Monday, March 31, 2008
Making a Clean Sweep of Things
The street sweeper made a trip up my street today. I watched this somewhat odd heralder of the new season as it ambled past my house and kept on going, busy about its task. For a moment I thought, 'what good does it do?' I mean really, does it sweep up the dead squirrels who've been out there awhile, or the plastic bottles and stray newspapers, or whatever else the last rain piled up next to the curb? Not once did the operator stop, get out and push something out of the way, never did he go around. He just plowed right through, dealing with whatever was there.

I watched as the big swooshy bristle brushes ran over the streets, slowly cleaning up whatever came into its path, leaving behind only a wet trail. No rubbish. Whatever was there minutes before was magically gone, swept away. Left behind was air filled with that musty wet smell of dirt and muck mixed with water, a somewhat earthy version of spring-cleaning.

As it shuffled past my house, I considered - if those bristle brushes swept over me, my heart, what would they find needed cleaning up? What muck has gathered in my heart over the past couple of seasons? What could I, should I, get rid of to really embrace this time of year, full of promise, growth and new beginnings?

Oh, how about that bitterness I've noticed deep in my spirit? Old hurts I'm still holding onto just a bit, being too sensitive to casual comments of others. Or maybe questioning someone's motives, assuming the worst but you can bet I give myself a wide berth of assuming the best? Maybe it's locking people into the chains of old habits and conversations, not even considering they may have changed. You know, assuming guilt and never even giving them a chance. I've changed in the past year, why wouldn't I consider they may have too? Maybe I want to sweep away choosing easy over hard, when hard is worth it. How would it feel to not count the cost when I give, to quit keeping track of who else is giving how much? Wouldn't that feel refreshing? Doesn't the 'counting' remove all the joy when I give? These items, laying next to the curb on the street of my heart, they come to mind very quickly. If the street sweeper slowed down even more, I'm confident there would be an even longer, nastier list of things that needed swept away, such stuff that would make that lingering dead squirrel look good in comparison.

Street Sweeper - come down the streets of my heart, and wash me clean. Wash away the nastiness that has laid here inside me thru the fall and winter. I'm ready for the freshness of Spring - inside and out - that only You can give me.


  posted at 10:10 PM

Sunday, March 30, 2008
Sharp Humor that Cuts Like a Knife?

Sarcasm is stating the opposite of an intended meaning especially in order to sneeringly, slyly, jest or MOCK a person, situation or thing. It is strongly associated with irony, with some definitions classifying it as a type of verbal irony intended to INSULT OR WOUND. An example of sarcasm is using "that's fantastic" to mean "that's awful".

That's the definition I got when I looked up "sasrcasm". If you asked me, I'd say I really, really dislike it. I don't enjoy humor that comes at someone else's expense. But I find myself wondering, am I guilty of it myself? I'm so aware of it in others, but do I give myself a "get out of jail free card" when I'm guilty too?

So what is your take on it? Is it just a form of humor that comes with certain personality types, do we all do it, is it okay, not so great?

My ears seem very touchy to it lately for some reason, so I'd really like input from others - what do you think? As a Christian, is it okay? Do I need to look more closely at the intent, or am I just being too picky? Or am I even a pot calling the kettle black?

What do you think? I'd really like to know.


  posted at 9:39 PM

Friday, March 28, 2008
A Sweeping Servant
Our church hosted a concert of Avalon, Michael English and a couple lesser known groups. We would be classified as 'large', with weekend attendance usually around 1500. Concerts usually draw those who aren't members or regular attenders, and they can be spotted pretty quickly. They're the ones walking around with their mouths hanging open, because we have what any larger church would have, but theirs dont: a library, a bookstore, a cafe, a big worship center, and it's all pretty new, with beautiful colors of wine and deep green and kiwi, areas to hang out at high coffee tables, or scattered occasional chairs or sofas. Screens in the lobby showing worship warming up, and the time til we start is ticking down.

The parking lot nearest the worship center was pretty packed last night, so we parked near the old entrance. As we headed down the hall, which went by the library, the bookstore and the cafe, the people in front of us were oohing and aahing, slowing down to poke their heads in the rooms and check out areas. Obviously, they were not from our church.

Anyone working the concert had on a burgundy t-shirt with an I.D. around their neck, giving them access to all areas of the building. As we passed the cafe, where iced caramel macchiatas were being passed out, there was a man wearing a grey t-shirt and jeans, sweeping floor debris into a dustpan. He looked up and smiled as we all walked by. Recognizing him, Don and I yelled out, "hey Ron!" He smiled and said hello to everyone as we walked by.

What the people in front of us didn't know was that "Ron" is our Senior Pastor. He's been at our church for almost 20 years, and taken the church from meeting at a high school with about 200 people to where we are now. Some might ask, "if your church is running efficiently, why was your Sr. Pastor sweeping?" And I don't know - I don't know if he just saw some dirt on the floor and grabbed the broom, or if he was volunteering last night in an unusual way. We certainly have a large maintenance staff, so I doubt he switched positions.

The concert was fabulous, Avalon did a great job, and I stood and cried as Michael English gave one of the most moving testimonies I've ever heard. I could not have asked for a better concert experience. In a month we're hosting Aaron Shust and I can't wait to hear him too. Concerts fade together, I'll forget much of last night's experience. I think, for years to come, I'll remember catching a glimpse of the leader of our church with a broom and a dustpan in his hands. You just never know when you might encourage someone greatly by doing the most basic of tasks, rocking a fussy baby so a mom can stay in worship, or teaching two year olds in Sunday School, or passing out snacks at VBS, or chaperoning a youth group retreat, or handing out bulletins, or whatever. Someone might be watching, and they might be blessed to see you or me serve straight from the heart. I sure was.


  posted at 3:29 PM

Thursday, March 27, 2008
God Doesn't Play the Lottery
When we said "I Do", we had no clue the odds were so stacked against us. Anyone placing a bet in Las Vegas that day would have bet against us for sure. It was a second marriage for both of us and many would say we were both on 'the rebound', we lived together before our trip to the Justice of the Peace (which drastically worsens those odds), and I was expecting my second child. I was barely 25 and he had just turned 30. The rate of success for first marriages is barely 50% and the failure rate of second ones is over 75%. We shouldn't have made it, according to the odds.

I have no clue what that Justice of the Peace said, what questions he asked. We hurriedly said yes to them all. With stars in our eyes. We'd known each other for a number of years, I knew what he was made of, and 'considering the odds' never occurred to me. I just was crazy in love with him, enough to think he looked completely dashing in that lovely blue polyester suit, and mountain man beard. I believe he told me I looked beautiful that day, in my homemade double knit pink maternity dress.

That we're here, together today, to tell the story is a testament, not of our grit, but of God's grace, his power in our lives. How many times I've sat and listened to parents tell me they aren't so sure of the person their child has chosen to spend their life with; he or she doesn't have the right background, or education, or looks, or potential, or mother! His personality is too strong for hers, or she's the wrong religion, or or or or.

If God could take the two of us, hold us together through the years of raising three kids, several corporate moves across the country, stretched finances, family strains, and times when each of us was less than easy to love, he can do anything. Twenty-seven years ago we said "I Do", not having a clue. Thank God, literally, He was in that courthouse basement too, saying "they probably won't, but I Will." The knowledge that we will be together til one of us takes that last breath, no matter what, there's no gift that can top that rock-solid confidence in each other, but better yet, in a God who has been with us through the years, beating the odds one year at a time. Here's to at least twenty-seven more, the three of us.

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  posted at 7:32 AM

Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Celebrating that One is DONE!

This house has fourteen rooms, not counting potties, all of them are in a state of undress, but hallelujah, one is D.O.N.E., completely D.O.N.E. In my book, that's worth celebrating. This is what the sewing room / storage room looked like in January when we started. That's looking through the wall studs into the room. I think my hubby is a stud for being able to do this project!

Walls went up, with a closet for fabric, etc. Extra outlets were installed. You can't have too many outlets in any room, can you? He put three new ones in for me. I don't know about you, but three extra outlets makes my heart thump!

The back wall is a 'designing wall', very useful when planning out a quilt. This quilt is still in progress, unfortunately. All this painting has really cut into my play time.

LOOK! It's all finished. Floors were repainted to match the rug more closely. Walls repainted, closets painted. Lots of paint, but at $25 a gallon it's a great way to transform any room. I stuck with neutral beige, in case, horror of horrors, this becomes a work room, or bedroom for a kid home from college, etc. I'm hoping the next lady who moves in will use it for something fun. Like sewing and quilting and knitting!

This is my favorite photo of the bunch. Just makes my heart really happy to take it in.

There's the closet, painted a fresh coat of white. My sewing table and file cabinet are from the office section of Office Depot and work great for sewing. Having an ironing board closeby is critical to quilting. The armoire holds 'stuff' plus a little TV with a VCR in it. I can pop in any of my old hokey movies while I sew. I actually watched Neverending Story while I painted in here. The cover sitting on top of my chair is a sewing machine cover, sewn about 20 years ago. Back then my 'sewing room' was a card table at the back of the family room, so covering up the machine was a survival tactic, for me and for the kids who were wee-little.

Another shot of my sewing area. After the walls went up, and outlets were added, I completely rearranged the room. I think it'll work much better this way.

One of my sewing girlfriends advised me to put some 'warm fuzzies' in this room. This shelf holds my MIL's button collection, her wooden spools of thread, and the basket has patterns well over 50 years old in it. That little can is her Necchi machine oil, and the machine is tucked in a barn in Colorado, waiting for me to pick up someday. She won it at the State Fair and sewed on it for the next fifty or so years. When you buy a machine now you get a little plastic vial of oil. I love that they gave you this cute pink-striped metal can back then. Back when things were made out of metal instead of plastic! I plan to use her machine for my grand-daughters to sew on when they come for visits at the lake.

I added a painting I did, from a live model in art class, about twenty years ago. Also an antique ladder with some of my mother-in-laws quilts, retrieved from her basement, plus my husband's baby quilt. Treasures, treasures!

I borrowed an overhead projector from our church, went online and found fun sewing and quilting quotes, and decorated the walls with them. I also saved some paint to cover them if the next owners hate them. The quote below the painting says, "I'm a material girl, want to see my fabric collection?"

Okay, here it is! In my new closet, the boxes hold scraps of fabric by color, the baskets hold 'fat-quarters' of fabric, by color or design or theme. You use a lot of scraps when you quilt, and it's helpful to be able to find them by color. Four shelves for patterns, projects in process, and the floor is good for my 'take-with' sewing machine and bulky items like batting, etc.

These are real treasures, hand-pieced quilt tops I found in my MIL's basement, and now that I quilt, I hope to finish them someday. In the meantime, they're lovely inspiration while I work / play in this room. I have no idea how old these are, except O.L.D.

I brought the peg board in from my scrapping area. It's great for holding sewing tools, especially sharp ones. The bag hanging on it was my mother-in-law's darning bag, found when we cleaned out her apartment. I love that it has her initials, with her maiden name, hand-embroidered on it. She got married 61 years ago yesterday, so that bag has been around awhile.

Loved the quote on this one, ("the only place where housework comes before needlework is in the dictionary"). That should guarantee some fun, quilt-free hours spent in here. I really think this may be the room I miss the most when we move away. Of course, DH can always build me another one, and if someone crafty buys this house, I'm going to love knowing she can hide away down here, making beautiful things. That's what it's all about, isn't it? Passing it on. I'll use it for a year or so, then someone else can love it. Our pastor reminds us now and then, there's never been a hearse pulling a U-Haul. Use it up, wear it out, pass it on!


  posted at 8:20 AM

Monday, March 24, 2008
Featherin' the Nest
What looks to be a common martin house in our back yard is actually more of a love shack, where sparrows court, mate, build nests and raise their little ones til they fly the coop. I could hang a "No Vacancies" sign; families have taken up residence in every cubbyhole. From the kitchen sink I watch them flirt, exchange vows (even if they are just for the season), then mating commences. God was very efficient in his design, not much time is wasted! The strings and strands of straw hanging from the ledges are signs of success. Soon busy feathered parents will fly to and from our feeder, only a few feet away, as they try to keep little beaks full. There's no rest for weary sparrows this time of year.

Great examples of a solid work ethic surround me. The squirrels, turkeys, and even momma does are all busy getting ready to raise their young. On a human level, lawn treatment trucks are starting to run up and down our streets. Neighbors are venturing out more, raking up leaves left over from last fall, shaking rugs, sprucing up their nests too.

The past few months I've spent concentrating on 'making progress every day'. The job we decided to chew on was so daunting we needed to see encouragement often, just to keep us going. Now it's time to be done with it! So we've taken on a new motto - "Get 'Er Done!" No more babying egos, or pampering tired arms and feet. It's time to finish up this inside work and get outdoors where Spring is beginning to show her face more and more by the day.

We're going to finish off March with a flurry of featherin' the nest: paint the storage room floor, the storage room walls, put the finishing touches on my sewing/craft room (so I can actually sew!), paint the stairs to the basement, then since the week doesn't hold quite enough we'll also take a meal to someone at church, get haircuts, go to a concert, celebrate our anniversary, and finish off the week with Don's knee surgery. By the time the door is closed on cold, blustery, grey March, we'll be saying 'Good Riddance!'

April - I've christened it 'white month'. Anything white in this house will get a fresh new coat of paint - baseboards and doors mostly. Then after a week of fun in the Mexican sun we'll come home to glorious late Spring/early Summer. It'll be pure pleasure to wash windows, paint the outside of the house, buy a new rug for the front porch, plant some pansies, wash down the deck furniture and fire up the grill.

If God designed birds, and squirrels, and deer, and all the other creatures of nature to be so busy this time of year, surely he didn't intend for us to be inside, just sitting on the sofa. No strings and strands of straw, but there's a nest with my name on it, just waiting for some featherin', and I plan to Get 'Er Done. Photos of gloriously finished projects to follow soon!


  posted at 11:00 PM

Sunday, March 23, 2008
When you're this little it works best to just sit on the countertop! And take your shirt clean off!
Momma and Landon checking out pretty blue eggs. Like magic, pop them in the water, swoosh them around, and they come out beautiful colors - purple, green, red, blue!

That would be an egg sticker on his little belly. It was easier to put them on him, then let him peel them off and stick them to the eggs.

In a perfect world, we would have been able to spend the day with all our kids, and their kids. Life's not perfect, so we love whoever's nearest for now. When our grandkids are grown, they probably won't remember all these precious times. But I will. Grandchildren - absolutely one of God's most precious gifts in life.


  posted at 9:58 PM

Saturday, March 22, 2008
Celebrating - He IS Risen!

  posted at 11:36 AM

Friday, March 21, 2008
Crowds, Waving Palm Fronds, Raising Angry Fists
I watched from the audience. Never a participant - acting isn't my thing. The costumes, the makeup, I loved watching it all. I imagined, if I was brave enough to join the group, what part would I choose? One with no lines for sure! A pretty costume with an exotic headdress maybe. I'd enjoy being part of the scene from the marketplace, everyone hawking their wares at once, as they sang the chorus, with the feel of one of those old musicals, except they aren't singing about washing a man out of their hair, or the hills being alive with the sound of music...

When the play spilled over into the area where the audience sat, with Jesus leading the way, and the crowds closing in, waving their palm leaves and shouting 'Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest', oh I'd love to be a part of that too. Jesus with a gentle smile on his face, waving to the people who were pressing in on him for just a touch of his cloak. I could do that!

Then Pontious Pilate stood before the crowd. He looked over them and asked, 'What shall I do then, with Jesus who is called the Christ?"

'Crucify him!' they answer.

'Why? What crime has he committed?

They don't answer (for there is none), but simply shout, 'all the louder, 'Crucify Him!'

Sitting in that audience I would zone in on a face or two, the same ones who had just been waving fronds a scene or two before, and now they were angry, accusing, literally screaming for blood. They had to play both parts. I'd think, 'I don't want that part, I can't play that part. I could wave the fronds, but surely if I lived back then, I wouldn't be the one in the crowd screaming 'Crucify'. Surely I would love him, follow him....

Ultimately even those who followed him, then stood at the foot of the cross, heartbroken, voted 'crucify'. By committing a single sin, I voted for Him to pay the price. Even if my lips would not have shouted it, my heart would have. Because I needed someone to pay the price.

'ALL the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" Then he released Barabbas, but he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified."

I'm the one waving the fronds; I'm surely also part of 'ALL the people', I'm standing there with a raised angry fist, shouting 'Crucify!' Whether I want to play that part in a play or not, I am that (wo)man. No pretty headdress, or lively background chorus can change that.

"...for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." Romans 3:23-24. In a couple of days I'll celebrate that He willingly paid the price, conquered death, rose again. For today I want to remember who I am, what I am. I'm in that angry crowd.


  posted at 7:36 AM

Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Wowser Want Ads...
We're trying to find a used ellyptical. Not just any ellyptical, but a specific brand that costs about as much, new, as a good used car. So we'd like to find it used, deeply discounted. Our weekly flyer, the Pennysaver, usually goes straight into File 13, but this week I sat down with a cup of coffee and read every single ad. Yes, it was fascinating. And no, they didn't have a single ellyptical for sale. Apparently, everyone is still hanging onto those New Year's Resolutions. I guess I need to wait a bit more for everyone to fall off the bandwagon, admit defeat and offer up for sale all that exercise equipment they bought in January. Hopefully at half the price they paid for it, just to get it out of their house and quit feeling guilty for only using it twice.

I did, however, find some great buys! How about these?

"Poo-Poo Pros, pet waste removal service. Let us do the doody work! Reasonable rates, Dependable." They don't say if it's by the day, week or pile. Two dogs, two times a day each, seven days a week, I do believe that's twenty-eight Poo-Poos... What a great job! And I'm glad they're dependable, since I can sure depend on the pets to do their business. I do hope this person didn't pay for a college degree to have this job. At $1300 a credit hour and up, that would be way too depressing.

"Rival Crockpot, brand new, BEAUTIFUL, Electric. $14." Don't you love that they think their crockpot is BEAUTIFUL! And that it's actually got a cord to plug into the wall, as opposed to I don't know what, that should help it sell quickly.

"Mausoleum crypts, Forest Lawn Gardens, Garden of Peace, Prime (side by side, 2nd level), Value $9800, asking $5800. I don't know who changed their mind about dying, nor do I quite get what makes for a 'prime' location to be stored in either. And $10,000? Are you kidding? Wow!

"Maternity clothes, Large. Great condition. $35.00." Aren't all maternity clothes large? What pregnant woman out there is really small?

"Handyman for rent. All your home repair/remodeling needs big or small. I do it all. Call Joe anytime." This one really made me smile. You don't need to hire Joe, you can just rent him, like an apartment, or a car, or a hotel, and anytime apparently. For anything. What a guy! Most repairmen I 'hire', I have to leave a message, they eventually phone back, and it takes two to three weeks to get them to come over for an estimate of the job, if they're willing to do it at all! That Joe....

How about a car? "Ford, 1996 Taurus, good condition (no major problems), high mileage, $1,000 or best offer." Shoot I could run that ad and sell me!

And maybe the best, "$ Bikini Towing $. Cash paid for unwanted vehicles! Call for pricing. 24 hours! We'll make you smile in the end!" So does that mean they tow vehicles clad in bikinis, all hours of the night and day and you'll be smiling the whole time, just from the uniforms they wear?

So, no ellyptical, but heck it was fun just looking for one. At this rate, I may keep looking for it long after we have it in our basement, dusty with outgrown clothes hung over it, just like everyone else's.


  posted at 7:14 PM

Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Eternity, Chocolate Bunnies and Plastic Eggs
It's been about 3 1/2 months since she died unexpectedly. Unexpectedly sounds funny since she was 95. We'd begun to think of her as the Energizer Bunny, just going and going. I suspect it would amuse her to know so; likely she didn't feel that way. Sometimes I thought she'd make it to membership in the centurian club. Then we'd visit and seeing her struggle, I'd wonder how she'd hung on so long. It was easy to miss the fact that the routines of life had gradually become more and more difficult, easy if you wanted to.

When I got the call from DH, "Bev, Mom didn't make it", I was surprised. Life had finally caught up with her, it had gotten to be more than she could pull off. The immediate flurry of activity, preparations, getting funeral clothes ready, making reservatations, who would care for the house and the pets while we were gone, it took all my time and emotions. My 'job' through all the saying goodbye was to be strong for Don and the kids. Then I shifted to my comfort zone - sifting through years and years of papers and belongings, watching for treasure while throwing out the no longer needed documentary of a life. Finding her marriage certificate in their first tax filing - success! Retrieving an old photo from a basket of sewing supplies - it kept me on the hunt for more treasures. After the goodbyes, we came home to Christmas upon us, then the New Year rolled in with all its resolutions, projects, plans. As it's good at doing, time began to just go by. It's not that I haven't thought of her. Phone calls and conversations about tying up the loose ends of her life have brought her to mind many times.

I just haven't missed her. Really missed her presence. Yesterday I did. For some reason, she came to mind. Not the woman with all the papers and taxes and things to deal with. Just her. I missed hearing her giggle, her eyes twinkling. I missed seeing the tissue stuffed just inside her cuff. Any lady would have a kleenex on hand! Seeing her pull up the pearly chain that hung from her neck, to put on her glasses. Having her pat someone's hand as she said goodbye, with misty eyes. She hated goodbyes.

Being the typical 95 year old, she didn't 'do' technology. We knew we'd missed her call if we came home and the answering machine had a pause then someone hanging up. But last fall she phoned our house, before DH's last visit to her, letting him know she'd reserved the room for him at the place she lived. The rare, hesitant message, "Hello, it's me. I got the room so it's ready for you. Pause. Well, good-bye." I saved it. Months before she died, I saved the message because I knew we'd treasure it down the road.

A few days ago I hit 'play', and there she was, her crackly/aged voice filling the room. With the perfect message. "Hello, it's me. I got the room so it's ready for you. Pause. Well, good-bye." Indeed she has! In just a few days she'll celebrate her first Easter in Heaven, and I can only imagine what a celebration that must be, sans chocolate bunnies and plastic eggs, but with the King of Kings right there in the middle of it all. Imagine being a part of that! She doesn't even have to fuss with baking a ham and making deviled eggs. I doubt there are deviled eggs in heaven.

Still, I miss her, her crackly voice, her heavily veined, arthritic hands patting mine. I miss seeing her eyes twinkle, in spite of the folds of thin skin that hung from them. I miss hugging her goodbye, wrapping my arms around her gently so as not to bruise. And I think about all the things we didn't do together - why on earth didn't I find out twenty years ago that she knitted, so we could share that? The knitting needle I ran across still has her work on it; it'll stay just the way it is on a shelf in my craft room, for me to treasure.

It makes me think today, right now, who's still this side of heaven that I need to call, spend time with? While she's up there getting ready for a whale of a party, we're forced to live THIS side of heaven, with chocolate bunnies, plastic eggs, baked hams, and yes, deviled eggs. So whose voice might I miss down the road? Who might miss mine? Missing her makes me think of eternal things like shopping for a ham, and making phone calls, or putting a package in the mail of plastic eggs and chocolate bunnies. Missing her makes me stop and think. As Martha would say, "it's a good thing."


  posted at 7:15 AM

Monday, March 17, 2008
Hats Off to the Little Red Hen, What a Woman!
I love 'kicks', and I think it's genetic. The proof is that my daughter, Sarah, loves them more than me, so obviously it's bad genes happily passed down the family tree. When Sarah started talking about Super Foods, I knew any subject that started with capital letters was a prime candidate for going overboard. Where's the plank, let me on the boat! I've done 'kicks' of just about everything you can think of, and cooking hasn't been spared, but this one seemed better for our overall family health than the 'make homemade ice cream which costs way more and is twice as fattening than Hagen Daas purchased at 9 p.m. at the grocery'. So I was game. I'm always game.

As I walked into Barnes and Noble to buy a book on Super Foods, Sarah phoned me, telling me I might as well go ahead and pick up another book, called Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes a Day, because it would save me a trip later, after I heard all about it. So $73.00 later, which did include renewing my membership so I can save all sorts of money at the bookstore, I drove away excited as heck about my three new books, two Super Foods and one Cool Bread Book to go with Super Foods. Where's the kitchen? Let me at it!

It took me two days to get around to making the starter for the bread. I had to warm the oven with the pizza stone and a broiler pan of hot water in it, at 450 degrees. When the fire alarm went off, DH ran up the stairs to see what on earth the Little Missus might be up to, and there I was standing waving the back door open and closed to get the smoke out. A more familiar scene than I like to admit to. So he decided to be helpful and open the front door and set it to stay that way. After we got the smoke alarm to shut off, (and good night don't they always take forever to stop!), I look up and the puppy is in the front yard, happily lopping toward the street and an oncoming car. So I present myself to the entire neighborhood with tons of class by running out in the yard screaming my head off for DH to come and H.E.L.P. M.E. get the dog, before he runs to his death. At least nobody came outside, I'm sure they were all standing behind their drapes watching to see if one of us was going to stab the other, and make tomorrow's front page.

When he comes back into the house, and the kitchen, he quietly asks what on earth am I doing? As if it should be completely obvious, I tell him, "I'm baking bread." I can only imagine what he was thinking. Dear God, thank you for a DH who can keep his thoughts to himself, as it has likely saved our marriage many times over.

Back to the kick/project - even though they suggested I let the dough (sludge) sit in the fridge at least 3 hours, or better yet, a day or so, I couldn't wait any longer, so I followed the directions, which was to cut off a grapefruit size hunk of it and shape it onto a pizza pan. Right. The glob of goo oozed out onto the pan, looking more like a funnel cake at the fair, but I figured it'd do it's thing in the oven. Not so much. It WAS a pretty color, the 1/2" tall 'loaf' (and I use that term loosely) looked like something you'd see in the streets of a tucked away village in Italy, being sold by toothless women with cloth wrapped around their heads. It was not exactly the look I was going for. For me or the bread.

Out of the oven, I sliced a piece of it to see if it could be used as bread with dipping oil. The top layer was wet and ucky, so I took it out onto the patio and the birds and squirrels have been enjoying it for days. Apparently they don't really care if their bread has any yeast action going on.

So today was attempt #2 and I was convinced since I'd left the dough in the fridge as directed, the bread gods would smile on me. Not so much. The dough did have shape to it, but Sarah had told me not to worry, just throw it in a loaf pan and it'll hold it's shape better. So I did that. I also tested the yeast which is only two years old, and after very few bubbles appeared it is now living at the bottom of the trash can. There were a few bubbles, and my expectations were low, but I figured I may as well give it a try. So I warm the oven, place the bread in the loaf pan with a pretty green spring towel over it to let it rise. When the timer went offf twenty minutes later, I turned the oven to 450 to let it warm up.

Five minutes later, with smoke pouring out of the oven, I open it to see that the green towel is now burned a nice toasty color, the bread is just sitting there in shock I guess. I pull off the burned up towel, honestly thankful there are no flames in the oven, because I can't even imagine having to call DH and tell him I've done it again. I figure I may as well continue the test, and bake the stupid bread. Thirty minutes later it came out, the same size it went in. I don't know if the yeast was just exhausted or the bread had a breakdown from trying to rise at 450 degrees.

So I don't know about this current kick. I've purchased new yeast, made a new starter batch and will give it another shot. Whether I can actually make the dough, chill the dough, shape the dough, let the dough rise, and then bake it in the oven at the right time for the right amount of time without burning the house down or killing the dog, I'm not at all convinced. I do know what my birds and squirrels are eating for dinner, again, and I have a new-found respect for the Little Red Hen. Maybe she could make better use of my Barnes and Noble membership card. I don't remember a single part of that story that said anything about almost killing another animal or burning the place to the ground.


  posted at 4:43 PM

Saturday, March 15, 2008
Why I Go To Church....
Even if the worship wasn't great (it is), even if I didn't get to hang out with friends (some have been around long enough they feel like family), even if I didn't get to love on my grandbaby every week (when he comes down the stairs smiling and holding his arms out, nothing better!), and even if I didn't usually get to go to dinner with his Daddy and Momma after church, I'd still go to church. Because I hear stuff like this:

"Why is anything we REALLY need always just beyond our control?"

"All prayer gets results, just not always the results we want. God will ALWAYS answer your prayers, but sometimes He says 'No'."

"When our greatest desires and prayers are answered with 'No', will we trust God?"

"Can you TRUST God? Can YOU trust God? Easy to say, hard to do."

"Do you believe God will give you what you NEED, instead of just what you WANT?"

"It's easy to focus on the ONE THING God didn't give me, and ignore all that He does bless me with."

Our pastor connected all that to David being told by God that he didn't get to build the temple, in spite of having great motives, the means. The answer was still no. He didn't even get to see a single stone set in place.

Then he shared the most important 'No' to a prayer request ever, in all eternity. Jesus said, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet not my will but yours be done." Luke 22:39

God said 'No'. Thank God!

That's why I go to church.


  posted at 9:51 PM

And She'll Have Fun, Fun, Fun, til Daddy takes the paintbrushes away!
Update time! How are we doing with this crazy home fix-up, remodel stuff? I'm not waking up in the middle of the night so much anymore, and I'm not sure if that's from my body telling me, "Woman, you're 52.8 years old, and you just can't do this stuff like you used to", or if I'm maybe feeling a bit less crazy over it all. I quit taking the five page spreadsheet to bed, mulling over the fun of which lovely project to take on next; it was a poor bed companion. Now I just sit up amongst pillows with my calendar and the little 'to do' cards, and try to figure out how to fit everything into the slots available.

But we're making progress! Two bedrooms are painted. Except for baseboards, and freshening up doors and windows. One has window treatments, the others are still being sewn by JCPenny and will arrive around Mother's Day. Still, at least I don't have to sew them, and that's something to be thankful for. DH suggested we pull out the bed to put the registers on the wall, but when I told him we'll have to pull it out again to paint the baseboards next month, and tried to explain that we can't paint baseboards in March, they have to wait til May, he got that eyeballs rolling in back of head look, and just said, "never mind". A little like when you are dumb enough to take them along to pick out wallpaper or shoes, and try to explain the choices.

One bathtub is re-refinished. Mr. Tubman came back yesterday, redid the area I messed up, and then very nicely asked if I'd like to see it, and he'd be happy to show me if I wouldn't be offended by having my hands tied behind my back. It looks lovely in a shiny white ceramic sort of way. I've got new border (and I know nobody really loves border these days but there's old border that is gold and will leave ugly marks on the wall and I just don't have it in me to refinish the surface of the wall after the ugly gold border comes down, so I've got new border) to put up, a nice silver/grey/marbley pattern with flecks of cocoa that will look nice with the yet to be purchased Chris Madden white and cocoa towels. I bought new 'stuff' for the bathroom - shower curtain, shower rack, wall thing to hold said towels, so it's almost done.

Mr. Bathtub Man comes back Monday to do the master bathroom ceramic shower, turning it from the minty green it is to a nice ceramic white. Then some monogrammed towels, new mat, and freshen up the trim with white paint. Somehow it always seems to end up with paint involved, but a fresh coat of paint is one of the modern miracles of man - $25 worth of liquid plastic tinted a nice color and you have a new room! So I have a love/hate relationship with paint.

The basement - getting there. This next week involves five days of painting walls, floors, stairs, trim and doors, and I think it's going to be pretty awful, but if all goes according to the schedule created while sitting up in bed at night, it should be done right around our 27th anniversary next week. When we go out to dinner, I honestly don't know which will be more worth celebrating - 27 years of wedded bliss which involved raising three kids through the college stage, or getting that danged basement done! I've dreaded this project that much. I'm happy to know houses in Texas don't even have basements!

March will be a beating, but come April 1 I have lunch with a girlfriend scheduled, and I plan to avoid a paintbrush the entire month, fussing with some of the more fun aspects of fixing up a house, like a trip to Ross or T J Maxx or Tuesday Morning to find fun things for walls, or funky sculptures for the living room or a new door mat. I'm not sure these knees could handle three months straight of painting, so they're taking a month-long sabbatical.

April 27 we're high-tailing it out of here completely - heading to Riveria Maya in Mexico, for a week at an all-inclusive hotel on the white sand beaches, (little photo of our hotel shown - feel free to drool) where we plan to flop our mostly white, mostly untoned bodies down with a book and spend the week taking in more calories than we burn. Because we don't even want to think about May - paint the house, mulch the flower beds, plant flowers, paint the picket fence, put railing on the deck after we repair and paint it.

Yeah, let's not talk about May. Tunnel vision can be a very lovely thing. I may even live in denial, celebrate April Fool's Day by getting my claws manicured.


  posted at 9:53 AM

Friday, March 14, 2008
Sincerely Yours
I could have turned off the light, made up for some of that missed sleep. Instead I stayed up and reread "Gift from the Sea". I've neglected this book, let it sit on the shelf next to shells as part of my decor, rather than wearing it out with re-rereading. Anne Morrow Lindberg spent days at the ocean, thinking deep thoughts, then wrote of the clarity that came; how wonderful it is, how rich in wisdom.

Speaking on relationships, she said, "The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere. That is why so much of social life is exhausting; one is wearing a mask. I have shed my mask."

Oh Anne, I envy you.

Thinking back to company dinners, with the worry of 'am I wearing the right thing?', or having friends over for dinner, going out to dinner, or that most intimidating, meeting at someone's country club, the angst I've felt. Worried about presenting myself a certain way, rather than just relaxing and being me. Holding up a mask for hours, days, years on end, is exhausting. Mask-wearing usually sent me home tired rather than refreshed.

Casual coffee with girlfriends, or sewing across a table from each other, or worshiping next to someone in church, driving in my car with the windows down on a spring day and the music on the radio is just too good to not join in! Oh but someone may see me, hear me. What will they think? What a burden to take it on, but I do. I wonder, do others? Do most?

Those company dinners - what if I'd just been myself, better yet, what if I'd been really radical, focused on everyone else and not me at all? Wouldn't that have been freeing, energizing?

What if, at all those get-togethers, we sat with real masks on. Masks that cover our eyes, cover up what we're really thinking, feeling, wanting, needing. We'd think it ridiculous to sit around, looking at each other through masks. What if everyone but me wore a mask? How frustrating to try to relate, connect!

And what about all those times God puts me with other humans he values just as much as me, and wonder of wonders He gave them personalities that aren't exactly like mine, then he accessorized them with different opinions? What if I throw caution to the wind, grab hold of the freedom to just be me, let them be who they are, in other words - get over myself, and enjoy the smorgasborg in life He's offering me?

Masks - great for Mardi Gras, or maybe Halloween. Not so much for rubbing elbows with others. How he must shake His head at me, when He sees me worn out from the burden of holding up a mask, of living insincerely.

Like Anne, I don't want to be the one in the room with the mask on. I want my face, my real face to show - every little line around my eyes or mouth, the wrinkles on my forehead that hopefully are more the result of gut-laughing than fretting. I want them to see the bit of padding from too many servings of fettuccine alfredo and cheesecake rather than cottage cheese, and the freckles from too much time in the sun; the circles under my eyes from late nights up with a baby, or waiting for a teenager, or long talks with my lifemate. I want it all to show, and I want to see it in others God puts in my path.

Living sincerely, with no masks - how novel, how refreshing, how freeing!


  posted at 8:13 AM

Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Speaking Volumes with Silence

It's been a bit busy around here. I don't remember more than a week ago, but a week ago we had family come for a visit. Just like Lawrence Welk, all I can say is "wonderful, wonderful", and if you can envision tiny bubbles in the air it will help with the mental imagery. But having company, and they aren't really company, still tends to trash the house, the car, the budget, the diet. Because being tidy and frugal and all those things would have taken way too much of our time. So I spent Monday taking family back to the airport, then ran errands the rest of the day. Tuesday, hop out of bed, run to Bible study, then lunch afterwards to celebrate the end of the Bible study season, head to the travel agency and make reservations (more about that later!), and then coffee with girlfriends to meet a new grandbaby. Home too late to cook, so we go out - again, then stop by the exercise place to price ellypticals to burn off all the meals we've been eating out and I'm pretty sure it's way cheaper to be flabby. Home too late, to bed too late, to get up too early to leave the house at 7:30 a.m. for another day away from home.

A lovely day away at a quilting conference, ride the trolley back by myself, jump in my car and hurry home to meet Mr. Bathtub Refinisher at the front door. The dogs have been in dog jail all day long and are looking at me with floating eyeballs, so I hurry to let them out, then back inside to talk to Mr. Bathtub Man. He's sooooo proud of his work repainting my a-long-time-ago peach bathtub that he refinished for us 11 years ago for $300 and this time it's $450, but he'd love for me to see the work he spent the entire day doing, while wearing his space suit, with the hose going out the front of the house to keep from killing him and the pets. And, by the way, I need my toothbrush and toothpaste, makeup, hair dryer, etc. because I cannot step a foot in this room for two days.

So he peels the plastic off the doorway, lets me go through ahead of him, and he follows me into my massive 6x6 bathroom to appreciate his work. I peer over the tub to check and see that the flooring didn't get any of this heavy-duty epoxy paint on it. As I lean, I naturally balance myself on the edge of the tub. My hand on the edge of the tub.

The edge of the tub he just finished painting which is still very wet and is now sticking to the undersides of my fingers and my palm. I just stop - freeze. Lift my hand. Don't talk.

"Oh Michael!" (alias Mr. Bathtub Man)

"How bad is it?"

"It's not good - I can see my handprint. Oh Michael."


So after he assures me he can come back on Friday and instead of finishing the job to make the bathroom usable, he will now sand down the edge of the tub, repaint it, blah blah blah and it won't be usable til Monday, I just keep apologizing, wanting to melt into the bathroom floor. He worked all day, and I know we're paying him, but he worked ALL DAY, and I trashed it in approximately 5 seconds.

So I go outside, continue to apologize, and stand and chat with him and his helper while they smoke several cigarettes and I just stand there with the puffs around my head, because I need to be very gracious.

Because I'm an idiot. And I need to SLOW DOWN. And if there is any sermon in all of this, beyond the lesson of possibly living a life that is a bit less jam-packed, I won't quickly forget the grace that bear of a man extended to me with his silence. It spoke volumes - that he didn't say what he undoubtedly was thinking.

Worth remembering. After he repairs the damage I did, I'll still remember grace, spoken through silence.


  posted at 5:22 PM

Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Family Photo Album
This one's for family! Photos from our visit with son Dan and his lovely wife, Janae. If you aren't in our family tree, it might be a bit boring. Feel free to move on guilt-free. However, if you're a grandmother, aunt, sister, etc. I think you'll enjoy them.

Being a Texas native, Janae has only gone sled-riding a few times. We got a few inches of snow and before we could clear the driveway, Dan grabbed a sled out of the shed and off she went. One of the very few benefits of having a 'down-driveway' as we call them here. I didn't capture the photo of her running into the house! We kept yelling "steer" but she said she had no clue how to do that...

Taken in our back yard next to the shed, but we cropped that out! She's about the same size as me (minus 20+ lbs!) so she was able to wear my snow pants, vest, gloves, etc.

Family dinner looking out over the city of Pittsburgh at night, celebrating Don's 57th birthday. Great, great evening! That's - starting left, SIL Jeremy, daughter Leslie, me, Don, son Dan, and DIL Janae.

Dan and Janae reunited with their buddy Dublin, enjoying playing in the snow on the deck. They were shocked at how big he'd gotten in the past six months.

Don and I squeezed in a night at the symphony. We don't get this cleaned up very often.

Janae was a champ at snuggling Landon to sleep on the sofa. Pretty cute photo I think!

Landon's baby dedication - here he's flatly refusing to go to our Sr. Pastor. After getting rejected twice with a resounding "NO", Pastor Ron just gathered everyone and prayed.

Landon enjoying a piece of his dedication cake. He likes icing a lot! Spiffy new outfit to celebrate the occasion.

And finally, (sans outfit), the proper way to enjoy a family spaghetti dinner. Strip down, and dig in!


  posted at 8:20 AM

Monday, March 10, 2008
Coming Up For Air
Taking deep breaths, making lists, Bob is taking Baby Steps. We'll be caught up around here in just a bit.

There's not an I in the place that is dotted, but man was it worth it! Photos, stories, news - all to follow!


  posted at 7:52 PM

Tuesday, March 04, 2008
It's so nutty around here I'm beginning to feel like a squirrel! The house is a disaster, although it's actually in the 'almost done' stage, at least this episode. But it's pretty darned bad right now - and we've got our kids coming in tomorrow night - Dan hasn't been home since August and Janae hasn't been here in well over a year. Any seasoned mom whose kids have flown the nest knows, when they come home - you stop. Not everything, but everything you can. So I'm taking a break, for the next 24 hours to try to clean up a bit, buy some groceries, and get this place put together a bit, then for the next five days to just love on our kids. We've got a baby dedication, the symphony, dinner out to celebrate Don's birthday, probably some big breakfasts, late nights with movies, and too many calories.

So I'll be back next week, to tell you all about my water diet. And hopefully some photos of the post Humpty-Dumpty, put back together version of this place, and all the warm fuzzies we had together.

There's nothing as great as when your kids move out and are all independent, self-supporting grown ups, except maybe when they come home for a vist.


  posted at 7:16 PM

Monday, March 03, 2008
Spring is in the Air
We hit 67 degrees today, and just as I suspected I saw crazy people in capris, sandals, and I could hear commuters belting out oldies from their semi-rolled down windows. Ahhhhh, denial! We're all pretending it's Spring, just for a bit.

We're actually surrounded by all sorts of signs - here's what I've been observing lately:

On the hopeful level:

Snow shovels, snow blowers, scrapers, coats, gloves, boots - all on sale at Sears!

People have quit wearing coats, completely ignoring that it's still freezing outside. There is no scarf cute enough that you don't tire of it after five months of wearing it wrapped around your neck, draped over your head and shoved down your jacket.

Kids are starting to hang around outside after school. I even saw some un-bundled up kid riding a crazy striped skateboard in the middle of the street today.

Birds, mating, right past our deck, at the Love Motel we put up for them a few years back. Very amusing to watch, and conjures up all sorts of thoughts that will never hit this blog.

Everywhere I go, women about to burst with pregnancy - just like spring rabbits, chicks, kittens, here come babies! Makes me count back nine months and wonder what on earth was going on? Did we all have a long power outage?

Easter and communion dresses, short sleeved tops, shorts, and horror of horror - bathing suits, the shelves and racks at the stores are full of them.

Easter dishes, easter baskets, those marshmallow things that I find hard to believe anyone really eats, easter grass, jelly beans, easter oreos, easter is abounding.

Patio furniture, new grills, seeds for the garden, all at the local hardware, along with garden hoses, grass seed, and new lawn mowers in all sizes and prices.

Now for a dose of reality:

Tomorrow is rain, the next is rain mixed with snow, the high this Saturday is 23 degrees. Keep the shovels, rock salt, and scrapers.

We can start wearing the new cute spring fashions, being brave enough to expose to the world our lily-white legs and freeze to death, or we can be reasonable and grab that stupid coat and gloves we're sick to death of. 23 degrees is not warm enough to live in denial.

Three or four days from now all those crazy kids will be home with another virus, driving their mothers stark-raving mad. They all got out of their houses just long enough to share the freshest crop of germs. Love those spring flu germs!

I don't know whoever said, or thought, that birds only mate in spring. Those crazy birds do it all summer long! Many fill the nest three times. That says something about either hormone levels or mortality rates of birds, I'm not sure which.

Easter will likely be, this year as the many that have preceeded it, freezing and wet. Even when Easter hits in April, Pittsburgh isn't known for great egg hunts outside, rather for finding that lone egg in the sofa a few weeks after the hunt is over. Take a tip from me if you live in a cold climate, number the eggs or at least count them! You'll be sorry if you don't do this and end up with an indoor hunt. I speak from experience.

We won't be able to sit out on our patios, grilling burgers and eating watermelon for at least two months to come. Right now the patio furniture is either covered up with ice and snow and the yuck that has rained down all winter, or it's deep inside the basement, nowhere near ready to be dragged out to the patio.

And if I am dumb enough to venture out to the garden, checking out the little green shoots coming up out of the ground, I'm going to have to walk across the doggie section of our estate. That alone will tell me that those tracks being brought in by the two four-leggeds in this house, they're not that deep rich earth Pearl S. Buck referred to. I think they're a bit more organic than that. Give me either freezing January, when the ground is hard and solid and we're all safely inside in our jammies, or move me right on to Hot August, when the ground is dried up and cracked, and anything that lands on my lawn is baked completely dry within hours.

Spring? I don't think so, and even if it is, in my book it's a bit over-rated.


  posted at 10:43 PM

Saturday, March 01, 2008
Let Them Go, Let God.
All $400 worth of that little blue '62 Ford Falcon sat buried up to her eyebrows in snow. Too much dust has settled on the 'how' and 'why' she got there for me to ever remember. She belonged to me, and it was my job to get her back home.

I don't remember many spankings. When Mom did get mad we'd sometimes laugh at the sight of a tiny woman fussing and fuming at the lot of us six kids. Maybe she didn't discipline much because she was so outnumbered. She was a bit of a pushover truth be told, but she could dig her heels.

That's exactly what she did. My car was stuck in a snowbank as tall as me, and I was scared to drive it home. I tried to convince her we could just leave it til the snow melted and the streets were clear. She didn't budge. I remember grabbing a shovel, digging it out, and somehow I got it home. I don't recall all the details, but life lessons don't need every detail intact to stick with you.

Sometimes you have to do the hard things in life. Sometimes nobody else can do them for you. Even if they gave birth to you, even if everything in them wants to save you from whatever hard thing it is that has your name all over it.

I'm done with that time of raising children, making them do the hard things. Now it's just part of them being adults. The three kids I raised get up every day, take care of the kids they chose to have, pay the bills they made, work at jobs they went to school to earn the right to go to, invest in marriages they committed to. They forge friendships, buy and sell houses, make moves, they've all signed on to fully live the adult lives they were so anxious to start when they were all about 15 years old. And they don't dodge the hard parts. They aren't calling on the phone, trying to figure a way out of whatever got dished up and served as the challenge of the day, albeit a sick child, grouchy boss, flat tire or all three.

Back in 1976, laboring to produce my first child, they had to throw that same mother of mine out of the hospital labor room three times. She couldn't do it for me, but she sure tried to get as close to me as she could. Too close, apparently. The last time she ventured too near, I believe they mentioned security guards...

It's not them asking, it's the mother in me, in her, in you, that never stops wanting. Much like that Energizer Bunny, we just don't stop - hovering, watching, wanting, yearning, leaning in and holding our breath in the stands.

My mom couldn't do the labor, literally the hard part, the work, of bringing a child into the world. Likely after doing it six times herself, she wasn't really volunteering to do so. Being a mother for three decades now, I understand she just needed to be there for me. To support, and fret, and pray, as I did what nobody else could. I had to do the hard thing, go through the labor then the hours of pushing, to birth that child. I've had four of those days myself. Four days waiting for my child to birth a child, days when doing the labor myself might have been less painful than knowing what they were enduring.

I've also learned if someone had stepped in, signed up to take over for me, I would have been robbed of that feeling of elation, of triumph. By gosh, I did it! Little me, this 20 year old woman/child. Look what I can accomplish! Still, my mom stood by as close as she could get, cheering me on even when I couldn't hear her voice. I knew she was there. When my children were having children, they knew I was 'there' too, even 1200 miles away. I was right there next to them inside. My sister's daughter will deliver a bouncing baby girl, Avery, on Monday, and everything in me knows how both of them is feeling. I've done both - bringing forth the child, and then standing on the sidelines waiting while that child brings forth hers. Mothering and mothering.

This mothering thing gets ahold of you so tight, so hard, so deep - you never stop wanting to take away the hard parts, do it for them, or at least make it easier. You want to step in everywhere you shouldn't, or at least more than you should. Because you did it for so long, anything else goes against everything inside you. When they're 25 or 28 or 32 it doesn't feel much different, wanting them to have great friends, or a successful career, or purpose in life, than it did when you worried if they'd have someone to sit next to on the bus, or would they be asked to the Winter Dance, or would they make the cut on the basketball team. Would the teacher be nice, would their score be enough to get into that school? Would they make the right choice, stand alone when they needed to? Would they learn the lesson when they didn't?

One thing I didn't know about mothering back then, but learned from years spent completely covered up in it 24/7 - it never, ever gets easy to step back, and let them do the hard things. Let them be separate from you, watch them slide from being your child to becoming that adult you raised who is a child of God. How my mother must have wanted to just scrape off the snow, put the key in and drive us home, that snowy day in Denver so many years ago. But she didn't.

That day she let me see I was capable of harder things than I thought I was. Today, that lesson still reminds me my 'kids' are too. Let them go, let God. Let them go, let God. When my mother-in-law was in her mid-90's and we'd get ready to fly home, she'd make her son, who just happened to be my mid-50's husband, promise to call her when we arrived safely. He was still her little boy, and she'd fret til she heard he was fine. At 52 I still do it. At 95 I apparently still will.

It never gets easy. Let them go, let God.


  posted at 10:00 AM

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