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!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Telling the story

One of the books that I am in the middle of reading for a class is called "The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our place in the Biblical Story."  It's just fabulous.  The authors present the entire Grand Narrative of Scripture in such a way as to encourage you to place yourself within that story.

They posit that each of us can only have one grand narrative.  We either choose to live according to the story told by our culture, or we choose to live our story according to the one surrounding Scripture.  The story that God began with Creation and will end with the Return of the King. 

As I read the book, I couldn't stop thinking about how we tell our stories.  I come from a family of story tellers ... on both sides!  Telling our family stories has always been a big part of coming together for us.  Last weekend at my Uncle Ralph's funeral, Carol and I were given more pieces to the story as we met people that had known our parents before we were even born. 

As children growing up, we begged Mom and Dad to tell and retell different stories from our childhood and to tell stories from their childhoods.  Our grandparents had stories to tell us.  I would sit for hours with Grandma Greenwood playing Rook or Milles Bornes as she told me stories about her life and about my life, about my dad's life and about my aunts and uncles as children.  The stories created structure and perspective around my own life.

When I was in Kindergarten, one of my Sunday School teachers, Eulalie Bryant would seat us around her in a semi-circle.  She was a grandmotherly type and when we gathered at her feet, she wove amazing stories and tales, drawing us into the story.  Little did I know that I was getting my first introduction to the stories of the Old Testament and the stories of Jesus. All I really knew at the time was that I was entranced.  I actually remember finding one of her stories in the Bible one day and having the entire Old Testament come to life because everything flowed into position as I realized that she had been reinforcing the Biblical story for each of us children.

The authors of The Drama of Scripture point out that relationships are built on connecting our stories.  As friends come together, they tell each other their stories until they are able to make connections.  Once those are established, the relationship builds and then continues to grow as their stories remain connected.

One of my uncle's nieces (other side of the family) had a connection to one of my high school girlfriends.  In that moment, our stories connected, we built a thread of a relationship.

How do you tell your stories?  Do you tell them to your friends, to your kids, to your family?  The story is so important ... it is our connection with the past, the present and the future. It is what makes our connections to each other work.  What is your story?

Friday, September 17, 2010

City or Country? Who knows!

For the last year, I have spent a lot of time at a very quiet location in central Iowa.  It's amazing.  And wow, has my outlook on the world changed.  That hit me in the face yesterday more than I could even realize!  Here's what happened.

I got up and got my day started.  There were a lot of things to do while I was in Omaha, so I was going to work hard to get them all done. 

First thing off, some time at the hospital with Max.  He had texted me at 7 in the morning telling me that I needed to learn a good garroting technique.  I knew immediately that the new roommate was a problem.  A much older man with the beginning of Alzheimer's had come into the room the night before and moaned and made noise all night long.  I told Max to beg to be let out instead, no ... the garrote was for me to use on him when he got like that.  I prefer a gun.  Anyway ... I got to the hospital and the roommate was in xray.  Before he got back, a couple of people had stopped by to see him.  When he got back, he was tailed by his wife and another older couple.  They were working to get he and his wife settled, with a great deal of insane noise.  Plastic bags crinkling, chatter ... all sorts of wild management techniques ... all sorts of noise.  Oh my goodness!!!  For my entire stay, there was no cessation of noise.

I finally left - leaving poor Max with the craziness in the bed next to his - hoping the doctor would release him (he did get released ... whew for him!).  Quickly made a Staples run (always need office supplies) and then headed to Jiffy Lube.  There were a few more vehicles in there than usual, so I knew it wasn't going to be a quick in and out, but I had time and I had my Kindle, so no worries.  Uh huh ... whatever.  When I walked into the lobby to sit back and read, I was confronted with a large group of people - of whom there were two women, a mother and daughter (daughter in her mid-20s).  They were both higher than a kite.  Frenetic, strange movements, eyes darting, up and down, in and out to have cigarettes, back in to warm up, out, up and down, bodies moving all the time.  My eyes got BIG, my body wanted to just shut down.  And, I got to sit there for an extended period of time.  All sorts of assault on my senses.  They finally left, I got to settle for a moment and then I was done.

Off to the Post Office, then to Hy-Vee.  Since when does 12:15 on a Thursday afternoon become stupid old people shop at Hy-Vee day?  Holy mackerel!  They were all over the place and they were everywhere.  Crashing into my cart, cutting me off in the parking lot, asking really stupid questions in the checkout line ... I wanted to scream.  Are you kidding me?  I finally got out of there - much later than I intended, but I was out.

Now, to Arby's for a salad and home for awhile.  When I came out of Arby's, driving back west on Center, I saw a strange man crossing the street about a block or so ahead of me.  Right in the middle of the street - forcing traffic to come to a stop about 1/2 block from the traffic light.  He just put his hand up and made them stop.  I saw him moving into the Hy-Vee parking lot and waited for enough traffic to pass through the light so I could turn left.  I made the left turn around a semi truck only to discover that man was crossing in front of me.  I looked up and had shock in my face.  I couldn't figure out where he had come from.  I stopped, moved away from where he was walking and he turned on me.  My window was down and he started screaming at me!  I just drove on past, got home and sat down. 

Quiet and peace shouldn't be, but seem to be a luxury in the city.  Sometimes I get a chance to recognize the difference between the city and rural life and I realize that without one you couldn't appreciate the other.  I've lived in Omaha for 25+ years and loved it.  I didn't know that I would ever want to move back to a quieter life.  But now ... I don't know.  I love the energy, the easy accessibility.  But, out here, I love the birds singing and the absolute quiet of the night.  I love driving on county highways, passing combines, watching the fields as they are harvested.

I can't say that one is better than the other, but yesterday I was certain one would drive me to distraction! :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

God blesses my friendships

Do you take your friends for granted?  I try not to, but sometimes I don't think that I realize how my friends care for me and love me.  Especially when I'm feeling sorry for myself! :)

The other night as I left the hospital, I was frustrated and worried.  I fell apart while I was on the phone with Carol and whined and cried.  After we finally hung up (so I could deal with getting supper), I really felt sorry for myself, acting as if I was all alone and by myself.  Oh, I'd worked myself into a crazy emotional place.

Then I got home, opened up Facebook and the messages of love and support filled my heart as I realized how there were people from all over caring about me and about Max.  Some of them have never met Max, they just cared.

By the time the nurse had called to give me the good news about Max not having surgery, I was already at peace, dealing with the stuff that I needed to deal with and handling it all.  Mostly because I recognized no matter what, I wasn't alone.

This is one of those things that I believe God really does to take care of us.  The Bible tells us that we're not alone, that He is always there with us.  Sometimes, however, I think that we forget that when the pressures of the world overtake us.  When you are sitting by yourself and there's no one around to reach out to you, it's easy to believe that 'by yourself' means 'alone.' 

Then friends step in.  Does God bless our friendships?  Absolutely.  A few words, a smile, a hug, a prayer, a touch, a phone call ... all of these things remind us that 'by yourself' doesn't mean 'alone.'  God steps in and makes Himself real to us through our friends.

Matthew 25:40 - "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

When we reach out to someone ... we are acting as God's hands here on earth.  I believe this is why friendships at every level - from intimate to acquaintances - are so important. Those moments that we care for our friends are moments when God can work through us.

How difficult is it for us to encourage relationships, to make our friends understand how important they are, to watch for what they need, to ensure that they feel loved.  Because 'by yourself' should never mean 'alone.'  And even now, I still have to relearn that it doesn't.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's Been a Day

It's 1:15 in the morning and I've finished one of the two papers due tomorrow.  I didn't know if I was going to ever get to this point.  Today was quite a day!

The morning started out great.  I got up, got going, got my morning started and decided to head into town for some groceries and a few office supplies (need to get my organization on!).  I called Max about 9 am, thinking it would be a normal morning conversation.  It was anything but.  He was at the doctor's office having blood and urine tested.  His flu symptoms weren't getting better, they were getting worse.  I told him to call me when he knew something ... figuring this would be no big deal and I would have plenty of time to get my school work done.

I took off at 10:30 for town and my phone rang.  It was Max.  The doctor had called him back and told him that his white count was elevated - he needed to go to the hospital, they would do a CT scan and run more tests.  Holy mackerel, that changed everything!  I turned around, went back to the cabin and madly tried to think of all that I needed to take home so that I could continue working, as well as my clothing and laundry.  I needed to ensure that everything was closed up, turned off and shut down.  This is stuff that I do at my leisure when I usually go home, but my mind was all over the place trying to figure out what might be wrong with him and how I was going to hurry home and get everything else taken care of.  Fortunately, the brain kept spinning and I kept moving.

When I got to the hospital this afternoon, they had yet to get him down for the CT scan and he had no new information.  If you are someone who doesn't ask questions of doctors and specialists, please kick yourself in the butt for me.  I started asking questions and though there was not yet enough information, at least I was starting to clue in. Things weren't great.

I came home, let the dog out, sat down for a few minutes, talked to some friends, got my head together, did a little school work and then went back to the hospital.  Fortunately it's only a short drive.  Five minutes before I left the house I realized that the handwritten notes I had taken for one of my papers were still in a drawer at the cabin.  Cursing and swearing ensued.

Back to the hospital - shift change - new nurse.  I asked Max if he'd had anything to eat or drink.  "No."  I asked if he knew why?  "No."  (Sigh)  The new nurse came in, he asked, she came back to tell him that he couldn't until he'd talked to a surgeon. 

Alright, at this point, I did my best to stay in my seat.  What?  Surgeon?  What?  She pulled up the chart as she realized that absolutely no one had talked to Max about the scan.  She said that she assumed we were dealing with the diverticulitis.  My response was, "Well, no ... since this is the first we've heard of it."  The scan showed a great deal of diverticulitis and a mass in the lower abdomen.  At panicked looks from both of us, she went on to say that no one believed it was anything but something associated with the diverticulosis. However, the surgeon would probably want to remove the mass. 

Crap.  Abdominal Surgery.  Ok ... whatever we have to deal with, we will deal with.

I left the hospital to come home and work, called friends and tried not to think about it.

Forty-five minutes later, I had a strange number show up on my cell phone.  It was the nurse from Methodist.  That actually scared me - ok, I admit it, I thought something terrible had happened in that short period of time.  But, she was calling to let me know that the surgeon had looked at the information and was not intending to do surgery, but felt the mass could be treated with intravenous antibiotics and while Max would have to stay in the hospital for awhile to make this work, surgery was no longer the primary option.

Well, wow ... that was great news!  Recovery from a bout of diverticulitis is going to be easier than recovery from abdominal surgery.  I may just hug her - she knew that we would both sleep better with that news.

So, we'll see what tomorrow brings.  I still have a lot of work to do to get my assignments completed.  That just plain stresses me out.  Fortunately, that's all that is stressing me out right now. 

It's been a day.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A little OCD - Maybe, but HEY!

I like things to make sense.  I can justify my behavior with all sorts of reasons, but when it comes down to it, I like things to make sense.

My mind is constantly going on a million different ideas, projects, thoughts, plans and when a week like last week hits my brain and causes everything to turn into a brown puddle, I don't like it.

Here's a couple of things that I know about myself.  If I hide items in a cupboard or drawer, I will forget about them and never use them.  Clutter occurs around me because of this.  If I create a space (in a cupboard or a drawer) that I access on a regular basis, this becomes just as accessible as open space to me, so to keep things neat, I work towards this.  I need triggers around so as to remind me what resides in enclosed spaces and I try to create those too.  My memory stinks and it always has.  I try to stay as organized as possible so that I can overcome the fact that my memory just plain stinks.

Adding four classes to my life with each professor demanding different styles of organization and using different methods of presenting information and differing types of technology just about did me in for a few days.  I knew that I had to force this all to come into my style of organization so that I could manage it.  I'd done a little preparation and I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't done that, you would have to simply send in a scoop and pry the puddle off the floor.

Last night as I was finishing up my work for the day, I went back through the world around me, cleaning up scattered papers, gathering pens, pencils, highlighters and other assorted bits and pieces.  I attacked my binders.  I have four classes ... four binders ... four colors.  I had purchased an assorted package of colored cardstock ... (are you seeing where I'm going yet?)  Well, my classwork in the binders needs separators.  Yup, pulled out my stainless steel sharpie, put the orange cardstock in the orange binder, found an orange highlighter and my life for the Inductive Bible Study - Matthew is all done in orange.  I highlighted the assignments due on my calendar in orange, highlighted the pages that needed work in the binder, built the separators for the overwhelming amount of information he gave us and put the binder back.  Did the same for the other three classes and now when I look at my calendar, my little brain is all happy because it can see in a moment what needs to happen over the next several days - the colors remind me which class and the words tell which assignment.

As I quietly put everything back into its place last night, I swore to myself that I wasn't going to tell anyone.  I giggled about it a little and when I woke up this morning, I couldn't wait to pull out my organized life and get to work.  I also knew when I woke up this morning that you were going to hear about this, because I can't keep this stuff a secret, even when I know that I deserve to have you chuckle at me.

Can I tell you that I had already long since built the colors for each class and when my self-published text came in the mail from my Greek professor with an orange cardstock cover on it, I was actually annoyed?  Greek is not orange ... it's purple, for heaven's sake! Oh well, the things I have to suffer through.

Today I will finish up a paper for my Christian Formation class.  Oh, this is a wonderful class ... it's actually giving me a lot of different kinds of information.  Yesterday I was watching lectures on the Trinity, another on the Narrative form in Scripture, I read a wonderful book about the Drama of Scripture and began the paper based on that book.

I will work on my Matthew survey for the Inductive Bible Study course and continue to work through the beginning Greek stuff.  I have enough of this under my belt that I can take a little less time with it which will be given to some other classes.  My New Testament class is discussing a book that I forced myself to read during the month of August.  At least I don't have that heavy reading hanging over my head right now.

There will be a point I run into town for some more office supplies.  I'm weary of punching holes in paper and I know full well that pre-punched paper is available.  Gonna get me some of that!

Monday, September 13, 2010

What's your purpose?

I dropped into bed last night and as I reflected back over my day, I realized that I hadn't written a blog post.  I was so exhausted that as much as I love you all, I could not come up with the energy to move from that prone position.  As I lay there, I couldn't even make my brain think about anything interesting to write. 

My cell phone is on the table next to the bed.  If I come up with thoughts or ideas in the night, I can email my Evernote note account and leave myself messages and information.  At some point as I was turning over, I had a flash of something that I needed to take care of today.  I quickly went to my cell, started the email and then couldn't remember what it was.  Oh, I hate when that happens.  A flash in a second and then it is gone.  It's just not fair!  Oh, I had two other things that I wanted to ensure were taken care of today, but the one that seemed so important?  I have absolutely no idea.  I just hope that I manage to remember it before it's too late!

This morning I read Rebecca's blogpost "Desperate" and when I got finished with it, I had a memory stirred within me of a special time I had with God once long ago when He told me that His plan for me was that I teach of His love.  He didn't tell me what I had to learn to teach that, He didn't tell me exactly what words to use, He didn't lay out the plan for my life as I did this for Him, all He did was give me that impetus.

If I were to ask you what you felt God's plan for your life was, would you be able to give me a response?  It can't be something like "raise my kids" because that's something that will end.  They'll be raised and out of the house and then what will you do?  It can't be something for just one person because God doesn't actually work that way, He didn't create you for just one other person, He created you as part of a community, a family.  His plan for your life is something that given enough momentum could transform the world.  But, even without momentum, He wants you to offer enough that you can change the little parts of the world around you.

Have you ever asked God what it is that He wants from you - not just today, not just tomorrow, not just in your career or your family or your home - but from your life!  I'm going to bet that it's not that difficult.  It's not an intricate process, it's not a bold new theology.  Is it something as simple as "Show my people how to love"?

I was glad to be reminded of that.  It puts everything I am doing right now into perspective and brings me a lot of joy as I realize that no matter what steps I take in my life, my purpose is set forth and I can be filled with joy as I meet it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Loss and Love

Today was a good day.  We celebrated the life of my Uncle Ralph Weller with family and friends this afternoon.  He was such a great man and you know how it is.  I saw one picture of my Uncle Ralph and though I loved him, today I discovered more and more about what a treasure he really was.  The people's lives he impacted and the things that he did throughout his own life are strong reminders of the importance we play in each others lives.

Carol and I sang at the service and while there's nothing strange or abnormal about that for us, today we were placed in front of people who couldn't wait to speak with us.  While they were effusive in their compliments, the first thing they wanted to ask us was who we belonged to.  We figured out quite quickly that they wanted to know we were Frank Greenwood's daughters.  They loved my dad.

Dad's first church was in Gravity, Iowa, a little tiny town in southwest Iowa that can no longer boast a Methodist church.  Uncle Ralph and his wife, Aunt Ruth were members of that church and eased Dad's way into ministry and eased my mother's way into Iowa.  I was born while they lived in Gravity.

Two women came down after much of the crowd had cleared out and wanted to reminisce about their experiences with my parents.  Mom had moved to Gravity from Boston and that made an impression on them.  What made an even greater impression was when she returned after visiting her parents in Boston and was thankful to be back among people that would genuinely care for her and not expect her to behave in a certain way.  She told us that Mom had gone back knowing that her mother would host some extravagant tea or dinner party.  By that time, Mom owned one nice, navy wool dress.  Grammy served a cream soup and before Mom knew it, she had spilled it down the front of her dress.  She told her friends in Gravity that had she been with them, they would have helped her clean it up and then forgotten about it, yet in Boston among the socialites, she felt ostracized.

She told a story about Dad and her husband fishing one day.  Another fellow was fishing around the bend and must have lost his lure into the water.  He didn't know they were there and began cursing and swearing, stomping around and fuming.  Her husband snuck away from the craziness, but the fellow stomped his way out of the area past Dad, still fuming and angry because of a lost lure.  After he had left them alone, Dad turned to her husband and said in that understated way of his, "I don't believe he was very happy about that," and went back to his own fishing.

We were able to share the fact that Dad actually only swore twice that we remembered.  The man just didn't use crass language in his speech.  The one time that all of us remember is the night that he walked down the hallway in the dark from his bedroom to the bathroom only to jam his toes into a stack of bricks piled up.  We all heard "Damn!" come from his mouth and I'm certain that every one of us in the house, animals included clenched as we waited for heaven to open and gather us all in the final moments of history.

It was good being with family, it was wonderful getting to know Ralph's grandkids and watching a new generation grow into themselves and find their way.  It was a good day.

Today marks nine years since the attacks of 9-11.  There are so many people saying so many things, I don't know that my few words will make any difference.  Our world changed that day.  We no longer felt safe in this country that was seemingly protected by oceans from invasion.  Our lives changed that day.  Those who lost their lives on that horrible day left behind families and friends that struggled to understand how this could possibly happen.  Our hearts were changed that day.  We recognized the need to hold our loved ones closer, but we also lost the simple trust in the universal love of each other.  Of all that was lost, that is the one thing that we need to find again ... ways to trust and care for each other that reach beyond race and religion, beliefs and dogma.

On the way back from the funeral, I managed to drive way too fast through Iowa and I got pulled over by a deputy who issued me a ticket.  I didn't argue with him, I didn't plead with him.  I knew what I had done and I accepted what he had to do.  After he had written the ticket, he asked where I was coming from.  I told him that we had been in Bedford for Ralph Weller's funeral.  He knew Ralph and told me that he was a good man and he was sorry for his loss. 

Ralph Weller was a good man.  His life was filled with honor and integrity.  His grandson said that the great gift Ralph had given him was moral character.  Ralph shared all he had, treated everyone he met with respect and loved his family and friends deeply.

Today I remembered loss of life from nine years ago and the loss of a life very close to me just a few days ago.  Life begins and it ends.  That never changes.  What can change is how we live it from this point on.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Stand Up Straight!

I discovered a note in my Evernote box that I had emailed to myself one day a few weeks ago: Write a blog on "Stand Up Straight!"  I vaguely remember seeing a girl walking down the street with very rounded shoulders ... she would be a pretty girl except for the fact that everything was hunched over on her body ... and at this point, she would never stand straight.

These are words that I will always remember mom saying to us: "Stand up straight!"  She didn't want us to slouch or be sloppy as we stood or walked.  It drove her absolutely crazy.  You know, I'm pretty sure that the fact she died before pants became sloppy on boys was a good thing.  She would have had no qualms about challenging every young man she came into contact with.  (I digress)

Because I knew that mom's threats were things she was serious about, I learned to listen.  She threatened to take me to a physical therapist and she guaranteed me that she would force him/her to put me in a back brace unless I chose not to slouch.  That was a pretty quick decision on my part.  I stood up straight.  But the poor woman seemed to always be telling me the same thing - stand up straight!  Even the times when I was pretty sure that I wasn't slouching, she was right there with her hand on my shoulders, rolling them back where they belonged.

She wouldn't let me hide behind long hair or slump when I walked, she wouldn't let me be anything less than who I really was.  Stand up and face the world withe everything you have.  And every time she saw someone who wore their hair in front of their face, she'd point it out to me and make comments about their self-esteem, to remind me that the world's perception of who we are is based on how we present ourselves.  She was going to have none of that surly, sullen stuff from her kids. 

One time I tried to do something fancy with the part in my hair.  I was just having fun with my hair.  It ended up spilling down the front of my face.  I didn't make it two steps past the bathroom before she had me back in there, rearranging me so that in her eyes I was presentable to the world.

Just so you know, she carried threats with her so that they were available in any area of my life.  For some reason or other in junior high I picked up a lisp.  For the life of me I don't know why I did it, but I refused to rid myself of it.  Mom took care of that for me.  One of the members of our church was a speech therapist.  I didn't really like him, he kind of creeped me out (remember me telling you a while ago about the little girl who removed her cloth diapers when I was babysitting and I had to make Mom come over and put something back on the child?  That family).  Well, when she had finally had enough of my lisp, she informed me that if I didn't take care of it, she would make an appointment with him and I would be done with it one way or another.  It was gone in a day.

One thing that mom never wavered on was her consistency in expectations and threats.  We had boundaries laid out, they were firm and when we chose to cross them, punishment was swift and firm.  She also never wavered in her belief in us as great kids with great potential.  She and Dad expected the best from us, expected us to always behave ourselves in public, and expected us to move through life with confidence.

Stand up straight!  I'm glad I listened.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Three days in and I'm still alive

My life might get really boring for you - really quick!  How much excitement is there when all a person has to talk about is the same thing over and over.  For that I apologize!

Today was better ... much better, though.  I began putting into place the idea that what I was learning would become tools in my toolbox and I continued to relax throughout the day.  The second revelation I had today was that I'm really not worried about the actual classwork.  I can do that ... I just push through and make it happen.

No, what I was mostly stressed about was logistics.  I need to learn how Asbury works, I need to learn how their online process works and I need to learn how each professor handles the online experience and what their expectations are.  It seemed as if every moment I was being handed more information until I became so overwhelmed, I simply couldn't manage it.

Imagine that - Diane wants to be in control of an environment.  Sigh.  And I was nowhere near in control of what was happening to me.  A deluge of information came through the internet to my little laptop and blew me right out of the water.  It's getting better every day as I finally discover where each professor puts their little tidbits and requirements.  Yes, it would be nice for everything to be well-ordered and set up just the same.  Not gonna happen ... what was I thinking.

With that in mind, I started my morning.  At some point I realized that I could actually make changes in my learning space so that I could focus on my work rather than continuing with a level of frustration because everything wasn't where I wanted it.  As I thought more and more, I realized that since the first day I had desk space, I set my desk up in very similar ways and patterns.  Guess what - it wasn't actually that way and I was fighting that.  So, I spent a few minutes reorganizing my space and before I knew it, my brain settled in and quit running up against that block.  I could put my hand on things I needed, I could turn my chair and find my books, I could actually see with the lamps in the right place, I had space to write (because I still use a pencil and paper) where it belonged and my entire attitude was transformed.

So, I switched things around, started moving through a lot of the online forum work, discovered that there was (now - not there yesterday) a lecture I needed to watch (obviously this guy is going to post things randomly, I'll need to pay attention) and the morning was done.

This afternoon and evening I have been working on an overview of the Bible Study method.  Many of you will know it as Inductive Bible study.  Kay Arthur teaches this, but on a more consumer based level.  What I'm learning doesn't use pretty colors and little symbols, but really teaches how to dig deeply into Scripture, asking questions until you come to a full understanding.

Tonight I have finished as much of it as I am going to do without frying my brain cells.  Tomorrow morning I will get it typed in, and at that point I will edit and ensure that what I thought I wanted to say is what I'm saying.  I'll move to one of my other classes for awhile, come back and do another read-through and edit and hopefully get it submitted before I leave for Omaha.  It's not due until midnight tomorrow night, so I'm doing really well.

I had a little excitement this afternoon as I was working through the book and paper.  I thought I heard tires crunching on the gravel leading to the cabin.  Sometimes sound travels strangely here and I actually am hearing cars turning into the park across the road.  But, no ... there was actually a car in my driveway.  Now, understand that I'm alone up here ... all the time ... so, though I had clothes on, I was not presentable to the general public.  My mind raced, then my body raced to get fully decent and I headed for the front door.  Yup, it was who I thought it was.  My stepmother was here with a friend.  She's moving to Denver in October to be with her sons, so it was one last chance to show off Dad's cabin.

This has been a wild week.  Lots of ups and downs, but I'm beginning to see how I will be able to enjoy the rest of the term.  I totally dig my Greek professor.  He's going to be awesome.  The professor for my Christian Formation Course is going to expect a lot out of us, but he is so passionate about what He is teaching, I think it will be a blast.  The Inductive Bible study course is going to KICK MY BUTT!!!  He has really high expectations and there is way more to do than you can imagine when it comes to learning this stuff.  By next Friday I have to have read Matthew through twice (he says it takes 2 1/2 hours per reading) and write an overall survey of the book.  Yikes, Yikes, Yikes!  As for the New Testament course ... she went easy on us this week so that we could get to know our way around the online university.  I think that will end by next week.

Whoosh - off I go!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Building a Toolbox

So, last night I was in a complete panic.  I don't think I really am concerned that I can't do the work for this Master's Degree.  I'm not really even sure what it is that I'm worried about.  There is nothing here I can't do, but wow I got overwhelmed with the immense amount of work that faces me.  And I think that there is too much that is unknown to me, so that's what really scares me to death.  Until I get comfortable with the professors and their style of teaching and their expectations, I will probably be a little bit uncomfortable with everything else.

However, as I was reading one of the books today, I had a bit of a breakthrough in my head about this.  I spent yesterday with the mindset of a college student.  When I worked through my undergraduate degree, there were quite a few classes that I was required to take and really did nothing to further my knowledge base.  I need to find a way to apply the learning that I do in a practical sense - move it from esoteric learning to practical tool.

I have to write a paper on a little book called "Bible Study That Works" by Friday.  As I read the book today, I realized that this paper is not simply an exercise to create a grade for me.  It's so much more.  I am building tools that will be placed in a tool box to be pulled out and used in other courses that I'm taking and absolutely to be used in my personal life and as I write and teach.  All of a sudden things began to make sense.

Don't fear ... I'm probably going to continue to complain and whine ... a lot, especially when I start panicking again.  However, knowing that I'm not just doing the work for a professor to grade, but for my future needs, changes how I look at this process.

I tell you what ... learning how I learn is nearly as difficult as actually learning.  That's what happens when a person gets old enough to pay attention to the past, the present and the future!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Day 1 - Exploding Head

Telling my friends and family that I think I'm going to die because of all that is ahead of me gets responses like, "You know you'll be fine" and "Diane, of course you can do this, everything will be fine."  Not an ounce of sympathy.

And I get that - I'm making the choice to return to school after 29 years.  I've always found learning to be the most important thing in my life and I've been fortunate enough to be able to set aside some time to do this.

However!!!  This morning when my classes finally came online and I could get access to everything, I fell apart!  What in the heck am I thinking?  The amount of information that poured into my brain between 7:30 - 11:30 this morning took me straight to tears.  There's no freakin possible way that I'm going to get through this without those stupid tears. 

First up ... I have to have a relatively small book (only 124 pages - and there is a bit of sarcasm riding on all of that) on "Bible Study that Works" read and a 2-4 page paper written about the Inductive Bible Study method written by Friday while also writing comments and questions regarding the text into our class forum online.  (not gonna vomit, not gonna vomit)

That's actually just a small portion of the work for that class.  There are three others that are simply going to kick my butt. 

I'll be taking
Inductive Bible Study - Matthew.  This guy really believes in his message and in his coursework.  He's got me chasing down all sorts of technology to keep up with his video / audio stuff online.  Could be entertaining in the long run, but the reading for him is already overwhelming.

Introduction to Greek.  I've been preparing for this class for what seems like forever.  I hope this is the most fun course I take.  The only course I had to find a local proctor for exams.  Yup, gonna kick my butt.

Christian Formation: Kingdom, Church & World. This guy is gonna be great, but holy cow, after all the work that is assigned to us to read, he recommends fourteen (14!!!) other books we should be reading, as well as too many to count papers and articles, plus videos to watch.  whoa ...

Introduction to New Testament.  I've already started reading through the texts for this course.  There was just too much sitting on my plate not to start early.  A lot of learning will happen here, stuff that I want to plant firmly in my mind.  Now, if I can just remember it all.

There it is ... I'm in the virtual classrooms now.  I've introduced myself in a couple of the forums and have been reading the introductory posts by several others who will participate with me.  The one that entertained me the most was the guy who is obviously not happy about having to do education to become ordained.  But since it's a requirement, he guesses that he'll do it.  Oh ... joy!

Today I'm panicked.  Hopefully before too long I'll start learning!

Monday, September 06, 2010

More smiling today - making memories

As I drove across Iowa today, I was thinking about my blog post from yesterday and how fun it was to reflect on the day according to the smiles I'd had.

I read a book last year on our brains - actually I read several, so I'm not going to be identify quickly which one this idea came from, but the author was discussing why it seems as.if our childhood goes slowly and then when we reach adulthood, time seems to speed up and each years rushes by faster than the year before.  One of the reasons given was memory.  As a child, we have very few memories, so each new experience is creating a new memory point in our brains.  This causes time to slow down because we process for such a long time on those experiences.  As an adult, our experiences tend to create a foundation for each new experience - we base our recall not on something that is brand new, but something that adds to an existing memory.  Since we aren't creating many, many new memories, our brain doesn't take as long to formulate them and time 'seems' to go faster.

How do we slow things down so that we enjoy them as an adult just half as much as we enjoyed experiences as a child?  Well, I am just wondering about journaling and the process that occurs as we write down our memories each day.  I'm terrible at journaling, except for this blog, I don't do much.  I keep a written calendar that I can look back on, but my thoughts and impressions aren't kept in there, it's just a list of things that happen on a specific date.  I suppose that I hope some memories will be triggered by the activity, but trust me, when I look back at my calendars from ten years ago, there are a lot of things that it says I did that I have absolutely no memory of - at all!

Every once in awhile, I would take the time to write things down and when I look back on those, the extended bits of information trigger a few more memories, but even still, some things seem like they surely must have happened to someone else.

I don't know how to trap my memories and slow things down ... I can only try.  But, the good news about that study they were doing on memories is that the older you get, the more new experiences you begin having again as you leave the standard workforce and face life without raising children and the standard things you are used to having around you.  Time slows down again.  We'll see ... right?

Before I stop tonight, though, I had a few things that made me smile from ear to ear today. 

Driving east on I-80, I was following a car as we passed a semi.  The license plate read "Granma2" and there were three small children in the back seat.  As they passed in front of the cab of the semi, all three were pumping their arms asking the driver to blow his horn.  He did!  And waved like crazy at those kids.  They waved back, just filled with joy that they had gotten some attention from a truck driver.  The thing is - they probably made his day as much as he did theirs and I'll tell you what, I was just grinning as I went around him - they all made my day!

I got to Des Moines and had lunch with my cousin, Cathy.  Her father died last week.  He would have been 94 years old this December.  She's spent the last 6 months with him.  They put him in hospice last March/April and figured that he had 2 months to live.  Well, he fooled them and stuck around for a very long time.  The man was a rock.  He was an Iowa farmer that lived well, loved his family, worked hard every day that he could, worshiped God with all his heart and when he lost his wife 22 years ago, spent the rest of the time loving his kids and grandkids.  I smiled as she told me about his last days and the impact that his life had on the hospice workers and on his family. 

I pulled into the cabin and drove past our meadow which had been mowed and trimmed by Carol this last weekend.  She also worked hard in the porch, cleaning and sweeping.  I smiled when I drove in because this place is simply gorgeous.  She had worked hard to make it even more beautiful ... what a glorious sight!

This evening my friends up here dropped off 15-20 pounds of potatoes and 10 pounds of carrots from their garden.  There is nothing I love more than fresh produce like that.  I smiled when he left because he has no idea the glorious gift that was.

I have so much to smile about ... so much to be grateful for!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Being happy in the mundane.

Do you ever spend time thinking about the mundane things in life that make you smile? 

This afternoon as I folded the laundry, I smiled.  There's nothing better than starting a week with freshly laundered clothing, knowing that each morning ahead of you, there will be choices in the closet - as opposed to the end of the week when you know that all you have left is the last thing you want to wear.  I smiled as I put the clothes away in the closet and drawers.

I told you that I washed my Jeep yesterday - had them detail and wax it.  Every time I walked toward it today, I smiled because it just looked so good!

My dog has been curled up beside me today in her blankets.  This morning she had herself wrapped around my legs before I got out of bed.  When I sat up, she snuggled up to me as if to beg me to stay.  When I got home from church and walked up the stairs, she was at the top landing wiggling like crazy.  I stopped a few steps down so that I could reach out to her and it was as if her entire body went into full-blown dance steps.  She was just happy to see me.  I smiled because she loves me unconditionally.

The door is open in our office.  It has warmed up a little more than I'd hoped today, so I'm not getting a cool, fall breeze, but it's still beautiful outside and I enjoy being able to watch the sky as the clouds move across.  I smile while watching the trees moving in the breeze.

There weren't a lot of people in worship this morning, but the one thing I've learned is that there don't need to be people when God shows up in our worship.  I let go of the worries about numbers and just allowed myself to join in with the worship band.  I smiled all morning as we sang and praised God. 

Every Sunday morning I run to Scooters to get a smoothie (with Red Bull in it - wow, generally really need caffeine!).  Every Sunday morning as I take the first drink I smile because it is so fabulous.

I have a few friends that are genuine and sincere encouragers.  Everything they say to me and to others is filled with words of encouragement.  I smile as I feel my cup being filled and as I watch others respond to their love.

This evening I just wanted to think back over the things that had made me smile today.  I enjoyed smiling when I did it each time and I've enjoyed remembering those smiles again.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Pooped and a little whining

This has been a long day ... and it all started last night with my sister ... How 'bout I just start with blaming her right off the bat for the fact that I'm POOPED!

She got to the cabin last night after 10:30.  She'd told me that they might pull in a little late - like 9:15 or so.  By the time they had everything unpacked and into the cabin it was after 11:00 and at that point she reminded me that I had promised to help grade papers.  Errr, what?  But, I'm usually a couple of hours into my sleep by now!!

Whining got me nowhere, so I settled down with a Diet Mt. Dew and a bunch of papers in front of me.  By the time I made it through the first project, she had pulled out her book for the Master's program she is in this fall and was asking if I could just read through things and ensure that she was doing things right - she has her first presentation on Tuesday.  Before I knew it, we were discussing philosophy in Education - down to the nitty gritty.  And before either of us realized what was going on - she looked at the clock and said, "It's 1:45!!!"

Oh dear heavens.  I tore to the bed, grabbed my Kindle and prayed for sleep to overcome me quickly.  It didn't ... but I finally got there.  However, the Mt. Dew decided that since I'm an old lady and caffeine doesn't want to stay put in my body, it needed to wake me every hour or so to go to the bathroom.

I was none too happy when 8:15 showed up and I recognized that it was time to bring myself to some level of alert and get moving.  By 10:00 I was deliberately making noise to wake her up and get her moving.  Hello!!!  Bored here!  Wake up and chatter at me (she's good at that).

I was on the road by 11:30, hoping to get home in time for a short nap.  What is usually a 3 hour trip was stalled for over an hour by an accident on the Interstate.  Holy moley!  An hour?  You know that when it takes 12 minutes to drive 1/4 mile, this is going to be a long process and by golly, it was.  I just opened the windows and my sun roof  (hmmm, wonder if I got a sunburn on my forehead?) and meandered down the interstate.

Finally I got out of that mess and just at the point I was feeling comfortable with driving at a normal speed, I looked up to see a little white spider spinning its way from the ceiling of my Jeep to the floor - right in front of me!!!  I had no desire to be the next accident on the highway, grabbed the web above the spider - hoping to get it GONE.  The spider dropped to the floor and for the next hour or so, all I could do was feel creepy crawlies all over my body.  I have no idea where he went or what he did, but he creeped me out.

After one more hair raising experience with an idiot going 45 mph in the left lane and coming up on him fast enough to startle me (it was as if he was at a full stop!), I decided to pull off for a few minutes, grab some lunch and just re-group. I was done driving, but the driving wasn't done with me.  I still had two hours left before home!

I've never been so glad to be finished with a day of driving.  But, I did finish it with an amazing car wash and detailing at Russell Speeders on Saddle Creek.  They hand waxed my Jeep, scrubbed and polished the rims of my tires, polished my tires, washed my windows, dealt with all of the dead bug buildup - and my baby looks amazing! 

Dinner at Crystal Jade (you really, really need to go there for great Chinese food) with friends and now I'm home and plan to crash early.

I'd like to say I'm too old for this, but truth be told - I'm not.  I just like to whine a little!

Friday, September 03, 2010

A glimpse of history

I grew up knowing about this grist mill ... we could still find the pilings in the river from the bridge - a newer, more modern bridge had long since been erected, but we knew how to find where the old bridge had crossed the river.  Most of that has been absorbed back into the landscape.  It's wonderful to see what nature will do when given freedom.  It reclaims everything.

I have a wonderfully fun book on Hamilton County (which is where my cabin is located) history written by Ed Nass.  Dad bought one for each of us kids several years ago when it was published.  As I look through it, I have a blast finding out about Iowa history and the local history surrounding my little part of the world.

The Boone River is actually named for Nathan Boone - the tenth child of Daniel Boone.  Yup ... did you know that?  He was a Captain in the First Dragoons.  The War Department created this group (commanded by Colonel Henry Dodge, for those of you from the Omaha/Council Bluffs area) to protect the frontier.  In 1832, this land was the Black Hawk Purchase - 6 million acres given to the Sac and Fox Indians.  They mapped the land between the Des Moines River and the Mississippi River.  Boone, along with Lt. Albert M. Lea and H.S. Tanner and 170 men moved through this area with guides to get a detailed map of the land.  When they found a river branching off the Des Moines, Lea named it the Boone River.

Well, whadya know - that's cool!

Benjamin Bell purchased Bell's Mill in 1878, one of several mills on the Boone River.  These mills were gathering spots for people in those days.  Bell's Mill Park has one of the turbine wheels on display - the other is located in Webster City.  Another mill - Tunnel Mill - is located not too far up the river and there are many stories of Indians living in the woods and trading at the Mill.

McKinlay Kantor, in his book "Andersonville," (also a movie) wrote about the area surrounding my cabin, telling stories of people gathering at the mill site to have their grain ground and then about religious revivals that were held in our meadow. 

The rains have washed down reminders of the iron that was in the hills behind the cabin - red streaks run through the gravel and into the meadow.  For a time, there was a mine back in those hills ... when we first got here, we were told stories of men who died in the mine.  It was finally closed, but we knew that somewhere there are the tunnels and in those tunnels remain cars filled with dirt. 

It's good to be in a place with a history that goes back beyond a time that I can remember, that my parents could remember and even that my grandparents would remember.  History is something that ties us to each other, to those who have gone before us, to a place and helps us to remember who we are in the long-view of life.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

I will forget ... I need to remember

Whoops!  Oh yah ... here I am! I nearly forgot that I needed to get my daily words posted, but just as I was winding down for the evening, my brain remembered that there were things that needed to be said. 

Are you a list-maker or do you manage to remember everything that is necessary in your life?  Or maybe you don't make lists and you don't remember things either.  Some days I feel like that is truly me.

I love lists, sometimes I desperately need them.  I've been known to make lists of things I want to tell people so that I don't forget by the time I finally see them.  That doesn't necessarily make great spontaneous conversation, but at least I don't leave and get halfway home before I realize that I didn't get everything said.

Now I have a fun program on the computer - I can email myself notes and lists from my telephone so that when I get back to the computer, there are all of the things I need to remember.  Oh yes, I love my lists.

On the wall behind me is a rather large calendar.  It is now filled with my deadlines and due dates for my classes.  I'm terrified that I will get caught up in life and forget the important stuff.

And that's the biggest thing for me ... forgetting the important stuff ... like my friends' birthdays and special days, times that I've promised I will do things.  Along with lists and notes ... calendars are important to me.  I don't actually like online calendars because not only do I like ensuring that I get things done on time, I also love to go back over my calendars and remember the things that I did.  I've got a bunch of calendars saved and when I dig back into the dates on those things, I get to trigger memories - some fabulous, some painful, but all of them mean something to me.

Dad was big on documenting everything.  He made lists for everything.  It's a riot now to go back through his stuff and find the crazy little lists that he made.  Or the notes that he wrote on various items, or the wild things that he saved.

We're probably getting close to replacing the water heater here at the cabin - within the next year or so - and today I pulled out the files that I gathered from his house and from a filing box he had here at the cabin of all things related to the place.  I pulled out the folder related to the water heater and found the manuals for the last two that he purchased.  Notes written on the top of the date he purchased them, how much he paid for them ... it's a huge help!

When we were looking for the septic tank last summer to get it cleared out and cleaned up, I dug into his files and discovered all of the receipts from 1979 when he installed it.  There were clear notes of all that had happened, prices, conversations he'd had.  I pulled it out to show to the guys who were working and believe it or not, those bits of information really helped them discern what needed to happen.  It didn't actually help them find the tank - we needed to bring in a locator to do that, but they saw what pipe had been used and how the thing laid out.

Dad's lists and notes and obsessive documentation are pretty incredible and it seemed as if he never forgot anything.  But, then I also have a stack of coil notebooks of his.  Every day he had one of those open on his desk and every day he would list all the things he needed to take care of.  As he dealt with things, he'd scratch it off his list and then move on.  He knew that he wouldn't remember to take care of things, so rather than trust his memory, he trusted the fact that he would write things down. 

I'm not nearly as good at this as he was ... I always seem to think I'll remember and then all of a sudden I've forgotten it all.  When I'm sure I will forget, I do pull out a 3x5 card and write myself a list or a note so that I will take care of things exactly the way I plan.  That's when I feel successful ... I can check my list and ensure that it's complete.

So ... lists?  No lists?  What's your organization look like?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Reading vs. Television

I'm going to tell you something, but I'm afraid that if I do without a bunch of caveats, you'll think I'm trying to be pious.  I'm sooooo not!

Max and I got rid of our television a couple of years ago and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. 

Now see ... you went there, didn't you!  Turn around ... go back ... there, that's better.

I still watch television shows.  I have a good number of them saved in my account and every week they pop up in my player so that I can enjoy watching them.  I haven't given up my favorite shows, what I have given up is the mindless vegetation that I found myself doing night after night, day after day for ... oh, about 15 years. 

If I didn't want to think about a problem I was having, I would sit down and watch television.  We left the damned thing on all the time. I liked having noise in the house when I left the animals alone and honestly, when I was stressed out and up in the middle of the night, I would lay down on the couch and watch stupid stuff until I drifted off.

The worst thing about the entire situation was that I had quit reading novels.  I was reading a lot of non-fiction for the various things that I was studying or working on, but with all the time that I spent in front of the television, I didn't have time for reading. I could knit, talk to friends, play on the internet, do a multitude of things with the television going in the background, but I had quit reading.

We had talked about getting a large, flat-screen, HD television with all the bells and whistles, but about that time I got my Kindle, turned off the television and realized that I just didn't care whether we had one in the house or not.

Ok ... see, I'm trying so hard not to even intimate that there is a reason to be pious about this.  We still have a cable box, it's hooked up to Max's computer screen - which happens to be an HD screen with all of the right inputs.  If there is a show we want to watch, we can ... see, I'm just not all that pious about this.

But, on the other side of this, I simply don't use the system.  If he could get his football games online, we'd get rid of the cable box, too. 

I've discovered that if I have a choice between spending an hour watching a television show or reading a novel on my Kindle, 85% of the time, I pull out the Kindle and settle in for some reading.  I didn't realize how much I missed the worlds that reading opened up to me.  When I read a book, the words the author has written describe the world, but my mind fills in all of the images and tends to create more than exists on the printed page.

When I watch a television show, the crew that builds the sets, designs the costumes, speaks the lines and directs the action fills in everything for me.  I don't have to participate at all.  I just have to watch it happen, go to the bathroom when a commercial comes on and settle in until the credits begin rolling. 

I have nothing against that.  In fact, there are so many amazing, creative television shows being produced right now that I love watching them.

But, I love my books even more.

One of the greatest joys I have is listening as Carol tells me how her sixth graders get all wrapped up in the novels she exposes them to in her classroom.  This is a girl who never loved science fiction and thought that my brother and I were a little nuts because we so passionately loved it.  She reads it like crazy now and is constantly purchasing new books for her kids to read.  Since she reads the books, they read the books and they love it!  It doesn't even bother me to have to replace books in her classroom because the kids 'forget' to bring them back.  Oh, for heaven's sake - a kid wants to keep a book?  Words on a page?  I'll replace the book. 

When we were very, very young I was already a reader who didn't just read, but consumed books.  Carol and Jim weren't quite as enamored with the printed page.  Mud, dirt and grass were a little more interesting.  But, mom paid them 25 cents / book one summer to motivate their reading.  It didn't take any more than that summer for both of them to become passionate about reading ... everything they could get their hands on.  Our house was always filled with books, it was the one thing that mom and dad never felt bad about purchasing, even when we didn't have much money (yes, we used the library, too).

I'm so glad to have renewed my love affair with fiction.  I won't even tell you how many books I've purchased and read on the Kindle in the last few years.  It's kind of sick.  But, I will tell you that I read all the time now, choosing that over a television show or nearly anything else.  It's so much fun!