Friday, June 22, 2012

Wingdings and Chain Gangs

    My son has been helping me create a video for a going away party at work.  He has crazy, good editing skills and my job is to sit in the background, providing snacks and chilled drinks while he works his madness with the photos I have provided.  He zips through screens, clicking and copying and selecting computer options I didn't even know exist.  While choosing the font for the narrative, we ran across an old friend... the "Wingdings" font of Microsoft Word.  I've never really understood what this series of odd symbols was used for.  While it has been rumored to hide anti-semitic messages and 911 references, I highly doubt that anyone is going to take the time to type out a cryptic message of terror in Microsoft word using wingdings and curly font. That being said, I have been guilty of using a few symbols in my text messages of fear sent to my children when they don't answer their cell phones.  "Call Your Mother NOW" is usually followed with a frowny face, an exclamation point and a man in a bathtub.  For the life of me, I can't figure out how anyone could find a way to tuck that icon into a message, so I choose to use it every chance I get.  I will follow it with "grrrrr" and a heart symbol to reassure them that while I'm mad, I still love them.  They will certainly be in therapy over all of this by the time they are thirty.  

    Back to the video....after selecting the perfect font, background music and precise layout of pictures, I chilled his un-sweet tea to the proper temperature, dropped a Russian tea cake in his mouth, spun around in the office chair a few more times and stopped suddenly when he announced the most disturbing thing.. "I think I'm supposed to be in traffic court today?"  What!?!    Two thoughts instantly came to mind. How could anyone wait until the day of court to wonder if it is their day in court, and, secondly....Did I send in the deposit for our beach rental? I realize that the second thought was random, but that is how one's brain works after they have twirled around in a chair for twenty minutes and are suddenly thrown against the proverbial brick wall with incomprehensible information.

    I gathered my family, none of whom wanted to miss Joey's day in court, and headed out like a herd of turtles to traffic court. My family is incapable of moving quickly as a group, as someone has always forgotten something or we need to make stops for water, gas, or possibly chicken on a stick.  We made it to the courthouse with minutes to spare.  Knowing my family's curse of being unable to navigate through a security check point with ease, we cleared our pockets of cell phones, electronic gaming devices, pocket knives and nail files and entered the courthouse.  Of course, I was the one was brought down in shame as the security guard snatched my purse from the x-ray machine and shoved his arm into the depths of mystery that is the contents of my purse.  I stood frozen, not knowing what contraband I might be toting unaware, as he pulled out my government cell phone. Dang... I had forgotten about my second phone.  After giving me that look of disgust, he rummaged through a gathering of lip glosses, coupons, pony tail holders and feminine hygiene products to ensure I wasn't trying to bring in anything deadly.   I smiled kindly, as he invaded my privacy, and I remembered the dried up lizard I had pulled out of my son's pocket years ago while doing laundry. I wished it was in my purse even though none of this was his fault. 

    We made our way to the courtroom completely unaware that there were two courtrooms... one for criminal court and one for traffic court. And yes... we took our seats in criminal court, not knowing that the judge would soon be looking for the missing teenager two doors down. While waiting for the court to start, my daughter was demonstrating her one handed knot tying skills with pony tail holders. It was an impressive trick and I, of course, had to learn this skill immediately.  It appears I didn't have the finger dexterity of a child and pony tail holders were flying across the courtroom as they shot off of my fingertips.  Court was not in session yet, so, it was simply pre-court entertainment for the other traffic offenders, or so we thought.   I now understand why the man in front of us sat huddled over, head in hands, in great despair.  It wasn't because of flying pony tail holders, the small family circus I travel with or the threat of a traffic violation.  He was there for something much more serious. 

    The judge entered and it was the mother of one of my son's good friends.  We settled back in false hope that this might go our way.  The first person called to the stand had a last name that began with "A." This could work out nicely, as  we should be out early if they were moving in alphabetical order.  Unfortunately, the next move was completely unexpected and left us all with our mouths open, chins on the floor.  After Mr. "A" was carted off to jail, the bailiff brought in the chain gang!  My son's eyes were wide as saucers and my daughter sat frozen to her seat.  The group moved in unison steps as the chains that bound their arms and legs clinked across the courtroom.  I looked at my son and said, "See, that's what happens if you miss court."   He found no humor in that statement and was still in a mild state of shock. We listened to the tails of larceny, burglary and battery and I wondered where failure to yield came into play in this courtroom of non-moving violations.    As the criminals were escorted away, one by one, the room cleared and I assumed that our friend's mother, the judge, was possibly holding my son's case for last so she could visit with him privately and say hello.  I was clearly wrong as a new bailiff approached and informed us we were wanted in the courtroom next door.  We gathered our pony tail holders and sunken spirits from the floor and moved as a group to the next courtroom, clearly marked "Traffic Court."  I didn't feel too bad about our mistake as I knew our courtroom had been much more entertaining than what we were about to enter.  We opened the courtroom doors and I prayed that my daughter would not ask, once again, for all to hear, if this was Judge Judy's court.  The room was packed and we were forced to move to the front of the courtroom, making it clear to all that we were late, loud, and probably going down in flames soon. We took our seats quietly trying to disappear into the crowd. Suddenly, I heard my name being called in a whisper from three rows back.  More attention was the last thing we needed.  Surely, I didn't know somebody in court.  It was a former employee of mine and he wanted to let me know that they had already called my son's name. I thanked him and told him our story in few words and hand gestures, pointing to the other courtroom.  What I needed was a Wingding message that said, "We're idiots - The judge is going to kill us."   

Did you really de-code this?  Good for you! 

    It wasn't long before my son took his place in front of the judge and I have to say that he could not have been any kinder to my child.  Joey walked up with head high, shoulders back, took responsibility for his actions and followed every statement with "sir."  "Yes sir, No sir." While I could not hear everything that was said, I could make out a discussion about where my child would go to college and about bringing those new found skills back to our community some day. While I had new found skills of tying a knot with one hand, I'm certain I should not bring those back to the courtroom ever. 

    As we headed out the doors of the correct court, I heard the judge yell at the next person before him, "Stand Up Straight When I'm Talking To You."  I breathed a sigh of relief, said goodbye to the security guard and headed in the other direction than the pour souls in stripes and chains.  While everyone is entitled to their day in court, I know that I would prefer my day elsewhere and am thankful for the good children that I am blessed with.     

(Thank you Katie A for asking for another story)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Proclamations From The Car Seat

   While traditional navigation methods include the use of a sextant, compass and chronometer, I've discovered that children have a different view of the world and use the tools available to them to learn their way home.  From an early age, my daughter could look up from her car seat and see only the tops of highway signs as we traveled all over the country.  She learned to recognize them and associated them with places we would go.  As we would near the interstate exit leading to our house, she could see the incredibly tall McDonald's sign that shone like a beacon from two exits away.  The tiny princess in the convertible rear facing car seat would see the familiar yellow glow of the sign as we passed and immediately ask if we were back in our land.   I suppose our trips to the grocery store or across the country felt more like a journey across feudal lands to a child. When you are two, the world revolves around you and in the typical egocentric style of a monarch, the signs of home are signs of your world and your land.  The McDonald's sign was a clear landmark that we were indeed home and back in our land. 

   It became a game to see who could spot the first beacon of light from the glowing McDonald's landmark and someone in the car would yell out, at ear piercing levels, "I see the McDonald's sign, first!"  It was much like claiming the land yours and all other passengers would sink down into their seats in regret that they weren't paying better attention as defeat sunk in and they wished that they would have been the one to announce such grand information.    It's nothing that an M & M McFlurry can't cure though.  

   At our McDonald's, that masquerades as an Omni Station, there is a bench with a replica of Ronald McDonald sitting on it.  The kids have always climbed all over this poor clown.  Once, while traveling outside our land, we stopped at another McDonald's where my daughter discovered, a moment too late, that the man sitting on the end of the bench with his leg crossed and arm outstretched was not the fake Ronald and instead was a very concerned elderly gentleman trying to figure out why kids were suddenly crawling on him and why I didn't promote stranger danger awareness through better parenting skills.  

   When traveling home from business, I call my kids and announce that I am almost home. All references to my location revolve around the McDonald's sign.   If I say, "I can see the McDonald's sign, first" it means that mom is only minutes from the house.  I could be stuck in concourse B of the Hartsfield International Airport or be three miles from my exit and it would make no difference unless I could see the McDonald's sign.   It is the main point of reference for all travel.  

   My children's friends learned quickly about the importance of being the first one to see the sign and often one of them would pipe up from three rows back and remind us that our land might actually be their land, too, as they proclaimed the sighting of the tall yellow sign. Oddly, I was riding with a friend one day and as we neared our exit to home, their child was quick to announce that she saw the McDonald's sign first.  My tradition had taken flight and now others were using my lighthouse, my landmark, my beacon of home.   I wasn't sure if I liked this or not.  I think they may have been confusing my land with their land, but since there is no monarchy in town, I suppose we can share our tall yellow sign.  It's always best to get everyone back safe and sound and knowing you are under the soft glow of the golden arches is a sure sign of a safe journey home for all. 

   Landmarks of home are different for different people.  Our daughter in Denver relies on a giant blue pony outside of the airport.  My brother relies on perfectly aligned bottles of water in his refrigerator. Others may look for lighthouses or sky needles or simply a welcoming face at the front door. There are often many paths that lead to home and even though they may not be traveled as often as we wish, the knowledge of knowing they are there, makes all the difference.  

   My own navigation skills were directly inherited from my father and I never feel lost no matter where I am.  I learned early that there is always a road or a path that will take me home.  I may have to drive through some rice fields or catch a second plane, but getting home has never been a problem for me.  I hope that my children understand the importance of landmarks and recognize the paths homeward no matter where they travel.  They don't need a sextant or a compass or a GPS system to guide them, as long as McDonald's continues to place ridiculously tall signs along their path.  

   While other families are now battling to determine who sees the McDonald's sign first, I know that one day, my children will call from their own car, with their own children, and I hope I hear someone exclaim, "I see the McDonald's sign, first."  I will then know that my children have learned the importance of finding their way home.  

Early Retirement and the Great Resignation

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