Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Some Random Thoughts At Christmas Time

A week of finals and a semester are over.  One dining hall remains open for those students who have yet to leave campus for winter break.  Several inches of snow lay on the ground outside and students relax as they eat dinner together among the holiday decorations around them. 
There are plenty of parking places on the streets of campus and the nearby village of coffee houses, bars and fast food joints is rather empty for a Saturday night.  As we drive across town to visit a friend in the hospital we move from the campus area through the historic downtown and into the older neighborhoods in town.  It feels like we have moved back in time, to the Christmases depicted in the movies we enjoy at this time of year.  Driving past some of the small houses with simple Christmas decorations and snow covering eaves and hanging from trees, you expect to see George Bailey briskly walking down the street followed by Clarence, the not-yet-winged angel.  Or maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of a “fishnet-stocking-d,” one-legged lamp shining in a window!  Having grown up in Los Angeles where it never quite snowed, this was what Christmas used to look like in my mind’s eye.  Now I live here.
As we turn into the parking lot of the new, multi-storied hospital, it seems strangely calm and quiet.  As we come into the large lobby and move toward the elevator, it is impossible to miss the sight of the tall, beautifully decorated Christmas trees.   There are signs of the holidays everywhere in the halls and the waiting areas.  It seems, in a way, an attempt to contrast what people there might be feeling as they are on their way to the room of a sick, and possibly dying loved one.  I think to myself that maybe this is no place for such decorations.  And yet, wouldn’t it be strange to not have them there?   Christmas is a wonderful time of year—that is, until sadness, loss and disappointment move in.  Then the contrast seems to make things even worse.  I’ve had those Christmases, where my theme song becomes, “I wish I had a river to skate away on;” Christmases where it took everything I had to keep from announcing to everyone, “That’s it!  We are putting away all the decorations right now!”  It’s just not fair to have these things break into the joy of Christmas!  And so as I walk past the rooms of people spending this time in the hospital I remember the feelings of occasional sadder Christmases of the past.
Conversation in the car with my husband lightens the mood as we head back across town to our own neighborhood.  As we drive up to our house, all wrapped in snow, with the warmth of the Christmas decorations shining through the front picture window I am happy to be home.  It has been a fast-paced, busy day… and semester.  It is nice to enjoy a change of pace, times with family and friends, eating, sharing gifts, messages and songs of Advent and Christmas at church and more relaxed times together.  But I know that not everything is perfect.  Even in this house there are moments of anxious and sad feelings, wonderings about how things are and how they will be, times of disappointment and doubt.  But for a moment of quiet, I sit enjoying the warmth of the season, a moment of stillness, where I am not in the past or the future, not in a holiday movie or in a dream of what Christmas is supposed to be like,  just right here, right now. 
And in that moment, I remember once again, that Christmas is a celebration of something deep, something that transcends the good times of holidays as well as the sadness and disappointment that, when present at this time of year, are magnified by the contrast.  Once again I am aware of a God that has broken into our life and world, just as it is--a God that is present in joy and in sorrow… the One who brings peace that passes all understanding.  
And so are some of my random thoughts this Christmas season.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Legacy and the Women's Restroom - First in an occasional series on "Legacy"

Recently I brought my new Intern into the women’s restroom with me.  Even though she had not been with me for long, I immediately liked her and quickly grew to trust her.  So I decided that I would pass on to her something that not many at the Found know.  I showed her how to change the toilet paper roll.  I informed her that I could now rest knowing that if something were to happen to me, this vital information will not die with me.
            This makes me think about legacy.  In the 65 year history of the Baptist Student Foundation at Purdue I am the third Pastor/Director.  The first one built the building and the sanctuary is named for him.  The second one acquired more property and built a significant endowment fund and the kitchen and cafĂ© area is named after him.  I have a funny feeling that it would be a tossup as to whether to name the boiler room or the women’s restroom after me.  
            Not long after I got to the Found I went into the restroom after Bible study.  It was after 10 pm.  I found that we had a new water feature that I was not aware had been added.  It’s not what you are thinking.  We had a waterfall coming down the inside wall opposite the stalls.  It was coming through the roof.  The roof is shaped in a V (the result of the drug culture of the early sixties impacting the architect community – but I digress).  That night the snow that had gathered in the bottom-of-the-V spot began to melt too quickly, as we had had an unusually warm day.  That was the beginning of a few years of trying to figure out the quick fixes to our roof problem, to avoid the excitement of going to the restroom in the rain.  Finally we got a new roof and for the most part have not had waterfalls in the bathroom or elsewhere. 
I didn’t know what a boiler room was until I got to the Found.  I was from L.A. and had never met a boiler (at least not knowingly).  My predecessor taught me how to turn it on in the late fall when the temperature stopped going up into the 60’s each day, and how to turn it off in the spring when it seemed like the temperature was done dipping down to near freezing.  It was a matter of flipping two switches on a box on the wall just within my reach.  I developed a kind of liturgy for turning on the boiler for the year.  I would make the determination that it was time to turn on the boiler, usually after noticing that people were keeping their coats on during worship on Sunday morning.  I would pray as I walked down the stair to the boiler room and turned on the light.  I would look at the nearly 60-year-old machine with respect and fear.  I would read the directions on the switch box, a couple of times, just in case there was new information added since the last time that I had engaged in the ritual.  Finally, I would take a deep breath and hold it, stand in the doorway and reach over and flip the two switches in their proper order.  Then I would quickly move out of the door and behind the wall listening for the whoosh of the pilot lighting and turning on the boiler, praying, of course, that it would not blow up the building.  Turning the boiler off in the spring was not as traumatic.  Then it was a matter of deciding that the weather was not going to turn cold again at some point in late April.

            A few years ago the boiler started going out.  We would get it started again, but it became clear that we needed a new one.  So we gathered the troops and, due to the generosity of many people we gathered enough money to buy a car or two and put it toward the big, ugly, messy, expensive job of replacing the old “Darth Boiler.”
So as I think about legacy, well, what will people remember of the “Zambrows Years” at the Found?  I guess if you really think about it, as unglamorous as these rooms are they are really important.  On a 10 degree day you want the boiler to be working.  And, well, no matter the temperature, you always want a functioning women’s (and men’s) restroom. 
And, though there is a lot more to say about legacy, at least for now I can rest easy knowing that there is at least one other person who knows how to change the toilet paper roll.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fashion Update… and the Unexpected Benefit

I don’t need to buy fashion magazines to find out the latest.  I have been on a college campus for more than 30 years.  If I want to find out the latest in women’s fashions all I have to do is look around. 
                The first three weekends of the school year is when the sororities at our campus hold “rush.”  During these weekends young women and sororities court (my word) one another until the right girl finds the right sorority and vise verse.  This is where I get my information about the latest fashion trends.  There was the year of the white sun dress, the year of the floral sun dress, the year of the strait, short skirt and the year of the full, short skirt, the strapless year and the halter year, and the year of the black dress… though, really, does the little black dress ever go out of style?
                So this year is that of the uneven hem.  Some of these dresses are subtle, with it being just a little shorter in the front than the back.   But some of them are more dramatic being a mini in the front and a maxi in the back (okay, I know, that really dates me, doesn’t it).  Some of the hemlines are symmetrical in that the shortest part of the skirt is in the middle of the front and the longest in the middle of the back.  But some are not symmetrical. 
                Don’t get me wrong, I think many of these dresses and skirts are really cute, though I haven’t rushed out to buy my own.  But I have thought of one unexpected benefit of this latest in fashion.... 
               Now is a great time to learn how to sew!   
              Just imagine how nice it would be to not worry about getting the hemline even all the way around the skirt.  If the person wanting to learn how to sew would just get started right now, they would be able to get some real practice in hemming a skirt before the trend goes back to being even all the way around!  So, if you have been thinking about learning how to sew, or even if you haven't, hurry up!  This is the time to
get started!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Road Trip...Alone

One of my kids is riding his bicycle around the country to raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking.  He left 3 month ago and he has at least another month to go.  Most days he has been alone on his bicycle.  Many of those days he has ridden as much as 150 miles in the middle of nowhere with a loaded down bike, a cell phone and a GPS.  He has depended on the hospitality of people he has never met before, mostly church folk, who have put him up in their homes or in a nearby motel and fed him a couple of meals.  There is so much to this story… but this is about me.
At one point in his trip my husband and I met him.  We all attended our denomination’s national convention.  I normally go to this without my family.  I see my friends.  People know me for what I do.  This time was different.  I was my kid’s mom.   “That kid (ok, he’s 26) who is hanging out in the exhibit hall, talking with people about his mission, yeah, I’m his mom.”  That was a first, but not the only "first" on that trip.
After the convention my husband decided to ride for a week with our son.  We brought a tandem which they took and it was my job to drive home from Kansas City, KS, to our home with the bike that my son had been using and would continue to use after the stint with his dad was done.  The "first:"  I had never traveled that distance alone by car before.   My kid is riding his bike all over the country all by himself and I, in my mid-50s, had never driven 530 miles/9 hours alone in a car before.  
 I decided to split the trip up and maybe even do some sight-seeing along the way.  When I woke up the morning that I was to leave, I looked at the weather map and realized that my original route was going to lead me through thunder and lightning storms.  I don’t like lightning.  And the idea of driving in the flat prairie lands with a lightning rod on the top of my car (ok it was a bike, but same difference when it comes to lightning) multiplied the stress that I was already experiencing with the milestone of my lonely road trip.  I took a different route which brought me  to St. Charles, the first capitol of Missouri, where I decided to stop for the night.
Being the end of June, there was still about 3 hours of light left in the day when I arrived at the motel-with-the-roof-of-a-certain-color.  I checked in and went into my room to get settled and figure out what I wanted to do that night.  It was too late to go shopping in the cute historic downtown by the river, but I thought I could go exploring and find some unique place to eat dinner before settling down for the night in my room.  After looking at maps and brochures I figured out where to go and opened my motel room door to find three police cars with the corresponding number of police officers in the parking lot right outside of my door.  Ok, I didn’t think to worry about something like this!  I went back in my room and shut my door and took to spying out of my window.  Eventually, having heard no screams or anything worse, and noting that the police officers nearest my room were not pulling out their guns, I decided to bravely work my way to my car.  I got in and started my exploration.  I drove around and found all the places that I wanted to check out the next day.  Chickening out in regard to the unique place to eat dinner, I decided to go back to the room and eat the half sandwich left over from lunch, but first drove through Steak-n-Shake for a chocolate shake. 
When I got to back to the motel I wondered about the bicycle securely attached to the top of my car.  Would it be safe?  After all, we had already had "police action" in broad daylight.  Who knows what could happen in the middle of the night!  Now, I was sure that I could not get that bike down by myself.  I could go into the office and see if they would help me.  But then I would need to find someone to help me put it back up on the car the next morning.  I couldn’t find a place to park by my room.   I finally decided to park in the spot right outside the office where the person working the desk could watch it out of their window.  I went to my room, occasionally looking out my door, down the exterior hallway to my car.  Yes, the bike was still there.  Periodically during the night I prayed that the bike would be there the next morning.  It was.
After a nice walk around the still closed historic downtown, I found some coffee and began the rest of my trip home.  I learned all about President James Garfield thanks to be book on CD, and I made it home, all by myself, without incident.  My daughter got the bike off the roof of the car without my help and I could chalk up another first in my life.