Thursday, September 27, 2007

September 27, 1980-2007

Two converging paths.

Common vision. Common faith. Common flaws.

Many many differences.

Hurdles and free-falling.

Bliss and ease.

Emotions. Faith. Intelligence. Seeking. Finding. Support. Understanding. Change. Tears. Pain. Broken-down. Restored and stronger. Love. Always love.

Mistakes. Success.

Four kids. Four fantastic kids. Four mind-blowingly awesome additions to our union and to the world.



Twenty-seven years ago today.

Happy Anniversary, Tom!

No regrets.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

To Nothing and Back

"God creates everything out of nothing - and everything which God is to use He first reduces to nothing." ~~ From 'A Keirkegaard Anthology'

This quote kept going through my head yesterday as I sanded our bedraggled wooden screen door in preparation for a bright new protective coat. I was certainly reducing the finish to nothing. It looked really ugly, at first glance, the varnish sticking in places, disappearing in others.

The grains of the wood began to rise up as I continued to carefully sand. As I exposed more of more of the surface I realized anew its intrinsic beauty. The grain was lovely, wide and red here, narrow and white there, a gorgeous, dark knot up there. I slowly ran my hand over its smooth surface pausing to examine it further.

"If only the weather wouldn't destroy this door it'd look fantastic hanging on the front porch in its natural state," I thought to myself.

But the weather would destroy it in time, darkening it with mildew, rotting its edges, and normal wear and tear would bang it up.

Knowing this, I set out to create a durably finished door, one that can efficiently and beautifully stand the test of time in a harsh environment. The grain still shows underneath the finish while the vulnerability is decreased. It is better for the door and better for those of us in need of its function for me to care for it as I do, while honoring its uniqueness.

Beauty and function.

Protected, yet exposed.

People and doors.

Reduced to nothing only to be made stronger.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Two Things: Getting to Know Me Better

Wandering Coyote tagged me with this today.

Two Names You Go By:
1. Mumsy
2. Chay

Two Things You Are Wearing Right Now:
1. Arizona Wildcats shirt
2. Black yoga pants

Two Things You Would Want (or have) in a Relationship:
1. Common vision
2. Respect

Two of Your Favorite Things to Do:
1. Swim/white water raft/hot jacuzzi (all things ‘water’)
2. Ride roller coasters/drive fast cars

Two Things You Want Very Badly At The Moment:
1. A nap
2. For the renovation to be DONE

Two Longest Car Rides:
1. From somewhere in B.C. to the Top of The World park which we (Tom, our two little boys, and me) thought would have a terrific view. It was a long, winding bumpy ride up a primitive logging road, partly through clearcuts to a rustic hiking trail with an old sign above it saying, “Top of the World." ~~~~Maps!
2. The trip from home to the hospital 60 miles away after hearing my dad had a stroke and not knowing how serious it was.

Two Favorite Holidays:
1. Fourth of July
2. Easter

Two Favorite Beverages:
1. Stash Orange Spice tea with cream
2. Room temperature spring water

Two Things About Me You May Not Have Known:
1. I often cry at parades
2. My ‘Women’s Intuition’, or Sixth Sense, whatever you want to call it, is amazingly accurate - scares Tom sometimes -- ooooo, spooky

Two Jobs I Have Had in My Life:
1. Farm hand
2. Log scale ticket clerk

Two Movies I Would Watch Over and Over:
1. The Horse Whisperer (something about the simultaneous restoration of the girl and the horse speaks to me)
2. The School of Rock (education going from dull and traditional to exciting and fulfilling)

Two Places I Have lived:
1. Los Gatos, California
2. Portland, Oregon

Two of My Favorite Foods:
1. Tom’s barbecued chicken
2. Homemade hearty whole grain bread, still a little warm, with butter melting into it

Two Places I'd Rather Be Right Now
1. High in the Colorado Rockies
2. Alone with Tom just about anywhere

Thanks, WC! This was fun.

(Cassie and Caroline, consider yourselves tagged. : )


Thursday, September 20, 2007

People in Glass Cages

“Let’s put you on the wheelchair elevator, Mom, so you don’t have to climb all those stairs,” my sister Janet suggested.

The huge, log chapel at the conference center was full Saturday morning so we opted to watch the meeting via large screen TV in the upstairs overflow room. My mom has a little trouble walking and stairs are a particular problem for her.

“Good idea!” I agreed. “I’ll ride up with her to make sure she’s okay.”

We walked over to the tiny glass-encased elevator and discovered that a key was needed to enter its cubicle, so Janet headed off to the office while Mom and I awaited our adventure.

“The key isn’t working,” Janet proclaimed as she stuck it into the keyhole and turned this way and that.

“Keep jiggling it around, “ I said, “I’ll press on the door. Maybe it’s just jammed a little.” There was no door handle so we presumed the door should just open up. It didn’t. Janet jiggled, I gently pressed, and finally it popped open.

“There we go,” Janet said as she ushered Mom in first. I followed and Janet shut the door from the outside. I was very careful to examine the panel of buttons before I pushed, not wanting to goof anything up. There were only four buttons: UP, DOWN, ALARM, and a giant red EMERGENCY STOP button.

“Piece o’ cake.” With one stiff, outstretched index finger I pressed the UP button. Nothing. Again. Nothing.

“Try holding it down,” Janet suggested through the glass. I did. Still nothing.

“Press DOWN,” Mom added. Nothing.

“Hmmm.” I continued this until Janet and I agreed the lift must be broken and we’d be better off to just slowly help Mom up the stairs. As there was no handle on the inside I pushed to open the door and it didn’t budge. Janet stuck the key in and jimmied it around a bit. Her face was getting a little pink. She got on her knees and wiggled the key around some more, looking just a little on the nervous side.

“How long ago did I visit the, do not even think that way.......,” my little voice began. Glancing at Mom I could tell that she was thinking the same thing. She smiled a reassuring smile.

Janet rose back to her feet and said, “I’m going for help.”

“Oh brother, Mom, we’re stuck in an elevator.” We both laughed. I realized I had my camera so I took a picture of us smiling in our box.

In no time Janet came back with the lady from the office who told us that we were supposed to operate the elevator from the inside with the key which my sister was holding in her hand. Janet climbed up a flight of stairs and leaned over the open top of our little elevator room and dropped the key down to me, careful to miss Mom’s fluffy-haired head.

“Okay, here we go, Mom.” I confidently, yet ever so deliberately slid the key into the keyhole, turned it, and pressed UP. Nope. DOWN? Nope. UP again. Didn’t budge.

But the alarm began to blare, louder outside the elevator than inside. Office Lady stuck her fingers in her ears, as did about a dozen people in the lobby, and hollered, “I don’t know how to run this.”

“You’re a big help, “ said Little Voice.

I looked at Janet, then at Mom. Both were looking brave though perplexed.

“I’ll go call someone!” hollered Fingers-In-Ears Woman.

About this time Mom pressed the ALARM button several times to see if maybe the noise would cease. Didn’t hurt to try, but it didn’t work. She shrugged.

Janet’s daughter, Sarah, came down looking for us. “What’s going on?”

“Grandma and Aunt Cherie are stuck in the elevator.”

A crowd of onlookers, with their fingers in their ears, began to gather and stare in at us, curiously examining us with craning necks and bulging eyes. I felt like one of those red-bottomed baboons. I had the urge to back up to the glass door and press my Levi's against it in a sort of baboon-moon.

“So this is the view from the other side of the cages at the Portland Zoo,” I mused. I’ll never look at the animals the same again. There was no place to hide.

Help arrived in the form of a few men, one with a large set of keys. This looked hopeful.

“Stick your key in and press UP,” he hollered, eyes squinting from the noise of the still blaring alarm. If I could have, I would have slapped him silly. But I did what he said, gave him a wry look......and smiled when nothing happened.

He scratched his head. I began wondering if I could climb out. Several seconds passed before he stuck the key into the control panel on his side of the cage and turned the alarm off.

I looked at Mom. “Why didn’t he do that right away?” She just shook her head, still smiling, enjoying her adventure while casually leaning on her cane which I’d named Citizen.

“I’m about ready to take Citizen and crash him through the glass to get us out,” I laughed.

The man paused, then said, “Press the red STOP button.”

“Okay,” I said, and once again, very carefully, stiff finger extended, standing back so he could see all my movements, I pressed, but the button didn’t budge. “It’s already pressed in. We didn’t do it, though,” I hastily added not wanting anyone to go away thinking Mom and I were dolts, because IT WASN’T OUR FAULT.

“Ohhh,” he said knowingly. “Pull it out, then push it in again.”

I did. The elevator lurched downward an inch or so.

“Now push UP, and hold it until you get to the top. The door up there should open right up when you push on it. The elevator was just jammed.”

Mother and I bid Janet and Sarah adieu. While pushing and holding the black UP button we began to rise above our family members as well as the gathering crowd, like Jesus ascending into heaven, well, sort of. Cheers! “Hooray!”

Thankfully, the door on the second level opened right up. We skedaddled out, we three, Mom, Citizen, and I, glad to be free once again.

It seemed that the words ‘lift’ and ‘rise up’ were used more often than usual during that morning's song time, which set us to giggling. Good thing it was only our group upstairs in the overflow room. We were a rowdy bunch of baboons!

Monday, September 17, 2007


A women's retreat lent me the opportunity to take my own advice. Cassie, Caroline, and I stole away to a northern most corner of Oregon for solitude. We three stole away to the beckoning beach instead of attending one of the evening meetings and there discovered twilight carrying on silently while only two blocks away hundreds of women sat shoulder to shoulder back on the conference grounds, inside a huge stuffy chapel, singing about the glories of God, and then listening to a speaker instruct them in the importance of Quiet Time away from the busyness of life.

Twilight, low-tide, a clear, shallow river emptying placidly into a very pacific ocean, while a slender crescent moon reflected the long-set sun both in the sky and in the waters. Strolling down the campfire-dotted beach, sparcely populated with lovers here and families there, we discovered intimacy enveloped in vastness. The evasive serenity sought in the music and messages of the meetings was here, in minds and senses responding to the primal creation of God.
"Mom, you know, it was really nice of God to give us all this beauty so that we could tolerate living in a broken world," sighed Cassie, outstretching her young arms widely toward the red hues and deep blues of twilight and the roaring, curling, crashing of the white waves, her muscles reaching and relaxing into the rhythmical music and widespread colorworks of God's nature. And thus began the flowing of words and thoughts among three seeking souls on a tiny turning planet. Unforced. Unexpected. Undeniable.

Meetings have a purpose. A very important purpose.

Wisdom discerns the needs, then finds the time and place to meet them. For my daughters and me, the beach at twilight was the supreme place and time for the soothing of our frazzled selves, a meeting of minds and hearts without a building and within ever-deepening understanding.

Caroline and Cassie: Sandwalkers.

Wish we could take credit for building this, but alas, no.

It was a glorious two hours!

And the next the Toy Store!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Not Merely Service

I wonder what difference Jesus ministry would have seen had he never pursued solitude? How tenaciously did he grasp time alone or with the twelve? Isolation from the teeming crowds, the needy and the curious? How important was inner settling to his ability to work out all the Messiah stuff required? He didn't take lost souls and hungry people with him to the quiet places. He left them behind. He refreshed himself so he could better serve them upon his return and because he knew that all of life is not merely service. Reflection, evaluation, grappling with truth, and maintaining balance are necessary as well, in order for all to be accomplished.

Service meets the needs of service but it does not restore the fatigued heart. Inner being cannot be examined or heard when the outer being is busy tending a completely different soul.

There is no shame in seeking personal solitude. It is not selfish. Quite the contrary. And it is not a thing that is to be shared. It is s.o.l.i.t.u.d.e. The needy are not neglected when sincere people isolate themselves for a time of revitalization. The neglect is when the refreshment is sacrificed for the sake of the needy.

Tend to the teeming masses in the everyday. Separate from them for special solitude alone or with intimates.

Come to know the difference.

Friday, September 07, 2007



The first truly peaceful day in over seven months.

Life's trivials and crucials had jammed up into a funnel neck of time here in our little world and we've spent the past weeks and weeks stamping and shoving them through the tiny space of half a year, one by one, two by two, too many by too many.

I no longer have a thousand things to mentally and physically sort through and accomplish, only about a hundred remain. Thus the peace. And the space to breathe once again.

Quiet. Stillness.

Our neighborhood keeps to itself this morning allowing us to hear the silence, observe the gently swaying pines and maples back-dropped by a slightly cooler, cloudless sky.

Deep draughts of air repeatedly travel to the lowest, widest stretches of my lungs filling them with freshness.

The clock's ticking is audible again as are the dog's toenails on the floor.

The bathroom door in the hall is inhaling and exhaling, opening eight inches then closing with the late summer breezes pressing in and out of the house's open windows. I notice this, hear it, become calm from the tapping sounds it makes.

Lying on the couch I watch a chestnut colored hair from my head spring up and down and up and down in rhythm with the air entering and exiting my nostrils. Up. Down. Up. Down.

I smile.

Cassie and Caroline are more graceful, moving fluidly rather than in jerks and hurried dashes. Me, too.

The cat pads softly up to my ankles and rubs in arcs around and around....because I am standing.......still.

"Nature never hurries and yet all is accomplished."

Two Decades and Counting

The last 21 years of my life have included home tutoring my kids. One son has earned a B.A. and is now a successful photographer with his own thriving business after never attending a formal school until college. Another son, after participating in the work force for a few years, is currently attending Gutenberg College as a sophomore, again no formal schooling through high school. Remaining children/students are my 16 and 12 year old daughters. The future holds more years of this which makes me quite happy.

Happy? Shouldn't I be burned out, ready to yank my hair from my scalp, bug my eyes, and twitch in madness? Shouldn't I be swirly-eyed daydreaming about lining up Bahama Mamas in the warm grainy sand while my toes wiggle in a softly-hissing, white-foaming turquoise tropical sea?


I have certainly come close to that in the preceding decades. But, like a good car, our little home school keeps humming along way past the 100,000 mile mark. I think it'll go the distance. Not because I am a Super-Duper Home School Mom. Far from it. Ask my kids, no wait, please don't, they are too much like me. They'll tell you. We've had our moments. Ben got the worst of it, I'm afraid, and also the best. Joe had it a little easier as I began to learn something about patience. The girls have a better all-around situation for the kinks have largely been worked out.

Still, it's not easy, just easier.

For me, the main benefit of this lifestyle is not the superior educational and character-building qualities for the kids but the fact that the four of them love each other so very much. They enjoy each other's company. They KNOW each other. This has been and always will be one of my main goals as a mom, to have kids who are friends into adulthood. Ultimately it will be up to them to maintain this closeness even after they have created family units of their own.

But I have great hope that these four will beat the odds and be siblings active in one another's lives for a long long time.

For now I relish the knowing relationships we share with one another. I know my kids. I know where they started. I closely observe their individual journeys, delighting in their uniqueness. I know how it is that they've developed into the remarkable people they are for I've witnessed first hand their experiences, their associations, their trials and triumphs. We cry, we laugh, we struggle, we forgive....and we persevere. We've integrated.

And it feels good. No, it feels great.

I'm often asked if I wish I'd continued my career rather than opt to stay home with my children. It's an easy answer. The satisfaction achieved through a home schooling lifestyle could never ever have been accomplished through the financial gain and prestige of a two-decades long career.

No regrets.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Laboring Day

We remodeled our kitchen this summer and I know why we chose to undertake the task. For twenty years we lived with a sub-par kitchen that was shoddily decorated and badly mistreated before we moved here, and has since suffered the abuse of four children, a dog, a cat, endless lines of friends, parties, and good living. It had become a depressing place no matter how much I cleaned and organized. Occasional bright new curtains only sagged the shoulders of the rest of the room in despair.

For us this room was the last redo in a fixer-upper house. It's time had come. The gouged and grungy oak cabinets have been sanded and refinished. The torn up flooring replaced. The dingy, ripped wall-paper removed, a leaky old window is gone. Colors updated, everything cleaned, the kitchen is a friendly place once again.

During the renovation process I had to make countless trips to the home improvement store. Over this past long weekend I had occasion to go there once again on a too-hot Sunday afternoon, tuckered out from work, and on the crabby side. I looked around at the other shoppers and saw in their countenances the way I felt. Red-faced, breathing harder than normal, hair disheveled, work clothes damp with sweat, eye-brows slightly raised and scrunched together with that 'hurry up and get out, I don't want to be here' look.

"That's what I look like, I know it," I thought to myself as I stopped in my tracks too suddenly, causing the couple behind me to bump into me, starting an apology war. "Oh, excuse me, I'm so sorry." "No, it was my fault, I stopped too fast."

What in this whole world causes so many of us, on a longed-for three-day weekend to put ourselves through these marathon work sessions to change the way our houses look? Who in all the world cares?

Well, I guess we do.

Here I was, using the holiday weekend to make some headway on our summer project.

And I was exhausted. They were exhausted. We were exhausted.

But progress was made and now we are relieved because Ugly Kitchen has been carefully transformed into Pretty Kitchen. The bulk of the work behind us, we enter September with a lightened load, in a cheerier home.

Environment lends itself to our moods and to our feelings of security and belonging. We notice a positive difference already. I guess fixing up our home is a way of fixing up ourselves.