Simple, Heartfelt Thanks

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Secret Santa.”

It’s an interesting prompt they are chosen for us today.  Just last night I was sitting in front of my laptop trying to find a way to thank two people for everything they did this past year.  Neither of them would have been comfortable with some splashy, showy thing.  That’s not the type of people they are.  So even if I wanted to buy them the world; they would turn it down.  So a box showing up on their doorstep will be quite the surprise!

So instead I kept coming back to these very simple Crystal Angel sun-catchers.  Little angels with a golden heart held in front with some Swarovski crystals.  It represents to me the angels these ladies were when they tried to help after the turmoil of losing my daughter and later when they tried to help when Whitney left the first time.  They gave of themselves freely, without reservation and at some cost to their own well-being.  Now with me being in less than optimal health they aren’t around as much as I would like, but they are still very much a part of who I am.  [their absence is my preference, they have such beauty to look forward to this holiday season; that’s what they deserve.]

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For me, this simple item isn’t ever going to be enough to thank them.  Anne-Marie and Genia, you are two of the best people I know!  Now it’s in the hands of Amazon to get them these sooner rather than later!

Lost My Resolve

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “To Be Resolved.”

I’m finding that the task I set for myself at the beginning of the year is the same one I am now finding so hard to resolve.  As I entered 2014 my main focus was preparing for the arrival of my daughter.  It meant changing everything about how I looked at things and how I did those very things.  Update the insurance companies so that she would be protected in her health and should something happen to mine.  Talk to work about wanting to take time off so that I could be a full-time Daddy, make arrangements to have someone in place to cover my responsibilities.  And most importantly make sure to protect her mother from anything that could possibly hurt her, even when that was me.

I had most of the work things in order by the end of January.  It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make people aware that you are having a child.  they are always more than willing to help, even when they realize that in the short term it will mean something is going to change in their workplace life.  Insurance, yep just as easy.  Protecting Whitney was the challenge I never was able to live up to.

I wanted so badly to resolve things with her family, but she wanted me to wait.  Then we lost the baby.  All of those things that were so easy to put into place became a chore.  Eventually they sat on the sidelines while I continued to do everything I could to protect Whitney.  It was the only thing left for me to do.

I didn’t do it very well.

Now as the year is ending, I’m trying to resolve not having any of the things I cherished at the beginning of the year.  I’m still trying to protect Whitney from a distance from the things that I know could hurt her.  Who knows how that is going from her perspective?  But it is the one resolution that I can keep until the end of the year.

My resolution moving forward – Find a way to let her go from my heart…

Putting the Pen Down

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Cause, Meet Effect.”

You can singlehandedly create a causal relation between two things that are currently unconnected — a word and an emotion, a song and an extreme weather event, wearing a certain color and winning the lottery. What cause would you link to what effect, and why?

Today’s prompt has reminded me that there are times when it is best to put the pen down.

I wanted to write something pithy, full of insight and humor but this topic only has me thinking about how you can’t wave a magic wand and hope for things to change.  Life is hard work.

So I’m going to be a visitor to as many of people’s blogs today as I can and see how they dream, hope, pray for the future, or possibly something from the past.

Retail Worker at Christmastime!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Final Trio.”

In the retail world you start preparing for the Christmas season the first week in November.  Companies send out plan-a-grams with detailed instructions on what each and every shelve in a store is supposed to look like.  In the case of a bookstore this is an amusing notion.  You get that authors make a push for sales at certain times of the year, unless you’re James Patterson who seems to just breath out a book a month!  These plans are put together by a group sitting in a “Model Store” which is supposed to resemble the basic floorplan, but rarely does.  Is the store a race-track where you can circle the entirety?  Are there multiple floors?  Hey you’ve got a display where we have an escalator!

So during the weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving, bookcases are moved, complete sections of the store are rebuilt to some odd specification, and it just takes the life out of the staff while they try to accomplish everything on time.  The plan calls for 4 different displays of the same book, but you only have three copies of the book in the store.  And why is someone going to be making the holiday push for “A Tale of Two Cities”? [No really, this does happen more often then you think.  Just because someone might have seen A Christmas Carol they are going to run out for the collected works of Charles Dickens?]

Most times these changes, at least of the major changes were done in one evening lest the customers be shocked to learn people actually restocked the shelves and it wasn’t magic.  One year it was my great honor to control the music you hear overhead.  Don’t blame me, I didn’t choose endless carols for months, that’s a corporate decision.  But on this night, the overhead was mine.  The staff usually cringed because they knew they were in for an odd selection.  My theory was, you bring in a disc, I’ll play it.  But keep in mind, I’ll play something of my own as well.  That means Progressive Metal, most  likely in the form of Dream Theater.  Scratching your head, think of any music class you took.  Now remember time signature changes, they use them every couple of bars.  It’s rather unrelenting on your ears at times!

Over the system starts Space Dyed Vest, a favorite of mine since it was the ringtone for someone and I thought it would be a nice departure from the normal fast-fingered duets between guitar and keyboard.  The song itself is rather dark, a track written by a guy who was about to leave the band but hadn’t yet told them.  But the melody is incredible and as a piano player myself, when you hear tracks like this you appreciate the skills others possess.

The faces on people were incredulous!  Had Lary finally gone over the edge?  What was this music and why was he forcing us to listen.  It used to crack me up.  This same group of people could talk about any subject matter as it related to books, but music somehow got people’s differences to come out.  But then most people don;t come to work at a bookstore to become experts on different musical genres.

It’s been years since I worked retail and you can always tell those who used to in some form.  They know what an endcap is, possibly reshelve something they see out of place when they are shopping, or generally are a little bit more understanding about how crazy holiday shopping can be when the customer in front asks for “I don’t know the author or title, but it has a blue cover!”

Those are good people doing everything they can to ensure you get whatever it is you are looking for.  Yes, we sometimes joke about you later because the requests are crazy at times; but we meant no harm.  It’s our way of dealing with our own stresses.  So be kind, or that next recommendation might be for some book your grandmother will definitely find offensive.

Where’s the Skip Button?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Getting Seasonal.”

Even as I am writing this, waiting for some doctor to tell me it’s okay to go home, I can hear the sounds of holiday music in the background.  Someone shortly will be in to take my vitals and I promise that my blood pressure will be elevated just from Bing Crosby alone.  It’s not that I dislike Bing, unless you believe he was less than an ideal parent, but his voice right now is the last thing I want to hear.  If I had thought about it, I would have brought my headphones with me.  They’re back in my hospital room, you can’t carry too many things with you to x-ray!  So “White Christmas” is my current reminder of what next week brings.

My mind is doing its best to protect itself from the memories or the fantasies that are being tossed around.  Most days I can control those thoughts, but with each song, advertisement for a children’s toy, or commercial for jewelry for you significant other; I am reminder of how much I long for a world that is the polar opposite of the one I am experiencing.

This would have been my daughter’s First Christmas with all of the ornaments, onesies, and other announcements that parents make to the world.  Reminders to everyone with a set of eyes that indeed no matter what you say or do this holiday season, we’re celebrating this new life as much as anything else.  For me it will be about the gift under the tree that will remain unopened.  A simple box that I actually took the time to wrap in a perfect little bow [I’m sure many of you have had presents from guys who look like they wrapped it with their feet, that’s usually me!].  The contents need only be known to me and hopefully the spirit of my child.

My mother told me the other day that she is going to be doing monthly donations to our local hospital.  She could have gone the easy route of just sending money, but in her case she is going to do something much more personal for each child who is in need.  In her retirement the amount of quilts and afghans she has produced expanded significantly.  It’s her intention to ensure that as many children as she can reach get one of these blankets to keep them warm and safe.  She knows it’s an undertaking, but one she need to do for herself.  It was tear inducing to hear her talk about wanting to do something for her Granddaughter.

It’s also the first time in over a decade I haven’t had Whitney around.  But as with many “firsts” this is another one that stings.  And much like my daughter, there is another simple box with something for her.  Only this one won’t be under the tree, it can remain in the closet so as to not be a reminder to others in my family of how open a wound that might be for me.  For her I can only hope she has a peaceful holiday vacation filled with some joy.

For plenty of reasons I would like to skip ahead.  Know what the world is going to be like in 3 months, 6 months from today.  My greedy side wanting to be through with anything the doctors are doing to me.  There has always been a part of me that has disliked the holidays, just this year I have more personal reasons to add to the mix!

These Five Things I Give to You…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Language of Things.”

A warm, fuzzy blanket for those times when I can’t be there to hold you and keep you warm.

Steaming mugs of Hot Chocolate, extra marshmallows to remind you of simpler times.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  It was the first movie we watched together from my couch, both falling asleep in each other arms.  But in this case you get the book!  You prefer it that way…

My Grandparents Wedding Rings.  My grandfather would have thought you were the best thing ever.  You could have talked for hours about history or books with him.  They would have wanted you to have them.  It’s a shame you never met him!

A Map of the World.  We my not have been able to get everywhere, but having those dreams would sometimes have been enough.  Those moments of sharing, that makes everything worthwhile.

This would have made a great gift list for Whitney this year.  It’s still hard to think about never having the chance to give her these things, well she did get Hot Chocolate every holiday.  It was her guilty pleasure!

Helpline Voices

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Unsung Heroes.”

Every day these people pick up the phone and don’t know what to expect on the other line.  It might be someone who is having a hard time dealing with the loss of a job, it might be someone looking for a shoulder to cry on because their elderly parent had passed, or it could be a teenager dealing with the unknown pain of having lost their first love.  Since they are an all-encompassing group of individuals, it’s hard to just give them one name.  But Depression/Anxiety hotline operators are a group of people I would consider an Unsung Hero!

No matter what is going on in their daily routines, they find a way to listen to another person and talk them through whatever emotional crisis they are experiencing.  The sound of their voices might be the only true connection some people have during the day.  These faceless people who sometimes admit to not knowing the best answer, but trying to give one anyway help a vast number of callers.

Their listening helped me recently when I was too confused about my own emotions.  Having just left the office and not having even made it out of the parking lot, I called one.  The grief of losing my child and the loss of the relationship with her mother was hitting hard that day.  I could tell the person on the other end of the line might have been all of 25 and doing their best to relate to the situation.  As often as I heard “that must be hard”, I found myself reassuring them that it was a set of experiences I didn’t want anyone to be trained to handle.  It meant that too often these helplines were hearing similar tales of woe.

For a little over an hour we talked about how I was doing, something I hadn’t been able to do with my family.  She was taking cues from my words, prompting me in different directions.  But something she heard made her ask a different type of question.  She wanted to know how I was feeling physically.  She was direct about how, while she didn’t know me, there was something to the way I was speaking that concerned her.  My words were evolving, harder from one to the next.  I had become altered in some manner.

She asked if I could drive home and get inside rather than be on the parking lot.  Her voice kept going as I drove the 7 mile distance.  By the time I got home and promised her I was no longer in my car, I could barely speak.  The words weren’t coming out and those that were made little sense.  The next I know I’m being picked up and transported to the nearest hospital.  My body was shutting down and she was the only one to notice.  I was trapped in my head, the words trapped there as well.

By the time they figured out what was going on they needed to move quickly.  My blood damaging me with every beat of my heart.  An imbalance of toxins my body couldn’t cleanse poisoning my mind.  Clouding everything!

It was 5 days later when they let me leave the hospital.

The woman on the other end, she did her best to listen.  She didn’t try to offer any advice or tell me things were going to be better the next day.  She just listened.  I can only imagine what happens once the phone is disconnected.  Do they cry to themselves?  How can they release their own emotional baggage when sometimes what they hear could be something they are experiencing in their personal lives?  To have the kind of strength it takes to offer assistance to the next voice on the phone, it amazes me.

And that day, she saved me!