Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I Don't Do Resolutions

Nope. Resolutions are a waste of time in my case. Now I'm famous for making lists as my brain actually believes crossing something off said list means an accomplishment of sorts. But somewhere along the way I decided resolutions were a set up for potential failure. My problem is if you're going to pick a goal, aim high. And then I fall short. The ego gets bruised. The brain starts reviewing everything like some mad official watching Replay of the big game. And the rest of me just sits and wonders where it all went wrong. It's depressing. So I made one New Year's resolution and I've kept it for years.

No more Resolutions.

Yes, I reflect and try to spot the error of my ways but for the most part, I simply resolve to try harder and do better. Sometimes I can, sometimes it's not up to me. Instead I'd rather play Queen for a Day here and share what I'd change if I had a magic wand which also kept away lawsuits. Feel free to play along. We can eat cake but no one's head will be lopped off. Unless they're a politician.

My first decree would be to outlaw politicians. If you are a responsible adult who can listen to reason, see both sides of the story and judge wisely what is best for ALL the people without padding your own pocket, feel free to ask to be my official representative. The services of "Professional politicians" whose campaign finances alone could settle the national debt will no longer be needed. Fear not, those of you who have served the public [cough, cough] for years, will surely thrive in your new position as a Sanitation Engineer. I suggest you wear gloves.

Administer an IQ, Hearing and Eye Test for any potential U.S. President. It helps if you speak the same language as the rest of us. I would decree that any President who goes around making war in my name will have duct tape administered to his mouth and a padded jacket with matching room to use for a Time Out. Remember "We the People" outnumber you. I think it's safe to say we've arrived at the "and we're not going to take it anymore!" phase. Then again, if you want to put on boxing gloves and go ten rounds with the President/Dictator of your choice, you have to win by a knock out and go home if you lose. No weapons allowed.

That said, World Peace for everyone. Hey if you're going to dream, dream big. I agreed with the Barman the other evening that people who do good actually outnumber the criminal element. The problem is, doing the right thing doesn't get you press coverage. Yeah, but it helps me sleep at night.

If you can't think of an original idea, don't make a movie. I don't know about you, but I'm really tiring of movies that are either stolen from another country to be made in "English", comic book characters come to life or worst of all, old television series! While I've been sick, I watched 6 movies and still fit in Christmas. I know, everything is subject to opinion.

Get Smart: "Chief, we missed it by THAT much". No, it missed by a mile. The old t.v. series was silly and campy...this was stupid. The highlight was Steve Carell torturing himself in the airplane restroom. No, I'm not going to explain that.

The Mummy 3: not the actual title, just the 3rd in the Brendan Faiser series. Mildly entertaining, better to be seen on a large screen I'd imagine. But hey, when's the last time you saw a movie about Mummies where Abominable Snowmen were the heroes?

Mama Mia: Sorry Matt, not as big an ABBA fan as you. I remember musicals from childhood. They actually had some dialog between those songs. Not so much here. And I have to say, although Pierce Brosnan is a handsome Irishman, he should never, ever be encouraged to sing again. Even in the shower.

Tropic Thunder: Yes, this is by far the most un-PC movie ever made. In fact Ben Stiller wrote it 10 years ago, not just as satire but making fun of movies like "Rambo". No studio would touch it. Why? Because it features a white Australian actor who undergoes skin coloring treatments to play a black man. What could've gone horribly awry was so well done by Robert Downey Jr. that I actually forgot he wasn't black. It's filled with inside Hollywood jokes. Jack Black of "Kung Fu Panda" fame is in this one and at one point Ben "Rambo" Stiller kills a panda and wears it as a hat. If you know going in there'll be a lot of wink, wink, nudge, nudge, it's actually a funny film. In fact, rumor is Downey may be up for a Supporting Actor bid.

The Golden Compass: Never has Nicole Kidman looked more lovely or been so creepily evil. My biggest beef with this film is the ending, which all but screamed, "Stay tuned for the sequel".

P.S. I Love You: I watched the ending again the other evening. If you're sentimental and love Ireland, Gerard Butler and Jeffery Dean Morgan, it'll make you smile. If not, you're probably male and have dubbed it a chick flick.

Write a book. Oh wait, that sounds like a resolution. Okay, I will compile lots of words, like many lists and try to include a plot. Should I fail, it's only a list.

Tell people you noticed when they do something good. Yesterday I ran into the Deputy who checked out my "visitor" after our break in. When I saw him I greeted him with a smile and a hearty, "My hero!" The man grinned from ear to ear as the others in the room looked at him with new respect. Law enforcement is very hands off, unless cuffs are involved. He put his hand on my shoulder, leaned down and whispered, "Everything going okay?" I reassured him, he reassured me and the rest of the room was reminded that cops are willing to put their lives on the line to protect us...and we don't even say thanks. Therefore I hereby declare that you, fair readers, are good people. You have a command of not only the English language for writing purposes, you have the patience to explain to others colloquial differences. We've helped each other in ways that are not measurable financially. And I wouldn't trade any of you.

Go forth into the New Year expecting happiness, miracles and laughter. Who knows, we might luck out and actually get it. :)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Oh the weather outside is......odd

Maybe it's global warming, maybe it's the bronchitis but this Christmas didn't rank high in "Ho, Ho, Ho".

It was more like, "No! No! No!"

A week before Christmas the Tuesday night Line Dance class advised they'd heard someone come in the building but no one came down the hall. Three hardy senior ladies [never doubt Grandmas on a mission] went to investigate. Peeking out the door in the direction of very loud music, they found a group of young men having a party on the front lawn. Hey, the benches are public. I asked if they'd called the police and they replied, "No. We didn't want to get you in trouble." to interpretation.

I kindly lectured them Wednesday morning to keep the doors locked and call the police if it happened again. After all, there's a middle aged gentleman who likes to sit on the bench and watch....the sky. He's never tried to come in but it's always bothered me that if I try to wave or even look in his direction, he looks the other way. Not the sign of a guy with nothing to hide.

Thursday morning I came to work, paused to unlock two locks and stumbled inside with an armful of stuff. Without putting anything down, I walked across the hall and slid the key in the padlock on my office door. No, we don't have anything worth stealing actually but the previous Director was paranoid. She installed latches and padlocks on the OUTSIDE of each office door, reasoning that if someone came through a window, they were trapped in that room. I never pointed out this could've resulted in agitation leading a burglar to break into each individual room but....

I've performed this key in lock, turn and remove lock move for 15 years. One handed. Without looking. Thursday it stuck. Hard. Looking over the pile I was carrying I discovered why.

Someone had bent the hell out of the latches on the door and wall. Fortunately the lock had held.

Now there's something especially spine tingling about entering a building that was DOUBLE locked, which included a deadbolt lock, and discovering that someone has been hacking away at your office door. I put the pile of stuff on my desk and calmly called the main office to inquire if anyone there had needed to um...access my office in a hurry the night before. The answer was no.

Portable phone in hand, I began looking for broken glass. I work in an old school house which has the kind of windows you pull open INTO the room. The only way to get in is to break a window, reach through and turn the handle into the unlocked position. As I made my way out of the second room, two of our Maintenance guys were beating on the front door, wanting to know if I was okay.

Hey, can you blame a girl for not remembering to unlock the front door while looking for a burglar? One guy went room to room with me, the other outside to inspect. Those of us inside were baffled. I insisted that if I was going to break into this building, I'd do it on the side where the grocery store is located because there are bushes there, while the other side has a neighbor. She's elderly, but she keeps an eye out. The guy outside came in and said, "I know how he did it."

Isn't it interesting, in a weird kind of way, that we always assume burglars are men?

Short version: a small window in the hall near the restrooms had been unlocked. From the inside. As I expounded on the fact that window is NEVER unlocked, especially after we had a break in at that very spot the year before, a voice in my head sighed, "Uh oh."

Yes, it was on the grocery store side of the building, virtually hidden from view.

I don't think it's too big a stretch to believe the "Mystery Guest" who came in during the Tuesday night class visited just long enough to unlock the window and leave. Probably even used the noise of the party out front to cover him. In fact, the afternoon after the dancers had shared their story, I found Bench Man sitting out front, ducking my attempts to be social as I left to work at a second site. I came back unexpectedly on my way home and found him scurrying from my gate to the building, back to the bench. If it's him, he's patient. Took him almost a week to put his plan in action.

That's not all he took. No, he emptied the freezer of all the lunches I bring to work... evidenced by the empty boxes in the trashcan. He peeled back the foil on the ham in the fridge to have a peek, but instead made off with a bag of frozen cubed ham out of the freezer. Along with about 4 ice trays. He helped himself to a knife, all the snacks I'd left in the pantry and...weirdest of all, my old bowling shoes. Granted, they looked new but I have really small feet. He rifled the bowling bag and probably got enough change out of it for a drink out of the soda machine.

You know what the hardest part of this was? Trying to be a good human and see that "two sides to every story" angle. I wanted to be a good person and think he was homeless and hungry. The devil on my shoulder was ticked that he took food I'd paid for because I work for a living. The angel on the other shoulder pointed out perhaps he didn't have a job. I called the police to report it. After all, my primary concern is for my seniors.

In response, I got a cop who, when I pointed out that my missing kitchen knife was lying beneath the window of probable entry, told me people watched too much t.v. and he couldn't get prints after the dew had dried.

Guardian angel, place your hand over my mouth. Firmly. Too close to Christmas to go to jail. He finished his uninterested walk through by saying, "Well if you keep seeing a guy on the bench, you should call us so we can check him out. Make sure he's legit."

What? A Legit homeless guy or a man who has an affinity for staring at clouds?

Christmas eve found me celebrating this unseasonable weather of ours at the doctor's. Bronchitis. The cure has been worse than the wheezing. Imagine knowing you're about to walk into a house filled with in-laws, some of whom are very loud, and the doctor sent in to cure you looks all of 18...and is wearing braces. [For you non-Americans, I mean on his teeth, not on his trousers]. Oh, he fixed me up all right. First with TWO steroid shots in the rear [that's why God gave us two cheeks I guess] given by a nurse who said cheerfully,"We'll give you the one that hurts the worst first, so the second one won't be so bad." This was followed by a breathing treatment which felt like smoking a tube of garbage flavored vapor and a chest x-ray, where the Tech came in blushing to note we needed to do it again because.....yes, say it with me, she forgot to add the film. The medication, which I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, was free thanks to the coupons that Dr. HowOldAreYou gave me as I left. Thankfully the meds didn't kick in until the day after Christmas or they would've been calling me "The Grinch".

I dropped off my prescriptions, then went to work. And who do I find out front but Bench Man. Soon as he sees me, he rises slowly and begins to leisurely stroll away. I wonder if he's whistling, like cartoon characters do. This time, he has a gym bag. I call the police, give a description, then call the Main Office to advise them. My Supervisor is annoyed that I don't feel well enough to attend the County Christmas Lunch. I have to call the cops twice, although I did enjoy the fashion show that Bench Man put on as he changed his jacket and sweatshirt three times before an officer arrived. My Supervisor did call back, upset that she'd had to call THREE TIMES to get through because the phone was busy. As I'm telling her it was because the cop had called me from outside to let me know he was there, she asked me to hold on...then gave the inmate janitor instructions on emptying the garbage.

Gee, nice to know where you stand, huh?

It all worked out, more or less. I knew this cop. He'd firmly explained to the man that although the bench was public, he needed to realize just sitting for long periods of time made seniors nervous. Then he advised about the burglary and added that guys who sit for long periods of time and don't wave back make excellent people to question when things go missing.

So Christmas brought burglary, bronchitis and the brother-in-law from hell but I survived it all. Lightheaded. Dizzy. Don't even drink. But today I got my reward for playing nice and enjoying the good life has to offer. Today, the 7th day of winter, it was 78 degrees.
And outside, I have a bed filled with Iris who believe that it is spring.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Name That Tune

One thing about working with senior citizens, they do bring in the most interesting things. And since we began the day with me discovering the Center had been broken into, this silliness was a more positive note. Every one's fine....but our uninvited guest took every bit of food he could... except the ham I'd cooked for lunch.

Today was the Christmas party and the following sheet was handed out. The idea is to look at the pictures and figure out which Christmas Carol it's suppose to be. Don't know how well this is going to translate here but it's worth a shot. Some of this wasn't copied clearly and you lose a number here and there. Start top left and work your way across. I'll post answers tomorrow. Here's wishing each and every one of you and the ones YOU love the very best in the holiday season!

And just so you don't go nuts, in #18, that first thing is suppose to be an oil can. If you need anything else um...explained, let me know.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Elf Friends

No, I haven't been into the eggnog. I don't even LIKE eggnog. I was just walking past my bookcase in the hall when I got a quick glimpse of the Christmas Elves sitting there. It made me realize that my connection to these tiny Christmas workers started long before I learned to read....which is how I landed MY job as an Elf.

"Oh look, she can read now. What a big girl she is! And yet, just the right tiny size to fit under the tree. We'll let her hand out the gifts in honor of her reading abilities."

And when you don't grow tall, you still play elf. But I digress.

Elves first came into my life courtesy of my Aunt Lell, who aided and abetted my love of chocolate. Her unusual name came from the fact that the family calls her Sara Ellen...and that my Dad, who was three years younger, couldn't say "Ellen". First he called her "Lellen" and eventually, "Lell". And thus, unless she was at work being Sara the Banker, she was Lell to us.

I don't remember if I was five or six when this tradition began, but each Christmas Aunt Lell would gift us with a small box of Whitman's chocolates. On top of the box sat a very merry Christmas elf, arms locked around his knees...although if you held him just right, they unfolded into skinny, spindly things. I found that most disturbing as a child and always carefully tucked him back into this semi-fetal position. Most of them looked like this first guy.

As the years went by, there was an occasional change of costume as I suppose even Elves get bored with red. [Or candy makers realize you need to make something collectible to sell a lot].

Every year they went up on the book shelf at home. When each kid left home, a couple of the elves went with each of us....just like that box of Christmas ornaments.

When I got married and my Mom-in-law heard about this tradition, she found a couple that had been in my hubby's childhood decorations and they too earned a place on the bookshelf.. Even though they had fancy golden instruments, I still loved my plain little guys the best.
When Aunt Lell ended up in a nursing home and I had to pack up her house and sell it, I came across her stash of elves. The original family chocoholic, it appears she'd bought a box for herself as well. I grabbed a couple of "styles" not already in my collection and offered some to my brother, who was born after this tradition was beginning to taper off...not through any fault of ours but because the chocolate company stopped the practice.

When I walked past the shelf this morning, the elves made me smile. They represent a childhood filled with belief in a sleigh riding guy powered by reindeer who rewarded the good children. I always tried so hard to be good. Some days are easier than others. As I glanced up and down the shelf my eyes widened. One elf stood out....his outfit different than the rest. He wasn't in the tucked leg position. And his hat wasn't pointy, but worn at a jaunty angle. Is it me, or does this elf look.............

Friday, December 19, 2008

Looking for the Good

"Wednesday's Word" was missing for a reason...I couldn't find a word which sounded like a primal scream of frustration. I wasn't sure which was worse: the "intestinal bug" which appeared Monday evening or being taken to task by my Supervisor for doing my job. Yes, you read that correctly. Let's just say I went from Site B back to Site A to finish up for Monday night's festivities. My sin? I forgot to call the Office and say, "Mother may I?" The frustration comes from the fact I do my job, plus a LOT more, but if I lean towards "the line", not actually crossing it you understand, I get my hand smacked. Hard. Hubby says it's because of that do-the-right-thing mentality of mine. If my co-workers and I get reprimanded, in thirty minutes they couldn't tell you what was said. They don't care. Next topic. I'm the only one who takes it to heart , wondering how I could've done something better.

It's safe to read on. I'm over it.

I'm only human and far from perfect. Yes, you now have that in writing. I have this weird personality quirk which has a couple of stages. Accused of some wrong doing I haven't done, my immediate reaction is an internal, "Are you SERIOUS?!" This is followed by anger, also internal because to scream at people might result in physical altercations that someone my size could never win. When anger boils over to combine with sheer frustration, the tears come. Not for long and they are replaced by a sense of, well...calm. And then I burst out laughing, because allowing despair to spill over and run down my cheeks really messes with my already messed up sinuses.

And then I do something most people would view as odd: instead of getting even, I go looking for something good. Inspiring. And if I can't find it, I've been known to put that "random act of kindness" thing into play. It feels better than playing the victim when, deep down, I know I have a lot to be thankful for most days.

So you out there, fellow bloggers, helped me accomplish my goal. I found inspiration in Susan's story of her son, who was celebrating a birthday that the medical world declared should never have happened. If she'd believed the doctors, her son wouldn't have been around to see the next sunrise. If you want to see what a Christmas miracle looks like, check her out. I swear that little boy looks like an angel.

Rachel put music into my day, finding a song I hadn't thought about in ages. She even posted a video. Music doesn't just calm me, sometimes it just makes me happy to sing along at the top of my lungs for the sheer joy of it. Minus witnesses. When it comes to finding the right music, well you're just a Natural, Woman.

Radge's list of 50 things made me laugh and cry at the same time. Never have I seen the poor cucumber so despised by so many. The thing about Radge is, he always ends on a positive note. And speaking of lists, I now eagerly await to see what goes on Shug's list of "Three Things Scottish" which he finds preferable to English stereotypes of tea and double decker buses.

McDanger shared this week too. I'm glad we're past that time in life where men are suppose to keep a stiff upper lip when life kicks them in soft, [no, not there!] emotional places. Even the sadder note of his story ended with the positive.

Then there's Ken, whose foibles make me laugh hysterically, even when part of me thinks it's rude to laugh at another's pain or embarrassment. But I figure if he's going to go to all the trouble of writing it down, I might as well be a good audience. Now if only I could get the mental image of a goose in black tights out of my head.

Because you folks helped adjust my attitude in my quest for Goodness, I even had a genuine smile on my face today when I took my seniors' annual Food Basket to my Boss. She'd previously asked if we could aid her young neighbor. If anyone could use help in these economically challenging times, it's an 18 year old newlywed with a baby.....and a 13 year old step child! It was a doubly good deed, aiding the young couple and making me feel like I'd done something right. Plus it gave the Boss a moment to reflect on what not holding a grudge looks like.

Why do good for people you don't know? Why not? I know, I'm hopelessly optimistic, even when I know better. But you never know when a kind word at the right time, even if you're not actually aware it CAME at the right time, will make a difference. And that is a feeling money can't buy...a gift I truly treasure.

Hey Barman, although it didn't come wrapped in shiny paper with a big bow, thanks for your gift of words. It was just the kind of present I needed today.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tea Party

Every year one of the groups which utilizes my senior center throws us a party. Officially, they are known as the Transatlantic Brides and Parental Association. We lovingly refer to them as "The British Wives". These are women born in England who married American servicemen and range in age from 25 to 86. There are branches of this association throughout the United States but I believe our local branch is about 30 years old.

Anyway, every December they have a Christmas Tea with my seniors and I as their invited guests. I love this event for two reasons: it's nice to see the groups mixing together to enjoy foods native to England...and I don't have to clean the kitchen. :) It's been an interesting event, which has allowed me to sample things I've always wondered about...and to draw some definite conclusions. Sausage rolls...great. Trifle...fantastic! Christmas cake...too sweet. Yorkshire, not a fan. I always invite Mom as my guest because she loves tea. When I was a kid we lived across the street from a couple in the Air Force. The wife was British and her parents lived with them. The grandmother always complimented Mom on drinking her tea the "proper" way with milk and sugar.

This year's highlight was a Fashion Show...for the imaginative. I took pictures and if any translate well, I'll post them later. Just think like this: the "Afternoon Tea skirt" featured about 50 tea bags sewn to the skirt, while the "Double Breasted Suit" had um...cleavage in front and back. You get the idea. We sang Christmas carols and for the first time in 15 years, not one Brit requested "I'll Be Home for Christmas", which I referred to as our annual weep fest. I even put tissues out ahead of time. Then door prize tickets were passed out and the numbers drawn randomly. I'm one of those folks who never wins anything.

Yep, I won. And what a fitting prize.

I am now the proud owner of a new Christmas tree ornament: a shiny red, doubledecker bus with "London" emblazoned on the side.

I don't know who smiled more: me for having a new story for the Christmas tree or the British Wives as they looked on, somewhat amazed, at my happy reaction to their gift. You see, the Tea Ladies often worry about giving gifts from home, concerned that an "American" winner will just not be as appreciative of their culture. Or as one lady put it last year, "Will they even know what to do with Tea Biscuits?"

Yep. And the ornament now hangs happily on my tree, reminding me that our friends come from the most unexpected, and appreciated, places.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sign of the Times?

Friday I had to stop by the bank in the city where I work to ensure my aunt's original Will was in the safe deposit box. My brother and I opened one when she went into the nursing home in order to store her valuables. Having it in our names meant that when she dies, we will not have to do a legal waltz to obtain the documents we need. I thought HER bank had kept the original Will yet in the back of my mind a faint memory whispered, "No, I think the Investment Guy sent it back to you for safekeeping."

Safekeeping. And I wasn't sure of it's location. Not a good sign.

So I dutifully went to find out, only to run into the same problem as the last time I accessed the box to retrieve the deed needed to sell her house. My name wasn't "on the computer". Didn't matter I'd handed them my driver's license and bank membership card or that I was wearing a photo I.D. from work which also pointed out that yep, it's me. The teller, a young man who looked about fifteen, sat there flustered, telling me he was sorry but I couldn't look in the box. Holding the key to the box in my hand like some talisman, I explained that this had happened the last time I needed to get in the box.

"Guess no one fixed it", he muttered, looking from the screen, then back at me. My guess is he hoped I'd just go away.

I explained the box was set up under my brother's account number. It's a long story. Suffice to say male chauvinism is involved from a centuries old practice. Even though hubby and I have a joint account, since I was "added" to his existing account when we married, I'm not the "Primary" party. This means big decisions are not allowed by the little woman. Apart from making deposits and transferring funds [for which I have to give them HIS Social Security number] I can't legally change anything to our account. No, I've just written out and delivered the check for the house payment for years....but, I digress.

Teller Boy wasn't happy that I didn't know Bro's account number but he played along and politely agreed to look it up. He asked me to verify Bro's birth date, which was funny because he GAVE it to me, instead of asking me for it. It was correct and we continued with this dance as I politely and calmly explained I'd been sitting right next to Bro as we'd both signed the form giving only the TWO of us permission to go into the box.

Obviously, I wasn't going away. He sighed and called over his supervisor. I think she was sixteen.

Same dance. She shook her head sadly and said, "But you're not on the computer."

In a polite tone, with a forced smile, I replied, "My signature is on the original form."

"Well," she offered slowly when it was apparent I wasn't going to drop my head and trudge toward the door in defeat, "if you signed the form and you're not on the computer, then we have a problem."

You think?

No, I didn't say it out loud. I just continued to smile as she scurried off to pull a file and enter the Manager's office. He was leaning back in his chair, chatting on the phone merrily. He hung up, I saw her mouth move and the smile slid off his face as his chair returned to the upright position.

I'm pretty sure this conversation took longer than necessary but, what can you do? I asked Teller Boy if I should move aside so he could aid other customers. I thought he was going to pin me to the counter when he said "No!". Seems the appearance of helpful is better than someone standing off to the side, steaming slowly.

As I stood there, looking up into the security camera with my frozen smile and thinking, "Yep, this is what an unhappy patron looks like," out of the corner of my eye I saw a sign. I wasn't suppose to be able to see the sign, but someone had left the door open. It read, "Believe half of what you see and nothing that they tell you."

I guess Customer Service ain't what it use to be.

On one hand, I appreciate that the bank isn't handing over cash to anyone who asks for it....just because they ask. And yet, I was somewhat insulted, realizing our relationship was built on a foundation of mistrust. Didn't matter that I'd never missed a house payment or that, in fact, we're actually a month ahead of their schedule. The world has changed and not necessarily for the better. Sad thought.

Ms. Sixteen came back, tripping over her apologizes, showing me where I'd signed on the form. I noted that my address was no longer a rural route number but a street address. She glossed over it, saying as long as it was correct on my account, no problem. Teller Boy went with me to the vault and I asked if he wanted my key. The last time I did this dance, the old spinster in charge demanded that I turn my key at "precisely the same time" as she did. For a moment, I wondered if we were arming a nuke. Teller Boy merely took my offered key and asked me to sign the paperwork while he retrieved the box. I noted with irony that the only time the box has ever been accessed was, when I came for the deed to my aunt's house. Handing the box to me, he asked if I needed to go to a privacy room. I told him no, I only needed to verify that the Will was present. And so he did a very secure, by the book banking move.

He turned his back to me, put his arm over his eyes and leaned against the wall.

I almost lost it. The box. It took everything in me not to burst out laughing. Teller Boy looked like an overgrown five year old sent to the corner for a Time Out. Balancing the box in one hand, I swallowed the giggle threatening to burst forth as I flipped over the paperwork inside. The Will was there. All was right with the world. I thanked him for his help and he turned around, one eye peeking over his arm to ensure the box was closed and he would not be privy to all the secrets which dwelt within. He apologize. I suggested he should be Employee of the Month for his patience. He blushed. He held the door open for me as we exited.

As I walked out of the bank in the city I work in, I felt slightly homesick for my small town bank we use for checking and hubby's business. Do you know why I love small town banking? They know who I am, by name. Even without the photo I.D.. And they never, ever would've blamed their error on the computer.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Because Susan Understands

Living in the country, I was amazed by our first Christmas at how many mice could sneak into your house uninvited! Guess they didn't know that line about "not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse" because at night, it sounded like they were having a party.

After one year of um....disposing...of quite a few, my grandmother Memaw gave me a special ornament at Christmas which she'd made: a little mouse asleep in a walnut shell. It was funnier still because I'd bought one to go on the tree for hubby, he who set and dumped the mouse traps. Yep, that Elf does have his fingers in his ears...pretty much the same position I take up when hubby sets the traps because I'm just sure they're going to snap and make me jump a mile.

Every year since, this duo has gone on the tree, together.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ho Ho Ho to Ha Ha Ha

Some people love Christmas, some dread it, some ignore it all together. As much as I enjoy Christmas, there are days when the "chore" part overtakes the joyful, giving part. Hey, I'm only human.

Over the years the morning DJs I listen to on the way to work have slipped in an um...unusual song to their "Sounds of the Season" play list. The first time I heard it, I almost drove off the road laughing. Especially the light guy. I understand his pain.

Is this song irreverent? Yes. Is it often true? Oh yeah. Is it funny? Hilarious, depending on your family members. Judge for yourself. I'm use to just listening to the song, but someone went and added beloved Disney characters for a video version. Walt Disney is probably spinning in his grave. So remember, this is meant to give you a giggle, not knock the season.

NOTE: Evidently Disney rose from his grave as this joke clip has been removed from JibJab.

So if you want to hear this ditty, go to
this website where it's listed at #8. [the title is "The 12 Pains of Christmas"]. The website belongs to Bob Rivers, who wrote this song. There are several more...some which I haven't heard, so I don't know how offensive they might be. :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

No Weddings and 2 Funerals

This morning I went to back-to-back funerals. That's a first. I hope it's a last as well. There are people in life who, I don't want to say "enjoy" such rites, but don't mind attending as many as necessary. In some places in the south, the food offered afterward is the main draw. Hi, sorry your family member where's the fried chicken and potato salad? I've also heard the occasional widow mention it's a good place to meet other singles.

Insert *shudder* here.

I usually find ways to make funeral attendance "non-mandatory". Working with senior citizens means I've gone to more funerals than I care to admit...and I don't go to all of them. Today's first funeral was for the spouse of one of my group, the second was my brother's father-in-law. In both cases, I was there to support the families more than pay my respect to the dearly departed. After all funerals, they say, are really for the living. To remind them that life will one day not feel this dark and you'll still be there to help them celebrate life when the time comes. Sure, it's difficult to show respect when a preacher begins extolling the virtues of sainthood on some guy who was a real SOB when he dwelt amongst the living. The most interesting thing I learned today is exactly what I DON'T want someone saying when I shuffle off this mortal coil. Today's funerals had two, distinctly different styles: joyfully respectful and very religious.

I suggest you write your own jokes now, people and chose music that would make you smile.

The first funeral was joyful, funny, and slightly irreverent at times but everyone left feeling better. There were more heartfelt laughs than tears, mostly because the minister had been a college friend of the daughter and had personal stories to tell. It was truly a celebration of someone's life, detailing highs and lows, but always ending on the positive. The deceased was of the generation that worked hard to provide for his family and didn't think it necessary to hug and declare his undying love on a regular basis. By the time this minister was finished, everyone had glimpsed moments of that love.

The second funeral was the kind that makes me shudder. I was raised in a Baptist church and although I no longer attend church, I still believe in God and I think He believes in me. Susan will understand why, after the minister's opening remarks I whispered in my head, "Um Lord, I'd like to apologize in advance for what I'm thinking. I can't help it. You gave us a brain. Mine was wired grammatically correct. I'm trying not to squirm every time the man uses the wrong verb tense."

I squirmed because the second minister mentioned in passing a basic facts about the dearly departed before launching into what I call "the recruitment" portion of the service. That's where a token attempt has been made to console the family before the minister explains the concept of hellfire and damnation to those in our midst who might not be believers. You know, to each his own. But it bugged me even when I was a kid when a minister would use the open wounds of a recent death to scare folks into booking passage to heaven. The only thing missing is the passing of the collection plate. I learned two things during this service: that anyone who invokes the dreary passages "Death, where is thy sting?" or "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust" will be haunted by yours truly until I forget why to haunt them. And I discovered where, "Oh ye of little faith" originated.

Of all the scriptures shared today, one stuck because it struck a cord in the storyteller in me.

Rather than choose the usual biblical passages, Minister #1 chose one from Exodus, as folks are following Moses to the Promised Land. No, it had nothing to do with riches in the kingdom of heaven. It was a reminder that Moses had promised Joseph, who died before the journey's end, that he would take Joseph's bones along on that journey, so Joseph could indeed reach the Promised Land. Granted, the minister grinned, what they thought was a 3 day journey was a 40 year one, but Joseph's bones made the trip. Because Moses promised. The minister then grinned and said, "I know, what in the world has this got to do with the deceased? Think of those bones as memories. Moses promised to keep Joseph's memory alive...the bones were symbolic of that."

For those of us who love family history, that's a cool thought. We don't have to drag the bones around, but we should keep the memories with us, no matter where we go.

I'd rather be thought of some day as a collection of memories than as a pile of ashes waiting to turn to dust.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tis the Season to be Jolly

Susan at Stony River Farm has shared an award with me…certainly a nice way to start off the week. The rules were simple: share 6 things I value the most ~ then spread the ♥ around!! Because she is so kind, I'm guessing that even the "creative" spelling of the award didn't stop Susan from passing it on. If I could hand her a marker, I know what would happen. :)

Like Susan, I omitted the obvious of family, home and World’s Greatest Hubby, even if he thinks blogging is an odd thing to do. That’s okay. I feel no need to go out and bring home a 12 foot alligator. As long as we have each other, and all our parts, differing hobbies are a good thing. Okay, I admit it. I did make one exception, but you’ll see why. Might as well start there.

Nephew Drew. He’s not just a great 9 year old, but until he arrived Mom had no grandchildren. I graduated, I married… I failed to reproduce. Grandmotherhood didn’t look good for Mom. With us unable to have kids and Sis not really liking them as a species, my brother and his wife suffered through a couple of miscarriages. Then they adopted Drew. The nicest thing my sis-in-law ever said to me was, “He’s not our baby, he belongs to all of us.” Drew is my buddy, the kid who likes to read. After showing all the other adults his Christmas toys, he still grabs my hand to go play with said toys. All right. It doesn‘t hurt that spoiling Drew is payback for all the things little brother ever did to me.

Words. I can’t imagine life without them. I love the sound some of them make when rolling off the tongue, especially when shared with an accent other than my own. I like the challenge of spelling them, counting on ditties like “i before e except after c”. Spell check may be ruining the world. A picture may paint a 1,000 words but it can’t replace a book. Words…free passport to the world.

Country Living. Maybe it’s encoded in my DNA since so many forefathers were farmers, but I love the smell of fresh earth in a newly plowed field. Our 125 year old farm house is surrounded on 3 sides by fields. I love seeing the wheat dance like green waves in the winter or having corn for a summer fence to block out the rest of the world. Okay, so soybeans aren’t lovely, but not all of life is pretty.

Music. I’ve never been the kind of person who HAS to have background music to function. I don’t have a huge collection of albums [yes, no matter how many CDs I own, they’ll always be albums to me]. I have a rather eclectic taste in music, if you subtract blue grass and rap. Music is for soothing, for calming me on that commute home when the world hasn’t been nice. Then again, I’ve been known to sing along, at the top of my lungs…as long as the car is empty.

Chocolate. Yes, I’m thankful for it. No, I’m not thankful for what it does to the hips but hey, I look at it this way. If I fall when I get old, perhaps chocolate will have padded me enough that I won’t break a hip.

Invisible friends. No, not the kind meaning you need medication. I mean YOU, out there, reading from the comfort of your computer chair. In these economically challenged times, you welcome me into your corner of the world without the price of admission. What a great mix of personalities! Sometimes I need to push myself, venture outside my comfort zone and see the world from someone else’s perspective. Thanks for your help.

Now I’m to pass the torch to 6 more, who may do with it as they see fit.

Rachel, my kindred spirit in the art of rambling. And yet she is capable of great poems utilizing the fewest words possible. I find that amazing.

Matt: who boldly goes where you couldn’t pay me to: white water rafting. I enjoy his adventures, vicariously, as he adds great photos.

Dave, the man I consider my Art and Philosophy professor. Many of the things glossed over by professors I paid my hard earned money to in college, Dave has finally explained. Properly. Learning should be an ongoing process, so I thank him.

Ken, who makes me burst out into spontaneous laughter while reading of his more human days. A man who can laugh at himself is more powerful than being featured on the cover of a certain magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" tribute. We'll soon crown him King of the Limericks, I’m sure.

Poetikat for her blasts from the past…a past that I can relate to in a way that makes me celebrate my youth, not mourn it’s passing. It was fun, but who the heck wants to be 18 again? Don't forget to check out her poetry page as well.

The Barman. I know, his world is pretty foreign to me. But this award is for creativity, which means embracing people for who they are, not who we wish they were. There’s an interesting man in there when the bottle’s still sitting on the table... half full.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas Cheer

Last night my Department, which is Recreation, swung into full holiday gear. Yes, I do wish they'd space events out a little, but that's not my call. So last evening we began with "A Walk with St. Nick", [which was to be followed Saturday morning with "Breakfast with Santa"] . Having had oral surgery twice in the last week and a half, I volunteered to stay and set up the kitchen rather than walk. So I was left alone with an Inmate [yes, as in lives at the jail full time] to begin warming up hot chocolate and apple cider. I wasn't worried about the Inmate. He's been with us for four years and when his time is up, there will probably be a maintenance position with his name on it. In fact, he's such a happy-go-lucky fellow that I've never felt the need to ask what happened. It's obvious from his demeanor that his past is something he's learned from and is not interested in repeating.

The Center we were using for refreshments after the walk isn't ours and belongs to another agency we often "team" with for events. Saves budget dollars. Located in a predominantly black neighborhood on the edge of the downtown area, it also has an apartment complex for seniors across the street. It never even occurred to me that someone might question leaving a black inmate with a white woman in such a neighborhood. We've worked on these events together for years, the Inmate and I. We trust each other. As the Center's Director left to go join in the Christmas tree lighting, this older black woman looked at us and said,"I'm not locking the door in case people arrive before I can get back." We agreed that was just fine.

As she walked away, she added with a shudder,"Wouldn't catch me in this neighborhood at night without a locked door!"

Ho, Ho, Ho. :)

In about thirty minutes, more co-workers showed up with additional food and questioned if we were the only ones there yet. When we said yes, she added, "What? You two didn't know to run the other way?" Neither of us bothered to answer. Soon the kitchen was filled and people were beginning to filter in. The decision was made to let the children and their parents sit and we would serve them.

Cue me as instant waitress, sandwich tray at the ready. Anything to get out of the kitchen and away from all that gossip!

Most of the kids were polite although a couple of their parents didn't exactly set sterling examples. One kid asked how many of the small sandwiches he could have. I told him two was all until everyone was served. His mother, sandwiches already in front of her, looked at me and demanded, "I need more." I smiled and joked she already had her limit. The little boy grinned and Mom pouted.

Tis the season to be jolly.

Back to the kitchen to discover the donuts were still sitting there while my co-workers were all trying to score a sandwich. I asked my Boss about the donuts and she looked startled, exclaiming we were to pass them out.

You know, I use to work at a donut shop when I was in college.

With my tray of donuts, I again split the room with the same co-worker who'd helped with the sandwiches. I made a beeline for a little boy who'd had to wait last for cookies, sorely afraid they'd run out before the reached him. With a grin I told him he was going to get the very first donut. Wow, what a smile! As I asked who at the table would like a donut, I was greeted with lots of "please" and "thank you"...until I got to the adult. Yep...Pouting Mom. She pointed at her napkin regally and I left one there with a smile. The kid said thank you for her.

Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.

Finally done with all my chores, I was about to find a seat when I heard my Boss and the Secretary saying, "Well, we'll let {fill in the blank with my name} do it." Turning around they thrust a book at me. Our storyteller never showed so I was given the task of reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas". I don't mind working, I just hate crowds. Standing in front of one to speak is my idea of hell and I only do so when absolutely necessary.

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring. Not even a mouse.

I know this one by heart, which was good considering I didn't have my reading glasses. Fortunately the print was large in this huge, old fashion story book. I was a little hesitant only because the two carols they'd been asked to sing along with a moment earlier had been less than half the room singing while the other half talked. Loudly. Standing in front of the tree I reminded myself that Christmas is about children....some who still actually believe in Santa and wishes and good things for good boys and girls.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.

As I was mentally wondering if the kids even knew what I was talking about it suddenly occurred to me that it was quiet. So quiet you could've heard a pin drop. Glancing up, I saw kids leaning forward, waiting for the next words. The mom next to me mouthed the whole thing under her breath. I relaxed and had a bit of fun with it. When St. Nick's name came up in the story, I'd point at ours and the kids would yell in unison, "St. Nick!" Then they would become silent and wait for more story.

At one point I couldn't resist teasing the co-worker who was under that costume...the old world version of St. Nicholas, not Santa Claus. He'd once been an inmate too and when he proved to be reliable, the Dept. had hired him. Sure, he believes he's god's gift to women, but fortunately I'm immune. So when I arrived at the part about reindeer,"and he whistled and shouted and called them by name..", I turned and looked at our St. Nick, as if expecting him to do so. Beneath the beard, I saw panic. I turned back to the kids and they all began laughing. That kind of wonderful laughing that only kids can do when they are truly happy.

End of story. So I thought.

This was followed by the carol leader asking for their favorites. After singing "Away in the Manger", she asked for another suggestion. A little boy raised his hand and said politely, "I'd like another story please." She grinned, asked for his favorite song. Ironically, it was "Silent Night".

Our finale? "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". Loud and joyful.

We live in a world of gadgets and gizmos which have replaced too much of childhood. I think my Christmas miracle, on the day we got that paycheck missing a day's pay, was to hear a child ask to hear another story. Read out loud. By a real person.

As I glanced at the Inmate in the kitchen and St. Nick as he stood to lead the group back to their cars it occurred to me that Christmas should be about second chances and new beginnings. The true spirit of giving has nothing to do with how big the box is with your name on it.

At breakfast this morning, a little boy stopped to say hello. I smiled and told him,"I remember you!" With an even bigger smile he replied, "I remember you! You read to us. That was fun."

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mirror, mirror on the...oh, never mind!

I made an odd discovery yesterday: I honestly don't pay much attention to that face in the mirror staring back at me. To me, a mirror is more of a tool than the necessary evil so many women dread. I use it to apply minimal makeup, checking only long enough to ensure my last sneeze didn't leave bars of mascara under my eyes to make it appear my freckles are in jail. Occasionally I might wear a color that makes the green of my eyes more um...eye catching, but I only linger long enough to think, "Hmm, interesting shade today." I glance in the mirror daily to see that flossing did the job or that my hair doesn't look as if Einstein was my beautician. The mirror is sort of like my tooth brush; I use it daily out of necessity, not as an ego booster. Monday something got stuck in my eye, so I leaned closer to inspect. Once the errant eyelash was gone, my brain noted in passing, "Did you see that? There's a wrinkle over there I don't remember seeing before. You?"

Nope. And I haven't got a clue how long it might have been around.

It's not that I'm oblivious to the way I look. It just doesn't top my list of priorities. I've always been this way. I believe that our "insides" are more important than how we wrap ourselves for public presentation. I suspect that my curiosity over what makes people tick has somehow bludgeoned my ego into submission. That's probably why I never even thought about putting my face or age on my blog. I'm not hiding anything. It just never struck me as being important. After I'd been in blog world for a while I realized people in cyberspace have a bad habit of taking a fifteen word profile with photo to decide who you are... before they ever take the time to learn if that preconceived notion is even correct. I bet some don't even finish a paragraph before writing a person off.

What a pity.

I now understand what one of my seniors was telling me a few years ago. Leona was 87 and the spunkiest woman I'd ever met. We were discussing age one day and very perplexed she asked me,"Why do people keep asking me how old I am?" I laughed and replied, "Because you don't act like an old lady." She seemed surprised but admitted, "You know what the problem is? I still feel like I'm 40...and my body didn't get the memo! It got old."

A week later Leona came to me, just grinning. "Someone asked me that question again. So I asked them why they wanted to know. They said exactly what you did, but in a condescending way, as if I was disappointing them." When I asked how she'd handled it, Leona grinned wickedly, "I told them if they'd tell me how the hell an old lady acted I'd do my damnedest to follow through for them."

I sure miss her.

The truth is, I'm just me. And a mirror isn't going to make my life better or worse. In fact, I'm kind of happy I don't have one of those talking, fairy tale mirrors. I'd probably end up with one that nagged me to put down the chocolate and eat a carrot.

I don't need a mirror to verify my existence. I don't need to see where I fall on the prettiness landscape. I know I'm not beautiful but then again, I don't need a flea collar either. Until a mirror can reflect that I'm honest, hard working, reliable, creative and possess a wry sense of humor, it won't change my day. After all, none of those qualities ever helped a gal win Miss America. A mirror can be a reality check but you know what? I'm okay with my reality. When I glance in the mirror and note that grey hairs are beginning to take up residence on my head, I'm not interested in dyeing them. I have baby fine hair and the grey ones are thicker than the rest. I hope they bring friends. I dress appropriately for my age, even if I don't act it...meaning I don't have a clue what my cholesterol level is and I'm not about to volunteer for a colonoscopy. Ever. As for wrinkles, I view them as a time line, sort of like rings in a tree. I don't have many but I'm sure they'll be plenty of stories to go with them.

A mirror can't look into my soul or encourage me to do my best. It won't cry with me, pat me on the back or commiserate that sometimes life just isn't fair. On occasion however, I have caught it laughing at me. That's fine. It just means I'm laughing back.