Saturday, January 24, 2015

A New Song

Artwork by Karla Dornacher
Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things. - Psalm 98:1
We are singing a new song - and yes, He has done marvelous things for us.  This song has been a while in the process, but we are finally singing.  

Some background:  Dave has been in the grain business for more than 30 years, managing elevators, trading grain, etc. and he was worn out with it.  Changes in the way grain trades on the Board of Trade, combined with other factors, made his job more and more demanding and he was "over it".  Along with our new status as Parents of Adults, we decided it was time for Dave to follow his dream of owning his own business. 

For the past six months, Dave has been working as an "apprentice" of sorts, learning a new business and, as of January 2, we are the proud owners of Wabash Construction.  It has been a loooong transition - one that required a tight budget,  some blood, sweat and tears (Dave's sweat, my tears), and a lot of faith.  But we now have an established business with a bright future - not to mention a steady income again.

Wabash Construction sells and constructs grain bins and other grain-handling equipment.  In case you're not a farm-type person, these are grain bins - in fact, these are grain bins built by the company we purchased: 

I haven't been free to discuss all of this while it was still in the works, but obviously this new venture has been one of the catalysts for my life re-vamp that I have blogged about.  Now that it's final, I can tell you more details of how this has and will change our life - and why "balance and independence" (see Jan. 1 post) are going to be key words for me in this second year of life-changes.  Stay tuned.

I know you're wondering about our choice of names for our new venture.  Naturally, Dave's first choice for names was Wildcat (he's a Kansas State alumni and die-hard fan) but, since we will do business in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, as well as Kansas, we felt that might not be a wise choice.  Wabash has a K-State connection, but more subtle.

The Wabash Railroad ran from Buffalo, NY to Omaha, and Kansas City from the 1830's to the 1960's - and we live between those two cities.  The railroad is best remembered for the Wabash Cannonball, made famous in song.  (The train didn't actually exist at the time the song was written, but Wabash later used the name for one of their trains.  I'll spare you the history lesson and let you look it up.)  

Then, in 1968, this happened:

Now that Wabash Construction is officially in business, we are swamped (and sometimes overwhelmed) with the details. (I've learned more about tax codes in the past few weeks than I ever really wanted to know.)  But we are also walking just a few inches off the ground at the marvelous things the Lord has done for us.  We are truly singing "a new song", and it goes something like this:

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Year in Books

Normally, this space would hold my review of the top books I read in the past year, but this year it was nearly left blank.  2014 was my worst reading year since 1965 (the year before I learned to read).  There are only twenty-four books on my Goodreads "read" shelf, and six of them are audio re-reads (re-listens?) of the Mitford Series by Jan Karon. 

Not only did I not read much, I didn't like a large share of what I did read.  I'm not sure which of those is the chicken and which is the egg.  Did I not enjoy the books I read because I was in a reading slump?  Or did poor book selections cause my reading slump? Either way, excluding the Mitford books - which I reread because I already knew they were 5-star - there are only a handful of books worth mentioning.

TOP BOOK OF THE YEAR:  If you've read any of my previous annual book wrap-ups, this selection will come as no surprise.

       Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen  (click to read my review)

BEST BOOK RECOMMENDATION:  Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings.  Recommended by my niece, Katherine Smith (age 10)

BEST BOOK EVERYONE WAS TALKING ABOUT YEARS AGO AND I JUST GOT AROUND TO READING:  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer 


Return to Me by Lynn Austin
The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks
Lighthouse Bay by Kimberly Freeman

I have set a goal of 50 books for 2015 and am re-evaluating my use of time to be able to achieve that.  Here's to a great reading year and a return to my enthusiasm for books!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Fresh Start: Take 2

It's a new year . . . a fresh start, a clean slate, a chance to get rid of old habits and foster new ones, the season for making resolutions with no intention of keeping them.  I gave up on resolutions years ago, but I do like to pause at the beginning of the year to ponder what the year holds in store, and what I need/want to do to cope with it - good or bad.  In January of 2014, I anticipated a year of changes for our children - college graduations, a wedding, new jobs, new homes, new cities.  My focus for the year was on them and my "mom" role in each event.  I couldn't have foreseen how the year would actually go.

We did have two college graduations in May, but the wedding was called off, another marriage ended, some job offers were accepted and and some jobs ended.  One graduate moved 1500 miles and one moved twelve blocks.  It was, indeed, a year of changes for all of us, just not always as I expected.  We are gearing up for another year of big changes. I'll get into the specifics soon.

Although parenting never really ends, by August 2014 the anticipated events were past and I was feeling a restlessness about the future.  The restlessness lead to my "Life Under Construction" project, based on a newsletter article about mid-points:
"One of the challenges of the mid-way point of a project is pressing on to finish in spite of the setbacks of tiredness, lack of motivation, or loss of vision for the completed project."
I was feeling decidedly tired, unmotivated and lacking in vision, so I identified five "focuses":  faith, family, home, self and fun. (click on the LIFE UNDER CONSTRUCTION label below or in the sidebar to find all posts on the project).  I had some pretty good insights in a few areas, but I failed - epically - at the follow-through.  So, my fresh start is getting a fresh start for 2015.

While I'm keeping the name - "Life Under Construction" - and the premise - "to create a life where I'm comfortable" - the slightly rigid and entirely vague structure is outta here. My focus has swiveled from children to self - not in a selfish, egotistical way, but in order to "finish well".  
 When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her life begins but in another way it stops. You build a life of details. You become a mother, a wife and you stop and stay steady so that your children can move. And when they leave they take your life of details with them. And then you're expected to move again, only you don't remember what moves you because no-one has asked in so long. Not even yourself.  - from Bridges of Madison County
It's time for me to move again. During our New Year's Eve celebration, Dave commented that 2015 could possibly be our happiest yet.  That thought immediately made me feel guilty - as though it is wrong for me to be happy without children living in my house. At least not as happy as I was during the "glory years" of being a stay-at-home-mom with toddlers - the years that have always been my favorite.   But in the light of day, I realize that comparing the "happiness levels" of different ages/phases of life is impossible, not to mention pointless.  This is the phase I'm in now, and it's ok to be happy now.  I believe there are two keys to that happiness:  balance and independence.  I'll explain those in the next few days.

  My theme verse for 2015 is Philippians 1:6: 
"...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." 
I will not be complete in this life, but it's time to start moving forward purposefully rather than just aging.  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Tangled Thursday: Negative Space

It's been a while since the Tangled Thursday gang had a challenge, so I'm glad we are back on track.  I've been so busy on other projects that the Zentangle supplies have been abandoned.  I was excited to get them back out, but I have to admit, I was a little rusty.

The challenge for this week was "negative space" - fill the area around an object rather than filling in the object. To get back in the swing, I decided to revisit an idea used for my very first Tangled Thursday submission - a daisy on a background of blocks - this time featuring a little Christmas joy.

Visit our hostess, Heather, at Books & Quilts to see all the "negative" drawings.  And leave a link to your own art work, if you choose.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cleaning House

I'm sure every blogger has her own way of keeping track of ideas for blog posts.  For me, the easiest way is to start a draft and put in a few words, a quote, or a link to whatever inspired the idea.  If I'm not near the computer, I store them as a note in my phone.  It's a decent system - - except when I wait to long and then can't remember what my notes mean.  So occasionally a little housekeeping (blogkeeping?)  is called for.  Here are some ideas that will never make it to the blog page.

1.  I really can't imagine where my head was when I wrote this.  Seriously, this is all that was on the draft:
English - very annoyed, angry
urban dictionary - pissed (british) - drunk
Obviously, I was pondering the difference in the meaning of words between American English and British English.  But why that word?  Was I annoyed and/or angry?  Don't think I was drunk.  So ... I hope that tidbit of information is helpful to you in some way.

2.  I had a draft titled "The Best Day in Parenting".  This one I at least have a vague idea why I wrote it.  It was the day that our daughter, Amanda, admitted that she had no clue why she did most of the stuff she did during jr. high and high school.  I remember thinking all the sleepless nights and headaches and screaming matching had finally paid off - I was right all along.  Vindication!  Not sure how I was going to get an entire post from that.  

3.  "I Hate That Word"  This draft has been hovering around for several years.  The idea started when I read the work "bulwark" in a book.  Not a word you run into often and it struck me as an ugly word.  It's clunky on the tongue and grating to the ear.   So, I decided to start a list of words I hate and words I love, adding on as I ran across them, until the list was long enough for a post.  After all this time the lists were : 

Hate:  bulwark and jaguar
Love:  lovely and feckless (especially when spoken with a Scottish or British accent)

Then there was the enigmatic line:  "quote from 'Secret Lives of Dresses'".  I remember the book - loved it.  But I didn't write down the quote and I have no idea what it was and I'm not even sure where I got the book - probably the public library - so that I can go back and look it up.  So if you happen to be reading that wonderful book and you run across a great quote about words, please let me know.

4.  " Frustration:  The feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something.

That would be me.  Recently, life feels like a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut-butter.  I'm driving a sports car and everyone around me is driving an Edsel."

Beyond that sparkling bit of writing, I have no idea what I wanted to accomplish by telling you about my frustrations.  So, consider yourself informed that I'm frustrated with the speed at which life is moving lately - too fast in some areas and frustratingly slow in others."  My "Life Under Construction" project is one of the s-l-o-o-o-o-w areas - but I'm not giving up.  I'll keep you posted.

Well, I feel much better for having cleaned out that blogging closet.  Left on the shelf are some serious thoughts on books, feminism, handwriting, faith, what makes a family, spaces that foster creativity, and The Saturday Evening Post.  So you have that to look forward to in the new year. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Scooby-Dooby-Do, Where Are You?

I'm still here, just incredibly busy.  Don't tell anyone, but I do a lot of my blogging at work when things are slow but, due to continual problems with our new computer system, I have been swamped.  Time at home has been filled with holiday preparations and working on several Christmas gifts.  There won't be any Christmas gatherings at my house this year so I'm taking advantage of the chance to change up my decorating a little.  For the first time, I have a full-size tree in my sewing/crafting room and I am using only hand-made ornaments.

In the process, I have discovered a new obsession:  origami.  I frequently have lunch at the Chinese buffet near my office, and one of the ladies who works there makes and displays incredibly intricate origami creations, and they inspired me to give it a shot.  Here are my VERY beginner-level creations.

Origami "bows" . . .

and snowflakes . . .

and stars . . .

and wreaths . . .

that convert to "ninja stars".

I've also made paper-pieced Santas, folded fabric Christmas trees . . .

and a Charlie Brown tree skirt.

Today we are at Mitch's for a belated Thanksgiving celebration.  I'm not a fan of Black Friday shopping, but we did make a couple stops late in the day, after the crowds had thinned, and purchased a couple gifts.  We'll return home tomorrow and, hopefully, l'll find time to finish making Christmas gifts and still meet you here for a chat.

How are your Christmas preparations going?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Planes, Trains and Automobiles . . .

The plan was for our daughter, Amanda, to travel from her new home in New Mexico to Manhattan, Kansas to surprise her brother to celebrate his 24th birthday. She would board Amtrak at noon on Wednesday and arrive in Topeka at 5:00 a.m. on Thursday.  One of her best friends would meet the train and they would get some quality time before I came to pick her up on Friday.  Saturday was the big birthday surprise and she would depart from Kansas City on Sunday to fly back to Albuquerque.  That seems like a pretty straight forward plan . . . Oh, how wrong we were!

We start on the train.  The Amtrak Southwest Chief left Albuquerque at noon.  At about midnight, Amanda texted that she had just passed through Syracuse, Kansas, where we used to live - right on schedule.   At 1:01 a.m. she called - in tears of frustration.  A Burlington-Northern train had derailed near Hutchinson, KS, blocking the track and keeping Amtrak from reaching it's next few stops - including Topeka.  The train would have to detour south, into Oklahoma, and back north to Kansas City.  An additional eight hours on the train and ending up in the wrong city were not making for a happy woman. Fast forward an hour or two and multiple calls to Amtrak Customer Service (who, btw, were angels!)  - and a new plan was formed. 

While I was chatting with Amtrak concerning our options, Amanda made her own plan.  A 17-year-old girl had also boarded the train at Albuquerque, on her way to Salina, KS to visit a friend she met at camp.  The friend and her mother were driving to pick her up.  Since the train could not get to their intended meeting place, they were driving on to Hutchinson.  As you can imagine, the poor girl was terrified of waiting alone.  She asked Amanda to stay with her while she waited for her ride and they would give Amanda a ride as far as Salina -- about 100 miles from Topeka.  Deal!  Amanda's wonderful BFF left Topeka at 3:30 a.m. and was waiting in Salina when she arrived - and the plan was back on track.

Until Sunday . . .
Her flight left Kansas City at 11:45 - so we subtracted driving time, plus the usual hour pre-flight check-in and determined we needed to leave at 9:00 a.m.  Wrong.  We needed to leave by 8:30 or possibly 8:00.  We realized the math error about halfway to the airport and Dave did his best impersonation of a NASCAR driver, but we arrived 25 minutes before departure and they refused to let her on the plane.  I understood their point that the luggage had already been loaded, so I offered to keep her bag (she'll be home again in 2 weeks) if they would just put her on the plane.  No dice.  Even though we could see the plane still sitting at the gate, a rule is a rule no matter how stupid, so we booked her on a flight out the next morning and took her home.  She and Dave left at 3:00 a.m. to make sure she made this flight - which she did with an hour to spare.  And once again the plan is  moving smoothly.  

Until Houston . . .

She landed in Houston with a short layover to change planes - - - but the new plane had no pilot.  They couldn't find him?  Or maybe he arrived for HIS connecting flight 5 minutes too late.  Whatever the reason, the waited 40 minutes for him to be located.  Then there was a "mechanical issue" with the plane.  Considering the timing, we had to wonder of "mechanical issue" is code for giving the pilot time to sober up.  Whatever the case, she took off an hour and a half late.  

Alls well that ends well, right?  We got to have a wonderful weekend with the kids, and have a story to tell and re-tell.   Mitched enjoyed his birthday - - Amanda arrived home in time for her job interview - - - and the saga of planes, trains and automobiles was over. 

Until Wednesday, when Amanda blew a tire on her car.