Because human life and “what’s your favorite color?” are both opinions


Aoife Muse

Aoife Muse- This is a baby

Artists and writers rock the world. Sure, ideas begin in academia but ultimately we are firmly shaped by the books we read, the music we listen to, the movies we see, the art we ponder- image, story, symbol.

WARNING: THERE IS AN IMAGE AT THE END OF THIS POST. Images shape us.

Once long ago, my oldest daughter, now a mother of five, picked up our World magazine that was laying on the seat in the car. When we arrived home, she did not get out, she sat in the car crying and holding the magazine. She asked why would a person do that to a baby; she would take that baby, she said; she would love him. The magazine had dared to show an image of an aborted baby. A young girl could see the wrong in it.

So, how did it come to happen that we could  watch the Planned Parenthood videos discussing dismembering a baby, selling her parts for monetary gain,listen to how the “doctor” would carefully extract the thymus, the liver, the brain that would make them money?  If you were to watch and a tiny thought in your head made you a little squeamish about that  baby, that little girl, that little boy being killed, cut and sold BUT then you managed to get back to the mantra of “it’s a woman’s right to choose, who am I to say that’s wrong, I mean I wouldn’t do that but…,” if you were able to leave those videos back in that part of your brain labeled, “Values/Morals/Free Choice” then you have been schooled well. Because think about it; would a sane person, would a sane nation promote, fund and encourage killing, hacking apart, and selling a baby? Would a sane person, a sane nation call that baby a zygote, an embryo anything except baby just to relieve our conscience. Would sanity really relegate human life to “opinion/religion/morality?  Cowards.

When did we lose our sanity? When did we become so well schooled that to call a baby in her mother’s womb a baby, was to make a moral/value judgment callWhen did we buy this BS? We have been cut in  half. And somehow we believed we’d be the better for the carve up. We are not. 

Once upon a time, “scholars felt an obligation to find ways to harmonize the findings of science with the truths of theology.” (Saving Leonardo)  But pretty soon scientists/ academia realized they needed to switch things up a bit because  they began to realize that  knowing how and doing  should sometimes not go together. So scientists/academia argued for autonomy- your religion, your silly morals shouldn’t matter. They succeeded and we were rent in two- Values from Facts. Value free. The end of a kinder, gentler humanity. Think about it, engage your factual mind and your moral mind all at the same time and then watch the Planned Parenthood videos. Little babies are “specimens,” “intact specimens,” “2nd trimester specimens.” Specimens that just happen to produce things like a liver, a thymus, a brain, that you can buy for $75 a pop. After you’ve killed them.

Imagine a world where you could simply say, “That is murder because, life.”

Academia slowly, effectively, definitively redefined by dividing convictions and facts- and they completed the schooling by teaching that the two ought never connect. If you hold to the idea that theology and ethics are subjective- that’s your opinion- and that science is objective-  verifiable, absolute ascertainable  facts, you have believed the lie of dualism- that there is a divide between mind and matter, and that the one can be trusted and the other must be in subjection if not dismissed outright. If you tinker with the idea that a “religious” person needs to keep her ideas to herself, if you are that religious person who feels a little embarrassed to admit that you hold to certain convictions, you’ve been pistol whipped by society. Moral relativism- this divide between morals and facts- is in fact the most intolerant, haughty, condemning attitude there is. Try to disagree with any of the tenets, you will be destroyed.

I am pro-life, why aren’t you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a baby.

This is a baby.

 

 

 

The Art of Relieving Stress


If you go to Multnomah Falls make sure to leave enough time for a sit down meal in their restaurant.

If you go to Multnomah Falls make sure to leave enough time for a sit down meal in their restaurant.

I have received requests to review adult coloring books; so as we sat waiting for our lunch at Multnomah Falls, I was not surprised to see a grown woman pull out her colored pencils and coloring book and while away the wait for her meal. Coloring is being discovered as a great stress reliever; so next time the kids are coloring at the table, sit down and give it a try too.

“In simplest terms, coloring has a de-stressing effect because when we focus on a particular activity, we focus on it and not on our worries. But it also “brings out our imagination and takes us back to our childhood, a period in which we most certainly had a lot less stress.” This leads us immediately and unconsciously to welfare, exposes the specialist.” (Huffington Post). Art in general has a stress relieving affect.

Winston Churchill took up painting to escape the never ending worry and  responsibilities of his job. In 1915, Churchill was a member of the War Council, a position which allowed him to know everything and do nothing. “I had to watch the unhappy casting-away of great opportunities, and the feeble execution of plans which I had launched and in which I heartily believed… I was forced to remain a spectator of the tragedy, placed cruelly in a front seat.” (Painting as a Pastime)

This is when he had to find a hobby that would take his mind off of things of which he could do nothing. This is when he discovered painting.

“And then it was that the Muse of Painting came to my rescue- out of charity and out of chivalry, because after all she had nothing to do with me- and said, ‘Are these toys any good to you? They amuse some people.’” (Painting as a Pastime)

I know that feeling of becoming totally lost in the craft, of being able to stand at an easel an sloop up gobs of cerulean blue or cadmium orange, slather them on the canvas or sit before a beautiful thick sheet of cold water pressed rag paper and paint in watercolors that drift and mix depending on the amount of water laid down. It makes so much sense that coloring books for adults would become a pursuit in leisure.

His first day out was with a child’s paint-box the following day he’d committed to the pastime by buying oils. He had found the joy in painting and exclaimed, “Just to paint is great fun. The colors are lovely to look at and delicious to squeeze out… Try it if you have not done so- before you die.” (Painting as a Pastime)

Get lost in the colors, the design, the relaxation of coloring. Some of the books have frame worthy coloring pages.

 

Click on the photo to shop for colored pencils.

Click on the photo to shop for colored pencils.

 

Click on this to take you to Amazon for a selection of detailed coloring books.

Click on this to take you to Amazon for a selection of detailed coloring books.

 

…And Certain Women


Okay, I just loved the pink-ness of this poster and the little teapot, well, the sentiment too, actually.

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 I wish there were a way to make this look like a more scintillating read, but alas, many Bible verses. Here’s the thing though, Jesus blasted onto the scene and unequivocally changed the way women were treated, their role in the church and society, and their status as equal to men. Did that make her a man? Course not, silly, but it did firmly remove her from under the thumb of a man and opened up a great big world to her. He placed her (again) next to man in equal standing before God- not under a husband nor father- in a pyramid scheme to her Savior.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus came and  was willing to speak with a strange woman in public, He was willing to heal a woman on the Sabbath,  He taught that a woman could be more than a wife and mother if she desired that, He believed women had the right to receive religious teaching and training and to be disciples, He taught that a mother too ought to be honored by her children,  He highly esteemed women’s testimony and witness,  He took the sign of the covenant- that until then had been restricted to men only- and offered it to females through baptism- a bloodless sign for male and female. Woman were now allowed the sign of the covenant.

For Jewish women in the first century A.D. their world was their home. ”A woman’s sphere of influence or importance in the legal sense was confined to her connection to her family, her faithfulness to her husband, and her domestic responsibilities… One must bear in mind the extraordinary patria potestas a father had over his daughters and a husband over his wife… A woman was passed from a father to her husband’s sphere of authority usually without being consulted.” (Women in the Ministry of Jesus- Ben Witherington III) . Judaism restricted women’s participation in religious functions. Women could not make up the quorum in the synagogue nor could they receive the covenant sign. Jesus came and granted women together with men equal rights to participate fully.

He accepted women as His disciples and traveling companions.

*”Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmitie- Mary called Magdalene out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.”Luke 8:1-4

The women who made up this company were not all single; Joanna was married and yet was able to travel with Jesus. Single women and married women- both- were able to leave the home front and travel with Jesus and be His disciples.

*”Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much service and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’”

Jesus answers Martha’s plea for help in the kitchen by telling her that was not the important work. He was gently teaching her to reorient her traditional role and focus on her faith.

“But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Martha and Mary were his disciples and that is the work He considered more important than doing the dishes- right then in real time- keeping house, making dinner was secondary to these women’s role as Jesus’ disciples.

*”At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works  and charitable deeds which she did.” Acts 9:36

These needs are included to show that, in fact, not all women were home cleaning the house, some women were out with the men hearing things preached:

* “Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ’This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.’ And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.” Acts 17:2-4

*Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.  Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.Acts 17:10-12

* “However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.” Acts 17:34

Women were prophetesses and teachers of men.

*”… Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.” Acts 21:9

Folks, we have not one, but four prophetesses in one little house. And a woman teaching a man too:

*”Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus.  This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.  So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Acts 18:24-26

And Luke, as if to drive the point straight home, gives us examples  that for the Jews of that day, would have been better told using men but instead Luke refers to women as “the house of”:

* “And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.  And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ So she persuaded us.” Acts 16:13-15

“So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.” Acts 16:40

*“After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them.  So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers.” Acts 18:1-3

Another important role that women had in Jesus’ day was that of a valid witness:

* The Queen of the South on judgement day will appear in court as a key witness for the prosecution- and her witness will be accepted as decisive testimony.Rabbinic judaism of the day would not have accepted her testimony, but Jesus does. “The Queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.” Mtt. 12:42

* The woman at the well in John 4: 39-40,  ”And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word.”

And what an honor and a glory that  women were the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection,

*“Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.  But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.  Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee,  saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’”

And they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.  It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.” Luke 24:1-12

Understand, these women and the fact that they are even mentioned as doing anything other than keeping house is monumental given the time and place, a patriarchal set up that kept women down. You can still read stuff like that on blogs and you can still hear sermons like that at patriarchal churches. But now you know better. Jesus came and raised woman up.

 

Being friends trumps Patriarch/Servant wife any day of the week.

“Submitting to one another in the fear of God.”

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A huge thanks for Ben Witherington III for his writings on women. You can check out his credentials here.

Then buy his book on women here.

Pre MIL Sparkle


“Human beings fail the way all complex systems fail: randomly and gradually. As engineers have long recognized, simple devices typically do not age. They function reliably until a critical component fails, and the whole thing dies in and instant. A windup toy, for example, works smoothly until a gear rusts or a spring breaks, and then it doesn’t work at all.” 

In the end, what makes life worth living?

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande is about growing old, about facing terminal illness and death, you know, uplifting stuff like that. Death is not pretty but perhaps it is possible that there are priorities beyond simply prolonging life at any cost.  Gawande took the time to find out what his patient’s biggest fears and concerns were, what goals were important right now, what trade-offs the patient was willing to make, and he began to see that sometimes the imminent, the day after next, is the most important.  One woman simply wanted to be alive long enough and be well enough to attend a wedding in a few days. That meant not performing the invasive surgery; it meant instead doing the minimal to make  being at the wedding in two days a possibility.  Sometimes it is possible to make life more comfortable without necessarily doing the herculean thing.

For the elderly what kept coming up time and again was the desire for independence and freedom.  ”What level of being alive is tolerable for you?” One man answered, “If I’m able to eat chocolate ice-cream and watch football on TV, then I’m willing to stay alive. I’m willing to go through a lot of pain if I have a shot at that.”

The three plagues of nursing home existence  are: boredom, loneliness, and helplessness. Nursing homes that have discovered the  benefit of bringing in cats, dogs, birds, and live plants to stimulate and motivate the residents have found residents feel fulfilled, there were stimulating reasons to get up in the morning and patients did better.

 My mother-in-law is an outlier. She is the rare older person who doesn’t desire independence nor freedom. Her greatest desire is to be cared for and to sleep. Me being on call round-the-clock was taking its toll.

At the salon my stylist, told me things; she told me that my “sparkle” was gone. And she told me she saw it leave when my mother-in-law came to live with us and I began to care for her. She used the word “sparkle” and I was flattered that I  was once “sparkly,”  shocked to realize  the “sparkle” was gone. I wanted it back.  I was stunned. It was true; I was emotionally exhausted. I was burnt out. When I told Andrew that his mother was killing my sparkle, without hesitation, we knew that I needed to quit being primary caretaker. It took ten months but I was spent.

So now she is living a short drive away in assisted living. And I tried to feel guilty about the move but they have some fun stuff there like a 50′s style soda shop where residents can go to get a root beer float. And they have an in-house hair salon. And the dining hall is set up like a restaurant; the residents can order from about 7 choices on the menu each meal. And I keep her in-room fridge stocked with yogurts and fruit for between meals. And all of that, as it turns out, makes her feel like her life is worth living.

And now my life is my own again and figuring it out will take time.

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The Old Becomes New


 

Paintings, paintings everywhere. I did a class recently and ended up with two of the same painting so I decided to paint over one of them. In the end, it was so much fun resurrecting old canvases into new paintings that I covered up the second one too.

lurking beneath this painting is the demo

And the painting progressed.

And soon I had transformed the canvas:

And ta da! A new painting to hide the old.

And ta da! A new painting to hide the old.

Both are currently for sale.

It was so much fun I did another!

Both are currently for sale. They measure 16″ X 20″ For Pinkpeppers readers they are $95/each. At Fine Art America they are $150/each.

Here is a little peak at my art in Moscow, Idaho; it’s still up if you’d like to go buy a piece; they are mostly small works,  at Bucer’s- 201 S Main St, Moscow, ID :

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“Nothing Sacred”

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Small flower on black

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Grapes on cloth

 

Acrylic Painting- Summer Art #3


 

 

Mimosa and Masterpieces in the Morning


Perhaps you’ve heard of the classes that combine wine and a painting lesson. I was asked to teach such a class but the catch was that it began at 9:30 AM and unless you want to appear questionable in your drinking habits, wine seemed over the top. So we came up with “Mimosa and Masterpieces in the Morning.”  The ladies picked the flower painting and I walked them through it; each woman picked her own choices of color using just three colors- red, blue and yellow.

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With red, blue and yellow (and white and black) they mixed every color under the sun.

With red, blue and yellow (and white and black) they mixed every color under the sun.

I supplied all the painting gear and the hostess supplied the mimosa and snacks.

This was the example I painted and they went from there.

This was the example I painted and they went from there.

 

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Wassily Kandinsky- Week #2 Summer Art


Kandinsky- one of the first purely abstract artists has an intriguing style full of tension, interplay and color. He was our muse for art week #2 this summer. I’m sure you are familiar with his circles. They would be a ton of fun to paint on a larger canvas with acrylics:

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 The circles were Fox’s inspiration. And the great thing about them is the less perfect they are, the better. I wanted the the other three to work on the ideas from the more complicated designs like this:

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So with various found round objects- lids, tape rolls, etc and pencils, rulers and paper, they let their imaginations take over. When the objects in their design were looking a little too much like the real thing, I had them change it a bit and make it a little more abstract. Canon’s snake looked too much like a snake so we decided the head should be a triangle instead of oblong; Anwyn’s dragon should have trianble scales not perfectly formed rounded scales; Athan’s waves also needed more angles instead of roundedness.

They ended up spending a few hours on their designs (Excpet for Fox who, after penciling in the circles, opted for Legos and Picasso Tiles.

 

Gyotaku- First Art Class for the Summer


Gyotaku -Japanese 魚拓, from gyo “fish” + taku “rubbing”

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Bascially the art of gyotaku involves a dead fish, ink and a sheet of paper or a piece of cloth. ” Credit is given to an emperor for having an image of a large red snapper made by first adding paint and then touching paper to it. He hung the art and ate the fish!” “Gyotaku came to America in the 1950s when a Japanese fish scientist (ichthyologist) Yoshio Hiyama,(also spelled with an “n”) shared his fish rubbings with American scientists. He presented them as scientific illustrations of Japanese fish species.” Link

We used acrylic paint because it is more vibrant than watercolor and cleans up with water. We used hand made Khadi 100% rag paper from India; because it is 100% rag, it gives and allowed us to mold it to the fish without tearing.  Simply paint the fish and then carefully, without moving the paper about, press every area firmly into the paper. When you are sure you’ve got it all, lift the paper and you have a monoprint of a fish. Ours is a blue gill.

But you don’t have to wait until you go fishing- and catch a fish- to do this; you can buy a rubbery fish that can be reused. Click on any of the photos to take you to a shopping source for your own Gyotaku fish.

Just click on the photo to purchase.

Just click on the photo to purchase a maleable fish.

Before the paint dries on the fish, you need to make the rubbing.

Before the paint dries on the fish, you need to make the rubbing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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They all painted eye details and added grass and then used a wine cork for a stamping the fishes bubbles.

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 And then the final touch was a fake Japanese signature that they painted on.

Uh, Do You Want to See Our Summer So Far? Oh, Wait, It’s Not Summer Yet


Our family is all over the map this summer. Allow me to share some links, photos and video.

Jarrett just got back from successful presentation at a glass research seminar where the finest glass engineers gathered. When he got home to Penn State he had a flying fox bat in his house.Click on this link:  This is 29 seconds of hilarity.  

Stunned by a pillow case.

Stunned by a pillow case.

Next up for him is Brazil. He was invited to attend conference with all expenses paid. The trick is getting the doggone visa. It’s like the DMV on steroids to maneuver that maze. In the end he’s required to #1. fly across the country from Pennsylvania to San Francisco for a scheduled appointment… or #2.  hire an expert, hand over all your original documents, pay a fee, and hope they come through for you.  He chose door #2.

This is Aileen’s photo:

First class to Hong Kong.

First class to Hong Kong.

Oh, Aileen is in Hong Kong presenting a paper to scientists from around the world on her PhD research. And then? Oh, off to Beijing for more heady stuff. And then what?? On to Puerto Rico for yet more enlightening of the colleagues.

Meghan? Meghan really thought it would be a fun thing to sell her perfectly appointed house and buy a mid-century modern untouched treasure that she could bring up to its former retro-glory. Eric is beginning to see the potential.

Erin? Just gutting and fixing about five places at once and running a B & B which was named one of the top 5 coolest in D.C. You can check it out here. (Hers is the Capitol Hill Rowhouse)

Taite? Landed a sweet internship at a laboratory. Following in her dad’s scientific nuclear steps.

Matthias? When a kid doesn’t need to study for finals because, well, you know,  then what that guy needs is some serious hands on hard work. He’s heading back to the miles and miles of beautiful ranch land to work sunrise to sunset. Here are some shots from his last year adventure.

Hell's Canyon

Hell’s Canyon

Hell's Canyon

Hell’s Canyon

Caitlin?? Oh, just creating a NEW LIFE!! Yes! (And continuing to renovate her massive Victorian house, and keep up with the cattle on the ranch). Hurrah for grandchild #11!!!!

Andrew? Every two years the nuclear plant shuts down for a total check-over and clean-up. That means suiting up in protective gear and heading straight into near range of the beast. He lives for this.

A yellow "poop suit" goes on over everything.

A yellow “poop suit” goes on over everything.

Me? I am so excited to be a part of the Moscow ArtWalk again this year! Come to Bucer’s and say, “hello” the evening of June 12.

Small enough to be affordable!

Small enough to be affordable!

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A few landscapes

A few landscapes

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The Receiving End of Help


Too often we really don’t care until it touches us, our own heart, our own life. In some God-thing circuitous way, I was talking to Diane at Seattle Children’s Hospital; I don’t even know how the telephone-transfer-train delivered me to her phone because the point of my call was all about appointment details, but there she was on the other end telling me that there is help available to defray the costs at the hospital.

“Well, not for us, though,” I said, “I mean, we’re fine.”  I then  booked a hotel and began to  scout out restaurants in Seattle, slightly pitifully, trying to pretend we were heading towards a bit of a vacation when reality was, we’d  rather be at home mundanely  living  life. It kicked me in the gut like this sort of thing  does- it is way easier to be on the giving end than the receiving end of help. Way easier. I humbled myself and called Diane back. Hardship makes a person realize she isn’t the island she wishes she were.

I was, still am, overwhelmed by the generosity of people who purpose to give and make a difference in the lives of people they may never know or meet just because they care, and they can. As parents, we would sacrifice everything to provide all we can for our children. And then an angel enters your life and relieves the burden.

Two books resonate with me for honesty and simplicity, Clay, Water, Brick by Jessica Jackley and A Small Cup of Light by Ben Palpant.

Clay Water Brick is uplifting, about how sometimes lives can be changed forever with a hundred bucks. Have you been there? Do you believe that? With just a few hundred dollars, Katherine the fishmonger depended upon just $500 to substantially increase her business, Eunice Alupo needed a mere $300 to grow her used clothing business, Betty Obote needed $500 to buy cows and open a butcher shop…

By way of story, Jackley tells you how she was moved to do something, how she managed to elbow into some of the best situations and places that could give her advice about helping, how she did do something. And in the telling, you come to realize it isn’t rocket science, that you too could be that help that someone else needs. You have to care enough to go do it.

Then you get to read of Shona the Sculptor (and yes, I researched her after reading of her to see the amazing success that her company has become-  shonaquip), how her love for her own child’s wellbeing turned into help for thousands, for both employment opportunities in South Africa and help for disabled who need a better fitting posture support device.

A Small Cup of Light  is pure honesty.

I always knew it was okay to be honest with God, to tell Him where I really stand with what He’s thought to be for my best. I always knew bargaining with God was a foolish game- if you heal me, if you heal her, if you clear up this awful mess, if you make things blissful, I will work harder to serve you better.

Ben Palpant’s writing is crystal clear and it rings true because he has suffered, and come out on the other side, not necessarily the brighter side but rather the side of knowing more fully who God is, who we are, who He wants us to be. “God did not give me suffering so that I might only look beyond it to some happy vale of future delight. He gave me suffering as a gift to be held in the present moment, just as he has given me happiness as a gift of the here and now.” Because let’s just be honest, sometimes things don’t hit downward for a time and then end ‘happily ever after’ and then what? Who is your God then?

God wants for us much much more than our happiness, “He is after a sustaining joy and he will give us that joy by giving us himself, whether through the small gifts that bring us gladness or through the dark night of suffering.”

“For nearly three weeks after my mind caught fire, the dilemma that kept barking at the back door of my mind was this: A good God is fine when life is tropically blissful, but what when the hurricane comes? Where is the safe haven then? What are we to do when chaos bangs against the windows and when the roof of reliability is ripped off?”

And the hardest lesson, I think, is to realize that God doesn’t need us to work harder, be stronger, look happy no matter; He gave us suffering so that we would find “true freedom and wholeness only in the lap of God.”

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Modesty Police, Halt!


So… it’s getting to be summer and you know what that mean, swimsuits! And you know what that means, the summer modesty police! Yes, you know, those posts that go up right around this time of year to tell you for the sake of the men- your sons, your brothers, your neighbor’s husbands- cover up, mind the cleavage! But here’s the problem, you can’t really head to every last beach in the entire world and demand that women cover up “for the sake of the men;” now can you? No, you can not. So, embrace the summer, give women a break; heaven knows every last woman beats herself up enough for not having the perfect body and then she  finally finds a swimsuit.

I found a really sweet piece, well, yes, a swimsuit but also a piece  written by Sarah Condon on getting over the legalism of swimsuits. She did it in such a kind way and still lets you know that, no, it really isn’t your place to put her in her place about her swimwear- or any wear. (Click on quote to read the entire post.)

I’m ready to enjoy the summers I’ve been blessed with and just shut up about swimwear. If you’ve got some rules in your head then might I suggest yelling/praying them away in a Kohl’s department store. Run from the rules. Tell them to go sit on a tack. Better yet, lay them at the feet of Jesus. I promise he’ll give you something more interesting and life-giving to think about.

May we all be given the grace to pick out something that just makes us feel nice (for me, that means polka dots), and jump off the diving board. Happy Summer, everyone.

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Imagine modesty policing every last person here!

 

 

Glamorous Camping?


Andrew was working 12 hour shifts all weekend and Matthias was sick; so Taite and I abandoned them for Mother’s Day weekend.

If you have not heard of “Glamping” it is “glamorous camping.” Oh, no, Taite and I didn’t do that but Caitlin’s in-laws have the most amazing glamping location you could ever dream up. Set on the edge of Hell’s Canyon you can rent a teepee and wake up to the awe. They also have 2 indoor places to rent, but now, that wouldn’t really be glamping now would it? We took a little trip from Caitlin and Zac’s up to see the set up going on for the upcoming season. Zac and his brother, Jordan were putting up the teepees.

After a little picnic, Caitlin, Taite, Jude and I headed back to town with frequent stops to hunt for morels. Success was small- just six. Jude promised to hold on to them and even when he fell asleep, he did not release his grip.

 

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Caitlin inside the very roomy teepee. They come with futons so you can sleep in luxury.

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Occasionally they have performances out here under the majesty. This day we used it for a picnic spot.

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A Good Wife Always Knows Her Place


Available June 30th

Available June 30th

“When you live overseas, it becomes easy to mythologize your native life: all the things you imagine you’d be doing if you weren’t an expat in a foreign land, all the ways you could be thriving.” Tracy Slater, although not exactly qualified, agreed to travel to Kobe to teach Korean and Japanese executives English and the intricacies of American business. After a few days of being these men’s teacher she is asked, “Could you… talk more… quietly? Perhaps? Show less confidence? You know. Be more shy. Like women are supposed to. Like the students are used to.”

She falls in love with Toru, though he can barely speak English and she speaks no Japanese, and she has to decide if she can live in Japan, become, as her marriage certificate labels her, a shufu- a housewife.

The Good Shufu, is Tracy Slater’s real life story. It is very well written, the nuances of the cultures are clear in her eyes because as she travels back and forth between Boston and Osaka, she sees over and over again with new eyes the differing cultures. She has left her teaching job as a college professor; she has left her teaching job to inmates; she has left her newly formed group; Four Stories, she has left her home of forever, Boston. And she wonders if it is worth the sacrifice to become a good shufu.

And then a rabbit trail led me to this little gem of an article from Housekeeping Monthly May 13, 1955.  60 years ago, this is the advice you could read for wives in the USA. (Actually I could refer you to a current day book that offers this same advice but, well)  If you can’t read the fine print, allow me:

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*Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favorite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.

*Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

*Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

*Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.

*Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper etc and then run a dust cloth over the tables.

*Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

*Prepare the children. take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimise all noise. At the time of his arrival eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.

*Be happy to see him.

*Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.

*Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first- remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.

*Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.

*Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.

*Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.

*Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.

*Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

*Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing, pleasant voice.

*Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

*A good wife always knows her place.

My Secret Life with Emu Oil


Don't you be extracting my oils!

Don’t you be extracting my oils!

Emus give off oil?! And where? I wondered. I mean, do they secrete it from some awful and obscure gland? Emu Oil, for dry skin?  I had to do a little research. And then I discovered that, “Unadulterated emu oil can vary widely in color and viscosity anywhere from an off-white creamy texture to a thin yellow liquid, depending on the diet of the emu.”  And, “Emu oil is oil derived from adipose tissue harvested from certain subspecies of the emu.” Add to that,  my sample was a little on the cringe-like yellow end of the spectrum. Be sure to shake well before use and then slather all over your body!

Some might not know that I have a secret on-line life of reviewing stuff for Amazon, gobs of stuff, so much stuff that I haul some of it to Goodwill. The most often asked question is,  ”How do you get people to send you gobs of free stuff?”

I don’t; they kindly request me. About a year ago I quit ingesting stuff for review; those requests get deleted now because seriously, how many fish oil pills, Coq10, muscle milk, organic all natural vitamins, protein powder would you be willing to consume? Okay, I take that back, I just forced bacon/cheese spaghetti sauce on my family. Oh, and freeze dried apple slices (they were surprisingly good.) And chocolate biscuit sticks (very tasty.) So, okay, just nothing overtly healthy. The other thing I simply delete are the countless self-published books with awful cartoonish cover art. I am certain that you can judge a book by its cover.

The other question I am asked is, “What is the best item you’ve ever been sent?” I don’t think I have a best, well, maybe it has been the little two seat mustard yellow Mustang, but besides that I am glad to have been introduced to quite a few things that I would never have thought to buy on my own.

For starters, here are the  best toiletries:

If you are in the market for make-up brushes, these are a great deal. Twenty at a great price. Okay, I may have taken them up to my painting studio and used them for painting too.

You want just one big monster brush? This is it. Check out the review.

Perfume. My all time favorites are Chanel #5, First, and Opium and I figured three signatures was enough, but I’ve added Obsession to the line-up. It is a sophisticated powdery with a touch of vanilla,  mandarin and  bergamot.

Dry skin and want to feel really pampered? Well for heaven’s sake, don’t make it Emu oil. Try L’Occitane Shea Ultra Rich Comforting Cream

And good old organic coconut oil, which seriously, when it’s 100% organic coconut oil, why does the jar say, “Do not ingest?” Oh, and, “Do not use on chickens or animals.”

For the face, I have liked this Vitamin C serum. I am especially happy that it is made in the USA because things we ingest and things we smear on our skin should be extra safe; I don’t trust China for that.

But my ultimate top-of-the-line favorite is L’Occitane Immortelle Divine Cream. I liked it so well that I was reluctant to throw out the empty jar hoping to get one more little dab from it.

Jouer makes a nice moisture tint. I am really happy that it is SPF 20 especially be very light-skinned and coming late to the idea that I should protect it.

A suspicious sort of product that I’ve tested a few times is Micellar Water.  A little research on this makes me think it’s the new snake oil elixir- buy it and believe!

Most amazing mouth wash in the world? This stuff is it, it’s not the minty covering your sins sort of stuff this actually works so well that you wake up without “morning breath.” True.

And while you’re at it, if you want a toothbrush that doesn’t cost a hundred bucks and sits boldly all over your bathroom counter, if you want a cleaner, sleek look in your bathroom AND a toothbrush that works, this one will do the trick. Also made by Sonicare, this one takes AA batteries.

If you have not yet discovered Moroccan Argan Oil for hair, you should. It is made of Moroccan argan oil, macadamia oil, shea oil, jojoba oil.  A little dab’ll do ya so it will last a long time and make your hair feel softer, less dried out.

My favorite shampoo and conditioner for testing has been Fekkai. It is formulated to be kind to color treated hair.

 

Wherein “chicken coop” and “swank” meshed


And there was even a hand-written card from our daughter waiting at the table for us.

And there was even a hand-written card from our daughter waiting at the table for us.

We do not go away alone together so amazingly, there we were heading to a “posh, we’re so country in a very pampered way” inn. We were staying in the Chicken Coop; in my mind “chicken coop” and “swank” do not mesh but they did right there. We poked around our cottage a bit and then left for our reservation at a fine restaurant. Stepping through the door, behold,  the host is a beloved friend.

“Whaaat!?” I said and ran up to give him a hug.

He’d perused the reservation list the week before and when he spotted our name decided to be there that evening to greet us. I told him it felt like a little taste of heaven, in a strange land,  a delightful surprise, a friend I love stands there to greet me.

We were early and planned to sit at the bar to wait for our table. “No problem; in fact, Caitlin and Zac got word of your reservation and bought you a bottle of champagne.”

Whaat!?

Of course the best thing with champagne is fois gras with a bit of quince jelly on the most divinely light toast, so there we perched chatting with the bartender until our table was ready, by which point I felt we knew our bartender well enought to invite him for dinner.  And then we (really I, because Andrew is always standing by like, “there she goes again”… in a loving way, mind you) invited the host to come too, bring a group. Alone at our table I asked Andrew what we (in all honesty, really he) planned to make for these guests.

The next morning I bashed my toe, the toe whose toenail had almost grown out from the last time I bashed it against a brick, that same toe totally ended my little dream of death marching Andrew around a cute town to shop for things we did not need to drag into our house. I was hobbled.

Headng home, we were keeping track of our nephew’s progress from Montana; we were meeting him and his friend for lunch. Fascinatingly this friend has a master’s in creative writing- poetry in particular- and I scribbled furiously on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt while he cited the names of books and authors of poetry that he admired. Then he asked to borrow my pen because I actually had mentioned something he wanted to note. He stopped and held up my pen mid-word to exclaim how well it wrote, which made me wax lyrical about the search and final triumph of finding the perfect pen, a pen so perfect that when it was once left at Aileen and Jason’s I emailed, texted and finally called them to make sure they kept it safe for me. Aileen texted back that they were keeping it safe and had in fact separated it from the other pens in their house so it would not run wild. It finally returned home unscathed.

The next morning Taite and Matthias drove off to Caitlin and Zac’s ranch in Hell’s Canyon to help brand cattle and ride into the sunset on horses.

Andrew and I jumped in our truck to pick up some wine we’d ordered. The great thing about buying 16 cases of wine all at once from a single winery is that the owner/winemaker will come out to your rickety old truck to see who in the world is carting this stuff off. And then Andrew will get to stand there and talk about the chemistry of wine, the best longitude and latitude for growing wine grapes, the best rocky arid soil for growing wine grapes, and the subtelties of each particular variety of grape. And I will stand there too and be like, “Yup, what he said.”

We carted all those down to our, ahem, cellar and Andrew kept wishing Matthias were home and not branding cattle so the carting of it all would be easier. But he got my help instead.

Then, yes, we jumped in our car and headed the opposite direction to be at our sister-in-law’s suprprise birthday dinner that Gretchen and Matt managed to pull off- Doris was surprised.  And I was totally thrilled to sit across the table from two great artists whose work I have hanging in my house and ask them all sorts of beginner questions about painting.

The next day we were at Aileen and Jason’s church as they became members and the kind greeter at the door, Patch, once again told us what a pleasure it was to have us there again. I did say, ” You are so kind, do you not know I have quite a reputation?”  He replied, “I know nothing of that.”

A final hurrah for the week at  Matt and Doris’s for a barbecue and then the whole wonderfully frenzied week would come to an end. But lo,  a message on my phone from our pastor’s wife inviting us over when we got back to town. YES!  The perfect end, the four of us around their table, relaxed and unwinding.

There is even still so much more to that week, there is the night before getting our cases of wine, sitting and sharing a bottle of very fine wine at a cozy little bar with very long-standing fast friends, followed by a dessert event where I was able to meet the ravioli party Kelly’s parents and hang out with Meghan and Eric and see snuffly little Aoife. There was me stopping in a frame shop and there in the back was Wolfgang, his first day on that job, and still he came out, we hugged, and then talked for half an hour about life. And earlier that day, Hannah making me her last stop before heading off for her summer job bringing coffees to sip and to chat. And the most encouraging email from a woman who is thankful for what I sometimes write on this little blog.

I was totally blown away by God’s gracious hand in my life. Food, wine, friends, the whole week has seemed like a foretaste of heaven.

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Ravioli Party


Kelly said she knew how to make ravioli, I said I liked a party and thus was born a ravioli making party. In a huge way it was really easy; dinner did not need to be ready for the crowd because they were making the meal. Beforehand, I bought the ingredients and then just before the party made sure to have everything out and on hand. (Recipes are at the end of the post.)

And once again all the amazing photos are pilfered from Meghan’s site: Bluefilter

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Butter, butter, butter, cream cheese, heavy whipping cream…

Everyone slicing , dicing and chopping requires multiple cutting boards.

Everyone slicing , dicing and chopping requires multiple cutting boards.

 

So, I've had a pizzelle maker forever. and never used it. Ever. An Italian meal is the perfect time to use it or toss it. Forever. So I made pizzelles for dessert topped with whipped cream and sliced strawberries.

So, I’ve had a pizzelle maker forever. and never used it. Ever. An Italian meal is the perfect time to use it or toss it. Forever. So I made pizzelles for dessert topped with whipped cream and sliced strawberries.

Super photo! Now get back in the kitchen and get to work!

Super photo! Now get back in the kitchen and get to work!

 

A little Aoife moment.

A little Aoife moment.

 

Renée has her granddaughter too!

Renée has her granddaughter too!

Turns out Austin can cook! He and Andrew made all the filling.

Turns out Austin can cook! He and Andrew made all the filling.

 

Two stunning gals in black.

Two stunning gals in black.

Thanks to Kelly we had a super fun dinner party.

Thanks to Kelly we had a super fun dinner party.

 

Andrew and Dave take care of the perfect wine pairing.

Andrew and Dave take care of the perfect wine pairing.

This momma can make an alfredo sauce like you wouldn't believe. She had to make more because before ravioli were even ready, people were sneaking over to use it as a bread dip.

This momma can make an alfredo sauce like you wouldn’t believe. She had to make more because before ravioli were even ready, people were sneaking over to use it as a bread dip.

 

Yes. Yes, this will be perfect with the alfredo sauce.

Yes. Yes, this will be perfect with the alfredo sauce.

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This is my 75 year old flour tin from my grandma.

This is my 75 year old flour tin from my grandma.

Renée mostly rolled the dough in the right direction. And at the right setting:)

Renée mostly rolled the dough in the right direction. And at the right setting:)

 

Four times through at different setting and it is ready to be made into raviolis

Four times through at different setting and it is ready to be made into raviolis

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Ya know, picking out the perfect wine is a lot of work. Dave at rest.

Ya know, picking out the perfect wine is a lot of work. Dave at rest.

Just some great peeps.

Just some great peeps. (Dave still at rest.)

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Amazing weather, yay!

Amazing weather, yay!

My recommendation, should you want to throw a ravioli party are:

1. Definitely have the dough ready to roll.

2. Possibly make the filling ahead of time too or at least get started on that first off.

3. Have copies of the recipes to hand out to the cooks. Depending on the group size, you may have to double or triple the recipes.

Here are the tried and true recipes:

Ravioli Filling (8-10 servings)

1 lb. bulk hot Italian sausage     1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced       1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese, softened

1 pkg. (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (press through strainer to remove as much excess liquid as possible)  We used fresh spinach.

2 C. shredded mozzarella       1/4 C. Grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 tsp. each, salt and pepper

In a large skillet, brown sausage with onion and garlic. Drain and cool. Pulse in a food processor with spinach. Pour into a large bowl; mix together with cheeses, salt and pepper.

Alfredo Sauce (8-10 servings )

1 T. EVOO

4 cloves garlic, pressed

1 pkg. (8 oz) cream cheese, softened and cut into cubes

2/3 C. Fresh grated Parmesan cheese (more if desired)

1/2 C. Butter

1/2 C. Whipping cream or half n half (I find the latter is plenty rich!) 1/8+ C. Milk (optional, for thinning)

In a large sauce pan, heat the EVOO over low heat; cook the garlic lightly (DO NOT BROWN!!). Add the cheeses, butter, cream and milk, whisking constantly until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, you may want to add a little milk.

Marinara Sauce (8-10 servings)

1 can (29oz) tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes

1 T. Dried minced onion    2 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

1 1/2 tsp. parsley flakes        2 cloves garlic, pressed

1 tsp. sugar   1/2 tsp. salt 1/4 tsp. pepper

Mix together in a bowl. If you want, you can simmer it for a while to get the flavors going, but that can wait until the pasta party.

Pizzelle

6 eggs            1 1/2 cups sugar

2 Tablespoons  vanilla extract             1 cup butter, melted

3 1/2 cups flour                            4 teaspoons baking powder

Beat eggs and sugar until thick. Stir in vanilla and melted butter. Stir in flour and baking powder just until blended and smooth.

Depending on your pizzelle iron place about 1 Tablespoon of the batter into the center of the iron, close and lock. Bake for about 3o seconds.

I made and froze these the week before.

I served these flat on a plate with large amounts of whipped cream and sliced strawberries (slicing of the berries were one more assigned task at the party.)


 

 

You’re Only as Sick as Your Secrets


 

Andrew is having pinkpepper withdrawals and wanted me to write something again here. We just celebrated 35 years together. It’s a long story but if you meet some girl with her little baby and they look like a hot mess beyond hope, pray for her, invite her in and trust God for her future; it might be brighter than anything she’d ever dared dream of.

In 1980, the year Planned Parenthood began, I walked into a doctor’s office unmarried, pregnant, and hoping this doctor could make this, this situation all go away. He did not. Thank God.

I was in college interested in a BSN; I had been accepted to Boston University pre-med program; my parents were thrilled.

“The call” to my parents is forever etched in my mind. Shattering the dreams of your parents is a heavy burden. I told them I was pregnant and that the father of the child and I were planning to get married; I would be dropping out of school. I was 1500 miles from home, my parents did not even know what this guy looked like (this was prehistoric to the internet, before fast photos); I could come home and live with them, have the baby at home, they told me. But I was determined maybe madly stubborn; especially since bets at college were against longevity of the union. I am not even kidding; there were bets. We got married.

My new husband graduated; we put all our worldly possessions in our ancient Vega and drove from Kansas to Massachusetts to be at my sister’s wedding (the only family wedding that was supposed to happen that year.) We were out of money after making the trip; by default we stayed, and settled into my parents’ basement- an unfinished cement-floored, bare-walled basement with a full-size bed in the corner.

Right before our daughter was born, we got a one-bedroom apartment in a filthy building downtown. Andrew worked his day job, came home ate dinner, and I left for the night shift at a nursing home- including weekends. Even hustling with two jobs, we lived well below poverty level.

Walking downtown, an advertisement on a storefront window  offered “energy assistance,” I walked in; they took one look at the teen-aged mom and her thrift-store clad baby in a makeshift stroller that I had resurrected from someone’s trash by hand sewing a sort of sling onto the frame for the “seat” and I was deemed eligible to receive government assistance. Weirdly they just knew. Money was so tight that a big night out was walking to Dunkin’ Donuts to each buy a single doughnut maybe every two weeks.  It is true; there are people who do not even have spare change as a buffer against poverty.

We knew we should attend church, so we went. The church, mercifully, offered us the custodial job; we cleaned the church for our weekend fun and then turned around and tithed that money right back the next day. Our Vega, by this point, was guzzling oil so that when we’d get to the church the next town over, we’d have to pour a bottle of oil back in to get home again. But a bottle of oil was cheaper than a new car or repairs, so we always had a bottle of oil in the back.

Nine months later, I walked (I walked everywhere back then) into a Planned Parenthood clinic with my nine-month old daughter to wait in the hard plastic chair in an unfortunately full waiting room hoping for salvation from Planned Parenthood. I received their information and left. (Do you see how these people are always there waiting and wanting to “help?” Evil has a way of being there for you.) I did not heed the advice and our second daughter was born eight months later. Right then I would have slapped you down if you’d have told me we would go on to have five more children for a total of five daughters and two sons. That would have been crazy talking right there.

So here we still are celebrating 35 years  today. We are blessed beyond anything those two pitiful kids could have even dreamt up had they dared to dream. And the bet? I won.

Sterling, Kansas right before the trek across the country. (not our motorcycle)

Sterling, Kansas right before the trek across the country. (not our motorcycle)

"So… this kid's gonna be raising me!?"

“So… this kid’s gonna be raising me!?”

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This guy rocks!

This guy rocks!

Being in the Zone


Like the witch in the Wizard of Oz it began melting, melting, we stared as the biodegradable cup began to do just that right before our eyes. Andrew grabbed it just in the nick of time and salvaged the coffee back into the original vessel- Starbucks paper cup, Americano, Venti. We’d have to share from a single cup afterall as we waited for our pager to alert us that the wait was over and we could find out about Taite in recovery.

On the trip home Andrew wondered aloud to me what I might write about our last few day, I mean, if I did write about it. I told him I’d probably write about how I totally understand how a couple facing serious illness or worse of one of their children gets through it. And then gets a divorce.

I know, doesn’t that sound just awful?

Remember Baby Jessica, the 18 month old who fell down a 22 foot dry well and was trapped there for 58 hours back in 1987? I was pregnant with our fourth daughter at the time and everyday I was glued to the news, praying for that little girl to be rescued from that deep well. Her parents divorced a few years later. I remember being totally shocked; their little baby girl had been brought back up from the pit of darkness to the light; she was alive and safe in their arms; how could they so pettily divorce after all that? Wouldn’t it seem to the casual observer that the absolute relief would pull the whole family together forever, and ever, amen? I get it now. And the answer is, “No.” Hard stuff that parents go through with a child does not necessarily make the bond stronger. Sometimes it severs what you thought was strong.

We, Andrew and I, have discovered that we deal with stress differently.

My way is that in the car, in the hotel, in the restaurant, everywhere I need, need to have control because I cannot control the outcome in the hospital but I sure as heck can control whether we should be turning right. Or left, damn it. And I can control the coffee in my life, for Pete sake, right!??  Finding out there will be no coffee maker in the hotel room or the lobby sends me ballistic.  Andrew doesn’t do stuff like that.

We also discovered that I (and it turns out Taite as well) deal with the really hard things by “being in the zone.” We treat hard stuff, like illness and hospitals, like a sport- mentally focusing on the one event. Everything else gets shut out. So no, I do not want to discuss social nor political issues of the day right there in that blessed sterile curtain drawn cubicle. I want to be left totally alone and I do not want to talk to anyone about anything. Or be touched.

Perhaps we are attracted to our spouse initially because opposites attract. It can be a happy little humorous thing when life is happy and humorous. It can get on your nerves when things get sad and messy.

It’s easy to think, “We went through hard things, and now we are so eternally thankful for the things left intact that we will always be grateful and life will always be perfect. We promise.” And it can and should be like that, but it takes understanding, compassion, love, respect. And a lot of prayer. Lots of prayer. Lots of give and take. Lots of living with understanding.

So, if you are there; I understand.

Wizard+of+Oz+-+The+Wicked+Witch+Melting+Life-Size+Cardboard+Stand-Up

Betty & George


93 years old. She says it feels so long ago that it doesn’t seem like her life; someone else lived all that.

I long ago gave up the idea that me visiting someone would “bless” them; because long ago I learned that I am the one who always walks away amazed, refreshed, “blessed.”  So it was shear laziness that made Andrew and me think that maybe no, we didn’t want to drive 2 hours for a quick visit and then another 2 hours a bit later to catch our flight home. We got on over ourselves and made the trip. When I tell Betty that  she is an inspiration, she tells me, “you know, I’ve lived a hard life.”

This amazing woman was in her third year of law school when she met and married the man of her dreams. World War II was just beginning and this newly wed bride followed her husband every place he was assigned in the U.S. Soon she was toting a baby in a basket in the backseat. And then one day Wills shipped out. They sent a constant stream of  letters to each other and then she said,

“I knew. It was so abrupt. They just stopped.”

Her husband was killed at Anzio; she was a 22 year old widowed mother who had to find work. Everyday when she came home she had this, she knew crazy, idea that Wills would be there. Everyday her hope was shattered.

Sadly she stuck that baby back in his basket and headed back to the midwest. She picked up a guy thumbing a ride and sped on until she was stopped by a cop for speeding. He took a look in the back and warned her about minding the speed and keeping her baby safe and let her go. She said she’d have lost it right there if he’d said a mean word to her. She drove until she landed back in Nebraska where she found work.

Everyday when she was done working and hopeful for Wills, this other guy, 11 years her senior, was there instead perchance when she came home.  She married Mac and they both taught, combining their incomes for a total of $6K a year. When they heard that they could each do better by a thousand a year in Wyoming, they went. Soon they were having to move because Mac continually got  ”into trouble.” Another big move for another grand each a year and that is it, Betty declared, when they landed in California, “I will not move from here; this is where I stay.” She will not tell you, but her life with Mac was very hard.

That little baby in the backseat basket grew to be 16 years old and then devastatingly died in a motorcycle accident. Nothing remains of that first life that she lived.

Mac and Betty continued teaching and living in California, Mac was teaching convicts at Folsom prison when cancer took his life. Betty soon married a former convict, 11 years her junior, and they lived, still live together apart. She has her house and he has his; in the evenings he’d go back to his own house and that is how it’s been for 35 years. It has worked but now George is spending nights at Betty’s because at 93 she has fallen a few times in the night when she heads to the bathroom. She needs him.

So that day last week, Andrew and I were privileged to visit with Betty and George. When we showed up she told us we were going out for lunch and she would not need to bring her purse because it was our treat to treat her. And George would not be coming- he had a dentist appointment he had to keep. She could sit in the backseat, it didn’t matter. But it did matter, I told her, because she needed to direct us to her favorite restaurant. She sat up front.

After a 3 hour visit, she told us we needed to get going or we’d miss our plane.

Betty and George married 35 years and going strong!

Betty and George married 35 years and going strong!