Monday, January 25, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Last Friday morning, I sat at the kitchen table eating breakfast with Maggie and Aleita while scanning the headlines of the front page of the day's newspaper. Studying the paper across the table, Maggie said to me, "Why is that woman screaming?"

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

She was looking at a picture of a Haitian woman. The picture was almost painful to see - - her anguish was so apparent. It was no wonder it had captured her attention. I read the caption to her: Cindy Terasme cries after seeing the feet of her dead 14-year-old brother, Jean Gaelle Dersmorne, at the rubble of the collapsed St. Gerard School in the aftermath of the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010. We had discussed the earthquake earlier in the week at dinner one evening, and she had talked about it at school and at youth choir as well. However, I don't think it truly hit home with her until she saw the pain and despair written all over that young woman's face.

Maggie has heard about the struggles of the Haitian people before. One of the members of our church, Linda Damery, is involved with a not-for-profit organization that organizes medical mission trips to Haiti throughout the year. Linda, an RN, has been to Haiti multiple times as part of the mission team. She has brought back pictures and stories of the people she has served while in Haiti and has shared them with our congregation.

Maggie and I sat at the table that morning and discussed what this devastating earthquake meant for the people of Haiti. We discussed how most of the people in this country live without enough food to eat or clean water to drink. We talked about how most of the children there do not get to go to school. We talked about the lack of electricity and adequate shelter and clothing and the absence of medical care. We discussed how the earthquake had made their already unfathomably difficult lives that much more so.

She sat there quietly for a minute, then said to me, "Can I give them the money in my bank?" The money in her bank is money she has received for her birthday and from doing chores around the house. This stash is what she has been saving to purchase clothes for her American Girl doll during our next excursion to Chicago. I said to her, "It's your money. You can do with it what you want."

She gave a small smile, and satisfied, went back to eating her breakfast. And just like that, my nine-year old showed me despite all the greed and ugliness that exists in this world, there is yet so much good. That evening, we counted the money in her bank and found that she had $59.93. We topped it off to make it an even $60.00. I hugged her and told her how proud I was of her. She said, "I have enough stuff. This will help someone who really needs it."

On Sunday, Maggie brought her Tootsie Roll bank to church and dumped the entire thing in the special offering plate being passed around for donation for the Haitian relief fund. Chris and I matched her donation, and asked that all of them be sent to FOTCOH - - The Friends of the Children of Haiti - - which is the organization with which Linda volunteers.

So I give you the Maggie Tootsie Roll bank is the link to FOTCOH. On the front page is a link where you can directly donate to the organization. Take some time on the website while you are there and learn about this amazing, giving charity.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Yesterday afternoon, I had to contact A. T. & T. about our business phone lines. Rather than being given choices and punching a number on the phone to generate my answer, I instead had to vocalize my responses. I always feel ridiculous when I do this - - I find that I have to really enunciate my words as well as speak in raised voice….otherwise it will say, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand….let’s try again.”

Yesterday was no different. Bound and determined that I would not spend any more time than absolutely necessary stuck on the phone call, I sighed and played its little “I don’t understand you” game. The next time it asked the question, “Do you have a business account with us?” I loudly responded, “YYYYEEESSSSS.” One of my co-workers passing by my office door shot me a quizzical look that likely translated to “I think you’ve finally lost it.” He, of course, had no way of knowing that I was not dealing with a deaf and dim business associate, but rather with a hearing-impaired perfectionist computer. From what he could hear on my end of the conversation, it went something like this:







And so on. After being led through this absurdly long series of prompts, I was ultimately placed in a waiting cue to speak to a real-live human being. The system informed me that my wait would be at least ten minutes. I put the phone on speaker and worked on some other things at my desk while I listened to some snazzy muzak that was interrupted about every thirty seconds by a computerized voice that thanked me for waiting and reminded me that my call would be answered in the order that it was received.

After waiting on hold for about fifteen minutes, I began to fret that one of the following two things would happen - - I was afraid that either:

A. The moment my call got picked up by a real-live person, he/she would do something to disconnect me and then I would have to start all over again.


B. that I would get that guy/gal that you can’t understand….the one who speaks such heavily accented English that you struggle just to piece together a few words.

Scenario B happened to me a few weeks ago when I had to call about an internet order I had placed to Snapfish for pictures. The man at the call center (that I can only assume must’ve have been located in the middle of India) could scarcely patch together three words of discernible English….and this was after waiting fifteen minutes to speak to a person. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: I need to speak with someone about a recent order I placed.

Him: dfjiwe order number f09di8sd foisd sdfjsdids provide dsfji0adgkoa?

Me: Did you just ask me to give you the order number?

Him: fsjio yis sdfj.

Me: OK - If you just asked me for my order number, it’s 3562945.

Him: cmripbvf problem msd fioa mscdkol bmdi help?

Me: I’m sorry, could you repeat that?


Me: I don’t understand what you’re saying.

Him: sfjioer order sdfmi sdfio this fjsido?

Me: (sigh)

This phone call that should have lasted about three minutes took close to twenty because he had to repeat himself so many times. After I disconnected from the phone call, I was still unsure as to whether we had resolved the situation or not. (I did get the proper replacement order soon after, so apparently we did manage to hash out an understanding. I was dreading having to call back again, so thank goodness for that miracle.)

I wonder if companies even care that when they create foreign call centers staffed by barely-English speaking representatives to handle their problems, it makes me as a consumer not want to use their services anymore. Perhaps the amount of money they save in not having the call center staffed by people who speak perceptible English outweighs the amount of money they lose in customers who take their business elsewhere. I don’t know.

It turns out that neither of my fears were realized in the case of the A. T. & T. business call yesterday. After an almost 25 minute wait, the customer service representative came on the phone speaking pitch-perfect English. I almost wept with joy. He was polite and knowledgeable and did a great job handling my account. I wasn’t thrilled about the wait time or the yelling in a carefully enunciated voice at the beginning of the call, but at least I could understand every word that this guy said to me. And, when I hung up the phone, I was fairly confident that my issues had been resolved.

We take what we can get, don’t we?

Friday, December 11, 2009


Police: Drunk woman passed out on horse

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn., Dec. 10 (UPI) -- Police in Tennessee said a horse rider participating in a Christmas parade was arrested when she drunkenly passed out atop the animal.

Shelbyville police said they received a report during Saturday night's Christmas parade of an apparently inebriated woman "wearing a red coat who was riding on a white horse" in the parade, but officers could not locate the woman or her mount on the Shelbyville square, the Shelbyville Times-Gazette reported Thursday.

Investigators said they found Patti Lynn Moore, 46, sleeping on top of her horse outside a North Cannon Boulevard motel about 15 minutes after receiving the report.

Moore was arrested and charged with public intoxication. She was released after posting $500 bond.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I was browsing through the LL Bean catalog that came in the mail yesterday, in the section titled "Out of the Ordinary Last Minute Gifts." Though I was hoping for inspiration for some of those hard-to-buy-for people on my list, I came up short here. I didn't find anything that screamed someone's name to me. One item I did find provided amusement though. For those of you who are wondering what to give to that incredibly lazy child on your list, I have found the perfect gift:For the low, low price of $14.95, you can buy the "SNOWBALL/SNOW BLOCK MAKER SET." The description states, "Lets kids build their own forts and fill them with perfect snowballs."

When I was growing up, we had snowball and snow block makers, and they were called our hands. Believe it or not, they were free and did the job just fine. In fact, my brother and I built some pretty impressive snow forts in our time, several that featured multiple rooms, most that boasted slides off the tops, and one that I recall even had a stained glass window. No kidding - - we figured out that if you froze water in a bar pan and added food coloring, it made something of a stained glass window (not a very attractive one, of course, but who else can brag that their snow forts featured such striking attention to detail?) You will have to keep in mind that we grew up on a farm, so we already had lots of drifts to work with, plus a dad that used a tractor and blade to push the snow into big piles. Still, we put a lot of work into the making of our "snow mansions" . . . . all without the assistance of the LL Bean Snowball/Snow Block Maker. Just think of the amazing projects we could have completed had we had this fantastic tool! We had no idea just how deprived we were.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Last night, I stopped at my grandparent's house and took a look around for the last time. When dad called me a few weeks ago and told me that the house has a buyer, I wasn't sure that I wanted to do so. The last time I was in the house was in August when all my grandparent's belongings were auctioned - - on that day, as I watched the furniture being carried out and saw the house emptied, it really hit me that I was seeing an era come to an end. The home has always been in my dad's family, and has been my grandparent's home since before I was born.

When my grandmother died in October 2008, I knew that this day would come at some point. It’s funny how there are certain things in your life that you think will always be there – then one day, they’re not. I never imagined a time when I couldn’t just walk right up to the door of that house and not walk right in.

Now it will belong to someone else who never knew my family gathered around the massive dining room table (that had so many leaves that it practically spread into next week.) The folks buying the house never knew a time when apple trees stood in the side yard (or knew that my brother and cousins and I would use the fallen apples as projectiles in a sometimes-painful game of apple tag.) They never saw my family all gathered on the front lawn and on the porch to watch the annual parade in August (and catch the massive amounts of candy.) They never knew us watching movies shown with an old-style movie projector, playing Dominoes at the table, or running through the dining room and making the dishes shake in the china cabinet.

During the last few years of her life when my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s had gotten bad, I didn’t think much about these things. I realized, of course, that things would change, but it was something that was going to happen LATER. When Grandma could no longer take care of herself and had to move to a nursing facility, her home kind of went into a state of suspended animation. When it unfroze and everything was piled onto rack wagons and carried out for auction, the finality of it became truly apparent. Perhaps it is just always difficult when another connection to your childhood is severed. I have no desire to return to my youth, yet that doesn't stop me from waxing nostalgic for those times every now and again. As I took that final look around last night, I realized that ready or not, LATER had arrived.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009


Aleita's kindergarten class had their Thanksgiving play this morning at her school. The parents (or whoever the kids' guests were) could then stay for lunch with the kindergartener. The play and songs that the kids performed were very cute - - what is not to love about a bunch of little kids dressed up as Pilgrims and Indians? (Aleita was a Pilgrim, which was bad casting in my opinion. Regular readers of my blog and those that know her can agree that she is much more of the Indian variety.) At any rate, she made a pretty cute Pilgrim with her braids sticking out from beneath her little white paper bonnet.

After the performance, the kindergarteners went back to their classroom to remove costumes, then met up with their guests to go to lunch. I discovered that it only takes a brief witnessing of parent/child interaction at your child's school to reaffirm the belief that perhaps you are not doing such a bad job at being a parent after all. The mother that sat beside me at the lunch table had brought a younger child with her who was perhaps three years old. Her kindergarten son and three year old daughter spent most of the time at lunch throwing things back and forth at one another while the mom begged them in a whiny voice to stop.

The parents of the child who sat across from us had packed their child's lunch - and what a healthy alternative they had offered him in place of the cafeteria lunch: The kid had a vat of cheese spread and a roll of crackers. The tub of cheese spread was the kind you get when you order from a school fundraiser - - probably enough for ten people to easily share it - - yet here was this five-year old boy, happily consuming 100 grams of fat in one sitting. Toward the end of the meal, he said to his dad, "I want some of your applesauce," then without hesitation, proceeded to dip his index and middle finger onto his dad's tray into the applesauce and shovel it into his mouth. His dad simply said, "here's my spoon if you want some," as he handed him a utensil to use.

The funny thing is, when I have volunteered in Aleita's classroom, I find that most of these kids are actually fairly well-behaved and pretty nice little kids. When I used to teach elementary school, I often noticed the same thing - - kids will usually live up to whatever set of expectations are provided to them. I had many parents that wondered why their child would behave so much better for me than they would for them. My five-year old is certainly no angel, but you can be sure that if she took her fingers and dipped them into the food on my plate, I would be sure to give her something - though I doubt it would be a spoon.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Today, Chris and I drove separately to church because I had chimes practice 1/2 hour before Sunday School. (yes - we drove both cars the whole two blocks to the church - - it was raining, cut us some slack!)

After church, Aleita decided to ride home with me, and Maggie with Chris. Aleita, ever the competitor, said to me, "Hurry up, Mommy! Beat them home!!" She was ever-so-impatient with me as I did the responsible-mom thing and made sure she was properly buckled into her seat belt.
As if to provide additional incentive to me, she yelled, "C'mon! The last one home's a rotten chicken!!"

Rotten chicken....rotten close.

(By the way, we ended up as the "rotten chickens." They beat us home.)

Saturday, October 31, 2009