Excellent Strategy

We caved and got cable coverage just for this month. Hey, it’s for the Olympics. So far we’ve seen figure skating and ice dancing. Last night, we sampled snowboarding in the men’s half pipe qualifying rounds.

They proved to be more interesting than originally thought. Each participant would have 2 chances to show their stuff on the extra-long pipe, the judges only keeping each man’s high score. Thirty men from various countries would whittle down to 12 for the finals.  Shaun White, four-time Olympic veteran and two-time gold medalist, showed up to play. At 31 years old, bless him, he’s easily the dad of the group. The median age seemed to hover in the low 20s.

The boarders took their turn, each with a different feel. Style counts in snowboarding, in case you didn’t know. You get points on attitude and technique. It’s not only about the tricks.


The team USA members resembled astronauts in their khaki jackets and pants, an American flag on their left shoulders. Their white helmets helped. The reflective face shields rendered them completely unrecognizable. Otherworldly, they hovered in the air, spun, flipped and dipped.

Some were casual. They were out for a stroll on a snow-encrusted cement pipe. Some had more intensity. They wanted to be remembered.

I considered strategy. What would I do? Then I knew. Shaun White was in the house. I would want to qualify. That means I would bring it. Every. Time. Just a few hundred -yards over, the men’s alpine skiing shut down for awhile due to 50-mile-an-hour winds. What if you only got one run in? What if you fell? I couldn’t afford to miss any opportunity to nab a spot in the last group.

Others  had the same idea. Ben Ferguson of Bend, Oregon, came out and did a 91-point run. The Tomato himself did a first run scoring 93.25 points.

“People forget you still gotta qualify to get to finals. I was stoked to put that run down. That took the pressure and the edge off, and then I started seeing everybody putting these great runs and I figured I would kin of just step it up. They motivated me to send it on that last run.” – Shaun White, on why he did a 98-point second run

And isn’t that the point? Bravo, Mr. White, and all the competitors. Stay inspired, and you will inspire the world. Makes me think of this scripture (below). Our pastor preached on it this past Sunday. It’s made me think about how I impact others. How can I inspire excellence and encourage, too? I’ll never be an Olympian, but I can strive to win in my life’s arenas every day.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is calledToday,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13



First Project

Today, I finished and submitted my first set of project specs.

I am over the moon.

cow jumping over moon


Now, I should mention that I edited the Cover, Table of Contents, Instructions for Bidders, Supplemental Conditions, the Invitation to Bid, the Bid Form and the Sample Contract. I’m only responsible for those. I never did any of this type of editing work at the City. For this project, we had no technical specs (traditionally and old-fashioned-ly Thurston County only recognizes divisions 0-16, even though there are now 23 divisions), plus a few mechanical drawings to add to the pile.

But they are done, despite me missing the first two days of this week because of Ruby’s illness and the due date for them being yesterday, Wednesday, February 7. We got special dispensation for the Contracts Coordinator to walk them over to the Prosecuting Attorney’s office so the Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney could sign the Supplemental Conditions. That’s the first step before they ever get advertised and then put out to bid. It usually takes a 3-day turnaround. It was only an hour in this case.

It’s exciting.

It’s so great to have done something. This will be my project. It’s my only baby, and I’m raising it with much guidance and oversight from my senior, Lisa. She’s been here more than 25 years and knows the ropes very well. I’m shadowing her on her projects-already-in-process as well.

But she had meetings most of yesterday morning. So I stumbled through the specs, doing what I knew to do first. Twice I thought I was done. Yet I wasn’t. More attachments and more editing needed to happen. I sort of like an adrenaline rush, but maybe not for my first set of specs. I would have liked more time with them, to sit in them more, mull them over. They grew up so fast.

This engineering estimate for the project is between $40,000 and $300,000, which is below the “formal” threshold the County must abide by. It can be published on Builder’s Exchange of Washington, and be sent to the mechanical contractors on the Small Works Roster the County maintains.

If for some reason we missed the deadline, all the other scheduled meetings – walk-thru, contract award, pre-construction – would have to shift. It’s a domino effect. That’s a LOT of rescheduling. It sort of motivated me to get on it and stay on it.

“Susan, you are very efficient,” the project manager mused with a smile.

Well. You try rescheduling a half dozen meetings. Plus, I know this project is priority with our director. I don’t want to be the one gumming up the works.

Baby project is about to take its first step. Soon it will off and running under its own steam. Yes!

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” – Zechariah 4:10

Sneaky Flu

Ruby’s got the flu. I’m home with her at least today and maybe tomorrow, as Jonathon’s out of town.

She came downstairs Sunday morning, flushed and shaking.

“Mom, I don’t feel good,” she said, breathless. She’d gotten home the day before from a two-day long youth convention in Portland. The combination of too little sleep and junk food meals did her in.

I quickly wrapped her up on the couch. She already suspected she had a temperature, because she held the thermometer in one hot hand. The thermometer beeped almost immediately: 100.6 degrees.

“Okay,” I said. “You’re staying home with me.” I didn’t have any church obligations, and even if I did, most likely whatever instrument Jonathon was scheduled to play would trump my back-up vocals.

I grabbed some Dayquil from upstairs, thinking it might give her relief from the fever and sore throat. But she threw it up. And threw up again later. I asked her if she wanted to go back to bed. I’d be here to take care of her.

“Can I just sleep on the couch?”

Sure. Pick a couch. We have six.

She parked herself, a huddled, barely sentient lump, on the purple couch in front of the TV. I left her alone. I had vacuumed that room early in the morning. I’m glad I did now. I checked in on her, added a blanket. After a few hours, we tried some water. She kept it down. Then, tea. She groaned now and then. Her stomach still roiled. She fell asleep at one point. I think that helped immensely. Her temp peaked at over 102 degrees.

She never ate any solid food. I ran a hot bath for her and got her into bed, this time with Nyquil. She woke up a bit better today. She drank tea, even put milk in it herself. She ate a bit of toast and cut up mango.

I don’t like it when one of the kids is sick. I imagine most parents don’t. We wish we could take it on ourselves instead. We know we’ll recover; we only have to wait it out. But maybe that’s something we should let our kids learn on their own. It’s part of growing up. We’ve already rooked them out of experiencing chicken pox, measles and mumps. I had all of those as a child. They helped me to learn that I can get really, really sick and still recover. Healing is possible. God designed our bodies to function in amazing ways. We have immune systems that we can enhance for greater, faster recovery. We can play a part in our healing, but ultimately, God does the work.

So, in a way, I get a front row seat to a small miracle with my girl. She’s already laughing a little and voicing her preferences again. We’ll keep her and ourselves quarantined until the ick passes. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

See the source image

Penultimate Joy

It’s Wednesday again. And the last day before my probation ends.

it's a good thing

I can’t believe it. I thought this day would never arrive.

The. Longest. Probation. Ever. In the history. Of. The. World.


I am on permanently with the county as of tomorrow. I’m in my new digs in the basement of the courthouse building. It’s rather ugly down here, rabbit warren hallways, ancient linoleum, and 80s grade school era bathrooms (minus the pink powdered soap). Some of my colleagues refer to it as “the dungeon”. But I have a desk and a computer with two monitors and a phone and a chair that’s at the right height. Those count for something. Plus, I have coworkers who are kind and funny and who really like me. They even want me here. Poor deluded creatures.

I’ve been contemplating God’s great mercy today. I never thought I would leave the city. I was happy there. I felt called there, that I belonged there. I lived in the community and felt honored to participate directly in my local government.  But sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. And then it’s…”please stand by” time as the new chapter unfolds. This time with Thurston County has been like that. Lots of questions and wondering what’s next. Am I in the right place? Am I doing the right things? Why did the old path disappear? Did I do something wrong? I still don’t know.

Yet underneath it all has been a bedrock of peace. I have a place here. I can grow and learn and be myself all at once. I’m not going to miss what God is up to in this life, as long as I’m asking, seeking and knocking. I might stumble a bit along the way as I search out light sources, more lamps, if you will. It’s important to stay open and to listen.

I don’t know much. But I do know the One who knows everything and has since time began. He will never fail me.


Needful Light

light bulb

This morning, Dakota and I rooted around for a ball. We walked here and there, searching high and low. We hadn’t had a chance to clean up all the downed limbs and twigs from Saturday’s windstorm. That made it more challenging. The dearth of daylight at 5:00 a.m. was a huge detriment. The ball hid well. Olly olly oxen free! I wanted to yell.  I did find one inside, however, and frolicking ensued. Well, on Dakota’s part. I trudged up and down the driveway, breathing in the cold, clear air. It felt great to be outside and dry for a few minutes.

I put Dakota inside and headed out.

This morning, I ran. I haven’t run in a while because I was trying something new. It’s not really working. I need running. I feel it like an amputee feels her missing leg. I mean, it’s worked in the sense that I feel better and I’m eating less carbs. It’s not working in the sense that I’m not as fit as I’d like to be, but it’s a jumping off place. More on that later.

So…running. The moon shone down from a mackerel sky with a silvery glow that lit up all the surrounding clouds. It hung there, nearly full and enormous, eclipsing all but the brightest stars. It stayed on my left as I ran. Two of the streetlights were out along the main drag. I walked during that stretch, as the darkness was nearly total. I should have brought a flashlight, I suppose, but I didn’t anticipate needing one.

I noticed something I’ve mentioned before. As cars passed me, I used their headlights to guide my steps. Sure, they only stayed within vision for a half minute. But it was enough to get me up the road. Then another car would come along. Their lights helped me, too. The cumulative effect of the mobile lights allowed me to see where I needed to go.

It got me thinking about how the light of other believers helps us. Someone will have a word of encouragement, or a correction and that propels us forward. Someone else will cause us to remember a worship song or a Bible verse. We take another step or two, tentative, but progress.

With the gleam of temporary radiance, I moved along at a good clip, despite the lack of constant light. I reached the top of the street. An overhead streetlight led me to the next area. I didn’t need the passing cars’ brilliance anymore.

We all have seasons where we simply have no direction. We wander in the dark until a helpful lamp appears. We can’t see the destination just yet. But the light, the extra illumination, is most welcome. Then we can continue on the path set before us. We may even be able to run.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:5-6



After the Storm

It started out a typical Saturday morning.  I was all set to run to the store for a few items. I’d worked out, showered and downed my banana breakfast shake laced with protein powder, peanut butter and spinach.

All of a sudden, stuff started falling out of the sky. Tree branches. Twigs. Logs. Boom! a neighborhood transformer went off. Our power stayed on. I looked out the window. Trees danced, swaying back and forth in an alarmingly limber fashion.

I dashed to the store. When I returned, the power had gone out. This put the kibosh on our other activities. The wind blew on. I want to mention here that my phone, usually a chatty sort of electronic device, gave *no* notice of any high winds. Not even a flood watch darkened my screen. Zip.

Deck 1

Deck 2

We moved our cars to front door access. Less trees lurked overhead there. Ruby and I did some Mad Libs. I made her my famous cocoa. Rex snuggled in my lap. We sat in front of the wood stove and the wind blew on. I figured we could hunker down, with our wood heat, leftovers, board games and light-a-match gas range stove for quite some time.

Then the lights came back on. Boom! And another nearby transformer bit the dust.

Then, this.

Blocked road

This is one end of the small access road connecting 3 houses, including ours, to the main road. The trees landed right in front of our neighbors’ home at the far end, blocking them from leaving their driveway. So far, the storm had been a mere inconvenience. Now, it was serious.

Jonathon and our next door neighbor talked to the road crew clearing the main road. Trees blocked it at the top as well. They worked away with chainsaws, a backhoe and a dump truck with a chipper.

“I know this road is a priority, but our road is blocked. Do you think you could clear it?” Jonathon and our near neighbor asked.

The guys said main roads all over town were closed. They took priority over residential streets.

“Okay. But the house on the end can’t even leave their driveway.”

That gave them pause.

Soon, the whine of chainsaws seemed louder and closer. They got to it.

Now, most people living in Shelton own a chainsaw, and/or a gun. It’s just that kind of “handle your own problems” type of place. But sometimes, you get a little help. Our former pastors offered to help us clear the misplaced logs with their chainsaw and strong backs.  Thanks to the crew who took care of a potentially dangerous situation, and to those kind folks who offered to help. Thanks for showing what a real community looks like.



Hawk Eye

Today was my last day on the prairie. It rained off and on all day long. I snuck in breaks when the windows revealed a sunbreak or at least a brighter sky.

I stepped out the door for the last afternoon break. Something caught my eye. A large object looked in the poplar tree across the street. Was it a bag, caught by the tree’s branches? Was it a cancerous outgrowth?

Then it moved.

red-tailed hawk.jpg

I had crossed the street by this time to get a better look. I stood watching it. I fought with the zipper on my coat. The sound probably caught its attention. The large bird, a hawk in all it glory, turned its head around to look at me. I finally got the coat zipped.

The hawk stared. I stared. Then, bored of our silent interaction, it mounted up and flew away.

I continued my circuit around the prairie loop. I hoped to spy a female hummingbird wintering over in Washington. I named her Ingrid. No Ingrid today. But the sun had moved down low in the sky. She was probably somewhere hunkered down, keeping warm. I saw chickadees and heard the melodic strains of red-winged blackbirds calling to each other.

As I walked down the hill to turn into the complex one last time, the hawk soared above me. He flew over the road, seemingly without effort. I watched him go.

I smiled. It felt like a prairie “adieu”. Everything has its season. I’ve had mine. It’s time to move on. 

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1