Friday, October 31, 2014

Sweet Baby Boy and Me

Me and Chuck settled in the car
Nothing planned and we never go far
Cruisin’ the highways
Windows down
Through the woods on the back side of town
Ears are flappin, hair is wild
Sweet baby boy and me
Flyin' in style
Unleash this mind with it’s trouble and woe
Twisted knots just have to go
Out the roof as the wind blows through
Cobwebs gone, everything’s new
Smooth my coils into some kinda sense
Past the ditch-lined barb wire fence
Peace is mine and always found
Tearin’ down the road
Just me and my hound


Wasting Time

I de-activated my Facebook page today.
I'd been thinking about it for a long while and it just seemed to be the right day for it.
A few weeks back I had a conversation with a friend.
We were talking about what we do in the evenings after work.
We pretty much agreed.
We do the same thing.
We come home from work, fix a quick and quite unremarkable dinner.
We flop down in a comfortable chair, flip on the TV and open our laptops.
We sit and eat and, with TV as background noise, we hit our Facebook pages and cruise around to see what's been going on.
And before we know it, it's late and we go to bed.
And go to work the next morning.
And come home the next night to do the same thing.
All over again.
I've pondered the whole scenario over and over with me as the one-woman show.
Honestly....I don't like the performance.
Considering myself to be a reasonably intelligent person with just enough introspection to keep myself from going off the deep end over any wild or ridiculous idea,
wasting the number of hours I spend snarking around looking at pictures of other peoples food and birthday troubling.
I hasten to say.....I like birthday pictures.
I like food.
I like Facebook.
I like Mark Zuckerberg.
I don't even have a problem with the data analysis and collection of information.
It's a free service.
No one forced me to take advantage of that service and open myself up to analysis.
It was my choice.
So no, I don't have a problem with any of that.
I'll also note, I keep in touch on Facebook with friends whom I would never or at least rarely, ever keep in touch with, were it not for that easy and accessible social venue.
I value those connections.
I value those relationships.
What bugs me is my apparent lack of self-discipline to extricate myself from the
nightly ritual that robs me of my time.
No fingers pointed away from the source of my disappointment: ME.
Earlier in the day, a friend shared a YouTube video with me.
It sort of spoke to the troubled theme that's been snaking it's way around the
coils of my brain. It made me think...more...about this whole time-wasting thing.
Here's the video:

 Yeah, I know the whole overlap thing doesn't quite equate out to the whole math-thing
if you're into the whole math-thing.
But of late, I'm more into the not-wasting my jellybeans thing.

My jar's more than half-empty.
Who knows, I might be on my last handful.
What do I want to do with the few I have left?

Not waste them.
That's all I know for sure.
So I de-activated my account.
And it wasn't two hours before I heard from someone who means a great deal to me, saying there was something wrong with my page, that they got a notice that said they didn't have permission to access the page and.....well, they were sure I wouldn't do that.
Had I noticed a problem with my page?
That's exactly what I did NOT want to happen.
I don't want people to think I blocked them or decided I didn't want to keep in touch anymore.
Damn Damn Damn
Now I'm not sure what to do.
I just know for now, for me....
it was the right thing to do.

(PS....Dear God, you DO know if I get hit by a bus three days from now
this is gonna be real creepy, right?)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wee Hours

4 AM.
Clueless as to why, but sleep isn't going to happen again.
Not for the longest while, it would seem.
So I lie in bed and I think.
I look out the windows and wish I could see more stars.
I listen to my guardian snore, all balled up in a massive wad of thick fur on my bedroom floor.
I pull my phone from under the pillow next to me; check email.
I cruise my Facebook.
I listen to a song someone wrote for me.
Over and over again.
I pray.
Everything on earth.
But I don't sleep.
I'm not sleepy at all.
Until I head out to the sofa.
And there, wrapped in a blanket
TV flipped on, with some inane early-80's rerun looping as background noise
Away from my soft and welcoming bed
With the cat on my chest
my eyes get heavy
I can't stay awake
And slide off to sleep.
What is it with that.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rail Car Stow-aways

Small, Midwestern Town
Blazing Hot Summer Day
I was traveling the state as a sales rep for a gift company and found myself in a small town which happens to be the hub of several railroad lines. Trains are a way of daily life in this town. They race along the South side of town, where flashing red lights and striped arm-guards drop to keep cars, trucks, tractors and combines safe while the miles of cars race on their way.
It's also the confluence of several major highways and the county seat.
It's a busy place as small Midwest corn-towns go.
Mid-week I arrived in town in the early afternoon with windows rolled up tight against the killer humidity and searing heat; a typically relentless summer day. As I passed through an intersection, left-turning on my green light, I noticed a young girl sitting cross-legged on the median between the intersecting highways. She was holding a cardboard sign. She was road-worn and dusty in a pair of shorts and a simple tank top that needed washing. Her hair was a bit of an unbrushed mess.
The sign said she was looking for a ride to the next town.
My inner voice whispered to me, "Pick her up."
This would be the appropriate time to interject: my step-dad was in law enforcement. My son is a cop. Since the time my kids were little there's been a clear family understanding: we don't let mom use sharp things or hot things without supervision because she hurts herself.
I've very little finesse. Big math confuses me. I'm a bit of a klutz.
All this to make the point: I'm not the kind of gal who picks up hitchhikers.
Completing my turn, I caught one last glimpse of her in my rear-view mirror and my inner voice whispered to me again: "Pick her up."
I'm sure my brow furrowed. At least a wee bit.
Pick up a hitchhiker?
Out here, hundreds of miles from my home?
Pick up a hitchhiker?
"Yes. Go pick her up."
And this is how the conversation went:
Me to God: Look, I swear I hear you telling me to go back and pick that girl up. I am pretty darn sure that's what I just heard you say. Twice. The thing is, God......picking up hitchhikers isn't really a great idea. It's summer, she's not freezing to death. And I am pretty sure picking up hitchhikers is one of those things women who are traveling alone on the road are not supposed to do....
Go pick her up.
Go pick her up.
"Ok, here's the thing. It's hot out. Maybe I'm hearing you right, maybe I'm not. Maybe I've got a little sunstroke or something because it seems really, really weird you'd be telling me to go pick up a hitchhiker. But that's what I'm hearing. So I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to keep driving down to the next big intersection and I'm going to do a big loop and get back to that highway. And if she's still there.....I'm going to pick her up. You hear me, right? I am GOING to PICK UP A HITCH HIKER if she is still there. I am. I'm GOING to pick her up. So, yknow....if this is a bad idea and I've got this all something now. Because I'm turning right here....and I'm going to do a big loop....and if she's there. I'm picking her up."
Go pick her up.
And as you can guess, there she was.
And now she had a guy with her. She looked to be early 20's as I got closer.
He looked to be a bit older. He was road-worn with scraggly hair and tattoos on his face.
"You didn't mention anything about this guy that she's got with her......"
Pick them up.
So. Against everything I knew to be wise and sensible, against what I absolutely knew would be the express advice of my children and perhaps the entire state highway partrol department, I crossed the street, parked my car, got out, walked to the edge of the road and waved to them.
The young man saw me waving and, leaving her sitting in the intersection with the sign, crossed over to my side of the road. He smiled and said hello.
"Honey, what are you guys doing sitting out in the middle of the road?"
He said, "We're trying to get to the next town."
"When's the last time you had anything to eat?"
Yesterday, he told me.
"See the hotel over there across the parking lot? I'm staying there tonight. Go get your girl out there in the road and you two meet me in the lobby of that hotel."
He smiled and said, "Thank you very much, ma'am. We appreciate it."
And that's how I met Tucker and Randi.
They met me in the lobby of the hotel where I was planning to spend the night and after a quick game of almost-20 questions I realized they hadn't eaten, had no place to stay and very little money. They were a couple of tired, hungry kids.
"Here's the deal," I told them. "It's miserably hot out tonight. If you guys will have dinner with me and tell me your stories, I'll get you a room here in the hotel so you can get showered and get a good nights sleep. Is it a deal?"
They agreed.
I bought them a room, sent them off to get cleaned up while I showered my own layer of road dirt out of my hair, met them in the lobby and we headed off in my car to find dinner. We settled on a grocery store buffet deli, filled our plates and sat down to eat and talk.
Fortunately, the buffet was quiet that night because Tucker and Randi were clearly "not from here" and drew the stares of just about everyone we met. Tucker's hair and tattoos were enough to make mothers hold on to their daughters hands just a little tighter when we passed. Oddly, I felt myself going all "mama bear" over it. It made me mad. How did folks know these weren't my kids and how dare they look at my kids as if they were so very different.
That killer mother-instinct gets it's feathers ruffled pretty easy, I guess.
Tucker and Randi explained they were "travelers". You can substitute the word hobo if you're from a generation closer to mine. They were homeless, jobless and hopping trains, riding all over the country. He was from Texas. She was from Louisiana. They'd crossed paths when he was doing his "traveler" thing through her hometown and, captivated by his carefree spirit and unencumbered lifestyle, she dropped everything, threw a few clothes into a bag and waving goodbye to her mama, left her home to travel with him.
Earlier in the day of the afternoon I spotted Randi sitting in the intersection, they'd been riding a coal car through the countryside when, apparently, someone spotted them and reported it to the railroad. That day, instead of roaring along the South side of town, the train had slowed to a stop and the two of them were removed from the rail car by the local police with instructions to get out of town as fast as they possibly could or they would throw them in jail for criminal trespass.
Which is exactly what they were trying to do when.....well, enter Debbie and her little inner voice.
As agreed, Tucker and Rachel unfolded the stories of their lives for me. I don't remember many of the details, I was just honored they'd share those details with me. They had families. There was some dysfunction. Honestly...the details didn't matter. I just knew I was supposed to pick up these kids and take care of them for a night.
I did that the best I could.
We chatted and laughed and had a really good time over dinner.
We went back to the hotel, said our goodnights and headed off to our appointed rooms.
The next morning I met them in the lobby, handed them a bag full of granola bars and other snacks I'd picked up for them, hoping it would help them get by until..........well, I wasn't sure what the next day and the next day and the next held for them but I knew this: they were not alone. God spoke to me and told me to pick them up. He had his eye on them. I hugged them both, promised to pray for them and because I had a sales call to make in the direction opposite of where they wanted to go, we all went our separate ways. Last I saw of them, she was sitting in the intersection again.
With the sign.
I prayed they'd get a safe ride.
Maybe some crazy lady who listens to God and does what he tells her to do.
This past week I was cruising an online financing website, just sort of wandering around because it's an interesting site some friends have used for creative projects and I happened across a post about an independent company seeking financing to produce a documentary about modern-day hobo's who ride the railways by stowing away on trains.
Like this:
My thoughts went back to Tucker and Randi as I opened up the page and there, staring back at me were photos of....Tucker and Randi. The proposed project was actually a posting from several years back, the project had been financed in full, the documentary has been produced and will be available through Amazon in early December. And Tucker and Randi were several of the "travelers" featured in the piece.
I watched the trailer and sure enough, there they were.
It was filmed later in the same year I picked them up. They looked Scruffier than the day I met them.
Surrounded by...gotta be honest....some pretty scary looking friends.
In some really scary looking places.
Seriously, the scenes in the documentary trailer broke my heart. The kids looked tired and hungry and uncomfortable. I watched it several times, the same way I watch Gone with the Wind, every single time hoping that pretty little girl won't jump her pony and break her neck. I watched, just hoping maybe the story would brighten up a bit with a happy ending for Tucker and Randi.
My copy is on order. .
It should arrive before Christmas.
So, what to conclude about the whole thing.
I've asked myself many, many times:  why would God tell me to pick up a couple of hitchhiking kids? What difference did it make? Why would he lead me out of my comfort zone and (seemingly) risk my personal safety to do something that I knew would make my kids and most of my friends think I'd totally lost my mind?
I don't have a grand answer, other than......he asked me to do it and I did. It was a lesson in obedience for me. I have no idea what, if anything other than a hot meal, a clean bed and some chat with a crazy lady, it meant to those kids. Honestly, I didn't have Bible verses on my mind when I picked up them up. I just knew it was something I was supposed to do and I tried to just be in the moment and roll with it. I do, however, find evidence that it was the right thing to do at the time, in my Bible in the book of Matthew 25, staring with verse 35:
35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,
36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
I explained to Tucker and Randi exactly why I picked them up that afternoon, over our dinner that night. I told them of my hesitation, I told them about God's voice in my heart and I told them about my personal faith and how it sustains me every single day of my life. I made sure they understood God had his eye on them and I promised that I would pray for them from now on. Both of them had their own experiences with faith and the church. We talked about that a bit as they shared their stories with me. Tucker was a bit estranged from his Dad. Randi's mom was real worried about her and she felt bad about that. There was some substance abuse. Some wrong turns. These kids had been traveling as stowaways in rail cars for a long, long time. Very doubtful they even remember me.
If God whispered in my ear, I'll bet he whispered in the ears of many others who blessed them along the way the best they could, too.
The last thing I told Tucker and Randi was that I would be one of their praying guardians.
I am today and will continue to be. They're my heart-kids now, even if I never, ever see them again.
It's a promise I made and I'll keep it always.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Creeping Toward the Weekend

Frightening small children
with clip art and assorted
creative horrifications
of a slightly twisted
and yet
completely (I swear!)
stable mind.

It's how Aunt Debbie rolls.
Boo, kiddies! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sometimes, just sometimes

Field Trip

My baby boy Chuck thinks it quite the
amazing and wonderful thing to have a pet boutique and grooming shop
in the family. Beyond the grand shopping opportunities
for cool things I can wear so he'll feel
awesome walking beside me.....
....they have treats!
Fancy ones! Flavored ones! Teensy, tiny ones! Big ones!
This weekend we helped out at the store and Chuck
chose a big, chewy.....something or other.
Putting it to a test of my vast dog-treat experience, I concluded the following.....
Judging by the size ~ it clearly came from an elephant.
Judging by the fragrance ~ it clearly came from an elephant who needed a bath.

Judging by the way he groaned and passed out in the
corner after he finished it ~ doggies should not eat elephants.
Upon closer inspection of the treat-wrapping, we realized our mistake.
It wasn't an elephant.
It was a dinosaur.
And we always chase dinosaur dinner with
Halloween cookies.

It's how we roll.
Today one of us is rolling with a chubby tummy and
dinosaur stuck in our teeths.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Every morning
A new page in my story
I celebrate the chapters
for their beauty and confusion
for their mystery
and drama
for the unfolding of their plots
for the sweet, happy endings
for the heartaches and tears
It's a good book, my story
I wake to live and scrawl my life across each page
Each dark cloud
Each whisper, each breathe on my face
Each answer at the end of a prayer
And be grateful for the beauty of the tale
every morning

Friday, October 17, 2014

Bear Hunting Weekend

This is a journal entry as much as anything.
The pictorial story of a great weekend.

No details.
I decided those are best left to remain in my memory.
But I do love sharing the pictures.

Two of my favorite people celebrate their birthdays back to back.
Cupcakes were had. Celebrating occurred.

Some pretty cool stuff going on lately.
Some challenges.
Some surprises.
It's all good.

When Asked to Make a Difference

Lost on a Gravel Road

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Beautiful Unfolding

 There are beginnings.
They all have beginnings.
So do plants.
Whether at the hand of a gardener's plan or the whim of nature ~ the Master Gardener's plan ~ a seed finds itself in the soil at a moment in time when conditions are just right: just enough sun, not too much rain. Hidden beyond even the observation of the gardener who planted the seed in the first place, roots are sprouted and something begins to grow.
A tiny little green promise pushes through the soil, bravely revealing itself to the elements.
The elements can nurture. They can also destroy.
The tiny plant soldiers on. 

The stem begins to grow and send out tiny leaves.
Nutrients are sucked from the soil. The wind pushes the stem to near breaking,
strengthening the plant, and thereby stacking the odds in favor of it's survival in the process.

Gardeners are, by nature, patient people. They have to be. Seeds take their time. Nature delivers her gifts of the critical elements on no ones schedule but her own. The gardener must wait. He can dream of the flowers, he's seen them before. He can almost smell them, they are so real to him; he's enjoyed their fragrance and been intoxicated by their beauty; yet he knows he must wait.

And then, finally, the bud appears.

This is the learning moment for me.
I know what it feels like to look at the tightly packed buds on my favorite plants and anticipate
the wildly colorful flowers they promise. Getting in close, I can see the protective leaves wrapped around the hint of petals tucked beneath. That's when I remember back to my Grandmother's bank of sunflowers. It was a wild patch that grew in the back yard right near the old wooden posts which held up her clothesline.

Early one summer as she pulled wooden clothespins from the flour sack bag and pinned my Grandpa's pants to the old wire line, I noticed the patch of sunflower plants were covered with buds. I wanted to pick flowers for my Grandma but none were blooming yet. Conditions were perfect for the flowers and they promised to bloom soon, but it was too soon. The buds were not ready.

Impatiently, wanting to surprise my Grandma,
I picked a handful of the stems and sat down in the grass.
Carefully......or as precisely as one can with a willow twig and a clothespin for surgical tools, anyway......I removed the protective outer leaves of the flowers. I was going to make the flowers bloom. Today.

Not tomorrow. Not next week.
I wanted them today.
Like a child often does, I wanted them when I wanted them when I wanted them.
Why? Well. Because I wanted them.

So I got my face right down into those buds and ever-so-carefully I picked and pulled at the individual petals, coaxing them out of their God-designed incubator and into the sunlight that dried my Grandma's sheets to crisp that beautiful day.

And this is what I ended up with:

The dismantled carnage of what, just a few minutes earlier, held all the promise
of a magnificent flower to come. The beautiful petals lay in a shredded mess.

I think back to those forced flowers all these years later, thankful for their lesson.
Beginnings are beautiful, but we must not betray them with our impatience by forcing
the blossom before it's time.

God is the Master Gardener.
He has a plan for flowers and for all his creations.
His hand is everywhere and his timing perfect.

Trusted to the journey he designed, 
the flower unfolds as the magnificently beautiful creation he had planned all along.

I still get as excited over beginnings as the little girl who sat in the grass at my Grandma's feet.
But I have learned to trust the plan and timing of my creator,
knowing the beauty of the perfect unfolding he designed, is worth the wait.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

It Was Time.

My kids mow my grass for me.
I've got bad knees and they show up when the wind starts whistling through the crabgrass, I come home from work and everything is neat as a pin. I appreciate the help so much.

So my son meets me in the driveway last week.
"Ma," he pointed to the house next door. "You know Doris over there? You need to go visit her."

Well, yeah. He was right.
A little background: my parents lived in this house for over 50 years.
They both passed away last winter. I'm living in their house.
The same neighborhood I grew up in.
The same bedroom I slept in when I was a teenager.
So the sweet little lady next door has known my folks.....not me....for lots of years. They
did neighborly things like share peaches and tomato plants and bags of thinned hostas over the fence.
As they got older, the visits became less frequent but they still did their share of chatting. Doris would bake salmon patties after my mom could no longer cook and she'd call to have my step-dad come over and pick them up for their dinner.
She misses my folks.
She really just liked knowing they were here and, admittedly, I've not been real social. I work, I come home, I go about my biz without wandering out of my own yard. One day she was out in front of her house, filling one of her many birdfeeders, caught my eye and flagged me down. I walked over to say hello.
"You never come visit. I had hoped you'd be better about visiting."
Ohhh man, I was in trouble.
She chewed me a bit. For a 90-year old lady, she's got a bit of bristle left and she gave me a good brushing, right out there in the front yard. I promised to return....soon.
I didn't. I let the summer months slide by, I made all sorts of excuses about it to rationalize it in my mind. It was sooo hot. Oh God, it was soooo humid. The grass was long, I hate walking through it. I'm tired.....I'm tired......ohhh what the hell, the truth is I was just being lazy and honestly, the longer I let the need to visit linger, the hard it got to make myself do it. 
Especially because she chewed me out last time.
"Ma," my son reminded me, "She's an old lady. Go visit."
So I did. Yesterday. I went empty-handed. Wished I could think of something to take her but I know she's careful about what she eats, I didn't know what to take. So I just went.
Why am I not surprised I had the best time, ever? The whole situation was like the biggest metaphor for life in general. We hear something calling to us in life, we hear it and we know it's our call and....for whatever reason....we ignore it. Usually it's fear that makes us ignore it.
In this case, I stupid fear she was going to chew me out again. I'll tell you the whole story of our visit because it's pretty cute. And it made me smile. Still makes me smile.
I knocked but could see through the big front window, she was already our of her chair and rolling to the door with her walker. Note to future self: she's 90 and she's navigating the room like a NASCAR driver with that little walker. Impressive! Just because we get wobbly doesn't mean we have to shrivel up and die. So she let me in with a big smile, I sat down and she sat down and we visited for a short chewing so far.....and all of a sudden she says:
"Oh! You're the one from next door, aren't you?"
Oh lord, what an ego-bust! She didn't even know who I was. Well, at least right away. But once she figured it out....."Now I know who you are, you haven't been over in a long time!"
Yep. There it was. The chewing.
It didn't last long. And I lived.
She told me about her life. And her kids. And her plants. And her birds.
And she told me about her quilts. She showed me the closet full of them she's made over the years. Piles and piles and piles of hand-stitched work in all kinds of colors. Looking at them....all of a sudden I solved a family mystery.
My two sisters and I have been sorting through my folks lifetime of possessions for lots of months now. We've made it through most of the stuff, maybe one more dumpster and a few dozen more trips to Goodwill to go. But there are a few mystery items and one of them is a big quilt.
Mom didn't quilt much. She collected fabric. She took classes. She planned to quilt. But she never got around to finishing much of anything. I sure as heck didn't make it. My sisters didn't make it.Who on earth would make a beautiful, hand-stitched quilt for our parents but we wouldn't know who it was?
Mystery solved.
And lesson learned.
I've been sleeping under that quilt for several months now. I love it. It's been hugging me to sleep, night after night after night after night.
When I left her house, Doris smiled really big and she said, "Thank you so much for coming over! Please come back again soon!"
All she wants is a hug back now and then.
I promised her. She'll get it.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Little Sparks Start Big Fires

Jobs. Dirty and Otherwise.

I sold cars for about a year.
I about starved to death doing it, I clearly was not God's gift to the dealership and found myself to be best at two things: keeping my treat-drawer full for co-workers and cruising around the lot in golf carts. Not to say I was lazy. That wasn't the case. I know how to sell, I know customer service. I just don't know cars. Somewhere up in the Debbieland that is my brain, the crucial love gene for cars is missing. I probably should have applied with Peterbuilt. Those things I could sell because I really, really love big trucks. But try as I might.....and it's a continuing joke with my adopted work-son from the GMC/Buick experience, I just really, truly can't tell cars apart. They all look alike to me. I would ride around the lot all day, quizzing myself......ok, what kind of truck is that? What year? Work son would come out with me...."What's that?" he'd ask, pointing to a shiny new whatever on the lot. He'd get a blank stare.
He'd laugh. "But I bet if I showed you a painting, you could tell me the names of all the colors of blue in it, right?" Yep. He was right. I love paintings. I just don't love cars.
So there I wandered. Clueless. I couldn't tell my Verano from my Lacrosse. Couldn't see the difference between an Enclave and an Equinox. It probably wouldn't come as a surprise to learn, those things are kinda important when you're selling cars. I would hate for anyone to ever know how many times I walked out into the lot with a clicker, trying to find a specific vehicle to show a customer, frustrated because I couldn't get anything to wink at me......only to find I was three rows over from the model for which I was searching. I'd grab one of the guys and ask if they knew where the Ivory Acadia with the DVD player was.....and they'd point to the other side of the lot.
What I did love about selling cars was the customers.
I've always loved customers.
Two important geographical influences come into play here: a John Deere plant was located just a couple miles down the road. And I live in an agricultural state. Lots of my customers were factory workers and farmers.
I sold a really nice GMC Sierra to a super-nice kid who worked at Deere. Thankfully, he came in knowing exactly what he wanted. Even more thankfully, I was able to find it on the lot. Even MORE thankfully I was able to climb up into the thing 'cause it was a big, big boy. And best of all: his credit was excellent. BAM. So I sold this truck to him and as we're going about the whole paperwork process I ask him about his work.
His sweet face lit up like I'd plugged him into the wall. He came alive.
I'll interject here: I have lots of factory workers in my family. They build tires, they build cotton pickers. I've shared holiday meals and Sunday afternoon gatherings at Grandma's with them for years and I don't ever....not ever....recall seeing one of their faces light up over their work. I heard talk about the union. I heard talk about lay-offs. I heard talk about overtime and cruel managers. I never saw their faces light up like this kids. I was completely captivated by it and had to ask him more, trying to find out what it was that made him light up so.
Here is what I learned: he had great pride in what he was doing. He explained the entire production process to me, how each stage of production has a set of tasks to complete and when each is done, before the machine moves on down the line to the next stage, the department tags the piece with their team number as having been completed.
The tags were a big deal. He told me his department's tag number.
Told me what had to happen before it was tagged and where their tag was placed in the whole grand scheme of completing the cotton picker before it loads up on a truck and ships off to cotton country.
And he told me......"You can go see one, if you want! They've got them on display out front of the plant." He gave me his tag number and told me where to look.
So one sunny Sunday afternoon I drove over to the plant to check it out. Sure enough, out front was a line of massive pieces of equipment in ( for everyone around here, anyway) our favorite John Deere green. This particular plant builds cotton pickers. Just the tires alone on the things were taller than me. Big, big machines.
And I found his teams tag, right where he told me to look.
They work on the electrical harnesses in his department.

I felt like a mom who went to Junior High Open House and found her kid's essay on the bulletin board for all the visiting parents to say. Damn, but all of a sudden I was just so proud of this kid and his small part in building this big machine. I took about a hundred pictures and couldn't wait to talk to him and tell him I'd seen his work when he came in to get his truck serviced in a few weeks.

Beyond charmed by the pride this young guy took in his work, I was encouraged by it, too.
If you follow Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame, you know he's launched efforts to bring some national attention to the need for skilled labor; to bring a sense of pride back to factory floors and other places where "dirty jobs" have taken their hits over the years as high schools, for whatever reason, began encouraging kids to go the college route in preparation for a white-collar world. Somewhere along the way, pride in labor lost it's shine.
Well, I love the effort. And I loved this kid.
I've had to dress up for lots of the work I've done over the years, but my blood is factory-floor-oily and gravel-road-grimy right down to the tiniest vein that runs under my skin. I come from a long line of people who got their hands dirty for a living. My great-aunts worked 10-hour days picking bad pieces from conveyor belts of corn kernels in a canning town; my uncles threw tires; my grandfather was on the railroad. My uncle worked in the coal mines. Hard work is who I am. I knew who this kid was: this kid was my people.
I love it that he is so young and that he glows with so much pride over a job.....a labor job.....well done. I wish I could say I did as well in the car biz. I smile when I think back to it. I'd do it all again, despite the fact I was so very miserably mediocre at it, just to get to meet those farm and factory boy customers again. They inspired me. He inspired me. And I hope he's loving driving that new truck.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

My Bagel Shop Career

It took me forever to hop on the bagel train.
They were a little too chewy for my taste. Seems like every one of them I'd ever met was stuffed full of raisins. And I'm no fan of raisins.
Eventually I discovered the beauty of the bagel; how a hearty chunk of baked wonderfulness is the perfect host for a glop of cream cheese. Well shoot, had someone mentioned the cream cheese earlier I woulda been all-in sooner. I became a believer. A fan of bagels. A fan of bagel shops.
One in particular.
Came the day I needed a job.
Needed it pretty bad.
Hours and hours I sat in my favorite bagel shop, sipping coffee and chewing on little chunks of my bagel friends; cruising the internet for work; completing online applications which, eventually I came to think of as online invitations for sad letters; they call them "flush letters" in the H.R. biz.
"Dear Ms. So and So, after careful consideration of your many skills and accomplishments we feel that another candidate is a better fit for this position. Thank you for your interest in our company and we wish you the very best in your job search!"
What. Ever.
There I sat, day after day.
One afternoon a sign appeared on the counter. The bagel shop was looking for a manager trainee. I stopped up to the counter. A week later, I reported for training.
Training was fun.
I learned all about bagels. How they are made, what care is taken for consistency, how a clean kitchen was of paramount importance to the (franchised) shop. It was interesting. Sat through eight hours of it, learned how to make the foo-foo coffee, how often to freshen the pots and how to operate the bread-slicing machines. (Nope. Split isn't the only option!!!! This knowledge was a complete amazement to me, all in itself. I can have my bagel sliced thin, like a loaf of bread!!!????)
Yes, Debbie. There is a Santa Claus.
I was excited the day I reported for my first day of work.
The uniform shirts were pretty cute. They handed me a bucket of markers and let me decorate my own nametag. If you know me and my love of markers, you know this was a bigga deala.
And I'll add, morning-woman that I am, having arrived at the shop before 6 AM was no problem. None at all. I hit the ground running with the chickens each morning, I can do early.
There I stood, polished up nice for my first day.
Stepped up to the counter and met my first customer.
Got her coffee wrong.
Oops! Sorry. Told her I was new.
This didn't seem to matter, she left scowling.
Next customer.
Had to wait in line for my turn at the slicer to properly prepare her bagel.
She was in a hurry. Big hurry.
NOT. Happy.
Took too long.
And then the next customer...
And the next...
And the next.....
And it was in my second or third hour behind the bagel counter I had one of those life-changing moments. I looked around me, considered the parade of customers I'd already enjoyed (?), and realized...pretty much without exception.....folks are not very nice in the morning.
Wellll, that's not entirely true. Men are nice.
But I've never met so many bitches in my life.
More than once I wanted to wink and suggest, "If you weren't wearing those ungodly invites for a weekend of paid bondage that you call shoes, your toes might not hurt so bad and you might not be inclined to be so nasty in the mornings, missy."
Well. I never said that.
But I thought it plenty.
Ladies who order coffee and bagels in the morning are nasty.
And that's when I knew.
You can love a place and feel comforted it by it. You can settle into an old, squishy chair in a bagel shop and trouble over your unemployed misery. You can sip coffee and even though you are worried, you feel a sense of consolation in the familiarity of the place. You can become a part of the wallpaper, losing yourself in the place while the world and all it's trouble marches past the windows.
But it's a totally different view from behind the counter.
I quit after my first shift.
Yep. Handed back the cool-enough shirt, unpinned the nametag and called it a wrap.
It was a good move.
I never regretted it.
Bitches and bagels are just a bad way to start out the morning.
I still hang out at my bagel shop.
And I'm always especially nice to the morning girls who make my coffee.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

"That's a strike against me."

Well, it's true: he should have done something. We both knew it. He didn't do it.
He felt bad. I did, too. 
But a strike against him? No way.

It's just life. It's just people.
 People do things and they say things and later on they rethink them and realize they could have done better. But a strike? Relationships just aren't baseball games.

I actually like the game of baseball.
Maybe because it's something I understand.
I understand strikes are good for the game of baseball. They keep the game from lasting into the wee hours of the morning when everyone just wants to be home, fighting for space in the bed they share with their dogs. Strikes are a way of enabling a finish. They're a way of keeping the game from being the NeverEndingStory.

Strikes don't make sense to me in relationships.
"I know, three strikes I'm out..." he said to me.

And then I realized, somewhere along the way, he'd been pulled into a game.
Somewhere along the way someone drew a diamond on the ground and explained the rules of the relationship: You step up to bat, you get three chances to make it right. Swing if you dare, man. But remember: Three strikes and baby, you're out.

Three strikes, huh?
Well hell, yes. Of course.
Then you're out.

As if a relationship of any substance can be scratched into the dirt with a stick and defined by a set of maybe-you'll-get-it and maybe-you-won't rules. But know this, buddy: three strikes and you're out.

Well. Not in my world.
In my world relationships aren't games to be played and people are not players to be moved around on the field according to skill or luck or just the freakin' damn bad weather. In my world you can swing and hit, you can swing and miss. You get gratitude and hugs and a big smile when it's awesome. You get consideration, care, forgiveness and....(eventually, sometimes a little longer eventually than others)...another big smile....when it's not. More hugs, too.

That's how people in good relationships handle stuff.
Not like a baseball game.
Not with a scoreboard.
Not with a batter worried he's gonna strike out.

In my world there is no outlined mechanism for enabling a finish; no threat of tripping and bringing a wrap to the end of what should be a NeverEndingStory.

There is no plate. There is no field.
It's just life. Together. 

When things are good we say stuff like: This is awesome. You make me feel so cared-for. I love when you do that. And "I love you." When things aren't so good we say stuff like: That hurt. That disappointed me. I think you made a mistake. Help me understand and get past it. And by the way, "I love you".

I hasten to mention, I was married for a long, long time. I'm divorced now. I know the stuff over which relationships struggle. I know what it feels like for something to unravel in such a way it can't be woven together again.

But it's not a game.
It's not about strikes.
Nobody is ever out for one too many bad swings on my playground.
Not ever.