Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Invitation to a Parade with Pride

Have you ever seen the movie, Mr. Holland's Opus? It's awesome and I highly recommend it. One of my favorite parts is when Mr. Holland (the high school music teacher) creates a high school marching band. It's fairly hysterical watching him try to assemble his students into a marching formation, yet in the end it is a wonderful moment watching him lead his marching band down the street in the depiction of a hometown parade.
I love parades. I love the floats and the clowns and the classic cars and the horses. Most of all, I love the bands.

Picture it ... the sun is shining bright ... you arrived early in order to stake out a good curbside seat ... people are milling around, finding places, spreading blankets, laughing, smiling. Policemen have blocked off the ends of the route and all the side access streets, so the path is clear. Childre are running in and out of the middle of the street, straining to get their first glimpse of the parade as it starts to make it's way down the street. Sitting there ... you hear it long before you can see the band ... the beat of the drums, the resonance of the various instruments as they come together in a blend of harmony. Louder and louder they get as they march towards you ... lines even, backs straight, heads up, steps proud ... their formation unbroken as the music moves past.

Yep. Big city or small town ... live or on television ... I love a parade.

This is my eldest girlie's seventh year in band. She's been marching in our hometown parades for seven years now. She began as a 6th grader in middle school and now she is a high school senior.

In the 9th grade, my girlie became a member of The Pride of Broken Arrow Marching Band. This is not a small feat. This band is serious business. We're in Oklahoma ... an area where football reigns everywhere from little league to high school to college to national ... and while we have a great high school football team ... it is our marching band that brings people from all over, that fills the stands, that win the recognition not only locally but also statewide, regionally and ... in 2006 ... nationally when the Pride of Broken Arrow became the 2006 Grand National Champions.

My girlie was a 15 and a sophmore at the time.

This coming year ... 2009 ... as a senior ... my girlie is going to be marching with Pride one more time in a parade. I would like to invite each and every one of you to join me in watching her.

You can, you know, 'cause this parade is going to be televised.
It's a little parade you might have heard about previously. You see, The Pride of Broken Arrow Marching Band will be marching on January 1, 2009 in the 120th Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.

*grins with delight*

I hope you'll join us in watching ... the floats will be breathtaking, the horses will be extraordinary, and the bands will be fantastic ... especially the one with a certain special saxophone player.

She'll be the one in the line behind the cymbals - first one on the left from the middle.

I'll be the one on the couch ... tears in her eyes and pride in her heart.

The Pride of Broken Arrow may be an award winning marching band, but my Pride of Broken Arrow is a certain young lady who has grown from a squeaky beginner to an confident musician.

GO BA!!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

It's Thursday, So It Must Be a Supernatural Christmas!!!

To all my friends and inmates, I wish you all a Blessed and Merry Christmas! This is just a little something that fell out of my brain and into my computer as I listened to Christmas carols and kept my mom company as she created the most wonderful scents in her kitchen. I hope you enjoy.


Still and silent, the inky darkness seemed to envelope the black car speeding down the back road as though it had a memory sense of the twists and curves. The overhanging trees cast their shadows over the pavement as tendrils of fog swirled at the edges. As the night deepened, her driver realized that he would eventually need to slow enough to give a better traction when the visibility became even less clear. There was no moon to shine down and light their path, hidden as it was beneath the thick cover of clouds.

It didn’t matter though. Her driver knew where he was going.

Glancing over to the passenger seat, the driver grinned as he realized his brother had finally given up on his attempt to stay awake, to keep him company as he drove the dark roads. Hunched up against the door and window, long legs stretched as far as possible without encroaching near the driver’s side, it was only the fact that the position was one assumed on a regular basis that would save the young man from any truly strained muscles and neck aches. Oblivious to his brother’s grin, the exhausted young man slept, secure in his safety and calm in the peace still so recently restored to their only true home.

Returning his eyes to the road, in difference to his sleeping passenger, the driver lowered the volume on the pounding music streaming through the car’s speakers enough to soften, but not erase the pulsing rhythm of the bass line that was in tune with his own pulse. Thoughts of the coming day mingled with memories from similar days … some spent with their father, occasionally with their father and a friend or two, and, more times than should have been in their short lives, with simply his little brother for company. He shied away from the memories of the days that were spent alone, either in his favorite girl traveling or holed up in a motel room trying to will the day away with sleep and convenience store snacks.

A slight shift and a muffled snort from the passenger side of the car brought the driver out of his musings briefly to check whether it was an awakening or a deepening of slumber. Satisfied that his brother was still in the sound throes of sleep, he recalled their conversation at the beginning of the drive …

“Stopping for a holiday is a waste of time. If we hustle, we can be there by tomorrow night and maybe be able to stop whatever is going on.”
“It’s not a waste of time. A holiday is a time of being exempt from duty, from work. The work will still be there when the holiday is over. Besides, we celebrated last year.”
“Two things … 1) we were also WORKING last year or do you not remember being sliced and diced by the wicked version of the Kringle family? and 2) … last year was different.”
“Different? Yes … okay … it was different. We thought it would be the last one together. We’ve been given another … I’d say that’s a reason to celebrate, a reason to take a holiday. Besides … seems to me that THIS particular holiday would be one we need to …”
“To what? To go to church at midnight? To commune with angels – who are not too happy with us at the moment. To sing carols – which we suck at, by the way – …”
“No. To remember where we were last year and to be grateful for the divine intervention that did come and gave us … gave YOU … another chance. Come on, man. You know you really want to.”

Then the creep had pulled out the big guns …

“We did it last year when you really wanted to. I really want this this year.”

Darn manipulative sneaky little ...

Though the fact was, he had wanted to and eventually, taking enough time so that his little brother wouldn’t think he’d caved too quickly, especially after that last little nudge, he had given into the idea of going to their friend’s house to spend Christmas with his brother and the man who has become like a father – never replacing the drill sergeant that had loved and raised him but stepping up to offer support and guidance when necessary after the genuine article had gone and sacrificed himself. Not that he was going to slip down into THAT particular memory lane either. He had stipulated this was only to be a side trip and that the next day they had to be back on the road and working. His brother had grinned and agreed, pulling out his cell phone and calling to give the news of his victory.

Shaking his head, the driver took a drink of his cold coffee, grimaced and tightened his hands on the wheel as the night deepened further and the fog gave way to the beginnings of frost and light snow blanketing the passing fields and trees. From here on, there would be a chance of ice patches and snow drifts as they drew nearer to their destination. Not that he minded. Driving gave him a peace, reminding him that all the best of holidays he could remember included two things … his black beauty and his little brother. Despite all that had gone on in the last few years, the three of them were still together, and that meant something … something good … and he could hold onto that, even if it was only for a day.

The pulse of the music stopped as the DJ came on and announced the time with much laughing and ringing of bells.

Going with the impulsive urge, he slapped the back of his hand smartly to his brother’s chest, laughing as the younger man awoke startled, head swiveling around in all directions before his eyes were even really open, he yelled out to his brother…

“MERRY CHRISTMAS, SAMMY! Where’s the eggnog, dude?”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Laundry, Creatures, Executive Decisions and An Insane Stream of Conciousness

Tonight was laundry night.

I'll be honest, I don't like doing it on Thursdays. I usually do it on Tuesdays, but the week got away from me. Thursdays are rushed because I have an 8pm deadline. (For those who don't know ... and we'll have to have a discussion on why not another time ... Supernatural comes on at 8pm on Thursdays and no, I don't care that we're in a hiatus and it's in re-runs, I'm still going to watch it!!) However, tonight I also did laundry.

I was lucky and, therefore, able to clear my desk ... by taking my arm and sweeping everything into my drawer and locking it up ... shut down the office ... so much faster when you're the only one there and all but one main light are already off ... and head out the door. Traffic was light and Baby was feeling her oats, moving in and around the vehicles going less than the speed limit ... if it says 65, WHY are you only going 50??? ... and taking the faster exit like a pro ... she REALLY does like those highways, little red sweetheart! ... and getting me to the laundromat before I usually am even out of the office. Yay!

The laundromat was empty ... another awesome plus ... and I was able to lug in my four bags of clothes ... is it wrong that I have one bag of white, one bag of red, and two bags of black clothing? ... dumped in, detergent added, quarters inserted and washers started without a hitch.

Yes ... I do have to use the laundromat still. Yes ... I did have the money to purchase one the first of the year after mine died a slow and agonizing death ... the spinner thing in the middle that agitates the clothes, which I find hysterical, I mean, seriously -AGITATES the clothes? Like the clothes are gonna smack it back for it's agitation? Who THINKS of this stuff?? - anyway, the agitator died, or was killed by a shirt that simply couldn't take the agitation any longer ... *snickers* ... where was I? ... oh yeah ... dead washer, money to purchase a new one. Got it.

Yeah ... I did have the money but ... well, the Supernatural convention ticket was just too enticing and so I succumbed and I'm SOOOO not sorry ... but that is another blog that is still being written. So! Anyhow, yes, I am using the laundromat. And this is actually NOT a bad thing. Actually ... the laundromat part of doing my laundry is the good part.

When you use the laundromat, you are guaranteed 23 minutes of peace to sit and just be quiet, to read, to be alone with your thoughts. Machines are humming, people are talking quietly, it's warm in the winter, cool in the summer, it's actually kinda nice. My little neighborhood laundromat is run by a kind older man who is very nice but not intrusive. The regular people are friendly. It's not a bad thing. In 23 minutes I can have 4 ... regularly ... or 6 ... when I've stretched it as far as possible or feel the time is necessary to do sheets ... loads completely washed at one time. Nope, the laundromat is my friend.

It's getting home that makes me crabby.

'Cause ... once I get home there's the hanging ... I hang alot, actually mostly all, of my clothes up to dry - shirts and pants ... because the dryer not only does the shrinkage thing, there's also the fading of the colors due to the heat and it's really not good when you have all this black and still don't match, and then there's the electricity usage which, if I can save a penny by hanging clothes, I'm gonna ... so, I'm hanging the clothes. This takes time and needs to be done as soon as possible when I get home in order to avoid wrinkles ... which leads to ironing ... which leads to shuddering and shaking at the horror of the thought ... you get the picture.

Then, for those clothes that don't get hung up, there's the drying and the remembering to finish one load and put in the other load and then remembering to remove THAT load. Then there's the folding and the putting away and then the putting away of the hanging things once they've dried which isn't until the next day.

So, yeah ... laundry ... not my favorite thing. Which has led to my making an executive decision.

See, I have this friend who refuses to let me become a nudist ... I'm not certain of all of her reasons, however my manager and co-worker have thanked her repeatedly for talking me out of becoming a nudist ... and since she is also the same one who sagely advises me to remember to lay down plastic before committing hari kari mayhem upon some of the moronic people in my life ... it's easier to clean up the mess afterwards ... I'm going to have to bow to her wisdom. However, since I'm not allowed to become a nudist, and since the laundry fairies have been on strike in this household for so long that I can't even get them to come to the negotiatng table any longer, I've decided that it's time to put these mice, who seem to want to live in my house, to work.


You heard me ... the mice.

I've given this thought. They're here. It's been 11 years and they won't go away. Every spring and every fall they make their presence known, looking for handouts, setting up their little rooms underneath the entertainment center or in the walls of my cabinets or behind my bookcase by the door, planning their families, refusing to pay rent. I've tried the "humane removal" of capturing and releasing them in a nearby field. (Okay ... not me, but a friend who came and took the captured creature in the trap I caught it in by the use of bribery with peanut butter.) They literally came running back. Would have made it if it wasn't for the street curb. Seriously!! So, I'm thinking it's time for them to get off their furry little butts and help out around here!! The mice in Disney's Cinderella did. They even sang about it. Heck! I'll make them little clothes. I'll sing back to them. I'll even feed them food that doesn't have those special little blue pellets in it if they'll simply take the clothes and hang them up, put them in the dryer, fold them, and then put them all away.

Is that asking too much? I don't think so. It's not even an every day chore. Laundry day is just once a week. I'll even do the washing part. Just get them out of the car, dried via hanging or dryer, and then into the dresser drawers and closet. That's all they have to do.


Unfortunately, that's not going to happen, is it? Yeah. I know. I'm stuck with life as it is and I'll have to continue this chore all on my own. The mice won't help.

They've already unionized.

They won't even eat the special blue pellets I put out unless I lace them with Hershey's syrup.

Such is life.

Now ... if you'll excuse me ... I have to go do the dishes. Stupid ants can lift 20 bajillion more pounds than their own body weight and they can't even help by doing the dishes in exchange for tramping through my kitchen and mooching my food!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Chocolate Sorrow

Monday morning's aren't so bad.

Not after having a lovely four day weekend spending quality time with family.

Not after having a relaxing Sunday evening at home because no evening church services means no nursery obligations.

Not after having a chance to get an extra half hour of sleep because the girlies are out of school.

Yep, although the day began with gray clouds and the drive to work included equal parts of rainy mist and spitting snowflakes, I was having a good morning.

The hair ... the make up ... the wardrobe ... everything seemed to come together this morning.

I had time for my tea and for my breakfast before heading (not rushing) out the door. Traffic flowed well and the music playing was good.

I was ready to face the day.

I knew it would be busy. It always is when we have had the office closed for more than a weekend. I was ready.

I was ready for 96 questions about how was my weekend, my Thanksgiving, etc.

I was ready for 96 exclamations over the new onslaught of cold and was I responsible questions. (For those who may not remember, I am evidently responsible for the weather that afflicts our residents.)

I was ready to find out that our boiler system had been out for two days, with no hot water available to over half our residents and the subsequent calls asking if we knew and the stories of frigid showers and baths and "during the war we would go six weeks without bathing".

I was ready to deal with the fact that it is first of the month and therefore, of course the accounting system must take itself offline with an error posting.

I was ready for the need to multitask several situations at one time - between phone, window and simply regular office tasks.

I was, however, NOT ready to find out that a particular resident had passed away during the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning.

Now, I've been doing this job for ten years and it's not the first resident death I've experienced, nor will it be the last. When you work with seniors, death is simply a part of life. There is always a tinge of sadness and, normally, I take a moment, say a prayer and then move on.

While I am not close to all my residents, there are some few who have wound themselves a bit tighter in my heart than others. Some that, I confess, I enjoy seeing, greeting and sharing an occasional moment with more than others. All my residents receive my courtesy and respect for their person, but there are some residents who, by their very nature, win my trust and care.

Ms. M was one of these.

Already a resident when I began working, Ms. M made an impression on me from the very start. She was one of those ladies that rolled with the punches life dealt and relied on her faith to keep her going. A strong woman in a fragile body, she would ride her scooter down to the lobby each day to enjoy a view other than that out her patio, to enjoy the sun. During the winter she particularly enjoyed sitting by the the fireplace in the living room, a change of scenery for a few minutes or a couple of hours.

Fiercely independent, Ms. M took care of all her affairs on her own. She would travel the city either for doctor appointments or shopping or simply going to see a movie via the Lift Bus through the city bus transportation.

Intensely private, her life - her comings and goings - were her own. Often found in the midst of group conversations, Ms. M would be the one to listen quietly and comment infrequently, rarely sharing personal experience, feelings, or thoughts.

Strong in her convictions, Ms. M was never one to "let it slide". She expected to be treated fairly and she treated others the same way. She didn't ask for extra favors, simply expected what was due - whether work by a housekeeper, or public transportation, etc.

Ms. M was on of those people whom I would on occasion make the comment more than once that I wanted "to be just like when I grew up."

Through the years Ms. M and I forged a friendship. Brief moments shared between us - a smiled greeting as she would pass my window, a pat on her back as I moved through the hallways - she was respectful of my time ... knowing I was busy ... simply enjoying the times when I could sit in the lobby for a moment and chat, yet never asking me to do so. She wouldn't ask, but she always appreciated. Ms. M trusted that I would keep her privacy and I trusted she would keep mine. Over the years Ms. M and I shared a few stories, light or serious, enjoying a few occasional moments in each other's company talking about family, health, and life in general.

Today has been a difficult Monday. But then ... the day of the week doesn't matter in this case. Although I rejoice that Ms. M is no longer in pain, no longer suffering, that she is happy and at peace in Heaven, my earthly heart is mourning the loss of the quiet presence of a kind woman.

Two quick stories I'd like to share about my Ms. M:

1) When I returned from my vacation, that first day, Ms. M. came past my window and greeted me with a true, heartfelt delight. She is the only resident with whom I shared some of my journey, and it was Ms. M. who, when I showed her my pictures of myself with Jensen & Jared, exclaimed that she knew them, that she watched Supernatural ... it was one of her favorite shows! She was happy that I had had the opportunity to go and to meet them, and happy that I had safely returned.

2) I cannot remember the first time, it's been years ago that she started stopping briefly at my window and quietly handing me a Hershey bar. She knew I love chocolate and seemed to have fun sporadically popping by and gifting me with the sweet treat. There was no regularity involved, yet she seemed to know when I could use that chocolatey sweetness the most. I would perhaps get a couple a week, sometimes a couple of weeks would pass without one. Nothing obvious ... just a simple clearing of the throat and a tap tap at my counter to get my attention, and then she would lay it down and head on down the hall or across the lobby. No conversation was needed. Of course, she knew by my lightning smile the pleasure it brought. She probably also caught on when I would dash out my door and wrap her in a hug that she had made me very happy.

I am going to miss my friend, Ms. M. Probably more than I can imagine at this time.

I'll miss her smile, her strength, her perserverence.

I'll miss her chocolate.