Monday, November 16, 2009

Walk On

One of the most difficult walks of my life. Getting back on the horse, per se. I actually have two legs, but if you'd ever tried to take a picture of yourself walking, this might be what you get. This walk, I have done many a time, but the last time I attempted this route, I didn't go very far.
Almost a month ago, I had begun my workout, then called the hospital to check in with my sister. I knew she wasn't doing well, and if I remember correctly, was just out of the ICU. Sometimes, our calls made no sense, as pain medication had altered her state of mind. With this call, she sounded very clear, although I knew she was very sick. She told me she was retired now, and she was planning on coming down for a visit. She said she'd work around my schedule. Then she said she would like to get to know her little sister better, as her voice began to weaken. That was our last, "lucid" conversation.
So, I was out today, the first attempt at exercise since our talk, and since her death.
I trotted just a little, but my best was a saunter. This route is alongside my sister-in-law's work, but I noted that I couldn't call her to come join me, as she is out of the country. I wanted to call another friend who works at the same place. She'd lost her sister a few years ago to cancer, and we now have this bond that no one wants to have- that of having to say goodbye to a sister, yet not on our terms.
I kept moving, as my iphone was playing my ipod songs, some songs sad, some contemplative. "Be Still and Know" by Steven Curtis Chapman came on. I looked at sky, the tree, noticing that I had not missed fall entirely. Life had carried on, and God was still going about doing His business.

Evander has karate class near Sacred Heart's RiverBend campus, and usually, during the class I try to walk or run. The route I generally take, meanders near the McKenzie River. On the east is the river, and west of the path is the hospital.
I have come to the realization that the hospital has become both a friend an enemy to me.
In October, last year, I had a "procedure" done, removing a benign breast tumor. I suppose, then, the hospital was a friend.
The next month, I sat numbly across from one of my closest friends, holding her toddler, as she had been struck by an SUV in a hit and run accident. She had broken her sacrum, and both she and her daughter narrowly escaped death. Although in great pain, she quoted Luther, as this life is about the "becoming."
Today, I remembered not knowing what this "becoming" would look like for my friend. My prayers were for her life to be spared, and that the pain would only be temporary. The feelings of confusion, shock, and numbness of that day are a memory, and then, the hospital was not my friend.
I headed closer to the river, needing to sit, and cry.
I felt a wave of sorrow for my brother-in-law, niece, nephew, brothers and sister who knew the pain of the loss of our sister. I watched the current of the river, hoping it could take the sorrow away.
-----------
Earlier, as I dropped Van at the dojo, a friend approached me and asked how I was doing. This friend had seen me come and go on many a walks, as her sons had taken karate the previous year with Van. We occasionally would sit and chat, however I generally reserved this time for exercise. But her question was one that I had been waiting for, "How are you?" I could see she wanted to take the time to stop, to be with me, and to listen to my response. I began a little dance with my words, then the tears came as I spoke of the memories. The memories that came at me like waves. Then, she did something I had also been waiting for from all my friends, she cried with me, as I told her of my morning.

This morning, on a seemingly routine stop at the Safeway, I found myself in tears by the end of my trip. My sister had worked for Safeway, in the deli at it's Gresham store for over twenty years. Although I hadn't visited her there but a couple of times, I associated my Safeway's deli workers with her, as they were often a visual reminder to call or think about my sister. I don't really buy much at the deli, but this summer, I did speak to one of the clerks about my sister being ill. She was empathetic, and as we talked determined that they may have even worked together at one point.
The other clerks in the store are unfamiliar with my sister's story, but every time I go to the checkout, I want to tell them about her. They look at me with familiarity, as I have lived in my neighborhood at least twelve years. But they don't know just being in the store reminds me of my sister.
As the tears laid beneath the surface, I thought I could hold them back if I distracted myself. So, I bought a cup of coffee and planned on taking a gander at the gifts in the Shamrock gift store next to the Safeway. But even the "Thank you, Hon" from the barista at the Starbucks in the Safeway nearly sent me into tears.
In the gift store, I peered around the corner at the florists to see if I could spy my sister-in-law's sister, as she is always a bright spot to any day. But I didn't look too hard, as she is one who could see beyond my friendliness to the tears I was avoiding. I looked briefly at the gifty items, but one too many "sister" type gifts sent me over the edge. I went to the car, and looked in the mirror. Unbeknownst to me, the tears had swelled over, and streamed down my cheeks.
---------
I got up from that rock by the river, and continued my foray. I took a mental note to tell my former running/walking partner that the foliage around the perimeter of the hospital was filling in quite nicely. She and I spent much of these walks venting, laughing, and a bit of crying on our little excursion's while the hospital's landscaping was being filled in (including the use of manure). My friend moved away this past spring. Colorado is a bit of a trek from Eugene, and I find that Skype is a poor substitute for a real live friend.
As I strolled around the hospital, the smokers dotted the outskirts of the landscaped areas. I wanted to stop and tell them that if they would just quit smoking, they could lengthen their lives, however, being that I am not God, I went on with my roaming.
As I walked, my body had an unfamiliar ache. I hadn't taken it out for a spin in such a long time, that the muscles in my back and legs had an unfamiliar feeling of tiredness. I kept going, one step after the other.

When I had made it back to pick Evander up, I checked in with my friend, saying I hadn't been on a walk for so long, that my body reminded me of my age. We chatted a bit, yet she seemed to know that today's walk, was not an ordinary walk.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

She Called Me Nanny


I have been on a journey. Yes, I spent a good portion of the summer on little trips around the Northwest, and had a fabulous getaway with the girls to Chicago, but this “road trip” that I have been on was not just a physical journey, but a spiritual one. This was the process of being with my sister as she bravely battled leukemia.

My sister Chris was about fifteen years older than me. One of those first people to see me when I came into this world. She babysat my brother and I often while we were young, being that extra set of kids that only a big sister (and brother-in-law) could love. Throughout childhood, even while I was in high school, we had talked on the telephone almost daily. I can't necessarily remember the content of our conversations, but it seemed to be about knowing we were just there, there for each other.

I left home twenty some years ago, as I was the family member who was “the one who moved away.” I didn't have much money, and back in those days, long distance telephone calls were an expense I couldn't afford as a college student. These situtations helped create some distance between my sister and myself, as did when I came home, and tried to decide with whom to spend my time, and like most college students, chose to hang out with friends instead of family.

120 miles can be just as far as 500, and so at times my relationship with my sister waxed and wained. I the tireless, travelling, extrovert, and her the introverted observer.

My sister began getting sick a few years ago. The symptoms lead to a diagnosis of a blood disorder, and then this July, a diagnosis of leukemia, and seemingly advanced at that. In June, I had an overwhelming “feeling” that the time with my sister was limited. I joined the extended family on a camping trip, and stole a few moments here and there with her.

While camping, in between campsite visits, and community meals, I caught her while she was resting in her trailer. I just parked myself right besides her, and chatted it up. I don't remember the content of the conversation, but this was one of our moments before she headed into battle.

I can't recall which day she called to tell me she had cancer. She didn't want to tell me. It wasn't long before she was in Good Sam, receiving chemotherapy treatments. I was sick when she first was at the hospital, and couldn't visit her right away, and was just about to run the Cascade Lakes Relay, the relay I'd been training for all summer. I had such a hard time training for and completing the relay, knowing the dichotomy between the pain she was going through, and how I was living my life to it's fullest, in a sad, but healthy body.

After the race, I headed to Portland for our annual family picnic. Christine rarely missed a family picnic, but was in a hospital bed instead.

The next couple of months I was able to spend a few nights in the hospital with my sister.

One of those first nights, I had my obligatory, “What do you think of Jesus?” type talk with her. She didn't have all the traditional Christian answers I may have been searching for. Christine was, less that traditional. Her answers gave me a peace of mind, knowing she had given up bitterness, and embraced love instead. This cancer had caused a softening, that made her more open to receive Love.

She fought this cancer with her whole being, until her last breath.

I will miss my big sister, the one who made a mobile with me when I was five, my first “homeschool” art project. The one who taught me that Ramen with peas and cheese was tasty. The sister who let me be a part of her family-so many camping trips, sleepovers, trips to the river, and “uptown.” The sister who did all my dishes at my fortieth birthday party.

I'll miss the sister who called me Nanny.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Things to Do

Almost a month has passed since I posted my last post. Perhaps the significance of this is that life for me this month has moved at a pace much like those "speed you up" walkways at airports. I'm sure those have names, but I would have to pause to look it up. No such thing happening right now.
My life, for the past month...
Our "quiet" family life of the summer revolved around Evander's karate classes, Emma's lifeguard training, Paul's search for a job, and my training for running up and down some hills. There. Oh, that's just the start of this month.

I can almost smell the hospital on my hands.

I think I spent six nights this August with my sister at Legacy's Good Samaritan Hospital in NW Portland. I "slept" in a recliner that mostly reclined, and tried to be ready to help move her medicinal cart and cords when she needed to use the ladies room. I tried to offer her comfort, food, and laughter to help her heal while she was being treated for Leukemia.
This trying is trying.
Being that God is in charge of the universe, and the author of all our stories, I didn't quite know what to pray for/about when this whole trial began. But that first visit with my sister in the hospital gave me a start. She was ready to face this disease head on, as she said she had "things to do." So I prayed He would allow her those things to do.
I have found in trying to help her to get these "things" done, that if I just slow down and be with, and love the people God has brought in my life, I have less "things to do," and more time to just enjoy the being. The breathing. The seeing. The hugs. The "I love yous."
So maybe those are the kinds of "things to do" that my sister has in mind.
Those fast moving "speed you up" walkways at airports don't allow for that.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

An Earned Medal

Our family has forayed all over Oregon this Summer, but underlying the stories of all the good times, has been my concern for my sister Chris' health.
Two weeks ago, she was diagnosed with leukemia, and this week I've spent a couple of nights in the hospital with her.
A week ago, I was wondering if my stomach was going to be able to handle participating in this year's Cascade Lakes Relay. The relay is a 200 plus mile relay in which a team of up to twelve divide 36 relay legs into three sets of legs per person, and do their best to go the distance, and beat the heat and altitude of Central Oregon.
My stomach had been flip-flopping for several days, even knocking me out a good portion of the previous Monday. The temperature in Eugene made for good practice to run in the high heat that was predicated for the race, however, my body did it's best only running a couple of miles during the week. Not great practice before such an event.
I completed that race, with the help of God and my friends. Yet as slow, hot and ugly as it was to me, it's challenge helped prepare me for this time with my sister, I am certain.
During the time with her at the hospital, I experienced little sleep, and some heartache, as I heard and watched her suffer.
As I spent this time with her, some of the memories of all those times with she and her family started coming back.
My sister, shall I say, is a few years older than I am, a teenager when I was born.
I remembered a trip to the beach at a time when all the siblings lived under one roof. I was perhaps three or younger. We stayed all together in a cabin, presumably all eight of us. We have a photo of the "big girls" lined up on the beach in their swim suits, while my brother and I dig in the sand around them.
I don't recall Chris moving out of our house, but she became a young bride, moved to Texas, and had my nephew, Buddy, who is just shy of two years younger than me.
I'm sure she missed the rain of Portland, so living in Texas was short lived. When her family moved back to Oregon, she seemed to always have my brother, Jim, a year older than me, and myself in tow. Our mother worked, but my sister often and graciously, cared for us.
When I was with her in the hospital, my sister went through this "Chemo Hell." At one point she tried eating a Popsicle, but the chemo had burned the inside of her mouth and throat, so there was no relief.
I then remembered the nickels and the ice cream man.
When we lived on SE 83rd in Portland, I used to beg her (politely I am sure) for nickels to buy ice cream from the ice cream man. She'd always hesitate, making some sort of grunting denial, saying she wasn't made of money, but conceded by eventually producing four nickels for all of us kids.
It was all the Popsicles, picnics, BBQ's, walks to "town" that were rising from my memory.

What I also recalled at the hospital, I shared with her nurse in a little break down moment.

When I was in the sixth grade, I had pneumonia and was hospitalized a good portion of my Spring Break. I had been staying at my sister's house in Estacada, began getting ill, and since she didn't drive, we had to get on a bus, and return to my home in Portland. I threw up the entire, windy, bus ride, but she held that bag for me.

I couldn't help but think of her while I was running that Cascade Lakes Relay. I'd been unable to see her in the hospital before the race because of my stomach ailment, I didn't want to risk exposing her. I wondered if I should have dropped out of running the race to be with her in Portland. But she has always been encouraging of my running. She was there that first road run, when I was twelve or so. It was in the pouring rain, yet when I finally came in, there she was cheering me on. I didn't realize until now, that she probably stood in that pouring rain waiting for me until the end of that run.
Years later, when I ran in the state high school cross country race, there she was, again.
Last Friday, as I ran that first leg of the relay, after only a mile in the ninety something degree heat, I kept comparing that yucky hot run, to what my sister was going through. It was nothing like she was going through, but the difference was the choice of one painful step after another. I had a choice to quit. She couldn't and didn't quit.
On Monday, I gave her my medal from the relay. She's got it hanging on her cart of medicine she has to drag around with her in the hospital. I told her she helped me get through the race.
Not taking credit for her own kindness and support she'd given me through the years, she said, "We all helped you get through it."

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Perspective

This photo was taken a few weeks ago, while on a family camp out at Cape Lookout State Park. Our group found ourselves on a spontaneous walk up the beach, towards the cape. I was with my two brothers, sister-in-laws, sister, and various other family members. I honestly don't get much "family time," as in extended family time. I've been married coming up on twenty years now, and live about two hours from most family members, just off an interstate that seems to only go North.
Our get togethers are generally a family picnic in August, and a Christmas Eve party. I've attended most weddings, showers, and anniversaries when possible, but sometimes the physical distance makes it difficult to connect.
I found myself, waxing a bit sentimental on this walk. While with them, I took a moment to notice that I was actually with my brothers and sisters. Not at a party, where it's comparable to speed dating. Sort of a speed catch-up with relatives, "Oh, you lost your job? You had surgery? Your wife left you?" Some of these things said, some unsaid.
But we were actually walking on a beach, together. As we strolled, I turned to notice that my sister was with her husband, smiling, and behaving rather playfully. These past few years, she has been sick with a blood disorder, balancing living with pain and other physical ailments. But it was a moment of joy seeing her being happy, with people she loved, and that loved her.
I spent much of my childhood at my sister's home. She had the generosity to include myself, and my brother in her life. She is several years older than I, and although she had her own family, we were with them a good portion of the time. She fed us, entertained us, and included us in her life. I will always be grateful for this time given, and will never be able to repay such kindness.
My sister hasn't shared much in regards to the pain this disease brings her. Sometimes I see it, other times, she hides the pain. She is in the hospital right now, I've not known to rush up the interstate, or wait until a "good time to go." Never seems to be such a time.
I know that God is the author of all our stories, and hers like most, has been one of joy and pain. My prayer for her is that she will be given the strength to endure the pain, and feel the joy that may seem too difficult to experience during this time.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Before I move on...




I often call myself, "The Queen of Movin' On." I ruminate over the reasons behind this self-label, thoughts such as: a philosophy of living in the moment; moving onto the next event, as the last one is now history; maybe life is sometimes just too painful in that moment, with a need to time warp to the future; ADD; and, yes, I'm sure I could think of more influences. At any rate, as I spent time reflecting on my past year, the days started whooshing by.  It starts with the minutes, then the hours slip by, and I've forgotten what it was I was working on. I'll forgot what to remember to do for the day, and then WHOOSH, again, the day is gone.
I know people can fain gratitude, and I am to be grateful for this life, as I have had so many reminders to be so. But sometimes my gratitude wains, and I become discouraged by life's challenges. Though, even in the midst of sorrow, I can be grateful. I am grateful for this life I am given. I am grateful for the people with whom God allows to share the path of this life.
Then there's that whole idea of being able to laugh at myself. Ha,   ha.
I have a friends, who is beyond extraordinary, and I spend a great deal of time with her. 
She blogs by the name of "Bella Art Girl." She's beautiful, creative and has a whole bunch of outstanding personal attributes. She is also a kick ass photographer. Yes, strong language, but a complementary term for the current culture. She also has her camera, frequently, during our events. Rarely, do I mind being photographed. I am rather a goof for the camera most of the time, and don't take myself very seriously in doing so. But sometimes, it's way fun having a photographer as a close friend. Well, Bella captured a good portion of my birthday last week, so I thought I'd let her words do their things, and the pictures, well, I'll explain gold lame-later.



Thursday, June 04, 2009

A Year In an Ordinary Life Pt. 2



So one of the reasons I have found difficulty in keeping current in posting a blog is that life just goes by too fast to even write about it. I hadn't even finished summing up my ordinary year when another fantastic day or two went zooming by. 
Where was I? 
 This photo was taken shortly after we drove through fire. That's another story.
Here we are at a park in Florence, on a playground.  I have spent a good portion of my life on playgrounds. My hips are a little snug on most playground swings now. I also get a little queasy sometimes, but on occasion, I remember to join in and play with the kids.

In September, we enjoyed a beyond spectacular day at Dorris Ranch
sharing the moment with Dan and Patty as the took their vows in marriage.
It was so beautifully captured by our friend Bella. 
I had only seen Patty from afar before Paul and I were married. She was away being a nanny on the East Coast at the time of Paul and my's engagement. But I still remember the lovely note that she sent welcoming me as her sister-in-law. That welcome has never ceased, and our love and admiration has grown into that of a kindred over these past decades.





A couple of weeks ago we stopped by my mom's place. As we visited, I asked if she had some old photos she could show the kids. They patiently sat with Grandma Lois and heard her stories about their great aunts and uncles, the good times and even tales of the bad neighbor kids she babysat sixty years ago. They saw pictures of my adventures when I was a kid, not realizing that photos such as these would also be a part of their history. Just a week or so after this, Van had an assignment in his archaeology class to research his family tree, so this little visit was valuable in more that one way.


Being a "stay at home" Mom does have it's advantages. One never know what antics will take place at my house, or in my backyard. 
The pool boy wouldn't serve us, but we somehow managed a "pina colada/five o'clock somewhere" moment a couple of weeks ago. These are the women that make the "stay at home" job not such a chore. Yes, we all love our men, but when there are moments like these, we are especially thankful for those men who are out working for such a fabulous American life for their ladies.




On, February 14th 2009, I launched an idea that I've had going on in my little head for a while. It's a combination of thoughts, ideas and experiences I've had for a while. For example, one day, I sat on my couch and as a woman was running by my house I shouted, "Lift your legs!" (emphasise on me being on my COUCH. Also, I could have only been shouting in my head) Something about Winter, SAD, a whole bunch of experiences  over my lifetime accumulated into this idea which I named, "LIFt," "Ladies International Fitness and Faith Training." OK, maybe it should be LIFFt, but that sounds funny. The "t" is actually a small "t" because it becomes a cross, while a capital "T" doesn't. 
My dear, sweet niece Morgan, helped design the logo. She is so gracious with me as to meet in Albany to work on the LIFt website "welift.org." 
I benefit from our meetings in many ways, and especially enjoy the "real time" with she and Owen. She is contributing her time and labor, and will manage the website, as our group gives information, etc., to contribute to the site's content. It's all been quite exciting to see ones idea come to fruition. I'm curious to know how it will evolve over the years. It's a good idea, that seems to actually be coming into play. But a good idea will only be as good as the community that is involved with it, and so far, it is going quite well. Now is the time where the hands on work of designing the organization will come into play. I am grateful to be the lead in this, and truly love the support this idea's been given on so many levels. 
 I will leave this ordinary year with this last photo. It's from LIFt's first "official" event, participating in "The Run for Life Challenge". Here I am with EK, who is a great teammate and eternal friend, sister. Here's to another ordinary year!




Monday, June 01, 2009

A Year In an Ordinary Life

 
I am absolutely amazed how quickly this year flew, with me in it of course. I like to reaccount my life each birthday, especially since my philosophy allows for the idea that every day is a gift, and just may be my last on the Earth. 
I don't know if I have fancy software to make the pictures I'm going to post fancy, but I am more "Plain Nancy" than "Fancy Nancy," so please bear with the "asthetic enough". It's the context of the photo, or story that's what important. 
So, I need to start with my man, or Paulie, as some call him and his great patience with me. I have such gratitude for all that he puts up with me. I could start with how I pile my clothes everywhere in our bedroom, or how often I lose things in "special" places. Perhaps I should mention my million dollar ideas, or statements like, "I want to go to ------(fill in the blank with some destination that involves a plane trip, hotel and rental car). Can we go to ------ soon?"(fill in the other blank which usually implies within the next month). 
So my "Sugar Daddy" is somewhat compliant with said requests as such requests are rather frequent. In November, Paul was "RIFfed"-a number, cog if you will, in a "Reduction of Force" manuveur by his former employer of ten plus years. Now, although not nearly as compliant with my requests,  this riffle in our life has not stopped me from my "I want to go to there" statements. His patience endures, even when I don't get things like, "Really, there is no more 'Nancy's Travel Fun Fund.'"
We're pushing twenty years of marriage, and without going all Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura on ya, I'll just say that we made that commitment to stay together no matter what. Now I'm going to go all out and say this staying together is strictly by the grace of God. But by the grace of God are we not another statistic of divorce. It's America, and the odds are against us. The story of my life includes this man, even though I have no clue as to what it means to be a good wife and supporter of my husband. This trying to fit the "Good Christian Woman" mold has never been easy, as I stumble and bumble through what it means to love another person. I do love him, and am thankful that he stays on this journey, year after year after year...

Here I am with little Miss Georgous, she's the one on the left (Now, of course I never call her that except for with the "accent" of the young man, Brian, who works at the River Road Fred Meyers). We are depicted here at a park  in Roseburg after yet another field trip. Well, this was a special field trip as it was the Umpqua Dairy Factory. My friend EK set up a private tour with our buddies led by one of the owner/operators. We had plenty of freebies and of course, a new appreciation for ice cream factory workers.
Just a couple of days after her 14th birthday(or was it Mother's Day) Em's came into my bedroom with ipod in hand said "Mommy, I think you'll like this song" and proceeded to set me up with Taylor Swift's "Best Day".  I got the gist of the song at about "pumpkin patch" when I started bawling:
I'm five years old, it's getting cold, I've got my big coat on
I hear your laugh and look up smiling at you, I run and run
Past the pumpkin patch and the tractor rides, look now, the sky is gold
I hug your legs and fall asleep on the way home
I don't know why all the trees change in the fall
But I know you're not scared of anything at all
Don't know if Snow White's house is near or far away
But I know I had the best day with you today

I'm thirteen now and don't know how my friends could be so mean
I come home crying and you hold me tight and grab the keys
And we drive and drive until we found a town far enough away
And we talk and window shop 'til I've forgotten all their names

I don't know who I'm gonna talk to now at school
But I know I'm laughing on the car ride home with you
Don't know how long it's gonna take to feel okay
But I know I had the best day with you today

I have an excellent father, his strength is making me stronger
God smiles on my little brother, inside and out, he's better than I am
I grew up in a pretty house and I had space to run
And I had the best days with you

There is a video I found from back when I was three
You set up a paint set in the kitchen and you're talking to me
It's the age of princesses and pirate ships and the seven dwarfs
And Daddy's smart and you're the prettiest lady in the whole wide world

And now I know why the all the trees change in the fall
I know you were on my side even when I was wrong
And I love you for giving me your eyes
For staying back and watching me shine
And I didn't know if you knew, so I'm takin' this chance to say
That I had the best day with you today
© SONY/ATV SONGS D/B/A TREE PUBG CO; TAYLOR SWIFT PUB DESIGNEE;


It's an amazing gift to be able to mother this girl, and although I take this job very seriously, I am bumbling and praying for wisdom to love her at the same time. 


Here's my boy with his sister. Their age difference can be problematic at times, but they do love each other dearly. He turned ten in December, and is too quickly leaving little boyhood. At times, he reminds me of my father, my brother, and of Paul when he's building or creating something. He bloosomed academicly this year as we attended "Classical Conversations" this school year. The boy is a whiz at English grammar, and absolutely loves identifying the structure and parts of the language. He also shared some hard times with me this year. In November, just a few days after his dad lost his job, his Godmother, otherwise known as "Auntie" was struck by a car while out on a walk with her baby. Not only did I have my own grief, saddness, and anger to deal with in this unthinkable accident with one of my closest friends, the kids went through their own process of determining the "Why?" of such a tragic event.
Thank God Auntie is still with us.
This woman having only been out of the hospital for days, literally, drug her body to Evander's birthday party. Believe me, watching a friend struggle so is no picnic, but the beauty in this woman, and the friendship we have with each other, and our families, is truly a gift from God. 

This is a typical picture of our familes together, Van and Lil side by side, and Emma herding Wilder. This day was a bit of forced fun as I am quite nostalgic in regards to strawberry picking. I spent a good amount of time picking berries with friends in the summers of my youth, and insist that everyone in my family gets the feel of the berries, the smell of the mix of berries and dirt, and that something that involves physical labor with the sun beating down on you (That last part sounds less romantic).
Here I am with "Straight Shootin' Linda."For some reason, she likes to spend her precious vacation time with us. It's quite easy for me to do so. She's a damn good cook for one. For every twenty times she's cooked, I have once. I'm not sure what that says about my abilities in the cuisine arts, but that whole romantic concept of food and caring etc., comes through with Linda. Oh, did I mention that she lets me ramble on and on when we invite ourselves to her Portland home? Our girls just when to the Taylor Swift concert together in Portland. Her girls gifted my Em concert tickets as a birthday gift. The girls went sans adults, and we moms seemed to do just alright with freeing our little birds.


When I was about six years old a neighbor friend of mine moved away. At the time, I'm not sure how well I knew her. I just had felt the loss of that friend not being there to play with me. When Auntie was hit by the car, it was that same feeling, she couldn't come out to play. This list seems exhaustive at times. Making friends, and them leaving. I used to like that song I learned at outdoor school, "Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold." But they didn't teach us how difficult this is. If I make a new friend, there's less time for the old. But sometimes that old friend can't do the daily, mundane etc., because they don't live in the same town. But I do know that God is in charge of the universe and in charge of how these things go. So here is a picture of me and my friend Heidi, whom was introduced by another friend, and our circle of activities kept bumping into each other and eventually became a good friend, whom I again, had to let go away.
 Now, my life experience teaches me that every friendship ebbs and flows and has it's time for closeness and distance. But I sure don't like the distance. Whether it's my college friend who lives in Chicago, Truitt in Denver, Miss Jodi in CA, and the list goes on and on. I sure hope that in heaven, there are endless walks and coffees and dinners with such friends, and of course, Jesus will always be invited (oh, I wouldn't mind running, but I wouldn't have to). 
Now here I am with the "girls." "Old" Young Life kids with whom we have formed a bond of friendship that just seems to go on. This is the weekend that tall one there, introduced me to Facebook. Naughty, naughty. Facebook is like opening up a yearbook, and then actually interacting with the picture. Whoa. It's quite a world, that's for sure. I will safely leave my comments at that for now.

Babies, babies and more babies. This year brought three new "great" nieces and nephews.
Here's Em's with the baby I've seen the most, Owen. This baby is loved, for sure. I miss being the "Auntie" to help raise these babies, but am only able to see them from a distance. Facebook has made it fun to watch Owen grow. I guess I can be an internet Auntie instead.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Surveying the Cross


Today, being Easter, it was a big day at our funny little church. Our band of followers sang some traditional and not so traditional songs. We listened as one of our teachers, Jack Crabtree, spoke of Jesus that had/was risen from the dead. We participated in one of our very seldom communions.  But what struck me most was the emotion I felt as we began to sing the following song, "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross." I try to live the words, believe what is said in the song. Sometimes it feels like only an ideology, a belief system that seems archaic and especially when I wait year after year, day after day for the return of my Lord. But when I tried to sing this song, the words would not come out. The belief of these words is already written on my heart. I have gratitude for the Son of God who took the place of my wretched self. I will wait, impatiently, yet I will wait.




When I Survey The Wondrous Cross - Issac Watts
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Where has Travelin' Nan gone?

So, my negligence to blog has put me behind the times, in regards to editing said blog. So the cover of the magazine I was just reading/drooling over, is way over there, and way small. It's hard to see me lying in the lounge chair, but that was what I was imaging.
A couple of weeks ago, our family made it all the way to Medford, staying in a brand new Homewood Suites. We lounged at the pool twice, but missed the sun that appeared that Saturday.
Yes, Travelin' Nan finally got out, albeit driving a few hundred miles South. Our destination was Gold Hill to visit Paul's dad and his lady friend.
The sun came out just south of Roseburg, the farther we drove away from Eugene, the higher temperature. We exited at Grants Pass, to show the kids the giant caveman. I urged everyone out of the car to "feel" the warmth from that wonderful orb God gave us. Ya, they were sleeping, but sun and culture were waiting. Sadly, the visitors center was closed but a nice man working on the flower beds explained the statue to us. Something about a local booster club helping keep Mr. Caveman groomed, and something about the Oregon Caves. I then talked on my soap box about community and economy, sharing the love, gettin' along, yada yada.
I can't show a photo of the caveman, as my camera's batteries were dead, and the pictures on the web of him are copyrighted (just follow the caveman link).
Last weekend, that very important Valentine's Day date, Paul and I went on a "double date" with his sister and her husband.
-----------My last Valentine's double date was in San Francisco a couple of years ago.
We stayed at the Hilton in downtown SF, with a terrific view of the city, but this photo represents the room I recall the most.
We were to meet a group of Paul's co-workers and their wives that evening at a fine restaurant. Only one couple ended up meeting us. A younger co-worker had made the reservations, and our large party dwindled done to us four. That being the case, we had a very terse tongue lashing from the manager.
Not much longer after we left the restaurant, I was feeling a bit ill. The rest of the night, was a bit of a nightmare, rather hazy, but food poisoning ended up being on the menu. I have a vague recollection of the flight back home, as I was under the the influence of Imodium, as well as the watchful eyes of Paul's coworkers whom were headed back to Eugene.
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Paul has become enamored (what's a man word for this? Is the word beer in it?) with a new movie place in town "The David Minor Theatre." It's shall I say, unique. So when he suggested this venue for Valentine's Day I thought this was a very manly attempt at romance.
Although we own the movie, we watched "The Princess Bride" at the theatre. Yes, I've heard and seen the movie, many, many times, but seeing it on the bigger screen while eating sushi and drinking champagne made it a little more romantic.
We also had a much better time with P-TayJo and TheMan than on the "blind double date" in SF.
This week, the kids caught the "Love Bug," as Doodle began getting sick on Valentine's Day, and Brother joined in with a fever on the Monday. This left plenty of time for me to wash all of the laundry and clean up the important stuff, while my students fought over the television remote.
Now, as we head into the weekend, our hope is that the rain will hold off long enough to begin the planting of the garden. I guess that means I won't be traveling for a while.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Freedom, Rhetoric and Poetry

Yesterday, the kids and I were awakened by an early morning phone call (not my phone) with a request from Bella to join her at her place to watch the presidential inauguration on her big screen television. Being the dutiful friend, and enticed by the romance of red, white, and blue donuts, the kids and I headed over to partake in the history making.
On my way to get said donuts, I began to make observations of the folks who weren't in front of the TV, or listening to the radio. 
Didn't they care? I thought most of Eugene voted for Obama.
What about those old guys? The TV was playing at the donut shop, but they couldn't see what was happening. Maybe they'd watch the swearing in ceremony. 
What about those boys? Those wandering smoking boys in black? Didn't they want to witness history rather than goofing about?
We watched the inauguration, but what I had looked forward to was something I hadn't recalled noticing in the soundbites of previous inaugurations, and that was the reciting of an inaugural poem. 
At the end of the inaugural celebration, I was glad that they mixed rhetoric with the art of poetry. 
When I was six, and wanted to be a poet, the author of "Praise Song for the Day" Elizabeth Alexander, was only a few years older than me. My quick research reveals that when I was six, she lived in Washington D.C, as her father was a law professor at Howard University. At this time my dad was either an oil truck driver, or a cab driver. 
Here's her poem:




Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

Elizabeth Alexander


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pajamas Day

This morning as I sat on our leather couch in the living room, I yelled at a lady running by, "Lift YOUR legs!"
I'm still in my comfy, flannel snow globe pajamas.
I woke up not at the crack of dawn, but what seemed a reasonable hour to read the paper. Evander was up about 8A, we had some snuggle time on the couch, but just enough to cause severe sleepiness in me, and call a "do over" to waking up.
I rejoined the husband (notoriously a late sleeper) and pretended to be asleep until about 9:30A, too late for my George W. to make me coffee. It's 11:16A, and I guess I missed the barista boat (as if I'd make my own coffee).
I'm to "Part 2" of The Middle Place, and very much enjoying the read. Will share more later.
I am in the middle of eating the potatoes Evander helped me make using our corer/peeler/slicer.
 Although it is Sunday, all but Paul skipped church, as Emma had a sleepover guest still here from the night before. The girls joined me for potatoes, and then hurriedly dressed for their swim meet this afternoon. The other girl's mom arrived and volunteered for chauffeur services, including the return drive. But before I could reintroduce myself to the potatoes, Paul calls saying EK has invited us to breakfast after church.
EK and her family have just begun "attending" our church, so I couldn't figure out how she invited us over, just like that. Friends for ions, I was all teary last Sunday when she and her family, including her parents, sat a few rows in front of us. I love these dear people, so it was an honor for them to be at our strange little fellowship.
So, I didn't confess to Paul that I had a mouthful of potatoes, and gladly accepted the invite. What to wear? I will stay in my pajamas. 

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Good Times 2008

I was going to end this post with this photo, but here it is, first.
In November, I almost didn't have these two loved ones in my life. But by the Grace of God, they are still on this earth. 
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This post is a backward overview of my year. As in every year, and every day, I do not know what my story will be in advance. If I would have known this past year's script, I would most likely have given it back to it's Author. Perhaps I would want to give it back every year if I had a choice. But I believe that I am the creation, and that my story is being created, along with those whose paths I cross on this journey. My Creator is merciful, yet does not allow me to live and learn in this life without suffering.
Yet, here I am, accounting only some of the moments of joy I experienced over the year.
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The above photo of Bella and babe was snapped at a location where I had always wanted to travel-Ft. Rock, Oregon. Otherwise known as the middle of nowhere. Just a couple weeks previously, our Cascade Lakes Relay team ran near this location, however, this was in the dark, so I couldn't see the beauty this place had to offer. 
Here are some of my favorite photos from the year (Bella took some, I took some, and so did the T-man):
Evander's "friend" birthday party, rock climbing at a local school gym.






New for me this year, is the whole facebook phenomenon. A friend introduced me to fb in September, and am admittedly hooked, for better or worse. I can quit at any time. At any rate, these photos are from Em's and my wonderful November trip to Seattle.


My staged facebook photo at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass concert.
 My husband is a great get along guy. 

Dan and Patty's wedding was the highlight of September.

One of my favorite photos-ever. Camping in August with great friends.

This guy lights my fire.

A fantastic day at Mt. Hope's welcoming home.

An average Oregon summer's activity.


Some of my favorite kids in my backyard for my birthday celebration.


Family Soccer Organization at it's best.


The brunch after the Eugene Half Marathon 2008.


Oh yeah, we went to Disney World with some close family friends.


This is the day we enjoyed a great fondue spread, as well as having learned about 
baby Owen being on the way.

Kes cutting up with Bud at Emma's b-day celebration. Their visit include a hike up Spencer's Butte, just Bud and me while the rest of Eugene slept.

Taken at Emma's thirteenth birthday party. Just a few of the wonderful ladies who are part of the village that is helping me raise my girl.

A surprise from Indiana.

February's surprising joy in Indiana.