Saturday, July 24, 2010

So I'm Sitting in the Airport in Cleveland. . .

. . .waiting to board my flight for Houston to meet my MSW girls for the first time ever. I haven't slept in about a week from excitement, and am figuring I'll just nap on the plane so that I arrive refreshed and rested. Except someone tapped me on the shoulder and my plans went right out the window. I LOVE surprises and this will forever rank as one of the best moment of my life!
Sneaking Up on Lori

Thursday, July 22, 2010

T-1. . . . Blastoff!

There used to be a commercial for toilet bowl cleaner that showed a woman playing tennis, who'd stop mid-serve and exclaim "I'm cleaning my toilet bowl!"
Well, in a small town in northeastern Ohio, I sit blogging and can gleefully exclaim "I'm charging my camera battery!"
Of course, I could also say "I'm charging my laptop!" and "I'm washing my new underwear!" and "I'm letting my hair dry!" because I am actually in the middle of about 4000 things I've got to wrap up tonight in order to get on a plane tomorrow.
Because after months - nay, seemingly EONS - of waiting, tomorrow I finally get to meet 14 women who are as dear to me as my IRL BFF's despite the fact I've never laid eyes on 'em. We all came together online at My Sketch World a couple years back when Lucy Chesna started the site, and we've been scrapping and laughing and kvetching together ever since.
And tomorrow, 15 of us finally get to meet in person.
The only impression I have of what these ladies look like comes from their avatars on MSW. Most everyone uses a cute picture of themselves or their kids or their dogs. I use Calvin up there, mostly because I'm a Calvin and Hobbes freak, but also because I like the sentiment. Not that I expect to play naked in Houston, but who knows? Whatever happens in Houston will stay in Houston.
Frankly, I'll be fortunate to show up with everything I need for our day of scrapbooking at Archivers. Those of you who know me IRL probably have a difficult time picturing me without anything to say so I'm not sure I'm going to get much scrapping done anyway what with 14 new friends to chat with. I'm just packing stuff that I can move around on a page so it will look like I'm scrapping.
We're spending Sunday touring NASA which is going to be FASCINATING. I'm hoping they'll let us push buttons or fly something, but I'm not holding my breath.
However, none of this will happen unless I sign off and start making stuff fall into suitcases. I expect that Ken will be enjoying every bit of silence while I'm gone, knowing that I'll talk his ear off once I get back.
Houston - ready or not, here we come!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Better Angels

She looked like any one of a thousand cute, skinny girls with glasses, bangs and her hair in a ponytail. You know the type - sweet, maybe a hard luck case, just barely out of that gawky stage. Probably 19 or 20. She's the waitress that always smiles and never forgets how you like your eggs, or the nurse's aid you found reading to your mom or the babysitter you just can't do without. She's that girl, I could tell.
They were standing just outside the dressing room in JCPenney's. She had her back turned to an equally skinny guy a little older than her, and was holding up her hair with one hand while he worked the zipper on the back of the dress she was trying on.
He finally managed to get her zipped and she scooted back into the first dressing room. The guy (who was more of a kid, really) shoved his hands in his pockets and tried his best to look comfortable standing in the doorway to a ladies dressing room.
I smiled as I stepped past him and went into the next open stall to try on a sundress.
"Jessie?" I heard him say. "Can I see how you look?"
There was no reply for a minute and then I heard a small voice say "It's so beautiful." A door opened and Jessie must have stepped out in her dress because there was a lot of quiet conversation back and forth. I heard "princess" and "too expensive" and then the door closed again.
I knew the sundress I had wouldn't fit me but I loved the color. I squinted at my image in the mirror trying to make the dress work, and thought about some memorable people I've met in the past five months.
The kid at KMart trying to buy frozen chicken and cereal and bread with a mostly used gift card.
The homeless woman in the bakery having a cup of free coffee but no breakfast.
The tattooed man in front of me at Target, working a pile of gift cards to buy a Wii Fit for his mom who just came home from rehab.
The dad at the cheap movies trying to stretch a small popcorn and a bottle of Sprite between three little kids.
I took off the sundress and put it back on the hanger. It was a beautiful shade of coral. I got dressed, opened the door and headed out into the store. In a corner off to the left stood Jessie and her boyfriend next to a Levi's display for ladies capris. On the shelf was a pile of wadded up bills and some coins. Jessie was searching through her purse. The boy was going through his pockets.
"I've got $22.53," the boy was saying as he dropped another dime and two pennies on the shelf.
"I don't need this dress," she said. "It's too expensive."
"Yes, you do," the boy replied. "You're beautiful."
"It is," she said, eyeing the dress. You could tell from her voice that wearing it made her feel beautiful.
I opened my wallet and took out a $20 bill.
She had a dusting of freckles across her nose and a tiny scar in her eyebrow, and brown eyes that were huge. "Enjoy your dress, " I said and put the bill in her hand. As I moved away, she swallowed and looked at the money in her hand then at her boyfriend. He just stared at me with his mouth open.
"Ma'am, " Jessie called, holding out the twenty toward me. "I can't take this!"
"Yes, you can," I told her. "You looked gorgeous in that dress - enjoy it."
And then I walked out of the store, trying not to grin. Just as I had walked out of KMart, the bakery, Target and the movie theatre trying not to grin.
Don't write comments of praise. Please don't tell me what a good person I am. I owe a debt.
A few months back, someone I don't know did something incredible for me - something kind and generous and meaningful.
I can't pay this person back, even if mere money could equal what I've been given. I can't write a thank you note, even if new words were invented big enough to hold my gratitude.
But I can help the Jessie's of this world when I find them as a sort of honor to someone who was kind to me. I openly admit that there's a selfish element at work here, too, that can't be overlooked. My offering of help is so small compared to the blessing I received but you know what? It gives me that same can't-stop-grinning feeling I had when I first heard about this wonderful person's generous gift to me.
I wonder if they knew they were giving a gift that keeps on giving.
I was raised by a thoughtful and generous family who always found some way to help those less fortunate, even when they didn't have two nickels to rub together. That is how I learned the difference between having money and being wealthy.
Somewhere tonight, a girl named Jessie twirls before the mirror in a dress that makes her feel as beautiful as she really is.
And somewhere tonight is a kind and generous person who showed me once again that there are better angels in all of us.
Both have given me something priceless, and I am wealthy beyond measure.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I Badge You Not

My new job has quite a few elements that are new to me. For one thing, I've never worked at a company so large that I don't know everyone. Another new and delightful element is that I am officially working for The World's Nicest Boss. And this isn't just my assessment - every employee I've met tells me that. And they are correct.
The other thing I'm not used to is having to use a security badge.
When I got my badge, the first thing I noticed was that - compared to everyone else's photo where their heads come up to the top of the picture - I sort of look like I'm trying to peek over the top of something since there's quite a bit of background showing above my head. Other than that, my picture didn't look as goofy as I expected so I clipped it right to the collar of my jacket as soon as I got it and then walked around all day grinning like a fool, wearin' my badge.
I've got Geeky New Girl down pat.
And it turns out there are a ton of opportunities to use your badge when you're the New Girl especially if your penchant for getting lost is as keenly developed as mine is. So far, I've gotten lost between buildings, gotten lost in buildings, gotten lost on my floor, lost in my department and one day I lost the ladies room completely. Since one's badge is needed to get into buildings, onto some floors and into some ladies rooms, having one is pretty convenient.
There's nothing really special about the design of my badge - my name and photo are on a card attached to a clippy thing with a piece of fishing line that winds and unwinds so that you can lay the card against the reader thingy and unlock the door. If there was no fishing line, you'd have to smash your chest up against the wall every time you wanted a door to open, which would actually be pretty comical but also pretty embarrassing.
But mostly pretty comical.
Since my second day, I've refrained from clipping my badge onto the front of my actual person. Instead, I keep it on my desk and just grab it whenever I need it like all the other grown ups
who work here. If I go to the ladies room, I grab my badge. Head out to lunch - grab my badge. Go to the mailroom in the next building- grab my badge. Leave work for the day - grab my badge.
Except for last Thursday.
Somehow, I left my badge lay on my desk when I went home. This wouldn't really be a big deal, except I spent 22 minutes Friday morning cleaning out purses, vacuuming the car, sorting through the trash and checking every room in my house in search of my "lost" badge. Finally, I left for work without it, but phoned Ken several times with helpful ideas about new places he could look for my badge.
Once at work, I figured I'd just stop by Human Resources and tell them I needed a new badge and everything would be fine. It wasn't until I pulled into the parking lot that I remembered - helllloooooooo - I wouldn't be able to get into the building where HR is because I didn't have my badge.
I turned off the car, picked up my Blackberry and looked around. There! There was a guy getting out of his car to enter a building. Quick like a bunny, I hopped out of the car and ran toward him. I slowed to a walk as I got near and sure enough - he badged his way into the building and then held the door for me. This gentlemanly gesture did not bode well for company security as a whole, but it was wonderful for me.
I nodded my thanks and entered the building ahead of him, walking purposefully down the hallway like I knew where I was going. He took the first left which allowed me to slow down to get my bearings. I'd come to some sort of lobby with a very nice, very tall sculpture in it. I was so early that the receptionist wasn't at her desk yet. I remembered that HR was on the first floor, so I poked around for a doorway that would lead me to the HR department. I found a maintenance closet, a training room and coat closet but not HR.
No problem. I'll just find my department, go to my desk and call one of the nice HR people. As I headed back down the hall toward the door, I glanced out the window and across the parking lot at. . . MY building.
If I left THIS building to walk across the parking lot to THAT building, I'd have no way to get in. I looked around hopefully but no one else was nearby who looked as though they were hankering for a stroll.
It was then that I remembered the skywalk. Of course! I'd take the elevator up one floor and just walk across the skywalk to my building. As I left the elevator, I was momentarily distracted by a handsome man in an expensive blue suit who was coming out of the skywalk. His eyes were the exact same shade of dark blue as his suit. I made a mental note that the next time I got lost, I'd like it to be in his department. He said good morning and held the door for me. As I brushed past him, there was an intoxicating whiff of some exotic cologne. I smiled a thank you and then poof! - the door closed and Handsome Man was gone and I was alone in the skywalk.
Right away I noticed two things. It was warm. And it felt very much like a Habitrail with its glass ceiling and walls shot through with bronze beams. I strolled past huge potted plants toward the door at the far end, watching all the cars entering the parking lot between the buildings beneath me. Employees were parking their cars then gathering in little clumps, greeting each other and chatting before heading inside.
I reached the exit door and pulled, nearly breaking every nail off my right hand. The door wouldn't budge. That's when I noticed one of those badge reader thingies next to the door. I looked back down the skywalk to the door I'd come in, and sure enough there was a reader next to it, too. Apparently, this company saw the building of a skywalk as an opportunity to trap intruders and corporate espionage agents like sweaty hamsters with no hope of escape.
I was starting to get really warm. I looked through the walls down to the parking lot and considered banging on the glass till someone noticed. But a vision of Benjamin banging on the glass wall in the church during Elaine's wedding in "The Graduate" popped into my head so instead I whipped out my cell phone. First, I dialed Bev who sits next to me but she wasn't in yet. Then I tried Facilities but they weren't open either. Finally, I called the switchboard and got Mary Ellen, who'd just started taking calls for the day.
After she stopped laughing, she called someone nearby and before too long, another hunky guy opened the door and let me into the blessedly cool hallway.
"You good?" he asked with a grin.
"Fine, thank you," I replied and started off purposefully, wondering around until I found familiar territory and eventually my desk.
Later that morning, The Nicest Boss in the World asked if I was finding my way around okay. I decided not to share my morning's adventure, and assured him I was doing fine.
He picked up my badge and clipped it on my jacket. "Keep that on until you get settled in. Don't want you to get stuck in the skywalk like someone did this morning."
So exactly how do you say "Got it, boss" in hamster speak??

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Easy Peasy Gardening

While at Cedar Point back in the late '60's, my mom noticed a beautiful flowering plant in an impeccably manicured flowerbed next to that big blue slide they used to have. In about two seconds, she had pinched off a piece of that bush, wrapped the snippet in one of her endless supply of mom tissues and stowed it in her white purse. It stayed there for the next 12 hours while we rode, ate and ran our way through the hot Cedar Point sun.
The next morning, there was a bent and dried greenish brown stick in a juice glass on the kitchen windowsill. It looked lonely so my sister and I gave it other sticks to keep it company. Very funny, said mom, and a few days later took her Cedar Point stick outside to plant it. My sister and I made a little marker for it that said "Mom's Stick" so dad wouldn't think it was the kind of stick you run over with the mower. Today, that stick is a bush behind my folks house. We still don't know what kind of plant it is so we just call it the Cedar Point bush.
I don't trust the science of genetics, and here's why: I have a mother who takes dried brown stick things and turns them into beautiful thriving plants. I, on the other hand, can only take beautiful thriving plants and turn them into brown stick things. This is why God made hydrangeas.
You plug 'em in the ground, drizzle some water on 'em and voila! gorgeous bowers of blooms that won't quit all summer. Of course, my mom had hydrangeas, too. When she wasn't looking, we'd take the arm cover off the sofa to use as a veil, cut a cloud of white hydrangeas, kidnap Bobby Henry and make him play wedding with us.
People used to dye their hydrangeas blue and pink by watering them with diluted food coloring. Thanks to the wonders of horticulture, hydrangeas today come in the most beautiful range of whites, creams, pinks and blues. They last a really long time when you cut them which is why I have vases of them stowed in every room in the house. And they are gorgeous when they're dried.
My hydrangeas make me smile every time I look at them. Mostly because even I can't turn 'em into sticks.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Nursey Nursey Me

I've been called upon to be a nursemaid twice this week. Let me just share with you that the sick and ailing of this world have no idea how lucky they are I don't have to do this for a living.
First up was my sister who had some pretty extensive dental surgery last Tuesday and I volunteered to help out. Lin is a nurse so I figured all I'd have to do is maybe rinse out a washcloth or puree a sandwich or something. I am also skilled at hand patting. I didn't grasp the full extent of what she'd be recuperating from, and blithely figured we'd soon be swigging beer and cheating each other at canasta.
Drove her to surgery, picked up prescriptions and got her home afterwards just fine. Later, I went to check on her when she was changing the gauze packing only to find her gaping at the bathroom mirror, checking everything out as eagerly as though she was looking through a 99 cent sale bin at Michael's.
Suddenly, I felt unwell.
When she saw me holding the wastebasket, she nonchalantly tossed in the old gauze. It was about this time that I got hot and sweaty and everything in my vision started turning white. I sat down on the toilet, which Lin took to mean I wanted details. She seemed quite pleased with the state of things and talked on at some length. Thank heavens, I couldn't understand a word she was saying through all the gauze packing she was stuffing in. I put my head between my knees and started reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to myself. Eventually, color returned to the world and I stopped sweating. I was finally able to stagger down the hall behind her and collapse into one of her new leather recliners. Lin took this opportunity to stretch out in the other recliner for a little nap which was fine by me.
I won't go into the rest of the gory details, but all I've got to say is it's a good thing one of us was a tough cookie or I'd never have gotten through the next 24 hours.
Then Sammy (who I know isn't human, but I'm still his dog mom) started acting funny. Sammy is the first one at my feet if I head to the kitchen for any reason. He sits under the dinner table staring at Ken while we eat. Anything that moves in the house or on our walks becomes a toy. In short, the whole world is fascinating to Sammy, and he greets each day with amazing doggie enthusiasm.
But this week, Sammy spent most of each day curled up under my chair or on the floor of the little bath or in his crate. We could occasionally entice him into a game of bouncy ball, but there was none of his typical zoom-doggie mentality. He wasn't at my heels from morning till night, didn't react when I opened the treat jar and just wasn't his normal Sammy self.
So yesterday, we went to see Dr. Jessica. She was so sweet and gentle, and I knew something was up when Sammy allowed his temperature to be taken without trying to curl into a ball as he normally does. He had a slight temperature but everything looked normal, so Dr. Jessica wanted to do some blood work and test Sammy's urine. Since Sammy was doing his best to climb into my armpit and looked so pathetic, Dr. Jessica said Sammy might be more comfortable if I had a role in taking blood. My role would be to Hold the Dog. This was fine by me (and Sammy).
But my role in the urine thing was to Be the Urine Collector.
No problem. Give me a rubber apron, goggles, hip waders and rubber gloves and I can collect anything.
Nurse Bitzi handed me a metal bowl about four inches wide and two inches deep that looked for all the world like it could double as a doggie hat if Sammy ever decided to run away and join the circus. I looked at her.
"It's for the urine," she explained, helpfully.
". . . and. . . ?" I asked, densely.
"Well," she smiled. "You just. . .umm. . .hold it under when Sammy goes. Would you like me to do it for you? We do it all the time."
"No no, " I said. "I've got it." On a good day, Sammy is one shy dog when it comes to his bathroom habits. All I needed was for something to freak him out while he was potty-ing and I'd be making daily appointments for doggie catheterizations.
So out the door we headed. Sammy was quite excited about leaving the vet's office to wander around the yard sniffing and marking all the places other dogs had been.
Except he wasn't expecting his mom to suddenly thrust an upside-down doggie hat at him while he was . . . .you-know-whatting. Poor baby - he jumped straight up in the air as far as his leash would go. His back foot caught the edge of the dish/hat and it went flying toward Charlie, who skittered as far in the opposite direction as he could go.
Suddenly, I'm stretched out like a scarecrow and my shoe is wet.
I gathered everyone up, retrieved the dish/hat and after awhile was able to drag two dogs back into the vet's with our prize. I can't say for sure that we had an audience, but I did notice Bitzi wiping her eyes when we came in.
Fortunately, Dr. Jessica called to say Sammy's blood work was normal. This morning, he fairly knocked me down getting to his bouncy ball and is back to eating and playing and hanging out in the kitchen in case someone drops food. Whatever he had seems to have disappeared.
And I talked to Lin yesterday and she sounded wonderful. What a trooper.
So, let's recap.
In accordance with the Hippocratic oath we medical types follow, I have not harmed anyone and both my patients are doing well.
I did, however, have to throw out one very nice pair of sandals.
And I now know that I never, ever want to hear the words "you" and "dental surgery" used in the same sentence. But if I do, I'll need Nurse Linda, Lapdog Sammy and Sidekick Charlie to get me through it.