Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Giant Red Umbrella

  Umbrellas are something that I’ve never really given much thought to.  If it rains, I grab whatever umbrella I can find.  Usually, there is a small one located under the passenger seat in my car, so I've never had to do a lot of planning for rain events   I purchase umbrellas as last minute thoughts in drug stores or airports.  The smaller and cheaper, the better the value to me.

  One rainy Tuesday in January, our local fitness center seized a moment of opportunity and advertised the sale of large umbrellas by sending a mass email to its customers.  I found it peculiar that fifteen minutes into the sale, a second email came out notifying everyone that the umbrellas were gone.  I had to wonder if I was missing something.  I had never questioned the ability of the little umbrellas in my possession and had no need to up size.  They seemed to meet the one objective that an umbrella has…keep me dry.  What more could an umbrella offer, I wondered?  Obviously there was a demand for oversized umbrellas and quite possibly, I was not in with the "in" crowd.

  A few days after the umbrella rush, a good  friend brought me a large oversized, red umbrella as a gift.  It was big enough to cover a small country and I knew it would never fit under my seat.  The umbrella, when closed, was almost as tall as I am.  Curious about the appeal of a large umbrella, I graciously accepted the gift and waited for the first rain.

  As luck would have it, it wasn’t long before a cold winter rain fell.  I pulled into work and reached for the tiny compact yellow umbrella under my seat.  Then I remembered….I had a giant umbrella in the back of my car.  Unable to climb across the seats in a skirt, I jumped out in the rain, raised the back hatch of my car and took out the giant size rain shield.  When I opened it up, I’m certain I heard trumpets sound in the distance.  Of course, it may have just been a large whooshing sound from the displacement of air in the vicinity of the now open, gigantic umbrella.  It must have been four feet wide and was quite possibly visible from space.  I made my way to the office door and discovered that we, the umbrella and I, were too wide to enter.  My hands were full and as I spilled coffee down my shirt, I attempted to close this beastly umbrella.  I obviously didn’t click it all the way shut because as I entered the door, it flew open, crashing into the door frame, tearing the canopy away from one of the umbrella support rods, leaving me lodged in the doorway with a metal spear pointing towards anyone attempting to leave the building.   By the time I got to the office, I was soaking wet and covered in coffee.  I still wasn’t seeing the joy in a large umbrella.

  A few days later, it rained again.  I wasn’t going to get out in the rain this time, so I climbed across three rows of seats in my car and got my big red umbrella.  I opened it up and noticed two of the tips were exposed and were quite sharp.  I cautiously entered the building sideways this time, in an attempt to fit through the door, when I nearly took out the eye of an innocent bystander.  Again, nobody was seeing the joy in this red bayonet like umbrella.   Later that day, as I returned to my car, I decided to keep the umbrella up front and save myself from climbing over seats.  I managed to poke a hole in the leather and make a nice tear in my seat from the pointy tips.  I cursed my large umbrella and tossed it to the back once again. It was so tall, I knocked out my center light and managed to spear myself in the face.  

  Later that day, my kids got in the car, eyed the giant toy in the back seat and said, "Hey, what is this?"  Before I could say, "Don't open that!" it flew open stabbing every passenger in the car.  I’ve concluded that this thing is more like a weapon and could maim entire families at once.  While I'm certain it will displace a large amount of rainwater, it can also displace eyeballs, front teeth, and steaming cups of coffee from their cup holders.   I've packed away the giant beast and will return to the safety and security of my tiny yellow umbrella hidden underneath my seat, thus proving the theory that good things do still come in small packages.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Colored Pencil Challenge


    My son, Joey, is involved in BETA, a national organization that promotes the ideals of academic achievement, character, service and leadership among high school students.  The state convention was coming up and students could select from a variety of contests to compete in.  Joey is a talented performing artist and has sung for large audiences all over the south.  I naturally assumed that he would sign up for the talent competition and would once again be up there on the stage belting out some classic tune.   But no.... he came home and announced that he was participating in the colored pencil drawing contest.  I had to ask the obvious question...”You realize you don’t draw, don’t you?”  As best I understand it, only one talent act could enter from each school and a large group of students wanted to dance.  Joey graciously stepped out of the spotlight and never questioned why he couldn’t be the one to perform.  This young singing artist is signed with a record label and has songs for sale on iTunes.  His performance would surely have represented the school well, but he recognized that he was not the only talent who wanted to compete.  I was proud of him for being considerate of others, stepping aside and supporting his friends.
    The day of the competition arrived and we were ill prepared.  We woke that morning in a panic and found ourselves digging though desk drawers and craft bins trying to piece together a pack of colored pencils.  My daughter had half of a pack of 24 pencils and a giant pink feathery pencil that would have to work.   Joey shoved the pencils in his pocket and he was off to the convention. 
    Upon arrival, he discovered that “Colored Pencils” was the first contest.  He raced off to the meeting room and took his place at a back table.  Students began arriving with stainless steel cases of artist utensils that ranged from colored pencils to charcoals in assorted shades to special paints surely mixed with the love and blood of Picasso himself.  These artists were serious about their craft and not one retrieved their pencils from their back pocket.  They lined them up neatly and sharpened them with special titanium razors. Each pencil was perfectly made with light-resistant pigments that would allow for proper color saturation and even lay down.  Joey's pencils were erasable.  A large 15 x 15 piece of paper was placed in front of each student and they were told they had two hours to draw the bowl of fruit at the front of the room, which Joey had mistakenly thought was snacks for them to enjoy while drawing.  The girl next to Joey was worried about how she would ever be able to finish in two hours.  Joey was just as worried about what he would do for the hour and fifty minutes left after he finished his masterpiece.     
   Our school didn't take home any trophies for colored pencil drawings, but they did take 2nd in the state for the talent competition.   I don't think a trophy would have made me any more proud than the fact that my son demonstrated excellent character that day.  Colored pencil drawing may not be his gift, but he was comfortable enough with his own talent to support his friends in theirs.  

Early Retirement and the Great Resignation

        At the age of 57, I stared at my 35 year career, whispered a polite thank you to the heavens and hit the send button on my retiremen...