Re-branding

Finally, on a Wednesday they walked through the door at the bottom of the garden. On the other side, all identity was erased. No longer defined by race, or gender, or religion, or nationality … anything. This meant the pros as well as the cons. It all had to go. Now just a number, X17359 was a little sad, because some of the old identities were useful and conferred a bit of priviledge. But there was no way to separate the wheat from the chaff with this process. It all had to be burnt away in the purifying fires of re-branding. Even the new “name” was as un-unique and vague as possible, with no accompanying meaning for or against. The “names” were even randomized so people couldn’t brag about how long ago they had walked through the door. Not like they wanted to, not after that experience, but this way there was no chance of temptation.

For you see, nobody was forced to walk through that door, a nobody who had gone through mentioned it to others. It wasn’t advertised, but everyone knew about it, one way or another. Some thought about it every day until they finally just did it, and for some it barely registered with them and they never did. But they all knew. It was encoded in fairytales and scripture. It was woven into pop lyrics and advertising jingles. It was never overt, but it was always there. It was kind of like a pattern you could only see when you had polarizing sunglasses on. It was hidden in plain sight, but only those with eyes to see noticed.

The old house

The old saying is true – you can’t ever go home again. I decided to see if there were any images of the house I grew up in online. Turns out there are a lot. I’m a little freaked out, actually.

One – the house is no longer for sale, so why are the pictures up? This benefits me, of course, but do the current owners care if the whole world can see inside their home?

Two – what did they do to the house!? It looks so spare, so lifeless. Where are the books? They ripped out all the bookshelves. I’m a little suspicious of people who don’t read. The wall colors are a bit bland and noncommittal. Maybe these are “staging” pictures, and not pictures of the seller’s furnishings. It took me a while to figure out what they’d done with the half-bath downstairs. The yard! My mother lovingly landscaped it – and it has all grown over. So sad.

Three – it sold for what!? I sold this house in 1998 for $69,900. The couple who bought it assured me that they were going to live there a long time. I’d gone to school with the husband, and as he was a real estate agent, we were able to talk before the sale. The neighbors had all expressed concern that they didn’t want someone to buy it and flip it – they wanted a neighbor, not an investor. He assured me that he was here to stay. Well – turns out that was only for seven years, because they sold it for nearly double what they paid for it, at $127,500. I feel a little cheated, and lied to. Then it sold again two years later for $141,000. Eight years later it sold again for $155,000. Stunningly, that owner put it back on the market not two months later for $163,000, but it didn’t sell.

We lived in that house for 30 years. It was home, not a house. I still have dreams that are set in it. That was what defined “home” to me, and in many ways it was ideal. I needed to move because I couldn’t afford it, and I needed to get away from some bad situations that were happening in my life. But in some ways, I want that house back. I especially would have liked to have found a house that size (3 bedrooms, 1.5 bath, 1600 sq feet) for the price I got for it. My current house has the same number of rooms and is 400 sq feet smaller – and cost $30K more!

Here’s the info from the listing –

“A comfortable and charming 1920’s Dutch Colonial that is conveniently located. This well maintained home offers character and charm with original hardwood floors and two piece crown molding throughout. The large living room offers hidden wiring for wall mount flat screen tv giving way for more spacious living. The separate dining room and adjacent kitchen offer a great flow for entertaining; enjoy double oven plus gas range with microwave hood. The second level offers 3 bedrooms, one with an oversized closet and a full bathroom. Don’t miss the 1/2 bathroom off the kitchen and the large unfinished basement, great for storage with walk out access to backyard. Enjoy days and evenings on the side screened in porch.”

I’m amused that they did all that work with the house, but the basement is still unfinished. The basement is huge – you could live in just it. But, it is haunted, so there’s that. Wonder if they know? I called a friend to exorcise it before I moved, but who knows if the ghost actually left? Sometimes they don’t want to leave. Maybe that is why the house sold four times in 17 years.

Here are the pictures of the front of the house
front

front left

front left close

Go in the front door and here’s the living room
living room

living2

living 3

living 4

Turn around from that last picture (this is to the left of the living room) to see the dining room
dining room

This is looking back towards the living room from the dining room
dining 2

Here’s the kitchen as soon as you enter from the dining room
kitchen

kitchen 2

kitchen 3

kitchen 4

They enclosed the back porch and changed how you get into the bathroom downstairs

kitchen to porch

Here is the half bath that is attached to the kitchen.

kitchen bathroom

Outside, the back porch area (this did not exist, nor did that immense fence)

back porch1

back porch2

back porch 3

back porch 4

back porch 5

back porch 6

back porch 7

The sad-looking yard

yard

Back in the living room, go right to go out on to the side porch

side porch

side porch2

Back in the living room, the stairs going up.

stairs

At the top of the stairs, looking towards the main bathroom

upstairs

In the bathroom itself.
bathroom

The bedroom on the Southwest corner (the one my brother had initially, and after he moved I took it.)

bedroom 1a

bedroom 1b

The bedroom in the Northwest corner (my parent’s bedroom)
bedroom 2a

bedroom 2b

The bedroom in the South – a dark, small room. This was the one I had, as the youngest.

bedroom 3a

Lost and found

Lost and found1 012816

detail
Lost and found2

Praying the Lord’s Prayer at McDonalds.
A man who was lost/homeless/mentally ill/addicted/blind (any or all)

I went to McDonald’s to get “second breakfast” after attending mandatory substance abuse awareness training for my job (This class has to be taken every 5 years). This man outside the store asked for change.
I find it significant that panhandlers ask for change – not money. Change is what they need, true change.
I gave him money and said “God loves you.” He initiated the prayer. He held out his hand to me. It was grimy – grey/green. We held hands while we prayed the Lord’s Prayer together. It was beautiful. I remember my years of struggling with addiction and feeling lost.

Ingredients:

8.5 x 12 inch Strathmore visual journal

Map torn from a book, missing some of the reference points. Paper that reminds me of prison bars. Receipt. Matte medium. Distress ink spray (crushed olive)
Created 1/28/16

Poem – snow day

snow day

Remember that feeling you have
when you look outside
and everything
is covered by snow?

It was forecasted
but they didn’t know exactly
when it would happen –
what time of day,
or even if this day or the next.
But it was coming,
that was certain.

And while you were asleep
the snow appeared,
silently
making everything white,
everything new,
covering the world
with a silent calm,
a soft pure light.

Every prayer,
every reconciliation,
every bridge mended,
every addiction cured,
every honest conversation,
every deep listening

is a snowflake.

The world will change
because we will change it
because we were changed
one
by
one
by
one
a light comes on
and we share it, we shine it.

A new day is coming.
A new day is here.

Change and clouds

I am not a fan of change. I like a set routine. Yet God has other plans.

Let’s look at what it was like to be an Israelite, travelling in the desert for 40 years. They had no map and no idea of where they were going. They were told that it was somewhere good, but they didn’t know how to get there because they didn’t know where it was. They were led by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

Numbers 9:15-23
15 On the day the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony, and it appeared like fire above the tabernacle from evening until morning. 16 It remained that way continuously: the cloud would cover it, appearing like fire at night. 17 Whenever the cloud was lifted up above the tent, the Israelites would set out; at the place where the cloud stopped, there the Israelites camped. 18 At the LORD’s command the Israelites set out, and at the LORD’s command they camped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they camped. 19 Even when the cloud stayed over the tabernacle many days, the Israelites carried out the LORD’s requirement and did not set out. 20 Sometimes the cloud remained over the tabernacle for only a few days. They would camp at the LORD’s command and set out at the LORD’s command. 21 Sometimes the cloud remained only from evening until morning; when the cloud lifted in the morning, they set out. Or if it remained a day and a night, they moved out when the cloud lifted. 22 Whether it was two days, a month, or longer, the Israelites camped and did not set out as long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle. But when it was lifted, they set out. 23 They camped at the LORD’s command, and they set out at the LORD’s command. They carried out the LORD’s requirement according to His command through Moses.

Look at line 20 – sometimes they were there only a few days. Sometimes change came often. They never knew when it was going to happen. The most important part is that “They would camp at the LORD’s command and set out at the LORD’s command.” This is repeated in line 23. Anything that is repeated requires special notice. The Lord would command, and they would go – again, with no idea where they were going. They just followed the Lord.

We don’t hear any complaining from the Israelites about having to move so often and apparently so randomly. Sure, there was plenty of complaining about not having enough food that they liked.

Numbers 11:4-6
4 Contemptible people among them had a strong craving for other food. The Israelites cried again and said, “Who will feed us meat? 5 We remember the free fish we ate in Egypt, along with the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. 6 But now our appetite is gone; there’s nothing to look at but this manna!”

They’ve forgotten about how hard it was being slaves in Egypt. Now that they aren’t slaves, all they can think about is the great food that they ate – such variety, and free! They’ve forgotten that here in the middle of the desert, God is giving them food day by day.

Yet they don’t complain at all about having to pick up everything at a moment’s notice.

Numbers 9:22
22 Whether it was two days, a month, or longer, the Israelites camped and did not set out as long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle. But when it was lifted, they set out.

I find it significant not only that they stayed for as long as the Lord commanded them, but that they got up and moved immediately when the Lord commanded them as well. This is no simple task, remember. Not only did were they carrying everything they owned with them – there were no Winnebagos on this trip – but they also had to dismantle and carry the portable Temple – no simple feat. That was huge, and had heavy equipment. They had to carry all their clothing, their tents, their cookware – everything.

Anyone who didn’t follow immediately, who was slow in breaking down camp, would have been left behind. They had to move together in order to survive together. Every person was necessary.

Also, if they didn’t all move at the same time they would have missed the cloud or pillar of flame. It would have gone on ahead of them, not waiting for them to catch up. If they didn’t follow it, they would have most certainly been lost in the desert. They’d be on their own, without God, and that is truly lost.

Compare this unswerving obedience to the Lord in the story when Jesus called his first disciples to him, in Mark 2:16-20:

16 As He was passing along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen. 17 “Follow Me,” Jesus told them, “and I will make you fish for people!”18 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 19 Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in their boat mending their nets. 20 Immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed Him.

Note that Simon, Andrew, James and John left everything – their boats, their possessions, and their families – and followed Jesus “immediately”. He didn’t have to convince them. They didn’t have to think about it.

This kind of obedience is what is required. Some other followers of the Lord were hesitant, and they were told they weren’t fit for the journey. Pay special attention starting with verse 59 in the following section:

Luke 9:27-62
57 As they were traveling on the road someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go!” 58 Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” “Lord,” he said, “first let me go bury my father.” 60 But He told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.” 61 Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

When the Lord calls, we are to answer immediately, without question.

Change is hard, sure, but being left behind is harder. It is better to follow the Lord than be lost and on your own.

(All Bible translations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Life change cake

Yesterday was the icing on the cake. I don’t know where the cherry is. And if yesterday was the icing, then I don’t know if that means the cherry is good or bad.

The cake is a multi layer cake.

One layer is made up of a car dying and having to buy new car. I’d paid it off and become very fond of it. It was cute and familiar. I wasn’t planning on buying a new car. For a while we had two car payments, and I was grateful to not have any. I was using the extra money to pay off the mortgage sooner. But I have to have a reliable car, and one that won’t start isn’t acceptable, especially when the dealership can’t even tell me what was causing the problem. Since they didn’t know, they couldn’t fix it. They got it running, for another day, and then it wouldn’t start. I’m grateful that it failed to start while I was at home – so I wasn’t stranded doing errands or at work.

Another layer is finding out that I’m being transferred to another branch a week later. I’ve worked at the same place for almost 15 years. That’s a third of my life. I created the order and routine of the branch I came from. It’s a huge loss to have to go somewhere else. I’m grateful it is close to my home and in a safe neighborhood.

Another layer is the loss of my normal schedule. Because this other library is on an opposite schedule of opening and closing I can’t go to my exercise class like I used to. All the people that I knew at work and at working out are gone to me.

I might as well have moved to another country for the amount of loss that I am experiencing. It would’ve helped if the other branch had even welcomed me. But there was no welcoming note, no welcoming words, not even my desk was cleaned off. It was like it was a catchall for debris. I hate being the only person who is sensitive to other people’s feelings who thinks about how hard things are and is considerate so that they feel welcome and included. I hate feeling so deeply.

Adding to that is that I’m at a place that has three people, and only two do the work. The manager sits in his office and types at his computer, only coming out of his office to go to lunch or yell at the kids when they are loud. I’d love to have a job where I could get paid, yet do my own work (like write books) for 8 hours a day, like he has. But then I’d feel that I’d feel guilty about it, because I know that I’m not doing my real job.

I was reading Proverbs this morning and came across some parts that are applicable. (All translations are HCSB)

Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding;”
To me, this means that I don’t need to worry about this. To rely upon my own understanding is to say that I’m wiser than God. Ultimately it would mean that I’m setting myself up as an idol. The height of idolatry is to worship yourself. Sadly, a lot of today’s new religious leaders are saying just that. I’ll go further into that another day.

Proverbs 3:31 “Don’t envy a violent man or choose any of his ways;”
I’m taking this to mean more than just violent. I’m taking it to mean someone who shirks his responsibility. I should do my job and not follow the way of someone who isn’t doing his, as I know it to be bad. However, I won’t do extra or wipe myself out to get it all done, either. If I do more than my share, it will not be obvious that he’s not doing his. Upper management knows what is happening but they aren’t doing anything about it. I don’t know why, but I have to trust that God is in charge.

And then I read this, and it confirmed my feelings.
Proverbs 3:35 “The wise will inherit honor, but He holds up fools to dishonor.”

It doesn’t make it a lot easier. I still have to figure out how to live with this situation. I’ve spent a lot of my life with similar bosses.

Jesus teaches us that the best boss is also a worker. When he washed the feet of his disciples, he was teaching them that they needed to lower themselves from thinking they were above everybody. He was teaching them that they had to see themselves as equals. Everybody has to do “the dirty work”.

Sadly, many managers, even ones that are Christian, don’t seem to get this. It draws resentment upon them. Even if they are paid more, they aren’t respected more. I knew a lady who retired after 40 years of “work” and not one of her employees attended her retirement party. There were a lot of people there, but they were her friends – nobody she had worked with or “managed”. Sure, she got paid more than her employees, but she was overdrawn in the respect department.

I’d rather be paid in respect. I’d rather be paid in knowing that I did my best, rather than cheating the system. I’d rather know that the money I make I made honestly.

Poem – cut loose

This is a day of culling.
This is a day of cutting loose
and letting go.

No longer time to sow
or reap.

There is no harvest here.
Not yet.

This is a time to prune,
to trim,
to weed.

But not gently.

This is a time of slash and burn,
of cut and run.

This is a time of throwing off the rope
and sailing away.
No map, no rudder, no charts.

Just go.

Like a laser
Like a diamond
Like a scalpel

Cut loose.

No time for maybe
or might have been.

Cut loose.

This is the day not for new beginnings
or happy endings
but something in the middle.

We aren’t used to middles.
We are uncomfortable with
not being
here
or there.

But that is where we are.
The grey time
the afternoon place
the doldrums,

Better accept it.
The sooner the better.

Cut bait now
with a sharp knife and paddle on over
to another spot
because
now
that line is holding you down.

No matter if the biggest fish
you ever saw is about to grab hold.
No matter.

He hasn’t yet
and if he does now
he’ll just pull you under
or drag you along
to your death.

Cut loose
and live.