Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Fair

There is a first time for everything indeed. State fairs. I had never been to one before but since I enjoy the tiny county fairs, I was a willing and even eager participant in the Puyallup Fair yesterday. This is no small statement coming from a self avowed Hater of All Things Amusement Park. The fair is different.

At the fair you can look at intricate quilts and wood carving. At the fair you can be move by photos of different lands. At the fair you can touch baby piglets. At the fair you can even smell and step in manure. Take THAT Cedar Point and Six Flags! If you wish to amuse ME you will have to add the olfactory ambience of farmland manure blowing through roller coaster alley and put a photography exhibit besides the $6 per cup lemonade stand. (Not that the fair is exactly cheap! But I don't know what else there is at the amusement park other than roller coasters and overpriced lemonade!)

Regardless. I had a great time mingling with the cowboy hat clad crowd. It was also 67 degrees and sunny and being the weather wimp that I am, the day's perfection added to my enjoyment. Topping the enjoyment list was the photography exhibit in the fine arts building. I was moved by some soul stirring amateur photographers who travel the world capturing images that bring us all closer together. The smiles from the ladies drinking tea in Mongolia will remain etched in my mind with joy. And the western owl peeking from behinds the tree that won top honors? I would actually buy a print were than an option!

Ever heard of Wool Riders? I had not. My mental jury is still out regarding the wisdom of putting helmet clad three to six year olds on the back of a 'raging' sheep to ride it for six seconds. However, it was an amusing rodeo scene and I took plenty of photos since this was quite the oddity to my back east sensibilities. The winner of the Puyallup Fair Wool Rider Rodeo will head to Fresno to compete for $15,000 in prize money. Get those inner thigh muscles in shape little dinks! Prize money could be yours!

I am eager to share photos of this oddity as well as some of the colorful grange exhibits that tap a rainbow of creativity in the farming community. Skagit County's includes bald eagles and seashells! Ah... I DO like Washington State! My frequent travels here meant I had good reason to jettison my 17" heavy laptop in exchange for an iPad. HOWEVER, in order to adequately use Blogger (one of the reasons I GOT the thing in the first place) I need to figure out an app so that you can be the happy recipient of photos to accompany my blog posts, So far, I'm not there yet. I'll add them ASAP. For the simple minded climbing the learning curve to learn all these 'magical' technological tools to make life easy (HA!), takes extraordinary amounts of time. Thus. Photos at 11.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Treasure Hunt

Remember how fun it was to follow the clues for hidden treasure as a kid? Little clues tucked in and about all sorts of nooks and crannies would lead to something that provided a moment or an hour of joy. Very few grown ups have the chance to follow clues leading to hidden treasures, but there are still some places left where that same feeling of treasure anticipation emerges in one's soul.

Take, for instance, the ubiquitous Garage Sale. Are they not just a grown up version of a treasure hunt? To find and obtain some amazing trinket for far less than the original cost leaves us with a fleeting moment of satisfaction. Perhaps an Antique Store or Flea Market provides the same sensation. Even a foray into the Thrift Store? Or the CSA pick-your-own farm field?

Last weekend I found myself on a surprising little treasure hunt as I joined a local photography club for a morning photo walk. I woke up at the wee hour of 6am (I prefer life of a night owl) in order to catch morning light in some field down in the national park. My eagerness to refine my waning photography skills got me up and out of bed and to the fog laden, dewy field in time to hear a slightly brash instructor, coffee in hand, giving guidelines for the morning.

At this point, I still thought I was going to be learning to tweak the settings on my DSLR, but alas, I was headed on a treasure hunt where hundred of spiders, thousands of flowers and millions of dew drops awaited my arrival. A few words from the photo experts and we set off into the shoulder high, damp field of flowers and thorns to capture some images. I was surprised.

The location is actually fairly unremarkable when you look at it in a 'big picture' kind of way. But, tune your senses into the world of the macro lens and all of a sudden this unremarkable field was chock full of innumerable treasures! I planted my tripod in the middle of spider webs and greenery and started shooting. Yellow! Purple! Green! Fog! Dew drops! Rainbows! There were colors and subjects of all sorts to shoot around me. Time started flying by as I adjusted my zoom lens, put on my macro lens, played with the aperture settings and shot away.

I have to admit, I do love the ability to shoot digitally and to not have to worry about quantity as I go in search of quality shots! (My overly full hard drive attests to my obsession with quantity.) I was delighted to capture a few quality shots, aka a few TREASURES on this photo shoot. It whet my appetite to explore other seemingly unremarkable natural places to photograph what might be right in front of me, ready for discovery.

This Macro Treasure Hunt was a great joy. I am likely to skip Saturday morning garage sales in lieu of waking early to catch the morning light as fall arrives and enlivens the treasures all around me.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Yes. "Transformation" often refers to the inner work of one's soul as in "I have been transformed." In this case, it has been our kitchen that has been transformed, though I also believe that our souls will follow. Slowly but surely, the heart of the home changes us as well.

We lived with a functional '80s kitchen' for the past 12 years. Upon moving in, I declared that I did NOT care for the room, HATED the Pantry-from-Hell (rightly so since the former owners did a slap together finish with a board right at the spot where you needed to reach in), and that I would gladly feed our family and friends from this room with few complaints.

For 12 years we fed meal after meal from the garden decorated room with the 18" of counter space and antique tavern table island stand in. We hosted Thanksgiving for 16 yearly, birthday parties, catered a gigantic graduation party, learned to cook crepes from our French exchange student and smashed our heads time and again getting things out of the Pantry. We traipsed to the basement for can goods and all manner of cooking pots. We allowed food from the make shift wire shelf pantry to collect grime coming in from the back door, conveniently located by the kitchen and the See-How-Far-You-Can-Toss-the-Recycling-and-Still-Hit-the-Bins bins.

Finally, finances were such that we could make a change. A BIG change too.

Dear Hubbie and I had the conversation: "We can't sell this house with the kitchen like this. We need to redo the kitchen. So are we going to redo the kitchen to sell the house in the near future? Do we hear God calling us to relocate? OR, do we create a kitchen that would be most pleasing and usable to us now and into the future and plan to STAY?" Fortunately, the answer was fairly easy: "We're staying." Our people are here and we happen to like a LOT of things about our area. The funny thing is, since we made this decision, we have been liking things in our area EVEN MORE. Worthy of a totally different blog post as the implications of that sort of commitment are far reaching...

Those photos showed the 'before'. Here are the 'after':

The kitchen is bigger with an addition and my dream for YEARS, of having a fireplace in my kitchen. This is a Rumford Fireplace... tall, narrow and extremely efficient. We won't be cooking in it (though s'mores work just fine!) but given our long winters, we will be using it. A LOT.

And so we bid farewell to the Garden Kitchen of the 80's and welcomed in our 'vacation home' kitchen. Thus far it is totally living up to the task for which it was created. We use out kitchen to COOK, after all. It is merely a tool. A place for gathering, for hospitality, for creativity, for card playing and well, for sustenance--of the delicious and nutritious kind.

Monday, August 8, 2011


I have had a long term love affair with all things felt. I'm not exactly sure what it is about the earthly connection between my heart, my eyes and my hands when I see, touch and feel felt, but it is strong. It is no doubt about the 'natural.' True wool is utterly natural. It is soft. It is real and it pulls one into creation, rather than alienating one from creation. It sparks my imagination and my longings. For what I cannot quite articulate, but I don't need an answer to dive in and love all things felt.

I finally took a welt felting class this weekend. What fun! It was a class taught by Sharon Costello, here in Ohio from her digs in NY. She knows her stuff and brought all sorts of delicious merino wool, silk and assorted fibers for us to incorporate into our scarves. One day = One scarf. REALLY?

This is the finished baby, without the true colors since it was on the kitchen floor. Outside looked more like the real thing, but I was not patient enough to find a spot in the wet grass for a decent photo!

Nuno felting involves water, soap, time and strength as well as the right fibers. Keep the soap coming!

Here is my scarf laid out before the felting process. Highly tactile, it was a joy to play with the merino roving as I contemplated the design, not quite knowing WHAT in the world I would end up with. So, I experimented.

This kind of arts suits me. Planning ahead for the final product is not my style and stretches me a lot harder than simply taking materials and playing around to see what ends up developing. I am quite pleased with my first project. In fact, I collected some additional roving for another Nuno piece at some point. I love that the materials to actually DO the felting are mostly laying around my house or cheap to pick up. The only exception, of course, is the wool, but a little goes a long way.

Keep eating, oh happy sheep! We love what you naturally produce!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

St. Maarten

Island life. I was healthy enough (grateful for prayers) to head off the ship today for our planned kayaking/snorkeling tour. I was so thankful as it was terrific to see another country (St. Maarten – the Dutch half) since I am, after all, floating around the Caribbean. As so many of these small islands are, it is diverse. One can easily see the ‘have’ and the ‘have nots’ coexisting. As a cruise ship passenger, I was a bit uncomfortable with my role as a ‘have.’ I took it upon myself to be cheerful and pleasant and to pay prices that help the locals earn a living rather than trying to get the best ‘deal’ by haggling. Not that it mattered much as I hardly shopped at all and I haven’t spent a penny on food outside of the ship. Why bother when the ship food is excellent and abundant.

The nationals are used to the rhythms. Mid morning flocks of tourists disembark to either find their tour or pay the stated price for “Chair, Umbrella and 2 Beers.” Not being a beach sitting type, the allure escapes me. I did find the whole scene fascinating, though. We are on a huge ship and the one in port next to us was a great deal larger. It seems like madness on the sea to continue to build bigger ships. May as well create a floating island with settlements that get pushed around by barges. (My billion dollar idea?)

I’d have to brush up on the history of St. Maarten to understand the very moving sculpture in the middle of one roundabout of a man (a slave I presume?) with his hands spread in freedom, chains dangling from his arms. More sculptures presented themselves on our slow drive from the cruise pier to kayaking cove. There was one of salt mine workers and one of a famous traffic director. Wikipedia, here I come once I don’t have to pay far too much for internet connection! Nice public art in the midst of poverty.

The weather? Picture perfect with the azure sea at every turn and hot breezes messing up everyone’s hair. Lots of sunscreen for me and my daughter as we headed out to the water. I have not kayaked on the sea before. And, the guides would hardly call our little kayaking ‘adventure’ sea kayaking. Poor guys have to make a living being clever and teaching the same basic paddling skills to underskilled and overfed cruise ship patrons day after day after day. The seemed patient enough and their British accents would surely cover up any irritation if they had any at all. We had fun in the sun paddling nonetheless. That’s the idea. We snorkeled after a short paddle. It was unspectacular, but fun to see a little bit of coral and some colorful fish in the murky water. I got a tad seasick after a while from floating on all the swells, but being out there with my daughter for her first time snorkeling was worth it.

I’d put up some photos of the water, but I have no idea how to get them from camera onto computer, so stop holding your breath. (I’ve been told Apples are user friendly. Hmm…. Not when it comes to THIS Apple and finding the illusive iPhoto. Nothing pops up that is of any help in getting my photos transferred from the camera. In the very least I expected Apple to send me a note: “HEY CHICK, YOU’VE CONNECTED A CAMERA TO YOUR COMPUTER. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WITH THE IMAGES?” but, nooo, nothing!)

Maybe one of the kind guys from Honduras or Hong Kong in the iLounge on Level 6 can help me figure it out when they are open tomorrow. We are at sea for the next two days. Since I’m not a big partier, my introvert self can enjoy some reading time and figuring out how to deal with my photos as the calming sway of the ship carries us back to the USA.

Sidelined at Sea

I have a knack. Oh, I suppose I have several of them, but this one if just plain irritating. All too often when I am on vacation, I get sick. Not that, “oh-I-am-feeling-a little-under-the-weather” kind of illness, but the full-fledged, “all-this-has-got-to-come-out-of-me” kind. And, so, it has happened once again. The other night, I became far too acquainted with the teeny stateroom bathroom on our cruise ship. A nice little bathroom, of course, which comes in handy, but it wasn’t the spot I had hoped to spend most of the night.

Our cruise line had a few too many cases of this sort reported on the last sailing, so our departure was delayed by thorough disinfecting of everything. In fact, the first thing with which we were welcomed aboard was a generous squirt of Purell, followed by champagne. There are also many ship attendants who are spending many hours dispensing Purell pretty much everywhere. Their dream job, I’m sure!

But, alas, that extra attention to disinfecting failed to be communicated to my system. Too bad. As the cruise lines are particularly sensitive to the topic of “noroviruses,” I was confined to my stateroom for 24 hours. That confinement is why I am currently blogging away rather than seeing tonight’s show or out feeling the Caribbean breezes on my face. I could not have gone anywhere anyway and I have learned a great lesson: never cruise in an inner cabin. Had I been in one, I would not have seen any of today’s brilliant sunshine or the extravagant yachts beside which we were docked. I would not only have been ill, but felt as though I had been confined to a dungeon—one that I paid big bucks to inhabit! The balcony decision was for Mom’s pleasant travels, but it has ended up benefitting me greatly.

I made the best of a bad thing. Missing the trip to the St. Thomas beach was quite a disappointment to me, but sometimes you gotta just roll with what shows up. Instead, I opened the balcony door and kept it open all day watching the sun travel across the sky, glinting off yacht mirrors here and there until it faded behind a small island as we left port, only a couple of hours ago. I’m feeling better at least and I really, really want to be able to kayak tomorrow at our next port. I can’t imagine the outing will be ‘strenuous’ anyway, as it appears cruising in general is created to be indulgent and anything but strenuous. Lord willing, the stateroom bathroom will perform only it’s regular duty this evening and all will be well.

Spring Break

Tonight I am surrounded by palm trees, warm breezes, a huge full moon, lots of southern Florida traffic and my daughter and my mother. This is all new, that’s for sure. Heading out to sea on a floating city tomorrow, the likes of which I have never set foot upon before. Fresh adventures for the women of my family. It is, in fact, an amazing thing that this experience is something new for me, the fifty something; mom, the seventy something; and daughter, the twenty something. There aren’t too many things we could choose that would put us all on equal footing as far as knowing what to expect ahead of time. Our common experience of discovering something new altogether will no doubt solidify our bond.

Today’s other first time travel experience for me was be the official escort for a ‘disabled traveler.’ Mom was understandably apprehensive about such a long journey accomplished through very little power of her own. She was pushed along by the kind Delta pushers who were far more adept at driving a wheel chair than I am at this point! I complimented them on their obvious skills and made mental notes of my own: “When entering an elevator, take yourself and the wheelchair rider in backwards.” “When managing luggage and wheelchair user in the middle of traffic—airport or hotel parking—care for the wheelchair user FIRST and then deal with the luggage!” “When heading down jet way ramps, take rider facing up the ramp so if a sudden bump is encountered, said rider will not fly forward and land on the jet way headfirst!” This is obviously going to be an educational vacation for me, as well as warm and breezy!

Mom fared well, though she is weary. She kept saying “I can’t believe this!” and then smiling which was a joy to see. Her take on this journey and her seeming unreadiness to undertake it, was that the Lord kept saying to her “Trust Me on this one. I’m going to make it work out!” So far, so good. (Thank you, Lord) All we have yet to do is transport ourselves and far too much luggage onto the cruise ship and into our teeny weeny staterooms with the sea views.

I really don’t know what to expect, but I eagerly anticipate all the new things we will see and experience at the cruise port tomorrow. Bon voyage!

Cruisin' the Caribbean

Having never cruised before, I was caught off guard by the international flavor of this type of travel. I guess that since our port of departure was in Florida, I expected the ship to be staffed by Americans and the guests to be the same. This is not at all the case. We are a veritable Floating UN, as are many other ships, I suspect.

Name tags spell out the unpronounceable staff names of those who serve us as well as their homeland. I love this! Traveling with me are individuals from Romania (the nurse who tended to me), Philippines (our waiter each evening who is enjoying flirting with my almost 21 year old daughter), Peru (the bread guy at dinner whom I also saw selling beverage packages), India, Canada and Macedonia to name a few. The captain, in fact, when proposing a toast at the Captain’s Toast event (a tad cheesy to me) said that the staff of over 1,000 represents 64 nations, and the guests numbering 2,800 represent 44. I find this amazing as we float along the sea this evening.

Folks are helpful and speak some version of English. This has posed my greatest challenge, however. On the phone today, trying to order Gatorade via room service I was asked several questions to which I replied with a sentence that may or may not have had any relationship to the question asked! So be it. The Gatorade eventually materialized at my door, so the language/accent/hearing disability barrier is can be overcome.

Knowing bits and pieces of a few languages, I tried to ask a couple of ladies on the elevator at a slightly frenetic moment disembarking at one port what language they spoke to see if I could be of more help switching out of English. They were too captured by the moment, or their English too limited for me to be of any assistance since they never said “Portugese” or “Itailiano.”

Would that the whole world could function like the 64 / 44 nations on a cruise ship! Living on earth would be a lot more gracious.

Cruisin' the Caribbean

Having never cruised before, I was caught off guard by the international flavor of this type of travel. I guess that since our port of departure was in Florida, I expected the ship to be staffed by Americans and the guests to be the same. This is not at all the case. We are a veritable Floating UN, as are many other ships, I suspect.

Name tags spell out the unpronounceable staff names of those who serve us as well as their homeland. I love this! Traveling with me are individuals from Romania (the nurse who tended to me), Philippines (our waiter each evening who is enjoying flirting with my almost 21 year old daughter), Peru (the bread guy at dinner whom I also saw selling beverage packages), India, Canada and Macedonia to name a few. The captain, in fact, when proposing a toast at the Captain’s Toast event (a tad cheesy to me) said that the staff of over 1,000 represents 64 nations, and the guests numbering 2,800 represent 44. I find this amazing as we float along the sea this evening.

Folks are helpful and speak some version of English. This has posed my greatest challenge, however. On the phone today, trying to order Gatorade via room service I was asked several questions to which I replied with a sentence that may or may not have had any relationship to the question asked! So be it. The Gatorade eventually materialized at my door, so the language/accent/hearing disability barrier is can be overcome.

Knowing bits and pieces of a few languages, I tried to ask a couple of ladies on the elevator at a slightly frenetic moment disembarking at one port what language they spoke to see if I could be of more help switching out of English. They were too captured by the moment, or their English too limited for me to be of any assistance since they never said “Portugese” or “Itailiano.”

Would that the whole world could function like the 64 / 44 nations on a cruise ship! Living on earth would be a lot more gracious.

Friday, March 18, 2011


No photos yet. I am in the process of contemplating which granite to choose for the kitchen counters and for the island. The same one? Different ones? Contrast? Drama? (no) So many choices!

Having never shopped for granite before, I have been amazed and delighted at the options that exist. The colors, swirls ("drag," I guess it is called), mica, shimmery gold chips and array of patterns is astounding. To think the sheets of polished granite were once secrets hidden in the ground all gray and rough, covered in dirt. WHO discovered that pulling this stone from the bowels of the earth and polishing it would yield such glorious results?!

It is another of God's hidden wonders. Who knew. He creates the sunsets we take delight in, but under the surface, he creates this magical world of beautiful stone. No doubt we have discovered merely a hint of the jewels that lay in the earth. He must smile and take pleasure in their creation and then find that pleasure is increased with every discovery we make and delight in.

Assuming one or two slabs of granite end up gracing our kitchen cabinetry, it will be for me a small artistic miracle from the hand of God that I'll enjoy daily.


It's been a whirlwind of activity at my house. Inside and out. The inside comes from my scurrying about packing and getting ready to fly south for a couple of weeks. The outside comes from the 'worker guys' (as my now teenage son used to call the skilled construction workers who came to build a kitchen at our old house) who can envision something from nothing.

I am impressed by their knowledge and skill in so many areas. The greatest, perhaps, is paying attention to the order in which every task needs to be completed. Skipping a task is not an option. I need not expound further...

I did, however, take the opportunity in the last snow to take a few 'construction art shots,' the compilation which I have named "Construction au Printemps," presented here for you viewing pleasure.

Meanwhile. I am leaving the cold gray skies for a little splashing in the Caribbean. If I can afford the internet connection fees on the ship, I shall post some Blue Water Sunny Sky musings. If not, when I get back there will be plenty to share. The kitchen potential will be furthered with WALLS appearing and ocean photos will hopefully find their way from my mind to my camera to my computer to my blog.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Under Construction

Still Life with Saw Horses
Concrete Art
The (notso) Big Dig

We've been making plans all winter long. Presumably spring is near and so our contractor bravely began construction on a new addition (fondly called 'the Hearth Room') and new kitchen. Four days into it and they have demolished a small, ancient addition to the old kitchen and the balcony that was above it; dug the foundation after waiting for significant rain to end; then poured the footers. Wow! No small miracle this early in March!

The new false wall in the kitchen blocks out the current mess and chaos, so I have no complaints. We'll see just how this 'little project' feels when they begin to demolish the current kitchen and a couple of inside walls! (My heading to the Caribbean is a couple of weeks too early to avoid that, I'm afraid!) I am likely to have complaints. But, alas, I am told it will be worth it in the end.

On a more philosophical note. Our house is already big. Too big if we neglect to share it with others in the future who may need some housing, though we know not who, nor when. Yet, the kitchen is the heart of the home and the heart of this kitchen quit beating years ago! It was high time we provided a significant pace maker.

Knowing this, we had a hard question to ask: Are we redoing the kitchen to make the house sale able in the future, or are we redoing the kitchen for US and for our family into the future? This necessitated my husband and I take a serious look at our current calling and place. Was God saying to us, "Time to move on or Time to stay put?" And, staying put (the answer) means we have to quit imagining ourselves weekly gathering huge, cheap bouquets of flowers from Pike Place Market, or hiking up to our favorite mountain lakes after work on the long days of summer. "Bloom where you are planted," so the old, tired saying goes!

We've already been planted here for years and years. In fact, we've already bloomed for several seasons as well, but alas, apparently and gratefully, there are more to come. A funny thing happened to each of us independently of the other once we renewed our commitment to staying put. Subtly our appreciation for our surroundings grew!

We started to mentally note and list the benefits of living in this area, not the least of which is that our community of friends is right here! Housing prices enable us to live in a gigantic house that would cost over a million bucks in some parts of the country. A fifteen minute drive takes us into a National Park with great bike trails and herons that come to roost every March. Farmer's markets are growing and the CSA we belong to produces a delightful abundance of fresh produce every summer. And the list keeps growing and growing.

This, to me, is part of the Abundant Life that Jesus talks about and promises to us. Seeing abundance all around, and living and breathing it. Growing more content to be 'blooming where we are planted" and watching the list of positives enlarge.

We also happen to be employing some fine people and will end up with a kitchen where the heart beat is strong and loud. We'll be able to invite others in to share wine around the new fireplace and play cards late into the night. We'll let them help us add to the list to make sure it keeps growing and growing...

Saturday, March 5, 2011


I love rainy days. If there is any positive aspect to the onset of spring (a season which is still in question in NE Ohio) it is gloomy, drippy Saturdays such as the one we are now experiencing.

I say so with the full awareness that the river across the street and through the woods from my home is well above flood stage and many of my NE Ohio neighbors are cursing the addition of more water from the sky. So, I DO give thanks today that in my 1919 home, the basement remains dry... a blessing I do not take lightly. That said, I love the rain.

When I wake up to more than one sunny day in a row I start to feel uncomfortable, as if something is just NOT RIGHT in the world. I live in the cloud laden section of Ohio which tops Seattle in the number of cloudy days we endure. My friends and neighbors battle with SAD every winter. I'm sure I am in need of double doses of vitamin D. And yet, too many sunny days messes with my head. Funny isn't it? The weather can't be that happy for that long or something is amiss!

Living in Colorado during my early adulthood I loved the abundant sunshine, but I also loved waking up to mountains days where the surrounding peaks were engulfed in clouds and fog for the whole day. It added mystery. It allowed for the melancholy and reflection of one's soul to flourish. Maybe it is as much diversity in the weather which taps into the diverse sections of my soul as much as it is the clouds and rain.

Where you end up living starts to shape your DNA (and that of your offspring.) My kids won't even consider living in the south for college where the winters are warm and the sun shines! While my daughter in college in Seattle complains about the rain and clouds, she complains MORE about the lack of snow. Meanwhile, she has grown to appreciate the positive aspects of rain boots which college coeds wear all the time out there out of necessity, not merely fashion!

And my son? Considering schools below the Mason Dixon line is flat out. No snow. Too much sun. His current choice: Boston. That for lots of reasons, but the weather IS part of it. That seasonally shaped DNA. I hope they don't ever curse us for their weather history. I also hope they don't end up living in Hawaii or some other ungodly, perpetually sunny location!

Today is the perfect day for writing on one's blog. For designing digital photography pages, for choosing paint colors for the new kitchen. The cloudy light is just right! I wouldn't want sunshine to mess up my choices.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Snow Geese

I will admit it. I am a birder. The info is lacking from my blog profile and from my Facebook profile, but it's true. I think birds are one of God's Top Ten. Finding them is like a treasure hunt and I take great delight in observing their personalities and behaviors. I have a loosely compiled life list. I enjoy discovering birds on my travels, though I will admit, I have yet to travel FOR the birds. Except the snow geese. I traveled to Skagit Valley in Washington to find them. (Never mind the fact that I was out there already visiting family!)

I keep my bird feeder full some of the time. I take my binoculars hiking a lot of the time and I wait for the perfect bird photograph pretty much none of the time. I'm not a particularly patient photographer. Therefore, upon encountering thousands of snow geese in Skagit Valley during migration, I was in bird heaven! No photography patience needed. The birds were everywhere and the photos ops were more than abundant.

We had to search a bit to find said geese as you never know which field they will be spending the day in, nor if they will even be there. We spotted them off in the distance looking like a picket fence. However, we knew that white picket fences are not the norm on Skagit Valley farms, so off we went to find roads that took us closer and closer. Jackpot! We ended up on a country road in between two fields populated with these noisy characters.

Laughing ensued! How can one not be filled with delight in being surrounded by frenzied feathers flying furiously! It was so much fun. Even when I felt something fall on my shoulder, I was still having fun. I was traveling with Dad. "Dad, did a goose just poop on me?" "Eewww...why yes, yes he/she did." Clean again in no time, ready for another 100 photos. (Nice of me to chose only six to share, isn't it?)

We never did figure out what made them all take off in one huge raucous swarm, but being in the midst of them as their wings clattered and their honking crescendo-ed, we were awestruck. The noise was deafening, but in a grand and glorious way, even for one who is nearing deafness, as I am.

If my travels take me back to Washington during migration of the snow geese and trumpeter swans again, as I hope they will, to the Skagit Valley I will go. If my travels take me there a tad later in the spring the consolation prize will be acres and acres of tulips. (Some which are exported to Holland, but don't tell anyone...) Fields everywhere hold treasure hunts of birds and flowers, but rare are the moments as dramatic and scenic as in the shadow of Mt. Baker on a clear day when the snow geese are flying!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


3o,ooo + feet to be exact. No, I'm not there at the moment, but I was yesterday, winging it from the Mediterranean like climate of the NW corner, back to gray, cloudy, snow covered Ohio. What follows was written from altitude. In my journal. With a pen!

My life can be defined by landmarks. The Olympics, Long's Peak, Lake Erie. Just another day in the big blue yonder. Plane travel is truly a marvel. It is moving me from the hug of my Dad in drizzly Seattle to the hopefully semi cleared driveway and the possible hug of my tall man-boy son in Ohio. All in the course of 8 hours. A marvel.

The downside of air travel for me is the fact that my emotions can lag behind. My body ends up in a new location while my heart languishes in some NW garden plot overlooking Puget Sound. It will catch up with me as it always does. But it is not always easy.

I want to be able to articulate my own 'theology of travel' which is what I call it for now. I'm not quite sure what it will end up to be, but something along those lines. How is it that Jesus goes ahead of me and meets me at my destination while at the same time he settles right beside me in the airliner? Another marvel. Since Jesus is not bound by time or space or any earthly thing, all is possible. (I love that mystery!) He shows me how to look upon the landscape below and its inhabitants with his bird's eye view. Another post, another time.

I love that He is intimately acquainted with my traveling companions today, though they may or may not have any awareness of that reality.

.... the semi frazzled mom sitting in my row with her toddler on her lap and her five year old in between us. I was happy to help the chatty little girl with the pink pony ("Do you like my pony?") from spilling her drink and losing her hairbrush and forgetting to buckle her seat belt. Better to have a seasoned mom in the same row that the tattooed 20 something sleeping male who sat beside me on the next flight. I ended up being a little gift from God to that mom whether she would notice or not. I'm glad.

....the frail elderly couple I helped on the plane last week as they were en route to San Diego to see their son. They were back on my flight today! Go figure. I was relieved to see that they survived the whole trip.

....the other older couple, she traveling in a wheel chair and being well cared for by the airline employees. This will be me and Mom in three weeks, so I NOTICED where I might not have before. Nice to see some personal care from those who push wheel chairs day in and day out.

.... all the TALL GIRLS who were heading for the same gate. I figured it must be a college basketball team. I was right once I saw the matching backpacks with athletic shoes dangling from the bottom. Young and gorgeous, heading for New Orleans. I hope they won.

....and all the rest.

Seeing one's fellow travelers from the perspective of a God who knows them all and loves them just the same fuels compassion. It makes travels even more interesting than they already are. I guess that qualifies as a beginning on my theology of travel. More flights are already booked and more yet to come.

Tonight, however, I sleep in my own bed at the altitude of 1,200 ft. This too is good.

Monday, February 21, 2011


I have known about Regent College in Vancouver, BC for 30 years. I have had friends study there. It's kind of a secret place in some ways. Housed in one building adjacent to the University of British Columbia, the place is a magnet for Believers from all over the world. So, while it is a secret to most people, even in Vancouver, God is at work luring his people there to come study, grow, be a community and figure out their callings to further His Kingdom on earth.

Truth be told, I haven't looked into studying there and don't intend to, though others absolutely should! I have not read their admissions materials. What I just said comes from a 20 minute walk through the place on INTERNATIONAL FOOD NIGHT. Oh. My.

Regent was fragrant with the Kingdom in wonderful ways! Tables piled with foods from other continents; students in native attire; kids filling their plates with rices and dahls and fancy chocolates and stews; people in all shapes and colors; smiles on faces. The couches were populated with thoughtful adults having intense conversations to solve the problems of the world while eating the world's dinner. It was a glimpse of heaven. Flavors and fragrances of heaven.

Residing in the midwest as I do, we are more than a little provincial. Our mingling is among those of mostly the same skin color. For the most part, ethnic restaurants aren't filled with the stews and rices of the world. You can find them, but it's not easy. The church, likewise, looks rather similar and we forget how flavorful God's people are!

With the exception of our hostess, a Regent student also from Ohio, I knew no one on my walk through INTERNATIONAL FOOD NIGHT. Yet I was totally at home. These were my people because these were God's people. Kingdom builders and Kingdom residers. I'll look forward to eating their food one day and sharing intense conversations over a cup of chai. Meanwhile, if you are checking out Regent College for graduate work, the facilities are wonderful and artsy. They say it rains in Vancouver, though I have yet to see it. For those whom God lures there, a flavorful experience awaits.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

En Route

Tis like magic. I am on the train en route to Vancouver, BC and I'm writing a post. WiFI has its advantages, does it now?

It's a bright sunny day in Seattle and the Olympics were glowing in all their glory in the dawn light and full moon as we crossed Lake Washington for the Amtrak station. It is the little sights and moments that bring e great joy when I am traveling. Moon over the water; glimpses of winter mountains; shoes hanging off the electric wires (right above the tracks... go figure); and more. If you know me, you know I love Seattle and am always glad to arrive here. Family is here so I have good reason to come. I have a family who also appreciates moments and loves to explore. I consider this a great gift.

Train tracks over the locks near UW. The water is churning today in the sunshine. I am happier on a train than a boat! And OMG, the Olympics are crystal clear and snow covered! What am I doing typing.. I need to be watching.

So, later folks..


Friday, February 18, 2011


I had forgotten that green is one of the colors of the landscape! I have become so accustomed to gray, blue, white and brown for the past several months. Don't get me wrong, I love the Bleak Midwinter in many ways. BUT, upon arriving in the NW corner and looking out the window, all I could see was GREEN. And, I'll admit, it made my soul sing a bit.

Went walking on the island as we always do when I am here. The smells of the pines and the greens of the moss, the ferns, the rhodos and all the rest made it a wonderful walk, in spite if the winter chill. (What is all the talk about 'wet cold' being colder than 'dry cold'?!) The best part of the green was the red tuft of feathers on the pileated woodpecker's head as he worked hard to clear brush from his dinner spot. What a treat!

It happens to be migration time around here. Yesterday I saw about 6 new birds and today we're going hunting for snow geese. I happen to think birds are one of God's Top Ten and I love searching for them, though it is a rare moment when I can hear them any more. Greens and Birds. Made my day.

Oh, and out for dinner with my darling daughter and her college friends happened to be a big bonus as well!

Time to grab my binoculars, hat, camera and hiking boots. We're off!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


It's been a while since I signed up. I was a skeptic when my daughter's teen friend first showed me her home page. What? You are sharing your photos and life out in cyberspace where crazies lurk? Are you sure it is safe? (She had not used her first and last name...)

My concerns quickly gave way to curiosity. After curiosity came possibility. After possibility, the Plunge. I signed up. I have not looked back. I think Facebook is great!!

Why, you ask?

Now, I am a big fan of that ancient concept of Personal Communication. You know... when people sit face to face and share stories, life's hopes, philosophies and faith, dreams and recipes. I do not think gestures and the rolling of one's eyes and a touch on the arm are overrated. I believe this is the stuff of true relationships. But, hey, I don't get to see a lot of people every day. In fact, some people I have been quite fond of in the past I never get to see.

That is why I like Facebook.

For me and them, it is a quick way to touch base. To share humor and glimpses of life across the miles and truly, across the decades. I have connected with many of my college friends from, eh um, 30 years ago. It has been encouraging to see where they have ended up; to see photos of their families; and to even pray for them when challenges arise. Facebook allows this.

Better yet have been the FACE TO FACE interactions that have arisen specifically because of those cyber connections! Last summer I invited three friends who were all celebrating their 50th birthdays to come to my house for several days just to hang out and be 50 together. The ONLY way we had reconnected with via FB. Reading their status reports, I thought "this would be a really fun group to get together!" And, get together we DID! We never once talked, and yet they arrived at the appointed time at my home from Michigan, Connecticut and Japan!

We talked and played for four days and had a blast. I cannot wait to be with them again. The last time the four of us had been in the same place at the same time? 29 years ago.

That is why I like Facebook.

My mom, bless her socks (they are warm ones), has been willing to set up a page in order to keep tabs on her children and grandchildren. She's a user. But, I don't mind. As her abilities to write and communicate begin to diminish from the evil onslaught of ALS, Facebook enables her to stay connected. To participate in the mundane and distant... in the lives of our teens and young adults who live in cyberspace. (I agree, that is both good and bad.)

That is why I like Facebook.

Then there was our overnight in Newcastle Upon Tyne last summer. I found a good old friend with whom I shared summer adventures in the Rockies in the early 1980s on FB. He's a physician in England. When my husband and I decided to venture to England we set up a rendezvous (via FB) and ended up staying at their English home for a night. We met his wife, heard about his kids and enjoyed a fabulous meal together. (An English meal, no less!)

That is why I like Facebook.

Oh, the status reports are fun. Keeping tabs with my daughter at college is wonderful. Keeping my teenage son in line is necessary. But setting up lunch dates, weekend trips, overnights in other countries; connecting on blogs, enjoying photos and all the rest makes me smile.

That is why I like Facebook.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I had not used a typewriter, for let's say, 28 years; until Tuesday. In fact, I didn't know they were still around, much less still used; until Tuesday.

Mom and I were directed to room 129 at the county courthouse -- the probate will office, or some such thing. Our mission, to get her husband's will put on record for posterity. "We have records from 1840," said the cheerful clerk.

To be honest, I was just Mom's ride and wheelchair pusher for this assignment. However, counters being created for the standing population, not the sitting population, I also had to be her means of communication.

If you've been around either of us, you know we are communication challenged, having one good ear between the two of us. (Love those genetics!) I cajoled the nice lady behind the counter into speaking very slowly.

I thought she was kidding. "You will need to TYPE the information in the blanks on this form." I laughed. "Can you say that again please." I had actually heard her correctly. Therefore, I chided, as I inquired where in the world was I going to find a typewriter in this day and age to fill in the blanks. And, besides that, who in the world requires ANYTHING to be completed by typewriter in this day and age? The government. Oh, the government. Of Indiana. I should have known.

"You can find a typewriter in the law library, room 207. Go up the elevator to the second floor, down the corridor, around the stairs... " I packed up Mom and the 'form' that had been photo copied a bazillion times so that is was barely legible and somewhat wavy at points which contained the blanks that NEEDED TO BE FILLED IN BY A TYPEWRITER.

We found the law library. Negotiated the wheel chair in and then Mom used her cane to get through stacks to the far corner where an ancient, lonely electric typewriter stood. THIS was my tool. Would I remember the college skills I had gained typing every last college paper (and there were MANY) on an electric typewriter? Do they still make ribbon for these things? The lady assured me that I could correct mistakes. I could not.

I began. The paper loaded onto the black roller, but it did not reach as far as the blanks, so in and out the paper came. Numerous times, since the blanks were all over the place. Then there was the matter of actually trying to type the letters ON the lines rather than just in the vicinity of them. I decided vicinity was good enough. Meanwhile, I could not contain the incredulous nature of this assignment. My frustration mounted and more that once I proclaimed under my breath "this is the most stupid thing I have been required to do in a long, long time. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid." I guess that helped. In the very least, it gives Mom a story to tell

We reversed our course with the now required typed form in hand. Back to room 129 and the cheerful lady at the high counter. "I know you are not the one to make decisions like this, but is anyone aware that it is 2011 and no one types anything anymore? In fact, faxes are considered legal signatures? Yet, we had to go over the river and through the woods to TYPE this form? This is the stupidist thing I have been asked to do in a long time." Sweet lady. Nice lady. She maintained her composure, mostly because I was not lashing out at her.

She explained that this was actually a 'service' to us, keeping us from having to see an attorney to have the will deposited for safe keeping. I'm sure she has a point, but I was, after all, only the driver and not sure why we were making this visit in the first place; nor why said form was required.

She said that she was going to retire soon. And, with a wink and a nod, once she retired, she knew it wouldn't be long until they actually put all this information on MICROFISCHE! Oh good.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


No problem with servers being busy this evening. The world is watching the Big Game. It is on in front of me as well, but my laptop is handily in between me and the screen.

As a rule, I don't give a flyin' rip about football. It is far too overrated in my less than humble opinion. If it were 'just a game,' it would be OK, but it has become an altar with many, many worshipers falling on their knees before the football gods. We are created to worship something. For far too many, teams and players and coaches and games have become a problematic focus of that worship.

I didn't really open up my computer to climb onto a soap box, but that IS my general attitude towards what should be 'just a game.'

What I thought about posting on my FB status report was about the half time show: "Spectacle. Another instance when I find myself embarrassed to be a citizen of a certain country."

I admit, I'm not a fan of the Black Eyed Peas. I'm not a fan of Usher. I am even less a fan of crotch grabbing. I am also not a fan of bad art which is what the show was in my less than humble opinion. As an American it's tough to be associated with spectacles and bad art which are so publicly put on display for the world to see.

That aside, in the mid winter, every year, an Occasion for Gathering Together is created with the SuperBOWL. For many, like me, the gathering together is more important than worshiping at the in-zone altar. Tonight I am not part of a gathering, which is right for this year too. Meanwhile, all over the country small and large gatherings are full of fun, food and football. For me, therein lies a slice of redemption in an otherwise overblown cultural event.

(I had better wrap it up so I can watch the game...)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

On the Road Again

Half a year. That's the last time I posted anything on my blog. It's time to START AGAIN. They say that you can't become a writer if you read about how to write. You can only become a writer if you write. At one level, I know this. At another level, I ignore it. Am I destined to be a writer? Unlikely, but possible (IF you can be destined to be anything in your early 50s!)… Would I LIKE to be a writer? I suppose so.

It was a great encouragement to hear from two friends after the writing of our 2010 Christmas letter: "When are you going to start writing on your blog again. I miss it." And, "You're a really good writer." (Never mind the fact that said reader has only read like, one thing I've ever written… but I was flattered and motivated, nonetheless.)

Which brings me to today—On the Road Again.

I won't recount the collective details of the radical travel calendar of our immediate family, but I will say that today I'm sitting in one of my childhood homes with my mom. I have been making more frequent trips here for all the right reasons. But "here" is still a rather obscure location when it comes to the Grand Travel Plan of America's airlines. It is simply hard to get here… from, well, most anyplace. Thus, I experienced a fleeting sense of discouragement when after boarding my first plane this morning, sipping from my water bottle and settling in to read the paper, the kind lady next to me informed me that we all needed to deplane. Unfixable mechanical problems. First time I have ever had to step off the plane immediately after boarding. But, better that option than sitting on the tarmac for four hours.

I was already in what I refer to as "Travel Zen," but this sent me in deeper. For me "Travel Zen" simply refers to the manner in which I move through time and space knowing I have either little or no control over the timing and circumstances and therefore it is useless and completely counterproductive to get stressed out over anything. I become a semi pleasant zombie-like adult who is going with the flow. I have traveled this way for many years. I nearly always arrive at my destination, though not always at the appointed time. Along the way, there are people to meet and discoveries to be made. Though, honestly, flying between a Midwestern hub and the Destination the Airlines Forgot, I didn't expect too many discoveries. I was right. The ones I did make were:

  • Wearing a turtleneck and 650 down filled vest was the wrong idea. Dead of winter or not. The change in gates and airline assignments after we had to deplane, meant I had to hoof it to the Very Last Gate in the entire airport. I arrived in time, but a sweaty mess. And I had to do this in not one, but two airports, resulting in two sweaty mess episodes.
  • Just because you get dropped off at the terminal where there is a covering doesn't mean you won't be subject to climbing up and down stairs and traipsing through slush, snow, ice and thick salt to board, unboard, reboard, unboard, etc…. I was a small, salt covered dripping mess three times. There were no covered walkways to be seen on these little commercial, go-out-onto-the-tarmac-to-find-the plane routes.
  • Propeller planes require that everyone sit in the back to provide ballast for the heavier front of the plane. All 10 of us. Back rows.
  • Propeller planes on commercial routes in the dead of winter are likely to result in crabby flight attendants.
  • Traveling with a 17" laptop is a royal pain. In order to justify that royal pain, it is necessary to update one's blog.
  • Arrival and Departure monitors must be really, really expensive since airports now seem to use them very judiciously. I used to be able to use these handy devices to maneuver my way around airports, but alas, there were none to be found today. Maybe this was a cruel joke because I was heading for the Destination the Airlines Forgot. Oh.
  • Travel Zen, a bag of Trader Joe's trail mix and a good book are all you really need when you're on the road again.