Wednesday, October 21, 2009

About a Boy and a Telescope

I sat next to Zachary at a recent charity bingo event. At first, I didn't realize he was part of the family for whom the event was being held. He was focused on his Nintendo DS, pausing only occasionally to take a bite of what he described as
"really good pizza."
By all accounts, Zachary was a normal, eight year old boy and I assumed he was just like all the rest. However, as the evening unfolded into countless B-9s and G-53s, it became evident to me that Zachary was in fact, the brother of Casey; a three-year old boy suffering from Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), a potentially fatal, genetic skin disease.
The mission of the evening was to raise enough funds for Casey's family to defray mounting costs for medical treatments and travel costs for his frequent visits to a Chicago hospital.
Casey too, was present. He wore bandages from his wrists to his shoulders with only his tiny, pink fingers exposed. His neck brace, though seemingly restrictive, did little to halt his curious exploration of the crowded cafeteria. I witnessed an incredible
tag-team effort by his loving parents and extended family, as they divided their energy between Casey's inquisitive wandering, the demands of their infant daughter, and the attention needed by Zachary and his bingo boards.

During some intense bingo competition, Zachary and I became friends.
I asked him about sports and school work, and he spoke of space and dinosaurs, and his ability to play the trombone. He seemed wiser than his years and his behavior was exemplary for a boy of his age.
He told me (more than once) how badly he wanted to win the telescope that sat nestled among more elaborate and expensive items on the prize table. He spoke of discovering new planets and stars. I imagine that to most of the night's participants, that telescope was nothing more than a ubiquitous shelf item found in most local toy stores.
To Zachary however, it was so much more.

When the games officially ended and we were allotted time to place our raffle tickets in the appropriated prize baskets, I placed all of mine in the one marked "Telescope", as did Zachary.
As the announcers prepared to call the names and ticket numbers of winners, Zachary and I crossed our fingers and legs in hopeful anticipation.

While waiting to exhale, I could think of nothing more than the unfairness of it all; how terribly cruel the world can be-
a world where a lively toddler who smiles and cheers at the very mention of pudding, must suffer a painful illness and regularly endure having his fragile limbs wrapped into restrictive cocoons.
It is the same cruel world that forces an eight year old boy to sacrifice the time and attention he so needs from his parents for the sake of his brother's unforgiving disease.
And this same world spares no sympathy for loving parents who are spread too thin emotionally, physically, and financially, to allow for grievance or self pity, which none would begrudge them.
So humbled by the presence of this family, I became keenly aware of the atrocity of my usual complaints.

After what seemed like an eternity, the announcer called the
ticket number for the telescope.
Sadly, neither Zachary nor I had the matching ticket. Though I expected at least some expression of disappointment, Zachary took it in stride. He immediately turned to his brother Casey and said "I hope YOU win the prize YOU want."
As a parent myself, I am all too familiar with the emotional meltdown that so often accompanies childhood disappointment.
I still marvel at Zachary's maturity and his ability to handle unexpected loss.
On his behalf however, I was unwilling to accept defeat.
After some discreet, gentle persuasion, the young man who won the telescope generously gave it to Zachary. He offered that he placed his ticket in that basket as an afterthought and was glad to give it to someone so deserving.
Zachary was shocked speechless by his kindness. His parents couldn't express enough gratitude for what he had done. Those of us who watched the scene unfold were positively giddy.

The event was a great success and generated more revenue than expected. Zachary's parents were humbled by such generosity. They carried Casey around to individually thank each of the event's organizers.

As Zachary departed with his family, he was smiling ear to ear, bearing the heavy weight of the boxed telescope by himself.
Though many offered, he refused assistance. His father proudly announced that Zachary regularly carries his own trombone to lessons.
The symbolism of visualizing this small boy bearing such a heavy burden was palpable.

As I drove home in silence that night, I knew I wasn't alone in my concern for Zachary and his family. I offered prayers for Casey's healing and for the strength his family would need in the weeks and months to come.
I wanted nothing more than for Zachary to discover that new planet; one where illness and uncertainty have no presence.
But the fact is, whether or not that new world exists, we live
in this world; one in which blessings and misfortunes are abundant in equal measure. And we, as humans share a responsibility with
our fellow humans to celebrate the joys and share the burdens.
How easily we can isolate ourselves into believing that charitable corporations can take the place of human interaction. Though supporting these philanthropic efforts is paramount to medical advancement, we must not lose sight of our communal responsibility.
Had a donation check been submitted to DebRA (Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association) in lieu of hosting Bingo Night, I might have missed the opportunity to meet Zachary's incredible family. It is also unlikely that those funds would have directly met their immediate needs.
I am proud to be part of a community that embraces families like Zachary's.

Still today, I smile when I think of Zachary's expression as he received that telescope.
And though most of us left empty handed, our hearts were full
and at the same time, maybe even a little bit broken.
Isn't that what being human is all about?

And sometimes, life's greatest lessons come to us
in the most unusual ways.
This one just happens to be
about a boy and a telescope.

This is my truth;


Monday, October 19, 2009

Shots Fired

I won't, I shan't
No- I- will- not
I will not get
that damn flu shot!

Media tries
Though media fails
To convince us
We'll have all that ails

Shots- we've heard
Around the world
Are meant for every
Boy and girl

And adults too
Must vaccinate-
For those who don't
The risks are great

To scare tactics
I shall not succumb
Does the CDC
Think we're that dumb?

We've heard of those
Unfortunate few
Who got the shot
Then got the flu

So I stand firm
And I resist
No flu shot !
And no flu mist !

I'll rely on cures
Of yesteryear
Like chicken soup
And tea, and beer
(okay, maybe not beer)

Should I have fever,
Cough, or chills
I'll take my multi-
Symptom pills

And climb into bed
For a nap, or two-
Soon enough I'll
Be good as new

Wait, hold on
What's that you say-
A new report
Is out today?

Supply cannot
Quite meet demand?
And too few shots
Have they on hand?

Quite suddenly
The tide does turn
For we who read
And listen learn
Tis the early bird
Who gets the worm!

Perchance we may
Be turned away
So hurry! Hurry
Out today-

Call your doctor!
Call your nurse!
Get the keys
And grab your purse!

Sign in here
And claim your spot
Until you've had your shot!

On second thought-
I think not

This is my truth;


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Get a Wife

I've said it before and I'll say it again;
I need a wife.
This is not a solicitation but instead, a simple fact.
Though happily married to my husband of 20+ years, I recognize the advantage of such a partnership.

I recently compared the difference between being married to man or woman, to the differences between driving a vehicle with manual transmission or automatic.
Manual transmission (man) requires more effort, it requires constant communication between car and driver just to get from point A to point B. The ride is bumpy, and extended driving will likely ruin a good pair of shoes.
Automatic transmission (woman) is relatively effortless, provides a smooth ride, allows for multi-tasking (thanks to cup holders), and never requires you to manipulate a stick to reach your destination.
Essentially, the car (wife) does all the work, with nary a thank you on the horizon.
Despite your temptation, ignore what appear to be obvious metaphors.

I assure you I am only referring to those household chores that somehow arrange themselves in an unfair division of responsibilities. I offer that women are like automatic transmissions simply because they get the job done with little chaos or confusion.
Men, though capable, require a great deal more effort and encouragement (read: coaxing, badgering, threatening...)
to reach the same destination.

A new work schedule has me running helter skelter in an attempt to get it all done.
I've lost my mind and purchased two crock pots (if you've followed my food blog, you know how I feel about crock pot cooking).
I've resorted to doing laundry at midnight, and Febreze has become my new best friend.
Though I look forward to weekends, most are spent playing catch-up for the sake of chores left incomplete during the work week.
I am left with the daunting task of disrupting marital bliss in exchange for domestic partnership.
When I ask my significant other for help around the house,
a dark cloud descends upon our humble abode and strange things happen.
Whites turn to gray.
Hamper towels smell like ass.
We dress for floods.
We eat a lot of toast.
The dog loses weight and won't leave his bed.
Need I go on?

And so once again, I am left to ask that age old question:
How do working women get it all done?
I've been told it's an unfair/sexist question because working men share the same household responsibilities we do.
I believe that.
I believe that there are men who voluntarily turn on the vacuum, separate lights from darks, throw in a load of wash, prep a casserole, and walk the dog.

I'm inclined to believe however, that most of those men are married to women who, unlike me, never get tired of driving stick.

I need a wife.

This is my truth;


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Play Nice

Play nice. How many times have we heard that same sentiment?
As a parent I can attest to having spoken it, whispered it with gritted teeth, and occasionally even shouted it, for the benefit of my own children and their playmates.
I'm not sure I could have coined a more effective term on my own (though for the sake of proper English, I might have chosen
"play nicely" as an alternative--but if it ain't broke...).
Oddly enough, many seem to believe this age old command should be limited to the sandbox or the classroom, but I would argue that these two words would serve as an invaluable addendum to workplace policy.
I'm guessing for most of us, there would be little challenge in producing the names of a few ill-mannered candidates who might find such a policy limiting or unfair.
Naturally, those most offended by such policy are likely the ones in greatest need of reform.

But what does it mean exactly, 'play nice?'
An internet search offers unlimited results. At the risk of overstating the obvious however, I would offer the following three simple tenets:
Play nice = Be kind. Be fair. Share.
Though the former two might be open to interpretation, the latter is most definitive and in my opinion, most effective.
Quite simply, sharing ones resources is a boon to workplace civility.
Especially when said resources include candy.
I suppose there is plenty of statistical heft to support my claim should you wish to confirm my findings.
Admittedly however, I am one of the "see it to believe it" skeptics.
I've seen the efficacy of such a practice and therefore,
I believe in it.

Allow me to explain.

I am a new employee to a fairly busy office.
On any given day, the foot traffic to which we are exposed can potentially make or break the mood of a generally cheerful staff. Too often it seems, that a crotchety, abrasive few who have occasion to visit, would otherwise deposit the negative aura that tailgates them, leaving it to contaminate our happy place-- were it not for the brilliance of our fearless leader.
The habitual positivity of our immediate staff might likely be attributed to a wise, caring boss who understands that people, young and old, are in need of three fundamental things; consideration, compassion, and candy.
The latter, offering instant satisfaction is resolved by strategical placement of an ever-full basket of assorted confections.
The basket sits at the immediate entrance to our office, allowing for the dissipation of bad mojo, even before those affected cross the threshold to where our staff resides.
It would seem as though their negativity is synonymously peeled away with the unwrapping of each confection.
The candy not only offers to quell a potentially melancholy mood, but it also serves as an opportunity for interaction and dialogue. Every hand in the basket is greeted by one of our staff and very few attached to those hands fail to respond.
Most often, the end result is that visitors leave happier than when they entered, having been momentarily distracted for the sake of
pleasant chit-chat and a much needed sugar high.

I know what you're thinking; this is all too simple, right?
I'm not suggesting that free candy is the answer to world peace (though it might be worth discussing). I am simply suggesting you consider revising workplace behavior to include a happy element to be shared with others, preferably one that is easily digested.

What perplexes me about all of this, is why anyone would want to include the candy-basket on the list of recession-induced cutbacks; an ugly prospect brought to our table time and again.
Unless of course, those initiating the cutbacks can be identified as the currently degreed and empowered playground bullies of yesteryear.
If that's the case, then I considerately and compassionately have
only this to offer:

Play nice people, play nice.
And have a piece of candy.

This is my truth;


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Technology is in the Crapper

I like technology.
I'm an online shopper.
I am TiVo-dependent.
I text (therefore, I am).

I've heard tell that technology is good for business.
I would argue that some business is best left behind,
and spared the upgrade of technological advancement.
Case in point: the automatic flushing toilet.

I have to believe that I am not alone in my distaste
for such an atrocity.
I take my bodily functions rather seriously.
I do not wish to eat before I'm hungry, nor do I wish
to wake before I am well rested.
Similarly, I do not wish to have a toilet dictate
appropriate time or conditions for personal waste removal.

Recently, I found myself held hostage in a
workplace bathroom stall.
So perplexed by proper use of "Rest Assured" paper toilet seat covers (as there are no visible instructions), I was flummoxed into a race against the clock between a prematurely flushing toilet
and yours truly.
Each attempt to secure the paper cover to the seat, with the (poorly perforated) flap safely detached and hanging from its center (a step you shouldn't omit unless you are curious to
know what it would feel like to piddle naked while sitting on
a paper plate), resulted in untimely flushing and unwarranted theft and disposal of said seat cover before my fanny
ever hit the seat.

This sequence of events was repeated until the white metal box was void of seat covers, and only after I noticed a sign that reads: "Please do not dispose of sanitary napkins or excessive amounts of paper in toilet."
My understanding is that these newfangled flushers sense motion and thus respond accordingly.
Apparently, flipping the bird does not create enough motion to trigger waste removal.

And so, I resorted to my tried and true method of papering the seat with two minimalist torn sheets of toilet tissue, with one modification--I had to fool the toilet into believing its victim was safely seated in order to suspend flushing.
Attempting to outwit a toilet seat is no easy task when my new wool trousers are dangling dangerously close to the bathroom floor. Keeping them suspended requires a spread-eagle-tippy-toe technique that might be a boon to calf muscles but hurts like a bitch after any length of time.
I considered papering the seat after sitting, but that would have been counterproductive and hardly sanitary.
After one failed attempt, I developed the 'hover-to-cover' method of toilet seat paper protection.
By squatting over the toilet seat as though I was about to sit, I was able to paper its surface with no unnecessary flushing. The only drawback to this method, is that you are essentially papering the seat backwards which lends itself to haphazard placement of toilet tissue.
At that point, if I wasn't already so exhausted, I might have tried squatting over the seat facing the toilet, properly placing the paper, and then attempting a split-second-hopscotch-half-turn and landing seated, properly facing the door.
I can only aspire to such calisthenics.

By the time I was safely seated, the urge to pee had passed,
but I wasn't about to give up what had now become
'the safest seat in the house.'
As I waited, I pondered whether or not the men's room was privy to the same folly in regards to flushing and papering.
When I finally returned to my post (relieved and exhausted),
I discreetly asked a male colleague about men's room amenities.
As it turns out, their facility is standing room only, save for one traditional commode equipped with an automatic flusher. However, there are no "Rest Assured" receptacles to speak of.
In fact, he had no knowledge such a product exists; which begs the question, are we the sole recipients of such complex toiletries simply because we are the smarter sex?
Perhaps that is fodder for another post, but I would argue that
intelligence is hardly the issue where restroom amenities are concerned.
The bigger question to ask ourselves is this:
Have we really become a culture too lazy, or too preoccupied to flush our own toilets?
I dare suggest we have.

And if that's the case, rest assured,
I'll have the calf muscles to prove it.

This is my truth;


Monday, October 5, 2009

I Need a Little Happy

As our entire community mourns the unexpected loss of our neighbor and friend, a forty-something, happily married, mom of four boys, I struggle to find some semblance of normalcy on my least favorite day of the week, Monday.
Perhaps Monday (or any other day), should be my new favorite day, for the simple fact that I wake up.
It beats the alternative, doesn't it?
Grief is a funny thing.
Really, as funny as it ISN'T --it is.
It makes us reexamine our own shortcomings and forces us to appreciate, if only for a short while, those blessings we might well have misinterpreted as burdens just days before.
The mundane chore, the seemingly dead-end job, and even that derailed friendship are seen in a new light of hopefulness.
And I have to ask myself, am I that naive?
Dare I believe that I might cheat death by simply loving more and living better?
I know the answer to that, just as you do, and so I hold strong to my faith and convince myself that even the smallest changes will point me in the right direction.
Self-renewal however, does little to quell the sadness of an untimely loss-- precisely why I started my day today looking for a little happy.

On any given day, I have a running mental list of all those tasks I should have completed, but didn't.
Somehow, that list never seems to get any shorter.
Today, I completed one of those tasks.
Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my list.

I chose the happy task of sending my sister
(newly relocated to Georgia) and her betrothed,
a Best of Luck in Your New Home gift (though two weeks overdue).
I took the safe route and sent a gift any transplanted New Yorker would love--a box of bagels shipped overnight from an uber-popular Manhattan bakery.
These are the real deal, complete with Manhattan price tag. What should have been an easy order however, turned into a phone-a-gift fiasco that I won't soon forget.
Apparently, multi-grain bagels aren't as popular as I expected where gift-giving is concerned.
My request for "healthier" bagels (yes, I'm aware of the oxymoron) prompted redirection to management and a long enough hold time for me to compose a little ditty to be penned on the enclosed gift card.
At first, I questioned the political correctness of my sentiment, but my phone hostess, 'Amaryllis,' seemed unruffled as I recited my breakfast-napkin prose and so, for the sake of feel-good folly, I made no revisions.
Before I leave you with my jaunty rhyme, I need to explain that the happy part of this task wasn't simply the joy of wishing my relocated sister a bright future, but also a celebration of the past; a past once dismissed as fond but hopeless memories.
Once high school sweethearts (followed by a twenty-two year hiatus), my sister and her betrothed have reconnected, recommitted, and seem more in love than they were in the days of tacky leisure suits and buffalo sandals. Their love story is the stuff great movies are made of.
I would be hard pressed to find a more perfect couple, or one so deserving of a big dose of happy.

Perhaps their reunion might serve as a lesson for those of us who grieve.
Whether we grieve for a lost friend or a lost friendship, it is never too late to remain hopeful.
Though hopefulness cannot bring back our loved ones, or even mend fences, it is the catalyst for healing.

And I'm hopeful that hopefulness will put me on the fast track to happy.

This is My Truth;


*I know you've been waiting with bated breath-
Here's the sentiment as it appeared on their gift card:

"To a shiksa and her goy
Who very soon will wed
We wish you decades of joy
And breakfasts in bed."