Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Eight years to justice

Eight years to justice for a Virginia killer.

Mercifully, justice has taken her course for the so-called DC sniper.

One can never celebrate a death, but I do believe that we should acknowledge when justice is served, when justice's wobbly wheels ultimately reach their final destination.

It is a very somber thing to take a life.

I would grieve for those who are forced to do so by a man's actions .. a man who chose to take other lives, indiscriminately and without mercy.

I also salute those who are strong enough to carry out the sentence. They must strengthen themselves in knowing they do what is right, and knowing that they've been burdened with terrible task.

Eight years ago last month, visiting Washington D.C. I had an afternoon free to explore, so walked the capitol mall. I misjudged time and a map: had to retrace my steps to find the metro stop. Along the way I realized that many times in the big city I walked completely alone, and pleasurably taunted myself with the potential dangers I might face. I wasn't afraid .. after all, I'm bigger than most, and I had my Doc Martens on .. I was confident. Then.

Eventually, well after darkness had fallen and the trip had ceased to be a game and self-taunting was no longer pleasurable, I found my original stop and returned to my hotel. Early the next morning I left the nation's capitol. On the day of my departure the first shots rang out and someone died. For days after the horror continued. And I realized, reading the news stories, that I'd been a perfect target while lost in the capitol. Because a man chose violence I found fear.

But I don't choose fear. I choose justice. I cannot, will not celebrate this death, or any death. But I will reflect somberly that the ultimate punishment seems just.

May God have mercy on our souls.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Broken and battered, we go on.

Just over 30 years ago, a tornado changed the lives of thousands of people in Wichita Falls and the surrounding area.

I was 20, young, brash, and working for the city. I grew up a lot that night, steering a pickup through debris-filled streets in total darkness according to the directions the stranger beside me gave, as we went in quest of a farm with a gravity-fed gasoline tank .. hoping for fuel to run the hospital generator.

We returned to the hospital, gas secured, and I wandered across the street into a little building were people came and went. Thinking it was a gathering place, I stepped in to see who was there.

It was a gathering place: a makeshift morgue. Blanket-wrapped bodies were carefully placed in rows, socks torn for toe tags.

I didn't stay long. The vision still remains.

The next day, an early rising to answer the call of duty. We spent the day in a world we didn't recognize. The wind bit, so infused with insulation that fiberglass blew into our clothes and eyes and hair. We itched, and it didn't matter .. my home was intact, and I had a place to sleep and eat. Thousands more didn't. I had been spared, and I had to find a way to cope with helping to clean up after the disaster.

I muddled through somehow, and am a better person for it. But this post isn't about me.

Tonight, a few hours after horror hit Texas in the form of a sick man who brought death to many, it's time to reflect. My son is a military contractor assigned to that army post. I knew he never went on the main post. I'd been told he was to be off of work today.

But we couldn't reach him. That's inconceivable. We can always reach him. Today we have Google Talk, Text, Twitter, Email, voicemail, and cell phones. He's always available. Always.

Not today. I knew he was fine. My fears tried to tell me differently. A careless commenter on my daughter's Facebook post airing her concerns gave me an outlet to blow up. Sorry, God .. I need forgiveness. Again.

When, after 6pm, we finally got the welcome phone call that my son, and other loved ones in the area, are safe, it was time to breathe again. Time to rejoice.

Time to reflect too. There are thousands of people in and near Fort Hood tonight who will be picking their way through darkness, looking for the fuel they'll need to keep going. The news media's intense scrutiny and inevitable new regulations and restrictions brought about by this tragedy will prick at their skin, their psyches and their spirits.

We must pray, and we must ask God for wisdom to act, to help, and to understand.

God, in the holy name of Jesus our Savior, we ask for your help. Forgive us, show us your way, your will and your mercy. We are broken and spilled out before you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Find Your Strongest Life: Review

What better time than now to read Marcus Buckingham's new book? "Find Your Strongest Life" is Buckingham's Guide for women, aptly subtitled "What the Happiest and Most Successful Women do Differently." The book came out October 5, to great reviews. I'm bringing up the rear with my couple of pennies. If you're too busy to read my whole review, read to the end of this paragraph. -- It's well worth your time. Pick it up today.

This review is more than two weeks late. I hate missing deadlines. But no sooner had I signed up to be a Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger than I discovered my life was about to change drastically. I'll be moving from our small quiet town to a large city. One I'm familiar with, and enjoy visiting but have never wanted to live in. Once I got the house on the market and halfway caught my breath, I picked up "Strongest Life." I wanted answers: How will I make the best of this move, and what changes can I make along the way to make this, the next and possibly final phase of my career the best it can be?

Thoughtfully, there's an interactive element to the book .. www.StrongLifeTest.com provides a short test that helps to point up my strengths, the places to concentrate my energies, especially during the next few challenging months. Unlike many other personality or aptitude tests I've taken, Buckingham recommends concentrating on strengths and leaving the weaknesses to fend for themselves. Having taken this tactic to heart for the week since I completed my reading, I can say it's working for me.

So what are your challenges? Looking for more definition in your life? Hoping to find that marvelous sweet spot of success? Need guidance on how to help others in your life cope with changes you want to make? Pick up the book, take the online test and take notes as you read. Marcus Buckingham's strength is helping others find their strengths. What a blessing.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


It's no secret that our home is on the market. We've been considering this for some time. While this is a wonderful home with everything we want, it's a lot of stuff, and a lot of responsibility. It's also costly, and with today's uncertain economy and our steadily advancing ages, we've decided to downsize.

So once we made the decision to list the house, we jumped right in. Of course, most people stop, take inventory and make small repairs, do cleaning, declutter and THEN list the house. Not us. We jump in with both feet. And we've been treading water like crazy ever since. I've packed a number of boxes, storing treasures that might take a buyer's attention away from the home itself. We've cleaned, sanded, replaced the roof, mowed and more. And now Open House is upon us. It is this Sunday. Three days.

I just realized that GL thought it was 10 days away.

Treading speed, MACH ONE!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cats don't do the expected

I've generally been a dog person who also had a cat -- okay, sometimes several -- in addition to my Great Dane. But last fall my middle-aged Dane developed a condition that quickly and unexpectedly ended his life. For the first time in my adult life, I was without a Dane.

Our cat MungoJerry the SuperCat, adopted from the local Humane Society at four months old, found himself at loose ends without a Dane to pester. Jerry doesn't take kindly to being an only cat. He gets bored .. no one to play with, roughhouse with or boss around. So without another pet, he gets cranky. He takes that out on me in the form of rough play and more-than-occasional sneak attacks that deliver really hard bites. To save my skin and Jerry's (I don't take kindly to being bitten) we looked for another pet.

We adopted a boxer .. maybe a moxer (mostly boxer) but our penchant for entertainment combined with my long hours away from home proved too much for Spot and we had to return him to the welcoming bosom of his family.

Only a few days later, the sneak attacks recommenced. So I made another trip to the Humane Society and brought Wilhelmina Rumpleteaser Thomasina home. Willie is a beautiful mature lynxpoint with brilliant blue eyes. And a cranky disposition. She doesn't put up with Jerry's pestering, and won't put up with a human pestering her either. She's quick with tooth or claw when necessary, though generally quite loving at bedtime (she lies on top of my back or shoulder until I go to sleep).

Willie and Jerry aren't exactly bonding. At least once a day there's a cat fight, and the language exchanged is not for the faint of heart. I keep claws trimmed, but Jerry's got a ragged rip in one ear, and both cats sport scratches on top of their heads.

There is hope. Today is the first time they've both been on the recliner with me. Willie behind my head and Jerry at my knees. I think Jerry doesn't know she's up there, and Willie is choosing to ignore him.

I thought they'd be fast friends by now. But we all know that cats are independent and don't believe in doing the expected.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Best Laid Plans Go Awry

The surprise lilies I saw in a Wichita Falls backyard on my way to lunch today reminded me that God loves to surprise us beyond our imaginations, if we'll just let Him. We have but to receive His blessings. To do that, sometimes we need to slow down and open our arms and hands to Him.

Slow down? When?

As poet Robert Berns so aptly said, "the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley."

I, who have for nearly 50 years read at least three books a week, have not been able to read for fun since I started this blog, which was to concentrate on reading, discussing what I read.

I turned a book back into the library unread .. a first!

I'm two weeks behind in my daily Bible reading.

And I signed up as a Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger and received my first review book in a couple of days ago.

So much for planning.

The ad campaign "life comes at you fast" is a good illustration of life right now .. can't go into details quite yet, but things are changing quickly, and free time is nil. In addition to other items, I've committed to twice-weekly evenings with my grandson while my daughter attends a night class.

Tonight, PaPa joined us and at his urging, we hit the local fair. I used to love the fair as a child. As an adult, not so much. As a mom worried about money, not at all. As a Grandma with a little more discretionary cash and a handy press pass from a media friend: we had a great time!

It was J's night .. he won a pretty nice looking (gaudy!) resin/wood poster/clock of a custom chopper .. great for his bedroom. He and PaPa did the Ferris Wheel together (I haven't had time to finish Max Lucado's Fearless yet, so I'm not ready for heights!), and then he rode a few rides by himself. We let him play a few games of chance, and he did well, especially the chopper clock.

Tonight was a respite from the storm that will whirl around us for the next several months. We needed this time together to gather our strength.

Tonight, I am well and truly blessed, despite the storm, and ready to face it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Following Instructions

My grandson Jacob is 8 .. going on 18 .. or 48 .. it depends on the day and the topic.

Jacob's mom is taking a necessary night class so that this can be her next-to-last semester of college. So Jacob and I are hanging out together every Monday and Wednesday night for a couple of hours.

We've agreed to keep electronics to a minimum during this time together. It's even more special because by next semester we'll not have the same opportunity or nearly as much time (more about that at a later, more appropriate date).

At any rate, I've been hitting the craft stores for inexpensive kits that we can both enjoy. Tonight's selection was a couple of string art kits .. the kind of thing wherein one strings colored embroidery thread through a bunch of holes punched into a circle shape on a velvet-covered foam board. The instructions were specific: separate and measure the strands of thread in a particular way, select a specific color, and then string it through the board in a particular pattern.

The pattern is something like "Come out at hole 1, go into hole 14, out at 2, into 15, out at 3, into 16 and so on."

Jacob was excited about starting this, but quickly got frustrated. "I'm so confused" "I'm confused" .. I tried to patiently show him the steps, and how this would work "see, it's just a pattern .. once we start, it will be easier."

"It's not that, it's just, I'm confused .. why do we have to follow instructions?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Why do we have to follow instructions? Why can't we just do it any way we want to?"

I explained that this was a kit .. that I picked it out so that it would teach us how to do this craft, and we would, by following instructions, end up with something that would look like the photo, and as that was the goal, we should follow instructions.

Jacob decided he'd give that a try. (And he did quite well)

I've noticed in his eight years of life that Jacob often has a reason for not following instructions. He's a busy, bright, inquisitive child, and never openly defiant, but he really believes way down deep that many of our instructions for him just don't apply .. usually because he's intent on reaching a goal. Even when that goal doesn't mesh with ours. This, of course, results in correction from we responsible adults.

I think a lot of us treat God that way. We disregard his instruction because, after all, we're the ones living in this ol' sinful world. We know deep down that we are heading toward a specific purpose .. but sometimes that purpose is at cross-purposes with God. Time to consider whether that's a good thing or not. Maybe I'm not able to refer to a photo example of a finished product, because God doesn't always work that way. But He always works toward a specific goal. And I've certainly learned that life is much more pleasant when I work toward God's goal instead of mine.

Next time I have to call Jacob down for not following instructions, I'll remind myself to ask God,

"Am I following Your instructions, Lord?"

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Spirit of Heaviness vs. the Garment of Praise

"Put on the garment of praise
for the spirit of heaviness"

It's a praise and worship song often sung in our church, but that "spirit of heaviness" part has never made sense to me .. should it be heaven-ness, or what? This morning, I (who HATE to admit not knowing anything) finally asked my friend, sitting next to me, what she thought it meant. She kindly explained that it's like having a heavy heart .. a spirit of heavy-ness.

Oh. That's very different. Now I get it. Exchange praise for heavy-heartedness. As the Bible promises, and Rebecca St. James (I think and hope!) sang, God gives us beauty for ashes, gladness for mourning and peace for despair.

So this song encourages me to replace this spirit of heaviness with a garment of praise. Sounds like a fair trade. For lately, the spirit of heaviness has been with me. It's not a familiar spirit, or state of being. I don't like it. I don't intend to keep it. So I'm purposing in my heart .. when I recognize that dreaded spirit, I will trade it for a garment of praise. Even though I don't FEEL like praising at that time, I will be obedient, and I will cloak myself in praising God. Though my inside may feel heavy with dread, my outside will be covered in praise. It will squeeze out dread, and provide a protective covering that will keep heaviness away.

Today I read my friend Nana's post (see http://www.notionsandnonsense.blogspot.com/). There's so much unknown in many lives today. Too many who sense a hand reaching for the edge of the rug on which we're standing, knowing that a yank on that rug is heading our way, but not knowing where we'll land .. will we jump in time? tumble? skid? bruise? sprain? break? land on another soft rug? hop to our feet and rejoice at our new location?

Who knows? Like Nana, I know this: God knows. As Jeremiah said, and another of my favorite worship songs paraphrases: "I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, declares the Lord.Plans to prosper you, plans never to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future, these are the plans I have for you."

Lord, my life is in your hand. The hand that yanks my rug cannot harm me, no matter what the intent. For Your Hand is all-mighty, all-powerful. You will catch me and place me where I belong.

I pray as Jabez did: "Lord, would that you would bless me indeed, and expand my boundaries. Put your hand upon me, and keep me from evil, so that I would not cause pain."

I think my boundaries are changing. I'm ready. As long as I follow God's Will, I will succeed.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Reading Adventures

As a stay-at-home type with a wandering mind, reading constitutes the bulk of my adventures. Guess you'd call me an armchair adventurer.

I've trekked to the North Pole with the intrepid Helen Thayer, (Thanks Laura, for setting me straight!) and followed that adventure by tagging along through Mongolia with Ms. Thayer and her spouse, then spending months (handily compressed into a few days) observing wolves in the wilds of Canada.

Partnering with the likes of Travis McGee, Archie Goodwin, Richard Jury, Stephanie Plum and Judith McMonigle Flynn, we've solved innumerable murders. Dodged vampires with Sookie Stackhouse, searched out the dead with Harper Connelly, and taken the Luggage across the Lost Continent with Rincewind.

Through books I've learned to guard my heart and spirit, to embrace the marvelous freedom of a close relationship with God, deepened my love for Jesus Christ, and been inspired to become a better person than ever I dreamed I could be.

Through reading and then writing about my reading experiences (as a volunteer book reviewer for our local newspaper), I've honed writing skills, and found myself in delightful conversations with interesting people.

Reading prepared me for actual trips I've taken. One, a quasi-business trip to Fort Smith Arkansas with a friend/co-worker, resulted in a song (I was driving). Jackie burst out with "Life is an Adventure when you ride with Jan!" in magnificent Broadway-style. Thus, when I considered a blog, and settled on the blog's primary purpose being commentary on what I'm reading .. related to book reviewing, but more of a discussion, a la a book club .. my dear hubby suggested Life is an Adventure, which, as I created the blog, quickly morphed into Armchair Adventures. It's how I work.

Bear with me. Don't count on a roller-coaster rollicking adventure. I'm aiming for soul-satisfying, Spirit-led discussions. And I'm looking forward to your contributions. Welcome!