Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The duct tape

There are many moments from this last Mississippi trip that I will never forget. Some are lessons learned that were a little painful, others were moments where I saw God work. My favorite moment had to do with duct tape.

A few years ago my friend N decided that I needed some pink duct tape. My guitar case was getting a little beat up from the airlines and so he bought the pink duct tape and I decorated my guitar case. Last February in D-land, my poncho tore, so N again came to the rescue, this time finding pink and purple plaid duct tape. My D-land poncho is now designer gear. In April the team in Mississippi found purple tie-dyed patterned duck tape and gifted me with as a special prize for being a Jefferson Award recipient. Cousin T found out about the different patterned duct tape and decided that because she loves anything ducks, that she wanted duct tape (or as we more commonly call it "duck" tape) for Christmas. I was happy to oblige.

While in Mississippi, I went to my favorite store to dislike shopping in but the only place available, and found a whole plethora of duct tape. Zebra striped, camo, bright yellow, red and yellow tie-dyed and flame patterned to name a few. I picked up the Zebra and red and yellow tie-dyed for Cousin T. That was Monday night.

On Tuesday we stopped at the Mini-Mart out on highway 90 to grab some sodas and coffee for the crew at lunch. As we walked up to the counter to pay, the lady behind the counter stood up and, as I said in a previous post, her stool that she normally sits had flames on the seat but was patched up by silver duct tape. I knew right then that I was getting her the flame duct tape.

Wednesday we went out to lunch, so we didn't go in the mini-mart. That afternoon, Ben and I had to make a run to Lowe's for more building materials. As we drove we started talking about what was happening in Pearlington. We talked about the new market that is going in on highway 604, which lead to a discussion about the mini-mart on highway 90. Ben doesn't hold high regard for that mini-mart nor the lady behind the counter. I commented that I actually got her to smile and his reply was that was because I was from out of town and that I wouldn't be around that long to bother her. It was a pretty interesting commentary on small town life.

That night, even though I was tired and had a blog to write, I drove a group to my favorite store to dislike but there are no other options and bought the flame colored duct tape.

Thursday lunchtime arrived and I was eager to get to the mini-mart. We pulled up and I jumped out and about bounced into the store. There was the lady behind the counter sitting on her stool. I walked up to the counter and produced the duct tape..."here, it's for you!" and then it happened. The lady behind the counter didn't just smile she laughed. A deep belly laugh. A laugh of surprise, a laugh of delight, a laugh that said sounded like music to my ears. I knew right then and there that my job for the week wasn't really about getting a ramp done, it was about bringing joy to the lady behind the counter.

As we left, she offered to pay for it and I refused..."it's my Christmas gift to you," I said. "Merry Christmas" was her reply. The smile was still on her face and I hope that every time she sees flame patterned duck tape she gets a smile on her face.

It's amazing what God and flame covered duct tape can do.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Not a talker

I am not a talker. I don't talk just to talk. If I have something to say, I usually have thought about what it is I am saying and try to choose my words carefully. There are very few times when I ramble on and on and on about nothing. Making small talk is painful, painful I say! This can be a problem on multiple levels.

It's a problem when meeting new people. Not being a great conversationalist, meeting new people is downright hard. There are a lot of uncomfortable silences and pauses. My mind races to think of any subject that can be easily discussed without putting really saying much, which is a problem seeing as how once that one single sentence is said there are minutes worth of silence left to be filled. So I am labeled as cold or aloof or unpersonable or maybe even superior, which is not really the case. I simply struggle with small talk and don't find it necessary to say words that I don't mean.

Which is a problem in my job, which is very much a people oriented job. Small talk is necessary. I've learned to ramble on and on and on and make small talk but that comes with a price. Simply put, for every 5 minutes of small talk I need 15 minutes of recharge time. Time where I can be alone with my thoughts, to allow my brain to catch up with all the input and output, to allow my introverted soul to reflect and figure out if I said what I really meant or if words just flowed out that had no meaning.

All of this came up in my head because of a text message I got from a friend today..."You got time to chat?" The answer was convoluted. Yes, I have time but No, I don't have the words. I've used up my quota of small talk. I have been chatty over silly little things to the nth degree over the last week and I'm chatted out. More than that, I simply don't have the words for what is going on in my head and heart. "I can't chat today...rain check for tomorrow?" was my reply to my friend. She was okay with that.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ready for take off

I'm sitting in the New Orleans airport waiting for our plane. It's been a good, quick, hard week in Mississippi. The tears that threatened all day yesterday finally spilled as I pulled into the driveway at the Yellow House. That last hug with Mr. Ben, I just didn't want to let go. The finality of this trip is palpable and yet...and yet...and yet.

I wish there was another trip around the corner. I wish there was more money to do the work that needs to be done for the people who are still without homes. As we took one final drive through Pearlington today, there were far too many houses still sitting empty, just the way they were left when they were cleaned out with nature taking over. We have always left thinking that there would be a next time in the near future. There is no next time in the near future. Our job is done.

Goodbye Pearlington. Goodbye Mississippi. Thanks for the memories...the life changing memories.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The lady behind the counter

Today was a day filled with moments that tested my patience, humbleness, ingenuity, flexibility and more. There were two moments in particular that stick out. I'm only going to tell you about one, though.

Pearlington only has one little mini-mart on the outskirts of town. It's pretty rundown but is frequented by many people all day long. The lady who works in the mini-mart has never been especially friendly. At all. Sunday we stopped in there at lunch to buy some soda's. I saw the lady behind the counter and didn't expect much in the way of friendliness. She surprised me though. She recognized that we were volunteers, specifically she recognized me. Yesterday, I got a little smile out of her as we were checking out, but not much. She was friendlier though.

Today, as we approached the counter, she was standing, instead of sitting on a stool. That's when I saw that her stool had been repaired with silver duct tape. Being the observant person I am, I noticed that the seat of the stool had a cover that had flames on it. Being the duct tape aficionado that I am, it immediately occurred to me that I had seen duct tape at Wal Mart the night before that had flames on it, or at least had the same color scheme on it. I had to bring her attention to the this fact and that's when it happened. The lady behind the counter broke into a full smile and laugh. It made my day. Sammy and I decided that we need to buy the flame colored duct tape for the lady at the mini-mart.

Sometimes I forget, on these trips, that it's not just about building houses but that it's also about helping people find joy again. I'll gladly spend a few dollars every day at the mini-mart buying stuff if it means that we can help the lady behind the counter find joy in life again.

Friday, December 17, 2010

For Meggie

(Please excuse the chipping pedicure...didn't have time to deal with that before I left.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cow in the neighborhood

That was the subject line of the email I received from my mother today. It was from a neighbor. Seems she and her husband were driving home the other night and almost hit a black cow as they turned into the neighborhood.

Now if we were living in say, Central CA or Texas, on a long country road out in the middle of nowhere, then almost hitting a cow wouldn't be so shocking. But on the Central Coast of CA? Cows in the neighborhood are rare, very rare. We have stray dogs (or dogs that just run loose...grrrrr), lots of deer, plenty of squirrels, singing coyotes, fox, birds and snakes. The neighbor up the road has emu's and I think at one point they had llama's too. Somewhere in the mountains we have a mountain lion, I'm sure, but a cow? That's a new one.

There used to be someone who owned a lion. It lived up the hill from G.G. I remember it getting loose one time and the school being on lock down...or maybe I dreamed that. Somewhere in the surrounding neighborhoods there are chickens and a rooster. I'm not a fan of the rooster. I know that there are skunks out there, I've smelled them. We've had rats in the garage, but I'm pretty sure that Papa Bear eliminated them. The next door neighbor had a horse once. The local Bigfoot Museum people are convinced that a Bigfoot is living in the woods around town. But a cow in the neighborhood...that is definitely a new one.

Which brings up the question, what would you do if you walked out your front door and were greeted with a stray cow? Would you try to catch it? Would you shoo it away? Would you call animal control to come round it up? The neighbor who sent the email said that the cow just ran down the road after they came upon it with their car...they didn't hit it, don't worry. Should they have followed it to see where it went? My mind is filled with questions and I have to say, I'm a little curious about this cow, now.

I wonder if that's what has been waking me up the last few nights. I've heard the swish-swish-swish of what could be a tail brushing against the house. But usually the motion lights go on when something as small as a raccoon...oh yeah, we have raccoons too, runs down the porch. If I'm woken up again tonight, I'll have to check out what's out there.

A cow in the neighborhood. This one I really want to see.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The weekend that was and the week to come

I'm feeling accomplished tonight. There are three people left on my Christmas shopping list. All the stocking stuffers that I felt the need to get, have been gotten...oh shoot, make that four people on my Christmas list...most of the gifts have been wrapped. This going to Mississippi before Christmas thing is good for my procrastination tendencies.

The weekend and all it's stuff is behind me. Train Guy's cake was VERY well received. His eyes got huge and got that little sparkle in them that said "job well done". The Christmas Celebration at church went well, only a couple of little hiccups. It went much better than the church service that morning. I am convinced that there is a gremlin living in the sound system at church that loves to mess with us on stressful mornings.

Saturday night Meg, K and I went to see The Judds in concert. I haven't listened to Judd's music in awhile. I realized Saturday night how much I love the simplicity of Judd's music. There's no offensive or questionable lyrics, they have great harmony and Wynonna has got a set of lungs that won't quit. It occurred to me halfway through that if Yo Momma and I were to go on the road together, we would be much like the Judd's. Yo Momma would prance around and be the people person that Naomi is and I would stand behind the mike, play a guitar and sing in the spirit of Wynonna...without the the power house voice.

Tomorrow is Ice Skating night for the youth. Wednesday is my day to wrap up all the loose ends at work and pack my bags then Thursday we fly away. I think I'm ready.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

6 years ago...

Train Guy turns 6 this week. Hard to believe that 6 years have passed since he came into the world.

This year he started Kindergarten. Every Wednesday I get to meet his bus at the front of the church parking lot. He hangs out with me for a couple of hours before the church's mid-week program begins. Sometimes we have to run errands...he's not a fan. Most weeks we put a movie on while he eats his lunch. Sometimes he'll want to do a project. Pens, paper, scissors, glue, tape is all at his disposal. Most times he wants to go outside to play. Out to the playground he runs and the play begins.

Train Guy has gotten a little more affectionate in the last year. He freely gives hugs and kisses. It's pretty special to be hugged all the time. He's just a pretty happy guy...unless something isn't going his way and then the tears start. Oh the tears. It's funny what will cause those tears to happen too. Usually they start at the end of the day, when he's exerted so much energy his inner warehouse is low. That's about the time I send him back to his parents. But sometimes I get the full brunt of those tired tears. Meltdowns only happen with the one's you love, right?

Last week it was raining. Train Guy and I were charged with the task of picking up Adventure Boy from preschool. As we walked to my car, with the rain coming down, Train Guy asks "Can we put the hood down?" Ummmm...No. Driving in the rain in the convertible is no fun...done it before. Silly boy.

Today (Sunday) Train Guy celebrates his birthday by watching the original Star Wars movie (#1 to me, #4 to everyone else). I was going to put together a Lego Cake with Star Wars characters on it but at the last second I found the pan I really wanted online for pretty cheap. So Train Guy (who still needs a new nickname) will be celebrating his 6th birthday by blowing out the candles on this cake...
Happy Birthday Train Guy! May the force be with you!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tonight I'm thankful for...

(because I need to focus on the good)

-->Caramel Apple Spice from Star$.

-->Hugs and kisses from Train Guy.


-->A roof over my head a night.

-->Co-workers who make work enjoyable.

-->Train Guy's warning to Jeff (church custodian) as they ate lunch and watched Toy Story 2 together this afternoon "the next part is a dream...starting now."


-->A Light Blazes in the Darkness (yeah, I know, two blog shout

-->Staff Breakfast tomorrow...I love breakfast out!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Two weeks

In two weeks I will be on a plane for fact if I move my clock ahead two hours, I'll be about 40 minutes from getting off the plane in New Orleans two weeks from now (seeing as how it's 11:15am as I write this). I'm eager, anxious and happy to say that I'm also fully funded! Yay!! Anything that comes in now is icing on the cake...or building materials.

In the meantime there are things to be done in the next two weeks. Train Guy and Adventure Boy will be joining Yo Momma and I in a Christmas Tree hunt tomorrow afternoon. Train Guy turns 6 next week, so there's a cake to be made...not gonna tell you what it is yet. K, Meg and I are heading back to the 80's and hanging with The Judds in a week or so. The church Christmas Celebration (big concerty thing) happens a week from Sunday. The youth group is going Ice Skating. There's a Christmas party to attend, a couple of breakfasts to go to, a few meet-ups with folks, oh and I need to make sure all the computer stuff is together for all the worship services between now and the 26th. Did I mention just regular work stuff? Didn't even talk about getting any presents together for Christmas Day. Eh, it will all work out.

But really, what I'm trying to do right now is slow down. Seems strange, huh? The next couple of weeks are going to go really fast. Mississippi will come and go. Christmas will come and go. In my busyness and tendency to so narrowly on things, I miss the big picture. I miss seeing the good stuff come out, so this season, I want to slow down and focus, to prepare for what is coming, to enjoy the moments and savor this time.

A few years back I bought an Advent Devotional Book by the RevGalBlogPals. I was being cheap and ordered the downloadable version and never really used it. This year I decided to print out the pages, put it in a binder and read it. I'm glad I did.

I also bought a book from another blogger...who is now no longer blogging, seems to be a theme these days...that I'm planning on taking on the Mississippi trip. We read it at the end of the evening last year and I'm gonna do it again this year. It's called "A Christmas Story You've Never Heard" by Gordon Atkinson. I love his retelling of the story of Christ's birth...I may have to buy the Shepherd's story this year.

Just today I found an online Advent Calendar that is going to become part of my daily routine, this season. All things to help me savor the time of this season, to focus on the big picture and to slow down a little.