Friday, September 26, 2014

A sign…or many, actually

I gave a speech today on values. It was about 22 minutes long and it came with a reflection song at the end and a list of four discussion questions that I heard sparked much animated talk (speakers are sent off to pray and reflect themselves after their talks so we don't get to participate in the group discussion). It was much like the talk I gave at the last retreat, only that one was on forgiveness. Two very different stories.

Today, though, something happened that I didn't even recognize the blessedness of until tonight. It's easy to see how I missed it. Being on team, we are sometimes quite literally running from one activity to the next, getting things set up for our guests. It's much like the Disney principle: guests do not see the behind-the-scenes activities as it would detract from the magic. It makes for an incredible experience for our retreatants, but long, hard days for team. For instance, I have learned that I have an aversion to wearing the same clothes from 5:30 a.m. until midnight. Every night, after the retreatants are sent to bed, we gather as a team to review the day, check in with each other, and make sure we are prepared for the next day's events. The past two nights I found myself removing all jewelry, my work apron, and my team shirt (t-shirt underneath stayed put) over the course of the meeting. I was desperate to get out of those clothes. Nothing feels as good as removing shoes and peeling off the socks, though. Heaven.

Anyway, because we are running so much during the day it's easy to miss blessings that are literally right in front of your face. Or, in my case, about 45 degrees off to my left, and two and a half feet away.

Today, my talk, my words, were translated into American Sign Language as I spoke. We have two hearing impaired guests and interpreters were arranged for the main events. I knew this in advance of course, being on team, but I guess it never really registered in my head until I walked to the podium and saw a person I did not know standing there, smiling at me. I was the first speaker, so this was the first time anything was signed.

I found she was a tremendous comfort to me up there. I was not alone. There were two of us telling my story. And because I was acutely aware of her need to have time to interpret my words into sign language, I slowed way down. This is normally difficult if not impossible for me. After my talk, someone told me my speed and inflections were perfect. This is huge: I have never, ever been complimented on my delivery, and after every single speech I've ever given I've been told, "It was good, but you should have gone slower." I've been accused of leaving my audience behind. Which is typically fine with me since I don't want to be up there in front of people anyway. Fight or flight? Yeah. I flee. My words come out at machine gun speed and woe to those left behind.

So tonight, after everything was done and we ourselves were sent off to bed, as I finally slipped off my shoes and peeled off my socks, I realized how incredible it is that my words were translated into sign language. My words. What I had to say was so important that it was said twice, simultaneously, in two languages.


Tomorrow is normally my favorite day of the retreat. I'm so looking forward to it. After what happened this morning, though, man…I don't know. I doubt I will ever have the opportunity to speak with a sign language interpreter next to me again, so I will take it as the blessing it is and consider it checked off the bucket list. Hell, I didn't even know it was on the bucket list. This is one of those times I'll add it, though, after it's complete, just to have the pleasure of checking it off. (Don't judge…I know a bunch of ya'all do that, too.)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The calm before...

Serving on a retreat team this weekend and I have a few moments to be still and reflect before our guests arrive. My form of reflection is to write.

Things I've done today:
  • Took the Corvette to work for a student-run car show. 
  • Wiped down the Corvette and earned a badge of honor: big smudge of brake dust above the right knee. Yeah!
  • Ate a doughnut.
  • Ate a cookie.
  • Ate strawberry shortcake.
  • Ate a pizzole.
  • Played garage hokey-pokey due to the fact that none of our three garage doors is operational right now. So to put the Corvette away I had to pull in, get out, get in my car and open the main bay, walk through the main bay to the Corvette bay, open that door, get back in the Corvette and pull it in, close the Corvette bay door, go out the main bay door, get in my car and close the main bay door. This strikes me as completely hilarious as anyone who may have been watching probably wondered why I was making things so difficult.
  • Sang. Many songs. None of them well.
  • Carried Jesus. This was easier than is sounds because she's not very heavy.
  • Sorted letters. Sorted more letters. Then, just when I thought I was done sorting letters, I sorted a few more.
  • Changed my shirt four times.
  • Laid out my nun outfit. Just to be ready.
  • Gave and received hugs.
  • Made the picture above.
  • Made last-minute arrangements for my awesome MIL to be at my house tomorrow so the delivery guys can pick up the mattress I've been trying to return for six months. I love that they gave me less than 24 hours notice. Thanks, assholes.
  • Lent my monk belt to The Blessed Virgin. Along with a couple barrettes for her veil.
  • Put batteries in two dozen penlights.
  • Danced to Michael Jackon's Thriller.
  • Laughed and laughed and laughed.
It was a good day. And it's about to get even better.

Bring on the retreatants!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Bargeman

I stopped by Target on the way to work this morning, to pick up some last-minute supplies for the retreat I'm on this weekend (we're to wear, under our really sexy denim oxfords with the retreat logo stitched on the breast, a white t-shirt the first day, a blue t-shirt the second day, and a red t-shirt the third day. I had none. Well, at least none that are short sleeved and didn't have Corvette graphics plastered all over.). After I checked out with my new t-shirts and a couple bottles of laundry detergent for delicates, I headed over to the Starbucks kiosk. I stood in line behind two Catholic school girls in plaid skirts and a little old man in a plaid button-down and jeans, catching up on emails and texts on my phone. The girls finished with their order and left, giggling. The man turned to me and said, "I bet you're going to work after this." I smiled, "I am!" He said, "I understand people who have to go to work. Why don't you go first?" I tried to refuse, but he was having none of it. "I'm good," he said. "I just float around."

So I chatted with him while the barista made my drink. We talked about everything from his career to his early retirement to the news that the new iPhone 6s will bend if you put them in your back pocket and sit on them. "If I pay $500 for something, it better not bend! They made 'em too thin." Then we talked about the logic of carrying technology in one's back pocket, and how even the older, thicker phones wound up with pressure cracks in the screens after people sat on them.

He spent his whole career on the river, running barges. Until one day when an accident happened and he got caught between two barges and nearly lost his right eye. He didn't want to retire, but he had to. He's left-handed, and even though he puts most of his belongings in the pockets on the left side of his pants ("I put my billfold back here, and in front is all the other stuff…keys and change and the like.") he came up with a system where his ID and his medical information are in a smaller wallet in his right front pocket. "I don't need to get to it that often so it's fine there, and if someone steals my billfold, well, they might get a few bucks but they won't get my ID!" His big blue eyes sparkled.

I wanted to ditch the rest of the day and just sit there at Starbucks and talk to him, and write down his stories. He was absolutely charming. And he was a lovely reminder that everyone has a story worth telling.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

On potties

I have a new bathroom at work, one that is closer to my new office. The old bathroom was literally right outside my door. The new one is about 15 steps away, so you know, I have had to adjust.

The women's restrooms here are one-seaters, but the outer doors do not lock and there is a stall within the bathroom. Because of this, the unwritten rule is that if you start to open the outer door and see that the light is on, that means the bathroom is occupied and you must find another. Don't even walk in. Since it's a one-seater, any sounds or odors emanating from the stall are unable to be blamed on others, so be polite and just scram. Once, a colleague found herself in complete darkness in the stall after someone opened the door, saw the light on, huffed in impatience, and turned the light off. We all have a suspicion who it was, and we think (hope) it was unconscious on her part, but it's still a running joke among the female staff.

I have an issue with the new bathroom. Besides the distance, that is. The toilet seat is perpetually loose. When you walk into the stall it's usually already caddywampus on the toilet, forcing you to use your toe to nudge it back into place. I don't know why I bother because as soon as I sit down I skid uncertainly to one side and feel as though I'm about ready to fall into the toilet. This is an unsettling feeling, to be sure. It has made me very conscious of ensuring I carefully sit straight down on the toilet.

After a few days of this, someone mentioned that the toilet seat is quite dangerous and that maintenance had been notified again to please fix it. Because the maintenance men are, well, men, they never really fix it. They tighten the bolts and that works for about a day and then we all start our sideways slides again. General consensus is that they just need to replace the whole damn seat.

I suppose I could just hover. At 41, though, I'm finding the hover technique to be more and more difficult. And with serious repercussions if done too much. Besides, if the seat is crooked during the hover then there's a much higher chance of hitting the seat and not the bowl and that's just disgusting for everyone.

So as I was contemplating all this during a pit stop, I reflected on toilets in general. (It was a slow day.) One grandmother calls them terlets. Another always said The Pot. My father-in-law calls it The John and my husband calls it The Little Boy's Room and my Daddy referred to it as The Throne and my daughter says it's the Potty. In college, we worshipped The Porcelain God more than once. I have a British friend who says it's The Loo and she likes to take selfies in them. She finds some very interesting loos. (To clarify, she does not take pictures in the stall. And she's always fully clothed.) (Nevermind. Loo selfies just sound worse than they actually are.) When the Olsen family on Little House on the Prairie got an indoor toilet, it was the Water Closet, or WC. When Cousin Eddie cleaned out his RV in Christmas Vacation, it was because The Shitter was full.

When I was in Ireland with my dad, after driving miles and miles while having to piss like a racehorse, we finally stopped at a petrol station. (To be fair, I didn't blame him for not wanting to stop. He was driving on the right side of the car, on the left side of the road, and having to shift a manual transmission to boot. "Thank goodness the pedals and the H-pattern are the same," he said. Once we were going it was far easier to stay going.) I rushed in and asked the attendant if I could use the restroom. He eyed me suspiciously, like I had asked for all the pounds in his pocket. "We don't have a restroom." I almost peed on the floor right there. "Really? You don't have a restroom? I am desperate." I turned to leave and he called back, "Oh, wait Miss. Do you mean a toilet?" Crisis averted. And I learned that the Irish consider a restroom a room where you rest. Not where you pee.

Our daughter spends an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom. She'll go in and ten minutes later, there's still no sign of her. No flush, no running water in the sink. "Zo! Are you poopin'?" "No, Mommy!" After five more minutes the toilet flushes and the water runs and then she comes out smiling. I think she meditates in there. This can't be comfortable. Her legs don't even hit the floor yet. She gives no explanation. M continually asks me, "What does she do in there?" Beats me. I'm an in-and-out kind of girl.

Except when prepping for a colonoscopy. I've only had one, but it wasn't so bad. I drank about 27 gallons of Gatorade with human Drano in it and then kept pausing the DVD to run to the bathroom. All in all, it really wasn't a bad night, and quite typical of many other nights that didn't even involve a procedure the next day. (I have yet to meet a woman who doesn't have intestinal issues. You'd think the doctors would have figured this out by now.)

Once, when I was a kid, my dad and step-mom took me to the movies. In an attempt to avert the inevitable disruption halfway through, I was taken to the restroom before the movie started. Apparently I was learning to read and quite curious as to the writing on the inside of my stall. "Hey! What does F-U-…" "I'll tell you later!" I've also been told that it was my habit to visit the bathroom of every. single. place. we. visited. Maybe that's where Zoe gets it. I like quantity as in number of potties, whereas she prefers quantity in minutes-per-stop.

At Girl Scout camp, they now use ETs. When I was a kid it was the latrine, which was a smelly wooden building with bench seats and round holes. Now they are Environmental Toilets, which are positively luxurious compared to the old latrines. These kids don't know how cush they have it. No hazardous waste smells, no giant buzzing flying things, no butt splinters. The Girl Scout Flush is to close the lid and turn off the light.

In the spirt of potty contemplation today (potemplation?), I leave you with this: the Best Restrooms in America!

Eh, well. No matter. It all comes out in the end.

Sorry, I had to.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fine-tuning how I spend my time

The weekend was fun and busy, with two volleyball matches, a soccer game, and lots of work around the house (homework with Zozo, and housework). M primarily worked outside and I tackled inside, including unboxing and assembling a new desk for my office. I was able to do most of it myself, which pleased me to no end and left me with a sore back (that never used to happen) and a new flat surface in my office on which to pile crap.

In the evenings, after our work for the day was done, I relaxed with Stephen King's On Writing. I'm not a huge King fan, at least with his fiction work. I just don't get much out of the creepy genre. His non-fiction book, though, came with high marks and recommendations so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Man oh man, it's pretty awesome.

The only thing I disagreed with is his insistence that a writer does not need a retreat or time away to write. Methinks Mr. King might be a bit far removed from those of us who are still trying to get started, especially those of us with little ones at home who have full-time jobs (jobs that aren't writing books). There's a retreat that I'd give my eye teeth to attend, and in his book Mr. King describes it almost perfectly, and then decries its value. For a working mom whose kid is in piano lessons and at least two sports at any given time plus daily homework, and a house that needs cleaning and laundry and other obligations…a retreat like Hedgebrook seems like heaven. There will never be that kind of time available to me until Zoe flees the nest and I retire. I wish I could spend four hours a day writing and another four hours a day reading as Mr. King recommends, but that leaves me with very little time to do the things I have to do that would support eight hours a day honing my craft.

However, I do see his point in that I need to just start writing, dammit, and that reading is just as important. So that's what I did this weekend. And last night, at bedtime, I realized that I hadn't checked Facebook or Instagram at all that day. And perhaps most surprising of all, I didn't miss it.

M killed his Facebook account last week. Wiped it off the servers. Now my status says I'm simply married, but doesn't say to whom. He never used it anyway, so it made sense for him to delete it. I was appalled at first. Now I'm wondering if he's on to something.

I read an article about a guy who quit liking everything on Facebook for two weeks. My curiosity was piqued, so I stopped liking everything, too. Just to see. What I found was that if I didn't really have anything to say in the comments, and didn't like everything that I, um, liked, well, my leash to Facebook weakened. I didn't feel as compelled to get on there and catch up. I didn't feel like I was missing stuff. Facebook just became meh.

This may be just an ebb in my social media flow, but we'll see. I am spending far less time looking at my phone and far more time reading books and interesting magazines and blogs. My brain feels much more nourished, and I feel more productive overall. Instead of 40 snippets of crap, I'll read something really worthwhile that makes me think. I spend less time analyzing what people on Facebook are up to or what they really mean, and more time enriching my brain and interacting with those around me. What a concept.

Friday, September 19, 2014

I really…just…have no words

Ummmm. Okay.

The creativity (?) of the human mind is astounding to me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Crawling back out

I haven't written in a long time. A LONG time. Mostly because I've been sick. This was different than my annual head cold/flu thing where one good day in bed kicks it and I'm pretty much back to normal. This has been two-plus weeks of hacking and coughing, gasping for air, becoming winded after walking 20 feet on a level surface, and feeling like I need a nap by 8:30 a.m. I'm still not 100%, but I'm eking ever closer.

I'm not used to being this down for this long. I've got too much to do for this to happen. Which is probably why it happened, come to think of it.

I had made an appointment with a new primary care physician a few months ago (she's apparently quite popular so I had to wait) and it so happened that this initial appointment fell about a week into being sick. I was determined to find a new primary care physician after mine decided to lecture me about having only one child.

"Hmmm. What are you? Going on 40. Yeah, you've got enough time. You need to have another child."

"Um. Excuse me?"

"You only have one, right? Yep. That's not fair. She'll grow up lonely and alone. I was an only child and I know. You need to have another child so she has a sibling."

"Um. Excuse me?"

I tried explaining that M and I had discussed this and we are both extremely happy with our little family, and that neither of us is up to another grueling round of infertility. Didn't matter. The alarm bells sounded in my head and I couldn't get out of the exam room fast enough, swearing never to return.

So Bean recommended this new doctor and I went. She walked in and looked at me quizzically. "Zoe's mom?" "Yeah, how the hell…oh, my goodness…OWEN'S MOM?!!" Our kids had gone to preschool together. Wow. Owen's mom has a different last name than Owen so I hadn't even put it together when I made the appointment.

The appointment went fine and she assured me I didn't have pneumonia even though I was pretty convinced I did (thank you, WebMD) and chalked it up to bronchitis and gave me a Z-pack and cough syrup with codeine and then I got down to business.

"I've been feeling pretty crappy for awhile now. Like more than just illness, although at this point I am not entirely sure that my mental state isn't tied to feeling physically bad for this long…" Which is when I lost it and started bawling my eyes out to Owen's Mom about how I've felt like things are piling up and piling up and I can't crawl out of the hole and there's just so much to do and I don't even have the energy to tackle half of it which just makes me feel worse and isn't there something you can give me that'll make me just not give a shit for awhile? Isn't there a Just Not Give A Shit medicine? We discussed options and she eventually decided on something I can't pronounce but takes a month to kick in so I'm giving it a whirl and meeting with her in a month to see how it's going.

So, in addition to a frillion other things, that's what I've been up to.