Friday, August 27, 2010

First venture out…

My boss has become the Godfather. He is presently residing inside the parsonage across the street from the church in a soft leather recliner. He started receiving some appointments and there have been some people seeking him out as well. I haven't seen anyone kiss his hand yet. I think that at this point that kind of thing wouldn't be a very good idea. His right arm is being held prisoner to his body by a curious looking stripped down straitjacket. It wraps and holds tight and travels all around to the other side to wrap and hold tight again. All of this in a perky shade of white. That arm is not going anywhere for a while and he isn’t either. His left hand/arm is bored and looks a little lost.

Someone loaned him a piece of equipment that has managed to give some relief to his aches, but I have to say I am confused by the contraption. The small white cube shaped cooler has two blue flexible tubes coming out of it. They wrangle and wave like the whiskers on a catfish but they have a very important job to do. They connect to a shawl that looks like bubblewrap with a lovely blue cover. The tubes deliver cool/iced water to the entire area that is injured. It’s kinda neat. The shawl stays attached to his shoulder with matching blue ace bandages. The machine sounds like a hesitant pump. It says "poooosh" then nothing."pooooosh" again and then nothing.

 I have bonded with the ice pump this week. I’ve learned how to work it and put it on the patient patient. I expect my certification license to come in any day. Something has been bothering me about it, though. The machine is a miracle worker,the idea  came from an obviously brilliant mind. I’m just thinking that this machine was created for people who can’t move well, who are hurt and need to sit in the shawl and rest. So, why do you think there is no on/off button within reach?

I came by a couple of days ago to check on the pastor patient, and the machine was off, shawl off. He asked me to help him put it on, and I did. While I waited for the poosh sound, the newly injured and weak-eyed boss slipped past me, gently treaded across the carpet  to a dresser a few feet away and picked up a ginormous plug. “Now I just have to plug it in and we’re all ready.” As he tentatively  reached behind the dresser to plug the machine in, I said, “Stop! I’ll do that.” He looked relieved. The worn out one-armed pastor meandered back to his chair and melted into it. …..

 Are you kidding me? Talk about a bad joke. Did the inventor really expect people who are in bad enough shape to use this machine to be able to get up, walk over anywhere and plug/unplug the darn big bazooka  plug? I decided that the inventor must have had some serious unresolved issues when he created this thing.... might have had to do with caring for his ailing mother when he was really wanting to go outside and play baseball with the team.

 I went to the hardware store and got a surge protector that reached to his chair and now he just has to turn it on or off. He can do that very well with his toe. Toes don't get to do much except wiggle and point.  What in the world was so hard about that, Mr. Inventor? I’m sorry to say that I hope you get a splinter one day that you can’t find. And I hope it hurts for a while.

After a couple of days of agony, my boss’s brain began to clear and send him whispers, “Go to church. Get up out of that chair and go to work. Go visit someone who is in pain, pray and plan a service or two. Go on now, do it.”

His body was sending him answers to those whispers on a louder scale. “DO NOT MOVE OR SHIFT YOUR BODY OR BREATHE TOO DEEPLY.BE STILL. IF YOU INSIST ON VISITING SOMEONE IN PAIN, VISIT YOUR OWN SELF. PLAN A SERVICE OR TWO IN YOUR DREAMS. GO ON NOW, DO IT.” The tug of war continued and grew stronger until he decided to prove his brain right and so he got up and waited by his window to watch the church finish the day and settle in for the night. He gazed through a cracker jack telescope (because the binoculars were just too heavy for his out of shape free hand.). He waited as the last Bible Study closed and the members left. He waited while two friends stood outside and talked through their day. He watched the lights go off one by one and he waited until even the bunnies who frequented the churchyard settled in for a good sleep.

Unfortunately, after being in a recliner for 3 days, the standing wait exhausted him and the pain meds got tired, too and wore off, so back to the recliner he shuffled- carefully and as still-like as he could go. An odd thought crossed his mind as he sank into the chair. "I'm glad we don't have earthquakes around here." He fought off the shudder inside him that heard that thought.

He was awakened by the sound of the morning paper hitting the front storm door and knew the time was right, and short, so he eased himself out of the chair and hiked the rugged terrain of the parking lot over to the sleeping church. The steeple light led him across the street. All was quiet but for the gentle jingle of his church keys and the nearly silent, lower case sounds coming from his own mouth with every other step. “ouch” step step “ahhrgh” step step. “yeow”.  His right fingers were thrilled to finally be given a useful and painless job, holding the keys.

He made it to the front door, looked through the glass and saw the alarm was shining green. “Whew, no alarm to deal with this early morning.” Out of habit, his right hand tried to put the key in the lock, but the automatic movement came to a screeching stop when the straitjacket prevented the motion and the pain of even considering it screamed at him to “STOP”

“Oh, yeah.” He relaxed and let the pain drizzle away.

His left arm started twitching and his fingers were full of energy. “It’s our turn!!! We can do it!!! We want to try!! Give us the keys, we’ll get the job done, by golly!!” His left hand swept up and gently, out of sensitivity for it’s mirror twin, took the keys out of the pained right hand.

In his mind’s eye, the key made a beeline for the lock- zip, zing, turn. In reality, he watched as the keys tried to cast the  awkward hand closer to the lock. “Look, we’ve not done dexterity trials in a while, give us a break. Give us a minute, will you? “

He watched as the working left hand moved the keys closer to the general area of the lock finally zero-ing in on the keyhole. Alas, the key was upside down. He stared at his fingers and willed them into turning the key around in preparation for a second go. Key hit glass. Move it over a bit. There. Key hit metal, missing hole.

The Pastor froze in aggravation  and looked around.

“Oh dear Lord, how long have I been here? He glanced at the sky and was relieved to see the sun had just barely started to show a bit of shine to the coming day. The key was still maintaining contact with the metal.

With a bit of a left-handed jiggle, the key finally made it into the keyhole. What a feat! The surrounding audience of churchyard grass and morning dew applauded and wept at the long awaited success. Surely  Ripley would be interested in publishing this exciting accomplishment in the next Believe it or not edition. He stared at the connection between key hole and key and with deep concentration, he watched his hand turn. Although he was making good use of his one good hand, the left, he was still thinking in right hand mode, so instead of unlocking the door, he locked and re-locked it.

Deep breath. Try again. The key turned, the lock released and he was free to enter his workplace, his worshipful space, his church. His hand tugged gently on the key, getting a head start on opening the door.

His right hand tried to reach the door handle , to open it as he had done every day for the last 6 years, and immediately recoiled from the mistake.The door settled back into its frame and the lock clicked back in place.

 Sad eyes peered through the glass. He was soooo close. He could see the welcome mat just inside the doorway, patiently waiting to welcome him to HBUMC. He saw the outline of the front desk and the round lights on the elevator against the back wall. “We’re right here, Pastor. Take your time. We’re not going anywhere.”

Two tries later and he was in. He was in, exhausted and ready to go back home to the recliner. He could feel it calling to him, the soft leather saying, “Come on back, my friend. Come back and rest. We’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse.”

Determination kept him moving forward. He shuffled through the lobby, around the corner and approached his office door. His working hand reached for the handle and pressed down.

The door wouldn’t budge. His office was locked.

If you have ever experienced the power of a perturbed pastor’s silent scream then you will understand why , at that moment, the sleeping bunnies awoke and ran away as if a fox was on their tails. You will know why the pictures hanging on the hall walls rattled, and you will feel sad in your heart to see what flocks of birds that live in churchyard trees look like when their feathers fly right off of their sleeping skins.

The silent scream woke up some much needed endorphins, and he felt a wave of patience break over him. He shuffled three steps over and leaned inside the mailroom, his free arm reaching in a cubby for the spare key. Yes. It was there. That’s a first.

He relaxed and entered his office. He walked around his desk and slowly lowered his weary self  into his chair. He had made it to land at last.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Guilt ridden

I know I'm bad minded. Concerned about me, me, me. I'm sorry. But if you are going to know me, you might as well know all of me. Something happened this week that brought out the me in me. Something terrible. Horrid. Painful. Sad and just not fair.Not fair to my boss, anyway.

 The day started out  like every other day to him... Fast and furious. zoom zoom Monday. He levitated out of bed in the darkness that predawn  snuggles into before the birds awaken.  Like every other Monday,he drove to the gym and sweated out enough liquid to make room for his morning caffeine- then headed to the coffee shop. Even though the parking lot speed limit is 50 SPM (steps per minute), his legs were still in cycle spin mode, and he screeched in at a cool 75. The coffee shop doors, accustomed to his morning visits opened just in time and he irrked to a stop at the cash register where the clerk, who was familiar with his preferences in latte, held his grande like a gold ring on a carosel.  The fast exchange of payment for coffee went smoothly and the liquid nearly jumped into his gulp. His morning intravenous coffee began to kick in."Ahhhh. Now the day can begin." he jittered to himself.

The regulars were there, and the friends exchanged nods and laughter, funny eyebrows and head tilts.My boss walked by, crisp and clean after a hard workout and quick shower.  A wave of his cup and he was off. As he backed out, pushing against the double glass doors, someone said, "Have a great one, Pastor!"
and although my beloved boss had every intention of following through with that send off, well, it was just not to be.

While he was inside gearing up for the first fresh day of a new and wonderful week with coffee and friends, there was a viciously unhappy  horizontal parking space hurdle, disgruntled with his laid down hurdle life in the concrete jungle where he lived, a few feet outside the coffee shop doors. Un beknownst to speedy-start-the-day boss, the hurdle had just hit an emotional wall. Maybe he  held one too many pieces of chewed gum, or maybe he had been tinkled on by one too many peekaboos . We'll never know, but we do know this. Somehow, that hurdle had gone to the dark side and with evil in his hurdle heart, had discovered how to cloak himself.

When my boss backed out the doors and turned to walk, skip, leap- whatever mode he was in at the time, to his car, that hateful hurdle activated his cloak , then braced for the impact of the pedestrian trip. My boss never saw it coming. He fell so fast he didn't  see the pavement leap up to meet him.

One second changed the lives of so many (for 4-6 weeks).

 The slight of build bustling man fell hard and fast. His breakfast coffee leapt to the safety of his shirt and suit. The liquid clung to his clothes, not wanting to meet the 'crete or come near the invisible monster that had caused such a collision. The irritation of the wet beverage soak over-shadowed the reality of the fall and he picked himself up, got into his car and headed home for a shower.

He called me from the house to tell me he was running late and we discussed if staff meeting should start later, or if we should go ahead without him.
 I was curious who had died, gotten deathly ill, or cried for help. "So what's up?"
"My  coffee spilled and is all over me. I really just need to take a quick shower and oh, by the way, I can't move my right shoulder." echo echo echoooo can't move move move my right shoulder shoulder shoulder......

Being messy in most things by nature, it was the right shoulder comment that caught my attention. " Do you want me to come over and take a look at it?"
" No I need to get this coffee off of my clothes. I hit the sidewalk like a brick and nearly all of it spilled onto my tie and shirt." The additional information sent off a tiny alarm. Sidewalk like a brick.
" Or, How about I come over and take you to the ER?"
" No, thanks. I'll be over in a little while."
" Well, at least take your cell phone with you into the bathroom so you can call me when you have fallen and can't get up, okay?"
Twenty minutes later, I left my office,  walked two doors down, rounded the corner, and walked past the front desk. The phone rang."It's your boss, for you."
" My wife's on her way home and  we're going to see about having my shoulder x-rayed."
" Want one of us to stay with you til she gets home?"
" No, thanks. I'm just having a little trouble with my clothes. I'll wait til she gets here. It won't be long."

I imagined him realizing that sometimes clothes that come off, are harder to put back on again, especially when one limb is immobile and I hoped it wasn't the day for the cleaning lady to come and I hoped Fed Ex did not have any morning deliveries for him. I prayed that Girl Scouts didn't sell door to door anymore, and I especially hoped that the sweepstakes van would not pull into his driveway in the next 15 minutes or so.

The staff worried, but we forded on through our day. By mid afternoon, his loving wife called to give me an update. "His shoulder is broken. Surgery won't help, so he'll be in a tight, secure sling for 4-6 weeks."

" Oh, No!! I'm so sorry!" I heard the genuine concern in my voice, but at the same time something else was at work in me. It was the bad me. The me, me, me at work. I hung up. A Pacific coast wave of panic  began to rise up inside me. Someone walked by my door and said, "What is it? What's wrong, church chick?"
"Boss's wife called and he's broken his shoulder. He'll be wrapped up- his good arm, for 4-6 weeks."
"Oh, gosh. Oh, Man"
I stood up. Placed my hands slam down on my desk. "You know what this means?" "OMG DO you KNOW what this means?"
Several staff had gathered around my office door, the hub of the church, the place to find a moment's peace, the bubblegum factory office.
Someone said, "what?"
I never claimed to be that. Even when applying for the church secretary job years ago, I never signed anything that certified I was, in fact, a secretary. I said I would do my best. That's it. You can check the records.

"He can't use email, or write letters. I'll have to glue myself to his good side and type/write down his every word, I'll have to buy new running shoes and try to keep up with him and type at the same time. I'll have to turn my head the other way and cover my ears and sing LaLaLa while he's counseling  OH MY"

 I plunked down in my chair and put my thinking cap on. Then I picked up the phone.
" Mr. publication wizard, we have an emergency." I spoke to our magic man of the computers at work.
"Tell me where the fire is, and I'll be right down" he rolled out those words in his usual comfortable and pleasant voice.
I began to ramble. " Boss... broken... right shoulder.... computer use kaput.... email no go.... need voice recognition installed immediately."
I could feel him picture the near future and what it meant and he suddenly appeared before me , tights, cape and mask all in tact. "I won't return until i find what we need!!" and he was off. My hero.

He came back later with a microphone and we found a program that sounded reliable. THE SAVE YOUR SECRETARY'S SANITY SOFTWARE  by Worth a try, inc.

I went through the tutorial and started practicing the program that was about to save my career.
I watched the screen as  I spoke, " I am here talking into the computer."  The screen showed, " In any gear walking to the can opener."
I looked down at the reference card of cue words. "Delete phrase."
The computer spit out , "Deplete the race."
I held the sheet and looked again at my clear and simple directions. "De LETE phrase"
"De FEET brakes."

oh. so that's how it's going to be.

I took the directions to the program that  I was counting on to save me and carefully crushed the pages into a tight ball.

"Write what I say! Write what I say right now! Write it write it write it write it!"
"No. No I will not. The End."
Sigh again.

I closed out the useless program and pulled up his inbox. It only took 25 minutes for the Bizzy Hub copier to print out all 300 emails that had come in over the last day. Then, I picked up the phone and called the tech turned- super hero- turned human. "I think we're going to need a lot more paper for a while."
"Oh, okay, I'll place the order for more delivered weekly. How long do you think?"
I closed my eyes. " Probably 4-6 weeks."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The rest of the car oven story...

Today we finally were able to try car cooked nachos. 

I came back from lunch and carefully "installed" the "oven". (parked in the sun).Made sure it was set to Preheat (put the top up) waited... 

After a hot bit of time and prep, cooking buddy and I left chips on a cookie sheet sunbathing on the dash, black beans jumping about in their open can in the heat, chilled cheese sauce working on letting go, softening in the warmth. The ingredients were set to go. 

A half an hour later they were not ready yet, but trying.

I was on secretary duty, so Su chefs went out and assembled, no. They created a unique construct with a warm chips foundation, black beans sprinkled about, luscious cheese sauce drizzled over, salsa on top. perfect. 15 minutes later only a few beans and crumbs left. Thank you, Cabrio. Thank you, cooks and helpers!

 We were negligent in taking pics to remember the confections by this summer. rats. Then, by happenstance,a visiting church organ builder stopped by today. Our own organist brought him into the office -they followed their noses- and he partook, then snapped a pic. "Otherwise, nobody will believe me." he crunched out the words and left the office with a bit of black bean drip on his shirt.
and I have no idea why this last paragraph wants to boldly go where the other font doesn't.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

What makes summer feel like summer?

I’ve not been able to put out chronicles for a while and decided that when the syllables are ready to come, the words will skip off the keyboard just like they always do. I appreciate the requests for the chronicle blips and I hope those who enjoy the words will hang with me a little longer.

The last few weeks, I’ve been swept up in the distraction of car cooking. I used to make dashboard s’mores with preschoolers during summer camps. I drove a big ass van at the time with a big ass dash, so a cookie sheet sat very nicely on that space and the sun shared its heat without even being asked.

The preschoolers layered the grahams , chocolate,and marshmallows on board and we all walked out to put our goods in the “oven”. A while later- the marshmallows puffed up, and we sealed the deal with a graham on top. The squish of the bite was second only to bonfire s’mores. The children were intrigued, and I enjoyed watching them buy into the magic of car cooking.

This year, after the closets had been cleaned out, and my drawers were reorganized and prepped for fall;when staff vacations were in full swing, and I was the primary and sometimes only one here,well, somewhere in there I lost my focus. I began craving chocolate and marshmallows and I needed a little fun. I wanted to see if car cooking was as much fun as I remembered. Last year, I shared the idea with one of the preschools here, so that didn’t count. What would it be like to car cook for adults?

The s’mores were pretty much inhaled by those who were at work that day and a stream of youth came by to gobble up the rest. I appreciated the fact that my co workers allowed me the luxury of a little play in my day.

I knew they were humoring my whimsy….but they sure didn’t seem to mind sampling the wares, either.

We were swept into a heat wave for a while, and I used the time to the fullest with dashboard delicacies. Front seat marshmallow treats went well. Easier than making rice krispy treats at home, I’d say. A coworker- at the time a bit of a nonbeliever, came with me to check on them and as she poured the krispies and cheerios in while I stirred. ..she was sold.

My boss came in one day asking me what was on the volkswagon menu and I took that as permission to try new things. He suggested something with pretzels.

Polka dot knots were born next- pretzels with white chocolate and dark chocolate chips melted in them went over well, and those were made while I was borrowing my daughter’s Passat. Nice to know there is versatility in this cooking method. I knew my car would cook. It cooks me every time I get into it, but I didn’t know if a light colored car would work. Now I know.

Buckle-up buddies came next. I had errands to run at lunch, so I buckled up the metal mixing bowl (primary car cooking utensil)in the passenger side, put the peanut butter, butter, and chocolate chips in and off we went. I parked in the sunniest spots I could find while I was out and about and made sure to aim my front oven window right towards “Mr. Sun, sun, Mr. Golden sun (who) please (did) shine down on me.” When I got back to work, a friend helped me add the chex and another held open the gallon bag that had confectioner’s sugar in it. We loaded up the bag, sealed it and shook the heck out of it. Those went over so well, we did it again the next day.

Yesterday, Cabrio clusters made their debut. Overcast, but still hot…..hmmmm… I left the bag of butterscotch morsels in their own home bag, and placed the bag in the bowl alongside a group of Chinese noodles who were ready for the cabrio cooking challenge. When I checked later, it took only a quick snip of the bag and the melted morsels ran into the bowl and covered the Chinese noodles like lava. A passer -by held the bowl while I stirred them all together. They are but a memory now.

I decided it was time to expand the menu, so today we went right into main course fare. I brought an aluminum vegetable grilling sheet with me and placed some bread on it, then laid it on the dash of the Cabrio. A while later I flipped the slices and lined the bowl with tomatoes, nature’s seasoning, and grated cheese. Pimento cheese went on a couple of slices. In a bit, a friend came with me to check the outdoor kitchen and everything was ready. We transferred the tomato melts onto the toast and came inside. A dollop of Dukes Mayonnaise made mine perfect.

Just as I finished my dashboard delight, one of the pastors came irrrrrkkkking in. “Am I too late?” she asked, exasperated. My mouth full of the last bite, I nodded. Her body fell into a let-down-slump. Don’t you just hate to disappoint your customers?

One of the pastors was leaving and asked what was next and I told her we were making Nachos with homemade cheese sauce tomorry. She said, “I’m not here tomorry, please don’t deprive me of that delicacy.” So I won’t . The nachos will have to wait. Well, maybe we’ll take a practice run with them tomorry.

Don’t know if this is a one season pony or if we’ll try to keep at it, but the distraction of the Cabrio confections has made this hot time of year feel a little more like summer- used-to-be. Don’t we all need a little of that at times? The activity has also kept a sense of community growing. Facebook friends have been interested and supportive. Work church members and staff have participated and enjoyed the results of their labors. Aren’t those good things?

This morning I thought to myself, “Self, I think you have a knack for distracting. Finding distractions during challenging times.” Self answered. “Yep. You’ve had a few of those, and you do tend to seek out random activities that sometimes seem to balance out those moments. I’m thinking that may not be such a bad thing if it brings good energy about.”

Well, I can’t say if that self awareness is good or bad. I think it just is.

So, what makes summer –summer? I think for me, a splash of serendipity goes a long way to cool a hot day. My Cabrio is all about that. Whether leaves, dirt, furniture or fruit, my cabrio carries a tin of serendipity in the trunk . Right next to the metal cooking bowl.

Maybe I’ll create a travel car-cook kit so other folks can enjoy cooking while stranded on the side of the road, or when stuck in heavy traffic. Hmmm. Hmmmmm. Just hmmmm.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A moment of silence

I've been without words for a while but couldn't let another day go without this.
The plants at my neighborhood shopping center were changed out a week or so ago.
I noticed the change immediately. I didn't show up at 7 to get what I wanted. I didn't go at all.
Gosh only knows how many ajuga and lamium bit the dust. The thought makes me sad in my heart.
I would like to have a moment of silence for our rooted friends, who lost their lives for no good reason.
I can only hope they grow in debri and trash, because that's where they are now residing.

I've been thinking that, come fall, i may write the landscaping company and offer them lunch after they have made the change out so I can pilfer through the dump truck and see what I can save.
Just thinking about it.

One of my daughters has taken a new interest in plants and it has been interesting to hear her tell of  creating her own outside grow space. Another daughter just put in her  veggie garden and added a soaker hose that is connected to a rain barrel. I think that is neat.

I recall putting a shout out for iris and liripe last year to neighborhood elists, and so I did the same this year with rocks. I am trying to finish up some beds for a friend before her parents come into town. I offered iris in exchange and got a few takers. A friend at work brought me more than the Cabrio could hold almost, but I'm still about 15 short.  Last year i was bordering with liripe. Maybe i need something more certain and stable in my hands this year. I like how they look, anyway.

Exchanging in this way feels comfortable and like a good thing.

The church yard is doing really well. This year, I've hidden 2 tomatoes, 2 eggplant and one pepper amongst the guara and daisies and pincushion plants. We'll see if we get to donate any food from them to Interfaith food shuttle. I sure hope so. It doesn't take much space to grow produce.

The periwinkle is slow going, but has doubled since last year, so i hope next year it won't look like a bad hair day out there around the pine trees. I've got 3 varieties going; intertwined might look interesting. At any rate, it would be more in keeping with life. We'll see.

Slower season is creeping in here at work church. Hope i can get some 'get ready' tasks done so fall won't be so hectic. Hope i can write more, too. Haven't done more than a grocery list in a while.

Hug someone today and say hello to a plant that catches your eye- both of those make a difference.

Friday, April 16, 2010


For as long as I can remember, which is sometimes 50-some years ago and sometimes only a minute ago, I have found amazement in the ability for gifts to create themselves. My children will roll their eyes at this, but they will also shake their heads, yes. Oh, yesss. Here she goes. Grab a coke and a bag of chips and get comfortable….

Something inside of me believes as strongly as I believe in truth, that everything around us and among us has some thread of life and spirit of giving. When these characteristics make their selves known, it feels like a gift to me. I mean not to ME, but to me.

I can recall many years ago thinking it pretty brave for the grass to grow back after being mowed time and time again, and  especially when the hard working little green blades knew darn well they’d be cut back again anyway. I thought it a gift to witness such strength.  

If the sun shined on a day I really needed to be out in it, well, you may as well have put a bow on sunrise that day.

Talk about gifts. I was thrilled that my children chose to be born.  As if they could choose NOT to be. Well, maybe they could have, they are each pretty determined creatures.  I’m just glad that they swam to the light.

The fact that they were such fun to be with growing up- a gift.

Watching them become individuals-sometimes challenging and scary,but  more often big bigger biggest gifts.

After they passed the age of 9, I felt like each one of them gave me a huge present by continuing to talk to me, the mom, and the fact that they wanted to talk or ask questions or do things together- a gift

My children used to give me coupons for holidays like Mothers’ day or (puke) birthday. I still have the Ovaltine coupon jar in the attic. I didn’t use the coupons much, not nearly as much as I could have, but just having the thoughts and ideas from my own children, well, it was overwhelming. I mean, come on-
Who doesn’t find it incredibly invaluable to have a “10 minute playing with hair” at the wait?

When my car starts, I am thankful. It might just be damn tired of being a multi-use vehicle and decide not to run anymore. Such a gift.

Cooking- messy cheffing- When the food gets eaten, I am thankful for those who took the chance. Yep, even now.

The fact that my counselor continues to support me and see me weekly is  unbelievable. I continue to try to prepare myself for the “You’re fired, Melanie” words. But he reassures me that we will keep talking  and we have lots of work to do. Don’t I know it.  The stories and experiences that have entered his space over these years have filled every nook, crannie and corner with silken interwoven webs from my past and present. Still, “See you next week” comes out at the end of our time and I am always surprised. Always. Isn’t it a gift to find a safe place where you can completely bear your soul and all that lies enmeshed in it? Gift.

Connecting with and forming a trusting and delightful friendship with a friend's daughter- g.i.f.t. The gift of watching her become.... is so much a present.

Being the not-peer- not mother with a collective group of teens  is so big in my heart that it would clear out a whole wrapping paper aisle in a Hallmark store to wrap it.

I enjoy working in the dirt. My back doesn’t love it so much, so my effective working time is limited, but I find calm and hopefulness in gardening. When bulbs come up- when vegetables produce, flowers bloom- cuttings take root- How  are those not huge huge gifts? I am putting them in the ground, to sleep. No one told them they had to get up.

These are fair examples but there are examples of gifting everywhere and always.

Call me quirky. I don’t care. I appreciate the simple gifts of nature and friends and that’s about all I can take, too. For good reason, but old reasoning, I have a visceral reaction to being given gifts outside of that simple range. I’m working on it. (see above… weekly talk time with one who knows and is wise)

When the work church good elves and good fairies leave me treats and presents, I am stunned. I’ve been here over 5 years now, and still have the same reaction. Home church surrounds me with more gifting than I can fit into this post even if I changed to a .3 font.

When my boss reviews me and he doesn’t say, “It’s been nice having you but really, let’s be real. You just aren't cut out for this job”  I walk away in a daze. That’s a big gift. Big.

A couple of years ago, I rode my neat old and worn bike to work. Before the day was out, the bike was being driven by a regular visitor to work church who needed transportation to find work. Even though I knew this visitor well enough to know he would probably sell it and purchase things I didn't want to know about, I thought giving him a dose of trust might be a good thing, so I sent him off on my bike where he was spotted half an hour later by a work friend who saw him driving like a bat... we didn't read any headlines about robbers on bikes the next day, so we let it go.

I started looking for a replacement but I wasn't really sure what to get. Classifieds read: Middle aged body seeking comfortable two wheeler....... what to get? A friend who is framily now, called and took me looking. He and his best- in- the- world girlfriend and I had fun shopping. Actually, I think they had fun shopping while I was having heart attacks at how much new bikes cost if you get them with a seat and wheels, which is really more useful than a lone frame. The seats were mostly built to hold one cheek of the average adult bottom, too. What's THAT about? The day ended and I had such a nice time.

The next day, I came home from church and on my back stoop sat a bike. A bike with wheels AND handlebars and a seat that might just hold even my aged a......I couldn't believe it. How serendipitous! The very next day after we'd been looking and shopping!!.  I called my friends and yelled into the phone to them, "Someone bought me a bike?!........ Did you buy me a bike?........ Why could you how could you do this !?" I could feel their good natures over the phone.

I hung up and brought it in the house. One week. Two weeks. A friend came by and said, "Hey, why don't you ride your BIKE? or are you going to leave it in the dining room and start eating on it?" I rode it to a friend's house and to work. I would probably frame it if I could and hang it because the thought behind it means so much more to me than the bike itself. Now, a few years later, I ride it but not as much as I wish I would. When I do, I am taken back to a day when three friends spent a Saturday just tooling around talking and looking at bicycles. The value of that time and the friendship means everything to me. 

I have a friend at work, I’ll call her birthday girl today, who has learned more about me than most and she understands with love, this thing about gifts being hard for me. She knows I am grateful beyond measure for any kindnesses, but she also will be patient and huggy in those times. That present is one I hold onto dearly. The unconditional love.

A few months ago, I suggested to an older friend at work church, that I would be willing to write down his stories if he would record them. He tells stories about as much as he breathes. I find them interesting and can only imagine the value his family would  put on those things if they were contained in an easy- on demand form like a bookish kind of thing. He agreed, and has been recording and I have been typing.

How delightful to be swept away from your own minutes for a little while and to be thrown into someone else’s- very different times and places.. I am enjoying this and feel so honored that he is willing to let me know his story. What better present than to be trusted with someone else’s life history?

Not long after I started typing, birthday girl’s husband dropped by to see me. He came in –in his work clothes, work satchel in tow. He, too knows me well. He sat uncomfortably in a chair in my office while I worked. I thought he was coming to see his wife. I typed and he fidgeted. Finally, he said, “I have something for you.”

I stopped typing.

He tensed.

“It is a good thing. Not a bad thing. I want you to let that sit with you for a while.”

I sat, staring at my screen wishing I had purchased and  hooked up that  rope ladder to my alley window when I had seen one on sale at Ace a while back.

He got up, and walked over to my desk.

I turned in my chair and steeled for the unknown.

“Tom asked me what you could use to make your transcription easier and since I work on your ancient  home laptop, I said, a computer. So this is one for you to use for his stories.”
I was relieved. So much so that I let out a breath. Using a nicer laptop would be great and when I am done  I know where to return it to. Perfect. Equipment on loan.

He opened the satchel and pulled out a new laptop and opened it. He turned it on.
A familiar and friendly picture of Hoops and Yoyo popped up. (I use pictures of hoops and yoyo on Facebook and I have them in my office and I love them a ton because in another life, we were next door neighbors) It became clear to me that this computer was a gift for me to use and keep. When I was able to turn my head to look at him, he had a Kleenex in one hand and both arms open. He kept saying, “This is a good thing. Please keep it. This is a good thing.” He and Tom had contributed to this and since he does the work on my present computer he was able to know better about what I would use more readily. He got me a mouse and a bag to carry it in as well. He told me of his adventures  in shopping and that story alone felt like such an incredible offering from his spirit and friendship that I really did not need the story to end with, “and then I bought the computer and brought it here.”

I took it home and looked at it for a few days. Then I took it out of its case and looked at it for a few more days. I put it here, and then I put it there. Eventually, I opened it, took a deep breath, and  still overwhelmed, I put it right back in its case and got my old one and put it in the case too, and took it to my friend so he could  transfer info from old to new. In the days that followed, I talked with my weekly advisor, my girls, and others in my small but –tightly- woven -with -trust -friends. I hugged Tom when I saw him and tried to accept this generous tool. Now, it’s been a couple of months and Dell and I are beginning to bond.

Two weeks ago, my cabrio (Calvin) croaked. I drive that car like a truck, hauling mulch and leaves and plants and cuttings  and kids and groceries and yard sale furniture in it. When it rains heavily, I carry water in the doors and floor and call the car Camel instead of Calvin. I knew the list of the cabrio's car problem issues was growing, but I decided that I would drive it until it was undriveable, and then be a pedestrian after that.  Calvin tried to tell me he was in trouble.  He kept his check engine light on. Even when I took him in to the shop for a look see, he’d get to shining that check engine light  on again after we left. Then, the brake light started coming on intermittently. The coolant began leaking, and after checking that out, and finding no problem, it kept leaking anyway so I started keeping coolant in the trunk along with the shovel, fertilizer, and gloves. An invisible marble began rolling around under the hood. The steering wheel  would occasionally screech and resist  my hold. The car acquired a shimmy that my oldest daughter calls the Katherine Hepburn. (Sounds more like an expensive dinner choice until you take a ride in the cabrio... voices turn into her rattled rantings  due to the shimmy.)

The mechanics, who are really friends who love Calvin, checked it out and said to keep at it unless it got worse so I did. It didn’t get worse for a year. Calvin finally succumbed to full fledged illness and with my oldest daughter following me, we got him  to the hospital. By the time we pulled into the auto shop driveway, the steering wheel would only turn a quarter turn and the marble had become a petrified dead body part so we sounded like a screeching banging kabooming black boogie car about ready to call it quits.

I knew I had no appointment and I knew the car’s time for attention was past due and I also knew I had no funds to repair all that was needed to be fixed. I got comfortable in that, and decided I would become a pedestrian at last.

I walked to work and anywhere else I could. My daughters were more than kind in offering me rides, but   they have their own jobs and things to do going on, so I resisted unless I absolutely needed a vehicle. They loaned me their cars to garden, and to grocery shop for Messy Chef jobs. They were very very kind and loving. Friends at work were just as kind. My biggest fear was not being able to get to weekly talk time. but framily came through. My daughter and then a friend at work offered to take me and even my kind counselor came through with making sure I got home. Too many kindnesses. I started learning the bus routes and rescheduled errands of like kind together. All good habits to learn. A week passed. No news. The weekend and a few more days, no news.

I called to see if Calvin was still in the OR, and the mechanic sounded pretty optimistic on the phone. She told me what they had done so far, and said they were going to keep going down the list . She seemed very upbeat and confident that Calvin would grace the roads yet again sometime soon. She seemed a little too chipper, if you know what I mean. The kind of chipper when you have to tell your 9 year old the hamster died, so you start off with  telling them how much responsibility your child has shown with this pet, how many fun times they  enjoyed together, and that you were so proud that your child was such a good caretaker and you both did all you could and then … eventually, the words blurt out “but the cat ate him anyway.”

That night one of the front desk receptionists from work church gave me a ride to home church and when I got there, I went to see my friend who works too much. While I was standing in her office, A teenager walked by and noticed me in there and backed up. “Oh! Hi! Melanie!”

I smiled and said “Hi!”

“Hey, I was working at the garage today and saw your car!”

“Oh! How was it doing? How does it look?”

Just as a typical teen who lives in the second would do, she answered spontaneously, “Well, the mechanic complained all day that your car is really f……… up. Yeah, really messed up bad. Good to see you! Bye!” and she left.

I wondered if I should call hospice or just wait for The Call.

Finally, the next day the mechanic called  and read me the list of what had been repaired. It could have filled an entire excel spread sheet and if you don’t know excel you will just have to trust that the list was long. Thoroughly and impossibly long. They had fixed all but the Katherine Hepburn shimmy and AC ,and they had been driving it to test their work and I could come get it and bring it back next week for a half day to finish up.

 I told her, the mechanic, that I had XX amount of money and I would either like to keep the car there until I could come up with the rest. (which meant I needed to find a treasure, win the sweepstakes, or sell my firstborn-it was obvious I wasn’t getting anywhere hitting the downtown stripper stretch at night. No takers. J) or I would like to give up my apartment and move into the car.  She said come on over.

I got there, and saw a customer standing in the office. A man who looked as if he wasn’t really sure he wanted to be there at all. A man who may have been thinking he should have come in sooner. A man who had that look of dread that comes with one when the car has to go to the shop.

The mechanic was on the phone with a new customer and when she saw me come in, she told the caller that she wanted the new business, but she needed to help someone and would call them back later. I had never known her to let a potential customer go. I imagined her wearing scrubs when she walked over to a clipboard that had my key clipped to it. I gave her my check, she gave me my key and said, "Look. I was told to do this.” She tore up my check.

The uncertain  man in the room took a complete turnaround in his demeanor and stance. He stood up taller, his eyes grew wide and  you could tell he was wondering if this was for real, or if this was a joke. His eyes darted around looking for the video camera. Do these people love their work so much that they do it for free?????

My feet cemented to the floor and suddenly,  it seemed as if the mechanic was speaking in a foreign language. I could not grasp the meaning of her words.

“People have been calling and coming over here to check on the state of your car since we’ve had it. I’ve heard  more stories about you than I ever knew. After a while, the vendors got onboard and the two of us, too. It’s been a group effort to get your car running and out of here so you can keep doing whatever it is you are doing that has people calling here and coming by. All I can say is that you are very loved.”

From across the room came a loud sniff. The mechanic and I looked over to see the man break down.  The three of us clustered into a raging salt water waterfall for a long time. I was unable to get that I was not paying for my car.

The crying man said, “I don’t know you, but if you wait a minute, I’ve got a few bucks in the car.”

The mailman drove by and beeped.

A train sped by and blew its whistle.

The prisoners a block away were all clinging to the bars  chanting, “Cal-vin Cabrio, Cal-vin Cabrio, Cal-vin...”

The mayor, who lives a mere block away wanted to be with us too, I’m certain of it.

I won’t go into my reactions other than to say they were staticly overwhelming and soggy. I needed to find out who had made this happen so I could repay them. The power of that thought was strong.

The mechanic wanted to show me what she and her partner had done. After looking at the parts they removed from Calvin, the ones they were planning funeral services for, I headed back to work.

As if I wasn't already struggling to find my clearer thinking over this ginormous act of kindness and mystery, I got green lights the whole way back . I thought I saw a stop sign coming up once, but it ducked before I could get there. 

I walked into work, dripping, and the front desk receptionist gave me a note that said a friend had left me a casserole in the frig for dinner…. Oh, and here’s$2 to help finish off paying for your car. . Apocalypse was upon us. There was no other explanation.

Work wasn’t working, my management gauge was out of order, so I went to therapuke and sat in Calvin until talk time. That saving grace, as usual, helped me immensely. I won’t go into the details, but I will say that for some reason, a collection of people who know me  came together to do this for me. It appears as if the loving act of kindness rippled out and touched other folks, as well. Do you see the gift in that? It is so clear. The man in the shop, momentarily relieved of his guilt for waiting to bring the car in, has a better trust in the care his car will be given. The mechanic got to play Santa Clause in the pollinated spring and the friends, whoever they may be, gave big big, goodness to not only me, but to lots of others they don’t even know.

I won’t say I understand this generous giving being pointed my way, but I am today, dry eyed (mostly) and very grateful. Sometimes I think we aren’t supposed to ask why.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

The “Things I don’t want to do” day.

I took a day off this week to take care of some things on my I don’t want to do list.

Days like that are full of dread that is built from  big doses of procrastination. Eventually, the dread becomes too much, and I succumb to the doing. Ugh.

Most of the time I take off to cook at home church or to visit children who live away and once a year, when we are really lucky, I take time off to go to the beach with the girls. Doesn’t look like this year will be one of those years, so I may take a trip to Raleigh during that week. I did that a few years ago and it wasn’t a half bad vacation.

Yes, I know I live in Raleigh, but anyplace looks a little different when you are viewing through vaca eyes, don’t you think? We'll see....

Okay. So back to the I don’t want to-

I went to the bank and had my taxes done because I had done them myself and wasn’t the least bit sure I had done them right. I was sad to find out, though, that I had. Sigh….

It will soon be time to renew my driver’s license and now there is a law that says your social security card and your driver’s license have to match up exactly. Well, the name on my social security card is off by one letter. My last name is commonly spelled wrong, I expect that. I guess the mistake didn't nag at me enough to fix it until the renewal reminder arrived. Oh, that procrastination......

s-o-n is the common spelling of the last few letters, but the correct spelling is s-e-n. I offer the reminder to friends, that since there are NO ‘sons’ at my house, (4 daughters), we spell it with “se” instead of “so”. Unfortunately, the social security administration isn't too interested in that explanation. I wonder if there is something terroristic in that.

I went to the social security office. After driving around for a while looking for a parking place, I finally found a niche for the cabrio and parked. I walked into a room full of strangers, plastic chairs and linoleum.. Not a welcoming environment, let me tell you.

I am not comfortable in closed places or cramped and crowded places either, so I was really working hard to make myself keep moving inside the building. A woman behind me on a walker pushed up against me until she finally got ticked off and just picked up the darn thing and walked around me. Then she placed it down and continued to scrabble at a snail’s pace again.

I felt something hovering over me and looked up to see the 7 ‘ tall security guard who really didn’t want to be there, either, looking at me. He lifted his eyebrows and looked into the room and I read that as ‘Get your ass in there, lady” so I did.

I followed the signs to the machine that decides when you get seen and saw  reason for being seen. I chose the option- Because it's on my don’t want to do list. The machine spit out a ticket with #326 on it. I looked around me, not feeling very comforted to know there were that many people lurking in chairs, nooks and crannies, and I looked for a place to sit. The only open seat was right by the ticket machine. When I sat down, a voice over the intercom graveled out, “Number 22 to the blue hallway. Number 22.” I looked down at my ticket again. Yep. 326. I was pretty sure I might have needed to take 2 days off instead of just this one.

Over the lonnnnnnnnnnnnnng minutes of my wait, and in between the announcements-("Number 32 window A") I bonded with the overworked ticket machine. ("Number 49 to the red hall") She must get tired of spitting out tickets all day. ...people poking at you , grabbing at your paper… The very paper you are offering in kindness to strangers in an effort to help them be seen. (“Number 62 to the green hall”) I watched this vicious scene  of people finger punching the screen over and over and I really felt for the weary ticket spitter equipment. (“Number 128 to window D”) Her screen was fingerprinted to death. Layer upon layers of prints – some I imagined were years old- lay on the graveyard monitor.

I started pretending no one was there except me and the ticket machine. People came up and asked me how to use it and I started plugging people’s info in for them.. I felt protective of the worn machine. Then, it happened. She ran out of tape. What to do? I looked up at the security guard and pointed to the machine. “She’s run out.”

He stared at me as if he expected me to magically create a new roll of ticket tape. I shrugged, held out my hands, clearly showing I had no such thing on my person. Security guard Goliath tromped across the room, squashing people in line along the way. People who didn’t speak-ah the English came up to the disabled machine and I shook my head then held up my index finger- the international sign for “wait”.

The security giant returned and fumbled with the machine and tape until he finally got it to fit and she soon started spitting out tickets again. What a life, I thought to myself.

Two days later, when  my number was called, I was pleasantly surprised by the woman at window 'A'. She said, “Oh, I have to get my license renewed, too and  I am so afraid of the sign test.” I was  relieved that someone else understood why that task was listed on my “don’t want to do list.”

She continued. "I don't know why that silly test is scary."
“I know why.” I said to her.

“You do? Well, what is it? I mean, I've driven a lot and I know the signs. It’s not like I don’t.”

“I think it’s because right now, as we sit here, a law has been passed that changes the color and shape of the stop sign and when I sit down later today and look into that binocular sign gadget, I won’t recognize it and I’ll fail the test and will never be permitted to drive ever again in the history of the world.”

She looked at me, then quickly began correcting my information.

I continued. “Or maybe there’s a sign out there that no one has ever seen or used, and some irate driver’s license employee decided to add it to the test just because they can.”

She nodded as if she understood exactly what I was saying.“Well, you’re all done!” she cheerfully spoke. “Off you go!!” and “Good luck!!” then she leaned over the desk and whispered , “Hey, if any of that really happens, will you come tell me because I don’t have to go til September.”

“Sure” I said. And I was off.

Two tasks down.

I made it to the DL office while the sun was still shining but when I wound my way through the line and finally made it to the desk the calling machine crapped out. The officer in charge looked at my letter of correction from social security and still told me that he needed proof of the spelling of my name.

Luckily, I had collected every certificate, card, paper and dust bunny  that looked as if it may be called for during these tasks. I laid out my life on the counter. “Here’s my birth certificate- there’s my maiden name”  My hand elegantly glided over the  letters, much like Vanna does on the game show.Then I laid out the next worn document –“Oh look! I got married! There's that knarly name change... and wait! BONUS!! Here’s the groom's birth certificate, too!!...Then a few photos to flavor the counter presentation.  "Here are the children 1,2,3,4. Aren’t they darlings?” He sighed and rubbed his hand over his balding head, probably trying to calculate the days until his retirement would rescue him from this insanity.  "Okay lady. Listen up. YOU are A. Got it?"

"A. You’re my first A since the calling machine broke so stand right over there and wait and I’ll call A-1 when it is your turn. Next….”

A little while later, He came over to me and said to no one in particular, “A -1” I straightened up with a start and walked to the next available desk. The woman at the desk was very kind and patient, or maybe, the woman was on valium. Either way, she said, "Look in here and tell me what you see." I looked into the evil sign machine and saw no surprises. The whole thing took 6 seconds.

I was so overjoyed that I really fought the urge to go back to social security window A and tell her the good news. It was a good fighting thought, but it passed pretty quickly.

Next, to de- mildew the convertible. Even though this winter has proven to be very precipitous, the cabrio hasn’t had one icicle all year hanging from its jowels. I only had to scrape the inside of the windows once, too. I thought the leaks were gone, but nay nay. I can’t seem to find the drain holes that were drilled in last year, so I haven't  kept the holes clear for draining and  apparently the water has overflowed  on occasion and with the warm weather, well, can you say Science experiment? I didn’t realize this until I had already gotten a couple of loads of leaf mulch and compost, so I contributed to the petri dish unknowingly. Lysol is my new best friend. The end.

I had moved a weekly saving -grace-and -life meeting to this day so that I could collapse and unload the tales of the day in a safe environment. Good plan. Good idea to get the hardest things over with and end with the good and gracious.

Icing on the cake was a ballgame that night. Company was swell- wind was bitter. Saw some exciting plays by a friend I’ve watched grow up in baseball. I love going to the games because they are just easy to watch. Rachel came with me, and while my friend’s dad and I were bitterly shivering through the game, she sat, relaxed and comfortable, commenting on how lovely the breeze was and how this feels like summer in Minnesota. She spent last summer in Minnesota and acclimated to the climate, apparently. It was nice to have her right  beside me in NC. She'll be off and gone again in about one minute's time.

Although the game was a refreshing end to a “don’t want to” day, we did have neighbors sitting next to us that added a sour taste to the event. I never got the nerve up to actually turn and look over there, but a man’s voice overshadowed the game announcer with a variety of comments that were pretty ludicrous.

 Lots of political fussing about this and that, of course, then he moved on to other topics. Something about homeowners’ associations and how unfair they are and who needs them and oh by the way, he’s been sited several times for merely leaving raw eggs and trash out an extra day, parking his big ass broken down Ford truck with two flats and bird crap all over it on the street in front of his neighbor’s yard instead of in his drive way and another time leaving a dead body on the curb instead of inside his property line or some such.

I mean really- can you believe that?

 After that, the conversation went to sushi, yes Sushi. Someone commented on liking the fresh fish at which he came back with the well known fact that none of the fish used in sushi is fresh. It is all frozen because that kills the parasites. What delectable conversation this man had to offer in the midst of “SteeeeeeRIKE!” and “SLIDE” and “RUN”. Totally lost my interest in sushi after that. I like making it, or used to. Think I’ll give it up for the rest of lent- this year and maybe the next 8..

 Anyway, he finished up with road kill stories. No, I’m not interested in seeing what or who is in his freezer at home, and I don’t know who the maniac talking man even is, but the way he carried on, well, it sort of felt a little Wake County School boardy. You know- rude, crude and nonsensical?

All in all, the day came and went, and so did the list. For now, anyway.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Camp Redbird

Well, here's another risk.......
A book I wrote for kids based on a preschool camp i started in my home when the girls were little. It just seemed easier to have 3 or 4 friends over on one day, rather than drag it out over a week with one extra here and another there. The laundry and clean up was more concentrated and short lived if I piled it all into a day's work. We named it Camp Redbird because our household was full of redheads.
Over time, the camp grew- I offered it when big school was still in, and preschool was out and we filled up fast.
We made good use of the garden, and my simple sewing skills. Old fashioned fun to replace what I was seeing as the new play- tv/ computers/ couching.

Eventually, the city asked if I would consider holding the camp with them, and so Camp Redbird became the first preschool camp- later changed its name since you can't really duplicate what we did at home outside of home.

I saved many stories from those days and wrote a series of books based on some of those camp times. I have the outlines for 4 or 5 more, but this is the only one i completed and I will add chapters here on occasion.

opening a door- just a bit

I am really stepping out into the muck today. I have a confession to make.
Although i write the chronicles, i also have a few other writing projects that I have decided to open up. I may change my mind in the next five minutes, but right now, i'm going to brave the waves of anxiety and introduce you to Life's little bits- I have sometimes put some stories about my girls into the chronicles, and I may continue to do that, but today, i'm introducing you to a concentration of experiences I've had with my girls.
I have a book full of these, and will add a few as time and insanity allow.
To see the blog go to

Winter's gifts

Well, this year, we are experiencing something very odd. I can't recall the last time I took a walk and enjoyed the fresh air. I am more reminded of the Lion , the witch and the wardrobe's wintered earth. Baby, it's cold outside. What's going on? What happened to our serendipitous NC faux winters where we get a chill then the next day we're picnicking? By golly, i think Mother Nature is having her menopausal way with us this year and it isn't even very fun. Just because she is experiencing hot flashes is no reason to freeze us all out of our skins.

My Christmas Cactuses are blooming for the second time this season.

The bulbs are trying to poke through the ground but keep getting pounded back down by snow and cold rains.

The wreath on my front door is still preserved, this time last year it had turned brown and had begun shedding. I need to see that sign of spring.

I purchased a ton of 75% off bulbs just last week and was told it was not, unfortunately, too late to put them in. Will this Alaskan air ever leave?
Hmmmmm. Surely, it can't be all bad. Let me give this a think.....

Winter’s unwanted gifts:
Frigid air- still AND moving.
Cold car seats
sore fingers from thumping –before- touching doorknobs and handles because I don’t like being shocked and there is no way to avoid it, thank you winter.
The ground refuses shovel access; frozen dirt is hard to interrupt
Plants hibernate and take their colors with them.

Winter’s gracious gifts:
Unexpected days off due to snow or anticipated snow or hopes of snow or hearing snow has fallen somewhere within a 1,000 mile radius.
Hot chocolate’s flavor is in its prime
The transition from winter to spring is an easy one, for a change
Flannel sheets and heavy covers offer security
An opportunity to watch nature change her clothes
Knitting and crochet and felting are at their best

Friday, January 15, 2010

Manna.... the rest of the story

If you have not already read the "manna" entry, you may want to do that before you tackle this one-

My boss had the honor of being asked to teach a workshop last weekend.
The job was supported by a grant that was very specific -as grants can be.

During the weeks prior to the workshop,as he was putting his teaching plan in action, he chose items from workchurch and his basement that he could use as props. He was very intentional in not purchasing materials unless he absolutely had to.

A couple of days before the workshop, he touched base with his contact person and discovered that part of the grant was designated for materials, a signifigant amount, and he HAD to spend it or else. This caused his rightbrainy-ness to go retro and start processing in reverse.
He was in a panic because now, he had a blank canvas to work from- and not much time to regroup and shop- yikes.

He asked me where he might find some props- unusual items like giant pots, old and worn authentic items... I suggested the store next to the restaurant at the Farmer's Market. I visit there on occasion to find things I like, then I look for them at yard sales and the flea market. He was desperate. He trusted my idea and took off in his batmobile.

The afternoon wore on. Winter was blowing bitter blasts and it was dreary to boot. I was getting ready to leave when he blew in with the wind.
" Come see what I found!!!" he bounced.
"Did you spend what you needed to?" I asked as I put my coat on.
"Yes, and I found things I never even would have considered. It was so much fun!!! Come see!! Come see!!!" I paused and breathed a sigh of envy for whoever babysat for him when he was 5 or 6 because surely it must have looked like this but even cuter.

We went out to the batmobile and opened one of the doors. That car was packed slam full. Like a magician reaching in his bag, he began pulling items out and telling me just how they would be used at the workshop and how we would later use them at work church.

"Look, a trough!!! a Realllll trough!! We can put manna in it, or turn it this way and we can put rolls in it or candles or prayers!! Can you believe it?"
"I'm trying, but it's pretty hard to believe, alright."

"And these wooden blah blahs... you can turn them over and they become blah blah blahs!!! This is soooo exciting!!!"

I watched him reach into his car and pull out his found treasures countless times. I soaked in his excitement and wondered if the participants would also be energized when they saw his presentation.

I couldn't imagine how he had been able to fit so many items in his car. Wow. Good minutes. Cold, good minutes.

"Yes! I love your finds!!! Wow! I'm so glad you found so many things so fast!!" I poked my head into the car and took a closer look. I saw round pieces of this and boxes with holes in them and then I saw something else.
I backed out and took a step away from the car. I wasn't cold anymore.
The winds stopped and whispered away. Everything got quiet. still.

"Crap! Are you kidding me? Seriously, are you kidding me? You were gone a couple of hours and you found this? "

Looking confused, he dipped into the car and then he reached for something and just stayed like that, his body half in and half out of the car.

I spoke to his coat."I like everything you got today except THAT."

He pulled himself out and faced me. He was holding a beautifully rustic, real,even Biblical THREE FOOT SPOON. I could tell just by looking at it that the aged utensil longed for manna.

"I'm just letting you know now, if that spoon comes within my reach, well, I can't guarantee what will become of it."
and I went back inside.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Accidentals, inc and acceptance

I am beginning to learn that part of who I am is just plain messy.

For as long as I can remember, I have tried to do things just right. Just exactly right. Through the growing up years,I sharpened my observation skills so that I could better see exactly what was expected, I learned to listen intently for clues and I practiced practiced practiced.

Instead of becoming more of a perfectionistic thinker and doer, which i have come to realize is not in my genetic makeup, i began developing my own secret expectations of end products. I realized that it took a great deal of upstream energy to aim for 'right'. This skill, to this day still does not come easy for me.As a child, i began learning respite thinking. I began finding ways to do things that just came out however they came out- and being pleasantly surprised when the outcome was a good one. This 'messy' thinking is a part of who i am i guess ...

Messy Chef is a friendly name that is attached to my cooking skills. Not because I am a messy cook, but because the things I cook look messy. I am a clean -as -you -go -chef, but the dishes are not Monet by any stretch. When my girls were coming up, I baked their birthday cakes, of course. I see old pics now of those monstrosoties and cringe. ...except for the looks on the faces of the children. By the time my girls were old enough to care how things like that looked, they had grown accustomed to mom's messy blob birthday creations, because they tasted good. The first time i decided to try making an ice cream cake, I made a pound cake, sliced it in thirds, and layered ice cream and then put it in the freezer. uh. just a helpful hint: That's not how it's done. The ice cream melts before it can re freeze and you have pound cake mush.
Bake, cool, slice and freeze the cake FIRST. It works much better that way.On the other hand, let me just say you can NEVER have too much icing.....

I am not an exact or perfect anything. I cook and sew and do most things intuitively- that may be good and not so good depending on the issue or project. When cooking, I pour liquid into a bowl and count out loud "one third, one half, one cup". I palm the flour and salt and baking powder.
and i look and see how it feels before i continue.

I sew the same way. Love to sew. Failed Home Ec. Still love to sew. In the 8th grade, we were making durndle skirts and I decided to put 'invisible' pockets in mine, so i just cut two slits in the fabric and, well, let's just say it's a good thing I didn't need to pass home ec to move to the next grade.

I don't pin patterns to fabric. I use hairbrushes, pepper grinders, a shoe.. whatever is handy to hold the paper still while I cut. When the girls were younger I made many of their clothes and i cut out in bulk. I could knock out 4 or 6 pair of shorts or dresses in one go. I would cut out during one nap time, and sew during another. The clothes were comfortable, fabric they liked, and that's what counted.Well, for a while anyway.

Knitting and crocheting and felting works the same way. Yes, we all know that every one of my felting projects has a surprise ending. My friend, co-worker created a name for my company. She calls it Accidentals, inc. specializing in Melanizing.

When I knit socks, I knit one at a time and i do not make matching pairs. Socks are exact, and if one is going to get lost in the dryer, which everyone knows is the law of the dryerland, then I'll be darned if I want to waste a second sock that way, so I just make one like this and one like that and let it go. One day, I'll do two at a time, but right now, I'm happy with one at a go. Plus, it is fun to wear a different sock on different feet. A foot can have preferences, too. I just enjoy the activities and hope for the best. Sometimes things work out and sometimes not but this Christmas I had real good luck with a project.

I have a very special friend who has a very special dog. For some reason, this dog really likes me. I think we are connected on some level. I work in the garden at her house and visit with her but our time together is limited and yet, she still loves me. I decided to make her a sweater for Christmas. I had a pattern for a sweater for a schnauzer, and she is much much taller and longer than that, so I had to guess how big to make it. I sat down and closed my eyes. I imagined being at her house and petting her.I went through the motions of petting her and pretended she was right there with me. "Baci, hey Baci, sweet girl, hey there" and i petted and stroked her back. After going through this imaginary motion a few times, I was familiar with how long i patted her down her back, and i made the sweater that long.I was surprised to see how well it fit!!! Nice to have those good results. Truth be, forget the sweater, its all about the dog. full of life and happy acceptance. I could tell she knew I gave the project TLC. I think i like gardening so much because it isn't meant to be neat, and it feels alot like finding treasure when i plant seeds or bulbs or move plants from one yard to another, then see them bloom or grow. This reminds me of another story I must save for another day. Preschool planting.

For the years I have worked at work church, this messy thinking of mine has caused me great worry. I want to do things with ease and perfection. I want to get it right. I think I have realized that my margin of error has pretty much remained the same over these years. I send out about the same number of committee reminders and i send out about the same number of UN reminders. I enjoy learning new tasks, but unless i am doing that exact task every day, it's like learning all over again everytime I do it. Between computer and program upgrades and my age- ing brain, i run into that darn margin of error more than I would like. I think that is why i am surprised i am still called secretary. I love my job, largely because of the variety and because of the pretty incredible tolerance from staff of my messy ways. At any rate, when things turn out right, I'm the first to be excited. and when they don't, well, I'll try it again. The good thing about being a messy me is that there is always a surprise at the end. When it is good, it is very very good and when it is not, it is do-over.

I am in awe of people who have strengths in areas like knitting a sweater with both arms being the same length, or typing a letter that looks so neat it could be framed. I stand in wonder. I stand in my overalls, muddy shoes, but in wonder.