Saturday, August 23, 2008

Community Garden

I sense a slow but steady shift these days towards more versatile use of community. Sustainable communities, building communities, community watch.... yadayadayada.

When I was married,we had a half acre back yard that was largely used for gardening. Fruits, veggies, an orchard. I think I've mentioned that here before. There are things I miss and don't miss about those days, but one especially good use of that space was to offer our goods to the community.

Now, a few years later, I am in a rented townhouse with a minute border of viable planting space, so the days of big gardening are over for me.

I have, however, found a friend who wants to have a garden, or at least wants to have living things in her yard, but doesn't have the steady interest to make it happen, so she's let me pretend her yard is my canvas and I've turned her front yard into a community garden of sorts.

Community meaning that I've filled her front beds, driveway border, mailbox plot and natural area around the trees into places that hold plants FROM the community. Yes, Julia gave me the run of her yard to pull and dig out plants, like long named things I can't remember; Tricia's mom is too elderly to manage her yard, so Tricia has allowed me to dig up daisies and cone flowers that have become overgrown; My own yard has an abundance of periwinkle and liripe, so some of that has put down roots "elsewhere", Louise gave me irises that grew and multiplied and are now in the community yard, the apartments where my oldest daughter lived was sold and everyone moved out in prep for demolition and I dug up some irises there as well, I "borrowed" Wisteria that was looking for an escape from a yard I pass when I walk to the Post office at work, and I found some cousin wisteria vines behind work church. I'm on the lookout these days for overgrown beds and I listen out for folks who want to thin out their plants.

A couple of years from now, if anything is still alive, the yard will be rich with diversity and culture, as our own world is. The only fighting is between flower and weed, or the occasional lawn mower herbivore.

I've started working towards the front side now and eventually, I think I'll have mini areas of lots of different things. I use my own compost, or that I can get on sale or at the City yard waste center, so the cost is low. It costs more in gas to get there than in materials now that the get- ready work is done. That's sad. I want to get a bike sometime, and a goal would be to ride out there on Saturdays to work a while. Like I said, it's a goal. Plus, if I poop out, my friend would bring me home I bet.

The plan is to create a yard that doesn't' really need attention. Self-sustaining. A popular word these days. When we get there, I guess I'll have to find another poor soul who will let me play in the dirt. It's hard work, but I keep my own pace and many/most days I am reminded that the simple motions of digging and putting new plant roots into fertile soil, then bedding them down with water and dirt feels comforting to me. So many things these days don't, but working outside, slow and steady comes second only to licking batter- in comfort levels.

Next year, when spring arrives, it will be interesting to see if the hours I've given to this look like anything good. It would be nice to have a positive influence on something as simple as ground.

Maybe I'll post pictures or maybe not.

If you have a place where plants grow, take the time to visit and talk out there. Plants are people, too. ...Or at least in my book they are. Special people who really don't need much from me but a little time, water, conversation and a listening ear.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Trick or Treat

There is nothing more special than being treated to lunch, especially when the few dollars kept in the wallet have left the building. How invigorating to be picked up and brought back in a luxury car (albeit ancient) Yes, the thrill is hard to put into words, not that words were encouraged, mind you.

Yes, today was a treat of all treats. I was invited to a lunch at a specific place at a specific time and with a specific dish in mind. I was picked up precisely at 11:30 in a lovely black tank called Lincoln. Lincoln took me and my inviter along with the spirit of said inviter's spouse to a nearby restaurant. Three in the front, but only two to be seen. What a ,yes, again, treat. I was grateful for the spaciousness of the interior, the low mileage on such an aged vehicle.(40,000 and a car that was made in the days when steel and spit were the prime materials) I felt safe knowing nothing short of a Garbage truck could possibly do us injury in a collision. Yet, again- what. A. Treat.

We arrived at the restaurant, parked in handicap (made me wish I had brought along my wheelchair) and before I could scope out the set up of the restaurant, I heard the staff being informed of our seating location and of our menu selection, including beverage. Wow

I didn't have to do a thing but be there. What a treat.

We were seated with the best of care, and although the menu was useless, since our lunch had already been selected, I chose to take hold of it just because I could.

I inquired about other options, but was informed that if I chose to have something different than what my inviter had already chosen, I would need to do that on another day. Gosh. I was so relieved. How many lunches do we get to just be expected to be present and consume? I didn't need to drive, or look, or choose. whew. What a relief.

It didn't even matter that the food we were about to ingest has a history of jumping right back up and out to see the world. I cooperated the best I could, but I will say, swallowing that meal knowing it was temporary for my own body gave me pause. I wondered if it would be rude to order two dishes, one to go- one of my choice to go- so that i might be able to have lunch that would stay with me a little longer than 15 minutes.Leaving my etiquette book behind, I guessed it was not a proper idea, so I let it go.

During the consumption, I fielded the 20 questions per bite from my inviter. Dodge/ bite, dodge/ bite. I got a good upper body workout. What a treat.

I used to think having lunch with someone meant you talked about when and where, and usually ended up with a place you both agreed on.. I also thought there was some choice in what you did or didn't have while on the luncheon outing. Ah!! There's the trick.

I had a trick or treat lunch that day. No bags of candy to sort through at the end of it either. Just a lot of tums. I did,however get to know the upstairs ladies' room quite intimately. The stall and I bonded, so all is not lost on this lunchtime adventure but-

I think from here on out- I'll stick with more simple fare with work buddies. That's not really fair, is it? I guess I've forgotten the other side of that potty seat story. I've been very lucky to have lunch with friends who seem to share the same thinking as I mentioned earlier about discussion and having choices, etc.. I guess it all boils down to some lunches are treats, and some are just plain tricks.

Stranger than fiction…….

The world is a dark place. Full of confusion and chaos, selfish envy and over indulgence. I think sometimes that the world today is the same ball of fire and gaseous nastiness that it was so long ago, "in the beginning". The lens shows a somewhat different picture, but much is the same. Thankfully,there are bright spots, and faith helps us see those and faith helps us build upon them. But this is a tale of murder and mahem, not sunny side of the streetness.

One nasty varmit that wreaks havoc on our world is crime. Humans hurting other humans, I speak of here. It’s a sad reality. Murder in particular. As much as I enjoy watching Law and Order and Third Watch, the reality is not pretty when it comes to that kind of human pain. Rarely are cases solved in 60 minutes – minus commercials.

Some murders are mysterious, complicated, and obscure. They go on forever; grow into "cold cases"...Others are clean cut in black and white; catching the culprit a relatively easy task.

Crime in the home is prevalent, but on a much lesser level in most cases. For example:

When my children were younger, one of the girls, then 3, appeared before me with sticky pink fingers and a lovely glaze of sugared red #20 gently coating her innocent face.
“Mommy, I want some juice” said the glazened babe.
I stopped what I was doing and looked down at her adorable pinkishness.
“So, have you been eating candy?” I asked.
“No.” came the reply.
“Are you SURE you haven’t ?” I tried again to offer her an opportunity to tell the truth. ( This was before I knew that threes don’t always do that when given the chance)
I gave over to her, the bottom of my tee shirt and she stuck to it quite well. We proceeded into her room. We stood at the door. I scanned the space. A cellophane wrapper caught my eye and I approached it. I bent down and looked the wrapper square in the , well square. “Did Mary eat you?” I asked, leaning over so that I could better hear the response.

I noticed that this candy wrapper was but one among many. Hiding behind the first were an additional 60 or so empty wrappers.

Mary peeled her fingers from my shirt and backed towards the door- the escape hatch.

I looked at her. “It says, yes, Mary. Did you eat it? Is this the one on your fingers or on your cheek? Or is this the one still stuck in your teeth?”

She stuck her fingers together- apart-together-apart and then her three year old tongue swept around her lips. With determination came,“Nope, Mommy.”

Oh, what to do with this lie in the bold face of truth! I did what any self-respecting mother of 4 would do. I said, “Don’t tell me, sister. Tell them” and I left her to work it out with the empty and restless candy wrappers.

On a larger, more serious scale, though, people tend to react the same. In the face of bad truths, they will lie. A murder occurs. Someone is bludgeoned to death. It is mentioned in the news so much that the general public becomes numb to the facts. Eventually, the culprit is found guilty- the facts come about clear and undeniable, and the murdering husband is sent to a cell where he can write about it.

Time passes.

The seasons change. The hot spot news stories lull, exciting happenings hit the vaca circuit, and the newspaper starts desperately reaching for stories of interest. A reporter comes across an attorney who has decided to bring up the (aforementioned) murder story again with a twist. The attorney has discovered that the poker did not, in fact, kill the woman, but that an owl killed her. Proof being a feather stuck in her cap- er, uh scalp. The talons of said owl match the scratches on the woman’s body. The owl had been seen flying by at dusk the night before….. the woman left on the stairs clutching a feather. An owl feather.

The story made me laugh. I set the reality of the event aside and laughed. Give me a break. This is a story that one of my children could create. Wait. This IS a story that one of my children could create.

I put on my detective hat, did some research, and found to my dismay, that this attorney in fact frequents the ice cream store that we, too, visit often. I asked the dipping crew at the store if they recognized the attorney’s face from the papers and they said, “Yes, why, he was in here a few weeks ago when you and the girls were, too. Don’t you remember? One of the girls was reading a story from an old journal to you all. Then a few days later you came by looking for it, don’t you remember?”

OMG. I DID recall that event, and the journal has still not surfaced. How interesting… very interesting..

The story my child was reading that night was about a little girl who was accused of taking her sister’s candy, and when asked to tell the truth about it, she said a pterodactyl had been napping under the bed and was hungry when it woke up and they, of course like cherry sours the best of all, and he sneaked into sister’s room and scraped a talon full of them and flew back into the other sister’s room and hid under the bed and ate them and then went back for more and left scrapes in the carpet that could have looked like someone trying to cut the carpet with scissors but it was really pterodactyl claw marks and the red stains were red drool from eating the candy and then he went back and got the rest and he left the wrappers because he was going to have them later for dessert because he liked the way they crunched in his beak and so the little girl found him and said, “I’m going to tell my mommy you ate sister’s candy” and he said,
“No, don’t because I will have to fly away and if I give you some to eat, then we can be friends,” and she said “well, okay” and they ate the candy together and that’s how she got red on her and on the door frame and under the bed and in the carpet.

The story had been dictated to an older sister by a very imaginative 3 year old who was growing cavities as she spoke.

I thought. Owl/ Pterodactyl…. Feather, owl talon marks/ beak, claw carpet marks, red drool. Do you see anything peculiar in these stories?

If I remember correctly, there is also a story in that same journal that involves not sleeping at naptime, and writing on the wall with crayon. I wonder how those stories will manifest in the local news

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fall is here part II

Well, once I got the info to copy, I set it aside, as I said ,to "meditate" on exactly how to do it. I needed a plan.

I took it to the genius tech magician who works so much he nearly lives at the church, and he flipped through it.

"Hmmmm, oh, wow..." he let slip, and his eyebrows raised. I had a sinking feeling. He put the pile of papers down and looked at me.
"This is more complicated than it looks. Let's just view it as a learning experience, opportunity!
First you need to divide this into sections, then count each section and the odd numbered groups, well, they'll need a blank piece of paper inserted BUT be sure you put a black dot .00621 mm in the center of the page. Use a marker fine not extra fine and only India black ink
Put the pages of one section at a time in like this, and use the 3 hole punched paper, BUT... put the paper in the tray like this for one sided and then, put it like this if you want two sided which it looks like you might- to save paper, then put in the special secret top secret CIA color code in the BIZ printer and stand back. If it accepts the code, then you still have to press color for it to work. You have 2 seconds to do this or you have to start all over. Don't put in more than 45 pages at a time if you want accurate copies, and the sienna toner is running on 4 bars, so it will run out soon. Got that?"

"Melanie?" " You got that?" he repeated.

I heard a far away voice calling my name. The sand felt warm under my feet, and the sun was bathing me with Vita D. The water was blue blue, and calm like a lake. sighhhhhh

"Melanie!!" " You okay?" the tech's voice rolled like a rip tide pulling me out into the sea of his directions.
"Uh, yeah. I'm here. You lost me on 'Oh wow', man"

He kindly repeated the directions again, then he left to shovel out the mountain of work he loves.

I stared at the papers. I stared at Biz.
I spoke to the dead trees and the robotic marvel."It's you and me, kids."

Biz hadn't been copying long before I realized he was eating the paper like candy. I grabbed my keys and headed for Staples.

Take note: Shopping at Staples the week school starts is NOT a good idea.
Parents are trying to decipher ridiculous school supply lists handed down by the almighty underpaid teachers whose only power left in the world is to create impossible lists for parents. This list acts as payback for all the coffee mugs and notepads they receive as end of the year gifts.

I think there is a conspiracy between psycho teachers and notebook companies, pencil companies, marker companies. I think the teachers give the companies lists that say something like please be sure to supply Staples with these specific supplies ONLY:

#2 wooden pencils, Clear plastic 3 ring notebooks 2" only, watercolor thin point markers.....
and then the teachers send a list to the parents that say:

"Absolutely NO #2 wooden pencils allowed, Clear plastic notebooks MUST be 4 rings and 1.2" or they will be sent home, and Chisel point markers are required."

That is the only explanation I can come up with that would cause the parents' faces to contort into such horrible expressions. The children are drawn to all the cute new products that are absolutely useless, and the parents are weeding through the supplies looking for the one perfect item that sits on the back rack hiding from the paparazzi-crazed parents. The energy is just like that I see on E! TV, only the stars are the few lone supplies that meet the requirements and the maniac paparazzi are the parents.

The store was reeling with stress and panic. I seriously thought about substituting Xanax in the Pez and gum machines.

I grabbed a cart that had a 5 year old clinging to the under tray and headed to the notebook aisle. I grabbed a box of 3 hole punch paper along the way.
There were no employees in sight, so grabbing a box of notebooks from the top shelf was not going to be an option.
I filled my cart with 3500 notebooks, ( just slightly exaggerated, but believe me, it felt like that many) and ran to the front in search of an available register.

I lucked up and got the service desk cashier who looked glad to be there. She looked TOO glad to be there. I heard her say, " Good morning, ma'am. Welcome to Staples" and then I realized that she was using her first-day-on-the-job tone and stature. good grapes.

I gave her a notebook and she started tapping away at the register. The price came up different that the aisle label had said, and I told her. She kept smiling, canceled out and started over, putting the lower price in. I was grateful she trusted me. I am absolutely sure that the 67 angry parents behind me in line had nothing whatsoever to do with her decision to believe me. This time, the register bucked like a scared horse and decided that it didn't like either price and would sell me the notebooks at "buy 2 get one free , every 8 1" get 2 2"free "

By now, the notebooks, being held captive in the close quarters of my cart had become friendly and multiplied. The stray stowaway child crawled out and started looking for his mom, who had clearly had an emotional snap as she had mutinied another register . She was pressing the "Easy" button and started yelling out," Over here, over here! Everything is half price!!" The child clung to the mom and sucked on a purple glue stick.

Meanwhile, back at my "First day" register, I was faced with a math equation. If Mary needs 3500 notebooks, and can buy two plus getting one free, every 8 gives her 2 free, how much does each notebook cost if the total is 5,000??? The register rang out its own answer, and I was suddenly strangling in a length of receipt that had to be 30 feet long. The people behind me lifted me up and pushed me and my overloaded cart out of the way.

I snapped. I grabbed a nearby, innocent stapler and flung it open, holding it up. I shot staples randomly 360 until the whining and fussing of the customers stopped.

" Alright everybody That's IT!!" hands on your carts. NOW!! The curiously cooperative crowd followed my demands. A red shirt of an attendant trying to escape caught my eye.
"YOU in the red shirt HOld it right there!!" I yelled. The college aged kid recognized the power of my, now, MOM voice and he froze in his tracks. "yes ma'am?"

"How the heck am I going to get all of these loose notebooks to my car, cowboy? Get me a box, son, and I mean today!"

5 minutes later, I was driving back to work with a convertible full of boxes of notebooks dragging a trailer on back full as well.

The moment I pulled in front of the church, the entire maintenance staff left for lunch. I could have sworn I saw one of them looking out for me on the steeple as I approached, but I may have been delusional by then.

I lifted the boxes out of the car and stacked them and started pushing them over the pavement towards the church. Once I got inside, the carpet allowed the cardboard more leeway and with a mobile down -dog pose, I pushed the boxes down the hall, past the pastor and a few members to my office.

I thought I heard someone say, "Now there's a view." He must not have known I still had that stapler in my back pocket.

Yes, Fall is here. No question. The pace is up and the work is coming out of the woodwork.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fall is here part I

I can tell summer is nearly done. The office tides are already in flux, shifting more clearly and with a slight rip added into the water around here. Ah, well. It’s been a great summer. I mean that. The pace was calmer and I had time to almost knock out my TO-DO list.

My boss came rushing in this week, clearly running on full strength Starbucks. “I have a project for you to do before you leave for vaca, Church Chick.”

I felt a slight shudder tremble up my spine. Vaca for me wasn’t for another 2 weeks. If there was a project I needed to start now, it must be bigger than big. Harder than hard, and surely full of mistake opportunities. OMG.
“ Sure thing, boss. Tell me what it is and I’m on it.” My voice sounded calmer than my pulse.

I grabbed my note pad and followed him into his office. I watched him pilfer through piles of paper and important notes. He was stressing, big time. I settled into the couch, tapping my pencil against the yellow pad. The pencil took control and scratched a message onto the pad.“This is not good."

I left him to find whatever it was he WASN’T finding, and crept back into my safe cave across the hall.

The day progressed.

Late afternoon, he flustered into my office. “We’ve got to get this project done right away” he spoke in a bit of a panic. I could tell he was trying to get the message across to me that this was an urgent request.
I searched for the perfect reply, the response that would put him at ease. "okay” was all I could come up with.

I listened as he told me what the “project” was. 45 notebooks filled with a range of info on Africa. About 100 pages with color pictures and some one, some two sided pages. To those of you who only know copying via Kinkos, let me tell you that this mix is an equation for a Melanie disaster, no doubt about it. I knew that my boss knew this, too. I knew he was trying so hard to be patient with my lack of team-urgency.
Again, I looked hard and deep for a calming reply. “okay” plumped out again.

I strolled down the hall towards the copy room and looked over the collection to be collated and copied and decided to meditate on the process a bit.

He followed me. “We’ve got to get going on this in time for the information meeting this week!!!!”

“ So, when is this meeting?” I asked.

This Sunday, the 24th!!!” he panted. His blood pressure was so high it was sitting on top of his head glaring at me.

Finally, I got the picture. Clear as a bell. Easy as pie.

My boss had been time traveling again.

“But this Sunday is only the 17th.”

He stopped and took in what I said. His heart settled back into his chest. The high blood pressure swam home. I thought I heard him breathing, and thinking. I could tell he was looking for just the right response.

Then, “Oh. Okay” He softened and walked back across the hall to his office. I heard the jingle when he quietly closed his door.