2016 in Review

Full disclaimer: This has not been my favorite year in any sense. By the end, it felt sort of like this, which once was a cupcake candle.

cupcake-melt

Kind of a melty, disappointing mess, despite only burning for about 20 minutes. Ruby put this candle in my stocking. Yes, she helped play Santa Claus this year. Don’t tell your children.

Between the major changes at work starting in the spring and trying to sell our house, 2016 left me reeling. I know I’m not alone in this feeling. More personally, I got injured before I could run the half marathon planned in October, and I put in just shy of 461 miles this year. Not triumphant. I kept to abstaining from sweets until we went on vacation in June. My mom had major surgery. Donald Trump became president. What in the world?!

Is there nothing good, Susan? I hear you ask, as you shake your head. A few things come to mind. Zac is engaged with school, for the first time in years. He loves his advanced classes. Ruby is gaining confidence in the kitchen. Jonathon continues to impress with his ability to problem-solve at church and at work.

We sold our house, which we thank God for. However, the high point of 2016 would have to be our family vacation, from the end of June to mid July. I ran at least a mile every day of that trip. We traveled around the Midwest and Texas. We spent time with family and friends. It was epic. You can read about it here, here, here, and here. Oh, and here. There are more posts out there, if you search for them.

If you’re into stats, you can see them. I published 30 fewer posts than last year, but had more overall views. Go figure. Thank you, dear friends, for reading.

This year, I learned how little I know. Which I guess can be a good thing. I am teachable. I can grow, even at my advanced age. I think you could call 2016 a building year, which is a term coaches use when their roster is all rookies. I definitely felt like a rookie for most of the year.

This year laid a foundation for good things to come. As of right now, I’m washing the bad aftertaste of 2016 out of my mouth and moving on to 2017. Great adventures await us. Happy New Year!

Image result for no eye has seen no ear has heard

 

fireworks

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Our House

It happened. We sold our house yesterday, after more than 30 showings.

I’m still in shock. Just. Wow.

I should mention our 6-month contract with the realtor expired yesterday. We got the offer on Christmas Eve, a very lowball offer, and countered yesterday. The buyers liked what they saw. They signed it all, no exceptions taken.

We owned several cats over the last 10 years. Our beloved tortoiseshell Rita, who died soon after we moved, then Max and Stuart (one died from eating a Nerf dart, one ran away), ending up with the dynamic duo of Rex and Chloe. We let them live on.

I am a little sad. This house has been good to us. Ruby doesn’t remember living anywhere else. She learned to talk here. She surfed down the red-carpeted stairs with her chums. Zac had Nerf wars here. He got his first computer and made friends with the boy across the street. Jonathon earned his doctorate here, in the upstairs study/guest bedroom. He works from home now, using his degree and improving education for the online university who employs him.

And me? I grew up here, too. I learned to be less selfish and open our home to passels of small children. First Zac’s gang of little boys, then Ruby’s of little girls. We hosted a monthly group of church of folks 35-50 years old for a bit. We had family and friends over, too. I discovered I like cooking for people. Our L-shaped living room proved challenging at times, but also unique. I became a better housekeeper. I also got comfortable with a bit more mess as part of living with creative people. I embraced writing here. I got into running in a big way, and found it – dare I say it? –  fun.

The biggest takeaway for me is that here, finally, I learned to choose joy and to focus on the good things going on here and now. Believe me, sweet readers, that was no easy feat. I still struggle with it sometimes. I started to figure out who I am in Christ, and nobody can take that from me, nor all the great memories stored in our hearts. Not even the sale of our family home.

our-house

 

After Christmas

I hope you had a very lovely Christmas, if that’s what you celebrate. We did. Lots of time with family and church on Christmas Day.

And we got an offer on our house. It’s about $20k below the asking price, so I struggled with whether it was worse to get no offers and a million showings, or get a ridiculously low offer that’s rather insulting. We’ve got a counteroffer prepared. If you’re the praying sort, we’d love some.

I’m typing this on a brand new laptop. I live with two tech guys, so perhaps it was inevitable that Lucky, my laptop of several years that’s actually a hand-me-down from a brother-in-law, should get superseded.

This is Lucky the 2nd.

 

lucky-2

It folds over into a tablet so you can use it with a touch screen. The keyboard is sturdy, but it’s more compact and lighter overall. It says Pavilion on it, but don’t ask me the make or model except that it’s HP. Great for a smaller person like me. Great also for when I cover the next Microsoft PAC.

Zac bought me this (below) with his own money. I was blown away. It’s a step up from my old green and white one, which had better satellite coverage in rural Wisconsin than in Shelton, where I do 99% of my running.

garmin-zac

It tracks steps and resting heart rate and probably my bank account balance as well. And look at the big numbers! Perfect for an aging runner like me. No corrective lenses required.

I have no excuses now about running or writing. I have the most up-to-date equipment. I just need the motivation to match. It makes me think of what Joseph and Mary must have gone through after the shepherds and magi disappeared. What now? How do we live day to day, after experiencing so much of the miraculous? We can’t just go back to changing diapers and building fires and washing clothes, can we?

Yes, we can. We must, in fact, pick up the threads of our regularly scheduled lives again. But, we can dream and plan. Which leads me to goal-setting for 2017. So far, I have only one in mind. More on that later. What about you?

 

 

 

Getting Clear

foggy-window

The weather has finally turned cold. I went for a short walk yesterday afternoon, just before 4 p.m. The sun was already in its descent. I smelled wood smoke from the neighborhoods around me. A low-lying fog hung in the middle air, causing light obscurity. The temperature hung just above freezing. I wanted to celebrate getting out into the shortest day of the year. Not only because, according to the Mayan calendar craze of 2012, we shouldn’t even be here at all. I simply needed to get outside.

Same with this morning. I needed to run and clear my head. The gravel under my feet sparkled with frost and gave off extra crunch wherever I stepped. I left the pepper spray at home. I knew I wouldn’t see anyone out and about on this sub-freezing morning. Okay, I did see one guy running on the other side of the street. He wore an orange ski cap and shorts as part of his ensemble. Bet his kneecaps were blue.

I ran along the flat streets and considered the state of my life. Things are still churning at work, though less violently. The new normal is emerging. Frankly, I am not a fan of some of it. At all. I might even have had a bratty attitude  heated discussion  or two about it. Not proud moments, any of them.

But sometimes we have to do things we don’t like. It’s call being an adult. I am a fan of that, because that’s maturity. Don’t we love hanging out with those people, whom we call grown ups? They make unloading the dishwasher or matching socks a fun game. Their life’s joy runs on, untethered from inevitable quirky and tedious circumstances.  Mature people grease the wheels of this life with their love and kindness. I want to be the person who does unpleasant, onerous tasks without whining or complaining. Suffice it to say I’m still working on it. Have no fear, dear readers. Jesus isn’t finished with me yet.

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.– Philippians 2:14-15

 

 

 

Fully Immersed

free_immersion

Yesterday, I cleaned out even more of the old director’s office. I cataloged all the different types of documents. Meeting notes. Agendas. The 2011 Sewer Comprehensive Plan. Great reading, that. But then I came across some other items that didn’t fit neatly into the categories listed in the Washington State Disposition Authority Numbers, all 189 pages of them.

The director kept records on a person who had my job before me, back in 2014. He kept copies of all the invoices she sat on for 2 months before processing. He wrote notes on them like “Jean – I needed this last month”. Some had crossed out totals. She did them wrong, something I do every once in awhile even now. Projects come with specific allocations, like 64% of the cost goes to the water department and 36% to the street department. All of this sat grouped together in a medium-sized binder clip.

Then I found another pile.  In this stack he had copies of Jean’s timesheets. Several months had a “time without pay”, meaning Jean had used up all her sick time. Other notes included: “Jean called at 6:17 a.m. Out sick today.” Another in green pen: “7:15 a.m. Jean’s cat is sick, and now Jean feels sick, too.”

I’d only met Jean a couple of times before she left, while I worked on the shelter project. She knew a lot about grants and projects, intimidatingly so. I cleaned out Jean’s desk when I moved into her space about 18 months ago. When you go through things a person left behind, you get a better idea of who they were. Jean had some great files set up for P.O.s and receipts. She enforced the small works roster processes and made sure she collected the requisite quotes for new items. She revised the Purchasing Manual. But then I found lots of articles on burnout. And her emails, also remaining, revealed a tone that said she’d had enough.

See, Jean had been fully immersed. She had run full-tilt when the City had tons of projects going all at once. She knew her place and how to get things done. Yet along the way, she found herself asked to do more with less. She got a new manager and they didn’t get along. She hung in there for a couple of years, cut to half time due to budget constraints. Then she moved on.

It costs something to submerge into a world. I have been Jean in a former life. I routinely deep dove into projects when I worked at IDC. I had to. I owned all the documents save the record drawings. Letters, telephone conversation records, RFIs, submittals, stick files, all ended with me. I tracked them and logged them, even cajoled engineers to return them to me in a timely fashion. I boxed the entire project up after the postmortem. I logged it all and shipped it offsite to storage for 7 years. Then, I started again with a new one.

I hit burnout, too. Only I didn’t know it.

When Jonathon got his first teaching job in Reedsport, I quit my job. We moved to a tiny town on the central Oregon coast. I didn’t work. I stayed home and watched TV on our one fuzzy channel we could get. I spun my wheels as the rain poured down. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was a human doing, not a human being. Took awhile for God to get my attention.

Total immersion is fun while you’re in it. I loved being part of a team and watching a campus of buildings arise and knowing I had a hand in it all. Just don’t forget who you are, and Whose you are. Because jobs end. Circumstances change. God’s love for you doesn’t.

 

For Every Mountain

Happy Friday! I’m sitting here again, coffee and smoothie at my elbow. I’m thinking back over the last few months and I’m thankful for all God has done. Like the song says, “For every mountain…you brought me over….for every trial you’ve seen me through…for every blessing…Hallelujah! For this, I give you praise….”

minion-dance

Ah, here’s the song:

It’s not over yet. Still a lot of walking and some running to do. But He didn’t bring us out this far to to leave us. So, we press on. He holds us up.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31

Insect Love

I’m surrounded by cupcakes. I made some for the Employee Appreciation party at work. Aromas of chocolate and gingerbread (not from the same cupcakes) fill my senses. The Christmas tree glows in multicolored glory behind me. The heat hums.

“Hey, Mom. Do you want to see a really weird bug?”

“No,” I said. Because it isn’t how I want to start this morning, or any morning, really.

Ruby looked at me, hair standing on end.

“It moved off my door and onto the wall,” she said, raising her arm in a sort of salute.

“OK.” I know resistance is futile, and I will be going upstairs. But coffee…

“So…you want me to kill it. Is that right?” I asked. Usually, that’s my mission as The Mom.

“No,” Ruby said. “I just want you to see it.”

Who could argue with that? We trooped upstairs. Chloe, fuzzy guardian angel, sat in Ruby’s doorway. She didn’t notice the 6-legged creature poised above her. I peered at it. I am okay with spiders, thanks to my dad’s early tutelage about their benefits. Ants don’t creep me out either. At first, I thought it might be a roach. Gulp. But I think it’s in the beetle family.

rubys-beetle

“How do they get in?” Ruby asked.

“Oh, through cracks and such,”I replied. Really, can you ever have a completely bug-free house? No. Because bugs want to be inside, where it’s warm, and they can get water and food easily. I mean, who wouldn’t? Plus, they are teeny tiny and can squeeze under doors and ride in on people’s coats. They have superpowers.

The best we can do is to find a balance. We don’t poison ourselves with insecticides, but we keep the fleas to a minimum. Spiders happen. And in our house, a grand ladybug migration occurs every spring, despite our best efforts.

I think this applies to our lives as well. We go after, with Jesus’ help, the things that “bug” God by confessing and repenting. We turn away from gluttony, wrath, lying, selfishness and self-pity. We choose the best things in the light of eternity, letting go of things that only prove good. We let Him guide our extermination of sin. We trust Him to provide good things for us. Then we can live in the warmth of His love and the joy of freedom.

Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. – Acts 3:19