Monday, July 30, 2007


We had a group from work church fly off to Zambia for a couple of weeks. They worked with children and although they did much to help the children they spent time with, I imagine they brought back many unexpected treasures of heart from those kids. I can see it in the eyes of the few returning travelers I have seen.

Okay, the trip was long. one leg here, a longer leg there, under conditions I can't and don't want to even imagine.There is no question that those people are heroes. They are God's worker bees. I can't wait to hear the stories as they are able to release them.

But, let's be real, people. Even worker bees have family- and sometimes family ties that are stretched millions of miles ( or so Zambia seems) can be in need of strength, guidance and support.
That's where I come in. You, know, God may have needed to look over the travelers, but I had to manage the fam and friends hotline here.

I realized I was out of my comfort zone when the first questions showed up in my inbox.
" When did they arrive?"
" Did anyone lose their luggage?"
" Did my loved one remember his toothbrush?"
" Any messages for me?"
I rattled the tin can phone that was supposed to connect me to our Africa travelers, and I even jiggled the string, but alas it was a good while before I actually had confirmation that our group had arrived. The info was sparse and short syllabled when it did come, and I knew the families and friends were disappointed. I was sort of expecting viewmaster verbage- colorful descriptions of every moment. WEll, when you are in the depths of another culture, such is not always possible.

I sent out messages as I got them, but they were as received- short and sweet.
Message number one said something like: They arrived.

It didn't say WHERE they arrived, or Who arrived? or How. I mean, Did they get to the place they intended to or did they make it to the continent? Did the entire team finish the trip? or did some stop off for Starbucks somewhere along the way? Did they make it with all their gear? or did they end up with other people's stuff? My info feed was warm, and well received, but short.

I started making up my own messages, just to have something to send.
One such message went something like this:
They arrived
They have noticed the terrain is a bit different than here
The stars shine brighter away from the Raleigh City lights.
They have eaten something.

I tried to stick with the truth, as I guessed it. No one complained- I could have probably sent out my favorite recipes and they would have acted as bandaids in between fruitful info, but I didn't think of that tasty tidbit until too late.

I tried to be as accurate as I could with actual transfer of actual contact. When my boss was thoughtful enough to call me AT HOME on a Saturday afternoon, as I was leisurely working on a slipper-like-object, I about fell out of my chair. I mean, really- Who calls you from Africa on a Saturday afteroon? Well, my boss does. and my buddy work friend does. and I'm glad.

At the time, I was in disbelief. The connection was broken at best, but after 4 short attempts at talking, I got this out of the conversation: Elenie!! It's Ick. ICK!! Ambia NO, eally!!!!!.
After that delicious and very exciting conversation-ette, I rushed to church and sent out an update to the family. It read pretty much as I described it above. Somehow, it was enough.
The words really didn't matter. It was the fact that I heard the voices of our team that meant the most.

I don't know if I'm cut out to be the tin can connector, but it was fun while it lasted. The best part was when my boss called on their way home and wouldn't you know it? I was away from my desk. I heard the front desk receptionist's shrill voice calling me to GET THE PHONE!!! and so I quick quick like a bunny left the ladie's room, and caught the phone. Having my boss call or need my assistance the minute I am out of easy reach is as routine as birds feeding outside my window, so I knew in my heart things would be okay on that day. They all made it home safely, and the gaps- well they will be filled in by those who were on the Africa adventure when they are ready, and willing to share.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The bloodmobile cometh

Bloodmobile-it is
A couple of times a year, the bloodmobile stops by home church to fill its tanks. Although members are more than ready and willing to give blood, something odd has started to occur on bloodmobile dates. There is a pattern that has started that says “When the bloodmobile cometh, all hell breaketh loose.” …and so yesterday was the bloodmobile day and here’s what happened- First of all, the big moose van had to park on the narrow street that borders our property instead of the parking lot. This slowed passing traffic, of course, and created more than a few clogging moments for passers by.

The basement flooded the night before, I mean RED CLAY RAMBLER flooded, and so the Mr. Sparky trucks were there first thing with their octopus hoses seeking and sucking out the seepage and the Mr. Happy Sparky men were sopping up the muck. I really do not think that kaki pants are the way to go for those guys, but hey- that’s just me.

Meanwhile, the internet decided to have heart failure and so ran an unanswered code blue.

The geo-thermal well drilling truck that has been promising to come by in prep for our new construction decided to come on over and begin drilling through the asphalt but discovered the dumpsters would need to be moved first and they were pretty heavy, holding wet cardboard and soggy basement crud, so the trucker just parked and left, leaving approximately 5 available parking spaces for members.

With the internet down and out, one of the phone lines fainted and never snapped back so the church phones were ringing double. The new temp. receptionist hit the valium early ; she didn’t seem too bothered by the chaos after a while.

A funeral wound its way through this and called out for some short notice planning as well. With one co—pastor on sabattical and the other playing single parent (whilst her partner is in Cuba with the youth), the stress of the planning broke the stress meter.

Oh, yeah and yesterday was also the 3rd Wednesday, which as everyone knows in the summer, is, of course, church dinner and program. So I was there cooking mud soup with a friend, and our other helper decided not to come, then later decided yes, then no, then yes, then no and after lunch yes again. OH, yeah, the custodian is on vacation for another week….

Yesterday was the day our favorite church “Otis” ( for those who recall Mayberry) decided to hang around the parking lot and greet visitors!!

I came upstairs periodically to check on the Church Chick, my mentor in the field ( and others, the wise woman she is) since she had just returned from a 2 week vacation, and on one of my checks, I heard the Chapel piano playing and an unfamiliar voice playing along with the keys.
“Who’s that?” I asked the CC.
“ A guest from the hotel across the street just walked in and asked if she could practice her piano and I guess she sings, too.”
I walked down the hall to the Chapel and looked in to see a young woman with long dark hair running down her back playing briskly on the Chapel piano. She swayed and threw her head back and sang out out out!!

I stepped back and leaned against the hall wall. I had trouble separating the notes of the piano from the constant phone chimes. I heard my CC friend’s voice, tired but determined. “ No, we do NOT need our gutters cleaned out TODAY, thank you.”
I think I’ll stay heads up on the next date we have down for the bloodmobile visit. Might be a good day to stay home.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mid week splendor

Well, well, well. Today is Wednesday, and, I am NOT at my desk. I think I have found a way to experience vacation in drips. Today is a good one. I am messy-cheffing at home church tonight, and was planning on taking a half a day off today, but my boss dropped by yesterday and said to me, with lots of love and support, "Go for it- take the OTHER half and make it a day."

So I am. I was productive yesterday especially because I did some things I really didn't want to do. Doesn't that earn brownie points, people? Why, yes I think it does. So I slept in until 8 this morning, and here at 10:16, I'm dressed and have already had breakfast. wow. Work has only called once so far. That's pretty good.

My notes for CLC are on scraps of paper at work,so I really don't have anything especially swell to share, but my biggest fan has called me today and said, "WRITE" so I am.

I think the sign of a great working environment and team connection is when the boss is out of town and things at work stay the same. I have 2 bosses, you know. The Business Administrator and the Senior Pastor and then the Associate Pastors and the other staff are also really that, too. We work so well together that when one or more are gone, the flow doesn't really change.

It feels more like summer this year because , well, I don't really know why,but it just does and because of that i have been able to peck away at catch up stuff. I mean, the people coming in for assistance is wayyyyyyyyyup, but the event planning is a little sleepy, so I have some flexibility in my time and I want to be ready for the Fall when it crashes in.

The Pastor boss and 19 or 20 others are experiencing Zambia this week and next. It has been an intense planning, and I expect it will be an intense visit. I would say I can't wait to hear about it, but I am afraid their weary eyes will return wearing the pain of a reality they did not fully expect. So I am prepared to sit back and have lots of hugs ready. The day they left was a big big send off-

I don't do crowds very well, so I bided my time, and drove around trying to decide how the big giant bus would make its way to the highway. ( There are many winding narrow roads around the church, just as there are in life) I parked on the side of the road, close to the main road that they most surely would need to take, put the top down and waited. Sure enough, a big bad bus came smoking through. I stood up and waved waved waved.

I only saw one face. The woman sitting on the front seat row.She looked still and sad at first, then she noticed this idiot waving and i would like to think it distracted her as she looked up and her eyes popped right open!! Maybe seeing the last minute crazy church chick wave off helped them transition from leaving families to visiting new friends. I hope so.

When I came into work, not one person gave me a hard time for not attending the send off. They know me well, and they knew I probably wouldn't attend. I was happy to say I had a personal bon voyage!! I will remember this and use it again, as it felt really good.

I miss my boss Pastor. But I'm glad to have a chance to brace for his return. He seems immune to jet lag, sad to say.

WEll, I'm off to cook dinner for home church tonight. Tomorrow, I'll be clucking along in my haven at work church. The day off won't leave me with dread of going back to work, either. It's kind of nice to work in a place that feels like home. Really nice.

Monday, July 09, 2007


I think one of the hardest adjustments to growing up is the reality check of losing Summer. As a parent, I am still grieving the loss of naptime, but as a just plain grown up, losing summer vacation is hard. No schedule to follow, spending days at the pool, reading and playing. Minutes seemed like days seemed like seconds, all without rhyme or reason or intention- free free free free time

Even so,I see that I have adjusted in many ways- when the pace slows around this busy church, it feels a lot like summer. I can dress more casually, priorities shift and lessen, or rather- the intensity lessens.

When I do take time off from work, I plan a day- or half a day here and there because it makes me feel like I have choices as I did when I enjoyed "real" summer oh those years ago.

I hold onto a cluster of days so that I can really take a getaway if I want to- (whenever the sweepstake comes in), and until then, I am creative with my bits of time off here and there.

Most days off at work church are spent at home church. It feels good to help just because I can and want to. When I take a few days together in early fall, I may return to the same exotic location I visited last year. I went to Raleigh. I'm sure you've heard of it. Hard to get reservations, but I found a great B&B ( resembled my own home in very many ways- the couch had cat scratches almost exactly as mine does at home) I traveled around a highway called the beltline, oh, there were so many sights to see. I think I wrote about it last year, so I don't want to repeat myself too much too much too much.

As I type, there are two doves visiting my birdfeeder. Doves in the Alley. Neat. Now a cardinal. Gosh. I've got a birduary right here in town. shh. Oh, losing focus, pardon -ahem.

I have had indications this year that craving summer is felt not only by me, but by others as well. Since summer has started, I've had visitors plop down into my huggy chair and say, " I just don't feel like working. Can I have a nut or a chunk of bubblegum?" Something about voicing that frivilosity acts as a salve. So we sit a minute, crunch or bubble up and off we go again.

Last week, I had the most entertaining time with a couple of my co-workers. I needed to make an emergency trip to Staples to get card stock so that I could copy an urgent URGENT document so that I could turn around and go back to Staples and have them bind it.

One someone heard me give the Staples call which resembles Tarzan's call of the wild. He responded with, "I want to go."
I said, "Sure, but it will be a quick trip"
Before my very eyes, he shrunk from 6 feet to maybe 4, his shoes became too big for him, and his face took on the shape of a kid with a tootsie pop in it and I could have sworn I saw a slingshot sticking out of his back pocket. " Can we put the top down?" he asked- coy in his voice, and a milk moustache in his smile.

Okay, folks. It was 100 degrees outside. No wind. High noon. Does this sound like a rational idea to you?? I considered my reply. "Sure we can."

Another co-worker joined ranks and we were off.
Riding in a convertible in the heat of a mid summer day feels a lot like sitting in a sauna with a hot fan blowing . Call us convection- We were baked, baby. Washed, dried and ironed in 10 minutes flat. Add to that a Black convertible and you've got freeze dried people on the go.
We entered the store, I grabbed what I needed and checked out. My passengers were no where to be found. I waited. I perused. I waited. I asked to use the intercom. "Will the HBUMC team please come to the front?"

Amazingly, the people who answered the page were not my passengers. Seeing as I don't take kindly to strangers, I had no intentions of taking just anyone back to work with me so I started walking the aisles like any responsible parent would do in search of her wayward children. Here comes co-worker one, sling shot Sammy. "I'm not ready" he pouted when he saw me. True. T R U E.
As if that wasn't enough, he added, " You said you have to come back, didn't you? Just leave us and when you come back, we'll be ready, oh, and leave me the Staples card so I can do some shopping."

This scene is so parallel to real life with my kids that I actually bought it and I came back to work, made my copies and returned to the store. Where, oh where do you suppose my peers were? NO WHERE TO BE FOUND. Now, let me ask you- How sad is it that walking the aisles in an office supply store provides a break in hard core work?

Anyway, this little fieldtrip experience acted as a blast from the past and I saw all of us as we wished we could be again for just a little while. In school/out of school and on vacation without a care in the world.

We returned to work, refreshed and rejuvenated. That's all I'll say about that.