Saturday, November 12, 2016

Fresh Out

'''Twas a rough night."--Macbeth

    On my third morning in post-11/9 America, I noticed many more birds in my backyard than usual. They were drawn to the bird feeder, of course, but more than that, they came for the water in the bird bath.  I understand that it hasn't rained in Alabama in over 21 days. This dry November morning was pale with diffuse light from an unpromising overcast sky. Despite the presence of wrens, chickadees, mockingbirds, bluebirds, and one woodpecker, the quiet settled on the tinderbox of our few acres, hushing even the wind. 

     Like most of the 51%  who supported Hillary Clinton, I had walked gracelessly through day one, still listening to NPR and watching Huff Post the way I had watched polls since July. We were waiting, I guess, to discover that we'd been punked.  Or that Florida had once again confused its
voters as to how to deal with a ballot.  Or that it was all a horrible dream. By day two, we were seeking explanations.  Pollsters were wrong?  All of them?  Why?  Democrats did not turn out in cities?  We should have known that! The rust belt bought the Bring Jobs Back line more than they'd let on?  And finally . . . Democrats have created an "us versus them" climate by claiming to be the educated, rational party, not listening to the outrage of people who work every day.  

     I was sorting out the various angles of why and how as I entered the building where I work, and it must have shown. "It's Thursday," said our doorman. "You're almost done."  Normally I would have nodded agreement and said Yep!  Bring on the weekend.  Today I stopped. I looked at him and said, "We have some dark days ahead."

     His tone when he replied was as even as the overcast sky this morning--still and without a trace of portent.  "Yes, we do.  This is why we pray.  This is why."  I later apologized to him, thinking I must have seemed terribly negative. But he said NO. He didn't think that.  "This is what the Black
community hoped would not happen. But we felt this. Everything is on the table," he said.  "And
when everything is on the table, everyone can lose something."
    This was the first conversation I had had with anyone and the first time I had nearly choked on the taste of despair.  Since then, my friend in West Virginia texted me a clip from Stephen Colbert's
election night show and said she didn't want to talk. Another friend closer to home called to say she had been unbearably sad all day long. My friend on the West Coast thanked God she didn't live in Ohio.  Here at home, my husband and I muttered about the merits of taking social security before full retirement age and what might be the future of Medicare. We did not talk about our granddaughter, who might not have funds for what will become obscenely expensive college.  We did not mention how she might swelter through 95-degree October days and Aprils without showers.  We did not wonder aloud if she would be paid the best wage available for whatever job she chooses. We did not discuss her public school education or the fact that she requires Medicaid. 
    Some groups in cities have already marched in the streets in protest that Donald Trump is not their president. The minority of voters who elected Trump are indignant, forgetting that their stance regarding Barack Obama was much the same. Other people have begun petitioning for electors to flip their votes in December, a helpless bleat from those wishing for a do-over.  Still others have again raised the question of whether Electoral College should exist at all. There is blaming; there is anger.  

     There is fear.

      The Governor of Alabama told us a couple of weeks ago that our education system in this state "sucks."  He offered no solution other than that he would do something about it. This seems to be the modality of those who have seized power.  We see clearly what has gone wrong, they tell us.  We will
fix this.  In the meantime, the Governor warned us, we should not try to burn anything. 

     Hillary Clinton is blameless, the most intelligent, qualified, maligned, and exonerated candidate I have ever seen. Her determination to lead was misinterpreted here in Alabama as power hunger.  Donald Trump's self-aggrandizement was taken as leadership quality. What rabbit hole have we fallen down?  No matter.  I have figured something out.  The blame lies not with Hillary Clinton, who gave her all; not with Donald Trump, who stepped in to fill a vacuum; not with the populace that voted against its own best interest because that is what they've always done; and not with Democrats whose vision was inclusive, but not inclusive enough. The blame lies with me.  I did not listen. I did not work hard.  I did not speak up often enough. That is about to change. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Foxtrot No One Enjoyed

The American military has a way of describing nearly everything with its own unique, arcane language.  Gossip, for example, is scuttlebutt.  A collection of brightly-colored ribbons on a dress uniform is fruit-salad.  A situation that is irreparably chaotic, hopelessly marred by poor communication, or just a big mess is a  . . . wait a minute.  This is a civilized blog.  We will refer to the big mess as charlie foxtrot, and I beg you to excuse my language, but I found myself dancing in a foxtrot I never wished for.  Some one should have cut in.

April 11 was a milestone day for my son, a Sailor.  It was not only his three-year service anniversary; it was the start of what might have been his longest and final deployment.  In addition, my Sailor was to receive his Good Conduct Medal for three years' service without any disciplinary action.  Mr. Powers and I have never missed an opportunity to see his ship leave or return, and this day was to be no different.  Last minute schedule- shifting had been necessary, but we had arrived in Jonathan's base city late on the night of the 10th.  That was a spur-of-the-moment arrival, to be sure, but we had a late supper with our son and made plans to arrive at the base by 0830 the following morning.  That would give us ample time to clear any security details and proceed to the pier before the Sailors began to man the rails.  There would be sad smiles, hugs, and congratulations all around.  There would be pictures!

We were in line at the main gate in plenty of time, drivers' licenses, registration, and proof of insurance in hand.  (Hey, this ain't our first rodeo!)  We presented an MP with our paperwork with the expectation that he would direct us to a checkpoint ahead where we would be identified as members of a deploying Sailor's family.  Instead, the busy MP informed us that we could not "just drive onto the base," as if we didn't know.  He stopped the traffic in the outbound lane so that we could U-turn around the gatehouse and pull into the parking lot of the Base Pass Office.

Every base has one of these cinder-block, square buildings with a giant label by the door that says BASE PASS OFFICE.  A visitor parks his car, goes inside, presents his credentials, and gets a placard to go on his dash.  We parked and entered the building.  There was one other customer there, a Sailor registering his motorcycle.  No one else was waiting.  It was here, at 0827 on a Friday morning, that we had the misfortune of meeting Mr. B.  I will give no information here as to Mr. B's racial/ ethnic group, religious affiliation or ELL status.  I want there to be no unfair generalizing.  What I will state is that Mr. B., a civilian contractee with little to do, was the most indolent, apathetic creature I have ever been cursed to encounter.

"Help you please?"  he asked.  (Translation:  Do I have to deal with you?  OK, let's get it over with.)

Mr. Powers and I proceeded to the window with all our credentials in hand.  (I should note that the MP had already run a check on both drivers' licenses and our car tag.  What a relief!  We are not suspected of being terrorists.)  We put the paperwork on the windowsill, explaining that our son was aboard a deploying ship, and that we were there to see the departure.

"I don't see a  special event on the calendar for (Ship Name).  Is it a departure or an arrival?"  (Translation:  I am not listening whatsoever.)

"It's the (Ship Name).  They pull out at 10:00."

"Is there a list?  Who's your sponsor?"  (Translation:  I don't know what to do.)

Was this a trick question?  How would we know if there were a list?  There always has been, and we've always been on it.  We told him our son's name for the second time.  Mr. B. heaved himself out of his chair and went into another room.  He came back in 10 seconds.

"You can't go on base without a sponsor.  Your sponsor will have to come to the gate and escort you while you're on base.  You can sit over there and wait for your sponsor."  (Translation:  I'm done.  This is your problem.  Get out of my window.)

I got on my cell phone, thinking that Jonathan would still have time to leave the pier area and drive to the gate to act as our escort.  Jonathan, however, was aboard ship. probably changing into his dress whites in preparation for manning the rails, and was unable to receive wireless signals.  I tried calling, texting, emailing, and Facebook messaging, all to no avail.  I was finally able to get ahold of another Navy mom who was already on the pier, having stayed overnight with her son and his family.  I explained our dilemma to her, she passed the word (scuttlebutt!) to another Sailor, and he went aboard to tell Jonathan about the charlie foxtrot we had encountered.  But by that time, no Sailor could leave the area, so our chance of getting any escort was just about zero.  It occurred to me to call the ship's family liaison, but the cell number I had wasn't connecting for some reason.  Thinking I had the wrong number, I ventured back to the window and asked Mr. B if he had a number for that individual.

"I  can give you the number ma'am," he intoned.  (Translation:  Oh my God, lady, can't you see I'm trying to set up a dental appointment here?  Hold on a minute.)

He did give me a number.  It was a landline, and it rang to infinity.  I hung up in despair.

Lest you decide to stop reading here, concluding that this is just a sentimental mom's lament that she didn't get to say Fair winds and following seas to her kid, I should tell you that there was also a practical matter that needed our attention on the base.  Jonathan doesn't store his truck on base; we bring it home during deployment.  He likes it to be driven; we like the convenience of having a nice pick-up truck to use.  He had brought the key along with him to give to us before he had to go aboard.  His friend got to him with the charlie foxtrot message just in time for Jonathan to pass the key along to a Navy wife.  She was able to bring us the truck key, but she only showed up at the Base Pass Office after the ship had pulled out and was out of sight.  Can you blame her?  Her husband was aboard that ship.  She gave me a ride down to the parking lot where Jonathan had left the truck.  Mr. Powers waited at the gate with our car.  By that time, we were fearful they'd tow it away if it were unattended.

Jonathan's white Dodge was where he said it would be.  I thanked the young lady for the lift, unlocked the door, silenced the alarm, and turned the ignition.  The truck idled smoothly.  It hadn't even gotten hot inside the cab yet.  I rolled the window down and pulled the seat forward.  Jonathan is so much taller than I am.  There was an Episcopal service order on the floor from the previous Sunday, a black sock without a mate on the seat, a coffee mug from the NEX in the cup holder--just the everyday trappings of a Sailor on the job.  I pulled out of the lot and headed back the way I had come in. As I passed the deserted pier, I glanced out the left-hand window at blue-gray water lapping against the concrete and stretching to the empty horizon.  I was careful to fasten my seatbelt and stay below the speed limit.

An hour later, Mr. Powers and I were a motorcade of two headed west.  He drove the truck; I was back in my car.  We stopped for lunch, asking each other the same questions we had been asking all morning:  Why didn't Mr. B just call the ship and verify the deployment?  Why didn't he simply ask a Sailor to escort us the half- mile we would need to travel down to the pier?  What was the point of holding us at the gate once they had verified who we were and why we were there?  There was no unusual security on base that day.  What would prevent a couple of aging baby-boomers in a Chrysler from proceeding to a pier where their bona-fide, natural-born son is waiting to pull out?  We couldn't come up with any answers.   We knew only two things for certain:  We were sadly disappointed, and our Sailor was mad.

I mentioned earlier that it was a milestone day for Jonathan.  Check the date.  I wrote this on April 13.  On April 14, 200 miles north of Bermuda, the USS Hue City caught fire.  My Sailor and the rest of the crew fought major flames for nearly two hours, and miraculously, no one was killed or injured.  The deployment ended that day, and the ship began her return home.   On April 17,  Jonathan received the official word:  He's the Sailor of the Quarter.   On April 18, I got the call that let me know my son was safe in port.   I guess even good Sailors get the charlie foxtrot treatment once in awhile.  But having just celebrated Easter in a way I never expected--in the happy company of my whole family--I also guess that charlie foxtrot is a relative term.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day or Breaking Up with Krispy Kreme

On Valentine's Day 2014, I was especially excited because Mr. Powers was going to take me to a restaurant that I loved and he was unfamiliar with.  Translation:  He had never been there and was not interested in going.  The day before Valentine's, he had made the mistake of asking one of his student assistants for advice on where to take his wife for a nice, non-extravagant dinner.  Woe unto Mr. Powers!  She'd suggested my favorite place.

The restaurant was crowded and noisy, but I was pleased to note that the food was so good that even my skeptical husband had to admit he liked it.  I took advantage of his full belly and need of a quiet venue, so I suggested going for coffee somewhere close by after the meal.  We could go to Starbuck's, which might be a little crowded, but it's never noisy, or we could go to Books-a-Million where the coffee is good, and there are other attractions for book-mongering nerds like me.  Mr. Powers could get a magazine or newspaper; I would be free to browse. . . and browse. . . . and . . . .

My husband had a better idea.  He jolted me from my dreams of new books and Sno-Joe with "Why don't we just go on down to Krispy Kreme?  We can get dessert too."

I know when I'm licked, because doughnuts are my mate's tacky pleasure.  He never met a doughnut he didn't like, be it oblong, cream-filled, lemon, chocolate with sprinkles, powdered sugar, or Classic Glazed.  I timidly offered the possibility that we could just hit the drive-through, but for Mr. Powers, that would have meant driving to Slapout from Montgomery with a dozen fresh KK's in the backseat.  He couldn't bear the wait.  We would have to go inside.

So to Krispy Kreme we went.  Don't get me wrong.  I love coffee, and KK makes a better-than-average cup.  I really didn't expect much of a crowd at 7:30 on a Friday night, so I figured that anything we would lose in ambience we would gain in java--and doughnuts, of course.  My regimen doesn't allow me doughnuts right now, but I could certainly sip my coffee in peace while Mr. Powers debated between the chocolate-covered long john and the cinnamon-dusted apple-filled.

The Montgomery Krispy Kreme is not new,  but like a good many coffee emporia, it is trying to keep up with the ubiquitous Starbuck's by offering specialty coffees for people who really don't like coffee all that much.  Therefore, there is a big coffee menu inside KK where there used to be only a list of doughnut prices.  I could choose from cappuccino, latte, iced, hot, with any number of gooey syrups drizzled on top in case my doughnuts weren't sugary enough.  I asked for the small version of their caramel latte, which would probably have packed the caloric wallop of a raspberry-filled glazed.  What I got was an apology.  The espresso machine was broken, so none of the specialty coffees were available.   Relieved, I ordered black coffee with a splash of vanilla flavor, and it wasn't bad at all. Mr. Powers, who was really only there for the doughnuts,  happily ordered black coffee.

We took our desserts and headed for a table.  KK used to be a shiny 60's coffee shop with lots of chrome, booths, and a formica counter with stools.  I think it would still like to be, but competition with you-know-who has led it to try to come up with a new atmosphere--some sort of environment that would encourage one to sit with his frothy, caramel-oozing dessert coffee and read the Montgomery Advertiser online.  KK has added small tables for two.  This night, they had tied balloons--pink and red, heart-shaped and metallic--to the backs of chairs, and in the center of each table was a romantic paper Krispy Kreme hat.  Mr. Powers and I were in agreement that the paper hat could be donned and worn by anyone who sat at the table, but when I said I wanted the balloons that were attached to my chair, he said NO.  He felt strongly that the balloons were only decorative and were NOT freebies.  All in all, it didn't seem like all that bad a place to relax over coffee before heading back to Elmore County.  HOWEVER--

There was one other group of doughnut fans in the place besides the two of us.  There were maybe  five adults in the party, and they had pulled two tables together.  On one chair was an infant carrier.  In that carrier was--you guessed it--an infant.  The baby was awake and peaceful, too young to eat a doughnut, but in no hurry.  Why, I wondered, was this group so noisy?  Then I saw what I had been hearing all along but not attended to, being so absorbed in the dilemma of what to order:  There were three preschoolers, all girls, under the tables.  Giggling.  Chattering.  Squealing.  Screaming.  One by one, out they came and proceeded to run around and around their parents' tables, laughing hysterically, batting pink balloons into the air.   One of them put her paper KK hat on the baby, who stirred a bit, until another little girl decided the hat was hers.  A dispute ensued over who had had the hat first. Balloons burst.  Baby cried.  The smallest preschooler jumped up and down.  Through it all, the adults conversed as if absolutely nothing were amiss.  Without saying a word to each other, Mr. Powers and I sped up the process, placing plastic lids on our half-full coffee cups, and leaving KK, paper hat, and balloons.

I raised boys.  They shouted, they hollered, and they got themselves taken out of many a restaurant, because their dad and I knew that if we were annoyed with them, others must be, too.  I never had little girls, and I surmise that with girls, the rules are different.  No one at Krispy Kreme that night seemed the least bit bothered by the antics of three doughnut-powered princesses.  Who were we to complain?  We didn't.  It was Valentine's Day.  Mr. Powers and I love each other, we love coffee, and we still love Krispy Kreme.  Only next time, we'll hit the drive-through.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Musings During Iron Bowl Week

The summer of '78, I somewhat reluctantly began graduate work at Auburn University. It wasn't that I liked or disliked Auburn, it was more a feeling that I, a full-time English teacher and commuter, would not fit into the scheme of things on a primarily residential campus known for its agriculture and engineering programs.  I was one of probably thousands of Alabamians who think they understand Auburn.  I was wrong.

Auburn University is everything the Auburn nation claims it is--warm and accepting, beautiful, academically tough, and spirited.  I discovered in Auburn people a resilience I had never before encountered in the education field, and by that I mean that they were undaunted by setback, criticism, or the size of the task at hand.  The faculty were demanding and good-humored.  My fellow graduates, progressive-minded and creative.  By the time I graduated with a Master of Speech Communication degree in 1980, I was orange and blue through and through.

I admit that I am somewhat of a legacy Auburn Tiger--my mother was an Auburn undergrad back around 1948.  I still kick myself for not having the foresight to keep her freshman beanie and the stuffed orange and blue tiger she brought back to Birmingham with her when she left school.  Unfortunately, she never finished that degree, but she did pass on what all Auburn people pass on, and that is a permanent affection for the Plains.  I suppose I was destined to call Auburn, Alabama my home away from home.

Ah, but this is Iron Bowl week, and we are supposed to be talking football, right?  OK, except that I am not an authority on football.  Like any kid born in this state, I have sat through many a game, and I know pretty well what's going on on the field, but who am I to describe--muchless predict--what a bunch of D-I caliber athletes will do on any given Saturday?  Which brings me to the point of this blog:  the incessant, obnoxious, ill-conceived squalling also known as trash talk or smack.

I don't want to seem prim, but stop it.  Yep, just like that.  You see, it doesn't make any difference whose rear-end you think will get kicked, how murderous you think your team is, or whose coach has the people skills of a porcupine.  Do you hate the kids on the field?  What for?  They're the ones who will have sod between their teeth, not you.  Do you think the coach is overpaid?  Would you still think so if the paycheck went into your pocket?  Or do you for some inexplicable reason just hate one particular university or the other?

One of my friends had this to say. "Hey, this is the SEC; do you whatever you have to do."  I think he may have meant that all the venom-spewing was all in good fun, but he's wrong.  It detracts from everything we're supposed to be doing in this state, including supporting students.  If you're an Auburn grad, and you're a little nervous about this game, welcome to the club.  I well remember laughing with delight at the amazing  Iron Bowl comeback of the 2010 Championship team, but I also remember howling in frustration over a certain short kid's field goal kick.  The upcoming contest could go either way.  Many commentators say that every year, as they do about other traditional rivalries.  So yes, let's do throw the record book out, and be who we are--the most cohesive, gracious, and classy supporters of a football team as can be found anywhere.  And one more thing--This may not always be true, but for the 2013 season it is most definitely true:  No matter what is on the scoreboard after 60 minutes, there will be no such thing as defeat for the Auburn Tigers.  Not this year.  We've already won.  War Eagle!

Monday, September 2, 2013

My Ancestor's Voice

I have been told that as we age, we become our parents.  We take on their mannerisms, habits, and gestures, and before we know it, we're staring into the mirror, exclaiming, "Oh no, you sound just like your mother!"  I will escape such a fate.  Instead, I am becoming my grandmother.

Sue Lou Harwell Miles was my mother's mother.  She was an Atlanta girl whose family home was in Inman Park.  (That means something to old Atlantans.)  She was a Southern Belle, a Steel Magnolia, a homemaker, a hostess, a seamstress, and a housekeeper.  She emphasized substance over style and recognized the advantage of "refined and nice" over flashy.  I inherited some of the stereotypes, none of the practical skills, and every last one of her truisms.  When it came to situational wisdom, Sue Lou had a saying for any occasion.

I should be more respectful, I admit.  My grandmother was Mrs. Miles until the day she died, and she would be horrified to discover me calling her Sue Lou in a public forum.  As a matter of fact, she would be horrified by public forums in general.  "Fools' names and fools' faces are always seen in public places," she would chide when some one's name appeared in the wet cement of a new sidewalk. Oh dear.  Didn't I say the very same thing to my naive son who thought it would be a great idea to publish all his weekend pranks on a social network?

While I am not the thriftiest person in the world, I catch myself muttering my grandmother's script every time I shop.  "You get what you pay for,"  says Sue Lou as I contemplate the cheap sneakers.  "If you see something you want, get it when you see it, if you can afford it," she says, and I conclude that I can have the good sneakers, but only if I am willing to pay with cash rather than plastic.

But it isn't only the shopping that causes Sue Lou to tap me on the shoulder with her reminders.  I recently had some furniture re-upholstered--a Sue Louism if ever there was one--and the upholsterer returned a roll of fabric remnants to me.  I noted that the remnants would not cover anything I had left in the house, and I started to throw them out.  Then there came the voice, my own voice of course, but HER words:  "Waste not, want not!"  There are two rolls of fabric scraps in my spare room.

I find that I order my life and surroundings the way that she would have. I freshen up before leaving the house, even if it is just to go to the store.  If I am hungry when I get home from work, I have a bite to eat, just to tide me over.   I want to go on a 3-day beach trip when I have work to do at home?  "You're old enough for your wants not to hurt you."  Mr. Powers wants chocolate pie for dessert when all we have is ice cream and cookies?  "Beggars can't be choosers."  And "of all things," "good grief'" and "O my soul!" we wish there were a grocery store a little closer to the house!  "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."  So much for my grandmother's thoughts (now mine) about instant gratification.

Not long ago, during the Summer of the Upholstery, my #1 son came home on leave from the Navy.  I was proud of my "new" old furniture, and I had worked very hard to get my living room into what I thought was a semblance of shabby-chic cottage- style comfort.  My kiddo looked around and said it looked nice.  OK, Jonathan, tell me what you really think.  "Well," he confessed, "it kinda looks like a waiting room . . . with no TV . . . from the '40's."  Exactly when Sue Lou decorated the living room of the Homewood, Alabama house where I was raised!  I look around the room, and the echoes of her influence are everywhere--furniture is trimmed in dark mahogany, mirrors with heavy frames accent my walls, alabaster grapes are in a flea-market pedestal bowl.  I am not afraid of color, but I suppose I believe at some level that splashy reds and oranges are "plum tacky," because my beautiful colors are soft neutrals, whispers of lavender and coral, and woodsy green.  Refined and nice.

It's time I ended this reminiscence.  My grandmother was never one to call attention to herself.  If there were merchandise to be returned, she took it back.  If there were a button to be sewn, she sewed it; a meal to be cooked, she cooked it; a chair broken, she repaired it.  She was no doubt Martha to my Mary.  I only learned to sit and learn, while she set the example of everything that a Southern lady, no matter how refined and nice, could do.  She would never have put up with this kind of self-disclosure.  She was much too busy.  If you could get her to stop taking care of the business of living, if you did ask her how she felt about so-and-so or what she remembered about such-and-such, or when she married, or why she never went to work outside her home, she would give you the briefest of smiles.  Then she would say, "Ask me no questions; I'll tell you no lies."


Monday, June 10, 2013

The Curse of the Blessing

I have officially made the summer switch from working THERE to working HERE.  I have the privilege of not only a part-time job, but time off from my full-time job during the summer.  Technology makes it possible for me to accomplish my tasks from home via internet and an aging workhorse of a laptop.  I make my own hours, take breaks when I need them, and have pretty direct control over how much I earn based on hours I work.  Am I complaining? NO!  Well, maybe, some perhaps .  . .okay, yes.

I report to the cyber-saltmine every morning at . . . .wait.  I don't have to get up right now, so I will squeeze a few more minutes into snooze time.  After all, I don't have to plan for the morning commute.  (Yes, but that's 10 minutes when you WON'T be earning any money.  Move yer bloomin' arse.)  All right, then.  I'm up.  What should I wear?  (This is your dream, job, remember?  Wear what you want.  Yes, the PROPERTY OF U.S. NAVY T-shirt works.)  Coffee is already brewed and waiting.  Mr. Powers is still pulling 8-3 at the school house.  I will just have a quick cup with breakfast, and then after my second cup, which I now have time for, I will get on the computer and hit some licks.  (You can have your second cup while you work, Idiot.  Put the computer on the kitchen table.)

So here I am in my office, which today is the kitchen.  I have everything I need--my working materials, a pen, fresh coffee, my phone.  And the dog, I need the dog.  Jolene?  Come here, girl.  With the dog stretched out beneath the table, I am finally all set.  Almost.  Where should I set my coffee cup?  If I put it to the left of the computer, it will be on top of the printed materials I need to access as I work.  If I put it on the right, I will knock it on the floor.  I drink coffee left-handed.  (Hello!  This is a kitchen table.  Put the computer on the side, not on the end.  You will have plenty of room to spread your stuff out.)

Organized at last!  I log onto my worksite and check yesterday's productivity report.  Not bad, but not good either.  Yesterday was Sunday, and I was sleepy most of the afternoon.  On the weekends, they make you log off at 5:00 p.m.  Today is Monday, though, and I can put in as many hours as possible.  I will get started right away, but Jolene needs to go out.  The other two dogs want in.  They are confused by my presence at home on what is clearly a weekday.  Dogs re-distributed, I begin my preliminary activity.  I have my phone close by, because the company I work for offers great technical assistance, and I sometimes need access to it.  My phone also alerts me to email as it comes in, Facebook messages, and sales at Target, all of which I will ignore.  (You better not ignore that Facebook alert.  You have a deployed child, remember?)  Some of which I will ignore.

It has been an hour, and I have found a comfortable groove of action.  I am not working with blistering speed, mind you, but I have a steady pace going, and I am far from needing a break.  I type in a response and get an error message.  I haven't seen this one before, but internet can be persnickety, so I log out.  I log right back in.  My account is locked.  It must be an issue with the password, as I have recently had my project switched by the company I work for, so I probably should have changed my password at that time.  No problem; that is why my phone is close by.  I call the toll-free number and select tech support.  A very nice lady politely informs me that this is not a technical issue.  I need to speak to some one in content support.  Uh-oh.  I have a content problem?  They usually warn me a million times if accuracy is in question. 

It is 10:30 in the morning.  I cannot log back in for another 15 minutes while my director researches the problem.  He thinks one of my co-workers may have developed some issues which are causing my numbers to appear skewed, as we are randomly paired to ensure accuracy.  (Who is this slacker?  I don't have time to wait while y'all check my progress!)  Of course I will wait, and thank you, Mr. Director for your feedback.  It isn't lunchtime.  All the dogs have come in because it has begun to rain.  I do not need to go for a walk or have more coffee.  I need to work.

This is the reality of "use-your-own-computer-make-your-own-hours-work-from-home."  It is a blogger's dream.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

That's How We Roll . . . When We're Holy

I estimate that the First Assembly of God, Wynne, Arkansas, was about three-quarters full.  At least, that was my impression as I looked around the sanctuary.  But it isn't a sanctuary, it's a Nave.  We got trouble.

As far as I was concerned, Sunday, May 12, 2013 was the Seventh Sunday of Easter.  It was also, incidentally, Mother's Day.  I was privileged to be invited, along with Mr. Powers, my sister-in-law, and a gaggle of my mother-in-law's grandchildren and great-grandchildren, to Mother's Day services at the Assembly of God that mother-in-law Imogene calls home.  The building is pretty big for small-town Arkansas, and I understand there was a time when a visitor could barely find a place to sit.  Unfortunate rifts within the congregation changed all that, but a new pastor and a few new families seem to have brought many of the faithful back where they belonged.  Ms. Imogene was among the returning parishioners, and she was happy to discover that there is still a kind of competition among the moms there to see which one gets the most sons, daughters, grandchildren, and in-laws to show up.  I think she did well.  There were about a dozen of us, and we took up one whole pew and half of another.

Like I said, we got trouble, speaking of pews.  There is nowhere to kneel in an Assembly of God, although they wouldn't say anything to you if you up and knelt in the aisle.  The pew itself has nothing to do with their worship, because they do not sit to learn.  They sit when they are socializing before the service or when they are tired of standing.  There are no hymnals, so if you haven't heard the hymn they're singing, you fake it.  If they are singing verse 12, and you're tired of faking it, you sit down.  That is not a problem at all, since the songs are just a warm-up for THE SERMON.

Forgive my over-capitalization, but THE SERMON is the centerpiece of worship here.  There is no Eucharist, therefore no altar, and no communion rail.  The pulpit is front and center, but in fairness to Brother K., he doesn't stay put anyway.  His SERMON was not an Easter season message, although St. Mary figured largely in the scheme of what he had to say.  He preached that day on Motherhood.  Not motherhood, which is just a state of being a female parent, but Motherhood, an unassailable, unfathomable, thankless, sanctified position which would make all us moms candidates for sainthood.  He didn't call any of us saints, though, not even St. Mary.  Instead he drew parallels between contemporary moms' and St. Mary's trials as she raised Our Lord, and begged us not to feel guilty if our offspring had gone astray.  Apparently some ladies felt guilty anyway, because there were tears a-plenty.  I looked around from time to time, because (being Episcopalian) I am sensitive to the need for doing as others do.  Ergo, if I am unsure what to do, I stand when others stand, I sit when they sit, and I say AMEN right out loud if it seems to be the end of a prayer.  However, I don't cry on cue, and I wasn't feeling sad, so I thought I would get a consensus:  Is everybody crying or just moms?  Is there something I am missing?  Should I maybe hold a Kleenex?  (There is a box of tissue on each pew.)  I didn't get to wonder very long.  Brother K. said,

"I am WELL AWARE that SOME of you are NOT from the Pentecostal tradition!"  Gulp.  That would be me.  I looked behind me, and there wasn't a dry eye to be seen.  Yep, he was talking to me.  Granted, no one would have cared if I'd shouted, "Amen to that!" but I didn't.  I just stared back at him, mortified.  I needn't have been.  He only wanted to re-assure us heathens that it would be perfectly fine if we chose not to holler out, weep or spontaneously kneel in the floor, and that we were welcome to enjoy the presence of God in any way we wanted to.  I was grateful.  After all, my old home parish, All Saints', had a blurb on the back of the service order that reassured visitors that they could kneel--or not--as they dang well pleased.

So I relaxed and stopped waiting for the Lord's Prayer, a Creed, or anything I might know the tune to.  After all, I was being praised, extolled, and thanked for bringing two ruffians into the world and raising them while "soaking comforters and blouses with tears."  (Well, I wasn't much of a crier even then.) I realized that my fellow worshippers were having the time of their lives praising God, joyful just to be in His house.  (It's a NAVE!)  I got comfortable a little too soon because there is a sidebar to the centerpiece, which is the ALTAR CALL.  (It's a table which may or may not have the sacraments laid out for communion.  On this day, it did not.  It had our Mother's Day presents.)

Now, I was quite prepared to sing as many verses of "Only Trust Him" as necessary for the altar call.  But these are not Baptists, and I think "Only Trust Him" has fallen by the wayside.  What Brother K. did then was as sly as a preacher should ever be.  He invited ALL the MOTHERS to just come on down front and receive a FREE GIFT and the thanks of the rest of the congregation.  I could not avoid this.  Every one of my kinfolks knows that Mr. Powers and I have those two ruffians I mentioned, so I could not slink down in my pew or pretend to read the bulletin.  I had to go forward.  Well, there were a bunch of us, so I stood as far to the right as I could without being detached from the crowd. I was on the second of three rows of moms.  Ms. Imogene grabbed my left hand, and I grabbed her granddaughter's left hand with my right, so I didn't have to hold hands with a lady I'd never seen before. I refrained from saying "Peace be with you," and it was all good, because the majority had stopped sniffling and were praying for each other. They gave us our gifts--a pen with a matching bookmark--and we milled around and returned to our pews.  There was no benediction, no "Thanks be to God!  Alleluia, alleluia," but there were smiles all around and congratulations for my mother-in-law, who did, after all, fill up a pew and a half with family.

Mr. Powers and I shook the preacher's hand on the way out the door.  He encouraged us to VISIT again whenever we could.  So he did have me pegged as the non-Pentecostal in the bunch.  I wonder how he knew?

No matter.  I received a blessing that day.  I felt appreciated.  I was honored to be included with my husband's folks and their little kids.  I loved being with people who enjoy being in the presence of God in His house.  Even if it is a Nave.