Friday, January 30, 2004

Aunt Judie Helpful Hint #4

It's bonus Friday...TWO helpful hints in one day, and both about laundry. How EXCITING!

Washing the black sweater with a towel actually happened last weekend. Last night I had to do laundry because I was out of clean work slacks. I put the load in the dryer before I went to bed, and thought nothing more about it.

This morning, with ten minutes left before I had to leave for work, I went to run the dryer on "tumble press" for a few minutes to take out any wrinkles. It was then I discovered that the load was not quite dry.

I didn't have a choice - I had a meeting in 30 minutes and could not be late. I knew the slacks would dry quickly once I was at the office. The problem? It was four degrees outside. That would be 28 degrees below the freezing point. Guess how long it takes for damp slacks to freeze stiff in four degree weather? About five seconds.

Either make sure you have clean clothes ready to wear for the entire work/school week, or keep an emergency outfit stashed in the back of the closet.

Aunt Judie Helpful Hint #3

Unless using a lint roller is your idea of big time fun...

Do not wash and dry a black sweater with a towel.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

I hope you dance - Part III

Ever since I was a little kid I have loved music, and have been emotionally moved by song lyrics. There is something about words put to music that touches my heart. But it has to be a song. For some reason I have never been moved by poetry in quite the same way.

I first heard I Hope You Dance on the radio last year while driving to Michigan to visit with my second family. In those days I spent a lot of time wondering what the next chapter in my life would bring. I had been slam-dunked by one thing after another for several years. I was finally healing, but was still tender and skittish about what might hit me next.

This song moved me because I suddenly realized how much of my life I had wasted sitting on the sidelines, feeling unworthy and too scared to join in or try something new. Some of you reading this may be surprised, because I have on occasion done something you might see as daring or brave. But the truth is most of the time my smiling face was hiding a perpetual wallflower, afraid to even get to know my neighbors. I lived in our Michigan house for six years and couldn't tell you the names of more than two people in the neighborhood.

I could write all night, but I would never be able to say it better than this...

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances, but they're worth taking
Loving might be a mistake but it's worth making

or this...

I hope you dance (time is a wheel in constant motion always)
I hope you dance (rolling us along)
I hope you dance (tell me who wants to look back on their youth and wonder)
I hope you dance (where those years have gone)

or this...

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven...a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance... (from the book of Ecclesiastes)

It's up to you. Only you can decide whether you will live your life as a wallflower or as a dancer. Either way there will be times of weeping and mourning. Those cannot be avoided. But why not spend the rest of your time living life to the fullest, taking every opportunity to learn and grow, doing the most you can with the talents God has given you, enjoying His blessings and sharing them?

That's my plan.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

I hope you dance - Part II

My niece S is in a Polish folk ensemble in Michigan known as Mala Polska. Their annual program is a spectacular event that always sells out the venue and leaves the audience cheering in awe and delight.

S has been dancing with the ensemble for years. It is a huge commitment. Practice is long and hard, week after week throughout the school year, plus some work in the summers. I don't know how she can remember all the steps!

As I watched her dance in the program last spring, it occurred to me why it was worth all that work and time and is impossible to be unhappy while you are polka dancing. Even watching other people dance the polka is enough to lighten the darkest mood.

Most dancing is like that. I think God gave us dancing as a way to express our joy at being alive, even if we are not feeling particularly joyous before the music starts. Dancing is a way to smile and laugh with your whole body!

It always seems such a shame to me when I see people (adults and teens alike) sitting on the sidelines at a dance. Maybe they are afraid because they think they will look silly. Or maybe they are just not "in the mood" to dance. Let me tell you, nothing puts you in the mood to dance faster than...dancing!

And as for looking group in history ever looked sillier in retrospect than my friends and I during our last years in high school, when DISCO was the rage. Think Saturday Night Fever.

There's a story I like that makes the email rounds every once in a while which ends with this good advice - work like you don't need the money, love like you're never going to get hurt, and dance like nobody is watching.

Oh, and that Lee Ann Womack song I mentioned yesterday? You've already figured out that it's not really about dancing. More on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

I hope you dance

If you have not heard this song, sung by Lee Ann Womack, I hope you'll find it, listen, and really think about the words.

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.
You get your fill to eat, but always keep that hunger.
May you never take one single breath for granted.
God forbid love ever leave you empty-handed.

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean.
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens.
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance.
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance,
I hope you dance.

More tomorrow.

Monday, January 26, 2004

What it means to be sixteen

Sixteen is a magical age. It's that middle milestone between 13 (not a pre-teen anymore) and 18 (get to vote). It is the age where most kids in this country get their driver's license (first taste of serious adult responsibility without the burden of paying for it).

Would I want to be sixteen again? Only if I could retain the knowledge I have now. What would I do differently?

1. No doubt I would have worked harder for better grades and done whatever else I could to get college scholarships. I have now been in the workforce full time for going on 26 years and while I am doing OK career-wise, the working world is defintely kinder to college grads (in both respect and pay).

2. I would not have asked my friend J from Michigan to take me to my Junior Prom. It took him weeks to write back and tell me no, during which time R asked me but I couldn't say yes because I was waiting for J to answer. By the time J did answer, R was going with somebody else. Back then it was not cool to go to prom with your had to have a date. (I did end up going...remind me to tell you that story sometime.)

3. I would have tried out for the pom pom squad instead of majorettes. Pom poms were definitely cooler, but there were more openings on majorettes that year so my chances of making it were better (I did make it). But I know now that I could have made pom poms with a little more confidence.

To be sixteen in this country generally means you are dealing with what I have described, grades, driving, dating. These are serious issues. But as you struggle through your daily lives, you may want to remind yourself that you are blessed with an abundance of choices and opportunities. It's not that way everywhere.

Be glad you are not a sixteen year old orphan in the Ukraine, where you are forced out onto the street to make it on your own. My friend Larry at Out of the Blue is asking for our support to send these kids some help. This would be a good project for your youth club or Sunday School class. You can share your blessings and make the lives of some kids your own age a whole lot easier.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

The price of sloth

In Friday's post, I talked about how keeping your space neat and your stuff in order is better than not doing so. My advice comes from painful experience.

Over the years a combination of sloth (if you don't know what it means, look it up) and pack rat tendencies has cost me dearly - a silver chain and cross from Poland given to me by my friend P, a small crystal vase I received from my boyfriend J on my high school graduation, and my wedding photo proofs. These are just a few of my former possessions that still exist, but only God knows where.

In my family the adults participate in a grab bag at Christmas, which means that we each get one nice item from one other adult. A couple of years ago my sister-in-law CJ gave me a beautiful pair of silver-and-crystal drop earrings that I loved wearing with black and navy outfits.

Several months ago the pile on my dining table contained two weeks worth of junk mail, photos and supplies for a poster I was working on, remnants of a greeting card project, and my beautiful earrings. When I finally did clean up the mess, one earring was gone. Since the pair had been near the middle of the round table, I did not think it had fallen off the side. But I searched frantically all over the floor, knowing the whole time that the earring was long gone, most likely stuck in a newspaper which had already been taken away by the recycle truck.

My guess is that CJ invested an hour or two in those earrings - driving to the mall, shopping at one or more stores, looking through racks and cases to find just the right thing for me. But I would not take just a few seconds to walk to my bedroom and put the earrings where they belong.

Yesterday I did my housework - a smaller chore than it used to be because I do a better job of keeping things in order on a daily basis. I still check the floor around my dining table before I vacuum...just in case.

Sometimes I wish I had a TV

Our friend Dawn just cracks me up! She does things that I only wish I had the guts to do.

Last week Dawn taped an appearance as a defendant on the cable TV show Style Court. She writes about her experience, and what she learned about herself and the way people perceive her, in today's post. We don't yet know when the show will air.

When the airing date is announced, I would appreciate an invitation from one of you who has cable TV and gets the Style Network. I'll bring the popcorn.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Dude, where's my chi?

One of the funniest lines in the movie The Princess Diaries is heard in the background coming out of the loudspeaker outside the high school:

Will the Feng Shui Club PLEASE stop rearranging the furniture on the lawn?

At first I laughed when I read this article about a California lawmaker proposing to put feng shui in the California Building Standards Code. But then I got indignant thinking here is another classic example of government trying to intrude on our lives. I have settled on annoyed...don't these elected officials have anything better to do?

But there is some value in the basic principle of feng shui - that where your stuff is matters. While I don't believe the difficulties of my life can be magically solved by the proper placement of my green plants, I do know it feels very good when my work and living spaces are neat (which is not often as some of you know).

Once you get over your anger at Mom or Dad for making you clean your room when you would rather be out with your friends, don't you feel better once it's done? Isn't it nicer when you can find your shoes or your homework or your hampster without digging through six months worth of magazines or a pile of clothes?

On the show Friends, Monica is a neat freak who notices when one tiny item in her apartment is in the wrong place. In one episode, her brother Ross dates a gorgeous girl who has the most trashed, disgustingly messy apartment ever seen on TV.

Try to settle somewhere in between.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Dying to look good

Some food for thought...

The news of singer Karen Carpenter's death from anorexia in 1983 reached my ears via the radio while I was sitting in the waiting room at my doctor's office; less than 30 minutes later I left with a prescription for diet pills. Karen Carpenter was 32.

Last week, author Olivia Goldsmith died. Her novel (and the subsequent movie adaptation) "The First Wives Club" is the story of three women dumped by their husbands for younger women. The author died due to complications from anesthesia during cosmetic surgery. She was 54.

American Idol host Randy Jackson just lost 100 pounds in six months after gastric bypass surgery. This is the same surgery that Today Show weatherman Al Roker and singer Carnie Wilson had. The chances of a person dying as a result of this surgery is 1 in 200.

This is my last entry on the subject of weight for now. But my mailbox is always open.

Sufficient grace - Part II

Umm...did I write that out loud?

When I awoke yesterday, it was with the conviction to resume my habit of reading the Word every morning. So I picked up the January Our Daily Bread and before you know it I was writing:

I weigh over 300 pounds.

Out of all the passages in the Bible, the devotional on my first day back to regular study delivered the painful reminder that God knows there is a thorn in my flesh, He knows I desperately want it removed, and yet it is still there.

It's just not fair - alcoholics and drug addicts can be slim and pretty (until the advanced stages anyway). Smokers too. All these people have serious problems, but they don't wear them 24/7 on their sleeves (and tummy and hips and thighs and double-chin) for all the world to see. I know this sounds warped, but why couldn't God have given me one of those thorns instead? It would still be a thorn, but at least it would look pretty in a sleeveless dress.

Yes, I did feel like Cinderella Saturday night. But the pictures from the party which I saw yesterday were a sad reminder that I look more like Cinderella's two stepsisters combined. I wasn't expecting a prince to fall in love with me before midnight, but it would have been nice if any man had asked me to dance.

It is not that I don't know how to lose weight. The bottom line is simple - I need to eat less and move more. My problem is that food has been the one thing that could always be counted on for comfort. And when you put your faith in any earthly thing, instead of God, it may seem like it works for a while but eventually you will be disappointed.

After my last diet failure, I stopped asking God to remove the thorn. It is not that I have given up wanting it removed. It is just that I realized that this thorn must be serving a purpose.

And maybe the only purpose it serves is so that I can be here, right now, to tell you this:

What you look like to the world means nothing compared to the way God sees you. He knows your heart, and loves you unconditionally. No matter what the world thinks of you, you are beautiful to Him.

The men at the party may not have wanted to dance with me, but my Father does.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Sufficient grace

My daily quiet time for Bible reading and prayer has been sporatic for the last year and a half.

After Uncle Dan died I lived for almost a year with my sister J and her family, where I had a built-in time quiet time. Being a guest in a house with three other busy people (sometimes four, when my nephew B was home from college), I made it a habit to get up and in and out of the bathroom before anyone else got out of bed. This gave me an hour or so to be back in my room before leaving for work. Every day for all those months I faithfully read the Bible and prayed.

Once I was able to move into my own apartment, the built-in quiet time disappeared. I still spent time in the word and praying, just not as often and not as faithfully as I would like.

So this morning I opened up my copy of Our Daily Bread to January 20th. Today's devotional topic is from 2 Corinthians. Paul makes a prayer request to which God says no. He asks three times for a "thorn of the flesh" to be removed from him. We don't know what his thorn was - an infirmity, a disease or a weakness - but Paul saw it as a hinderance. God saw it differently.

My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.

I have asked God many times to remove a thorn from my's a weakness, a dependency on something other than Him that for most of my life I have used to fill the hole in my heart - the hole which God wants to be the One to fill. The end result of my weakness is the most socially-unacceptable condition of our time. It is the first thing anybody I meet knows about me, even before a word is spoken between us.

I weigh over 300 pounds.

More tomorrow...

Monday, January 19, 2004

It was a Cinderella night...

...even without the prince.

The long-awaited company party was Saturday night, and it was just wonderful! My employer hosts this event every year to thank the employees for their contribution to the success of the company. It is an extremely generous gesture - cocktails, dinner and dancing for over 500 people.

Like most women, I love the chance to dress up fancy once in a sparkle and shine and know I look my feel like Cinderella for a night. But unlike Cinderella, I didn't have a fairy godmother to do all the work with a flip of her wand, so I called in some human professionals for help - manicure, pedicure, and hair styling. I did my makeup myself, using brighter colors and more mascara than usual. I wore a black velvet and lace dress, diamond(-like) earrings and necklace and fancy (not too) high heels. Based on the compliments I received, I would say the results were well worth the effort.

The banquet hall was gorgeous...white and gold and softly lit with brilliant crystal chandelliers. Dinner was delicious, the DJ read the crowd perfectly and had people dancing all night, and the employee acts (which we did for the first time this year) were great. We had four comedy acts, including the song my friend E and I performed, which got lots of laughs and applause.

Our one "serious" act - a singer who did a blues number - brought down the house. She was so good the DJ and the crowd insisted on an encore! With the depth of emotion that a truly great song has to touch your soul, she slowly sang "At love has come along."

It was the only sad part of the evening for me. Dancing was not Uncle Dan's favorite thing, but he always obliged me on the slow ones. He was about four inches taller than me, which put my head at the perfect height for leaning on his shoulder and feeling the warmth of his neck against my cheek. As I watched the dance floor from the sidelines, I could tell which couples were just friends and which ones were in love. Oh, how I would love to have just one more slow dance with him!

At the stroke of midnight the music ended, the lights came up and we said our goodnights. The magic world we had created for a few short hours was gone.

The morning after

I didn't post anything yesterday because Saturday totally whacked out my routine and body clock. I ended up sleeping until after 11. It took a while to get all the hairspray washed out, which was fine since my sore, stiff legs needed the warm water of the shower. I then went to lunch, followed by a trip to the warehouse store to buy a new color printer. I fell asleep again while attempting to read the Sunday paper. By the time I sat down to the computer, hooked up the new printer, and cleaned up the mess that my home office had become during the last few weeks of frantic activity, I was tuckered out again.

Tomorrow we will be back at work, wearing our regular clothes. For a few days I will limp from the blister on my left pinkie toe, and my coworkers and I will talk and laugh about the fun we had. But we will quickly return to the routine of our normal lives. And that's how it is supposed to happen. It is the rarity of magical nights that makes them so special.

May God bless you with many, many magical nights.

Career Corner - Copy Editor

(Edited for spelling at 10:17am - duh - good thing I'm not a copy editor.)

My niece K told me the other day that she really enjoys reading The Dawn Patrol [K has good taste, just like her Aunt J ;-)]. Dawn refers quite often to her job. From her posts I had learned that she works at a big newspaper, writes headlines and has a workday shift nowhere near my 8-5. But I didn't know exactly what her job was, and asked her to write about it when she had the time.

Less than 24 hours later, Dawn has written an essay about her job that is so thorough I feel like I have just watched a movie.

Thus we have the first entry in what will be a semi-regular feature on this blog - the Career Corner. My objective is to give you a real-world look at various careers in the hope you find it useful as you consider what you may want to do for a living.

Dawn makes an excellent point when she says...

...if I could go back and talk to my younger self, I would have told myself to choose a career doing what I did best—and pursue my passions in my off-time. That's not the same thing as choosing a boring career. What one does best is rarely boring.

That reminded me of a man I knew when I worked at a trade association in the 1980s. We sponsored a big trade show once a year, and D worked for the company that created all the magic - turning a cavernous empty hall into a glittering showplace and back into a cavernous empty hall until the next show came to town. I asked D once about his job and how he liked it, and in the course of the conversation he told me his "real" dream was to be a forest ranger. But being a forest ranger did not pay enough to allow him to pursue other dreams, most especially being a husband and father. He enjoyed his "real" job, and spent as much time as he could - along with his family - in nature.

Last time I inquired, D was still at the company that does the trade show magic. Perhaps you will hear from him in a future Career Corner post.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Aunt Judie Helpful Hint #2

A tip for the ladies:

When you decide to pamper yourself by taking a lovely bath with scented oil, deep conditioning your hair, using a soothingly cool cucumber mask on your face, taking your time doing the leg shaving thing, smoothing your rough skin with a seasalt scrub...what the...OUCH!

It is not a good idea to follow the shaving of your legs with a seasalt scrub.

So this is why I'm up so late

It's almost one o'clock in the morning. I didn't really have a reason for being up this late, except I was writing and reading and didn't feel like going to bed. Plus tomorrow is Saturday (sleepy-late-day).

So I thought I would check for new posts on my favorite blogs one more time before bed's what I was supposed to read. I saw it now so I could give it to you to think about on Saturday and tell your friends about at church on Sunday and start this with me on Monday.

Nitey night!

Words are important

One of the issues I harp on with my young family members is language. Not filthy language (thankfully not a problem, at least not in front of me), but careless conversational language. The use of the word "like" and the phrase "or whatever" as filler in every sentence drives me absolutely nuts!

If I asked one of them to write about what they were attempting to tell me verbally, I doubt all those "likes" and "or whatevers" would end up on the page. When a person writes, they have to take more time to think. The connection from our brain to our hands is a lot farther than from our brain to our mouth.

But I was thrown from my communication skills high horse in that regard this week. I submitted my first blog comment in response to a post I read on Can You Hear Me Now. I did it in a hurry, with a sarcastic tone that did not come through (it is difficult to effectively sarcasticize in writing). And I left an impression that was significantly different from the one I intended. The reader reacted strongly, as I would if I were in his shoes and read what he read. Our exchange starts with his original post here.

And by the way, don't bother trying to use the word "sarcasticize" next time we play Scrabble or Upwords. I made it up.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Busy in a good way

This has been one of the busiest weeks of my life. It started last Saturday, when I attended a Bible Quiz Meet (which I have been too busy to write about, but will soon). Sunday was church, youth club meeting, 40th wedding anniversary luncheon and a song-writing session.

At work there were meetings all day Monday and Tuesday and most of Wednesday. This was followed yesterday by frantic catching up on things that were pushed aside for those three days of meetings. In the evenings there were business dinners, song writing and rehearsals, and in the mornings I'm writing this blog and reading other blogs, my email and trying to keep up on the news.

Tomorrow evening is the company party. I have my ensemble ready (black velvet dress, sparkly hose, shiny things for my ear lobes, neck and wrists), but I still have to rehearse the song (a lot) and get my nails and hair done. The pace does not slow down until Sunday.

If I wasn't in danger of being late for work, I would write a charmingly witty essay on why being busy is a strange thing for me, and how being busy is a good thing as long as what you are busy doing is worthwhile, good for you as well as others, and glorifies God. I guess I'll write that on Sunday when I'm not as busy.

So instead, let me send you over to our friend Dawn, who writes today about her high school rebel youth period and a favorite teacher, her writing advisor Doc George. You'll enjoy it.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

A movie for anyone with a heart (and tear ducts)

My friend E from work and I are getting together tonight to put the finishing touches on our act for the employee party. We are singing a parody about the computer system we use and the people who support it, to the tune of "They Can't Take That Away From Me", written by George and Ira Gershwin in the 1930s.

While I was working on it last night I remembered that this song is featured in one of my favorite movies of all time - Mr. Holland's Opus. So I pulled out the DVD and watched a couple of scenes. No matter how many times I watch it, this movie moves me to tears.

Mr. Holland's Opus is the story of a musician whose vision for his life keeps getting interrupted by the actual living of his life. He ends up teaching high school music for 30 years, instead of just a few years like he planned.

While the movie is not overtly about faith, it leaves you with no doubt that God's hand was in each move of Mr. Holland's life, because he ended up doing exactly what he was designed by God to do.

And in the end, Mr. Holland would not have had it any other way:

"It's funny...I got dragged into this gig kicking and screaming, and now it's the only thing I want to do..."

If you have not seen Mr. Holland's Opus, rent it this weekend. Curl up with a warm blanket and a box of tissues and enjoy. And then tell me if you don't cry at least twice.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Life does come with instructions

During my five-minute commute yesterday morning (I live a mile from my office), I caught part of a sermon by one of my favorite preachers on WYLL 1160 AM. (Now, you're going to think I have some kind of obsession with telephones. I have been writing this blog for eight days and this is my third [or is it fourth?] phone-related post. But this is too good to pass up.)

Pastor Greg Laurie was speaking on How to Know the Will of God. When I tuned in, he was saying something along these lines:

Say I got a new cell phone, and instead of reading the instructions in the manual, I waited for the voice of the president of the cell phone company to magically come through the phone and tell me exactly what I needed to do to make the phone work.

You can guess the meaning - God has provided everything we need to know in His instruction manual, the Bible.

Last week when I got my new cell phone, it came with a manual for the actual phone equipment, plus ten or twelve brochures with information on all the services (calling plan details, how to use the voice mail, etc). I have since lost the equipment manual, and the brochures are in a drawer at my office and I keep forgetting to bring them home.

So Saturday when I needed to know how to put the ringer on "vibrate" I wasted half an hour going through every menu item on the phone and still could not figure it out. I finally learned how to do it yesterday from a friend at work who has the same phone model. Turns out "vibrate" is not an item you choose from a menu, but a setting on the volume control button.

If you approach life and the Bible this way - never reading the manual at all, only reading bits and pieces when you are desperate for help, or just waiting for a God-to-person voice mail message - you are going to waste a lot of time trying things that won't work, and you will miss out on a lot of neat stuff. For all I know, my phone could have some fabulous feature that will make my life easier - like a caffiene detector (see previous post).

Who knows what my phone can do? The person who wrote the manual, that's who!

Aunt Judie Helpful Hint #1

If you really need your sleep, make sure the coffee you order at 8 pm is actually decaf before you drink it.

I'm sure the chocolate in the dessert is also a contributing factor, but it is primarily the coffee that has me still awake at 3 am. I think I have dozed off several times, but it feels like I haven't slept a wink.

It's gonna be a long day.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

I can believe I ate the whole thing

Just got back from dinner with business associates. Key Wester, Naperville (IL). Excellent warm bread with butter and seasoned oil. Passed on the appetizers. Main course of crab cakes, broccoli and seasoned potato wedges.

And for dessert - "Cuban Coffee", an unbelievable concoction consisting of a coffee cup made of chocolate, filled with layers of chocolate cake and chocolate mousse and topped with a layer of white chocolate mousse. Oh, and a rolled-cookie-stick-thing (what are they called?).

If you could add words together like a mathematical equation, the sum of "delicious + lucious + ambrosial" might come close to describing this meal.

Defintely a must if you like excellent food, a gorgeous atmosphere and fabulous service.

Wyoming in winter

Things are getting really busy at work. And yesterday I found out that I may be going to Wyoming for a business trip within the next few weeks. I love traveling for work because:

I get to stay in a hotel, where they clean your room and make your bed every day. It has been a few years since I found a mint on my pillow, but now they have free coffee in your room which is even better.

I get to meet new people. I have met some of the nicest, most positive people through my job that you could ever hope to meet.

I get to see new places. I have been to 18 of the 50 United States, plus one trip to Montreal (Quebec) Canada. If you count the flight layovers where I have never left the airport, I have been to 19 states (Salt Lake City's airport in Utah is bright and lovely).

We generally do less traveling for business than we did just a few years ago. We accomplish most of what we need to do through conference calls and web-based sharing of files, presentations and the like. But there are times when you just have to meet face to face to make a real connection.

So it's off to Wyoming - where the state flower is the Indian Paintbrush, the state soil is Forkwood, and there is a bison on the flag. Oh, and Sacajawea may or may not be buried there (that is in dispute).

Have any of you ever been to Wyoming? Write and tell me about it.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Old jobs and new jobs

In 1976 I got my first office job, part-time after school at a dress factory. My duties included operating the switchboard. Here we are less than 30 years later, and you probably don't know what a switchboard is.

It used to be that all phone calls to a place of business came into one location - the switchboard - and the operator then connected the call by plugging a wire into a hole in the board. I loved switchboard duty. It was a lot more fun than filing or typing. But alas, a glamorous career in switchboard operation was not in the cards for me. Advances in technology have made switchboard operator jobs obsolete.

Sometimes jobs cease to exist for other reasons. Discoveries in the world of medicine, combined with (or perhaps causing) a shift in socially-acceptable behavior, led to the disappearance of the job of spittoon polisher. It used to be common (WAY BEFORE MY TIME) to have container called a spittoon, often made of brass, in the lobby of a building into which people would spit. Somebody had to clean that out and polish it up every night. That is one job I don't think anyone was sad to see go away.

By the time some of you reach college, several jobs that exist today will be gone forever. But there will be at least one new job, if not many more, to replace those that are lost. Just look at all the careers that exist today due to the invention of the personal computer and the Internet, which were not even in the scope of my imagination when I was connecting calls the old-fashioned way back at the dress factory.

So don't let the news stories about disappearing jobs scare you. If you develop a good work ethic, keep your options open and never stop learning, you will have plenty of job opportunities no matter what the future brings.

You may even be the person who invents the "next big thing" that creates millions of new jobs. That would be awesome!

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Meet Scott

A lot of my internet time these days is spent reading sites that have been recommended to me. Today I am glad to pass on a recommendation to you. Meet Scott, whose blog is called Some Christian Guy.

Scott is a lot closer in age to you than I am, so it is natural that his taste in music, books, films and such might be closer to yours as well. If Scott were the one driving the youth club to a retreat instead of me, it's a safe bet you would not have to spend your time in utter embarrassment over the driver's singing along with the Bee Gees or Three Dog Night.

But some things in life don't change no matter how old you get. In a January 5 entry Scott ponders a question about attraction that has me baffled about people in my age group. If I ever figure it out, I'll let you know.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

God knows their names

(edited 8:52 am)

We have a family member in trouble, and he needs our prayers.

There was a time when the best answer for his situation would have been for him to just walk away. That time passed when another person - tiny and helpless - came along.

Those of us who know him may be tempted to connect the dots of his life and conclude that he brought this all on himself; that by now he should have learned how to handle his problems.

Even if that were the simple truth (which we cannot know because we have not lived his life), he and the little one, and the little one's mother, still deserve our prayers.

Friday, January 09, 2004

A Star is Born?

No time for a proper entry this morning. I slept late because I was up late trying to decide what to perform at my company's annual employee party which is a week away.

Should I sing or tell jokes, or do a parody song about my job? It has to be something that will entertain but not offend or embarrass. Actually, it's OK if I embarrass myself, just not my boss or anyone who could fire me.

Got any ideas? Email me!

Thursday, January 08, 2004

TV or not TV?

Here is an article on a subject that I am quite passionate about...television. It was written by Lee Reinsch of the Fond du Lac (Wisconsin) Reporter. A quote:

Cable TV made a West Bend man addicted to TV, caused his wife to be overweight and his kids to be lazy, he says.

And he’s threatening to sue the cable company.

Timothy Dumouchel of West Bend wants $5,000 or three computers, and a lifetime supply of free Internet service from Charter Communications to settle what he says will be a small claims suit.

Dumouchel blames Charter for his TV addiction, his wife’s 50-pound weight gain and his children’s being “lazy channel surfers,” according to a Fond du Lac police report.

I can relate to this gentleman's predicament, being a recovering television addict myself. It was around 1990 when I first tried to kick the habit. I sold my color TV to a co-worker, but kept my really neat combination-alarm-clock-radio-5-inch-black-and-white TV. Well, after spending every spare moment for the entire two weeks of the Winter Olympics flat on my back with my eyes glued to that gadget, I gave up and bought a new full size color TV.

My next attempt was in 2002 when I moved into my current apartment. The very large TV which entertained the late great Uncle Dan and I for several years was among the 75% of our stuff that I got rid of when he died (that story I'll save for another time).

For six months I was TV-less, until one day for some reason I had an overwhelming desire to watch Friends again (everybody sing it..."I'll be there for you"). I rushed out and bought a small TV/VCR combo for $90, watched the three channels that would come in with the rabbit ear antenna, then sold it two months later for $50 (ouch).

I have been "on the wagon" for almost a year now. I still watch TV occasionally at other people's homes, and am dancing on the edge of a replacement addiction to rented DVD movies (I play them on my computer). But I have no desire to own a TV again.

Aunt Judie's unsolicited advice to Mr. Dumouchel of West Bend, Wisconsin:

Go cold turkey. Pull the plugs and get rid of all the TVs. Rearrange your furniture so that it is not pointed towards the empty space where the tube used to be. And please, for your own good, drop the lawsuit. The cable company did not come to your home, chain you to your chair and duct-tape the remote control to your hand. Taking responsibility for your problem is the first step to overcoming it.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

When I was your age...

I got my new cell phone yesterday. It is small and light, which means I will probably lose it a couple of times before I make my first ten calls. While I was busy making entries in my phone book (which holds 500 numbers...who knows 500 people?), it occurred to me as it often does that this is a VERY COOL time to be alive.

WARNING - WIWYA (When I Was Your Age) Moment

A little background...I am in my forties and have been working in offices since I was a junior in high school. My first experience with a new "high-tech" innovation was the photocopier. The boss at my first job apparently thought the copier was radioactive. He would place his original on the glass, close the cover, hit the Copy button and jump away so the light that escaped the cover would not touch him.

I have seen the world change a lot in my life and it is important you know about it so you can understand the older people around you a little better. So an occasional WIWYA story is for your own good. I promise not to embellish too much. For example, your aunts and uncles and I did walk to school, but it was not 20 miles uphill both ways in the snow with no shoes (that was your Grandpa).

Anyway, when I was growing up telephones were not exactly a new invention. We always had one (but just one). Ours was a wall-mounted model, black (of course), with a rotary dial (little plastic squares with numbers and letters on them were not invented yet). Our solution to not having an extension was to place the phone in the geographical epicenter of the apartment, between the two bedrooms, and buy the longest handset cord available. You always knew where the phone was and who was on just followed the black curly wire. The phone was hard-wired into the wall (no modular plugs). There was ONE phone company (Illinois Bell), and when the phone broke you had to wait for an engineer to come out and fix it. wireless handsets, no caller ID, very few long distance calls (too expensive), no cell phones, PCs or Internet. We wrote lots of letters! The entire nature of human communication has changed since then.

The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago had an exhibit sponsored by Illinois Bell that displayed the history of telephonic communication (our Uncle Flip worked there for many years). The most popular item in the exhibit was the "picture phone", which was not a phone that took pictures but rather two large booths connected by a closed-circuit TV setup. I am not sure if the telephone exhibit is still there, but if it is our old black wall phone is probably one of the artifacts, complete with the hopelessly tangled cord.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Go back to bed, or to the gym? Hmmmm

While I am very excited about this new adventure, I promised myself I would not get obsessive and run to my computer every spare moment to write. But there is not much to do at five in the morning when you cannot sleep because your bedroom window faces a parking lot that is being plowed (even though we got no additional snow overnight). "Beep beep beep...scrape...beep beep beep".

Yes, I could go to the gym, where I haven't been in almost a year even though I pay the monthly fee. Actually, it was last year at this time that I was going 2-3 times a week, working with a personal trainer on the weight machines.

After the first week (once the extreme soreness wore off) I was feeling great! My hourly mood swings, for which I was well known at work, were virtually eliminated. I didn't lose much weight because I did not change my poor eating habits for more than a few days in a row. But the sensation of feeling my getting-stronger muscles as I moved throughout the day was fascinating.

What got me to the gym those cold winter mornings was the fact that I had paid for 24 sessions in advance, and there was no refund. Unfortunately, once my paid-for sessions were done, I rarely went back. Why? Because of my tendency to put the immediate gratification of staying in a warm bed before the long-term satisfaction of a healthier and better looking body.

Do you tend to go for the immediate instead of investing in the long term? Do you spend all your money on something you want right now, or do you save some of it for something better you may want in the future?

Hey...the snowplow stopped! There's time for another hour and a half of sleep before I get up for work. Bye for now. (Gimme a's two below zero out there!)

Monday, January 05, 2004

Meet Kyle Williams

Here's another blog you might find interesting, especially if you are studying politics in school this year. Kyle Williams is a 15-year-old who writes for World Net Daily. His column appears on Saturdays. His blog is called Kyle just dropped out of high school after his one and only semester, which he says was the most boring time of his life.

Check this out!

I am quite new to blogging. When one of my favorite political web sites ( announced they were looking for blog authors to feature, it intrigued me enough to start some research. I'm looking for blogs you will like, and I found one today.

The Dawn Patrol is by freelance writer and popular-music historian Dawn Eden. I love the illustration of her! Maybe I can get my friend Bill to draw one of me (minus a few pounds) for my blog.

It looks like she has lots of fun! But check out her January 1 post called Pure Imagination for a thoughtful essay on sexual purity.


This blog is dedicated to my nieces, nephews and any other young person to whom I have offered my wise (yet mostly unsolicited) advice over the years. Thank you for patiently listening all those times, even if you did roll your eyes or call me crazy/silly/weird behind my back.

My darlings, we are all on the same road - it's called "life" - but I am a few miles ahead of you (ok, maybe more than a few). I am here because I know where some of the potholes are, and I would like to help you avoid a few of them.

Buckle your seatbelt - I hope you enjoy the ride!