Sunday, June 29, 2014

My Own Time

One of my daughters “graduated” from eight grade this year. It’s considered a graduation because she’ll be starting high school in the fall. This was the third time we’ve had a daughter go through these graduation proceedings. It’s held in the gym at the first part of June—a gym that is like five-hundred years old with air conditioning that is about as effective as thinking cool thoughts.

Each year, the chorus sings. And each year, they sing the same song—one that drives me nuts. It’s called “Seasons of Love” from a musical called Rent. The opening lyric starts out as, “Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.” (I guess that’s appropriate because that’s how long the graduation ceremony seems to last.)

That number, 525, 600, is the number of minutes in a year. Well, a standard year, not a leap year. Hmmm. Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe during a leap year, they won’t sing that song. Oh, who am I kidding? Of course they will.

Anyway, it’s a cliché that everyone is given the same amount of time each day, or each year. How we choose to spend it is up to us. Kind of.

Let me elaborate.

Last year, I was able to help our church with supplying food for those in need. It’s actually a really neat program. For those in the LDS faith, there are food warehouses filled with various types of food. If a family is in need—health issues, job loss, things like that—they can get food from the church twice a month.

It’s a little more involved than that, and needs some clarification to make my point. In order for someone to get food, it needs to be approved by the congregational leader (known as a Bishop) and the leader of the woman’s organization (called the Relief Society President). The Relief Society President works with the family to find their needs and then orders the food ahead of time.

When the food arrives at the church twice a month, the people from the warehouse only bring what has been ordered for the various families. There aren’t any extras.

One time I was helping a lady pick up her order. She was one of the first people to come in that morning. I had a sheet of what had been ordered for her. As we filled her order, she kept saying things like, “I want two of these instead of one” or “My kids really like those. Give me a few more.”

I kindly, as I could, told her we could only give her what was on the order sheet. If she needed more for her next order, the time to decide that was when she next met with her Relief Society President.

At one point, she became frustrated with me and said, “I don’t understand why I can’t have more. There is plenty here.”

I stopped, looked directly into her eyes, and as nicely as I could explained, “There isn’t any extra. They only deliver what is on the order sheets. If I give you extra, then I’m taking away from someone else who ordered it, and therefore needs it.”

It took her a moment to process this concept. Here she was, surrounded by food, yet she struggled with the idea that she couldn’t take all she wanted; the rest of it belonged to someone else.

What does this have to do with the “time” story earlier in the blog? It’s this: I have had to attend a lot of meetings for various reasons during my life. Each of them usually has a start and end time. Sometimes the person in charge of the meeting decides they are going to use more time than scheduled—to them, it’s important, and there is plenty of time left in the day.

But, you see, that time doesn’t belong to them. Sometimes the meetings are back-to-back. So if one presenter goes long, they are taking time away from the next presenter, a presenter who was told they were given a certain amount of time, but now won’t have it because someone else took it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Re-Living The Dream

I have this reoccurring dream (nightmare?) where I’m at a school and I’m close to graduating. And then I remember: I have one more class I need to pass in order to be truly finished. In a panic, I realize I haven’t been to this class all semester. I’m not sure where it meets or when. I think that maybe, just maybe, if I take the final and do well on it, I can pass the class.

For giggles, I looked up possible meanings of this dream. The results varied from “The dream often occurs in approximation with having forgotten or being concerned about forgetting to do something important in waking life” to “The dream is a reminder not to miss an opportunity or take a more active role in one's destiny” and even, “A change involving the end of something is imminent and there is low confidence about the future.”

As I thought about it some more, my dreams could mean any of those things. Or perhaps, it is based on reality.

In high school, I was less than a stellar student. I failed some classes—not from being smart enough—but rather from just not attending class. (Those were different days back then.) I had to take several “study-at-home” courses in order to graduate.

In college, I walked through the graduation ceremonies before I actually had finished my degree. True story! You see, I was allowed to do that if the only class I had left was my internship. So, even though I put on my cap and gown in April, I didn’t finish my degree until August.

And now, there is my Master’s degree. I’m done. I’ve earned it. Nothing else has to be completed for me to receive my degree. But wait. As I started looking for possible teaching positions, many of the colleges require me to have 18 credit hours in English. My degree is in Creative Writing. I realized as I finished my MFA I was one class short of having 18 credit hours with the letters ENG before it.

And so, here I am in June 2014 taking one last English class, even though I’m officially done with my degree.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think my real life experiences could have more to do with my reoccurring dreams than my mind trying to remind me to pay the electric bill.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Creative solution to the paper airplane crisis

Tonight was a father / daughter activity at church. I have four daughters, and this one was just for my youngest, who is eleven. I’ve gone on a number of these activities over the years, and it is wonderful to have some one-on-one time with a single daughter.

Each of these father / daughter activities has a theme or an event. Years ago, it was around Valentine’s Day so they had a dance. At that time, three of my daughters were in the accepted age group. It was fun to have them stand on my feet while we slowed danced.

A dance wasn’t on the agenda tonight. It is June and so an outside activity was in order. Tonight we were making paper airplanes. At the end, there would be a “friendly” competition.

As a kid, I had made my fair share of paper airplanes, but I was never very good at it. My friends were always coming up with cool and unique designs that could really travel. I had a hard time keeping the folds straight.

So, as we started making the airplanes tonight, I tried—honestly tried—to create one that would fly well. I even followed some instructions the leaders had kindly printed up for us.

Then came the testing phase. It wasn’t pretty. Actually, my daughter’s plane was pretty darn awesome. Mine seemed to really love the ground more than the air. With the competition rapidly approaching, I considered my options. There was no way my paper creation was going to do well.

Then I got an idea. And it was rather clever if I do say so myself. Quickly, I made my paper creation and then got in line to watch the competition and wait for my turn.

On the ground, the leaders had measured out distance markers. Most airplanes were lucky to go eighteen or so feet. Some went longer. One father got up and let his airplane fly. And boy did it ever! It went beyond the farthest marker by a good dozen feet or so. Very impressive!

When it was my turn, I stepped to the line. Trying to ignore the people watching me, I set my feet. In one hand was the first paper airplane I had created—the one that loved the ground. But that isn’t the one I used.

Instead, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my secret weapon. I had taken a sheet of paper and crumpled it up around three small rocks to give it some weight. Without hesitating, I threw my paper airplane (to be honest, it was more of a paper meteor). It flew over all the other contestants and a good ten feet beyond the best throw.

Tada! My paper creation won!