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6.30.2011

A NEW WEBSITE COMING SOON.......!!!!!!!!!

On this the last day of June 2011 I wanted to let you know that soon you will be reading this blog on a newly designed website called champagneandraisins.com which is currently being constructed.  The blog will be similar to this but different too in terms of layout, design and maybe a bit of content.  Champagneandraisins.com will be a direct website enabling people to find it easier.  The name is just that - books ends of the rich, grand, sweet things and experiences in life and also the hard, sometimes painful, grief filled, and catalytic times we encounter.  Under construction but coming soon…. Champagneandraisins.com.   

BUSY SIGNALS

In this world of cell phones there are not many who will know what I speak of, or who can comprehend such a thing.  There is, in fact, a whole generation that really only know cell phones and are totally unfamiliar with land line phones.  I grew up on a farm in a rural part of the Midwest.  My grandparents lived across the road, and my aunt and uncle’s house could be seen across the field.  All the years of living at home we had a party line with my grandparents until 1979 when my parents remodeled their house and my grandparents built a new brick ranch house.  We each had a separate phone number but we shared the same line in and out.  You could pick up the phone to use it and find grandma talking to her sister Ruth.  Which, she did daily.  That also meant you could listen to her conversations.  Not that those grandma conversations were too awful riveting to a 13 year old.  I hated when a boy called as I knew if grandma or grandpa picked up they would hear bits of the conversation.  There was really no privacy.  Why we had a party line, I have no idea!  I suppose I need to ask my parents about that.  I’m assuming that in the 1960’s and 70’s maybe there were a limited number of lines to where we lived.  I don’t know.  Maybe it saved my parents some money.  I do know it kept your conversations short and sweet.  Phones were more of a have to, not a want to like they are now.  Phones just were not as seemingly life and death as cell phones are today.   More and more people are eliminating their land lines as we become more reliant on mobile technology.  Over the weekend, as we were tearing off a room on the back of our house, we purposely detached the land line running into the house.  We don’t have a land phone any longer.  My husband is far more techie than I.  He carries and lives by his iPhone.  Me, well I thoroughly love the limitedness of my old flip phone.  He has tried to get me to get a new iPhone going as far as taking me to the Verizon Store.  It hasn’t worked.  That iPhone seems like just another avenue of bondage.  Something excessive that I don’t need or want in my life.  I don’t like excess and actually relish a bit of minimalism in my world.  Kindly I have refused upgrading my flip phone for wide open access to apps, emails and music.  I love my beat up flip phone which does all that I really want and need it to do – text, call and take pictures.   There is a sense of boundaries and peace that I have to NOT get emails on my phone.  There has to be a line between technology making life easier and causing us to never disconnect.  Party lines were a pain in the ass, but iPhones and the like are a bit of bondage.  It’s nice to leave work at work.  And vacation is supposed to be vacation.  Remember those days.  There is a line from a song at the end of the movie “Napoleon Dynamite” that says….”I love technology.  But not as much as you my dear.”  I often sing that song with a twist on the lyrics, exchanging hate for the word love. 

6.29.2011

BAG LADY

I am not a saver. Nor, am I a dedicated recycler.  Please don't tell my mom!  Really I don't save too many things.  I have tried my hand at using those recyclable, save-the-earth sort of bags that the earthen crowd utilize diligently at the grocery store.  You know the kind that you bring from home.  Most of the time my intentions are good, but my memory to remember them from the car or the house when in the check out line are horrible.  I really made a concerted effort to use the save-the-earth bags when, after a trip to Hawaii, I learned there was a mile long stretch in the ocean of plastic bags.  It is killing sea life - dolphins, sea lions, amoeba, swells of minnows, and ocean perch.  One would think that would have solidified my resolve to "go green" in carrying my groceries at the very least.  My mom saves most everything.  Growing up the dish rack, the clothes rack and the space on the floor in front of the heat vent just off the kitchen was strewn with freshly washed and drying ziplock and bread bags.  She was preparing their weathered plasticness for yet another use to come.  I never really felt they got totally dry inside.  On any given day if you go to my mom's house you can find enough store plastic grocery bags to add yet another mile to the grocery bag flotilla off the Hawaiian coast.  I don't ever wash a ziplock or bread bag.  And I mean ever.  Does my waste bother me?  Maybe it should, as I come from a long line of relatives who wash bags, save bits of aluminum foil along with used tea bags.  I, on the other hand feel grateful to live in a place where a person can buy 30 one-gallon ziplock bags for $2.89.  That equates to less than .10 cents a piece.  My grandfather (my bag washing mother's dad) made my mom, me and my two sisters bag drying wood tulips perched boldly and colorfully on this wooden circle.  The color of the paint was like what you see on a clearance paint rack at Lowe's where the wrong color was mixed.  I never used mine.  My mom uses hers constantly.  Side note; she also washes the red plastic cups designed to be used and thrown away.  Not me.

6.26.2011

ALL THAT JAZZ

I listened to some live jazz music last evening at a Jazz Festival where I live.  The name of the group was The Dave Bennett Quartet.  Now I can't say that I am well versed in jazz music or that I have a favorite musician in that genre.  I can say that jazz music amazes me.  The speed, the off beatness, the swill of rhythms and the timing that seems almost off kilter at times intrigues me.  The bass player was amazing and even though his notes and rhythms were more steady than everyone, barring the drummer, he was lively and felt it.  The clarinetist was quite stellar.  I loved his rushed runs and offbeat fast playing.  I'm not quite sure that the drummer though wasn't on auto pilot on most numbers.  I'm pretty confident I saw him looking somewhat disengaged and gazing around aimlessly as he played the same sort of blase hushed and very flat rhythm.  The pianist on the other hand, was amazing.  It could be because I have played in my life, but he was good.  He just played but not in this pounding way.  The music instead just flowed from his hands.  He was amazing.  There are great musicians in every genre of music.  But much like sports, there are certain sports that require a bit more talent, skill, and physical acuity.  Jazz is that sport in the music world.  It takes music to a more free level that isn't as orchestrated and roteish as some other types of music.  I thought sitting there why that appeals to me - the fact that music leads those jazz musicians not them leading the music.  Its notes are free, open, unstructured.  Which, is so very much like the way I love to live. 

6.24.2011

ARMPIT AND LEG HAIR....not:)

Being a free-spirited and open person one would imagine that approach would apply in all areas. It does in many areas, but maybe not all areas at all times.  I am not Woody Harrelson:)  My free spiritedness manifests itself in lots of ways.  For instance, in clothing.  My motto is less is better (not scantily clad mind you - as who wants to see a woman in her mid forties in that condition!).  I don't wear layers (I have see first hand my 23 year old daughter wear 4 shirts at one time - why I say!!).  I go without a bra more times than not (which is possible when they are barely an A cup).  Never, ever do I wear pantyhose even if it's minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit out.  Nor do I wear slips, socks, or scarves around my neck for warmth or fashion in that loop-d-loop sort of trendy way.  My winter coats are thin.  Family and friends alike try to mother me into wearing a heavier one even at my age!! (give it up people!)  If I do have to wear snow boots to shovel the drive or trudge through the parking lot from work to the office, there are no socks inside my boots.  Right now some of you are thinking, "Hmmmm, she really is sort of describing a bag lady of sorts who pushes a shopping cart around piled with her meager possessions and coat wide open in the bitter winter."  It's presently summer where I live which means my love of sun and the outdoors rules me.  Several days ago I donned my bikini top and a pair of shorts and headed to the back yard to park my hiney in my beach chair - time for some sun and some writing.  My free spirited ways felt threatened a bit by the neighbor behind me who used to call me the "saucy little divorced lady" during my single period and who admitted to having binoculars.  My self-conscious level ratcheted up a tad as I thought about my neighbors next to me. They are in their 60's, Mennonite and dress very modestly and don't own a TV.  Maybe I was sending them over the edge.  Because my house is on a corner, every Tom-Dick-and-Harry can see me bikini clad sitting in my beach chair in the back yard.  Yet, none of that dissuaded me or caused me to cover up.  We though are in the process of tearing off a sun room to create a private fenced patio with a gas fire pit - a way to enjoy the outdoors with some semblance of privacy from the street and binoculars:)  My free and easy spirit manifests itself in how easily I approach strangers or how they approach me.  Meeting an elderly couple yesterday in the lab (there once again!) the woman begins to pour out her heart about her struggle with cancer, her husband's heart surgeries and that both of their kids live a great distance from them.  We talk about how life with disease can drain you emotionally too.  She said that's where she was.  I could relate most definitely and hoped she knew I shared a bit of her struggle as I too had experienced that.  I suppose my openness allowed them to unload and feel validated if only for a few minutes from a stranger.  I also am free spirited with possessions.  I just don't own a lot of "stuff" nor does it hold a high degree of interest to me.  In fact, belongings and clutter weigh me down.  My easy breezy wing it ways show up in full force in not needing a master plan before starting a project, a demolition or construction job, a blog, a website.  I usually see things in my head and it unfolds as I journey in the project doing it.  Right now some of you extremely concrete thinkers are shuddering, sweat forming on your lip as you udder words like, "irresponsible, procrastinator, a scenario for failure, chaos, a poor job in the making."  The playing out of creativity as it unfolds is actually exhilarating and energizing for me.  It's my best work sort of way.  But mostly, my openness with just allowing people to be truly who they are allows for some hilarious and very meaningful moments in life.  My free spirited and open ways have made my life very rich.  I do  though draw the line at shaving - I do it daily!

6.23.2011

THE MONTH OF JUNE

I've been thinking about June in light of this past December 2010.  Being pretty intuitive both about others and myself, I sensed in my spirit in September of 2010 that something hard, bad or difficult would take place in December.  And, then that something amazing, life changing, the actualization of something good in my life would come in June of 2011.  Before you giggle and think I am Sylvia Brown, palm reader of sorts to the stars - NO!  December most definitely followed suite to what I sensed, a heartache and grief that left me struggling for a time.  On the heels of that came love as December's last few days faded into January.  I have wondered, in these months between then and now, what that amazing and good thing would be.  My prayer has been wisdom to know how to get to the things in my life that I want, that I have a desire to achieve.  There is movement in two of those avenues of desire in this month of June on this 24th day.  I, with a strong measure of assuredness, know they will come about in full force.  It's sort of like knowing they have already occurred and I am just journeying to where they are.  It's planted in my soul and my spirit.  Sometimes staying on the path with determination, patience and faith gets a bit long.  And, I have a day or two or three or week where I have to shake off the funk of weariness and doubt to refocus from the things in life that naturally pull all of us from the important.  June is a month most referenced in our minds for; graduation parties, weddings, the start of summer, the close of school, vacations, the longest hours of daylight day of the year, a lessening of structure and routines, a more carefree spirit.  It's just a month of goodness and delight - seeing our hopes realized.  I am believing the same.  

6.22.2011

IRRITATING, ANNOYING AND DOWN RIGHT OBTRUSIVE

Two things remind me of each other; fingernails on a chalkboard and the feel of a clarinet reed in my mouth.  Not a fan of either.  I don't like the sensation they give my insides.  There was always a kid in every class throughout the ages who found great hilarity in running his nails across the chalkboard just to irritate everyone.  It was like a human dog whistle.  My mom can mimic that sound by annoyingly clicking one of her long fingernails under one of her other long fingernails so repetitively your skin begins to separate from your flesh.  In fact, I was once trapped in the back seat of a car on vacation with my mom (whom I love deeply).  She proceeded to click her nails together for what seemed like hundreds of miles as she read out loud nearly every road sign with differing inflections in her voice depending on her level of interest in the words.  I had a small tick in my left eye as we rolled into my aunt's house!  My ex-husband had a habit of driving using the accelerator in a sort of push then coast sort of way.  It was so obvious and sometimes nauseating to passengers that a few close friends and myself just took to driving when with him (plus we got there much faster!).  Standing in Dairy Queen with my daughter, son-in-law and husband we were about 8th in a long line.  The line never moved, nor did any staff member say, "May we help you?  Or, it will be just a minute."  Nothing.  The staff of what appeared to me to be mostly or all teenagers, seemed to be running in circles, all making food and no one manning the counter.  When I could not take their chaotic system or lack of helping anyone I said, "Excuse me, do you know there are least 8 people in line?"  I got a snippy response back and we waited some more!  At a coffee shop some years back a young high school or college aged girl waited on my daughter and I.  She had the attitude of a porcupine and the warmth of a bat.  After bringing the food to the table she turned and left.  Nothing we ordered was right for either of us.  When I could get her attention, I kindly told her that this was not what we had ordered.  With disgust as big as the Texas sky, she picked up the plates in silence and turned to take them back to the kitchen.  As she did, she rolled her eyes.  Something snapped in me!  I said, "Excuse me.  You just rolled your eyes at me for what reason."  She proceeded to try and say she hadn't but even that came out with a pissy attitude.  The owner and I spoke on my exit from the coffee shop about the face of his business at the tables.  I never graced that establishment again.  I did not want to play the clarinet when trying out for the 6th grade band.  Instead, I wanted to be a percussionist ever bit as bad as I wanted to never have to wear a dress again.  Mr. Lentz (who irritatingly used his car keys to clean his ears out during band practice) the band teacher said, "Lynn, you will play clarinet."  I hated that reed and the feel of it against my teeth.  Every time I pursed my lips this strange gritting sensation would run through my teeth and jaw.  Just like fingernails on a chalkboard.  Certain things are just irritating, annoying and sometimes, down right obtrusive!

6.21.2011

SEEDS OF CHANGE

I have a small raised bed garden.  It's 8' by 8' and crammed overly full of vegetable plants.  Every year I marvel that I can put seeds in the ground, brush a bit of dirt over them and magically plants appear a week or two later.  From one day to the next you can visibly see growth.  Suddenly growth produces a small blossom.  Then, a small tomato, cucumber, zucchini, pepper, radish, green bean.  Every year I find myself amazed, excited, in wonder and awed by the process of growth - the journey of that seed to harvest and my table.  I perused my small garden this morning and saw the swiss chard was ready to be cut.  It had finally grown enough that it reached maturation - its final destiny to be eaten and enjoyed by me.  I thought too about what God must feel.  Is it similar to what I do with seeds and the process, the miracle, the mystery, the joy of seeing growth and value come from virtually nothing into something? What appears dead and lifeless, a seed, is actually alive and waiting for the right growing conditions.  I am a seed to God.  I hold forth possibility, delight to Him, the promise of change and growth but only under the right conditions.  I need a soft heart allowing my life to be used, changed and grown by God to create produce.  He sees it over and over again in all of His creation - humans included.  He sees it just like I see the garden every spring.  Just like me, God gets excited at my growth, my change, my journey to maturity.  I think He delights in my seed of humanity.

6.20.2011

OLD AND NEW COLLIDE

It happens with a bit of regularity.  I would imagine that eventually, with enough passage of time, enough spread of the rumor mills, it will stop.  Sitting in the yard several weeks ago in our beach chairs, my husband and I were enjoying the sun on a Sunday afternoon.  A van pulled up to the edge of our property and began a dialogue, "So, where is your husband?  How have you been?"  I turned to Doug and told him I can't see who it is, but whoever it is doesn't realize that I am divorced and now remarried.  I walked across the yard to face whoever and let them know my life has moved forward.  It is some college friends of my ex-husband that live not far from me.  I approach the van and with frankness and say, "Well, that man in the beach chair is Doug, my husband.  I'm sure you don't know this, but Chuck and I divorced last year.  Maybe it is hard for you to hear.  Maybe you have processing to do but I have already processed things and have moved forward.  Sorry if this is awkward for you."  They looked a little shocked but he responded with grace and positiveness, "Ok Lynn.  I'm sorry to hear that, but if you are doing well then I too have already processed it.  No questions asked.  Let's get together for dinner some time."  I thanked them for their gracious spirit and we caught up with each other for a time.   I have found it best to be open - to move people to where I am by facing them (it just took me awhile to be able to do that).  This past weekend was my twin niece's high school graduation open house.   We helped my sister and her husband with serving and cleaning up the food for their 200 guests in attendance.  I warned my husband that there would be plenty of people there that know me but might not know that I got divorced and remarried.  There could be, I told him, some moments of awkwardness.  He assured me that there was no awkwardness on his part as he loved me and my family.  A dear elderly lady who was influential in my growing up years and means the world to me was in attendance that evening.  I spoke with her, now almost 90, and shared what she meant to me as a young person - the influence and love she gave me - what a difference she had made in my life.  She hugged me and told me how she had always loved me, asked about how my health was (adorable for a 90 year old!), and I asked about her life.  Later, seeing my husband standing beside me, she asked him how his parents were.  I knew she thought he was my ex-husband and therefore knew nothing of my divorce let alone remarriage.  With grace, gentleness and an open spirit I responded, "Elta, that is not Chuck.  We divorced last year and I'm sure you did not know that.  Chuck's parents I believe are well.  This is my husband Doug - the love of my life."  I could tell it threw her for a momentary loop as she responded, "Oh, I did not know that.  I'm sorry."  There were a few other encounters that evening with people from my hometown, home church, growing up years.  I faced them all confidently, trying to lessen the impact and the awkwardness I saw on them.  There was a time a year ago when I wasn't confident, wanted to hide, couldn't face a few of their condemning spirits which didn't fit with their religion and broke my heart at times.  I looked at my husband that night so glad for the decisions, gifts and passage of time.  It was good to show that crowd that I was well, happy, loving my life and delighting fully in this gift of love I was experiencing.   

6.19.2011

WHO USES THEM?

This blog post is an interactive one.  I want your feedback to satisfy what has been a life long question.  Do you use a wash cloth when bathing or showering?  It seems like a silly and somewhat private question - even causing a few of you to have a visual of the non-washcloth folk showering, only soap in their hand:)  If you are a non-washcloth user it becomes a bit awkward when visiting friends or family.  You know sometimes the host will lay out a towel and a washcloth for you.  There is that moment when the shower or bath is complete when you try to figure out what to do with your wet towel.  There is that other moment when, as a non-washcloth user, you try to figure out how to hide the fact that you didn't use the washcloth.  Do you just pony up and leave it unused in the bathroom?  Or, do you rinse it under the bathroom faucet and wring it out as a decoy to your non-washclothability?  There are probably a few washcloth users who are now posing the question, "How gross can you be to use the soap directly on the exposed parts and pieces of the human anatomy?"  The non-washcloth crowd comes back with, "Well, it's faster, and since its soap, it cleans itself!"  If you are curious which method uses the most or least amount of soap, your mind is now on the same path as mine.  To be honest, there are probably no studies out there (ok, maybe there are as our government can waste money like there's no tomorrow!).  My best guess though is that the non-washcloth users actually use less soap per bath/shower transaction than the washcloth crowd.  You may need to confer with Bill Nye The Science Guy for confirmation on my theory.  It makes logical sense that when you use a washcloth you have to keep slathering the soap around on the cloth to create lather.  The non-washcloth users skip the middle man.  Now you might be very curious as to what category I belong to.  I don't blame you as I've been curious about this issue all my life:)  Please post your comment as to your preference - washcloth or not.

6.18.2011

SOAP IN MY MOUTH

There is a bit of fire that resides inside me.  It rears its head from time to time.  Hopefully I don't waste that type or intensity of fire on meaningless or trivial irritants.  Usually when it does surface I am blunt and passionate about whatever the subject matter.  On vacation this past week I thoroughly enjoyed the break from regular life, work, demands, people.  It was really the first vacation we have taken since being married earlier this year.  Every other trip we have taken involved going to see family.  So, this time alone with each other was precious and welcomed.  I do use some blunt words from time to time (you can read about my trifecta of swear words that I use in a post from 2010).  Really though never to do I use the f*** word.  It seems overused, mostly by teenagers, when there is really not dire call for it.  Like any word in the English language, overuse diminishes its effectiveness to carry emotion or paint a picture.  After witnessing days of work being dragged into vacation, passion welled inside of me over my husband's employees continuing to email and message him while on vacation.  I felt it was rude, disrespectful, crossing a boundary and was stealing my husband's mind during a time that he needed, both mentally and physically, to recharge.  When yet another text came through his I Phone my switch was triggered and I think in love for Doug, wanting to have him to myself with no "work" for a week and in frustration over people's insensitivity to boundaries, I blurted out, "What the f*** is wrong with those people!!".  I then proceeded to say out loud with some verbal punctuation, what was wrong with them.  Trying to keep my anger in for 20 miles or so, I was hoping to let it go without expressing anger over it.  That did not happen.  We talked through the issue and how to eliminate it while we ate lunch at a great European cafe.  Driving in the car later my husband got tickled recounting my moment of white hot passionate anger and what flew out of my mouth.  I apologized again for how I said what I did, but not for the gist of what I said.  He smiled and let me know that he actually found it yet another thing in me he loved deeply - my passion over things that really matter.  Behind that f*** was love for him he said.  That I valued what we had, wanted to protect it fiercely and knew that boundaries in that area were important, made my potty mouth a thing of beauty to him.   I found myself every now and then that day and the day after apologizing yet again for what flew out of my mouth.  Every time I was met with him smiling and his assurance that I can just be me - fiery, blunt at times and full of passion.   

6.16.2011

SMARTIE PANTS

I was an average student in school.  I was average mostly because with little to no effort I could get A's and an occasional B - except for computer programming, the only D I ever got!  Looking back I wonder if my acceptance of not trying and just getting those grades was partly because I really am not a competitive person.  The real motivator for my smarts is my own satisfaction, and if the subject matter is not interesting to me, there is no real desire to get the knowledge.  The flip side is that when I want something - whether to learn, to achieve a goal, to conquer a fear, to tackle anything I know nothing about, I am tenacious, pithy and somewhat stupidly charge ahead without fear.  I wouldn't really say about myself that I am learned, scholarly, or academic.  I would say that my intelligence is though sharp through having a fast mind, being overly observant, and highly intuitive.  There are differing types of smarts, of intelligence, or brilliance.  I can think of a kid in my class from kindergarten through high school who would be in the brilliant category.  He was socially inept (lacking major smarts in that area), but in kindergarten would read the encyclopedias (for you young people out there encyclopedias are BOOKS not an Internet app!) cover to cover.  Mostly he had snot running out of his nose, pants that were a bit too short, lacking flesh to cover his sack of bone frame and glasses which accentuated all of the above.  I, on the other hand, was commandeering the kitchen in the kindergarten room and telling people how to be efficient:)  I think I googled his name some time ago and he is something like a scientist or biochemist or a researcher for the National Institutes for Health.  His resume compared to mine is filled with degrees and heady, brainy jobs.  The creators of Face Book are intellectually brilliant, and so is Bill Gates.  I think Warren Buffet is both brilliant and intelligent but he also possesses intuitive smarts.  Sometimes extremely brilliant people are so intelligent with knowledge galore that they have no room left in their brain for 1) normal social behavior, 2) inter personal relationships, 3) the ability to lead people.  All three of those things really take another type of intelligence.  I will read anything that is laying around (stopping short of science fiction and romance novels which are both crap!).  In fact, I love to read things I don't necessarily agree with - it opens my mind and helps me know what other people think.  Researchers would say that intelligence is categorized into 7-9 groups which clearly define both left and right brained people and a combination therein.  There are most definitely some "dumber than a box of rocks" people out there.  There are also some "can write an algorithm but can't write a check" sort of folk too.  Then there are those of us that fall somewhere in between on that sliding scale.  What I do know is that intelligence is not the only thing that secures us success.  In fact, it is actually the least of the things needed to succeed in life.  Passion is probably the greatest.

6.14.2011

WINKEN, BLINKEN AND NOD

My mom had an amazing ability when I was growing up.  She could literally fall asleep in just about any position, anywhere, and at any time.  Now mind you, she had (still does!) more energy and zip than anyone I knew, but she equally had the ability to sleep say, through a tornado.  Which by the way, she did once.  One summer stormy night we were roused from our sleep by our dad.  We huddled in our parent's room looking out their northwest window seeing the storm (a tornado touched down about 1 mile from their house).  Mom was still in bed sound asleep as the family visually tracked the storm by her bedside.  In fact, when dad decided it best that we get to the basement, she followed us down only to immediately lay back down on the couch and promptly fall asleep.  There is a family vacation photo of my mom on Mackinaw Island, Michigan laying on the perimeter wall of the historic Old Fort asleep with her legs stretched out, arms folded as in death with her 1970's bandanna on.  Most kids instinctively go to their mom's side of the bed in the middle of the night when they need something.  That was not the case in our house.  You could stand right beside my mom's side of the bed and repeatedly say her name - trying to wake her up to no avail.  She, when asleep, was completely dead to the world.  On the other hand, my dad would hear me silently standing by his side of the bed and wake up.  He and I had a non-verbal system; I would stand by his side of the bed, he would sense my presence, silently he would rise and we would both go downstairs where he would wait in the kitchen while I went to the bathroom and then I would wait in the kitchen for him to go to the bathroom.  We then silently climbed the stairs again.  I don't recall too many vacations where my mom ever really stayed awake in the car.  No matter where or how long it took to get where we were going, she fell asleep.  Once my parents retired they wintered in Florida.  My dad declares that he hates driving down to Florida as it is a boring, silent trip with my mom sleeping a good share of the way there.  He will say, "Caroline, you can sleep your life away!"   I have to think that working, having three daughters who were 18 months apart, and keeping up with home and church may have left her chronically exhausted.  I take after my dad, waking at the sound of silence or the blink of an eye connected to the person laying next to me.  I definitely don't sleep my life away.  In fact, with as little sleep as I get I am probably shortening my life span.  Whereas my mom will live to be 100 - or at least sleep until then.

6.12.2011

SUSHI AND A GLASS OF WINE

There is no doubt a contingent out there that even though you have never ever tasted sushi, you will say you don't like it.  You may have even never been near a plate of sushi in your life, but based on the bad rap that raw fish may have, you declare disdain without experience.  There are all different types of sushi and some don't have any raw fish in them at all.  Sushi does have a bit of a bad rap - a connotation of negativity which no doubt was started from people from the midwest (farmers in particular) who are big meat and potato advocates.  If I can try raisins again recently in my mid forties after saying I hate them and now love them (ok love is a bit strong but chocolate covered ones I love!), you too can try sushi!  If you are at all into health, sushi is a sort of "clean" food - one that isn't heavy, involves minimal ingredients and doesn't leave you reaching for a TUMS!  Last night I was reminded once again of how much I love sushi.  Sitting in Red Ginger Restaurant in Traverse City, Michigan eating Firecracker sushi with raw yellow tuna, lettuce wraps and a glass of red wine I smiled inside at how far I have come from the farm I was raised on  - in style, food, thinking, decisions.  As I dipped that raw piece of yellowtail tuna into the small dish of soy sauce a small "yum" came out.  I tried to picture my dad eating sushi.  I couldn't.  Though I would like to see him try to eat a piece, the expression on his face followed by the comment which would fly from his mouth, "That's not real food!" would make all the fun go away.   I passed my love of sushi on to my daughter.  I think E-Harmony should include a another level of compatibility to their already boastful 29 levels - a 30th that includes a love of sushi.  My E-harmony found husband loves sushi.  He though prefers Pignot Grigio to my Red Zinfandel.  Sushi, a glass of wine and 7 days of vacation lie before me!  Tonight another glass of good wine (or two!) with some great food, sweet conversation, laughing and just being free with no time constraints.  Cheers!!!   

6.11.2011

A QUARTER PRAYER

If you read an earlier post from this blog (The Penny Altar – 5/4/11), you know that God and I have a silent language regarding finding loose change on the ground.  It’s been a way for God to communicate His care, love and provision in my life.  Several days ago I went for a run in the morning.  I was doing my normal praying and thinking on the miles.  If I had to rate how I felt that day it wouldn’t have been bad or distraught or even mildly off kilter.  I was just communing with God.  In that communing I was expressing love and gratefulness.  For whatever reason, I asked God to let me find a quarter that day.  There was no thought in my head or heart needing a quarter as a “lucky charm”, a wish to see if God would grant me like a Genie in a Bottle.  No, it was that I knew that God and I had a thing with money on the ground.  I wanted a visual of the love God had for me that day – simply to feel a bit closer, more in step, knowing that His presence was not only there invisibly and powerfully, but tangibly.  I ran and looked down.  Nothing.  I was not disappointed though as I knew God loved me.  Finishing off the day later after coming home from a cookout with friends and a day at the beach, my husband and I went for a walk.  It was that time between dusk and dark.  We walked hand in hand to the end of our neighborhood making the 1.3 mile one way trek in pure delight.  As we neared the 1.3 mile turn around point I looked down and there laid a quarter in the road.  I stopped and tears filled my eyes.  Slowly I picked it up still touched by God’s gift of love in a tangible and obvious way right before the day slipped into darkness.  Not knowing what my husband of 4 ½ months would think of this craziness of me asking God for a quarter, I ventured into the conversation.  He was standing there watching emotion spilling from my eyes as I held the quarter.  I’m not sure he had ever seen anyone get so touched and excited about a coin found.  I began to tell him about my conversation through the years with God regarding finding loose change in the road on walks, runs and bike rides.  I told Doug about the conversation and request I made of God that morning while out running – wanting to find a quarter to feel and see God in a hold-in-my-hand sort of way.  Emotion swelled in me as I said, “God did this for me.  For me. “  This big huge God of creation, creator of humankind, Savior of the world had not only heard me that morning, but knew what my heart wanted and touched it specifically.  He heard and answered my prayer in the swill of billions that he hears daily.  I knew God’s presence was there – He was my shadow.

6.09.2011

KAREN AND THE MYSTIC HANDS

I believe there are spirits about the world - both good and bad.  I can sometimes see a presence around people - both light and darkness.  I suppose that mystics out there call that a person's aura, the energy field that emanates from a person or object.  Those followers of that belief say there are 7 layers around a person which correspond to 7 different colors.  Each color representing something, with the strongest color being the dominate part of the person.  If you call that hogwash or baloney or think that is borderline satanic voodoo, then maybe you feel more comfortable with another definition.  Scientists believe that there is an electromagnetic field surrounding each person (there is).  If "science" makes you more comfortable and the word electromagnetic field instead of aura makes you feel better, then go with it.  Either way, we are surrounded by something (the Bible says a "great cloud of witnesses" but let's not go there).  A few years back I sold real estate.  In this real estate office were twelve of us - all different personalities, styles and levels of success.  Karen was a bit eclectic with her hemp bag, high waisted pants, all one length bobbed hair, solidly far to the left political and religious beliefs, strange decorating tastes, and Birkenstock sandals.  In her 50's and divorced, she was uniquely individual though not highly successful as a realtor.  She was eccentric in a world of non-eccentrics.  One day I was working on some comps for a client with my back to the door of the office I was in.  Karen came into the room and said hello.  She very boldly asked if she could heal my pancreas (she knew I had Type I diabetes).  Yes, she said it virtually like that.  I love anyone that is bold and she was.  I smiled and said, "Well Karen, I have prayed for years for God to heal it and thus far He has chosen not to.  But, if you think you can, please go right ahead!"  I knew what was coming as I had heard rumors in the office of her "healing mystic hand thing".  I pushed my chair away from my desk and stood up.  After giving me a few instructions - open your mind, think about healing, etc...I heard her clap her hands and rub them together for a bit behind me.  Then very slowly she held her hands, palms facing my body, and began slowly outlining my body while keeping her hands about 3-4 inches from me.  Every so often I heard her say, "hmmmm, huh".  I tried to be open minded.  Really though I was having an inner monologue that went something like this, "What in the world is she doing?  She says she has actually healed people.  Wow!  I don't feel a thing.  I hope she can't read my mind because if she can, I'm busted!"  After some minutes she stopped and began to share what she felt and saw with me.  With a bit of a puzzled look she said, "I have never seen anyone with such a big aura about them, with such power, a huge spiritual whiteness and purple that is larger than most.  For whatever reason I could not get through."  I smiled and thanked her for trying, convincing her that it was no doubt my inability to let my mind go that made it hard for her.  Really I giggled to myself that maybe that aura is what causes people - random strangers and those I know alike - to tell me things, to come up to me, to feel safe to talk.   Some months after that I was sitting in my broker's office discussing something when the subject of Karen came up.  Without missing a beat he said, "Did Karen try to do her healing hands on you yet?"   I laughed and said, "Yes, but it wasn't successful."  He laughed, "She has been trying to do it on my injured back and there is no way in hell I will let her!  That stuff is bunk!"  I wondered if Karen would have done it on him what she would have seen.  I had prayed for Jim ever since I stepped foot in that office for his eyes to be opened and his heart softened to know God.  Yesterday the son of a neighbor came up to me in the yard as I mowed.  I saw something around him - despair, darkness.  Standing there I envisioned my light and his dark colliding.  I knew though who would win.  Light always trumps darkness.  Always.   

6.08.2011

THE QUIETNESS OF ALONE

I spent the entire day at home.  The entire day I went no where - no store, no errand, no office.  The only times I left my corner property was to run 3 miles this morning and then walk another couple with my husband as the day was slipping into darkness.  Once in awhile I actually crave a day of being alone - apart from the world.  Running this morning it was already about 85 degrees out.  I sought out shade and it dictated my route.  I mowed the lawn, tended to the garden, planted some landscaping plants, picked up the house, washed some windows, did some laundry, swept a few rooms and cleaned the bathroom (ok just a once over job for company!) and made dinner for my daughter and son-in-law who came to eat with us tonight.  There was nothing really spectacular about this day.  I did nothing out of the ordinary, nothing remarkable, really nothing noteworthy.  Yet, it was a magnificent day.  As I ran this morning, the day lay before me - a quietness of aloneness that I needed to recharge my internal batteries.  As I mowed the lawn my mind wandered, prayed, thought.  With every task I did there was just this quietness around me today which allowed rest and refreshment to my spirit.  I thought about people who mean the world to me today and spent time praying for their lives - asking God to bless them, grow them, give them rivers of ah hah ness that come from doing what we were designed to do, to change things in their lives, to bring peace and love to them.  I thanked God for all the things in my life that are good.  I thought back over the years seeing God's hand and letting loose of pieces of garbage in my head and heart.  I asked God to continue to help me to let go of regret and grief and embrace the present with eyes wide open always.  I asked for wisdom to know how to get to the things in my life that I seek to do.  I prayed for a meeting that my husband was in.  I prayed about his job.  I wondered while mowing back and forth in the yard where time has gone.  I thought about being 25 and then soon to be 45.  Would I wake some morning to find I am 65.  I thought about my parents and what it will be like without them on earth someday.  I prayed for my nieces who just graduated high school.  Looking down at my sweat soaked running tank top I wondered when people drove by if they were grossed out by how wet with sweat my shirt was!  As I stood at the kitchen counter to make a half of a turkey sandwich and nibble on carrots I laughed at how I love simplicity.  If someone were to ask me at that moment what one thing in life I really wanted, something that would make my heart soar, I would have to say once in awhile the quietness of alone.  It was an ordinary day wrapped in beautiful paper and a bow.  I slowly unwrapped it and enjoyed it all day.

6.07.2011

THE GOSPEL MARKETING MESSAGE

I have some observations logged from living life, being a believer in Christ, having spent 25 years in a former life married to a pastor and being actively involved in ministry for those years. Church and the things of God have been a part of my life since my earliest memories. Sometimes I am amazed I love God and want to daily live in a relationship with Him based on some of my struggles with the church most of my life. My observations started early on, as a small kid. Born with a no nonsense way of viewing most things - wanting relevance (unable to know that word at a young age though) and purpose even as a child, church didn't always make logical sense to me. For instance, I was a tomboy made and created that way by God himself. Yet, the standard uniform for church growing up in our house involved the wearing of a dress! If it wasn't bad enough one time a week, we basically donned a dress every time the church doors were open. Which, in our church, was Sunday morning Sunday School followed by Sunday morning worship, a big lunch, a nap of sorts or non-working activities that observed that "the Sabbath is holy" thing and then back to church for Sunday evening service. We fumbled through Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before heading back to church for Wednesday evening service. That wasn't counting the several week revival meetings held yearly. During those weeks I just endured, pretending I was in an Olympic sport requiring quiet strength and immense endurance. I never hated God because of all the dresses, services and strange non-relevant things that went on in church. Somehow I could separate man's hand in tarnishing, to some degree, the things of God as we only know how - as humans. I never understood Sunday evening church. It was a poorly attended, lower quality and b rated-talent version of the Sunday morning worship service - a sermon, songs, an offering, prayer and special music. Did we not get it right in the morning? There were many times as a kid when I wanted to say (trust me I never did but did many times in my adult life!), "Dad, why do we have to go back to church Sunday evening? It seems that the people who most need to be here for more church are exactly the ones that don't come!" I hated Sunday evening church with a deep and abiding passion. How much devotion and obligation was pleasing to God I wondered as a kid? Was obligation pleasing at all to God? It seemed to me that God knew our hearts so if anything was done out of obligation I think it was a wash to God. God seemed to be a purist to me - only wanting truth and love - period. I also never saw the relevance of an order of service either. Don't get me wrong if I hated the service it was a both a blessing (to know how many more things were to come before the final amen) and a curse (to know how many more things were to come before the final amen). I mean, yes God is the same forever, yet He is God - able to, unlike mankind, change anything and everything. How did we think we could make God color in the lines for church according to our order of service printed in the 8 1/2 x 11" folded in half bulletin with a seasonal landscape picture emblazoned with an inspirational Bible verse on it? Too trite, too confined, to set. God to me was both solid like a rock, and free like the wind. When church tried to box in this big windy God, I struggled. People and personalities and business get in the way - dirty the relevance of church a lot. I saw some as a kid, but lived it as a pastor's wife. Often I wondered how we could get so far from just the simple, healing, restorative, empowering presence of Christ and spend time discussing who will mow the lawn and then backtracking so as not to hurt someone's feelings. It wore me out - the constant struggle to keep the group focused on the mission at hand - CHRIST - and not sidetracked by egos, social events, thinking church is a business, personalities that strove to dominate above the mission at hand - CHRIST! I sought to have relevance and purpose in the ministries that I was responsible for so much so that there were times conflict occurred as lay people had to be redirected to what the mission at hand was about - CHRIST! Church signs are another "thing" that I have never gotten. To this day when I drive by a church that has a sign and on it is posted a saying of sorts I laugh out loud. Tell me who that sign is for. Is it for the unsaved, living a life without a relationship with Christ? Is signage that reads, "Dusty Bibles Lead To Dirty Lives" or "A lot of kneeling will keep you in good standing" designed as conversation starters for the parishioners in the church as they drive by during the week? Does it, with any ounce of effectiveness, cause anyone to find Christ? How is that effective, relevant and realistic? How can we reduce a part of a huge limitless God down to a cute little concise or corny statement? Church has, most of my life, given the message of doing things - somewhat regimented, orchestrated, and orderly things as a way to please God, to connect to Him. If I have to do that then my humanity becomes the thing that saves me, grows me, changes me. That is not spiritual relevance or purpose at all, but a bit of humanism guised in a works based relationship with God. I don't know much but that I don't know all there is to know about God. I don't want to pretend to know how He operates or box Him in. Relevance and purpose is what I want and seek in all things church and God related.  God is way bigger than our human attempts to pedal Him, thankfully!

6.06.2011

THOUGHTS TO WORDS TO MUSIC

I love music - the sound, the feel that it leaves you with. The healing or energy it can bestow inside your head and heart. There is a language created through just notes all on its on. There is also a dialect, an intimate articulation of the soul that is displayed when words are put to music. Something remarkable occurs in our mind, emotions, soul and spirits when we hear music that has captured something we have been unable to clearly and fully express. When a song plays that nails our thoughts (most of our thoughts are somewhat universal even if they are specifically individual to us at the time) it gives wind to what we have wanted to let loose of, to say, to put in parenthesis, to have validated, to have set free. Music reminds of me of moments, times, experiences, or people in my past or present. I can hear a Huey Lewis (wasn't a fan!) song to this day and immediately remember high school. I know where I was when I first heard the Keith Green song, "So You Want To Go Back To Egypt" and what year it was. Music is a trigger. Not too long ago my husband said he had a song he wanted me to hear - a song that when he hears it, says exactly what he feels about me. He pushed play on his I Phone to play a Parachute song called "She Is Love"...


I've been beaten down, I've been kicked around,
But she takes it all for me.
And I lost my faith, in my darkest days,
But she makes me want to believe.

They call her love, love, love, love, love.
They call her love, love, love, love, love.
They call her love, love, love, love, love.
She is love, and she is all I need.

Well I had my ways, they were all in vain,
But she waited patiently.
It was all the same, all my pride and shame,
And she put me on my feet.


They call her love, love, love, love, love.
They call her love, love, love, love, love.
She is love, and she is all I need.


And when that world slows down, dear.
And when those stars burn out, here.
Oh she'll be there, yes she'll be there,

They call her love, love, love, love, love.
They call her love, love, love, love, love.
They call her love, love, love, love. love.

She is love, and she is all I need,
She is love, and she is all I need,
She is love, and she is all I need
This was one of the many times he has brought music to me, smiling while holding his phone ready to play something that he says are "his stolen lyrics" - like, Bruno Mars' "Just The Way You Are". Those and many other songs in my life have been a sweet gift to me, the lover of music that I am. Now go download those two songs:)

6.03.2011

OF DOGS AND MEN

I don't have a strong opinion about dogs.  Some dogs I like.  Others, not so much.  Humans can follow suite as well. My daughter has a dog, a Papillon named Fenley after Fenway Park and Wriggley Field.  Fenley is sparky, friendly, little, lively, loving and licky.  Growing up on a farm I had a few dogs.  The last one being a Norwegian Elk Hound named Mitzi.  She was a beautiful, thick furred, fun loving, scared-to-death-of-storms dog.  Her sport was chasing cars and keeping up with them for a considerable amount of time.  Us girls may have fostered her love of chasing by constantly playing a chase game with her.  Part of that bred's characteristics are that they love extreme exercise - tracking, hunting, running.  In fact, in running they can keep pace with most things.  We used that great ability in play with her.  Once, as I was holding a hot dog in a bun getting ready to take a bite, she ran by grabbing the whole hot dog from me with such speed and quickness that I was startled and amazed at the same time.  She devoured it while in motion as she bolted away!  Our house as a kid was flanked on one side by a farm that had two HUGE German Shepherds.  Riding bike past there was an exercise in seeing how quiet you could be without rousing the beasts while fear that gripped your very soul pounded inside your chest.  I often thought the dogs might actually hear that pounding inside my soul!!  At the other end of the road was another farm house owned by an old lady.  She had, before Rottweilers or Pit Bulls dominated the dog to people fear chart, Doberman Pinchers - two in fact.  They would lie in wait in the ditch across from her property, on their bellies, waiting to leap forth in a surprise attack to chase, mam and bite.  About a quarter of a mile before, I would begin ratcheting up to a Mach Five bicycle speed hoping to break the sound barrier before hitting the ditch where I knew they were lying in wait for me.  Complete terror would fill every muscle while adrenaline propelled me to speeds that would make Lance Armstrong look like a candy ass.  A passionate mantra coursed through my head as I frenetically pedalled, "I HATE THESE DOGS!  I HATE THESE DOGS!  WHO OWNS DOGS LIKE THIS!!   I'M GOING TO DIE!!"  Living in the neighborhood I presently abide in, there are dogs galore - people walking dogs, running with dogs, dogs in fences.  I've never really had issue with any dogs on my running routes no matter the time of day I run, until recently.  Well that is, until my husband came into my life:)  Several months ago while out running the back trek home a friendly and loving black lab, who must have escaped his owner, decided to keep pace running beside me for about a mile and half.  Soon a van pulled up, the door opened, the owners called his name and in the van he jumped.  I was not harmed in the lab run and actually thought it was funny that a random lab ran right beside me for a time.  Not long after that, again out on a run, I rounded a street to see two dogs wandering aimlessly with no owner nearby.  Immediately they turned, the one friendly and not really bothering me.  The other one, charged me several times as I stopped to face it.  Not being able to get him to back off I began yelling as loud as I could hoping to rouse the careless owner who may have been nearby.  That didn't work - no one came to rescue me or call the dog away.  I began charging and yelling at the dog full steam taking a huge risk that it would back fire on me.  Thankfully it didn't.  My husband, also having running in his history has had some bad experiences with dogs which have left him somewhat skittish and distrustful of most dogs who wander about unattended.  He has been chased and charged by a Pit Bull and bitten by a dog before.  Many times we will walk in the late evening just enjoying each other's company, unwinding in nature and ending the day as such.  As we walk I have noticed that at times he isn't really listening fully to me but seems distracted by the sound of a chain, the cacophony of dogs barking in the neighborhood, an owner and dog coming toward us on a walk.  I assured him recently that he didn't need to worry - as long as I had lived there and ran I really hadn't been bothered by dogs.  No worries I said, I wouldn't let anything happen to him.   As we rounded the street a dog came at us.  Not in a friendly, I just want to say hi sort of way - it came aggressively.  The owner was actually standing nearby not calling the dog back as I said, "You better get control of your damn dog!"  I have a tendency when things are clearer than clear and someone isn't getting it, to be off the chart blunt and bold.  There are leash laws in the city I live in and they were not being abided by in this case.  Dogs are dogs - designed not stay put if off a leash or not inside an underground fence.  People are people with supposedly brains way more highly developed than animals.  That owner wasn't using his.  Last evening around 9 p.m. as the air stills and carries sounds like a microphone, we went for a stroll.  We were eating a popsicle, laughing, and enjoying the last bit of the night.  I could see Doug bristle as he heard the sounds of dogs carried in the dense night air.  I assured him again that all was well and not to worry.  Not long after that exited my mouth we watched a woman walk out the front door of her house and cross to the other side of the street towards her car.  At about the same time two dogs came charging at us.  One was small and fairly harmless.  The other was a mix of German Shepherd and big.  He growled while running straight at us, hair up on his back.  I glanced at the woman at her car knowing they had to be her dogs.  She did nothing - did not call them, nor did she say anything to us.  We stopped and began the circle dance of trying to keep the big dog in front of our line of vision as he wanted to attack from behind.  Before I knew it he had jumped my backside while Doug was trying to pull me back.  In an out of body sort of experience I really wasn't angry at the dog even though I knew he was attempting to attack and bite.  My eyes though were transfixed watching the woman standing there doing nothing.  I snapped as I raised my voice at her, "Are these your dogs??!! You need to call them back now!!!  CALL THEM BACK NOW!  You need to keep control of your dogs!"  She seemed to not care as she responded, "The small one won't hurt you."  Hmmmmm.... the small one won't hurt you.  WHAT ABOUT THE LARGE ONE TRYING TO BITE MY ASS!  We again did a circle dance trying to keep the dog at bay as it lunged to get behind us.  She lamely tried to call the dog and walked toward it.  It was no more going to listen to her than it was us.  As we finally extricated ourselves from her and the dogs and walked home, we were shook.  After my husband's run in with dogs while running he always carried a knife on runs.  He proclaimed that he would not walk again without a knife.  I was far more angry at the owner.  Dogs are animals - just what the name implies - not civilized, not Pulitzer Prize winners, nor rocket scientists, unable to read a book, or diagram a sentence.  They are bent towards raw behavior that can't always be controlled unless you are Cesaer the Dog Whisperer. That's why there are leash laws in populated areas. In that house I'm not too sure the people were a whole lot more with it than the dog.  Animal control might not have clearly known who to take in when it arrived at 3317 ___________  Street.

6.01.2011

WHISPERS AND BLESS THEIR HEARTS

According to comedian Brian Regan, "They didn't invent whispering for compliments."  If you've never seen any of his comedy takes on everyday things with his over the top facial expressions, look him up on YouTube.  Watching his bits on the Internet for the umpteenth time last week, I related to his statement about whispering.  Really there are only two reasons we whisper, ok maybe three - one, we are in an environment that dictates quiet (ie, library, church, a meeting, seminar, Aunt Margie's slide show, a movie theatre showing, during a symphony and when I was a child around my grandfather's table during the radio farm report).  Two, what we have to say is intended only for one person to hear as it would cause damage to anyone else who heard it.  And three, an extenuating medical condition.   I must admit that I have whispered in all those environments and for all three of those reasons.  Whispering though is usually not kind, nor positive or affirming to anyone.  If it were, we would say it out loud.  Haven't we all felt the whispers of someone around us at some point.  Maybe it fueled our insecurities or wounded us.  We though probably have whispered about someone - about their looks, abilities, character.  Which leads me to the phrase that sometimes is used after speaking ill of someone, "Bless their heart."  I love the air of condemnation, justification, and superiority that smacks about in that statement.  To bless is to give something good which is not held in most whispers or arrogantly laced "bless their hearts".