Thursday, December 11, 2008

Three Christmas Tree Tales

Well, 2 tree tales and some pictures of the other one.

When we lived in Alaska and money was so tight, I was over-the-moon grateful for a woman who stopped by every month or so on her way to the food bank. She volunteered to pick up slightly outdated Nabisco products and deliver them to the food bank at our church. We only had one car, and that made getting to the food bank during business hours almost impossible. So every few weeks, this woman showed up on my doorstep with a few boxes of cookies or crackers. It probably didn't seem like much to her. But during that time, we had guests at the house several times a week, sometimes large groups of young adults coming for a small group meeting or just dropping by (we came home one day to find that friends had disarmed our four-legged security system and rearranged our living room for maximum movie viewing pleasure...both couches turned and one blocked up to create stadium seating) and the ability to offer them a little bit of tangible hospitality made me feel rich, blessed to both receive and to give. We always had enough. Just when we were running low, a new shipment would arrive. In those years, God's grace came in an Oreo package.

One November we were given a case of Barnum's Animal Crackers. A case. (You know, the ones in the little red boxes.) We had left all our Christmas decorations here when we moved and my family was coming for the holidays. We cut a Charlie Brown tree from the Chugach National Forest (yes, legally), splurged on a string of lights and hung candy canes and animal cookies all over that most beautiful of trees. By the end of the holiday, the branches could barely hold their own weight, but my brother helpfully extracted the contents of the boxes and hung the empties back on the tree.

A couple of years later, we planned to come to Oregon for Christmas, but a few days after Thanksgiving, we got the shattering news that Bryan's dad had died that day. Bryan caught the next flight out and I followed with Hannah a few days later. If you've been through anything similar, you can imagine the aftermath, yup, lots of tears and numb/heart-wrenching days. A few days before Christmas, we had to go back. After Dad died, the cheapest way for Bryan to get to Oregon had been to buy a new one-way ticket. He had planned to fly back on the other end of the round-trip we already had purchased. But apparently, when you don't fly the first leg, they cancel your reservation for the return flight (now you tell me). Even after we explained the circumstances the airline was, shall we say, less than helpful. So we scrambled a bit and found a friend who had come down to buy a used car and was driving it back. Bryan was welcome to share the drive.

I flew home without him, pregnant and with child (both--Hannah was just 13 months and I was about halfway along with Meira). The hope was that he would be able to get across all the borders with limited proof of insurance and registration and make through the snow up the Al-Can in time for Christmas. I can't tell you how thankful I was for the friends who met me at the airport, helped to wrangle the bags, the car seats and me into someone's vehicle and home to my empty house. These same friends had spent most of the afternoon setting up a tree, lights and ornaments from who-knows-where illuminating my living room and my dreary spirit.

Bryan did make it home in time for Christmas, such as it was. And the story of digging out of that dark time is full of the grace of God in the face of others (some of them those sneaky elves).

This year our tree is a lot less memorable, (although it's the first year the girls did all the decorating without necessitating major ornament relocation after bedtime). But my heart is no less grateful. And God's grace still shows up in unexpected packaging.

That's my Christmas story this year. What's yours?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fall Gratefulness

I had a great idea for a catch-up know, just in case anyone's still checking this site. It was going to tie up the activities of the last month into a witty, concise little package and remind my myriad readers how creative and erudite I can be. But alas, it was a middle-of-the-night epiphany and you all know how long those stick around. You'll have to make do with this...

You'd think with the month I've had, I would have taken the time to write. We haven't been busy, just falling easily into our fall routines. But I've been savoring the space and trying to keep everything but the absolute essentials at bay. This last week has been a little busier, but so full of delightful happenings, I had to take the time to record my gratefulness.

I'm still oozing thankfulness for the opportunity to spend the weekend out at Twin Rocks with a really great group of eighth graders. I led worship for the Samuel School retreat and was reminded how much I adore this age group. They were so thoughtful...and playful (I still have rug burns from being unexpectedly included in rec). They are such mixtures of child and adult, of serious and silly. And though they may have seen me as much older, we are not so very different.

We also went to the beach as a family this month...just for the day, but what a spectacular day it was! No more words about that, just these images.

Plans for a new dinghy just showed up and Bryan is like a kid at Christmas without the batteries for his new toys. He's picking up wood tonight and then I'll need to drag some cushions out to the garage steps so I can hang out with my boat-buildin' man. We're all excited, as we're quickly outgrowing our current dinghy. The new one will be 11 feet long, but is a nesting dinghy which breaks into 2 pieces and nests together so it will more easily carry all of us and our gear, but won't be too difficult to lift onto the deck. Each end of it floats, so you can stand in the stern and pop off the bow for the transfer. How nice to have a winter project to while away free weekends.

On the bread-baking front, I've been on a ciabatta kick, trying out different recipes and techniques. Oh, and indiscriminately eating the results. And I just found out I get to be one of the crowd of recipe testers for Peter Rienhart's new cookbook. I'm ecstatic, but no, I don't need any more taste-testers, thanks for offering.

I'm glad that it's candle season, and I've been intentionally taking every opportunity to add flickering points of light to my rooms. I've even tried reading by oil lantern so as not to wake Bryan with the big light. (It doesn't work very well, but I can manage for as long as it takes to read an entry from my favorite book of prayers, something I've been using again recently). The dining room table is set with fall colors and I hung my purple sari over the back door. Scarves and hats are out, and gloves are tucked into jacket pockets for impromptu excursions. Can you tell I love fall?

I'm grateful for school this year. Here we are on the first day...

Here's a more typical day...

We have worked hard in past years to develop some independent study skills, efficiency about chores, and cheerful attitudes toward learning. Superstition says I shouldn't jinx myself, but I think it's too easy to complain about the hard times and not rejoice in the good ones. This is a good time. Not perfect, but very, very good.

We've been experimenting with radish seeds recently, since they are supposed to sprout in one day (they don't, but they're supposed to). The girls are fascinated--OK, so am I--with the idea that all our energy comes from the sun and the color green. Each plant that, one way or another, provides all I consume, is rooted in the soil of its ancestors and drinks strength from light. Would you remind me of this if I start to feel anxious or deprived in these unsettling times?

Tuesday, the girls and I went on an extended food pick-up. Tuesdays are always vegetable days, but this week, we stopped for milk and eggs and left with demi-glace too (chicken AND beef), a gift from farmer friends to season our soup season. Then it was off to another friend's farm in the foothills to raid the apple trees for the last of the fall apples. The air was cool and still, the light golden as we worked together (not very hard) to gather baskets, heaps of abundance. The car smelled spicy and delicious as we drove to retrieve our CSA share (which included, among other treasures, an almost 3 lb. beet!). Gratefulness overwhelmed me as I rolled home in my cornucopia on wheels. We have been given so much; I never want to take it for granted.

Can you see in my face my hope for this season?
Even as the light outside fades, I will choose contentment and drink deeply from the true Light.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hey! Try This! It's FREE!

This morning I woke, as I'm sure so many in America did, with thoughts of a different September 11. Though I was relatively unaffected by the events of that tragic day, I can't help but think of those with greater losses, those who don't have the luxury of simply marking an anniversary. For some, every day brings reminders of those terrible events. I'm thinking of them today.

I wondered if it was time to talk to the girls about this part of America's history. We have been tackling some difficult subjects over the past few years, touching on racism and the Holocaust in age-appropriate ways. And we have read this great book about Philippe Petit and his walk between the towers. My hope is that it will lay a foundation of hope for a future discussion. But since I am not forced, like so many were those first few days, to explain the unimaginable to my little ones, I am choosing to wait until they can see beyond the fear to the facts.

The girls were so small that day, seven years ago. But I remember reading advice for how to contextualize these events for children. Instead of focusing on the evil or the tragedy, psychologists said, encourage your children to look for hope in the heroes. From the rescue workers who ran toward the falling buildings, to those who hosted waylaid commuters until they could find their way home, there are good people all around. I found this advice to be helpful for me too as I tried to process this enormous event. Most of the citizens in our country, myself included, had been remarkably sheltered from this kind of traumatic event (goodness knows much of the rest of the world could one-up us if they tried), and it helped to focus on the ways communities came together instead of trying to comprehend the mindset it took to wage this terror. And I loved seeing how those impulses for good were multiplied in my own life and the lives of those around me.

In the last few weeks, I have heard several pleas to sign up with the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry. No one in my family has ever needed a marrow transplant, but it didn't take much imagination to picture how desperately I would want to find a match for them if they became ill. And when I heard how easy it is both to register (a cheek swab is usually all that's required) and to donate (often almost as simple as blood donation with all expenses paid), I was ready to jump onboard. But I kept putting it off because of the small fee required to evaluate my sample. Today, I called to see if there were any sponsored drives in my area and it turns out that Nascar is sponsoring anyone who signs up, um, through October I think. I don't care about the deadline, because I already signed up. And you shouldn't care either, because you should stop right now (I know you're online already) and spend the 10 minutes it takes to sign your little self up. (The link for the Nascar drive is on the lower right-hand corner of the main page, but I'm sure they'd still use your money if you have some extra lying around.) You may not be up for running into a burning building, but you could save someone's life all the same.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We interrupt this previously scheduled vacation recap to bring you...

spacer (1K)
spacer (1K)
Learn how to make
Artisan Bread
with Bethany Lee

Saturday, September 13, 2-5pm
Hands-on class: Learn to mix, knead, shape and bake artisan breads, and enjoy sampling several kinds of bread. Take home a breadbaking tool (included) and the confidence to make great artisinal breads at home. Seats are still available.
Kookoolan Farms
15713 Highway 47, Yamhill, Oregon 97148
on the web
Phone (503) 730-7535

Yes, I'll be teaching another bread-baking class this weekend and I'd love to see some friendly faces. Maybe yours could be one!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Day Nine-Jones Island to Roche Harbor

Prepare for a deluge of pictures from our time here, one of our favorite islands of the trip. Bryan took the girls for a hike around the western shoreline and I joined them after some exploration of my own. You can see the island's only permanent residents, these almost tame deer.

Bryan and I love the madrona trees with their whimsical shapes and cinnamon bark.I also love these three. I feel so blessed to be traveling through life with these wonderful individuals.

By afternoon, it was time to move on. We had a good sail over to Roche Harbor.Right away, we found the marina pool and relaxed, each in her own way:)

If you were here, I would bore you by trying to point out our boat in this picture.
See, right over there. No a little more to the left.

Roche Harbor has a summer tradition of a color ceremony, complete with music and a cannon. This night, a trio of local pilots added to the fun with an impromptu fly-over at just the right moment.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Day Eight-Friday Harbor to Jones Island

Shopping for "Magic Peas" and salad mix at the Friday Harbor Farmer's Market
(we missed our CSA pickup terribly:)

Pics of all the girls with Harbor watch-totems.

It had been our intention to move on to Roche Harbor this evening, but after two days in a busy marina, we were yearning for some quiet. (Also, the current was against us and after 2 1/2 hours of this exact view...
...we turned on the engine and motored in to Jones Island.
While the girls played on the beach, I sat in the shade and read...and read. Ahhhhhhhhh.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Day Seven-A Day of Rest in Friday Harbor

Listening to Street Music (Can you see the girls? They--silly-- never take off their lifejackets...even on land! It makes them easy to spot, though. And I s'pose they're always ready for...hmmm...flash flooding?)

Playing in the park

Meira shares her lifejacket with a new souvenir

I love eating breakfast out on the deck

Sassy Hannah

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Day Six-Fisherman Bay to Friday Harbor

What a Catch--5 keeper crabs!

Exploring Lopez Island

Sailing with the Adventuress

On our way to Friday Harbor

The view from Friday Harbor. We're WAAAAAAY out on the docks to the left and had quite the trek to get to shore anytime we wanted to go somewhere.

Popeye, the one-eyed harbor seal (she lives near the fish market, but came to greet--and beg from--the girls.)

Do you have any idea how LONG it takes to crack FIVE crabs?
We had all we could eat and crab cakes the next day.

We finally had enough energy for our favorite boat game--Moose in the House!
(Note the new table Bryan built)