Sunday, January 27, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #314

Nancy White Kelly

Faux pas. That is French for big goof. Mistakes? I have made a few. This last week I faux pas-goofied again.

On August 5th, I was asked by a desperate school board to serve as administrator for Mountain Area Christian Academy. That was the same week Buddy and I opened the Ye Old Coin Shop.

Making my life-long numismatic hobby a business was our attempt to survive in retirement.
Like many folks these days, we were experiencing a green economic shift with our financial out-go threatening to exceed our in-flow.

The timing of these two major life events collided. Any entrepreneur knows the myriad details involved in opening a business. Any school principal can understand the daunting task of walking into the initial staff orientation meeting and facing 40 employees.

Ready or not, school was beginning in a week. MACA was entering a new, state-of-the art building. Workers were everywhere pulling electrical wire, rolling asphalt in the parking lot, painting walls and landscaping. Most didn’t speak French …or English. It was challenging to explain in universal sign language that the inside toilets weren’t working yet.

Back at the coin shop, our own toilet decided to misbehave. “El escusado se derramo de agua." Just days before the Grand Opening we had to replace an entire floor.

Thankfully the school is operating smoothly now. The coin shop is surviving, but not thriving. We are only open Saturdays and evenings by appointment.

I am proud of MACA and its dedicated staff. We have 232 students from pre-school through grade 12. MACA kids respect authority. Biblical principles are emphasized. The flag is pledged. The students dress in sharp-looking uniforms. That is, unless it is Spirit Week.

Though still under reasonable control, for five days we let our students break the norm. They can dress according to a daily theme, be a little noisy and enthusiastically encourage teachers to kiss a pig to help raise funds for the senior trip.

Atypically, our students and staff looked and acted like monkeys in Hootersville. To my chagrin, an old friend who is a distinguished lawyer, decided to drop by for a first-time visit. He was amused by my mortification.

Monday was “Blast from the Past Day.” No problem. Wednesday was “Tacky Day.” Staff could opt out, but few did. I smeared my lipstick, mismatched my shoes, and dressed in both plaid and stripes.

Then came my faux pas. Our office manager arrived in a swirly brown corduroy skirt. I raved about how tacky she looked. I meant it as a compliment. Unfortunately, she wasn’t participating in Tacky Day.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #313
Nancy White Kelly

Many flips of the calendar page have transpired since I last burned myself. A couple of years ago, in a busy kitchen, I hastily grabbed the handle of a hot cast iron skillet and dropped it even faster.

At this stage of life, I should remember that fire and resulting heat has the capacity to cook human flesh. I wasn’t thinking that day about life lessons.

It was a cool, but soggy Saturday morning. The clock said ten o’clock and I was hustling to get across the driveway to the coin shop that adjoins our home. My arms were fully loaded with a laptop, keys, briefcase, dangling cords and a piping hot cup of apple cider.

Buddy would have held the door open if he were around. My mind asked rhetorically, “Where is that husband of mine when I need him?”

Frustrated, I kicked the bottom of the screen door and moved forward full-force. The door didn’t budge. The wooden screen door frame was swollen from the moisture in the air. It didn’t budge. As the steaming cider spilled onto my hand, I briefly recalled the words of Newton, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

My normal reaction to extreme heat would be to turn loose of everything I am holding. But, having dropped an almost new lap top a year earlier, my financial instinct prevailed. I held onto the expensive computer and allowed the blistering cider to saturate my left hand. The middle three fingers were essentially boiled.

Once inside the coin shop, I repeatedly headed to the restroom and doused my fingers under the cold faucet water. The pain temporarily abated while the water ran over my hand, but returned when I walked away. It was an odd experience to hope no buyers or sellers of coins would come that day. It would be hard to concentrate on calculating the price of even the smallest cache of silver change. What if a customer wanted to inspect some of the items in the showcase? It is hard to be civil, much less pleasant at such times. Pain has an unrelenting way of commanding attention.

In desperation, I tried a few drops of the morphine I occasionally take for the bone cancer. Even it failed to bring relief. For three tough hours I could think of little else other than those three swelling fingers.

Fifteen out-of-town relatives were coming for the holidays. There were presents still to be wrapped and onions to be chopped. I didn’t need this torment.

The pain eventually subsided and I had a new appreciation of life without intense pain. My burn was so minor compared to those sustained by folks in the burn unit of Grady Hospital or our American soldiers recuperating from roadside bombs blasts. I felt like such a wimp.

Often life lessons need to be repeated. I hope I can remember these three: Fire burns. Life hurts sometimes. The sun always shines…even after the longest day and darkest night.

PS: The Journal of the Living Lady has appeared spasmodically recently due to newspaper transitions.