Love always the moment!

Love always the moment!
Live Like someone left the door open! Credit, Martine Lemens via

Monday, June 5, 2017

Some Angels Smoke Cigarettes?

“God did not bring us out here to abandon us” I said. This was a rare moment of faith and optimism for me since I’m usually a worry wart.
I was with a group of college students on a study trip to Europe and Morocco. There were 20 of us and we were buzzing around foreign countries in three minivans. When we left Morocco half of our group had stomach troubles because of some undercooked tea. We had been driving through Spain for a few hours when several things began to happen at once.
Photo Credit: Matt Willmann via
First of all, one of the vans started to run out of gas. On another van, one student desperately had to go to the bath room.  In the front van, our professor was driving and his assistant was holding the walkie-talkies. The drivers of the other vans were complaining about their emergencies, but the professor’s assistant kept saying that we just needed to go a little further and drive for a few more minutes.
Well, bathroom emergencies and nearly empty gas tanks can only wait so long. At last vans two and three had to pull off at a gas station. Van number one kept going because the professor’s assistant had finally started to ignore the desperate pleas over the walkie-talkie. 
In just a few minutes the bathroom problem was solved and the van’s gas tank was filled with fuel.  But now came a new disaster.  One of the students was getting out of the van to stretch his legs, but when he opened the sliding van door, it hit a stone pillar and literally fell of the vehicle.
We had lots of strong young guys with us who could have lifted the van door back up on the track, but all but one of them was very ill from the undercooked tea from Morocco.
What were we going to do? The professor, his van, and one third of our group was who knows how far down the road and a van door had been dislodged from one of our vehicles. That was when I and others in our group suggested that we pray. Some people were still panicking so I said, “No, God has protected us this far. He’s not going to abandon us.”
We all stood in a circle and prayed for help. We had just said “Amen” when we were approached by a stranger. He was a tall, thin man with long black hair pulled back in a pony tail. He was wearing a green t-shirt and blue jeans. He was leisurely smoking a cigarette.
He looked at our van and assessed the situation and the damage. Then he pointed at the only strong guy in our group who wasn’t sick from the undercooked tea (he was also the biggest guy in our group). Lou walked over and took one side of the door and the stranger took the other side and they replaced it on the van very quickly.
We asked the stranger if he wanted money for his help and he said, “No, someone helped me once and this is my way of paying them back.”
The stranger started to walk away from the gas station toward the highway. Meanwhile we all bowed our heads to say a quick prayer. Now we were in a part of Spain where the ground was very flat, so you could see for miles and there were no other buildings in site. We literally had our heads bowed and our eyes shut for three seconds and when we opened our eyes the stranger had disappeared.
There was no where for him to go and he didn’t have time to run back in the gas station.
If that was an angel who had helped us on that day in Spain, when I get to heaven, I want to ask God why that angel was smoking a cigarette.

When a Little Town Became an Island

When I was a little girl I lived in a tiny town on a big hill surrounded by cornfields. In the cornfields around the big hill with the tiny town are lots of little creeks which sometimes overflow their banks and make little floods.
Flood Image Credit: Anissa Belkheir, via
This is a story about when my little town got a lot of rain and the creeks overflowed their banks and completely covered the cornfields and turned the little town on the big hill into an island.
At first it was fun. Dad woke me up early to go out and look at the flooding because it was the first time that the creeks had flooded that badly. The water was lapping up on the street heading out of town like waves on a shore. Wind blew and the sound of water made it sound like I was standing next to a lake instead of a network of flooded creeks.
The road (normally) went down the big hill and intersected with a major highway (which was now completely under water). Dad and I stood looking out at the flood and Dad said, “This is funny”.
I was wondering if there were more fish swimming in the water than normal.
A few hours later it seemed like the entire town was standing out on the “shore” on the little bridge that usually went over one of the little creeks, but now looked more like a dock.  People cracked jokes about how the farmers should have planted rice or celery instead of corn.
My mother was out there with Dad now and she was joking that we would have to buy boats to get out of town if the flood waters didn’t go away. Someone asked if anyone had called the local TV station.
Then all at once the mood changes a big red truck was driving down the road in the distance. He kept getting close to the flood waters and he wasn’t slowing down.
Everyone got quiet and watched. The truck’s driver must have thought the flood waters would be shallow enough to drive through. He was wrong. We watched helplessly as the truck entered the water over the highway and started to float away. Someone got a row boat out of a nearby garage and tried to push it toward the truck – but the rough flood waters were too vast and the boat simply drifted aimlessly with the current.
The truck started to capsize and my mom told me to look away. But the driver had climbed out of the truck and was clinging to it. We all breathed a sigh of relief when a natural resource boat came and rescued the man.
A few minutes later it happened again. This time a minivan floated into the water and a man, a woman, and three children, crawled out and clung to the vehicle. 
Many people in the crowd began to panic. The Natural Resource Rescue Boat came back and picked up the little family, but instead of taking them away like they had the truck driver, they brought them to the town.
The family had been on vacation and were far from home and had no where to go and no where to stay. One family in the town had a guest room where they could stay and another family donated pillows and blankets. Another family donated food. Everyone in the little town pitched in and made the hapless family feel more comfortable. They stayed one night and by the next day the flood waters had subsided and they could leave.
But on the day of the flood the state closed the highway so no one else could get trapped by the flood waters again.

Now, decades later, the cornfields around the big hill are green and the creeks mostly stay in their banks, but I’ll never forget when the big hill became an island. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dark Water

I spent years away from home, away from Iowa. While living far away, the Mississippi river, which is only 15 or 20 minutes from my home in Iowa became a symbol in my mind of where I had come from. When I finished Seminary, I came home and had difficulty finding a I started temping to pay the bills...

For the better part of a year, I worked as a supply courier for a bank. One of the things I really enjoyed about that job was crossing the Mississippi River several times every day as I went through my route.
I loved looking at the river as I drove over the bridges. The water never looked the same twice in one day. Sometimes it would be bright blue, reflecting the color of the sky. Sometimes on the same day, with that same blue sky, the water would be a slick, oily gray or even a flinty black (which is why, I suppose the Mississippi is sometimes referred to as "dark water").
One winter day, snow was on the ground and the river had large pieces of ice floating down stream...I think the technical term is "ice floats".
Against the black water, the large ice floats looked like beef fat floating in the surface of a pot of greasy water.
Another day, early in the morning it was so cold that the water looked like like smoke was rising up out of it...The ethereal effect was magnified by the pink color the river stole from the sunrise.
My time in Iowa has been rocky at best. I want nothing more than to get back into ministry, to be a chaplain again. It's lovely living near my family, to be back near my river -- but life beyond the river beckons again. It is time to find a new symbol for my life, time to find other beautiful things to admire...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Goo Goo and the Gremlin

I grew up in a small let me rephrase that...I grew up in a town with eight streets.  You could stand in the middle of it and see the surrounding cornfields.   My dad liked to joke that the mayor called one time to say that we would have to move out of our house if we didn't get at least one dead car in our yard by the end of the month.  
There were no stores in town.  The church got closed down because the boiler blew.  The post office burned down one fateful night and the building that WAS a dance hall in the 40's is now a car garage. My parents' house was across the street from a grain elevator -- one of the few working businesses in town. 
Just to give you an idea of what the culture was like, I'll tell you a little story.  My half-sister's husband and I were sitting in my parents' living room one afternoon watching TV when we noticed someone walking outside in the yard.  I went out to see who it was and when I came back, Mike asked, "Who was that?"  
"The Mayor," I replied.  
"What was the Mayor doing in your yard?"
"Reading the meter on the house."
"Why was the Mayor reading the meter on your house?" He asked, wide-eyed.
"What else would he be doing?"
Photo Credit: Yamamoto Ortiz Via
Most of the people in our little city were really nice.  Our neighbors (I'll call them the Douglas' for the sake of the story) have always been really good friends of ours.  Laurel and Dave Douglas are like another aunt and uncle to me.  They love to tease me about stuff I did when I was a kid...Sometimes I wish they'd forget certain things...
They have a lot of inside jokes with my parents of our favorites has to do with the story of the neighbor on the other side of my parents' house: "Goo Goo" Summerset. 
Goo Goo (as he asked us to call him) and his wife used to stand out in their front yard and yell at each other...while standing two feet apart.  He used to put locks on his refrigerator door so his kids couldn't eat between meals and (trust me) he had more than his share of dead cars in the front yard.  He was a constant source of both annoyance and entertainment.  
One day my parents and I were working in our back yard when Goo Goo hurried out of his front door and started jumping around in his yard, yelling incomprehensibly.  Mom, Dad, and I stopped and stared at him for a few seconds.  What in the world was this guy up to now?  
Finally Goo Goo slowed down his speech enough so that we could understand him a little: "My Car!  My Car!!! Somebody stole my car! Thief!  Thief!" 
We all looked at each other in disbelief.  Who (in their right mind) would have stolen Goo Goo's car?  
Dave and Laurel called to us from their yard.  "What's got Goo Goo so upset?" Dave asked.  
My father cleared his throat.  "Apparently somebody stole ... his car."
Dave made a face.  "One of the dead ones?" 
Image Credit: Lena Povrzenic via

"It doesn't sound like it," Mom replied.  
Laurel snickered.  "Fine then...the Yugo or the Gremlin?" 
Meanwhile Goo Goo was still jumping up and down in his yard.  
"Do you think we should help him?" Mom asked. 
"It would be the neighborly thing to do," Laurel added. 
"He really seems upset," Dave said.
"And we have known the guy for years..." Dad muttered.  
Five minutes later, the five of us were sitting in lawn chairs in my parents' back yard watching the "show" in Goo Goo's yard.  By now, Goo Goo and Mrs. Summerset were in their front yard arguing about who had left the keys in the car's ignition.  Goo Goo also mentioned that he had called the police. 
"Oh good," Mom said taking a sip of her pop..."This is going to be a cop show."  
Ten minutes later, the police had arrived...and they started questioning Mr. and Mrs. Summerset about the last time they had seen the car, etc.
What the five of us found amusing was that although we were sitting in lawn chairs watching the whole thing go on, the police didn't ask us any questions or even speak to us once.  We didn't care though...we were too busy munching on our popcorn.  
"YOU HAVE TO CATCH THESE CRIMINALS!" Goo Goo exclaimed. "We're in the middle of a crime wave!  You can't trust anyone anymore!!!  No one cares about each other like they used to!"
"Wonder why he'd think that?" Laurel asked, leaning back in her chair.  
We all shook our heads and said, "Who knows?"
The police questioned Goo Goo for about 5 minutes.  They were getting ready to leave when one of them said, "Hey is your car a bright green compact car?" 
"Yes!" Goo Goo screamed.  "Yes!  It is!! That's what I've been saying!  Why?"  
"Well you know that grain elevator across the street?" The policeman asked.
"Well we found the car behind a silo."
"Someone stole my car and hid it behind a silo at the Grain elevator?"  He yelled this at the top of his lungs. 
"I don't think so.  The car's parking break was off and it looks like it rolled down the hill and ended up behind the silo." 
The police left a couple of minutes later and Goo Goo retrieved his car, parked it in his drive way and retreated into his house.
The show was over.  

Its awesome when you can enjoy good entertainment with your neighbors.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Walking through the Park on a Moonlit Night...

On the edge of the little town I live in is this manicured city park with a walking path, perfectly shaped trees, and frogs...I've never actually seen the frogs, you understand, but I can hear them.  Sometimes I wonder if people in China can hear them...
Truthfully, I'm not exactly certain if they are really in the park or in the decorative ponds in the back yards of the nearby houses.
What really bothers me about the frogs is the fact that they do not actually say, "Ribbit."  Its more of an incessant, "Orc, Orc, Orc"...  The sound would be unnerving if I didn't know what it was and where it was coming from.
On the far side of the park, kids are playing baseball under bright spotlights...Not that they would need the lights to play...the moon is full and huge -- like a giant neon light in the shape of a pancake.  There are no electric lights illuminating the walking path in the park, but I'm not afraid because the moon lights my way, guiding my footsteps.
Trees look different at night than they do during the day.  Something about moonlight -- the shadows it casts on the leaves makes them stand out, as though under a spot light -- they almost don't look real.  The individual leaves are defined in a formal way, like in a museum diorama...
The lightning bugs are out...not many of them yet, but enough to make me feel like I'm walking through a fairy land...I remember when I was a kid, how I used to love to catch them, watch them blink in my hand and let them go...I used to get so mad when the neighborhood boys would catch them and tear them apart.
Usually while walking in the park, I hear wind through the trees, cars passing in the distance...I don't hear that tonight...I can't even hear the kids playing baseball...All I can hear are the frogs..."Ork, Ork Ork"... like an amphibious Greek Chorus...Still can't see them...Maybe that's a good thing...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bam goes the Mylar!

You could hear the sound from the exploding balloons from all parts of the University Bookstore I used to work at...We had a very popular balloon department and as a cashier, it was also my job to help out there.  I seemed to have a talent for popping the balloons I meant to fill with Helium and put into pretty bouquets...I used to love the colors in the balloons, how the light went through them...the bright, vivid designs on the foil Mylar balloons...Trouble is, if you put too much air in them, or let them touch the ceiling (metal shards in the tiles), KABOOM, no more pretty rubber balloon!  
After working at the store for a few years, my boss let me help her pick out balloons she would order to sell in the store...I loved looking through the Mylar picture-balloon catalogs.  There were balloons with cute slogans on them: Happy Birthday, Good Luck, Welcome Back... 
Others had cute cartoon characters on them, or animals, or smiley faces...
We also had balloons for anniversaries and baptisms...
Most of the time, she'd order anything I picked, but occasionally she'd veto my picks... 
For some reason, my boss didn't like the Birthday Balloon featuring a Grim Reaper with the caption: "Don't worry...I'm just here for the Cake..." 
We were pretty fast at blowing those things up, but even when we were really hopping, we could only blow up 20 balloons per hour...Most of the time people didn't care, but sometimes you'd get a customer who'd call up and say, "Can I have 100 balloons in an hour please???"  
One time I told a customer that was impossible and about how many we could do per hour and she said crisply, "Is that your best?"
I didn't say so, but I thought, "No, Lady...we're just slowing down our pace because you have an annoying voice..."  Just for the record, I did NOT say that out loud...
I wasn't always good at blowing those things up...It took practice...there's a science to it...too little air, and the balloons look limp or sick...too much and the thing's libel to burst in someone's face (not good)...It took me two years to perfect the size...I always liked to make the balloons really big so they looked like giant light bulbs...oddly enough, that didn't sit well with my boss...She didn't like it if I let helium out of them either...waste of gas apparently...I suggested letting me use the extra gas to make my voice go high and squeaky, but she reminded me that I could suffocate that way...bummer...there's always a catch...
We also had this clear, goopy stuff we'd put into the balloons before we blew them up...supposedly it made the things last longer...I DON'T know if it was true or not, but it WAS fun to play with -- as long as I didn't get it on my clothes...If you accidentally put too much in the balloon, when you blew it up, it would be heavy, and hover in mid-air instead of floating happily like it was supposed to...this was ALSO a mistake I made a lot at first...
Then there's the ribbons...They look SOOO innocent...those things look easy to curl and tie onto the balloons, but the truth is that Balloon Ribbons are evil entities bent on making store clerks insane...
You have to slip knot them just right or the balloons escape...then curling them is an absolute nightmare...The trick is to run the sharp side of a pair of scissors across the flat side of the ribbon, making them curl (I cut myself a NOT try that at home...).  I was never very good at that...when I first started out I had the nasty tendency of shaving off half the ribbon, so it hung limply like a wet tea towel...not exactly festive...Finally my boss showed me the trick of using a letter opener instead of scissors...this kept me out of the insane asylum...
Then comes my nemesis...
Arranging balloons in a bouquet...
This is another activity that LOOKS easy...
It isn't...
You have to know exactly where to put each balloon or they all end up on the same level...or spaced unevenly...
It took me forever to figure out how to do this...
At one point, I was CONVINCED that the balloons would move on their own...I'd have them just so and they'd be unevenly spaced again...
My boss seemed to be a natural at this...
She was one of those elegant, capable ladies who did everything easily...I think the balloons secretly feared her...
The only thing that didn't make me crazy were the clips that we used to hold the balloons closed...we just twisted the bottom of the balloon three or four times and snapped the plastic clip into place...VOILA....that helium wasn't going anywhere...
When I was a kid and would blow up balloons for birthday parties or something, I'd get stuck tying the ends of the balloons into knots...I won't waste TOO much time there...except to say that I spent most of my time chasing the balloons around the room when they shot out of my hands like a jet every time my fingers got tangled up and I lost my grip...
Holding the balloon bouquets down was always a challenge too...for one or two balloons, it was pretty easy: you just needed a light plastic weight and everyone is happy...
For bouquets of 50 or more, things got harry....they tended to try to float away in spite of the weight dangling from their ribbons...
We had these weights that looked like giant Hershey's kisses...without the chocolate though...bummer...They'd work for moderately large bouquets, but sometimes the best thing to use was a stuffed animal...
For a while I was thoughtlessly tying the ribbons around the Teddy Bear necks, but my boss told me that looked like cruel and unusual punishment for the stuffy (like we were trying hang it or something) then I started tying the ribbon around the bear's waste...this was great unless I tied the ribbons too tightly...then it looked like a warped advertisement for a weight loss program...
If you're waiting for a point to this blog entry, or a punch line, you're going to be sadly disappointed, but I'll end with a quote from Winnie the Pooh that used to grace the back wall of the University Bookstore balloon department: "No One Can Be Uncheered with a Balloon..."
That's probably always true unless you're a teddy bear and some moron ties a bouquet of balloons around your neck...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wayward Footwear...And Other Things that Are Totally Beyond My Comprehension...

I've heard many comedians make the same joke about socks and the dryer...
Its an old joke...
Its a trite joke...
Its funny every time...
WHERE oh WHERE did that other sock go?  
I have countless socks -- that I am afraid to get rid of because (sure shootin) if I throw the lone-socks away, the mates WILL show up...
If it were just a few of us that experienced this phenomenon, it wouldn't be that weird...
But we have ALL lost socks in the dryer...and we've ALL found the mates after throwing the other one away...
Where do they go? 
Is it elves? 
Does Elvis come back from his home planet and steal them?

Why is it that there can be NO, repeat NO bird poop anywhere on a driveway or in a parking lot and yet MY car is covered in white deposits???  Why is it that to birds, cars look like toilets?  Cars have only been around for the last century.  Its not like they've been in bird territory for thousands of years, serving the purpose of a bird's WC...oh no!!!  They just decided to use them for target practice...
I wonder who the first bird to do this was...Brilliant bird...Probably had a bit of Tom Sawyer in him...(only instead of white washing a fence, it had to do with a model T...this is an after a while'll get it later...) 

Who decided that Green meant Go and Red meant Stop?  No funny joke here...just wondering...

What part of "NO CALL LIST" do telemarketers find so difficult to understand...
Does my dog actually know what I'm saying? Or has she learned to look cute because she knows I'll give her treats??? Or both?

How is anyone going to be able to run for public office in 20 years with things like Facebook and You-Tube around??? 
I can picture it now: 
Candidate #1: "Sir, did you really say, "LOL LOL...I just laughed so hard at that commercial, I have milk coming out of my nose!" ? How can we take you seriously in this position when you can't control your nostrils?"

Candidate #2: Well I'm sure voters will be interested in something you wrote on Twitter ... "I have just invented dirty dish art in my sink...I don't want to wash them now and ruin it!"  

Well, it might make the news more fun...