Friday, January 18, 2019

"Being an adult is easy. It's like riding a bike, except the bike is on fire. Everything is on fire, and you're in hell."

Look closely. Recycled tires.

That quote up there...OK, it uses a bad word but not gratuitously and you'll survive. And it puts a humorous spin to my thoughts this morning.
Note: I'm sitting in Sugar and Spice, a one-off in a strip mall near the kids' place that serves b'fast sandwiches, donuts, and coffee. I had an egg & sausage bagel and am now on my third cup.

I think life is hard. We have some decisions to make about cars, roofs, and where we want to focus our time and attention. The options on each of those things is contingent on developments outside of our control. They're also interrelated.
Getting things right is important. (And "right" means pleasing and acceptable in his sight.)

The Hebrew word for wisdom, used so often in Proverbs, is hokmah and it means something close to skillful living. It's not an intellectual trait but a practical thing. "The wise man (insert verbal clause).
"If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach" (Jas. 1:5)
So, we pray for wisdom.

"Wait for the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage. Wait for the Lord!" Ps. 27:14

I am in serious need of some exercise. I climbed in the Blazer Sunday evening and got out Tuesday morning. Since then I've done almost nothing beyond get out of a chair and I'm feeling the effects, both mental and physical, of being that sedentary.
It's 8:45 a.m. and I've been here since 6 a.m. working on my class material (except for a few minutes writing this). I think I'll go back to the kids', put my stuff away, and go for a very brisk walk.

OK, I'm back, and then some.
While on my walk I stopped in to AZOPT, the pediatric clinic where Josh used to work. It and several other clinics are owned by Ryann & Teri who, with their two kids, used to attend Pathway. Teri happened to be there and we had an all-to brief but wonderful visit. It's great to catch up with VIFs and learn things are going well, especially when that includes their kids. JP and Brooke are both pretty special.

Then I met Josh White for lunch. He was one of my students when I taught at the college and is now a colleague who pastors a good church here in Phoenix, the church that Steve & Michelle attend. We talked shop for about 90 minutes over some very good Mexican food at a one-off in Glendale.

Tonight we're just going to chill out here at Steve & Michelle's.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

"Today I'm going to give it my some"


I've been AWOL, but not without cause.
I left home about 6:15 Sunday evening headed for Aromas, CA to visit Joe and Dorothy mid-morning Monday, Candy was going to stop over while I was there. That was more than enough time to get there but I didn't know how much traffic I'd have through the Bay Area and figured I could eat b'fast and/or take a nap with whatever extra time I had. That worked out well. I had supper about 8 p.m. at the In 'n Out in Grants Pass, b'fast and a nap in Gilroy, Ca, and was at J & D's at 9 a.m. We had a great visit and I left about 10:30. Unfortunately, Candy couldn't come over because they had a plumbing problem come up.

From AromasI drove an hour east to I-5 to begin the next 10 hour drive to Phoenix. An hour down I-5 I saw one of those digital bulletin boards over the freeway that said the freeway was closed at the grapevine because of weather. Uh-oh.
I pulled over at the next McD's and went online to learn a major snow and wind storm had semi trucks laying on their side and visibility to zero. The CHP had closed I-5 with no projection on when it would open back up.

OK, find an alternate route, with only one real option - a 1.5 hour drive back to the coast and Hwy 101. Not long after I got there and headed south the rain started, coming from the same storm that had snow up on the grapevine. Pouring rain. Really, really hard rain. Rain so hard that I turned the wipers to high speed.

That lasted for about 30 seconds. Then the driver side wiper went to the left and instead of returning just flopped to the left of the windshield. That meant that instead of maximum water removal I had none, and visibility of zero. I turned the flashers on and squinted to find the next exit.

I'll spare you the details; they aren't pretty. Three hours and three car business later (one worthless dealer and two helpful O'Reillys) I was back on the road headed south. This route added about 90 minutes to the distance, involved more traffic (drivers who, like me, had bailed on I-5) and was very tiring because of the driving rain,

But wait! There's more!
The button in the door jamb that pops out when you open the door malfunctioned so the Blazer thought I had opened the door with the keys left in the ignition. BUZZZZZZ!
And every time I shut the car off the gas pedal stuck. When restarting the car I had to stomp on it to break it loose.

It should have been 10-11 hours drive from Aromas to Phx took almost 24 hours. I left home at 6:15 Sunday night and got to the kids' place here in AZ Tuesday morning at 8:15 Tuesday morning, exhausted mentally and physically. I slept most of the day and all through the night.

Wednesday morning we met with our most excellent financial advisor Chad. After that meeting Pam went back to the kids' while Chad and I went to the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale. Chad is a brother, very good at what he does, and interested in cars. We spent several hours walking the auction site (it's huge with over 1,700 cars to be auctioned) and talking. Wonderful conversation about cars, about our finances, and about spiritual things. I couldn't have asked for a better B-J experience. Plus, I started up conversations - one with a knowledgable buyer about a Volvo P1800 longroof, and a guy selling a '64 T-bird convertible. Both enlightening.

Came home, ate dinner, and went to bed. Slept all night, did some work this morning, and took a nap. I *think* I'm almost back to normal. The mental fatigue is as much of the problem as the physical.

There's more, but this at least explains why I haven't posted in so long.
The next post will be more normal and include some other developments since I left home.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

"Sawdust is man glitter."


I'm at Starbucks for a cup o' joe before heading to church to teach my class. Normally we go together and leave in time for me to get to class 15 minutes early. Pam drops me off and goes to Starbucks for the internet while I teach. But with her in AZ I could leave the house much earlier than she'd want to and do my own fast surfing.

After class and church I'll grab lunch - McDonald's? - write my quiz and the small group discussion questions and then go home to prepare for my departure about 6 p.m.
Lots to do.

The passenger side mirror has been loose since we got the Blazer and it's now so bad that I'm not sure it will hang on for the drive to AZ and back. The plastic frame is cracked which allows the whole assembly to wobble, which makes the crack worse, which makes the wobble worse....
The only way to see if I can brace it is to take the inside door panel off, something I've been watching You Tube videos about. No, it won't go smoothly. But the alternative is not good, buying a NOS or even used mirror is pricey. So I'll give it a shot.
What's the worst that could happen? (Yeah, I know.)

This is a cool story.

On the way into town just now I heard a story on NPR Weekend Edition about a school resource officer (cop on campus) and a Black teen who was suspected by the cop of theft and how that played out in 2007. Not good. Both were interviewed, including a conversation between them, I'm assuming over the phone. Interestingly, both are now attorneys. Fascinating. And they both still have very different perspectives on what happened.
At the end of the story the reporter asked, "Do you have an unresolved issue with someone you'd like to talk with about that? Contact us at...."
Seemed a little Maury Povitch, but I get what they're after - more human interest stories.
Her question made me think who I would identify, who I'd like to talk with about a past and still unresolved conflict. And then it occurred to me that if there is someone like that it shouldn't take an NPR reporter to get me to get in touch with that person. My Christian ethic should take me there.

If I drive straight through with stops for gas, the occasional burger, and a nap or two it's about a 22 hour trip. The drive down the CA central valley is perhaps The Most Boring stretch I've ever done, and having made that drive a dozen times means I now know almost every part of it too well. (There's not that much to notice or remember.)
So this time I'm cutting over to Hwy 101 at the top of the east bay and going down through San Jose for a brief stop in Prunedale. I pastored there for 7 years and we still have dear friends who live there. I'm visiting with some of them Monday morning. That will make a very nice break at what is almost exactly the 1/2 point. The route adds about 90 minutes to the total drive but I think it will be well worth it in several ways.
The people are the best part!

Just out of church and eating lunch at Wendy's. Brett was even better than usual this morning (and he's usually very good). Nailed it.
Now to write the small group discussion questions based on his sermon, finish this burger, and get home to work on mirrors and packing. Six hours from now I want to be rested and on the road.
ROAD TRIP!!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

"People in sleeping bags are the soft tacos of the bear world."


Many of the rural roads around here have a 55 mph speed limit that drops when you get to an area with a grouping of homes. These are noted by sings that say "Speed Zone Ahead."
That bothers me. It suggests I can speed through that stretch with impunity. Shouldn't it say "Reduce Speed Ahead"?

What's wrong with this book cover? Specifically, the subtitle. This bugs me, too. I just ordered it on Kindle because I'm told it's a very good (and very short) book. But the editors didn't go to Harvard.

The cinnamon rolls using pastry flour were a total and complete FAIL. As in, they're now in the trash outside.
They looked great going into the oven and coming out of the oven. When I came out this morning the rolls in the center of the pan had collapsed to about 1.5" tall while the outside rolls were original height.
I went ahead and made the butter creme frosting and put that on assuming my problems were only cosmetic. Nope! All of them and especially those in the middle were way too doughy. I was afraid to eat them.
I stopped in to see Marsha, the local gal who runs a bakery and who told me about pastry flour. She asked me questions and based on my description of what I did and what I got a) I didn't use enough flour, and b) I baked them too fast at too high a temp. (The tops were brown despite a doughy center.)
I'll try it again following her suggestions and see if that makes a difference, but not right now. I need a success after two successive FAILs. Cardamon toast, maybe walnut squares. After I get back from AZ.

I couldn't figure out why I got the red squiggly line when I typed impugnity. When right-clicked it corrects to impunity.
But I was sure the verb form is impugn.
It is, except they're completely different words. Impunity means without consequences and comes from some French word. Impugn means to assault, to assail, and comes from the Latin.
I cry foul. They should have worked this out before it came to spell check.

The Blazer is cleaned inside and out and ready for packing tomorrow afternoon. Any car, and especially a black one, will look filthy when it lives on a gravel road in Oregon in winter. When you don't have a square inch of pavement, never mind a paved driveway, the inside will look the same, with the floor holding a collection fir needles, leaves, and dried mud.
I'm going to live in this car for about three days over the next week and a half and I want to at least start out with it clean.

I've been snagging pics of hood ornaments off the web so we can play "Name This Car" at that senior luncheon. I've learned some interesting things in the process. Back in the day of hood ornaments Datsun's was a slightly stylized silver rabbit in full stride. The name Datsun is a homonym for the Japanese "leaping hare."
"Nissan" is Japanese for "Bring back the 510!"

The above paragraphs were written at various points throughout a busy day. I've just finished my leftover pizza and have settled in my chair until I decide to go to bed.
Pam's gone, Buddy's gone, Bear's gone (barely noticeable)...the house is empty. I feel like I should be doing something I wouldn't otherwise do but I can't come up with anything.
How do people live all alone??

Friday, January 11, 2019

"I don't like making plans for the day because then words like 'premeditated' get thrown around the courtroom."


I obviously can't hear your answer, but respond with a yes or no answer:
"Life is hard."

I've been asking that question in different venues the last couple of weeks. I asked our small group and two of the three guys I meet with. (I won't meet with the third until I'm back from AZ.)

Some say "No, life is pretty easy." Or, "It depends on the day and how the kids are behaving." This group seems to genuinely appreciate how easy Americans have it compared to much of the world's population. We have food, clothing, and shelter in abundance, arguably to excess. We never go to bed hungry and we think about what we're going to wear today. We're warm and dry at night and cool during the day. (We're headed to AZ where AC is universal.) Yeah, life is easy.

I have also heard, however, "Life is hard. Real hard."
I agree. I find it excruciatingly difficult, sometimes to the point of exhaustion.
That doesn't mean I don't live comfortably with far more than I need to maintain body warmth (Henry David Thoreau's metric for sufficiency). But I don't live primarily in the physical realm, I live in the spiritual. I live primarily in relationship with my heavenly Father and am his servant. That means I am a steward of all I (don't) possess. It means every action and every thought should be pleasing in his sight and every exchange with someone an opportunity to model his love and grace. I am to be, in the existential sense, a child of God, thinking and acting as he would so I am holy and an ambassador of my Father.
That takes SO much energy and attention. And I get it wrong SO much of the time.

The irony of the Christian life is that the closer I get to conforming to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29) the more I'm aware of how often and by how much I miss the mark. During those stretches of my life when I haven't really cared about conforming it didn't bother me much and life was easy. So in some sense the better I'm doing the more I am aware of and bothered by my failings.

Is it supposed to be this hard? Have I fallen into a kind of legalism that robs me of the joy of the abundant life? Or does he call me to a warfare, with the obvious implication that growing battle weary is a reality of that calling?

So, how did you answer the question?

I've mentioned here that Quin introduced me to the Rocketbook. (Watch the video if you haven't already.) I find myself using it often for taking sermon notes that I later transpose for small group questions and for using as a mini white board in my meetings.
Now this. It doesn't fit my situation now that I'm not in the classroom but I sure wish I'd had it then!
Note: these two guys went on Shark Tank and were turned down. "It has no real use, no future." Now note the level at which this latest feature is funded via crowd sourcing.

I read an article yesterday about Dutch Ovens. I learned they are NOT just big kettles and may be one of the most versatile options in the world of pots & pans. One pot meals, breads, roasts....
They are also pricey.
I can see I may have to branch out from baking to cooking. Things like Dutch Ovens make me go, "Hmmmm."



I went to Jerry's Home Improvement this morning to get a couple of posts, some 2x4's, and cement. Saw this display. Maybe the color blind guy shouldn't be in charge of the center aisle.


I got the rest of the posts set and the gate made. Next: get the hinges, latch, and fencing. Any deer that can clear an 8' fence deserves whatever it can eat.
The fence encloses the six raised beds and enough extra space for about six blueberry bushes I'll order.

I made another batch of cinnamon rolls, this time using pastry flour. They're going through their second proving now, something else that is different from last time when they only proved once. In another 15 minutes I'll preheat the oven and bake them.
The consistency of the dough was very different this time so I'm curious to see how they turn out.
I'll report back tomorrow.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

"I thought growing older would take longer."


I work with a group of millennials. They're nice, very good at what they do, and easy to work with. I enjoy them. They also speak another language, apparently driven by a desire to increase verbal economy. It's not a devotional, it's a devo, thus saving two syllables. "Vacay" saves only one, but in a world fighting verbal pollution every syllable counts. "Fash" eliminates three from fashionable.
This puts me in an interesting predicament. Do I try to learn their language like I do when I go on my trips to a foreign country or do I stick with the traditional versions lest I look like the too-old guy wearing skinny jeans in a failed attempt to look hip?
I'm going to ask Mike to do the devotional at the senior luncheon I'm planning after I get back from a vacation which will include buying some not-fashionable shoes I'll get at the outlet mall in Glendale.

Sunday morning's class is going to be challenging. I have to cover the fall of the Northern Kingdom, the next 100 years of the Southern Kingdom, and then it's fall to Babylon and the resulting exile. I don't want them to feel overwhelmed with data so I need to decide what names, dates, and events to include and which to exclude.
I've made my slide presentation (31 slides so far) but I can spend more or less time talking about what's on each slide.

Is there a way to keep the government open but shut down Congress?
(I despair of any hope of shutting down the Oval Office.)

I want to go up to Seattle to visit mom shortly after we get back from AZ. That won't happen until the middle of February because...
Washington has known for decades that what's called the Viaduct (SR 99), a two-tiered highway through downtown Seattle, is structurally unsound (pun intended) in an area waiting for the next "big one." They've argued for most of those decades about how to remedy that problem and finally decided on a tunnel under a 2-mile stretch of downtown. It's set to open on Feb. 4 after $3.3 billion and sixteen years of construction.
In order to construct the transition from the old Viaduct to the new tunnel they need to shut down the Viaduct beginning tomorrow. For three weeks the 80,000 cars that daily use the viaduct to travel through Seattle going north and south have to find an alternate route. Many (most?) of them will use I-5, the already perpetually gridlocked freeway. As I drive into our out of Seattle the only times I haven't been jammed up is at 2 a.m. and Christmas morning.
Mom won't see me again until sometime after Feb. 4!

I downloaded a dozen pics of hood ornaments. At the luncheon they'll try to identify each car brand by its ornament. Some are really easy, like Mercedes, and some are tough, like a mid-50's Rambler, one of the coolest.
It's too bad they don't use hood ornaments anymore. Some of those were art (and are very collectible). 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

"The Detroit String Quartet played Brahms last night. Brahms lost." - Bennet Cerf


I met with one of "my guys" this morning at a one-off coffee shop on West 11th. It's our usual, as opposed to Starbucks where I meet the other two.
I'm told this one-off is a favorite of hipsters on the west side which may explain why the baristas are surly to the point of rudeness. Maybe that's the new vibe, eh?
It makes me want to ask them if they hate working there or if it's me they really don't want to deal with.

Sometimes I feel like there is SO much to think about that just doing that thinking is a plate full without the "doing" part of life.
Are people who don't seriously ruminate, who never reflect on issues personal and cultural, live happier and less stressful lives? And what's the downside to mindless oblivion? Does it put one at risk of missing out on _____ or making bad decisions?
I know that sounds elitist or like intellectual snobbery. But be honest; you know people who just roll through life from one day to the next, from one activity to the next, and never struggle with the why, never mind the how.

Because the staff guy who normally heads up the monthly seniors' luncheon is in India on a missions trip I'm tasked with organizing the January lunch on the 29th.
This kind of thing is NOT my strong suit.
I need a theme, something to help me figure out what we're going to do for the 90 minutes before we eat lunch. So I looked online to find out what happened on January 29th.
Nothing. It's like the entire world got together millennia ago and decided to take the day off. Yeah, there were a couple of things, like Carl Benz taking out the first patent for an internal combustion engine-powered car in 1886, but aside from a game where people identify cars by their hood ornaments.....
FAIL
So I moved on to "January 29 is National ________ Day.
Not much better. National Corn Chip Day, National Bubble Wrap Day, and National Puzzle Day.
I may be able to do something with puzzles at each table. And a 6" square of bubble wrap with a prize to anyone who makes it through lunch without popping any of it. (I won't tell them at the beginning that it's a challenge, just set the piece at each table setting.)

One of the sites I looked at for (lame) craft ideas for bubble wrap warned that playing with the stuff should carries risks and should always be supervised by an adult.
If you can't play safely with bubble wrap you should probably be wearing one of those jackets with really long sleeves that tie behind your back.

I set a goal for myself: three sets of 10 dips by the time I leave for Phoenix. (Dips are when you're supported by your hands on two small posts sticking out of the wall. You bend at your elbows to lower yourself down and then push back up to a straight arm position.)
When I started I could do one. Today I did three sets of nine.
I have four days before I leave.

The people who fostered Buddy before we got him are going to watch him for us while we're gone. They are very nice people who have two Brittanys of their own and often foster at least one for the American Brittany Rescue.
And they're absolutely normal, not crazy dog people.
He's the director for the U of O marching band.

I'm going to miss Buddy!!