god's purpose on the job

(I will now break all cardinal rules for the internet by talking about work. I have never done this before.)

I'Gorgeous flowersm having a hard time at work. It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't environment. I strive to rise above the annoyances, abuse and negativity. Last week I failed utterly. Failure is tough when you take being an example seriously. I don't know how my work struggles will end. Sometimes I think I should get out while I still have sanity or while I can still get a good reference. On the other hand, when things are going well - which they are more than they aren't - I love my job, really love it. But it's a volatile environment governed by values I abhor.

Last week was horrible. I felt antagonized and abused and a co-worker is driving me absolutely bonkers. I snapped. I said nothing "bad," but I totally abandoned my convictions about letting stuff slide.

Years ago I had an epiphany that almost every struggle I gohad boiled down to pride, my pride. Since that revelation, I have made "let it go" a personal commandment. Last week I let nothing go. I behaved no better than my colleague and am quite ashamed of myself for being as small as she. (Work aside, I had some significant issues going on at home and that made my tolerance level pretty low. That's not an excuse, that's simply a fact. I was running on emotional fumes.)

At work, people are not appreciated or esteemed. I'm in a position of influence and think my purpose in being there is to improve the lives of those I work with. This is counter to the whole environment. It's a mission I take seriously; a mission I think God placed in my heart. I want desperately to make a difference in the lives of those I work with. When the going gets really tough, I try to remember God gave me a mission to improve the lives of my co-workers and that seems to make my resolve stronger.

Yesterday Pastor Serge spoke on God's purpose in our lives. ("David served God's purpose in his own generation." Acts 13:36) I was reminded that I have a purpose and an assigned job. Improving the lives of those I work with is a significant purpose in my life. It's far behind my relationship with God or my family, but nonetheless a God-given purpose.

Points from Pastor Serge's sermon that I will remind myself of regularly:

- When God gives a purpose, He equips us.

- God works in our desires. (My desire to better the lives of those I work with is a God-given desire.)

- He empowers me with certain skills.

- He is always with me, even when I mess up like I did last week.

- He provides development. Part of the development I see working in my life is last week's screw ups. He used that to remind me how badly I want to be better than that; how badly I want to be an example of joy, peace, patience and humility.

- It's not in vain and it will be rewarded. I may never know if I made a difference, but God knows my heart and my desires and He will reward my efforts.

- The reward will be based on my faithfulness. This is more encouragement to carry through with the mission and not succumb to the pride that wants to destroy me and that God-given purpose.

- My work will be tested. And it was. Last week.

- Works are an expression of my faith. My whole life is an expression of my faith. I want the work I do, the way I act, my smile, my concern for others, my casual greetings to my co-workers, I want it all to express my faith; to express that I am different.

- God is with me to fulfill His purpose. I was renewed by this reminder. I can go back to work tomorrow with a clean slate (in my heart) ready to continue the commitment to make a difference.

- David wasn't rejected by God when he sinned. Even having sinned big time, David served God's purpose in his generation. I can too.

(Disclaimer: This post by no means indicates I will be at this job forever. There will come a time when I leave. I don't want to leave prematurely and I want to leave knowing I have served God's purpose in my being there.)


muriel, my nightmare

Mayday tree

(This tree is close to my house and I love it. Happy Spring.)

It's been so long since I did this, I don't know if I remember how. I feel so out of the zone.

So where to begin... I have so much catching up to do. I'll start with the job front.

Job... Well the bookkeeping job turned out to be from hell. I liked what I did and got some really good rapport going with my clients. They liked me. But my boss, ... she hated me, really really hated me. When I didn't know how to do something, she spasmed. When I asked questions, she spat venom. When I didn't ask questions, she shook with anger and threatened to search my desk for "evidence". I've wondered many times what she thought I might hide. It was all brand new to me and I was totally dependent on being coached, but she was the absolute worst coach I'd ever had. She was even worse than the coach at basketball camp who told me I was liable to kill somebody with my lack of skill and technique. She only spoke to me when I did something wrong.

I got to work one day and she started in and I stopped her to say, "Muriel, it's okay, I'll quit." She looked at me like I had three heads, so I repeated myself and said, "I'll go clean out my desk." I honestly thought I was giving her what she wanted, but that seemed to make her mad too. I cleaned out my desk and thanked her for all she'd taught me and she just stared at me without responding.

I have so many questions about what was going on between us. It was the weirdest relationship I've had in years and years. I don't know anything else to say except it seemed she hated me and I have no idea why.

To give some idea of the stress, I started grinding my teeth in my sleep. I started having toothaches and couldn't chew on the right side. I had to get up at 5:00 in the morning just to get "prayed up" enough to face her. I knew I wouldn't stay there, but I hoped to stay till May. Although she was the worst boss I ever had, she was the smartest too. I wanted to learn from her till May. I only made it to mid-February. It was a horrible experience that totally stripped me of my confidence.

A few weeks after that horrible experience I landed a good job as an office administrator. More in keeping with my natural gifts. They love me, I think, and I really enjoy it. They laugh and that's pretty important to this gal. I've been there about nine weeks.

No more toothaches and I don't grind my teeth anymore. But Muriel is still with me in my dreams. A few nights ago she burst into my office and said, "We need to talk about your signature. It's sloppy." I explained that Dykstra is hard for me to write pretty and I was sorry. She yelled. Then I said, "Muriel, lots of people don't have a pretty signature." She responded, "Well those people are smart."

So that was the tone of my relationship with Muriel. She was a charmer. I doubt if she'll get a Christmas card from me.

Now you're up to date on the job front. I hope to gradually get back in the swing of writing. I miss you all.


pilot screening

Years ago I was driving two pilots to an airport ninety minutes away, a job I did occasionally for my ex-husband's business.

Being in a car with two men you don't know can be a little strained, but these particular men were good conversationalist and very funny.

That day I learned that to fly for commercial airlines, one has to pass some pretty intense psychological screening. They told of near-abusive psychological screening by a panel of persons. I guess the idea was if they succeeded in making you "loose it," you weren't fit for the job. One told of being screened for a couple days with grossly invasive questions. Have you ever had sex with your sister, mother, father, and other disgusting things like that. But this panel didn't just ask it once, they asked it over the course of days in varied ways. Can't you see why some folks (me) would break under the pressure of them trying to trap you in a lie? The panel had no sense of humor. In these screening times, humor was totally out of bounds. (Another reason I'd flunk).

After hours and hours of these questions, he started to crack, but the questions continued. "Have you ever had sex with an animal?," they asked. He knew he'd already flunked the screening. He stared at the panel and their stern faces and thought, what the hell. Then he answered, "Dead or alive?"

The panel was not impressed. "Have you had sex with an animal?," they repeated.

Sounding like a sheep, he replied, "That's baaaaa -d."

He did not get the job. Nor did he ever successfully pass the screening in subsequent years.

ejecting tables

Many years ago I had an acquaintance named Beverly. Beverly had a great personality and sense of humor. But she had a horrible problem with mixing metaphors and getting her cliches all bungled up.

Once I made fun of her to my sister, Diane. Diane knew Beverly too so I pointed out this fault in great detail. I can't think of any of Beverly's blundering cliches, but just to give a couple of ideas of things she might have said; "You gotta think outside the circle," "American as blueberry pie," "Low man on the pecking order." Do you get the idea? Well, I thought it was a hoot and I hooted it up telling Diane all these things poor Beverly had said.

One does reap what one sows. (Bev might have said, "What goes around you reap.") God is my witness, and Diane is too, that the very next day after I made fun of Bev, I was stricken with this weakness. It has been at least fifteen years since I knew Beverly, but I am here to tell you, since that day, I've had trouble with cliches, euphemisms, and words. 

Last week I did this at work. I've recovered enough to tell about it.

A bit of background: I have told how disorganized, crowded and sometimes chaotic my work place is. There is an inside joke among the ladies I work with about exploding tables, angry tables, and a few more things of that nature. By these expressions they really mean that the table is too full - a common problem with our tables - and that its contents just went onto the floor.

Last week two hoity-toity-type ladies bumped a table just so and sent its bolts of fabric all over the floor. One of my colleagues might have labeled that as an exploding table. I try to avoid being such a follower and come up with my own word pictures. What I meant to draw with my word picture, be it poor as it was, was a cd player spitting out its cd. The word I meant was eject. I know, it's a stupid word picture.

So the two up-tight ladies bumped the table and plumf, plumf, plumf, the contents began to descend. When the falling had ceased they made irritated sighs as if to say, "You stupid people who cram these bolts so tight...." I totally empathize with the sentiment, because I think the exact same thing. The way I deflect people's anger before they lash out is to make a big do. "Don't worry about that, I'll take care of it. It happens all the time. yada, yada, yada." In this particular instance, I saw their irritation and wanted to draw a word picture quick before they said something rude.

What did I say????

"There goes our ejaculating table."

I realized what I'd said about five minutes later as I was cleaning up the bolts of fabric.

 

another day of work

 (Gordon and me, camping in 2005)
Crocodile dundy and fuddy
I've decided to take another work day. I told my boss I'd do this each week, but was clear if it was not working for the family, I'd let her know within the month. We shall see. I don't foresee any problems.

Last night Gordon asked if there was anything particular I wanted to do with that extra money. (Grant it, it won't be much.) I paused for a few seconds before I answered, "I can't think of anything, so I guess not. But if I say I want some money, you'd better say, 'how much?'"
 

practical joke

I was talking to my sister Diane last night and briefly spoke of a story that happened when her ex-husband Herbie and I worked together. In our office everyone was fun-loving, laughed lots, pulled stunts on each other, and covered each others' back. It was a Christian organization too although there were plenty of times when we weren't very Christian. Another piece of background is that this story takes place in small town, USA. And for ease of telling the story, I will call the antagonist Roger and change several of the details. I will use quotes to make the read easier, but I'm actually quoting the gist of the story, as of course, I don't remember the particular details of who said what when. With that lengthy, un-smooth set up, here's my story.....

Secretary Cindy brought me a stack of mail and said, "I put a letter on top that you'll really appreciate. Roger in Oregon is upset again." She smiled and walked out. I quickly picked up the letter to read his chewing me out for the way our office operated, particularly how we were terrible at communicating. He made reference to having seen Herbie over the weekend and how Herbie had been unhelpful in solving the problem. According to Roger, we were a bunch of lousy workers, inept in whatever we set our hands to. I do not remember the source of his intense feelings, but I very well recall that we thought HE was the problem, not us. Typical workplace, eh?

I replied to Roger's letter with a professional, detailed letter. I made two copies. One was signed, "Sincerely, Valerie" and the other was signed, "Cordially and Communicatively Up Yours in Christ's Love, Valerie." I'll let you decide which was the "real" letter and what was the "joke" letter. I was very tickled with myself, thinking Herbie would have a cow when he got to the bottom of my letter to my closing. In keeping with the plan, Cindy placed the "joke" letter on Herbie's desk and the real letter in an envelope for the day's mail.

Meanwhile, I took the latter part of the afternoon off for a haircut.

About halfway through my haircut, there was a phone call for me. It was Herbie on the other end of the line, talking very seriously. "That was a good letter you wrote to Roger, but Cindy tells me there's another copy that didn't say Sincerely."

Disappointed that my joke didn't come off as intended but unaware of any grave danger, I answered, "Yeah, it's on your desk."

He countered, very seriously, "No, the one on my desk said 'Sincerely.'"

Frantic, I said, "Ask Cindy, she knows all about it."

"Valerie, Cindy's right here and we can't find the other letter," he solemnly said.

"Has today's mail gone out?"

"Yeah, about an hour ago," he answered.

"Oh Jesus, help me," I said. "I'm on my way."

I took the beautician's apron off and told her I'd be in touch, ran to my car, and sped to the office.

I ran into the office to find them going through all the stacks of papers on all of our desks. "Did you find it?" I blurted.

They had not.

Frantic, sure my job was on the line, I yelled, "Phone Tommy at the post office. Tell him not to let our mail go out." I ran to my car and sped to the post office.

I ran into the post office and with no greeting whatsoever spewed, "Has today's mail gone out?" Yes, it had left about 20 minutes prior.

"Where's it headed?" I snapped.

Tommy told me it was headed to Hot Springs but would be stopping at post offices along the way. This was hopeful.

I told him there was something on that truck that COULD NOT go and I had to find that truck. I begged for his help and he spoke compassionately as he told me the truck guy wouldn't let me have our mailbag even if I caught the truck.

Given my circumstances, I wasn't too proud to beg. I was determined to find the truck and do whatever grovelling was needed to get our mailbag back. "Tommy where would the truck be now? Can you find out where the truck is? Call someone and see if they'll wait for me." I was willing to go through every envelope in the state if they would let me.

Tommy used words like "impossible," telling me there was no way to catch the truck, because trucks are assigned different zip codes to pick up every day. That sounded very lame and stupid, but I persisted. "Isn't there an office somewhere that tells the truck where to go? Tommy, I'll go anywhere." I was near tears, very motivated, and probably quite near a stroke. Again, "Tommy please, isn't there someone you can call?", I pleaded.

Tommy started to snicker. Undeterred, I begged again. He started laughing and said, "Valerie, it's all a joke." I didn't get it. He told me again that "the letter" hadn't gone out. I still didn't get it. If this was a joke, I couldn't fathom Tommy at the post office being involved. If my friends at work were playing a joke on me, they wouldn't involve Tommy, would they?

With his assurance that my nasty letter hadn't been mailed, I left the post office in a daze. Afraid that Tommy and I were not on "the same page," I drove back to the office. It seemed way too unlikely for Tommy to be involved in a joke on me. When I walked in the office everyone was howling. Someone was on the phone with Tommy when I walked in. They were all very impressed with how well the joke on me had gone. Much better than even they had imagined when they concocted it.

I've heard of lots of practical jokes, but I've never heard of one more "successful" than that one was.

teachers

School teachers are regularly coming in my stores buying things for their classrooms. I've marveled at their artistic creations, more specifically the artistic creations they take to their classroom.

Yesterday while a lady was checking out, she was telling me in detail what she was going to do with her students with the purchase she was making.

As she spoke my mind wandered back to many years ago when no one brought my creativity out of hiding. I always got a C in creativity, and have since carried hostility in my heart that they gave me a C without ever trying to tap into what was hiding, or coaching me how to be more creative.

Like a basket case, I mentioned this to her and she listened sympathetically. I stared into space and in my mind went one by one through my teachers recognizing afresh how they failed me.

I was snapped back to the present when she kindly said, "Don't you want to take this money?"

Startled, I replied, "I am so sorry. I got caught up in my own pain."

She smiled.

a humpless giraffe

At work last night, a lady brought a clay giraffe up to pay for it. She kept calling it a camel. My co-worker said, "This is a giraffe, see, it doesn't have a hump."

The customer said, "Oh, it's humpless."

I chimed in at that point, "Poor thing."

Looking at the giraffe, the customer responded, "Yeah, sucks to be you."

jobs and bras

 (My senior picture, 1984)
061_61 
I got a new job at a quaint fabric store. My creative juices are always flowing and I love it. As far as fabric stores go, this is a large one and it's nearly void of all modern technology. (It reminds me of Rephans from my childhood.) It's disorganized and inefficient and that makes me feel valuable. I love going to work because I know when I leave, the store will be a bit more organized.

The best part of the job is my 40% discount and a $40 project allowance each month. Yesterday a lady came in and requested "boning." I'd never heard of boning so I asked what it was for and she replied with an edge, "to hold my tits up." At that point she had my undivided attention. If there was something in the store that would "hold my tits up," I wanted to know about it.

With the assistance of another worker, we were led to the boning. I was sorely disappointed to find it was basically the idea of an underwire bra.

I don't "do" underwire bras and here's why:

It was years ago. I was wearing a new underwire bra that lifted and separated quite beautifully. I admit, I looked great.

A man came into my office to do some work on the building and as we discussed what he would be doing, we realized I needed to get something from another building on the property. I ran both ways.

When I returned, his and my relationship had changed. He stared awkwardly at my chest and I felt really uncomfortable. I tried to be poised and graceful, but not without emotional duress.

He needed a check so I went to my desk. As I bent over to get the checkbook out of a drawer, my chin rubbed against something. I looked down at my chest and to my horror saw one of the underwires protruding about five inches from my red sweater.

What would you have done? What would an etiquette guru, have done? I wish I knew. I pulled the wire the rest of the way out and dropped it in the trash can as if it was a piece of lint.

When I handed him the check our eyes met again. He was trying to conceal the fact that he was about to die laughing. I was trying to keep my hot cheeks from bursting into flames right then and there.

That is why I gave up underwire bras.

jobs and frodo

I'm flying high today. I got a $.40 per hour raise. That was kind of cool. I also got very good to outstanding on my performance review. The highest in the store. Yippee!

That's all good and fine, but the really good news is that I quit cake-decorating purgatory. I am so happy. Surely the world's a better place without me wielding a bag of buttercream frosting.

Senor Frodo, our manly little Chihuahua, is on the lookout for a nice little Senorita. It seems he is in the babino-making mood. When he attacks Lucy (or a pillow) we say naughty Mexican things. Never mind that our Mexican is hardly better than our Somalian. "Senor Frodo, go to your own le casa to do that." "Senor, give it a siesta!"

When he squints in the sun, Hannah says he's saying, "Get me my sombrero, will you?"

Our little Frodo keeps us amused.

bragging, quickly followed by wallowing, then a little animal rescue

Hannah's Interest Fair Project
Dogs
2nd Place Winner

Well, well, well, I don't mean to brag, but (picture me snorting like Barney on Andy Griffith), my Hannah won second place in the interest fair at school. It was such a cute display and she put her heart and soul in it. It was soooo Hannah and she deserved her win.

Rachael's looked nice too. Deborah's display board kept falling over, but Harry the hamster was a big hit. Kids are so smart these days. There were displays that boggled my mind. Smart, creative, Interest fairartistic, and elaborate.

Attendees voted on the best displays. First, Second, and Honorable Mention were the voting options. As Gordon and I made our way around the gym, we were impressed with the many displays. I voted for all my girls, I admit. Gordon, on the other hand, was more methodical. He stood thoughtfully in front of each display. I was like a dripping faucet behind him: "You can't vote for him, he tripped Deborah on purpose last year." "You can't vote for her, she laughed when Rachael auditioned for the solo." "He is really a mean kid, don't vote for him." "She's a brat, don't vote for her." "Oh looky there, her Mom did a fine job on that one." Finally Gordon turned around and told me to leave him alone.  
Interest fair 
I finished my cake decorator's training and now live from mild panic attack to the next mild panic attack. I fear customers pointing to pictures in the cake book and saying, "I want that one in one hour." I can do some things, but please don't ask me for the Christening cake, or the Barbie, or the Bob the Builder, or the Dora the Explorer, or Harry Potter,.... or anything else out of the book. I don't know how. Please don't even look at me while I'm working. All my writing on cakes is crooked and silly looking. My pansies look like cacti and my roses look like butt holes. Oooooohhhhh, why did I ever do this???????
I loath this job. I'm no good at it and there is no other way to say it. My cakes look sick. I thought it would be easy, and I guess it is for most people. One girl said, "Any idiot can do this, Val." But I just can't get it. I came home today and cried. I think I'm bordering on depression over the whole stupid thing.

I can decorate a cake as a homemaker and be happy with it. Even today I made cupcakes for Rachael's teacher's birthday and they were precious. But I don't think I've got the ability to ever be a professional. I wish I'd never gone down this stupid professional decorator path. I feel like a retard. I must have heard 10 times today, "Why are you doing it that way? I showed you how to do this already." Even my adoring husband looked at my red velvet cakes and asked what the red blob on the top was. It was a rose bud, but no one could possibly know.

I've been dreading tomorrow for months. I was subpoenaed as a witness to a hit-and-run by a drunk driver. Although I have dreaded it, now that it will pull me away from buttercream icing, I am happy to testify and only wish I could serve society in this way more often.

Today the girls found a pathetic cat and brought it home. We have spared many a pet from a lonely death. This poor cat couldn't stand up. Its nose was partially missing and its ears too. It was so pitiful. We wrapped him up and took him to the pound. The lady who admitted him about scared us silly. "You need to go home right away, bathe and put your clothes in the wash on the hot cycle." And that is precisely what we did. An hour later we phoned to find out what happened to the poor cat and they had euthanized it. 

That little experience made me thankful to be in a civilized and humane society that deals with those things compassionately. I am proud that my girls are caring and that we played a roll in ending its awful life in a loving manner. 

That reminds me of a magpie (scavenger bird) that the girls rescued. They promptly named her Maggie. She had a broken wing and a broken leg. We made a make-shift home for her in the backyard. The girls fed her and tried to nurse her back to health. On day two of this operation, on the way to a church picnic, it started to downpour and Hannah and Deborah began to wail, "WHAT ABOUT MAGGIE?" I turned the van around and drove home. The girls got some towels to wrap Maggie in and away we went with Maggie with us. Because I kept going to the van and checking on the bird, everyone knew about her. 

A friend mentioned that she and her kids found an orphaned rabbit and had thought about calling us. I was puzzled that she thought about calling me about this orphaned rabbit and asked her why. A friend across the table answered the obvious that I had missed. She said, "Valerie, you have a magpie in your van." Turns out, we have a reputation of rescuing the oppressed. I can think of plenty of worse reputations.

Maggie lasted a couple more days and then died. The girls buried her, built a cross out of sticks, and wrote an epitaph on the rocks on top of her grave. Hannah wrote and recited a poem about Maggie at the burial. It was moving, even if it was all about a Magpie.

Sweet, sweet kids I have!


happy spring & lucy is two

Salutations! Spring has arrived in the Great White North and I LOVE it. I walked around the yard this morning and was pleasantly surprised to find an abundance of tulip and lily shoots. Spring! Is there anyone who doesn't love it? Later we got a rain shower. How delightful when the moisture comes in the form drops rather than white fluffs! Simply invigorating.

My cake decorating adventure is pretty cool. I worked 36 hours this week and will have another busy training week next week. After that I will be a "professional cake decorator." Pretty cool. Today I brought home a lemon supreme cake that I made. When Hannah saw it, she hugged me. She loves to see me learn new things. She is so artsy and loves new creations in whatever form they take. She's so sweet that way.
(Hannah and Lucy, 2006)

My beloved Lucy is two years old now. Here are a few pictures from her sweet little life.

jobs

Today I learned I am the employee of the year at my work. That translates to cash, a new t-shirt, a plaque, a new frame, and the most significant is a 30% discount until 2007 (even on sale and "as is" items). I'm feeling pretty good about that.

I start my cake decorating job on Saturday. I went for training yesterday. It was kind of weird because they didn't ask for references or anything. They know absolutely nothing about me. I could recently be released from prison for poisoning cakes for all they know.

I told Gordon that it sure is easy to get a job when you're middle aged, turning gray, and overweight. Is that the look of wisdom? Or maybe I look too tired to cause any trouble.

lifelong learner, i am

"What a large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life by him who interests his heart in everything." Laurence Sterne

I have a number of interests. More than I can name.
 
(Hannah making her 4th birthday cake, 2000)
 
Scan20178 Since Rachael's first birthday, it's been a family tradition that the birthday girl decorates her own cake with only a little guidance from Mom. Well it so happens that the girls have bumped up against my own cake decorating knowledge so I can no longer help them develop new skills. This has been bugging me for a couple years.

A few nights ago I went to Safeway and saw a help wanted sign in the bakery. I thought the following selfish, self-centered thought: "If I work here, they'll teach me to decorate cakes AND they'll pay me to learn." I came home and ran it past Gordon. He reluctantly agreed to my applying.

This morning I went in to pick up an application. Scan20179Surprisingly, the lady wanted to interview me right there. I told her I wanted to learn cake decorating. She hired me on the spot and I start next Wednesday. Gordon and I are both nervous about what kind of hours I'll get as it can't cut into the "family life." I still have my other job, and hopefully will not have to work more than 10 hours a week in the bakery. I'm so excited to learn cake decorating -- and to think I'll get paid to learn something I've been wanting to learn for a couple years.

Yippee.

field trip and such

(Deborah in kindergarten)
095_95Today is usually a work day for me, but I took the day off to attend Deborah's Easter party at school. She is so excited. For the first several months of school I didn't go on her field trips or attend her school parties because I work on Tuesdays and Thursdays which are Deborah's school days. Several weeks ago she expressed that she wanted me along for these things. Since then I've taken off work for them. I'm so glad I heard her desire. She was giddy with excitement when we went to Bee Maid Honey factory. I'm glad I had that time with her. Yesterday she wanted to lay out my clothes for today's party. She chose a black skirt and light blue sweater. I'm not excited about wearing a skirt, but I will wear for her. When she brought them into the living room to show me what she'd chosen, she excitedly said, "I haven't picked out your panties yet." Yep, she's covering all the bases. What a sweetie!

I'm so proud of Hannah and Rachael for the way they defend Stephen (from next door) at school. He is literally a near-genius child and kind of different. Furthermore he is incredibly tiny. Both the girls look after him. And they admire his creativity, imagination and intelligence. I respect that. They are such good kids. I'm thankful beyond words.

Today my cousin Cindy gets her latest test results back. She has been experiencing a bloated feeling and some stomach pain. I think they may be preparing for the worst news. She has fought and fought this battle with breast cancer. I am continually amazed at her fighting spirit. I feel confident that I wouldn't be as much of a fighter. May God give them His peace and comfort today.

The new brown leather albatross (new chair) is sitting beside me screaming repeatedly "you screwed up". I told Gordon about my regret about my purchase yesterday. He encouraged me to give it a week before I do anything like give it away or try to sale it. What a lunatic I can be. When we brought it inside yesterday, it looked incredibly out of place and I reworked the furniture repeatedly trying to find an acceptable place for it. I have settled on the spot beside my desk. It doesn't look great, nor does it look terrible. It is growing on me though. Yesterday I sat in it and stared out the window. I was discouraged about my own folly and was just staring into space. Then I noticed some birds in the elm in the front yard foraging for hidden treasures in the bark. It brought a smile to my face. There is still a backdrop of white snow outside, but this was clearly a "harbinger of spring" moment. That moment changed my attitude. I realized that just because I screwed up doesn't mean I have to be perpetually discouraged with myself. I am still surrounded with good.