"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for December, 2014

Old Year, New Year

I love, love, love the week in between Christmas and New Year’s. The pressure of Christmas is over, but the world seems to still be in holiday mode. The kids are home from school and are like formerly-famished people after a big meal with all their goodies. Work is quieter (a little) and the promise of a brand-spanking-new year looms ahead past the confetti and champagne. Oh yeah, I love this week.

Today I received an email from the lovely folks at WordPress that gave me a rundown of my stats for this past year on the blog. It was fun to see which posts got the most views. Nice to see the spammers made the top ten for commenters, too. Seeing that year in review got me excited for what’s to come for The Lighthearted Dragonfly in 2015. I officially registered for the RT Book Conference in May as a blogger. During the month of December, I took a bit of hiatus to work a little extra and get everything done for Christmas. It was nice to have that bit of a break, but now I’m ready to move forward and settle back in to what I need to do.

I’m not one to make resolutions at New Year’s, but I do like to think that each year I take a little inventory of life to see what I want to make better the following year. For both personal and professional goals, it’s gratifying to see how far I’ve gotten in the past year. I’m at a point in my life that I’m content with the life I lead—but not jaded enough to not believe in an even better next year.

May 2015 bring you closer to your dreams, whatever they may be.

 

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas!

 

Merry Christmas to you and your families!  May you enjoy making new memories with loved ones this year!  I’ll be back to regularly posting in 2015!

What’s Going On These Days…

One of the things that I do that drives my kids crazy is to start a sentence and not finish it when I’m talking. Sometimes it’s because I assume they know the end of the sentence, but other times it’s just because I’ve gotten distracted. I realize that my blog has kind of gone in the same direction as some of those unspoken sentences.

Here lately, I’ve been very distracted from blogging and writing in general. As a Financial Peace University graduate, it’s good, because the reason is that I’ve been working a side job as a form design contractor. It’s a great gig—I can work in my PJs on the couch on my laptop. However, as a paid gig, it takes precedence over other things—like writing. I wish I could put things on hold like laundry or housework instead, but for some reason it’s frowned upon to go out with no clean clothes.

So as to not leave some of the more recent blog topics dangling like a participle in one of my unfinished sentences, I thought this would be a good time to follow up to some “goings on” around here recently.

The Wall

The new view from the living room into the kitchen.

The new view from the living room into the kitchen.

The wall we removed the week of Thanksgiving was successfully taken out without incident. Over that weekend, Darrell removed the wall and finished it with the wooden trim he painted, leaving a strip in between the two floors of the kitchen and living room unfinished (for now—I’m not the only one who runs around like a loon).

The strip that needs to be covered.  There's a teeny little hole that peeks into the basement.

The strip that needs to be covered. There’s a teeny little hole that peeks into the basement.

He touched up the paint on the living room side, and I decided that it really was time for a new color in the kitchen. My friend brought over a gallon of paint she had leftover from a project at her house, so we tried it out in a couple of spots in the kitchen. The color is “smoked taupe” and it looks pretty good. Now we just need to paint!

Here's "smoky taupe", the color we'll probably go with.

Here’s “smoky taupe”, the color we’ll probably go with.

 

Robotics

 

Our Engineering Notebook

Our Engineering Notebook

Last Saturday the Nuclear Unicorn Girl Assemblers (NUGAs) attended the FIRST Robotics qualifier competition. After an (almost) all-nighter the night before, complete with printer issues and a few robot hiccups, they managed to do quite well. (By the way, the girls did win the 3D printer, we just haven’t received it yet!) The game, called the Cascade Effect, required our robot to try to score points on the game field by knocking out the kickstand of a container that had wiffle balls in it, and then trying to loft them into these tall beakers. The teams were assigned other teams as alliance partners for six separate matches. The girls had to make sure that the robot was programmed keeping in mind that another robot would be in the same general area, trying to do the same general thing. One robot starts on a ramp and the other one on the floor (hence, two possible programs to use). There is also an “interview” type of judging session (our girls rocked!) and an Engineering Notebook they have to turn in documenting their work and how it progressed.

A scene from the qualifier.

A scene from the qualifier.

In the robot matches, the girls came in tenth out of thirty-three teams, which was amazing. They did not make the cut to advance to the next competition, but we are attending another qualifier next month to try again. This month we will spend updating the robot, its programming and the presentation to wow them at the next competition. The girls all learned a lot from Saturday’s competition—and I know I gained valuable insight as well. I can’t begin to tell you how amazing the kids that do the FIRST Tech Challenge are. The atmosphere at the competition is one like no other. Yes, they are competing against each other, but teams are continually helping each other with troubleshooting and supplying items that a team may have forgotten. Officially it’s called “gracious professionalism” and it’s stressed throughout the competition. It is so encouraging to see it being practiced by these very mature, very smart young adults.

Adelaide/NaNoWriMo

Maybe next year???

Maybe next year???

Poor Adelaide. She never saw it coming, which is kinda crazy because seeing things coming is a big part of her story. Adelaide is a little bit psychic, but not of anything of importance. Just weird, small stuff that doesn’t really amount to anything, so she really keeps this “gift” a secret. Until this nudge causes her to uncover the plot of a murder. Now, usually-reserved Adelaide has to go out on a limb to protect people she loves. Will she risk leaving behind her “normal” life to set the story straight?

That’s the premise of my silly little story I started for NaNoWriMo at the beginning of the month. I’m not anywhere near the 50,000 words that is the goal by month’s end, mostly because I didn’t see my side job coming. It’s not a huge deal, so it does fall into the realm of possibility to be the type of thing that my character would get a heads up on.

I haven’t completely shelved her at all. I just have gotten swamped with home improvement projects, robots, work and Christmas. Hopefully someday Adelaide will get all the attention she deserves so she can be brought to life on the paper. In the meantime, I just keep writing her story in my head.

When I’m not thinking I’m George Jetson on the treadmill screaming, “Jane, stop this crazy thing!”

Oh Christmas Tree, How Lovely (and FEW) Are Thy Branches

Today’s post is another story by my dad from when he was a teen. I wish you could see his face and hear him chuckle as he tells it in person. When I was growing up, I always begged my parents to put up the Christmas tree in early December (Christmas stuff in November was unheard of)! Today, when the Christmas season starts the day after Halloween, it seems unusual to wait to decorate for Christmas the week before, doesn’t it? He used to tell us this story about the year Grandpa tried to get a cheap tree from the grocer.

 The Magic Christmas Tree

A story from his youth, as recalled by Dad Christmas 2007

It was a Saturday morning in December when I was awakened by the noise of an argument. It was between Mom and Dad. Dad got a free Christmas tree from Kroger’s, a local grocery store. Dad bought several fruit baskets for his business customers and as a reward, Dad got a Christmas tree of his choice. Apparently Dad’s choice wasn’t very good because Mom was quite perturbed. Then I heard Mom’s voice call out”Paullll!” I thought I was in deep trouble and I wasn’t even out of bed yet. So I answered, “I will be down in just a minute as soon as I’m dressed.”

They both met me in the kitchen. Dad emphatically stated that by hook or crook, he wanted the Christmas tree put up by the end of the day. Mom nodded in silent agreement.

Meanwhile, my two younger brothers whom I shall call Ra and Ru got up. They heard the commotion too but played dumb. So we three had a hardy breakfast and proceeded to get to work. The tree was to be put outside the house facing the rear picture window of the sunken living room. The patio had a see-through corrugated roof. Ra and Ru and I struggled with “Dad’s prize tree” to get it into place on the patio, when disaster struck. The tree snapped in two. Ra and Ru looked at me in horror and said in unison, “Now what are we going to do?” Dad answered in a heartbeat because he was checking up on our progress. “You’re going to get a hammer and nails and nail it back together and if that doesn’t work, you’re going to wire it together. And another thing—that tree better be put up and decorated by this evening or there’s going to be hell to pay!” With that said, Dad got into his car and drove off. He had a doctor’s appointment.

Mom, meanwhile heard Dad’s harsh pronouncement and laughed. She said, “I never did like that tree,” and went back in the house. So Ra and Ru and I struggled to get the tree to the garage and proceeded to try and nail and wire it back together. Brother Ra, who was the practical one, shook his head and said, “It ain’t going to work.”

We stood the tree up and it broke in two again. Brother Ru, seeing the hopelessness of our situation, proceeded to go into the house and tell Mom of our plight. Mom came out and looked at the “bedraggled tree” and again laughed. My brothers and I didn’t think it was funny. Mom ordered us into the house. She went to her purse and handed me a twenty dollar bill. “Now,” she said, “there is a fruit market down the road and I’ve heard they have some very nice trees. Get one!”

We were in luck, Dad took the nice family car and left the 1954 Ford Station Wagon, with a rack on top. I always looked forward to driving (I just got my license that summer). We proceeded on our quest for a tree. Ra and Ru and I were a team. I drove, Ru picked out the tree and Ra made sure we didn’t pay too much for it. After some minor haggling, we got what was the “perfect tree”, even by today’s standards. I forgot what we paid for it, but it was within the limits of the twenty-dollar bill Mom gave us.

Mom was standing outside, waiting for our return and was to see “our prize” tree. “Hurry,” she said, “get it down so I can see it.” We unfurled the tree from the roof of the station wagon. Mom’s proud comment was “I have three sons that know how to pick out a Christmas tree.” We all proceeded to do our thing, set up and decorate our “perfect” tree.

Meanwhile, Dad returned from his doctor’s appointment. “Where are the boys?” he asked of Mom. Mom replied, “They are decorating the Christmas tree and you leave them alone.” Mom asked Dad, “By the way, how did your doctor’s appointment go?” Dad replied that doctor said his weight was the same, but his blood pressure was high.

Mom stalled Dad off until nightfall. We had a pleasant evening meal. Dad was anxious to see what we got out of chaos. The big moment finally came, Mom turned on the switch and “Voila!” a lighted Christmas tree. Dad was even amazed and said, “I sure know how to pick ‘em, don’t I?” Mom rolled her eyes and said under her breath, “There are some battles you can’t win.” Dad never did find out that his “prized tree” was replaced; in fact we made a wreath out of part of it for the front door.

A day or two later we had a calm, quiet Merry Christmas.

“Perfect” Balance

It’s time for the holidays, a time of year that I both love and dread at the same time. I cherish my memories of cozy Christmases past and creating new memories with my family. I love the smells of Christmas and the excitement of the kids. I dread the hectic schedules, the feeling that there’s too much to do and the worry over buying loved ones that “perfect” gift. Such is Christmas in this modern world; no time left to reflect on the miracle of the birth of our Savior—I’ve got baking and shopping to do! Boy, am I ever guilty! While I don’t lack of a plan, I lack a mindset. The mindset of balance, moderation and contentedness.

In the book of Ecclesiates, “The Teacher” laments about the meaninglessness of life. If you’re experiencing a rough time in your life, it’s not going to be a pick-me-up to read, but it reads as if it could have been written in today’s world. The Teacher was wealthy and popular—and very unhappy. He feels that there is nothing in this world that has any meaning. His luxurious lifestyle has left him in despair. But he does make observations that are true, and you can certainly have empathy for the emptiness the guy goes through. One of the observations that he makes that I’d like to share with you is in 7:15-18, where he addresses balance in being both overwicked and overrighteous. His observation? “The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.”

I wanted to find other examples where the concept of balance is put in a Biblical perspective. It overlaps with the areas of temperance (moderation) and self-control, but those passages didn’t address the times when balance is thrown off. The more I thought about it, the underlying cause of imbalance is a dissatisfaction of what we have and who we are. We are not content with where we are and what we have. Isn’t that when we try too much, and in the process reach too far? When we are trying to create the “perfect” Christmas, it is easy to move too far from Christ, who should be the center of the holiday.   If I had more time/money/creativity, Christmas would be perfect. Spreading ourselves too thin, we are out of balance, discontent, stressed and generally not enjoying the Spirit of the Season.

If that’s not you, I am happy for you. Because you have learned to be content. And there are several verses that advise us on being content. Hebrews 13:5 says “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have…” And Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:6-8 “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” I’m ashamed to admit it, but this time of year, I need to be reminded of that.

As we head full throttle into the Christmas season, remember how the extremes in the life of The Teacher didn’t bring him joy “under the sun”. Being content can be hard when we are bombarded daily with reminders of what we don’t have. It’s something we have to remind ourselves of. But we have something that The Teacher in Ecclesiastes didn’t have. We have, in the baby Jesus born in the manger, the antidote to that meaninglessness he described. The joy that can only be found “under the Son”.

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