Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Poor Otis...

Otis is a needy, nervous dog. He is a black German shorthair mix, about the size of a Black Lab--in fact he is probably mixed with Black Lab. Otis thinks his name is Franklin, Tucker, Augie, Xavier, fact, any name you say with happiness in your voice translates to his name in his ears. He has the ability to hear you talking to one of the other pets from the other end of the house, and he will be next to you in 1.001 seconds, wagging his tail and pushing his head under your hand, just begging for attention. It is effective the first three or four times he ever does it to you, but after that, he just looks pathetic. He is so meek and mild, and yet he can be so annoying. I think he may have slight brain damage...maybe some kind of a canine personality disorder. Are there such things as codependent dogs? I think we have one.

He must go outside at least 26 times each day. That is no joke. He has to go out when I get up. Then he has to go back out after Augie goes out. Then he has to go out each time someone else in the house gets up. Then he always wants to go out before I head out the door to work. While I'm gone to work, he goes out many more times, and even if the kids have let him back inside just before I get home, he will want to go out again immediately! I get my exercise each day walking back and forth, letting him outside. And at night, if he smells a skunk outside?? He is unbearable. Actually he doesn't even have to be outside. We do not have an airtight house by any means, so he can smell them very well when he is inside. He will bark repeatedly, racing around the house and panting like he's just finished a 10K run. Because he smells a SKUNK! He's deranged.

He acts like he is as dumb as a box of rocks, but he is not! One winter night when it was very cold, our bedroom was pretty chilly. My honey was almost asleep when he felt the blanket twitch ever so slightly. He lay still, trying to figure out what it was. He felt it again. He didn't move--he just waited again. The next thing he felt was the entire blanket whisking off of him onto the floor in one smooth "whoosh"! He looked over on the floor, and there was Otis, curled up with his eyes shut already with the blanket laying on top of him! I woke up hearing my honey laughing at him. He is not dumb.

Well, no one wants to pet poor Otis right now. He is growing a humongous bump on the bridge of his nose (if dogs have bridges on their noses). It started about two weeks ago, and it looked like a little tiny bug bite. It is now the size of a shooter marble, and the skin is crunchy and hard on the top, like his nose where it was frostbitten many years ago before we owned him. I am half amazed and half horrified as I watch it get bigger every day. We are bringing him in to the vet. I hope it isn't cancer. Poor Otis.

Monday, February 26, 2007

the snow fairy

Winter in Minnesota can present some serious challenges. If you follow the weather news, you probably know that Minnesota got dumped on with snow this weekend. Or maybe you live here too, and you were one of the ones out shoveling most of the day Sunday.

One of our boys did some snowblowing in our driveway late Saturday night, and I was glad he did, because the first challenge I faced was getting my son to work on Sunday. The snowplow had not come down our street since early Saturday evening, and we were dragging the bottom of the car both in the driveway and on our street early Sunday morning.

My son was driving, and I make a lousy passenger in bad weather. I was spazzing out most of the eight miles it took to get him to work. I was back-seat driving big time! "Waaahhh! Look out for that car!" "They're stopping up there at the light--you're going to slide right into the back of them." My foot nearly wore a hole in the carpet on the passenger's side floor as I repeatedly searched for that extra brake pedal that they should install in every car (for parents of teenage drivers). "This entire road is glare ice! Why are you driving like a maniac? Slow down!" (He was going 30 mph.) "Why are you changing lanes? You're going to slide right in the ditch!" Poor guy. He was probably never so glad to get to work. He was looking at me as if I had grown an extra head or something. He's only been driving for oh, three or four years already, but I acted as if this was his first day behind the wheel.

Going home was fine. I was in control, you see, and suddenly, the roads were not so bad...

I got to our street, slogged down through the drifts to our driveway, piled into the driveway, slid into my spot, and heaved a huge sigh of relief. Another winter expedition completed safely.

The next challenge for the day was ... THE DRIVEWAY! We have a gravel driveway, about 160 ft long. Fortunately we have a snowblower, but it's still seems to be a several hour project to clear the snow. It used to take two days to shovel a heavy snowfall BSB. (Before Snow Blower)

I took a little nap to rest up for the project. This was my day to learn to use the snowblower. I postponed it as long as I could, doing important things first, like washing a few dishes, making a fresh pot of coffee, washing the bathroom mirror, reorganizing the bathroom closet, until finally, I just had to go outside to do it. I was feeling like a slacker. I could hear snowblowers going all over the neighborhood.

I got dressed in my snow outfit, which consisted of thick socks, big bulky boots, two sweatshirts, my wool coat, my snood (scarf/hood), and my thick fleecy gloves. I went out to do my part for the family. Does this sound like a Marines commercial yet? Do your part -- shovel the driveway. Do it for the family.

Okay, anyway, we went out to brave the elements and discovered....that the snow fairy had come to our house!! I looked at the end of the driveway and it had been cleared of snow! I wondered if I was still dreaming back in my bed. You know, like the mornings where I dream six times that I'm getting out of bed to get ready for work, and then, I really wake up and have to do it all over again. No! I pinched myself, and the snow was still gone! Our good friend had come over with his Bobcat while I was whiling my morning away, and he had tagged us with a random act of kindness! Now, if I could only coax the dish fairy and the dust fairy to come pay me a visit, my happiness would be complete!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

a perfect mess

Wow! I've found the perfect book for me. I'll tell you the subtitle first: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder. How crammed closets, cluttered offices, and on-the-fly planning make the world a better place. JUADLOL! Yes! (That was Jumping Up And Down, Laughing Out Loud, by the way.)

From the description of the book, A Perfect Mess, comes this quote, "Word of an unexpected visitor might trigger a frenzy of highly efficient straightening out that transports the loose clothes from the floor and into the closet, sends a week's worth of scattered newspapers into a bin and gets the dishes into the sink -- leaving a home perfectly presentable even after weeks of relative neglect." Ha!

This one is more like me, "A large heap of items crammed helter-skelter into a drawer, filing cabinet, closet, attic, under a bed or even behind a couch, needn't be dysfunctional, as long as the more important items tend to remain accessible at the top or outermost layer. That tends to happen naturally, as the oft-retrieved items don't sit around long enough to get buried deeply." I think he's been sneaking peeks at my Black Hole.

Oooh! Even better is this one, "Some people set aside one section of the kitchen counter, one bedroom closet, a few shelves in a den or a desk in an office as a sort of mess sink, which removes the pressure of straightening out an entire room. In the same way, messy bulletin boards and refrigerator surfaces can keep the rest of a kitchen free of mail, children's drawings and other paper mess." I like that! That's my whole bedroom sometimes. A mess sink. At its worst, I have to crawl over the bed to get to my side because there is no room to walk around. Currently, though, I have sufficient room to walk around the bed, past my two and a half basketfuls of clutter. It's verrry sneaky. I realized that it has gone back up from my record low of one and a half basketfuls. I'd better address that today.

Hey, twin! Are you listening? They wrote this for us! :) We're okay! Well, actually, twin, I've always known you were okay; I just wondered about me.

I have to get the book. I'll keep you posted as I read. I'm so inspired, I think I'll have to clean up the kitchen!

Friday, February 23, 2007

O Lord, I am calling to you

O Lord, I am calling to you. Please hurry!
Listen when I cry to you for help!
Accept my prayer as incense offered to you,
and my upraised hands as an evening offering.

Psalm 141:1-2

What do you do when you encounter someone who is hurting, who is frustrated, who is overwhelmed, who is in a situation for which there is no easy solution? My natural reaction is to find myself feeling very small, helpless and inadequate in the face of their pain. My friend is going through a storm in her life that is rocking her whole world right now.

I've been reading The Heart of Prayer by Lana Bateman. The first thing she introduces is not prayer, but the sovereignty of our God. I blew over that at first, thinking, "Yeah, yeah, I know that. What about the prayer part?" I kept reading, waiting to get to that part. She kept talking about it. Sovereignty. What exactly does that mean, anyway? I looked it up. It means supreme authority within a territory. Supreme authority--none higher. The territory? All of us, the world, the universe--anything in existence.

I kept reading, and Lana kept on talking about sovereignty and trusting God to do the best thing...she mentioned the classic example of Christ, who was facing certain, agonizing death. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane for relief, but in the same breath, he prayed for God's will to be done. Even though it meant that he was surely going to suffer excruciating pain, that he was going to die that day, he still left the outcome up to God. Why? Because He knew God. He trusted Him. Even though the immediate situation looked pretty grim, he trusted that God's will was the best way.

I thought about that. Could I let go of the outcome as I listened to my friend's story? Instead of telling God what I thought the answer should be, and then asking for that in prayer, could I sincerely and simply just ask God for His will to be done? Did I trust Him that much? That slowed me down a little. Ouch. Okay, I had to sit and just breathe for a minute as the fear and anxiety swept over me while I considered the implications there.

How much did I trust God? Did I truly believe, deep down in my gut, that God had my friend's best interest in mind? Okay, maybe this easy, pat-answer solution of praying for someone is not so easy after all. It's much more palatable, as Lana mentions in this book, to believe in God's sovereignty and to rest in His care when life is moving swimmingly along. Thank you, Lord, for the wonderful day. Thank you for my beautiful grandbabies. Thank you for your church, to which you have brought me. Thank you for my health. I can do that.

But how about when I hear the raw, gut-wrenching pain in my friend's voice? It sounds so callous to just say, "Thank you Lord, for this lousy situation." I didn't get that. I needed to know more. I wanted to understand how this could be. I craved to comprehend this mystery, if it was so, and how it could be. It seemed like an unanswerable puzzle.

I kept reading. I jumped a little when I read the line in her book today, "God sees the big picture." It sounded eerily familiar! She said that God may allow us to go through situations of great troubles, but he will not abandon us there.

Aaahhh, there we go. He will not abandon us when we are in the middle of the storm. That is a promise backed up by scripture. Even in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy in Chapter 4, I see where Moses is telling his people that trouble is definitely coming. He tells them that they are going to suffer, be scattered, and worship man-made idols; he says that many of them will die. [Pretty cheery stuff, there, Mo.] But.

I love when the Bible says "But," and there is a But in that chapter. In verse 29, he says, "But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul." If we just stop in the middle of our pain, and seek God. . . we. will. find. Him. Wowza. What a great promise to hang on to. Moses goes on to say in verse 31, "For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you. . ." That's what I'm talkin' about! I'm starting to feel some hope, here.

We don't have to avoid or deny the pain in order to experience God's goodness; we find Him right smack-dab in the middle of the pain. We come to Him with our hearts laid open from the battle, and He will gently carry us up into His arms and care for us. We bring our inability to cope and lay it right at His feet for Him to handle. We can pray right from the messiness in our hearts. It doesn't have to be said with fancy words, not from lofty, impossible-to-reach high places that are far above the muddy, painful lives we lead. No, we simply drag our broken selves to our Papa, and we say, "Help!" And He will be right there.

We can trust that this sovereign God will be able to bring us through the pain to a place of unimaginable beauty. This God, who placed a hunger for His divine love within us, will willingly fill us with His presence. When we stop pretending that we can manage it all, when we finally look for Him with all our heart and all our soul, when we finally just rest in Him and trust, we will find the peace we seek. So I still don't have any pat answers for my friend, but I can choose to abide in His peace during the storm and encourage her to do the same.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

did God laugh after he made cats?

Cats are one of the funniest animals I have ever seen! My cat Franklin is like a little mischievious leprechaun child. He is fascinated with boxes. No, make that obsessed with boxes. The minute you bring a box in the house, he must investigate it.

If you empty a box of its contents, he has to check it out to see if he'll fit into it. If it is a tall upright box, he has to jump up and into it. It's funniest when the box is just a little too small for him to fit into, because he'll squoosh himself into it anyway. Then he'll sit there as proud as can be, with half of his body overflowing the box, just to sit there as if to say, "Have fur, will conquer."

He turns into a raving lunatic for the milk left in the bottom of my cereal bowl. He knows immediately if I am eating cereal with milk. He'll just silently show up at my feet as soon as I pour the milk into the cereal bowl. He sits at my feet until I get down to the bottom of the bowl. When there is just a little milk left (I don't know how he knows, but he does), he goes crazy. He stretches himself up on his back feet, reaches his front feet up to my arm, and paws me until I get the hint that he would like some of it. If I stand up, he instantly starts prancing around my feet, and dances in front of me trying to lead me to his bowl, purring madly.

Another peculiar thing about him is that he likes to sit on top of people's heads and/or shoulders. If I am standing by the back door watching the dogs outside so I don't get sidetracked and forget to let them in from the cold, Frankie will jump up on the dryer next to the back door and proceed to leap up onto the back of my neck, settling himself down onto my shoulders. If I move wrong, he panics because he thinks he is falling, and he will DIG HIS CLAWS into my neck somewhere.

He was up on Erica's head last night.

Notice how she immediately leaned over so that Franklin would just settle down and lay still on her without clawing her.

Franklin is an instigator. He loves to stir the pot with Tucker, the other cat who lives here. He will keep doing this "hit and run" manuever on Tucker until Tucker gets fed up and takes off after him. Can you tell that they are brothers? They leap at each other's necks, trying to do these tackle and take-down moves. They're pretty fat and sassy now, and during the day they are lazy.

But at night, after everyone is in bed and the house is quiet, suddenly I can hear this quick barrage of thudding feet and a couple of heavy thumps. Silence for a moment, and I hear it again. If I walk out into the hallway to see what they are up to, they will stop dead in their tracks and look past me with this innocent gaze, as if they were just wondering where they should lay down to take their next nap. It's a riot. After I go back into the bedroom, the party starts all over again. Franklin will stalk Tucker as if his life depended on it.

I love my cats, and don't tell Tucker, but Franklin is my favorite cat. He is the first one to come and snuggle with me early in the morning when I sit out on the couch with my coffee. When I am typing like a crazy woman on the computer, he is the one who tries his best to distract me by jumping into places where he knows he shouldn't be going. He knows I'll get up and chase him. Then he'll lay down on the floor in front of me and roll over onto his back, as if telling me, "Come and play! Life is short! Have fun!"

God has to have a sense of humor: he created cats!

Monday, February 19, 2007

a road trip with God

Faith said, "He has a plan for all of us! We don't go through experiences for nothing. There is a greater purpose. He has a reason for everything!" Her comment triggered a reminder of something I had journaled about in the past:

Trusting God to know the bigger picture is like you taking your children on a road trip. Just imagine...

You know about how long you will be driving, about how often you will be stopping for gas, which roads and turns you need to take, and you understand that there will be long stretches of driving between your stops.

Your children, on the other hand, keep asking you how much longer it will be. They don't understand the big picture. The most familiar question you hear is, "Are we there yet?" They have a completely different perspective.

Well, God has a bigger perspective on our problems than we do. He knows what He is going to do in our lives already. We have to live on faith, however, because we don't have that perspective. We have to trust in His goodness, and surrender our wants to His will.

That is NOT always an easy thing to do, but fortunately, we have His word so we can get to know His character, and know that He is good. He loves us passionately, and is even more devoted to us than we are to our own children. Through His word, He gives us the gift of hope. With hope, we can hang on till we get there! Sometimes our own families do not support or love us the way we need to be loved, but we can take comfort in the knowledge that God is walking with us, loving us, cherishing us, delighting in our love for Him, and directing our ways.

How is your road trip going today?

Friday, February 16, 2007

why count your losses?

For my birthday, I do not have the same feelings as I do about Valentine's Day, because I willingly take all gifts on my birthday. I think I want CDs. I'm a music junkie. I have two picked out already. Of course there are also scrapbook stores--I can buy many more supplies and things to put them in. Things, and things to put the things in. Okay, that was eloquent! LOL.

I get to celebrate yet another birthday, but instead of mourning how much of my youth I have lost, I choose to look at all the things I have gained. I have more wisdom than I did one year ago. I have more peace. I have more friends. I have more knowledge. I have a better job. I have more grandbabies. Woohoo!! I love my babies. My kids have grown up more than they were a year ago.

I don't beat myself up as much about who I am as I used to. I can look at my cluttery ways and my forgetful brain and laugh. It isn't the end of the world if there are receipts and papers stacked up by the computer. My day will go on, even though my living room curtains (curtains-to-be, actually) have been sitting on the table in the living room, puddled in a heap with the pattern for them folded up inside of the fabric. I kept up on the house (and actually enjoyed it!) when I was home over Christmas break, but when I'm working full time hours, it is okay if I don't empty the full trash can in the living room for two weeks. If I vacuum once a week instead of twice or three times--so be it. Life goes on.

Okay, I have let the big dog out and back in for the last time this morning. I'm absolutely sure that he would go out four more times if I would let him. Do some dogs just have weak plumbing systems? We are trying to keep him on the recommended diet that the dog food bag says, which is only one cup in the morning and one cup in the evening, but I swear he goes out and does his business at LEAST eight times each day, and most of those seem to fall around the time I want to get to bed. Or blog more. AND, anytime the little dog goes out, the big dog has to go back out right behind him and mark any spot where the little dog went. He doesn't have much say-so in the house, so I guess maybe that is his only way to get back at him. I can't let them out together, because the big dog won't wait for the little dog to be done before he goes on the same spot. As soon as he can tell that the little dog is going, he runs over there and goes right on top of the little dog! Yukkkk! The little one was getting LOTS of baths until I finally figured out that they just had to go out separately! Keep your "duhs" to yourself.

Having a wonderful day! Hope you all do too!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

it's valentine's day, and i don't care...

Does anyone else think that Valentine's Day is way too overrated? I like getting flowers as much as the next gal, but for some reason, I absolutely don't like getting them because someone designated this to be the day for giving gifts "just because." This year the card/candy/flower industries are expected to sell 13.7 BILLION DOLLARS worth of merchandise. I have a problem with that.

It should not (and it doesn't) take a commercial holiday for my honey to express his love for me. I find it a bit canned for my taste. Okay, everybody say all together now, "Happy Val-en-tine's Day." Don't for-get the flow-ers. I would rather have one spontaneous gift of flowers from my honey than have him predictably buy the standard chocolates and dozen roses on the day when he is "supposed" to buy them. How meaningful is that? Maybe I'm weird, because I hear about lots of people getting upset because they felt forgotten or slighted today, but it's not an issue for me.

We were at our Financial Peace University class at church tonight, and people were talking about what they did (or didn't do) for Valentine's Day, and my honey said, "Every day is like Valentine's Day with my wife in my life." How sweet is that? Life just gets better every year.

Don't get me wrong--I'm not against others buying and receiving gifts. I just don't have a personal attachment to it myself. Hope your happy heart day was actually happy!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

bits and bites just for fun...

1. What time did you get up this morning? 5:00 AM
2. Diamonds or pearls? turquoise, actually
3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? I don't remember...sad, isn't it?
4. What is your favorite TV show? AMERICAN IDOL--WOO HOO!!!!!!!! although after this season so far, it would be more like... american idol--ho hum.....Otherwise I don't know. The Food Network or HGTV, not really a show, though.
5. What do you usually have for breakfast? oatmeal
6. What food do you dislike? slimy lunchmeat that should have been thrown out last week
7. What is your favorite CD at the moment? Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfeld, and Ripen by Shawn McDonald
8. What kind of car do you drive? I drive a Buick. I would like to drive a yellow Volkswagen bug with 70s flowers on the taillights
9. Favorite sandwich? grilled cheese with Muenster and orange marmalade
10. What characteristic do you despise? meanness
11. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? a cruise to Alaska
12. What color is your bathroom? unfinished--is that a color?
13. Favorite brand of clothing? comfortable
14. Where would you retire to? Oregon
15. What was your most recent memorable birthday? the one coming up--can I say that?
16. Furthest place you are sending this? I don't know yet
17. Favorite saying? God is a genius!
18. Are you a morning person or a night person? night, for SURE. if you wake up at 2:00 in the morning and I'm online blogging--you'll see what I mean!
19. Pets? several...2 fat cats, an old rabbit (11), and two dogs--a bigger fraidy-cat dog, and a little feisty dog who thinks he is bigger than the big one.
20. What did you want to be when you were little? a librarian
21. How are you today? tired--disappointed that I didn't wake up from my nap in time to watch AMERICAN IDOL--WOOHOO!!!!!! maybe it wasn't that's the group night, and they just complain about each other and bicker. I can sit in my own living room and listen to that.
22. What is your favorite candy? peanut M&Ms or Butterfinger--it's a toss-up.
23. What is your favorite flower? favorite flower? cannot process that concept--there really isn't a flower I don't like, and I have too many favorites
24. What is your full name? It's a secret
25. What was the last thing you ate? oatmeal raisin cookie
26. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? periwinkle blue
27. Last person you spoke to on the phone? DeeDee
28. Favorite soft drink? diet Pepsi
29. Favorite restaurant? Que Viet--the best egg rolls and egg foo young ever!
30. Favorite day of the year? today
31. What was your favorite toy as a child? I can't remember that far back, but I think it was my Crissy doll that had hair that grew and retracted
32. Summer or winter? fall
33. Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate? I think not. why not strawberry or mango?
34. What is your favorite comfort food? rice pudding
35. When was the last time you cried? today. that would probably be my answer every day
36. What is under your bed? lots of totes and probably chewed up Kleenexes from the little dog. I'm afraid to look.
37. Who is the friend you have had the longest? I don't know, probably my honey.
38. Favorite smells? freshly baked bread; the parking lot outside Biaggi's restaurant
39. What are you afraid of? something bad happening to my family
40. Favorite day of the week? Saturday, but only if I can sleep in
41. How many towns have you lived in? six
42. Do you make friends easily? it depends on the friend. Some friends develop slowly, and a rare few are almost instant--just add water and stir!

Coming soon...reflections on birthdays...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Snoopy Monday

The other morning, I had just dropped my son off at college, and I was driving on the highway headed home, feeling a bit sorry for myself. I was driving the only car that would start that morning. It was 23° below zero (F) when I got up, and our water pipes were frozen--not a drop of water was coming out. I almost couldn't believe it. I had to run through the house, turning on every faucet as if somehow, magically, one of them would work. The pipes weren't supposed to freeze! We have a new well, and the pump is about forty feet underground. The line comes in under our house, and there is heat tape wrapped around the pipe with a thermostat that is set to kick in when it gets below 40°. So they should NOT have frozen. I hate frozen pipes!

And yet, when we got up that morning, there was just silence in the sink when we turned the faucet on. This was not right. I wanted to have a fit! Not just any little fit, but the kind my daughter used to have when she was probably eight. I wanted to throw myself against the wall, fall on the floor screaming, kick my feet and pound my fists on the ground and just break something! I didn't, of course, but the impulse was still there bouncing around in my mind. How could this happen?? Along came my honey--he is my knight on a white horse, riding in to the rescue. After some eye rolling, clenching of jaws, grinding of teeth, and finally some investigation, he figured out that either the new pump quit working, or the pipes must be frozen under the house.

Well, there is an access area that allows us to get underneath the house in the crawl space, which is covered with a board. Okay, there was still one small problem: this board was covered with about six inches of ice from the snow that had melted from our roof a couple of weeks previously, and now the board was buried, solidly stuck to the ground. Yeah. In Minnesota, it can happen. You think spring might come early, and wham! You're in the deep freeze again!

I left to take my son, wishing the knot in my stomach would disappear.

So as I was driving back home, I was hearing the violins play in my mind, the ones you want people to play for you when things are reeaallly bad. This was too much. I wanted to kick something so badly my legs were twitching, but there was no room to do it in the car. On top of all that, I was feeling very PMS-y! It was truly a Snoopy Monday. (That is a Monday gone so wrong that one just wants a doghouse in the sun to sleep on until the day is gone.)

I saw this car pulled over on the shoulder of the freeway, and a youngish gentleman had gotten out of the car. I always have this tug on my heart to help people when I see them stopped on the side of the road, but then the cautious part of my brain kicks in and tells me to keep driving. That person could be a psycho killer on the loose, you know! Heart: He's stranded. Brain: Sucks to be him. Heart: I should help him. Brain: Are you out of your mind?

It makes me sad that our fear has to get in the way of us being good neighbors to each other.

I noticed that my car console said it was 14° below zero. Well, cautious brain said, it's warming up outside, isn't it? It's warmer than it was this morning, at least. The guy was out of his car, looking at the right side of the car at something. I noticed that his car was still running, and cautious brain quickly said, see? No problem. He'll stay warm. He'll call someone. Out of habit, I kept driving, but heart-voice kept harassing me. It's -14°, for crying out loud! The wind chill is about 40 below! Then mom-voice threw in her two cents worth and said, he didn't have a hat on. No one should be stuck on the side of the road when it's fourteen below. Wouldn't you want someone to stop if that were you stuck there? Cautious brain said, he's not stuck. He has a hat in his car. He's a Minnesotan, for crying out loud. His car's running. He'll be fine.

I just drove, listening to this cacophony going on in my head, and finally I said, okay, fine. I'll pull off at the next exit and go around. (I do this all the time so I can quiet the pestering voices, and then I'm so relieved because the person is usually gone by the time I get back there.)

Well, about eight or nine minutes later when I came back around, he was still sitting there. I pulled over behind him, praying under my breath. He got out and came back to talk to me. I found out that he had a flat tire, his jack and tire iron were frozen to the bottom of his trunk in several inches of ice, his cell phone was dead (he had brought his charger to charge it at work), he DIDN'T have a hat (and mom-voice said, mmm-hmm, you see?), and he was now late for work. I guess I wasn't the only one having a Snoopy Monday. So I gave him a ride to the phone, gave him a ride back to his car, and he just used the jack and tire iron out of my trunk to change his tire. (Thanks to my honey they were in there. If I had anything to do with it, they probably would have been sitting in a safe place, on a shelf in the garage somewhere.) I let him wear a hat from my car while he changed his tire in the bitter, icy wind, and then he thanked me and was on his way with the words, "I guess God was watching out for me today."

I realized that God had given me the opportunity to turn my attitude around. I realized that out of my inconvenience had come a blessing for another person. If I had just gone to work that day, I wouldn't have had the chance to show God's love in a very practical way. God's timing is impeccable, isn't it?

By the time I got home, the water was back on--hooray!--, and my honey got the other car going later in the day. The squirrels were eating the corn cobs we had put out for them. I got to take a nap. Snoopy Monday had turned into a pretty good day after all.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

simple pleasures

1. Waking up on a snowy morning and not having to get out of bed to go anywhere

2. Being at home when the kids are there and getting to hear about something funny that happened to them that day

3. Having a fresh cup of coffee about an hour before anyone else has to get out of bed

4. Picking up the latest Karen Kingsbury book at the library that I've been waiting for six weeks to get

5. Going home and actually having time to start reading it!

6. Paying bills and having enough money left over to go out to eat on our date night (usually Friday nights)

7. Going down to the Conservatory in St. Paul with my honey to sit in the delightfully tropical-feeling gardens in the middle of winter to take pictures of flowers

8. Finding an awesome passage in the Bible that God uses to speak to me about a current situation in my life

9. Waking up on a spring Saturday morning and hearing the trills from dozens of cedar waxwings in our trees as they are migrating north for the summer

10. Spending time with my friend Beth, because she makes me laugh till my sides hurt

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

new beginnings

I love January and February: the beginning of a new year. I have always thought of the beginning of a year as a time for a fresh start; time to think about doing things differently; time to get rid of the clutter that has built up in my life over the last year. January can seem rather sterile and dry after the color and excitement of the holidays. There is sometimes a discontented, empty flavor to the cold, early winter days. I've found that discontent is often the sign of new things stirring under the surface.

There is something to be said for clearing the clutter. Less mess, more order, less stuff, more "white space": a recipe for a restful mind.

I had to laugh when I started reading the book, Put Your House on a Diet. In the chapter called "Are You A Pack Rat?" there are seven small questionnaires, and you get to add up the points you accumulate, and use the total points to figure out your clutter quotient. I'm afraid I could tell already without doing the survey! Yikes! But I thought I would share an example.

Your Toothpaste Habits

_ You always put the cap back on the toothpaste and put the tube back in the medicine cabinet. You never squeeze from the middle. (4 points)

_You put the cap back and leave the tube on the bathroom counter. You sometimes squeeze from the middle but immediately regret it and contritely squeeze the tube back into shape. (3 points)

_You often squeeze from the middle, forget the cap, and leave the tube on your bedroom dresser. Toothpaste gets on your socks. You wear them anyway. (2 points)

_You always squeeze from the middle, lost the cap a month ago, and left the tube on thekitchen counter beside the toaster, where the toaster's heat melted it, gluing the tube to the counter. Rather than pry it up, you now brush your teeth in the kitchen. (1 point)

Okay, I got 1-1/2 on that one. I'm not saying where the 1/2 point is from.

The humor is best in the beginning of the book, and soon the reader will find practical point after point for each area of the house. It gets a little dry, then, and it talks about how boring clutter maintenance can get to be. How about some techniques to spice up your clutter patrol process?? Yippee. Okay, it's a bit much to chew through in one mouthful. I think it's a potty room book--one that I keep in the bathroom and only read one or two snips each sitting. Or I could use it to cure my insomnia.

But I've come to the conclusion that clearing out clutter is the cheapest way for me to remodel, or at least to feel like I have. It creates such a fresh atmosphere in the house when I go through and streamline the junk that is collecting in various corners and pockets in the house. I feel like I can breathe better when I walk through the house and my eyes don't have to stop on every misplaced, mismatched, misshapen piece of STUFF to figure out where it should go and what I should do with it for now. I wonder if God says anything about clutter. He made me this way so there must be some reason I collect the stuff I do.

I have this infamous "black hole" of assorted stuff in my room. It grows and shrinks with the seasons. Occasionally it threatens to overtake the entire room. I have seen it try to swallow up small dogs and children right before my eyes. Sometimes it even grows out into other rooms, much to my family's dismay. It is perfectly good stuff, stuff that someone could use. Obviously I can't throw it away and waste it. Much better to continue to save it for the right moment to generously distribute it to that someone. It makes perfect sense, doesn't it? My children do not trust it. They will not give me important papers when I am sitting next to the black hole. They take their papers and run.

Right now, however, it is at its lowest point since I last gave birth. I almost want to have a parade about it to celebrate, but I might jinx myself. In no time at all, it could be overflowing again. Right now, it's down to 1-1/2 laundry basketfuls right next to my closet. In fact, it looks like the closet may have just spit up a little, burped up a few clothes and such, just like a baby urps up on its bib. If I deal with it quickly, it may disappear entirely.

Of course, then I will still have numerous "safe places" in my home, all of which I have yet to locate with any consistency. You know how that goes..."Okay, give it here. I'll put it in a safe place where I won't lose it." Ha! Those words should come with red flags and warning signs. A "safe place" in my house is almost as much of an oxymoron as corporate efficiency or governmental frugality. Every time I say I've put something in a safe place, I'm usually looking frantically for it. My hubby just rolls his eyes and we both laugh. We know better.

Well, how dull my life would be with no untamed frontiers of clutter. There's nothing like the challenge of a dusty pile of miscellaneous frim-frams and toast crusts. I think I hear one calling me now.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

the main thing

A scripture from 1 Corinthians reminds me that that it is pointless to focus on our differences. Our focus should be on Christ, and our goal is in Him. The rest becomes minutiae.

1 Corinthians 2:1-2
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

We as believers in Christ get divided by so many details, and when we begin pointing our fingers at each other, we take our eyes off Jesus. Sidetracked, once again. Definitely guilty as charged. My truth is true for me. Is it relevant? Is it helpful? Perhaps to some, perhaps not to others.

The tone of one's writing is difficult to determine on the internet, and it is easy to assume the worst. Please know that my goal is not to inflame, but to speak from my heart.

open for discussion

I need to think about my words. This is a public forum, and it has come to my attention that my blog could be interpreted as being critical and hateful of the church and the individuals who still are members there. Thank you to the relative who was kind enough to write to me. It certainly is not my intention to be hateful. If I didn't have love for my family and my ex-in-laws, I would not care how they treated me. I would be indifferent. I'm sure it follows that the reverse is true as well. Each of us looks at the situation from our own unique perspective.

Perhaps I have generalized my individual experiences and applied it to the church at large. Let me clarify that this is based on my own personal experience, and it is a way for me to process my own emotions and reactions. I am completely open to feedback, and it would be my wish to be able to discuss issues openly. I am not writing to point fingers at the people who treated me unkindly. Maybe I should assume that they acted out of concern for me. Actually I think that did cross my mind at the time, but it didn't make me feel any less devastated. The method sometimes silences the message.

Feel free to challenge my ideas, my thoughts, and my point of view. Speak your mind! I've made many mistakes in my life, and I'm certainly not trying to set myself up as being perfect. Far from it. To be fair, I should also say that I have been treated very nicely by many individuals in the church and most of my family members on a one-to-one basis. Perhaps those times have just been tainted by the memories of the snide remarks that have been said to my face and particularly the ones said behind my back.

I’m sure I have been very skeptical and thought that people only wanted to talk to me so they could go gossip about it later because it has happened so many times already. It is easy to think the worst of people when one is feeling resentful, and I have to struggle to remember that not everyone is like that. Perhaps those "happy faces" really were sincere. Maybe mine was the only one not sincere; who knows? I do enjoy the times I happen to meet a family member and we can conversate and catch up, but I feel my "happy face" is often incomplete, just a mask, because there seems to be so much that is left unsaid.

When there is a divorce situation, it is not only difficult for the family involved, but it is awkward for extended family members as well. Generic offers of help are sometimes all that a person outside of the immediate situation can think of to do, but in my case, I felt that the some of the people who contacted me in various ways were offering conditional support--that it depended on my going back to church. Whether that was my interpretation or whether they intended to say that, I can’t say.

All I can speak for is my own perspective and my own feelings, obviously. My experience may not be the same as another person's. For example, I believe that there were many rules and restrictions in the church. I have seen them change back and forth, and I don't understand that. Others see it differently--they choose to live that way and are happy about it. I cannot dictate anyone else's perspective, nor would I want to. I'm sure that most of the members are there by choice, and I have no problem with that. I also believe that I am not the only one who feels this way, but each person is free to choose, just as I am. I only speak for myself.

So I appreciate the letter; I appreciate that this person has considered me their friend. I have missed our friendship as well. If I have spoken harshly and offended others, it was not my intention. Strong feelings often spark controversial debate. I do have strong feelings about these issues, but I am more than willing to hear other points of view. Feel free to comment here or use the email info on the left to email me privately.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

new life, new love

We have welcomed two new grandbabies to our family this last month--it's so exciting! One girl, and one boy. I have to update my mind to say NINE grandbabies. Yippee!!

We visited one of the new ones at the hospital yesterday, and new dad commented on how tired he was. My daughter (with her six month old) was there and the first thing out of her mouth was, "Get used to it. I haven't slept through the night for six months!" We all chuckled a little bit, but she's right. Almost all new parents have one thing in common: they are exhausted.

It makes me glad that I'm not going home tonight with a new baby. I love my sleep. I've paid my dues, I guess. But it makes me think about how hard it was when the kids were little. I mentioned that I grew up in a conservative church, and they do not believe in using birth control, so naturally many of them have large families. It makes me think about how many tired mothers there are in that church.

I was exhausted, and my kids weren't even as close together as many women's were. It didn't matter that I couldn't afford to take care of them, clothe them, feed them, find time to spend with them instead of passing their care onto the older children in the house, or if I even could provide a bed for each of them and some space of their own. That didn't matter. I still couldn't use birth control. Well, actually I could have, but if they found out...mmm mmm. They believe that if God gives the children, God will provide a way to take care of them. Well, it didn't always work for me. My kids went without things they needed. That still bothers me.

Speaking of the church, I was having a conversation with a friend about the way many of the people there completely cut me out of their lives when I left. She saw it this way: groups like this often stop acknowledging those who leave because if they acknowledge you, in a sense, it gives you some validity. If you have validity, your point of view has to be considered. If your point of view is worth considering, and you believe something different from what they believe, they might have to change if they agree with you. That is the one thing they will not do.

So if you have left one of these churches and people have treated you badly, it very likely isn't personal, although it may very well feel like it. I think it's much more about them than it is about you. This makes more sense to me to think that there is this issue rather than to believe that suddenly just because we have left the group that we have become unlovable, untrustable, and untouchable.

Okay, I don't know how a very exciting topic like new babies got me onto this, but it is what it is. Just think how scary it would be if I let everything out of my brain in one post! Ha!

Anyway, I love being a grandma. Such a cliche, but so true. I was so tired when my kids were little that I was probably just a royal crankypants. Poor kids. :) Now that I'm at this stage and I'm not overwhelmed by the responsibility of so many people to take care of, I enjoy my time with the little ones so much more. As far as the babies are concerned, I find it fascinating that the more lives (people) you have in your family, the more your love grows and expands so it can contain all of those people you care about. Love is vast, immeasurable, and unbounded. I know that also holds true for the families who have many children. I know they are loved. I just think that if the resources are lacking, it can be very difficult. More later.