Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Speed Bumps

When I take the two boys to the equestrian center where they volunteer two or three days a week, we drive through a park, a green oasis of nature tucked among the busy city streets, a large mall, and the nature preserve in the hills, to the ranch at the very back of the park. It is almost a mile through the park, 15 mph, enforced by nine speed bumps along the way.

Some drivers come to a complete stop and gently roll over them.  S-l-o-w-l-y.  I guess with some little cars you have to creep over them.  We drive a larger SUV type vehicle, (seats more people, eats more gas) which doesn't require being driven like an eggshell.  The speed bumps slow us down.  Why don't they call them Slow Bumps?  Or Jar-the-Car Bumps?

The intention is to make you aware of the surroundings and the safety of the children and people and dogs at the park.  I understand that. I do appreciate watching the changing trees, the blooms, the colors, the drifting leaves, the grass growing.  Each week there are subtle changes to see.  If I wasn't forced to slow down, I might drive right past, unaware.

Life has speed bumps, too: illness, accident, job changes, things break or quit working, relationship shifts...not the roadblocks, or the switching of the tracks or derailment.  Just the things that happen, the annoyances, the inconveniences, the minor setbacks that catch our attention, make us ask, "What was that?" or, "Whoa!" or more intelligently, "Huh?"  Like catching a cold, or twisting an ankle, or losing the tiny screw from your glasses into the caverns of the rug, or the sink plugs. We are forced to slow down, re-evaluate, adjust our schedule.  We have to decide whether to bounce over the life-bump or crawl over it. They are the smaller things that interrupt, that arrest our attention. Learn to appreciate the speed bumps, to learn from them, and take them in stride.
Have you bounced over any life speed bumps lately?
The view from a speed bump

Friday, May 27, 2011


"O Thus be it ever,
When free men shall stand
Between their loved homes
And the war's desolation!
Blest with vict'ry and peace,
May the heaven rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made
And preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must,
When our cause it is just,
And this be our motto:
'In God is our trust!'
And the star spangled banner
In triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free
And the home of the brave!"

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Seems like I've been scattered all over the place lately, unable to complete anything.  I have been in five states in the last two months, three different trips visiting grown children, their families and homes. June has potential to be just as busy.  I am looking at my planner, sorting through my projects, attempting to focus. What is most important for me to be doing right now?  What is my point of concentration?
Started a list (I love lists).  In a few moments, I had listed six (SIX!) items to focus on. No wonder I can't focus and it all ends up looking like a blur of polka-dots.
I wander randomly through my days, off-center, out of balance.  Must zero-in.  Spotlight, aim, adjust at the heart, the core of my priorities.
In case you are wondering, here are the big six:
Family - lots of time enjoying each of them
House - cleaning, organizing, simplifying, meals prepared
Exercise/Controlled Eating - daily effort, all day long
Home Teaching - finish up the school year in June so we can take the summer off
Reading - actually finish what I'm currently reading, not just pile up the partially read books
Writing - daily progress

Looking at this list, it is easy to see why the reading and the writing get bumped off most days.  The people who are our family, and the focus of caring for them takes priority, of course.

Here is what I came up with.  Any suggestions, or wisdom are welcome.

Focus In: The time I spend learning and challenging myself mentally will be useful and productive as I teach our family, manage our home, and toward my writing.  Therefore, the reading is valuable and critical.  Literature, devotional subjects, the Bible, and motivational material are all fruitful. Also, the time I spend building my health provides me with energy and strength to get the most out of my days.

Focus Out: The time I spend with my family will produce balanced, productive individuals who can then go out into the world and be effective contributors to society at large.  What I could never accomplish on my own can be achieved through each of them in their own realms. What the older kids are currently achieving in their lives and studies and work encourages me to continue training the ones still at home. My work is about equipping them with the tools they will need in their own lives. My writing is also a means of focusing out, communicating with others.

Focus Up: The time I spend loving and learning about the Lord filters through the rest of my days and all my relationships in big and little ways. The 1,000 Gifts List I am building helps to keep me grateful and alert to all the Lord is doing in my life. Focusing Up provides a way to keep the big picture in sight, while zeroing in on the details that fill each day.

Thinking of my days through this filter helps me see that connecting all the little dots does make sense.  The In, Out, and Up tasks of each day keep my heart and priorities in focus.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


     Today is our thirty-sixth anniversary. We married young: ill-equipped, idealistic and ignorant.  But, we have survived.  Amazing, incredible, a feat of tolerance and patience - much on his part, some on mine, too.  Mostly, I am grateful we've been able to come this far - together.

     The kids may make fun of the plaid pants their dad wore at our wedding (what can I say, it was 1975...), or my flower-girl tiara, but in a day when marriages are rocked by divorce and families are torn apart, we have a marriage founded on love and faithfulness and building a home together. Not because we have done life perfectly or made all the right choices.  Far from it. We have our share of goof-ups and craziness. The Lord's mercies are new every morning; great is His faithfulness.
     I am grateful, very grateful.  It wasn't such an ignorant choice after all.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stand Tall, Shake It Off

Pastors are well trained at story-telling, using stories to illustrate the applications of their sermons.  One story that vividly stuck in my memory is about a donkey.

A farmer had a much-loved donkey.  One day, the donkey fell into the well. Fortunately, the well did not have much water in it, and the donkey was only knee deep.  Unfortunately, the farmer was not able to pull the donkey out of the well. He tried and tried, but he could not get the donkey out.

The farmer decided, sadly, that the best thing to do was to bury the donkey right there in the well.  He began to throw shovelfuls of dirt, one by one, into the well.
At first, the donkey just stood there, getting hit with the dirt.  Then, as the dirt on his back increased, he shook it off, and stomped it down with his feet. As more dirt fell, he shook it off, and soon, the water at his feet became mud, then solid ground. He shook off each shovelful of dirt, tromped it down, and climbed a little higher inside the well.

Can you imagine the farmer's surprise, as he sadly threw in shovel after shovel of dirt, to turn and see his loved donkey looking at him over the edge of the well?

A song by Rascall Flatts, called STAND, has the same message.
"You feel like a candle in a hurricane
Just like a picture with a broken frame   
Alone and helpless, like you’ve lost your fight
But you’ll be alright, you’ll be alright

Chorus‘Cause when push comes to shove You taste what you’re made ofYou might bend ‘til you break ‘Cause it’s all you can take On your knees you look up Decide you’ve had enough You get mad, you get strong Wipe your hands, shake it off Then you stand, then you stand 

Life’s like a novel with the end ripped out  
The edge of a canyon with only one way down  
Take what you’re given before it’s gone  
And start holdin’ on, keep holdin’ on 
Every time you get up and get back in the race  
One more small piece of you starts to fall into place – yeah 
Yeah then you stand – yeah Yeah, baby Woo hoo, Woo hoo, Woo hoo Then you stand – yeah, yeah"
Click on the link below to watch a
Utube video with this song, honoring our soldiers with scenes from their basic training:
To those of you who have chosen to stand and serve, to those of you who are veterans, to those who currently serve or who are in protective work,
"Thank you!"

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pioneer Travel

Two weeks ago, I crossed the Arizona desert with a birds-eye view, looking down on a one dimensional scene  from high above.  This weekend, we drove through some of those canyons and wide open vistas, with mile after mile of deserted, dry desert; long, slow, gradual climbs and descents.
photo from Google images

photo from Google images
Whenever we drive distances across the country, we think of the pioneer wagons making that trip: mile after bumpy mile through tough, unfriendly land.  Our travel is condensed into a few hours of air conditioned comfort.  We may complain and feel uncomfortable, needing to stretch cramped muscles, but I am sure it is nothing compared to what those travelers felt on their flat wooden seats and hardened wheels. The arduous travel and the wide open distances must have been frightening, the unknown ahead of them like a gaping hole waiting to swallow them up. Each vista on the horizon would seem like a hopeful destination, only to find another mountain, another pass, another long plain with yet another mountain range on the other side.

Our lives can seem like that, too.  When going the distance seems impossible, too hard, too uncomfortable, too far to go.  We can't imagine taking all the steps required to complete a challenge. There is a balance, I think, between being aware and appreciating each necessary step, and keeping your eyes on the goal - the distant horizon. For me, this is applicable in two areas: weight loss and developing my writing skills.

  • exercise twice a day
  • careful, controlled, planned eating
  • focus on fitness and health in food choices and activities
  • the goal out ahead of me, still thirty pounds to go
  • daily blog post
  • daily journal entries
  • daily word counts for the manuscripts I'm working on
  • long-term goals of short stories and published novels
  • skills and techniques to learn and practice (like computer skills and editing)
Each of these involve lots of little, often repeated steps, with long distances ahead that remain on the distant horizon.  Are there skills and challenges you have to work towards?  Hook up your horses, get your wagon moving, head out on your travels - the journey will be worth it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Portable Office

Last week I mentioned that my writing goal is to be able to write in and around and through all the life happening around me.  Having an isolated, concentrated writing-alone time is not realistic for me, anyway.  I love the open-ceiling loft office with my desk and the window into the trees, like Pooh's "thoughtful spot."  I also love being able to write in a portable office: at the airport, waiting in the car, out on the patio; one I can pick-up-and-go anywhere, on short notice.

Which, I get to do again this weekend.  Our son, in Arizona, is moving to new apartment.  We will drive there for the weekend, taking another son to help them with the move, spend time with two of our guys and their gals, and sneak in an anniversary get-away while we're at it. Once again, I'm packing up to travel with my current writing projects, notebooks, and books.  I've barely unpacked from the last trip.

This photo is from Pottery Barn Outdoor Spaces
This is a good time to put my portable office into practice.
Because I'm still a hard-copy person, I use pen and paper for most of my writing, transferring it to the computer as I edit.  Notebooks hold journals, ideas, notes, quotes, various projects. My file cabinet holds notes, articles written; the portable file the most current projects and notes.

To keep my writing projects streamlined and functional and easily portable is a goal that helps me to keep on track and prevent piling up masses of paper and clutter.  Theoretically anyway - my desk tells a different story.  It's an on-going process.

My version of a portable office

Or, this!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Discouragement vs Encouragement

Empty of courage, or filled with courage.  Isn't that what discouragement is, empty of courage, lacking courage; and encouragement is in-courage, or filled with forward-looking hope?
Our daughter shared a good quote with me:
"People often say that motivation
doesn't last.  Well, neither does bathing -
that's why we recommend it daily."

              - Zig Ziglar

Today, I could use a good dose of courage, of motivation, of forward-looking hope. Discouragement seems to settle in every so often, hovering around me like a cloud of annoying, pesky, buzzing flies.  Why don't they just go away and leave me alone?  If I move to a different chair on the patio, they follow me.  Seems no matter what I do, discouragement follows me around.  I can't do enough, be in all the places I want to be at the same time, get it all done in one day, be everything to everyone, please everyone at once.

Today's dose of motivation:
Eat lightly, plan ahead what I will eat for the next small meal, look forward to it
Go for a walk
Keep busy while I'm waiting for our daughter's text to say she made the next flight
Put away ten items on my desk (yes, it's a mess again)
Finish my devotional reading (got distracted)
Write more in my 1,000 gifts list - find the beauty, the comfort, the hope around me
Enjoy extra time with the boys today
Look forward to an evening with my husband
Relax, and smile, be encouraged, tackle the day in courage, with peace
And, take a shower

Monday, May 16, 2011


Three of our kids ran a 10K in the Pasadena Marathon this weekend.  For those of you who aren't familiar with all the marathon terms (like me), a 10K is 6.2 miles.  They ran a 5K in April, or 3.1 miles.  Their goal is to run a full marathon, 26 miles. I have a lot of respect for all the work and preparation that goes in to accomplishing a goal like that. It is intense, long-term effort that makes it possible.

A marathon is defined as any long distance or endurance contest. Each step makes a difference toward the goal, even if you feel one step doesn't cover much ground, even if the goal still feels too far away.  Not to give up, keep on keeping on.

I am not a runner.  My marathon challenge is continuing the weight loss.  Thirty pounds to go still, still lots of miles to walk, still lots of daily exercise sessions, still many food choices to make, still a daily struggle to fight harder, to find the joy and the fun of the challenge, one foot in front of the other, to go for the long haul on my journey toward traveling lighter. Keep on with the day-in-day-out progress.
For them, the next planned event is to hike Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs in July.
Do you have a marathon challenge?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mulberry Street

In 1937, Dr. Seuss published his first classic, AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT ON MULBERRY STREET.  A young man is offered wise advice.
"Dad always says to me,
Marco keep your eyelids up
And see what you can see."

On his way home from school, Marco looks and looks and keeps careful track,
"But all that I've noticed,
Except my own feet,
Was a horse and a wagon
On Mulberry Street." 
He goes on to take his simple, routine observation and embellishes it with color, excitement, action, noise, a variety of people and animals, and a zest for life.  He can't wait to get home and tell his dad all that he saw.

I read this to our grandkids while we were waiting in the car for their mommy.  They both listened carefully, watching the colorful pictures become vivid in Marco's imagination.

He gets home and meets his dad, eager and full of enthusiasm. 
"Dad looked at me sharply...
'Was there nothing to look at...
Did nothing excite you or
make your heart beat?'"

But, Marco responds that all he saw was a horse and a wagon on Mulberry Street.  Does that make you feel like Marco gave up on a dream?  Do you wonder if the dad was really trying to squelch his imagination?  Or, maybe the dad was trying to help him be more observant, more alert, more appreciative of the wealth, variety and action of life around him?

With hindsight of the almost fifty books Dr. Seuss went on to write, it is clear he wanted to stimulate and encourage imagination, not silence it.  A general theme in many of his books is to look and look and "See what you can see."

Next time I have trouble imagining what to write, I'll watch for the horse and wagon on Mulberry Street.
What sparks your imagination?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Rain at my Window

The rain woke me up early this morning, clicking like an impatient finger-tapper at my window.  The wind whistled around the window frame, trying to wrench it open and come inside where it was warm and dry.  As the early morning traffic increased, the cars swooshed by on their way to work and school and life.  The light came slowly, dimmed by the heavy clouds.
For a long time, I stayed in bed and listened, relaxing, enjoying the sounds, thinking.  Emily Freeman, who writes the blog, "Chatting at the Sky," has been writing a series about creating art, about creating beauty, about accepting the imperfections in ourselves and the art we produce.  As my mind wandered over thoughts this morning, I remembered (again-some of these lessons I am always learning and re-learning) that the beauty of each day is not necessarily in professional productivity. Cooking a meal to enjoy together with family, picking up the piles on the floor (the same ones that appeared there yesterday), folding the laundry, writing a short card to a distant granddaughter, exercising and laughing together: these things are the beautiful art of life.  I want my art to be formal, professional, productive, "perfect."  It isn't.  Instead, I realized how much art I do create each day in the every-day-ordinariness.
By the time I hopped out of bed, the rain had stopped, but the wind still wanted to come inside.  The cars splashed by on the highway, their headlights reflecting ahead of them on the wet pavement.  I can look at the day ahead, peaceful and confident in the work I do, not apologizing for imperfections, but accepting them in myself and others.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Always Learning

I mentioned on a recent trip about our five year old granddaughter learning to ride her bike without training wheels.  On this trip, our four year old grandson learned to ride his very first bike with training wheels.  Very exciting for him, made him feel like quite a big boy.
Watching him, remembering our granddaughter's excitement at her new skills, is a reminder to me to always be learning, always attempting new skills and abilities.

Sometimes I still need training wheels, like asking the kids, "What does this mean, how do I do this on the computer, what do I do now?"

Sometimes the pedal gets stuck in the brake position and it is hard to figure how to put enough pressure on to turn it up and over to get the bike in motion again.  I feel stuck and can't move forward.

Sometimes I get frustrated and want to quit - to go back to what is familiar and comfortable.

Sometimes my legs get tired and don't want to keep moving.  A new skill requires building new muscles, which usually involves achy, stretched muscles along the way.

But, once the skill itself becomes familiar and comfortable, when the muscles have grown and adjusted to the new ability, the feeling of  speed and the wind in my face, then the struggle and the attempts become worth the effort.

Lately, my biggest skill-stretch is learning to fit my writing in and around all of life's busy-ness.  I want to be able to write because of all the life happening around me. Do you have skills you want to learn?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Duct Tape and Glue

On my flight to Denver, I finished reading Gift of the Sea, and I got a little carried away with taking photos.  The scenery below wouldn't stop being interesting, as much fun as sitting on the beach watching the ever-changing, fast moving views of the waves and clouds and birds and beach-goers.

We came up through a cloud bank into that bright "Aha!" moment of breaking light, when the sun streams through the plane windows, the clouds below like a foamy sea.
The desert is fascinating from 36,000 feet up.  Footprints of giant dinosaurish creatures stretched out across the landscape, baklava baked by some giant bakery, scars and scribbles that below, are deep canyons and ridges.
Like a multi-colored map of a continent hanging on a schoolroom wall, a condensed, colorful version of humanity and history, the view below offers glimpses into what is going on: a green field here, a yellow patch there, a cluster of what could be the buildings of a little community nearby.  Patches sewed onto the earth, an attempt to hold things together, cover up the torn sports?

At the Denver airport, I switched to the Colorado Springs connection.  Waiting on the next plane, I watched a mechanic kneel underneath the jet next to us. He had his hands up above his head, working on the underbelly.  He appeared to be sticking on a piece of duct tape. Are they really holding that plane together with duct tape?  I watched, he reached down, picked up a roll, tore off another strip, reached up to apply it to whatever he was fixing. The pilot squatted down next to him, they were talking and laughing.  A baggage guy hung around, watching them.
This reminded me of my dad, who used to work in the plastic industry.  He traveled a lot, and used to enjoy telling the passenger next to him that he made the glue and the plastic that held the plane together.
Next time you fly - trust the duct tape and the glue - and, thankfully, the Lord!

*In fairness, when I told our son-in-law this story, he said there is an airline grade of duct tape used in the military and the aerospace industry.  It's not your home maintenance duct tape.  Still a funny idea, though, to see the mechanic using the guy-fix-anything-with-duct-tape method.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What's Blooming?

This time of year, no matter what plant zone you live in, it is exciting to see what is blooming.  At our house, my snowballs have come to life.

This is the first sweet pea blossom.  I saw a creative idea, training the sweet peas up the trunk of a bougainvillea vine.  The problem - it's a new bougainvillea in a pot, and the trunk is only three feet tall.  The sweet peas have already exceeded that height, and are trailing down to the ground, looking for something to climb.

Our pomegranate tree attracts the hummingbirds each day.  Yesterday in the afternoon, as we were sitting out on the patio enjoying the early evening sunlight, talking about the day, a hummingbird came and hovered.  The low rays from the sun glistened through its trembling wings, making them look transparent, like a little Tinkerbell. No camera at the ready.  One of those moments just to remember, but wish I could share it with you.

This tree is our neighbor's, but I have a beautiful view of it outside the loft window and my desk.  The blooms are gold and fuzzy, kind of like a bottle brush.  Does anyone know what it is?

And, the gophers are blooming, too, spreading their tunnel excavations all over the lawn and entertaining the cat - which is fine with me, as long as he doesn't bring them inside after he catches them.
What is blooming at your house?