one has to laugh…

…you know the rest! Seriously, one of the strangest things that happened to us recently was getting a letter in the mail from the US Treasury to both my (John’s) parents with “DECD” after each of their names. It was the standard explanation of the economic stimulus payment coming their way. (We filed their taxes this year for the first time, after my mom’s passing.) Sure enough, later came the check. We asked our financial advisor and promptly deposited it in a trust account where it belongs.

Something tells me those two saints are stimulating an entirely different economy at the moment, having sent significant riches on ahead. But if they’re aware of the transaction, they got the same chuckle we’ve shared.

Now, how many conversational taboos did I just violate? Note the topical labels – j


object of saving brought much closer

A.J. is busy behind me, working on the mastery of remote controlled flight. Never mind that he’s never touched a powered R/C model aircraft, or a glider. It’s all on the PC.

His longings for a radio control model plane started this adventure when Tee suggested we search the web for what’s available. The Wing Dragon quickly became the focus of his savings. And of his entrepreneurial sales of anything not nailed down. His three prize pumpkins went on the auction block, to be snapped up by coworkers – from a department head to the kind lady who empties our trash and recycles.

Unable to double his net worth within the month of Oct. while it was on sale for under $90, A.J. was understandably bummed. Thankfully, the web – and a dedicated bunch of flyers and coders – came to the rescue.

To the free Flying-Model-Simulator we added a free Wing Dragon profile [corrected link with many other profiles] and then tweaked the settings (see #59) to match an experienced Wing Dragon flyer’s. Something similar is available for Macs, tho focused on helicopters.

The result is an enjoyable ride, even on the aging sub-GHz Win98 gift-from-grandparents PC (for which we’re very grateful). As long as you don’t expect too much or know what you’re missing from other game systems, which we don’t. Switch models and environments and viewing angles and you’ve got a new challenge. Occasionally one of us even lands on the runway; all but Dy have tried FMS.

And it led to the disposal of the joystick of suspect quality I picked up along the way – one less thing to gather dust. The keyboard is good enough, and sometimes a running commentary supplants even the need for audio. It’s about as much virtual reality as we can handle.

So, now the thing’s on sale for more than before, but I don’t think he cares as much as he did. I’m sure those savings and earnings will find a good target – and maybe some generous uses. Just as we may. – j

purse purchases, coincidental comparisons

Before posting yesterday evening’s musings, a couple of notes on the relative silence of this page for several months. Reasons, not excuses: (1) The pace of life continued to pick up, both at home and at work. Non-essential activities were curtailed to focus on the really important stuff in front of our noses. And (2) I had a lot to journal about following Easter, and it’s not always easy to discern what’s fit – or interesting enough – for all audiences. Nor is there always time to figure it out (see 1). Last night’s notes are a case in point; you decide if it was worth the effort to move the bits.

Quote of the day, by A.J., after hearing that schools in Florida begin this week and in Illinois in two weeks, compared to his freedom until the day after Labor Day: “Isn’t it great that I live in Wisconsin!”


After the day’s accounting, which included cash, check and credit entries to cover most of a departmental birthday lunch, Dy moved into her new purse with some consulting by Arey. It felt “like a small suitcase” once filled and shouldered. No matter how the stuff was arranged, and despite a light purging, it proved somewhat of a stretch to accommodate the well-used DayTimer. Altoids end up in the external cell phone pocket.

I passed the traditional price guess, knowing it was bought at Goodwill. My rule of thumb is to estimate fair market value and divide by two – or four for Goodwill. Thus my $1.50 shot came in just below the actual $2. And it can be returned for credit if necessary. I didn’t account for the fact that it seemed unused.

While Dy was unloading the remains of Saturday’s garage sale and searching for a deal at Goodwill, I was at lunch learning about leather product purchases from the women of one of my departments. Somehow I ended up being the only guy not on vacation the day of this lunch. Over delicious stir fry at a new Flat Top Grill, I heard a local purse shop recommended (stock reasonably priced at $15) and tips for buying such goods south of the border (pinch the leather, show the dealer a lighter). The classy joint’s loud atmosphere lent itself to observation more than conversation, at least for me.

The commercial references above aren’t paid product placement. The only point is that Dy and I often feel strongly the cross-cultural adjustments to suburban life and in ministry based from a large (for us) office here with multiple subcultures. The chosen simplicities and sacrifices learned from years in the field and a season at camp – our form of what some call a wartime lifestyle – is challenged by various kinds of differences. Our commitment’s survival no longer seems to be at stake, but reaching far beyond numbers and attitudes stretches space to live and describe the glorious vision that graciously compels such radical commitment. Thankfully, we’re well aware that the disciplined life can look very different from disciple to disciple. The day’s confluences were just interesting enough to prompt questions that reflect and probe deeper realities – in a quieter setting. – j

havin’ a garage sale now

8:10 a.m.: Our esteemed first customer is browsing the various offerings of our first Madison garage sale. Signs went up at both ends of the street last night. A.J. is set to sell cups of lemondade from his wagon near the sidewalk, while the rest of our wares are spread along both sides of the driveway on makeshift tables. (The most creative one of these involves two garbage cans, a couple of short boards, plywood a coworker was discarding, and beach towels.) She’s been quite conversational, asking A.J. about his favorite things to do. He just carried her purchases across the street to her vehicle, and is filling her bottle. I hope our coworkers don’t mind paying ten cents for the “cool sips” promised in the daily office announcements email.

Dy suggests doing something of value – not blogging – to make the morning count. Can’t mow, but I do need to trim some branches back from touching the roof, and earwigs are wandering past the bleach solution I need to refresh around the outside of the house. She’s begun a litany of reasons she doesn’t do garage sales:

  • You spend lots of time pricing things and setting them out to sit around for hours just to make $20.
  • You have to watch people slow down their cars as they pass along the street, deciding by the barest glance whether or not to stop and see more.

Despite the frequent traffic and the almost constant blasts of roofers a block over, a dark mouse made itself heard poking around the corner of the garage. Dy is not impressed, but it stopped the litany.

Two more customers drop by, a guy who must know what he’s looking for and doesn’t see it here, and a neighbor we met when cutting down our hedge last Saturday. We marvel again at the timing of that exploit, with the city brush trucks arriving just as we finished. Arey’s jewelry is attracting some attention now, as she shares a trick with an admirer.

The neighbor’s expecting her roof replaced in coming weeks as well, so she and Dy are comparing roofing companies with similar insights. After an April hailstorm across the area, an estimated 30,000 households in Madison are anticipating roof replacement. Sample hailstones I retrieved from the back yard melted later by accident, but I’d swear they were up to 2.5 inches in diameter. Insurance is covering the vast majority of the costs, but just the building permits should pump millions into city coffers at $150 a pop. The staccato of air-fired nails must be music to some ears.

More neighbors and customers are trickling through. A.J. is wandering around waving a sign advertising “A.J.’s Store.” Arey makes her third sale, surpassing all other departments combined so far. T. has set herself up as cashier for A.J. and the general merchandise, quickly and correctly computing correct change. One of her classmates from this past year shows up with extended family, so we get to tentatively practice some Spanish.

If we had a boom box out here, it would be playing Pat Terry from his 1983 album Film at Eleven – either “Yard Sale” or “Fighting Like Cats and Dogs.” Had to pause typing to help finish the doughnuts, a special treat from last night’s lemonade supplies run. Dy announces again that this is the last garage sale she’ll do; next time, the kids are on their own. Between moves and the outgrowing of clothes, seems we’re frequently downsizing as a household – aiming to travel lightly in a number of ways.

Between visitors, several of us test the limits of this Bluetooth keyboard. Now the kids are trying to see how far a drooping branch will loft one of them after the other two pull it further down. There will be less branch to trim as a result. And lots of those little green hopping bugs are wondering how to find their way from the grass back to their preferred aerial habitat.

Later: We ended before lunch, with time to clean up, bag the majority of stuff going on to Goodwill, take down signs and visit a more serious garage sale at least a block north. Managed to split the remaining earnings equitably over lunch, after setting some aside to benefit others. Now it’s on to cleaning…or delaying it by posting this. – j

on purpose, and things found when moving

My initial idea for a blog was for facilitating on among our coworkers at the training center where we’ve lived and worked the past couple years. Captured in a journal entry tapped out a year ago tomorrow in the Detroit airport awaiting what I thot would be the last leg of a journey home from St. Louis (that’s another story):

“Maybe it should be an unblog – voices from the near-wilderness, not glued to the tube or wired to the blogosphere, but hearing God in the scriptures and serving in community.”

This is not that blog; we’re now transitioning to a different team (actually, at least two teams). But I’d still read anything written by these hardy camp staff and spouses. As we’ll continue to exchange newsletters and more, I look forward to hearing how things go beyond our stint here.

So what’s this unblog to be?

I’m aiming for:

  • a household-wide sounding board, with entries written by (or dictated, or at least about) members other than me
  • absorbed neither with individuality nor ideology, but attentive to the works and words of the I AM

– the same who interrupted ancient Moses’ quiet exile, and who leaves fingerprints all across our contemporary lives.

Back to content philosophy later. It’s getting late for old married folks like us.

With help from her mother, A.’s putting together a percentage-based paper budget to steward her net worth, which has been increasing lately due to a custom jewelry hobby-turned-enterprise. Dy’s great at the practical level of this process.

Meanwhile (able multitasker that she is) the near-emptied kitchen cabinets are getting dusted. The boxes are piled up on every side…tried to get a photo in here, but the service didn’t cooperate. (I’m sure it wasn’t me.)

The budgeting forms date back almost two decades to a packet her IV staff walked thru with her as she graduated. Now in Word, those should be on for others to enjoy – along with a couple of decision-making grids our moving process helped us sharpen. [They’re going soon onto under our money label.]

Oooh! Dy’s sweeping beneath the pulled-out fridge yields an unopened packet of Smarties – but not for long. A. dusts them off, unwraps the bunch and declares, “They taste okay.” Maybe I’ll try one too.

If I post again from the land of the living, you’ll know those things were just as fine as they tasted – j