Remodel Revelations

Here’s Rex, taking advantage of the heating vent just under the piano bench. Notice how he’s lounging on the kitchen calendar like it’s a paper throne. It’s as if he doesn’t even care it’s Friday or has no concept of time or anything. Lucky cat.

Why is the kitchen calendar on the piano bench under the window? Good question. We’re doing a major remodel. I say “we” as if I had anything to do with it. I think I’ve packed a couple of boxes to get stuff out of the way.  The remodel has pretty much been all my fabulous husband’s doing. Jonathon has spent the last week repainting the kitchen, both bathrooms and the hallway from downstairs to upstairs. This includes the alcove, with the chimney and ceiling. Carpet installers come next week. Whew! I’m tired just typing it.

One thing I’ve learned about painting:  some areas need more than one coat of paint. The walls can be powerful thirsty.  And as you start painting one area, another adjacent area starts to look dingy. You didn’t plan to paint the ceiling, but…you find you can’t leave it like it looks now. It doesn’t work with the rest of the room anymore. Kinda like eating Doritos. You can’t eat just one.

This means stuff is everywhere. The toilet brush from the upstairs bathroom sits in our bedroom. Ruby’s sewing desk that used to rest in the alcove now rests, denuded of all accoutrements, in the living room. Toothbrushes and toothpaste lounge on the kitchen counter, around the corner from their home. I mean no disrespect to Jonathon by discussing this. Making a major change in your living space creates a temporary displacement of items. It’s inevitable.

I’ll be the first to say I like everything in its place. I don’t do well with disarray and clutter. But this season of change is good. Our former “McDonald’s” kitchen (so dubbed by a friend  because of its bright yellow base coat and red accent wall) made the small space with mismatched counters feel closed in and dark. Now the kitchen, resplendent in its new pale dove gray coat, barely needs lights on during the day. Why didn’t we do this years ago?

I know why. Life. Kids. Jobs. Church. Bills. Pets. Planet alignments. Woody Harrelson. Obligations of all sorts. Alright, maybe not Woody. But you get the idea.

Change brings growth and new opportunities. It can bring pain as well, as we uncover new ways to live and breathe, and vulnerable, damaged areas get exposed. It might mean more work for us, both in the physical and in the spiritual. Yet new vistas await on the other side of the change as we adapt and transition. We build up strength and endurance along the way, too. I look forward to the good coming out of this new scenery.






Administrative Professionals’ Day


I’ve written about this before. I strongly dislike the above holiday. You know, Secretaries’ Day. It got renamed a decade or so ago as Administrative Professionals Day. It makes it more genteel somehow, I guess.

I got roped into going to an appreciation lunch today, which is actually a day late. My immediate boss, also an admin herself, has a higher-up boss who wants to celebrate her. And because she likes the holiday just as much as I do, she pigeonholed me into the fete.

“We get to choose the restaurant. Where do you want to go? ” she asked me.

“I don’t know. Where do you want to go?” I countered.

We decided on a place and made up our minds to be nice. Because, well, the thought is kind. All of our bosses have good hearts and want to show us some love.

Well, most of them.

“What is this lunch?” my boss at the shop asked me, as he gestured toward his Outlook calendar, confusion on his face.

“Uh…well…yesterday was Administrative Professionals Day.”

I pointed to his wall calendar hanging by the door.

“I didn’t mention it because it’s the bane of my existence. I hate it. See, you’ve never had an admin, so you’re out of the loop. It’s a made up holiday.”

“Oh,” he said, the light dawning.

“I hate made up holidays. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day. I don’t even like anniversaries.”

I had to disagree with him on that one. Another year of marriage is something to be proud of.

“So can we get out of it?” he asked.

I thought for a second.

“Well, we could be sick…” I started.

He laughed.

“It would look weird if we were both sick,” he said.


“I’d rather appreciate people all year long, not on some special day. You don’t need a special day,” he said.

Also true.

I like lunch and I like eating, especially when it’s food. I work with phenomenal people, who offer me insights and patience and humor and grace every day. I plan on celebrating them today. I am grateful.


Framing a Team

I have a front row seat on a couple of guys framing in the other half of the shop breakroom. This is happening right outside my window, the one with a sweeping vista of the shop floor. I also can see pickups, a grader, long lengths of rebar and drums of…something. Probably chocolate milk.

Only one lone employee worked on the header yesterday, nailing in the studs. Today, a twosome works installing the plywood and enclosing the space. They measure. They talk and point. They cut the wood to size. One holds the level and the other uses the pencil. It’s a great picture of teamwork for a shared cause.

But other employees are working outside today. Across the lot, the main office receives a new roof. It’s not the same people working on it each day. The guys rotate. First, a couple of men from the water department stood high, putting the flashing down. Now I see some street team members pounding nails in.

I love this about working down here. There’s a fraternity, a brotherhood of serving together in unity. They get projects done. They’re friends. Whatever it takes, they cover each other. Recently, a coworker lost his cool and spouted vulgarities at another employee. One guy stood up and said, “You need to leave now. ” Two other fellows escorted the offender to the boss for reckoning.

This reminded me of the scene from the movie “Serenity” where Jayne, munching his umpteenth snack, starts to mock Mal’s tragic commitment to the browncoats at the Battle of Serenity. Mal starts to tense.

“You’ll want to leave this room,” Zoe tells Jayne.

Jayne looks at her, chewing.


Jayne ambles out.

How I wish this was a picture of the church. We quickly throw each other under the bus. We jab and poke and criticize. We don’t defend. We don’t extend grace. We uncover and cast blame when we should let love cover a slight. I’m as guilty as anyone. I struggle with letting God mete out rewards when I so want to handle it myself. “Well, they deserve to get what’s coming to them!” Don’t we all? None of us should get grace. None of us should receive mercy or pardon or forgiveness. We’ve all sinned and fallen short. It’s only through the blood of Jesus that we can even begin to live out restoration and wholeness.

We need to change. We need to have the mind of Christ and love our brothers and sister in Christ in tangible and intangible ways. And, why oh why can’t we be friends?! Let our shared cause draw us together. I pray we can learn to foster unity and harmony among those whom Christ calls His own.

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one–as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. – John 17:21



Thinking Prayer

the thinker


I like to lump myself in the category of thinking people. I consider options. I can see several perspectives on an issue all at once. I don’t speak without weighing my words, most of the time. But sometimes, this works against me.

I don’t speak up when I should. I let intolerable situations go on too long. I sit, uncomfortable and squirmy, when I should speak up and say something. I want to spare the feelings of the other party/parties. Well. Maybe I’m not a fan of confrontation, either.

On the flip side, I’ve been told I’m direct, a “black and white” type of person. I tell it like it is. I don’t hold back when I feel strongly about an issue. This is also true, for better or worse. I freely admit this creates a bit of a split personality at times. And gets me into trouble. Ahem.

Yet timing is everything here. I pray about what – if anything – to say. This doesn’t mean lengthy prayers full of pleas and platitudes. Often it’s “Lord, help!” So many in this life dwell in the valley of decision – stuck on what to do about marriages, schooling, parenting. My heart aches for them. I only want to make it better.

However, I’ve found that problems don’t belong to me to solve, more often than not. I want everyone to get along and be happy. Is that so much to ask? Of course, this implies that *I* have all the answers. Perhaps I should start my own “Save me, Susan!” hotline.

Insert sarcastic laugh here. Not happening. Nope. Nuh-uh.

I write this to say I want to help. I will pray about your situation, definitely. But I might not be able to give you the answers you seek. I only know one all-wise God. I’m not Him. I talk to him regularly. I know His ear is always turned toward us. Give Him a try.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. – James 1:5





Do It Scared, Part 2

starfish studs

Not these, but pretty, no?

I wrote about Ruby getting her ears pierced awhile back. She did it, praise God, but it did hurt and she was scared. Things progressed swimmingly after that, until she took the studs out after 6 weeks’ time. I scoured my old earrings. Found some I never wore, cleaned them and passed them on to the girl. She wore them…and her right ear piercing got infected.

The ear hole turned red. Pus oozed from the sore. This happened during a short sleepover, while she was away. When she returned, I applied hot water to it. I salved it with hydrogen peroxide. I grabbed the small sparkly stud and tried to reinsert it into Ruby’s angry puncture.

“Ow! Ow!” Ruby winced as she squirmed away from the tiny hot poker of death.

I tried to save the hole, but by the time I got to it, it was too far gone. We let it close up. Ruby was devastated. She felt like she failed. I held her and told her she didn’t fail. We just overestimated how quickly her body would adapt to the new holes.

“We took our best shot,” I said to her. “We went 6 weeks instead of 8. Next time, we’ll do better.”

See, sometimes, stuff just happens. No blame necessary. You take your best shot and you miss.

She wiped her tears and went to bed. The left ear remained intact. Every day, we checked on the right ear’s progress. It got less red until only a small dot remained on her lobe.

After all this time, turns out a local store offered piercing service. We didn’t have to drive all the way to Olympia to fix this. Huzzah!

We tackled the situation this past Saturday.

“Mom, I’m not even scared this time,” Ruby said from the backseat as we drove the short distance.


Once we got the sales associate’s attention – someone we knew slightly from past church attendance – he found the exact same studs Ruby already sported. Providence! Ruby sat on the pull-out stool built into the jewelry counter. She shivered.

“You don’t have to be afraid of me, Ruby,” said the clerk who remembered us. “I won’t hurt you.”

I tried to explain that she wasn’t afraid of him, only the pain. Each of us cajoled her in turn. Nothing doing.

“Mom, can we get Zac’s soda first?”

I nodded. We excused ourselves from the patient associate and walked over to the soda area.

“What can I do to help you?” I asked. Enough coaxing. I wanted to know.

“Nothing,” she said.

Fair enough.

As we walked and talked, I had another thought.

“You’re overthinking this,” I said. “It’s better to just do it and not think about it too much. Otherwise, you focus on how much it hurts, right?

Ruby nodded, brown eyes wide.

I informed her that we would purchase Zac’s soda (with his money) and then sit back down for round 2. If she shrank away at all from the piercing, we were done. Homeward bound. Finito. We wandered back to jewelry.

“Hi, Ruby,” the kind clerk greeted her.

Ruby sat down, ramrod straight. She didn’t move. He pierced her ear fast. Tears leaked out of her eyes. He offered no medicine to soothe her, but gave us the small “after” kit. We collected our packages and left.

Ruby wiped her eyes.

“Does it hurt?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, trying to mask her pain.

I told her I was proud of her – again – for facing her fear. I’m proud of her persistence, despite the pain and frustration.

“And look how God took care of you,  matching your other stud and everything. The clerk also gave you the extra stud, should something happen. It’s like God knew things would go south and prepared ahead of time to take care of you.” . The clerk even made the second hole level with the first, something the first hole hadn’t been. Win!

I’m so grateful for how God graciously covers our mistakes and our poor choices. His kindness towards us has no limit. He loves us so much! We can’t comprehend it all. He cares even in the little things.

What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin?  But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.  And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. – Matthew 10:29-31




Here’s Your Sign


stairway sign

This sign is stenciled in black spray paint on the wall leading up to the shop office. This could be just another example of the guys’ inimitable sense of humor. On second thought, it probably refers to the capacity of the shop floor. My bad.

Work has proved bit of a rollercoaster lately. I’m tuckered out from this 40-year-long week. Ruby, ever perceptive, made me a little gift. I got to pick the color. I thought it might be a bookmark, and thinking of Prince’s death yesterday (RIP, sir), chose purple.

awesome mom

Alas, it’s not a bookmark.

She said I should wear it at work. Hence the string.

mom in headband

This was my compromise. I looked a little dazed and confused. Coffee hadn’t kicked in yet, I guess. I do hope this statement across my forehead isn’t my epitaph. I will keep it handy, though, should people harass me at work. It should behave like a sort of deflector shield or something. “Hey, don’t bug me! I’m tired *because* I’m awesome.” Worth a shot.

notice sign

On that note, I’d like to say Happy Friday. It’s all over but the shouting.

Sarcastic Signs














Stick Man

After kettlebells class, a much-needed shower and dinner, Ruby and I watched a show together.

I recognized the voices and animation immediately from the BBC’s “The Gruffalo”. Ruby and I spied that one several months ago.

For those of you who haven’t seen “Stick Man”(voiced by none other than “The Hobbit” himself, Martin Freeman),  here’s the skinny. Stick Man lives in the family tree with his stick wife (I assume) and 3 stick children. They form a happy band. One spring morning, Stick Man decides to go out for a jog. He prances outside in the balmy clover. He runs down the hill. He helps a snail score a leaf. Then…a dog spots him. You can guess what happens from here. The dog, only too happy to have a self-throwing stick, grabs him with his mouth and carries him to his human. I suppose this isn’t a great advertisement for physical fitness.

“I’m Stick Man! I’m Stick Man! I’m me!” Stick Man protests, jaunty green leaf growing straight out of his head. In fact, this sort of thing happens over and over again. His only defense in every situation is to flop down on the ground and look inanimate. It never seems to work. Each time Stick Man escapes from one predicament, a small animal warns him of the next.

“Stick Man, beware the girl!”

This just before the girl plucks him up to use him to float in a stick-boat race down the river. Another child uses him as a sword. Another as a snowman’s arm, or a hook. See, Stick Man ends up out at sea and completely loses sight of the family tree.

A year of seasons pass by. He’s hiked through the snow, frosty and cold. He’s exhausted, yet still helps little creatures less fortunate. He overturns upended bugs. He plods on. Finally, he collapses on Christmas Eve, right in front of a small village.

A little girl picks him up.

“Look! A stick for the fire!” she exclaims.

Stick Man has the place of honor on the kindling pile. He dreams of home. Suddenly, he wakes to his situation. He hops out of the fireplace. Then something falls down the chimney. Black snow.

“Help me, I’m stuck,” a voice intones from above him.


Stick Man, still doing good though miles from home, lost and lonely, manages to edge Santa himself from the chimney. Santa falls to the ground in a cloud of soot.

“Stick Man! Thank you, thank you, endless thanks,” he says, shaking the tiny tri-fingered hand. He sees and he knows Stick Man on sight.

Santa turns to go, Stick Man standing behind him in awe. Then it all changes. He beckons for Stick Man to join him. They hop in the sleigh and Stick Man gets to help deliver the presents to sleeping kids.

Funny, but the kids getting presents look just like the kids who misused Stick Man not so long ago. The girl who pretended Stick Man was a sword gets a toy sword instead. The boy who used Stick Man as an oar gets his own, and on and on. Where Stick Man could have enacted his revenge on unsuspecting children, or stood off to the side, pouty and indignant, he pointed Santa to the best toy match for each. He served with joy. Santa proved even better to Stick Man himself. He brought Stick Man home to his little wooden family, the ultimate Christmas present.

I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of most cartoons. But this little gem had something to teach me. We’re all trying somehow to get back home. Keep the faith. Keep on doing good. Don’t hit back, even if you’re close enough to scratch eyes out with your splindly little twig arms. Love your enemies. All the good things Jesus wants us to do and to be. God knows you and He sees you, right where you are. Never forget it.