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.