The Green Dictators

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37

The Green Dictators are back in power. Every spring my husband plants a vegetable garden and starts cultivating his fruit trees and berry bushes. By the middle of summer we are completely controlled by the demands of plants. They need water. They want the soil tilled. They insist that those pesky weed neighbors be removed from the premises.

Those demands are usually tended to by my husband but the fruits and vegetables aren’t satisfied with his attentions alone.

Waiting for attention

Soon corn needs husked. Green beans have to be snapped. The berries need to be washed and bagged.  Like the wicked step-sisters in Cinderella, they have no patience. They don’t care what my personal agenda for the day is, their demands must be met immediately or “we will dry out, wilt, or soften beyond usefulness,” they declare.

I yield to their power, delay my morning writing time, and contemplate how to uproot the tyrants.  I imagine whirlwinds whisking the trees away, hail pounding berries into a pulp. I dream of swarms of locusts descending with a biblical fierceness and stripping the plants bare, freeing me from my bondage.

Then a cool breeze blows in and reminds me that the power of the green dictators is always short-lived. Soon, frost will invade their territory, turning their green foliage brown,  brittle and unproductive. When winter winds whirl and plants lay bare, I will no longer be filling the freezer, but feasting on the bounty there and realize that those tyrants of the summer are benevolent dictators. I might even be tempted to order my husband another seed catalog.


I am an athlete

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1


I am an athlete. I  will never qualify for the Olympics or even participate in the Boston Marathon, but I walk.

There are some who don’t consider walking a true sport; they haven’t checked the dictionary. My Merriam – Webster’s defines athlete as, “ a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina.” All of those qualities are needed by those of us who put one foot in front of another to log miles on our shoes and record distances in an exercise journal.

But the thing that makes me a athlete is the same thing that makes anyone an athlete – achieving victory over self. Choosing on a consistent basis to overcome inertia and move  when your mind tells you it’s too hot or too cold, that you’re too tired, that you have too much to do, or that you just don’t feel like exercising is how anyone becomes a competitor.

I compete with myself every time I go for a walk,  trying to improve my time or extend my mileage.  And I have competed in a few 5K events.

Victory in Virginia

The first one took courage because I had never been in a race. Just entering was a victory over self.  I achieved victory in another 5K b y entering and then  finishing. I was suffering with plantar faciitus and almost didn’t compete. My oldest son and daughter-in-law were running in the race and I wanted to participate with them.

I gave myself a pep talk and promised myself that if the pain got too bad, I could quit. I was the second to last person to come in…but I didn’t  quit – another victory over self.

Then I had a chance to enter a local 5K with my youngest son. He ran, I walked. He came in 2nd for his age group. When the walking winners were announced I had come in first place in my age category! I immediately started making plans to compete in the Beast of the Southeast the next year.

2nd & 1st in the Beast of the SouthEast

When spring came, I started training hard for that 5K scheduled for a weekend in July. That May, my husband had a heart attack and eventually by-pass surgery. My walking pace was scaled back to an amble as I walked with him to rebuild his strength. Each completed round was a victory over fear and uncertainty.

He is healthy again and I am back to competing against my last walk, trying to improve my time and distance. Whether one is running a marathon or walking a path in a park, champions know that it is victory over self that makes you a true athlete.

Secret Codes Needed

I’m feeling more and more like I’m living in a spy novel; I have to provide a password for everything I do.

My computer wants a code to go from the  opening screen to the Windows desktop before I can start work. My e-mail provider wants my e-mail address (don’t they know it?) and my password before I can read the latest missives that have arrived. My inbox has an ad from my favorite rubber stamp shop but to order from them, they need my special identity code.

Recently,  my church bought a new copier.  It’s one of the new, sophisticated, digital contraptions that copies, scans, faxes, collates, rotates images, knows what size paper I want to use, does open heart surgery (no,wait- it can’t do that). In other words, it has so many functions everyone in the congregation is going to want to use it. But, they can’t unless they have the secret code. Because I have to print out reams of copies for the children’s classes, I have one of the secret passwords. Now I have to add it to my list of secret codes that I keep in a secret file, guarded by my secret password. . . just as soon as I remember the combination of  letters that lets me into that encrypted document.

Feburary First

It’s the first of February and Mother Nature is celebrating with a winter party. This morning she placed a frozen tablecloth with icicle fringe on tIce Tableclothhe patio table. She adorned the trees with crystal and spread a white welcome mat in front of my door.

Cardinals, chickadees, and nuthatches arrived quickly and helped themselves to the smorgasboard of seeds awaiting them in the wooden feeder.  A woodpecker in his black tux and red top hat arrived and strutted along the clothesline pole.

A strong breeze blew in and danced with the pine trees. They invited me to join in but I decided to sit by the fire instead.

What can you do with a remnant?

What can you do with a remnant? Quite a lot, whether that remnant is a piece of cloth, a scrap of paper or a measure of time.

I learned about using remnants from my mother. She often bought leftover end pieces from a bolt of cloth. Those short pieces were usually marked down enough that she could buy them with the remnants of her grocery money. She sewed that calico or checked cotton into blouses and shirts for my siblings and I. With the leftover pieces from those sewing projects, she made dresses for my dolls.

Panel for Mola

Panel for a Mola

Remnants are prized by quilters who have turned using them into an art form, as have the Kuna women of Panama. The Kunas make beautiful blouses using a reverse applique technique. Those blouses, called molas, are made with matching panels attached to a yoke with sleeves. Many of their designs contain areas with small slits exposing bright colors underneath.  They are thus able to make use of the smallest sliver of cloth.

I take the same attitude with patterned paper and card stock. I don’t throw away the scraps from my paper crafting projects. Instead, I pull out paper punches and snap out small flowers, leaves, stars and paper buttons to use as embellishments on my greeting cards and scrapbook pages. I make those decorative elements when I have little remnants of time – while I’m on hold on the phone, waiting for cooking water to boil or while I’m watching the evening news.

Using remnants of time is also the way I make headway on many writing projects. Like all writers, I long for uninterrupted hours to play with words, but the other demands of life mean I don’t get hours very often. So, I keep a list of little writing chores that can be done in small segments of time.  Choosing a title, editing a paragraph, reading an article for research, rewriting a lead are tasks I can be accomplish in a 15-minute time slot. The secret is to know what I’m are going to do when I find myself with a little segment of time open in my schedule.

Me, with my family in a Kuna village in 1983. I am wearing a Mola.

I think this urge to save remnants is a reflection of being created in the image of God. After all, he puts great value on remnants. He instructed the Israelites to use a remnant of cloth on the back of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:12). He used Joseph to preserve a remnant of the Israelites from famine (Genesis 45:7). As we study the New Testament, we see him extending grace to many that society considered throw away people.

Remnants of cloth, small pieces of paper, miscellaneous moments and discarded people can all be redeemed for useful purposes.

Now, I wonder what I can do with this leftover sock I found in the dryer.

It’s Not Written In Stone

“It’s not written in stone.”

I repeat that mantra when I find myself paralyzed by perfectionism and unable to get words down on paper. I remind myself that since I’m not carving words in granite, I can write freely not worrying about getting it perfect, but just getting it written down. Then, I can revise. I can go back and add adjectives. I can cut adverbs. I can erase or use white out. I can even start all over on the next page.

“It’s not written in stone” is even easier for me to believe when I am composing on the computer. There I can cut and paste, easily moving sentences or whole paragraphs from one section of the piece to another.

My mantra has helped me overcome writing inertia each time I’ve used it.

But I may have to find a new mantra. Today I went shopping for a new notebook to hold my ideas to be developed, warm up exercises, and first drafts of articles and stories. On the store shelf with the file folders, index cards, and post-a-notes were notebooks in the   5 ½ X 8 ½” size that I prefer. As I took one to the cash register, I read the information on the front cover and discovered it’s a stone paper notebook! Yes, stone paper.

As soon as I got home, I did a little research on the web. I found that stone paper, also called rock paper or fiberstone, is made from fine particles of calcium carbonate (stone) and polyethylene (a non-toxic resin). It is environmentally friendly and if I absolutely do not like my first draft, stone paper is recyclable.

So, now when I jot something in my writer’s notebook, it is will be written in stone. . . but I can still use my eraser!

Spend a day without complaining

“Spend a day without complaining,” Rochelle Melander challenges in her book A Generous Presence. It’s a challenge I decided to take up today.

I think of myself as a cheerful person who doesn’t complain much. But when the temperature falls (like it is doing today) I start griping about the cold. My “I hate being cold,” lament is something my husband gets tired of hearing long before Christmas arrives each year.

He also gets tired of my running commentary about what’s wrong with the government. I like to stay abreast of current events. I think it’s important so that I know how to pray about what’s going on in the world. If I add up the time I spend griping, though, I’m sure it’s more than the time I spend praying “for all those in authority” as Paul admonishes us to do in 1 Timothy 2:2

Complaining does have its place. I saw that in my eighteen years as a counselor. It’s a way people process the disappointments and challenges in their lives. But if they remained stuck in complaining mode, things didn’t change. They had to learn the antidotes for bellyaching: find what’s good about the situation, express gratitude for one’s blessings and take action.

That’s a prescription I’m applying as the economic downturn hits the publishing world. Many of the magazines that I have written for have ceased publication within the last year. It’s something I’ve complained about to my husband. It’s something I’ve complained about to my writing friends. It’s something I’ve complained about in my journal. But I am finding good in the situation — I’m being forced to explore new markets and areas of writing, including writing for the web. I’m thankful for my son who is very knowledgeable about all things cyber space and can give me guidance. And I’m taking action by writing my blog.

I’m learning that when I want to complain, God’s plan for me is to “look around, give thanks and get up and do something.”

As I look outside, I see that the mercury has dropped ten degrees. It’s time to give thanks for modern conveniences, light the gas logs in my fireplace and settle in with my prayer journal.

I’m feeling more cheerful already.

It’s Clean Off Your Desk Day

Get out the file folders. Drag your trashcan closer to your desk. It’s National Clean Off Your Desk Day.  This event has appeared in Chase’s Annual Events since 1983 when Anne Chase Moeller, Mr. Chase’s daughter, decided she would no longer work on his cluttered desk when she helped in his office. She declared he would have to clear off his desk at least once a year. He turned it into an event and added National Clean Off Your Desk Day to his annual publication.

This event appeals to those who hold to the adage, “A cluttered desk means a cluttered mind,” but what about those of us who thrive on creative chaos?  Research being done in chaos theory is yielding results in mathematics, biology, computer science, economics, engineering, finance, philosophy, physics, psychology, and robotics. Why should I expect anything less from the chaos of papers, sticky notes, coupons, photos of my grandhildren and envelopes with scribbled notes scattered on my desk?

I know from experience that unrelated items juxtaposed next to each other inspire new ideas and unexpected but effective metaphors for my writing and scrapbook pages.  If I clear the clutter I might spend weeks waiting for my desk to  return to its normal state and prompt another innovative idea.

I think I will skip the great clean off this year. I’m going to embrace the words of Sydney J. Harris, “Those proud of keeping an orderly desk never know the thrill of finding something they thought they had irretrievably lost,” and look forward to an excavation in the days ahead.