For Funsies

I really do enjoy flying. Not the whole getting through the airport part, but the taking off from the earth in a giant tin can and watching the land fall away and the clouds part. My trip to Los Angeles recently was an interesting experience. Flying west over the insanely drought-stricken desert of West Texas and then over the Rockies was just beautiful.

After five 18-20 hour days of standing and walking on my broken foot I was done, and really needed a wheelchair through the airport on the return flight. That was a humbling experience and one I do not wish to repeat. I did a lot of waiting around, being totally dependent on whoever was pushing me. I did not like not being in control of my own journey. It gave me a lot of sympathy for my grandparents and other disabled and elderly people who travel like that.

The flight itself though was so amazing. The Los Angeles basin had a heavy marine layer of clouds that hung low and thick over the coast the day I left. We took off towards the ocean, flew out over the beach and immediately up into those clouds. I ignored the airplane rules and used my iPhone to take a million photos of the most scenic portions of the flight, which included the take-off and a mind blowingly gorgeous sunset.

My iPhone camera does not even come close to doing justice to the beauty, but I assembled the photos into a  little video set to some great music. I'm happy with the results. So check it out.


Wordless Wednesday, Halloween Flashback

I just dropped this adorable elephant costume off at a local consignment shop, The Children's Carousel.



Giving Back in South Los Angeles

Last weekend 20,000 or so people who care deeply about and work in the water industry arrived in Los Angeles for the annual WEFTEC convention. We come to share our work and learn from each other, see old friends and learn about new technologies. For the past decade I've been heavily involved with the Water Environment Federation, especially in the role of creating opportunities for young, new members of our community.

One of the activities that we started four years ago is a water-related community service project associated with WEFTEC. The idea was to have something that allowed us to give back to the city where WEFTEC is held, since we experience that city's benefits for a week. Last year we had an awesome project in the area of New Orleans most badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

This year we partnered with the City of Los Angeles to help them with a project in a tough neighborhood in South LA. Championed by a few city council members, the overall project included a brand new high school and took a blighted industrial lot across the street and converted it to a wetlands park. The park incorporates all kinds of cool engineering to collect and direct stormwater, treating it naturally and using it to create a habitat for plants and hopefully animals. The neighborhood we worked in is "park poor", meaning they had a major lack of green space, so this wetlands park will be a huge asset and a hands-on education to the high school students next door.

Our part of the project was planting 37 trees along the street between the high school and the park. Our volunteers first installed novel collection pipes that would use rainwater runoff on the street to water each tree directly. These trees were specifically chosen because they are native to LA and able to adapt to long dry spells.

I'm so glad to be part of a trade organization that allows the young leadership to organize events like this. I'm proud of my friends on the Students and Young Professionals Committee, including Haley Falconer, who chaired this event. And of course I'm grateful to the young volunteers who took their Saturday at a big conference and went to work, many of whom were students from all over the country, like University of Miami and North Dakota State University.
2011 YP Service Project-0535

The WEF YP Service Project is just one of the ways my friends and I are creating opportunities for young engineers (including us!) to develop leadership skills. There's nothing quite like trying to organize a big event like this to teach you how to lead.


Sunday Night Blahs

Sunday is pretty much my favorite day of the week. That's because of church, I so love participating in worship with the people who love Jesus. Sometimes I wish church lasted all day, and was held more than once a week.

As soon as my family leaves church the day kind of slides downhill fast. The house always seems to be a mess by Sunday afternoon and I have to get it totally cleaned up before the cleaning ladies come on Monday. There are often days like today where I have to keep the kids out of Mike's way so he can study for his engineering exam (or write his book, etc.) And then there's the dreaded Sunday night writer's block as I face my desire to have a fresh blog post up on Monday morning.

Last week was incredibly busy, so no time to write or even think about writing, but I took a billion photos. I edited them all this weekend too! My foot has been very swollen and sore so I'm trying to keep it elevated...perfect for cranking out my photo editing on the couch. You will find many of them up over at my Flicrk account and some on Facebook, but you have to know me in real life to get access to those.

Blessed to count these people as my friends.

Sometimes I wish this blog were strictly a photo blog, but I know that would be silly. My creative expressions swing back and forth between wanting to write and wanting to capture life on film. There are days I don't have the motivation to pick up the camera, but there are a lot more days when I feel like writing is a chore and I have no mastery of the English language. Fortunately the two rarely occur on the same day.

I love this blog, and I love you guys, my readers, but occasionally life is so full and wonderful that I simply would rather live in the moment than stop and try to record it with word or picture. It's mainly when I'm with other people, good friends or family, that I feel this way. Last week was one of those times and so I don't apologize for not blogging.
Grateful to my mom and Jack for coming to visit last week.
Because I don't see these amazing people often enough and life is short...you've got to be fully engaged, fully present with the people that matter.

Who do you need to be more fully present with this week?


Goin' to California

A lot has been going on around these parts and I have a bunch of posts in the works, but for various reasons they aren't ready to go yet. Right now I'm on a plane flying over the bone dry desert of West Texas to Los Angeles. I'll be there for WEFTEC, the huge annual water and wastewater convention. My company has a large exhibit booth and I have all kinds of meetings and presentations to do.

One that I'm excited about giving is called Social Media 101. It's part of a day long workshop for water utilities. These folks have a real need to build trust and educate their customers but they are way behind on the technology adoption curve. Hope I can help them out. I'll be telling them why they should be employing a social media strategy and how, with examples of a few utilities doing it well.

I am pleased to see a sharp increase in companies using the conference hashtag on twitter over last year. Now if only more individuals would do the same. You'd think with 20,000 attendees the conference tweet stream would be flying...but alas, it is not. That speaks volumes of our industry and its demographics.

While in LA I'll be helping with our 4th annual Young Professionals service project, planting trees in an area of South LA that was run down and is being rehabilitated into an awesome educational wetland park. More on that later.

I also get to host our annual YP party for about 300 young engineers at a hip joint called Elevate Lounge with a great view above downtown LA. It's got an Asian theme...yay sushi! We always have a blast and give away awesome door prizes.

So posting will be a bit light while I'm away till next Wednesday because I am not super organized like some bloggers who would just have written a bunch of posts and scheduled them! I will however still be posting a lot via Twitter and Facebook, so you can follow my shenanigans (and trust me, there WILL be shenanigans) via social media.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Are You Reproducing?

Before you read that question and wonder if I have gone nuts, know that I am not talking about making babies. Not talking about creating clones either! Ha. I'm actually talking about taking the stuff we learn, the skills we acquire, the knowledge base we build, and passing it on to someone else. Instead of just hanging onto it to all the good stuff we learn to make ourselves better people, are we teaching it to others?

This applies to all of life, but I'm thinking especially of Christianity. Sometimes we church goers tend to be strictly receivers and not reproducers. We sit in church and consume. We listen with intent to the sermons and get excited when we gain fresh insights from the Bible and can apply them to our lives. We want even more so we sign up for various Bible studies. We read great books and listen to podcasts, filling our heads with all kinds of great spiritual truth.

So that's great, right? That makes us better disciples of Jesus, does it not?

Sure but we were told not only to follow Christ, but to go make disciples of Him too. What good is knowledge if it's kept to ourselves? Knowledge is like manure...it's only good if you spread it around.

For awhile I have thought that it's silly to want to write blog posts about what I learned from my pastor on Sunday. I figured that wasn't very original, I was just taking something he taught and spitting it back out for you. But the thing is, I have a natural inclination towards teaching. Everything I learn...really learn in a way that impacts my life...I want to pass on to someone else.

It's the reason I used to play school with my little sister and teach her the math I had just learned that day in class. It's the reason I've considered getting certified to teach yoga. It's why I love helping others learn how to effectively use social media...like the workshop for water utilities I'm teaching in Los Angeles this weekend. I also see it in my older son when he tries to pass on the soccer skills he has learned to his younger brother.

In fact, my desire to reproduce is the very core reason behind this blog. I have learned so much about how to live and parent intentionally, joyfully and free of stress that I yearn to pass it on to other moms so that they may benefit from it like I have.

So now I know that I don't have to be totally original all the time. There's nothing wrong with taking a lesson I learned from someone else and rewriting it here for your benefit, in fact that's a good thing! That's part of creating disciples and it's our job as Christians.

So who are you passing your knowledge on to?


The Secret to Feeling Joyful

I've long said and written that joy is not something dictated by life's circumstances. Maybe happiness is, in some very fleeting ways, but joy most definitely is not. My pastor defines joy as the constant knowledge that God is in control. I think that's true but I've come to realize that is only part of the equation. Yes, it's probably the foundation of joy, and certainly peace which is similar but not the same thing as joy in my mind.

Me, my mom and my awesome Gram.
When I was a little girl I learned an anagram for joy in Sunday School that I excitedly shared with my maternal grandmother who I loved very much. I was taught that J.O.Y. was found only when you were able to put Jesus first, Others second, and yourself last. I was fascinated by this simple anagram and somehow even as a very little kid I grasped how profound and true it was. It was as if God created the word that way on purpose to make it obvious. My gram was delighted by it as well, for she loved Jesus unabashedly, and she reminded me of J.O.Y. often.

Recently I've discovered this truth all over again. I know it sounds so simple and obvious that how could I possibly forget it? But we're human and our most innate motivations are always self-serving. I went for a long time thinking I just wasn't a "mercy" kind of person. People would describe spiritual gifts to me and "helper" sounded...well...awful. I knew helpers and people with the gift of mercy and they just seemed to work so tirelessly behind the scenes and they seemed like not particularly confident or even talented sometimes. The whole thing was it looked too much like "work" to me, something I hated.

But I've discovered lately that work is awesome and I love it. Even more than that, I've experienced that serving other people is really where it's at. When you start to get a picture of what Jesus meant by "do for the least of these what you would do for me" it is a massive paradigm shift. Suddenly I see Jesus in the face of the horribly annoying and difficult people I encounter some days. Somehow I can pause for a minute and see beneath their rudeness or cold exterior to the struggling, insecure, loneliness or fear within. Being able to see that changes everything about how I react to them. When I am able to help people, genuinely help them for the glory of God, then I experience a joy much more meaningful and lasting than my retail therapy brings me.

Further than that, thanks to Ann Voskamp's book, 1000 Gifts, I have also had firmly cemented into my psyche the unbreakable link between joy and gratitude. I had always heard that, sure, but I had never truly accepted it and then followed it through by putting it into practice. Ann's way of walking you through her journey to this discovery was so compelling and just the way things tend to happen to me. I hear a new insight from the Bible that I think might be important and suddenly I'm seeing it and hearing it in scripture and all around me over and over again. It's like when you buy a particular car and suddenly you see them on the road everywhere. The scriptural truths of how thanksgiving and joy and the working out of our salvation are connected were somehow obscured to me before.

Now I have always been a pretty grateful, thankful person. But mostly in the big things that I thought marked my life as "blessed". Financial prosperity. Healthy, happy children. A loving and normal family. The list goes on. I thank God for those things all the time. It wasn't until I started actually writing down much more specific things each day that I felt the spring of joy well up in the middle of pretty sucky circumstances. I may have noticed these things before but the act of writing them down had an amazing power.

  • The freckles that dot my 7 year old's nose. 
  • The electric scooter at Target that lets me shop w/ a broken foot. 
  • Candy apple red toenail polish. 
  • My 4 year old's mile long eyelashes. 
  • My husband's strong and rough but still soft hands. 

This is something I can't explain. You just have to do it, and mean it, to know what happens. It takes the crappiest days and fills the cracks of them up with light. This is still, of course, the steadfast knowledge that God is in control, but there is more than that. God is not just in control, he gives gift after gift after gift each and every day. 

So my secret to feeling joy? Choosing joy? Waking up to the gifts under our noses and then being able to take the focus off ourselves to serve and help others. 

I know this is wordy and deep (and may sound a little cookoo!) but I desperately want YOU to experience this. 
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