Friday, November 16, 2007

Breaking up is hard to do

This time of year is a real challenge for me. It took me two years to stop panicking at the phrase, ...CHARGE CONFERENCE. I know I wrote about that early on. I still get a jolt, but nothing like I used to. I can manage the grueling reports and other assembly work involved, but now that I am beginning to know more church members, this time of year has become a heartbreak for me.

Charge Conference is the time we change out committees, and chair people and the folks I have come to know over the past 12 months sometimes disappear. This makes me sad in my heart. Today, i broke up with Missions. Did you not see the eclipse as I realized what was happening? Did you not????

I sent out an email inquiring about an upcoming meeting. The person I have come to know as friend, replied that someone else was in the chairspot now. Since I keep up with this, I, on some level knew this. Since I am very much a creature of habit, and since I tend to hold onto the good things in life as I find them, I chose to ignore this fact. The news hit hard.

I sent her a note saying, "Are you breaking up with me?" It was a tough moment. I haven't been broken up with since high school. What does one do in such a situation? Get to know another chair for another year? Who created this system anyway? Some Methodist on an overload of sugar? Let's switch out annually. Heck, let's change every week, why not? Some positions last a couple or three years, and sometimes those turn into 10 years or 20. Why do the chairs, the people I have contact with have to keep leaving? Oh, woe is me. The sense of abandonment reigns heavy in my heart.

She wrote back and said something like "Heck no, we're good. Just send the reminders to the new guy." How sad is it to become attached to people you only send reminder cards to ? Don't tell me, I don't want to know. Let's just say people matter to me, and leave it at that.

The thing is, I like the new chair too.

Bells, Bells, Bells, Bells

There are lots of different activities that circulate throughout the church, but one of my favorites is the Bells. That doesn't sound right. 'is the bells.' Maybe I should simply say I love to listen to the bells. Those players have my abiding ear of respect.

I love to watch them as well, the bell dance looks to be very challenging, but I figure if I was standing in front of a church full of people, trying to read notes, watch the director, and hold big honkin' brass ringers; at the same time wearing gloves, well, I would just sit down and cry.

Those other people eyes on you, the pressure to follow through with the choreography of the bell arm step, and keeping my bell to myself -not knocking out my neighbor..... those pressures under the watching eyes of God are tough enough; human eyes on board is just too much for me to bear. I QUIT I QUIT. I CAN'T TAKE IT. UNCLE UNCLE ALREADY!! oh. wait. I don't play the bells. I just listen. Sorry, readers, i got away from myself. Hoo! Deep breath. There. Let's try this again.

The bell ringers at work church are a lovely collection of my favorite people.

Some read my chronicles, faithfully hoping that one day I will write something worthwhile.

A few others i know through the prayer shawl ministry, we have common interests in hooks and needles and runaway yarn.

There is a ringer who used to order candles with me; an activity that doesn't happen often enough because she is delightful to be around and I don't see her nearly enough.

Another is an artist in her own right- she knitted me a beautiful necklace one year.

Another scurries through the hallways waving and saying Hi.

One ringer grows the most beautiful roses you could ever imagine and on occasion shares them with staff. My desk longs for more of those delicate beauties.

A special friend who works the front desk plays bells but not always; it surprises me how she can just pick it back up when she hasn't played in a while.

There is a special friend who is not a hugger, but she has always been open to me- despite the fact that I am a big huggy hugster. She shares new and different music with me and always leaves a wake of free spirit behind her.

There is a wonderful player who has a heart of gold, she works towards perfection in everything she does and has an easy laugh.

There's the spouse who plays all alone at the whole other end of the bell stage without one ornery complaint. Oh, there are too many to fill this space with. That group is amazing, talented, and so so gifted.

As you may imagine, being invited to sit in on a practice by such a special group is quite the honor, and being invited after you have totally embarrassed yourself by previously sneaking in uninvited, then making a terrible mistake by applauding heartily when the song was not over is an even bigger honor. I think it is important to say here, that when you are one, the only one sitting in the congregation pews and you decide to clap, the echo is quite impressive.

So, I was invited to return to hear a particular piece a few days ago. The experience was so moving, that i have held the tinkling in my heart all week.

If I was a church activity reviewer for the local paper, I would rate this 4 stars out of 3.

One of my favorite past times is visiting and watching and listening to people perform before their official performance time. I enjoy watching the project reach fruition. You will rarely see me anywhere on opening night, but when I can, I am often in the wings or under the pews or in the balcony during rehearsals. That for me, is prime time and it doesn't get much better than that for me.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lunch on a wagon train

A very special friend wanted to have lunch yesterday. I did, too. We have been friends since before I birthed children. She used to come to my exercise classes, then when I started my own business, became a teacher for me. We have shared some very important pieces of our lives, and i don't think I could ever do without her.

As it turned out, yesterday at work,we had a short term front desk helper who needed to leave before lunch, so I picked up some box lunches for the boss's meeting and got two for us (on our dime, of course. )I figured if she came to work and we sat in my office I could still catch the phone til the afternoon relief arrived to take over.

She was amenable to the plan and readily came over. While I was out picking up the lunches, my car decided to cough. (I had just spent 300 $ earlier in the week, but guess I missed getting the car flu shot, so I hopped it over to the mechanic's. I figured they had left something loose.
They had. So it was a quick fix. )

When I got back to work, my buddy had made friends with the front desk person, and had read through half of the morning paper. We carried the bags of boxed lunches to my office and the receptionist left.

There were 50 gargantuan tablecloths parked in the huggy chair, so she pulled the recliner across the room in front of my desk so we could share a common table.

We began to eat.

BAM!! The door opened, and someone flew in slamming the door against the recliner, sending the first full bite of lunch out of my friend's mouth and onto my lay leadership list. We laughed.
We cleaned up, I answered the visitor's question and they left.

We began again, chatting about our families, and such. A bite or two of fruit salad and WHAM! I'm wearing cantalope. ( It happens to be a good color for me)

The visitor went to the closet and found what was needed and left. I went outside and changed the note on my door from "at lunch" to "Maternity Leave". The traffic didn't stop-

Our conversation tried to continue, but after a while, my friend began to turn green and voiced that she was beginning to feel a little seasick from all of the waves crashing into her chair.

We packed up our lunches and pushed them aside.

I called upstairs to the youth duo and requested sodas from the machine to go. They were very kind in accomodating me and treated us to boot!! ( they are wayyy tooo good to me)

Soon we had Avon people coming in for some assistance an hour early. sighhhhhhhhh
My boss came in, banging in with the Pastoral Care that only HE can.... and he was delightful. He grabbed the bag for his meeting and backed out. He may have been hoping I was screening someone for him, but he was probably just glad to get away from what was clearly momtalk. He is intuitive that way, and such a smart man, as you know. At times like that, it always surprises me that he takes the iniative to do things like seek me out and get the bag rather than just calling me on the intercom or yelling across the office, "Where is our lunch?" Which is what I expect but rarely if ever get. No, he's very respectful of the Grand Central Office.

Over time, this office has redefined itself. I love that. A job that is growing and taking an office along with it.Sometimes my corner alley of the building is a haven for griefstricken people who just want to sit in the huggy chair and listen to me type along with the mystery radio show that plays on the radio.
Sometimes people need a sense of control in their out -of -control life and they pilfer through the nut mix to Choose their favorite legume or fruit. Choices are good salve when you run out of them in other places of your day.

Sometimes, people come in like hornets, and need to vent. This is when I open the window, to let those heated words escape. There is something healing about watching venom slam into a brick wall

Sometimes, people bring by treats just because they are thoughtful.

Other times they drop off items that have no where else to go- call me orphanage

Mostly, my place is a pitstop for a quick breath or a piece of gum and a kind word. And Iwouldn't have it any other way.

Yesterday, It was a rough ride on a wagon train for my friend,but I think she fared okay. I watched her walk to the car and she only stumbled a few times.

Although it was great to see my oldest and dearest friend, all I can really say is that her kids are growing up. The other details are scattered on the floor around my desk.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Daylight savings time

I used to love daylight savings time.
The extra hour gave me spark and zip to do extraordinary and amazing extra projects, finish tasks I had been putting off, or catch up on reading. Daylight savings used to give me an opp to watch the seasons change for an hour more each day.

Midlife and daylight savings, however, do NOT go together. Well, not for me anyway.
My sleep habits have always been sporadic. I'm usually ready for bed at 7pm, which of course is ridiculous, as I'm in a yoga class somewhere or at the grocery, and itis most inappropriate to bring one's sleeping bag and plop down in aisle 6. So I push through. The night rolls on, my body begins to fade into undeniable exhaustion, and I find myself dragging upstairs by 10- down for the short count by 11 or 12.

3 am cock-a-doodle-do!! my eyes are wide open. A short conversation with the dark, a load of laundry, catch up on my emails, and I'm ready for a nap by 4.

Daylight savings came in rambunctious as can be and since that train blew into town, I'm raring to go somewhere or do something at 4 every morning. I feel like a kid trying to get up before nap time is officially over. I stay in bed usually, and swat around random thoughts. Plan my day, plan your day, too and my neighbors' days. I rewrote the postman's' route once. I am not sure he ever really used my ideas, but if he had, it would have saved him hours every day. I get a lot done in the mornings, but by the time 8 rolls around and it is time to get going to work, I'm ready for a nap.

I haven't really given much pomp and circumstance to the value of sleep in my life. It hasn't held much safety or worth for me. My body battles my mind on that issue. Maybe when I take my winter clothes out of the attic, I will find the secret to sleeping has been packed away up there somewhere.

I should make the best use of the early morning awake time, but housecleaning just doesn't appeal to me in the dark. ( or in the bright light of day, either ); I really don't want to get to know Mr. Clean All. That. Well. I'm sure he presents a bigger and more sparkling appearance on the TV commercials than he ever could in my bathroom or kitchen.

I might start making coffee for the newspaper delivery guy, though.

Maybe Chronicles will become an early morning task.

You never can tell.

Gumbo, P.S.

I had a few questions about the recipe and those answers are here.
Kiebasa is sausage.
Canola is an oil.
Yummy is the dish.
overfull is what happens when you try it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The "real" Kitchen person

I received a lovely comment on the gumbo recipe that has me more curious than my cat.
I mean, the comment as you can read yourself refers to the "real" . Well, I am all about that.
Not much in my life seems "real" much of the time. I'm balancing past, present, and future at any given time.

I don't feel like a "Real" secretary, yet, I type and file and have become warmly familiar with the layout of the local Staples store.

I don't feel like a "real" knitter,or crocheter, yet I sit for hours clicking needles, hooks and yarn together into mass lengths of rectangular waves.

I'm not a "real" writer, but tell that to my novel that sits hidden away on disk and on the shelf.
Tell that to the copious notes I can't keep myself from putting on paper.

Not a real cook, but I lick the bowl as good as anyone I know.

What is real anyway? Get real? It's scary, that's what.
For me, anyway.

I think I'll stick with just pretending and hope for the best.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Messy Chef Gumbo

Made this last night at home church- I always over eat this. I love this meal at the first sign of cold weather. At home church, I do some volunteer cooking, and they have come to call me the Messy Chef. I'm not a messy cook, but I do make messy meals . Some friends gave me an apron that said Messy Chef, and the real REAL kitchen person gave me a couple of cabinets as my opportunities to cook have increased. She makes me feel like I'm at home.
Well, it is home, now isn't it?

Messy Chef Gumbo
One whole pitiful chicken with limbs, or chicken breasts 2 ½ lb (ish) bag thawed is best, frozen will work.
2 lb kiebasa- 2 packages
***Shrimp is a luxury addition and goes in last if you choose to use it. Peel first. Use more than you think you’ll need.
1 big onion-chopped to your liking
2 green peppers-chopped “
5 stalks celery-chopped “
thyme 1 tsp
basil 1 Tbl
cayenne- 1 tsp- level- it gets hotter over time.
lawry’s season salt to taste
1 c all purp flour
1 c canola
chicken bouillon in water or container of chicken broth (2 quarts is usually enough.)
green Tabasco sauce with the meal

put chicken in crock pot
slice veggies and kiebasa and put in zip lock bags- then put to bed in the frig.
go to bed
get up and put crock in frig
go to work
come home and take stuff out of frig
scoop fat off of top of chicken crock
pull out chick
de-bone and mush apart chicken. It shreds on its own in the pot later.

IMPORTANT** Pour canola and flour into frying pan or big pot. Stir with wisk or a slotted spoon to lose lumps. Cook til it turns golden brown. IT burns very easily and goes from ecru to golden to burned quick. Stir continuously and watch for the change.

As soon as the roux becomes golden, toss in the veggies and coat them.

Lower heat.

Add chick, kiebasa
Liquid from crock
Consistency is a mountain of veggies and chick and kiebasa peeking through liquid, so add broth as needed. Stir well
Cover and simmer an hour. It starts out looking like water and when done, will be thinner than pancake batter, but not watery. It is magic in that hour.
Stir on occasion just because you want to.

Put rice ingredients together, and slide into oven.

Wash the crock, toss the bones, and sit down and rest.

It does freeze okay. Not great. Better on second day, best on third day. Hard to face again on fourth day.

1 c per 2 c chick broth (brown rice, white is 1:11/2)
two handfuls of cut up celery and pepper
Put in a bread pan, cover and bake one hour. Remove cover and cook til brown around the edges.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Other Mother

My best buddy at work listens to my blabber more than she should, and thankfully, sometimes she finds my life stories amusing.This is one of those.

I have 4 children. They are all taller than I am now, but there was a day...... oh, there was a day.... when I was the jolly green giant of the crew. I loved those years. The chaos, the tantrums, the snot and puke, the cuddles, and the moments of wonder, the laundry, the naps. Oh, the naps. With four girls we had never a dull moment. My girls were kind to me- they gave me so much just by being.

I wrote a collection of stories about those times, called Little Bits. It is a work that they can hold onto, and one they enjoy comparing notes with. But that story of how Little Bits came to be is for another day.

The sad sad tale of The Other Mother......................
My #4 child, baby princess of the bunch, cute cute cute. Picture if you will-tiny fair skinned sweetness with titian hair- long and light...... Blue eyes that melted the mortar from the 100 year old bricks that held the house up. Precious. And, let us not forget, the #4 BABY of the family.

She is in her room crying. Sobbing as only a 3 year old can. Her volume and tone has finally reached the deaf ears of her older sisters, and one of them has come to fetch me. I immediately drop what I'm doing and race downstairs to see what has upset my baby baby baby.
"Waaaaa sob sob sob sniff sniff waaa" she cries.
"Sweetheart? Whatever are you crying about? Why are you crying?" the attentive and loving mother of four asked.
" I'm cryyyyying for my other mother." the soggy child wept. I was taken aback. Maybe I didn't hear her clearly.

" Your OTHER mother? "
"Waaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh waaaaahhhhhhhh" she replied.
What in the world ? I wondered with a heavy heart. I stepped closer to the crying angelpie, risking life and limb by side stepping a half-built waffleblock castle, and the open Barbie travel house. These dangers mean nothing when it comes to embracing and rescuing one's broken hearted precious child.

"Other mother? WHAT other mother?" I lovingly asked in my most gentle voice of motherly love.

"The one that takes us to Disney World." Reality slapped me back a good 50 feet....

oh. OHHHH, THAT other mother,I thought. Yeah, I've been waiting for mine as long as I've been waiting for the maid service and Butler to arrive.

I dropped my box of kleenex, and fell into the hallway sobbing like no Mother has ever sobbed before. I sobbed so hard, Oscar statues all over the world melted from the mere essence of my salty tears in the atmosphere. I rubbed my eyes til there were no lashes left unscathed. I cried cried cried until my precious baby stopped.

"Wut are YOU cryin' for mommy?"

" I am crying for my OTHER Mary "

She wiped her tears on her shirt ( or was it a sock?) and stared at me, confused at the revelation that she had another sister in her world who happened to have her very same name.

"What other Mary?"

"I'm crying for the other Mary who picks up her toys and wipes herself."

The tear faucet squeeked off without so much as a final drip.

Yes, we formed a special understanding on that day. Oh, the priceless moments of parenting.....


On occasion, my boss will ask me to help him with his computer. I am no computer geek, I am slightly computer -phobic when things don't work. When we both get stumped, we call upon the master on site- Doug. His name deserves to be real. If it wasn't for Doug and his largely invisible presence, your newsletter would look like a first grader authored the pages, and they would arrive out of order and in sections. The bulletins would be folded off center. Actually, i believe it is entirely possible that the bulletins may very well end up origami cranes and the type would more than likely be reversed. Next time you see Doug, give him a pat on the back. He doesn't accept verbal accolades readily, but pats seem to carry well with him.

So, my boss calls me on the true phone intercom. "Can you come help me? Do you mind?" I stood up and grabbed my pen. My speech began before I ever left the office. "Okay, listen," I said as I crossed the hallway into his office. " YOU are the boss, and I am the secretary and that means YOU get to say, 'I need your help with this ', and I get to say,'Yessir, I'll be right there." "Got it?" He ignored me as he usually does when I remind him of how things work according to the Strunk and White of Church Secretaryisms. ( Strunk and White is a writer's how-to best friend).

I entered the office, and approached his desk, where he was sitting hunched over paying homage and praying over his laptop. By habit, he scooted his chair over, and by habit, I held onto his chair back while I creakingly folded my body down and kneeled beside him so I could meet his monitor eye to eye. I looked at the screen and reminded myself that this was just a machine. It needs help communicating, much like a two year old does, much like a teenager does,as well. My boss waited patiently while I had this mental exchange with myself, and we resolved the issue.

I reached up, pulled myself to standing, creaking and cracking all the way up, then I went back to my office. Mission accomplished.

We do this dance often. If the problem seems like it is going to take me more than a few seconds, I don't even have to ask him to go to the bathroom anymore, he automatically gets up and gives me the space and time to think at my aged and older- than -dirt pace. He is very respectful that way. So,it is a system that works for us well, and one we don't give a second thought to.

Apparently, someone noticed us working together and later in the day, they commented on the sight. It went something like this: " You and your boss seem to work well together. You were both concentrating so hard. Gosh, it was touching to see that bonding."

I tried to figure out what she was talking about. My recollection of the day appeared a little different than that. I recall giving him a hallway holler, I remember opening the men's bathroom door and saying, "Are you in here?"... I recalled interrupting his Bible Study that was running over (in an effort to get him to his next meeting on time), and closing the electric wall on the group, hoping they'd finish up. How working together is that? Those recalls sound crude now that I think about it. Ah, well, I live in the moment- thank gosh those moments have now passed.

Finally, I remembered working on his computer; and I realized that if one had not seen the call for help, or heard the banter, seen the loud kneeling or rising, one might have considered the vision of two heads working together as a special moment.

Truth is, I like being asked to help, (as if I can), and it is always a relief when I've made the round trip- across the hall, down and back up again. One day, we may install a zipline. I'll ask Trustees to consider it.

I love my job and the people in it.

The season approaches

Oh, my. My fingers are soooo itching to show and tell. 24 hours in a day is not long enough during this season to give me that luxury of typing about my days here. It makes me sad in my heart because I so love to share the mystery and magic of being in this job, and of late, my stories seem to have expanded somewhat outside these church walls.with no noticeable complaints from readers. whew. How tolerant you are, my friends, how truly tolerant. Thank you.
More and more, my mystery internet radio station fits the activity around here. It adds levity when there is none to be found, and it gives me something to smile about when I'm running short on smileabouts. I've been told that in the dead of night, when no living being dare be wandering the halls, the radio still tells the tales of woe, murder and mahem. A fun friend enlightened me to this this week. On occassion she comes in late and when she enters my office, it sounds as if Dick Tracy himself has returned from his grave to solve this or that.

She suggested that it made for a very effective security tool. Think I'll stick with that.

A miracle occured today, or maybe it was a "This is exactly why" moment. I wonder still, why these kind hearted souls continue to allow me to come in day after day and play office. Yes, my responsibilities have grown in abundance, but my demeanor has not changed much. I still use voice activated live action intercom most days, instead of ATT&T, and I continue to plug in my Christmas lights in my office. I keep candy and gum handy. and I file a different way every day. Fortunately, I leave myself notes, and my next door neighbor has grown accustomed to my meandering methods, so we don't lose too many things. Still,professionality is not my forte.

Anyway, you may wonder on occassion, why my insecurities persist after now, 3 years. Yes, 3 years. I've made it through teething and potty training. whew. Well, here's a perfect example.

My boss has been pastoring for 25 years + ( I figure he prayed while he was swimming his way into the world, as well) He collects publications like the bullitens, newsletters, etc... For all those years. There are volumes of notebooks in his office that span that period. Think about it.

Bottom line is this. That is a lot- a LOT of paper!!. So, this week, when I was asked how long someone had been working in their job, or this and that yada yada, before I could email the business administrator, my boss had flown across to his office and in the twinkling of an eye, returned to my desk with one of the aforementioned volumes. Not just one. But one in particular. Like Moses' parting (with a little help) of the Red Sea, that book fell open and my boss's fingers did the walking through those yellowed pages and lo! the voice of my brilliant boss cried out!!! "Here is is. ........."

Okay. I stopped typing my inquiry. My fingers refused to continue. My head dropped and i felt my eyes slide left, searching for the source of the exclamation. My eyes found his fingers, holding the page open, then they followed up the hand and arm and eventually met his eyes.

His brightness paused. " What? What's wrong? It's right here. What we were looking for. It's here in this newsletter." I remained still, yet focused. .....then I blinked.

" and you wonder WHY I worry that i won't live up ?? oh, for heaven's sake. I haven't got a chance in hell if you're going to pull stuff like that. " This, I said to my boss. My boss who performed a modern day miracle in my very office.

The real miracle is that he let me come back to work the next day. Take that, Moses.