Thursday, March 31

Promise I'll post tomorrow. Sorry for the delay. Guess who I ran into yesterday? The little red haired girl! Her name is Kayla, she's interning at Crisis Line!

Tuesday, March 29

Memory of a Mentor

Hmmm....what to write about? Going to pick something really really random and give it a whirl. Oh wait - I feel a rabbit trail coming on...

My life has been really rich with amazing mentors. That just occurred to me.

You have to understand that these posts are pretty much written "stream of consciousness". Not as stream of consciousness as As I Lay Dying - but as the thoughts roll out of my head, the fingers type the words. I don't edit much.

So as I typed the words "going to pick something really really random" - my thoughts went to a particular mentor from my life: Joe Campbell. Who was an incredible man. Rarely a week passes that he doesn't cross my mind for some reason or another. In fact, just at dinner this evening, I was discussing geothermal heating/cooling/energy with a friend. And I recall that a house that Joe designed way back in the 60s or 70s utilized that very innovation. I remember him talking about it on his TV show. You see, Joe was one of the many fascinating people that I met while I worked at Lynchburg's public access station.

He had studied the social habits of crows - had raised bees and written a novel about it - had created the first Muppet and then was in a battle over the intellectual property rights with Jim Henson. On his show there were musicians and poets and people with interesting stories to tell. Like the guy who had been on a space ship (not an astronaut...had been on a space ship with extraterrestrials) and folks who communicated with spirits. And one time, when a guest had not showed up for the taping - he told me to write down something on a piece of paper and he would do 30 minutes on what was written there.

I wish I recalled what it was. I remember that as the show unfolded, that I wished I had come up with something better. Joe wanted a challenge - but I think mine fell short of his expectations. And with the experience of several more years with him - and the experience of several more years of just living...I think I would ask him to talk about something far different than whatever simple thing I wrote on the paper.

Here was a man who had this incredible depth of knowledge. Not just knowledge though. Wisdom. He could tell you what the effects of planting basil next to tomatoes would be. He could talk about Egyptology. He could talk about his years in television and radio - which were in the most pivotal years of the development of news and editorial coverage. He knew about politics and religions and cultures and traditions. Plants and animals.

But the most incredible thing about Joe was this: he was a giving and sensitive soul. The person that he was with was the most important person in the world. When you were talking, he was PRESENT. He wasn't thinking about what he was going to say next or what else he had to do that day. YOU were the most important thing going on. What an incredible gift.

And I know that sometimes the stuff that I had to talk about was so stupid. I was young and at the same time I met Joe, I was embarking on an intense romantic relationship with my first real love. And Joe listened to the silly gushing and flirting and was our greatest supporter. Because I met David when we were both volunteering for The Joe Campbell Show. And he thought it was wonderful when we got together. And he was there for both of us when the relationship ended. And he watched us struggle through the adjustment of working together but not being together. And he listened when I fell apart when David fell in love again. And then when David got married. This genius, this writer, this innovator...was always there for me.

So, yes...I think I would ask him to expound for 30 minutes on something deeper than whatever it was I wrote down. But regardless of my failure to learn all that I could have learned from him - he taught me a lot.

Be present in people's lives. Everything else is just secondary.

blogger's note: because one of my followers reminds me that images really help - I wandered off to Google Images to get clip art...even though I thought that this piece was better as just text. On a whim I typed in Joseph Pendleton Campbell and there he was. It took me to a website created by his children after his passing that is about his children's show from 1953. Incredible that I remembered so little about this part of his life. Even more astounded after reading this that he spent so much time with me. Miss you my friend.

Monday, March 28

Parallel Tales of Two Incredible People

Does it count as cheating if it wasn't Coke but was clearly a soft drink?

Here is the situation (short version backstory - I gave up Coke for Lent) - I was invited for Sunday dinner (that is the lunchtime meal on Sunday here in the South) at the home of a lovely woman from church. She is the widow of a former pastor at Centenary and has those Southern manners of a preacher's wife. When she had the choir over for our Christmas Luncheon a couple of years ago she did a seated dinner for about 25 people and had her daughters serving us.

She has beautiful goblets and an immaculate house. And when she had her lovely daughter serve us beverages before dinner on Sunday, I would never have dreamed to say something uncouth like "is that a soft drink? because I gave up soft drinks for Lent." To do so would be incredibly rude. Besides, I very much enjoyed the bubbly Sprite and cranberry juice!

Dinner was lasagna and a mixed green salad. And wonderful Texas toast garlic bread.

The garlic bread kind of stopped my breath for a minute though - although I don't think any of my dining companions noticed.

No, not because of the garlic. Because it reminded me of my friend Kathleen who passed last January. I used to go over to her house for an evening every week or two to read her email to her and help her with little projects on the computer. Mostly it was a social call. She made dinner and often there would be this garlic bread. It comes from the freezer section of the grocery store and was easily heated in her nifty toaster oven. She made some very interesting meals. Salmon chowder, chicken stew, pork chops...but my favorite thing was the Kielbasa Surprise.

She didn't call it that - but that's what it was! The only constant was the Kielbasa and the broth made from soy sauce, pancake syrup and beef broth - then the sky was the limit. It could have anything in it! Corn, beans, chickpeas, black olives, tomatoes, cabbage... It was often weird - but always its own way.

So - for a moment there were all these incredible parallels between Kathleen and my friend who was hosting. And I realized how much I missed Kathleen. She was an incredible woman. She broke the glass ceiling before anybody knew what one was. She pretty much invented the Happy Meal - because the Burger Chef kid's meal FAR predated the one from the clown.

And she was the one who put that all together - the colorful tray, the characters, the TOY (although I best remember the series of Iron-Ons featuring the caricatures of pickles, tomatoes, etc.)!

Kathleen faced the diagnosis of "terminal" more than once in her life. She lost an eye to cancer. She tended a terminal husband for a long period of time. But she traveled; was accepting of a gay nephew without batting an eye; adopted and raised a son; hosted a public access TV show! But I will always remember the evenings just hearing about what her son's family was up to - and reading forwarded email jokes - and eating garlic bread toast.

I think that I should remember to make time - at least one evening every week or so - to spend an evening eating and laughing and hearing the stories of incredible people. I know that I enjoyed my time on Sunday afternoon. I know that the woman who is far more than just a pastor's widow - and I can't wait to hear more stories! Because I got to hear the tale of this refined and genteel Southern lady chasing a purse snatcher through a train station...and beating the would-be thief WITH said purse.

Until the security guard stopped her. And then they were calling her train so she ran and caught it.

Incredible. And she makes very good garlic toast.

Friday, March 25

Pulling in the same direction!!

So...I'm posting because I didn't post last night and one of my followers (who shall remain nameless) said this week: "no pressure, but I'm really disappointed when there's not a new post". No pressure indeed.

I'm tired. But I'm really kinda psyched about tomorrow. It is Spring Cleaning Day at Centenary UMC. I know it is some hard work - but I get to spend some time with my church family in a different type of activity. Sundays at church are about study and worship and fellowship. Something like Saturday's cleanup is about pulling together to accomplish a common goal.

That's a key part of being a family. Reminds me of Saturdays growing up in my own family. Sure we spent a lot of Saturdays playing and goofing off - hiking, fishing (or in my case, hunting for random lures or bugs) or going to G.C. Murphys at Pittman Plaza. (They had one of those old fashioned candy counters where you could get a bag of candy that was like the inside of a Butterfinger...whatever that is called. Ooops....rabbit paragraph to get back on track)

Some Saturdays at our house was about WORK! I recall working in the yard - I'm sure it wasn't all day. And I'm pretty sure that there weren't any overseers whilst we were picking cotton...but sure was a lot of work (in my mind). And about every other month a couple of us would decide to switch bedrooms. Somehow - in a moderate brick ranch - all 5 kids could have our own room. Sometimes we CHOSE to live with each other - and then that would leave us a "playroom". (Read: room full of junk within two weeks) But on the days we decided to "move" - it was an all day affair. Because you had to CLEAN in order to move. But at the end of the day, when everything was (temporarily) in its place...there was a great feeling of satisfaction.

THAT is what tomorrow evening will bring. The end result will be worth the effort - and along the way, we might just have a good time.

We've got spare Swiffer Dusters and Magic Erasers...come on over!! 9-4.

Hamster going to bed so she won't be late!! The boss hates it when I'm late.

Wednesday, March 23

This is what you get when I'm sick...

Ah the blooms of spring. I absolutely love the flowers and the flowering trees. This is one of my favorite seasons.

My nose, however, is closed down. I cannot breathe through it very much. The passages are just - well - impassable.

So between the somewhat fractured sleep of last night and the copious amounts of Sudafed...I'm about out of steam for the day. So - I shall take a risk and go blindly copy and paste another passage from the cookbook I started writing 10ish years ago:

An excerpt from "Oh my God, they're in the driveway!"


Okay, the name thing is starting to get a little desperate. The stuff doesn't really bubble, but it sounded better than BATS WINGS AND BACON-HORSERADISH to be sure. This is the Cadillac of my snack recipes. I have actually been sent out at 1 in the morning to get the stuff to make this one. I consider this one to actually be difficult because I have to cook the bacon. Usually I make the requester cook the bacon, that way I don't get burned by the popping grease. Of course, there's always the wonderful microwave. For those of you who don't have one, I'm not going to say that your life is incomplete or anything. I think that its entirely possible to survive without one. Especially if you have a pacemaker. Do those things still stop with microwaves, or I'm I living in the past? I never actually heard of anyone dying next to their microwave. But I digress. Again. Onward to the actual recipe. Be prepared to blow a whole 15 minutes on this one, maybe even 20 unless you can find someone else to cook your bacon. Of course while you're waiting, you can trim your toenails or something.

  • a block of cream cheese (Soften it any way you want for this one, the bacon grease will serve as a substitute for the butter, though)

  • a splash of milk

  • about 8 pieces of bacon, cooked to a crisp. (note, that does NOT say "burnt to a crisp")

Let me break in for a second to tell you that I've already tried this with bacon bits, and bacos and all those fake bacon things that are supposed to be on salads. It doesn't work, leave them on the salad.

  • about a teaspoon of horseradish (use a little less if its homemade, or if you're not especially fond of horseradish. Use more if you like to watch others nose hairs curl)

** I hope you all are reading this straight through, because I think I am absolutely hilarious, but for those of you who actually have just looked up this recipe and haven't read my instructions for softening cream cheese, check out the first recipe in the chapter. A note to everyone, when taking the cheese out of the microwave, (cook for about 45 seconds, rotate and squish with a fork, then repeat as necessary-shortening the time) be real careful when squishing with the fork because there may be hot pockets of cheese which could POP at you. I lost an eye. Just kidding, you take things too seriously. This time, I don't digress...much. Soft cream cheese, I remember. Break, tear, mutilate the bacon into pieces about the size of a fingernail (not clipping, these are not olives [inside joke, to those of us who are actually reading the book]) Combine the cream cheese and the horseradish, adding it a little at a time, tasting as you go along, when it starts to taste like horseradish and not just cheese, you've got it. If the mixture is too thick and hard to stir, splash in a little milk to make it blend easier, careful though, or you'll have bacon-horseradish soup. Add the bacon and a little grease for flavor. Don't forget to eat some before you serve it, or you won't get any.

At least not at my house.

Monday, March 21

Learned a new trick today...

Sorry so long since the last post.

{excuses deleted}

Did something new today. I loaded the bales of shredded paper headed to the mill for repulping onto a tractor trailer. We send out a load like this about every week. I've always worked hard to schedule these "live loads" for sometime when a talented forklift driver is in town. Today I failed in scheduling....

Most of the guys who load the trucks can do it in about 45 minutes. I took a little over an hour and half. 31 bales of paper, 28 of which are double stacked, go onto a truck. Most of the stacks of bales in the warehouse are stacked 3 high. So sometimes I had to not only grab a pair of 1000+ pound bales of paper, sometimes I had to create my own stacks.

Then the Jenga-like trick is to get them onto the truck and yank the folklift out from under a pair. Kind of like the trick with the tablecloth and the wineglasses. Except it is immensely more difficult to set back up than wineglasses. Sometimes I had to try the "jerk" part about 5 times before the stack would be left and then I got to raise up the forks and poke the stack against the previous ones. That was probably my favorite part. Only once did I lose a stack. And I am here to tell you that 2000 pounds falling onto the floor of a trailer make a thunderous racket.

So then I had two bales lying on their sides...what the heck do I do with that? I just lifted one onto the other, poked them in line with their fellows, and backed out to get the next set. (I did call one of the experienced loaders and he said that was okay...I guess if I get a call from the mill tomorrow complaining, I'll have to own up to doing it).

I was slow. It was tedious. It was nerve-wracking...especially lifting two off a stack of three, putting the top bale above my head. But you know what? I did it. And although I know it isn't a feat worthy of a parade...I still want one.

Hamster un-crushed by falling tonnage.
I think that makes this a good day.

Friday, March 18

A Musical Weekend

Sorry I didn't post last night...I was pooped!! I am getting ready for a great musical weekend.

On Saturday there will be the great Handbell Extravaganza at Heritage United Methodist Church. Our ragtag bunch will be a part of about 150 ringers! Hopefully the large numbers will cover up any errors. I, as you know, do not really read music. And I have very little skill in this level 3 handbell piece is about to kill the few brain cells I have left.

I had a nightmare last night about it. The head of the extravaganza is the director of the Bells of the Blue Ridge, Janet Hawkins. She is a perfectly lovely woman who I have met on several occasions. However, in my dream she was quite the barracuda. During the rehearsal she came over to my station, took the F sharp bell out of my hand and struck me on the head with it. Then she walked over to our director, Mari Smallshaw, and told her she had never heard such before in her life. Then she stripped Mari of her rank in the Bells of the Blue Ridge (in the dream there was a uniform with patches and everything) and Mari then came over to me weeping. "How could you do this to me?" Then I woke up.

Now I know that nothing of the sort is going to happen. And if I am struck in the head with a hand bell it is likely to have been by my own hand. It is going to be a wonderful time. I am looking forward to hearing 150 ringers.

In addition to the 2 pieces that the whole gaggle of us will play, each of the choirs will have a solo. Our choir will perform the lovely arrangement of Amazing Grace that I wrote about before. Ah, level 1...I'm so excited!!

Come on out and watch me count!! 4pm at Heritage United Methodist Church. It will be extraordinary.

Then on Sunday I get to sing a duet on Ave Verum Corpus. Sunday afternoon I plan to nap on the dock at the river.

Wednesday, March 16

Weather and Mood

First of all - I am feeling much better today. I was pretty miserable yesterday. I wasn't sick, really. But was feeling an all-encompassing sense of foreboding. Like waiting for the other shoe to drop, but in this case, I didn't know what the shoe was. And I still don't know what it was - or is. But I'm determined not to give in to the defeated way I was feeling.

It is possible that the weather was causing me to feel this way. I have often wondered about the connection between physical/mental health and the barometric pressure. I have noted on several occasions being "out of sorts" and then having that feeling lift as a storm began or ended.

It is more noticeable with rapidly forming thunderstorms, like those that occur often during the summer in Virginia. But I think that the same effect is present with slower storm fronts or pressure systems. (you would think that I have studied something useful like Meteorology if I claim to be so fascinated by this. I, however, have proven to be quite lazy in this area.)

I also wonder if it is possible that I am more sensitive to these atmosp
heric changes than other people. Like some folks have a heightened sense of smell or very sensitive hearing. I know that it is possible to train one's sense of taste, for example, to accomplish things like becoming a wine taster. I wonder if there is a useful profession for a person who can sense changes in atmosphere. Probably not - they have gauges and satellites for that sort of thing.

I asked my friend Patrick McKee (meteorologist for local NBC affiliate) if he knew of any studies related to this phenomena. Although he couldn't point me to anything specific - he does acknowledge that there seems to be a connection. Especially to physical manifestations like severe headaches at rapid pressure changes. I recall one afternoon at the ballpark - I was setting up for TV coverage of a baseball game and for awhile I had a minor headache that quite suddenly became nearly unbearable. As the thunder and lightning started to crash around us (my crew and I had taken refuge under cover in the stands) the pain began to affect not only my head, but my jaw and teeth - to the point that I would have removed my own eyeball if I had a handy spoon. Then - like a light switch had been thrown - the pain was gone. Minutes later - the storm ended and the sun came out. Though I was a little shaky for a half hour, I was fine the rest of the evening. No trace of headache.

So - to all the wonderful people who let me know that they were thinking about me in my depressed state last night - thank you. It is so great to be loved by my friends. I am recovered for the most part. Looking forward to napping in the sun in the near future.

Navel gazed. Hamster beaten.

Tuesday, March 15

A Dampness in my Soul

I feel a great disturbance in the force. I don't know exactly what is causing this feeling - but starting about 7:00 I started feeling a foreboding pressure.

There is a weather disturbance floating around this evening - perhaps there is a shift in the barometric pressure. Sometimes when storms are coming or going I'll not only get a headache or feel it physically - I'll also notice a change in mood. Usually for the worse.

I think watching the news this evening was mentally disturbing. The images of such devastation cause me to feel helpless and small. I can't imagine how I would begin to deal with the loss and fear that are surrounding the Japanese people right now.

I think that I shall forgo the hot tub this evening - I fear dwelling on the negative. I think that instead I shall go and read something uplifting for a bit. And perhaps spend some time in prayer. For a while I will try to stop thinking about myself and the petty difficulties in my life - and think about others.

I never promised I would always be amusing...but I will always try to be real.

Hamster searching for silver in the dark cloud of reality.

Sunday, March 13

The Time...It is a changin'

The time change hurts me. It hurts me bad... I find that I am a creature of habit - especially on the waking side. Quite frankly - my habit is...I don't like waking. I grew up in a family of 7 - more than half of us are NOT morning people. Mom is one of "those" people. I recall her sunny personality calling me to get up for school. People who are sunny in the morning make me surly and grouchy. I was not a good daughter some days.

I try to be good and go to bed early the night before the Spring Forward. Last night - I didn't do so good. And so this morning I snoozed my alarm right up to 5 minutes till time to leave the house for church. Thank goodness I'm not one who has to spend a lot of time getting ready!

One of my secret joys in life (well...guess it isn't a secret any longer) is watching for the Unsprung Heroes arriving for church. I'm in the choir, so we have a great view of the congregation. You can't get into the sanctuary without being in my viewscape. Usually you get at least one person arriving near the end of the service - they have forgotten to spring ahead. Sometimes I see them arrive in the narthex (the entrance area in the back of the church) through the glass doors - and often they look at their watches and then slink back out the side doors.

One year there was an entire family of four who arrived
during the final hymn and thinking that it was the first hymn they proudly walked all the way up to their usual pew...quite near the front of the church. They listened to the final verse and were surprised to hear the pastor proclaim the benediction.

After these chuckles through the years...I was disappointed to see that nobody came in late this morning. Does that make me a bad person?

Hamster is a bit beat - never did get that nap in today!!

Saturday, March 12

Wine Geek Gathering

Today was the annual volunteer gathering at Autumn Hill Vineyard and Winery. You may or may not be aware of the fact that I am an amateur wine educator. A couple of times a year I drive about an hour an a half north to pour wine for events at Autumn Hill. I have the opportunity to get my "wine geek"on! The event today was pretty much 30 folks like me gathering to catch up, drink wine and eat. I believe that the 30 of us drank 4 cases of wine!

I first met Ed (the winemaker) and Avra (his wife/boss) the year I decided to make visiting wineries in Virginia a personal quest. That year I visited every single one in the state! disclaimer: two of the wineries were closed when I went to visit - so I sat in the driveway and saluted them and counted them anyway. But still - I visited 63 or 64 wineries. It was a great year. And I discovered a lot of good wine and great people.

Autumn Hill is only open for 3 events every year, 2 weekends per that year I had to schedule my visit there carefully to be certain that I didn't miss the opportunity. The event I went to was the summer event in the winery. And I just fell in love with the wine, the setting and especially Ed and Avra. They are now both retired from their original jobs - he was in the garment industry (I think) and she was a teacher (I'm sure about that one). Ed is a great wine maker because he does it for himself. He doesn't like sweet wines and so he doesn't make any. He loves what he does and has put up with my questions for ages now. I keep telling him that I want to be just like him when I grow up.

So today I spent a wonderful 4 hours in the mountains of Greene County enjoying wine and conversation with a bunch of other wine geeks. And Avra made her usual menu: ham, bagels and cheese soufflé. Yeah - cheese soufflé. She is incredible.

And then I got to watch the end of the sunset by the river back here (drinking more wine and eating more nibbles - no soufflé though...) It was a great ending to a great day. Tomorrow I will go back to being useful.


Friday, March 11

Things I Should Be Doing Right Now

It is Friday evening and I have just about decided to be self-centered this evening. There are several things that I should be doing instead of the things I probably will be doing tonight.

I have info for about 6 tax returns that I should get done. These are folks that would probably like to go ahead and get their refunds...however small they have become... But I'm not feeling the love for it tonight.

I have most of the parts I need to put together the Kiwanis newsletter. True, I am lacking a key component that won't arrive till Monday...but I could get almost all of it ready to go. But, I'm not feeling the love for it.

I should vacuum my rooms. And take out the trash. And get rid of some junk. But I'm REALLY not feeling the love for THAT. Although I might find the motivation for that...after all - I am trying to be a better person. And I should try not to be a slob.

But for this evening - I AM feeling the love for:
-Eating a burger on an English muffin that Mom just told me is ready
-Playing some stupid game on the computer while listening to music or Car Talk
-Soaking in the HOT TUB!
-Watching TV

And although I SHOULD be going to fetch clip art for this post...I am going to eat my burger instead.

Hamster had a long week and is cutting herself some slack.

Thursday, March 10

Oh Hand I love and hate thee at the same time

Sorry for the delay in posts...been a busy week. And tonight's is not likely to be very long. I'm trying to get a quick visit to the hot tub in between rain showers.

We had a long hand bell choir rehearsal tonight (we had choir last night after the Ash Wednesday service...I didn't ditch two weeks in a row!) and I see the possibility that we might get a few notes right during the Hand Bell Extravaganza next Saturday (the 19th at Heritage United Methodist).

Don't get me wrong...I personally will get many notes wrong. My music looks like it is bleeding orange highlighter and I still look like an escapee from a mental hospital while I'm trying to count and
figure out which is my left hand. I would REALLY appreciate it if only blind folks were in the audience. Please close your eyes and enjoy the music.

But we may get some of this right...and after playing this level 3 music - I'm going to sink into the familiar pace of the Level 1 arrangement of Amazing Grace like a hamster soaking in a hot tub. Look...I even found clip art of a hamster in a hot tub. That has to be worth something!

I'll try to be more pithy tomorrow.

Hamster barely grazed...but unwilling to subject the readers to another excerpt from the cookbook.

Tuesday, March 8

Mardis Gras!

Fat Tuesday! Let the feasting begin!

As we head into the tradition of fasting and awareness of Lent - we get an opportunity to embrace the joy of plenty.

Depending upon the congregation and the pastor, Methodists don't have the same emphasis on denial during Lent. For some, Lent is a time of increasing study or prayer. For some, it is a time to rededicate themselves to some form of service to others. And for some, it is a chance for some sort of fasting.

Growing up, I usually gave up something for Lent. Maybe it was cookies or cake, or maybe candy. Usually it was not a very successful fast. I gave up Coke once for Lent and made it about 3 hours before I was found camped out inside the refrigerator with empty cans piled around me. Well - it wasn't that bad...but it was an overwhelming desire to consume as much Coke as possible.

Apparently my great grandmother gave up going to the movies...the only problem was - she had never been to the movies in her life!! I think my brother gave up broccoli - and he didn't eat broccoli. I'm sure my sister wanted to give up school...

So it was refreshing a few years back when a pastor encouraged us to focus on something besides self-denial during Lent. Sure, it is great if you can use the opportunity to get a bad habit on the run...but perhaps it would be a better choice to build a good habit. Something like actually doing a daily devotional or collecting coats for the Kiwanis coat drive. I like that idea. And if you ARE going to give something up - tie it to doing something good with the resource. Like, if I'm going to give up Starbucks vanilla cappucinos - save that $$ for doing something good.

And then this year I got another new insight into Lent from my current pastor: "Most people forget that the 40 days of Lent don't include the Sundays, because they're meant to be feast days! That's why we talk about the First Sunday in Lent, not of Lent. Every week we throw our fasting out the window and have a good time." This helped me understand and remember that the God that I believe in is not a stingy God. He is a God of plenty who created a world full of wonderful things to enjoy.

So - today I have indulged in my own form of feasting: a sausage and cheese McGriddle and a large Coke. And on Easter I will rejoice in the feasting again - because these are the two things I've decided to live without for 40 days (plus Sundays). And I'm working on adding a new good habit too...but for this year I hope the real reward is a greater awareness of how wonderful life is, because of what is in it!

Hamster feasting on life!!

Sunday, March 6

So you say it's your birthday?

I had a great birthday. I woke up to about 16 facebook messages of Happy Birthday and they just kept coming all day long. That is a fun side-effect of being on facebook. I was greeted by former co-workers, relatives and friends. It is nice to know we are still connected - even though I don't see some of these folks very often.

The main birthday event was a pizza lunch in the fellowship hall at the church - if you're going to make pizza for 15 people, having four ovens is a nice perk! But I didn't have to make pizza for 15 people. I got to sit there and enjoy a relaxing half hour while other people slaved away in the kitchen. Mom and I got our special request pizza first: smoked salmon and capers. And then there was black olives and anchovies. Yeah - we are a strange people. But don't knock it till you try it!

My mom and I share a birthday. I was born on her 27th birthday. What a gift! But really, we have always enjoyed a special connection. Maybe it is because we are both Pisces. But I think it is more than that. Once she asked me if I was ever tired of sharing my birthday. I had never really thought that it decreased MY birthday - if anything, it just made it MORE special.

Today I gave her a painting. I sneaked it into the church last night and hung it in place of one of the paintings in the hall (we have an art class that meets there and so there is always nice artwork hanging). I was there before she was and when she finally spotted it - the intake of breath and watering eyes were my gift from her! I love to make my mom cry. It is indeed an extraordinary painting and she has always wanted one of Diana Rhode's paintings. Just happened that I was able to make that happen (thanks to a larger than expected tax refund).

And then I enjoyed a wonderful dinner with 3 of my favorite people on earth. Yep, this was a great birthday. Thanks to everyone who made it so great.

Hamster happy.

Saturday, March 5

Cocktails and Crocheted Pants

Have just returned home from a combination birthday cocktail party and the viewing of my friends Chuck and Ayhan on "Dear Genevieve". A lovely evening.

First - the show was great. It was so different watching a makeover show with people that you know! They were having the bedroom made over and there were so many times that I saw Chuck sort of agreeing on the outside and cringing on the inside. I don't think I would have noticed that with strangers. I realize that these designers - lovely and talented as they are - kind of sweep in and push their opinion on the homeowners.

She said "beige" and he kind of said "well, you know of the grand palette of the world...beige would be my last choice". She said "platform bed" and one of his eyebrows reached for the sky... I will be fascinated to know how the change has been absorbed into their lives. Now that the gag order is off, he'll be able to blog about it. But overall they seemed to have a wonderful time, loved the girl, and the room is really more attractive. Before...there were a lot of curtains - over window, closet and hole in the wall. And the door into the bedroom wasn't there...but I always figured "hey it's NYC, space is what it is". So I think the bedroom is really nicer - but I'm not sure that at the end of the show it had yet become Chuck and Ayhan's. Perhaps by now - it has.

The rest of the evening was glasses of wine and laughter. It was a nice group and we got to hear some stories. Highlights?

Charlie once crocheted pants for his GI Joe.
Denise cut her bangs at her office once and looked like she had Down's Syndrome.
Belva and Melva showed us a picture of them and they weren't sure who was who in the picture. Everyone else however, could tell immediately.
We heard that there were men's long sweaters in the Sears catalog in the 70s. And somebody wore one to the first day of school. Complete with belt.
Karen can't spell tomarrow.
And for the joy of the new person in the group the story of somebody accidentally taking porn to Sunday School was told.

A good time was had by all. Still laughing to myself about GI Joe's pants.

Friday, March 4

Sleepover at Nanu's

Tonight our household is playing host to my nephew Jacob. He is part cherub - with infectious smile and giggle...and part imp - with the wacky sense of humor of a 5 (almost 6) year old boy. I got a text from him as I was leaving work: "Jacob and Nanu. have cookies in oven". My response? "On the way!"

He was watching through the oven door when I walked in. I understand that he sliced these himself! And told Mom when she handed him the knife "my mother has never let me use a sharp knife before. This is my very first time". He was apparently very serious and did a fine job. But some of the cookies are much bigger than others. We'll work on knife skills in the future.

He is an incredibly intelligent boy. He's just so silly!! He can count to ten in Spanish, but then he'll tell you that the Spanish for table is "pooty brownie face" and just giggle and giggle at himself!!

Brings back memories of sleeping over at people's houses as a kid. I wasn't as relaxed as Jacob. I got so homesick!! Not as bad as one of my sisters though... But I can remember that quivery feeling in my stomach when it got dark and I knew I was going to sleep someplace different. I recall "getting sick" and calling for a ride home when I was at a
sleepover one street over. Pam Stinson's house.

But I know that I can't project that onto my nephews...everybody is different. Jacob seems to be having a dandy time - watching a movie now...will probably fall asleep soon. And I know that Jack is fine as long as he has sufficient food and ability to text. Woodmen camp was a long time ago...both of us were homesick that week (um...really just 4 days). He has matured faster than me!

Enjoying having him over - and really enjoying the cookies! We'll have to have a repeat visit soon.

Thursday, March 3

Happee Birsday

Sushi. Oh man do I love sushi.

Today is Thursday - and I decided to savor a moment. Be present for an occasion. Transition a day from eh (or ech) to ah.

Tonight was a rare night off from JIFF. You only have to read the post "Chip Shop" to understand that I love the kids and enjoy the program. But if you don't step back once in a while, you burn out. Which (despite what Neil Young sings...) isn't a good thing. So there wasn't the Thursday afternoon pressure of planning for departure from the office by 5 sharp. I'm not good with "sharp" - as you probably well know.

So the first evening thing I had to attend tonight was 7pm Handbell practice. Oh man - you think I was counting when we did Amazing Grace. I LONG for something as simple as Amazing Grace. But we're going to do our very best with this fanfare thing. I trust Mari wouldn't lie to us - and she says we're going to be fine. There's going to be about a dozen handbell choirs at this "Handbell Event". Should be a grand ole' time. I'll be the one with the highlighter in one hand, the other hand rubbing my head counting: 1 ee and uh 2 and uh 3 ee and uh 4 ee and uh. uh? But Mari wouldn't lie to us...we're going to be fine. And it isn't a competition...because we would be the underdog in this movie.

So after that practice I ditched choir (yep, going to hell in a hand basket...) and went for sushi. It is the birthday of The Prime Minister of the Royal Order of the Baby Octopus Sushi Club. He had a fairly crappy birthday. Richmond drivers. Hidden shred bins. I believe there was the occasional bright spot as random clients wished him a Happy Birthday. One of the ladies said that
she wasn't sure - but she thought he believed her to be a crazy psychic stalker when she gave him a birthday card. Complete with Starbucks gift certificate. She's cool...I love our clients!

But I just think working on your birthday kind of sucks. I'm proposing legislation that would make your birthday a legal paid holiday. I think it would be a very popular law. Screw Family and Medical Leave - I want to sleep in on my birthday, then go out for an awesome lunch, nap, incredible dinner watching the sun set on the river, sleep. I think that should be an unalienable right.

Oh no, not another rabbit trail...

The sushi was sublime. We ordered WAY too much. It was extravagant. 2 spicy scallop rolls (my #1) and Alaska Crab Roll (his #1 - especially because it is already loaded with wasabi). Dragon Roll and Rainbow Roll (ah...just the way I like my fish - RAW!). Spicy tuna (Raw meet Spicy - you two will love each other) and something else. And THEN - the "Chef's Special" - which is code for "Jon Jon, do whatever the hell you like". This was presented on its very own stage. Literally - it came on a small wooden platform (like Claire ate her lunch on in The Breakfast Club) and was incredible. It had no less than 3 kinds of fish, crab, cucumber, 2 sauces and seemed to have a little Parmesan cheese on top. I'm sure it wasn't really Parmesan. But it was delightful.

The whole time was enjoyable. And then when it was time for fortune cookies, we heard the familiar strains of the Hapee Birsday song. Chocolate cake (uber chocolate cake actually) complete with candle. It was the topper.

And on top of it all - I didn't even get to pick up the check. Yep, I got taken out for HIS birthday. And you know what? I'm okay with that. Because on your birthday - you should get to have your way. And if I had my way - you'd also get the day off.

Hamster will be writing to the President tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 2

6 Down - How many to go?

Tax returns...

Whittling down the stack of family tax returns to file. I know the hardest ones are yet to come - but it was nice to knock out a half dozen returns tonight. With my trusty form reader by my side (Paula - Cuban Conquerer!) and a good music channel to listen to - we kicked through that batch in about 90 minutes flat. Strange to see some folks financial situations change through the years. I can see from the files I have stored that I've been doing some of these peoples taxes since about 1996.

To see some folks paying less and less in mortgage interest as they see the end of their mortgage come to an end. The absence of tuition interest in the returns of former college students as they finish paying off Sallie Mae and her girls. Some people who used to have 4 or 5 W2s every year as they job-hopped and worked second jobs to make ends meet...I've seen them settle into careers and watched their portfolios change from beer money to CDs to real estate.

It is kind of like watching a garden mature. I like observing that longevity and stability. Kind of like looking over old pictures and seeing the passage of time.

Even did my taxes tonight. My income was up. Thanks Zach. In addition to FEELING appreciate and needed - the numbers were kind of a warm hug tonight. I'm fortunate to earn a living working with people that I enjoy being around. And even though the challenges look more like obstacles...I'm happy to be doing the job I do. You'll have to kill me to get rid of me, you know?

Another friend of mine left a long-time bad job situation this week. His text that evening was a single word: Freedom!

I commented then that I should have something profound to say. I'll attempt it now.

3 years ago you helped make it possible for me to take the position at Kodiak that I love so much. I'm like my Dad - so loyal that I'll suffer rather than let down my employer and coworkers, even when the employer doesn't take the same ownership of not letting the employees down. You helped me see that and let me know that you were going to help hold things together for our coworkers after I left. And in the ensuing years I've encouraged you to find your own "exit strategy".

Why? Because going to work every day at a place or task that makes you completely miserable...well, that's hell. I know you've made the best decision for your sanity - and you put things in place to make sure it is a good decision for you financially. I'm proud of your work ethic and team spirit. You will succeed in life.

Anybody else out there who is miserable? Start working on the exit strategy - find a way out of the misery part anyway.

Hamster ready for sleep. Carpe diem. Well - seize tomorrow then...carpe pillow for now!

Tuesday, March 1

A post in search of a topic

Sometimes my mind spins with possible topics - and then sometimes...crickets....

It isn't that I don't have anything on my mind. I really really do. I can think of a dozen different things on my mind: truck in wreck yesterday; subtopics of odd mechanics, driver sketch of accident scene (complete with dialog bubbles) and a society without credit cards (?seriously?); one more subtopic - why I sometimes feel that I must correct someone who has called me sir on the phone one too many times.

Yeah...mind spinning...

Briefly it lands on upcoming solo in church: Ave Verum Corpus. The first passage of it anyway. Which reminds me of the first person I heard sing it. Which reminds me how glad I am that my fellow "diva" (Karen Bell...I love her...) and I don't take our "diva" roles seriously. Because when somebody really IS acting like a diva...that's not pretty. And some pretty un-Christian things can happen around that.

Rabbit trail...
Maybe that is my topic: how easy it is to get me to go wandering off the beaten path of my thought...

Well...topic found.

Hamster beaten.