Sharpen the Ax

JACK NICHOLSONSo, I’m all noted out and conferenced out.  The Friday after the Microsoft conference, I had an all-day Washington Public Records Officials conference.  You know you wished you were there, with lawyers debating public records, case law and the unfortunate results of public servants using personal devices to conduct government business.

No?  Really?

Well, take a gander at this baby!

IMG_20150425_081449_825Nothing says government training like a 250-page manual.  I did learn a few things, like the importance of logging every step of fulfilling a public records request and how to implement a company-wide email capturing program. Useful information which I couldn’t discover on my own.  Which puts me in mind of pastor’s sermon this morning out of Ecclesiastes 10.  Our pastor has done a great job of making this rather dismal and sometimes caustic book come alive.  I’m thinking on verse 10 today.

Using a dull ax requires great strength,
    so sharpen the blade.
That’s the value of wisdom;
    it helps you succeed.

It takes more energy to “do life” if you don’t think things through.  You’re constantly backtracking to fix your mistakes.  If you don’t practice, you won’t improve at any sport, musical instrument or skill.  Plan.  Get organized.  Sharpen the axe.  I know it sounds ominous, and some of you (me included) probably thought about the scene from “The Shining” (see photo).  But getting training enables you to do more with what you have.  You have more tools at your disposal, more problem-solving skills and a lot more hope for a good outcome.

You don’t have all the answers in this life, and neither do I.  I’m going to keep garnering wisdom wherever I can.  Even if it involves wrestling a 250-page tome.

Baby Blues?

Not mine. Image by

Not mine. Image by

I held the baby on my knees. Her bright pink socks encasing tiny toes contrasted nicely with my brown work slacks. We sat in the bleachers at Ruby’s school in order to view her last PiPs performance.

Not my baby. She’s a month old.

Zac, sitting on my left, leaned over. “She’s drooling on your pants,” Zac said.

Never seen white drool before. My intrepid trousers quickly absorbed the formula residue. I recognized the smell from when I bottle fed my babes. Baby smelled oaty. Out of her mouth bubbled streams of goo. Undaunted, I collected a burp cloth from the neighbor girl who brought the baby to me.

I turned her a little to get a better look. Tufts of sandy hair stood up from her head. Her face contorted into old man grimaces. Her head, obviously quite weighty, tipped from side to side. I jounced her with a gentle bounce, careful not to be too energetic.

Zac smiled at her. He’s good with kids. But not a huge baby fan.

Meanwhile, baby girl blew magnificent bubble sculptures. I swiped her face again. The full weight of her chunky body rested against my hand. Her blue eyes gazed out at the gym floor where kids tried to spin, bounce or toss balls to the music.

I like babies.  I really do.  And yet, to be completely honest, I’m glad to be out of that stage. No more diapers or night feedings or rotating your outfit several times a day. I could go on, but you get the point. I like my kids telling me what they’re thinking about.  They crack me up with their funky little schemes and ideas. Babies, for all their inherent cuteness and adorable outfits that come with, have little personality in their bitty bodies.

So I handed the baby back.

“Thanks,” I said to our neighbor, who though only 9 years old already knew the expert baby hold. The future mama smiled. She carried the wee one back to her seat. I thought, Let the next generation rise up.

Seasons don’t last forever. I do remember thinking at low times that each day lasted a thousand years when my kids stood only 2 feet high.  My baby-raising (and baby-making) season is over. I work full-time now, and both kids attend school. Ruby’s time with PiPs finished last night. We’ve entered a new era. I want to enjoy and make the most of each season.

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. – Ecclesiates 3:1

Tuesday Time

I woke up groggy this morning. After reading about the priestly garments in the book of Exodus, I headed outside. Our weather ahs been positively springlike. Dry and balmy for several days. I took to the means streets of Shelton and ran 2 miles with fartleks on well-lit blocks.  Hey, fartleks are real. Look it up.

At work today, I found myself looking at the clock.  I composed this haiku.

Hurry, clock! Don’t stop.
Why do you move so slowly?
Hands drag on your face.

As I dive deeper into records management, both in the natural and online, I come across unique items.  Like the Mazama pocket gopher.  Discovered in the Mt. Mazama area in Oregon, this little guy is now a threatened species.

Ain't he cute?

Ain’t he cute?

It actually was part of a public works project file, a feasibility study to save their habitat.  They like prairies, by the way. They dig up earth and help plant diversity. says so.

What caught my eye here is the name Mazama.  My dad used to be part of the Mazama mountaineering group.  They climbed mountains. I’m related to my dad, who was a Mazama. Mt. Mazama held the first group of Mazama pocket gophers.  That means only 2 degrees of separation keep me and the gophers apart.  Huzzah!


I also found a treasure trove of Washington State digital archives.  The town of Marcus, Washington, had a complete list of ordinances from the town’s founding in 1910.  Guess what #4 was?  Okay, I’ll tell you. In October of 1910, the town ordinance passed a law for the taxing and killing of dogs.  I’m guessing strays, because right before that, they passed an ordinance about keeping alleys free of debris and safe. A couple of years later, in July of 1912, they got all over children loitering outside at night. They specifically prohibited it. Loitering children.  Marathon kick-the-can games:  The universal problem.

Time is an illusion. I like discovering things.  However, though these things are new to me, others knew about them already. What has been, will be again. There is nothing new under the sun. Not even pocket gophers.

History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. – Ecclesiastes 1:9

Perfect Season

The air and light have changed.  It’s definitely fall.  Squirrels scurry back and forth across the road.  The gusts of wind blow down brown leaves.  The sun, no longer full of vigor, pours down its warmth but doesn’t burn.

I couldn’t resist a run today, despite my still-throbbing foot.  The air still held night’s chill as I passed under shade trees.  I thought about the relentless march of seasons.  Personally, I’d like it to be summer all year round. Sunny days, wearing shorts and T-shirts and sandals. Ahh…One of my best friends recommends San Diego.

“Perfect weather every day!” she says, quoting her dad. I believe it.

But what is perfect weather?  Sunny, with a high of 75, small puffy clouds adding texture to the endless blue of sky?

Some folks like the searing sunshine of desert summer.  They love knowing the sun will rise, and they will see it. They glory in the bold sunsets of pink, orange and gold.

Besides – “It’s a dry heat,” they tell me.

My kids would love to live somewhere that got more snow.  One year, they accumulated about 2 weeks of snow days during the school year.  Snow fell and fell and stuck around and stuck around, never melting. Temps never got above freezing.  Our power went out for one icy day. Downtown Shelton became a winter wonderland, complete with a snow mermaid and inverted snowman.

Still others seem to like our cooler, wetter climate. The handful of 90+ days we manage to have in the summer never last more than a few days at a time, overtaken by the infamous marine layer.  Rain never leaves us completely alone for long.That seamless dome of cloud creeping in from the west drops the temperature by 30 degrees.

“Wait a few minutes, it’ll change.” True enough.  And if you live here long enough, you know you have mere minutes before the preternatural twilight of 9:00 a.m. gives way to showers.

The changing season outside makes me think of the seasons of our lives.  Our kids still need us, but not to feed or bathe them.  We have no diaper genie hanging around anymore, thank God.  The baby-time is over. We won’t be raising another child. Just putting that out there. My hair, of many colors right now, is laced with some silver.  I’m getting older.  I’m due for some fun annual exams known only to those of the female persuasion.  You get my drift.

Can we enjoy the season we’re in, now?  I know so many who recall high school glory days as “the best years of their lives”.  Or their stint in the military.  Or when they lived in another city.  I always want to ask, “What about now?”  Can’t this be the best season of your life? As long as we live, we can’t stop things changing around us and in us. No season is perfect. We can cherish the memories of a past season yet live in the present. Each era has blessings of its own as well as challenges. After all, we won’t pass this way again. Every season must end, sooner or later. Make this one good.

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1

In the Long Run

Photo by  This isn't me.  I hate running on beaches.  So there.

Photo by This isn’t me. I hate running on beaches. So there.

I’m training for a half marathon and each week I’ve added an extra mile onto my long runs.  Can I tell you they have each been hard in their own way?  The ten-miler was tough because my brain had to get around the double digits involved.  The eleven-miler last week hit me hard because my heart wasn’t in it at the start.  Then my legs started to hurt.  A lot.  I walked a ton and ended up feeling defeated by the time I reached home. 

This pattern didn’t encourage me.  How could I recapture enjoying running long distances again?  I thought about it off and on over the week.  I knew I needed to run this morning, a Thursday, because we leave for Rockaway for a family reunion-beach vacation in about an hour.  Running 12 miles along Hwy. 101, aka the road with a teeny shoulder, fog and log trucks, didn’t appeal to me.

I talked to Jonathon about it last night. I thought there might be a mind-body connection, meaning the more I worried about it, the more the muscles seized up.

“You need to change your meta cognition,” he said.

Huh?  Dr. I., you lost me!

“You need to think about how you’re thinking,” he explained.  “When you ran long before, you didn’t focus on your legs hurting.  You didn’t care.  You got excited thinking about the distance involved and just getting there. You love being out on the road.”

I pondered this for a moment.  It’s so long ago now.  Did I?  Methinks he’s right.

“So, you can do this.  Who cares if your leg hurts?  You finished last week, even through the pain.  What’s one more mile?” He smiled his adorable smile, the one that melted my heart.  I got it.

Indeed.  This does not mean if excruciating pain or injury crops up that I will ignore it.  It does mean that aches and pains are part of running and training.  I can strengthen muscles and stretch out kinks, but pain remains. If I don’t hurt, frankly, I wonder if I’ve done enough.

This morning, I got up, did my devotionals and got caught up on the world, ate breakfast, completed my chores and went out for a 12-mile run.

As I moved along, I thought about Jonathon’s insightful assessment.  The pain came.  I let it ride.  Yes, I walked a bit.  Especially when my left calf cramped up in mile 9.  I stretched it as best I could and kept going, walking when necessary. I thought about how I’d mentally counted myself out because of this pain that has dogged me for more than a year.  What if I didn’t let it stop me?  What could I accomplish?

Do I hate walking while on a run?  Yes!  Do I get discouraged when I need to walk now?  No.  I never would have been able to say that to the old Susan. Walking doesn’t mean it’s over.  Walking is taking a break, reassessing, but still moving.  I ain’t dead yet.

And so it is in every aspect of life.  We keep parenting even when we see no visible fruit.  We keep loving and serving our spouses in the darkest times.  We took a vow and the vow binds us.  We go to work and do the best we can to honor God and our employer, though things get sketchy at times.  We may need to walk at times, change tactics and figure out a new strategy.  We may need to apologize and backtrack. Pain is part of the human experience.  It’s not the end of the story, but possibly the beginning of a new chapter.

There is hope only for the living. As they say, “It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion! – Ecclesiastes 9:4



Static Seasons

It's coming up...

It’s coming up…

I assisted at the last Lap Club today.  Summer is nearly upon us. The school year has almost wound itself down, a 180-day clock set in motion every Labor Day.

I’m a little sad.  Second grade and 9th grade will never be for Ruby or Zac again.  I’m looking forward to summer and slower-paced days, lazing in the sun.  I’m thinking about running in the sprinkler, possibly hiking.  Not at the same time.

I’m also thinking about how I’m unwilling to force things anymore.  I’m learning to ebb and flow in friendships.  I’m getting the drift of letting go and being in the moment.  I don’t have to be in control or make things happen.

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
 A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
 A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.
 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
 A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
 A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

(Got the old song in your head now, dontcha?) Honestly, never been a huge fan of the wisdom books.  Does this mean I lack wisdom?  Probably.  I guess I’ve always found them rather dull and boring.

Seasons in our natural world don’t wait on our permission in order to change.  “Fall, I’m not quite ready for you yet.  Gotta get those new boots before the rain sets in.  Can you wait a week?”  “Sure thing, Susan.  I got all year.”  No.  The seasons were set in place at the creation of the earth.  I can’t hurry spring along, either. Seasons come and go at the Father’s bidding.

But I’m finding this scripture from Ecclesiastes applying to my life more and more.  If we truly belong to Christ and submit to his reign in our lives, we don’t get to choose the season we find ourselves in. You know what?  There’s peace in the surrender.  I can rest in His hands, knowing He’s got it under control.  Yes, I pray when things get squishy.  But anxiety and twisting and pushing accomplish nothing.  I’ve learned this the hard way.  Ask my husband.  Talk to my kids.  They’ll tell you. I still struggle with this sometimes. Why don’t you do it my way, Lord?!

The root issue is trust.  Will I let God bring the flower to bloom in His timing? He will water and fertilize, cultivate and shelter. The blossoming might not meet my deadline.  It always meets His.

The Beauty of Waiting

I ran 3 miles today.  The skies cleared off.  The air, fresh and sweet from yesterday’s rain, blew chilly on my face.  Wish I could say the run was wonderful, but that would be a lie.  It was just okay.  I sorta slogged through. The sunshine made it better.  I thought about doing more later on today.  Then I thought again.  I want to reach my mileage goal for the week.  I don’t want to kill myself, however.  Kettlebells class wore me out.  Thank goodness the last of Janathon is tomorrow.

It’s come to my attention that I suck at trusting.  I know I’ve written about this before.  I’m the “I’ll do it myself” type.  I’m organized, focused and sometimes too rigid. And those are my good points! If things go wrong, i.e., not according to my plan, I have a hard time believing they will turn out alright.   Bruised relationships nag at me.  Doing  just “good enough” won’t cut it for me.  I want to make it all better, yet I don’t know how.  I have to trust God and others and give it time.  Marking time has become the norm for months now in some areas of my life.

As I sit here and type this, I realize  again that life is not all or nothing.  After the morning sun, the rain arrived.  The western sky darkened. It poured.  The cold wind blew.  Then suddenly, the blue sky appeared.  Now, the sun glows behind a curtain of white clouds.  It’s still out there.  Waiting is not wasting time.  The sun will return at the appointed time, shining down on a beautiful world.

God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11