Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wow...I could get use to this!

This week I've learned several things:

Vacations are good.
Everyone should take a break from their desk, even if it's to hide at home. Hey, it's the economical thing to do. Plus, I have you people to entertain me. How could I lose?

Delegating is even better.
I was able to actually delegate a work related task off me onto a committee member because I'm taking this vacationing-away-from-one's-desk very seriously. Better yet... I didn't even feel guilty!

A vacation means...
...you have time to run errands for Hubby while he works. It's okay. I'm his only "Staff" too. And the lady at the Post Office was so helpful today that when I merely requested a Priority Mail shipping box for the item in my hand, she got the box, put the box together, took the item out of my hand, packaged it, taped the box shut, reached for the mailing label out of my other hand AND wished me a nice day. Evidently she's never participated in a "Going postal" moment.

This week has meant the unexpected.
First there was the award from Janie B. and now I have one from Matthew. Well, to be honest he offered them as a pair, but this one is so much more me than the um...."glamorous" one I left in the box outside his doorstep. Besides, "scribbler" pretty much defines my handwriting, which is why I love my keyboard. So thank you Matthew for your kindness and I'll pretend it wasn't just another box you didn't want to unpack when you moved into your new site. Really folks, you should go throw him a housewarming party. :)

(You know, if you people keep this up, I'm going to require you to write a letter to my Boss and explain why everyone ELSE thinks I have a brain....and that it's okay to use it).

Second, I asked Titus to pretend she took me along for the fun of her last Poetry Reading as I was on....well, you know. From the pictures she's posting, evidently we had a brilliant time. And Susan, there was so much chocolate...

Last but not least, Hubby began the week with one of those conversations which starts, "Could you follow me please?" as he pointed to the backdoor. He sounded paternal. He LOOKED paternal and I wondered if there was suddenly a woodshed out back where I was about to be punished. But when we got outside he began to grin.

"You got us a BMW?" was all I could gasp.

"The barter system," he replied with a satisfied smile. "Regular customer wanted a new bow, so we traded."

And as soon as I get the camera out, I'll take a picture of the BMW and post it here. Why? Because I know some of you can't envision trading a bow and arrow set for a Beemer. So, right after I pick my nephew up from school, get my Mom and head to the nursing home for the Aunt's 80th birthday on Oct. 1st I'll post a photo.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Why...thank you!

I woke Monday morning, the first official day of vacation, to find this lovely award from Janie B. ..thank you! That's enough to make me want to stay on vacation for a while!

The rules are to pass this on to newly discovered blogs...although I'm going to skip the part that says 15 new blogs. I will however, play nice and remember to let the latest recipients know.

And in another unprecedented move, my list belongs to...the guys.

steven: who not only makes me think with the beautiful words and photos he shares, but who makes me smile while offering a peaceful place to sit for a while.

Matthew: from the land of proper tea to the land of Oz, I appreciate his take on the world... especially when it includes a sense of humor. Trust me, read this and you'll understand.

Dan: another of the tea drinkers brigade with a side order of humor, he's made me laugh so hard it hurt. But in a good way. And he's the only one to offer to help me procure ninjas to aid in my job battles.

Bill: a.k.a. the Old Fart, is excellent for making my brain think during his photo challenges. As I encouraged him during work difficulties [he has a new job now!] it had the side benefit of reminding me there's something else out there for me too.

And although he's not exactly a "new" read, at least I'm getting to read him again after a too long hiatus. So McDanger gets a nod and a cup of tea as well. Yes, I imagine he'll put something other than sugar cubes in it. :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Blogger goes nuts

NOTE: I've tried posting this three times and keep getting an error message. So I'll try again. Sorry to Bill....every time I try to add a link, it spits the post out. So if and when Bill posts here, please click on that link and visit him. Thanks!

Although I still can't envision him as an Old Fart, Bill posted a meme in which someone sends you five words and you share your thoughts on those words. Yes, I signed up. And five minutes later, before I had a chance to wonder why I volunteered, my 5 words showed up.

Hey, I'm on vacation. And I consider this my playground, so it's time to play. Here are the words Bill sent:

CLOUDS: I've always been a sunset person and to me, clouds can be the best part of that colorful good night from God. I've taken pictures where the sky seems as if it's on fire and the clouds are the fingers of flame. And yes, I admit to still playing that childhood game of seeing fluffy white clouds in a clear blue sky as a myriad of shapes. The ones outside my window right now are turning gray, but that's okay. We could use some rain around here.

AUTUMN: my favorite time of year! Except for the part where golden rod, dog fennel and rag weed make an appearance to drive my nose into overtime, I love it. The weather is [finally!] starting to cool off. Although we don't get extremely cold winters here, we get cool enough nights to make leaves turn lovely shades of orange and red. And I begin to eyeball my sweater collection, telling it soothinly, "Not too much longer and you can come out to play!"

TRAINS: The one thing I've never ridden but want to! I've been on a bus, boat, airplane and even helicopter, but never a train. And I don't mean Amtrak....nor am I interested in riding the subway. I want to ride on an old fashion train that winds through the mountains, to hear the clacking of wheel on rail and what it sounds like to sit behind that whistle instead of on the side of the road when it's used as a warning device. We use to have that here: you drove to the station, it took you on a wonderful 3 hour trip and brought you back to your car. Sadly, people are too interested in moving fast to enjoy a slower mode of transport, so that trip eventually ceased to exist.

FRIENDS: Ah, the thing they say you can never have enough of. I'm one of those people who, in person, is relatively private. [Yeah, I know...on here you'd never guess that!] Maybe it's because I have a very precise definition of what a true friend is. Many of the people I know claim to have lots of friends....but many of their "friends", I'd merely stick in the "acquaintance" column. A true friend is the one who REALLY knows the true you...but sticks around anyway. Guess that covers most of you, huh? :)

FORESTS: Well we all know how much I love trees...I do go on about them enough! But if you'd ever seen that big ol' pecan tree out front, you'd know understand. In fact, my "face" for the blog is a branch of that tree, hanging over my very long country driveway. I've been nuts about trees since I can remember; their shape, their function as shade and home to smaller critters, the fruit they often gift us with. And, another silly childhood memory, although I hated the task of raking leaves as a child, we had one tree where a little childhood imagination made the task go quickly. I simply pretended he was a giant and I was shaving his beard. :)


Out in the country, storms come up fast.
This was outside my front door this spring.

Pretty colors down the road from last autumn.


The best of both worlds: trees and clouds.
Took this outside last autumn,
when the sky looked like it was on fire.


So if you want to play, let me know and I'll post 5 new words....just for you.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Flash Friday - One last Memoir entry

Come along and play with us as we strive to tell stories in 55 words. Oh, it can be done. Yes, it does make your head spin sometimes but it's still fun. If you play along, make sure you let the G-Man know.

And yes, next week I'm thinking about giving you some time off from my life. I do have an imagination. Just didn't have time to put it into high gear this week.




As the gigantic wave loomed, Dad pointed at the float’s rope handles, ordering “Don’t let go!”

It flipped, grinding her repeatedly against the shell strewn ocean floor, but she held tight.

Leaning on the float, he called frantically.

Someone kicked him. Startled, he let go.

“You said hold on,” she sputtered, surfacing from beneath it.




Ah, family lore. This one is affectionately known by me as “The Day Dad Tried to Drown Me”. My Dad loved the water. He didn’t just enjoy swimming, he’d body surf in the ocean. Dad was like a shark in the water. I was not. In fact, I didn’t learn how to swim until I was 12. Another story, another day. [Or not. It was humiliating].

Every summer our family [of 4 at that time], plus Dad’s parents and sister rented a house at the beach for a week. It was one of the best parts of childhood. We’d take an early morning walk on the beach and when we returned, Grandma would be cooking breakfast. I’ve never liked coffee, but if I smell coffee brewing and bacon sizzling early in the morning, I swear I can smell the ocean.

Part of our fun with Dad the Shark was that he’d take my younger sister and I out, put us on a float, somehow maneuver us atop a wave and let us ride it in. Chauffeured surfing, as it were. I don’t know how he stood it, between the little girl screams [water in our face], giggles [of delight] and water [in his face when he took the brunt of the waves to protect us].

Back then floats were not flimsy, air filled pieces of cheap plastic. Oh no, they were industrial strength and rather heavy for something surprisingly buoyant. I can still see those old red and blue floats that made the trip with us each year. Their surface was some sort of tough cloth-like material and running down both sides was a two inch lip with grommets, through which ran a thin piece of rope. Not cord. Rope. The idea was that you could snag the float from practically any angle, get a hand on a rope section and keep it from floating away. The most amusing part of it was the pumping system used to inflate the float. On one corner was the shape of a foot; when you continuously pumped your foot up and down on it, it inflated the float. Never seen one since.

The above story occurred when I was 6 or 7. I was always a tiny kid, but I loved riding that float, in spite of the water powering it. I can still see Dad’s look of concern mixed with dread as that wave crested. I know now, as an adult, that it was going to break right across the back of the float, launching me who knows where. Back then, I only knew [a] Dad was a water creature [b] Dad had been in the Navy and [c] Dad thought the ocean was a fun place to play. So when he told me, “Hold on and don’t let go!” my faith as a child in a parent made me do just that.

Unfortunately for me, the last thing I did was slide my tiny hands beneath the ropes on either side of me and loop them around my hands.

The wave hit, I flipped and the ride began. I was one of those kids who didn’t like to open her eyes under water. Especially salt water. But after my butt scraped and bounced across that broken shell strewn ocean bottom while the float pounded me on the head, I opened my eyes. It was like being in a blender and I didn’t know which end was up. So I held my breath for an eternity and tightened my grip on the ropes. In reality, “eternity” was probably all of 30 seconds.

Suddenly I could hear Dad calling my name, first stern and paternal, then with concern bordering on fear. I tried to stand up, but I couldn’t. I knew I was sitting on sand and the water wasn’t deep but I couldn’t stand up. The harder I tried, the more frightened Dad sounded.

And then I saw them. Dad’s legs. Dad had captured the float and was holding it down to visually search for me. What ingrate of a child wouldn’t answer a concerned parent? The one stuck under the float, holding on to those danged ropes.

So I kicked him.

I was pretty sure I’d get the spanking of my life for kicking Dad, but I figured maybe the fact I’d held on would counteract that. Instead I got hugged. Really tight. After I finished sputtering, we laughed. Hard. The funny thing was I’d been too mad at not being able to stand up to think about being underwater…the place I feared most.

And so for years, whenever anyone mentioned playing in the ocean, I would grin at my father and say, “Yeah. Well just don’t ask Dad to hold on to your float for you.”


The original Pushme-Pullyou sisters.

That's me on the left, Sis on the right.
And yes, that's one of THOSE floats!





Dad, circa 1962
Don't you just love those classic 1960s swimsuits?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Speaky My Language?

Although born and raised in the south, I don't have the accent you might associate with say...Scarlett O'Hara. Oh sure, I've USED it before. Mostly to prove a point to a friend from New York who thought southerners "talked cute". So I dragged out my for-tourists-only-authentic-Scarlett-drawl. Fifteen minutes later he begged me to stop. A little of that molasses in winter speech pattern goes a long way. Besides, it takes forever to make a statement with that many syllables.

Although television has pretty much homogenized American accents, I still retain a small measure of my southern heritage...meaning when I'm tired, "five" and "nine" sound like Scarlett. However, I feel sure most of you would understand what I said the first time. I wasn't so lucky in my own country yesterday.

When I arrived home, hubby was still swamped in his archery shop as this is his busiest season. He asked me to return the call from the company which is now in charge of monitoring our alarm system so they could do a quick system check.

"Just ask for Jack," he said.

I called the number and a woman with a thick Wisconsin voice answered. I advised I was returning a call and needed to speak to a gentleman named Jack.

"Okay. Just a minute," she replied, sounding very much like Garrison Keillor. Only deeper.

A minute later she came back on the line. "May I help you?"

"I was holding for Jack," I replied patiently, just relieved to be free of the really bad "hold" music I'd been tortured with. It was so bad, I can't even remember the song, just that it was from the 1970s and it was awful even then.

"You need to talk to Jack about the job position?" she inquired.

"No ma'am. I'm returning his call about a system check of our alarm."

"Oh," she growled out. "You mean Jock. Just a minute."

The phone rang again and a man with a Boston accent answered cheerfully,"Jack."

Sigh.

Oh sure, I wanted to ask how he spelled his name. I was tempted to ask him what planet the receptionist was from. But I was afraid of the answer.

The system check took less than a minute. Literally. But as I hung up, one thought kept racing through my mind. Does more than one guy named Jack work there...or does the receptionist's pronunciation determine who takes the call?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

20 Years Later

Yesterday I received a reply to an e-mail I'd sent for my husband from a local newspaper guy. The man's closing line was, "Tomorrow, you'll have the front page of the paper."

Why? I wondered. Lately that's been reserved for local murders and I'm pretty sure my wicked thoughts concerning work haven't spread to reality.

It's cloudy today. Suppose to rain. We haven't had rain, real rain, in over two weeks. (I know, my Irish lads and lassies, but that's not good in the very hot south...turns us into a fire waiting to happen). Of all days to be reminded of the thunderstorm from hell: Hugo Anniversary Year 20. Hubby announced this morning that there was no newspaper in the mailbox. Odd. It's usually there before I go to work. I checked again on the way out. No paper. Now I'm beginning to wonder if this is some kind of elaborate practical joke. You'll be on the front page.

Dear lord, I'm not walking in my sleep doing bad things, am I? crossed my mind as I headed for work.

So curiosity got the better of me. Doesn't it always? I stopped at a store on the way to work and checked to see if they had the local paper. They did and with the world's boldest headline of "Tracking Hugo" I knew it was today's edition. Grabbing one, I placed it on the counter to pay for it when the headline below it caught my attention.

"Civil servant's journal chronicles storm's approach, aftermath"

I groaned as an old picture of me appeared to the left of the largest article on the front page.

"What's wrong?" asked the cashier, a bubbly young girl who often mans the front register.

"Of all the crappy photos," I mumbled under my breath. Yes, I HATE having my picture taken. So they'd dug back into their archives to retrieve one of me holding my MIA bracelet when I'd returned it a couple of years ago.

"What's wrong with the photo?" she asked, taking the paper to ring it up.

"Not my best," I muttered, somewhat humiliated at having been caught talking out loud. Occupational hazard, you see. Work with senior citizens long enough and you catch it.

"It's not bad. But why are you on the front page?" she asked, suddenly looking at me as if wondering where the murder weapon was.

"I wrote that," I said, nodding to the article as I dug for change. "A friend works at the newspaper and they were looking for stories about Hugo. So I shared my journal entries with her."

Yeah. Journal entries which looked as if the CIA had gotten a hold of them. The Editor and I had both giggled, in agreement, that some things were not for public consumption...especially if you took the time to note which public officials did not do their job during a disaster. Some of them are still employed. Some who have their fingers on the pulse of my pay check. So I blacked out um...unkind references and crossed out family stuff. I will, however, take this moment to publicly thank hubby for boiling water on a camp stove so I could have a hot bath during Hugo.

"Why?" she asked, puzzled. After all, she probably wasn't even born when Hugo came through. That checked my ego fairly fast. "Why would you know about this?"

"Because I was there. In the Emergency Operations Center," I answered matter-of-factly. "I went in Thursday morning at 10 a.m. and the next thing I knew it was 8:00 Friday morning and Hugo had blown through."

"You mean you helped people?" she asked, almost looking....awestruck.

"I hope so," I answered softly, the voices of all those people who called too late for me to help echoing in my head.

With a smile, she turned toward me and started to applaud. As I walked out the door laughing, she was still applauding.

Man, what a nice way to start the day.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Blowing in the Wind

Twenty years ago today I was sitting in my office, minding my own business. Okay, so I was a little bored. At that time I was my county's Director of Elections and it was a non-election year. It was an odd job: work for what seemed like 24 months in an election year then sit, doing inventory or speaking to high school students in non-election years. I was on lots of committees and did a lot of reading in those off years.

The phone rang at 10 a.m. and a cheerful male voice asked, "What ya doing?"

"Holding the chair firmly to the floor to defy gravity," I jokingly replied.

"I could use some help. Think you can lend me a hand answering phones while I get ready for this storm?"

Receiving my Chairman's blessing to be "lent" to another department, I crossed the street to the Courthouse ten minutes later. It wasn't just any department, mind you. It was Civil Defense., which still brings to mind visions of cold war fall out shelters. In fact, at that time, there was still one of those old black and yellow fall out symbol signs on the basement wall. Yes, civilly defending the county means working in the basement. Later on, I would be glad.

The caller had been Vic Jones, the Director of Civil Defense. I'd known Vic since I was a dispatcher with the Highway Patrol and he was a Sheriff's Deputy. He knew I could handle multiple phone lines and panicky people while remaining calm. That day he was without a secretary, as her husband was military and they'd been transferred the week before. So I showed up and sat at a table with three single line phones. None of them had lights or a hold button. They were your basic black Grandma's phone from the 1950s era. At first answering them wasn't a problem. Later on, it would get um...odd. At the peak of activity there in Civil Defense, I literally had to lay my hand on top of a phone to figure out which one was ringing by the vibrations. As the night wore on, I would answer two phones at once, ask if everyone could hear me and give them the same information at the same time.

My hometown is almost 180 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. That should've been enough to calm all fears. If Charleston got hit by a hurricane, we'd get a bad rain storm. Maybe a limb or two down. Even as we prepared, Vic joked that we were going to feel silly in the morning when nothing happened. I had a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach, nonetheless.

I had no idea at 10:00 that morning I would remain in that basement until Hurricane Hugo had marched ashore overnight and rendered my community unrecognizable.

After Hurricane Katrina I know many folks don't want to deal with hearing war stories about hurricanes. Most people feel a momentary, passing pity...a split second of humanity when the brain sighs, "Oh man, that's awful!" followed by a trip back to the kitchen for dinner or a snack. With so much media today, overkill's victim is...well, the victims of a storm. They need help, can't communicate, are frantically looking for family and feel like they've been cut off from the world. Because information goes out, but it doesn't come back in the same way. But you don't know that. You know their town looks like a bomb went off, but hey, it's not your town so let the National Guard and FEMA take care of it. That's what tax dollars are for, right?

But 20 years ago, Katrina was the exception to the rule. Katrina was a Category 5, the worst you can get. Hugo was a Cat. 4....and tore up a huge swath of S.C. as it toured the state. 180 miles inland. All the way to my front door. When I was growing up, the "natural disaster" of all conversation was "Remember the Blizzard of '73?", which was amazing simply because we didn't get snow, much less almost 3 feet over night. Total gridlock.

But after Sept. 22, 1989 the new phrase became, "You know, before Hugo...."

Before Hugo, I had electricity. After he bounced through, I didn't have power for 13 days. We lived in the country, our water came from a well. Hubby brought home a generator from work, we hooked it to the well and filled up containers, then helped the neighbors fill up containers as well. We had an above ground swimming pool and it's water was hauled indoors to flush toilets. Sponge baths were a pain, mostly because the water was so darn cold! On the 4th day, I experienced true love: hubby boiled water on a camp stove so I could take a bath!

None of the photos I took came out because the film was bad. But I have enough memories to last a lifetime. I can still see the old dog pen lodged high up in the tree it usually resided under . There, on the 3rd branch, was the bird feeder, still hanging just as pretty as you please, as if nothing had happened. We were lucky to only lose a few branches...and the power. I use to tell people it was as if God had placed his hand over our home and protected it while I sat in that darkened basement, answering phones and trying to reassure people that morning would come. That we would face whatever happened together.

For some strange reason, I kept a journal that year. I read it last week. Wow, the things I'd forgotten! People will laugh at your words of caution until it gets dark and the wind starts to blow. Common sense cares not what the weather is doing if there's a sale at the Mall. [I kid you not; a woman actually called us and asked how long she could shop. My exasperated co-worker told her, "Until you drop!"] Word to the wise: NEVER use a port-a-john unless you're desperate. NEVER EVER use it if the last man in was a National Guardsman carrying a newspaper. :)

You know you're in a disaster when a newspaper reporter puts down her pad and starts helping answer the phone. You're reminded that reporters are human too when her eyes fill with tears of frustration because someone waited too long to leave and now it's too late. More than once I swallowed hard while issuing the calm declaration that the individual should crawl in the tub, [the bathroom is the most structurally sound place, thanks to pipes], stay away from windows and place a pillow or blanket over their head.

The one thing Hugo didn't maim was the human spirit. For every "stranger" that stood on either side of you in that moment of "What the hell?!", you worked shoulder to shoulder until all of you could move forward again. It was a long, messy road back. For weeks all you heard was the sound of generators or chain saws. The woods of my childhood looked like toothpick forests.

And yet the oddest thing for me would be the wind. Or the absence of it. For that night, down in the basement, surrounded by 8 other people working to keep things together, we only heard the wind once. At the peak of the storm, which spun off so many small tornadoes that the Air Force Base couldn't keep count, suddenly everything in the room went silent. The phones stopped jangling, the walkie talkies went quiet and we all looked around at each other, wondering if all the air had been sucked out of the room. And then we heard it. One, long scream of wind as it rounded the corner of the building. The man next to me whispered, "Oh shit!", as the rest of us could only nod. We knew it was out there, but we couldn't hear it.

And then, as suddenly as the wind had made it's presence known, everything sprang back to life and drown it out. It took me a while to realize what a gift that basement had been. For years after Hugo, whenever the wind got up above a breeze, people's eyes began to nervously dart about, as if Hugo could return. I remember looking at them, somewhere between puzzled and wondering what the heck was wrong with them. Then one day it hit me. Their reaction was normal.....I was the "abnormal" one. I was one of the few souls in the entire town who would never be shaken to my core by the sound of wind because I hadn't spent the whole night listening to it destroy my surroundings.

So tomorrow as the newspaper looks back, I will do a mental review. Of the stories in my head. Of the people who were safe, but too terrified to realize it. Of those who were compassionate and took in their neighbors. Of those brave souls who looked disaster in the eye and almost nonchalantly dealt with it. Of people from other states who sent aid AND threw a picnic for those of us who volunteered when it was all over. Did you know Firemen are always the first to show up when it comes to disaster volunteers? They're generally followed by the Salvation Army, survivors of other disasters who can empathize and a very wonderful guy from West Virginia who hooked up our power. I will remember trying to convince FEMA, "Yes HURRICANES can come this far inland!" while adding in agitation, "Look, SIR, the only difference between us and Charleston is the Atlantic Ocean! It didn't quite make it here."

I only worried once, when a very tall, large muscular man wearing a straw hat and Hawaiian shirt barged into our Emergency Operations Center and yelled [in a VERY deep voice!], "Where is [insert my name here]?!" When I meekly raised my hand, he strode over, grabbed by hand [I assume, since mine seemed to just disappear in his] and said with a smile, "Hi, I'm Smith from the U.S. Marshall's Service. I've been talking with you on the phone." Before I could answer or retrieve my hand he added, "I've talked with enough damn bureaucrats...you're the only person I've dealt with that makes any sense." With that he turned to his staff, pointed me out and ordered, "You're only to deal with her, understand? And for God's sakes, don't let FEMA anywhere near her! I need to work with someone with common sense. "

Years later Civil Defense would get a new name and a REAL space for handling emergencies. We've had trainings and are ready for whatever Mother Nature throws our way. I was surprised when I toured the space to see that Vic had a sign on a door reading FEMA. When I asked why, he smiled and said I should check out their office space.

It was the bathroom.

'Nuff said.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Flash Friday....Memoirs Continue

Time to play "Can you write a story in only 55 words?" If you decide to play, make sure you let the G-man know.

In this week's episode.....



At three, her parents declared her a smart cookie. Without hesitation, Mom sent her next door to borrow Grandma’s cookie sheet.


Five minutes later, Mom’s little darling returned with a bed sheet and a bag of chocolate chip cookies. An amused Grandma followed.


Mom sighed.


The little genius grinned. She’d simply cut out the middleman.




Yes, sadly this is documented in that dossier known as my Baby Book. I did question Grandma once to see what she remembered. Her memory consisted of my odd list and following me home, laughing all the way.

Hey, so I was creative at a young age. I got my chocolate chip cookies, didn't I?


.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What Planet Am I On?

Yesterday when I left for work, I'm pretty sure I brought my brain with me. It's a silly habit, actually. Keeping my brain firmly attached and using it to, oh, I don't know...think things through before I speak or act. Yes, I know. Very intellectual of me, given the current state of male Republicans from S.C. who yell and refuse to apologize or screw up and won't STOP apologizing to everyone but the woman who has been publicly humiliated.

Yesterday I got a taste of humiliation. Twice. Oddly enough, it appears my crime was that I actually do my job while utilizing my braincells...which makes me, try to follow me here...lazy.

Oh yeah, you read that right.

So I'll give you the scenario and you tell me if I need [a] mental counseling [b] job counseling [c] a vacation or [d] all of the above. I automatically ruled out a hit man just because I'm also cursed with morals and principles.

For almost seven years, I have performed my job in the morning and assisted a co-worker in the afternoons. Bottom line: she never wanted to be in charge and the Boss shushed her concerns away, offering her the necessary assistance to do the job.

Hi, my name is Necessary Assistance. No, you don't get paid extra for two jobs.

Said co-worker is old enough to retire but won't. Why? She doesn't want to. Yet she's told me numerous times she knows she's not well educated and frankly, the children get on her nerves. They really do. Sometimes she curses at them, sometimes she just walks away to have a smoke. Her saving grace is that she doesn't mind helping out, as long as you tell her exactly what to do. She shuns planning, as if it points out her failings and every attempt to show her that the computer is for more than playing solitaire has fallen on deaf ears. My "job" was originally to offer helpful suggestions on how to expand her program. After all, in today's world, everything is all about "the numbers". So I share, she ignores and I use the rest of my time helping the kids. The kids I like. 5th grade math...not so much.

Unfortunately, I'm in the unenviable position that complaining to the Boss would fall on deaf ears. And even if someone did listen, I'd still remain tied to this woman for budgetary reasons. A woman who has a very bad temper and doesn't mind unleashing it. I do not want to be on the receiving end of it, for it is not a pretty sight. So for the past year I've quietly helped the children with their homework while she hides in the office, playing computer games. I believe that "what goes around, comes around."

Funny, I didn't think it would come around and smack me in the back of the head when I wasn't looking.

Seems that yesterday, on one of the rare occasions said co-worker is suppose to aid me, she was in the kitchen, sharing stories with my Community Service worker. [For those of you who don't live around here, Judges often sentence those have done petty, non-violent crimes to "Community Service", in effect making them free janitorial labor for government agencies.] I had no idea she was so creative. My worker was so horrified, she cornered me when the woman left.

It seems my list of crimes are:

I am lazy.
[The proof? I refused to mop HER building this summer. She had 4 paid employees, I while alone was responsible for my own site in a building literally 4 times the size of hers]

I never mop or clean...until I have a worker to do it for me.
[Interesting. Guess I just make the trash levitate out of the building on Fridays and ask the toilets to clean themselves. Why doesn't that work at home?]

I refuse to help with the children, leaving her to handle things all alone while I sit and read.
[I'm breathing deeply here...give me a minute. It's allergy season. I don't go outside for a few weeks, twice a year. I've now been diagnosed with asthma...not going to volunteer to sit in the pollen. She sits on a bench, yells at the children, smokes and watches them play. All THREE of them].

I won't help with homework.
[Funny, I'm the only one over the age of 12 who understands it].

The worker apologized to me, saying she didn't want to be mean but I'd been so nice to her and she'd seen me work so hard, she found it all confusing. I smiled. It's what I do when I'd like to put my hand through a wall over the unfairness of life but don't want the medical bills. I thanked her for sharing. And I shut up.

The co-worker will soon begin to worry. I had little to say yesterday. I will have even less to say today. For you see yesterday I learned that when I was out sick, there were new rules laid down. Sad rules.

Said co-worker had helped the ONLY child we had yesterday with a math problem. She stepped outside for a moment to speak to someone and he turned to me. As soon as he opened his mouth to ask for help, he shut it and mumbled.

"What?" I asked kindly, thinking he was just embarrassed.

"Never mind," he sighed. "I can't break the rules." When I inquired as to what rule he meant, he said like a man walking on death row, "The one where if she helps me, I'm not allowed to ask you to help me with the same thing. She says we can't do that any more. She says it hurts her feelings if we go to you for help."

This kid is a pain in the butt. Big time. But I felt so sorry for him because he was truly confused about this turn of events. So in a very calm voice I replied, "It's okay. We won't break the rules."

The woman returned, answered another question and then declared she was going out for a smoke. As she turned to leave, she told the boy, "It's okay for you to ask her for help now. I'm busy." Neither of us replied.

When she was clear of the door, the boy looked at me and said, "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure".

"Cause you always tell us the truth. Does it hurt your feelings if I ask you something, then ask her the same thing?"

"No," I sighed quietly, angry at that moment only because this grown woman had made an 11 year old boy feel evil.

"I don't get it," he sighed loudly, waiting for an explanation.

As quickly as possible, I reminded him of a day that he'd told me something about school, then the girl next to him told me the same thing. But they'd used different words. Told it in two different ways. I tried to gently explain that we don't all learn the same way, so there are times it might take once or twice....or more....until we understand a concept.

"I get it," he said with a smile. "She gets mad a lot more than you do. And you like us."

I wanted to hug him. Instead I told him how smart he was and I was able to say the same to his doubting father, when he came to pick the boy up. He's trying really hard, I added. I'm proud of him.

In a way, as angry as I am at the irony of doing all the work and being called the lazy one, I'm proud of me. After all, I could've marched up to her angrily and pointed a finger in her face while yelling, "You lie!"

But that 's not me. No, as I prepare to go again this afternoon, knowing how badly she's spoken of me after I've done most of her job all these years, one thought goes through my head....

Lady, what goes around comes around. Good luck. My brain and I are searching for the exit.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Flash Friday

Once again it's time to play "Can you write a story in only 55 words?" If you decide to play, make sure you let the G-man know.

Okay, once more into "Memoir Land" and then I'll work on changing my theme..unless someone is just breathlessly awaiting another chapter in my life. But if you're about to protest about the theme remember, I've been sick this week. Give me a break! [If this confuses you, kindly check my last 2 Flash Fiction Fridays...I'd link it, but I'm late to work].



First there’d been the sacrifice of the blue Chevy.

Then she’d arrived, ineligible to wear blue booties.

As Wednesday’s child she was “full of woe.” Great, another word for the blues.

They always painted her bedroom blue.

Was it any wonder her favorite color was life affirming green?

Ah yes, sunshiny yellow mixed with…..

...blue.

Wanted: REAL Representation

South Carolina native voter with brain and manners in tact, in search of human being able to function as a political representative of the people of this state. It is understood that the words "human being" and "political representative" used in close proximity may appear to be an oxymoron.

Individuals wishing to apply for the position should be willing to actually show up for work and not take unscheduled mystery vacations on government time/money in order to decide if Argentinian women are preferable to the American one who gave up her Wall Street career to marry said ingrate and almost lost her life while giving birth to their 4th son. The ability to think clearly utilizing the upper brain preferred.

In addition candidates for the position of STATESMAN, which use to mean listening, thinking and then speaking should also be able to apply, at all times, the manners their southern Mama taught them. If unable to keep one's tongue in check during moments of duress in the presence of the President, said candidate should employ, out of his/her own pocket, an assistant who is capable of split second timing and can apply an appropriate strip of duct tape prior to inappropriate comments being caught on CNN and every other news outlet available. Failure to do so would result in a rebate to all constituents, out of said government employee's deep pockets.

FOR SALE: one slightly used Governor and a childish Congressman. Will trade for cow or magic beans.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Note to Self: Do Not Repeat Tuesday

No, I won't bore you with lots of details. Having your week start on Tuesday because you had a Monday holiday is still like starting on Monday....plus it's confusing. Then add an almost asthma attack as you enter the work kitchen and it's time to drop the groceries on the counter and head to the doctor's. Except I don't have a regular doctor as the town I live in is small and the only Doc moved up the road to the next small-yet-bigger town.

So I went to a place called Fast E.R., which is amusingly listed as "Faster Care" on their sign. Interestingly they believe people spend too much time in the waiting room, therefore they guarantee you'll be in a room having your blood pressure taken in less than 30 minutes...or they pay the office visit. The waiting room was full and yet....

...they didn't have to pay for my office visit.

For a person who is a GREAT caretaker and support system for others, I am admittedly a lousy patient. No patience, for one. I have the guy gene for that. "What, it's been 24 hours. Is my body on strike or something? Why in the world do I still feel bad? Enough already!"

Then there's that part where intellect collides with nerves. No, the blood pressure cuff is not designed to hurt anyone. Deep down, I know that. However when that sucker begins to tighten, somewhere deep down inside of me yells, "Hey, cut that out! It's too tight. I didn't come here to be hurt you know." I've learned to prepare the poor nurse in charge of me by relating how I have the world's worst case of "White Coat Syndrome". If you're not familiar, it's the polite term for nerves overpowering intellect to the point the patient appears to vibrate, even levitate, off the exam table. The nurse always smiles politely. Then she gets my BP reading. First she looks afraid, then frowns, deciding it's the machine. Telling her I'm fine and not on the verge of a stroke only makes her take it again. Which of course sends it higher. The only time a nurse ever worked with me was when, after my explanation she looked me in the eye and said, "That makes sense. Let's try again. Ready?" Thus prepared, I did a bit of bio-feedback deep breathing and mind games. My result was so dramatically improved she asked what I'd done.

"Put myself in the hammock in my backyard, swinging slowly with a small breeze tickling my face while I watched clouds," I admitted sheepishly.

"Honey, you need to crawl in that hammock as soon as they strap on a BP cuff," she teased.

She wasn't there yesterday but the male nurse took me at my word when I offered what my REAL BP was...because Hubby got us a BP cuff after my first asthma attack in April. I have lovingly explained to Hubby that I know he did it for my own good, but standing over me while I take it doesn't aid in the results. So I recited the BP and pulse to the Nurse, who smiled and said, "Gee, you're doing a better job than me. I'll make sure to tell the Doc you're not about to lift off."

It is difficult to keep a straight face when a very tall man walks into the room hand extended, gently takes your hand in his and announces, "Hi, I'm Dr. Lecher."

I had two thoughts simultaneously: [a] with flu season kicking off should you be shaking hands? and [b] should I be concerned that I'm noticing how gently you've got my hand, considering your last name?

He was, however a gentleman. One who listened. After listing off that I'd be receiving a steroid shot, breathing treatment, flu test and chest x-ray, he cheerfully announced he would return and we could discuss, "A plan of action."

Shut up! I mentally hissed at my sense of humor, which was clasping it's sides in unexploded laughter while reviewing that the lecher would be back to discuss action.

Ironically the part I dreaded most, the shot, was the lesser of the evils. The nurse was kind and considering you get this shot where the sun don't shine, received my thanks for being the only nurse NOT to use a needle as if it were a dart and my butt the target. I thanked her for not taking out her frustrations on me and she laughed. She set up my breathing treatment and walked out. Next up was a cute little guy who appeared to be all of 14 years old who cheerfully announced he'd be swabbing my nose to test for the flu. Politely asking me to lean back slightly, he then rammed the world's longest cotton swab up my nose until it touched my brain while he said, "This may sting a little." I'd hardly gotten out the word, "Yikes!" before he plunged it into my other nostril. I found myself thinking, "Don't they tell you NOT to stick cotton swabs into orifices?" He exited before I could say any more....or strangle him with the breathing treatment cord.

All of a sudden, a guy named lecher didn't sound so bad.

And this is the SHORT version, you're wondering? Okay. I didn't have the flu, my x-ray was clear, Doc listened to my concerns as the newly-diagnosed-with-asthma-patient then prescribed something to help with that after the bronchitis has cleared up. I wanted to hug him for the listening part...and yet that name kept me at bay.

As I went to pay, I saw that the waiting room was swelling again and several of the folks there had been given masks to wear. I wondered if swine flu had entered the room after I left it. As if to confirm my concern, the receptionist, a motherly woman who pointed at a cup of new pens when asking me to sign paperwork said calmly, "Keep the pen, wash your hands with the hand sanitizer and when you get to that exit door, run Baby run! That room is filling up with heaven knows what."

I didn't run, but I kept the pen. And my hands were clean. I did walk fast, but not too fast. After all, these folks had a date with Dr. Lecher and I didn't want to give them the wrong idea.

This morning my head's a little loopy from adjusting to new meds and I gave the Q-tips the evil eye when I walked past them. Here's hoping tomorrow is as beautiful and filled with sunshine as this Morning Glory that's hanging around my mailbox. It almost looks as if it's lit from within.



Sunday, September 6, 2009

And I See....

As I began my daily blog reading, my mouse slid toward the tool bar at the top of my screen where many of you "reside". No, I can't fit all of you there but the ones I read most often are at my fingertips, so to speak. The rest are bookmarked for easy access. As I went to click on the first link, I made a funny discovery.

My toolbar has unwittingly become the United Nations of Reading.

It didn't start out that way. The first person I ever added to the list was Shug, my inadvertent catalyst for those to come. His kind answers to my never ending questions evolved into history lessons, discussions of Peter Pan and a way of looking at the world through a different pair of eyes. Poetic eyes. Poetry was something I'd left back in college, but with his help, I've re-discovered it, this time with an adult appreciation which reads for the joy of it, minus the "but what is he REALLY saying?" lectures of school that killed it for me.

Then came Rachel, first with her postcards and musical notes until her book too had a place on my shelf next to Shug's. Next the lovely titian haired Titus came into the picture, followed by Kim Ayres, who let me stare through an entirely new camera lens. Suddenly Scotland had taken the lead on the toolbar.

I don't remember how I discovered Susan, [perhaps that parallel universe we live in] but she became the beginning of "Team Ireland". Adding to my ever growing list of poets and writers, Ken Armstrong was up next, sharing not only his love of words, but music as well...and yes, I'm hooked on Planxty, thank you very much. Next came Radge, our roving bachelor who is looking for love and, thanks to the economy, a new job. Mapstew entertains through his musical choices and I'm looking forward to the day we can talk him into a YouTube video of his own band. Sadly the Moo Man fell off the toolbar after not posting for several months. Radge swears he's alive, Susan claims he's been possessed by Facebook but I suspect the Cows got ticked off with him and are holding him captive in the barn. Sadly, without access to magazines, they have no way of putting together a ransom note.

My toolbar was beginning to remind me a childhood show I watched called "Romper Room". It was aimed at pre-schoolers and featured "Miss Nancy", a sweet, smiling woman who taught us to be kind and have manners. Without all the bells and whistles of the Sesame Street and Electric Company programs my little brother would grow up with, I learned my ABCs in a less colorful manner. But at the end of the show, Miss Nancy would pick up her "Magic Mirror" and begin a soothing, "I see Hugh and Rachel. And Kim and JoAnne. There's Susan and Ken. And I'll see YOU tomorrow!" Sure, the mirror was only a frame which allowed Miss Nancy to look at the camera but when you're 5, you're convinced Miss Nancy is searching for you and your name will come up. Some day.

So my toolbar reminds me of the Magic Mirror. After leaving Scotland and Ireland, I travel on to England [Good morning Dave!] Then for reasons unknown I jump to Canada, [hello Kat, Steven and Bill..you're not an old fart!], then on to say G'Day to Matthew in Australia. Then it's greetings to those in the USA, beginning with Peggy and the G-Man.

So if I haven't mentioned you today, well I'll be looking for YOU tomorrow. In the meantime, here are a couple of photos for Bill that won't leave him guessing.



BEFORE



AFTER

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Care2 Help?

Just a moment ago, I helped feed a child in the Dominican Republic for a month, worked to save an acre of Rain Forest and made a mark against Global Warming which also offset my computer's energy usage for today.

All I did was click my computer mouse.

A few years ago, I stumbled across the Care2 website while searching for e-card greetings. They had some really funny free e-cards and I noticed when I sent a card, the site thanked me for aiding the environment. I thought they meant that by using a computer card I'd saved a tree. But looking deeper I discovered that for every card I sent, a corporation made a donation to save some portion of our environment...or the people of planet Earth.

When I dug a little deeper, I discovered clicking on a few more items would aid additional social causes through more corporate donations. So for a year my "click" went towards saving the Rain Forest, one acre at a time. The site even keeps statistics for you, to let you see a concrete number of how your attention actually aids others. For the past two years, my click was designated to feed a child in a Third World country. With the children's program, you see an actual face and read a profile about the child's life. It's much more personal than merely writing a check to "Charity".

When I went to click yesterday, the site had changed. Updated. New and Improved. And because it was so darn easy, I added "Global Warming" to my clicks. According to the accompanying text, "100% of the donations raised go directly to Carbonfund.org, which supports renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects globally that reduce carbon dioxide emissions and the threat of climate change."

And all I did was click.

Signing up is free. They'll even let you sign up for free daily reminders with a link to your site of choice. And there are plenty of choices. So what's the catch?

I wouldn't call it a catch so much as a lesson learned. Often the group will offer you an opportunity to sign a petition for a worthy cause. Think "Save the Whales" or "Keep our Park lands away from Developers", with a kindly worded message as to the harm such an action could cause. I signed one. Unfortunately what they didn't mention was that they sent a rather warmly worded form letter to my political representative, then added my signature. I had no idea I'd done more than note "me too!" on the petition I'd read until a member of the Rep's office sent me an e-mail explaining how my position was a little over the top. After I sent a "Huh?" reply, the form letter was sent to me. Lesson learned.

So although I stay away from the petitions, I pick causes which I feel strongly about. I can make a difference....using the corporate dollars of environmentally concerned business. And in this economy, that's not such a bad thing.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Flash Friday

Once again it's time to play "Can you write a story in only 55 words?" If you decide to play, make sure you let the G-man know. Due to popular demand (can you consider 2 requests a demand?) this week takes up slightly after where last week left off.


The arrival hadn’t been totally unexpected. In fact, they’d had months to ready a room. All they needed now was to patiently await Jeffrey’s arrival.

On the cold January day when he finally arrived, they were…

…shocked.

Jeffrey was a girl.

They hadn’t considered that.

Perhaps this parenthood thing wasn’t going to be so easy.


Ah, tis true. Although they turned out to be swell parents, if you'd gone by my infamous beginnings as their first born, you might've wondered. First I turned out to be a bit of a honeymoon souvenir surprise. At least I was born in a time when the car was the first item to be considered expendable rather than the baby-on-the-way. And yet they were still a little in shock I suppose. Which is what I'm going to choose to assume was the reason they'd only picked out a BOY'S name. Silly me, turning out to be a girl. How inconvenient. So they did what any respectable couple of that day would do. No, I was not named for either Grandmother. Thank heaven. I loved them both dearly but one was "Edna" and the other "Hazelene".

No, my parents picked up the local newspaper, turned to the "What's Playing at the Movies" section and chose my name from amongst the movie stars gracing the local theater. As some of you know, it wasn't "hope". In semi-full disclosure I will admit the movie was "Pal Joey". My middle name, which Susan knows is Susan, was in honor of Mom's best friend in high school.

The irony is I would later discover that the "star" wasn't even using her own real name. No, the Screen Actor's Guild noted that this woman's birth name was already being used by another actress...a blonde chick named Marilyn Monroe. And yes, say it with me, that wasn't Marilyn's real name either. [Hers was Norma Jean Baker]. Wonder if it's some name quirk of fate that has ME appearing as "hope"?

I joked with Susan about writing the world's shortest memoir. I teased Titus that perhaps I should write a book featuring just 55s to be titled, "For those who have no time to spare....or the attention span of a gnat." Hmmm. You tell me. More little memoir tidbits or move on to another topic?