We live in a world of iPhones, iPads, iTunes, iEtc. The first time I saw a brand name that began with a small i and had the second letter capitalized was, surprisingly enough, not Apple. It was Motorola.
I had started working at the cellular carrier Nextel after working nine years in manufacturing. In my prior job, I had worked my way up from an entry level job to Controller. After that job ended I was a bit unsure of myself; would I be able to do as good of a job somewhere else or was my past success a fluke. So it was very gratifying a couple months later to hear my new boss tell all the managers in our weekly meeting that he finally was getting the financial data he needed to run the business.
Nextel was in the process of rolling out their digital cellular around the country using technology from Motorola. Motorola had branded that technology as iDen. So, Motorola gets the nod for the earlier use of the small i back in the 1990's. Apple gets the nod for the cooler names.
The work I had done got me some notice within the company and I was chosen to be a member of the team that was developing the new budget spreadsheet for the company. At one point, we were all meeting in San Francisco to go over the final version. One thing on the agenda for the meeting was to name the spreadsheet. I forget what the name ended up being. My suggestion must have been voted down; I'm not sure why. I had left the meeting early. Perhaps, if I had been there to speak up for my suggestion maybe it would have turned out differently. The name I wanted was iPlan.
Just think I might have been iCool before Apple. Or alternatively, since I am talking about a spreadsheet, it could be that I would have just been an iGeek.
OK, enough of that, iDone.
Puerto Rico is known as the Enchanted Isle for a reason as my family discovered when we took a vacation trip there in 2008. We stayed in San Juan and rented a car. From there we explored the island from end to end.
The trip had an inauspicious beginning. The gate agent at the airport didn't want to board us on the plane since we didn't have passports. Passports aren't needed to go to Puerto Rico; it's part of the US. We got on the plane. Our hotel reservation was not in the system at the hotel. They found a room for us after a long wait in the lobby. We declined insurance on the rental car and then thought to double check with our insurance agent. Our agent said we were probably covered, but it would be a hassle. Maybe we should get the insurance. That turned into a hassle as we had to go back to the airport turn in our car and set up a new rental agreement with the insurance. Finally, we could climb back into the same car and drive away to start our vacation.
From there it turned into a fantastic trip. We visited beaches, a rain forest, a cave, a mansion, an old fortress and other sights. But one day stood out from all the others.
We drove east from San Juan where we stayed to Fajardo. Once there we took a snorkeling cruise. The boat we were on went out to an island where we snorkeled on the beach and learned to use the gear. I never did learn to use the flippers on my feet very well. After that we went back to the boat and they took us to another place to snorkel where there were lots of fish. Andrew and I were swimming together and became entranced with a school of fish just below us. When we looked up the boat was getting farther away; we had drifted with the current. So we had to swim back against the current to get back to the boat.
Unfortunately, Debbie had become seasick and had to just sit in the boat at this point. I felt sorry for her. The one thing she needed was to get off the boat and onto land, but we still had to get back to shore. When we were back and off the boat Debbie slowly began to feel better. That was good because we had plans for later that evening.
We found a semi-fast food restaurant. Alicia and I went in to get food. Alicia ordered for us all and was very proud of herself to have used only Spanish with no English.
After dinner, we had planned to go on a tour to the Bio Bay. We would kayak into a lagoon where there were bioluminescent micro-organisms. We got to the launch area where we would be going off with a group and some guides. We were waiting when it started to rain. The guides thought they might have to cancel for the night, but decided to wait a while to see what the weather did. We were hoping the rain would stop because we weren't sure if we would be able to schedule another evening to come back before the end of our trip.
We stood around waiting. Suddenly Andrew started hopping, swatting at his foot and saying, "Ow. Ow! OW!" He had been leaning against a tree and was standing on an anthill. The ants had swarmed over his flip flops and were biting him around the ankle stinging him. I took him to the rest room and ran cold water over his ankle.
Eventually the guides decided that we could go. We were given some basic instruction on how to operate our kayaks. Among the group there were two Puerto Rican women who, very vocally made it obvious that they had never kayaked before. They asked plenty of questions. Then we were off. We went in two-person kayaks - Alicia and Debbie in one, Andrew with me sitting in the back in the other.
There are several different companies that guide people into the Bio Bay; we were the first ones to leave. We had to paddle across a bay to the mouth of a channel among the mangrove trees. We would follow that channel to the lagoon. As we neared the channel suddenly there was screaming off to our right. We all looked to the sound to see the two vocal women as their kayak plunged into the mangrove trees - with both of them still furiously paddling.
The channel was like a small stream we easily paddled enjoying the evening. At one point, there was a sharp bend in the channel. One of the guides stood in the waist deep water to direct us. Shortly after that we entered the lagoon.
You can't see the micro-organisms that cause the bioluminescence. What you see is a blue glow when your paddle enters the water. The organisms don't glow unless they are stirred up; so, any disturbance in the water causes a blue light to appear until the water settled back.
You watch the paddle and your kayak and the glow around them. Suddenly a fish swims by below you leaving a blue trail in the water. You experiment and dip your hand into the water to see the light it causes. Playfully you scoop up and handful of water and raise your arm up entranced as the glowing water cascades off your arm. After all too brief of a time the guides call for your return and you depart with fantastical memories.
On the way out as we entered the channel we found out why it was such an easy paddle to get into the lagoon. We were now going against the current. It wasn't an overpowering current, but enough so that you had to work a bit harder to move.
By now the other tour groups were making their way in as well, so there was two-way traffic. At the bend, there was a guide standing in the water directing the traffic. Alicia and Debbie made it past the turn. Andrew and I had been right behind them, but another kayak cut between us. Another tour group approached coming in and the traffic cop gave them priority, holding up outgoing traffic. More kayaks came up from behind us, enclosing us an all sides while we had to keep paddling just to hold position in the current. A guide's kayak came by towing the two women who couldn't control their own boat. Some of kayaks on the outside of our scrum were able to break away and continue out. Andrew and I were pushed up against the bank. We tried to make our way to the outside of the jostling mass. We would see openings and paddle for them only to see them close. Finally, we saw another opening. We paddled, but it was starting to close. And now, here comes the part where my kayak etiquette failed. I stopped paddling and put my hand on the bow of the kayak that was by our side and little behind us and pushed off. We went forward and the other kayak went…, um, well I didn't look back. We were clear. We came out in the bay about a half hour after Debbie and Alicia.
We drove back to San Juan in the dark, but we were illuminated by the light of an enchanted isle.
I've always looked upon my trip to Ireland as a turning point in my life. I travelled to Ireland alone. Successfully completing that trip gave me a boost in confidence that I have carried with me.
My senior year in college I spent a trimester in Europe. My college was Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. Every fall they would have a group of students travel abroad in a group with Augustana professors who would teach courses to the students who were travelling. We went in a group and spent five weeks in London, England; two weeks in Strasbourg, France; three weeks in Munich, Germany and a week in middle to travel on our own.
Through a quirk in my schedule one week in London I had no classes after noon on Tuesday. This gave me almost a week to travel. No one else had the same quirk I did, so I was on my own. I decided to go to Ireland. It is the land of my ancestors - all of them according to my dad; a lot of them according to the rest of the family.
I spent Tuesday afternoon travelling by train to the coast and then taking a hydrofoil across the Irish Sea to Dublin with no problems, except that I realized I had left my jacket in London.
I'd like to tell you about three of the people of Ireland; how I met them and what they did for me.
I spent a night at a youth hostel in Cork. The next day I made my way to Blarney Castle. (Yep, I kissed the Blarney Stone.) From there I was going to go to Kilarney. I started walking the road to Kilarney and putting out my thumb whenever any vehicles would pass by to try and hitch a ride. I walked. And I walked. The few cars that were on this road weren't picking up hitchhikers. I was enjoying the walk. But after several hours, I was beginning to get a discouraged. Suddenly I saw a bunch of cars coming my way led by a small station wagon. Hooray! Maybe one of these cars would stop for me. Things were about to improve. I turned and walking backwards held out my thumb.
Now, to be fair, cars in Europe were a bit smaller than American cars. So, misidentifying a car on first glance wasn't my fault. When the cars got a bit closer, I realized that the station wagon was really a hearse. Oops. My thumb quickly came down and I turned around. I was mortified. Sometimes I wonder if in the pub that night they were talking about the American who was trying to hitch a ride to heaven.
About an hour later a car stopped to pick me up. It was a priest who was going all the way to Kilarney. He said he could drop me off at the youth hostel there. We had a nice talk on the drive there. He asked me what I thought about Ted Kennedy's chances of becoming president; this was back in the early 1980's. It was only years later that I realized he was probably the priest from the funeral procession.
When I left Kilarney the weather was nasty; it was windy with rain trying to decide between misting and drizzling. The train station was small, which meant everybody was waiting outside under an awning that stopped only rain that fell straight down. I stood on the platform with the wind blowing right through my sweater missing my jacket and feeling uncomfortable. An older woman on the platform with a couple companions left them and walked over to me.
"Don't you have a coat?" She asked me.
I explained that I had left it in London.
"You'll be taking my extra then."
She pulled a clear plastic rain coat out of her bag and gave it to me. Thanking her I put it on. It was several sizes too small. The sleeves ended midway between my elbows and wrists and I could only pull it closed to two of the snaps in the front. But it shielded me from the wind and wet.
Later, on the train I tried to give the coat back to her, but she wouldn't take it.
I took the train to Kilkenny. Prior to my trip, I had been leafing through a book that listed all the youth hostels in Europe. I had seen a listing for Foulksrath Castle in Ireland. I decided if I could I would like to spend the night in a castle if I had a chance. I started walking and putting out my thumb. I was a bit luckier this time and got picked up quickly.
I got in the car and the man who was driving asked me where I was going. I told him about the youth hostel and that I wasn't sure of the exact location.
"Ahh yes, I know the place. I'll take you there. But would you'd be liking to see a bit of the area first?"
I said yes and was given a scenic tour. He drove me to several spots with views of the countryside. At this time of year in Minnesota, the leaves would be falling off the trees and the green colors of nature would have faded. In Ireland, the greens were vibrant as if it were springtime.
We talked as he drove. I told him about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday in America. He asked me about Ted Kennedy's chances for the presidency. Eventually we made it to the youth hostel where he dropped me off.
I had traveled to Ireland and back to London. That trip gave me confidence in myself and my ability to make my way in the world. But of course, I wasn't really alone; the Irish people were there with me.
Have you ever had a little piece of popcorn stuck in your teeth? Most of the time you’re in the middle of doing something when you first notice it. No matter how hard you try to forget it and focus on the task at hand, your tongue keeps going back to it.
George Lucas couldn’t leave Star Wars alone. He had to reissue the original trilogy with changes and fixes for things that didn’t bother most fans. He just couldn’t leave well enough alone.
An artist gazing at her beautiful painting sees all the things she did wrong.
I look at a post that’s 7 months old and worry about an error. (I fixed it.)
We focus on problems and can’t stop ourselves.
I took a writing class at the Loft and had to critique another student’s work. I read it through once and didn’t like it at all. There were too many grammar errors. The instructions for critiquing were to talk about the good things in the piece. Ahh, what to do? So, I reread the piece to find something good to say about it. This time I decided to ignore anything bad and just focus on what was good. To my surprise I found myself liking it that time.
What if we looked for the positives of our focus on problems? Is there anything positive about that? And if you look for the positive you can find it. That focus is what drives us to improve. Many of the things we depend on in our lives came from someone solving a problem. People who couldn’t leave well enough alone are responsible for most of the great inventions.
As in all things in life there are good parts and bad parts. Which one we focus on is up to us.
Shepherd of the Hills has had an intern pastor this year. As part of a project she did she put together a daily devotional for Lent. She put together a book called How to Pray that was full of devotionals written by members of Shepherd. I was asked to write a devotional for the book. I thought I would reprint that for my blog post this week.
Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
I have several fond memories of spending time around a campfire talking into the night with whoever was there – people I had known for a long time or sometimes people I had just met. As we would talk we would grow in our understanding of each other; learning what they thought about various issues or some of their past experiences. Were they a stargazer, did they like to poke at the fire, or were they just content to talk.
Luke 6:12 reminds me of those memories. Jesus spends all night on a mountain in prayer to God. I imagine that he wasn’t spending the whole night praying the Our Father over and over again. But that it was more of a conversational prayer. Sometimes I picture my prayers as if I’m spending time with God around a campfire talking into the night helping me to understand.
I don’t spend all night in prayer. My favorite time to pray is when I drive my car. It’s time alone with just me and God. I always start off with a prayer to protect the other people on the road. After that I can pray for my family, requests, gratitude, guidance and other things. But it turns out to be developing a relationship with God.
Having that relationship with God helps when we go through the storms of life. After I was married we had several miscarriages before my son was born. I was driving to work one morning grieving and questioning why this happened. I realized that it was because I had developed a relationship with God that I was able to ask that instead of asking if there was a God if something like that could happen.
That’s why one of my favorite prayers is to ask to develop a closer relationship to God for myself or people I know. My other favorites are to ask God to guide my prayers and to sing “Help me Jesus” to the tune of the Beach Boys “Help Me Rhonda”. (At least in my mind it’s to that tune, anybody who has heard me sing knows it’s horribly off key.)
What you pray doesn’t matter so much as spending time with God developing your relationship. So, have a seat at your campfire and talk with God.
Lord, help us to have a closer relationship with you so that we can walk with you, we can converse with you, and so that we can feel your love for us. Amen
Tim Kane's memories, musings and updates.