Thursday, November 12, 2009

Doing My Job Without A Home

I was never promised an office...a new camera, yes, and a new computer, but never an office.
There is a lot to be said for each employee having at least a small space to call ‘home’. A place for personal effects...a comb, a tube of lipstick...whatever you might need before rushing off to the next appointment. Maybe a photo or two of kids and grandkids...anything homey to make you feel less ‘out there’ and still connected to your primary residence. All this takes having your own space to place these things in...say just a cubicle...or even a cardtable in a corner somewhere.
Well, I have no place to hang a hat...good thing they are out of style!
I have taken up an attitude of kinship with the old western writer, Louis L’Amour...who said he could write with a typewriter on his lap sitting in the middle of Sunset Blvd.
So why am I whining? Actually, I’m not...
I love my job...can you believe it is possible to even say that phrase with an ounce of sincerity? I do!...I love my job. Everyday is exciting...something new. I’m still holding my breath...afraid that someone will discover that there is an employee out there that is actually having a great time doing her job...and fire her! (“We can’t have people actually liking what they do! Never heard of such a thing!...can’t let that get out around her!”)
Now, maybe everyday is exciting because I’m over 50 and have to relearn where everything is in “where did I put that on the hard drive”?
Or, maybe the excitement comes from having the best of both worlds. After working full time for some years I now get to clock out and go home at noon everyday. I am actually cleaning out my cupboards and home has become a place that I truly enjoy now that it is becoming neat and orderly.
Whatever. All that to say this:
I don’t have to have a cubicle or a hatrack. The end of the boardroom -sized table that serves my needs each morning is just fine! And I have the added blessing of putting everything back in my briefcase and leaving an uncluttered table to return to the next day. No messy desk glaring at me first thing every morning! Maybe that in itself gives everyday a fresh start with a great attitude! (Whispering: I love my job!)

December's Pure Joy

My husband and I just returned from Hatfield Park. It’s a quiet little park nestled beside a pond in rural Oklahoma. This morning the park was even quieter than usual due to the snow, which had fallen throughout the night. There are now four inches of that wonderful stuff piled up outdoors. As I sit in my cozy recliner, with a view of our snowy backyard, I begin re-living my morning experience at the park.
As we made preparations to take the dogs for a run at the park, I tucked a black plastic trash bag “sled” into my pocket, and we headed out to our 4-WD vehicle. On the road to the park I received a professor/lawyer lecture from my husband (# 499 in the ongoing series) about the risks involved in not being certain of what is under the snow, especially when it is just a black plastic trash bag separating me from the earth.
(I wonder if there happens to be a university somewhere that gives out honorary degrees to professor’s wives with attentive listening skills? Possibly some sort of a “BS” degree?)

We arrived at the park, I began climbing a steep hill that was just perfect for sledding. Being a grandmother (in my 50’s) I was a bit awkward. This used to be much easier! Hoping to scout out the path I would soon travel down, I used my Nike’s as “bump detectors” and made my way to the top of the hill.

I sat down on my “sled”, and then it happened. Pure joy! I slid my way down through some sort of midlife star gate. When I reached the bottom of the hill it was as if my whole world changed from black and white to color, and I felt totally alive. I don’t believe that would have happened if I had been on a real sled, or a saucer, protecting me from feeling the earth beneath me.
My thirst to repeat the experience kept me climbing up that hill several more times. Two of those times, my scruffy dog, Jake, rode down the hill on top of me.
Jake is my inspiration for cutting loose and enjoying, with pure abandon, whatever is occurring at the present moment. Living in town without a fenced yard Jake stays tied up most of the time. When he does get turned loose he is ecstatic. His joy is boundless, and he runs non-stop.

I stay “tied up” most of the time also - my fenceless yard being grown-up responsibilities. These consume my days, and sometimes my evenings, leaving me numbed and exhausted and falling into bed early so that I can get up the next morning and do the same thing all over again, but not today. Today I stood on the top of a snowy hill and called to my inner child to come out and play.


Whistling Gophers

My husband just got back from the coffee shop - our local source of important information. He must have been talking about new cars again. A buddy told him to watch out for the "whistling gophers". Now that term may not be new to you - but it sure was to us.

It goes like this: you are at the car dealership and you ask, "How much does it go for?" Then you whistle!

That started me thinking about how many whistling gophers there have been at our house in this past year.

“How much does that new roof go for?” Whistle.

“How much for the new transmission for the Volkswagen?” Whistle.

You get the idea - you have your own list of whistling gophers.

So what can we do about whistling gophers? Not much.

They seem to come in three categories though - maybe it helps to define them. Some are on a “got-to-have” list. Others are just on a “want-to-have” list. The tricky list is the “can-be-put-off” list. Those are the ones that usually surprise you when you least expect it. At our house we tend to gravitate toward the “got-to-have” list. That seems to keep life relatively easier to handle financially.

The “want-to-have” list is usually full of things that I can loose the intense desire for, if I stop thinking about it. The trick is to really stop thinking about it! The old Quakers had it right. “Tell me what thee thinks thee needs, and I will tell thee how to live without it”. Sounds like sage advice to me, and I’m sure my husband would approve of this new line if reasoning.

Body Language

The main characters in some of the greatest movies of all time use body language to powerfully dramatize an attitude of acceptance.

Julie Andrews, face aglow and whirling around on an open meadow, stretches her arms out wide and begins singing at the top of her lungs: “the hills are alive with the sound of music”…(movie scene fades away).

A young Civil War officer, badly wounded, sits astride a beautiful horse. Opening his arms wide, and asking forgiveness of the Almighty, he sends his horse running, one last time, across the front line of the enemy…challenging them to end his life.

A young man lifts his female companion up and steadies her as she clings to the railing of the ships bow in front of her. Her eyes are closed. He encourages her to let go and open her arms wide, and then open her eyes. She finds herself high above the ocean surface, nothing else in view, not even the ocean liner beneath her. She smiles and accepts the full impact of all that her senses are absorbing.

A Russian Jew, in the throws of an oppressive regime, standing in his barn, flings his arms wide open and begins to dance and sing about what he would do if he were rich.

One more. The scene is modern day New York. A shopkeeper is closing the front door of her empty store for the last time, the same store where she spent many happy childhood hours with her mother who is now deceased. As she looks one last time into the empty room she catches a vision of the past. Her mother is holding her under the arms and twirling ‘round and ‘round.

All scenes from movies and not real life - or are they? Maybe I should rephrase that to ask, “or can they be?”

We can “body language” ourselves through life on this planet in one of two ways. We can fold our arms across our chests and live a closed-off life. Or we can choose to open our arms wide - embracing life, and our fellow man, with an acceptance that encircles the globe.

My Grandpa

The man I remember…
He was gentle, strong and manly
He had a tenderness that increased with age
He enjoyed a good joke and laughed easily
Careful in money matters and conscientious toward any debt
He was an honest man and sensitive, easily hurt.

He was a fair man
He shared in grandma’s household duties
And thoroughly enjoyed his garden and yard.
Because of illness, diminished strength and sufficiency
He found the last years a struggle
His faith was quiet but true
A meal was never received in his home without his:
“Father, it is again we come to thee with thankful hearts…”

“A thankful heart that is what you have left me, grandpa…”
The memory of the just is blessed indeed.

Sassy, The Vegetarian Cat

I am having a disagreement with my calico cat, Sassy, about our new diet. Today marks the first anniversary of my semi-vegetarian diet. And my cat has horrified me for the very last time with her gift of a dead songbird at our front door. She has been put on notice that she is also now a vegetarian – an indoor cat.

I was holding her in my arms when I shared this piece of information with her and she immediately hissed loudly at me. Honest, you can ask my husband, Randy! Then she jumped down and trotted off, in her little white pantaloons, with her tail just a flicking.

So much for the bonding relationship that I thought we were working on together!

The other family member who is loosely associated with my lifestyle change, of course, is Randy. He understands that “going veggie” was a personal choice for me and that I will prepare anything for him that he chooses to eat. He seems to like this arrangement. I mean who wouldn’t. Most of the time I used to fix whatever I was hungry for and make him eat it too. Now he gets to choose for himself - everyday!

The argument going around on the Internet is whether or not “semi” vegetarian is actually a vegetarian diet at all. I eat absolutely no beef. I have, over the past year eaten some chicken and pork, but now I am “fish only” – two or three servings a week and in the past year one third of my days were totally vegetarian – no fish or meat at all.

Who cares what someone else on the Internet thinks about that? Not me. I feel great and this works for me. Is my diet healthier? Sort of, but now comes the hard part – limiting sugar and “carbs”. To be truly healthier I have a alot of extra weight to loose.

I hereby give you permission to shake your finger at me if you see me standing in the checkout line at Alva’s Market or Wal-Mart with candy in my basket. Seriously! If I argue back and tell you that the candy is for my grandkids – don’t believe me. They live in Stillwater. (It’s just the sugar talking!) This is war, and my cat has turned against me, I need a friendly army on my side!

Grandma's Rolling Pin

In the process of making homemade chicken and noodles for my husband Randy, the thought occurred to me that my rolling pin would outlast me – as it did my grandmother. I guess my mind traveled to that conclusion because I was using her rolling pin to roll out the noodles.

My grandmother has been gone for many years now and I thoroughly enjoy using her old rolling pin and remembering what she did with it. I can hold this treasured piece of wood in my hands, but never again will I taste the wonderful noodles, cookies, pies, and other goodies that she made, with the help of this treasured rolling pin.

I come from a family of cooks who have used their cooking and baking skills in many ways. There is my brother who, for a time, worked as a chef in Seattle and Los Angeles. Also my sister, in Alaska, who managed the lunch counter at a large health food store and enjoyed playing with recipes for the vegetarian palate.

My mother often cooked Sunday dinners for company after church. Or spent a whole afternoon making homemade cinnamon rolls, and dinner rolls. She also made the best jams in the world, to go on those luscious dinner rolls - raspberry jam, and frozen strawberry jam. Yum! And, for a time, her pies sold in a small café on the main highway between Bothell and Everett, Washington, just north of Seattle.

My dad had a flair for creating an awesome sweet barbeque sauce from scratch. Chicken off the grill takes on a whole new flavor with this sauce. The family finally convinced him to write down the recipe. I can still see him standing at the kitchen counter, sometime in the 1950’s, measuring each ingredient, for the first time, so we could reproduce what he was able to just throw together. We still use his recipe to this day. Even Randy, who does not easily move toward a new taste, became a convert after we were married.

Speaking of Randy, he makes the best homemade chili I’ve ever tasted. He tosses in some fresh veggies near the end of the cooking time so you have the crunch of diced celery, onions and green peppers, as well as the warmth and goodness of the chili, in every bite. Doesn’t that sound great during this cold snap we’ve been experiencing?

So where do I fit in this creative group? I love to bake pies. It warmed my heart, a few years ago, to have my youngest son ask me to teach his bride how to make cherry pies. My grandmothers, on both sides of my family, left me a pie-baking legacy that I feel honor bound to continue into the next generation of our family. And that always brings me back to my grandmother’s rolling pin.