Saturday, August 30, 2008

All in all, a good day

This will go down in history as one of those days where nothing spectacular happened in Diane's world. Oh sure, Barack Obama delivered a fabulous talk last night, John McCain announced his VP choice as Sarah Palin, the Gulf States are worried about Gustav's landing, but in my little corner of this world today, it wasn't spectacular. Just really good.

I finished my last tasks for the church today. I'm a free woman. Now my time is all my own - to decide what to do and when to do it. I celebrated with a little picnic in the backyard while watching Leica chase smells. That was a pretty fabulous half hour. I watched a monarch butterfly flitting from bush to bush and a dragonfly skittering around the lawn. I took a few moments to enjoy the breezes and thank God for this life He has given me.

Max got home from work and though he was tired and in need of a nap, we just sat here and chatted about all of the things going on in the world and in our lives. Tomorrow we move our computers into one room and I'm going to figure out how to have him in my space fulltime (ok, every evening). As the evening wore on, I realized I was hungry, so we went to the Greek Islands and had a terrific meal, stopped at Walgreen's (now I have chocolate in my world again) and came home.

I've been pulling stuff out of my desk this evening and hauling the empty drawers upstairs. I suspect I just woke poor Max up as I dragged two drawers at a time up the steps. Ok, I thought I could be quieter than that. I was wrong. I giggled all the way up as the handles clanged back and forth on the drawers and I continued to bang them into the steps. Whoops! Bad idea. Maybe I shouldn't be doing that stuff at 1:30 in the morning. Maybe I need to recognize that the entire world doesn't exist in the same time frame that I do.

I discovered a fun new series from British television: Doc Martin. What a hoot! A top thoracic surgeon from London developed panic attacks at the sight and smell of blood and the smell of cauterized skin. He decides to take a General Practioner position in a village in England. His encounters with the people - well, their encounters with him lead to wonderful plot lines. The final episode of the first season showed him finally kissing the woman that he had been eyeing all season long. His words to her after the kiss were in regard to her bad breath. I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Maybe it's the chocolate, maybe it's the excitement of getting things moved around tomorrow, maybe it's the peace of spending time alone with Max this weekend. I am not sure what it is, but today has been a good day. Ahhh ...

Friday, August 29, 2008

A nap? At 10:30 pm?

Why yes I did. I took a 2 hour nap at 10:30 and I feel great! Oh stop giggling. You know that you'd love to be able to do that. I had finished the first chapter of a story I am writing and my brain had totally exhausted my body.

At 12:19, I woke up from a strange dream. I've decided I miss Jen. Especially when it comes to singing harmonies. You see, we would be somewhere - in the car, at church, wherever and split out harmonies with whatever song was happening. Oh, it always sounded better with our harmonies. Trust me. But anyway, in my dream, she was there, but too far away to actually allow me to hear which part she was taking. I had this stupid girl close to me that kept flipping to the part I was taking. We would start out just fine and then she couldn't hold on to her part. Weak-willed fool. We were singing "One Pure and Holy Passion" in my dream. The weirdest thing about that - is that at FW when I was leading worship, that's the one song I never participated on stage in (I know that it's a bad sentence - sorry!). I haven't thought about that specific song in months and there it was ... in my dream.

Well, I woke up, rushed to the bathroom (because that's what I do when I wake up in the middle of the night), took the dog outside and realized that for the first time today I actually felt fully awake.

So, in the last few minutes I became confident of two things. 1. I can hear harmonies in my dreams. Ok, I can even sing them. 2. I am a night person.

And I'll be doggoned if I can rid my mind of the song now. I suspect it will be stuck there for the next few hours. Good thing I like the song.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Don't Write it Down

My mom's advice to me was "If you don't want your father to read it, don't write it down." Those words kept me from writing a diary and have hindered me a lot as I try to write my passionate feelings out.

Not just dad, but most people. I will either hurt myself or someone else if I write some of the things down that are going on in my head. So, I try to avoid difficult situations and simply ignore the process. This might be why I talk so much. The spoken word can be much more ephemeral and people generally don't listen closely enough to recite a conversation verbatim. Oh, I've gotten into trouble by believing that maxim, but for the most part, it holds.

This is why you will rarely read much 'angst' on my blog or read words where I bash and trash people. Don't let me fool you. I go through as many periods of angst as anyone else and I bash and trash on a regular basis. It's one of my greatest failings. I hate that the Bible is constantly teaching against gossip. That fully messes with some of my greatest conversations. And generally, I just ignore it. Good Christian girl, aren't I?

I wonder what I would have done if mom had implied to me at a very young age that dad could hear all of the words that I spoke. Would that have ingrained in me a fear of even speaking badly about others? Poor mom learned that lesson the hard way many times. Whenever she would begin gossiping about someone, by golly, that person or a friend of theirs was in the booth right behind us at a restaurant. She taught us to scout out the room before we let her proceed with ugly words.

There's one other thing that makes it easy to refrain from writing down passionate anger and angst. When that happens, it is so easy to be reminded of those ugly feelings and thoughts. All one has to do is re-read and re-read the words written. If I don't write them and the passion passes (which it usually does with a good night's sleep), I'm not continually reminded of the situation that brought those feelings about.

So ... tonight I'm not writing things down that tick me off. I'm reliving memories of my family and that is much better.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Getting an education. Cheat?

Nope. Not what you think.

I told my nephew, Matthew that I would take his Bible classes with him. He's taking two of them this semester and I've ordered the books. He sent me the syllabus for one of the classes. I just have to ask for the other one. Biblical Studies (Hermeneutics) and Old Testament Survey. The biblical studies is probably going to annoy me, but I plan to go through it and see what I can learn. I'm always up for learning. And hey ... it's just reading and processing. That is my forte. Words on paper? Oh yea ... baby.

The Old Testament Survey class? I'm not even to the scripture part of this and I'm already a little high from learning. I will apologize right now - you may be reading a lot about the Old Testament over the next few months (until the end of the semester). But, that's good for all of us, eh?

Did you know that although the OT is primarily written in Hebrew, there are several passages that were written in Aramaic? Aramaic and Hebrew were both Semitic languages. Those passages are: Genesis 31:47b; Ezra 4:8-6:18, 7:12-26; Jeremiah 10:11b; and Daniel 2:4b-7:28). I went into my Bible to mark these passages that were in Aramaic, and lo and behold, I already had most of them marked. Goes to show ... my brain loses information regularly.

There are many early Old Testament texts:
The Masoretic Text. Composed about AD 100, Oldest known copy about AD 1000. This is the most reliable text.

Samaritan Pentateuch. Composed about 200-100 BC. Oldest known copy about AD 1100. A decidedly Samaritan slant.

Dead Sea Scrolls. These contain at least a part of every OT book. Confirms the reliability of the Masoretic. Composed about 200-100 BC. Oldest known copies about 200-100 BC. (These are all being scanned and photographed and will be posted digitally over the next few years. The scanning process is bringing up all sorts of characters that weren't visible to the naked eye. I'm excited. A lot of scholarly work will be done on these once they are shared with Biblical scholars around the world. Check out THIS CNN story.)

Those are all in Hebrew. Then in 300-200BC, the OT was translated into Greek in approximately 300-200 BC. It was called the Septuagint. Oldest known copy about AD 300-500. Confirms much of the original text.

Here's how it goes. I'm learning what Matt is learning. You're learning bits and pieces of what I'm learning. Hmmm ... that's a lot of fruit from one kid's tuition!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fire or Ice

"Christ was in agony in prayer, Luke 22:44. Many when they are in prayer are in lethargy, than in agony. When they are about the world, they are all fire; when they are at prayer, they are all ice."
--Thomas Watson

This quote kind of freaked me out this morning. Well, not really freaked me out, but definitely encouraged me to think about where my passions lie. I have been searching for quite some time (years) for the reasons behind my less than stellar prayer life.

I talk to God all day long. In fact, if He couldn't automatically 'know' what was happening in my life, He'd know because I'm always talking about it. He hears everything! It's actually become a fairly mundane part of my days. In some ways that's awesome. In other ways, it tells me that I'm taking the Creator for granted. Oh good heavens, that is NOT a good thing! I certainly don't appreciate it when I can sense that Max takes me for granted. That I'm just going to be there to listen while he babbles on and on and on and on. I love him, so I do listen and try not to complain.

But, there's no passion in any of that. Christ had such amazing access to God, yet his prayer was one of agony. The great thing about this is that God encourages us to get deep into prayer and doesn't leave us alone while we do it. "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." Romans 8:26.

How do you pray? Do you treat prayer as if it is another thing to check off your list of 'to do' items and when you are done, you forget the time that you spent in prayer? I think I'm going to try to drag my memory back to junior high, the sensations and feelings of getting to know a new boyfriend. I treasured every moment we spent together. I love being with God!

Monday, August 25, 2008

I Want to be a Writer

If I had any concerns before today about the intensity of my desire to write, those were allayed this morning.

I took Leica out, grabbed the mail and sat on the stoop to flip through the letters and junk while she wandered around the front yard. Junk, junk, junk, a note from Priscilla, I recognized the Christian Book Distributor catalog, clothing catalog and what's this? My first issue of "The Writer." I had decided that maybe I needed to delve more deeply into the world of writers and see what I could learn from them.

As I began scanning the articles, I recognized names of authors I read, some I didn't read but knew who they were. It looked like a lot of good information for a beginning author. I started to get excited.

I turned to an article by Jane McBride Choate called "12 ways to prepare for publishing." I barely got through the first three points and I was sobbing. With excitement! I had to drag the dog back inside (she was quite unwilling, it's a beautiful day) and sit down at my computer to write ... this.

Ok, I also am placing my online order at and had just remembered to order toilet paper, so that was a priority in the middle of typing this blog, but sigh ... real life enters in sometimes.

Sometimes it doesn't seem so difficult to choose writing over cleaning the kitchen. Honestly, that was in my plans for today (cleaning the kitchen). But I have the fridge emptied, the trash taken out back and the dishes washed. I think I'm going to leave the floor for later and see what empties out of my brain!

Hmmm ... it's noon. Do I need lunch first? Nope. I guess not.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


It's never easy to train someone to take over your job. There are so many things that are done instinctively and through sheer repetition. The gal who is taking over the Communications Director position at FW is amazing. She is a fabulous graphic artist and I'm a little intimidated by that. I try not to be - that was never my strength, but still ...

The only things I need to be able to tell her are how FW works, where I've hidden files (no really, I'm fairly organized), how all of the systems work, due dates, etc., etc. Since it's easier for me to just get these things written down in some sort of organized fashion, I've finally begun doing that. All of the details that are in my brain are finally rushing onto paper (ok, digital screen ... whatever). I've been processing on this for weeks. However, she starts work tomorrow and I'm guessing today is as good a time as any to actually get my thoughts from my brain through my fingers.

There are lots of small details on how to run the printers in the office, who actually is responsible for getting information to her, which processes she is responsible for, etc., etc. Those are starting to come out. It will take most of the day for me to be sure that I've gotten everything said. And, then I am confident that I will have forgotten something very important.

Whenever I would leave for a few days and have to ask Carol (or someone else) to take care of my animals, I always typed out an immense 2-3 page set of instructions. Just call it a brain-dump. I have since learned that my witty commentary and highly detailed information meant nothing to anyone other than me and just decided that I would leave the food beside the dish and expect that she could probably find the kitchen sink to turn on the water. No instructions get left anymore.

Now, I don't do this very often, but I wonder if God looks at us with the same sense when we really don't pay attention to his set of instructions. Do you think that He worries that much over the commentary and instructions that He left us? Is God offended by our lack of attention to it? Hmmm ... I wonder.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The immediacy of it all

Alright, I'll admit it. I'm old. I remember life before cell phones and email. I remember long drives with the radio as the only sound I heard. I remember eating out with friends and family and not being interrupted by the whims of others.

Several weeks ago I just decided that I'm tired of the world having immediate access to me every moment of the day. I began leaving my cell phone in the car when I went to someone's home or out to dinner. I began turning it off (gasp) when I wanted to think or read or sleep.

I've discovered that I like it. And to top it off, I honestly am not certain where my cell phone is right now. But, please don't call so that I can find it. This is nice.

Friday, August 22, 2008

To an End

My time is really coming to an end right now with regards to Faith-Westwood. I managed to leave that job in a slide rather than a jump. The contract to help them maintain communication is nearly up and I pulled my last piece of stuff out of the office on Wednesday.

I think I'm glad to be done (done will occur next week when the new Communications Director finally dives into the job). It's impossible for me to limit myself to 10 hours / week. In fact, I just plain don't do it. There is stuff that has to be finished and no one else to do the work. It's fine, I knew it was temporary.

I do a lot of things well. I manage to multi-task really well. Except when it comes to writing and researching, reading and processing. For those things, I need quiet. Uninterrupted quiet. I can't be thinking of a million things that need to be done. I will tend to do those million things first so that I can get back to the quiet. I know that my quiet time during the day is really limited. Max comes home from work, friends want to go out to dinner, family is around. All of a sudden, I'm not concentrating.

So, I'm glad to be done. I'm glad to retrieve hours of concentration back into my world. Now, if I could just quit thinking about how to fix that place!

Halfway There

Ok, I'm way beyond the midpoint of my life (I suspect). It's an interesting thought process ... thinking about the past and the future. I have a lot of past behind me and of course, I have no idea how much future.

I've been reading a couple of novels lately that were written in the late 80s and early 90s. When they talk about the recent past, it's one that I'm very familiar with. The 70s. These books have thrust me back into memories that I have long since quit looking at.

My nephew has just started college. He has an immense future in front of him. At least 4 years of college, maybe marriage and kids, a career. Those decisions are all behind me now. It's just plain weird!

I have experienced 5 different decades. World War II was prevalent in the memories of the generation just before me. My grandmother was born in 1900. Her husband in 1898. These dates seem like eons ago, yet those two people are clearly present in my heart and mind.

This is weird.

Linear time. Memories. The past. The future. History. All of these things exist because God created us within 'time.' Hmmm ... when I read the opening of Genesis, my teaching tells me that the first thing that was created was the heavens and earth.

But, read that sentence again. "In the beginning ..." God created time first. There was a beginning. That means there is an end. (I know, I know ... read all the way to Revelation ... I'll find the end.) Could we cope with life that has no beginning and no end ... just existence? What an interesting concept!

I feel out of place right now in the timeline.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

On being at home ...

Here are a few things I've noticed about myself during the weeks since I left my job.

1. My body clock now rules. I stay awake until 3 am and get up at 10:30 am. I'm much happier. Not necessarily more rested, but happier.

2. If I don't shower and get dressed right away, I get nothing done. I spend time trying to encourage myself to get moving and end up wasting time away.

3. All of the trash that I threw away at work is now in my home space, there is always a full trashcan!

4. I have not done all of the big, profound home cleaning/reorganizing/redecorating projects. I believe that tomorrow will be filled with time to do those things.

5. Leica gets more attention from me. I have time to take my dog and my Kindle to the front stoop and read while she sleeps in the shade.

6. I haven't gotten more holy. You'd think I would have more time to pray and read my Bible and do all of those holy things. Not so much.

7. I like the telephone even less. I've said it before, I'll keep saying it. I'm a hermit.

8. With my weird hours, I actually have time to read. Books. Again. I can't believe the number of novels I have plowed through. It makes me feel like a real human being again.

9. My mind is quieter.

10. I actually haven't lost track of the day ... too often. This morning, I asked Max why he was up so early when he woke me up. It was 6:52 and made no sense to me. He stumbled around in the conversation, confused. It occurred to me to ask him what day it was. I thought it was Sunday.

11. I'm still barefoot, but I tend to hurt my feet more often when I'm outside with Leica. I should learn to put shoes on - but, I won't.

12. It's strange to get in the car and drive around the city during the day. I wonder what other people are doing. Are they working? Playing? Getting from one job to another? I never used to care.

13. I have not become the amazing cook for my husband that I probably should be. I have the time, but not the inclination.

14. I'm beginning to see my obsessive, compulsive side return. It's slow coming back, but I remember it used to exist years ago - before I had so many things on my plate that I could no longer carry it. And don't worry, Diane's OC side is a good thing.

14. Life isn't necessarily slower, but so much more enjoyable. It's peaceful. I will cut back on everything that I can to maintain this lifestyle. And I wonder why we press ourselves so hard to achieve a media-driven American dream. We miss the simple joys because we speed past them.

So, now it's time to get moving. I've been awake for awhile and spent some time writing this blog. I think there are other things I should be doing. Or not.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Obsessed with the Bible

I read an article (Cult prayed for lifeless boy's resurrection) on this morning. It saddened me.

But, these words from the mother of the girl caught up in this cult spoke volumes to me and saddened me even more, "My daughter was very religious. She was into the Bible -- obsessed with it," Khadan-Newton said. "They (were) going to show her the right way. She got sucked into it."

The gist of the story is this: A cult in Maryland starved a little boy because he didn't say "Amen" after a meal. Then, they prayed for his resurrection. Well, decomposition happened first. The young mom of this boy has been arrested, as have the cult leaders, for murder. Her mother says that she has been brainwashed. Of course she has.

The implication that being religious and being obsessed with scripture leads to cult-like behavior is appalling to me. Yet, that is what happened. This young girl was searching for meaning and the cult offered her more than anyone else had up to that point. Who decides what is right when it comes to interpretation of scripture and intentions of God?

I don't like these stories. They cause me to consider just where I put my belief structure. Jesus told us the truth would set us free. But, sometimes mankind sets down a limited interpretation of truth and builds prisons - in fact and in our minds.

Do we limit religious freedom because we are concerned about abuses? Because that rabbit hole can lead to incredible persecution based on individual leader's interpretation of abuse.

I don't like these stories. My initial reaction was of horror. I believe I'll quit thinking about it and leave it with that initial reaction.


The researcher in me just had a bit of an out-of-body experience. I landed on Lisa Gold's blog. She does a lot of research for writers. Now, her blog is going to just make me high every time she posts.

Today, I decided that getting high meant looking at some of the basic reference websites she uses. I was practically twitching by the time I had two of them bookmarked.

From her blog:
I've spent time on before. It gives me a headache. I've spent time on the Library of Congress site. It's cool. By the time I got to digital-librarian, I had nearly lost my sanity! All of this information! All of this fun!

It didn't help that on a previous post she had pointed me to a thesaurus that sent me into complete apoplexy. Ohhhhhhhh .... it's all over for me now.

Victim or Adventurer

"...he realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief or as an adventurer in quest of his treasure." (The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho)

I feel like I'm on an adventure. I'm thankful that right now I have the option to make choices which allow me to pursue the adventure, rather than sit still limited by my choices. Sometimes, though, it's all about how we look at things!

We all know plenty of people that spend most of their waking moments complaining about their lot in life. There's not enough money, they aren't being fulfilled in their job, their children drive them crazy, the list of complaints is interminable. Day after day the same things come out of their mouths. Victims.

I find that this type of thinking has increased exponentially in the last couple of decades. It's easier to complain and whine and hope that someone else will fix things for you than it is to take a step out, a step in faith, a step beyond the box.

Sometimes it isn't about changing the situation, it's about changing how we look at the situation. Sometimes it really is about changing the situation.

I'm fortunate. I've been given the opportunity to make some big changes in my life. But, I'm also 48 years old. I spent 20+ years in a job that could have killed me, but it didn't. Every day was an adventure. I know that to have followed all of my dreams, I would have had to set aside my concerns for my family and the responsibilities I had taken on. I chose to stick with them and try to not complain too loudly when the stress got out of control.

Victim or Adventurer. Which attitude will you take for the next few days of your life?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

So, what's new with you?

It was an interesting evening. I spent it at Papio Bowl. My sister used to have these "I'm Never Getting Old Parties." Then, she got old. Then, she got over that and decided it was time to have another. Well, weird thing. People around her definitely got older. Including me.

I spent the evening chatting with many of her friends. People I haven't really seen in 4 or 5 years. And the question comes up continuously ... what's been going on in your life? Hah. Do they really want to know? I'm guessing the answer is a resounding 'no.' They don't have time to listen to me tell the tales of change and tumult that have occurred in the last 2 years of my life. So, we chatted about the banal and insipid, quietly leaving the deeper issues on hold. They're Carol's friends, not mine.

But, as I talked to one of her friends, she described her life to me. Not much had really changed since I had last seen her 4 years ago. How do you tell someone that you are always changing, but there are no big differences in your life? Every once in awhile, something big happens to your life, a job change, marriage, divorce, enter school, complete school, new kids, family deaths. But, for the most part, we live our lives and hold pretty close to the status quo.

That doesn't mean we aren't learning new stuff and meeting new people, experiencing new things. How do you describe to someone you are having a five minute conversation with, the excitement of a 10 hour drive through Iowa and uncovering the beauty of the surrounding area. How do you let them know that just this morning, God took you into the Psalms and introduced you to a completely new manner of communication with Him? The small changes. Those things that allow us to have hope for a better tomorrow, even if all of the stuff stays the same around us. That's what is new in my life.

Even though I have dealt with a lot of 'big' things in the last couple of years, the excitement in my life comes from discovering a new book, listening to my friends tell me about what they are experiencing, hanging out for a couple of hours with old friends, watching my husband enjoy taking photographs, sitting on the front porch while Leica explores the same old yard, enjoying my niece and nephews as they grow up.

What's new with me? The same old thing. I'm so thankful for that!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Quick Run to the Quick Trip

After supper tonight, we made a quick run to the Quick Trip. Max went in for me, I sat in the car and watched people. I needed AAA batteries for my Mighty Bright Booklight. It wasn't so quick. They lock their batteries up in a case. Someone had to track down the key for the case. I'm guessing they don't sell a lot of batteries.

As I waited, I watched a 20-something young man dressed in security guard clothing. He was emaciated. Ok ... skinny. I could've taken him. He wasn't terribly threatening. He came out with a package of gummy bears. Quick sugar. So young.

My eyes were quickly arrested by the strange man who had saran wrap around his left calf. Shorts and a t-shirt. Really. He didn't look so strange ... except for the badly wrapped saran wrap. He was in front of Max at the counter. I asked Max if he could tell why there was plastic wrap and he said he couldn't see a thing.

Article on about James Hoyt. He was one of the first 4 GIs who entered Buchenwald at the end of WWII. Max's Uncle Bill was part of the liberation of that camp. He never talked about it. Max asked and asked and Bill just couldn't bear remembering. But, we can't dare forget.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Whoosh ...

And the last few days are over. And here I thought I was retired. I look around my house and see that not only have I not gotten anything productive done as far as cleanup, but things seem to have gotten worse. Errr ... what? It's not like I have left my desk to do much other than leave the house. So, I'll blame Max. It's what I do.

I can tell that people are headed back to their normal fall activities. I'm creating pieces to kick off programs at church and I'm creating pieces for Carol and her 6th grade class.

Met up with some friends at Pepperjax. GoodNESS, but that's one of my favorite places to eat. Fortunately I don't feel guilty over taking up a table and reducing the possibility of a waiter's tip. We were able to hang out and chat for a few extra minutes. That was a good thing. I love my friends.

It's pretty interesting - I have wonderful, wild friends that are in my life in so many different ways. Have you ever given any thought to how varied your friendships are? Once, long ago (many years - don't ask), Carol and I were trying to put together a dinner party. As we considered who would work well together, we realized that our friends were so very different, it probably wouldn't work out to have them all together at the same time. What a riot!

I treasure the differences that my friends bring to my life. Each causes me to look at the world a bit differently. If all of my friends were exactly alike, I would only see the world from a single perspective. But, as it is, my mind is constantly maneuvered into new avenues. If one were missing from my life, I would lose the perspective that they bring to me.

So ... tonight, I'm much too tired to delve deeply into the truth that is friendship. Jesus wants us to be His friend. And if we are a friend of Jesus', we are a friend of God. Sounds pretty good to me. Maybe that is what I will cogitate upon as I drift off to sleep. Goodnight!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Why I love my dog

I just finished reading "Marley and Me" by John Grogan. I laughed so much that I hurt. At one point I was sitting on the front stoop while Leica was warming up in the shade and I began laughing so loudly I caught myself and quickly looked around to see if I was embarrassing myself. I was safe, so I began to read again. The laughter got louder the second time, so rather than subject myself to anymore concern over being thought a fool, I tugged on Leica's leash and we retreated to the safety of the living room.

As hard as I laughed throughout that book, I sobbed at the end. Of course I knew that Marley was going to get old and die, I was just hoping that he wouldn't write about it. You see, I like my books and my movies to be happy. No one ever dies, no one ever has trouble in life ... everyone is happy.

But, what a glorious book about the relationship between a man and his dog - even if the dog is the world's worst dog ever.

Every dog I've ever had was a great dog. When I was young, we started out kind of rocky with our pets. My grandfather kept trying to have dogs, but he was very bad at it. Joey and Katie ended up at our house after he discovered he couldn't deal with them. Katie was an absolutely insane Viszla. There was no controlling her. But, we found good homes for both of those dogs. We also found that three children had gotten a hint of the fun of having a pet and weren't going to last very long without a dog around. It was all over for dad. Mom had grown up with dogs, Dad hadn't. He lost.

We soon found ourselves looking into large metal cells at the Burlington Humane Society for the best dog ever. Charcoal went home with us that day and became an immediate part of our family. She was followed by Odie (actually, OD - Other Dog. Jim and a friend had rescued two part-Schnauzers from a man who was going to kill them and hid those two dogs in the loft of our garage. When he asked mom what we would name another dog if we got another dog, she flippantly said, "OD - Other Dog." And Odie came into our lives). After Charcoal died, Ghenghis Khan, King of the Mongrel Hordes soon came to live with us. That little Shih-Tzu lived up to his name. Mom died before Ghenghis and he moved into an apartment with Carol and me. I believe he was stolen one evening when he chased around a corner before I got there. After weeks and weeks of looking for him all over the neighborhood, our hearts were broken. But, during that time, I was at the Humane Society every evening looking for him. I didn't find him, but I did find my very first dog. She was all mine. A little black poodle mix. I named her Isolde. I took her home that first evening and she plastered herself against my body. From that day forward she rarely left my side. She loved me with everything she had.

Several years later, Isolde died and it wasn't long before I got my first dachshund - Bert. What a great little guy he was. He was insane over rubber toys that had whistles in them. It was great entertainment to watch him go nuts while trying to remove the whistle. Once it was out of the toy, he could relax. He was never more than 10 feet from me and I could trust him to be off-leash and never wander away. He transitioned with me from Carol to Max.

When he died at about age 16, Max and I felt freedom for the first time. We could travel as we wanted and never had to hurry home from dinner. But, you know what? Those weren't nearly as important as I thought.

I heard about a miniature dachshund in Kansas that desperately needed a home. I begged, cried, pleaded and whimpered at Max until he relented. He said we weren't going to have another dog until I could be home with the dog. I didn't care. I needed a dog in my life. We drove to Nebraska City, met the woman from the rescue and met Leica. She wasn't terribly sure about all of the chaos that had been in her life to that point, but I was.

She was 9 years old when we got her. I can see grey around her snout. I know I don't have a lifetime with her, but she is definitely worth every moment I do have. There is something wonderful about the incredible love a dog offers you. Leica is definitely my dog but she loves Max like crazy. One evening he sat on the couch and she leaped up to get close to him. He looked at me and said, "she really does love me, doesn't she?" Of course she does. She's a dog and is so glad to have her people around.

When we leave, she dashes for the kitchen counter to watch out the window. I hope that at some point she settles down to sleep, but when we come home, she's there again, wiggling with joy that we are home. She follows me up the stairs and down the stairs all day long and when I head for the front door, she can barely contain herself at the possibility of going outside.

At night she snuggles in the crook of my legs, but before crawling under the covers she launches herself onto my chest to kiss me over and over.

I love my dog.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Psalm 8

I was struck by the 2nd picture of the Carina Nebula (click on the picture for more information) and haven't been able to get this Psalm out of my mind today! When I finally moved past the first verse, I managed to get stuck on verse 4, "what is man that you are mindful of him?" This is my hymn of praise today.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is
your name in all the earth!

You have
set your glory
above the heavens.

From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider
your heavens,
the work of
your fingers,
the moon and
the stars
which you have
set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

You made
him a little
lower than
the heavenly
beings and
crowned him
with honor.

You made him ruler over the works of your hands,
you put everything under his feet:

all the flocks and herds, and the beasts of the fields,

the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Memories of long ago

Cool! I just found my best friend from high school on Facebook. I haven't talked to her in a long time. Now, I have to explain how cool this is. You see, I'm old. There aren't a LOT of people my age on Facebook. When I signed on, I didn't expect to find my classmates there, I expected to find my younger friends, because they're supposed to be so much more computer-savvy. I was right.

All of my life statistics reduce the probability of me finding my old friends on Facebook. 1. My age, 2. I came from a class with a limited number of people (116). When I began looking for friends from my class (and those right around it) on Facebook, I found 3 that had graduated in 1977 (and yes, I understand that many of your were born long after that year). I had known them, but not well, so I waited.

For some reason or other, I checked again the other day - and there she was! I see pictures of her kids - all grown up, one of her nieces got married - that freaked me out (we're much too young for that to happen - right? nope). Her sisters that I knew well because of all the time I spent at her house and her mom. Oh. It's a good thing.

This is the girl I got into trouble with, I explored great music with, we drove around town for hours in the evenings in her car back when gas was a nonissue. Four of us would pile in her car - pitch in 50 cents each for gas and drive all night. Sigourney had a square. The courthouse was in the center and stores ringed the outside of the square. All of the kids spent their evenings circling that square in their cars. Sometimes we'd pull into parking spaces and chat, sometimes we'd go into the pizza place for supper, sometimes we'd make the full loop of the town - out the mile-away to the gravel road, back into the high school, down Pleasant Valley - out to the swimming pool - but we'd always end up back on the square.

She is the one that I skipped school with. It was senior year - second semester. Gym was last period and we hated gym class - so we left. We went to her house (her mom worked, mine didn't) and went up to her attic room and listened to music. I fell in love with Manhattan Transfer because of her. Then the day came that mom was pounding on her front door. She had a beautiful oval glass panel in the door and I could see mom's fury coursing through that door. We were caught. The gym teacher threatened to flunk me so I couldn't graduate, but the principal and I made a deal - absolutely no more absences from gym class and I would pass. The only 'D' slip I ever got was from that semester.

We haven't had much chance to talk on Facebook yet, but I certainly am thrilled to see her face again! And at my age, it's nice to bring back memories of younger years!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

So much life

I was just standing outside with Leica on the leash watching the cars zoom by the house. Different cars, different people, all with something going on. The air was heavy with moisture, the grass green, squirrels running for the trees. Life! So much life!

One of the memories of mom's death was the shocking realization that there were just a few of us filled with the sensation of death and loss. The rest of the world was living! And at the worst moments of my days, there were people out there enjoying life, doing things that had absolutely nothing to do with death. It was hard to comprehend since I was mired in grief.

A few weeks after mom's funeral, a young man from our church was killed in a car accident. He had fallen asleep at the wheel and hit a bridge abutment. His family was plunged into grief, death and loss. When I heard about the accident, I was heading out to a movie with some friends and the realization of the sharp contrast between life and death came to me again.

Death happens once in a life, so we tend to anchor it in our memories. For many people the idea of holidays without their loved ones is painful, even for many years after the actual loss. Time is marked by the date of a death. The first Christmas, the first anniversary, the first birthday - all after a death has occurred. And years pass, while not so many dates happen every year, there are some that stand out in our memories. For me, a late spring snowstorm reminds me that in March 1987, we were brought to a standstill by a spring blizzard that occurred the day after mom died. March 27th doesn't get too far into the annals of history without me remembering that was the day that I watched her die. It's been 21 years and I still remember.

But, what about life! While one death occurs in a life, the life is filled with so much more than that! I don't want to focus on the loss of life, but on the exquisite beauty of the life that is lived well! As I stand outside among the chaotic sensations that life brings, I am thankful for a reminder that God is on the move, He is creating, He is filling our lives during every moment of our lives. There is so much life!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Dungeons and Dragons

Oh my, you read that right. My friends and part of my family are ready to toss me away. But yes, I have returned to the earliest known Diane gaming world. Max, Carol and I drove down to my brother's house after work today to see if it was even possible for us to begin playing the game again.

Here's the story.

Once upon a time, long, long ago in a town far, far away, a young girl graduated from college. With no immediate plans in her future, she moved home and got a couple of jobs. It so happened that she returned to the familial abode during the year of her brother's final high school grade. The little brat that had annoyed her for so many decades (ok, about 1.8) was actually interesting!

He and two of his friends were playing a strange game called "Dungeons and Dragons" and having a blast being creative. So, without further ado, she figured out how to make it more comfortable for them to play by adding music, atmosphere and food. She also learned to play the game with them.

Hours and hours of endless creative fun passed that year. The girl and her brother were able to become friends and peers. But, alas, he graduated and went to college and she left town for a job far away. Whenever they managed to be home together, sporadic games of D&D would occur, but it was never the same again.

I honestly just figured that with the rapid growth of computer role-playing games (RPGs) and then the onset of online RPGs, Dungeons and Dragons was a thing of the past. About 4 years ago, a rather strange young man came into the print shop and was copying player character sheets and maps for an adventure. Lo and behold, I found that the paper gamers were still quite active and in fact, the publishing company just released the 4th Edition of the Game.

I purchased the set: Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual and Player's Handbook. I purchased some dice: 8-sided, 20-sided, 12-sided, 10-sided, 4-sided. Oh yes and a few regular six-sided die as well. Jim started designing his adventure for us and this evening we settled in with pizza, pop (diet mt. dew for me - 25 years ago, it was regular mt. dew and Hostess ho-hos. None of us can do that regularly now!) and books in hand.

We were lame. Many things have changed, many things were forgotten in the last 25 years. But, we had fun nonetheless. And the best part was introducing the game to my nephews and my husband. I need to study the Player's Handbook and get some of the rules under my belt again.

It's such a great way to spend an evening. There is constructive play, lots of conversation and you actually have to think creatively. I had a lot of fun, Max had never played before and thought it was fun. This is going to be a blast!

I'm a female Elvin Cleric. I can cast spells, heal, and wield a weapon. Now, how could life get better than that?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Religion? Church? Christian?

I've spent the better part of the last 48+ years believing that to be a good Christian, you have to attend church. Not just fellowship, but church. Dad was a huge proponent of people belonging to church. So, I did. And I bought into the whole 'church is the largest part of your faith-filled life' attitude.

I don't want anyone to think that this is another rant against the institutional church, though it may end up there. What I'm doing right now is processing information. That's actually why I haven't written much lately. I can't bring myself to tell you all that I'm processing on until I get to a point that it makes sense to me. The last thing I want to do is to encourage people to walk the path of confusion that I'm taking.

I begin to wonder if we have become so acculturated to attending church that we can't really think about what it looks like if we didn't actually go to a building on a Sunday morning and sit through a sermon and some songs. Before you freak out, I am not talking about removing a form of regular Christian fellowship from my life, but I am questioning what format it should take in my life.

James says (James 1:26-27) "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

That's interesting to me - and quite challenging. James isn't talking about faith, he is actually talking about religion! has quite a few definitions of religion, but the one that applies the best is:
a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sect.

Wikipedia says "The term "religion" refers to both the personal practices related to communal faith and to group rituals and communication stemming from shared conviction."

Personal practices and group rituals and communication stemming from shared conviction.

It occurs to me that religion is developed by humanity. We band together to create a set of beliefs and practices, our shared conviction brings about communal faith rituals and communication. James tells us, though, that God actually has a prescription for religion. I don't know that I've ever seen this verse before - ok, maybe I just haven't paid attention.

But, I don't find myself actively doing any of those things: keeping a tight rein on my tongue, looking after widows and orphans or keeping myself from being polluted by the world. I suspect that attending church on a Sunday morning is much simpler than actually adjusting my behavior to match that which God is asking of me.

I don't know that I can accept that in myself or in people that I encounter on a Sunday morning any longer. I want so much more.

Oh please don't think I'm passing judgment on anyone. I'm certainly not. There are plenty of people who attend worship regularly on Sundays and are working like crazy to follow God's precepts. This is all about me. This is all about me not wanting to accept the easy religion. This is all about me trying to find out what God is asking of me personally.

Changes in my life lately? Wow. I feel like I've been splattered everywhere and I see all of the pieces laying on the ground. I'm putting the puzzle back together, piece by piece and I don't think it's going to look the same as it did before I started. That's kind of exciting!