Wednesday, December 12, 2012

14 Days Until Christmas



Monday, December 10, 2012

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Snow tonight?

It is supposed to snow tonight and tomorrow. Will we be lucky enough to wake up to a winter wonderland?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

15 Years Old: The Magic Number

"Most of your values, attitudes, and expectations have been locked in by the time you're 15."*

Adversity shapes you so...

"What kinds of adversity did you go through when you were 15?"*

I'll include ages 10 up to 15.

Age 10: We lived in Cameroon and I was at boarding school in Nigeria. We cut my long hair so that I could take care of it myself. I was so excited! But moving from home school with Mom to taking care of myself, living in a house full of kids that I wasn't related to, and to a classroom of 33 kids where I had to compete for attention was definitely adversity.

Age 11: We moved back to the States for a year. There was culture shock, culture bullies (you DO NOT talk about an exotic home town with exotic foods and exotic friends without consequences), and the media constantly spouting murder and mayhem. We traveled regularly to churches and had to stand up on display while the people gaped at us and asked for stories of exotic places, exotic food, and exotic people.

Age 12: We were back in Nigeria and I was back at boarding school again with a very abusive teacher. If I did bad on a pop quiz or a test I found myself lined up with a few other classmates outside the closet waiting for my turn to get paddled. As if beating a kid and making them live with constant fear will make them do better on their next test. There were bullies, too. Kids who were as miserable as I was and took it out on the younger ones.

Age 13: Finally, I had a great teacher, some great friends, and the guys started asking me out. Whoohoo!

Age 14: Dad had a bad accident and we were uprooted instantly back to the States taking with us only what would fit in a suitcase. Being the oldest I helped take care of my little brother and sister on the way home while Mom took care of Dad. We lived with Grandma and went to school while Mom and Dad stayed in another state for medical treatment. At school everyone had already been told I was different and so I navigated the culture bullies again and spent a lot of time at the library trying to learn as much as I could about American culture so I could blend in or disappear. At the same time political upheaval was taking place in Nigeria and I was worried about my friends and if any of the violence would affect them. The news on TV was all about the Americans that were taken hostage in Iran and the Mount St. Helen's eruption.

Age 15: We finally moved into a house and were a family again. Dad still had physical issues that we all had to get used to and I began to get the hang of blending in and disappearing into American culture.

So if my values, attitudes, and expectations are set by 15 then I value blending in and disappearing, I have an attitude of constant survival, and I expect things to always be in upheaval.

That's about right and I'm all worn out from it.

*Quotes from Jeff Vankooten in "You Are Who You Were When"

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Promised Land Ahoy!

9 weeks and 5 days until freedom.

Happy dance!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Scars

I work with a writer who is brilliant. She's a down to earth, normal, every day person, but she's a genius with words. Somehow she always manages to write what I think but don't know how to say.

I read one of her stories and one paragraph spoke to so many things in my life that I highlighted it. I ran across it again today.

"I wanted my outside to match my inside. Inside, I felt battered and lost and sad and tired. I wanted to see bruises and scrapes and black eyes and broken limbs. I dreaded going home with no scars that could be seen. Scars would remind people that I was changed. The sameness would make them forget."

I'm still struggling with turmoil from the fire that burned all the trees on the mountain behind our house, caused the evacuation of 32,000 people in my city, and destroyed 346 homes in my neighborhood. I still have a home and my immediate neighborhood is untouched. In fact, the devastation doesn't start until about 3-4 blocks from my house.


Stand in my driveway and all you can see are homes, people, deer, green trees, green lawns, flower gardens, dogs, cats, and all the other things that are part of a normal neighborhood.

But go down half a block and you see the mountain with its black, burned sticks and the massive quarry that stood in the way, giving the firefighters a chance to keep the fire from destroying us.

Yet, there is evidence in small bits here and there that we were indeed granted exceptional mercy. The chunk of charcoal in my garden and the burn streak in a neighbor's driveway. The small, burned bits of wood that floated down into our yards after the heat left them and they lost their loft.

I have friends who are affected more. One lost her home completely and one still has a home that is surrounded by the rubble and ash of her neighbor's homes.

Who am I to suffer so? And yet I do. Like my writer coworker I feel that external scars would somehow make it easier by bearing witness to the internal ones.




Friday, September 07, 2012

Oximoron

Today I received an email through Linked In from a person who used to work in my group. The email was advertising a book that she helped write about how to create a positive work environment.

It was a good thing I didn't have anything in my mouth because I would have choked. As it was I exclaimed so loud it got the attention of my team mates as far as four cubicles away. "______ wrote a book on creating a positive work environment!"

"What? No way! That's hilarious."

I briefly considered forwarding the email, but realized that it could inadvertently go viral. Not for good reasons.

The reason for the strong reactions is that this person was poison to our group. We (each of us and as a group) suffered from serious post traumatic stress after she finally left. I'm not kidding. It was that bad. It took us a year before we finally felt we were free of her and her damage.

All of us had gone to people over her head with no result. We had all gone to HR with no result. She could bad mouth, yell, throw tantrums, bad talk team mates, shout down clients, do whatever she wanted, but we couldn't get rid of her. It didn't matter that she didn't yell or trash all of us. Those who didn't have it directed right at us had to watch it happen to team mates knowing there was nothing we could do. We had to listen to it day in and day out.

It's not like no one knew what was going on. She wasn't quiet and we all put in complaints. We still don't know why no one would fire her. I could guess, but I'm not going to open that can of worms.

So in reading her Linked In email I have to wonder if she even realized what she did to us. Does she see herself as the victim and we were the perpetrators? Was she oblivious to what she was doing? Perhaps she was suffering and needed help, but sadly her way of coping not only shut us all out, it made us her victims. 

I could probably find a lot of reasons why she was so horrible. However, whatever her reasons or perspectives, it doesn't change the damage she did or the abusive choices that she made. Yes, she was (is?) an abuser.

We're so often leery of that word. It's so negative. And yet I can't help but feel if our directors and HR had understood that word and allowed themselves to use it things would have been very different. They could have stopped her abuse by either firing her or getting her the help that she needed.

I do know that about a year after she quit she wanted to come back. She called someone she hadn't managed to alienate during her time here and he had to tell her that she could never come back. She'd burned all her bridges. I wonder what she thought about that.

So, her writing a book about creating a positive work environment is funny in a very sad sort of way. I just hope its genuine. I do know that I think she should send us all an apology.

P.S. You're probably wondering why I'm connected to her on Linked In. Unlike her, I don't like to make a habit of burning bridges. Also, I have learned from experience that abusers are also victims who are passing on what they learned. So I keep that connection to her in order to keep that bridge from falling apart completely. I have to confess I'm also curious. Besides, didn't someone once say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer?


Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Year in 40 Seconds

I ran across this video and instantly loved it. What a creative way to show the beauty of the seasons.

 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

One Month Later

Yesterday was the 1 month anniversary for the start of the Waldo Canyon fire and the day we evacuated. Thursday is the 1 month anniversary of the day it jumped Queens Canyon and came down the mountainside into our side of the city.

Looking back is kind of surreal. We've had some rain since then, but the temps and dryness is back to where it was during the fire. Everyday I leave work through the door facing the mountains. The one I stood at as I watched the flames come over.

One of the things I've been reflecting on ties back to when I was 13, almost 14 years old. That was when we left Africa in a hurry.

My Dad was on his motorcycle headed into the bush to visit a remote village when he hit a pothole hidden on the other side of a rise. The bike flipped dumping him hard on the ground and then landing on him resulting in severe broken bones and burns from the hot tailpipe. The next seven hours were spent getting him to a hospital via at least 3 different modes of transportation. The hospital had an X-ray machine, but no way to develop the film. So it was sent over the border to another hospital where the doctors there looked at it and conversed over a radio. Mom could hear them, but had no way to respond. Bottom line, Africa didn't have the level of care that Dad needed.

Mom and my 7 year old sister packed up our house in 3 days. Then they headed to Jos via a 3 hour drive on 4-wheel-drive roads and a 4 hour flight in a small plane. My 8 year old brother and I were in boarding school in Jos and when Mom, Dad, and my sister got there we found out we were going back to the States. All we could take was what fit in a suitcase. We thought we would come back, but we never did. We left things that I often think about and sometimes wish I had; especially when I see what others have from growing up that I don't.

A month ago, when we were walking around the house pulling together what we thought we should take to evacuate, we were thinking in terms of 3 days. One thing I realize now is that I also got into the same mindset I had when we left Africa. Only one suitcase. That is all I could think of. So I took enough clothes for 3 days, my computer, and only a very few things that were precious to me. The things I had brought with me from Africa in that one suitcase, the jewelry my husband has made for me, and a couple other things.

Fortunately, my husband doesn't suffer from the same barriers and history that I do. He took out 3 loads in the truck, including things that I should have grabbed and didn't think of until he had done it for me. He grabbed my spinning wheel and the stuff that went with it including the project itself. That moved me to tears because I didn't realize it was precious until I saw that he had grabbed it. He also grabbed all of my jewelry. All of it, not just some. He's bought a lot of it as gifts for me. He knew that some of the things I had left were precious and didn't need to be left behind.

So sometimes the past can come in and limit us but then there is often someone, usually a spouse or other loved one, who comes in and fills in the gaps for us.

A month later, life has mostly returned to normal around us. But there is a friend who lost her home in that fire and she has no family here to help her. So the loved ones helping fill in the gaps in her life are her friends and team mates. We've sifted through the ashes of her house looking for things and now we are helping her take time to work through insurance issues and other paperwork. And when the time comes, we'll help her get new winter clothes, new furniture, and new memories to replace the ones lost.

That's what love is for. Taking care of one another.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday With Advocates

Today is the Advocate Conference at Compassion International and my job was to show off and explain the DIY displays we developed.

A few months ago we were approached by the Advocate's marketing group to create some easy to make displays that would cost $30 or less. We did, then wrote instructions for building them and talking points that help the Advocates to talk about wholistic child development in a way people can understand.

Today we are showing them what they can do and where they can get what they need to get started. I'm excited to see what people do with it!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

3 Weeks After the Fire

Tuesday (July 17th) was the 3 week anniversary for the day that the Waldo Canyon Fire jumped Queens Canyon and came down the mountain to the northwest side of Colorado Springs.

Tuesday was also the day I went with my coworkers to work as a volunteer with Samaritan's Purse to sift through the ashes of our friend's home. We arrived at the designated meeting point at 7:30 a.m. to fill out paperwork, get instructed, and receive our t-shirts. From there we drove to a second meeting point. There we were given more instructions and carpooled up the hill to where our friend's home is.


When we got there I took a few photos of what I saw around me. Mostly it looked like this one. Grey foundations filled with ashes, rubble, and rusted metal. At first that was all you could see, then we started seeing what some of that stuff actually used to be. Cars in garages, a vending machine, washers, driers, stoves, pipes...

We were given tyvec suits and face masks to wear since the fire reached temperatures of between 2000 and 2700 degrees in these homes. That kind of heat can change chemical compositions and make things that used to be harmless into things that are toxic.






These two photos are from the Samaritan's Purse Facebook page.


Our friend wanted to find 2 things in particular. Her cast iron skillet and her mother's wedding rings. So since the kitchen had been above the basement, a group went down there and shifted the rubble of a bedroom that had been above the kitchen. They found quite a bit down there including the cast iron skillet, a filing cabinet with papers still in it, a Bible, a cookbook, and a lot of porcelain both broken and intact. The rest of us looked for the wedding rings. The bedroom had been on the second floor above the bathroom and mudroom. So we sifted through that and found fingernail polish bottles, some shells (intact) that had been decoration in the bathroom, a pile of tiles over what had been the bathtub, buttons, zippers, and scraps of cloth from a closet, some costume jewelry, and finally the wedding rings. They were still in the jeweler's box and were covered in ashes. But when the ashes were brushed away, both rings were there with minimal damage.

Sifting through ashes is probably a lot like how they do archaeology. A person with a shovel very gently gathers a pile and puts it in a wood frame with a mesh bottom. Two people agitate the frame to get the ash to fall into the bucket or wheelbarrow then look through the rubble that is left for anything that might be an object that survived. When you're done, you dump the rubble into the bucket with the ash and begin with a fresh batch from the shovel.

I only did a half day. It's hard work and I knew I wouldn't have the physical stamina to go all day. I went home after eating lunch with the others at the second meeting place and took a nap. I was wiped out physically and emotionally.

I'm still tired. I'm still not sleeping as well as I need to. Last night I couldn't get to sleep for awhile again. Then I woke up at 6 a.m. this morning smelling smoke. It was only the remnant smell of the burned areas around our neighborhood, but the instincts don't register it that way. I got up and turned the fan off and it smelled like home again, but I couldn't go back to sleep.

Friday, July 06, 2012

My Last 2 Weeks

Life hasn't exactly been normal around here.

The story begins on Saturday, June 23rd, 2012. Honey and I went out to run errands and noticed smoke over in the mountains above Garden of the Gods around the middle of the day. It started out as very black and we initially thought that maybe a car on Hwy 24 (Ute Pass) had caught fire or something. Throughout the afternoon, while we ran errands, it got whiter and bigger. By the time we got home, the plume had gotten quite large. We turned on the TV and heard that there were evacuations in place. By late afternoon they had mandatory evacuations starting about a mile south of our home all the way down to Old Colorado City. Our area was under voluntary evacuation.

Due to how confusing the evacuation press conference was, it wasn't clear for about an hour if we were part of the mandatory area or voluntary. We decided to go ahead and evacuate to my parent's home that evening. We gathered the cat, clothing for 3 days, the laundry, some mementos and other things dear to us, and important stuff like our computers, the bills, etc.

Later that evening we figured out that we were in the voluntary evac area, but decided to stay where we were at. Sunday, the 24th, we returned to our house, cleared out food from the fridge, grabbed more clothes and a few other things. Monday evening Honey decided to go back to the house and stayed the night there. He worked from home Tuesday the 26th since his work was in the mandatory evacuation area. Later in the afternoon he took another load of things out since the fire was getting closer on the other side of the ridge. He went straight back and got home just as the fire came down and over going 65 miles an hour. He quickly loaded a few more things, checked to be sure that our neighbor's wife had gotten home to collect her husband all right, and left. He just missed the traffic jam out of our area.

Meanwhile, I was standing outside work watching the flames rapidly descending the mountainside toward our neighborhood. That's something I will never forget. There is a large quarry right above our neighborhood and I realized that it might be the only way our house could survive. Honey called and asked me to head to Mom and Dad's house right away. 15 minutes later the whole city was engulfed in thick black smoke and stayed that way for about 30-45 minutes. It very got difficult to breathe.


The flames were diverted by the quarry like a rock in a river. They went primarily to the south side and right into a very highly populated area called Mountain Shadows. A small piece was diverted to the north.

The southern diversion is the most tragic. Many aerial photos have been posted on-line by the Denver Post and others that show that area. It is startling and amazing to see both the devastation of what was destroyed and the miracle of what was saved. Those fire fighters worked with super human strength, intelligence, and determination to save anything that could be saved. And I am thankful to them beyond words.

We could find no formal confirmation in the form of photos that our house was okay, but we had a lot of hope from many sources. The first came from Dad. He has been volunteering with the Sheriff's office and checked where the fires were at. He confirmed that our neighborhood was safe. Wednesday morning the updated maps of the fire were posted and that also indicated that our neighborhood was untouched. Also, no news was good news. The photos and videos that surfaced focused on the homes that burned. No one was talking about our neighborhood. And finally, a neighbor up the hill from us checked on his air conditioning and found it still working. Apparently he had just installed a new one and he can control it remotely from his phone. It struck him to check and when it told him that the temperature was 72 degrees in his house (meaning the WiFi is working and the house is still there) he turned it off. No need to cool an empty house.

So we waited. There were still fires and hotspots to worry about. But we got a little rain, it wasn't as windy, and was a little less hot. That seemed to help. Later the fire shifted in the other direction so that the city of Woodland Park was added to the evacuations of western Colorado Springs, Ute Pass towns of Green Mountain Falls, Cascade, Chipita Park, and the northern towns of Monument and Palmer Lake.

I ran out of adrenalin Thursday evening, the 28th, and kept going purely out of stubbornness. Maybe the list was what deflated me. The list of streets with homes lost was posted that day and our street wasn't on it. That made it official that we still had a house.

Sunday, the 30th, we were given permission to return to our home to stay. Not knowing what to expect, we bought a bunch of baking soda products to help deodorize the house. I just naturally assumed everything would smell like smoke.

We pulled into our neighborhood a little before 8pm and it was rather surreal. It was so normal. Our neighborhood is hemmed in on all sides. Ridges running off the mountain to the north and south, the mountain on the west, and a bluff on the east. From our house, you couldn't see the devastation on the southern ridge. So the one indicator of a fire were the charred sticks on the mountain above the quarry.


There was all this turmoil of emotions and stress I was dealing with inside and it just didn't match what we saw.

The house was just as we left it...messy. The winter clothes that I was going to put away were still on the couch. The weeds in the yard kept growing even though we've had little to no moisture. The kitchen was still dirty from day we left. The bed was still unfixed. There was no hot water yet. They were going to go around to turn on the gas and light each pilot light Monday afternoon, but they didn't make it to our house before Honey had to leave.

Tuesday night we visited home and began doing some of the chores left undone. When I returned to Mom and Dad's house and went to bed, I quickly drew what I kept trying to sort out in my mind.


I drew our house down in the corner, small with bright green trees surrounding it, untouched and pristine. Above it rages the fire with the quarry overshadowing and protecting my home. In my mind I kept seeing the flames and then our green, beautiful neighborhood. In the drawing I was able to put those thoughts together in a way that made sense.

We returned Wednesday, July 4th, to continue cleaning and getting the smoke smell out of the carpet. That evening we went to the Waldo Canyon Fire Benefit Concert with Mom and Dad. They offered free tickets online and I decided we needed something fun to do. The Flying W Wranglers, Michael Martin Murphy, the Philharmonic, Isaac Slade, and Flash Cadillac performed. The rather astonishing thing about it is that the sponsors are....drum roll please....Focus on the Family and The Independent. Those two organizations are about as far apart as you can get on just about every level. Amazing what happens when crisis strikes. When it was over we were amazingly relaxed and refreshed. And we had been told that the fire was 100% contained in Colorado Springs and 90% contained in the county.

I woke up more refreshed on Thursday morning than I had since we had evacuated. And now it's Friday, July 6th, and we're going home to stay tonight. Mercifully, we still have one when so many others don't.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Die Cry

When we lived in Africa we experienced something called a die cry.

When someone dies ululating spreads from the place of death to the loved ones and community. The ululating functions as a way to announce the death, the beginning of grieving, and an invitation to their community to grieve with them.

We really don't have that in the States. We are very stoic, reserved, and magnificent avoiders of grief. We try to rely on meaningless words about a hopeful future or a fulfilled past in order to avoid the glaring need of the moment. Just grieving, crying. Howling in the depth of the pain.

Yesterday my friend found out that the dear child in her womb has died. So I'm sending up a die cry. Please join me in weeping at her loss. There are no words. Only weeping will suffice.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Old Letters

Mom uncovered another batch of letters from Africa. Letters she wrote to her family in the States. So tonight I'm sorting them by date in order to put them into a new scrapbook.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Travel Funnies

I'm traveling this week and I love to watch the world go by. Inevitably there are things or people who amuse me.

On this trip I traveled to New Orleans via Houston. The Houston airport was where I saw some funnies.

Now, when traveling through Texas you just have to expect to see "important" guys in hats and boots and I saw several of them, seeming traveling together, in the Houston airport. They all had their boots, straw hats, and prize belt buckles on. That wasn't the funny part since, being from Colorado, that's not particularly unusual. What was funny wasn't even the fact that they were wearing jeans with their suit jackets. We do that in Colorado, too.

What was funny was the crisply press jeans. Jeans weren't made to be pressed. Even funnier were the fade lines from the pressing. Yes, they've had those jeans press (and starched?) so many times that the crease was faded.

Gotta laugh.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Some Days

Shall I just slit my wrist so you can watch me bleed?

It's been one of those days. I work for a company where I believe in what we do and what our product is, sooooo very much. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop people from being obscenely human, wanting to slit you open just to see you bleed. Then act as if it's my job to let them do it.

Yes, it's been a really bad day and I've got a bad attitude about it.

The thing that really sucks is that I'm trapped. Even if I wanted to leave, I can't. I can't move because my husband doesn't want to and because very little money or time has been spent on keeping up our house and it would need significant work to sell it. And he doesn't have a job, so I can't just change jobs unless I make at least as much as I do now, preferably a little more. Since we can't seem to cut some of the perks we're accustomed to there's no extra cushion for anything. No savings either. That would make too much sense.

I can't get a job I love because I don't have the credentials to get one let alone be able to move to another state if I did get one. It seems all the jobs that sound like something I could enjoy are out of state. Anyone want to hire me to work remotely?

Then there's that glass ceiling that's never going to break open until there are no men left to promote. Go millennials! I guess the millennial guys are ditching the corporate scene and leaving it to the girls who have been told that's what they should want by women too busy trying to crack the glass ceiling to see that it sucks up there. I'm wondering what the guys are doing. Starting small businesses, sitting on the couch letting their girlfriend pay the bills? Who knows.

Anyway, the only way I'm going to get out of this job is if my boss falls dead and I get her job or.........I'm not going to go there.

I'm reading a book about a map thief. I guess when he was in high school he created false identities for fun and then realized he could use them to get free money by getting loans and credit cards with them. He did get caught for that, but I was intrigued by the idea of creating a false identity and just disappearing.

I guess you go find the name of someone who was born around the same time as yourself and died as a baby. You get a copy of their birth certificate and start building a life around it. There's got to be limitations to that. Do they check for a death certificate if you apply for a passport? Just to make sure you're not an identity theif? If not, that would be sweet. You could get a passport, get out of the country, create a new identity in your new location and start a completely new life. Talk about anonymous.

Yeah, it's just crazy talk. I'm too responsible and not brave enough to even try.

So I guess I'm back where I started. Is it Friday yet?


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Challenges

If following dreams was easy, everybody would do it. Dealing with the naysayers and difficulties is simply a natural part of doing something extraordinary.
~ Angela Fornelli

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Eager

I have a calendar that has photos of children from developing countries around the world. For each month is a single word that is a childlike quality that God calls for me to have in my own life.

This month it's "eager." As I looked at the photos of our two sponsored boys I saw eagerness in their smiles. It took awhile to get it there but I sincerely hope that my own eagerness in our letters to them and our commitment to their well being helped give that to them. I know that their letters to me and their smiling faces remind me to be eager for what God has next for all our lives.

Hope for Haiti in a Native Son

If Haiti is to rise from the depths it has sunk, that ability will ultimately have to come from its own people. No country can change for the better with only outsiders trying to facilitate change. But, sadly, most of those with a better vision for Haiti have no access to the hope and resources it takes to change a country.

So, when Beguen Theus was elected to Haiti's parliament, a lot of people got a ray of hope. Let's join them in that hope; that a native son can make enough change happen to give more Haitians hope and the courage to take action with the resources they have.

He has risen from poverty himself with the assistance and encouragement of a Compassion sponsor. Someone who believed in his value as a human being and his potential as a citizen of his country.

It's not easy though. There are still too many in power more interested in that power and the perks and money that comes with it than in helping their nation rise from the rubble and ashes of the earthquake and of devastating poverty.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Calypso

My cat, Calypso, is the subject of a new series of drawings I've been doing. This is the first one.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cold Day

This drawing seemed an appropriate post considering the cold and snowy weather today.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Art and Politics

"It is a common assumption that art has nothing to do with politics. That this human activity is not a biological necessity and therefore it is an isolated phenomenon which has no political context or mission. This common attitude to art is an under estimation of its useful and practical purpose, as well as of the basis for its existence. For it is not even so much that art has to do with politics that has created such difficult problems today, as how political situations affect art and the artist."

-Ben Enwonwu

Monday, February 06, 2012

Microsoft Failure

Once again, Microsoft has completely failed to understand their customer.

Today I was forced to have my work computer "upgraded" from Entourage 2008 to Outlook 2011. I put "upgraded" in quotes because, for me and my use it was actually a downgrade.

When I was first switched from a PC to a Mac (after years of trying to convince our IT guys that Macs aren't monsters from hell) I received my first taste of Entourage. In some ways I was disappointed and in other I was impressed.

Pros: It looked more like a Mac interface and less "drone" like. But, most importantly, it had a project center.

Cons: It didn't have some of the key office features that Outlook had such as "out of office" emails, voting buttons, etc. Rather stupid, but the project center made up for it.

Eventually Microsoft did add a few of the office features into Entourage and that worked all fine and dandy for me. In fact, the project center has been so incredibly useful, I've been able to ignore the fact that it was a Microsoft product most of the time.

But today I'm furious. Once again the stupidity and complete oblivion of the Microsoft developers has reared its evil head.

1. They removed the project center entirely. I have no way of seeing all related emails, files, and meetings in one handy place. If I want to find something I have to hunt and peck like the proverbial chicken.
2. Their Ribbon feature is completely ridged with no customization allowed. I'm one of those people who refuse to allow themselves to be dumbed down by Microsoft "wizardry." I turn off almost everything that can be turned off except spell check. What frustrates me about the ribbon is that out of the 17 icon buttons I only need 6 of them to be there and one of them would be better served as a drop down menu on the email line like they did in Entourage.
3. Every time I switch from another application to Outlook, I get the spinning wheel of death. The damn thing spends more time deciding what to do than doing what it was told to do.

In looking at some of what has been written about Outlook, they have done their best to improve the Outlook product. What they failed to understand, however, is the Mac psyche. They haven't bothered to get to know their target audience.

But then, why should I be surprised. One thing that Microsoft has always excelled at is ignoring the needs of their customers. They really don't care. Which is exactly why my personal computer is 100% Microsoft free and always will be.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Making a Difference: It Really Works

I get frustrated with the news. They are kind enough to bring us news of things happening around the world, of people who need our help. But then, a few months later they come back with more news of how our help was screwed up and things aren't better or are worsed.

So here's a little encouragement for the day. I'm a Compassion International sponsor. My husband and I sponsor a boy in Uganda and another in Rwanda. So when I heard about the drought in East Africa, naturally I was worried about them.

Compassion has a magazine that goes to all the sponsors and often has news of needs and, even better, news of how those needs are being met in tremendous ways. While it's not always a bed of roses, it's certainly more positive and hopeful than our media's focus.

So here's some good news. I'll summarize some things in the most recent issue.

Emilda, a girl from the Philippines who was born when her parents lived in a graveyard, won a bronze medal at the Special Olympics in Greece last year. Even poor girls have Olympic dreams.

Because of a food security program put in place by Compassion International in 2009, there is enough reserves to help families survive two to three years of poor harvest.

Because of a 20 acre farm at a Compassion International Child Development Center northeast of Nairobi, Kenya there are vegetables, fruit, and honey for the children and their families.

In Ethiopia 748 mothers and caregivers run a profitable dairy and vegetable farm with help from Compassion International.

Last year, Margaret Makhoha, a former Compassion sponsored child and graduate of the Leadership Development Program, was elected to represent her district in the Ugandan parliament. Her community told her father that is was pointless to educate a girl. But she has silenced her critics and brings hope to the women and girls of her community.

Last year, Sony Fleurancier, a former Compassion sponsored child and graduate of the Leadership Development Program, is using his civil engineering degree to help rebuild schools built to international seismic standards.

There's more, so go read about it. We all need good news and to know that our help and financial sacrifice are being used to make a difference.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Life Map

I'm part of a women's mentoring group at work and for our next meeting we've been asked to create a life map. Basically it's timeline of your life with significant events listed in order.

Then, over the top of it we've been asked to create a zig zag line connecting points that indicate how close we felt to God at each of those times in our lives. I finished my timeline done and found that it really made some things stand out. They were things I already knew, but suddenly I feel like I understand them better.

1. The word MOVE is in most of the significant events I listed. When I noticed that fact I decided to list all the moves I had experienced and made a startling discovery. I moved about 18+ times the first 18 years of my life and I've moved 30+ times in the 45 years I've lived.


2. I've had 3 times in my life that I consider to be the worse. So much so that I've named them. The Year of Fear, The Year of Repatriation, and The Time of Great Grieving and Loss.

When it came time for me to put my points with the connecting line to indicate how close I felt to God I really struggled. I've always known God was there for me and I don't describe it (to myself) in terms of closeness. I realized that I describe it in terms of Psalm 23. So that's what I used.

For one end I wrote Valley of the Shadow of Death. That's where the dots for the worse times of my life are. For the other end I wrote Green Pastures/Still Waters.

It's been an interesting exercise and I would encourage you to try it. What stands out for you? What brings some clarity to how you see yourself and the patterns of your life? Can you see what might have influenced you to arrive at where you are today?