C IS FOR COLD!
Yesterday, McGavock High School released students early because the air conditioning wasn’t working in the building. Later in the day I attended a meeting with the Old Hickory Memorial Park Committee which is made up of veterans mostly over the age of 65. In total disbelief, the subject of McGavock’s early dismissal came up in conversation with the grandiosity of “WHY WHEN WE WERE IN SCHOOL WE WALKED TO SCHOOL BOTH WAYS IN A HURRICANE TOSSING RABID WILD CATS AROUND IN A VORTEX OF NAIL SPITTING TORNADOES.” Or, basically, there was no air conditioning when they were in school. Not even a fan. Despite being younger than them, I too attended a school without air conditioning during the 6th through 8th grades. I hopped right into their conversation with my own stories of facing walls of suffocating heat head on without even breaking a sweat. Truth is I don’t ever remember being hot. I know it was hot, but I don’t have bad memories about any of it. Air conditioning has turned society into a wussociety and I’m a member of it.
C really isn’t for cold. C is for Cameron, the school I attended without air conditioning. I’m in this photo somewhere. My satellite-sized specs capable of reaching out to the far edges of the universe give me away.
“Would you like to swing on a star? Carry moonbeams home in a jar?” Bing sang this to me this past weekend. The song lodged in my brain with the fierceness of an ear leech. Yeah leach. Not worm. It’s severe. I can’t shake the tune. With the full moon rising to the occasion of an ear leech invasion, the volume of Bing’s voice has only gotten louder in my head. I was of course cheerily humming the song when I decided to go to the Dollar General Store tonight. My purpose for going was to buy food for the local food shelter. Still singing the song (only now to myself), I entered the store and began haphazardly tossing stuff in my basket. I was totally clueless to my surroundings. I checked out and then it happened. Two woman burst out of the store with more than moonbeams in jars without paying. They hopped in a car and sped off running a stop sign and blowing through a dangerous intersection all-the-while one of the clerks was chasing after them. It was surreal. I froze. The woman driving the car was laughing. The store had been robbed at gunpoint only last week and I’m guessing the employees’ nerves are raw. In that moment I realized the irony of me being in there to buy food for a food bank. These things only happen once in a blue moon. And even after all of that drama………………………….. Oh would you like to swing on a star……..hmm hmm hmm hmmm…………So you see it’s all up to you, You could be better than you are
You could be swinging on a star ………..Damn ear leech.
There are three TV shows I remember my family bonding over when I was very young: Laugh-In, Mod Squad, and Flip Wilson. It should be no surprise that at this point in my life (~five years-old) I wanted to either be Peggy Lipton, Geraldine (actually Flip in drag), Lily Tomlin rocking in a giant chair, or Jo Anne Worley. This is the type of memory that is never truly lost but rather retreats to the furthest reaches of the mind for the brain’s equivalent of a smoke break. That break ended today. The memory stood up and walked into the light when I received a piece of my childhood in the mail. Behold the Jo Anne Worley Talk-Up doll! Her head detaches from her body and she says things like, BOIIIIIING, I’M FALLING APART, HERE COMES MY FEET, and I’VE LOST MY HEAD OVER YOU! Jo Anne made Pearl bark and me giggle as much today as I did when I was five. So here is the thing. If someone could give me a box containing memories and tangible items from my childhood this doll and the family-time TV bondarama would definitely be in it. I have spent a fair amount of time thinking what else would be in the box. It’s a fun exercise. I’m curious. What would your childhood box contain?
Maybe you know. Maybe you don’t. Today is the anniversary of Elvis’s death. This day is one of “those days” that I “remember where I was when…..” and it’s not because I’m a fan. In fact, when he passed, the mere mention of his name invoked eye rolling on my behalf. Of course that has since changed, but still it’s important to this story.
I was in the 5th grade. I was home alone and it was a stormy afternoon. TV was different back then. Shows weren’t interrupted for news or bad weather. Instead, important info scrolled on the bottom of the screen. The TV’s fateful scrolling information that day went like this, “A tornado is about to scrape you off of the face of the earth….. oh and, Elvis Presley has died.” Who cared about Elvis? I was terrified by the news I was about to be in Oz! I crawled under the bar in our kitchen and called my mom who was entrenched at work unaware of any news. “Mom I’m scared! There is a tornado warning………oh and Elvis died.” My exclamation of fear and death was greeted with silence. I said, “You there?” I then realized she was crying and crying hard. I thought, “Oh, she’s scared for me too!” I was wrong. I said, “Why are you crying?” With a “Love me Tender” sort of gasp she sobbed, “ELVIS IS DEAD!” I started laughing. I then forgot about the impending atmospheric doom. Somewhere in that moment, my mom and Elvis helped me conquer my tornado fears and neither of them knew it. I will never forget that day!
Note: I’m not sharing the person’s name I’m writing about on purpose out of respect for her (my coworkers will know who she is). It shouldn’t matter though. This is pretty amazing. The photo is of her from a 1954 company newsletter promoting a Red Cross campaign.
This week I was assigned something via DuPont corporate headquarters that captured my heart 5,000%. The company recently decided to honor employees who have been with the company for more than 50 years (bravo DuPont). I was asked to interview and write an article about one such employee at the Old Hickory site. Not only does said employee have 50 years of service, she has a whopping 62 years of service. Let that marinate on your brain a second. SIXTY-TWO YEARS. Easy interview right? No. Not necessarily. Not easy because she is a very humble person who doesn’t want any attention thrown her way. She was hesitant to do the interview but told the Human Resource manager she’d do the interview if I was the one to interview her. ME! What an honor! Let me just say, I’m a bit taken aback by her humility because if I ever attain any kind of 62-year commitment, there will be neon signs involved.
So, this week, I sat down with her and we talked. It was positively delightful and left me longing for a time when the world was less complicated (yes, I would delight in a typewriter with a manual return). With a work ethic that is still impeccable to this day, if all employees were like her the company would be unstoppable. It should be no surprise that when I asked her what change in the workplace she likes the most, technology was the answer. Not so obvious is what she doesn’t like. She doesn’t like the change in dress code. When she started with DuPont, all women wore dresses or skirts and men wore dress pants and ties. These days if I dress nice, people think I’m going to a funeral.
If you do the math, you can kind of figure out how old she may be (I didn’t ask). When I asked her what keeps her going, she said exercise (she walks an hour 3-4 times a week and she’s not slow), eat well (she eats a lot of fruit), and get plenty of rest. I just hope when I’m her age I have at least 10% of her spunk.
My dad created this drawing. It features time pieces that belonged to my great grandparents and my dad’s own hour glass. The time on each of the time pieces is set to the of my great grandparent’s deaths and his hour glass is still running. It’s a very symbolic drawing and it came bursting into my brain yesterday like firecrackers set off on July 5th (yes 5th, not 4th).
During the first five or so years of my life, I didn’t measure time because I didn’t understand it. Gradually, understanding found me. Time mutated into the passing of each school grade and the accompanying holidays and summer breaks. Once I had children of my own, my concept of time was swallowed whole by their milestones and activities. Now that they’ve gone off to college and started lives of their own I’m kind of blank.
Yesterday, I went to the dentist for my 6 month teeth cleaning. The dental hygienist asked, “What’s new with you?” I said, “Absolutely nothing. It seems like it’s always either Monday, Friday, or time for my 6-month teeth cleaning.” It dawned on me that I’ve lost my own personal meaning for time. As the dental hygienist began scraping off 6 months of mundane plaque, I thought of this drawing. I wondered. How did my great grandparents mark time? They were farmers and worked at a level that is beyond my comprehension. I doubt either one of them ever said, “THANK GOD IT’S FRIDAY” or “ewww….it’s Monday again.” They worked every day. Vacations didn’t exist. For some reason this bothers me. I suddenly feel an urgency to change my perspective of time if for no other reason than to honor my great grandparents.
Like putting a period on the end of a sentence, Mother Earth put a heart in my path at the end of my day today. I think it was more of a peace offering than anything. For the first time since my childhood, I was stung by a bee. Not just once. Twice. There is nothing like a bee making up for lost time. Operation “Sting Kris” occurred while I was mowing the yard. I had my earphones crammed in my ears, was singing Van Halen and thinking about eating fried green tomatoes with Liam Neeson when it happened. The first sting wasn’t so bad. The bee, however, as if trying to hitch a ride on an intergalactic space ship traveling through the bee universe then latched on to my leg. The pain was intense. I let go of the mower’s safety handle and started hopping around the yard yelping like a bratty 5-year old. The bee eventually gave up the battle and dislodged itself. I immediately became aware of every tiny detail in my surroundings. It then dawned on me that pain forces us to pay homage to the moment and be in it. Pain, whether it be physical or emotional, is sometimes necessary. With that in mind I restarted the lawnmower, soldiered through, and finished the yard Liam Neeson-free………..no fantasies and totally in the moment. I wonder. If I had not been stung, would I have even seen the heart?
WARNING – THIS IS GROSS!
By 6 p.m. this afternoon, the small creek Pearl is drinking out of in this photo had returned to its lazy flow. It wasn’t so placid this morning. After seven inches of rain in something like two hours, the normally lazy creek turned into a wild hormonal woman engulfing everything in its path. When I saw it at the height of its rage, I knew many of my neighbors were in trouble. I watched helplessly as good friends and neighbors began sharing their flooded house discoveries via Facebook. It was heartbreaking. Then, one of the sweetest people I know in the neighborhood posted a video of raw sewage overflowing her toilet and coming up through the drain in her bathtub creating a poopy spa. We’re not just talking sewage though. We’re talking giant turds. I was stunned. Another neighbor asked if she needed any help. She jokingly commented back, “Well, you can come get your turd out of my son’s room.” I started laughing and was flooded with admiration and inspiration for her finding humor in such a crappy (literal) situation. I would have been sobbing. I decided to message her. I offered her my help and prayers and then told her I didn’t recognize any of those turds as mine and that I kind of had turd envy because they were healthy turds. She immediately messaged back with laughter, thanked me for making her laugh, and suggested we might could tag the turds on Facebook if we could identify their owners. Who knew such a gross situation could teach me a lesson? Ya just never know.
To all of those who suffered today, my prayers are with you! Thank you to my wonderful neighbors who helped those suffering with your support, encouragement, and open arms. It’s days like today that remind me how much I have to be grateful for in my neighbors.
Today while I was walking Pearl in the park there was a man and a woman walking the track engrossed in a hen-like conversation. I immediately tuned the loud conversation out because it was like, “cluck cluck cluck, she said, cluck cluck cluck, and then he said.” The odd thing was that the only piece of conversation that I heard came from the man. He sternly said to the woman, “Stop saying you can’t. Start saying you can. You have to have confidence in yourself.” Keep this in mind as I explain the photo to you.
For the past few months a spider has been hanging out on the threshold of my door. The first time I encountered the spider she had spun a beautiful web worthy of webs of the rich and famous. The web encompassed the entire door frame and had massive square footage. Thankfully, I was able to dodge the web for a time or two. Then I forgot about it and walked right through it. Call me Hurricane Kris. The web was obliterated. Not to worry. Low and behold, the next morning when I opened the door, an identical reconstructed web was in its place. I smiled and ducked under it. But then, I forgot again. This scenario played out at least 5 times. After the fifth time, the web didn’t reappear. Or so I thought. A few days later I looked up and saw this crazy looking web in the corner of the doorframe (photo). The web was now completely functional and out of my way. Despite unimaginable circumstances, the spider had found a way to succeed. Sometimes success just requires a different approach!
The thing is, spiders don’t know the word “can’t.” Oh to be a spider right? Instead of accepting that it couldn’t have the traditional spider web, the spider found a way to adapt and thus succeed. I have so many areas in my life in which I could adapt this principle. I haven’t figure it out yet, but I am thinking now ………………thanks to a spider and a conversation in the park.
Wherever I go, people ask me, “How is Pearl?” Pearl has good days and bad days, but she seems happy for the most part. Our daily progressions through the neighborhood are laboriously slow. Paint dries in the time it takes us to walk the block. On the bad days she has to take a rest and I stand by her meditating, creating, and basically planning world domination. Sometimes I sit down with her like in this photo. Today as we were slowly progressing down the home stretch one of my elder neighbors sitting in a rocking chair on his porch said, “You sure are patient with your dog.” I smiled and replied without hesitation, “She is my best friend. She deserves my patience. I hope that when I’m her age someone will be patient with me.” The neighbor smiled knowingly. Truth is, if Pearl has taught me nothing else, she has taught me patience. Now, if only I could figure out how to apply Pearl-like patience to the other areas of my life.