Thursday, May 29, 2008

The “Hub of Discord” – Part 2

“There is only one person who has conflicts with others. She has problems with four other people whose only real fault is that they make her work instead of letting her read her book or play computer games. That person, if removed, would solve 90% of the office tensions.” -- “Epilogue to the Staff Meeting,” posted April 20, 2008

Our “hub” is on vacation. It’s been so nice and peaceful. Then the phone rings today. It’s “hub” – she wants to talk to the boss. While she’s holding, she tells me that she was let go because of our huge budget crisis. I just about dropped the phone. Instead, I mumble something and transfer the call.

Later I get the details. She has her choice of working three more months or taking a three-month severance package. Apparently, she has decided to work it. We are in for whining, bitching, and anger in monumental doses. She will not let ANY opportunity slip by. Why did they give her a choice? And, by the way, I was told to keep it quiet. The minute she hits those doors on Monday, the world will know it.

Then there is another budgetary adjustment in process. Some specialty societies contract with my company for administrative support. I am one of the administrators. Their fees are being doubled and tripled. If we lose one or more of these customers, I will be next on the chopping block.

I don’t mind telling you that I am very nervous. I’m too old to start over again. The “hub” is 10 years older than I am. I feel like a donkey.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Waiting Around

It’s 8:11 p.m. and I’m still at work. I've been here since 6 a.m. I’m waiting. Waiting for people to show up for scheduled interviews. I won’t go into details, as I’m not sure they should be “public.” Anyway, the interviews are ahead of schedule, the interviewees are not. So, I wait. Sigh.

I’ve got so much to do to get ready for my daughter’s graduation party. Mostly I need to clean my house as my mother is coming to stay for a couple of days and the house is the pits. We are not good stewards of our home. Dog hair floats in huge airy wads throughout, trash needs taking out, the kitchen floor and cupboards need washing… Arge! I’m starting to panic.

I was able to start rearranging the conference room where the party is located. It needs more tables and chairs, but I can’t do any more without disturbing the committee in the next room. The “next room” is actually the 3rd section of a long room I plan to have completely open and the band goes there. I want to leave room for dancing.

Every time I make a move to the patio area to see if the lights are working, I am interrupted – like just now in the middle of this sentence.

I worry too much. I worry about things that I have no control over and this is because I cannot control them and therefore – well, you get the idea. Okay. I know this. In my head, I know this. Why do I keep doing it?

Two more interviews before we are done. I wasn’t involved in the planning this year. Another item out of my control, yet I was more than glad to get rid of it. I guess sitting here isn’t so bad. I get overtime.

Fig Tree Update

I’m in trouble. The original (burned to a hunk of carbon) tree is sending up strong shoots around the stump. They might make it into a tree. They might not. I’m going to encourage them and see.

The 3rd “stick” that I planted in March that I thought was dead and got a replacement for now has green buds.

And the replacement? Nothing yet but the way things are going, it will live with gusto.

What am I going to do with all these fig trees?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

“And it was at that age…” (after Pablo Neruda)

And it was at that age that I began to grow up. I realized that I deserved to be next in line and that it was NOT all right for someone to cut in front of me. It was okay to ask for help. It was okay to offer my opinion. It was okay to speak up.

50 years old and I still deferred to other people’s needs and wants before my own. It was time I stopped that. It was time to start looking to myself for what I needed and not at what was left over at the end of the day. Dreams are not scraps handed down from the dinner table. Dreams are the whole beef roast with mashed potatoes and blueberry pie with ice cream on the side.

So now, it looks like I’ve become suddenly selfish. There is quite a bit of adjustment to be made by others as well as myself. No one is going to help me get what I want unless I ask for it. I’ve kept quiet. I’ve been the “good girl” and the “good wife” and I am heartily sick of getting kicked in the teeth for it.

This all came to a head when I realized that with the exception of my daughter’s worn out bed and the broken folding chair I use for a desk chair, ALL of my furniture is second hand. Most of my dishes, bedding and linens are as well. 50% of my clothes are from thrift stores. I believe in recycling and not throwing useable items in the dump, however, when will I get my say as to what goes into my house, not to mention my life?

When will it be my turn? Now.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Road Maps

I love looking at maps. I look at the tiny dots indicating tinier towns on the thin numbered lines of the map of Arizona and I dream of driving down those roads just to see what lies at the end. There are so many of those dots and they are enticingly away from the larger dots and blocks of colored areas indicating the metropolitan cancers that infect the state.

Maybe it is because I’m under an unusual amount of stress, and the city’s noise, traffic, blowing trash, construction barricade mazes, graffiti on every wall and post, and random gunfire in the night makes me want to “get the hell out of Dodge.” (Could be that, yeah.) It’s a terrible time for gas prices to be almost $4/gallon. It is another lock on the cell door for me. So where do I start digging that tunnel?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

“It’s all you could expect.”

I put the paring knife down and turned to the sink to pick up the cooled hard-boiled eggs. “I still think I should have had some clue that it would happen.”

“Maybe you just missed the signs.”

“What signs would there be?” I cracked, peeled and rinsed the eggs one by one. Then I sliced them and popped the yolks out into a small bowl.

“I don’t know.” Betsy, my dear friend and neighbor handed me the jar of mayonnaise from the refrigerator. “They always say hind sight is 20/20.”

“Then how come I’m just as blind as I was before?” I mashed up the yolks with some mayonnaise and a bit of powdered garlic and powdered onion. Betsy handed me the pastry bag and I shoveled the yolk mixture inside while she gathered up the slippery whites and arranged them on a plate. I squeezed the yellow cream into the hollows and gave an artistic flourish to each final squish. Betsy sprinkled the tops with paprika.

“That’s how many?” I asked.

“24 down and 216 left to go.” Betsy shoved the plate into the refrigerator and pulled out two more cartons of eggs.

“I sure wish I had known I’d be assigned the deviled eggs for the church picnic! I wish I had known!”

“Well,” said Sherri as she opened the back door, “As the chair of the Ladies Circle who is in charge of the annual church picnic, I had to make a decision. When you didn’t show up at those committee meetings as you said you would, all the other duties were taken. So, you were assigned the last job.

“It’s all you could expect.”

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Write about circling the edge

Spinning, racing, whirling, spiraling out of control and feeling sick to my stomach. The world endlessly turns and gives me no rest, no stillness, no peace. Is it any wonder that I feel stressed and ill most of the time?

I need to stop. I need to stand still. I need to be quiet and listen. Listen to Cosmic Mother’s (God’s) message. She is trying to reach us all but we don’t stand in one spot long enough to receive it.

Could it be that we are afraid of that message? I am. I’m afraid that She wants me to do something that requires courage and faith and I’m a bit short of both these days. Yet, my spirit and my soul are tugging at my shirtsleeve telling me that I need to pay attention.

She wants to tell me to change. I’m being too selfish and headstrong.

“But Mother! I’ve given up so much for everyone else. I’ve given up my dignity, my sense of self, my security, and hell, even my future for others. When is it going to be MY turn?”

“Stop whining! It will be your turn soon enough. You think you know what you want. But it isn’t what you need. Be patient, child. Let Me do My work and soon you will have your rest.”

Rest. That is what my spirit and my soul are crying out for. Rest.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Write about abandoned houses…

They haunt my dreams. I see staircases leading up into possibilities and rooms with many doors. I feel snippets of life from previous owners. A faint scent of lilacs, and the squeak of a rocker on the porch followed by a cool breeze from a broken window overlooking the overgrown vegetable garden tell me stories.

I walk the hallways and climb the attic stairs. I know there is something I need to see, or hear, or someone I need to meet. There is mystery and sadness. Loss.

When I open the door to the master bedroom there is sunshine streaming in through the tattered lace curtains that dance to the summer breeze. A lone chair sits by the window waiting for me.

When I look around an old iron bed covered with an old quilt appears and I feel a great weariness descend upon me. I go to the bed to lie down but it is at this point I wake from the dream.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ten years ago…

I was still married, working full-time, deep in debt and yearning for something that I couldn’t put my finger on. I’d stare out the window now and then, eyes desperately searching for the horizon as if the magic were out there. Somewhere.

And I’d dream. I’d dream of a small apartment of my own not far from work so I could walk home for lunch. I’d dream of sitting under a shady tree with bits of sunshine tickling my bare toes as I read a delicious book. I’d dream of driving down unnamed roads with no destination in mind knowing that my answers would be at the end of that journey.

Then, I’d turn back to my computer screen and sigh.

That was then. This is now. Now I live by myself in a small house on the edge of the national forest. My nearest neighbors are a quarter mile away and I hear the silence of nature when I open my front door. I’m not rich, but I’m out of debt and I can easily pay my bills. I work from home. I write. I write my heart out and people actually buy those bits of my heart.

My daughter has a successful career and still has her feet firmly on the ground. She isn’t afraid to tell people “no.” Her sense of self is strong and I feel proud of that. No one is going to trample her under as I once was.

My ex-husband is the famous artist he wanted to be. He’s featured on a PBS documentary and his work is in several prominent galleries. But happiness didn’t come with that fame as he thought it would. He still searches for that perfect person to make him happy. I hope he finds her one day.

Ten years has brought quite a few changes in my life. I wonder where I’ll be in another ten?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

One day, ...

One day, I’ll go there and see for myself, Lori thought as she looked at the coffee table book on Maine. Closing the book with a sigh, she returned it to its place on the shelf of the second hand bookstore.

Turning to another shelf, she tilted her head sideways to scan the spines of the beat up paperbacks. Nothing sparked her interest there. Lori straightened up and turned only to thump up against an old woman. Reaching out to steady the lady, she apologized profusely while the old woman chuckled and reassured her that nothing was damaged.

Lori picked up the books that were scattered from the old lady and from her elbow knocking some off the shelf. She saw the last one peeking out from under a table display. When her fingers closed on the tome, a warm vibration traveled up her arm. Lori looked at the cover. You Can Go to Maine if You Want To was the title.

“Thank you dear,” said the old woman holding out her hand for the book. “I think that’s all of them.” Lori kept her eye on the book as the lady put it in her book bag.

“Excuse me, but before you leave, can I make a note of the author of that last book?” Lori knew she had to find another copy of that book.

“Author?” she chuckled, “I wrote that book. It’s about 30 years old and out of print now, so when I find a copy as I sometimes do, I buy it and put it up on my bookshelf with all my other old out of print volumes.”

“You aren’t going to believe this, but…”

“You’ve always wanted to go to Maine. I know,” the lady nodded. “I can see it on your face.” She sighed and looked over Lori’s head with softened eyes. “It’s beautiful no matter what time of year you go. My favorite is…”

“Bar Harbor,” Lori finished.

Surprised, the old woman focused back on Lori’s face. “Yes! Bar Harbor. You look familiar. May I ask your name?”

“Lori Mitchell. I’m from, well, from just about everywhere and from just about nowhere. Army brat. My family moved constantly and I lived everywhere.”

“Except Maine.”

“Except Maine,” Lori smiled. “So, in a nutshell, how do I get there when I haven’t got the resources to go?”

The old lady opened her capacious bag and rummaged around in its depths for a moment before uttering a triumphant grunt and producing a business card. “Come see me at this address next week. I’m planning to go back to Bar Harbor to open up the family summerhouse for the season and I could use some help.

“You really do look familiar… Well,” she straightened up and patted Lori on the shoulder. “We’ll have a great talk next week. Call me!” Turning on her heel, the old woman briskly marched out the door, turned left and disappeared. Lori looked at the card in her hand.

Emma Johnston, it read, along with an address not too far from the bookstore. The name was common but unknown to her, yet the “accidental” meeting felt like it was supposed to happen. Like fate, Lori thought with a smile as she walked out of the bookstore and turned right.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

You're in a Hotel Lobby...

Last August I took enormous liberty with our finances and I booked a long weekend at a local resort in order to have a writing weekend. A solo retreat if you will. I went to the Scottsdale Millennium Resort because it was by a lake. Water is particularly attractive in the desert and a lake, however small, is a bonus.

The first night was like every other first night I’ve ever spent in a hotel alone. I have all these exciting plans for candlelight baths, and sitting with a cocktail over a good book, etc. As usual, I got very sleepy and went to bed early.

I woke to sunshine streaming in through dusty windows. This time, since I didn’t have anywhere to be at a certain time, I felt at loose ends. I was shy about being in the room when the housekeeper needed to do her work, so after breakfast, I packed up a writing book, paper and pen, and headed down to the lobby to wait it out.

Most lobbies have a gorgeous sitting area that are rarely used and that’s what I was counting on. In the Millennium, it is sunken and filled with overstuffed chairs and sofas that face a floor to ceiling window overlooking the pool, the lake, and the eastern mountains. If you took out the pool, it would be perfect.

So there I settled myself. After absorbing the luxury of being away from family, work, and everyone I knew that could interrupt me, after noticing the tiny remnants of wire and tape that held up their Christmas decorations and small tufts of dust bunnies peeking out over the tops of the massive drapes in this five-star resort, I turned to my writing.

I don’t remember any details of the actual writing during that session. What I do remember is the feeling of being conspicuous and odd. I remember that suddenly my ears tuned in to the sounds of the lobby. I heard one employee whistling softly as he passed by and a negotiation to exchange scheduled work hours by another employee on the phone. Guests were guided to the breakfast and I smirked to myself that they would enjoy the same overly strong, bitter cup of coffee that caused me to uncharacteristically dose it with cream and sweetener in order to drink it.

Forcing my head back down, I resumed my writing and lost myself in words. Numbness in my thumb and a strong tingling up my arm told me that I needed to take a break. I checked my watch and was surprised to see that two hours had gone by. I sat back, took a deep, peaceful breath, gathered up my belongings and returned to my room.

The housekeeper had not yet arrived.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Like Being a Kid Again: Senior Prank

Friday 3 p.m.:
At a local Jack in the Box a bunch of giggling high school seniors and two parents have a meeting.
My daughter (code name: Movie Buff) and about 10 of her classmates are going to pull off "Operation Cobra" on Sunday night. The plan: we meet at Applebees at 9:15 that night, hop in a couple vans and drive the 4 blocks south to the school. Breaking into 3 groups, they are going to jump the fences of the school grounds and draw chalk outlines of bodies and put up police tape around them. (Actually, it will be construction "caution" tape, but the point is there.) Outlines of bodies doing "YMCA" are to appear by the snack bar and other body positions will be elsewhere/everywhere. They are also planning to put banners up on the tops of some of the buildings. Apparently they have already scouted out where to access the roof AND they know the locations of the cameras. My husband (code name: Pumpkin) and I (code name: Honey Bunny) are assigned as lookouts. We will be patrolling the street out front and signaling when the security patrol drives up. I admit that I'm nervous for the kids but no matter how this turns out, they will have a fond memory of their senior year. I'm bringing bail money with me.

Sunday 9:15 p.m.:
We all meet at Applebees as planned. The kids are so cute - all dressed in black with dark baseball caps. Some even have camouflage paint on their faces. (I keep thinking that it's a good thing they are good drivers because if a cop pulls them over....) One kid pulls up still wearing his work clothes and says, “Don’t look!” as his strips off his pants and pulls on dark jeans right in the parking lot. Supplies are handed out. Maps of campus are handed around and discussed. 3 teams are coached on where they will "breach the perimeter" and what their assignments will be. One nervous boy asks a “what if” only to be told by a girl to “commando it.” (I hope they put this much effort into their homework!) Then, after getting team leader's cell phone numbers I give instructions that they be set on vibrate only and not to answer them as it would be the signal that the security patrol was coming. “If you get caught,” I tell them loudly, “tell them this was MY idea and this was my Mother’s Day present I asked for." A short pause. "But don’t get caught.” They laugh and Pumpkin & I take off on foot to patrol the front of the school.

We make it to the school just in time for a van to swoop to a stop by the curb and 4 kids hop out of another parent's car and dash to the north parking lot fence and climb over it. We walk by quickly so no attention is drawn to the giggling group. We walk down to the front of the school. The main gate is standing wide open! All is dark and silent. We continue down the sidewalk to the far end of the school. The construction fence is skewed and a wide gap between the panels is ripe for entry. Pumpkin turns to me and with a smile says, "I think the school knows that this bunch is the good kids."

Nevertheless, we patrol. Sunday night. 10 p.m. Quiet. Not much traffic. The kids are silently pursuing their goal. Half-hour in my phone buzzes. "R2" whispers nervously, "Where are you? Is it okay?" I assure her it is as her boyfriend "D2" cruises by soon followed by the other parent in the van.

At one point a white car that my hubby recognizes from several drive-bys earlier, pulls into the front driveway of the school with its lights off. Two young men trot by us to meet the car. Pumpkin dashes up to see what they are doing. They see him and pull out fast and drive away. “I think I foiled the competition,” he grins.

Another nervous call from R2 and it settles down again. After about 15 minutes, she buzzes me again. “Call ‘Polish Sausage’ and tell him to get his group to meet us at the auditorium!” She says they are almost done. Of course, Polish Sausage follows his orders and doesn’t answer his phone. I leave a message.

Next 10 minutes has me buzzing just as hard as the phone. Where are they? One more call from R2, “Is it clear? We’re coming out the front!” D2 swoops his SUV into the driveway and 6 or 8 kids pile in. I recognize “Movie Buff” as one of them. They take off back to Applebees. Where are the rest?

After a whole bunch of phone calls and confusion, we find out that 5 of the kids are staying to hang banners off the top of the auditorium. Security never showed so Pumpkin and I head back up to meet the first group. We all wait for them at Applebees. The other parent keeps driving around waiting for the last commandos. Half-hour later, they breeze in to a round of applause.

Mission accomplished! Hugs, huddles, cheers of COBRA!, stories, and pictures!

Monday 6:15 a.m:
The text message chime greets my sleepy daughter. A fellow commando arrived early on campus to discover the school has already cleaned up everything they did last night with the exception of a couple of signs.

Well at least they had the fun of planning, preparing, and executing a wonderfully safe and easily cleanable prank. 2007’s seniors spray-painted the campus – criminal damage. These kids were considerate in their mischief. I wish the school let them enjoy it for a brief time before they hosed it all away.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Replacement Is On The Way!

Stark Brothers Nursery is sending a replacement for the one fig tree that died. It is due on the 14th. Since it is too hot to plant it out in the yard, they advised putting it in a temporary pot. But where do I put the pot? My guess is where morning sun touches but is shaded from noon to sunset. Maybe I could put it by the front carport or by the mailbox since that faces north. Remembering to water it will be key.

If only other things were that easy. If only we had “do-overs” in real life, perhaps we wouldn’t mess up so much. However, in looking back over my life and dissecting the decisions I made, I didn’t do too badly. I have the world’s most wonderful daughter that wouldn’t have existed if I had said no to that marriage proposal, and my future ex-hubby is a great friend sometimes.

It doesn’t matter anyway. What matters is the present. The past is gone, the future is still to come, be present in the NOW. That’s great advice. It is incredibly hard to do but I’m working on it.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Walking through import stores

Waiting for the washer repairman to fix the old machine, I suddenly have the impulse to go to an import store. World Baazar, Cost Plus, or something like them.

Why? What draws me?

It’s the feeling that I get. The sense of exotic colors and textures. The suggestion of spice. The faint taste of something that is at once new yet thousands of years old. I walk up and down those aisles absorbing the hints of veiled seduction.

It’s the innuendos whispered in your ear by an attractive man. His scent fills your nostrils and your body tingles in apprehension while his heat radiates on your neck. His hand rests firm and warm on the skin at the small of your back and slowly slides a caress around your bare midriff and slips softly down the front of your jeans. You know you should say no and slap it away but the desire blocks your tongue and paralyzes your hands. Your brain disconnects, you arch towards his hands and all you want is more! More!

It’s a small taste of liquor that is sticky sweet and warms your tongue before it flows golden down your throat and sparkles behind your closed eyes. It is wanting more but knowing that you cannot have it.

It is the lure of forbidden pleasures and the promise of paradise. It is release for the frustrations in your soul.

I think the hormones are kicking in.

Wearing that ring…

I’ve taken off the ring I wore on my left hand. It was in place of my wedding ring that I grew too fat to wear. I’ve tried replacing it with rings that won’t be mistaken for wedding rings but it doesn’t feel right – nor does wearing nothing. But I’m determined to not put that ring back on unless WE mean it.

He has expressed his sadness that our home is disintegrating and I responded the same. Neither one of us is going to change enough to entice the other to change their heart. I regret what has happened but I cannot lie to myself or to him any longer.

It will be difficult. We are stretching it out because of his lack of self-sustainability and our daughter starting college in the fall. A clean swift break would have been easier but more hostile and pain ridden. This drawn out stress has brought me yet another head cold but I find that I’m not drinking as much as I have been. Truth is slowly setting me free.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

How to Survive Working at a Conference

I survived the two-day summit. My legs are incredibly sore because we were in the Convention Center that is HUGE and has industrial carpet directly on concrete. I basically did a “screw this” and wore my black jeans with a pair of hastily polished old black running shoes on day two and that helped a bit.

The preparation was hell – juggling printer time with other non-summit personnel who had their own work deadlines to meet, taking up all the conference rooms for our pre-summit meetings and bag stuffing assembly lines. I will research outsourcing options for printing next year.

After sleeping 9 hours, big dog decided that I needed to get up and I did – just long enough to give him his pill, feed both of the dogs their breakfast and biscuits. Then I went back to bed for three more hours. Paradise!

So now, you find me at the closest Whataburger having breakfast with an exceptionally grumpy future ex-husband who is working on his laptop, too. I am content with my tummy filled and good coffee at hand. There is no Wi-Fi here but that is fine. We can “make do” with offline work. Ha!

Tomorrow it is back to work. I have the back of my little truck filled with all the left over tote bags I have to schlep back to the basement storage area. The hubby has generously volunteered to help me but I haven’t decided if I’ll accept or just soldier on.

Lessons learned from this past week?
· Start with comfy shoes. I will go shopping for some new black running shoes to have on hand. Paired with black jeans and a dressy top and jewelry, no one noticed the dress code “violation.”
· Keep hydrated. I came home late at night and was so tired and thirsty (as well as in pain from the hips down) that I almost fell asleep drinking a glass of water and woke up constipated. Oops – too much info.
· Use the cell phone for communicating instead of running to locate the co-worker. The distances were so great and I was a fool to take off on foot when the vibrate feature on our phones works like a charm.
· Keep the registration area straightened up and as condensed as possible. Everything needs to be stored out of sight overnight and set up again easily in the morning. Plus, when the conference is over this makes the “getting out of Dodge” much faster and sorting things out at work the next week is easier as well.
· Keep your temporary staff happy. We had an overzealous convention staffer yank a beverage right out of the hand of our security guard. They felt it wasn’t proper for a guard to eat or drink on duty. I set the convention staff straight. Our guard was a person who needs to stay alert. This means keeping him hydrated and not hungry. Our guard was an incredibly courteous and chivalrous man who was not needed for security (the Convention Center required we employ one) but helped us relay messages and assisted our attendees with small matters.

All in all, it wasn’t so bad. It is back to routine tomorrow and for once that sounds enticing.