Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fashion Smashion...

Once upon a time, not long after I moved to Kansas City, my employer offered a 2-day long workshop on business attire. By "offered," I mean "required all employees to attend." They brought in some expert from the Jones Store to tell us what to wear and what not to wear.

The Jones Store wasn't exactly a high-falootin' store, but at that time I was 21 and barely making minimum wage so when I shopped there it was to visit Clarence (my mother's name for the clearance aisle). This expert was some sort of personal shopper or something. I'm pretty sure she would have steered me away from Clarence if I had asked for her assistance.

Anyway, one of the important lessons I learned during this workshop was that a person should not wear white shoes to work, EVER, unless you're a nurse. But definitely not ever in an office setting. When I shared this information to friends after the fact, they said, "right, you shouldn't wear white after Labor Day." No, we're not talking about THAT rule. This all happened in the middle of July and it was very clear that white shoes were forbidden in the office at any time of year. EVER.

Maybe it's common knowledge, but that was the first I had heard of it. It was also the first two of my co-workers had heard of it. Michelle was just a few years older than me and Linda was about 20 years my senior. We discussed it at lunch and all of us thought it was kind of ridiculous, but had different ways of responding to the news.

That night, Michelle went home, retrieved the white dress shoes from her closet, and tossed them in the trash. Linda went home, set her white shoes aside to take them to be dyed a light pink. I went home, found my white shoes buried at the bottom of the closet and wore them to work the next day.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dear Winter,

I think it's time we parted ways.

I hate to do this to you so close to Valentine's Day, but let's face it, you were planning to leave me around March 21 anyway. Why prolong the agony?

Sure, you look pretty and all, but I just feel like you're always dumping on me.

And you don't do anything to help around here. You leave a mess in the driveway and I'm the one who has to clean it up. Sure, if I left it there long enough, you'd take care of it eventually, but that's just not good enough.

When I think of you, I get a chill...not in a good way. Occasionally you'll surprise me with a brief showing of warmth, only to take it away the next day.

I have had it.

Goodbye, and good luck.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Commercial Break...

Clearly this blog is lacking a clear sense of direction. My last entry was a letter to God. This entry is about a random memory that was in my head this morning when I woke up. I’m not sure why it was there or why I’m sharing, but…

I think most of my former teachers would say I was a good kid. Not perfect, but I got good grades and didn’t cause or get into trouble (much).

Except there was this one time…in 8th grade…

In English class, we’d been given a group assignment to create (on paper) a made up product and write a commercial for it. My team consisted of my best friend, Mary, and another gal, Michelle.

I came up with the product idea. I’m not sure if I’m proud of that fact or not. Our imaginary product was a spray that would remove gunk from stuff. For instance, if you stepped in gum, you could use our product to get it off your shoe. The product name was...

Our commercial went something like, “If you step in gum, don’t panic, just say ‘Off Uck.’” And we had a catchy little jingle of some sort.

Anyway, at some point our English teacher got wind of this idea and was not happy about it. She didn’t specifically tell us NOT to do it, but word had it that if we went through with it we would be facing detention. Well, I wasn’t keen on detention, but even more than that I wasn’t keen on bringing two friends down with me. So, we kept the concept but changed the name slightly to “Yuck Off.” Yeah, that’s a lot better.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dear God

Dear God,

I know You’re probably pretty busy trying to decide who’s going to win the big games tomorrow so I’ll try not to take much of Your time.

Something has been on my mind. You see, again today a status update showed up in my Facebook news feed that suggested if I’m a true Christian, I should change my status update to say as much for at least an hour. I didn’t. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgone these opportunities (or some variation of them) to become a true Christian.

I’m concerned I’m going to hell. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I’m more concerned with the during-life right now than the after-life. I don’t mean to seem short-sighted. I just feel like while I’m living, I should focus on living a good life and contributing what I can to make the world better in some small way. I figure You’ve got the after-life thing figured out, and I’ll wait to be surprised when the moment arrives.

Anyway, back to the Facebook issue. I’m a little torn. I mean, I want to be a true Christian, I’m just not sure if I have to post it on Facebook to make it true. I imagine there’s nothing wrong with posting those updates, but is there anything wrong with NOT posting them? So, I went to and searched on the word “Facebook” to see what the Good Book might have to say on the matter. That search yielded no results, so I tried “social networking,” again with no success. I considered discussing the matter with my pastor, but she isn’t even on Facebook. (Yes, I said, “she.” Hope that doesn’t rock Your world.)

So, without any guidance from the Bible or my pastor, I’m left to ask myself, “What would Jesus do?” I pictured Jesus sitting at His laptop--or maybe He uses an iPhone, hard to say--while one of those messages shows up in His news feed. Would he update His status so that it would show up in the news feeds of His millions of friends? “Jesus Christ is…a true Christian.”

I think not. I’m pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t even be on Facebook. Or writing a blog. So, perhaps that’s my cue to sign off. But, if You’ve got any insights, send me a message. E-mail is best.

Peace out and Amen,


P.S. Go Packers!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's Ornamental

I hate winter, but Christmas brightens it up for me. I always decorate as soon as I can—sometimes after the last bite of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. (I am opposed to doing it sooner than that.) Last year at this time I was renting a room from a friend. She doesn’t always put up a tree, but she did last year—I think at least in part for my benefit. I appreciated that she did that. A lot. It was a nice tree. I enjoyed sitting and looking at it. But, it wasn’t my tree. I was trying to figure out why that mattered. Mine wasn’t any nicer than hers—in fact, hers was nicer than mine. Hers wasn’t a whole lot different than mine. So, why did I miss my tree?

I got the answer this year when I started decorating my tree the day after Thanksgiving. I opened my tin of ornaments and it may as well have been a passport for a trip down memory lane. (I’m not sure why I’d need a passport for that particular trip, but that’s what popped in my head, so I’m going to roll with it.)

As I pulled each ornament out, I remembered its significance. In some cases the only significance was that I got it on clearance for a good price. But, in some cases, it was special because of who gave it to me.

I had two ornaments from Becky. Both have my name written in gold; one is dated 1986 and another 1987. Becky was my Sunday school teacher at the time and gave each of us in the class an ornament each year. One is circular and has a nativity scene, the other is bell-shaped and depicts an angel praying. Both are special to me and remind me not just of Becky but of Olivet Christian Church.

I have two ornaments that remind me of my friend Mary. One she gave me and it reads “Our friendship is a special treasure…Christmas 1992.” We had become friends in 1982 (seventh grade). In 1992 10 years seemed like a long friendship. I’m happy to say that in 2010, it’s a longer friendship by 18 years. The other ornament that reminds me of her is one that I bought for her in 1995….and never gave to her. It remained wrapped for a couple of years. We’d see each other periodically, but I never remembered to bring the ornament with me. Besides, giving it in July would have been weird. Finally, I unwrapped it and started hanging it on my tree. Every year when I place it, I smile and say to myself, “Merry Christmas, Mary!”

The tree shaped ornament I got from Barbie stands out because of its size and non-traditional colors—pink, purple and teal. She picked it because those are her favorite colors. The ornaments on my tree are predominantly red, not by plan. You might think I’d be inclined to hang hers toward the back so it didn’t clash. I don’t. Barbie is not a back branch kind of person. So, every year it stands out in much the same way she stands out in a crowd. And it makes me smile.

As I pull out the silver ornament from Mom I am reminded of a kind gesture. I had come home from college and I stopped by to see Mom at the post office when I got to town. She mentioned she had sent the package off. “What package?” I wondered aloud. “Oh, I don’t think I was supposed to tell you that,” she replied. It turns out that someone at the dorm had tried to coordinate a surprise where each of our parents would send an inexpensive gift and the RA was going to present the gifts at our dorm holiday party. So, surprise ruined for me, no big deal.

I then mentioned that I imagined my roommate’s dad (her only living parent) wouldn’t send her anything as they had been on the outs. Sure enough, the day of the big surprise came. Almost everyone was surprised and were excited to open their gifts. Mom sent me this silver ornament, but as I suspected, Shari’s dad hadn’t sent anything. What I hadn’t expected was that my mother sent her something. It was an ornament just like mine. It arrived via FedEx so that it would get there in time. There is no doubt in my mind that Shari would rather have gotten something from her dad. But, I suspect she appreciated not being the only one without anything to open. As I hang mine on the tree, I wonder if she still has hers. I imagine she doesn’t. I wonder how she’s doing.

There are ornaments from other friends—a baseball ornament from Dave; a mouse with a candy cane from Lavon; a hand-painted mouse ornament from Jordan when she was a wee one; Santa Claus ornaments from Kathy and Kathi; a skier from Joan; manger scene and angels from Matt and a fan from Ilena. Some date back around twenty years, some just a few years. Each reminds me of these people and what they mean to me.

Then, there are a few ornaments that remind me of places I’ve been and the people with whom I went. I have a baseball ornament from Cooperstown which reminds me of my road trip with Jamey in 1999. I have a set of three ornaments from Greece which conjure memories of my trip there with Kathy to visit her son, Jameson over Thanksgiving 2006. There is nothing Grecian about them other than the fact they were purchased there. For all I know they were made in China. (Three out of the four of them survived the plane ride home…that’s why it’s a set of three. )

And, it’s not just the ornaments. I have a Christmas centerpiece from Barbie, a fabric wreath from Mary, candles from Wade, a mop angel from Michelle, a snow globe from Joan, a snowman from Kathy, snowmen and candles from Dave, and…the list goes on. Some of these friends have moved away, some I’ve lost touch with, some I remain close with, all have been an important part of my life.

So, yes, my friend’s tree last year was beautiful and it helped brighten my winter, but it couldn’t quite substitute for my tree because there are no substitutes for my friends and what they mean to me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankfulness, Givingness

Many of us will have the day off from work.
Many of us will be surrounded by family and friends.
Many of us will share an abundance of food.
Many of us will gather in the comfort and warmth of our homes.
Many of us will lift up our thankfulness for all that is good in our lives.

Some of us will not.
Some of us must work, perhaps a second job.
Some of us are without a job.
Some of us will be alone.
Some of us will spend the holiday without a departed loved one for the first time.
Some of us are unjustly incarcerated.
Some of us won’t have enough or anything to eat.
Some of us will look for shelter in the outdoors with only a blanket for warmth.
Some of us will lift up thankfulness for a simple gift that many of us take for granted—a blanket, a scrap of food.

This Thanksgiving, as we lift up our thankfulness, we might also ask that our hearts be filled with givingness.
A givingness that smiles and provides rest for the weary.
A givingness that offers company to the lonely.
A givingness that provides a shoulder to catch the tears of the grieving.
A givingness that seeks justice for the injustices.
A givingness that feeds the bellies and nourishes the souls of the hungry.
A givingness that provides shelter for those who have none.
A givingness that offers warmth and security to the cold and frightened.

A givingness that produces more thankfulness that produces more givingness.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cancer Sucks!

Those of you who have known me since 2008 or before are aware of my past participation in the Breast Cancer 3-Day with my friend, Kathy--in Kansas City in 2006, Seattle in 2007 and the Twin Cities in 2008. (I probably asked you for money.) During that time, we produced a periodic newsletter to share our training and fundraising progress as well as information about breast cancer.

In most issues we had a feature called "Profile in Courage" which was about someone who was fighting breast cancer, or who had survived it or who had lost their life to this $%$#ing disease. These articles were often contributed by people we know about someone they loved. In at least three cases, the person who was featured was fighting the disease and has since lost the battle. I'm sad to say, tonight I learned of a fourth.

Karen passed away on Friday. I didn't know her well. In fact, I didn't know her at all until we featured her in our newsletter in May of 2006. Her daughter and niece submitted the article. She was a co-worker of Kathy's. She was one of our biggest supporters. She volunteered with us at Starlight to help us raise money. She was at our vendor party last fall to support Kathy and Kathi in the Phoenix walk (I retired). She read every newsletter and, I found out last year, shared them with her daughter and family.
She was a strong woman, a loving mother, and a doting grandmother. Below is her Profile in Courage.

Profile in Courage—Karen McCommas
(Contributed by her daughter, Amanda Dey and her niece, Shelly Ballesteros)

Breast cancer awareness has always been part of our family - our maternal grandmother had a bilateral radical mastectomy long before either one of us can remember. Her victory over breast cancer provided proof to her daughters (and granddaughters) that being diagnosed with breast cancer was not a death sentence. For the females of the family that meant monthly breast self-exams and regular mammograms.

My mother (and aunt), Karen McCommas, was no exception. She performed her self-exams and had regular mammograms until we moved from Texas to Kansas in November 2005. I had given birth just before the move and as always, my mother was there to help. Instead of finding a job immediately she took care of my newborn for six months. She then began her job search— after temp jobs, leaving a permanent job, and then waiting for insurance to kick in at her current employment, it had been around two years since her last mammogram.

In August 2006 she discovered a lump on the side of her left breast. The biopsy results came back positive for breast cancer. By September 2006 she had a left mastectomy with a second surgery to retrieve lymph nodes that were missed during the original surgery. The lymph nodes showed almost complete replacement of normal cells with cancer cells so the treatment plan was an aggressive one.

Every two weeks she received chemotherapy and then would give herself injections every day for 10 days following treatment. She scheduled her treatments for Fridays so she could rest over the weekend and return to work on Monday. Even after sleepless nights and all the side effects of the chemo she still went to work every day. She is still going through Radiation treatment which should be finished by May.

Throughout it all, Karen has maintained that positive and bubbly attitude we know and love her for. She has never complained, never let being diagnosed or going through the various treatments get her down or prevent her from living her life. Karen is an amazing woman, full of courage and an enormous amount of strength.

Having breast cancer has never prevented Karen from the joys of being a wonderful Nana to my very active 2 ½ year old. She has been the epitome of strength – reminding us all that no matter what life gives you, you can overcome any obstacle.