Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Place to Hang My Coat

"A few years' experience will convince us that those things which at the time they happened we regarded as our greatest misfortunes have proved our greatest blessings."
~George Mason

Dear Father Malone,

Thank you so much for the gift. As someone who rarely wins anything, I was thrilled to know my name had been called. So thrilled, in fact, that as I carried the box back to my table, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to have won something so sacred. How often does one actually win a "blessed wall hanging" for their home or office?

As I carried the big sacred box back to the table, I wondered where I’d hang such a large item that had been blessed by a priest and what it was that had been blessed. Everyone at my table was in awe of this large, sacred package I’d won; undoubtedly blessed by “the” Father Malone. “Is it a picture of Jesus that Father Malone blessed!?” they asked, “Or is it a crucifix?!”  

With pure excitement, I opened the box. It was not a framed picture of Jesus Christ, nor was it a crucifix. It was quite literally the word “blessed” carved out of wood; with coat hooks attached.

So while the gift itself was not literally sacred, it in many ways still remains as a sacred reminder of how blessed I am to have received the gift of community; and I now, needless to say, have a “sacred” place to hang my coat.

Thank you,

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Windshield Knows So Much; Too Bad the Pocket Dials Do Too

"One advantage of talking to yourself is that you know at least someone is listening."
~Franklin P. Jones

And in my case, the person I pocket dialed is listening too. Not to mention I can be rather expressive, and I don't have tinted windows, so I often draw the attention of other motorists and pedestrians; especially at stop lights.

I've learned the hard way to limit my dancing in the car because people tend to think I'm having some sort of medical emergency. But how much do you want to bet that my lame dance moves are going to be the next "robot" or "microwave" trend? I'll see you on the dance floor.

My windshield does indeed know so much. It knows what makes me laugh, it knows what makes me cry, and it knows that accidentally punching yourself in the face with the "office recieved" stamp while trying to change the date definitely leaves a mark. My windshield knows why I think people are punks, it knows the outline for my grad school papers, and that I can't seem to find the entrance to the gas station; when I really have to pee.

Needless to say, my windshield knows so much, and if you've ever been on the other end of a pocket dial, you probably know me better than I know myself. If you happen to know the outline for my most current research paper, can you please call me?  I couldn't write it down; I was driving.


Friday, November 18, 2011

It's Not Always All about You

“If you wait to do everything until you're sure it's right, you'll probably never do much of anything.”
Win Bordin

Dear Readers,

We've all been stuck at the crossroad where familiar and new intersect. As someone who cannot navigate her way out of a shoebox with a GPS, the feelings of uncertainty, confusion, and excitement of what could be are all too familiar. Courage in its many forms have been highlighted in so many of the challenges I've recently faced, it seemed proper to highlight what I've learned. Too much time with educators does that to you.

Courage is knowing you're scared or unsure and doing it anyway. Perhaps the most profound consideration I have been challenged to adopt is the idea that doing it anyway means not doing it for yourself. Sometimes "doing it anyway" means finding the courage to accomplish something for your community and for those who would love to but cannot. Whether you find yourself brave enough to tell someone else's story to seek justice, or doing what it takes to wear an ugly Christmas sweater, you do it anyway. Because someone needs you to be courageous. A selfless act of courage is such a gift to both the giver and reciever.

I recently had a discussion with a friend at this very crossroad. Stay the same, or take the risk? Although my choice of words could have been better, what came spewing from my mouth was perhaps the best way to say it. "What?!  Taking a risk is fantastic! It's like crack.. once you start taking risks, you just can't stop. It's such a thrill. I sometimes feel like an addict." Yeah, that didn't go over so well. I can think of 6 people who are probably now looking into rehab clinics for me. Apparently, I've overdosed. But, the point is sometimes staying the same just isn't an option. So if you have to take that risk, why not make it exciting? 

Taking the path that requires the greatest amount of courage does not have to be traveled alone. Someone wise recently told me that reassuring one's faith is not about reading what is already there, or writing  it on notecards where you can see it. Reassuring one's faith in anything is best done through speech. Whether you say it out loud or ask someone else to say it for you, listen more.

Needless to say, when you find yourself questioning which path to take, do the following:

1. Don't take the courageous road for you; do it for those who would love to join you but cannot.
2. Take risks, they're addicting.. like crack. Except there's not a support group or rehab clinic to help you when you overdose.
3. Take more time to listen. Hearing the truth might be just what you need to take that risky path.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Captain Snafu, CPP versus "The Finger"

"In fact, one thing that I have noticed... is that all of these conspiracy theories depend on the perpetrators being endlessly clever. I think you'll find the facts also work if you assume everyone is endlessly stupid."

Dear Readers,

 I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on the value of an education and whether what we get magically equates to what we put in to it. Does an education better prepare us for the workplace?  Yes, in fact it does. But sometimes, it's the silly pranks you played outside of class that best prepare you for navigating group dynamics.

 I have been working on a major project this year that will revolutionize a process that should have always been just a little bit simpler. Like using office paper before papercuts became an unbearable occupational hazard. A key tool in collecting data for this project requires the use of biometric clocks. We're not scanning retinas; that's too dangerous. We don't want anyone losing an eye. Full body scans were out of the question, because really, this isn't the CIA. We didn't go with a full hand scan,  but instead went with just a finger. Because let's face it, any finger will do, but which finger do you really want to give your employer at the beginning and end of your day? Yep, that one.

I am a college educated professional who soon will have a Master's degree. I have FPC and CPP certifications, both of which were supposed to prepare me to be a wise, ethical, SMART cookie who can intelligently solve any problem you have under my realm of expertise. And yet, I still find myself in the middle of conversations, serious in nature, on biometric mysteries that are truly baffling. Below is a list of questions and comments pulled from an actual meeting regarding biometric issues.

1. Are you punching and giving it the finger?  You have to do both. Otherwise it just can't take it.
2. Which finger are you using?
3. Are you sure that's the primary finger?  Which finger do you use for back-up?
4. Are you warming up first?
5. How many times did you punch and where did you punch it?
6. Have you tried punching and giving it the finger from different locations?
7. If it worked to punch it and give it the finger in the kitchen, it should work in public safety. 
8. You shouldn't be penalized for punching and giving the finger in public safety; that just doesn't make sense.
9. Did you try your toe?  Any toe should work. Just take your socks off first. (That is, of course, assuming you have feet.)
10. Some fingers are more sensitive than others, and punches in some areas are also more sensitive than others. Be careful. We should put signs up warning people.

So, to the people who write the CPP exam, I would say you did nothing to prepare me for the shenanigans involving punching and giving the finger. Is that a separate certification?  Who teaches those courses?  All that matters is you are giving me 28 credits towards maintaining the CPP, which partially makes up for having to pretend to be serious through all of this.  

Needless to say, everyone has days where they feel not even a doctoral degree could prepare them for the problem they are tasked with solving. Today is one of those days. To Paul, I am grateful. Thanks for the short time together teaching me how to box. Never did I imagine I'd need instruction on how to truly fight, how to punch, and find the inner sass  I'd need to give my employer the finger. (I chose my index.)

In the endless battle of Captain Snafu vs The Finger, I'd say the captain always wins; assuming she has good friends to keep her grounded, and laugh not only when appropriate but when it is completely inappropriate to do so.

And to the one who asked how I make it through without immediately laughing out loud, the answer is I pray. Sometimes too much, sometimes not enough.  


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

May The Force Be With You

"Do or do not. There is no try."

Dearest Star Wars Fans,

In honor of Star Wars Day (which I think is today), I felt I should share my Star Wars moment of the week. As someone who really, really, wants  to be a Star Wars junkie, I’m starting to think that perhaps it’s just not meant to be.

While leaving a really tense meeting, I ran into a bookshelf and knocked over someone’s entire collection of Star Wars Pez dispensers. Chewy’s head fell off, and I couldn’t get it back on.  So now, somewhere in Aquinas, there’s a Chewy waiting to dispense sugary treats but can’t because he’s headless. I honestly don’t know if this is more or less embarrassing than the fact that for years, I thought Ben Kenobi’s alias was Obi-JUAN not Obi-WAN.  AND wondered in what episode we’d finally figure out what his sombrero looks like.

Needless to say, here’s hoping The Force is with all of you, because I’m pretty sure it isn’t with me!


Monday, January 3, 2011

The Art of Resisting Perfection

“People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection, which they cannot have, and looking for it where they will never find it”

~Edith Schaeffer

No matter who you are or how you celebrate, there are plenty of things that distract us from what the holidays are truly about. We are so driven to ensure that everyone has a memorable holiday. Did I purchase the perfect gift at the perfect price, all wrapped with the perfect bow? We drive ourselves crazy insisting that everyone's favorite holiday treats are there to enjoy, and that every gingerbread man is perfectly iced.

This holiday season was less than perfect for my family. Perhaps it is better off being described as a comedy of errors. With two family members unexpectedly hospitalized, another sent to the hospital for a rather unexpected surgery, another with food poisoning, and three others just making it to town on the last flight out of New York, it was a miracle that we rebounded enough to declare a do-over. Although the holidays were anything but what we all expected, it was things like the rental car dashboard greeting us with "Hi Stupid!", the white elephant re-gift to a child that proudly announced that "C is for Crack," and my 90 year old grandma proudly dancing and singing "The Beaver Song" that got us all through.

Prior to the real drama commencing, I opened a Christmas gift that didn't make a whole lot of sense, but turned out to be one I really feel I earned. It was a white t-shirt that read, "Best Actress in a Continuing Drama." Who knew how absolutely appropriate that would be. Everything from panicking over how many pounds of lunch meat to buy, to how we would find a store open at 7pm on Christmas Eve, to decorating a room in a nursing home to make it look inviting; all while keeping it together just enough not to cry?  The acting from all parties involved was better than any movie I've ever seen.

This year, the greatest Christmas gift wasn't the Muppet named Shirley I'm Bananas, designed by my dad and stepmom, it wasn't the new set of kitchen knives I so desperately needed. It was the gift of imperfections, adorned with a Christmas bow, and the gingerbread cookies frosted to look like the art of the great Andy Warhol. Here's a secret, they still tasted the same.

Needless to say, we needed a less than perfect holiday to remind us that lunch meat, 7 layer dip, and poorly frosted cookies are just as fine of a meal as the perfect steak from the perfect restaurant; as long as all the right actors are present to celebrate with you.

Happy Christmas.. and Happy New Year,

AbHb, 2010's Best Actress in a Continuing Drama

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Holidays

"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time."
  ~Laura Ingalls Wilder
In my family, we have two sayings that must be abided by at all times. The first is, "If an otter can't have fun doing something, it simply won't do it," and the second is, "A gift is the choice of the giver." These mentalities have served us well in getting through the tough times and celebrating the good times. They serve as a good reminder that everything is a gift, and you can have fun doing virtually anything. Even when that fun sneaks up on you when you least expect it.

It's December 16th, and the holiday spirit is in the air. The tree is up, the Christmas gifts are neatly stacked under it, cookies and tea with the neighbors, and Matches, the cat, is trying to bite the head off of baby Jesus in the manger scene. And finally, the time to reflect on what the holidays are really about. It is a time to remember those holiday traditions you really miss, create new ones, and learn from those that should never have been introduced.

I will never forget the Christmas my darling mother decided to enter our house in the city's holiday light contest. It was just the three of us, my brother, my mom, and I. I couldn't have been much older than 5 and my mother was looking for a way to get us in the holiday spirit. She decorated our house proudly, my brother helped, and I acted as the "artistic consultant." Together we made our house look beautiful. It didn't matter that it was cold, that we perhaps couldn't feel our toes, or even that we really didn't know exactly what we were doing. We were creating memories.
Then came the night when the official judges were scheduled to come look at our display. I remember being anxious and very sure we were going to win first place. I was very proud of the work we put in to sharing the holiday spirit. Startled by a knock at the door, my heart raced. My mother answered and the judges said, "You can turn on your holdiay lights, now." After a brief awkward silence, my mother said, "They are on....."
Moments later, the judges returned. Did they come back to tell us how badly we'd lost? No, in fact the came to tell us we'd won 3rd place. The prize? A gift certificate to the local funeral home.
Needless to say, "if an otter can't have fun doing something, it simply won't do it," and "the gift is the choice of the giver."

Happy holidays!