Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sad, Sad Christmas News

One of my daughters sits for the cutest two boys you could ever love. She has been adopted into their family over the years. Although her name is Liz, the entire family has come to call her Yiz. Even the aunts and uncles say,"So, Hi Yiz. How ya' doing?"

The boys are now 3 and 5. Perfect. Great year for all grades of trouble.

She is very special to the boys as she is the Mary Poppins in their lives. She is the dream sitter they will adore until she retires into a rest home. No one can hold a candle to her. Even the nannies they are enjoying pale in comparison. She comes to visit on college breaks.

Over Thanksgiving, she missed seeing them. She had to get back to school and they were en route from their holiday away with family. They called on her cell. I can't change the names here because it just isn't the same, so I hope the family will forgive me. or enjoy the tale.

Her cell rang. She answered. Wyatt (5)said something like, " Hi Yiz."
" Hi Wyatt. What are you doing?"
" We're riding in the car coming home."
" Oh, I'm riding in the car, too."
" Are you coming to see us?"
" Well, I really wanted to, but I have to go back to school now."
muffled noises take over, voices shift. Enter Charlie (3)
"Yiz. Wheh ah you?"
" Who is this?"
" Dis is Chah-wee. Are you comin'?"
" Charlie, I'm going back to school. I'm driving now just like you are. I'll be back for Christmas, though so I will come see you then, okay?"

Charlie holds the phone away from his ear and says to the carload of people he is riding with, " She's not here!!" then... "Click"

She called me later to tell me that she had just been hung -up on by a 3 year old.

The make up plan was the promise of having both boys over to Yiz's house for dinner. Charlie and Wyatt got to make the menu. Although the date is still in limbo, the menu is set in stone. Spongebob macaroni and cheese, with Spongebob macaroni and cheese as the appetizer and dessert, and vegetable. That will be a fun dinner, boy howdy.

In the meantime, the days go by......

It is now Christmas time. She decides to visit her boys. The nannie greets her with, "Hi, Yiz". ( We think the nannies think her name is actually Yiz)
The boys are decorating the tree, Charlie is putting the baby Jesus ornament he made in preschool on a branch, no- this branch, no- this branch, no- THIS branch... etc... he looks as if the perfect branch for his baby Jesus is way up near the top, a place that would most definitely require climbing.

Liz looks around the room at the decorations. Lots of lights, wreaths, other holiday items, and of course the manger. Except, something is missing. Something isn't right.

"Yiz!" her little friends demand her full attention.

" Yes, Charlie, I see your ornament. You made that? Wow!"

The nannie speaks with a reprimanding tone." So Charlie, tell Yiz what happened to the baby Jesus in the manger."
Charlie keeps moving his ornament about, fully engrossed, and fully ignoring the question.

"He got fwushed down the toilet."

Liz glances over at the glass manger scene and notices the loving gazes of Mary and Joseph falling onto an empty cradle.

"What happened, Charlie?"

The nannie continued. " Charlie went to the bathroom and then I heard him say, 'Uh Oh, Baby Jesus is flushed down the toilet'. She explained that he came out of the bathroom shrugging his shoulders and holding both of his dripping wet hands up in that " I don't know, beaths me, sister," posture.

Liz looked at Charlie with love and her usual warmth. " Gosh, so now there's nobody for Mary and Joseph to look at and no one for the Wise Men to come see. That makes me sad in my heart, Charlie."

Charlie looked at her with his big beautiful eyes and said, "yeah" then he moved his ornament again, and then once again.

Maybe they should turn the wisemen so their gazes fall towards the bathroom, and maybe they can put Mary and Joseph in there somewhere.

What does it really mean when the baby Jesus gets flushed? It probably means that 3 year olds are still 3 year olds are still delightfully delicious 3 year olds. and 5 year olds along with them make a nice mix.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Holiday Headlines

This just in on the white board at work. Yes, that's right , the white board that alerts the congregation of all births, deaths, and concerns.. This just in............
Holiday Headlines
Baby en-route with Mary and Joseph...

3 Wiseguys spotted flollowing a bright UFO

Stray cows and donkeys are migrating towards Bethel Manger Inn

Today, in downtown Bethlehem, there was a non-violent demonstration of winged creatures chanting Taize verse near and around a manger in a popular Inn.

Lost: 1 clay jar of Myrrh, if found please contact me at

Wanted: Tan tabby double humped camel carrying gold and 2- 2oz spray bottles of frankensense. Last seen on sandway 42. Do approach.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Learning curve

I am so glad my boss has a new phone. Whew. One knot along the way, though. The simple process of replacing his phone really reflected the slow down in brain cell function in my own head. I am a creature of habit.

He was in a rush, as usual, and had found a smidgen of time somewhere in the corner of his back pocket. He fled the building leaving a trail of words flapping behind him. " I'm going to the cell store, I'll be back with my phone soon."

A little while later, I got a call from him. His voice was low and sort of congested. I heard car-lift noises , and the sound of spitting; country radio finished out the background. " Melanie, I need the address of the cell store. I thought it was here, but it isn't. Can you do a map-quest for me?"

I was on hold with someone else, and was in the middle of looking up some information on the database for a customer/member. My mind kicked into multi-task routine.
I said to my boss," Let me call you right back." Before I could get the phone snuggled back into its cradle, a shrill noise rang out from my phone. "NOOOOooooOOOoooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!"

I looked at the screaming receiver and spoke into it, hoping to quiet the squall " What's the matter? I can call you right back on your cell. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh You don't have it, that's why you are there. oh yeah. Well, where are you then?"

" I'm calling from a gas station, a service station, an auto shop."I noticed a distinct twang of dis-ease in my boss's voice. He seemed uncertain.
Echoing from across the phone line came the sound of hack and spit -and a distant deeper toothless voice threw out, " Yeah, that'd be BILLY BRECK'S BIG MAN'S BODY SHOP, bub."

"Hold on, and I'll look it up right now, right this minute, how's that?"

"That would be great." he sighed with relief.

I gave him the directions and returned to other things that needed my attention. Then I started thinking. If the phone was completely damaged, how was he going to be able to retrieve his saved information?

A while later, he returned, but he looked more tired than relieved.
"So, tell me what happened?" "Did you get a new phone?"

"Yes, but none of my numbers saved and I realized that I don't really know anybody's phone number. I tried to call someone who I talk to often, but realized that I only know them as 3. I pushed 3 and nothing happened. I'll have to reprogram it all....

I started thinking and decided I wouldn't let it get to me. I tried to recall some of the numbers in Alex's phone number , and dialed. But Max answered. I don't know a Max. So I rearranged the numbers and tried again, but Francis answered. After Jonas picked up on my third try, I decided to give up calling random strangers and just put the numbers in again. I guess I could have used those windows of opportunity to save souls, but gosh, it was so frustrating. I wanted to talk to #5, 2, and 6 today, and quite frankly, I'd really like to talk with #9 but I am lost without the contact information. He looked pretty pitiful. Even for a Pastor.

"Hey, boss,I say we go back to using tin cans and string"
"Let's talk about it next week at staff meeting" he said as he left..... already on the path to another appointment.

In the office, we have started using the battery-free/ electricity-free system more often than not. It is an intercom system that is made in America, locally, actually. Each system looks a little different, I think that's neat. A unique quality you can't find in items manufactured overseas.
Equipment involves oxygen, and two hands. Cup your hands around your mouth, breathe in and holler. "Ellennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn" works well. Sometimes we use the phones, or email, but this system seems to work just as well most days. I like it. cheap and clean. You can't beat that.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Clean as a whistle

My Pastor boss moves a mile a minute. No kidding. He runs marathons in spirit on the pulpit, and he runs marathons on the pavement as well. He probably sleeps in motion too. I wouldn't be surprised. He is full of something that is backordered forever. Everybody wants it, not many can get it. The world would run smoother if we had more of it. It's a good thing to have, it's a good thing to see in others. good good good.

The thing is, that sometimes when you are full of this mysterious spiritual fuel, your odometer is changing so fast that your speedometer goes out. This is what happened today. Well, technically yesterday, but I'm still enjoying the story today.

I took yesterday off. Before I did, I looked at his calendar and, I have to admit I was a bit forewarned. The squares that Franklin Covey gives him to fill his time with were full. They were penciled in, erased, and rewritten upside down and this way /thataway. It was clear to me that my boss would be running harder than hard- faster than fast while I was lounging about on my day off. Maybe I should have taken heed of that warning inside me. But, I did not. I packed up and took my day off off off.

During the day of ping pong speedy activities, my Pastor boss shifted gears . Most days, he can manage that just fine, but on this day, he was driving a 5 speed on automatic. That doesn't fit, does it? Nope.
He was friend/Pastor/boss/dad/husband/neighbor/athlete/brother/.................All. Day. Long. One minute he was sharing soothing words with someone in need, the next he was typing wisdom in an email, phones ringing all the time in between. Landline/ cell phone... Whew.Phone call after phone call, checking voice mail, returning calls,typing, sermonizing, answering his cell. It was a hyper-cell day for sure.

The shifting gears zoomed out of control, the day became a blurrrrr and suddenly, he realized, in mid- conversation, that he was talking to himself. I mean, I do that all the time, but he noticed that he was talking and not getting any response from the other end of his cell phone. He released his squenched up shoulder, lowered it carefully, and removed the phone from the crook in his neck. He rolled away from the computer and leaned into the lamplight across from his desk. He looked closely, only to find that he was not holding his cell phone at all, but his computer's wireless mouse!!!

"Well, when did THIS happen?" He thought to himself. "I've been talking all day to people, what in the world is going on? Where is my cell phone? Where could it be? Who have I been talking to all day?

The staff came to his aid and they circled around him, ready to problemsolve. "Where did you last see it?" "Retrace your steps" "Let's call it" "Let's call it again" "Try it one more time" "Does anyone hear it ringing?" No. No. NO. NO.

Bedraggled and disappointed, the staff returned to work, and the Pastor to his own tasks. The day moved on. Finally, it was time to go home. He walked the 25 steps from the church to his house and entered his cave. He slipped off his shoes, laid his jacket on the banister and headed for the bedroom to crash. What. A. Day.

When he passed the laundry room, he remembered that he had run a load of laundry earlier in the day when he was ping ponging about. Yes, this is a Pastor who washes and wears. I tell you, people, he does it all.

He picked up the wet and lightly spun clothes and placed them in the dryer. Then he heard it. plunk. He looked inside the dryer to see a very clean and shiny cell phone- minus an antenae, but clean and shiny just the same. "Is that?... What is?..... Oh!....My phone!!" He cradled the small flipphone in his palm and looked at it. "blip" "blip" " frummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm zzzzt." The silence said it all.

The Pastor sighed, gave the last rights and carried the laundered phone to his room. His wife was concentrating on a good book, but when her loving husband entered, she stopped and looked up. She watched him slowly drag his feet into the room. "What is it, honey?"

He sat beside her, then released the phone into her lap."It's a both/and thing. Clean, shiny, and yet, out of order." "Oh, well, tomorrow is another day. Another day, another phone."

I guess life is just like that sometimes.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A respite day off

Today I took a day off. I had a few vacation days I didn't want to lose, so I'm taking them while we are still in an even numbered year. I love my job. You can read back through and see that. I love the Christmas lights I line my walls with all year long, I love creating different mixages for the staff consumption ( We are presently enjoying Melanie's Merry Christmas Mix which is almonds, chocolate, mini marshmallows, pineapple, cashews and good cheer)

I love filing, and I especially enjoy the challenge of filing something one day and trying to remember how and where I filed it the next. State of mind has everything to do with it and mine is everchanging. I like typing, scheduling events , ohhhh running the postal machine, distributing mail. I love putting people on hold. (Never do this when angry, you tend to forget them)

I like helping people understand Biz, our new copy machine. Biz and I are buds. I like hearing the folding machine going a mile a minute, because it means our tech guy is running a large mailing and that means that I'm not. I like running last minute errands for the dress rehearsal, or grabbing box lunches for a meeting. So many things to keep me busy.

I most especially like to tell my boss his next appointment is here. Yes, I love my job.

So I decided to take a day away from all this. Yes, friends. I took a day off. I needed to do something for me, something to feed my spirit. To renew my inner chia. So, I went to my home church and spent the day. I chatted with my favorite mentor church chick over church chickfeed,
I hugged every staff member i saw. I checked in with the business administrator to see how business is being administrated today, I planned the Christmas breakfast that I'm in charge of organizing this weekend. I cleaned out a box of crafts . I answered the phone, work called me and one of my 4 daughters called as well. I think it's neat that they know where to find me. If I'm not at one church I'm at another.......and I read a little. I ran last minute errands with the Minister of children- I'm her official volunteer admin assistant. I talked with the new youth pastor over how it's going. He still has that glazed look but I think he can run the copy machine now. I talked with my best work friend, who was worried when i wasn't at work, but was relieved when she knew I was at home church. She's a good egg, over easy, just the way i like friends. I talked with both co-pastors and the financial secretary who lives across the street from the latest extreme home makeover. It will be shown in January. For a week she slept with ear plugs and her head buried under her mattress. No kidding 24/7 they work to get those projects done. She was there for the "Move that bus" I asked her about it. I think she 's still a little tired because she said, "Well, they said Move that bus, and then they moved it."

Today was just like being at work except I didnt' get paid money for it , I got paid in love and friendship energy and i picked my day. Actually, the two partner up pretty darn well. I love my job and I love my home church. It's a good mix.

I offered a volunteer admin asst job to someone special at work church and she said yes. So now, when I'm not there, sometimes she is there and that makes the plants and office happy.

Offices need that flow to keep them warm and fuzzy. Home church and work church are all that.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mirrors are us

We all know that renovations take longer than long. Our ladies, restroom has been under construction and reconstruction and renovation on a rotating basis since I started working there. It puts the passing of time in place.

You may have seen at some time a prehistoric timeline of the world? Take off the prehistoric and replace it with women's restroom and it's the same thing.

I'm not complaining. We've had toilets working ,mostly,all along, which is most important . There were very few times I had to go across the hall to the men's room in a hurry- and I have to say I am quite impressed with the ability of the human mind/body to adapt. After only 2 or 3 emergency runs to the men's room, with a guard standing watch for me outside, I successfully learned how to pee standing up. Maybe women need those urinal things too. It's a little tricky, but doable. Of course I'm just teasing. ....probably.

So the women's room has been undone, redone, plastered, painted, prayed over, left to set a while and re-sinked. It's been a thrill. With one exception. The mirrors.

From where I sit, in my church chick nest, I hear many comments from passers by in the hall. There are lots of frustrated fusses about the lack of mirrors in the restroom. The need for mirrors in the ladie's room is a real one and it points to the diffrences, well, some of them between men and women.

Men don't care if the have spinach stuck in their teeth. They rarely have bra straps that show, and very few men wear slips that creep down beneath their skirts. Men who wear lipstick typically go for the clear gloss, so they don't need a visual check. Men just don't have the same needs. and yet- where are the new mirrors in the newly redone restrooms? Why, the men's room of course. Perhaps I should change them out with posters that have smart sayings on them, like " You the man", or "Please check shoes for trailing toilet paper before exiting", or maybe even "XYZ- made you look!!" I don't know. I'm still thinking. I do know that the bloodpressure of the female restroom attendees has hit an all time high. So, I did what any self respecting Church Chick would do. i put on my cape and solved the problem myself. The response hasn't been addressed by the Board of TRustees yet, and my boss hasn't said," please remove", so I guess I'm not in trouble. well, not yet, anyway. In fact, I'd say the laughter gauge is running a little higher, and Ilike that song.

I "installed" two products of the finest quality. One, a lovely oval sheet of aluminum foil. Taped it to the wall myself, with a note above it saying "CAUTION, OBJECTS MAY APPEAR MORE DISTORTED THAN THEY ACTUALLY ARE" or something like that. and I was pleased to notice that the silver tray I "borrowed" fromthe kitchen sits nicely between the two sinks. It is titled," Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest?.....

Holiday distractions can keep our spirits in check sometimes, and when the new mirrors wear out their use, I'll bake cookies on the aluminum and serve them on the tray. How's that for multi-purpose?

Mirrors and gauze

So the evaluation went well, His positive comments were not written in invisible ink as I had feared. whew.

The next day, I started the day empowered with the zen of a good evaluation. So I decided to branch out and do some career growth on the job.

Our youth minister, director of youth, trailblazing bundle of energy- call her what you will- she is expecting her first child. I call this taking the discussion of the facts of life to the max. The adolescents she mentors have seen her before during and they will after. It has been a real education that is more effective than print or video. Anyway, She was scheduled to have a C section on Friday.

She has to be one of the most beautiful pregnant women I've ever seen. First babies create a unique essence i their mothers. I've enjoyed her pregnancy a great deal. More than she has in some ways. I asked her if she wanted to do a bellycast so she could remember and show her babe exactly what mom looked like right before she was born. She was in! Ready to tackle the job! A friend who had also done this gave the very pregnant youth minister/director her leftover materials and I waited to see how the couple fared. One day, two dayspassed. No cast. Finally, on Thursday, I asked her about it.
"I'm very interested! but my hubby isn't quite sure how to do it. he keeps saying things like, wrap you in wet plaster gauze? ALL of YOU? "
I knew he was being pulled into the new daddy zone. I knew his reason and sanity had already started to drain. I wondered if he was afraid the gauze would keep the baby from being born? Or if he was wondering where in the world does one display such a cast as one of your naked pregnant wife? No matter. No matter at all. I knew if there was a will there was a way.

" Do you want me to help you?, I mean, in the am, you'll be a mom and this time will have passed" OMG I was volunteering myself to do this !!WHAT was I thinking? Church chicks do not have this listed in their job descriptions. I do not think so. hmmm.
She was in the car rushing home to get the gauze before I ever finished talking. Oh lordy.

When she came back, we went up to her office and I laid out a trash bag for her to stand or kneel on and she stripped. We cut the gauze into strips and I dipped them into warm water and started layering them on her. My embarrasment left with the first strip. She was a perfect model. Still, with the motion of the baby making her rock a little from time to time. 45 minutes later, there she sat, covered in white. I pried an edge of the hardened cast away from her shoulder, and the rest popped right off. What a fun project!! She was patient and we chatted about everything except the fact that a casual working friend was pasting wet gauze on her naked body. It was the elephant in the room. or the elephant in the womb, i might say. Talk about up close and personal....We cleaned up and let her cast rest there for a while.

I brought the boss pastor up, and he with his good nature, came willingly. He had no clue what in the world we were wanting to show him. When he looked, he was taken aback. I mean, really, what do you say to a site like that? When the shock wore off, he recognized the value of such an idea and he accepted it with awe. Me, too.

ONe day, she'll finish the cast with paint or something else, and it will become a work of art. The new mom is already that, and much more.

job descriptions

Well, it is time for job evaluations. My favorite time of the year- second only to driving the wrong way on the highway at rushour. A few weeks ago, my boss planted a small seed that said, Evaluations are coming up, so get the paperwork going, girl! and I did. I'm learning that he lets ideas slip out sometimes, and if I'm caffeinated, I can sometimes notice and act early. It pays off later to do that. So, I got lucky and caught the seedling this time round. His second stage of processing is not as subtle. Last week, late afternoon, he came out of his office, (He was walking 60 in a 35 mpwalk zone) and said with determination- " Today we will begin evaluations." Then he went back into his cave for a while. I collected the necessary forms, labeled, and planted the documents where they needed to go, in everyones' caves. Then, I had my own idea. I filled out my own self-eval, and waited. On his next breeze through, I said, "I'm ready, let's go".
He stopped and looked at me, trying to be ready but not understanding what I was talking about.
" I'm done with my part of evaluating, so let's get this done right now!!"
He said, "Now?", "but it's the end of the day.."
Following his exuberance to get this process in motion, I held firm. " So, hurry up and do your part so we can get this done right now!"
He said, "oh. okay"
So we did, and the short story is that I am employeed still. Thank gosh for small favors.

I needed to get that behind me because I had something else on my mind that needed attention, and I needed to have some good vibes behind me on it.

That story is to follow.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sense of time

Ever have one of those days that seem to last for six weeks? Ever have one minute that wish upon wish would last longer than a nanosecond? Time is a confusing beast. It changes and morphs and lives on some odd continuum.

At work, tedious typing can go on for days on end, while not even a mere morning has passed by.

At home, challenging moments with my children can stretch like bitter taffy until I am pulled so thin that the whole confection line breaks.

The wonder moments never last long enough. I guess that is what pictures and stories are all about. I guess that is what the Bible is about too.

I'm aging more rapidly now than I did ten years ago. That makes sense. Trust me, if you are still in your 30's. My connection with the merry go round that keeps time running shifts. This week, I had an opportunity to know that perspectives vary. I mean, I knew that. I just told you that, but I witnessed a perspective that is very different from mine and thought I'd share it here.

An older person, older than me, and probably older than me and you plus your neighbor- came in. His nephew had been ill. His nephew at that time was 98. 98 years, not 98 farenheight. His nephew was ready to go home, ready to see God, to visit old friends.

The friend came into the office to just let a little bit of angst go by the wayside or out the window. " I've been looking after him, my nephew for such a long time, and he's not been all fun and games, missy." I nodded my head in agreement, which is what you do when a friend who is older than dirt enters your office to vent.

"He's 98 years old. You don't want to be 98 years old and cranky, I'm just telling you that."

I reached for my jar of pastur-ized chick feed and unscrewed the top and offered him the selection of nuts and raisens, comfort food for any occassion.

He looked over his quadfocals and reached into the jar. "He's been ready, sooo ready to go for a long time."

I thought to myself as I returned the jar its rightful place on my desk, " What? the last 20 years or so have been hard? tough? depressing? " "??"

He turned, heading out and back to the reception area. " Yeah, he's been ready for at least two weeks now."

oh. well. that is a long time, I guess in the scheme of things. Or maybe not.

What's a long time for you today?

Retreat Conversation

We’ve been on several staff retreats since I started this job, and you won’t find much here about the details of those trips mostly because I’m still getting over it/them...... , the difference between the concept and the reality.

I don't know if I ever told the tale of the first trip where I swam, did I?

In my mind, a staff retreat is this: We go to a place not like church. A pewless, altarless, whiteboardless place that is snuggled into the quiet of a faraway calm setting. The aura is cool mint, fresh air and clear skies- they fill our vison... fill up our senses... like a something in the something... ( See John Denver) ah. ahhh. We unwind, rest. We reconnect and strengthen the bonds we braid ourselves into during busy weeks. We think and meditate and consider all that life has to offer. We opt for massages, or manicures, or yoga. Yes. Retreat. 24 hours pass, every stress has dived away from our stressed selves, we are renewed. That's in my mind.

In reality, we pry ourselves away from the mountain of important to-do's that keep multiplying on our desks. We manipulate our schedules, to find a date we can all agree on. We beg the sick people to get well, we plead with those in ICU to hang on 2 more days. We encourage moms -to- be that later is better- to be born in this world, then we pile into our church van, and we hold on for dear life while our leader, our chief, drives us into the sunset.

Suddenly, we arrive at a location that doesn't quite jibe with the one described above and we tumble out. We are shepharded into a meeting room and our retreat begins. We discuss our plans for the coming season, check on each other’s other lives ( outside the walls of the church), and we share and grow build and bond. We dine, and we maybe even rest somewhere in there. We create and determine, we consider and formulate the future. Then we come back to work refreshed and ready to dive into the plans we’ve made.

We go together. We stay together. We work together. We talk together and over eachother. We eat together. We sleep together. We wake together. We brush our teeth together. We whine together. We brainstorm together. We scrapple ideas together….. We unwind at the end of the night by playing games or watching a movie or going out to eat except I’m usually so tired from writing all this down and holding it in my head, that I just want to be a statue out on the yard with the other concrete God-like creatures that stand guard on the grounds of the place we have come to this time.

We use whatever energy we had stored up for the trip ten times over and we create work for ourselves that we didn’t have time to do at work because we are too busy working at work. (Amazingly enough nobody quits when we get back to work after all that.)

The entertainment factor is slim, but I like to collect tidbits when I can and so I present those on a platter for you below....

Here’s the language that runs around the room during our retreatfest... " You just", " I mean," " Here’s how it goes", "My thinking is," " I bet we can fix it", "What I’m saying though, is ", "Those were things in my head.", " So, then", " No, you just", " How will that effect", " I would feel safe", " Could", " So, ", "However", "The more we do that, though,", " On the other hand", " Sure, but", " I guess I’m a weenie", " But what if", "On the other side ", "Why can’t we just", " That’s not what I’m saying", " Huh?", " So, then when can we do that?" "What?" " I’m hungry", " Who said that",
"When did that happen", " But I just think" " Um, yeah", " When do we get that going?" "Who takes that?" " Isn’t it time for lunch" " Who ate the last red skittle?"

Somewhere a bell rings, sometimes I get to ring it, and our retreat time ends. We ride back to church/work and wonder for days later about what we talked about and decided on. Hey, what can you say?
Clarisse is in the building. My office closet, in fact. Her cousins, Chester and his predescessor, Cedric,have lived, fed, stuck and died in my office closet over the last 2 years. Every Fall, a wayward path of rodentia is spotted and there we go again. We set up a columbariumette once, it looked alot like a trash can with a mouse corpse in it, but that is written in an earlier piece here.... and we always send the misguided creatures off to a better world with full prayer.

Being year 3 of this ritual mice visit, I’ve about decided that it must be the winter home, or equivilent of Stuckey's stop off ( Stuckey's is a restaurant that used to line the highways not unlike Cracker Barrel does now) for the traveling mice family. This is a fall event, mostly. 3 years running. Clarisse, unlike her cousin Chester, does not seem to like MnM’s. She must be watching her weight. She also has not found her way into the plastic containers that house the nuts and hot cocoa/tea. She has, on the other hand left tell-tale, and I do mean TAIL signs that she is back from summer camp and is here to move in.
We’ll see how that goes. I’m thinking probably a short term visit at best. I’ll keep you posted.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The People on the Bus

I get to meet lots of people working in my job. .....Church members, service workers, and small children, deliciously interesting olderpeople, and complete strangers. Yes, I get it all. many people disguise their angel wings with clothes,but know that between you and me, I can see their glimmer through fabric. My office pals shine the best. One friend calls me when she is on her way into work nearly every morning, and she sounds like she is glad to hear me answer. Even now, she still sounds that way. It's a good thing.

Another work friend, always stops by on her way to her upstairs office. She's been bringing baby along for the last several months, but it is just now starting to show. I'll be glad when I get to know that baby outside of the ultrasound pics as they just don't do her justice.

Another friend works odd times, and so it is always a surprise to see her. We share a liking for hot dogs and crinkle cut fries. I have a new friend who pops in for a quick sit and I love those times.

Work people aside, I'm here to point to a few special Avon families that I have come to know.
We have a woman who frequents our premesis. She also visits my home church, as we are not far from each other. Here, she knows me as pretty stingy. I don't give help to her too often because I don't think she really qualifies as an Avon person. She's more of a teenager mindset avon person which is to say that she needs everything everyone else has, and wants more of it and wants it NOW. I understand that thinking, but it isn't very feasible when you think about it. So when she comes in these days, she doesn't expect much anymore. We're on a first name basis. She doesn't come as often, hoping that stretching out her requests may give her a higher yield. I hope she'll figure out the reality soon.

This week, I was at home chuch, waiting to speak to my mentor home pastor, and the church phone rang. I answered. I immediately recognized the voice on the other end. It was Alma. the aforementioned avon person. She asked for "Pastor WW, or Miss YY". Then she stopped in mid-syllable. " Who am I speaking with?" she asked, warily.
I responded with, " Who am I speaking with?"
She lowered her voice. " Melanie?"
I answered. " Hi Alma."
Suddenly she had other things to do. Gosh, I hate we missed an opp to chat.

A man came in to talk turkey. We talked. I gave he and his wife the help I could. They left.
The same man came in again, and we talked again. It wasn't long before I realized that he didn't need money. He needed a Pastor. or maybe a beer buddy. " Maybe we should make an appointment with the Pastor for you? " He looked confused. " Well, okay. When do you want to talk again?" I was under the distinct impression that he thought I was a Pastor. Stop laughing.

I may be pasteurized, but I am NO Pastor. " Let's go look in the Pastor's calendar and find a time" He came along comfortably, but he never stopped talking about the whims and ways of his relationship. We made the appointment. He ditched it.
A week later, he came back. " Let's make that appointment, Melanie" he said to me.
"Bernard, you missed your appointment with the Pastor. I am disappointed because he has a lot of wisdom he could share with you, and I really wish you had called to tell us you could not make it."
Bernard hung his head. " Well, I really just wanted to tell him about the woman. She couldn't come that day, if we make another appointment, I'll get her here. But we want you there, too."
I finally had to come clean with him. " Bernard, in case you haven't noticed, I'm the church secretary. I'm not the Pastor, not even close. Heck, I don't even pray that good. You really need to share your story with him." Bernard said that his wife wanted me there, too. I'm thinking that maybe she just wants to talk girltalk? OH, good grief. I guess we'll see. Let's hope they don't ask me to pray.

My most favorite visiting friend is a schitzofrenic who I have known before and after meds.
The first time he came he was hearing voices and he was hungry. I took himback to the kitchen, got him a plate of lunch and sat with him while he ate. " So, Marvin, are you hearing them now?
" Do you know that they are not real?"
" Yeah, can I have another tea?"
"Sure." "So what are you hearing now?"
" A woman. She is screaming for help. She is on the floor and screaming for help"
I thought a minute. " Marvin, are you sure you are hearing this now, NOW, and not a , let's say a half an hour ago?" At this, Marvin stopped and looked right at me.
" Yeah, Marvin. I'm better now. I just brushed myself off and got on with my day."
He looked at me. Looked me over. Saw my dusty knees, and random hair. " So you doing better now?" I patted him on the shoulder and answered. " "Yes, I am. Sometimes it's nice to know you've been heard, though. Hey, want another potato?"
I think he was relieved in some ways at my response. Then again, he may be thinking he is a time traveller and hears realities that are 30 minutes behind real time. No telling.
The next time I saw Marvin he was cleaned up and clearer in the eyes. I hope he can stay that way, but I'd have another sit down with him at lunch any day.

Yep, lots of people around this place. Lots.

Money Matters

Money Matters-
It didn't take long after I had started this job to realize that I might be involved in the Avon People. Avon is a name I decided to call folks who come in for assistance. At my home church they ring a doorbell. There was a time that I helped with that ministry andthat's what I decided to call the assistance calls. It paints a more pleasant picture of a hard fact of life. Here, at work church, we have no doorbells. People needing help don't rely on doorbells to be heard.

I hold a lot of empathy for people in need. Whether emotional, monetary, spiritual, I'm one of those people on a daily basis. I need to have people around me who I trust, I need to feel adequate at my job. I need a life. need need need.

I want our assistance offering to be available to families who truly are in need. How nice is it tobe able to offer spiritual fuel and a tank full of gas in the same sitting? Yes, possibilities when there are none to be found sounds like a good God thing to me. It doesn't make me feel good, but it does make me feel as if we can provide tools to others so that they can stay on a path of possibilities.

I meet and get to know some very interesting folks. That story will follow this one today.
This particular entry is to give examples of the state of my middle aged human condition. It used to be, when I first started working the Avon Ministry, that I offered snack bags to visitors. I have found that if you are truly needing food, you will accept food. On the other hand, if you are truly wanting cold cash, food won't do, even if you've used that ( I need food) line with me. So, the snack bags act as a screen. I borrowed the idea from my home church who now gives out 30 or 50 bags a day, in a two hour block. Home church resides in a hungry neighborhood.

After a while, I found that additional resources like gas, or a few bucks would come in handy at times,maybe someone needed their meds, or money for the bus. So, I asked if we could buy bus tickets, and store cards to cover incidentals. That works great. I am careful about giving them out, but when I feel like they can help, they are passed out with ease.

Still, there were many times when eviction notices called for a check or, a cut off notice, security deposit. So we decided that i would be able to write a check to a third party- i.e. the electric company, or a landlord sometimes. This measure has helped speed along the process. I can't tell you how many times I've needed the Pastor's signature when he's right in the middle of saving someone's soul or sanity. When the Pastor is in, He's the go-to guy, but sometimes the avon people have to wait. That's okay.

The system is working pretty well with one exception. I tend to, out of habit, sign my own name when I write a check. I mean there is clearly a disconnect. Once I start writing, I complete the process. Then, the check has to be voided, and we start over again. I think we've spent more money in reordered checks than I have in the actual giving of funds . I am kidding of course, but it is irritating to me that I continue to play office with these checks, rendering them useless.

I've tried to come up with some strategies to help us save paper. Sometimes, I write the check title line and then put my pen down. I find that overall, this stopaction creates anxiety in the person sitting across from me. Their relief when the checkbook comes out quickly dissipates when I put the pen down. Eyebrows furrow, tears well. ... Once I pick up the ink again, everything rests. Rests, until I jerk back into my chair, plop my pen down on the desk and mutter, " Rats! Criminy! UGH!" These comments are followed by a quick tear out and tear up of the now- useless check.

The visitors lose their sense of relief- go straight into a second round of anxious anticipation; I begin writing a new check and the cycle starts all over again. Recently, I 've decided that this system may have some hidden value. If it is too nervewracking , maybe we'll have fewer requests, and secondly, maybe I should ask the Pastor if we can start giving out valium. That might make all parties feel better.

I don't know what we'll do when checks are outdated, when debit cards are the only way to go. Guess we'll deal with that when it comes around. This, my friends, is yet another example of how fortunate I am that my bosses are tolerant of their church chick.

Money Matters

Money Matters-
It didn't take long after I had started this job to realize that I might be involved in the Avon People. Avon is a name I decided to call folks who come in for assistance. At my home church they ring a doorbell. There was a time that I helped with that ministry andthat's what I decided to call the assistance calls. It paints a more pleasant picture of a hard fact of life. Here, at work church, we have no doorbells. People needing help don't rely on doorbells to be heard.

I hold a lot of empathy for people in need. Whether emotional, monetary, spiritual, I'm one of those people on a daily basis. I need to have people around me who I trust, I need to feel adequate at my job. I need a life. need need need.

I want our assistance offering to be available to families who truly are in need. How nice is it tobe able to offer spiritual fuel and a tank full of gas in the same sitting? Yes, possibilities when there are none to be found sounds like a good God thing to me. It doesn't make me feel good, but it does make me feel as if we can provide tools to others so that they can stay on a path of possibilities.

I meet and get to know some very interesting folks. That story will follow this one today.
This particular entry is to give examples of the state of my middle aged human condition. It used to be, when I first started working the Avon Ministry, that I offered snack bags to visitors. I have found that if you are truly needing food, you will accept food. On the other hand, if you are truly wanting cold cash, food won't do, even if you've used that ( I need food) line with me. So, the snack bags act as a screen. I borrowed the idea from my home church who now gives out 30 or 50 bags a day, in a two hour block. Home church resides in a hungry neighborhood.

After a while, I found that additional resources like gas, or a few bucks would come in handy at times,maybe someone needed their meds, or money for the bus. So, I asked if we could buy bus tickets, and store cards to cover incidentals. That works great. I am careful about giving them out, but when I feel like they can help, they are passed out with ease.

Still, there were many times when eviction notices called for a check or, a cut off notice, security deposit. So we decided that i would be able to write a check to a third party- i.e. the electric company, or a landlord sometimes. This measure has helped speed along the process. I can't tell you how many times I've needed the Pastor's signature when he's right in the middle of saving someone's soul or sanity. When the Pastor is in, He's the go-to guy, but sometimes the avon people have to wait. That's okay.

The system is working pretty well with one exception. I tend to, out of habit, sign my own name when I write a check. I mean there is clearly a disconnect. Once I start writing, I complete the process. Then, the check has to be voided, and we start over again. I think we've spent more money in reordered checks than I have in the actual giving of funds . I am kidding of course, but it is irritating to me that I continue to play office with these checks, rendering them useless.

I've tried to come up with some strategies to help us save paper. Sometimes, I write the check title line and then put my pen down. I find that overall, this stopaction creates anxiety in the person sitting across from me. Their relief when the checkbook comes out quickly dissipates when I put the pen down. Eyebrows furrow, tears well. ... Once I pick up the ink again, everything rests. Rests, until I jerk back into my chair, plop my pen down on the desk and mutter, " Rats! Criminy! UGH!" These comments are followed by a quick tear out and tear up of the now- useless check.

The visitors lose their sense of relief- go straight into a second round of anxious anticipation; I begin writing a new check and the cycle starts all over again. Recently, I 've decided that this system may have some hidden value. If it is too nervewracking , maybe we'll have fewer requests, and secondly, maybe I should ask the Pastor if we can start giving out valium. That might make all parties feel better.

I don't know what we'll do when checks are outdated, when debit cards are the only way to go. Guess we'll deal with that when it comes around. This, my friends, is yet another example of how fortunate I am that my bosses are tolerant of their church chick.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The job description

When one begins a job, one is given important documents to help them function effectively. There are forms to fill out for the government, promises to make regarding honesty and crime checks that hopefully will come back NOT having the applicant listed as one of America’s Most Wanted. One of the most important documents, however is the very understated job description. The importance of such a document is clear, I’m sure.
I mean, one cannot truly complete a job without said job description, now can one?

I write today to warn you readers to guard your job description. Hold tightly to its type. Watch its font and size. In my nearly two years here now, in a job I truly love and count as a blessing, the job description has proven itself to be a slippery eel. The type has rearranged itself many times, and always when I’m not looking.

I thought I was going to sit at a desk, answer the phone and send appointments in to see the Pastor. In truth, I do have a desk. And I do sit. But my chair is a bit bipolar and we engage in a constant battle of sit, no stand, no sit, no stand. The chair at times holds me tightly for hours on end, and other times, I can’t seem to aim right and find that at the end of the day, I have not ventured near my desk chair at all.

As far as sending appointments in to see the pastor, well, it’s a race. I’ve explained this all before. The chase is on when someone enters the building expecting to see my wonderful boss. I’m an Olympic jumper these days, my hearing is set for the sounds of foreign feet outside my office as they near the Pastor’s cave. We Try Harder should be on my door. I try hard to run interference for the sole purpose of accomplishing a job that was at one time listed in my job description. “ The Pastor will see you now” doesn’t get used nearly enough, though not for lack of trying.

Calendaring sounds a bit like gardening. Planting the seeds of events into the ever growing organic calendar so that they may prosper, flourish. Shoot, I read that and thought, piece of cake. I have come to learn that placing events on the calendar mimics the action of picking up marbles with greased fingers. The events roll around to different times and days, once they hit the day and date, there’s no telling where they might end up. I recall having a very special poultry event become so on-the-loose that we nearly gave up and changed to bologna sandwich dinners instead. A big annual chicken dinner, held in late winter began showing up in Spring, summer, or not at all. It became a joke at staff meeting. “So, where’s the chicken dinner hiding out this week?” I wondered if chicken dinner therapy might help. Or if DBT, dialectical behavior therapy might come in handy. Were the chickens chicken? Did they not want to be dinner? The dinner eventually settled into a spot and stayed there. This year it seems a little more stable. I’ve pretty much decided that it was all a matter of personality conflicts between poultry and Microsoft.

My point being that the job description of what calendaring is , well, it really isn’t. We have a lovely form called a facility use form, but for those of us in-house, well, we’ve come to know it as the BLUE SHEET. The sleepy soft blue sheet rules all activities. ALL. Plan a meeting- fill out a blue sheet first and hope we can put you where you want to be. Plan a bathroom break, good luck buddy. Schedule a practice, rehearsal, fill it out and go to the end of the line. The blue sheet rules this building .and sometimes, it rules my day. Let me summarize for you, simplify if you will-If you have a cold, and you begin a sneeze in room 328, you’d better darn well have submitted a blue form before you finish that sneeze, or someone who has scheduled the room will beat you to it. People are afraid of the blues. I mean the blues give me the blues sometimes, too. Sometimes I dream in blue, too. Sad, I know it is.

Calendaring doesn’t stop there, though. Oh, no. I get to dance with the maintenance team, too. Every day, and twice on Fridays we dance through the set ups and take downs. Sounds simple enough if you are dancing the same dance, right? Right. Most days, I’m foxtrotting, and the other side is hustling. Different rhythms, different directions. We make it work though. Let us not forget that when one has parented 4 children, one tends to continue to use successful parenting tactics when needed regardless of the age of the other parties involved. Actually, the team works okey dokey and we play well together the majority of the time. Once again, though, my point is that the original job description morphs. Take note, oh ye who are considering such a job as this.

Part II Money Matters

Safe haven

I couldn’t get my eyes to stay shut last night, so I answered the keyboard’s call and clicked out my thoughts. When I read the night words by the light of day, I wondered if other people might understand and have places that serve the same purpose for them, so I sent the piece to the chronicles for review.

When I was a child, I sought refuge under a hydrangea bush, but the name is very deceiving. I rarely was able to remain hidden in that place beneath the lavender and periwinkle blossoms long. My red hair stood out against the blue maybe? Or maybe my sense of sneaking and quiet were off. Although I still hold resentment towards the hydrangea bush for giving me up- time and again, the hopefulness of finding a place of safety scents my memory still-the redolence of damp dirt that acted as my seat resembles the scent of early morning fog, or a rain that is trying to make its way home.

In my house, the top shelf of the linen closet kept me out of reach. A park ranger’s stand in the woods works the same way. The sounds of life in motion circle around outside, while you are kept safely tucked away from wild animals and stinging insects ; for me, I hid among the freshly folded sheets and towels and other neglected linens, unnoticed until my mom found toe prints on her white pillowcases, and the sheets that were resting on the next rung above them. The only thing missing from that hidey spot was a back exit. If I ever build a house, you can be sure that the linen closet will have shelves spaced for climbing, with a back door somewhere up top.

My life is speckled with an array of hiding places, maybe that will be the book topic that makes me a million, though a million can’t come close to the value those hiding places have meant to me over all these many years.

There is an interesting life force that resides in the building. Our church building. It changes with the tides of traffic and it shifts with the energy that comes and goes throughout the day and night's activities. I am not ever afraid there except in the kitchen where the echoes bounce around among the pots and pans and stainless steel sink and counter. The building is a very safe place for me.

I have mentioned before my permanent standing reservation in the balcony. I sit there every Sunday morning before the birds are up, and I enjoy feeling the day begin there. …Subtle notes of noise become voices, then take shape as people and families until by the start of worship, the sanctuary is full of souls hoping for spiritual fuel.

On Wednesday nights, I sit in my spot and listen to the choir practice. Watching the angels sing in the chancel and listening to their God given talents is second only to feeling the effects of driving around on a warm day with the top down and LifeHouse screaming from my speakers. The choir’s songs aren’t exhilarating in quite the same way, but the notes move through me just the same and they stay with me somewhere close to my heart until the next time I get to go listen to my musical family.

I can’t imagine the bravery it takes to sit or stand in front of the world to sing out. That is not to say that I don’t sing out, mind you. I have quite a reputation for singing out while I mow the grass or for singing along with LifeHouse while cruising the highway. I rely on the motor to drown out my discrepancies and I can only empathize with the cars behind me who catch my sour notes. Let’s just say it’s a good thing windshields are shatterproof. That was a smart idea, Mr. Ford , Mr. Edison or whoever decided that, you earned your money that day.

Church provides more than a spiritual foundation for me. In fact, I’m on the early side of that journey. The balcony is my hydrangea now, my top shelf. The space is welcoming. Safe. Wanting for company of any sort or condition.

There is a texture to the silence that permeates the balcony when it is empty. Different in day than night, different when the surrounding rooms are full or vacant. Sometimes, when I am overwhelmed, or confused, or not knowing what I am or how I can manage both past and present challenges- if I wait until dark and venture upstairs, I can sit in that silence and let myself be embraced by the darkness. It is real. And it holds me if I let it. Rarely comfort; sometimes calm or clarity let their selves be known.

Henri Nouwen writes that connection with God must include solitude, quiet, to create an opening between human and higher power. The balcony provides that opportunity for me. Not that I’ve gotten a conscious answer, but the questions run strong.

Questions come up, pass through my mind and my heart. Is God here? Why am I? Why did God create this world? How do I find God? Does forgiveness really exist? How long do we rely on friends when our hearts are heavy? How long do we count on someone being there for us when we can't be there for ourselves because we are still lost?. How do we rebuild when we have uncovered false or faulty foundations? What do we build with? The balcony holds the essence of all who have ever been there, the spirits of more than that. Sometimes it seems to me that the entire sanctuary is really a time capsule that keeps getting added to.

The church building. The church building.
When the day is done, and people leave, the wake of their activity lingers, and the building creaks or vibrates a little. Mostly that only happens when a big truck goes by.

There is a distinctiveness to the empty building. The evening energy is anticipatory. At the close of the full day, when all that needs to happen there is done, and all human life has left, the body of the building murmurs. The Chapel's heartbeat is more easily felt, the hallways release breath, the walls let go a little. I like to walk the halls during those moments. I like to hear and feel the building transition into peacefulness, I like to be there as it gets ready for whatever the next day has to offer.

This entry may seem disoriented and a little undone, maybe, but truth still.
Where is the place that holds you safe?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Freefalling into fall

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....

It was a dark and stormy night....

She was working on the altar Guild booklet, as she had been for many many nights.

a note popped up! She was being missed!!!

Funny, she thought to herself.. to be missed by someone I don't know.. Hey!! I miss myself, and I don't know myself, how about that? Could I have sent myself that comment? NO,

Her friend, Lanie, looked over the weary church chick's slumped shoulder. "You need a nap".

I need to write, she thought to herself. She was so tired, that she wasn't sure if she spoke or thought or typed that consideration.

sigh.... I'll be back soon. I am hungry to share some church snackling stories. Hope my readers don't give up on me.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

God's mysterious gifts

The honor of the job ..........
I love my job. It’s like a dresser with lots of drawers. I’m in and out of them all day. The daily push and pull is interesting all by itself, but over time I have noticed unspoken perks. Lots of them. I get to see many different sizes, ages, types of people, but I don’t have to spend a great deal of time with anyone in particular. There is not enough time in the day for that- but I get to know lots of folks and I get to learn little bits of their stories. That’s a big perk. Every now and then, I am allowed into their lives, and those times are the most precious.

The Pastors play a large part in helping people through hard times. I see people experience the mourning and the joy that life gives them. My office offers a short-stop respite where the Pastors’ offices and sanctuary give deep and lasting comfort and peace. I’m a dot and a dash where the Pastors offer parentheses. ( ) warmth and love.

There is a member who brings pictures in almost weekly, for me to mail out. He keeps the church memories alive with random and spontaneous photos. Another comes to my office with questions about this and that, and she always writes down my answers in shorthand. One man shares my interest in Tai Chi, and he comes to grab a handful of discipleship bracelets every few months, so he can distribute them when he’s out and about. A young adult comes to water my plants and to inquire about the chronicles. He keeps me on task when I’ve let too much time pass without writing. Small, miniature members enjoy my treasure chest. I keep happy meal toys and stickers in there for little visitors. Brief Encounters, these special friendships. Brief and very very important. Each one different, and unique. A kaleidoscope of the world passes by my office each day.

Lately, an angel has touched down in my nest. She came carrying a huge burden of challenges. Her basket became too heavy to carry, so she had to drag it alongside her. I watched her grow into her sadness. I watched God take hold of her heart and open it to others. She formed a close connection with her Bible Study group. They extended their class into the summer to keep the connection strong. She walked a frighteningly unknown path every day. Even so-she allowed herself to be comforted and nudged along the way, she stayed on a clearly spiritual path. When her sadness reached fruition, her grief was surrounded, in situ, by so many who had grown to love her. She didn’t see what I could see.

She was wrapped tight with knots of pain, and was held and rocked with soothing friendships she had formed through her sad experience. She is unaware of the effect she has on those around her. They are so focused on her that they don’t see it themselves. It’s surely a God thing. Doesn’t God want us to be community to each other? To grow that way? Reciprocal relationships? Pure and simple love? It’s all there- the continuum of love and support is strong. She calls for and receives, and by that, she gives SO much that goes to those around her. It’s a win-win situation. The pain is there, but so is the love and with that comes the promise of better seconds, maybe minutes- and hours to days.

There was a time that the waiting was cumulatively hard, I could find no particle of ease to give her- so I “hired” her to be my admin asst. It was all make-believe, but I called her when she was late, I gave her things that needed doing, asked her advice, put her name on the sign in board… At first, she thought it a joke, an attempt at kindness from someone who didn’t really know how to help her but wanted to. After a few days, she began to wonder if maybe I was delusional, the front desk receptionists asked about the new staff member on the check in list and I said, “Leave it there a while- tell her she needs to do a better job at signing in and out- the next time you see her.”

I brought a more comfortable chair into the office and called it hers. We cleared a place on my desk for her to work. I begged for her help. She helped me clean out my closet, and I taught her the church chick secrets of mixing mixage for my desk.

She helped me do lots of things, but mostly, she helped me to know her better. We laughed, and we played office. We took a long lunch one day. When her best friend left town, I was the checkpoint for how she was managing. Time passed. Her darkness came, she lost a big part of her heart in the loss of a child-the grief that she carried lingers- I imagine it will for a long time to come. How can it not?

From where I sit, I see that she will remain surrounded by the friendships she has built. And if all else fails, she’s always got an office to hang out in.

Dear God,
Thank you for giving when it feels like you are taking.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

TisSHUE or NOT to tissue...

Tissue or NOT to tissue???

I’ll bet you think that the most important staple in a church setting is a Bible, second may be the hymnal, right? Ohhhhhh, friends and readers, I am here to set the record straight. The single (although I prefer TWO-ply) most important item a church needs, and a church secretary in particular, needs to have on hand is tissue. That’s right. Double ply, soft- as -a -baby’s -bottom- tissue. Emotions run amuck in the corridors of the church, and the number one job of the church chick is to be prepared. If you don’t have good strong, soft tissues on hand, well, you may as well write your own pink sheet and call it a day....or- Move on to a new career. You’ll never make it without a sheet to blow your heart out on. People come in to vent a little, celebrate a little, and often times to wait for their turn to unpack their hearts and souls in the Pastor’s office. The waiting can be drippy at times.

Tissues come all sorts of shapes and sizes. Their textures reveal their purpose. Note: If you ever run into a Pastor who has a box of fake tissues on his /her desk, run. Run like you have never run before. Fake tissues are slim sheets of cardboard stuck in a tissue box. It happens. There’s a company who manufactures paper towels, toilet paper and tissues specifically to curtail overuse by visitiors. Pastors who are not authentic, who would rather spin in their chairs than lend a true listening ear, will house those types of products and believe me, God is not in there anywhere.

Kleenex work pretty well, Puffs tries harder, and Fluff Outs need to be discontinued as soon as possible. Fluff outs blow out on the first dab. They smear makeup, scratch skin, and are moisture resistant. There is nothing more discouraging than having your tears run right down your face, and off of the tissue to the floor.

Some tissue companies offer combo products. I don't know why they can't just leave well enough alone. It's enough to make a grown chick cry.Lotion tissues will smear your glasses. Anti-bacterial will keep you from getting malaria, but they also leave you with a repulsive odor.
Tissues that include blood clotting agents, insulin-strength, foaming cloth varieties, they are all out there- but it has been my experience that less is best. Go for simply soft cry rags and you’ll be safe. Keep boxes on hand, and if you find any of those hard sheeted tissues, toss them, or use them to start a campfire.


We have an organist who, like many church organists, as well as many artists, chooses times to work/ practice when he thinks he will not be noticed,(or maybe when he thinks he won’t be bothered is more accurate.) I find this consideration amusing. How can you NOT notice an organ playing? Especially at odd times when most staff are gone…. the building is pretty much sleeping? the birds are napping, all is quiet in the church corridors? Yet, this is the time that at least two of my favorite organist artists choose to practice; to bond with their keys. At my home church, I sometimes will venture into the building on Saturday night, just to hear the pipes percolate their finest notes.

At my heart of home church, I have a permanent reservation in the balcony, the cushion indentions give away my idenity after all this time. Much like a glass slipper, the cushion fits me perfectly. On occassion, I have been known to enter quietly and sit in the dark balcony simply to absorb the melodies that fill the sanctuary. When the worship space is empty, he tends to test the ability of the pedals and keys and the pipes sing out with vim and vigor not always released through Sunday hymns. I love those moments. The organists that I know are true artists. Their music comes from their hearts, and the pages that hold the notes are sidebars.

At work church, I’ve become amused at the attempts of the organist to practice when no one is visibly around. It’s like an elephant in the room. No one acknowledges he is there, the anonymity seems to help put him at ease. Sometimes I sneak in and lay on a pew where he can’t see me. Only once did I walk right in and straight to the organ. I sat beside him in a choir pew and realiazed that the sound does not resonate as well from the source. I prefer being away where the notes can intermingle and play well together. I have become comfortable with Phantom of the Opera serenades on Friday afternoons, in fact, I found myself taking the time for granted.

One day, I was multi-tasking by secretary-ing and cooking for a work event, and I could not get the jar of pickles I was serving on the pickle tray open. It was God, me, and the organist in the building. So I took my jar to the keybord. He opened it for me willingly, and continued playing after I left. A few weeks later, the UPS guy stopped in and commented on the beautiful French toccata that the organist was playing last week. He said that he had gotten the organist to sign for a package and then had lingered to absorb the notes before he finished his deliveries for the day. I could easily picture the uniformed guy standing in his brown shirt and shorts, listening. There’s nothing like music to calm a tired soul. Having the setting be the sanctuary has an added plus. Soulful music with a prayer on the side sounds perfect. AND it is good to know that our organist multi-tasks well. Oh those artists….

mow-hair cardinal

The bird feeder that I have suctioned to the outside of my office window has become a Holiday Inn for many feathered flirts this summer. The clear plastic house has been around long enough for at least two migrations, and I’ve noticed that we are beginning to have seasonal regulars.

Last year, a pigeon on the fly came around for a while, parked along the brick sill at times; tried to eat at the fly by feedery other times. He was bigger than most, but became a friend to us all. I thought he may stick around, but something bigger than life called him away, and I haven’t seen him in a year now.

This year the most frequent flyer award goes to an oversized and very bald headed cardinal. It’s a bird! It’s a plane!! NO!!! It’s a mow-topped cardinal approaching the feeder these days. He is not the most attractive sort on the outside, which only leads me to believe that he is an angel at heart.

His beak (glow in the dark red )would fit a small parrot, and sometimes I wonder if he has signed the necessary papers to be a beak donor. Although his feathers and fluff are oversized and brilliantly fluffy, it is clear his outward appearance is misleading. He has some distinct self-esteem issues, as he is a shy flyer. He waits in the trees outside the alley that houses my bird sanctuary, until lunch rush passes, then he zips in for his fill. I can hear him crunching through the window when he is consuming the feed. He munches and then looks around every few seconds, to be sure he’s still alone- there must be comfort in solitary consumption…. My own Mr. Elephant Man Bird. Sounds like a case for the Pastor, but his time is stretched pretty thin between God helping him,and he helping the human congregants, so I hesitate to ask him to pray with my little red friend, but no doubt, time spent with our worldly Pastor would do anyone good.

So instead, the membership secretary and myself have adopted him. She noticed his impressive physical attributes way before me. I keep a mirror on top of my monitor, so that I can see the birds as they fly in behind me at the window, but usually, any movement on my part will send them away, so the first few times she gasped in amazement, I missed the show. Now, of course, he’s a regular and I can hear him flying in and crunching at the bird deli.
We have enlightened others about him, and over time he has moved from being an object of curiosity for us, to a sought after wonder. Clearly, he has overcome many obstacles, and has succumbed to some trying times. We wish we knew his history. Where is he from? Who broke his heart? Who mowed his head? Who is his family? Where are they now? Where is he headed?

It is instances such as this where nature parallels faith. We see the beauty, we recognize the challenges , we wonder wonder wonder wonder about all the rest, but he keeps coming back, offering us opportunities to know him better. We’ve formed a community who supports him, and we hope that his bird friends will one day do the same.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Lunch in the fast lane

I have many interesting and varied experiences here on board the Church Caboose. Each day is different. Just the way I like it. Last week, I got a call from an old friend. You can take that statement to heart. He is a widower who was here when the bricks that make up this church were first fired. His spit is in each blot of mortar. He carries the loving memories of his wife with him every day. He holds the door open for her out of utter habit when he enters the building, and he gives her a chance to contribute to the conversation. It is interesting to hear such an exchange, let me tell you. I’m relieved that her spirit still walks with him. Their love remains comfortably alive.

Aside from his warmth towards his deceased wife, this gentleman is a pretty tough cookie. He is determined in all he does. This said, when he (and she) stopped by one day last week, and invited me to lunch I realized that there was only one good answer. Yes.

He was not surprised when I accepted the offer, and he had already decided where and when we would enjoy the occasion. He informed me that he would pick me up promptly at 11:23 in front of the church in his big black Caddy.

I shared the exciting opportunity with my co-workers. Knowing Hedrick, there was a little bit of concern that the conversation may linger so I asked one working friend if she would call me if I had not returned by the full moon. She thought I was kidding, but my gut said no.

The day arrived and I made darn sure I was in the right place at the right time. Although the sun was shining, I had the distinct feeling that a summer storm was brewing, and when I looked down the street, my senses were confirmed. A big, dark- black dark cloud was inching its way towards me. Funny, the wind hadn’t shifted, the sun was shining overhead, but man, this thing looked like it held the potential for tornados. Woah. As it grew closer, I noticed a windshield, and a bit of chrome caught the sun and sparkled right in my eyes. OH! This was Hedrick’s big black caddy, I guessed.

He pulled up in the hearse and I climbed in. What a luxurious car indeed. And in such good shape for its age. We sped off for lunch. Little did I know that I would be climbing into the twilight zone-slo mo. I felt as if we were sitting at a stop sign, even though we were in motion.
Hedrick broke my concentration.“ We’d better hurry,you don’t have much time, do you? 60 minutes?”
“ Yes, sir, but if we run a little over, it’s okay. Really. Don’t rush."
We continued on. I noticed the speedometer was different than most I’d seen. The dial was missing. The speed showed up with a number on the dash. There was no typical speedometer. Leave it to Cadillac.

When I looked at the speed digit it read 2. Then 7, 5, 11, 8….2. As we approached a traffic light the numbers wound down 6,4,2,2,2,2,2….but the light remained green, despite Hedrick’s efforts to force it to red. So, basically, we spent 20 of my 60 minutes driving to lunch. The restaurant was a mere 6 blocks from the church, but 6 blocks had never seemed so long.

When we arrived at the restaurant, Hedrick greeted the young wait staff with, “ Where is our table? I hope it isn’t that one or that one they look too loud, too small, too too.”
When we were finally seated, I was relieved to sit down and review the menu.

Hedrick spoke without looking up. “ The groundhog platter is good here. I used to get the porcupine hash, but those dang quills stick in my dentures, so now I generally get the groundhog.”
“Oh, that sounds interesting. Groundhog? Well. I’m thinking salad sounds really good to me today.”
The waiter arrived. He looked at me to order-but Hedrick's voice slipped out first.
“She’ll have the groundhog platter, and I’ll have the same, make sure you trim the nails on the paw pudding this time, young man.”

I could see that this lunch would be more meaty than I had anticipated. I decided to try to steer him into a comfort zone, so I asked him, “Hedrick, tell me how you met your wife, Milly”

2 hours later, he and Milly had enjoyed their second date, he had moved 3 times, and the year was 1950. 1950. I wondered what happened to the concern about my lunch hour. I wondered why I had said anything about if we go over….. As much as I love hearing people's stories, this epic was a bit more than I had bargained for. I recalled that Hedrick and Milly had enjoyed a 72 year marriage, and I realized that in his lunch rendition, they had just completed their second date. Their second, UNmarried date. Two. Duo.

By some act of God, my phone rang. Coworker to the rescue.
“Well, are you coming back? Have you left the state?”
I heard myself blurt out, “Oh? Is he there now? Can he wait? We’ll be right there.” I answered.
I placed my napkin over my minced groundhog platter and told Hedrick, “ Oh, look at the time!!! We’ve got to go, hurry hurry, I’ve got to get back.”

We scooted away from the table and quick quick walked to the parking lot and fast fast got in and hurry hurry started the car and then we raced back to church. 4,3,5, 8,4,9,2,11 mph.

He dropped me off at the entrance, I don’t think I gave him a chance to actually bring the car to a complete stop. I opened my door, and said, “Thanks so much for lunch.”

He gripped the steering wheel and looked ahead. “Well, Milly, we’ll just have to pick up with her next time where we left off, won’t we?” I watched his head bob in conversation as he drove away. 2,2,4,3,5. He’s probably home by now.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Medical Closet

We have a medical closet that Alfred Hitchcock created before he died.
It is located in the basement of the church. Everyone knows what lurks in the basement of any self-respecting church.

Doom and Evil, that's what. Cold, damp breaths from hell seep up through the cracks in the cement, that's what, too. Half-dead spirits that are still floating on the fence that separates salvation from nefarious living death. They moan and rock, crying out their indecisevness .

These creatures take the form of aluminum walkers, they disguise themselves as bedside potty chairs and canes. Squeaky wheeled wheelchairs are the sneakiest. They stay folded up when under watchful eyes, and then they self-open and roll when the lights are off. I know this to be true. I managed the medical closet for the first year of this job. Thinking it a huge honor, I boasted to passers-by- "Hey! I'm in CHARGE of the Medical Closet!!" "How about that!!" I never wondered why the staff tended to hang their heads and skulk away during those moments. I assumed they were envious that I was given such a big responsibility as Medical Closet Minder when I had just started the job. Silly me. Silly, silly, me.

I took inventory my first visit to the dungeon and neatened the arrangement. A few days later, I checked on our equipment and was taken aback. Where two potty chairs had parked there now stood 5! and we had a wheelchair missing. The canes had hooked up, too. The shower stool laid on its back with all four legs reaching for Jesus. It was a mess. I searched the building and finally found the wheelchair. It sat neatly folded and well hidden behind a palm tree that sits next to a window that overlooks my office alley. The brake had jammed itself into the carpet. Was it watching me? Was it keeping an eye out in an effort to help the others escape?

I can't say. But I can say this- If these seemingly benign items wreak this kind of havoc in our welcoming church environment, what must they be capable of in full fledged hospitals and nursing homes? We give out warning cards when people check out the items from our medical closet now. Who knows what evil lies in the rubber stoppers of walkers on the loose?

Short spots

Short spots

I don’t understand religious etiquette sometimes- communion
Is it still a valid communion experience if you use pre-blessed elements? And what exactly constitutes pre-blessing? Is it something that can be faxed? Spoken over the phone to a customer buying juice in the grocery line? Or is it a “you have to be there” kind of thing? I have no idea.
Where would one purchase such pre-blessed products? Costco? Sams? Cokesbury?

Sexual ethics-sexual harassment- oh boy. My children come home with a list of measurements for their clothing that is acceptable and not acceptable. “straps to be at least 2 finger widths, shorts no shorter than the longest finger when arms are placed by their sides with elbows straight.. No halters,…” I am amenable to restrictions that will keep my teenager from looking like “Roxxxxxxxxxxxxanne and her red dress”, but even at that, some people just take the ideas and run with them. Clergy to hug via non-hesitating pats,no more than 6-8 pats per hug…..No more butterfly kisses allowed, hug only where lingerie leaves free, or only where shoes are souled, or only where bikinis leave to the open air. If I learned all the rules, I’d become a icey cube. Hi is about as good as it would be. Yuck. I’m a hugger at heart, I believe in the power of connection through hugs. Hugs carry a natural energy that heals and offers comfort and communicates friendship. Hope I don’t have to organize a hug patrol “Free Arms for all!!”

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Saving Souls

Today is the day someone decided would be the perfect day to jackhammer a hole in the brick wall that holds up my side of the building. I can fully understand why this particular day would be appealing to the jackhammerist. We held 3 Bible Studies this morning, had a men’s breakfast, and we were visited by a desperate person looking for assistance.

In addition, there were many counseling sessions taking place just across the hall- and anyone knows that there is nothing like the rip-tear of metal against brick to create a calming environment for deep personal discussions.

I had it easy, being the one who was conversing with the visitor who came to us in search of assistance. I know this particular person, and have noticed in our previous discussions, that he has a bit of trouble conversing or exchanging words that I can understand. So, communication without words was not a problem today. We have learned to use eyebrow chatter to convey our messages back and forth.

The people who climbed out of the depths of hell to work on the construction today resembled characters from old stories and movies I’ve seen. One was silent and wore a baseball hat. He was a Silence of the Lambs sort; hollow eyes and a gnawing in his gut for something human to consume. We didn’t talk much. Another looked like a cross between Rip Van Winkle and ZZ Top. They are genetically connected somewhere down the line. The third stooge was Moe, no question.

They dropped in this morning surrounded by a dull fog, which I later discovered was just a contrail of mortar dust from a previous job. They had reflective dust particles in their hair, and the Rip Van Winkle guy had a beard that tinkled. It was a little odd. As a group, they felt slightly radioactive to me, but not wanting to be rude, I didn’t mention it.

They went straight to work,pulling in all sorts of equipment and cords. They set up the area to look very much like a true construction site. It was impressive. No scaffolding, but nearly every other prop you could imagine created a realistic set. They measured, they stood, they looked, they looked at their watches, they waited.

During their prep time, I was inundated with questions. ….Why are there three men in the ladies’ rest room? What’s with the beard? Are they here to see the Pastor? Do they have the right church? What’s that smell? I noticed the Bible Study students begin to arrive for their classes about the same time the power equipment got dragged into the hallway. Need I say more? Timing is everything. And so the lilting melody began…..

I felt for the Pastor, though. He was working hard in his office doing quiet things. I said DOING QUIET THINGS. Meditation, working on sermons, and counseling.

His first appointment arrived and as they closed the door, I started to wonder…….I thought to myself, ‘What would it be like to be in there right now,?’ I imagined a person venturing in to see the Pastor for the very first time. They are a little bit intimidated, shy maybe, nervous. They have taken a long long time of thinking and deciding and finally, they decided to take the leap and go see the Pastor, the Mighty Pastor for some much needed comfort and advice. Maybe they’ve been unable to sleep for nights and nights because of the weight of their own personal burden. So, they meekly make their way into the Pastor’s cave and when they sit down they realize that their fears were for naught. The room is clearly filled with Christian love and kindness. They deepen their breathing a tad and let go a smidgeon.

The Pastor pulls his chair closer so that he can focus all of his attention on his congregant- in- need. It’s a Rockwell moment- A warm scene showing the support that can transpire between people. The visitor begins to talk, well, the visitor’s mouth opens. The Pastor leans a little closer, tilting his head and turning his ear toward the conversation and then- and then- the jackhammer begins singing its song. The sofa sitter is sent straight into the ceiling, and the Pastor continues to fall forward, right out of his chair. The noise stops abruptly and the two try again. Again, the jackhammer interrupts the confidential moment.

90 minutes later, the Pastor’s door opens, and he comes out with his eyes wide, eyebrows hang gliding over his head. Straight to the nut jar he goes.

“What’s tttttthhhhhaaaattttt nnoooiiissseee???” He vibrates. The nut jar is shaking in his hold, and it isn’t long before we have peanut butter.

I held his hands still around the jar and guided the jar of nut butter back down to its place on my desk. “So how was the appointment? I didn’t’ see him come out.”

“Every time he started to talk, the walls would tremble and the floor would shake and I couldn’t hear a thing.”

I thought a minute. “ Well, Is he hiding somewhere in your office?”

“ Heck, no. He climbed out the window a while ago, I saw him running down the sidewalk towards the Baptist church, I guess he’s going to try again down there.” He hung his head and trembled back towards his office.

I called after him,“Hey, boss- don’t sweat it, you did what you could, I’m sure you made a big difference just being there for him.”

“ Well, you can’t save ‘em all, I guess.” My disheartened boss went into his office, gently closing the door behind him. I stood and watched with a heavy heart. He’s a good guy, and a great listener. I watched as his door closed, and I watched as the doorknob fell out and onto the floor. Some days are better than others, I guess.

Church Chick

Saturday, April 15, 2006

He has risen

Tomorrow is Easter- the He Has Risen day that most Christians look forward to each year. The doom and gloom fades away in the wee hours of Easter eve, and the dawn brings the light of new beginnings, new faith, new energy for life and love.

Here at work church, the staff has been buzzing around like bees on ephedra for the last 6 weeks. Lots of planning, creating, scheduling, calling, praying, writing, and sermonizing. Lots. I am busy along with them, but in a very different way. Where the ministerial staff is zipping along, putting together the event activities of the season, I sit comfortably at my desk on the phone, or emailing, snail mailing, copying. My most important job is keeping the nut jar full. Desk sustenance I call it on the store receipts these days. No one questions it anymore. We all know how important it is to keep the staff fueled. Especially now.

As the season peaks with the rising Easter Sun, I can feel the last drops of energy and fuel dripping out. The worship experiences prove amazing, fulfilling, wonderous. But on a human level, on the day that He has risen, my beloved staff is falling- over, out, like a forest of cut timbers. I, for one, am grateful for Easter Monday- for their sakes. Thank God for God and Thank God for the gifts of these incredible people I work for. Now there's a miracle for you- well, there's a few. ..

Friday, April 14, 2006

Forgive me for I have sinned

On this quiet good Friday that isn’t really too good (when you place it in the context of the New RSV), my oldest daughter dropped by on her way to work. She had in her hand 3 colorful tickets. They were Lot=ery tickets. Not Lot like in the Bible, but Lottery as in badness, gambling, addiction, compulsion. Yes. Sinful paper products. Three of them. We looked them over in awe. Wow.

We looked at the fronts. They were covered with pop up print, not unlike the pop ups that appear on my computer. Bright, Bold, obnoxious, drunk type. Wow. Not even 9 am yet and here we were in the a beloved house of God, holding these noxious notecards. In the gambling world, they are called tickets. Sounds benign. Tickets for the movies, tickets for the playground train, tickets to the opera, tickets to the city of doom. Lottery tickets. Wow.

The back of each was covered in ant-print. Font size -2. With the help of a magnifying glass we could make out “Play responsibly” (as if that will make a difference. They may as well have said, “Be nice.” Either you will or you won’t but print doesn’t make the difference. )Also, “ If you or anyone you know has a gambling addiction, please call 1/877…” Hey, that’s good to know. Who are they talking about? Gambling addiction? Me? Us?Just because we bought 3 tickets? Maybe I should buy 3 more or 30 more to see if the same thing is on every ticket. Hmmm.

We held those tickets for a while and realized there were no directions. How silly is that? Can you purchase without being certified to play? Is it like driving? We should be licensed? We asked passers by, the cleaning crew- they wanted to see, too. But no one really had the guts to tell us how to play. Didn’t want to contribute to our addictive potential, I guess. So we went to the website and discovered the complicated process of scratching off the pop up words. The tension was building.

A few seconds later, we proclaimed ourselves Winners!!! $3.00 and two free tickets!! Woo Hoo!! The $3.00 investment paid off, clearly. You’ll probably read about us in the paper, but they’ll keep our names confidential at first to ward off scam artists who are interested in our money. So, keep your eyes open for the headline about the mother/daughter winning team. ..

After the excitement wore off, the guilt set in and we went hand in hand into the Pastor’s office to confess our sins. He forgave us, reminded us that God forgave us too, and then he wanted to see the tickets. There’s nothing more refreshing than working with a Pastor who is sprinkled with humanity. Now there’s a winning ticket.

Church Chick

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Sending off friends

Funny the different kinds of friendships that are formed from the desk of the church secretary. Such a variety of relationships grow and flourish on many different levels, all have distinct places in my heart.

There are people I know only by their email addresses, and others who I can identify through voice recognition alone. Some are familiar faces that routinely pass by my office with a quick glance.... again and again and again. Particular people pop in to grab a piece of bubblegum, or maybe they are called to the stress eze nut mix or the anti-oxident mixage and on occassion the password protected mixage. People can be identified by their footsteps, or their walking pace, as well. Many folks I only know by heart, not name.

My Pastor boss can easily be identified by the jingle of his door when he throws it open to search me out. I think his mind explodes with sparkling spontaneous thoughts, when he cloisters himself behind that pastor parlor door- wild thoughts that send him flying across the hall sputtering tasks or questions my way. He is a very energetic and creative sort, this man. He leaves a trail of gossamer behind him when he passes through any place. It's a very good thing.

We have an ongoing chuckle between us that I can sit behind my desk for hours, days, months, without ever being called to his attention, but invariably, the moment my toes cross the threshold of my office, he will simultaneously be in great need of my office skills and will call my name with intention- "Church Chick!!" Once, i heard his cry while I was visiting the second floor restroom. I am in tune with his tone now that I've worked with him for a while. We've tested the pattern before and it runs true. I may be in the kitchen, the copy room, the mail room, my other boss's office, or hanging outside my office window in search of respite, and bingo- I am the name of the hour. It's an honor to be needed, of course. In truth, it is just what it is- another serendipitious pleasant aspect of my job. oh- I'm weaving off the track a bit.... .....

We have a lovely group of warm bodies who have been on this earth a long time, and for this reason- among others- we call them grand. This group meets weekly to share the joy of long-lived friendships and good food. They take turns cooking, and they often times have a speaker. Last week, a group of fancy dancers came and kicked around a while. Once a year, they participate in a bells lesson and the building is filled with notes and rhythm.

I've grown accustomed to their grand patter and wheeling around. On occassion, they will take field trips. I was surprised to find that I felt a great sense of empty-nestness when they took a springtime trip recently. The building grieved the missing presence of my favorite tinkerbell friends.

I love those folks. They are the world in one room. They have lived many lives in many places. One woman wears unique necklaces, she brought me her collection for show and tell one day. kalediscopes, one inch in size, and in perfect working order. How magic is that?

Several of these special friends also volunteer at the front desk, and so they have become work peers. Many are very involved in committee work or other missions within the church - but they are all gifts. Every one of them, and I miss them when they are gone.

I find myself shifting into parent mode when they travel. I boarded the bus last trip and reminded them to behave. How silly is that? Well, if you knew this crew, you'd say 'not silly at all.' I spoke to the bus driver and told him to drive with all the care he carried in his soul and to bring them back in all their many pieces and parts. I must have used my "mom" voice, because he answered with a solemn 'Yes, Ma'am". Maybe I'll add mom to my list of titles in this job. or maybe not.

Today is a field trip day. sighhhhh. I passed out mints to ensure a more enjoyable venue for conversation in close quarters between friends on the bus. I told them to "NOT distract the driver, either." and to come back safely, " I mean it now, SAFE-LEE".

I trust that they will return with many a story to tell at next week's luncheon, but today, the halls will wilt with emptiness.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The importance of Staff Meetings

There are many factors that go into a smooth working engine in an office, but when it comes to importance, I’d say Staff meetings have earned a spot on the top of the heap. The term Staff meeting is coded. The CIA uses the term to send secret messages between governments, you know.
To the general public, they are slated as awful things, “Ewwww, we’ve got staff meeting tomorrow” but sometimes relying on that (as a child would rely on a parent’s NO! at times to be the excuse for not going to Janie’s house because Janie always acts out and never shares her things) comes in handy.
Say, for instance, the auditor calls to set up a time to “chat”. There’s no better reason to cancel than the illustrious staff meeting. The words travel across language barriers all over the world. Staff meeting in German looks like this: Personalsitzung- and in Spanish it looks like: reuniĆ³n de personal. People connect with the term, shaking their heads as if they sadly understand.
Important , critical information is birthed at these seemingly routine occasions. I read once where the Queen of England was chosen in a staff meeting.

We have staff who live all over the map, and once a week, they tackle challenging traffic, weather, and dangerous elements to attend our weekly meeting. It’s important. Not taken lightly. Crucial. We had ours today.

Some of the vital topics covered today included: supporting our congregation’s thirst for fellowship, sharing our inner spirituality and individuality through creative expression in our offices, and building community through bonding with other neighboring religions.

Basically, we talked about coffee, paint colors, and Jewish babysitters. The babysitters discussion had some actual value, as we were wondering if we could trade out our child care providers for the synagogue’s during holidays? Like, for instance, we’d send our troops over to help out duringRoshashana, and they’d lend us their Mary Poppins team on Easter. Hey, it could work. Well, it might.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Phone book Phantom

Yes, it's that time of the year again. the new phone books are out. woo hoo.

This is the time of year that we are challenged to dispose of our old phone books.

LIfe is full of challenges, I don't see why this one needs to cycle around but it does. sigh...

I've tried to outwit the system, but have found that the phone book drop is as persistent as the US Mail. Yes, the mail doesn't always deliver in the right time or place, but they do deliver and that is what I've found with the phone book drop. Rain snow, sleet, bird droppings, nothing stops the process.

We had 15 sets show up on the floor in the mail room last week. 3 more came by some local delivery service a few days later, and yesterday, I turned in a parcel slip at the postoffice only to find out the parcel was another set of phone books. I'm convinced there's some sort of Government plan going on here. Maybe the pages are reconstructed from secret documents that were shredded. Maybe they are made of old disposable dirty diapers, plucked from the landfills. ARe the phonebookers trying to save the earth?

And the opportunities to deposit old ones into safe depositories are small at best. " We will accept outdated phone books on this day from 9:04 am to 9:06 am sharp. No exceptions" sigh again.

I've run out of ways to use these chunky books. They are too thick to use as a fan, they don't compost very fast, all the chairs in all the barbour shops in America are phone book occupied,but there are a few tasks that I have found these old phone books come in handy for.

They are great stress relievers when torn to shreds. Cats like to chew on the covers. I think the dyes calm them. Great weapons, great. lift and throw. lift and toss. Kick and punt. AS a security measure , they act as a strong barrier between burglars and you. build a wall of them at the bottom of the steps, and place random books around the living room and near the safe. Robbers will trip in the dark and it buys you time to call 911. They make interesting wall paper in bathrooms where you can practice reading small print. They stabalize furniture but caution here. At present, my sofa is suffering from the "princess and the pea" syndrome. It stands on 24 books and is nearly to the ceiling. AS is all my furnture, bed, dresser, desk, dining table, stove, book shelves.
well. There are only so many ways you can put those things to use.