Blooming Season

camellia blooming 2020

It finally bloomed!

I strolled through the neighborhood, social distancing, of course. The swallows and chickadees flitted from tree to tree. Apple and dogwood trees in full bloom resembled cotton candy. Tulips sprung up from the ground in yellow, red, purple and pink like living lollipops. And I pondered all the good things of late:

  • Still working at the ECC doing FEMA contract stuff every day. One day last week, I put together 12 (twelve) contract folders. Yeah. Feast or famine, baby.
  • Every day the ECC buys lunch as everyone assigned there is on emergency status. I love not thinking about lunch every day. It should be noted that 7 people work in that ginormous building year-round. Right now, it’s up to maybe 20. All those other people are from other agencies or other departments within the County.  And they rotate. Last week started the 3rd shift for most groups.
  • ECC staff and others have meetings ALL DAY. We have an 8:00 briefing every weekday. There’s another at 11:30 and another at 12:30. Not everyone is in every meeting, of course. But everyone attends the 12:00 meeting on Fridays, when County brass comes by to hear the report-outs and encourage the group. Dr. Yu, interim Thurston County Public Health Officer, gives updates. Last week, she said antibody testing is worthless for the County. Our ratio of Covid cases is 1/3000, which incidentally, is about the same as Mason County. Not enough herd immunity for antibody tests to matter; also, no one knows if you can get it again. She thinks we’re about halfway through the need for social distancing and all the other protocols. Sigh. I love having the latest information, though.
  • This group, these ECC-ers, are amazing. They work 12-hour days without complaint. They even meet on Saturdays. They stay on top of all the latest state and federal regulations with laughter and lots of coffee. I am impressed.

But other good things are happening as well. On April 13, I started my 6th and final quarter with Capella. Two classes again, one PM class on risk management and the other is Integrative Policy Theory, which is essentially a master’s thesis class. I need to examine an existing policy within local government and propose alterations, a cost benefit analysis, and generally solve a problem trained, experienced administrators have not been able to solve. Gulp. Prayers appreciated.

I’ve saved the very best for last. I’ve been offered a temporary full-time position as a capital project manager with the solid waste department for Thurston County Public Works. It’s backfilling the position the jail expansion PM used to have, moving him to Central Services. Both of our positions are temporary and run concurrently for 5 years. Of course, if  that PM wants to come back to it, that bumps me back to the project support position I had in Central Services. But that is a very slim possibility.  In the meantime it’s a 55% raise. Hallelujah! I never thought I’d get a PM position until after I graduated, and  because I don’t have actual experience managing a capital project (yet!), it would take mentoring and time to get one. Even better news: I’ll have a mentor, and a great one. God is so good!

All of this makes me so grateful, and the time of year doesn’t hurt. Spring seems especially lovely this year as the sunny weather wins out more and more. Today marks 15 weeks since Mom died. I miss her every day. It has been so hard to wait for life seasons and natural seasons to change; it can feel like God is running late, yet He is faithful. What good things are going on in your life these days? I’d love to hear them.

See the source image

Spring Next

flowers

Jonathon and I spent some time today going through Mom’s things. We didn’t have much. We’d sorted it from the pre-sorted move to Shelton. I have several of her things, like jewelry and scarves. For the first 2 weeks after she died, I reached for earrings that belonged to her or ones she gave me. Every day. It helped me feel closer to her and allowed me to sit with the pain instead of drowning it somehow.

We found Mom’s old Navy photos. We found photos of her conducting the Navy WAVES chorus. We found photo albums of generations past and present. A white photo album contained newspaper clippings of Mom’s “betrothal” announcement and wedding pictures. The “Baltimore society” section tracked the wedding’s progress. This was pre-paparazzi, obviously.

Letters I wrote from college were in my baby book.

“Dear Mom…my roommate is a vocal major…I’m still trying to work out a walking schedule…”

Then, I found several Mother’s Day cards I’d sent. She kept them in a plastic bag. Mother’s Day cards were sometimes heartfelt, sometimes goofy. Some had pictures of toddler Zac in them. Good news, though: my handwriting *was* legible then.

I found a picture of her wearing Zac’s helmet from when he was a knight, I think back in first grade.  Many, many pictures of cats past, and a few of boyfriends past. Priorities. 

Our relationship wasn’t always great. We had differences of opinions. She railed at me for choosing to attend a Bible college. I didn’t agree with her choice of male companions.

“You have such good grades; you could go anywhere. You’re throwing your life away!” she said angrily.

But I knew it was God’s thing for me. And I met Jonathon, as well as some of my very best friends. She came around. Eventually.

One of Dad’s sisters sent a condolence card.

“Losing your mother feels like a hole in the heart,” she wrote.  My eyes swam.

Yes. Like that.

Meanwhile, I continue to do schoolwork and put my whole heart into it. In fact, I probably over-analyze every assignment. It helps to concentrate on something, anything, right now. I’m safe inside the bubble of academia and its regimented rubrics. I know what’s required of me and when it’s due. Yet as soon as I submit something, I second-guess myself.

“Oh, I forgot to include X. Wait, did I discuss the history of the rise of that public policy enough? Did I have enough sources?” On and on. I have to take myself by the scruff of the neck and say, “Stop it! You did your best. Now let it go.”

I’ve spent a lot of time playing ball with Dakota today. The rain stopped, though the wind still blows. It’s still cold, still winter. But pussy willows have appeared. The camellia bush has small, hard buds that will be lovely hot-pink flowers in a month. I must remember that spring follows the winter, always. I don’t have to force it. It will come.

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

 

 

 

This Week Today

It’s Friday.

Thank God.

It’s been a little slow here of late. But there is some news. We have one project manager still out on medical leave, and a project support person who is out taking care of her very ill husband. That gal took my place on the Flex Unit. I might be stepping back in on a short-term basis while she’s away.

My coworker and I have been wearing the same colors every day this week. Because…why not? Matching can be fun. Gray and red on Monday. Turquoise on Tuesday. Only one person noticed: our director. He came in on Tuesday to talk to the remaining project manager, and looked at Lisa then back at me.

matching jammies.jpg

(source)

Disclaimer: This is not us (above). 

“You’re both wearing turquoise…?” he looked a little befuddled.

We both started laughing, then told him our nefarious plan. As it’s now the end of the week, he wins the prize for most observant. Nobody else noticed. Lisa did say it made the mornings easier, not having to decide what to wear. Like a uniform, only better, and no itchy tags or polyester pants without pockets. Today is royal blue and white. Anyone else up for the challenge?

And spring happened. Like, for real.

Courthouse & magnolia.jpg

I’m sure by next week, when the temps soar into the 70s (!), the magnolia tree will be in full bloom.

Jonathon bought me these. They smell amazing and are so vibrant.

stargazer lilies

Ruby, visiting with Isaac’s chick named Blue Fuzz. No relation to Hot Fuzz. Ruby is the chicken whisperer.

the chicken whisperer.jpg

And last but not least, the newest darlings of the Susan running shoes panoply. I used these babies today on a short run. They have a little bit of bright green, a spritely addition, on the toes and under the mesh. Yes, they are Asics. Yes, these are the shoes the podiatrist pooh-poohed. The new inserts will take some getting used to. But I love them. My foot is better and I think as long as I continue to keep stretching my calves and wearing the plastic half orthotics in my regular shoes, I’ll be fine.

blue running shoes.jpg

What have you been up to this week?

 

 

 

Trusting the Season

fruit trees in winter

Winter has hung on longer than usual here in western Washington. Daffodils have just started sprouting up. Crocuses put out vibrant petals a week before. But the cherry trees in town have yet to blossom.

This means more time for pruning. We have inherited a handful of fruit trees behind our new house. Dad and Jonathon went out to prune them. Sometimes, pruning can seem daunting. Which limbs should go? Which should stay? How do I optimize the life of the tree and its fruiting?

Jonathon got a little aggressive with the cutting. The trees look more, um, sculptural than usual.

“Well,” my dad told him, “you can do that. But you might not have any fruit next year.”

Jonathon felt bad.

“You mean, I might have trimmed them too much?” he asked.

Dad nodded.

For us, owning fruit trees is a learning curve. We will learn what works and what doesn’t. We can observe the next season and correct if necessary.

But it made me think. You may feel like you’ve been pruned back in your life. The things you used to do, the things that made you happy or helped life make sense may have gotten stripped away. Maybe people moved away. Maybe activities dried up. Maybe the Lord moved you a different direction. Any way you look at it, you got pruned. Your life acquired more restrictions. Your path narrowed to what looks like a trail winding up a mountainside.

Maybe, just maybe, you feel you got pruned back to stubs. Nothing is growing. Nothing is blossoming or bursting up out of the ground for you. You feel a sense of hopelessness. You battle restlessness. I want to tell you it’s coming. The growth is coming. It’s alright to be in a fallow season. You don’t have to be putting out huge crops all the time. Change happens to all of us. You can get refreshed and let the season come upon you when God deems it’s time. The pruning, the cutting away, the trimming, it all has a purpose. The new direction will become clear. Don’t lose hope. Stay on the new trail. Find the joy in the journey. The Master Gardener holds you in His hands.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. – Galatians 6:9

 

Night Running

night sky

I’m changing my schedule up. I decided to run on different days, like today. It was raining when I got up. I hopped on the treadmill. However, I really, really wanted to run outside. Treadmills are nice and all, but can get monotonous.

I walked for a couple of minutes on the mechanical beast, willing my left calf to loosen up. Then I started running. The permanent incline of “1” felt like uphill all the way. My legs, fleshy pylons, protested mightily. I gave up. Rain or no rain, I was going outside.

I stepped into a star-spangled pre-dawn. Clouds and rain had stopped. The eastern sky lightened. The air held the perfume of cherry blossoms and cut grass. An involuntary smile crept onto my face. Now we could get somewhere.

I ran past the sketchy streetlight at the end of my driveway. I pounded along on familiar territory, yet somehow all new today. Running past Safeway, I saw a short figure in the dark distance. Funny how your vision, source of most of our perception, gets altered in the low light. A man with a dog on a leash. I got closer. The German shepherd never even saw me. Just as well.

I ran down to the post office. Cherry trees in full bloom lined the entire next block. Backlit by nightlights, their petals rained down on me and the pavement behind me like a faux winter wonderland. I passed another person, a woman with her hair in a long braid. She too had dog-walking duty. Her three small whitish dogs lunged at me, tails curled. Call it a three-dog dawn. I smiled and kept moving.

Somewhere along the way where the sidewalk ended, I hopped into a puddle. I got wet all the way up to my ankles. I bounced out quick, surprised by the unpleasant sensation of water sloshing into my socks. But I kept going and the water squished out on the cement.

I rounded the corner for home. Right on cue, the streetlight flickered on. A black shape with a whippet tail moved in front of me. It was Rex, lurking around to greet me and/or let him in. He edged away from my hand as if to remind me when it’s dark out, he belongs to the night.

February Thanksgiving

TGIF, people. I thought I’d write about what I’m grateful for today. I know it’s February. It seemed like the best time to meditate on good things, since the dreary weather continues.

Let’s start with this peaceful pond, out in back of the Public Works shop main office. Two very ugly ducks live here. But so do salmon, a woodpecker and who knows what else. Living in Shelton reminds me that we’ve only eked out this space from the woods. We’re blessed to have it, as long as the wilderness allows us.

Feb duck pond

As many of you know, I work half the day down at the Public Works shop. I am the only woman working at this facility. We have a restroom the guys and I share. It has a lock on it now (hurrah!), but some things still remind me it’s mostly a men’s bathroom. On the floor this morning, a hunting magazine lay open to a page like this:

Ikes-CO-Buck-14

Could be worse, I guess. I’m thankful for how they have welcomed me and allowed me to be part of their team. I don’t know anyone very well, nor do I interact much with those who ride the equipment and fix things outside the garage. I hope, given time, to remedy that.

I got on the treadmill this morning for a short run. Well, Susan, you *are* short, consequently, all your runs are short! Haha. Very funny, inner comedienne. Anyway, it felt good. Got to sweat off some irritation. I needed that. The head mechanic here, also a runner, reminded me yesterday about how much his runs help him with his attitude. Nuff said.

Zac, bless his heart, got the same flu Ruby and I had about 10 days back. I thought for sure he’d dodged it, ensconced at his computer. He’s been home from school all week.

“May I implore you to make me some tea?” he asked the other morning, very early, around a cough. Shocking, since he never drinks tea.

I had to chuckle. No need to implore, sweet boy. I miss taking care of you, now that you’re nearly grown. I will do it with pleasure. He’s shown up chipper all week long, albeit tired, coughing and feverish. I don’t think he’s missed school for one minute. So, I’m not thankful Zac got sick, but glad to be able to spend a little more time with him and help him where I can.

I apologize that this photo is rather graphic, but I’m happy about cats that work hard so we don’t have to:

Rex rat

This used to be a rat, and a fat one, too. Not sure what the decapitation is about. Extreme prejudice, perhaps?

And last, but not least…

Crocus_speciosus_clump2

Amen. Come quickly, spring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grappling with Groundhogs

We’ve been battling sickness at Casa Isham. Ruby got the ick on Sunday. It started out with a cough, then progressed into a debilitating fever. She’s watched Shark Boy and Lava Girl, Free Willy, Book of Kells and countless episodes of Avatar (animated series) and Martha Speaks (PBS animated series). Most of these shows I can’t stand. Book of Kells had spectacular animation. Avatar is imbecilic at best. Martha Speaks I love for the wordplay and vocab lessons. Shark Boy and Lava Girl have good…hair. I know all this because I stayed home from work with her yesterday afternoon.

My turn to keep healthy now. I started coughing yesterday and spiked a small temperature. However, things at work are hopping. I couldn’t – can’t – afford to be ill right at this moment. New responsibilities are breaking open, like springtime buds. Relationships and establishing reliability sit on the brink at this point.

So, I’m self-medicating with OTC drugs. I’m chugging cough drops like they’re going out of style. I’m drinking water and lots of it.

While we’re at it, Happy Groundhog Day! Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow today.

punx phil

He thinks we’ll have an early spring. I’m ready. I’m praying that spring is on its way, both in the natural and in other aspects of our lives as well. I want to see new growth bust out of the cold, unforgiving ground and our circumstances. Who couldn’t use some bright and cheerful crocuses right about now?!

But even if winter lasts 6 more long weeks, I know who has it all worked out.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.  – Philippians 1:6