Category Archives: Challenges

Altoid tin storytelling

I’ve spent the past couple of evenings working on my friend Laurel’s birthday present. My goal was to design a tiny accordion-fold scrapbook/collage thing that would tell the story of our friendship in a format small enough to fit in an Altoids tin.

I think it turned out pretty cute. Here are a few pictures:

Cover

This is the cover. Laurel is co-owner of Afton Station, a DX-station-turned-visitors’-center on Route 66 in downtown Afton. The cover doesn’t look as nice as I’d hoped, but I might play around with it later and see if I can improve it a bit.

Inside

This is the inside. The little pop-up pictures on the left are of a diagram from Laurel’s Web site (when she was little, she used to draw floorplans for imaginary motels) and Tulsa Tripper, one of the penguins auctioned off to raise money for the zoo a few years ago. Laurel owns Tripper. Laurel collects postcards, so on the right, I used some cool travel-postcard-style stickers to spell her name across a photo of Route 66. I added the mounting corners to make it look like something out of an old photo album.

laurel3.jpg

This is part of the scrapbook. The little Route 66 shield sort of pops up. I used little squares of double-sided foam tape to get the pop-up effect. Laurel likes to read the backs of old postcards, so I included a scan of the back of the Devil’s Elbow postcard, which is from 1942.

laurel4.jpg

More from the scrapbook. The Rest Haven sign (top image) is across the street from Afton Station. The next image is a vintage picture of Afton Station that I swiped off Laurel’s Web site. The interior shot of Afton Station is also from Laurel’s Web site, with the message about “letting the world roll on” lifted from a magazine. The last picture is of Laurel and our friend Guy goofing around with Tripper at Afton Station.

I made the scrapbook double-sided. The back side is just a bunch of references to inside jokes and strange interests we share, like Archie McPhee products (I have a pop-up Nunzilla picture on there) and sushi, among other things. I cut a long strip from an Oklahoma map, scored it, and stuck the tiny picture pages onto it to make the accordion-fold effect. I used clear plastic packing tape to laminate some of the images.
It wasn’t really a difficult project, but it was kind of time-consuming, mostly because I’d never made anything quite like this before and was sort of developing the design through trial and error. It will probably go a lot faster next time.

Emily

P.S.: Today was absolutely beautiful. I went out a couple of times at work — once to make a phone call, and once to get a snack from the convenience store behind our office — and I didn’t need my coat either time. The blossom on my forced hyacinth is starting to open. I’m pretty excited about it. I need to plant some flower bulbs this week. Maybe I can do that before church Wednesday night.

Jumper cables

I think one of my ancestors must have been a Volkswagen Beetle, because getting started on cold mornings has never been one of my strengths. My engine sputtered more than usual on Friday, because I woke up remembering that we were running behind at the office and that I really needed to get out at a reasonable hour so I could get started on the enormous stack of projects I had to work on this weekend. I’m not sure what I dreaded more — the projects looming over me, or the prospect of getting a late start on them after a long and tiring day — but I started the day with a sense of foreboding that made it hard to get going.

I find that three quotes — two from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures and one from the Bible — work well as spiritual jumper cables on chilly, stressful, I’d-rather-stay-in-bed sort of mornings:

To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings.
— Mary Baker Eddy

Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.
— Mary Baker Eddy

Be still, and know that I am God.
— Psalms 46:10

I thought about these ideas — especially the first one — as I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed. I’d remembered to put my clothes in the bathroom on Thursday night, so I didn’t have to dash around trying to find a clean pair of socks, which was a blessing in and of itself. (Thanks, FlyLady!)

When I got to the office, I found work piling up on me. I tried not to cringe and worked instead to quiet my thought (no small task in a busy, noisy office full of busy, noisy people!) and focus on that verse from Psalms. I find that if I can be still, even just for a few seconds, and remember that Love — not stress — is governing my day, then it’s easier to remember that my needs are being met and that I can’t possibly lack anything I need to get my work done.

I got sidetracked and interrupted umpteen times Friday, and I never once felt like I was hurrying … but somehow, my colleagues and I got caught up, and instead of having to stay late, we actually wound up finishing our work a little ahead of schedule, which meant I got home early enough Friday evening to cross a few items off my to-do list before my weekend really started.

I still have a lot to accomplish before Monday morning, but I’m feeling much better about it. My engine seems to have warmed up nicely, and I’m motoring along at a comfortable pace.

Amazing how much easier it is when we remember where our fuel supply comes from.

Emily

Beating the winter blahs

If you decide that climate or atmosphere is unhealthy, it will be so to you. Your decisions will master you, whichever direction they take. Reverse the case. Stand porter at the door of thought. Admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in bodily results, you will control yourself harmoniously. When the condition is present which you say induces disease, whether it be air, exercise, heredity, contagion, or accident, then perform your office as porter and shut out these unhealthy thoughts and fears.

–Mary Baker Eddy

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks wandering around in a sort of haze, feeling sleepy and vaguely depressed for no particular reason.

I didn’t think much about it at first. I kept thinking I just needed a nap. Maybe I’d been working too hard, or maybe I was just overwhelmed because I had too many projects on my plate, or maybe the weather had something to do with it.

People talk a lot about seasonal depression, and it’s easy to get sucked into the idea that it’s somehow natural to be tired and unmotivated when the sky is gray and the weather is cold. But it came to me today that if God is, in fact, omnipotent, then His ability to bless His children with health, happiness, and energy certainly can’t be dependent on the color of the sky or the outdoor air temperature. I finally recognized this feeling of being a bit out of sorts as an aggressive mental suggestion that I did not have to accept for even one second. I realized I hadn’t been doing a very good job of following Mrs. Eddy’s advice to “stand porter at the door of thought,” and I promised myself I would do better.

The next time the suggestion came to me to go take a nap just as I was thinking about starting a project, I had a concise response:

“No!”

No, I did not have to accept the suggestion that I was too tired and run-down to get my work done. I did not have to feel overwhelmed by the 22 items on my to-do list. I did not have to slink off to bed without getting anything done for the umpteenth day in a row. I did not have to accept that this sleepy, depressed, lazy girl had anything to do with me. I was God’s perfect daughter, made in His image, and I had access to unlimited supplies of everything I needed — including energy.

That simple “No!” was all it took to shake loose the malaise that had seemed to hold me captive for days. Once free, I felt happy and energized, ready to tackle my projects without fear of exhaustion.

Less than six hours later, I’ve knocked 10 items off my to-do list, and I expect to complete two more before I go to bed. It’s still cold outside, and tomorrow’s weather forecast is calling for more clouds, but the fog has lifted from my thought, and I’m happily basking in the warmth and radiant energy of divine Love.

Emily

P.S.: I’ve got purple deadnettle growing in the backyard, the garlic is looking good, the sparrows and mockingbirds were singing their hearts out this afternoon, and that hyacinth Bill and Kathey gave me is trying to form a bud, so I expect to see it blooming in the windowsill later this week. Oh, yeah — it’s four days to p/c camp, too! Planting season is just around the corner….

Learning to say no

When it comes to volunteering for things, I’ve always been “the girl who cain’t say no,” as the song goes.

The world rewards my enthusiasm. I have a lot of friends, many of whom I’ve met through various volunteer projects. I get a lot of praise for my efforts. People tend to respect me, because I back up my words of support with practical action. I am learning, however, that “yes” is not always the right answer.

A friend of mine talks about the difference between “Mary work” and “Martha work.” This is a reference to the biblical story of Martha and Mary. My friend asserts — correctly, I think — that most of us are great at looking busy (“Martha work,” or what Mary Baker Eddy refers to as “rushing around smartly”), but not so great at the kind of prayer and study that make us truly productive (“Mary work”).

I thought of that this weekend as I made a difficult decision.

For two years, I served as an officer in a nonprofit organization I support. It was a responsibility I enjoyed, but a few weeks ago — with my term coming to an end — I began to feel a strong pull to let go of the position and let someone else take over.

I was a little concerned about what would happen if I stepped down. There had been some controversy within the organization, and the outcome of certain decisions could affect a friend who works for the organization. I wasn’t sure how those decisions would shake out without my leadership. I was also concerned about finding someone to replace me. Historically, we’ve had trouble getting people to fill vacancies on our board, and I couldn’t think of anyone to take over my responsibilities.

As I tossed various scenarios back and forth in my mind, two ideas surfaced:

1. “Rushing around smartly” is not necessary. While I have poured thousands of hours into “Martha work” for this organization, my best accomplishments have come as a direct result of “Mary work” I’ve done concerning our cause. In light of that, might my time not be better spent doing prayerful work on behalf of the organization?

2. I am not the source of my friend’s blessings. Did I not understand that God was fully capable of protecting and supporting and blessing her without my help? And was I really helping her by playing politics on her behalf? What if I inadvertently “protected” her from some unseen blessing that neither of us had considered?

By the time I got to the meeting, I was absolutely certain that stepping down was the right decision. I wasn’t sure where that left my friend, and I wasn’t sure where that left the board, but I knew it was time to put the matter in God’s hands and see what would unfold.

As I took my seat at the table, it suddenly came to me that one of our at-large board members would be an ideal choice to fill my position. I nominated her, she accepted (and was unanimously elected), and her advancement opened up another position on the board, which was quickly filled by another longtime supporter of our organization.

I don’t know what will happen concerning my friend. But I know that our new board members are honest, hard-working, enthusiastic, wise, and loving individuals who will strive, as I have, to make good decisions that bless everyone involved. I also know that, as Mrs. Eddy says, “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need,” so I am absolutely certain that wonderful blessings are in store for everyone concerned.

I am grateful to have been able to play a small role in bringing those blessings to fruition, and I am looking forward to finding out what Love will lead me to do next.

Emily

Is anybody running?

I have consistently fallen behind on posting the training schedules for anyone interested in running either the OKC Memorial Marathon or Route 66 Marathon this year.

I’ve yet to hear anyone ask where it is, even when I am several days behind in posting.

If anyone has any intention of running either race this year, you have until midnight today (Wednesday, Jan. 17) to let me know. If I don’t hear from anybody by that point, I am going to take down the “Triple Dog Dare” page and exchange running for other pursuits that I feel are more important to my personal progress at this time.

Again: If you want to run and would like my help, let me know, and I will make the time to help you at all costs. If I do not hear from you immediately, I am going to kick off my running shoes for the moment and allow the current of my life to carry me to the new challenges that seem to be surfacing just ahead of me.

Emily

Dreaming of spring

labyrinth

The diagram above gives you a rough idea of the sort of dementia concretia I am planning this spring. The path at the top of the diagram will lead to the garden gate. The brown area at the center of the large cavern-design meander labyrinth will be a planting area surrounded by bricks, with a large semicircular stone at the bottom, etched with the word “UNLESS” — a reference to the place where “the Lorax once stood, just as long as it could, until somebody lifted the Lorax away.” In the center of this planting area will be either a birdbath, a sculpture of the Lorax (if I can figure out how to construct such a thing), or a smoke tree, crape myrtle, or other suitably Truffulaesque plant.

The smaller spiral will lead into a lawn ornament, stepping stone, sculpture, or decorative planting of some description (perhaps a birdfeeder or butterfly pool) and then back out to the pond. The two paths at the bottom of the image lead to the clothesline (to be purchased and installed when the weather breaks) and to the deck.

The path appears to be black and green in this diagram. The green represents some type of planting along the edges — probably oregano or another mint that tastes good and will tolerate partial shade and total neglect — and the black just indicates where the path will be. The path itself will be constructed of Sackrete and will have bits of broken dishes, mirror shards, colored glass fragments, interesting marbles, broken figurines, and various and sundry other castoffs embedded in it. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, look at this amazing house in France. Amazing work. My little labyrinthine garden path won’t come close to this level of artistry, but it won’t be for lack of trying.

As soon as the weather improves, I’m going to start making regular visits to Goodwill, thrift stores, yard sale outlets, and junk shops to acquire materials for the mosaic. I intend to build the path a little at a time, as my schedule allows, and let the work be very freewheeling and expressive of my joy at being outside, creating something pretty.

I think this will be a good project. I have no idea how long it will take, but it should be a lot of fun, and when it’s done, I should have something unique and very striking.

To give you a sense of the dimensions, the “UNLESS” circle is four feet in diameter. It will be built first, followed by the main spiral path. I’ll make the path to the clothesline after the main spiral is done and install the path to the pond, with its secondary spiral, last.

This picture doesn’t come close to what’s in my mind, but it should give you a rough idea of what I’m talking about.

Not pictured is the Green Man sculpture that I plan to build over to the left of the path leading to the garden. The rest of the yard as pictured will belong to the dogs, of course.

Hell on wheels

I have been a distance runner for three years, and I know for fact that The Wall is located somewhere between the drinking fountain and the concession stand at River Parks, which translates to something like the 23-mile mark on the Oklahoma Marathon course … so I want to know something:

What wiseacre hauled The Wall out to Red Fork and dropped it in the middle of Southwest Boulevard this evening? I ran smack into the bloody thing a half-mile from the end of what was supposed to be a perfectly nice 5.5-mile bike ride this evening.

I realize that cycling and marathoning are two very different sports. And a girl obviously has to train a little more often than once a month in order to see any sort of progress in a new sport. And yes, in retrospect, I suppose it is probably not entirely accurate to refer to three cream horns as “carbo-loading.” But still … in all the running I’ve done, I have never actually hit The Wall. I’ve only seen it three times, and I can guarantee you it wasn’t sitting in the middle of Route 66, five miles from my starting point.

Ah, well. At least I seem to be getting the hang of using the gears. (It probably helps that I drove Ron’s car — which is a stick — to work this morning.) And I did manage to pedal all the way up the 41st Street overpass once this evening, which I consider a major accomplishment. I had to stop and walk halfway up it on the return trip, but that’s OK. The grade is steeper from that direction, and that was right after I started to feel wallish. And I had to walk up the hill from both directions last time … so I’ll take progress where I find it.

Tiring as it was, it was kind of fun to ride down 66 this evening. Running would have been easier, but I’m not keen on jogging at night. I should probably get over that — I’d have much better finish times if I didn’t use darkness as an excuse to blow off training runs — but the last time I ran by myself in the dark, it was both surreal and terrifying, and while I’m grateful for the experience, it’s not one I really care to repeat. I feel safer on wheels.

If my headlight would quit eating batteries like they taste good, that sense of safety would probably be justified. (Got any ideas, Roger? I think the cold weather is draining the battery, but I’m not entirely sure. If you’ve got a product and/or battery recommendation, I’d love to hear it.)

In any case, I had a pretty good ride, and that little encounter with The Wall just gives me a primo excuse to have a bowl of leftover chicken and dumplings for dinner. 🙂

Emily

Wrap it up. I’ll take it.

So I went to kung fu class this morning. I think that’s the most fun I’ve had since I moved to Tulsa. I have no idea how I managed to make it almost three years without setting foot on a mat. Guess it’s like any addiction: You’re OK as long as you stay away from it completely, but as soon as you get another hit, it’s all over. 😉

After some initial stretching and a few crunches and push-ups, we went right into stances, blocks, rolls, and falls.

A lot of the moves are the same things we did in karate, except they have different names, but there were a lot of stances I hadn’t learned yet, and some of the blocks were different.

One major difference is in the way we hold our hands: In karate, we usually kept our hands in fists so we were ready to punch the snot out of an attacker. In kung fu, we keep our hands more open — often in sort of a tiger-claw position — so that’s a big thing I’ll have to remember.

The best thing about this morning: I finally got the hang of forward rolls. My new sifu (instructor — the Chinese equivalent of sensei), Chris Johnston, made me do them over and over and over and over and over and over and over until I got them. And I didn’t get to start from a kneeling position like we did in karate, either. I had to dive right in from a standing position. Scary. Awesome, but scary. And as soon as I got the hang of rolling over my right arm and shoulder, he said, “Good! Now, try it with the other arm.”

D’oh!

I didn’t do that quite so well, but I intend to move the furniture out of the way in the living room and devote part of next week to left-handed zempo kaitens. (I don’t know what we call them in kung fu, but that was what they were called in karate.) I don’t do weakness, and I don’t do fear. Both got the best of me this morning, but that’ll be the last time I let that happen. If I can’t work through those claims by myself, I’ll just cheat and call a practitioner.

If anybody in Tulsa is looking for a good place to work out, this class meets at noon Saturdays and 6 p.m. Wednesdays behind the QuikTrip at Southwest Boulevard and 33rd Avenue West. It’s in the strip mall up behind the QT. Sifu Chris Johnston and his wife used to hold classes over on Sheridan, but they live in Red Fork and got sick of driving all the way across town for class umpteen times a week. The new location isn’t “officially” open, but Chris says anybody who’s interested is welcome to come in and work out for free. Once he finishes remodeling the new space, he’ll start charging for classes and holding more workouts per week. In the meantime, you’ve got a primo chance to come in and see whether kung fu is your bag.

I found martial arts to be a very liberating sort of thing. Besides being a terrific workout, it gave me a lot of confidence. Ron was laughing about it today, remembering how different I was before my first lesson. I spent 25 years scared of my shadow, afraid somebody was going to attack me. After about three lessons, I was sort of hoping somebody would try something stupid so I could test-drive my latest kick.

A few years later, I’ve mellowed considerably, but I’m still the one who gets up to see what went bump in the night. These days, I’ll certainly respond to an attack with prayer … but as far as I’m concerned, if somebody tries to hurt me, there’s no reason I can’t recognize his innocence as a child of God while he’s lying face-down on the ground with his arm pinned behind his back, waiting for the cops to show up. My practitioner assures me that we always have the right to restrain error. Beating the poor schlep senseless just for the fun of it would be considered conduct unbecoming a Christian Scientist, but dealing with an emergency in a sensible manner is certainly not out of line.

Emily