The light bulb over our heads lit up and we had an “Aha” moment not too long ago, when we had our backyard dug up due to problems with our septic system.
For years, our house has been plagued with plumbing problems. We’ve had plumbers galore. Repair after repair. Each time thinking that this was finally it, we’d solved the riddle and our plumbing problems were finally behind us.
No such luck.
From things we’ve uncovered, and conversations with our realtor, we know that the people who owned the house before us had problems too. They were just carefully covered up before we bought the house, jimmy-rigged enough so that the home inspection didn’t catch it.
I’m not going to go into the repair details, but let me just say that it has cost us a pretty penny and lots of inconvenience. In fact, it’s been costing problems for home owners of this house for the past 29 years – which became perfectly clear once our backyard was dug up.
The amazing part to me was that it all came down to a three-inch mistake. One crucial pipe in the plumbing maze, buried under several feet of dirt, was pitched three inches too high.
For those of you that are familiar with plumbing, you know that it’s not some complex, computerized, technologically savvy marvel that drains the water through your pipes and away from your house. It’s just gravity.
Water simply does not drain uphill.
Once the pipe was reset and pitched correctly, our problems were instantly solved. Years worth of costly repairs, frustration and (on the part of the prior owners) a certain amount of deception – all resulted from one person’s choice to lay one pipe three inches too high.
It looked like he tried to make a new septic system fit into old pipes from the house, and he started from the wrong end. Rather than go back and redo, he changed the pitch.
Once fixed, I watched the water flow from pipe to pipe like it’s supposed to, and it made me think about how easy it can be to do that to ourselves. We go in the wrong direction, and it can muck up every other aspect of our lives. One lousy decision and the flow of our life becomes clogged. Stagnant. Leaving us unable to find our way out of the maze.
Yet I think our biggest mistake is not that we went in the wrong direction – hey, we’re only human – it’s that we take the easy way out and try to “fix” our problems by taking shortcuts, digging in the muck elsewhere, ignoring the consequences of our choice.
Like a lot of people, I tend to look at the wrong end and make decisions on the end result when I as yet have no clear idea of how to even get there. Like that quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, that everyone compares to a train ride: “Life Is a Journey, Not a Destination.”
I certainly can’t read the future. Mine or anyone else’s. I hesitate to rely only on my own judgment, because practically everyone thinks they are a good judge of character, but surely we can’t all be or the world wouldn’t be in the mess it is. We define ourselves a certain way, so when our choices take us down paths made of muck, it’s easier to blame circumstances or another person than to change our definition of ourselves.
This is one reason why I choose to believe in God. It’s comforting to ask for guidance from an all-knowing spirit that see’s the road ahead when I cannot. And I’m all about comfort. I think God is too.
Faith, you see, does run uphill. It has the power to overcome the wrong pitch and reset the flow in the right direction. Or at least, to add on a new pipe!
The hardest part is to stop digging in the muck, and remembering to ask.
Today, my wish for my readers (and myself!) is that our paths become ever clearer, giving us a journey worthy of the life He’s given us. God’s blessings to you all, Debbie.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105
Ah! The smell of spring in the air. When you ecstatically throw open the window to the light and enjoy the first warm breezes marking the change of seasons.
The sun is shining, the snow is reduced to patches dotting the landscape, the first tiny snowdrop flowers appear in the garden bed and – hard as it tries – winter cannot hold sway over the days to come.
Just a month ago I would take Sylvester out and hold his leash in one hand, balance the recycling bin on top of the garbage can with the other (as I dragged it all to the curb) and tuck the days mail under my chin. All in an effort to do everything in one trip.
Sub-zero weather calls for creative maneuvering.
But today it’s going to be 65 degrees, so I hook up the mutt and we take countless jaunts up and down the street. In fact, I purposely find reasons to pop outside. I’m behind on the housework – but Sylvester and I have to get the mail first. I seriously need to do my filing so I can complete my taxes – which I will get to right after I take down that winter wreath adorning the carport.
Sylvester and I make so many trips outside that he doesn’t even find any more bushes he wants to mark.
If only the outside looked as nice as the warm sunshine feels.
Instead, I see garbage and mud. So much soggy ground and mud that my desire to get out in those garden beds and clean up the rotting, winter-dead foliage is impossible to fulfill. I’ll have to wait until the thawing ground is firm enough.
And the garbage, uncovered from beneath the snow! Where does all this trash come from? Plastic bags trapped under bare bushes, water bottles in the middle of the lawn, an unbelievable number of old newspapers… delivered by someone with equally unbelievable aim.
It’s all incredibly ugly.
I feel like I live in a dump, but the neighbor’s lawns don’t look any better and I’m not inclined to wage war with the mud, so I try to ignore the way it looks and concentrate instead on enjoying the newfound warmth.
There’s still a chill if you stay out too long, so these jaunts are fleeting, and I retreat back inside, where I leave the door open and slip up the pane of glass on the storm door, the breeze flowing in through the screen.
As the day continues to heat up, another first sign of spring comes wafting through the house.
Sylvester is thrilled. It’s clear he thinks this is even better than when I grew kumquats (The Kumquat Thief). He runs to the door and presses his nose against the screen, audibly sniffing in huge breaths.
Getting his whiff on.
Sylvester’s eyes are shut tight in ecstasy. His jowls shake in excitement. And as I run around the house, slamming the window’s shut, I remember what else is out there, soft and gooey, waiting for me to clean it up… a winter’s worth of Syl’s potty breaks, augmented by the corresponding mounds left by neighboring canines.
Ah. The scent of spring.
Hubby and I were driving home one day, the light of dusk darkening what had proved to be a stressful day. My old knee injury was bothering me, so at one point I was waiting in the car while Hubby ran into a store. I pushed the radio button and started flipping through channels.
I like most styles of music but for a car ride I usually settle on soft rock, classic rock, or country. Occasionally, I listen to classical, but the problem with classical in the car is the road noise when you drive. Classical music tends to have very soft sections and very loud sections, all in the same piece. So you’re bumping along down the road, can’t hardly hear it, and turn up the volume until you do. All’s well until suddenly the brass section comes blaring in with a forte, and it just about blows you out of the car! Which is why I tend to keep my classical listening outside of our vehicle.
This particular day, while Hubby was in the store, I couldn’t find one song I wanted to listen to. Except, there was a particularly nice piece by Claude Debussy playing on WFMT. So I let it play… and by time Hubby came out the Debussy had ended and a narrator was discussing pre-WW1 music.
It was the tail end of a two-day program highlighting music before the Great War came along and changed the face of composing. As we drove home, the narrator gave a summary of his playlist and introduced the musical piece he was ending the program with. It struck me funny, because the musician’s name made me think of the fancy skirted bottle of maple syrup fame.
It was an English composer, George Butterworth, who has little music to show for himself as he really had only gotten started before the war broke out and he joined the British Army. Before he was deployed, he destroyed many of his musical compositions himself, fearful he wouldn’t return from the war and have the chance to revise them to his satisfaction before someone else heard them.
I think it’s safe to say he must’ve been a perfectionist.
Some of his music, however, had been previously published and he had already gained a reputation as an important musician. It was generally felt that he would’ve become one of England’s finest composers if he hadn’t died in the war (he was only 31).
Hubby and I pulled up in our driveway and turned off the car engine just as Butterworth’s orchestral rhapsody, A Shropshire Lad, began to play on the radio.
I haven’t the words to tell you how truly peaceful and calming this pastoral rhapsody was. From the very first notes, lovely images of a sunny, summer day in the English countryside came to mind. We both just sat there, mesmerized by some of the most beautiful music we’d ever heard.
It could be that the contrast between a stressful day and the salve of the music was so vivid. Or it could be that I don’t often hear a piece written in the Dorian scale (also called Russian minor). Either way, it was an unexpected blessing I won’t soon forget.
It also made me sad, thinking of his destroyed compositions. What beauty have we been deprived of in Butterworth’s quest for perfection? And I wonder… what gifts do each of us have that we purposely squelch, because we are embarrassed by not meeting our internalized standards? Who could we have helped with our ‘meager offerings’?
I went online and found a YouTube recording of the whole rhapsody, performed in 1944 by the NBC Symphony Orchestra (Stokowski conducting). I listen to it now, from time to time.
What if it wasn’t a co-incidence that my knee was bothering me that day? Or that Hubby wanted to stop at that store? And maybe Debussy was playing at that time to act as the proverbial dangling carrot, drawing me to that station at just that moment. (Doubtless the good Lord knows how I feel about impressionistic music.)
I realize not everyone thinks everything happens for a reason. And maybe it doesn’t. But be it luck or blessing, isn’t it amazing when you get exactly what you need, exactly when you need it? Perhaps someday, when we are in heaven, we will all have the opportunity to hear Mr. Butterworth’s destroyed works. I like to think that heaven will include concerts by our favorite musicians. Heavenly music the likes of which are heard nowhere here on earth.
If you are having a stressful day, or you just need a reminder of summer, I highly recommend you listen to Butterworth’s music too. I hope it will be a blessing to you as well.
Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands. Psalm 66:1
… singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. Ephesians 5:19
This post is about green. Specifically, the color green. Not money, jealousy, Irish ancestry, government issued cards, or spinach.
It has nothing to do with:
* the heart chakra,
* emeralds or jade,
* Celtic myths,
* looking nauseous,
* ghost slime,
* the former flag of Libya,
* stop lights,
* greener pastures,
* or unripe tomatoes.
This is about the color itself, not the meanings or associations we attach to it.
Green is a beautiful color. Green makes me happy. I’m thankful for green.
I once read that the purpose of good-luck pieces, amulets, or talisman’s wasn’t to cast spells on others, so much as it was to have a physical object that helped you to change your own perception from the negative to the positive. Sort of like having a worry stone in your pocket, that you could rub to help calm you.
The main advice of the article was to use physical props to help you deal with stress. Find that physical thing which helped you, and set it on your desk at work, hang it in a prominent place on your wall, or carry it with you.
As you can guess, with me it’s the color green. I have no idea why, but just seeing green brings me joy in a way that no other color does. And yeah, I’m a gardener, but it’s not a plant thing, it’s something about the color itself. So sometimes I put a little something green (fabric swatch, ribbon, jelly bean?) in my pocket, so that when I’m feeling stressed I can pull it out and look at it.
I don’t think the green object has magical powers. (Unless my blood sugar drops. Then that jelly bean can “magically” take away my hunger!) Perhaps mystics might say that on some level my body resonates with green’s wavelength or frequency. Or maybe other people feel this way about their favorite color too, but they just don’t talk about it. I have no idea. I just know that green makes me feel good.
This is why I wore a Kelly green wedding dress and had a bright green wedding ring.
It’s why the carpet throughout my home is “seafoam”. Why the wallpaper is “sage”, the lamps are “avocado”, and the bath towels are “forest” green.
I have to fight through the green jungle of huge houseplants that fill my office, and if you open my drawers you will find a multitude of green clothes. (Sadly, I don’t look that good in green, so I end up wearing the blues more often.)
My family knows this “green obsession” about me too. For my birthday this year, my sisters spent weeks looking at green jewelry.
“Do you think she’ll like the green tourmaline or the green crystals better?” They shopped and agonized and tried on pair after pair. It came down to two pairs of earrings – one pair was teardrop shaped and forest green – the other pair of semi-precious peridot, a lighter shade of green. They showed me both pair but said I could only chose one. The whole family had bets on which green I’d choose.
So today, when I put on my forest green Swarovski crystal earrings (it was no contest really, they were the “greener” of the two), I decided that November 26th, 2014 should be declared the first annual Green Appreciation Day. After all, if a clothes store can generate profits by declaring a day every year for families to buy and wear the same colored pajamas (not saying who, you can Google it), then I see no reason I can’t have a Green Appreciation Day.
Maybe it’ll catch on. Hey, the throwing an orange down the street on New Year’s eve did (another story for another time).
By the way, the earth is approximately 71% water and then there’s that immense blue sky over all. So I think it’s safe to say that God likes blue.
But he gave us the land to live on. And it’s predominantly green. If he wanted us to be blue lovers he’d have given us fins. So it’s very, very possible (don’t burst my bubble here) that God’s favorite color is green!
Happy Green Appreciation Day everyone.
Most of our days we go through life so fast that we don’t even notice them passing. Especially in light of the holidays… working, raising kids, maintaining the house, figuring out how to pay for Christmas… it’s all a blur. Those days are the filler of our lives. “What’s new with you?” “Oh, you know, just carrying on.”
But there are other days too. The days everyone hopes to avoid, yet everyone has.
Everyone knows what I’m talking about. Unexpected tragedies. Burdens that almost break your back. Worries that rob you of sleep. Family Discord. Anger. Pain. Resentment. Fear.
I woke up this morning, worrying (again) about something that I’ve worried about for so long, it’s automatic. My Achilles heel. Yet for all the times I’ve given it my attention – freely smothering it with my hard-earned energy – that worry has never come to pass.
I am – literally – worrying about something non-existent. What happened in the past, what could happen in the future, yet has no bearing on the immediate present.
I’ve cried to God about it so often that I, myself, am tired of hearing my own complaint!
I thought of everyone else. Doing the same thing I do. Just trying to make a living, taking care of our families, getting as many errands done in one day as possible, and attempting to hold it together one more day. Meeting the demands of everyday life.
You know. Scrabbling around gathering nuts. (Yeah, the squirrels do it. We do it. Every bug and plant does it. In short… every living thing is concerned with the same thing. That constant need to push back at the struggle of survival doesn’t take a vacation for losing your job, the kid’s measles, or home repairs.)
You know what? This is the price of life.
So. If this is the price of life, then what is the paycheck?
Sweet kisses on my face from Hubby. Kids. Sisters. The dog. (’nuff said). Family! Who can describe the connection with family? Love.
Then there’s music. Oh, happiness – it’s that time of year when every choral/instrumental group performs the most wondrous sounds.
Dark, cold nights spent cuddled under piles of soft blankets. Dog snores from the bedside.
Christmas movies. Driving around and viewing all the sparkling decorations. Holiday scenes made out of gingerbread and candies. Eggnog.
A warm bath. Good books and good neighbors. Ice sculptures of incredible beauty. Snow. Crystal clear night skies, sparkling white and blue days.
Green! (There’s always green somewhere.)
The scent of sugar from the Tea Olive plant on my windowsill. Jasmine flowers.
Yes, the price of living is high. But the paycheck is pretty darn great.
What are some of the rewards included in your paycheck?
“Joy and sorrow are the light and shade of life; without light and shade no picture is clear.” Hazrat Inayat Khan
Hubby and I went to see the movie Interstellar late last night. Interstellar Heaven!
I was so pumped to see this film, but I know how that can be… you get yourself so excited by your expectations that the actual event can’t live up to it, and you’re disappointed.
I didn’t want that to happen with Interstellar. (Hard sci-fi films are so far and few in-between as it is nowadays.)
So before we went, I read many of the on-line comments and reviews, both professional and from the general public that had already seen it. It seemed people were divided between two camps. Lots of 5 star reviews from people that loved it, and a lesser amount of 1 or 2 stars from the haters. There were very few in the middle.
You either loved it, or you hated it.
General consensus of the lovers:
- Amazing special effects.
- Moving emotional performances.
- Gripping tension that kept you glued to the edge of your seat.
General consensus of the haters:
- What exactly is happening? Too difficult to understand.
- Too long.
From within both camps there were comments that the sound quality was a problem. The music, they said, was too loud to hear the dialogue.
After reading the reviews, I was still looking forward to seeing the movie but my expectations were tempered, mainly because of the sound thing. I already have hard-of-hearing issues and those movies where I spend every other minute whispering to Hubby “What did they say?” tend to drive me nuts. Not to mention Hubby doesn’t enjoy the constant interruptions.
So we saw it. And here’s my take:
It was gripping enough that the 3 hour length didn’t bother me. Nor did it bother Hubby, and he often gets antsy even in 2 hour movies. He even wants to see it again. (I’m not so sure I do, although I’d love to see that ending again.)
The emotional performances were just what they said. Great. McConaughey acted his a** off, not something you usually see from him. Matt Damon played an irritating character, and he did it decent enough so that you really didn’t like him much. Jessica Chastain did a good job as the adult daughter of McConaughey but the one who really stole that role was Mackenzie Foy, who played the same character as a child. Even Anne Hathaway who – I’m sorry, I just don’t like her – did a really credible performance.
As far as the science of the film? Quantum gravity at its finest. Loved the strings! Loved the Rama-like spacecraft (just exactly when is Morgan Freeman’s production company going to film Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama anyway? He’s been promising it for years!) It was reminiscent of several hard sci-fi books, actually. Using “dimensional shortcuts” (like a fifth dimension) to travel or send messages through space-time is a trick of many a science fiction plot.
And then there was all the relativity. Can you ever have too much of Einstein’s relativity?
I think not.
The negatives I would give the movie echo the same as other reviewers… the sound quality. The science is daunting… I’m a bit of a physics buff but I certainly didn’t understand all of it. You really need to be up on all the latest theories to grasp the whole thing. But I might have understood more if I could’ve heard it! The music, while intense and wonderful, grew so loud – right during the key points of the story, of course – that even Hubby didn’t know what they said.
Do you think they did that on purpose? So we would miss a key physics explanation? Maybe they were fuzzy on it themselves and so covered it up with loud music? Ha – probably not. But it was kind of frustrating.
The other negative just has to do with my own personal idiocies in movies. I LOVE disaster films. And I was really looking forward to those gigantic tidal waves, frozen clouds, and planetary fires that were promised in this film.
They were a disappointment. The waves were pretty good, but the frozen planet was “eh” and the planetary fires were fields of corn burning on Earth. (Oh yeah, as an aside, that plant blight and Dust Bowl rendition of Earth was pretty cool.)
Still, when you have so much of Albert’s general theory of relativity in a film – well, as far as I’m concerned, Albert rules over all, so disaster disappointments are forgiven.
Plus, it was wonderful (for a change) to actually see hard sci-fi on the big screen. So much of what they call sci-fi nowadays is more like magic, or fantasy. I’m not opposed to those, I enjoy those too, but I’m old enough to remember when fantasy and sci-fi were different shelves at the bookstore. Nowadays, you go to Barnes & Noble and look in sci-fi and find mostly paranormal fantasy. Vampires, witches, and a few alien adventures with swords.
When and why sci-fi became vampires is another subject. Maybe I’ll explore that on another post someday.
But for now, here’s the bottom line:
If you have a working knowledge of physics, Interstellar is going to rock your world. You’ll be discussing it with your friends for days.
If you don’t understand the science one iota, it’s still pretty cool.
I say “Go”. At the speed of light.
Sometimes I feel like I’m surrounded by ignorant people. Sometimes being this morning, actually.
Logically, I know it’s not true. In truth, I don’t think I’ve ever even met an ignorant person, so how could I be surrounded by them? We all have subjects which we’re ignorant of, but that’s not the same thing as someone who is ignorant. Plus, our definitions of intelligence are 1) subjective, and 2) frequently prejudiced.
No, being surrounded by ignorant people is only a feeling I get, born out of frustration during those times when I don’t get the co-operation I think I should, from people whose co-operation I need. (Usually, it has to do with things like: doctors who don’t listen to what I’m saying or who don’t treat my family members with that same courtesy, contractors who take advantage of my ignorance and do a lousy job, etc.)
I’m sometimes told my own judgment could be suspect in these cases. Or, as Hubby would so aptly put it, “You just get upset when people don’t see things your way.” (aka: too controlling). Leave it to Hubby to tell me the truth. (“Ha!” she answers defiantly.) This was the case last night (and again this morning) when I expressed frustration with the “ignorant” someone who frustrated me.
There’s just enough little girl in me to wish my dad was still here. If Dad was here, he’d know what to do. I’ll never forget when I was in my early twenties and I made some derogatory remarks to my Dad about one of his friends…
My parents were part of a coffee clutch that met at a local restaurant. It was a fairly large group – probably 15 or more people – and several hours every morning the members would drift in and out of the restaurant, sit at a long table, eat breakfast and chat with each other before they had to leave for their jobs.
I was a college student at the time, and sometimes ate breakfast with the clutch before I went to classes, always finding it interesting how diverse my parents friends were.
There was the beautician who owned the beauty shop next door to the restaurant. She’d stop in around 9 a.m., order coffee and dry toast and spread local gossip she’d hear from her customers.
There was the manager of the hardware store… a disgruntled fellow who came (and went) early, since his store was clear across town and traffic could get bad. And the high school teacher, who ran into job trouble when the school district found out he was gay (this was back when “coming out of the closet” wasn’t fashionable).
I remember one fellow who was quite handsome. He had exquisite Greek features, attractively styled hair just barely frosted with gray, and he was always impeccably dressed. He was the owner of a men’s clothing store, my dad bought many of his expensive office suits from that man. Rumor had it that he had a penchant for cheating on his wife.
As for my dad, he was an executive for – now that I look back onto it – probably one of the largest employers in the area. A national corporation whose headquarters were in Stamford, Connecticut.
This coffee clutch was, basically, an interesting representation of the townspeople. They ranged in age from thirties to retired, women and men alike with varied livelihoods, interests, religion, and political opinions. I loved being a part of the clutch whenever my schedule permitted it.
One of the clutch members, however, was someone I really looked down on. His name was Al and he was a retired farmer who lived on the outskirts of town. To fill his time he did odd jobs for friends and family.
At the time, my dad was a controller. (No, that is not a description of his personality… it’s the title of a top managerial financial person, responsible for all the financial/accounting related activities within an organization.) A numbers man.
When our back yard fence needed repair, or the garage door opener jammed up, Dad would try his darndest to fix these things, but mechanic’s was definitely not his forte. His fingers worked fine on a calculator but when it came to home repair, he was all thumbs. Instead, he came to rely on Al.
To look at Al was to look at the stereotype of the typical “backwoods” farmer. He wore denim bib overalls, long-sleeved shirts and dirt encrusted work boots. He drove a small, dented pickup truck. His thinning gray hair always looked like it needed to be trimmed. He had a missing tooth and a rough, grizzled manner.
I thought Al was the most poor, worthless, uneducated man I’d ever met. As I said, I was college age. (We all remember how “smart” we were at that age, right?) I don’t remember exactly what my disparaging remark about Al was, but I do know it included the words “dumb” and “poor”. My dad became very angry.
“Al has more money than any of us up at that restaurant,” he said.
My eyes grew wide in surprise as Dad went on to explain. Turns out that – in exchange for fixing things around our house – Dad did Al’s taxes and helped him with his accounting. Something I hadn’t known. Al had no college degree, but he was a savvy, shrewd business man who, as a result, was very wealthy.
He knew what his area of expertise was and he knew how to capitalize on it. So much for “ignorant”!
After Dad “educated” me, I was more respectful of Al. Money talks, I suppose, but mostly it was because I saw my dad as a smart man, so if Dad thought Al was smart, then he must be, and I had judged prematurely.
So here’s the thing about dealing with “ignorant” people… do we get upset because people disrespect us? Or do they know something we don’t? Certainly you need co-operation (or at the very least, explanation!) when it comes to people you receive services from. Such as doctors. (My source of irritancy was a doctor, of course. I should qualify here that I have a profound distrust of doctors. My paranoia of them is probably deserving of some serious therapy.)
Well, I can’t quite let go of my frustration yet. But I am willing to take a step back and try not to control the situation every time I step into a doctor’s office. To admit that I could be reacting more to how I think the doctor perceives me than I am to why we went there in the first place. After all, it’s at least a possibility he may actually know what he’s talking about (that’s cheeky, isn’t it?).
It’s practically impossible to know what someone else thinks of you, and dangerous to base your reactions on what you think those opinions might be. I have no idea what knowledge or experience that doctor has had that, added to my own experiences, lead to our lack of communication. What kind of a day he had or what his emotional, spiritual, or physical state was at that moment. What I do know is that I doubtless could’ve gotten more co-operation if I’d handled it better. Tried a different approach, instead of just reacting from expectation.
That’s the danger of letting others define us. That’s the danger of defining others.
My dad’s not here to set me straight anymore, so I have to figure these things out without him. But I like to think that God has appointed Dad to keep an eye on me. To help me, by bringing to light memories from our past. I think of my dad as more of a disciplinarian than I do God, so that thought may not be enough to always keep me from reacting first and thinking later… but it is enough to give me pause.
After all, it’s not just a loving, forgiving God watching over me. Dad might be watching too.