Crazy jobs

Over the years like most people I’ve had a variety of different jobs. I didn’t realize, however, how crazy some of them were until I started telling my husband about them from time to time.

I’m going to share of few of these with you, relatively in chronological order. Keep in mind I started work as a babysitter in 1977 so the memory is scratchy!

My first real job was at a stuffed animal kiosk on the mall. The “roof” was just a plastic grid we hung animals from, and it was on the first floor of a two story mall.

One night I was sitting there and a guy walked in looking at monkeys. He asked if something smelled bad but I didn’t smell it. He bought a monkey and left. A couple minutes later there was a commotion and suddenly a guy yanked me out of the store. It was on fire!! Turned out someone flicked a cigarette off the 2nd story (you could smoke in the mall in 1978!) onto my roof/animals. So much for that job!!

I worked for a sole practitioner lawyer, I really don’t know much about his legal business. My “office” was on the sun porch. Hot as hades in the summer, freezing in winter. I never typed a single letter, all his clients were in Japan.

He’d yell at me at least once a week about how his wife and (grown) kids were spending faster than he could earn. He took a 2 hour martini lunch every day. I once saw a huge buck in the backyard, he was furious I hadn’t gotten his rifle and shot it! The day I thought he was dead was bad (he always came down by 9am, by 10 I got to looking for him. He was asleep :/.) But I finally quit that summer when his kids had a coed naked swim party in the pool 20 feet from my desk and he didn’t care!!!

I later worked for an amazing attorney, also a sole practitioner. One day as he was leaving for court I saw a stain on his pants. He refused to undress so I got the K2R and read the directions to shake then hold it 8 inches from the fabric. I shook it, then said “show me 8 inches”. His pants never did get cleaned, it took me quite awhile to regain my composure, especially after he said he can’t do that on command for his wife! This was always referred to as the K2R incident.

He was going in front of Lynne Abraham, a Philadelphia judge back in those days. She had a strict rule about how you dressed, no stains for sure!

I worked a short time in 1980 for the Asbestos Insulating Company in Norristown. I remember blowing asbestos dust off the break room table to eat lunch…

Just out of college I got a job at an accounting firm. I gave my two weeks notice the first day I worked! I hated it that bad.

I worked for Cingular Wireless in the call center for two years. On 9/12/01 I got a phone call from a lady about her bill. Typical stuff, we were going over it when suddenly her husband grabs the phone and starts screaming at me. He said you credit this whole bill now. I said no sir please put Ms whomever back on the phone.

Now he goes ballistic. You people got exactly what you deserved yesterday and there’s more where that came from. Slightly panicked but seriously pissed off I said “who are you people sir? Americans? Are you not one of us, part of that collective you?” And he said no. Also interesting, he was a postal employee…

By this time several people had gathered at my desk. I passed him to my supervisor and she explained we were reporting him. She made a report to the FBI.

Weird thing – call center people have a habit of keeping a list of accounts they want to watch, and he went on my list. I checked a few times, nothing but my notes. A week later, his account was gone, no longer visible. I could see accounts that had been closed 5 years ago but his was gone off the system.

I also taught school for awhile, fourth grade. We had a unisex bathroom right in the classroom. Before lunch one day a girl came up and whispered the bathroom was messy. I looked, and one of my boys had whizzed everywhere, walls, sink, light fixture!!

I sat them down and explained how were all big boys and girls, the janitor shouldn’t have to make a special trip because one boy wanted to play games by urinating on the sink, mirror and walls.

A hand shot up, a sweet little boy, he asked how I knew a boy did it. He truly didn’t know 😉

I said sometimes just like with moms and dads teacher can only say trust me on this! The boy I suspected, at 12 an old hand at 4th grade, smirked.

I’ve had a lot more good experiences then bad in my working career. Now that it’s over, I’m glad of that!


Summers with my Pop-Pop

Growing up I spent a lot of time with my mother’s father, I called him pop-pop. He was almost 76 years old when I was born, yet my childhood memories are not of an old man. He saw a doctor for the first time in his life at age 86, an eye doctor, who told him he had to quit working.

My pop-pop was a landscaper for some of the biggest estates in Chestnut Hill, a really nice area of Philadelphia. The Cliveden estate was my favorite because I could visit there often and the maid would bring me iced tea with a mint leaf which felt ever so grown up to 8-9 year old me!

I was secretly glad when he stopped working. That’s when the fun kicked in to high gear. I loved adventures and we had them!

We would take the 23 trolley then a bus to the Italian market (pop-pop was born in Calabria) where the sounds and the smells were amazing, beat only by the flavors!! Everyone handed out samples, and I gobbled them up! Cheese, salami, prosciutto, delicious tidbits.

Finally weighed down with our packages we’d hop back on the bus, then the 23 trolley back home. There, he’d make a yummy dinner for us, then we’d sit in the front room and watch Lawrence Welk. Pop-pop got hooked on the show after he had Elvis Presley on. He liked the Beatles too!

Some days we spent in the garden, where he taught me all his rules for planting. It was a very small patch of ground, less than 100 sq ft but it was very productive. I’d pull tomatoes off the vine and eat them like apples they were so sweet. He planted and harvested by the moons and I wish I’d written it all down!

He also had a fig tree I was very sorry to see go. My first solid food was figs. Mom caught pop-pop feeding it to me off his fingertips when I was 6 weeks old. She was so mad, but he didn’t care.

It was hard when he finally had to give up his house and come live with us. After a couple years he went into a nursing home.

He lived a simple but honest life, and passed in his sleep at the age of 100. It’s been 25 years but I still think of him often.

My relationship with the Catholic Church

My relationship with the Catholic Church goes back a very long time, to a time before I was even born in fact.

My birth mother, a Catholic woman herself, found herself pregnant and her one rule was the family that adopted me had to be strict Catholics. They were – dad was an altar boy, went to Roman Catholic High, and was a front row regular at weekly mass most of his life. My mother rarely attended church but lived like a nun. I would grow up eventually and learn how odd her behaviors were.

Every Sunday I dutifully attended mass, went to CCD after school to get confirmed, and assumed I’d remain a faithful Catholic all my days.

My first test came when I was 17. I met a man (22) and we were in love. He wanted to move our relationship along, but I could not without marriage. Just six weeks after meeting, we were married. Let’s just say that didn’t work out well.

Raising my children alone several years later, they were preparing for First Holy Communion. The priest said all children with one parent go here, the rest go there. We went “there” because my children have 2 parents. One might be an asshat, but 2 nonetheless.

The pastor says loudly, Ms M., you are in the wrong line, your children have only one parent. I replied Pastor, I know you are celibate but surely even you know I didn’t create these children on my own! There was some laughter, and we stayed put.

I sent my kids to Catholic school mostly out of guilt. I felt I was failing as a parent and needed to compensate. This was a mistake.

I ended up suing the school, Pastor, principal, teacher, and church. It was a personal injury suit related to a complex situation involving my daughter. This came back to bite me many times, in ways I could never have foreseen.

I got fired from a job, basically they lost their contract so had no work for me. I applied for unemployment, had a hearing. They came and said I was vindictive because I filed that lawsuit! I was only named because my daughter was a minor. And my former employers were lawyers!!! I lost (you saw that coming, huh?).

At this point I was about 28, and I became a submarine Catholic, surfacing only for Christmas and Easter. I dropped my lifelong habit of reciting the Our Father and Hail Mary as I lay in bed.

I remarried, in a non-Catholic service. That was 18 years ago – that one stuck!!

Less than 3 years later my father died, of lung cancer but it started in his prostate.

His funeral Mass was the worst day of my life. I have never set foot in church again.

I live in the bible belt, where people are as likely to ask what church you attend as what you think of the weather. I refer to myself as a recovering Catholic.

The lies and broken promises were more than I could bear.

(Please note: this is not an open invitation to try and get me into a church, your church, or any church. All inappropriate comments will be disapproved. Feel free to comment regarding your own journey however.)

Autism in a marriage

I see so many times on social media and forums where someone asks if people with autism can live a married life. It most certainly can be done, but it takes a lot of work and understanding by both parties.

How can I know this for sure? My husband of 18 years has HFA, or high functioning autism. We did not find this out until about 11 years into our marriage, and it actually saved it. Our marriage was heading to the toilet, I was buying a house and my husband was making plans to move.

In this same time period I was struggling to figure out what was going on with our son. Finding out he had Aspergers turned a light bulb on. I was able to piece together what I read about Aspergers and saw glimmers of my husband, who was later found to have HFA.

Now I wanted to work on saving our marriage. I started to learn all the things I needed to do a little differently for our son and for my husband.

I stopped using metaphors and cliches and worked to make sure my words could be taken literally, because they would. Turns out actions are treated the same way! I thought my husband had lost interest, I even climbed in bed naked one night to no avail. Much later I learned he just thought I was hot. As in excessively warm. 😉

Communication has been the key. Sometimes its hard but he and I will talk until he can finally express what’s bothering him. I work hard at being very straightforward and try not to get frustrated when things don’t go right.

Our household is nothing if not interesting!

Good times

Growing up my dad was a pretty funny guy, who sacrificed and did a lot for me.

He had his one-liners he’d repeat, like when reading the paper he’d comment how interesting that everyone died in alphabetical order (I’ve later learned not all papers list them this way!). Going past a cemetery he’d say people are dying to get in there!

He was an insurance executive and frequently he and mom would go out to PR clientele. When I was young I got left home with a sitter. I asked what they ate there (I was no more than 9) and dad said “whore’s ovaries”! I no more knew what a whore was than an ovary, but I knew it was funny and it was to be kept between us. As you can imagine I can’t ever view hors d’oeuvres the same way ever again!!

When I was young we always rented a place in Beach Haven, NJ during the 3rd week of June. The only downfall was that’s generally a rainy time and it’s early in the season, Beach Haven being a northern beach point.

I don’t remember this at all, but apparently the water generally ran 55-60 degrees, past brisk and downright cold. I was a nut for the water and would spend every waking minute in it if I could. Unfortunately dad had to be in grabbing distance at all times because he would never leave me alone. Not until I got to be 8 or 9, when while I body surfed the small waves, he sat in the surf, ever ready to run to my rescue (which I never needed!).

He had his flaws, but my dad would move mountains for me.

One of his flaws was alcoholism. The first (and last) car accident he ever had while drunk banged him up and scared him. I was sitting on the front porch one day with him while he was home recuperating. He had a broken nose, several broken ribs, and banged up his right knee and leg. We’re enjoying the spring day when suddenly he sneezed!! As he sneezed he bent over and simultaneously crossed his legs. He came out of that sneeze yelling oh shit with blood coming out of his nose. He had hurt everything that was damaged!! We always laughed about it later but I think the neighbors scurried away that day!!

So my dad worked about an hour’s drive from home. A couple times a month mom would drive to the mall with me and dad would meet us there. We’d have dinner inside then come out and leave. If several people were exiting at the same time my parents would start yelling at each other across the parking lot because they were never parked close to each other. It was a game, to see who went on their way and who was nosy. Mom would say “leave me alone, I don’t know you from Adam” and dad would yell “funny that’s not what Adam says” – throwing barbs. Well one guy didn’t think it was funny, he thought it was real. And he was an off-duty cop!! Pretty soon I was crying and mom was trying to explain they’ve been married 20 years, bla bla bla.

I have to say once it was over, I was laughing again!

We went to a farmers market one time and mom asked dad to weigh a watermelon. He picks one up, it rolls right back in his arms. He plops it back in the weighing basket, it falls over the other side and explodes on the floor. We had no watermelon!

Dad was painting the living room one night (our family never started a project before 3 pm!) so he had his old ladder with a lamp on the big top step/shelf and mom’s bedroom clock radio on the bottom step both plugged in to the same outlet.

He got ready to paint another wall, but he was rather disorganized. He took the lamp down and set it on the floor. Then he moved some painting stuff. He then turns around and swings the ladder over to a new spot. Moms alarm clock flies off and lands in a million pieces. Not sure she ever forgave him!

My dad like most men of his era would never ask for directions. We went out for a regular Sunday drive, and somehow got off the beaten path and got lost. Finally it’s well past dark and my mom says “So John, do you have the vaguest notion where we are?” and dad says “Yes Helen, I know exactly where we are!”. She says where then, dad says “We are at the precise geographic middle of nowhere”.

After that trip mom started packing crackers and sweaters!

We were riding in a Toyota rental car one time, dads car he got with his job was in the shop. We never drove a foreign car before. We finish dinner and by the time we leave the restaurant it’s dark out so dad figures out the headlights. But they are on high beam. There’s no button on the floor to dim them, no book in the glove box to show how. Driving home we get lots of high beams flashed at us. Then we get flashing red and blue lights!! The cop comes over and dad explains the situation. The cop gets in the car and 5 minutes later says drive straight home and doesn’t give us a ticket. My dad always said it was the cop kept smiling at me. As I got older I found that more disturbing than endearing!!

So yeah, when he was sober my dad could be a lot of fun 😉

Couponing is expensive!

It seems a bit counterintuitive, because we use coupons to save money. It all depends on how you approach it.

There are three kinds of shoppers I’ve identified:

1. Has a budget, pretty well knows what the family likes to eat, and feels too busy with work and other commitments to be bothered with cutting out coupons. This is the wing-it shopper.

2. Has a budget and a list, goes through the Sunday inserts and cuts just the coupons for what is on the list. This is the casual couponer.

3. Finally there’s the shopper who starts with the sale ads, making note of all the excellent deals that week and then combining them with coupons and other discounts to get the best deals. Meals come from what’s on sale. This is the hard-core couponer.

I must mention the so-called extreme couponers such as you see on TV. Unfortunately many of these people have been outed as frauds, using fake coupons. They are also shelf-clearers, which all three shoppers above find offensive.

I should disclose that I am a hard-core couponer. Although I’ve couponed for 30 years, only in the past year did I go in deep.

Back to couponing is expensive. There are start up costs to most any new thing you start, but this pays dividends if you are patient! If you are just starting to coupon, as many are, you will find you actually spend more in the beginning, and here’s why:

Let’s say there’s a sale on hot dogs, $1.50/package. You have a .50c off one coupon (.50/1) but your store doubles. That makes your hot dogs 50c, a good deal. But a deal you may not see again. So you buy 6 packs of hot dogs (they freeze well so you can stockpile), at a net cost of $3.00 (we’ll skip taxes here bc they vary). You only planned on buying one so now you are $1.50 over budget.

To get a decent stockpile going you will do this with many products, from toilet paper to salad dressing.

Once you get a good stockpile going then when you shop you only need perishables and what’s on sale this week, which will slowly bring your totals down to where you are spending at least 50% less than before you started.

Happy couponing!

Time is Flying!

Our son Andrew is 17. He is on the precipice of life. One year of high school left, then the world lay out before him.

He’s always been a determined kid. Never stubborn, just determined. Whether it was learning how to ride a two-wheeler ~ which he did in under an hour ~ or learning how to tie sneakers, which took considerably longer, once he put his mind to it he accomplished it.

The years in elementary school were sometimes tough. When we finally got the Aspergers diagnosis it was actually a relief.

The transition to middle school was easy for him. He joined the band, playing tuba starting in 6th grade.

Middle school was a fast three years and suddenly he’s a high schooler! Now in the marching band still playing the tuba.

Along the way he developed a great sense of humor and he and I banter back and forth often. Sometimes it just takes one word and we’re off! Tonight that word was tootsie roll 😉

Now he has taken the SAT, he has his plan set for what he wants to do with his life, even has his first choice college picked out. He works part-time plus a full load at school and he builds computer games on the side. I don’t know what side!!

Our time together is becoming less and less as he gets busier with activities and finds time to spend with his friends. It is how it is supposed to be, yet it is still bittersweet.

His first choice college is 300 miles away so next year he may be moving out which will be hard.

I admire him greatly. I admire his hard work and determination in gaining control of some detrimental aspects of his Aspergers. I admire his focus and responsibility, how he’s never broken my trust in him in all these years.

He is on his way to doing great things.

Invisible Illnesses vs Invisible People

I’ll bet everyone reading this knows what an invisible illness is. You might even have one. Or two! The guy yelling at you for parking illegally in handicapped spaces somehow has the good fortune of excellent health.

My illnesses all started out invisible, but as time went on required equipment. The first is diabetes. I’ve been diabetic for 16 years. Due to times of no insurance I have severe neuropathy. My neurologist claims he’s never seen someone with it so bad. I lost any feeling at all in the soles of my feet years ago. I started falling constantly because it felt like I was walking in marshmallow Fluff, I could never feel solid ground. I stopped driving.

I started using a power chair for long jaunts outside the house.

Then I started getting short of breath. I was finally diagnosed after two years with pulmonary hypertension. Now I’m on oxygen 24/7 and use the power chair everywhere but in the house. Suddenly my disabilities were very visible. No more ugly looks when we parked in handicapped. The world now felt I deserved it.

Gradually I noticed a change took place. Now my disabilities were no longer invisible, but I was becoming invisible.

I went to a big box electronics store looking to buy myself a new laptop. It wasn’t busy when I got there, being a summer weeknight. I headed to the computer department and noticed one other couple shopping there. A salesman came up to them and asked if they needed help. They said no thanks, we’re just looking.

I was ready to ask him a question as he was heading my way, but he walked right past me with no hello, just a minute, or even eye contact. Thirty minutes passed. The young couple got asked 2 more times if they needed help, they declined and left without purchasing anything. Now it’s just me and despite my asking them everyone is too busy to help me.

I finally found the manager, he basically said oh let me find someone.

I said no. It’s been 45 minutes that I’ve been ignored. Check your security tapes. I’ll be making my purchase online, through a different retailer. I’ve never set foot in that store again.

This kind of thing happens all the time. People look right past me as if I’m not there. I’m not someone you can accidentally not notice. I’ve even had people walk in to my chair, saying I didn’t see you. Seriously? My chair is huge and red, then there’s the oxygen hanging off the back. Pretty tough to miss.

I’ve gone from having invisible illnesses to becoming an invisible member of society. That makes me sad.

Asperger’s: Good? Bad?

You hear so often people say “their son suffers from autism” or “what a shame he’ll never be normal”. Both of these make me shudder.

Let’s start with normal. If you think someone should aspire to be normal, you’re not just saying normal is the ideal but you’re also saying that person is somehow less than. Normal is not a state of health, it’s a washer setting. I would never set normal as a goal.

On to the suffering. On my mother’s street there is a young man with profound autism. He is in his mid-20s and my mom knows him because his father takes him on walks every night. The son carries with him a plush toy that squeaks. If dad gets involved in a conversation and the son wants to get going, he squeaks it. He is non-verbal.

My mother, like many others, equates this with inability to communicate and lack of intelligent thought processes. Nothing could be further from the truth. My mother learned this when the young man presented her with a beautiful poem he had written.

I’m pretty sure I know how she reacted, this is a woman who used to yell when speaking to the doctor across the street because he was Taiwanese.

I have a son with Aspergers. He’s almost an adult now, but despite all the coping skills I taught him it can still occasionally interfere with his day. Those little hassles of daily life sometimes seem monumental to him. He doesn’t know when people are being sarcastic or facetious.

He also has an incredible focus and drive I doubt he’d have without the Aspergers. He is very smart, altho he has great difficulty with some things, like math.

He is a kind, gentle person who takes people at face value.

No, my child on the autism spectrum will never be average, typical, or normal. And I couldn’t be happier!

I was free, once

A long, long time ago, for a very short time, I was free. Free to think of only me, free to do whatever I felt like when I woke up. My days were mine, all mine. It’s an amazing feeling, one I’ll never have again.

Growing up I was a very responsible child. My room was always neat as a pin, I obeyed everyone, always did as I was told, without question. Around 13, my pop-pop moved in with us. I adored him and him me. My parents still liked to go out, dinner, coffee, food shopping, whatever. So it fell to me to keep an eye on pops. Not a big deal, but responsibility just the same. I was never told what to do if something bad ever did happen. I guess my parents figured I could handle it.

As I got older I did not get a longer leash. I hardly ever was allowed out, if I went to the football game Friday night that was it for the weekend. No proms, nothing. I was an A student and never once got in trouble.

Finally, in my senior year I’d had enough. I couldn’t go to college bc my mom said I was too young. So I left.

My boyfriend at the time was a year my junior and we were both in the hall between classes. He had a car. We were in Ohio by dark.

We didn’t really have a destination. We just had a small amount of money and a car. And Pink Floyd. The Dark Side of the Moon on cassette. It became the soundtrack of my freedom.

We finally ran out of money in Amarillo, Texas. We’d had quite a few adventures on the road! We found a twin house to rent, and jobs at the same place, that we could walk to.

We were there close to 30 days before my traveling companion got jealous of me talking to some guys and called his mommy. She called my parents and within days they had descended like locusts. It was awful.

The mornings sitting by the window feeling the warm sun, the evenings laying awake listening to distant train whistles, all gone.

Going to work, at a job I liked, mixing it up with people I barely knew, gone. Waking up on my day off, lingering in the claw foot tub debating what to do that day, all gone.

I got dragged home. I got a job at an insurance company. I met a guy 5 years older than me, he married me (60 days after we met). We had our first child a little over a year later, our second 11 months after that. By the next year we were divorced and I was left to raise two kids alone. That was 1983, I was not quite 21.

Before those kids were grown I remarried, and had another child.

Those fleeting days of freedom were the only ones I’ll ever know. But sometimes, like right now, I put Pink Floyd on my MP3 and I’m transported back….