Monday, September 19, 2005

The narcoleptic wren

The bird feeder that I keep suctioned onto the outside of my office window has finally made the headlines - The Critter Chatter News. I hear the birds talk about it every morning when they fly in and out on their way to work and such.

It took a good 4 or 5 months for the birds to first, notice the birdfeeder and food, and then another few weeks to realize it wasn't a mirage and to learn how not to dive bomb into the glass for a good meal.

I used to keep a flower pot underneath the bird feeder with various ever-changing plants in it, but the only thing that grew consistently and successfully were the sunflower seeds that sprouted after they had been kicked,spit or pushed out of the feeder. The pot became a catch all for seed crumbs.

Last week, my friend Amelia, who is extremely gentle natured, noticed that there was a bird laying in the feeder. She sat across from me and said, "Is he asleep?" I checked my rear-view mirror that I keep propped on top of my computer monitor so that I can see the daily activity and saw what she was talking about, but I thought the bird was not just taking a benign birdnap, I thought he had maybe had a heartattack from eating too many sunflower seeds.

I figured his cholesterol was running high and he just bit the dust. We approached gently, and then my panic made me push open the window and scoot my fingers his way. The sleeping beauty awoke, and without the kiss, remained a bird. A flustered little thing, he flew off in a panic.

Today, during staff meeting, I ventured to the hall way window one floor up from my office and I looked down to see if any little feathered friends were having brunch in the neighborhood cafe and sure enough, there was my little sleeper, napping once again. This time, he was sitting up and nodding off, as if he had been sitting in an easy chair and had fallen asleep watching the game. The only game going on right then was a few rowdy blackbirds swooping about. By the time staff meeting was over, he was off , reenergized from the rest stop I figured.

Later this afternoon, he dive bombed into the pot of overflow seeds and stayed there a good hour with his face in the seed-soil, and his tail feathers poking out and over the rim of the pot. Was it a suicide attempt? Intentional seed collision? Do birds get depressed? or were his brakes out of order, was he trying to save face by looking like he meant to hit the overflow flower pot instead of the well stocked feeder just over head? Was he drunk? Did he pass out from over drinking the polluted run off from the night's rain? Had he been sipping the organic fertilizer the landscape crew leaves in the bushes?

His breathing was regular albeit rapid, but what would you expect? He had to fly high to reach that cozy spot. Manuvering into the brick alley outside my office is no easy fly by, let me tell you. Amelia opened the window and stroked his feathers. He didn't seem to mind.

Another friend came by as well ,and was facinated by the lounging bird. He spritzed my covey of plants and considered the bird's odd positioning. "Is he praying" he asked? Being outside the office of a church secretary, I found this question completely understandable. " Is it Yoga?" We looked at him more closely. " Could be downward facing dog, I guess"
"Wait, no, his butt isn't up high enough and his hams aren't stretched" " hams? Do birds have those?" We kept postulating and presuming and guessing.

I ventured into the Pastor's office and asked him to please come to my office. He obliged me, probably thinking I was going to get on my high horse about some this or that, He came reluctantly, but he came. I like that in a Pastor. Tip toe trust. He entered the office/birdlounge and looked at our sleeping friend. Immediately, he connected with the gentleness the bird's aura presented. "He looks so comfy" He was touched, I could tell. It was a nice group-hug moment.

Things have been so hard rock 'n rolling at work that I thanked the bird for giving us that reason to pause. The Pastor quietly left and went back to his Pastoring. That's the number one job of Pastors, you know. Pastoring. It comes in lots of shapes and flavors, but I've come to recognize it just the same. Important work, performed to perfection with honest humilty and tender awareness. Qualities not many have, and qualities that so many wish they had. My boss and my home church Pastors are woven through and through with those qualities.

Later in the day, when the record was playing at 78 rpms again, I thought back to the sleeping wren.The moment made me feel pretty special.I mean, the Pastors provide an environment of love and comfort for people. All kinds of folks. and in this church, my work church, the church chick's office offers the same for other types of folk. Feathered friends, bugs, and narcoleptic birds. Well, it's a start anyway. Maybe one day, one day, my office will be a safe haven for creatures of other kinds, who knows?

Stalking first class

It was a dark and stormy night.
No. It was a muggy and fuzzy morning.
Yeah. That’s more like it…..It was a morning not unlike the weather scene in Psycho when the girl-on-the-run pulls into the motel and gazes up at the house on the hill where, unbeknownst to her a lone skeleton rocks the day away.

Even Church ladies need time to breathe and regroup from the frazzle and dazzle of Fall planning, and my time had come. The week had spun faster than a kid on chocolate, and there were stacks of plates on poles filling my office, too many to balance, so I decided to take a short escape and steal away for a couple of days. I tied up the loose ends the best I could, and called Churchlady Temps, that infamous agency that hires only the best of the best. They sent their number one chick right over, and I was off.

I met up with two other escapees, and we hit the road. About twenty minutes into the trip, I was stricken by a horrid thought. I had not cleaned out my PO box that morning. I did go the night before, but, gosh, that was nearly 12 hours ago. What would Frank say? Frank, the impatient postal person. Frank, first cousin to Jaws (the metal-mouthed angry assassin from 007 movies). Oh, good grief. Should I turn back? I was torn.

Had it not been for my two devoted friends restraining me via multi-seat belt to the seat, I would have leaped from the window and rolled my way back home to take care of that important detail. Oh. Oh, woah. I couldn’t bear to think what may be awaiting my return if I failed to clear out that box in a timely fashion. Nevertheless, the farther we went into the trip, the better I felt.

An hour and two counties later, I decided that it was certainly not wise to u-turn for the sake of a silly little post office box clean out. It could wait until my return in 72 hours. Surely, it could.

We decided to make a pit stop in a nearby McD’s for coffee. I entered the restaurant and waited for my two friends to order. Then I noticed the hairs on the back of my neck. They were standing up, and had started to vibrate. I felt my neck stiffen. My feet felt like lead. I was frozen in the early morning chaos of a highway fast food restaurant. What was THAT about?

Something drew my attention away from the cash register, and a bright blue baseball hat bill leaped into my vision. SIEZE THE DAY was written in glow- in- the- dark- lime . Gray-rimmed tri-focals peeked out from underneath the oversized hat awning. I knew those eyes. I knew them well. Those were the eyes that bore holes into the back of my head every time I visited the Post Office. Those were the eyes of Frank. “What are You doing HERE?” he fussed.

“I’m I- I- I’m going out of town” I stammered.
“What? THAT way?” He pointed toward the open road out of town. My voice trembled “Yes” while my head shook a resounding NO.

He picked up a sugar packet and popped it in his mouth. “Wow” I thought to myself. He eats it paper and all. Wow.
“Shouldn’t you be going the OTHER way?” Sugar crystals spit out across the floor when he spoke.
“ Uh, I think we’re following a map, uh, we’re going that way, I think it’s right.”

Where were my friends? Where did they disappear to?

He tipped the bill of his hat so that I could clearly see the large print. He reached up and pulled out a small wet ball of paper from his mouth. I watched in horror as he rolled it into a super spit ball and sat aghast as he threw it straight up. I was afraid to follow its path, but couldn’t resist the urge. When I looked up, I noticed that the ceiling I had thought was splattered with stucco was really covered with spit balls. I guess Frank frequented this place often-I guessed that he was a regular.

His voice pulled my attention his way. “You got that PO box cleaned out, little lady? You keepin’ it neat?” He shook his head, pulled off his hat and replaced it tenderly on his head of gray hair. “Yeah, I didn’t think so.” And then he was gone. It was then I knew.

It was then I realized that Frank would plague me as long as I worked behind the door called Church Secretary. There was clearly no escape. Miles couldn't protect me, nor county distance. That moment was a life altering spec of time. I crushed the empty paper cup I held and lifted it up to the spitball audience. “With God as my witness, I will keep my post office box from overflowing. I’ll never be trayed again.”

“So, are you ready? Or do you want to stay a little longer and maybe sing a song while you stand there?” The familiar voice of one of my traveling friends broke my concentration. “Uh, no, I’m ready. Let me just throw this cup away is all.” And we were off.

The present can exhaust us, the Future draws us ever forward, the past is powerful but I say with great intention, friend, Never underestimate the power of the Post.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Phonetic Trials never ending

It’s almost been a year now. A whole year since I’ve been playing Church Chick at the OK Corral. The instances of my true self slipping through my guise of admin asst are fewer and less often. Usually, its when I’ve had an almost full breath of confidence that something pops up, like today.

If you’ve read my chronicles from the start then you know of my dilemma and angst-ridden experiences with our phone system. Learning curve is pretty big. HUGE, larger than large.
Today I was talking to the financial secretary and we realized that tomorrow I will be here alone. I decided to call one of the other staffers to see if she was coming in and I used the intercom. I pressed her extension button on my phone and spoke. No answer.
“ Hey, I know you are up there, are you working tomorrow?”
no answer.
“ Don’t ignore me, I know you can hear me, now come on. Answer…..”
no answer but-
The Senior Pastor’s door flew open and he literally slid down the hall and caught himself on the doorframe to my office. He spoke to me.
“ I just thought you’d like to know that you aren’t talking to Annie, you are talking to me.”
He smiled and slid away, closing his door with a jingle.

Horrified, I called my oldest daughter. There’s comfort in sharing your horrification with a family member who can be horrified with you. Usually it works the other way around, daughter seeking out Mother, but since I’ve entered the grown up work world, the split is pretty evenly divided. “Mom! I can’t believe you did that! Was he mad?”
Was he mad? I thought to myself.. ruminated… considered…. Processed…pasteurized.. and then a happy thought came to my awareness. I shared it with my concerned daughter.

“Oh! You know what? He had a funny smile on his face, well, he had an unusual expression on his face when he slid over and I bet he was thinking, … "This kind of phonetic frenzy hasn’t happened in a while. Maybe that’s progress….”

My daughter sat in silence, then I heard her breathe again. “ Well, usually it works the other way around, mom. I mean like You notice things running smoothly, and comment on THAT. Instead of putting out a fire and realizing you are using fewer extinguishers than you used to. But if that works for you, I’ll be happy for you, and congratulate your improvements.” “Come to think of it, I haven’t heard you mention as many intercom-calamities of late. Gosh, I think that IS improvement.”

We hung up and I walked out into the hallway, just in time to see the Pastor’s door open. Two lovely young people came out, arm in arm. The young couple walked cautiously, their eyes shifting slightly from side to side. “Hi!” I offered as they passed by. I noticed a short pause in their stride which I took later to mean they recognized my voice as being the one who was screaming at them through the Pastor’s phone speaker just minutes earlier.

They scootched a little closer and walked in tandem out the front door of the church never looking back.
I turned to go back into my office .The kind and forgiving Pastor stood at my door holding thumbs up and smiling. He is such a supportive boss. It amazes me. After the positive reinforcement, he squeezed his eyes together in pursed lip silent prayer. He then tilted his head and said to the chilled hallway air, “ They MIGHT still join . Yeah. They might.”

Improvement takes many forms, I guess. I hope they don’t take my phone privileges away. I can do even better, I’m sure of it.

Church Chick