Janet Perreault

The Promise of Summer

Of all the seasons, summer is by far my favorite.  As a little girl, part of my summer was spent with my grandparents who lived about a hundred miles away from my home in St. Louis.  They would come to visit and I would beg to go home with them until finally my mother relented and I was free for as many days as I could extend my visit with grandma and grandpa.  Free from school, free from the ever-watchful eyes of my mother, and free to do the things that kids ought to do in the summer.  I helped my grandma harvest vegetables from the garden for our dinner, helped her do the laundry and gave myself permission to run through the wet sheets hanging on the line when it got too hot.  There was always a fair of some kind going on in their little town and we would go and see the animals and check out the homemade jellies and jams and baked goods.  Grandpa always gave me a couple of quarters because he said we should never go anywhere without a little change in our pocket.  I rarely spent the quarters, I just liked to hear them jingle and feel them, knowing I could buy a cotton candy if I really wanted it.  I spent almost as much time with my grandpa as I did my grandma.  He took me fishing with him (I probably had more fun catching the minnows we used for bait); I could put a worm on a hook as well as he could.  He had a little metal boat we used when we went out on the pond, and sometimes we went hunting for mushrooms that grandma would cook up when we got back.  I could sit under their pear tree and smell the ripening pears just above me and listen to the birds.  In the evenings, we would sit on the porch swing and rock back and forth, enjoying the sound of the crickets, sometimes visiting with a neighbor who stopped by.  My grandmother made my favorite foods and braided my hair and let me sleep with her when grandpa was gone on a trip (he was a truck driver).  Special times with special people…and now I get to be the grandmother and create some of those memories for my own grandchildren.

For the past four years, we’ve had a sandbox on our deck which the grandchildren love to play in.  They’ve put tents on the porch and eaten s’mores in them; they’ve run through the sprinklers and played in a plastic wading pool – sat under blankets on our own front porch swing during a rainstorm and begged me for stories of when I was a little girl.  They, too, seem to long for simpler times, when school doesn’t demand an early bedtime and there’s no place to be at a particular time.  Popsicles taste almost as good as they used to when I was a little girl (of course, the grandkids don’t know that everything tasted better back in the day); wet bathing suits still feel delicious on a hot day, and grandparents somehow seem just a bit more lenient and laid back than mom and dad. 

These years go by so fast.  Before long, they will be the teens that will remind me of my own teenage summer that I spent reading teen magazines, sunbathing, hoping the phone would ring to invite me to a party somewhere – nothing fancy or troublesome, maybe just some kids getting together to hang out at someone’s house and maybe share a Coke and chips.  I can’t really imagine their teen years – don’t really want to, if truth be told.  I like them at the age they are – sweet and innocent and happy most of the time.  Although I realize it isn’t up to me and what I want, time will march on and so will they.

So, until that happens, I’ll continue to enjoy my summer this year.  I love spending time on the deck, hovering over my little potted plants that bring such brilliant color to the scrub oak trees behind them.  No flowers in the front – the deer come to graze on them like a salad bar, so I don’t even bother putting them out.  I can watch for wildlife from the deck and it rarely disappoints – almost always the mule deer trek through the side of the house at just about the same time each evening.  I halfway expect them to have lunch buckets with them, having completed their day’s foraging and on their way home for dinner now.  Occasionally we are treated to bigger fare – a bear, a bobcat, once a mountain lion.  For some reason the foxes haven’t been around the last couple of years – perhaps the bigger animals have moved them out.  But the summer still holds promise – perhaps a phone call to a party, perhaps company coming to spend a few days, maybe just a chance to lie in the sun on a lounge and soak up the rays – remembering that it’s the same sun that shone on me 50 plus years ago. 

Memorial Day is behind us and the summer stretches ahead – full of things to look forward to – a little excursion here and there, the 4th of July, concerts in the park, dinners on the deck.  Time marches on, but some things never change.  At least that’s my hope. 

Wishing you all a child-like summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Going for a Ride

Perhaps you’ve read the true story of the famous tightrope walker Charles Blondin.  In 1859, he was the first person to cross a tightrope stretched over a quarter of a mile across Niagara Falls.  He walked the 160 feet across the Falls numerous times, including in a sack, on stilts, and even on a bicycle.  The first time he walked across the tightrope blindfolded and pushing a wheelbarrow, his safe journey to the other side was met with thunderous applause from his audiece.  Then Blondin asked the crowd, “Do you believe I can carry a person across in the wheelbarrow?”  When the crowd shouted their affirmation, he challenged, “Okay, who will get in the wheelbarrow?”  No one did.

It is so hard to trust others, especially if that “other” is God. If only He appeared in burning bushes, then we could know for certain, right?  We read His word, study scripture, profess our belief, but the very practical aspect of letting go of our fears and just “getting in” is incredibly challenging.  We rationalize why our beliefs may not make sense, we weigh the human pros and cons, and we convince ourselves that maybe we actually know better than God because we are, after all, fully knowledgeable of the consequences of our situation or actions, as though God somehow isn’t.  Perhaps we’re concerned that God takes coffee breaks and vacations and may not be aware of the very real outcome of His design while out of His office.

I’m definitely guilty of worry, as though the very act of it will somehow keep that plane in the air, that doctor’s call from ever coming, or my financies under control.  I confess that I sweat the small stuff, even though I have been admonished by signs and book titles not to do so. 

I believe God is in the business of handling matters of life and death, but what if I choose life and He chooses the unthinkable?  There’s always that chance that a situation might not be resolved to my liking, hence the worry.  Even though, I must admit, He has always come through.  Oh, maybe not with the exact thing I had hoped and prayed for, although often times that happens too.  But even when the worst has happened, I have never been abandoned, have always been comforted by His Word, the touch of a loved one, and the promise of eternity with Him.  Come to think of it, He’s actually never let me down.  And each time I learn that lesson, I promise myself I won’t forget it.  And I don’t…until the next challenge or crisis comes along.

I take comfort in Scripture:  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life (Luke 12:25); or Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews: 11:1).  I believe it when I’m on solid ground, it’s getting in that faith wheelbarrow that’s so challenging. 

 

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It’s All in How You Look at It

I don’t know if I’m so much a people watcher as much as I am a people judger.  I know that sounds, well…judgmental, but bear with me.  Depending on my mood, and on any given day, I can find human nature engaging or enraging.

When I’m in a benevolent, bemused state, I can observe humanity from behind a rather detached, almost experimental lens.  For instance, I wonder, what would make a driver hold up a line of seven cars while she waits for a shopper to unload a grocery cart full of supplies for the entire winter, strap two small children in their car seats, collapse a stroller, and attach a large Christmas tree to her roof, rather than pull down four space and take an open slot.  Oh, wait, that’s not a good example of bemused, I meant that behavior enrages me.  In my defense, though, I don’t think of this situation as me judging as much as I like to think of it as simple, common sense.

I’ve noticed that much of my people judging  (I mean watching) occurs in parking lots.  I particularly note people who struggle to wrestle their empty cart onto the curb, into the landscaping gravel, or even to wedge the wayward wheels in such a way as to not roll into the side of their car before they make their getaway; all the while a mere 15 feet away is a cart rack that requires nothing more than a push into its waiting metal corral.  This one puzzles me more than enrages me, but it occasionally spurs me to wrestle the offending cart onto the asphalt and take it with me as I enter the store.  Yes, I admit I passive-aggressively hope the offender will notice and at the very least feel guilty, if not vow to never do it again.  I’m beginning to think no one appreciate smugness anymore. 

Restrooms are a serious study in human nature.  Visitors range from the obsessively neat ladies who meticulously wipe down the counter with paper towels or tissues retrived from their well-organized purse (usually while I am patiently waiting to wash my hands), to the opposite extreme who apparently fails to understand that public toilets need to be flushed much like the ones at home (I’m assuming here).  I think I need another category – such behavior is, “enlightening,” yes, that’s it, such behavior is enlightening.

Come to think of it, I have to try a little harder to think of things that engage me in the dance of life; but little children in a store ranks right up there.  I love catching the eye of a little one who shyly grins and waves back at me when I wave; just a little slice of joy in the shopping aisle.  I like to notice different parenting styles too.  They range from the new mom who brings her own quilted fabric cart liner and hand sanitizer, to the seasoned mom who allows her child to suck on the tennis shoes she just bought in the clothing department (yes, the ones from China that are laced with the latest carcinogen identified by the EPA).

There are the impatient, frazzled parents (with whom I genuinely sympathize), confused dads, efficient and business-like working moms tossing items into their cart as though they were on a winning basketball team, overly-indulgent mothers (“Okay, honey but this is the absolute last bag of candy I’m opening for you before we leave.”)   These situations not only catch my eye, they take me back to the days when my girls were that age just a blink ago.

So, on any given day, I’m an observer of the human condition.  I only hope that others are far too busy to notice the times I park outside those narrow, narrow little white lines, discard an item I no longer want on a shelf that is four aisles away from where I first picked it up, or stop and watch as I wander the parking lot, convinced that my car has been stolen, only to eventually discover that today I parked on the south side of the building and not on the west corner as usual.  And if they notice, I hope they will be bemused and not judgmental.  After all, that’s the kind thing to do, I’m learning. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tebow Time in the Workplace?

The Tebow phenomenon is about so much more than winning football games.  Tim Tebow brings visible leadership skills that can translate into a winning work team.  Tebow’s ability to exceed expectations appears directly proportionate to his ability to excel at preparation.  Teammates often refer to Tebow’s outstanding work ethic before, during, and after official practice.  I have heard him say (in sound bites, of course), that everyone, including him, has to constantly strive to reach their full potential.  How many of us in the workplace spend that much time and energy on developing our skill sets, practicing our options, and visualizing our successes?  Whatever the answer, it will be reflected in our performance..

When interviewed after a game, Tebow gives much credit to his coaches and his teammates, co-workers if you will.  He cites their athletic prowess, and their ability to make him look good.  He skillfully takes the spotlight off of himself and shines it on others; a great leadership skill.  It “catches” people doing awesome things and brings it to others’ attention; a win-win for all.  Is it possible that could work at the office as well?

Tebow’s tenacity is close to the stuff of which legends are made.  Whether we call it the “believe” factor or the “it’s not over ’til it’s over” mantra, Tebow works incredibly hard at going over, under, around, and through obstacles in his way.  Particularly in today’s economy, it’s understandable that workplace challenges seem greater than ever before, but there are companies that are not only breaking even but are succeeding, even start-ups!  A positive attitude is a huge component when building a business; it’s akin to the advice given for driving on ice – keep your hands firmly on the wheel and look where you want to go; it gives us a much better chance of arriving intact at our destination.

Tebow appears comfortable in his own skin and stays focused, at least publicly.  I have a suspicion that he’s that way in private as well.  Comments by naysayers and critics seem to bounce off of him if, indeed, they touch him at all; an important quality for a quarterback!  The workplace can be a minefied, not for the faint of heart.  Know what you stand for and what you will and won’t compromise.  Work diligently to earn respect rather than the office popularity contest; it’s a plus if they go hand-in-hand, but it’s not a necessity; often it’s not even a possibility.

His livelihood is not as important as his greater life’s purpose.  Recently, Tebow commented on how excited he was to be opening an orphanage in the Philippines; it was more important to him than football (and we all know how important football is to him).  How about you?  Does your livelihood enable you to support your passion?  Even if we aren’t privileged to love what we do at the office, the mall, or the construction site, we can appreciate the opportunities our paycheck provides for ourselves, our families, and others. That’s quite the motivation, in my book.

Whether you love, hate, or are indifferent to Tim Tebow, at the very least this young man can make us stop and think and perhaps learn a few thing from him along the way.  Personally?  I think he’s an inspiring leader first and, following close on the heels of his workplace excellence, a stellar football player in the making. 

 

 

 

 

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Feel the Power

Last night we had a power outage and it got me to thinking about all kinds of power outages, not just electrical.  Of course, the electrical power outage is definitely an inconvenience.  I was about a minute away from popping some popcorn (the old fashioned way) so Mr. P. and I could enjoy our almost-healthy snack (can we say butter?) while we watched a favorite show.  In a nano-second, the lights are off, the glow of the Christmas tree lights have more than dimmed, and the television has been silenced.  Fortunately, I had several candles on the coffee table as holiday décor, so we were without light for less than a minute.

We could see the snow falling on our deck, illuminated by moonlight as we snuggled under a comforter on the couch; it doesn’t take long for the heat to dissipate on a cold night when the furnace is no longer functioning.  We called the utility company and got a recording that our power would be restored in two to four hours.  I marveled at how quickly they made that recording as a way to reassure their customers.

Just an hour before the lights went out, I had been reading a little book of Christmas recollections about life in the days when families had no running water and the children had to wait under mounds of covers before the wood burning stove could heat the drafty old houses enough to allow the children to scamper up, get dressed, have breakfast and finally open their simple, but much-anticipated Christmas gifts.  Just a day in the life of a family in those days, but in today’s fast-paced world, two to four hours is a painfully long stretch of darkness and silence.

As my husband and I sat in companionable silence, I thought about the circumstances that may have led to our plunge into darkness; perhaps someone had slid off the road and slammed into a utility pole, I prayed that they would be okay.  And thinking of the utility workers in single-digit weather attempting to repair the problem at 9 o’clock at night, I prayed for them as well.  My cell phone rang; it was my neighbor checking to see that we were okay and wondering if we wanted to come over and share the warmth of their fireplace.  We declined to leave our cozy comforter, but were touched to have the kindness of neighbors that we have known for 20 years.

A lot is said about power these days, who has it and who doesn’t.  We debate the power of the government vs. the power of the people, seldom using the word “and” instead of “vs.” We ponder who has the power in the workplace, in the relationship or the marriage, in the family.  We sometimes forget that words have power and that we can use that power to hurt or to heal.   Of course, intellectually we know we have the power to change, but we’re not certain if we have the courage or discipline to make it happen.

It’s important, too, to consider where our Ultimate Power comes from, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the utility company.  I challenge readers today to take a couple of minutes out of your busy, electronically-powered day, including those who are compelled to defer to high-tech gadgets at an alarming rate throughout the day, and reflect, even briefly, on the privileges we enjoy, the blessing of family, friends, and neighbors.  We might even go so far as to think of some ways we might make our community and our world better this week.  And if you’ve discovered a Greater Power (whom I call God), give thanks for that, too.  Have a power-full day.

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Janet Perreault

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Janet Perreault
Speaking from Experience
P.O. Box 49787
Colorado Springs,CO 80949-9038
Cell: (719) 339-8991
Office (719) 531-0190
janet@janetspeaking.com

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