Saturday, December 04, 2010

Cartoon Character? My nickname.

Over on Facebook, people are changing their profile pictures to a cartoon from their childhood.

I didn't watch cartoons on Saturday mornings very often.  Around our house, Saturday morning were still a day of work.  Since the three of us kids were free labor, things that needed to be done happened before we were able to play.  When we came downstairs for breakfast, there was generally a list of tasks on a blackboard that hung over the kitchen table.  Sometimes mom would mix it up and let us choose from the list of tasks, but more often we saw our name ... and a list.

Now, before you think our lives were too terrible, these tasks weren't anything very difficult.  We had to clean our rooms, maybe yardwork or cleaning in the house.  Because we were so busy during the week, a lot of things hadn't gotten done, so Saturday mornings were a great time to make sure the house was ready for whatever came next.

Television wasn't a big deal in our home.  It wasn't until Mom got cancer that the television finally made its way into the living room.  Mom had grown up knowing that a television was crass, it didn't belong in a formal living room.  When we were very young, it resided in Mom and Dad's bedroom, which meant that it was a big deal to get to watch a show.  Since we always spent time in the living room, we read a lot of books or we played outside or did a million other things.

Max laughs at me because I missed a bunch of pop culture from the 60s.  When I got to junior high and high school, I didn't have time to watch television in the evenings - I was always out doing something.  But, I did know that I was missing Saturday morning cartoons.

If I have to come up with a cartoon character though, it will be the one whose name became my nickname - Hairbear!
I'm pretty sure that nickname was assigned to me with love, but it happened and it stuck.  I had curly hair - that was never really tamed.  I don't remember it ever being an afro, but something must have happened the day Dale Cavin saw me walk into art class in the basement of the Junior High building in Sigourney.  As I walked down the steps, he called out 'Hairbear!' and that stayed with me through high school.  It finally got shortened to 'Bear,' and sometimes I still hear that when I run into old friends.

My friend, Devbra and I hand wrote the "Hairbear Journal," an underground (really not quite as subversive as that sounds) newspaper.  We hand copied several copies every time we published it and passed them around the school.

Since I had just moved into Sigourney and was at that tender age (7th grade - adolescence) where you desperately want to have friends and fit in, a nickname wasn't a bad way to start.

Office supply love

Tell me you know about my addiction to 3x5 cards.  If you didn't before, you do now!

I come by this quite naturally.  Dad never left his office or the house without a few 3x5 cards in his shirt pocket.  There was always a necessity to take some notes or to leave a note.  When he would stop by a parishioners house to visit with them and they weren't home, he'd leave a note letting them know he'd been there.  If he went to visit someone in the hospital and they were sleeping or out having tests done, he'd write a quick note on a 3x5 card and leave it for them.

When we opened Insty-Prints, one of the first things Dad wanted from us was personalized 3x5 cards.  Even after he retired, he was still using 3x5 cards.  I continue to find them strewn through his stuff as he jotted down a note and then tucked it somewhere so that when he needed it, he'd find it again.

How many of you remember High School speech class and preparing your notes on 3x5 cards?  It seems to be the perfect size for nearly everything.  On Sunday mornings when I just need to remember a few words, I don't want to deal with the entire piece of music, so I jot those words down on a 3x5 card and they're there when I lose my memory!

I have an entire stack of notes that I keep beside my computer.  Addresses that I haven't gotten into my digital address book, a list of people to send Christmas cards to, ideas for writing projects, things I need to remember to purchase, on and on and on.  I'll get most of these transferred into digital form at some point, but a lot of them will expire and get tossed away before that happens.

I carry extras in my purse - you never know when you need to write a quick note, or sketch out words for a song on Sunday morning, or write something down that you have forgotten 5 times and it just came back into your head.

One of the things I really wanted was a good container for my 3x5 cards.  Something on my desk.  There are lots of travel pack things and items that aren't terribly sturdy.  I just couldn't find what it was that would be perfect ... until I walked into Dad's house to help finish packing out the stuff before his wife moved to Denver to be with her sons.  I was sitting at his desk, clearing out the junk and packing up things I wanted to go through again when I saw this:

That was it!  Dad had used it on his desk for years.  I think Mom made it for  him out of clay.  In a heartbeat, I had a piece that was made by Mom, designed especially for 3x5 cards and a treasure from Dad's desk.  Could it get any better?

Surprisingly enough, it did.  My other office supply passion is writing utensils.  All of 'em.  Pens, pencils, markers, highlighters, sharpies ... oh, I love 'em.  I also found THIS on Dad's desk:

This had come from my grandfather's desk - he ran the printshop at Harvard University and when he retired, a lot of his pieces came to us.  Dad snagged it.  It's leather and has started to look a little beat up now, but it still carries a lot of memories.

I'm such a dork - I know it.  I can't help it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Read a Great Book Today

I began reading a fascinating book today.  It's been on my reading list for awhile, but when I discovered that it was required for one of my classes, I knew that the time was now! 

The book is "Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical" by Shane Claiborne.  This young man is doing things in the world that I will never be able to imagine or begin to duplicate.  He has chosen to live as a Christian ... full-out, with no reservations. 

In college, he chose to help a group of homeless families who were shacked up in an abandoned Catholic cathedral in Philadelphia from eviction.  When the Archdiocese tried to evict, he and a group of others became radically involved with these people stopping the eviction for quite sometime, until they had all found other places to live.  He called Mother Teresa from his dorm room and managed to get himself to Calcutta for a summer, living among the poor and the lepers.  He finds his friends among the homeless on the streets, choosing to be with them rather than hanging out in clubs.

And now, he is actively involved as an ordinary radical, living a rather communal life with others as they live out their Christianity among the homeless and those that are in need.  More and more of these communities are coming to life across the country as people shed their materialism, their status seeking and their limited idea of what the church should look like. 

One of the statements that absolutely skewered me was that Christians are afraid to read the Bible because they are afraid that it will change them. 

Is that right?  Are we so afraid of what the Bible will call us to do that we avoid really reading it - only choosing to read the things that seem safe or that we can justify? Do we create a padded world to live in that allows us to avoid the real needs around us?

Claiborne doesn't accuse Americans of not caring about the poor, he simply says that Americans don't know the poor.  And he's right. 

Those that we know, we care for.  But if we don't know them ... we can pretend like they don't exist.  How in the world can you allow poverty to happen to your friends?  You simply can't.  You will do anything possible to help them.

In the middle of this, I watched a conversation happen on one of my class forums.  A woman was talking about this immense home that she owned and had been trying to sell for years.  She could not manage to get it to sell.  Then, Hurricane Katrina hit and the refugees began pouring out of New Orleans.  She lives in Florida and many families came to their church for help. 

There she was with a huge home, empty of all of its children.  Because she was unable to sell this home, she had it available to offer.  Two large families moved in with her and her husband until they were able to get themselves re-established on their own.  She knew that God had allowed her to use this as a gift.

After a few years of caring for these people, they moved out and the house just sold.

I am blown away this evening by the stories that people tell of their interactions with others. These stories force me to examine myself and what it is that I do for the Kingdom of God here on earth. 

If you want to re-examine your thinking ... look for that book.  Allow it to stir you up and upset your balance a little bit.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wash Behind Your Ears!

I stood in the shower this morning and, as I often do, found myself chuckling.  I flashed to a memory of my mother asking me if I had washed behind my ears.  Mom really had a thing about ensuring that the three of us kids were clean.  Really clean.  And who would've thought a girl could get so dirty behind her ears!  I mean, really? 

But, if you know me at all, you know that I have a just a touch of a rebellious nature.  The more she told me to wash behind my ears, the more I didn't.  I really couldn't imagine it was a problem.  I washed my hair - surely my ears and neck got clean.  Right?

Nope.  There is a distinct memory that I have of mom attacking my neck with cold cream - scrubbing until the dirt came off.  That was painful enough to stick with me and I began taking more care to ensure that that area behind my ears and my neck got at least a quick swoop of the washcloth.

The other thing that she always asked was if I had washed my hands after going to the bathroom.  Every, single freakin' time.  I'm not kidding every time.  And the funny thing is, I still hear her asking me that question.  So ... it continues!  And why was I so rebellious that I would turn on the water and not put my hands under there?  Oh ... yah.  Makes all the sense in the world.  Flat out rebellion.

You see, one of my greatest problems was that I didn't want to miss anything.  So, if I had to go to the bathroom, I was pretty well assured that something interesting would happen in those few minutes I spent away from the action.  Any more time spent washing and drying hands just left more time for the entire world to flip upside down without my being able to be a part of it.  But, when I realized that I was spending just as much time turning on the water and going through the motions of washing my hands, but not actually doing it, I realized that it was just rebellion and I wasn't doing anyone any good. 

But, I still find myself hesitating before walking out of a bathroom ... I hear mom's voice in my head as I turn to wash my hands.  Sometimes I want to walk out because I really don't want to miss what is happening out there in the world. 

For my New Testament class this week, we are working through James 4:13 - 5:6.  James 4:17 says, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins."

That was one of Dad's favorite verses to preach about.  We're all very conscious of those sins of commission that we perform.  We're conscious of the sins that everyone else commits, too, aren't we!  But, those sins of omission - the things that we know we should do, but don't - are a little more subtle.

If we don't stand up for a friend, or we don't tell someone that we love them, if we don't reach beyond ourselves, if we don't give a little extra to someone in need ... no one really needs to know that we even considered doing those things.  That really doesn't count.

If I don't wash behind my ears, or wash my hands before leaving the bathroom ... who will really know?  Does it count?

I hear mom's voice in my head all the time with the silly little things.  And believe it or not, I hear God's voice in my head with the bigger things - those things that are a little more important than washing behind my ears.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dealing with Loss ... Loving in Life

My emotions have been ragged this week as I approached the loss of a man I cared for deeply when I was young.  To be honest, I'm not sure I can find words to make sense of what is going on inside my heart.

A college professor, mentor, friend, committed suicide this week and I can't understand why I am so devastated, but my heart just hurts and that hurt keeps pouring out of me in the form of tears.  I haven't seen him in quite a few years, haven't communicated with him in several years, but I always knew that there would be time.  There wasn't.

He was a force ... a passionate, musical, demanding force.  He taught me how to work with groups, his conducting class showed me how to lead people and how to bring out everything I could from them musically.  His joy and exuberance gave life to incredible musical dreams for many students.

I spent the summer with him after I graduated.  We worked together preparing the summer musical - that year it was "Man of La Mancha."  I stayed on campus as the rehearsal accompanist and had the best time as I experienced his treatment of the music.  He introduced this young, inexperienced Iowa girl to Chinese food!  He made me feel so important as he picked me up and took me out to dinner - simply to say thanks for what I had done for him.  He probably had no idea how much it meant to me.  We worked hard that summer and I had one of the best times of my musical life.

When I got the email notification from Coe College that Rich Hoffman had died, I was in shock.  I knew he had been battling pancreatic cancer and assumed that it had finally taken him.  I cried tears of loss and then realized that life kept moving on, so I needed to keep busy with what I was doing.  Later that evening, one of my close friends emailed me that he had been found in his car, in his garage ... it looked like suicide.

My emotions changed from the pain of loss to a sorrowful ache at the loneliness and desperation he must have felt.  Assumptions are being made that he'd had more bad news regarding the cancer and his death was imminent whatever way ... he chose this way.

I've known of people that committed suicide, but I don't believe I've ever felt it so closely.  There is such an aching feeling of sorrow, knowing that person was alone, with no one standing there to assure them they were loved and cared for and that there would be understanding for what their choices were going to be.

This morning I spoke with a pastor friend of mine - Craig Finnestad - and asked how he counseled families that deal with loss through suicide.  He gave me a profound thought to consider.  When our hearts deteriorate, they stop beating and we die.  When other organs deteriorate, they cease to work and our bodies die.  The mind is yet another part of our body and when it finally deteriorates, our body may die.  Even if it is a short term level of desperation and insanity, we have to know that it can cause our death.  And since God is not bound by time, we can't know what happens between a person and God in those moments just prior to final death.  That isn't ours to judge.  Because our mind has deteriorated to the point of death, does not mean that God rejects us from heaven.

That really made me think.  My parents had a friend commit suicide and I remember evenings just after that event as they sat around and discussed the ramifications surrounding it.  Neither could accept that a God who loves us so much and spends our lives wooing us to Himself would punish us for not being able to hold up against seemingly insurmountable pain and agony.

The world is a lonelier place for those of us left behind - but that happens whenever we lose someone we love.  It hurts me to know that loneliness generally surrounds suicide.  But, the moment Rich was gone, those painful fears and terrors, pain and agony that he faced were gone as well.

We can rejoice in his life, pray for his family and those that were close to him and love those who are close to us.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A good deed and a bit of entertainment.

Sometimes a good deed gets a girl a lot of entertainment!

I realized that there was no 'chocolate' in the place.  At least nothing that I could just jam into my mouth.  So, time to make the cookies!  I had just enough ingredients to whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies and I did.  Because I like them to happen quickly, I make the bars - and I love those chewy things.

As I pulled the pan out of the oven, guilt tried to take over.  What in the world would I do with all of these except eat them?  Who needs that?  Since I have to go in and take a proctored exam on Thursday, I figured I would take a batch to Sue and Ralph, but that still leaves me with too many.

Wait!  There are some hard working guys working on the bridge.  It was lunch time and I'd bet nearly anything they wouldn't mind some warm, chocolate chip bars.  I packed them up, got in my Jeep (too wet, windy and cold to walk this) and headed over.  The large equipment was running and there wasn't a soul to be seen anywhere.  Hmmm ... a pickup truck down in the park.  Since it was 12:30, it had to be a lunch break and I was gonna check it out.

I pulled into the park, walked toward the truck.  No one stirred.  No one at all.  I got up to the truck, raised my hand to knock on the window - kind of waved ... nothing.  They were sound asleep!  Three of them.  Lunch break - nap time, whatever.  I wasn't getting anything.  And I couldn't bring myself to wake them up.

I came back to the cabin and then started to worry.  Oh, I hoped they were sleeping and not dead.  Well, surely by 1:15 they would be ready to go back to work and I'd be safe waking them.  So ... back I went.  I didn't see much movement, but by the time I got to the truck time (I was going to sound an alarm if they didn't respond), they were chuckling and opened up to me.

"Hey guys - I'm glad to see you're alive!"  Yup, they laughed.  I told them who I was and what I had for them.  Are there any young men out there that don't like homemade chocolate chip cookies? 

Next time I'll wait until after the 1:00 hour.

I had cookies for them, for me, for my friends as a thank you and all was good.  I hope I haven't stopped them from napping over their lunch hour tomorrow.  But, I'll bet they think about it before dropping off to sleep! :)

Now ... back to studying Greek and the rest of the insanity.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Save Our Piano!!!

Here's a fun letter that was sent to Carol and me when Dad was preaching in West Liberty.  He didn't actually feel like his ministry was successful there. It was one of the more difficult pastorates for him and when he left, it was the only time he felt that he had failed.  One summer, he received this letter and I'm not sure why he opened it since it was addressed to the two of us girls, but he did and he also chose not to tell us about it until long after we had left.

I found it today.  I took a break and started digging into the things that I brought back from his house.  It was sent in 1982.  Carol and I were home for the summer and we did special music pretty regularly.  This poor, old lady showed up one Sunday morning and freaked out because the music was too loud.  She was so concerned about the fact that it wasn't sweet and heavenly, she needed to ensure that we knew what church music was to sound like.

If I recall correctly, that Sunday we had performed a piece that was a glorious piano solo underneath beautiful vocals.  Carol was on microphone and I can guarantee you that if Dad couldn't hear the vocals, he would have changed the levels - he was quite a stickler for understanding words clearly.

This is an anonymous letter, though at the time Dad knew exactly who had sent it.  Too many times we let these anonymous complaints alter or change how we approach ministry.  We question what we know to be right because one person complains.  Dad never did that.  He shouldered the responsibility for the decisions he made and shrugged off things like this.

Several years after we had left the community, he dug this letter out to show us.  He was laughing when he did.  It meant no more to him than that, but he knew that had he told us about it at the time, it would have stifled our enthusiasm in sharing our music and that was the last thing he wanted to have happen.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned ... from this letter and from his response ... but I'll leave those to you.

For now, I just chuckle as I think about her descriptive phrases for my piano playing and for her expectations of church music ... and her considerable concern for the safety of the piano in that church!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Packrat or no?

I got a call today from Dave.  His mother was married to Dad until he died.  Priscilla has moved to Denver to be closer to her sons and Dave is cleaning out her house, shipping her furniture out to her and getting rid of everything else.  There were a few things left in the house that they thought our family might want so in the process of all this, they set aside a few boxes.  I went in to get them this evening.  Good heavens, more books! 

And rock collections!  Dad had saved the rock collection I assembled when I was in 6th grade.  The rocks are still labeled and sorted out into their little spaces.  Oh my goodness.  I'm awfully thankful that Carol is teaching 6th grade and might be able to make use of these in one of her units.  I'm also thankful that Mom and Dad didn't save my dead insect collection.  Oh, that was back in the days of t-pins and dead bugs.  All neatly labeled and stuck to boards.  I can not believe that I did that project.  It just makes me shudder thinking about it.  Mom and I spent a lot of time in the outdoors that year with a butterfly net.  Blech.

There is a box filled with Grandpa Greenwood's sermons.  Another box filled with old Guidepost magazines for Carol.  Another box filled with very, very old small group studies.  What in the world am I going to do with that crap?  However, Max might enjoy the strange tracts that I found in yet another box. There were a few treasures amongst the crap.  Tomorrow night I'll go back in and finish going through Dad's filing cabinets. 

I did tell Dave that Carol and I were terrified Priscilla would go first and after Dad died we'd be responsible for dealing with her immense houseful of junk!  He's had a garage sale, completely filled a 10 cubic yard dumpster, plans on a second dumpster and will be moving stuff to his house for her and off to his niece's house as well.  There were paths moving through her home because of the incredible amount of 'stuff' she had. 

Max and I have tried to purge our house of the extraneous stuff that we have laying around.  It doesn't go quite as planned when it happens, but one of these days we'll have it whittled down so that Carol doesn't have to panic at the thought of us dying in some hideous accident, leaving her with a household of stuff that she doesn't know what to do with. 

Both Dad and Priscilla were terrible packrats.  I managed to take on that terrible habit for the first 40 years of my life.  Any bit of sentimental meaning meant that it had to stay in my world.  The scary thing has been looking at things that obviously meant something to me twenty years ago and not having any idea what that might have been. 

Do you collect or purge?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Games People Play

I know ... I know.  I've not attended to this blog well in the last few days.  I didn't really ever consider that I would get to the point where there were no more interesting words in my head.  But, wow ... when they start dragging words out of my head at an alarming rate, I seem to evaporate into blackness up there.

I am posting some on my other blog - Pour Out a Blessing.  You will find more of the day to day things that I'm learning in my classes there.  I don't post that link too often on Facebook and Twitter, but if you want to receive an email from me every day with that blog post, just let me know your address and I'll get you on the list!  You can send me an email at nammynools (at) cox (dot) net.  That's where I've pulled apart a lot of scripture and hopefully you can learn with me as I go.  I will warn you, there are days you have to go through my Greek lesson with me.  I try to make it as painless as possible, though.

Would you believe that my favorite class is Greek? I think it might be because it's so straightforward.  There are rules and things to memorize.  I either get it or I don't.  If I don't get it, I keep plugging away until I do.  The other courses I'm taking are a bit more subjective and I'm finding that it's not necessarily thinking outside the box, it's more like trying to figure out which way they want me to think so that I can make the grade happen.  I suppose I knew that was the probability - however, I think it is one of the most horrendous things happening in education today. 

I was telling Carol last night that this is a frustration for me.  I spent the first 25 years of my life figuring out what the game was and then playing it very well so that I could ensure success.  At some point in the last 25 years I began rebelling against the game and found a desire within myself to see if I could change the game so that more people could understand what the rules were and maybe more people would be able to play.  If I could effect change, I gave it my best shot.  More often than not, I found that I was eliminated from the game before I was finished, but every once in awhile, I'd look into the playing field and find that subtle differences were showing up and the change had actually worked.  I just needed to get out of the way.

But, being back in an institution forces me back onto an unfamiliar playing field.  I'm doing my best to understand the rules, but I still get really annoyed at the fact that they really exist in all of their colorful glory! 

Carol told me it would be best if I just accept it for the next few years - get through the program without upsetting the referees and once I was on the other side, if given the chance, go for the changes.  We'll see.

She's right, though.  I had a few days last week of pure frustration.  A large institution doesn't give a hoot in hell if I don't like the way they organize their rules - even if I see that it would make so much more sense to rearrange them.  I'll play for awhile.  I'll keep getting frustrated.  Every once in awhile I have fun playing ... maybe as I get used to it, I'll find other ways to keep myself entertained.

Do you have a game you have to play?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Do you like to fly? Not me.

I know, I know ... it's been a couple of days and I went away.  But, wow!  I've had a lot of writing to do this week.  And a lot of reading and a lot of studying and a lot of ... well, you get the idea.  Thursdays are generally a fairly easy day for me.  Uh huh ... not this week. 

I really thought that I would have time to sit and think about a blog post today and wow you with some incredible bit of ... well, I'm tired and I can't even come up with a word to end that sentence.  Sigh.  Yah ... it's been that kind of a week.

Last week I told you that my friend up here helped get rid of our old, red van.  Yesterday he came in with his skid loader and pulled a bunch of felled trees in our meadow to the middle where we have a burn site.  What a great guy!  He and his wife run the local airport (he's a pilot and teaches flying at the local community college as well).  I'll head up there tomorrow with a loaf of bread and a thank you card.  They take really good care of me when I'm here at the cabin and I truly enjoy them.  He hasn't pushed me to go up in an airplane yet.  I'm pretty sure I've made it clear that it terrifies me and makes me sick to my stomach.  Maybe one of these days I'll go in and take the ground coursework so that I can understand more about planes and how things work.  That might help rid myself of some of the terror.  I hate flying.

Here's a story for you.  About twenty years ago I was flying back to Omaha from San Francisco.  Probably the San Francisco - Denver leg.  I was towards the back of the plane in the middle seat (joy) and an odd woman sat down in the aisle seat.  Not one to be rude, I said hello and opened myself up to conversation with her.  She was having none of that.  She wouldn't talk to me, wouldn't look at me, in fact ... she pulled her magazine practically up to her face so that she could avoid all contact.  When the steward came around offering drinks, she grabbed (yes - reached out and grabbed) the glass of water and with her eyes darting around, proceeded to pour something into it.  I could have sworn it was charcoal.  Sigh. She stirred it until it was a sludgy mess, drank it down, then grabbed the vomit bag in front of her seat.  Nope, didn't take long.  She didn't bother to get up and go to the bathroom, just vomited right there beside me.  I asked if she was ok.  Not a word, she just glared at me.  I don't remember what she did with the bag, but I know that I just wanted to huddle underneath the seats - I think I was afraid the witch would bespell me or something!

I've never been one of those people that had entertaining company on flights.  Yah ... it's not a great joy for me.  I'll just drive to where I need to go.  Much more fun!

What is your strangest flying experience?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Not so fond of bugs

Right now I'm tired of bugs. 

It's that time of year and between the Box Elder bug

and the friggin' Asian beetle

I could find reasons to scream at the insanity of it all.

So, I just did a little bit of research and discovered that those stupid beetles are migrating right now.  The common lady bug moves into upper elevations - we like them.  The Asian beetle likes the lower elevations and is moving toward the warm.  That's my cabin, just FYI.  I haven't swept out the porch yet, but by the time I get to it, there will be a carpet of dead beetles.  Oh, and don't touch them - they stink! 

The beetles and box elders crawl up the screens until they find a hole and then make their way in.  The thing of it is - they simply don't live that long - as soon as they're in - they die, so it's just more mess to clean up. 

This is one of the nice things about throw rugs on the floor - I can pick up the rug, go outside, shake and beat it - and then sweep up the concrete.  (do you remember when they called it wall to wall carpeting?)  Well, NOT having carpeting right now is a blessing. 

Poor Carol (ok, so do I - we were cruel) remembers a time when all of us were up here and Jim and I sent her to tears because we kept tossing box elder bugs on her.  She totally freaked out about bugs.  Since they were relatively harmless, we knew we weren't hurting her, but we certainly made her crazy.  Now, she gets to deal with her own house and has to handle bugs, snakes, small rodents in the yard and all sorts of oddball things.  It stinks to grow up!

If I remember, this migration lasts for a couple of weeks and a couple of good frosts will pretty much deal with it.  But until then, I think I'll just be annoyed.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Birthday cake from Edward Cullen!

Sometimes it is good to hang with people that know and love you.  This picture of my belated birthday cake tells it all!

First of all, I'm accepted even though I have an unnatural affection for a fictional vampire that is played by a young man who could be my son (by age).  Secondly, while my birth year is 1959, I have explained in no uncertain terms that after my 50th birthday, I was going to move backwards through the years.  That is obviously understood and accepted. 

Trust me, if I could eliminate all health problems, have years ahead of me to learn all there is to learn, I might bare my neck to a good looking vampire. 

But since that really isn't an option, I'll move forward with my life as I know it and be really grateful for friends that treat me like family, get me and do weird things like offer me a Twilight / Edward cake for my birthday! 

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Weird little pieces of pottery by Mom

I can't believe I haven't shown you some of the weird and wonderful things that Mom did with clay. 

I was looking through photographs on my drive tonight and got caught up checking these out, did a quick search through my blogs and didn't find any reference to them.  If I have told you about these before - whoops, sorry!

Mom was kind of a nut.  She had a wicked, weird sense of humor and would get away with whatever she could, whenever she could.  She was always very careful about her audience, but sometimes she just couldn't help herself.

Her father was even worse.  His bawdy, strange sense of humor was just as wicked and weird and he didn't have quite the sense of propriety that mom did.  Like the time when we lived in Morning Sun - a little town in southeast Iowa.  He had taken a trip to Hawaii and came to the parsonage to visit us.  He had slides and wanted to show the family his trip.  The only open white space in the house was the large shade that pulled down over the picture window in the living room, so Dad obediently pulled it down and Mac set up the slideshow.  Beautiful pictures of scenery, interesting photos of people.  On and on he went through the slides until he hit a series of naked women.  He just kept clicking away until all of a sudden Dad's face went ashen.  Mac's eyes took on a hideous glint.  Dad rushed outside, realized that you could see the entire slideshow from the street, which happened to be the main street through town and that the pastor was showing pictures of naked Hawaiian women to the entire community.  He pulled the plug and Mac just laughed and laughed.

Mac called anyone that annoyed him a 'bloody bastard.'  I don't think I realized how much time he had spent around our family.  But as the story goes, as a very little girl, I picked up on his phrasing.  Only I called people bloody beasters.  And it stuck.

Well, one day, Mom was throwing pots on her potters wheel and one flopped.  She turned it over on its side, added eyes, feet (with toes no less), ears and a strange little pigs tail on the back and called it a 'beaster.'  Just because.  It really makes a great candy dish.  You'll notice that the big toe on the back foot is sticking up a little bit.  That's because Mom could always tell when I was excited or stressed.  My big toe went right up.  I've managed to tame that - I have too many 'tells' at it is!!!

The next piece that she made - and she made several of these - was the Diggly.  I don't know if I ever knew a story about how this came about, it was just something that she got into her head.  Dog, Pig, Lion = Diggly.

This lives with Carol now.  The worst thing is, we all know that a bunch of Mom's creations were given to friends and family over the years.  They've probably been passed down to people that have no idea what they are or where they came from and have traversed many a garage sale. 

However, one of my cousins was thinking about me.  She walked into the print shop one day with a strange little creation.  Mom had given it to her years and years before and she wanted to make sure that it got back to our family.  It was another flopped pot, but Mom cut some holes in it, gave it feet and a tale and some eyes.  It's a fabulous candle holder and looks like a dragon.

These are the stranger things that we've got around.  I'll post some of Mom's more normal pieces another day.  Yes, it makes me happy to know that I've come from such a creative person.  Even if she was a little odd.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Goodbye, old friend

Yesterday I said goodbye to a long time friend of the family.  For that matter, it had been a long time friend to many kids and adults over the years.  I'm talking about the old, red van. 

Dad bought a 1978 Chevy van to replace another van that was no longer trustworthy to transport precious cargo around the country.  This was no happy, family mini van - it was a cargo van that was heavy duty.  Dad was proud of that.  That van took his family everywhere - on vacations, short jaunts to the cabin, trips to see family; moved his kids in and out of college and into first apartments ... and back out of them, we used it every time we moved to haul stuff across Iowa so that the additional weight wouldn't tip the scales of the moving van (Dad was a cheapskate! He didn't want the company to charge him more for his huge library of books and other really heavy items).  It took youth groups on trips for workcamps in Kentucky and Tennessee, into North Dakota and wild, excursion trips to the Boundary waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and white water canoeing and kayaking in Wisconsin and Missouri.  He hauled kids to retreats (this is one picture I have of the youth group getting ready to leave Camp Golden Valley after a weekend retreat):

It was the second car for the family, so if we weren't driving a Volkswagen or Subaru, we were driving the van. 

Then one day, it was no longer needed to haul large groups of people.  The three of us kids had moved on in our lives and owned separate cars.  Dad brought it up to the cabin to live out the rest of its life, using it to transport supplies as he built the porch on the cabin, brought in appliances and became the van that Jim's kids enjoyed driving around the meadow.  They used it to haul the trailer filled with dead branches to a burn pile.  Every year it seemed as if someone needed to do some work on it just to make it run a little longer.

Last year, it got parked in the meadow and nature had her way with it (that's it down in the meadow, covered with snow - on the left hand side of the photo).  From the harsh winter to no fewer than five floods, the van was finally ready to see the end of its life.

So, I asked my friend up here if he knew someone and he certainly did.  Yesterday, his friend showed up with a trailer and his two little grandsons.  It took a lot of activity (because of the adorable grandsons - read:  active, little boys) and it was pulled onto the trailer.  He took off and had no idea of the number of memories that van carried with it.

It was strange to see it being hauled away and to realize that after 30+ years, another piece of my life was now a memory.  There is no grass where it has been parked, but I know that soon nature will reclaim that space and we'll forget exactly where it was parked.  We may forget the van, but the memories that surround trips taken in it will always be there.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Do you love the water?

Are you one of those landlocked Americans that desperately loves the ocean?  My poor mother was.  She grew up in Boston and when she moved to Iowa at the age of 20, that was really difficult for her.  When she and Dad purchased the cabin, one of the features that was definitely an extraordinary gift for her was the fact that it was right on a beautiful river.  She could walk down, put her feet in the water and feel the freedom that the flowing river offered.  We three kids spent a lot of time in the river.  A lot of time!!!  And as you've seen in past posts, the river has spent time in our meadow.  We have quite the intimate relationship with it.

As I lay in bed last night, I was chuckling.  Hanging over the bed is this painting.  Yes ... it's black velvet.  No, I have no idea why we have it, except that Dad liked the image and the only place mom would let him hang it was here at the cabin where only very good and trusted friends might see it.  If they laughed, it was when he wasn't looking.  I don't know that he ever understood the hilarity behind it.

Now, hanging at the head of the same bed is that small painting of a mountain lake.  We're really not certain whether Mom painted it or not.  It kind of looks like her work and I can't imagine we have a painting on a canvas without a frame if she didn't paint it.

Then, hanging over the area where I work is this amazing painting.  It is six foot long by more than 3 feet high.  Mom had stories to tell about this painting.  You'll notice a backpack in the lower left up against the tree.  She painted this from a photo that was taken on a youth group trip to the Boundary Waters canoe area.  Now, see that little island out there in the middle?  Mom had an interesting relationship with the kids in our youth groups - the boys especially.  It's a good thing Dad was around most of the time - he managed to save her from most of their hideous tormenting.

When they got to this area, she had to go to the bathroom and there was no place readily available for privacy.  She begged one of the young men to take her out.  As soon as she got out of the canoe, he left and came back to the mainland.  Of course she didn't realize it right away ... but, when she did ... all Dad heard was his name bellowed quite loudly.  He laughed all the way out to get her, but he did go.  

This painting was a labor of love for her and it always had a prominent place in our homes.  When Dad died, it was the only thing we really cared about retrieving and since there are three of us kids, it seemed as if the cabin was the perfect place for it to hang.

As I look back, Mom always found ways for us to be in the water, around water or on the water.  We lived at the swimming pool, before we moved to a town that had a public pool, we always had an immense pool in the backyard.  We learned to swim in a lake nearby and whenever we were visiting out east, we spent time at the ocean.

I guess I never realized how much of an attraction the water had for Mom, but when I started looking at these paintings, I put it all together - and tonight, I shared!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Nothing much

Today I needed to read a portion of two books.  I was to read three chapters in the first book and about 18 pages in the second.  Yup, managed to flip that around.  And by the time I was well into the wrong book, I realized what I had done.  I tried to get my head wrapped around the concepts in book two so that I could go for the entire three chapters and had to just give up.  This is way too much information to process quickly.  Absolutely nothing like a good mystery novel!

The last few days have been spent intensely memorizing Greek so that I can pass online quizzes with some sense of achievement.  Wow.  The thing is, I can get this stuff memorized, but unless I practically live with it every day, it fades pretty quickly.  But, I love it, love it, love it ... so I'm pretty motivated!

Combines, gleaners, tractors and other assorted farm machinery has been rumbling up and down the road today.  The farmers are working like crazy to get harvest finished.  It's such a glorious thing to watch happen.  I love the precision with which they maintain their land.  Just incredible. 

When I was growing up, I always told mom that there were two types of men I did NOT want to marry:  preachers and farmers.  I knew what living with a preacher was like and I didn't want anything to do with it.  Most of my friends grew up on farms and I knew how hard they worked.  I wanted nothing to do with that either! 

But, I have to admit that spending time traveling back and forth through Iowa farm land, watching the crops go in during the spring and come out in the fall, I have a great appreciation for the beauty of that job.  Oh, it's still darned hard work, but at the same time, these guys LOVE their great big machines.  Good heavens, the numbers of these immense pieces of machinery that I see traveling back and forth on the interstate tells me how many are being sold.  Pretty cool.

Yup, I love watching farming happen in Iowa.  It's still probably a good thing I didn't marry one ... I would have hated for him to be angry at me when I made him do all the work. (hehe)

Words have run out of my brain and aren't replenishing as quickly as I'd like ... so tonight I'm just going to stop and either read a mystery or watch some television.  Yup, that works for me!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

It's early, I'm ready for bed!

Let's see - 8 pm and I'm pooped!  I need to go to sleep.  This has been a bit of a crazy day and I don't know that I can fully identify every reason for it.  But, it started at 4 am when I woke up after having a bloody, horrifying dream.  I can't remember it at all, but I do remember waking up being a bit shaken.  Oh, trust me, it was some mystery or something that I was trying to solve ... but, it shook me up enough to fully wake me for a couple of hours.

Now, this early morning comes after a great (long) evening spent at Carol's house.  Nothing like having your sister recognize that you have nothing to do on a Saturday evening and invite you over.  ... to grade papers.  Lots and lots of papers.  I'm such a sucker.  I keep telling her that I'm the good sister.

This morning, since I now have the freedom to attend worship wherever I like, I decided to head back to Faith-Westwood and check out their new pastor.  I've been hearing good things and I wanted to see for myself.  So, I checked the website for worship times (because, crazy at it might sound, I had forgotten in the last two years).  And I know I'm not stupid, but for some reason I got it into my head (after checking the website) that worship was at 9:30.  It seemed weird, but hey, I'll do whatever ...

At 8:45, I thought that it seemed a bit off and checked the site one more time.  Ummm ... no ... 9:00!!!!  Hello, get moving ace.  I hauled myself out of here and hurried down the highway.  I was gonna be so late.  Found a parking place, dashed into the worship center and found some great old friends and slipped into the seat.  Eva looked at me and said, "Vikki's sitting there."  I looked around and didn't see Vikki anywhere.  The confusion must have shown on my face, her sister saw it and moved everyone down to leave room for the missing Vikki.  I settled in for the service, a little distracted as I was trying to see the entire room and find out who was there.  I haven't seen some of these people for a long time!

Then Vikki showed up and my sitting in her place confused her as well.  She walked past me twice, looking for her seat.  After the sermon and the introduction to communion, Vikki started looking around strangely.  When I asked if I could help, she said "I'm dizzy and don't feel well."  Then she asked me to get the man in front of us to help her get to the foyer.  I did, he did and I settled back.  Then an usher showed up asking if I was Paula.  Nope, I'm not Paula ... I'm pretty sure that I'm Diane. 

Vikki was quite ill and the rescue squad had been called.  I moved into the foyer with her keys, the elusive Paula was found and chaos hit the foyer with everyone moving in to help.  I was able to greet a few friends, but before I realized what was happening, my brain had decided that the chaos and noise was too much and had escorted my body back to my car and I drove off without seeing everyone that I had planned to see.  I'm guessing that there has been too much peace and quiet in my world.

(Vikki is ok - a bad case of food poisoning with embarrassing eruptions!)

Mindlessly I drove home, called my sister to tell her of my craziness for the morning.  I had an 11:30 am lunch engagement which I had planned thinking that church would get out at 10:30 and I'd have a few minutes to chat before heading further west.  But, I got home with time to deal with the dog, get my bearings again and drive back for lunch.

After that, Max was home from his excursion to southwest Iowa (pictures here).  I've spent a bit of time working through parsing Greek nouns in the 2nd Declension for a quiz I will take tomorrow and all of a sudden my poor brain has decided that it worked hard enough today and is begging to be shut down.

I'm a little concerned, though.  If my brain believes that being shut down for the night gives it permission to conjure up horrifying dreams, I'm going to need to have a chat with it.  I refuse to stop reading my mystery novels, science fiction, horror, fantasy, etc.,  Think that might have something to do with it?  Oh ... probably.  Some of these authors really enjoy describing the gory crime scenes.  Oh well ... just as I'm never bored during the day, I guess I'm never bored while I sleep!

I really think that I prefer the peace and quiet to chaos and insanity.  Don't you?

Friday, October 01, 2010

Lower stress levels make life more fun

Alright, here's the deal ... the last few weeks have been up and down and all over the place for me.  My stress level has hit high points and never really allowed me to relax.  I quit sleeping as well as I usually do when I'm at the cabin and I just plain didn't like it!  I haven't had trouble sleeping since those long days at Insty-Prints when I worried about everything!  Those long nights were spent with the television on in an attempt to drug myself with pure pablum so I would just drift off.  I kinda liked getting back to a normal sleep cycle.

You've probably read about my frustration level with the lack of professionalism from a couple of my professors.  I can't bear it when I don't have a way to judge the worth of my work.  And I can't bear it when there are expectations laid out for me and the authority that has put them out there won't stand up and follow them.  It's not easy being an old lady and knowing that I shouldn't actually put up with that crap. 

So, that was stressing me out.

Then, poor Max had a doctor that was just being an idiot.  He's had some health issues - slammed into the hospital a couple of weeks ago and when the doctor was continuing to tell him that he wasn't getting any better (though he obviously was) and still needed to have a surgical consult (which had happened in the hospital and the surgeon had said 'no way - this doesn't need to happen) AGAIN, my stress level began going through the roof.

After his last appt. with his doctor on Wednesday, Max knew it was important that I talk to the man.  I did and was disgusted when he began flip-flopping on information that he had been giving Max over the last two weeks.  I caught him in two lies and when I began questioning his method of therapy, I could hear the frustration in his voice.  I am not a stupid woman  and I've lived long enough to know how a lot of things work.

But, just to be sure, I called one of my best friends from high school who is a pharmacist ... and another brilliant woman.  I knew that if I could just get some good information, I could proceed, even if it meant putting this stupid doctor on the block and knocking his head around a little bit.  She gave me great information which was enough for me to formulate several plans of attack. 

Max got scheduled for a surgical consult, but walked in there with a slew of information.  Fifteen minutes later he walked out after having been told by the surgeon that he was fine, there was no need for surgery and that everything was going to be ok.  He didn't need the information, he didn't need several plans of attack.  A bright man recognized the stupidity of the original doctor and assured Max that things were ok and that yes, there was no need to worry.

We'll never use that guy again ... ever!!!  And to make it even more entertaining, one of the other doctors in the original office will be seeing Max from now on. 

Max feels better that the specter of surgery has been lifted.  My stress over that stupid situation is gone and I can finally concentrate on being happy and positive again!  Stupid, stupid doctor.

It didn't help that I read THIS article on the other day.  Don't be a 'good' patient.  Ask questions. Demand answers that make sense and don't let anyone get away with anything if you think its a bad idea.

I'll be glad to manage all the stress that I have to manage, I'm just glad that sometimes it is short-term and not long-term.  The whole getting 100% on everything I do for school is making me a little stressed, but I'll get past that - just need to be able to accept that 95% is good.  (thank you very much, Dad!)

You know, it's really a good thing that my friends recognize my insanity and love me in spite of it all.  I really am a bit crazy, I guess.

And I'm thankful that God doesn't just upend me in front of a moving train (though I keep reading articles about people dying on train tracks - what in the world is up with that?).  He's patient with my craziness as well. 

So, I'm feeling grateful and fortunate this evening.  I have most of my coursework done for the week.  Ok ... well, I'm going to be parsing nouns and verbs all weekend for Greek. (muahahaha - I'll explain that all to you one of these days.)  Out of all of my classes, I love Greek the most even though it is the one class that just makes my head hurt. 

Ok ... enough rambling for the night.  Time to make some supper and relax with a good book!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Week Four nearly over!

I'm pretty sure that I have written more words this week than any week previously ... EVER!!!  Last night by the time I posted one of my papers in draft form for my team members to help me work through before submitting it to the professor tomorrow night, I told them that my brain hurt.  And it really did.

This week has been a little tougher than others - I have some ideas why that might be, but at the same time I hate feeling like this.  Oh, I'll get past it - I always do, but this week I am seeing more of the indoctrination and attempt to develop my faith and belief structure happening and that frustrates me.  I'm not in my early 20s and filled with questions about how to be a person of faith and how to express and define my faith.  I'm an opinionated old lady!!!  (stop laughing ... right now!)

Of course at some point I knew that this was going to have to happen - I'm going to seminary for heaven's sake!  But, a girl can always hope. 

The other part of this is - I still haven't received feedback from two of my professors, so I just blindly keep working through the assignments hoping that I'm not screwing up too badly.  And ... last week when I received a bill from the seminary for the fall semester, I had to call and find out why my scholarships hadn't been applied.  You know ... again ... I'm not a 20 year old kid who lets things slide until the last minute.

My attitude is much more aged.  If you ask me to meet deadlines ... meet your own deadlines ... otherwise, I lose trust.  If you expect me to take care of dealing with all of the picayune stuff that goes along with the business of attending seminary - I actually expect you to hold up your end of the deal and be able to respond like a well-run business. 

So ... I'm at Thursday night of week four - a little frustrated.  Which means that there are several departments about to receive a telephone call from me tomorrow.  Maybe I should just become a consultant around the world so I can straighten everyone out and get them to fly right.  Sounds like a perfect job for me!!!  (alright ... stop with the maniacal laughter)

The one professor that is really staying on top of things and using the online features quite well is my Greek professor.  My brain is doing its level best to take in all of the information.  I'm desperate for it all to sink in and stay.  I'm having fun with this stuff, though.  I think maybe because it's kind of like a puzzle ... if I can get all the pieces to fit together, it's going to be an extraordinary picture.  But, you know those pieces that kind of look like each other, but don't actually snap into place without force?  That's much like the Greek language ... about the time I'm sure that I get it - there's an exception to the rule.  Memorize, memorize, memorize.  I'll get it!  I promise!

Have a good night - I'm gonna crash!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Are you a religious illiterate?

Well, here's the quiz that has people in an uproar.  Go ahead ... take it.

Here's the article that I saw yesterday from the LA Times based on this survey.

As Christians, we are illiterate about our faith ... its history and we know even less about the faiths found in the world around us.

It isn't surprising to me that we don't ask questions, don't look for answers, heck we don't even know HOW to ask question.  Our lives are filled with so much, that the idea of adding one more piece of information or one more search for knowledge sometimes just feels overwhelming.

I feel guilty some nights when I go to bed and curl up with my Kindle and read fiction instead of some pithy look into the comings and goings of the world.  (not guilty enough to open a non-fiction book, though - trust me!)

So, if you took that quiz and scored poorly, what would encourage you to learn more about your faith ... or is there nothing on there that you really care that much about.  AND, on the other hand, if you scored fairly well, what do you attribute your knowledge to? 

I feel pretty lucky in that I took two World Religions courses last year - that helped with the question about Eastern Religions and then I worked through Church history - that helped a lot.  But, then again, some of the answers were just things I've absorbed throughout my life. 

I missed one - who knew that a teacher could lead prayer in the classroom according to the Supreme Court?  Sheesh ... I didn't know that!

Is learning this type of stuff important to you?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I'm a geek for blankets

Yesterday I wrote about how much I love fall.  And I really do.

This morning, I just wrapped a blanket around my legs while sitting at my desk writing and thought about it.  One of my favorite things about fall is that I get to wrap up in my blankets again. 

If there is one addiction I'm glad to admit to, it's blankets.  There is nothing more comforting to me than being surrounded by quilts, throws, blankets ... whatever.  And I don't want any of those boring every day blankets and quilts you can buy in the store.  I like the interesting, the weird, the wild, the creative.

When I was young, we did a lot of traveling in the southeast because of all of the workcamps we attended in Kentucky and Tennessee.  One of the things the women down there did very well was quilt.  They could sell those quilts for a tidy profit to bring in extra money.  The only problem was that there was absolutely no way I could afford those beautiful things.  I would stand in front of them, fondling and touching, wishing beyond everything that I could own one, but $500-$600 and up wasn't in the ball park for any of us.  So ... no quilts.

Then one day, when we were in North Dakota - at another work camp, I came upon a quilt that would be perfect.  The colors were fabulous and when I looked at the price and saw that it was around $50, I was shocked.  Ok ... the workmanship wasn't as perfect, but it was mine.  I wore that thing out.  The batting wadded up (I told you about the workmanship, right?) and the back fell off (workmanship again).  But, I still loved it.  I found an old blanket and promptly sewed it in between the front and the back and then re-tied all of the knots in the quilt and it was mine again. 

Yup, I'm sure you've seen that picture before - but that was my quilt and I loved it.  To be honest, I think I loved it so much, it has long since deteriorated and gone into the trash.  See, I couldn't even recycle it or give it away, I destroyed it with love.

My favorite store on earth is the Amana Woolen Mill.  I can't go in there and not buy something.  So, in actuality, I avoid it like the plague.  The blanket I have wrapped around me right now came from there.  It's a favorite. 

Over the years I have been able to accumulate some wonderful quilts and blankets.  Friends have made quilts and given others to me, wonderful knitted blankets and throws have come into my life. 

What is it about these things?  Maybe it's the promise of warmth against the chill, maybe it's the wonderful scent of the cedar chest when pulling them out after the summer, maybe it's the weight and an idea of safety.  I'm not sure, but whatever it is ... warm blankets, quilts and throws will always make me love fall even more.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I love fall

I absolutely adore spring with its bright green growth popping up in grass and trees.  But, my favorite time of year without a doubt is fall.  There is nothing better than the crisp air surrounding you while the warmth of the sun beats down. 

I'm not really a fan of cold rain on a Saturday, but it made for a wonderful reason to stay curled up inside with no reason to do anything purposeful.  Today, however, the bright blue sky just beckoned me out.  I couldn't stay out too long - much too much work to be done for classes, but every chance I got, I wandered out to the porch and then on outside just to breathe the world in.

All of the windows and doors are flung open to capture the essence of the outdoors, but when evening comes, they all go shut so as to maintain the warmth of the day and tonight I will pile on the blankets and quilts and succumb to sleep while the world continues to move.

One of the things I love the most about knowing people all over the country ... all over the world is watching how they live within their environment.  Friends down south rarely see ice and snow, but experience the wildness of a hurricane.  Friends west of Nebraska experience much shorter summers and longer winters.  Friends in the great northeast see cooler summers and sometimes much harsher winters.  It's exciting to see it all happen ... all around. 

I love the power of weather.  It's uncontrollable by mankind.  No matter how hard we try, it remains out of our control.  Sometimes it is devastating, sometimes it is glorious, but it is always what it is ... not what we make of it.  The chaos is beautiful.

Tomorrow I will enjoy another beautiful, sunny, glorious day and I will be thankful for fall all over again. As we get closer and closer to winter, I will pray that God grants us a respite from the insanity that we experienced last winter, but will recognize that if it comes with all of its raging power, I will be able to do nothing but accept it.

Kind of makes for a fun life, doesn't it?!?!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Disappointment. Honor vs. Shame

One of the toughest things my father ever said to me was "Diane, I'm disappointed in you."  Hearing those words from him was worse than a kick in the gut.  I did everything possible in my life to ensure that he wouldn't have to say those words and I wouldn't have to hear them.

A major separation that stands between our culture and the culture of the New Testament is one of Honor and Shame.  In the New Testament, those were two ways that the culture brought about good behavior and dissuaded others from acting poorly.  When the New Testament church began breaking away from the Jewish religion, shame came down on them and Paul had to realign their ideas so that honor came from obeying God and not mankind's standards.  As you read the letters in the New Testament, you see this coming into play over and over again.

The crucifixion was the most shameful way there was to die in the first century, it brought shame not only to the one being killed, but to his (her) friends and family as well.  It was a huge adjustment for those first century Christians to accept that Jesus dying on the cross brought honor to Himself and to the name of God. 

We accept much of this now because as time progressed, the idea of honor and shame shifted.  It was honorable to worship the emperor ... but in the church, they transformed that so that the Christians began to define honor as worshiping God.

Much of the discussion that I am involved in within my classes has to do with how our churches today behave as opposed to the behavior of first century Christians.  Many of the people in my classes are already pastoring small churches, are youth pastors in larger churches or are intending to move into ministry upon graduation.

While everyone has hope for the church at large, there is a great deal of recognition of the fact that the church has greatly been corrupted by the honor/shame effect from society and finds it difficult to withstand those pressures.  There is an increasingly large chasm between those who attend church, those who are attached to a church, those who are open to attending church and those who want nothing to do with the organized church.  Then, we seem to be completely separated from an increasing number of people who want nothing to do with God ... with religion ... with us.

A large number of churches and church goers no longer really care about that chasm or the people on the other side.  It's too easy to sit in a pretty building with pretty people and be safe from the world that needs us. There's no risk, there's no extravagant love, there's no glorious generosity, there's no beauty ... there's no honor and there should be great shame.

While there are a great many church communities that actively reach out to the world and find ways to create the Kingdom of God in their midst, these churches are less prevalent than we might wish they would be.  

Today, I am disappointed in the church.  I am disappointed in what people believe church is.  I have hope for the universal church of God, but I am certain that for Her to lay claim to the people of this world ... wherever they may be found ... the church will look very different from what we believe it must be today.

I am disappointed.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Peeing dogs, barking dogs and coloring

I haven't done much that is productive today and I feel great about that!  I got up late and then decided that I was going to check out a bunch of the fall television shows and be a lazy bum.  That's exactly what I did.  Ok, I cooked a couple of meals, cleaned things up ... oh yah ... and ended up stripping my bed because the stupid dog peed in it last night when I crawled out to go to the bathroom myself.  Are you kidding me with this?  Sigh ...

Max came up with the dog to the cabin this weekend.  At 2 am, I went to the bathroom, she got up, didn't get me to move quickly enough, I guess and went back to my bed (Max was in the other bed), peed and crawled back under the covers with him.  When I got to the bed, sat down in the cold and wet ... I couldn't make a scene because I didn't want to wake him up.  I pulled everything back, grabbed my pillows and landed on the sofa.  It took me a good hour to settle down - I was a bit annoyed.  Yup, I'll be hitting the laundromat tomorrow afternoon.  Grrr ...

This evening, there are a couple of hounds barking and baying at something back in the hillside.  Obviously they have some animal or something treed and aren't going to move away from it.  I'm hoping their owners figure this out before I have to go to bed - or this is going to be a long, loud night.  They've been sounding off for the last 20 minutes and it doesn't seem to be ending any time soon.  Hmmm ...

I spent some time today (while watching television shows) looking for fun things to color.  My goodness, but there are a lot of great adult (rated G, puhleeze) coloring pages and sites for coloring out there on the web.  What great fun!  But, twenty-four crayons is not enough to do everything I want to do.  I might have to go get a larger box of crayons.  (anyone surprised by that?)

I know, I know ... I'm a dork, but good heavens - that was fun!!!

And since, these dogs don't seem to be giving up on their prey, I think I'll look for another picture or two, print them out and play some more!  What terrific therapy this is for me!

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's been a good week

It's been a good week. I'm thankful to be able to do what I am doing.  I like coming to the end of my day and when I feel totally exhausted, know that I've done all I could do and I've done my best. 

This week I'm thankful for sunshine and rain, cool temperatures and warm.  The weather has been all over the place and yet today when I walked outside I basked in the warm sunshine while feeling a cooling breeze cross my face.

Interesting people have crossed my path this week - strangers have taken care of me.  Yesterday I drove in to Webster City to get groceries.  I loaded everything in the back of my Jeep, got in and drove back to the cabin.  I unloaded my groceries, got things put away and sat down.  Pretty soon a telephone call came into my cell phone.  I recognized that it was from Webster City ... yes, it was the Hy-Vee calling me.  They had my wallet.  I'd left it in the cart.  When I got back there to pick it up, the poor woman at the customer service counter was beside herself.  She was so worried because I was from Nebraska.  She had left a message on my home machine AND she had also called my bank to tell them.  She finally found my business card in there and got my cell phone number.  But, good heavens, she cared that I was taken care of - that was cool.

I continue to learn.  Every day I feel like I am inundated with too much information to process, but every day I process it and move on.  I spent 2 1/2 hours watching the lectures from my Greek class today - I was pretty sure that my brains would seep out of my ears after that was finished, but after processing, I'm certain that it will be ok. 

Tomorrow will be a very, very quiet day.  I'll print out the assignment lists for next week, but I am not going to start working ... well, that's not true, I think I'll try to get some of the reading done.  But, no writing!  Well, that's not true either.  We'll see.

Tonight I will curl up with my dog tucked behind my legs.  I'll read a novel ... something that has nothing to do with anything.  It's a grand feeling to get to this point in the week.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Adore Crayons

I finally finished writing and posting everything I needed to deal with today in the online forums for my classes and now I am sitting here staring at a box of Crayola crayons.  There are only 24 in this box, I couldn't justify a reason for more than that.  In fact, I can actually no longer justify this purchase.

The other day in my Christian Formation class, the professor asked us to draw a Mind Map of what we knew or believed about the Kingdom of God.  We were supposed to do it in color.  I had no colors here.  Well, I had highlighters, but that wasn't what I wanted.  So ... in the back of my head I knew that I needed to get some crayons.  Funny thing, by the time I was in the grocery store today, I had finished the Mind Map, posted the paper and no longer needed them, but oh my goodness, what is a life without color?  So, they're staring at me ... sitting on top of my color-coded calendar.

(Notice Yoda guarding the Bible?  That's some seriously twisted theology going on there)
Before I began writing this, I had started a search for coloring pages.  Don't know what I'm going to color, but all of a sudden it occurred to me that some of my greatest stress relief has come from coloring!  Ever since I got my hands on that first box of 64 crayons with the crayon sharpener, I have been in love with these things.  Then there was a box of 96 and then... 120!!!  And have you seen the 150 count telescoping crayon tower?  Holy cow ... it's enough to make a girl weep with joy.

This week my brain has absorbed a lot of information.  And I'm pretty sure it has just gotten all worn out.  The only problem is that tomorrow is another day of intense studying and writing.  But before tomorrow comes, I intend to use as many of these 24 Crayola Crayons to color some crazy things.  I'm going to relax the linear part of my brain and exercise the colorful part of my brain.  Just because it's fun!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Frustration - relieved by bread. Yup!

Today has been another one of those days.  I'm going to have a couple of these a week now.  I got up about 7:30 and began working on school work, not finishing until after 8:00 this evening.  My brain is a jumble of information, but I'll tell you what, I love it all!

I wasn't in love with it all this morning when I wanted to pitch my computer in the river, but I moved past that and got back to the love.

Doing online work is a bit ... interesting.  Max says that online classes are like the red-headed stepchild to universities and I think he might be right.  While the professors try to be organized and probably think that they're going to manage things well, there are way too many possibilities for stuff to go awry.  It seemed as if everything was ... awry ... this morning.

I have a paper due each Wednesday in my Christian Formation class.  Now, he informed us that by Wednesday morning we'd have the previous week's paper back - graded and with comments.  I especially wanted the first one back so that I could ensure I was preparing these the way he wanted to see them.  I waited ... I waited some more ... I waited yet some more.  One of the poor guys from our class could finally stand it no longer and posted a query.  No response.  Now, while I was waiting, I wasn't doing so idly.  I was reading the required books as fast as possible, jotting down notes (they're a bit illegible) and preparing my thoughts.  But, alas, the paper never showed up and I finally posted the paper due today with the following caveat:  "Well, I'm going to post the paper so as to avoid being late with the thing. I have one caveat to posting without seeing the grade and comments on last week's paper. When my 4MAT1 paper shows up and if I really didn't understand what I was doing and did it wrong, I want a do-over on this! smile"

It's out of my hands now.

My Inductive Bible study professor posted a survey following last week's submission telling us that he wouldn't get our graded papers to us until Friday (the first part of the next submission is due tonight) and this should help us understand what we did right or wrong.  Well, hell ... I'm not sure how he wants me to feel about this.  I was pretty sure it was supposed to be subjective, but if not ... I'm not going to be happy.  His outlining technique is different than mine (I like mine better) and I hate not understanding what a professor wants before I have to turn something in!  So ... I asked.  Did I ever get a response?  What do you think!

Finally my frustration erupted.  I cried and then decided to just deal with it.  If they don't like what I'm doing ... we'll have a talk.  Because I don't like poor communication.  And just because you've got a stinkin' degree does NOT mean you're a good communicator and does NOT mean you're smarter than me. So there.

Hmmm ... I'm guessing my frustration really hasn't passed.  But, I got through the work and I'm going to bed early - I wore my brain out, which means that everything is exhausted.

Ya wanna know what I did to help rid myself of frustration?  Diet Mt. Dew and a slice of hot out of the oven, freshly made homemade bread.  Yup ... it really did help!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

When hormones and old age don't mix.

This last summer I spent a few days in Iowa City taking a Greek in a Week class.  One of the more interesting people I met while there was the secretary of the church where we were meeting.  I didn't get much chance to interact with her, but for some reason when I walked past and said hello while heading out for a break, we began chatting and before I knew it she was talking about menopause.

She's probably a few years older than I am and had, at some point, faced down some really rough emotional and physical garbage that came at her because of menopause.  I was obviously a little startled at the topic from a woman that I had just met, but one of the things she said to me was that women simply don't talk about this stuff and we agreed that it makes no sense to keep it a hidden topic.

Now, for me ... I'll talk about nearly anything and since this is one of those uncontrollable, physical things that happens ... it seems to me a completely appropriate topic of conversation if necessary.  (ok, I get it - farts are uncontrollable, physical things too and maybe we don't need to ALWAYS talk about those - but, if you bring 'em up ... I've got stories!)

She dealt with a full-blown emotional breakdown brought on by menopause and spent quite a few months in therapy and even more months on medication until she finally had her hormones wrangled back into some semblance of normalcy.  The reality is, each woman is going to face this issue differently and since it has been so hidden, we don't have a wealth of knowledge that we share with each other.

Mom died at the age of 48, but let me tell you ... before cancer hit her, menopause hit her hard. I remember walking through K-Mart one day in the middle of winter.  All of a sudden, she stopped in the middle of an aisle, began flinging off her coat, a sweater and anything that wouldn't expose her body.  Then she grabbed something and began fanning herself until the hot flash passed.  It wasn't pretty to watch, though I will admit to the fact that I chuckled a little as I gathered her stuff off the floor and put it all into the cart.  I don't remember her having emotional ups and downs, but neither of us probably identified them as hormonal and actually just ended up fighting like two witches until we worked it out.  That's what we did.

I've had a few hot flashes.  The most memorable was in the middle of teaching a women's Bible study.  I was sweating like crazy, looked up at a room filled with women around my age or a little older and asked if it was hot in the room.  They all shook their heads and within seconds, realized what was happening to me.  Yah ... we laughed.

But, I do easily recognize that my emotional stability flags when I cycle down into a hormonal imbalance.  It doesn't happen often, but when it hits, I spend quite a bit of the day in tears.  I can identify the reality of it.  For heaven's sake, I have the craziest, most self-destructive thoughts ever.  As soon as I realize what I'm thinking, I recognize that there are hormones at play and I do everything possible to set my craziness aside.

Today was one of those days.  Good heavens!  And the thing is, there's not much I'm going to do about it.  It lasts for a day ... maybe.  Probably not an entire day.  But, I will admit to being a crazy woman.  The worst thing is that I didn't get much studying done today - which means that tomorrow is going to be a little intense.  I have things that are due.  I got a start on some of it, but wow ... being a psycho, crazy, old lady sucks sometimes!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tall tales

Don't you just love wild and crazy temperature fluctuations?  Right now I have a fan aimed at the lower portion of my body and my feet are frozen ... but everything above that is finally comfortable.  I got into the car this afternoon to head to the cabin and when I turned it on, the thermometer told me it was 103 degrees!  Ok ... it was in the direct sunlight, but by the time the temps evened out, it was still reading 91 degrees.  Wow.  You know, in the summer and fall, I totally win.  The temperatures up here are generally 5 degrees cooler than those in Omaha.  Yup ... I watch it happen every time I drive.  In the winter and spring?  the temperatures are generally 5 degrees cooler than those in Omaha.  Totally kicks my butt.

A friend of mine from Sigourney saw a brown wooly bear and the old wives' tale says that means we'll have a mild winter.  Another friend commented that the Farmer's Almanac said we'd have a very cold winter.  I am not sure which piece of fiction will happen, but one of them will be right this year.  Speaking of tall tales, I was talking to Max and said something about the date tomorrow.  He commented that it was the day to balance an egg.  Ok, what?  Well, another old wives' tale says that on the equinox, you can balance an egg and it won't fall over.  Uh huh ... ok.

I've never been a sucker for those, which is funny because I'm a total sucker for conspiracy theories.  If there's a hint of truth to it, I have no reason to not believe that the entire story isn't true.  Oh .. I can work myself up into a frenzy if I try.

My father was always lying to me.  Well ... that's a little harsh.  He told tall tales ... just to see if he could get me going.  He also had a great poker face and never gave anything away.  There came a point when I was in high school that I realized that the more calm his face got, the taller the tale.

You see, there was a time that he completely took Mom, me and Carol out.  He and Jim had driven up to the cabin.  When they got home, there was a dent in the front of the van and they had a cooler filled with meat.  Let's see ... it had to have been a Tuesday evening that they returned home.  When they brought the meat inside to the freezer, mom started asking questions.  That was the day we nearly sold Bell's Dell.

Dad told us that when they pulled into the driveway up here, they opened the gate and were confronted by a wild boar.  It snarled and snorted at them.  He and Jim dashed back into the van and tried honking their horn at the boar, flashing the van lights, anything to get it to run off into the hillside.

By this time, Mom's eyes were huge and she was beginning to panic.  She had a techni-color picture of this event happening in her mind.

Anyway, the boar wouldn't move from the lane, so Dad started driving toward it.  And then, it happened, the boar charged the van and rammed it.  That stunned him, but he got up and was completely maddened, so he charged the van again and again.  Finally Dad went after the boar with the van and managed to kill it.  He and Jim had plenty of time, so they skinned it, dressed it and brought the meat home.

Dad didn't back off this story no matter how Mom pressed him.  It was late and we went to bed.  Dad got up early the next morning for Prayer Breakfast and was out of the house long before anyone else was up.

We all got up a little later and poor Jim was toast.  He was alone now and Mom had him in her sights.  Dad wasn't there to back him up.  She went after him with a vengeance and it didn't take long for him to reveal that Dad had hit and killed a deer on the way in to the cabin.  They had put it into the back, brought it in, dressed it and that was the meat that we had.

It was Mom's turn.  Dad came home for lunch at noon, just as he did every day.  Mom had lunch ready for him and informed him that she had made some calls up here to the family that had originally sold Bell's Dell to us.  She was beginning the process of selling the land because she would NOT take her children back to a place where there were wild boar that might threaten their safety.  For heaven's sake, we all played in the hillside.

Mom had forced all of us out of the house for this conversation.  She knew that we wouldn't be able to maintain any type of a poker face.  It didn't take long.  Poor Dad was trapped.  He could either admit to his tall tale and take her wrath or he would have to hold on to the lie and sell Bell's Dell.  A bit chagrined, he took his punishment.

This story is one of our favorite memories ... I can't believe I haven't told it until now!!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Just a few moments to be thankful

My brain seems to have run out of interesting things to consider in a blog this evening, so ... maybe it's time for me to look back over the week and just be grateful. 

I'm thankful that Max is fine.  Well ... mending, but fine.  It's nothing traumatic, it's nothing catastrophic ... he'll be ok - one of these days.

This morning we had a 13 year old playing electric bass with the worship team.  The kid can play!  He loves it, he practices, he's good and he's gonna be great.  I met him a few years ago, I'm having enough trouble with the fact that he's thirteen, but it's exciting to see talent flowing all over him. 

I had a lot of people reach out to me in love over the last couple of weeks.  That's an incredible feeling.  There's something that just fills up inside when you know that love surrounds you.  I wish I could give that feeling to everyone I come in contact with.  It's hard for me to ask for and accept that type of love, but it's good to know it is out there.

Whenever I come back from the cabin, my first night in the house is most difficult.  The poor cat is so glad to see me, he keeps waking me up to ensure that I'm still around.  He's just so darned cute, I can't be upset with him, but I will tell you that he does make me need a nap the next day.  At least the dog drops off to sleep tucked around my legs.

My body temperature is completely confused right now.  I don't know whether to be content with the perfect temperature or be absolutely frozen.  I am an addict for quilts and funky blankets.  I probably own way more than I should, but when fall and winter start pressing around me, there's nothing I like better than gathering a bunch of blankets around and curling up in them.

Our next door neighbors are just terrific!  They bought a fire pit this week so that she could stop spending $50/weekend to rent a campsite, sleep on the hard ground and pee in a hole.  The community around a fire was what she was looking for with her son, his friends and anyone else that showed up.  I was working like a terror the first night they had it going, so I couldn't sit out with them, but I opened the door in the office and thoroughly enjoyed the aroma of the fire and the sound of her son and his friend singing and playing the guitar.  I loved it.

The next night, I was back at the cabin so I could take a proctored exam from a friend up there and when I called Max, he was enjoying the fire and fellowship with them.  Kelly had told me that I shouldn't worry, she and her son would make sure Max was taken care of.  A little friendship goes a long way.

Last night I watched the movie "Lady in the Water" by M. Night Shyamalan.  Believe it or not, this was for one of my classes.  I absolutely can't wait to discover the professor's reasoning for having us watch it.  I did enjoy the movie and there was a lot about it that was thought-provoking.  I made Carol rent it because she wanted me to glance over some of her work for her Master's degree.  It was a nice evening of movies, doing laundry, eating PepperJax and learning about educational philosophies.

Tomorrow begins week 3 of this new life I'm grabbing.  I have another week filled with a bunch of work to do!  But, I can't wait.  It's strange.  I think I keep trying to approach this as I did my Bachelor's Degree ... as a young, stupid kid without a voice.  And every time I find myself reacting that way to the coursework, the professors or the other students, I realize that I'm now an old lady and I've made my own life, lived it fully so far and I really am an adult! :)  So ... here's to the week!