Tuesday, December 29, 2009

God In History - New Blog

The other day, Max and I were discussing a calendar that he had brought home from St. Cecilia's Cathedral in Omaha. He attends Catholic mass whenever possible and loves it. I was thrilled to have in my hands something with all of the feasts, saints days, etc., from the Catholic church. What an amazing look at the history of the church.

As we talked, I began to consider that many people are unaware of how the Christian church has developed through the centuries. The Catholic church is denigrated by many evangelicals and the idea of saints is abhorrent. But, in negating all of that, what happens is that we negate a great portion of history. God has been working in great ways through the lives of people all over the world for the last 2000+ years. Most of us have no idea who these people are or what they have done. Though we may not approve of sainthood, the fact remains that these people were working in God's name in our world. There was a reason they were recognized and we should discover what that was.

The way that Christians interact with the world and with each other has changed radically in the last 2000 years. We look at history through the lens of contemporary Christianity and have no concept of why early Christians responded to the world the way that history reports.

What all of these conversations and thought processes made me realize is that I can actually do something about this. On January 1, I will be starting a new blog: "God in History." Each day I will study and write about an event or a day in the history of Christianity following the Resurrection of Jesus.

The earliest days of Christianity are covered in the book of Acts and the letters of the New Testament. I'll begin with the meeting of the disciples found in Acts 15, but immediately after, I will concentrate on things that are not spoken of in the New Testament, but are found in historical records and extra-Biblical books.

If you'd like to receive a copy of this blog in your inbox each day - just let me know. Or, you can follow it or drop the RSS feed into your daily reader. I'd love to have you join me. I'd love to receive feedback and questions as we are going through this. The best way that I learn is through teaching.

The blog frame is up, there is no content yet. You can check it out at http://.godinhistory.blogspot.com.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas - Paying it Forward

In my last post, I wrote about buying cigarettes for a stranger. What a great story we'll have to tell for a long time and it's a fun memory of Christmas Day 2009.

It's not necessarily easy to be gracious and generous in today's world. We worry so much about people taking advantage of us and we've gotten really cynical about those that might need a little extra help. We're so concerned with making a few bucks and saving a few bucks that we forget to take care of anyone.

I decided to come up to the cabin today and spend some time processing on a new blog (announcement hopefully will come this week) and the information for the next series on my Pour Out a Blessing blog. I need to finish a personal story for an application and start working on some other things that are coming up as well.

The roads all looked good for the trip to the cabin and I had communicated with my friends up here so they knew I was coming and off I went.

I hit the interstate and pulled up to speed and my Jeep started shaking terribly. Wow. This isn't good. I pulled off the next exit, turned around and drove the interstate back to my exit. Yup, shaking over 65 mph. Unhappy Diane. I called Max and as we spoke, I thought about the fact that I'd been driving in tons of snow, none of it had melted and I wondered if I needed to deal with the snow in my tires. I tried to go to a car wash, but it was closed, however ... Jiffy Lube was open.

I pulled in, told the guys what was going on. They pulled the Jeep into a bay, chipped off a ton of ice and blew the snow out of my tires. The guys played with Leica (my dachshund) for awhile and then escorted me to my car. They had checked tire pressure and figured that everything should be good to go. Yes, ice and snow packed into the tire area will knock them out of balance.

"How much do I owe you?"

"Not a thing, consider it a Christmas gift. Let us know if you have any more trouble.


Wow! I was stunned. Owning a business in Omaha for 20+ years taught me a lot about cynical behavior. No one does much of anything without getting cash. I have been re-learning how to live among generous, gracious people as I've spent more time away from the city. Today though, I was grateful and surprised at the generous treatment I got.

When I pulled back onto the Interstate, my Jeep drove smoothly and I was off. The interstates were clear, the highways were drive-able and when I pulled up to the cabin, I discovered that my friends up here had plowed my drive for me again, knowing I was coming.

How can I ever justify being stingy or cynical? I have received innumerable blessings in my life. I received incredible blessings just today! Buying two packs of cigarettes for a guy doesn't seem like I've done nearly enough to pay it forward.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Samaritans?

I came home from the cabin on Tuesday because I was worried about the incoming storm.

I didn't go anywhere on Wednesday because I was worried about the incoming storm.

We stayed home on Thursday because I was worried about the incoming storm.

It's Friday - I was pretty much done with being in the house. However, the storm not only had gotten here, it got here with a fury! But, I have a Jeep and I love my Jeep.

Carol called - telling me that someone had dug out her driveway and the alley behind her house. The main road looked clear and if I could get there, we could actually have a little bit of Christmas and maybe some food!

Poor Max. He scooped a path to the Jeep, turned it on to warm it up and then we loaded everything into the car and headed out. (Have I mentioned I love my Jeep? No problem getting out - just a little extra push on the gas to get through the drifts.)

Mini vans stuck in side streets, cars driving too fast, small cars trying to get through the mess in the intersections. All great entertainment for me.

I took the main roads to get to her house and when I turned onto Military, I drove a few blocks and there was a poor, older man stuck in a snowdrift. He'd been walking. He couldn't get himself up and out. I passed him, realized what was going on, looked in my rearview mirror, saw absolutely no one and backed up to see what we could do.

Max got out of the Jeep to see about helping this man up. Well, I don't know what this guy was doing, but he couldn't help Max at all. He acted like so much dead weight. I asked if they needed a 911 call. The guy didn't refuse it, Max was beginning to get worried. The guy kept dragging himself and Max back to the ground. So, I called. Then, a young man pulled up in a pickup and between the two of them, they got the man out of the drift and he took off walking back to his apartment. WEIRD!

Max got back into the Jeep. The guy was on his way to buy cigarettes. Are you freakin' kidding me? Then, it occurred to me. It had to be pretty awful for him to head out in this weather. If he needed cigarettes, he probably needed them and Christmas Day is not about teaching the man a lesson. We pulled up in front of the apartment building (oh, I had called off the rescue workers, telling them I would watch until he got home and ensure that he was really safe), and Max asked the guy what kind of cigarettes he smoked. We'll go buy them for you.

Off we went ... to buy cigarettes ... for a stranger. Walgreens - closed. Sinclair - closed. Bucky's - closed. Sheesh! This is going to take awhile. Finally, Quick Trip was open. In we went. We got food to take to Carol's and two packs of cigarettes. Back to the guy's apartment. Merry Christmas, dude ... enjoy your evening. Please stay inside now.

On our way to Carol's. That really great job of plowing her alley? Two feet of snow in front of it. The city had just come through. Oh, good heavens. There was no way my Jeep was hopping that drift. 1/2 block from her house and we can't get there. Nowhere to park. Nothing we can do. Are you kidding me with this?

Then, a man from the apartment complex next to hers needed to leave. He came out with a shovel and was working through the drift. I pulled up and asked Max to spell him with the shovel (see how this works? I'm the Good Samaritan, Max does the work). Then Carol came out with two more shovels and before we knew it, it was clear again and in we went and off he went to do whatever it was he needed to do.

Laundry and Christmas with Carol and an evening out of the house. With a little bit of hilarity on the side. I mean, who goes on a trek to buy cigarettes for a stranger? Obviously, Diane and Max do.

I'll be out again tomorrow, I guarantee it. I love my Jeep!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Giving and the Grinch!

So far, so good.

Got the car washed. My goodness, it was in bad shape and I even washed it last weekend, well ... Monday! By Wednesday, the storm and driving through the mess had me to the point of holding myself far away from the car so I didn't get dirt all over myself. You know how I love my Jeep - I like to have it looking pretty, too! (I know ... I know)

After that I went to Hy-Vee. I intend to do crazed holiday baking this next week. Everyone else and their daughter, granddaughter, grandmother, mother, and a few male type figures (whom I figure were only there under duress) were purchasing baking necessities today as well. When I walked past, there were only 3 packages left of brown sugar, I had to beg the guy stocking the shelves to find mini marshmallows for me, he was shoving flour on the shelves as quickly as possible and the chocolate chips were nearly gone. All of the shelves were depleted in the baking aisle. He was working as quickly as humanly possible!

I suppose after that crazy week we had and then a Saturday that people could actually move around the city, everyone was desperate to get started on their baking.

As I walked around the store, it felt wonderful to be a part of the excitement. It happens every year about this time, people feel good about what they are doing. Maybe it's the fact that for the most part we are thinking of others. We're buying gifts for someone else, we're baking for family and friends, neighbors and coworkers, we're focused on so many things other than ourselves. And it feels great!

That's the feeling that struck me today as I was watching people interact in the aisles. Oh, they were jammed with carts and boxes/pallets that needed to be stocked in the shelves. People were backing up and getting out of aisles they didn't actually need to be in and trying to avoid running into each other, but there was a sense of camaraderie rather than competitiveness.

It didn't hurt that the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who were moving through the store hugging and greeting customers with big smiles. How in the world do you maintain any kind of attitude other than surprise and glee with that happening around you!

But, today I wasn't in the store because I had to buy groceries for myself. I was there because I had made a list of items I needed to create gifts for others. Every item on that list will be blended to make treats and goodies to serve at a party, to share with neighbors. Nothing will be for myself (except the stuff I snitch as I bake).

Giving it away. That's just the best feeling of all.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Getting old? Yes, but NO WAY!

I've been thinking a lot lately about getting old. When is it too late to make radical changes in your life. At what point do people just think you're nuts? I've been talking to several people my age and older and one of the things that I keep running into is that these people are looking towards the end of their careers (in the short-term) and are no longer thinking about making changes that will excite them, but are just considering the easiest way to sneak out of life.

You see, our parents did that. Retirement was an amazing goal. They looked forward to sitting around, drinking ice tea (or whatever), maybe working on a few projects around the house, traveling to see grandkids, on and on and on. So ... if our parents did that, we should too?

When I was much younger, the people that were my parents age were old! They already acted old. If an older woman wanted to do things that only younger women did, she was called 'feisty!' Blech. I don't want to be feisty, I want to be Diane!

I'm about to make a major change in my life, a change that could take me 30 years to accomplish (well, not the initial change, but the overall goal). I want to be given those 30 years by people who know me and people who meet me. I don't want anyone to expect me to lay down and shrivel up simply because I turn a certain age. It's absolutely going to kill me to watch my friends move toward retirement and then settle into quiet, withdrawn lives because they think that's the thing to do.

Now, I know full well that many of you will take exception to all of this - and YEA!!! Do!! If you are looking forward to retirement, good for you. If you get all weak and feeble on me because you've given up on life, I'm kicking your butt.

This is going to be an interesting time for me. It scares the stuffing out of me that people my age and older quit going for the big, exciting jobs and huge dreams for their future because they think they have to. I don't want anyone to ever look at me and think that I can't do something simply because I'm no longer 25 years old. Now is the best time ever for me to be doing big, exciting things because I finally have the wisdom of the ages behind me (shaddup - all of ya!).

Look - this is what turning 50 does to ya. All of a sudden you get really reflective on life. Right? Right. Sigh ...

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Routine? Love it.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit how much a creature of habit I am. The thing is, I love change. Change always means growth to me. It's scary, but it always challenges me. At the same time, though, I find that there are certain things I need to remain stable.

The last two weeks were amazing. I got to see old friends, experience new things, go places I don't consider part of my pattern. It was awesome.

The ten weeks prior to that were amazing. I was in the process of taking online classes and focused my energies on learning and accomplishing goals. Again ... just awesome.

But, this week, knowing that I could settle in ... drag out the Greek textbooks, explore some new educational possibilities, read, etc., and not have to face long travel trips which challenged me or think about how weird my schedule is due to holidays ... just felt wonderful.

When I was working full time, I loved the breaks that holidays brought. So, I watch all of my friends get excited about those days off and I'm glad for them. For me, though, that stuff just upsets my continuity! Maybe it's because I'm getting older and I like things to stay in one place. No, I don't think that's it. (well maybe a little) I'm really working towards upsetting my entire pattern for 'normal.' It's going to happen and I'm going to love it!

Christmas parties, gatherings, celebrations, concerts, holiday events are all coming up and ready to intrude on my 'normal.' I'm going to enjoy them all. But, it's different being in a position where I'm no longer anticipating the break in my routine because my routine stinks. I love my routine right now. I love that I can study and research, write and process. I can hardly wait for the next course of study to begin!

Speaking of that ... I will hopefully be bringing some more of Diane's life-change news to you soon! Just gotta get through the process.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Ahhh ... college!?

The last couple of weeks have been heavy on the travel and light on actually accomplishing anything productive. I look forward to enjoying the rest of this week. There will be (hopefully) much learning occurring as I attempt to immerse myself back in the world of strange (to me) languages.

I'm also spending time looking at various online learning experiences - different universities and colleges around the country that will allow me to complete as much of a degree as possible without actually being on campus. Most of them are far, far away and I'm just not ready to relocate for months at a time. It would also help if I knew exactly what it was that I wanted to do with myself when I grew up! I have a vague idea - and a lot of dreams, but I will admit to needing to be a bit practical.

What I really want to do is cobble together coursework from a multitude of different universities, complete it all and then ask one of them to just give me the degree I'm looking for. Think I can make that work? No, I didn't think so, either.

I'm getting tired of making decisions. Well, that's not even true. I haven't made any yet. I seem to have so many things floating around in my head, I don't know what to do with myself! Like all of the rest of my friends who continue to place these deep life questions before God, I think I'd just like a sign or two pointing me in the right direction. Something like oh, say ... a contract with a Christian publisher so that I know that writing is what I'm supposed to be doing, or an obvious degree path that will lead me to a career that I will find stimulating and exciting.

Yah, it's not going to be that easy - I'm confident of that. I just hate thinking about this part of it. I want to be in the middle of the path, not at the beginning. Sigh. (hehe) I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to work for this.

It really was much easier the first time around. Everyone was telling me what to do and it all seemed to make sense. I thought I had my plan in hand and my life was going to fall into place without much effort. But that didn't really occur, so this time I'm going to expend a little more time and energy and see what I can do to make the next 30+ years of my life wild and crazy!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Love, life and friends

It's good to be home, but my goodness, it was a strange, wonderful feeling being around old friends in a place I called home for over nine years. Today was just a continuation of the sensations of love that I've experienced over the last few days.

I had planned to meet up with some close friends of our family - Gailen & Sonna. Wow, it's hard to imagine how long we've been friends, but they were friends of my parents and we kind of grew up with their kids (ok, I was a lot older - hush!).

Last night just after I got to the party, I got a message to call their daughter, Mary - immediately. Gailen had had a stroke. That hit me hard. You know, it's one thing to watch your own parents deal with health crises and to deal with their deaths, but when something like this hits you out of the blue and it's happening to someone you love so much ... wow. I called Mary, she told me that things were going ok, but of course they were still worried. So, instead of planning to meet them for breakfast this morning, I decided to head for Mercy Hospital and just see them there.

First we spent some time with Mary and Brad at her house - caught up on their family stuff, got a chance to hug her and love her out loud and find out what was really happening. She warned me that her dad was looking a lot older. I think she wanted to prepare me. Ok, fine.

Then it was off to Iowa City. Yup, I remember hating that drive. All the idiots that insist that 55 mph is what they should be driving (ok, I know the speed limit is 55, but puhleeze! really?). Drove into Iowa City, had more memories of locations hit me and found the hospital. We got into the room and it was all I could do not to dash into Sonna's arms. Well, maybe I didn't restrain myself too much. She hugs GOOD! I hugged Gailen and realized that he looked great. Mary had done a terrific job of preparing me - I was expecting death warmed over and he looked just like Gailen. Heck, we've all aged! (well, not me - I'm still only 30 - right? RIGHT!)

We didn't spend a lot of time with them, the physical therapist wanted him to work with her ... right now! So, we hugged again and headed home.

I am so grateful that God afforded me the opportunity to be with this family just for a few moments so that we could all be reminded of how much love we've shared in the past and how God has bound our families together.

We move in and out of each others lives throughout these limited years we have together, and I am continually amazed at how love reaches across time spans and lives that we live to draw us together in important ways. I am so thankful for His love that transcends everything.

Friday, November 27, 2009

50 is the new 30

That was the idea I was trying to promote this evening. I'm not sure if it caught on or not, but I gave it my best shot!

You see, I'm back home in Sigourney. Some friends decided it was time to host a Happy 50th Birthday party for classmates that had graduated around 1976-77-78. Lots of us came in for the party. It was great fun to see faces and reconnect with people I haven't seen in years. I'm still processing on all the stories I want to tell, one of these days I'll get them written down.

We drove into town early this afternoon and as I saw the Sigourney water tower in the distance, I got a little choked up. For 9 years that water tower had signified home to me. My friends and family walked with me as I grew from a child to a young woman. They knew my parents, we played together, laughed together, competed against each other, learned together. We had secrets together, we hurt each other, encouraged each other, protected each other. These were the people that knew me well.

I started pointing out landmarks to Max and then warned him that I would probably get good and lost at some point because I would forget my way around the town. We drove around for awhile as I reoriented myself. The streets all seem smaller, the distances between places are shorter. I had always wondered about that long, long, long, long walk from my house to the high school. Hmmm ... not such a long walk after all! And the distance from the parsonage to the church. My goodness, but that was a quick block and a half. I was sure it was much further away.

Our evening entertainment centered around the square if we weren't at the high school. We would drive around, pull over into a parking space and chat with friends and then get in our cars and start again. We might head to the Tastee Freez (the building is empty now and up for sale) or the pizza place on the square (that one is no longer open). There was always a reason to be hanging out with friends.

So, I pulled onto the square, parked in front of the courthouse and Max got out to take pictures. I just sat there and reminisced. There was the spot where my boyfriend punched a kid out for insulting me. That was where we got out of the car and sang "Black Water" at the top of our voices. That's the cleaners that was owned by my friend, Susan. On and on ... my mind was flooded with memories.

It's good to come back to the memories that remind us of the fun and passions of our youth.

Tonight's party was great. The band that took us through high school - "Double Trouble"- played covers of our favorites, just like they did when we were much, much younger. Those guys did a great job then and believe it or not, they've still got it.

It was great fun watching everyone peer at name tags, hoping that we wouldn't embarrass ourselves by not knowing someone we should have known very well. At some point, you just have to admit that we changed just enough to make it difficult to put a name and a face together.

That was one of the weirdest things for me today. As we drove around Sigourney, I would see a house and say, "Oh my, I spent time in that house and I can NOT tell you who lived there." Some I remembered, some I just looked at blankly, wishing for the memory to return. That's probably the same way I looked at people tonight. Some I remembered immediately, others I just prayed for a memory before they realized that it was a blank look on my face. For the most part, once I got a name, I was doing great.

It was a great evening. I'm glad I came back. I'll be back for more!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Really? A post about bread?

As much as I love to eat bread, I love to make it. There is nothing better than smelling homemade bread in the oven. Before I got my bread machine, I did knead and make bread, but it was such a pain in the butt. I also discovered frozen bread dough. That was pure awesomeness! I don't know why I rebelled against it, though.

However, I love to bake bread. I use my machine for mixing, kneading and allowing the bread to rise, then I pop it out into the loaf pan or onto a cookie sheet for rolls, let it rise once more and bake away. One of the things I need to spend time doing is experimenting with crusty European breads. I love to eat those and I haven't yet figured out how to make them ... correctly. The other thing I would love to accomplish is getting a good sourdough starter in my life.

A few years ago, I decided to try it. I got the whole kit to get it going and promptly ... forgot about it. Killed that little bugger, I did.

Wow, I remember the very first time I had real San Francisco sourdough bread. I got a round loaf and am pretty sure I ate the whole thing in one sitting. I had never tasted anything quite so amazing. This was back in 1987 and there wasn't much sourdough out here in the midwest yet. That changed a few years later and I can finally get amazing breads in a lot of different places.

Now, you'd think with my incredible passion for bread, there wouldn't be many I didn't like. You'd be wrong. I'm not a fan of grainy breads, though they are better for me. I love rye and pumpernickel, oat breads, Italian dark breads, light breads, rolls, some sweet breads. But, mostly, I just love plain old bread.

And toast? Oh my goodness, I love toast. Yah ... toast. Alright, if you don't know about this hilarious sendup on toast by Heywood Banks, here's a great video of him actually performing the piece live.

I remember my Grandma Greenwood baking bread. She's the one that taught me how to knead the dough to make it perfect. Dad remembers a loaf of bread that she had set on the table to cool. He discovered it, picked it up, made a hole in the bottom and ate the center out of that amazingly, wonderful loaf of bread. Then he put it back on the table and left for the day to play with his friends. Oh, Grandma knew who had done it.

This blend of flour, water, oil, sugar and yeast (other things too, I guess) is a reason to give thanks. Not just because it is yummy, but because I have plenty. Along with the bread tomorrow, there will be turkey and potatoes, vegetables and salad. There is warmth and protection from the winter's chill, there are people who love me - friends and family alike. I have plenty. I have an abundance. I am grateful for everything that makes me who I am today.

I am thankful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

December Pour Out a Blessing

Advent is a time of preparation.

Most of us understand that we are preparing for the coming of Jesus, but what many of us don't know is that Advent is actually a time of preparing for the Second Coming of Christ. While we celebrate His birth on Christmas, we prepare our hearts for His return during Advent.

This Advent (well, the month of December), I'm going to take us through the Bible's prophetic texts regarding Jesus' return. We'll look at the Old Testament, the Gospels, Paul's letters and the other New Testament writer's writings about His return and then spend time in the Revelation.

Since I haven't yet mapped out the outline, there is every possibility that this might take us into January as well.

If you know someone that would get something out of this study, please invite them to read the blog, or ask them to email me at -- nammynools (@) cox (.) net -- and I will get them on the daily email list. Otherwise, they can follow me at the blog or subscribe to the RSS feed.

What does the Bible actually say about the return of Christ? The first thing we need to know is that He is coming back. The second thing we need to know is that He calls us to be prepared. As we prepare our homes and families for the celebration of Christ's birth, let us prepare our hearts for His return.

Twilight and other fiction

I saw "New Moon" on Sunday with a bunch of girlfriends. That made for an interesting Sunday. I wasn't sure which to be more excited about: worship or the movie. I chose to be excited about both ... each in their own time.

I told the girls sitting beside me in the theater that they needed to be prepared for moaning. They laughed until they realized that I wasn't kidding. Yes, I'll admit it - this 50 year old woman thinks Robert Pattinson is HOT! Funny thing, though. I didn't pay that much attention to him when he played Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter.

Everyone is talking about the Twilight books and movies. Why are they such a big deal and why have vampires/werewolves become the new hot commodity in entertainment? I haven't got all the answers, I just have opinions. I suppose some will say that it's a sign of our times. Life is rough enough and getting lost in a fantasy is good for all of us.

The Pope decided to come out against the movie. That's fine. I always figure that fiction is what it is. There was an uproar over the Harry Potter books, The Golden Compass, DaVinci Code, etc., etc. There will be an uproar over books as long as people are reading and writing. Books have been banned, burned, destroyed, hidden - you name it.

Words have a tendency to offer freedom. When you are trapped in a situation, words and ideas can explode with brilliant clarity in your mind. Books offer creative ways to use those words.

When I grew up in small town Iowa, I didn't experience much more than white, middle class people. But, in the books I read, I was exposed to everything! Aliens, slaves, various cultures, extreme thought processes, different ways of life, new ways of thinking, history, dreams of the future. Books encouraged me to think beyond myself and to be open to ideas that were bigger and different than what I had ever considered.

Fiction encourages us to dream. I love seeing the way that science fiction becomes reality in our lives. Fiction helps us to see differences in others and relate those differences to the world in which we exist.

Do you remember the classic Star Trek episode, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield?" Two groups of people are at war. The difference between them? On one, they are white on the left/black on the right, the other group is exactly opposite. It was such a blatant statement on racism at the time it was made.

Now, do you see the racism between vampires and werewolves in Twilight? Bella doesn't see it at all. She loves them both, but their traditions and fears of each other are so strong that until they find a common ground, they can barely tolerate each other.

This is the beauty of fiction. Real life problems, presented in a manner that is easy to read.

Jesus used parables - stories to illustrate the point He was trying to make.

I believe that we want to accept the differences in each other, but find it difficult to do so. Maybe it is peer pressure, maybe it is fear of the unknown, maybe we've simply been taught to hate by the people around us.

....or MAYBE tomorrow we will wake up and discover that vampires and werewolves do really exist, that Vulcans have landed on earth to ask us to join the intergalactic government, or that lizard-people or insect-people are here to munch on us for dinner.

...or MAYBE tomorrow we will wake up and discover that we are asked to interact with someone much different than ourselves with love, compassion and understanding.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kindness of Strangers

Y'all know how much I love my Jeep. I baby that thing. I wash and vacuum it all the time, I take it in for regular maintenance. I love my baby! It gets me everywhere and gives me a sense of great freedom. It's comfortable and has plenty of space for me to pack my stuff, it has great features (some I continue to discover). I love my Jeep.

Imagine my surprise when it let me down! I was coming home after a wild week of traveling and about 45 minutes west of Des Moines, I heard a strange squeal and within seconds my Jeep told me to check my gauges. Sure enough ... there was a problem. I had just passed an exit, but there was another in 2 miles. I made it off the exit, pulled to the top, off the road, put the baby into Park and it died. Sigh ... oh yes, tons of steam coming from under the hood.

I called Max to tell him where I was and that I might need more help, but I was going to check with AAA and see what could happen. I got hold of a girl at AAA and after much discussion (because they have a MILLION questions), she finally reached a driver who would come find me. It would take an hour because he was coming out of Des Moines, was I ok to wait.

What I wanted to remind her of, was that I was in IOWA! Of course I was going to be ok. Alright, I might have too much faith in the people of Iowa, but I certainly felt safe at the Greenfield exit in the middle of Iowa. I called Max, told him the driver would bring me and the Jeep to Omaha and he could just wait, he didn't need to drive. I pulled out my Kindle and read. Cars passed, a few looked at me asking if I needed help. A 'thumbs-up' let them know I was fine.

The tow truck pulled up (Craig's Auto, Adair, IA) and he opened the hood and discovered that yes, I had a problem, the belt around the water pump was ... ummm ... gone and the water pump itself was broken. No jerry rigging this to get me back to Omaha!

Then he asked if someone was coming to get me. I was startled. "She said you would take me." Now, he was startled. The poor guy kept apologizing for the state of the cab of his truck. He had an air compressor and all sorts of other car 'stuff' up there and worried about space for me. Ummm ... I'm not concerned. But, he wanted to stop at his shop to get rid of it for the trip to Omaha, it wouldn't take long. I said, "As long as there is a bathroom I can use, I don't care!" There was, I didn't care.

We talked all the way back to Omaha - about everything! His son, his wife, the wind turbine farms, ethanol plants in Iowa, his job, how long he had been a mechanic, his land in Wisconsin, growing up on a farm in Iowa - everything. He continued to apologize for the cab, telling me that Saturday was the day he usually cleaned it. I bet that after yesterday it is now sparkling!

Soon it was 9:30 and we were unloading my baby at the garage. I settled up with him and Max took me home. I kept thinking about my evening. You know, I could have never had a problem with my Jeep, but then I would have never met this great guy who loves his job and his family. I've met someone that will take care of me again when I'm in central Iowa and have a problem. I learned a few tidbits of information that I didn't have before the conversation and only lost 1 1/2 hours of my day. I was safe through all of it. I'm so thankful that things didn't break down while I was making my way to Chicago and back.

All in all, it was a good evening!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I love my friends! A lot!

Well, I kept telling everyone it was going to be an interesting week and I wasn't wrong.

Facebook has been a wonderful way for me to find old friends and discover ways to connect with them again. I was able to do it again this week and what fun it was!

A few months ago, my college roommate, Nancy posted something on her wall about Young Frankenstein playing in Chicago. I mentioned I would love to see that (one of my favorite Mel Brooks movies ever) and all of a sudden we were solidifying plans and I had a ticket to see it with her. I haven't seen Nancy in 25+ years and while it was wonderful to reconnect with her online, it was time to do it in person.

Then, in the middle of this, another college friend, Melodie realized that I would be showing up in her city (Chicago) and we should hook up for a few hours! What a deal!

Bright and early Thursday morning I crawled out of bed at the cabin and began the trip to Chicago, filled with anticipation and a little dread (over the drive and the logistics). I got to the James R. Thompson Center a bit early, settled in with my Kindle and waited. Before I knew it, I heard "Hello!" and there was Melodie. I hugged her and we spent the next several hours discovering what had been going on in each others lives for the last couple of decades (that's really odd to consider - how can time pass so quickly!).

I think one of the weirdest things that has occurred to me as I've reconnected with so many of my friends is how much I didn't know about what was occurring around me. It's funny, there were so many personality intricacies and events happening and I was oblivious to a lot of them. Safer that way? Maybe. But, as much as I pay attention to things these days and am extremely observant of interpersonal relationships, I'm stunned at what I missed when I was younger.

Nancy and her daughter, Martha made their way to us after taking the train in from the Kenosha area and they 'passed the friend.' We waited for Nancy's other daughter, Erin and her boyfriend to find us, talked for awhile and made our way to an awesome sandwich shop for some supper. It was pretty cool to see the young girl that I met when she was a naive freshman at Coe with her two oldest girls who are stunningly beautiful, extremely talented, bright and who love their mom like crazy. I always wonder what has happened with my old friends, hope that they are happy, hope they've seen the successes they've looked for and pray that they are doing well. It's terrific to discover where their joys and contentment are and it's amazing to find them facing similar stresses and craziness as I do.

After dinner, we headed for the theater and a WONDERFUL show. In 2001, Mel Brooks took "The Producers" to Broadway. I'd seen the traveling show when it came to Omaha and loved it. When I saw that he was redoing "Young Frankenstein" for Broadway, I could hardly wait. The musical was worth it. It was bawdy, hilarious, familiar, with an excellent cast and some pretty cool lighting special effects. We laughed for several hours. I tried really hard to not be at all uncomfortable with the fact that this absolutely 'raw' script was being performed in front of Nancy's daughters. (hehe - no, I'm really not that much of a prude ... no, I'm really not!)

Following the play as we made our way out and hugged before she headed to the train station and I headed to my car, I realized that I am grateful for chances to find my friends again. They meant so much to me in different parts of my life and I can hardly believe that I lost touch.

The internet has given me back the people who impacted my life. It has introduced me to new friends along the way. We are so connected in different ways to people and I'm glad that I can have a chance to love my old friends out loud again, while still loving my current friends. I will meet new people throughout the next parts of my life and through all of this ... I get to love and be loved. It's all pretty awesome!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Traveling to Chicago

I'm pooped. And I have another 3 hours of driving ahead of me tonight to get home. I do believe I will end up crashing big-time tonight and will probably not wake up at an early hour tomorrow morning. Fortunately, I don't have a paper or project to prepare for a class, so I won't feel any guilt whatsoever. YEA!

I spent yesterday in Chicago. Pretty much a first for me. I don't think I've ever been there, other than to fly in and out at O'Hare. Oh yah - once I went with a group from college to see Angela Lansbury in Sweeney Todd, but that hardly counts, we drove in to see the musical and drove back out.

So, this was a brand new experience for me! I learned a lot. The first thing I learned is that I'm definitely old-school when it comes to maps. I had a Garmin and my Blackberry with Google maps and the GPS turned on. They didn't help me much. Enough to keep me from crying and screaming, but there is definitely a large scale of emotions between that and being perfectly calm.

I needed a real, live map of the city. I'm one of those people that makes my decisions after looking at an overview of the situation. I had no good overview. Imagine a 50 year old woman with 'unawesome' eyesight trying to peer at the tiny little street names on my Blackberry. Uh huh. Nope!

It took a little doing, but I navigated my way into the bowels of downtown Chicago and found the theater, the location I was meeting my friend at and a parking garage - all within 2 blocks of each other. Whew. I parked the Jeep and started walking.

Leaving the city was an entirely different treat. There I was with tall buildings surrounding me and neither the Blackberry nor the Garmin wanted to help me. I drove around for awhile, trying to get my bearings. Finally I just told the Garmin to take me home (it's preprogrammed). I didn't care how it did so, I just wanted to go home.

I got onto an interstate, saw the highway I actually wanted to be on, dashed across traffic and got there! Whee! That all happened within 15 minutes - I'm so glad. I'd have been an angry, screaming witch if my frustration had lasted much longer.

Now, I had managed to fill the tank in Iowa City and was only at about 1/2 tank when I got into Chicago. Good thing, because there's this very nice Interstate leading from Chicago to the Quad Cities with NOTHING available on it. Alright, that's an exaggeration, but it's not far from the truth. I checked my available gas and, hmmm ... I had 5 more miles in the tank than the trip to the Quad Cities would require. Even I'm not that courageous.

It's a toll road, so there aren't any gas stations/restaurants/hotels ... anything off of the exits. Yes, at DeKalb, there was an Oasis. Thank heavens. I saw that place show up and dashed the heck off to go to the bathroom and get gas. At that point, I released the rest of my travel stress and headed for home.

Ok ... funny thing ... I live in Omaha - or Iowa. You don't actually see too many 'crazies' interacting in the real world. Not so true in the Chicago area. I was driving through a toll booth and when I pulled up, the clerk had his music turned up really loud. I handed him the money and as he handed me change, he yelled at me, "Why doesn't anyone else hear the signals?" My mind spun around really quickly and I decided I didn't like where this conversation might go, so I simply responded with, "I have no idea," looked to ensure the gate was up and tore out of there. Yikes! (hehe)

I kept thinking I would just pull off in a hotel in Davenport, then Walcott, then ... on and on until I finally had had it - and stopped in Coralville. It was 2 am. The clerk came out to help me, must have seen my very tired eyes and got me into a room. Within 15 minutes the lights were out, and after another few minutes, so was my brain.

When I get home tonight, I'll tell you about the middle part of my day - it was great!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Need a Sign

On my Pour Out a Blessing blog this last month, I've been writing (and reading) a lot about how God has revealed Himself to man - the different ways the revelation has happened and the mysteries that surround Him.

Right now, I would love to have Him make a few things clear to me. Like what I'm supposed to do with myself when I grow up. There, that's a big one!

You'd think that at my age, I'd have it all figured out. That I'd be comfortably settled into a career and be planning my retirement and old age.

Yah - that's not happening. First of all, I do not intend to look at the next thirty years of my life as if they are the waning years of my life. I look back at the last 30 years and realize that I had a whole lot of YOUTH going on. Everything that entails. I'm hoping that the next 30 years I'll actually put into practice some of what I've learned through the mistakes I made, the people I trusted (and maybe shouldn't have), the people I didn't trust (and absolutely should have), the crazy decisions I made - on and on.

I don't want to begin acting like I am going to die. So, what in the world am I going to do with this!

I missed a lot while spending 20+ years owning a business. Oh, don't get me wrong, I did a lot, met a lot of wonderful people, established some good things in my life. But, there are things that I should have been doing while I was tied to that place.

Now, you have to know that I realize God was trying to get us to deal with closing that business long before I was ready to give it up, so I know that God had other plans for me while I was trying to make my own plans work out. What I wish is that He might have actually specifically said to me, "Diane, I would like you to do _______." Then I would have done that and all would be well between us, right? Uh huh.

Life doesn't work that way for me - for any of us.

So, here I am. Really God? Just a hint? I really would love a sign. And please, not one that's going to hurt me when it hits me in the head?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Movement of life

Today has been rather uneventful. I had to buy a new coat since I don't intend to freeze to death in Chicago. It was time. The weather keeps getting cooler and cooler - I am beginning to get the idea that summer and fall are passing into winter.

I listen to people complain about the cold and worry about winter and find myself giggling. It's as if everyone forgets that seasons change in Nebraska and Iowa e
very year without fail. I really do love watching cycles and at my age, I recognize more than I probably should. I think it gets harder and harder for me to face January 1 each year as I foresee the speed with which the next year will pass. In fact, I suspect that it's more difficult for me to watch the New Year come and go than it is for me to deal with my birthdays. It's become a silent tradition for me to welcome the New Year by wondering just how quickly March 1 will be here and then watch the entire year skip past me before I even realize it.

But, I didn't begin this post to complain about the speed with which life passes me by. I was thinking about cycles and movement of life. As much as I hate the extreme heat of summer, I know that it actually only lasts a few days. Other days are temperate and soon fall will arrive with a crisp chill in the air. When I hate the ice that makes it difficult to move around, I know that in only a couple of days the sun will have cleared it away and we will have forgotten the stress of the storm. Nothing lasts forever.

I remember the most stressful days at Insty-Prints, thinking that time would pass, situations would work themselves out and there would come a time when I would look back and realize that I had forgotten the details of the crisis.

As I look back over my life (lo, these long 50 years), I realize that I don't see huge ups and downs. There are some bumps and ditches along the way, but those immense crises that I suffered through have evened out over time and I've either forgotten about them or things occurred after that point to make them seem much less important.

Hah - I remember having one of the most embarrassing incidents of my young life when I was in high school. For years every time I would think about it, my face would flush with embarrassment. But, now I wonder what I was thinking! It was a non-incident, not important in the scheme of my life and not worth my worry.

This kind of thinking makes it easier for me to think about my future. What I'm going to do with myself. Education? Job? If I hiccup along the way, it won't really change much. In five to ten years, I will look back on this time and it will all be part of the cycle of my life.

I guess it is time to start deciding where I'm going to get the next part of my education! I want to be able to look back from somewhere else other than right here in the same place.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Friends Fix Me!

Do you have irrational fears? Oh, of course you do. Mine always surprise me when they show up. Mostly because I don't even realize they exist until they're in front of me.

For instance, I'm heading to Chicago on Thursday to see "Young Frankenstein" with my college roommate, Nancy, and her girls. I can hardly wait. The drive will be no big deal, finding the theater will be no big deal, enjoying the play will be awesome. I'm not even worried about driving around in Chicago, though I've never been to downtown Chicago (I know, I know ... crazy, huh?).

The one thing that was starting to upset me was parking my car. Where would I park? Would I be able to find something that was reasonably close? On and on and on.

Next part of the story. Another college friend who now lives in Chicago asked if we could hook up for a bit while I'm there. Of course! I managed to mention this crazy fear to her and before I knew it, she had me hooked up with an entire map of downtown Chicago parking! I've printed out the vicinity map and that fear is completely alleviated.

Now, honestly, the fear wasn't overwhelming. Just something that I had in my head that was a bigger concern than other things. But, what is so cool about this is that Melodie saw my need, gave me the means with which to deal with it and probably had no idea how powerful it was for me.

I get this really fun email in my box daily. "Netted by the Webbys: Good Digital Stuff Served Daily." Every day there is something fun gleaned from the web that could probably help you in your daily life. So far, it's been great. (and you can sign up for it on Facebook and Twitter too)

Last week, the article was on "Tap Your Virtual Brain Trust." And while it's promoting a service called Aardvark, the method behind this intrigued me. I have 300 friends on Facebook. I know these people, they know me. These are the people I have trusted through the years to help me answer questions and with whom I have experienced wild things and discussed even crazier things! My friends run the gamut of 8th graders just getting a grasp on life to brilliant thinkers, from authors to (I wanted to say zoologists - try out that A-Z thing, but I don't think I know any zoologists - maybe some zoologist wannabes). You get the point.

I love that my friends are my friends! I love that I've found so many old friends again and have renewed those relationships.

What I'm finding out is that even when I'm fearful of something as innocuous as finding a parking place in downtown Chicago, I probably have a friend who will take care of my fear and help me find a great way to deal with it.

Friends are amazing.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Love and My Cat

This morning, I woke up too early to be awake, but too late to solidly fall back asleep, so I just let myself drowse in and out for awhile. Ichabod saw that I was stirring and immediately crawled on top of me to be held.

Several years ago, I trained him that if he would paw at me (he has no front claws), I would rub him. It's kind of cute. We don't do that quite as intensely any longer and sometimes I forget that he's there. But, this morning, as I was drifting in and out of sleep, I realized that he was pawing at my face - just a single paw rubbing my cheek. I giggled and put my hand on his back and rubbed him.

Then, my mind began drifting about considering ways we ask for love and how love transforms us.

You see, when Ichabod first came into my life, he was an angry, selfish, mean cat. I spent hours daily with him encouraging him to accept me and accept love and affection from me. It took several years for him to begin to interact with me fully, but now we've gotten to the point where he constantly asks for me to love him. He'll sit on the floor and beg to be picked up. If I don't, he'll lay down and make lots of noise in annoyance. Sometimes I just drop an arm down beside the chair to rub his head, other times I'll simply speak to him and look at him and that will be enough.

My mean cat just wants to be loved. He's figured out different ways to get me to show him affection and I try my best to respond when he does that because it was so alien to him when he first came into my life.

Dad was a great one for showing affection, sometimes the best way to do it in our family was to start a wrestling match with everyone ending up in a pile on the floor. My brother calls it gerbiling. His kids will end up in one pile on the sofa surrounding him.

We all learn what we need and we learn different ways to ask for it. This morning it was fun to watch Ichabod attempt to stir me from sleep so that I could show him that I loved him.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Where to Start

I feel like it's time to start writing here again, but really have no idea where to start. So, I'm guessing I'll just blather at you for awhile and see what comes from it.

What's been going on?
A lot of good stuff. I've taken two classes from University of Phoenix online. Two Comparative Religion courses. The first was based on the Eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, etc.) and through the last class I have studied Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I know this won't surprise you, but I was actually teaching the professor stuff about Judaism and Christianity.

My purpose for taking the class was to fully expose myself to Islam and I've done just that. What a fascinating religion. I have learned a lot and feel like I'm in a better position to actually speak clearly to Muslims I meet about their faith. It upsets me that militant and extremist Muslims as well as an out of control media have given us such a terrible impression of these people. Fear will cause more bigotry and hatred than anything else. We have become fearful.

I also continue to learn about how I like to learn. It will be interesting to get myself back into a classroom. This was an experiment for me - I wanted to ensure that I could actually learn in a structured environment again. For heaven's sake, it's been nearly 30 years since I've been in a classroom. I love the online experience, I do not love the Learning Teams that Univ. of Phoenix insists happen in their classes - that's just plain stupid. We'll see what happens for me over the next few years.

A lot of work has been happening at the cabin. This week the electrical work and the heat were finally finished. It's amazing. Now, I need to wrangle a handyman to do some insulation and other small jobs around there and I'll feel great about the place. It's such a great place to think, write, study, read, be lazy, walk, be at peace. I'm thankful my parents saw the possibilities and the future for our family here.

What's coming up?
Well, lots of fun!!! This next week I'm heading to Chicago to see "Young Frankenstein" with my college roommate. I haven't seen her in years (nearly 30 again). What a great day that will be. And the day after Thanksgiving I'm heading back to Sigourney (where I graduated from high school) to hang out with a bunch of classmates for a 50+ birthday party. It occurred to a few of them that all of us have been turning 50 in a flash these last couple of years. And painful as it is to all of us, I guess it's a great reason to have a party.

Max will take pictures, I'll probably cry as I hook up with people I haven't seen for a long time, we'll drive around town and I'll cry some more as I travel through memories that meant a lot to me. Hmmm, better pack a box of kleenexes.

Ok, that feels good. I've actually posted some words out here again.

Monday, September 28, 2009

October Pour Out a Blessing

I began writing this blog a year ago on October 1st. I wasn't sure if I could keep this up on a daily basis, yet have found it to be an amazing opportunity for study and reflection.

Last October I chose 31 of my favorite Psalms to look at and write about. I will look at another 31 Psalms this October.

I'm thrilled that so many of you continue to read along with me.

If you know someone who would enjoy this, please invite them to join me. Give them my email address (nammynools (@) cox (.) net) and I will get them on the daily email list. Otherwise, they can check out the blog online.

If you find that you are receiving too much email from me, please don't hesitate to ask me to remove you from the list. I take no offense, life happens too quickly these days and emails can have a tendency to drown us.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

50 Years of Learning

Well, this is just freakin' weird. I turned 50 today and I'm not yet sure what to do with that! When my father turned 50, he was old. My mother didn't make it to 50. I don't feel old. In fact, right now I feel better than I have in years! So ... today has been weird.

What have I learned in the last 50 years? A lot. The problem is, I don't seem to actually apply all of that learning on a consistent basis. You'd think that the wisdom of these ages would cause me to be more self-confident, less judgmental, more positive, less gossip-filled, (you get the idea). And yet, I seem to be the same girl that is filled with fears and insanity that I was as a child.

So, what have I learned?

I've learned ...

...a lot about what I like and dislike. It's time for me to step forward and enjoy the things that I like and discard the others.

...that material items will drag me down. Stuff is in my way constantly. I spent a lot of years collecting the junk that I just want to be rid of at this point.

...that I love technology. I love physics and math. I love being a geek / a nerd ... whatever you want to call it. I don't have the experience and education needed to actually succeed at all of those things, but that doesn't mean I can't love it!

...that I love being around creative, brilliant people. If we hang around together, trust me, you are one of those people and if I've lost track of you and we ever did hang around together, trust me, you are one of those people. When I was younger, I never really paid attention to the fact that I was drawn to that, but wow I really am.

...that love is easy to give. Easier than most people allow it to be. There is nothing better than actually saying the words 'I love you' to people who surround me. I mean it - every time I say it. Love is everything - the essence of every relationship. We withhold those words too often.

...that it is better to walk away from an argument than to fight for my rights or my opinion. I'd rather have a relationship than be right.

...that sometimes things in the past will mess you up and you may never, ever get past them. But, I've also learned that if they stay hidden and silent, you will get eaten up by them.

...that people who walked in and out of your life over the years never really leave your heart. Relationships are so important and I should never have released some of them without more of a fight.

...that change is better than stasis. Change always brings growth. And I'm never going to be too old to embrace change in my life.

...that I was much too young at the age of 17 to make life decisions for career, family, etc. What in the world was I thinking? In fact, I don't know if I'm really old enough now to be making these decisions.

...that money makes life easier in some cases, but causes us to obsess about things we shouldn't waste our time thinking about. It's really not worth it. Big houses, fancy cars, expensive items replace relationships. I'd rather live in a cabin in the woods (oh yah ... I'm loving it) than a mansion on the hill so that I can spend money on my friends and family rather than on stuff.

...that nothing can separate me from the love of Jesus Christ. I have been through so much in these last 50 years and there were times that I openly worried about losing my faith because of the extreme intensity of the crisis. But, even through ups and downs in my relationship with God, I still can't imagine being anywhere but in His arms when all is said and done.

...the greatest blessings in my life are people.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Bits of Life

Well, I got the information back from my professor today on the first paper I handed in. APA standards. Blech. I have to figure out how the University of Phoenix expects papers to be formatted. Fortunately there is an add-on for MS Word that will assist me in this and the more I read, the more I understand. But ... blech. And I did not get it right on the first paper.

However, out of 200 points, I managed to get 190. He was generous with my lack of APA knowledge. I doubt that I get that grace on this next paper.

Comparative Religion is an interesting topic for me and for many of the other students in the class. We have a desperate desire to avoid sounding bigoted, but many of the class members are quite obviously Christians and we find ourselves trying our best to be open minded about beliefs in other cultures and religions.

The paper I am working on right now is on the Sacred Elements of Hinduism. Now, this is a fascinating religion. There are many gods and goddesses and many different ways to worship and actually be part of Hinduism. We see much of it in the Western world. In fact, there are Hindu temples going up all around us. One is being built on Hwy 17 in Iowa and I drive past it every time I head to the cabin. I really need to stop in and see what's up.

So, I'll turn in the paper on Tuesday or Wednesday and panic for another week regarding the grade. Yup, I'm that person.

Jim & Janet, Jacob and Carol got back from the cabin this afternoon after another period of construction. There are now walls around the shower. Awesome! Little by little we will get the cabin to a new state of perfection. Something that will last for the next 40 years. And one of these days I will actually have internet in there. When that happens, don't think for a minute that it will be easy to drag me back to civilization. A shower AND the internet. Really, what more could a girl ask for? Well, maybe better heating and air conditioning ... but ... ok.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Astronomy dork wannabe

I have always loved the night sky, but I have also been wholly intimidated by those that know it so well. So, learning about the stars was one of those things I put off until I had plenty of time to absorb all of the knowledge I wanted to ensure that I had. I can find the Dippers and some of the other constellations if pushed, but I really don't have much information to share about the glories of the galaxy. However, I am an addict for deep space photos and anything that NASA wants to share with me.

One of the things that I waited and waited and waited for was enough money to purchase a telescope so that I could see beyond what the naked eye can view.

Amazon sent a coupon to me for a telescope and when I clicked through to the product, discovered a simple item that was inexpensive and with their discount found that I could purchase it for $29.95. Now, this telescope is no big deal and I'm not going to discover any comets or asteroids plummeting towards earth. I'm not going to change the world of astronomy or anything like that. I decided, however, that if I was every going to do this, now was the time, this was the telescope and I was going to sit in the meadow at Bell's Dell in the middle of the night and look at the stars.

The package just showed up at my front door and I am leaving this afternoon for the cabin. You have to believe that when it gets dark tonight, I will be taking my Jeep down to the meadow (I need a flat surface) and spending time with my telescope.

I can hardly wait. In fact, I got a little teary-eyed when I opened the package. This is just one of the portions of God's creations that I haven't taken the time to explore and I'm really excited! My brother says he has a nice telescope that hasn't gotten too much use. Huh ... he has a very nice backyard to look at the night sky. It's dark where he lives when the lights go out at night. So, who knows what information I'll have when next we chat. Maybe nothing ... maybe I'm just going to enjoy fields of stars and the beauty of the planets.

Maybe someday I'll be an astronomy dork ... instead of just a dork wannabe!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

When in doubt ... learn

Ok, I'm taking another class - Comparative Religions. This is online through the University of Phoenix. It began last Tuesday and is only a 5 week class, but I will get three undergraduate credits for it.

This terrifies me. The Greek course is still in process. I keep waiting for the professor to post more information so I can progress. He's gotten caught up in a lot of projects. I'm totally giving him the benefit of the doubt. I'm trying to not be annoyed by the whole thing. Sigh.

But, this Comparative Religions course is freaking me out in a big way. You see ... I don't fail. However, I haven't taken a course for credit in 30 years. I have been doing a lot of learning over those 30 years, but no one has judged my knowledge or forced me to get approval for what feedback I give on my learning.

I wrote a paper this weekend, turned it in (early of course, because I am that person) and then went into full-blown meltdown. The teacher posted his grading rubric on Monday (the day the paper was due) and for a subjective paper (What is Your Personal Belief System), he was looking for references with citations. Really? I'm a (nearly) 50 year old, well-read, intelligent woman who has written this paper based on her own authority and her own knowledge.

So ... full-blown panicked meltdown began occurring inside my soul. Now, if this were a full-semester course, I wouldn't worry so much. I always expect the first couple of assignments to be my chance to test the waters with a professor. I figure out what he/she is looking for and then adjust my assignments accordingly. With a 5 week class, I do not have time to be playing those games.

I was more than a little annoyed that this grading rubric didn't show up the day the course started, so I'm holding my breath. If things go badly in this course, I'll probably make a little noise. If all goes well, I'm not stupid enough to muddy the waters. I'll let you know!

ANYWAY, I'm in the middle of learning a lot about indigenous religions, now into Hinduism and soon into Buddhism. The learning is rapid and a lot of fun! There is so much that I'm absorbing from all of this.

The disgusting thing is that my freaky husband already has this information in his head. Drives me batty. How can I tell him something interesting that I'm learning if he already knows it? Sigh ... oh well.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Self-Discovery?

Ok, I'm thankful to all of my friends for not harassing me about my lack of posting to this blog. Either that or I'm annoyed at you all because you didn't miss me. (really, just kidding there - don't respond)

This has been an interesting summer. I'm not sure that I am fully ready to publicly talk about all that has been happening in my life, I tend to do that after I've finished a project, not while I'm in the middle of it. However, in order to get the words to begin flowing from my fingers again, I have to start somewhere. This is my home for that, so it's time.

Last April, I was confronted with myself. I gave myself four months to figure it out. Because, you see, next Tuesday is one of those birthdays that freaks me out. I was fine on my 40th birthday, but when I turned 41, I fell apart. The next years weren't a big deal, but I felt time slipping past me and knew that I was steadily losing my chance at grabbing the desires and my passions. I didn't know what to do about it. I had begun to shed some of the extraneous garbage in my life, a business that was dragging me down, a few of the bits of saved 'junk' in my house, but I was nowhere near being the person that I could be.

At the end of March, beginning of April, I was SLAMMED with the realization that I had allowed myself to become a person who accepted the status quo in my own life while expecting great things of everyone else. It was ok for me to rot away, but I wouldn't accept that in anyone else. I encouraged my friends and acquaintances to do big things, dream big dreams, but I didn't believe that I could actually accomplish anything more personally.

I looked back on the 30 years since leaving high school and saw failure after failure. I saw that I had accepted a life that manipulated me into being mundane. There were a few escapes, but that's all they were. I was dying and didn't believe that I would ever be able to do anything but that.

Until a friend told me, in essence, to stop it. I was so shaken by one conversation that I began to re-examine everything that I was and everything that I believed about myself. What I discovered was that I had put my life on hold and allowed myself to be an extension of the lives around me. I might have looked like I was in charge, but I was definitely out of control of my own existence.

Four months later, I am dreaming big dreams, making big changes, finding my way back to a girl that believed she could do anything at all.

Admittedly, I'm a little more sensible than that 17 year old girl was. I probably won't become a physicist or an astronaut. But, I know that if I wanted to expend the energy and training, I could learn whatever it took to do those things.

The things that I do want to do are going to take a lot of creative energy and a lot of time. But, I'm not afraid of reaching for them now. I have to! I refuse to let the next 50 years of my life be spent waiting for someone to define my life and my ability.

Until I see a lot more positive change occur, I'm probably not going to write here about all that is happening in my life. I don't want to dream big dreams out loud, just in case they change and you all think I'm a complete flake. I am flexible. This is a journey. I'm not sure where we're (God and me) going. I trust Him and I trust that He has given me a mind, a conscience, a sense of purpose and placed His will and desire on my heart.

My goal through the month of September is to begin to write again. I don't feel like hiding any longer from the words that tell you what I'm doing.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

September Pour Out a Blessing blog

During the month of September, I am going to take a look at "The Word of God" and what scripture has to say about it on the Pour Out a Blessing blog. My Bible is a Thompson Chain Reference Bible and one of the treasures in it is the loving research that Dr. Frank Charles Thompson did in creating chains of information that flow through the Bible. I will be using his 'outline' for each day's lesson as I explore verses that speak to various points.

If you know someone that would like to join me on this daily journey through scripture, please invite them to either follow the blog, or email me at nammynools (at) cox (dot) net and I will put them on the daily mailing list. And remember, if these daily emails become too overwhelming, please let me know immediately and it will not offend me to take you off the list!

My greatest passion is the study of Scripture and my second greatest passion is teaching. It is such a joy for me to be able to share just a little bit of what I learn along the way as I read and study the Bible.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

August Pour Out a Blessing blog

I'm going to do things a little differently during the month of August on the Pour Out a Blessing blog. Rather than a specific book of the Bible or a topic, I have decided that I want to study and blog about some of my favorite passages throughout the Bible.

I will start with Genesis 1:1 and end the month in Revelation 22. That should pretty much cover the whole thing ... except for the fact that I am only choosing 31 specific passages that have intrigued me or stirred passion within me throughout my life. It's difficult for me to winnow these down, but I think that I will enjoy writing about the specific things I have chosen.

That you choose to read along with me is an honor and I appreciate that every time I write. Your faithfulness to my blog has caused me to remain faithful to reading and writing every day. I am very thankful.

If you know of someone else who would like to join me on this journey, please invite them to do so. They can get daily reminders by emailing me at nammynools (at) cox (dot) net or they can follow this blog or just pop in whenever they have time. And at any time, if you wish to be added to or removed from the email list, please just send me a quick email and I will adjust my contact list.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Iowa

I have tried to become much more alert to the things that I travel past as I go back and forth from Omaha to central Iowa. I find that I actually spend more time confused than I do enlightened, but at some point I will begin learning more and more about the cool things I see.

Yesterday, as I was traveling north on Highway 17, I saw a sign that read “Upper Midwest Manure Handlers Expo.” I was just a bit startled. Only because I’ve spent too much time living in a city!

As I glanced over to where it was being held, I saw tents going up and many, many cars, trucks and vans pulling in. Exhibitors were showing up to prepare for the event which was happening today. (I found it online, of course I did)

I need to do some more research, because information always needs to be flowing in my mind, but as I understand it, manure can be a great source of cash for hog producers (etc). And where there is cash, there is technology. All of a sudden I became fascinated. However, not enough so that I chose to pull in and wander the Expo … maybe another year.

Iowa is quietly filled with industry that reaches out to the entire globe. There is a lot here that I want to learn more about. This state holds secrets that I want to uncover. I am excited that halfway through my life, I look forward to rediscovering the state I grew up loving.

When we were young, Dad ensured that we saw some of the grand vistas of the United States during our vacations. But, he also took us around the state to see some of the wonders that could be found inside the borders. Last year I sent away for a tourist’s guide of Iowa, and as I glanced through it, the things that stuck out at me were the memories of a childhood spent discovering those places.

So far, I’ve been in a hurry to get here to the cabin and have only traveled the interstate to get here, but as time passes and I get more and more acclimated to staying here, I plan to travel the back roads that I’ve traveled throughout a lifetime, the county highways through small communities and past the beauty of rural Iowa.

This place truly is home to me. It’s where I’ve always lived even though I resided elsewhere.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Walk on the Moon

My love of writing comes from my mother. Forty years ago, she was on a youth group mission trip to North Dakota when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. I remember the excitement of those days, when every piece of space news was treated with incredible awe and anticipation.

When mom returned from North Dakota, she wrote these words to remember the moment.

The black night sparkles
With the brilliant gems set
In its obsidian crown.

Above, limitless
Space stretches, a challenge
To the minds of humans.

Man has conquered space.
Now he walks the moon
Amid the gems of night.

He has within him
The power and glory
Of God himself.

Man walks the moon and
Down below, night children
Stalk the ghetto streets.

Thus the paradox
Of man's infinite mind.
He may walk the moon.

But he fails to heed
The cry of anguish of
His fellow mortals.

Little lower than
The angels, the psalmist
Sings. How much lower?

So far to go to
Reach the angels, so much
Farther than the moon

Margie Greenwood
July 26, 1969

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Saturday Travel photos

Here are a few of the photos from yesterday's travels through Iowa. Max is still working on processing a lot of them.

First off - the three veterans from the motorcycle club around Freedom Rock, just north of Greenfield, Iowa.


The entire club. What a great shot!


Mojo Johnson, playing outside of Mr. C's bar in Woodward, Iowa.


Mojo Johnson - a one-man band.


And my favorite shot of the day - taken from the Des Moines River bridge on Hwy 210 between Woodward and Madrid. Oh my goodness! Glorious!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Saturday in Iowa

Today was a beautiful day to be on the road. Max packed up his camera gear, I packed up the dog and off we went!

First stop today was Freedom Rock, a wonderful thing that is just one mile south of the Interstate at mile marker 85 on Highway 25. You can't miss it, it's immense! When we pulled in, we were alone, but within minutes another car had pulled over and then the Wind Riders, a motorcycle club out of Omaha pulled in. They encircled the rock with their bikes and I got really choked up. The imagery was glorious. As they dismounted and began walking around, Max was trying to get set up with his camera gear. They weren't in his way, he was planning to do some closeup work. But, they worried about it, so he offered to shoot a picture with all of them around the rock and send them the link to his shots. That worked out fine for all of us! Well, except for me. I got so freakin' emotional, I had to go back to the Jeep. Old age? Hormones? Or just the fact that there was a group of people including veterans coming to see a beautiful homage to our armed forces. Pretty cool.

We drove on in to the Des Moines area and I was stunned by the difference in weekend traffic vs. weekday traffic. I make this trip every week and today was pretty wild. Obviously it was the start of a week of touring. I've never seen so many immense tour buses heading west. You might say they were doing RAGBRAI, but I doubt it. However, I did see bus after bus loaded with people and bicycles heading for Council Bluffs. When we got back this evening and drove past the park filled with tents, buses and people, it was an awesome image (and one we didn't take time to shoot since we were flying by on the interstate).

But, weekend drivers are not weekday drivers. They are rude, impatient and don't know how to courteously drive the interstate. I spent more time hitting the brakes today than I ever have. There is a common courtesy to driving the interstate and it generally includes moving to the right as soon as possible. That didn't happen.

Going east - knowing I didn't have to deal with RAGBRAI traffic yet, all of a sudden at a normal construction area, I was slamming on the brakes. Slamming them! Traffic went from about 65 mph to a full stop! Much cursing and swearing came flying out of my mouth. I did have to explain to Max that in the past weeks as I have been driving back and forth across Iowa, I spend a lot of time talking to the traffic around me. There was no good reason to be at a full stop, just idiots who don't know how to maneuver on the interstate, that's all I could come up with.

We turned north on Highway 141 and I had to introduce Max to Maid-Rite. I love loose meat sandwiches. It was a good time to stop and the food was terrific. When I worked at the Tastee Freez in Sigourney in the late 70s, we had a fabulous Maidrite sandwich. Mmmmm ... good! And carb-free Max even got a Maid-Rite salad today!

The next stop was a trip to Hwy 210 between Woodward and Madrid. I had made this one day as I totally missed the Hwy 17 exit and had to do a quick jig-jog to pick it up and head on to Bell's Dell. There was an absolutely gorgeous sight on this highway. As I passed over the Des Moines River, there were open pylons, obviously from an old bridge, sitting in the river. It was very 'Lord of the Rings' looking and I knew that Max had to shoot it for me.

Before we got there, though, we stopped in Woodward to see if there was something interesting to shoot. Max found some cool old buildings, but I had heard music while waiting for him and upon investigating saw a man in his 40s playing the guitar in front of a bar. Max walked over to talk to him and found out that he is a one man band that plays in a lot of the small bars in small town Iowa. What an interesting character! And he's good! He played for us for awhile and Max shot a bunch of pictures of him. I took some video on my Blackberry, we'll see what happens with that. He was glad to talk to us about what he did and glad to pull out his instruments to give us a bit of a show. He was playing at that bar (Mr. C's in Woodward) later in the evening, so was just warming up his chops when I heard him. You can find him on MySpace - Mojo Johnson.

We finally pulled ourselves away from him and headed on down the highway to shoot the old bridge. I'm hoping Max got some great stuff there, I love the place!

Then on to Madrid, and south on 17. There's a new Hindu Temple and Cultural Center being built just off of Hwy 17. When it's a little further along, we'll go back and shoot some pictures. As we pulled into the parking lot, there was a lot of construction happening, so shots wouldn't have been great. But, I think that in the morning with the sun streaming on its eastern face, it is going to simply gleam!

We started home and managed to get caught in hideous (I'm not kidding here) traffic on the interstate around the construction sites. Completely unexpected. Again, we were at least 8 miles from the construction slowdown when all of a sudden I was screaming my brakes because all traffic was coming down from 75 mph to a full stop again. I ended up on the shoulder, not because I was going to hit someone, but the poor woman behind me had very little control of her brakes and needed a few extra feet to stop. I knew that with my Jeep I could crawl out of the median and she would never be able to do that. Fortunately, there were no crazy crashes with that insanity, but there were a bunch of people riding the shoulders to get their rigs stopped.

After stop and go traffic, we pulled off at Adair for gas and a break and then I headed north to Highway 44 to go across the state. I doubt that I went any faster than the people on the interstate, but my patience wasn't boiling out of the car at the insanity of the travel and we saw more of the beauty of the day.

So ... we're home and Max is processing his photos. I will post a link here later for them and maybe even just post a picture blog with a few of my favorites.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday afternoon randomness

I've been wandering around the net for a few days looking at random things and have these items to share with you.

There are a lot of things that scare the ever-living hell out of me. THIS would be one of them. I was not at all happy with the idea of the 'bird's-eye view' of the Grand Canyon and I can't imagine that I would be any happier with walking out onto a glass-enclosed deck in the upper levels of the Sears Tower. NOT happening! I'm pretty sure I would fall into a heap and have to be dragged away because none of my limbs would continue to operate.

My friend, April Kelly, has written a book on Gratitude Leadership. She was interviewed on WGN in Chicago the other day and it was a fabulous interview! I'm a little proud of her! Yes, it is very important to say Thank You, even when you are the boss! It's amazing what those two little words can inspire in an employee.

I think the bane of my existence while working at Faith-Westwood was meetings. Oh my goodness, but they could make a meeting last forever and turn it into a moment in hell. I'd never seen anything like it, but I'm also certain that we weren't alone in the preponderance of stupid meetings. So, if you would like to set a Meeting Cost Ticker to run on your laptop at the beginning of your next meeting, you might inspire them to cut things short before they reach the cost of the national debt.

The Codex Sinaiticus was completed last Monday and came fully online. It was discovered in 1844, and is the oldest Greek translation of the Scriptures. It has been spread out across the world since that point. Now, finally, scholars have access to all of the leaves of parchment. This is an incredible feat and very exciting to me. Oh my goodness, how cool the internet it!

I have always loved model trains. We were never in a position to actually start building a set, well, actually my brother made a stab at it at one point, but it never got to a point that he felt like it was worth his time and effort. The father of one of my high school boyfriends had a wonderful model train setup in their basement. I took Matthew to one in Golden, Colorado several times when he was really young. But, THIS one is just cool! Oh, I love this stuff.

That's enough for now. Yup, the internet makes me happy.

Covered in 'em

Ok, really? This is nuts.

It's after midnight and I may finally be able to fall asleep. But, only because I am so coated in Solarcaine with AloeExtra that my pores no longer breathe!

My sister, Carol had a birthday party at her house Saturday night. Most of us (ok, pretty much all of us) were outside in her backyard. Freshly mown that afternoon. Carol asked me in the middle of the afternoon if she should fog it. I poohpoohed the idea. We'll be fine. HAHAHAHA!! Bite me, will you! Well, actually they did.

I am literally covered in chigger bites. I haven't had them this bad since I was in ... well, since at least the 1970s. These things itch and itch and itch and before I know it there are bites popping out all over everywhere on my body. At first, I just thought I had a few mosquito bites. Those are pretty tolerable and easy to deal with. But, this? This is nuts!

And oh yes, there will be scars. Guaranteed. The thing is - at my age? I don't give a hoot in hell. If a scar is required to itch the scratch away, fine!

I had sprayed Solarcaine earlier - but, then discovered the gel ... much better.

So, Carol ... next time don't bother asking ... just fog the damned place. We'll all be a lot happier and I won't be wide awake after midnight because my itches need to be scratched!