Ball Friday

It’s Friday, and it’s payday. Finally.

Another deep freeze day in the Pacific Northwest. It’s still below freezing, and it’s late morning. The shadows, hidden away from the light, stay cold and slippery.

People got a little testy about yesterday’s commute in. “Why didn’t we get delayed today instead of yesterday? I slipped all over the roads,” they grumbled, including yours truly. I fishtailed all over the highway. This is where we’re supposed to use our best judgment. Well, the roads in Shelton were sanded down nicely. Highway 101 didn’t get the same kind of treatment.

Dakota and I had our ball time. We hung out in the 17-degree air, chasing elusive tennis balls. I threw a brand new one to her. It was gone. Couldn’t find it again. So then the hunt began for a second ball for me to throw. She wasn’t about to surrender the ball in her mouth, her pacifier and lucky charm.

 

We wandered around the yard. She found one in the grass. What I love about Dakota is that she never holds it against me when I can’t find a ball. She may be disappointed, sure, but she doesn’t get mad at me. She might bark a lot, because she ends up inside sooner than she wants to be. Yet it’s never a long-standing pout. Because there’s always another time to play, another morning, another sunny stretch of afternoon light to romp in.

Eventually, she stood over something in the upper lawn. I sound ritzy saying that, don’t I? We have two patches of lawn, and an orchard out back. The orchard is 7 trees. It’s just a shorthand, not a major fruit producing parcel.

I walked over to where Dakota stood in the crunchy grass. A ball. I dipped the bright green chucker down to pick it up. God bless the person who invented this item. It has saved me many a nasty handful of ball juice/guts/dog drool. The ball, frozen like Alaskan tundra, wouldn’t go into the curved space designed for it. It felt like a frigid lead weight. Instead of a fuzzy orb with a rubber interior, it had no give. I put my foot on it and forced it into the device.

I reached my arm back and flung the ball, freeing it from its keeper. It soared over the yard – not too far – and landed with a thunk. It bounced exactly once: upon impact. The solid innards didn’t allow it any room to respond to the even harder frost-bound ground. It rolled to a stop a foot from where it hit.

How often do we refuse to surrender? The ball seemed an object lesson. We hold onto our ways so tightly, convinced we’re right. I have been in a position to be hard and unyielding about certain things in my life. I thought I had it all figured out. The way to live. The way to worship. The way to love Jonathon and the kids. But I don’t. I need to be able to bounce back when things turn out contrary to what I’d hoped for, prayed for. I need to make sure I have “give” to receive new ideas and new ways of serving, new pathways that open up. I serve the Creator, the most creative and innovative One in the universe. Shouldn’t I be open to His voice and insights? Yes, the Bible has the truth. But the “hows” can shift.   I want to be in His will in all things at all times.

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”  – Psalm 46:10

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Late Snow

Yesterday, it snowed. All day long. I kept looking out the back door at work, wondering if the County would close early. Nope. The new County Manager is a former Public Works roads guy. And miraculously, the snow stuck neither to the roads or sidewalks. It made pretty postcard pictures with snow coating the trees, grass and bushes. county lot snow.jpg

It was lovely. Lisa and I walked out in it for our breaks. We felt like we were living inside a snowglobe. Snow always feels magical to me. We don’t get it very often, and when we do, it vanishes quickly like frozen manna.

When I got up this morning, the temperature was 19 degrees. All that lovely white stuff had frozen into a crunchy, sparkly-sugar coating. We covered the yard as I threw her tennis balls, the inky sky holding a single shiny star. A few cars roamed up and down the street. I lasted about 10 minutes. When I stepped back inside, the temp had dropped to 17 degrees. Brr! Rex lasted about 10 minutes, too.

I wondered if this morning’s work at the County would grind to a halt. With freezing and thawing comes ice. Very little snow fell after I got home last night. But I knew the parking lots and side streets would be treacherous. I kept checking the website. Nothing. Ruby’s school pleaded 2 hours late yesterday afternoon. I hoped for the same.

I drove in under sunny skies. The Douglas firs stood silent in their white coats. The roadsides sat pristine, untouched by human feet or abandoned cars. It seemed like a movie set.

I got to work, fishtailing a little on the arteries’ turn lanes in Olympia. The County parking lot was nearly empty. What? I pulled up my phone. Then I saw the notice: All County Offices Delayed by One Hour. All in title case. What?! *Now* I see it. Sigh. I felt rooked, frustrated and annoyed. No wonder traffic was so light. And I got a great parking spot.

Sometimes, we just have to be flexible. Life throws curveballs. Instead of catching them, they hit us in the back of the head. We miss things. We make mistakes. What other good can come out of this? Cause I’m looking for it.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28

 

Peanut Butter Puffs

Today, I’m back at work. Ruby has another day to stay home. Part of the Shelton School District inimitable “winter break.” Because 2 weeks off at Christmas was ages ago. And MLK, Jr. Day was so last month.

But I’m not bitter.

We spent the weekend doing a bit of shopping and some baking. She wanted to make cookies that looked like dog treats, but weren’t.

“We have ingredients for peanut butter cookies,” I told her.

“Okay,” she said.

I let her take over the recipe. I did the dry ingredients. I mixed together the flour, salt and baking soda. She took over the wet. She creamed the butter, then added the white and brown sugars. Once they were fluffy, she added in the egg, then vanilla. Last, the peanut butter. A whole cup.

“Mom,” she said to me, looking alarmed. “I put in a cup instead of half a cup.”

OK. And this is bad because…?

“So what do you need to do to make things even out?” I wondered if she understood the implications of effectively doubling the p-buddy.

“I need to double all the other ingredients,” she said, eyes serious. She sighed.

“Or, “I said, “we could just leave it. I bet it’ll be just fine the way it is. Peanut butter cookies can get too sweet sometimes, with all that sugar and so little peanut butter.”

We left it. We pressed the dough into a mini muffin tin. I adjusted the cooking time to lower and slower per Dr. J.’s advice. They came out looking like this.

Not super appetizing, like squashed mushrooms. Yet better, I think, than dog treats. They have a crispy, crunchy texture and over-the-top peanut butter flavor. Dakota’s not getting any of these. I love it when mistakes turn out to be delicious.

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.

Snowboard-Halfpipe-Mens-Final.jpg

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.

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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.

Truly.

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.