Archive for January, 2009

Good Job!
January 30, 2009

Plant goodness, harvest the fruit of loyalty, plow the new ground of knowledge.

Hosea 10:12 (NCV)

 

The other day I opened my daily e-devotional to read the above scripture. The accompanying devotional  spoke of what a difference a compliment can make in someone’s life. I know firsthand that it’s true; everyone blossoms after a compliment, no matter how small a one.

 

I recall my shop girl days at Neiman Marcus, right after Joel and I returned home post law school. It was an interesting and fun job; I was doing seasonal work and was assigned to the stationery department, which was a busy place to be during the weeks preceding Christmas!

 

One day there was a phone customer calling from out of town who wanted a large order of Christmas cards she had seen in the catalogue. (note, this was back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth and there was no internet) I had to really scrounge to come up with all the boxes she wanted, searching the cluttered storeroom shelves as if on an archeological dig. Happily, it turned out that I found enough to complete her order, and she was so pleased. It was a real pleasure helping someone who was so positive and appreciative.

 

That evening, I went home in good spirits; feeling appreciated is contagious, and results in “planting goodness” for others to harvest the fruit of loyalty. But the story doesn’t end there. Days later, my supervisor called me over to share something from the personnel department. It was a letter of commendation that my customer had written to the store about me! That she took the time to write a personal letter extolling my good service meant so much to me, especially because it was duly noted by my supervisor!

 

After that, I doubled my efforts to do the very best job I could possibly do for any and all customers. The harvest from that generous gesture reaped good will that spread like ripples in a pond after a stone is tossed into the water. I recall helping one gentleman select “the perfect Christmas gift” for his wife; he asked me what sort of gift I would like from my own husband. I pointed out one of those Halcyon Days porcelain boxes with a message inscribed on it. On the lid, the words were, “This, and the giver” and then on the inside it read, “are thine forever.” I said that if my husband picked this gift out for me I’d be thrilled. Sold. He seemed very pleased with his purchase.

 

So pleased was he that he came back AFTER Christmas to tell me just how delighted his wife was with such a romantic gift. Boy, that really made my day!

 

Those two experiences were good life lessons for me that I’ve tried to pass along when the occasion merits. Compliments create good will that conceivably could circle the globe if everyone would be mindful to appreciate those who deserve a pat on the back. I think I’ll look for an opportunity each day to plant that sort of goodness. It’s a fun way to make a difference, and it feels great to do so!

The Dog Days of Winter
January 23, 2009

006

… every dog has his day, and mine has been a fine one.

-George Borrow (1851)

 

“The Dreaded Susan” came this week. She drives up in her custom van once a month to give the dogs their baths, and when she does, oh boy, does Bailey freak. It’s so bad that whenever he sees any vehicle of a similar shape (like the mail truck), he panics, and if he’s not on a leash, he makes a mad dash for home. As for Shadow (the perfect dog), while he doesn’t exactly LIKE getting bathed, he tolerates it stoically and will follow along dutifully when escorted to the van.

 

Susan hates it that Bailey reacts so negatively towards her. After all, she says, “It’s not like I’m beating them in there or anything!” She honestly loves our dogs, and would dearly love it if they would love her back. She plies them both with treats after they’re finished, and at that point, they both eagerly respond, even Bailey, but you can tell he’s poised to bolt should she make a sudden move.

 

On this particular day, after jogging with Bailey, we two returned home to get Shadow for his daily “stroll” to the corner. But as we headed out the door, uh oh, here came that van! Susan was early! Bailey took off towards the back yard (he was unleashed) while Shadow and I waited for her to park and get things set up. Bailey must have run 20 laps by the time I snatched him up by his collar and held him, his heart beating furiously all the while. I soothed him as best I could, and then handed him over to Susan when she was ready.

 

I asked her if it would be ok for me to go ahead and take Shadow down to the corner while Bailey was in the tub, and she said, “sure!” So off we went. The look on Shadow’s face was priceless! I swear he was laughing! He was thinking to himself, “Ha ha! The little pest is getting a bath, and I’m not!” He trotted cheerfully all the way down the street, instead of ambling at his usual pace. The entire time, he was just grinning away, and every so often, he’d look up at me as if to say, “Ah, this is great! Just you and me, the way it used to be without that little pest of a brother…”

 

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and as we turned around to head back home and to the inevitable bath, Shadow’s pace got slower and slower. Finally I think he realized that the jig was up. He dutifully followed me to the van where I lifted him in.

 

The next thing I knew, here were my two beautiful boys, all fluffy and sweet smelling (well, at least to me). Susan doled out the goodies, which were eagerly scarfed down, and knowing they were finished and safe for another month, the pups finally relaxed and basically crashed for the rest of the afternoon.

 

You can’t tell me that dogs don’t have feelings or emotions. They absolutely do. In my two dogs, I saw the following today: fear, delight, gloating, relief. Watch carefully, and you might be surprised at what your dog is telling you!

On the Road Again
January 17, 2009

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?

Yes, to the very end.

Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?

From morn to night, my friend.

– Christina Rossetti (1862)

 

I grew up in a family that enjoyed cross country driving trips. Just about all our vacation travels were made by car, no matter how far we went… California, New York, Colorado, Florida, etc. When Shannon was growing up, we’d drive short distances, say within the state, or if we’d planned a major tour to the western national parks or other such places. The rest of the time, we’d fly and usually rent a car wherever we went.

 

Now that my nest is empty, I enjoy traveling when I have the chance to, and if I have the luxury of time on my side, I much prefer to drive. Luckily for me, I had the time last week, because I had no choice in the matter. I had to drive Shannon’s car, “Jay” back up to CO and switch it out for my own “Donnie Ray” (see last week’s entry). I’d watched the weather forecast and had a 5-day window of time when no major storms were predicted. At this time of year, that was my main concern, as I am quite inexperienced in driving in snow conditions. What I was NOT concerned about was driving alone; I can drive for hours and hours without stopping. It’s impossible for me to sleep sitting up, so I might as well drive!

 

Heading north towards Amarillo, I enjoyed watching the landscape change from the coastal prairie flatlands to the undulating hills of central Texas farmland. The day was clear, and the traffic was light. Driving along US Hwy 287 was particularly relaxing, especially with the luxury of cruise control. Watching the sun go down in a giant blaze on Thursday evening over the high plains of the Texas panhandle was a real treat, and shortly afterwards,  I rolled into the hotel parking lot, happy to have the longer day of driving (9 hours) under my belt.

 

After a good night’s sleep, I hit the road at 7:30 a.m. and delighted at the sight of the colorful hills north of Amarillo, glowing in the dawn’s early light. The hills flattened out around Dalhart only to re-appear again as we drew near to the state line. But before we leave Dalhart, which is not exactly the most scenic spot in the state, I thrilled to the sight of scores of lesser Canadian geese as they flew in formation, heading north from their overnight roosting ground to search for food in the fallow fields of tawny gold.

 

Crossing into New Mexico, I noted more and more frequent rocky outcroppings pushing up out of the “amber waves” of grass. Volcanic in their origins, these once conical shapes have slowly eroded down to rounded mounds or mesas. The views became much more dramatic with the first of what can be described as “mountains” scattered here and there. Around Capulin Volcano National Monument (which we toured in 1998), I glimpsed the first magnificent sight of the snow covered Rocky Mountains in the western  distance. Stunning in their grandeur, the snowy peaks beckoned and excited this flatlander!

 

As I headed north into Colorado, I became aware that the skies ahead were looking rather ominous. This concerned and puzzled me, because I had checked the weather carefully, and the prediction for 80501 (Longmont) had called for partly cloudy skies with only a 10% chance of rain or snow flurries.

 

However, I was two hours south of there in the Colorado Springs area, which is 2000 feet higher in elevation (a fact that I wasn’t aware of until later). I tuned into a local radio station which predicted up to 3 inches of snow that afternoon. Yikes! All I could do was hope to get through the area before it started, but no such luck. The flakes began falling slowly at first, but increased steadily, and the car thermometer registered a 10 degree drop in temperature (to the low 20’s).

 

It was the thing I feared the most, and here I was in Shannon’s car, not certain how to best deal with it. Wipers? I tried them, and they smeared the windshield so badly, I couldn’t see a thing (while driving about 65 mph… helpful!) I used the washer fluid squirters to clear the mess, but it was only momentary, and soon I was blind again. Windshield defroster? Check. Wipers on steady? Hmmm. I knew the car had some fancy windshield sensors, but how did they work? I squirted my way through the “blizzard”, praying that the fluid reservoir had enough to last me through my journey.

 

Thankfully, at some point north of Colorado Springs, the flakes dwindled away, and I was left with a filthy smear of salt and mud all over what had been a pristinely clean black car! But at least I could see through the clean spot that the wipers created.

 

Wending my way through downtown Denver, I remained on alert, as folks flew by me on the multilane interstate. This experience was not unlike my typical Houston one (on the “Katy 80”), but the difference was that I wasn’t sure where I was going, so I had to be careful to watch the signs.

 

When I finally rolled into Longmont (a little later than I had expected, thanks to the snow storm), I found partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the 40’s, just as weather.com had predicted. The first leg of my “leisurely” cross-country trip was now over, and I was grateful to be able to relax at last.

 

Still, despite the anxiety filled final two hours of it, and perhaps because I had made it safely through them, I savored my experience as quite the adventure! I loved the wide open spaces of Texas, the aforementioned geese, the amusing tumbleweeds bouncing along, the herds of pronghorn antelopes grazing in the tawny golden prairies, the full moon rising in the eastern sky (and setting at dawn over the Rockies) and the sight of the majestic, snow covered peaks.

 

But most of all, I loved seeing the smiling face of a much beloved daughter at the end of the trail, and that one experience alone was well worth the journey!

The End of a Perfect Day
January 6, 2009

When you come to the end of a perfect day,

And you sit alone with your thought,

While the chimes ring out with a carol gay

For the joy that the day has brought…

-Carrie Jacobs Bond (1910)

 

It was just an ordinary Monday, the kind that involves doing laundry all day. But it was also a day that had nothing at all written on the calendar page, which was a good thing, because the weather outside was cold, raw and damp. And so I stayed home all day, did the aforementioned laundry and finished writing my Christmas thank you notes. That, in and of itself, was a cause to celebrate, because it meant that Christmas was now officially “put away” right in time for Epiphany when the wise men made their appearance!

 

What made the day seem so perfect? It was a comment made yesterday by my friend, Jennifer. Jennifer is a busy mother of two toddler boys, the cutest little fellows ever. Both are blond headed, but one has dark eyes like his dad, the other blue like his mom, with dimples galore. One funny story involves the older one who was sitting behind me in church recently with his dad (while Mom sang with the youth choir we both work with). The minister asked the rhetorical question, “Why do we give gifts to people?” and before we knew it, here came a loud reply from the pew behind me, “BECAUSE…” (at which point Dad’s hand was clapped over son’s mouth).

 

But I digress. Jennifer and I were comparing notes on our identical black Jettas which happened to be parked near each other during choir practice on Sunday. I explained that it was actually Shannon’s car, and that I was going to have to drive it for two days up to CO and then trade it for my car and drive home for another two days. Jennifer said, “Oh! That sounds like such a wonderful trip!”

 

I hadn’t exactly thought of it that way, but she went on to explain that the concept of being alone in a car/hotel for four whole days/nights sounded like heaven to her. Obviously she hardly ever has any time alone, and would treasure some. I remember those days, and when I thought back to them, I realized that my day today is one that Jennifer would love to have! It was just perfect.

 

I got up when my eyes opened (no annoying alarm). I went on a run with my Bailey, then strolled with my Shadow. After cleaning up, I did bustle around here to take care of my “homework”, but after lunch, I took an excellent nap. With exquisite timing, the phone waited to ring until after I got up. Our afternoon dog stroll down to the mailbox revealed some “fun” mail (cards from folks, a magazine I like and NO bills), and I had all the ingredients on hand for dinner.

 

Towards evening, after I had finally finished my list of things to do, I lit a fire in the kitchen fireplace and sat in front of it while working on the daily crossword puzzle. At this point, I wrote, “I’ll get a glass of wine after awhile and assemble supper. After that, I’ll just sit by the fire and read my new magazine. What a great way to end a perfect day!”

 

But wait! Then my perfect day got even better… Joel called to say he’d forgotten that friend Larry had invited him over with the guys to watch the Fiesta Bowl (UT vs Ohio State). So I didn’t even have to cook anything! I just ate the final portion of the leftover Christmas smoked turkey and zapped some brussels sprouts (only I like them).

 

And later this week, when I hit the road to CO, I plan to drive leisurely and just enjoy myself, thanks to Jennifer’s point of view. I resolve to not be in any hurry, and I will bring my new Christmas books to enjoy during the evenings. It will be fun to see Shannon and Kat again for a quick visit, and then I’ll head back home!

 

Some day Jennifer will find time for herself and look back with fondness to these busy days with her sweet young boys, just as I do when I recall all the seemingly endless (at the time), happy baby days with Shannon, when it felt  like we were always on the go. And when I do remember them, I’ll secretly smile and treasure the leisurely life I lead now, and thank Jennifer for helping me to appreciate all my blessings!

(note: pewperson has posted this entry early prior to her road trip. Back on Jan. 17!)

The New Year
January 2, 2009

Ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring, happy bells, across the snow…

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1850)

 

I’m afraid to admit that I’m a hopeless paper calendar sort of person. I like to say that my “palm pilot” is in actuality, my hand, which picks up a pen and writes dates of note on my “purse calendar”, and then later, on my “desk calendar”. All the folks with those fancy devices that keep track of their lives are terribly beholden to them, which is sometimes problematic when things go wrong (like power outages, unexpected drops into puddles, etc.). One lady I know was totally unable to function because her device had died; she said she had no idea what  she was supposed to be doing after the next day; apparently she hadn’t coordinated her hand held device with her computer at home. oops!

 

My life just isn’t that busy to need such a thing. But even if it were to become more complicated, I am not in the least bit tempted to get one. My family sometimes suggests that I take advantage of my computer calendar functions, but I’d rather keep track of my comings and goings the old fashioned way. Of course, I still hand write checks to pay my bills and balance my checkbook on paper, so it’s going to take some convincing for me to “go paperless”. It’s just the “Memaw” in me, I guess. (loyal readers know about Memaw!)

 

Because I am such a Luddite, aka “Memaw”, one of my favorite things is a brand new, neat and spotless calendar page: just imagine Julie Andrews singing about it: “Calendar pages all spotless and empty; visions of idleness, oh! All aplenty! Walkies with pups watching birds on the wing, these are few of my favorite things!”

 

On the last day of each month, I always enjoy removing the old scribbled page and jotting down the things I’ve got planned for the next month on the clean new page. However, at the end of the year, it’s a more elaborate process, because I go through each month of the old year and note birthdays and other long range items on the new pages. It sounds like such a quaint system, but it’s worked for me all these years, so I think I’ll stick with a good thing.

 

It’s fun to see the “year in review” as I tuck reminders and such into the new calendar pages (like our monthly pet ministry visits to The Seniors Place, and our bi-weekly small group Bible study dates). But for some reason, as I flipped through the 2008 calendar, it particularly hit me how quickly the year went by! It was a blur of busy days with a mix of many happy memories (travels, graduation, engagement excitement) and not so happy ones (think Ike, computer woes, oral surgery, TMJ issues, etc.).

 

But now that 2008 has wound down to a close, so, too, has my schedule. As I look ahead to 2009 ( ! ), my resolutions have to do with getting organized; I must replace files lost in my computer crash (thank you, Ike), and I want to learn to use some new functions on my new computer. Gee, maybe I’ll even try to learn how to work its calendar system! Any bets that I will actually do it?

 

I’ll let you know NEXT year. In the meantime, no matter how you keep track of your days, may they all be blessed and happy ones!