Author Archives: lynnettedobberpuhl

About lynnettedobberpuhl

I write, read, work in children and youth ministry, and try hard to be better about managing my time.

Remember, And Be Glad

My first memory is of being carried up the center aisle of the United Methodist Church in my small home town. I was a three-year-old girl in my daddy’s arms, and my eleven-year-old sister walked up that aisle with us, next to my mom who carried my baby sister.  I come from what, in the midwest at that time, might be considered a religiously diverse family. My mom grew up in the Baptist church, and my dad’s parents were Christian Scientists. Through friendship, my mom began attending the Methodist church in the small town that had become their home. On the day I was baptized, so were both my sisters and my dad, we all became members and that place became our church home.

I went to Sunday school there every Sunday, and in third grade received my first real Bible, a Revised Standard Version covered in pebbled red vinyl, with a scrap of gold leaf that I used to inscribe my name on the cover. I was in many children’s Christmas programs and occasionally got the nerve-racking job of page-turner for my mom as she played hymns and special music on the piano. I went to church camp and found in Jesus the friend I needed to help me survive some turbulent years. I was confirmed in that church, wearing a dress of my mom’s and with my hair in French braids, feeling very grown up. There were annual Christmas eve candlelight services, where we sisters would inevitably get such giggle fits that suppressing them was painful and we shook the pew as we wept silent tears of mirth and pain. There was youth group on Wednesday nights and when I was a senior, a cake for the graduates.

I had a bridal shower and a wedding in that church, and about a decade later I brought my husband and my sons, ages 5 and 3, to my dad’s funeral.  My mom, sisters and I gathered up there at the front of the church and walked dad back down that aisle, the same one we walked up on the day of the baptism. I read some poem that day for the service, but now I wish I’d told this story, because this story is about family, love and the kind of faith that is built on simple acts of caring repeated often over time. It is a story about knowing what belonging is in a father’s arms, and about finding belonging in a place of faith.

This sounds idyllic, but it wasn’t always great. There were cranky people and scoldings and judgment and the same petty human problems inside those walls that you find inside and outside any church of any denomination anywhere in the world. My own nature prompted me to a very cliché rebelliousness in my later teens through my twenties. My early ideas of God were simple ones, the kind Jesus said everyone should have. Thinking about faith got more complicated over time, just as life did, but the Sunday school lessons, and the hymns, the messages and the scripture were all woven right through me and held me together for the most part, even in the very bad times. I prayed, and often those prayers seemed unanswered, but they never felt unheard.  By the time I had children of my own, I knew that faith is linked to survival, and that a spiritual home is a good thing to have. I wanted to give my children some of that same experience I’d had, and as babies they were baptized in a small Methodist Church in their own home town. To this day I continue my faith journey in that community and in the world at large. I am grateful for the support I have had along the way. In last Sunday’s sermon we heard the message of John’s baptism of repentance and Jesus’s baptism of Holy Spirit, and we heard the words from the confirmation service, “Remember your baptism, and be glad.” I do remember and I am glad.

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A Truce

It had been a strugglesome week at work and I was feeling rushed and dejected when my husband suggested we go outside and have a few practice swings with the clubs. A few days before, I had reluctantly agreed to join an outing of four couples for nine holes of golf. Let me tell you something about golf. I don’t care for it. I find it full of aggravation and without reward. I was dreading spending my first opportunity to relax feeling like a total failure surrounded by people who play regularly. But I am a good sport…sort of. “Fine,” I had said, sounding more like “Why GOLF?”

The last time I had played was four years before and it had ranked among the worst leisure experiences of my life. I don’t know how many years it was before that I had played but it was more than four. Last Friday out in the yard, I picked up my driver with poor grace and assumed the position. Instantly there was a blaring chorus of voices in my head. Some were telling me what a bad experience I was about to have, some were telling me what a lousy golfer I am in general, and others were critiquing every single aspect of my swing (SO many ways to do it wrong). It was both deafening and oddly familiar. They sounded just like the voices that used to hound me when I was writing. I couldn’t believe how awful it felt, and I couldn’t believe I had persevered with writing as long as I had, clinging to a certainty that I had to battle through the noise and the unrelenting negativity. As I said in my last post I eventually did give up, and rebooted my writing in Safe Mode, which for me was to only write when I felt like it and to only write for myself. I chose to share my writing when I wanted to with a supportive group of friends who also write, but I absolutely gave myself permission to not do our writing prompts at all, or to write about something else if I wanted. I gave up overthinking and trying to be perfect, and in doing so had made peace with my writing. The voices quieted to a manageable murmur.

Out there in the yard, facing down a leaf in substitution for a dimpled ball, I decided that If I could do that with writing, when I really, really care about writing, I could also do this with golf. Some of the advice my husband offered made no sense. “Position your club face so it impacts the leaf like this.” “Aim so you hit the leaf right at this point.” Incomprehensible concepts which I rejected. Some of the things he said resonated. “Plant your feet.” Yes, this I had experienced in yoga and Pilates, feeling my feet connected with the earth as though my body was an extension of the planet. “Slow your swing.” That I understood, even if I didn’t like it. I just wanted to get the game OVER, but when I slowed down, my swing felt more controlled. Out on the course with an actual ball and an adjusted attitude (less competitive, more experimental and compassionate toward myself) I had a not-terrible time. I had a few (feet planted, slow tempo) strokes that were pretty decent, and the rest (which were absolutely consistent with my status as a perennial beginner) didn’t bother me. Best of all, my inner critics were silent. Nine holes wore me out, and I ended up with a blister on my thumb and some sore muscles the next day, but I also found I had been able to call a truce with the sport. I would be willing to golf again…you know, once my back loosened up.

I even learned a few things from golf that I can apply to my writing. If my metaphysical feet are planted, I have strength and balance to write from. If I don’t rush my message, it comes at its own pace and makes more sense. More peace, fewer voices seems like a good direction to keep moving toward. Fore!

Lynnette golfing

Hey, there. Missed you.


I happened to catch up with an old wordpress friend, lahikmajoe, today (“old” as in haven’t interacted in a very long time, and “catch up” as in I saw his post on Twitter, followed the link to his blog, commented, he commented back and visited one of my old posts and commented…it’s the digital-age version of catching up and reminiscing over coffee.) It has been nearly a year since I have posted anything, and well over a year since I posted any of my so-called “normal” material. I was knocked out by how much I have missed this blog and you people (assuming you are still out there.)

Back then I was fearful and busy and struggling to find something to say. The badly-fitting job I tried so hard at collapsed, but more time didn’t mean more writing. There was a long dark night of searching my soul, a reboot of my writing in “Safe Mode,” and finally another iteration of me as a working person. Now I am working furiously (figuratively, but sometimes literally also) and taking a class and doing a project, and all the  family and church stuff, and still searching. Now, however, I am searching more hopefully, gratefully, and with more of an attitude of acceptance and interest than fear.

I ask myself, do I have time for one more thing? Do I have time to formulate my crazy spinning tangential thinking into a coherent message on a semi-regular basis? Probably not, but I am not sure coherent messaging was ever my strong suit. The real question is, will I have time later? No one knows. I am feeling a little fragile upon hearing of Robin Williams’ death today, and maybe that too is moving me back into this space. We can’t definitely say that me catching lahikmajoe’s tweet in that brief moment before it rolled to the bottom of the feed and off the edge of the earth is actually a sign the universe is beckoning me back to the blogosphere. But if it feels like it, a little, that tells me something.

So, I am back, and really curious to see what I have to say. Thanks for visiting.

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An affirmation from a very helpful book, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers

 

Dark Arts, Part Three: Return to the Dark Side

I can still feel the thrill that went through me the first time I laid eyes on a horror comic at the tender age of nine. A skeletonized hand reached from a grave toward a beautiful woman, her eyes and mouth wide in terror, as a rotting zombie looked on. There was a visceral tug of war in my soul at that moment: feverish desire to know what the story was about, battling with fear of the fright that would accompany the story and inevitably linger on to haunt many bedtimes to come. Later, writers like Poe, Bradbury and King entertained and tormented me into losing sleep, jumping at things half-seen from the corner of my eyes, and racing up the stairs in the darkness while the breath of some imagined demon whispered at my heels.

In Glinda of Oz, Baum tells a story of two young girls who go off alone to stop a war between two communities, the Flatheads and the Skeezers (no, I am not kidding.) They journey through alien territories and are imprisoned no less than three times, including once by a giant despotic arachnid. Sure, Ozma is a powerful and wise fairy, and Dorothy has a few protective items, but they are not invincible. For instance, Baum writes that although Dorothy could not be killed or suffer any great bodily pain as long as she lived in Oz, “[she] was a mortal, nevertheless, and might possibly be destroyed, or hidden where none of her friends could ever find her. She could, for instance, be cut into pieces, and the pieces, while still alive and free from pain, could be widely scattered; or she might be buried deep underground, or “destroyed’ in other ways by evil magicians. were she not properly protected.” Yikes. So Glinda gives Dorothy a ring she can use to summon her in utmost peril, presumably if Dorothy can use it before her hand is severed from her body. Remember, this is the last of the Oz books (completely written by Baum,) you can’t assume they all emerge unscathed. What would we do without wicked witches, enslaved winged monkeys, zombies and silver-eyed clowns? Just remember that in Oz as in our world, a freakish and unlovely exterior might house the heart of a hero, and the loveliest person might be gripping a knife behind her back. So stay on your toes.

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN FROM OZ!

Dark Arts, Part 2-The Pretty Side

In my last post, I introduced some of the Oz characters brought to life by the penstrokes of John R. Neill, illustrator. Most of the inhabitants of Oz are strange and many of them appear downright sinister–some of them could DEFINE sinister. But Neill has drawn some beautiful characters as well. Glinda, the good witch, is the lovely mom of Oz, taking care of business and solving problems. She has an unfortunate preference for hats that resemble the old cup-and-ball toys, but other than that seems sensible. Here she is:

Glinda of Oz copyright page

I have to wonder what she is thinking at this moment. She has a meaningful look on her face, and that gesture seems to imply something…

 

Here Glinda is intent upon calibrating a device to save the day. That's the Wizard of Oz, leering in the background.

Here Glinda is intent upon calibrating a device to save the day. That’s the Wizard of Oz, leering in the background.

Then there is Dorothy Gale, honorary princess, and Ozma, young fairy Queen of Oz.

Here, Dorothy and Ozma appeal to Mist Maidens to help them cross a ravine, which they do.

Here, Dorothy and Ozma appeal to Mist Maidens to carry them across a ravine, which they do. Perhaps I have seen too many horror movies, but I imagine them getting to middle, then being pulled down to the bottom and eaten.

 

One of my favorite pictures, even if Ozma is looking quite a bit more mature than her character in the book.

Ozma, re-imagined as a 1920’s starlet.

And, finally, the three together…

Glinda of Oz The End

Am I imagining it or is there an interesting tension in their expressions? What are they looking at? In Oz, it could be anything.

 So here we have the whimsical, not the frightening. But because scary is often fun, I will return to some of the more nightmarish images in the next post.

Dark Arts, Part One

Here is a first world problem: I got a new smartphone and all the apps are insisting on syncing my contacts and location and searches and tethering me invisibly, irrevocably to the cybersphere. I feel like the apps are whispering about me behind my back. Hungry whispers. I would like to go back to pencil and paper, now, please. Not really. But it is possible to yearn for some privacy even as one reaches out through the world wide web.

So, because I am in a darkish mood, and because I wanted to bring you a gift after my long hiatus, I would like to share with you some exquisitely creepy illustrations by John R. Neill that recently caught my eye and breath. The illustrations are from Glinda of Oz by Frank L. Baum, and the ones I am sharing today are from the pastedown inside the front cover. The image as a whole is stunning:

 

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But here are a few of my favorites pulled out:

 

Oh, sad rabbit, I feel for you, surrounded by fiends and lunatics.

Oh, sad rabbit, I feel for you, surrounded by fiends and lunatics.

 

 

I gots a present for you, child. Just reach out your hand...

I gots a present for you, child. Just reach out your hand…

 

 

Oh! Startled chicken!

Oh! Startled chicken!

 

 

The card bird: charming, bizarre, the whole package, really.

The card bird: charming and bizarre, the whole package, really. I also like the face by his left foot because that is how I look in most of my photos.

 

If you have never read the books, you should do so. Oz is a vast world better viewed through words, line sketches and the reader’s imagination than on a screen. I would be interested to hear what catches your eye in the illustration. If you like this post, let me know and I will share a few more images.

A Quick Breath

I am eating a bowl of cereal, standing at the counter watching the sink fill with soapy water. The dishwasher I have just loaded is humming, and the ingredients for my son’s birthday cake await at my elbow. There is an article waiting to be written, company to prepare for, and all my “wanna-do’s” (paint my toenails, push through to the next step on the novel, play with my art & craft arsenal) whispering “pick me! pick me!” I don’t even realize how tight my breath has become until I glance up from the sink and see the maple trees outside my window, leaves dancing in the sun. A hundred shades of green flicker and lift in the light. A deep breath of appreciation slips in deactivating the taut muscles holding me at attention. Right, breathe. As easy and as difficult as that. Lift your eyes up and out. Breathe.
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It Lurks Above

So, today’s post was going to be about graduation and chrysalises (chrysali?) opening and little birds leaving nests, but I have bigger topics than blah-blah-blah life transitions. At a time when there are many very important things happening, I happen to be  preoccupied with spiders. I haven’t wanted to say anything before because if people associate you with the word “infestation” or “pestilence” or “nest of arachnoid horrors” they don’t want to visit anymore, but things aren’t improving as I’d hoped, and I can’t keep walking around pretending it is all okay. No, every morning I walk around like this:

No, Mom, I couldn't put on lipstick for the photo. Couldn't.

No, Mom, I couldn’t put on lipstick or a little blush for this photo. Or comb my hair. Or change out of my bathrobe. Well, I  could have done one or more of those things, but obviously, I didn’t.

I walk around like this searching for long legged yellow spiders, about three quarters of an inch across (including appendages.) They prefer the ceiling, but I have found them dangling in the air right in front of my face, and on the countertop six inches from where I have set down my coffee. I have seen them skittering manically and sitting still as death. Deceptively still, because they are rarely dead. The skittering begins after I attack them with my weapon of choice: a grabber clutching a paper towel. If I am lucky and hit it just right, I’ll squish it immediately and usually messily, but I am more likely to alarm it (hence the skittering) and knock it loose, so it falls to the floor (more skittering) or on me (screaming and gesticulating–me, not the spider.) My secondary weapon is the vacuum cleaner with the upholstery attachment on the long extension. This was great at first, because the spider rarely ran or fell, but we have a universal vac that sucks everything into a container in the basement and I have begun having nightmares about what is waiting for me down there. That thing is going to have to be emptied someday. Someday soon.

It wasn’t always like this. The first year we had these spiders I saw one and I thought, Okay, spiders are good, they eat other insects and they rarely cause harm. As long as you aren’t ON me or NEAR me or ON STUFF I TOUCH, I can live with you, Mr. Spider. But it wasn’t just one spider, it never is. I read once that on Earth, you are rarely more than a few meters from a spider. Disturbing, I thought, but I can handle that. Most of those have to be inside the walls or otherwise concealing themselves. It really is only the spiders I see that bother me. Well, the ones I see AND the ones biding their time in my vacuum container plotting their revenge. Once I realized that my friend Mr. Singular Spider had broken our truce by actually being multiple spiders, I attempted catch and release. With terrible results. Spiders are quite fragile, you know? You might try to trap one under a jar and slide a piece of cardboard in to contain it, but unspeakable things will happen and you will end up killing it anyway, probably out of mercy and with revulsion at the monster you yourself have become. Or that might be just me. Spider bombs! my neighbor says. Best thing! Probably yes, they are. I don’t know enough about them. They are probably very benign to everything except spiders and aren’t really the clouds of death I imagine settling on my laptop, dishes, doorknobs and bedding. Also, a spider who survives a spider bomb would not under any circumstances mutate into a super spider, therefore I would never have to worry about that. Nope.

So now every morning I walk the house, hunting spiders, apologizing to every single one I kill, obsessing over whether its kin are watching and how they feel about the whole spectacle, worrying about that vacuum container that I now imagine is pulsing with retribution. And then I move on to the gauzy egg sacs, hidden at the edge of the ceiling, looking for all the world like just another bead of popcorn and holding hundreds more skittering, web-spinning, tickly-legged vermin.  These things are a lesson on  the wages of the sin of procrastination. Have you put off doing a term paper until the last minute? Ignored a dish of leftovers in the fridge until it is unrecognizable? These are nothing compared to finding that an egg sac you meant to clean up has disgorged its contents and it is only a matter of time before you will be swimming in the things. Frankly, I am wasting valuable time right now writing about it. Back to the front lines, for despite my trepidation, this is war. Until one of them pulls a Charlotte and spins me a surrender message indicating their retreat I will be annihilating every one of them I can reach. They can keep their business outside, and, okay,  I may turn a blind eye in my garage, but that is where I draw the line. NOT in MY HOUSE.

Does It Make An Impression?

I had such a nice thing happen today. I got permission from Marian Call to use one of her songs to accompany a quirky video I did last summer when the office where I worked was shutting down and nobody but me came in for days at a time and all I was doing was packing up and throwing things out and wondering what I was going to do with the next part of my life and it felt like a funeral. So I dressed casually and listened to my iPod and did the things on my to-do list. One of the things to-do was to remove this huge mural:

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It was a media relations agency. It was not snowing in the office when I took this picture in case that is what you are thinking. That is dust on my lens which is so embarrassing, but there is nothing I can do about it now. Because, as I said, the mural had to come down. There are no more retakes. The tree was made from one long piece of sticky plastic that came off quite nicely with the help of a blow dryer. Each letter was the same kind of thing. Almost right away, I was thinking, “this is kind of cool, with the music on and the slow, stretchy release of the plastic creating an empty space in the clutter.” Fortunately, after I got the first five lines down plus the question mark at the end, I thought, “Maybe someone ELSE is odd enough to find this interesting.” So I pulled out my smartphone and recorded this video and later added in the music of Marian Call, who I adore and who was gracious enough to let me share it with you. Please watch, and if you like, please share. Please also click on Marian’s name anywhere in this post to listen to more of her music on her bandcamp website. Thanks!