Voicemails from my Mother

Below I have transcribed the best voicemails my mother left for me in 2014. Happy New Year!

 

 

“Hey Tasha it’s your Mom! The TV just fell off the wall, if you can believe that. I just called your Dad. It’s unbelievable. Missed Bart by a hair! He came screaming into the kitchen. And I was on the phone with a new provider trying to get information for Noah and you can imagine what I screamed. I’m sure she has special notes in her folder about how I need mental health referrals too. Oh my God! Oh my God! Unbelievable! It’s still playing smooth jazz, but the whole front, I mean there’s no cracks or anything, cause it bounced off the dog bed, BUT everything is a color grid. So I’m sure it’s like totally totaled. Your dad is having a fucking fit, as you can imagine. I missed your call last night cause we were out to dinner! We went and, um, opened a bank account, got a safe deposit box, you know, very close to the house and then we went to this Prime Cuts place that’s crowded all times of the day, every day of the week, and it was excellent, absolutely excellent. But I’m at the dog park now and there’s nobody here for Bart to bully so I thought I’d call and chat. A Cane Corso just left the other fenced in area and him and Bart were going at it through the fence, it was giving me a heart attack. And this woman was on the phone the whole damn time! These people with dangerous dogs show up and they’re on the phone the whole damn time, it just makes me crazy. But, my dangerous dog is like by himself with his brother, the poodle, so that’s the only reason I’m calling you. Just want to clarify. Bye!”

October 24, 2014 9:46 AM

 

 

“No!… Tasha, I need you to hashtag or tweet number sign boys sade and type in Delvin, because I don’t know how to do that and they’re eliminating my two favorite stars which is Delvin or Sassandra! Please do it quick! Bye!”
May 6, 2014 8:59 PM

 

 

“Hey Miss Natasha, it’s your mother and I was calling to go over this San Diego information with you. There’s a couple things I know your dad would really like to do. One I think we should drop him off and go somewhere else but Old Town is mentioned throughout so I’m sure if that’s where you live that’s cool. Um… what else… Oh, what was the name of the place that starts with a ‘B’ and has a bunch of museums and stuff? You can just call me back, maybe we’ll talk this weekend. It’s about a quarter to nine here and I’m exhausted so I’m gonna be going to bed soon and um I’ll let you, You probably heard that our second offer on the house, our counter offer, was accepted so we got a really good deal and Bethlehem is a great area to be in. So, I think we’re very fortunate. Um, that’s it. I don’t have to go back up there on an emergency house hunting trip, put the dogs back in the kennel. So I cancelled again! She’s gonna think I’m insane because I just begged her to take them this morning, thinking I had to go up there and look at a half dozen more houses. So, we are done, we will have the closing done the week of the 22nd, the week before we leave to come out to you. Hopefully we’ll um I’ll be moved in by mid-September and this will be listed by the beginning of October. But, I can purge happily! The garage door is broken and I can’t get out or get the trash out to the curb. I mean it really could have injured me today. It came right out of the ceiling, the entire frame, and Wow. Um, luckily Weasley was already in the car and I wasn’t standing where I usually stand when I push that button. But anyway, I couldn’t get back in once I got out and shut it so, um, hopefully the fix it man can fix that tomorrow. That’s it! Have a good evening. Hugs to Murphy. Hugs to Josh. Goodnight! (long yawn).”
August 7, 2014 8:45 pm

 

 

 

 

“Hi, it’s me just feeling sorry for myself because everybody’s at Ludfest, but me! WAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Goodbye!”
August 8, 2014 8:09 PM

How to Be Good

photo-4This book is depressing for a fluffy beach read. I laughed out loud, but overall I found it kind of miserable. Nick Hornby takes on the perspective of a middle aged woman who after a long erosion of her marriage has an affair with a schmuck. I respect that the affair was not glamorized into something steamy or fun, and came across as what most real life affairs seen from a distance appear to be: sad. She is a doctor and has always used this to internally pat herself on the back for being “good”, but to also rationalize her other choices which are not.

The point of view resonated with me a teensy bit. Having mental health non-profit jobs where I work with populations of people who have experienced trauma I always give myself a little gold star for doing something that matters while simultaneously excusing myself from donating to charities. Because, c’mon, I work for a non-profit. I’m always precariously on the edge of qualifying for public donations myself. Still, I do not waste my proof of good personhood on secret wrongdoings, but instead to flash around at parties or wear like a badge when meeting people!

Obnoxious? Sure, but it could be worse. I’d rate my totally warranted self-congratulatory behavior somewhere between teachers and Greenpeace canvassers.

Anyway.

Despite this common ground I generally found Hornby’s female perspective unconvincing, though I am far removed from the protagonist’s phase of life so maybe it’s me.

I’m in a place where marriage seems to be a wonderfully appealing challenge I look forward to, and reading several hundred pages about an affair and a will they/won’t they divorce culminating in staying together due to simple inertia was… tiresome; despite the humor speckled in.

Further, the oddity of the spiritual healer named “GoodNews” moving in to the family home followed by the homeless boy named “Monkey” did little to quirk up the story into a lighter mood.  The husband is a miserable, angry man who after a questionable conversion at the hands of “GoodNews” becomes just as unbearable through his quest for absolute charity and niceties as he was in his endless diatribe of grievances. This couple’s children also cultivate sour dispositions as the events unfold, as you can imagine.

The writing itself is fast-paced, making this book feel like a good beach read, but again, the story line of miserable people trying to learn “how to be good” is just kind of awful. They’d do well to instead focus on learning boundaries, and moderation, pillars of mental health people!

Not a great introduction to Nick Hornby, but I’m going to give him another try (because I already bought some of his other books).

One star.

On letting sleeping dogs lie

The night before last Rocco, our family’s Great Dane, was laying on his bed underneath the TV. The 11 o’clock news was coming

BFF

on and I had decided to retire to my attic bedroom for the evening, as that’s where my parents have deemed I am allowed to sleep and keep my things. As always, I trotted over to our first dog, Weasley, who was on the sofa. I squatted down, I gave him a big smooch. I told him I loved him. I’m an animal talker, and the dogs had both been kenneled for five days, so I had a lot to say to make sure they knew how much I adored them! Here’s a picture of Weasley and I.

So then, after I told that fuzzy ginger he was a glorious puppy of epic degree I trotted over to Rocco. I knelt down, I started petting him, I began my goodnight speech, “My gentle giant, I am so sorry you had to spend Christmas alone,” I patted his head, “we love you verrrrrrrrrry much.”

BITE!

Cue FEROCIOUS SNAPPING OF NOT SO GENTLE GIANT JAWS!

I withdrew my left hand, it was black, blood was pouring onto the floor. I occassionally have anxiety. This was one of those rare times I had a full fledged panic attack. WHAT IS HAPPENING! I fled to a corner, Rocco and my mother followed. I shrieked “GET HIM AWAY! AWAY FROM ME! AWAY FROM ME! OH MY GOD! GOD! GOD!”

“Would you shut-up?” My mother muttered, neither her nor Rocco retreating. In fact she was trying to peer over my shoulder to see my hand. I was having none of it, and pressed myself against the wall, clutching my wound,

“AWAY FROM ME! GET HIM AWAY FROM ME!” I couldn’t breathe, as those who have  had a panic attack will know, it was like I was drowning in our living room. Every breath was a gasp for dear life.

Finally, my mother corralled the dogs onto our back porch and I rushed to the sink to watch my own blood pour down the drain as my Sephora blackened tears stained my shirt.

“What were you doing? Wasn’t he sleeping?”

“No Mother! His eyes were open! He doesn’t love me!”

“Don’t be ridiculous… but we can’t take you to the hospital. They might put him down!”

“No they won’t. Mom, my hand has a hole in it. There’s a hole in my hand! Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME!”, I waved the carnage  in her direction incredulously.

So I went outside, my hand and the hole in my hand wrapped in a kitchen towel, to wait for her to bring the car around. We arrived at the hospital, no one was waiting so I was ushered to a room promptly. A nurse asked me to rate my pain.

“Ten. Definitely a ten.”

“Ten is like you’re dying, honey.”

“A solid eight. There’s a hole in my hand. This hurts! He’s huge! Rocco’s big! His mouth is so big,” I hiccuped back.

“Alright, an eight. And what happened?”

“My great dane was sleeping and I startled him,” I glared back at my mother, signaling that while I did not believe this charade I would keep it going for Rocco’s safety, “he’s been kenneled for several days so I think his startle response was much higher than normal.” I looked over my shoulder again, You’re welcome.

Level 10 fo sho

“Well, they are animals. I’m sure he didn’t mean it.” Nurse said, as he took my vitals, “Someone will be in to look at that hand. You probably need an x-ray,” Nurse glared at the immediate bruising. I had opened my towel to prove my level 8 pain.

Soon some sort of social worker came in and we played 20 questions about the incident and Rocco’s general personality. With my mother’s fear at the forefront of my mind I kept up the story. Gentle giant startled by the clumsy oaf! Idiot girl got what was coming to her! But I kept thinking, his eyes were open... he didn’t even bite the hand I was petting him with… I’m the only one who let’s him in my bed!… This is so unfair!

I could barely move my fingers, and my hand which I would describe as a “man hand” on a typical day had now swelled to the size of neanderthal club appendage. Naturally, x-ray nazi, made me do a hundred grotesque Dr. Mengele poses with it and blood began to flow freely onto her pristine x-ray table, “They haven’t bandaged that for you yet?”

I went back to my little room. My mother and I watched late night talk shows while ignoring each other until the Doctor arrived. My hand was not broken! Which I must say is more of a testament to the strength of my bones than the severity of Rocco’s bite. I’ve had so many bizarre injuries in my life without ever actually breaking anything that I’ve become convinced my bones are steel. I attribute this to a surplus of calcium due to my life long affinity for improving all foods by adding cheese.

The doctor, who looked not terribly unlike Gandolf, informed me that I was very lucky he hadn’t gotten my face. That I’d have to take antibiotics because I could get a really foul infection.

“Ummm, but, what am I supposed to do? I can’t use my hand? When will it be better?”

“Well, what do you do for work?”

“I type all day. I’m a customer service person.”

“Well, you won’t be doing that for a few days.”

“Really! How long?!”  I couldn’t hide my glee at this sudden silver lining.

“I’ll write you a note for two days,” Gandolf now looked like Santa, “Anyway, you need to ice it, take the antibiotics, I’ll prescribe some Ibprofuen. Come back if you notice reddening of the wound, any puss, any sign of infection. That’s what we’re really worried about. Do you need something for pain?”

“YES” I wanted to crawl in Santa’s lap.

“What have you taken before?”

“Nothing!” I didn’t want to signal any drug-seeking behavior. I’ve run into trouble throwing around that vibe before.

“You’ve never had anything?”

“Well, I got my teeth pulled once. I think they gave me something like v… v..I don’t know.” Yes, Natasha, far from being an opiate hound, you don’t know what you want! Perfect approach! Whatever you do, do not start talking about that episode of Intervention with the fentanyl lollipops.

“Vicodin. Alright, well, someone will be right in with that.”

It was a good twenty-five minutes before Nurse returned bearing the cure for my level 8 pain. I could tell he didn’t think I deserved it. He irrigated my wound with fancy soap. I got some sort of anti-animal disease shot in my arm. He took my vitals again. He said they were much better. He said I was much calmer. Well, if you had treated me for my level 8 pain in the first place this whole experience would have been much calmer. Clearly.

The next day I had a come to Jesus meeting with Rocco. I sat him down on the stairs and showed him what he had done to me. I referred to my internet research as I began,

“Cujo, do you ever feel confused? Do you ever startle from a waking sleep to realize you’re not sure where you are or who you’re eating? Do you find yourself barking at our cat, Merlin, and forgetting he is part of the family now? That segregation is over and cats can now use the same water bowl as you? I know that you are very old Cujo, and times have really changed since your youth, but this is simply unacceptable behavior. I would never put you in an old dogs home, but you can’t bite anymore. I’ll sedate you and file your teeth away myself. And then it’s only pureed carnage and dog meal from here on out. Dementia is no one’s fault Rocco, but one more bite and your teeth are getting filed. Ok? Alright? I love you Rocco!”

At Dawn We Ride!

As my holiday time in Alabama draws to a close I find myself intensely dreading the road trip back North. Twelve hours of forced and confined family bonding in a Subaru forester really challenges all the sentimental holiday cheer points we’ve accumulated in the past few days.

The players in these road trips include my father, a 6’4″ man who is prone to outbursts during any variety of traffic situations deemed inconvenient, no matter how predictable. Despite the scale of disruption, from a chronic tailgater to a full fledged bottleneck nightmare, his reaction will be the same.

My mother is confined to the back seat due to her being the smallest family member and because my motion sickness inconveniences the family more than her very vocal outcries that she will be crippled by the time we reach our destination from being cramped in the back seat.

My brother, who is 6′ and also smushed in the back seat. Noah declares he is “starving” approximately every 90minutes, despite the fact that he is snacking on something literally the entire trip. He’s also prone to band-wagoning. It’s hard to predict what side he will take in any given dispute, but rest assured… he’ll become involved.

Then there’s me, who has to sit in the front seat or I’ll turn green. I like to think of myself as DJ Peacemaker, although if you talk to me before 10am I might respond only in unintelligible growls. When reminded that sitting in the front seat is some sort of ghastly undeserved privilege I also make vague threats to vomit directly on the mouthy passenger.

These are the personalities stuffed inside a Subaru Forester several times a year for marathon road trips round the country. In the past there have been such notable events as when my father only let us stop for gas because he had to, our bathroom breaks at this time were mere incidental perks, because the Alabama Auburn game was on that day. We didn’t understand what was going on until later that afternoon. A couple years ago my mom kept promising we’d stop for a hotel in just another hour. Then we ran into some sort of Nascar frenzy and every hotel we came to was booked… for the next five hours. We drove until 4am.

On our descent to Alabama earlier this week we strapped a large portion of our baggage to the roof of our vehicle for the first time. I wan’t involved in this project, but it appeared to be a giant bag with all our smaller bags inside, attached with belts and suspension cables. At about 5:30AM we started hearing some crackling pop noises from above. I immediately thought of reindeer, but my parents were convinced something else was amiss. We pulled over. This was inconvenient. Curses were afoot! We set out again but within an hour a belt had gone rogue and began to bounce around the roof and eventually flew into the window. This time even I knew this couldn’t be misinterpreted into a sign of holiday mysticism.

Dad started swerving, “WHAT THE HELL! OH JESUS! ************! ****! *****!” etc etc Easily channeling images of the father in The Christmas Story, a finely woven web of obscenities.

“NOAH! PUT YOUR HEAD IN MY LAP! I’LL COVER IT WITH THIS PILLOW! THE GLASS IS GOING TO SHATTER!” shrieked my mother. Noah, naturally,did not comply but contributed,

“THIS IS MAKING ME NERVOUS!”, as our car slowed to a mere 35mph and we looked for somewhere to once again reevaluate the death trap we carried above us.

This time Dad deposited us at a McDonalds so he could confront the booby trap without our commotion distracting him. There was no way that belt had a chance of running loose again, of flaunting it’s escape in my father’s engineering degree’s face. Anyway, it was during this breakfast that Noah and I concocted our plan. Roofies. We intend to roofie our parents and take over the road trip. We are far too old to be enduring these scenarios without a fight. The rebellion is in motion. Initially Noah had a moment of hesitation, but by the time my mother was interjecting from her adjacent table that he needed to finish those eggs before he ate another hashbrown she had sealed her own fate.

 

I will drive, Noah will ride shot-gun as copilot, and our erratic parents will peacefully drool on themselves until we’re north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Tomorrow we have our orders to report at the car at 5am. At dawn we ride!

We’re Having a Kitten Shower!

My friend Michelle is having a new baby cat! That’s right, at twenty-six, Michelle has made the decision to expand her family from two to three. Michelle and her catson, Forrest, will be welcoming Binx into their home any day now.

It was a long road for the Levenshire family. I remember in college, when Michelle and I lived together, and she found out she was going to have little Forrest. Naturally, initially, we were all a little concerned. It wasn’t a planned kitten. Michelle was single at the time. She was working at Outback Steakhouse; where, it should happen, Forrest was conceived. We were living on campus. There were logistic roadblocks on top of the responsibility of Michelle now being a Meowmy! How would that affect our youthful lifestyle? There were theme parties to attend!

As we adjusted to Michelle’s new lot in life, it came to be that Forrest’s early childhood was spent at Levenshire manor in Northern Virginia with his grandparents. He would come visit us at our campus suite every so often, mostly weekends, and we would spoil him. Or traumatize him. I fear a few occasions spring to my mind that were probably not age appropriate for young Forrest’s eyes. Evidence once again that perhaps it wasn’t the best timing for a baby kitten to be entering the picture and I am ashamed to report that we did not celebrate Forrest’s birth as we should have. There was no shower. There was no kitten cradle. In a cloud of hush hush news he was deported to NOVA.

Now that Michelle has steady grown-up employment at a non-profit organization in D.C. and has been successfully supporting herself and Forrest in D.C. suburbia for some time now she is celebrating her independence by bringing another kitten into her world. THERE WILL BE CELEBRATING!

This time around there will be no hush hush welcome home, being a Meowmy is a great accomplishment! A life achievement! A milestone! Forrest will be given big brother gifts, Binx will have a cradle! Things will be so different this time! As they should have always been! I am appointing myself in charge of the Kitten Shower!


All of you are invited!

There will be races to see who can empty the litter box fastest!

There will be a laser pointer for every guest!

There will be lots of wine and cheese, per Michelle’s request. Salmon and tuna appetizers for the kittens, of course.

Please RSVP in the comments :)

Troll Bitch

I have a coworker who I refer to, in my mind and all over twitter, as Troll Bitch. TB works in the cubicle across from mine, so we face each other but share a wall. A wall that is constantly jolted by her swivel chair antics and which provides no sound barrier to protect me from her long-winded monologues that often revolve around some fantasy life she held in high school. The woman is almost thirty. Apparently all of the boyfriends she romanced as a teen had a lot of trouble getting over her…

Her life is clearly not based in reality.

Nevertheless, I have had the joy of hearing her provide this reasoning to explain why she can’t go to her high school reunion to about twenty different callers who likely care as much as I do.

She sometimes discusses current events.

It is important to note that her voice, which is very nasal, is also about ten decimals higher than necessary so these opinions are audible for all the office (cube land) to hear.

I don’t really understand Wall Street. I think those people need to go home, get healthy, put their children back in school! Education is something they should and those people need to work. It cold outside!”

I don’t have airport problems for flying because I keep my feet on the ground. Thank you! You couldn’t pay me to get in sky!

See how those quotes have missing words so the sentence doesn’t really make sense? That’s how she talks.

She also uses the phrase “I was able enough to… blah blah” /”I actually able enough… blah blah” on every single phone call. It’s not even a real phrase and in combination with her voice, and her constant shaking of my desk with her swivel chair bullshit I was recently driven to bash my head against the walls of my cubicle until I blacked out  walk into her row and calmly ask her to stop swiveling her chair against her desk in that incessant rythym because it also shakes my desk. In response to my request she said,

“I’m not shaking my desk, huh?”

“You are, I was standing here watching you do it before you noticed me,” I now leaned against her cube.

“Ohh. I don’t do that mostly,” she said, backing her chair away from me.

I give a very good stank eye.

“Yeah… this has been going on for weeks now. I would really appreciate it you didn’t do it again.” At this point she just stared at me with her mouth gaping open so I continued, “Thanks!” and went back to my desk. I hadn’t even sat down when I heard her turn to the person beside her and say,

“Oh my GAWD. I do not know her problem is. Seriously.” yadda yadda.

Now she meanmugs me everytime we cross paths without that cubicle divider… but my desk hasn’t been shaking anymore.

I’m so good at making new friends!

How may I help you?

I am a customer service representative.

Even the way it sounds makes me shudder a bit.

When I tell people what I do I try to dress it up a bit, intentionally leaving out the exact words “customer service” and never, ever saying “call center”. Some days I’m tempted to just start telling people I work with doctors without borders because I know I’d get a better reception. Truth is though, I do what I do and I do it in a cubicle surrounded by others trapped in identical cubicles and we’re all trying not to flip out on the next person who curses and calls us stupid because, clearly, if we had other employment oppourtunities we wouldn’t be there in the first place. The economy is what it is and when I realized how many other people at my place of work had college degrees I damn near had a full fledged panic attack in the break room.

What I have learned since August though is that no matter how ridiculous and generally erroneous my job may be(because yes, a well trained child could technically do the basics) it is still rewarding to do it well because while it is not rocket science and it does not require a specialized skill set to keep the job there are quite a few things it requires to do the job well.

First off, you have to have a great sense of humor. Talking to someone named “Cleaveland Pimpton” has to make you smile, because it could easily be a South Park character and it’s best to imagine that for the entire duration of the call. Everything they say will seem funnier. I spoke to Mr. Pimpton for about twenty minutes today. It was a riot. I also like to work in other phrases for my own amusement like “I’m sorry Ms. Jackson.” with the same meter as the Outkast song or a vague reference to Game of Thrones with the ominous “Winter is coming…”. You have to  keep yourself entertained without getting too ridiculous and getting fired. As far as outright funny customers, that topic deserves it’s own post because I’ve gotten some winners.

Secondly, you absolutely cannot judge people. I work for a major electric company in the south and most of the customers I speak with are having trouble making their bills and have been or are about to be disconnected. It’s a stressful situation. Sometimes it would be easy to say “Well, you haven’t paid your bill on time… ever and not at all since October so what did you expect?” but you can’t think like that. Mostly because that tone of voice will send them over the edge and who would I be to turn up my nose anyway? I live with my parents, I clearly am not financially responsible either.

Also, given how stressful the situation of being disconnected for non-pay is you have to cut people some slack. I don’t care if you curse, I do care if you call me a bitch. I’ve only had one person actually curse at me and my blood pressure sky rocketed. It’s a conversation I won’t make you read. Thankfully I have the option of transferring them to a supervisor otherwise I might have gone all office space and lost my job. The temptation to attack my computer is a daily fantasy, by the way. It’s a p.o.s from the 1990s and freezes or sends me to a different part of the system on a regular basis.

Anyway, when people are behaving like lunatics if you stay calm and helpful 95% of the time by the end of the phone call they are nice again and appear sincerely grateful. I attribute this to two things. 1) I proactively offer to send them enrollment information for Low Income which is a discount program and give them phone numbers for energy aid agencies in their area. Most people have no idea I have access to that information. I can also set them up on a fixed due date, where they choose what day their bill is due every month and thus avoid late fees. Another option no one ever knows about. I feel better knowing I helped as much as I feasibly could. Particularly the customers I like. I also try to bend the payment arrangement guidelines where I can. Don’t tell anyone that though, because that one is not something I’m ever encouraged to do and I’ve actually had to talk my supervisors into it like a hundred times. Some always do my tasks, others have caught on that my overrides are not always on the up and up. 2) I have developed a distinct customer service voice which has gotten great feedback from several of my bosses and coworkers. Also, never interrupt. Paraphrase their long-winded explanations back to them as well, it makes them feel like they’ve been listened to and that goes over well. I’ve noticed that in comparison to others I trained with I get cussed out about 1/10th as much so there must be something to it. I was told I’m good at “de-escalating situations”. Winning.

The other key thing in this kind of job is to disregard all of the nasty calls and focus on the nice people you “meet” at work. I talked to one elderly gentleman, an oldie!, about nothing in particular for at least thirty minutes once on a call that should have taken about two for all we had to do. At the end he said I “charmed the hell outta” him and asked if I got paid extra for being witty. No, but it’s certainly something to consider. Another upside is that about fifty people a day “God bless” me which makes my hippy dippy self believe there’s some positive energy being thrown my way. Gotta love our deep South customer base!

Anyway, moral of the story is even if your job is stupid and gets no respect whatsoever you can still take pride in doing it well, because I’m telling you… that is no easy task! Actually, pride isn’t the right word. I can tolerate my job because I know I do it well. I guess that should be enough.

Thanks for being a valued reader with me for the past twenty posts and I hope you have a great holiday season! ; )