Friday Tidings

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Posted 9/21/12 at 9:19 AM | Karen Farris

Peaceful Problems

I was getting ready to drive to town with my young daughter, her beloved cello and my sister, who was visiting for the weekend. A cello performance was to be the highlight of our day. Stopping at our mailbox, I reached inside and noticed a bulky envelope with an attorney’s return address. Just its mere thickness brought dread. My sister offered to open it.

As she read aloud, my stomach acid churned. It wasn’t good news. Getting sued never is. She finished reading the pertinent parts and gave me her trademark assessment of life’s bad stuff: you’ll get through it. She was right, of course. And the letter just meant I was at the beginning of the getting through it process. I couldn’t control the players in the game, but I could make one big, important choice. How was I going to let this affect me?

Problems don’t ruin your life—but your attitude can.

The months following the letter’s arrival repeatedly tested my resolve to remain optimistic. I’d succumb to needless griping which made the dark clouds worse. Ever notice how the dark clouds we create also make it cloudy for those around us? FULL POST

Posted 9/14/12 at 9:50 AM | Karen Farris

The Finish Line

I’ve watched all kinds of athletic events—from peewees to professionals. But I had never watched a triathlon, until my daughter entered her first one. She trained for it in the same way she’s tackled any of life’s challenges: with head-on determination.

As I watched her and several hundred others jump into a chilly lake for a half-mile swim, I decided it wasn’t too late to pray. From the lake—to her bike—to the final 3.4-mile run, it was two hours, fourteen minutes my daughter will never forget—a test unlike any other she’d ever faced.

From my vantage point I could observe the competitors. I admired a handicapped middle-aged man limp from the lake to his bike. For him, time wasn’t as important as effort. Then I watched a woman finish her swim over an hour behind everyone else. A raucous applause greeted her as she mounted her bike to continue on, even though the other athletes were on the last leg of the race. I saw the fit, trim and trained, and those who were trying to become that way. The triathlon tested each entrant, but ego hadn’t entered the race. FULL POST

Posted 9/11/12 at 8:37 AM | Karen Farris

September 11: Booked on Flight 93

As I thought about of 9/11, I wondered what it might have felt like to be a passenger on Flight 93 (the jet that crashed in the Pennsylvania field). Those 40 brave citizens, corralled in the back of the plane, soon discovered through cell phone calls, the diabolical destruction at the World Trade Center. They then knew, short of a miracle, they would not live.

Their heroism that day inspires hope even now. We were able to see true American spirit reigning. “Let’s Roll” became the slogan for us all. As those passengers realized they had nowhere to escape and less than 20 minutes to live, what did they do? They resolved to fight back and then they made a final call home. Time for last words, love, and goodbyes.

My heart still aches at the thought. I read the passenger list. A young mom with kids excited to have her home again. College bound son. Father returning from a business trip. Young, newly married couple. So unfair. I can only speculate about some of those final conversations on Flight 93. With minutes remaining, it had to have been anguished—trying to express the most important words. There was no time to settle old scores, just enough time to say, “Please remember, I love you.” FULL POST

Posted 9/7/12 at 9:19 AM | Karen Farris

Hands of Time

My kids always joked about the clocks in our home. They were all set to “Mom” time—meaning they were set about ten minutes fast. Every room had a clock as a digital reminder about time. Being late was something I abhorred and our punctuality worked well until they discovered my ploy.

My favorite clock was a gift—handmade by my grandpa. He made it in 1984 in what was his 84th year. The old-fashioned, battery operated clock had faithfully kept time through my two children’s busy lives, and into the quieter years since they moved away. I always had it hanging next to the front door—because its large hands were a clear reminder of the time as I grabbed all I needed on the way out.

Recently its hands froze in place—a signal to change the batteries. As I took it from the wall to perform this task I looked at my grandpa’s trademark signature and the hand-scribbled 1984 on the backside. I smiled as I thought of him in his woodshop. He always had a dozen clock ready to give away—an old farmer who knew the importance of time. FULL POST

Posted 8/31/12 at 9:36 AM | Karen Farris

Labor Day Confession: My Tower of Babel

Rolling up my sleeves, I set out to build my Tower. I didn’t need the actual blueprints; they were embedded in my overly zealous DNA. Worldly desires prodded me and I had an insatiable covetous monster needing to be fed. I wanted a car, a house, and classy furniture. I didn’t care so much about clothes, I just wanted to be able to open my purse and say, “yes” to whatever I wanted. All I lacked was money.

Everyone needs money. The key is finding a way to get someone else’s money into your pocket—legally, of course. Building a career took more time than I hoped. I lost precious years and noticed other towers were taller than mine. Showy sedans and sleek, shiny sports cars were next to those towers. And the owners wore amazing clothes as they climbed into those luxury autos. Maybe I’d been hasty about not wanting nice clothes.

As money came in, I got right to work building steep walls straight to the sky. No limits, no need to slow down. I might be late to the party, but I was determined to make a dynamic entrance. FULL POST

Posted 8/24/12 at 9:06 AM | Karen Farris

Getting Parents Back-To-School

Over fifty million young students will be strapping on their backpacks and heading back to school. But this school year let’s pretend we’re going to give parents the grades instead of the students. No, we won’t expect parents to remember algebra or what to do with a dangling modifier, but we’ll test them in a far more revealing way.

Parents will need to demonstrate their ability to send their children to school equipped to learn. In the elementary grades this means reading to them nightly, assisting them with homework and spending time asking questions about what they’re learning. If students go to school without their homework done, parents will be docked points. Extra credit will be given to parents who volunteer at least once a week in the classroom, or offering assistance to the teacher in other ways. FULL POST

Posted 8/16/12 at 11:40 AM | Karen Farris

I’m no Cosmo Girl

I’ll never forget when I first saw Helen Gurley Brown’s steamy Cosmopolitan magazine. Well, actually, I didn’t see it. It was hidden behind the library counter. This was over 40 years ago. If someone wanted to read the risqué Cosmo and gaze at the male centerfolds, they had to ask for it. And believe me, the ladies behind the library counter gossiped about who asked for the latest edition.

Who could have imagined what a rather ordinary, young secretary making her way up the corporate ladder in the world of advertising and publishing could do, and then writing the blockbuster, Sex and the Single Girl—a how-to manual for enjoying sex without commitment. It must have been destiny for her to take the helm of a struggling women’s magazine and make sexual liberation history. Ms. Brown, Cosmopolitan’s savior, recently died at age 90.

It didn't take long for Cosmo to come out from behind the counters. It was prominently displayed at grocery checkouts nation wide. Those daring magazine headlines boldly challenged women everywhere to have sex—anytime, anywhere—with whomever you wanted. Millions have been snookered with those slick, glossy, glamorous, sexy lifestyles craftily displayed to look so appealing. As the Cosmopolitan queen, Helen Gurley Brown, declared, “I would want my legacy to be, ‘She created something that helped people.’” FULL POST

Posted 8/13/12 at 12:07 PM | Karen Farris

Finding My Focus on the Ferry

I decided to remain in my car for the thirty-minute ferry ride from Edmonds to Kingston. I needed time to think. Recent business expenses and issues were piled high inside my brain.

Through my windshield, I could look out the ferry’s gaping mouth and watch the clouds and nearby ships. I then noticed a car a couple lanes over. It happened to be the same model and bright red color as my son’s car.

I recalled the day he and his dad had found his car. He bought it before he even had his license--with savings from a job he’d had since he was 12. I smiled as I remembered him passing his driving test—and then taking it to high school afterward. Now he is a college senior. Where did the time go? I suddenly felt much older. FULL POST

Posted 8/10/12 at 9:18 AM | Karen Farris


Grandma’s absentmindedness concerned the retirement home staff. She was forgetting to come to meals and rarely left her room. It was when she turned her stove on high and forgot it, that they suggested she move. Now I was boxing the few items she could take with her and moving her to a much smaller place with less freedom and more care.

We talked while I packed. We reminisced about her tough years as a single mom during the Depression, scooping ice cream during the day and squishing grapes during a night shift in a winery. Eventually she moved back to her hometown, married again and worked even harder as a farm wife.

Moving into the tiny room was depressing—just enough space for her favorite rocker and the curio cabinet hanging near the single bed. I tried to make it homey. I placed her large print Bible on the nightstand. Perhaps it would give her comfort.

She used to begin every day with God. Now what? Would she even remember Him? I hoped so. I looked at her well-worn hands and her eyes that had gone dim. I made a pledge to make every day of my life count. FULL POST

Posted 8/3/12 at 8:30 AM | Karen Farris

Porn Prison

She picked at the cinnamon roll and let her coffee go cold. I sat and waited for her to find the words that wouldn’t come. She was mindlessly twisting her wedding band and kept looking out the window past me. We listened to the jazz music in the background and watched customers order their caffeinated pleasures.

As I looked at the young woman across from me I thought about how much older I was. Decades ago I was like her, a young bride. I remembered struggling in the first years of marriage. But our struggle was a financial one. Her problem was far worse. Her two-year-old marriage was on its way to becoming a statistic. But not the kind she had ever expected.

She was dealing with adultery but one she wouldn’t have ever anticipated—pornography. I knew the statistics: $14 billion spent annually in the US. The biggest users? 12 to 17 year-old boys. But her husband was 25. He’d gotten hooked young. Keeping it well hidden, the ugliness didn’t emerge until he and his wife were so distant that they weren’t even sure they were in love anymore. Like my young friend said, “too many other women are in bed with us—nothing can erase them from his head.” FULL POST

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