Death, Grief, Rejoicing, and Peace

Oh, how I wish I could get my blog site set up the way I want it. Because it’s not what I envision, I tend not to write, but I have so much to share! It’s not that I think everyone is eager to hear what I have to say. But I do love to express, document, and share what I’ve learned. I have learned a lot. I look forward to a time when I will write regularly.

Much has occurred since my last post in late May. I worked at my Principal Secretary job through the summer. It was good, and it was also hard. The job wasn’t hard (it’s much better than the first many months when everything was new), just working was hard! I know. Many people do it. I’m both grateful and frustrated. I’m grateful for a job. And I’m frustrated that I don’t have more time to accomplish more in my life. But those topics are for another day.

We lost our beloved Rocky two weeks ago. He was sick for three weeks with a bulging disc or slipped disc or both. We don’t know for certain because with my finances, I couldn’t justify surgery, and if we weren’t going to do surgery, I didn’t think  the cost of x-rays made sense. We chose the route of recovery without surgery, which can be successful, but instead we and he endured 3 weeks of pain. The pain got intolerable, so we decided to put him to rest. It was heart wrenching. We loved him immensely, and Bridgette misses him terribly. I can cry at the thought of him, but here’s the truth: Two dogs were hard for me. That also may be a topic for another day.

Rocky is the reddish brown dachshund.

Today I’m writing about death, grief, rejoicing, and peace, all at once. This is unique to the one who looks to God as her savior. It’s unlikely the person who doesn’t know God can relate to the ability to face all emotions at once. The ability to experience all these emotions simultaneously has been a mystery to me.  This morning Bridgette and I laid in bed and we thought about exactly this.

We woke up early to the news that a community member for whom we’ve fought beside in prayer and otherwise, for 6 years, had died. He was 13 (I think). We’ve known him since he was in early grade school. His sister is in my son, Bradley’s class. Sam Day died of Ewing’s sarcoma. Bridgette is home from OSU for the weekend. It’s nice that she can do that for many reasons. It’s really nice when she needs to grieve, as well as cram for an anatomy final. There’s been a lot of grieving lately, and a lot of reconciling emotions.

As  we laid in bed, both acknowledging that our stomachs twisted as we hurt for Sam and his family, we also discussed Nathalie Traller. Nathalie died last year of Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma, otherwise known as ASPS. She was another community member who we got to know indirectly because we chose to fight her fight with her.

This last week Nathalie’s dad had written an article about his grief and I hadn’t yet read it,  but Bridgette had. This morning, I read it and wept. I had just cried because of Sam. Not just wet eyes, but tears that accompanied unfamiliar sounds, as if I was  personally losing someone. As much as I know Sam, I did not know Sam. I did not live life with Sam, or his parents. The same was true for Nathalie. Both Bridgette and I (and Bradley has loved on them as well) weren’t what I call a personal friend, but we were committed to these families in prayer. We had personal contact with them, and volunteered on their behalf, in an effort to raise funds that would further medicines that would bring them and others to healing. We had invested in them, and it felt our investment had been taken from us. It hurt.

As we laid in bed, thinking out loud about death, we expressed sincere conviction that we knew Sam and Nathalie were in heaven.  We wondered however, how we could be both so grieved and relieved for them, yet not feel happiness. If heaven is the ultimate goal, shouldn’t we be ecstatic? And if heaven is that wonderful, what’s the point of life here? We’re not the first to have asked these questions. But it was the first time the two of us asked these questions of each other, and in the context of a mother and daughter. As much as I know we were exploring these questions with each other, I am the mom, and I wanted to give my grieving daughter words she could hang on to.

Our grief comes from our investment, and the loss we experience when we don’t get to cash in. Regardless of what the loss is, we have typically invested in the thing we have lost, in some form. Otherwise, it’s not much of a loss. The more we invest, the more pay off we expect.  As good stewards and servants, we contribute in this world. On one hand, we read in Psalm 128:2 “You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.” We have instructions to “…‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” in Mathew 22:39. In fact, it’s not instructions; it’s God’s command: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. … in Matthew 22:36-40.

Yet, King Solomon in Ecclesiastes says ““Meaningless! Meaningless!”  says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless.”

We invest, yet it’s meaningless? If it’s all meaningless and our ultimate destination is to be with Jesus, why can’t we skip this part? The part where we toil and invest and love, here on earth? Can’t we just do that in heaven?

I don’t have all the answers to that, necessarily. As a mom and a Christian who depends on my relationship with Jesus each day, I had some answers for Bridgette. I knew to tell her that we are here to glorify God and to bring others to know him. And that God’s plan is so intricate, complex, and unique to each of us, that we can’t necessarily understand it, but that we can see its beauty as it’s played out. Beauty, not like rainbows and unicorns and Pinterest quotes, but beauty that is uniquely experienced by us when we are intimate and relational with God and with others.

I assured her that each of us brings something unique to each other, so unique, that without each other, none of us can be the person God intends us to be. That in each moment, we are offering to the other something, and that something is either building the other, or tearing the other. Building the other is living within God’s will. Other than God’s word (the bible), there are few people who can communicate clearly what God’s plan looks like (although, for me, CS Lewis comes very close). I prayed that my words in this moment would resonate with Bridgette, and I’ll leave the rest up to God’s word, and CS Lewis sometime if she chooses.

As Christians, we are able to rejoice in our grief, because we believe that our ultimate destination is to be with our heavenly father, where all things will be good.  Yet we cry when we know someone has gone there! Shouldn’t we be shouting for joy, absent the grief? But we cannot, because of the investment that we have made in this life and given to those we love.

We are placed in this world by our heavenly father. While living within his will, we are to embrace it. We are to glorify him in everything we do. We are to work hard, to love well, to love our neighbor, to parent with wisdom, to teach, to feed the hungry and to give to others. Everything about Jesus is relational. Everything we are asked to do requires heart and grit. But. It can be taken away.

For those who don’t know our heavenly father, they have no insurance. They only have grief. For the person whose car has been stolen and has no insurance, he has only anger. For the person whose beautiful home has burned to the ground, but has not enough insurance to recover his losses, he has only loss and probably torment. But for the person who has vested into this life, according to God’s will, with heart, and faced hard times with grit, our loss means grief, with the insurance of our heavenly father backing us. So, we both grieve and rejoice. And part of that beauty that we can’t explain is promised to us in Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Thank you, Bridgey and thank you heavenly father for a moment with my daughter to explore sadness and you.



I Am So Happy, Again. Tips on Lighting a Charcoal BBQ

How can so much happiness occur, two days in a row? Again, it has nothing to do with the typical things that produce happiness. Well, that’s not completely true. Food does typically make me pretty happy. But this is about more than food. It’s about using a piece of equipment at will, and achieving success. There’s a theme in these last two posts: use equipment and it works like it should. That makes me happy.


I’ve had a charcoal BBQ for two years. The gas one died, and I didn’t want to deal with propane.  Bradley helped me at first with it, but since he’s moved I haven’t been successful with my attempts. I don’t know what guardian angel decided to tap me three times and grant my wish, but I’m happy about it. I longed to be able to come home, throw some charcoal on the grill, and cook me up some meat. My last birthday request from the kids was to teach me how to do it. My copy cat attempts from You Tube were failing me, so I’d hope my kids would be more successful. They must have decided that buying a gift was easier than figuring out the trick to a charcoal BBQ, because they didn’t come through with my request. I’m not complaining about the gifts I got, though. Bridgette’s got a great gift for gifts.

So, here is my success. And yes, it tasted as good as it looks. See below for my tips that I’m HAPPY to share.


Lighting the Charcoal BBQ

Build the briquettes in a pyramid (got these instructions right off the bag). I purchased a cylinder when I bought the BBQ. It was recommended and I know a lot of people like them. But I wasn’t successful with it so I decided to do what the bag says.

Douse with BBQ fluid, about 10 seconds, placing it all over the briquettes. Don’t ever put the lighter fluid on top of burning briquettes. I’m not just saying this to protect myself from a lawsuit. I really believe it’s not a good idea.

Light the briquettes… light more than one. I lit as many as I could. The flame starts slow, so it’s not a problem to do this.

LEAVE THE LID OFF. The briquettes need oxygen.

Check on it in 15 mins or so. At this point I moved the briquettes around a little bit. I checked in 5 or so minutes, then spread the briquettes in a single layer (again, off the bag), but touching each other. I blew on them, to stimulate some flame. I’m not sure if that helped or not. It was a still night, so I decided to give it a little kick with my breath.

The fire seemed a little slow to get hot, so I placed the lid on, with the vent opened all the way. Remember, it needs oxygen. That seemed to get more flame going. Soon there was smoke, and I removed the lid, placed my chicken on the grill, and let ‘er cook. Flames began to ignite because of the drippings, so I played around with it, flipping the chicken occasionally. When the flames got too big, I returned the lid, and kept the vents open. That seemed to reduce the oxygen, but gave it enough to continue cooking. I really just watched it back and forth with lid on and off. In between I weeded my yard and talked on the phone with Bradley. I love to multi-task, and since I could smell the chicken cooking, I was feeling very accomplished.


I used 5 chicken thighs. I like ALL chicken. Mostly dark, but if white is cooked so it’s not over cooked, I like it, too. I put the pieces in a Zip Lock with about 2 T of olive oil, some garlic mixture (2 T?) I found in my cupboard, and half a lemon squeezed. I rubbed those all together while in the Zip Lock and voila (my computer doesn’t have the French accents), and that was it!


I Am So Happy

Those words are usually reserved for romance, proud parent moments, or maybe a significant accomplishment in education or a career move. My happiness in this moment comes from none of those. It comes from something more ordinary, yet elusive up until now.  I am sitting on my back deck with a glass of red wine. The deck is clean and pretty, with lights strung from one side of the covered deck to the other. And, the rest of the yard is under control.


I’m not happy because it was I who did it. Yes, I did do it. But I’d have been very happy for someone else to do it. I don’t feel the same satisfaction some people get because they accomplished a task.  I get satisfaction simply because the task is complete. Regardless of whether someone else has done it, or if I have done it, I own it. I own this house, this yard, my children (you know what I mean), these dogs, this life. It was important to me that the yard be functioning, and I wanted it completed.  It was an ongoing project since we’d moved in almost two years ago. It was like looking at an unmade bed each and every day, and I wanted it made!

As I mowed yesterday, I thought, “How long does it take a single woman without lawn mowing knowledge and who is ill equipped to mow a lawn?” The answer in this case would be, “About a month.” I’ll share with you some back story, but this post is mostly about the lawn mowing. It makes some sense as to why a big project like a yard overhaul might be difficult, for anyone. But I thought mowing the lawn would be easy icing on the cake, and when it wasn’t, I was reminded of how the most simplest of tasks aren’t simple if one doesn’t know what they’re doing. I need to remember this lesson when my kids confront me with a similar frustration regarding something I ask of them!

When I bought this house two years ago in August (I cannot believe it’s been that long), the back yard was a mess. The sellers had big dogs that they trained, and they had the run of the back yard. The front yard was decent, but the sprinkler system didn’t work, so it also began to deteriorate. I finally made a hard decision last November to pay for a landscape design and had it installed. I didn’t implement the new design in the front yard because the front yard was good enough. But I had the foundation of the back yard installed. It was flattened, sod was laid, and big concrete squares were positioned into a patio. I saved a lot of money by being responsible for planting the plants (I wish I could say that meant that the project was inexpensive, but it wasn’t). A couple of friends listened to me whine about it, and they helped me with some planting as well as some other yard work. When one is soley responsible for everything in one’s life, a friend who offers to plant a plant or do some trimming, is like an umbrella in a rainstorm. They are a relief and a refuge, and it hugely warms my heart.

The yard has been an ongoing project. It’s been through winter and spring rains (with some sunny relief), weekends and after work that I’ve soldiered through finalizing its completion. It’s consumed me as I raced to beat the seasonal time clock of the harsh summer sun. While others bemoaned the rain, I quietly praised God. When it didn’t rain, I spent an hour most nights watering plants in my desperate effort to save my investment.

So much attention was spent on the digging, moving dirt (clay and rocks), uprooting old shrubs, pruning, and watering, yet one other task was unavoidable; I had to mow the lawn. I procrastinated at this project because I was certain I’d whip it out in no time at all. I have three small patches of lawn. I had a reel mower that I’d not cared for well. In the moves from house to house it got ignored and sat outside. But I was certain that it was good enough for my small job. But I was wrong. It didn’t cut well. I decided to sell it and buy a new one. I assumed the poor cut was due to my lack of good care.

But of course, it wasn’t that simple. First, I tried to get the Fiskars reel mower sharpened. I called two places within 10 miles of my home and neither of them would sharpen a Fiskars reel mower. So, then I decided to sell it, and use the money toward another mower. I Craigslisted it, and fortunately sold it.

Buying a new mower wouldn’t be simple, though. Would I get gas, electric, battery operated or stick with my plan and go with the reel push mower. The latter was appealing on so many levels. No gas, no complications when pulling the start cord, and the biggest was this: I get to work out while mowing my yard (workouts have gotten very low on the priority list). I purchased the store’s recommendation and bought their reel mower.

It met all three objectives. I didn’t have to buy gas, there were no start complications, and I got a workout. Like, I really good upper body workout and not so good lower back workout. And, my grass looked like, crap. Ugh. I do hate that word. But there’s no way around it. The mower was eating it up the lawn. A goat would have given it a better finish. The mower missed large clumps of grass, no matter how many times I went over it.

The grass on the edges fell over, laying flat around the perimeter of the lawn. So, I purchased an edger. I had more decisions to make, but suffice it to say, the options for the edger were the same as for the lawn mower. I purchased an electric edger after work one day. I couldn’t wait to use it, but it sat in the garage for a couple of days like a piece of chocolate cake that had to wait until the big day to be eaten. The lawn taunted me each day I pulled out in the morning and pulled back in for the night, begging me to rid it of its scraggly perimeter, but my schedule wouldn’t allow for it. Since the plants were at risk, I had no choice but to place watering at a higher priority, and let the edge of my lawn hold out like a badly needed haircut until the stylist had an opening.

While the edge waited for attention, the weeds, grass, and blossoms popped up over night and every night. Edging was not the only thing that needed attention. I mowed the lawn first, hoping for improvement over the last attempt, with my brand new shiny reel mower. But there was no improvement! Crap. Crap. Crap. Between each “crap” I asked God to give me a break.  But I eeked out a wee bit of hope. It all rested in my new edger, in a hope that it would compensate for the sub par lawn cut. After assembly (another learning curve), I revved it up with hope beyond hope. But there would be no satisfaction on this night. I hadn’t anticipated yet another learning curve. I didn’t know how to use an edger.

You Tube here I come, again.

By the time I was done, green grass and wet mud spewed onto surfaces that weren’t intended for grass and mud. Bark dust was covered and grass stains smeared my cement squares that make up the patio. I love power wash, but I couldn’t imagine when I would find the time. My handling of the edger carved a new lawn design that looked more like a jig saw puzzle than anything else. I wanted to cry.


The amount of energy I was expending on my yard without success was depressing and I had an overwhelming sense of failure and loss of hope. My work days are full and I have a limited amount of time and money to spend on my home, and I’m tired of the constant effort that produces so little harvest.

I texted three or four friends who knew I’d been working on my yard and showed them some pictures and shared my frustration, to a severe degree. My filter was thin. They encouraged me, and offered help. As much as I like help, I knew that wasn’t the answer. Help would be never ending. My answer would be in new skills. I have to know how to whip out a mowed lawn, so I can still cook dinner or see a friend or pay bills in an evening. It seemed like such a simple task. I’d had the yard designed for easy maintenance, yet it was very hard (for me).

Yesterday my friend and her husband came over so he could show me what I might be doing wrong, and it made all the difference. He determined the brand new shiny reel mower was not cutting the grass (yea, I wasn’t all to blame) and he showed me how to use the edger. After some time, they left and I left too, headed straight to Orchard Supply to purchase a new lawn mower (I knew they were having a 20% off sale, plus they’re super nice and helpful there). As I pondered back and forth, feeling anxious about another wrong decision, a customer in the lawn mower aisle assured me that an electric lawn mower was a good decision. After 2 more stores (stock availability) I drove home with my new Craftsman electric lawn mower and determination to finish my lawn.

Again, a learning curve. I hadn’t considered the abuse by the heavy extension cord my plants would take, nor did I anticipate tripping my circuit breakers. After several trips to the garage I realized I need to turn off all the lights on that circuit when I mow and I need to move the mower forward and back, not in the traditional square or circle we’re used to with a gas mower. This will help with cord management. Oh, the things I’m learning.

Then, I decided to hang the deck lights that I’d purchased from Costco a year ago. Off to Orchard Supply for the fourth time in a day, to purchase eye bolts and quick links (new terms to me), per my instructions from on You Tube. After almost two hours I got them hung. The lights are heavy duty, so they’re weighty. I had a hard time on a ladder matching the hook part of the string to wood that would accept the eye bolt.


All this detail for what seems like the most ordinary basic things. My friend and her husband were so gracious in ensuring that things were in good order before they left. While Blake was playing around with a sprinkler head, he proclaimed that he had broken it. I was a bit alarmed, but I trusted him to make it right. Within twenty minutes he’d muddied himself but it was fixed. That twenty minutes would have taken me hours, days, or weeks, dependent on my schedule, other peoples’ schedules, and their availability. I forgot to add that I had finally got the sprinkler system fixed, after many attempts to connect with sprinkler people. We never did meet in person. We communicated through emails.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Chinese Proverb

Thank you Blake and Sally (OK, Sally was mostly here for support) for showing me what I needed to know, so I can mow my lawn, and cook dinner in the same night. And mostly, so I can enjoy my home. This makes me so happy. And maybe next week I’ll “get to” power wash.

I Want My Eyebrows Back

It’s been May 9th since my last post. The one before that was February 22nd. One might assume that I have more to share than a post about my eyebrows. And one would be correct. In fact, I have so much I could share that it’s possible I could write a novel. The events in the last four months or so are involved, personal, mystifying, confusing, and probably fifty other adjectives. So not only have I not posted because life feels too intimate to share publicly (should I be blessed with a reader or two), but I can’t find the time. I can’t find the time to write, or to design my blog the way I imagine it to be. But a quick post about my missing eyebrows is manageable.

I’m frustrated with my eyebrows. I’m sad, too. It feels good to say I’m sad about something, without concern that that the sadness is going to define me. For that reason, thin or not, I love my eyebrows, because they are a safe topic about which I can openly express my grief. They’ve been disappearing for awhile now. At age 55 (turned this age on April 16th, while I wasn’t posting), they’re virtually non-existent. I feel much too young to wear painted on eyebrows, drawn on in a perfect arch. Heaven forbid they would have an orange tint. However, I do use a pencil by Revlon called Brow Fantasy, Dark Blond (no pic; no time). I used to use one by Mary Kay that I loved. It is called Classic Blonde. It was awesome because it was the perfect color for every eyebrow color. Literally, it complimented blonds as well as it did brunettes. It was a good price, but the Revlon is a little less money, and I cut corners where I can. I’m renovating the living room and have some other hopes of home projects that take priority over my eyebrow care.

The brow thing is interesting. Brows give shape to our eyes. I learned that when I was a Mary Kay Beauty Consultant. They really accentuate the eyes, and I love framing my eyes with my brows, but just when I discovered the affect they have on our beauty, I started losing them! Like most things, we appreciate things more when we don’t have them. Every day, I’m appreciating them more. Each single hair that composes my brows is precious to me. I don’t take one for granted.

We have to laugh at these things. Thinning brows is something about which I can share. I can express myself without concern for anyone else. I suppose that will be the real test of a writer. When I can write hard truths with redemption and without exposing another person’s faults or deficits. My lost brows and the feelings about them is TMI, but that issue is irrelevant in the big scheme of things. I’m almost grateful for this discovery. For 30 seconds each morning I am distracted from things that are more serious. Maybe I can discover more insignificant relatable topics and share them. I need frivolous subject matter so I can improve my writing skills. While that’s not the vision of my blog, until I’m able to refine my site in a way that allows me to write openly, but safely, my substance will likely suffer. Hopefully during this time, I can emote some laughter. I don’t know if I’ll think my eyebrows are funny when they’re completely gone. Until then, I’m getting a good chuckle and I got to write a bit, and there’s value in that.

Happy Summer, this 21st day of June, 2015.


Happy Mother’s Day

It’s been over two months since I’ve posted anything. On January 1st, I posted A Prayer for 2015. It was a prayer that while working full time, I would be organized, fruitful, and productive. I wanted to hit every area of my life, and I imagined how I would do it. But, I haven’t done it. And that’s largely why I haven’t written in over two months. Working full time and learning a new industry has been like learning a new language, complete with a new alphabet. And, as smart as I sometimes think I can be, much of the time I feel really dumb.

All that to say, the job is going well! But it’s not without hurdles. And other areas of my life have presented some challenges that at times have wiped me out. And that’s not something I’ve been up to sharing. So. Even though all that is true; it’s really an explanation of my absence, and my segue into an opportunity to post something fun; sweet memories from being a mother. I actually wrote this for our company newsletter, when we were all invited to offer a “little” something. My submission wasn’t so little, thus wasn’t included in the company newsletter, but it’s perfect for my blog:

This Mother’s Day, my mind doesn’t flood with childhood memories of a typical mom.  But my own two kids have granted me “mom memories” that have long since compensated for the absence of boastful memories about my own mom. I’ve jumped for joy when my daughter won her heat at a swim meet, cried when my son struck out, and I beam when he tackles a receiver, as much for his success as anything else. Living day in and day out with one’s children creates endless memories.  Like many moms, I could stay up well past midnight talking into the night about my kids, or I could write a book that would make me beam and make me cry, completely at the same time. That’s a mom. Here are a couple of sweet memories to share with you in honor of MOTHER’S DAY.

When my son was two or three, he had a small spot in the middle back of his neck that I loved to snuggle and kiss. I’d grab his little body, wrestle it into mine, pull him tight and say, Where’s my “favorite spot? I love my favorite spot!“  One day I over heard him say to one of my friends, “My mom loves to kiss my “private spot.“ EEEKS!

One night at dinner we stumbled around general conversation. Alex, a little boy I babysat and Bridgette’s friend was with us. They were four or five years old. Bridgette asked if she was going to marry Alex. We explained that we didn’t know, and that a lot had to happen before she got married. “What has to happen?“ she asked, always the planner. I said, “Well, first you’ll go to school all the way until you graduate from high school. That will take 12 years. Then, you’ll go to college; there’s at least another four years. You might meet someone in college, and then after college, you might get married. I’m trying to set the stage so she believes there’s no deviation of that plan. At age 4 or 5, I can do that. She says, “Then, I just pick one?“ “Well, yeah,” I say. “We’ll do it together. We’ll look at colleges and decide which one is best for you.“ “No!” she says. Pick the husband. How do I pick him? When I go to college, do I just pick the one I want?“

I never wrote these memories down, because I can’t imagine forgetting them. They’re embedded in my memory and heart forever. Well, until I forget anyway. I turned 55 in the two months that I haven’t written and it’s clear that the memory doesn’t last forever. Not that things suddenly began to slip on my 55th birthday; but it’s easier to use 55 as an excuse than it does to use 45.

Here you go, sweet peas. These memories are now recorded and are yours.

Happy Mother’s Day!

If You Lack the Means to Pay

I didn’t get to expand nearly as much as I wanted in my post, Paying Off Debt. In my effort to share some solid financial insight from Phylicia, absent was my own feelings about money, and how it fits in my life. Money has been a bit of a struggle for me much of my life. When I was growing up, money was scarce. Money and material things eluded us and I don’t remember thinking much about money, the absence of it, or the absence of anything. There was no confusion about it, because it didn’t exist. There were no extravagances about which I had to reconcile. If there were Christmas gifts, they were donated to us, but I don’t know from where. We never belonged to a church, even though my mother was very religious. One year I received a Barbie doll wrapped in newspaper. That wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but I recall the instant I realized that the Barbie doll was used. Her hair wasn’t golden and didn’t fall straight down her back. Instead, it was sparse and wild. And, she didn’t come with any clothes. I don’t remember feeling another gift as distinctly as I remember that one.

As I got older, and I was in a foster home, things seemed much brighter, and more confusing. Christmas in my foster home was a big big deal, and a real thrill. With no less than eight kids in the home at a time, and every child designated at least five gifts, the tree overflowed with colored packages that glistened and summoned my name. But none of the packages bore anyone’s name. They were color coded, and because we weren’t allowed to rummage around under the tree, it was easy to pretend the whole inventory under that tree was for me. We all undressed those gifts with our eyes. I recall willing a pair of culottes, or a David Cassidy album to be my gifts.  I’d gone from not anticipating anything to having high hopes for specific gifts.

As a young adult I got myself into deep trouble with a couple of credit cards. And, as an older adult, I got myself out of deep trouble from those credit cards. I recall vowing to pay off the credit card that had maxed out at $10,000. When that happened, I planned to reward myself with a dinner at what was then called Atwaters, atop the 30th floor of the U.S. Bank tower in Portland. I imagined sitting at a window table, overlooking the city, enjoying a medium rare Rib Eye steak, proud of my accomplishment.   But when I made that final payment to the credit card company, a $50 meal had no appeal.  I probably treated myself to homemade fried chicken, mashed potatoes, peas, and gravy, enjoying an episode of 60 Minutes. That was an ideal Sunday night in those days.

The problem wasn’t so much that I couldn’t justify spending $50 on a nice meal. The problem was that I knew my income didn’t support such an expense, and I was living a lie if I pretended it did. That issue is really at the crux of my decision making. It’s not so much about the money that is spent on something, but it’s the amount of money I’m spending, in proportion to my income, and my giving. When banks consider lending money to a borrower, they call it Debt to Income Ratio. What is my debt compared to my income, and does it make sense for me to increase my debt, based on my fixed expenses, like my home, a car, insurance, healthcare, my kids, etc.?  I can ask the same question of myself that the bank asks if they are considering loaning money to me.  Unfortunately, banks didn’t do a very good job of this formula several years back, and a lot of people received loans that shouldn’t have.  Within my marriage I experienced that era, too.

When we encourage our kids to purchase expensive items that are outside of their income, it’s creating a habit that could be very hard to break, not to mention confusing.  They don’t have the financial demands they will have as an adult. It’s easy to spend their babysitting money or our money on anything they want, when they don’t have the obligations of bills. But if we can teach them now how to live within their means, we’re helping them avoid the prison so many people face (as I did, when I had a $10,000 balance) of being held hostage to debtors.

Not only do people become hostage to debtors, but bad credit closes doors, and good credit opens doors.  Six years after my divorce, I was able to eek out a good enough credit score for a lender to take a risk on me so I could buy a home. I pay a premium for that risk, by paying a higher interest rate than my neighbor who has a more impressive credit score.  With every mortgage payment I make, my credit it improving.  The bad credit score I inherited from my divorce stifled my ability to buy a house in the conventional sense the previous six years.  Finally after six years and now a few months of paying a mortgage, things are improving.  A good credit score is a valuable piece of a person’s purchasing power.  A bad credit score leaves one feeling powerless in their ability to move forward regarding the big decisions, like a car, a home, and insurance.

I do believe it’s a confusing time in American culture. People often refer to the simple life of people in third world countries, and the happiness that people experience, without the material things and conveniences we take for granted. I believe that’s true. But I don’t think third world country people face the decisions that we do every day, to have or not have, to buy or not buy. They simply live the life they’ve been handed, while we’re trying to live a life with values of a third world country, within a first world country economy, complete with award winning marketing strategies. It’s a lot to ask of ourselves, and of our kids, when we’re faced with golden opportunities of richness everywhere we turn.

It’s not to say that beautiful things and conveniences are bad. I include conveniences in this, because convenience costs money. These things by themselves don’t define us as Godless. But debt isn’t of God, and when we live outside of our means, we aren’t living within God’s will for our lives. Proverbs 22:7 says “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” Proverbs 22:26-27 says, “Do not be one who shakes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you.”  God’s point is, buy it if you can pay for it. That translates differently for everyone, because everyone’s financial situation is different. Sometimes I will shop at Goodwill. Sometimes I will shop at the Loft or Nordstrom. I will shop for what I can pay for, and I won’t go into debt for anything (oops, I owe on my house).

I could pay $9.99 for these. They were the perfect compliment to a blue and burgundy striped top I wore with some black slacks.
I could pay $9.99 for these at Goodwill. They were the perfect compliment to a blue and burgundy striped top I wore with some black slacks.

I like nice things as much (and sometimes more) as the next person. I am seduced by the clothes at Nordstrom like everyone else. But I don’t like the clothes at Nordstrom more than I like my home, or my car, or falling to sleep at night when I hit my pillow.

Bradley gave me a compliment last summer that surprised me. I wrote about it in another forum and I’m going to simply write what I wrote at the time:  “Mom, it makes me feel good that you are careful with our money.  It makes me feel safe, like we’re not going to run out or anything. You could pretend that everything is the same and act like we can do whatever we want to, but you don’t do that.”  The reason I was shocked was because Bobby has often criticized me for being cautious and using coupons, or insisting on getting deals on something before I make a purchase.  When he’s been critical of that, I’ve been defensive and frustrated that he doesn’t understand that it’s not being cheap, but rather prudent.

Bradley had been watching me. So much, that at times, it caused arguments and frustration.  We weathered the arguments, though and another message emerged.

I don’t want my kids to think I’m cheap. I want them to get a thrill out of a new piece of clothing or event. But I mostly want them to understand that we spend, we save, and we give, what we have. We don’t spend, give, or save what we don’t have, and it’s not because we’re cheap. It’s because no matter how cool those new shoes look or that purse feels, we’re living within our means, with the hope that we can enjoy things as much later, as we do now. And we might even surprise ourselves, and find that later, things are even better.

Paying Off Debt

It’s been eighteen days since my last blog post. It feels like forever, but WordPress spells it out. Eighteen days. And as I ready myself for bed, longing for a goodnight sleep before the workweek begins again (my employer gave us President’s Day off, Yea!), I know that sleep will win out over posting a well written blog. Even with a three day weekend, other things took priority over writing. Writing takes discipline I’m not finding right now, for that, anyway.

The last two weeks have been exhausting as I attempt to juggle work and manage parenting, home, social life, yard care (like a total makeover), etc.  I remember my prayer for 2015. It was a hopeful prayer.  I will always reach higher than my ability, so when I fall short, I’ll still attain a reasonable amount of accomplishment. But the effort can be exhausting, and I must incorporate God every step of the way. Otherwise, I subject myself to unbalance and confusion. As hard as it is for me to prioritize, because everything seems important, the one thing I get right, is beginning each day with my heavenly father.

But because I have a hard time prioritizing, I seem to put a little energy into every area, which is both satisfying and frustrating. I’ve put energy into my yard, my home, my kids, my friends, exercise, my prayer life, not as much into reading God’s word, and certainly I’ve put energy into my job. No energy into my writing. Nothing is complete, but everything has been touched.

A couple of weeks ago I had our deck worked on, and during that process, I had two of the dog kennels removed. What I’m going to do with that space now, I’m not sure. But something has to be done. The back yard is unsightly, and I so want the yard a livable space for spring and summer.

Most of that is removed by now, but still lots of work to be done.
Yuk! I long to have a livable outdoor space!

There is no time for me to write about any one thing in depth tonight. I could write about my job and the hurdles I face, or about Valentine’s Day, or about my kids and the parenting stretches, which can all be engaging. Instead I’m going to post a link to another blogger’s insights into paying off debt. I loved her expression of devotion to paying off debt, as it relates to her commitment to God and to her marriage.

I find it valuable because I know the struggle young people face regarding money. “Young people,” ugh. That dates me to my 54 years that I am. I know my daughter is faced daily with expensive trends that seem ordinary.  It’s commonplace for teenage girls (approved of or supplied for by their parents) to spend $200 on a pair of jeans.  Coach, Michael Kors bags are the norm. Cover Girl and Max Factor have been booted by Mac and Bare Minerals.  Wardrobe “essentials” have lost the meaning. Manicures and coffee dates can easily be a $30 afternoon. Well meaning teens and families spends thousands of dollars on clothing, food, and entertainment, but possess a sincere desire to help those less fortunate. It’s a confusing time. Boys have the same addictions, possibly more in the form of shoes and athletic gear.

So, take advantage of what Phylicia has to offer. In her post 5 Ways We Destroy Debt, she offers an inside look at her and her husband’s money management.  Money is a personal matter, and often people don’t share the intimate details of what they do with their money.  When people look put together, it’s easy to assume they spend a lot of money to achieve that impression. I’ve posted before how much I shop at Goodwill. In fact, I bought a pair of shoes there this weekend. $9.99 for a pair of navy blue chunky heeled pumps from Nine West. Having Phylicia spell out the details of their expenses is helpful. Good money management can change your life. Like Dave Ramsey teaches, there’s financial peace in good money management.  I’m not perfect at it. I could improve, in fact. I hope you’ll get some good inspiration from Phylicia. I did.


My view when I walked in the door, and was greeted by our sweet receptionist with: "Do you like your new office?"
My view when I walked in the door, and was greeted by our sweet receptionist with: “Do you like your new office?”

I know that having a job isn’t a big deal to a lot of people. I know that there are good bosses, and corporations and companies that have wonderful work environments. I know having an office is standard for some. But I also know that there are a lot of people looking for work, or looking for a better job, or wishing they didn’t have to sit in a cubicle and listen to their neighbor on the phone or eating their lunch. I have been blessed. I have the great privilege of working at Atkinson Insurance Group, and every day, I really can’t believe it.

I don’t know why that is. I have been faithful and intentional and asked God for the right opportunity. But in truth, there was a nagging voice, with every resume I submitted and every interview I went to, that wondered how I would get a job that could satisfy so many of my personal needs. How would a 54 year old without a college degree and out of the work force for twenty years be granted a job that could satisfy a sense of purpose and provide a sufficient income? And, meet my logistical needs so that I could remain available for my son (and duh dogs)?

Yet, my personal needs have been met, and more. I’m heading into my fourth week on the job and continue to be intrigued by the insurance business. It keeps me engaged and captivated. Our work environment is friendly and respectful, and some days I eat better than my son does, because of some work function that brings in lunch. Last night I got home at 6:30 (that was rare, and it wasn’t because I was still at this job… I was working on a property that I’m managing). I asked Bradley if hash browns and eggs would be okay for dinner. I’d had Pizzicato pizza and salad for lunch, which isn’t fancy, but it wasn’t breakfast!

In the last twenty years I’ve made a lot of decisions. Every second, every day, we all make decisions. We decide what time we’ll get up and what time we’ll go to bed. Whether we’ll pray, read our bible, exercise, what we’ll eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or if we’ll eat the candy in the candy jar.  We choose church, or not. We choose to get drunk or remain sober. What job we’ll take and whether to go home after work, or accept an invitation to go out. We choose to retain a friendship, or distance ourselves. We choose to date, or not. Whether to marry, who to marry, whether to divorce and how to manage that. Some of our choices are easy, some are excruciatingly difficult. Our choices point us in one direction, and if it’s the wrong direction, we get to redirect ourselves with a choice that sets us in the right direction. Our choices are our own, and they all point us in a direction that gets us to one place, or another. And then there’s God.

This morning I had an out of class training session. When I stepped in the office, I was greeted by our sweet receptionist, who stood and with her Vanna White arms directed my attention to my new office. The previous three weeks my co-worker and I had been sharing an office with two banquet tables. Even though I knew the office was imminent, I wasn’t prepared for the reality of it.

I took a picture and sent it to Bridgette and Bradley right away.

Bridgette sent me flowers. I wasn’t prepared for that, either.

I am grateful for more things than I can cite. Among them, for the ability to have made decisions along the way, the easy and hard, the good and the bad, that have led me to this place. I’ve had to redirect a million times, and God has been with me with every decision. Yet, I’m sorry God, because I still, really can’t believe it.

Got Wisdom?

It’s been a week and I still like my job, my boss, and insurance. The week was a little slow. I’m being trained by a gal who juggles a lot of balls (none are deflated), which means there are lots of interruptions. It’s all good, but I’d rather write about something other than that, and you’d rather read about something other than that!

I managed to get to bed by 10 each night and get up at 5 each morning. It was a short week (I had MLK Day off), so I’m not sure if a 5 day week would have been as successful. But nevertheless, I was happy with my success of 4 for 4. I alternated between doing PT and weights at the club and walking. My walks are sacred.

It’s easy to focus in the still of the morning.

It’s a time without distractions where I can pray and listen to something that edifies my soul. I recently subscribed to Ron Mehl’s sermons through Compassion Ministries.  I didn’t know Ron Mehl, who died several years ago. He is famous around here, within the church community. He served at Beaverton Foursquare (where I belong today) for 30 years.  Anyone who knows me, knows I love my church. They know I love Pastor Randy.  I’ve given links in the past for Pastor Randy’s sermons. Last week’s sermon was Waiting on the Lord. It was deep and relevant. As I related significantly and as I listened, joy filled me as I considered my last six years and the blessings that have come out of faithfulness. There’s been no over night success, but blessings that have provided a sweet victory.

I’ve known that one day I would get around to hearing Pastor Ron Mehl’s messages, and now is that time. This week, I listened to his words of gentle, but direct wisdom, and at the close of each sermon, I found myself blubbering, having discovered a new aspect of either my faith, or my faults, of which I became encouraged through his message to improve. And now I know why he was the beloved man that he was.

One morning I was praying for my children, like I usually do. I asked God to give them wisdom. I laughed as I heard my words. “God, I pray that you will give Bridgette and Bradley wisdom.” “Get Wisdom.” It sounds like the milk slogan. Got Wisdom? But truthfully, if we could all “Get Wisdom,” life would be different. It would be like a magic scepter that zaps wisdom and good fortune into us. Voila! We’re wise and all our decisions bring forth good outcomes. But the truth is, we don’t just “Get Wisdom.” Wisdom is earned. As I considered this, my prayer for my kids changed, yet my end hope continues to be that my children will be wise.


1. Natural gift

  • Some people are innately more wise than others.

2. Experience

  • Good and Bad
  • Hardship
  • Trial and Error

3. Age

  • The older, the wiser

4. Listening to God

  • Which ultimately is submitting to his authority

If I want to be clever, I could say that Wisdom is gained by one or all of NEAL. I suppose if you want to remember the four potential conditions of wisdom, you can remember my cute little acronym.

None of those factors (outside of #4) are guaranteed to bring us wisdom.  Listening to God trumps them all. However, they all contribute greatly, if we let them.


There are some people who are naturally more wise than others. They are more cautious and skeptical as early as babyhood. They analyze a situation before plunging head first. They watch the adults around them and understand that good behavior is preferred and they imitate it. They recognize bad behavior and run from it. Or, they know just how far to go, and know where to draw the line.  I’ve known people like this, and it truly is a gift. We benefit from these people peppered within our circles. If we all played on the playground of life without a sense of awareness, it would be utter chaos. God designed some people this way and I’m grateful for what they provide to us.

I don’t think it means they’re immune from heartache or disappointment or unintended consequences.  For true wisdom, they too must always resort to #4.


Our kids don’t understand that we have been there and done that. We’ve sped and gotten tickets. Many of us have drunk and paid a regretful consequence, or we’ve experienced shame, or simply had the headache and lack of productivity that goes with too much to drink. We understand procrastination and we understand foolish things that come out of our mouth, both of which have resulted in an unplanned or disappointing outcome.

Some experiences are simply that. Experiences, both good and bad, easy and hard. Some have created hardship or have been born out of hardship. One might be a child who was a victim of parents who made bad decisions, resulting in losing a home, or facing foster care. Or maybe your hardship came from a medical crisis, or catastrophic event. Hardships can produce what some people call the silver lining. But a silver lining in severe hardships often translates to much more than a lining of any kind. It often translates to a new view on life; the kind that propels one to life changing behaviors that result in a quality of life never imagined. Or not.

Yet, regardless of the warnings and advice we give, most of our kids insist on experiencing the behavior and outcome themselves.  As much as we hope they’ll learn from us, there’s no question that the experience provides the deepest lesson.  But even severe hardship doesn’t guarantee that a lesson will be learned, or wisdom will be gained.


I’m 54, and there’s no question that I’m more wise today than I was at 5, at 16, at 22, 33. You get the picture. It’s a given that the older one gets, the wiser one is. But aren’t we glad that it’s not just age that grants us wisdom? If it were, we’d all have to wait half a century to be equipped to make good, solid decisions (if we’re using me as a benchmark for age). Or, some might use age as an excuse to make bad decisions. I can hear it now. “I’m sorry officer, for going 45 in a 25 MPH zone. You see, I’m not yet 54.” Age alone doesn’t grant us wisdom.  But the life we experience over the accumulation of years grants us a wealth of understanding and comprehension that is a gift to be cherished and if someone is wise, to be revered.


Listening to God trumps all factors in gaining wisdom. It takes shape in several forms. I believe that the most direct form of listening to God is through his word; in other words, the bible. Sometimes we wait to hear God speak to us, which may be different for each of us. I think God’s Holy Spirit usually talks to us through our spirit.  When working through a situation we may feel unsettled. If God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33), then we might believe that the direction we’re considering may not be of God, given the unsettling feeling we’re experiencing. If our decision were of God, would we feel the sense of confusion? An opposite feeling of celebration might communicate that the direction we’re going is within God’s will.  There are times that God’s voice seems loud and clear, and other times we have a hard time knowing where God wants us in a particular situation.

Above all other forms of communication to us, we can be certain of one thing. That what we read in the bible will not lead us astray. Regardless of our Natural Ability, our Age, our Experience, Listening to God is the most dependable resource in gaining wisdom.

I began writing this blog before church this morning. At church Pastor Randy spoke from James 1. Even though Pastor Randy’s message wasn’t on wisdom, there’s no question that the passage from which he spoke is valuable in the teaching of wisdom. James 1:22 says simply:  Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Pastor Randy beautifully elaborated on that verse and others. Verse 25 finishes by saying that those who do God’s will, will be blessed.

Wisdom doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Unless you’re that person who innately seems to question and cautiously proceed, you’re like most people who have to learn wisdom.  James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” “We should ask for it. In today’s world, asking for something is rare.  Somehow the act of asking has been replaced with informing.  Kids “let us know where they’ll be” instead of asking if they can go. They tell us what they need, instead of asking if we can buy something for them. I see it in marriages, as well. Asking is a form of humility. Somehow the asking feels like a form of submission, which isn’t well received in today’s culture.  We must humble ourselves before God, and ask him to grant us wisdom, recognizing that he is all powerful, and that our own ability, as good as he’s designed us, isn’t enough to provide the wisdom and insight we need for the decisions we face. When we humble ourselves to the point of asking, he will “give generously to all without finding fault…”

So, me asking God to give Bridgette and Bradley wisdom doesn’t humble Bridgette and Bradley before their Lord. That prayer skips over the essence of how wisdom is earned. My prayer instead is that God will urge them, and that his Holy Spirit will be present in their lives, and that my kids’ hearts will long to serve their heavenly father. My hope is that from this, as well as experience and age, they will gain wisdom that will direct their paths according to God’s will.

A better acronym might be LEAN. We could change #4 to #1, changing NEAL to LEAN, which makes a lot more sense. But it’s late, and I’m not switching my letter order because I would have to re-write my blog.

The truth is, Listening to God is all you have to remember. Regardless of one’s Experience, one’s Age, or one’s Nature, Listening will get you wisdom before anything else will.

Got Wisdom?


The building where I work. It’s especially pretty early in the morning.

Yes, I took the State Insurance Exam on Friday.  After my last blog post it was determined that we would be taking the test for certain on Friday at 3:30. Both the other gal who my employer hired and myself were concerned about this, and our concern increased as the week went on. The pre-testing quizzes were taking us a lot of time between the site not cooperating and having to take the tests over until we passed. There were about 40 quizzes, about 8 of them had 50 questions each.

I can’t tell you how foreign the whole insurance vernacular was to me, and my comprehension was equally shallow.  So much seemed like legal jargon. Everything I read made me wonder what I was getting myself into. The quiz questions were complicated. “Johnny, an uninsured motorist, let Joni, an insured motorist, drive his car from Oregon to Kalamazoo, but before she left, he told her not to fill the tank with unleaded fuel. Joni hit a telephone pole when she was talking to Johnny on her cell phone to tell him that she forgot to use Premium gas. Joni also broke her wrist, and reported to the emergency room, after the car was towed. Who is at fault and will insurance, if any, pay for Joni’s broken wrist and Johnny’s car?” For a literal thinker like myself my head spun in circles and triangles, all. week. long. The class we had taken the week before was directed solely at learning the material so we could pass the test. We weren’t allowed to ask questions, so we madly took notes, with little understanding of what the notes meant. I had to have faith that I would figure things out in the end. I had to ignore the little voice that didn’t believe it was possible. I had to eat more chocolates.

I had an ongoing QUESTIONS sheet of paper.  When we went over it with our boss the Thursday before the test, I had figured out the answer to most of the questions I’d written down. For example, I kept hearing the term, “a covered auto.” My literal thinking brain was working over time.  When I heard the term “a covered auto,” I figured that the auto was covered, as in a protective material or something. I envisioned an auto fitted nicely with a heavy fabric.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that a “covered auto,” is an auto that is covered by insurance. But that’s how foreign everything was to me, so passing the pre-exam quizzes that were stated like trickster questions was a long arduous process.

The test was Friday at 3:30. I finished my pre-exam quizzes at 4pm the Wednesday before the test. That was a team effort between my co-worker and myself. Once those were done, that gave me only Wednesday night, Thursday, and Friday morning to read the 175 some pages of written notes and try to not only memorize, but digest insurance: Property and Casualty, Auto, Homeowners, Ocean and Inland Marine, Workman’s Comp. I was frantic, barely taking a break to go to the bathroom, and when I did, I read my notes on the way to and from, and kept my notes in site while there… This week? Bradley was on his own. There was no Farkle.

Friday at noon I picked my fellow employee up at her house.  One minute I was speaking words of peace and encouragement, the next minute she was comforting me. I wanted to cry, I wanted to be done.  It wasn’t so much that I felt I had to pass to impress my boss. He was adamant that we shouldn’t stress about passing the first time, that it was common for people to take the test over before passing. I simply wanted to pass so I could move on. I wanted to go to the bathroom unencumbered. I wanted to make a meal for Bradley, or play a game of farkle. I didn’t want Bradley living with an absentee mom, present, but not really. I didn’t want to be a hermit behind an office door, with a singular focus.

My fellow employee and I got to the test site about 3 hours early to get finger printed and then to go have lunch while we studied and put the finishing touches on our brains (thank you, boss). We wondered how we could possibly make a difference this late in the game. But we knew that we could pass or fail, by one question, and neither of us could bear the thought of that. I needed to pray before my test one last time. I wanted to pray with someone. It wouldn’t do to mutter a final prayer under my breath, so I muttered to Jesus that he would protect me from embarrassing either myself or my new friend, and I asked her if she had a faith. Her answer was longish but clear: I knew enough to ask if we could pray, and that’s what we did. I drove back to the test site and aloud asked God if he would reward us for our hard work, and that his will would be done, and that we would relieve ourselves of the pressure we had put on ourselves. AMEN.

I was surprised when I finished the test with an hour left. I had the opportunity to go back over my questions. With that much time left, I considered it, for fear that I was foolish not to. I went back about five questions, but then decided I wasn’t going to do it. I knew what I knew and that wasn’t going to change. Going back might sabotage my results. I hit the SEND button that indicated I was finished. The test calculated for a minute. I looked at the screen and saw the word PASS. I was stunned.  I bowed my head and thanked Jesus, truly in disbelief.

I walked out of the testing room, beaming.  The proctor congratulated me and showed me my results. I passed by O-N-E question. I am certain it was God’s hand that allowed me to pass it, by one question. Every second I shoved that information into my head paid off, but I know my heavenly father was looking out for me. He knows my limitations, and I was stretching them.

It was with great relief that my co-worker also passed. We had articulated our concern about one passing and one not. We were both thrilled to celebrate our own, and each other’s success with a quick drink. We went our separate ways; I went to the high school basketball game. My friends indulged me while I beamed and expressed myself gleefully.

Both kids are away at a church camp. Bradley’s a camper and Bridgette is serving. The weekend was mine. After church today I went to Ross Dress for Less to see if I could get a couple things for my work wardrobe. I really hate shopping. I love clothes, and I love to have clothes. But I don’t like the process of getting clothes.  But I couldn’t pass of up the sales. I ended up purchasing $189.00 worth of clothes (16 items!). I made it home in time for the end of the third quarter of the NFC Championship game. I’m so glad I stopped shopping when I did.

So… I have my Insurance License. I do understand what an umbrella policy is (we had one, but I didn’t understand it), I know what my deductible is, I get Homeowners, I understand the concept of Commercial General Liability…

Now, on to learning my job!