Archive for September, 2008

Work

Wow.  I filled in at work today and it was flippin’ crazy.  First off, we were unusually busy.  Second, we were woefully understaffed.  Third, our management is struggling to get supply orders right, so we’re without so much stuff.

I like what I do.  And I like being busy, and even enjoy the adrenaline that comes with days like today.  But come on … when you barely get a breath for six hours … that’s a little much.

My biggest frustration comes with promises made to us as a staff by the new manager.  I know, no one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes.  But things that were supposidly priorities seem to be slipping away in the face of reality for this guy.  Like, he promised he’d do everything to never let us be understaffed like we were today ever again.  The store use to run in chaos often.  But today … apparently, we’re still working out the kinks (several months later) and that really wears on people like me who are willing to believe a person is trustworthy until proven otherwise.

The other factor that plays into my frustration is that I’ve been asked (OK, required to keep my job) to be scheduled three different times during the week.  Right now, I am scheduled one day a week, and usually work two or three times.  No big deal, right?  Wrong.  This job is always asking me for more.  And while I enjoy it, it definitely is not my priority in life.  So when I work days like today, I’m like “this is not worth it.”  Why would people ask me to commit to things while they have a tough time following through on supposidly “important” areas?  More hypocrisy.

Did I mention my manager is also a pastor?  Who’s real desire, I think, is to be in “ministry” full-time?  Shessh…

OK, I’m  feeling better now.  Not really, but it helps to write it down for recollection later.

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Just another spectator

All this political crap has me about at my wits end.  I see the gamut … from CNN’s daily report of which things the candidates are saying are lies (or to what degree they are true), to a facebook entry from a friend that he’s “terrified” that Mr. Obama might become president.  From the comment of a fringe friend that she could “sit in on the upcoming debate” for John McCain (does she think so much like him she thinks she can answer for him??!!??), to the mudslinging on both sides, the hypocrisy and the general B.S.

I’m keeping my hand hidden.  “Everyone” thinks they know who I’m supporting (why do they waste their time even trying to figure it out?).  To be honest, the whole thing is kind of just like a professional sporting event.

We talk about “being fans” of this team or that, and we get emotionally tied to their season.  We rant, rave, watch them on TV or in person.  We speak of their successes in a personal way, and their defeats become fodder for us to blame “whoever” we see causes it. 

Politics are the same.  To be honest, we have our personal preferences.  And we (in our self-centered and ignorant ways) assume “our” way to be the best for the country.  We’ll never say it, but most of us think that whatever we feel on an issue is the “right” way, and that the country is stupid, sinful, ignorant, or whatever if they don’t agree with us.  You know it’s true …

I’ve seen friends almost come to blows because one of them won’t “see” things the way the other presents them.  I’ve seem people accuse friends of terrible untruths … questioning their moral, religious and ethical persons, simply because they support one or the other candidates.  And if we were truthful (and if you’ve studied history to any degree), you would know that a president — even in America — only has so much power.  He can make policy; he can appoint Supreme Court justices (who “should” vote a certain way, but there’s no guarantee), and he can try and make unilateral decisions (even the war we’re currently in didn’t come just because Mr. Bush said it would — congress had to support him to start it — let’s not forget it). 

I’m tired of people hunting for scapegoats to any situation we’re in.  To be trite, bad things happen to good people.  I’ve been screwed over and over again by people who should have been trustworthy, or honest, or whatever, and who sacreficed me for their own personal gain.  And I get angry, frustrated, and hopeless when faces with those situations. 

But at the same time, just like a sporting event, national politics and our economy is run by, and won or lost by, a team.  And to some degree or another, we are simply spectators in that game.  Sure, we have a vote.  Sure, we have a voice.  But to injure or damage personal relationships because of “belief” (there’s that evil word again) in something that really, we’re just spectators in, is simply crazy.

Maybe, if we put as much energy into building bridges with the people in our lives, working through problems we can have influence in, and bringing “political” ideology down to a personal level with a face, a name, and a solution, we would be a stronger country all the way around?  Maybe, if we stop pledging our allegiances to a party, or a country, or a religion and pledge to each other as human beings to bring hope, and life, and joy and sustainability into each other’s lives, we could circumvent the crap and fulfill all the rhetoric we so easily banter about with real action, kindness and love.  Perhaps, if we put our energy into doing, instead of just cheering or jeering, we could really make a difference.

Go, team!

Just for fun …

Read this:

You Are Disturbingly Profound
You’re contemplative, thoughtful, and very intense.
Taking time to figure out the meaning of life is a priority for you.
Because you’re so introspective, you often react in ways that surprise people.
No one can really understand how you are on the inside… and that disturbs them.

This is from a fun website that does “mini” quizzes … like if your sex life is “normal,” what kind of animal are you, where you should live (Indiana?  I like the second one, New Mexico, better), and what kind of bagel would you be (chocolate chip, thank you very much):

You Are a Chocolate Chip Bagel
You are creative, experimental, and and self-aware.
You are a very bohemian person, and you tend to live a strange life.

Of all the types, you’re the most likely to go for strange food combinations.
You tend to have coffee for breakfast. Anything with lots of coffee will do.

So, check it out for a little introspective fun: http://www.blogthings.com/whatkindofbagelareyouquiz/

The Paradox of Goodbye

Tonight we said goodbye to another friend.  It’s been a tough summer for me in the area of saying goodbye.  This friend’s headed toward a better place (Chicago) for a new job and new experiences.  We’re all happy for her — but then, we’re really not happy at all, because she is moving out of our lives.  And even thought we’ll still be friends, it won’t be the same as living daily with her.

At the same time, sitting around our friends’ dining room table tonight, sharing memories, jokes, inuendo and laughs, I was caught up in one of those “moments” that make life worth living and take my breath away.  I even told the folks I was with, “This is one of those times that, when I think about people gathering with friends and I start to wish for things, well … \this is just one of those times.” And they nodded and smiled, because they “got” exactly what I was trying to say.

It’s funny, because like weddings and funerals, we often wait until a goodbye to say things and experience things we should be experiencing every day.  And like so many things in life, until you come together to say goodbye to a person, you don’t always realise the amazing, immense influence they have had on you.

Because I’ve had to say goodbye more than once this year, I’m getting better at treasuring the moments I do have with people I call friends.  Even in my own family, as the big boy prepares to take his fledgling steps out of the nest in just a few months, I’m having to come to grips with what it all means in my life.  I told my friend who was leaving tonight, “You spend a huge chunk of your life with these kids, then you have to let go.”  And while we’ve worked toward preparing them and building them and helping them become the people they were designed to be … it still sucks to let them go onto the next stage.   I love these kids and have spent a good deal of my life schooling them.  This is one tought part about homeschooling they don’t warn you about … in nine years I’ll be at the end of the line for homeschooling.  Then what?

Anyway, all this to say that goodbye never gets easier.  I’ve learned that you can maintain beautiful friendships at a distance (although they are different).  And that finally, after all these years, I’m learning to appreciate the lessons of paradoxes in my life.  That the bad accentuates the good; that the saddness makes more room for the joy.  And that the goodbyes make the coming togethers that much sweeter, dearer, and precious.    As another good friend often says, “Ït is what it is.”

Amen to that.

Rain, Rain, Rain

It’s pretty much been raining “non-stop”for about three days now.  Still, no one here seems to mind too much:

Between our house and the neighbor’s a small “river” has formed, and the three youngest spent a good chunk of the day slipping, sliding, splashing, and just goofing around in the rain.  I love summer rain — still warm enough to get sopping wet, and enjoy every moment of it!

They all came in, took warm showers and snuggled up in their jammies.  We spent the evening just hanging out,  and eating a warm “comfort” meal (sloppy joes, scalloped potatoes and green beans).  The girls did some collage project; “Ë” played a little video game, and we just chilled.

There’s something to be said about rainy days.  Somehow, the “needs” that constantly press in from every side slide away with the warm rain.  Today, I skipped “the spectre,”and went to enjoy a warm chai while I wrote for an hour.  Then, I haunted the local bookstore, and made plans for future gifts for the kids.  I walked slowly through the rain (again, I like the warm rain) back and forth from place to place, savoring every minute.  All in all, the day was good.’

Another step in the right direction, rainy days like this.

Lara Bars

Wandering around my little local grocery this morning, I took a chance and glanced through their “health” food section.  It’s not a huge area; but their options were impressive.  In fact, they carried one of my family’s favorites, “Lara”bars.  These gluten free, all natural, no added sugar snack bars are great for a meal on the run, or just when you want something crunchy that’s kind of good for you (loaded with protein and no chemical crap).

Where I live is pretty much the middle of nowhere.  I mean, we’re near large metropolitan areas.  And we have our selection of mega-marts.  But before there was Wal-Mart or Meijers in the area, there was Riverside.  This small store is about four miles from where I live, and it’s a “Spartan”store (for those of you who live in or near Michigan).  It’s at this little market I found my Lara bars this morning.  They also have a friendly deli, and a huge selection of things like “Bob’s Mill”grains and cereals, locally purchased eggs, and numerous other goodies that you just can’t find anywhere else.

I’m honest — usually I shop the mega places for the price.  But as the sustainable lifestyle continues to creep into my being, I find myself going to Riverside (and places like it) more and more.  True, when I do my once monthly “big shop,” I go into Flint to discount groceries.  But for day to day living, I like thinking I’m helping keep a local grocery with a long community history afloat.

I like the people there.  I like the little, cramped  aisleway that force you to make eye contact with the person you’re passing.  I like the fact that they try and buy local, and pass those goodies onto the consumer.  And, I like the atmosphere.  It’s personal, loaded with history and personality.  It’s kind of an iconic representation of what community could be.

As I was checking out, I was telling my cashier how excited I was to find Lara bars in their store.  She said, “”If you want, we can order them for you by the case, and the manager will give you a discount.”   I told her that was great; that I’d be back next week to check on that.  And then she said, “If someone wants something, we’ll keep it in stock.  That’s just the way we like to do business.”  Wow.  How often do you hear that in Mega marts?

I think the missing element of community I seek probably won’t be found inside the church building.  Not that some of those people won’t be a piece of the journey.  But I feel like, as I learn to live deliberately, and honor the sacred connections between myself and those around me — wherever I am — I am washed over by the very thing I seek.

It’s rainy and cool outside right now.  An event we had scheduled tonight has been cancelled.  So I sit here writing, my husband jamming some blues riffs on his guitar, my kids occupied with various actitivies.  My tummy is full of grilled two cheese sandwich and warm tomato soup.  Our house is almost put back together, and life is good.

Right here, right now, is one of those moments meant to be savored, treasured, and pulled out again to look at when the proverbial shit hits the fan.  Now is a snapshot, a piece of beautiful wrapping itself around me.  I am too wise (or maybe cynical) to think it will last.  But right now, this is a fragment of heaven.

Beautiful..

Do This!

I have this friend (actually, a friend of many of my friends) who’s done this way-cool “little” thing to help people.  It’s called “Card Me,” and the concept is simple:  We all have unsued, small amounts left on various gift cards.  Why let it sit and mold, or why use it for crazy, unneeded things?  Send it here, and they’ll give it to organizations that help people.  Check it out:

Here’s the link: http://www.giftcardgiver.com

Go check it out.

Nancy and Michael

Yesterday, I reconnected with my cousin, Nancy.  She and her family live in Ft. Meyers, Florida, so needless to say, I don’t see them often.  She’s also my brother’s age, so there’s that whole, weird “second family” relationship that I have struggled with my entire life.

These are “good folk.” They have a good life in Ft. Meyers … decent jobs, a beautiful home (great real estate sense, these guys), and huge hearts.  Their only daughter recently started college, so they’re going through some of the same “emotional”issues I’m wrestling with.  Anyway … we spent an amazing afternoon sitting in the early autumn Michigan sunshine (one of the best times in this state, says transplanted Nancy), laughing, eating “Donna’s Donuts,”a Flint treat like none other, and getting reacquainted.

It was cool, because tit was a refreshing change from conversation I’m use to.  This area is so depressed.  But my goodness, the last week or so I’ve been bombarded with experiences that are beginning to bring me back to hopefulness.  This particular encounter was interesting, because Michael and Nancy stand on the outside of it all.  “Flint gets such a bad rap,” said Kenny, Nancy’s cousin from her mom’s side.  “But there are a lot of good things that go unnoticed — and maybe it’s time we start focusing on those things.”

I’m not a Pollyanna kind of girl.  But what Kenny said made sense.  If I have to be here right now, maybe I should stop focusing on what was, and what might be, and enjoy the here and now.  Look for things that are good about where I am — like the excursion the kids and I took to “Steady Eddie’s” sandwich shop at the Flint Farmer’s Market.  Or the cool co-op art gallery next door, where we got to know a potter named “Mollie,”and reveled in her beautiful original artwork, and heard stories of her journey from teacher to artist to local historian.

Or take “Donna’s Donuts.” Honestyly, I have never had a better donut.  The owner is the mom of a friend of Kenny’s.  It’s located near Swartz Creek (a subdivision of Flint), and the business recently went from mom to son.  It’s the kind of place I’d hunt down with my family just to revel in the atmosphere of an off the beaten path.

I preach live in the moment all the time.  I’ve spent so much of my time trying to figure out what I’m suppose to do that I end up surviving, and not living.  I struggle to find the balance between what I “have”to do and what I “want”to do.  Things will continue to just go on as they are until we do something different.  So I guess I want to do something different.  LIke enjoy my surroundings.  Not worry about the tasks of the day so much as to enjoy the experiences — and share them with people I love.

I’ve lost the “guilt” thing.  I’m pretty good without the “have to’s” I use to live under.  Maybe not where other people are — but ahead of the game for me.  Now, I want to work on getting my life together, and start doing the things I just talk about.  Actually, I’ve started — I just want to keep on.

As sultry summer takes a gentle turn toward beautiful autumn, I am learning to breathe — again.  It’s good, and I’ve come to realize I have a lot more control over what’s going on around me than I sometime realize.  So that’s where I’m at.  And it’s a good place.

Today’s Question

If someone is loyal and trustworthy to most people, but behaves in a way that makes you question their motives, what does that mean?  If someone says they are truthful, but they are only truthful 90% of the time, can you put your trust in them?  If someone has been consistent, then abruptly changes, then seems consistent again — who are they?  And can they be trusted at all?

Just looking for some clarity …

Hope … interrupted

So today was one of those days that has been, at best, schizophrenic.  It started with a conversation I didn’t want to have at work.  See, I have a pretty limited amount of hours I feel like I can give to my employment.  The other areas of my life are more important, so I try and do what I can — but according to a corporation, it’s probably not “good business.”

Anyway, one of my bosses informed me that, before long, I would probably have to make a choice to either give the business more time, or quit.  He was doing me a favor — and honestly, he did it in the best, most compassionate way.  He said, “I’d hate to lose you as an employee because of this.  You are the kind of person that makes this business successful.  But …”  So while he was very, very encouraging, it also took me toward a place of decision that I “felt” was coming down the pipe.

Later, I met with another friend who encouraged me immensely.  He said, “You are a dreamer.  You are a person who instills hope.  I hope that what has happened around you over the last couple of years doesn’t steal that from you.”  I assured him it was too late for that … but somewhere in the depths of my being, I felt the long-stilled quiver of possibility.  Weird.

See, I want to fight it, because I don’t want to hope.  Every time, throughout my life, I’ve always felt that any good thing was simply a precursor to being crushed again.  So after this last long drought of refusing to give in to the false promise of hope today was — I’m still not sure what today was.

It didn’t last long.  When my husband got home, we had a “discussion” which pretty much became how I would remember this day.  Still, I’m struggling — longing — to regain that feeling I had on my motorcycle this afternoon.  A longing glance of hope in my direction for the first time … a welcoming, warm hand I’ve almost forgotten the feel of.

Is it possible to regain the same hope from a totally different perspective and place?  No, it’s not the same, I know.  But for so much of my life, I was a person that could look through the crap and still see what was on the other side.  About five years ago, I started to question my ability to do that — actually, I started to question everything.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve made fledgling steps toward actually trusting my intuition again.  This summer, though, has taken its toll on me again, though.

It’s crazy, to be in your forties and still have no idea who you are, or what you’re suppose to be doing.  And no superficial “easy” answer will suffice.  You know, the pat, happy, “whatever” answers.

Maybe like most of life, hope isn’t a destination.  Maybe it’s just an itinerant traveler along our paths.  Coming and going at will, wandering in and out of our lives just like we wander in and out of the lives of others.  Sometimes close, sometimes no where to be seen.

All I know is that today I remember a little.  And I remembered in a healthy, non co-dependant way.  And even though I don’t have any more answers than I did when I rolled out of bed this morning, I do have just a fragment — a sliver — of what I kind of remember as hope.

“Life brings changes.  But the things that really matter stay with us forever … change will happen whether we want it or not.”  (Indian guru on the new Cheetah Girls movie).  It just keeps getting weirder.