community that they were all happy to live their days out in.

But new management brought young, intimidating hooligans to the park, and they took every chance to harass the seniors, including cutting beloved rose bushes because of an implied infraction in the community’s CCR. They had installed individual gas meters to each trailer, and began charging every senior the total bill for their trailer, versus an added charge in the monthly bill. Suddenly they were demanding $200 a month from a senior who had only $300 expendable income entirely. Drugs were being sold, punks were roaming the streets, and they were being held hostage in their own homes.

Well, I went back to the office and wrote the story. We got some feedback, some positive from the seniors, a lot of flack from others for “stirring” up crap that was unnecessary. We ran a series of articles, and I spoke with local leaders, the park owners, etc. Still just rumblings in a little paper that nobody gave any credit.

The group from the trailer park decided to hold a meeting, and invited the mayor, a local Senator (Ed Mayne, God rest his soul) and representatives from the park. Quite frankly, I was a little tired of the story myself, and believed I had done all I could. But I headed to the senior center to cover the meeting anyway.

When I arrived it was obvious they had double-booked the center, the parking lot was completely full, so I assumed it was Bingo day or something. As I got closer to the building, there was a line of people out the door. I made my way through them, and when I entered the building I couldn’t believe my eyes.

There, on the stage, were the Mayor and other officials. And before them were more than 300 pissed off senior citizens. Some were standing and shaking their canes, others were yelling and pounding their walkers on the floor. They were not backing down, and obviously even the mayor didn’t know what she was walking into.

Needless to say, the seniors got taken care of. They had indeed been overcharged for various services, and the park owners agreed to reimburse them. Senator Mayne vowed to get things set right, and over the next few months we kept an eye on the story.

A year later, I got a call from one of the original seniors who had contacted me. She invited me to Christmas dinner at the park. When I arrived it was like something out of a Hallmark movie. The park was beautiful, everyone was happy, the streets were full again of seniors strolling the grounds. The owners has hired a couple to run the park who had experience dealing with seniors, and the park was once again the Utopia the seniors were used to.

Now I certainly didn’t bring down the White House. But I, through the help of a community newspaper, I helped make life better for these people. New laws were enacted to prevent abuse in trailer parks, and when it was all said and done the police thanked us, they had a better relationship with the seniors. The seniors thanked us, and even the Mayor learned to take us seriously.

So for any of my friends who are frustrated with the current state of America, yet unsure of what to do about it, I say support your community paper. Subscribe to it, read it each week, and send letters to the editor—good or bad. I truly believe that strengthening our communities, understanding each other and working together is the foundation for a revolution on a higher level.

If you are unsure of what your local community paper is, please let me know and I will be happy to help you find out.

May 2, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments