Sunday, October 31, 2010

Haunt

Here's a story for you. I came downstairs yesterday morning all half awake and hobbling like I do in the morning, and there, in front of the stove was a dog biscuit.

A dog biscuit.

You understand what I'm saying here, right? A dog biscuit was in front of the stove. A whole dog biscuit.

I had the dog euthenized in the spring. I gave his dog things away almost immediately because it made me cry to see them. We have not had a beef basted biscuit in the house since.

There is only one explanation possible. My dog's ghost haunts the kitchen. It was his favorite place, after all. He was a big dog, and he took up most of the kitchen as he waited, just a little anxiously, for the cook to drop something. Which she did a lot. (Usually, after saying, "Buck!") So Buck is back, and fitting, isn't it, being that he timed his return to coincide with Halloween and all?

Well. Then there is another explanation, I suppose. Just to play it safe, the first thing that I did when I got to work was to buy some mouse bait. There is the off chance that this might be the beginning of our annual mouse immigration. They attempt to take up residence each year as soon as it starts getting cold.

So, it could be a ghost dog, or mice. One of the two.

I still cannot figure out where the dog biscuit came from though.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Taking a Break

Thursday night, I walked out of class. Vanessa walked with me. "Can you believe it?" she said. "Can you believe that we do not have some big project, or a major test, or something due that is driving us crazy?" And I glanced over at her and said, "No. I can't. I'm going home tonight, and I am taking the night off. I am not studying anything at all. Tomorrow, I'm going to clean my house." (It really needed some organizing.) We parted ways, and I came home. True to my word, I did nothing. Tim and I went down to take care of a tenant problem. We did some grocery shopping. I bought him a nice piece of walleye, and some half-n-half for a pot of cream of potato soup. I was in bed a few minutes after 8. The phone rang once, and it seemed as if it were in the middle of the night. Tim answered it from his side of the bed, and I said, confused, "Why's Bill Clinton calling us in the middle of the night?" It was not yet 9, and Tim didn't bother to answer me. It would have been a waste of time, because I had immediately fallen back to sleep.

Friday, I did clean house, change sheets, do laundry, organize things, scrub the bathroom. I did it with a phone pressed to my ear, catching up with an old friend. It feels like forever since we've had time to visit, and it was nice. There was a lot of laughter.

Today, I will work all day, but tomorrow, I have a Sunday off. Tim and I have plans for a lazy day, church and then a trip to pick up some parts to fix his poor deer damaged Mustang. We will take the long way home. Hopefully, I'll be able to stay awake. I really just feel like I could lay down and sleep for a week. Last night, I woke up and my back hurt so badly, I couldn't get comfortable to doze off again. Winter is here. I drove through a sleet storm to get to school yesterday, and it sleeted once again while I was house cleaning. The cold weather really aggravates my bones. But I have Sunday off, and I'll dress warmly, and Tim and I will have a pleasant day, just the two of us. No books. No worries. Just us.

Friday, October 29, 2010

And I raaaaaaaan, I ran so far awaaaaaaaaaay...

Yesterday was a very nice day. I started the day pooped. I mean, I didn't go to bed until almost midnight, and then I just laid awake repeating things in my head for quite some time. When I did fall asleep, I woke back up pretty quickly over and over, with the recurring thought that I'd overslept and was late. I know that I'm an idiot when it comes to school. I am not a confident student, and I also am very fond of A's. So I doubt myself, I study, I shoot for the A, I never feel like I'm ready, it is a cycle. As BB pointed out yesterday, going to college with me is a real emotional roller coaster.

I got to school early yesterday. I was tired, and I wanted to leave myself extra time to get a cup of coffee from the cafeteria. On the way back through, one of the women who had been in our study group said, "We're covering stuff one last time," and so I joined them, and then we walked to the test like we were being marched to the electric chamber. One of the benefits of group studies is that you realize (in my case, for the first time) that none of us are real confident. We all feel like we are drowning. They are throwing one project after another at us, and someone commented that it was to weed the slackers and the people that can't cut it out of the program right away. It made sense. Two people have left already.

In any case, after the test, John was in the hall with a sick expression on his face. He doesn't think that he did well. That surprised me. In the study group, he knew his stuff. I, myself, thought it was surprisingly easy. That doesn't mean, however, that I was putting down the right answers. I don't know. It just seemed easy to me. John has test anxiety though, and he's never happy with his test grades. Then Mindy came along with a worried look. And Kim. Soon, we were all congregated in the hall, and I was saying, "Well, I think you're going to find out that the teachers are right when they say that we know more than we think we do." We were not supposed to be back to class until 12:30, and we had a couple hours to kill, so we went back to the cafeteria. We were supposed to be celebrating, so there were celebratory deserts with ice cream and quesadillas and things. I stuck with my celebratory salad. We all sat around and we just blabbed. We talked for two hours. We passed around cell phones with dog pictures. We talked about kids. We talked about family. We talked about how nerve wracking this is. We talked about jobs and we talked about juggling. Most importantly, we laughed our asses off. We did. We laughed and laughed. At one point, Mindy said, "One day, you weren't there, and she was handing out papers and I thought, 'I need to get one of these for Debby,' and right on cue, I heard your voice, asking a question. My head whipped around, I was so shocked. I hadn't heard you come in." So laughing, I told them about driving the truck, and seeing the flock of seagulls, and "remember that crazy haired group from the 60s?" and John said, "You know, I was just going to say that I thought there was a group..." and I said, "Well, there was, and they had that song that became an anthem for...well...probably somebody..." and I broke into singing, "....and I raaaaaaaaaaann, I ran so far awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay, and I raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, I couldn't get awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay..." and they all fell across the table. "So then I looked at the clock in the truck, which I'm not used to driving, and I had 8 minutes, so I stopped for pictures of the flock of seagulls, and then I continued on my way, and took my time ambling into class, because I still had a few minutes and then I got to the door of the classroom, and everyone was seated and the teacher was talking, and I looked at the clock and I was nearly 10 minutes late, and nearly wet myself in the hall. I didn't know the clock in the truck was off. I never drove it, and I haven't replaced my watch band that I broke while stocking pop at work..." and people laughed themselves stupid.

We went back to class, still laughing. Kim said, "Wasn't it good to just sit and laugh together?" And we all agreed that it had felt great. We'd already committed to a weekly study session. Yesterday we also agreed to meet for lunch every Thursday.

I'm discovering that I'm not really all that different from everyone else, and you cannot guess how comforting that is. And when I'm trying to say the comforting things to them, my own words make me feel better myself. And when the going gets rough, I just have to sing, quietly, "....and I raaaaaaaaaaaaan, I ran so far awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay...." and people burst out laughing. It's become an anthem, really....

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Yay!

I was just about sick over that test.
I did okay.
I really think that I did okay.
Maybe even well.
Boy.
Talk about a ton off my mind.
Have you ever just wanted a day to be done, with all your heart? At the same time, you don't want to be done with your coffee, because that will mean that you have to get up from your chair and get the day started. Really. I just am not confident about this material. I am not seeing how it fits together, what the purpose of it is. I have this idea that if I organize the material, it will make sense to me, but you know, I tried that. I tried to organize it, and I couldn't. By the time that I was done, it made less sense to me than it did when I started even.

Young Girl sat in on our study group. I was surprised to see her, because the group project had been so traumatic, for all of us, I suppose. But I saw her walking to our table, and was surprised that more than half the group muttered, "Oh, gees, it too late to hide?" I mean, she was a major problem in the project. Major. But she's not a problem in the classroom, really. She is vague and asks off-the-wall questions sometimes, that's all. We got the use of a conference room, and that was nice, because we were able to shut the door, talk in normal voices, and we had a white board to diagram long term goals and short term objectives. At one point, everyone was calling out answers to a question John had asked, and Young Girl said, sweetly smiling. 'We could make a story, you know, about going to the ball field, I don't know, some sporting event or something, and then we...' And people were staring at her as she wandered off. We were afraid to follow for fear we would get lost too.

I'd sat at the far end of the table, with my chair turned sideways so that I could hear everyone, and I watched this tableaux. Young Girl looked around and said, "Why is it, when I talk, it is met with dead silence?" And she smiled sweetly. Someone said, "Because I never understand what you're trying to say." Someone else said, "When you talk, I need to process it."

From my own corner, I sat quietly and watched. I felt really sorry for her, and I wanted to say something afterwards, but I did know know what to say. I did not know how to help her. I do feel bad for her, because it struck me, for the very first time. This girl is very smart, but she is not going to make it through this class. The classroom we use the majority of the time has tables, and we sit, two to a table. I know her seatmate has moved. She said that Young Girl just talks too much. She felt that it would be easier to focus on the teacher if she did not have this meaningless chatter going on. Young Girl has some sort of a problem. That problem is beginning to isolate her.

Earlier in the morning, I'd been working on another paper. A name popped up on IM, and I saw it was the young separated woman that had lost so much weight it was shocking. Remember how I'd vowed to be a friend to her? I tried, but she suddenly just stopped coming to class just a couple weeks after school started. I sent her a concerned e-mail, but received no answer. I'd forgotten about her in the crush of school work. I hailed her, via IM, and told her that I'd been worried about her, asked her what had happened. The words came up. She was taking a break. She'd tried to commit suicide. She was getting help. I was sick as I read her words on the computer screen. Walking across the parking lot after a very long day, I think about her again, even as I think about Young Girl. I drove to work still thinking about that. We all need to feel like we fit. We all need to find our place. I make a vow to be more patient with Young Girl, and to help her if I can.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Long Day.

Today I went to school early, to get some study time in for this midterm tomorrow. I only had one class, Life Span, and this class kind of puzzles me. I feel like I have a good grasp of the material. I feel confident. I don't feel as if I am struggling with the tests. But I can't seem to function any higher than a 'B' in that class. It surprises me. I don't think it is a difficult class, but I'm unable to get my 'A'. I'm getting better though. I am no longer disappointed in a 'B'. It's not a bad grade. Speaking with one of my classmates today, he was frustrated at his grades as well. He's a smart guy. He seems to understand, as far as I can tell from his classroom discussion, but both his test scores are in the 60s, and he's pretty aggravated.

This afternoon, a bunch of us got together and studied for that midterm test, about eight of us. It was helpful, I think. We're all wrecks. We're all nervous. We'll all do our best, and I'm telling you all right now, if I get a B in this, well, I won't be disappointed at all.

At work tonight, I was processing a check and shockingly, the machine ate it. Chewed it right up. The man quietly said, "Well, let me run out to the truck and get my check book. Just ring these folks up." So I did. He came back in with his check book and went to the back of the line. "No, Mr. W, you come to the front of the line." "No," he said. "I'll wait. That way I'm not holding these folks up, if the machine decides to eat my check again." And even though the nice folks in line urged him to go ahead, he insisted on waiting. When it was his turn, I rang him up, and this time the machine processed his check without eating it. I told him that I truly appreciated his graciousness. He looked surprised and said, "If a person can't handle a little thing like this without getting mad, well, I say he's got a real problem." He right. But I didn't bother to point out that there's a lot of people in this world that have a real problem.

I saw Merrill's mama today. She was in buying a bigger cage for her spoiled chicken. I imagined him climbing up to get comfortable on his stuffed chicken, alertly cocking his head and making little peeps as he listened to the latest book on tape. And that mental picture made me smile.

One of the women in my class asked me if I would like to babysit her daughter in December. I'd enjoyed the time I'd spent with her and her daughter, and apparently her daughter had taken quite a shine to me. She wanted me to babysit. Of course I said yes. I'm looking forward to it too.

Different Day

Well, yesterday is yesterday, and today I'm studying for the midterm. I'm looking at this stuff and trying to put it all together in my head. It is the first test we've had in this class, and the first test I've had from this particular teacher, so there are a lot of unknowns here.

Yesterday, I felt competent and smart. Today, however, I feel as if I set my smarts down someplace and promptly forgot where I put them.

Eee.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Place Where I Am

Today, I got a test back with a thrilling 97% at the top of it. I took a unit test for another class, and I think that I did well on that too. I am preparing for a mid-term on Thursday which has me bug-eyed with terror. As I was copying some material, a young girl from my class stood by. We talked. She admitted that she's terrified about this test as well. "Let's study together at the library tomorrow after our LifeSpan class," I suggested. "We'll pass the word. Who ever wants to join us for a few hours can." And she accepted readily, relieved. I was just as relieved as she was, truth be told. Later, I scooted out to my truck to drop off my bookbag, and I heard the sound of a bird call behind me. Surprised, I turned to see a tall smiling young man from one of my classes last spring. "How are you?" he hailed me. And we talked, because I've only seen him a couple times this semester. I walked to my next class in the unseasonably warm and cloudy October day, and I loved this place in life that I am.

How I Did That

Everyone was quite interested in how I could know what search words were being used as my blog was searched yesterday. No. I'm not a 'tech-savvy person', as Jenny thought. I even boggled Mikey's mind. True confession time: I actually did not know that I could do this until yesterday. See that globe in my side bar? It tells where all of you are from. If I click on the last button in the second row, it takes me to another screen. I knew that I could see what posts people were reading. What I did not realize, until yesterday, was that I could see, if someone was searching my blog, what words they were entering. I 'watched' this person type in a word, and then be directed to a handful of blog posts. Not finding what they were looking for, they'd type in something else, and be directed yet again. I followed them around the blog for a while. It was a truly strange experience, like standing around a corner, watching a stranger poke through your home. *sigh* So, friends, it was not magic, and it wasn't even being 'tech savvy'. It was just one of those amazing coincidences.

In any case, it caused me to think about the things that I put out there, and how that information could be exploited if someone is trying to use it in a bad way. Initially, it came as a bit of a shock, but I decided that really, it is what it is. If someone doesn't like you, they'll use whatever they can to inflict whatever damage they can. My words are my words. I am what I am. I'm no more imperfect than anyone else. I realize that as I type these words, I believe them, which, for a person of low self esteem, is a pretty big deal.

I have a test this morning, so I've got to hit the road early. I don't feel well prepared for this test. I spent time studying, but I also had homework to get done. There really is a lot of work this semester, and I'm a bit overwhelmed. Every little project I get done makes me feel better. We are on the down hill slide of it, and I am glad. I'm not sure when the final day of class is for Christmas break, but I'm looking forward to it.

A cool thing happened yesterday. I haven't been doing the weigh ins because, quite frankly, I never remember them anymore. I've simply gotten out of the habit. I am losing weight still, I think. I was looking for a pair of dress pants yesterday, and tried on a pair that I had not worn for a very long time. They fit nicely. That was a nice surprise.

Well, my coffee's almost gone, and I haven't wandered around your blogs yet. Gotta run!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bizarre

Today, I followed a reader from the Gerry, New York area. The person was searching my blog. I watched the words that s/he entered, and I realized that this person was not my friend. That is a strange feeling, like having a stranger poking through your house.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Today at the Tractor Supply

Today, a customer came into the store. I was just heading back to get some lunch and study, and I heard my name. I turned around, and an elderly woman came up to me. She had knitted me a scarf, a pink, wooley thing to keep me warm in the winter. The idea that someone who is virtually a stranger to me sat at home by herself knitting a scarf and thinking of me...well...isn't that just the very sweetest thing you've ever heard? I love that. I gave her a big hug.

It seems to go like that, doesn't it? No matter how rough life gets, it has sweetness. It has bright spots. I'm lucky. I'm so very lucky.

Overheard

Friday, at the Cancer Center, I had my blood work done and settled in to assemble study notes for a test. I listened to a group of women talk. The 90 year old woman talked about the secret of her young looking skin, and how one of her girls had sent a picture of her in to the company who manufactures her skin care line. She received a box of products. She sighed, "But my skin is ruined now," and everyone assured her that it was not. (It wasn't either.) They sat and visited and talked about their children, and their jobs, and the grandson who wanted to be a wine expert, and Italian recipes. The doctor son who is flying in from Minnesota. One woman from Philadelphia was home for a visit. "There's nothing left," she said, and she's right. A lot of factories are gone. A lot of the young people have left the area. I think of my own kids, and I keep my head down and my nose in my book. The women talk on about our town. "There's no place to shop here," they complained. "The mall is nothing. If you want to shop you have to drive to Erie."

These seemed like very nice women. Don't get me wrong. I just found myself wondering what it would be like to live in a world where the only thing that mattered is convenient shopping.

Tim found out that he will, like as not, be laid off again. Financially, we can make it, but losing insurance again... I guess that I am discouraged right now. Heading off to work when I should be headed off to church? That doesn't help.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hair.

I saw a woman with bouncy smooth glossy hair.

Mine is never going to be like that again. I've accepted that truth. I tried to let it grow a little longer but it just turned into a bushy shapeless mess. So I got it cut off. I'm trying to be practical. I mean, at this point, I'm glad to have hair. If I need to wear it short, well that's not the worst thing that could happen. I keep telling myself this stuff, and I'd made my peace with it. I thought. Until today, when I saw a woman with reddish hair, shiny and glossy, a perfect page boy. It bounced as she walked, and she carelessly tucked it behind her ear as she talked. I thought I was okay with the hair thing. But maybe not.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Spam and Eggs.

You know, here's a site that needs to be publicized. You know those e-mails you get? Like I got one from 'Anita' just today. Subject line: 'Anita awaits your urgently reply.' I didn't open it, just deleted it from my spam account. I knew what it was. Basically the person involved will be either a) some high ranking govt. figure, b) some Godly missionary or c) a dying Godly person. What they have in common is that they have a huge amount of money some place that they cannot get to. What they have in common is that they have, out of all the people in the world, chosen YOU to help them, and to share in this fortune. Yeah. And I've got some oceanfront property in Pennsylvania to sell you. Ann apparently hates spammers as much she hate pink, and posted this link. It's a good one. Check it out.

That's the 'spam' portion. The 'egg' portion is about a hatched one.

A woman came in the store the other day, looking for shavings. I told her that we had pine shavings out front, $5.99. She looked, and said, "I don't need that many shavings." I sent her on back to where we keep the smaller bags of stuff that people use for their guinea pigs, or ferrets, or the like. She came up to the counter, and she mentioned that she saw some small cages that she liked, but they were too expensive. I asked her what sort of critter she had, and she said, "A chicken." Went on to say that he'd gotten a little spoiled. "His name is Merrill," she said, "Because we kept him in a Merrill boot box at first." Merrill, it turns out, is the sole survivor of a vicious fox massacre. A young ball of fluff, he was carefully placed in the boot box, and kept in a corner of the kitchen where he quickly became the apple of everyone's eye. Merrill has grown, and is now sprouting feathers. He is afraid of the dark, and has to have a night light. He also has a special fondness for 'books on tape.' When the reading starts, he settles himself atop of the stuffed chicken in his cage and listens intently, cocking his head and issuing quiet little peeps as the story unfolds. She showed me pictures of her chicken, and surprisingly, the first thing that I thought was, "I'll be darned if he doesn't just look like a 'Merrill'..."

We woke up this morning to our first snow. A light dusting of the stuff. 'Tis the season, I guess.

Bob suggested that I keep plugging along, and you know, that's exactly what I'm doing. Things are coming so fast and furious at this point that all I can do is keep my head down and work like crazy. Project by project, test by test, I'm getting through this. At times like these, my lack of self confidence is a problem. I feel as if I'm on the verge of failure with each and every project. With each and every test. I suppose that as I go along, I will become more confident, but I'm not there yet. I'm over my mad. It was simply two very different working styles. I'm a person who has to have things done in a timely fashion. Waiting until the last minute is not comfortable for me. I cannot work with procrastinators. I've learned that lesson, and will not make that mistake again. Furthermore, I cannot see how a person with high grades can 'fail' the course. Finally, I know that the instructors are sharp, sharp women. They know the deal. They can plainly see what happened here. Our group's stuff was submitted, and then at 12:30 at night, two people from the group send in a rewrite? K. also sent a strongly worded e-mail about the project and the behavior of the team mates. I need to relax.

Appointment at the cancer center. I do hate going back there. The further 'out' I get, the harder it is to make myself go back. I know this is not reasonable or sensible. It is just how I feel.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Aftermath

It's done. My gosh, what a stressful day. I got to school at 8 to rehearse, and no one was there. They met somewhere else. It was probably a good thing. When I walked to class, one of the revampers rushed by me and said, "We fixed everything. We were up until 12:30." I said, "I sent the rough draft to everyone on the 13th. You told me it looked great and thanked me for doing it. 'Young Girl' did not bother to reply at all. To decide it was unacceptable after it had been printed off and submitted to the professors was unfair. To make those changes last night, hours before the presentation, unfair. To make those changes without any input from 1/2 the group, unfair." They will not back down. They were right. They saved us, and we are ungrateful.

K. and I had a chance to talk after the presentation. We left campus and went out to pick up her daughter at the babysitter's house, and drop her off at school. She was still mad. Mostly because the other two members of the team keep trying to talk to her as if nothing is wrong. (I sit on the other side of the classroom.) In any case, she told them, "Listen, I'm really upset, and I just don't want to make small talk right now. I need time to process this." Her comment was met with huffs and eyerolls. I'm still mad myself, truth be told, but I said to her, "It's done. We did all right, despite the problems, I think. We will spend a lot of time with these women in the classroom setting for the next couple years. We need to take a deep breath and move on. Some people just wait until the 13th hour to pull it all together. That's way out of our comfort zone. We just know who we cannot work with on these sorts of projects." She heaved a quavering sigh. "I know," she said, "but this was so stressful, and it didn't have to be." She's right.

So we endured. We got through it. We were assigned another group project today. I swear to you, I am strongly considering working alone. The thing that bothers me is that today the teachers made a startling announcement. The fact of it is that you can get straight A's and still not pass, if they deem that you are not a team player. That will be interesting to see how they view this situation. Half of the group thinks that we are ungrateful people. Half the group sees two people who coasted on the project until the very last minute, and then simply rejected a big part of the work without even attempting to get a consensus.

Who knows?

I don't have time to think about it. I've got a unit test and a midterm, and three papers to write. Honestly. Honestly....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Group Projects

This group project is crazy. Completely crazy. Two of us have been working very hard on this from the beginning. The other two miss deadlines, don't understand, etc. Now these two have taken it upon themselves to redo the everything. We sent it to the professor this afternoon. Now, 9 hours before the presentation, they are changing everything. At 10 PM, the other worker in the group called me in tears. I tried to be as soothing as I could, but really, the fact that these two have taken upon themselves to change everything with no input from the group is horrible.

This afternoon, as I was leaving one of them said, "Can you talk longer? Young Girl doesn't have enough information to fill her full 3 1/2 minutes." I stared. I'm supposed to rewrite my whole thing at the last minute because someone hasn't done their part? I took a deep breath. "No," I said. "I won't." I looked at Young Girl. "I strongly suggest that you spend tonight doing some research." I left.

Tonight on the phone, I told a sobbing K., who takes her grades every bit as seriously as I do, that I'm sure that the teachers would be able to tell who was prepared, and who wasn't. The fact that two members were revamping everything after the group had submitted our stuff earlier in the afternoon will be obvious. "All we can do is be prepared to do our part, as was arranged weeks ago. It's going to be okay," I soothed. "I'm sure the teachers have seen situations like this before. They'll know."

Man. I hope I'm right.

Excuse

Dear Teacher:

I was 8 minutes late for school on test day for the following reason.

I was driving to school and I saw this field full of seagulls. A flock of seagulls. And the song "I Ran" began running through my head, and so I glanced over at the clock on the dash, and I had 10 minutes, so I pulled into the parking lot to take pictures of the flock of seagulls. And then I drove on to school, and I got out of the truck, and ambled in, because I still had time. Only to discover that I was 8 minutes late. The clock on the truck was wrong, which I didn't realize it because I don't drive it unless I have to, but I had to because remember how Tim was driving the Mustang and a deer jumped in front of him? Well, he was driving the back up car and a deer came off the bank and by the time that I saw her, she was already headed straight into the windshield. I ducked and covered my face. When I saw the windshield bowing in under the weight of the deer, I thought I would wind up with it in my lap, so I lay down and covered my head. Nothing else to do. Tim managed to keep the car on the road, amazingly, but it's totalled (it's the blue car from this story, so it's not much of a loss). So now I'm driving the unfamiliar truck and did not realize the clock was wrong because my watch band broke while I was stocking the pop cooler at work, and I haven't replaced it yet.

And that's why I was late for school.

Do I need to get my mama to sign this?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Please God.

Let this group project end.

And let me get a decent grade.

And please remind me when Young Girl says, with sincere eyes, "Really. Tell me what you think," remind me, oh God, that she doesn't really want to know what I think. And if You have to clap Your Almighty Hand across my mighty mouth, You just go on ahead.

Amen.

People

You know, there's a ton of stories I don't tell. I think the world is a hard enough place without dwelling on the darkness of it. This is a story that I glimpsed, and it's rather caught my imagination. It probably shouldn't, but I wonder about it.

There is a man who comes in the store. He is a big guy, and he obviously has money. He carries himself as if he is an important man. He talks like a man who expects to be listened to. He's never been unpleasant, and he seems to know everyone he encounters. He stops and talks with them all.

The woman who is with him is much younger. She's not a child, don't get me wrong. Closing in on 40, probably. Her voice is rough and raspy. Her face shows signs of heavy tanning. She's not pretty, but she hasn't figured that out. The thing is, she dresses like a young girl, in short shorts, and form fitting things. She wears her hair in a top knot. Her behavior is almost manic. She cannot stop talking and clutching on to the old man. She is flirty and loud, and fidgets constantly, dancing around him as she speaks, talking about the meals she's going to cook for him, the honeys and the babys flowing fast and furious, a regular tidal wave of crooning endearments.

The man is expansive and generous with her. She eyeballed a high ticket appliance as she waited in line, and he bought it for her, immediately. Oh, she was excited then, and her face grew dramatic as she smacked her lips and gushed about all the special foods she was going to make for him. She interrupted herself to dance around clutching at her leg, moaning about her sciatica. She bent over, stretching her legs. The entire line watched, fascinated. She stood up, stretching languidly in front of the old man, promising him a jalapeno dish, promising him hot stuff.

The man's response was 'aw, that ain't nothing, baby'. He was spending big money. He was spending it because his baby wanted something. He was spending it because he could, and he wanted everyone in the store to know that he could. "You put a sold sign on that," he said to me in a loud but careless voice. "I'll send somebody by with a truck to pick it up.

And they walked out of the store, she pressed up tight against him.

Desperation has many faces, doesn't it?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Progress

Today, I studied for a unit test. Today, I finished my research paper. Today, I wrote two more short papers, one on a current event, another on an essay about 'Kaffir Boy', a book which turned out to be a paradigm shift for me when I was 11. This essay was written by the author himself, Mark Mathabane, in response to the discovery that his book was assigned reading in many classrooms, but was being read in a censored version. It was a brutal book about a terrible time, but the words in that book changed my thinking forever. I don't believe one word of it should be changed, or omitted. 'Let he who has eyes see.' Writing the article took me back to a late night at my grandmother's house. I'd read the book in a quiet corner of the house as the grownups talked in the kitchen. I was surprised at how vivid those memories were. It was a pleasant writing, as I sorted through my memories.

Today I made two quiches for supper. It's been a time since I've done something besides hurriedly slap something on the table. Tim was surprised.

I'm headed to bed now. I've got a lot on my plate tomorrow, but I can tell you that I am ahead of the game at this point. We'll have a nice supper of leftover quiche tomorrow. I'm handing in work early. I am again regaining my footing. I am regaining my confidence. One day at a time, I'm making progress. Feels good. Really good.

Tim's Encounter

While I was at work on Saturday, Tim was running a few errands. He saw a guy who looked familiar, although he couldn't place him. Although the fellow did not stop in his conversation, he really gave Tim a long look. Tim heard part of discussion. The familiar looking guy was explaining to someone that the doctor had just doubled his anti-anxiety medication. Tim continued on his way, still trying to place the fellow.

Later as Tim was headed across the parking lot, he saw that man again, getting into his car, and this time, the familiar looking fellow called out: "So, how's your wife doing?" he asked, and Tim answered back, "She's doing well. Busy. Working. Writing. Going to school." Although Tim never did figure out who the man was, we must have crossed paths with them during the whole cancer thing. The man looked at Tim and said, "How can you stand it? Don't you get worried that she'll get cancer again? Aren't you afraid?"

Tim was relating that story to me. He stopped right there. I said, "What did you say to him?" and he looked at me, uncertainly. "I didn't know what to say," he said. "I didn't say anything."

Cancer may hit one person, but the fallout affects everyone. Sometimes that's easy to forget.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Today at the Tractor Supply

Today, a couple came up to the counter with a piece of equipment that I was unfamiliar with, but I scanned the bar code and rang it up. $6.35. I took the money and briefly chit chatted, and they left. Wasn't long before they were back in, holding their receipt and the part. "Uh-oh," I said. "What happened? Was the part wrong, or the cashier wrong?" They said that I'd made a mistake. I sure did. The part was actually three separate pieces. I'd only scanned the bar code on the end piece. When they took it apart, I realized that each part had its own code. The other two pieces were $9.00 each. I thanked them profusely. The man said, "I thought at first the part was a lot cheaper than I thought. But when I looked at the receipt, I realized what had happened. I should have taken the thing apart when I came up to the counter." You know, those people could have gotten a $25. part for $6.35. But they came back. They made it right. Gotta tell you. Every time something like that happens, it gives me hope for this world.

Funny story? There's this old fellow who comes into the store. He's a corker. He was returning something, and I had to get the manager to do it because he doesn't have his receipt. So I called for Ike, and I asked the customer to step to the side so that I could continue to wait on customers. He stepped to the side with a grin, but said, in a mournful voice, "Story of my life. I'm always coming in second." I squinted at him, puzzled. "Second? Really? You come in second?That surprises me. Gees. We've all been calling you a loser." The line howled and so did he.

Well. Now I've got homework. This is not getting it done.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Today at Tractor Supply

Oy. Today was hopping busy. Hopping. Not that we mind. But it was hopping. Anyway, this woman came in. I've never seen her before, but she had a sweet face, lined, a weary face, really. Her hands were as calloused as any man's hands I've ever seen. She was a farmer, and she smelled of barn, and cows, and sweaty hard work.

She bought some farm supplies, but she also bought a horse, a Breyer horse, Christmas edition, a sparkly, spangly collector's item. "Oh, this is pretty," I said, holding it up to get a better look. "I imagine some little girl is going to be thrilled to pieces on Christmas morning!" and she smiled, and for a moment her face was not weary. "My granddaughter," and she picked up her bags. "I've got to get home. I got chores to do, and I need to hide this in a good place first so's that girl doesn't find it."

I repeated that I thought her grand-daughter would be thrilled with it, and thanked her for stopping in. I watched her. I don't believe that she's any older than me, but she walked out the door with the steps of an old, old woman. I watched her thoughtfully. She was buying a thing of beauty for her grand daughter's Christmas, hiding it in a secret place. I imagined her taking it out to smile at it and imagine the coming Christmas. I found myself saying a little prayer for her, hoping with all of my heart, that there was someone in this woman's life who bought beautiful things for her, and hid them away thinking how delighted she would be to receive them, this hard working woman with the thick yellow nails and the calloused, dirty hands.

Young Girl

In class yesterday, we briefly discussed our powerpoint assignments. It is a group project, and my group is made up of three...er...mature women, and one young girl. I'm not trying to imply that Young Girl is immature, and really, our group is quite lucky to have her, because she knows the computer inside and out. The rest of us? Well, remember that when we were in high school, there were no computers. Quite a difference. No. "Young Girl" is a very welcome addition to our group. Our problem with Young Girl is that she is very sweet, extremely vague. Very intelligent, but she has a tendency to talk on, and you listen, carefully, and still cannot figure out what she is trying to say. Part of it is all the 'you knows' and 'like' and other 'filler' words that have little meaning. She is sweet though.

My (our) main issue with Young Girl is that we have a 15 minute presentation. We each must speak. Which gives us less than 3.5 minutes to make our portion of the presentation. Young Girl feels that we should feel free to interrupt each other with pertinent information. The three of us have said quite firmly that this would be unprofessional. It would also disrupt the flow of thought. It would also take away from the speaker's precious few minutes. It is a group project, and majority rules, we said. So there will be no interruptions. Young Girl says "Well, you can interrupt me too," or "This will add interest to our presentation." In other words, she's going to do what she's going to do, and it doesn't matter what we think. Young Girl never stops smiling sweetly.

So yesterday, we were discussing the presentations, people in the classroom just asking general sorts of questions. I don't know if it were right or wrong, but I just asked it, just a general question, not pointing any fingers. "Would you say that it is a good idea for a group to interrupt each other as they give their presentation, to add pertinent information?" The answer came back 'no'. Young Girl raised her hand. "I think it would be a way to add interest to our presentation," she said. The teacher said, "Listen. This is a group project. That means the majority rules. You don't get to have your way all the time." Young Girl still thinks she's right on this one, though. She smiles sweetly at the teacher.

Gosh. I'll be so glad when this is over. Really. We're all about to lose our minds. Young Girl smiles sweetly.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Much ado about nothing.

I don't often miss television, but I would have liked to have seen some of that rescue of the Chilean miners. That was pretty awesome.

I wrote a paper at the library today. I went to class, I went to work. Remember that fellow with no legs I told you about before? He was back in the store today. I hailed him. "Long time, no see! Since the last thing you told me was that you were heading out to see what trouble you could find, well, I figured you found some." He thought that was funny stuff. He claims that he doesn't have to actually look for trouble. It generally looks him up. He talked as I rang up his purchases. About the cold weather ("Course, it doesn't really matter. I wear shorts all year round," and he laughed loud at his own joke. He told me about his birthday. He's going to be 69. (He doesn't look it, either.) He headed for the door calling back, "If you can't stay out of trouble, well, just don't blame it on me." I called right back, "If I find trouble, I'm pretty sure you'd be close by." I heard him still laughing as he went out the door. I marvel at his amazing good humor, and I am ashamed my own gloomy mood these past few days.

I came home and got my homework. I took an online exam. I got 100% on medical terminology. I did not expect to have the results immediately, but I submitted the test, and there was my grade. I got myself organized after I just about drove myself nuts looking for an assignment. I thought was due tomorrow. It is not due until the 28th. That was a relief.

Now, I'm talking to you good folks. Really, what I ought to be doing is heading to bed. In thinking it over, I believe that I will! Good night!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I finished that chapter.

I've been thinking a lot about that presentation. I know that part of it is that I am a bit of a perfectionist, and I do not like myself very much when I do not meet my own standards. Immature, probably, but it's my nature. Funny thing is that if I met my self, feeling like a failure, agonizing about what I shoulda, coulda, woulda done differently, I'd be the first one to try to soothe the person. "You worked hard on this. You tried. Learn from it so that if you do it again, you'll be better at it. Or, if you never do it again, that's okay too. You tried." That's what I'd be saying to myself.

October is a challenging time of the year for me. There are reminders that it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Everywhere you look, there are pink ribbons and pink merchandise. Even the comic section was pink, with pink ribbons every where. Hundreds of times, I think "Oh, yeah. I had breast cancer..." and it surprises me a little.

I guess my point is this. I wrote a column on breast cancer. I did so last year as well, and I think that it is important, to urge women to be vigilent about their health. Also, I'm so eternally indebted to so many kind people. It is a chance to acknowledge, again, the kindness of those days. That presentation, though, that was different. I thought the talk would be maybe a half hour or so. It never entered my mind that I'd be talking for 1 hour and 45 minutes. I realized that I would have to lengthen that talk. I went back through my blog for more material. I found it, of course, but it was also quite unnerving to be rereading those days. Reading about the day that I cut my hair off, alone in my bathroom on Thanksgiving morning. About the neupogen shots (I reckoned that there were 54 of them. Probably more, though. At one point, I seem to remember that I was on a 10 day stretch, and then it got cut back. There were stories that went with people that are no longer of this world, and that made me a little sad reading those. There were frustrating times too, and I still don't understand some of those days. It was hard to read how Tim and I struggled, initially.

On and on it went. I thought of nothing but this presentation for several days, as I also tried to keep up with school work and housework and all the other stuff. It became a struggle, because the more time that I spent looking back at those days, the more I was not comfortable reliving that. I did not want to look back. I began to dread sitting down at the computer to work on the thing. I began to dread the presentations even more.

Last night, after Bonnie told me how glad she was that I was past all of that, and that she'd followed my column closely during those days, and that she'd been touched by some of the things that I'd written. She said, simply, "You are a very good writer." Her sincerity touched my heart.

I thought about it after she left. We all have hard periods in our life. Times that we do not want to revisit. Emotions that can become overwhelming. Cancer was that for me. Maybe I'm just a big baby. Maybe it is too soon. I don't know. Whatever the cause, I know this one truth about myself. When I think too much on those days, it makes me sad. It makes me afraid. It makes me nervous. I have trouble sleeping.

I wish I'd have realized all these things before the presentation, but by the time that I figured it out, it was too late for a complete rewrite. I was speaking on something that I didn't feel good about. It always shows. Always.

That hindsight: always 20/20.

New Chapter

Yesterday, I saw an old acquaintance. I called out her name in delight, and she was glad to see me. In fact, I think that she may have come to the store to see me. We had a nice talk. She wanted to tell me how glad she was to see that I have moved past cancer, how well I looked.

I worked on after she left, thinking about it. Maybe the fact of it is simple. I'm not a good person to speak for one hour and forty five minutes on cancer because I'm not 'there' any more. I don't know.

Monday, October 11, 2010

never again...

Some people should write, not talk.

Jitters.

Last night, I whipped out a quick post, and I went to bed. Redlefty's comment was waiting for me this morning, and it was a shocker. No. Actually, I did not connect the dots, and I doubt seriously that, left to my own devices, I would have.

I find myself wondering if that is the way of it? That we look at everybody else and see something special, but do not see it in ourselves? Is that the way we're designed? Or is it just me? Redlefty generally gives me a lot to think about. I'll be considering his comment for some time.


This is not getting me out the door.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Looking Back.

I've been writing this presentation, and it is printing out, even as we speak. I have spent a lot of time rereading blog posts, putting it all together. My thoughts. How I felt. How Tim felt. Our struggle. I am grateful to Mikey, that she nagged me into blogging. It is good to have that record. I'm a pretty decent writer, because my own words made it very, very real.

Today, Tim and I went to Tractor Supply. I bought a copper birdfeeder for Mary and Danny, and 40 lbs of sunflower seed. I got her a thank you card. We drove up and dropped the things off. She and Danny were surprised. "What's that for," they asked. And I said to them, "I've been thinking about two Octobers ago, and I am so grateful to you. I just wanted you to know how grateful we are to you for your friendship during that hard time." And after all these years, neither one of them feel that they'd done anything special.

Today in church, I looked around, and I remembered how everyone had gathered around me during that hard time. During public prayer, a time when we offer up our joys and concerns, I told them that they were a remarkable church. They didn't think they'd done anything special either.

This week, I'll touch base with new Mary, to thank her for everything she's been to me, but I already know. She won't think she did anything special.

I'm surrounded by special people, and not one of them can see it.

Tomorrow, I'll give those presentations. I cannot imagine that my experience is any different from any other woman who has dealt with the same thing. I can't imagine that I have any new wisdom. Any wisdom at all, actually. I should have told the organizer no. I'll be glad when this is over and done with.

Good night.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tractor Supply

Today, I went to work. Someone was sick, so I worked 12 hours. The extra money will be nice. I don't mind long days, and really, time flew by. It was a busy day, and it was fun, as always.

I got called into the office which always makes me a little nervous, but the manager wanted to give me my 90 day evaluation. I got good marks/meets expectations in all areas but one. The area about cooperation, being a team player, getting along with people and being customer oriented, stuff like that. I got above average/exceeds expectations. And then Mark said the very nicest thing. He said, "It was meant to be that you came to work for us. I consider you a God-incident." Isn't that nice? You know, I really do enjoy working there, and to know that they enjoy having me work there...well, how nice is that?

Today, a man came into the store. His wife walked behind him. As soon as I saw the look in the wife's eyes, I knew it. Alzheimer's. That blank look. Their eyes all look the same. Her husband talked, and the wife stood there. I gave her a quick smile, and she smiled back. I spoke to her, and the husband said, right away, "She's got that dee-mentia. That's an awful thing, that dee-mentia." And I agreed with him. It's an awful thing alright. "She goes with me, where ever I go," and he began to push the cart towards the door. His wife stood at the counter watching him go. She held up her hands, and began to talk. "I live in that place. You know, up there. Oh...." and she looked frustrated. And I said, "You mean Lakewood?" and she said, happily, "Yes. That's it." Her husband had told me. Her husband called from the door. "Come on. You're with me," and she looked at him confused. "Let's go home," he repeated. And she patted my arm, and smiled sweetly and followed him.

Yeah. That dee-mentia is an awful thing.

Friday, October 8, 2010

High Pitched Whine

Today sucked.

It began early. I began to print out some study guides that I needed for an online class. I ran out of paper. So I left the house early, and printed out the things that I needed for the online test.

I went to my one class.

I went to the library and began dutifully typing out one of my papers. I had a 1 PM meeting with another student for a group project. I tried to print my paper, but it would not print. It kept telling me that it was saved to something called 'One Note'. Finally, I just saved the document and fled to the conference room for my meeting, figuring to print it out later.

This group project will be the death of me. I'm trying to explain that a power point should be like the key points, and pictures, an accent to the speaking. The youngest member of the group is adament that the power point contain all the things we will be saying so that we can read from it. We've got the most verbose power point ever, and I tried to patiently explain that the power point was meant to be used like a 'highlighter'. "Um," she said, "I've seen it done both ways, actually." So she went on adding words. I sat there. "So, what do you think?" she said, turning her powerbook to me. What am I supposed to say. Then she tells me that she doesn't like her speaking part. Do I like mine? (What? LIKE IT? What's that got to do with it?) I say to her very patiently, "Well, if you would like my part, you can take my notes, and I'll do your part. "Well," she says, "it's just that I'm not really comfortable and I really don't have a lot of experience with this material, and so I don't really feel like I ought to be speaking on it..." and then she began trailing off, "But, you know, so I guess that I will do whatever....you know?" (What?) I say to her, I guess you'll have to tell me exactly what you are looking for here, because I don't understand what you are telling me. Do you want my part?" "No, that's not what I'm saying, you know, it's just that, I don't really have a lot of knowledge about this..." Me: "About what?" Her: "About this." Me (struggling to be patient): "What? Occupational Therapy? The Era? The people?" Her: "All of it." Me: "I don't think any of us do. That's why we're doing research." "Well, she says, "I need your information on Dunton for the Power Point. (because it does not have enough words already.)" I say: "His greatest contribution to Occupational Therapy was probably that he was the publisher, editor, and major contributer to the first OT journal, and he filled that position for 25 years without pay." She looked at me. "I guess that I don't see why this is important, you know? It does not say anything about who he was, or what his role was. I don't get it." Me: "Well, it sort of shows his commitment to the profession, don't you think?" Her: "Um...not really...you know?" At that point, I made up my mind that I had just wasted 1 1/2 hours. When she began to explain to me that we should feel free to interrupt each other as we presented to add pertinant information, I began to lose patience. "That would be terribly unprofessional," I said. She didn't think so. I explained that any additional pertinant information should be given as we rehearsed the presentation. She felt that it would add interest. I said, "We have a very limited amount of time to make our presentation..." She smiled sweetly. "It's okay. Feel free to interrupt me, as well..." (SCREEEEEEEEEEAM!)

So I made my excuses and returned to a library computer to continue to write my paper. Except that it was gone. It was not in 'My Documents'. I went over to the Reference Librarian, and explained about the thing not printing, and that strange 'One Note' message. "Oh," she said. "We've been having problems with the system all day." I started getting a really bad feeling. "You mean it's just gone." I had to write that whole paper again. From scratch.

I began to get the things together for my next paper. We have to get five advertisements aimed at, say, a car, from five different magazines aimed at different segments of the population and contrast them. I got one when the lights in the library began to flicker. "What does that mean?" I asked even though I was pretty sure I knew. "The library closes at four on Friday," I was told.

So I left. I came home, I studied for my online exam, and then went online to take it and found that it was no longer there. I'm waiting for a message from the instructors on what to do. I wasted time studying.

I don't have any old magazines, having heartlessly gone through them and donated them some months back, and our town library is closed.

On top of it all, we have one good car. Three pieces of crap, one with a bad master cylinder, the other two with 190K miles on them. One uninspected truck. Tim had a deer leap out in front of him. Guess which car he was driving?
Yep. The Mustang. Our 'good' car.

Today reeeeeeallllllly sucked. Did I mention that?

Oh. I did?

I've actually not sworn out loud, I'm happy to report. I am proud of myself control, but since God knows our innermost thoughts, it doesn't matter, because I'm in deep doo-doo anyway.

Unprintable

This morning, I am grateful to Tim. Before school, he bought a printer that works on the new computer. We had our old computer and old printer (off line), which I used for writing papers. The new computer had internet access but we did not have a printer for it. I am so grateful for that printer, and for the husband who saw it as a necessity, because...well...it IS!

That being said, let me head off to college. I've run out of paper. (AGAIN.)

*grumble. mumble. Much rolling of eyes.*

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Prayer.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
If I don't die before I wake,
Please God, let me wake up to be a excellent power point maker with great computer skills. Oh. And an organized non-ADD mind would be a blessing. I would like to get three major papers written tomorrow, so I'm also asking for a miracle, God, because I'm starting to get scared. And while I'm praying, please God, let me do well on the test tomorrow, and also on the Online Vocab test which goes up on Sunday. And if You could do something about this upset stomach and matching headache, I'd be much obliged. And a photographic memory. A photographic memory would be a big help.
Amen.
And a maid. A maid would be good.
Amen.
Who cooks. A maid who cooks.
Amen.

Ties

Larry stopped in the store last night. I met him and his wife a couple years back. Larry had dealt with cancer himself and both he and Cheryl followed my story in the paper. I was working in a swamp one day when a woman approached. I shut off the back pack sprayer prepared to deal with a complaint. "Are you Debby -----?" she asked. Cautiously, I answered, "Yes." "My husband has bought a book for you, and the package arrived last night. I can't believe that I've run into you today to tell you." And it did seem fortuitous. It did seem like one of those moments when you are comfortably settled in the hand of God Almighty Himself. That very night they stopped by the house with Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture", neatly inscribed "Remember yesterday. Cherish today. Pray for tomorrow." Good advice. Then and now.Now all these months later, both us visited in the store, both of us strong and healthy again. We chatted a while, and he said that he was very moved by the story of our latest tenant. "I love your stories," he said. And then suddenly: "You know, I wish there were more people in the world like you and Tim." There are, Larry. You and Cheryl are two of them.

Reporting up front to take over cashiering duty from Al, I was delighted to see that he was waiting on Sheila, an old work friend. She and I chatted briefly, bringing each other up to speed on our lives.

Another customer asked my opinion on a pair of jeans and two new shirts. He works with younger people who have been teasing him about how he dressed. "You be stylin', man," I assured him.

A mother and her son checked out with boots. She complained that he outgrew them before he wore them out, and I remembered those years with Dylan.

Later on, another customer said, "I know who you are. I love your articles in the paper, and sometimes I read them and think about calling you, just to talk." I told her to feel free to do just that.

A customer needed pellets for her wood stove, so I called back to tell Jeremy we needed a new pallet brought in with the fork truck. "It's raining outside," he complained, and I answered, "Get crackin'," like I was the boss instead of the other way around. When we got the pallet in place, I began to clean up the resulting mess. Jeremy thanked me, and I thanked him too. After all, he'd gone out in the pouring rain on the fork truck. "You know," I said, "the next time I hear someone say that you're useless, I'm going to tell them they're wrong." And he laughed.

You know, I'm going to be a grandma. It is a boy. His name will be William. He is due in February.

I feel so very connected. It wasn't always so, and I am glad for these ties to the lives of others. There are strong bonds, and slight bonds, but all of them make me part of a bigger picture, and I am grateful for them.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Continuing Education

Kelly put up a post over on her blog about how educational it is to read blogs. Jees, Kelly. I haven't even told you about Chicken Poop yet.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Unfolding Story

Our new tenant seems to have settled in nicely. When I got home from work on Saturday, Tim had our truck pulled up to the door. Our tenant waved from the back. They were loading the truck with things for his new home. One of the benefits of having a big house is that we had a bed that we would not miss. A wing chair. A small table. A folding table and two chairs to fill in for a temporary kitchen table. Other things found their way on to the truck as well. Bedding and pillows and my old set of pots and pans. We even have an extra microwave. (How did we end up with such an embarrassing excess of stuff?)

This young man had no shoes, just a pair of flip flops. His sneakers had fallen apart walking to work in the rain. His feet are larger than any of the feet in our house, so Tim quietly put the word out at church to some men of the big footed persuasion, and the story went round like wildfire. Money was pressed into his hand, money enough for a sturdy pair of hiking boots as well as a pair of waterproof boots with removable felt liners for this winter, so that his new shoes would not be ruined in the snow. Socks, too, and the boy fingered the socks, telling Tim over and over, "I've never seen socks like these." And my gruff Tim said, "Those are work socks and they'll keep your feet comfortable." He had the boy pick out sandwich makings so that he would have something in the refrigerator to get him through until payday. Even with all of that, there was still $48 left over, which we planned to put towards a warm coat for him. But no. A coat was donated, a new one, with a removable liner. Gloves and a hat, too, everything matching. Today, I received another call. Someone had replaced their dinnerware, and offered up their old corelle ware (a complete and matching set, including the serving bowls and platters and casserole dishes and the like) as well as their old set of flatware.

And the boy himself is shyly excited about all of this too. He went out on his own the first morning in his new home. He went to garage sales and found himself a small crock pot still in it's box. He also found a toaster, which he cleaned up, polishing the chrome. The folding table in his kitchen has an inexpensive vinyl table cloth and a small plant in the middle. He washed his clothing, and hung it carefully in the closet, organizing his clothes with the same care that he organized his meager kitchen. When he heard Tim coming in the front door of the building, he went to the top of the stairs and called him to come up and see how he had set his things up.

I like how this story is unfolding. It makes me glad in my heart. How will it end? I don't know for sure. I suppose it could backfire on us, despite all the positive signs we are seeing. It doesn't matter though. I do believe we should always try to help others. Even if, in the end, it doesn't make a difference at all. When it is all said and done, we'll be judged on our actions, not his response.

Win Books.

You know what? My copy and paste isn't working any more! What's up with that? I need my copy and paste. Anyway, head over to The Novel Woman. Her friend KC Dyer is giving away a copy of her new book.

Big day at school today. Going to try to knock out the biggest share of one of my biggest reports this afternoon in the library.

I had an e-mail exchange with the woman who's organizing the teacher's 'professional day'. She says the slots for my presentation are filling up quickly. This actually shocked me. I haven't got my presentations finished yet. There's so much. I've written the lead-in, setting the scene. Talking about the surprise of it, and the first frightening weeks when everything moved so quickly that Tim and I fell out of sync with each other (which made it very much worse...and which is, as I discovered, very much the norm for couples) as well as the sheer unreality of the time. It was a major adjustment for the whole family. I thought then that I'd grab a half dozen blog posts that really captured the emotions during treatment. Wind up with some brief comments on how to be helpful which will dovetail nicely with how NOT to be helpful, and then talk about being an ordinary woman who was careless about screenings because she considered herself to be healthy, with no alarming family history. Then I will provide material for them to pick up. And pray like crazy that this will take up one hour and forty five minutes.

Coffee's done, and I need to get a move on.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Well, I had a nice sleep last night, and that made up for the whole bad day at work. Some days are like that, I know.

People bring their dogs into Tractor Supply. Sunday is a big day for pet sales. People come in and buy their dog food and dog treats for the week. I sold a whole bunch of bully sticks. Don't ask. Oh, please. Don't ask. But some folks did, and I had no idea how to answer the question without wandering into a whole area that I did not want to head. So I looked square at them and said, "Don't ask. Oh, please. Don't ask." Which caused them to pick one up out of curiosity, and then they'd read the package and burst out laughing. The men were buying them to give to their friends. Oy. Men are sick and twisted creatures. Probably was a man that came up with the idea for bully sticks. That's what I think, anyway. Anyways, they were our 'item of the day', and we sold out.

Anyway, there were a lot of dogs in the store yesterday. There's a big white one who is probably the biggest 'talker' I've ever heard. He doesn't bark, but he does a lot of yodeling and whining and half howls, as if he's trying hard to talk. He comes to the register, and knows that I have biscuits under the counter for him, so he always makes sure to 'talk' to me. There was a woman with a little shivering chihuahua. It was just plain cold yesterday, and the poor little thing was naked. For the first time since I've worked there, a little dog had an accident, but his owner cleaned it up. Most of the dogs are very mannerly, and I get to pet them all.

A little boy came in yesterday. He was with his grandpa and grandma. He was getting a toy tractor. He explained to me that "tomorrow is my birthday". I said, "I wonder if this is the birthday you'll be all grown up," and he gave me a puzzled look. "Well," I sighed, "I guess you won't know for sure until you get out of bed and look in the mirror tomorrow morning. If you've got gray hair and whiskers, this is the birthday, alright." He looked skeptical. "It's true," I said. "That's what happened to me. One birthday, I got out of bed and looked in the mirror, and I had I gray hairs and whiskers. It just snuck right up on me." (that's what it felt like, anyway.) The whole line burst out laughing at the expression on his little face.

I've got class today, and work tonight. At some point, I need to shop for groceries. I also need to get laundry folded and caught up on the housework. How does that happen? How do I keep getting behind? I tell Tim that he ought to get himself a good wife.

Well, my coffee's done, and I'm heading to school early. I hope you have a good one where ever you are.

Celebration at Bob's blog. Stop over and congratulate their family!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Today at the Tractor Supply

Today, unbelievably, I had a bad day at work. I worked from 9 until 6:30. It was busy, which I like, but there were lots of strange events happening. A fellow was upset with us because the propane stove he got from us 'was a piece of crap'. Turned out, he had it hooked up to leased gas. His story? 'The darn thing shoots a flame across the living room and goes out.' Dear heavens. Lucky he didn't burn his house down. Dave finally managed to convince the fellow he needed to buy a gas heater. (That Dave. He's a silver tongued devil...) I think that I am a gracious person, but I forgot to thank someone today. I said, "Have a great day." But I did not say thank you. Didn't even realized I'd done it until he jumped all over my behind. I apologized, but he didn't want none of that. He was not happy. I felt terrible, because really, I pay attention to that. I usually say, "Thanks a lot for your business. We really appreciate you stopping by." Another guy came in to buy some washers and bolts. They are sold by weight. When I entered the weights, the man interpreted the weights as the prices, and couldn't understand why .45 and .83 equaled $2.81. I explained that the .45 and the .83 were weights not prices. He was flipping mad. "You just give me a receipt," he snarled. "Sure," I said. I answered the phone and a customer yelled at me because the RV antifreeze was no longer on sale. "It's almost a dollar a gallon more," he yelled. "I know," I said. "The 2 for $7 price was a sale price. That was last month." He yelled about the price. I had a line. "Sir," I said, "I'm sorry. That sale is over. The price is $4.49," and he swore he'd never come into our store again.

It wasn't all awful, I suppose. An elderly couple came in, he with a cane, hobbling. As they headed out, I said, "We didn't have what you needed?" and the man said a little disgustedly, "I wanted a mattock. You don't have them." I was a little confused. "Yeah, we do. Well, at least we did... Let me go take a look." The man hobbled along telling me, 'I asked that man at the desk, and he said that you used to have them, but now you don't.' I honestly could not imagine that we'd sold out of something like that. I went over to the rack, and pulled one out. He looked and said, "By golly, there it is!" amazed. He'd looked over in the yard and garden tools, but it was over in the aisle with all the wood handling tools, the axes and go-devils and the like. Whoever he talked with must not have understood what he was asking for when he asked for a mattock. So we headed up to the cash register. They were both impressed as heck that I knew what he was talking about as soon as he said 'mattock'. Even as I toted the thing up to the counter, I wondered to myself, "Now how did I know that word?" But I did. As soon as he said the word, I knew what it was. I also remembered exactly where they were. Isn't that wierd?

Work Story

Today, at the Tractor Supply, I met a man with no legs. He was the liveliest charactor you'd ever want to meet. He was hauling a huge and heavy trailer part on his lap, and he twisted around to unload the bag on the back of his chair. I said, "Well, it looks like you've got your work cut out for you today," and he quickly answered, "No, the hard part's done. I've got that trailer built." I loaded up the bag at the back of his chair after ringing up the things. He paid for it, and airily called out, "Well, I'm off to see what trouble I can get into." It is amazing to see a person of that spirit. He said, "I live alone, and I don't need help. I do whatever I want to do." And I've no doubt that he does. He apologized for holding up the line, but you know, I don't imagine that anyone looking on felt anything but admiration.

Remember the man who had tears for his dog? Remember how he was talking about his neighbor who was paralyzed from the chest down, but used his hands to split wood, and to change the oil in the truck, and to weld?

Two stories like that, in the same week. It gives me hope, I tell you. It gives me hope for this world.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Leap of Faith

I've been haunted by the story of the young man living in the tent. I called Tim at work. "What do you think we should do?" I asked. And he decided to head down and meet him as soon as he got off work. I was at work, when Tim came in. Tractor Supply was hopping. I knew that something was up because Tim waited. And waited. Finally, things slowed down. He walked up to the register and said, "The kid doesn't have anywhere to go. I told him to come back at 9, and I'd let him in, so that he has a place to sleep for the night." We both looked at each other. It's getting darned cold at night.

When I got off work, we went down to the apartment. I met him. Seems like a good enough kid. His mother died when he was still a child. He's very quiet. Had nothing. Nothing. We'd already got input from his pastor. His case worker.

Yeah. You pretty much knew how this was going to go down didn't you? Truth be told? So did we. We took a carload of supplies with us when we went down to meet him. We told him, "We're going to do a month to month lease. How long you wind up staying will depend entirely on you, son. We hope it's a long, long time, though." He looked surprised, and said, fervently, "I hope so too." We left the apartment. I looked back. "Welcome home," I said. He came out in the hall, and shook our hands. "I really appreciate this," he said. "Thank you so much."

Leap of faith. Big leap of faith. Did you ever just get a feeling about something?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Full Plate

Tuesdays and Thursdays are my big classroom days. My first class is at 9 and my last one ends at 3:55. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I have one lone class, from 11 to 11:50. It seems to take almost more energy to get myself to that class. It's almost like an interruption.

Yesterday, two more large writing assignments have been added to October's pot, in addition to the two big ones that I've already got going on, which is addition to the two that are due every Tuesday, and the one that is due every Thursday. Which is in addition to the column, which is in addition to those presentations, which is addition to the Henry W. article which is (blessedly) taking some amount of time to get my answers on. I may not have it until November, which might be a truly excellent thing.

I've always liked to write, but now, it just seems daunting. I've got to worry about proper citing, MLA for some papers, APA for the others. I'm collecting info and have folders of stuff for each project, and trying to jump from one project to the another is getting a bit frazzling. I have a calender with due dates, and it is pretty full.

I look at other people in the class, and we're all kind of stressing out, but you know, there are people taking the OT classes that are also taking Anatomy and Physiology. I honestly do not know how they do it. I think of my time in A and P, and for the very first time, I thank the good Lord that I did take it over the summer, even mashed into a six week course, as opposed to a full semester. I simply couldn't imagine trying to do all that writing and keeping up with Anatomy and Physiology.

Marty, the woman separated from her husband, has stopped coming to Life Span. She'd been looking plainly ill, and the last time she was in class, she very suddenly stood up next to me and left the room, whispering, "I'm going to be sick." I remember the early days, being on my own, trying to put all the pieces of my life back in order. It's a lot to juggle, being a single parent, handling a full time job, and being a full time student. Like those A and P students, I don't know how she does it, either. Things didn't start settling down for me until I realized that the pieces of my life were not going to fit together the same way that they did when I was living a comfortable life in Michigan. I was a janitor in Pennsylvania. Things were different, and I needed to take the pieces of my life and fit them together differently. It sounds stupid, but it was a really big deal for me to simply accept that life was now different.

We are taking calls for our efficiency apartment. There is a young man, obviously has some problems. His caseworker called. He calls from a church, having no other access to a phone. He's currently living in a tent.

I'm up to my ears in writing. I'm a little frazzled. I look around me and I see that everywhere I look, there are people with way more on their plates than I've ever had. I've said it before, I'll say it again. I am, my friends, blessed. I am blessed. I'll bet that you are as well.