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6.28.2013

THE EVENTUAL WEAR OUT


I had to have new front brakes put on my vehicle last week. At 60,000 miles and still the original brakes, it was time to replace them.  They tell me the rear brakes have about 4000 more miles of wear left on them.  I'm riding those babies till I crash into the auto zone car repair place when trying to drop the car off for the rear brake job.

I hate that stuff wears out.  At some point in the life of most vehicles, barring those that are collectible vehicles, replacing parts and pieces becomes not feasible.  The car passes an age point where the body can't withstand any more use even with newer parts in the engine.  I hate that my 35 year old Maytag washer and dryer, that still worked ok but leaked just a tad, weren't worth fixing any interior parts any more.  They weren't even worth moving across the country in the moving truck because they were already far past the end of their natural lifespan.  Good usable things get old.  They get wore out.  They enter into a put-out-to-pasture status.  

The only time I never hated when something wore out was when my parents bought my shoes for me at Sears.  In that particular instance I tried to hasten the quick demise of the ugliest pair of brown shoes you had ever seen in your life.  I put those shoes on and purposefully ran across gravel, concrete or anything else that might destroy them post-haste while dragging my toes firmly as I went!  I do so hate Sears to this day.

I don't like when my Bandolino pointed toe heels get scraped on the toes and the point gets worn down.  I then need to purchase new ones but can't find that same style any longer.  I'm sad when my running shoes get worn out and it's time for a new pair.  When my favorite underwear starts to fall apart and I can't find the same ones but in new form in the store, I get panicked.  When my favorite set of sheets begins to get thinner and thinner from use and washings, it's time to take out a small loan to buy a new set of 100% cotton ones.  I don't want new ones, I like my old ones it's just that they are at the end of their natural life span.  They have endured night after night, wash after wash.  They got nothing left to give.  They move from bed sheets to sheets I use as paint drop sheets.

I can see glimpses of that in my body presently.  Did I not take good care of it?  My Aunt says that stuff inside us just starts to wear out with age.  She is 80 so I think she would know.  She also mentioned, much like my washer and dryer or my running shoes, bodies are only meant for a certain span of years.  She says it makes her mad sometimes that stuff just is wearing out and that there is nothing you can do about it.

How is it that I can run to get the physical outward and inward benefits of it, but as I age it also creates hurt and sore muscles, tightened hamstrings and other various things that go ouch on me?  My body is wearing out from age and usage.   Which reminds me of the Slinky I had as kid.  When I first took it out of the box it was new and shiny and all the accordion sections compressed perfectly into the next.  But, after a relatively short amount of uses from atop a set of stairs it would get tangled, mangled, twisted and eventually not usable.

If you've ever seen photographs from the Great Depression era it is a great visual of things and people just being worn out.  They looked whipped.  Their possessions looked decrepit and in need of replacing.  Their clothes were thin and thread barren.  Their expressions looked like life had worn them down.  

Circumstances and emotions can wear us down too.  To be worn out, worn down, means we just don't have much in us anymore.  What was once much is now thin, just a little and wearing out.  I'm not overly fond of worn out no matter what it pertains to - Slinkys or my Aunt Dee.

6.26.2013

IT'S GOTTA HOLD SOMETHING


On my dining room table is a bowl.  The one presently there is a crock bowl, glazed brown on the outside and cream on the inside, that my oldest sister gave me for my birthday some years ago.  You might think it an odd gift to give someone, a bowl, but not to me.  I love bowls with a bit of a fetish and an overly fond fascination.  My bowl collection has dwindled over the years from its peak since breaking a couple, giving a few to my daughter, moving, etc.  I swap out what I put in the middle of my table from time to time, but presently Jeanne's bowl presents well. 

The function of any bowl is to hold something, right?  If it didn't have a bottom or sides it would not have been designed to house various things like; soup, salad, tapioca pudding, cereal with milk, ice cream, jello.  Bowls serve us things at holidays and meals like; mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, gravy, glazed carrots. 

Bowls just seem more intimate than do plates.  You cradle a bowl in your hand and sometimes, if not eating at the table, actually lift the bowl closer to your mouth.  I just think bowls are far more appealing and beautifully displayed than are plates.  Plates are used to place things on - things that don't necessary splash, drip, melt, move, require a sidewall to help saddle a load on silverware or need space to be piled deep.

It seems since there is an unwritten design code of bowls - that they hold things - I utilize that in the middle of my dining room table as well.  That empty bowl beckons, by design, to be filled with something.  That something much of the time is an accumulation of papers and mail that needs to be filed.

I do my best on the weekend to file all mail, take care of that stack that has started on Jeanne's bowl in the center of the table.  It seems to no avail though as by Tuesday night the stack has reappeared.  They are new papers, new things that need to be taken care, filed or sorted through.

Every weekend I tell myself that the next week I will not stack things on that bowl.  That I will take care of the papers each day creates on that same day.  Every week I fail miserably at that goal. 

Today, as I looked at the bowl with a stack of mish mash papers relating to all different subject matters and purposes, I realized that my bowl is not the problem.  Though that bowl taunts me to be filled with something, that is not what is wrong.  Despite the fact that I am horrible at keeping up with the papers, that is not the problem either.  The problem is there are just too many papers that life creates every day.  No human can keep up with the onslaught much like Lucy from "I Love Lucy" couldn't keep up with boxing the chocolates as they came off the factory conveyor belt either.  Hopeless.

WHERE IS THE TRIANGLE ORANGE SIGN?


As a lifetime exercise-a-holic some days you can hit it harder than other days.  Some days your body responds with greater ease at the challenge of running or weights or crunches or perfect push-ups than it does other days.  I chalk it up to age, pH composition of my body that day, whether my thyroid is up or down, what I ate or drank the day before, whether some chronic illnesses are calm or stormy.  I get that not every day is a walk in the park in results or even effort.

I was the complete opposite of the young late teen-early twenties girl who climbed on the treadmill next to me.  I was nearly 30 years older than her.  I wasn't wearing any spandex unless you counted what was in my sports bra under my tank top.  She was sporting spandex capri-ish leggings.  I was wearing only the little bit of make-up - eyebrow pencil, mascara and the tail end of my lipstick that was still on my face after a day at work.  She appeared to have slathered on most of a bottle of Cover-girl liquid make-up and some of my Grandma Weldy's corn silk face powder cakeishly piled on top.  She listened to her music via headphones while I watched "Friends" with closed caption on so as not to bother everyone around me.  I was there to burn calories and get to mile 4.  She seemed to lollygag about not wanting to break a sweat.

She gave me food for thought while I ran.  I don't think she was overly aware that I was nearly 30 years older than her nor that I was kicking her ass in effort and speed.  I wondered what would motivate someone to come to the gym to walk that slow.  Aren't gyms supposed to be the place you go to break a sweat, push yourself, define a muscle, lose some flab, reach a goal? 

At first I thought she might be "warming up" a bit on a low mph setting - just letting her legs get used to it, bringing her heart rate up.  That too is totally opposite of me.  I get out of the car, climb on a machine and go to town.  I also drive that way, 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds, first out of the gate at a stoplight.  She never got past the "warm up" phase.

I clicked the miles off ever increasing my mph to trick my body a bit.  She was never going to hit mile one walking that slow.  She wasn't overweight, didn't appear to have a physical handicap other than not wanting to push her limits past easy.  When I could take it no longer, I glanced at her mph on the digital display of her treadmill.  It read 3.3 mph!  Equated to minutes that meant she would walk a mile in 18 minutes 18 seconds to burn 68 calories. At that speed, for her weight and age, I am not sure it was even increasing her heart rate at all.

She needed Jillian from "The Biggest Loser" to scream at her, to push her as she had not drive or push on her own.  Since Jillian was no where near her, I wanted to say things like"Hey pretty princess move your ass!  Pick up the pace!  This old woman is putting you to shame.  Show me what your young age has on me!"  I watched her keep glancing at herself in the big mirrors that were across the gym to our right.

Now I can think of other things I am going to be doing if I am overly concerned about how I look.  Exercise isn't meant to be a fashion statement.  It's meant to cleanse the mind, soul, spirit and body.  It's meant to leave you invigorated, a bit ragged and uncaged.   It's meant to leave your hair wet at the hairline, your sports bra damp and your make-up pretty much gone.

3.3 miles per hour.  I walk faster than that from my desk at work to the bathroom!  
 

6.24.2013

A SMACK AND A SWEAR


I killed a spider with my bare hand today. There was nothing close to me to kill it with.  Faced with the fact that it was a dark medium sized fast moving spider I decided, with a bit of trepidation, to use the palm of hand. If I had turned to get a napkin it would have been gone.  If it would have gotten away I would have dwelt on the fact that it was loose and could crawl on me at night.  That gave me courage to kill it bare handed.  I smacked it so hard on the ceramic tile floor my hand stung. I had to be sure it died with one smack.  It did.

Unfortunately, my husband walked into the kitchen as I was doing a sort of spider dance trying to decide what to kill it with.  He claims I was muttering while dancing back and forth split seconds before he saw me smack my palm very hard on the spider on the ceramic tile.  He couldn't stop laughing evidently at the sight of me killing it bare handed. I assured him it was just a matter of survival of the fittest and I was going to win!

Yesterday I said the words "what the hell" to a Crazy Nate's flooring salesperson.  This I assure you was only after he went to his boss to find out what kind of deal he would give us if we bought all 950 square of the last of a lot of wood flooring.  After some swagger he tried to use on us, he assured us that he could garner a better price per square foot if we bought it all instead of the 700 square feet we needed at the moment.   He stated that they wouldn't probably be able to sell the last 250 square feet of this discontinued pattern so he was sure a deal could be had.

He returned after conferring with his manager.  I had already told him what I thought the price should be dropped to for buying the remaining boxes.  After trying to convince us what great wood floor it was, that it was already a steal of deal, he dropped the approved by his manager price reduction on us - a whole whopping $.10.  That would be a whopping ten cents per square foot!  As quick as it flashed through my head it flew out, "What the hell!  [I laughed] Ten cents!"  I wasn't mad, cruel or mean.  I was though astonished at his pride in getting his manager to give us a  "whale of a deal" and then having the guts to suggest that ten cents off was a bargain. 

My husband got a kick out of both events.  He claims he was thinking the exact same words but that I said them.  He gets a big chuckle out of my transparent and blunt ways.  Throughout the rest of the day I would hear him start to giggle as he repeated my words out loud again, "what the hell!"  I asked if I was rude to that salesman.  He assured me that I wasn't rude or mean, but pointed - that I was in essence telling him that is not a deal, but laughable and insulting us really.  He claims I said without many words, in my tone to Jeff the salesman, that I didn't just fall off the turnip wagon! 

As we left the store that salesman was beyond desperate to get our business.  He said he was going to bat for us again with his manager and that he would call us.  Assured he was that he could get him to lower the price further since we were willing to buy it all.  I was not assured at all.  Mostly I felt his desperation to make a sales commission speaking ahead of real facts or truth. 

Jeff the salesman did call us several hours later.  He had a new deal to offer us - the original price and only the 700 square feet we actually needed.  His boss said they would sell the remaining 250 square feet to someone who had a very small room to re-floor.  Jeff assured us this was a great deal (how is it a great deal when I lost my original $.10 per square discount which amounted to virtually nothing!), being sold to us at cost just so they could empty it from their inventory.  We passed on that great deal from Crazy Nate's Flooring Outlet!

I think to be a really good salesperson you have to not appear to be "selling" even though you really are.  No one wants to be sold, hawked to, sales jargoned at or stand downwind of a back talker. My friend Dave is the best salesman I have ever seen.  It's like blinking to him and oxygen to the consumer.

Jeff the salesman and that spider on my kitchen floor had a bit in common - they got nowhere with me.

6.20.2013

I APPROVE THE FOLLOWING MESSAGES


I have some favorite things.  You no doubt do too.  Call this a blog post forum.  Feel free to leave a comment with something that is your favorite. I'm always looking for new favs.

Just this morning, in making lunch to take with me to work, I finished off what is now one of my favorite dressings.  I went on a hunt for something similar to a salad dressing I had with my brother-in-law, sister and nieces at a restaurant in Sedona, AZ recently.  It was a fig/walnut balsamic dressing and it was good!  After trying to find fresh figs and/or fig paste and walnut oil, I gave up after finding a fig/walnut balsamic dressing in the local Frys Grocery store.  It is absolutely delicious on salads, drizzled on steak, lightly splashed on crunchy steamed vegetables and of late, used as a taste enhancer on my homemade white pizza with onions, fresh mushrooms, green olives, blue cheese crumbles, fresh spinach and/or swish chard piled high.  I am over the moon with this fig/walnut balsamic dressing! 

Having a bit of a gluten intolerance, I have fallen in love with Glutino brand gluten free pretzel sticks.  They don't taste at all like you're missing an ingredient.  In fact they are so good that my husband who has no problem with wheat and gluten prefers them over regular pretzels.  The only thing I don't like about them is the price.  A 14 ounce bag can run $6.00 or more. 

One food item that remains without a doubt one of my favorites is my friend Sharon's tart cherry jam.  She is a bit of a fruit tree crazy lady.  Her yard is full of about any kind of tree fruit you would want; apples, tart pie cherries, pears, peaches, plums.  She supplies me with several jars at a time.  I have one jar left presently and am feeling like a heroine user knowing my supply is low and my addiction is high.  It is the greatest jam.  I look forward to the day her and I are in the assisted living center with one another.  She will no doubt share her stash with me fully then!

My love affair with anything cranberry (but wanting less sugar than is normally associated with cranberries) landed on a Natural Grocers apple juice sweetened dried cranberry that is plump with a bit of tartness to it.  They make Ocean Spray dried cranberries taste like shit.  As of late, my craving for them in anything from salads, to oatmeal, to rice dishes or chicken salad cannot seem to be tamed.  I'm going to make my Aunt Dee and Les' macadamia nut cranberry muffins next. 

ROC extreme wrinkle serum is something I cannot go without.  This morning, trying to garner every last drop of this miracle and somewhat pricey cream, I took the small pump off and unscrewed the lid.  I pounded that small gold bottle on the palm of my hand to get every cream morsel out of it and onto my face where it will soon begin to erase years:)  It has retinol in it with a usage warning of small amounts and the possibility of burning or tingling when applied.  It does none of those things to me when I slather it thickly on.  I have used it for quite some years and must have grown a tolerance for the sting of retinol.  Personally I wish they would add more to it!  It's my fountain of hopeless youth.  Try it!

If I were stranded on a desert island, or war caused me to live in a basement somewhere, I would be ok as long as I had an unlimited supply of Skippy natural creamy peanut butter.  Some years back one of my sister's kids was doing a taste test project in high school about the different brands of peanut butter.  We all had to taste all these different brands.  That is when my up-till-that-test peanut butter of choice was Jiff.  No more.  Skippy has a smoother, creamier and less sweet taste.  I regularly eat 1-2T of the stuff daily.  And, there is usually 2 jars in my pantry just in case I run out.


Lastly, I fell upon a Haagen-Dazs frozen yogurt in the grocery store a few weeks back.  My husband has an affinity for ice cream.  And, if he has a half gallon in the freezer it gets eaten in proportions far greater than the 1/2 c. recommended serving size.  In an attempt to give him some ice cream, a taste now and then, I saw this Haagen-Dazs vanilla yogurt (already lower fat and cholesterol for him!) mixed with raspberry sorbet.  I am not a huge lover of ice cream.  I am now thanks to Haagen-Dazs vanilla yogurt raspberry sorbet swirl!  It's not cheap.  I wish they made it in half gallon containers.  If I do the math correctly on the pint price, a half gallon would be approximately $12.00:) 

These are some of my favs.

6.19.2013

ALL DOGS DO NOT GO TO HEAVEN BUT TO ARIZONA


I like dogs don't get me wrong.  Mitzi was one of our dogs we had when I was growing up.  She was a Norwegian Elkhound.  Why we ended up with that breed of dog only my parents would know.  She had beautiful thick fur and a tail that actually curled upwards and inward to her back.  She was kind, loved to chase kids and cars and would steal a hot dog you were eating right out of your hand.  She was also a big old chicken if it thundered and lightened. Mitzi would cower outside the back door and cry until you let her inside and down in our old yucky unfinished basement at the first crack of thunder.  That is the only time my father would let her in the house.  She was purely an outdoors kind of dog.

I love Fenley, my daughter and son-in-law's pure bred Papillon.  They named him after combing each of their favorite baseball teams stadium name - Fenway Park (Brandon's home base is the east coast) and Wrigley Field (Hannah's father gave her a love of the Cubs).  Fenly is a creative cute name that fits this overly cute and intelligent dog that I still call "come puppy"  because he is small. 

Fenley actually stayed with Doug and I for three and a half months while the kids did their first stint in Africa helping nationals start small businesses.  I have never had an indoor dog, and Fen is ONLY an inside dog. Since I have some major OCD germophobic and cleanliness issues that took some getting used to.  Amazingly enough, I survived it, got over it, and then eventually grew so attached to that little guy that I didn't want to give him back when they returned.  I still miss him to this day.

When they came to pick him up after being away for some months Fenley was sporting smudges of lipstick on his neck.  I held and kissed that damn dog a lot.  I had become what I made fun of in other people - a bit of a this-dog-is-my-baby kind of thing. [ugh]   My daughter laughed at the lipstick stains on Fenley's white fur and how well groomed he was. 

Recently coming to live in the southwest I was caught a bit off guard with dog culture here.  It is crazy, crazy, crazy!  Everyone seems to have a dog, two dogs, three dogs or more. The dog oddity thing doesn't stop there. Dogs are routinely seen in public places; grocery stores, Kohls department store, outdoor concerts, Target, in restaurants.

The first time this phenomena smacked me in the eye was in the check out lane at Kohls.  Quite a bit caught off guard I asked the cashier were dogs allowed.  She readily responded, YES.  We had a whole conversation about how in the Midwest people don't take dogs into restaurants and stores unless it is an assistive animal.  She assured me that the west was a bit more loose and free with those sorts of things than the Midwest.  She was indeed correct!

Doug and I were at dinner recently.  We chose to sit outside in the patio area as it was a beautiful Arizona night.  In that patio seating area of about 6 tables three had dogs laying about at their feet.  At an outdoor concert last weekend, while sitting on the courthouse makeshift step bleachers, we were surrounded by owners and their dogs.  They were everywhere.

My husband has been bit several times in his life by dogs.  He has an arm's length skeptical view of most dogs, barring Fenley that is.  This strange dog culture though has made him realize that the vast majority of dogs are good, well-controlled and like to shop at Kohls.

6.18.2013

YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE


I really don't need a lot of stuff in life.  And, by stuff I mean possessions, things, belongings, trinky dinky sorts of things.  I don't necessarily need the latest and the greatest.  It seems though if I do pursue something new I end up liking the most expensive one of anything; wood flooring, furniture, Brillo pads, underwear, shoes.  I just don't necessarily indulge though.

I also don't have a lot of sentimental things or stuff that I have carried for the whole of my life.  I couldn't tell you where my report cards are from school - probably in my parents' attic.  I really don't think I have one thing still in my possession that I had when I set up house married for the first time at the stupid young age of 18.  I suck at taking pictures with my beautiful Canon camera I bought when I was a realtor.  It takes great pictures if you use it.  There is not going to be a legacy of pictures and stuff to disburse upon my death probably.  Those just aren't the things I care deeply about.

Once in awhile I see something that speaks to me.  I saw one of those items in a store recently.  My husband was getting his haircut and the place was crowded.  To waste time until he was done, I walked to the store next door just to walk and look.  I perused most of the store; clothing, shoes, kitchen and then ended my walk through in the household/decorating section.  There was nothing I needed.  My possession vat was full.  That's when you are sure to find something - when you aren't needing it or even wanting it.

I rounded the aisle that housed wall hangings of all sorts.  It seems all the rage lately are wall hangings that are quotes or poignant statements.  Some seem over-used in real life and hokey or too contrite for a wall hanging.  My eyes fell across it - a 3 foot by 18-20" metal wall hanging of the words to the song, "You Are My Sunshine".  My heart skipped a beat and I felt a tear form in my eye. 

It was a sentimental marker.  In that instant I heard my dad's very bad singing voice bellowing it out as he carried me on his shoulders and marched around and around the dining room table.  I was 7 years old.  I saw his face, heard the would-have-been-kicked-off-of-American-Idol voice laced with love and playfulness singing those words to me.  I simply felt loved in such a powerful way the emotions wanted to carry me away.

I really didn't care who saw me cry.  It was a moment, a memory, a sentimental tie and I was fully in it.  It was both enveloping and tinged with a bit of sorrow that one day death would take my dad from me.  I propped it up again the shelf and took a picture of it to show Doug later.  Though I looked at it for some time, I didn't buy it.  I don't buy everything I like.  The memory was etched deeply on my heart with or without that wall hanging.

I caught back up to Doug and showed him the picture of what I had found.  He could still see how it had affected me. On more than one occasion he had heard the stories of that song and my dad.  He asked why I didn't buy it.  I explained my minimalistic nature and the internal theatre of my heart where the sounds, sights and feelings of that song and my dad lay.  They weren't going anywhere.

Several days later I entered the living room to find that picture leaned up against the hearth on the fireplace.  Just like the day I saw it in the store, emotion ripped right through me. I melted into Doug's arms where I continued to cry without being able to get control of myself.  It just had to all come out.  It seemed this wall hanging and those words had quite the power over me.

The magnitude of that picture now held duality; I was sunshine to my dad.  And now, I was sunshine to Doug.  Doug had looked into my heart.  He had taken the time to do something so extremely intimate, so sentimental.  His powerful love channeled itself through that wall hanging even though it was just a thing, a possession. 

I had experienced that powerful of love years and years ago as well when my dad joyfully sang the words of that wall hanging to me.  It is no wonder I love the sun! 

I NEED A WINDOW!


We tried a different church Sunday in our attempt to get connected somewhere.  I won't belabor you with all of my feelings regarding church.  You might wag your finger, pass judgment, or better yet, agree with me!

I bracket all I say in this; Church is made of people who are human.  That is the point of church - knowing we are human and needing something beyond ourselves.  Our humanness is a tie to each other and a curse at other times.  Our humanness, even in its finest hour, puts our human touches into God's church - that is in inevitable, somewhat unavoidable and understood.  Bracket completed - thoughts begin....

My search for the best fit church for me is a bit familiar - like when I get hungry for something and I just can't place what it is exactly I want.  I might nibble a few things, but nothing hits the spot.   Maybe this quest is unattainable because of my expectation, my desire, and my background.  I too am human and add my own brand of humanness to a church.  Right there, in and of itself, I have dirtied any church I connect to:)

It was a "hip" church, if you know what I mean.  There was a coffee cafĂ©, an outdoor seating area to veg and meditate and fellowship and bond with others at will.  There were no pews, but big fat padded connected chairs in rows that did not hurt your backside one bit.  The room was painted black.  Two screens hung on either side of the platform declaring church announcements made in video form and flashing the lyrics to the songs we sang.  There were the typical members of the worship band; lead singer with lead acoustic guitar, electric guitarist, bass guitarist, keyboardist, drummer and a lady back up singer.  It followed suite with the trends in worship over the past 8-10 years.

It had on staff a team of pastors who shared the preaching - tag teaming the weeks to mix it up.  Since I had never been there I wasn't sure if the guy preaching was the lead pastor or a staff pastor.  Pretty sure though I was that he was the lead pastor.  He had been a free lance comedy writer in California, done a bit of writing for Jay Leno and somehow, as comedy and God would see fit, ended up in the pastorate.  

He wore what "hip" pastors of cool churches wear - jeans and a trendy untucked shirt.  It's the non-Catholic school boy/pastor uniform of media driven churches.  I couldn't tell for sure from where I sat [far too vain to wear my glasses which inconveniently stay in the car glove box ready to be whipped on when I get stopped for speeding as my license shows a restriction], but I think he had a small ear ring.  I'm not saying there is anything wrong with any of what I have just described to you.  It is just a familiar backdrop of the hip church now.

We prayed 42 million times.  In fact, at one point one person on the platform prayed and immediately after the amen in that prayer the worship  leader said, "Let's pray." ... and we did - two prayers back to back that weren't really much different from each other.  It made me smile and hope that God is not as impatient with redundancy as I am:)  

The worship team was musically good.  They played more modern songs than the last church we tried for which I was thankful. I did though want them to cut loose a bit more - it seemed held back.  I wanted to see the drummer go a bit wild like Animal from the Muppet's did when he played drums:)

The pastor spoke about getting wisdom and how that really looks played out in real life.  He used pictures of people who had made a lasting impact on him in the areas of wisdom - very fitting for Father's Day.  His summation was that real wisdom invests into the lives of other people because that's exactly what God does in us - invests in our lives.  He was a great communicator probably gifted that way and learned through his background.  I would definitely listen to him again.

I hated the black interior of this pole building though.  It seemed not a match for the God of light.  We live in beautiful Arizona with blue skies and sun and yet we were holed up in a black cave to sing and praise to the God of all light.  That too seems to be a church trend - darken up the sanctuary.  Why, I don't know!  I can though say that I am not a big fan of that trendy-paint-the sanctuary-interior-walls-black AND have-no- window-look-and-feel.

At the close of the service they opened overhead doors on the side of the sanctuary and beautiful sunlight and a breeze filled the room.  It was then that I felt more of God than I could in that darkly painted black sanctuary.  God abides everywhere - I get that.  I just feel closer to Him in tons of natural light.  Hawaiian churches do it right.  They usually have some sort of big sliding glass panels on the sides of their sanctuaries.  They open them up to the natural beauty of where they are at and still use over head screens!

Windows though can be distracting at times in a church. The church I went to in my younger years had windows on both sides of the sanctuary which overlooked hilly pastures of black Angus cows munching and roaming.  That scenery was beautiful and appropriately highlighted the natural beauty that God created.  It was also far more uplifting than pole building black sprayed windowless walls.  I really don't need the interior
of my church to make me feel like I am at a rock concert - maybe just the music. 

When have black walls ever been inviting?:)
 

6.14.2013

SHIT I NOW KNOW


No one is originally from here.  It's kind of a standing joke that everyone is from somewhere else originally.  It brings an interesting, refreshing and wide-ranged mix of things to this amalgamated culture.

That was not the case, by in large anyway, from where I came from.  Everyone was pretty much from there or connected to a line of people from there.  There is a pool of common last names, a vein of Mennonite somewhere in most, and deep family relationships that involve close geographic proximity. 

It's not like that in Prescott, Arizona.  Last names range the gamut of every ethnicity you might imagine.  There are last names I have run across that I have never heard before.  And, in most first conversations the question is asked, "Are you from here?"  The answer is usually no, followed by a story of what brought them to the southwest and why. Everybody's got a story and I have heard quite a few people's stories as of late. 

Some people still carry an accent denoting which part of the country they originally hailed from.  Like the young man in the bicycle shop that repaired our bikes.  He was tall and lanky and said things like, yes ma'am and no ma'am.  He hailed from Texas - a rancher at heart.  I learned they raise their kids to have respect and manners.  You don't hear that from most people his age or from other parts of the country or with that deep drawl that speaks TEXAS!

Then there was the lady with the thick Boston brogue who wanted to talk baseball and used the word smarmy.  She tried to explain what it meant and then asked if I wouldn't just Google it.  I instantly loved her for her eastern bluntness and use of a cool word that I did not know.  Not many can word up me:)

I did Google the word smarmy since words are a life-long love affair for me.  I read the definition off my iPhone to her; smarmy - ingratiating and wheedling in a way that is perceived as insincere or excessive.  A huge Boston Red Socks fan, she used smarmy in reference to Derek Jeter.  I found it quite hysterical.  I also garnered a new word from a Bostonian living in Prescott, Arizona  She could not tell me if that was a readily used New Englander word or not.  I think it must be as I don't recall using or hearing it while living in Indiana.

I also learned from a small business owner in town who originated from Ireland, spoken in a strong Irish accent, that Americans hair is thin because we wash it too much.  In Ireland people have beautiful thick heads of hair because they don't wash their hair daily which allows the oils to stimulate growth.  That was spoken to me by a 74 year old Irish transplant to Prescott, Arizona.  I haven't washed my hair for three days in a row.

Today, while out for my pre-work walk up the hills of the subdivision I'm living in, I stopped to hand a newspaper to an old man who had walked to the end of his driveway in his bath robe.  It was a big thick terry cloth robe with the Ralph Lauren insignia on it.  His hair was a scrubbily mess at 6:15 a.m. but he wanted to share what he knew about living here after coming from somewhere else.  He told me about the monsoons and the risk of fire if they don't come.  I learned something again from someone who really wasn't from here. 

I also learned that men operate pretty much the same in any state of the union after the doctor [He told me he was one while I was running on the treadmill.  Seriously, who does that!] on the treadmill next to me yesterday at the gym said,.as I departed after my run, "You look really fit."  He needed to learn a few things though; like, that is tacky and very ineffective!  He also needed to learn that a girl catches onto your tricks when you use the treadmill in your dress shoes:)

6.12.2013

SIGNIFICANCE


I thought about significance today.  That word prominently places something to the front, it gives it meaning, definition.  Significance is also a marker.  It plants a stake, builds an altar, frames the moment, the thing, the person, the event, the point in time.  Significance is like a blip on a flat line.

I thought about why it intrigued me.  Was it something I sought?  Does every human being seek it and why?  Is significance directly tied, in our human way of thinking and culture, to value?  If that is the case, why do we need value?  It almost seems to be inherently woven into our DNA from God the Creator.  Think about it, God placed such value in us that He, the Creator of all we know and see, seeks to know the very thing He created.   

I stopped on that thought.  Based on who God is, and that we are the creation He created, value is threaded through us just like hydrogen and oxygen are part of our molecular structure.  We were hard-wired to need, to seek, to hunger for value.  It's how we accomplish that - get to value that determines whether or not we find significance.

I work backwards with certain things.  For instance, and I do not know why, I usually read magazines, and sometimes the newspaper, from the back to the front.  I likewise sometimes figure things out by working backwards.  I'm sure some psychologist some where has a name for a syndrome or learning disability that fits that strange way of thinking.  I think the back side, the back story of anything gives a clearer view of what is on the surface.

Significance is both relative and subjective.  I can find significance as a result of personal accomplishment or public affirmation - those are relative to who I am.  But, that does not necessarily mean you will find value, significance in those same things or the route taken to get to them.  Deep down though we all have a connected and common desire to arrive at significance, real and lasting significance.  We just look for it differently.

Today I remarked to a friend of mine, "I wonder what she is lacking to feel like she needs to get affirmation in a public forum to that extent."  Value.  She is lacking feeling valued would be my guess.  She wants significance in the eyes of others so she utilizes a public forum to try to get it.

I wondered what gives me value.  It starts for me with knowing that I am loved by God Himself.  That is my biggest blip on my flat line.  Everything else is a branch off that.  My significance then comes from operating in knowledge of being loved by God.  And if significance is defined as being anything monumental, markedly outstanding or indicative of great importance, then I can think of no better way to be given value and significance than to know God's deep deep love for me. 

Carried a bit further, love in its purest form gives us the value we all seek.  It gives us significance of the kind intended to be had.  The kind  designed by God who wired our hearts and minds to desire love - God's biggest vehicle of significance. 

THE GREAT SHOE QUEST


I have a certain kind of running shoe that I am now addicted to.  It's my husband's fault.  He turned me onto this particular model of shoe from his marathon running days.  It really does beat any running shoe I've tried previously. Just like a junkie who can't go without a fix, I am panicked over needing a new pair of running shoes but not being able to locate my Asics DS Trainer 17's in my 7.5 size. 

Do I love the yellow color, no!  But they weigh 8.8 ounces and allow this no-sock runner amazing comfortability.  I can literally take a brand new pair of them out of the box, slip my sockless feet in them and take off without a concern of a new shoe blister.  Some of you right now are hung up back on my opening statement of having a running shoe that I am addicted to.  That is unfathomable to you, especially Big D my non-exercising friend.  Still others are hung up on the fact that I don't wear socks when I run.

Recently I was in a shoe store purchasing a pair of Ryder flip flops (like butter to walk on!).  I was checking out with a young gentleman cashier.  He said the blurb that management probably makes them say to promote whatever sale they are currently having, "Our sport socks are on sale.  They are buy one pack get another free."  I responded, "No thanks, I don't wear socks.  Ever." 

Why he needed to delve further into my no sock wearing stance, I don't know.  He did and I went further hoping to stop the sock talk.  "So, never do you wear socks?  Do you run?"  I found it humorous that my not wearing socks amazed him.  There is a whole no-sock sub culture out there that socked footed folk just can't understand.  "I never wear them.  And yes I run.  I do not ever wear socks when I run, even in the dead of winter with snow on the ground.  I feel claustrophobic and weighted down with socks.  I like freedom.  So, I don't need one pack let alone two."  He laughed with and at my solid and quite firm view of socks. 

I have searched nearly every website looking for my size 7.5 Asics 8.8 ounce DS Trainer 17s.  Why shoe companies, and clothing lines, feel the need to update styles from year to year just completely pisses off this consumer.  They are a perfect weight, don't come up too far near my ankle, don't pressure the back of my heel and don't over support my arch. 

Since I am past my max running miles logged on my shoes, and I couldn't find my Asics 8.8 ounce size 7.5 DS 17 Trainer running shoes, I had to step out and order another brand.  Last time I ordered my Asics shoes my husband told me to order three pair as he is experienced with losing a style you love as they unveil next year's version. I did not.  I should have listened to him.  I didn't want to spend that kind of money on three pair of shoes, two of which would just sit unused until the pair before them became exhausted from wear. 

My husband looked on e-bay where he found a pair in my size listed by an individual.  I wanted to know why they were selling and had they worn them.  I really wanted to know why, if you were a runner, you would sell such an amazing pair of running shoes. Big D must have bought them with great intentions but then realized running shoes typically involve running.

6.11.2013

SOME


Some things just are what they are.  Like the day after your youngest child gets married you are going to hole up in the house exhausted and stay in your pajamas.  It's your body and heart's way of catching up to each other finally.  My oldest sister can tell you about it.  She married off her youngest recently.  I felt that way too when I married off my only child.

Some things speak a silent language and we need to be in tune to listen.  Like when we need to get off the hamster wheel and spend time with the people and things that really matter.  Like when our bodies are screaming to stop but we have to do yet one more thing as though the earth will stop rotating if we don't.

Some situations involve not making a single move.  Like when we desperately want a decision to come or a situation to change and yet they don't. Sometimes when we are emotionally spent or too angry decisions and change can be decided upon and met with wrong emotions or from a negatively altered emotional state.

Some days we just need to call in sick.  Like when have reached our maximum limit of sameness, sagging passion or the compiled result of ignoring ourselves for long periods of time.  Once in awhile, even if only borderline ill, we sometimes need a day off work to get our groove back and find our 100% again.

Some people paint sunshine on us like yellow paint on a wall.  They are like sun peeking out after a rain.  They bring peace, love, grace, sarcasm, humor, a positive spin, a warm smile, and a sense of realness in all they are.  They are like a day at the beach.  We need them in our lives!

Some times we need to learn to really forgive ourselves.  Like when we can't allow others to love us fully because we can't fully love ourselves.  Like a helium balloon or a piece of ash from a fire floating in the air, we need to let go of regret and sorrow. 

Some moments need to be replayed on repeat over and over.  Like when we held our children for the first time, the smell of honeysuckle, how true love makes us feel, the memory of those we loved and lost.  Those memories feed our soul.  It gets hungry.


Some things are not meant to be saved.  Like certain destructive relationships, used tea bags, hurtful words and old margarine containers.  Those things are best thrown out or recycled.

Some parts of life are hard.  Like grief, sorrow, illness, loss.  They are seasons and pieces but they do not make up the whole of our life's experiences. It's good to keep that in mind when they want to crush our spirits.

Some days seem longer than others.  Like when it's 2:00 p.m. on a Monday at work compared to a Saturday at 2:00 p.m.  Wanting something else other than what you have always makes time appear to snail crawl.  Not wanting what we desire to end seems to usher in time faster.

Some is just that - only part of something bigger.  Like my life is part of Dougs, Hannah and Brandons, Heather and Aaron and the girls, Nicki and Ben, my parents, my sisters and their families, my friends, etc...   Some is always way better than none and part of something more.  

6.07.2013

GRAB ALL THE GUSTO YOU CAN! the life of Vi


Vi was 82 years old.  As she told me about her life, I wished I had known her at every age along the way to her now 82 years of age.  What a ride she had, and continued to have.  Vi had some definitive phrases and condensed thoughts from her experiences in living. She had indeed lived it fully.  She had sifted through much but had somehow stayed firmly rooted in who it was she was designed to be.  I admired that about her.  I admire that about anyone.


Before I knew it, 20 minutes had passed.  I hadn't said really anything much at all profound.  She, on the other hand, had said plenty that was profound, spirited, humorous, poignant, encouraging, and positive.  Vi was one of those people that you really couldn't pigeon hole as this or that.  She wasn't typically old.  She was though a mix of grit, wild passion, adventure, smarts, big love and wide-eyed grace.  I wanted to be like her at that age. 


"Vi, have you always been this much of an adventurer - a free spirit?" I asked her wanting to know if I too could hold onto my free-spirited ways at that age.  "Yes" came her reply.  "I suppose my whole life I've believed that we are to experience all we can - to explore and learn and step out in faith.  And, I have and continue to believe life is better and richer when we take risks and adventure along the way." 

She went on about owning a chain saw and cutting her own wood and shoveling her driveway still - quite a feat where she lives in Alaska.  She told me about buying an RV after her husband died and travelling all over by herself.  She told me about getting summer jobs doing ranch work, hotel work, administrative jobs after she retired and was travelling.  Casually she mentioned that in her earlier life she could take down shorthand at 120 words per minute and type the same. 

She plays the jug, washboard and various other assorted instruments in a band.  I heard her use the words, "jam session with the band".  She also clog dances weekly.  Giggling a bit she told me that people tell her all the time she is too old to clog dance and that she needs to take it easy.  Her response to those people - I can stop when I'm dead!

When Vi was in her mid to late seventies she said was living where I do now, in Prescott, Arizona.  One day she got up and said she heard God tell her to move to Alaska.  That same day she packed her things and listed her house and moved to Alaska, alone.  With faith and clarity, she boldly exclaimed that when God said it she decided to do it right then and there.

Vi turned 82 last week.  Her friends called and asked if they could throw her a birthday party at her house. As Vi put it, "I built a big room addition on my house to host parties and jam with my band."  Twenty-nine people came to her party room to celebrate her 82nd birthday.  Everyone in attendance wrote something they loved about Vi on a small piece of paper and put them in a jar.  They presented the jar to Vi telling her she could pull one slip out a day to read.

Today she told me she pulled out a slip of paper written by her pastor.  It said, "You always bring us sunshine, and when you go you leave it."  I told Vi that she was privileged to hear eulogy words while she was still alive.  Truer words could not have been spoken - she was like the sun.  My day was so much better after spending a bit of time with her. 

6.05.2013

I WAS LOOKING FOR THE FINAL AMEN


We visited a church Sunday.  To be honest, it was a spur of the moment pick based on, God forgive me, a time of service we were wanting.  Admitting that in print probably negates to God the fact that we even went to church!

Because it was an on the fly pick, not based on recommendations of others, reputation in the community, or even familiarity of location, we were running about 5 minutes late.  Doug nor I run late most of the time.  In fact, it's a big pet peeve of both of us.  Yet, we found ourselves being late, going to a church we knew nothing about based on the need for a 10:00 a.m. service, and not even knowing exactly where it was geographically speaking.

As we pulled into the small parking lot it was more than obvious by the sparsity of vehicles and size of the lot that it was a small church.  It's one thing to be late in a large mega church where thousands gather.  You can blend in, be incognito.  We were going to stick out like the large mole on Cindy Crawford's face.  Everyone would know, 1) we were visitors and 2) we were late.

It was indeed a small congregation.  We probably were some of the youngest people in attendance.  It was a small church with the bulk of the congregants being retired.  The keyboardist was a woman in her late 70's with bright reddish dyed hair.  She rounded out the worship team which consisted of a lead singer with an acoustic guitar, a bass guitarist , a drummer, and a 60ish woman singing harmonies.  They were mediocre at best in talent, but sincere in their delivery.

I wondered what kind of pastor would pastor this small congregation of mostly retired people who appeared to be a bit on the lower economic side?  Their bulletin clearly stated they were falling short of making budget weekly by about $1,000.  To some churches that wouldn't have been too big of a deal.  But to this church, that was just under half of what they needed to bring in weekly to meet their budget. 

The Pastor walked to the platform to preach.  He was maybe 30, cotton twill pants, untucked plaid cotton outdoorish shirt, and goatee which screamed I am trying to be modern and hip - a definite church trend as of late.  He preached from an iPad loaded with a power point presentation that was hooked to the big screens on each side of the platform.  It was obvious he was a bit more young and modern than the congregation he was serving.  His sermon had a half dozen points that were published as a fill-in-the-blank section in the bulletin.  I knew I was in trouble when I glanced at one full page of notes, very detailed and lots of fill-ins.  I tried to stay focused on God.  I mean really that's what church is about.

He was preaching on Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  If I wasn't already overly familiar with that verse and knew it by heart, I would have been by the end of his sermon.  He repeated that verse nearly 40 times.  My type A personality and quick moving mind was about ready to explode.  Every time he made a point he repeated the verse.  Then after he had belabored the point, he repeated the verse and the point. When he had repeated his way to the end he then recapped each point once again for now the third time.

That young pastor repeated and repeated and repeated for nearly 40 minutes.  He had some good information, some good perspectives, but it was drowned out by assuming the crowd was too dense to get the points and the verse the first time he said them.  I don't do needless well.  I don't do slow and repetitive well either. 

I wondered as he droned on and on, why a speaker would deliver information in that style.  I wondered why, if knowing people only retain a few minutes of anything spoken, you would choose to belabor and repeat over and over again for 40 minutes.  Was it self-serving a bit - you know you prepared it and damn it they are gonna hear it:)  Was it inexperience?  Was is it just his style and no one had ever given him a bit of constructive criticism?  Did he think because the congregation was older they needed repetition?  Was I the only one sitting here on the verge of losing my mind?

Spit it out.  If it's profound enough it just doesn't need to be repeated. 

6.04.2013

THE SCULPTURE OF DAVID by Michaelangelo


Where is the point where nakedness is frowned on, even considered distasteful?  Is it based on the age of the person, the intent of the nakedness, the environment in which the nakedness occurs? 

If you have some knowledge of the Bible, you might remember that when God created Adam and Eve he didn't put them in clothes.  He created this masterpiece of art, the human body, and let it be displayed.  There was no "wrong" in being who they were created to be.  And, a part of that was in the natural state of a human body.  Now some might argue that before the fall of man [ie, Adam and Eve in the Garden eating from a tree that God told them not to eat from] there may have been no real need for clothes as temperatures were probably somewhat Mediterranean.  No clothes were needed either because Adam and Eve were operating totally in the way they were created and intended to be. 

Something that God intended for purity and goodness became tainted.  And when it did, it created shame.  That's what happens inside of us when we know we colored outside the lines in life.  When we know we took something intended for good and marginalized it, dirtied it, cheapened it.

My husband was perusing Instagram pictures that random people post.  Some are amazing shots of an image that is highlighted in such a way that the end result makes the object even grander than it might actually be outside of a stellar photo shot.  Other shots take something big and not intended for capture and shrink it down, taking away its purity and grandeur.

Our nudity discussion launched when he showed me an Instagram picture posted by someone he didn't know at all.  The picture, no doubt taken by a smitten and amazed new father or mother, was of a minutes old newborn baby boy.  The picture was shot above the baby but from the feet to head angle.  And obviously, as should be the case in the male gender, displayed in full living color was his male genitalia.  I think my husband said something like, "Do we need to see on Instagram a shot of a newborns testes?"

Technology too often takes things intended for privacy and intimacy and declares them to the world stage.  That picture was one of them.  Why was it ok to take that picture and post it?  If the kid was 6 months, a year, 3 years old would it be less acceptable?  Why is a picture of a grown man's testes plastered on instagram (would not be allowed) or other sites considered wrong, but the innocence of an infant makes that raw shot of that baby ok?  I am not advocating either shots!

I'm a bit of a freeist.  I don't belong to a nudist colony partly because, mixed in with my freedom of loving little to no clothes, I also have a huge problem with laughing and thinking much like a junior high girl still. Mostly I don't belong to a nudist colony because it's probably outside of the social norm though nudity was ordained originally by God.  Part is parts is said by my dear friend in reference to how every person has body parts, and though slightly sculpted differently, they are similar. Viewed like that, nudity is just that - the created by God body uncovered, unplugged, unclothed.  

I did lose all sense of caring who saw my nakedness while in labor with my daughter 26 years ago.  The hospital I was in for her birth was in the throws of a major labor and delivery wing renovation.  That meant, in layman's terms, when you were ready to deliver - head crowning and pushing occurring, you were wheeled by the public elevators down the hall to the delivery room.  I was in too much pain to care that the sheet kept slipping off me as I was wheeled by elevator bank A. 

When my paternal grandfather was dying of brain cancer, and not in his right mind, I helped him to the bathroom.  There was no shame for him or for me to see those parts and pieces on my grandfather.  I loved him.  As he neared the end, I changed his diaper.  His body was carrying his soul and spirit and they were in the process of trying to separate from his body. 

As we get ready to die we pass again into that state God originally intended for us from the beginning -  seeing our bodies as a vessel, a work of art intended to carry us from life to death.  There is no shame in that at all.  At all.  Too bad something good has been tainted.

6.03.2013

AM I GONNA BE TESTED ON THIS?


I'm pretty familiar with the insect life of Northern Indiana/Southern Michigan.  I lived there for a good chunk of my life.  Instinctively I just know about plant life there, what perennials can survive the harshness of a Midwest winter, when to plant a garden to avoid the risk of frost, when wheat is planted, the rotation of crops, the predominant trees that fill the Midwestern landscape, what too many gray days and the up and down of the barometric pressure does to one's mind, spirit and body. 

I understand the onslaught of box elder bugs, lady bugs and stink bugs in the late summer/ early fall that precede the first cold harsh frost.  The sight of farmers out to beat old Mr. Weather for several weeks in the spring and fall are like the familiarity of the large vein I see on the back of my left hand every time I look at it.  I know that whirly gigs from maple trees like to fill the eaves of any house near where they are.  I recognize the sound of those last dead oak leaves rustled by a November wind without even looking at the tree.  I know that when you hear the cicada in mid to late summer it means six-eight weeks until the first frost comes.  Raccoons and opossums are common pests that seek food from garbage cans, dog food bowls and even the garden if hungry enough.  I know the weather in Indiana is like a switch usually ushering in the next season quickly instead of gradually most of the time..

There is not much I do know about where I am now, except that everyday the sun comes up brilliantly set against a big blue sky.  I know that it is cool in the morning, warm in the day and cool again in the evening.  I know that I have never seen (short of a Texas sky) so many stars at night.  I pretty much know that I don't instinctively know much about Arizona or much about Prescott like I do about Indiana. 

I don't cook much with recipes.  That doesn't always help family members who want recipes.  Cooking is a feeling and instinctive thing for me.  I suppose I operate best in instinctively feeling my way through things.  I'm most definitely not there with this culture, these geographics, this flora or the critter and insect world, yet.


There are bugs and creatures here that are not present in the Midwest.  Case in point, tarantulas are not found in the wild in Indiana unless they are escapees from a cage in some quirkily strange teenager's room. 
 
Walking down a mountain road yesterday Doug looked down and saw something.  We both bent over to see what it was.  It was a dead tarantula!  Still quite large even though it had met death by the tire of a car as it no tried to cross the road.  I don't have instinctive knowledge but fear!

The black ravens here have to be the same ones used in Alfred Hitchcock's, "The Birds".  They grow to a size of approximately 25-30 inches tall with wing spans of 4 feet or more - similar to the size of a hawk. Their caw is loud and somewhat scary as well.  My husband says it is a bad omen to have one perch on the roof of a house (no doubt one of his mother's Muriel-isms).  If that is the case, the whole population of Arizona is doomed.  They can pick up small creatures like a hawk.  Sometimes, while out for a walk or run by myself, I fear they might fly at me and peck me to death!

I don't know the plant life here at all except to be able to say, with some measure of confidence, "Look at that cactus!".  I have no real knowledge, instinctiveness without having been taught or garnered over time, of what plants survive the hot sun, how long a shingled roof lasts here or a paint job on a houses' exterior. 

It's been good to be shoved out of my comfort zone of instinctive knowledge.  I do know this; I will most definitely take tarantulas and sunny blue skies daily over volatile rising and falling barometric gray Indiana and infestations of lady bugs.  

Check back with me after I have seen a scorpion or a rattlesnake up close.  I know I don't like either of those.