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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I woke up today not quite sure what the problem was. But to be sure there was a problem. I tried to decide what I should do list grows in the night. And none of it seemed fun.

Problem one. No fun, and nothing on the horizon.

Being a woman of solutions I tried to figure it all out. Nothing was coming.
My daughter is sick on the couch, I have a ticket due tomorrow, my house is dirty, there are weeds where there should be flowers, and I am turning into one of those women on TV that needs an intervention because she has so much stuff... FEMA may be called in for my bedroom. On second thought if I am declared a disaster I could get government assistance, and then I could call that cute guy from extreme home makeovers. However it would require everyone seeing my bedroom.....not going to do that.

More problems....I am not running out of problems, just solutions...

I started with the kitchen floor, which led to the washing machine, which led to sweeping outside, (as my mother would say, "they are all going to track it right back in!! Sweep outside!) which led to the ticket....there it was, staring at me...the due date screaming!!
The solution for the ticket is not as simple as writing a check. You see last summer I had lasik surgery, no more contacts! But who knew you had to have your drivers license changed from restricted to not restricted? Who would willingly go to the DMV? We only go there when we are forced, we need deadlines, we need someone chasing us to get us there!! Not just "shoulds". What's a should? I spit on, I didn't willingly to go to the DMV to have my drivers license changed. So when I got pulled over for speeding in totally-rural-Nevada, I had the great good luck to be facing Dudley Do-Right who knew all the laws. He was surprised, shocked, and horrified that I didn't run down to have my drivers license changed as soon as the eye surgery took. In fact he wrote on my ticket that I "claimed to have lasik surgery". Hmmmm, I've got news for Dudley my eyes were so bad I couldn't have put the key in the ignition much less drive without contacts...I am not claiming anything...but now I have a problem. I have to go down to the DMV and have my drivers license changed today. Yikes.... Then I think, "what if I have it changed and I still have to pay the fee?" Why go? Just pay the fine... it is due tomorrow, unless I drive to Wherever-Nevada and talk to a judge how will it be lowered? Trouble on I finally on the phone, I get through to an actual person and she listens...she really listened to me. and she helped me...She offered a continuance, giving me plenty of time to get the license fixed, She told me to send a note to the judge...a nice note, (she specified that for some reason) then will rule and then I will pay. But a lowered fine.

Just like that...problem solved...a great solution!

Someone I don't know, will never meet...saved my day. Because somehow this unknown woman giving me a break made all the other problems I had on my list suddenly doable. I now have the strength of ten women. All because one person was reasonable, and kind.

I love it....I am going to do it for someone else. Today, no waiting! And I think the key is to do something life altering early in the day, that way people will have a great day, all day.

BTW...have you seen the icon I use for my blog?...I am a queen!! (self professed but a queen nonetheless) I can offer clemency. So line up little chickens tell me what you need. I will fix it for you!

The fun I will start with is celebrating my son Trey's birthday. Happy Birthday Trey!! Mommy loves you....always.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I have used this blog to explore my thoughts and improve my writing. I spend a lot of time trying to get everything just right. But I am not going to do that this time. One take, one opportunity to put my words down. I hope I do this justice.

I am writing this very late at night, especially for me...two nights a month I meet with six other Planning Commissioners for our county and sort out land use situations. For the most part it is interesting, and useful. I think we are a helpful group, we keep people from having a land fill in their front yard, too many cats in their homes and we keep businesses where they belong, doing what they are supposed to do.

It's not usually exciting, the items come along, and we deal with them with the help of the full time planners for the county. There are lots of rules to follow, and we do our best. Occasionally neighbors get together with torches and pitchforks and cause a big scene...but usually we hear an item, make a decision and vote on

Tonights meeting was really long...but we finally finished and the last order of business was public comment. Very few times has anyone stayed for the whole meeting......whole, long offer anything for public comment. But tonight someone did.

A man came to the podium introduced himself and told a sad story of problems and then redemption. But then he looked at us and said that he had been recently stopped, or pulled over, whatever you want to call it. He panicked and ran. Now all the trouble he had put behind him was with him again. All because he ran. The sorrow in his face was palatable, he was so sorry...but it was done, and now he had no idea where to turn. Our chairman explained we couldn't help, we are land use board. He gave him ideas about who might be able to help him, but explained our limitations.

And then he said the worst thing of all....."No one can help me, no one hears me. I don't have money or influence......" He was simply hopeless. And I was profoundly changed.

The exchange that went on after that was unthinkable. My dear friend and fellow planning commissioner told of the eight times he had been pulled over for no reason. Simply being black...he told the man at the podium how his father had warned him that it would happen in his life and how to react when it did. What? Eight times? Cliff? What? Does this really happen?

Please know I am bright white, I am Nordic white...the extent of the prejudice I have experienced is some bad blond jokes and a few polygamy jokes - I am Mormon...I hate polygamy jokes, but it isn't even worth mentioning in this context. I felt so many different emotions in that few minutes..., acrimony, outrage, incredulous-ness (is that a word?) but I settled on sadness. I was sad that it happened, sad that he was back where he started after doing all he could to change. Sad that he wasn't able to explain to anyone who would listen that he had changed, and even hope they would believe him.

He was stuck. Stuck being black with a record.....and I guess for that there isn't redemption. I guess he doesn't get to change. No matter what he does he is going to be black with a record...someone who can't be trusted, someone who can't move on, someone who is judged and found guilty.....of being black with a record.

I saw him face to face. I saw the pain, and the hopelessness. And I hurt. But he is wrong about not being heard. I heard him, and no matter what he changed me. Staying for that whole, long boring meeting was worth it for a bright white girl to feel some of his pain...and be changed

Sunday, April 4, 2010

"The Quality of Mercy is Not Strained..."

I apologize to anyone who might be offended by this picture (if you look closely you can see the legs are just legs attached to the stool, not actual Nun legs)...It's a pretty funny picture that made me remember an incredible nun from my far away past. Sister Mary Rose. When I moved to Las Vegas from Kemah Texas I had never met a nun before, so how was I to know one could impact my life so profoundly?

After we moved to Las Vegas my parents decided I wasn't weird enough as the only 14 year old with a loud Texas twang and, did I mention LOUD Texas twang? Las Vegas.. So they sent me to Catholic school to insure my feelings of awkwardness. All of the kids at Bishop Gorman High School had gone to school together since kindergarten so my chance at making even one friend was pretty slim. School hierarchy is a difficult system to overcome. I remember once in second grade when a new kid moved in from Tennessee we stared at him for a week. His dad was a NASA scientist but we all thought the coolest thing about him was that he was from Tennessee!

Sister Mary Rose was the oldest nun at Gorman, dean of girls and teacher of great classics in English. The impression she left on me was immeasurable. She is the reason I started searching for religion...because of her devotion I wanted to find something to believe in as much as she believed. I think Sister Mary Rose would have laughed at this picture.

Sister Mary Rose decided we were smart enough and she was brave enough to read the "The Merchant of Venice". I was amazed at how I felt reading that play. I didn't know anyone could put words together like that. And for the first time I realized what could be conveyed with just a few simple words arranged on a piece of paper. I didn't know that words could make you feel things spontaneously. It was magic.

Sister Mary Rose was serious about Shakespeare. We read every day, we looked up words, we researched the history of the time, and we learned about the Jewish religion when Shylock came into the play...we studied Venice, and I found out that women could be named Portia. And then of course we memorized. We memorized lots of things but I remember this from my first Shakespearean play......Portia calls for mercy for Antonio to Shylock.....

"The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."

It was magic.

That same year we studied "a Midsummer's night Dream". A character in that play is one I have loved ever since. ......Puck....I wanted to be Puck then, and I want to be Puck now.
Puck is the wild card, he is outrageous....he is pure crazy fun. Who wouldn't want to be known as "pure crazy fun?"

So that is what Sister Mary Rose did for me...she introduced me to my favorite author. She added something to my life that never left me....and all these years later I can still recite..."the quality of mercy is not strained......"

We never know the influence we can be on other people, my advice is to first, always has been my experience that when you least expect it someone will spot you from across the room, walk over and say, "aren't you Minnie's granddaughter?" And when that happens you better not be up to something.

I would love to be an influence on someone the same way Sister May Rose was for me. I know she would be happy that I found a religion I can be as dedicated to as she was to hers. I know she would be pleased that I have gone on to read lots of Shakespeare....and I hope she knows how grateful I am for her patience with a goofy Sophomore that read Shakespeare with a loud Texas twang.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Don't Ask me how I am, because I will tell you.

While it is simple to be happy when things are going well, your team won, you lost a pound or two, it's different when life isn't so great. The fact is it's dang hard to be happy when just don't want to be. And you know what? I don't think you have to.

When I am having a bad day, I bristle when people look at me condescendingly and begin reminding me how I have it so much better than someone else. As if, at that moment, it will make any difference in my mood. Or they start with that tired old adage of "I thought I was bad off until I met the guy with no shoes thing"....Please don't... I need to feel this way until I don't feel this way any more...I need to process my emotions and please step out of the way and let me pout. There may even be a tiny little fit. I think it is cathartic, and necessary. I find it is constipating to keep it all bottled up, and just as uncomfortable. For what? So that I appear stoic?
Will it say on my gravestone....."Here she lies...our stoic friend Donna...we never knew she was brave". No!! That sounds like required reading, or sensible shoes. I can't do it, I can't even fake it. If I am suffering we all suffer.....I do life by committee!

And besides my gravestone is going to read..."I told you I was sick..."

I want to be like my grandmother matter what, her shoes matched her purse, her silver was polished, and her nails were done. She had some bad days...she had some real bad days, but you know what? We all knew when she was having a bad day, we knew it and everyone she came in contact with knew it. There was no pretense, no forcing a happy face. She invented the "I am going to feel like this until I don't feel like this any more" philosophy. She acted on life, instead of letting life act on her. She was authentic, it wasn't in her to pretend anything...

Isn't that fabulous?

And when life is so.....I don't know, miserable? Why do we have to pretend everything is OK? We learn from each other's struggles, mostly we learn that bad times pass....and that is a comfort in itself. Bad days don't have to be forever, but they are reality. And sometimes when life gets to be really uncomfortable there is a up side...that's when I start to hope. I start to hope something incredible is about to happen. I do believe we are saved at the eleventh hour. And on occasion we are pushed to our absolute breaking point. And then we are able to look backward and marvel at our own strength.

It isn't a shock to God how we will react in a crisis, He knows us very, very well. Trials give an opportunity to know how strong we is how we find out what we really believe it. We get to find out who we are, and what we are made of. Trials reveal our true character. C.S. Lewis called it "Rats in the cellar." From Mere Christianity....

Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is. Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth. If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.”

The rats in my cellar are a constant concern for me.....but then they are for everyone.

So I give you permission to have a bad day, just put a limit on it. For say, I can feel like this for an hour, or an some cases a whole day. But don't go too long, I don't want your bad day to conflict with mine...and it is all about me.