Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Greetings, blog fans. We declared a bye week due to travel and illness amongst the team, and now we’re baaaaaack.

And the name of a David Bowie song has been thrown down as the theme of the week.

Changes. Turn and face the strange. Today in central Ohio we are experiencing all four seasons in one twenty-four hour period. An hour ago the sky was black, the trees were bending to the point I thought I’d have to have the chainsaw gang out again, and I expected to see the words “Surrender Dorothy” written in the sky.

A few minutes ago this was the view from village central.

Bonus points to anyone who can name those structures.

Right now I’m wearing flip flips, but tonight we’re expecting rain changing to snow. 

Yesterday’s adventures started with errand running, as at one point the snow prediction for this week was four to eight inches. Ugh. Gross. It’s lovely and beautiful, yes, unless you’re in a rental car instead of your usual SUV trying to get into the driveway and then back out after picking up your luggage for a road trip.

Get stuck, back up, move forward, get stuck, back up, move forward ... 

Winter wonderland.

I arrived home from yesterday’s errand running adventures at the same time as my local pyrotechnic expert. You recall the limbs and branches and brush still awaiting incineration? We’re getting near the end, but we’re not there yet. Multiple attempts were made, but much like the burning bush … there were some seriously awesome flames but the wood was not being consumed!

Burning bush. I AM, is that you?

Time to wait for further drying out of the wood. And no, the brush pile did not magically go up in flames in the middle of the night. It may have been discussed that that would be kind of cool. The limbs did not start speaking at any point either.

Changes. I’ve been through so many changes in the last few years my head ought to be spinning. Vocationally I’ve done engineering / project management … direct sales … promotion / booking / etc. (quite a bit of etc.) for a faith-based film production company. Often more than one of those at the same time. I’m easily bored. J

And those who know me personally are aware I usually have a pro bono or volunteer effort going at any given time. Sometimes church related, sometimes secular nonprofit. I do try to be careful not to take on too much. It can be a quick transition from bored to burned out. I heard a missionary say once, when speaking about Satan tempting Jesus after his forty days in the wilderness, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

I’ve said no to more things in life than I can count. But the things I’ve said yes to … many times the ones I contemplated the least before deciding … the ones that just seemed right … or seemed obviously something I should do … have often led to crazy life experiences I never would have imagined. Listen to that still, small voice sometime.

Changes. Turn and face the strange.

I started working on a meme today using this quote from Brennan Manning …

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

I’ll post it in the next day or so, but the “deny Him by their lifestyle” phrase struck me. In the last few years there has been this change in the environment, in the arena of public discourse. Fueled I think by the internet, social media in particular, and twenty-four hour news stations leaning toward both ends of the political spectrum.

What do you think of when you hear “deny Him by their lifestyle”? Holier-than-thou Pharisaical types might think sins of the flesh … the fleshy flesh sins … and drunkenness … and gluttony.  Others might think those who don’t care enough (in their opinion) for the poor or the mentally ill or the addicted are denying Him. What if you are voting for presidential candidate X? Does someone think you’re denying Him based on your politics? What if you favor the death penalty? What if you wanted to make it to church Sunday morning but you were up half the night with the baby and you just couldn’t get it together? Does someone think you’re just lazy about your church attendance?

What if you think something is a sin because that’s what the bible says, but your neighbor says we’ve misinterpreted the original Greek? Are you not loving enough? A shrieky conservative? Is your neighbor deliberately justifying their own (or someone else’s) sin? Believing what they want to believe? Happy to find an explanation that doesn’t force them to figure out how to tell someone they’re wrong while being loving at the same time? It’s not easy.

It’s a giant gray can of worms.

So many have turned into Judgy McJudgertons. Without stopping to show some grace and check themselves first. Without stopping to consider facts even. Everyone is so sure they’re right.

Seriously, as one legit trained in the ways of science and engineering, words cannot describe the volume of social media posts and articles I see on a regular basis that make claims based on evidence that just isn’t there. Did anyone ever take a class where they learned about scientific method? Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? Beuller? You know, maybe in elementary or middle school?

I typically just scroll on by. Sometimes I hide and scroll. Sometimes I walk away from the interwebs for a bit.

I feel like love and grace is a better choice than engaging those not really interested in real versus junk science. Who glaze over when you start talking about things like math, statistics, control groups, clinical trials ...

These are strange times we live in. Everybody’s right. And everybody’s wrong.

I think I’ll just go read my bible and walk the primrose path for a while.

Primroses. On sale at the big bird this week.

For more on “Changes” from my writing partners, see Sue Bowles at and Leisa Herren at

I still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
And every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test

(Turn and face the strange)
Don't want to be a richer man
(Turn and face the strange)
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can't trace time

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're going through

(Turn and face the strange)
Don't tell them to grow up and out of it
(Turn and face the strange)
Where's your shame
You've left us up to our necks in it
Time may change me
But you can't trace time

Strange fascination, fascinating me
Changes are taking the pace
I'm going through

(Turn and face the strange)
Oh, look out you rock 'n rollers
(Turn and face the strange)
Pretty soon now you're gonna get older
Time may change me
But I can't trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can't trace time

~ David Bowie’s “Changes”

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Only Love

A Valentine’s post? Why not.

The theme of the week always comes from a complex ritual of eastern Buddhist meditation, reading of tea leaves, Gregorian chants, and the direction of the wind. Just kidding. Whoever texts first with an idea wins. If it’s Monday without an idea we start to get a little antsy and resort to creativity-on-demand.

I have no idea why, but Wynonna’s “Only Love” was running through my head for days, and I downloaded it last weekend. Nineties country. I lived in the south for most of the nineties, so there you go.

I tend not to be sappy and sentimental. I was raised to be fluent in sarcasm. But I like Valentine’s gifts as much as the next girl. Bob Russell has a great post on the subject. Note that he backs me up on my theory that a four foot teddy bear may not be the best gift. Dust mites! Clutter! Ack!


If you are celebrating next Sunday as Singles Awareness Day (i.e. SAD) don’t lose heart. Jesus was single. It worked for him. I’ll be playing two services in the morning and probably watching a Hallmark movie later in the day.

Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs.

Not that I’m any role model for dealing with stress, but I see too many people stressing over too many in-my-humble-opinion unnecessary things. Relationships or lack thereof. Politics. Miscellaneous meanie-poopoo-heads who aren’t going to change because someone vented about them on the social media. Don’t even get me started on the memes laying out how men should treat women. If you need to post a snarky meme about how your man should treat you … are you with the right one? Are YOU the right one? How do you treat him when not on the interwebs?

Sure there are reasons in all of that for stress, but let’s keep some perspective, people.

Only love. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8. My favorite verse. I’ve heard it whispered by the holy spirit many times. Even at times when I’d rather not think about it.

I’ll spare you the agape versus logos versus romantic love yada yada yada blah blah blah sermon … go read the whole chapter if you’re not familiar. To me it comes down to this …

Love God. Love people.

Love your neighbor. And who’s your neighbor? Yeah.

Many moons ago I was working in West-by-Gawd-Virginia. It would have been around 1999 – and I was probably still listening to country – because every electrical and controls engineer and their brother and sister and cousin including those at our contract engineering firms were working on the Y2K Project. Except me. I was part of the leadership team on a project where we were going to actually build something. For the young’uns among us … the Y2K Project was all about checking every computer, copy machine, coffee pot, and pretty much anything with a chip in it … to evaluate whether, when the year rolled over to 2000, cyberspace would become confused and something would blow up. I worked at a chemical company. It behooved us to be prepared. You see, back in the dark ages when Al Gore first invented the internet, it was common to use a two-digit field for the year. Soooo … when the clock changes from ’99 to ’00 … will that coffee pot think it’s 2000 or 1900?

Oh the humanity.

So I was doing this dance where as lead control systems engineer I single-handedly supported two dozen process engineers split between West Virginia and Texas. I visited my manager’s office almost daily to ask, “When am I going to get so-and-so? What about this other person? Anyone? Beuller?” I started visiting my buddy the acting manager once our mutual boss was also sucked up by Project Y2K.

So my coworkers and I were a little busy. On my project we would do drawing reviews every few weeks or months as we worked through the design. The core team would take up residence in a conference room for a week or two, and we would parade the other engineers and their drawings through, checking for consistency, catching any problems, and getting questions answered. Lunch was ordered in, and sometimes dinner as well. I recall at least one time when there was a power outage at our usual tech center location, giving all tech center employees the day off. Never fear, we found a conference room at the nearby plant and worked anyway.

One of the process engineers was a contractor named Ronnie. From his accent I’m sure he was a native West Virginian. Seriously, put me around him and my Appalachian twang would come back immediately. He was super nice and patient, but he really needed the manufacturing rep and me to go through some design questions with him. The manufacturing rep and I were so busy we once chose to carpool to a nearby engineering firm so we could talk through some of our “to do” list on the twenty minute drive.

“Come on, show me some love!” was Ronnie’s mantra. He was hilarious. I will never forget that phrase. Show me some love! Give me some attention. I need your time over here.

We made time for him. Only slightly very overdue. “Thanks for showing me some love!”

Who do you need to show some love to?

My mailman needs some love. A+ for MacGyverness. F for effort on a day when it's 19 deg & snowing.
Nope. No. Don't do it.

For more on “Only Love” from my writing partners, see Sue Bowles at and Leisa Herren at

I have sailed a boat or two
Out on the wild blue
Yonder to dreams that rarely come true
As far as I can see
From the island of green
I can put my trust in just one thing

And only love sails straight from the harbor
And only love will lead us to the other shore
Out of all the flags I've flown
One flies high and stands alone
Only love

Peaceful waters, raging sea
It's all the same to me
I can close my eyes and still be free
When the waves come crashing down
And the thunder rolls around
I can feel my feet on solid ground

And only love sails straight from the harbor
And only love will lead us to the other shore
Out of all the flags I've flown
One flies high and stands alone
Only love

~ Wynonna Judd’s “Only Love”

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Firehoses and Drinking Fountains

When last we spoke, I was looking forward to setting fire to things.


Specifically beaucoup de tree remnants around my yard. The rule of thumb around here is don’t burn when there are sustained winds over ten miles per hour. The wind has been over ten miles per hour for days and days and days. 

And days.

The pile of sawdust formerly known as an ash tree.

Former ash tree #2. 
Former ash tree #3.

More former trees. :Damaged in the great pre-Thanksgiving ice storm of 2014.

Main brush pile on the right. Auxiliary brush pile on the left.

Brush pile close-up.

I have a garden hose handy just in case. Response time from the local fire department is generally good around here. But we don’t want to have to call in no stinkin’ firehoses!

Would you rather drink from a firehose or a drinking fountain?

Think about it for a minute. Consider the laws of physics.

Perhaps watch this demo from the classic Weird Al pic “UHF”. (The clip is cool, but language warning on the comments, as always on the YouTube.)

Drinking from a firehose is a metaphor for being overwhelmed, taking on too much, and being blown away. Kind of reminds me of the videos we watched in I think it was high school freshman science class. Effects of a nuclear bomb blast as demonstrated with a pumpkin. Seriously. This was highly educational and relevant during the cold war. At least I grew up after the era when students practiced ducking under their desks for protection.

My apologies if I seem scattered. I’ve been unusually blessedly busy since the first of the year. No time for boredom around here. I’m also listening to recently downloaded “Grease Live” music as I write. Only the Aaron Tveit tracks so far since I was looking by artist on the family sharing. But really what more do you need. Gah! I liked the broadcast the other night. My bullet point review:

  • Vocals on the opening song were iffy. Didn’t really do it for me.
  • The new Frenchy song was fine. It was nice. Unnecessary but it didn’t hurt anything.
  • I was underwhelmed by Boyz II Men. Sigh. I had high hopes.
  • Mad kudos to the camera and special effects peeps on the drag racing scene.
  • Aaron Tveit is hot.

I’m trying not to break out in show tunes in the presence of all these fine people in the coffee shop tonight.

Drinking from a firehose. There’s an analogy to be drawn between that and trying to keep toys and clutter under control when a two-year-old is around.

Post party when you’re trying to pack up & head for the car. “Oh, you wanted to keep the path to the door clear? But I had to play with the blue truck, the green one, the blue car, the yellow school bus, the red fire truck, 1-2-3-go! .. .the dinosaur … roar! … and the yellow ball.”

Monday morning rolled around. Nutrition class is done. There’s another on-demand set of lessons I’d like to dig into, but nope. I need to shelve that for now.

The really great news is the wind was under ten miles per hour! I gathered up random paper and dryer lint. Dryer lint … yes, really, it’s a great way to start a fire. Matches, work gloves, scuzzy boots, yes.

The best laid plans.

I tried for nearly an hour to get that pile to burn. After a while I lit a paper grocery bag full of loosely crumpled paper on fire … twice … and still … the wood barely smoked. In the course of all this I gave myself a nasty paper cut with some cardstock from the recycling bin. I was wearing an old coat that’s not a big deal … but … I bled on my coat! And on random kindling and matches.

I tried. I failed. Lesson … never try.

Being home alone at the time, I didn’t want to play with the next steps. I may be skilled and educated in the ways of combustion, but I am also skilled and educated in the ways of safety.

I called in reinforcements. I may know a pyro or two. While waiting for the next attempt at ignition scheduled for later in the day, I did the logical. I went for a walk. Mild weather with low wind? Yes. I even got to visit with my friend Scarlet.

My neighbor Scarlet. 

Next issue of the day … vegetables or the lack thereof in my refrigerator. Jambalaya doesn’t happen in my house without the addition of significant veggies to the mix. Off to the grocery … and when I returned … smoke signals were going up …

Smoke signals.

Before long the brush pile was fully engulfed. Yes.

Burn baby burn.

I put away groceries, changed back into scuzzy clothes, and started dragging branches around the yard. I felt like I was hailing back to my ever so brief shotputting days while heaving some of those monstrosities onto the fire. Burn baby burn.

The next morning the pile of ashes was still smoking.

Nuclear winter?

There is still more burning to do, but we made a huge dent. We might have taken the firehose of yardwork down closer to drinking fountain level for now.

The firehose of work-work is ramping up. Being a person who is comfortable with change and uncertainty, though, I am loving it. And did I say work? Technically it is work, but when you love what you’re doing …


Drinking fountains.

I think I’ll go hydrate.

For more on “Firehoses and Drinking Fountains” from my writing partners, see Sue Bowles at and Leisa Herren at