Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Next month, I'm going to be studying Cynthia Heald's bible study "Becoming a Woman of Simplicity". I'm not sure what to expect, but right now I'm desiring a change in my life towards scaling down on things that are becoming clutter, emotionally and physically.
I'm at the point right now in my life that there is just too much accummulation. I don't know how it all got here (not by me, surely?) but I want so badly to get rid of it. If my pack rat hubby would allow it! This will be an interesting process.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
"The Little Drummer Boy" was the first Christmas song that I remember affecting me when I was a little girl. I didn't totally understand it, but the idea of someone longing to give something of worth to an infant touched my heart. The story's resolution of the baby acknowledging and accepting the poor child's gift of himself mirrored my own longing to be seen and appreciated.
The artist Jeff Scher's rendition in the video's animation is focused on friends and family making connections with each other and re-establishing bonds, what makes us feel loved. It also reminds me of Christina Rosetti's poem "In The Bleak Midwinter" another soul who also had nothing to give the baby Jesus and found his answer in giving Him his heart. And I really don't know any better way to celebrate Christmas other than opening the door of my heart to the Lord and to others.
Jesus often spoke of having faith like little children in order to enter into God's kingdom, and the style of Jeff Scher's animation in this music video evokes that point of view for me. Such a simple song, simply sung and simply illustrated with many layers of spiritual meaning, at least to me.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Saturday, November 07, 2009
I'm listening to it now on bobdylan.com, and I am now really wishing that I had gone. But it wouldn't have been the same without Dennis, who's starting to appreciate Dylan's music (he downloads it onto his ipod shuffle that I gave him a few Christmases ago).
The man in me will do nearly any task,
And as for compensation, there's little he would ask.
Take a woman like you
To get through to the man in me.
Storm clouds are raging all around my door,
I think to myself I might not take it any more.
Take a woman like your kind
To find the man in me.
But, oh, what a wonderful feeling
Just to know that you are near,
Sets my a heart a-reeling
From my toes up to my ears.
The man in me will hide sometimes to keep from bein' seen,
But that's just because he doesn't want to turn into some machine.
Took a woman like you
To get through to the man in me.
And I have a feeling that it would've sounded like this:
Suggested donations:$5 for meal only
Individuals and families are encouraged to attend.
Bowls created and donated by artists and friends of Reach Studio Art Center
I will be bringing Moosewood's Gentle Lentil Soup to share, made with petite french green lentils, and aromatic vegtables in a savory red wine and herb broth. Other soups will be available as well to choose from.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Monday, November 02, 2009
We ran into Rayleen and her two dogs, a gentle bull mastiff aptly named "Bruno" and another lively Golden Retriever, "Lily" who played with Ginger as though they knew her all their lives.
Beauty below my feet.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I'm listening to "Must Be Santa" a sample of Bob Dylan's "Christmas in the Heart" charity album. All proceeds go to Feeding America.
The record has been getting mixed reviews, mostly bad.
But I am listening to the cut, and trying to forget who's singing. I can't, because that voice is so distinctively raw. The music is a fast paced polka, and excuse me, jolly. The kind of song that would put me in a festive holiday mood. Or give me a push down nostalgia lane of good Christmases past. Not what Dylan is known for, and it is the weirdest juxtaposition. He sounds as though he is really having a good time in the studio.
And why not? Why can't I enjoy this aspect of the holiday as well? There is something kind of radical in this endeavor, and I can't put my finger on it. It's as if Dylan is saying Christmas is for everyone to enjoy and celebrate. He's invited himself to the party, thank you very much. And he wants us to stop hovering around the door and come in, too.
Dylan once said that all his songs are protest songs. And here, he isn't protesting against Santa, but against all us Scrooges. And against the feeling that since we are in economic bad times that we can't all have fun. This is what holidays like this are for. A little relief from the struggle, a break to relax and enjoy and to give to others a chance for a nice turkey dinner and bond over a full dinner table.
Wake up, America. We need music like this right now. And I love the fact that Dylan is doing it to help out, when food pantries and charities are finding the need overwhelming. I have a feeling he is meeting several issues head on at once. And these are just a few.
I'm buying my copy after Halloween. Here's a link to listen to "Must Be Santa".
Years later, I heard from one of my co-workers at Starbucks that the song "Althea" was by the Grateful Dead. He even brought in sheet music that he downloaded from his computer, printed it up, and sang it for me, acapella, at work.
If I'm being a little self indulgent, please excuse me. I like the song, and not because of the name. Well, maybe a little.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I got to work early and sat for a few minutes in my car praying for grace and strength to do my job. My work has shown me how weak and prideful I can be, that I need to be still and know that God is God, so that I know who I am and who I am not. So, if I do anything right, I know to Whom I should give credit.
At one point, a customer expressed his impatience at having to wait 10 minutes for his drink. I had been on a lunch during what normally is a slower time of the day for customers, but when I got back, the drive through and the front counter were backed up with a lot of drinks at the espresso bar waiting to be made, so I jumped in to make them.
When in a rush, or business surge, I have to make some decisions to prioritize. I get the drinks that go in the drive through out of the way and then I start working on the drinks for customers waiting inside the store. I was moving pretty quickly and I was organized in my approach. Drink orders continued to pour in, but getting filled in a reasonable amount of time.
One cup was written with quick scrawl as a "venti nonfat no-foam no-water yadda-yadda something seven-pump chai". Since I wasn't there when the order was taken and everyone was really busy, I decided to wait to ask for a translation of the chai modifier I couldn't read and moved on to the next drink. In a few seconds, I realized no one had a moment to help me so I had to help myself.
I finally decided that the chai was supposed to be 195 degrees, which is almost boiling and has to be carefully made or the milk would boil over or get too foamy. It's a pain in the ass sort of drink that you have to drop everything to focus on and when I got to the point that I was ready to focus on it, the customer came up to me and asked me why he had to wait so long and then rambled on and on about how incompetent we were and accused me of sitting in the backroom while only two people were serving customers.
When he was hurling his insults at me in a tone of voice that was more lecturing than angry but angry nonetheless, I quietly apologized and told him I was working on his drink at that minute and it would be finished very soon. My supervisor explained that we were understaffed. Then my store manager who was nearby soberly explained that there were some emergencies and someone had to go see a doctor, then the customer apologized for his rude behavior. Yes, thank you, I replied, it's been very tough. I didn't say that before I walked out to help out on the floor, a dear co-worker was in deep pain and anguish. it wasn't necessary, since I saw tears well up in the customer's eyes.
The Bible says that a gentle answer turns away wrath. I think that it works, if you can manage it. The trick is, it can't be done in our own strength. In my own strength, I would have given that selfish, impatient jerk what he deserved. But instead, he was shamed into admitting he was in the wrong, which is a lot more satisfying. I have a feeling that man isn't used to saying stuff even remotely expressing humility. That was a gift from God.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Yes, I know how it is. I've had to work too hard, get little sleep and have to clean and maintain my house as well as fulfill some well thought out and carefully chosen responsibilities at church, as well as invest in personal relationships. I've described it as juggling myself to death--either I drop a few balls or they drive me into an emotional or physical breakdown. It's been a long time, though, since I let that happen.
I would operate in a "go, go, go and stop, stop, stop" pattern which would involve constant activity until I got too exhausted or sick to function. When I began to see this after a few years of living this way, it was the real wake up call that I was significantly depressed.
I remember that moment really well--I was making a lasagne roll up dish for a church missions potluck, fighting a crushing feeling welling up in me. I got through halfway through the recipe and quit. I was trying to make the noodles stay rolled, and they kept unrolling themselves. They wouldn't look like the picture in my Betty Crocker Cookbook. I was ready to chuck those babies across my perfectly clean kitchen.
Instead, I called my friend, Tricia. We were both newlyweds at the time and loved our church's zeal for missions. Tricia and her husband were on the missions committee as well. She listened to my story and just said that she would pray for me and that I should take a break and stay home. And she asked if my problem wasn't about a stupid recipe, that maybe I was over-reacting.
I sat in my kitchen and looked at the factors that lead up to the feeling of being overwhelmed. It wasn't just I packed one more item into my schedule, plus a casserole. I wanted the casserole to be perfect, or I'd let everyone down. And ultimately, I was afraid to say "no" to my husband, because a perfect Christian wife would not do that. And I didn't want to fight with him. I was not in the habit of taking responsibility for my own welfare. I was not accostumed to giving myself a break.
So I prayed. When Dennis came home from work, I was still sitting in the kitchen with my unrolled roll ups talking to Jesus. He asked me when we were going to be ready to go to the potluck, and I calmly said not tonight, that we were staying home and I needed to rest. I was "peopled out". He told me he didn't mind staying home, either. I got some toothpicks, finished my recipe and we had roll ups for dinner.
A few years later, I found a good counselor. She asked what I wanted out of therapy. I told her I wanted a steady life, no crash and burns all the time. And for a few years, I worked on what was driving me. I learned that the inward pressure I sometimes felt was a warning sign that I was pushing myself too hard. I learned to ask for and get help. I learned to let go of perfectionism. I learned how to take care of myself. I took personal responsibility over what I could control, and gave up control over what wasn't my responsibility. And that Betty Crocker lied to me with that recipe.
Right now, as I am writing this, I have a laundry basket next to me full of laundry that has needed to be folded for a week. It's okay. Dennis and Youngbae are cooking steak for dinner right now. It's fine with me. I see an inch of dust in our living room, even though we've had dozens of people there since the last time I dusted. I can live with that. I need to call a carpet cleaner, but I'm waiting for the money to be saved to get the whole house done so it's taking a while longer. I'll wait, even though we have people in and out seeing the rug's condition. I haven't read all my mail, either. And I really don't care.
But I'm slowly dealing with my fridge that needs to be cleaned--chucking out the expired items and leftovers. I think about how to organize the linen closet (again) when I have a few moments. I am planning to do a thorough cleaning of our bathroom on Tuesday. I have a few phone calls to make to check on some friends and family. I find time to read "The Economist" while I'm on the can. It works for me.
But ultimately, I've chosen to draw near to the One who gave me this life. And only He can empower me to live it in a way that brings Him the glory.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
But as this memory comes back to me, I am also reflecting about the situation of a family two houses down from us. The mom died suddenly earlier this summer, due to a mix up of medication as she was being treated in a local hospital for a chronic condition that often left her dishabilitated but she still had many more years ahead with her husband and three children. The neighborhood pitched in and helped out at the house making repairs and cleaning and landscaping as the dad and kids spent the summer with extended family after the funeral. But it was still a painful return home to start the school year without their mom there.
The family are Christians and believe in God's love and soveriegnty, as well as in Jesus dying on a cross for sins and being resurrected the ultimate triumph over death. They believe that their mom is with Jesus and that they will see her in heaven someday. And I pray that their faith will get them through these growing up years without her.
This weekend, I'll be walking our Golden Retriever by their house and ask if the kids would want to join me for a few turns around the block. Ginger knows them and they know Ginger ever since she was a puppy. Maybe they would like to play fetch with her or frisbee. I feel helpless in the face of seeing others greive--especially children, but I got a dog with a lot of energy and love and even though that's all I can give for a few hours, I hope that it's something.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
I haven't felt like writing for awhile and that's unusual for me. Sometimes I just have a dry spell--plain old I don't have anything. Nope, got nothing. And then there's I've got too much on my mind and I'm having trouble processing it all. Or I'm having a rare moment where I want to keep it all close to me instead of floating around in cyberspace. It's scary when people come up to me and say that they are following my blog--and I love it at the same time. But I think I wrote more when I thought that no one actually reads this thing.
So yeah, right now I've got lots of deep thoughts just rolling around in my head. We've taken two trips this month and there's a lot to share about that, too. And I've been reading and that is blogworthy as well. So we'll see. It's one thing to have an idea and another to actually put some words to it. Most of my ideas have no words until I either start typing, writing or speaking. And it usually surprises me what comes out.
Most of my thoughts are in forms of images and feelings associated with them. Really abstract stuff. I've often wondered about that--it's like a series of movie clips, and if I'm really intrigued I run them on repeat over and over. Is this normal? It's like when I read, I have mental pictures associated with the words I'm reading. The mental pictures have given me an incredible memory. When I'm reading something that I cannot picture in my head, it gets really hard to connect with it or remember it. My heart has its limits. If it is a number or even a cold hard fact, it bounces right off of me and I have to fight to retain it.
So, when I have conversations with people, it usually means that the words that are coming out of my mouth are flowing from feelings and an image of an idea in my brain. I'm translating myself on the spot with words and it's usually spontaneous. So, that's a short tour of Althea's brain. I don't use words to think with and I don't know how I do it.
So on that note, I will tell you about my favorite CD by Fernando Ortega "The Shadow of Your Wings, Hymns and Sacred Songs". The imagery is lush and poetic, and the tunes are calming and peaceful. Ortega has this quality of worship with quiet tranquil humility--he really is bowing down in the presence of the Almighty. My most favorite track of all is the third one "Let the Words of My Mouth"
Let the words
of my mouth
be pleasing to You, pleasing to You
The meditation of my heart
be pleasing to You, pleasing to You
O Lord, my strength and
Whatever is true,
Whatever is pure,
Whatever is lovely,
Whatever is worthy,
Think on these things
Think on these things.
Let the words
of my mouth
be pleasing to you, pleasing to you.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
My nephew, Brett.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
"If you’re reading this article, the phrase “gender discrimination” might conjure thoughts of unequal pay, underfinanced sports teams or unwanted touching from a boss. In the developing world, meanwhile, millions of women and girls are actually enslaved. While a precise number is hard to pin down, the International Labor Organization, a U.N. agency, estimates that at any one time there are 12.3 million people engaged in forced labor of all kinds, including sexual servitude. In Asia alone about one million children working in the sex trade are held in conditions indistinguishable from slavery, according to a U.N. report. Girls and women are locked in brothels and beaten if they resist, fed just enough to be kept alive and often sedated with drugs — to pacify them and often to cultivate addiction. India probably has more modern slaves than any other country.
Another huge burden for women in poor countries is maternal mortality, with one woman dying in childbirth around the world every minute. In the West African country Niger, a woman stands a one-in-seven chance of dying in childbirth at some point in her life. (These statistics are all somewhat dubious, because maternal mortality isn’t considered significant enough to require good data collection.) For all of India’s shiny new high-rises, a woman there still has a 1-in-70 lifetime chance of dying in childbirth. In contrast, the lifetime risk in the United States is 1 in 4,800; in Ireland, it is 1 in 47,600. The reason for the gap is not that we don’t know how to save lives of women in poor countries. It’s simply that poor, uneducated women in Africa and Asia have never been a priority either in their own countries or to donor nations. ...
Why do microfinance organizations usually focus their assistance on women? And why does everyone benefit when women enter the work force and bring home regular pay checks? One reason involves the dirty little secret of global poverty: some of the most wretched suffering is caused not just by low incomes but also by unwise spending by the poor — especially by men. Surprisingly frequently, we’ve come across a mother mourning a child who has just died of malaria for want of a $5 mosquito bed net; the mother says that the family couldn’t afford a bed net and she means it, but then we find the father at a nearby bar. He goes three evenings a week to the bar, spending $5 each week.
Our interviews and perusal of the data available suggest that the poorest families in the world spend approximately 10 times as much (20 percent of their incomes on average) on a combination of alcohol, prostitution, candy, sugary drinks and lavish feasts as they do on educating their children (2 percent). If poor families spent only as much on educating their children as they do on beer and prostitutes, there would be a breakthrough in the prospects of poor countries. Girls, since they are the ones kept home from school now, would be the biggest beneficiaries. Moreover, one way to reallocate family expenditures in this way is to put more money in the hands of women. A series of studies has found that when women hold assets or gain incomes, family money is more likely to be spent on nutrition, medicine and housing, and consequently children are healthier. "
Friday, August 28, 2009
Why do I like turtles? Because God made them to be home wherever they go.
Today is a rainy day, reminding me of my Seattle years. This would be a fantastic time for a cup of coffee. The aroma and the smell of rain together brings back fond memories. I would go to Starbucks for a grande Verona or anything bold, take a walk to the muffin store on the Ave for something large and decadent and head to Greenlake for a morning with my Bible or my memory Bible verse pack. It didn't matter if it was raining or not. I had a hood on my raincoat and wore 2 sweaters on top of each other. It actually felt cozy to be outside, with my breakfast and time with God. Reading His Word about how much I was loved and how wonderful Jesus is probably added to the warm feeling.
Right now, I am in our living room looking at the rain through the still broken window. The replacement is in, but the installation won't happen until next week. I can't wait. Plywood is covering the hole, and clear plastic is covering the whole window. Our current window has a large segment in the middle plus two narrow windows that slide open on each side. The replacement window will be energy efficient with double hung side windows instead of sliders. We were tempted to replace the triad with two larger double hung windows, but it would impede the view. I was thinking that it would bring down the value of our house to go a cheaper way, and it wouldn't fit the rest of the houses in the neighborhood. Dennis was thinking about the cost, mostly because the triad window had to be special ordered.
I finally agreed with my husband that the estimate given to us by Lowes was too high, and I was willing to be patient as Dennis searched out other options. Dennis looked into buying the window from his old employer, Menards, and putting it in himself with the help of friends. He told Lowes why he changed his mind, and they negotiated a lower price. Dennis accepted, because he really didn't want to do the work himelf anyway. Lowes had a stipulation that all windows ordered through them had to be installed by them.
So, by the time the window is installed, it would be a whole month that our house has been an eyesore in the neighborhood. For several weeks, I was upset everytime I rolled up our driveway and saw the wreck from the outside. Nowadays, I don't even notice anymore. Having an imperfection so obvious to all has been good for my humility.
Yesterday, I spent extra time cleaning and vacuuming our home. I rearranged furniture, dusted, organized the laundry room, washed several loads of clothes and cleaned some traffic areas of the carpet. By the time I was done, it was 7pm and time to make dinner. There is still a lot more to do, like organizing the linen closet (again), cleaning the upholstery on the couch in the den, washing the curtains in the living room and dining room, straightening out under the bathroom and kitchen sinks, washing the walls and the woodwork, and mopping the wood floors. I might get to some of that this afternoon. But now, it's time for coffee.
Monday, August 24, 2009
I've been thinking more about prayer than actually praying, lately. But that is actually an improvement from where I was a few weeks ago.
When I was single, it seemed like I was always praying. As a single woman living in Seattle, I was more aware of my needs, desires and hopes. And my weakness and inadequacies. I worked hard and prayed harder. I prayed because it seemed like there was only One whom I could turn to who understood me completely.
As a newlywed, I was also driven to God in prayer--so much going on with marriage that I needed God to help me grow up and be a wife. I was experiencing a deep healing in my life and God brought me through one of the deepest depressions I've ever known.
As a woman in her 30's, longing for a baby and not coming to terms that time was against me in this matter, I dove into my conversations with God with desperation. At the same time, I was cultivating a faithful heart in order to pursue "a long obedience in the same direction". I had to grow up in my faith that I would serve God whether He gave me children or not. My walk as a Christian was no longer about my fulfillment but on obedience. Most of my prayer life was about hanging on when I was dealing with doubt and disillusionment.
So, what's wrong with me now? I'm rounding the corner and heading to 50. I am not going to live forever in this world. And this is what preoccupies me the most. How much time do I have and how I am going to make it count to glorify Him the best? I rely on Him to help me do His will and I trust Him completely in whatever He chooses to do (Proverbs 16:9) but in the meantime, I don't have long and I don't to waste my life. The only thing that matters is God's Kingdom.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Our Michigan move was unique in that we decided to buy our home before moving to Lansing. We drove out, looked at homes for a week while staying with our friends, Bob and Donna Tobey. We put a bid on one home, but it fell through, and I had a backup plan for another, the current one we live in. We left our car with the Tobey's and took a memorable train ride back to Denver.
It's a three bed and two bath multi-level with a basement, garage and a storage shed. I've always liked multi-level homes as opposed to a ranch style or a two-story. They have a more contemporary feel to them, and are adaptable to any decorating scheme you decide on. For the price we paid, I feel we got our money's worth. When we bought it, it was only eight years old. I've just realized that now our home is fifteen years old.
Prior to moving in, we painted the family room and the living room, as well as put in some shelving, an automatic garage door opener and a ceiling fan in the master bedroom after buying our appliances. A year after, we replaced the light fixures with more modern ones, and since then, we've done little besides some landscaping and painting inside the garage walls and the wood trim around the windows and chimney. I'm looking around and seeing that we have a lot to do before the end of the year. The Honey Do list is starting to grow.
Since we have had a lot of animals, including an elderly german shepherd mix and a golden retriever puppy, as well as a destructive mother cat and her six kittens, the carpet needs replacing in some rooms. Our living room is small, so we are thinking of installing a wood floor ourselves. I've tolerated the wallpaper border in the dining room but now I'm sick of it. The kitchen is showing on the walls that I love to cook and that my eyesight is not so good, as well as a lot of wear on the laminate countertops. The cupboards are simple, but they are oak and I like them. When we bought our stove, I didn't insist on buying an overhead microwave/hood that matched it and now I wish that I did.
For all these projects, plus more, I'm planning to post some before and after photos as well as document all the decisionmaking that Dennis and I have to do. The first project is the window project, which will be posted in a few days. Dennis and our friend, Youngbae, went up on the roof a few weeks ago and had an accident with a ladder. Everyone is safe, but the ladder went through the living room window. A replacement had to be special ordered and with the plywood covering the shattered picture window, we ascended to the top of the list of the worst looking houses in the neighborhood. I'm looking forward to the new window installation on Tuesday.
Living here has had its ups and downs. There are other places I wish we could live, like closer to family in California. But I'm celebrating the fact that we actually have a home at all.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
The last month has been a flurry of activity for Dennis and me as we got ready to recieve 2 male international students to our household. We have a three bedroom house with two baths, but we occupy every square inch of it. The process of making room for more people to live with us has been a hard one, but it has been good.
For one, Dennis and I now have to share some space. The closet in our bedroom is tiny so I claimed it while Dennis got the closet in a spare room also designated as his office. As we contemplated having to empty that extra closet, I realized that I had to clear half of mine. Dennis also occupied the second bathroom downstairs while I dominated our masterbath. We like this arrangement because of our different standards of what is acceptably clean--Den is a little more relaxed while I'm a lot more obsessive. Sharing a bath together to make room for the students means making a compromise--i.e. Den will step it up and I will stop nagging.
Small, cramped quarters make for possible friction and irritation. Mostly for me, because I like my home a certain way. Organization equals peace to me in my physical surroundings. It kind of goes against that purpose if the way I have to achieve it is to harp, get impatient or mad. Living with me can be hard if all I do is insist that everthing has to be my way, and the only way I know to deal with it is to take responsibility for my feelings and put a higher value on the feelings of others than my own selfish desire for being a neat freak. Even the cat doesn't mess with me.
On the other hand, I need some cooperation from my husband and the students. Living with all guys will be a challenge for me, and I need their sensitivity to what I expect. A home is not a crash pad and consistent maintainence and cleaning is required. I want excellence, not perfection. So, Saturdays are chore days and everyday all members of the household have a task in daily upkeep. I don't think I'm asking for too much.
So far, the last three days have been fun ones with the students. One is from Africa and the other from South Korea and they are both learning English. They don't yet know Christ, but we are hoping that will change somewhere in their futures and that God would use us and this home in the chain of grace. It's worth it.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let that grace now like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Fred is the orange one on the left, giving you the "eye" for disturbing his naptime.
I've written about Fred before. When he was a kitten, his name was Fredo, the spunky fuzzy little orange ball with teeth and attitude. An older couple who came to look at him to see if they would adopt him had him pegged as an "alpha male". He was the one that fought his mom when she was trying to pick him up to move him, while she calmly ignored him and grabbed his scruff, dropping him "accidentally". He was the one who nipped our Golden Retriever, Ginger, on the nose when she came to inspect the litter. I started to handle him more so that he would calm down and stop biting people. Tough little fighter.
Fred is still a scrappy fellow, but he has a soft side too. He is the only cat I've ever known to love his stomach rubbed, like a dog. When he gives himself a bath, he jumps down to give Ginger a few licks on the nose as well. His preferred place for naps is anywhere close to Dennis or on him. He tolerates me picking him up and carrying him like a baby or slung over my shoulder like a sack. And if he goes outside when we don't want him to and try to catch him, he flings himself on the sidewalk onto his side in complete surrender. And he used to nap cuddled up to Ginger, their golden fur blending so well that you don't know where cat started or dog ended. Now he's ten pounds, and Ginger isn't willing to share her space with such a hefty guy.
A few months before we got Carly, Fred's mom, Dennis and I were sitting out on our deck one morning with our coffee looking at a scene where some rabbits were getting chased down by what we thought was an orange fox or a small dog. The scene seemed like it was straight out of "Wild Kingdom". When it came closer, we were amazed to see that the predator was actually a big orange feline. It had guts, because it was chasing down two rabbits in an open large lawn for at least half an hour before it gave up. When Carly got pregnant shortly after I brought her home, we speculated who the fathers of the kittens might have been. I haven't seen an orange tom since the rabbit chase, but I often wonder if he was the father of the three orange male kittens, including Fred, in Carly's litter.
Carly has been spayed since she weaned her kittens last year, and Dennis and I have learned the hard way that cats are older than they look. Carly is still small for an adult cat, and weighs nearly five pounds. We let her out, because she tears up the carpet if we don't. She has lost her kittenish ways, she behaves like an adult cat who is emotionally detached from me, except on rare occasions when she wants me to pet her and re-establish our bonds. She doesn't belong to me, but I belong to her. Dennis, not so much.
I worry about her outdoors, even though she is "street-wise". A month ago, she got into a scrap with a tom twice her size near the backdoor of our house. She had to fight him off, because she was trying to get in the house for safety and got cornered instead. By the time I got to the door, she ran in another direction in a panic to hide and the grey tom skulked off into the woods trying to spit out some of Carly's fur that got stuck in his teeth. I saw her later in the evening, with no scars or scratches anywhere on her, when I let her in for her dinner. She hunts, and leaves her prizes of large bluejays, moles, mice, robins and bats on our doorsteps.
Fred gets out, despite our best attempts to keep him in. He surveys the backyard from the top of our shed or the next door kids' playset like a sultan on his divan. He hunts, a little, not as prolifically as his mom but I think only when he gets bored from sitting in the shade all day. Fred is not a high energy feline. He will chase a squirrel, climbing up the trunk of the pine tree to make a point rather than actually catch the offending critter. One evening I heard a maddening ruckus of a pair robins in a panic, and Dennis found Fred with a baby robin in his mouth, still alive. He grabbed Fred and made him spit out the infant bird, much like Sylvester the cat with Tweety. A few hours later, the little robin was gone. Our theory is that he was learning how to fly, and after seeing a "putty tat" up close, was in shock and flew off when it wore off.
We can't find our camera, but I will post pics of our adult Fred as soon as I can. Meanwhile, enjoy the photos of Fred the Kitten.
Fred napping with Gina (the tortiouseshell on the right) and Sonny (the longhair orange with his back to us--he was the relaxed, laid back clown kitty)
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
If you listened to "Sarabande", the music would evoke many kinds of emotions, but the slow adagio is mostly melancholic. The dancer is expressing through his movement how that music makes him feel.
Bach is known for his music for the church, and I would surmise that his work could be described as Christian art. What about the dance? Enjoy the video.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
The sun has set, and I'm listening to the birds in our backyard sing their lullaby to the day. We are waiting for the blueberry pies that Dennis made to bake (mine has the special "S" on it for "splenda").
We worshipped God today with a bunch of people we call our church family. Some of them we know well, some of them we don't. We sat in our conversation and coffee class to discuss today's sermon with a bunch of people we are getting to know. And I had a variety of people who I had conversations with, waved at and/or who just passed me by patting my arm and shoulder. Dennis and I had talked about going to the service only and then splitting out the door right after, but it was hard to do. We were actually energized by being with our church, not drained. We were encouraged to love and serve and honor God in a deeper and more thoughtful way than before.
Which brings me to mention an excellent book by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck "Why We Love the Church". Stuff I knew already, but it was nice to see it all laid out in a logical and theological as well as brutally honest fashion.
But the day is ending, and I have miles of stuff to do before I hit the sack, ready to start a brand new week.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
"Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" is a song about a man wanting freedom from a relationship--his heart wasn't enough, she wanted more. Probably a commitment. And that was enough to make him walk down the road at the break of dawn. She was asking for way too much. So, he is doing the honest thing by leaving.
And I wonder what the song would be like from her point of view? One of the deepest fears most people have is the fear of abandonment. From the woman's perspective, or even the jilted man's, it isn't alright. But the song just brushes it off as though the reciever of this wonderful "I'm leaving you" message shouldn't care about their loss. Besides, they didn't do much talking, anyway. This song isn't bittersweet. It is just plain old bitter.
But this kind of abandonment didn't just happen outside of marriage, it happens within it as well. You don't have to physically leave to leave a spouse. Years ago, I had a conversation with an elderly widow whose only remark about her late husband was that they had moved to opposite ends of their house, hardly ever seeing each other except in passing. They had this routine for decades after the children grew up and left. That they drifted apart is an understatement. In conclusion, she just shrugged her shoulders while I sat there in silent shock. I had expected to offer my condolences, but instead she seemed like she would have preferred my congratulations.
So, what's a couple to do?
Over the last 20 years of our marriage, I've noticed a few things that worked. The first is communication. In order for deep intimate conversation to happen, a lot of less intense exchanges need to happen. Dennis and I talk about facts, ancedotes, ideas and our emotions throughout our day. It isn't bad that most of our conversation seems superficial or even boring sometimes. We talk and we listen, all of it is important to us both. Whatever affects one also involves the other. But it makes it easier to talk about the hard stuff--the confessions, the struggles, the deep honesty and the transparency about our needs and wants. Because we listen to the little things and care about them, the big things that require more vulnerability to reveal aren't as scarey. We don't really work at keeping each other posted, we just do.
The other thing that helps is having a third party involved to talk to and get help from. For Dennis and me, that would be God. For instance, since I've been created by God, nothing that Dennis could ever complain about me to Him would surprise Him. Also, my deepest fear that I would be alone is already addressed by the fact that God has promised to never forsake me. I don't have to control or demand that Dennis be there for me--making him feel like he's chained to me. God is my source of security, I can have peace and trust in Him while at the same time revealing my heart to my husband that I have this issue and need help with it. Because I've shared this in a vulnerable way, my husband wants to be closer to me knowing that he's needed and desired. And appreciated.
God is about the best go-between you could ever want in a love relationship--He's big and powerful and trustworthy. He is faithful to deal with me or Dennis in helping us to change and grow. He shows me the right way to go about my marriage. And for our twenty year anniversary, we want to do a lot of praising Him for all His kindness and graciousness towards us.
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Mustard is a condiment that I've savored ever since I was a kid. My brother and sisters adored ketchup, but I was a fan of the bright yellow stuff ubequitious at picnics and campfire roasts. It is the flavor of summer to me. I've often felt alone in a world populated by salsa freaks and other red condiment lovers. Until a few Sundays ago at a church potluck where a youngish father of four cut in line in front of me to squeeze a generous portion of French's on his hotdog. He zipped away with a huge grin on his face, as though life could not get better than this. And I remembered that child-like zeal I for balony on white bread with as much mustard slathered on as it could hold. The sandwich was a vehicle for the mustard, not the usual other way around.
Nowadays, I am more temperate in my affection for mustard. I downplay my preference but it is always there in just about every meal I prepare. These days, it seems I have a garlic-dijon-tarragon flavor combination fixation. I found packages of fresh Tarragon, regularly priced at $2.29 on sale for $.29 each. I grabbed up the last four on the shelf, Dennis thought I was crazy. He hasn't noticed yet the tarragon/mustard/garlic profile showing up in all my salads I've made since then--potato salad, ham and pea salad, marinated four bean salad, and the salad I made up to take to the Fourth of July barbeque at Joanne and John's house.
Today I have a new one--a brown rice salad with lentils. Usually I don't like rice or brown rice for that matter. Salads made of them tend towards blandness and dryness that I find repelling. But this one worked. I used a lot of vegetables I had on hand that needed to be used before they went bad.
Brown Rice Salad
In a rice cooker, cook two cups raw brown rice with enough water to cover by a half inch and a table spoon of Better than Bouillion vegetable bouillion. After it has cooked, transfer to a large bowl, fluff with a fork and let it cool. Add one drained can of Westbrae's organic lentils and fluff together. Add one cup of each: chopped red pepper, chopped yellow pepper, chopped tomato, chopped mushrooms, chopped yellow onion (soaked in water and salt to remove bitterness and drained) and one can of drained artichoke hearts in water, chopped.
Make the vinegerette as follows: In a small bowl whisk together juice of three limes, four pressed garlic cloves, an eighth of a cup of dijon mustard, four tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, two tablespoons Heinz tarragon vinegar, three tablespoons minced fresh tarragon and salt and pepper to taste.
Pour vinegerette over rice mixture in the bowl and mix well.
Monday, July 06, 2009
Serving (and making) coffee (and lattes, mochas, cappuccinos and frappuccinos) is the physical part of my job which in itself is challenging, especially when I am making and/or handing out several at the same time. Mentally, there is a lot, too when you factor memorizing customers and their drinks and the qualities of each kind of coffee bean we sell. I'm good at both these things, like all my co-workers are.
But the part of the job that is very difficult is the emotional dimension. There is the feeling you really have versus the feeling you are supposed to have in order to make a customer happy.
Maintaining integrity and honesty while serving hard-to- please people is a delicate balance to acheive. And my particular company attracts picky people who are very specific about what they drink. Everyone struggles with it-- even after ten years, I still do.
These days, when someone is extremely rude, I won't hide my taken aback or offended reaction. I may not say anything other than "excuse me?" in an assertive tone. Rudeness answered by more rudeness is not the way to go but I don't believe that it is my job or anyone else's to take abuse. But it is amazing what kind of treatment my co-workers recieve. My old manager was called stupid, a supervisor had a lid thrown at her and a fellow barista was yelled at for simply helping a customer order his drink easier. And I had been yelled at by someone who didn't understand that it was possible for me to prepare his drink while chatting with another customer and another partner at the same time.
How much dignity am I required to give up? And if I accept it, how much more abuse will the jerk inflict on the next service person unlucky to have to deal with them? So, they are having a bad day (or life) and can't still be decent?
It helps to talk to fellow baristas who know how it is, or swim laps or take walks. But sometimes it isn't enough. I do find peace in having faith in a good and soveriegn God who is a source of all strength. If someone yells at me, it isn't me that is the problem but it says a lot about who they are. Especially over something as minor as coffee.
An excerpt from the article Shauna sent me:
"When you engage in emotional labor, you control your feelings to fulfill the goals and expectations of your organization. From a practical standpoint, this means that you either (a) express only your positive feelings, or (b) hide or manage your negative feelings. To deal with negative emotions, people tend to do one of the following:
Show emotion they don't really feel.
Hide emotion they really do feel.
Create an appropriate emotion for the situation.
You can do this using two emotional labor techniques:
Surface acting - You fake, or pretend to have, an emotion by using unnatural and artificial body language and verbal communication. Smiling and using a soft tone of voice help you show emotion that you don't feel, or hide emotion that you do feel.
Deep acting - You control your internal emotions, directing them to believe that you actually are happy, and enjoying the interaction with the other person. Rather than feel like you're pretending, you convince yourself you're not experiencing a negative reaction.
When you continually need to show only those emotions that are appropriate for the job, despite how you really feel, this can often lead to emotional conflict between your real emotions and those you show to others."
For the rest of the article"