Geeking Out Over Your Badge

Everyone has something they geek out over. Maybe something you don’t think other people care much about so you try to keep it under wraps most times. And then you unexpectedly encounter a kindred spirit, causing you to burst free from your constraints and revel in the moment of solidarity.

That happens to you, right?

Right?

Well, it happened to me recently. A co-worker stopped by my office and asked, “Do you ever get bothered by all the signs around here that say ‘Everyone must scan your badge‘?”

He didn’t get much further than “Everyone must” before I was jumping up and down, pointing at him, and saying “Yes! Yes! Oh, my goodness, yes! Those signs drive me crazy!”

“I mean,” he said, “I’m looking around thinking, ‘how many times do I have to hand out my badge so that everyone else can scan it?'”

“I thought the same thing! And I always wanted to say something to someone but I thought most people wouldn’t get it so I never have.”

“Well… that’s why I came to you. I knew you’d understand.”

“You definitely made the right call,” I said, still on a bit of an adrenaline rush that someone else had been bothered by the signs and said something to me. “If you had said something to Tony, he would have just given you a blank look or rolled his eyes and made a disparaging remark.”

“I mean,” I continued, “it’s a tricky problem, right? Because ‘Everyone’ means…”

“That it should be ‘his or her badge’ – I know,” he jumped in. “And that’s awkward on a sign but it’s still what’s right.”

“I’ve often thought about how they could reword it. I’d prefer ‘You must always scan your badge’.”

“Me too. Just say ‘Scan your badge! Every time!”

I don’t know how it is with other flavors of geeks, but having a moment with a fellow grammar geek can make a person’s day. And really, the world would be a better place if every establishment identified a grammar-geek-on-call that would be contacted before any text was committed to a sign or any other official or permanent communication.

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Optimizing My Life

I analyze. Everything. Constantly.

Always optimizing.

Everything needs to be as efficient as possible. Even when it doesn’t matter.

You have no idea.

Thursday morning, I went to gather my clothes before taking a shower. I typically wear a pair of jeans twice before washing them and the night before, I did what I always do on day two – I removed the belt from the belt loops, hung it up in the closet, turned the pants inside-out, and placed them in the hamper.

Standing in the closet that morning, I remembered that this week I had decided to wear my khakis one day instead of jeans. But when I reached for the hanger, I saw that it was hanging backwards, which meant it was awaiting its second day of wear. That gave me pause.

Wait a minute. I thought. If this is day two of the khakis then Friday will be a new pair of jeans that will only get one day’s wear this week. That can’t be right. Only one pair of pants gets a single wear each week. It can’t be two. So what did I do wrong?

Wait a minute. The first pair was Monday, Tuesday. That means the pair yesterday… shoot! That was only one day of wear! And I took the belt off – again! Sheesh.

I retrieved the pair back out of the hamper and flipped it right side out and set it aside, thinking about how I had done the exact same thing on Monday. Except that after hanging up the belt, I realized my mistake before putting the pants in the hamper. So I was getting worse as the week went on.

I regaled my husband with the tale of my poorly executed routine that week. He lay there staring at me before saying – with considerable feeling, “I am really glad I don’t live inside your head.”

So. Yeah.

It makes me killer good at Mastermind and packing a small car with a lot of stuff and finding all the mistakes in your emails. But it really is kinda exhausting sometimes. I’ve yet to find a way to turn it off.

What A Wonderful World

The worship service took place in the shade, facing the lazy river and the multi-colored rock cliff behind it. The light breeze made the Texas evening heat bearable. So did the beautiful surroundings, both geographical and human.

We sat on the third of four rows. People we are very fond of but see only once a year filled the other seats. A group of them had just stood before us and delivered an energetic and moving reading of a portion of Genesis. They ranged from young children to the middle-aged to those long retired. We mix seamlessly here. It’s always magical.

To conclude the time together, the worship leader played a song to emphasize her message. As soon as the song began, the teens behind us began stirring.

“That’s from Shrek!” one said excitedly.

“No, it’s from Toy Story.”

“Madagascar.”

“No, I’m telling you – it’s Shrek.”

“Remember? It was playing while they floated in the boxes in the ocean.”

Their voices tumbled over each other, everyone talking at once but still hearing each other too. Jane and I looked at each other and smiled as the song continued on.

My husband turned his head to the side and stage whispered out of the corner of his mouth, “It’s from Louie Armstrong!” The kids all laughed and then settled down to listen. I closed my eyes to take it all in.

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

The teens behind me were giggling. Just ever so softly. Not irreverently or disrespectfully, but they were obviously enjoying something. I opened my eyes to see what they were seeing. I didn’t see it right away but when the view collided with the words of the song, it didn’t matter. The images around me were so much better than those in my head.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you

And that’s when I saw him. One of the youngest members of the conference – a boy not quite school aged. A boy we had watched grow a little bigger over the last several years. He was running in giant, lazy, looping circles in the grassy space between us and the river. As he looped closer to the front row where his parents sat, he’d lift his arms out to his sides and dip toward them like a plane banking on a turn.

And then he’d be off again. Not in a hurry, not making a scene, just moving to the music. And it was beautiful.

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world

As the last notes faded away and the boy fell into his dad’s open arms, my husband summed up what had just happened.

“That was the most beautiful liturgical dance I’ve ever seen.”

And so it was.

The readers had practiced their lines several times and they did an outstanding job. But it was the carefree expression of the music delivered by a child that carried the day. Truly, you just need to leave room for the wonderful to happen and it will. The question is, will your eyes be open to see it?

Good Friend, Rough Ride

Sometimes life sucks.

Sometimes life sucks for a friend but you are there for them so they are able to keep their head just above the water.

But sometimes life starts sucking for you before they are able to swim on their own.

And then what?

I guess you tumble down the roaring rapids of life clinging to each other, each taking a turn rolling over to pull the other out of the water.

Each holding on to the other and hoping, hoping the water will calm soon and you can both climb out onto the shore. And stand there holding hands instead of clinging for dear life. And enjoy the sun and the view and look back at the raging river and know that you survived because you had each other.

Yes, sometimes I think it might happen like that. If you are blessed with a good friend.

Kids Ruin Everything

Kids ruin everything.

They ruin your mind. A wise woman advised me at my first baby shower to write down every cute thing they do because, “You think you will remember, but you won’t. Motherhood zaps your brain cells!”

She was right.

If you are a woman, they ruin your body. First they do it by distending your belly to such a degree that, especially if you have more than one or two, the skin simply gives up and sags. Then, if you breastfeed, they do it all over again to your breasts.

They also ruin your childhood memories or the things you love. You wouldn’t think they could, but they do. They do this either by just being present or by virtue of the increased “enlightenment” of the world in general since you were young.

When Jane was about two or three years old, one of my favorite songs came on the radio. One of those songs that I always sing along with at full volume if I’m in the car. Only there’s something about belting out “Hell is for children!” with my innocent, young sponge in the back seat that just struck me as wrong.

First I stopped singing. Then I turned down the volume. Then I changed the channel.

I knew Pat Benatar was singing about the evils of child abuse, but how could I explain that to my daughter if she asked? And would I want to? She ruined the song. For years, I’ve had to change the channel instead of sing along.

Movies fall victim too. I loved Real Genius when I was a kid. Loved it. I couldn’t wait until my kids were old enough to see it. We finally sat down to watch it one evening and, at first, they loved it too.

But then the woman that desperately wants to sleep with a genius came into the picture. She started trying to seduce Mitch, the young protagonist. Jane turned on one of my favorite childhood movies. Now, whenever the movie comes up, she says, “Oh, you mean that one where the woman wanted to rape a boy?”

When I protest, she reminds me that an adult having sex with a teenager is rape. When I remind her that the woman was not successful in her seduction, she points out that Mitch did have sex with his girlfriend, who was 18. He was not. Rape, says Jane.

The most recent experience wasn’t even with one of my own children. It isn’t enough that my own children sully the things I enjoy in life – no, my friends’ kids have to get in on it too.

I was driving my boys and my oldest son’s best friend when The Police’s classic, “Every Breath You Take” came on. Another song I love to sing with, and so I began.

To my surprise, our young guest began to sing along with me. Well, almost. His version went something like this:

Every breath you take and every move you make

Every bond you break, every step you take,

I’ll be stalking you

I glared at him and kept singing.

So did he.

Every single day and every word you say

Every game you play, every night you stay,

I’ll be stalking you

I tried to laugh it off, but now he had me thinking about the lyrics differently…

Oh, can’t you see you belong to me

How my poor heart aches with every step you take

Every move you make, every vow you break

Every smile you fake, every claim you stake,

I’ll be stalking you

I couldn’t ignore it anymore. That beautiful, beautiful love song from my youth was now creepy. Really creepy. He was right. The song wasn’t about dedication and forlorn love. It was about stalking.

Crap! I loved that song. And a kid ruined it.

They don’t stop when they become adults either. My sister-in-law ruined her mother’s love of watching football. She absorbed all the information about concussion and injury and declared the sport too violent. She harangued her mother for supporting it and cheering on. No, not only should no one play the sport, but no one should watch it either.

With a certain sad resignation, my mother-in-law stopped watching her Broncos. And now they are going to the Super Bowl!

I’m telling you, kids ruin everything.

The Muffin Fairy

There are delicious banana nut muffins that magically appear on a table near the front of my work area nearly every week. They are always the same. About a dozen, sometimes more, moist, fresh, scrumptious muffins in a gallon Ziploc bag. They are never burnt, never under-cooked, never overfilled such that there’s a crusty muffin top to contend with. They are always perfect.

Nobody knows who brings them. I’ve never known and when I’ve asked around, the people I ask don’t know either. It’s a mystery. I know it’s not my boss because he wasn’t at work the most recent day they appeared. And I know it’s not me. I think I can reasonably assume it’s not any of the people I’ve asked… unless they are lying to me.

Whoever it is should really consider quitting their job as an engineer and opening a bakery instead. Or maybe their spouse makes them? Maybe the spouse already owns a bakery. Maybe we are getting gourmet muffins. And they must make a lot of them if the family actually lets them leave the house and come to work. Or are they made especially for us?

One of my co-workers stopped by my office. He was eating a muffin. I asked if he knew who brought them. He shrugged.

“The Muffin Fairy,” he said.

The Muffin Fairy. That explains it. I’ve never seen a fairy. And I’ve never seen the deliverer of the muffins. I’m pretty sure that none of my co-workers have seen a fairy. And I’m fairly certain none of them have seen the muffins get placed on the table. Fairies don’t like to be seen.

I think I’ll quit asking around. Fairies can be persnickety beings. I’d hate for this one to decide we were no longer worthy of these muffins.

Toe Ring Pondering

I’ve never quite “gotten” toe rings. I’ve owned a few. Probably still have them somewhere. I tried to wear them but it always felt unnatural. Maybe it’s because I have short, stubby toes. I don’t know.

At any rate, I always thought I understood the point. Like most jewelry, it was to look good. You wore them while barefoot or while wearing sandals. People couldn’t possibly wear them because they liked the way they felt, right? They didn’t wear some family heirloom toe ring everyday, right?

Now I’m not so sure. Now I’m wondering if some people wear them 24-7. And if they do, why?

It all started when I went to weigh in for a contest at work. The goal is to not gain weight over the holidays and I knew there was no point in me weighing in. My name would not be put in the drawing for the prize. But I went anyway.

Another lady came in right behind me. We took off our coats. And our sweaters. And our jewelry. And our badges. And anything else we could take off and still be decent. We were both wearing tall boots. We took those off too. And our socks – the scales required us to be barefoot.

I weighed first, cleaned the scales, and then began to redress. I glanced over at her feet. A lot of us don’t expect our feet to be seen much in the winter. This lady, however, had fabulously painted red toenails. And… to my surprise… a toe ring on the middle toe of her left foot. I looked again, thinking surely it was my imagination. But, nope. There it was.

Why is she wearing a toe ring inside her boot? I wondered. Do other people do this? Is this a thing? What’s the point?

I soon forgot about it when I got back to my desk. I didn’t think about it again until I got in the shower this morning. I looked down at my feet as the water washed over me and I thought of the woman’s toe ring.

Does she sleep with it on? Does she shower with it on? Is it like a wedding ring that never comes off? And why? How did she ever get used to wearing it?

Any ideas? (Besides that I’m neurotic and ponder totally useless things?)