1 book that changed everything

One of my favorite things in life is reading.

Reading, curled up in a comfy chair. A blanket round my feet. A cat trying desperately to get between me and the book.  And a mug of tea somewhere in arms reach. Rainy or cold days are a bonus.

But honestly, my favorite way to read involves other people.

I was first introduced to group readings by my Uncle Bill.

Uncle Bill was a mathematical genius. He was the type of guy who was always being invited to Denmark for major mathematical theorists meetings (all expenses paid, major guest speaker etc…) and stuff like that.  He could walk onto any college campus in the country and instantly get hired by the mathematics department. He would always tell them: I’m just here for a few years then I’ll be going away.   You see he hated normal life.   He wanted to spend his life hiking and thinking.   So he would work for a few years, save up enough money and then quit and go hit the trails again.

Anyway, the point is that we never knew where Uncle Bill was at any given point.  We couldn’t contact him. He would contact us. Sometimes it was a phone call,  but more often than not he would just show up, knocking on the door.  Once it was in the middle of the night.  He always brought ice cream. He loved ice cream and he knew we did too.

and….. he loved to read.

One summer, when I was between second and third grade, he stayed with us the whole summer. Some time during that first week he pulled out a book and sat the whole family down after dinner and started to read to us.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.  Not a dirty nasty wet hole filled with the ends of worms and  an oooozy smell, nor yet a dry bare sandy hole with nothing to sit down on, or to eat.  This was a hobbit hole.  And that means comfort. …”

After a chapter or three he closed the book and said it was time to stop cause he was getting hoarse. My brother and I begged him to keep going, but he couldn’t. So my mom took the book and started to read. After she couldn’t go on, my dad picked it up.  When daddy got tired the adults closed the book and said “okay, that’s it for the night”

“No!” both us kids cried. “WE can read !!!!” so the book was passed to us and we struggled through and each of us proudly read a few sentences. Now all this had given Uncle Bill enough of a respite that he could go on, so he read one more chapter and then we all went to bed.  I think he strategically stopped in the  middle of the encounter with the three trolls.  Good call on his part.

The next night, after dinner my brother and I eagerly made a beeline for the couches and pulled out the book. “Read! come on everybody. let’s READ”  After an appropriate show of reluctance, all three adults were seated and we dove back into the fantastic world of Bilbo Baggins, dragons, elves, trolls etc….

The T.V. never once got turned on that whole summer. After we finished the Hobbit, we moved on to the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy,  then to Mark Twain. It was an amazing summer.

It’s been a long time since that first family reading time, and it is still my favorite way to experience any book.  My husband and I regularly read to each other and we are eagerly awaiting the time when our eight year old is ready to participate.  Ginny tells me that she doesn’t like reading aloud, but it’s a skill I think everyone should have, and this is a great, non-critical environment for her to learn.

But you can’t push this kind of thing.  She has to be ready, so I wait until once more in my life, the Hobbit, the book that changed everything,  sits on a side table in my living room, waiting for dinner to be over and for the family to gather round.

I love tradition.

What book opened your eyes to the joys of reading?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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did the world just end?

did the world just end?

My mother and I had an actual conversation about politics last night.

We spoke to each other about who we will each be voting for in the presidential race and why.  No, it is none of your business who is voting for whom, and it’s not really germane to this post.

Here is what is germane:

  • We actually listened to each other.
  • no one yelled.
  • no one vowed to pray the other around to a right way of thinking.
  • no one said anything insulting.

Obviously we are on opposite side of the voting question.  Basically if you put us in one car to go to the polls we may as well go shopping, because we cancel each other out.

nomakeup

From a family dynamics perspective this conversation itself was a miracle.

and I’ve been happy about it for a little over 12 hours now.

but…..

Neither one of us is overly thrilled with our own choices.  Both of us feel we are choosing the lesser of two evils. Even though we disagree about which candidate is the lesser evil.   We each acknowledge the flaws in our chosen candidate, but choose to ignore them because we see something bigger and ickier in the other candidate.   And we each see the flaws in the other candidate as being too big to ignore.

Our reasons for our choices are basically identical.  Reasoned out logically and thoughtfully stated.

But we came to exactly opposite conclusions.

I find that troubling, but not for the reason you may assume.

It is far too easy to think of people who are on the opposite side of the political fence (or any other fence actually) from you as “ravening hordes” “masses of ill-informed cretins” “unthinking persons swept up in a near religious fervor” etc…. but this my own mother.  And her mind, though approaching elderly, is pretty dang sharp.

No, I’m not re-thinking my political choice based on her stated position. What I am  getting to is this:

We all desperately need to re-think how we paint those who disagree with us. 

Life is not about “US vs THEM”  I’ve been guilty of this far too often.  So, for my own benefit, and perhaps my one or two readers, I’m going to spell it out:

Painting ANY group or person with a broad brush is NEVER going to produce TRUTH.

  • women are not all excessively emotional
  • black people are not looking for trouble
  • gay people are not twisted sickos out to harm kids
  • men are not all cheaters
  • rich people don’t all spend loads of time and energy avoiding taxes
  • poor people are not looking for a handout
  • teenagers are not making your life difficult on purpose
  • democrats are not trying to destroy this country
  • republicans are not trying to destroy this country

If we stopped having such sloppy thinking, a whole lot of the problems of this society would evaporate.

Look at it this way….if  you hired a portrait artiste to paint your portrait you would have certain expectations.

They will show up with paints, canvas and brushes.  The brushes will be varied in size, but will typically include some small enough to do justice to the details of you.

If instead the artiste shows up with one color and a single large house sized paint roller you would dismiss him, right?  He can’t adequately convey the complexity of you using only one color and a paint roller bigger than your head !!!

How would he capture your smile? the light in your eyes when you are about to get creative? the tiny, barely visible scar from that time you and your best friend decided to play super heroes and you learned that you don’t really know how to fly?

Do you see what I’m saying?

If YOU DESERVE to be SEEN IN FULL DETAIL, SO DOES EVERYONE ELSE

So put down the paint rollers people.

Instead, pick up a palate with a full rainbow of colors to work from and for the simple love of accuracy (if nothing higher) please learn to look for the details and use a smaller brush to paint the truth about each individual in your life.
Lets commit to see, and create, works of, Human, Earthly, ART.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mourning

I stopped wearing purple today.

You may not have noticed, but I was wearing purple every Thursday because Prince died on a Thursday. But I have to stop now. I’m still sad about Prince, and Bowie and Alan Rickman….but they lived larger than life and are being mourned by millions. I’m far more horrified by the news coming from Minnesota this morning, and from Dhaka over the weekend, and Orlando last month.

We all have a God-shaped hole in our hearts, and until people realize (each individual person, you can’t legislate this) that they need a higher power helping them from the inside, the mess will just keep getting worse.

I know I will lose some friends for having the nerve to say this.

We all, individually, need to get right with God.

This is not about politics.
it’s personal.
No, I’m not going to tell you what to think.
This is what I believe.
I also believe that I needed to state it in public.
We.
All.
Need.
God’s.
Help.

 

this is what I posted on FB on July 7, 2016 in response to the murder of Philandro Castile

so….what happened?

People keep asking me that, so I guess it is time to answer.

Last post I mentioned that I was going to U.S. Adult Nationals to pit myself against other ice skaters at my same testing level and see if I could better my finish from last year.

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Last year my best placement was 5th out of 6 skaters.  I skated the best I could at the time.  But it wasn’t enough.

This year I was determined to do better.

This year….I also placed 5th.  But it was 5th out of 15 or 16 competitors.  Trust me, that feels WAY different.

I was so proud!

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It wasn’t the best skate of my life.  but it was good enough to place in the top third.  That felt good.

But it was only the  beginning of my week at Nationals.

My husband Martin and our daughter Ginny had come along for the fun.

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Or maybe I should say “fun” because for that first day Martin’s time was almost completely occupied with trying to convince Ginny to come into the arena and let him watch the skating.  Ginny is an active child.  She loves to skate…but will tell anyone that she hates to just watch skating.

The second day we spent away from the rink (sorry fellow competitors, sometimes a mommy has to pay attention to her family) and it really helped.  But the third day mommy needed to compete again and Ginny wasn’t thrilled….UNTIL somehow she got to be on the list of sweepers.

For those who don’t know, sweepers are the kids who get to skate out between competitors and clear the ice of all the flowers, teddy bears and what-not that gets tossed onto the ice after each performance.

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Once Ginny (and Martin) became a sweeper, she got to be involved, useful and entertaining (since she made faces at the various stuffed animals and giggled along with the crowd as she picked up each one) !!!!  All of a sudden, the termagent who wanted nothing to do with the rink couldn’t be pulled away.  Martin had trouble getting her to even stop long enough to eat.

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She was the hit of the week.  Seriously.  She got a medal for her volunteer work and random strangers came up to us in various restaurants to shake her hand and thank her for the great job she was doing!

Anyway, my program that day was my dramatic skate to a song from the Prince of Egypt movie.  It is called “deliver us” and is basically Moses’ mother singing as she gives him to the river.

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It is an angst ridden program and I remember almost collapsing into my Coach Davin’s arms afterwards.  I wasn’t quite crying, but I know I was shaking. I did okay, but the program had some spots in it that could use work, so I had no expectations of high placement.  I can still (over 2 months later) feel the shock that went through me when I saw the score sheet and realized I was going to get my first ever National Medal – a silver !

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It didn’t feel real until a team member asked me how I did.  I held up 2 fingers and grinned like an idiot and we both squealed and jumped up and down like silly cheerleaders.  Thank you Annette for sharing my joy in that moment.  That was special and I know what it cost you.

The next day Ginny could have had a break from the rink, but she wanted to be a sweeper again, so we let her do it again.  and she loved it. all day long.

Day five I got to compete again. One more program.  One more hour of Ginny being a sweeper before she and Martin had to leave on a plane to return to Atlanta and the “real” world.  They had to miss my third competition.  One more chance to perform.  My light entertainment piece.  Known in our family as “Trixie”

Trixie is a dog.  Trixie is also a drama queen.  Trixie likes to act tragic about it when her owner leaves her alone…..for just one minute.

The program is funny.  IF you get to hear the voice-over at the beginning which sets the scene.  The only other time I had competed this program the sound guy had turned the voice-over WAY down…..nobody got to hear the set up. And without the set-up, it is really really hard to appreciate the joke.

This time I was blessed.  The audio was up and clear and the audience GOT it and was screaming with laughter before I ever even moved.  I’ve never had anything like that happen in my life.  Merciful heavens what a feeling!

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It is a tremendously fun program to skate and even though I fell at the end I managed to work it into the  story.  Sure my jumps could be higher, and my spins could be faster, But I came off the ice so high from audience reaction that I honestly didn’t have a care in the world.  If that is what it feels like on a good night for theatre actors, no wonder they are addicted!  I would tell you in precise detail just what that much adrenaline feels like, but this blog could be read by children one day, so….I won’t.   

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ahem….

I got to wait for a while for the scores to come up and in the meantime I was privilidged to be a witness to my friends Keri getting her first ever National Medal (bronze!)

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Very cool moment.

and then…I eventually found out that I actually won.  Very very cool, but nothing compares to getting on the ice, somehow knowing I was about to own it.  and then having it actually come true. I loved that feeling.

 

(This post was hiding in my drafts folder from 2014.  I have just started blogging again and realized that I never published this.  So forgive the hugely out of date news, but this was a big accomplishment for me and I wanted to post it.)

one day, one story

One day, one story

Testimony. Relatively small word with a huge amount of baggage. Movie sized baggage. I think that all too often that baggage squashes a lot of us and keeps us from sharing our very real, very worthwhile testimonies.  Even I have said it….“Oh, I don’t have a testimony, not like “the cross and the switchblade” or Tim Tebow, or Beth Moore.”  Nothing big like that.

This is where I think Facebook could actually be good for Christians. Forget about having a screenplay-sized testimony….Try telling what God just did in your life in the last 24 hours. Or 24 minutes. Make it short. To the point.

You don’t have to twitter about it, speaking of it as it happens in a play by play. Most times none of us actually recognize a happening as significant until days later anyway. But put it out there.  share.

Don’t be stingy with your testimony. God is alive. You are alive. God is in your life. Therefore, guess what? God JUST did something in your life. Period. If you tell me He didn’t, I’ll tell you you weren’t watching.

So what’s my testimony been recently?

Well last just week,  24 hours changed my life.

Or more accurately 24 hours changed my PERCEPTION of my life.

1 week ago today I was awaiting the results of a thyroid biopsy. I was at work. I was covering the front desk. The one place where you REALLY don’t want to get caught making a personal call.  ahem….

But my cell phone was dead. And that’s the number the nurse had for reaching me. So I dug out the phone number, picked up the front desk phone….and made a personal call.

And got the “bad news” 

Funny really. The cancer had been there for years. I just didn’t know about it. What is it about “knowing” that changes how we see everything? I don’t feel any different. But there is an endless refrain in my head right now (the is the uncensored truth I’m about to share here. Not a piously edited version)

“I have cancer. Holy shit! I have cancer. Does it show? Can I feel it? Is this really happening? I have cancer. Cancer. Cancer…….really? I have cancer. Did you know? Does that person know? Does it change how they feel about me? Holy shit! I have cancer”

I’m not kidding. That paragraph up there, or some variation of it, has been running through my head almost continually for just over a week now. Hopefully it will go away eventually. But for right now it is a constant buzz in the back of my brain.

Why am I blogging about this? Hang on. You’ll see.

So I told my boss. She came up front to sub for me so I could go to my office in the back, make medical appointments and call my husband. Did that. Set the appointment with Dr. Amy Chen for March 24th (which was then a week away). Called Martin. Told him the news. Managed to laugh about it. Told him not to tell anyone yet. Especially don’t put me on the church prayer list.

Then I went back up front and told my boss that we were going to have to wait another week to find out what kind of impact this diagnosis was going to have on me, on the staffing situation at work etc. I also mentioned that I had asked the appointment staff at Dr. Amy Chen’s office to keep me on a “hot list” and call me if anything opened up sooner and I would drive right over.

I managed to tell my mom in a way that made her laugh ( I hope).

This is the point at which I changed my mind about the prayer list thing. I knew there were loads of people who would want to know so they could pray. But notifying all those people by personal email was just too much to contemplate, so….I posted it on facebook. Yes, the support poured in. But that wasn’t the point. I allowed participation in my life and when God moved just a few hours later, I was able to post that too.

Just before the end of the workday I called the appointment scheduler for Dr. Amy Chen’s office back and they said that an appointment had just opened up for 9 a.m. the very next day. I practically shouted “I’LL TAKE IT!”

And then immediately got on facebook again and was able to post the praise that God had worked out the timing and moved my appointment up.

How is that a testimony? It allowed me to demonstrate, in a tangible way that I truly believe God watches over our real lives and makes these types of things happen. And it gets better….

When I met Dr. Chen the next day she was wonderful, professional, reassuring and very likable right off the bat. But it gets better…One of the things I had written on my form when I checked in under the “what do you want to talk to your doctor about today” heading was “U.S. Adult Nationals (figure skating) in 3 weeks”

So we got to the normal end of the appointment, just about the time you expect a doc to shake your hand and leave. We’ve covered all the normal stuff after all, she has other people to see. When what does she do? She sits down, looks at me and says, “So, you’re an ice skater. Did you know I skated when I was a kid?” Then she proceeds to tell me stories from her time as a child skater and eventually we talk about the scheduling of my surgery, how it will impact my work and my skating. It was such a huge relief to be able to talk to a surgeon about recovery and have them already understand about skating. What it entails, how to return to the ice without endangering the surgical site etc.

Once again, I got to put a post up on facebook that demonstrates, by example, that I know God cares about each of us and knew that Dr. Chen was the right surgeon for me, not just because she is skilled, but because of her personal background.  We have a personal God.

These little bits of my life that get lived out in public ARE my testimony. The little things that will eventually add up and make someone who has known me say “why are so okay with this? Can you tell me more?” Whether they ask me, or someone else, the seed is sown.

To me “testimony” doesn’t mean telling people the GOSPEL in its entirety. It means living a life that causes them to one day ask for more information.

Live that life. One piece at a time. One day. One story. One Moment. One shared thought. Where people can see it, so that one day, they will ask for more.

One day.

One story.

One life.

One seed.

 

 

 

why I’m not blogging much right now

I’ve been needing to write this post for a while.

Some people have asked me to write more and I’ve blamed the non-writing spell on my skating, but that does an injustice to skating that I can’t bear any longer.

Really, honestly.  It’s about my job and doing it to the best of my ability.

I have a very distractible mind.  My mother says that when I was in school I “majored in distractions”

She is right.

I routinely have way too many activities, thoughts, and goals in progress at any given moment.  This applies to my brain in the car, at home and all too often, at work.

The job I used to have was very free-form and allowed for me to have time during the day to write blog posts drafts as they occurred to me.  The job I have now, frankly doesn’t have that kind of flexibility.  It is much more task driven.  And we are deeply understaffed.  I spend every minute here trying to catch up to the mounds of work that surround me.  In order to write, I would have to steal time from my employer and the tasks that have been assigned to me.  And that, my friends, is not good stewardship of my time as well as being just flat out dishonest.

Colossians 3:22-24(NIV)

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Which basically eliminates writing at work unless I write on my lunch break. (more on that later) 

So why not write at home?

If you could see my home office you would understand why that suggestion just won’t fly.  

So what part does skating play in why I’m not writing?

Well….if I wasn’t getting up at 4 a.m. in the mornings to go skate, and therefore having to go to bed at 8p.m. each night, I guess I would have more time to clean house, and I might be able to find that home office computer desk.  If that home office was clean and neat, I might feel a desire to go in there and write.

But to be honest, even if I wasn’t skating, there would be Ginny.

Welcoming me home.  Wanting me to see what she drew, or watch some new tumbling trick she made up, or just sit and watch some random Disney movie with her.

And ya know what?  Ginny is gonna win over the computer every time.

Which is why I was writing at work, but I can’t now.  So….I’ll pop on here when I have something to contribute.  But for now, living life is taking a higher priority than cleaning house, or writing.

 

I can’t handle this!

“my life is rough right now, but I take comfort in knowing that God won’t give me more than I can handle”

I’ve seen this concept popping up a lot recently in statuses on facebook, twitter, google+ and it keeps cropping up in conversations as well.

Frankly it makes me want to scream.

NO!

I don’t care if Mother Teresa of Calcutta said it, it is NOT BIBLICAL.

God promised to give us MORE than we, as frail, fallible, fickle human beings could possibly handle.

Why?

So that HE could step in and show off HIS DIVINITY.

His POWER in our weakness

His HEALING in our extremity

His MERCY in spite of our biggest messes

You will ALWAYS be struggling against an overwhelming flood of something in your life.  But  you can trust that God is Good (I John 1:5) and that your purpose in this life is not to show off your own ability to get through the struggles but to point to your savior and say HE is the reason I got through it.

God wants to give you more than you can take so that everyone around you will see you weather the storm…and then they will ask HOW.  How did you get through that?  and you can quietly point them to your Lord.