Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sanctuary Full of Memories

This morning I was able to get out of the house long enough to attend church services.  It took a little pre-arranging, making sure our emergency signals were straight, and a little faith, but it all worked out so that I could leave for a short time.

I chose a church very near my son's home, so that if he needed me during service, I could be back in five minutes - literally.  I felt uncomfortable leaving my cell on during service, especially since they flashed signs asking everyone to please turn them off; but I could not figure out how to put it on vibrate, for the life of me, so I turned the volume down low and kept it close so that I could turn it off as soon as it rang, if need be.

It felt very odd to be there in that particular building, again, as it held poignant memories for me that no one there could have guessed.  The property had changed owners, now affiliated with a different denomination, and thus, a completely different congregation than the one I once knew. 

However, many years ago as a young teenager, I had competed in Bible "Jeopardy" type contests there from time to time.  Innocent times, good fun.  Churches from all over the district would send their representative to compete at the monthly youth rallies.

Then a few years after that, I had sat there with my spouse and our spiritual advisor, discussing our plans to go work as missionaries in Guadalajara, Mexico.  Our boys were one and three years old, and I was trepidatious about their health if we lived in a foreign country.

As it turned out, we did not go after all, but it was strange, and a little sad, to sit there this morning and look around remembering life-changing decisions from decades ago; plans which did not come to fruition, some goals which were achieved, regrets which we all live with, and the hindsight assurance of God's faithfulness through it all.

I could not see what my life would become when I last sat in those pews.  I did not know I would have one more child, and she would become one of the greatest blessings in my life.  I could not know that I would not become a missionary, but that I would become what I called a "country Christian in corporate America" as a business executive traveling all over the country (something I simply could not have imagined back then.)

Life does not always, or even very often, turn out quite the way we planned.  The old axiom goes, "Man proposes, but God disposes."  Um-humm.

Nevertheless, I am thankful.  Thankful for a chance to attend service.  Thankful that K. seems to be making some progress toward recovery (sometimes two steps forward and one step back, but we take as it comes.)  Thankful that today, those memories no longer haunted me, as they once might have; but rather they served as gentle reminders that God always has a plan, and even when we fail, His plans still succeed.

God bless you today.  Enjoy your day of rest. ...Marsha

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Fixed Spot

File:Geek Squad.svg

Whew!  We finally have our wi-fi spot fixed - and now both the big guy who is "down for count" (my older son, K.) recuperating from surgery, and I can both be online at the same time.  Woo-hoo!

The Geek Squad came today and fixed us right up.  Of course, I think the term "squad" was a bit of a misnomer, as the young fellow who showed up on our doorstep was all by his lonesome.  I was expecting someone in cargo shorts, flip-flops and an earring.  Fooled me.  He had on black slacks, white shirt, black tie and an employee ID badge.  Looked like he had both bathed and shaved recently, too.  Sooprise, sooprise!

When I reflected on my preconception of what to expect, I was amused to recall that I similarly surprised a few folks a couple of years back.

My employer had just purchased a company in the Midwest and as the VP of HR I was tasked with going back to hold a marathon of employee meetings to acquaint the new folks with our benefits package, the new terms and conditions of their employment, etc.

I know, it sounds deadly dull; but it turned out to be a lot of fun.  After the first two or three meetings, one of the employees took me aside and said, "Boy, were they ever smart to send you out here."

I was perplexed, and said, "Thank you.  But how so?"

The new colleague replied, "Well, when we heard we had been purchased by a California company, and that they were sending someone to tell us how things were going to be, we were expecting someone with purple hair, tattoos, and nose rings.  We were sure relieved to see you show up."

I laughed so hard I nearly cried.  My professional wardrobe was about as sedate as you can get, running to navy blue and black suits, slacks and jackets, with pastel blouses.  And at at my age, you don't want anyone or anything poking any holes in you that are not absolutely necessary.

As George Clooney was quoted as saying, "After forty, its all about plugging up the holes in the boat."  Amen, brother.  Say on.

So here's to the occasional pleasant surprise, even in the middle of a tough situation.  And to the Geek Squad, those of us who are technically challenged, we salute you!  Thank you for fixing our spot.

Hope wherever you happen to be this weekend, that you have found your happy spot.  Until next time ... Marsha

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The 24/7 Merry-Go-Round

When I was a girl (back in what my children always refer to as the olden days) you got up in the morning, ate your breakfast, went to work or to school, came home in the evening, ate dinner, maybe watched a little TV (if you had been good and had all your homework done) and then you went to bed.  That was it.  At least in the Midwest.  On a really adventurous night, you might go out after dark and catch fireflies for awhile.

No one went to the mall in the evenings - there were no malls, and the individual retail stores all closed at 5:00 p.m.  Their proprietors had all gone home to dinner, too. Sensible folks.

No one worked evenings or weekends, because nothing was open in the evening or on the weekend.  If you ran out of bread or milk on Sunday, you were just going to do without until Monday, for two reasons:  1) my mother would not frequent any store bold enough to stay open on the Lord's day, and 2) very few store owners had any desire to do so.  They had something called "blue laws" which meant businesses were strongly discouraged from opening on Sundays.

People worked hard, and played hard, but they managed to balance the two.  The old cliche on the "division on labor" was that:

A man's work is from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done.
Tell me about it.  I'm just saying ...

Now that I think about it, this was not some hair-brained Midwestern idea, as the Israelites had been told to gather manner for each day, five days a week.  But on the sixth day they were to gather enough for two days, so that no one would be out manna-gathering on the sabbath.  It was a day of rest.  If someone tried to cheat and gather several days worth, it got moldy and full of worms.  I know the feeling.

Now we have 24-hour "convenience" stores on every corner.  Not very convenient for the poor schmucks who have to work at 3:00 a.m. because someone forgot to buy milk.  Factories have been running 24/7 for decades.  Workers' biological clocks are completely messed up because they cannot regulate their circadian rhythms with rotating shifts and days off.

My mother worked nights at a hospital for 15 years, and she claimed it had turned her into a mole.  She slept during the day and only dug her way out at night.

I only worked nights once for about six weeks, forty years ago, and I hated it.  I spilled coffee, sometimes on myself and once or twice on others.  I ate to stay awake, never a good thing, and then fought to go to sleep.  My metabolism went completely to sleep, though, and did not wake up again for twenty years.

So here we are, my son and I, doing a 24/7 routine while he recuperates from his surgery, and he has the harder job.  I just do the "fetching and carrying" - while he is confined to bed.

But I've got to tell you that after only two weeks of this, I am rummier than a pina colada or a rum and cola (couldn't tell you which as I have never tried either.)  I wander around bumping into walls....that aren't there.  I have no idea what time it is, or even if we are still on daylight savings time. Is it still July?  Just asking.

I am more convinced than ever, after this recent go-'round that we were not meant to operate on a 24/7 schedule.  So right now, while it is necessary, I'll just trust that God will keep me and my "charge" safe while I toddle around deliriously.  We laugh a lot, although I am pretty sure neither he nor I have any idea about what.

So you will excuse me now, as I need to go wind up the cat, and put out the clock.  Good night ... at least I think it is ...until next time...Marsha

Monday, July 25, 2011

My Assigned Portion - Wrinkled Brows

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

Portion: an individual's part or share of something; a share received by gift or inheritance; one's share of good and evil.

Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup. (Psalm 16:5 NIV)

When skies are blue and days are bright - Lord, you have assigned me my portion ...

When nights are long and sleep is a wistful hope - Lord, you have assigned me my portion ...

When budgets are tight and bills are large - Lord, you have assigned me my portion ...

When generous gifts and inheritance comes my way - Lord, you have assigned me my portion ...

When I stepped onto stages and sang to hundreds - Lord, you have assigned me my portion ...

When I sing quietly, alone, with only You to listen - Lord, you have assigned me my portion ...

When I had a strong position and much authority - Lord, you have assigned me my portion ...

When I was weak and no one listened, but You - Lord, you have assigned me my portion ...

When I am in great need, and do not see a way forward - Lord, you have assigned me my portion ...

When I have sound assurance that You will meet my every need - Lord, you have assigned me my portion.  Selah - So be it.

                                                                     # # # #
"...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation ..." Colossians 4: 11-12 (NIV)

Hope your portion today is a good one.  Until next time ...Marsha

Friday, July 22, 2011

Holding It Together

It has been a tough couple of weeks, preceded by a tougher couple of months, preceded by a fairly difficult couple of years.  No, I am not exaggerating.

Please do not misunderstand me - I am personally in fairly good health and so is the LOC*.  And even Holly, our 12 year old Lhasa Apso is doing pretty well.  (*Lovable Old Coot)

But as I sometimes say, "Life bunches up on you."  And lately, well, my bunch has had its share of challenges.  So tonight I am remembering what they teach in AA, or so family members who were involved in 12-step programs always told me, "Don't try to make decisions when you are hungry, angry, sad or tired."

There is some acronym that goes with that saying, but I don't recall what it is.  And I probably don't have them in quite the right order, either; but the principle is still valid.

Kind of like life:  sometimes we forget the "clues to the principles" and sometimes we don't have them in quite the right order, but they are still valid.

And here is one of the best principles of all - while I am trying to hold it together for those in greater need than I am, the fact is that I am not the one ultimately "holding it together."  Thank goodness! 
                                            # # # #
"He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."  Colossians 1:17 NIV

Until next time ... Marsha

Thursday, July 21, 2011

In Unfamiliar Territory

There is a saying that "Today is the first day of the rest of your life."  Really?

I don't know whether to be glad, sad, or mad about that.  Maybe a little of each?

Earlier today I went to Costco to get some things for my son, for whom I am currently acting as a full-time care-giver, and glad to do so.  As I told him, there is no where else I would want to be while he needs me here. 

But let's face it, I'm shallow.  It was 98 degrees outside, the parking in the Costco lot was a zero sum game, with calamity waiting between the white stripes - people zipping in and out like their lives depended upon getting to where they were going in the next 10 seconds.  So I was hot, and sweaty and irritated. (The mad part.)

And while they were zipping, here is my son, who has the most active mind of almost anyone I know - and when he is able the most active lifestyle he can achieve - and he cannot zip anywhere.  But still he makes jokes, we discuss the national debt, we laugh and joke around, and sometimes we cry together.  (The sad part.)

And then, I remember the wonderful news we received yesterday morning, that K. does not have a potentially fatal complication from his paraplegia and his recent emergency surgery, and I am so grateful, and I smile and thank God again.  (The glad part.)

Life isn't just one thing, is it?  It is often lots of things all at once, and many of them completely contradictory.  We are curious creatures to be sure.

So today is the first day of the rest of my life.  What do I plan to do with it?  I am in unfamiliar territory. 

How about you?  What do you plan to do with the first day of the rest of your life, when tomorrow arrives?

Wishing you blue skies, green fields, and lots of smiles.  And if something else arrives, wishing you courage and stamina.
Until next time ...Marsha

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Permanent Wave

Mondays - Wrinkled Brows

(A weekly - more or less - Monday post of a quote or word of interest.)

Permanent:  to endure, to continue to endure, lasting or enduring without marked or fundamental change,

Permanent:  a chemical hair treatment of long-lasting nature which may also be known as a permanent wave.

Clearly I am not "permanent" - as there have been a number of marked, and fundamental, changes in me over the years.  I am not as tall, nor as small, as I used to be.  Something changed.  I seem to have shrunk vertically, and not-shrunk horizontally.  Now that just doesn't seem fair, but it is what it is.

Neither is my recall quite as quick as it once was.  I recently lamented that I only got four out of five Jeopardy "questions" correct in a category.  The look the LOC* shot me had not changed from the last time he gave me one of those.  (Lovable Old Coot*) 

I used to regularly wax those TV contestants, from the comfort of my own easy chair.  Lately my "wax jobs" are a little streaky.

And my hair, well, now that is an interesting thing.  When I left the world of business, and became a stay-at-home person of a certain age, I decided to go au naturale.  That is I stopped putting any coloring on my hair, and over the past year or so it has turned a nice shade of....well, I am not quite sure what shade it is.  Seems to be several at once, but I am okay with it.

I was strolling down the aisle at Walmart the other day, and a lady stopped me and said, "You have beautiful hair."

I was startled, as that had not happened in a while.  So I smiled, and said, "Thank you.  It just grows right out of my head this way."  I don't know quite know why I said that, but I did.  Like I said, I was startled.

Those permanent waves were not.  Trust me on this.  You had to get them "renewed" about twice a year, and then you had to avoid all human contact for at least a week while the smell died down, or your hair quit smelling like something had crawled into it and died.

Thus, nothing stays the same.  Everything changes.  Nothing is really permanent at all.  But sometimes that can be a good thing.  Here is to waving goodby to what used to be, and to looking ahead to whatever is coming our way.

Happy Monday ...  Marsha

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What Am I Looking At ?

"God loves you. He loves you so much that He's allowed this trial to push you to the point where you have no choice but to look to Him." When Life is Hard by James MacDonald

The quote above was the subject of a post I wrote this past January 17, called Pain With a Positive Purpose.  It is still the most frequently read post of all I have written this year.  That tells me that there must be a lot of pain out there, and that most of us are trying to make some sense of it.

I happened to re-read that post a couple of days ago, and a funny thing happened, I found myself encouraged by what I had written.  It felt a little odd, to be encouraging myself, but then I remembered that it was written of King David that, "...he encouraged himself in the Lord."

I don't recall just where that verse is found at the moment, and frankly, I am too tired this evening to look it up.  But I am glad to know it is there.  I spent the day today, as I have many days over the past 25 years in a hospital, first in the emergency room, then the surgery prep room, then post-op, and finally an assigned room, for my son.  Finally, since his diet is unrestricted this time, I went in search of criss/cross cut fries from Carl's Jr. - and sat and watched him smile while he ate them.

As some of you know, he is a T-10 paraplegic, double amputee, with more than a few additional medical challenges.  But that only partly describes what, and who, he is.  He is also a special education teacher, a member of his city's planning commission, a dog lover (and his black lab, Annie, is the objective of his affection), a brother, a good friend to his buddies, and as valuable a son as anyone could ever ask for.

We had a three-legged cocker spaniel, named Duffy, who had lost a leg after an accident.  We had him another 13 or 14 years after he lost his leg.  My son said to me one day, only partly in jest, "Well, Mom, when I saw that you and Dave were going to keep Duffy, even though he had lost his leg, I realized you must still really love me, even though I don't have any legs."  Then he made a joke and said, "Mom you should see the strange looks we get, when I "walk" Duffy. (Rolling along in his chair, with The Duffer on a leash.) I can just see what is going through people's heads, 'Good grief, look at that man and that dog.  There should be six legs between them, and they only have three.' "  :)

We are all looking for reassurance that we are valuable to someone, somewhere, for something.  We all want to think that we will be "retained" for some value we bring to others.  And yet, the One who brought the universe into existence, loves us so much that "We love him, because he first loved us."  (I John 4:19)

And yes, God does allow very hard things to come into our lives.  Being the mother of a paraplegic for the past 25 years has been a hard thing.  I am not going to pretend otherwise.  But I also know it has taught me how to value people for who they really are, not for what they have, or own, or can do, or who they know.  Each one of us is valuable simply because God loves us and said we are.

So today was a hard day - another emergency surgery.  More time spent on sterile waiting room chairs, tensing with anticipation every time a doctor walks into the room because maybe this time it will be the one you are looking for, who will have some answers to your questions.  Sometimes they do.  And often they don't.  The good ones admit this, and tell you, "Here is my best guess."  I respect that.

As the quote above says, perhaps God allows these trials so that we will be brought to the point where we must look to Him.  What am I looking at, when I look to Him?  The One who truly has all the answers, Savior, Friend, Source of my strength, Comforter, Prince of Peace.

What are you looking at this evening?  I hope it is Him.  Until next time ... Marsha

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Helping While Hunting

I'm back, sort of...not home, still here at my son's house about 80 miles north of Sac where we live, but back on blogger.   On his ancient desk top, so if I zip off into the ether....oh, well, I tried.  He does not have a wireless router, so my little laptop had to stay home, although she was insulted when I tried to explain she would be useless here.  (She is a sensitive little thing- one of those 10 inch notebook dealies.) 

He did get into see a doctor, not his own of course, they are either too busy or out of town, but at least we are fairly certain she actually had a medical license.  (Sometimes I cannot tell, as some of the docs I have seen in the past few years did not seem to be over 15 and a half.  Of course, my eyes are not what they used to be.)

The bad news is that he needs to "stay down" for the next few weeks, as his decubitis heals.  The good news is that they said "they have seen worse" (that is the GOOD news ???) and that if he is careful, he should be ready to go back to work next month.  He is a high school special education teacher, which means he teaches the toughest students in the land, and does it from a wheelchair.  Clearly, he is my hero!  :)

So "staying down" means he must stay in bed for approximately 23 out of every 24 hours until his skin heals.  I get fidgety when I have to stay down for more than twenty minutes, on a bad I don't know where he finds the patience and the courage - clearly not from his mother.

But he claims I am helping by just "fetching and carrying" because each trip I make, equals two transfers that he does not have to make (bed to wheelchair and wheelchair to back to bed) and every transfer saved gives his skin that much more time to get better.

So today, after feeding and watering Annie (his companion black lab) and feeding and watering him (my son), doing a little housework and a couple loads of laundry, I headed off to go house hunting.  The town we plan to move to is just 10 miles up into the foothills from where my son lives here in a valley college town and no, that is not a coincidence.  :)  I want to be nearer so that I can be more immediately available whenever he needs a hand (or a couple of feet.)  My husband, his stepdad, does not want to retire to this valley heat, and thus the closest town above 2,500 feet elevation holds real appeal.  Four seasons would be nice, too, as all we have in Sacramento, is 8 months of blistering heat, interrupted by four months of soggy, foggy, rain.

I saw two fairly decent possibilities - although the yards were a bit shaggy, and not too sure about the RV parking room (and the LOC* is fairly adamant that this is a requirement.)  He thinks we are making the RV storage owner wealthy.  I am pretty sure our little closet-sized RV is not contributing THAT much to the guy's IRA, but there is no arguing with the LOC when he has his mind made up.  *Lovable Old Coot

Also saw a foreclosure that had real potential.  Of course, my realtor would never have shown it to me, which is exactly why I had sneaked off today and looked all over creation and back all by myself.  (I can also tie my own shoelaces, thank you very much.) 

However, I did learn one new thing today, never - and I do mean NEVER - go house hunting with nothing for breakfast but a cup of coffee and a fresh pear.  I have never looked so hard, so fast for the "facilities" in my life.  Fortunately, I found a Burger King just before the ultimate humiliation.

So the hunt goes on, the beat does, too, and so does life.  With all its spots and wrinkles, I am still thankful to the One Who knows me best, and still loves me most.  Have a good evening ....Marsha

Monday, July 11, 2011

Still Looking for the Right Spot

Tomorrow I am headed north, again, trying to kill two birds with one stone; or perhaps just wing one of them.

My oldest son needs a little help (and although he is a T-10 paraplegic he rarely asks for any help).  But he isn't feeling tip top and I am glad to stay with him a few days and see that he gets some much needed rest, while he is recouping.

It doesn't take much to please him, just bring him a glass of cold ice water from time to time, and listen to his latest political tales.  He serves on his city's planning commission, and believe me, in his city that is a hot spot to sit in.  Fortunately, well, not really but you know what I mean, he has lots of practice in sitting things out.  And he has an uncanny ability to find a good compromise, so his skills are in demand.

In between running errands for him and doing a little cooking and some cleaning, I'll try to get in a little house-hunting.  We are still looking for just the right spot to park our wrinkles.

Last time out, the guy tried to sell me a 2,500 sq. ft., one-acre plus, mini-mansion.  What part of "down sizing" doesn't this guy get?  I'm just saying.... 

The LOC* and I are both retired and we are ready to move to the foothills and live among the pine trees. But we have to find the right spot.  Seems like it ought to be easier to land at our age, given that all we really need besides decent cable reception and working A/C is a good church to attend, and one or two little cafes to break up the week.  (*Lovable Old Coot)

How hard can this be?  So far, much more difficult than you might suppose.  People try to sell you houses with purple bathrooms, or pea soup green carpet, or decks that look like they were built out of Noah's ark remnants.  Of course, all that can be fixed, but the LOC is no handyman, so one wants to be cautious about such things.

Oh, well, onward and upward.  At first, just the looking was fun.  The bloom is now definitely off of that bush.  Now the finding would be a good thing.  Until next time .... Marsha

Friday, July 8, 2011

Two sugars and a cream

Thunderstorm and perfect Lightning over city Stock Photo - 7432427
Recently I was on a small commercial plane, about 24 passengers, run by United Express flying from San Francisco to Sacramento.  It was a very rough trip, lots of rain and wind, with some tough turbulence to make the ride interesting.

I glanced around to see how the other passengers in this small enclosed space were holding up, and lo and behold, I found myself looking into the face of one of the feminist icons of the 1960s, none other than Gloria Steinham.

There she was peering back at me through her signature huge round glasses, her hair still long and parted in the middle, much as it had been in the sixties and seventies when she was one of the founders of the feminist movement, when I was still a teenager.

I'm no radical, having been raised in a very conservative household.  But one thing about our family was different from most of the kids I knew during the 1960s.  My Mom worked full time at the local hospital as an LVN.  The only other kids I knew whose mother's worked outside the home were those who mothers were either teachers, or who worked at the hospital with my mother.  It was truly a different time.

                                                 * * * *

Fast forward twenty years to 1981-82, when after almost fifteen years as a full time, at home, mom and homemaker, due to a series of unfortunate events (and no Lemony Snickett happy ending in sight) I had to rejoin the workforce.  Ill-prepared and feeling pretty inferior I showed up every day and did my best.  My kids were counting on me.

God blessed me, I learned fairly quickly, and eventually I was writing grant proposals for one of the health agencies I worked with.  One day I was informed that a proposal I had submitted to state headquarters had been selected for a personal review toward potential granting of funds for some badly needed new equipment for the local hospital, the very one my mom had worked at for so many years.  I was equal parts thrilled and humbled.

A state big-wig came up from Sacramento to our little county offices.  I had been given full-charge of the meeting, by my superiors, because it was my proposal.  The conference room was set up, agendas neatly typed, and overheads ready for slide illustrations (this was before laptops and PowerPoint) and about a dozen professionals due in just a few minutes.

About three minutes before the scheduled start of the meeting, in walked Mr. Big-Wig, striding in like he owned the place.  I had carefully chosen my navy blue suit, cream blouse, and navy pumps to convey that I was a serious professional.  (Okay, I probably looked more like a flight attendant, but I was trying.)

I stepped briskly forward to introduce myself and introduce the rest of the team, holding out my hand for the customary meet-and-greet handshake.  Mr. B-W ignored my outstretched hand and tersely said, "Could you bring me a cup of coffee right away?  I take two sugars and cream."                 Caffeine & Calories in a 12 Ounce Coffee With Sugar & Cream

Although I was taken aback, good manners prevailed and I said, "Certainly.  I'll have it here in a couple of minutes."

A few minutes later, I returned to the conference room, now filled with about a dozen attendees taking their seats and handed Mr. B-W his coffee.  Every seat was now filled, except the one at the head of the table reserved for the person conducting the meeting.  Mr. B-W had positioned himself on one side squarely in the middle of the table, apparently so he could "command and control" from mid-court.

I walked quietly to head of the table, took my seat and quickly commenced a review of the agenda.  The meeting went well, and the grant was approved.  A few months later I received a commendation from the County Board of Supervisors for the work in obtaining the new hospital equipment.  That was a good feeling, but it was not the best one associated with that project.

After the review meeting that day six months earlier, Mr. B-W approached me looking a little chagrined.  "I wanted to let you know, I'm sorry about earlier today..." . 

Before he could say anything more and embarrass himself even further, I smiled and said, "No problem.  You simply found out that I know how to do more than just make coffee around here."

                                                  * * * *
I never experienced the kind of discrimination that some women in the workplace encountered before my time.  I did get a taste of it from time to time in the early years.  Much later, when I occupied a corner office, with its own conference table, multiple staff to prepare my meeting agendas, and others who made my plane reservations, etc. I worked hard to remember there was a time when I was summarily dismissed as a lightweight, a person of little consequence.

At those times I would hold fast to the fact that I was a child of the Most High.  There was nothing anyone could ad to, or detract from, that fact.  My job was to work hard, prepare well, remain faithful and He would take care of the rest of it, including any rewards.

I'm pretty sure that is still the case.  So if someone "put you down" today, or tried to "put you in your place" - I encourage you to remember that Someone greater has already lifted you up.  There is no title, office, or paycheck that can compare with the the honor of being a Child of God.

Blessings to you this evening. ...Marsha

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Humming right along ... up I-5

freeway trafficYesterday I spent seven-plus hours participating in that uniquely American ritual known as the post-holiday-freeway-death defying - trek-home.  Before President Eisenhower decided to link the country with a system of inter-connected highways, most people rarely ventured very far from home.  It just wasn't worth the wear and tear on the body, either your own or the automobile's.

Back in the old days, each state had its own unique road system and thus, it was any man's guess as to how to get home, unless he was adept at reading a sextant and a compass.

Ike decided a country as great - and as BIG - as this one needed a unified interstate, transcontinental, road system.  And that is, at least tangentially how I came to be humming north on I-5 yesterday, the day after a national holiday, among all the other motorists of dubious judgment who decided to risk life and limb out on the interstate.

And, of course, that term (interstate) is also a misnomer in this case, as you can drive nearly 1,000 miles on I-5 with out ever leaving the state of California.

Those who are not familiar with California's Central Valley truly have no idea of how vast it is.  It is well over five hundred miles long, and I drove over four hundred miles of its length in a little over seven hours.

I could have done it in six and a half perhaps, but again, it was July 5th and every third person in the state was either on I-5, stopping at one of the rest areas, and always at the same time I was there; or they were at one of the gas stations, where I was attempting to fill up the Buick's tank; or they were in line ahead of me at one of the fast-food establishments which intermittently line I-5, where I was attempting fill up my own tank.  I'm just saying...

It was a zoo, with the occasional gridlock thrown in just for grins and giggles.  I was doing neither.  Besides dead skunks, lazily circling hawks and the odd snake here and there, there is not a lot of wild life on or near I-5.

Unless, of course, you consider the wild-life whizzing by you at approximately 90 mph, between the lanes, with their motor cycle helmets of blackened plastic just daring you to try to make eye contact.

I saw a big rig blow a tire and burn out it's brakes just as we hit the bottom of the Grapevine (the harrowing pass over the mountains that one must traverse before Southern California allows you to leave.)  If you survive the exit-test of the Grapevine, then you are free to mosey (at 75 to 90 miles per hour) on up to Bakersfield, Fresno, etc. until at last you come to little old Cow Town, the less-than-affectionate name which Angelenos call Sacramento.

Buttonwillow, Tulare, Pasa Robles, Los Banos, they roll by like so many snapshots in a view finder.  Andrea Bocelli belted out some beauties on the stereo as I buzzed North.  The temperature outside the Buick varied, although the spectrum yesterday spanned only from 102 to 106.

                                                 * * * *
Why would any sane person, giving myself the benefit of the doubt, do this?  Well, I believe it has something to do with getting to spend several days with my daughter and the grandchildren, including on July 4th, attending the Laverne annual fireworks display.  The fireworks were so awe-inspiring that I actually saw Parker sit still for five whole minutes at one stretch.  Awesome!

Hope your holiday was a good one, and that you are safe and sound at home. ...Marsha

Sunday, July 3, 2011

We've Been and Done - and We're Done

Cars 2 was fun, and so was the popcorn.  But what was most fun was watching the expressions on the two youngest faces as they laughed and hooted.

Then it was home to rest up a bit for round two.  While we rested we scrap booked.  We took Brynn (eight years old) to Michael's the other day, and as we rounded the aisle with all the stickers and "bling" for decorating scrapbooks, she just threw her little arms in the air and said, "Now this is heaven."  :) 

She put her whole scrapbook together in one day, and her mom pronounced that Brynn had "found her happy place."

After resting a bit, we headed off for adventure two of the day, the Long Beach Aquarium.  Parker was determined to find Larry the Lobster, whose acquaintance he had previously made.  Larry wasn't home but several of his ugly cousins were.

We snapped pictures right and left as the kids all let the lorakeets land on their hands and eat from the little nectar cups, thoughtfully provided by the management.  I used to work in management, and I now realize things might have gone more smoothly if we had provided nectar cups.  Oh, well, you live and learn
Picture of colorful fish at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA

We stopped off at Islands
for dinner on the drive home.  Parker declared he plans to engage in extreme wake boarding as soon as he is old enough - say about nine (he is now six).

Now if I can just figure out how to get the pictures from my camera to zip across that USB port and onto this computer, life will be complete. 

Come to think of it though, it already is.  Hope you had a good holiday weekend, and spent some time in your happy place.  I'm resting in mine. ... Marsha

We Are Off to the Movies !!

Poster art for "Cars 2."Still visiting with grandchildren, and today we are off to the cinema.  Cars 2 is on the agenda and I am looking forward to the experience.  I have never been to the movies with the younger two of the three kids before.  That is what living 400 miles apart gets you.

I look forward to the innocent pleasure of being able to sit in a darkened theater with them, eating popcorn and laughing together at "Mater" - that's like "tuh-mater, only without the "tuh" - as Mater so thoughtfully explains in the first Cars movie.

My husband is sometimes astounded at the gap, approximately the size of the Grand Canyon, in my movie viewing.  He still cannot quite conceive of the reality that for nearly two decades I almost never went to a movie theater, and in those days (before VCRs) they did not show many movies on TV.  Thus the gargantuan gap.

At that time, I was part of a fellowship that seriously frowned upon taking part in such "worldly pleasures" such as movie-going.  While they had some valid points of objection (the content and philosophy of many movies being diametrically opposed to any basic Christian stance) I now believe they went a bit too far in their conservatism.

This is not to pronounce them "wrong" - it is simply to say that my own views have altered regarding complete abstention from movies.  I sure am glad I am past that hurdle, otherwise I would not be able to enjoy this fun adventure with the "grands" later today.

I wonder what other "simple life enjoyments" I may have missed, perhaps by holding views which are too narrow? 

Have any of your "life views" or positions on what is "right and wrong" changed?  I realize that what God says is "wrong" is immutable and absolute.  But what man says is "right or wrong" is a human interpretation and may, in and of itself, be in error.  I'm just saying....

Hope you spend this holiday weekend enjoying all the "right stuff".  :)  .... Marsha

Saturday, July 2, 2011

ACA's: A Unique Fellowship

While visiting my daughter and her family here in Southern California this week, I have had the opportunity to read another good book.  And no, around their house visiting and reading are not mutually exclusive activities.  Boy, am I thankful!

The fact is that every time I come here, to my daughter's home, I find some terrific book laying on a table or bookshelf that I have been meaning to read, and suddenly voila' there it is.  It may be a book I have seen on the N.Y. Times Bestseller list, one I have seen referenced in another blog, or one I just stumbled across willy-nilly. 

There is no way they could plan this, but inevitably, there it is.  It has happened so many times that it might be weird, if I didn't find it so delightful.  Obviously, both my daughter and son-in-law are great readers.

Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir. . . of SortsSo this visit, that "magically appearing book" is by Ian Cron and it is called Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me.  The author is an Episcopal minister, who writes of his father, a charming/talented/abusive/absentee father and of how being an adult-child-of-an-alcoholic (otherwise known as an ACA) colored his life

I can relate.  My own father was much the same.  I know well the reality, and strange unreality, of growing up where life behind the closed doors of home was more nightmare than dream fulfillment, and yet, there was always the expectation that one would put on a good face when going out that front door to meet the community.

My dad was an "oil man" and due to his skills in that field we could have become a wealthy family. However, due to skills in drinking his way through every promotion and raise that ever came his way, we ended up flirting with the poverty line on many occasions.  But we never talked about it.  That is the code in an alcoholic family - you never discuss the elephant in the room.

Cron is insightful, humorous and engaging in the retelling of his journey from spiritually inclined little boy, who loved God and wanted to be close to Him; to becoming an angry, alienated adult who honestly felt that Jesus had betrayed him.  His account of Jesus apologizing to him for his horrendous childhood is unique in my reading experience.  And, yes, I do realize that this may present an affront to the reader's theological position. All I can say is, you have to read it to understand it.

I appreciated the way Cron did not wrap up all his anguish in a nice, neat little package, and tie a bow of resolution around the whole darned mess.  Goodness knows we have all longed for that at one time or another.  But those who have actually matured a bit also know that that is more magical thinking than it is healing and restoration.

The author's vocabulary is by turns both visceral and charming.  He does not inundate the reader with tons of references to philosophical or literary works with which he has been influenced.  He meticulously mentions a few at just the right spots.  And then wisely leaves it alone, for the reader to make her/his own connections.

For obvious reasons, the connection for me was personal and powerful.  I'll close with one quick example of how being an ACA can influence the way we see and experience life. 

Several years ago, a sign near my home announced,

         ACA meeting, Thurs. eve. 7:00p.m.  Everyone welcome.
                    (Time and place were noted)

I read it while driving by, and immediately thought, "How interesting.  This is a brand new community, but it didn't take them long to get here."  My home, like all the others in the area, was only a couple of years old, as the entire community had sprouted up out of what had been unused agricultural land, just a short while before the building boom arrived.

That next Thursday evening found me sitting in a school gymnasium watching other residents file in and greet each other cheerfully.  Soon a couple of local policemen also filed in and the folks down front began to make "the meeting is starting" noises.  The first person took the microphone.  It wasn't quite what I expected.

Over the next half-hour I listened to various community updates, and an interesting presentation on gang graffiti, which had not yet marred our little middle-class utopia, but we were being warned to be on the lookout, nevertheless.  I began to think puzzling thoughts, and I finally leaned over to my next seat neighbor and inquired, "Is this the ACA meeting."

He gave me a curious look and replied, "Yes, it is the Arden Community Association meeting."

You see what I mean?  When I saw the sign, "ACA" I just assumed it referred to adult children of alcoholics, although I was surprised to learn (erroneously as it turned out) that there were so many of us in such a relatively new and small community.

Privately embarrassed, and disappointed, I stayed another fifteen minutes, long enough to assure myself that I knew how to remove and report any graffiti that might suddenly appear on my corner signpost, and then silently drove the few blocks home.

It never ends, I thought.  You never come to the place where you quite fit in, where you "get it."  Because your "it", your sense of what is true and real and important, never quite squares with those whose growing up experience was more normal.  This is one of the mainpoints that Cron also makes in his book.

So then I laughed at myself, and thanked the Lord for my sunny new home, my family, and His love.  I also determined that next time, I would call ahead and confirm what meeting I was attending.

Hope you know where you are and where you are headed today...
if, so, you are blessed.  .... Marsha