Personal Ramblings, Reading Life Between the Lines

the cure for grumpiness

The clock was saying 3:33 p.m.

I saw no good omen in the triple three play. I saw nothing optimistic about three-fourths of my day at work behind me. I saw no reason to focus on the joy of soon going home to cat and husband.

All I knew was that my contract designer was late–again and my deadline was staring at me.

I. Was. Grumpy.

It’s taken me years to embrace the logic that it’s futile to get mad or grumpy or sad or whatever over things over which I have no control.

Ergo, the designer was no reason to be grumpy.

But grumpy I was. So I figured I’d walk off my grumpiness.

Within 10 minutes of walking, I quickly discovered that walking in heels only makes the grumpy even grumpier. So back to my office I went. On my way, I vented to Luci about my inability to shake off my grumpiness. She only added to my mood by emphasizing that I was in a pretty sorry state if I couldn’t see the benefits of exercise to mood enhancement. To her credit, she did –at the end–ask me what would help eradicate my grumpy mood.

“Chocolate,” I responded.

And chocolate Luci had. Dark, Dove chocolate. One of my favorites.

Blessing her silently with twins within the next 12 months (Hope she appreciates this as much as I did the chocolate), I snarkily said, “Perhaps Dove has a witty saying that will lift my spirits.”

And here’s what I read on the inside of the wrapper.

How’s that for a daily dose of miracle for an underserving grump?


Feature image by Jesscica Johnston on Unsplash

Personal Ramblings, Reading Life Between the Lines

a good day that got better

The day began as the Sabbath, giving it a jumpstart of goodness. Slept in. Had breakfast in bed. Read. Went to church. Cooked lunch with my son–a Sabbath ritual that’s super special to me.

And then I found this at my doorstep. No note. Just a purple bag of yummies and purple flowers. The purple sort of gave my friend, Judy, away.

Inside the bag were chocolates from Lillie Belle and cheese from Rogue Creamery–and a large cheese cloth too (Now I have no excuses not to make my own paneer.)

The packaging of the chocolates was purple too. Almost too pretty to open.

But open it, I did; Of course, I did! Such color and presentation! Can you not taste it?

Dee-Leesh-She-Yes! Absolutely nothing was wasted. Not even the bow.

And that’s how my good day got better!
Feature image by Artiom Vallat on Unsplash

Personal Ramblings, Places, Previously Published, Reading Life Between the Lines

The Woman in the Trunk

My most memorable journeys have been those punctuated by stories of people I’ve met along the way. This one happened at It’s a Burl in Kerby.

I almost drove right by the hodgepodge of wood carvings piled along the roadside and the tall strange structure that spewed purple waters into a frothy pool. But I’m glad I didn’t. It was a treasure-trove of art and artists, one of whom was Robert Marconkowski.

Oblivious to the people milling around him and the giant fly buzzing in his ear, Robert buried his head in the cloud of sawdust billowing from his chainsaw. Peering into the trunk of a dead cedar, he was looking at something. Moving closer, I hovered.

He was carving out a woman who stretched from the trunk. Slender yet voluptuous, the woman seemed to rise out of the wood — tall and confident, looking upward, letting her curls fall toward her hips.

Robert didn’t see me. It was more his need for a cigarette than my breath on his neck that finally had him turning off his saw and noticing me.

“How do you do that freestyle?” I asked.

“It’s not me. It’s her,” he said, waving his saw toward the trunk. “She’s been in there all (the) time. I’m just letting her out.”

When I asked him to tell me about her, he set down the chainsaw, lit a cigarette and told me a story that went like this:

“The story doesn’t start with her,” he said. “It begins with her friend.

“The friend is walking through the woods one day. She is thinking, meditating, praying “… whatever “… for her friend. They’ve been friends a long time.

“And then she sees this dead tree in the middle of a forest full of live trees. ‘Not fair,’ she thinks. ‘All these beautiful trees continue to live, but not this one? Not fair.’

“The tree reminds her of the friend for whom she’s been sending up good thoughts. It’s not fair. When everyone around her is alive, why should her friend be dying? Life is not fair.

“The friend circles the dead tree, thinking angry thoughts about life, about cancer, about death. And then she notices what used to be the joint where a strong limb grew out of the trunk. The joint is now a gnarly, empty socket; no strong limb there anymore. But there was something else: a tiny green sapling, stubbornly holding onto life, refusing to give into death.

“The woman’s despair turned to hope. It happened in that one moment. So she brings the trunk to me and says, ‘Make something for my friend.’

“So I looked very hard and very deep inside this trunk. I looked for a very long time, trying to see her, to listen to her. The more I looked, the clearer I could see her. She was in there, struggling to come out and say something. She wanted to say something to this cancer that was trying to kill her.

“Look at her! Can you hear her? She’s looking up, head held high in confidence, breasts anew in victory. And she’s yelling out, as loud as she can: ‘#%@!# cancer! You may kill my body, but not my spirit!’ “

Taking one last puff, Robert put out his cigarette and picked up his saw.

“The best part of the story,” he said, “is that the friend went into remission while I’ve been working on this.”

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_(This one was published in the November 16, 2011 issue of the Mail Tribune’s Joy magazine.)

Feature image by Katie Musial on Unsplash

Personal Ramblings, Reading Life Between the Lines

lessons from thatha

On the shores of the Arabian Sea, the little village sits, tucked at India’s side.  To the north of the common well live the fishermen, to the south the weavers.  Thatha* lived on the south side, on Weavers’ Street. Neither a fisherman nor a weaver, he technically didn’t belong.

He lived there though, for more than 40 years, until he died at the age of 82. Listening to the annoying, monotonous clackety clak of the looms, smelling  the pungent odor of yarn marinating in starch turned sour. Why did he choose to live where he didn’t belong?  An aspiration, that’s why. An aspiration to share his HOPE in Jesus with the fishermen and the weavers.

Thatha was a pastor. A very effective pastor: His churches thrived. The baptisms were many. But more than bringing in new members into his church, Thatha yearned to bring his neighbors to Jesus. And so he lived a hot, dusty, bumpety, hour-long bus ride away from the churches he pastored, away from the luxury of plumbing and electricity.

40 years and more, Thatha awakened every morning at five o’clock, opened his windows wide and sang.  Totally out of tune, he would sing hymns of hope, of God’s love, of Jesus’ soon coming. And then he’d kneel by the open window and pray aloud for the drunken neighbor who mercilessly beat his beautiful wife the night before, for the money lender who charged an exorbitant interest rate to the young widow, for the young boy trying so hard to get through high school, for the fishermen who had a bad night at sea . . . . All day long, he would help, share, counsel. He chose to reflect Jesus and speak of hope to those not just in his village but also in the villages around and in-between. Thatha even built a chapel that shared a wall with his  home– a wall and the same blue trim on the doors and windows. He held prayer meetings and vespers, Sabbath School and divine service. Always with the doors wide open. Sometimes he would have a visitor or two. Most often, there were none.

You’d think that in 40 years he would have established a solid congregation in his chapel. No! All he had to show for 40 years of exemplary Christian living was one baptism. That too, not in his village, but in another far away. All in vain? A life of disappointment and discouragement? On the contrary, his was a life of hope.

Thatha died in his bed, by the open window, content. And outside that open window, stood fishermen and weavers–two, three, and four generations of them. They came to say goodbye to the man they loved.

20 years and more later, they still speak of the man who prayed, who encouraged, who loved–while asking nothing in return. And in the other village, where the lone man was baptized, are many, many more Seventh-day Adventists.

Sometimes I wish Thatha had lived to see his aspiration take on wings. But the fact that he didn’t says so much more. His life was like a clear spring in a forest. A spring that gives and gives of itself, enriching some, quenching the thirst of others. A spring that doesn’t dry up just to measure how much it is needed.

From Thatha I’ve learnt not to ask why, not to tally my little victories. From Thatha, I’ve learnt to rejoice that God wants me for who I am, to share Him and His love just by being His child–always. I’ve learnt that sharing the Hope of Jesus is my responsibility. But more importantly, I’ve learnt that

1.  I don’t need to see the difference I make. It is not my glory but His.

2.  I don’t need to wait for the right occasion. Every moment I breath is an opportunity.

3.  I don’t need to possess special gifts. I have all it takes. I am, after all, His child


Feature image by Tejj on Unsplash

Personal Ramblings, Reading Life Between the Lines

growing up fowler

Visiting my parents, I see little things about my dad that remind me of why I love to learn new things:

  • The dominant sound of breakfast is BBC on the TV (When I was little it was BBC on dad’s Grundig shortwave)
  • The basement is for books, as is every available wall space and corner in the house
  • The subject of bathroom reading is wars and history. And at least one book exclusively on Churchill
  • Dad walks around with a fat volume of 501 Great Speeches like it’s the Sports Illustrated
  • Light reading is an accumulation of facts and trivia. During my two days here I’ve learned things like Julius Caesar wore a laurel wreath to cover his bald spot; that a human fetus has fingerprints by three months; that the Nestle family has not run the Nestle chocolate company since 1875.
Personal Ramblings, Reading Life Between the Lines

holding it together

Holding it together when you’re running low on energy, patience, time and Christ-likeness is not an easy task. How does one hold it together? Here are some ideas:

1. Take small bites; Whether it’s a sandwich or a major project, tackle it little at a time–with small rewarding breaks in between.

2. Take time to laugh. No matter how busy or long the day has been, laugh (preferably till your tummy hurts or till you cry!)

3. Take a hug, even if you don’t feel like giving one.

And then end the day with a modest amount of chocolate or tofulate or whatever makes you sigh with the warm fuzzies and a goofy smile!

Reading Life Between the Lines, Spiritual Musings

measuring life with potato chips and cheesecake

My first few months of missionary life in Nepal were awful. I felt trapped, imprisoned and deprived of necessities like heat in my home, television sitcoms, hot showers, high speed interne, and people who used deodorant. But most of all I was outraged that there was no potato chips or cheesecake. Unable to imagine six years without potato chips and cheesecake, I was an extremely grumpy servant of the Lord.

And then one frigidly cold Friday night, wearing three pairs of woolen socks and wrapped in a thick blanket, I read about Polycarp – A disciple of Apostle John, he was arrested when the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, was persecuting Christians. During the trial, Polycarp was told that the only way to get his freedom was to give up Christ. In response, Polycarp said Eighty-six years have I served Him, and He never did my any injury; how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior? Polycarp’s allegiance to his Lord cost him his life. His was bound like a sacrificial lamb and set on fire.  While the flames rose around him, Polycarp looked up into the heavens and said I give You thanks that You have counted me worthy of this day and this hour.

Polycarp made me look and feel like a selfish, whiny crybaby. I gave myself a good mental spanking and vowed to make the most of my six years. The result – I’d go back for another six years if I could! And I’ll always remember that by the second year there was both potato chips AND cheesecake in Nepal!

Reading Life Between the Lines, Spiritual Musings

jenny and the judges

What happened, when I was 14, to the family that lived behind our home and how my mother reacted to the whole drama taught me a lesson in Christian living.

The family consisted of a single mother and her two daughters, Mary and Jenny. Mary was quiet, complacent and obedient. Jenny was head-strong, opinionated, and a bit on the wild side. It seemed like almost every day Jenny got into trouble for something or the other . . . It wasn’t like she broke the law, but she’d be sassy with the young pastor, talk back to the elders in our community, sneak out of vespers, come home late at night, wear revealing dresses.

One summer whisperings began: What was up with the billowy dresses Jenny was wearing these days? How come she stopped playing volleyball with the rest of the girls? Why was she putting on so much weight around her waist? And the story quickly grew as speculations, fabrications and wild imaginations concocted all kinds of scenarios. Being 14, I thrived for the next episode of Jenny and Her Bastard Child. So I asked my mother, the community socialite, to mingle and bring home the dirt. My mother looked at me, eyes filled with pain and disappointment. She said It doesn’t matter what the story is. What matters is that we are Jenny’s friends no matter what. It’s not our place to judge.

A few weeks later, Jenny was in the hospital having her baby. There was no baby shower, no gifts, no visitors. The only people there, besides Jenny’s mother and her sister, was my mother and I. Awkwardly, I stood while my mother held the baby girl. And Jenny cried as told us her story: She said she was married to a guy from Mauritius, but that he had to leave because his visa ran out. And that he promised to return.

As we walked home I asked my mother if she believed that ridiculous story. She gave me the same look and said, Even if the human in us doesn’t believe the story, we should accept her story as the truth. It’s not our place to judge.

From then on came the righteous moral blows from the community—She was not allowed to participate in church; she was ignored at community events; she was used as an example of what happens to bad teens. She couldn’t even get a job! It seemed like everyone wanted her gone. That is, everyone, except my mother. She was always there for Jenny, to help her, to defend her, to be her friend unconditionally. On the sidelines, I watched my mother and recognized the essence of Christ-likeness.

A year went by, two years, and then three. And, of course, there was no sign of the mysterious Mauritian husband. Jenny continued to struggle, shunned by her community. Then one summer day, out of nowhere, the Mauritian arrived with his own bizarre story—a clerical mix-up in immigration had sent him to prison and there had been no way for him to contact Jenny.

The happy, reunited family left for Mauritius as quickly as they could. And they never returned home. I waited for someone in the community to admit they had been wrong. Instead they justified their actions: What else could we do with no proof of a husband?

My mother’s response: We could have chosen to be like Jesus!

Personal Ramblings, Reading Life Between the Lines

the pharisee and the penny

The secret of perfect pizza and Cinnabons is in the dough. And I’ve never been able to get the dough right from scratch. Far away from modern grocers and frozen bread dough, it took 12-year-old Jenny to find a solution to my predicament: Buy dough instead of doughnuts.

After healing from the slap to my pride caused by a child solving my problem, I headed to the local doughnut shop. In my limited Nepali, I asked for uncooked doughnuts. Confusion spread from his wide eyes to his gaping mouth: Do they eat dough? Use it as a prosthetic? Part of some kind of Christian puja?

“Just give me the dough!” I exclaimed.

There was more confusion on his face–How do I sell dough? By weight or handfuls? His head swung from the big pile of dough dotted with flies to the freshly cut doughnuts ready to be fried, and from there, to my face. Pointing to the ones already cut, I said, “Just give me 20 of those.”

Squishing them all into one sticky ball, he stuffed them in a plastic bag. Later, in my kitchen, the 20 uncooked doughnuts quickly converted into a tray of pizza and a dozen Cinnabons!! It was wonderful. Picking up the phone, I spread the word. Soon everyone on campus was at the doughnut shop!

But alas! The doughnut guy wised up. Overnight the price of 20 uncooked doughnuts more than doubled! Furious, I was ready for war. I had a strategy in place to put the doughnut guy out of business. He picked the wrong person to mess with! In my fuming rage of being gypped, there was no room for compassion for the simpleton making a living, no tolerance for haphazard economics, no appreciation for the dough I couldn’t make myself, no common sense that nudged me to realize it wasn’t worth the little saved.

“It’s the principle of the thing!” I said in my defense when my family pointed out that I was fuming and fussing over an increase of an American penny per doughnut.

In my rage, I forgot the primary purpose for being in Nepal—to show Christ through my words, my deed, and my relationships.

In my rage, I boycotted the doughnut shop for a whole year. In retrospect, it was more about the Pharisee than about the principle in me—focusing on law and not on love.

Personal Ramblings, Reading Life Between the Lines

10 things I loved when I was 10 I’ll enjoy even at 100

1. Anything mango

2. Anything chocolate

3. Furry little non-shedding things that go “woof” (and not meow)

4. A good laugh

5. Colored pencils and a coloring book

6. Sassy, snarky comments

7. Clean, crisp white sheets

8. Balloons

9. Train rides

10. The Reader’s Digest