Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Five Questions

So often, when I meet and am getting to know someone new, I find myself asking them what they do for a living, or where they live. I find this habit interesting, as it doesn’t really tell me much about the person. For example, I work for Papyrus in sales for their Wholesale division. My basic line is that that I am a glorified stocker of greeting cards. My current position sheds little light on who I am. These are the 5 questions that I would really like to ask people, both new acquaintances and friends.

1. What were you like as a five year old?
2. What music album never grows old for you?
3. If money were no object, what would you be doing right now?
4. Where are your favorite places to be?
5. If you had to pick a theme song what would it be and why?

Answer those questions and I’ll certainly know more about you and who you really are. I’ve asked these questions of many people, specifically #3. It’s exhilarating to hear what others secretly dream and long for in life. One friend wanted to open her own store and run the business with her sister. She is doing just that today. Another, an attorney, dreamed of owning a dairy farm. Among my friends there are budding student advocates, bed and breakfast hosts, painters, musicians, art critics, owners of summer camps, forest rangers, photographers and writers, just to name a few.

I’ve come back to this question quite a bit this week. As with so many people, I’ve received news about my job, our company has been sold and we’re all feeling just a bit nervous about whether or not we’ll keep our jobs through the transition. What will I do if I lose my job? I’m weighing my options. My hope is to stay as close to my dream job as possible.

And if money were no object for me, what would I do you ask? I would write, learn to play the guitar, sing in my family room and take dance classes. I would join a storytelling group and perform stories to groups of children wherever they would listen. I would walk through my days with a camera around my neck to take photographs. I would learn to build bicycles and work in a bike shop. I’d start a writer’s workshop for adolescent girls to foster a sense of empowerment and community.

That’s a start at least.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A cup of coffee

It is a few days after Easter, and as it goes with my job, I’ve been busy. As with much of retail business, the tide rises and falls with the given holiday. The day after Easter I am out working 14 hour days rushing around to get Mother’s Day set for all of those over achievers that must choose their greeting card way ahead of time.
I walked into my Target store in Kokomo with my normal stride and efficient manner. This particular Target is attached to the local mall. Almost every time I’ve been there, a man who looks much like a version of God, with long white hair and matching beard is sitting in the café area. I say he looks like God, but he really looks like a dusty God. A White Bearded wise man that started out clean at some point, but managed to collect some dust and dirt along the way, a God that shrugged off the white robes and pulled on some worn demin jeans and a soft royal blue flannel shirt. His hands are thick and callused, dirt sits under his nails, but they are clipped in smooth ovals.
Each time I walk into the store, I look for him, just as I am always shocked by the overly tanned older woman who works the service desk. Her burnt orange skin the result of countless hours in the nearby tanning bed a few stores down. He sits facing the registers, usually alone in the café. I’ve smiled at him several times in a way that makes me somehow feel like a overly perky cheerleader for life and living it. He does not return the smile.
I’ve often thought, I should offer to buy him a cup of coffee, maybe even get a cup myself and sit with him and talk. But quickly my inner critic takes over and says, that is so offensive to assume that he cannot buy his own coffee. My mind wrestles with the two view points, one quietly prodding me to approach this man, the other screaming that I am a naïve person who is simply oversensitive.
I’ve looked to the Target employees for signs. None of them look at him; don’t even seem to notice him sitting there. It is like he is a fixture in the store, another endcap that just never changes. I refuse to do that. I make eye contact with him each time even if he doesn’t smile. He doesn’t seem dazed or confused. He just sits and watches the Target customers flow in and out of the store.
The last time I was at the store, he sat with two younger people. As I walked past I could smell the cigarette smoke wafting off of their clothes and I heard the woman say to “God” , “So, is this what you do all day? Just sit here?” in an angry, frustrated tone. Slowing down just a bit to hear his response I heard him calmly say, “No,…” but I didn’t catch the rest.
I am guessing that the woman was his daughter and the man her husband, stopping in to talk to him. He is someone’s father, was someone’s son. For some reason, I can’t stop thinking about this man. I am trying to work up my courage to buy him a cup of coffee the next time I go there, maybe even sit and talk with him if the moment lent itself to a conversation. The thought of him haunts me at times as I cannot imagine feeling like I was not being seen, of sitting in such a busy place, and having everyone ignore you, look past you in order to buy that egg wreath to put on the door. He isn’t disruptive, isn’t smelly, he’s just a little dusty.
It reminds me of the day my sister and I were getting on the train in Chicago after hearing Maya Angelou speak downtown. It had been a dream of mine to hear her speak, and I felt light and energized by the evening. As we rushed to the train a homeless woman eyed my doggy bag hungrily from The Cheesecake Factory and asked us for any change. We uncomfortably said no and go on the train. My stomach turned as we sat in our seats waiting for the train to leave. “I’ll be right back,” I said to my sister. “I’m going to leave this with that woman.”
I ran down the corridor of the train station back to the woman sitting on the floor. “Here you go.” I said. She looked up at me and said, “Thank you.” And I ran back to catch the train. As I remember that incident, I wanted to help her in that moment, but offering my leftovers hardly seemed honorable. Maybe it was the right thing, maybe it was really an insult. Maybe I should have insisted we purchase a sack lunch for that woman and take a later train home. We all struggle with those issues of what to do when we’re faced with someone else’s hardship. I guess in my mind I welcome that struggle because the alternative is to ignore or blame others for their problems and just breeze past using those excuses to minimize others’ pain.
Next time, though I know it will take some courage, I will offer a coffee. The worst he can say is no.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Moving right along

Hello there! Did you think I abandoned this blog? Nope, I am still here, just busy working on projects. Per my New Years Resolution, I am working away on rejections #2 and #3. I received my first rejection of the year a couple of weeks ago, and TA-DA, I survived!
The best part of it, is that is has really motivated me and helped me get on the right track I believe. I am working on a particular children’s book right now. A literary agent is coming to Carmel in May to speak. She is offering to critique drafts of books for a small fee. She also just happens to specialize in Children’s Picture books. I’ve done many outlines and drafts of books. So, I went back and chose one to really work on. Hopefully next week it will be ready to submit. I cannot express how alive and joyful I feel just to have the ability to do all of this, and give it a shot. Hopefully each rejection will lessen in it’s sting, but at least I am taking the chance and for that, I am proud of myself.
Elizabeth took a trial electric guitar lesson this week. When she walked out of the lesson, she wore her characteristic blank face that comes out around new adults. Once the instructor bid us good-by she looked up at me with a huge smile and said, “Ask me how it went!”
“How did it go?” I laughed.
“It was AWESOME!” She proclaimed, her eyes twinkling in a way I’ve never seen before. I thought to myself, this could be it, this could be another creative outlet for her. That sparkle and joy radiating from her, that is what I want for my kids, for myself and for Josh. Josh and I have talked so much over the last few years about what we really want out of life for ourselves and for our kids. Here it was, shining in my daughter’s blue green eyes. Creativity, passion and joy to express oneself in the world, that is our goal, not a bigger house, not a stunning wardrobe, not plasma televisions. In our own way, we’re all working towards that goal right now and although it can be frustrating and daunting at times, it is also thrilling.