Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Road To Hell is Paved With Good Intentions, and a GPS Can Take You There!

There used to be something wonderful for me about technology. Not that I know terribly much about it. But I loved the thought that I could have a small hand-held phone device thingy that allowed me to make phone calls, send emails, and take pictures. I love my new digital camera that takes such amazing pictures (or at least it would if I knew how to work the damn thing!) It’s just really cool that we live in an age where anything and everything we could ever want is at our fingertips. But one of the great philosophers, I think it was Stephen King, said that what makes us more tech-savvy also wants to kill us. Or words to that effect.

By nature, I am so bass-ackwards that I still marvel at Mapquest. Log on to the computer-thingy, type in your address and destination, and whammo! You have driving directions! Which is great if you constantly get lost driving to your mailbox, as I do, or if you are some freakazoid stalker, as, well, someone else. Anyway, imagine my delight when my husband brought home a GPS for the car!

GPS stands for Global Positioning System, and it’s designed to sit in your car like a small TV screen that tells you how to get to point A to point Z and all points in-between. This technology was designed by the Department of Defense so you can trust that it’s absolutely spot-on in getting you where you need to go, in the event that where you need to go is the front lines of battle in Iraq or Afghanistan. Anyway, Jerry brought home this little marvel of modern technology and insisted that he, Jenda, and I all bundle into the car to drive somewhere that we already knew how to get to so that we could see it in action.

Of course it not only shows you maps and directions. It also talks in several languages, including English, English with a British accent, Spanish, French, and Farsi, in case you are needed in Afghanistan. Jenda was enthralled at the new talking gadget and immediately christened it ‘Fletchen.’ Fletchen took us to all sorts of interesting places, like Wal-Mart, the grocery store, and back to our house. I was really trying to seem impressed, but I reminded Jerry that Fletchen’s prowess was no biggie to me since I already knew how to get to all of those places. Take me to the place where money grows on trees, or they’re giving away free Coach purses! Hah, take that, Fletchen!

Jerry was a bit crestfallen. “She is a wonderful timesaving device, and a money saver as well. We won’t have to waste paper printing maps off the internet, and we won’t have to stop when we’re traveling to buy maps anymore. She’s like a member of our family!”

That’s great! Tell her to straighten up the kitchen. And finish the laundry.

Well in no time, Jerry and Fletchen became like Calvin and Hobbs. Actually, they became more like Romeo and Juliet. I noticed that every time I would ride somewhere with Jerry, Fletchen tagged along. And suddenly, she was all super nice to Jerry, fastening his seatbelt for him and complimenting his driving skills. But I ignored her, and ignored the signs. Then one day, I could no longer turn a blind eye to the obvious.

Fletchen had fallen in love with Jerry! And, she was trying to kill me!

I know this seems crazy, but it’s true! One day, I needed to go somewhere and there was heavy construction on I-40, so I started to map out an alternate route when Jerry suggested that I take the GPS. “She’ll get you there in no time,” he beamed, so I stupidly agreed. I didn’t really suspect anything until I got on some back-road in the middle of nowhere. I saw my turn coming up and I heard a voice say “In point three miles, turn left. Your thighs are fat.”

I wasn’t sure I heard correctly. I thought perhaps it was just fatigue since I had been driving for what seemed like hours. Then, I made my turn, and Fletchen said, “In one point four miles, turn right. That’s an ugly blouse.”

Now I KNEW it was not my imagination. I happened to be wearing a very cute blouse. OMG, I thought, I’m out here in the middle of nowhere with this crazy gadget and she’s the only one who knows where I am! Oh dooky! I began driving toward any sign of civilization, trying not to panic. But Fletchen was mocking me. “Jerry loves me! Bwuhahaha! Your roots are showing! Your handbag doesn’t match your shoes! HAHAHA!”

Then, she said, “Turn left now to arrive at final destination.” And she would have been correct, since a left turn would have taken me over the edge of a fifty foot drop down into a granite-filled ravine! I sped up until I could find some sign of life. I finally saw a small country store, pulled in, ripped ‘Christine’, er, Fletchen loose from the dashboard and threw her in the trunk. Then I asked for directions and made it to my appointment, terribly shaken up but alive and in one piece.

I had only one other encounter with Fletchen when I let Jerry take my car to get the engine serviced and we had to switch cars. I honestly forgot about her, plotting my demise in the glove compartment of Jerry’s car until I agreed to give one of my colleagues a ride home from work. If you are a native Floridian, and you are not used to driving in North Carolina, do not EVER, under any circumstances, agree to do this. One of the things that I miss about South Florida is that for the most part, it has been worn flat by years of back-to-back hurricanes. All of the streets are laid in a grid, so you are either traveling north/south or east/west. Or vice versa. At any rate, it’s pretty easy to navigate. Here in North Carolina, everything goes in a circle. So if you are traveling north and want to go west, you don’t go to the left. You exit to the right, travel east for several miles, and then eventually you loop around and you’re going west. Oh, and all of the streets here have multiple names. Like multiples of ten.

So here I was, driving in Greensboro in a part of town that I did not remotely recognize, and I had no idea where I was or how to get home. It occurred to me then that Fletchen was in the car. Of course, she would probably try to kill me, but maybe if I played my cards right, I could make it home alive. I pulled over, hooked up Fletchen, and laid down the law, jilted-lover style.

Look, Gadgety Personal Stepford-wife. I need to get home to Jerry and you’re gonna have to help me get there! I know he loves you more then he loves me, but if you don’t get me home, there won’t be anyone to cook him a hot meal and rub his tired feet. We’re a team, okay?

“Okay. You are still a fashion disaster with thunder thighs, but we’ll get home to tend to Jerry’s needs.”

And true to her word, she got us home. As for cooking and foot-rubbing thing? It was all a lie. But let’s face it, all’s fair in love and war. Jerry has probably ratted me out about it so I am now sleeping with one eye open and trying not to get within fifty feet of Fletchen, the GPS from Hell. Of course, she’s plotting her revenge and I wouldn’t put anything past her. So if you see me on the road somewhere with a GPS thing wrapped around my head screaming at me in several different languages and trying to kill me, don’t attempt to disarm her yourself! Call for help. Try to get my husband Jerry to calm her down.

Better yet, call Stephen King. Might as well get an expert!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

To Hell With Texas, Don't Mess With Donna!

Things are difficult in the world today, and I know that people everywhere are just trying to stay afloat. I was driving home today and passed a little country church with a sign out in front that read “Count Your Blessings.” Some days that isn’t easy to do, but today, I thought first of my home. Then I thought about my family (and said a prayer of thanks that I haven’t been committed to an asylum yet!) and then I thought of my friends.

My parents always used to tell me that to understand other people, I needed to walk a mile in their shoes. I used to think that was gross, since they might have toenail fungus or go to one of those weird fish pedicure places, but I understand the meaning better now. I also know that I have it pretty good since many people are really struggling, so I think, all things considered, that I am very blessed. I do have my home and family, and I have many wonderful friends. And everyday, I learn something new about one of them.

I was taking a break at work the other day and walked outside with my friend Donna. She is a very dear and funny woman, and everyone at work is crazy about her. She is always perfectly coiffed, has a wonderful Southern accent and those lovely manners, and apparently also has a closet full of cute sweater twinsets. She even has cute shoes, like the denim clogs she was wearing this week. Cha-cha! We stood outside enjoying the beautiful fall weather and got to yakking about whatever. Then I mentioned, DANG! I forgot to pick up milk and eggs on the way home yesterday. I’ll have to stop at the store. Hmm…

Donna apparently lives in a town smaller than Kernersville (which I swear I did not think was possible) and said, “Yeah, I’m fixin’ to go to the store on my way home. And I just hate stopping here in Greensboro, ‘specially since it gets dark so early.”

I agreed. Anymore, it seems like it gets dark by noon. And I hate having to stop at the store or to get gas after dark. I mean, I am sure I’m safe, but you just can’t be too careful.

Then Donna said, “I just don’t worry. I always carry my Kel Tec 380 in the car and just put in it my purse if I think I might need it.”

Yeah, I have that CD in my car, too. I just love Celtic Women, they’re such great musicians.

“No. I mean my handgun.”

I’m sorry, your WHAT?! After I peeled myself up off of the pavement, I tried to reconcile this lovely, gracious Southern magnolia before me with my new vision of Annie Oakley in a Talbot’s twinset. My head was spinning. A gun? Donna? OMG, had I ever made her angry? Jeebus! Ooh wait….had anyone made ME angry? Maybe she would take requests! I just couldn’t get used to it. I went through the rest of my day humming “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun!” It was rough.

I figured I should tell Markie, in case anything went wrong. More especially, since Markie is a bit of a practical joker, it was more of a warning. I told Markie, but she wasn’t a bit surprised.

“Oh I know all about it. We were going to Chrystal’s wedding together and there I was in a dress and heels and that damn thing was laying on the front seat of her car! I almost blew my butt off!” She laughed. “I guess she thought it was a shotgun wedding...bwuhahaha!”

Easy for Markie to laugh. She’s not a bit worried that our dear friend might suddenly flip out and go all “Donna and Clyde” on us.

It turns out that my friend Donna is quite the Steel Magnolia. She told me this week that she helped her husband dress a deer. As those of you who know me are well aware, I know nothing about guns and hunting. I have convinced myself (and have convinced Jenda) that meat comes from the grocery store. (Just go with me on this one. It makes me feel better and it’s all about my needs, ‘kay?) Anyway, I had to ask Donna why she would dress a deer. I mean, they’re already covered with fur. DUH!

“We were hunting and the deer was in the backyard, so my husband and I field-dressed it. You know, gutted it?”

Ooh, Jeebus! I could just see Donna wandering around outside in a precious cashmere cardigan and shell and some cute storm chaser boots from L.L. Bean shooting at wildlife! Ack!

“My husband got him with a bow and arrow. I didn’t shoot it.”

Oh, well, okay then. Sure, blame it on Clyde.

I could just picture it. I go over to talk to Donna. Hi, Dear!

“Deer? Where?” BLAMMO!

Later that day, I ran into two friends of mine who, like me, are Dallas Cowboys fans. They were going on and on about our win last Sunday over the Redskins. “It was a great game. Don’t mess with Texas…hahaha!”
I started to warn them…to Hell with that! Don’t mess with Donna! But I let it go. I mean, who knows. Maybe she’s a double agent. Or a Redskins fan. I’m walking a fine line here. But in truth, I like Donna very much. Of course, I try to be much nicer to her now. But I have discovered that while she is the epitome of a gracious Southern woman, there is more to her than meets the eye.

So I guess I have heeded my parents’ early advice. In learning about her, I have walked a mile in her shoes. And that’s a great thing, because she is armed and dangerous. So if I have made her angry and she decides to come after me, I’ll have a one mile head start.

And I’ll have her shoes!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid!

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love watching the leaves change color and I love the crisp air. This time of year always reminds me of county fairs and candy apples, and of course, my favorite holiday of all time, Halloween. As a kid, I loved nothing more than dressing up in some crazy costume and going door to door to collect chocolate and other sweets. Of course there was always the house where you got religious tracts or healthy, sugar-free candy that got tossed the minute we rounded the corner, but those were still heady times!

Halloween has changed a great deal since we were kids. Back in my younger days, we came up with creative costumes, like a sheet with holes cut out for eyes. One year, my brother found an old piece of a cow skeleton and wore it around his waist and went as a Georgia O’Keefe painting. (Yes, he belongs in therapy!) I had one of those really creative Moms who could make a costume out of anything and a Dad who could carve DaVinci’s Last Supper out of a pumpkin with a pencil stub and a sewing needle. And everyone in the neighborhood rose to the occasion and handed out goodies. Even the people who had social lives left bowls of candy on their porches for all of us little fiends.

Back in the good old Halloweens of yore, we got TONS of great candy. We got candy corn, Boston baked beans, Tootsie Rolls, candy bars, and candy apples. And we knew everyone in our neighborhood so we racked up. I made a cute ghost, and my ass waddled home with more candy than crap in a laxative factory. And when my older brother Patrick would serve as my escort on our Halloween jaunts, we especially loved the houses where the people were out for the evening and left a bowl of candy on their front porch. We would dump the whole bowl in our bag and head off to the next victim. Of course, my parents were very concerned that Patrick and I might actually enjoy the candy, er, I mean, eat something poisonous, so they made us deposit all of our hard earned treasure by the front door. Then, those poor dears made themselves SICK eating all of the best chocolate candies, which, as any parent knows, are the ones that creepy killer types always target, like Snickers bars. Now that I am a parent, I take the same pains to protect Jenda. She has nothing left in her Halloween goody bag except Starlite Mints and those grodie, squishy Circus Peanuts! Eew!

Fast forward to Halloween 2008. Nowadays, you just about have to take out a second mortgage to buy a cheap costume and you have to go to do-it-yourself classes to carve a basic jack-o-lantern face. This year, Jenda wanted to be a princess and her costume cost more than my wedding dress and was more elaborate! It wasn’t enough to have a dress. We had to have slippers, a wand, a tiara, and a matching Kate Spade Halloween candy collection bag. Then, Her Royal Highness decided that she wanted to have a Halloween party with her friends from the neighborhood and friends from daycare. Having been to countless children’s parties and having seen the havoc they create, I can only say that someone must have laced my food with crack, because, crackhead that I am, I agreed.

I sold my remaining kidney to pay for Jenda’s costume, buy tons of candy, food and beverages, games, Halloween crafts, and decorations for the house. Then we set about writing the invitations and giving them to all of the friends at daycare, work, and throughout the neighborhood. I assumed that we were safe inviting so many people since I knew that not everyone would come. And as usual, I was right. Out of 25 invitations, two said no. Not that it mattered, since apparently Jenda is the only ‘only child’ in her daycare. That being said, we had siblings, superheroes, princesses, and a candy corn. Many of them, on sugar high, filled with anticipation, loose in our house. (In case you’re not sure what that was like, get your Bible and look up the part about the plague of locusts!)

Having never hosted a children’s Halloween party at my house before, I figured that we would have the kids here from 5:30 pm until 7:30 pm and I would schedule their activities down to the minute. I spent a fortune on Halloween crafts, and games such as ‘Pin the Nose on the Jack-o-Lantern’. I made up goodie bags with little gifts and fun Halloween doo-dads. Then, because our house got slammed with trick or treaters last year, I bought enough candy to keep the kiddies hyped up until sometime next June. Of course, there’s some old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. They forgot to include mothers. Specifically, me.
Everyone began showing up for the party. I had spent most of the day cooking goodies and making a goopy green Halloween punch. I had decorations everywhere, I set a beautiful buffet on the table, and got the games and crafts ready. Jenda was very proud to be doing ‘door duty’ to let her friends in when they rang the bell. Then I realized that some of the people she let in were just random trick-or-treaters that came in and decided to just stay for the party. Once all of the children arrived, along with our new, random friends, my plans went straight to Hell faster than a maid runs from Naomi Campbell! No one wanted to make the little crafts I bought. No one wanted to play games. They devoured the food from the buffet, and then I found some of the kids searching through my fridge for more. I managed to get them out of the kitchen, whereupon they all ran upstairs with Jenda leading the way. I allowed the stampede to go on for a few minutes, while I tended to the adult guests. The fathers sat around talking about man-shit and looking sheepish. The mothers requested wine, and I was more than happy to oblige. Then, I went upstairs to see what was going on. Of course, I found all of the kids in Jerry’s and my bedroom, so in my best mommy voice, I said, “Hey, you little fiends! Get outta here! I beat other people’s children!” Then they ran into Jenda’s room, wrecked it, then came back downstairs where they swung from the ceiling fans and basically ran amok. One little party guest was dressed as Aqua Man, which was most appropriate since he proceeded to pee in my floor.

Jerry took one look at me and decided that the kids should begin trick or treating at that very moment if they wanted to survive to see another Halloween. Ah, salvation was at hand! I herded those kids out the door and then began gobbling Xanax, washing it down with Kendall Jackson. I had barely finished my first glass (but by no means my last that evening!) when they returned! What the….

Said Jerry, “I guess the economy is worse than we thought. Only about 5 houses are giving out candy. Everyone else has their porch lights turned off and they’re not answering their doors.” Okay, people. I know times are tough. Maybe some of you weren’t willing to sell your internal organs to get money to buy candy. But damn, we’re Southerners and parents. Tough times call for creativity. Dig in your sofa cushions or in the backseats of your cars. I know there’s plenty of candy in there you could give out. Maybe it’s covered with lint and dog hair, but just run it under some cold water. Ding dang!

So the party broke up shortly after as parents rushed home to try to get some trick-or-treating done in their own neighborhoods. I loaded them up with as much candy as I could before they left, and of course fixed a couple of the mommies up with ‘go-cups’ of Chardonnay. It’s okay, the dads were driving. I cleaned up the remnants of Aqua Man and sipped my Kendall Jackson straight from the bottle, er, I mean, out of a plastic Halloween cup. But I have noticed that even now, I am finding kids squirreled away in my house. Just yesterday, I pulled one out of my sofa cushions. They are probably looking for candy that I already handed out. So parents, please, come get your trick-or-treaters. I am running out of candy. And patience. And Huggies pull ups! And if I run out of Kendall Jackson, well, let’s just say things will get REALLY scary!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pundits, Plaudits, and Plurality

It has been just over one week since a new president was elected and history in the making won the plaudits of pundits. The campaigns of both parties, the voting, and the election returns were, as always, a very exciting and empowering time for me. I was dismayed by the mud-slinging and low-brow commentary, but ultimately, I was pleased with the outcome, and dare I say it…? I am filled with hope for a number of reasons.

I realize that we all had our reasons for supporting our candidates of choice. This election was so filled with hot button topics that I would not be surprised if the candidates lined their clothes with asbestos. Let’s face it, this is a strange time in America and finances are running low while emotions are running high, making what can at best be called a toxic combination. At the very least, the election has been decided and we can get past the business of campaigning, early voting, and baby kissing and get back to the business of repairing and unifying the nation. For me, it has already started.

I went to vote on November 4, and as soon as Jerry and I got to the poll, I started crying. It was so amazing to me, and such a wonderful moment that I could hardly believe I was part of it. Jerry immediately let several people cut in line ahead of him so it wouldn’t look like he was with the crazy broad who was sobbing. Then, I raced through the rest of my day and rushed home to watch the returns. I also let Jenda stay up, even though it was far past her bedtime. We talked about voting, and that fact that voting is both a right and a responsibility. We talked about both of the candidates and what this election would mean for all of us. Of course with my horrible sense of timing, I got up to go get a glass of KJ and JUST THAT QUICK, it was over and the election was won. America had a new president. Kendall and I of course missed the update, but unlike the time I missed the ending to the X Files movie, I know how this one turned out. And it hit me at that moment that nothing would ever be the same again.

I looked at Jenda and thought about her and some of her friends in the four to five year old set. Specifically, I thought of Omari, and Avery, and Steven. I feel reasonably certain that at some point in their young lives, they have been told that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up, much the same as I have told Jenda. Of course when you are four years old, the world is your oyster, but at some point, it’s going to occur to you if you are African American, or female, or Hispanic, or otherwise perceived to be 'different', that none of the presidents in the history books is like you. So on some level, you grow up appreciating the sentiment, but recognizing that it is probably meaningless. It’s so amazing to me now that when Steven gets older, he will look at pictures in a history book, or he will take a tour of the White House and realize that there’s a president who looks like him. And that means that someday, Jenda will see pictures of a female president. Someday, there will be a gay president. And as we come into our own as a nation, we will see that this election predicates a wonderful change in our collective thinking.

We tend to forget the fact that America is a melting pot of men, women and children. We are made up of all colors, races, religions, sexual orientations, and life experiences. I am reminded of something that my parents taught me, and that is that every American can boast a king and a slave in their ancestry. I can’t look at this election, or any other election, in terms of the race or age of the candidates. I remember things that my grandparents taught me, and at their advanced age, they were still some of the best leaders I ever knew. I also remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Daniels. She was African American. I still feel the impact of her guidance and her presence more than thirty years after I sat in her classroom. When I sink back into my younger days, I remember many teachers, friends, and leaders who positively impacted my life. Some were black, some white. Some were women, and some were men, some were gay and some were straight. Some were young, and some were old.

(Actually, when I was a kid, they were probably the age that I am now, and I thought they were old. Damn!)

So here we are, a people, a country in dire straits. Banks are failing, foreclosures are up, and spirits are down. And there is talk of stimulus packages, bailouts, and tax cuts. That is all well and good. But more than anything for me, the recent election has given me hope. And after the stimulus check is cashed and the bailout money is spent, hope endures. So while I don’t revel in my newly found genteel poverty, I am not ashamed. I am hopeful, as we all should be. I am not afraid, even though in many ways, I am hanging by a thread. It’s become stylish to be stone broke, and I am reminded that no one of us is any better than anyone else. Many of us, black, white, young, old, gay, straight, male, female, Christian or otherwise…we’re all hanging by a thread. But in our upcoming administration of hope and change, we will bring those threads together. And we will create, together, the fabric of a nation.

Global Warming or Global Hot Flash?

Mother Nature is a really funny broad. It never occurred to me when I was a child, but as I get older, I realize that she is actually very fickle indeed. Fickle and maybe, understandably, a little bit irritated with all of us.

This came to me recently because at my age, I believe that I am in the throes of peri-menopause, from the Latin “peri”, meaning ‘around’ and “menopause” meaning ‘my hands, man’s throat’. What a happy time this is for me. I was at work recently and I realized that I was just burning up. I mean I was just sweating my ass off! I turned up my desk fan, but it felt like someone had turned on an oven inside me! I hadn’t been doing anything remotely physical so I thought perhaps something was really wrong. I went online to WebMD to check out my symptoms.

My problem is apparently stupidity because no one who is not a doctor should EVER, under ANY circumstances, go to WebMD. You might log on because you have a zit and you will log off convinced that you are going to die a slow painful death from some rare, horrible disease that only WebMD has ever heard of and no one can cure. Trust me on this one. Anyway, after realizing that I might be having a heart attack, a stroke, or some rare disease from exposure to Mongolian Yak shit, I stumbled onto peri-menopause. And I realized after reading the symptoms that I should just upload my picture to their website!

I went to see my doctor about this. Remember him? The really good looking one? So he said he felt that I am too young to be experiencing early menopause. I appreciate the sentiment, but he is a man, so for him to decide what is going on with my ‘down-there’ is like going to a mechanic who has never owned a car. So I made an appointment with his assistant, who is a woman. I just knew she would understand, and maybe dispense hormones and mind altering drugs!

“You seem awfully young to be going through menopause. Maybe it’s stress. Are you stressed?”

Hmm, let’s see. I have a four year old and a husband who keeps turning off my ceiling fans. Our economy is in the toilet. I work in the financial services industry. Gee, what are the odds?

“Well the holidays are coming. Do you have a large extended family?”

Yes. They are all in another state. That’s my idea of happiness. A large, loving, extended family in another state. Preferably, another time zone.

“Do you miss your family?”

Well, yes, I miss them all. But my aim is improving.

“I think you are just stressed out. Try taking walks and drinking something like ice water if you feel warm.”

Uh, no. I think I’ll just walk from the sofa to the fridge and get a cold glass of chardonnay. Thanks anyway.

So the difficulty sleeping, the mood swings, and the hot flashes continued. Each night when I come home from work, I get out of the car and start stripping off my clothes in the garage. That way, I am almost naked when I get in the door to the kitchen. I walk through and turn on the fan in that room. Then I come around the corner to the office, peek in at Jerry and Jenda to say hi, and I flip on that fan. Then I walk through the living room on my way upstairs and turn on the fan in the living room. After I go upstairs and put on a wife-beater and a pair of shorts I come back downstairs to find that ALL of my ceiling fans have been turned off. At first, I thought there was some kind of electrical short. Then I realized that Jerry was running around behind me turning them off! DAMN! I asked him, nicely, WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM?!

“I’m cold.”

Put a sweater on!

“Jenda was cold, too.”

Put one on her! Better yet, why don’t you two get out of the house for a little bit while I cool off. Go out and spend some quality time together somewhere, like Cuba.

Some nights it’s just too much trouble to fight, so I go upstairs and draw a cold bath, dump in a few buckets of ice for good measure and listen to music. Recently, I got out my old Depeche Mode CD. I got inspired listening to ‘Personal Jesus’. I now have my own words to that song. I call it ‘Personal Summer’. Sing along if you know the tune….

My own personal summer
Night sweats that wreck your hair, husband don’t care
My own personal summer
I want to kill the man who turns off my fan
Sittin’ here nude in a violent mood
I could kill for a frosty chill
Get near my fan and I’ll bite off your hand
(Chorus) Hot flash, blot face

Let’s face it, people. A person can only get just so naked. It’s not something I can control. It’s like someone flipped the broiler on inside me and there’s nothing I can do. I even tried to sublet space in the meat locker at Harris Teeter. Luckily, I made it out of the store before the cops got there.

So the other night, I sat, fuming, sweating, and drinking very cold Chardonnay, and I thought about Mother Nature. And I have come to believe that global warming really does exist, but I know now that it’s Mother Nature having a massive hot flash. So I understand what she is going through, and I recycle, and use CFL bulbs, and try to be green. But Big Mama has the power to melt polar ice caps, bring hurricanes, and dry up lakes and rivers. My power is somewhat more limited. So I approached it this way with the family. Turn the heat on low if you’re cold. But when I get home, throw on some extra clothes and leave my fans on, pretty please?

“They stir up too much air. We get chilly.”


And I’m not terribly worried. This here is the South. “He deserved killin’” is actually a valid defense in our courts. So I hope it doesn’t get to that point, but if it does, I hope the courtroom is REALLY cold. And I will try to get a jury made up of menopausal women and Tibetans. That way, if the ‘temporary menopausal insanity’ defense doesn’t work, I can use the ‘Mongolian Yak Shit’ defense. I think Mother Nature would approve!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Leading to the Beat of a Different Drummer

An ancient Chinese proverb entreats us to live in interesting times. It seems a redundant rhetoric, for surely few among us can remember uninteresting times in our lives and in our framework of history. There is always a happening, an event, a turmoil that enrages us or engages us, however it impels us to thought or action.

Some of us remember the onset of the fight for Civil Rights, the marches for peace and brotherhood, and the inequality that defined an era. Others have the stories and experiences of our forbears, while some know only what is written in history books to define a time when leadership was forged in steel, created and tested in the blood, sweat, and tears of many. Amazingly, this struggle gains new relevance and strength in our continuing quest for knowledge and self-awareness. Against our present backdrop of war, political upheaval, and economic uncertainty, the leadership teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are particularly prescient, and in some ways are more pertinent than ever.

Dr. King referred to the conflict of creation (leading by example) versus competition (being the example) as the ‘Drum Major Instinct’. It represents a desire for recognition as reward, a will to ‘lead the band’ by taking center stage and being the star attraction. He readily admits it is human nature. Yet it is not in his nature to scold us, for he admits to having lived in the glass house of self-importance. He reminds us that we have all lived in a glass palace at some point, if not still, so it is not for any among us to throw stones. Rather, he speaks to us as one who has overcome the need for acknowledgement, one who will gladly help us out of our self-imposed exiles of imagined celebrity and rapturous ignorance of believed importance. He becomes, then, a servant leader. He becomes an emissary, an envoy into greater human potential and leadership capability, bringing us beyond seeing only ourselves, challenging us to listen and learn. He begs us all to share the dream of ‘self-importance through awareness of others’, allowing others to see the vision and share a dream.

The Bible imparts the following: ‘No greater love hath man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ How much more difficult it must be to do so knowingly, willingly, even gladly, to protect and nurture a dream that has consumed boundless time and personal energy. Whether or not you espouse the Bible’s teachings, those words are a powerful and gripping truth. Dr. King laid down his life to improve the lives of others, to lead others. Who among us would do the same?

And yet we are all leaders, whether in title, by example, through military service, or by aspiration. Few in our midst, unless we are in the military, have been called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice, and certainly we are not asked to do so in our current positions and jobs. But Dr. King, in laying down his life, showed that true, meaningful leadership exists, in fact, flourishes in all of us by virtue of the fact the we do not have to give our lives, but only share our vision. We become exemplary leaders by lifting the spirits of those around us. Dr. King, in his surrender to a destiny of strength through giving, reminds us, implores us, to lead through servitude to others.

But what cost if we fail to heed his advice? What cost if we fail to give ourselves completely to a goal that impels us to walk quietly behind those we hope to lead, giving them the spotlight instead of ourselves? If we learn nothing, all is lost. No one is led, and we are no stronger for the experience. Thankfully, we can be delivered from this fate. We still encounter hatred and prejudice, but we are free, in fact, encouraged to speak against them. Fortunately, we are free to aim high without having to project our dreams above blinding ignorance, or shout our hopes against deafening silence. While it is almost unimaginable to us to relinquish the spotlight, by surrendering ourselves to the ultimate gift of servitude, we become our best selves by allowing and encouraging others to shine. It costs far less when we inspire others to build and dream with us, to create interesting times. As leaders, we are not asked to lay down our lives, but to put aside ego and self-importance to help others realize a vision. We forfeit far less when we create an economy of hope, equality, and a single-minded passion to serve.