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2.28.2013

2.5 STEPS UP


Setting aside all religious and denominational pride for a moment and forever, I grew up in the Missionary Church, which is both in essence and reality, a mere 2.5 (or possibly less) steps up from the Mennonites.  That's not meant in arrogance or disrespect, but rather in regards to their standing in chronological and reform lines.  You've probably got your own story from whence you came:)  We all do.

As Missionary folk we have a book chronicling our departure and rebirth from the Mennonites called, Merging Streams.  To be honest, I tried to read it once, but found myself just getting a bit bogged down with the self righteousness juxtaposed as laws and rules just packaged in a new "radical" way at the time.  

The cliff notes synopsis is as follows . . .

Several Mennonite preachers were kicked out or left the Mennonite church over pietism and revivalism - they wanted more Bible study, personal religious experiences, revival and practices.  These men formed an alliance and eventually in 1883 the Mennonite Brethren In Christ denomination was formed.  Later, the name was changed to the United Missionary Church in 1947.  Then in 1969 the United Missionary Church merged with the Missionary Church Association creating The Missionary Church denomination as it stands today.  I know, blah, blah, blah...  Now that you are asleep from church history, here is the point:  the Missionary Church denomination is basically reformed and/or kicked out Mennonites!
 
Recently I joked with my sister and brother-in-law that the Missionary Church was really only 2.5 steps up from the Mennonites.  Having now attended most recently a United Methodist Church, my brother-in-law possibly concerned about my choice of churches, asked, "If the Missionary Church is 2.5 steps up from the Mennonites what are the United Methodists?"  I replied, "One step up from hell:)"  It was just  a tongue-in-cheekish way to say denominations really aren't the relevant question.  A relationship to Christ is.
 
Prohibition still reigns in most Missionary Churches.  Those I think it has softened some with the years. Juice does NOT turn into wine at communion and congregants who become members sign that they will not drink alcohol.  I don't know if that is enforced or if the honor system is meant to keep that in check.  The whole alcohol thing was deviated a bit in my household as a kid.  Medicinally, whiskey or vodka was mixed with orange juice in a small glass for a bad cold.  You slugged it down and then slept like a baby that night!  That's as far as alcohol went in our house growing up though.
 
Playing cards were NOT ALLOWED as well, at least when I was growing up!  We had one deck of playing cards that were kept in the back of a bathroom cupboard.  Why the bathroom, I do not know other than if the card police ever made a surprise visit they would NEVER look in there.  My mom to this day, when questioned on the cards, claims she doesn't know why there were in there:)  I do believe in Article IV it states something about them being the devil's workshop or can led to debauchery or gambling - oh and that leads to trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for POOL (oh sorry, I was singing "Ya Got Trouble" from the musical, "Music Man" as I typed!). 
 
Don't get me wrong we played cards, but they were wonderfully magical games like "PIT" or "UNO", most definitely "OLD MAID", and the always wildly riveting "DUTCH BLITZ".   I had no idea how to play with playing cards till I got married and my husband taught me poker. To this day you do not want to be paired up with me for euchre.  And if you are, I freely disclose to my partner, "I am 2.5 steps up from Mennonite and have little card playing experience!"  It's my you-will-lose-with-me-as-your-partner disclaimer.
 
As a child, movie theatres and roller rinks alike were the playgrounds of Satan.  I can distinctly recall asking my father if I could go to the SCHOOL SPONSORED ROLLERSKATING PARTY (said slowly and loudly for dramatic purposes please).  His response, "Well, I can't always be here to tell you what is right and wrong.  If you feel you can do that and still love Jesus, then you will have to make that decision."  I did make it.  I went:) 
 
Movie theatres for years had a shady living-on-the-dark side-of-life portrayal in our home.  Once I think I heard my father say, "If Jesus comes back I just don't know if that's where I want Him to find me."  Really!!?? I was thinking when he spoke those words that it might be just as easy for Him to find me there since He was God and would have already known what movie I was in, even what row and seat.  It seemed way more convenient for the return of Christ to occur while I was sitting there in the dark munching on popcorn.  When I was gathered into the air with Jesus there might be a bit of spilled popcorn on the floor, but other than that, fairly orderly and neat I thought. 
 
Scaring children into the kingdom of God was a frequent method of winning souls.  During the 1970's movies were shown in our church about the rapture of the church called, "A Thief In The Night" and the equally frightening and disturbing sequel, "A Distant Thunder".  Now mind you, movies in theatres were evil, but Godly scare-the-devil-out-of-you kinds were highly accepted forms of behavior modification and "kingdom building".  Those movies to a elementary age kid elicited a more terrifying response than watching "Halloween".  For months after watching them every time I couldn't find my mom or dad at home I went into terror mode believing that Jesus had come back and I, the sinner I knew I was, got left behind.  
 
Mennonites are about routines and tasks that promote service to God.  So were the Missionaries.  What better tasks could there be than having as many church services as possible weekly, highlighted by 2 week revival meetings meant to personally revive us all (the premise of the start of the Mennonite Brethren In Christ Church).  As kids we were not exempt from being revived either.  Running parallel to the adult "revivals", the children met in the basement for speakers and special chalk artists drawing to music with a black light.  I found myself as a kid being distracted by such tight lines of operation and interpreting God in always this regimented and orchestrated way.  But I knew to keep those thoughts to myself.
 
That was oh so obvious when I went to the "salvation" curtain room following one revival meeting session to accept Jesus at probably age 5 or 6.  I had such a great time, felt such warmth flood my insides, that the next night I headed back at the close of the service to the "salvation" curtain room.  I was carded that time, "Lynn, you accepted Jesus in your heart last night.  You don't need to go in again." I didn't think Jesus was limited like that - off limits, hard to get a back stage pass to.
 
I laugh about that now as I view God a bit differently.  Did I need to go back-no probably not, but I wanted to experience and feel.  In my adult spiritual journey I have come to know that God hugely loves me and is less concerned about what I do (rules) than who I am (my heart).  The God I know would have said, "Lynn, come into the "salvation" room anytime where you can experience more of me.  He would also said, "'Nacho Libre' is playing at Cineplex I.  It would be right up your humor alley."

2.27.2013

FAIRY DUST BRILLIANCE


I very matter-of-factly told a friend today, "Brilliance can't be captured for long periods."  My perfectly coined and made-up on the spot phrase came out in response to her having a moment of extreme clarity after a few days of cloudy thinking.  It was my witty encouragement.  She laughed.  Mission accomplished.

Right after I spoke the phrase, amidst her laughing, I ironically added, "Seriously that is a brilliant statement!" As I rushed to pick up my iPhone to make a notation of the exact words in my electronic notepad the exact wordage of that brilliant phrase was quickly leaving me.  "Wait, what did I say again?  Hurry, I can't miss this brilliant quote!"  That brought another round of laughter from her.  Why is truth so stinking humorous?

I readily and instantly attach the word brilliance to inspiration.  Artists, musicians, architects, designers, chefs, writers and other creative folk have periods of inspiration where colors, sounds, shapes, textures, combinations, tastes and words are more pronounced in their heads and find life in real form during those times.  Those times are clear, fresh, and brilliant.  They usually are not captured in longevity but in spurts.  

There have been a few times I have said, "I have a brilliant idea!"  It usually comes after a problem has presented itself. Epiphanies can sometimes spark brilliance.  I think problems and passion are the two P's that can facilitate brilliance on some level.  Just look at inventors, designers, musicians, engineers, scientists, authors and on and on.

I really don't think brilliance can be captured for long periods. 
That's why there is great poems from a poet and others that are mediocre. 
 That's why there can be a top 40 hit from a musician but not every song
they create hits a home run or is as remembered. 
 
It's not that brilliance is necessarily the result of more work.  It's really the result of a collision of sorts - some things planned, others not. It's more like timing+a great product/thought/solution+this undefinable something like fairy dust=brilliance.  That's layman's terms for what creates brilliance. 

The word brilliant defined means; magnificent, excellent, brightness, splendor, distinctly conspicuous talent or intellect or ability.  Based on that definition, true brilliance truly cannot be captured long term.  It's meant to make a distinct and magnificent appearance.  To shine brightly on a subject, a style, a lyric, a phrase, a solution, a musical score.  

Maybe it's sort of like stars.  If they were all bright like the North star we wouldn't probably note their beauty as clearly.  Comparatively that bright star is brilliant in color display.  Brilliance is supposed to be rare.  It's supposed to appear like a comet and then fade.  The fun part is when we realize we were a part of a moment of brilliance. 

It's good to note that Halley's Comet only comes roughly every 75 years.   Brilliance is rare.

2.26.2013

WHAT WASN'T ON THE SYLLABUS


I would like to salute a few people from my formative years - teachers that left their mark.  Some were instrumental in helping me fully know my strengths and my weaknesses.  Others allowed me to just be myself, which was the best gift of all and a form of internal freedom as I learned both book and non-book things.

When my kindergarten year started I was barely 5 years old by only two weeks. I could fully read, which meant I could read anything the teacher wrote on my report card or any notes Mrs. Holloway sent home to my parents.  One of those notations on my report card in the first 9 weeks of school said, "Nancy is very bossy."  I can still see her handwriting on the comment section of my report card.  Truth be told, I probably was. Ah well, take out probably.  I was.  If I saw it should be a certain way I organized the group that way or just told people to do it this way or that way.  I salute Mrs. Holloway for seeing a trait in me that I both used to conquer situations when needed and a trait I've had to tone down at times:(  She was far to precise for my style though and too rule oriented. Coloring always inside the lines just wasn't that fun for me!  Still isn't.

Second grade brought the best year of my elementary years.  Mrs. Cripe was young and creative and she let me explore.  I came to understand that I flourished in environments where there was great creativity and freedom to grow in all directions.  She gave me permission to color a bit outside the lines if it was productive.  I salute Mrs. Cripe for fostering my love of exploration and believing there are lots of ways to get to the same end. 

High school brought Mr. Walter, my freshman algebra and geometry teacher.  Both subjects I hated with a deep passion.  I have a hard time focusing on things I really have no interest in.  I also likewise have a hard time being present when I cannot connect to its presentation or I already know the information.  In this case it wasn't the latter:)  I got questionable conduct marks in Mr. Walter's class for talking and not listening when I should have been.  I salute Mr. Walter for clearly understanding my area of giftedness lay outside of his class.  I salute him too for not scolding me as much as I probably deserved because he saw other things in my personality that were just as important as understanding algebra. 

Mr. Prenkert and Mrs. Biltz fostered in me my love of words, English and expression.  I salute both of them for encouraging me and being the type of teachers that used a college style of teaching - independence and personal accountability.  Those widened boundaries suited me well. 

Sitting outside at a table in the spring of my senior year with one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Swiggart the psychology teacher, I shared for the first time out loud to an adult what I really wanted to do with my life - write.  It was his conversational way, asking questions, and encouragement that made me feel like maybe it was a possibility and not just an illogical and impractical way to make a living.  He took that little flame I had inside and gave it value.  I salute him deeply for that. 

Mrs. Coffin, the high school music teacher and her husband, Mr. Coffin, the economics teachers had styles that abided well with my personality.  Mrs. Coffin gave me the opportunity to explore piano in accompanying the choirs for all four years.  I loved that place behind the piano and the wide and varied array of music I got to play. I got to get lost in music which is one of my loves.  Mr. Coffin was sarcastic, arrogant and loved to engage.  I operate big time in bantering and his ability was not lost on me.  I salute both of them.

To Mr. Weaver, the computer programming teacher, I salute for his humor and patience with my ignorance and struggle to understand something I was not gifted in.  It was 1983 and there were only 4-6 huge monster (DOS only) computers.  It was a computer programming class (there were no word processing programs - no Microsoft Office!).  We were writing programs to get the computer to do something... what in the hell that was I never figured out!!  I tried my damnedest but my brain doesn't work like that.  I got the only D of my life in that class.  Mr. Weaver found great humor in my trying and trying and trying and trying and hitting the brain wall.  He knew I didn't have those cells to compute:)  Though I deserved an F, he passed me for my tenacity to try to operate out of my Nancy zone.  I salute you Mr. Weaver for understanding and putting a humorous spin on my lack.

Mr. Riley, the government teacher, I salute but in a different way.  I thank him for wearing boxer shorts which humored me in class whenever he wore light colored pants.  I can find humor most anywhere.  That boxer short line gave me plenty of giggles daily!   I salute him for making me defend my faith out loud numerous times in class as he poked fun at my faith in Christ.  The only time he tolerated me was when I went out on a date with his son.  I salute you Mr. Riley for helping me come to find out that some think Christians are weak and that faith in God is silly.  Mostly I salute you for helping me grapple with why I believed what I did and making me not ashamed of God's presence and prominence in my life.

And lastly, to Mr. Lehman the high school assistant principal, I salute you and stand at attention for your spirit of grace.  During my senior year I had a parking lot incident with several friends while goofing around during school hours.  We were hauled into his office.  He could have nailed us to the wall.  Instead, he saw three girls who were basically good kids but full of energy and nixxieness.  He said he didn't really know what to do with us. I truly believe he didn't!  So, he decided we just needed to leave the building at that moment and everyday unless we were in class:)  I salute him for knowing we were just giggly girls having fun (ok too much) and that graduation was too near to make it bigger than it really was. I salute him for grace.  I wish my dad would have had some over that particular incident as well!

2.25.2013

IN HATES WAKE


I don't get grossed out easily.  I can see gore itself and not be faint from it.  I once split my forearm open down to the bone from the wrist to the elbow.  I could see the muscle sheath, all the layers like in a three-dimensional picture ending up at the bone.  I didn't look away or freak out. My two older sisters once shoved me into the edge of a piece of furniture.  It split the space between my upper lip and nose. They proceeded to keep pulling it apart. I now have a beautifully crooked scar and smile.  In my aging years I appear to have had a stroke as my mouth pulls to the left from it.

What I can't handle easily is the reason for gore sometimes. If it is the result of an accident, that's somewhat logical and understandable even if horrific.  If it is the result of violence or hate, I am shaken to the core.  And if it is a Quentin Tarantino movie, then I am at least 99% sure there will be graphic and senseless killing and violence. That in and of itself could be another blog post - a look at Quentin Tarantino, the man and the movies!

The first time I attempted to watch "Schindlers List" years ago I broke down sobbing in one of the first scenes in which a group of Jews were lined up and shot.  I lost all control and ran from the room emotionally gripped by it.  I tried another time to watch the movie with similar results.  It was on my third attempt at watching that I stayed in the room for the entire movie. The deep sorrow I felt stayed with me for days though after watching it.  It hung on my spirit and mind like fog on the moors.

There was no warning really in that first scene of "Schindler's List" to the senseless and random assassination of a group of Jewish people.  Those Jewish people, human comrades who shared the earth with those same Germans, were going about their business.  It was not deserved, expected or rational. 

Hate is a horrible thing that brings with it no rhyme or reason.  No logic can be found or resolution determined.  Hate leaves only sorrow in its wake. It also separates and isolates.  It's how a mad man and his followers can annihilate close to 6 million Jews.  Hate creates lines, delineations, and illuminates differences as wrongs instead of seeing them as different and beautiful colors in the the humanity crayon box - the picture is more vivid with different shades.  It's through hate that people pull triggers to guns to kill people.  It's through hate that nations suppress religious sects or people groups within their borders with extreme measures like "ethnic cleansing".

Hate is what caused the assination of Abraham Lincoln, of Martin Luther King Jr., the imprisonment of Nelson Mandella, the civil rights killings, slavery, a slew of school shootings.  Ultimately, it's what caused the crucifixion of Jesus. 

I hate hate. I hate what it does.  I hate what it destroys.  I hate the sorrow that it leaves behind it.  I hate that hate removes the link of humanity that should bind us together.  Hate is a monster.  It is huge and its power is stifling and crippling. 


I love that hate doesn't win though.  There is something bigger whose mode of operation, delivery system, timing and prominence is played on a different level.  Ultimately, love wins the race.  It always has the final word.  Love is the world champion of Rock, Paper, Scissors:) 

2.21.2013

A VEER, A SIDE-SWIPE AND THE DL LIST HERE I COME


Quite easy it is to lose sight of things.  I'm not sure why always, but it is - at least for me.

It's a bit like driving a car.  If you are constantly gawking around looking everywhere except at the road and the mirrors it's easy to creep toward the center line or veer slightly off the shoulder.  Maybe it's like the show, "The Biggest Loser", when trainer Jillian is screaming, "You are losing sight of the end result.  You CAN run 6 mph for 5 minutes at 1.0 incline!" 

End results happen because of pieces.  They are multi-faceted, works in progress, forward moving change rungs on the ladder.  They are building blocks on each other.  That's what Jillian was trying to say in her overly dramatic I'm-not-just-a-trainer-but-a-self-proclaimed-psycho-therapist-as-well kind of way.  Because, to reach any end result, we have to break it into small pieces it creates regular small wins and target checks.  It also though can create distractions that cause us to lose sight easily and get overwhelmed at how far we still have to go to the end result.  That is the conundrum. 

We easily get distracted, off-focus, discouraged, unmotivated and side swiped by interruptions in life.  I lose sight sometimes running.  There are days my body is whipped for various and sundry reasons, not withstanding either that I am 46 years old.  On those days I seriously have to break the miles down into chunks physically and mentally.  I have to change the running dialogue that flops lose in my brain to more consciously focus on those markers along the way.  The end result is the completion of the run period.  That's what I say on those hard runs where my legs feel like weights or that my body is tied to a boat anchor. 

I can't lose sight that the struggle to the end result is merely temporary.  If I stop running before the end of the run, it's oh so easy to not finish the run.  I don't stop.  My ass might be slower than molasses on those rough days but I gotta get my focus off the process and to the end result. My carrot on crap runs is simply this, if I finish this run, these miles, I don't ever have to run again if I choose not to.  Completing anything, even a small piece of a bigger puzzle is motivating isn't it.  I am still running.

Have you ever lost focus while driving and when you realized you weren't paying attention you over compensated.  It's very risky to do in inclement weather or with traffic all around.  Refocusing when we have stopped the journey, gotten side-swiped, gone off target is tough.  It's like stopping in the middle of a run and trying to start up to finish the run. 

God talks about it in the Bible.  We spend our time on things that are fleeting, things that keep us off target.  I can get bogged down with the worries of life.  In trying to live life in chunks of everyday living I can easily lose sight, drop my focus on the end result. 

It really affects everything in our lives.  I can lose focus on my relationship to God.  I can let current circumstances swallow my energy and purpose away.  I can veer from dreams for a career or direction that I know is my heart's desire.  I can get side-swiped by fear or regret that keep me from focusing on the end result.  I can let day to day life be wasted under the illusion that a day or days (days are on a repeating loop) don't impact the end result. They most definitely do. Before I know it those wasted days have put me on the disabled list - benched from the focus of the end result.

My markers along the way in running become a half-mile, then a mile, then a mile and half, then 3 miles, then 4.... and eventually, if I stay focused on completing each marker,  I eventually get to the end result - my driveway.

2.19.2013

THE DRY WELL OF SHALLOWNESS


I'm sure that for everything I say I dislike, think is stupid, totally irrelevant, misguided, or is causing the dumbing down of our society, there is just as many who would say the complete opposite.  No doubt some of what I say from time to time probably makes people a bit uncomfortable (too racy or too blunt).  My sarcastic (it's like over enunciating a word to make it clear - done on purpose at times) approach might make some believe me to be harsh. 

The view through my window may not be the same as yours some of the time, part of the time, or pretty much all of the time. I like to delude myself into thinking that much of what I think and feel, you do too. You might even appreciate someone worming into your own head and heart and saying what you can't quite nail down or say out loud.  I've met my purpose if I can do that for more than my beautiful fiesty 80 year old aunt who reads this daily.

I don't do shallow anything well.  I also don't tolerate it from those around me very easily.  For me it's like having to slather a plate of liver and onions in ketchup to hide the taste.  If you are 2 inches deep and 4 miles wide I have to fight the urge to want to slug you (I dedicate that one to my niece Jill).  Shallowness just does not abide with my free spirited and probably too real ways.  

Celebrity-ism drives me crazy.  The degree our culture worships at the alter of people who make a living by being famous is amazing to me.  I just don't get it.  The insatiable market for more celebrity news is highlighted every time I stand in line at a check lane in a store.  There, near the candy marketed for children's eye levels, are hoards of celebrity "dish" magazines and tabloids.  Obviously marketing research says we want to know.  The "Enquirer" magazine says, "Enquiring minds want to know!" (They altered inquiring from an i to enquiring with an e.)  We want to see the worst "celebrity" bikini bodies (I only need to look at mine and that's far more than enough!).  We want to see who appears to have had plastic surgery to the point where they look not ok or even real any longer (They degrade the work I put into getting all my wrinkles and lines through living life!). 

That shallow-ism is thrown at us both subversively and blatantly.  That is NOT real life.  It isn't.  I don't need to see J-Lo's decade in butt shots.  I don't care that Larry Wagner had a love child.  Do you think it changes my life at all to know that Anna Nicole Smith's daughter looks just like her and is modeling?  I don't want to know that this director had an affair with his leading lady.  And most definitely I don't care what weight Kirstie Alley is presently.  I get more joy and satisfaction watching my neighbor lose weight as she changes her lifestyle than I ever will some celebrity!   Investing in the lives of people in my world is important, life-changing even.  But please stop acting like celebrity information is vital.  I do not have a real relationship with any of them.

We have a whole industry built around a set, a front, a facade.  It's not real.  It's not how real people look as they age. It's not how real people handle difficult situations or heartaches in their lives - with cameras rolling.  I don't need news magazine shows dedicated to following the celebrity culture.  It perpetuates this endless cycle of worship, intrigue, and shallowness.

Being famous for just merely being famous is a category all on its own.  There are reps and agents and agencies dedicated to facilitating the rise of the famous.  It's orchestrated, man-handled and strategically planned.  What it tells me is that it is successful because we too are shallow.  We fall for the celebrity worship fixation.  It feeds the machine.  It feeds the two inch deep four miles wide world of shallowness.

I most definitely love a good TV sitcom, a great movie, a musician playing great music.  I don't worship them though or the mechanism of fame that gives them a platform to have their talent seen and enjoyed by others.  To make them less or more than that is just not accurate or healthy.



Just yesterday I was perusing facebook, looking at someone's info that is a friend of a friend. That narrows it way down for you:)  Their info said, "I don't read anything unless it's; OK! magazine, US weekly or People magazine. 

My heart sank.  I didn't drown though, the water on that page was only 2 inches deep!

2.18.2013

STILL PENDING


It's the most wonderful time of the year!  Not.  It's the much dreaded and put-off-to the-last-minute tax season.  I do though appreciate that the word season is added for mental benefit.  We can mentally endure most things if we know it's only for a spell, a jaunt, a bit.  "Season" gives us hope that taxes fill the air only for a few months before they disappear again for another year. Taxes and winter I think appropriately coincide with one another. Both are yucky, not necessarily welcome, totally out of our control and bring a bit of a dread to us.  If they were colors, they would be harvest gold - not eye appealing at all!

Like raisin sauce on ham, I could do without that day of angst with papers stacked all over the dining room table. I could do without that dreaded Saturday of tax preparation where with every entry into Turbo Tax I see the refund figure in the top right corner dwindle.  It's a race of sorts to see if I can get to the end with a refund or if, like playing iPhone blackjack, I watch it disappear by the time I get to the REVIEW YOUR RETURN section.

Computer technology has been out there for quite some time.  It keeps evolving faster than we can even understand.  E filing is not new.  It started in 1986 with 25,000 returns.  The following is right off the IRS site.....

The IRS e-file surpassed a landmark: 1 billion individual Form 1040 tax returns received and processed safely and securely. IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman has called IRS e-file one of the federal government’s most successful modernization programs.
 
Of course the IRS commissioner would say it's a great program.  And the CEO of Oscar Mayer would tell you he likes bologna and hot dogs:)
 
After e filing taxes it always shows pending status until the IRS and the state actually receive it electronically - typically 24-48 hours.  It's similar to an ACH/EFT transaction which leaves one financial institution destined for another. This year the IRS is limiting e filing submission/acceptance dates for returns with certain credits/deductions in them.  9 days later our returns still show pending.  Sort of incredible.
 
I decide to live chat with Turbo Tax this morning.  When I started I was number 40 in the que.  I have a hunch the 40 ahead of me had the same question I did - why are my returns not being processed even after 72 hours?  They informed me of what I shared with you above - the IRS has not started accepting "our" type of return yet.  And, when they do, we are in line behind millions of others. 
 
Now it's hard to get too sassy via a live chat feed with a representative from Turbo Tax who is probably sitting in a cubicle in Indonesia - it is both neither their fault nor do they have the power to change the IRS.  But, I none-the-less spoke my thoughts....
 
It seems that the IRS and the state have an entire year to get ready to accept
e filed returns of all types.  It is amazing that the IRS can want their
money by a certain date or a penalty is attached, but if you overpay and are
getting your own money back that you "loaned" them for the past year,
they drag their feet.  Sort of ridiculous and not a great business model.
 



 
Sometimes we say certain things hoping they will change the circumstances, and sometimes they do.  Other times, we say things knowing that, much like screaming if lost in the Grand Canyon to be heard by someone, it is futile.  We say them to get them off our chest, to acknowledge the obvious.  It though does not change one thing.  It's like screaming into a pillow.
 
I've had my fill of taxes.  And winter.  And Turbo Tax.  And especially the IRS' ineptness to keep up with the massive influx of E filers in a technologically advanced culture! 

 
What other company could not provide or deliver the products and services their business consists of in a timely and fiscally sound structure and remain viable? Only our government.  Only our government - which also has their hand in the USPS.  Need I say more?

2.14.2013

FOUR LANE HIGHWAYS - a salute to the small breasted gals


In a world where the media promotes curvaceous, large, surgically enhanced breasts I want to bring much needed attention to the small busted natural girls out there.  A good friend of mine dubbed my breasts "a four-lane highway".  (Yes men, girls talk about boobs all the time much like junior high girls do).  I find that terminology refreshing and embrace their smallness.  I've never had cleavage.  Running through my small rolling hills are two wide open lanes. 

Some time ago, not wanting to disappoint my ample chested comrades and to show them I could compete on their level, I decided to make some cleavage purely for their entertainment and howls.  The feat was similar to making artificial snow for a ski slope on a warm sunny day in late May.  I picked what appeared to be a shirt that would showcase this soon to be created wonder cleavage.   How though, was I going to move them across the center lanes merging into cleavage?   I thought - ah ha, gray duct tape:)   It was a process that needed an extra set of hands which were not available at that moment! 

Impossibly hard it was to maneuver running the tape around my chest while pushing my small crests across the lanes.  Oh I gave it a noble effort - multiple times.  The end result was well, not remarkable, striking or even successful.  There was not enough tape or enough boobs to merge anything despite my gallant efforts. I proceeded with my plan though it had not gone as I had hoped! I put the shirt on and pulled it down as far as possible to see the start of a rise of skin where cleavage should be.  I grabbed my cell phone and shot an up close and texted my girlfriend, "CLEAVAGE - binoculars optional"!  This was in response to her and another friend purchasing me plastic Halloween breasts for my birthday.

Large busted woman always feel pity for me and those like me.  I'm here to say, I love what I have!! In my middle forties they are still pretty grand and perky and not surgically enhanced (though that is subjective and I am comparing myself to myself at age 60, not to myself at age 25). 
 
There are many advantages to small breasts; your buttons and shirts never embarrassingly gap across your chest, if you wear words on the front of your t-shirt men never stop to read them, you can some days skip the bra altogether, exercising is much easier and less painful, there is less flesh to succumb to the effects of age induced gravity and, as someone once said, "more than a mouthful is just a waste of space anyway"!  I am all about practicality!

I salute you girls!!

2.13.2013

I PRESENT TO YOU THE CLASS OF 1984


I graduated high school in 1984.  It was the era of the big hair, music like "The Cars" and "Huey Lewis & The News" and styles that ranged from punk to alligatored logo preppy. 

my senior year - 17 years old
I was 17 years old when I graduated from high school.  The world is wide open to you at 17.  I was full of myself, my perceived vat of knowledge and a boat load of dreams.  What do you really know at 17?  What vast experiences of life have you really weathered?  What view of the world have you garnered from living life both in joy and in deep times of sorrow?  What do you really have to say to others that has been forged in real life experiences? 

Some time ago I was rifling through my filing cabinet, you know supposedly cleaning it out but getting side tracked with each treasure I uncovered that I didn't know I had.  In a file folder was a large stack of things I had written in my youth - poems, thoughts, etc.  Some were assignments for school and some were just things I felt and thought.  There it was - double spaced typewritten on a Selectric typewriter with water marked paper turning a bit yellow with corrections using white out still clearly showing.  I laughed out loud as I started to read it, the speech I wrote and delivered at my high school commencement. 

my high school commencement - accompaniment for choir
(song arranged by Rich Biever, "Our Time"
Rich, I still have the score if you want it back.)
As I read it I tried to remember what I might have been thinking in 1984 (now 29 years ago) as I wrote "Successful Failures".  Why, I thought to myself, did I write on how to fail in a positive way?  What massive failures had I really had up to that point in my life.  Well, let's see... I didn't get grand champion on the swim suit I had made and modeled for 4-H.  The young man that I loved had married another.  I got a D in computer programming.  I had to wear braces for 4 years.  And I got in massive trouble with my dad for taking the car without having a driver's license and driving myself to a school function when my ride failed to pick me up (Trent Dean you caused me to endure my father asking me if I was on drugs because of my behavior!).  It was the middle of winter on very snowy roads and no one was home to take me so it seemed oh so very logical to me at the moment.
 
What volume of failings had I racked up to that day in May, 1984 as I stood before my 200 classmates to deliver a speech written by a green horn in life?  (FYI - my parents camera broke right before I gave that speech so the only picture was this one of me playing the piano for the choir number.  I am the third of three children.  There are rare to none growing up pics of me.  By number three you just don't care to have a third set of pictures of everything the other two already did!)

There were references to the times - Ronald Reagan and other time specific mentions.  I smiled of an era long gone.  But, as I read the words penned by me without the wisdom of life behind me yet, I realized I had failed many times from that day to where I stood now.  Maybe that speech was like the movie, "Back To The Future" and I was actually coming back from the future to 1984 to tell my young self how to handle failing at experiences that would come my way through the years. 

The line that jumped off the double-spaced pages was, "We can be marked not by how we fail, but by what we do when we fail."  I liked the comma in that sentence as it showed me and King David from the Bible, and the Apostle Paul and my Uncle John and maybe you, that there is a choice to be made after missing the mark. That I am measured by earth and ultimately, by God, not by what I failed at, but how I lived after the comma - after the failure, the mistake, the wrong decision, or even the sin.   

Ladies and gentleman, I now present to you the 2013 Class of Comma Living.

2.12.2013

THINKING OUR WAY TO SMART



I believe thinking is what makes you smart, not necessarily knowledge.  Read that statement again.  Think about it.  We get smart by thinking not just merely by knowledge alone.

The difference has something to do with the process we go through to think.  We emotionally handle thinking on one of its pass-throughs in our thinking process.  Knowledge is far more utilitarian, memorizable and one dimensional.

Thinking demands inspection outside of set parameters of always logical, always analytical, always predictable, always defined.  Thinking utilizes and fosters deduction, processing, analyzing, judging, feeling, memory, emotions, creativity, explorations, projections and actions.  It is taking knowledge, situations, circumstances, problems, every day life and viewing it inside and outside the box.  It is a mix and collision of both concrete and ethereal processes.

I was running this morning.  When I run I have a dialogue of free thoughts in my head.  Many are the subjects that tumble about in my head in that stretch of time where my body is undistractedly occupied with itself.  That allows my mind the freedom to rise and fall freely from this to that and back again.  I thought.  And I thought.  And I thought some more.

I have been writing this blog since August 2010. In 600+ blog posts I have thought out loud. I have purposely tried to foster that process of thinking.  My first goal in this blog was to write 50 consecutive days without a break.  I did that.  After doing that I realized I had many more thoughts, more things to say, and decided to go to 100.  With each marker I passed I wondered if I would run out of things to say.  Amazingly, I have not, though it involves thinking.  Which, for me, has become a discipline I want to keep and that has made me better.

Thinking has been and continues to be a catalyst to many things in my life.  I don't want to be static, one-dimensional.  I want to move, express, understand, wrestle with things from time to time.  I want to feel it, process it, speak it out loud which in turn allows the release of my relentless ways and helps others be able to put a voice to their own thoughts as well.  I don't know as though my thoughts are unique or original - they are just voiced.

There have been times that I have had more time to just think.  Thinking evokes subject matter.  Those periods in my life when I actually have portions of the day free of people and obligations have been very creative thinking periods for me. Thinking is like miracle grow for me to not only write, but to process.  There have been other times when life squeezes out that free thought time needed to get smarter, to develop thoughts that lead to realizations, epiphanies, memories, subject matters, decisions or even healing inside. 

I am not a Monk (wrong sex!), but I think I understand part of the desired result of their silence and alone ways.  Based on my theory of thinking makes us smarter, they are probably brilliant.  I wonder what they would say in a blog:)

2.07.2013

A LOOK IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR


If you've been a reader of this blog, you know that I'm not a huge lover of facebook.  In fact, sometimes I get thoroughly disgusted and even ragey at the frequency and content of certain people's posts. 

It appears some use facebook as a therapy session.  Please don't!  Or they just constantly re-post cutesy crap pulled off the Internet thus declaring to the audience, "I've got nothing original in my head"!  Then there are those that push a political view constantly, animal rights, gun control (for or against!), or invite you to participate in a game.  I've got life to live and don't want to play games!!  And, if I do, it will be with the grand kids around the dining room table. 

I've taken a break from  facebook for stretches. The last one lasting about a year. I highly recommend that detox program for everyone!  I thoroughly enjoy living presently in the life I have and don't need an online life.  Remember when there was no online life but only real life!!  Those were the days:)

The part of it I do like is connecting with people from your past - reminiscing over things shared and catching up where we all are now.  I've enjoyed seeing people I went to school with or haven't seen in years and years.  Once in awhile someone will post a school class picture, a sports picture or make a comment reminding a group of an event that was funny.  I get a big chuckle over those fond memory sorts of things.  I love seeing people's families as well. 

Perusing high school yearbooks with my eldest sister Superbowl night, I found myself laughing and remembering.  At almost 30 years post high school it was interesting to  realize that the pictures I was viewing, of kids 14-18 years old, were now my age.  Some had actually passed away from illness.  Others, like me in their middle years, have had some chronic illnesses.  You never think those things when you are in the school play or running hurdles in track - that health and youth will vanish. 

Looking at pictures of people that were a big part of my life for that season, people I loved and other kids that I really didn't know all that well, made me think about who I was then.  Seeing pictures of myself as a 14-year old 9th grader made feelings rush through me again.  Looking at photos of an 11th grade version of Nancy caused me to shake my head and smile at the territory covered since that picture - at the difference in the person I am compared to that insecure, awkward, not fully sure of herself girl.  I was a definite late bloomer!!!!!!!!

I wondered why I didn't pursue relationships with certain people back then?  Why had I not gotten more involved with a broader base of people?  I wondered if I had been kind enough to other kids as I should have been or would be now?  I remembered wondering why a certain boy I loved deeply chose another when I saw his high school picture.  I thought about how that broke my heart and kept me from being fully present for the remainder of my high school years and beyond.  I was not experienced enough in life to fully know how to handle that or process it at that age. 

I had probably boxed people in with a certain brush stroke and they had probably done the same to me.  I remembered many times feeling like I was looking through a glass at others but not really feeling like I was like them in many ways.  I wondered if others had felt the same way or if I was just a strange kid!! (no comment from the peanut gallery please)

There was part of me that wished I could do it again and be fully free to be ok with who I was.  I wished I would have taken it all in more deeply. Then I laughed.  That is human nature.  We can only absorb so much at any given time.  The rest is left unsoaked in until we are miles past it.
Clarity comes in the rear view mirror.
 
I giggled as I looked at 4 years of me wearing braces and goofy clothes and ridiculously stupid hairstyles. I never really remember feeling stylish, beautiful or with it.   My eyes stopped over a handful of people who I had rich and deep relationships with.  Some of which I had peed my pants in laughter with, skinny-dipped or did various other things that I can't freely share:)

Mostly I wondered where in the world all the years have gone and what I ever did with that pair of cowboy boots I had my senior year in high school.  I loved those boots!!

2.05.2013

WAY TOO POLITICALLY CORRECT



Political correctness with all things seems to dictate everything in our culture.  There are no "watergate-ish" types of secrets able to be kept in this technologically broadcast by the moment world we live in either (that is another blog post altogether!).  I'm not saying either of those are bad, parts of them are good.  Both though have been taken far beyond the boundaries they were meant to help keep!

We all take ourselves way too serious.  Me included at times, though mostly I probably should take myself far more serious than I do much of the time.

The Atlanta Braves were faced with having to stop their tomahawk motion associated for years and years with that team and its fans because of its potential categorizing or offending the Native American culture.  Please!  That's the team name for crying out loud!  And in the Native Americans own history is that motion and the tomahawk!  Do we then take that out of history too?  Why is that offensive?  I'm sick of the over political correctness of every blasted thing. 

When I was a kid there were two cartoons that might never be made nor aired in our current culture; Fat Albert and Jonny Quest

"Fat Albert" was about a group of kids (the voice of Fat Albert and several other characters were played by Bill Cosby) and the hijinks they got into.  It was created by Bill Cosby and based on the North Philadelphia group of kids he hung with growing up.  That cartoon, though not offensive, would be probably be questioned by some organization for some reason in our present overly sensitive society.  People would say it paints black peopleincorrectly or places them in a narrow scope. Again, like the Atlanta Braves, I'm not sure how you can argue with real life - Bill Cosby's growing up years. (Yes, I said black people as I also say white people.  It is merely a difference in skin pigmentation not a statement of where you are from.  Personally I don't get why we care about what color someone's skin is.  Do we care about hair color too?  I mean some people are short, some are tall.  We are a bit different.  End of story!)

I get sick of treading lightly because we fear offending sects, groups, or nationalities in life.  Why are we not ok to be who we are.  Yes, sweeping generalizations are narrow but they don't define, they are only markers.  For instance, I am part Swiss and part German in my heritage (ok and probably a mix of other stuff too, a bit of Irish and everything else from Eastern Europe).  I jokingly say I am a lover of peace and neutrality, but am strong minded and doggedly stubborn and relentless at times.  Did I sweepingly take down two nations and condense a whole people group into two statements?  NO!  I can poke fun at myself. 

Why do we have to take ourselves so seriously? 

"Jonny Quest", though not the most riveting cartoon of my growing up years, was about the adventures of Jonny and his father, Dr. Quest.  The cast of characters included an adopted turban wearing Indian (country of) boy named Haidji.  I have to think that somehow in our overly sensitive culture that the portrayal of this Muslim turban wearing Indian boy would be offensive today.  Some group in our now overly sensitive and overly over done political correct world we live in would scream about it for some reason.  I wasn't offended by the cartoon, but was bored.  It was not a riveting story line no matter the ethnic mix!

The Middle School mascot from the school I went to in the 1970's was the Wakarusa Indians. The name of the town, Wakarusa, is native American meaning knee deep in mud.  There were at one time a settlement of Indians there, thus eventually the name of the mascot for the school evolved.  I'm not sure what happened years later (political correctness probably!), but it was changed to the Wakarusa Wildcats.  Ridiculous I say!  And, unnecessary.

Should I be offended that Ricola, a Swiss made throat lozenge company, used someone dressed in lederhosen (traditional Bavarian men's clothing that involve shorts with H-style suspenders) to Yodel R iiii C  O  L a  from an Alpine mountain.  How dare they:)

What about the controversial Superbowl commercial that Volkswagen aired - get happy!  Can you believe white people, native to the United States, were imitating Jamaican dialects, attitudes and phrasings!  There was some scuttle-butt about whether it would be aired or not.  Would it offend the Jamaican culture that "white people" were portraying them in this light?  (The president of Jamaica found it a moment to be proud of - their culture!)  If I could be from somewhere other than the Midwest, Jamaica would be a great place to be - laid back, happy, free.  How is that offensive!!!!!  Come on get happy:)

I am a middle aged white woman of Eastern European descent.  Right there is a boat load of stereotypical things that would make for some great stand up comedy based solely on the people group I am a part of.  Personally I think it would make a great one-woman show.  Men wanna know what a middle-aged white woman is all about and woman want a comrade to identify with. 

Identity branding can be a great thing.  We have flung ourselves far too far in over political correctness!

2.04.2013

TRANQUILIZING DARTS



What is with people!  

Human behavior is intriguing, annoying and all together troubling many times.  Is it a cultural shift?  Am I just getting intolerant of people's intolerance toward others?  Or am I just getting old?

It was snowy here over the weekend making roads a bit icy and troublesome.  Snowy conditions make a driver reconsider certain driving maneuvers they might do in dry non-inclement weather. At least they do SOME drivers!

Stopping at a railroad crossing with the gate down as a train passed by in snowy conditions caused us to leave a car and half length between us - the first car from the gate - and the gate.  Due to the snow, and the fact the train crossing was on a slight incline, we sat down the incline a bit so as to get better traction when the gate lifted.  The intersection behind the train crossing was a four-way stop.  It was not a busy time of day on an early Saturday morning.  Behind us in line were two cars and then one more wanting to turn right into the car lane already waiting for the train to pass by.

As the train neared close to the end of its length, a van pulled in front of us - in the car length we had left between us and the railroad arm guard.  He came from somewhere behind us at the four way stop.  Going around 3 other cars in line, including us at the crossing arm at the railroad crossing, that van with a handicapped license plate pulled in.  He now sat crunched in that space and on a snowy, icy incline.  

I shook my head in disgust and said, "Unless there is a medical emergency in that vehicle and he needs to be first out of the gate when this train is done, what is with people!!"   It was a driving ethical and strategic no-no that this driver had pulled.  As the train arm lifted, the van struggled to move on that incline (the very reason we had not chosen to pull all the way up).  We had to wait on his slow take off though he had been in a god-awful hurry to be first in line and had rudely and precariously budged in line.  

We followed the van driver through the lighted intersection still commenting on the fact that it had better been a medical emergency that caused him to make that move.  There was no emergency.  Instead, he turned into the Meijer store to do his SHOPPING!!!!!!!!  Unbelievable.  Simply my mind couldn't wrap itself around this man's stupid and dangerous and highly inappropriate driving move.  What is with people!

It was the weekend for the what's with people underground group to surface and rule the earth.  Humanity's inconsideration for other people was topping the behavior charts from every direction.

So sick of winter I was this week that I wanted to scream.  I had cabin fever!!  In an effort to fend off the winter blues we donned our sub-terrain gear of layers and Yaks to traverse some miles.  We abide by the laws of going against traffic when using the roads as runners and walkers.  Traffic was a loosely used word as this past weekend's weather; windy, snowy and cold, made the car traffic in our neighbor almost nill.  Foot travelers were virtually non-existent except for us crazies. 

I prefer to face on-coming traffic to see my impending death clearer and give myself a fighting chance of jumping to safety if possible.  In doing so you assume traffic that is flowing the same direction you are going as a runner/walker, but on the opposite of the road, will stay on his or hers side of the road.  As a big 4x4 truck came from behind us (in the opposite lane but moving the same direction as we were) it was attempting to drive fast to blow the snow off itself by the wind it created through speed.  But on roads that were not plowed well and freshly covered in snow the vehicle fish-tailed back and forth.  I'm not sure that the driver even saw us in the cloud of snow he created from the accumulated snow cloud around his vehicle.  He veered closer and closer towards us.

I had enough of people!  What's with people!!  He had a whole side of the road with no vehicles approaching him from either direction.  Why he chose to hot-dog it like that with pedestrians next to him I do not know.  My looks of disgust over his inconsiderate and dangerous behavior could not even be seen through the cloud of snow he left behind as he sped off recklessly unaware of other humans around him.

I wish I had a large dart gun like the ones you see used to take down and tranquilize a large animal in the wild.  Oh I don't want to harm anyone.  I would like though to momentarily delay them, force them to stop their dangerous and rude behavior toward others. A tranquilizer is designed to sedate a person or animal so that it can be handled safely for transport or capture:)

What is with people any more!   

2.01.2013

THE COG ZONE FORWARD MOVERS



Maybe you'd heard it before, "They're in the zone!"  Maybe you'd said that about someone, or even felt for a season you yourself were in the zone.  It's a sweet spot isn't it!

It's zen when we are operating in a place of it-ness.  We are unstoppable, perfectly aligned for the time, the job, the situation, the relationship, etc.  Though that in-the-zone phrase is used a lot of times in reference to focusing and conquering head games in sports, it's more far reaching and much bigger than a moment.

What if we could all live our lives in the zone?  Not withstanding the ups and downs that just merely living life bring, what if we could be who we really are, who God designed us to be, fully engaged in operating in the zone of our gifts and talents.  Wouldn't that be freeing and productive and creative and satisfying?  I believe it could help us achieve far greater things in our lives than when we live outside of it in every area of our lives.  EVERY!

Conversation yesterday led itself to talking about that "ZONE" of who each of us really is.  During separate discussions with two different people the concept of the freedom to operate fully as ourselves came up.  We all felt that relationally when allowed to be fully and freely ourselves we are better, richer people with more to bring to the table.  We are sharper, less insecure.  The problem with that at times is we all sometimes think others need to adhere to our personality, strengths, views, mode of communication, acumen, dogma, etc.  Most of the time I don't think it's conscious.  But since we are our only point of reference, we can't always easily let others be who they are.  We feel it our mission to change those things outside of sometimes who we are by all things subtle or all things not so subtle with others.  I want you to be fully you.  And, I want to be fully me. 

It goes really much further than that....

If we can be free to be ourselves, to be comfortable to be that person, to get over our insecurities of needing affirmation to operate as that person, to understand how we are wired/created/designed to fulfill our call to the Zone it would alter what we do for a living and how we approach our jobs.  How we approach what we do for a living.  It would and should make us want to do the kinds of things in jobs that are designed for our personalities, our gift mixes.  God really does have a purpose in our uniqueness as people.

I've seen people in life who are horrible leaders, horrible bosses because they are not operating in their gift mixes, in their zones.  If no one can follow you, you probably aren't designed to be the leader of a company.  That in and of itself does NOT make you a bad person, you are just operating in the wrong ZONE of who you were created and designed to be.  We though get so caught up in the world system of upward success that we put it ahead of the success and freedom we can experience to be fully engaged in operating via our strengths, in our sweet spot.  

There is nothing more frustrating for someone with a wild bent toward creativity or vision casting to have to be in a position of literalism.  They see big pictures but cause chaos in knowing how to practically, effectively and efficiently move the pendulum toward it.  It's good to know who we are - it makes others lives better too. 

I look at it like a cog or a turbine.  If you've ever been beneath the Hoover Dam to see its inner workings, it blows your mind! Not just in the immensity of the operation below the earth, but the huge turbines that move energy are mind stopping!!  If one blade is off, the spin is incorrect, then no power is created.  It stops the energy flow.  We are the same way.  Operating who we are in life spiritually, emotionally, physically, intellectually, communicatively, relationally, and vocationally allows others to do the same.  Positive energy is released and the institution, the relationship, the business
can move forward the way it was designed.