Gracious Loser?


words with friends.png

Earlier this month, I loaded Words with Friends on my smartphone. It’s essentially a Scrabble app. You can play with friends, as the title suggests. Or you can pit your wits against random strangers who also happen to have the app and be online with you.

My first opponent was a 20-something named Sloane. She posted uninspired words like “soup” and “hi”. Then she dropped off the face of the earth. I won by default. Apparently, it didn’t hold her interest enough.

Feeling cocky, I challenged a IRL friend. That’s “in real life” for those of you over 30. I know a few of you lurk out there. My buddy played the word “lions”. Hmm. This could be fun. We chatted, mostly smack talk, in the messaging function attached to the application. Then…boom! She started hitting hard. She played some high-scoring words. Suddenly, she was up 100 points. How did this happen? Aren’t I a wordsmith? It stung a bit, I’ll be honest.

And I lost that match by 80 points in the end. I realized anew that I don’t like to lose. I felt kinda stupid. I don’t like feeling stupid. Then I thought, when was the last time I lost anything? Most adult interactions aren’t a zero-sum game. However, we have a pretty regular game night at Casa Isham. We play Uno and I do lose most times. Zac, I think, reigns in that kingdom. Yet then, I’m not the only loser. I’m just one of three.

But see, there’s more. I rediscovered  I like words. A lot. I’d rather play a word using all 7 letters than play a three-letter word that nets me 70 points. I’m looking at you, friend!  I like futzing with the letters, dreaming of what they could spell. “Oh, if only I had an X!” “Boy, I could sure use an N.” I like the noises they make when I shuffle them around online. I enjoy making words up, too. All of this probably  works against me.

Losing the game made me reconsider my attitude. I’ve got some growing up to do. Losing isn’t the end of the world; it can help you learn. I’m already playing better the second time around. Since I love words and suck at strategy, it’s entirely possible I’ll never be a Words with Friends master no matter how many matches I enter. On the bright side, this should save me from getting kicked off any planes in the near future.


Perfection Vs. Excellence

I’m staring at a blank screen. What to say? To wax eloquent about the blossoming trees perfuming the air? To provide a handy haiku on the lovely sunsets, now the blue sky has rejoined the sun in their perfect, yet seasonal, partnership?


But here’s a sunset for you anyway. Hey, it’s *from* Washington. Just not in my neck of the woods.

washington sunset.jpg


Had a great conversation with a friend today. We talked about the essence of walking with Christ daily. I had made a mistake with his timesheet (due today, people!) that cost us both a bit of time.

“See? I’m not perfect,” I asserted.

He laughed.

“Yeah, but you’re striving for perfection, right?”

No. Perfection is a dirty word to me. I’ve already been that person. Driven. Living on a strict diet and filling in any nutritional gaps with hundreds of dollars in supplements. Exercising to the point of exhaustion every day. Hating every ripple, jiggle and bit of flab hanging onto my body. For years, I thought if I could just have the perfect body, aka all-my-ribs-showing-skinny, I’d be happy. I bought into the lie that physical beauty trumped everything. Never mind all the other heart and thought issues I had. The body took precedence. Back in high school, I wanted to get straight As, letter in sports and be first chair flute. I worked hard, probably too hard. And…well. I lettered in band.

My point is that perfection is an illusion, like chasing clouds, or getting a cat to turn vegan. Even if you get to your goal weight, you still might not be satisfied. This life, with all its trappings, remains transient. I’d rather chase excellence. I need to be the best me I can be, through Christ. I can’t copy someone else or try to meet someone else’s standard. This doesn’t mean I slack off and lie around, trusting that simply living in this skin is enough. No. Everyone needs to figure it out for themselves. Pursuing excellence actually springs us from the trap of never feeling good enough. We can embrace what we do have, and celebrate it.

 This scripture sums it up for me:  But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required. – Luke 12:48. Our lives, our bodies are part of that “much”.  So take heart! You have much already. Now, what will you do with it? This could be the start of a great adventure.


Monday on a Saturday

gas pump.png

I got called into work on Saturday. I was pulling out ingredients to make “the best chocolate cake ever” when I saw I had missed a call. My coworker, John (not his real name) also left me a message.

“Susan, can you call me when you get this? Fuel pump number 2 is locked out. The cops need to get gas and I don’t know how to get into your computer. I need your password to get to the fuel system.”

You should probably know I spent five hours – count ’em – fighting with the fuel management system on Friday on creating driver cards. See, there’s no manual. Only a couple of cryptic, handwritten instructions to work with a DOS-based program. The five hours consisted of trial and error and observation. I prayed a lot. I also considered defenestration, as I have a large observation window. Or possibly a small bomb. Either-or.


I called John back.

“My passoword is redvines, all one word.”

Hey, when you can’t eat sweets, you gotta do something.

It didn’t work. He tried it again. No dice. I realized I would need to make a personal visit. The fuel system, ProComm, lives in my profile. I had to reenable the pump somehow. When I got John’s call, my heart sank. I didn’t want to go back in. I wanted to make a rockin’ chocolate cake. But I couldn’t let him suffer.

I drove the 1/3 mile to the shop. I came upstairs and sat at the computer.

“I’m so sorry you had to come in,” John said. He looked sheepish.

“No worries,” I said. “How many times have you helped me?”

I typed in redvines. Then again. Then I remembered I had changed my password, at the computer’s request, on Friday afternoon. Awesome.

I logged in to the system. John found the instructions. Type c, enter, c, enter, then 2. Then enter. Then…6 more questions I had no answers to. So, I did it different ways. John would go down to the pump and insert his personal identification card. The pump did nothing. He’d trot back up the stairs to tell me. I’d hit enter all the way through the questions. He’d job down to the bleepity pump and again and try his luck. Nothing. We did this several times. Then I got the brilliant idea of unplugging the Petrovend brain from the printer. Which made it stop working entirely. I couldn’t go anywhere in the program and the lights were out on the brain.


“At this point, I’m reminding myself of the scripture ‘rejoice, for the steps of a righteous person are ordered of God,” I told my Christian coworker.

John, under the printer and looking at the unresponsible cable, said, “I’m thinking of Philippians 4:13:  ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’.”

“And ‘all things work together for good’,” I finished with.

We kept on. We got nowhere.I tried to get service online from a specialist named Todd, who referred me to an 800 number that didn’t work on weekends. That episode earned him a 2-star rating. We made a call to a live service person who didn’t know what to tell us. John even took the back of the pump apart, something I never would have considered. Hitting the reset button garnered no change. Eventually, we realized the pump had probably died. Given up the ghost. Cacked. Gone to the gas station in the sky. In its defense, it’s middle-aged. Not that all middle-aged things are worthy of death, of course, but machines don’t last forever.

Neither do working Saturdays. After speaking to our boss, John locked out and tagged the pump. The police got a credit card and went to regular gas stations to meet their fueling needs.

Between Friday which bled into Saturday, I had to trust that God was ordering my steps. Nothing went the way I planned. I don’t like plans blowing up. But I’m not in control. And really, that’s how it should be.



Zoom Zoom

This is what today has been like. Okay, make it the whole week. Makes me feel a little

Tasmanian devil

It’s Easter week. Today is Maundy Thursday. I’ve been spending extra time in prayer and worship, considering Jesus’ sacrifice. Despite everything swirling about me, I can’t let this holy season pass by without reflection and thanks.

I don’t want to complain about being busy. I want to find peace in the doing. So, like this


Peace in the extra worship rehearsals for Easter Sunday. Peace in the going to work and getting additional, funky assignments. Peace in working out and abstaining. Peace while making decisions and peace while waiting for answers. Peace when I lay my head down at night. Peace in breathing out, and breathing in.

I pray this Easter brings you peace as well.

For the Love of Bacon

Monday afternoon, I discovered this picture.

rainbow bacon

Ruby drew it. She even practiced multiplication on it. I had to use a calculator to double-check the math. It’s correct. She got that ability from her father. I like bacon. But I think Ruby likes it more. Five stacks of 64 slices? That’s a lot of pig, people.

Then I found this lying in the backseat.

b&w bacon.jpg

OK. I sense a theme here. The word bacon has four explanation points after it, surely more than enough emphasis. Should I be worried that the bacon has eyes and wears a smile in both drawings? I guess Ruby doesn’t struggle with eating things that have a face on them.

Is this subliminal? Keep in mind Ruby hasn’t said a thing about bacon -good, bad or indifferent – to anyone.

“It’s subliminal, Mom,” Zac informed me as we talked about the pictures. “She wants bacon.”

“I don’t think it’s subliminal anymore. It’s straight up liminal,” I said.

Perhaps she’ll get some in her Easter basket. But really, all she has to do is ask. We can fit bacon in somewhere, somehow, probably. It’s the same way when we need something from God. We desire to bless our children. God desires to bless us, too. All we have to do is ask.

So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him? – Matthew 7:11




Acapella: A Moment in Time

Back in the early 90s, those of us in my crowd (read:  Christian music geeks) got into acapella music. What is acapella music?  Glad you asked. It’s music without instrumental accompaniment. In other words, it’s a true solo. And, it’s also a real word, despite over-active WordPress spellcheck trying to correct it to “scapula”.

Pursuing my degree as a flutist, I didn’t encounter many of these kinds of pieces. There’s this one. Notice the “Syrinx for solo flute” nomenclature.

This particular performance employs a lot of rubato, which is:  the temporary disregarding of strict tempo to allow an expressive quickening or slackening, usually without altering the overall pace. In Italian, it’s literally “stolen time”. Blame it on Chopin.

Yes, I played this piece. How could I not? The repertoire of pure solo flute pieces is pretty slim. Norm, my instructor, couldn’t wait for someone besides him to play it. Anyway, it’s only 2 pages long. I’d take that over a 10-page concerto any day. Now you want to know if I waved my instrument all over the place like this guy, looking like I choreographed some freaky stationary interpretive dance? Did I employ this much rubato (playing with the song’s tempo, literally “stolen time”)? Nope to both. I didn’t really enjoy the showmanship. I was about the music. Period.

But back to acapella. Acapella Vocal Band came out with an album. The ability of the human voice to create all sorts of sounds fascinated us. Some other, more skilled groups included these guys:

Oh, and can’t forget these gentlemen:

The interest in this particular trend in music dropped off somewhere in the later 90s. The black gospel influence surged in popularity. Next, rap took center stage. Then, electronica. The music my son enjoys usually has no vocals. Enter dubstep and trap music. Machines take center stage. I find entirely too predictable, myself. But I’m not 16, either. Warning:  I did not listen to all 35 minutes. Might be profanity in the mix.

Cultural tastes in music change over time. Recently, acapella has reinvented itself. It got back in the spotlight again. It’s been highlighted on TV shows like “The Sing-Off” and others. We have a current favorite group:

I’m constantly amazed at the gift of music and the variations it takes. The ability to inspire and create beauty using only the human voice especially continues to astonish. Truly, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

P.S. Here’s one more, a current favorite of Zac’s: 









Eager Beaver

Last week, I covered another Microsoft PAC. I think it was my sixth. I’ve been with the same group, the Resellers, every time. This group is onto it’s third lead since I started working with them. The last guy, who reminded me of my brother in that he got along with everyone, left for greener pastures. The new lead, a woman I’ll call Wilma, had been on the job for 2 weeks when the Partner Advisory Council cropped up.

As I typed along, I noticed something. She took every action item.

“I’ll post that in the portal.”

“I’ll get that answer and email it to the group.”

“I can get the spreadsheet right now, and you can play with it while Fred is talking.”

She wanted to get all the action items at the end of each day. I tried to highlight things in red as I went along, but it got pretty tough to keep up. All I could do was shake my head. She reminded me of this.

eager beaver.jpg

I thought, Girl you’ve got to slow down. Let other people do their jobs. Oh wait. You’re still trying to prove yourself. And I thought about my old job at IDC. It was constant going, deadlines, adrenaline. I’d wake up at 2:00 a.m. in a cold sweat, trying to remember if I’d FedExed that package to Ireland. Did I? I was so tired I could not remember.

The new lead had an assistant. Let’s call her Betty. We hit it off right away.

“How long have you worked for Microsoft?” I asked her.

“Oh, I don’t. I’m a vendor.”

Imagine my surprise. Betty and Wilma had a good working relationship already. I thought they’d worked together for months, if not years.

“No, I do different events. The rest of the time I live in my small town.” She smiled.

I could appreciate that. We went on to discuss how Microsoft people are all in, all the time. They’re on 24/7. They’re completely committed. Betty went on to say the culture is like this. It’s the standard.

“You know, Susan, if you’re so tired you can’t form complete sentences, that’s bad.”

We both noticed Wilma struggling with this. Don’t get me wrong. Wilma is fabulous. Her adorable Canadian accent shone through, especially as she got more tired. She’s quick and on top of her game. I admired her drive. But working to the point of exhaustion…yes, it is bad.

I thought about the treasure verse from the book of Matthew. That verse always confused me. I have no treasure box laden with gold coins. I have money, of course. I spend a lot of it on a mortgage each month, which depletes the old bank account considerably. Does that mean my treasure lies there? I don’t think so. I think time is even more of a treasure than money. We receive a finite amount – an amount we don’t know the measure of – over the course of our lives.  I do know I don’t want to spend all my time at work. We’re so much more than our accomplishments, our rank. The time that I do have I want to give to family and friends and serving God wherever and whenever I can. I aim to be an Eager Beaver in those areas. I want to create a lasting investment.

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. – Matthew 6:21