24 August 2012

Like a leaky balloon

You know the people who do it. These are the conversations where you reflect back moments and sometimes days later and you are still thinking about what the person said because they dug below the surface. Right. These are not simply sharing the weather conversations. These conversations prick at your soul and help shape you for your current and future journeys. The conversation on my mind today is an overall sense of time...and how it thieves away. This particular conversation my friend asked me simply to consider what kinds of things I would rather do, and, as such, to reflect on activities I engage which seem more like the mundane treadmill experiences in life.
Unfortunately, I can name oodles. In the mundane category, truly, although, these mundane experiences may have purpose, too, I spend way more time than I would care to calculate, weeding my yard. (Although, don't ask my neighbors and certainly do not tell me their responses as I would be discouraged. I fear they may observe more weeds growing then I apparently try to destroy.) I like working in my yard. I like the satisfaction of wedding and removing weeds. But the question is, at the end of my life, do I really want to be known as the person who had a great lawn, or do I want to be remembered as someone who loved and invested in people? I am picking on yardwork, of course. But it can be other things, too. How about mindlessly surfing facebook, or youtube, or pinterest, or surfing channels, or ... On their own, in intentional doses, I do not judge any of these activities. What concerns me in my own reflection is what do I really want to do, to engage in, to pursue, and be involved in? And if those things are not present as much as possible in my life, what do I need to do to make those things a priority? And perhaps people have learned to do it all -- keep the "perfect" house, satisfactorily manicure the yard, engage in appropriate recreation and fitness, invest in a "successful" career, visit family, nurture children, coach sports, cultivate a heart for God, serve the community, give time and resources to church, etc. etc. etc.--but most of us, I suspect, may struggle to balance it all, certainly to try to live up to "the standard" of where we should be in all these areas. Which leads me back to: how do I really want to spend my time before I unfortunately discover I am simply "spent?"

17 February 2012

The art and wisdom of Enzo

The words of wisdom below derive from a new canine friend- Enzo.
He is the wonderful voice and main character of the book The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. I picture Enzo to look very much like my own dog, Wriley.

This passage gave me pause:

"Here is why I will be a good person.
Because I listen.
I cannot speak, so I listen very well.
I never interrupt, I never deflect the course of the conversation with a comment of my own.
People, if you pay attention to them, change the direction of one another's conversations constantly.
It's like having a passenger in your car
who suddenly grabs the steering wheel and turns you down a side street...

Learn to listen! I beg of you.
Pretend you are a dog like me and listen to other people
rather than steal their stories" (101-102).

I wonder how I will do taking Enzo's advice today?
It does ring true with some other advice you may have heard from a man named James. James said, "everyone should be quick to listen,
slow to speak, and slow to become angry."


06 December 2011

Compared to what?

Remember as kids making claims such as, "our car is so old" or "these clothes are completely out of style," or "we never get to do anything fun?"

Today I had the pleasure of meeting with a former school mate--actually a classmate of one of my sisters--who contacted me because of her experience with a car crash several years ago. She lives within 15 minutes of me and we are facebook friends. Perhaps with any significant experience, it helps to associate with those who have similar encounters. The conversation flows with more mutual understanding and includes fewer lengthy explanations. Yet there are intuitive moments of deep connection. Freedom flows from such connections. What a healing, grace filled gift!

Two things especially resonated with me today. As she recalled her own accident, she said, "we see God in all the small things. He is in the small things. Of course he is in big things, too, but how many of those do we really have in our lives?" It is the multiplied consistency of ordinary, small and faithful moves that continue to build our trust in this powerful, ever present God. I needed that reminder.

Secondly, she reminded me of some of her own coping patterns for fears and fragile moments. For me, right now, driving in the rain provokes vulnerable and frenetic fears absolutely unfamiliar to me, almost to the point of complete panic. I know this will lessen and subside. Her experience led her to recount scriptures and phrases of such certainty that she offered them as an offering and declaration in her desperate moments. My methods pale in scope and depth. But her challenge and encouragement ring in my spirit.

In my memory of these childhood complaints, an offered response was sometimes, "as compared to what?" That is part of what I heard today, too. Things may not seem that great. Things may seem bleak. Fingers of despair creep into view.

But perspective and comparison shape new constructs and remind me to be thankful in even the smallest things. Compared to oodles of people, my life overflows with rich and abundant blessings. I expect moments of fear and discouragement, despite the acknowledgment of blessing. But I know God will grant the grace to move beyond fear and return to thanksgiving and trust.

21 November 2011

Hypothesis forming

I cannot prove this, but I desperately want it to be true:
Dogs need to be part of the kingdom of heaven.

They heal. They amuse. They sometimes frustrate. They accompany. They comfort. They beg. They play. And in the case of our dog, I would be remiss to not mention, they poop and pee.

One of the things I appreciate most about our dog is that he does not complain. When he is under the weather, he might not eat as much, but he does not whine or even really moan about anything. He still wags his tail. He still goes for walks.

I also appreciate how he keeps me company. He sits beside me and tends to follow me wherever I go. Yes, he is a bit needy sometimes, but for the most part, he simply is present and wants to be near me. As a result, his listening skills are also top notch. Really. An occasional interruption if he sees a squirrel or cat, but that is it. He simply hears what I say. He keeps advice giving to a minimum, too. It's remarkable.

Probably my favorite thing is how he greets me when I return home. He is ALWAYS waiting for me at the door and is always happy to see me. What a fabulous homecoming.

Yes, this dog, and probably yours, too, is an extension of grace in the midst of a sometimes cold world. I hope they are part of the kingdom of God to come, too!

14 November 2011

no easy answer

When I was unemployed a few years ago, it challenged me to respond to the question, "what do you do?" I began detesting meeting new people, which, is quite out of character for me, and imagined ways to avoid the question, much less the answer, at all costs.

Currently I am developing a similar aversion to the question of how am I doing. People mean well. It is a courtesy question, I know. Sometimes we do not even really spend the time to hear the answer. The easiest (most palatable?) and most acceptable reply is "good" or "okay." And whether people would admit this or not, I think people WANT that response. I do.

In my mind, really, I desperately want to be okay.
And for the most part, I am okay.
But there is a part of me that is off.

It is the part of me that absolutely panics when I pass another car, wondering if my car will swerve and nick even the slightest section of the car I am passing. It is the part of me that perspires because another car is speeding up to pull ahead of me only to brake and I anxiously wonder if my car will actually brake on time. It is the part of me that crumbles and cries because B mentions test driving another car and I realize again that "my" car is probably lost to me forever.

I am more comfortable when people are okay, or good. And honestly, I am more comfortable if I can honestly say okay or good myself.

But for now, I am not there. And I am going to have to be okay with that in order to move closer to "normal" if such a destination even exists! Yet another lesson in the time grace takes.

03 February 2011

Not gone yet

BLOGGING....I miss it!! If there was a way to blog by transmitting my thoughts from my car to the printed page, this blog will be updated daily. And perhaps there IS a way...but I do not have the capacity or technology to do so. Suffice it to say, I am blogging, constantly, in my very head. But I am not taking the time or using the energy to update it here. Obviously!!

In the category of best.gifts.ever, I will brag to say that last year, my dear husband gave me my favorite Christmas gift. It was the "izoom" pass for the toll road. That may seem pathetic, but on my drives from Indiana to Michigan and back again, it is a lovely thing. AND, it works when we go through the Chicago area tolls, too. I love it.

This year the favorite gift will become obvious as I share this story.
Last weekend we experienced tremendous snow and cold, again. It was very lovely, though, despite the frigid (for Indiana) temperatures. As I neared home, I dodged to avoid some ice/snow/car debris. I successfully missed one, but, alas, completely ran over the second deposit. This was literally a block from home.

An hour after I had returned home, as I walked back into the garage, I noticed that my tire was flat.
That is where my Christmas gift came into play. B called AAA (because he gave me roadside service for Christmas). AAA came and pumped up the tire. We scurried on the road to firestone where they determined the tire could not be saved. However, I had insurance on my tires. My only expense was paying the $11 insurance on my new tire.
Although I was sad the road debris "ruined" my tire, the Christmas gift, and the insurance on the tire, made for a potentially expensive day to turn out just right! Thank you B, and thank you Papa!

Now, that is grace!!

09 June 2010

tsa, the state department, customs, and the Dutch embassy? Really?

It all started when I was chatting with Bonnie. And I remembered, oh that is right, my ticket and my passport are in different names.

Let me back up. My mom has been planning this trip to Europe for, well, ever. She and my Dad have been there a few weeks. My oldest sister is already there. And my other sisters and myself are leaving to join them tomorrow.

That is, if I can board the plane.

The trip is a trip of a lifetime, really, as my parents have planned it (and by my parents, I mean my Mom. She's the planner. It is great!) and they are paying for most of it. We are responsible for the plane fare. I kept waiting (we all kept waiting) for ticket prices to drop. But really, they just are high. At points I questioned whether or not we could even afford for me to go. My roommates are moving out. My house is not sold. My school loans are coming due. Did I mention two mortgages? :)

Sometime this spring I remembered my frequent flier miles (thank you Holy Spirit).
I had saved them for our honeymoon. But at honeymoon time, B was unemployed and we couldn't afford to drive anywhere, really, much less fly, so we did not use them.
Upon investigation my account revealed I almost had enough to book a trip to Amsterdam. So, through some amazing provision of God, through the years and presently, my $1300 ticket only cost me about $300. Hooray!!

That said, my frequent flier mile account exists in my maiden name. I contacted the airline and they told me how to communicate the change, provide proof, etc. etc. I fax over the change of name (three separate places, including the attached marriage license) and did not give it another thought.
Until I tried to book the ticket. And it would not allow my married name.
so I booked it anyway.
That was probably one of my first mistakes.

Flash forward now to the current conversation with my friend Bonnie. I recall that I was dreaming about not being able to board the plane. I also received an email confirmation that they had changed my name but nothing had changed in my account settings. And beyond that, I had an overall nagging intuition that something is not right.
So I called the airline.
And bless his heart, "John," the first attendant I spoke with said,
"Oh no. There is no way you can board the plane if your passport and ticket are in different names. And we cannot rebook this or change it for you. You are going to have to cancel the ticket and try to rebook it. But here, don't worry, let me put you through to our help desk..."
And so the transfers began.
The help desk person confirmed some of John's comments.
But it went deeper. She casually offered,
"oh, they did change your name. They changed it to Diana G Klungel."

People, I am holding back. I keep muttering in my spirit, "this is not her fault. She is not to blame. She did not do this..."
And I manage to blurt out,
"um, what did they change it FROM?"
"Diana Klungel. They added the G."

Not even sure I can adequately respond to that, I rummage through my paperwork to find the fax cover sheet where I had stated my name change THREE, did I mention this, three times, along with a marriage license which clearly defines a name change.

I ask her to please note in my file that I had previously requested the change from my maiden name to my married name and that I had been told repeatedly that they could not reissue my ticket or change my name.
She informed me that she does not handle that but she could note it in my file. I did also refax the original documents, including new notes in some rather "emotional looking" handwriting to highlight the ways I had communicated my name change when I had first sent the fax.

Then she suggested that although I could cancel my ticket, it would be a $150 cancellation fee, plus the rebooking fee, and that maybe I should call TSA first.

I call TSA. Who after transferring me around finally said, "no, we do not handle international flights, only domestic. You will have to call the state department about how to leave the country, and customs about how to return to the US."

The next call is placed to the state department and I wait to find the right person to help me there.
When operator #3 responds to my questions, she informs me that I need to call the Dutch embassy because they are the only ones who can tell me what is necessary to enter their country. (At this point I am still thinking, what does it matter if I can't even board my flight???)

I proceed to the Dutch embassy, who really, forgive my heritage, but they did not seem to want to give me the time of day. And although she suggested I could travel with my marriage license, she stressed even more strongly, "you need to call the airline. It is their problem."

Well, I agreed with her there but did not want to reiterate my whole life story so I ended the call wondering how I would communicate with my family that I would not be on vacation with them in the Netherlands.

Not even hoping, I did call the airline back. It was the same process of routing through the automated system until I reached the "general" operator this time named Erin. And within one minute of explaining, including the explanation of having resent my fax, my trip through the government and foreign agencies,and my overall somewhat crazy and nightmarish experience on the phone that very day, she asked me to hold. She returned briefly to say, "okay, I have re-booked your ticket. You should be all set."

Now, I am not ungrateful. I am really quite thrilled about this outcome because it is the VERY outcome I was hoping and praying for. But, adrenaline courses through my veins, and my blood pressure probably reached a tipping point, because I am thinking, why, or really why, did Erin not answer the call the FIRST time I called about this? Did I really have to call everyone and their brother to then return to the airline and have them take care of this? Really?

But I do not say any of this.
I gush, "Erin, you have made My LIFE. I am not kidding you. You have ended a nightmare and removed my fear completely. I now will have a great trip. I am so excited. You should take the rest of the day off because you have made MY LIFE!"

And so, I leave.
Lord willing.

Thank you, Papa.

22 April 2010

Worth talking about

Here are a few things I have witnessed lately,
that if I had a personal "like" button, would definitely
receive my thumbs up:

-on my way to work today, midst a lot of traffic as a semi attempted a sharp (tight) right turn, the traffic in the left turn lane (that the semi might have run over!), kindly backed up to make space for the turn. No fingers. No honking horns. No angry gestures. Just kind people accommodating this larger vehicle.

-in the grocery the other night, I witnessed someone recognizing that the person waiting behind them to check out had many fewer items, so they invited the person
behind them to check out first.

-a friend of mine recently lost her husband, and her neighbors have offered to maintain her lawn this very summer because they know her husband used to do so.

These are just a few kind acts. And they are not media worthy.
But they display love, compassion, hospitality, and grace.
These are beautiful things.

08 April 2010

in which I explain how I almost got to ...

It was one of those catch up days, the day after Easter, when I dug through work email to see what I missed. I am so grateful to work for an institution that honors Holy days like Good Friday and Easter and allows us to take some time away. Being with family is such a great gift!

That said, I stumbled across an email that noted my registration at a conference in Minneapolis in June. Because it was dated April 1, and was cc'd to a VP at this fine place I work, I forwarded the whole deal to my direct supervisor. I inquired whether this was an April fool's joke or a legitimate thing. My supervisor was in the office yesterday so he responded to my question. It was legitimate. I had been recommended to attend this conference and he wondered if it worked.
And it did...
until I really looked at my calendar.
The conference goes through July 1.
And I have an important date with B on June 30.
So, I can't go.
I want to be everywhere.
But, the reality is, I would rather be with B then traipsing somewhere else.
Even though it was a great honor to be recommended (and registered)
for an event like this.

AND, I still have the event with B to anticipate.
It is worth the sacrifice. Hooray!!

31 March 2010

Putting the question to rest

I am pleased to report,
to declare, and to state,
that contrary to my previously,
and frequently expressed lament,
that I might not meet my new niece,
Kayci Joy, until she is in high school,
that THIS very weekend, I will prove my own
predictions obsolete. Unless, of course, something
happens to prove otherwise, B and I will head to Fargo
to meet our precious niece and hopefully prove to her how
very much she loves us (smile) while being reminded how much
we love her. That part will not be difficult. But I am every shade
of excited.
Yes, I am equally excited to see my other nieces too, and hang out
with two of my three sisters. (We will miss you Jen!)
It is all part of the wonderful celebration
of this very Holy week.
And I am grateful to participate in it all.

29 March 2010

We DID consider paying someone else to do the work...

I will say this about my dear husband,
he is a trooper.
When the dishwasher installation
wanted the best of him,
he kept at it. Dishwasher install successful!
When the new bathroom light fixture came out of the box
bent and mangled,
he simply returned it and hung it in place anyway.
And when the replacement faucet revealed that the existing
copper piping was longer than needed,
he returned to the hardware store yet another time.

I am his biggest fan. Go you, B! I can't thank you
enough for all your efforts and expertise!

25 March 2010

in the category of awkward (ALL shades of awkward)...

"I was set up," my roommate begins.
And so goes the story of another well meaning
married person, who discovers they know two
single persons, and that they need to force
two said singles together.

This particular instance included the well meaning
person, we'll call him Bob, holding my roommate's hand
and walking her to the other single person. Bob then
led the conversation including,
"do you want to go out with her?"
"do you want to go out with him?"
"Good. There. Now you have a date."

You can about imagine Bob rubbing his hands together
with a satisfied grin about him, as he considers
what a good deed he has accomplished.

What Bob might NOT realize is the conversation
after his interference, which included the boy
saying to my roommate,
"sorry about that.
You don't have to go out with me if you don't want to."

Maybe my 39 years of singleness, multiple set up date
experiences are blurring my perspective here, but really,
I'm thinking we could avoid these situations.

I know Bob's type, and I know he means well.

20 March 2010

Speaking of games...

So today is the day!!!
For the last year,
the planning and scheduling commenced.
One of our neighbors invited us
to participate in a board game decathlon.
The inspiration for the evening
came from My Boys episodes (search for the one with Game Decathlon in the title).
I have no idea what games we will play,
only that video games are not allowed,
and we will have partners,
and prizes.
Now, we shall see how I do with maturity tonight...

15 March 2010

you know you're too competitive when...

B's kids love video games. And I, well, I like games.
For the most part, I have plenty to do and can keep busy.
But when K got Super Mario Bros for his birthday,
and they kept begging me to play,
I caved.

And so we played.
More accurately, my player kept dying.
And so there are these flower power flowers,
and these power giving mushrooms,
that randomly are available to give lives
or grow you bigger,
or grant you a propeller,
or you can become a penguin (very fun),
or give you the power to have ice or fire,
or you can become very tiny and invincible.
(All very attractive options, especially when,
did I mention, my character kept dying.)
Only, if you know anything about these games,
and playing with multiple players
(which, I really don't know that much),
any one player can get much further ahead than the others.
Thus, the opportunity for these flowers or mushrooms,
while they might dispense enough for four players,
if only one player is at that part of the game,
(can u see where this is going?),
and they activate the certain power,
may actually prevent the other players from
receiving the extra boost, life, etc.
Upon detecting that my character had one remaining life,
I implored my fellow players to not "activate"
until everyone (well, namely my character)
could get there.
But that strategy failed.
The first player got them all.
So, I maturely threw down my wii remote,
said I didn't want to play with such selfish
teammates anymore, and righteously (ha!)
stomped out of the room.

The jury is out on whether or not I am smarter
than a fifth grader,
but the verdict returned that I am certainly
not more mature than one.


14 March 2010

best laid plans

It's time. We made the decision to list my condo. I love the space and have completely loved living in it. It has been a delight to host friends and family through the years. The neighborhood and neighbors add to the pleasure.

Nearly eight years ago, a friend of mine helped me pack my belongings in his pickup and fit the larger things into his flatbed trailer. I drove from Zeeland to GR and another friend helped me unload. The unloading took about an hour. Since then, I've replaced the loveseat with a full coach, a few chairs. To accommodate my nieces I acquired and assembled bunkbeds. My sister offered some things for me to store because she did not have the space, so a sideboard, some end tables, some lamps, and even an additional bed joined me. Suddenly the 1800 square feet did not seem so empty. And then my roommates arrived and added their treasures. And, because I have more storage than my neighbors, I shelter their bikes and outdoor furniture. Whether it was my intention or not, I have definitely filled the space.

This weekend B and I are in GR to move most of my things. I suspect it will take a wee bit longer than the move in! The other desire was to attend my church. We arrived yesterday afternoon, we picked up the uhaul. We packed and assembled boxes and emptied shelves. My sister arrived to consider her items and determine what she wanted with her. Things were falling nicely into place. That is, until I awakened just now, and realized that we did not factor in the time change. And we will not make it to my church. Sigh. Sadly, watching Charles Stanley is not the same.

09 March 2010

eavesdropping? okay, maybe I was

It was one of those crazy date lunches,
you know, the really romantic ones
where I met B at McDonald's.
He was picking up the food,
I was getting the drinks and
settling into a spot to sit for a spell.
Of course, I kept him guessing,
not going to our "usual" place.
So when he rounded the corner to find me
I was already engrossed in the conversation
across the way.
It was the manager of the McDonald's, actually,
who appeared to be taking his lunch,
and was chatting with one of the "locals."
These are the conversations I enjoy overhearing.

Of course once B sat down, I stopped listening, er,
eavesdropping, and was completely present to him.
Much to my delight, however, the manager moved to chat
with the gentleman at the table next to ours.
At that moment, my female multi-tasking skills kicked into
high gear so I could listen to B AND overhear the table next to us.

What happened next was most exciting.
"You're a 'Bama fan?"
He asked, noticing my University of Alabama attire.
Our conversation covered the college football
championship game and his home state of Texas.
When B returned to the table (he refilled our beverages)
the conversation turned to Alabama and why we were here.

It turns out, the man's father grew up in the town next to B.
They probably went to the same high school.
(And these are not big towns, people, it was a very amazing discovery.)
So suddenly, the world was a smaller,
more cozy place in that Indiana McDonald's.

But it was the conversation exchange between
these two southern turned northern boys that really sticks with me.
The manager especially expressed that people
are more friendly and ready to have a conversation in the south.

so, what makes us northern folks so quiet, reserved, and, well,
perhaps downright unfriendly compared to our southern friends?

08 March 2010

Twister with a twist

As part of the weekend fun,
while we and Flat Stanley
awaited our delicious
Chicago style deep dish pizza,
C "invented" finger twister.

It was amazing to me that
the same competitive spirit that
causes us to push and knock one another down
whilst playing "normal" Twister,
also rears its competitive self in finger Twister.

Only, obviously, instead of knocking whole persons down,
we pushed against one another's hands and fingers, accordingly.
Additionally parallel, was the victorious sense of satisfaction
when you were the last person, er,
last hand standing, so to speak
(although, honestly, I can't personally attest to that,
as I never did win).
It was completely consuming
and a wonderful way to pass time
as we waited for our food.
I highly recommend it.

06 March 2010

Flat Stanley & the Garretts visit Hildred

In a rather uncharacteristic weekend activity,
we spontaneously drove to Hildred's today.
An even greater surprise awaited us.
Fargo's Flat Stanley was also visiting.
The terms of Flat Stanley's visit, of course,
were to engage some great adventure.

Part of the adventure included
serving pizza at Giordano's,
and working with 3D sidewalk chalk,
and sporting some funky shades.
We go all out for adventure
when Flat Stanley is involved.

04 March 2010

Anticipation: how I love thee...

We honor a few traditions in my family. We are not lavish in our birthday celebrations. But we do like to plan for special events. It seems strange to say this, since I feel much younger than 40 sounds, but, for all of our 40th birthdays, we have done something special. Except for mine.

Now, before you feel sorry for me, everyone would join this reminder train that I am the youngest child and have always been spoiled, pampered, etc. etc. (Groan!)

The beauty of my particular 4oth birthday is that it landed the day after my Dad's 80th birthday. And it happened just a few months before my Mom turned 80. Several years ago my Mom began thinking and dreaming and imagining and planning...
what if, for Di's 40th, and Dad & Mom's 80th, we do something really really special?

go to the Netherlands where my Dad was born and raised???

So, we are beginning to live into the plans. At first Mom scheduled for fall 2009. But for various reasons, including my graduate school demands, we pushed off until June 2010. And it is creeping its way into our imaginations and reality.

For example:
-I sent off my passport for renewal and name change last very week. And they have already cashed the check as part of the processing.
-We are discussing the places we will visit and the relatives we may meet.
-Lodging reservations are being secured.
-We are looking at the flights and hoping prices go down.
-And looking forward to the honor of
having Dad show us around his turf, among other things.

Oh, yes, I do love the anticipation.
Stay tuned.