27 December 2006

A Tale of Two Trees. No. Two Tales of One Tree

Trish's Story:
anyone who has read the pages of the river journal for very long already knows that Christmas trees and I have a slightly adversarial relationship. Whether it's breaking out in hives while decorating because I'm allergic to the needles; spending hours and hours (and sometimes days and days) getting one to an upright position in a stand; finally getting them up only to discover they're ALREADY DEAD and may catch on fire at any moment; or simply the adventure of finding the tree and transporting it home, there's hardly a season that goes by that Christmas trees don't give me something to write about.

This year, I thought, might be different. My grandson Tyler, and his godmama Susan, took on the task of obtaining a Christmas tree for me, and after a delightful hike in the woods on godmama's property, they found me a perfect one and delivered it to the house. It did lay on my dining room floor for a week, as I scrambled to finish the newspaper in time to print it, but when I finally got around to decorating it I could lift it with one hand, it rested in its stand perfectly on the first try, and I didn't break out in little red bumps when I decorated it. Finally, a Christmas with no tree trauma.

Of course, I forgot about the tree at Clark Fork High School.

Taking a page out of Kinderhaven's book, the booster club (which turned out to be me and my daughter, Amy) decorated a tree for the kids at school, then sold raffle tickets for it so that some lucky resident of eastern Bonner County would have a nice tree for Christmas at a minimal price.

Of course, I was busy, so I didn't actually have time to sell any raffle tickets.

On raffle-ticket-drawing-day, when I saw the pitifully few tickets that had been sold, I dug into my non-existent pile of money and bought some myself. After all, the tree had been MY idea. I won't tell you how many tickets I bought, but suffice it to say there wasn't much chance I was gonna lose in this drawing. Unless, of course, it were a drawing for something I actually wanted, in which case I wouldn't have had a hope in hell of winning.

At drawing time, surprise, surprise, my name was drawn. And drawn again. And again. I kept "donating" the tree back, but every name that came out of that can was mine. Finally, I gave up, and tried to come to terms with having TWO fully decorated trees for Christmas, plus the fact that one of the trees was going to have to be transported from the school.

The only thing to do was donate the tree to someone else, which I did. I signed a Quit Claim Deed (okay, no I didn't) transferring the tree's ownership to one Stacey and Banjo Service.

Which left delivery.

Now, I'm not as stupid as I might first appear. I knew ahead of time that delivery would be a pain in the butt, so I made sure that job got assigned to the men of the Booster Club, Barney Ruen and Dex Vogel.

Well, maybe I am as stupid as I appear. Because on the day of delivery, Dex was coaching the girl's basketball tournament all the way over in Newport, Washington and Barney (like always) wasn't answering his phone. (Darn that caller ID.)

Lucky for me, Stacey is the daughter of River Journal columnist extraordinnaire Jinx, and Jinx is almost as nuts as I am. She didn't hesitate when I told her she was gonna have to help me get the tree delivered. Welcome to the Booster Club, Jinx!

She didn't even hesitate when she realized we were gonna load and deliver it in Amy's Saturn, as my truck was out of commission for the day.

Have you ever tried to load a six-and-a-half foot Christmas tree into a Saturn?

Take my advice - don't.

Given the angle at which the tree was jutting out of the trunk, it was obvious that someone was going to have to ride in the trunk with it and hold it in. Jinx, who I guess is not as nuts as I thought she was, got herself behind the wheel of the Saturn so fast my eyeballs were burning from the friction of her movement.

And given that my arms are not four feet long, I had to take the extension cord for the tree, loop it around the trunk, and hold the tree up off the ground with that as I wedged my butt into the trunk of the car.

As I cracked my head against the trunk lid, I tried to pretend all the pretty stars I was seeing were decorations on the tree.

"Please drive slow," I asked Jinx, right before she jammed her foot down on the accelerator and screeched out of the parking lot.

Greg Flint once told me that God gave me a gift for telling stories and that's why She makes sure I have stories to tell. I love God.

I think the tears streaming from my eyes were from the wind howling past my face as we made the trip to Stacey's house, but maybe not. Maybe they came from the sheer fear gripping my heart as I watched the pavement race by, mere inches from my face as I hung onto that tree and the trunk lid for dear life.

Rather bravely (if I do say so myself) I sang "Santa Claus is coming to town" at the top of my lungs during the trip. I did. No matter what Jinx says.

Needless to say, I'm writing this now, so we got there in one piece, as people in their yards and on the street watched us pass in awestruck bemusement. (Is bemusement a word? It should be.) And God, in her almighty wisdom, made sure I had a Christmas tree tale to tell.

Jinx's Story:
Christmas time. A time of love and warmth and laughter, a time of fun andgiving and receiving. Nowhere in there does it say a time to laugh at Jinx. Nowhere.

My friend, Patty Speelmon told me that someone turned my girls infor a Christmas box, which was so nice, I was thrilled and the girls were soexcited. Not only that, but GRANDMA would get a picture of Billie Jaye andKelsie with Santa. How great was that?

Off to Hope Community Center we drovein the little Sunfire, borrowed from Carolyn Vogel. Jamie and I in the frontseat and Stacey wedged in the back seat with Billie Jaye and Kelsie in theircar seats. It was a tight fit, but Patty said they would get their picture made and have to pick up a turkey or a ham, so off we drove.

We arrived and unloaded the car, which was no small feat. Billie Jaye and Kelsie immediately wowed Santa with their cuteness and Patty sent me off to "shop"for gifts from the babies to their parents. It was so much fun and watching all the kids pick presents and they even had "Santa's helpers" to help wrap them. Then came the time to get our turkey and ham, finding out the Patty put my name in the mix and oh, could we deliver a turkey to another young lady in town? Well of course I said yes, I mean a couple of turkeys and aham can't take up THAT much room, can it?

I didn't pay much attention, just went out and opened up the trunk, turned around only to realize they were bringing Yokes to my car. My mouth had tohave fallen open, looking at the fruit and potatoes and everything they and brought to the car. Even Santa's helpers began laughing at me. They filled the trunk to its small capacity and I instructed Jamie and Stacey to go ahead and get in, so we could pack around their feet. Kelsie propped her feet up on one of the turkeys, Stacey held a box in her lap and looking out the back window was not an option.

I thought we were ready to go, but then a bright red Santa hat popped out the Hope Community Center doorway. "Wait", they called," you forgot your gifts!" Gifts? We were packed like stinky sardines in this poor little vehicle, its sides were already bulging. I laughed out loud, because we truly looked like the Beverly Hillbillies after Santa's helper handed us 3 garbage bags full of gifts.

We drove back to ClarkFork giggling hysterically, excited because Christmas was going to be quite the event at our house this year. Of course, that whole loaded to the gills with gifts and groceries wasn't to be my only embarrassing incident of the season.

It would seem that my friend Trish Gannon decorated this incredible tree forClark Fork High School, sold the tickets to herself and oh what a surprise, she won it!! However, Trish had already scoured the mountains and cut down a tree that her kids almost liked, so she didn't need the Wampus Cat tree. Mydaughter Stacey thought the tree might just be perfect, so Trish gave it to her.

I happened to pull up in Stacey's yard at the wrong moment and Trish coerced me into delivering it to Stacey. That doesn't really SEEM like that big of a deal, does it? Unfortunately, we were delivering it in Trishs' Saturn. You never realize how small a small car is, until you try to get a 6 and a half foot fully decorated tree in its trunk. Wrestling the tree out the school door was pretty difficult, putting it in the trunk, only to realize that Trish would have to ride back there WITH it in order to hold itup, now THAT was and experiment in terror.

Trish used an extenstion cord to hold it up with one hand and held the trunk with her other hand. "drive slow" Trish cautioned me. Drive slow? All I could think of was trying to answer the sheriffs questions. "Uh, ma'am, can you tell me again exactly how the Christmas Tree and the owner of The River Journal became one with the Saturn?"

Down Main Street we drove, I was singing Christmas Carols to Trish and she was shouting "Hail Mary" at the top of her lungs, which was mildly amusing even then because I know she's Baptist.

It's only a few blocks to Stacey's house from the high school, but it seemed like it was 10 miles at least. People were waving, pointing and it didn't help that Trish was still praying"oh my GOD, please don't let Jinx hit any bumps"! I didn't go fast, never even used the gas pedal, was terrified to even tap the breaks, and a corner was coming up. Exciting, huh? I could see Trish in my mind, flying around the corner, hanging onto the Christmas tree for dear life, cussing at me and praying to God and thinking what a great cartoon that it would make for Boots.

We made it back to Stacey's without incident though and I was pretty proud of myself as we set the tree up in her house. Proud that is until a little knock came to the door and LuciAnne Stevens was standing there, laughing at me, thanking me for giving her such an amusing moment. Tis the Season to be Jolly, I suppose, but couldn't we just this once find someone ELSE to laugh at?

12 December 2006

Simpler times?

The other day, while scrolling through my photos on the computer (my grandson and I were making a Christmas present) I came across one of David and myself this last Fourth of July (see below). In the picture, we look tired, but happy, and I put it on as my computer wallpaper for a while. I look at it every now and then and think back to "simpler times."

Of course, they weren't simpler - they just weren't right now, as I struggle to deal with all the year-end things that need to be dealt with. But I recall that prior to the picture being taken, I had spent nine straight hours working in the booster club's food booth. (You wouldn't believe how many people are willing to order hamburgers at 9 am on the fourth.) I'm sure I wasn't thinking of the day as "simple" while it was occurring.

What I really find myself wondering, however, is what things I might have done differently if, then, I could have known how the rest of the year would go, and just how doggone tired I would be here with just three weeks (more or less) left to go in the year.

For one, I would have gotten my firewood a heck of a lot sooner, so I wouldn't be struggling this morning with trying to keep a fire going with wet wood.

I would have written my columns for the newspaper much earlier in the week than I actually ever did.

I would have fixed those leaky tires before they went flat on me, and probably turned down some of the extra projects I instead said "yes" to.

In fact, I would have done a lot of things earlier, instead of putting them off until they became even more of a burden to accomplish.

Of course, it doesn't do us any good to spend a lot of time dwelling on the past and thinking about what we could have done differently then. The point is to figure out what we can do differently tomorrow.

So I wonder. At this time next year, will I look longingly at a picture and wishing my days were just a little simpler, or will I be proud of taking a lesson from this picture and staying on top of things a little better?

09 December 2006

Using your work computer for personal "stuff"

Seems like that's a big issue in the CDA/Spokane area these days. As such, I thought I should check the policy and procedures here at little ol' TRJ, and check out my employees' computers to see what I've been paying them to spend their time on.

Whoo Hoo! Lots of personal emails, chatting, blogging, reading of personal material, visiting questionable websites (I mean, Harpers? Come on!) This just can't continue.

My biggest problem, however, is determining how to deal with the problem. I mean, my only employee is... me. I'm the guilty party.

"But boss," I say to myself. "My work computer also happens to be my personal computer."

"Doesn't matter," I reply sternly. "If it's work time, you should be doing work."

"But boss," I meekly cringe, "I do work things outside of normal working hours. I can be working on the River Journal at 5 am, at 10 pm and heck, I'm working on the River Journal most weekends, too."

"Doesn't matter," I reply sternly again. "If it's work time, you should be doing work."

Okay, I don't want to make fun of what might be a serious problem in the south, but let's face it - I just can't relate. And I must admit - I don't hesitate to send personal emails to people during the times I KNOW they're at work. And I expect a response. Thank goodness, most of the people I know are either business owners or independent contractors.

But enough is enough. NO MORE PERSONAL STUFF FOR ME ON MY WORK TIME. That means, of course, that I'm going to have to re-define work time, a process that should fit hand and glove with my goal to GET MYSELF ORGANIZED, FINALLY! I'm gonna try to do that at the end of the month. I'll let you know how it goes.

02 December 2006

Thank Goodness It's Saturday?

When the alarm went off at 5 am, I slapped it off and went back to sleep. I can't remember why it's set for 5... I think I had to get Amy to a bus for a game way early a couple of weeks ago... but every morning when it goes off it occurs to me that I should re-set it for a more decent hour. Then I go back to sleep and forget about it.

I finally got about about 5:45 and began my Saturday. First, I heat up a cup of coffee left from the night before and start a fresh pot making. Then I check my email, and delete the 76 spam items that promise me low-interest home loans, the hottest new stock picks, and erections that will never end. That done, I take a look at the real mail I've gotten, and respond where necessary.

Then I catch up on the news. I start with the New York Times (today there was a great story on an old mission project in South America, and a new update on what must be one of the most bizarre stories I've read in a while - the (apparent) intentional poisoning with radiation of a Russian dissident. The Times done, I check out what my brother's up to with my "google alerts" and then move on to Dave Oliveria's Huckleberries blog, and catch up on what Marianne Love has to say. I see if there's anything new from Molly Ivins (there isn't yet... bummer) and, of course, find myself in a number of unexpected places following intriguing looking links. This all goes a lot faster, by the way, with my new high-speed internet connection.

My reading fix sated for the moment, I move on to work. This morning, I took all the final drafts of stories I could find and pasted them into the pages of what will be the latest issue of the CFHS newspaper. I do this so that when Amy finally wakes up this morning, she can begin formatting and playing around with the design so this paper can be published next week. I'm noticing a lot of items are missing - obviously, it's going to take longer than I thought to teach these kids the simple basics of publishing. (Saving final drafts to the stories folder, making sure all photos needed for stories are in the correct file, that type of thing.)

And then it's on to the River Journal, which also publishes next week. Many pages have to wait as quite a few of my writers did NOT meet their deadline of Thursday, and there's not much I can do until I have the words that need to be placed. What I can get done this morning is the Staccato Notes - cutting and paring the dozens of press releases I receive about what's going on in the area through the month of December. I'll go ahead and admit it - I hate Staccato Notes. It is the one job I'll put off as long as possible. Which is probably why I'm posting on this blog instead of actually beginning to work on those pages.

Now it's 7:15 and that first pot of coffee is almost done. I'll stop to eat something soon, if I remember, then work on pages as long as I can. I'm hoping to take some time off this afternoon to catch the CFHS girl's basketball team in a game at Sandpoint, then it will be back to this chair to see how much work I can get done.

I won't be heading in tonight for Kinderhaven's Festival of Trees - I neglected to buy tickets before they sold out - but go ahead and keep your fingers crossed for me that the tree the River Journal donated will raise lots of money for this deserving charity. Here's a pic of the tree - the theme is "have a celestial Christmas" and everything is space-related.