Sunday, August 27, 2006

Time Spent With My Sister's Daughter

This evening, we sat and explored the possibilities of an "ancient’" game of Intellivision. This fourteen-year-old and I. The young lady who was a baby…yesterday. The one baby, the only baby I have ever loved from the moment I laid eyes on her. As if she were my own.

So much water under the bridge now… Distances and commitments. Lives and loves and jails and little autistic brothers. It seems…it was so long ago. And the connection thought long severed. Yet, in the deepest reaches of our souls, it is there.

That inexplicable love… The first I have ever known of what has been labeled the "unconditional" variety of that particular commodity.

I truly believe that, no matter what that child does…I could never, ever turn my back on her. Never walk away. Though…maybe I thought that same thing of her three cousins. Far away from me, now…distances measured in more than simply miles.

How I long to keep this one close. How I long to be, to her, the aunt I shall never again be to the other three.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Taking Time

The alarm went off at 6. A creaky arthritic arm snaked out from under the blankets to pound the snooze bar. Twice. These days, I go to bed exhausted, and wake up in the same state. Somewhere around noon, with the help of my two-ounce daily allowance of caffeinated beverage, my eyes will open all the way—for about two hours. Then I float back down into that semi-fogged world of bleary-eyed sleep deprivation I’ve inhabited since July 1.

This morning, I dragged my butt down the stairs after my shower…about fifteen minutes later than I had planned. I wanted to get to the café at 7…a half-hour earlier than I really needed to be there. So I was fifteen minutes late for being a half-hour early. And now I needed to hurry out the door if I wanted to get there in time to let the key-less cook in for the start of his shift.

The sprinklers had been turned on, and mewling livestock had been rewarded with bowls of kibbles slid under their noses. Dog had been sent out the back door to take care of business. Chores accomplished, I collected keys, purse, satchel and prepared to fly out to the car. But the kitchen window was open, just a crack…and the soft calls of the goldfinches hovering around the seed sock derailed my businesslike exit.

My birds! The drip irrigation was still dripping, and I have set up one nozzle to drip into the bird bath, refreshing the water and (hopefully) keeping it from turning too green and scummy in the summer heat. One little yellow bird was merrily bathing under that tiny drip. Fluffing wings, wagging tail feathers, scattering tiny droplets in a joyful shower on the other birds waiting their turn. I was lost in the moment. For several seconds, I couldn’t have moved, couldn’t have dragged myself away from that vignette if the house was on fire. I consciously ignored the little voice that droned that I didn’t have time for this…that I was going to be late. And the thought crossed my mind, about taking time. Taking time to smell the roses.

For several years, I have not had to take time. The roses were there. I had the time. I smelled them.

Now, I have no time. It’s all used up. There is not a moment to spare. If I’m not rushing around putting out fires, walking tightropes, planning changes, poring over invoices and schedules, I’m cramming in a couple hours of sleep in between. And those "boring" days when I had oodles and oodles of time float just outside my grasp. As unattainable as the Grail.

And now I get it. The part about taking the time. So I took it.

I watched, enchanted, while that little bird enjoyed his ablutions. In less than a minute, he finished and flitted away. But those few stolen seconds sent me off with a smile and a calm that changed the entire fabric of my day.

Time. Take some. For the important things.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Look What They've Made Me Do

Hi. I've been away. In actual fact, I bought a business. I have joined the ranks of the terminally tired, eternally frazzled but gloriously "un-bossed" entrepreneurs of our great nation. I really don't even have time to write this, but...I thought it should be shared.

Let me just say that being a “real” business owner is a fiscal nightmare. And an accountant’s dream, I suppose. I’ve decided that accountants must have a powerful lobby in Washington, because the layers upon layers of IRS rules and regulations governing just payroll are mind-boggling. This is to say nothing of the quarterly, bi-weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, biennial, semi-annual, multilateral, interracial, and multi-orgasmic reports that have to be filed by a legitimate business, with every agent behind every desk of every federal and state bureaucracy in existence. One could hardly afford not to hire an accountant…one would be have no time to run one’s own business if one tried to wade through this by oneself.

We had an amazing weekend catering at an event with my old business (the twenty-foot concession trailer) this past weekend. Like shooting fish in a barrel, as the old saying goes. We brought in more money than we ever have at a weekend event. More money, in fact, than my newly acquired café brought in all of last month. Which gave me pause this morning…and touched off a tiny tug-of-war in my head. For the first time in my life, I felt the overwhelming desire to cheat on my taxes. Not just the little white-lie cheating that everybody does. I mean big cheating.

We don’t use a cash register in the catering booth. You add up the transaction in your head, throw the money in the money box, and hope you have given out the right change. (Those of us of a certain age actually know how to make change, which is more than I can say for any one of the employees I inherited with my new business…but I digress.) So, I thought about that eighteen-inch-tall stack of money I took to the bank, and I thought…no one but me knows exactly what our sales were over the weekend. My accountant doesn’t know…my husband doesn’t know. The bank doesn’t know, because I made deposits in two different banks. We have no cash register, so there is no paper trail. The only figures in existence are in an Excel spreadsheet on my computer, and I can change those to read anything I want.

I’ve never really been tempted to cheat on my taxes before--for two reasons. The first reason being that I am the kind of person that cannot get away with anything. I got pulled over by a cop once, and he told me he’d have to give me a ticket this time, but the next time he might just write me a warning (?!?) I exude some kind of guilt pheromone when I’m trying to get away with something not quite savory. So I generally just don’t bother.

But the second reason is, I always felt that my tax money was, for the most part, being put to proper use. I knew that if I expected the society in which I lived to provide things like education for the children, support for the indigent, good roads and police protection, I needed to ante up. I never could understand these anti-taxation idiots who whine about taxing being excessive and illegal, but grumble out of the other side of their mouths about the potholes and the lack of prison beds, and want to run around the world with a big stick to make the rest of the world toe the line. Where the hell do they think the money comes from to make these things happen?

Which brings me back to my newly-inspired desire to cheat on my taxes. I look at what my country is, in this day and age, and exactly where that tax money is going, and I think, “I’m sorry, I can’t support any of this.” I can’t support an illegal war financed with billions of dollars that could and should be going to support the indigent, educate the children, fix the roads, fund research to free us from the burden of dependency upon foreign oil, clean up our environment and make sure we leave our planet fit for our children to inhabit. I can’t pour my blood sweat and tears into the pit of deficit spending created by our GOP-led government. I can’t give my money to the people who will continue to ignore, abuse and disenfranchise me and the rest of the middle class at every opportunity. It would be like buying a .44 magnum and pointing it at my own head.

So, I wonder…how many tax cheats does this administration create each day? And why do I feel as if this—this difficult choice between two wrongs—is just one more betrayal of the middle class by the Bush Administration and the GOP?