I’m telling myself that writing a blog this morning will get the gelatin that may be called my brain jiggling enough to start back writing the greatest American novel. My bar is set high. It’s set high enough for this 6’1″ tall man to walk under it without combing my ear hair down.
The coffee is kicking in. I can feel the jello vibrating a bit more right now. Woooooook. That feels good. This really was a good idea.
This is the second week of medical leave for me, part two. Those who have been following along are aware that there was a part one last January, three weeks for foot surgery that left me physically incapacitated until nearly May. Notice that I say physically incapacitated. Let’s not get that confused with my usual mental state.
As I write, I am waiting for the morning circus to begin. I am downstairs in the kitchen, the place where many of the pictures I use for this blog are taken (I will use one for this blog). My coffee is just the right temperature, the Cream of Wheat cooling, Chester the cat sitting on the chair opposite me peering out the sliding glass door of the deck. We both enjoy the early morning quiet. Chester also likes the morning birds, his bird meow a pure joy to me. We both know that in a few moments our revelry will be interrupted by first an overly anxious Miriam as she goes through her morning rituals to get out the door, followed by Alyssa as she arrives fresh and ready to take the food and coffee her mother shoves at her, then Nate will amble in with shuffling feet to slip his shoes on. I try not to smile as he tells her to chill. He always does. That is something he has learned to do this year. Last year he would have been panicking along with her, a perfect duo. This year is different, a calmer boy prevailing, one that went from a D & F grade student to an A & B student this year. Hmmmmm.
Thinking about Nate in that light, well, it gets that brain gelatin vibrating a little more. He has changed in one aspect of his life. Maybe there is hope for the way he and I relate. After all, he did tell me this past weekend that I am a very good dad.. and in the same breath said he did not think I was being a very good dad at the moment. As Nate I heard that, I couldn’t help but process the positive in that while also admiring the way he said it. Now what lead to and followed that moment was not positive, but I chose the passive and mostly silent response, listening better for the both of us than me reacting. This past Saturday and Sunday was packed with a spousal contradiction, can of Mountain Dew bursting, frank discussion before church, tornadoes, delayed football game, TV battle, video game irritation, soul search, rainbow contemplation. By Sunday morning I did not want to be in the house, the conflict so overpowering that my recently repaired gut was complaining mightily. Thankfully there was the week gleaming on the near horizon, my experience from medical leave part one enough to keep my head straight. I knew that Monday morning would return me to healing, including the damage the conflict was trying to inflict on me during the weekend.
That may be why I came into Monday morning with energetic enthusiasm, my gut still feeling the surgery from a week ago but not as much as it had over the weekend. One of the challenges of the weekend had also been mechanical problems with the family van, so I had to make sure my PT Cruiser ran well enough for Miriam to drive, which it did. The PT has become the problem child that requires me to stay a step ahead of it, which I do, but Miriam is not familiar with the PT’s quirks. I needed to drive the family van, an aging Nissan Quest with lots of upside in spite of it just plain showing signs of wearing out. 150K miles does that to a vehicle no matter how good it is. My friends from Panera had been sending me messages hinting that they hadn’t seen me for a while and wanted to know how I am doing. How can I resist that? I can’t. It makes me feel like the celebrity I am not. They are the only people, for the most part outside of my old blogs, that have heard (not read) a portion of my fictional writing and for some reason they seemed to like it. Either that or they are just really nice people who are just encouraging me, which they are, but I like to hold a bit of hope that maybe they really did like what I wrote and read to them. So off I went to Panera in the family van after using the jump charger to bring it to life, the displays and headlights dim until the battery was charged enough to support the vehicle’s accessories.
Monday was the day I got stuff done. Even though I had the benefit of quiet while the kids were at school, I spent the day doing the tasks that I normally would not be able to devote my attention to. In the office or even at home with my family around, it is near impossible to get the privacy to get issues that must be resolved over the phone done. One task hanging over since the middle of September was a final premium bill from Farmer’s Insurance that was ridiculous from a fairness point of view (so much so that I had no issues in questioning it — sometimes I feel that the other side has its reasons) and presented to me with such a mean spirit that I could not believe it. To make the story short (unlike this blog), after a week of wrangling with Farmers over a doubled auto premium that was going to come due again in less than two weeks, I had to cancel simply because Farmers was dragging their feet to try to resolve my issues with the doubled premium. On the second business day, I received a bill from Farmers Insurance for the final premium — due upon receipt. And I received a collection notice for that bill this past Friday. So I called Farmers on Monday, negotiated an automated phone tree that seemed very much designed to handle anything but any customer with service issues, spent a lot of time on hold, negotiated firmly with a nice but stubbornly company line customer service associate who eventually turned me over to someone in accounts who had the power to resolve my issue with the final premium bill. She did what should have been done in the beginning, applied payments and the discounts due to me, and issued a refund instead of a bill. Had I not had the time (it took close to two hours), energy, privacy, and rest that call required from me, it likely would not have been resolved.
When one has the time and the rest that provides more control over the calm, one can take the deep breaths necessary to stop, advise the person on the other end of the line that you have reached the point where you are going to be upset. I have learned that one. It works. You don’t have to yell and it’s fair to the person on the other side, who probably hates that they don’t have the power to help you the way you need to be helped, take a deep breath also and let their brain work enough to figure out a solution. Sometimes a customer service person does not have the power to help, so I let him know that it did not have to be him that provides the resolution, but maybe another department or supervisor could. I could almost literally hear the bell go off. He told me he had an idea, was going to put me on hold for a while, came back to check in and let me know that the accounts person was working on it, then came back a few minutes later with her on the line. Bingo. In a few minutes, my situation with Farmers had gone from adversarial to peacefully and positively resolved.
There is no way I would recommend that company, no way I would do business with them again — there was too much trouble necessary to reach resolution. There is a lot of my life I will not get back from that tiny refund. A customer focused company would have been able to resolve my issues within five minutes, not the countless time and phone calls that resolution required, as well as the energy retaining my patience required.
It’s nice to ‘win’. That changed my outlook on Monday. By the evening, I no longer felt sick. I had turned a corner. I relaxed.
So what did I do yesterday? Very little. I did learn a little. Online video games are changing the mindsets of the immature. I am not talking about myself. I am talking about 8 to 14 year old boys trying to cuss and talk like military hardened soldiers. I played a lot of Call of Duty online yesterday, something I play as a game (play Call of Duty online sometime and you will know why I highlighted the word game). Children and adults used the terms nigger, fuck, shit, dick, suck, eat me, gay, etc. so much that I had to use the mute feature of the game or quit in disgust.
However, I am now friended in the game by a black teen who calls himself “MyNigga”. He calls me “Old White Nigga”. Word.
What am I going to do today? The bad weather here in the Chicago area ripped a large section of shingles from my back yard shed. I may be able to do that without hurting myself. Mir thinks I should not do that. I may listen to her on that one. I may be having a good week, but another week will drive me to the stir crazy world of allworkandnoplaymakesjackadullboy. I am trying to write, after all, and that is my plan for the day.
Off to the shower. I will leave you with a picture of my dog child Nick, who I just had to go outside and force back inside. He loves cold weather and is waiting for his beagle friend from next door, Casimir, to come outside and play. Nick stays in the unfenced yard until he gets a little stir crazy. Like human, like dog.
(Some quick notes on this blog — 1. Don’t think I don’t notice the attitude I have regarding my wife, the way I portray her in this blog shows in the way I describe her, phrases like “overly anxious”. I am aware of it but am not sure I can change it. There is a lot of prayer going on to address it, but I am not at the point where I want to change it — mainly because I am at the point where I am sure it can not because she is not going to change. I am going to try to stop writing about that. 2. To those who read this blog through the FB link, I may not link to a blog any more if I deem it too personal.)