Saturday, June 03, 2006

Okay, NOW I'm 42.

Okay, NOW I'm 42.

A couple of my friends will know what this means. Sorry for the inside communique, all hidden in cryptic remarks.

Actually, wouldn't it be fun if more of our life were written in cryptic comments only decipherable by a few "in the know" people? I have friends living in the Middle East, where the host country is hostile toward, or at least on guard against, Christianity in every form.

So as not to offend their hosts, our communiques are filled with euphemisms so as not to alert some computer censor looking for key words or phrases. Prayer might be a conversation with a mutual friend or I talked to my Dad about you, or the like. I sometimes wonder as I write if someone is going to think I am some kind of a spy speaking in code rather than just an old friend wanting to catch up.


Well, Expeditions or Excursions is going places. I absolutely love the idea. I long to show people my favorite spots and let them meet the wonderful people who run the wonderful shops I go to, and take them off the beaten track. I plan to start this summer with a few select folks (my truck holds three maximum). The great thing about taking my truck is that if someone wants to bring back a couch, a mantle or some other large piece, as long as they can load it in the back, we can bring it home. All I need is to replace my tarp, as it disappeared. Friends, help me begin this. Be my guinea pigs, if you will. I promise it will be fun. I promise it will be an adventure! It may not be the same kind of adventure as, say, skydiving, but with these trips you won't be voiding your life insurance policy. ;-)

As summer heats up, I long to go into the cooler mountains, so those are the first trips. I want a much longer trip in September, perhaps an overnight, to go to the Colorado wine country. It could be a day trip, but I honestly get tired after a drive that long, and might have a hard time staying awake for the trip home. Call or email me to come along. I'm ready. Are you?


Steve and I went to the Colorado Wine Festival in Manitou Springs today. If you ever wonder if Steve loves me, this is evidence. Driving around and around to find a parking space for an event that holds zero interest for him, then letting me buy three bottles of my favorite "Roadkill Red" wine (and my reason for coming to the festival), is all the evidence I need. For now, anyway. Only a few craft booths, and a few food vendors, but several wine vendors. I don't buy the $20 wine tasting ticket, which buys me a glass, a bag(I think) and a taste at each of the vendors. I don't need to taste, I know what I want, and though I am not ready to buy a case of wine (but plan to put in a wine fridge when we redo the kitchen), I buy enough to carry me through for a while. I don't drink much, and when Steve said he was buying me a year's worth, the guy next to us burst out laughing in disbelief. Well, I guess that is pretty unbelievable, but I don't drink much. The hardest part for me is opening a new bottle, knowing that I will be unable to finish it before the bottle turns, unless I find something to cook with it.

I was raised to strict abstenance, and owing to that and to not knowing who would be offended to be offered a glass, I rarely offer any to guests. Well, I rarely HAVE guests, so add rare and rare, and you have really rare. If you wouldn't be offended to be offered a glass of vino, please let me know. I'm happy to share, and I have a sparkling Muscato chilled in the fridge, waiting to be shared. My Roadkill Red is a treat, or we can pull something from the wine rack.

I think I'm going to move the wine to the laundry room for the summer, or dig a spot under the patio to keep it appropriately cool. An old root celler would be perfect. It has been close to 90 degrees for days now, and that's not good for the fruit of the vine.

Skipping church tomorrow to go to a funeral. This guy is only a few years older than Steve, Steve worked with/for him when he was first in the business in California. Bob was a friend of Steve's dad first, and then of Steve's. He was to be an employee of ours in a few weeks, and Steve was really glad he was coming on board, as he is a great worker and a real craftsman.

This has made Steve aware of the need to really plan and put into writing what to do with the business if something happens to him. Some people think it's morbid that we talk about this stuff, but to me it seems merely practical. After all, the death rate is 100%, given enough time. Expect the best, plan for the worst. My friend had to deal with her husband's troubled business within weeks of his death, against the counsel of some, she ran the business, which she truly had little understanding of, and educated herself, stepped out on a limb, not just for herself and the kids, but for the guys working there, with their livelihoods on the line. She is remarkable, and has turned the place around, going from a woman who ran a household and took care of the children, to an effective and enterprising business woman who also runs a household and cares for her children. Is there a better word than pride for what I feel for her? I am so pleased with the person she was, and with who she has become. I am delighted by her accomplishments and her courage. She is amazing. A real role model.

I have decided to ask for what I need. A small thing, you might think, but a huge thing for me. I do not like to ask, particularly when what I need is encouragement. It seems like a silly thing to need, but sometimes I just need a cheering section to give me the courage to do things that are hard for me. I don't know what is hard for other people, but for me, I am not naturally gregarious and outgoing. Real estate requires you to be more outgoing. I have to learn how to ask the questions I have in my head, and to ignore the feeling that asking any questions is prying. I need to let out my innate curiousity about people. I need to put myself at risk of rejection and relearn how to look at that. I need to learn how to think through rejection and how to talk through difficult situations.

I am going to see about either joining or forming a group of Christian Businesswomen to support each other and encourage each other in our endeavors. Perhaps there is a group out there like that, perhaps not. They need not be in sales, like me, but any woman putting herself out there, wanting to grow in her career, or needing support to live her faith in the workplace with grace and dignity. I imagine that if I need it, others do too.

Goodnight. Throw open your windows and allow the breeze to blow in the sweet aroma's of the spring flowering trees. (Take your Claritin first, if you're allergic, like me.) Enjoy the cool night air. Sweet dreams.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Can you be successful if your family doesn't believe in you?

This is the question I want to pose. One of the things that is common among successful people is the unfailing belief in their ability and eventual success by their family. Not necessarily their parents and siblings, because if that isn't there, the support of spouse and children as cheerleaders fulfills the needed support in tough times. I just spent the day at a Get Motivated Seminar, listening to the likes of Steve Forbes, Suze Orman, Tom Hopkins, Rudy Guliani, Mike Shanahan, Colin Powell, and others. Each and every one has their own philosophy of success, their rules and guidelines, the principles they live by...and each of them had the support and belief of others to buoy them when life got tough.

When you are discouraged and aren't sure that you actually have what it takes, do you have a cheerleading squad behind you? Do you have your parents' unwaivering belief that you can do it? Does your husband or wife tell you you're doing great and you will be wonderful?

I think one of the cruelest things we can do for our husbands/wives or our children is to doubt that they can accomplish what they set out to do. That doubt seeps out. It is heard in the hesitant encouragement, in the backup plans, in the well-meant "if this doesn't work you can always..." And with those words my confidence falters.

When I doubt myself, I focus on the statements of a couple of friends. Their unwavering belief in me is expressed in statements like, "You're going to be GREAT at this." "You are perfectly suited for this." "Oh, you are going to help so many people." I wish there was a way to have those recordings play aloud as I walk through the office, or sit at my computer. In the way some people use motivational plaques or posters, I would have these audio clips play for me, reminding me that these people believe in me. I would play them when someone says "what are you going to do if this doesn't work out?" I would drown out their words with words of encouragement. I would play them when told I don't "look right" for the job. I would play them when the recording in my head says that I am not tall enough, not thin enough, not pretty enough, not well-dressed enough, not gregarious enough, not formal enough. I would erase all the negatives with the belief of my friends.

As I sit here wishing I had more of those positive audio clips from family, I wonder if I have provided enough of those for them. Have I told my husband often enough what a great job he is doing with the business and how proud I am of all he has accomplished? Have I told my daughter how incredibly proud I am of her and what an enormously talented person she is at whatever she puts her mind too, be it painting, school, or sales? Have I told my son how incredibly proud I am that he stuck it out and finished Job Corp, Army basic training, AIT and now his assignment in Iraq? Did I tell him often enough how much I believed he was capable of even when he didn't believe it himself. I hope so. And Alex, have I told him how I am certain that he will do well in engineering school? Have I told him what a fine mind he has? Have I given him the encouragement he needs to tough it out and to know that he has what it takes to be the percentage that finishes well?

My family certainly gives me enough bragging material. I hope I will make them proud. Scratch that. I intend to make them proud. I will stick it out in real estate and will become the success I know I can be. In the process, I will help many own their piece of the American Dream. I will take care of details, so that they can focus on their dreams. Oooo. I really like that. Let me take care of the details, so you can focus on your dreams.

Very few people, after all, look at a home as just the elements of it. They look at a home and see the spot where they can throw a ball to their son, just past the maple tree in the back yard. They see family movie nights in the great room. They picture themselves eating dinner together, reading in that secluded nook, or entertaining all their friends on that great deck. It is visions they see, not the bricks and mortar. And it is visions I need to keep in mind as I face discouragement or doubt. I need to envision the keys passed across the closing table. I need to picture the relief on the faces of those who simply had to sell or face financial ruin. I need to envision the children who will grow up in those rooms, gazing out those windows, eating in those kitchens, playing ball beneath those trees.

My friend, Jana, is one of the most encouraging people I know. "You're my hero." She says it all the time, and even though it is something of a habit, when she says it, I believe it. I know that she has a great belief in me. When I'm with her, or talk to her, I can only imagine myself doing well. Well, the meaning of encourage is to inspire with hope, courage or confidence. That is exactly what Jana does. Not just for me, but because she lives a life of bringing hope, courage and confidence to others. She really is my hero. What a gift.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Musings About My Birthday

UPDATE: Despite what everyone keeps telling me, web research has proven that the wonderful scent people call linden is actually that of the Russian Olive Tree. So whatever love and gushing I have given for the lindens, the credit goes to the russian olive. See This Article

Today, for the last time, I am 41. In a few short hours I will be 42. I used to love birthdays but I don't enjoy them as much anymore. The fuss is gone. The thrill is gone. Now, it is just a time to recognize that my body is aging faster than me, faster than my face, faster than I feel. I shouldn't say just. It isn't just anything. As with most things in life it is a mixture of happiness, sadness, excitement, disappointment.

I don't know why I am so down the past few days.

Whenever I get down and irritable, there is a part of me that wonders, is it back? I get concerned that Depression is marching again, spreading a dark cloud over me, digging a pit for me to slide into from which I cannot escape. When I get snippy, I always wonder if there is more to it than the immediately apparent cause.

I cannot permit Depression a hold over me anymore. I cannot go back to that pit. It feels like drowning, suffocating, deaf, dumb and blind, panicking, smothering. Drowning. The last time. Oh, the last time. Well, really all the times before begin to run together in my mind, but I have a mental picture of terror...horror. The pit is filled with mud and I am sinking. The daylight above my head grows smaller and dimmer as the walls grow taller and taller. No matter how hard and how fast I climb I sink further and my hands and feet are slipping in the muddy walls. Every inch I gain I lose as my hands slip again. I'm crying and screaming. My mouth is open and I feel the force of my lungs pushing air past my vocal chords, but no sound comes out. No one can hear me. I hear people walking by the pit, but they cannot hear me, they cannot help. My hands and feet are covered in muck, it flies into my eyes, my hair, my nose, my ears. I breathe it in. It covers me. I can't shake it off. Oh I am drowning in mud. Drowning in despair.

I cannot go back there.

So, anyway, I have learned a few things that help keep me from the edge of the pit. What I have not learned is how to rid myself of the fear of the pit. Maybe that's because for me the danger is real. The fear reminds me to practice the things that keep me from falling in. To pray, to sing, to think on the goodness of God, not just in a general way, but in the specific ways he has dealt with me and with his people throughout history. To be thankful. To praise him. To think on his sacrifice and the love that led him to that. Oh, and I keep watch lest I need the medication that regulates my seratonin levels. Sometimes, even when my mood isn't depressed, I can feel that my body is. I quit sleeping, or I sleep too much but without getting any rest. My fibro goes off the charts, a sure sign that my sleep is disturbed. I do not let that go on too long, but will get myself in to the doc for meds. I used to be ashamed to do that, and in my heart of hearts there is still shame, even though I no longer believe in my head that there should be.

So I will be thankful for all the things I have. I have a husband who loves me, even when I'm crabby. I have three great kids. I have two bratty wonderful dogs. The birds were singing a delightful song today. The rain is greening things up a bit, cleansing pollen out of the air, and refreshing my spirit. I have gas in my truck. I have all my teeth. I can walk, talk, breathe, move, sing, read, write. I have wonderful friends both here and throughout the world. I have my Jesus who loves me. Oh why should I need more?

My mommy loves me. She made me a three tiered tidbit holder, drilling plates and a bowl so that the spacers, feet and handle create a wonderful spot for serving cookies, candies, or for displaying various fruits as I have currently.

Do you know my favorite birthday gift? The Lindens are in bloom! My favorite time of the year is right now, even though my allergies are off the charts! Oh the blissful, intoxicating, sweet smell of lindens. For such a short time they bloom and spread their delightful aroma. A sense of well-being floods me when that scent is carried to me on gentle breezes. I have missed it a bit the past couple of days, since the rain seems to wash the scent from the air. But every spare moment that is NOT raining, I am ever alert for those silvery leaves. Oh bliss. What a cure for depression. How can I be depressed with that perfume surrounding me? Oh that I could bottle that scent, that I could have candles that fragrance the house with that odor, soap and lotion and shampoo with that delightful smell.

Perhaps that would spoil the wonderful anticipation I feel each year as I wait for the days of the linden flowers. Perhaps it is meant for a season, to mark the passing of time, like the passing of years.

Should I die at this time of year, fill the church with branches of linden. What a lesson in the flowers. They are small, almost unnoticable. Completely unspectacular, but they smell so sweet that they delight even those who never notice where the sweetness comes from.

I want to be like a linden. Oh, I wouldn't mind being spectacular, but that is a gift given to others, and that's okay. I would like to be a woman whose sweet fragrance graces those who never even notice me. I want to have the sweetness of Christ pour out of me, pervading the air, providing respite, peace, calm and a reminder of beauty and joy to those around. May the presence of Christ dwell in me. May his fragrance break forth from me. Oh may I be glad to be spectacularly unspectacular if even for just a season. Oh, that I would be anticipated, looked for, that the evidence of my inner beauty be as pervasive as this, my favorite scent in the world. For the past few years I mistakenly thought the flower was that of the Russian olive, which has the same silvery leaves, and I need to become like that. Should I care that I get the credit or that it goes to another? Shouldn't I delight in being who God made me and in doing what he gave me to do? May I be a sweet perfume.

Oh, I have no more depression. I am intoxicated with this gift from God. So if you are walking or driving and see a flowering linden, pull over, pick a few small flowers, stick them in your pocket and enjoy the sweetness that is gone too soon. Let that small flower with the delightful smell remind you of what we are to be...a pleasing aroma.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Mom just told me how nice it is when kids remember any good things from their childhood and want to carry them on. Oh, there are so many good things I remember. I remember Mom sitting on the porch all summer with a book and a glass of iced tea. I imagine she was doing that to keep an eye on us, but I always assumed that she just liked being outside with a book.

We used to go to watch the planes take off and land at the airport. I remember the line repeated each time: I wonder where they're going. I'd like to go there. It never mattered whether they were flying to Fort Wayne or Honolulu. Just get on the plane and go. That was the dream. Wherever it was would be fun, different and exciting. I think I've wanted to travel since those days. I've been many places in the U.S. and have been to London, Rome, Naples and down the Amalfi Coast. Still on my list are every other European country, Eastern European countries like Croatia, and the countries that made up the former U.S.S.R., much of Africa, particularly Kenya, where I have friends, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Sri Lanka, nepal, Tibet, India, Jordan, Turkey, Qatar, China, Antartica, Chile, Brazil, Honduras, Domincan Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Guatemala, West Indies, Puerto Rico, etc., etc. I want to go there. I want to experience life as I have never known it, outside the bounds of my narrow view of the world.

We used to follow fire trucks. I'm not entirely sure why, except that Mom wanted to be a paramedic, and eventually became an EMT, even working for the ambulance service in Alaska. I don't follow fire trucks. I can't bear to see anyone hurt. I have no confidence that I would be able to help should I be there.

We used to go to all the parks in the city. This week we might play in Portal Park, next week in Bonnie Park, the following week we might play on the concrete climbing structure over by the 26th street cemetary. Some people live such small lives, with each step contained within a two mile radius, but our worlds were constantly expanded, the boundaries were our imagination. We knew we could go to Seattle, or Portland, or anywhere else our car could take us. It never occured to me to be afraid to go anywhere, even by myself. Mom drove all over the country while Dad was working in exciting destinations like...Thule, Greenland. As I was preparing to drive cross-country with my kids, a friend gasped in horror, "What will you do about hotels?" I dryly replied, "I'll check in." I have since learned that many women would NEVER go out of town without their husbands. They would never dare to check into a hotel without their man. They don't know how to read a map, which is rather convenient when it comes to making their men feel that they simply can't do without them.

I, on the other hand, assume that a real man wants a competent woman. Oh, sure, there are many things that are really useful to have a man to do, particularly when you start getting older and your body begins its long course of betrayal. But why would a man want a helpless woman? I don't mean truly helpless, but one who simply will not do things she is perfectly capable of doing. It's irritating.

Another thing I remember is reading at the dinner table. Our home was filled with books. Inside those books my world was expanded. I understand more about our Creator God because of the creativity he placed in people who wrote things like "The Chronicles of Narnia", "The Hobbit", "The Lord of the Rings", "Watership Down" and others. I caught a glimpse in those books of the adventure that God has for each of us if we are willing to run out the door without our pipe and handkerchief. In those books I gained a lifelong love of reading, writing, storytelling and--BOOKS! And I do love books. I love hardcovers with the sleeves intact. I love beautiful bindings with elaborate endpapers and gilt print. I love the look of books on a shelf, books next to my nightstand, along for the ride in the back of my truck, stacked on the floor when the shelves are full, three deep on a shelf, when there is no more room, used as decor on the mantle, favorite tales on the bedstand in the guest room, and tucked into my carry-on bag when flying, though I can never resist buying a new one in the airport bookstore, even though their prices are too high and selection too narrow.

I loved camping and fishing, and the beaver ponds. I loved watching Dad fish down the middle of the river, just like a scene from "A River Runs Through It". I loved backpacking and still wish I could do it, longing for it as if for water on a hot day. I loved skiing, though carrying my own gear from the car to the slope was torture. I loved hearing my dad sing "K-k-k-katie, my beautiful Katie" and "Freckles", and other silly songs. I loved campfire stories like "The Yar" and "It Was A Dark And Stormy Night". I loved tuna helper over a campfire, pan-fried trout for breakfast, camp robbers trying to get the last of the pancakes, fried Spam (over a campfire, everything's good), burnt marshmallows, and ice cold water from the creek. I liked that wonderfully exhausted feeling you have at the end of the trail when you finally made it.

Like any kid, I have a lot of things I disliked about childhood, but I also have some great memories.

Dropping groceries on someone's doorstep, ringing the doorbell and running, laughing and happy, back to the car, hoping you wouldn't be seen. Burned out Vietnam Vets and hippies playing guitar in the basement, laughing, talking, studying, singing. Mom and Dad taught me the joy of giving. The fun of stealth giving, where no one is the wiser. And Mom and Dad gave me a gift of letting me try things and be creative. I don't remember them ever being disgusted when I would cook something no one had ever heard of before and would never want to hear of again. I don't remember them chiding my efforts when I drew, or designed clothes for my Barbie, or made furniture out of plastic communion cups. I didn't realize it at the time, but they allowed me to confidently try things, to paint, to draw, to sew, to create, to dream, to write, and never belittled me for it.

I hope I have nurtured that spark in my kids. I think my daughter is such a talented painter, and always have seen that spark in her since she was really little. I think my sons are clever and inventive with their games of crabapple golf and photo shopped presentations that are amazing and wonderful. I love my kids sense of humor, even when at times it gets too crude or gross for me. They should thank my parents for that.

Funny, but the four of us kids all remember life slightly differently. One thinks the reading at the table was awful. That's crazy. I don't know how each of these things is remembered by my brothers and my sister, but for me, this is the good stuff.

House and Hospitality

A drive to see the finishes on a very upscale custom home took us to Castle Rock on Memorial Day. We are looking at wall & ceiling texture to use in our upper level to cover flaws in the ceiling due to the house settling over the years. They are minor flaws, but they drive Steve nuts, little divets where the drywall is attached to the beams, a few cracks in corners and along a few seams. Minor, really, but the drywall guys we've talked to suggested replacing the entire ceiling if perfection was the aim.

Anyway, the road, which I've driven a lot lately, was remarkable for the fields alongside the Interstate. Where just a few days ago they were verdant, with the spring green that promises lushness just weeks away, they were dry and brown as the last days of August. Frighteningly dead and dry grasses and small plants covered the hillsides and meadows.

But last night it rained along the I-25 corridor. Today, when I drove to get my truck from the shop in Parker, the fields were green again, and filled with spring's promise once more. As I was leaving Parker, it began to rain, and rained for most of the trip home. Yea! I long for the late spring, early summer afternoon rains of my childhood. The rhythm of days was punctuated by their regularity. The heat of the day was cooled, and the lawns and gardens soaked up much needed moisture.

Friday we had a bunch of friends over for an ice cream social. It was wonderful. The deck looked great with our dining table lined up with the patio table and chairs lining both sides and the end. Places for 10 people all talking and laughing, drinking tea, coffee, iced mochas, and eating a most wonderfully festive dessert: a Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

If you ever went to Farrel's as a kid, you no doubt remember the zoo. It was an assortment of scoops of ice cream in a very large serving bowl, with multiple kinds of toppings, chocolate, caramel, pineapple, strawberry, marshmallow topping, whipped cream and marachino cherries. In addition, colored transluscent plastic zoo animals were perched all over the top, which peaked high above the bowl.

Well, when I was a kid, my dad began making his own version of this dessert for friends and neighbors. As I remember it, he would invite the entire neighborhood. He would stand in the utility room next to the deep freezer, with every kind of ice cream imaginable lined up in cartons on the ironing board. He would take a scoop of one, then another, then another, until he had gone down the row, then go back to the other end and start all over, until he had a mountain of ice cream in one of those large stainless steel bowls everyone seemed to have back then. Then would come the toppings.

It may sound horrid and overindulgent, but it really is wonderful and people seem to LOVE ice cream.

Well, Scott, one of the teens from church came to help me get ready for company and to serve everyone. He is a wonderful kid! What a great help he was. He made it so much easier, and everyone was so impressed with him.

Down the center of the tables I placed candles in various holders, empty wine bottles, jars filled with sand, and cored oranges (these were a big hit). I had previously strung the balcony railing with miniature white lights left over from Christmas. A side table held a 5 gallon iced tea jar w/ spigot, like a glass urn. Into the sun tea, I floated sliced oranges and limes, for flavor and beauty.

My friend Beth came, sans kids and husband, looking like a million bucks. She wore a truly party appropriate white sash, black satin wrap top and skirt with pearls and elegant earrings. One of the nice things about being of a certain age (which we will not mention) is that we look appropriate in pearls, not like little girls playing dress-up.

After some time, I invited everyone to come in and watch a video explaining what my guest of honor, Morgan, Reeve, is doing as a campus minister with Grace Christian Church which meets on campus at CSU Fort Collins. It's a work I'm rather excited about, as it is really reaching college students for Christ, not in a pushy way, but merely inviting them to examine what the Bible has to say. Follow-up Bible study and discipleship seems to be making a real lasting difference.

I want to introduce Morgan to other Christians for a couple of reasons. One, I want people to get as jazzed about this work as I am. It is energizing to hear how people are being reached and lives are being changed. Just hearing the life stories encourages me and I want it to encourage others. Two, I hope that others will pray for Morgan and her fellow workers and consider supporting them if possible. This is a difficult way for a church to operate, in my opinion. The average age of the congregation must be about 20 years old. This is not a time in life where there is much income of any kind to support the local church, and there is a reasonably large staff working to reach kids.

I fully intend to have other ice cream socials for other occasions, or for no occasion at all, just because it's fun! Anyone who turns down my invitation is really missing out! Dad, if you remember those days, I salute you. You made it look easy. Even chilling the bowl ahead of time, it was really hard to keep the ice cream from melting. Next time I think I will bag up the ice cream scoops and put the whole thing together at the last minute. I wish I had taken pictures. You would love the animals I bought from an online cake decorating store. They aren't the same, but they were really neat. I also made a sign which read "Cheyenne Mountain Zoo" which I attached to a new popsicle stick and inserted atop my zoo.