I Have Wondered Why It Happened…

We were a fairly young family with two daughters, ages 8 and 5. This was our first big move, leaving friends, family and a comfortable home in the north for unknown circumstances in a state as far south as one could go. Almost everything was unfamiliar. All our belongings were packed into two trailers for the trip. My parents helped us move by towing one trailer and we pulled the other one behind our van.  I remember the end of that long trip – I was driving in the early morning on the interstate and hit an armadillo. It was our introduction to Florida.

After our first day of resting in a motel, our Realtor helped us to a temporary furnished apartment near the famous Siesta Beach with it’s wide, white sand beaches.  We found a storage facility and unloaded pretty nearly all our earthly possessions into two rented rooms to await the new house I was sure we would find within a short time.  We weren’t wealthy but we were blessed with enough. Our “things” were dear to us, having either been received as wedding gifts or handed down as heirlooms from both sides of our families.  We had only some clothing and personal items with us in the apartment.

A week and a few days later we went back to the storage facility to get something we needed.  I walked down the second story corridor to the rooms at the end and tried to figure out why the door on one of our rooms was standing open. I looked in the empty room and tried to tell myself there had been a mistake. Was I somehow in the wrong building? the wrong corridor? What could this mean? I was in a state of repressed panic. I tried to remember all the things we had put in that room but it was impossible – there was too much.  My grandmother’s china cupboard, our best (only) dishes and flatware, our few pieces of art, clothing, my precious knitting machine I had worked so hard to buy… where was it all?

As the next hour unfolded we learned the truth about what had happened that was stranger than anything I could have made up.  It took a while to figure out because, at first, the owners of the storage facility were clueless and defensive.  Gradually putting it all together, this is how it came about.  Previous to our arrival, the now empty storage room had been rented to a customer who was delinquent in paying.  The manager had put an overlock on the room and notified the person that they had X number of days to pay or the contents of their room would belong to the storage facility.  Sometime before that deadline, the customer managed to get in the facility, remove the overlock and get all their belongings out without the manager knowing about it.

I entered the story.  Having been sent up to inspect the building where I was told there were two empty rooms, I saw two rooms, adjacent to each other, empty with the doors standing open.  They looked the right size and we paid for them and filled them up.  I don’t remember even looking at the numbers on the doors.  There were actually three empty rooms off that corridor, one  that I didn’t know about. It’s door was closed and I didn’t even notice it. Unfortunately that was one of the two rooms the manager thought we had rented. The third room, now full of our things, was the one that had belonged to the deliquent customer. And now the deadline had come.

The customary action when the account for a storage room is delinquent is to offer the contents for auction, hoping to recover the delinquent payments (think Storage Wars on reality TV). Our belongings were bought, sight unseen, by a business that accumulated goods from estate sales and storage units and then held a weekly auction on a Friday night.  We learned this on the Saturday after our things had been auctioned.  We were allowed to go through their warehouse and look for anything we recognized that hadn’t been sold.   We bought back the wooden highchair that had been mine as a child.   We found our family picture albums in their trash. There was nothing else. We were devastated.  Although they knew names and addresses of those they had sold to, they would not release any of that information to us.

We felt it was a shared mistake, and attempted to collect damages from the storage company.  Because we had no receipts for the missing items and no appraisals of the furniture and antiques, we were told that legal precedent would be against us.  We would be better off to accept a small settlement rather than take the matter to court and get nothing.  Our lawyer felt so sorry for us he did not charge us for his services.  That was the only overt blessing that I’ve ever been able to recognize concerning this event.

Did life go on? Yes, of course.  But there are differences since then.  I wish I could say that I learned never to make a quick decision, always to check every transaction thoroughly – but that hasn’t always been the case.  What did change was that I hold loosely to “things”, in order that they might not get a grip on my heart.  I’ve bought very little furniture, invested very little in things that might fit into a packing box, spent more time in Goodwill, second hand shops and garage sales for the things I do need.  I’m not sure I understand why God allowed this to happen at a time when so many other difficult things were also taking place, but He did.  I think I will understand it better some time in the future.  And I’ve never given up hope that some day, in some backwoods antique shop, I might see Grandma’s china cupboard again.  I’m just sayin’ it would be kind of like God to do that…

Again, I Wonder

Life is wonder full, full of things to wonder about that is, and today I am wondering about the judicial system.  I have just spent three days serving on a jury, which for the most part was an interesting and pleasant time. I’ve never before had the experience of coming into a room where everyone stood until I sat down (felt very unusual) and I got to eat a restaurant lunch downtown three days in a row (also felt unusual).

This trial ended after two and a half days of laborious testimony with the judge coming down today, after our lunch break, and dismissing us.  Evidently both parties had decided to back up to a previous point where the judge alone could make a decision and he did just that and settled the matter.  It was not the decision I would have made, but of course I do not know much about the intricacies of legal proceedings.  I cannot figure out why both parties agreed to settle the matter this way and there is a lingering sense of injustice that I just can’t shake.

This is the fourth time I have been closely connected to a matter settled in a courtroom or through legal representation. I’ve felt this sense of injustice every time even though I am grateful for our judicial system – grateful we aren’t out settling our differences at gunpoint in an alley somewhere.  These experiences leave me with a disturbing distrust. Ever felt that? Have we created a system that has become so complicated that a clever (or powerful, or influential, or rich) person can find a way to do things that shouldn’t be done and make them seem absolutely legal?

I’m thinking maybe, yes.

I don’t know.

Troubling.

I think I will actively try to avoid depending upon a lawyer, suing anyone, or being in a courtroom for any reason, anytime in the future.  I’m just saying that a lingering sense of injustice can really lower a person’s expectations. Hopefully I won’t get sued for saying all this….

Does anyone have a different story that can cheer me up? I would love to hear it.

A Christmas Conversation

Image

The neighbor girl, age 8, came past today as I was mowing the lawn and since I hadn’t seen her for a couple of weeks I stopped the tractor for a chat.  I asked her how she was and it led to a conversation that went something like this…

“So how have you been lately?”

“Great, my school had a “one”derful Christmas thing and my mom gave me $20 to spend. I got all my shopping done for my whole family. Everything was one dollar.” She named off her five family members that she had bought for and confessed that she had spent most of the remaining money on herself.

“What do you think this whole Christmas thing is about?” I asked.

After a bit of thinking she explained that it was the birthday of Jesus.

“So isn’t it kind of weird that we give presents to everybody else on Jesus’ birthday?”

“Well, not really,” she said. “ It’s Jesus’ birthday but lots of people just don’t care and they want presents because it’s fun to get them. I really believe in Santa.”

“Oh yeah? You mean he’s a real person? What does he do?”

“He gives presents to kids when their parents can’t get them anything, so they can have fun too.”

“And he wears the red suit and the cap and all?”

“Yes, and he comes down the chimney.  I saw the reindeer too once.”

“What do you think about all the other people who dress up like him and say they’re Santa?”

“They’re fake.”

“So, he must be pretty skinny if he fits down peoples’ chimneys?”

“No, he eat cookies at everybody’s house.”

“Oh, so he’s fat. Isn’t that a problem?”

She wasn’t used to being grilled on her Santa knowledge and by this time she was getting at a loss for words and frustrated with me.  “Santa is magic, that’s how he gets in.”  This was followed by an expose about her dad who had played a trick on her a couple years ago, saying he was teleported into their house, when really he had snuck around through the back door.  “Now he tells me!” she says, rolling her eyes and explaining that Santa is different, magic.

“And does Santa get stuff for you?”

“Yes, three or four things and he puts them under the tree.  My dad said he quit getting presents when he was four, and I said, why would you quit getting presents?! But his family didn’t keep Christmas after that and they didn’t have a tree.”

“What? If you don’t have a tree he doesn’t leave any presents?”

“Well, he has to have a tree. I have a friend who has little Christmas trees  in three different rooms and Santa left presents under every tree.  My mom tells him what she’s getting me so he knows to get different stuff. “

“How does she tell him?”

“She has his number. She calls him.”

“Well, I have to get back to mowing the lawn, and you probably have something to do too.”

“Yeah, see ya.”

And so ended our conversation.  I was so fascinated at the intricacy of the fabrication she had constructed that I didn’t even attempt to address the reality of Santa.  Her parents had put some time and trouble into reinforcing  the story and although I had started a relationship with her, I didn’t feel it was my place to break the news.  Perhaps I should have given her more to think about, and maybe I will the next time I see her.  How does one begin to tell the real, deeper story?

I couldn’t help but think, as I rode around on the mower, how much effort we put into various distractions on the Christmas theme – time to decorate, time to bake, shop, party. It has to leave the birthday boy feeling a little left out, if it’s really his birthday.  Something to think about.,,

photo credit: laursifer via photopin cc

  • Why Does This Seem So Familiar…?

    Image

    The world is big and full of people with computers. The internet is a busy, complex place full of new concepts, new words, new ventures.  And  only by having moved my journal from pen and paper to keyboard and cyberspace, I have entered this foreign land. So why do some things seem so familiar?

    Today I am going to respond to a welcome confrontation.  I was asked “what do you want?” It was an invitation to express my reasons for not joining a business of sorts that I don’t know much about.  Who jumps into something right away because it sounds too good to be true? Well, me, in the past.  I’m ex-Amway, and although I’m not ex-MaryKay yet, what it has taught me is that I’m not sales oriented.

    So after innocently moving my blog to WordPress I have begun to get a few new followers.  I look at their profiles.  I watch their compelling videos.  I wonder why they are following and supposedly reading me?  Does it seem odd that young, energetic men would spend time reading about a 60-ish woman cleaning her house? My “you are being marketed” antennae are quivering…

    Affiliate marketing is a new thing on my plate that I have to learn about before I chew, and swallow.  Maybe a good thing, who knows.  Some people are obviously making money through it and I do know that goods and services have to be advertised.  Maybe even I will be using affiliate marketing to earn part of my income in the near future.

    But what I want, really, is

    to produce content that makes people think about their every day life,

    to describe those moments that are common to us all,

    to suggest they have purpose and value.

    And after I have done some of that and know I’m succeeding in what’s really important to me, maybe then I will also earn a following and an income. Maybe. It’s my way of putting the horse first, then the cart.  I’m just sayin’ I want to do it right.

    Is It Time?

    That’s what I’m wondering – is it time to make a change? I’m talking about jobs, not necessarily professions, and there is a difference.  This is always one of my hardest decisions and I have to be more than a little bit unhappy to take the plunge.  In my career I’ve had jobs that I knew I needed to leave and could hardly wait to do so, jobs that I left because of other changing circumstances (like a move away from the area), jobs that just ended and I didn’t have to decide.  The one thing that’s always been missing is the “perfect job” that I never wanted to leave.  Do people have jobs like this?

    I can vaguely remember writing a post similar to this at least once in the last two years of working. It’s always been provoked by the job I have now, so maybe this at least strike two for this place of employment.  I think the reason it’s so hard to leave is that I’ve devoted a lot of effort into becoming good at what I do in this position.  I love being good at something and in fact, that’s part of what makes a job fun for me. 

    It becomes “not fun” when my physical well being is threatened, when I’m not trusted and when the assumption is made that I have wrong motives for actions I’ve taken.  Do you ever remember having a fight with your brother or sister when you were a kid? How the accusations became heated and a bit ridiculous because you really didn’t know how to disagree and discuss an issue? You were only a kid, right?  I don’t expect that kind of thing to happen as an adult in the workplace.

    When it does, I really don’t like it.  When it happens regularly I begin to question whether I want to be subjected to it again and again.  Even in this economy, is it worth the money to have the mental and emotional stress? Work should be challenging me to think, grow, and problem solve but some environments make that very hard to happen.  Problems remain unresolved. I’m getting a headache thinking about it.

    So, if it is time, the next question is how?  How to leave in a God honoring manner, with kindness, with clarity.  Do I want this door to be permanently closed?  Is there still something left to be accomplished relationally?  I am done in this place, but is God done with me in this place?

    I have always felt that God gave me this job, as an answer to my request for provision for a specific financial need.  But even God’s assignments can be for a time, a season, and then be over. I’m just sayin’ I think this time is over.