Wednesday, June 29, 2011

AWOL - Sort of

I am in Southern California visiting family.

... and trying to learn how to use my new digital camera, so I can show you pictures of my too- cool- for- school grandkids

.... and trying to get connected to their in-house network (I am parasitically latched onto their laptop at the moment) ...

... off now to watch the two younger ones take their swim lessons...

I hope to stay high and dry (well, not "high" but you know what I mean..  I hope)

'til next time ...Marsha

Wordsmithing - Craft or Just Crafty?

Note:  A Country Christian in Corporate America is an occasional series on my adventures in that world.

Under the corporate logo-tree, the village word-smithy stands....

It is a standard joke in nearly every office sitcom.
"Didn't you get the memo?"  It generally meant you were either out of the loop, or had just committed some corporate faux pas due to your lack of information contained in the memo.
The Memo


Ahhh, that ubiquitous form of communication, the memo, that is the bane of every office dweller and the boon of every corporate hustler who knows how to get things done.

Sometimes I was the first and sometimes the second.  You know, sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't, as the old candy bar ad used to tell us.                
Once you had developed a reputation for being able to put a salient thought or two on paper, or on the PC screen, you might get the call to become a corporate "wordsmith".

"Marsha, could you take this draft and do a little wordsmithing on it?"

Early on, I thought this kind of assignment was a compliment, a nod to my vocabulary, editorial skills, and general business savvy. Later on, I wasn't so sure.  Yes, I could craft a message, but I didn't like the tendency in some quarters to assume that I was also willing to be crafty about it.

What is certain is that knowledge is power and whoever has the knowledge has the power in almost any type of organization.  And the more specific your particular expertise happens to be, the more valuable your skill may be considered, as there are fewer folks around who know how to do it; whatever "it" may be.

I once knew an administrative assistant, those ninjas of corporate goings on, who built nearly her entire career on the fact that she could unjam a printer (any make, any model) in under a minute.  Let me tell you, when deadlines were looming, people were willing to offer serious incentives for her expertise, toot sweet.

In my case, it was often wordsmithing.  That term does not just involve a decent command of grammar and syntax; those are a given.  It also involves the ability to select just the right word, then place it in just the right context, to create the desired point of understanding between the sender and the recipient.

General corporate communications are akin to tennis - you take your shot, hopefully make your shot, stay off the foul lines and try not to gloat at the net.  Wordsmithing by comparison, might be something more like badminton, in that it requires a lighter touch, played with a more complex object (round ball vs. clever little shuttlecock) and can be more subject to the vagaries of corporate winds blowing about the playing field.  

If the routine communique' is power tennis, then wordsmithing is finesse badminton. Make no mistake, though, it is played in dead earnest, and the stakes can be very high.

Consulting firms out of New Dork and Loss Angeles for example, are paid hundred of thousands of dollars to consult on a single communication project, involving perhaps one set of public press releases, combined with a series of memos to employees, coupled with a brochure or two addressed to the shareholders.  That cost would be for a small to midsized company on a short-term project.

A communications campaign for a major company would cost millions - all to be expended mainly for the consultants' expertise in wordsmithing, that is to tinker, rethink, reposition, juxtaposition, and otherwise fiddle with words until the sender is satisfied that the desired tone and content has been achieved.  Oddly enough, the first is often more important than the latter.

How I rue the hours of my life, spent in the dubious pursuit of getting the memo to strike just the right chord. We might have accomplished more just humming a little harmony.

                                                * * * *
A sample of wordsmithing a memo, might go something like this:  a memo is about to be sent to all employees regarding a change in company policy about "X".  The powers-that-be want the memo to inform, but not go into too much detail.
                                        * * * *
We encourage you to consider - no, not "encourage" it sounds too much like counseling, or something that can be disregarded if the reader chooses....

We suggest - no, no, to weak, too optional ...

We advise - nope, too legalistic ...

We require- no, that will cause people to wonder what management is up to  ....  (and sometimes with good reason)

We recommend - better, but it still leaves a "take it or leave it" impression, not good enough ...

We want to apprise you - no, too formal

Occasionally, I would venture a question such as, "Couldn't we just say, 'Here is the deal.  We are doing X for Y reason.  If you have questions, give us a call.'  How about that approach?"

The stares, and glares, I received when I voiced such inquiries were enough to make the feint hearted run screaming from the building.  I never screamed and I did not run.  Eventually we would agree upon something like:

We would like to make you aware of - ah ha - that's it. 

Everyone likes to be "in the know."  And while not all who read the memo will understand the message, and only some will recognize the greater implications, everyone will be aware of the information.

That's the ticket, Marsha.  Let's go with that. Make them "aware."  It would take another four hours of my life to place that "awareness" in just the right context within the memo such that understanding, rather than suspicion or resistance, was created. Yeesh !     

On such days I often thought, "Surely there is a more meaningful way to make a living than writing this drivel." I blog.  Perhaps it is not progress, but it is certainly more honest and more meaningful to me.  Hope you are getting something from this post that is worth the time it took you to read this.  I truly do. .... Marsha       
                                       * * * *
"A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver."
Proverbs 25:11 NIV

Monday, June 27, 2011

Who's The Boss ? - Wrinkled Brows

Wrinkled Brows:  a Monday series on either a quotation or a word definition or meaning.
                                                  * * * *
Remember the TV show of this title?  It starred Tony Danza, as I recall, although my recall is vague because I never really watched it.  I just remember the title because I always thought it was a little inane.  I mean, after all, who doesn't know who their boss is?

But then, I have been told that even as a child I was a bossy little thing.  My Aunt still laughs about the time she took me to a county fair when I was about four years old and she was a teenager.  I wandered off a little ways, while she was talking with some of her friends, and managed to fall down in a mud puddle and get myself all dirty.

Indignantly, I marched up to her and told her, "If you can't take any better care of me than this, you can just take me home!"  Even at the age of four, I was clear about who the boss was supposed to be.
                                                * * * *   
For quite a few years, I was "the boss" in one role or another. At one time in my career, I managed the western region for a Fortune 500 company, and had responsibilities in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento offices.  I would fly into L.A. and someone would pick me up at the airport and drive me to our offices on Wilshire Blvd.  This was heady stuff for a girl who didn't get a drivers license until she was twenty, and who didn't own a car in my own name until I was forty.

The actual word "boss" is derived from an old Dutch word "baas" and literally referred to the straw boss.  This was the person who decided how heavy a load was to be placed upon the backs of those doing the heavy lifting.  Having learned this little tidbit early in my management days, I determined not to be the kind of person who made others' loads heavier. 

I always thought a good boss was there to take the heat when necessary, shed some light if possible, and never ask anyone else to do anything you were unwilling to do yourself.

Two years ago I downsized, so to speak, and it is a whole new ball game.  I went from being a "voice of authority" over about twelve hundred employees, to being responsible for one LOC (Lovable Old Coot) and one Lhasa Apso (Holly) a smallish but feisty little dog.  That's it.  And sometimes trying to get either one of them to do something takes more patience and savvy than it used to require to negotiate a million dollar contract.  I'm just saying....

The LOC calls for more iced tea, and I step lively.  Holly yips about her empty food or water dish, and I step even livelier.  So now I am the one asking the (still) inane question, "Who's the boss?"

I suspect that I may not really want to know.  :)
Hope everyone is clear about who's who in your domicile today.  Until next time ... Marsha  (No longer the boss-and glad of it)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Nail Guns and Nail Biting

Factory Certified GAF Elk Roof Installation Starting fresh

You know what they say, "If it's not one thing, it's your mother."  Or something like that.

Last summer our HVAC system blew a gasket and several thousand dollars later we had a new contraption that could launch a NASA lunar shot, if it needed to.

We had to learn a whole new skill set to even run the new remote wireless thermostat because if you touched the wrong button at the wrong time of day (or night) you could suddenly find yourself plastered up against the opposite wall, with your hair standing straight on end, and your eye lashes fluttering in what was more like a gale than a breeze.

Well, this summer it is the roof.  We had some Jim-dandy storms this past winter.  Some shingles blew off and the handwriting was on our twenty year-old roof.

We made some calls, and set appointments for vendors to come and pitch their wares.  Back in the day, I seem to recall you met a guy, he told you what he could do and how much it would cost, and how soon he could get it done.  Then you hired him.

No more.  Now you get folks in uniforms with badges and laptops.  They fire that puppy up and you have a PowerPoint presentation followed by a Q and A session.  Thereafter, we (all of us together, as this is now a team sport) review their creds on the Internet, check out fifteen neighbors who have also used them, and then (and only then) if all is well (meaning they haven't hired any ax-murderers to nail you with their nail guns) you begin the CBA (cost benefit analysis for the uninitiated - and oh how I envy you).

After a few of these three-hour productions, that would rival an early Cecile B. DeMille production, the LOC* and I were so wrung out and overwhelmed that we were about ready to skip the whole deal and just move.  Let the next owners go through this whole complex integrated-roofing-systems marathon. (*Lovable Old Coot)

But we are good soldiers, so we forged ahead and pondered the pros and cons of asphalt shingles, vs. steel roofs, vs. renewable energy and green-technology, wood shake roofs, and topped it off with the mysteries of GAF (don't ask) roofing systems.

Whereupon one proceeded on to the new Title 24 requirements, about venting.  Now that, at least, I know something about.  I can vent right along with the best of them.  But they of the badged uniforms had something else entirely in mind, so my venting skills must be put to good use here.

And who knew from "magnetic yard sweeps" and two-week after the installation, third-party vendor quality control inspections?  I am pretty sure I heard something about the DEA, FBI and even the CIA running a little interference on this gig, as well.

After all of this, you maaaay decide to sign a contract.  Or you may just decide to run off to the Antarctic or wherever and rent and igloo.  Because if you rent, you will never have to shop for a new roof again...and that says nothing of the necessity of paying for the thing -  an amount that would run a small-ish third world country for at least a year. 

So now, we nervously await the project manager, the technical foreman and their army of nail-gun-wielding roofers.  I personally am terrified, and beginning to bite my nails.  Something I have not done since third grade.

Hope you are safe and sound under your own roof this evening. If so, be thankful!    ...Marsha

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Recharged and rarin' to go !

Today I did the rescheduled lunch, the one I had inadvertently blown off yesterday.  Good food, good conversation, good times.

We talked life strategies, operational expertise, and recent Supreme Court decisions and the potential impact upon our field of expertise.  Shoot, I haven't had that much fun since the day I ate two ice cream cones one right after the other about a year ago.

Here is what I have just realized (hang with me, I can be a little slow on the uptake) .... I need to get out more.  :)

Yes, I have made four cross-country, no make that six, trips in the past few months, and one international trip as well.  But that is not the kind of "getting out" to which I refer.  That is traveling, a very different animal.

I'm talking about getting "out and about" and trading a few thoughts with folks who may or may not agree with you.  Just a little social interaction.

I am basically a homebody.  I ran so hard, and so fast, for the twenty-five plus years of my career, that when I retired I also retreated.  Factor in the loss of two family members in 13 months, and I just didn't have any steam left over for social chit chat.

When I could crawl out from underneath the load of family obligations I was hauling, I just piddled and diddled along. 

Well, today reminded me that I have more left in me than just piddling along.  I can do more than put together another page in my Ireland scrapbook.  Although I must say, I do enjoy a good scrap booking afternoon. I find it very relaxing.

I just needed a little incentive to get the mental engine turned over.  Which reminds me, I would like to say "thank you" to those of you who have taken the time out of your day to stop by.

This blog is about the only real fun I have been able to find time for during the past trying year.  And you are a fun bunch to trade thoughts, jibes and jokes with.  THANKS!!

Hope you have a good day, and that someone invites you for an interesting lunch sometime soon.  ..... Marsha

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Cannot Believe I Just Did That!

The phone just rang, and my husband the LOC* calls out to me from the other room (I've given up trying to cure him of that habit) "Honey, it's E."  He knew because we have one of those clever TV thingies that displays caller-ID on the TV screen. (*Lovable Old Coot)

I glanced up at the clock and thought, "Oh, no.  Did I get the day wrong?"  Oh, yes, I did.  You know what they say, that when you retire every day is Saturday. 

It was a former colleague calling to ask if we were still on for lunch today - a polite way of saying, "Hey, I'm here at the restaurant, and you are not.  Are you coming?"

Boy, do I feel silly.  Truly.  I am a stickler for never being late, much less completely missing a scheduled appointment.  My dad ingrained that in me, always saying, "If you are five minutes early you are on time.  If you are just on time, you are already late."  ????  (I know, I know. Overkill.)

So here I am, at a little past noon, in the same jeans and T-shirt I gardened in about 7:00 this morning, with my bare feet and my barefaced embarrassment.  E. was very gracious, and we are rescheduled for tomorrow, same time, same place as today.  But I am chagrined.

This has only happened to me one other time in my whole life, and it was waaay worse, as my grand kids would say.  Small wonder it has never reoccurred until now.  I just about died from humiliation that time.

I was the scheduled speaker for an evening event about eighty miles north of where we lived at the time.  I had two young sons, a full time job, and a volunteer position that was at least half time.  Additionally, I did public speaking engagements from time to time, mainly for the sheer fun of it.  So I have no explanation for what happened except maybe I was a little over-extended.

On the evening in question, I awoke from a sound sleep about midnight, with a gasp and an out-loud "Oh, no."  My heart was thudding as I tried to come to grips with the fact that I had been scheduled to speak that evening in another town and had completely forgotten it.

Next morning I called the event host, apologized all over myself, and said I had no excuse except human frailty - I forgot.  He, too, was gracious and even invited me to come speak at an upcoming event instead.  (He had also filled in for me when I "no-showed".)

So a few weeks later, I went, apologized in person for my prior no-show, and gave what I hoped was a good presentation.  Ten years later a young woman ran up to me just as I was entering a mall and said, "Excuse me, didn't you used to be Marsha____?"

I smiled and said, "I think I still am.  Can I help you?"

She told me she had heard me speak that evening ten years earlier, and she recited the title of the speech and the primary points I had used, and then said, "I just wanted to thank you.  You changed my life that night."

Whoa!  I was speechless.  Talk about God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.  He had done the changing, I was just the messenger.

Today's little peccadillo reminded me of my own frailty, and got me to wondering what God's up to this time.  Guess I'll just have to trust Him and be patient to find out.  And that's okay, too.
                                                * * * *
Question:  Have you ever forgotten a commitment?  What happened?

The Heat Has Hit !

It was 102 degrees outside today - and it is supposed to be just as hot tomorrow, too.  Phooey.  I can stay semi-busy all day long, just adding ice cubes to Holly's water bowl.  Let me tell you, that Lhasa can sure lap it up.

Every year we know it is coming, and actually this year it arrived later than usual.  We did not hit triple digits until the official first day of summer.   But you just cannot really prepare for it.  Your mind keeps telling you that it won't be that bad.  Uh huh.

I went out to visit my newly planted impatiens this morning, and their patience had wilted waiting for their morning watering.  Poor little things were as limp as overcooked pasta.

And the bird bath -  well, some one had tweeted that ours had fresh cool water, because there were all kinds of feathered visitors flapping, yapping and dipping their beaks in and out.  That lasted a few minutes until a really large, apparently aggressive robin flew in and ran off all the chickadees and finches.  Even scared off a long-tailed towhee, and they are pretty fearless.  Apparently that robin's mother never taught him to play well with others.

I visited a blog earlier today where the author was frying up a delicious dish for dinner.  The only thing we fry around here on days like these are the proverbial "eggs on a sidewalk."

Shoot, you could probably flambe' something on my front steps.  And then, to add insult to injury, when it is this hot outside, you get those little shimmery, wavy lines ahead of you on the road.

My eyes aren't what they used to be, and adding those darned things to the mix is just plain dangerous. 

I lost count of how many glasses of iced tea I have had today.  Some days there is just no way to stay busy and stay cool at the same time.  You can do one or the other, but not both.  So I worked outside until 11:00 a.m. (staying busy) and then came inside and stayed cool the rest of the day.  Of course, it took me two hours just to cool down after I came in, but that is what you get when it is toasty outdoors.

So dinner this evening will be chef salads with more iced tea, and maybe a little cantaloupe with cottage cheese.  One good thing about the heat - it is a perfect excuse not to cook.
Hope you are staying cool. ...Marsha

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Conflicting Concerns - Everyone and Everything

“The rush and pressure of modern life are a form,
perhaps the most common form,
of its innate violence.
To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns,
to surrender to too many projects,
to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence . . .
                                                 ~Thomas Merton

                                           * * * *
I saw my first knife-fight when I was six years old.  It was Christmas eve, and at my paternal grandparents house this meant drinking, and lots of it.  After several hours of over-indulgence, some minor family squabble had erupted into a serious argument between two of my hot-headed uncles.  At some point a knife appeared and the rumble was on. 

Instead of Red-Nosed Rudolph and red tree lights, I remember the red flashing lights on the police car as it arrived upon the scene. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured; but the holiday was ruined.  This incident was my first introduction to violence.  It made a deep impression, as you might imagine.

Merton asserts that the rush and pressure of modern life are a form of violence.  He could be right.  His viewpoint, however, was undoubtedly colored by the fact that he spent a good deal of his adult life in a Trappist monastery in Kentucky, as a contemplative monk. Not your typical high-risk lifestyle.  He was also a keen intellectual, and at a fairly young age, a published author.

He further states that "to allow oneself to be carried away by a  multitude of conflicting concerns..." can be to succumb to violence.  I don't know that I agree that passively being swept along with the daily tidal wave of concerns rises to the level of violence, but it can certainly be injurious to one's inner peace and tranquillity.

Violence can, of course, take many forms; there is the physical violence of force and injury by one party upon another, the violence of war, the violence of nature, and many others.  One can be said to "do violence" to a text, by twisting it into a meaning not intended by the original author.  Generally any definition of "violence" involves some form of extreme force or pressure.

No doubt about it, conflicting concerns in our lives create pressures.  For example, we want to be peaceable, in fact, the scriptures admonish us to live at peace with all men inasmuch as it "lies within us" - in other words, to the extent that it is within our power to do so.  However, sometimes the "party of the second part" does not reciprocate our peaceable intentions.   Suddenly peace does not reign supreme in our environs.

To "surrender to too many projects" may be another form of self-harm, but I doubt it extends to doing violence to oneself.  It does, however, often produce unhealthy behavior, making us susceptible to from everything from headaches, to insomnia, to damaged relationships.

And then we come to Merton's last assertion in this quote, the desire or inclination to "help everyone in everything" which he says is to succumb to violence.  Again, I am not so sure about violence, but I can aver some pointed humiliation in this area.

I believe he is referring to what some psychologists call the "collapse of appropriate boundaries", when we over extend ourselves.  Good intentions, carried too far, almost always end up in misery, conflict and hurt feelings.  To this I can attest personally, painfully, and recently.  

Calls for help, broken promises and manipulation, red flags all over the place. I had already been "had" two days ago by this same individual, and I suspected at the time that I was being played.  But I went in hoping that a genuine desire to help might prevail upon better selves.  Apparently "B." simply thought I would be an easy target a second time.  However, as they say in the South, "I may be some dumb, but I am not plumb dumb."  

The outcome was a painful reminder, though, that I cannot help "everyone in everything." And if I try, while I may not find myself subject to violence, I most certainly will experience the pain of being on the receiving end of human failure.

Thus, while I may respectfully disagree with Merton's definition of violence in modern life, I can agree with his examples of choices and behaviors which constitute unhealthy risk.  Let this be a lesson to me.
                                                     * * * *
Our host today is Emily at imperfect prose.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Little Satisfaction - Wrinkled Brows on Mondays

"...everyone who makes a sacrifice needs a little sense of satisfaction."  ~ Hans Keilson (1909 - 2011) German author and WW II refugee / survivor
                                                * * * *

The rock legend Mick Jagger famously sang on one of the Rolling Stones best known hits, "I can't get no satisfaction."  Sometimes what we want and what we get are two very different things.

Those who go through life seeking their own satisfaction do, in fact, rarely find it, or not enough of it to fill their lust for self-indulgence.

But those who sacrifice, for others, for the "greater good" or for some cause which they believe to be worthwhile, often find that what they gave provided them with a greater return in soul satisfaction than they ever anticipated.

Satisfaction is an interesting word, in that the root is "sate" or "sated" meaning to be full.  Empty people sometimes pursue their own satisfaction with blood, sweat and tears, only to find themselves more empty at the end of that blind alley than they ever thought possible.

However, even those who give cheerfully (and God said he loved a cheerful giver) often hope for a "little satisfaction", a small sense of "I did a good thing" or "I hope that makes a small difference."

Altruistic giving is that which expects no reward or return at all.  Nothing.  No smile, no "thank you", no gratitude.  That goes against our human nature.  We are both givers and takers.  Hopefully many of us try to stay a little more on the "giving" side of the spectrum than the "taking" side of life.  I read somewhere that we should not go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands, because we need to be able to throw something back once in a while.  Too true.

Let us not, however, confuse mild generosity with genuinely sacrificial giving.  And even more to the point, let us not fool ourselves into thinking that when we do give sacrificially, we are not, in some small secret place in our hearts, hoping for just a little satisfaction.  It is, after all, only human.

What we may want to keep in mind, however, is that God does not necessarily look at what we gave, but rather at what we have left, after we have given.  It is just a thought.....
                                            * * * *
As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."  Luke 21:1-4

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hideous, but Fascinating

That Hideous Strength (Space Trilogy, Book 3)This post will not be an attempt to do anything like a formal review of the C.S. Lewis work, That Hideous Strength.  Many others have done it far greater justice than I ever could.   
What I hope to do in this brief article is to engender enough curiosity on the part of those of you who have not read it, to perhaps give it a try.  It is a tough book to categorize and has been described as science fiction crossed with spiritual metaphor; and that is surely an odd pairing, although an accurate one so far as it goes.

But that is so broad a stroke as to miss entirely the wonderful nuance, humor and sheer scope of the thing.  And that says nothing of the beauty of the language.
The plot revolves around a poky little backwoods college in England, and the parochial politics and panderings that go on therein.  Dull stuff at first glance.

Equally stultifying is the initial description of the relationship between newlyweds Jane and Mark, who seemed to have missed the honeymoon period entirely, and have proceeded directly to tedium and irritation.

It would be understandable, if at this point, you were thinking sarcastically, "Now this sounds like a fun read."  

Lewis is, however, the unparalleled master of mixing the mundane with the magnificent, all the while injecting genuine humor and even joy into the whole picture.  Not easily done.

So although the structure of the book involves the futuristic plot to rid mankind of its pesky reliance on "virtue", while also ridding it of actual physical bodies, leaving these repugnant "mind-only" ghouls, and the heart of the book is about relationships between men and women, the soul of the book, in my opinion, is about the contrast between Lewis's vision of peace, beauty and order; and the conflict, chaos and ugliness that evil produces in the universe.

For example, the nasty pseudo-scientific organization known as N.I.C.E. plans to completely eliminate a beautiful little river that runs through the college town.

"...[they] learned for the first time that the Wynd itself was to be diverted:there was to be no river in Edgestow." (page 119)

This seems to be a direct and contrasting allusion to the fact that in the City of God described in the book of Revelation there is indeed a river that runs through it.  The River of Life.

Beauty is a recurring theme in many of Lewis's works.  By beauty I mean both the abstract concept of beauty, as well as the more common instances of a rose, a sunrise, or a lovely face.  Wonderful trees, and exquisite mountain tops are frequently part of the picture, as well as streams and rivers.

Order is an adjacent theme, as the miscreants running N.I.C.E. proceed to destroy a lovely little college community and turn it into complete and utter chaos.  This includes razing homes, uprooting trees that are a hundred years old, creating riots, and messing with the trains.  And as anyone who has ever read any English literature knows, the British take great pride in "keeping the trains running on time".  Thus, when they are disrupted, it becomes another metaphor for the general chaos created by human sinfulness.

The protagonist, Dr. Ransom, is clearly a saviour figure.  And the first time Jane meets him, Lewis uses the phrase "her world was unmade" no fewer than three times.  This is reminiscent of the Psalmist poetry, or the New Testament structure wherein any thing repeated three times is meant to have great significance. (pages 139-141)

I will admit that I was a bit surprised at some of Lewis's mild profanity, as I had not recalled that from reading it many years ago: tepid by today's deplorable standards, to be sure; but what must have been pretty edgy for Christian literature in the 1950s.  To me it simply demonstrated his commitment to realism in the day-to-day society which he was describing.

As to the humor, it comes in broad form and in more subtle tones.  In one instance, as two characters continue to disagree, they are told, "If you two quarrel much more," said the Director, "I think I'll make you marry one another." (Page 197)

In a character who is an unwitting pawn, Lewis says, "The fantastic suggestion that he, Curry, might be a bore, passed through is mind so swiftly that a second later he had forgotten it forever."  (Page  90)

This light touch allows Lewis to comment upon the lack of self-awareness that creates such arrogance, without become preachy.  Instead he brings the reader a smile.

However, he does not hesitate to use goofy imagery to poke fun at a serious character.  The skeptic of the group, on a evening when romance is in the air, and a veritable Noah's ark of creatures seem to be pairing up states, "I'd feel easier in my mind if I were inside and the door locked before any crocodiles or kangaroos start courting in the middle of all my files." (Page 377)

I don't often read a book that contains words with which I am unfamiliar, except when I read C.S. Lewis.  In this case, two such words were "veridical" and "frousty".  Both are fairly easily understood within their context, but still I had to look them up to be sure.  I truly want to keep my head in the game, when reading Lewis!

As to the sheer beauty of the language, the instances are too numerous to list.  A few are:

"descending the ladder of humility"
"prim little grasp upon her own destiny"
"plays upon thoughts, paradoxes, fancies, anecdotes, theories laughingly advanced"

For me, reading Lewis is more like listening to good music, or watching birds at the bird bath, or looking upon a Renoir in its proper setting.  It is simply art, art that is earthy, heavenly, humorous, and serious.

Consider giving yourself the treat of reading That Hideous Strength.

Note:  Please see The Quiet Quill for D.J. Hughes thoughts on this and other reviews which are part of the C.S. Lewis Book Club which she hosts.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Timing Is Everything - When Camping

Now where were we?  Oh, yes, that amazing collapsible bowl.  The thing is, it has a serious design flaw.  It does not slide.  So although that collapsible feature is handy as a pocket on a shirt, the fact that the rubber base on this puppy does not slide across the table, creates a real challenge in the "everything must trade places with something else when moved" principle. (See prior post Camping Cramps My Style)

When two people of goodwill sit across a tiny camper dining table from each other, they must be able to slliiide the salt, pepper, salad bowl, etc. back and forth as smoothly as butter mults on hot pancakes.  Otherwise, there is bound to be trouble.

The fact that this wonder-bowl does not slide means that it must be picked up and set back down in some other spot.  If the partner in the slide-dance happens to pick something else up and reposition it at the same time, well, you don't need me to draw you a cartoon of that little exchange.

Thus we come to the other cramped aspect of camping - timing!

We are blessed to have a queen sized bed in our camper.  But my husband - is well over six feet tall and he has the wing span of a condor; so this isn't all that roomy.

I am about a foot shorter, but tend to toss and turn and thus I need room to move about.  Throw the dog in on top of this dilemma (and while we discourage this, she often over rules us) it is problematic.

A simple maneuver like turning over requires the split second timing of a Three Stooges routine.  (Okay, I need to turn over now.  Are you ready?  Here goes.  Ouch.  What was that?  Your elbow?  What is it doing there?  Now that is going to leave a bruise.)

Sometimes it just isn't worth the effort and one is left to try to avoid complete paralysis of the upper or lower extremeties through a series of mini-crunches and stretches to try to get the old circulation going again.

The reader must be wondering why we bother with all this cramping, scrunching, sliding and colliding.  The reason is as simple as camping used to be.  More so, actually.  It is that the One who made all the wonders we enjoy did such a spectacular job of it, that even with all the hassle and lumps, it is worth it.

Once I watched a red-headed woodpecker for nearly an hour, just because he was there, and I had the time.  :)     

There is a little pond not far from our spot, complete with a picturesque cabin on its shore that is straight out of Waldon.  And the breezes ... my goodness, they just don't seem to make breezes like this where we live in the valley.  The smell of the pine trees  at 3,500 ft. - talk about uplifting.

So here we are, in Space #24 our favorite.  And no, the irony does not escape me that our cozy little habitation is called a "space" when we have so little of it indoors.  But then, we didn't come for the indoors, did we?
Do you have a favorite camping spot?  Hope so. 
Happy camping to you ... Marsha

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Camping Cramps My style

We went to Camper World the other day (the camping equivalent of Wally World) because it is almost time to break out the travel trailer and hit the trails again.  Thus I thought I would share with you a couple of posts I wrote last summer on the topic.  My guess is that they will be new to you, because I had just started blogging and had "no readers" except a couple of family members.  (God bless their little pointed heads.)
                                                        * * * *

(From last September:)
We are camping this week - with all that implies - and much that it does not. When I was a kid camping was a lot simpler than it is today. The camping experience back in the "olden days" as my children always refer to my childhood, consisted of two sticks, one match (in case you were not adept at getting the two sticks to catch fire), a bag of marshmallows, and a sleeping bag. That was pretty much it.

Now we have a camper trailer equipped with stainless steel appliances, air conditioning, and satellite TV - although admittedly reception is iffy way up in the mountains. And while I appreciate advances in civilization as much as the next person, I cannot help but ask myself - why?

Why do we need all this stuff with us when I thought the whole idea of camping was to enjoy the great outdoors, get in touch with our inner Thoreau, and connect with the Creator of the whole universe?

There are reasons, as it turns out. First, we must be able to check in with Wheel of Fortune on a nightly basis, because they may have called our name during the prize puzzle for viewers. A person would not want to miss out on that $50,000 smackers, if they have drawn our name, so TV is not actually frivolous - my husband is simply being prudent regarding our potential financial windfall. Personally, I would rather watch the wind in the trees and the leaves fall, but that is just me.

Next, chilled refreshments must be, well...chilled. Not just cooled down as in an old red and white Igloo carrier, but sub-zero frosty, because part of the charm of the outdoor experience is being able to slake one's thirst after all that hiking around (around the club house, around the pool, and around the barbecue pit) with a really well-chilled beverage. I am told the contrast between the outdoor temperature and the temp of the drink, is critical to enjoying the experience. Who knew?

Another odd juxtaposition in the whole camping experience, at least as practiced by the Youngs, is that we are never more cramped for space, than when we are in the middle of the spacious great outdoors. How can this be?

I refer the reader to the aforementioned state-of-the art trailer. Ours is cute as a button, and shiny bright, but it is about the size of a walk-in closet; and I mean the whole thing from front hitch to back bumper (wherein the detached sewer hose is cleverly stored while in transit.) And there you have a perfect example of what I mean when I say camping cramps my style.

Every single thing - every item, tool, or utensil must serve double or triple duty. Same thing with every square inch of space. I would say every square inch of available space, but there is none in our trailer. None. Nada.

Thus, camping in our trailer involves executing a series of daily maneuvers with the synchronicity of an ice-skating duo. And anything that is moved, must of necessity simply change places with some other item - since it seems to be a law of physics that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time - although goodness knows we have tested that one out more than once.

For example, we have a collapsible bowl. Yes, they make those. It serves many functions; we can make pancake batter in it, as it comes with a pour spout, we can toss salad in it, and could even use it as a mini-dishpan if need be. When we are finished using it, we wash it, dry it and collapse it, such that it stores laying flat in the cupboard. This is a critical attribute of anything used for camping - it must fold up, collapse down, or lay flat.

I'll just own it - I am not as young as I used to be. The knees don't fold up they way they once did, the back does not bend well either, but at the end of a full day of camping, let me tell you that I have that whole collapsing and laying flat thing down pat!

                                          * * * *
More tomorrow on camping with the Youngs - meanwhile have a good evening, and spend some time lying down, it helps.  :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fudge It - With A "B"

It seems like much longer than a week ago, but it was only that.  We, my sister and I, slogged into our hotel, dragging our luggage cart behind us, hoping my sister's mini-doxie didn't escape before we could get to the elevator.  She's a frisky little thing (the dog, not my sister, trust me on this.)

We were two exhausted women of "a certain age", carrying four bags, two suitcases, and one small dog; and we were only staying for the one night.  But we were relocating my sister from one state to another, and hence the extra baggage.

It was not, however, the weight of our belongings that caused our steps to drag toward the potential bliss of bath and bed; nor was it the distance we had traveled to get there.  The actual distance was less than ten miles from where we had just finished an apartment move-out to this lodging.  But it had taken us just over four hours to get from that pillar to this post.

To say I was not a happy camper does not begin to touch it.  I had, by turns during this particularly trying day, been mad, sad, glad and all shades of ticked-off in between.  You see somehow, during all the packing, and tossing away, and loading trucks, and stuffing recycle bins, ad infinitum ad nauseam, the key had fallen off the key ring to the rental car.

And of course, I did not discover this, until I pulled the key ring out (the remote entry-lock device and the plastic rental ID tag still firmly affixed to the ring) and tried to put the key into the ignition.  It took a moment for me to focus my eyes and process why I could not seem to get the key in the ignition.  Because THERE WAS NO KEY!!

I could have wept with sheer frustration, but there was no time.  All the folks who had been helping us with the move had already left.  So first I called AAA, (if I had been a drinker I would have needed AA instead) thinking they would just send someone over with a spare key.  Nooooo, they cannot do that without a faxed authorization from the rental company.

So then I called the rental company, who shall remain nameless, but the name starts with a B and rhymes with "Fudge It" and reported my dilemma, while requesting they send someone with a spare key.  They informed me that they did not have spare keys.  What???  They run a fleet of vehicles, rented out to complete strangers 365 days a year, and they do not keep any spare keys?

So I was told.  I still do not believe it, but they were not budging.  Personally, I think they were fudging.  After three more calls back and forth between AAA, Fudge It Rental Car Company, their call center in Canada (yes, Canada, despite the fact that we were only seven and a half miles from their lot where I obtained their dratted rental in the first place) and a tow truck operator (oh, yes, that comes next) we still had no way to start the car and it was getting late.

Finally, they said they would send me a different rental car, on a tow truck, and swap out the two cars, taking the one I had back to the lot.  Wait a minute!  It is easier to send a tow truck, with another car on it, unload that one, replace all the attendant paperwork, and load the one I currently had, than to just send me a key?  This is insanity, I thought to myself.

Hours ticked by.  Twice we were given arrival times, and twice those slipped by with no appearance by the tow truck.  Meanwhile, I am ruminating on my fate.  I had never used Fudge It before, as I had always used a better known, but more expensive, company.  In a fit of cost consciousness I had decided to give Fudge It a try.  

Over three hours later (remember we were only seven and a half miles from their lot) the magical tow truck finally appeared.  The driver bounced out, cheerful as a June bug, and said to me, "What seems to be the trouble with your vehicle, little lady?"

I ground my teeth, to refrain from biting his ankle for his tardiness, and replied that there was nothing wrong with the vehicle at all.  The key simply went missing from the key ring, and I held out the two other items on that ring, the key less remote and the plastic ID tag to show him what I meant.

I explained that I had called several times, requesting a spare key, but was told there was none.  With a glint in his eye, somewhere between mischievous and smart-alecky, he took the key ring from my open palm and said, "You mean this?" whereupon he touched a small hidden button on the remote device and out popped a spare key.

If thoughts could have killed in that moment, I would have been convicted of felony mental-murder of at least three different rental car customer service people I had spoken with over the previous three hours, while waiting for a spare car, because according to them, there was no spare key.

Now it turned out there was a spare key, and I had it in my possession the whole time.  Do you suppose that no one in the entire customer service/rental car company knew that the spare key was built into the remote key less device?  I don't think so either.

                                                  * * * *
So as we trudged through the lobby, and I signed the register, the manager said she was glad we made it safely, since we were several ours later than our original check-in time.  I briefly recapped the missing-key-saga.

She asked which rental car company it was?  I told her (and said the real name, rather than Fudge It, starting with a B.)

She smiled with sympathy and said, "Well, the name kind of says it all, doesn't it?" 

Indeed it did, it does, and let that be a lesson to me.  What more can I say?  Hope your life-lesson today was easier than this one. ...Marsha

Friday, June 10, 2011

We've Been Run Over ... Again

Talk about wrong time, wrong place ... we have been run over twice in the last ninety days.  What are the odds?  Do we have a sign on our backs, which we cannot see, that says, "Go ahead, just run over us" ?  I'm beginning to wonder.

I used to work in an industry whose business it was to was to calculate the odds of certain things happening.  It was called, in the world of statistics, the "incidence of coincidence."

Seriously, that was what it was called.  Well, we have definitely gone beyond your ordinary standard deviation, as we have been rear ended twice in the past three months.  What are the chances?  Never mind, it happened.

The first time was in Boston, this past March, the night before we were to fly to Dublin, Ireland.  We had flown all day first from Sacramento to San Francisco, then to Boston.  We arrived late in the evening, and planned to rest overnight and then take a flight the next day for Dublin.

We were about a half mile from the airport in a hotel shuttle van, the driver was making the usual in-transit chit-chat with us and four other passengers, when we stopped at an odd three-way intersection.  We were idling for a couple of moments when suddenly WHAM!!  My head snapped back and David and I looked at each other wondering "what just happened?"

Soothing music was playing on the radio, but it wasn't enough to soothe my nerves, with my ears ringing and my brain trying to figure out what had occurred.

Finally, after a couple of nano-seconds it computed, "We've just been hit."  And by another shuttle bus, no less.  A professional driver had just hit another shuttle bus.  He was a chain-smoking, nervous, jumpy little guy, who looked as though he had been driving for about 48 straight hours.  Oh, boy.

As soon as we looked around at the other passengers and determined that no one seemed to be hurt, we started trying to figure out whose luggage was closest to the rear doors of the van.

We did, all six of us.  In which order had we entered and loaded, thus whose "stuff" was most likely messed up? Can you believe it?  Just moments before we were trying to figure out whether our necks were broken, and two seconds later we were trying to determine whether our hand lotion had exploded all over our best sweaters.  Talk about changing priorities.                                         
                                                      * * * *

Fast forward to today.  Some of you, who stop by regularly know we have just "re-done"  two upstairs rooms.  I had managed to eliminate enough books (gasp!  to know how tough this was for me to do, see  More Sorting ...More Subterfuge ) and thus I had an unneeded bookcase to donate to Goodwill.

The old bookcase, combined with some odd bags of clothing (the clothes were not odd, unless your tastes differed vastly from ours, but the size and shape of the bags were lumpy) meant we had a small pickup load ready to take to the Goodwill this afternoon.

Our hearts were in the right place, but our truck wasn't.  We made our drop off, and as we puttered across the parking lot toward the exit, WHAM!!  Really?  Again?  Twice in less than 90 days?  Are you kidding me?

The driver, a teen aged boy, jumped out apologizing, immediately admitting that he had not looked behind him when he backed out of his parking space.  He was young and in a hurry.

We are not young, and we were in no hurry ... but we really didn't want to be maimed this afternoon either.

Insurance information was exchanged, phone calls were made, while the sun blazed down upon us.  I went in to a nearby food place, bought some iced tea, and brought the young "perp" some ice water.  He seemed dazed that we were not yelling at him.

So now we are waiting on a call from the repairmen, the adjuster, and any other participants in this little driving-drama.  Phooey!

I had already been battling a flare-up of arthritis in my neck and shoulder.  Now I look like a human tilt-a-whirl with my head at an odd angle and my eyes rotating, because my head cannot do so at the moment.

What is it they say, "Life is what happens, while you were busy making other plans."

I'll tell you what.  I'm staying home tomorrow.  And maybe for several days after that.  I'm too old and stiff to keep getting run over on a semi-regular basis.  Maybe I'll just sit and admire the new drapes in the guest bedroom.  That's safe, isn't it?

Hope you are tucked in safe and sound.  We are not forgetting that it could have been worse.  We are thankful.  And who knows, tomorrow may be better.  It's a thought. ...Marsha

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Health Nut or Just a Nut??

Reading over at Sonja's s bit and pieces, on  being a health nut got me to thinking, which my husband the LOC* claims is hazardous to his health.  (*Lovable Old Coot)
Stock Photography of Vegetables: Broccoli, Tomatoes, Celery and Carrot Sticks                                                                   

Coming from the Midwest, pretty much our whole family thought we were nuts for moving to California in the first place, and even crazier for staying here in the second place.  My uncle, when we would go back to visit, was not shy about pronouncing the whole state as being full of "fruits and nuts."

He could be a tad judgmental, but he was a combat decorated drill sargeant and a 25 year man at that, so what can you expect?  Still and all, he had a point, although I suspect it was not the one he originally had in mind.

In Southern Illinois, from whence we hailed, we thought of fruit as your basic apples, oranges and bananas type fare.  And as for nuts, well, we had a lot of walnut trees, but that was about it.

The winter I was thirteen, I walked through my first orange grove, and gazed with awe at the trees laden with large, ripe, oranges.  You could even PICK YOUR OWN!  Who had ever heard of such a thing?  Certainly not moi.

We were your basic "meat and potatoes" family and that was not that unusual in the late fifties and early sixties.  My dad did not consider it a meal if both of those items were not present in every evening meal - and at most breakfasts and lunches as well.

We did not venture far from your four basic food groups, which on our dinner table meant beef, chicken, pork and the occasional fish.  Everything else was just window dressing.

I had never seen an avocado before landing in California, and I was a grown woman before giving my first kiwi a test run.  But my dad could be an adventurous sort, and he went way out on a culinary limb a time or two and ate a mango.  I just don't have that kind of gastrointestinal courage.

The first time I can recall being aware of something along the lines of "healthy eating" I was about eighteen or twenty, and a friend (a native Californian, so that should have forewarned me right there) invited me to lunch at place called the Egg Crate. 

I ordered (or attempted to) a burger and fries.  She quietly, with no small embarrassment, explained that this was a vegetarian restaurant devoted to healthy eating.  They did serve dairy though, so I could have an omelet, a salad, or a veggie burger.  I didn't even want to know what a veggie burger was, so I ordered the salad.

At home, a salad consisted of iceberg lettuce, some chopped tomatoes, and if mom was feeling frisky, maybe a radish or two.

When my salad arrived, I didn't know whether to eat it or comb it first, as it seemed to have hair all over it.  Turns out it was alfalfa sprouts, which I had never before encountered.  It also had some kind of curly green leafy stuff (kale maybe?  can't recall, as I was temporarily traumatized) along with nuts, raisins (I thought those belonged in cookies) and various other strangely colored items that I was too shaken to inquire about.  After nibbling, munching, and masticating this mess for about five minutes, I could no longer feel my lips.

Well, I was raised to be polite to a hostess, and she had invited me, after all, so I ate the thing.  But I was still hungry and went straight home after "lunch" and made a baloney sandwich with extra mayo accompanied by some very salty potato chips.  Sloshed that whole deal down with two cans of Pepsi.  So there.

                                                * * * *
Okay, so I have evolved with age.  Nearly everything the LOC and I now consume is labeled one of three things:   "Less" Light" and "Fat Free".  Most of it tastes like cotton balls lightly dusted with Mrs. Dash, but oh well.  What are you going to do, when it turns out the high-fiber gurus had it right?

Hope your table is laden with all good things, and surrounded by smiles this evening. ...Marsha

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Data Are ? - A Country Christian in Corporate America #2

Note:  This is Part 2 of an intermittent series on corporate life.  If you want to read Part 1, please see Data Room Drama.

                                                    * * * *
Data is an odd word, in that it can be either singular or plural, like the word deer, but it really sounds weird when used in the plural.

The data is showing us ... sounds right.
The data are showing us ... sounds goofy.

But both are correct.  Unfortunately, the data one is shown when working on a Merger and Acquisition (M&A) project may be right, goofy, both, or neither.  In other words, it is anybody's guess.  My job in this whole drama-rama was to make very good guesses.

Just entering the data room can be a chore.  First you have to contact the third party administrator (a company who specializes in maintaining such data rooms) and be recognized as an "authorized user" of the intel.  Then you are issued an electronic password and personal code that must be entered each time you enter the "room" - that is, the website containing all the documents and information that the company to be potentially acquired has provided to the potential buyer.

In each of the three M & A projects that I worked on we were the potential buyer.  That made my objective somewhat straightforward.  I needed to figure out who the best players were on their team, decide what a fair compensation package might look like, determine who needed to be released and how soon after closing the deal, and finally figure out where the bodies were buried in the corporate history book.  Piece of cake.  Not!

It is, however, far trickier to be the seller, as that was often likened to trying to "put lipstick and earrings on a pig."

In other words, if you were trying to sell your company, you usually tried to comestically cover up all your flaws and problems to make the whole organization look better.  It was, so I have been told, exhausting at best, fraudulent at worst.  No picnic either way.

Oh, and one other little tidbit one needed to keep in mind that was each and every time anyone on either side of the equation entered the data room, an electronic footprint was left of each page they had visited, whether or not they had made any changes to the document being viewed, and how long they remained in the data room.

And all this says nothing of the veritable phalanx of lawyers on both sides of the line, often playing a neener, neener, neener game of "our lawyers are better than your lawyers."  And if things got tense, or even nasty, it quickly degenerated into a game of "our lawyers can beat up your lawyers."

So what was a country Christian to do in such deep and murky waters as these?  In my case, it was my job to diligently examine all the relevant facts, interview everybody from the janitor to the CEO, read reams of resumes, bios, sales reports, corporate historical documents, and memos between all relevant players, going as far back as when they first had any idea they might be going to sell their company. 

If there were going to be any shenanigans, they usually started a few months to a year or so before the actual sale went live. Kind of like cleaning house just before company arrives for a long visit.

No doubt about it, we were going to get into their cupboards, look behind their refrigerator and stove, check the downspouts and the roof tops, and most assuredly find out what might be buried in the basement. 

The data room was only one facet of this due diligence, but it was an important part.  And so I waded in - determined to look sharp, reserve judgment, and call the shots like I saw them.

Day after day, I read documents, examined org charts, and analyzed compensation plans. Late one afternoon, something that had been bugging me all day, finally jelled.  First I looked at their total compensation for the prior two years, then I re-read where they were in their year-to-date performance to plan; and then I carefully re-read their incentive plan for the coming year (the calendar year during which our purchase was to close if the deal went through.)

Suddenly there it was, plain as day, just one or two lines buried in a fairly small document. They had deliberately skewed their potential bonuses to be paid at over 150% of the usual rate, if they were acquired during this bonus year.  This was not your usual "poison pill" (prior financial bonuses designed to discourage a potential take over).  No, this was a flat out "take the money and run" gambit, and they apparently thought no one was going to read far enough into these deadly dull tomes to stumble across this little nugget.
Big Bags of Money clipart
If I had missed it, it would have cost my employer a "surprise" of about two million dollars.  It was not illegal, it was debatably ethical, but it would have been legally binding upon us, if it had not been discovered in time to make it part of the current negotiations. 

Whew!  This country girl had earned her money that day.  Calls to the powers-that-be were made, teleconferences hastily scheduled, the official financial analysts apprised of the discovery, and eventually all was hammered out to almost everyone's satisfaction.  They were a little sheepish to have been caught-out, but unapologetic because they thought it was worth a try.

                                             * * * *
I dragged home that evening and prayed, as I often did:
Lord, help me do my job to the best of my ability.  But help me to remember that I cannot do it alone, and that I am not the only person involved in all this who is trying to do the right thing.  Help me to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Thank you, Amen.

Then it was time to get some sleep and go back and do it all over again the next day.  At least no one had offered to put any lipstick and earrings on me ... that week.

Until next time .... Marsha (once upon a time A Country Christian in Corporate America)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Little "BIG" Things

If we can trust in God for our eternal salvation,
how can we not trust Him to provide for the "little" things of life? 
                                                   ~  M.E. Howard

We may as well face it; your "little" and my "little" may be two very different "littles."

Here are some "little" examples that were very big deals to me at the time.  Looking back upon them, some of them seem pretty insignificant now, but I am honest enough to admit that at the time....
                                                 * * * *
We had a new baby on the way, but it had been several years since our last child and we had long since given away all the paraphernalia that comes with a new one.  What to do?  Buying new "stuff" was out of the question as we were barely making ends meet.

Prayer, lots of it, as I grew bigger and bigger and the arrival date got closer and closer.  I had read in stories about the pioneers who sometimes used a dresser drawer for new babies, when they had nothing else.  Dear Lord, would it come to that?  No, it didn't.

I said nothing to anyone, but kept praying.  Then an old friend, living in a different town, whom I had not heard from in years, called out of the blue to say her baby was going into a toddler bed and they had heard I was expecting soon.  Could I use a crib?  And oh, also a high chair?   Yes, I could!  And our new "little thing" would have a bed to sleep in.

                                           * * * *
Years ago I sang in the choir, and frequently sang solos, in our church.  My one pair of dress shoes were completely worn out.  But our budget (that laughable fragment that seemed to have way too much month left at the end of the money) had no room for new shoes.  It was a little embarrassing to climb the steps to the platform to sing, with such shabby footwear.

It felt silly and selfish, but I prayed about a new pair of dress shoes to wear to church.  And since I was being "silly" I decided to go waaay out on a limb and be very specific.  I told the Lord, that if it was okay, I would like a pair of white, sling-back pumps.

You can believe this or not (and once again, I had said nothing to anyone, not even my husband) but one Sunday after church another young woman walked up to me with a shoe box in her hand.  She said she had bought these and they did not fit, and asked what size I wore.  I said a size 6.  She smiled and handed me the box.

You guessed it - inside was a pair of white, sling-back pumps.  I cried.  Don't tell me God doesn't know where you live.

                                        * * * *
Years later, I wanted to obtain a masters degree in my area of expertise.  I had had to postpone my education many times, due to the demands of family and work responsibilities.  But now I had the time; I simply lacked the money.

Meanwhile, our church was in a building program and I felt led to make the largest pledge for the project that I had ever made in my life.  I had prayed about it, a lot, and felt it was the right amount.

Less than one month later, my employer approached me and asked if I still wanted to go for a masters?  I did.  They then volunteered to pay for my tuition, books, fees, all of it.  One hundred percent of it.  It just wasn't done, and it wasn't company policy - but it was God's policy - to reward those who trust in Him.  He just opened the windows of heaven and poured out a blessing I could barely contain.

                                               * * * *
To some a crib, a pair of shoes, or even an advanced degree might not seem like important things in life.  To me, at that time, they were pretty necessary, and yes, important.  (Just color me shallow, as I do enjoy a decent pair of shoes. :)

So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well."   Matthew 6:31-33 NIV

Please join our hostess, over at Living for God for more on today's quote.