Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Two in Quiet Turmoil

Note:  This is a vignette - not quite a post but not quite a short story.

It must have been the smallest sitting area for patients or family members that I had ever seen.  And believe me, I have seen my share of hospital, clinic, and specialists waiting rooms. Flowers - Pink and White Sympathy Arrangement in Basket
The carpet was fairly new and in soothing colors, the plastic floral arrangement was tasteful, if artificial (much like the receptionist) and the walls were a muted pastel.  The magazines, unlike at my dentist's office, were actually published this year, and one or two were even this month's editions.  Amazing.

This level of attention to detail, however, only served to illustrate the medical staff's awareness of the level of stress those occupying this little haven would be under as they waited.

And yet, all this planned decor covered an area of no more than thirty-six square feet, about six feet by six feet.  The entry door took up most of the first wall.  There were two chairs along the second wall, at a right angle to a third chair on another wall.  On the fourth wall was a chair/table/rolling stool affair with a small desk attachment adorned with various vials, equipment, etc. obviously for drawing blood samples.

I suppose if all three chairs were occupied, one would have to look away while occupant number four was punctured.  Being a little needle-phobic, just the thought of this makes me feel queasy.  But on this quiet afternoon, as the Muzak played Vivaldi's Four Seasons followed by some mellow Windham Hill arrangement, this small oasis was empty.

Thankful for a place to sit while my son, K., was pummeled by the noise of the MRI tunnel, I read a magazine article in jerks and starts, as I would jump up to look out into the hallway for news or noise from the room a few feet away where they worked on K.

After a few minutes, another individual entered this little cove of comfort, but oddly he was wearing only very thick socks, perhaps two or three pairs, on his feet without any shoes.  He was trim, with neatly combed grey hair and twinkly blue eyes, surrounded by a well-lined face which bespoke many years of outdoor work.

He smiled as he seated himself in the chair at a right angle to my own seat.  We then politely ignored each other for the next several minutes, much like strangers do in an elevator.  No use getting acquainted for such a short interval.

But the minutes dragged on and eventually one of us spoke, and we established whether we were patient or family member - he the first and I the second.  He admitted he was nervous, as he said, "The last time I sat in this room, I ended up losing a kidney to cancer, so I am a little nervous to be sitting here again.  Are you a patient?"

"No, I am here with my son, who is having an MRI next door."

"Does he have cancer?"

"No, he is paraplegic from an auto accident, and recently had to have a very serious surgery.  They are checking for infection in the pelvic bone."

"That must be hard.  My wife is very worried about me.  Heck, I'm worried about me, too.  I hope I don't lose anything this time around.  At my age I don't have many spare parts left."  He smiled indicating he was trying to be cheerful, not whining.

A door opens, and I hear a nurse ask K., "Are you hanging in there?  We need about two more pictures and it will take another four minutes each, with a few minutes downtime in between.  Can you do that?"

What with medical transport time, waiting time, and in the tunnel time, K. has already been on the narrow, hard plastic gurney for over an hour and a half.  Each minute increases the possibility of a pressure sore, as this kind of surface is not appropriate for his condition except on a short basis of extreme necessity. 

Additionally, his wound vac machine has now been on battery power for that same length of time, and I am anxious to get it plugged back into a power source.  My nerves are shot and we have yet another wound clinic appointment directly after this one, in another building a couple of miles away.

Will this afternoon never end?

"I hope your son does okay today.  I'm here to see whether they are going to have to replace my hip.  It is very cold in there where they do the MRI" , he states simply as he glances at his multi-layered sock clad feet.

"Thanks, but he will be fine.  We've been through worse than this." I offer, trying to be cheerful and coming off as artificial as the floral arrangement. When we do get home, I learn K. was freezing and it took him two hours under blankets to thaw out.

"I hope your tests come out well, too." I say to this stranger, whose name I do not know, but whose anxiety I recognize instantly and intimately, as only those who have spent time in these rooms can.

We are strangers, but as sociologists would label us, we are "known strangers".  We do not know each others' names, or birthdays, or family backgrounds.  But we identify thoroughly with pain, and courage, and terror and resignation, and the peace in each other's eyes, knowing that ultimately it is out of our hands.

We sit here, the two of us, in quiet almost restful turmoil.  And we wait ... while we learn patience and practice fortitude.
Until next time .... Marsha

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Have you shared an experience like this with a "known stranger"?  If so, what did you gain or learn from it?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Happy Medium - Wrinkled Brows

Note:  Wrinkled Brows is a Monday series on a quote or a word definition of interest (perhaps only to me).

Today's quote:          

"The happy medium was something that eluded the world..."
from The Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy

The happy medium - it must be almost as elusive as the bluebird of happiness.  I mean people just do not seem to be able to get a handle on it.  Personally, I find it as puzzling as trying to chew cotton candy - you think you have a mouthful and suddenly it is just gone.

Perhaps we should define it first, before we go off opining on how difficult it is to achieve. 

A happy medium is a phrase that generally means a balance point, or place of pleasant compromise.   Nothing too extreme, nor too terribly stressful, but not at all boring.   
Sounds easy enough, doesn't it?  But somehow, human nature being what it is, we just do not seem to be able to arrive at this mystical "happy medium" more than once in a blue moon, and generally only then quite by accident.

For example, take getting the room temperature fixed at a happy medium.  In the winter, I like to think 72 degrees is a nice spot, but the LOC* tends to think 67 will do just fine. (*Lovable Old Coot)

One would not suppose that a mere five degrees could be all that significant, but one would be sadly mistaken in that view.  If I happen to slip the thermostat up to 72 for a few minutes, the first thing I know the LOC is muttering about peeling the paint off the walls.

And if he edges it down a few too many notches, pretty soon I am swaddled in two pairs of socks, a warm fuzzy robe, and all this topped off with my electric throw set on high, wrapped around my head and shoulders with only my eyes to be seen.  I have considered getting a ski mask too, because my nose is always cold; but I am afraid that would invite ridicule from the other party to this little tableau.

And then there are vacations.  Few happy mediums to be had in that department.  Some of us think a vacation is for lounging about with a good book in a shady spot.  Others think it means "mapping out an agenda" days in advance so that we may shoehorn in as many tourist sites as possible within a minimum twelve hour day.

I spent a week in Washington D.C. with my oldest son a couple of summers ago, and trust me, you have not lived until you have seen the U.S. Dept. of Printing and Engraving (where they actually print the money), the Holocaust Museum, and the Washington Monument all before noon on the same day.

I might think a happy medium to the vacation bifurcation would be to read all morning and visit perhaps two sites in the afternoon; however, some people who shall remain nameless tend to call that "wasting half the day." 

Small wonder the character in Ms. Binchy's book states that the happy medium eludes the world.  I have pondered this whole happy medium thing deeply, for at least five or ten minutes anyway, and have come to this profound conclusion.

I do not know why happy mediums are so hard to find.  I do not know how some folks seem to achieve them.  I do not know how Tibetan monks can chant for hours without getting sore throats either, but I digress.

The fact is - happy mediums do not proliferate the way smiley faces do, more's the pity.  They are, to be blunt, illusory.

So I'll just go with something easy - here's a smiley face to you.  :)
Until next time ....Marsha
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Question:  Do you find a happy medium hard to achieve?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Delay on the Bucket List

container gardening picture of container garden in large utility bucket

Perhaps I should just go ahead and plant flowers in my "bucket" since filling my bucket with the things on my bucket list is proving to be a tad problematic.

For those who never saw the movie The Bucket List, with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, let me explain.  A "bucket list" is a list of things you would like to do or see before you kick the bucket.  Simple, huh?

Not so much.  One of the best and brightest things on "our" bucket list (me and the LOC*) is to get to attend the Little League World Series (LLWS) held each August in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
(*Lovable Old Coot)

We did drive by Williamsport one October while on vacation, and we saw the billboard - HOME OF THE LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES -  but that is as close as we have come ... so far.                              WS11TournamentBanner-452px       

For each of the past couple of summers, someone in the family was ill and we could not go.  But next year is going to be our year, I can just feel it. 

Today I watched the USA championship game between Montana and California.  California won, but Montana gave it their best.  Tomorrow California plays Japan for the World Series title.

I love the little patches these players wear on their shoulders, which state "I will not cheat."  We could sure use more of that mentality in pro sports, in the workplace, in the home, and just about all over the place.

And there is much to admire about their sportsmanship when they lose.  They do not stamp and stomp around, they do not pout.  Yes, sometimes they cry (don't we all?) but then they line up and shake hands like true little gentlemen.

And the best quote of the day came from one of the littlest players from Montana who told his mom, "It's hard to hit when they throw faster than you weigh."  You gotta love that kid. He only weighs about 74 lbs. and the pitcher was whizzing about 80 miles per hour with his fast ball.

So if it should happen that even next year we do not get to Williamsport, I'll still be watching the LLWS next August.  Some things are worth looking forward to.

Until next time ... hope you are looking forward to something, too.
...Marsha                       # # # #
                     What is something that is on your bucket list?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Up Poles and Down Holes - as Hurricane Irene Approaches

This is a "hard hats off" tribute to the telephone and electrical linemen and construction workers who will pull hard duty over the next few days.  Most of us will never know how much easier our daily lives are, because they do their hard jobs so well.

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Until a couple of years ago I worked as an executive in a mid-sized company (about 1,200 employees in California and Kansas) that provided telecom services to its customers.  It was what is known as a bundled or multi-platform service of telephone, high-speed internet and cable TV.

Our workforce consisted of about 1/3 white collar workers and about 2/3 blue collar workers.  These latter employees were the true heroes of our workforce, at least as far as I was concerned.   They were the guys (and I use that gender because we rarely had a female lineman or outside construction worker) who "went up poles and down holes" for a living.

It was hard, dirty, dangerous work; they were a bunch of cowboys and we all knew it.  I liked them for their swagger, their bravado, and they needed it when they had worked sixteen hours straight through a storm, for seven days in a row.

As I watch the news on the approach of Hurricane Irene on the East Coast I just saw that the major power companies are already warning of power outages that may affect millions of customers and may last for several days.  Any time we hear this we all groan and think of the inconvenience to the customers, which is understandable.

What we rarely realize is that it also means thousands of tough guys are going to - literally - strap it on and head out into the worst of it as soon as it is at all safe to do so.  They will climb poles and ride cherry-pickers (the bucket trucks with the little baskets the repairmen sometimes works from) to the tops of trees, downed poles, partially downed poles with live wires still sparking; and they will only come back "to the barn" - the construction garage - long enough to reload the trucks with parts and equipment before heading out again.

Sometimes they have to go down ladders into CEVs (controlled environmental vaults) to work on the electrical panels that switch the calls for entire neighborhoods.  These can flood during bad storms and they have to go down into a combination of electricity and water - never a comfortable combination.  But they do it.

Sometimes crew members have worked together for so long they are like family to each other.  They are the coaches for each others' kids little league and soccer teams, they are scout masters for their scout troops, and they attend each others' children's weddings and sometimes their funerals, too.

I have watched big strapping linemen with twenty years on the job, with tears streaming down their faces when a co-worker fell to his death on a sunny day in a busy traffic intersection, with not a cloud in the sky.  We called in a grief counselor and these macho tough guys came into the office in droves looking for ways to cope with their loss - before they strapped it back on and headed out again.

Don't get me wrong, these guys are no one's martyrs.  They love what they do and often pass up promotions in order to stay in the field.  I worked with one supervisor who came to me and asked me to please help him unwind a promotion he had accepted to manager.

"Marsha", he said bleakly, "I hate these reports I have to generate, and I hate the ones I have to review even more.  And I really hate writing performance reviews for the rest of my team, guys I used to climb with.  My knees and back are still strong.  Please help me get back into the field where I can enjoy earning a living again."

We talked about potential downdraft to him from the superior who had recommended him for the managerial position, and we discussed that this could limit his promotional opportunities in the future.  He understood it all and still wanted to do it.

The day he was cleared to trade in his white dress shirt for a blue chambray work shirt and strap on his tool belt again was a fine day as far as he was concerned.  He stopped by my office to thank me more than once over the next few years.  He was still on the poles when I retired, and still happy to be there.

So this weekend as you read and watch the news, and hear about the power outages in the East, you might want to think a good thought or say a little prayer for the guys who go up poles and down holes for the rest of us.  We could not cook dinner, cool the house down, or even watch the news reports in some cases without them.

I so admire the work these folks do.  Until next time ...Marsha

Thursday, August 25, 2011

In a Spot Without My Verve

The other day I saw a group that named themselves "Verve" - I thought that was either very perky or very impertinent of them; I wasn't sure which.

Because I am a philologist (word lover) it got me to thinking about verve, it's meaning and where mine had gone, or if I ever had any.

Verve:  ancient meaning was "a special talent or ability- more modern meaning - "spirit and enthusiasm animating artistic composition or performance."

There is an old saying, "My git up and go has got up and went."

Uh-hum, so say we one so say we all, at least on a low day at low tide.

Used to be, when I was in a corporate setting, I could still "work circles" as they say, around coworkers half my age.  I suspect I would struggle with an arc, much less a full circle today.

No, I am not depressed.  But my verve, enthusiasm, animation, seems to have gone missing.  I looked in the cupboards, under the bed and in the closet to see where it might be hiding.  No verve.

My elan seems to have taken off about the same time my verve did.  Maybe they ran off together, a romantic little duo off to see the world through the eyes of someone else, someone whose composition is more animated.  Could be.

Here is what I am hoping.  That my verve has not deserted me; but rather it is taking a nap.  You know, just a little creative snooze.  A small restorative siesta.  Could be.

So for today, I'm choosing to think I haven't lost it, but it is napping.  So maybe I will, too.  No use sitting up wide awake, verve-less.

Until next time ... hope your day is full of enthusiasm.  If you happen to spot either my verve or my elan, would you please send them back?  ....Marsha

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An Old Picture - A New Reality

Today I was standing in line at the checkout counter of a local drug store.  Didn't go there to buy drugs, although by the time I absorbed the clerk's lack of common courtesy a little shot in the arm would not have been unwelcome.  A little dram of some youthful elixir would not have hurt either.

I had gone to buy a (gulp - wait for it ...) a hair trimmer contraption.  I did this because my son, who cannot leave his bed for the past seven weeks due to an emergency surgery and loooong recuperation period, is just about ready to climb the walls if he cannot get a haircut.
Hair Clippers

The morning had been spent refereeing (is that spelled right, because it looks wrong) between bouts of multiple nurses coming and going, and making calls to local barber shops, nursing homes and even a retirement center, all in the hopes of locating a barber who would be willing to make a house call.  No such luck.

One guy did tell me that he knew a guy who used to do this, but he retired.  Um-humm, so did I, and look where that's gotten me.

Thus, I found myself standing behind a guy buying dog food (did he know how lucky he is - dogs cannot complain if their grooming isn't satisfactory) and in front of a lady idly thumbing through the latest tabloids. 

I placed the trimmer on the counter and swiped my credit card through the card reader, then I automatically asked the clerk, "Would you like photo ID?"

She said, "Oh, ok, all right."

That seemed odd, as the usual response is "Yes, please."  followed by "thank you" as soon as they glance at it.

I turned my wallet around so the clerk could glance at my driver's license photo and then reached for my receipt.

She says, "Nice photo."  I started to say thank you, but before I could get the words out of my mouth, she adds after looking at me for another second, "Must be an old picture."

I just sighed and said, "Yes, a very old one."

Granted, after seven weeks of nearly non-stop care giving, I am not exactly winning any beauty contests, not that I ever did.  But honestly now, I ask you, is that any way to greet a customer?

Whatever happened to "Have a nice day" , or "Please come in again" - something pleasant and impersonal.  Apparently her mother never drilled into her, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."  My own mother's drills could have put a dentist out of work any day of the week.

As I gathered my purchase, along with retrieving my old photo ID and wallet, I took the opportunity to glance her way again. Ohhhh, now I see the problem.

She was well-groomed, cosmetics appropriately applied, every hair in place, and she had a set sour expression around her mouth and a thin smile that did not reach her eyes.  There was a little glint of triumph that she had put me down, but not so offensively as to give rise to a complaint.  It was just plain old pettiness.

You could tell she had been pretty once.  Now here she was, about sixty years old, working in a local drug store at likely minimum wage, and her only jollies were in putting down customers with little sarcastic zingers.

You know what?  I felt sorry for her.  Life is far too short, and frankly often far too difficult, to take pleasure in putting other people down.

I was sometimes told, in the prehistoric dawn of time, that I was a "real looker".  Guys whistled and women gave me compliments on my wardrobe.  One local policeman, whose wife was a close friend of my mother, told my mom- to her utter shock and dismay - that I was the prettiest girl in town.  Of course, it was a very small town - about the size of Petticoat Junction.  Mom later recounted this little remark to me with a decided air of "Did you ever hear of such nonsense in your life?" 

No, Mom, I never did.  (But color me silly, I liked it.)  :)  Of course, I was only sixteen and didn't know any better.

But that is an "old picture" - really old.  My new reality is that those things are in the past.  But kindness still counts.  Generosity of spirit still matters.  And shoot, I've got more important things to worry about ...such as whether I am going to scalp K. when I try out those hair trimmers tomorrow morning.

Granted he likes his hair "high and tight" as they say in the military.  But I am afraid he may wind up with missing and bald.  Along with nicks, cuts and gouges.

I would say "wish me luck", but I am pretty sure that he is the one who is going to need it. 

Until next time kind, or please be still.  I'm just saying ...Marsha

Monday, August 22, 2011

Deep Weakness - Deeper Strength (In Other Words)

I remember being in awe of, and deeply humbled by, the story of Andrew Murray's life when I first read it many years ago.

He was a man of great faith, and a tremendous prayer warrior.  I seem to recall that when they prepared his body for burial, it was discovered that he had spent so much of his life on his knees in prayer that he had callouses over an inch thick on his knees.

Today's quote is from this man of faith:

The Christian often tries to forget his weakness:  God wants us to remember it, to feel it deeply. Andrew Murray

I cannot know his intent when he penned these words.  But given the boundless love and grace of God I can only conclude that if God wants us to remember and deeply feel our own weaknesses, it is only so that we will be more closely bound to his grace by our utter dependence upon his strength.

The old hymn says, "I am weak but He is strong. Jesus keep me from all wrong."  Indeed, only He can do so.

Jesus told his followers, "I am the vine and you are the branches.  Without me you can do nothing."

However, his word also tells us in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

There is an old story told of a prayer gathering during which the overly pious participants tried to out-do each other in humility.  They called themselves, worthless, vile, wretched wrecks, etc.  Finally one fellow decided he would be the lowliest of them all, proclaiming himself to be nothing more than a "slug for Jesus."

Let us be clear that God does not intend for us to dwell upon our shortcomings and failure out of some morbid sense of duty to do so.  Nor from some pitiful navel-gazing perspective of the school of thought that tells us to remember that we are all just "slugs for Jesus" as the old joke goes.

No, if we are to recall our inadequacies (and they are, indeed, many) it is only so that his adequacy can be all the greater encouragement to us.

He and he alone is able to make us "more than conquerors" and I am thankful.  We can be encouraged that as high as the heavens are above the earth, so much higher is his strength than our weaknesses.

Blessings to you  ...Marsha
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Please join our host today at Sunflower Faith for more on today's In Other Words Tuesdays.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

He Liked It - He Really Liked It !

Remember when Sally Field gushed at the Oscars ceremony, "You like me, you really like me!" ?  She had obviously just won an Oscar, but her amazement revealed her underlying insecurity.

This past week I took a leap of faith, more like an Evel Knievel canyon-jump stunt, and bought a house without my husband ever having laid eyes on it.  Can you imagine?  I could barely imagine it, and I was DOING IT!!

But distance, and family illness, and time factors, and about a dozen other things meant it was now or maybe never.  Of course, I consulted the LOC* and we had talked at length about his preferences and our requirements for a retirement home.  But to sign on the dotted line, sight unseen by the other half of our domestic team, well, that was a bit daunting. (*Lovable Old Coot)
However, given the way the whole thing came about (see my post on A Half-Acre of Paradise) I felt pretty confident about this decision.  But it was still a leap of faith.

Today we drove up into the foothills together, and he walked through the house for the first time.  He opened and closed doors, cupboards, and the garage doors; he flipped switches, listened to the door chimes, and walk around the yard a couple of times.  He didn't say anything. (Now that was scary, because trust me on this, the LOC loves to talk) and finally he turned to me and said, "You did really well, honey.  This is a good house.  I like it."

Whew!!  This was one of those decisions in life that is not a "moral decision" or a "spiritual decision" but it was a major life-decision, as it literally affects where we will, in all likelihood, live for the remainder of our lives. 

Now that it is settled, I realize it was also a bit exhilarating to do it "all by myself" and have it turn out so well.  Oh, wait, I wasn't doing it all by myself.  I believe I was given guidance, direction and peace at every critical juncture.

So, now that I think about it from that perspective, well of course he liked it.  :)
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Hope your most recent life-decisions and leaps of faith are turning out well.  Until next time ...Marsha

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Noble Thoughts or Dirty Spuds

Potato clipart picture

Yesterday was a humdinger.  Phones were ringing, people were knocking on the door, the dog got out and headed off to explore the world, and oh yes, the paramedics came right in the middle of all this to transport K. via gurney off to the hospital for his one-month post-surgery check up.

Clearly we were having waaay beyond our usual quota of fun around here, and we are generally a pretty fun bunch even on a normal day.  (Of course, I always try to bear in mind that "normal" is just a setting on your clothes dryer.  Otherwise, there is no such thing - or state of being.)

Given the general level of "hectivity" - that's a technical term - there was not a lot of time for deep thinking.  There was time, or at least I felt I had to make time, for yet another phone call from an extended family member who was having an even tougher day than we were.

She vented for about 45 minutes, and just before she hung up she asked me, "How do you do it?  How do you stay sane and balanced in the middle of what you are dealing with?"

I did not want to be either flippant or give some cliched response.  But the answer is as basic as any other necessity of life:  food, water, air to breathe, shelter, etc.  The answer is beginning each day with some time spent with the Creator, who is in complete control, even when I cannot see evidence of it at the moment.

And in thinking about her conversation, it was a monologue of misery.  Broken relationships, disappointments with life and everything encompassed therein.  Ugly dark places and people she has known.  It was an endless litany of discouragement.

This morning I was reading in Philippians, fourth chapter, where we find that marvelous admonishment:

"  ... whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, think about such things."

Yes, life can be hard, and ugly and dirty.  But it can also be wonderful and astonishing, and even lovely from time to time.  When I was a very young writer I read a little article, wherein the author encouraged writers to write clean uplifting material.  She said her grandmother had always told her that there were two ways to serve whole potatoes after digging them up; either washing them off, or leaving the dirt on them. She pointed out that the potatoes are just as "real" either way; but it is a choice as to whether to serve them with the dirt still on them.

I have never forgotten that story.  Unfortunately, I am afraid much of today's society prefers their spuds with the dirt, and sometimes the more dirt the better they seem to like it.  Reality TV, which I adamantly refuse to watch, is a potent example of how modern America seems to want to live with as much ugliness, conflict and betrayal as they can rake up.

No thank you.  I may be unsophisticated by some standards, but I still prefer to dish up my potatoes well-washed.  And I prefer to spend my "thought time" trying to focus on what is noble and good and admirable.  Not in a Pollyanna way, but in a focused intentional manner.  Mean, ugly thoughts diminish the thinker.  I believe the reason we are told to think about noble things is that such thoughts not only help keep us sane, but they inspire us to attempt to do better, and be better.
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Hope you are full of good thoughts today.  Until next time ...Marsha

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Half-Acre of Paradise

Sometimes life can turn around from glum to fun in a little less than 3.2 seconds.  It is said that "Great doors swing on small hinges."  Indeed, large events or issues occasionally do turn on seemingly small causation.

A few weeks ago, after diligently looking for a place for us to move to as our retirement spot; I finally decided to just let it go for awhile.  I was, to be candid, discouraged with the whole process.  It was not like I had expected to strike gold with the first swing of my pick; but neither had I planned to dig and dig and dig only to continually come up empty.

Nevertheless, after two years of intermittent house-hunting, and walking through more than twenty homes (not counting the dozens I had viewed on line and had done the whole "virtual tour" thing) we were no closer to finding a landing spot than when we began the search.

I say "we" meaning "me" because the LOC* had made it clear that this was to be my quest.  He would support my efforts, carry my spear and chalice when necessary, but I was to be the Donnetta Quixote in this little adventure, and I could tilt at as many potential windmills as suited my fancy.  Just don't drag him around from windmill to windmill; because they all looked pretty much alike to him. (*Lovable Old Coot)

For those readers who do not put much stock in spiritual guidance, you may choose to discount this next part, and that is okay.  But for those readers who have been visiting with me for awhile, you know I am a pretty sensible person, who does not tend toward the ethereal.  In other words, I am a down-to-earth realist with a decidedly pragmatic bent.

But I also believe God listens when we pray, and when it is in our best interest, He can and will move things along when we have hit the wall.

So a few weeks ago, after another disappointing visit to walk through two more houses, I was praying about our relocation desires.  Subsequent events (my son's illness and emergency surgery) have reinforced how necessary it is for us to move closer to this area.  So one evening a few weeks ago I decided to "let go and let God", as they say in the Midwest.

And I felt impressed that God was telling me that if I would just trust his timing, I would not have to go looking any further, but He would "bring something to me."  I was tired, discouraged and too worn out to argue with him anyway, but I actually felt good peace about it.  So I stopped looking. Didn't read the real estate section of the papers.  Didn't log on to Zillow each week for updates.  Nothing.

Last Saturday I got a phone call from a lady I had met exactly once.  She told me about a house that she though might be what I was looking for.  You can guess the rest.

The next day I walked through it, made an offer, and we opened escrow today. :)  :)  :)  Color me happy, grateful, and just about over the moon with anticipation.

We have bought our retirement home, on a half acre of pine and fir trees, in a semi-rural area, but near enough to town and shopping to be convenient.  A half acre may not sound like much to those outside of California, but out here they sell land by the half-inch, so a half acre, at approximately 2500 ft. elevation in the foothills where they have four seasons and that small town feel - paradise.  And it was priced affordably!  Amazing.

                             # # # #

Hope your plans are coming along tonight; but if you are feeling a little stuck in your spot, I am praying Someone greater than you and me will open a door to your own half-acre of paradise, whatever that may be.  Blessings to you - Marsha

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Stay-cation ... on the home spot

During these lean economic times many families and individuals have begun to choose what are known as "stay-cations" versus vacations; that is, you stay home during your down-time instead of driving, flying, or skateboarding off to parts unknown.

Well, shoot.  When I was a kid that was what we did all the time; but I just thought we were poor.  Who knew we were actually, both socially and economically, ahead of our time?

Thus, this afternoon, when I pulled the old Buick into my own driveway for the first time in over a month, I knew I was choosing a stay-cation, and trust me, you could not blast me out of this room with a Molotov cocktail.

I am glad, almost deliriously so, to be amid parts known rather than parts unknown.  Ahhh, there's that cute little dog that just adores me.  She even remembers me, and promptly loses a little break fluid she is so overjoyed to see me.  

And there is the LOC* right there in his recliner where I last left him.  I am pretty sure he has actually moved a time or two in the past month, but from his present posture one would have to have a third party independently verify that. (* Lovable Old Coot)

And there are my roses blooming, sort of, outside the sun room windows.  Okay, they are not in great shape, but they are salvageable.

And tonight I will sleep in my own bed.  No roll-away for this girl, not tonight.  Truthfully, I know I really need my beauty rest (not the mattress brand, but the kind of rest with restorative powers) because although he is very glad to see me, the LOC also (ever the unvarnished truth from his lips) tells me I have aged ten years in the past month.

Well, gee, thanks!  You know what, I don't even care.  Some sleep, uninterrupted by beeps, alarms, calls for assistance, or things that go bump in the night and cause me to awake with me heart pounding, will be just the ticket.  

And guess what?  Tomorrow morning the LOC is cooking pancakes.  I am going to allow him to wait on moi hand and foot. :)

The guys (K., one who is down for three months with a tough surgery and the other, M.,  who is visiting from the Ritz and volunteered for caregiver duties) insisted this morning that Mom come home for a couple of days and let them handle things.

I was very nervous about doing that, as we had an "alarm" on the wound vac just this morning at 3:45 a.m., but we are getting the hang of those, and resolved it quickly.  So you know what?  They convinced me, and thus, I'm home!!  Yippee kiyaaa!

Of course, I called to check on the guy who is "down" and he laughed and said he thought about not answering the call just to mess with me a bit.  I told him I would have called every fifteen minutes until someone answered or until I started calling his neighbors and I have their numbers.  He chuckled and said that was the only reason he took the call.

"Get some sleep, Mom.  We're fine up here.  T. is over here cooking his famous green sauce chicken enchiladas, C. is over from next door, the Ritz guy is hosting the whole deal.."

"Wait a minute" I interrupt him, "You mean you guys are having a party the minute I'm gone.  Yeesh!  You mean I've been the wet-blanket for the past month?"

More chuckles on the other end of the line.  So 'scuse me, I'm going to bed now.
                          # # # # 
Hope you are also tucked in safe and sound tonight.  Until next time (when I am sure to be more wide awake than I am right now) ...Marsha 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

An Attitude of Gratitude

First - THANK YOU - to each of you who have been so kind to send such supportive comments in the past few days.  Each one was very much appreciated.

During the years when I taught management and motivational classes in a corporate setting, I often used the terms coined by psychologists known as an "external locus of control" and an "internal locus of control."

Basically, a number of studies have shown that individuals who believe life is "what happens to them",or "they did to me", or "I had no choice-it was forced upon me" - that type of thinking is called having an external locus of control.  Such people think that your life is controlled by events outside of yourself and beyond your control.

To be sure, there is some basis in fact for such views, but taking them to such extremes leaves a person seeing themselves as nothing more than a victim in life.  Or some sort of hapless martyr.

Those who tend to hold an internal locus of control believe that life is a series of choices and that the sum total of those choices largely determines the quality of one's life.

Certainly "things happen" to each of us in life that we would have rather avoided.  But as the saying goes, "It is not what happens to you, but how you choose to respond to what happens, that makes all the difference."

For many years I kept a little sign in on my office wall that read:

      Choices create habits
      Habits create patterns
      Patterns determine my success or failure in life
      The choice is up to me.

Thus, despite setbacks, problems, and pitfalls we can choose to have an attitude of gratitude - or not.  The choice really is up to each of us.

Hope your day is full of good things, and good choices.  Until next time ...Marsha

Friday, August 12, 2011

Day 31 - High Hopes

NO WHINING ZONE -Warning Sign- cry babies signs funny
Today begins month two of my 24/7 caregiver duty.  My son is making progress toward recovery.  I am not sure what I am doing at any given moment, other than the best I can. 

And please understand, this is a "no whine zone".  :)  We are thankful for good medicine and good progress.

Nevertheless, here is what yesterday was like:  (think the credit card commercial, this costs "X", that is "priceless")

15 - number of glasses of ice water - two trips back and forth from bedroom to kitchen = 30 trips

5 cath kit resets - three trips bed to bathroom = 15 trips

5 - number of loads of laundry - 4 trips each, to washer, load to dryer, load to surface to fold, load to cupboards = 20 trips

trips to store for various errands = 2

meals to prepare and serve = 6 trips

reset A/C up or down depending upon where his body temp is running (as a paraplegic his body does not self-regulate normally) 10 times - 2 trips each = 20 trips

trip to Big 5 Sporting Goods to buy hand weights, so that he can begin to rebuild arm strength for when he is allowed to begin to transfer into his wheelchair again = 2 trips

4 times to let Annie (his black lab) in and out of house - 2 trips each = 8 trips

Bring in news paper and pick it up to throw away = 2 trips

General conversation Q & As  and misc. request 10 = 20 trips

Total = 125 trips to his room or elsewhere

Number of times he said, "Thank you, Mom" or "I appreciate what you are doing, Mom" or "Please sit down for a while, Mom" - at least 10 more times than the total number of trips I made - once each trip and sometimes, twice = PRICELESS !! 

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The book of Romans tells us that perseverance produces character and character produces hope.  Around here, we have "high hopes" !

Hope your day is also full of hope, despite whatever "trips" life is requiring of you today. Until next time .... Marsha

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

We Are Not at the Ritz-Carlton

I am presently not staying at the Ritz-Carlton. 
Logo of The Ritz-CarltonIn fact, I have never stayed at a Ritz-Carlton.  Not to say I wouldn't, if the opportunity were to present itself, but so far it has not.

However, while I have never spent the night at a Ritz facility, the fact is that my middle son lives in one!  That just seems odd to me.  This is a guy from a strictly middle-class family, with no rich relatives that we know about (or we would certainly try to make their acquaintance - just kidding :) ) who lives at one of the world's premier vacations spots.  No, he is neither the manager, assistant manager, nor even a bellhop. 

He is a musician, whose band plays in their nightclub in one of the foreign "vacation destinations" in Indonesia  (And it is so prestigious that even the president of the United States stays there when he visits that country.)  It simply boggles my mind - but it also explains a few things.

Because they are the "house band" and work under contract for six months to a year at a time, they are also provided all the perks that go with living in such a rarefied atmosphere.  He is hungry?  He picks up the phone and room service delivers whatever he asks for.  All expenses paid by the hotel management.

Laundry needs to be done?  You pick up the phone, fill out the form, and voila' the next day it all re-appears clean, pressed and folded.  Also paid for by the Ritz.

No need to make the bed, or hang up the towels, it will all be taken care of when the maid service does up the room.  And the flat-screen TV has about 500 channels - give or take.

So, then this ne'er do well, but lovable world-wanderer comes stateside for a visit, and well... we just aren't the Ritz.  What can I tell you?

He wanted a sandwich.  I pointed in the direction of the kitchen and said they were in there.  He looks puzzled, but wanders (he is good at that) over and takes a look around.  No sandwich to be seen.

"Uh, Mom, I don't see the sandwiches.  Where are they?"

"Why they are right here under your nose.  Here is a loaf of bread, here in the fridge are the mayo, lettuce, and lunch meat.  Here in this drawer is where you find the silverware with which to assemble the ingredients for a sandwich.  All you have to do is put it together."

"Huh?", he mutters incomprehensibly, as if to say, "You mean it doesn't come all put together?"

The Mom (that would be me) sighs and asks herself, where did I go wrong?  Oh, it was probably when I made those kajillion sandwiches for him, and handed them to him all "put together."

Towels on the bathroom floor?  "Oh, son (in a cheery little sing-song voice) I am not the maid here, I am the Mom." 

"Huh?", he mutters as he nevertheless picks up the towel and hangs it haphazardly over the rod.

"Oh, Mom, are we doing any laundry today?"

"I don't know whether you are or not, son, but I am running a few loads.  Why"  :)  :)  :)  And so it goes.

I could get irritated, but I only see him about once a year.  And I must remember that where he lives, everything is provided for him and to him, 24/7, all at his request and all paid for because he is a musician; and evidently a good enough one that it has earned him a berth at the Ritz for a year at a time.  He works there, lives there, eats there, and pretty much conducts his life within those 65 or so stories.  Who knew?

On the other hand, I am already on 24/7 duty, with his sick brother, so the world-wanderer is on his own, so to speak.

"Huh?"  I mutter to myself, incomprehensibly.  "Well, sorry, fella, but this isn't the Ritz."  I'm just saying ....

But you know what?  Decent upbringing will come out, because when it comes time to go to bed, and we are one bed short, because the roll-away bed I ordered last week has not yet arrived. The Ritz-guy, immediately volunteers, "You go on to bed, Mom, I'll take the floor.  You worked all day and I just wandered in."  So I did.  :)
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If you are not staying at the Ritz tonight either, hope someone offers you a decent sandwich, or something to lighten your load.  Meanwhile, have a good evening, even if it isn't at the Ritz.  It is possible.  Until next time ...Marsha

Monday, August 8, 2011

Miss Piggy Learns Patience - Who Moi?

Former U.S. Senator, Fred Thompson (also an actor who played a D.A. on Law and Order) wrote a fun autobiography called "Teaching the Pig to Dance."  If you like like-hearted, but informative bios you would probably enjoy his book.  9780307460288

The title comes from a story Thompson tells about various useless and pointless activities.  Such things are like trying to teach a pig to dance.  He said it "wastes the teacher's time, and it irritates the pig."

Dear me, and here I have been going on about developing more patience.  Nevertheless, earlier today I found myself fairly irritated with a set of circumstances over which I seemed to have very little say.

It then occurred to me that perhaps God was taking me at my word and trying to teach me more patience.  Was I then, the pig in the "teaching the pig to dance" scenario?

It struck me as  a distinct possibility.  Suddenly I remembered the Muppet Movies wherein Miss Piggy would always say, "Who, moi?"               
Piggy ZeroMostel.jpg

Here is hoping that if God is trying to teach me more patience, I have not, while playing the part of the "irritated pig" also wasted the Teacher's time.  Now that would be truly a shame.

Clearly I need to pay better attention.  Perhaps, my prayers are being answered, but I am simply not listening well enough.

Who moi?  Hope you are not irritated this evening, and that whatever it is you are hoping to learn works well for you.  Until next time ...Marsha

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Nature of Patience - Wrinkled Brows

Wrinkled Brows:  A Monday series on a word definition or quote of interest (perhaps only to me.)

Patience:  endurance, forbearance, fortitude;  constant diligence in the performance of a task; capacity for waiting without complaint.

To be honest, I have never considered myself a patient person.  At least not by natural temperament.  I walk fast, talk fast, and generally do most things with a good deal of zip.  Well, maybe not quite so much zip these days. 

Thus, in these very limited circumstances in which I currently find myself, I am finding my patience sorely tried.  But I am trying to be intentional about developing a greater capacity for patience.

It is an interesting fact to note that among all the gifts of the spirit listed in I Corinthians 12, patience is not among them.  There is no such gift, which leads to the old joke, "Lord, please give me patience, and give it to me right now."

There is, however, a fruit of patience, which is listed among the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5.  Ah ha - now we begin to come to the heart of the matter.  A gift is nearly instantaneous.  It is presented, it is accepted, and voila' there you have it.

But a fruit - oh, dear, you see where I am going with this don't you?  Every fruit begins with a small seed, which must be nurtured, tended to, watered and grown, over a considerable period of time.

And even then, there are no guarantees of successfully producing an actual edible piece of fruit.  There are the threats of disease, bad weather, foolish gardening mistakes ... why there are all kinds of obstacles to successfully growing good fruit. 

So lately, while I am on caregiver duty, I am also keenly aware that even though I may be doing "honorable duty" in serving, if I do so with a resentful attitude, an angry chip on my shoulder, or an "oh me, poor me sigh", I will be no closer to developing more patience than if I had flat out refused to help at all.

In a much earlier post, I wrote about a lady I worked with in painting our church kitchen one weekend, who sighed and sighed, until I finally asked her what the problem was.  She acknowledged that she knew she was going to "lose her reward for this job, because I have complained the whole time."  I laughed so hard, she eventually started laughing too.

But we do that to ourselves sometimes, don't we?  We sabotage our own spiritual growth by adopting the very heart-stances that will prohibit such growth.  We are self-defeating creatures to be sure.  No wonder the Apostle Paul wrote, "Oh, miserable man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?"

The answer, of course, was and is Jesus.  He is our great example of patience.  He was patient with Peter when he denied him, with James and John, as they argued about who could sit on his right hand, and with Thomas when he doubted him unless he could put his finger in the nail scars.

He has also been patient with me - during times too numerous to count.  Thus, I want to be more patient with others, and even with myself.  I'm presently not very good at it.  But I am honestly working on it. 

Hope no one is trying your patience today, but if they are, I hope you are taking the opportunity to grow.  :)  Oh, go on, it could be fun.  Until next time ...Marsha
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"Love is patient, love is kind."  I Corinthians 13:4

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Knowing Too Much for My Own Bad

Juicy's BurgerI tell you, I am presently too well informed and wish to goodness I were not.  Here is my dilemma.

A few years ago I started reading food labels.  Back then that didn't create too much confusion on my part, however, since most of the information was indecipherable - diomethyklene, this and caroetalide, that - who knew?  So I could munch merrily on my way, none the wiser.  Life was more fun back then.

Then some wise-acre at the FDA decided the eating public should actually know what they were eating.  These busybodies just couldn't leave bad enough alone and thought the rest of us should know what we were putting into our bodies.  Oh, phooey.

Next the restaurants got into the act and started putting the caloric content of each and every entree right on the menus, in plain sight.  Oh, please, how how are you supposed to enjoy ordering a great big cheesy, gooey whatever, when you know it is going to involve consuming about ten thousand calories and enough fat to put your triglycerides into the stratosphere?

(Please hand me two Lipitors with a Mevacor chaser.)

I went into Applebee's the other day, ready to sup and sip to my little heart's content; but after perusing that darned overly informative menu, I had to scroll down to my fifth choice before I could get something under a thousand calories.  It was mostly vegetables that had been grilled in vegetable oil - no polyunsaturated fats for this girl - and then whispered upon by a bare flavoring of beef.  Oh, shucks!

Oh, and what about your good old American staple, one of your basic food groups, soda pop?  Everyone ought to have a couple of those a day, and I often did, until about five years ago.  Then some Nazi-nutritionist published something about how you could drop a penny into a glass of cola and it would dissolve the thing - and then the same guru encouraged you to contemplate what it was doing to your stomach lining.  Shoot! 

And that said nothing of the sugar calories in the intake of regular soda.  So I switched to diet cola and began to limit myself to one a day.  I was told to avoid "drinking your calories".  Doggone it anyway. 

Shortly, thereafter I stumbled into a Weight Watchers meeting (run by a true convert with all the enthusiasm of a midget cheerleader - and the discipline of a Stalag 13 commandant) and learned about portion control.  I pretty much felt like my whole eating life had been usurped completely beyond my control at that point.

So here I am, earlier this afternoon, contemplating having a snack.  There was a small bag beckoning me from the cupboard, labeled Cheetos, if you must know.  But before I could even open it, my inner food-conscience ( I call her Shalli - shall I have this or shall I have that ?) nudges me to have an apple instead.  So I did, and it wasn't half-bad.  But it wasn't a Cheeto either.

So after the apple I allowed myself 10 Cheetos (portion control) which only contained 80 calories and a half a percent of cholesterol.  I chewed slowly and tried to savor them, washing them down with non-sweetened iced tea.

I tell you, these days I just know too much to enjoy being bad.  I don't what what is going to happen to me, but it cannot bode well when I tell you that two days ago I did the previously unthinkable.  I had a sandwich without the mayo.  What is the world coming to?

I don't want to find out.  Do you?

Here's hoping your cholesterol is under control and your portions are too.  But if they are, I hope you are having more fun with it than I am.  Until next time ...Marsha

Publish, Perish, or Push On ??

In academic circles there is a saying that professors who wish to be retained and prosper in their chosen profession must "Publish or perish."  Seems a little drastic to me.

From time to time, however, I have been asked about whether I have considered trying to get some of my writing published.  Considered?  Yes.  Convinced?  Not yet.  Not this time.

I should admit, however, that I did try it many years ago, and it did not turn out well.  Maybe that is why I am so hesitant to try to it again.

During my early thirties, for three and a half years I worked on a little book that was part humor and part reflections on Christian living involving some fairly unique circumstances.  Shortly after I completed the manuscript, on a little blue Underwood manual typewriter that I had gotten by trading in umpteen books of "green stamps" - a kind of coupon savings plan that you younger readers will not remember - I attended a Christian writer's conference.

The setting was rural, leafy, and came complete with a babbling brook literally under the window of my room.  What could be more perfect?  I was soon to find out.

Each day we attended learning sessions and group editorial exchanges.  Attendees could also sign up for an individual meeting with the publisher who was sponsoring the conference, provided you could supply at least three chapters of a completed manuscript.  I signed up, attended the meeting and was surprised at how friendly and low-key the discussion was.  The publisher and his senior editor, who was also present, had read my submitted sample chapters and gave me some favorable feedback.  I left the meeting encouraged.

The next day, just before the close of the conference, I was called back for a second meeting, wherein they told me they had selected my book for publication. 

I remember calling home to tell my husband the marvelous news, crying with excitement and happiness, thrilled beyond measure.  I also remember clearly thinking that, other than the three days upon which my children were born, it was the happiest day of my life.

The thrill didn't last long and ultimately the book was not published.  I was sorely disappointed and let down by false promises.  But I did not perish.  A little over a year later, through a theft during a relocation move, the only two copies of the manuscript were stolen and lost forever.  (This was before PCs, so two hard copies were all that existed.)  I did not perish.

We don't, you know.  We do not die just because our hopes have been crushed.  We do not perish when we have been duped.  But we do have a decision to make.  We can either lie down and give up, because to do otherwise is just too hard.

Or we can push on.  We can learn from our grief and become stronger for it.  It really is a choice.  It took me awhile to decide to push on; and I struggled with the disappointment for a long time.  It was the first time I had encountered truly dishonest people, who also claimed to be Christians.  It was devastating.

Today, however, I can sit here tapping away on my little notebook device, and know that it was not in God's plan for my life to become a "published author" at that time.  It may never be, I do not know.

But I am content to know that I have pushed on.  I persevered and I have, hopefully, learned from my mistakes.  Sometimes that is enough.  Today it is.

Hope your day is full of good things while you push on.  Until next time ... Marsha

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

An Unwelcome Gift - In Other Words

But this disappointment, those tears,
this heartbreak is God’s gift.                                       
In this quiet empty ache, He enlightens.
By it, He plants and grows within me a certainty
that there must be more.
And that He is the More.”

by Jo at Mylestones

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My sister, who just lost her oldest son to cancer two months ago, said to me the other day on the phone, "I just don't understand this."

Amazingly, she was not referring to her own loss, which would have been very understandable.  Instead, she went on to say, "I just don't understand why God has allowed K. to be sick again.  To have to have this awful surgery and to go through another three months in bed.  I just don't get it."

K. is my oldest son, who has been a paraplegic for over twenty-five years and is currently bed fast, due to a particularly nasty emergency surgery two and a half weeks ago. 

She went on to say, "I dealt with home care and the strain of it for 7 months (the time from her son's diagnosis until his death); but you have been dealing with this for twenty-five years.  I don't know how you do it.  And I don't know how K. does it.  I just don't get it."

While I appreciated her empathy, she was apparently assuming that I do "get it" - that I understand this current situation.  I do not.

According to today's quote, this current situation is "god's gift" to me, and I suspect the author may be right.  It does not mean that I must like it, but if I am to honest with the Lord and myself, I must acknowledge that in this, as in all things, He is acting according to His own principles of justice, mercy, kindness, and love.  It just doesn't look much like it at the moment.

However, even the unwelcome gift, is sometimes accompanied by some welcome by-products.  When I met my sister briefly the other day, her first remark was, "My gosh, you've lost weight."  A welcome gift from days of non-stop of fetching and carrying.

Darker circles under my eyes, and until last night, no more than 2 hours sleep at a time, not so welcome.  The constant tension of knowing his wound vac machine could "alarm" in the night, and I might not hear it quickly enough caused me to lay awake for hours.  But last night I slept nearly seven hours, a welcome gift.

From my phone calls home to my husband, who is eighty miles away,  I learn that my roses are dying despite his efforts to water and tend them.  Unwelcome.  But from my son's front window, I can see across the street the lady's roses which are beautifully healthy, and I get to enjoy looking at them without worrying about rust, black spot, or aphids.  A welcome gift.
So this current trial is one of those unwelcome gifts that God sometimes allows to come our way. I have been the reluctant recipient of more than a few of those in my lifetime, and my guess is that if you are older than twelve, so have you.  Stuff happens.  God allows stuff to happen.

Do I understand it?  No.  But do I still believe that there is a greater purpose and plan than I can currently perceive?  Yes.

There is an old song (perhaps by Patti Paige - long before my time) that I think is called "Is That All There Is?"  The lyrics are about life and ambition and achievement, and disappointment and loss, and ultimately the utter dissatisfaction that accompanies all of them, outside of a relationship with God.  The plaintiff refrain sums it up as "Is that all there is?"

Thankfully, for the believer, the answer is a resounding "NO"!  There is more, He is more and through Him we can become more.

According to Romans 8:37, " No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."

Through Him, I can either embrace this unwelcome gift, and welcome His working in my life - or I can resist it, although I will still have to deal with it - but I will simply have to do so with less peace and less strength.  Seems like a no-brainer to me. 

Thank you, Lord, for this unwelcome gift.  I nevertheless, welcome your working in my life.  Make me more like you, the One who is More than all my needs.  

Note: Today's hostess for IOWT is Loni at the Writing Canvas.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hard Scrabble - Wrinkled Brows

Wrinkled Brows:  A Monday series on a word or quote of interest (perhaps only to me).

 Its a word, its a game, its SCRABBLE! 

Scrabble:     –verb (used with object)
to scratch or scrape, as with claws or hands.
to grapple or struggle with 
to scrawl; scribble.                    
Phrase - "a hard scrabble life" meaning to scrounge around for a little of this and that, always with insufficient resources.  (Crud, now that is prophetic.  See pitiful tale below.)

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So it is Sunday evening and my  grown son, K., says to me, "Mom, what have you got on your agenda this evening?"

I reply, "Well, I was thinking of going out for a little line dancing and then knocking back a few mohitos."

You have to know the context for this conversation.  K. is bedfast for two or three months, following a tough surgery.  He cannot leave the bed - at all - 24/7.  It is a tough gig.

I'm his mom, and his 24/7 caregiver, and glad to do it. Nevertheless, asking me what I have on my agenda is a bit of a moot point at the moment.  Still, I suspect an ulterior motive and he is not long in revealing it.

"So if you are sober enough to spell, after the mohitos, do you want to play some Scrabble?"

Ah ha!  Now we are coming to the real issue here.  The gauntlet is thrown, the die is cast, and the Scrabble tiles are DOWN!  Bring it on, big boy.

We quickly review the rules (our family rules - not those nonsensical suggestions on the inside of the box lid), agree on how disputes will be handled, and like two prize fighters coming to the center of the ring for their instructions, we touch gloves in a gesture of respect and draw for who goes first.  The game is afoot.

I draw an F and place it down with some confidence.  After all, out of 26 letters, there are only five higher than this.  Take that, my eyes tell him with a withering glance.

Rats!  The kid pulls out an A and lays it down with a smirk that just begs to be wiped off his face, like I used to scrub it when he was four.

So he comes out of the gate with a five letter word, scores nicely and lays back.  I am looking at the possibility of using all seven tiles, nailing a 50 point bonus and putting him on the run from the get go.  I miss by one letter, but still six letters on the opening shot isn't too bad.

He responds with "Zero" putting the Z on a double word square, scoring thirty-four points and putting me clearly on the defensive.

Reeling from this right jab, I come back with a left hook, snapping down "Steins" and retire to my corner, pleased with myself.

He grins and uses the S on the end of "Steins" to engineer a stunning triple letter score placing "Beast" crosswise on the bottom of that word.

And so it goes, back and forth, feinting, jabbing, scrabbling around for a U when that dratted Q shows up on your rack.  He is pulling ahead now, scoring 5 to 10 points more than I do on 3 out of 4 plays.  He's up 30 then 50, oh no, he is now punching with real momentum (and where, I ask you, are those mohitos when you need one?).  I am staggering against the ropes like a drunken sailor, and I haven't even had the pleasure of shore leave.

His grin is getting wider, my frown is getting deeper, and the blows just keep coming.  I will spare the reader being dragged through the entire sad match.  Suffice it to say that I am probably developing cauliflower ear from listening to him crow.

When the game ended, I was bleeding from both eyes, and he was grinning from ear to ear.  He is crowing, while I am coughing up the phlegm of defeat.  Disgusting.

As we put the pieces back into the box, he picks up the score sheet and begins to review the pattern of play throughout the game.

"Oh, come on", I remonstrate.  "Now you are going to analyze my demise?"  He says he is just going to do a little statistical analysis on the scoring pattern in preparation for our re-match TBD very soon.

I respond haughtily that I have better things to do with my time - like reading the dictionary!  We have decided that we will keep track of both game wins and losses, and total scores each.

It is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.  Kind of like this thing he and I are doing over these next few months. Thank goodness, we are in it together.  Otherwise, it might get a little tedious.  :)

Hope your day is a triple-word score kind of day! Until next time ...Marsha