Saturday, September 27, 2008

This Man is my HERO!

I've been giving lots of thought to finding BALANCE. Since taking on my new job I've fallen back into old habits. I've had some SERIOUS relapse into my compulsive worker-bee type-A personality ways. Working 10-12 hour days. Never knowing how to turn it off. Even when I was home, thinking about work all the time.

My complete emotional melt down over recent basement flood was a real wake up call for me that I needed to change some things and get back on track.

So I am trying to re-learn how to pace myself and how to set boundaries, how to ask for help. To that end, the gentleman you see pictured here has come to my rescue in a very significant way. He has agreed to be responsible for the company cell phone on the weekends. My 24/7 shackle to that thing is finally at an end.

In truth, I rarely got many calls on the weekends. But I ALWAYS knew I MIGHT. And I have gone in to work far too many weekends. It was time to put a stop to that.

So this weekend I handed it over on Friday. I will pick it up again on Monday morning. But between now and then I don't have to think about work AT ALL. I came home and took a long hot bubble bath. I stayed in bed till 9:30 this morning - UNHEARD OF for me. I puttered in the yard. I read some blogs. I got caught up with my online classes. I took the dog for a walk. I never left the farm.

Tomorrow I will go to church and then spend the afternoon working on a project for my church. Our Relief Society (women's organization) put together a book a few years ago that has a page for each woman in the congregation giving contact info, birthday, list of family members, favorite color, favorite food, hobbies, talents and then a picture. It's a great little directory for getting acquainted. Problem is, the one they did is several years old. Some have moved in, some have moved out, a couple have died. Many have had kids and a few have changed marital status. So it needs updating. I've taken on the task, so I will spend some time scanning pictures to include with the pages and making calls to verify current info. It's a nice way for me to get to know the women in my new congregation.

Afterwards I think I might make some zucchini bread. or not. I might take a nap. Basically, this weekend I am OFF DUTY and doing all I can to rest and recharge my batteries. It's long overdue.

So thanks, Paul. I appreciate your support more than you know.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Winston!

Today my baby boy turns 32 years old. How is that possible? It really doesn't seem that long ago that we were all calling him "Winston" because as a baby he reminded us all so much of Winston Churchill. Here's the evidence - you be the judge. Perhaps the resemblance wasn't as striking as we all thought at the time. Maybe it had more to do with disposition? I dunno.

Through the years we had our ups and downs, my boy and me. Suffice it to say he was not an easy child to raise. We had our moments of drama and tears. He totalled my car one night when he was just 15 and didn't even have a license yet. When people asked if he had been hurt in the accident my standard response was "not yet, but we're still considering it."

But from the days of early childhood

up through his High School years

my youngest son and I have had a powerfully close bond. We are very much alike, which is probably why we had so many sparks fly at times.

Oh the stories I could tell...from the infamous family fishing story (They wiggle!) to his jock years when I spent SOOO many days at little league fields, soccer fields, football fields, wrestling matches, etc...

Or what I thought when he went off to serve his country in the Marine Corp...

We saw him through a too-early marriage against all our council and did the best we could to help him pick up the pieces when it fell apart. We banded together again during the years he was a single parent raising his three gorgeous kids all on his own.

Lots of water under the bridge since those days. He's moved from North Carolina to Oregon to Texas to Michigan. He now has a new love in his life - one that came as a package deal with FOUR MORE KIDS! So their tribe of 9 does the best they can to navigate the sometimes complicated waters of a blended family.

Though we live many miles apart these days, my son and I talk on the phone at least once a week - sometimes for hours at a time. We can talk music, politics, weather, kids, food, family, past events, future goals. It is a rich, respectful, honest relationship between my son and me. We don't always agree with each other, but we always, ALWAYS trust, love and support one another in powerfully meaningful ways.

We've built many special times together - from our road trip to Nashville, TN when he was fifteen to our later adventure to the Oregon Coast - camping by Hood River, flying kites on the beach...or pumpkin gathering with the kids out at the farm where I now live during the time he lived in Bend...these are all memories I treasure

So happy birthday my boy. Make it a good one!

On this very same day I also send birthday wishes to my sister-in-law Toni in Idaho and to my dear friend Patricia in Africa serving in the Peace Corp. Yep, Sep 25 is a pretty special day.

Monday, September 22, 2008


The past few days have been rather interesting to say the least.

Saturday I spent the entire morning with my husband trying to fix a client's blocked up plumbing. Earlier attempts with a plunger & Liquid Plumber had proven ineffective, so this time we got serious. We rented a snake and ran that through for about 75 feet. Pulled out lots of VERY DISGUSTING stuff from the access pipe out in the yard. Let's just say the lawn has now been thoroughly watered and fertilized. YUCK! Yeah, being the "Executive Director" of a small non-profit is certain GLAMOROUS work, eh?

Then Sunday evening I got a call from one of the ladies living in the Emergency Housing program my organization runs, in the building shared by my office. She said we had water in our basement. I thought it was all together possible she was over-reacting/exaggerating. It had rained some recently and so I figured it was quite possible we had some draining coming in downstairs. But just to be sure I drove in the 45 min commute on SUNDAY to see if there was any serious concern.


We had between 4 - 6 inches of water all over the basement floor and it was still rising. Apparently the plastic waterline to the evaporative cooler popped off and water had been spraying down there for no telling how long.

Boxes of bedding, donated clothes, computer monitor and all sorts of supplies utterly soaked.

Just looking at all the ruined stuff and the amount of work it was going to take to get it out of there I freaked. I had myself a complete meltdown. I wound up sitting on the basement steps just sobbing for about half an hour.

MOST of the parts of my job I actually like and feel like I'm pretty good at. But over the last few weeks I've put in lots of extra hours and had very little sleep. I've been scrambling to play catch up on several fronts that had been let slide for far too long. With a shoe string budget and essentially no staff (thank God for a few committed volunteers!) I've often felt as if I were on a high wire without a net. I was dancing as fast as I could and just didn't see how I was supposed to do it all.

Then this...

It just pushed me over the top.

But today is a new day and things are looking MUCH brighter.

Yesterday one of my board members brought over a sump pump to start draining out the water. Then this morning group of homeless vets assisted by some run-of-the-mill hoodlums and gangsters hauled all the wet stuff out onto the lawn and made good use of a shop-vac and mops. One of my volunteers and I sorted through all the mucky wet stuff to decide what we would try to salvage and what to just throw away. Local community action agency provided a trailer and someone to take it to the dump. What was an utter catastrophe this morning was a completed clean up project by mid day.

It's still pretty damp in the basement, so we'll be running fans down there for the next couple days. But the worst of the flood is over and truth be known, I'm GRATEFUL we were able to get rid of a bunch of the stuff that was down there that I had serious questions about BEFORE it got flooded.

I still have lots to do and not enough resources to do it with. But I'm feeling far more confidant today that I can face whatever the world throws at me.

Lessons learned from this escapade are:
2. Pace Yourself
3. Keep your sense of humor

I really need to get it through my head that I CAN'T do it all by myself. But as I seek support from others, it's amazing what we can accomplish together.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Busier Than a One Man Band

Ah, a day in the life of busy lady with more tasks than sense:

I head out the door bright and early for the 45 minute commute to work. I begin the day at work at 7:30AM with some policy planning and then do a pile of data entry in my ongoing efforts to create an accurate data-base of all the clients who have been served in the past four years. (Yeah, I KNOW I could delegate this to a volunteer, but I want to check and double check it for accuracy and have it set up MY way since the last system somebody else did had some significant holes in it...)

Next I meet with a couple of established clients, answer my e-mail, take WAY too many phone calls, do an intake on a new client, go to a lunch meeting at local college, and then come back to office to once more enter the fray.

I write thank you notes to some recent donors, work with a volunteer to set up some new files and shift how a few things are tracked, sort out papers on desk....

GULP, take a breath.

I review case files, plan out new tracking method, read through grant application, answer MORE e-mail, take MORE phone calls, set upcoming calendar, fiddle with some technology that refuses to work.

Then, meet with board members and state representatives to talk about Very Important Stuff, finish up office for the day by around 5:30...commute home...Stop at library along the way to pick up a few more audio books to keep me company on my daily drive.

I get home a little after 7:00 PM, go right back out to pick up computer from very nice man who agreed to fix work computer for free since struggling non-profit is on shoe-string budget. FINALLY get home after 8PM to stay and then I start my OTHER job

I hit the computer to put the finishing touches on the two online classes I'll be doing again this term - students start previewing this week and courses "officially" begin next Monday. I THINK I've got everything set.

Then there is the laundry, some bills to pay, two check books to balance, go for walk with the dog, plan what I need to send my sister-in-law and son for upcoming birthdays, read over the lesson I'll be teaching next for the youth Sunday School class, make "to do" list of stuff I don't want to forget (make dental appt, change oil in car, buy light bulbs)

Is it any wonder I feel utterly pooped? I think I need a long hot bubble bath and a frivolous magazine.

So far I'm holding it together...but I can feel myself getting a bit fuzzy around the edges. And it's only MONDAY.

I have to just keep thinking of the mantra of The Little Engine That Could.

Somewhere in there along my day I started to feel rather overwhelmed. Is it any surprise? But when that comes I find if I just STOP, take several deep breaths and two solid minutes of FOCUSED GRATITUDE it really, really helps.

I list in my mind a bunch of blessings. Instead of bitching about how far I have to drive to get to work, I am GRATEFUL I have a good, reliable car that runs well and gets decent gas mileage. Instead of whining about all the drama and responsibility I juggle at work I can be GRATEFUL that I have a good job that for the most part suits me well. When I get really tired and think I'm running in too many directions at once I take a moment to recognize and fully APPRECIATE the opportunities and blessings that are surrounding me.

Piece by piece I deliberately redirect my mind and emotions away from all the things that feel like stress producers and focus on the things that make me smile, or the tools I have that will make it possible to accomplish all I have to do.

I DO think it would serve me well to re-evaluate how I am managing my time and look for ways to make more effective strategies for what I do myself and what I delegate. I need to be sure I make plenty of room for SLEEP, for self care, for quality time in my family relationships. I don't want to be so caught up in my to do list that I sweep the things that really matter under the rug.

But even though there are some challenges, I DO have much to be grateful for. And for now, leaning on THAT knowledge is what is getting me through each day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Do you believe in Omens?

Yesterday at work I had a LOT to take care of. I was feeling just wee bit overwhelmed by my very full plate. I've made some significant progress at organizing / restructuring the organization in the short time I've been there. But sometimes I feel like I'm scooping out the ocean with a teacup.

Then yesterday one of my volunteers came into my office holding a long piece of flowering vine. She was very concerned. I asked her what the problem was. She said "Have you seen this? It's growing all over out front. We better get rid of it." I looked at her blankly and asked "why, what is it?"

The answer? Deadly Nightshade. Also known as BELLADONNA.

Go figure. It's the first time I've seen the actual plant. We trimmed it back some but I left a small piece to grow where it is not likely to be an enticement for kids or animals. I just couldn't erradicate the stuff. Yeah, the berries are quite poisonous. But there are lots of poisonous plants we keep around like oleander and poinsettias. I'm not about to rip out my namesake just because it has some toxins.

Last week I purchased a new hose and sprinkler so we could begin regularly watering the MUCH neglected yard. All sorts of new life is springing up where previously there was nothing but dirt and a few scraggly weeds around the house that serves as my office. We've got autumn crocuses blooming, some sort of white trumpet flower and now this. BELLADONNA has made a home all along the front of the house.

I felt like it was telling me I was right where I belonged.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Why I Write

I've been talking with a non-blogging, real-time friend of mine about why I blog. She said: "You are one of the busiest people I know. With all you have to do, why do you spend so much time writing personal things for strangers to read?"

Well, when you put it THAT way, it does sound sorta self indulgent and foolish I suppose.

But it also misses the point.

Writing for me is a way to better understand my own view point. I'm not just expressing / explaining them to those who will read this stuff. The very process of writing helps me get clarity in my own thinking. Sometimes emotions, ideas, attitudes all tumble together topsy turvy in my brain. I use the writing as a way to sort out what part really fits for me and what does not. Actually there have been MANY posts that never made it beyond "draft" status because they were a little too revealing, too close to the bone for public consumption. But when I limit all of my writing to isolation with no intention of ever allowing it to be read it somehow doesn't serve the same function as laying it out on the table and allowing others to see it and give feedback.

I have no illusions about being a great writer. I ramble. I too often have choppy mechanics from unchecked typos to dangling participles. I have run on sentences. While I would love to be Edith Wharton and Anias Nin all rolled into one, with a sprinkling of Wallace Stegner thrown in for good measure, I KNOW that is not the case. But I enjoy the process and that's what counts for me.

I do not sing well. (That's putting it mildly.) But singing feels good, so I belt out ballads on road trips and croon in the shower just for the sheer joy of it. In public I am much more reserved with my voice. But I do still sing carols with neighbors and friends at Christmas and I join in with congregational hymns at my church. I'm not PERFORMING. I'm PARTICIPATING.

That's how I view my blogging. I use my time at the computer to connect, to ruminate, to explore ideas, to share a story or a resource.

Besides, even though the relationships are very DIFFERENT from my regular-life friends, I enjoy the companionship I weave with my blogger pals. Even though we have never met face to face, I have a sense of "knowing" Mimi who loves baseball and looks beautiful in bluebonnets,

I adore Jaquandor, the writer guy in buffalo who shares my love for a good pie in the face. He may be on a blogging hiatus right now, but I have every confidence he will return to the scene eventually - and if not we'll keep in touch through occasional e-mails.

Jen over at Lords of the Manner is someone who shares my faith which gives us something in common, but more importantly someone I can "talk" to via e-mail about things that really matter.

Papa Herman started out as someone I only knew through blogging but I now count as a friend in my REAL life, where as Rozel is someone who started out in my REAL live but then moved away so now we stay in touch in part by reading one another's blogs.

Probably one of my most faithful readers of all is my dear friend and sometimes vacation partner, Pat B. in Wenatchee. She does not blog herself and almost never leaves a public comment - but by reading my blogs she knows what I'm doing, what I'm thinking...and often responds in our private e-mail conversations. I would generally not write the kind of stuff I put here in an e-mail - but sharing this stuff HAS helps she and I grow closer. Pat has got some challenges goin' on right now so I ask that ALL my blogger buddies that are so inclined please say an extra prayer for this dear woman who I love with all my heart.

Retired teacher Ruth D. over at Upstream and Down is someone whose point of view I very much appreciate.

And of course every now and then I have to check out Dragon Slaying Laura to see what she is up to.

There are others I read more sporadically. But this collection of folks are people who make me laugh, make me think, make me appreciate who they are as individuals - even for those I will NEVER know in real time physical world.

So even though from time to time there will be periodic lapses during seasons when my "REAL" life gets particularly insane, I keep blogging. For me, it means being in the company of good friends. I don't have to agree with them or live the same sort of lifestyle. But by knowing each one of these folks my life is richer. During all the angst and changes I had going on over this past summer my blogging friends were a support to me in more ways than I can name. Sometimes I really do appreciate the INFORMATION the internet puts at my disposal. But every single time I pop in to peruse the pages of my core circle of blogging friends I am ever so grateful for this tool that has allowed us to find each other in this big complicated world.

If I were Vulcan I'd say "Live Long and Prosper." But instead I'll offer up my own closing salutation - May you all one day know the joy of a big gooey Pie in the Face!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Empty Nesters FHE

One of the teachings of the LDS church is to encourage families to hold "Family Home Evening" - one night a week dedicated to spending time together, teaching gospel principles, enjoying wholesome recreation, and generally strengthening family bonds. I am absolutely convinced this is an inspired program and that this practice brings many blessing no matter what faith a person is.

In fact, I believe in it so much it is one of the options for the student projects I offer in the Sociology of the Family course I teach onlilne. Of course I don't CALL it FHE for the class, and I leave out all the religious elements. But one of the six choices students have to pick from for their term project is to hold family meetings for 5 consecutive weeks with emphasis on building positive rapport among family it IS essentially FHE. Most the students who do that one love it.

We were sort of hit and miss about doing FHE with our own kids while they were growing up. We had some great ones we all still remember and some that pretty much fell flat. But we tried to keep it as much of a steady tradition for our family as we could muster, despite our busy lives.

In the ward where we live now they have something called "Empty Nester's Family Home Evening." Twice a month the older members past raising kids (whether married, single, widowed or divorced) all meet together for a pot-luck supper, an evening of visiting and a short uplifting message. Even though we are past our days of actively raising a family, we still benefit from the blessings of Family Home Evening, and it's a great way to build ties with other ward members. Everyone in the group takes turns meeting at each others' homes. We've been attending these ever since we moved and have very much enjoy gathering with this group.

Tonight it was our turn to host FHE. There were 19 people in attendance (counting us) - some who come every time and some who had not been before. My beloved grilled hamburgers and brats and everyone who came brought something yummy to contribute - (let me tell you, the ladies in this group can COOK! It's always fun to see what each person will bring.) The food was delicious, the company gracious, the weather was perfect and it seemed like everyone had a pretty good time.

For the message/activity portion of the evening I talked about writing personal histories using the Question method...I have a set of question that deal with all sorts of things - everything from "tell about a significant event involving weather" to "tell about the yard at the house where you grew up" to "tell about the circumstances of how you learned to drive". The idea is that rather than trying to write your whole life story, you focus on ONE question at a time. But by the time you answer all the questions, you end up with a pretty good collection of life stories. I had my father-in-law answer these (see Remembering Fred) and the end result is an absolute treasure. He just wrote out the answers by hand in an old note book, usually doing one or two each week on Sunday afternoons. He never spent a lot of time on it at any one setting. But as he got them done he would send them to me and I would transcribe them. I now have 32 typed pages of priceless stories of his life.

Well, anyway, I passed out the questions and had everyone pick one and tell that particular story to the group. It was a fun way to learn more about everyone. I then made copies of all the questions to give to everyone and encouraged them to write stories for their own families. There was a lot of laughter as we went around the group allowing everyone to tell their story. Everyone seemed to have a pretty good time.

This also reminded me that it's time for me to get cracking on answering these silly things for myself. So I think I'll start doing them over on Apprentice Human. That's as good a place as any to put them. I will do it sort of like when I did the Alphabet Soup - Count Your Blessings Exercise where I wrote something about what I was grateful for that matched each letter of the alphabet over on Life by Design.

This time around I won't have any particular schedule or do them in any set order. I'll just start writing answers to these questions as I find time - probably mostly on Sunday afternoons. I suspect most of it will be fairly inoccuous. Still, it will be interesting to see what comes out of it. And who knows? Maybe my grand kids will get a kick out of reading about some of the adventures their old grammy had growing up in this crazy old world.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


What seems to me to be a very foolish and sometimes potentially DANGEROUS approach to life is the viewpoint that "if some is good, MORE is better!"

Case in point: Tammy Fae Baker. Now, I'm not much of a cosmetic queen. Most days my face goes au natural. I do put on a little blush, lipstick and mascara for hot dates, job interviews and some church functions. But I cannot for the life of me understand how ANYONE would think they looked BETTER with that darn much goop plastered on their face. Now, I don't mean to be unkind or to speak ill of the dead, but seriously, she is/was to me the epitome of excess in this area, rivaled only by Mimi Bobeck on the Drew Cary show.

But face paint is a generally benign area that I am using only for example.

Use of pain medication (or ANY medicine for that matter), pesticides, and punishment are all areas that are considerably more serious.

From sprinkling salt on your eggs to how much risk to take in your investments, finding the right balance of not too little and not too much is a balance each person must figure out for themselves.

Then there is the issue of sharing personal information.

SOME opening up in an authentic way is a good thing. It is the stuff that builds bonds with others, creating a sense of being known and establishing intimacy.

But there is a limit to how much is a good thing.

The thing is, what feels appropriate in terms of privacy and making public for ME are no doubt somewhat very different than what they are for YOU.

In some contexts I can be an open book. In others I am considerably more guarded. That makes total sense to me since some settings are safe turf and others are more like walking through a mine field. The trick is how I determine which is which. SOMETIMES I get them mixed up. Sometimes I can be in a completely safe, supportive setting but will confuse the signals, defining it as a time to clam up completely. Other times I will think I am on sacred ground with someone I can trust, peeling back my layers and laying my heart bare only to see it get shattered.

I'm not always great at distinguishing what is safe and what is dangerous, how much is enough and how much is TOO MUCH.

How do you figure this stuff out??

Since moving I've been attending a new congregation of my church. I am looking forward to getting to know the people I now associate with and for the most part have found them to be a very friendly group.

But there is a difference between being FRIENDLY and having true friends. A big piece of that difference is how much we are willing to share of our private selves with specific individuals.

We all start out by putting our best foot forward, in most cases. We act polite. We want to be "nice". (At least in a church setting.) But somewhere along the way in personal conversations with this person or that person we begin to share more of our challenges, our concerns, etc. I find myself walking VERY CAREFULLY in this area. Who do I be open with and who do I not? I can enjoy and appreciate just about everyone I meet there. But who do I TRUST?

Maybe I make a bigger deal out of this than in needful. But history tells me that somewhere in this group of people I may find my next best friend AND I could also end up feeling really stupid or embarrased if I choose wrong. So yeah, it feels like it matters.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Where I Live

This evening I went for a nice long bike ride through the wheat fields, with trusty Morgan dog running along side me. It was a very soothing way to close out the day.

We are FINALLY unpacked for the most part and getting settled in to life out here on the farm. The transition was not without a few bumps. But now that we are here and have our household arranged, I'm finding I really do savor the peace and privacy.

Over the weekend I went through all the boxes in my office and got my work space all in order. We're starting to hang pictures and have put up curtains throughout the house. (Just the pretty fru-fru kind that go over the mini-blinds...wasn't an essential thing so we took our own sweet time getting around to it, but I must say they make the place look much homier.) The basement still has a bunch of stuff I need to figure out, but our living space is now cozy and comfortable.

We have found a family that wants to buy our house in Athena. We've chosen to rent it to them on a 9 month lease while we wait to see if their house sells so they can close the deal. They have three young daughters and all of them were so excited to move in.

Piece by piece the transitions we set in motion this summer are settling in.

I still have my moments when I miss all I left behind...but the longer we live here the more certain I am it was absolutely the right decision for us.

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