Friday, July 28, 2006

Cain't Get Good Help, Nowadays...

Well, I hate to say that it happened again. We'd had our siding project started by a man whom we heard would be fired because of his poor work (which at our house they had to undo and redo)...well, out of the four men they've sent since, two more have probably met the same fate.
The supervisor came out a while back and drew a line all the way around the house at the same level, from which all the boards are supposed to be at exact intervals.
Katie and I had left for a few hours this morning and returned to some bad news from Zeke, one of the two remaining workers. He said, "Go and look at the side of the garage." I had no idea--was there a huge hole punched in the wall? What could it be? I got there and the wall, which had been completely covered with new siding when we left, was now bare--the boards had to be removed there and wherever the men had worked without direct oversight from Zeke.
The two who were longest at the job have been working according to instructions, but two newer workers just up from California started on the job the other day and today it was found that their application of the boards was one inch off; they weren't following instructions. So again, the work they had done was not an asset but a detriment and a slowdown.
I'm happy with the company who contracted the work, that they are exacting and willing to take measures to see that the work is done right. I'm sorry to see that it's so hard to find workers who will simply do what they're told. And one of the three who left claimed to be a Christian; another of the three attended a church nearby and I don't suspect he was a believer. I don't know about the last one. But the shameful thing is that the two best workers, friendly and easy to work with, have been unbelievers, while presumable believers have shamed the name of Christ.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

As the hermit crab world turns

Perhaps you know that Tim has three hermit crabs. The first was Sandy Claws, who was given to him as a Christmas present by our neighbors Dean and Stacia. The second one, Hermie Claws, he bought for himself. The third, Dean and Stacia gave to him after they got sick of his hermit crab ways--he was Crabby Cakes, but after being adopted became Crabby Claws. Appropriately so, I might add.
They've added some adventure to our at-home lives. Crabby tends to break out of their bin where we put them for an opportunity for exercise. It's big but the walls are barely too short to stay assured of their incarceration. Any of them who break loose tend to go while under observation straight to Tim's shoes, among all the family shoes that are lined up on the stairs. Crabby has escaped without our immediate notice three times. Twice, he reappeared in the dirty clothes of the laundry room after two weeks of being AWOL. I'd vacuumed in there a few days ago, and yesterday he showed up, walking along minding his own business. I picked him up and he immediately pinched me hard--and when I'd try pulling him away, he pinched harder. I was wrestling to get him off in my pain, and he wasn't letting go. About 3 minutes later he finally released me when I lightly whacked his shell. I gave him to Tim, who wisely held him by the shell and not under the claws.
Today, I looked in their cage and there was Sandy, out of his snail shell, looking a little embarrassed at being found naked. (Whenever they've changed shells before, they modestly waited until no human was watching.) I called to Tim so he could take a look. (It's only a hermit crab, after all! Ha!) We picked up one of the two little huts in the cage, and found what appeared to be the remains of a crab. We were alarmed, thinking that Sandy had eaten one of the other crabs. But when we looked in their shells, they were occupied. I suddenly realized that Sandy had molted and was waiting for his new shell to dry before taking on a snail shell again. The empty hull was not a dead crab but an empty shell. Tim had run into the bathroom in his horror, but now came out to investigate the new thought and to play with the macabre-looking parts; within a few minutes, Sandy found another, larger snail shell and took up residence. It was an interesting lesson in marine biology and a greater understanding of the life processes of his pets. Also a relief; funny how you can come to value the lives of some silly little crustaceans. I suppose if they weren't so cute I wouldn't have even been interested to look in on them.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Do Everything as Politely as Possible

We now have three more people in our house--three beautiful young Japanese girls, here for a month to study the English language. It's the second time we've hosted girls from this program, and I'm amazed that we get to have three at a time--that there aren't so many people clamoring for the privilege that we would instead only be entitled to one or two at the most. Their names are Ai, Lina, and Shioli.
We've spent the last number of days unearthing a decent living quarter out of the downstairs where Tim has wrought much havoc in leaving about 10 times too many toys out (high time we went through it and had a garage sale!) and we'd stored some excess furniture for which we now have found other homes...I think the siding workers were skeptical that it would come together, but to my delight and by God's grace, it did. I was going to go buy some blankets and a comforter at Target but remembered on the way, again by God's grace, that our friend Lila had offered to lend me a comforter for them. I called and asked her if she also had any blankets she could lend. She did. I am so thankful! She must have saved me about $100 or more.
The hard thing at this point is knowing how much sleep the girls need or what food they are hungry for. When they arrived, it would have been about 10 a.m. Japan time, but they'd perhaps been sleep-deprived from the trip. Maybe not, though--they and the girls we had before seem to be able to drop off to sleep at a moment's notice; as soon as we get in the van their eyelids start drooping and their heads tip. I call them my wilting blossoms when they do that.
The first day or two they will be very quiet and it's hard to get a reply out of them. I ask them something and they give each other confused looks and maybe discuss it between them in short Japanese comments, and then look blankly back at me. I can't find out whether they slept on the plane, even when I do the little sleep sign (silly enough)--two hands together on one side of the face. (Don't all people know that means sleep?) And then I hold out my arms like the wings of a plane. They laugh. I say, "Did you sleep on the plane?" before and after, and they must be able to understand but they act as if they don't. Maybe they're afraid they'll look as silly as I do.
We frantically made them an American breakfast since they were hungry and it was their morning time (silly again, here, at 4 p.m., no?)--hash browns, scrambled eggs, English muffins--and then sticky rice as a backup. Good thing, too. They wouldn't touch any of that suspicious American food. They each ate a lady-like little bowl of Japanese rice and that was all. Our previous Japanese guests, Shino and Azumi, learned to eat heartily of our food by the time they left, and I think they did like much of it. Only one of them liked scrambled eggs. I hope these three try more of these things before they leave. Tomorrow we'll give them pizza. They sound approvingly familiar with that.
Their first day here must be a sensory overload--new sights, smells, foods, living people who talk funny. We observed how much more careful they are in everything they do, whether eating, talking, opening packages--they don't tear into anything, they eat little tiny bites and you never see their mouths open larger than just to get the food in. I think some of this is nerves, and some is cultural. Still, I suspect we must seem very big and clumsy to them, perhaps justifiably. It gives a new aspect to that phrase, "Get the job done." A very American attitude. Japanese might be, "Do the job as politely as possible."
Tim seems to be the most able to elicit laughter from the girls and to set them at ease. The moment he opens his mouth or does anything mortifying, they think it's hilarious. He brought them outside to meet the neighbor kids, and now there's a game of baseball going on out there. The girls are participating. It's good to see them be more relaxed and happy, and adjusting to this crazy American life.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Throwing away a reputation

Well, a few days back we got a new work crew to work on our siding. The first worker is gone, and they had to undo his work before starting theirs. Before adding the siding, a layer of thick paper-type material goes up, something like those very durable envelopes you get that you can't tear into. The previous worker had put a lot of the paper on sideways, and on the paper it clearly and repeatedly says, "This end up" with a little arrow in case you can't tell by all the words printed in only one direction. There was also a 1-800 number that I called just to make sure how necessary it was to have it upright. Sure enough, it was okay upright or pointing down, but not sideways and not the lowest level lapping over an upper level. Our first worker had made both of these mistakes in various places, in addition to little scraps that he had tacked loosely to cover gaps that he'd left. So not only was he cranky but he was basically not only useless as a worker but a costly detriment as well.
These new workers have done an excellent job so far in applying the paper, and the siding is partway done on the back of the house. I am stunned at how much better it looks than the old siding. They have been slowed by two things--the record heatwave that has hit just lately and a problem that was uncovered in the front entry posts that support our porch roof section. It was another example of costly and detrimental work, this time from the builders (a company that starts with "P" and rhymes with "Olygon," and advertises quite pridefully on the radio about the quality of their building). They had built the posts from ground level, sided them, and poured the concrete around them about 3 feet up--after which the lower portion of the posts were basically replaced with time by moisture and bugs and rot.
I've noticed with other neighbors' houses that the base of their posts were showing signs of rot as ours did just recently. So ours is not an isolated incident. They don't make just one unconscionable act of lousy workmanship--they repeat it, cookie-cutter style, so that various, probably almost innumerable homeowners will have to cope with the inevitable decay that takes place.
It seems that it would have been easier, less expensive, kinder and better in all ways to build the porch properly the first time. Their reputation would be unstained and the buyers would be happier. As far as the first siding worker goes, his job would be secure and other workers would be glad to work alongside him. These bad workers probably have no awareness of what they lose by doing things wrong, of lost reputation and the loss of opportunity that comes as a result.
Proverbs 22:1 A good name is to be more desired than great wealth; Favor is better than silver and gold.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

An Opportunity for Joy, Lost by Ignoring God

Lately we've been having the siding redone on our house. It's been a study in work ethics...unfortunately. The fellow who has been assigned to work on it alone claims to attend a church nearby which, judging by the mailings we've received from it, is an extremely seeker-friendly organization. In view of his work attitude and the church he's attending, I'd expect he's more likely a seeker than a believer. He is an example of "by their fruits you will know them."
I transplanted a number of the plants I valued the most to places away from the work area so that they wouldn't get trampled, and pruned some trees and shrubs to provide more room. It's a good thing too. It appears that occasionally this worker gets frustrated and decides to take it out on one particular house fixture (hose rack or electrical outlet) or various plants. A large dusty miller plant in the front has been trampled to a pulp. So have a couple of strawberry plants and a foxglove in the back. I would expect the occasional plant with a broken branch or a footstep here and there, but not plants trampled down nearly to the cellular level.
He left five ladders set up around our house, including two in front of our garage, and when the work was put on hold for nearly a week, I asked that he would remove the ladders. He said he would either Friday or Saturday; finally today (Sunday) he removed the two in front of the garage.
Our neighbor Stacia came over and told me that after I asked him to move his van so Katie and I could go out in our car, he moved the van in the way of their driveway so her husband Dean could not get out, and that he was also grumbling about the inconvenience of having to move it for us. Well, Dean had to go into the back of our house to find him and ask him to move it again so he could go to work, and our workman acted annoyed. "Right now?" Dean said yes. Right now. So he begrudgingly got down off his platform and moved it again. She also sees him grumbling constantly as he goes about his work.
I can't say all this is beyond my understanding. I'd be annoyed too at being assigned such a huge job all on my own. Besides the fact that I could never have done so much in such a short time let alone a couple of years, myself. Still, if he were a believer, I would hope he would display a little more of the joy that working to the glory of God can bring.
It all boils down to an awareness of God in one's work, as Pastor Sean pointed out while going through Ecclesiastes. If one ignores the presence of God, an opportunity to glorify Him is lost, as is the opportunity for joy.
Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink, and enjoy oneself in all one's labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God. For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Cooler and Quirky Sleep Time

Yesterday we went to the Fourth of July celebration at the Greens'. We had a lot of things in the van and when we got home late at night, we forgot to bring the cooler into the house. This morning I got up at 7 and cleaned up a bunch of things around the house before I settled down to work on my Excellent Wife Bible study. (I always do this--getting the dishwasher, washer and dryer going helps me feel like even while I sit, things are getting done. I call it getting my "servants" working.) Well, I actually was busy a couple of hours before the study, because first, a neighbor wanted my help sweeping the fireworks rubble from the street, and then the worker came to work on the house siding and I had various things to prepare for his work.
So there I was working on my study finally, and Gary arrived on the scene from his night's sleep. He was still in his pajamas. A couple of times in the midst of conversation he commented how the cooler was still in the van and we should bring it in. Then while he was sitting at the computer, still in those pajamas, he brought it up again. I started to think that maybe the "we" of "we should bring it in" was the same type of "we" that he meant when he said we were winning or losing when he watched a football game on tv. I was getting a little testy with the repeated comment while I was trying to concentrate on my study, so I looked up, and said with a...well, maybe a whine..."Gary..." I looked down at my study, and then had to smile. It was the chapter on "Submission: The Wife's Joy." I looked up at him again, and said with a laugh, "Sorry, Gary, I can't do it. I'm too busy with my Bible study on Submission!"
Here's a funny anecdote not too closely related to this story, but I think it's worth sharing. Later on today, he was telling a neighbor that last night we were up until 2:30 this morning. Hmmm. That didn't make much sense to me. I looked at Katie. She looked confused as well. It seemed to us that we were up until 12:30, late enough but not that late. As we figured it out, we realized that though we were all tired enough to feel as if it were that late, it was indeed only 12:30 and the reason he thought it was 2:30 was because there was something in front of the 1 on the clock in our room. Since it was dark, all he saw were the remaining three digits, and assumed that it was 2:30. I'm glad. We all needed the sleep!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Mixing up Pronouns betrays a Heart of Sin

Have you ever been singing a Christian song, not paying as much attention as you should...well, I know you should ideally always be paying full attention when you're singing a Christian song...(still, I almost constantly have a Christian song going through my head quite spontaneously--any time you ask me what my song for the moment is, I am probably capable to sing or hum it to you--beware though, I just might dare!).

Anyway, often these songs have seemingly interchangeable lines and pronouns--especially to the absent-minded, when the words to the song aren't the focus as much as the tune and rhythm. It is an illustration of sorts, a testimony to my readiness to supplant God's place, if that were possible, in so many ways.

Take these lines in "Who Am I" by Casting Crowns:

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I can ever-so-adeptly in my seeming absent-mindedness make it say the opposite. (The strange thing is, now when I try to report it, I have a hard time remembering my mangled version!) I think my way goes something like this:

Not because of who You are,
But because of what I've done,
Not because of what You've done,
But because of who I am
(well, by now it usually gets my attention because especially with the amplified volume of that line, it really sounds ridiculous!)

Am I the only one who does this? I hate to think what it says about me...except to remind me that I am simply a sinner, ready when not on the alert to default to a sinner's behavior...and I am saved by grace. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
(I'm aware that the following verse is of a rather different context; still I think it fits and that the application would be appropriate.)
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith...I Peter 5:8-9a

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Excellent Wife Bible study, and memorizing Scripture

Lately I've been doing the Excellent Wife Bible study by Martha Peace, along with Lanae, another woman from church. She was in the same women's Bible study group with me year before last, and I didn't get to know her too well during that time, and have hardly talked to her since until this study. Still, in a five-minute conversation with her, we found by God's provision that we were both intending to do this study this summer and decided to do it together.
I think if I'd tried doing this study a year sooner, I wouldn't have been ready for it. Here I am, 46 years old, having been a Christian since I was 29, and having been married since I was 23. I wish I'd have studied these things back 23 years ago, or 16 years ago...if I had been ready. I've noticed that the study is not only helpful with marriage (a great focus, of course), but since marriage is of course the most vital earthly relationship in our lives, and the study therefore focuses on making the best of that relationship, it is good for all of our relationships in life. I wish there was one that was for young unmarried women, and another for young unmarried men, with a similar setup and without as much emphasis on marriage itself.
Part of what I like about this study is that the author writes with great insight and reasoning.The most impacting portion of this study, though, is of course the Scripture within it. So what I've been doing is what I do whenever I'm trying to memorize Scripture verses: I take the Scriptures that the study references and put them on index cards, and on the other side, I write the first letter of each word in the verse on the back, so I can quiz myself in studying the verse. I rarely can really memorize a verse so that a month later I could tell it to you verbatim, but even without being so sharp as that, I can still get quite familiar with it, and if that's the best I can do, then that is good enough--or at least better than if I never tried.
I take these cards and punch holes in the top so I can put them in a little binder designed for index cards. While I'm focusing on these verses, I keep them there; when I'm done I put them in a little bin of them. I also write what study they're from. Some I've reviewed two or three times since I started on them a number of years ago. At first I was making lots of cards and not putting them in the binder, but then they don't get used and they more or less go to waste--I have enough to fill a shoebox. So now I just make them with that purpose in mind.
This Bible study has a workbook, and so in it I respond to the various issues that are addressed in the book. My friend and I get together at least on the phone, usually once per week, and discuss the lesson. She's much younger than I am and I tell her I envy her learning it so soon in her marriage! What a good thing!
The study is having at least some of its intended effect. I was ready for it. I'm glad I started it, and hope to see that my worst character traits will subside and that I can more consistently be able to be obedient to God, and submissive to my husband as God wants me to be.
Update: Since this writing, I have mentally revised "I was ready for it" to "I thought I was ready for it." The other day, Gary and I had differing points of view as often happens. With this study in mind, I started saying, "You decide, you're the one in auth---auth--well, you decide." I couldn't quite vocalize that thought. But I'm trying. At least the step was in the right direction.

O Canada Day!

Today is Canada Day. Did you know that? July 1! Wha-ha! Did you know all the ways to celebrate? It is traditional that children massage their mothers' feet on Canada Day. Oh, also they vacuum her floors. And it is traditional that the oldest girl makes dinner. Isn't that fun?
And what else? Oh, well the mom gets a nap, if the husband can be home to watch the kids. And kids bring in some flowers for their mom to pop into a vase.
What, you say you never heard this before? Well, no time like the present to institute a new family tradition. I wager that you'll see the merit in it.
Now we need to discuss how to celebrate National Aviation Day on August 19. It's very similar to Canada Day. The only difference is that the husband barbecues dinner.
If you comment wanting more how-tos regarding the proper celebration of little-known holidays, I will happily respond further.