Some Assembly Required

Monday, September 26, 2011


          My husband and I have rarely worked together (successfully) on projects around the house—for a couple of reasons:  1) He doesn’t always want to “waste time” reading the instructions.  2) I, on the other hand, would read every instruction in the book if it weren’t for the fact that most of the book is in Spanish, French, and some language that I don’t even recognize. (God has such a sense of humor in how He pairs us, doesn’t He?)  Over the years, Earl and I really have tried to work together, but all we would accomplish would be getting into an argument or I would get my feelings hurt, so for the benefit of our marriage, we stopped trying years ago---until recently.
          You’ve probably heard someone say something like, “We live in our kitchen,” meaning that’s where the family gathers and spends the most time.  For us, we “live” in our study. There’s a large desk there, a telephone, a CD player, a laptop for each of us, and quite a few books. (Okay, okay—so most of the books belong to me.  I’ll admit it:  I’ve been a bibliophile all my life—love, love, love books and all the info they provide for me.)  But—I digress!  Our study is not a large room, and since we spend so much time there, it usually has that “lived-in” look.  It’s difficult to keep it under control (if you know what I mean) so that’s been my project for a while now—cleaning, discarding, rearranging, etc.  I ordered a new file cabinet—wood, cherry finish, very pretty—and a book case to match that and the other bookcases in the room.  The only hitch was that they both came in relatively flat boxes—too flat to be the pieces of furniture that I ordered.  You get my drift? 
          Yes—this furniture came unassembled, and I knew that when I placed the order, but we really needed the furniture, and it’s a lot cheaper that way.  So I had ordered our unassembled furniture.  Now—if you read the first paragraph of this blog, you know where I’m headed with this, don’t you? 
          Earl had had a rough day at the office, and I was rather tired myself, so it was not the most opportune time to collaborate on a project.  But my wonderful husband, knowing that I was chomping at the bit to get that new furniture into the study, suggested that we put at least one piece of the furniture together that night.  I have to admit to you that fear struck my heart!  Oh, me of little faith!  How often had we been at this very same kind of juncture, and it hadn’t turned out well?  But I said a quick prayer, and we began—by looking at the instructions?  What?  I wanted to put my hand on his forehead to check for fever but thought that might be misconstrued as a little tacky, so I resisted the urge, and we began.  I couldn’t believe it:  we were so focused!  And, fortunately, the instructions were pictures!  We worked slowly, consistently for probably 40 or 45 minutes with great success.  The frame of the bookcase had gone together rather easily even though it must have had a bazillion little nails and screws.  We did not have to un-do and re-do one single thing.  That is a record for us!
          Then it happened.  Earl heard a noise outside, and, being the kind of person who just can’t miss anything even a little out of  the ordinary, he opened the front door and stepped out onto the front porch,  leaving the door ajar about 8-10 inches.  Now, mind you, I’m still sitting on the floor with the book case when I notice movement on the top edge of the door.  Only when I hear a light thump on the carpet beside the door do I realize that a lizard had ridden in on the top of the door only to plunge over the door to the floor and, I hoped, to his death.  No such luck! (My apologies to all you critter-lovers!)
          I yelled for Earl as the lizard skittered to the corner of the room (not far from me!) behind a large piece of furniture, but I was keeping an eye on that little rascal.  Earl instructed me to get the broom, hoping that he could catch the little green guy down in the bristles of the broom long enough to get him out the front door.  Long story short—we chased that poor critter back and forth into the corner, out of the corner, back into the corner, etc. for at least three or four minutes.  That may not sound like a long time, but let me assure you it can be if you and the lizard are both scared silly.  Somehow or the other, Earl finally got the critter close enough to the door to sweep him out, and as he did, we discovered that during the scuffle, the lizard had been de-tailed.  And I don’t mean like you have your car “detailed”; I mean--he lost his tail.  Of course, Earl couldn’t resist the temptation for a little humor (very little humor):  he had to give the green critter a name.  He said that since the poor little guy ended up with a bobbed tail, he should be given the name Bob---Bob, the lizard.  Personally, I didn’t care what he was called as long as I could call him gone! 
          Needless to say, we had lost our focus on the bookcase, and, unfortunately, in all the running around that Bob and I were doing, the instructions had disappeared.  Earl and I looked all over the living room, to no avail.  Since we had only the five shelves left to install, Earl figured we could handle that easily—“no problem.”  Again—fear struck my heart!  Things had been going so well until Bob, but now-- well, I didn’t even want to think about it.  Long story short—it took us longer to install “just five shelves” than it did to put the entire frame of the case together.  Even the simplest things were botched.  For example, when we finally got the first shelf in and stood back to admire our work, we realized that we had put the shelf in backward.  The finished edge of the shelf was toward the back of the case, and the edge that faced out (and would be seen) was raw and unfinished--our first (and only) un-do and re-do.  We finally finished the bookcase in two hours and 15 minutes—not including the time for the scuffle with Bob. 
          Have you ever noticed that life is a lot like that?  Everything will be going along  great--(suspiciously) easy—so easy, in fact, that you might get just a little paranoid, wondering when the “other shoe will drop,” so to speak.  Then along comes a “Bob” that totally upends everything, and you struggle with all that’s within you to get things back under control.   Even when you finally start to see that the chaos is ebbing, things may still be difficult.  It can be so irritating, and it is such a temptation to lose your temper over whatever “Bob” has happened that caused you to lose control.  One of the really neat things that I learned from having cancer is that very few of the “Bobs” that happen in our lives are really worth the irritation, the aggravation, and the agitation that we allow to tie us in knots and probably ruin our day.  Don’t let a little “Bob” steal your happiness!  When a “Bob” happens, just remind yourself that it isn’t cancer and that “This, too, shall pass.”   
I must tell you that the bookcase looks beautiful in the study and is being put to good use.  However, if you were to visit us today, you would see a large, heavy box (with a picture of a wooden, cherry filing cabinet on the side) still on the living room floor where the UPS man left it—a couple of months ago.  I just haven’t had the nerve to point that out to my husband!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

She Still Can't Read

            Our youngest grandchild, five-year old Catherine, had watched over the past couple of years as her mother had daily prepared and packed a school lunch for Catherine’s older sister, Madeleine.  At long last, Catherine was about to start K-5; she would wear a uniform like the “big kids,” and she was getting a brand-new backpack and a wonderful, new lunch box.  Finally, the day arrived when the new backpack and the lunch box were delivered for her as well as for Madeleine. Mom (Lori) had the backpacks and the lunch boxes monogrammed, both in cursive writing because Catherine had insisted that hers be in cursive just like her big sister Madeleine’s.   Catherine was so excited that she insisted on packing her own lunch box (and her mom agreed) even though it was still three or four weeks until school would actually start.  Needless to say, after a couple of days, the lunch box had to be emptied and cleaned in preparation for the day that it would really be time to pack a lunch.
            The night before Catherine’s first day of school, she informed her dad that she would pack her own lunch.  Since the requested sandwich for the day was PB&J, Dad (Michael) offered to help by fixing the sandwich, and then she could put everything into her lunch box.  The next morning, they arrived at school and before they got out of the car, Catherine had one more request of her mother:  write a note to be put into her lunch box.  You see, Catherine had often watched as her mother wrote a sweet I-love-you;-have-a-great-day kind of note to be put into Madeleine’s lunch box.  And just to be sure that her mother did it right, Catherine dictated the note for her mother to write. Oh, and, of course, she wanted it written in cursive. We figured that she did that so that at lunch she could “read” (from memory) to her friends the note her mom had written.
            Eager to find out how their first day had gone, Lori was at school at 3:00 sharp to pick up the girls.  Catherine was not nearly as excited as her mother had thought she would be, but she rattled off a few things about her day when her mother inquired.  Then, looking a little irritated, she said, “But I still can’t read!”  Obviously, her first day of school had not quite lived up to her expectations.  Not only had she expected to learn to read on her first day, she had expected to learn to read (cursive)--by lunchtime!  That’s why she had requested the lunchbox note be written in cursive.  Whereas we had thought that at lunch, she would “read” (from memory) the note from her mom, she had thought that she would actually be able to read the note (in cursive!) from her mom. 
Poor Catherine--the first of many expectations in her life to be shot down, and she was not a happy camper about it!  She didn’t realize that there was so much to learn before she could read cursive writing, so many skills she had to master; all she knew was that she wanted to be able to read cursive now!  She reminded me so much of her Aunt Kristy (our other daughter) who, as a young child, didn’t want to learn to do anything (like roller skate); she wanted to just already know how to do everything.  It was a real challenge to explain to her that things don’t just automatically happen; she would need to be patient and keep working on her skills.  (Even though she has improved greatly, patience is still not one of her strong points---but her mother loves her anyway.)
            We can probably all relate to Catherine’s dilemma—expecting something to turn out better than it does, not getting the raise that we deserved and asked for, praying for a specific outcome in a health situation and not getting it--so many other expectations in our lives shot down.  At some time or another, God must surely look at each of us as a little “Catherine” or a little “Kristy,” not wanting to wait but wanting to have our wishes fulfilled yesterday.  He must look at us sometimes and think, “You’re not ready for that; you’ve still got some growing to do” or “There are so many things you must learn before you can advance to what you’re really wanting to do” or “That’s not what I want for you; what I have for you is so much better” or “I know you don’t understand now, but this will work for good” or “You’ve got to learn to be more patient.”   
For me, personally, sometimes it comes down to one little word—Faith.  Do I really, truly, completely trust God in every area of my life?  I have had a little sign on my desk for quite some time.  Based on Matthew 9:29, the sign reads, “Whatever your faith says God is, He will be.”  I’m a little slow sometimes figuring things out, but I finally realized that what that sign means is that sometimes I hinder God from doing what He wants to do for me because of my lack of faith.   Shame on me!