have you found what i’m looking for?

I am looking for something I just can’t seem to find. It keeps eluding me.

I am looking for 30 minutes.

It seems that no matter what I do, I can’t quite finish completely. “If only I had another 30 minutes,” I wail internally. I could finish reading the newspaper, I could call a friend for a good visit, I could finish drying and folding this load of clothes, I could get a bit more needed sleep, I could file all those papers, I could cook dinner  –  I could write more.

But seriously, where are they?

I know we all have the same amount of time each day, and the difference is how we choose to spend it. I know some people (like me) have an illusional (delusional?) sense of all they can accomplish and no sense of how long tasks take to complete. I know we tend to dwell on what remains to be done instead of celebrating what has been done.

But where are those 30 minutes? Have you seen them?

Truth is, if I had another 30 minutes given to me each day, I would just want more. I would always be lingering in the present, giving a little bit more than needed to the current activity, and wanting things to be just a bit more perfect. It’s really not a time thing, but rather a personality thing.

Yet I’m still amazed when someone says, “I couldn’t think of anything to do.” Next time I hear that, I’ll say, “Find those 30 minutes for me, would you?”

insightful words

Thomas Newkirk is my new favorite author. I just finished reading The Art of Slow Reading, his current book.   Yes, it’s about reading slow. But it’s more about reading with purpose, digging deeper, and falling into and in love with the text.

He speaks to my concerns with the emphasis on “fluency” (i.e. fast rate, not expression or prosody) as the true measure of a reader. I just don’t believe that knowing how fast a child reads tells us everything we need to know about our students as readers, even though we spend an inordinate amount of time assessing the “fluency” of our children these days.

Newkirk offers six ideas to help readers become more engaged with a text. Suggestions like memorization, marking text, and reading like a writer will indeed help make reading and books more memorable and life changing. His voice in the text is like someone – a friend – having a conversation with you, the reader. His words spoke to my mind and heart from page one.

Our district is going through reading textbook adoption this year. Our choices have been narrowed to two basal options. They both propose to have everything already done for teachers in their programs, making it so much easier and stress free. Who could resist that tempting offer? No more worries sounds great.

And so, I was open mouthed and in awe when I read his short essay on the contrarian view in writing that he included in the book. He addresses the current trend in education of purchasing programs that “do it all” for teachers and how they claim to reduce stress by taking away the decision making from teachers.

However, on the contrary, his essay asserts that research shows the workers with the most stressful jobs are not the top corporate officials who make crucial decision on a regular basis. The stressed out and unhappy workers are the ones who have lost their sense of agency. The ones who already have all the decisions and judgments made for them. All put together in a nice neat package.

This book speaks to so many issues of our time, in a thoughtful, positive manner. Thank you, Thomas Newkirk, for promoting what is right and good, and for having the talent and voice to explain it so well.

sleep well

What is better than ending a productive day with the feeling of accomplishment? You can relax and reflect on the joys of the day. Then you can go to bed to rest and recharge. Sleep has a wonderful restorative property that nothing else can replace.

Sometimes , though, I wake up the next morning feeling stiff or achy. My right shoulder that I sleep on has been an aggravation for years. Possibly I sleep too hard and too deep. Maybe I am still a bit tense, even as I am sleeping. Too much to do, perhaps, subconsciously running through my mind.

But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.  Robert Frost

Our dog, Maggie, has been with us for almost four years. She was a nervous wreck when we “rescued” her and brought her home. Since that time she has gone from being afraid of her shadow to being quite well adjusted, generally only barking when someone comes to the door.

And she lives a pretty good life, restful and relaxing. She knows how to sleep. For all her anxiousness at times, when she relaxes, she does it well. I’ll bet HER shoulder isn’t sore when she wakes up. She likes to sleep on our bed during the day, and when you see her there, it looks like she has melted into the covers.

Maggs resting

A well-spent day brings happy sleep.  Leonardo da Vinci


paying the bills

My mother had a vendetta against the Post Office. She would always blame the P.O. if a payment she was mailing in was late (no matter when she actually mailed it).  Also, in her business she often mailed packages. When they arrived to her customers late, it was always the P.O.’s fault. We used to laugh and say the workers must dread seeing her walk in when she was mad – which was usually about once each week.

My daughter has a business now and we think she may be carrying on this feud in the absence of her grandmother. She has had similar problems but does behave better. She’s still young, though. We will see what time brings…

My husband says that I have transferred this grudge to the phone company – AT&T. He says the phone operators there should be on alert when I call – they don’t know who they are dealing with. I guess I can be short with them, but honestly, sometimes I wonder how they stay in business.

My most recent run-in was today. Grrrr. And so, I am sending this letter in with my payment this month:


We did not receive our bill in December. We have an account online so I could easily find the amount to pay. (Not sure why it has increased, someone at UVerse said it would be reduced, maybe you have increased it now so you can lower it next month. But that’s another story.)

So I continued to look online to find the address to send the payment. It was hopeless. I entered our zip code and got this message:

We’re sorry. No payment mailing locations are available in the ZIP code you entered. Please check your ZIP code and try again, or try a different ZIP code.

Hmmmm… We only have one ZIP code, so I had no other options. And seriously? No payment mailing locations? I mail it every month.

So then I chose the “Chat” option. Here it is in its entirety, although the name of the employee has been changed to protect the innocent. It really wasn’t her fault. Yes, I eventually got the information, but had this to go through:

Please wait for a site operator to respond.

You are now chatting with ‘Lucy LaRue’

Lucy LaRue: Hi Mr.Wayne Merrill, thank you for chatting with AT&T today. I can definitely help you with your issue today.

Lucy LaRue: I am sorry for the inconvenience, do not worry I can definitely help you with your concern. Let me go ahead and pull up your account to check on some important information that would help us resolve this issue, please stay on this chat until we have this issue resolved.

Lucy LaRue: Thank you for waiting. Once again I am sorry that you did not receive a bill, is this happened for the first time?

Wayne Merrill: Yes. I just need to know the address where I usually mail my payments. The online wizard said there is no address for my zip code.

Lucy LaRue: I am sorry let check on that, If you want Sir you may also pay online to your online account or dial *729 directly on your phone.

Wayne Merrill: Guess what – I want to mail the payment. Can you please send me the address????

Lucy LaRue: Yes Mr. Merrill I apologized, I am checking on your location right now kindly give me 2-3 minutes please.

Lucy LaRue: Here is the address where you can send you payment: AT&T Mobility P.O. box 536216 Atlanta, GA 30353-6216, is there anything else that I can assist you today?

Wayne Merrill: Nothing else – thank you.

Obviously you do not prefer to receive payments by mail. But that’s how I prefer to send them.

And you are welcome for the trouble I went to just to pay my bill – the one I never received.

I am thinking there has to be better service out there somewhere….


That last line is one of my favorites. I have used it when I call about the UVerse cable bill. I do this every time they raise the rates when my “discount period” has expired. The first time I called (and persisted through three people) the last person actually told me to say, on future calls, “I am thinking of changing services,” and then you will always get a favorable response. And guess what – it works!

I know my words in the letter lean towards the smarty-pants side but am I wrong in expecting better service? After all, I do pay my bills, even when the Post Office is slacking. (Yes I know, my mother is smiling right now.)

one day more

And so we went to see Les Mis on Christmas day.  And on the way there I tried to tell our son the essence of this story. Because I believe, when seeing a musical, that you should already know the story, so you can experience the production and fully appreciate the telling of the tale.

Les Miserables has touched my life more than any other work of art. I am continually amazed by the powerful story of redemption, told through the interwoven tunes that repeat and revolve throughout the story, returning to represent characters and relationships and themes. The stirring rhythms, the haunting melodies, the beautiful harmonies, the bitter contrasts, the heart-wrenching confessions. It’s the most inspired music I have ever experienced.

But how do you capture that in less than five minutes? How do you start? What parts do you choose? He had heard the music, he knew some characters’ names. But what is the message here? Why does it move me so?

In truth, much of it speaks for itself. And so I said…

“At the beginning, Jean Valjean has been in prison for almost twenty years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s child. It is time for him to be released, but as he leaves, the inspector Javert vows to hunt him down if he ever makes another wrong step. When Valjean goes out into the world, he cannot find work to support himself, as no one wants to hire a criminal. He eventually finds a meal and a place to sleep in a place of worship, but ends up stealing the church’s silver from the priest. When he gets caught and is brought back to the chapel, the priest tells the soldiers that he gave Valjean the silver, and even gives him more.”

“That’s it?” said my son.

“Oh, no, that’s just the beginning. But it’s important that you understand how that one act of forgiveness and pardon changes the life of Jean Valjean and in turn affects the lives of so many others.  That’s what keeps coming back through the whole show, as he becomes a business owner and the mayor of a town, and keeps a promise to raise an orphan child, and saves the life of a young student protestor, and even triumphs over Javert.”

And remember this, my brother; see in this some higher plan.
You must use this precious silver to become an honest man.
By the witness of the martyrs, by the passion and the blood,
God has raised you out of darkness: I have bought your soul for God.

“I get it – so the inspector sees Jean Valjean’s goodness and can’t kill him, right?”

“Well you’ll have to watch and see about that, but just remember that the way one man treated him – the priest’s kindness towards him even though he had been a prisoner – that act of kindness made a world of difference. It saved him. And then he passed it on to others. Watch for that.”

After the movie, I couldn’t wait to ask my son what he thought. His first reply was, “That was totally unnecessary for Javert to kill himself. I don’t know why he couldn’t just see that Jean Valjean had changed and was a different kind of person.”

So I replied, “I guess he just couldn’t reconcile what he had always believed about Valjean with how Valjean treated him and let him go free. The world was changing in many ways, events as well as people, but Javert just couldn’t accept that.”

I am the Law and the Law is not mocked
I’ll spit his pity right back in his face
There is nothing on earth that we share
It is either Valjean or Javert!

“I know it’s hard to understand. Today we live in a world where few people are willing to stand up for their beliefs. In fact, it seems many people aren’t even sure what they believe, much less are they willing to fight for it. And even less willing to die for their convictions. But Javert couldn’t see it any other way.

And must I now begin to doubt, who never doubted all these years?
My heart is stone and still it trembles. The world I have known is lost in shadow.
Is he from heaven or from hell? And does he know
That granting me my life today, this man has killed me even so?

Javert couldn’t accept this act of kindness, and he couldn’t live with his doubts or with himself.

You know, all the students who were fighting were willing to die for their beliefs, too:

Will you give all you can give so that our banner may advance
Some will fall and some will live – will you stand up and take your chance?
The blood of the martyrs will water the meadows of France!

Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?

Then join in the fight that will give you the right to be free!

We just don’t see that often in today’s world. There’s a bit more selfishness and self preservation ingrained in us these days. But isn’t it inspiring to see how believers can change the world?

When the beating of your heart, echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start when tomorrow comes!

Tomorrow we’ll discover what our God in Heaven has in store!
One more dawn, One more day, One day more!


do you hear the people sing?

On Christmas day we went to see Les Miserables – and I am so thankful for this wondrous gift.

My husband, daughter, and I have seen the stage production numerous times. Each time I felt that the cast was making it their best performance ever, and doing it just for me. (The “updated” version did make me long for more when it left behind the turntable stage and other features. But I digress…) I was filled with great anticipation to see it produced on “the big screen.”  And so, there we were.

A while back, when our son-in-law went with us to the play for his first viewing, we tried to tell him the story line before we went. He would have no part of it. “I don’t want to know that ahead of time,” he said. But at intermission he confessed he was a bit lost. That’s the thing with musicals, we tried to explain. Unlike seeing a movie, you need to know what is going to happen, so you can experience the “how” (and the “wow”) of the way the tale is told through the music.

So on Christmas, on the way to the theater, I told our son Mark the gist of the tale – the beginning part at least. He had literally grown up listening to the soundtrack (as we fast forwarded through some parts not meant for little ears). But he had never seen the play, so I tried to condense its essence. He listened thoughtfully and I was anxious to see what he would think at the end.

This isn’t a movie review, but I have to say that it was wonderful, and my daughter and I are going back to see it again today. Whatever you have heard or read about Anne Hathaway’s stunning performance as Fantine is all of what you heard, and more. At home I have listened to the soundtrack twice since seeing the movie, and I can’t wait to see it again, to re-enter the world of Jean Valjean.

After seeing Les Mis on Christmas, my husband and son agreed that while the movie made some of the connections clearer and easier to understand, there were still some slow parts for them, and “a lot of singing.”

But when we went to bed and I was telling him goodnight, our son said, about the movie, “It wasn’t half bad.”  Maybe not the best endorsement ever, but definitely a “thumbs up.”

Do you hear the people sing?

a new year

Incredibly it is 2013.

I’m not just wondering where 2012 went. I can’t imagine that the 1970’s were forty years ago. How can I be almost sixty years old? And how can my children be getting so close to being thirty? Wasn’t that me just a couple of years ago?

Yet here we all are, falling off the fiscal cliff, zooming into the world of tomorrow, having survived the Mayan end of the world.

As a whole, the collective “we” are still searching for world peace; still creating music and art that touch our souls; persisting in writing, though not often on paper; striving to lead corporations into success; winning with championship teams while showcasing our own personal athleticism; finding new life-changing discoveries; forming new governments; and making our mark.

And then there is me. And you.  And each of us as individuals, doing things on a smaller scale, but no less important in the grand scheme of things. Because those little things do add up, and they join together, and they all contribute to the entirety of where we are in this world today.

The turning of the calendar to the new year helps us focus, if just for a moment, on the passage of time, and the significance of past events, as well as the importance of doing things better in the future. And so resolutions are born, most short lived, but so important in helping us define who we are and what we value. These resolutions help us remember who we really are, and point us towards who we want to be.

I have several resolutions myself. More than wishes, these are the things I want to spend my time doing. They are based on my realization of the many blessings I have, and the responsibility that is mine to be a good steward of all God has entrusted me with.  Because in that grand and glorious scheme of things, with the passage of time and with the new world on our horizon, there between the past and the future, it is today that matters most. What we do with each and every day is the key. And each of us matters, we all have an important role to fill, today.

With His help, it’s going to be a great new year!