Friday, September 29, 2006

A Date in Time

Forty-one years ago today I was enjoying the comfy nursery at Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital, celebrating my first 24 hours on earth. It was a Wednesday. Somewhere down the hall, my Mom was in her room ecstatic about her new baby daughter. As a 37-year-old first time Mom, I'm sure she was anxious about all that came with the name "Mother" but had waited a long time to be called by that name.

Mom had married my Dad at the tender age of 19 after four years of dating. They met through the mail - not e-mail like romances of today, but the postal mail. A friend of a friend had twin brothers in the Navy and asked my Mom and her best friend if they wanted to write to them. My Mom's best friend jumped on it and chose her man Mom providentially got "stuck" writing my Dad. And the rest is history.

Like all newly-married, young couples, they wanted a family. But over the course of 18 years of marriage, it just wasn't in God's Plan. Mom suffered many miscarriages and exactly a year and a month before I was born, gave birth to a premature son that lived only 5 hours. She had the name "Mother" briefly, but thought, after that, she'd never hear the words come from the mouth of a child. Her doctor, a strong, forthright soul, encouraged her to keep trying. Thank goodness he did. God had the plan for a child at just the right time.

Six years ago today, my Mom was in another hospital. This extended visit wasn't for anything joyous, but it was a time when her life was slowing passing away. She had battled an illness for quite some time and the year prior had been filled with hospital stays, ER runs, and realizations that a life was coming to an end. Six years ago yesterday, I spent my birthday in a hospital, but not sleeping away the day in the comfy nursery but at the beside of the one who birthed me into the world as I watched her take each breath, fearing the next one was her last. Six years ago today, it was a Friday, just like today. And at just before 6am, my Mom passed from this life to her glorious home in Heaven.

Who would have thought those dates in time would collide bearing the giving of life and the passing of a life? As my Mom slipped into eternity after a week-long coma, I just felt somehow that God graced her an extra six hours so her passing wouldn't be on the day when she once gave life. I'm thankful God allowed her to be the bearer of my life. A life she shaped and continues to shape even after 41 years.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Top 5 Shows That Didn't Make the Fall Lineup

5. "180 Degrees" - Random people are connected by simply turning around.

4. "Studio A at Rockefeller Plaza" - The continuing saga of the redesign of the Today Show set and the arrival of new co-host Meredith Viera, all performed to the backdrop of the irritating "It's a New Day!" theme song.

3. "Project Assembly Line" - Contestants vie for freedom from their factory jobs in this latest reality show. The worker that creates the most efficient assembly line wins an office job in a lovely cubicle and a DVD of the "I Love Lucy" chocolate factory episode.

2. "Desperate School Teachers" - Educators lament their hopeless future and poorly-compensated profession while completely missing the joy they have of molding the lives of our future.

1. "Suddenly Suri" - After her breakout spread in Vanity Fair, this weekly drama follows the life and times of Suri Cruise. Don't miss the 2-hour wedding special when her parents finally tie the knot, entitled "Getting the Cart Before the Horse."

Monday, September 25, 2006

A River Runs Through It

Sometimes the greatest memories and the funniest stories occur out of unplanned events. My friends, Chad and Tracy, came to Louisville this weekend from sunny Georgia to participate in a wedding at our church. Since their move South in January, Chad hadn't been back to Louisville, so his short few days here were extremely packed with activities.

Friday evening was slated as the time that Chad and Tracy would spend with the rest of the OPCs (a Ya-Ya like sisterhood, there's a story there) after the wedding rehearsal. We all gathered at my house and waited patiently for them to arrive. Christie and I had seen them in August, but Beth and Amy hadn't seen Chad since they left in January. As the rain came pouring down, we were comfy inside my hilltop home enjoying the company of best friends.

We had a grand time. I bought those yummy Pillsbury cookies that require no cooking skill whatsoever. Tracy has an affinity for those cookies and they were always a staple for every gathering - this time was no exception. Getting everyone together was a challenge. Saturday was a busy day for the attendees - Beth had to work, Amy was moving her grandmother, and the rest of us had a wedding to attend. But, aside from a few thundering booms and lightning flashes, we laughed and talked into the night, unaware of what was happening in the rest of the Louisville area...

Finally, around 1am, we decided to call it a night. Everyone headed to their cars and down the hill to exit my community and head their separate ways. But, as they headed to the bottom of the hill, they found a raging river across the only entrance and exit to my community. Amy walked back in and said, "We can't leave, there's a raging river down there." I was amazed. I'd lived here for 5 years and never seen that sort of flooding before. Chad and Tracy were determined to get through, so the remaining four of us went down there to talk sense into them. Amy, being raised in the country, was the "raging river" expert. She advised them not to attempt to cross lest they be swept away with no hope. They said they wouldn't and we drove back home, watching in our rearview mirror to see if they'd try to gun it across, but thankfully they didn't.

Thus began the Impromptu Slumber Party. It would have been a lot more fun had we all not had commitments early the next day. Beth had to be at work at 6am and was fretting that she'd get fired for not getting there. Chad had a 10 hour drive after the wedding the next day and needed his sleep. And, Amy, although she had to move her grandmother the next day was somewhat excited at the possibility of being stranded together. Amy always brings the lighthearted side to every situation.

We turned on the TV and realized the whole city was being deluged with water. Many streets and even part of the interstates were shut down and more rain was expected. Although it helped to know it wasn't just us, it didn't ease our anxiety about escaping the next day. The covenant God made to never flood the earth again gave me confidence that we may need a small ark, but that it wouldn't consume our whole world. All of us tried to get some sleep and pray for the rain to stop.

You are probably wondering, so what happened next? Well, Beth was able to get out at 5:30 as the raging river had subsided. The rest of the troop escaped at 7am while the getting was good and Amy successfully moved her grandmother. We had a couple of tragedies. In cleaning up the kitchen, I inadvertently poured out what I thought was a cup of water someone had been drinking when really it was Chad's contacts. Tracy was able to retrieve one out of the sink, but the other one met its demise down the drain. Christie lost a pair of earrings she had just received from Tracy for her birthday, but they gloriously appeared on my driveway the next morning. And, after the floods subsided, part of my street cracked and collapsed. It's still not safe to pass on the side that remains intact, but I've escaped a couple of times now and awaiting the repair work to be done, praying that it doesn't give way.

You just never know how a well-planned party is going to turn out....

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Aromatic Marketing

I love Play-Doh. Growing up as an only child, I gravitated towards toys that could be entertaining and didn't require 2-4 players. I often joke about playing Battleship by myself, but that's a story for another day...

Play-Doh is a timeless toy. It transcends age. You won't see many adults playing with Barbies or GI Joes, unless a small child is around, but it is completely acceptable to play with Play-Doh your entire life. I've even been known to keep a can on my desk as an office toy and stress reliever when needed.

I was a purist as a child and didn't have all those activity sets where you could play a chef and pump out Play-Doh food, or imitate a doctor and cure your puppy, or the infamous "Fuzzy Pumper" that allowed you to grow hair and cut it all in one sitting. I just like making things with my Play-Doh. Back when I was a kid (gosh, I feel old starting a sentence with that), our Play-Doh didn't change colors when mixed together unlike the brand of today. I preferred my own Play-Doh cans because the kids at school and church always mixed the colors and ruined half the jars of Play-Doh. My mind would reel as I thought of all the things I could create. I got lost in the creative world of sculpture.

The most exciting moment is when I got a new pack of Play-Doh. The thought of it even now brings back sweet memories. I'd crack open the cardboard container and slowly open that fresh can of Play-Doh. Ahhh, that sweet aroma. The colorful slab of Play-Doh was carefully shaped to fit in the cylinder and come out of the can ready for action. I can still remember that aroma....

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Play-Doh. And, the folks at Hasbro have put together a year-long celebration. One of the highlights of the year is a the release of a limited edition fragrance "eau-de-Play-Doh" scent. For about $19, you can experience the aroma of your childhood days in a spray form. You know, I enjoy a good aromatic memory, but for $2, I can go to the local store and buy a few cans of the stuff and experience the smell. Why don't I think about these money making ideas sooner?

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

Five years ago today, I woke up like any other Tuesday morning and got ready for work. I turned on the Today show and watched Matt and Katie cover the day's events like any other day. As I flipped off the television around 8:30 or so, I headed out the door to work.

The day was sunny with a pre-Autumn smell in the air and I loaded up a CD into my player for the ride to work. I was oblivious to how the world changed in that short ride to work. As I entered my office, I was bombarded by co-workers in chaos telling me what was going on.

At that point, our life in the United States changed.

The day seems somewhat of a blur. We were all sent home around 11am because we clearly were pre-occupied with more important things of the day. Along with that, our parent company was located in Arlington, Virginia, right outside of DC, and was a defense contractor for the US government. Our communication with them that day ceased as the Pentagon was attacked and all the city was shut down as the job of rescue and recovery began.

Today we remember the day that changed our lives. We now are familiar with the phrase "homeland security." We associate colors like red and orange with security levels. And, seeing a loved one off at the airport gate is precluded by an extensive security check. On the news coverage today, they reported a statistic that one in five of us has been touched by someone that lost a loved one in the attacks of 9/11 or knew a 9/11 survivor. I'm one of those "ones" - good friends of mine from high school were stationed at the Pentagon. Because of the second hit to the World Trade Towers, he went to a different part of the Pentagon to watch coverage and left his office - an office in the wing that was hit. The story his wife has relayed to me made the television scenes I experienced come to life.

I rarely become political on this blog, and some may see this as a political statement, but I see this as my view of the situation from my conservative viewpoint. On a day when we remember the thousands of lives that were lost, I'm thankful that we've avoided any terrorist attacks since that fateful day. At a time when, just three years before the attack, we were consumed with the actions of an intern in the Oval Office, we were jolted to reality and thankfully led by someone who gave some integrity to the Oval Office. I challenge anyone today to tell a soldier overseas that their battle is in vain. I'm thankful that men and women are willing to fight on any land for my freedom.

The Pew Research Center recently did a study that revealed 82% of Americans view 9/11 as equally serious or more serious than the Pearl Harbor attack. Amazing that we argue the reasoning for defending our freedom now but we were ready to obliterate the Japanese nation after Pearl Harbor. Today will surely be a date which will live in infamy. May God bless America and keep her safe from all enemy attacks.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Thanks for Flying

In my career, I've been laid off three times. Once due to a company relocation, once due to a company buyout, and once due to a company shut down. For all the layoff experiences I've had, none have been tremendously torturous. I've learned not to nest too much at any job and be sure everything personal at my desk can fit into one box.

When the first lay off occured due to a company relocating, I was one of about 120 folks feeling the layoff. After having 7 years of service, the severance package was sweet, and the corporate office provided outplacement help and, of all things, group counseling. That was a Camelot environment before the evil corporate folks started wielding their management power so by the time that happened, I was relieved to be out of there.

Layoff two came after a whirlwind of 3 years of building a company and surviving one buyout to fall prey to the second buyout. The evil second takeover had a sub plot of snuffing out folks who had been there from the beginning and wouldn't bow to the new royalty. Or continue to proclaim, "That's not the way we used to do it." My boss was more emotional than I was because she was heading back to California with a job.

The third time I survived two layoffs before I was part of the company shut down. This non-growing company was stunted by the acts of 9/11. Our parent company providing our funding was the largest defense contractor for the US government. When 9/11 happened, their focus had to shift, and our little technology venture had the plugged pulled.

I always perk up when I hear of large company layoffs because, after being in small ones over the years, I have a sense of what the employees are going through. I'm intrigued by a couple of company layoff strategies of late. Radio Shack laid off 400 of their employees by notifying them through e-mail. I suppose this is somewhat of a cold way to lay someone off, but given our faceless age of society, I can see why Radio Shack chose that option. Not that I agree with it, mind you. But, when I endured lay off #2, none of the HR folks wanted to do my exit meeting because they were too emotional to face me, though they finally did. Life is rough and the tough things have to be dealt with head on. I certainly hope this isn't a trend of the future that we solve all conflict and issues electronically.

The other case I heard about was from Northwest Airlines. This one, a bit more comical, made me chuckle. When you've been through as many lay offs as I have, you can't help but laugh at things. You can laugh because you see how you survived. As part of the paperwork provided to exiting employees, there was a booklet included entitled, "101 Ways to Save Money." Some of the real gems on this list were "Brown bag your lunch," "Always shop with a grocery list," and my personal favorite, "Don't be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash." Management apologized for not reviewing the resource before handing it out and has since pulled it from their exit packet.

I truly love my current job and we're on track to grow a stable company, although to some it may seem a risky place to be. But, no matter what happens, I know I'll get through it. And, I hope I never have to link to this layoff entry in a future layoff announcement of my own.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Clear Vision

I've been a bit silent lately on the blog due to recent eye surgeries I had. Now that I'm back to somewhat normal (who IS really normal?) I thought I'd update my blog. Yet, being practically homebound over the two weeks I had each surgery, not a lot happened in my life - other than this miraculous surgical procedure.

For quite a few years, I've had cataracts on both eyes. Now, I'm quite young for such a condition, but they were brought on due to another medical condition I have. But, according to my opthomalogist, everyone will get cataracts if they live long enough. For those who don't know, a cataract clouds the lens you view the world through. The advancement in medical research allows a lens replacement surgery to fix that problem with ease. The doctor simply removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a new bionic one. (Ok, maybe not bionic, but it makes me feel agent-like to say that) The blessing in this condition was that through this procedure, he could power the lens to correct my severe nearsightedness. I've worn glasses or contacts since second grade and if my contacts weren't in, I better know exactly where my glasses were or I was lost. For the first time ever, I can wake up in the night and read the clock (prior to second grade, my Mom read the clock for me) I still have some blurry-ness 15 feet or so away due to the astigmatism I have, which will soon be corrected by glasses and eventually contacts if I prefer. But, for now, I can read, watch TV, work, and drive corrective lense free!

Being stranded at home had its advantages. Aside from catching up on a lot of rest, I was able to spend a lot of time with God. He has a unique way of getting our attention by forcing us to slow down to be able to talk to us. Through this experience, I've learned a couple of things. I never really knew how bad my vision was and how cloudy it had gotten until I had surgery. Now everything is so clear and colors so vibrant. It's a lot like sin in my life. I start off gradually doing something once or twice, then it becomes a habit and I don't realize the hold it has on me. Just like my eyes, I had no idea I was seeing so poorly because the decline was so gradual.

I hope I remember this lesson learned through the experience of getting a new pair of eyes. I can see things clearly like never before - although, for those who are curious, Blogger word verification is still hopeless to read. One day, though, everything will be even clearer than I can imagine it now...and what a vision that will be...."For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love." - I Corinthians 13:12-13