Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I have been cold all evening. The heat is cranked to 76 now (I have kept nudging it up all evening) and yet chills are coursing through my body. No, I am not ill. In fact, the thermometer has read 96.9 degrees the last four times I have checked my temperature. Can one freeze to death on a sofa in a stifling hot house?

Monday, April 16, 2007

I was reading this sermon about faith the other day. At one part, the pastor talked about Paul singing hymns while in prison. A familiar story, eh?

What has stuck with me is that the pastor pointed out a different sort of thought. It wasn't that he was singing hymns or that he was doing so in jail. It was that he was doing so in jail, at midnight. It was probably dark and fetid and rife with rodents and bugs and all manner of unpleasant things. It was midnight in such a place, and Paul was singing hymns.

The pastor asked, almost reflectively, when our midnight came, in whatever form, what was our response...

It is midnight in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Paul sang because God did not punish him by putting him in jail. Paul sang because he knew that God works all things, not some, but all, things together for the good. Paul sang because He is worthy of praise...even in the darkness, even in the stench, even in the suffering.

I have thought long on my response to the pastor's questions because a part of me feels as if midnight has been lingering for months on end, the darkness and stench and creepy crawly things pressing in on all sides. During this time, my songs have faded to weak warbles, hardly recognizable as paeans to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Midnight can linger. Midnight can fall unexpectedly. And, in this life, there will always be a midnight. When it comes, what will our response?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I traveled down the road a bit to hide in the home of a friend.

T, I believe, is a nurturer. Even when her life is mass confusion, she will turn away from that which is before her to focus on others. She welcomes me into her home with no expectations, no judgements, and plenty of gourmet food.

A hundred and one office visits, exams, tests, and new prescriptions later, I have the surgery scheduled for the 25th. Being much of a wimp, I am not looking forward to this and have practically begged B to drop everything and come hold my hand. I am praying I will be brave no matter the answer to my plea.

In the midst of all of this, I learned my grandfather has lymphoma. When it rains, it pours. I am confident he will meet this with the grace with which he has walked his entire life. And yet I would not wish the uncertainty, the discomfort, the distress upon anyone, least of whom a man who lost his wife, nearly died of pneumonia, and then was plagued by shingles for months on end.

Tired and overwhelmed, I crawled into the comfort of T's home. She did not disappointment. For example, I now have candy apple red toenails. They got that way after an hour long, surprisingly relaxing pedicure.

T also filled my stomach and my luggage with chocolate. I sort of went half crazy over the thought of sweets, especially chocolates. Candy bars and brownies galore came home with me. along with a few bags of long-sought-after-for Bit-O-Honey. Her refrigerator was filled with Dr. Pepper, although the cinnamon buns somehow did not make it home with me.

In addition to new beauty experiences, I had pastrami for the first time. T made these rather tasty crackers topped with stone ground mustard, Dietz & Watson pastrami, and spinach (I ignored the grape tomato she would have added as well). I think that I chowed down on 12 of them after we had finished our lunch. I chowed down and lost another game.

Despite the fact that she was falling asleep on her feet, T played poker with me. I foolishly bit the dust quite early in the game. She also played Bull Crap, a game she taught me last time, and a new domino's game: chicken feet. I lost both of them, too. Winning is virtually impossible between herself and her husband.

However...really...I was a winner the whole weekend.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I met with a Christian realtor tonight and had a completely different experience than I have been having with the realtor I first approached. Lately, she has been pressuring me to sign an agreement that seems a bit hinky to me. I mean, have you ever heard of having to pay a non-refundable retainer to a realtor that also cannot be applied to the commission?

This new realtor came with a marketing plan, photos, and all the papers I would need to sign from the get go. Nothing was hidden. Nothing was put off until later. She brought me the comps in the area and talked about my idea of a listing price. Really, I felt so relieved in the process.

However, it turned out that her visit was not about selling my house. The visit was not about me at all. It was about her. In just a few weeks, her children and grand children are heading off to the mission field. She was worried for their safety, for the well-being of the children growing up as third-culture kids, and for the closeness of her family being so far away. For about an hour this evening, I spent the time encouraging her in the Lord, talking about my own time in the field, about the rightness of the call of Christ for all their lives, and about how she could use the skills displayed in my marketing packet (DVD, flyers, website) to keep her family close and connected with each other. Reach out and touch with new technology!

We ended the evening in prayer. I prayed for her family and her feelings and the way God is working in all their lives. She prayed for the right time to sell and the right buyer and my health...Before she left, she broke down in tears and thanked me for being such an encouragement to to her...

She refused to sign any agreement until after I have the surgery and know better what my future plans should be. Now, what kind of realtor is that?

Monday, April 09, 2007

If you did not figure it out, the doors are upside down. I cannot just flip them, because the top section needs two holes and there is only one hole on the current "bottom." I am rather loathe to try and drill a second hole because the block holding the fixtures of the bi-fold door appears to be like pressed cardboard. A piece of it broke off when I was putting one of the top fixtures in earlier. I am a bit flummoxed as to how to fix this...especially since I am sure the man who cut them down for me would not volunteer to do it a second time. At least my paint job looks good!

Today was quite hectic. One miscalculation was that while I was left behind to hold down the fort, I was not briefed on the national board meeting details. I fielded so many calls of questions that I lost track of them. An assumption led to a missing plane ticket and a miscommunication led to a missing hotel reservation. To top it all off, no one had checked the mailing list for PO Boxes before the FedEx packages went out, so nine of the board books were still sitting in distribution centers. I called for each address and then updated the three places they are stored. And I thought I would be twiddling my thumbs for three days. Boy, was I wrong!

I started a guideline for the next assistant-to-the-assistant who arrives there so that he/she will not have to reinvent the wheel, as I am the third and still have to figure out things as I go along...sometimes a bit too late. I always like to leave places better off than I found them, so I hope this project will be as helpful as I imagine it to be. It is a poor exchange for the vast amount of time I have had to edit my novel while being paid for sitting at a desk. However, it is a good start, eh?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Resurrection Day!

This day was filled with a few blessings for me, primarily through the woman with whom I work at my MWF temp job. She invited me to her church and to a dinner party afterwards. I know...shocking, eh? Me doing something social.

The worship music was a band with the bass set so loudly that I could not hear a single word of the singers, but the sermon was biblical and sound. The surprising part was that the pastor talked about the CFL revolution that was on the horizon (those compact florescent bulbs I've written about earlier). He used the analogy to talk about how Jesus is the true light of the world and if more Christians would set aside their own agendas to walk in obedience to Him it would be a revolution greater than even the billions and the environment that can be saved by those "swirly" bulbs. To show his commitment to being good stewards of this world, he bought bulbs for every household in the church.

At the dinner, I had the opportunity to talk with a man who is slated to go to Ethiopia on a two week mission trip next August. His family, not being Christians, are livid at the idea. We talked about our common experience (both mission work and non-Christian families), and I was able to encourage him. For a small moment, despite how I have been feeling, I was able to be light and salt to a brother in Christ. For a small moment, I was useful in the kingdom of God, even being the cracked vessel that I am. What a great God He is! Selah.
The woman served that Honey Baked ham I so enjoyed at Thanksgiving and piled a plate high for me to take home. Delicious!

When I came home, I painted the second coat on the basement closet doors. The whole time I was painting, I kept trying to figure out what was wrong with the doors. Below is a photo of the new floor and one of the doors. See if you can tell what is wrong with them!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

I have plowed through all my projects for the weekend save one: re-grading the front of the house. Given that tomorrow is the celebration of the day Christ rose from the grave, I shall leave that for my next day off.

Yesterday evening, as soon as I got home from my temp job, I changed into old clothes and raced through mowing the yard. Ten days had passed since the last mowing, and I suppose the fertilizer was kicking in for the grass in the back yard was quite high. In fact, the back yard is filling in nicely. Now, if only the front yard would feel the competition and get its act together.

I also had to bring in all the plants that I had put outside just last week. I had thought that it was safe to do so, but the giant begonia, the hibiscus, and the bonsais would not survive the coming cold snap.

I waited to eat until after I had waxed the basement floor so that it could be drying during dinner. Once it was dry, I began the arduous task of getting all the furniture back down to the basement. The beds, mattresses, bedding, tables, lamps, dresser drawers, chairs, settee, boxes, etc. The fact that I would finally have my living area back was the impetus to get the job finished. I will say that once the bedding was back on the beds, I felt immeasurably better. Having the basement empty and the floor stripped down to the concrete was discouraging, a huge step backward in my eyes. I did have to do a load of laundry so that I could wash the fitted sheets I keep over the box springs before putting them back, but I left off folding the rest and putting it away until later.

Today, I put the new closet bi-fold doors together, hung them, and then painted them. Since the paint is oil-based, I will not be able to do the second coat until tomorrow. So, I turned my attention to the yard. I have bricks lining the edge of the yard. Facing the house, the ones on the left had gotten all crooked. On the right, I had been keeping these railroad ties that had been left at the curb to hold back the yard until the three sidewalk sections were replaced. Last week, I pulled up the wood, and with G.'s help, cut them up so that I could put them in my county trash containers. Today, I pulled up all the bricks across the front and then dug out the dirt that had been pushing the left side ones forward and had spilled across on the right side. Marching across the front of my yard now is a smart row of bricks. Even though the sidewalk sections are still missing, I believe it looks quite a bit better. As I was working, I was quite thankful that the weather was frigid because it meant that while I was shoveling dirt and arranging bricks I did not grow hot. Now...if only the cold weather could last until I get the grading done!

To make sure that I was completely productive, I ran to the bank to deposit my check, played with Kashi in the back yard, emptied the dishwasher, cleaned the kitchen, mopped the kitchen floor, watered the plants, finished the laundry, cleaned out the utility closet, cleared off all the things that had congregated to the basement stairs, and sorted through the paperwork that has piled up since I started the basement floor project.

Fancy and Madison noted that their cage still needs to be cleaned out, but I have decided that enough has been done this day. Instead, I popped in About a Boy so that I could lounge on the cough, laugh a little, and get some rest.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Today, I gathered my courage to offer some advice to the chief of staff. Their server is quite a mess, and his desktop was worse. I introduced him to knowledge management by organizing one folder and then showing him what I had done. I also taught him the marvelous wonders of the quick launch bar and how one can still have shortcuts without cluttering up the desktop. The final icing on his cake was a shortcut to the drive on the server he used most. He had been navigating his way through from the neighborhood networks process, a many click process. Now, one click and he is there!

I also gave him my resume under the guise of offering it as a means for letting him know my skills in case I could help in other ways than filing and making copies. He gave me a task with a PowerPoint presentation for their next board meeting and asked if I could get it done in an hour. It took me just three minutes. Perhaps that was another open door to at least do work that will keep me awake during the day.

I would say, however, was that my greatest accomplishment of this day was that I burned the 48 CD's of photos from the family archive project (a task I have been avoiding for a month). I lugged the CD's to the office in my backpack and then just popped them in and out all day in between my arduous filing, copying, and opening mail work.

Now, scanning the documents is all that is left. I need to jump on the ball with them, just dive in and forget how sick of this project I am. This will be the last time they are all together, and I do not want to miss this opportunity. Of course, scanning means I have to move all the books from the basement that are sitting on the table right now.

Perhaps tomorrow...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

My great accomplishment today was 350 booklets for a national association meeting.

First, I collated four stacks of 350 sets into one set. Then I collated two stacks of 350 sets into a second one. Of course, someone decided to add a position paper into the first set, so I re-collated those two stacks into another set.

These two sets were the final ones that needed to be added to what I collated the other day. So, there were 700 pocket folders that had to be filled. I tried doing the work with my eyes closed, but that did not work very well. I did try to honor God even in this work, though my heart was heavy that here I was doing something mindless when I long to use my brain for something strategic, something substantial.

They had allotted two days for the job, but I finished by 4:30. Another miracle for that office. However, my miracles have paid off.

I gathered my nerve and gave my resume to the woman who hired me. She promptly emailed it to four people she knows. I was stunned and thankful and mentally took back all the grumbling I thought about her calling me "good girl."

I still want to move to Appleton, but I do know that if I were to get a job and hang on here for another year or two, I could whittle down the debt I have accumulated and move from a stronger position.

While I am thankful for the paycheck I will receive for this day, I would not be sorrowful if no more collating jobs came my way...

Monday, April 02, 2007

The floor is laid. Step one of many more...unfortunately. I still need to clean it, wax it, find someone to lay the shoe molding, and move all that furniture and books back down there. And I need to paint the new basement closet doors.

Sunday started with an act of grace from God. My dear friend B stopped by during a longer road trip to say hello and to carry those darned heavy tile boxes from the car to the basement steps. She and her sister hefted the burden that had been weighing down on me.

Of course, I had to then have an asthma attack.

Then came another act of grace. My writing student's parents stopped by to help with the boxes as well. Her father arranged them across the floor for me and then carried more furniture up so the process would go more smoothly.

Then I had an allergy attack.

The floor is, unfortunately, not very even. This meant that the layer of adhesive had thick spots where it took forever for them to set up initially. So, the entire job was not finished until 1:45 AM.

The tiles are heavy. The edges rough. My fingers are still sore from the ones that had to be scored and then snapped off to fit. My back and legs still ache from being bent over for hours on end. Yet...the floor is laid.

The final grace of the day was that my writing student came over in the early evening and worked along side me for about five hours. I cannot put into words how full my heart was at her aid. The process is so arduous, yet she stayed until all that was left were those crazy difficult ones around the doorways that only one person could truly do.

Today, I could barely keep my eyes open at work. I got a call for a job tomorrow, so I will not be able to catch up on my sleep until Thursday. I suspect the minutes are going to crawl by until then...