What’s One Degree?

That depends on the subject. I can tell you, having just gotten unbundled, when it comes to outside temperature, one degree is pretty darn cold, but it is north of zero, which makes a difference, at least psychologically. I took the time to go through the dress-for-cold routine this morning before heading out with dogs, trash and recycling; it’s one of those things that makes winter in the country more work.  I walked around the kitchen last night looking for a spot to move the coat rack in from the back porch so when I go for my outside clothes they’d at least be as warm as the kitchen, including my ski bibs (can’t bring myself to call them snow pants) and despite the enormity of this old farmhouse kitchen, I’m not seeing a spot that will work for a coat tree loaded with water-proof gear, two ski jackets, bibs, the Ugly Coat, you bet, that one has a name of its own and is loaded with family humor.  Accompanying the coat tree are the baskets of mittens, hats and scarves, including that fun face-mask hat, you know, the kind bank robbers wear.  Then there are the serious boots, which along with the Ugly Coat, do not go into town; maybe the boots on occasion, but the coat, not one time in the eight years I’ve lived out here; its name is most accurate, but it has its place in life here at the Homestead.

  Yes, folks, mid-January and we’re finally entering what’s supposed to be a cold spell.  It might be that temperature is relative at times – what’s cold for me in church has other women fanning with their bulletins and men shrugging off their jackets. When my South Carolina daughter complains about cold, we’re talking about 50 degrees – absolutely balmy compared to this.  

Back to one degree; looking at the night sky through my telescope, a one-degree correction isn’t necessarily all that much.  Ask a ship captain and a one-degree course correction might just prevent a mishap, though I’m not a sailor so that’s speculation. 

Just as in life, sometimes it’s a small thing – a low number, that will sink us if we let it. One degree above zero is unpleasant, but manageable and there is a positive; it’s not 30 below and the sun is shining bright and skies are beautifully blue.  It is more work, everything seems more challenging, but look around.  I had luncheon plans for today and woke up dreading having to get dogs out and trash up to the road early, and then thought about what I was going to wear to my lunch so I wouldn’t freeze.  Lunch is cancelled because my friend’s father, confined to a nursing home, is causing concern and she was heading to see him.  So I’m spared from going back out, which I don’t mind at all, but I’m missing time with a special friend and know my friend is traveling a couple hours in vicious cold to see an ailing parent.  Kind of puts my complaint of one degree into perspective, doesn’t it?

Be blessed and when feeling challenged, try to bless others – you will feel better for reaching outside yourself, I promise.  And with what regular readers will recognize as a theme comes the admonishment to please, let those you love know for sure you love them, speak it often, cherish the times and memories as you never know when just one degree in time or space could change your world for a lifetime.  Be blessed, stay warm!!

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I’m so cold you should put on a sweater

Memories…  My girls and I have been talking about memories, fun things, funny sayings.  The title of this post is an example of a line that makes us smile.  I’m known for always being cold, well before any surgeries or health challenges – I’m just cold-blooded.  The girls would say with eyes rolling, “Mom’s cold, we have to put on a sweater.”  That’s a favorite.

The other day I saw a saying about dancing in the rain.  Reminded me of my girls.  In a text to  ErinLee, I shared the line and reminisced about how she loved to play in the rain.  She reminded me of the time she went  into the backyard to play in the rain in her underwear and accidentally locked herself out.  Big smile at that memory 🙂

There are so many.  Last year at this time I was posting a Countdown, counting down the days until I was in warmer climes with my Meghan for Christmas.   This year I haven’t been counting down until today, when Meghan reminded me that it’s only five days till we’re together.  Five crazy busy days during which I’ll clean my house – another whole set of memories from my own childhood, carried  into my children’s  lives and  into the present day.  Thanks, Mom –  a story in itself.  I will take two final exams, and as promised back in August, finish the dreaded algebra.  Not to mention laundry, packing, paperwork, banking,  a Merry Christmas hug for my favorite Auntie Arlene before I go, so many things to finish.

It won’t be long now.  Temperature here in the North Woods is heading toward a wind chill of 20 below tonight. So as I get back to the business of finishing a semester and  preparing to be away for a couple weeks, I’m telling you, I’m so cold, y’all get those sweaters on, you hear?

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Gaining Ground

I’m still playing catch-up from the weekend misfortunes, but at least I’m playing.  I definitely had an attitude challenge going and thankfully,  have moved through it.  My house is almost normal, though my ears are tuned to the on/off cycles of the furnace and I”m less than completely unpacked.  But my truck is running and I was able to get groceries and sand from the pile kept by the city for ice emergencies such as we had.  Hard to imagine that clearing away ice is a topic of local news, but it is.  I heard that cities nearby are going to begin sending out workers to chop/scrape ice from the sidewalks and homeowners will be charged $80 for the service.  That’s winter where I live.

I don’t have sidewalks.  I have a fairly long driveway that empties into a circle around which the house, garage, shed, barn, etc, are grouped, a fairly large area to attack with traditional methods like sidewalk salt and/or sand and a manual ice chipper.  So I mixed salt into the 32-gallon trash barrel full of sand and spread it strategically, hoping that a slight rise in temperature would facilitate some melting.  The weatherman said it wouldn’t happen today, but how often is the guy right?  Today, of course, when I have to make sure that my students and their parents can get in and out of the driveway and the house safely.

Being a generally positive positive person and no longer dwelling in self-pity, I looked for the humor.   Today that was visualizing myself trying to carry a bucket of salt/sand from back steps to garage – remember it’s an out-building -while utilizing ski poles to stay upright – how many hands did I say I have?  But at least the ski poles were handy, already out on the back porch as part of seasonal decor and they did, indeed, aid in keeping me on my feet and a brown salt/sand path now runs from the house to the garage making safe passage  more likely.

As for getting the truck started, thanks to the wood stove out in the garage and numerous trips to stoke it with kindling and all the paper I’ve been meaning to burn, bundled and booted against negative wind chills,  I produced enough heat to thaw the lines of the truck and on one of those trips to stoke the fire I decided to just give it another try.  Singing like a child at the top of my lungs – another reason to live in the country fairly far removed from neighbors – “I am trusting Thee to guide me, Thou alone shalt lead, every day and hour supplying all my need,”   I turned the key in the ignition and, voilà, the truck started.

To quote my father once again, “There you have it.”  When feeling sad, defeated, low, I resort to music and prayer, sometimes together via old favorite hymns, or playing my piano.   Try it, sing like no one can hear you, unless you have a beautiful voice – then sing so everyone can.

And remember, you cannot – it’s not physically possible – you cannot be singing  praises out loud and dwelling in despair in your mind.    The brain doesn’t work that way – we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

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Welcome Home, so they say, anyway…

An eventful weekend.  First of all, I didn’t leave South Carolina Friday night on my scheduled flight.  There was an airline issue and my choices were stay with Meghan and leave Saturday morning or leave Friday night later, miss my connection to Green Bay and spend the night at O’Hare.  Hmmm, wonder what I chose?

So I had a whole extra day with Meghan.  She had taken a 1/2 day off work so we could go out for lunch and hang out before going to the airport.  Now we could hang out for the afternoon and the evening!!  Didn’t someone once say the Lord works in mysterious ways?  Sure worked for me to have a canceled flight and extra time with Meg.

My arrival home here in the country was another story.  Back into the cold, literally, as I had a furnace issue and the house temperature was hovering right about 40°.  And my truck refused to start – not the battery, that was working.  Something else was wrong.  Yippee.  Now I’m home and freezing and stranded and it’s late Saturday afternoon.  Try finding emergency services on a weekend, after hours.

Long story short, $800 later, the house was beginning to warm up.  By 2:30 a.m. it was 62°.  I kept throwing blankets in the dryer, then wrapping up in them to keep from shivering.    Sleepless night, no unpacking, no working on the photos, just a frantic effort to be warm.

The UPside?  No burst pipes – one frozen one, successfully thawed in a relatively short time and no major damage. Could things have been worse?  Lots and I’m thankful for what WAS, not what could have been.

I also have a confession to make – last night and this morning were rough.  I was on the verge of discouraged – sad and feeling defeated.  Back in the cold, and it’s bitter here, brutal, pick your word,  with an overnight glaze of 1/4″ thick ice over everything, my truck not starting, no groceries other than a some bread and a couple oranges.  For the first time EVER I questioned whether I was on the right path as I have believed for so long.  Thank the Lord for people in my life who help me stay on the path.  I expressed my concern out loud to my cousin, Dan.  He’s one of the people  I can call for everything and HAVE !!

Bat in the house?  Call Dan.  Sump pump running non-stop?  Call Dan.  Computer issues?  Call cousin Dan.   Well, he came and parked his car outside so I could sit and be warm for the couple hours it took to get someone out here and then for them to do their thing.  He has a great car with SEAT HEATERS and he sat and let  me be warm and didn’t leave till the challenges were on the way to over.

So that’s the tale here and I’m no longer sad, discouraged or questioning.  Dan reminded me that it’s not defeat, it’s testing and that can be powerful conffirmation that one is, indeed, on the right path.  So I had to pull myself up by my boot straps – the 15-year old white Sorrels, stop questioning, despairing, whining, whatever.     That had to stop and I’ll talk about how in the next post.  Just goes to show that even  Encouragers sometimes need encouragement.  That was me late in the night and in the dark of the  early morning and for the sake of honesty I’ll share my technics in the next post.  I am now smiling in the face of adversity and if this is a test, I’m going to pass with flying colors.  Adieu…..

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Countdown 57 hours – First Day of Winter

Okay not even the low number of hours till I’m hugging my Meghan can begin this post.  The feature here is, get this, minus 6° (6 below zero) air temp with a WIND CHILL of  minus 28 degrees.    That’s a wind chill factor of 28 DEGREES BELOW ZERO right now, as I’m writing.  Didn’t I use the words brutal cold yesterday?  We are there and it is indeed brutal. It even looks harsh out there and winter officially began just hours ago.

Am I heading out to church?  No, and I’m reasonably certain the Lord understands.  I will visit one of my favorite preachers online, Pastor Greg Laurie at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside California, and listen live because they stream the video during each of their services.  I can  watch/listen three times today.  In between their services I can pop over (virtually)  to Appleton Alliance Church, a wonderful place, but  difficult to travel there from here especially with blowing, drifting snow.  Pastor Dennis there was a powerful pray-er for me prior to my second brain surgery and is a gifted preacher.  I download and listen to his sermons regularly.

My own father, the most gifted preacher I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard many,  doesn’t yet have his sermons on their Web site.    I chuckled when I first moved out here and ran into some of his former parishioners.  The wife was telling me how they were out for a Sunday drive, flipping through radio stations and they heard “The Voice”  and knew immediately who it was. At 83, he’s still got it.  Having grown up with the best, I do admit to having fairly high standards for preachers.  While I certainly know that it’s supposed to be the message, not the messenger;  the messenger makes a difference.  And my father is a very powerful messenger.  Maybe he’ll get his sermons on the Web and you, too, can hear him preach.  Are you reading this, Dad?  🙂

So that’s my Sunday – I have my last transcription job of 2008 due tomorrow morning in addition to hauling out the snow-blower AGAIN and bundling up against the wind AGAIN, then more cleaning, laundry, packing, the usual pre-holiday (as in vacation) routine previously referred to .  Don’t think I’ll get to “wiping up the floor” at all  and to use one of my father’s famous lines once again – There you have it.

In 50 hours I’ll be at the airport in Green Bay, waiting to take off for Columbia, South Carolina, where my Meghan will be waiting to pick me up.  I will surely be dancing through the cleaning and packing today, amen 🙂

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Countdown 80 Hours – a New Day

One of my favorite Scriptures was given to me years ago by an adult student.  She often referred to Lamentations 3:22-23 where we’re told that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning!  There’s a thought with which to begin every day!  A whole new day and one less  until I’m hugging my daughter and being warmer.

So let’s begin true to form – a weather update.  More snow overnight, but the sparkly kind.  As sunrise isn’t for an hour-and-a-half yet, you have to look out toward the big yard light to see the sparkles, but they are there.  The dogs went out willingly and no “parts”  were brought home on the first round.  Yesterday morning in the driving wind I was trying to figure out what the “part” was  – rabbit, cat, part of a deer?  Trying to figure it out without getting too close and trying to get it into a trash bag without touching it, again, in blowing snow and driving wind, all before dawn.

The battle of the “parts” is a story in itself, to be summarized here.  I’ve done battle for months over a ribcage with an intact spine attached.  Suffice it to say that once bow season (archery hunt for deer) starts in the fall “parts” can become an issue that continues throughout the winter and once things are frozen, there’s no burying.  The humor in it, the bright side?  Last Christmas when ErinLee let one of the dogs in, he dropped the foreleg of a deer on her bare foot.  The squeals, “EUUEEEUUUEEEUUU – MOM!” brought me to investigate and there it lay on the floor of the back porch.  I’m smiling now remembering her reaction though I guarantee she’ll be rolling her eyes when she reads this.  Anyway, that’s “parts” in a nutshell and the mercies new every morning?  It’s above zero, there are sparkles and no parts came in with the first run of the day:)  Life is good and I’m one day closer to Christmas with my Meghan in a warmer climate.

So I’m into my new day – coffee with a former student home from college for Christmas,  blowing snow from the drive and the mailbox, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning – closets, drawers, etc., prep for tonight’s Celebrate Recovery, oh yeah, more cleaning, actually going to CR tonight with a snow advisory in effect and there you go, another day. Enjoy it, put on some music,  smile and dance around your kitchen!!  Adieu

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Countdown 4 days or about 96 hours!

So I started this on Friday and as so often occurs, time got away from me and this is now out-of-date.  Let’s see what can be salvaged.  I was excited about it being 4 days or 96 hours, and that is now reduced to three-and-a-half days and 84 hours – the inevitable passage of time.  Sometimes it seems to work against us, but now time is on my side, to quote an old Stones song.    In less than 90 hours I’ll be warmer and hugging my Meghan for the first time in too long. I’m focusing on how very happy that makes me, staying away from the thought that we’ll be missing one very special person, my other daughter, ErinLee, living in Seattle. Yep, opposite coasts.  Now there’s food for thought AND another post.  I know it can’t be helped that she won’t be with us and I’m grateful for the time I’m getting with one of them.  So I put a special letter in the mail to ErinLee yesterday, hoping it arrives before Christmas Day. Thankfully the mail carrier attempted to get through the pile left by the snowplow even though he had recently left me written instructions on proper access to mailboxes and  mine wasn’t quite up to par. Kind of right up there with garbage bags to the road by 6:00 a.m.

Does it sound to you like we may have gotten more snow? Sure did, several more inches along with big wind. We’re on a roll toward breaking last year’s record-breaking snowfall. As Meghan was telling me about temperatures in the 70s in South Carolina yesterday I was remembering looking out my kitchen window very early Friday morning.   The snow was coming down pretty hard and the wind – you can actually SEE the wind. Meghan and I talked about that – see the wind? Oh yes, out here in the country with large open areas, the wind moves across the front yard and the fields, picking up the snow as it rolls and blows along. You can see what looks like a wall of snow not unlike ocean waves rolling onto the beach, beautiful.

We’re above zero now – what a difference that makes – and may even stay there throughout the day though for tomorrow night they’re predicting wind chill of 25 below.  That is brutal cold and even for me, hard to find the beauty or the bright side there.  The only thing I can think of is that when it’s hitting minus 25° here I’ll be just 48 hours away from what will seem like a whole nother world.   So we’ll leave yesterday behind and go on to new thoughts in a new day –  à toute à l’heure…

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Countdown 6 days!

Actually I got an e-mail from my Meghan  – the South Carolina daughter with whom I’m spending my holiday – this morning and she had the countdown in HOURS – hours, not days.  How thrilling is that?  She had it at 152 hours and just happened to mention that it’s very warm there today, said she walked her new dog this morning wearing a tank top and drove to work with the windows open.  Beats the daylights out of a wind chill of minus 3°.  My dogs don’t even want to go out and we got more snow overnight.  And though the sun is shining now, the snow is NOT melting, which means that shortly I’ll take a break and head out to the back  steps to assess whether or not I can get away with just broom and shovel or if I need to fire up the snowblower.

So where’s the fun part, the bright side, LeeAnn’s way of looking at the world?  At 5:00 this morning  I was taking the garbage up to the road and there were sparkles everywhere, thanks to the big Mag flashlight and the dusk-to-dawn yard light.  It was absolutely gorgeous – another little gift to me outside in the cold, quiet dark at a very early hour.

Another little quirk of life out here.  Not all that long ago my garbage bags were left, as in not picked up.  The time was taken, however, to slap a bright orange sticker on both of the bags telling me that the garbage is to be out to the road by 6:00 a.m. And because I’m me, my first thought was,  what?  Someone from the county drives up and down these country roads at 6:00 a.m. sharp making a list (and checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty – bags to the road late – or nice)?  Okay, bad joke, but it is approaching Christmas so forgive me, a little grace, please.

And there you have it, as my father often says.  Grace – another gift, so precious, yet so often missing from our lives, personally, within our families, relationships and even within the church.  But that’s a big subject and probably best saved for another day. So now I head into the great outdoors.  And by the way it’s warmed up to 12° and a wind chill of one degree.  A virtual heat wave and off I go 🙂

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SNOW DAY!!!!

There was a time when the words Snow Day brought a great deal of excitement.  An unexpected gift, a free day, no school, put on your snow-pants – remember those? – and head outside to make snow angels, a snowman or just play in the snow.  Funny how things change as we get older …..

When my children were in school, Snow Day took on a different meaning – more of a Now What? kind of meaning.  Now I was encouraging my girls to get out and play or ice-skate in the backyard, then come in to a roaring fire and hot chocolate.  Dry the wet clothes, shovel off the deck and front sidewalk, haul in the wood and build the fire, make that hot chocolate, a bit more work than being the kid.

These days the meaning is a bit different.  Out in the country, on my own, no ice rink in the back yard right now,(though that will change as the Homestead project evolves), while undoubtedly beautiful, getting this much snow means a fair amount of work.  The mere process of getting dressed to head out there takes several minutes.  Then there’s the inevitable mess – wet boots and wet dogs need to be cleaned up after, puddles on the floor, scarves and coat snow-covered and dripping from getting hit with the snow you’re trying to blow away.

And today’s point?  There could be several, but I’ll go back to the concept of “perception is reality,” talked about in a previous post.  My perception tonight is much different than it was at noon when I had an hour to move enough snow for a student to get in the door.  When I was out just a little while ago with my dogs everything is white and beautiful.  My perception at this point in  life is much different than when I was a child in snow-pants.  The group I facilitate, Celebrate Recovery, uses a song called White as Snow (words and music by Leon Olguin), and it’s a wonderful song.  My perception these days being much different than when I was young, I so appreciate the idea that through a relationship with Jesus, I’m made white as snow – despite anything in the past, all the mistakes, all the errors in judgment, you name it, I’ve been made white as snow and you know what?  It’s BEAUTIFUL and it can happen for you, too!   Till next time ….

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AFFIRMATIONS aka LITTLE SPARKLES Part One

If you live where I do, known by several names, among them Lake Country or the Northwoods, you may know what I mean by Little Sparkles.  When it’s really cold as it is today, minus four degrees this morning, thankfully no wind, the snow becomes  drier and it appears that someone shook glitter over it.  If the sky is bright and blue sometimes it is so cold that the very air seems to sparkle, again like glitter, or like being in a real-life snow globe.  Those are special moments partly because they come at a time when many of us are downright uncomfortable – we’re COLD!!  Isn’t that just like our Father, to send us little sparkles of beauty to remind us that even in the midst of discomfort He’s with us, aware of our situation and urging us to look beyond our current circumstances.

I received Little Sparkles this morning in the nick of time.  As I said already it’s cold here, “Too early,” said the neighboring farmer, “don’t bode well for the rest of the winter.”  Why on earth was I outside talking to him?  Because my truck needed to be warmed up before going to church and he happened to be in the barnyard (called the feedlot) that he rents from me and where he keeps pregnant cows.  More on all that later.  Anyway, didn’t want to go out, wasn’t in the mood for people, a little cranky, in fact, frustrated with other things, oh, and did I say cold?  Okay, even encouragers have their moments – it’s what you do with them that counts.

But I’ve learned that when I don’t want to is probably the time I most need to head down the road to my church out here in the country, aptly named, Hope Community Church.  So off I went, bundled in 4 layers plus my warmest coat, hat, boots, gloves, pre-warmed truck, I know how to do this.  STAY TUNED….for Part Two.

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