Saturday, September 24, 2011

Odes to a special lady

Various short poems to one of my favorite ladies...

Your light brown skin,
your light brown eyes,
your light brown clothes,
your heavenly sighs

Your yellow hat,
your reddish label,
you belong,
on my table.

Mrs Butterworth
She giggles when I squeeze her
Butter worth Indeed.

Some mornings, when I'm waken
I hanker for some pancake maken
With your buttery smoothness, I'm taken
You could only be better if you were made of bacon.

I hope that I shall never see
Another syrup as buttery as thee
You pour so smooth, you taste so rich
C'mon baby, be my ....

My wife has approved this message.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Low Flow Irrigation and Yard lights

I spent much of the morning and afternoon extending our sprinkler system into Robin's flower beds using some low flow sprinklers.   The advantage to them is that you can water JUST what you want, rather that the driveway, dirt, etc.

Some things I've learned over the years with low-flow systems:

  1. You have to make 3-5 trips to home depot before you're done.
  2. Run 1/2" tubing from a normal sprinkler head along the bed your planning to water.  This ensures you have enough water to go around.
  3. 8 way manifolds are useless.  4 way are just fine.
  4. No-name parts will cost you hours of wasted time.
  5. Run 1/4" tubing out to the individual sprinklers. Using T's to run long lengths of 1/4" is a bad idea.  Better to run separate sprinklers from the manifold to ensure you get enough water.
  6. Use 1/2" to 1/2" Ts, then use 1/2" cut off risers to the manifolds. This will make sure you have enough height.
  7. Having several filters between the 1/2" tubing and the sprinkler head just means less water. I've never had a clog.
  8. When you buy the little sprinkler heads, look at them very carefully to make sure they'll cover the area that you want.
  9. Use manifolds that have the ability to turn off individual sprinklers.
  10. Bury the 1/2" tubing.  Don't bother with the 1/4".  Your wife will move the sprinkler heads around anyway.

Not having to trench PVC, and the low cost of the tubing, manifolds and sprinklers made this a quick and cheap project.

A couple of weekends ago, I put in some more yard lighting.  Cost was a concern, as was power usage.  Last year we tried some solar lighting, but up here in the NW, there simply doesn't seem to be enough sunlight to power the things for longer than an hour past sunset.  So, I went with low voltage lighting.

I bought a 600 watt transformer (yeah, way overkill, but I wasn't sure how much power I'd need. MAN was it expensive, too!) When I started buying lights, I realized quickly that the nice metal ones cost at least $24 each.   Not only that, they often use as much as 20 watts each.   They DO look good though.

To save on power (and money), I ended up using some LED lights.  They're about half as bright as the 20 watt incandescent, but use 1/20th the power.  I was able to buy brinkman sets on sale through home depot online for $30 for 4 lights and 2 spots. They were partly plastic, but matched the metal lights pretty well.

One thing about the LED lights, is that they don't use the usual vampire tap connectors that the malibu type lights use.  The reason is that LEDs have polarity, and if you were to tap them in the wrong way, they just wouldn't work.  So, the special, polarity based connectors are what they come with.

Because I wanted to use them with my 12 gauge low voltage wire, I simply snipped off the special connectors and spliced them into the 12 gauge using butt-splices.  I'd have rather used T splices, but couldn't find any that were useful for the gauge I wanted to use.

Because of the polarity, I had to make sure I kept the positive leads consistent.  Since most low-voltage type wire has two leads, and one of them usually has writing on it, I tend to make the wire with the writing positive and the other one negative.  So, I simply made sure I wired up wire with writing up to wire with writing on the various pieces and it all worked like magic.

I'll post pictures of the lighting later...

Overall, the yard is starting to look fantastic.  Just in time for it to rain for 9 months...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Of Sleep and Worry

For some reason, when I post to the blog, it's usually after I've been up too late the night before because I can't sleep. Last night was no exception.

One of the things I worry about, especially late at night, is EVERYTHING.   Yes, I tend to worry about things when I'm tired.  Work, my kids, the house, money.  It all gets pretty overwhelming. I can't imagine that I'm too different than most people, but since it's MY worry, I'll own it.

I used to struggle quite a bit more with worry, and to a degree, better sleep habits and sleep hygiene have made it much better, but growth in my faith has also helped.

From a sleep hygiene point of view, and this is something I tell Beth all the time as she's showing some signs of insomnia as well, there are a couple of rules:

1. Avoid caffeine 4 hours before bed.  Since I'm hyper sensitive to it, I avoid it completely.
2. No spicy or sugary foods 4 hours before bed.
3. If you don't fall asleep in 15 minutes and your mind won't stop spinning, get out of bed.
4. Use a consistent "to bed" and "wake" time. 

Of course, when I screw up on one of the above and have a bad night, I'm wrecked until I get back into a rhythm. And when I'm not sleeping, I worry more. And when I worry more, I don't sleep. Bit of a cycle.

It's easy to believe that prayer is the cure-all for worry, but alas, like everyone else in this world, I'm not perfect, and it's easy to take everyone's problems on my shoulders instead of putting them on His. 

Sometimes prayer helps.  It's not unusual for me to lie in bed and pray to take my mind off everything else, but it seems like it rarely helps, at least right away.  

I know that the bible says that I shouldn't worry, that I should cast all my anxieties on him. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. - Philippians 4:6

And it points out that if God takes care of the birds of the air, and since I'm so much more valuable, He'll take care of me MORE.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6: 24-36

I wish it were that easy.  But alas, I'm broken.  Not just a little bit, but seriously broken.  I can read scripture, I can pray, but still I worry, still I rely on myself when I know I should rely on God. Scripture is comfort, prayer is comfort, but still I fail.

A recent Amy Grant song REALLY bugged me for a while.  On first listen, it seemed to point out that God liked our pain. 

"God loves a lullaby
In a mothers tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.
God loves a drunkards cry,
The soldiers plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

The woman holding on for life,
The dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes
The tears of shame for what's been done,
The silence when the words won't come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

Better than a church bell ringing,
Better than a choir singing out,singing out.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah" Amy Grant - Better than a Hallelujah

But the more I listened, the more it started to make sense. I think what it's saying is that God loves it more when we come to him in our need, than when we praise him in our pride.  That when we're broken, and hurting, and worrying, coming to Him is more valuable because it's more genuine than when we're in church in our Sunday best, putting on a public face, and singing his praises. 

If I were somehow perfect, and had a perfect faith, and always relied on him, and worried about nothing, and slept like a baby every night, would that faith be worth anything to Him?  To Me?  What would I learn? Where would I grow?  It's like starting a trip at your destination, when there's value in the journey.

Sometimes I worry that when I write these blog posts, I come across as some kind of perfect disciple. That the insights that He grants me are something special that He gives only to me. 

I'm sorry to say that these insights are only single grains in the sand in the vast infinite span of His beach, and that I'll spend a lifetime gathering sand.  

The good news is that I'm still on the path.  The bad news is that I stray.  But the better news is that he calls me back.