About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blog Birthday

My head attaches itself to dates and that is funny to me because it does not attach itself to other numbers such as chimp math. Maybe it's best characterized as a talent for retaining numbers that mean little any more, because I can still recite my phone number from when I lived in Las Vegas in 1976 - (702) 873-2378. I am able to accurately tell the loan number of our first mortgage from 1977. Amber's Social Security and even Ex's? Yep. I can tell you the birthdays of people I knew decades ago, and their significant others', too. And I was able to tell Kass my address from 1958: 2503 South 6th East, Salt Lake City, Utah. So when the head began to rattle over last weekend, I paid attention. Yes, it does approach! Limes' pink bus first rolled off the lot just about a year ago. My blog is celebrating her first birthday. It's a good time to reflect.

I like birthdays and New Year's and remembrance days. Upon them I like to look both backward and forward. What was going on a year ago and two and three? What did I think and feel? What did I do? What did I want and did I achieve it? What lies ahead? Am I happy or at least satisfied for the most part? What can I do to enjoy a better experience? Is it time to let go of certain things? One wise advisor says to me frequently, "Can you just change the way you do one thing? Even if you don't land on the perfect solution, just try to do it differently." To what things might I apply that right now? A few feet across the room from me stands a much-loved decorative plaque. "Learn From Yesterday," it gently reminds me. OK, I'll try to do that.

It was New Year's Eve and we were visiting during a long walk that became memorable mostly because we were almost killed in a crosswalk by a gigantic SUV that likely wouldn't have been as jarred by our bodies as it would have by a speed bump. My companion leaped into the air and slapped the passenger side window while shouting an expletive, while pulling me out of harm's way by the arm. When the driver slowed a few yards ahead it was not to apologize, but to call the Badger a potty mouth. But I digress. He'd been telling me that he had begun to write for a blog and he was about to publish it. I'd heard the term before, but I had not yet explored the blogosphere and I asked him to tell me about it. After a few miles, I commented, "I think I get it. You're journaling, like you've journaled all your life. But publicly. Other people can say something about it, too. And there are some unknown bazillions of other people out there doing this, some of whom will attract one's attention because of what they post about. " He said that I'd caught it.

When he published and pointed that out to me, I had to learn how to even get to his blog and I read. I learned to navigate the site and - yes! - that sidebar was fascinating and led me to other blogs, mainly those of other cyclists. He was right! That woman called The Old Bag in Minnesota was funny and smart and engaging. Hmm. The cyclist called Wheel Dancer seemed to be connected with The Old Bag. I found Doozyanner in a logical progression from The Old Bag's blog - I feel like I know Doozy in person and understand a good deal about her, although I am not a cyclist. And so it went. I signed on as a follower wherever I felt a connection or interest and learned about making comments. It didn't take me long to ask him, "How do you do it? Is it anything like when I create a website in DreamWeaver?" "Much, much easier," he said. Hmm. I found my way to Blogger and noodled around a little. The templates came in all sorts of colors. I am moved by color. Color speaks to me. I am also moved to speak, to tell my story. I've always loved to write ~ letters, stories, journals, instruction manuals, post-hearing briefs, even very clunky poetry. Maybe this was my forum. Hmm.

I spent a long time thinking about what I would write. I'm a walker. But I didn't want to write a blog relating my adventures in walking. I manage a small business, but I had no intention of writing a blog about business matters. I'm a lifelong creative person currently in a longstanding period of constipation in that area, so I had no wonderful wares to show and tell about. I've been told one wants to write about what she knows and loves. Hmm. I am a human being and I know about many things human, both good and bad, joyful and tragic. I love to interact with other humans, absorbing and reflecting some of what they are about and hoping they will do the same with my essence. I can talk about many different things and express my thoughts and feelings about them. I know how to Google images to use for illustrative purposes. I love music of many types and I'm familiar with YouTube to share the music on my blog. "What if I'm fully me on my blog, not presenting just one of my interests? What if I just present as a whole person, with all that means, like one meets at a party or takes out to share dinner?" Hmm. Seinfeldian. A blog about nothing. Would it work? Would it interest anyone? Would I connect with any others?

To any endeavor I engage in, I bring my own particular brand of hinky. I'm odd about the certain things I'm odd about. I told the reader I'm human. I approached blogging with a great deal of consideration about many of its elements. I had a few stumbling blocks. Among the larger ones was my aversion to using my real name or photograph. Uh-uh, I was not going to reveal those. Please don't ask. I wasn't having it. And I would moderate comments. I had a reasonable expectation that someone I didn't care to welcome to my blog would appear. I didn't want public surprises, so I'd use the filter of moderation. My blog name and face were easy to land on. After I spent more than 20 years living in Lemon Grove, and using lemony references to myself and my family, I became a lime when I escaped. LimesNow was easy, and the limes/chilies/olives image fit me for all kinds of reasons. I was ready to roll!

I selected a template and polished my Blogger profile like touching up one's resume. I struggled for a few days trying to land on what my maiden voyage should look like. I didn't know how one made her debut on the blogosphere stage. I didn't know if there were rules and etiquette or what they entailed, if they existed. I made it much too complicated and taxing. Sometimes I do that. Finally, I asked, "May I use some of your photos to illustrate my blog posts, with credit, of course?" "Sure!" came the reply. So I wrote a little piece about 'tend friends and connecting with others across time and space. I put it up as my first post, not without some trepidation. I put out a couple of very shy invitations on other blogs. And what do you know? Bloggers talked to me. Hey! The Badger and Wheel Dancer and The Old Bag on my blog. I had to figure out how to drop their comments in, but I learned quickly. This was fun!
By my second post I was including "In my ears right now" and "Something that charmed me" because I felt it made interaction with me and my blog more personal. I believe these little glimpses give more details about the me of right now. I'm going to write a post or two about blogging and what it has done for me. How the writing has affected me, and how the comments have impacted me. I want to tell how connecting with others has felt. I want to share some of what I've learned from blogging and from yesterday. I want to say the little girl was pretty smart for carrying her 'tend friends around with her. It's damned fulfilling! After some months, I showed my face and gave my name. I've rejected comments extremely rarely, despite having some bloggers come aboard who rattled me by their very presence. I relaxed my demand of myself to write and post each and every day. Hi! I'm Leslie ~ Les to my friends. Happy birthday to my blog.

In my ears right now: Join me in the car with the little girl again, please. Except she's older now and I don't drive a mommy van any longer. As she had spent a lifetime listening to the music I love, I felt it was fair to play her music 50% of the time. It gave me an appreciation of 'N Sync, the Backstreet Boys and Pink not common to people of my age. The kid knew how to spend time in a car! It's not remarkable video - just a late 1990s boy band. But the song is nice.

Something that charmed me: Reviewing the year has charmed me and continues to do so. It's been one of the rockiest periods of time, ever. And I've learned many, many things about myself. Most of those things learned are qualities I like in other people, so maybe I'd just better like them in myself, too. I've not spent a lifetime highly admiring of myself. Maybe it's time to start that, just a little bit. As I muse about the blogging year, I'm going to create a virtual charm bracelet celebrating things I've learned.

Here's my first charm. It is a shield representing a mighty warrior. I've learned I'm fierce. I learned I only think I will collapse. In reality, I am hard and strong and resilient. I can write about difficult things and I can withstand things no one should be expected to tolerate. I can forgive as many times as that is deserved. And that charms me, too.

Some photo credits, with appreciation of a great group of bloggers: Kathryn Feigal, J. D. Morehouse, The Old Bag, Wheel Dancer, Doozyanner and LimesNow

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Live Your Dream ~ That's My Theme

With thanks and a tip of the hat to blogging friend Kirk Jusko, [He doesn't post his picture, so I can't either.] for the title, it occurs to me that really is one of my strong life themes. I want everyone to land on their dreams and achieve them. I've had some lofty dreams of my own and on the odd occasion, I've found myself existing in my dream just as I dreamed it. Maybe I should have bought that bracelet for myself, or at least a matching one. I wonder if the catalog . . . . maybe . . .

I lean toward being generous and pretty engaged/engaging, so if I find out that you have a dream, likely I'll cheer for you at some point. If your kid wants to sell the most Girl Scout cookies, I'll walk her around the neighborhood, sit with her in front of the store, buy some cookies myself and take her to lunch to celebrate after the sale. If you need a 12-step program, I'll take you there and stay with you. If you want a meal or a drink, I love providing those things maybe more than any other. I'm not shy about asking others to support you, either. If I watch you chase your dream and fail to reach it, I'll love you and keep hoping. If I watch you chase your dream and grab it, I'll holler right out loud.

Those who come here often, know the Badger had an important two-stage race last weekend. Not for the first time, I asked other bloggers to join me in some collaborative effort to cheer the man on with words - show our support and humor and admiration. I was pleased and touched once again to see the work of those who commented "I'm in!" Bloggers are creative, of course, but I never cease to be amazed at the generosity we show one another.

It is not for me to tell you all about the two-day race and how it was the most difficult thing he has ever done on a bicycle. It's not my deal to tell you about the dead rattlers and what the weather and road gradient were like. It isn't my job to explain that he found the experience transcendent. Click on the link and read the last few posts of his good blog. You'll get the picture! I will share the words I'd never heard him utter before. As he stepped out of the car for the pre-race course test, he e-mailed, "I don't know if I can do it." I wasn't sure whether to e-mail this: ;~} or this: "How serious are you, since I can't see your face?" He was serious. He didn't know if he could propel that Cervelo up those hills.

No, my job is to present the works of my wonderful blogging friends. Here you are, Badger, applauded and encouraged from spots all across the globe and blogosphere. In absolutely no order whatsoever, behold the offerings. Congratulations on your first place, you climbing old mountain goat. Transcend and do it again! Ride on and live your dream!

I used the offerings as stand-alone poems this time. One will see why! Each was that good.

From my dear friend Rachel Fenton, a published author in Auckland, New Zealand, comes wonderful poetry she constructed using some of the language from my prompt in the original post:

His mighty steed is the white Cervelo R3. A hound
with an orange saddle and handmade wheels.
Encircled: the heart monitored, wrist bound
by Garmin to give data, feed the needs he feels.

Erin O'Brien - yes, we all know she's Hot in Cleveland! - also a published author, rang in again:

The weather sure did make it hard
he did not end the Boulevard.
But upon the Callville Stage he stood
wearing proud a winner's hood.

He needs no introduction to you, Badge, but you knew friend Tag would play. His offering was dropped into my e-mail account, so this is the first public viewing:

Dead rattlers on the road
where Badger dares to fly
on wings of sinew and steel,
pushing to the summit
toward verging indigo sky.

All right, here we go. She hails from Sugarhouse, Salt Lake City, Utah. She is a poet, a fact recognized by many, many bloggers and readers. She is classy and sassy. She is Kassie. Her offering follows. I bow:

Listen, dear bloggers, and you shall hear
of Badger Morehouse with passion clear.
On a fine day in May he took his Cervelo R3
down to the floor of dry Death Valley.

Who remembers his spokes and tooth low gear?
Who remembers the miles he’s logged this year?
He says to friend, Les, “I’ll attack upslope,
I’ll ride with the wind, chase the ringer and hope.

Hang a bottle of water off of a tree,
one on the land, and two that I’ll see
on the opposite side of the valley.
Ready to ride, chains over the cogs,
I’ll attack the headwind and slide through bogs.”

Then he sees decayed asphalt and muffles a cry,
stands up out of his saddle and lets fly
a clatter of swearwords aimed at the sky.
His wheelness illness is evident now;
he’s careened with something left by a cow.

A paceline perfectly is formed,
under his slicker, his heart is warmed.
He’s mastered the switchback, he’s leading the pack;
he thinks of the past and takes a look back,
remembers the shot in his upper left thigh;
thinks of his death, of how he could die -
a punch in the kidneys by a teen upside down?

“I’m third in the nation,” he says with a frown.
I’ll not pass on in a way that is lame,
I want a sure victory, I must win this game.”

So laying a finger aside of his nose,
(Oh no, I’ve muddled, I’m in the wrong prose).
Let’s see, where were we, we’re talking of Jim
and how he cycles on more than a whim,
but now his heart is much like a wheel;

He won’t let go, his ambition is real.
His derailleurs will never derail his dream;
he’ll win this race, or so it would seem
to one who is waiting at his door,
with words that will echo forevermore!

For borne on the night-wind of the past,
through all their history, to the last,
in his hour of darkness and peril and need,
stands one without malice, corruption or greed.

Her heart will waken, she’ll welcome him home,
she’ll hand him the print-out of our collaborative poem.
He’s bound to listen and then he will hear
the resounding love of his cheerleader dear -
a love he can count on as simple as cycling -
it’s Leslie who’s waiting to announce, “You’re my King!"

And what does anyone have to say about that?

I didn't write any poetry this time. I'm not good with it. But I know it when I read it! My written offerings this time were my post, the endless e-mails as he traveled, prepared, and awaited the results. The Andy Griffith Show was my white noise - the episode where Thelma Lou's "dog" of a cousin, Mary Grace, comes to town and dazzles Gomer Pyle. It's one of the funniest things I've ever seen. It comforts me when I pace while absentmindedly getting dinner organized. I got an e-mail. "Outskirts of Las Vegas." I sent one back. "Would you like me to organize a parade, come out there and carry you, the Prius and your mighty steed into the city on my shoulder so you can bow and wave?" "Oh, no," came the reply. "That won't be necessary." He's modest, too! Enthusiastic, but modest.

In my ears right now: This is fun music. I was 22 years old.

Something that charmed me: This entire endeavor charmed me. The outcome charmed me. The 60-year-old dreamer charmed me. You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one.

Photo credits: Good folks, I ask indulgence. I had to go a lot of places to get the pics. I'm going to take a flyer here, hoping that if you visit here to read, it means you've got a soft spot for me and you'll forgive me just this one time. Please. I don't mean to steal or offend.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

OK, Who Wants to Have Some Fun? Join Me!

Perhaps the most fun I've had in my blogging life has been organizing collaborative efforts to produce fan poetry and virtual parties. Friend Kass has turned her hand to poetry collaboration that makes me drop my jaw. Both she and friend Tag have become brilliant at composing poetry by using words from the Comments section of their blogs, and they can make poetry from nothing, to my amazement. I'm not a poet or even poetic. I'm not that good. Or maybe it's just not what I want to do. But I'm a woman who knows how to tell a story and how to have a good time and how to ask for help, all while connecting with others, which - to me - is the most fun to be had anywhere, any time.

I'm not a cyclist, but I collect them like some people collect Hummel figures or Lladro pieces. I follow their blogs and I speak their language. I know about stage races and criterium races. I understand the categories into which the racers are placed. I get the flavor of the angst when a racer writes, "I worry that my 39x27 gearing might not be low enough for the challenge." I know how and where to buy the best clothing and accessories for the cyclist and I behold the beauty of the lost art of handmade wheels. If I were a churchgoer, I'd worship at the Church of the Big Ring, and all of this is saying something, because my own bicycle experiences and adventures have tended to be unpleasant ones.

I know one of the collected cyclists better and for longer than any of the others. We met in 1968. I know the provenance and the history of his single-minded fascination with the bicycle and racing with it. I know that he was dubbed The Badger by a racer who couldn't shake him back in the day . . . that ferocious tenacity hasn't diminished over 30 years, either. Badger is an appropriate appellation. With this cyclist, I made my bones as an official racing supporter and all-around cheerleader, hander-up of water while running, hander-up of water from a moving vehicle, waiter at the finish line. For this cyclist, I have driven his personal follow vehicle at the Skull Valley race two years in a row, driving 12 feet off of his back wheel for most of the 58 miles (obviously, I had to drive ahead and get out of the car to hand up water). At one memorable race, the cyclists were gathered at the starting line as the promoter was loudly promoting and hollered out, "Could we get a volunteer to drive my van and transport the race officials . . ." I was very surprised to hear my voice exclaim, "I'll do it. I'm experienced, too!" The Badger was pretty startled when I ran to the starting line to say, "I'm driving the Official Vehicle!" I followed him at very close quarters throughout that race, while pulling cyclists out for penalties whenever the official sounded the bullhorn. If it intrigues the reader, I've written many times on this blog about cycling races and one would look for the post label "races".

I won't try to tell you what cycling means to him. He does that very well himself on his own grand cycling blog. [One does not want to miss his fine photography blog, either.] A quick look at his last couple of posts will reveal that he is about to race in the granddaddy of all races, the Mt. Whitney Stage Race. Since the 1980s he has wanted to race this course of more than 50 miles at 10,000 feet of elevation. It finishes on the uphill, which will require him then to descend on some 180-degree switchbacks, but at least not at racing speed. And if all that is just a little too much about cycling, I'm nearly done going on about the race. Although it runs a bit long, the Fly By video will give one a tiny bit of insight into what is required for this endeavor. Simply follow the link and click on "Watch Course Fly-By Video". Drag the button a ways into the video and watch the drops off the sides and the switchbacks! Yes, those are running rivers - at one point he'll race across a bridge. Have I mentioned he is 60 years old?

The first epic race of this season - the dreaded/much anticipated Boulevard Road Race - was causing the Badger some anxiety. I wanted to have some fun and enlisted other bloggers to help me collaborate on a poem or a song or a whatever it turned out to be. The contributions began to pour in and it was wonderful to string snippets of words into a poem, crediting all the bloggers with what they had sent me. The result was a thing of great fun and beauty. His Wi-Fi was so erratic in the motel, he couldn't watch the poem develop on my blog. I read it to him at various stages on the phone and he finally got to take it in deeply when he arrived home. In his own words, the Badger stated it was "one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me." That production was simply a "Rah!" theme for a racing cyclist. I'm feeling playful again, and I have a little more experience than on my maiden voyage. So, who's in? We're going to have some fun!

Once again, I'm not sure what we can cobble together ~ a poem? An ode? I'd love to write a really good/bad country song if enough words are sent my way. It might even find its way to YouTube! So, here it is: all contributions will be accepted and used with joy. Send four rhyming lines, or two, or a repeating chorus or stream of consciousness. It doesn't matter. It will be received with gratitude. We'll need a title! Everyone will be credited. I will not edit, except to correct misspellings. Of course, we want to "Yay!" him to the finish line, but there's another theme I'd like to touch on - the ubiquitous shitty race weekend motel room. Imagine your own worst motel experiences and square them. Typically, these races aren't held in locations where fine lodging is available.

This time, I'm going to provide a few factoids that might help the reader form some thoughts:
  • His mighty steed is the white Cervelo R3 with an orange saddle and handmade wheels. Encircling his chest will be the heart monitor and on his wrist, the Garmin will give up all the data he needs.

  • He'll be wearing his Paramount racing kit as seen in the photos, black Rapha knee warmers, a Galstudio handmade winter racing cap, a red helmet, red SiDi cycling shoes, Assos jacket and full-fingered gloves. (It's cold at 10,000 feet!)

  • At races he wears a leather bracelet that says "Live Your Dream" on a silver plate and sports a tiny pewter badger.

  • Names of races run this year: Boulevard Road Race (Did not finish - stopped by weather after 45 grueling miles), Callville Stage Race (2nd place in his category), Howard Hughes Ranch Road Race (4th place in his category), UCLA Road Race (17th place, but judged with everyone age 45+), San Diego Omnium (3rd place in his category).

  • Crappy motel annoyances: no stopper for the bathtub (the man likes to soak in Epsom salts after riding hard), Wi-Fi that shimmies in and out like a hula dancer, rarely any cell phone signal, coffee-making devices or not, microwave or not, sagging chair seats, holes in the walls, paper-thin walls, insufficient heat or air conditioning, no paper products, no drinking glasses, no pillows.

  • He has often commented that he nearly drove the wheels off of his Prius the first three months he owned it from chasing after races.

So, bloggers, let's do it! Certainly make comments on this post, as usual. But please drop your wordy offerings in the e-mail attached to my Blogger Profile. I'll start compiling the goods, and I'm certain we'll come up with a marvelous collaboration . . . . . If anyone wants to see the work-in-progress, let me know and I'll share it by e-mail.

It is a wonderful tech-forward age we live in. As he drove west across Nevada and California, we e-mailed frequently. He always "takes me" to the races. "I'm on the floor of Death Valley now." "If I'd raced that one contest I considered, this course would have broken me in two, now that I've seen it!" His mother and I e-mailed in the same time period, churning about the altitude and climb in this race. He mentioned yesterday his concern that he'll blow out a knee. I often get an e-mail just before the gun goes off - "We're off in 30 seconds!" Or, " *%&#, it's snowing and sticking to the ground here at the start!" I never fail to get the e-mail or phone call at the end of the race: "I think I took second - they haven't posted the results yet." Today will be a long wait. Once he runs the race, he'll have the long, frightening return. Who knows if there will be signal on the mountaintop? Reader, I can attest: it is far better to go to the race, where one can always find some occupation, than to sit home and w-a-i-t.

Yesterday we were communing deeply and he wrote, "I sometimes wonder why I am doing this kind of thing. Not in the sense of not continuing, but what is it that has appeared after all these years driving me to do things that have nothing to do with survival?" I laughed out loud at my desk. I typed a response to the effect that I had some thoughts on the matter, but couldn't possibly put them in good order for presentation on e-mail. That is a conversation that will take an hour. But I - the wordy woman - can encapsulate it! "Because that's just what you are meant to do, Badger." Does anyone besides me enjoy watching ice on fire? Flaming passion tempered by steely, cold consideration? I thank the reader for his or her indulgence today. That man deserves a party! And have I mentioned he is 60 years old?

In my ears right now: Friend Tag reminded me of the Beach Boys yesterday. They're era-appropriate to me and I liked them well enough. Their best known tunes were OK enough. But I prefer their take on things that have nothing to do with surfing or racing cars.

Something that charmed me: One e-mail I got yesterday contained an assessment of the race course, once he'd viewed it, and his ability to ride it. The words startled me because I've never heard him utter anything remotely similar to what he had to say about this course. I paced awhile. Soon came the next e-mail. He was steely. "I'm going to do this!" Well, sure, Badge. That's what you went there for.

According to my watch, he's been pedaling for 38 minutes. I've seen the pictures of the road. I imagine by now he's been up out of the saddle (pedaling while standing up) a time or two . . . . he'll have to do that a lot today and tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I'm an only child, sort of. Well, actually there is the brother, Gary, but he is profoundly retarded, never spoke, and never lived with us at home after he was 5 years old. Only children think that everyone wants to hear what they have to say. This is due to conditioning. When we spoke as children, the adults listened and responded. It encouraged us to be talkers. It is the same with my own only child. Some people appreciate that talkative nature more than others. Ex used to put his hands up in defense at the breakfast table as if to physically deflect the words. He was cursed to have a wife and a daughter who were both talkers.

Oh, but I am further induced to talk. I have a really quick mind. I'm a fast processor. And I absorb new information like a sponge. When someone speaks to me or when something happens, I have something to say about it before most people hear it or see it. And this is not boasting or touting fine skills I've developed with hard work and dedication. I'm just stating the way I am. I didn't ask for it. I just got it. This is how I am made. Ex processed more slowly and was slower to come up with commentary. Ex likely stuck his foot in his mouth far less frequently than I.

I had a long career and many jobs that have required me to communicate both verbally and in writing with people at various levels of an organization. When you need the impassioned speech filled with righteous indignation before the school board, I'm likely the woman you'd tap. If it's time for steely, barely controlled outrage with just a touch of civility at the negotiations table, I can do that well. And in a discplinary hearing, if one's client's behavior needs to be diluted with a soft, firm voice pleading for equal applications of reason and mercy, I manage that nicely. I have spent much time at the podium or on the stage training groups of up to 1,000 and I'm good at handling the questions that come in fast and hard from left field. I'm a talker. Always have something to say.

When I interviewed with David, I seemed an unlikely fit as his business manager. I knew nothing about carpet or carpet cleaning, I'd never seen the software, I'd never worked in a service industry or scheduled routes to include multiple vehicles and multiple technicians covering a valley filled with nearly 2 million people. I'd never seen GPS work and I was so pink-collar middle class, I stuck out like a sore thumb in the environment. I wonder why he would even consider hiring me? Well, technically, I know the answer. He read the resume. He listened to me speak. He wagered that I could get where he was going, based on where I'd already been. He told me he'd call me within a few days regardless of the decision he made. He called in an hour and asked me to come to work the next day. I was to turn 55 in a couple of months. I told him I'd give him 15 years. Many months later, I came across the file where he'd kept the resumes and applications. I saw some sad ones. David speaks plainly. "Used hard and not taken care of" appeared on one offering. "Does not speak well. She could never be put on the phones." And on mine, "Beginning a pension in two months. Smart! Looks good. Professional. Friendly. She will be great on the phones."

I reported the next day and was immediately tucked into an incubator. I caught on to the software pretty quickly, and GPS. But I was not allowed to answer a telephone and I was never, ever left alone. Not for a moment. For months. David and I shared a very large office, occupying two desks that each faced the other. We could practically bump knees except for the modesty panels on the front of each desk. And I listened to him book jobs all day, every day. Hundreds and hundreds of jobs. I could soon tell when he had a live one on the other end of the phone - the live ones want to be informed and educated. I could tell when he had one of those who does not want to converse about carpet cleaning, but simply wants to book the job. Let the technicians talk with those people at the door on the appointed day! I asked questions and I memorized the script. I learned to sense what kinds of accommodation to give a tender case - the elderly, someone who was ill, the pastor of a tiny church or the person who provided family day care in her home.

Before he hired me (or anyone else), David knew he'd want to send "her" to carpet cleaning classes. [And "her" could have been "him". David is not gender biased in any way.] Why? "She/he" was never going to clean a carpet. He knew he wanted someone on the phones who knew about carpet and carpet cleaning and pH levels and natural fibers like cotton or wool vs. common fourth generation nylon carpeting. He wanted someone who could talk Pet Urine 101 earnestly and sincerely, without scaring potential customers away. I went to the classes and determined I would ace the exam! I didn't get 100%, but I got the highest score of anyone ever in our company ~ 97%. I am a certified carpet technician. I have gained a wealth of knowledge listening to the technicians, too. When they speak of mixing a cleaning solution to pH 15, I know they nearly melted that carpet. When they speak of the valuable red, white and black custom wool rug, I know they used dye-lock to prevent color running.
Finally, David began to go out to the bank or out to pick up lunch and bring it back to eat at his desk. I was allowed, and then encouraged, to meet the general public of Las Vegas as fast as I could pick up the receiver. He critiqued me in the beginning, urging me sometimes to pull in the reins, and other times to keep talking. I listened to the daily horror stories and comical stories and I rarely failed to ask, "How did you fix that, homes? What did you do?" I became confident. I knew about carpet! There was talk for more than a year about taking me away from the office for a morning to go out on a route with selected technicians to see how it all happened. That didn't occur, with one thing and then another. Alas, I no longer want to go out with any of them. I've heard enough about the homes of the general public. I'm not made of tough enough stuff. I don't have to know everything there is to know in this world. After a couple of months on the phone, I went off on a potential customer and thought, "Well, that speaks well of you, right in front of David." I sneaked a peek at him. He was grinning from ear-to-ear. "I'd have used stronger language and applied it a full 5 minutes earlier. I didn't think you had it in you, and I was afraid you'd bleed to death someday."

After 6 months, it was deep winter and I made a comment one day. "I walk every day in complete dark, I arrive here in the near-dark, I go home in the near-dark and there's no window to the outside. I haven't seen daylight in weeks." I was moved immediately to the best seat in the house and I've operated mostly solo ever since. It is acknowledged that I book even more jobs than David does. If I am in the house and handling fewer than 3 telephones at a time, no one else is to answer an incoming call. I have had my share of being beaten up and I've barked back at people enough times to keep my reputation properly inflated. I've had odd calls and frightening ones and a couple of weeks ago, I recognized a scam that could have cost the company money. I can give the low-down on pet urine damage to the extent that I am called the Ph. D. of Pee. And, although it is a rare occurrence, it gets my goat that I've been caught speechless a time or two. It only seems to happen when I'm alone and have no one to call upon for assistance.

It was literally one of the first days I was alone at the desk with no one else anywhere nearby. We didn't use the radios or BlackBerries yet. I remembered setting the appointment for a man out in the farthest reaches of Henderson. He sounded elderly and afflicted by a respiratory problem. Maybe emphysema or severe asthma. I slowed my speech way down to talk with him, gave him several reassurances about our quality service and got the job. My best team did the work, a technician with 15 years experience and a strong assistant. They'd left the customer's home hours earlier. The customer called me, wheezing and distressed. "Your men cleaned the carpet and I took my wife to lunch and a movie. We just came back home. The carpet is bumpy and lumpy and rolling like ocean waves in every room!" "WTF?", thought I. My mind raced. What could the homes have done? Why had this happened? Where was my support team? When I was a sweet young thing just starting out with the union, an old cynical mentor taught me, "When you can't give them substance, give them form." But I couldn't give this poor man anything. Nearly speechless. I began to sputter. "Sir, I'm sorry. I don't know the answer. But I will find the answer out and you will hear from me." I waited an eternity for David to return and nearly plucked at his arm when he came in. The story tumbled out of my face and my eyes bugged. He grinned. "He has action-back carpet! It'll be right in the morning." "What? Are you sure?" He was sure. Action-back carpet relaxes during cleaning and buckles. It contracts as it dries and returns to its original condition. I got to tell that elderly man this information. He didn't believe me. I didn't believe me, either. He was gracious enough to call me the next morning to say, "You were right, lady!" OK, I love learning new things.

So a year goes by and now I think I'm pretty smart. Cocky, maybe. I was pleased to land a job cleaning carpet and tile in the human resources department of a major hotel-casino group. If I posted the logo, the reader would say, "Ah!" Although a technician had gone out to measure and inspect the premises, the negotiation really occurred on e-mail between "the girls", an HR administrative assistant and me. I felt a lot of ownership for this job. On the designated evening, I dispatched every man and every van. They worked about 7 hours with Security dogging their every footstep. This enterprise employs about 8,000 people and there are laws governing human resources department records. In huddle, I'd teased them: "If you slip and start to take a fall, don't reach out for a file cabinet for support. Security will get you!" The job went smoothly and Cesar chirped me at 2:00 a.m. on Thursday morning to let me know they had finished. Dana paid promptly the next morning with a credit card and was effusive about the work performed. "We'll call you again next spring!" Great! We love repeat business, and especially large jobs like that. Dana called again on the next Tuesday. "Hi, Leslie, I just wanted to thank you again for the terrific job your crew did." "What's up with this?", I'm thinking. Then she said it. "I'm just wondering why we have mushrooms growing up through the carpet in the offices along one side of the building. Really big mushrooms." "WTF?" I was home alone again, too. And, once again, nearly speechless.

As the different teams checked in for the day, I grilled every man. "What can this be? How can that happen?" No one had a clue. We Googled. We called the IICRC, the organization that certifies each of us as technicians and our company as an IICRC-certified firm. I was promised a call back, but gained no concrete information. The last team rolled in and I put forth my quandary. One of the men looked as startled as I felt and stated he had no idea how such a thing could happen. The other man is not much of a talker. He is thrifty with words and he'd never try to out-holler the group or any one of the rest of us. He didn't join in the babbling and head scratching. But I could read his face. Something was working in his head. I began to hush the raucous crowd. "What? Do you know what could have happened here?" He spoke so quietly some of the men leaned forward to hear him. He did it with four sentences. "Leslie, call her tomorrow and have her ask Maintenance if they're sitting on a cracked slab. I think they must be. We introduced moisture when we cleaned. The water went down through the crack into the dark earth and started a mighty crop of mushrooms growing - they can only grow upward." I looked around the room. I know these men well. I could tell some of them thought that was a pretty credible diagnosis, and some of them said so out loud. I called Dana the next morning and it took her about an hour to learn that they are sitting on a cracked slab caused by a plumbing leak in 2003. Mushrooms. Nearly speechless.

This was going to be the something that charmed me, but something happened as I typed the last paragraph that has me grinning from ear to ear. So this is the honorary something that charmed me. Mother Badger had cataract surgery yesterday and to my happy surprise, by the evening she was e-mailing back and forth. She clearly had her wits about her and was learning to cover the one eye with a tissue while using her computer glasses for the eye that hasn't had the surgery yet. She has no pain, but she's glad we postponed my visit for a week so she can get firmly on her feet. She was back on e-mail this morning to say she is bruised to the extent that she doesn't think this is the time to go to the singles' club looking for a date or to a place where children gather. Yay, Mother Badger! One down and one to go.

In my ears right now: Two favored artists and a beautiful Louvin Brothers song. It's been covered by many artists, but this is the version for me. How's the world treating you?

Something that charmed me: This is literally true. This actually just happened. Cesar has a very good customer who has called for his services 8 times for various houses she owns. She is a generous tipper who knows the ropes about scheduling online so she'll get a discount. She knows to ask for Cesar in the Comments section. Cesar commented today that this was his first visit to the woman's personal home. It was a large job that took many hours and was a good money-maker for him. It's been a few hours since Cesar finished the job. The call came and the customer was as pleasant as she has always been. "Hi, Cesar cleaned my carpet this morning and it's not quite dry, but I'm a little concerned . . . there are bumps and waves throughout the house . . ." Altogether now: action-back carpet! Alas, I have never again been able to exhibit my genius about mushrooms growing through the carpet, but I do take some pleasure in reassuring the good people that their carpet will look as good as new in the morning!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Week in Review

I felt that was a very lofty title for a piece about a set of anecdotes not so lofty, but I'm a little silly today. David has been on vacation and I have experienced a rebirth in my job, a flowering. I'd stopped living, just a little, without realizing it. My edge had dulled, in some respects, simply due to repetitive motion. I'm back. I'm alive. I remember how it feels to be creative and risk-taking. I remember how good it feels to laugh my ass off and continue to dig deep inside myself to find the positives and the support I can give as a gift to others.

I am surrounded in my work life by males exclusively. I care for each of them tremendously, and for different reasons. Each of them brings a raft of fine qualities to our world. Each of them is challenged by certain obstacles. Just like every other human being. Our work backgrounds could not be more diverse. The homes may be a little intimidated by the things I know how to do, and well. And they awe me with what they do that I know I'm not capable of doing. We just have different roles in the drama.

While David has been away, I've conducted morning huddle each day and the full-on staff meeting on Thursday. These gatherings are where we talk about the day's work ahead - what I gleaned from talking to the customer on the phone, what we ran into the last time we cleaned for this or that repeat customer, which vans or steam cleaning machines have issues, what product needs to be reordered and who did what last night. These are also the times when we air personal grievances or do a little hollering or give public kudos to one of our own who took a bullet for the team. In huddle, we rah! the Badger in his latest race and applaud the achievements of someone's child and ask about the health of someone else's mother. And before or after huddle, almost invariably, comes our version of the bedtime story - the blogs.

An entire culture has sprung up around the blogs. The homes now know the players and ask about them. "What's Tag got to say on either of his blogs?" "What's the Badger aiming his fine camera at today?" "What kind of mischief is Kass trying to draw you into, Les?" "Tell us about some of the new bloggers you've found." I read the blogs (they want to hear it aloud, not read it for themselves) and we cackle mightily, or react with sober silence or look at one another to say, "I have to go think about that for awhile. I'm not sure what I think/feel." They peer across my shoulder at the monitor. They ask me how it's done, how one adds pictures, how comments work. And now the homes want to give input to my blog! I've lightly tossed out the comment, "You know, you could have one of your very own. I'd help you." No one has taken me up on it. But they're decidedly curious and into these blogs.

I've written about Matt so many times, it led a woman friend to ask if I have a crush on him. What? No! It's just that he and I have a connection that is deep and electric. (If the reader wishes to learn more about Matt than I am going to write in this post, look for the label "Matt"). We are fascinated by one another. Matt has more IQ points than the law should allow. And yet he is innocent. Naive. Simple. Young. Things startle him. He's been around the block and has seen some of what the world contains. But it's as if someone took him around the world, showed him the sights, and failed to explain what he was looking at. He still possesses a huge sense of wonder. He is large and loud and blunt and hilarious and relentless.

Matt acts as my personal shopper at yard sales throughout the valley. He once located a solid oak dresser for me, sent a picture by the BlackBerry, fostered my negotiation with the seller through the BlackBerry and drove around all day with that dresser in the van like a passenger. The thing was so huge he could not see around it, not even to use the mirrors to drive. When he arrived back at the office that evening, he had to ask another technician to guide him into the driveway so he wouldn't be hit by another vehicle. He is full of surprises! This week he chirped me and asked, "Hey, Les, do you want a brand-new microwave, never out of the box?" Apropos of nothing. I wondered what was up, but I could hear his mother in the background, so I knew it wasn't a prank. "Ummm, sure. I've got the huge built-in one in good shape, but one can't have too many new, still-in-the-box microwaves, Matt." Where did he get the several microwaves he was handing out? Oh, it's very Las Vegas-y quirky. No, they're not stolen.

All right, so Matt has an up-and-down history with us. He was good and truly fired at Thanksgiving and we didn't hear from him for awhile. He stopped in one afternoon and spent hours with me. I commented to David that I sensed a difference. When he came to ask for his job back, David gave it to him with some conditions. He's succeeding this time, due in part (we believe) to a new addition to his life - a young lady with her head screwed on properly. She works and goes to school. She expects certain behaviors of Matt and gives him love in return. It's a beautiful thing. Alas, Miss Erin's parents retired and she was expected to move in order to remain living in the family home. Matt took a week off to help move the family to northern California. While staying in Shasta County, Matt encountered many signs for a political candidate for County Assessor-Recorder who has the same name as mine. This so fascinated the young man, it seems he nearly crashed the car every time he saw a sign. He has not been able to stop talking about it since he returned. I've finally said, "Matt, look in the phone directory of any sizable city. You'll find lots of people with my last name. And Leslie is a pretty common name among people of a certain age. In school, I always had to be Leslie M because there were other Leslies in the class." No. It's not computing for him. He knows the person who possesses my name and it's me and nobody else. Never mind that I've Googled that impostor in Shasta County and shown him her picture on the County government website. "Leslie, I think you're going to win, too, because you've got more signs out than anyone." OK, homey. It'll be a hellish commute, but once I'm elected, I shall do my best to serve the citizens of Shasta County. Yesterday, Matt chirped me from the van. He's loud when he whispers, and now he was shouting. I could hear Cesar in the background, trying to shush him. Miss Erin has had enough after 10 days away from her Matt. She's coming back to start a life with him!

We've drawn closer this week, the homes and me. We've laughed while delivering a week of stunning performance. But there's more. The homes got playful. They began to express some things that were funny to them and became a little creative and I like that because I've never seen it in them. One came up with an idea for a tagging blog that I may soon post. He thought it up on his own, too. Another asked if I had my camera at work. I did. He asked if he could take a picture of something he thought was hilarious and if I'd post it. I had to be diplomatic. "I'll post it as long as it doesn't completely mortify me." And so, I present the photograph that reveals my feet don't touch the floor when I sit in my chair. The good red leather Coach loafers just dangle in the air. This amuses them! Homey stretched out on his belly on the floor to take that picture, too. Everyone agreed that Matt and I had finally, officially, become twins this week, fostered by the many discussions about my upcoming election. "Hey, Les," came the request, "could we put up a picture that shows how much twins can look alike?" "Sure, guys!"

But it wasn't all fun and games. Something profound happened this week. Profound is a relative term and ours is a tiny little world, but profundity occurred. I am an efficient office monkey. I have perfected the art of the nearly paperless office. I sputter when David offers to buy us more file cabinets, because we're not going to collect any more paper here, thank you very much. I stand by the old administrative assistants' adage, "Touch every project as few times as possible." There has existed a cruel plot to mess with my sense of smooth operation. The homes, on every job they undertake, have to mess with a lot of numbers. Charges for various services, discounts, fuel surcharges, waste disposal fees. They are often hit with a counteroffer: "OK, you're quoting me $579.14 for that. Will you take $500 out the door?" Of course they will! No one walks away from a $500 job. The rub comes when homes start crunching the numbers, for the fuel and waste charges cannot be adjusted. Those belong to the company. The only movable part of the feast is the cost of their services. My men are not mathematicians. Not one of them. They radio in an amount they hope is pretty close to right on. Later in the job they sell a little teflon stainguard or pick up some tile and grout to clean and the numbers change again. Each time they call in numbers, I update several different tracking documents. When the numbers change, I update again. And again. And again. When the work orders come in at the end of the day, more times than not I discover that the numbers weren't correct in any one of the conversations. Last week I did the slow burn for the millionth time. We're busy now. I can't pat them on their heads any more and be their codependent. I took one particularly hideous job and counted how many reports and documents I had to adjust because the math was wrong. Again. 17 documents and reports. Literally.

It occurred to me while I was walking. A 10-mile walk in the dark before dawn allows one to solve many of the world's problems. I remembered something a wise person told me when Amber was a toddler. "Tell her what you want her to do. Don't tell her what not to do. She'll just land on something else that still may or may not be what you want her to do." Hmmm . . I do not suggest that my men are naughty children who need to be controlled. But maybe they simply don't know what I want or how to do it. In huddle I made an announcement I wasn't sure would fly. "I need everyone to get a calculator and a pen or pencil and some paper. Don't sit anywhere near each other and do not talk to each other. Although our golden rule is always to help each other out, this is a solo exercise. I need to find out your own personal stumbling blocks." I passed out a real, particularly harrowing math exercise. The one that I'd had to adjust 17 times. They got to see all the scritch-scratching on the work order and while they could easily visualize what the technician had gone through during that transaction, they didn't know how to sort it all out. "Your assignment is to provide me with three things: the correct amount for services, fuel and waste. If you don't even know where to begin, then man up and say so. I will give you a jump start." To my amazement, they were quiet and immediately started to work. No objections. No exchanged looks of pain. Justin spoke up after 5 minutes. "Les, I don't know the first thing to do. Looking at this paper with all these numbers just confuses me." Oh! OK. I needed to underwhelm Justin. We went into David's private office and after just a few reminders, he was able to get started.

That first day, a couple of them were successful at landing on the correct number. But that wasn't good enough for me, because those two were already pretty adept at it before I presented the challenge. The second day, another couple rose above the surface of the water. By Wednesday, they appeared in huddle with calculators and pencils without being reminded. By Wednesday, those who were feeling sturdy began to tutor those who struggled. "Are we going to keep doing this, Les?" "Yes, homes, because I believe the way we learn things is to do them. And then do them again." On Friday I looked around the room and I was touched by how much they looked like gigantic children, silently working. I'm not being humorous here. I expected to get grief for this, and they each took it seriously, just going down the path where I pointed. Today is Saturday. "No math exercise this morning, homes!", I announced. Oh. I detected a little disappointment. "But I have the mother of all evil for you on Monday morning." They perked up a little. And then I heard it. For you see, I always preface the exercise with some lecture and I debrief the exercise with brainstorming and free input from everyone. I've used new phrases and descriptors they've never heard before. Some of them are sturdy enough to say, "Please explain that. I don't understand."

So this morning we had an in-depth discussion about the day's work. I was asked about my 2-hour massage last night and reported it "the best one ever". The fact that I called a woman a bitch on the telephone yesterday was poked and prodded by one and all. This was big copy for two reasons. I do not risk losing business except in the rarest of circumstances. And I do not believe bitch is a word that should be applied to anyone. I had a lapse in my usual balanced affect. Troy chimed in, "She was really level and reasonable until she wasn't any more. The woman doesn't know her and couldn't see her, so she didn't know Les was about to go off. But I knew. I couldn't look at her or I'd have started laughing. And she called her a bitch in a really calm voice, too." They began to drift away and mill about. Two of the men were talking about one of the week's math exercises. And then I heard it. "Naw, dude, the value of the job . . . . " A wide grin slowly took over my face. For you see, Justin - the crustiest of them all - had just naturally spoken a phrase I had coined and explained. "The value of the job." I said I felt that something really important had happened to us this week, and they all said they agreed. A homey consensus. And that's when Mr. Crusty said, "Hey, we should have a potluck like other places do. Let's bring what we know how to make and enjoy a meal together!" We're going to do that, too!

In my ears right now: I consider it to be her best. I'm disappointed that she is terribly under-represented on YouTube.

Something that charmed me: I'm soon to go visiting. I'm very excited, and it seems Mother Badger is also looking forward to it. She's about to have cataract surgery, but before she does that, she's lining up the stores where we'll shop, and what would I like to eat? How about that chili relleno casserole (meatless)? Cesar is vetting my car for me as I will not have cell phone signal for much of my journey. It has been too long since I got in my car and went away for the simple purpose of seeing someone I care for and just enjoying one another's company. It will be warm near Phoenix and there's that marvelous cushy walking track made from recycled milk cartons . . .

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I Feel Like Having Some Company ~ Come and Walk a Mile in My Moccasins with Me

If the reader needs some background, my last post sets the stage for most of what I'll write about here. Or just scroll down, rather than use the link.

All right, if you visit this blog often, if you're one of the wonderful souls who virtually loves me, may I ask you to join in a huge, loud "AW, Les!"? This windy, windy spring in Las Vegas has nearly made me lose my mind. It is oppressive. I'm also physically tired and emotionally jumbly and the work pace has picked up sufficiently to remind me that I used to go like hell at the desk and I'm out of practice. David's off on his cruise (setting sail as I type this) and I got some grief I've come to expect when he vacations. No matter how much preparation is made, how many discussions held, as David leaves town, at least one of the homes will try to pick me off in some way and I have to become The Skirt With a Badge. [Yep, the photo shows my own real badges!] None of them ever gives me any grief when David is in Las Vegas, even if not at the office, but . . . . I don't care for it much, but Saturday I was reminded how levelly and civilly I can behave while leaving no question what will and will not be tolerated. That was on Vacation Day 1: The Man is Not Even Out of Nevada.

I'd come up with a plan to restore and refresh myself by seeking out cactus flowers and horned toads at a spot in the Mojave Preserve I know intimately. It is a location where I have retreated when I've needed to expend some angst. It is a place where I have gone solo in order to perform necessary rituals that are not well-suited to conducting before an audience. They were, however, effective for me as I struggled for balance. It is a place that has been featured in the national news for the past week due to a Supreme Court decision favored by the conservative judges. I'll blog more about that in the future. It is a place that could be squeezed into a very narrow window of opportunity as other demands, other activities, other interests and the schedules of others compete for attention. Although it wasn't to be the preferred full-on weekend trip, it would be sufficient to fill a deep, deep need.

I'm no rookie at planning outings in the Mojave. I know how to monitor weather in even the remotest locations by watching weather conditions in several locations nearby. Which place has the approximate same altitude and where does the mountain range cut through? I know what to pack to eat, how much drinking water to carry, and how to dress for the conditions. I know whether the hikes will be rocky or sandy. I know what is likely to be seen based on the month, and even the time in the month. Different species of cactus bloom at different times, and in a predictable order. Lizards emerge from hibernation into the sun at the approximate time that I do the same. Sunday was to be the day. Claret cups, beavertails, chollas, hedgehogs and prickly pears virtually assured to be in some phase of flowering. Horned toads practically guaranteed in the loose sand at the mouths of the ant excavations, their favorite place to dine.

I'm not a good enough wordsmith to accurately describe my state of shock. For on Saturday night and Sunday, the wind became even stronger, even worse, in Las Vegas. I'm not sure which is more troubling to me, being slammed by it as I walk for 8 or 10 miles, or hearing the shriek that hasn't stopped for more than a day or so in weeks. Before setting out for my walk, I checked conditions at the desert destination. Cooler temperatures than Las Vegas, but not a "wind" icon to be seen. I walked in misery, then ran the laundry and dishwasher, attempted to restore my home to a decent condition after a busy week. Everything everyone else does on their time off, right.? When I took out the trash and walked to the mailbox, I noted the gale was worse. But I was hanging my hat on those weather spots with no wind icons. I was in the market when the e-mail came. "It's worse out there than it is here. What do you think?" What I thought was not printable! "I'll e- you from home. 10 minutes." We e-mailed. We talked on the phone. We pulled the plug. For I am the first to admit that if I stepped out in the Mojave and it was blowing worse than in Las Vegas, I'd burst into tears. "If you still want to go, I'm willing" was the gift offered to me. But, no. I knew I'd be unpleasant company. I knew no horned toad worth his scales would be out skittering around in the sand. No ants would labor at the door of the colony, at risk of becoming a horned toad meal. "How many horned toads did you see?" asked Doozyanner, in commentary. Um. None, Dooz. "Les, you in the desert yet?" chirped Matt on the BlackBerry. No.

OK, what am I going to do here? I can jump off the deck or crash my car into a wall. I can laugh or cry. I can become philosophical about it. Oh, right! I'm 57 years old and I haven't landed on "philosophical" yet - or at least not ever landed and stuck there. I could go shopping, and retail therapy is always effective for me, but that means I'd have to go out in the damned wind. What I did with the few "found" hours was a revelation to me. For I did something highly unusual. I turned on the Hallmark channel which was running some 24 hours of I Love Lucy. Lucy episodes make nice white noise for me. And then I relaxed in my own home. It was clean and tidy. I couldn't make work out of anything. I took some books down and remembered how much I love them. I played certain music on the Bose over the top of Lucy. Good music. I ran my hands across the fabric that screams my name, washed and ironed long ago but never made into the project I really and truly do want to execute. I didn't fool myself into thinking I was quite ready to do that project on this day. It was enough to just stroke the fabric. But the thought entered my head that perhaps I will do the project someday soon, as I am exhibiting some evidence of rejoining the living. Coming out of the darkness. I made a wonderful dinner to share. We played cards. I began a discussion about very difficult things and never shed a tear. I expressed myself fully and, though filled with emotion, I was unemotional. My reward was a caring and sincere real conversation, meaning both parties speak and both parties listen.

Monday, I stepped into my office. A full crew had run on Sunday and the work orders and collected payments were neatly stacked on my desk. At first glance, I thought I spied a pink calculator on top of the stack. I don't own a pink calculator, but whatever. There was coffee to brew, homes to greet, computers to light up, my food for the week to be tossed into the refrigerator. When I finally settled, the technician who gave me so much grief on Saturday said something quietly. "I brought you something, Les." I looked at him and he pointed to the calculator. I looked more closely and saw it was not what I had taken it to be. It was something else. Homey jumped up and snatched it, grabbed my BlackBerry, and grinning ear-to-ear, said, "I'm sorry I was such an ass. I brought you a pink BlackBerry skin . . . " He spent the next 5 minutes showing me the ins and outs of aligning the various buttons and how to maneuver the Direct Connect tab we use so frequently. It touched me. For he had also sent me a text message Saturday in the middle of his first job. Obviously, he was still churning about his behavior over the weekend. He has a well-developed conscience. It's one of the things I like about him.

The general public ate us up and spit us out all day long. The phones rang off the hook. I booked so many jobs I had to look back at some spreadsheets to see the last time I'd attained such a number. June 17, 2008. Cesar's steam cleaning machine went down three times at one job and I had to re-route the remainder of the day's work. On GPS, that re-routing thing always reminds me of billiard balls struck hard and rolling in every direction. I don't like re-routing. It distresses me. But I do it well. Three customers hung up on me when I was in mid-cry, something that bothers me far worse than having them call me "bitch". I had listened to screaming toddlers for a full 5 minutes before their mother slammed the receiver down on me. We had a little excitement due to the fact that our imprinted checks and bank cards still have not arrived after our bank account was looted and then closed. The e-mail he typed from somewhere in the Pacific off of Mexico landed in the late afternoon. I felt like I'd been pulled through the eye of a needle and I really didn't want to even look at one of the 7 e-mail accounts loaded into that BlackBerry. But I looked. That's what I do. David! "How is everything going?" I'm quick on the keyboard and I also know that while he would want to know how we were surviving, he is on vacation and wouldn't linger in his e-mail box. "XLNTLY!", I lied. To my surprise he popped back on. "Too few words from you. What's wrong?" "Absolutely nothing. Go take your cruise." I didn't hear from him again. He trusts that I've got his back. Vacation Day 3: Manic Monday.

And so go the days . . . what's been happening in your world? Tell me all about it . . . .

In my ears right now:

Something that charmed me: Driving home from Manic Monday, I spotted something pinkish. Las Vegas is dotted with enormous water retention basins - great holes in the ground to collect rainwater during the monsoon season, thereby preventing the floods we suffer due to runoff. In the area where I live, the basin perimeters are beautifully landscaped with native plants. And there, right on Desert Inn Road in the middle of commute traffic, was a profusion of prickly pears in bloom! I changed lanes tout suite and circled the block. Yes, best in the afternoon sinking sun, I think. I can get out, sit cross-legged on the sidewalk and get right in there. I spun the block again. Yes, I'll try them from a couple of different angles, looking east and then west. It hit me. There is no place to park anywhere near these cactus. Not remotely near, for one may not park anywhere on a major street in Las Vegas at any time. So this evening, I shall leave the office, taking the camera, park on the nearest side street, walk 1.2 miles to the cactus, fold my legs under me on the concrete, snap a few amateurish pictures, unfold myself from the sidewalk and walk 1.2 miles back to the car. Have I mentioned I have a tremendous need to see the cactus flowers?

Some photo credits: J. D. Morehouse