F for Fingers

fingers that play (to the beat)
fingers that play (to the beat)
fingers that work (and take a beating)
fingers that work (and take a beating)
adjusting and healing
adjusting and healing
steering in the right direction
steering in the right direction
keeping the truck on the road
keeping the truck on the road
um... oh well, you know
um… oh well, you know
learning
learning
providing diversion and entertainment
providing diversion and entertainment
keeping up with events on the news
keeping up with events on the news
etching an award for a deserving teacher
etching an award for a deserving teacher
ready to type the next post
ready to type the next post

Fingers – think of all they do. Think of what life would be like without them… Think of how awesome it is that they obey orders that start way up in your head without you even having to think about it.  We are wonderfully made!  Have you ever really looked at the hands and fingers of the people you love? These are fingers from my family and friends doing what they do for fun and for making a living.

 

Lessons from The Natural World

The Natural World

I could feel the blisters coming up, but I couldn’t stop.

We have a beautiful tree in our yard, a somewhat rare tropical Kapok tree.  It’s very tall, having grown up in a grove of oak trees – it had to go up to get the sun.  Most of the year we don’t pay much attention to it, other than to admire the trunk.

What  a beautiful trunk you have!
What a beautiful trunk you have!

But in the spring it flowers, and for two to three weeks  the ground below is showered with the red blooms.  These are not like the delicate white dogwood  flower but the type that will put a dent in your car should it happen to land there. We put a parking area under this tree. What were we thinking?!

big, juicy, heavy flower capable of doing damage
big, juicy, heavy flower capable of doing damage

The mat of squishy, slippery rotting vegetation is hard to walk on or drive on and it creates a brown, moldy looking paste that is death to a car’s paint job.

Die, paint job, die.
Die, paint job, die.

I was considering all this while raking the debris into heavy piles of “stuff” and my usual outdoor thought surfaced.  What is nature teaching me? Could it be that we are all parked in places in our lives where “stuff” is falling on us that is damaging us? I had no trouble connecting that to some relationally toxic environments that I’ve been in lately.  And I had just read a blog post about dealing with self-absorbed people who drop words and thoughts on others without awareness of the effects.

I’m not exactly proud that this was my first evaluation of the nature flower bomb situation, because the next place my thinking went proved more valuable.  What if I am the tree?  What’s happening to the people who are parked in my vicinity during the hours and days of my life? What kind of clean-up chores are necessary after I’ve been around?  Now there was food for thought.  It gave me a whole new perspective on spending an afternoon doing crafts with a child, or taking time to shop for my quadriplegic client, or the contacts with people in my study group.  There are a lot of people “parked” under my tree of influence and I can make decisions on how I affect them, for good or bad.

Yes, the blisters are there.  On other days, it’s a sore back, or a sunburn or just being dog-tired.  Is it worth it? I say yes, as I look at the results – a clean drive and parking area and new incentive to interact in a better way with my friends and neighbors on planet earth .  Surrounded by trees, plants, sky, dirt and fresh air we open ourselves to hear some really valuable messages.  I’m just  sayin’, whoever created the natural world had a really good idea and today I get it.

Dirt

I have noticed that I feel so good after spending a day outside working in the yard, and I’ve decided it’s the dirt. Therapeutic dirt. I always make sure I have a lot of contact with it – wear my sandals and shorts, and somehow manage to get smudges from head to toe.

Today’s dirt was AMAZING stuff.  Two years ago it was a huge leaf pile and now it is all broken down, dark brown with nice fat earthworms crawling through it.  It grows healthy looking weeds, which I pulled out and put in next year’s compost pile.

In Florida it’s the time of year to plant the spring garden.  At the vegetable stand where I get the weekly fresh things for our meals, they also had tomato plants so I decided to get some instead of growing my own.  An interesting aside – the stand is at our church and is “donation only” for whatever you want to pay and goes to the orphan homes in Cambodia that I visit. I call that a win-win transaction when I can support my special kids and get something to eat at the same time.  I know the farmer who supplies it and he farms very successfully. Bet his tomato plants are going to do wonderful things for me this season.

So I pulled my earthboxes to the only sunny spot I could find in the oneacrewoods.  It happens to be right near the fence line.  The neighbor has cut down a lot of his trees and has a much sunnier yard than I do and some of the light sneaks through to my side of the fence.  I think that my somewhat “iffy” results from the gardening I do is because there is so much shade.  Good for keeping cool, bad for growing plants.

The other outside chore for today was harvesting my carrots.  They have been growing for a whole year and are pitiful.  This is what happens when you don’t thin out the seedlings.  I’ve never been able to get carrots to germinate in my Florida gardens so I was really excited about all the fluffy greenery and couldn’t bear to pull any of it out.  This is probably why they are so small after a whole year! (could also be the shade, or the inconsistent watering, or the general inattention they received).

wpid-20140202_164956.jpg

So, other than the fact that some bug is eating all the leaves off my strawberry plants, things are looking much better in the garden today. And I feel great.

Something I Don’t Get to Do Every Day

Checking out a rubber manufacturing plant in Cambodia (please tell me you haven’t done this…)

On a recent trip to Cambodia, our small group of foreigners got to tour a rubber plant in Kampong Cham province.  Not only was this something one doesn’t get to do every day, but we almost didn’t get to do it that day either.  There were union protests taking place in the capital city of Phnom Penh and the guards at our rubber factory thought we might be coming to incite a riot.  Fortunately our tour organizer was from that province and somehow knew the right things to say. We all paid $1 to get in. This was a very self-guided tour.  This was the full extent of our supervision as we roamed the premises at will.

I'm glad they told us.
I’m glad they told us.

Rubber tree sap is white and really quite beautiful.  It’s collected a little like maple sap used in making maple syrup.  There’s the hole in the tree trunk, a little spigot and a pail.  I’m not sure how they get the sap from the grove to the processing building but once there it’s put in long storage vats and a chemical is added. The sap solidifies. It looks a lot like cheese (mozarella).

the grove in background, (bananas in front)
the grove in background, (bananas in front)
Beautiful, white, rubber sap
Beautiful, white, rubber sap
Sap in vats
Sap in vats
Solidified rubber floats to next step
Solidified rubber floats to next step
Raw, solidified rubber
Raw, solidified rubber

The long flats of raw rubber go into a drying machine where they are chopped up and dried.  I’m actually making this all up because there was no one to tell us what was really happening but we got a pretty good idea just by the looks of things. These are the drying machines.

the dryers
the dryers

The rubber is not as attractive when it is dried – yellow/brown and dense.  It comes from the dryers, still on it’s conveyor belt and drops into a compressor where it’s made into blocks.

into the compressor
into the compressor
compressed block
compressed block
block of rubber on its way to....
block of rubber on its way to….
this guy with the knife who was very busy. I have no idea why he was doing this.
…this guy with the knife who was very busy. I have no idea why he was doing this.
we got samples of rubber to take home
we got samples of rubber to take home

The blocks of rubber are trucked out to other factories where they are made into various rubber things.  Rubber bands?  I don’t know.  This is where our tour ended.  There were about eight of these long open buildings but this was the only one that was in operation at the time.  It appeared to be off-season for rubber.  This is a very warm climate and the buildings are open, as I said, and didn’t have fans – only natural ventilation.  The workers were often shirtless, shoeless and definitely were not wearing hard hats or protective anything around the machinery.  Evidently there aren’t a lot of lawsuits in Cambodia.  We were free to walk around the machinery, through the plant, touching, poking and asking questions without interference.  It was really quite interesting.

What things are still made with real rubber? Do you know?

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.

Lawn work, friend or foe?

I have to say that I need to learn how to protect myself from lawn work. It’s always out there (in my lawn) waiting for me and I never meet up with it without coming away sore and feeling beaten up. I was just going to blow some leaves off the drive today and instead spent a couple hours in the One Acre Woods, which by the way is what I have decided to name our place. The first work that caught me was pulling vines out of trees and chopping off rogue palm trees. There was a bit of raking under the kapok tree, and a few bags of cement rocks and debris from an old project to get rid of.  Four big trash cans full of sticks, moss and rotting grapefruit later I started feeling a little damaged in my arms. I went in for my Ibuprofen fix – after blowing the leaves off the driveway. More work jumped up on the list for tomorrow, as if I’m going to fall for that.