Monday, May 20, 2019

Recipe for Resurrection

Over the course of next few days I watched my iPod slowly, bit by bit, come back to life. The first day I got the following message,

iPod is disabled
Try again in 365 minutes 

Never have a six hour wait created more jubilation in my life. A wait full of resurrected hope is a magical thing. Plus, 365 is much much better than 25,536,442 minutes which is for how long that toddler disabled his mom's iPad.  I would be 100 years old before I could unlock my device if that was us!

Thankfully, my wait was measly 365 minutes which in no time went down to 308 to 147 to 105 to 96 to 75. By the time 3 minutes came around, my excitement has built up so much I couldn’t let go of the device. The wait was almost over - what will happen next?

Being at Cape Canaveral waiting for SpaceX launch would generate fewer butterflies in my stomach.

The disabled iPod message was replaced with the following screen:

My iPod was alive!!! The fact that it was showing not only wrong time but a wrong date didn't bother me one bit. Considering all the poor thing went through,  I found the handicap negligible and even endearing.

Amazingly, my old pass code worked, and once I entered it, I was greeted with familiar screen.

It took a couple of more days to recover full functionality of the device and all the apps.  But by the end of the third day, it was as good as new, minus the shattered screen and a water discoloration, as if the scars were a reminder of what it’s been… what we’ve been through.

Am I trying to say that this a universal recipe for resurrection?

Absolutely not. 

However the whole incident made me wonder…

Saturday, May 04, 2019

May the Fourth Be With You

In keeping with the tradition, I am re-posting one of our family favorites. May the Fourth Be With You!

We can thank my mother-in-law for introducing Star Wars into our children’s lives by getting our 5 year old son his first Star Wars LEGO set. He ripped the boxes open and within seconds our home was invaded by the Imperial Stormtroopers and the Droids.

I was mortified.

Star Wars?!!! He is waaay too young for Star Wars!

It wasn’t the complexity of the building process I was concerned about, because that never seemed to be a problem for our pint-size engineer. What bothered me much more was a matter of introducing complex adult issues into his immature mind, and the challenge that creates for me as his parent. But, like it or not, the door was open and there was no going back.

From that day on, my son turned into a miniature Star Wars maniac. So far, he’s been mostly preoccupied with recreating cosmic wars against his little sister. Along the way he somehow acquired a prodigious amount of information about the characters and the plot and various twists and turns in the storyline. He learned the difference between the Imperial and the Rebel blaster, the who’s who and what’s what of the Imperial Army and the Rebel Alliance, and all the whys and therefores of the narrative that molded the worldview of generation after generation since the first movie was released. He bought a Star Wars Visual Dictionary with his own money(!) and would spend his free time memorizing its content.

Now, all this wouldn’t be so surprising if it wasn’t until this afternoon, years after the initial encounter, that he saw his very first Star Wars movie. Watching him watch the movie was as much (or more) fun as watching the movie itself. It was as if he had all these loose pieces of a puzzle, and he finally saw how they all fit together, he could finally place them in their exact spots in the larger, 4-D story-puzzle. His delight was quite contagious. During dinner, he continued chatting enthusiastically about all the fascinating trivia he picked up during the afternoon Star Wars extravaganza. In the course of the conversation, my husband casually mentioned George Lucas and what his intent might have been for the unfolding of the various episodes in a certain sequence.

George… Lucas?!!
 Our son muttered hesitantly… And who is this George Lucas? 

There was no doubt that he was utterly confused. You could tell that he was scrolling down the imaginary database of Star Wars names and faces, from Emperor Palpatine through Chewbacca and Ewoks, but there was no suitable match for the name “George Lucas”.

It was now our turn to be confused. How is it possible that with all these years of borderline obsession with the Jedi and their pecking order, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, and R2D2 and Obi-Wan Kenobi, our son never ever heard the name George Lucas?

We looked at each other and burst into laughter.

Hmm …George Lucas…. George Lucas…. Well, he is kind of like God to the world of Star Wars. Without him, there would be no Star Wars, nor the galaxy, nor anybody or anything else belonging to this galaxy far, far away. He created it all. This amazing world exists because it first existed in the mind of George Lucas.

It took several minutes for the news to settle in his shaken-to-the core 9 year old mind screaming for a paradigm shift. Until this moment of revelation he was so preoccupied with the fascinating universe which George Lucas had created that for a brief while he simply couldn’t compute the information about the existence of the creator of that universe.

There…there is a George Lucas… there IS a George Lucas and I never even knew it!

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Hope Roasted, Hope Resuscitated

Perhaps it would have been easier if I had something or somebody else to blame for it.   Not that ever changed anything for the better.

So, with perpetrator shoe on my right foot and victim on the left, having already affected more damage than I could digest in one sitting, I got ready and went to work. An Eeyor-worthy cloud was hanging over my head while I interacted with my co-workers, the topic of what happened earlier in the morning quickly becoming the main subject of discussion.

A veteran IT person shook her head,

A wash, two spin cycles and a drier? There is no hope for that iPod except for the hand of God.

I wasn't sure if the comment was hopelessly discouraging or inspiring my faith to rise to new heights. 

When I got home I was feeling so defeated I couldn’t summon energy to tell my family what had happened, knowing they would ask questions like, How did it happen? And who did it?

Sometimes I feel my entire family could work for FBI.

On a dark and gloomy day, even if the sun shines outside,  I don’t want to talk about it, is perfectly acceptable.

Seeing my pain, even if it was of unknown origin, they kindly allowed me to lick my wounds by myself.

The next day as soon as I was alone, I went into the pantry, reached into the rice barrel and retrieved the device. It was as banged up as I’d put it in, and my attempt at pushing the power button proved futile still. 

That night, for some inexplicable reason I plugged the power cord into it, as if to charge.... and that’s when it first happened.

It only lasted a split second, but the iPad came to life, ever so briefly, and then went back to being dead again.  I tried pushing the button several times to no avail, but that little flicker was enough to ignite a tiny spark of hope, by this time as good as dead. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

Do NOT Try This At Home!

Notwithstanding our disbelief, reality has a way of getting its point across, one way or another. 

It took a few moments for my brain to silence the sound of alarm high jacking the higher reasoning powers. At some point a rewind button was pushed and my memory slowly started kicking in, recalling…

the last time I had the iPod in my hand,

inside the right pocket of a jacket I wore that morning,

the same jacket I hastily threw into the laundry as I was closing the lid,

not bothering to check the pockets, since all the previous ones were empty…  

and that feeling of the Busy...

and the Rush...

and the Pressure of so much other stuff I needed to get done...

(what they were now I could hardly recall

and it all felt so stupid and insignificant anyway.)

With this my heart plummeted to the bottom of the damp pile of laundry sitting inside the idling drier, it’s rumbling cycle interrupted.

It didn’t take long to discover the lifeless naked body of the iPod laying underneath soggy jeans and jackets.

I picked it up and put it in the palm of my hand – it’s touchscreen face battered, black and unresponsive, despite my frantic pushing of the power button.

Wake up! Wake up!!! No, no, no!!!  What can I do??? What can I do???

I remembered that some people recommend burying a wet device inside a bag of rice. I never heard any recommendations on what to do with a device that had been through a wash and a spin cycle twice and a partial drier cycle. 

But I had to do something... anything

So I sunk my hand with the iPod in it into a giant old pretzel barrel that we use as a rice container, let the device slip and get buried in the white grave of thousands of tiny rice grains, closed the pantry door behind me, a part of me also dead and buried behind that door.

Monday, April 15, 2019

D is for Denial (or Disbelief)

It seems almost sacrilegious to write about the iPod saga during the most holy week of the year. 

But, I couldn't escape some commonalities between the two stories, so I decided to continue, perhaps highlighting along the way few shared insights in earnest hope that the reader would find them useful and even beneficial. 

Anyway, continuing on with the iPod touch 4th generation....

Having crossed out Laundry Part 1 off my mental to-do list, it took some time before my preoccupied mind registered the unusual banging noise from the washer. I paused the cycle, redistributed some weight that I assumed was causing it, and went on my busy way hopping from one task to the next, feeling rather accomplished.  Despite my redistributing the weight, the banging continued throughout the full wash cycle. It continued through the spin cycle.  And for some reason, I decided that this particular load needed another run through the spin cycle, so I set it off spinning once again.

When spinning and banging eventually stopped (“Ah that darn uneven load of varying weights of jackets!” I told myself)  I scooped the jumbled mess of clothes and threw it into the dryer, set the cycle on heavy, and pushed the start button.  I wasn’t surprised to hear the continued banging now inside the dryer. The clothes were all bunched up and it usually takes some time for the load to fluff up, but even after several minutes the banging continued, sounding even worse if that was possible.

But I could explain it away and convince you too why the noise the machine was making was perfectly understandable and acceptable and should be ignored. 

It’s truly amazing the stories our brains tell us to explain away the most obvious facts.

At the longest last, I went into the laundry room to check again. The moment I opened the dryer door the first thing I saw was my iPod’s now snow-white silicone case, sitting on the top of the wet clothes - empty!

In that instant my little mind slammed its door shut, flatly refusing to believe what my eyes just saw, scrambling to find a perfectly good reason for an empty case to sit on top of the load inside the dryer.

We do that kind of stuff, when the truth is too painful to accept, our mind kicks in and starts making up all kinds of fantastic stories to shield us from the brutality of unadorned facts. 

Disciples did it all throughout the Holy Week, we all do it when one form of crucifixion or another shows up at our doorstep. It just happened to many of us today as we watched the news of the catastrophic fire collapsing parts of Notre Dame cathedral.

Some things are too difficult to take in and have to be processed in bite-size pieces.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Sorry but Just Too Busy for...

I got iPod touch 4th generation back in 2012 at the recommendation of our 11 year old son. It was my official introduction into the ubiquitous universe of touch-screen, wireless technology.  Day by day, I was discovering more and more of what my little iPod could do, from taking photos to playing music to reading books, to telling time and setting bread and quiche alarms, downloading and sending both e-mails and text messages! Truly, there was absolutely nothing I needed that the little iPod couldn’t do - I was genuinely impressed and grateful.

Now I understand that in the fast-pace technology age, seven years might feel like seven hundred centuries. Or more. Still, despite it’s ancient age, the little iPod kept chugging away year in year out, my constant companion on many of life’s adventures.

Last week I had a particularly busy schedule. This for me means, the busier I get the faster I go, furiously cramming all the ‘regular’ busy along with the ‘over-the-top’ busy.  I could give a compelling speech or write a well-articulated thesis or even a book on why this is such a poor time-management technique and even worse life philosophy.  

But life has a way of speaking its own language, clearer and louder than any sermon or book.

Anyway, in order to be extra-productive before I left for work, I decided to tackle at least one load from the growing mountain of laundry. I hastily threw one item after another, checking pockets for spare change and anything else that shouldn’t go into the wash.  Half way through the process I decided that I don’t have time for this, plus I used my deductive reasoning – all the pockets I’d checked so far were empty so I could safely deduce that the rest of them were empty as well. Thus appeased, I stuffed the rest of the pile into the barrel, poured in a generous cup of Persil and started the washing machine, the calming sh-sh-sh-shhhh of the running water sending me off on to the next thing on my checklist. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

H-ang O-n P-ain E-nds

I guess it was appropriate to start Lent in such a way. The worstest of days, that rolls into an entire week.

Some weeks - not just some days - are like that. They go from bad to worse to the worstsest.

It turns out, we were not the only ones.

Far and near, friends and family, the week unfurled its folds filled with unwanted surprises, one after another.

Somehow, we all made it to Sunday which to the casual eye looked like just an ordinary, humdrum Sunday.

But to us, nothing could be further from the truth. We were like survivors of a shipwreck, each clinging to something - anything! - until we were washed ashore,  nerves shredded, souls banged up, barely holding it together.

As we stood in circle, recounting our hair-raising 'week from hell' experiences, a strange thought crossed my mind,

This feels a little bit like heaven.... Despite all odds we made it! Now we are finally together and telling and hearing each other's stories of life and death, unembellished, unedited...

In that telling, a thread appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.  A shy, unpretentious gift of gratitude.
Not manufactured, obligatory, polite grateful. Definitely not faking-it grateful. But genuine, put-my-hand-on-my-mouth-in-awe-how-lucky-I-really-am grateful.

It's as if each of us, over the course of the worstest of weeks, lost something precious and gained a new set of eyes to see that despite the loss, there was still so very much we have that we don't deserve. That we take for granted day in day out.

And we almost became grateful for the worstest of all weeks...

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Welcome to Lent 2019

Today is Ash Wednesday, the official beginning of Lent.  

I had horrible night’s sleep last night, largely because of a colossal screw-up that caused our son to miss out on an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity that had the potential of shaping his future in significant ways.

As much as we may be tempted to point fingers and blame someone, it was nobody’s fault. Or perhaps, we all played a small part in it, inadvertently creating a tiny easily overlooked crack here and another there. All of them combined caused this chance to slip into nether. By the time we realized, it was too late. There was nothing anyone could do about it.

The screw-up ended up having a ripple effect on several fronts. Rattled by the disappointment of this loss, our son left a clear plastic bag with sixteen giant lollipops and sixty dollars inside an envelope with his name written on the front – his school orchestra fundraiser – in the 7th period.   When he tried to retrieve it, it was gone. My kids laughed at me when I pointed out that the rightful owner was easily identifiable.

MOM, do you realize what kind of school we go to??? Do you realize what kind of WORLD we live in???

All this left me utterly drained and beyond exhausted, but presumably, not exhausted enough to get good rest.  I was already awake for hours at six o'clock when there was a loud knock on our bedroom door. Our daughter was asking for advice on how to best treat cat throw-up on her favorite blanket and the armchair slipcover. Some was on the carpet, but my husband was taking care of that bit. Carpet disasters are his specialty.

I rolled out of bed and went to the laundry room.

Her vomit looks like poop! This is going to be the last bag of this kind of cat food, I don't care how many coupons we have, I mumbled looking for Spray and Wash. 

In the back of my mind I was thinking, What a way to start Lent, the first thing to face - dribbling cat diarrhea-looking vomit!  

The little Optimist inside me was hoping that with such a start, things can only get better. At the time, she didn’t know that this, by far, would be the best part of my day.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Heirloom Tomato

Back in September of 2015, in anticipation of my parents arrival to Florida to spend winter with us, I planted some tomato seeds. It was in hope against hope, given my steady track record of failure. A preemptive strike against boredom they threatened would most certainly kill them inside our home in American suburbia.

The seeds sprouted – I’ve seen that before, and by the time Mom and Dad arrived they were the size of respectable seedlings.  That’s as far as my success ever reached. Respectable seedlings.  Only a whiff of a promise of home-grown tomato, nothing more.  

With little else to do, my parents threw themselves into caring for the garden.  Raking, watering, pruning, and tending to the seedlings.  Under their supervision they grew and grew, their limbs stretching tall until they had to be staked, and eventually the first blooms appeared followed by the tiny round balls.  

With my own eyes, I got to see the tomato in the making, and it was … marvelously addictive.

We ate the tomatoes off those vines all through June the following year. Before they left, my Mom made sure to set aside some seeds for the next year’s planting.

Those children were eaten in 2017, and their children in 2018.

I admit at times I was tempted to abandon the whole idea, but it must be in my blood now because sooner or later, despite all objections I can’t help but…It's my version of The Call of the Wild. 

Usually, we would have a few plants, a dozen at the most, which is plenty to ‘service’ our tomato-devouring family.

Last year, the day after Christmas, against all rational reason, I opened the bag of what I guess we can  now 'officially' call 'heirloom' tomato seeds and did it again. As I said, normally we only had few tomato plants which was just about all I could handle. This weekend I counted fifty-six tomato seedlings that have sprouted from a single tomato! Fifty-six!!!  I wonder if we should be a Guinness Book of World records?

We went to the landfill to get compost and I scrounged for pots in the garden corners and the back of the garage.  I washed all that I found and filled them with warm, wet dirt, poking a hole for each seedling, then gently slipping it in.  

Now there is an army of pots on my back patio! 

I can’t help but feel a bit possessive, like a mother with a brood of babies she doesn’t want to entrust to some neglectful stranger. I don’t want them to go to someone who will take them only because they were free (or cheap) and then throw them into a corner of the yard and forget about them until they are all dead.

I want my babies to go to someone who will nurture them, give them what they need and protect them from adversaries of all kinds. Someone who would tend to them until they are filled with blooms and produce a bumper-crop of tomatoes for all to enjoy. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Creative Valentine

Yesterday while I was making chocolate truffles as Valentine’s gifts for our kids’ teachers, our 15 year old daughter mentioned somewhat casually: 

I know the names of all the bones in our body.

You do?!!! What are they?  I ask, rolling the dough into a cylinder before I cut it into equal size wheels, to be turned into balls.

Starting from the top she points at her head and begins reciting, 

Cranium, mandible, maxilla, parietal bone, temporal bone…  She keeps going, moving down her body, pointing and naming, naming and pointing.

I am genuinely impressed.  I certainly can’t name all the bones in my body, and if asked, I might miss even some major ones.

When she finally gets to her toes, I tell her that.  She smiles and adds,

I know the muscles too.

No way!!! My eyeballs just about pop out of their sockets. With renewed vigor I roll the truffles - teachers deserve every ounce of love and encouragement no matter shape or form.

Oh yes!, she beams and proceeds to name the muscles. When I blurt out, Gluteus maximus, she corrects me,  

You are going out of order, mom – you have Gluteus medius first.

I laugh and let her finish, now almost worried-impressed.

While I roll the balls – uneven and a bit lumpy – I marvel at God’s outrageous creativity that started with a pinch of dust between his fingers and was fashioned into bones and muscles, organs and their varied functions, vascular and nervous systems, all masterfully connected and put together into a being that can see and hear, eat and taste, breathe and smell, think and understand. 

Feel. Hot, cold, scared, excited, in love, sad, satisfied. 

Able to speak, translate, write poetry, create songs, dance, build buildings, bridges and underwater tunnels.

Able to laugh. Cry.

Transform food into an art form, binary code into Internet, wind, water and electrons into electricity. 

We are made in God's image and our creativity is an expression of his own creative nature. 

Limited and imperfect,

uneven and lumpy,

just a tiny fraction

 broken, mangled and sometimes misguided

but still

rather amazing

reflection of his character and being.

Using our creativity - in its many, varied, uniquely personal forms is one of the best gifts we can give back to him.

In what way can you express your creativity today?

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Resolution Revolution

Being a firm believer in 'walking the talk' has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion. This is fine with me. I found very little in this world that nourishes humility so well as steady diet of eating your own words. 

My New Year's resolution at the beginning of January wasn't an exception in this regard. It's been exactly one month since many of us have decided to take a plunge at giving ourselves, the world, God and the universe one more chance to make it a little better place.

One month later, some people have made it a better place even without making any resolutions at all while others have made it worse without even trying. I guess each of us has our own special gift.

Which brings me back to my resolution. 

As long as I can remember, I was told that I have a gift of words. I humbly agreed and proceeded to use this gift, for better or for worse, and became 'the Writer' in the family. Safely pigeonholed inside my 'domain' I marveled, oooo-ohed and aaaaa-ahed at all the other gifts distributed to other people. I would lie if I said I was never jealous, but mostly I've been amazed at the incredible diversity and power of various creative expressions.

If there was one gift in particular, however, that I really really wanted was being able to draw and paint. Especially watercolor. 

Alas, that wasn't my gift. I can draw a stick figure and that’s about it. I wasn't the Artist. I was just a writer. And not particularly good writer. I never even published a book!

All these years this was my mindset. Some of you may say that I've been held captive, imprisoned by my very own limiting beliefs.  That I have been living in a tiny dark musty cell of a self-made jail, without a warden except for the one residing inside my head.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

The New Year's Challenge

We were at a New Year’s Eve party when a friend asked me if I would be willing to teach her how to paint.  

There was no alcohol involved and even if there was, she's not the drinking type.

Of course NOT! Why would you even think such a thing?!!?!, was my gut reaction.  

My gut is generally a pretty good guide, as long as I eat healthy, exercise regularly, have a good night’s sleep and not get into a fight with my husband or children.

Under those conditions, my gut shoots near-perfect almost every time while maintaining exceptionally good connection with my head.

What my head knew in this instance was that I’d just picked up a brush and a pan of watercolor paint for the first time in my life in the last quarter of 2018.  My head also understands that having a total of three months of painting experience may earn me a title of apprentice but certainly NOT a teacher.
I am not particularly talented. I am a slow learner.  And teaching is definitely not my spiritual gift. 

Still, despite my gut, despite my head, I kept my mouth shut.  I think I was stunned.

Some people interpret silence as agreement.

I've been scratching my head ever since, wondering why amidst all the painting pros, You-Tube tutorials and resources she asked me to help. I could easily come up with a slew of serious, substantial reasons why I am uniquely unqualified for the job. 

But, the more I reflected on our evening together, this golden thread of somewhat outlandish logic started coming together and I begun to  seriously consider accepting her New Year's challen... I mean, invitation.