Graduation weekend & other musings…

This last weekend was one of those where we found ourselves running… starting with Thursday evening. The Pasty Gangster was set to graduate on Saturday, & theBean & I wanted to host a graduation celebration. Being in Atlanta for the 4SQ convention the entire previous week didn’t help with our preparations for the graduation… getting the house & yard together, ready so that it would be clean enough & organized enough to host some family & friends.

So Friday was a blur of activity. Took theGiant table upstairs, & then tackled the floors. Vacuumed the tile (so as not to stir up a bunch of dust,) then mopped it. Twice. Using Fabuloso, which, I might add, is one of the best smelling cleaning products in the world. Not that I am a regular sniffer of cleaning products… which would be weird. And potentially damaging to the currently functioning brain cells. But it is wonderful. And purple, which is definitely a plus.

The business of the preparation for the graduation & the after-grad-party made it easier to distract myself from the very real & very powerful emotions that rose & fell in my chest like the incoming ocean tide.

Now, I don’t have any illusions about thePasty being my ‘baby.’ Just my firstborn. Now 18 years old. With 18 years of random memories & life lived that kept flashing back & forth in & through my mind & heart. A few of them…

Holding him in my arms while he slept, not wanting to put him down because I couldn’t believe I had my own kid. The ever-present ball he’d have in his hand, depending on the season. His infatuation with the music of Steven Curtis Chapman. How he watched the “Front Row: Steven Curtis Chapman” Video over & over & over, singing along to all the songs, & even memorizing the banter Steven Curtis Chapman exchanged with his bass player. The binky dance. The worry we had over his eye issues & inability to see… & the day he got glasses. The day he got contacts. The washing of the hands & refusal to open doors with anything other than his elbows. The joy exuding from him every time he participated in a team sport. He’s always been the heart & soul of the teams he’s on… His humor. Determination. Strong will. Compassionate heart. The rediscovery of a love for music. And a girl named Alex…

I stopped & pondered… allowed the rush of images, feelings, thoughts, & memories to flood my brain. I wept. Laughed. And resumed cleaning.

Saturday, the time for graduation came. We found our way through the frantic-ness of Lawlor Events Center, stumbled up the aisles to the balcony seats, & watched the ceremony. Our boy’s name was called; he shook the principal’s hand, went to the top of the steps of the stage & raised his arms in the air & let out a “Whoo!”

It was the same kind of “Whoo!” that we’d grown used to hearing from the football field during the pregame when the team would storm the sideline & jump around, bouncing into each other. I realized the comfort that I’d taken in hearing Pasty’s exuberant yells. And I smiled. And yelled my own “Whoo!”

The recent passing of basketball coaching legend John Wooden, had a profound impact on me… not because of the incredible coaching records that he amassed during his tenure at UCLA, but rather for the way he influenced & affected the people he came in contact with during the 99 years of his life: those that played for him, those he coached with & against, & those in the ever-widening sphere of influence that grew without any intention or design of his own… due to his character, integrity, insights, wisdom, & devotion to his wife, Nell. His “Wooden-isms” go far beyond pithy quotations that would adorn bumper stickers.

My mom sent me this picture, taken at Pasty’s graduation party last Saturday. It’s of Pasty, my dad, me & my brothers Moe & Ben… I’m trying to remember what I was thinking at the exact moment the picture was taken, what was running through my head that is so obvious in the expression on my face… Sigh.

a perspective shift…

Today, I had to go to DMV to register the New Ex, acquired last week to replace the Old Ex, which had been totaled the weekend of 2/28. Now, going to DMV is not my idea of a good time, & the closing of the DMV Express has only served to make my reticence increase. However, today was as good of a day as I would get to go – not much on the calendar, & for all intents & purposes, a slow day in the life of scoey d.

Got my SMOG certification. Double checked to make sure the title was signed in all the right places. Gathered the VIN inspection paperwork. Got a copy of the “proof of insurance.” Took a deep breath & headed over to the DMV.

Seems like no matter how long its been between visits, DMV never changes. How many other places in life do you have to wait in line to get the opportunity to wait in line yet AGAIN to have your vehicular issues addressed? But I digress.

The line was long. Really long. Like for Indiana Jones @ Disneyland in the heart of the summer. People to my left & right decided it wasn’t worth the wait. But, I, resigned to the fact that this was My Day to register the New Ex, stepped boldly into the line. My special brain helped me count that there were only 77 people in front of me.


While I stood in line, I determined not to complain or grumble. I’d like to say it was because I am Such a Good & Mature Individual, but in reality, I was merely responding to the grumpy, frustrated, angry individuals around me; those that took the opportunity, time & time again, to voice their displeasure at having to wait. At bureaucracies in general & in specific. At the injustice of waking up to snow again, this far into Spring. & the list went on.

I spent 1 hour 15 minutes in that line. And when I finally arrived at the Info Desk, I hurriedly & prayerfully submitted all of my carefully prepared paperwork, hoping beyond hope that I had done all that was necessary to register the New Ex. My clerk was not easy to read. Her brow furrowed with concern. My mind & heart raced. She called in backup to review my documents. Again. And…

I was given a number. G485. Booyah! Now to wait for my turn.

Turns out, the next number called was G440. Meaning I was only 45 numbers (or so,) away from getting Dealt With by the DMV. Fortunately, I brought my books to study & multitask – prepping for next Sunday’s speech.

Only took another hour to get my number called. Have to say that after 2 hours, 15 minutes of waiting, I wasn’t in the best of moods, but I was ok. Ready to go back to work. And a bit exultant & giddy at finally Getting to the window.

And yet I was blown away by the tech that helped me.

She was absolutely exuding contentedness. She had a grin on her face that didn’t fit the circumstances surrounding us. I asked her how she was doing, how her day was.

She absolutely gushed:

I’m having a WONDERFUL day. It’s so beautiful. And I am so happy. I love that I have a job. I feel so fortunate to be able to do something that I enjoy, to help people. Life is SO good!

I was taken aback by my encounter; not expecting such a response, especially in the dreariness, rush, & general irritated atmosphere of the DMV. And yet…

I was touched. Reminded. Joy isn’t circumstantial. Sometimes what is necessary is a shift in perspective, to look at life through a different set of glasses. With hope.

Thanks Kathy.

Walking through Philippians, thinking about life…

Our church family is currently going through through the book of Philippians… which for me means I get to spend time doing a few of my favorite things: lots of reading, researching, studying, & listening. In all of it, I’m finding myself really intrigued, captivated even, by the unfolding theme & message of Philippians.

The context of the letter is that it’s author, Paul, is writing to a church in a place called Philippi, a church that he helped to start. (Check THIS out for some background on it.)

The letter is sent to the Philippians while he’s in prison – in Rome, awaiting trial for his unswerving commitment to the declaration of the good news that people can have relationship with God & forgiveness of sins through the death & resurrection of Christ Jesus – he was specially commsioned to take this message to the Gentiles, something that really fired up some of the Jewish religious leaders… so much so that Paul was forced to defend himself in a Roman court of law.

One of the things that ‘gets’ me is that even though he’s in prison, it doesn’t seem to phase him. As a matter of fact, the main theme that keeps popping up throughout Philippians is Joy. And Rejoicing. And being joyful.


Prison seems like a worst-case scenario to me; the kind of circumstance that would naturally lead one to use all their energy, effort, & focus to try to get OUT. Instead, Paul writes that he is rejoicing at his circumstances… because being in prison served to have the good news/gospel message advanced throughout the whole imperial guard, & to all the other prisoners.

Further, other Christ-followers were able to observe his clear, consistent, & faithful example in the face of suffering, shame, & the unknown… & from it were encouraged to tell of this good news, to speak God’s Word, without fear.

That’s why Paul rejoices. The gospel is being lived & declared, even in prison.

I’m confronted by my own fears… wondering at my own life-circumstances. What would I be focusing on if I were in Paul’s shoes? (Sandals?) Makes me think of the difficulties & messes I’ve been in, where the only thing on my mind was crying out for God’s help & deliverance… and it seemed that my only declarations centered around the theme, “GET ME OUT OF HERE!”

Paul reminds me that even in the middle of a bad situation (& prison is BAD,) God is still at work in my life. He’s never left me, never abandoned me. Even more, He’s right there with me in the middle of my trouble. And somehow, someway, He can & does manage to turn the situation for His glory. Somehow Paul sees that; & its not that he doesn’t want out of prison, (he does!) he just wants God’s purposes & plans in, through, & around his life more.

I saw love…

I saw love…

Last week, I decided to be proactive & deal with my soon-to-expire drivers license. Brother told me what Tom had told him – waiting in line FOR-ever at the Galletti NV-DMV is over-rated… so he told me about the NV-DMV Commercial license renewal place thingy on E. Greg. Evidently, the word on the street is that the Commercial Drivers License place also does REGULAR license renewals for Rubes like me. Even better, Brother had spent a total of 15 minutes in the place & finished all the business one could ever want to finish. Ahhh. Sounds like my kind of place.

Found it. And let’s just say it was a leettlle bit busier that when Tom & Brother had been there. Waiting room had 10 people in it, (which I know is still less than Galletti on an average day,) so I went to the cool, “Take A Number” station, pulled Lucky 403, & found a seat. And waited.

I hadn’t brought any of my normal time passers with me (books, chocolate, portable coffee, or wasser mit kohlensäure) so I went into introspection mode, which unfortunately lasted only about 37 seconds. Done with that, so I decided to look around the room & ‘observe’ the other individuals that were sharing the space that I had mistakenly assumed would be empty.

A couple in the waiting area caught my eye – it was the worried look on her face, & the hushed but strong tones they were speaking in. If I had to guess how old they were, I’d have said 50, but it was hard to tell, because it appeared that they had both lived ‘hard’ lives… you know what I mean… the years had etched themselves into their countenance, leaving visible marks from grief, disappointment, & hardship. Other signs – clothes: a worn & grubby sundress… workman’s shirt, jeans, & boots that had seen much better days… the tell-tale yellowish residue on skin & hair from smoking too many packs of cigarettes for too long, resulting in the visible affects that your mom warned you would happen if you smoked all your life. The woman looked a bit like I remember my Grandma Ramona looking…

I watched from the corner of my eye as their communication became more animated – it became apparent that the woman was scared… she had to take a vision test for her license renewal, & it was obvious she didn’t think she’d pass it. The anxiousness & worry became more pronounced as she got closer to her turn at the vision-apparatus. The man touched her arm gently & made “Shushing” noises… not the “be quiet” ones, but the kind you make to comfort a crying baby.

Her body stiffened when her number was called; she sat in the chair in front of the machine, & he sat next to her, his hand on her back. She took the test & passed. She was relieved. Now to get the picture for the new license.

They walked together to the area where the new pictures would be taken – she was self-conscious – I saw her look disapprovingly at herself, her clothes, & run her fingers through her hair – the signs of sadness, not wanting to get her picture taken.

The man pulled something out of the back pocket of his work pants. It was a hair brush – making the same, reassuring “Shushing” noises, he turned her towards him & began to gently, carefully, brush her long hair. After a couple of minutes of this, he put the brush away & with great care arranged her hair behind her ears, pulled back a bit from her face. And as she was called to the picture taking station, he put one hand on her chin, gazed into her eyes, & quietly said, “You are so pretty.”

The eyes that had been downcast, preoccupied, & self-conscious glimmered & sparkled with the confidence that comes from being loved by someone, that comes by choosing to believe that what you’ve just heard is the God’s honest truth. She sat & smiled for her picture, then arose, took the man’s hand, & they walked out together.

I saw love… & it touched me…

standing firm…

The last couple of weeks, I have felt physically spent – where all I want to do is sleep. So I have upped my sleep – & have even indulged in napping. Bummer part is that I’d wake up feeling as if I hadn’t slept at all. Hmm.

My first thought is maybe it was the sickies trying to Klingon to me… don’t know that that is it.

Second thought was to think through my schedule & see if & where I’d been overextending myself, pushing too hard, falling into old patterns… again, not sure that that is it.

And so I ponder: what’s up? I know that these feelings are physical, mental, & definitely affecting the emotional. I like to figure things out – & so I’m praying, asking for insight, looking at me in the 3rd person…

It came to my mind to pray for strength to stand… I know & am confident that “standing” is something that God has made me to do, for myself & for others, like Shammah did!, & He regularly reminds me of it… & the verses from Ephesians 6 came to mind…

A final word: Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil.

For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.

Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground…

Perhaps the accumulated relational stress, unforeseen financial tightness, physical/mental/emotional drain, etc. is actually all just a part of the latest wave that is to be resisted.

Refocus. Realign. Repent. Rest. Reaffirm my hope in Christ. And remain standing, fully reliant on the ‘mighty power” of God to do so. Knowing that the battle will pass. The wave will move on. The heavy weariness will lift. And I want to still be on my feet.


It’s #2 sons 14th birthday today – tomorrow, early in the a.m. he & I are off to San Francisco for a one-day speed tour of the City. We’re going to AT &T Park for a tour; to Ghirardelli Square for some chocolate & na-nas; to Pier 39 for… Pier 39. And maybe the Hard Rock Cafe. And then we’re off to the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center. Why a hospital?

#2 son has been asking a lot of questions about my brother Johnny – wanting to know him, reconstruct his likes/dislikes, experience the personality of the one uncle that he knows only through pictures, a few home videos, & the stories of those who knew him. A part of Johnny’s story involves his battle with cancer – & UCSF is where almost 5% of his life was lived – for treatment, recovery, & the like. And #2 son wants to know this place – & as difficult as it is for me to go there, with the painful memories, sorrow, & loss… we’re going.

Makes me feel a bit pensive – leaves me wondering, examining how I see the world, or how I view it. The lens through which I see it, a lens that I believe I am responsible for putting on/taking off. Watching the news, checking in with Drudge, hearing story after story of the dismal economy, holiday season layoffs, record high home foreclosures, equally high number of bankruptcies, & a war in the Middle East that just doesn’t seem to get any closer to resolution… a lens of ‘reality’… reminds me that I want to, I need to choose something different.

I don’t want to choose negativity, to speak words of ‘reality,’ death, nitpickiness, complaint, slander, criticism, harshness, destruction – over & about me or others. I think that I’m finding that a person will find just what it is that is looked for. And if my lens is negative, down, destructive, ‘reality based,’ I will find those things – & think on them. Talk about them. Spread the cloud of negativity like a flu-virus in the wintertime spreads.

I’m challenged to take on a new lens, one that almost feels forced, like a new pair of glasses that have never been worn, all the while knowing that the new glasses are the right prescription, & they fit like they should – but I’m so used to ill-fitting, poorly prescribed glasses that the real deal, the good ones don’t seem right. Its upside down, & I want to be right side up.

The new lens is to look to enjoy life’s relationships – rather than to pick them apart as inadequate, to place blame where its due -instead to be a radical extender of grace, esp. where it’s not ‘deserved’… as if I have deserved it ever? To look for joy instead of sorrow – to hope & to be filled with hope, even when the ‘track record’ tells me otherwise. To have faith, to believe against all odds that the One I serve really is able to move mountains. To perform what He says. To rescue. To deliverer. To transform.

Maybe this makes me an optimist. A deny-er of so-called reality… So be it. And my answer to you is:

Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia…. [W]e’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Puddleglum – The Silver Chair, from The Chronicles of Narnia

Here’s to looking for Overland.