Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween radio

I'm not into frightful movies or even frightful moments, so Halloween isn't really a favorite holiday of mine. In fact, when the girls were younger, two of them were allergic to food coloring- red #20 and FD&C 5and 6 in particular, so Halloween and Valentines day and Easter were not the best holidays for us.

This is Halloween week and by a lovely surprise, mystery radio is playing ghost stories and scary tales all day. I am loving it. This morning when I came in, "Macabre" was playing. The 40's sounds of murder and mayhem are most entertaining.

Off and on through the day yesterday, as people stopped by to chat or vent, their conversation was occasionally interrupted by a Faye Ray scream or a Boris Karloff deep and deathly calming threat.

Watching reactions to this are very entertaining for me, so I can only hope for a week of funny faces and deliciously old timey tales of terror.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Adventures in transcription

One of the things I enjoy most about this job is the variety. For the last few days, I've been transcribing a journal that one of the mission trips composed on a trip to a far away place last summer.

I am really enjoying the stories, and today, I realized that I am also rewriting bits of them.

The journal was passed around so that each team member was able to handwrite an entry. I've been reading and interpreting fonts that aren't really of this universe yet. My own handwriting is a challenge;one that has come in handy on occasion. My girls haven't been able to decipher holiday shopping lists for years. whew.

I've been wrapped up in the stories as I've been typing them from scribble to keyboard type, and today, I realized that I may be getting some of the story not quite right. The front desk receptionist and I chipped away at a few of the unintelligible words today, she's an expert- being a sudoko warrior.

There was one word that neither of us could quite get, though, so I asked for some help from one of my staff pals.

The paragraph involved celebration and a crowd and another "c" word. I was able to pull apart all the other words in the grouping except for this one. Dag nabbit. My friend breezed through the paragraph, hesitating only slightly when she got to the mystery "c" word. Her reading was different than my transcription, though. Hmmm.

I gave the journal to another passer-by and asked for a reading of this paragraph and they came up with the same thing. Good guesses for all words and only slight hesitation on my challenge word.

My friend asked me to read what I thought it was and before I had gotten half way through the piece, she had to take a break- catch her breath- put her teeth back into her mouth. Her laughter shook my plants right out of their pots.

Her reading went something like this:We went to a celebration and luncheon this afternoon Our bus pulled into a crowd with costumed dancers, a tent area with chairs, tables and a large crowd gathered to celebrate the young children...

Mine went this way: We attended a celebration and luncheon. This afternoon, our bus pulled into a crowd with Costumgo Dancans, a tent area with chairs, tables and a lance crown gangled to celebrate the young children.

I was wondering a few things as I typed. Who the heck was Costumgo Dancans, and was it a cultural thing to celebrate children with lance crowns and whatever those were, they didn't sound too kid friendly.

My friend rolled her way downstairs to her office and shot off an email to me asking to speak with Costumgo. Funny, very funny. Then, her youngest son called me and asked to speak with Mr. Dancans. I told him to hold while i transferred him to his voicemail and then I hung up.

I've pretty much decided to attach a copy of the original journal with my transcription. That way, the readers can choose whichever version they prefer.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Returning to the scene of the crime

Last night I returned to the scene of the crime. My wilderness daughter and I walked over to the shopping center to meet friends, and lo! Suddenly, there we were at the very scene. The elephant ear bed. All signs of life had been removed. The dirt lay bare. No yellow crime scene tape, either.

We stood together, me glad in my heart that my story was now proven true that the landscapers were due to come when I thought they were, and sad in my heart that the cousins of the plants I had saved were now. gone.

I looked around and all of the pots had been brutally emptied, their summer arrangements replaced with shrubs. How bland, I thought.

" Okay, mom. It's time to let it go" my daughter said. She gently pulled me away.

There wasn't a red rose in sight to leave on the grave.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It was good while it lasted

I am a spring/summer church chick. Cold weather sends me into hibernation.
I search out things to look forward to that can string me through the cold months.
Planting bulbs, getting the free shopping center plants, making pomegranate ahm, making soup for church. Those things usually take me through February.
Last week, I tried to plant bulbs at church but it was too warm for the bulbs to hit the dirt, so I still have that to look forward to, and I have my own to add to and two friends’ yards as well.

The free plant day came up yesterday. I've been looking forward to it for weeks, watching and mentally picking out what I need for this yard or that. You’d think the planters held chocolate instead of dirt.

Yesterday, right in the middle of a quarterly staff planning day, I got the call. THE CALL.
“The truck is here!! They are here!! Come right over” said my contact. The timing was very unusual because usually the landscapers come at the crack of dawn, not during lunch rush hour. I dreaded digging amongst folks enjoying pizza, reubans or nachos, but one must do what one must do sometimes. This was one of those times.

I excused myself from the meeting, determined to dig fast and get back quick as a wink.
I met the friend/contact at her store, dug up what she wanted and what her boss wanted. I rode around and pried up the plants I needed for church and yards, then took a last drive around the shopping center to see if I forgot anything. I saw the elephant ears waving at me from afar and I pulled up and got out with my trowel. Note: Never fall for an elephant’s ears' wave.

I loosened the dirt around one of the waving plants and heard a voice behind me. “Are you with the landscapers?”
“No” I stood up and brushed the dirt off of the plant. A woman in an SUV had pulled up beside the curb. She held her phone to her ear.
“Who are you with?”
I smiled and said, “just me”
“I’m calling security.” The next few minutes are an exaggerated blur.
Another car pulled up, an officered police person came walking over, and a plain-clothed security officer also walked over.

I told my story to the woman, explaining that I had permission, and how I had permission and that if it was no longer okay for me to save these plants that were about to be dug up and abandoned in the landfill, then I’d release them back into her ill care.

She understood what had happened and let me know that the policy was now changed (now being the target word here,) and no one could have them but the landscapers. The reapers. The grim reapers.

I explained that the landscapers were glad to let me dig because it meant less work for them, but she held tight. We both waved off the FBI and the security guards. I convinced the police to go back to chasing bank robbers, and I begged the state trooper to look for speeders on the interstate. Finally, they left.

I was resigned to the fact that the glory days of collecting discarded plants was over. I wept inside, thinking of the orphans that were about to hit the landfill. I grieved. My heart was sad. The first woman felt my heartache and put her arm around me. “ If they are really really strong, they’ll make it no matter where they end up.”
I shook my head and blew my nose.

The second car took my attention. It contained a hormone depleted, slightly thinning but dyed blonde haired woman who had surely mistaken a bottle of rancid perfume for lotion. It was obvious she had virtually dipped herself into it several times. Her body gave off waves of the stuff much like a car hood does heat.She looked wavy.

She was dressed in a shirt and skirt combo that I can only guess was a‘wanna-be Chico outfit mixed with a slather of American Eagle for the aged’. Her fashion statement was held together with a big black hippo tongue, or maybe it was a belt. The buckle was acrylic. gold-dipped plastic.

Her bright purple nails were a hair longer than her fangs, which had obviously been overwhitened, or maybe she swished with Clorox when she brushed. She must have had on spandex hose with tummy tighteners because her legs looked human, but her navel was popping up through her cleavage. She wore heels. I think. I had never seen shoes quite like that before. They were thick 4”platforms with skinny 3”heels coming out the bottom. They matched her nail color. Her neck and limbs dripped gold. Please don’t make me describe her face. I need to sleep at night.

She stepped out of the vehicle and towered over me. She pulled a megaphone out of the car and began yelling sharp pointed words at me. Wait. That wasn’t a megaphone. I think it was her lipgloss- covered botoxed lips.

She made it clear to me that I was a heinous criminal, foraging and stealing plants from her.
I explained that I had been invited to do so by the landscapers and the store. She wondered why I came at this particular time and day and I told her about the letter letting store owners know when the plant change out was coming. I told her of the call I got telling me they were here now. The woman grew zits as she threw angry words at me. In the midst of my fright and horror, I was somehow comforted to see that she was in some way, human after all.

The woman spoke so hard that the first woman began crying, sobbing, “It wasn’t her, it was me. Me! I tell you. Please, for Gosh sakes, let her go!” The crying woman then looked at me and said, “Run, run as far away as you can and don’t stop running until you can’t run anymore!” She backed up and inserted herself into her car.

The screaming life-crisis continued telling me how stupid I had been to believe the store owner regarding plants outside the store. I broke. I finally cracked in half and broke.
“But I’m a church secretary, for God’s sake! Why would I be digging up plants in the middle of the day for anyone to see if I was stealing them?” Oh, where is a prozac when you really need one? I could have tossed it down her megaphone mouth and we both would have felt a ton better. But, nay. Such luck was nowhere to be found.

She suddenly stopped making noise. The glare was there, but I had side stepped just out of the glare -ray field, so I wasn’t too scorched.

“ Do you want me to return them? I’ll gladly put them back, but they will be taken away anyway.”
“ What have you taken?” she seethed.
“ Well, ferns and these elephant ears.” The question was moot as the fern was sticking out of my side window and the elephant ears were still waving at me from the car. They looked perky and ready for a roadtrip.
“No. Enjoy them.” She said. “And don’t come back”
I opened my car door and whispered to the elephant ears that were hogging the driver’s seat, “scoot over”. I got in and left. The stowaway caladiums in the trunk were cheering as I pulled out. “We’re saved!!! Woo Hoo!!”

It’s funny in a not funny way how in the span of a few seconds one can be convinced they are indeed criminal, evil, vile and bad bad bad. I held that sense all the rest of the day.

I returned to work, shook the dirt out of my hair and threw a sweater on over my now dirty shirt. I rejoined the staff planning, but trembled all afternoon. I kept looking for a SWAT van to pull up. It never happened.

I was in need of comfort, clarity, and I needed reminding that I had followed advice and information as I knew it. I needed to know I was not as bad as I felt and that I could indeed continue to be allowed to live on the planet. Surely, no church would want the likes of an accused plant thief working in their building and for that matter what church would want one of those as a member? My imagination drank in the adrenaline from the unfortunate experience and kept on with the thoughts that I would be asked to move out of my townhouse because my landlord would learn of my mishap, and my children would sharply turn away from me, I would lose all of my framily as well.Why, I was sure my kitties would hiss when I returned home later. I was a mess.

After the meeting, my boss asked how it went and I whispered, "Mother Mary, forgive me, for I have sinned. It's been a while since my last confession."
He looked around the room, then at me, and said, "Wrong religion, what happened?"
I said,"I got in trouble." The word "trouble" drew attention and a few of my co workers came over to hear the story. I had not gotten very far into the tale when the reactions began. Rejection wasn’t in the mix, though. No. It started with sniffs, then lowered heads and finally outright laughter. “When you call me tonight, give me a few minutes to laugh, and then I’ll come bail you out.”

What is wrong with these people, I thought. Where was the shun? ...the rejection, the disappointment in my obvious flaw of character? Were these things hidden in their laughter? It didn’t seem so, and it left me confused.

I called my oldest daughter and she had no reaction at all. She suggested without hesitation that perhaps the old biddy had the misfortune of sitting on something sharp, or maybe she had woken up on the wrong side of the plastic surgery. or maybe she needed to be pinched to bring her back to reality.
Reality. That is what was missing in my thinking.

I had an intense need to rid my car of the “hot” rooted victims. I gave away some of the goodies before I left the building to an assistance person who would have rather had food, but seemed amazingly satisfied with a fern.

I drove by a friend’s house- someone who regularly invites me to dig plants from her yard, and I did a drive-by drop off.

The only plants left were ferns for a friend, and caladiums for church.

I decided that what I needed was a visit with our framily friends who have a luscious 3 ½ year old and a 4 month old. Some kid- time might help me find my way back to steady.
I drove my -now full of dirt car- over and skatted up the front walk to the front door. There was a sign on the door that read, “We love convicts. Herb thieves welcome here”
Funny. Very funny. How did they know?

I entered and was met by my 3 year old friend who hugged me tight. Just what I needed and wanted. Just what I needed to remind me I was good of heart, okay. He hugged hugged hugged me and said in my ear- “ Menandy, I luv u even if you are a fugitive”

He took me by the hand and led me to the kitchen where my oldest daughter was trying to hold her mouth shut with both hands, unsuccessfully. Across the room my little friend's mom was shaking with laughter, unable to look at me for fear she wouldn’t make it to the bathroom in time, and his dad was frantically stirring a pot of empty spaghetti water. Somehow, the laughter among people I have come to trust helped me think more realistically.

After that, I went to a friend’s house and planted the ferns in her yard. It was dark by then, so the sense of sneaky crime had crept back into my head. There I was, hunched over the dirt digging a hole like a murderer digs a hole for his victim. I stopped and said into the dark,"Oh Lordy." I quickly finished putting the illegally adopted ferns to bed, then I went inside and spilled out my story.
No one there seemed to see me as a rotten crook, either. My teen friend was intently typing on her laptop, appearing to be working hard on homework, though i suspect she may have stumbled into her facebook account. She never looked up, but said, " You didn't do anything wrong." It felt like a line on a chinese fortune cookie. I wanted to believe it.
I stayed a while, grabbed some much needed hugs and headed home.

My cats were glad to see me. My landlord had not called or left me a notice. I began to think that maybe, like Alexander, I had just had a few minutes of a no good very bad day. So I went to bed.

It was good while it lasted, and the plants that came home with me last Spring and yesterday, will have chances to live and thrive. I think that’s as good as it gets.

As for the irate woman? I think she just needs a good bite of chocolate, and maybe if she’d unsproing herself from spandex and pointy high heels, she may see things a little differently.
I’m not planning on finding out, though.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Mother nature

Today is bulb day. Mid October, we've had some chill in the air to prepare the dirt for a good winter sleep, and the few bulbs I actually purchased for this year have arrived.

I have been psyched for this for weeks. I have counted on this day to help me ease out of warm summer days and into fallwinter. It seems to me that we only have 3 seasons around here. Spring, Summer, and fallwinter. One day it will be a high of 50 and the next a frigid 22 low from mid Oct to late Feburary.

Although we've had several cool nights and days, today presented with humidity and the promise of August heat. I suspected something was amiss when I first put my glasses on this morning and they fogged. Usually it is my brain that stays in a bit of a fog, but today my glasses decided to give it a try.

I put on my overalls and went downstairs for tea. When I broke a sweat coming down the stairs I wondered "What in the world?"

When I got into the Cabrio, the top automatically opened. I turned on the radio and caught the weather report. "High of 86 today" my radio sweated the news to me.

I couldn't believe it. I'd been sleeping under a blanket for a while now, and suddenly we're stepping into summer again? Was Mother nature P-M-S-ing? or what?

Oh, well, I decided. The heat won't hang around long, I'll bulb anyway.

When I arrived at work, I went downstairs and brought up the two boxes of tulip bulbs and early blooming daffs that have been resting all summer. The early daffs came from a church member who willingly thinned her bed out early summer for me. For the church. I noticed the flowers on her plants were just a tad smaller and delicate than the strong yellow flowers I planted a year ago and I thought the variety would look nice. The members here are generous that way. Many people are when it comes to plant sharing, I have discovered.

I made the trip for compost, loaded up my car with bags of it and put on my garden gloves. I sharpened my hand shovel, popped a piece of super bubble into the old mouth and brought the boxes outside.

My bulb collection has grown allsummer. Most I either dug up or begged for from others' yards,

I decided to plant seasonally starting with early spring bloomers. Windflowers.
I hoped they would be a groundcover of daisy-like blooms that would eventually cover the daff greenery after the blooms had faded.

I pulled out the bags of little black bulbs and set them on the ground where I wanted to plant them all along the front beds of the church.

When I got to the end of the bed I turned around and, with shovel in hand, I headed back to where i started, ready to plant where they lay.

The bulbs were no longer laying on the dirt where I had left them. They were some, back in the bag, some scattered in the box, and a few others rolling around in the grass.

Hmmm,I thought to myself. I scooped a handful of the AWOL bulbs and walked over to the dirt. I pressed my shovel into the rich earth and made a lovely hole, warm, comforting and inviting for any bulb to inhabit.

I dropped a bulb into the hole and it flew right up like Marilyn Monroe's white dress in that scene on the sidewalk. Luckily, I caught it. I tried again, this time placing rather than dropping. The bulb reacted to the hole as two resistant magnets. The little black ball would not, could not, or maybe just refused to go to bed.

The 86 had hit by that time with 100% humidity and I looked like I had just run through the sprinkler. Wishful thinking. Suddenly, I was weary. Hot and bothered. I decided that Mother nature knows better than human nature sometimes, and this was one of those times. I bagged up the bulbs and carried them back inside.

Maybe next week will bring a bulb day again.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Methodist tomatoes

Update on the front work churchyard gardens- The tomatoes and peppers have moved on to another part of their life cycle, and the broccoli plants look comfortable as they are getting their roots settled in.

A couple of weeks ago, an assistant person came in determined not to leave empty handed. I know this sounds harsh, but this particular visitor is a regular. He comes so often that he can now follow his own worn footpath in the lobby carpet from the front door to the chair. He is cheerful and desperate at the same time. Sometimes he looks 76 and other times he looks 40 so I have no idea what his true age is, and the day of copying his license has long since passed.

When he is sober and lucid, I try to figure out what of his needs we can help with but more often than not, he comes in reeking of smoke and old beer. I sit down with him and listen for a while before helping him out the door. He is most interesting and full of stories.

Billy Ray is famous in some parts around I-95 where he prayed with Billy Graham as the Reverend came through a truck stop where Billy Ray just happened to be resting. Billy Ray and Billy Graham had many things in common you know. They both had the same name, and frequented the same truck stop to pray. Those were the good days.

He’s had liver disease so bad his liver has been replaced 2 times and nearly 3 but they took his gallbladder instead and snatched his appendix while they were shopping around in there. There, being his gut. He’s had open heart surgery several times “before open heart was even known around here”.

On this particular day, Billy Ray was about to have yet another surgery. Bypass, even though he’s had more bypasses than the beltline in town. His doctor told him to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and to walk 7 blocks and rest. Just like that. 7 blocks and rest. 7 blocks and rest. I found it interesting that we were on the “rest” end of that exercise regime. He reminded me that everythin’ happens fer a reason. I don’t doubt it, well, not on that day.

I told Billy, as I had on many other occasions, where the food pantry was- a couple of miles away, and then he asked for a gas card.
I reminded him of his doctor’s strict orders to walk 7 and rest. He didn’t look too thrilled at the reminder.

I asked him if he liked tomatoes and he brightened right up.
“Well, come on, then, with me.” And I headed out the front door.
He followed , but with caution and a little bit of concern- or it seemed so to me.

When we got outside, I climbed over the flowers and felt around the veggie plants and came up with 4 tomatoes and a bell pepper. He looked as he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
I stood up. “There! Now, here, hold your hands together like a bowl, like this.”
He did.
I filled his hands with the veggies. “ You can’t get any fresher than that, can you?” I beamed.
“ Uh, no I guess not.”
“ Okay, now, there you go. Probably ought to get back to your walking and resting. You know what your doctor said.”
He walked across the grass and started along the sidewalk.

“Hey Billy Ray! That’s the best tomato you’ll ever eat! It’s a Methodist mater!”

He held up his hands –of- plenty and kept walking.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Voting in America

Today is a voting day for the county where I live, so I voted . Then, I got a sticker. They still carry a little magic, stickers.

When I was filling in the circles on the ballot, I was reminded of how lucky we are to be able to vote. Being able to elect and select empowers us sometimes, makes us feel strong and choosy.

These feelings jumped right off the paper and into my morningness.

I noticed that there were a couple of blank spaces for write ins so I did that, too.
I voted to ban Monday mornings.
I voted for free laundry and cleaning service.
I voted for sugar free sugar and fat free fat.
I voted to never have another flat tire and for babies to sleep through the night starting on their very first night in the world.

The ideas came to me one after the other with none of them taking turns. One idea pushed the other right out of line, and soon, my pen went dry.

I asked one of the voting helpers for another pen and she said, “Sure, is that one not working? I opened a new box of pens this morning- must be a fluke.”
When I traded pens with her I said, “No, I don’t think that’s it. I just used this one up.”
The whispering between the helpers outside my voting booth didn’t distract me from continuing on.

I voted to give clergy peace and strength and for congregations to recognize that Pastors are people, too.
I voted to build in a workday naptime each and every day.
I voted to exile nightmares and night terrors.
I voted for Danskos to always be on sale and for cats to stop shedding.

My list went on. I started writing in teeny tiny fairy print.

I voted for framily to be an official and recognized word and entity.
I voted for squirrels to stop bullying bulbs that want to sleep til spring.

When I stepped back from my booth and asked for a second ballot, one of the women behind the table shook her head and windshield wiper-ed her index at me. “We only get to vote one time today, Missy. One ballot, one vote counted.”
Rats. One ballot didn’t even come close to holding all I wanted voted on. Important issues. Critical points.

I resigned myself to her directives and took my ballot to the ballot eater. My fully voted document was heavy with ink and it took me three tries to convince the machine to accept my offering. When I heard the machine swallow my votes, I went back to work and made a mental note to take note of when our next voting day is…