Saturday, February 28, 2009

Don't Forget To Breathe

I heard that phrase a lot the past two days. I was volunteered (read mandated by the boss... with "or else" implied) to attend a 2 day training with a new co-worker. We were to learn how to teach an exercise class to people with arthritis. It's sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation and offers lots of helpful hints. Aiding the seniors in enjoying life is part of what I enjoy about my job. Learning new things is always good. But one thing remains the same.

Role play sucks.

Granted I'm fortunate not to suffer from any of the 100 forms of arthritis. (No, I didn't know there were that many either). I don't mind learning new terms, finding better ways to do things which are more effective and easier on the body. But dear Lord in heaven, spare me from being a guinea pig in front of a crowd.

Especially a guinea pig who's been asked to do odd things on the spur of the moment in the middle of a circle of strangers.

Yesterday we spent 7 hours learning the varying forms of exercise. We did 59 of the 72 approved exercises. Thankfully, we were spared the humiliation of lying on the floor for the rest. But that's where humiliation ended. The problem with me, you see, is I'm happier being an Indian than being the Chief. Oh with my group, no problem. I've known them for years and I'm allowed to sprinkle in humor. The more, the merrier. The sponsor, however, is utilizing tried and proven methods with scientific evidence to back it up. Every other word we heard was, "Stick to the book! Don't deviate." It's not just an ego thing (theirs), it's an insurance thing. If you do something not sanctioned by the sponsor, you can personally be sued if an injury occurs. This includes allowing folks to discuss the weird remedies they've heard for arthritis during your class. Afterwards, however, they can compare notes to their heart's delight.

I went to sleep last night mumbling, "Stick to the Book!"

The worst part of role play is, as introverted as it makes me feel, there's always someone worse at it than me. And I feel bad for them. I can make myself perform like a trained monkey when it's absolutely necessary, but I'm not gonna volunteer. I muddled through my 3 assigned exercises with humor. Okay, so it was more for me than them but they laughed at the right times. My first one was the "Thigh Firmer", not a fond subject for any woman over the age of 12 or 100 pounds. So I smiled and said,"Great, give the thigh exercise to the chubby chick," at which point everyone laughed. And relaxed. The good thing is these exercises can be done standing up or sitting down. Mine included a chair, which is good. Then no one would have to watch me fight the urge to shift from one foot to the other in discomfort.

It was embarrassing, however, to watch someone old enough to be my grandmother stammer through a sentence of instruction not because she was nervous, but because she didn't understand what she was asking us to do. That's when the trainers stepped in and I will concede that they did so politely and with grace. We had a co-ed class, making it funny to watch the men look perplexed when one student instructor said,"Okay, now stick out those chests, boobs up high." One guy looked lost, one appeared embarrassed and the last one...I think he was checking out boobs.

We finished with a three hour session today, complete with our "homework" assignment. I understand the benefits but I to sit all of my "students" in a chair and have them use their legs and feet to trace the letters of the alphabet in the air. Really.

Today I have bounced a ball, thrown it in the air, clapped while it was in the air and finally thrown it in the air again so I could smack my butt before catching said ball. They swear there's a benefit to that. I'm guessing kicking myself in the butt is what I'll do later....for being so damned dependable that I get assigned this kind of stuff. We marched through the building like demented Marines as our "Drill Instructor" called out, "I don't know but I've been told, exercise is good for the soul." And yes, we had to "sound off" and repeat.

We used disco music, which was all they could find, to do non-jumping jumping jacks. I had to bite my lip at the irony of being sung to by K.C. & the Sunshine Band as rain angrily pelted the windows. Then again maybe it was just keeping time to the music. Who knows. We did the "Hokey Pokey" with um....different motions than I learned as a kid. For any of you unfamiliar with this great American childhood ritual perpetuated by elementary school music teachers, it's a silly kid's song with hand/leg movements. "You put your right foot in, you take your right foot out, you put your right foot in and you shake it all about. You do the Hokey Pokey and turn yourself around. That's what it's all about!" Unlike Hanky Panky, the Hokey Pokey is merely raising your hands in the air and wiggling your fingers as if you've just had a religious experience you want everyone to know about...as you spin yourself in a circle. This continues with the leg, etc. I'm guessing the last line is just so you'll know when to stop.

We made figure eights with our arms, which looked like drunken hula. There were balloons and ribbons, but not tied together...although at one point I certainly thought a pair of the older ladies were going to have to be unraveled while standing too close.

And on it went. A lecture. An exercise. Public humiliation. A cheerful,"Well, what did you think about that?" from the instructors. All this was interspersed with "Stick to the book!" Then came the ream of paperwork to do before and after class, which confused over half those assembled, even with an outline listing page numbers.

You know what stuck with me? The very first thing we did; how to shake hands with someone who has arthritis. You don't go for that firm handshake. You gently clasp a person's inner arm, just below the elbow, with your hand and lean your arm against theirs, which makes that person instinctively do the same. Great! I thought. This will be easy to remember. I can just tell my class to envision two Roman soldiers clasping forearms in greeting. It wasn't just a greeting, I will explain, it was the original metal detector: soldiers shaking each other down for hidden weapons. And in my head I hear....

"STICK TO THE BOOK!"

My biggest fear isn't teaching this course to my seniors. It's that I'll wander off book... making the book breathe deeply just before it tells on me.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Team America?

Note to President Obama: it’s not me you have to convince that America’s been going down the wrong road at a high rate of speed with no disregard for the lives of others. It’s those men and women whom you addressed last evening. You know, the ones who hopped up and down like rabbits on speed when you said things they liked. They’re called Democrats. As we both know the Republicans were slower to stand but I still think they speak English and can be reached. Eventually. Then again, it took the Democrats 8 years to re-learn English after listening to Republicans speak it.

And that’s the point.

We’re ALL suppose to be Americans. Why is it that those who are elected to represent us forget that as soon as they receive an office in Washington, D.C.? Is it the rarified air? Do lobbyists suck all the air out of a room, rendering people semi-comatose? To tell you the truth, the answer is simple.

Money.

Those in power want it. And they want to be in control of it. Those of us who use to have money, we’re call t-a-x-p-a-y-e-r-s, want to know why those spendthrifts don’t go to jail when they spend more than what’s in the government bank. Seems they’re playing Robin Hood but they don’t understand the story. As a rule, We the People aren’t the rich. Heaven knows if the average American followed Congressional and Wall Street examples, the next words we’d hear would be, “You have the right to remain silent.”

You know what was the most ironic moment of all? That a group of people who spend money faster than it can be physically accumulated gave a heartfelt standing ovation to a guy most people have never heard of. Oh, I have, even if I can‘t recall his name. Because his story caught me so off guard I almost drove off the road when I heard it originally. The lump in my throat caused tears to pool up and I almost pulled off the road. You see, this man is President of a bank. A bank which gave him $60 million dollars as part of his pay and benefits. And this man, who had grown up in a town where right had might, he shared that money with his employees. All 270+ of them….even those who’d retired but had worked for him. His explanation was beautifully simple. He had more than he needed, times were tough and he wanted to help. He seemed embarrassed, fending off a reporter’s persistent “WHY?” with the down to earth, “I’ve known some of these people since I was 7 years old. You help people who need help.”

Did you hear that Congress? I think for a moment everyone heard the words in English at the same time because ALL of you stood to applaud this every day working man who shared because he had more and it was the right thing to do. You didn’t look left or right to see if your Party was rising to the occasion, you stood before consulting a political guru or a poll. You stood because the little man, by doing the right thing, quietly pointed out that you might be the Emperors but you’re not wearing new clothes. And being morally bankrupt is much worse than being naked in public.

I hope, Mr. President, that after your lecture last night…because to be honest, it was a parental call to order and responsibility, not a speech….maybe those guys and gals on the hill will finally begin to realize that the real power doesn’t belong to Red States or Blue States. It belongs to Team America. And you, dear representative, work for us. How about take a cue from the Banker and do the right thing.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Piece of Her Legacy

Usually I don't go to Estate Sales. In the south, they tend to mean one of two things: either it's a rich family who doesn't want squabbling amongst the living therefore property of the deceased is auctioned off or a family is without heirs and wants to dispose of things quickly. The one thing they have in common is the hope of the auctioneer that the people who show up will equate "old stuff" with "valuable antiques." I wouldn't have even known this one was going on if Mom hadn't e-mailed me about it.

You see the dearly departed had been my second grade teacher, Miss Cotton. After Mom, she was the second most important person in the development of my reading skills. They both taught me to love words. Miss Cotton rewarded that love of reading with gifts of books. I still have the two books I won in her class. "Heidi" was first prize for reading the most books. A copy of "Black Beauty" was the prize in our shoebox parade float contest, which had to be based on a book we read...and explained to her. Mine was "The Princess and the Pea", with Barbie standing in for the princess and a dried black eyed pea as her nemesis. Each book featured Miss Cotton's neat handwriting, always filled with praise. "Thanks for being an excellent student!"was inscribed in my books.

Miss Cotton stands out not only for sharing her love of reading but for bringing in physical symbols of countries as we read about them. I have to wonder how many friends she had in the military. Someone had to lend her all those items from a variety of countries which she used as hands on learning tools. Somewhere there's a picture of me wearing an apron and wooden shoes from Holland while cradling the ugliest, carved wooden troll you've ever seen. He even had a wart on his nose. In the photo I'm flanked by two classmates modeling other outfits from the area. Miss Cotton made sure that each of us had a chance to shine. When she wasn't encouraging us to read, she encouraged us to write our own stories. Yes, I still have the one I wrote about the wandering neighborhood dog, Tippy. It not only earned me an A, it earned a spot in my baby book. Being the first born, mine is about 12" thicker than it should be.

Of course when she died, she was no longer "Miss Cotton" having found her Prince Charming along the way. I was somewhat surprised to find her name in the Obitituary column the week before as she'd only been 69 years old. I felt one of those twinges that hit you when a pleasant memory has suddenly been tarnished. The reminder that you're not eight any more and those "older" people you respected are now passing on to the next level. And that would've been it if Mom hadn't pointed out the estate sale at Miss Cotton's home. A single thought popped into my mind.

Books. I bet she had lots of books.

Books were, in fact, mentioned in the ad for the sale. And yet I was overwhelmed by exactly how many I encountered after walking through the front door. Every room in the three bedroom house seemed to have a bookcase brimming over. The garage had been enclosed, the car moved out so the books could move in. Even the end of the hallway had a bookshelf. For a moment I felt like a kid in a candy store.

I tried to concentrate on the hardbacks, which were being given away for $1 each. For a moment the choices were overwhelming. I took a deep breath and thought silently, "Concentrate. The books will find you."

The first title that grabbed my attention made me laugh. I adopted it on the spot. It was a book of short stories entitled, "The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Make You Miserable." The author dedicated it to his "long suffering wife" who has followed him, no matter what. In fact, she wrote the Foreword, which begins with a cheeky, "...as long as I can remember, he's always been several steps ahead of me. That's the reason I agreed to write this foreword. For once, I want to be first."

Miss Cotton, so far so good.

As I perused her stacks of books, I hadn't counted on the creepy feeling of seeing strangers wander through the house, opening closets and rummaging through kitchen drawers in search of treasures. Some were reverent and polite, some were pushy and rude. At one point a woman loudly complained that a man had pushed her out of the way. Her husband bowed up, filled with fire and ready to fight, head spinning left and right looking for the culprit. I purposely stepped in front of the culprit, a man probably in his eighties who'd merely bumped into the woman. I know, not only because I witnessed it, but because the gentleman and I had bumped into each other also in the crowded hall. We both grinned, wished each other well and tried to continue through the house. As the woman huffed because her husband couldn't find someone to pound into the ground, a small part of me wanted to yell, "What is WRONG with you?! The lady of the house is no more, you have your arms filled with her stuff and are complaining about the price. A decent, kind woman has moved on and you're angry because an old man in the crowd was jostled into you. Lady, you should be ashamed!"

Miss Cotton was always big on manners.

I was surprised at how big a difference it made to personally know the deceased. I didn't just stumble upon a treasure in an antique store. I knew this woman. And she had made a difference in my life.

I made myself stop at five books. An autobiography of John Kennedy Jr. entitled "Forever Young" was added, as well as 2 by Robin Cook which I'll probably enjoy because they're large print and I won't have to hunt for my reading glasses. The last was a nod to my childhood. In fact, it was the only children's book I saw. It was ironically titled, "Miracle in a Shoebox. A Gift of Christmas Wonder."

And that's what Miss Cotton nurtured in me. Wonder. In spite of what some people think, I consider that sense of curiosity a gift.

As an adult I ran into Miss Cotton throughout the years. Once Mom was with me and asked, "Do you know who this is?" Grinning ear to ear I replied, "Sure. It's Miss Cotton. Who has a married name I don't know." She'd been genuinely proud that I'd gotten a degree in Education, even if there were no teaching jobs available. She admitted that I had been in the very first class she taught and she'd tried to teach us everything SHE'D learned. With a laugh she added she'd often worried that she'd overdone it and ruined us for life. I'd answered truthfully. You weren't just interesting, you were interested in US.

And that made all the difference.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Love....Recycled

Whatever you were just thinking, back up. It's not going to be that kind of post.

My senior citizens have always been good about doing things for the community. Many of the craft supplies donated to them are turned into items which are then donated back to the community. In the past fifteen years, they've donated the equivalent of over $16,000 worth of goods to the community. A friend pointed out they used 1929 pricing to figure out that number, but it's still the thought that counts.

I've always been proud of what they do to aid others, thus proving themselves still useful no matter how many birthday candles go on their cake. Occasionally they receive a certificate of appreciation from a group and they once won a plaque naming their project with a group of college scholarship students from Central America as the best in the county.

But yesterday we received the most heartfelt thanks that anyone has every offered for their efforts.

We also recycle aluminum drink cans. Twice. The tabs are pulled off and set aside for a lady who collects them for Ronald McDonald House. Started by the McDonald's corporation years ago, throughout the country there are houses situated near hospitals where families may stay for free while their child is say undergoing chemo. Several families may stay at one time, giving everyone a built in support system in the frame of "you are not alone."

The cans have been donated to a variety of groups, from the Salvation Army to Habitat for Humanity, Boy Scouts of America to the Fire Dept. which sells them for a Burns Treatment hospital. We vary who receives the cans every couple of years in order to aid as many organizations as we can. I've always been very proud of them for using the cans to aid others. My Boss just doesn't understand why they wouldn't keep the funds themselves.

For the past two years we've donated the cans to a group of mentally challenged kids at a local high school. One of the senior ladies use to drive the bus for the group, which is how we got connected. The man in town who does the recycling gives these kids twice the price as he gives everyone else. Our cans last year made enough money for them to attend the State Fair and have an end of the year party.

Last week I handed over two large bags [as in 4 and a half foot tall!] of cans. As usual, the senior thanked me. I didn't think any more about it. Until I went to get the mail yesterday.

In the mailbox was a bright red envelope over a foot long, covered in white hearts.

I sat in the car, tired from cooking lunch and on my way to the afternoon program site. But the envelope was too intriguing to let sit. So I opened it to find the most touching hand made thank you card we've ever received. The kids had made it and it was covered with red hearts they'd cut out and pasted. Inside was a simple thank you but each kid had signed their name.

For a moment all the fatigue and annoyance of the day slipped away to be replaced by the world's largest grin on my face.

Life is not about being the richest or the smartest. It's about being appreciative. And to think we took what some see as trash and turned it into happiness for a group of people ranging from 14 to 90.

Love can be recycled. I have the card to prove it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

L words

Yep, somehow Radge got the ball rolling and I was game enough to accept the challenge from the Barman, who assigned me the letter "L". Here goes.

LAUGHTER: simple solution to what ails you. Besides, how can you hear a little kid giggle and not join in?

LISTENING: it’s a lost art, I’m telling ya. You learn so much when you shut your mouth and open your ears. Plus, life is better with music.

LIFE: as annoying as things can be at times, I’m guessing living life is more fun than the alternative. I just need to learn how to live it to the fullest, without the part where I worry so much.

LEARNING: until they plant me in the ground, my mind is in a continuous state of learning about something new. How else would I have found you people?

LABS: Can’t imagine a world without my two 4 legged kids, our chocolate labs Smokey and Boudreaux…even if the girl at the Vet can’t say the last one and calls him “Border X”.

LOGIC: seems to have gone extinct sometimes, but I do so enjoy people who have common sense and aren’t afraid to use it.

LAVENDER: I love the smell! Can’t grow it around here but the scent is readily available in soap and lotion.

LOST: not my mental state, the t.v. program. Why? Because it’s different, not predictable and allows me to be a kid by suspending reality to play along.

LASAGNA: because once in a while, the palate likes a change.

LAST: Not as in coming in at the end of the race but savouring the last of something: the last chocolate chip cookie, the last light of day before sunset, that last bit of silence at daybreak before the world gets busy.

LOVE: Yes, I did save the best for last. It’s the one thing I wouldn’t want to live without.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

What the World Needs Now...

...more than an economic stimulus package is a little love. Because if you think about it, if we were all willing to do our part and pull together instead of breaking into color coded groups, things would get done. Quickly. Without animosity and sneering at all. Then again maybe if we just did away with millionaire politicians who don't believe in paying taxes, things would be easier. Forget Joe the Plumber...get me Dave the C.P.A. who understands that if you don't pay your fair share, you go directly to J.A.I.L. [Do not pass "GO", do not collect $200]. If you've ever seen the move "Dave" [not that Eddie Murphy disaster!] starring Kevin Kline as President, you'll see what I mean.

On a lighter note, I'm sharing my little friend on the left with you because he represents long lasting, true love. The rose, a Don Juan, came from my garden last year. They have the most wonderful aroma....sweet, but not that overly sweet that gives you a headache 30 minutes after they enter the room. Ol' Don has a sentimental value. When we were dating, it was the first rose hubby ever gave me having picked it from his Dad's prize collection of roses. Sure, his Dad wasn't too happy at the time since it was THE first rose of the year. Then he found out who received it. Hubby got his sentimental nature from a really cool guy. [And yes, sentimental fool that I am, I pressed it between the pages of a book and still have it.] When we got married, the first rose bush we ever planted was...yep, Don Juan, which is a climbing rose. Hubby even built the trellis for it to sun upon. I wasn't able to transplant it when we moved, so hubby got me another one....and built another trellis. Now that's true love...and Don Juan is its signature scent.

The little bear was a Valentine's gift a couple of years ago. He sits on my computer desk, reminding me that real love is the result of trusting someone completely. Time just makes it sweeter. Which is why my cute little bear is lounging in over sized boxers covered in hearts. Real love is accepting a person the way they are....and a giggle never hurts.

Some people love Valentine's Day, some dread it, some view it as mere commercialization cloaked in chocolate. I see it as a day to remember that people are human; they hurt, they laugh, they have struggles and dreams. But if you find someone who believes in you, no matter what, then you don't need one designated day a year to be appreciative. After all, I've had the same Valentine now for over 30 years. And I wouldn't trade him for the world.

Okay, I know you male readers are either tearing up or gagging. So I'll share a scientific fact I heard on the radio this morning which might aid you if you forget something today. The frontal cortex of the brain is designed so that it can only handle 7 things at a time. [I know ladies, I hear your heads shaking but that's what the study claimed]. The scientist went on to say that the brain is wired to remember "7, plus or minus 2". That's one of the reasons Social Security and phone numbers aren't any longer. The study cited that a group of average adults was split so that half of them were given a 5 digit number to remember and the rest were asked to remember their Social Security number. Before they were asked to repeat the numbers, all were sent down the hall and given a choice of a snack of fruit salad or chocolate cake. To a person, those with the fewer numbers to remember chose the cake, which the scientist claimed was due to the fact they still had "memory space" left to make a conscious choice. Those with the longer number either chose fruit salad....or came back without anything.

What does that have to do with Valentine's Day? Well gentlemen, if there is something which you forget to do today, you can now smile sweetly and answer, "Gee, that was number 10 on my list and I simply ran out of memory."

Let me know if that works. ;)

Enjoy your day...however you spend it.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Because McDanger Will Understand

Our favorite Cow Boy [excuse me, Man] left a comment with the last post which reminded me of this old joke.

My Dad loved jokes. Okay, so his favorite was the far from politically correct Dumb Pollock joke, he still could remember a million of them. One day as we sat in an exam room at the Oncologist expecting less than stellar news, I thought I'd tell Dad a joke to lighten the mood. The joke I picked was one Dad would never have suspected from me. When the doctor entered the room, Dad was laughing so hard tears were running down his face. Doc took one look at Dad and became alarmed. I don't know if he thought Dad was psychic and had already guessed the news or if he was in excruciating pain.

Dad proceeded to wipe his face, a giggle or two escaping as he reassured the Doc he was all right. Me... he probably wasn't so sure about. Dad explained I'd just told him a funny joke. Doc wanted to hear it. I absolutely refused. It wasn't so much off color as well....a joke involving the medical community that I didn't feel real comfortable sharing at that moment. Doc made one more request, I shook my head and took an oath of silence. The news, although not great, wasn't something that couldn't be fixed with a new round of drugs. Or so we hoped. Doc told Dad he was free to go make his next appointment, then eyeballed me. I just shook my head mutely. Doc opened the door, Dad exited and Doc followed behind.

As I stood up to leave, the jolly nurse walked in. She loved to joke, she made Dad laugh and she made me feel skinny as she always pointed out that her butt was much more well padded than mine. Uh...yeah. And that's being polite. Her expression was stern as she slammed the door shut and glared at me.

"Tell me," she commanded, hands on those massive hips.

"Tell you what?" I asked, trying to figure out what I'd done.

"The damn joke," she sighed. "Doc asked me to come in here and see if you'd tell me. You HAVE to tell me," she pleaded. "He will drive us absolutely nuts all day long if he doesn't find out what it is. He loves jokes. We would love having a nag free day."

This was a woman who had not only cheered Dad on, she'd bolstered me up when my courage sagged in the face of Dad's battle.

"All right," I finally relented. "But you're not going to respect me when I'm done."

So I told her the joke, cringing a little at the punchline. She laughed so hard, someone knocked on the door and asked if everything was okay. She opened the door and ushered me out, still giggling. I caught up with Dad at the reception desk, covertly glancing about for Doc. Nowhere to be seen. I heaved a sigh of relief.

We were about 10 feet from the elevator to freedom when a hand gently fell upon my shoulder and a voice whispered softly in my ear, "That was funny! Why wouldn't you tell me?"

"Because Doc," I replied, turning to face him as my cheeks flushed crimson, "I respect you too much."

"Girl, don't you know that laughter is the best medicine?" he asked with a smile, giving my shoulder a firm squeeze before walking away. "See you next time."

So for McDanger, who will understand, I offer you THE JOKE. If it sounds familiar I shared it on Ken Armstrong's site at some point along the way.

[NOTE: I guess the Heimlich Maneuver for choking is universal. If you're not sure what a "redneck" is, think uneducated simpleton and you're close].

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Redneck was sitting in an expensive restaurant, eating dinner. He'd received a gift card for the restaurant, the only way he was able to afford such an extravagant dinner.

As he sat eating the expensive meal, the Redneck looked around at all the fancy rich people. Suddenly the couple at the next table started making noise. As the Redneck watched, the Fat Man at the next table began to choke, pounding the table with his fist. His wife looked on, terrified but unmoving. The Redneck continued watching as the Fat Man clawed at his throat, beat on the table and began to turn blue.

Realizing that no one else was going to help, the Redneck calmly laid down his fork and approached the man. With lightning fast reflexes, the Redneck turned the Fat Man away from him, pulled down the man's pants and licked across the choking man's butt. The piece of steak lodged in the man's throat went shooting across the room.

The Fat Man, finally able to breathe, looked at the Redneck and began to thank him profusely as people applauded.

Embarrassed by all the attention, the Redneck replied,"Tweren't nothing. Besides, I've always wanted to try that Hind Lick maneuver to see if it works."



Insert *groan* here. :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

We Interrupt This Vacation...

...to learn CPR.

I kid you not.

Today I had to return to work in order to take a CPR course. It's my own fault actually, for telling the truth. Where I work, telling the truth is punishable. No. Really. I was "chosen" to attend a training so I can, in turn, teach old folks with arthritis how to exercise. There was a catch; you had to be certified in CPR in order to teach the class. Makes me wonder how arthritis exercise can cause overexertion to the point of coronary or respiratory collapse. I did not volunteer for this duty, I was drafted. I only wish I had a card to burn in order to illustrate my displeasure at more being heaped on my professional plate when I don't even have time to do the dishes I'm juggling now.

So I told the truth. Where it stated, "Are you certified in CPR?" I cheerfully checked NO!

Sigh. Which is how I ended up "leaving" vacation this morning to learn how to do CPR for adults, children and even babies. I don't know how many babies will be in the arthritis class but you never know.

I knew the Instructor, a very professional Paramedic who possess a sense of humor and isn't afraid to use it. He had us watch two 20 minute videos with the disclaimer that when they were through, he would then tell us how the procedure had been updated, even though our employer was too cheap to buy the new video. Six of us took turns trying to resuscitate a bald headed, naked male torso which ended at the bellybutton. Either that or it was the ugliest woman I've ever seen. It was a little disconcerting to see Half-A-Man's chest rise when we gave him two puffs of air , then hear the air rush out of him as we began the 30 chest compressions between breaths. Our instructor, who's a Paramedic, grinned with glee when he said you had to be tough to hang on through CPR. My classmates thought he meant the patient. Uh no, he meant the "help". That's five sets of thirty, plus breathing. I noticed all of us at one point eyeballing our coworkers to see who, in the event of an actual emergency, should be given task #1 on the emergency list...call 911. My Supervisor got breathless pretty fast and some of them got the giggles. I'm proud to say that, although before we started I caught the brunt of the Boss' anger concerning one of my little old ladies complaining to her, then ABOUT her to HER boss, I did not take it out on my Half-A-Man. The Paramedic assured me that my guy would live. For someone whose allergies were giving her the devil this morning, I found that comforting.

We then moved on to infant CPR, followed by the Heimlich maneuver. It was hard not to laugh. Okay, so I bit my lip a couple of times. Most of the group forgot the preliminaries which come with CPR: calling out "Hey, are you all right?", which is followed by shaking the patient or in the case of the baby, tapping it on the foot. As I began this preliminary check, followed by placing the baby in the appropriate position for aid, I saw my Boss smacking her "baby" on the back hard enough to collapse it's backbone as it's head bobbled up and down. Flipping it over, she started the same pounding to it's chest before seeing me using two fingers for compressions. And this from a woman who raised six kids.

The truth is while learning CPR is extremely important, learning it in a group setting where half the guys were single and complaining about playing with dolls...well, it's hard to remain serious. I tried. Lord knows I tried. I'd already been given the nod from the Paramedic for "rescuing" my child properly, so there I sat, waiting for the rest to catch up because they couldn't remember how many chest compressions they'd performed. Looking down at the baby, which I'd cradled in one arm while waiting to pass it off, I smiled and said,"Well kid, I did the best I could. Please, don't throw up on me."

I heard this hearty, explosive laugh. It was the Paramedic.

Next came the Paramedic walking us through the Heimlich maneuver like this: holding up Half-A-Man in front of him, the Paramedic showed us where and how to place our fists, then said, "You've all seen this on t.v. and that's actually how it works." As he applied forceful thrusts with his fist to the torso, I shuddered. I hope no one EVER needs to apply that to me. We then proceeded to the portable defibrillator demonstration. Without using the word "idiot", our instructor explained that anyone could use it by merely following the pictures as they were lit up by the machine. Someone asked how many times you could shock a person. His reply, "As many as it takes. I once had to shock a patient 18 times."

"Wow," replied a member of the class. "How long did it take for him to recover?"

"Didn't," the paramedic replied cheerfully, "He was dead."

Now there's a trust builder.

As we went to leave, the Boss asked if we would receive a certificate for the training. The Boss is big on trainings, especially when they come with a certificate. After 15 years in this job, I have a file cabinet drawer filled with them.

"Sure," he replied jovially. "If you want to be certified, I'll get you a card and you simply pay the fee."

"We don't have money for fees!" Boss exclaimed, as if insulted.

Why, I thought silently, would this man give us his professional time and talents for the past two hours for free? Just because we all work for the same employer? H

The paramedic smiled and said, "I think you can swing it. It's $4 a person."

As Boss said, "We don't have money in the budget for that!" the Supervisor turned to the rest of us and said, "You can give me your $4 tomorrow."

Tomorrow is pay day.

Someone told me later on that if I was required to take the course, THEY were required to pay the fee. If the department can't afford $24, then some of us may need CPR when the budget is fixed for FY 09-10.

Then again, maybe we'll qualify for President's Obama's bailout money. :)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Theme Week?

I seem to have inadvertently picked themes on this, my vacation away from the work desk. Supposedly I took a break just to get away from being organized. It's a curse, I'm telling ya.

After "Soap and Water Saturday", Sunday turned into"Adventures across the pond". It began with a lazy Sunday afternoon movie choice. Not mine actually, hubby's. He'd never seen this oldie and to be honest, I hadn't seen it since college when a professor "made" me watch it. The movie was "The Quiet Man", starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, made in 1952. Even though I'd already seen it, it's hard to see John Wayne on anything other than a horse while wearing a cowboy hat. Oh there was a two minute scene featuring a horse race, but seeing him in a cap was almost...odd. Then again, five minutes later he's stomping down the road on a walk, looking like a guy who....has been riding a horse too long.

The first time I saw this movie, I was shocked by Wayne's chauvinistic streak as he literally man handled the woman he professed to love. This time I saw past social convention of the day to focus on the beauty of Ireland and something I missed when I was 20; the importance of understanding the customs of others whether you agree or not. To tell you the truth, I was somewhat aghast when Wayne refused to return to his brother-in-law and rightfully claim the gold coins which were part of his wife's dowry which had been left behind in a fit of rage and yes, you can imagine who's rage. I understood Wayne's point of view that money wasn't important. At least to him. But to tell the truth I wanted to knock him upside the head with a shillelagh for being so pigheaded in his refusual to see how important the principle of the thing was to O'Hara. He relented. Eventually. And O' Hara learned the art of compromise. There was something refreshing about old plot devices where characters set one another up in order to ensure events went their way. Yes by today's standards it's naive, even childish. To me it was just silly fun.

This was followed last night by a program with the tag line, "Join us to discover ...is the reason there are fewer sighting of Nessie mean the Loch Ness Monster is dead?" I actually tuned in to get a glimpse of Scotland. Sadly, after ten minutes I was watching the inside of my eyelids, fast asleep. I do know some man with a charming accent was using sonar to scan the bottom of the loch in search of Nessie but I have no idea what he found. His lilting voice turned into my lullaby but I suspect like most of the "searches" on this program, they found the usual...NOTHING. Recalls that 1980s program "In Search Of" with Leonard "Spock" Nimoy, in which they had all sorts of ideasm but never an answer.

This morning I sat at my desk, where Shug's map from his latest book hangs on the wall . Nestled beside it is a shadow box with "bits of Scotland" from Rachel, along with a poem about the actual location of those pieces. While my computer did it's own housekeeping chores, I read Shug's book "Postcards from the Hedge". The first poem, "Romantic Break in the Rainy Season" put me in the right frame of mind. As usual, Shug can paint the clearest picture with much less vocabulary than it takes me to describe the same thing. "Lochinver" made me smile...how often do "aliens" and "pineal glands" end up in a poem? And although it may hurt his poetic soul, my favorite was "My Feet". I've always thought of feet as a necessary evil, hardly the loveliest of our parts. The last line of the poem reminded me how important those two appendages are to us.

So tomorrow it appears all this talk, sights and sounds of Ireland and Scotland will send me scurrying down the cyber highway to do some more family tree research. I've never really mapped out where the Irish/Scottish relatives came from in relation to you whose blogs I read across the pond. It may break my mother's heart if I find genes other than Irish, but I'm thinking her father's people may have been Welsh. And she will say that's close enough. Relatively speaking.

The nice thing about a vacation is having time to spend how I please. Today my car's in the shop for it's own little check up, meaning I have no reason at all to leave the house.

Hallelujah!

And now I leave you to go, in search of...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Let the Vacation Begin

Heaven knows I need one! Especially when, an hour before I left work yesterday I received an e-mail with THAT reply. You know the kind. "Gee you're REALLY, extremely actually, well qualified but hey, we gave the job to someone else. We'll be sure to put your life in our file cabinet for 6 months before we move it to File 13."

Sigh.

So I continue to look, knowing my "vacation" will be marred by a mandatory training I have to go in for on Thursday...yet another step closer to doing someone else's job. No, I won't bore you. Or depress me.

And it came to pass that on the first day of my 10 day break from reality as I know it, soap ruled. Apparently it was today's theme. Began the morning washing my hair. I know, be still your heart. How can I make you endure such mundane, personal trivia as me striving for cleanliness? Now if your heart can stand it, this was followed by 5 loads of laundry and helping hubby wash my car. Oooh and then I turned on...the dishwasher. I've had enough soap and water for today, thank you very much.

My plan for the week consists of...well, very little planning. Okay, except for changing the oil in my car, a necessary evil when one commutes. But for once in my overly organized life I'd like to take things a day at a time, rather than putting things into play a month ahead of schedule so that others will have fun. When hubby has to work, I'll use the time to write. I pledge to keep an eye out and ears open for a chance to embrace an employment change which will challenge my mind rather than make me want to pull out my hair. I will remember that other people's opinions are just that....another opinion.

I will run this all through Wordle and see how pathetic my current job has made me, then I will laugh and return to what passes for normal. And I will be grateful to have you, Fair Reader, invisible though you might be, because I treasure what you add to my day. I will now take a moment to-

[Cue sound of buzzing dryer. Why does that buzz sound like a fly on crack?]

-fold towels, signaling the end of today's attempt to tidy the house...an exercise in futility if there ever was one.

So if I do something fascinating I will share. If I find a new job....well, wherever you are, that sound of WOO HOO will be me. {Or Susan if she finds the chocolate before I do}.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Bear That Roared

Three years after the infamous Duck Story quaked up the boyfriend, we set forth on yet another adventure.

I have to say, life with the man is never dull.

At 20, I was putting myself through college with a job on campus. Boyfriend Scott was through with college in two years. As in, “Tried it. Didn’t like it. Don’t need it.” He proved it by evolving his part time job at a pizza restaurant into Manager of said establishment. He did so well the corporation sent him to a city 35 miles away to fix another ailing franchise. I knew it was merely a stepping stone, not a career. Scott is inherently smart when it comes to business. Unfortunately, between jobs and distance, we were left with Saturday date nights only.

When one of those warm spring days signaling the end of winter came along, Scott called to say he was picking me up early. We’d make a day of it, touring where he hung out when he wasn’t working, sleeping or heading to my house on Saturday. I asked if a boat was involved. He laughed but assured me we’d remain landlocked.

The town where Scott worked was small, rural and um…r-e-a-l country. Let’s just say smart folks got a high school diploma then left town to see the world beyond tobacco barns and cotton. People like singer Rob Thomas and astronaut Ronald McNair. It was the kind of southern town where people superstitiously painted their window and door frames bright blue…to keep out the haints. [That’s old south for "ghosts"]. His landlady believed she could tell the future and that cats kept evil spirits away. Probably explains why there were so many cats at the place she rented to Scott and his roommate.

Then again, Scott and his buddy brought home pizza scraps. The cats preferred sausage over pepperoni.

On the drive that Saturday, Scott told me that earlier in the week, in the middle of the night, he and the roomie heard a load noise outside. It was followed by the sound cats make when startled and running for their lives. Grabbing his pistol, Scott peered out the back door. What he found was a bear eating the cats' pizza. Flipping on the porch light, Scott watched the brown bear run into the woods behind the house.

The cats didn’t return for two days. I’m not sure if they ever ate pizza again.

I would’ve thought he was pulling my leg if I hadn’t heard similar tales of brown bears being spotted in a variety of backyards in the area on the local news. Although no pets had gone missing, people were asked not to leave small children unattended, chain their pets outside or leave food for the bears. The goal was to get the woodsy visitors to return to their natural habitat instead of say, getting hooked on pizza. Scott said several of his neighbors had experienced bear visits.

At the conclusion of this tale, we pulled up to a pretty spot in the country. The field was filled with small yellow flowers bobbing softly in a warm breeze. To the left was a dense stand of woods, to the right a small pond in the distance. The sight of water made me look at him funny. Smiling, Scott assured me he’d been told it was a good fishing spot and just wanted to take a peek. How one checked that by merely looking was beyond me. As long as a boat wasn’t involved, I was game.

Scott opened the glove compartment where he kept a small pistol, sat there for a moment, then closed it without removing the gun. He explained he usually carried it in case of snakes, which in this neck of the woods meant rattlesnakes. But upon reflection, he felt it was too cool for snakes to be stirring. I resisted an urge to ask if wild hogs or gators liked small farm ponds.

Exiting the car, Scott grabbed my hand and all doubt vanished. We checked the pond which not only had some fish in the shallow water, but was hog, snake and gator free. We took a walk, then headed towards the car. And then we heard it.

A slow, crashing sound coming through the woods. Towards us. Cue horror movie music.

Scott immediately halted, making me unexpectedly do the same. Eyes surveying the area, he listened for clues. My immobility came with feelings of impending doom. The pleasant breeze stopped, as if holding its breath. The sound continued. Slow steps crunching on dead leaves like a drunk staggering through the woods. Start. Stop. Start. Stop.

We both thought it. But he said it.

“Bear.”

When the footfalls momentarily paused Scott told me to back up, toward the car. SLOWLY. I politely questioned the wisdom of abandoning him. Deep down, I was afraid to let go of his hand. Wouldn’t it be more difficult for the bear to swallow two of us fastened together?

Using the same tone Dad did when expecting unquestioned compliance, Scott told me to get moving. I began walking backwards like some deranged Miss America contestant imitating a snail. My steps faltered as Scott muttered under his breath about leaving the pistol in the car. Never taking his eyes off the woods, he told me to keep going, his ears noting my lack of progress in the dry grass.

“I’ll be right behind you,” he whispered, trying to motivate me.

No, you’re about to be eaten right in front of me, I thought as the menacing sound moved closer.

I was miserable. I felt like a coward. I was leaving my boyfriend to stand between me and danger. Quite chivalrous on his part but rather cowardly on mine. Scott had only taken a step or two backwards, eyes never leaving the woods. I wouldn’t take my eyes off of him, resulting in a spine tingling moment when I bumped into the car. After my heart slid out of my throat, my brain noted I was close enough to grab the pistol if necessary. Scott had taught me to shoot. I could hold my own although in this case, I think the wiser course would’ve been to run the pistol to him, then flee back to the car.

Sliding a hand blindly down the side of the car I located a handle. Scott froze in mid step and so did I. The powerful stumbling had reached the edge of the woods. In a few seconds I’d know what we were made of…hopefully that didn’t entail viewing internal organs becoming external. In my head I heard the music from the shower scene in “Psycho”. Scott stood his ground firmly, glancing back only long enough to see I’d made it safely to the car. A car I couldn’t force myself to enter. The ominous sound grew louder, creating an odd duet with my beating heart. And then the bear stepped out of the dark woods into the bright sunlight and roared…

“Moo”.

Where in the hell that cow, and the two blinking bovines which followed, came from we never found out. The farm had been long abandoned. There was nothing for miles. Just two humans on pins and needles and three cows grinning jovially.

Scott’s shoulders slumped, more in humiliation than relief. I was too relieved to laugh. Well, out loud. As Scott walked back to the car, reiterating how many times a bear had been seen in this area, I just listened. Quietly. No need to gloat. I had just inherited my own humiliation story. And it didn’t star me.

So every time Scott tells the Duck Story, I always politely add, “Now tell them the one about the bear that mooed.”

Monday, February 2, 2009

Editorial Comment

One of the comments on the story below made me realize that sometimes you get so familiar with a story that you forget a fact or two. I inadvertently led some of you to believe the story was a creative bit of whimsy.

Well truth is, the story is TRUE!

The 17 year old starry eyed idiot was....yep, me.

Hopefully I'll get around to writing the story of the bear. I'll make sure to note that it is a true tale as well. Especially when hubby gets to be the punchline.