Monday, April 30

Dancing! And Antiques!

I don't have a lot of vices left. I've quit most of them... But one that I still have is the fact that I relish watching Dancing with the Stars. Since my friend Chuck Taylor blogged live last week - I thought I would steal his idea and make my obstervations (and snarky remarks) whilst watching this week's Classical Night.

Down to 7 individual stars left. First up is classical singer Katherine somebody and Mark Ballas. Rumba. Mark seems to have forgotten his shirt tonight.

Commercial - which in my house means the remote control holder has switched to Antiques Roadshow. It is a cool old desk with many pigeonholes but bad restoration took it down to 8K from 25K. Time to go back...

Perfect timing - well, that was quite lovely. Odd. Like watching statues come to life. I found mark without the shirt distracting. Scores? Dad predicts 9, 9, 10. I predict 9, 10, 10. Reality is 9, 9, 9. That point goes to Dad.

Oh - next is Melissa and Maks. Not fond of either one. Antiques - holy moly a 35K map of NYC!! Now a lovely pair of bronze sculptures. Fake or not? Not fake! Dude is so pleased. Paid $40 and they are worth 9K. Got caught up in a lovely painting worth 30K.

Missed what I suspect was Melissa and Maks sniping at each other and her whining about some injury. Arrived in time to see the cyclone of Argentine Tango. The lifts were awkward. The judges agree with me. Maks wants to say something but is staying quiet. Len liked it better than the other two. Dad predicts 7, 7, 7. I think 7, 8, 7. Damn Dad hit it on the head again.

Next will be William Levy and Cheryl. And that cute little girl who sings like an angel. Antiques - ugly plates. They'll be worth a fortune because I hate them. Japanesque Aesthetic movement. Only 3K. But damn ugly.
And we're back...Viennese Waltz. Oh, bad ankle. Hold your breath Chuck. Well - very lovely. (Sidebar - it is unreal that little girl can make that sound). Judges are very complimentary. Dad says 3 9s. We both agree there might be a 10. I think it would come from Bruno. Reality is - exactly what Dad said. 9, 9, 9. He is 3 for 3. Maybe he should get a gig with local dance studio as a judge.

Antique Roadshow has the most incredible German clock. 8K but the owner didn't seem thrilled. Now an unusual table - sort of mosaic. Looks like a crazy quilt of stone with an Italian scene in the middle. Holy crap - that is a micro-mosaic. Only 10-15K? That is something!

OMG - another Marathon commercial. Why are they pushing their american image so hard? Makes me wonder what they are covering up.

Ok. Roshon and Chelsea. He's kinda swishy and awkward. He is being given pointers on being more masculine. He sure could use it. The dance seemed long. I don't think that bodes well... Len called it clean and confident. Bruno makes a vaguely creepy comment about size not being everything... Carrie Ann gushes. Ick. Dad says len will give him a 7. I called it! 9, 8, 8. One point for me!

PBS is in the commercial phase of the hour. You can figure the last 5 minutes are useless. Ugh. Commercials. Since I got DVR I don't usually watch these!

Time for Donald Driver and Peta (?). He has an incredible smile. Ah. Opera. I thought that was perfection. But was that a lift? Carrie Ann didn't see it though! Dad is scooping ice cream but says 9, 8, 9. Mom says 9s. I say 9, 9, 10. Mom wins that one.

Brooke is still pathetic. Blech.

Time for Derek and Maria. The Pasodoble. She needs to quit chomping that gum! Commercial!!

Wow that is a huge piece of wood! Oh, back at Antiques Roadshow. Big stacked pair of dressers. 24K
Oh - scary creepy doll. Changing channels. I don't like dolls.

Hmmm...I must have missed Dad offering us ice cream...

The dance. Well...that was intense. Freakin' awesome. I loved it. Is that linday lohan's dad in the audience? Judges very impressed. Nice choreogrpahy. Dad says this might be the first perfect score. Mom agrees. I just have to be obstinate and call it 10, 9, 10. Yep - they did it! Happy to be wrong.

Mom just said, "when are they going to get rid of Brooke?" I agree. Where do I go to vote her off?

Antiques - strange square beaked carving of an eagle. I would have passed it over at an auction. Worth 35K!! The owner is stunned. Now a girl with a bronze - Dad says it looks like a hood ornament. Very pretty. It IS a hood ornament. Dad is on fire tonight! (He did well at Teen Jeopardy too). 20K. The girl is near tears.

Jaleel is preparing for Viennese Waltz. They do work well together. None of that sniping and whining of some couples. Well...that was very pretty. Dad said he didn't feel the uniform didn't seem period. I thought it made his butt look big. Judges not very pleasant. Our armchair judges predict: Dad 8s, mom thinks 8, 7, 8. Dad continues his streak.

Team dances coming up. What else are they going to fill the next half hour with? I'm getting tired.
At the roadshow - a dumpster diver found some sort of artwork. Watercolors on pith paper. 3K. Dude is pretty pleased. Now an ugly vase. 2K

Mmmm...Klondike bar. Pretty singing. A 30K chinese scholars mountain that just looked like a big chunk of wood. Now some sort of urn. Gaudy stuff. I'm afraid I would have used it as a cookie jar. 10K.
Time for Team Tango. With Derek and Mark's choreography - that was really impressive. Unique. The little hats distracted me. The judges were not terribly favorable. Until it got to Carrie Ann - who thought it was excellent. I don't know how to predict that.

Oh great - more drivel from Brooke. Somebody shoot her.

Dad predicted it 10, 8, 9.

Last dance will be Team Pasodoble.

Roadshow - oriental rug. I just don't get those. I think they are hideous. Mom says she and her cousins used to color in the worn areas on her grandmother's with colored pencils. Wonder what the experts would say about that? Some guy in a hideous shirt has about 95K in prints.

Back to dancing - debate on whether to dance with shirts on or off...I know my vote! And yes, halfway through - the shirts came off! It was good - but the lighting effects overwhelmed the dance. Melissa was awkward as usual. Judges loved it. Dad says 28, Mom isn't saying anything - she seems to be drooling a bit. Oh, william's chest is filling the screen. Only 26.

This has been I'm going to bed!

Friday, April 27

Blessings of the Grapes

On Saturday I'll be travelling up to one of my favorite places - Autumn Hill Winery. For one thing - it is a beautiful drive and tomorrow should be a nice day for that. And the other thing...the wine!

I admit that I like drinking wine. I have admitted that before in this forum... But I equally enjoy helping other people learn more about wine. Working as a volunteer wine educator for Autumn Hill gives me the chance to talk almost non-stop about one of my favorite topics!

Too often I think that wine aficionados want to keep their knowledge to themselves. To preserve either an air of mystery about the art of wine tasting - or just be elitist snobs. You know the type... they sniff and swirl and talk about things tasting like black currants (when is the last time you ate a black currant?) or cigar boxes. They discuss the relative merits of various chateaus or how much they spent on some really incredible Bordeaux. But they always discuss it with an attitude.

I'm not like that. Sure - I'll tell you everything that you want to know about the process, the grape varietal or why some wines are dry (vs. sweet). I'll explain what is meant by body and/or mouth feel. But I will never tell you what you are going to taste (those are not my taste buds in your how would I know?) and I will rarely dismiss someone else's opinion on a particular wine (family members excluded...).

Wine appreciation is very much a matter of perspective. My tastes are constantly evolving - and largely dependent upon mood or accompanying food. I have even been known to drink from a bottle of Boone's Farm. So relax - enjoy!

If you want to learn and experience wine in a non-judgmental atmosphere - I hope that you will make up to visit Autumn Hill (or many of the Virginia wineries). Just know that AH is only open for 3 events per year and I usually only pour on one of those days. The admission is $7 but includes a nifty glass (I have about a dozen in my collection) and for the event this weekend there is also a tasty selection of cheeses to nibble.

Come drink with me! My sponsor tells me not to drink alone!!

I'm sure that is what he meant.

Tuesday, April 24

Random Post from a Bad Slacker Hamster

Not sure why it has been so long since I posted...sometimes I go through these dry spells without a topic. And so when I sit down at the computer I find myself playing a couple of silly games on Facebook (like Press Your Luck, based on the classic game show...complete with Whammys!) or a couple rounds of Jeopardy (which I consider a mental training exercise). And then I look at the tab on my browser where The Beaten Hamster is with a guilty sigh and go pet the cat.

So tonight - with or without a topic - I post!

Time for random topic...I will now go to the MSN news website and will choose an area of interest (I think there are tabs on one side...I will pick the 4th from the top) and see if I can be either amused or fired up about one of the stories in that area. I think I will pick the 5th headline. Here I go.

Oh my...I'm not sure I could have picked worse. The 4th tab is Money. I don't have Money. At least not that I spend time thinking about investing. Yes, I have an IRA and will start putting some more into it now that I am gainfully employed again. But Money holds no fascination for me.

Once I was at the beach with a person who watched Financial News Network for hours on end. What a completely foreign concept to me. I compare that kind of stock ticker devotion with wearing a scale on each foot to monitor your weight.

But since I had sworn to pick the 4th tab - I figured I should continue on with my chosen path and picked the 5th "top story". It is an article from a financial adviser named Cramer who is telling us all to "grab a piece of Facebook if you can". #1 - although I have heard that FB is going to have an initial public offering of stock, I don't have the vaguest idea when that will happen. #2 - if I had Money to invest...I'm not sure that I would invest in the future of Facebook. Dude makes some good arguments...including the fact that among young people using FB is probably more common than teeth brushing. #3 - it sounds like the shares are going to be hard to get your fingers on.

I'm going to try one more random headline...but I'm picking the area of interest right now - Entertainment. 7th top story. Here I go.

Oh PLEASE!! From something called "Wonderwall" - the 7th Hot Gossip story is "Lindsay Lohan Tripped Up By Surveillance Video, Doused by Drink?" There is just no way that I'm going to stoop so low. If you want to enjoy the continued downward spiral of the girl I loved in The Parent Trap, read here.

Last try - before I go watch Dancing with the Stars - back to MSN. First tab, 2nd story. "news" "Payments to mistress 'smelled wrong' former aide to John Edwards testifies "

I give up. For something really entertaining - I give you this from

Wednesday, April 18

Thinking and Acting

And now to examine a bit of wisdom from The Analects (largely attributed to Confucius) (which I keep typing as "confusion") :

Ji Wen thought thrice, and then acted. When the Master was informed of it, he said, "Twice may do."

This quote reminded me of my friend Joe Campbell. When we met - I was a very green camera operator. I was working as a volunteer on his local public access show. Over time he observed that I had several...we'll call them quirks... There were tasks that I performed with great ritual. One particular one that I recall was that I would lock off the tripod's tilt, unlock it and then lock it again. He asked why. I replied that I wanted to be sure that I remembered to do it - because those particular tripods had a habit of not only allowing the camera to go tilting toward the ceiling...because they were old (public access in Lynchburg rarely had much budget)...the camera could even pop off the plate and crash to the floor.

He asked if I had ever failed to properly lock off a camera. I admitted that I never had - but had seen other volunteers do it wrong and the results could be pretty damaging to the equipment. He encouraged me to learn to trust myself more. I realized that wasn't the only quirk that I had that involved double and triple checking myself. And so I started to consciously watch myself lock the tilt and then walk away. And no, I never did fail at that task - and learning to trust myself was a great lesson to learn.

We discussed this particular quote in class this week. One of the very astute young men in the class talked about it in terms of video gaming. I don't really know what game it is that he plays - but I did understand what he was expressing. He said that if you don't learn to observe, analyze and then act in gaming - you will get killed a lot more. If you over analyze every action - you'll remain frozen for too long.

But then one other young man shared that he also understood that the Master wasn't just saying "don't think" - the Master DID say "Twice may do". Don't just go off half-cocked, it is okay to think. Just don't let it hold you back from the moving forward.

Now - your homework! Ponder the following...

There were four things from which the Master was entirely free. He had no foregone conclusions, no arbitrary predeterminations, no obstinacy, and no egoism.

Talk amongst yourselves...

Hamster beaten.

Saturday, April 14

I Ching

Confucianism. Very old wisdom.

As regular readers may recall, I am teaching the youth Sunday school class at our United Methodist Church. First of all, I must express my gratitude to the leadership of our congregation and church that tolerate my outside-the-box thinking. In my 3-ish years of teaching this class we have studied Old Testament, the 12 disciples and many aspects of the UM faith...but in addition to that, we have held an abbreviated Seder one Palm Sunday to honor the fact that the Last Supper was not just a meal among friends. And now we are in a study of World Religions.

We spent several weeks each on Judaism and Islam, a little less time on Hinduism and Buddhism and tomorrow we will examine the religion known as Confucianism.

We are using the Complete Idiot's Guide to World Religion as our text (I also have Religion for Dummies as a secondary reference). I spend most lunch hours poring over these books and scrolling through pages on my Blackberry so that I can be well prepared to both honor the traditions of each religion AND to find parts of each that we can embrace as Christians. So far, I find many more similarities than differences. There is much common ground in what we have studied so far.

In preparation for Confucianism, I have a selection of wisdom from The Analects printed for us to ponder upon and I had hoped to be able to show the class a copy of I Ching. Unfortunately, the book proved so enlightening to whomever checked it out of the Lynchburg Public is now listed in their card catalog as "lost". So I asked my Facebook friends if anyone had a copy (not expecting that anyone had one in their personal libraries - but it was worth asking). And no, none of my Lynchburg friends has offered one up...but one of the people whose wisdom I am often in awe of...she responded thus: "You need a copy of your own. I have a very small one that I can carry with me. The words are too precious to leave with the library."

Wow. NOW I am intrigued. So I have already ordered my own copy. But meanwhile, I have read a tremendous amount about it online. One area that had caught my attention while reading the Complete Idiot's Guide was the system of divination. By throwing coins (originally manipulation of yarrow stalks) one seeks wisdom in the results. Three coins are tossed six different times and those results create a hexagram - there are 64 possible hexagrams and each of those has text associated. To add one more dimension to the system - the "lines" that are created with each throw are characterized as "changing" or "unchanging". Because situations are always in transition. So the hexagram is transitional.

The Methodist Church (indeed I expect the entire Protestant religion) does not support divination. In fact there are scriptures in Deuteronomy and Leviticus that forbid it. So that would mean that Judaism is probably not a supporter either. This fact will be pointed out to the class tomorrow. But the wisdom is in the text - not in the coins. And seeking wisdom is not a bad thing.

So, in the interest of preparation for class - I located an online version of I Ching and asked this question: "Will the teaching I do for the youth Sunday school class yield positive results?"  You see, I'm never quite sure if I'm on the right track. Or if I'm the right person to be leading the class. (some of you may ask the same question!).

The results were Hexagram 16 (Providing-For/Enthusiasm/Excess) with lines 1, 4, 5, 6 being transitional (they read from bottom to top). And the associated text reads in part: Thunder comes resounding out of the Earth: Similar thunder roars up from the masses when the Superior Person strikes a chord in their hearts. Whip up enthusiasm, rally your forces, and move boldly forward...This is a time for instinct, not intellect.

Since there are transitional lines - the transformed hexagram is 42 (Augmenting/Increase). Whirlwinds and thunder: When the Superior Person encounters saintly behavior, he adopts it; when he encounters a fault within, he transforms it. Progress in every endeavor. You may cross the far shore.

I think that I will interpret the answer as "keep going. keep trying."

No, I do not put great store in divination. I do not believe that yarrow stalks or coins should guide our future. But I do embrace the idea of sitting back sometimes and looking at a problem from a different point of view. If the I Ching can assist someone in that - I do not see the down side.

If you choose to disagree - then I invite your input!

The Master said, "If the will be set on virtue, there will be no practice of wickedness." - The Analects, Li Ren.

Thursday, April 12

A Goofy Post

I feel a desire to post - but I want it to be something goofy...been too serious lately. So I'm off to look at a random couple of...comic strips. (just decided that) And I shall make it from my personal favorite (okay ONE of my personal favorites) Bloom County. Be right back.

How did I choose this particular one? I decided to go with one of my favorite numbers 1111 - so I picked January 1, 2011. And this is indeed a favorite.

If you are not familiar with the strip - the penguin is Opus. He has self-esteem issues, has played in a band, once got nose reduction surgery (that was thankfully reversed) and wishes that he could really fly. He is a gentle soul. The goofy smiler is Portnoy, a groundhog. In general he is pretty this goofy smile is a little out of character for him. And the rabbit is Hodgepodge - who later mates with a Basselope (cross between an antelope and a basset hound, of course) and they have a litter of Jackabasselopes.

I worked for a while with someone who was this perky in the mornings (!) and I sometimes wanted to whack their goofy smile right in the teeth. Love you honey! Eventually she not only came to embrace my morning surliness...she actually found it amusing.

This is fun...I'm going to get another one. This time I'll go get 11/11/11....I wonder what it will be!!

Enter another favorite character - Cutter John. Cutter John is a wheelchair bound Vietnam veteran who indulges the space fantasies of the meadow creatures. Opus gets a mite out of hand from time to time. Cutter John is not bound by his wheelchair but rather sees it as an extension of his body. He even flew it once in an ill-fated adventure that left him trapped on a desert island with his accidental companion Opus.

Yep - this is a great comic strip and I will enjoy perusing the archives over at They have Calvin and Hobbes too! I may have found a new favorite site for relaxing. But you know - I still love icanhascheezburger!

Saturday, April 7

The Donut Story

I need you to understand - this is not my story. I heard it told on Friday and wanted to share it with you. I searched for it and found several versions. I do not know which is the original - but the message is the same, regardless of the details. Happy Easter - embrace your gift.

Donut Story

There was a certain Professor of Religion, who taught at a small college in the Western United States. He taught the required survey course in Christianity. Every student was required to take this course regardless of his or her major. He found that most of his students looked upon the course as nothing but required drudgery. Despite his best efforts, most students refused to take Christianity seriously. This year, he had a student named Steve. Steve was only a freshman, but was studying with the intent of going onto seminary for the ministry. Steve was popular, he was well liked, and he was an imposing physical specimen. He was now the starting defensive end on the school football team, and was the best student in the professor's class.

One day, the professor asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him. "How many push-ups can you do?" Steve said, "I do about 200 every night."

"200? That's pretty good, Steve," the professor said. "Do you think you could do 300?"

Steve replied, "I don't know... I've never done 300 at a time."

"Do you think you could?"

"Well, I can try," said Steve.

"I need you to tell me you can do it," said the professor.

Steve said, "Well... I think I can...yeah, I can do it."

The professor said, "Good! I need you to do this on Friday. Let me explain what I have in mind."

Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room. When class started, the professor pulled out a big box of donuts. No these weren't the normal kinds of donuts, they were the extra fancy BIG kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone was pretty excited it was Friday, the last class of the day, and they were going to get an early start on the weekend with a party in class.
The professor went to the first girl in the first row and asked, "Cynthia, do you want to have one of these donuts?"

Cynthia said, "Yes."

He then turned to Steve and asked, "Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?" "Sure." Steve jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve again sat in his desk. The professor put a donut on Cynthia's desk.

He then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, "Joe, do you want a donut?"

Joe said, "Yes."

He asked, "Steve would you do ten push-ups so Joe can have a donut?" Steve did ten push-ups, Joe got a donut. And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten pushups for every person before they got their donut. And down the second aisle, till the professor came to Scott.

Scott was on the basketball team, and in as good condition as Steve. He was very popular and never lacking for female companionship. When the professor asked, "Scott do you want a donut?"

Scott's reply was, "Well, can I do my own pushups?"

The professor said, "No, Steve has to do them."

Then Scott said, "Well, I don't want one then."

The professor shrugged and then turned to Steve and asked, "Steve, would you do ten pushups so Scott can have a donut he doesn't want?" With perfect obedience Steve started to do ten pushups.

Scott said, "HEY! I said I didn't want one!"

The professor said, "Look, this is my classroom, my class, my desks, and these are my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don't want it." And he put a donut on Scott's desk.

Now by this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to be getting up and down. You could start to see a little perspiration coming out around his brow. The professor started down the third row. Now the students were beginning to get a little angry.

He asked Jenny, "Jenny, do you want a donut?"

Sternly, Jenny said, "No."

Then he asked Steve, "Steve, would you do ten more Push-ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn't want?" Steve did ten....Jenny got a donut.

By now, a growing sense of uneasiness filled the room. The students were beginning to say "No" and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks.

Steve also had to really put forth a lot of extra effort to get these pushups done for each donut. There began to be a small pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face, his arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.

The professor asked Robert, who was the most vocal unbeliever in the class, to watch Steve do each push up to make sure he did the full ten pushups in a set because he couldn't bear to watch all of Steve's work for all of those uneaten donuts. He sent Robert over to where Steve was so Robert could count the set and watch Steve closely.

He started down the fourth row.

During his class, however, some students from other classes had wandered in and sat down on the steps along the radiators that ran down the sides of the room. When the professor realized this, he did a quick count and saw that now there were 34 students in the room. He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it. The professor went on to the next person and the next and the next. Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time. He was taking a lot more time to complete each set.

A few moments later, Jason, a recent transfer student, came to the room and was about to come in when all the students yelled in one voice, "NO! Don't come in! Stay out!" Jason didn't know what was going on.

Steve picked up his head and said, "No, let him come."

The professor said, "You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten pushups for him?"

Steve said, "Yes, let him come in. Give him a donut"

"Okay, Steve, I'll let you get Jason's out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?"

Jason, new to the room hardly knew what was going on. "Yes," he said, "give me a donut."

"Steve, will you do ten push-ups so that Jason can have a donut?" Steve did ten pushups very slowly and with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.

The professor finished the fourth row, and then started on those visitors seated by the heaters. Steve's arms were now shaking with each push-up in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity. Sweat was profusely dropping off of his face and, by this time, there was no sound except his heavy breathing, there was not a dry eye in the room.

The very last two students in the room were two young women, both cheerleaders, and very popular. The professor went to Linda, the second to last, and asked, "Linda, do you want a doughnut?"

Linda said, very sadly, "No, thank you."

He quietly asked, "Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn't want?" 

Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow pushups for Linda.

Then he turned to the last girl, Susan. "Susan, do you want a donut?"

Susan, with tears flowing down her face, began to cry. "Professor, why can't I help him?"

With tears of his own, he said, "No, Steve has to do it alone. Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?" As Steve very slowly finished his last pushup, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 pushups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.

The professor turned to the room and said. "And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross, plead to the Father, 'into thy hands I commend my spirit.' With the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, he yielded up His life. And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift on the desk, uneaten." Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat, physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile. "Well done, good and faithful servant," said the professor, adding "Not all sermons are preached in words."

Turning to his class the professor said, "My wish is that you might understand and fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that have been given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He spared not only His Begotten Son, but gave Him up for us all for the whole Church, now and forever. Whether or not we choose to accept His gift to us, the price has been paid. Wouldn't you be foolish and ungrateful to leave it laying on the desk?"

Friday, April 6

Taking the Long View

Tonight my nephew Jacob earned his yellow belt in American Freestyle Karate. We are very proud of him. He has worked hard and enjoys the classes (despite that look on his face...he's a goof, but he gets it honestly).
He's such a great young man - I am loving watching him grow up.

I am very fortunate to be the aunt of 4 fantastic people.

Observing the years passing reminds me of watching a garden mature. You plant these scraggly shrubs and sticks with a few leaves...and then as the years pass you get to see them explode! I remember the beginning of the lush paradise that is our back yard. When it began it resembled a BMX dirt bike track. We had replaced the septic field and that had meant the destruction of the entire center of our yard. And since we live in Central Virginia...that means the result is red mud. I couldn't really envision the future - but Mom could.

She took this as an opportunity. She had the vision - the rest of us provided manual labor. She saw a pond...Dad (with a little help...) (but without power equipment) dug a pond. She saw a wonderful center garden and laid it out with a garden hose. I saw a big amoeba shape...she had the vision to see further. When she got 3 crepe myrtles and a tulip-like bush...they looked dead.

Now the crepe myrtles are nearly 20 feet tall, the tulip magnolia is a wonder to behold, the pond looks like it has been there for generations and the wild dogwoods survived transplant and are currently in bloom.

Maybe it takes motherhood to have so much vision. Raising 5 kids must have helped her embrace the long-term results and ignore the short-term frustrations.

My nephew Jack is now a Junior in high school. I remember when he had his first karate graduation. Heck, I even remember his very first karate lesson! And signing the 3 year contract that made me financially responsible! But when he received his black belt about 2 years later - it was worth it. And I know that experience helped form the outstanding young man that he is today. 

So...I look forward to watching Jack and Jacob and Taylor and Braeden grow and mature. Just like I could not envision that wasteland of a back yard becoming what it is now - I look forward to being surprised at what a little hard work and a lot of patience can do with my four favorites.

Monday, April 2

When the Good is Balanced by Bad

So many thoughts running through my head. (I should search to see how many posts start that way)

Church council meeting tonight - and although there were some great plans made and positive reports about things that we are a part was overshadowing by one particular report. And this time, I'm not just talking about the financial report! But first...the positives:

- the children sang in worship on Palm Sunday and numbered 22!! There are so many kids singing now that we need to dig out (or build new) risers so that they can all be seen. What a wonderful "problem" to have.
- some new volunteers for JIFF are helping provide the one-on-one time that kids need. Sometimes the best moments are when a volunteer just sits in the game room and listens. No special skills needed! Just a good ear or two!
- a prospective Eagle Scout is exploring ways to get the creek behind the parsonage to stop eating away at our land (pesky beavers). And although some of the pragmatists on the council were quick to point out the need to look at things like permits and liabilities (sigh...) - it is the first real step forward in the process in about 5 years.
- we have a 13 year old (who is pretty advanced for his age) who would like to be a lay reader.
- good Easter egg hunt and picnic, great youth outing that included visiting a nursing home, new Heart Havens house in the final stages....and much more! Things are going great.

But there was one report that could only be described as distressing. There was vandalism in the sanctuary last week. Thankfully the damage was relatively minor - but it had the potential to be catastrophic.

The vandal(s) lit and damaged the Christ Candle (a pillar candle lit on Christmas that is used the whole year) and then that flame was used to burn tissues (whose ashes were found on the organ console, the altar and on the pulpit by the Bible) and then apparently used to burn several pencils which were found strewn through the sanctuary.

The lasting damage includes a burn hole in the carpet and direct hit to my trust. When our sweet church secretary found the scene, she was in tears. When I heard about it - I felt physically ill. How could this happen? Why?

As a church council - we wrestled with those questions this evening. And I think we will continue to ponder this as individuals. My initial desire was to find and punish the vandals. But during the discussion tonight I came to realize that justice is not always about punishment. Wise people helped me to understand that we may never know why. We can take steps to help prevent such an act from happening again. And we can attempt to investigate the cause. But we will not be forming a mob to hunt down and condemn the perpetrators. I may never understand what would cause someone to vandalize - not just our church - I don't understand vandalism of anything!

 I do know that before I lay my head down to sleep tonight - I am going to have to pray for whoever did this. I will offer up prayers of thanksgiving that the fire did not spread. This could indeed have been much worse than a hole in the carpet. And then I will have to leave the rest to God.