Monday Musings

sunrise

What can I write in 15 minutes? I have to wake Ruby and Jonathon up then. I don’t know. I could write about duking it out with Dr. X on a grade he gave me in the class with the longest title known to man. Then me calling him on not following his own requirements for the paper (!), us talking on the phone and me resubmitting the paper. He doesn’t give out 100s, despite the fact that the other professor I have does. Regularly. This is week 7 of a 10-week term, people. Can’t wait for the 3-week break!

I could write about how we still don’t know for sure what’s happening with admin in our group. I could write about how morale is pretty low and we feel like “why bother?” with so many things. We’re moving a specific direction in capital projects, synching with Public Works, but no definite announcement yet on specifics. So we live half in both worlds, peering ahead into the misty distance at what could be, and looking down at the work in front of us at what is. It’s awkward.

I could write about Jonathon. He’s looking for a job. Found a couple of interesting gigs. But more limbo there, too.

I could write about how it’s all a walk of faith. I keep waiting for life to be perfect and make sense, whatever that is. But there are good friends in the now, and chocolate, and a fabulous husband, and kids, and Jesus. Not necessarily in that order. I am good at blaming myself when things aren’t perfect. Waste of time and energy. This, friends, is my slow deliverance. Choosing to reject the condemnation and embrace the good is a moment-by-moment task. It’s a rewiring of sorts. Good thing I know the Manufacturer. He is able. And He is patient with me. He will do the same for you.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.  – Philippians 1:6

Snow Business

It started snowing in earnest yesterday afternoon. The project team was out to lunch. We watched it fall outside the window. It blew in, white like the sky. It didn’t stick. The temperature hovered around 34 degrees. We drove back to work, a little excited, like gradeschool kids hoping for a reprieve from school, watching and waiting.

I dug back into editing a Board briefing. I’ve been working with the newest interim director for our department. The old one lasted about 6 weeks. He wanted to retire for real.

“Hey, you need to look outside,” my co-worker said, poking her head in the door. “The flakes have changed.”

We know rain up in here. We know the difference between showers, drizzle,  downpours, sprinkles, mist and my personal favorite “mizzle”. Snow is a whole different animal. We get a little giddy. Snow is like the cute boy we crushed on in high school, but never dated. He was out of our league. So when he shows up on our doorstep, all white and dazzling, we swoon a little. It’s magical.

I stepped to the back door. Peering out the window, the flakes were monstrous. And piling up.  The state, also located in Olympia, closed its campus at noon to let workers get home before the roads got too dangerous. I wondered what to do. Our department director cancelled our monthly cross-divisional meeting and said we could go home if we liked. But we’d have to use our leave time to cover it. The County would remain open.

back door snowy at work.jpg

(“Doot, doot, doot, lookin’ out my back door…” Methinks the garbage cans only add to the back-door ambiance.)

“You should go home, Susan,” one of the project managers urged. “You have a long commute.” His face mirrored his concern.

I sort of love these people. I only live about 23 miles away from Olympia. It’s not that bad. Others drive all the way from Tacoma, near the storm’s epicenter. I didn’t really have enough leave time to justify going. I said as much.

“I will talk to our director. I will donate some of my time,” the project manager volunteered. He strode out the door.

I was touched. He wasn’t able to do it, as I didn’t qualify for shared leave, as a snowstorm isn’t considered an illness or injury. I loved the sentiment, however.

I peered outside again. At least an inch covered the parking lot. Olympia was getting slammed. The toughest part would be getting out of the residential areas and onto the highway. I figured 101 would still be okay due to steady traffic.

I decided to leave. I would take the vacation hour hit and get out of Dodge. Hiking out to the 2 inches of snow already down, I found this.

Pepper car snowy.jpg

The parking lot only held about 1/3 of the usual amount of cars. I brushed the snow off the windows and doors and climbed in. I gingerly made my way to the parking lot exit, sliding a little. I eased out onto the road. Up ahead, cars blocked the intersection. Bumper to bumper, they lined the entire street. I inched along, trying to be patient. It took 45 minutes to get to the first light, about 7/10 of a mile away. Cars moved aside for those entering or exiting the main drag. It heartened me, the grace and kindness showed by my fellow commuters. We all had the same hive goal: get home in one piece.

Once I reached the highway, it was smooth sailing. I breathed a prayer of thanks as I motored home. Just before Mason County, a bright spot in the sky appeared to my left. The sun was trying to burn through the cloud-cloth covering. As I continued to drive northwest, the snow turned to light rain. Just after entering Mason County, it turned into blowing snow again. Shelton had less snow than Olympia. Seems it had started up again when I hit town.

Today, it continues. We’re up to 2-3 inches, with more on the way until late this afternoon.

I threw balls to Dakota this morning in the darkness. City grit trucks powered up and down the road. The snow cast an eerie glow. Flakes danced and glittered under the streetlights as they floated to earth. Drifts sparkled under porchlights. We lost balls, then found them again. Snow caked on the tennis balls. Dakota couldn’t grip them well. She ate the snow, licking it off, then mouthed them again.

It’s been an emotional week, a rollercoaster. Right now, though, it’s very quiet. It’s time to switch gears. Time to spend time with family, doing things around the house. Ruby returns from a youth conference later today. Praying for the safety of all those people, and a continued infilling of the Holy Spirit. I know the Lord will use this time for the best. Even as plans get cancelled and our immediate options dwindle, He is still good. He still makes beautiful things. Let this enforced rest restore us for what comes next.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28

 

 

In Other News

Warning: This post is random. Now you know. And I wrote it yesterday but couldn’t post it because of the intransigent internet.

This morning, I spied a tangerine sliver of a moon. It glowed orange over the city. As the day lightened, it reverted back to silver. A single star sat next to it, a master jewelry setting if I ever saw one. It dazzled and delighted me.

You might be wondering what’s up with me. It’s been awhile.

Last night as I walked from Building 1 to my car, I had a close encounter. The air turned late afternoon pink. It was cold but dry with the beginnings of a gorgeous sunset. Another gal who works in courts, name unknown, was walking alongside me. And I suddenly came face to lips with a small, winged bug. Without realizing it.

I swallowed said bug.

summerbug

It didn’t go down without a fight. I choked and sputtered and swallowed. It’s January, folks. What the what?!

“I think I just swallowed a bug,” I said to my walking companion. Because I could not believe it.

“It was too lazy to get out of your way,” she replied.

I laughed and choked some more. Let’s just say this didn’t help my voice for worship later in the evening. I told the worship team and basically blamed every gurgle and voice crack on the bug. That puppy took revenge all night. Is there a spiritual application here? I can’t find it.

Shifting gears, school is going well. I’m getting good grades and staying on top of the work. Jonathon has been a great help to check my APA formatting and whether my tone is scholarly. He’s an online adjunct professor for Concordia now and he attended Capella. He knows the biz.

professorwithglasses

I’m still not entirely sure what “scholarly tone” means, other than to leave “you, you guys, me and y’all” out of the writing. I get to include “others, one, them, they”. I hope they feel special.

Work has picked up a bit. I attend a lot of meetings on projects that aren’t mine and I take notes. Then I edit said notes. This week, the meetings have become contentious. They start out fine and then, wham! Out of nowhere, an uppercut. Parties who had informed us of their needs do a 180-degree turn. “We don’t need that. Why would you think that?” Oh, because you said it 3 months ago, or a year ago, at the very inception of the work. It was only the impetus for this whole project. But whatever.

olivertwist

 I understand that I work in a political environment. Needs change. Priorities shift. I also understand the scrapping for whatever project funds are available.

But some days, I think I might need to retire early. Blame it on the bug.

One Year

 

calendar pages ripping

(source)

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of my job with Thurston County. It’s been a good ride so far. I started out in the prairie office, working on the jail expansion project. Didn’t have much work there, but the lovely break walks and quiet time were a balm to my soul. Now I’m in Central Services proper, in the bowels of Building 1. I’ve got a few projects to my name and loving it.

I’ve learned a few things in my 365 days…

  • Parking in the spleen lot, aka designated employee parking, is a 5-minute walk. Maybe longer with pouring rain, snow or ice thrown in. Plan accordingly. Bonus: Parking is free *and* paved. Holla!
  • I am a backup for the main phone line and the on-campus mail route to 3 buildings. Bonus: I know where to go to resolve parking tickets, obtain concealed carry permits and marriage licenses.
  • Early on, I took notes in meetings with the County Commissioners, department directors and elected officials. I know who most of the major players are. Bonus: I’ve gotten a good overview of upcoming issues and how things run here.
  • You can call in late, not just sick. Like one, two, or three hours late. No penalty or recriminations. Bonus: The phone messages get distributed to all of Central Services, so everyone is in the attendance line loop.
  • Food brings people together, well, to eat and generally hobnob. And if you bring in something delicious to share, it starts a chain reaction. You inspire others to bring in their homemade goodies, like beef jerky, pies, salsa, etc. It’s a win-win. Bonus: I won’t go hungry. Ever.
  • Bummer: I need to monitor my intake, or I could end up big as a house.

I am so grateful for my supervisor, project managers and co-workers. God has blessed me. Sometimes, blessings aren’t obvious right away. But they show themselves eventually, if we’re willing to wait in faith.

So the Lord must wait for you to come to him
    so he can show you his love and compassion.
For the Lord is a faithful God.
    Blessed are those who wait for his help. – Isaiah 30:18

Call Me By Name?

too many daves.png

Or too many Jasons…

It’s been a weird week, full of awkward conversations.

Not the least of which was one at work. Some of the guys doing a security project needed name badges to work in the building after regular hours. Our receptionist was out sick, the person who usually made them. Time to call in reinforcements.

“Oh, Larry can do those name badges. I’ll give him a call.”

My co-worker, Lisa, dialed Larry up and left a message.

I thought I had met everyone. I didn’t know a Larry in our department. We have IT, admin and Maintenance and Operations staff housed in the basement with us.

“Who’s Larry?” I asked.

“You know, he’s about so tall and has dark hair. Real nice.”

Hmm.

“Clean-shaven, or bearded?” Most of the maintenance workers are bearded.

“He’s clean-shaven. Just a sweetheart of a guy. Wait, I emailed him too.”

Pause.

“He says he knows you. You’ve been walking back and forth to the parking lot a few times. Says you’re super nice.”

Um. Huh?

“You mean Jason*?”

She looked at me, blinking her blue eyes. We sit right next to each other, so it wasn’t a big stretch.

“No, his name is Larry. We worked on that big project sorting all the drawings. I told you about that. We started dating other people again at the same time when our marriages busted up, so we had all kinds of stories to share. He’s pretty cool.”

“I’ve been calling him Jason,” I said. “To his face. He never corrected me.”
I shook my head. Why???

She laughed.

“He’s very kind. He would never say anything.”

This didn’t help me.

“So how many times did I call him that? I even did it front of his buddy Kevin. Neither one corrected me. Seriously?!”

I saw Larry-who-is-not-Jason later that day. I punched him in the arm (not hard).

“Why didn’t you tell me your name was Larry?” I asked,laughing.

“Ow!” he said, pretending to stagger back from my mighty blow.

“I’ll answer to anything you want to call me. If it’s bad, Jason is fine. If it’s a pat on the back, I’ll take Larry.”

“I feel like a moron!” I replied. “Were you ever going to tell me?”

“It’s not a big deal,” he shrugged as he walked away.

I don’t know. I think names matter. Otherwise, why don’t we just call each other Thing 1 or Thing 2?

Well, folks. Now you have it. Proof positive that I don’t know everything. You’re welcome.

*Full disclosure: There is a Jason who works in M&O. For real. I have never called him Larry.

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

 

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.