Tag Archives: work

A Heart Walking Around In a Body


I’ve been quiet lately.

I can’t get one thing written before another something happens and then I have to sit and think about that, but before I can get my ideas to line up next to words, something else happens. Kap. Tulsa. Star Spangled Banners. Syria. My own backyard. Charlotte.

Today, I found myself in a simple story that summed up some of what I’ve been trying to say. I had a moment in the basement of the hospital that opened my heart to how pervasive racism is in my world.

Part of my job is to share good news. When one employee wants to recognize another for a kind deed or superior service, it’s my privilege to hear those stories and share them with the whole health system. What a delight–I get paid to make sure good people and good work get recognized! I get a front row seat to watch people being their best–the people who are being thanked and the people who are taking a moment to thank others.

Yesterday, I received a recognition note from a nurse up on the floors. She had witnessed a pair of transporters (the people who move patients from one area of the hospital to another) go out of their way to care for a patient. While the patient was being wheeled back to her room from a procedure, she confided that she didn’t have any family nearby who could visit her. Naturally, she was feeling low and lonely. The transporters, a young man and a young woman, decided to cheer her up. They went down to the gift shop and bought her a flower and a balloon, wrote her a kind note of encouragement, and let her know that they cared. The nurse reported that the patient had smiled all day long thanks to their kindness.

Their hearts were filled with love. With the best kind of kindness–kindness to a lonely stranger.

Heart with seeds. Image courtesy Pixabay. Kindness

Heart with seeds. Image courtesy Pixabay.

A few hours after I read this gracious story, I walked over to the main hospital to run an errand. As I turned a corner, I almost bumped into a man in black scrubs–the transporter uniform. I glanced at his name tag and saw that it was the same man who had been recognized for great kindness to a lonely patient.

I had knowledge of this man’s heart.

But my first response to him–the first thing I registered–was his body. He is a tall, broad-shouldered, young Black man. He wasn’t carrying a rose with a balloon tied to the vase. He wasn’t even smiling. In the second before I saw his name tag and realized this was the gentle heart of kindness, I saw his skin and his frame and I reacted as I am programmed to do: you are other; are you dangerous? Should I be afraid of you? In less than a second, I was assessing him based on his body.

What I often forget is that he has been programmed to have the same reaction to me. He almost walked into me and probably went through the same assessment: You are not like me? Are you dangerous? Should I be afraid of you? As a middle-aged white woman who has grown up in Georgia, I know that I am the most dangerous thing a young Black man can run into when walking around a corner. Fifty years ago, he could have been lynched if I had walked into him and knocked us both down.

I wanted to apologize to him for not looking where I was going, and all of that history that neither one of us caused but that both of us carry. I wanted him to know that I knew he had a kind and caring heart. To meet his eye. To strike up a conversation. To represent all white people everywhere and prove that I’m not one of the bad ones.

Then again, I wanted to leave him alone to live his own life without my whole internal narrative being projected onto him. Maybe he was just walking down the hall, doing his job, and didn’t need a bleeding heart white woman all up in his space trying to save the world because the world can’t be easy for him right now. Maybe my feelings about his feelings aren’t central to the story? Maybe I should keep walking and do my errand. Just like with my writing these days, I was thinking so many thoughts that I couldn’t find any words. I missed the chance to say, “Hey! I heard about a really nice thing you did! That was cool.”

Instead, he went his way; I went mine.

I walked away thinking, “What must it be like to be him, walking around in this country today? Where no one knows his heart but everyone sees his body? Does he live in genuine fear of people like me because of his body?” Yes, I think.

I guess what I learned today is this: We live afraid of each other because we don’t have a way of seeing the heart that’s walking around in the body. We have to learn to lengthen those seconds that we spend seeing each other. That which is holy in me honors that which is holy in you.

I didn’t have time or words to get there today, but for a moment I imagined what it’s like right now for that gentle heart to live this life, walking around in that body.

Saturday Snort–What the Alarm Said


One time, I was teaching a 7:30 a.m class in a portable trailer classroom. Typically, Security would turn off the alarm system on their early morning rounds.  But on that day, when I arrived at 7:00 a.m. and opened the door with my key, the alarm began to shriek.  BLAP!  BLAP!  BLAP! BLAP! BLAP!  

No worries.  I picked up the phone and called Security. 

“Hey.  This is Ashley.  I’m down here in the trailer and the alarm is going off. Can you tell me the code to disable it?”  

The security officer said, “OK, ma’am.  What’s the alarm saying?”

I paused for a second.  What a dumb question, right?  

I said, “It’s saying BLAP!  BLAP!  BLAP! BLAP! BLAP!  Can’t you hear it?”

The officer chuckled and said, “I mean, what’s the error code on the alarm?”






You know those times when you have a day that should have been a really good day–and it WAS a really good day–but then one person says one pissant thing and bursts the whole bubble?  And you keep telling yourself “Let it go!  Let it go!  That’s about them, not about you!  Kumbayah, My Lord, Kumbayah!” but your mind floooooooaaaats back to that meanness?  And by the end of the day you think you’ve forgotten about it but as soon as you sit in the car and take a deep breath before turning your mind to what to cook for dinner and who has homework left to do…then all of a sudden you’re CRYING?  And it’s not sad crying, it’s MAD crying?  Then 20 minutes later you’re back to thinking about meanness and wondering if you still remember the finer points of rolling toilet paper all over someone’s yard?  But you can’t do that because your husband is at a conference and you can’t leave the kids alone long enough to go t.p. some trees…oh, and you’re out of toilet paper?  And you can’t take the kids with you because you’d be setting a bad example and besides they suck at being stealthy?


I may or may not have had a day like that today.  Mind keeps floating back to meanness.  Retaliation.  Comeuppance.  (That’s twice in a week I’ve used “comeuppance” in a post so I think it might be time for a spa day.)

Days like today, I recall an old Polish Proverb:  “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”  It’s their clever way of saying “Not my problem” at the same time recognizing that life is essentially a circus filled with shit-flinging monkeys.  Circuses are fun, but they do smell.  

So I made a little picture to unleash my creative side.  If you find yourself surrounded by monkeys some day, print this out and tape it above your desk at work.  Or home.  Depends on the monkeys.  


Be Good For Something

This quote from Henry David Thoreau inspired my column today at Work It, Mom:


The story is called “The How, When and WHY of Work: Fostering a Healthy Work Ethic In Our Children.”  Here’s an excerpt:

A few years back, my father hired a teenage boy to be an afternoon kennel assistant at his veterinary clinic.  Cleaning cages, feeding the animals, tidying up–a job of all work.  Mopping kennels at a vet clinic doesn’t require a tie, but this kid always showed up to work with his jeans sagging down off his butt.  Every time he stooped over to put a bowl of water on the floor, he had to adjust his pants.  While he stocked shelves or swept the exam rooms, he was constantly hiking his pants up or pulling them down to keep them in just the right spot.

This drove my dad NUTS.  So he, as the business owner and boss, told the kid, “Those pants are interfering with your work.  Either wear a belt tomorrow or don’t come in at all.”  The kid got huffy and replied, “I don’t have to put up with this sh*t!”
Which led to much laughing from the actual adults who worked there.  Gina, the lead tech snorted, “Oh, yes, sweetheart–YOU DO have to put up with this sh*t!” 
So click on over and find out what happened!

Finishing Strong

WinnerI’m writing over at Work It, Mom! today.  My featured post is about ending the calendar year on a strong note at the office.  Here’s an excerpt:

The school year creates its own rhythm for our children–each month lines up from August to May in a clear pattern.  Their effort begins in the fall, builds throughout the winter, then concludes at the end of the spring.  They get summer off to rest, rejuvenate and prepare for the next round.

But when do working moms get our chance to mark a clear finish to one year and the start of the next?  I suggest now, in December!  The end of the calendar year is a powerful time for us to finish strong and start fresh in our work life.  While we’re setting resolutions for the new year, why not do the same for our work year?  Finish this year STRONG and start the next with clarity and energy!

And now you’re rolling your eyes at me (I can hear it!).  December is the crazy month of school programs, teacher gifts, holiday parties at work, family celebrations, sending cards, late night baking, online shopping, decorating the house, kids out of school, travel, entertaining, and that blasted Elf On the Shelf–how are we supposed to get all that done AND focus on work?  Read the rest of the article…

So if you’re looking for ways to finish strong with 2013, head on over to read my story.  It has some good stuff in it about assessing this year so you can plan for the next!  


There Must Be a Better Word for That

Today I spent the whole day dragged down and wrapped up in words like

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My day was shaping up into a depressive haiku.

squirrelAbout 5:15, I gave up (or as I call it “threw my f*ck it flag) and left the office.  Walking back to my car, I passed a patch of tea olives and the scent tapped me on the shoulder. “Pardon me?  Miss?  The world is lovely and it’s right here.”  

A new word popped into my head:  waft.

I smiled…just a little.  The tense muscles around my face rearranged themselves gladly.  More words:  smirk, moue, whimsy.  

The sun pattering down through the oak canopy warmed my cheeks and I thought of another word:  dappled.  

A sleek squirrel scampered across the pebbled path.  We locked eyes–gazed–for a fleeting moment, then he was off.

I stopped there on the path and filled my mind with better words…


Then I continued on my way.  Rejuvenated.  Replenished.  Refreshed.  Hopeful.  Satisfied.  

What’s the most beautiful word you know?  The most peaceful?  The word that makes you stand still?  The one that gets you going?

Oh, For Flux Sake…

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Last week, I packed up my office for the first time in 5 years.  And honestly, some of that stuff had been with me for the 16 years that I’ve been in my previous job.  I started in the summer of 1996, when the torch was coming through Athens.

I moved the necessary stuff to my new office.  The furniture is awkard.  There are too many drawers.  The light is strange.  I’m going to park in a different lot.  The computer didn’t work.

Then I took a week off to spend time with my daughter as she turned six.  In a week, she grew up right in front of my eyes.  Now she can read on her own.  She can take better care of herself than I remember and it makes my heart tighten up.

My son looked at me last night with his dear baby face.  I asked, “Do you want to go swimming?” and out of the blue he replied, “Yes.”  It was our first give and take conversation. Now the week is drawing to a close and I’m feeling a huge wave of anxiety because everything is changing at once.  Job.  Kids.  Home.  It’s all gotten different and I’m feeling swimmy-headed.

Oh, for flux sake.  Flux is that state of flow, always moving, like a river. After Richard died and I faced that crushing grief, my therapist suggested that I view it as a river.  If you swim against a river, you tire quickly.  But if you bob and float, taking deep breaths, you conserve your energy.  The river is going to go where it goes.  You are along for the ride.

What the flux is up with you today?