29 March 2010

Dunce hat

Today is my day to wear the dunce hat. I hate these days, but they drop into my life once in a while.

I had a dentist appointment this morning, but had forgotten the time; I thought it was in the afternoon. Thankfully I scheduled it for 8:30 and still had plenty of time to make it to the appointment after I got to work and checked the calendar. And thankfully, there were no startling discoveries as a result of this appointment that would require another more invasive dental appointment.

I left the dentist's office and returned to my car. As I backed out of the parking space I heard a loud crunching sound. It was the sound of one of those big parking garage pillars bashing in the side of my car. I don’t much care for these pesky pillars in parking garages, for precisely this reason. I have had more than one altercation with them in recent years.

My car is actually fine, as long as I don’t need to use the side-view mirror or open the driver’s side door too awfully far.

Just another reason I don’t need to be driving a big expensive car. Most of my driving mishaps tend to occur when I am backing out of a parking space. Pass me the pointed hat please.

28 March 2010

Earth hour

I had forgotten about Earth Hour approaching. We had been out completing an errand and when we arrived home around 7pm I made a few candle lanterns to hang outdoors in the trees. It was a simple process with a nice visual effect. We sat indoors at the kitchen table with the flickering glow beyond giving us a calming lift to our spirits. I experimented with the candlelight setting on my camera, then suddenly at 8:15, remembered Earth hour.

Cristy hurriedly prepared salads for dinner and boiled water in the kettle for tea. I gathered a dozen or so votive candle holders and tea lights and placed them in small groupings, hoping that the candle glow would give us sufficient light that we would not feel compelled to abandon the Earth hour project.

We ate our dinner and talked. Sat peacefully in the candlelight past 9:30.

I don’t remember now what roused us from the kitchen table. It was probably the requirement to tend to the needs of one of the dogs, but at shortly after 10pm, we returned to life by electric lights. Washed the dishes, washed and put away the votive holders, and washed our faces in preparation for bed.

The simplicity of sharing conversation by candlelight was lovely.

25 March 2010


I subscribe to an industry newsfeed and some days I’ll click on the embedded article and read it. One day last December, the article title grabbed my attention: 10 Reasons Why Your Blog Sucks. With mounting trepidation, I clicked and braced myself to read the harsh facts.

I pondered this realization, along with a few similar articles that came my way through the months of January and February. I considered taking the blog private to rid myself of the shame and embarrassment of having such a sucky blog.

But I haven’t yet done that. Still treating it like the journal I always intended it to be, and still posting when I’m inspired and have the time.

And then joy of joys, last week two fabulously creative and inspired bloggers shared some blog love with me in the form of an award. I love me a little bling, so these sparkly awards are just what the doctor ordered to banish that suckiness.

These two bloggers truly inspire me. Fullet, an artist and writer with an enormous depth of creative energy, first captured my attention when he wrote about the curiously amazing Christmas tradition in Catalonia surrounding the TiĆ³, a sort of yule log. I was hooked. But when he started his second blog and posted an animated clip of one of his own collages, I became a devoted fan. I must have watched that clip a dozen times. Please click over to his two blogs to fill your morning coffee mug with delightful inspiration: Secret Forest and Collage Drawer.

Suzicate, a blogger, poet and quilting artist tells stories in a pure voice. Her writing style is so startlingly personal that it almost seems I can hear her narrating in my head, although I have never before heard her voice. Sometimes that voice is chattering and laughing, and sometimes it is nearly trembling with emotion. Besides being a prolific writer, she is a dedicated reader of literally dozens of blogs. Suzicate’s wonderful blog is The Water Witch's Daugher.

I am grateful that Fullet and Suzicate find the time to click over to my blog now and then. Thank you both for your internet friendship and for reminding me that my blog doesn’t really suck.

And now, the awards. Just like opening presents, one of my favorite things.

The Happy Blog Award, from Fullet, comes with a request to list 10 things that make me happy:

1. a sunny day
2. coffee in the morning
3. my animal companions
4. my human companion, Cristy
5. pretty shoes
6. shiny objects (pretty things of all sorts)
7. prayer
8. creative pursuits
9. the seashore
10. other people’s smiles.

And in appreciation, I am glad to share the Happy Blog award with a few blogs that always make me happy too.
Gropius vs. Eddie, a fabulous portrayal of life in words and photographs
IslandRoar, a collection of insightful, clever and amusing reflections
The Art of Chrissy Marie, a sweet celebration of nature, photography and art.

The Golden Award is from Suzicate and I am inspired to share this with a blogger who writes from her heart: Stephanie at Chocolate and Whine.
And finally, just because I feel like it, I'm picking up the Circle of Friendship award from Suzicate too. Blogging is more fun when you share, so if you are reading and would like to take this nice award, please do!

In light of this heavenly avalanche of bloggy sweetness, I think I just might trash those 10 reasons about my blog sucking. I'll bet that guy (Edward Khoo) has never even read my blog. But y'all have. And I so LOVE you! Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment now and then.

24 March 2010

Spa treatment

My little guy Tristan is a stinker. And I’m not talking about him being a cute little rascal either. Although he is. I’m talking about this really bad habit he has of finding stinky stuff outdoors to rub against and getting the stinky smell all in his fur. He stinks. He’s a stinker.

He did it about a week ago. When I get home from work during the week, there is usually a lot of animal activity. The dogs start running around the house and yard. Barking ensues. Toys. Sometimes the little dogs decide to give the kitty a requisite chase around the kitchen. But then it subsides and I feed them and then take a seat at the kitchen table while i get busy with some little project.

So last week I'm sitting there and noticed an unpleasant smell. I was hoping it wasn’t me, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint the source. Later, Cristy noticed it too and we both decided it was Tristan. It was not a good smell. That evening, he got the spa treatment. Shower, shampoo, blow dry. He is a furry dog, so this is a rather time consuming activity. But afterwards, he was soft and clean and sweet smelling for approximately two days.

Then he found another stinky spot outdoors and felt compelled to transfer the fragrance to his own fur. I tried a shortcut this time – a household wipe. We didn’t have any baby wipes and hey, he’s part of the household, so why not? I wiped it over the fur around his head and neck, where he likes to rub in stinky spots. It helped. Not a permanent solution, but better than nothing.

This morning as I was leaving the house, I noticed a very pronounced smell outdoors. A skunk. Undoubtedly a skunk that probably had an unfortunate encounter with an automobile at some point during the night.

So, even though my little sweetheart Tristan is indeed a stinker, there are still some creatures in the world that carry around even a bigger stink than him. By the way Tristan, your next spa appointment? Coming up soon.

22 March 2010

Observations from the weekend

Lately, I have developed a habit of assembling a collage of photographs taken over the weekend and making that my Monday post on the companion photo blog. But this past weekend I took my camera out only once to document the completion of a little project. No collection of images from which to build a pretty collage.

So I thought I would instead assemble a collage of words. Recollections of the weekend described in words rather than visually portrayed in photographs. Not as pretty, but perhaps an adequate reflection nonetheless.

Driving through the neighborhood on the north side of downtown where I deliver food once per month, I almost always see something unexpected. This particular Saturday morning was no different. In a vacant residential lot, I noticed a handful of ground-feeding birds, grackles and doves. And among them, a green parrot. You surely don't see that every day.

Shortly afterwards, I drove by a house with a tall fenced yard and noticed a man riding a horse in the yard. A pretty brown and white paint horse. Another rare spectacle. Then shortly after that, I dropped by the house of one of my clients to deliver their food and joined them in the backyard to play for a few minutes with four baby chickens. Now this scenario is not so rare these days. But the babies are usually only around once per year.

I would have loved to have captured those moments with a photographic image, but all the same, the images are thankfully still alive in my head.

In addition to those, I probably would have captured a few others along the way. Some rather simple images from the ordinary weekend.

Drinking cups of hot tea on Saturday to stave off the chill of the last (hopefully) coldfront of winter.

Gracyn curled up in her little dog-basket in her new favorite place, the floor of the kitchen pantry.

Browsing the aisles of Barnes & Noble.

Ringing the “excellent customer service” bell at Kroger in hopes that the very helpful cashier would forgive my absent-minded behavior.

The thing that stands out for me, from the weekend, and the thing that I would not have been able to capture in a photographic image is the sheer joy in my heart then, and even now. The joy of sharing an ordinary weekend with the person that makes my heart leap for joy. The person whose smile lights my life and whose voice is the sweetest sound I can imagine. The joy of sharing the moments of my life with her while we do chores, watch television, eat a meal, play with the dogs, hold hands, hold each other. Bliss. I am humbled with gratitude.

19 March 2010

The value of love

I read an advice column a little earlier this morning (Prudie’s column, http://www.slate.com/id/2247473/) about the financial burden of purchasing a diamond engagement ring. The young man seeking the advice did not want to over-extend himself way beyond his comfort zone in order to enter marital bliss. It was no secret to him that his hopeful bride-to-be wanted a sparkly engagement ring. He preferred to opt for a less costly engagement ring, or possibly none at all, but he did not want to lose the love of his life over a purchase, that when compared to the price of a car, pales in comparison.

I have heard other men sort of grumble over the “ticket price” of getting engaged. So then, I start to wonder, how many of these individuals drive automobiles that had a price tag over $20K? How many of these individuals have purchased other pricey items for their own amusement such as televisions, guitars, mountain bikes, hunting/fishing equipment, cameras, golf clubs….?

So what’s up with that? Why is the purchase of an engagement ring perceived to be burdensome? OK, not with everyone to be sure, but it’s out there.

We live in a culture heavily laden with the opportunity to purchase luxury items of all sorts. Designer shoes, resort vacations, homes with professionally equipped kitchens and sumptuous master baths, private school tuition, Swiss wristwatches, German cars, French wine.

Do we all overindulge? No. But in truth, most Americans probably spend money to support the best lifestyle they can afford. They purchase the best car within their budget. They buy a house in the best neighborhood they can afford. They spend money as wisely as they can on recreational items that suit their family’s preferences. In other words, they buy the things they value. This is the financial value we assign to living our lives.

So what is the value of love? Ouch. Sounds so unromantic.

On the one hand, our culture recognizes and celebrates the tradition and ceremony around marriage and the engagement ring, good or bad, is an important symbolic part of that tradition. Our culture is very good at recognizing symbols. A solitaire diamond ring is a symbol of love and promise between two people. It tells us they have agreed to join their lives in marriage. Every morning, as she dresses, this woman will place her engagement ring on her hand along with her wedding ring and it will remind her that the person she married valued her enough to express their love with this symbol. It makes her feel valued by extension.

On the other hand, it’s not for everyone. Not everyone needs to feel valued by wearing a big sparkly ring.

But back to our advice-column guy, this is not the case for the woman he hopes to marry.

Here's my (unsolicited) advice to you, dude. Take her shopping and pay attention to the rings that make her catch her breath. And then buy one of those. Buy the one that you want her to associate with you when she glances at it on her hand every day for the rest of her life.

Because trust me, it could go another way. Say you don’t buy it now and you tell yourself that you’ll get one for her later, when you’re established in your career. Then in a year or two, when you’re out of grad school and you’ve got a nice job, you decide to go shopping for a nice big expensive car for yourself. You’ll conveniently tell yourself that you can pick your wife up some diamond earrings for your wedding anniversary. The ring is forgotten.

You will never get engaged to her again. You will never marry her again. The symbol of your love around this all-important ritualistic passage of life is too important to diminish.

Get over yourself, cheapskate.

Seems like I might have some personal issues around this particular topic. OK. Busted. But hey, it’s my diary.

18 March 2010

Fun at the rodeo

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Asking for what you want

Yesterday was rodeo day. Couldn't have been a nicer day. Sunny, warm and perfect. As a result, over 100,000 Houstonians joined us for the event. Just a tad bit crowded, but we adapted, like the survivors we are.

In preparation for the day, we brought along two cameras. Photo opportunities abounded. As an added bonus, some rodeo attendees added a layer of green to their already colorful cowboy attire, in honor of St. Patrick's Day.

I spotted one particular rodeo visitor among a group of her friends, purchasing a souvenir coin. She was wearing shamrock eyeglasses. I deparately wanted a photo and tried to conceal myself next to a nearby glass cabinet housing some artwork to cleverly capture to candid image. But to my dismay, she kept her face turned away from my lens.

The two guys next to me caught wind of my quest and they pulled out a camera too, with no better luck than my own. Finally, as they gave up and walked off, one of them suggested to me that I just ask her to pose for a photo.

Such a brilliant idea, and so much easier than my futile method. So I did. And she said yes. One of her friends joined in the fun and these two lovely ladies gave me one of the best photos of the day.
Why didn't I think of that?

16 March 2010

Learning, living

Another way of looking at my 49th birthday is the realization that yesterday I started living my 50th year. I accidentally overslept, went to work, finished a task, sent some thank you notes, did some laundry, completed an income tax return and prepared some food to get me through the week. I left a few tasks incomplete, but there are no dire consequences as a result. I will get to them.

Fifty is a rather significant milestone. It has a lot of depth, symmetry and context. Mathematically, you can express fifty in many different numerical combinations.

Maybe I’m getting more like that too.

I paused to consider what I can do with the days in my life that come next. There is nothing I can do to change the days that have come before. Perhaps that realization is a perfect place to begin.

Old memories bubble to the surface from time to time. Some memories are not exactly pleasant and I wish things might have been different. I wish I might have been wiser, made better choices, felt more confident, had a stronger connection with my faith, my voice, my desires.

Going forward, I’d like to grab these memories as they surface and dissect them, extracting every lesson, every grain of truth and each strand that connects me to God. I have been given the opportunity to live another day, this day. A chance to expand my own depth of humanity and embody symmetry in my life with a healthy balance between reason and creativity. A chance to express my individuality in many combinations of interests and pursuits. A chance to reflect the golden love of God, that precious gift in my heart, as I interact with people all around me.

But only if I am willing to learn from the experiences of my past, those lessons from the divine. Honor the mistakes, understand the difference between me then and me now. Illuminate the path ahead with a brighter candle, lit with faith, love, forgiveness and courage.

12 March 2010

Only her hairstylist knows for sure

I had a hair appointment after work yesterday afternoon. The older I get, the longer it takes to keep my hair looking presentable. Well, the actual appointment time itself is about the same; that is, the magical hair transformation process hasn’t changed. My own commitment time has increased because procrastinating on getting my hair done, while formerly just a minor annoyance, now results in some really bad hair days. Not pretty. So I have to keep on top of the appointment schedule. No stretching from 6 to 7 weeks anymore.

The process is somewhat time consuming and at this particular business location, on a late afternoon, no one else is present. Just the stylist and me. So we talk for a couple of hours. About family, recipes, death, relationships, entertaining, shopping, love, hurt, faith, heritage.

We share an amazing amount of information for two people that only see each other about 8 times per year.

I was there the afternoon that she received the telephone call with the news her father had died. I remember watching the numbness steal over her as she held the phone.

She was the first person I told that my former spouse had left me. She remembered how she felt when her own marriage ended in similar circumstances and she understood. She had no judgement.

I spend 8 hours per day in close proximity to a half dozen or so people here in my office. I love my employer and I admire the competence of my colleagues. But I do not have anything approximating the feeling of confidentiality with my colleagues that I do with my hair stylist.

So what’s up with that? There is definitely substance to that old saying about hairstylists.

11 March 2010

Springing forward & looking back

With the impending time change, I am anxious for spring to burst forth. Mother Nature is gathering momentum as the earth glides on its path, ever closer to the sun.

Paging back through my book of memories, the imprints of the season emerge: patent-leather shoes, my mom’s bunny cake, dandelions, my younger brother’s little league baseball games, hydrangeas in my grandmother’s yard, laundry hanging outdoors to dry. In my school years, with the coming of spring it became customary to spend lunch breaks picnicking on the courtyard lawn, brown bags of sandwiches and apples. The warm sun and easy, uncomplicated conversations of teenaged girls. Discussing lipgloss or sandals.

I’m not so far removed from that young girl. As I entered my closet this morning, I cast my eye over to the few pairs of shoes that will certainly announce the emergence of spring. The fuscia pumps, nude patent, red-white-black polka dot strappy sandals. And lip gloss in pale sugar pink or coral bright. I selected the nude patent pumps. As a proper southern girl, I still observe seasonal wardrobe boundaries. Spring-summer garments and shoes are off-limits until Easter. Except for my little episodes of cheating, like today.

It’s a neutral though. Sort of like the Switzerland of shoes, right?

08 March 2010

Life's busy season

Sometimes life has a busy season. Odd though, it’s been busy for as long as I can remember. That’s the baseline, but for the past 12 months the pace has accelerated. Almost nonstop. Leaping from one large-scale activity to the next, one holiday or social gathering to the next. A treacherously long list of items crossed off, one at a time. Cross off one, add two. Cross off two, add four.

Thankfully, we’ve lately crossed off more than we’ve added, but there is a very large-scale activity looming in the near future that will have a ripple effect on our list. These individual tasks haven’t really reached a critical junction in terms of an impending deadline quite yet. We’re planning a wedding. This June. 3 months away. That critical junction will soon be here.

On the one hand, it’s not a big affair, no significant fanfare. But on the other hand, it’s our wedding, for goodness sakes! We want it to be special and memorable and lovely. We’re doing almost everything ourselves: hand-drawn flourishes on each hand-written invitation, home-made decorations for the house, in-house catering (courtesy of the sought-after Cristy&Diane catering co), arranging our own hand-tied bouquets, even holding the happy event in our home.

From here, about 100 days away, it seems as though it won’t be a problem.

OK, perhaps not. But let’s look at it from another perspective. Factor in a handful of additional activities that will hit the calendar over the next 100 days, but are not on our current list: 6 birthdays, 2 graduations, 1 school choir performance, Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day.

Uh, well. I’m still optimistic.

I think it’s just the tempo of life. My hypothesis is that when I was younger I had less of an appreciation for the level of effort involved in keeping a balanced life moving forward smoothly. I’ve had to re-calibrate my baseline, or maybe just adjust it to compensate for this realization along with the possibility(?) that my ability to multitask has diminished through the years. Hmmm. For some reason, I seem to be OK with that.

Thank goodness I still drink coffee.

On home decorating

My father was a veteran of the Korean War. A recent high school graduate, he served in the Air Force in the early 1950s. It was a time of his life about which I have almost no information. But I do have some mementos.

He apparently went to Tokyo once on R&R and that young American soldier took a shopping excursion. Completely out of character for the man I later knew as my dad: the one who preferred to avoid shopping and purchases of any kind.

I took possession of some of the fruits of that shopping trip almost 18 years ago after he died. One particular garment box that has been on the shelf of my closet all this time held two kimonos. One silk and one cotton. And a silk obi. I vaguely recalled the cotton kimono (actually, a yukata) because I remember him wearing it around the house on a couple of rare occasions as I was growing up.

In my ongoing quest to rid myself of possessions that are “stored” forever in boxes in the closet, I pulled out these kimonos last week. Besides the few times he wore them, they have probably not been out of the box since 1953.

As I opened the box, I immediately saw the cotton kimono’s cheerfully crisp navy blue and white ziggy-zaggy stripe pattern. Beneath was the silk kimono, a garment unfamiliar to me. I pulled it from the box to discover it was lined in white silk. The colors of the kimono were a somber olive and sandy brown. And the pattern was also somber: Japanese soldiers on foot, carrying caskets that held their deceased comrades.

I wondered why in the world my father had selected these two kimonos. More than likely, the shops that he visited were full of gorgeous silk kimonos in brilliant colors adorned with patterns of birds and blossoms. But then I remembered that he was purchasing the kimonos for himself, this young man of 20, not some hypothetical daughter who in sixty years' time would probably prefer flowers to coffins. So I honor it for what it is. And I decided to find a way to add this kimono to my daily life, something I could touch, see and enjoy in my home surroundings. I decided to make a pillow cover from this kimono fabric.

Because I did not want to immediately cut into the fabric of the main garment, I decided to detach one of the elongated sleeves, perfectly rectangular shaped, as the basis for the pillow. All I needed to do was pull apart the seam between the sleeve and armhole. My scissors cut the first thread in the lining and I nearly gasped in amazement – the garment was hand sewn. The stitches I cut were not made by machine. I continued snipping apart the stitches, imagining the needle in the hand of the person who sewed it, carefully crafted it into the lovely garment now before me on the kitchen table.

I sewed the sleeve back together as a pillow, using a hand needle and thread. I’d like to be able to say that I selected this process in reverence of the kimono’s original integrity. But the truth is, I don’t own a sewing machine. I only sew by hand. For about 3 hours on Sunday, I busied myself with this project. My pillow insert should arrive in a few days and I will place it among the collection of pillows that adds a touch of color, life and whimsy to our surroundings. This one will add more: a shade of toil, echoes of an ancient culture.

The more time I spend thinking about and pursuing the process of decorating our home, the more I am convinced that decorating is not about copying the elements from a picture of someone else’s house. At least not for me. It’s about arranging the things I possess with love and creativity. It’s about finding ways to maximize the use and beauty of everything.

Red carpet moment

I’m going to be 49 soon. In one week. If I were to consult an actuarial table, I would be certain to learn that more than half my life has already passed.

Since I started writing this online diary and reading others’ blogs regularly, I’ve tried to keep an honest perspective about a variety of circumstances that weave through my daily existence. And then a bit earlier today, I read an essay by Katrina at Ordinary Day Journal. It made me recall a watershed moment in my life that opened my vision to see an alternate path. One that I eventually took years later.

As a youngster, and even as a young adult, I had the feeling that I somehow stood apart from the rest of the population. And not in a bad way, like I had body odor, but in a secretly special way. As though I had some unique talent, skill or intelligence that one day, the world would acknowledge. In the meantime, I worked really hard to accelerate my career. Honest to goodness hard work. But, I don’t know, in the back of my mind the thought was always there – what I was doing now was merely a resume entry for the grandeur that would surely come next.

However, one day it occurred to me that my life was exactly as it appeared to be. I was not being considered for a Nobel Prize, was not an esteemed author, a notable composer, nor an accomplished entrepreneur. The word that bounced around inside my head was mediocre.


It sounds considerably harsher now than it felt at the time. But it was as though an old fashioned alarm clock had started ringing. Noisy and persistent. Pay attention—this is your life! I had a middle-class American life. Nothing to either brag about or feel ashamed of. But since I was subconsciously waiting for the proverbial red-carpet moment for my life to begin, I let my days slip past without much notice. Until that alarm clock bell.

I don’t have all of life’s answers, because I am still learning, still finding the questions along each day’s journey. Like Katrina, and so many other bloggers that keep my perspective in check, the best I can do is acknowledge the present moment steeped in as much gratitude and joy as I can locate in my heart. And thankfully, I find that it is overflowing with both. Gratitude produces joy, which produces more gratitude.

As I read in a birthday card once, the gift of this day is the day itself. So, bring on 49. I am almost humbled to tears that I have had so many days to live and breathe, walk and talk, smile and love. And my gratitude escalates with each additional day.

03 March 2010

Lost + found (squared)

In December, I lost (misplaced) my driver’s license. That misfortune cost me several hours down at the DMV office waiting in a crowded, stuffy room to apply for a replacement. In January, I found it. In my car of all places. It apparently had spilled out of my purse at some point and fallen between the front passenger seat and door. Once I actually opened the passenger side door, it was easily visible. I just hadn’t bothered to look there previously.

At the time I found it, I was on the way to walk down the street and collect the mail, so I just placed it in the pocket of my jacket. As of yesterday, it was still there. I don’t wear that jacket very often, but with the cool weather, it has definitely gotten some wear of late. And every time I place my hand in the pocket, I notice it with surprise.

But since I don’t really need it, I haven’t done anything with my old driver’s license. Haven’t filed it. Haven’t destroyed it. It’s just there, in the pocket of that jacket.

Last night I went to fill up my car with gas and pulled on that jacket for a layer of warmth. Then somewhere between removing the gas cap and paying for the fuel the driver’s license fell to the ground unnoticed.

And someone else picked it up. And apparently googled me and found my blog. She left a message on my blog in the wee hours of the morning that she had my license and offered to mail it back to me. She’s a blogger too. I visited her blog today and found it very inspiring.

How awesome is that? (Well, not the part about me being completely irresponsible with a piece of personal identification.) The other part, about the cool person who tracked me down and offered to return my wayward driver’s license. Bloggers rock!

The elusive handyman

I was in a colleague’s office a few months back; there were several female homeowners present and the anxious topic of discussion focused on finding a capable, reliable, affordable handyman. None of the homeowners had husbands, but that is somewhat inconsequential since I don't happen to believe that husband and handyman are synonymous. (And don’t go thinking that I’m a misandrist, guys, it’s just that some jobs require a person with a proper set of tools and experience.)

I have been working with contractors on residential projects, large and small, for over a year now, and I am nearly certain that the handyman is on the endangered species list. There are no shortage of painters, landscaping crews, carpenters, tiling installers, electricians and fence builders. And we’re not afraid to get our hands dirty either: we both have done a remarkable amount of work that could have been outsourced to a handyman or other contractor. Last spring I used a chisel and hammer to remove hundreds of pounds of ceramic tile from the floor of my old house. Cristy built a fence for a protected dog-run in our backyard. We have changed locks, doorknobs, air filters and garage door codes. Hung book shelves, shoe shelves, curtain rods and plastic bag dispensers.

But so much of the routine maintenance of home ownership is beyond our skill and experience. As a result, we joined the pursuit to find a handyman. This is not as easy as we first believed it would be. The first hurdle is to get someone to return my call when I happen to locate an individual that appears to be in the true handyman business (rather than a sheetrock/painting contractor). And when they do return the call, it is hard to get them agree to show up.

We’ve gone through three so far. All have performed some services, but it is a long list and after crossing off a few tasks, and going home with a handful of cash in their pocket, they just seem to lose interest.

I found the website for a possible fourth contender and clicked on the “Contact Us” button to send our list of tasks to see if they might be interested. Just wanted to be very upfront – it is a random list of carpentry-type chores, not a glamorous kitchen remodeling project. But someone called me the next day to say they wanted the job. Wow, I thought that was great. He wanted to come by and look at the particulars so we could agree on a price. Even better.

I proposed Saturday.

He hesitated. Said there wasn’t anything booked, but he just wasn’t quite sure. He’d get back with me.


02 March 2010

Random miracles

I read a story in the newspaper this morning about a (former) patient in the hospital where I work. She was treated for a highly aggressive form of melanoma. Her prognosis was extremely bleak. She had three large tumors that did not respond to chemotherapy and only weeks after surgically removing them, they grew back. Her physician prescribed an even more aggressive treatment protocol. In the midst of this, while in the hospital, she received a visit from an unknown individual who simply asked if he could pray with her. She described her visitor in brilliant, gleaming terms and spoke of a profound feeling of peace and assurance during and after his visit. The identity of the visitor is not known to anyone.

She has been cancer free for two years now. Her recovery is miraculous. It makes me catch my breath in awe.

I work in a place where the investigation of cellular science is of the most vital importance to make discoveries that lead to better approaches for the treatment of cancer. Science.

Where is prayer in the equation?

Actually, it’s all around.

Chaplains make the rounds here constantly. In pre-op. Inpatient rooms. Infusion clinics. Staff members participate in prayer circles. Many, many of the employees in this institution have a strong connection to their faith. We pray for strength, for peace, for relief, for each other.

My struggle with faith boils down to this conundrum: two patients who both pray, one recovers and one dies. Did the one who died not pray quite right? Did God somehow favor the one who recovered more? How could this be part of the grand design?

Or is it random?

Random is the more scientific answer. Being a person who values my connection with God, it surprises me when I choose random. But I do.

Miracle? Absolutely. A random miracle.

01 March 2010

The clever canine

Living with a household of dogs is never dull. Their individual personalities have plenty of opportunities to claim the spotlight. Lately, my oldest mixed-breed, Jackie (14 years old), has been asking for more attention than normal. It might have something to do with his chronic aches and pains. Besides his daily medications, I give him massages and walk around through the house with him when he seems restless. We’ll position a space heater near him when he’s lying down for extra warmth. And there are plenty of quilts, throw rugs and towels on the floor for him to lie on in the rooms where the dogs like to sleep.

On a few occasions, we have noticed that his hind legs don’t appear to be working as they should. He demonstrates a fair amount of stiffness and appears to be uncomfortable. But the symptoms are transitory, because as a counterpoint, we also seem him trotting through the backyard and rolling about in the grass. And if someone knocks at the front door, stand back, because Jackie is first to lead the charge toward the door at top speed, tail held high, barking an alert for possible intruders.

Last week Cristy decided to conduct a little experiment. Since I leave for work in the morning first, she has the chore of rounding up the dogs and corralling them into their daytime designated dog play room. Sometimes they can be a little reluctant to get up from their morning naps to relocate. This particular morning, Jackie’s back legs seemed to be acting up, as they have in the past and he couldn’t quite get to a standing position. So he just lay down again to resume his nap. Perhaps he thought he might get an exemption from having to move to the play room.

As Cristy often reminds me, the dogs are clever, but we are the ones with the thumbs. So she executed a little ploy. She stepped around the corner and rapped sharply on one of the closet doors. In a flash, Jackie leapt to his feet, thinking it had been a knock at the front door. Of course the other dogs heard it too, and soon a chorus of barks sounded throughout the house.

The point however, is that as much as I hate to admit it, my sweet dog Jackie, might (just might) be a cunning manipulator, leveraging his aches and pains to try to get what he wants.

But, as they say, he had me at hello. So, I don’t mind playing along.