Monday, April 10, 2017


Even Frankie can wait a little longer for morning...
Think back.

Can you remember when you were little enough that going to sleep was your enemy?

Can you remember lying in bed, holding your breath so you could hear better, and listening to see if anyone was stirring in the house? If you could just hear someone -- anyone -- it was your green light to jump out of bed and start your day!

Can you remember not being tired?

Can you remember not dreading Monday? and Tuesday?

Can you remember not wishing for this or that to just be "over and done with?"

Can you remember excitement at the thought of the future? Joy in the dawning of a new day? Opportunity in the presentation of something new?

These days, the sheer speed of our lives seems to preempt any excitement about new things.

A new day is more often than not met with "What? A week has already passed again? A month? Oh my goodness, I'm so far behind!"

Everyone is tired. Many people might not be sick but no one feels really good. Most of us dread upcoming events, even if it's something we would normally enjoy.

How often I would like to pull the covers back over my head and be finished with the day... the week... the month... before its even begun. So much effort and tedium seems to be involved in everything we do.

I changed the sign at the shop (a long time ago! Needs changed badly again!!!) to say:


That was a reminder for me and my bad attitude.

I've heard repeatedly that it's been a reminder to our dear friends who come into this shop too.

Decide now.

Love what you have to do.

I didn't have room on the sign to put "anyway" although that is certainly the sentiment.

Oh, to wake in the morning and feel something besides fatigue, dread, boredom, anxiety.

Oh, to be living your life instead of just being alive.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Game Playing

The Rolla version of Monopoly. We framed this for one of our local banks recently.
My oldest grandson loves playing board games and begs everyone to play with him. He's learned the very difficult skill of being a good loser, but the harder skill to master may be the art of  graciously accepting everyone else's decisions that it's time to put the games away and do something else. Micah's always crushed when game time is over and although he really doesn't pout, his disappointment is palpable.

Today it occurred to me that I have had more than my share of relationships with people who, while willing to occasionally accept defeat in the game, never really stop playing. There seems to be something that compels some people to always be sizing up a situation in order to claim a victory -- or at least something they seem to identify as a victory -- even when no one else is interested in their antics. Think Charlie Sheen and his "winning." This makes for tiresome relationships. But what do you do when you're in a long-term relationship with someone like this?

What, really, is winning in these sorts of games? Getting your way? Achieving some sort of secret vengeance that has been set as the prize? Maybe winning is staying in the midst of turmoil and keeping others from moving on without your input? Is it control? Is it having the most of whatever "more" you're wanting? Is winning merely ensuring that others lose? What in the world is winning?

When I was young I loved playing relationship games. I liked doing some unexpected thing to see what kind of response I would get and then doing something else that I would dream up almost as a dare to myself to see what would happen next. It's possible that many children and adolescents behave this way. I played these games into my early-to-mid-twenties or so then grew tired of it. People's reactions aren't really all that surprising after all. Most people just trudge along the best that they can. Watching to see how someone will cope with your craziness becomes tedious.

Sometimes it was fun though.

When I was driving crazy and speeding and was inevitably pulled over, if I jumped out of the car and strutted around as a feisty nineteen year old, would I get a ticket?

When I was driving crazy and speeding and was inevitably pulled over, if I sat in the car and cried in such a way that I could barely see to retrieve my license, would I get a ticket?

When I was driving crazy and speeding and was inevitably pulled over, if I pretended I had no idea I had been going so fast but thought I had been pulled over, instead, for having a burned-out tail-light, would I get a ticket?

Looking back, things like that were incredibly stupid. I don't remember doing too many things that would have actually harmed someone, and I don't remember doing too many things that were just outright mean to others, but I imagine there was sometimes some collateral damage along the way that I was completely and utterly oblivious to.

As we move through our lives, we sometimes come to the realization that we are indeed the product of long-term collateral damage by the game players in our lives. Sometimes, its so continuous that it doesn't even occur to us how strange these ongoing situations really are. We just keep showing up and, even though we don't want to, we play the game. Everyone knows about the game. Everyone is forced to play. And no one knows how to end the game.

Sometimes my grandson will decide to repeat every word I say, despite my insistence that he knock it off.

"Stop it, Micah," I will say.

"Stop it, Micah," he will mock.

"I mean it, Micah," I say

"I mean it, Micah," he says.



Micah is playing a game and I can't make him stop.

Of course, he's a little boy and that game is right on target for a kid his age.

But what do we do when we are mocked by others in our lives in a continuous game that never ends? Mocked. Criticized. Undermined. Condemned. Taken advantage of. Lied to. Lied about. All part of their game... their lifelong game... Their lifelong strategy in their efforts to be "winning."

Maybe, like in Monopoly, we can arrange to finish the game. Maybe we begin by giving up what's yours so they can take it. You mortgage your properties one by one. You turn over your assets and stop worrying about recovering them.  You give up things you might once have cared about because playing such a game for such a long time eventually steals everything of value. Any price would be worth it if you could only end the tediousness of the game.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Stink Eye

Rhoda, sporting a scarf around her head similar to those my Grandmother used to wear, communicates her disapproval and displeasure...
One of my granddaughters, Rhoda, has a look about her that is hauntingly reminiscent of my late Grandmother. With Grandma, that look likely meant she was listening intently on the multiple-party telephone line to see who was telling who what and she urgently needed me to be still so she could hear. With our Rhoda, that look doesn't seem to imply intense concentration. Sadly, it simply translates into a big old Stink Eye.

Rhoda likes to object to things. Her dear mother tells me various reasons for Rhoda's displeasure and while I love being an agreeable sort, I sometimes respond with contrary opinions and point out that Rhoda is pretty bratty. Once Rhoda's five-year-old brother interjected his opinion into one of those conversations and he had concluded that Rhoda was "SPOILT" (t-and all).

Yesterday, Alicia brought three of her four children to Rolla  and they stayed at the shop with me for several wonderful hours. The kids were incredibly good (even Rho-Rho) and played like troopers while Alicia and I worked on one past-due project after another. Rhoda discovered some Christmas decorations that hadn't been properly stored and entertained herself with all the shiny little baubles.

"Whatcha got there Rho-Rho?" I would say.

Rhoda would look suspiciously at me, not offering for a second to show me her prize, but instead she seemed to be concentrating with all her might in keeping a level Stink Eye on me. As the day went by, though she faltered more and more.  For each time I queried, "Whatcha got there Rho-Rho?", she would turn to me and purse her lips together in a little line to keep herself from breaking into a smile. Sometimes, before she could squelch it, a toothy grin would briefly erupt.

With so many grand kids and less time now than ever to spend with them, I haven't gotten to know Rhoda the same way I did the older grandchildren. It's a sad thing for me in a lot of ways but life has to be lived right where you are when it comes along and it just is what it is. But I wonder with Rhoda what our relationship will one day be. Will she always be reserved? Will she always reign it in when we are together? Will I never know her as well as I do the older kids?

Interpersonal relationships are often mystifying and exhausting. They are also the only thing in life that really has any value. Being a friendly introvert, I am often mistaken by casual friends or coworkers as an outgoing person but really, I'd almost always rather stay home in the easy company of my family than venture into any social setting at all.

When I see Rhoda and her Stink Eye, I actually think I understand her and although I like to tease Alicia about her little brat, I don't think that really has too much to do with her disposition.

I've mentioned to Alicia before that it would just feel wonderful to be able to just squall out in a big old loud holler anytime you felt like it like little children do. All of life would be better. And I think maybe this is the same with the Stink Eye. Wouldn't it be wonderful just to pout all up in a big old ugly face anytime you felt like it like little children do? All of life would be better.

But speaking your mind and grumbling at others at any and every provocation... Immediately showing your displeasure and letting others know your petty opinion by giving snotty looks to people... These are not the behaviors we are called to live.

My precious little Grandmother that Rhoda resembles so often had a goodness and kindness in her that shone through every action she took and every word she ever said to me. She was gentle, loving, patient, generous and had all the time in the world for the ones she loved. She didn't think or speak ill of others. She didn't boast about herself and wasn't prideful or haughty. She quietly and day-by-day manifested the fruit of the Spirit.

My precious little introverted Rhoda Raindrop. She has a goodness and kindness in her that will shine through every action she takes and every word she ever says to me. She will be gentle, loving, patient, generous and have all the time in the world for the ones she loves. She will not think or speak ill of others. She will not boast about herself or be prideful or haughty. She will quietly and day-by-day manifest the fruit of the Spirit.

She might not do all these things today. Or this week or this year. She might not outgrow that Stink Eye until she's twenty-five and learns through heartbreak that you don't look at people in a mean way. She might not outgrow being SPOILT until she's forty and learns that having your own way is really something only the lonely and the lost think they want.

But she will be all these things and more-more-more. We have that Promise.

This is a a child who is loved. She is protected and defended by prayer. Her life is being built on a solid foundation that can withstand every storm.

What a faithful God who gives us such promises and hope. With them, we are able to laugh at The Stink Eye, and at all of the days to come, knowing that there will be plenty of time for all of us to grow into the beautiful works of art that God knew we would be before He even spoke the world into existence.

And also,there will plenty of time to really get to know my Rhoda Raindrop. All of eternity, as a matter of fact.

"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

Thursday, February 23, 2017


In the back room at The Frame Shop where I spend the majority of my day at work, I decorated the walls with a collection of Scott Gustafson's fairy tale prints much to the chagrin of the other girls. They are way too young for someone my age. I need to pretend they are for my granddaughters. But no. They are mine. And I love them.

One of them (above) features Cinderella doing all the work while the birds come and visit her. I once imagined I could be like her. You know. Me, doing all the work and being real pitiful in my martyrdom. And some beautiful birds, inspired by my humility, coming to help me and stuff. And then, one day, BAM! I was indeed like her. Well, I was my sorry-self version of her.

Once Upon a Time in a Far Away Land, on a snowy day, while I was feeling sorry for myself at work, I lamented that if I was home, at least there would be something decent to look at out the window.

Within an hour or two, Dave Roberts, husband-who-likes-me-to-be-at-work, had bought no less than 100 pounds of bird seed and a big metal can to keep it in, as well as a couple feeders. I clapped my hands in delight and spun around the room to soaring music as the sun streamed purple and red from behind a white cloud shaped like a heart.

After that, the next thing I did was go out there in that snow and rig up this complicated mess for the smaller feeder to hang directly outside the window above the work-table where I spend most of my time. I invented what I thought was a spectacularly clever pulley system so my feeder could easily be lowered every single day to refill it because I was just sure I would have a million a birds.

Two or three weeks went by and I was still doing every single bit of the work and still waiting for a bird or two to show up.

One evening, I showed my bird-watching setup to my dear friend Mark Long. Mark is an exceptionally handsome and polite man who fits right in to my fairy tale, so when he said, "Oh. You want to see them really close, don't you?" I looked up at him and we both burst out laughing. Yes. I had interpreted him correctly.

The next day I bought a shepherd's hook and moved my bird feeders about a dozen feet into the yard past the window. Within a few days after that, the birds began to arrive. So did the squirrels.

During the day the birds would eat politely while the squirrels and I developed an increasingly hostile relationship. I'd bang on that window and carry on as long as no one was in the shop, but those squirrels couldn't be routed. I was acting a fool running off squirrels all day... well, running them off a few yards... but each night they would climb that shepherd pole and empty all my feeders. My 100 pounds of bird feed was disappearing quickly.

After our 17-year-old wiener dog, Lucy, passed away in the fall of the same year we put out the feeders, our other wiener dog, Frankie, was so lonely that he started coming to work with me each day. As soon as his new companion was ready to come home with us, we started bringing both dogs to work with us.

This new dog, The Wheeler Byrd, was a wonderful thing. He and Frankie would patrol our back yard here at the shop and keep those squirrels on the run. Our birds didn't mind them much (although the doves who feed on the ground didn't care for them). It was a great system.

Then, when The Byrd was about six months old, I saw him out in the yard with something in his mouth. I ran out to see what he'd gotten. Save us all, it was a bunny rabbit. Later he killed a snake. And after that, another snake.

The Byrd was a killer.

I sense that my fairy tale has derailed. And for the life of me, I can find no moral in this story.

But that's how our tales seems to go. We think we're going in one direction, only to find we're way way way down the road someplace we never even wanted to go.

When I was a little girl, I loved so much all the fairy tales in our collection of Childcraft books. I wanted mostly to be Sleeping Beauty, but even then I understood that that wouldn't be possible for the likes of me. Goldilocks was probably a more likely scenario or maybe even Little Red Riding Hood.

All these decades later... do we really change that much? Don't we still want adventure with safety? Don't we still want goodness to be rewarded and recognized and evil to be either repented of or soundly defeated?

Oh, the grandeur of our dreams when we are young.

And oh, the grandeur of our dreams when we are old.

And oh! For handsome princes who stick around and grow old with us and small little wiener dogs who pull us around by their leashes instead of beautiful white stallions who pull us in a chariot... isn't it a wonderful, magical, beautiful and mysterious world? And oh! For those roads we didn't intend to go down... didn't even know about... what a journey, a magnificent and fabulous journey filled with wonder and awe, prepared for each and every one of us in advance by a loving Father who has his eye even on the sparrow.

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" 1 John 3:1a

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Criminal Treatment

A REAL criminal sketch from local media -- bet this guy was recognized immediately!
A few years ago, the picture above actually ran on local media to help the public identify and capture a desperate criminal. While I freely admit that I never saw who was ultimately fingered as a result of this artist's rendition (maybe he looked exactly like this -- who could say?), I still like to fetch it and take a look at it sometimes as it never fails to make me burst into laughter.

It can be funny to see someone who is incompetent in their work, especially when what they are doing becomes a public spectacle like this poor slob's artwork. 

Incompetence on the job can be funny. Although, really that's not true, because it's not too funny when it's impacting you on a regular basis. Sometimes incompetent people are a little passive-aggressive -- just incompetent enough for everyone else to have to pitch in and carry their load. That's not only tiresome, it's boring.

For the criminal above, I hope he didn't do anything too serious and I also hope he's now paid his debt to society and is as free as a bird. My ultimate secret hope for him is this: one day a meek and mild shifty-eyed man will come into the shop... I'll be a little leery of him and wonder if I should mace him, but I won't of course, because my wiener dogs will like him and he'll be carrying a newspaper article that looks like something he wants to frame. He'll say, "how much to frame this, ma'am?" I'll look at this newspaper and a big smile will form on my wary fat face. "Not less than a hundred dollars," I'll announce loudly. He'll say, "Let's do it." And I'll frame up his portrait as fine as anything I've ever done... this yellowed rendering from The Rolla Daily News that has been my special funny treasure for years. He'll give me a fake name: "Joseph Bloseph." And I'll say, "Is this picture of you, Joseph?" He will say, "No, ma'am," but his ears will be all small and his jaw will be all square and his mouth will be all tight and his bangs will be all perfect and his eyes will be all shifty and I'll be in on his secret. From that day on, he and I will be best of friends.

Me and my friend Joseph Bloseph.

Yes. We all have our secret dreams, don't we?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Fifteen Years Ago (FYA) and NOW

Left: Fifteen years ago when we first came to The Frame Shop and Right: Today.
  1. Fifteen Years Ago (FYA): In our thirties.
    NOW: Can't remember our thirties.
  2. FYA:  9/11 can't be imagined.
    NOW: Imagining life in America without 9/11 -- how sad the permanent losses of freedom and innocence and hope.
  3. FYA: Raising teenage daughters.
    NOW: Raving about eight magnificent grandchildren.
  4. FYA: Snickers, our mighty Australian Shepherd, still patrols Veto Road.
    NOW: Stray cats of all sorts patrol Veto Road and Snickers bosses lesser dogs (which is almost all dogs) in Heaven.
  5. FYA: A new Grand Prix.
    NOW: That new Grand Prix has almost 300,000 miles.
  6. FYA: All our precious parents are living.
    NOW: Only our precious mothers are living.
  7. FYA: I can do flips on the trampoline.
    NOW: Trampoline is broken. Me too.
  8. FYA: New to wiener dogs, our Lucy is still sort of a puppy.
    NOW: Lucy follows Snickers around in Heaven while, down here on earth, Frankie is almost twelve and The Wheeler Byrd is our new puppy.
  9. FYA: Looking for a property to one day move The Frame Shop into.
    NOW: Working in that spectacular new Frame Shop location.
  10. FYA: New to frame-making.
    NOW: Thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands-upon-thousands of our frames hang in homes and businesses throughout the Midwest.
  11. FYA: Dave Roberts works full-time at The Rolla Daily News and full-time at The Frame Shop.
    NOW: Dave Roberts works full-time at The Rolla Daily News and full-time at The Frame Shop. 
  12. FYA: Find looking into the future a decade from now to be impossible.
    NOW: Find looking into the future a decade from now to be impossible.
Love to all and thank you for the last fifteen years. See you soon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"I told you so."

Yep. This is the life of your local custom framer! Husband Dave and I have been framing together for fifteen years.
After 34 years together (and fifteen years working together at The Frame Shop), my husband, Dave, doesn't offer much of an opinion once I've decided to do something. He was a boy when I married him right out of high school and it's not an exaggeration to realize that we grew into adulthood together instead of coming together as adults. I learned decades ago that he's not normally going to chime in his approval for any of my big ideas. He also doesn't criticize. Most difficult of all, he also doesn't say, "I told you so." As I believe he actually loves to utter those words when given any opportunity at all, I have to say, I appreciate his restraint.

Over these hundreds of years that we've been together, I have tried zillions of things. Coming up with some big idea is the most wonderful thing to do in this world. Beginning on a new brilliant project is also one of the greatest things in life. Getting just far enough into it that you realize it's way more complicated and difficult than you ever dreamed... well, that isn't quite so thrilling.

That's when a person who knew all along that another person would flop at whatever she was trying to do would delight in pointing out the obvious by lifting a brow and sniffling a well-timed: "well, I tried to tell you but you wouldn't listen."

Recently, I dragged old Dave Roberts on a few hours drive to go pick up an ancient piece of framing equipment  from a shop that was going out of business because I wanted to be able to easily cut oval glass. Our investment was merely fifty bucks for this old dinosaur-cutter but I knew it would be an awesome gadget to have. Good custom frame shops have a lot of gadgets because we do everything ourselves. So, even though we rarely-rarely-rarely frame with ovals (ovals go in-and-out of vogue... so they'll come back around...) I know I'll eventually think we were clever for getting this equipment on the cheap.

We dragged this old cutter home to the shop and I cleaned it, set it up, then started cutting. The mats cut easily enough on it (though I still have to go in and tighten it up and calibrate the settings), but alas, it doesn't have the glass-cutting head.

"I can cut it just as easily by hand," said Dave Roberts when I told him what I'd discovered.

"I know you can," I said. "But I wanted to do it on this cutter."

This is when he should have said, "Well, I told you we didn't need it."

But you see, he didn't say anything of the sort. Instead, he said, "You said you could get parts for it. Keep looking for the part. You'll find it."

And then he said something else that encompasses most of our life experiences. He said, "We've wasted a lot more than fifty bucks on things that didn't work."

Having a small business is hard in almost every way. You have to have nerves of steel (which I do not have), you have to juggle dozens of priorities (which I don't know how to do), you have to know how to do everything passably well (which who knows how to do everything or even wants to do everything?), you have to weather good- and terrible-times (and in the last decade there have been more than enough terrible-times for small businesses), and you have to never give up (which I dearly love to do).

Here's Dave, delighted to see me, as always.
This afternoon, after I showed him my latest big deal I'm making for the gallery ceiling, I watched while Dave Roberts quietly puttied several frames so I could fit them and get them out the door. It's a job I can do, but hate. So he does it. This week (and it's only Tuesday), while I piddled around figuring out how to use that oval-cutter and how to design my big fantastic idea for the gallery ceiling, he's also:

mowed the yard

emptied all my trash and taken the dumpsters to the curb and back again

brought me lunch every day

put away all the new mouldings

cut frames

cut glass

helped the Larson driver unload the truck

helped me relocate the crazy oval-cutter I bought

continued trenching a huge perimeter around our back-yard so we can bury an invisible fence that will allow our wiener dogs to return to the shop (our puppy keeps getting out even though we have a fence in the back and so we are adding another barrier)...

Each evening when I leave work (unless I'm mad at him for some reason) I call and ask what he's doing. He's always working at his real job and it's not usually a convenient time for me to call. After I ask when he's getting home I always ask him this, "What can I eat for supper?" And he tells me what we have or that he will be home in time to fix something.

Isn't it strange, isn't it strange, isn't it strange... our lives become so co-mingled over our lifetimes. How often I know this man would love to say, "Good grief! What were you thinking?" or more likely, "Good night! What in the world are you doing now?" Or best of all, "I told you that wouldn't work!" But instead, he does all the things a man does and lives in a quiet and fine way while I carry on to him about whatever great big harebrained thing I've dreamed up at any given time.

So isn't it strange?

And you know what?

For those who thought we were too young, too immature, too poor, too silly to make it all those decades ago: YOU WERE RIGHT! But, with God's help, we have. And, well, I told you so.