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.