Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mennonite in a Little Acroyoga

I recently finished reading "Mennonite in the Little Black Dress".   I loved it.  I loved it because I felt known.  The last 1/3 was predictable and a bit slow, because there was a natural outcome to the writer's choices and those outcomes occurred.

Despite this, I loved it because it reminded me of how I was raised.  We are not Mennonite, but I guess my grandparents were, and they raised my grandma, and my mom, and she raised me.  My mom found a man with similar sensibilities, and then, here I am!

I'm sensible, and practical.  I didn't try alcohol until I was in my 20's or a cigarette until then either.  I still haven't tried dancing, and I don't watch TV (okay a little I do, I cheat on Netflix).  I don't swear, and I can make anything into a meal just by peeking my head into the fridge.  I'm a peace-nick.  I just realized that a blow drier will make my hair look cute.  These are things that made me feel like I am just like some other people: Mennonites.  "Mennonite in the Little Black Dress" made me realize I'm not the only one.

My brother-in-law, Ben, has been doing Acroyoga.  It is yoga in groups, people balance and stretch and do tricks much like an acrobat, hence the name Acroyoga.  It looks fun, but there is touching involved.  It is not a sensible activity.  My brain tells my body, NO!  Do not try acroyoga, even if it looks fun, and relational.  My heart says YES!  Your brother loves you, he is safe.  So I tried it, and I like it.  It makes me feel like a kid playing with my dad.  It makes me feel strong and balanced, and not just my muscles, my whole self.

I'm being vulnerable to share the video, but I'll do it anyway.  Most people wear yoga clothes to do Acroyoga, I wear long jeans and a wool sweater.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Comfort and Joy

I have been a spiritual care volunteer at our local hospital for 3 years.  Every year at Christmas I have a tender heart for all the sick folks that have to stay there.  Sometimes spiritual care is listening, or encouraging, or being really honest with someone who is sick.  It has been my experience that it is sometimes praying for people.

Today I visited a 93 year old woman who was there because she was old and maybe had pneumonia.  I thought I knew what to expect of our visit.   Usually when I know what to expect, I'm wrong.

She was very sweet when I introduced myself.  She seemed uncomfortable, and I said so.  She said that we spend our lives trying to get comfortable, and I agreed.  I asked if she was a 'praying kind of lady'.  Her eyes lit up when I asked.  She looked at me clearly with all her heart and responded, "do you need some prayer this morning?"

It took me a second to understand: she was wondering if she could pray for me.  Her question lifted my already cheery spirit.  I had to contain my happy laugh, then I said that I was actually there to pray for her, which I did.  I prayed for comfort and joy, even though she already had the latter.

It is my hope for you as well.  Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Must Be Tonight

Enjoy Jeremy's Christmas tune,  and merry Christmas tonight!

Our Hearts Are Home

I have loved him since I was a girl.  Now I have loved him longer than I have not loved him.  He is not perfect, we do not love each other perfectly, but we are doing our best.  Loving him has made my life bigger and more beautiful than I could make it.  His love for me has brought out the best in me, inspired me, and been the fertile ground where I can flourish.  

I am a fiery plant: temperamental, passionate, impatient, insecure, and angry. I remember today, 16 years in, thankful to the mystery that orchestrated this exciting, magical, adventure of love.  I am thankful we can celebrate that our love can overcome the obstacle that is marriage.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Icy Morning

I took this photo this morning on a popular trail from town.  It is popular when it is warmer, which by 11am it was, and I passed many trekkers on my walk back.  On my way though, I was alone, but I didn't feel alone.  It seems so forested and dense now, but several generations ago the hills were bald and miners were busy on the creekside.  I tried to imagine them as I walked, and hummed Christmas music.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

War is Over for the Race Horse

War is over, if you want it.  This silly Christmas song jabs me every year.  One reason is, it is so catchy. I can't stop humming it.  My childhood was full of folk music the Beatles, and Peter Paul and Mary.   They sing an old folk song that Lennon (or Ono) used the melody for his Happy Xmas song.  The former was about a race horse.

I'll tell you why I think it is silly: the lyrics.  I'm supposed to be moved by their benevolence yet the poetry is so flimsy, that I am not.  It may be sacrilege to openly state that this song does not move me, even as I am nearly a pacifist.  It's just that it could be so much better.  "I'll be Home for Christmas" tells the story.  After saying that, today I'm making an exception.

"War is over if you want it".  I've always wanted war to be over, wanting it has made no difference.  War is a primitive response to conflict.  I can see how warring tribes thousands of years ago used it, but can't we evolve?  Packs of wild dogs war for territory, as well as primates.   

If we have learned anything, it is that war causes global suffering.  As our troops leave Iraq, even that will cause suffering.  Leaving a fruitless war you start, causes suffering, staying causes suffering.  It is a dead end.

Today it is nearing Xmas (or for some of you, Christmas) and once again I can't get that 'Old Stewball' melody out of my head.  Today a war IS over.  Today those children singing "war is over" as a descant to Happy Xmas has taken form.  Just like those angels who came to the shepherds, saying "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."  A sliver of heaven on Earth.

I hope you have fun

I shall proceed from the simple to the complex. But in war more than in any other subject we must begin by looking at the nature of the whole; for here more than elsewhere the part and the whole must always be thought of together.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trying New Things II

I'm trying a lot of new things lately, but I'm not the only one.  My girl is crazy about her children's chorus.  She is eight, and because she has parents in a community choir, and mad vocal skills, her choirmaster asked her to participate in an advanced choir.  Last weekend the community choir and her children's chorus joined together for holiday music.  It was a great opportunity for our community to see the FANTASTIC work these kids do.  

The first concert I attended, I was wondering if I had low expectations.  Would it be so terrible that it wasn't worth paying for a ticket?  It was quite the opposite.  People spend 2x as much to be a part of such wonderful choral music (if they like that kinda thing).  They sound so pure and perfect.  They perform music that children much older don't get.  I am a proud mamma.

Look how she is concentrating and so focused.
Not even the adults are that determined.
My girl is busy.  She would rather climb a tree or do a puzzle than read a book.  She rarely focuses on anything for too long.  I saw a determined and focused person, if she loves what she is doing.  She sat through 4 rehearsals and performances perfectly.  She sang perfectly.  Every night they sang "In the Bleak Mid-Winter" I had to brush away some tears.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Forest Floor

Our new home is pressing up against 700 acres of forest.  There are miles and miles of trails.  I found these tiny umbrellas on the forest floor.  They sparked my imagination.  I hope they do the same for you.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

North by Northwest

This week, 2 people told me I should blog about movies I love.  I love movies.  The problem with blogging about movies I love, is I haven't seen many I LOVE for over a year.  The fact is I have seen quite a few movies I end up falling asleep in, not because I am too tired, but because they are too boring.  I love a good story.

I have seen thousands of movies.  My dad got me started on old movies from when he was a kid and before.  B-movies about blobs and monsters from the 50,  musicals, thrillers, academy award winners, Danny Kaye,  and science fiction.  I think he has good taste.  Really I don't care what genre a movie is, as long as it has a well crafted story.  This is why so many movies I have seen lately have been so terrible: un-compelling stories.

I am going to review movies, but only movies I like.  It will be more like a recommendation.  I usually don't watch a movie twice (except for Christmas movies), but I'll watch some of my old favorites again, and then tell you what I think.

I'll start with recommending 'North by Northwest'.  It was made in the late 50's and is by Hitchcock and stars Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint.  What's not to love about that?  If you only watch new movies, you should try this old one.  It might remind you of some newer movies, but this one is fundamental.  There is mistaken identity, a beautiful girl, a lot of running, an airplane and did I mention Cary Grant?

Monday, December 05, 2011

5 Reasons I love Science

Our brains are mysterious things.  I'm sure there is much for us to learn about, that is beautiful and will answer so many mysteries.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Stupid Fun

I've neglected this spot for 2 reasons.  One, I had to move last week.  Two, I got injured in a rear-end car accident 4 days before I had to move.  Wasn't it also Thanksgiving last week?  My favorite holiday?  Now my house is moved, thanks to some generous friends and family, and my neck, back and arms are working again.  Mostly my brain is working again and we found the kitchen table.

Here are the photos of us making "ginger bread" houses with graham crackers and frosting.  It was a blast and as soon as the kids started, the adults couldn't help but join in.  It was what I call 'stupid fun'.

Merry Christmas.
Before the mess
Pre-sugar spike
What Would Developers Create?

Silly boy mid sugar consumption

Letting the sugar go to our head after a creative afternoon!

Saturday, November 19, 2011


I've been reduced to watching kitten clips on You Tube.
I don't really like cats so much, and I don't know why I think this is so cute, but it is so cute it borderlines saccharin.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Send Somebody

I learned this song today, and it made me happy, so I'm sending it on to you.
Thank you for stopping by!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Trying New Things: UPDATE

This is the video of me concentrating, and trying not to say "One-and, Two-and, Three-and, Four-and".  My back up plan for missing my notes has been to sing the note in time, but you can tell that it is not a bell.  What Wondrous Love Is This?  40 seconds of video seems long.

I'm a fledgling musician.  I can accompany my voice with a guitar, mandolin and ukelele (which means I'm a big hack).  I can sing, and my voice is my instrument.  I can count time, read music and I have relative pitch.
This morning I debuted as a bell ringer in a hand bell choir.  I played the E's and F's in the base clef.  I have been to 3 rehearsals, and it is fun, and new.  I joined because I really like the sound of the bell choir, and my mom is in it.  I'm such a newbie, but I'm having patience with myself to learn a new sport instrument (?).  I have traditionally thought that bell choirs were cheesy. Certainly there is that element, the quilted vests, the white gloves, but it is fun.  My husband thought it was so funny that he took video of me, and was laughing so hard.  I think he is just jealous of how much fun I am having.  
So what if I am liking it?  
It is like the video games that you pretend to play an instrument, waiting to strum the guitar at the exact moment, but there is sheet music, and you get weeks of rehearsal.
I think I am the only ringer with a tattoo.   

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterinarian Day

8 year old-     Mom?  What's a veterinarian?

35 year old-    Oh!  Someone who is a doctor for animals.

8 year old-     Mom, why are we celebrating veterinarians?

I'm grateful for veterinarians and veterans today.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

I have a terrible case of ornithophobia.  I have had it my whole life.  Even songs about birds as a child scared me (...Seven blackbirds baked in a pie...).  At the same time that I am afraid of birds, I am thrilled by them.  I enjoy seeing them, if I am inside and they are outside.  I am terrified of them if they are near me.  It makes my knees weak, like some folks get if they are up too high.

Starlings (I call them Parking Lot birds) are especially nerve-wracking, which is why watching this as a video is perfect for me.  It is amazing, and terrifying.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Less From the Back Seat

The universe has shifted.  I know I said it may be 5 more years of bickering in the back seat, but it may be a bit less, three minutes less.  Today driving home from school I was the loudest person in the car.  I asked how the kids' day was and halfway through the sentence, I released I was interrupting.  I was interrupting silence, so I stopped talking and enjoyed the three minute car ride.

Those three minutes in the car were full of quiet because my two ruffians were BOTH with their noses in a book.  The smaller one, Little Farm in the Ozarks, and the bigger, one of the last of the Redwall series.  Also, my son is just big enough to sit in the front, so they can not physically fight, and that extra 6 inches helps out with the bickering (who knew?).  Now they both have the reading bug, and it was a perfect storm!

I've gotta say that I'm gloating.  And even now they are quasi-bickering over the fairness of Halloween candy distribution.  For three minutes this afternoon, I felt a successful parenting moment.  

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Thanksgiving is the New Christmas

Everyone is supposed to love Christmas.  I do.

Now I am going to explane why I don't like it as much as I'm supposed to.  I'm admitting it, even though it is close to taboo to admit that Christmas is a bit much for me.  It is my feeling that Thanksgiving is everything that Christmas could be.  Let me explane.

You know all the reasons there is to love Christmas.  The weeks of parties, music, cookies and sweets, gifts, more parties, children, travel, decorations and family.

Every year my children have class parties, my husband has work parties, my church has youth parties, there are family birthdays as well as our anniversary.  This year we have added a Jr. High Bollywood dance recital (really?), our daughter's choir performances, our choir performances, and hand bell performances.  All of these activities are tromping on top of buying gifts and celebrating Advent (counting down the days 'till Christmas).  We also have to be moved out of our house on the 1st of December, but that is just this year.  Most of these festive activities are not unique to this year (Bollywood Jr. High dance recital?).

Last year I watch the Charlie Brown Christmas and cried tears of "good greif".  There is too much to do at Christmas.  I am missing the point of Christmas and there is no way around it.  I have to participate in the menagerie of festivities. On their own, each activity is manageable, but in quick succession, it is a flood of fun.  A serving of ice cream is yummy, but not so much if you have to eat a gallon right now.

I used to think it was that I was putting some imagined expectation on Christmas, because it was magical when I was a kid, thanks to my parents.  I want to love it, like I used to.  Now I don't have the expectations I used to, but a calendar and a schedule to keep.

If I could have what I want for Christmas, it would be that Thanksgiving is the new Christmas.  There aren't piles of music to learn, months of preparation and pre-Thanksgiving parties.

All I have to do is deliver juice boxes to my children's classroom the day before school is out, and a potluck item for the actual day of Thanksgiving.  Then, I get to enjoy the people around me and remember how thankful I am, all weekend.  It is just as spiritual and sacred as Christmas.  I am so thankful for that.  

Bully Dog in the Grocery

I pretty much love my pets, and I love the people in my life more.  This seems reasonable, but I guess not to everyone.   

The other day at the grocery store, I realized that some people love their pets more than I do.  I think some people love their pets as much as they love a human.  They have a strong and satisfying relationship with a dog, or a cat.  This is a feeling/thought that I have never had.  I have felt the unconditional love of a pet for me, and that is nice.

Last week in the paper product isle was a pitt bull.  We call them "Never-let-go" dogs.  That pretty much sums up what I think of them.  They are cute, but if they get ahold of you, they will never let go.  This is bad.  I hear people say that it's an undeserved, bad reputation.  I know why they have a bad reputation.

They are used to fight and kill.  They are used to guard illegal and legal drug cultivation.  If they get you, the owner can get his drugs and money back, and then the dog can continue to eat you for lunch.  People mostly have this breed to be intimidating, or to seem tough because they are not.  Also, some of these kinds of people love their bully dog.  So much so, that it is not okay to leave them in the garage at home, but rather bring them along to get oranges and toilet paper.

The dog at the grocery had an orage vest on, and one of those collars that if you tug on it, it will pinch the dog with pokey spikes. The pokey-spike-thing (and the breed) was what alerted me to the farce the owner thought she was pulling.  She was masquerading her dog as a helping dog, so that it could come shopping with her.  I'm sure no one would ask her to leave.  One, because you would not want to insult someone by questioning their motives, and two, the dog could kill you and your small children if you got close enough to talk to her.  

I know folks who raise helping dogs.  They are labs.  They are not intimidating.  They are endearing, soft and well behaved.  They are smart.  They do not require special spiky collars.  If you see one in the store, you are not afraid.  No one is fooling me (or rather for very long)!!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Moving Box

I think the cat does not want to be left behind.  The thought has crossed my mind.  I guess I should wait to tape up this box?

Friday, November 04, 2011

A Winner Never....

"The Upside of Quitting"

I initially listened to this podcast because I thought the title was, "The Upside of Quilting".  I was pleasantly surprised that it was about "quitting" not "quilting", though both would be nice to hear about.

Sometimes being dyslexic is exciting, because you never really know what you are going to get, or if you are at the right address, at the right time.  It can be interesting, or embarrassing, but I am choosing interesting.   If you ask my husband, he would pick "annoying", and to his "annoying" I would say, "I make it worth it".
Not quitting got me to the top of Mt. Whitney

Back to the quitting thing.  This episode made me feel better about myself.  It made me remember that my failures are often stepping stones.  What a terribly boring saga, if all I did was win, win, win.  There are times I have quit at winning.

In college I never got a "B".  I only got "A's".  I'll admit that I chose something that was not terribly intellectual, but I still tried hard.  I learned what professors wanted, and I gave it to them 91%-100% of the time.  By the time my senior year came around, I no longer cared about getting good grades, but by then I had a 4.0 and 4 months of school left.

My last semester, a speech professor told our class that she did not give "A's".  That was throwing down the gauntlet, as far as I was concerned.  It was on!!  I was going to have to get "A's" my last semester of university, and I did.  Really?  A speech class that no one gets and "A" in?  She did give me a 89.4%, and I went to her and pointed out that her assessment of our speeches, by nature, was subjective.  It was not a math class, and her margin of subjectiveness would bump me into the "A" range.  I graduated Summa Cum Laude.

A few years later, after one semester of Grad school, I flunked out.  I received a letter from University of Nevada, Reno, stating I was not longer qualified to participate in their university education.  I failed because I quit 2/3 of the way through the semester, knowing what quitting meant.

What a liberating feeling, to be a quitter.  Since then, I have been striving to be a better quitter.  I did not crumble into a million pieces when I quit grad school.  I survived, and well.  Now, if I don't like a book, I quit reading it.  If I don't like my dinner so much, I quit eating it.  If a movie is terrible (which is often) I turn it off.  I realize those don't cost me much, but it is a start.   Even though I am the first born in my family, I am trying not to act like it.  

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Perplexing Story

I love telling the story.

I have seen some fun things that I could tell a story about, and then sad and terrible stories spring up around me.  It makes me reconsider the worth of a story about a dog in a grocery store, or what costumes my kids are wearing for Halloween.  Are those really important stories?

This morning as my kids were eating breakfast with us around the table, talking, energetic and happy, I had to remind myself that this time with them is my story, and it is one that I can't attach any language.  Today is the day I have with them, and it is a beautiful, enchanting saga.

I do want to tell about the dog in the grocery store, but it isn't amazing, or beautiful.  There will be a time for silly stories, but for now it just doesn't seem important to me.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

This Too Shall Pass

I love this.  I have watched it so many times, maybe I account for half the hits for this video.  It feels good, and is full of truth, and physics.
I'll dedicate it to my pal Peter G.

I know you have seen it too, but it is a good reminder.  Peace and Love....

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Everything is Going to be Okay

"Everything is going to be okay", but it isn't.  As a chaplain at our hospital, folks will say this in the midst of a health crisis or death.  I never understand why.  I am a very compassionate person, and I think it is a lie.  No, everything is not going to be okay.  I have not felt like those silly people who say "everything is going to be okay" until today.

I learned that my friends who teach abroad were hit by a drunk driver in a taxi, injuring most and killing my dear friend's dad, well, he was my friend too.  Now my friend is being flown to Dubai to get medical care, with her husband and mother in law, leaving behind the body of a wonderful father.  I am sitting by Facebook waiting for updates, calling my friends, and telling myself this very lie, to make the time go by.
 Everything is going to be okay.  Everything is going to be okay.  Everything is going to be okay.
I'm going to have to change my mantra, I know,  but for now this little lie is getting me through the moments of uncertainty.  It is all I can muster, in terms of hope, during these long hours of unknowing.

The truth is, it is not going to be okay, it is too late for that.  It's not even an appropriate response.  This tragedy has changed the trajectory of my friends' lives for ever.  As time is ticking by, and we numbly and distractedly sit in a place of worry and unknowing, it is not too late to hope.

Sending all my love and hope across two continents, an ocean, and several seas to you Katie, Peter, and Ellen.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tahoe Bucket List

I hear people tell stories about their adventures, and then say I should add it to my "bucket list", the list we all should make of things to do, places to go and people to meet before we go for good (kick the bucket).  I have found that I rarely know what is on my "bucket list" until after I have experienced it, and have the feeling that my "musts" are not your "musts".  I could tell you that everyone should snorkel with sea turtles in Kauai,  give birth to a child, and stay up all night by a camp fire singing, but those are things on my list.  

I could also tell you to visit Lake Tahoe, California in fall, before it snows, and after all the tourists leave.  I go every year and I love it every year.  The colors are vibrant, the skies are clear and crisp, the water is so blue there isn't even language to describe it.  The Kokanee Salmon are like red ribbons underwater in Taylor creek.

Today we walked through a meadow above the lake, and the ground was yellow with leaves.  Fallen logs from last year littered the aspen grove in the meadow, and we balanced from log to log.  The only casualty was a few bee stings for my brother in law, and he accidentally provoked them.  I added the time to my "bucket list".

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dumpster Diving Diva

I'm not a diva.  I sing soprano, and have met dozens of real life, in the flesh divas.  In college a diva even wore a Jessica Rabbit dress to rehearsal.  I am nothing close to diva.  The title is misleading, but I liked the alliteration and the paradox.  I'm probably dead center, between diva, and dumpster-diver.  Well, except for this morning when I actually was dumpster-diving for moving boxes.

I am no stranger to combing the rodent infested back-side of the local retailers and groceries.  I intend to perfect the art/demoralizing predicament while packing up this time, as we move to another house.

The easier approach is to simply buy new boxes, but I am way too thrifty to buy something if I can scrounge.  If you ever find yourself having to move, here are some tips, techniques and advise for moving-box-procurement.  Enjoy!

  • Watch the weather.  No one likes fishing through rotting cardboard.  If it looks like rain, do not delay.
  • Go early, less people are out shopping before 9am and it is less likely that someone will see you head first in a cardboard only dumpster.
  • Disregard the expired animal life to the left and right of the cardboard only dumpster.  Yesterday there was a mummied bird of prey (just in time for Halloween?).
  • Bring the stool your children used to reach the sink as toddlers if you are less than 5 foot 6 inches (my height).  Your arms are not long enough to reach that choice box just inches from your fingers.  You are too scared/smart to jump into a dumpster to get it, after watching too many crime investigation shows on television(when you had television) even if it says cardboard only. Which leads me to...
  • Do not prop yourself up on the edge of the dumpster like a gymnast on the high bar and hope that you can reach down, resting on your hips, to get a box.  While it is true you may reach it, you can NEVER reverse the predicament, and you will fall on your head into the boxes (I have low body-mind connection).
  • Heist broken down boxes from shoe shops and craft shops.  They smell way better.  Pizza shops and grocery stores are going to have more stench, and rodents.
  • Dive into the recycle bin at your local newspaper.  Ours puts out all the stacks of misprints and trials into a big bin that anyone can fish through.  This morning, I asked a man loading it if there was any extra stacks I could take home to use for my dishes.  He looked around sneakily to see if anyone was looking, and then carried a 25 lb. roll of left over, newsprint-less paper to my car.  I didn't even have to lift it (that was the only diva bit about the whole morning)!!    Shhhh....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Every year the week before Halloween is a troublesome time for me as a mom.  I don't want to buy a costume for my kids at Wal-mart.  I want them to get creative with a costume and yet have been discouraged by their (okay, mostly my daughter's) unwillingness to be flexible.  The mermaid costume I make will not be as ubiquitous and as perfect as a plastic one from a chain store.  

In the past several years I have privately vowed not helped them hardly at all with regards to Halloween costumes, only to be disappointed later.  I will take them to the good-will thrift shop, and sit in a floral love-seat while they rummage through old t-shirts.  I will apply cat and Ang/Avatar make-up.  I will not spend hours making them a costume only to have my son wear something else at the last minute in a panic.  I am learning how to mother better, not more.

This year is no different.  I have been promoting more creative costumes, and brain-storming with them.  My daughter will likely be some colorful, whimsical-something-or-other, bemoaning that she does not have a plastic costume from K-mart, and cute as a button!  My son this year wants to be a hiker.  He thought of this all on his own.  I thought it was a great and creative idea.

Today I figured out where he got his idea.  My parents are out of town, and I am feeding their new cat. Also, all week we have been collecting hiking stuff from our stash in the closet.  Standing inside my parent's house today, we spied the perfect hiking attire.  A walking stick by the door and a hat on the hook.  My boy grabbed both, ready for Halloween.  It turns out he is not only dressing for Halloween as hiker, but also his grandpa!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Finished Product

Update:  The cider is done, the cider is good, the cider is on-tap.

It was a novelty this fall as it was different from brewing beer.  There was more labor, peeling and pressing, and less sitting around watching water boil.  It was like painting a room, a lot of prep, the the paint went on quickly after we set up.  The paint is dry in only a week.  With beer there is a really slow start, and then a lot of waiting for the finish line.  Also, apple cider is not notorious for bloating like beer.  

That's all I have to say about that. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Frenzied Passat

Last week I heard a whisper in the depths of my mind,  
"take the car to the repair shop and have it checked out before you leave on vacation for a week." 
I even ran into the man who repairs our 16 year old car, and told him I hoped I didn't have to see him much, other than socially.  Now that our car most likely won't ever run again, we will only have to see him socially.

5 miles from my grandparents town in the Sierra Nevadas, the car made a dramatic departure from this life.  It went into overdrive, 5,000-7,000 rpms.  I put it into neutral, pulled to the side and turned the key to the off position.  The car continued it's frenzied demise, though I had turned it off.  Smoke was pouring out of the tailpipe, and the engine roared!!  Silas said, "everybody out".  It did feel like it was going to explode. The kids jumped out and ran away, in a cloud of smoke.  I got out and followed them.  Silas jumped into the driver's seat and was able to kill the engine (or kill it some more).

We did end up at our destination in a rental car, but only after loading and unloading a week's worth of beach supplies five or more times, from one car to another.  From our porch, to our car, to my grandparents trunk, to my uncles's truck, to the rental trunk, to the hotel room.  It was an exciting and dramatic beginning to what is supposed to be a relaxing week at the beach.  

Our car is cooler than yours, as it is a VW,  it get 40-50 miles per gallon, the interior/exterior is in great condition, and it wasn't expensive to purchase.  Now we have to think about getting another car, and I just like the old one.

We now need to be able to travel back to our home at the end of the week, but are a bit stuck.  At least we are stuck at the beach.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Update: How to Make Cider

There is 5 gallons of apple cider, fermenting in my bathroom.  The yeast won't do their job in the cool garage, as well as they will in the house.  I don't want this sticky goodness to overflow in the carpeted closet, so the compromise was the bathroom.  If it overflows here, it will run over the side of the tub and onto the carpeted bathroom floor (who carpets bathrooms?).  I'm thinking it won't overflow, though it is quite active and alive, it even makes noise!  

The stopper in the top is filled with alcohol, and lets the gasses cause by fermentation out, but sugar loving bacteria from getting in.  It is pretty nifty and scientific if you ask me.  The thing about fermentation is that it does release gas, which I guess is best in the bathroom after all.

Yesterday, our daughter was in the bathroom, and came running to me holding her nose.  "Mom!!  Did someone puke!?!?!"  I'll admit, it does smell like the dorm bathroom my freshman year of college in our bathroom.  

I am not sure it is a good sign, or a bad sign, as this is our first attempt at hard cider.  Beer doesn't smell bad fermenting.  I could open the window a crack, but that would cool the room down and slow fermentation.  I could shut the bathroom door, but then I'll walk straight into it, in the dark night.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

State Park Insurance

When my dad is 65, in a few years, his health insurance, which is my health insurance, will pay for his gym membership.  I'm guessing the insurance company has calculated the numbers.  If you receive Social Security, and work out at a gym, they save money.  At first it seems pretty generous.

My suggestion was the health insurance companies in California might be able to pay the bill, in the name of good health,  for the State Parks that are closing soon.  They could make up the difference.  I was quite proud of my genius for about 1/2 second.

Blue Shield of California could pay the bill for the lacking state park funding, or they could pay my hospital bill.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

How to Make Apple Cider

Apple Bath


Apple mash in a food-grade bucket

The Press

1/2 way done!  7.5 gallons total

Today we processed the apples we picked from my parents' tree.  The apples have been 'sweating' in the garage for a few weeks, which really means they have been getting over-ripe.  My parents came over, and it was a family project.  We chopped the apples up in our Vita-Mix, and put the mash into a bucket.  We rented a press from our local brew supply shop, and spent 4 hours making 7.5 gallons of drink.

After we picked all the fruit, processed it, cleaned the apples, took the compost away, cleaned the floor, cabinets, counter and even my elbow, from all the apple slop and sugar that got everywhere, was it worth it?  I'm thinking what you might be thinking, as you can not taste the final product.  The second the juice hit your mouth, you would rethink our time and effort.  Some (5 gallons) of the juice has champagne yeast in it to ferment into hard cider, and a small amount is just going to be sweet.

It was a lot of time working on a project with people I love, so even if the drink was bitter, the time was sweet.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Coming and Going

I volunteer doing spiritual care for the sick, families and staff at our local hospital.  It used to be called chaplaincy, but the word has too much hidden behind it.  Maybe the word is too religious, when being born, being sick and dying are spiritual not religious.

I found this photo, on the National Geographic page today.  It sums up my experience caring for the hearts of people who are coming and going.

It is green, from the heart.
I have to have open hands, a symbol of my open heart and head.
I have to be brave.  Not only for the sick, but for the changes this work has caused in me.
I have to be still, and take in what is, when people are suffering.  Can I hold space when others are tossed by fear and grief?  I open my hands and then yes, I can.

This photo reminds me that I am not alone.
This photo is the answer to my question, "why me?".
With my hands open, I hear the answer, "because you can".

Last weekend I sat with a family, as they said goodbye to their mom and grandma.  I sat with a young woman in labor whose baby was born dead.  This photo is a comfort for me today.

I have many stories, about visiting sick people.  Some tragic, but if you don't think of death as tragic (sometimes it is, but mostly it is not), they are miraculous, affirming, comical and mostly unbelievable!  I think I can share a few.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Stripes & Polka Dots

I am ridiculously sensible, and suspect I have little fashion sense.  I know what I like, and I wear it.  I try to put on my clothes before I can count to five, so that I don't change my mind.  I love jeans, polka-dots, stripes, hoodies, bright colors, and square toed shoes.  My brother-in-law once asked what the Norman girls might do if square toed shoes go out of fashion, and I was surprised they were fashionable in the first place.  He is immeasurably more cool than I am, so I took it as a compliment.  

I know what would happen if the clothes I like go out of fashion, I will find more at a thrift shop.  Or, I will become a victim of the 'mom jean of the future' phenomenon.  For now I'm fortunate that the clothes I wear seem to be found at departments stores, and more importantly, consignment shops.  There are certain fashions that I have trouble with, some are: high heels, leggings, scarves, belts (other than for holding up my pants), halter tops, strapless tops, and slacks.  If you see me in anything like the aforementioned, you can be sure I will be running to the closet as soon as possible to get into my usual clothes.

While at camp this summer, I only had a few days worth of clothes.  I had some for summer weather, which I never wore, and warmer clothing.  I wore the same clothes nearly every day out of necessity.  I couldn't borrow clothing because everyone we know there is pint-sized, and clothes are very expensive to buy.  

One day I came to class to teach my English lesson, and my student, who is 15 was wearing the same clothes as me.  The same clothes.  Striped blue and white long sleeved shirt, black sweater and jeans.  It made me wonder about my choices as a 35 year old stay at home mom.  This girl is less than half my age.  I could be her mom.  Her mom is probably my age.  This girl, Simka, and I turned out to be fast friends.

Was she a kid dressing too old for her age, or was I dressing too young for my age?  I had to ask myself, am I the pathetic lady trying to be young because I am dressing like an 8 year old?  As you can see, I am quite insecure about the things I like, even though I still like them.  Am I the lady unknowingly in the 'mom jeans'?

When I arrived home  I found my friend Heather and her family.  We were so glad to see each other and we are the same age.  We happened to be wearing the same clothes.  It reminded me that it might be less to do with my age, or my lack of fashion sense that I dress like the people I love without planning it that way.  It may be more like fate or fortune.  When I see my square feet I am reminded that my sisters also have the same feet, and it makes me feel good.  It isn't chance or luck that I am like the people in my life.  It seems they influence me inside and out.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Goodwill Running

I got to the trail-head last week for a jog and realized I had worn flip-flops.  Deciding what to do, I spilled the contents of my water bottle onto the floor of the car.  I then happily remembered I left my running shoes in the trunk.  I debated if I should crawl back in bed because of my bad fortune all before 9am.  If you take advirsity as a sign, then you will never exercise.  So, I hit the trail for a long run.

At mile 2.5 I passed two ladies who I knew were retired teachers.  One, the principal of my elementary school.  I passed them saying "Good morning, teachers!  Thanks for teaching me to read!".  I surprised them with my greeting, and sped by them.

When I turned back I knew I would see them again, so I stopped to properly greet them.  What happened next was entirely unexpected, and I was glad I didn't give up on my run.

I told the teachers that it was more precisely Mrs. U who taught me to read with Dick and Jane.  I then told them that I did learn to read, and also what it felt like to have my nose in the corner.  Mrs. U made me put my nose in the corner when I was six.  I am a tender sweet person, and I always have been.  I wanted Mrs. U to like me, so I was good.  That is about all I remember of her, and the drawings of Dick,Jane, and Spot.

I have lived a charmed life, and have mostly been treated with kindness.  Mrs. U was the exception.  I didn't realize how tender I was about it, until the retired principal, Carol Judd, was apologizing.  She apologized for not being able to protect me from my teacher's cruelty.

I told her it was fine, and I made it through.  She told me again, that she was sorry and that it was not my fault.  I did nothing to deserve shaming as a six year old.  I then told her that it worked out just fine.  She then told me that it wasn't fine, and that she had a bad feeling about my teacher.  She was never able to do anything, and she was sorry.  She did not apologize for my teacher, but for herself.  It was personal.

Really, in comparison, to the atrocities that so many people survive, being shamed in the corner is negligible.  Though, with her persuasion, I had to give in.  The sky above me opened up, and some white light shined in a dark place.  It wasn't my fault!  She was there the whole time hoping to look after me, just like my mom and dad, just like the teacher next door in room 7.

I felt as if the issue was taken care of before my run.  Both my children have been in room 6 for a total of four school years.  The teacher in that room now, has recaptured the space for me.  Mrs. Judd asked me if I had 'saged' the room, and I thought I had.  I think the real sage was Mrs. Judd, 30 years later.

I had two and a half miles back to my car to think about what she said, which for me is a long time.  When I was in my early 20's, I saw Good Will Hunting.  I think every generation has a coming-of-age story that is meaningful for their time (The Graduate, Garden State, etc.).  For me, it was Good Will Hunting.  It touched me, and I knew people like Will Hunting.  It was like saying I know people who are like the Prodigal Son.

Running back, I realized the story of Good Will, though less so, is about me too (which is why it is so good).  I am bit liberated from the trials of growing up.  Everyone, no matter the magnitude, needs redemption.

Thank you Mrs. Judd!  How do you like them apples?!?!?

 This clip has that 4 letter word that is used so often now, it nearly isn't a bad word, except I can't say it very well.  
Be warned.  
Also, it wasn't so dramatic for me, which is why I didn't win an Academy Award.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Growing Up Norman

Perfect apples on a perfect day.

Growing up Norman

My dad picks up after shaking the tree
(also my finger, isn't it a cute finger?)

Silas picks next to a bird's nest.

When I was small my parents designed and built a passive solar (which is active now) house, and planted an orchard nearly all themselves (I picked up wayward nails).  Today we six picked a bounty of apples, pears, grapes and plumbs.  I'd like to thank my Papa and Mom for feeding us kids and grandkids for more than 30 years.  

Now we I have a lot of work ahead.  I think we will cook some, and press some.  Next week I rented an apple press so that we can make cider, hard and sweet!  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cows and the Chevy Nova

Just through these doors are two milk cows.

I can remember few events from when I was very small.  One is when my 2nd sister was born when I was three, and I remember a trip to the dairy farm my uncle Herb managed near Fresno, California.

My Grandma Foth took me in her green Chevy Nova.   At least, that is the kind of car it was in my memory.  The kind that had 2 doors and a triangle window too high to see out of if you are a pre-schooler in the back.

This is where the story gets a bit gruesome and why it is memorable for me.  I stretched up to see the farm as we pulled in.  Before I saw the milking barn, or a cow, I saw a man carrying a dead, newborn cow.  He walked with it to a pile of more dead baby cows and dropped it.  They were black and white.  We then visited my uncle and saw the milking barn and my memory fades after that for about six years.

In my mind all the colors were clear, the green car, the black and white cow, the color of the dirt road.  I wasn't scared.  I wasn't repulsed.  I think because I was so little, I remember how I feel, and it was more than a feeling.  The world was so big to me, and confusing.  I saw that there is something mysterious about death, and birth, and a farm.  I don't think developmentally I was able to judge the event.  It just was, but it was formative.

As an adult, when I see cows, and surprisingly enough I see them, that day at the beginning of my story has shaped how I think about cows.  I know it is silly.  I have no profound feelings or thoughts about cats, dogs, deer or raccoon, all of which I have seen dead by the roadside.  With cows, I see how nearly soul-less, soft and dim they are, and it touches me.

This summer in the Czech Republic, we went to get milk for the week.  We walked to the edge of town and met a Czech woman, selling milk.  Her milk tasted like milk.  If you buy milk at the grocery store, and that is the only milk you have had, then you do not know what milk tastes like.

The kids enjoyed seeing something new, and the woman was proud to show us her farm.  It was clean and the smell reminded me of the story I just told you.