Monday, December 29, 2008

security guard

So, there's this security guard at work. He's in his late sixties or early seventies. He is quite spry. But I can't help but wonder what circumstances led to him having to do this job at his age. Stock market crash? Somebody fleeced him? What happened?

Anyway, he frequently thinks of something that he wants to tell one of us, but he is not capable of using complete sentences. Below is my representation of how he told us about losing his phone (while he was working in our lobby) and subsequently finding it. At least that is my best guess of what he was saying.

"Ahunh-ya, I tell ya my phone was scarin me knowin it was somewhere I didn't know where, coulda been anywhere. That gave me a scare, ahunh-ya, wouldnda got that thing for my own but when they brung at ere to me I was sure glad to see, ahunh-ya, cause who knew what, do you know it was scarin me?"

Those of us standing there had frozen smiles on our faces because he's a sweet man, but we just couldn't understand anything he said. After he went back to the lobby, we  discussed what we each thought he was saying. English is clearly his native language, so this isn't an issue of an immigrant trying to assimilate. It's interesting the different interpretations we each had. For instance, I rightly or wrongly perceived that he had lost, then found his phone. Another person said he thought the security guard was talking about eating broccoli. (Huh?) Another lady said that she thought he was telling us where he was going to be for the next twenty minutes.

This leads me to think about the power of communication. Each of us has occasion to talk to other people about various things. How much of what we mean to communicate actually gets across? Given the many misunderstandings I've witnessed over the years, I'd say it's easy to miss the mark, either as the speaker or as the listener. No doubt there are myriad studies about miscommunication.

I suppose the bottom line is that we each are responsible for ensuring that what we intend to communicate actually gets to the recipient. How to do that without annoying the crap out of everyone is a mystery to me. You can't very well go around asking people to repeat what you said, just so you can be sure you communicated it well. So, what is the answer?

Friday, December 26, 2008

christmas surprise

The phone rang and there she was - my niece, Charlie Marie. I hadn't spoken with her for at least two years. But her mother (my former sister-in-law) was visiting her brother (my ex-husband) and my son (who is visiting his Dad) called to let me hear her voice.

Charlie Marie lived with us when she was a little baby. There had been some problems and I took her in so that she would not have to be in foster care. At the time that I took her, I had to accept that I could not and would not know how long she would be with me. It might be six months or six years or the rest of her life. I thought of her as a daughter. She called me Mommy.

When the time came for her to return to her family, I handled it very well. We had some transition visits so she could get used to being around her family again. Then she went permanently. Had I not been distracted by a cross-country move, I probably would have fallen apart! Giving up a child - even when you know ahead of time that you might have to - is devastating. But it was the right thing for her and for her family.

That was 2002. Now in 2008 here she was on the phone. She is so smart and sweet. I am reminded once again what a blessing she was to my life while I had her! And I am so pleased that her family is together and happy!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

christmas memories

Images of prior Christmas mornings are on my mind today. For certain, the ones that stand out the most are the ones when my son was a little boy.

The first one that pops into my head is the year Sam was almost three. We were visiting my Mother in Calhoun, Georgia. Sam got a Big Wheel and went berserk when he saw it. His feet barely reached the pedals, but he rode that thing until I thought he was going to have to take it to bed with him at night. None of the other toys and games that he got came close to capturing his attention. This was the last non-gaming toy that ever received such a positive reaction.

The next one that stands out is a few years later when we visited my father and stepmother in Allentown, Pennsylvania. All of my siblings were there, along with my niece and nephew, who were 8 and 4 years older than Sam. Sam's cousin Chuck was very frustrated because Sam was beating him at Gameboy games, despite their four year age difference. Sam had received his first Gameboy on his 3rd birthday and Chuck had just received his first Gameboy for his birthday in November of that year. So Sam had been playing at least 18 months longer than Chuck and that made all the difference in the world.

The next Christmas that stands out is the year I bought him Super Metroid for his Super Nintendo game system. We were living in Jonesboro, Georgia. I clearly remember starting that game and both of us saying "Wooowwwwwwwwwwww" as we mutually appreciated the incredible graphics and game play. It was awesome. We had previously played Metroid on Sam's Gameboy, so we knew we were in for a treat, but neither of us was prepared for the incredible colors and the rich detail of the game. The box that the game came in promised a certain amount of game time, but Sam (as usual) beat the entire game in about two thirds of the time. At $50-$65 per game, it was an expensive treat! But games and clothes were about the only two things I ever bought him once he started gaming.

The next Christmas that stands out for me was the year that Sam and I drove up to Asheville, North Carolina where Mother had recently moved. On Christmas Eve, Reggie drove up to Asheville to be with us for Christmas Day. I had purchased a number of gifts for Reggie, but when he opened the Nautica shirt, he flipped out. He was so happy with it that he immediately put it on. From his joyeous reaction, I realized that no other gift I had ever gotten him had ever really pleased him. I resolved to do better in the future. But I'm not sure that I have succeeded!!! As of this Christmas, we have known each other almost 34 years. No other gift has gotten the same reaction as that Nautica shirt!

The first Christmas after Sam installed World of Warcraft on his computer also stands out to me. We were in New Jersey. I got Sam some stuff and he got me some stuff. But neither of us remembers any of it because we were fighting for computer time in order to play WoW. We had this elaborate sharing system worked out. He would play from the time he woke up (around 2 p.m.) until about 5 a.m. when he finally went to bed. I would play from the time he went to bed until he woke up again. I can remember feeling so forlorn when I would hear the first sounds that signaled that he was waking up for the day. That strikes me as so funny now!

That is just a few memories. My own childhood memories of Christmas are less clear. I do remember being at my Grandmother McClarin's home in Norfolk, Virginia. My sister and I would wake up at dawn and begin pestering our Mom to get up. The rule was "stockings only" until everyone was up. This was quite a challenge with two teenagers (my oldest sister and brother) in the house. By the time they were finally up - after a LOT of bugging on our part, we would open presents, with my brother playing the part of the Grinch until he was fully awake. LOL

As a child, the family did not have a lot of money, so one game was purchased to be shared by all. The one that stands out in my memory is Mousetrap, an elaborate board game that centered around this huge mouse trap that you would gradually build, piece by piece, until it was ready to be set into motion. At the time, this was really exciting!

Reading back over this post, I am suddenly struck by the realization that each memory took place in a different place. And with that realization comes the awareness that I had Christmas mornings in a multitude of other places - Japan, Massachusetts, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arizona and now - Tennessee! Each one has been different! I wonder where next Christmas will find me!!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

the long arm of the law

Just before I moved to Memphis in July, I purchased a "pre-owned" Chrysler 300. I was issued a temporary tag and a temporary registration. I was told by the dealer that they would file my registration and I would receive my tag in the mail. My temporary tag was good until 08/20/08.

I drove to Memphis, started my new job - and waited. Towards the middle of August I phoned the dealership in August to see why I hadn't gotten the tag. They informed me that Arizona would not mail a tag to another state and that I should just take my temporary registration and get registered in Tennessee.

Prior to going to the TN DMV, I went out on their website to see what I would need. I took my temporary registration, proof of residency and proof of identity. When I got there, a very nice lady (we'll call her Ms. Sweetie) indicated that I would need the documents showing the sale of the vehicle. She said if I wanted to go get them, I could come straight back to her upon my return, rather than wait in line again.

I drove back home and rummaged through paper and couldn't find anything. I eventually found the paperwork --- in the car. Sigh. I drove back to the DMV - and Ms. Sweetie had gone to lunch. I walked up to the woman seated at the desk next to Ms. Sweetie's desk (we'll call her Ms. Witchfromhell) and told her that Ms. Sweetie had told me I would not have to wait in line again. She sneered at me and told me to take a number. Oh-kay. As luck would have it, when my number was called, I was told to go to the desk of Ms. Witchfromhell. I went to her and handed over each document. She handed them back to me and said I could not register my vehicle unless I had my title. I explained that I did not have the title because Chrysler Financial had my title. She said I would have to get the title in order to register the car.

I left the line and called Chrysler Financial. They indicated that they would not be sending me the title because I had not finished paying for the car. (DUH!) I explained my situation and the Chrysler representative explained that the state of Tennessee had a form that they needed to complete and send to Chrysler in order to request the title.

I returned to Ms. Witchfromhell and explained what the Chrysler representative had told me. She said she did not know about any form. I asked if we could call Chrysler together. She said "no". I asked if we could get a supervisor out to assist us. A supervisor was called over. The supervisor reached under the counter and handed me the form. Sigh.

The supervisor indicated that the form had to be completed by me, then given to the dealer, then notarized, then brought back to them. As of today, I have returned three forms to TN and Chrysler has yet to receive a form.

In the meantime, my temporary tag expired. Each time I have seen a Memphis police car or a state trooper, my heart has leaped into my throat. I have even taken evasive action to avoid them, feeling absolutely ridiculous each time. I finally decided after my most recent close call that I should probably just go buy another car!!!

This morning, the long arm of the law finally caught up with me. I was on a back road, headed to work. I came around a curve and found myself at a random checkpoint set up by state troopers on motorcycles. I sighed heavily and resigned myself to my fate. I handed over my driver's license. The trooper asked for proof of insurance. I pulled the paper out of my purse, only to find that I had failed to print an up-to-date insurance card from the car insurance website. I handed the expired card over to the trooper. He walked back to check my tag. I pulled out all of the paperwork that I had accumulated in my multiple attempts to register my vehicle because I knew I was probably about to go the the pokey. The trooper came back to me and handed me a form to sign. "Ma'am, we're handing out warning tickets today to ask folks to slow down. It's the holiday and we want you to arrive safely at your destination." I signed the warning and drove away --- slowly.

I have no idea why I was allowed to drive away - with an out-of-state driver's license, an expired tag and expired proof of insurance. But I do know that I am going to church on Christmas Eve!!! And the Infiniti dealership.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

mixed medley meme

A bunch of mixed up meme questions stolen from too many sources to mention, but the answers are totally mine:

1. Hard wood floors or wall-to-wall? I really prefer the way hard wood floors look, but now that I am having to clean them, I will admit to a preference for wall-to-wall carpet.

2. What is a nickname a former (or present) lover gave you? Alice

3. What was the best party you have ever been to? Wow, there have been so many! I suppose it was in college over a long Thanksgiving week-end. So many people drifted in and out of my apartment. It was absolutely insane. This was a tiny one bedroom apartment and we had as many as 45 people crammed into it at one point - playing guitar and singing, or music cranked up, doing shots in the kitchen, food of every description appearing and immediately being consumed, couples forming and disappearing, debates about critically important social issues and equally intense debates about incredibly unimportant subjects, etc. The young man I was dating then - Steve Dial - is gone from this world now. He was the highpoint of the weekend for me.

4. How many colors are you wearing now? Four - gray yoga pants, yellow tank top, pink & white striped hoody and pink slippers.

5. Are you an introvert or extrovert? I am an introvert, but I do a darn fine job of faking it as an extrovert.

6. What was the last book you read? I am reading "I Was Told There'd Be Cake", essays by Sloane Crosley.

7. What's one piece of fiction that changed your life? Marilyn French's "The Women's Room". It really helped me understand the development of the Women's Movement.

8. What is your favorite comic strip and why? Zits because it absolutely cracks my father up and I love to see and hear him laugh.

9. Is there anything that has made you unhappy recently? Hmmm - not really. I'm pretty happy right now!

10. What's your favorite dessert? Without question - creme brulee. But I am also very happy with Breyer's chocolate ice cream with a bit of milk poured over the top to make a bit of a crust.

11. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning? If I wash my hair, it takes an hour. If I don't wash my hair, I can be out the door in 20 minutes.

12. Name one website that you visit daily. Why do you read it? Blush. Facebook. God, how droll!!! Because I get a glimpse into the lives of people I don't get to see very often!

13. Could you make it 39 days on "Survivor"? Probably not. First, I really like food and comfort. I hate being cold - or hot. I look like crap in a bathing suit. And let's face it - I would never be able to keep my mouth shut long enough to stay under the radar.

14. Do you like to clean? Heck, no!!!

15. What was the last song to get stuck in your head? Single Ladies by Beyonce.

16. What's the last movie you saw? In the theatre, it was The Dark Knight. On television, it was The Bucket List.

17. Pirates or Ninjas? Well, Johnny Depp has made it pirates - forever ... unless he comes out with a ninja movie, in which case I might reconsider!

18. Cats or dogs? If I have a big, fenced-in back yard, DOGS! If not, CATS!

19. Chunky or smooth peanut butter? Smooth. I love peanut butter toast in the morning.

20. What are you most looking forward to in the next six weeks? The arrival of my sweetheart. I haven't seen him in a couple of months and I miss him!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

hanukkah in memphis (or how about kwanzaa?)

Over the last few weeks, I've watched the Christmas decorations go up at the campus where I serve as President. Clearly these are traditions that have been in place long before my arrival. But after everything was in place, I asked someone, "Where is the Hanukkah stuff?" I was greeted with a blank stare. "How about the Kwanzaa stuff?" Another blank look.

I decided that I was probably being unfair, so I decided to go purchase some "stuff" and just inject it into the decorations. I went to Wal-Mart. I went to Hallmark. I went to Lowe's. I went to Garden Ridge. I even went to Cracker Barrel. (Hey! Sometimes they have good stuff in there! I found an Elvis Christmas tree ornament to send to friends in Phoenix!)

Anyway, I didn't find anything. Today at work, I asked a Jewish co-worker where I could find Hanukkah "stuff". She replied, "Walgreen's". No kidding. So I suppose I will go look for a Walgreen's.

I hope I am not making a mistake. I do not want anyone to feel uncomfortable, but I want all students, staff and visitors to feel that they are welcome and celebrated in our building. And I want us to all feel that we are the kind of people who welcome all people - regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic background, gender, sexual orientation, etc. To me, this is the main message that Jesus taught - all are welcome.