Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thankful for little things!

Good heavens - tomorrow is the first day of July! We are halfway through 2010!

Now, that I've stated the obvious, I'll move forward.

I've really enjoyed blogging every day this last month. Sometimes it has been difficult for me - I actually couldn't think of a thing to say until I got going, but for the most part, I have loved it. I think that I will continue on through July. Once I have the momentum going, I should do my best to maintain it, right? Right.

Last night I didn't sleep at all. Well, ok ... no, not really.

I went to a movie on Monday night with a friend - at 9:45 pm, so didn't get much sleep Monday night, knowing that I would sleep like a rock once I got to the cabin. I crawled in between freshly laundered sheets, lay my head down on the pillow, sighed and read enough of a book to put me to sleep by 9:30 last night. It was awesome!!!

At 12:45, though I woke up because I really had to go to the bathroom. I did, flushed the toilet and turned to take my weary self back to bed. But, the flush sounded weird. I went back, tried again, thinking I just hadn't hit the handle hard enough. No ... no water in the tank. What? I turned the sink faucet on - no water there. Oh, this is bad ... this is very bad.

I walked back to the bed, sat down and tried to think. What could possibly be the problem. Finally I pulled on some clothes, grabbed two (one was obviously not going to do it in my state - I needed two) flashlights and headed outside to the main electrical box. Let's just see if the breaker for the well had been tripped. Oh yah ... there's a padlock. Back to the cabin for the key, back to the box. Weird, how do I open this thing (it's 1 am and dark, give me a few minutes of stupidity, ok?). I got it open, looked at the breaker for the well, and no, it hadn't tripped, but I flipped it just for good measure.

That didn't actually do me any good. Back to sitting on the bed. Ok - there's a spigot at the well pit, if it has water, there's a problem between the well pit and the cabin; if it doesn't, it's a problem in the well pit. No water at the spigot. Hmmm.

Back to sitting on the bed. There was absolutely nothing I could do at 1:00 in the morning. So, knowing that I could make a call at 8, I tried to go back to sleep. But, my brain wouldn't turn off. What if there was a real problem with the well - which is out in the middle of that flooded meadow? They aren't going to do anything until the flooding is down. What if this doesn't get taken care of? Carol and some of her friends are coming up this weekend and she'll be so disappointed if she can't! What if, what if, what if?!?!

I pulled out my Kindle in order to shut my brain up. I couldn't stand the noise rattling around in there. Two and a half hours later, I figured I should try to sleep. But, it didn't happen. I had already told myself that I couldn't fix it until morning. But, I wasn't listening.

I tossed and turned the rest of the night. I was dreaming about how the water miraculously fixed itself. I would go to the sink, turn on the faucet and water would pour out. At one point, whoever I was with in the dream, told me to try it one more time. I said to that person, "Is this a dream? I've been dreaming all night that it is ok and every time, I end up waking up!" They assured me I wasn't dreaming. Well, phooey on them, I really was!

Finally at 6:30, I just got up and at 8:00 called the well company. The first thing she asked was if the well pit was flooded. Well, heck, I don't know! She sent a couple of guys out - it was flooded and the pressure switch was more than likely corroded. They ran back to town for a sump pump, flushed the water out, changed out the switch and voila - running water.

It's weird. For those twelve hours I was without water, I spent time focusing on the fact that I needed a shower and that I couldn't flush. Since it has been fixed, I get a little explosion of glee everytime I think about being able to actually flush and wash my hands. I normally wouldn't even think about those things, but just twelve hours of being without re-focused my attitude towards something so small.

Oh, in a day or so, I'll be back to taking running water for granted, but today, I'm thankful for the things that we consider to be a normal part of life.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

More lessons from my fearless - fear-filled mom.

My mother grew up in Boston. She was a debutante (somewhere we have an invitation for her to go to The Tuileries in France for a Debutante Ball. She was a bit of a rebel and didn't - thought it was stupid. She went to Belmont Day School - a rather hoity-toity private elementary school and then to Concord Academy, which boasts graduates like Caroline Kennedy. One of her classmates was the daughter of Archibald Cox, the first special prosecutor for Watergate. She was afforded every opportunity to live the high life.

She was an only child. Her father was head of printing at Harvard University and they rented the carriage house on land owned by the treasurer of Harvard. Somewhere there are adorable pictures of me as a very little girl at 'tea' over there.

She started her college at Duke University - flunked out in a big way because she spent WAY too much time partying, then went to Tufts and managed to flunk out of there - still partying.

Before she met Dad, she was actually engaged to a young man studying to be a dentist. We drove by his house when I was older - ummm ... whoa! Lots of money. He had gone away for the summer, begging her to be there for him when he returned.

Mom was working as a summer camp counselor and met Dad one night at a carnival. He was a poor, poor student at Boston University - seminary. She went home that night and told her roommate that if he invited her out on another date, that was the man she was going to marry. Obviously, he did.

With all of that wealth and grand upbringing, mom was absolutely miserable. Both of her parents were alcoholics, she told stories of being out on a date, her date was drunk, the tire blew on the vehicle and she literally had to kick him to keep him awake while he changed the tire. She didn't believe in herself and didn't understand just how talented and brilliant she was. When Dad offered her marriage and a chance to move away from everything, she grabbed it.

They moved back to Gravity, Iowa, a tiny little town in southwest Iowa - population 200. Everything she knew, everything she was comfortable with was gone. They had no money, she had no friends, she barely knew Dad's family.

But, she thrived. Given a chance to be herself and no longer have to measure up to all of the craziness that was surrounding her in Boston, her talents were unleashed! She wrote poetry, painted paintings, created sculptures, began studying the Bible and was soon teaching kids everything she could cram into her mind. She and Dad took adventure trips with youth groups and she learned how to deal with really tough womens groups within the church ad still remain grace-filled.

In the late 60s and early 70s, she started going back to school. She took a few correspondence courses from the University of Iowa and all of a sudden, professors were praising her for the way that her mind worked. Every paper that was returned to her had long, long notes of praise and adulation. She was so excited.

Over the years she worked to finish her degree, bit by bit. She learned to speak Spanish, even taking a month to live in Mexico in her early 40s so that she could communicate clearly. This was done so that she could teach ESL in a small community where the Mexicans were working at a turkey processing plant and could not seem to integrate with the town.

For her, everything became an adventure - a chance to try to achieve something new. All she had to do was leave what was comfortable behind and go forward. She didn't have any idea what would happen when she reached Iowa, but this is where she became the woman that she was. She was given freedom and a challenge.

I started thinking about Mom tonight and her life in Boston when I was talking to Carol. We had gone back out to visit Grammy and Mom took us shopping at Filene's. When it came time to check out (this was the early 70s), Mom asked the clerk if they would accept a check from Iowa. The clerk looked at her and in her very best snobby, Eastern voice said, "Out here, we pronounce that Ohio." Mom did her best to remain gracious, but informed the woman that there were actually states west of the Mississippi and Iowa was quite different from Ohio. She wrote the check.

Mom went through quite a bit of culture shock when she moved to Iowa, but it wasn't anything that she couldn't handle. She faced challenges and had to face down some incredible fears to achieve all that she wanted to achieve.

I think back to my story about the impala and how it won't jump anywhere if it can't see where it will land. She jumped without a clue. How can I do any less?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Too Christian?

The readers of my blog come from all over the stratosphere and sometimes I feel a little schizophrenic when I write.

I have a feeling that I'm probably over-thinking this, but I can't help myself. I do that a lot.

As a Christian, I find it really easy to write and speak to those who understand my language. There is an entire vocabulary that we use when we communicate with each other. I can relate everything that I do and think to a teaching from the Bible, and explain every concept in terms of something spiritual. When great things happen to me, I can let you know how I praise the Lord and when terrible things happen, I can tell you how I am leaving it all in God's hands.

All of these things are true in my life and I would give anything for them to be true in the lives of every one of my readers and all of my friends. But, they're not.

We all deal with this schizophrenia day after day as we work in the real world, shop in the real world, go to school in the real world. People might know that we are Christians, but we don't throw our Christian-talk at them over and over.

I’ve discovered that many of my friends actually stop listening to me (or reading my stuff) when I speak (or write) using this Christian language and use terms and stories that seem to beat them over the head with 'God stuff' all the time.

I get it. I’m supposed to be sharing the Gospel - I remember the commandment at the end of Matthew. My life is all about Jesus Christ. There is none other. When people look at me, encounter me, read my blog, talk to me; they should see Jesus lived out in my life. And I hope they do! But, not to the point that I am offensive because I can’t make the distinction between sounding like a Christian and acting like a Christian.

You can tell me that I shouldn’t hang out with people who are offended by my overly-Christian writings. Fine. You do what you have to do. These are people I care for deeply. I don’t want to be yet another in a long line of offensive Christians in their lives.

When I was working at the church, I found that it was really difficult for me to identify friends outside my Christian circle. I worked all day - I mean ... all day at the church during the week. On Saturdays I usually hid in the house to rejuvenate and then on Sunday I was at church again. When I was told (in a staff meeting one day) that I was to bring my non-Christians friends to church, I didn't know what to think! I'd gotten caught in something that was unacceptable. But, you know what? We all spoke the same language and were completely comfortable living in our small circle. At least I was.

As much as I love my church and the friends that I have from all of those churches I have been a part of throughout my life (wow, that’s a lot of people, by the way), I have friends and associates who don’t get all of that crazy talk. I am a part of a lot of lives … some who are comfortable with me speaking in Christianese and others who don’t understand a word I say.

What's a girl to do?

Well, I will probably continue to be schizophrenic on this blog. I ‘yam who I ‘yam and I will talk about leadership, about my faith, about my stories, about my crazy adventures. My readers will still get to know me and whether I use the right words or not, my faith which is just as much a part of me as my fingerprint or blue eyes will make a way.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Is it time to jump?

This morning, Pastor Mark (Mark Holland - Gretna United Methodist) spoke about breaking walls down, using the story of Joshua and the walls of Jericho. It was a great sermon, but I really got stuck what he said about the impala.

An impala is an African antelope. They aren't very tall, but can run faster than most animals and jump up to nine feet high - or 33 feet in one direction! However, the impala can be contained by a fence no taller than three feet, which is about their height) because the animal will not jump if it can't see where its feet will land.


We won't jump if we can't see where we will land. We won't take risks because we can't see what the outcome will be. We stay behind the walls we have built around ourselves because we are familiar with our surroundings.

I can hardly wait to start my Master's Degree this fall, but there are days (and a lot of them lately) that terror rips through my heart. I can't see the end of this path. I have absolutely no idea what will happen in three years when I finish.

When I let the terror take over, I tell myself that I just need to turn around and go back to where I came from. Go back into my safe life and live it out until I die. That's what a sane person would do, right?

Fortunately, a good night's sleep brings my true sanity back into my mind and I realize that though I have no idea where God is taking me, it's going to be an adventure.

Do you allow yourself to be contained by something as small as a 3' fence because you can't see the outcome if you were to make the jump?

There are days I have to keep reminding myself that everything will work out alright. It takes a lot of reminding on those days and sometimes by the end of the day I've cried my eyes out and fall asleep exhausted by the pure emotional turmoil of the whole thing.

In the light of the next morning, though, I realize that jumping feet first into the maelstrom of life might take a little courage, but the outcome could be glorious!

So, thank you Mark for giving me the story of the impala. This will now be my symbol of courage and freedom!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I Think About You!

Every day as I prepare to write a blog post, I think about what you would like to read.  I've heard from many different people who have read these posts and so it is you that I picture in my mind as I write.  There are otehrs that I've never heard from and believe it or not, I think about you as well.

Some days you're going to get my stories.  Because that's what we would do if we sat down for an evening of coffee (I don't drink the stuff, but I can always find something to drink in a coffee shop) and chatter.  I really prefer to be able to ask you to tell me your stories as well, but in this forum, I don't get that chance, so I just share my own, hoping that you will get a chuckle or maybe even connect with some crazy thing I've done in my past.  I like making connections with people.

There are so many things I'd like to say to encourage you as you read these blog posts, but I don't dare preach at you because until I know you a little better, I don't feel I've earned that right.  But at the same time, sometimes I hear and observe so much from my friends and I know that how you handle some of the things you are struggling with would actually help someone else who reads this.  But, I steer pretty clear of those things because I want you to know that I honor our friendship and this blog is way too public. 

It is important to me that you find joy and satisfaction in your life, that you understand how important you are to me and to many others.  You encounter so many different people during your day in many different ways and your words and actions are important to them.  They watch you to feel affirmed or needed, whether you realize it or not.

There are so many different images of people going through my mind right now and whether I've known you for a lifetime, a few short years in the past, the last few years or just the last few months, you impact my life. 

Do any of you remember Romper Room?  At the end of the show, Miss Nancy would look through her magic mirror and say, "I see Cindy and Mary and Jill and Amy and Diane and Bobby and David ...."  Every show I would hope to hear her say my name. 

I hope all my friends at home had a special day yesterday and today and will have a special day tomorrow!!

This isn't Miss Nancy, but it is the Magic Mirror!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Stories of pain and hilarity

Yesterday while I was in the car, I had an idea for the best blog post.  I was chuckling to myself as I thought about the different stories I could tell on the theme and at the moment, it actually did flit through my mind that I should probably take a moment to write some type of trigger down.  But, I didn't. To be honest with you, by the time I got back to the cabin, the entire thing was gone.  I did try to retrieve the memory at some point last night, thought that maybe if I just let it float around in my brain for awhile, it would return.  No such luck.

I wondered if it was about breaking my little toe on a piece of wood that I've known was there the other day.  Oh, the poor little toe.  I cursed, swore and cursed some more as I waited for the surging pain to pass.  The problem was that I was giggling like a fool at the same time.  Mom never wore shoes and spent many days of her life with black little toes - broken and bloodied because she'd run into things.  I've been pretty lucky, but when I smack that toe, I remember her messed up feet and chuckle.  (yup, I'm mean that way).

I am mean that way.  Unless you are in need of emergency care, hurting yourself in my presence isn't going to get you a lot of sympathy.  I've been known to have to turn away or walk into another room because the sight of a minor accident cracks me up.

A few years ago, when I was working at the church, Max called me.  He had called to tell me that he'd been exercising on our recumbent bike when the weld snapped on the seat.  Now, a recumbent bike sits low with your feet way out in front of you.  My first question was, "Are you alright?"  When his response was yes, then my imagination was given permission to see the entire event play out and I started laughing.  I'm pretty sure he was offended, but it's not my fault that he kept telling me the rest of the story.  When the back of the seat fell off, his torso snapped backwards, his head hit a short dresser that was there and gave it enough of a push, that a painted flowerpot on the dresser fell off and shattered on his head.  (here's the deal folks, I can't even type this story without howling with laughter!!!!)

I saw Three Stooges/slapstick comedy happening all over the place and laughed even harder!!!  Yah, that didn't win me any points.  And I think it scared my coworkers a little, too.  I guess I can be a little heartless.

The weirdest things have happened to me in my life and at some point, I suppose I've learned that if I'm laughing about it, at least I'm not crying.  While this may not seem appropriate to the rest of the world ... it works for me.

I still love telling the story (from my side, thank you very much) of my poor little brother when we were quite young.  It took him awhile to come into his intelligence.  He trusted me way too long.  In the parsonage in Morning Sun, Iowa, there was a strange planter on the main floor between the living room and dining room - made out of bricks.  Imagine sharp corners.  Ok ... it was either the planter or simply a doorsill, I don't remember exactly which.  But, for some reason that poor boy agreed to be the horse and allowed me to be the rider.  I assured him that I would tell him when to look up.  I did ... he cracked his forehead and received six stitches for his trouble.  Carol and I got to go to the bank president's house down the street and watch color television while he went to the emergency room.

But, I got mine.  After I had graduated from college, I moved home for a year, working at a hotel and teaching piano lessons.  Jim was still in high school and at some point was taking Tae-kwon-do.  Dad had a thick workout/wrestling mat in the basement for Jim to do his workouts - it was located just outside my bedroom.  One evening, Jim called to me, "Diane, I've been practicing something, but need another person.  You don't need to do anything.  I just need you to stand there."  Alright, I'm amenable.  I can do this.  I stood in the center of the mat and before I knew it, I was flat on my back looking up at the ceiling and at a brother, cackling with glee.  Was that enough for me?  Oh no. 

"Diane?  I screwed it up - you shouldn't have ended up on your back.  Let me try that again."  Oh, I'm so ashamed to admit that I truly am that stupid.  But, I stood up and discovered within moments that the ceiling still looked the same and Jim had that same hideous laughter. I picked myself up - left my dignity on the mat and went back in my room.

We come from a long line of tormentors.  Please be sure that you really want my help if you hurt yourself. You might have to put up with a little giggle or two, especially if you managed to hurt yourself in a rather entertaining manner!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Excitement with Leica

Leica and I have had an interesting morning already. 

I got up kind of late ... how could I not snuggle in?  It's absolutely gorgeous this morning!  Low humidity, lower temperatures.  Oh ... joy.

But, I opened the front door and let her out.  She kind of enjoys doing her thing.  Yesterday she chased something or other out of the yard.  I heard her barking, ran outside in time to see her heading through the meadow.  Hmmm ... wonder if she saw a deer or something else caught her eye.  She headed to the lower meadow which would be a virtual forest of brambles, high grasses, and fallen tree limbs to me, much less a short little dachshund.  I called her back, but whatever it was she saw must have gone in to that area and she wanted to follow.

Back to this morning ... after awhile, I went out to call her in, I wanted to take a shower and get ready for the day and she'd been gone long enough, it was time to remind her where home was so that she wouldn't get too far from the sound of my voice.

When I stepped outside, I saw something strange in the meadow ... weird reflections.  Holy cow, the meadow is flooded!  Not badly, but at some point in the night, the river had crested its banks and I could hear it flowing again, which means it is in the lower meadow and I could see that it had come into the upper meadow (my cabin is up yet another level ... I'm totally safe).  It hadn't filled the upper meadow at all, but there was water. 

I couldn't find her anywhere. I called and called, whistled and called some more.  Now, know that I wasn't fully dressed - at least not enough to go wandering through the meadows looking for a dog.  I still have some thought towards decency, people do still drive the roads around here.  I called, whistled, clapped, did everything I could think of.  By this point, she usually comes around a corner or I catch a glimpse of her bounding back to me.  No such luck.  All I could think was that she had gotten caught in the floodwaters and she was gone.  Sigh.

Back inside, a quick shower and I was going to head for the lower meadow to see if I could find any trace of her.  Fortunately, as I got out of the shower, I heard the tinkle of the tags on her collar.  I called her name, she jumped off the bed and came wagging to greet me.  Stupid little dog ... scared me to death!

After a bit, I called Max and as I was talking to him, I heard the sound of inevitable cleanup.  I flung the headset off my head, yelled that I'd be back in a minute and tried to grab the dog before she puked all over my bed.  I was too late.  She dashed outside once more to finish ridding herself of whatever was in her stomach, I cleaned up and remembered that I had Max on the phone. 

I think I've had enough excitement for the morning.  But, it is still absolutely gorgeous outside, the birds are singing, the bugs are buzzing, the dog is asleep (in the other bed on my pile of clothes again - don't think I don't recognize this for the catastrophe it could be) and peace has returned.  It's always good to get the blood pumping in the morning, isn't it!!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mistakes ... Learning

I learned long ago that one of the things I could practically guarantee when working on a project was an error.  I began noticing back in my cross-stitching days.  I'd work and work and work and all of a sudden, everything was out of sync. I'd work backwards, trying to find the issue and upon discovery would either choose to rip everything out, or just accept it and move on (depending on how much the error changed the image).

Then, as I began to knit, I noticed that it continued to occur in my work.  I just couldn't pull off perfect.

Last night I announced to my Twitter and Facebook friends that I had managed to put red food coloring in my chocolate chip bars.  I'd reached into a drawer, pulled out what I thought was the bottle of vanilla and about the time I was pouring the teaspoonful into the batter, I realized that something didn't look right.  It was red.

My poor brain seized up.  Too many questions began flying through in a split second.  Do I throw out the batter?  These are supposed to be a thank you gift for a young man that had changed the belt on our mower here.  Would he get it?  Where is my vanilla?  I should probably ensure that is in here as well, right?  How weird is this going to look once I put the chocolate chips in?

Within a moment I had come to the conclusion that I could just move forward, add the vanilla and chalk it up to creativity!  Which is generally what I try to do with a mistake.

There have been many times when I couldn't cover my errors with a good story.  Substituting salt for sugar will not make anything taste good.  Wow, once long ago, Carol and I had brought some friends up here to the cabin.  This would have been within a few years after mom died and Dad wasn't living close enough to spend a lot of time here.

I volunteered to make breakfast - I make a killer sausage gravy.  So, I started working away at the stove, adding spices, etc. that I found in the cupboard.  When I tasted it, I couldn't understand what in the world was wrong!  It was awful.  Then I started looking at the spices - mom had purchased them years and years previously ... oh, they were really, really bad.  A lesson I had to learn the hard way about keeping those things fresh.

As I just now pulled a loaf of sourdough bread out of the machine to rise and place in the oven, I think about the terrible loaves I made a couple of weeks ago as I tried to understand how this entire process worked.  The mistakes tasted fine out of the oven, but soon became much too dense to eat.

Oh, and don't forget the meatloaf I tried to make.  Would you believe this girl makes terrible meatloaf?  I'm a great cook - and I fail at this miserably.  Well, I did.  I haven't had the courage to try again.  The first time I tried to make it, I was just out of college.  I browned the hamburger.  Uh huh ... that went well.  Then, I made it for Max.  I pulled it out of the oven, turned it on to a plate and as it hit the plate, the sound wasn't quite 'squishy' enough.  In fact, the thing was as hard as a hockey puck.  Max ended up tossing it out the back door for the raccoons and when it hit the ground, it didn't break apart, it bounced.

Sometimes the mistakes I make bring something fun - like Red Velvet Chocolate Chip cookies.  Other times, they are a meatloaf that bounces in the back yard.

I like the fact, though that these mistakes mean that I keep trying new things.  Sometimes I have an incredibly large learning curve to get through ... but, it really is fun to learn!

Oh - and aren't these lovely Red Velvet Chocolate Chip cookies?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I Love Thunderstorms

Thunderstorms have been keeping me up the last few nights and I plan on being fully awake tonight with one that threatens to rumble through.

When I was growing up, Dad was mostly deaf.  It wasn't until the late 60s that he was able to have a specialized surgery that restored his hearing.  That meant that he didn't hear the high winds and the sound of a storm didn't frighten him.  He would ensure that we were all safe and then enjoy the storm.  It was always an adventure for him, so that's the way the three of us kids grew up.  Storms were to be respected, but not feared.  One year during a tornado while we were in the basement (camping is what he called it), a tree was ripped out and dumped on our house.  Because of the way he handled it, we just weren't scared. 

Mom and he would set up cots in the basement, take down radios and flashlights, candles, blankets and pillows and long before the storm hit, we were on our adventure for the night.

My dog isn't at all fond of storms.  She shivers and shakes and stares at me with pitiful eyes.  I try to tell her it's going to be ok, but I'm sure it doesn't help when a loud crack of thunder rips through the sky and I jump because I'm startled. 

Just after Dad's surgery, mom told the story of a quiet summer night when Dad jumped out of bed, rushing around to get everyone into the basement.  She got him calmed down enough to ask what was going on and he couldn't believe that she wasn't hearing what he was hearing.  The storm was rushing around outside, sure to bring down the whole house!!!  Then she realized that for the first time, Dad was hearing wind.  Not the wind from a major storm, but just wind.  They opened the shades on the window and he was entranced with the new sounds that he was able to hear.

Tonight when that first crack of thunder wakes me up, I'll remember the campouts in the basement and standing with Dad on the front porch watching storms approach.  I'll pat the dog and pull her in a bit closer so she feels safe and then fall back to sleep listening to the rain fall on the roof.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Friendship and Stories

I had lunch with a couple of friends today.  It was wonderful.  We used to do lunch together nearly every day when we worked together and since that ended a couple of years ago, it's random and rare.  There's something very special about a group of people.  We enjoy each other on a singular basis, but when we come together, there's something different and special. 

C.S. Lewis had a wonderful group of friends and this is what he said about those relationships:

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out,” Lewis wrote. “By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth … each bringing out all that is best, wisest, or funniest in all the others.”

Christian History Magazine-Issue 88: C.S. Lewis: Pointing People to Reality. 2005. Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today.

So, as Cody and Jen and I sat for several hours at PepperJax; we caught up, remembered and realized what was unique about the three of us sitting down together and exploring life, love and faith.

At one point, Cody laughed at me and said, "I don't really need to ask you anything - now that you're blogging every day ..."  I laughed with him.  Yup, that's a problem for me. I expose myself all the time and I don't get a chance to find out from everyone else what is happening in their lives.  This monologue just doesn't afford me a chance to dig deeply into the lives of people around me.

Then there is the whole 'I'll never be able to run away' thing.  I read about people who change their lives so drastically that they leave everyone behind and no one really knows where they've gone or what they're doing.  I wouldn't be able to do that if I wanted to!  Everyone knows where I am, what I'm doing, what I'm thinking about.  Here you are - here it is!

When Dad was preaching, he was pretty careful about exposing our foibles and forays to the world on Sunday morning.  He would have had great fodder for illustrations in his sermons, but he didn't share too much about us kids.  We knew that we were safe.  If there was ever something that he simply couldn't ignore, the illustration was begging to be told, we generally were asked if it was ok, and there wasn't really a time that we denied him the chance at telling our story.

My family is a family of story tellers.  Mom and Dad began telling us the stories at a very young age, reinforcing our memories and training us how to relate to others via stories.  Spend a few minutes with Carol and you will discover that she has had the weirdest things happen to her - she laughs uproariously as she tells those stories.  When people are astounded at her life, she reminds them that they probably have had many of the same experiences, it just never occurred to them to laugh about them and tell others.  It occurs to her ... it occurs to all of us.

My brother is probably the funniest of the three of us - once he gets going on a story, it's all I can do to stay seated.  I remember once, long ago, rolling around on the floor of my apartment in agony because I was laughing so hard at one of his stories.

Memories and stories help me relate to the world that I live in now.  I'll keep telling them ... sometimes they'll have a moral, sometimes a strong point, and sometimes it will just be something for a little bit of entertainment.  I do love hearing back from you, though about how you relate to my stories!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Worship unites us

Just about the time I think I have the feeling of being old licked, something comes up to remind me just how old I really am.

The worship team came together at 9:30 to practice one last time for the 10:45 service.  Since I'm never around during the week for the regular rehearsals, I always wonder about what is going to be new for me on Sunday mornings.  Jen just mentioned that we were doing a hymn and maybe I could play it, she was sure I knew it.  Ok, fine ... what is it.

"I Have Decided to Follow Jesus."

I slumped.  Oh, for heaven's sake.  The praise songs I did when I was in junior high and high school are now considered hymns?  It is definitely all over for me ... time to just crawl into my coffin and give up.

This weekend has been tough on me!  First I get mail telling me to renew my driver's license and stuck inside is a brochure on Safety Tips for Elderly Drivers.  Argh ... that one nearly destroyed me all by itself.  And now, my contemporary praise songs are considered hymns.  Oh yah - I'm old.

I refuse to do this gracefully, though.  I will fight you at every turn.  You don't get to call me old and get away with it, I promise!

After I moved past the insult ... and as we were singing the song, I had a wonderful memory come to me though, wrapped around that simple piece of music.

In the 70s, our church was actively involved in the Appalachian Service Project, a work camp that put groups into areas of Kentucky and Tennessee that were in the midst of terrible poverty.  One summer, Dad was the coordinator for the project and spent three months living there.  The whole family went down for a month and we were able to spend time with several families, growing close to them as we worked in their community, restoring homes.  Groups would come and go a week at a time, but the five of us stayed.

One evening, we were invited back into the holler for a "Sing."  This was a pretty big deal. No one went into that holler after dark - it was dangerous.  The families stood on their porches with rifles and shotguns, keeping outsiders out.  But, the invitation came to us and we were assured that we would be protected and safe.  So, we went, not knowing what to expect. 

These people lived off the little bit of land they could cultivate.  They had nearly nothing, but when they came together, they brought what they had and shared.  There was a meal and then everyone settled in for some good old-fashioned, gospel singing.  It was the tinniest country sound I'd ever heard, electric guitars and bass, a small drum set and even microphones were set up in the biggest house there - in fact, the one we had spent a lot of time working on.  We had pulled layers and layers of wallpaper off the walls, pulled out the newspapers that had been used as insulation, put in real insulation and wallboard, then painted.  It was as good a time as any for them to show off the home - and everyone came. 

They sang gospel songs that we had never heard, but we dug in and tried our best.  Since Dad was there, he talked a little bit, they read scripture and continued to sing.  That night, we sang "I Have Decided" and listening to those voices lift up in praise was just incredible.

I love nothing more than to sing songs of worship and praise ... it isn't very often that one sticks out in my memory as special, but that night was very special.  There truly was no "Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free ... but Christ was all and was in all." (Col. 3:11)  We came together from two different worlds and our focus was on worship.  We didn't know many of the same songs, but when we sang together, we all felt the unity of Christ.  It was a night we'll never forget.

Now, I will tell you that when we left - it was about 9:30 and quite dark in the mountains of Kentucky.  Some family members left with us to offer a little protection as we drove back down out of the mountain.  Mom and dad made the three of us kids lie down on the floor of the van ... just in case.  Yes, I remember that as well!!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Floods at the Cabin? Oh, yes.

As I drove home from the cabin today and saw the swollen rivers and the threat of more storms in the west, I was thinking about how safe I felt up there.  We had never had water come clear up to the top level where the trailer and cabin sit since we purchased the land in 1964. 

For some reason I came home and though to look for pictures that I had scanned from those early years, long before the cabin was built, back when we only had a trailer and an outhouse.  Have I told you about the trailer? Here's a picture of the three of us kids scraping so it could be repainted. 

This was taken in 1971 or 1972.  Aren't we adorable?  We worked hard to keep that trailer in good shape.  Dad tarred the roof with our old diapers (cloth diapers) to keep it weatherproofed.  When he bought the land, he didn't have much money to put something on there for us to live in, but he found a great deal on a trailer.  It had previously been owned by a hooker.  There were mirrors everywhere.  What a wonderful playtime we kids had with those mirrors.  I can't imagine that mom was too terribly thrilled with having to ensure that the beds were clean enough for us to sleep on, but she worked diligently to ensure that they were.

In 1965, we were there at the end of March - this next picture was taken on March 26. 

 Margie, Diane and Carol.  Jim wasn't even a year old yet.

Two weeks later, this picture was taken.

And then, this one as well.  10-15' of water in the main meadow?  Holy cow!!!

THIS is the flooding in 2008.  We thought it was bad.  The red/white trailer is in the same location as the old trailer was.

All of a sudden my sense of safety from flooding is changed.  Every single time I drive over the bridge, I stop for a few moments to look at the river.  I look for the beauty that I see every single time in that running water.  It's familiar, comfortable and brings memories of fun and play.  But, I also seem to watch the level of water, wondering what it's doing. 

We can never think that we have mastered nature.  It will do what it will and go where it wants to go.  I want to close with a poem mom wrote a few years after we purchased this land. 

Long years I thought of it and now
I have bought my garden;
I saw it, desired it, asked for it,
And gave the man some money for it.
It is my garden now, isn't it?

My mind answers yes, my soul, no!
I cannot own what is universal;
I cannot lay claim to ageless change;
I cannot buy the memories of other footsteps
Treading the same winding paths.

My garden is a meadow, a hill,
A river, trees, gooseberries, thistles,
The spring-popped morel, the dainty columbine,
The delicate warm breeze of summer
Laughing gently at my folly.

It is bugs, myriad swarms of clinging,
Flying, buzzing insects, sticking to my
Sweaty skin as I labor to trim,
Control, govern the lush new growth
Of a wanton spring.

But I cannot own these things.
Does one entrap the wind, command
It to gently soothe a hot, dusty face?
Does one really own free-flying birds
And deer who call my garden home?

I may live here, too, at peace with
The wild things whose roots stretch far
Deeper into this black dirt than mine. I am
Merely a guest, content to
Borrow the beauty of my garden.

The trees will grow here long after
I die. They will watch others till
My garden. The over-arching boughs of
The leaning walnut on the hillside gives
Its benediction to my garden.
-Margie Greenwood, May 28, 1969

Friday, June 18, 2010

One more time - Change is good!!!

This morning I woke up at 4:22 and couldn't go back to sleep.  Well, I finally did, but it took awhile.  During that time, my mind began wandering around random thoughts and I was able to focus on one ... change.  Yes, I am going to write about change one more time and it probably won't be the last time. 

You see, I really believe that we have to constantly be transforming, changing, adapting so that we can be actively growing.  So ... I think about change a lot.

The other day, I wrote a blog about beauty.  We do not hear often enough that we are beautiful to other people.  In fact, I would guess that we don't hear often enough that we are important or interesting or bright or needed or funny or fun or ... anything!  There are never enough positive things said to us by those we hope to hear from. 

I'm reading an interesting book right now: Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation by Sally Hogshead.  She talks about seven triggers that help us to influence others.  As members of the human race, we've been using these for eons.  It is what draws couples together to propagate the species, and these days the triggers are used in marketing to draw us in to purchasing a product.  But, these triggers also take us into our relationships.  As we evoke fascination from others - they react to us.

But what do we do when we don't feel as if people are fascinated by us, when we don't get responses from those around us that build us up and cause us to feel good about ourselves. 

This all seems very self-motivated, but I believe that change is important in these situations.  Over the last year, I have made some radical changes in my life and have received a lot of positive reaction.  You know what?  That simply makes me want to continue to change!  I like the positive reinforcement.

Maybe you don't need to make radical changes ... what about something a little simpler?  Most women know that if they change their hairstyle completely, people will take notice and comment. If it is a well-done style, it will bring positive comments.  Why shouldn't you make that type of change.  But, trust me, if it's too subtle, no one will recognize the change - don't be disappointed.

I have gotten more positive comments on a pair of $8.00 eyeglasses than I could have imagined.  I'm not crazy, I'll make that type of a change again!

Change your wardrobe a little bit.  Add something that is crazy different than what you usually wear.  People will notice.

What I guess I am saying is, if you feel like no one notices who you are or cares whether or not you show up in a room, make a few changes.  Maybe it's superficial, like hair, glasses or clothing.  Maybe it's a choice that you make to smile when you encounter people, maybe it's time for you to begin complimenting people rather than taking the snarky, negative path in a conversation. 

Make some changes, become someone better than who you are right at this moment.  Make change a normal part of your life.  Then, enjoy yourself!!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My hands are my strength

A person's hands tell a lot about them.  Mine are a cross between my mother's and father's hands.  Carol's hands look much more like mom's than mine do, but every once in awhile I'll look at mine and see my mother's hands. 

One of my piano teachers made it very clear to me that long fingernails were unacceptable when playing the piano.  She couldn't bear listening to clickety-clack on the piano keys.  After awhile, neither could I. My fingernails have always been kept short because of that early training. 

When we owned the print shop, I discovered that I could no longer EVER wear fingernail polish - no matter how long it had been on my nails, it would rub off onto the jobs we were packaging or whatever paper I might be handling.  Though I tried several times, I was soon cured of desiring color on my fingers.  And, after awhile, I discovered that I just preferred them to be natural.

I wear two rings.  A wedding ring and on my right hand a band with the sign of the fish.  It's not a big deal, but it is a daily reminder to me that I am a part of something amazing.

I can't bear dirty hands.  When I was young, we would play outside in the dirt and in the sandbox.  It never took very long for me to be in washing the dirt off my hands.  But, I hated having mom ask me if I'd washed my hands after going to the bathroom.  Really, mom?  Believe it or not, sometimes I rebelled against that.  But, sooner or later, I'd have to go in and wash them.  I can't stand gunk under my fingernails either.

Our hands are so important ... for me, they are a means of communication.  When I learned to type, I was given a chance to get words out of my head faster than ever before!  I make music with my hands, I bake, I knit, I turn pages of my book, I hold other's hands, I lift my hands in worship and praise.  So much of my life is expressed through these hands.

My father told me he would never allow me to own a saw.  He was so worried that I would cut off one of my hands.  To this day, I still don't own a saw.  Let's say that I just figured out which crafts I wasn't going to be able to do.  Damaging my hands made him cringe.  He and I were carrying a huge log once while working in Kentucky.  It was native lumber and weighed and incredible amount.  Before I could get it settled, he wasn't paying attention to me, set it down and I had all the weight bearing down on me ... smashed my hand between the log and concrete.  I couldn't cry, he was so shocked I just couldn't do that to him.  I knew that it would be fine.  But, I've never seen him so concerned.  Yup, for about 15 years after that, I could feel where my fingers had been smashed.

Another time - I was in junior high.  It was the old high school and the gymnasium had brick walls and concrete risers with bleachers on one side.  We were running laps in gym class and one of my friends grabbed my hand and we began running together around the gym.  All of a sudden, as we turned a corner, she lost control of the situation and lost me.  With the momentum we had built, I had no control, missed the corner and headed straight for the brick wall at a rather high speed.  All I could think to do was put my hand up to protect my head from being crumpled.  When I hit the floor, my head was fine, but two weeks before state music contest, my right hand was in pain!  Luckily, I heal quickly and was ready.

See, I remember the times when my hands have been wounded.  Oh, the worst was when I was still running a printing press.  I stuck my hand in the end of the press to grab a sheet so as to check the quality.  It was something I did a hundred times a day and didn't think about.  But just as I put my hand in, I was distracted and the bars that grip the paper as it moves through the press grabbed my fingers and ripped the nails off started from the bottom of the nail.  Without a word, I left the press, walked to the bathroom and turned on the cold water.  Pretty soon Carol and mom came looking for me and discovered what had happened.  Again, fortunately, I heal quickly and it fixed itself.  This time I didn't have to play the piano anywhere.

My hands are my strength.  I care for them - probably not as much as I should, but at least they're still here for me.  They are a little more wrinkled than they were 25 years ago, sometimes my fingers ache - probably a bit of arthritis, they swell when I retain water, I have a palm that itches a lot and drives me crazy sometimes.  I should probably do more for my cuticles and fingernails, but they are my hands.

It is said that we are Jesus' hands on earth.  We do, in a physical way, for others the things that He would do.  I'll take just a moment for a parable-type idea that's floating around in my mind.  As many different things as I do with my hands, Jesus has need for His people to do.  Every moment, my hands are doing something different.  Every moment someone is doing something different in the name of Jesus. I take my hands for granted all the time, but as I look at them while they type these words, I realize just how cool these hands are.  Jesus doesn't take us for granted, but I'm fairly certain that He looks at us as we do His work and thinks we're pretty cool.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

You are Beautiful!

If I ask you to think about beauty and what it is that you find beautiful, what would be your response?

Mountains, ocean, running water in a river, birds singing in the trees, an eagle soaring through the skies, a new baby (yah - I know ... some of you like it better than I do), puppies, your children, movie stars, maybe a gorgeous car. 

When you look in the mirror, do you see beauty?

As I consider beauty, I realize that many times the only way for us to feel beautiful is to have others express to us that they see beauty in us.  'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder' is, on the flip side, necessary to how we present ourselves to the world.

While I fully believe that inner beauty comes from a place within us that only God can reach, I also believe that we depend on those around us to affirm in us the beauty that is already there. 

If the African tribe that sees beauty in long earlobes and extended lower lips were to spend time with an American woman, she would not be seen as beautiful. Peter Paul Rubens would not find today's women beautiful, he saw sensual beauty in the voluptuousness of the women he painted.

It is so easy to never see the beauty that is in ourselves.  The world ignores us and tears away at our confidence.  The ones we count on are so wrapped up in their own search that they don't have the energy or wherewithal to expend anything extra.

Now, before you get too worried about me, these thoughts aren't coming from a personal place.  In fact, I have been reminded a lot lately by many people that I am beautiful (whether or not I fully believe them is an entirely different situation, but for now, my confidence is doing just fine).  No, this is about friends that desperately need to be reminded that they are more than beautiful.  To them I say:

You are a stunning creation of God. The things that make you different from others are the very things that God gave you to make you unique in this world.  When I see you or hear your voice or see words you have written, my heart leaps with joy because I think of the incredible gift you are to me and to the rest of the world that loves you.  Every day as you face the world, you do so with a foundation of friends and family that love you and want you to be happy and content with yourself.  You are enough.  You are the person that God made to live right here, right now.  He is within you. He is the source of your beauty.

You are beautiful!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'm so NOT single minded.

One of my strengths and yet one of my weaknesses is that I love to do a lot of things.  I've never been comfortable focusing on one thing and becoming an expert at it.  I figured this out when I was pretty young and hoped that the world would allow me to continue along that path.  For the most part, I think I've found my way without a lot of bramble trying to trip me, but every once in awhile I see someone who excels at the top of their game in a very specific area and find myself a bit jealous.

I learn things and practice them until I do them well ... not necessarily perfect, but well.  Again, I'm a lot like my mom that way.  I have paintings, stories, poems, sculptures, thrown pots, sermons ... lots of different creative things that she did.  She learned Spanish so that she could teach ESL and work with Hispanics that were moving into our small town to work in the turkey processing plant.  She opened a quick printing business, she wrote curriculum for Methodist Sunday School programs, she did nearly anything that occurred to her to do and she always did those things well.

So ... here I sit.  I have yet to give up on sourdough bread - a third attempt is in the machine as I type, I have no less than four knitting projects in the basket beside me (that doesn't count the projects in other locations in my life), I have multiple stories that I should be working on, I'm desperate to start learning all that will be opened up to me once school begins in September, my reading list is filled with classics, mysteries, DIY, leadership/motivation, sci fi/fantasy, how to (on many different things), mythology, history (oh, I just need to make my home in a library).  I want to be good at it all!!!

I would be absolutely miserable if I thought that I had to focus on just one thing. 

When I read about individuals and their very focused lives and their exceptional achievements, I probably won't stop being envious.  But, I am grateful for the infinite curiosity that God gave me.  Every time I learn something new or experience something incredible, it just adds to who I am.

Are you single-minded and driven or do you enjoy the randomness of multitudes of things?

Monday, June 14, 2010

My Jeep ... and bad babysitting stories

I am learning WAY more about my Jeep than I think any woman should have to know.  Let me take that back a little ... more than any person should have to know.

Sidenote:  I have NEVER been a rabid feminist, but doggone it, do we HAVE to perpetuate stereotypes of who works outside the home and who takes care of children?  I'm a lousy, lousy mama type caregiver until the kid is old enough to be able to tie a shoe, go to the bathroom alone (read: not having to take a little boy into the women's bathroom with me), eat a meal without me cutting up the potato (I don't mind so much on steak, etc.) and maybe stay away from home for more than 2-3 hours.  I know plenty of men who are so much better at that stuff than me.

When my friends were having babies, it gave them great amounts of wicked pleasure to find ways to put those babies in my arms.  Then, they'd sit back and chuckle as all sorts of uncomfortable looks went flitting across my face.  I knew better than to hold the baby upside down by its toes until the mom got freaked out, but my goodness, I didn't love that.  I still don't get the whole 'ooh, look, there's a brand new baby, I must go see if I can hold it' thing.

My mother really messed up with me, I guess.  I'll be honest with you - after her descriptions of childbirth and raising three babies to childhood, I figured it out at the age of 13 - I was never going to want to give birth.  I never really changed my mind after that.

Rest of the story ... I only babysat outside the house with three different families when I was growing up.  One of those families had older children - I was way cool with that.  The other two experiences were horrifying.  The first was the daughter of a local doctor.  She'd been sick with something or other, I guess and was still an infant.  I smelled that I needed to change her diaper, but this had NEVER happened in my life before.  NEVER!  I had no idea what I was going to do.  I called mom, she chuckled and told me that the directions were actually on the box of Pampers.  Holy cow, she was right.  There I was at the changing table with the box turned to the directions.  I pulled off the dirty diaper and OMG, OMG, OMG ... the poop was a dark blue and was runny.  I called her back.  She laughed again and said that Doc probably had his daughter on something for the cold.  I cleaned it up, managed to follow the directions and get a diaper on the child and that was the LAST time I walked into that house to babysit the poor thing.  I did giggle a lot when I saw that she had graduated from high school ... such a story I wanted to go home and tell her.

The next family was even more exciting.  They were an interesting family - a little liberal in the way they raised their kids.  That was fine, I was flexible.  I got to their home and the three kids were aged 3 - 10.  The 10-year old had learned to climb up the hallway walls - they were spaced at just the right distance so that he could get his feet on one wall and hands on the other and make his way up.  He leapt out of the air and me and made me scream.  Oh yah ... he won that round.  Then, the three year old little girl was running through the house with only her diaper on.  I was fine with that until she decided that it needed to come off - so, she was running around naked.  Well, I was going to be fine with that, too, until her brothers let me know that their parents didn't like that so much.  Guess what, NOT Pampers ... this time it was a cloth diaper.  I had absolutely no idea what to do at that point.  I called mom.  In between her gales of laughter, she managed to drive over to the house, get the child in a fresh diaper and be gone before the parents returned.  That was the last time I walked into that house to babysit.

I quickly learned the teaching piano lessons in the safety of my house to children who had grown past that insane age of diapers was a better way for me to make some money while I was in high school.

So ... no, I have never fit into the traditional mold.

Now, what was I talking about?

Oh yah ... my Jeep.  Well, today I learned about the Throttle Position Sensor and the fact that it can go bad and make my Jeep guzzle oil and stall it out at stop lights and make my drive through Iowa not so enjoyable. I love and adore my Jeep more than I should, but somedays I want to go back to my 1969 Volkswagon bug that had a small engine in the back of the car.  I could open it up and pretty much make sense all by myself of the working parts.  Sigh ... Thank heavens for a garage that will take care of me, though.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Continuity, Follow Through. All that Stuff.

It's late, I should be abed, but I just got home.  I thought about begging off for the day, but since I said I would write a blog every day during the month of June, I really can't avoid it.

See that's one of the things I've learned as I've gotten older.  If I say that I'm going to do something and I say it out loud, I will jump through crazy hoops to make it happen.  I've gotten stuck by too many people over the years who have great ideas, implement for a short period of time and then give up.  That is one of those highly annoying habits that many of us have ... no follow through.

When I catch myself acting that way, I just want to kick my butt.  I disappoint people, confuse them, show them that I have no continuity and all of that spells failure to me.

There was a small chuckle inside as I thought about the number of television shows that I've gotten involved with and somewhere in the first season, the network decides the show isn't worth their investment and it's gone.  A story line was being developed, characters were flourishing and it was gone.

I grew up with parents who followed through with their threats of punishment.  All it took was one time of mom pulling the car over to deal with me and I was fairly confident that she would do it again.  When I got old enough to sit with my friends in church ... in the back ... far away from my mom and further away from the pulpit where Dad was sitting, I was warned that Dad would have no issue embarrassing me if he caught me talking when I shouldn't.  Why did I believe he would do it?  Because this is the story he told me.

He was just a kid and was sitting in church with his buddies.  They started chatting and laughing with each other.  Dad ignored the stern looks that his father gave him from the pulpit until Grandpa stopped his sermon, and asked Frank Greenwood to please come down to the front pew and be seated until the service was over since he couldn't control his behavior.

Dad's embarrassment over that incident remained with him for years, but it had effectively curtailed his bad behavior in church and the tales of his punishment did the same for the three of us kids.  We were absolutely certain that Dad would follow through if we couldn't maintain a sense of decorum for a single hour.  The last thing I ever wanted to do was end up sheepishly walking that long, long aisle to the front pew.

When my parents told us they would do something, whether it was punishment for bad behavior or something positive in our world, we were always certain that they would follow through.  There was never a question.

I don't know that I'll ever be that steadfast - I forget things that I promise because I get too busy.  I have learned, however, to carry 3x5 cards to write things down and I use Evernote on my computers to help with the memory of things I promise to take care of.  Please don't remind me today of things I've forgotten to handle for you, though.  I'm too tired! :)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Silence and High Energy

It seems I should have tons to say tonight, but wow, I must be tired.  Can you blame me?  Well, you can blame Carol.  I just spend a few hours in the same room with her and I'm pooped.

When I'm at the cabin, things are VERY quiet.  I mean, VERY quiet. There are some birds singing and making noise, lots of insects, sometimes I hear a loud vehicle as it traverses the road, but for the most part, things are quiet.

Last night, Carol and her friend Dave came up to do some mowing and just relax, I suppose.  They have a weird way of relaxing.  I kind of knew what time they were coming in, so I thought I was prepared.  Not so much.

Before I knew it, an explosion occurred.  It was like a tornado let loose with all of its power and tossed energy everywhere!

Because it's so quiet and the mornings come so early, I tend to go to sleep early and wake up early.  Well, last night I was still reading at 1 am and this morning, my body wanted to wake up at 5:45.  I forced myself to remain quiet, because I knew those two believed in late wakeup calls ... I'm fine with that.

We stayed up late watching a movie (there's nothing like a good 80s flick - Wargames), eating cookies, attempting to eat my very dense (not so successful yet) sourdough bread and jabbering away like those birds that wake me with the dawn.

Poor Carol was so tired she finally crawled into bed, but she wasn't done talking so she kept going until I finally told her to just turn it off and sleep ... and she did.

They got some mowing done last night - before the glorious early morning thunderstorms hit, so this morning as I sat on the porch, quietly reading while they slept, the rain came down and the place looked wonderful.

It's fun sharing a quiet space with lots of energy, but I'll go back and be glad for a return to silence. And I'll chuckle a little because both of those things are such a part of who I am.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Memories of Family

Ahhh ... the memories.

This afternoon I got a chance to spend some time with my cousin, Cathy and her father Ralph.  He's 93 years old and in hospice.  She's spent the last couple of months there with him, enjoying the final days of her father's life, glad to be a part of whatever it is he still has to offer.

He is an Iowa farmer and has always been proud of the land, his life, his home, his wife, children and now grandchildren. 

 Gravity Church

My memories of him track to the very beginning of my life.  He and his wife, Ruth, were members of Dad's first church in Gravity, Iowa and saw Mom and Dad through some rough and interesting times.  There are many, many stories that I will never remember, but I'm pretty sure my parents would never have been the people the became if Ralph and Ruth hadn't been there at the beginning to ensure they had a solid start.

Ruth protected Mom from the little old ladies of the church who were sure that they (and only they) knew the right way a young pastor's wife should live her life.  When they tried to tell mom when and how she should run the dryer in the parsonage, Ruth backed them down.  When Mom had no idea how to cook, clean, sew and run a household with a brand new baby (me), Ruth lovingly taught her what to do.  When Dad was unsure of the next steps to take with the people of the church, Ralph and Ruth were there to give him confidence in his decisions ... even when the crazy young preacher decided that the top of the church steeple needed to be painted. 

Our family moved away from them after a couple of years and continued to move further away from Dad's home and family as we grew older.  Whenever we returned, we were constantly drawn to their home, where love and food and fun were found on a farm. 

Cathy and Charles were a few years older than the three of us kids, but took a lot of time with us whenever we there, bringing out toys that would be shared around, wandering around the grand gardens and playing outside with us.

 As I look back at photographs I have from my childhood, I find that many of them were taken at their home.

Today was a great time for me to spend with family, to remember a childhood filled with joy, to remember the blessings of a man who worked harder than most men I've known in my life and loved his family and his church.  I am so grateful for people like this in my life!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Who Keeps You on Task?

So, who calls you out when you have given up?

Fortunately for me, I have a couple of people in my life that take care of me at that point.  Tonight it was my sister in a 3 minute conversation.

I had spent the entire day today doubting my choices, questioning my future and fretting over my past.  The entire day!  There are some times that being alone isn't necessarily a good thing.

Doubt and fear set in like the gloom that was hanging over the cabin due to the rainstorm.  In fact, the tears flowed like rain for most of the day as I questioned myself and all that I hope for.  I was ready to quit, throw in the towel, cry 'Uncle,' give up.

Then, Carol called, we talked about mundane things and I told her what was happening to my head. 

She got mad and yelled at me!  No coddling allowed, I guess.  Within a span of 3 minutes, she took me out, propped me up and kicked me into gear.  Then she had to go play volleyball and threatened to call me back later.

I suspect she's not done with me.

Which is a good thing (maybe?).

We all need someone in our lives that we trust implicitly and that person needs to have no fear when confronting us with our own fears.  The thing is, I can be that person for a lot of my friends, but I don't allow people in so close to me that they know my fears and see my stupidity.  Carol just won't put up with it from me.  I guess that comes from putting up with way more crap from me over the last 45+ years than anyone else on the planet.

Do you have someone in your life that won't let you give up, that won't let you get away with wallowing in fears, anger and stupidity?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Just Not an Outdoors Girl

This morning I woke up pretty early (that's what happens when you go to bed at 9:30 pm) and walked out onto the front porch.  Carol keeps putting salt blocks in the meadow for the deer, so I've been hoping to glimpse them as they bound across the meadow.  As I stood in the porch watching dawn break (yes - it really was that early), I looked into the meadow for any movement.  At first I didn't see anything but then I heard a strange noise, turned my head and there was one just staring at me.  I shook the water out of my hair and he moved to continue watching me.  For just a few moments, we were the only two living beings in the space and it was wonderful.

I'm not necessarily a nature girl and am very grateful for solid walls that surround me.  Last week, after letting the dog outside for a last run before bed, we wandered around and there was some very strange screaming/screeching coming from the hillside just outside the back window.  I wanted to get a recording of the sounds, but I was a fumble-fingered mess with my phone and nothing actually was recorded.

In 1983, Dad, Mom, Jim and I traveled north into Canada.  Dad wanted to drive in as far as the road would go, pitch the tent on a lake shore and stay for several days.  That's just what we did and it was one of the more glorious weeks of my life.  There are several fun stories from that week ... because we're all dorks.

Jim and I took the canoe out onto the lake to do some fishing.  He reeled in a nice-sized Northern Pike and since we didn't have a stringer with us (because we're dorks), he just hauled it into the canoe.  The thing was not at all happy about losing its life and began flopping around.  Jim saw those teeth and fins coming at his legs, but since he was in control of the boat motor couldn't get it stopped.  I turned around and attempted to lay my paddle on top of the fish to control it.  My aim wasn't fabulous and instead of just laying my paddle on the stupid fish, I beat the hell out of it.  When we got back to shore, the bottom of the canoe was covered in blood.  Mom and Dad were terribly concerned that Jim had been hurt badly because of all the blood.  He just stood up and laughed.  Yes, we ate fish that night and yes, Jim and I had to wash the crazy canoe.

Thank heavens Dad loved the outdoors, he made our camping trips wonderful.  He was highly organized, had everything (everything - PLUS) that we might need and knew how to handle most anything that might occur.  Mom and I, on the other hand, would always choose a hotel over a tent.  We'd been camping enough with Dad to know that while he was comfortable handling anything that might come at us, we'd just as soon avoid any untoward encounters with wildlife.

Dad and Jim got the tent.  Mom and I put beds down in the van and decided to be incredibly grateful for strong, steel walls between us and the local fauna.  Especially when we woke in the middle of the night to snuffling and snorting and discovered that there were several large wolves in the neighborhood checking out the idiots in the tent.  All was fine, and Jim and Dad chose to remain in the tent.  I will always choose to have sturdy walls between me and the outdoors when it's dark and animals like to roam.

As much as I love it here at the cabin, think it's gorgeous and am overwhelmed by the beauty of God's creation.  I am still not an outdoors girl and really, really am thankful for sturdy walls, a shower, and the comforts of home.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Don't Mumble

This morning I was following a pickup with a decal in the rear window that I couldn't read.  It was obviously some breed of dog and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what it was saying.  All because of a lousy, unreadable type font.

Now why the words, 'Don't Mumble' came to me as I attempted to decipher that font, I don't know, but it makes sense.  If you have something important to say ... don't mumble!

Yesterday I was at the post office.  I wrote about this in my Bible blog, but I'll share it again.  I had gotten the stamps I needed and was standing in the main lobby putting them on envelopes to mail.  As I stood there, a man walked past me and mumbled something while looking right at me.  It took me several moments to discern his words, during which time my mind was working as quickly as possible to figure out what he had just said.  I was distracted because my attention was elsewhere and none of the words that he spoke to me were in context with where we were at.

He said, "Has anyone told you that Jesus loves you today?"  As soon as my brain caught up to his mumbled sentence, I was able to begin processing on a response.  Yes, all of that took just a second or too, but he had something important to say and he mumbled his way through it, allowing me time to wonder whether I needed to pay attention to him or not.

When Carol and I were growing up, we did a lot of singing - in church, in school, for friends and family - a lot of singing.  As a child, Dad had hearing issues.  Those were fixed by a near miraculous surgery in the late 60s that allowed him a chance to hear again, but his hearing still wasn't perfect.  He couldn't bear to have us mumbling around him and when we were singing, it was important to him that he and everyone else be able to understand the words coming out of our mouths.  For years there wasn't a single time that we were practicing when we didn't hear him say to one or the other of us, "Enunciate.  Make sure you sing those words clearly."  Wow, did we learn to speak and sing clearly.  Just in self-defense, we had to!

As we grew up, if Dad had any problem understanding the words we were singing, we heard it again from him that we needed to enunciate.  It was rote learning that stuck with both of us.  Over and over and over we would practice until Dad could understand every word we sung.

What he was teaching us was that if we had something important to say (sing), we needed to ensure that people were able to understand the message.

I get a lot of teasing because of my blatant ... umm ... honesty, when asked about any given situation.  It does no one any good for me to duck the question or lie.  I won't mumble when a clear response is needed.  Jesus said "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No' ... (Mt. 5:37).  Clarity always.

This life lesson came from my dad and not mom this time.  But, it's one I've been thankful for.  Don't mumble.  Enunciate.  Speak (sing) clearly and make sure that people understand the importance of the message you are delivering.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Technicolor Dreams

In the early 1990s there was a magazine called Mondo 2000.

The internet didn't exist as we know it, people were chatting on bulletin boards and a few corporate chatboards (GEnie, CompuServe, AOL, etc.). The Macintosh was just beginning to get a full head of steam, software companies were growing like crazy and there was an interesting set of people who lived to 'create' in this new world of information.

Mondo 2000 was an amalgamation of all that was strange. A combination of drugs, sex, computers, media, oddities ... pretty much out there. The people who wrote for the magazine and collaborated on it did really crazy things and wrote about experiences that I would never have in a world I would never know or understand. I was fascinated.

Living in Omaha in a white-bread, homogenized world was safe for me but didn't push me to do anything more than what I was already doing day by day. I would go home at night, log on to one of the Bulletin Boards out of San Francisco or Boston, chat with people around the country and my world began to open up. I just knew that there was more to life than the drab existence around me. My mind absorbed everything and I was learning how to be open to possibilities.

These were the days that I would lay in bed after the world around me had gone to sleep wondering what it would be like if there actually was life on other planets and what would I do if they showed up in my back yard. More than all of the science fiction I had ever read (and I'd read a lot), I was beginning to see that all of that crazy, dreamed up fiction might have a chance to become reality.

The world was changing rapidly and I was gaining access to more than I had ever dreamed would be available to me. It felt as if astounding changes were happening in the world every single morning I woke up.

At some point, though, I started becoming used to the changes. Nothing surprised and delighted me any longer. Information was still information and I had access to all of it. I became so overloaded that I expected the unexpected and quit looking for the discovery.

I've gotten cynical in my old age. Too much of my life is spent in the 'known' universe. It seems as if everyone around me is more interested in stability than in discovery. It's better to be safe than to explore.

But when I shut my eyes, I see a night sky filled with stars, ocean depths with untold possibilities of exploration, ideas and flights of fancy that could develop into life changing possibilities.

I look back at the world that was opening up to me at the beginning of our present cyberculture. Back when there were limitless ideas. That culture hasn't died, people haven't stopped dreaming. I just lost contact with them.

God has created enough mysteries and things to be discovered to entrance anyone willing to search. I can not allow the mundane requirements of a boring life to stop me from finding my way into that extraordinary universe.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The tale of the thank you note

I pulled my mail in this afternoon and there were two thank you notes in there - one from a wedding, the other from my niece's graduation.  I smiled ... mostly in memory.  

Mom always made us sit down and write thank you notes after birthdays and Christmas.  It wasn't fun, but we did it.  Grandma Greenwood kept a few of them and returned them to us - what a riot they were, but even as little kids, we learned the importance of saying thank you.

I really did have to laugh, though at my friend who was sending out the wedding thank you cards.  What a tedious task!  As grateful as you are for all of the wonderful gifts and the friends who shared the day with you and the fact that they love you, coming up with one more creative way to say thank you just wears a person out!  

I'm not sure if I told you the hideous thank you note story from my wedding.  My step mother arranged this strange (very strange) wedding gift opportunity for me.  She and Dad didn't live nearby and I had pulled things together so quickly that there really wasn't going to be a formal wedding, no chance for all of that entertainment.  I was really fine with it - my goodness I'd been living on my own for a long time and didn't need anything.  Actually, I am pretty sure that the better way to have had that party was for me to host it and have people take things OUT of my house.

Anyway, she set up a party at her house, invited all of these people from her church (note - I didn't attend there, they saw me a couple of times a year when we sang at the church for Dad, they really didn't know me) and told them to bring a gift for me.  I wasn't invited to the party, didn't know a thing about it.  Oh yes ... it was very strange.

So the day of the wedding comes and we are all over the place trying to deal with introducing family, deal with where everyone was staying, what was happening ... I was just thankful there were only 10-15 people involved, let me tell you!
Then she set us down and made me open gifts - a pile of things that came from people I didn't know at all, but felt that the pastor's wife had asked them to do something and in their grace, they did.  We were in a hurry, I opened gifts as quickly as possible and I think Carol was writing down names right along with me.  We finished and then got on with the next task (probably lunch or something).

Well, a week or so later, I was going through the list and writing out thank you notes.  One of the gifts was a great gift and I actually kind of knew the family that it came from - they had ties to a family from another church in our lives.  It was perfect - a DustBuster. Max would be able to make use of it in his darkroom.  I told them that in the note and mailed everything out.

Fast forward ... a couple of months.  Max was in the darkroom setting things up one day and wanted to do some quick cleanup.  He asked me about the Dust Buster and I went down to help him find what had happened to it.  I opened the box and lo and behold, the family had NOT given us a DustBuster, but had packed a nice little marriage plaque in the box.  Oh for heaven's sake!!!  I remember sinking down on the basement steps, doubled over in laughter and a slight bit of panic.

I had to go back upstairs and write ANOTHER thank you note, explaining the insanity of the first note and the fact that I hadn't opened the package all the way because of the craziness of the day.  Oh I was glad they knew me ... just a little bit.  

There were two lessons learned that day - one, NEVER give a gift in a box for another item and two, always open gifts fully to ensure that what I think is in the box actually is in the box.

Thank you notes are always appreciated, though.  Always!!!  Acknowledging the gift and the giver is so important.  I still write thank you notes pretty regularly.  Isn't it wonderful to have things to be thankful for?

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Move forward without complaining.

Do you have as much fun as I do living in today's world?  I feel like there is this crazy wild blend of the old and new as I find old friends and remember great times from my childhood, youth and young adulthood and then as I watch technology radically change how we continually interact with the world.

I try really hard not to lament about how things were so much better when we were kids ... listening to that stuff wearies me.  Things were different that's for sure, but I actually remember telling myself that when I was as old as my parents I would NOT deride the contemporary music of the time.  I'll be honest with you, I don't really listen to too much of it - I'm stuck in the 70s.  But, if you make me listen to it, I generally like it.

All of the complaining that my generation (and those around me) do about what is going on in the schools and with kids and all of the technological changes and the way the music sounds, etc,. etc., is very similar to what I heard my parents' generation saying and the generations before theirs.  

There are things that are more difficult and some of the changes aren't necessarily good, but I find that when we encounter people who are willing to innovate within the current timeframe rather than simply complain about it, we encounter positive change.

You have to know that I'm not terribly fond of complaining - whether it is in a church, or about a political party or a current event or a crisis.  Complainers don't get much done.  In fact, they're pretty much limited to just that ... complaining.  

I once promised a pastor that if I ever came across something that I thought was a problem or being done wrong, I would only complain if I had a positive resolution to the problem and if I was willing to kick in and do something about it.  If he didn't want my help or didn't like my ideas, that was fine ... but I'd heard enough from those who just wanted to whine about the way things were done rather than actually be positive and proactive to make things better.

Tech, science, geek blogs are some of my favorite things to read.  There is nothing more fun than to see innovation and creativity explode.  It seems as if there is something exciting happening every single day.  

And if you want to see a young man who is using his creative mind to make the world a better place ... check out Pranav Mistry in this TED video.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Life of a Dog

I'd like to think I have something terribly profound to say about these pictures of my dog, Leica, hanging out in the sunshine, but I'm not quite the 'parable' writer that my friend Rebecca is, so I'll just share them with you.

She has a tendency to just walk out the front door if I leave it open for any length of time.  I certainly don't mind.  When we're in Omaha, I have to keep her on leash because I'm afraid she'll run into the alley behind the house or the street in front of the house and get smushed by a fast-moving car.  Up here, though, she's got a lot of freedom and takes advantage of it as often as possible.

There are a lot of times that I will go out looking for her if she's been gone for awhile and I discover that she's managed to walk up the lane and out onto the road - sometimes just wandering up the road sniffing at all the great scents or over to the park to see what is going on.  Thank heavens traffic is light on this road. I keep a pretty close eye on her on the weekends because traffic increases with people camping in the park.

I fell asleep last night about 8:30 and Max woke me at 10:30 when he called after arriving in the Tahoe area.  I let her outside and then hit the bathroom myself.  I heard her bark.  That only happens if someone (or thing) invades her space.  By the time I got to the front porch, she was barking and chasing something away from our front area.  Now, there was one of my fears coming to the forefront ... she is such a scent hound, I was scared to death she would chase until she was far, far away.  Finally I heard her collar and she came bounding back to me - quite proud of herself for protecting her domain, I'm sure.

Last week I went looking for her and discovered her right outside the front door laying in the sun - sound asleep.  She's such a little thing and has absolutely no body fat, of course she likes the heat of the sun!
Yesterday I discovered her asleep under the tree in front of the cabin - she'd found another sunny place and was sound asleep.  By the time I had gone back in and gotten my phone and walked out to take her picture, the noise and activity had disturbed her enough to wake her up, so she's looking at me in the picture.

And by the way, Max ... I want my camera back.  You got to use it for two weeks - it's mine now!  Pictures just aren't the same when taken by a Blackberry!