Friday, May 30, 2008

Sect in the City

The children are being returned to their parents.

I'm so confused.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggidy Jig

I'm off the futon and back in my bed!

But thank you Roger for providing that futon for the past three months!

I've got a fridge full of food and friends to share it with.

And thank you Roger for those coupons that cut almost $50 off the bill for stocking my new digs with everything from cleaners to cold drinks.

Two nights ago we moved the first items through the door.

Thank you Stan, Robert, Ken, Becky, Gary, Traci and once again Roger for hauling and Jerry for doing that thing you do so well -- taking my stuff and making it look like it belongs.

For every action there is a reaction.

I moved. I'm sad to leave Roger behind.
I moved. I'm happy to see familiar things displayed in new ways and in a new place.

Home again with the people I love surrounding me.

Ahhhhhh . . .

Monday, May 26, 2008

Home for the Holiday

I was told as a child that my hometown got its name because some railroad men who were traveling through said, "That's some mighty green fields out there."

This weekend Greenfield lived up to its moniker.

The greens were in abundance -- winter wheat, beginnings of new (and for me) unidentifiable crops, trees stocked full of leaves, vines about to break forth with berries, and lawns that serve as more than an outline for the house which sits on the lot (McMansions are prevalent in Houston, but not Greenfield)offered up a smorgasbord of variations on the hue.

AND speaking of smorgasbords . . . my mother was at it again. Though my stepfather has been ill and she's his primary caretaker (you can take the nurse out of the clinic but not the caregiving out of the nurse), she laid down the spreads.

Since she's fallen pretty big time for my current roommate and "adopted" brother Roger, I think she was showing off. Friday night we arrived to ham, kraut with polish sausage, butter beans, turnip greens, Mexican cornbread and a peach cobbler. Saturday we attended the alumni banquet at my school because mom's class was celebrating their 60th and Sunday mom broke out the homemade tamales. Good eats!

I kept accusing Roger of trying to find his way into a non-existent will. He was the consumate Southern boy. He sat on the porch and chatted with them about life in the small town. He greeted every stranger as though they were long lost relatives. And he sweat his way through moving trailers, cleaning outdoor furniture and the first few hours indoors before he discovered they hadn't yet switched the central heat and air to air!

I value each visit home these days. Illness reminds you of the fragility of bodies and time. I relished the moments with my sister as she exercised and we both commented on the country music artists and programming on CMT. (They have a makeover show for mobile homes!) I jumped at the chance to walk with my brother and we exercised both our minds and our bodies as we covered everything from politics to relationships . . . without worrying about how far apart or close together we might be.

I visited the electronics lab that has given my brother-in-law the chance to finally put all the pieces of what's crashed around in his mind for so long together in some amazing ways. The fact that he gets to teach and inspire others is no surprise. I saw my sister-in-law who has been the ever present Karen to Kelly's "womb to tomb" Kelly and Karen package (those are his words, not mine) laugh and be the grandmother she was meant to be. I marveled at my beautiful and intelligent nieces and said the silent prayer of the non-mother that they always realize what they have and live up to the investment their parents have made in their lives. And I saw the difference time maps out on the bodies of old friends and adults I've admired since childhood.

Oh, yes, and we said hello to Daddy and Grandmother. It being Memorial Day and all, a stop by the cemetary on a morning walk seemed appropriate. Plus Roger had never "met" them.

All in all, the fields were ripe unto a harvest of good times. Greenfield indeed.

English Majors Don't Always See How Things Add Up

I've spent the majority of my life trying to "do unto others as I would have them do unto me."

Recently, I realized something about that Golden Rule.

Expectations of a return on that particular investment aren't part of the equation.

For example, I can listen because I would like to be listened to. But the moment I expect the "listen-ee" to become the "listen-er" I've set myself up for disappointment.

To some degree, this realization was the equivalent of learning that 1 + 1 does not always equal 2.

I was never good at math.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

It's May!

I may move into a nice, big townhome for the next five months.

I may get my beloved old apartment back in October.

I may not be the wandering vagabond.

I may miss the borrowed space, beds, futons, couches, closets, storage sheds and attics where I and my things are stored.

But I will definitely remember it all and be grateful.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Not Too Big On Collections

I know people who collect corks from wine bottles emptied at significant events/experiences. I met a woman yesterday who collects bottle caps. My sister used to have an amazing collection of items from the 70s, including several feet of a gum wrapper rope she'd once created. Now she's into all things purple and camels. My brother is into anything Richard Petty has lent his name to. I love the stories behind these eclectic galleries of sorts. But I rarely have the room.

And then there are those folks who collect disease, disasters, and doom. You know them. They can list every bad thing that's happened of late and are on alert for what surely is the black cloud looming around the corner of what is currently Sunshine Street. While some have perfected this perverse Easter egg hunt of rotten fouls, all of us have the tendency. I caught myself last week. I was easily able to tick off a list of why I was so ticked off.

But I've never been much of a collector (though I was accused once of collecting colorful friends). And I realize that I have control over the voice inside my head who stands ready at the white board to list yet another injustice I might have suffered.

I can send the voice packing. Take the eraser and make this week a new week, this day a new day.

Am I saying we ignore patterns? Absolutely not. I believe strongly in identifying and addressing when we "keep doing what we've been doing in order to keep getting what we've been getting." Self-awareness is the first step they say and I'm a believer.

Still correction is a big step away from collection.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bite By Bite

A professional volunteer (such as yours truly) goes to a lot of "events." Fundraisers mostly, these gatherings are in lovely homes, around pools, in galleries. They sometimes support a charity. Sometimes they are related to a cause. Other times it's about a person.

For me, it's about the food.

I've always been about bite-sized bits. Love 'em. Since learning that not all restaurants serve the entres wrapped in paper and their drinks in paper cups with plastic lids, I discovered the meals that could be made out of the appetizer section of the menu. Later in life, I learned I was into what those in Spain call "tapas." Who knew I was so cross cultural while chowing down at Fridays?

So party food hits me square on the palate. Take the napkin and fill it with the array of tiny morsels wrapped in wontons, tidied up with tarts, rolled to perfection, or dipped for your dining pleasure.

I feel therefore it's my duty to report a recent trend.

Two events less than 24 hours apart netted me a bounty of asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.

While keeping you posted on culinary trends might add a few pounds to my ever widening hips, I know an obligation when I see one and I'm ready to take one for the team (as long as it's not softball, see below).

And though I've come a few miles from Greenfield and now wear a cocktail dress and make small talk with the best of them, I must confess a fact. Every time I see that asparagus and realize its cost as well as that of the upscale ham that hugs it so tightly, I can't help but think of Grandmother. She used to pull to the side of the country roads so we could stop and pick the wild asparagus that grew freely there. She'd then come home and add some Campbells Cream of Something and top it with some cheddar and Saltines and voila! we had ourselves some asparagus casserole. The ham was reserved for biscuits the next morning.

Gotta tell you ... might have traveled a few miles but if she were here right now and set one of her kitchen treasures before me, I'd eat every last bite.

Bite-sized bliss comes in many forms.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I Was Supposed To Be the Bench Warmer

What's the best medicine for feeling ignorant and inept? Why, softball of course!

As I mentioned earlier, I've been on a learning curve that gives the Cyclone a run for its roller coaster money. Yesterday proved to be no exception with a few successes but at the end of the day a nice tidy screw up to heap on the humility pile.

I'm fuming at myself for omitting a critical piece of information that my boss had to track down as I'm driving to Friday night's supposed diversion -- a softball game.

I haven't played softball in 20 years. And when I did, I was there strictly to round out the team so they wouldn't have to forfeit. I know the positions that person plays -- catcher or right field. I have no delusions of grandeur. I breathe, I can squat or stand with no problem, and I like to have fun.

Silly me! Who knew I was joining the Cutthroat League? I do have the satisfaction of knowing that I won the first game for them. If I and another woman (who wanted to be there slightly more than me but that was only because she was married to one of the guys) hadn't been there they wouldn't have been able to get the forfeit from the team that didn't have enough women.

My MIS (man-I'm-seeing, because at our ages, he's not my boyfriend) is the pitcher and he's seriously into playing this game. He's also the sort of coach, though another guy has the title. AND THAT GUY PUT ME ON SECOND!!!

People like me do not play the infield! I was actually heading to right when he said, "You're at second."

Aghast, I looked at him questioningly. He returned with the look of "I'm in charge, don't question me." So I headed to second -- which of course was wrong.

My MIS pointed to the spot away from second that I was to be stationed. He then assured me that the team would "look out for me" and then I heard the chatter as the men and women at first, short and third began to plot how they would compensate for the hole (that would be me).

The forfeiting team wanted to scrimmage and wound up being lots more fun than my team. I'm told that it was because they were so good and winning that they were laughing and teasing me. I think the beer they'd smuggled in might have had something to do with it.

My team wasn't evil. They were just focused. They "coached" each other after a bad play. They kicked at themselves after a bad play. Most of them shared "one of the main things you need to remember about softball" with me and of course, none of those things were the same. I was being told when to hang back, when to move left, when to move right, what base to over run, what base I couldn't, where to hold my bat and hundred other things.

I also got yelled at. Seems standing in the way of a center fielder who's barreling a ball at several miles per hour in your direction when he really means to be getting it to short is not a good idea.

Neither is catching with you bare hand but I'd done that by this time so what more could I lose? (By the way, the term "softball" is a mistake. It's not and I have the bruise to prove it.)

By the time the third inning of the real game we played came around I had determined I was experiencing the levels of hell, that the 7th inning stretch would have a whole new meaning to me as I recalled my own experience with Dante's Inferno.

By the fourth inning I was trying not to tear up as the MIS asked me yet again if I was ok. Deciding his pleasure at playing this so-called game was greater than my pain, I informed him my hand hurt and that I was enduring the experience but I didn't go into any details. Didn't have to. He saw the tears forming.

Eventually my nightmare ended. Only after, though, the final inning when it had been announced we could still win if we got four runs. Two were already accomplished by the time I was warming up. The guy ahead of me was a hotshot and I was silently chanting/praying/whatever to the powers that be that he not show off and make an out (which would have been the second). BUT NOOOOOOOOO! He stayed true to form, got out and I walked to the plate knowing I'd be the third.

I did not disappoint.

Later, the MIS remarked that I did great, they were grateful for me coming, and I would REALLY enjoy it next time.

That's when I informed him there would be no next time.

I know sports are a joy for some. But unless I'm laughing at myself (which I couldn't do with this crowd) sports has never been my joy spot.

Still isn't.

I wonder if there's a competitive laughing team I can get on?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Two Months of Feelings. . .

I've spent the past couple of months feeling ignorant. Note that I did not say stupid, however. I know things. I just didn't know the kind of things I needed to know to be the kind of worker I wanted to be.

So for two months, I've dug in. I listened, asked questions, made tons of mistakes, listened some more, tried and tried again.

Today I feel more aware of how much I depended upon people who do the kinds of things I've been learning. People like Tish, Linda, Sharon and many, many more were the people I gave things to and then miraculously saw the idea that had been in my head become a reality. Mail merges, labels, printing and a plethora of other assignments took place while I went on to the next task.

Today I feel grateful.

I also feel ready to no longer feel so ignorant. I can copy a column in Excel now, sort data, create labels and no longer cringe when the online database is mentioned as our go-to source for something. But I'm no expert. I still have more questions than answers. But as of this week, I also have help. Two interns are taking on a load of the work that for two months fell solely on my desk.

Like I said, today I feel grateful.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


The beautiful young man standing before me was physically strong and soul weary. I could tell as soon as I asked the standard, "How ya doin?" His "fine" was of the "not-so-great" variety.

We aren't friends. I've only met him a couple of times and both of those were at professional functions. But he's standing there, waiting. So I go deeper.

Sure enough, he's ready to unload. A few minutes later, I've learned the job that has us both scrambling at the moment was a distraction. He went to school for architecture. He then got into a political science class and with his personality found himself the target of recruiting by candidates. Several campaigns later, he's ready to return to the classroom and build something other than ideas. (Though his ideas for buildings still include using materials and financing that will help the "little guy.")

I enjoyed listening. I felt no need to fix him. And after spending a few minutes with his returned dream, he was energized once again. That's when it felt ok to tell him my favorite metaphor.

When I was just out of school, I had the privilege of starting fast and furious on the ladder climb. I had the personality to propel me. And, I soon learned that folks love to look at the flying kite, colorful and bright, darting in and out, taking risks along the treetops and not just surviving but sometimes taking your breath away with its daring and the brillance of the sun behind it.

The thing was -- and at least I knew then as well as now -- the kite is only as good as whoever holds the string. She/he is the strategist, the real risk-taker (and if you've read The Kite Runner you know how strategic the role really is). And though the attention is never on them, without them, there's no flying.

"I'm aware now, in the new roles I'm exploring, that I no longer am the kite. That's for folks like you or the two we're helping get into office," I told him. "I'm happy to hold the string."

"That's good!" his face beamed as he affirmed the metaphor's usefulness. And then more to himself than to me, "Yeah, that's really good."

I thought so.

Ahhh . . . Whew . . .

That's the sound of me breathing. Two months of two jobs and life on a futon and I'm finally at a computer again for something other than lesson plans or databases.

Don't know if anyone is still out there, but if so, here goes.