Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Merry Christmas Gift

I thought he was kidding when he said he was going to give me the sun, moon, and stars.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The last few weeks have been filled with a smattering of life. I think that many small pieces of busyness take up more room in my life than just a few large ones. Like round melons (Yes, there are square melons) in a square box, there's just so much wasted space between them. We've been to the beach twice (for a church retreat and a tidepool-exploring field trip), the doctor's office, the recording studio, and the mechanic's. We've spent time with a couple of new babies, helped plan a birthday party and a baby shower, and scrounged haphazard meals from our increasingly filthy kitchen. Today is shaping up to be relatively relaxing, and I am snatching time at the computer this morning to share the first installment of our latest boating fun. (Sorry there's so much to read; it was a busy day. Pictures to follow)

We left Thursday after work for the drive up to Port Townsend, slept aboard (the first time for the girls--what fun!), and woke early Friday morning ready to re-rig the boat and be on our way. Stepping the mast went quite smoothly. It had been windy the evening before and we had wondered if we would have to postpone the work, but Friday was beautiful and the mast went up without a hitch. Just before the riggers, Ben and Ira, slid the mast into place, Ira called, "Anybody have a coin?" According to sailing superstition, it's very bad luck to step your mast without a coin underneath. Some people choose rare coins or one from a specific year. We offered the masters of sailing tradition the penny I had in my pocket.

By the time the rig was up and tuned, it was too late to leave, so we ran a few errands in town and puttered around on LiLo. (Some of my musician friends have joked about tuning the rig to a certain note. It turns out that there are some similarities to tuning a stringed instrument. With the purchase of any new rig, Port Townsend Rigging offers a free rig adjustment anytime in the first year because, just like the extra tuning needed after putting new strings on a guitar, the new wire stretches just a bit and makes early tuning necessary. )

Just before bed, we decided to check out the waste holding tank system so we didn't have any unpleasant surprises while underway. We had wondered if the system had deteriorated over the last few years without use. We turned the valves once and the answer came dribbling out onto the cabin floor. It was almost midnight before we had everything cleaned up, very glad to still be in port. After a few trips to West Marine the next morning (our new friend, Laura, was surprised to see us again...and again), we were finally good to to speak.

As we motored out of the marina, the girls and I went up on the bow. The sun was out and the wind felt fresh on our faces. Up and around Marrowstone Island we rode the waves until we turned to face the wind and all came back to the cockpit. Meira went below and curled up in her quarterberth. Hannah pulled out a book and settled in for the ride. Bryan and I stayed above, enjoying the beautiful...what was that?

Before I could move to help, Bryan yanked off the companionway steps, opened the engine compartment, and aimed the fire extinguisher. We were all relieved to find that sometimes where there's smoke...there's just smoke. But now, with the engine compartment airing and the boat drifting backward through the shipping lanes, our priority became steering. Without forward momentum, a boat's rudder is useless. There were no cargo ships in sight, but we knew we needed to get a sail up--and quickly. Our rig included new halyards, the ropes that pull up the sails, but not the splices necessary to attach the halyards to the sails. Bryan grabbed his life jacket and climbed up on the cabin top. I stayed in the cockpit and relayed messages and materials up and down from Hannah in the cabin to Bryan on the deck above her head. She handed up sail twine, needles and strange metal implements (no not that thingy, the other one!) and Bryan stitched them together in record time. My relief as the mainsail went up was short-lived when the sail slides stuck about halfway up the mast. With no time to diagnose this newest glitch, we acted out an instant replay. Again the sail twine, needles and shackles passed from hand to hand. Again the careful stitching on the foredeck and--ahhhhhh--up went the jib.

Now we could steer, even if we could make no progress in our desired direction, and, with the boat a bit steadier, we stretched out in the cockpit with binoculars. The official diagnosis was, "something sticking out of the side of the sail track." Bryan sent the halyard aloft with just one sail slide attached to jam it back in place. After a brief moment of panic when we realized we were hoisting our main halyard with no way to retrieve it, Bryan hooked it on our telescoping boat hook, pulled it back to the deck and tied a line on the end. This time, his plan succeeded. He pulled down hard and the sail slide shot to the top of the mast. Soon we had the mainsail up and Bryan traded his life jacket for a toolbox. One replaced spark plug later and we were on our way again.

A bit more warily now, we motored south toward Kingston. But after only a few minutes, the engine sputtered, misfired and died. This time, the temperature gauge read dangerously high, so we hoisted the sails again and began to beat against the wind. We sailed through twilight into the evening, not knowing whether to bless or curse our GPS with its horribly accurate ground speed indicator. I sat at the tiller in 3 wool sweaters and a jacket, squinting through the salty film misting my contact lenses and did the math. Nine more nautical miles at 2.5 knots...would we make it in by midnight? I didn't even want to think of what we'd do when we got there since we'd never been to this particular harbor in the daytime, much less at night. Several hours later, we decided it was worth chancing the engine again. Our hope was that the raw water intake for the cooling system had been temporarily fouled with sea detritus (is it flotsam or jetsam--I can never remember the difference?) and that now that the engine was cool, it would behave.

By now the girls had cuddled up in their quarterberths and had fallen asleep to the motor's roar. I'm sure we ate dinner at some point, but my memory has blurred the last few hours of the evening into a miasma of wind and spray and squinting for land in the darkness.

We hadn't been out at night before, but all the books we'd read said that it's never completely dark on the water. And sure enough, as we sailed through the Puget Sound, the skyline of each city wore a halo: Everett off the starboard side, Edmonds toward 11 o'clock, Seattle just a thin haze of light far ahead. Then finally, around the last point, we spotted the ferry terminal of Kingston. We followed the directions from our cruising guide, and the harbor unfolded just as described. Past the ferry terminal, around the red flashing light (but not too close to the point with its unlit rocks), behind the breakwater and down the long guest dock to a port-tie slip. We'd made it!

Now we settled the boat for the night and took a short walk to find the marina's fee box. As we crawled into bed, we noticed water on the floor. Was the head leaking again? What hadn't we replaced? I cleaned it up, slid into the V berth and fell asleep.

The stuffing box (which allows the propeller to pass through the hull without letting in the ocean as well) leaked all night. Bryan finally got up around 5 am, to see if the bilge pump was depleting the batteries. Relieved they both still measured in the green, he finally got a few hours of sleep. More awake the next morning, we compared notes. With head-slapping clarity, we recognized the "leak from the head" as a rookie mistake. Through the wind and spray of the previous night, we never once thought to check the direction of the bow vent. Sure enough, it had been open to the weather all evening. We'd been baptized in salt water, but come out dry.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Welcome to the World!

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine upon you.
And give you peace,
And give you peace,
And give you peace forever.

The Lord be gracious to you.
The Lord turn his face toward you.
And give you peace,
And give you peace,
And give you peace forever.

This was one of my favorite lullabies to sing when the girls were tiny (I still sing it to them sometimes). I think my sleep-deprived brain clung to the comfort and repetition of this ancient blessing. But even now that I am getting more than 4 hours of sleep at night, it remains a favorite.

It was my great pleasure to pull it out again last night as I sang it to my newest nephew. Abram Steven was born yesterday afternoon, and as soon as Mama and baby (not to mention Daddy, my big brother) were up to visitors after the birth, Abram was surrounded by the blessing of all four grandparents and several aunts and uncles. Today, we'll go back again to introduce the cousins, but nothing compares to those first moments of holding a brand new life, all squinchy-eyed and brimful of mystery and potential.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

LiLo Update

I warned you that there would be stories of boat maintenance. Well, we have begun.

Two weekends back, Bryan and I traveled to Port Townsend to finalize the paperwork on the new boat. Immediately upon becoming official owners of LiLo, we plunged into the work of rebuilding our rig. The standing rigging that supports the mast had done its job well, but for plenty long enough. We talked about waiting a year or so to have it re-rigged, but concluded that while she was in Port Townsend (aka NW Boating Mecca) we should just get it over with.

Ira, one of the riggers from Port Townsend Rigging, arrived on LiLo just a few minutes after we did and immediately began prepping the boat to have the mast removed. We were a bit surprised at the recommendation to have the rig tuned before we took it off, but once we understood that all measurements for the new rig would be taken from these (now accurately tensioned) stays, we were grateful for the professional help. (I know. Some think boat ownership is a sign we need more professional help.)

The actual mast removal was so smooth and easy, I missed taking a picture.

The boom-truck driver (known to us only by his shop nickname "The Paralyzer"...ask me for the story another time) did a great job and Ira--now joined by Ben--rolled our mast away to the rigging shop. Only then did Bryan and I realize...we had no idea where to find the shop.

The Port Townsend Boat Haven is several city blocks of boat repair bliss. Everywhere you turn you find marine-related industry. Mechanics, riggers, sign carvers, brokers-yes, even a brewery. And lines of boats on stands, some looking as if they were putting down roots, some with bright new blue tarps and busy owners. We wandered through the labyrinth and finally spotted a familiar-looking (if disturbingly horizontal) mast.

Lisa, our guru for all things rigging, walked us through the myriad choices for modern rigging and Ben showed us around the shop. We even got a demonstration of the new swaging machine that connects the steel cable to end fittings by squashing the fitting so tightly around the cable the metal almost fuses. It is way cooler than I make it sound. I found it fascinating, if a bit boggling, to listen to the explanations from these skilled craftsmen/women. It's a good thing the steep learning curve we took on along with the new boat is an enjoyable challenge to both of us. There will be plenty of opportunities to plod upward, but the boating community is a welcoming one and we have met many knowledgeable guides willing to give us a hand up along the way.

Next, we were off to West Marine to consider options for new mast wiring. We didn't know when we would have another opportunity to replace the light fixtures on the mast, so we consulted with several employees and left to get measurements and a good night's sleep.

Back at the boat, I was surprised to hear voices hailing us across the water. Who could know us here? It turned out to be one of the helpful West Marine employees who, along with her husband, had recently arrived from a (unexpectedly extended) passage from Hawaii. They ended up stranded in the NW due to their late arrival and repairs that extended their stay beyond the safe weather window for heading south. We gladly invited them aboard for a look around, feeling a bit strange to be the people with a bigger boat for once. Nissa is 21 feet, so we are used to being the runt. Their blue-water cruiser is 27 feet, so 32-foot LiLo seemed spacious to their eyes. They offered the legendary cruiser's greeting "How about a drink?" and we accepted, following them through the boatyard, past their boat "on the hard" to the brewery where outdoor heaters and live music along with cheap peanuts and good beer (or so I hear) set the stage for a delightful evening of story swapping. We had been almost too busy to be excited on this red-letter day, but it was exhilarating to experience some of the instant camaraderie and companionship we have read so much about. I skipped on the way back "home" for the night. "I feel like a real boat owner now!"

Saturday was full of problem-solving as we fished the old cables out of the mast and pulled in new ones in the gusty winds (up to 30 mph--we measured on our windmeter). We were grateful for grandparents who kept the girls warm and dry at home. We made an impromptu trip to the local marine exchange store and spent far too long poking through piles of curiosities (I got excited anytime I recognized a piece of gear) and chatting with the proprietress who regaled us with stories of her adventures aboard a 29-foot Islander, just a few feet smaller than LiLo. ("If you come to take me off this boat," she told the Coast Guard that stormy night, "come armed!") She congratulated us on our purchase, saying she had made a call trying to buy LiLo soon after we had and suggesting many modifications to the basic Islander design she described as "bulletproof." "If I didn't have 9 boats already (!), I'd be jealous. But you'll have so much fun and she'll always be good to you." Her words followed us like a blessing as we blew back across the boatyard to finish our work.

Sunday, we met the previous owners, Derrell and Lynn, to retrieve the dinghy, the FOUR spare engines, and all the other assorted gear they had collected over the years. Now we were really glad not to have the girls along as there would have been absolutely no room for them in the cab of the truck. As for the bed of the truck...take a look.

But Derrell and Lynn passed on more than just sailing books and gear (including a kitty life jacket. I'm sure Avin will LOVE that...I'll try to get pictures). We are the thankful recipients of their stories and wisdom, and their gracious, full release of LiLo into our care is a blessing beyond telling. We all agree we have found an unbelievable match. We are overwhelmed with LiLo's abundance and Derrell and Lynn have affirmed that the joy we've expressed has tempered their bittersweet choice to let go. (They'll hate that I've published their picture, but it's too good not to share.)

After a final, rather miserable, stop at LiLo's former slip to remove the last bumpers, we returned to Port Townsend, dropped off the dinghy (Lil' Lo) and headed for home.

We're going again this weekend, all of us this time, to re-step the mast and bring LiLo down to her new slip in Olympia. Yes, out in the Puget Sound in a boat with no October. But you knew we were crazy already. So stick around...there'll be more stories.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Maybe she'll make a good boat cat

She likes to sleep in small spaces...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

First Day of School

We started school last Monday and I took a few first-day pictures of the girls (and one of the whole class and teacher). Enjoy!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Blended Worship

A while back, I promised you some of my thoughts on worship. Well, here are a few of them, carefully edited to fit into the space dictated by Fruit of the Vine (a devotional guide published by Barclay Press). This is one of the devotionals I wrote for them over the summer. I may be posting some more of my writing for them here over the next few weeks, so if you use this devotional guide regularly, consider this your spoiler warning.

My church community is beautifully intergenerational, with people from many different backgrounds. Our worship leaders reflect this diversity. With all the different musical styles and selections, many call our format “blended worship.”

But what if “blended worship” was more than just singing different kinds of music? What if our church body made it a priority to blend the worship we work at together on Sundays into our personal worship? If the ways we practice together are such important elements of worship—and I believe they are—how can we help each other practice them all week long? And what if we found ways to mingle the worship of our days into our meetings?

Some ideas may depend on our worship leaders to orchestrate, but we can make many of these connections on our own. As a participant, I can find ways to extend helpful worship practices into my weekly habits. Perhaps the Scripture reading and the music speak to my spirit. Maybe I would read Scripture in the pattern of Lectio Divina or use songs from Sunday's worship service during the week as intentional practices to draw me into God's presence.

Blending my daily worship into corporate gatherings seems more difficult. Many of my personal practices don't transfer well to Sunday morning's patterns. But as I consider how I find space for worship in my daily life, how I sense God's presence as I enjoy nature with him and the way my heart beats more closely with his as I pray with a friend, I begin to see ways these experiences relate to—and breathe new life into—the typical elements of our corporate worship gatherings.

God, help me turn my fragmented life into seamless praise of you.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What I did on my Summer Vacation

Last week, my family took a sailing/camping trip to Tacoma, Seattle, Sequim and Port Townsend.

We visited the Pacific Science Center,

Our trip included 4 1/2 days on the boat

and 4 1/2 days of camping (here, Meira is playing an Ocarina--a flute-like instrument we found at Pike Place. Hannah is behind the camera, looking through the rungs of the picnic table at our campsite).

We had beautiful weather and lots of fun, but the most exciting part of our trip was the souvenir we purchased.

Yes, we bought a new boat. Yes, we still have Nissa. No, we don't intend to keep her. (This fact elicited many tears from one member of our family as we signed the offer on the new boat.) We have enjoyed many good times aboard, but always knew that when the time was right we would be looking for a more permanent addition to our family. And we have been looking--keeping an eye on the market as we develop our wish list for a boat to fit our family and our dreams. So when we found her, we knew.

Lilo--say "lie-lo", not "lee-lo"--has quite a bit of history. She is a 32 foot Islander built in 1964 and taken through the Panama Canal to California by her first owner. Two more owners eventually followed, the latest owner only acquiring the boat after he introduced the captain to his (available) mother. A wedding ensued.

We wished for ironclad memories as we listened to the owner on our sea trial (test-drive). His family has been involved with Lilo for 26 years and he seemed to know every inch of her systems. He and his wife were so kind and helpful as they demonstrated all the knowledge they have of this particular boat and her individual characteristics. They have customized so many things aboard; we will be blessing them for years as we use their ingenious and thoughtful additions to the living space.

Recently, they decided that it was time to set aside sailing and put Lilo on the market. Thanks to a friend with family in Sequim, we heard about her and decided to take a look while we were in the area. We had already looked at a really nice little Morgan Out Island while we were in Seattle and didn't really think that this boat would top that one. But from the moment we walked up to her slip, we were hooked.

She has a beautiful plank-look hull (the impression of wood with the ease of fiberglass), and her teak brightwork and bronze fittings with their years of patina add appeal to her classic lines. As we explored the boat with the broker, we found even more to love. All the qualities of hull and rudder design we had been looking for combined with a full suit of sails and an impeccable interior with great storage and access. There are double quarterberths, so each of the girls can have her own (albeit small) living space. And in comparison to our 21 foot Nissa, the interior feels so spacious!

So we spent the rest of the evening dreaming and planning and, on our way to the boat festival the next morning, stopped by the brokerage to place an offer. The owner is a teacher, so we didn't expect to hear back until after school got out. But only an hour or so later, as we were sitting in one of the seminars offered at the festival (ironically titled "Fun in Inverse Proportion to Length"), we got the call we had been waiting for. There must have been some wonderment over the eruption of whispered giddiness from our row.

Almost as exciting as the information that our offer was accepted was the fact that the owners were willing to make time for a sea trial before we had to leave town. We were glad to avoid another drive to the area, but also pleased to have this experience as a family. We value the girls' opinions about the boat; they need to be comfortable aboard as well as we do and they noticed things we missed (Meira was excited to be able to reach the sink. She doesn't know how excited I am to have two girls with dish-washing abilities on board!)

If we had any doubts about our decision, the sea trial put them to rest completely. As Bryan got the tour topsides, I went through the interior. The owner and his wife repeated "This comes with the boat" about everything we saw, and told of more boating treasure they had stored at the home. Custom canvas covers and nearly new cushions, bins of tools and navigation equipment, three (THREE!) spare engines with the oil and tools to maintain them. We were staggered by this generosity.

And then we went for a sail.

Oh, but Lilo sails like a dream, straight and easy through the points of sail, just the way a vessel should. She feels secure and trustworthy, graceful, a real lady.
Yes, we're in love and I'm gushing. Please forgive me. It's not every day a dream comes true. I'm sure you will hear more about the repairs and maintenance, the expected frustrations of boat ownership, but indulge me for now as I savor this new grace in our lives.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Bread, Finally!

(Alan, this one's for you)

We finally did it!

This Sunday, we made bread in our bread oven. We have made pizza and flatbread, but now we have baked honest-to-goodness bread in it.

We had intended to bake fococcia for our music brunch that morning,

but only a few people were able to come and each one brought so much food, we couldn't imagine making any more. So that afternoon, I made more dough and then we called some friends.

"We've got bread. What can you bring?"

"We'll bring the biggest zucchini ever and fry it up."

"Sounds like dinner to me!"

We set up the backyard baking extravaganza, baking the fococcia breads first with caramelized onions, heirloom tomatoes, and fresh chevre.

Then Bryan scraped out the coals, we let the oven rest (to redistribute the heat evenly), and in went ciabatta!

When we couldn't resist the terrible urge to peek any longer, we declared it done.

Happy Bread Eaters!

Day 4

July 8, 2007
We moved slowly away from Tolmie. Bryan made coffee and we motored back to Boston Harbor where we arrived just in time to join the Sunday morning brunch.

After breakfast, Hannah and Meira played in the sand while Bryan and I studied the new knot book we bought "for the girls." While the girls introduced themselves to kids on the beach, Bryan and I sat down on a driftwood log and joined the parent's conversation. They shared recommendations for new places to explore and out-of-the-way parks to visit, even getting out their GPS to show us where they live and to check the tides. After ice cream all around, we said "goodbye" and "see you again" and pointed south to Olympia.
None of us wanted our vacation to end, especially since pulling out means all of the work of putting in, only in reverse and without a good sail to look forward to. So we docked at Percival's Landing in the West bay of Budd inlet instead of motoring straight to the boat launch. We walked past our favorite fountain and browsed a used bookstore before getting a late lunch and heading back to the boat. The launch dock was backed up; someone's engine had died and a few people needed help getting in or out. With all the action, we could see why a few liveaboards brought a picnic dinner and Scrabble board down to watch the show. We pulled out without too much trouble, went through the take-down routines and loaded the truck for the trip home. Olympia to Lafayette, our last leg of the journey. It was just long enough to plan the next adventure!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Day 3

July 7, 2007
We left Longbranch after a (back-by-popular-request) breakfast of eggs-in-a-nest. We tried sailing a bit in Drayton Passage, but couldn't catch much wind until we reached Case Inlet. We stopped in at Zittel's Marina for ice and treats and then sailed Southeast to Tolmie State Park. We were able to sail right in to the mooring buoys, but as we pulled up to one, we realized that they were all private. We weren't where we thought we were! We quickly plotted our location and motored North to the right lagoon and the state park buoys. Bryan rowed us to the beach at a very low tide and we enjoyed the wooded trails and the sandy beach. Can you see Meira's Sand Cat?

Tolmie State Park is a treasure. We were astounded by the fields of sand dollars, some packed so tightly we wound our way through them like walking in a maze. We waded out on the tidal flats around tiny crabs and over slippery seaweed.

We spent several hours-no one was counting-wandering, digging, just being together. We watched clam diggers fill their buckets and then gaped while the bent-nose clams they left behind slid out a tentative foot to dig themselves back into their sandy homes. We learned how to walk barefoot on barnacles, what to call those birds we'd seen, and the convenient fact that flip-flops float. We met other families, some also on vacation, others just there for the day. We took a few last pictures-the precious crab claw was duly recorded-and finally paddled back out in the rising tide to Nissa.

We spent the rest of the evening in our cozy cabin, playing Yahtzee and eating macaroni and cheese (unanimously declared the best ever).

Day 2

July 6, 2007
We left Boston Harbor and headed Northwest in Dana's Passage. The weather was warm, but calm, so we only managed to sail for about 15 minutes. But we enjoyed playing with the compass and binoculars to chart our course and measure our progress.

The harbormaster at Filucy Bay was very helpful, finding us an empty private slip for the night since the guest moorage was expected to be rafted 2 deep on this busy holiday weekend. He found the girls a herring net and we stretched out on the dock and peered into a veritable aquarium of invertebrates. Bryan took the girls for a dinghy-paddling lesson while I sent the aroma of fajitas over the water as a fragrant call to dinner.

We took a walk up the road and back, enjoying the quiet island and peaceful evening.

Apparently the marina is not always this peaceful, because when we returned, we found the way blocked by two dutiful guards. After much questioning and pressing of imaginary buttons, "Marvin" and "Grunzella" were allowed to enter.

Here, the guards tell the story in their own words.

Guard Meira:
"There were some guards and the one that's back behind was not scared; he's dialing the number for the person."

Guard Hannah:
"We were taking a walk. We walked down the road and then we turned around and walked back the way we had come. Then Hannah and Meira were the guards that you see in the pictures."