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.