Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Little Progress

Pablo Casals was once considered to be the greatest cellist in the world.  I read that he practiced eight hours a day, every day, even into his eighties.

Someone asked him, in his latter years, "Pablo, why do you still practice so hard each day?  You are already the greatest cellist in the world?"

Casals replied, "Because I believe I am making some progress."
I love that quote.  The humility, the forward-looking hopefulness, and the confidence.  All of it.  I just love it.
                                                * * *

I received a call today from a former colleague of mine.  He worked with me on my staff for several years, and even though I retired a couple of years ago, he wanted to take me to lunch and ask for some advice about a career move he is considering.  I was touched by his respectfulness, and amused at his deference, as though my calendar is still as jam packed as it used to be.  He seemed to have overlooked the fact that I no longer have "vice president" after my name, and no one screens my callers.

He seemed to think I would need to "work him into my schedule."  That makes me smile, as these days I have no schedule, unless you count picking up the newspaper, reading it over morning tea, and then going out back to check out the hummingbird feeder.

I remember "power lunches" with leather briefcases parked discreetly at the chair legs of each person sitting at small tables with white starched linen tablecloths and both tumblers and wineglasses at each place setting.  Of course, once the days of the Drug Free Workplace came in, most of the wineglasses were discreetly removed before the waiter took our orders.  That was a good thing, as far as I was concerned.  Those three-martini lunches never resulted in any thing worthwhile, and had been known to impair a promising career.

So in a few days, my friend and I will meet for lunch and I will listen to his hopes and dreams of what he would like to accomplish in the next phase of his career.  He will ask for my advice, my opinion on prospective employers, who I believe will deal honorably with him, and which potential employer sometimes deals from the bottom of the deck.

I will give him my best shot at wisdom.  Hopefully there will be a smattering of insight in the conversation somewhere.  But mostly I will be listening, to hear whether he is set on advancement in his career, or upon making progress in his life.  While they are not mutually exclusive, they are not the same thing.

In my opinion, we all need to be like Pablo, making some progress.
Hope your day includes a little progress... Marsha

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What Have I Learned - Lately?

Some of us learn slowly, some quickly.  Some have creative, expansive, inquiring minds.  Others take each day as we find it and rarely question why.

Fifteen years ago someone sent me the following list of things that illustrate "what we learn through the ages"... hope some of them bring you a smile.  They did for me - that is why I still have the list all these years later.
                                               * * * * *

I've learned that I like my teacher because she cries when we sing to her.  Age 6

I've learned that you can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.  Age 7

I've learned that although it's hard to admit it, I'm secretly glad my parents are strict.  Age 15

I've learned that wherever I go, the world's worst drivers have followed me there.  Age 29

I've learned that if someone says something unkind about me, I must live so that no one will believe it.  Age 39

I've learned that children and grandparents are natural allies. Age 46

I've learned that the greater a person's sense of guilt, the greater his need to cast blame on others.  Age 49

I've learned that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.  Age 52

I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you miss them terribly after they die.  Age 58

I've learned that making a living is not the same as making a life.  Age 61

I've learned that we shouldn't go through life with a catchers mitt on both hands; we need to be able to throw something back.  Age 64

I've learned that whenever I decide something with kindness, I usually make the right decision.  Age 66

I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one. 
Age 75

I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.  Age 92

                                       * * * * * *
What have you learned lately?  I'm still working on it .....

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Another one safely home

Earlier today, my nephew went to be with the Lord.  He was 39 years old.  Ewing's Sarcoma is a terrible form of cancer -  of course, aren't they all? - only this one takes no prisoners.  Despite all the medical advances in recent years, this particular type of cancer has a very low survival rate.  He lived seven months after diagnosis; he died one year, and one month, and one day after my mother did, and I believe the reunion is already in progress!

His was not a life "writ large" in that he attained no great successes, advanced degrees, or heroic achievements, at least none that I know of.  He had been a troubled teen, from a troubled home, and things didn't get much better as he grew up. 

He tried to make his life count when and where he could, however, and he joined the U.S. Marines right out of high school.  He saw ugly combat in Somalia.  Like every true soldier I've ever known who has seen the worst men could do, he never wanted to talk about it.

This terrible economy had taken its toll in his life, as someone who was never in the upper ranks, he was more vulnerable than many others.  First, he lost the job he had held for almost ten years with a major company, then his home to foreclosure.

Yet, despite unemployment and illness, he was often the person who opened the doors for the 6:30 a.m AA meeting near his home, made the coffee, and when he could, brought the donuts.  Everybody who knew him liked his smile and his great sense of humor.

As the advance of his illness, and the effects of all the medication, took their toll, in recent days he had not been articulate, struggling to communicate even the simplest things.  But this morning, for a few minutes he was alert and coherent, as the last thing he said to his mother was, "In times like this, we all need to stick together and love each other."

So now this unknown, uncelebrated, life is experiencing a whole new life in heaven with the Saviour he didn't always serve consistently.  He was a prodigal son, to be sure, but as I recall, the Father killed a fatted calf, brought out a robe and ring, and threw a party for another one much like him. 

Heaven isn't just for heroes, it is also for healed prodigals.  Thank goodness, or many of us would find ourselves excluded from its ranks.

He may not have lived wisely, but he spoke wisdom as he left this life:  "In times like this, we all need to stick together and love each other." Amen.  And now, he is safely home....

Monday, May 23, 2011

Valleys, Shadows, Weeping - What Plan?

There is a book called The Tapestry, written by Edith Schaeffer, wife of well-known theologian of the 1970s and 80s, Francis Schaeffer, wherein she shared her thoughts of why we often cannot understand God's plan in our lives.

She likened our lives to a tapestry, and said that we see events and circumstances in this life from "underneath - looking up".  All it looks like is mixed up threads, jumbled colors, crossed stitches, knots and cut threads.  In other words, a mess.

But the Master weaver, sees the design from above looking down, and He alone can see the whole pattern, in its beauty, its symmetry, its planned design.

The Cross and The Switchblade, Wilkerson's first book, was probably the first book I ever read, written by a Christian that was also a modern best-seller.  I was about 15 or 16 at the time and had not yet discovered C.S. Lewis. Years later, it was my privilege to hear David Wilkerson in person and I was struck by how humble he seemed, despite his fame and influence.

It does not surprise me that he acknowledged that when we are walking through "the valley of the shadow of death" there are some "dark, awful nights" full of weeping.  He did not try to sugar coat the truth.

I find it encouraging that after over fifty years of active ministry, he was still saying the same things he had always taught.  Right up to the day God called him home.

If you are also going through dark nights, valleys and shadows, I encourage you to do as David Wilkerson suggested, let God embrace you.  Our human inclination is sometimes to resist God's comfort just when we need it the most.  We are angry and afraid, and we turn inward, as our shoulders shake with both fury and silent weeping.

Instead of inward, let us turn our eyes upward, where our Father in heaven is, He truly is, watching over us, whether we feel like it right now or not.  Wilkerson knew this as he drove on that Texas highway, on April 27th, when God said "Welcome home, David."

                                             * * * * *
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.  (II Timothy 4:7-8 NIV)

Please visit our hostess today, Debbie over at Heart Choices.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Irritated and Encouraged (Yes, both)

Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back  -     
        By: Todd Burpo, Lynn Vincent
Recently I read Heaven Is For Real, by Todd and Sonja Burpo with Lynn Vincent. 

I didn't intend to read it.  But I kept hearing about it, and then there it was on the NY Times Best Seller List.  For years I have kept an eye on the "List" - as it is one of the ways I try to stay well-informed.

But I just was not interested in reading some cheesy story about some "visit to heaven".  I believe in heaven, but I also believe that most of the "I walked toward a tunnel and a brilliant light beckoned me" stuff is just some body's over-active imagination, and not a brilliant one either.  But this account was not like that.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but one of things that most impressed me about the story of little Coulton Burpo was that despite the fact that it is decidedly "heavenly", it is also very down-to-earth.  It was an encouragement, and I needed one.  Real warmth and humility shone through its pages.

There is also another book on the NY Times Best Seller List about heaven, and it has been on the list for over 100 weeks so obviously lots of people have read it and liked it.  I also recently read this one - or tried to.  (Here is where the irritated part comes in.)  Repeatedly the narrator says, "words fail me" or "there are no words", etc. in reference to what he saw or heard during his visit to heaven.  Although I believe the author was honestly trying to give an accurate account of his experience, this one was a frustrating read.

Yesterday I sent a copy of the Burpo book to my sister, whose adult son, my nephew, is terminally ill.  I spoke with her first by phone to check as to whether she would welcome such a book at this time, or whether it might be too much, too close, too imminent?

She said, "Oh, please send it.  This is so hard, sitting here day after day, hour by hour.  Hospice is here for a couple of hours at a time, but this is a 24/7 situation now, and I could really use the encouragement.  So could K. (her son).  The nurse asked him yesterday whether he had given thought to his funeral arrangements."

Yes, heaven is for real, and some of us are going there sooner than others.  I believe heaven is real, and that through the sacrifice of Jesus for my sins, I am going there when I die.  But I have not been told that I have only a few weeks to live.  That is a message that is hard for our human ears to hear and accept.

And thus, just today, I read yet another wonderful testimony of a heavenly-home going.  And thank God, it was another powerful account of God's grace and willingness to meet us at our worst, love us anyway, and welcome us home in His perfect timing.

If you are like me, in a very tough time in your family, I would recommend this book called Same Kind of Different As Me . It is no cheerful little homily about how everything goes nicely for God's chosen.  It is a tough read, especially if you have recently stood by the bedside of a loved one who died, and you are preparing to do so again in a matter of weeks.

But if you are up to the journey, it is one worth taking with Ron Hall and Denver Moore, both aided and abetted by the terrific writer Lynn Vincent.  I believe you will be encouraged, and we can all use an encouraging word. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Walking and talking ...mostly to myself

Today I took a walk.  Took one yesterday, too.  This is probably not  remarkable, in that walking is something several billion of us on the planet do pretty much every day.  In medical evaluation parlance it is known as a "major life activity." 

However, I am not referring to moving from the stove to the refrigerator to the couch. (Kind of like the old Dodgers double-play combo of "Tinkers to Evans to Chance.") Or from the bookshelf to the recliner. I mean walking as in putting some distance between me and my house.  Or as my Dad used to call it - "leg-bailing it."  I refer to walking as a means of transportation and rumination.

It has been a long, wet spring here in Northern California and we are not complaining about it (well, not too much anyway) because the rest of the country has had it so much worse and because we are just coming out of several years of drought. We really needed the water.

Nevertheless, for some of us of a "certain age" it meant staying indoors a good bit longer than we generally do at the end of winter.  Yes, I have a treadmill and I have been known to use it. At the moment, however, it is buried beneath the mountain of stuff the LOC* has not yet figured out how to shoe-horn back into his "office" since we re-did that room.  To give him credit, he has managed to throw away two and a half boxes full of stuff; but they were shoe boxes, not moving crates, which is what the situation calls for, but I digress.  (*Lovable Old Coot)

Because my treadmill has been inaccessible for the past month, and the weather has been unseasonably cold and wet, I haven't been keeping up with my walking schedule.  Thus, yesterday and today were the initial efforts of the new walking-season; and I am feeling it.

You may have seen the TV commercial, "It is important to keep moving, but when it hurts to move that can be a challenge."   It is a drug commercial and I hate those; but I have to admit that on this one they have a point.  If you haven't walked any distance in awhile, and you are in my age range, it goes something like this; the first day you walk slowly, but relatively pain-free, just stiffly.  The next day, you still walk slowly but now there is promise of pain-to-come; and by the third day, well, let's just say if you are still moving, it is at a snail's pace, and you are feeling each step in every cell in your body.

Other than that, it is lots of fun.  It is why I do it.  I have always been a walker.  I do not hike, jog, or run...but, baby, I can walk.

After the winter's absence from the nearest park to our house, it was my first time around the park walkways, and the reality of our bankrupt state became apparent.  The blossoming hawthorns had not been pruned in a 'coon's age, the sidewalks needed edging, and the water fountain no longer worked.  In places the black plastic ground cover, used to keep the weeds from emerging, was visible underneath areas where the mulch has been blown away and it was cracked; and yes, the weeds were emerging.

Our newspapers have been full of budget cutbacks for months, particularly in areas such as parks maintenance, and today I could see the reality of those cuts up close and personal.  It was sad.

Of course, they just "found" about six billion they didn't know they had.  Looks like they might have been able to shell out a few shekels to spiff up this park; but then I think of all the teachers who have been laid off and I berate myself for my selfishness.

Money, or the lack thereof, it is a never-ending topic in so many areas of life.  Solomon observed in Ecclesiastes 10:19 that " is the answer for everything." (NIV)  But then I have to remind myself that this was his human observation; it is not sound theology and should not be taken out of context.

Even the Beatles had sense enough to know that you "Can't Buy Me Love" and they were not exactly towering intellectuals.  As a counter-point, though, I seem to recall some country-western ditty which opined that while money might not buy you love, it could sure make your misery more comfortable.  Well, there you are.

So I think I will stick to walking around my neighborhood for awhile, because most of us at least keep our sidewalks edged and a nice vista is necessary to my ruminations.  Maybe I'll go back over there when the state budget-crisis gets solved, or when we get the new heaven and new earth.  Between the two, as to which will come first, my money is on the latter. 

Try taking a walk today.  You'll feel better ... as long as you don't talk to yourself too much.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Boggled Blog

boggle:  to confuse or overwhelm the mind

One phrase that can almost always make me smile is:  the mind simply boggles.
Perhaps your mind is not one which can be easily boggled.  If not, good for you.  But if you do occasionally find yourself a bit mind-boggled, take comfort.  Here is a random list of things that boggle mine.
                                                * * *
* The way my dog can eat, matter how recently she has already eaten.  Same goes for the LOC (Lovable Old Coot).

* The fact that every snowflake is unique.  Can you imagine how incredible that is, even within just one snowbank?  Then consider the Alps or the Rockies in winter.

* The cacophony of noise that can occur within my own head, even sitting in a quiet room.

* The way babies can amuse themselves watching dust motes in a ray of sunshine.

* The way a child can be a toddler one moment and graduating college two minutes later.

* The way a parent can tell a hungry cry from a scared or hurt cry.

Life is just full of these little mysteries, isn't it?  Truly, the mind simply boggles.

Happy boggling to you today. ...Marsha

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Muddy Truth

Cartoon of a Dirty Little Boy Playing in the Mud clipart
My older son was shouting at the top of his lungs, or at least I assumed it was him.  I could not really tell for certain, as the small person making all the noise was covered in mud from head to foot, face included.  But I was pretty sure I recognized the outrage in the voice of my older, more responsible boy.

That particular tone of outrage could generally be associated directly with some misdeed perpetrated by my younger son, who was quiet, cheerful, and generally carried about his person an air of either total innocence (if you were really gullible) or total feigned innocence, if you knew who you were dealing with.  I knew.

Their father called them "Sport" and "Bud".  At the time of this little life-lesson, Sport was six years old and Bud was only four; but Bud had always been bigger for his age, and thus people often mistook him for the older of the two, much to the frustration and chagrin of his older brother, with the red hair and freckles, always so industrious and reliable.

On that particular morning, it was sunny and warm out, after a late spring rain had turned the open driveway area in front of the barn into a muddy mess.  There was an abandoned flatbed, minus the truck cab, sitting off to the side of the driveway left by some prior resident, and the boys thought it made a great platform for pretending to be scouts watching for Indians, cowboys defending their fort, or for various other adventures.

Sport was still wailing away, and if you were only hearing the noise and not the words within the din, you might have thought he was dying, or at least seriously injured.  He was neither, however, just really, really mad.

"He pushed me.  He pushed me off the back of the truck bed right into the mud.  He did it on purpose."

I looked over at his brother, standing there calm and dry and asked, "Did you push your brother off the truck?"

He slowly shook his head "no". 

This seemed unlikely, since he was clean and dry, with nary a speck of mud on his clothes, while his brother stood there yowling covered in wet, gooey slime.  There were only the two of them out there, as we lived about two miles from town and there were no other children around to play with.

"Son, it is important that you tell the truth.  Now did you push your brother off the truck bed into the mud? There were only two of you out there.  He is covered in mud, and you are not."

Another sideways shake of the head, with those big blue, innocent looking eyes looking directly into mine.  Oh, dear.

Of course, it was possible that Sport had simply gone too close to the edge, maybe taking dead-aim at some far off pirate or something, and had accidentally fallen off into the mud.  But I doubted it.  He was nimble and quick as a six-armed monkey.

I called their dad into reason with Bud.  There followed more admonitions about truthfulness, and consequences, etc. between dad and Bud, while I took Sport off to the bathroom, still howling his fury, to clean him up.

After a serious heart-to-heart about how important it was to be honest, even when you thought it might get you into trouble, his father asked him one more time whether Bud had pushed Sport into the mud?

With his white-blonde hair going every which way, as it always did, and his big-blue eyes twinkling with mischief, as they always were, Bud finally gave out a big four-year-old sigh....."Wellll" he said quietly, but firmly, "I didn't push him, but I did come up behind him and apply a little pressure."

Apply a little pressure???  What??  Apply a little pressure???  What kind of four-year-old says that?

After giving Sport a snack and book to read to calm him down, and after sending Bud to his room as punishment for being mean to his brother, we immediately went to our own bedroom and shut the door, before bursting into smothered laughter.

Oh, dear Lord!  We laughed till we nearly cried, as we looked at each other with equal parts smothered hilarity and barely stifled dread.  Applied a little pressure?  He is only FOUR YEARS OLD! 

"What will he be like at sixteen, if he can maneuver like that at four?"  We really didn't even want to think about it......but we were going to find out.

Hope your day is calm, and has no one in it applying a little pressure on you!  Be well.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Data Room Drama - A Country Christian in Corporate America

Spoiler Alert:  For those ofyou who like corporate intrigue and inner-workings, this new series may interest you a lot.  For those of you who hate anything to do with organized business, it will be dull as ditch water.  For that reason, this will be an intermittant series.
M & A work is sometimes considered to be a kind of pinnacle in the corporate world.  It is regarded as a type of top-tier exercise for at least three reasons:
  1. It is an exclusive club, which one only enters by invitation of current and experienced members.
  2. It requires a fairly sophisticated level of business knowledge, at least in theory, to navigate the labyrinth of information and intrigue involved.
  3. It takes some real guts to hang in there, when tens of millions of dollars are being tossed about like so many feathers in a pillow fight.
And that is just in mid-sized organizations like the one I worked in.  In Fortune 500 companies the "feathers" being tossed around, begin with the "B" word, as in billions, not just millions.

Mergers and Acquisitions is just what it sounds like; the aspect of business life wherein one company goes out and searches for another company with which to merge or to buy outright.

It is, however, at least in my experience, the business equivalent of Red Rover - the game we used to play as kids, wherein two groups would line up facing each other across about twenty yards of open ground with arms locked, and then a member of the opposing team would come running at full speed and try to break through the line.

The "open ground" in corporate Red Rover was often the data room.  The first time I was given access to the data room, during a "top secret" due diligence phase of a potential purchase of another company, I felt like I had been given permission to enter the corporate holy of holies.  And, frankly, I wasn't at all sure I wanted to go in there.

I was biblically knowledgeable and could easily recall that any priest who went into the holy of holies unworthily, would be struck dead and have to be hauled out by those on the outside, pulling him by the rope tied around his ankle, that had been placed there in advance for just such an eventuality. 

The data room was essentially a website managed by an outside third party hired for the purpose, in which various proprietary documents and statistics were housed confidentially for perusal by executives and analysts of the potential acquirer.
The first time I tentatively tip-toed in (electronically speaking) to the sacred data room, I was overwhelmed by the variety, density, and specificity of the information.  And that was just the table of contents document, which was approximately five pages long.

Yikes!  Were we trying to make a decision to buy a company, or preparing for a NASA space launch?  Overwhelmed did not described it: try dumbfounded, awed, and pretty ticked off.  What idiot had turned me loose in the middle of all this, expecting me to ferret out whatever might pose a threat to our company, without giving me any direction or instruction?

Oh, wait.  That idiot would be my boss - a gentleman with two advanced degrees, and ten years experience with a renowned Swiss banking operation.  As he once said to me, "A hundred million here, a hundred million there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money."  He smiled, a small terrifying smile, as he said it.
Gulp.... time to pull up my pantyhose and wade in....

Note:  This is the first in an intermittent series on my adventures in corporate America.  Because I came from a very small town and was raised in a basic Christian tradition, I often thought of myself as "A Country Christian in Corporate America" - kind of like Mark Twain as a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

Unfortunately, while it turned out Twain's protagonist was actually having a dream, my own experiences turned out to be more like an oscillation between dreams , reality, or nightmares, depending upon which day of the week it was.  Hope you will tag along on the journey.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Peaceful Ramblings

My dog, Holly, is snoring...again.  She does that a lot lately, as she is now almost twelve years old, and for a Lhasa Apso that is really getting up there.

It is cold and rainy...again, and that means Holly does not want to go outside, she just likes to curl up on the rug and...well, snore some more.  And that's okay with me.  I like it.  It is peaceful.

                                        * * * *
I worked for many years in a high-stress corporate environment.  My days were filled with meetings, calls, emails, and emergencies from before I walked in the door (because I often got the first crisis-of-the-day call in my car as I was driving to my office) until I left - only to arrive home and log on to my PC and see what dilemma had come to light after I left.   Twelve hundred employees meant hundreds of potential problems, and that said nothing of the executives, who were considerably more difficult to deal with than either white-collar or blue-collar employees.  The role of "executive coach" sometimes meant nothing more than me being a highly paid, highly irritated counselor to a corporate wing-nut.

My department was tasked with a seventy-million dollar a year payroll, multi-million dollar lawsuits, and M & A work that, looking back upon it, still makes me shiver (mergers and acquisitions for the non-corporate readers, you lucky dogs).

My long-suffering spouse sometimes sat waiting for me to crawl out from underneath the latest crisis, even when we were on vacation.  I recall sitting in a condo in the Colorado mountains one summer, spending hours on a conference call about lawyers, counter-suits, which testimony was credible and who was going to blink first.   We were not having any fun that day!

                                          * * * * *
So today, while the rains falls and my dog snores gently at my feet, I am:

....reading C.S. Lewis's book, That Hideous Strength, because D.J. Hughes over at The Quiet Quill is hosting a C.S.Lewis book club and I want to be ready for the June discussion -

...sending thank-you notes to those who were kind enough to send me Mother's Day cards and gifts -

...thinking quiet thoughts and tapping away on my blog -

...just because I can.  And am I ever thankful

Hope your day is peaceful, too.  ...Marsha

Empty Cups of Fear - Full Cups of Faith

"Lord, I crawled across the barrenness to you with my empty cup uncertain in asking any small drop of refreshment.  If only I had known you better I'd have come running with a bucket."
                                ---Nancy Spielgelberg  

Photo: Sand dunes, OmanCrawling across the barrenness ... we have all seen the scene in the movie where someone nearly dead, is inching their way across the blistering desert .... thirst is palpable in each breath ...

All the viewer can think of when watching this is the one thing that isn't present in the scene - water!

If only I had known you better ....

We sometimes attribute things to the Lord that just aren't there  -
one of them is a lack of willingness to bless us.  We imagine that we must beg, plead, persuade God to bless us, almost against His better judgment.

It is in such times, that we hold forth our little tin cup made of fear, and hesitantly hope for a drop of mercy.  But it is God's great pleasure to bestow His mercies up on us.  He is so committed to it that unlike, for example, a rainbow which only appears occasionally, He has promised us that He would supply new mercies every morning.

God is not in the business of dribbles, drabs, and drops of blessing.  He is the God of rushing mighty waters!  If only we knew Him better....

We fear censure, but God sends cascades of refreshing.  If only we knew Him better....

We suspect He may not like us very much, because after all, He knows us as we really are.  But He died for us "while we were yet sinners."  If only we knew Him better....

Friends, how about we toss away our tin begging cups made of fear and uncertainty, and grab a great big bucket of faith and go running toward God's fountain of blessing?

We can know Him better, if we really want to. 
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."  John 4:10

Monday, May 16, 2011

Addendum to the Duvet Saga

Last weekend we were up in Washington to attend our granddaughter's graduation from college.  Being from California, and it being May and ninety in the shade when we left, my husband, the LOC*, took only cargo shorts, and one pair of dress slacks to wear to the graduation.  It seems he cannot function with fewer than 14 pockets upon his person at any given time.

I, being both sensible and sensitive to the reaction anyone might have if my legs were ever to be displayed in public, took both dress clothes and basic jeans for the rest of the weekend. (Remember:  Erma Bombeck said the last person who saw her in a pleated skirt went blind?  Well, the same goes for me in shorts, so I just don't own any. Who wants to be responsible for another person's visual impairment?)

Of course, it being Washington, by Sunday it was cold and rainy and the LOC (*Lovable Old Coot) had goosebumps on his knees (not a good visual, by the way) and we needed to attend an outdoor barbecue. In Washington they don't let a little downpour get in the way of a good outdoor get-together, which was being held under numerous large patio umbrellas. 

It was fine as long as you were not sitting near the edge of one, in which case you were apt to be drenched down the back of your neck.  But no matter.
Thus, just before this movable feast in the spring showers commenced, we dropped by a local Target store looking for some basic jeans with which to cover the LOC's goosebumpy knees.  While he was looking for what he should have packed, I decided to try to find what I had been searching for, for about two weeks:  a new bed skirt.
I had already tried JCP and Kohl's and I had not had time to make it all the way across town to Bed Bath and Beyond. (I have always wondered "beyond what" but was afraid to ask.) 

I will admit that Target, with all its vaunted "shabby chic" did not exactly fit the mental picture I was going for, in my newly expanded decor delusion, but I figured it couldn't hurt to look.

Well, the bed skirt fairies were with me, and there it was.  The right size, the right shade and at the right price.  My wardrobe should be so lucky.

So, after sitting around for a couple of hours, chilled to the bone, gnawing on barbecued chicken bones, I smiled the whole six hundred and fifty miles home, over the bed skirt find.  For the rest of it, well, I truly did not understand why, if you are going to barbecue in a downpour, you don't invest in one of those cunning little fire pits, so guests don't freeze their knees off, while enjoying your damp hospitality.  But that is just me.

Of course, little did I know what trauma awaited me in trying to stuff that darned duvet.  (But that is another post called How To Stuff a Duvet.)

I'll probably have claustrophobia flare-ups for weeks after my tussle with that monster.  But it is now tamed and looking just stunning.

Me?  I'm just stunned period - by the whole recent adventure.  Till next time ....Marsha (your duvet-managing momma)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

How To Stuff a Duvet - #4 on the Re-Do Series

In my day, I have stuffed many things.  I have stuffed turkeys, bell peppers, and pork chops.  Once, when I was about twelve, I tried to stuff my bra with kleenex.

I have even, on rare but necessary occasion, told the LOC (Lovable Old Coot) to stuff it- not my bra but whatever nonsense he was putting forth at the moment.

I have experienced a stuffy nose, a stuffy house, and many (too numerous to mention) stuffy business men in stuffy board meetings.

But until yesterday, I had never stuffed a duvet.  It is a challenge.

My tastes have traditionally run more to bedspread and quilts, with the random foray into comforters and throws.  However, when the time came to replace the bed linens in the newly repainted and re-carpeted guest room, I thought, why not go a little upscale?  Expand my horizons, even live a little?

So I took myself off to the nearest mall (this alone should tell you I was serious about redecorating, since I hate malls and almost never shop in them) and after wandering about for a bit, lighted upon a wonderful clearance sale at Macy's.

And suddenly there it was, a lovely cream/bisque duvet, with subtle gold tone threads embossed upon it, on sale for over 80% off!  My goodness, they were practically giving it away.  Of course, by the time I also purchased the matching pillow shams, which were not included with the duvet itself, because after all, this was not some run-of-the-mill, bed-in-a-bag special, it was not quite as inexpensive as I had hoped for, but still.  When you are expanding your decorative horizons, you either go big or go home, as the saying goes.  I went big.

Thus, yesterday afternoon, there I was, standing next to the bed with the feather comforter in one hand and the duvet in the other pondering my dilemma.  How does one go about stuffing a duvet?

I thought about rolling the duvet back from the inside out, much like rolling up the sleeves of a shirt, then placing the comforter inside and trying to unroll them simultaneously.  But I couldn't quite figure out how that would work, so I forged on.

It occurred to me that perhaps I could stand on the bed, holding the duvet open, and sort of drop the comforter into it, a little at a time, until the whole thing was encased.  But even with the added height, I am too short to extend the entire duvet such that the comforter would not bunch up about three-quarters of the way down.  Shucks!

This was proving to be more difficult than laying out the money for the darned thing in the first place.  I'm a basic sort of person, and I probably should have stayed in my familiar bedspread/quilt neighborhood. Who was I to think I could sashay right on into duvet-land, after all?

It was rather like, after driving a well-aged Chevy all your life, thinking you could just pop into a BMW dealership and drive off in one.  Not as easy as it sounds.

Well, neither was stuffing this doggoned duvet!

Next I tried laying the duvet out on the bed and then (I'm embarrassed to admit this, but here goes) sort of crawling into the duvet head-first, while hauling the comforter in after me, like a miner going in with a head-lamp on, dragging his tools behind him.  As you may have already guessed, it didn't work.  First, I realized that my body took up too much room in the duvet to leave adequate space to spread out the comforter, and secondly, my arms weren't long enough to spread the comforter from corner to corner and every time I moved to smooth out a section, the section beneath or around me scrunched up.  Foiled again!

So I backed out, and thought about my options.  Finally, the inevitable truth dawned on me.  I needed help.  Oh, phooey, I just hate that.

About this time, the LOC wandered into the room, looking puzzled at the fact that there were bed linens everywhere, my hair was standing straight on end, and I appeared to be near hysterics.  He looked around quickly for my attacker, but spotting no one, carefully inquired as to what was going on.

"Don't get smart with me", I admonished him.  "I am in no mood to be made fun of."  I then added, quite unnecessarily, "I have a problem."

Never one to be intimidated by my bark-worse-than-bite temperament, he mildly replied, "You think?"

I then reluctantly explained how I came to be "in over my head" so to speak, and what I was trying to accomplish.  Between the two of us, using the buttons provided for the purpose on the duvet, several additional safety pins, and four arms and two heads, we got it done.

I must say, it looked great on the guest bed in all its shimmery glory.  But I was so exhausted from the whole ordeal that I just flopped back upon it, and took a nap!

Hope your day allows for a nice nap, too.

Friday, May 13, 2011

More Sorting...More Subterfuge - Part 3 of the Re-Do

Ok, so here is the thing. I don't read comics in the newspapers, I don't lick the wooden stick in the middle of ice cream bars, and I do NOT discard books.  Not saying there is anything wrong with other folks engaging in these activities, but they just don't work for me.

However, in re-doing the guest bedroom it became obvious that something had to go.  Several somethings - dozens actually.  And some of those were going to have to be .... gulp...I can hardly say it (much like the Fonz could not say llll-liver) some of the things leaving the house forever were going to have to be books!

There, I said it and lightening has not struck.  I am trembling, though.

The LOC (Lovable Old Coot), whose hoarding tendencies have already been alluded to in this series, could not believe his own eyes.

"Are those books you are putting in the give-away boxes?" he asked in much the same tone he might employ if he were asking, "Are those two-headed puppies in the front yard?"

He knows I love books.  Yes, I love to read, and I love to write, but I also love the books themselves.  I like the frontispiece (isn't that a great word?), I read the acknowledgements, I peruse the footnotes, and sometimes I look at the bindings just to see what kind they used.  I run my palms over the embossed covers, I examine the artwork on the book cover, and then I take off the paper cover, and checkout the hardcover to see if they went cheap or upscale.  You know, did they put a great outfit on over cheap underwear?

Ok, now that you officially know I am weird when it comes to books, as in yes, I always check out the published date, and the paperback re-issue date, and even the Library of Congress ISBN, you can begin to understand why the LOC could not credit his own eyes, when he saw me packing up books to give away.

Granted the "give aways"  were not Longfellow, or Twain, Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, or even Robert Frost.  But Drucker, Peters, Covey, Kozner and others of their ilk were definitely going elsewhere.  For those who have never made their living in corporate America, or in a management role somewhere, those may not be familiar names.

But for a person who taught "What Matters Most" for years, and pretty much lived by Warren Bennis (Dean of the UCLA School of Business) and Max DePree (CEO of Herman Miller and leader extraordinaire) - well, it was hard.  Senge was sailing away, along with his Fifth Discipline. 

I am no longer a corporate consultant, telling others how to "get it done" - and thus, of all the books I have accumulated over the years, I decided that the business management books were the ones I could bear to part with. 

The LOC said, in cautious amazement, "But don't you want your library anymore?"  It is a moot point. 

"There are only so many square feet in this room" I say airily, "and if I want guests to feel welcome and able to breathe in here, something has to go."  I say this with little pointy darts shooting out of my eyes toward his office-cum-man-cave.

This is the" sorting" part of the re-do which, while temporarily painful, feels better and better with each passing day.  As to the subterfuge portion, that involves "out of sight, out of mind" planning.

When our VHS collection topped 1200 movies, and we still had all of them, years after we, like the rest of the nation, had switched to DVDs, I began to discard the old tapes.  The LOC came in unexpectedly one day, saw what was going on, and said, "Just don't tell me.  If I don't see it, it isn't happening."  Yep, he and his first cousin Ollie the Ostrich.

That little episode, however, taught me that it isn't that he minds so much if I toss things away, he just can't bear to watch it happen.  So over these past three weeks, during the re-do, I have quietly placed some things in boxes and bags, and set them aside.  If he asks about them, I retrieve them and he inevitably keeps them.

(No matter that he is unlikely to ever be a waist size 34 again; if he wants those cuffed slacks in the strange plaid, so be it.  It was not that many years ago that he finally relinquished his white sport coat.  I had tossed the pink-carnation years before, but never had the heart to tell him or Marty Robbins.)

However, if after a week or two, there is no inquiry about the absent extraneous items, then I figure I am home free and off to the Goodwill store I go, grinning like a lunatic all the way!

Life is a series of trade-offs - never more so than on the domestic front.  So in the spirit of, what he does not ask about/he does not wish to know about - I am clearing this place to the baseboards.

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?  Hope your "do", or "re-do", or "make-do" is a happy one today.

Sorting, Re-Sorting and Resorting to Subterfuge

#2 in a series on the house re-do project in progress at the Young household.  This post was originally published two days ago, before the website maintenance by Blogger caused it to be deleted.

Why is it that two generally reasonable, rationale, human beings cannot agree on what to throw away?

Why is it that, the same two people, living in the same house, experiencing the same incidents can have totally different memory-banks of what occurred?

Why is it that any household project inevitably leads to a discussion of how we came to buy/own/retain various items - known collectively as "our stuff" - and further, what are we going to do about it?

Inquiring minds want to know.  That would be the LOC's (Lovable Old Coot's) mind, because mine, what little there is left of it, is too tired to contemplate this Solomonic dilemma.

When I am really tired I tend to devolve into verbiage that includes tidbits like "Solomonic dilemmas", and trust me, you do not want to have to experience anymore of that, so let's move along.

I have previously explained how, five years ago, we came to redo the entire house, upstairs and down, except for two small rooms.  One is the guest bedroom, the other is.... well, that is a good question.  It is either the home office, the LOC's "man-cave", or the junk room, depending upon how recently it has been dusted and vacuumed, and/or whether he has put up the current baseball/football season's pennants, etc. as the decor de rigour.

At the moment, the 49er gear is down, the S.F. Giants stuff is up, and all is well, in his little corner of the world.  Well, almost.  The LOC pitifully whined about having to disconnect various pcs, routers, modems, etc. in preparation for the new carpet going down.  But he got it done.
Silly, me, I thought once the new carpet was laid, we were through the worst of it.  I mean, just give me a well-glued seam, and I am a happy camper.

There were some rewards from his perspective though, namely the joyous re-discovery of his 33 and 1/3 vinyl collection. (Younger readers may wish to look up vinyl on Wikipedia, since you have likely never actually heard, much less seen one.)
So all afternoon, I was serenaded by Bing Crosby, Patti Page, Tony Bennett and Perry Como.  Granted, he is several years older than I am, but our muscial tastes are decades apart.

There was not a single Eagles or Hall and Oates break in there, anywhere.  So right now, his Kiss is not On My List, he does not Make My Dreams Come True, and I am about ready to check myself into the Hotel California.  It is such a lovely place.
Meanwhile, I am tossing junk like crazy, while he is retaining things like 200 plastic bags (along with the green tie-thingies) "just in case we ever need them."

I cannot even imagine how much junk we would have to accumulate to fill those 200 bags, and even the passing thought gives me the willies. 

After a drape-ironing-marathon, at least I got the drapes re-hung in his room.  He glanced up from digging in some box that had not seen the light of day in at least a decade, and remarked appreciately, "Nice curtains.  Where did you get them?"

I stood stock-still, hoping there were no errant flies entering my gaping mouth.  "They are the same ones I took down awhile back.  Before I could re-hang them, you moved a desk in front of the window, and I could not get behind it to put them back up."

"Nope," he responded cheerily.  "I would remember them.  Never saw them before.  Nice curtains, though." 


All this friendly difference in perspectives has worn me completely out - so that is all for now. Hope your little domicile is full of goodwill, and nothing else.
Part 3 - Resorting to Subterfuge - tomorrow.

The Mess Has Moved

Note:  Due to website maintenance by Bogger yesterday, this series on house re-do projects was somehow deleted.  The next post in the series, Sorting, Re-sorting, and Resorting to Subterfuge was also deleted and will be re-posted later today.  This post was originally published earlier this week. 

Lately we have been living in the middle of a mess.  And I don't like it one little bit!  We have been renovating the only two rooms in the house that did not get a makeover five years ago, when we "re-did" the rest of it.

Why leave those two rooms undone?  It is a fair question and I have half an answer.  We did not plan it that way, but the work that had been scheduled for weeks, and an emergency surgery (mine) that jumped up unexpectedly - occured on the same week, five years ago. I needed one bedroom from which to recuperate, while workmen traipsed up and down our hallway and stairs, hauling ladders, paint cans, and carpet rolls.

The "other room" - well, what can I tell you?  It is variously either our home office, my husband's "man-cave", or the general junk catcher.  Whatever it is, it isn't pretty, on a good day - and lately we have not seen one of those.

But today we began the clean-up phase of the latest re-do.  Dressers  and bookcases that have been standing in the upstairs landing for the past three weeks, have been put back in place.  I can finally reach the linen cupboard which has been inaccessible during the re-do.  I have been folding towels and sheets and laying them on stacks of books in the hallway, then averting my eyes whenever I had to pass that way during the day.  This in the spirit of "if you cannot fix it, don't dwell on it.".  :)

The good news is that the new paint and carpet match the new duvet in the guest bedroom just about to perfection.  Probably dumb luck, but I'll take it

The LOC (Lovable Old Coot) has actually agreed to give away some monitors, keyboards, etc. that we have not used in a decade or so. This is, believe it or not, progress of a major sort. He insists that some of his computer equipment is vintage, real geek- antiques. Yeah, right.  And my old jeans, with the bleach spots, are the latest rage on the runway.

Now, if I could just figure out where to stash all my scrapbooking stuff, so that it was invisible.  Why is it that there is a sudden abundance of man-caves in the land, but we hear nothing of lady-caves?

Oh, wait, I know.  It is because we would not settle for a cave, we would insist on at least a small cabin, preferrably with gingham  curtains and a matching quilt.  And that would be just for starters! :)

In any case, the mess has been removed from the upstairs hallway, and we are now in the process of restoring order on the north side of the house.

Of course, the sun room and back patio still need attention, but that is for another day.  It just never ends, does it?

Hope there is order in your little corner of the world today.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

God's Desire

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.  Hosea 6:6  

                        * * *

This verse has long been one of the most cherished scriptures to me.  To think that He "who spared not his own son" - choosing rather to sacrifice Him on Calvary for our sake, desires mercy and not sacrifice is an awesome concept.

What is even more astonishing is that the Creator and Master of the universe, is willing to place His desire in our hands, knowing that we will often fail to give Him the desires of His heart.

What is this mercy that God so desires?

It is more than just refraining from punishing or harming others, even when we think they deserve it.  One definition is that it is "kindness in excess of what may be expected or demanded by fairness."

Oh, ouch!  I like to think that I am a reasonable and fair person.  But when "fairness" would require a certain price, exact a certain penalty, am I then willing to show mercy, just because it will please the heart of God?

The neighbor who revs his motorcycle engine at 3:00 a.m. - for the fourth night in a row - am I willing to pray for his salvation as I lay awake for hours, unable to go back to sleep, long after he has gone to bed to sleep off his drunken stupor?

The extended family member, who asks that I spend a holiday afternoon with others who have been rude and demeaning toward me in the past - am I willing to show mercy, and extend kindness beyond what fairness would require?

The school bully, who threatens one of my children or grandchildren, and whose parent then justifies their child's meaness by berating my child's "wimpiness" - am I willing to show mercy, knowing none has or will be shown to me and mine?

These are not hypothetical questions, but rather they are examples of where the mercy God desires from us faces the reality of the world in which we live.  It has often been said, "Life is not fair."

This is true, however much we might wish it were otherwise.  But are we willing, as Christians, to go beyond an acknowledgement of this reality, to show mercy beyond what fairness would require?  God desires it.  Am I willing to give Him what He desires, despite how difficult and unnatural it may feel to me?

Only He knows the answer to this question as He examines my heart, and observes my walk before Him each day.  The extent to which I am willing to show mercy, is the measure of my "acknowledgement" of God in my life.  This is a hard truth.

Thank God, His word tells us that "Mercy triumphs over judgment." 
                                               * * *
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment!
James 2:12-13                   * * *

Our hostess today is Nina at Mama's Little Treasures.  Please join her for thoughts on today's In Other Words quote.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How Did My Mother Get Into This???

Many years ago, we were riding in the back seat of a car, with my best friend in the front passenger seat with her husband driving.  I forget just where the four of us were going, but we were not going smoothly.

The two in the front were bickering about some fairly small item, mostly in a good natured way.  However, about two minutes into this discussion my friend mentioned his mother, and immediately he yowled, "Now wait a minute.  How did my mother get into this?"

Well, it seems we mothers are always "into it" one way or another.  And not just mothers, but grandmothers, godmothers, mothers-in-law, and let us not forget those wicked step-mothers, too.

As a matter of fact, one of the nicest Mother's Day cards I ever received was entitled "To The Most Un-Wicked Step-Mother in All the Land."  It had been a long and rocky-road getting there, and I appreciated the compliment.  I had never expected to be in the role of a step-mother, and felt like a tremendous failure at it, until I read Catherine Marshall LeSourd's account of her own experiences in the role, and how God brought her through.

This past week, my husband's grandson and his wife, become parents to twin girls, and thus, I am once again a great-grandmother by marriage.  Oh for the days when my new step-grandsons said upon meeting me for the first time, "You don't look old enough to be a gwandma."  Of course, they were only 3 and 4 at the time, so what could they know?

My mother, always used to sign her cards to her daughters' husbands, "From the Godmother" - and she meant it as a riff on the Godfather movies, not as in "Fairy Godmother."  :)  Each of her sons-in-laws held a healthy respect and a dash of trepidation where my mother was concerned, and rightly so, as she was no one to mess with.

My own three children have given me no small source of pride over the years, and occasionally they have been kind enough to let me know they felt the same way about me.  But it is in watching my only daughter parent her three children, that I have the most soul-satisfaction as a mother, because she is the best mother I have ever known. She is creative and caring, and she knows when to "reel 'em in, and when to let 'em run awhile."

Grand mothering is a wonderful vocation.  I love it.  My mother was too intimidating to be a warm, fuzzy type of grandmother.  It may have had to do with all the years she put in as a no-nonsense nurse, but whatever it was, my kids knew not to test her.  But their "Grandma Lucy", their paternal grandmother, was the quintessential grandma.  They could always count on more cookies than they needed, more TV than they should watch, and more candy than I knew anything about, when they were at her house. 

Back in the day, I sometimes resented her circumvention of what she knew my rules were about such things.  But looking back, and especially when I hear my kids talk about her, I can smile and be grateful she was in their lives.

Her approach to being a grandmother was along the lines of, "What are grandparents for, if not to support questionable choices in their grand kids activities, and provide unlimited sugar intake?" :)

So as we approach Mother's Day, I am reflecting on what it means to be a mother, step-mother, grandmother, and now even a great-grandmother.  How did I get into this, indeed?  

Happy Mother's Day to any and all of you who fit into any category of mothering, be it by blood, marriage, friendship, or whatever.  God bless you on  this Mother's Day.

(I will be off-line for a few days as we travel north to another granddaughter's college graduation. )

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Two Dollars on Daffney

Please note:  Taking my cue from our hostess, I wrote my post on today's IOWT last week.  :)  If you would like to read that one, please see Holy Humor - An Expected Tool for Victory.  Thanks!
                                 * * *
As I came down the sidewalk to the sanctuary this morning, I happened to pass by a young boy, about eight years old, giving his mother the following account:

"I spent two dollars on Daffney, a dollar on Josh, and ..."

That's all I caught as we were proceeding in opposite directions; they were leaving the 9:30 a.m. service as I was going into the 11:00 o'clock.  His young face was alight with cheer as he evidently felt he had done a good job with whatever his little fund had been, and his expression seemed to indicate that he expected that his mom would be pleased with his report.  She looked like she was.

I smiled to myself as I entered the building, thinking; "Good for her. It is never too young to begin to teach them that we must each give an account for what we have had entrusted to us."

Sure enough, the morning message included an admonition about giving some serious consideration to how we are using our "time, talent, and treasure".

Accountability:  our world seems to be in short supply of this particular ethical commodity.  In a retrospective of the 2008 financial meltdown, the documentary "Inside Job"  painfully spotlighted those who were in positions of power and influence, saying repeatedly, "Well, we actually did not have that information at that time.  We really did not know until it was too late."  Not to be too indelicate, but please, gag me with a spoon.

It reminded me of that long-ago spring when I watched the Watergate hearings, "What did you know and when did you know it?"

Powerful men would ponder sagely and then reply, "At this point in time, it is difficult to say, precisely when such information might have been available, even if we had known it's significance, which of course, we could not know at that time."  Arrgggghhh!

Romans 14:12 tells us, "So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God."

On that day, we will look into our Father's face, much as that little boy looked at his mother this morning on the church sidewalk, and we will give an account of our "two dollars on Daffney" - that is, we will explain what we did with our time, our talents, and our treasure.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be mumbling around about how "if I had known it was important, I would have given more" - or "if I had realized that was a waste of my time, I would have used my energy more productively" - etc.

Seriously, when was the last time that I wasted time and knew that was what I was doing and did so anyway?  Maybe yesterday?  My grandmother would have been sorely disappointed, as there was no more disdainful activity in her book than to be "frittering your time away."

Or conversely, when do I last recall giving generously to a worthy cause and wish I had given less?  Just doesn't seem to happen. When it comes time for me to give an account of "my two dollars on Daffney", I want to be able to lift a faith-filled face and look into my Father's smiling eyes, give a true and honest report, and through his grace hear, "Well done."  Don't you?
                                        * * *
Dear Lord, please help us to give generously and live with intentional productivity.  Help us to become more of who and what you would have us to be.  Give us the wisdom to use our time, talents and treasure in ways that will allow you to smile upon our efforts.