So much about my church growing up paved the way for horrific things later on. So very much that sometimes I forget about the good things that came out of it too. Today, I stayed home by myself, happily doing laundry, moving things around in the kitchen, making lists – home sorts of things. It felt so good. And I remembered something.
There was one youth group trip when we went to a vacation cottage/house type place that had room to sleep about a million people. This was good because I think we brought about a million teenagers. I remember that I didn’t really want to go because almost nothing about youth group was fun, but that I really did want to go because I always, always hoped that it would change. I remember I was reading a book that used the word juxtaposition in the first chapter. I’d had to look it up and it fit my youth group experience exactly. The ride up was loud. I remember hearing someone’s candy wrapper crinkling and then the sound of them sucking on the candy. It was like sandpaper on my ear drums.
We got to the cabin and put our things in our assigned rooms. There was the obligatory terrible ice-breaker game that everyone else seemed to enjoy. In this game, one of us was made to sit on another one’s lap and the objective was for the sitter to get the other person to smile. After each attempt, the one being made to smile would have to say, ” Honey I Love You, But I Just Can’t Smile.” This involved either being chosen or (worse?) not chosen to be sat upon. It involved being touched. It involved interacting in a way that made no sense to me in the context of the church. Worst of all, EVERYONE else seemed to think it was not only perfectly normal, but fun. Maybe it was for them. For me it was simply awful.
The order of events is fuzzy in my memory, but at some point during that trip, a huge game of Capture the Flag was planned. This was the height of horrors for me. Outside, competitive team sports, loud, and to be perfectly honest, I had no idea how to play any of these games because no one taught me when I was younger. It was like throwing me into a party with drunken Hungarian-speaking knife throwers and expecting me to know where to stand so I wouldn’t get hit. Even thinking about it now, I get nauseated.
As everyone else scrambled to get hats and coats, shouting taunts, and generally getting louder and more excited, I lingered, trying to find a way out of this. And someone (oh, how I wish I could remember who) gave me permission to stay behind and make cookies instead. Now, the cookies must have been planned before hand because we had the ingredients and my grandmother’s recipe with us, but the timing was unexpected. Just one time, someone noticed that I needed something different and they took the time and thought to make it happen.
I know that no group experience can be perfect for all of those involved. I know that my youth leaders never intended for youth group to be horrible. I know that I will always be thankful for that hour of quiet cookie-baking. I know that moment in that cabin in that place whose name I can’t even remember will forever influence the way I watch my children as they are invited to participate in activities. I can be at peace with that.
Almost two years ago, I cut all of my hair off. There were good reasons for it, but it was hard and I was more than a little bitter about it at the time. And it was when my hair was cut that this weird thing started to happen at work. I’d be walking down the hall and someone would say, “Hey, Anne-girl!” It took me a while to notice this was happening a lot. Then a doctor came up to me and started rambling on about an immunization project and did I have that data and could we get together later in the week to discuss…
I interrupted, “I don’t think I am who you think I am.” The programmer next to me burst out laughing and introduced me. “This is The Magic Princess. She is not Anne-girl.”
After that, I noticed it all the time. The CFO stopped me in the gift shop, “Hi Anne-girl, how’s your day?” It got to the point that I would just smile and say hello back because I didn’t want anyone to think this Anne-girl was rude through no fault of her own.
Several months later, I went to a meeting and knew right away that the girl already seated, wearing a similar plaid skirt, blue sweater combination, was the mythical Anne-girl. To shorten the story, and get to the part about today, let’s just sum up by saying that as soon as we learned we were both knitters, readers, coders, and generally kindred spirits, we became friends. This is the best part of my work. There are good people there!
We have a decent system now. If someone thanks me for something I’m sure I didn’t do, I forward the message. She does the same. So far it is working.
Today, she sent me this email:
Just had someone insist that I was at a meeting that had to do with overdue orders for the lab or something… I said, no, I’m not The Magic Princess. She said, “Oh, I know, but weren’t you at that meeting with Dr. X?” “No, that was The Magic Princess.”
We went back and forth a few times. Eventually she believed me.
These things really happen. And you know what else? I’m not so upset about that haircut anymore.
Last week was lost to a software update at work requiring me to be in at 2:00 AM one morning, physical therapy, a birthday, and a not so small thing called Continuing Education.
It wasn’t pretty, but it all got done and I have already made a better plan for the next two-year cycle. The Kettle Slayer has declared Never Again and I completely agree.
In happier news, the smallest smallish bear got her very own sewing machine. She is completely in love.
In the past two days she has managed to make eight napkins and made a good start on a “Spring Piano Runner” (which will be lovely if I ever get around to putting the nativity set away). I am glad she enjoys it so much, but had no idea watching/teaching someone to sew would be so exhausting!
I also spent time going through pictures from our time in Japan. It was good preparation for an upcoming writing project. Some of the pictures made me laugh so much! Now on to a better week and the move into the Lenten season.
It is February. I live in the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts. “The Berkshires” if you think everyone already knows they are mountains. They are beautiful. And this winter they have been Wisconsinesque cold and snowy. And snowier. And grey. And did I mention cold?
Work has been unbelievably busy. Not the sixty to seventy hour work weeks busy when we were opening the Cancer Center, but busy because the other woman in my department retired and they have not yet replaced her. In fact, they only fully decided to replace her (or replace me really, as I was promoted into her position) this week. It is busy. It is full of interruptions and people who should know the answers to their questions but really just need a moment of grace and understanding from me. There are many of those moments and in February, I don’t have a lot of extra grace leftover some days.
Today was a day like that. My desk is cold. There are too many projects all of which are the most important. There are every day things left undone. There was an order for a urinalysis with the nursing comment, “Short tourniquet time.” Some days I worry about nurses. They are busy too sometimes and in need of a little grace. Still. Where was that tourniquet exactly?? An argument I witnessed in a meeting this week has stuck with me longer than it needs to. A customer service representative spent the bulk of our phone call not trusting that yes, I do know what I’m asking, after all I AM THE ONE WHO HELPS BUILD THESE THINGS! There was a sermon at a church we celebrated with on Sunday that left me feeling frustrated and sad. (More on that another time.) I felt lonely, cold, and overwhelmed.
And then a funny thing happened. A resident stopped by my desk to ask for some computer help. And she complimented my outfit. An outfit I’d put on in a hurry trying to be warm and comfortable and had even felt a little awkward in this morning. I asked the Kettle Slayer on my way out the door, “Do I look too much like I’m about to go riding?” He laughed and assured me it was beautiful.
I stopped and looked at what I’d chosen. A scarf and bracelets made by Bird Girl just for me. Earrings made by another friend who makes such beautiful things. A sweater given to me as a hand-me-down by a mentor and friend. A dress carefully shopped for with the Library Fairy when I needed something new and beautiful and untouched. I was literally wrapped in love. Now that’s the way to ward off the Februaries!
It started with a baby. A baby who insisted on being in just the right place to make it impossible for me to balance her and me at the same time. Eight months along, I came home from work one day, parked the car, tried to step up on the curb, and promptly got back in the car and drove to the emergency room. My roommate, watching from the upstairs window rushed to follow me. A bulging disc, “slipped” the doctor said. Physical therapy. More exercise.
A few years later, another baby, more physical therapy. More exercise.
A few more years, more beautiful shoes, not as much faithful exercise, more physical therapy.
Last week. One cough. More pain than labor.
My favorite no-nonsense nurse practitioner says, “Now are you ready to wear flat shoes?”
I am now the reluctant owner of two very nice pairs of shoes that will not injure me further. And there’s more physical therapy. This is serious!
This is how much bobbin thread was left when I finished sewing the binding to the top of the quilt.
Sometimes, you have just enough.
Maybe there will be just enough cold nights left to finish this project. Maybe I have just enough Wisconsin left in me to make it through smiling and strong. Maybe my Grammy will have just enough memory to recognize this quilt when it arrives.
Weekend plans included:
• Tidy desk
• Put Christmas things away
• Work on butterfly quilt
I’ve done two of those. And read two books. And listened to two sermons.And sang at a 168th anniversary party. (How great is it that they celebrate every year?!)
Tonight there will be more quilting and reading. More thinking over the two messages I heard today. Maybe a letter or two. There will be one more night with the Nativity and the holiday cards and the sparkle of ornaments on the mantle. I can put Christmas away tomorrow.