Stop, Thief! Update

socialsecurity

I just got a call from the North Dakota police department.  Lieutenant somebody said they have a man in custody who has my Social Security card.  The lieutenant asked if I had a crime “occur” recently.  Why yes!  But I don’t think crimes of fashion count.  Of course, if know my blog, you know my purse was stolen in the beginning of September, early morning on the day before school started up again. My peace of mind disappeared for awhile as well.

The gentlemen in lockup has several cards of other hapless citizens.  I guess the police thought Mr. Crook didn’t look much like a Susan, after all.  He leave my lipstick behind.  I can see it now:  “Officer, the operation didn’t work!  I’ll keep taking the hormones!”

At first, I thought it was yet another solicitation call for funds.  The blind K-9s of Fargo need your support!  But then I thought, Is North Dakota’s finest that hard up that they would call someone in a remote Washington town for funds?  Nah.

I did file a police report, way back when.  The North Dakota officer wanted to know the name of the policeman who headed up the investigation.  I couldn’t remember it, nor did I keep his card.  I’m bad that way.  Anything extraneous in my life gets thrown out or recycled;  less clutter, more peace.  It’s sorta my mantra.  It sounds better in Latin:  Minus Turbamentum, Magis Pax. Hey!  I could make it a family crest!

I will admit a little curl of fear wound its way around my heart as we talked.  I wondered what was going on.  I still do.  Has Mr. Robber opened credit cards in my name?  Has he bought a condo in Miami Beach?  Is he my long-lost twin?

I had thought this seemingly minor chapter in my life was closed.  It’s with some trepidation that I await more news.  I also await some more good that will come out of this debacle.  Stay tuned, folks!

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Gotta Have Faith

Now you’ve all got the George Michael song in your head.  Admit it!

I think this is the most challenging part of being a Christian:  having faith.  As I walked over to Ruby’s bus stop to greet her, I considered our current situation.  There are several situations where we need God to intervene directly, and soon.  I can’t do any more to further the cause; I must sit back and wait for the Lord to act, or for Him to direct me in such a way that I *can* act.  I’ve written about faith before a couple of times, most recent as the last month or so.

Ruby has two loose teeth, both hanging by a little thread of skin.  She moped all the way home from the bus today because her front tooth, a loose baby tooth, was bleeding.  She checked it out in the mirror.  She let me touch it.

“Ouch!” she winced as I pushed to see how loose it was.

But she won’t let me pull it.  No way!  I tried to convince her I’d be gentle and it would only hurt for a moment.  She remains skeptical, and the tooth remains in her head.  For now.

Faith still remains a mystery to me.  I wrestle with it.  I want so much to believe and not doubt, but I seem to go through the faith cycle repeatedly, like a broken washing machine:  white-knuckled anxiety – doubt – prayer – faith, over and over.  I hope this is strengthening the “faith muscle” as I trust and obey.  What of people who pray and great miracles occur?  I’ve heard all the stories of people who were down to their last piece of bread and groceries appeared on their doorstep.  God heals people of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, you name it.  He is able to do that.

Scriptures like these add to faith’s foggy mystique:  Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1 NLT). More specifically:  And it is impossible to please God without faith.  Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely (other translations use the word “diligently”) seek him.

The Old Testament has some things to say about faith, too.  David says in Psalm 27: 13 Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.

And that’s really the issue, in my opinion. I have good in mind for Ruby.  I want her to be able to eat regularly again, not dodging those wiggly teeth.  At this point, she doesn’t trust me to remove them for her.  Will we see God’s goodness again, when he’s come through time after time?  Yes.  We will.  I start to recall the times He’s provided for us, financially, with children, with jobs.  He will bring good out of these situations and take care of us.  He is our Father.

Winning the Big One

I’ve heard the Powerball jackpot is enormous, something in the hundreds of millions – $550 million, to be exact.  Wow!  Wouldn’t it be great to win that?  What would you do?  How would you live?

I considered this as I turned away the plumber who wanted to charge us around $300 to snake our outflow pipe.  I thought, Goodbye, Christmas!  Mercifully, Jonathon was able to rent a snake and flush the clog himself.  But that’s what having less money does for you.  You become inventive.  You get a little pickier because you have to be.  You find another way to get things done, a less costly way.

In the name of science, I did a bit of online research about past lottery winners.  Statistics show that 70% or more lose it all in the next couple years.  They spend it or give it away, never dreaming there will be an end to the money.  Some, without a reason to get up in the morning, become alcoholics or addicts.  That money exacts a relational toll as well.  Friends become vampires, sucking money from you.  Relatives you never knew you had show up on your doorstep.  I would imagine perfect strangers might boo and hiss as you pass by, whispering contemptuously, jealous of your sudden wealth.  Let’s not even discuss your co-workers.

The people who have made it through, it seems, were very cautious.  They paid down debts, took a couple trips, bought a new house.  They fulfilled lifelong dreams and maybe took care of their parents or kids in a significant financial way.  But they didn’t become jet-setters.  They didn’t purchase a fleet of Rolls Royces.  They quit their jobs, to be sure, but live off the interest of conservative – and a few not-so-conservative- investments.  Some of them stayed in the same town.

These seem to be people who realize that money carries weight.  It’s something we earn for our time.  We exchange our time and skill for money.  In that respect, I suppose we are sort of slaves to who or what we work for.  Yes, winning a huge jackpot of cash is fabulous.  But it’s what we do afterwards that makes it count.  It reveals our character.  It also shows whether we know ourselves or not.

An article I read today on msn.com – here’s the link – proves this out.  Here’s a quote about our happiness being a sort of “set point” with each person, and yet we continue to hold the mistaken belief that more money will make us happier:

This is partially because we are terrible at predicting how happy more money is going to make us. The truth is, money can make you happy — but only up to a point. “Research shows that the impact of additional income on happiness begins to level off around $75,000 of income – but people keep trying to make more and more money in the mistaken belief that their happiness will continue to increase,” Norton says. “As a result of this mistaken belief, people think that big windfalls will change their happiness dramatically – and may end up with less happiness than they expected.”

So…according to this article, we can all relax after we start earning around $75k a year.  Right?  Who wants to test this out?  Anyone?  Perhaps this is why the Kardashians seem so miserable.

The article also includes a person I’ve read about twice now, Sandra Hayes.  She and a dozen coworkers won a $224 million Powerball jackpot. After taxes, her share was around $10 million. Paltry sum, that.  She paid off her house and let her daughter and grandchildren live there, getting them out of a tough neighborhood.  She bought her dream car – a brand-new Lexus.  She quit her job and spends her days writing.  Sounds pretty good to me!

I’ll let her have the last word:

The first secret, as Hayes tells it, to winning the lottery without losing your mind is to immediately meet with a financial planner you trust and make a plan that works for you. The second is a little simpler. She says, “Just because you win the lottery, it does not change you as a person.”

Amen, Sister Hayes!

Almost Flushed Away

Literally.

Warning:  This is a graphic post dealing with doo-doo and tinkle.

Ruby noticed late Wednesday that, due to all the rain, our drain in the driveway overflowed.  The rectangular green cover sat askew, pushed aside by a full pipe.  We had a lot of water backed up in it.  And stuff  stuck to the asphalt that looked a lot like soggy toilet paper…and then we spied..

Poop! Human poop.  In the driveway.

Ugh.

At this point, feel free to gag a little.  I just did.

Apparently, it’s an outflow pipe.  It’s a sewage pipe.  It got backed up and now…well…it’s depositing #1 and #2 all down our driveway.

Can I get an Amen and thank you, Jesus, for driveways that slant down and *away* from the house?

Yeah.

We walked around it all weekend, knowing we couldn’t raise anyone to deal with it until Monday due to the Thanksgiving holiday.  We flushed on, unperturbed.  I mean, nothing was backing into the house, right?  We, okay I, tried not to walk in the drainage path.  Didn’t seem to bother anyone else much.  We’re not just tracking rain into the house, people!  I kinda want to wash down all the flooring with bleach now.  I thought we were done with up close and personal poop detail, now that the kids are potty trained.

I called the city this morning and left a message.  Unbeknownst to me, Jonathon did the same.  They got back with him and sent a guy out to check it.  At least the weather is nice for digging into a sewer.  Cold but dry.  See? It’s not all bad.

The city worker, a burly bearded chap, informed me that the problem lay not with the city’s maintained sewer main but with the pipe connecting our house to the sewer system.  He recommended we get someone (any takers?) to snake it.  Yay!  Hello, plumber!  Then he told me he’d fill in the giant round hole in the gravel driveway.  Thanks, buddy!

I would make an astute spiritual insight here, but they escape me today.  Perhaps they  floated down the driveway.  Oh – here we go! What can wash away my sin?

Nope.  No good.

(Don’t you want to come over to my house now?  Nothing like human excrement as a welcome mat.)

Now, I’m waiting for the plumber to show.  Know any good jokes?

Thanks to my good friend Tina for sharing this song with me.  I owe you one!

Act of God

We saw a movie last night where the phrase “act of God” was bandied about quite a bit.  I don’t want to give the movie away or the main plot elements, but the phrase stuck with me.

What constitutes an act of God?

Wikipedia says:

Christian theologians differ on their views and interpretations of scripture. R.C. Sproul implies that God causes a disaster when he speaks of Divine Providence: “In a universe governed by God, there are no chance events”[3] Others indicate that God may allow a tragedy to occur.[4] Others accept unfortunate events as part of life[5] and reference Matthew 5:45 (KJV): “for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

And as a legal term:

Act of God is a legal term[1] for events outside of human control, such as sudden floods or other natural disasters, for which grammar can be held responsible.

Huh?  Where does grammar come into this?

As interesting as that is, I think we need to define it for ourselves.  In my parlance, I would say an act of God is something beyond my control, unforeseen circumstances that added up to some kind of catastrophe.

This movie portrayed at least 3 separate instances discussing the main event.  The protagonist was there each time.  The first time, another, goofy, cancer-striken man was discussing his sickness. Symbolically, he was “the fool”.

“I know God gave this to me,” he stated emphatically, citing the rarity of his kind of cancer. “I was chosen.  I certainly never asked for it.  And when I begged him to take it away, He didn’t” (Susan paraphrase).  This seems to depict a capricious, uncaring view of God.  God doesn’t give good gifts to His kids; in point of fact, he gives them lethal diseases.  The character, close to death, went on to cite how much he appreciated each breath of life, even as he puffed on a cancer stick.

Later in the movie, the lawyer hired to defend the protagonist says he was  trying to add the clause “act of God” to their legal brief, dodging any perceived responsibility on the part of the character.

As they survey the incredible damage caused by this act of God, the main character says, “What kind of God would do this?”

That theme resounds throughout the movie.  What kind of God, all powerful, residing in heaven, lets awful things happen to His children?  What God allows sickness, death, crippling injuries?

As the plot progresses, we learn of the main character’s role in the disaster.  He was not 100% while performing his duties; he was, uh, impaired.  Was it his fault?  Or was there more going on, beyond his control? The whole story hinges on that.

But it brought up questions for me.  If you’re an addict, are you still valuable as a person?  Our society doesn’t think so.  Why does God allow horrible things to happen in this world, the age-old question?

Insurance companies dodge offering protection for “acts of God”.  They simply can’t cover for the unexpected.  They won’t reimburse you for that freak windstorm that dropped a limb on your roof, bisecting your living room.

The Free Legal Dictionary says: Many insurance policies exempt coverage for damage caused by acts of God, which is one time an insurance company gets religion. At times disputes arise as to whether a violent storm or other disaster was an act of God (and therefore exempt from a claim) or a foreseeable natural event. God knows the answer!

Some terrible things happen through our own bad choices or sin – free will at its worst.  Some things are simply consequences, a ripple affect.  We get caught in the wake.  But it seems to me that only God Himself can help you in an act of God.  Only He can save and rescue when you’ve bottomed out.  Those things that floor us and crush us serve to bring us to Him.  They all bring us around to the same truth:  without Him we can do nothing.  Having the control in our lives is an illusion.  Being on your knees is not such a bad place to be.

Non-Confrontational

This is what Rex looked like 10 lbs. ago.

We had an interloper in our yard today.  A dusty-colored tabby cat, presumably male, visited the carport.  As I walked up the driveway, I saw Rex creeping ever closer to something.  Every black hair on his back was on edge.  He slunk along, moaning in that whale song of cat dominance all the while.  The tabby cat just sat there.  He wasn’t moving.

Something you should know about Rex is that 1) He’s at least 20 lbs., and 2) He’s a great hunter.  In fact, he brought a dead mouse in for us on Thanksgiving night.  Apparently he saw we made no dinner preparations nor did we eat anything and he was concerned for our welfare.  Jonathon quickly pitched the carcass outside.  Rex, fruitlessly searching for his “gift”, had to be deposited outside soon after.

Rex is very territorial.  Chloe doesn’t like other cats in the yard, either, but she’s a girl.  And she’s very mellow and sweet.  She would probably befriend whoever it was.  She has in the past and made several boyfriends, much to her confusion.

I was not surprised to see the standoff. Ruby, fascinated by the new kitty and Rex’s guttural tones, went outside to monitor the situation.  The new kitty – newly christened by Ruby as “Rita” – loved to be petted and mewed with gratefulness, arching its back and rubbing its face on Ruby’s hand.  We warned her not to get in the middle of the catfight.  Things could get ugly.

I got cleaned up from  my run and looked out the door.  Only Rita remained, sitting smack dab in the center of the carport.

“Where’s Rex?” I asked Ruby.

“He’s behind the chairs,” she replied.  Rex, apparently all noise and no fury, was hiding.  We have two old chairs waiting their turn at the dump.  Rex found a hidey hole behind them.

I called him.  He responded by growling.  He was not happy but wouldn’t do anything about it.  He seemed paralyzed with indecision and fear.

This has happened before.  Chloe had a persistent male admirer we named Henry, summer before last.  Henry loved Chloe so much he’d call to her from the other side of the screen door.  Chloe would hide.  Henry would try to come in, mewing and pawing at the back door.

Rex was not pleased at this turn of events.  He would charge out the back door and chase Henry away.  Henry never put up any resistance that I could see.  His attachment to Chloe puzzled her.  He was like an orange shadow, following her around in the sunshine.

Rex met his match in Rita.  Rita laid down in the carport, determined to assert his superiority and stake out a claim to the cement slab.  Rex never emerged to counteract his claim.  Eventually, Rita got bored and left.

The question remains:  Why didn’t Rex assert himself?  He had the right to do so.  He has the authority in his yard.  He’s the alpha cat, despite all of Chloe’s taunting and chasing.  You could say he is non-confrontational, to put a positive spin on it.  I’ve thought about it quite a bit.

As much as I love Rex, he’s not a fighter.  Oh, he has a great war cry, but there’s nothing behind it.  If the other cat runs, he will chase.  But if the cat refuses to back down, Rex has no heart to strike head on.  I’ve had female cats that were braver and much smaller than he is!

At bottom, Rex doesn’t know who he is. It doesn’t register that his girth alone brings him a certain rank.  He’ s not a kitten either; he’s in his prime (thank you, Miss Brody!).  Those teeth and claws that kill rodents on a regular basis would be just as lethal on the feline species.

Don’t we do the same thing?  Don’t we have areas that are ours – raising our kids, how we eat, exercise, spend money – that we abdicate because we don’t know our own selves or the authority that resides within us?  We stay paralyzed with fear, afraid to make a move.  We are afraid to do it wrong, to fail once again.  We can’t stay there.  We have a responsibility and gifts we need to use in this world.  We have to stake our claim on the things that are in our sphere of influence, to change them for good, God willing.  Once we do, the obstacles will become clearer and manifest as their true size.  And we can take them, head on.

I’m not willing to lie down and hide.  Are you?

Friday Filibuster

I see our trusty mail truck tooling down our street.  I start to remember the postal service motto:  Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds, penned on the James Farley post office in New York.  Our mail carrier is very dependalbe, if a bit crochety.  I’m sure I owuld be also, given the circumstances.  Perhaps to avoid hydroplaning, his truck has an outboard motor, too?

And boy, have we had rain.  Not just watering the earth through a gentle shower.  It’s been full on, downpour, Get the ark out, Myrtle rain. So far this month, we’ve gotten over 10 inches of rain.  We’re getting close to the 50 inch mark for 2012.  And we still have another month to go!

Ruby has more homework than Zac.  She receives a packet to take home every Tuesday, to be returned by the following Monday.  Inside the folder might be anywhere from 8-10 sheets of paper, from handwriting drills (the letter “v” over and over) to pages of single-digit addition.  She’s a bit overwhelmed.  Zac has homework every night, true, but it’s usually only a handful of algebra problems, not pages and pages of stuff.  Ruby’s lament of “I already know how to do this!  Why do I have to keep doing it?” sounds very familiar.

I am starting my run-at-least-one-mile-every-day-until-New-Year’s streak.  Today was day 2.  The longer I ran this morning, the harder it rained.  And being I ran outside predawn, I kept hitting invisible puddles.  Well, not so invisible once my feet found them.  Only 40-something more days to go.  Woo hoo!

Yes, I am actively avoiding Black Friday as well as drowning.  Ever shopped at the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving? “Where’s the canned pumpkin?”  That’s about as much group panic as I can stand.  People get testy with those wheeled metal cages.  You’re not going to see the best of humanity today.  Nuh-uh.  It’s going to be ugly.  Naked greed will drive a lot of folks.  I don’t need lotion/clothes/electronics/toys enough to elbow my neighbor in the groin to get them.  Besides, I’m still figuring out what to get people. I want to enjoy that process of thinking and dreaming and getting inspired.  I might even make some gifts (not knitting).  I don’t want to rush to the checkout line like a rabid middle-aged dog.

This year, I plan to dodge feeling like the holidays are filled with obligations.  As a parent, I feel the pressure to supply “good” gifts, not sweat socks.  I feel the impetus to provide meaningful spiritual experiences for my children.  And I want to enjoy as much time as possible together as a nuclear and extended family.  But as Christmas 2012 draws every closer, I’m reminded that I’m not in control – at all.  Instead, I find it a good time to savor the season, the rituals and traditions, as well as the unexpected, that inevitably arises. I can answer questions and provided explanations. I can point the way to the birth of the Savior.  God will have to supply the meaning.