Friday, August 31, 2007

Rain and Razor Blades

So, my last story was about my Dad. It's only right that today I share a story about my Mom.

When I was four years old, we lived, for a year, in Ketchikan, Alaska. Ketchikan is one very rainy seaside town. It averages 151.6 inches/year of precipitation. And, if I have my dates right, we were there in 1953, when the annual rainfall totaled 188.96 inches! All that rain just wasn't my Mom's idea of Paradise, so the next year we moved back to Oregon.

While we lived in Ketchikan, though, we rented an apartment that was one in a long row of attached apartments. One day, not long after we'd moved in, Mom went into the bathroom, and there was one of Dad's razor blades in the sink. She was aggravated to think that he'd be that careless, since I was just a tot, and could have found it and cut myself. So when Dad came home, she asked him to be more careful. He said he thought he had put the used razor blade in the medicine cabinet slot. (For you who are too young to know, let me explain. There used to be these little razor blade-sized slots in the back of some medicine cabinets. You were supposed to deposit your used blades into the slot, and the blades would drop into the space between the walls, which was, I guess, thought to be a safer place than the trash to dispose of them.)

A few days later, there were two blades in the sink. Now this was just too much for Mom. Why was he being so careless? She poked the blades into the slot, and had another discussion with him that night. This time he claimed that he knew he hadn't left any blades lying around. Mom wasn't really buying his innocence, though, because who else would have left razor blades in the sink?

So when, a few days later, she went into the bathroom and found three blades in the sink, she was totally exasperated. She opened the medicine cabinet, and was about to poke the blades into the slot, when suddenly she saw light coming through the slot, and then a person's eye, peeking through. "Margaret, is that you?!" asked the neighbor lady, through the little opening. Apparently the two medicine cabinets were back-to-back, with the slots lining up exactly. Whenever a razor blade was disposed of in one apartment, it simply went into the adjoining apartment's medicine cabinet, or sink, if the door was ajar.

Mom and the neighbor lady both wasted no time in taping up the slots, which were never used again. And Dad was off the hook.

[PS - While looking out on the internet to see if anyone else remembered these razor blade slots, I came across this little rant. It even shows a picture of one of those slots. You might enjoy reading it.]

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Good Morning, Dad!

My dad's work day started very early, around 3:00 a.m. By the time the shop opened at 7:00, he had to have a showcase full of fresh pastries and donuts, an oven full of browning breads, and a shop full of heavenly aromas. Benjamin Franklin, himself, would have been proud of my Dad's early-to-bed-early-to-rise habits.

Back in those days - the early 1960s - Juneau's little radio station, which was across the street from the bakery, signed off every night, playing "Alaska's Flag," the State song; and then at 5:00 a.m. came back on. Dad was in the habit of turning on his old flour-dusted radio at precisely 5:00, happy to know that the rest of the city was finally waking and joining him for another new day. Now and then the morning disc jockey would oversleep, and the radio just hissed and popped with static. Dad would pick up the phone, call the sleepy-headed DJ at his apartment and tell him to rise and shine and get the station on the air. Usually the DJ would respond, groggily, with something like, "I owe you one, Bob."

Juneau's DJs were usually young fellows with very little, if any, radio experience, looking for an Alaskan adventure. So, along came this new fellow, Tony, and every morning, without fail, he played this saccharine-sweet, corny "Good Morning" song. I don't know where he got this record, but by the end of the first week, it was getting under everyone's skin, and especially my Dad's. Despite numerous complaints, Tony just wouldn't stop playing it. Day after day, week after week, that irritating song rudely started everyone's morning.

One day one of the other young DJs was in our bakery, sitting at the counter and having coffee. My dad went out front and sat down beside him. "Chuck," he said, "What would it cost me to buy that sappy 'Good Morning' record that Tony plays every day?" Chuck grinned, thought a minute, and said, "It'd cost you a cup of coffee and a donut every morning, for a year!" "SOLD!" said my dad, without hesitation. Within minutes Chuck delivered the offending 45 into the hands of my Dad who, smiling, broke it in half and tossed it into the trash can, along with yesterday's leftover pastries.

So at long last, Juneauites, the truth has been revealed, the mystery explained! It was my Dad, an unsung hero, who spared the town's early-risers the daily vexation of Tony's "Good Morning" song. (I know you've all been wondering.)

Dad, decorating cakes in the afternoon. Looks pretty tired, doesn't he? Remember, he started at 3 a.m. that morning.And here's my Mom, working at the counter. Notice the sign - "electric baked donuts - 48 cents/dozen"!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Short Break

I just haven't had time to do any blogging the last couple days. Stay tuned for more when I can catch my breath. (I knew I couldn't keep this pace up forever!)

Tim did start his job yesterday, and said the day went well. He'll be traveling down to Las Cruces in the near future to visit their other office. Right now the Las Cruces IT person is up here, helping to train Tim.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Memory Keeper's Daughter : A book report

[I just finished reading The Memory Keeper's Daughter, a novel by Kim Edwards, published in 2005, and I thought I'd share my thoughts on this book . I haven't done a book report since I was in college (but I still remember the basics, taught to me so well by my third grade and sixth grade teachers ). As a side note, since I don't normally read a book twice, I'd be happy to pass this book along to anyone who thinks they might like to read it. Just let me know, with a comment or an email.]

The book opens in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1964, when David, a physician (a bone specialist), and his wife, Norah, are eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child. When Norah's labor begins, it is in the middle of the night and in the middle of a freak Kentucky snow storm. Although David tries to get Norah to the hospital in time, the weather defeats him. Since Norah's labor is progressing rapidly, he stops at the clinic where he practices, which is closed for the night, and calls both his partner physician and the clinic nurse, asking them to come in and help deliver the baby. But when a car accident delays his partner, and the baby won't wait, David, who has not delivered a baby since med school, has no choice but to deliver the baby himself, with the assistance of his capable nurse.

What happens that night, in the middle of a snow storm, in the small clinic, is a dark secret shared only by David and his nurse - the secret around which the rest of the story revolves. Norah, who is anesthetized, is unaware that she delivers not only her son, whom she names Paul, but his twin, a baby girl. When David sees his baby daughter, he recognizes in her the unmistakable signs of Down's syndrome. Immediately, two specters rise to haunt him: first, his own precious sister, also a Down's syndrome child, who died at a young age because of a heart condition commonly associated with Down's; and secondly, his mother, whose life was destroyed by grief at the loss of her daughter. So, determined to spare his wife that kind of pain, he makes a hasty decision. He hands the baby girl to the nurse, Caroline, and tells her to take the baby to an institution he knows of, that will accept and care for such children. When Norah regains consciousness, David hands her their healthy baby boy, and tells her that she also delivered a baby girl who died at birth. Meanwhile, the nurse, Caroline, who cannot bring herself to leave the baby at the institution, slips out of town and begins a new life in Pittsburgh, as the mother of baby Phoebe.

The deception and the secrets conceived that night create, over the next three decades, a tangled web of emotional rifts between David and Norah, and their son, Paul. The author also develops the story of Caroline, Phoebe and the man, Al, who marries Caroline and raises Phoebe as his own daughter. Each character deals in his or her own way with confusion, regrets, reactions and emotional wounds that are, in one way or another, spawned by the secret decisions made by David and Caroline the night the two babies were born.

Why do we do what we do? How can good intentions lead to bad choices? How have attitudes changed since 1964, when this story began? How can secret knowledge affect your life and, in the end, those dearest to you? Who is the true beneficiary of forgiveness? Is redemption always attainable? These are some of the questions that you will grapple with in reading The Memory Keeper's Daughter.

My rating: 4 stars out of 5. Readable - a page turner. Thought-provoking.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Introducing Takashi James

Chris and Takashi at Takashi's farewell dinner at our house.

In 1988 an 18-year-old Japanese exchange student, named Takashi, came to live with us for the school year. He had already graduated from high school in Japan, but came for the purpose of experiencing life in America. Takashi was delighted that he had been assigned to a family in Oregon, since he was a fan of a popular TV program, airing in Japan at that time, called "From Oregon with Love." It was a series, actually filmed in Oregon, about an extended Japanese family who had moved to Oregon to be strawberry farmers.

Takashi was the oldest of three brothers. Not only was he the oldest brother, but his father was the oldest of his brothers, and his grandfather was, also, the oldest brother in his family. Takashi, therefore, being the oldest son of the oldest son of the oldest son, would be the future head of his extended family, which, in the Japanese culture, is a huge responsibility, and one that weighed heavily on Takashi's mind. His life would not be the typical modern Japanese life. For instance, although his brothers could choose their brides, he would be expected to have some form of an arranged marriage because of his family status.

Takashi's father was a brain surgeon, and his grandfather owned a hospital. Therefore, his family was quite wealthy. He also claimed, with pride, that his family ancestors were bushi (the Japanese warrior caste, or Samurai). He claimed to be Buddhist, but "not religious." Although Takashi was in some ways a typical teenager, he was tied to the ancient ways more than most.

Being host parents in a small town meant that we had occasional contact with other host families. Several of those families failed to bond with their student. Some had to make placement changes during the year. Some of the students had to be sent back home. But, despite a number of challenging times along the way, Takashi's determination to be "part of the family" contributed greatly to the successful experience we ultimately had. Takashi chose to do everything that we did as a family. He went to church with us, and participated in the youth group activities with our sons. He eagerly celebrated birthdays and holidays with us. He joined us in weekend trips. He helped out with chores around the house. He chose to call Dan and I, "Dad" and "Mom"; Chris and Tim, his "brothers"; and my folks, "Nanny" and "Papa."

One day, early on, Takashi asked me why I sometimes called Chris "Christopher Russell" and sometimes called Tim "Timothy Andrew." I explained the American custom of using the formal first and middle name, for emphasis, when a parent was speaking sternly to a child. When he told me that the Japanese don't have middle names, I said, "Well, we'll have to do something about that, or how will you know when you're in trouble?" Understanding my attempt at humor, he grinned and asked if I'd give him a middle name. That's when I dubbed him "Takashi James," a name that would come in handy a number of times during his stay.

There are too many Takashi stories to put in one blog post, so I've chosen only to introduce him here. More stories will follow in the near future.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Girl Friends, Episode 4 - Gloria

*Note: This Gloria is the same Gloria mentioned in, both, the Purple Keds and the Love Letters blogs.

Gloria was probably my most mischievous girl friend. She was also my Oregon shopping buddy. Until I shopped with Gloria, I had never returned an item to a store. I just thought it would be too embarrassing, and that, maybe, they'd put me on some sort of black-list, or something. But under Gloria's masterful tutelage, I learned I could even purchase two of something, take them home, see which one fit better or which one matched my couch or which one my husband preferred, and then return the other one. Gloria introduced me to a whole new dimension in shopping!

Gloria and I were often part of a threesome. Another friend, named Mary, was the third musketeer. One Friday the three of us were - you guessed it! - shopping. Our husbands, who also palled around, were going to be leaving that evening, after work, for a men's weekend retreat at Camp Yamhill. Mary stopped to look at an attractive men's golf shirt on one of the manequins. It was a teal green with narrow beige stripes. "I think I'll get this for Tom," Mary said, referring to her husband. It'll be nice for the retreat." Gloria's mind started churning, and we knew, by her giggle, that something fun was in the works. "Let's all get identical shirts for our husbands, gift wrap them, stick them in their suticases with a note saying something like, 'something special for you, to wear at the retreat on Saturday morning.'" And so we did! You can imagine the amusement on the faces of the other guys, at the expense of our red-faced, dressed-alike husbands, when they all met for breakfast in the dining hall!

There was one prank in which Gloria really outdid herself. Another close friend, Pam, was out of town for a few days, with her husband and three kids. Gloria's mind conceived the "marvelous realtor prank." She put a For Sale by Owner sign in Pam's yard, with a ridiculously low price, and Pam's home phone number. When Pam got home she was, first, in shock to see the For Sale sign, and then amazed to find dozens of offers on her answering machine! It took her NO time at all to figure out who was behind that one.

I remember, fondly, a number of women's retreat talent show skits that Gloria and I took part in. Here's a little video clip of one of my favorites. Performers, from left to right are Pam, Linda (me), Gloria and Tracy. I was the bass. I can't remember who the "arms" were, standing behind us and behind the sheet. Take a look at this little clip:
video

But beneath Gloria's mischievousness was a thoughtful and loving heart. On a regular basis she baked cookies, put them into sweet little baskets or tins, and, with her children, went to visit the elderly in the care home. I remember how, when I was signed up to provide food for an event at church, and my back suddenly went out, she prepared the food and took it in my place. I remember whenever some young mother was ill, she would go to her house and, without any discussion, take the children home with her until their mama was feeling better. I remember how patient she was with children, and how gentle. I remember how she always looked for people who were lonely or in need, and offered them her friendship and help.

My friend, Gloria - a neat little mixed package of fun and good works. Because of her, I have many great memories from those years in Oregon.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Take Me Out to the Ball Game


Last night we went to an Albuquerque Isotopes ball game. The Isotopes is Albuquerque's triple A minor league baseball team. There were around 35 of us, from church, who bought tickets and sat together, along the 3rd base line. Sadly, the Isotopes got trounced by the Memphis Redbirds, with a final score of Redbirds 12, 'topes 5. Despite the defeat, we all had a good time at the ole' ball game.

Thursday night's game had been rained out, due to a thunder storm that pounded the city, so last night Tim decided he'd take his umbrella, "just in case." But the weather stayed warm and dry all evening, and we were treated to a bonus, as well - a dramatic sunset.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dinner with a Space Cadet

The Air Force Research Lab, where Dan works, brings in graduate students each summer to work with their program. They are officially known as the Space Scholars, but are often referred to, in jest, as the Space Cadets. Dan has made friends with one of them, named James. He's working on his doctorate, and this year was his third summer to be one of the "cadets." He'll be leaving to go back home this weekend, so his wife came from Texas, yesterday, to travel back home with him. Last night we had dinner out with the two of them, as we did at summer's end last year.

James and his wife chose the restaurant this time. It's called Marcello's Chop House, and it's pretty "high class." It's the kind of place where they come around periodically, with something resembling a little tiny squeegee, to remove any bread crumbs from the white tablecloths. The kind of place where they bring you new silverware for each course. The kind of place where they serve Kobe beef, the Japanese-style beef that comes from cattle fed on beer, and given daily body massages to make the meat melt-in-your-mouth tender and, supposedly, more flavorful. Oh, and by the way, since a Kobe beef steak goes for $115 there, Dan and I both decided we were hungry for the humble pork chop, instead. Personally, I'm more comfortable in those Texas-style steak houses with plank floors and country-western music, where they bring a bucket of peanuts and encourage you to throw the shells on the floor.

Anyway, James and his wife are a lot of fun, we had a great time visiting with them, and we look forward to another farewell dinner with them next year at the end of another summer.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Woo Hoo!

Tim finally got to talk with his new employer this morning, and the news is good. He will start on Tuesday. The name of the company is Energy Control, and, if you're interested, you can click on the name to see their website.

Now begins the hunt for a new apartment. And between now and Tuesday he needs to go to the mall and refresh his "business casual" wardrobe. Both of those tasks should be fun in comparison to the task of job-hunting, which is now behind him.

Once again prayers have been answered. Thank you, Lord!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Good News! (i think)

Yesterday Tim had his second interview with a company here, and they called him back about supper time to offer him the network manager position. But there was a small problem; the gentleman who called him with the offer was in his car, talking on a cell phone, and the call was breaking up. Tim was struggling to hear. He did hear that he was being offered the job, and thought he heard that they want him to come in next Tuesday, but it was impossible to catch any details. They finally gave up and agreed to talk again today, so hopefully Tim will know more by this afternoon. He feels confident about everything, but I'll only feel confident once he's heard the offer clearly. In the meantime I'm going to keep praying!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"The Girls"

Over the weekend I received an oh-so-welcome email message from my Alaskan friends, Liz and Louise. The story of our friendship began in 1957.

That summer I was eight-years-old, and we moved to Juneau, supposedly for one year, to help my Grandpa out in his bakery. [edit: my mom wanted me to mention here that, for her and my dad, that "one year" stretched into 30 years in Alaska.] Grandpa was having some health problems. Sometime during those early months my Grandpa, whose health was failing faster than we had thought, made a business arrangement with my Dad, that if he would work one year without a salary, the shop would be his at the end of the year. So we lived, very frugally, on my Mom's salary as a secretary at the Northern Commercial Co.

Because we hadn't planned on this being a permanent move, my folks had left all of our worldly possessions (not that there were all that many) in storage in Oregon. We moved into a little apartment that only had one bedroom, so Mom would put me to bed at night in their bed, then, when it was time for them to go to bed, move me to a sofa bed in the living room.

When fall came, I started third grade. My young teacher, Miss D., who had only a year or two of teaching experience (in Mountlake Terrace, WA, if I remember correctly), was new to Juneau as well. I, being the little over-achiever that I was (think "Lisa Simpson"), worked hard and adored my young teacher, Miss D. I loved her so much that often I didn't want to leave school at the end of the day. What teacher have you ever known who, at the end of a long day of teaching two dozen sleeve-tuggers, was willing to keep one of them after school and give igpay atinlay essonslay (for you who are not bilingual, that's "Pig Latin lessons")? That was Miss D.! And, of course, I began sharing with her my sad tale: My dad worked but didn't get paid; I didn't have a bed; we didn't have a TV, and we had almost no furniture. AND (most grievous in my mind) I no longer had a bicycle.

Miss D. began to wonder if my family was some sort of charity case that had slipped through the cracks. So she talked it over with her roommate, Miss L., who was also a teacher. They decided to go down to that bakery and coffee shop, where "my Dad worked but didn't get paid," and investigate for themselves.

That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. Miss D., later known to me as Louise; and Miss L., later known as Liz, (but, together, more commonly known to us simply as "the girls") were quickly integrated into our family. To me the phrase "the girls" was synonymous with "FUN!" They were a part of every family celebration, outing, and event. I adored them and was happiest when we were all together.

When I was eleven years old, and ready for sixth grade, it was Liz's turn to be my teacher. By then I knew her well, as "Liz," but I also knew better than to call her that in school. She would have to be "Miss L." But "Miss L." just wouldn't roll off my tongue. What to do? My round-about solution, for an entire school year, was to call her nothing but "Teacher," whether in the classroom or out.

Fourteen years after first setting foot in Miss D.'s third grade classroom, I graduated from college and came back to Juneau, with my husband, to teach school there, myself. And, to my delight, I was assigned to the same school where Liz and Louise were then teaching. We were colleagues!

The years have slipped by, and Liz and Louise have since retired. We remain more like family than friends. On those rare occasions, now, when we're able to get together, there's a part of me that still sees them through the adoring eyes of an eight-year-old child. They're no longer so young (and, for that matter, neither am I!), but "the girls" haven't lost their sense of adventure nor their propensity for fun.

Aketay arecay, earday iendsfray. Iay issmay ouyay!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Chestnuts Chilis Roasting on an Open Fire

Everyone has a favorite time of year, I suppose, and mine, hands-down, is fall. I can't even explain why, or how, it stirs and invigorates me, every year, when the leaves begin to turn and the morning air turns nippy. Maybe it's because I've been on some sort of academic calendar - whether as a student, a teacher, a school volunteer, a teacher-certifier, or a university staff member - for 47 years; so, to me, fall means, a new beginning. Or maybe it's because fall is a precursor to the holiday season, which I love. Or, maybe it's that the colors, the smells and the tastes of the season are simply delicious.

In Albuquerque, I've come to recognize a new sign of the season, for it's in the fall when they harvest and roast the chilis. You can go to a supermarket or a farmers' market, buy your favorite variety of fresh chilis, and take them out to the parking lot, where someone will roast them for you.


Yesterday, for the first time this season, even before I stepped out of the car, I smelled the pungent aroma of roasting chilis. That's when I realized that I must actually be a New Mexican at last, because the smell of the chilis signaled inside me the coming of fall.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The 32 x 32 Rule - A devotional thought

We had a friend once, named Brad, who told us this story about himself.

When Brad was in high school his blue jeans size was 32 x 32 -- a 32-inch waist and a 32-inch inseam. Determined to keep his trim figure, he resolved never to let his waist size grow larger than his inseam.

However, during his college years Brad found his weight creeping upward until he couldn't avoid going to a 34-inch waist. To keep from breaking his resolution, he purchased size 34 x 34. The jeans simply bunched up a little more at his ankles, and he was able to convince himself that they really did fit just fine.

After Brad married, he continued to put on pounds until, finally, he had no choice but to purchase blue jeans with a 36-inch waist. When he tried on a pair of 36 x 36 jeans, even he had to admit that they looked ridiculous. He couldn't possibly wear jeans that long. Sadly, he realized he'd failed to keep his resolution. Once he had accepted that fact, he had no reason to continue the original pretense of a 34-inch inseam, so he purchased jeans that truly fit - 36 x 32.

Brad's story makes me laugh, but, at the same time, I can't help thinking how similar his responses were to those we sometimes make in the spiritual world. Most of us live our lives by one or more of the following "blue jeans principles":
  1. The 34 x 34 Rule - Rationalization: "If I don't measure up to God's expectations, change God's word to fit my life rather than change my life to fit God's word." (Read I John 1:8)
  2. The 36 x 32 Rule - Resignation: "If I don't measure up to God's expectations, maybe the whole effort isn't worthwhile, anyway." (Read Hebrews 10:36-39 and Hebrews 12:1-3)
  3. The 32 x 32 Rule - Repentence: "If I don't measure up to God's expectations, I need to 'resize' my thinking and 'shape up' my life." (Read James 5:16-20)
Just as exercise and good nutrition could have brought Brad's waist size back in harmony with his inseam, so repentance will bring one's spiritual life back in harmony with God's expectations. Rationalization and resignation, on the other hand, both lead to failure. Remember 32 x 32 - it's a good rule to live by.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Colors for Sweetpea

Some of you are probably wondering where I've been today. I usually post in the mornings, but today I've been preoccupied. I'm working on a "Color" book for Sweetpea. Not a book she can color in, but one to help her learn her colors. I completed an ABC book earlier this year for her, using my own photos and text. It was so much fun that I couldn't resist doing a sequel. (By the way, if any of you are interested in doing something like this, I highly recommend http://www.viovio.com/ for the printing and binding. They're reasonably priced, they have great customer service, and I was really pleased with their quality.)

So, today, I was mostly working on a layout that could be repeated for each color. The 2-page spread below is what I came up with (click on it to see a larger version). As you see, I haven't dropped the photos into all of the picture spots yet - in fact the one that is there might not even be used in the final product. I'm going to be very busy for awhile taking pictures to fit each page's color theme.

(Edit: I re-posted the sample pages, since resizing for the web faded out the colors. This is a little better, but still not as vibrant and true as the full-size file. But you get the idea.)

I'm open to suggestions for improving the layout. Just leave a comment, and I'll take any and all suggestions under consideration. When I get it completely finished, I'll put a link to the pages, so you can all see them. And if any of you haven't seen the ABC book, let me know and I'll give you that link, as well.

On another note, last evening we went to some friends' home (Sam and Kathy's) for dinner. Sam and Kathy have an eight-year-old girl, named Sarah. Sarah is tall and lanky, blonde-headed, and cute - not to mention, quite precocious! I think maybe Sarah has given me a glimpse of what's to come for Sweetpea.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Just Ducky


There is a little pond, with a fountain, that I sometimes pass on my way home from work, depending on which way I go. I never go by without looking over and thinking, "I should stop there some day."

On Wednesday I stopped. As I approached the pond, I scared up several fat frogs that leapt from the deep grass near the edge, into the water. I sat down on a bench at the edge of the pond. These curious ducks kept circling and scrutinizing me and, I suppose, hoping for a snack. But I came empty-handed.

It was peaceful and quiet there; only the pleasing hum of some dragon flies, the melodious splash of the fountain, and an occasional low, gutteral complaint from a duck embellished the silence. I stayed no more than 15 minutes, but even that short time was refreshing and relaxing. I'll have to stop more often . . . and remember to bring some bread crusts for the quackers.

[Note: This marks the one-month anniversary of my blog. Here's looking forward to month #2!]

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ta-Dah!

(A true and funny story)

My friend, Mary, and I once attended a baby shower, while her two girls and my two boys were all at the church building for a youth group event. When the baby shower was over, Mary and I walked out to our cars together. It was getting late, but we both had to run by the church building, to pick up our kids, before going home. After chatting for another minute or so, at the curb, Mary hopped into her car and said, "I'll race ya'!" I giggled, and hopped into my car, as well, and said, "See you there."

Mary revved her engine, and took off. I laughed to myself, not even almost taking Mary's flippant challenge seriously. I lost sight of Mary, right away, and drove to the church parking lot in no particular hurry.

When I got there, I was surprised to see Mary's car, a police car pulled in behind it, and an officer talking intently to Mary, who was standing beside her car. All the teens were lined up at the windows of the fellowship hall, staring and pointing at Mary and the officer, and wondering, like I was, what the story was. (Although I knew, in my heart, it had something to do with the word "race.") I meekly walked into the building, up the stairs, and stood at the window with the kids.

Finally the police officer left, and Mary, crimson-faced and carrying a citation, came into the building to face a whole gaggle of kids demanding, "What'd you do?". Here's what had happened:

Mary had, indeed, and to my amazement, taken her "race ya'" challenge seriously. She went a different route than I did and, in her haste, inadvertently ran a new stop sign at an intersection near the church building. As she pulled into the parking lot, a car pulled in behind her. Assuming it was me, she jumped out of the car, faced the headlights, flung her arms wide, threw her head back, and hollered "Ta-Dah!" - an exhaltation of victory. Then, to her dismay, a police officer, not I, stepped out of the car. I've often wondered if the officer might have shown some grace and only given her a warning, considering the fact that the stop sign was newly-planted at that corner . . . had he not been "Ta-Dahed." As it was, there was no grace, no warning, just an expensive ticket for Mary.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Dan occasionally says, speaking of New Mexico, "I really like it here, but I'm not sure you like it as much as I do." I wish I could put his mind at ease, because I do like New Mexico, even more than I thought I would before we moved.

Some things I like about New Mexico:

  • Beautiful and varied scenery
  • Hot air balloons
  • Four distinct seasons
  • Awesome sunsets
  • The combination of Hispanic and Native American cultures, arts and foods
  • New Mexico's rich history
  • Shorter travel distances to family
  • Albuquerque's good shopping
  • Abundance of cultural opportunities (concerts and other performances)
  • The new friends we've made

If we were to leave New Mexico, I would miss these things, and more. But that doesn't mean I don't miss some things about Oregon and Alaska. I think that is what is confusing Dan when he asks if I really like New Mexico.

Some things I miss about Oregon:

  • Pumpkin patches in the fall
  • Christmas tree farms, where we cut our own real trees
  • U-pick fields and orchards, where we could pick sweet corn, strawberries, peaches, apples, Marion berries, and on and on
  • Houses that are made out of something besides stucco
  • The Oregon coast - my favorite place for renewal
  • Camp Yamhill
  • Thick, lush green lawns
  • The smell of bark dust
  • Powell's Bookstore and Fred Meyer
  • Great Chinese restaurants
  • Teaching ESL classes at George Fox University
  • The old friends I left behind
Some things I miss about Alaska:
  • Fresh-out-of-the-water salmon, halibut and king crab
  • Cool summer temperatures
  • Long, long summer days
  • Deep snowfalls
  • The Northern Lights
  • The view we had from our condo (see the picture above)
  • Day trips on the ferries
  • The Permanent Fund Dividend
  • Certain smells that mean "home" to me: skunk cabbage, low tide, creosote on the docks, spruce trees
  • Up-close-and-personal encounters with black bears, eagles and whales
  • The old friends I left behind

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Small Print

Yes, this morning I read the small print in the footer of the information sheet they gave me when I turned in my pictures yesterday. Here's what it says:

"IMPORTANT: Due to unforeseen changes, this year the public will not be allowed to view the Judging process. Sorry for any inconvenience."

. . . sigh

"I will miss you too much"

A couple days ago I got a manicure. I went to this little shop near our house, and, like all of the nail shops in Albuquerque, the employees are all Asian. A few of them have a fair command of the English language, but most of them only know the trade lingo ("Manicure?" "Pedicure?" "Rebase?" "Wax?" "$12.98"). That day I got my favorite young manicurist. She always recognizes me, even though I don't go in that often, always smiles, and knows enough English to get by; but she’s quite happy to do my manicure in complete silence, if I'll let her. This time I decided to try to engage her in conversation.

I asked her if she had taken a summer vacation. She shook her head and said, "Summer, too busy. But,” she added, “I go home Vietnam in fall!” When she told me this, her eyes lit up and she looked so happy. I asked if she would be visiting family, and she said "yes," and told me her mother, father, three brothers and one sister were all still living in Vietnam. She also said that she hadn't been back since she left, five years ago. I told her she must be very brave to have moved across the ocean by herself, but she shook her head again and said, "My husband live here."

Neither of us said anything for a minute or two, as she continued painting my nails, then she volunteered, “My father always tell me, ‘Don’t move far away. I will miss you too much.’” Then she got very quiet, and her eyes lost their sparkle. And I wished I had the words to make a difference, but suddenly it was my English that was inadequate.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Update - State Fair Photography Competition

Today Sherry and I met at 12:30, when I got out of work, and had lunch together at a little old drug store in the University area, that had a lunch counter and a few tables. It was a fun place to eat, although the food wasn't anything special.

After lunch we took our photos over to the fair grounds and stood in line to get them entered for judging. I kept looking around, trying to catch glimpses of our competition. I saw some really nice work. It was strange, but it felt almost like leaving my children with someone, when I turned over my photos.

Judging of the adult amateur photography will take place on two nights, August 22 and 23. Sherry and I want to go and observe the judging. In fact, I think it's what I'm most looking forward to. I am so interested in what the judges will be looking for. Next year, after attending the this year's judging, I'll have a better idea of what kinds of photos to submit. This year it's a shot in the dark, so to speak.

Sherry and I decided that we'll go ahead and have our usual Tuesday lunch together, tomorrow, even though we spent this afternoon together. Can't spend too much time with a good friend!

Girl Friends, Episode 3 - Kathy

It’s really the greatest thing when your girl friend is also your next-door neighbor. And that’s how it was with Kathy and me. We were both stay-at-home moms, living in our little starter houses on a cul-de-sac in Juneau. Between us we had four kids. (Kathy later had another baby, but Dan and I were already anticipating our move from Juneau when her youngest was born.) In the seven years we were neighbors, we saw each other through a total of five pregnancies!

Kathy and I and our four little bambinos did just about everything together. I remember our weekly grocery shopping trips and what a circus they were at times. Even getting ready was entertaining – struggling to put snow pants, mittens, jackets and boots on all of those little wiggly limbs. Occasionally we took all four of them to Pizzazz Pizza for lunch, but the most fun was when we’d pack a picnic lunch and head to the Auke Bay recreation area for a couple of hours. I remember the wonderfully long naps that happened after all that fresh air and exercise on the rocky beach. Oh, and the kids took long naps too :-)

When Tim was about 14 months old, and newly weaned from nursing, an unexpected opportunity came up for me to go to Hawaii for a week with my mom. I had never been away from the boys overnight, and my initial response was, "No. It's impossible." How could I leave my poor husband alone with a four-year-old and a one-year-old? He couldn't take that much time off from work. But thanks to a cooperative effort between Kathy, who was like my kids' second mom, and my terrific husband, I made that trip! Kathy did the daytime shifts, and Dan did the evening and nighttime shifts. Obviously, Kathy wasn't a "fair-weather friend," because a house full of four pre-schoolers all week couldn't have been all that "fair!"

Although our friendship seemed to revolve around kids most of the time, it was more than a "mom's club." While the kids napped, we often sat together, sipping Diet Dr. Pepper (our favorite), and talking about adult things -- books we were reading, dreams of the future, recipes and homemaking (Kathy was a wonderful housekeeper!), things we'd studied in ladies' Bible class, health concerns; we shared everything, really. And Kathy was such an example to me of thoughtfulness -- especially in remembering birthdays and special occasions, usually with a gift she'd made by hand.

The summer before Chris started kindergarten Dan and I packed up in preparation for a move to Oregon. Dan had to depart ahead of us, to start his new job. Kathy decided to join me in the trip south -- a three-day voyage from Juneau to Seattle* -- and visit her family, who also lived in Oregon. So Kathy and I and our flock-of-five (yes, by then Kathy's youngest had been born) set out on this adventure, which turned out to be a wonderful and memorable final farewell experience for Kathy and me.

Dan and I stayed in Oregon 20 years. Our boys grew up and graduated from high school there. When the Alaskan dream bit us again, we moved back to Juneau, where Kathy and her husband had been all those years and still were.

To quote Thomas Wolfe, "You can't go home again." I guess he meant that you can't recover the past, and I have to agree. Kathy and I really weren't the people we'd been 20 years earlier. No longer were we young mothers, in fact we were both, now, mothers-in-law. Kathy was even going by "Kathryn" now (though I was never able to make that change). We'd both had busy careers. Kathy was retired and caring for two of her grandsons; I was still working full time. Neither had the time for those mid-afternoon Dr. Peppers or long conversations. And we weren't next-door neighbors.

But, in a way, this was good. It gave Kathy and me the chance to get to know each other all over again, as mature women who had experienced both good times and bad, joys and griefs, comforting and being comforted. Our friendship wasn't as intense as the first time around, probably because of time constraints, but there was a certain depth and texture to our relationship that hadn't been there 20 years earlier.

It's not often in life that you get to make friends with the same person twice. There is something especially sweet about our friendship, now, because we chose each other as friends the second time around.

*The southern-most terminal for the Alaska ferries is now Bellingham, WA. But in 1978, when Kathy and I took this trip south, the ferries went as far as Seattle.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Love Letters - Some Devotional Thoughts

Our friends, Ken and Gloria, celebrated their anniversary one year with a vacation at the beach. On their last evening, Ken taped a romantic card, with a loving hand-written inscription, onto the vanity mirror for Gloria to discover the next morning.

In the morning, after a quiet breakfast at a favorite cafe, Ken and Gloria started home. When they were a few miles down the road, Ken leaned over and kissed Gloria on the cheek. "Did you like the card?" he asked with a sheepish grin.

"Card? What card?" answered Gloria.

That's when Ken realized he'd made a major blunder. His card, which had been taped to the mirror at eye-level for his 6' 5" frame, was well above Gloria's line of sight; Gloria stood only 5' 2". Ken blushed as he thought of the motel maids, who were probably, at that very moment, giggling over the romantic words he had intended for Gloria's eyes only. His intentions had been good, but his effort had been wasted.

Isn't is a blessing that our God, whose ways and thoughts are infinitely higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9), bends down and places his expressions of love squarely in front of our mortal eyes? He commissioned prophets to deliver to us the greatest love letter ever penned - the Bible (Heb., 1:1,2). He sent heavenly messengers to us, with good news of great joy (Luke 2:9-13). He created a dwelling place for us, teeming with life and abounding in beauty (Gen. 1:30). And he gave us gifts - exceedingly precious gifts - His son and His spirit (John 3:16, Acts 2:38).

I believe that Heaven holds wonders beyond my wildest imagination. But one thing has not been left to my imagination - God's love. It's obvious. It's unfailing. It's perfect. It's directly in my line of sight.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Singing the "Back Burner Blues"


I used to be a pretty good housekeeper and cook, until I started taking creative writing and poetry classes. I found I loved writing, but it took a lot of time. So, housekeeping and cooking got put on the proverbial back burner.

Writing was emotionally fulfilling and mentally satisfying. But then I got my first digital camera. I couldn't stop clicking the shutter long enough to sit down and write, so my writing got pushed to that same proverbial back burner.

Taking pictures was challenging and fun, but once I bought my first edition of Photoshop Elements, I became so intrigued with editing, sharpening, brightening, cropping, embellishing and scrapbooking my old photos, that I couldn't find the time to take new ones. So my camera, also, got put on the proverbial back burner.

Then I found blogging. It seemed to satisfy, somewhat, my love of writing and of photography. But I found that writing the blog took so much time that I didn't have time to Photoshop (I know that's not a proper verb) my pictures any more. So Photoshop Elements was put back there, alongside the camera, on the now cluttered back burner.

Now, blogging is fun, and I hope to continue doing it. But I've been thinking . . . how rewarding and enjoyable would it be to volunteer my time doing story hour at a library or book store, once-a-week! I love children, I love books and, after all, my degree is in education! Besides, it would be a way to pay back a kindness, since someone else is doing it for Sweetpea. But to do it properly would take planning and research each week, in preparation for the hour spent with the children. If I do this, will my blog get put on the back burner?

I could quite easily convince myself that the solution to unpiling this cluttered, proverbial back burner is to quit my job. Then I'd have more time to clean house, cook, write, take pictures, Photoshop them, keep up with my blog, do research and planning, and read stories to toddlers. But I'm afraid the results of that could be pretty devastating. Call me spoiled, but I like having a roof over my head, a car, food to eat, and electricity and gas to keep me warm and/or cool.

So maybe I should pull a different thing, each day, from the back burner, dust it off, and use it. Clean house on Mondays, go on photo shoots on Tuesdays, edit my photos in Photoshop on Wednesdays, write my blog on Thursdays, read stories on Fridays, and so forth. But, where's the fun in that?! "Creativity can't be scheduled!" my psyche screams, in protest.

I don't pretend to know the solution, but one thing I do know . . . I'll never be one of those people who says, "I don't want to retire. I'd be so bored."

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Purple Keds

I must have been about twelve when "all the girls at school" were wearing either black or white corduroy Keds on their feet. (I think they went along with the stretchy-black-stirrup-pants fad.) I really wanted a black pair. I convinced my mom that I needed them, and she gave me the money and let me go, by myself, to get them.

When I got to Hudson's Shoe Store, I stopped and looked in the display window. There were the corduroy Keds, all lined up, in a rainbow of colors - black, white, blue, red, purple, yellow, green, pink. I went inside, and the store clerk approached right away. "How can I help you, missy?" he asked. I was standing near the display window, so I gestured at the Keds display and said, "I would like to buy a pair of those, please."

I expected the clerk to respond with, "Which color?" But he didn't. He had me sit down so he could measure my feet. Then he hopped up, dashed into the back room, and came out with a Keds box. He sat down in front of me on the stool, opened the box and pulled out a pair of bright PURPLE corduroy shoes. "Oh, no!" I thought, "I was pointing at the Keds, but he thought I was pointing at the purple Keds !"

Now, here's where you'll be asking yourself, "Why didn't she just stop him and say, 'I want black ones.'?" But if you are asking that, you obviously didn’t know me back then. I was probably the world's worst pushover. My line of thinking, at that moment, went like this, "I must not have been clear when I told him what I wanted. It would be rude of me, now, to tell him that he brought out the wrong shoes. And, that would mean he'd have to go back and search the shelves in the back room again. No . . . I'm just stuck with them." (Pitiful, I know!)

So I just sat there as the clerk pulled the tissue paper out of both shoes, laced them up, put them on my feet, tied them, and then, with a swift pat to the side of one of my feet said, "There you go, little miss. How do they feel?"

Now, without the swift pat and the "There you go, little miss," I might have found the courage to tell him, at this point, that I wanted black. Instead, I just answered "fine" in a wee small voice.

With that, the clerk picked up my old shoes, put them in a bag along with the Keds box, and went to the cash register to take my money, which I dutifully handed over. Then I walked back home, holding back a wall of tears all the way. I hated those purple shoes!

When I got home, I couldn't hold the flood back any longer. I told my mom the story, punctuated with sobs. She looked down at my purple feet, and said, "Well, you bought them. You'll have to wear them."

I'd love to tell you that that experience, and those wise words from my mom, gave me the impetus to stand up for myself from that day forward (which I know is what my mom was hoping). But the truth is that it took me many, many more years (and in-the-field instruction from a friend named Gloria) to learn that lesson. If I learned anything from the purple shoe episode, it was, sadly, only to be much more precise when pointing out something I wanted to buy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

For the Love of Books

My sweet daughter-in-law, Kelsey, has her own blog. And that's where I get to read on a regular basis about Sweetpea. She even posts photos frequently, so I can see how Sweetpea is growing up. (I'm trying very hard to keep Sweetpea's identity private, because of the dark side of the internet, so I'm not going to add a link to Kelsey's blog.)

In a recent blog, Kelsey told about Sweetpea's weekly trip to the library for story hour. It tickles my heart to hear about her love of books. Kelsey says that Sweetpea especially looks forward to singing with the librarian during storytime, and that "If You're Happy and You Know It" is her favorite song. She says that every time they sing it, the librarian looks around and says, "I don't see very many happy faces," until she spots Sweetpea, and then shouts, "There's a happy face! You can be happy for everybody."

Sweetpea turned in her summer reading log last week (well, of course, that means books she's had read to her) and for that she got to pick out a book of her very own to take home with her. I'm posting the picture that Kelsey posted, showing Sweetpea, immediately after storytime, looking at her new book. (Kelsey, I hope you don't mind me pirating your photos.) Keep up the good work, Sweetpea and Sweetpea's mama! Grandma's proud of both of you.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

And Hope Becomes Reality - Sort Of

I just met Sara, on the sidewalk, and she handed over the package. I can't say she did a very good job of mounting them. The backing is crooked, and . . . well, it looks sloppy. But the photos, themselves, once again, turned out great. There's nothing left to do now but turn them in and hope for the best. Thanks for bearing with me through all of this. I'll let you know how the judging goes.

An Intriguing Bit of Hope

I was just reading a news article that started out this way:

"The secret agent's eyes dart back and forth as he scans the store for a hidden password.

He cautiously walks up to the counter and whispers to an employee, 'Is Mr. Danish Blue here?'

She nods with approval - a clear indication that he's solved the mysterious riddle and found the correct business.

Now he must give her the secret message.

'The blue grass of summer smells so sweet,' he says.

The woman smiles as she replies: 'Kind of like Danish when mowed twice a week.'"
(The Flint Journal First Edition, Sunday, July 29, 2007, by Linda Angelo)

And then my phone rang. It was Sara, from the art shop. She said she wanted to put my mind at ease, and let me know that she'd be getting my pictures done today. She wants me to meet her, on the sidewalk, outside the shop, at precisely 5:00 this evening, for the hand-off (okay, she didn't really use that term). Sounds like intrigue to me! I wonder if I'll need to deliver a secret message? Maybe I'll try "The one-legged rooster crows at dawn," just in case.

(By the way, the article I cited was interesting. A spy game that is being used by merchants, as advertising, to get people into their establishments. Sounds a lot more effective than those stupid "Head-On" commercials, don't you think? And there's a $500 prize to the winner!)

Girl Friends, Episode 2 - Chris

At 18 years old, I left my home in Alaska, and flew to Texas to go to Abilene Christian College (not yet a university). I remember looking out the airplane window as we prepared to land in Amarillo, where I would change planes, and wondering, "What am I doing here?!" It was so dry and so brown and so foreign.

I arrived in Abilene early, several days before school started (I'm still one of those people who thinks she's late if she's not 20 minutes early to work). Although the dorm wasn't officially open yet, they let me move into the old, brick, three-story McKinzie Hall, that would be my home for the next two years. For two nights, I was the only girl in the dorm, and every step I took echoed through the empty hall. You can probably imagine how relieved I was when some other girls started moving in. I waited anxiously, and a little nervously, to meet the one who was going to be my roommate. I knew her name was Joanna, and that she was a second-year student at ACC, someone who would know the ropes.

At last, the night before classes were to start, a girl, lugging a big suitcase and a box, burst into my room and, with a huge smile, said, "Hi, I'm Chris. I think we're roommates!" I immediately liked her, so was reluctant to tell her that she was mistaken; my roommate was Joanna. She straightened things out when she explained that her name was Joanna Christine, but she went by Chris.

Chris was a petite gal, with very short hair and big brown eyes, and cute as could be. She was a Yankee and proud of it. Once she showed up, our room was never empty. Everyone loved Chris. Our friendship grew rapidly. I don't think I ever knew anyone more full of life, more dedicated to Christ, or who cared about other people any more deeply than Chris did. I couldn't have asked for a better roommate or a dearer friend.

Chris began dating Larry about the same time I began dating Dan, and two years later (Summer of 1969) Chris and Larry married, and so did Dan and I. Chris and Larry rented the front half of an old house, which had been split into a duplex. When the back apartment came empty, Dan and I moved in, to share the house with them. There were times that you'd have thought you were watching Lucy and Ethyl in re-runs of I Love Lucy, if you could have peeked in on Chris and I. We had such good times in that old house, sharing meals, going on outings together, playing games in the evenings.

All good things must come to an end, I guess. At the end of the school year Chris and Larry graduated and moved away to the Dallas area. I had one more year of school, so with lots of hugs and tears, we said our good-byes. We didn't see Chris and Larry again until I graduated and we were moving to Alaska. We drove through Dallas then and stopped to see them.

Thirty years later, in 2001, when I was working for the Alaska Department of Education, I was sent to Washington, DC, on a business trip. While there I got together with a mutual friend of ours, named Janice. Janice and I decided to call Chris and have a three-way telephone reunion. Although we had kept in touch by mail, once or twice a year, Chris and I hadn't talked since that time we visited in Dallas, in 1971! Janice, Chris and I talked for an hour-and-a-half or more. We caught up on each others' lives, and reminisced about old times. When I checked out of the hotel, I was shocked to see an $85 fee on my bill, for that telephone call. I felt a little guilty, and chastised myself for spending that kind of money so frivolously.

A year or so after that, Dan and I came home from work one day to find a message from Larry on our home phone. We returned his call, only to hear news like you never want to hear. Some weeks earlier, Chris had been in a terrible car accident that took her life. She left behind her loving husband and four children.

Immediately I remembered that recent telephone reunion we'd had, and any regrets about the $85 phone bill instantly vanished. I knew I couldn't have spent it on anything more valuable than that last conversation I had with my good friend, Chris.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Remembering Andrea

When our boys were six- and three-years-old, we opened our home to a little girl named Andrea. Andrea was only a year old when she came to us as a foster child. She had been badly neglected and possibly abused. Until Andrea, I would never have believed that a child, only one year old, could already have a personality so forged by circumstances. Andrea was amazingly independent – our social worker said she probably wouldn’t have survived her first year without being that way. She was both aggressive and strong, to the point that our three-year-old was utterly intimidated by her. She did not tolerate hugs or cuddling, and was prone to hitting, biting and pinching. But she was extremely bright. I couldn’t get over how fast she learned anything we put before her.

When the social worker first came to talk to us about fostering her, he emphasized that a foster home is a temporary placement, and that we should always keep that in mind, having no ulterior motives of adoption. We understood this, and, from the beginning, prepared ourselves for the day when she would leave. I used to get my feelings hurt when people (frequently) would say, “I couldn't do that. I’d fall in love with the child and not be able to give her up.” My feelings were hurt because it felt like they were telling me that my love just didn’t measure up. But the fact is, taking in a child in crisis, and caring for her until she can be placed into a safe and secure permanent home takes a huge amount of unselfish love.

Andrea was ours for over a year. She grew from a baby to a little two-year old girl. I remember how cute she looked on her second birthday. She flashed a great big smile as we sang "Happy Birthday" and she watched the two flickering candles on the doll cake I had decorated for her. I would never give up that piece of our family's history. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’d want to repeat it, either! Andrea was a handful, and I already had two proper handfuls, in my two boys. Changes in her personality came slowly and unsteadily. She learned to give and receive hugs (a big breakthrough), and her little face broke into smiles more and more often. But her first traumatic year had left her still untrusting and physically aggressive. It was a very hard year on our passive son, Tim, who pretty much let Andrea run over him. Andrea and I had some serious power struggles of our own, as well. A stern “no” seemed to flip her stubborn-switch; and she seldom showed that innate desire to please, that dwells inside most children.

Up until that year, I thought I wanted to have a third child, while Dan seemed quite content with two. What I learned about myself was that having three children severely cut into the extra attention I was able to give to the kids. We had always done so many things together - the library, swimming lessons, picnics, walks, baking, art. But with a third child, especially one with needs like Andrea's, my time and energy were so consumed that those activities were severely limited; I felt sad that the boys were the ones losing out. Some moms can do it all, with a dozen kids. But I learned my own limitations, gave a lot of thought about quality vs. quantity, and came to a wonderful peace about being a family of four once Andrea’s future was safely settled.

About a year into Andrea’s stay, the social worker came to visit. After all of his lecturing about ulterior motives, he now told us that they were terminating rights for both of Andrea’s parents, and . . . would we like to adopt her? I can’t tell you how emotionally confusing the following few weeks were, as we attempted to un-do all of the “programming” we’d done on ourselves, and to ponder the prospect of adoption. Of course we’d love to have a little girl! Of course we were tremendously emotionally attached to Andrea! But . . . what about all that quality vs. quantity stuff I’d worked through? We prayed. We talked. I cried. And every day my mind seemed to see everything from yet another perspective.

No need to go into all of the thought processes we went through, but the end of the matter was that we didn’t feel adoption was the right choice for us. We felt we shouldn't adopt if there were doubts, which our confusion seemed to indicate. We believed adoption should be something done because of a burning desire to have another child. There was a family, in a nearby community, on a 60+ acre ranch, with a four-year-old-boy who wanted a baby sister; and they had that burning desire to adopt. That’s where Andrea went to live, soon after her second birthday. Our social worker kept us posted for the next year or so, and told us that everything was working out beautifully for Andrea and her new family, which really eased our minds.

Andrea was so young when she left that I know she doesn’t remember us. She left with a scrapbook in her suitcase, though, detailing her year with our family. It contained photos and enough clues about us that I always hoped, some day, to hear from her. Andrea is 29 years old now. We haven’t heard from her. But I do believe that during the year she was with us, we wrote on the "pages of who she is" and played a part in changing, for the better, the outcome of one precious little life.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Monet's Choice - And Mine

I don't know much about art, and almost nothing about art history, but I do have a favorite artist - Claude Monet. I love spending time in a book I have, that tells about his life and shows pictures of him, his family, his gardens and his paintings. Some years ago I wrote the following devotional thought based upon some information I learned about his life. I hope you enjoy it this Sunday morning. -- Linda

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Can you imagine a man with two passions in life - light and color - losing his eyesight? Such was the case with the famous French impressionist, Claude Monet. Monet devoted 25 years of his life to creating a floral paradise on his country estate in Giverny, and putting onto canvas his impressions of the beauty around him. Then, when he was in his sixties, cataracts began to form on his eyes, and his vision began to fail. Monet continued to paint, but his paintings grew darker, and objects grew unidentifiable. Within a few years he was almost totally blind, and his canvases were covered only in dark, swirling shades of red. His paintings were accurate images of his own distorted impressions, but they bore very little resemblance to reality.

In 1923, at the age of 83, Monet, somewhat fearfully, agreed to allow a physician to perform cataract surgery on one of his eyes. It was a success! Monet's clear vision returned, and his paintings were filled once again with what he loved most - dazzling splashes of light and color inspired by his gardens. Following his surgery, Monet spent the last three years of his life completing what is now considered to be his crowning achievement, the water lily collection.

Every one of us begins life basking in God's light. But, as sin distorts and clouds our spiritual vision, darkness prevails. Spiritual darkness results in guilt, depression, confusion and, ultimately, death. Monet could have chosen to do nothing about his blindness and to surrender to darkness; but he yearned to return to the light. Surrender to darkness or return to the light - it's the same choice we face, spiritually, when we consider God's gracious offer to bring us out of darkness and into His glorious light.

I Peter 2:9 "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has calledd you out of darkness into His marvelous light."

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Disappointment

You may remember that I was preparing photos to be entered into the State Fair competition. Originally I was going to enter four, since that is the maximum number allowed, but when I talked to Sara, the lady at the art shop where I was having them printed and matted, I decided to enter only two, because of cost. On that initial visit I asked Sara if she was familiar with the State Fair rules. She said, “Oh, yes, we produce a lot of winners.” I told her I had the rules for mounting the photos, if she needed them, and she asked if I'd email them to her, which I did as soon as I got home.

The next day I took my picture files in. Sara remembered me from my visit the day before. I asked her if she had recieved my email with the rules for mounting. She said she had received them, but that she hadn’t been able to open them, because she was on a phone modem there at the shop, and it was too slow. So I offered to print them out and bring them to her. “Oh, no. I can open them on my home computer.” So, she charged my credit card and told me my mounted photos would be ready in a week or ten days.

This week, on Thursday, I went in to see if they were done, since I had heard nothing. They weren’t. But Sara said they’d be finished either later that day or on Friday. She also shared with me that they had lost their lease, and had only seven days to be out of the shop! They didn't have any other space lined up, so she would be taking everything to her home to store until they could open up again. That made me nervous; after all, she had a considerable chunk of my money, and so far I had nothing!

Today, after our Saturday morning breakfast, we stopped by the shop again, since I still hadn’t heard from her. She told me she was mounting them right then, and would call me in an hour or so, when they were finished. We went on home, and, sure enough, she called to tell me they were done. I dashed right over to the shop and picked them up. I have to say they looked really nice in the 11”x14” size I decided on. I thanked her, and brought the pictures home. Dan and Tim both thought they looked great. And then . . . I looked carefully at them, and thought it looked like they were mounted on foam board. The rules say they can’t be mounted on foam board!

So I called Sara, and she confirmed that they were, indeed, mounted on acid-free foam board. She told me she had no idea about that rule, and that she had never been able to open the rules document. (And, I thought to myself, "So why did you proceed, and why didn't you let me print them out for you, like I offered?") She said she’d call me back when she had time to figure out what to do. As soon as I got off the phone, Dan, who is much more assertive than I am, told me I should take the pictures back and get my money refunded until she came up with a suitable solution. We knew that the shop was due to close any day, and we weren’t sure she would get my pictures done in time. But the pictures I had were useless for entry in the State Fair.

Reluctantly (I hate these kinds of interactions) I drove back to the shop. I told Sara that the pictures were of no use to me, and that I thought I should just get my money back. The conversation that followed went like this:

“Oh, we’ll reprint the pictures and remount them for you.”

“But when?” I asked. “The deadline for entering photographs is a week from Monday.”

“We’ll have them done by close of day on Tuesday, because that’s our last day in the shop.”

“Well, that would be good,” I said, “but I’d feel better getting my money refunded now, and then paying you again when I have the pictures in hand.”

“I’d be happy to do that,” said Sara, “except our credit card account is already closed, and the machine is no longer working. And I don’t have cash in the store.”

“(Sigh) . . . okay, so you’ll have them ready by Tuesday? Woud you mind putting, in writing, that if you don’t have them done by close of business Tuesday, you will refund my money?” And so she did.

I’m not so sure that I’ll have any pictures to enter in the State Fair this year. It’s too late to go anywhere else to have them done now.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Ruby Has Been Found!

I can't believe how many years I've wondered about Ruby, and how easy it actually was to find her! After I wrote my pen pal blog, I decided I'd give it a try. After all, I did work in a private investigator's office for a year -- didn't I learn anything there?

So I went on-line, looked up everyone in Ennis, Texas, with her maiden name, in hopes that I might find a family member. I don't really know what I thought I'd find. I didn't know her old address, and I knew her name had changed. But as I scanned the list before me, one address just jumped right out at me. I had no idea that I knew her old address, but as soon as I saw it I knew it was the one I had written so many times, on so many envelopes, so many years ago. I immediately dashed off a brief note addressed to the person with her last name at that address, telling him who I was, asking if he happened to be kin to Ruby, and providing my email address.

Last night I got the most wonderful email, from Ruby herself. It was her dad who received my letter, and he called Ruby right away. She has been looking for me for years, even going so far as to contact my old high school to see if they kept alumni records. This morning I had a second long email from her. And here are a couple of amazing things. Ruby has a step daughter living in Albuquerque, and comes to visit her a couple times a year! And Ruby, herself, lives in the same town as my kids and Sweetpea! We'll get to have a reunion one of these days!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Girl Friends, Episode 1 - Shelley

“It takes a long time to grow an old friend.” ~John Leonard

I first met Shelley when we were both in Mrs. S’s fourth grade class at Fifth Street School, in Juneau. That school building no longer stands (it burned down some years ago), unlike our friendship, which has survived, despite time and distance.

What I remember first noticing about Shelley was her very long, blondish-brown hair that she wore down her back in a thick braid. Shelley once told me that what she remembers about me was that I made good cursive “f”s when we were practicing penmanship on the blackboard. Shelley no longer has her long hair, and I no longer make good cursive “f”s. But we are still friends.

Shelley and I were both a bit eccentric (sorry, Shelley, but you know we were). We both excelled in school, and liked nothing more than reading and writing. The beginning of our friendship could have been dubbed “The Club Years.” I remember the Poetry Club, the Capital Citizens’ Club, and the No Name Club, to name a few. The No Name Club conveniently evolved into any kind of club we wanted, so we didn't have to start new ones so often.

By seventh grade our friendship had moved into the “fast friends” category. We walked home from school together every day – or at least we walked to Shelley’s home after school every day. Shelley’s house was about a mile away from the school, and was on my path home. I lived another mile or more from her house, and up a steep hill. So the habit of stopping at Shelley’s before going the rest of the way home was an easy one to fall into.

I guess you could call us both “latchkey” kids, since our parents were all working out of the home. (But don't feel sorry for us. We were happy with our after-school situation.) We were “latchkey,” that is, except when Shelley occasionally forgot her key. Then we were “climb-up-a-ladder-and-in-through-the-bedroom-window” kids. I was an only child, and Shelley was the “baby” of the family. Her two sisters were a lot older, so we really did become “sisters” to each other, in many ways. Her house, after school, became the stage for rich conversation, creative thinking and lots of laughter. Shelley and I became the kind of friends who knew what the other one was thinking and could finish sentences for each other.

Once in the house, we usually fixed an after-school snack (thank you Mr. and Mrs. W. for feeding me all those years). I guess I can attribute my continuing love of popcorn with a little cheese melted over it to Shelley, who introduced me to that delicacy. And, being the studious and responsible kids that we really were, we always worked on homework together . . . sometimes up in her attic, accessed only by a pull-down stairwell. I remember taking turns reading, out loud, our daily assignments in Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, up there in the attic. And, when the homework was done, there were lots of things to explore up there – very carefully, because there was not a real floor, just some joists with a few scattered pieces of plywood. One of our discoveries was a phonograph and a crate of old LP records. That’s when we became acquainted with the brassy voice of Ethyl Merman, as she sang her heart out in “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better,” which sort of became a theme song for us.

Shelley graduated from high school as our well-deserved valedictorian. A good friend of ours, named Pat, was salutatorian, and I was third in the class (and very grateful not to have to make a speech). [edit: Just heard from Shelley, and she corrected me - Pat was valedictorian, Shelley was salutatorian. She was still brilliant!] After high school, Shelley and I went our separate ways. We both went to college, but I married early. Shelley stayed single awhile, and had some memory-making years, teaching school at logging camps. Her Prince Charming was out there, however, and she married a few years later, as well.

We seldom get to see each other any more. Shelley lives in Washington, and I live in New Mexico. But whenever we do get together, it seems as if no time has passed. We’re right back to the spirited and quirky conversations we were known for, so many years ago. We can still finish each other’s sentences. And our husbands look on with amusement (and amazement).

Shelley, I sure do miss you!

Article about Friendship and Health

Here's an article I found very interesting. It's about friendships, particularly among women, and how they can affect physical health. If you get a chance, please read it.

One reason I'm glad to be a woman is that, even as a "grown-up," I can have "girl friends." Did any of you see the movie (or read the book) Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood? If so, you know what I mean.

My next post is the first of several that I hope to write, that will feature some of my girl friends - beginning with (drum roll) . . . Shelley!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Small children disturb your sleep, big children your life.--Yiddish proverb

It’s all a matter of perspective.

When I lived in Alaska, where we had 100 inches of rain a year, I longed for blue skies and sunshine. Now, in New Mexico, I dream of rain. When I was a child, I’d do anything to get to stay up just a little later at night. Now, I find myself asking, at 8:30, "Is it bedtime yet?" (And I’ve also been known to say, “I sure hope there’ll be beds in heaven!”)

And so it is with children. I yearned for children, before my boys were born, and was more than ecstatic both times that I learned one was on the way. And those pre-school days, when I was blessed to stay home with my boys, were the happiest times of my entire life. Every milestone they met was something to celebrate. Maneuvering through every new phase – even the “terrible twos,” the “’tween years” and the “teen years” – was a joy. Parenthood IS all it’s cracked up to be. I cried tears of joy for my kids, tears of emptiness for me, when they graduated and, soon after, moved away from home.

But, like I said, it’s all a matter of perspective.

Tim just moved back home with us – temporarily, until he can find new employment. And, as much as I delighted in those days when my house was full of boys, toys and noise, I’m looking at it, now, from the other side – from another perspective. Bill Cosby, speaking about boomerang kids, like Tim, says, “Human beings are the only creatures that allow their children to come back home.” That has to be because of the everlasting love that human parents have for their children. Tim knows we love him. He knows he’ll always find a soft place to land here at our home. And, yet, his joy and relief will probably only be rivaled by ours when he, once again, has his own place.

Solomon understood all of this so well:
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing. A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

When our lives and timelines get a little jumbled, it takes extra measures of love, patience, compromise, prayer and wisdom to navigate the strait. We’ll get through just fine, and I’ll continue to thank God for His extraordinary gift, to me, of children and family.

And in the meantime, maybe I'll watch some Cosby Show reruns. It doesn't hurt to have a little humor at times like these, as well.