Archive for November, 2007

More Than Enough
November 23, 2007

Look to your health; and if you have it, praise God, and value it next to a good conscience; for health is the second blessing that we mortals are capable of; a blessing that money cannot buy.

-Walt Whitman, 1653 

Bailey got an invitation to a Christmas Party today. Seriously!  It was from the Veterinary Emergency Referral Group, Inc. (VERGI), where he spent some time earlier this year, first for “idiopathic chylothorax” and then after eating an entire bowl full of peanut m&m’s!  

I think we will decline, because each time we have been there, he has been a noodle, and he would be a noodle again, even if it were just for fun. But I do appreciate their invitation; after all the money I spent there… we deserve it!   

This has been a year of unexpected expenses. Beginning with Bailey (the $11,000 dog, and I’m not kidding), we then segued into major car repairs: Joel’s car’s back window fell out, and then right after we’d spent quite a large sum to repair it, he got broadsided, and the car was toast. What really bummed him out was the fact that he had JUST filled the car with $60 worth of gas before he got hit! Goodbye to that money. 

In addition to this unfortunate turn of events, Shannon’s car’s windshield shattered, and Donnie Ray (my car) needed some major repairs (a/c, transmission, and “rear end trouble”) and then had to have some re-repairs. After all that, Shannon’s car was involved in a rear end collision (someone else was driving it), which meant even more funds allocated to car repairs.  

(Only Bert, the wonder car seems to be immune from misfortune… knock on wood here! Twelve years old, running like a top, we rely on him daily now, as Joel isn’t planning to purchase a new vehicle until the end of the year. Who knew when we bought him in 1995 that he would be such a champ! ) 

I am not complaining in the least. After all, it is the week of Thanksgiving, and when I count all my blessings, we have had a wonderful year, discounting the above-mentioned surprises. We are happy, healthy, safe, secure, well fed, cool when it’s hot outside and warm when it’s cool. We have love, faith, friends, family, freedom to do as we please within the boundaries of our society, economic blessings that negate any want, and a church family that would step up for us in times of need, just as our biological family would, and probably even more so! This is not only enough, it is MORE than enough. 

In addition to this bounty, we also have a precious new family member, little Ernie Boon, seven months old now, the spitting image of his mother, my niece, Camille. So life goes on, and as we lovingly watch my Dad fade away, we are lovingly watching little Ernie blossom. It’s a life lesson to experience this juxtaposition of the two transitions, and I am hopeful that I will take whatever wisdom that may come from this and use it to be a more loving, patient, appreciative person. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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The Wild Geese, Reprised
November 17, 2007

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth. 

The year has come full circle since I began writing this blog. My first entry was called “The Wild Geese”, dated November 25, 2006. I thought about that as I heard and saw the wild geese again this past Monday. It was a comfortable morning, warm enough for shorts, but chilly enough that the golden sunbeams angling through the trees warmed me up. Leaves were fluttering down, and although they didn’t have the vibrant hues of their northern cousins, I still savored the autumn experience.  

The point of my essay last year was to take the time to be still and to observe the wonders of nature all around us. It is one of my regular habits to be mindful of my senses other than sight, and if I really focus on doing so, I enjoy exercising the parts of my body that I sometimes take for granted.  

The two senses that dominate are sight and sound. As for the sense of smell, this can be a good or bad thing in the city; on the good side, each season has a distinctive smell. For example, I’m thinking about aromatic spring flowers (my favorite is a mimosa blossom), newly cut summer grass, raked autumn leaves and smoke from winter fires. As for the bad ones, let’s not talk about the garbage trucks that I ALWAYS seem to encounter, no matter which direction I go. That, or cement mixers (or any large diesel belching vehicle)! 

City sounds can be distracting, annoying and just plain LOUD, but if one walks off the beaten path, then the sounds of nature are more noticeable. One of my favorites (besides bird calls) is simply listening to the wind blowing in the pines. Early winter mornings are especially nice, as there are no air conditioner or leaf blower sounds to contend with. 

I recently read a quote from Helen Keller that made me even more determined to notice the world around me. In 1933, she wrote, 

I have often thought it would be a blessing if each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days at some time during his early adult life.  Darkness would make him more appreciative of sight; silence would teach him the joys of sound. 

Now and then I have tested my seeing friends to discover what they see.  Recently, I was visited by a very good friend who had just returned from a long walk in the woods, and I asked her what she had observed.  “Nothing in particular,” she replied.  I might have been incredulous had I not been accustomed to such responses, for long ago I became convinced that the seeing see little. 

That’s something to think about, isn’t it?  I do have to share a recent funny episode in my quest to be observant. In my first entry a year ago, I wrote of a man who was yelling into his cell phone and totally missed seeing and hearing hundreds of geese flying above. This year, as I was running, I came upon a man from behind. He was articulating something, and I thought he must be talking into a hands-free phone. But no! He was SINGING. He was listening to songs on his iPod, and to him, he must have sounded great because a) he had accompaniment that b) only he could hear. The song he was singing was the 1960’s oldie, “96 Tears”, and as I passed him by, he was loudly singing, “I’m gonna cry, CRY CRY CRY! I’m gonna cry, CRY CRY CRY! 96 TEARS!” (at this point the note goes up into a falsetto range). He was AWFUL! Totally not in tune. It was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud! 

I am not being a music snob here, because I can’t sing in tune either, but at least I don’t sing at the top of my lungs in public! Aside from all that, he was missing out on all the wonders of the season. As for me, I’ll take the sounds of the wild geese calling any day over an iPod.  

Whatever you do, wherever you go, unplug.  Look around you, listen, smell, feel, touch. Savor the passing seasons. Remember the wisdom of Helen Keller, “Darkness would make him more appreciative of sight; silence would teach him the joys of sound.” Be still…

It Does Matter
November 10, 2007

That’s what it’s all about!

-The Hokey Pokey Song 

Last weekend, I was a miserable wreck, thanks to allergens that blew in with the north winds. These fronts bring delightful weather to Houston, but I end up with serial sneezing, watery eyes, a runny nose and all the other lovely symptoms that make it impossible to wear make up, much less get out of bed! 

I am probably the world’s worst medicine taker; I have to be near death before I will pop a pill, but this particular sneezing episode got me started on the Claritin. It took a LONG time before it kicked in, and I was so miserable that I was double dosing to help it along!  

So on Saturday night, I was in a “zombie zone”.  I’d finally stopped sneezing and could BREATHE again (hallelujah!), but I was totally wired. I saw every hour on the clock ticking towards morning, so by the dawn’s early light, I was exhausted, and yet wide-awake.  

In a Claritin “zombie zone”, one is the opposite of the previous runny, watery self. The Zone means that all fluids that were once in one’s head are now missing. The eyes are dry, the nose is dry, the throat is dry and the brain has been sucked up and totally evaporated!  

I remember lying there in bed at 5:45 a.m. (my usual time to arise on Sundays), trying to decide whether or not to get up and go to church. I was thinking that no one would miss me if I didn’t go. Why not roll over and stay in bed? But then I thought, “Heck, I’m wide awake, I might as well be wide awake in church as in bed!” So I went. And boy, was I was glad I did! 

My main “job” on Sunday morning is to greet and love on our youth choir as they trickle in to lead our early service in musical worship. It’s a huge commitment on their part, and our Shannon seldom, if ever, missed a Sunday in all her seven years of being a member. As it turned out, we were short of the usual parents, so I ended up handing out the service music/bulletins. If for no other reason I was meant to be there, this was enough. 

But wait! After I waved them all farewell as they processed down the aisle, I went down to the general vicinity where I like to sit (lower middle, left side). I scanned the crowd, and a friendly face waved at me, so I went to sit with her.  

I was thinking that she looked familiar, and recalled meeting her as we “exchanged the peace” with our fellow pewpeople on a previous Sunday morning. When I settled in beside her, I re-introduced myself, and she did likewise. Suzanne told me that she had just joined the church just last Sunday (I went to the late service last week, so I missed it!), and she asked my opinion about which Sunday School class she should visit after church let out.  

She mentioned one that I wasn’t familiar with, and I told her so. But as an alternative, I suggested my own class, which, although small, is very faithful. (We’ve just lost two dear members due to a move, so we have been talking about the importance of attracting new members.)

Because Joel is our teacher, I made a joke about having a strong bias towards our excellent teacher!  However, there was an element of uncertainty involved here. What if she hated the class or the lesson? What would she say? Would she avoid me forever? Dispelling my doubts, I made the leap and brought her with me. On the surface, it seemed to be a success; Suzanne enjoyed the class and said she’d return next week.  

I later reflected on my experience as I thought about the sermon topic of “Leading a Life That Matters”.  Our church is now focused on its annual campaign to inspire its members to step up and commit to giving, serving, praying and attending.  On our website, I read these words, Have you ever looked back on a particular day, or days, and wondered if what you said or did really mattered?” 

Recalling my early morning reluctance to get up and go, I was SO glad that I’d made the decision to do it. Because on this particular day, I felt like I really had made a difference in someone’s life. It was such a rewarding experience that I know I will have no trouble making the decision to get up and go to church this Sunday! See you there…

A Sunny Outlook
November 3, 2007

I met a traveler from an antique land…

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1819) 

I went on a trip to India this week. Not physically, but rather “virtually”. It all started when my Outlook Express was held hostage by a rogue e-mail that froze everything up. I couldn’t receive, send, read previously saved ones or access my address book. Anyone who has been in a situation like this knows just how frustrating it is, and also knows that it is a major pain in the neck to fix! 

Luckily, I could limp along by accessing my new e-mails remotely via the Comcast website and communicate that way. So I wasn’t frantic yet, but I knew I was going to have address the problem soon, because I needed to access some information from prior saved e-mails. And I knew I was going to have to spend some time working on it.  

I waited until I had a free afternoon at home. First I tried using the on-line help tricks on the Comcast website. No luck. It kept thinking I was talking about cable service. So I tried e-mailing a real person there and got passed around with long pauses in between responses. No luck. They finally e-mailed me what I dreaded to hear, which was that I needed to actually call someone else. 

We have all heard the horror stories about being on hold forever and then talking to someone who speaks English as a second language. I knew it was my turn to face it, and so I girded my loins for the ordeal.  

The first thing I did was to use the speakerphone, assuming I’d be on hold for hours. But the call got answered right away! I was so surprised that I tried to get off the speakerphone to be able to hear better. Par for the course, I couldn’t make that happen. Oh well. 

After going back and forth with the Comcast lady, she told me I had to call Microsoft. GROAN! I was going to have to start all over! But bless her heart, she said, let me connect you, and it wasn’t long before I was in India.  

The musical lilting voice of Rakesh Ladha first asked me how I was, and when I answered that I wasn’t very happy, she assured me that I would be by the time we were finished. After listening to my problem, she explained the fee for service, took my info and passed me along to Nikita Singhal, who proceeded to “take ownership” of my account. Basically, she took over my computer from her side of the world, and as I sat at my desk and watched, the cursor went flying all over the screen with windows popping in and out. I’ll admit there were times when I had to ask her to repeat her instructions to me, but she was patient, thorough and competent. It was as if she were sitting right next to me; I told her it felt like we were holding hands across the miles.

56 minutes from start to finish, my Outlook Express was intact and functioning. Yes, I was definitely happy when we were finished! “Delighting our customers is our top priority” is their aim, and I’ll be the first to say that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.  

Just like a pain in my physical body overshadows everything else, this pain in the computer put a damper on my days. And yet, after my initial delight, once it was up and running again, I went back to taking it for granted. It’s the same with our physical selves; when we are pain-free, we don’t stop to appreciate how blessed we are to have a regular day of good health.

In this season of Thanksgiving, let my experience be a reminder to be grateful for our ordinary days of good health and the amazing technology that we have at our fingertips that takes us all over the world and allows us to interact with helpful folks in antique lands…