Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Ben’s mother, Carin, kept a journal on the CaringBridge.org site – a free website service that gives people in the Towne’s situation the opportunity to keep loved ones and friends informed. The site contains a guest book feature, a journal feature, and space for photographs. Carin and Jeff made good use of this wonderful website during their 18 months’ ordeal.
I’ve been reading parts of the guest book and have been struck over and over again by the outpouring – the absolute flood – of compassion from people who do not know the Towne family. So many entries start out “You don’t know me, but….” And so many of those entries contain eloquent expressions of sympathy for, and empathy with, the Towne family.
It renews my faith in humankind.
Carin and Jeff are in a very difficult place in their life journey. Ben spent nearly half of his short life battling neuroblastoma; the ups and downs of his ordeal can be found in his mother’s journal on the CaringBridge site. Understandably, the doubts and fears of his parents can be found there, too. It’s a heartbreaking read, but I highly recommend it. Read the guestbook, too. More than 5,000 expressions of encouragement, comfort, and sympathy have been logged since the summer of 2007. A flood.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Another hectic December is flying by and I’m still not quite ready for Christmas. I am working on top-secret homemade projects and my inspiration level has been pretty darn low lately. Not sure why that is – must be my own version of the “shoot yourself in the foot” gene that has plagued some members of my family over the generations. I intend to rise above my DNA, however, and get these gifts done in time for the holiday.
It’s cold here in Pocatello – really cold. I’m so glad we have our gas fireplace/stove running in the family room. It’s very near my desk and I stay toasty warm all day while I’m working. We’re expecting more snow starting this evening and going into tomorrow; should be a white Christmas for us because we’re not expecting a thaw anytime soon. The barn in the picture above is my favorite of this year's Christmas scenery in Pocatello.
Last night a small group of souls from my church went caroling at one of the local assisted living facilities. This is a far cry from the nursing homes that we used to visit when I was a kid – those were much more like medical/hospital facilities than ‘assisted living’ homes. I can still remember caroling for the first time with my high school choir at one of those places. We were visiting one of the “nicer” nursing homes in our area, but sections of it were still pretty grim. What struck me, though, and also thrilled me was watching the faces of the inhabitants as we sang the familiar carols. Many who were disoriented, senile, and “out of it” would sing, or at least mouth the words along with us. Obviously the lyrics of the Christmas carols were embedded deeply in their memories – so deep that they couldn’t be completely erased, even as the years took their toll. I loved seeing these people come a little bit more alive in response to the music. I hope the message of the carols was just as deeply embedded in their minds as the words and the music – I’ll never know for sure, but I hope.
Last night we sang for many in a lovely facility. What struck me this time was a woman sitting alone on a bench at the end of one of the corridors. She watched us intently as we sang for her (we toured the hallways, singing), but she didn’t give any recognition, didn’t sing along or even mouth the words. As we moved off, she remained seated on that same bench, by herself. When we reached the opposite end of that corridor, I looked back and still she was there. Seemingly motionless. I wondered what she was thinking and hoped that the music had somehow reached her. That’s another one I’ll never know, but I hope.
It’s no secret that I am a Christian. I am seriously grateful for Christ’s work on the Cross on our behalf. I look with hope toward the day when I get to go home to meet my Savior face to face. In the meantime, I’m happy to be on this earth, where He came, too – just a tiny baby in the most squalid of human circumstances. God and man. Lord and Savior. Redeeming His own.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
1. Where did you meet? In a restaurant in San Francisco (Tim likes to say we met in a bar – because we were introduced in the bar section of the restaurant before sitting down in the dining section with the rest of the group.)
2. How long did you date before you got married? We corresponded as friends for a full year, then dated for 9 months before we got married.
3. How long have you been married? 8 years this December 31
4. What does he do that surprises you? He loves me.
5. What is your favorite feature of his? His hair
6. What is your favorite quality of his? He is truly a man after God’s own heart.
.7. Does he have a nickname for you? Yes. (No, I’m not sharing it.)
8. What is his favorite color? Pretty sure he doesn’t have one.
9. What is his favorite food? I don’t think he has one, although I’m sure he likes my cooking.
10. What is his favorite sport? He doesn’t do much in the way of sports these days. He likes to watch football.
11. When and where was your first kiss? At O’Hare airport in Chicago.
12. What is your favorite thing to do as a couple? Travel.
13. Do you have any children? Between us we have 7 (I have 1, he has 6)
14. Does he have a hidden talent? He can do just about anything one-handed.
15. How old is he? 52.
16. Who said I love you first? He did – on the phone – I was completely floored.
17. What’s his favorite type of music? Hymns.
18.What do you admire most about him? His patience and his tenacity.
19. Do you think he will read this? Definitely not.
So, I'm tagging Katie G., Katie M., Tracy P., Connie C., Ruth S., Karen S., and Lenae C. (you all know who you are!)
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
I’ll never forget the first time I saw tumbleweed blowing in the wind. We were seated in a fast food joint near an intersection. As my husband (then fiancé) and I talked, I noticed something hurtling along on the pavement underneath the traffic lights. Incredulous, I interrupted our conversation to ask, “Is that tumbleweed I just saw??” Tim didn’t even glance out the window but answered in the affirmative. “I thought you saw them only out on the plains,” I said suspiciously. “Nope,” he said. “We get them in town, too.”
This East Coast girl had never seen one up close and personal. Only on TV in Westerns. The 19th century kind. With gun slingers poised at either end of a deserted street, townspeople hiding in the shops and the saloon.…. you get the picture.
And there Tim and I were, watching tumbleweed blowing across late 20th century civilization. Wow.
Since I’ve moved to Pocatello, I’ve seen a lot more tumbleweed, of course. When the wind gets going good and strong here, everything blows around. When I first saw one coming at my car, and could tell by the rate of its speed and mine that we were going to meet, I had a momentary impulse to swerve. That would be all the years of deer-avoidance as a resident of New Jersey there. Then I realized it wasn’t alive and was so light it wouldn’t hurt my car. Thus I discovered that when you hit tumbleweed just right with your car, it splinters nicely all over the place. Thwack!
Friday, November 28, 2008
My maternal grandmother, Anna, was the first person to own this rolling pin, which makes me a third-generation owner. I never knew this grandmother because she died a few weeks before my parents got married back in 1954. I know only what my mother and aunts have told me about her through the years. She had rheumatic fever as a child and always had heart problems thereafter; in fact, her early death was caused by a massive heart attack. The only surviving child of a Baptist and a bookie, she was much loved. She was also quite beautiful and it is no wonder that she captured the heart of my grandfather shortly after he arrived in the United States from Great Britain. Together they had five children, burying one in the dark days of summer diphtheria outbreaks. My mother was the baby of the family and, from what I can gather, the sunshine of her parents’ lives.
I’m not sure how my mother came to own the rolling pin – I don’t know if she was given it when she moved out after college or after her mother died or what... I inherited it at the time my parents’ marriage dissolved, when I was 16. Through the years and several moves, one across the country, I’ve somehow managed to hang onto this most pedestrian of kitchen tools, the wooden rolling pin with the red handle. Every pie I’ve ever made has been rolled out with this pin. I think of Anna and I think of my mother each time I’ve used it.
My own childhood contains vivid memories of sitting at the kitchen table, watching my mother roll out dough and slice up apples. Even now, just the faintest smell of cinnamon will bring that memory back to me. If we were very good, Mom would let us play with the trimmings of raw dough after she’d finished putting the pie together. What great fun we’d have with that stuff – colorless and a little greasy, yet we considered it better than playdough, for some odd reason. Even better were the rare occasions when Mom would have enough leftover dough to make what she called “tarts” for us: small pieces of pie dough rolled out, liberally sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, and then baked until crispy. I can see -- and smell -- them coming out of the oven now.
The solid wood rolling pin is a classic, even with one handle missing. This one isn’t much to look at, but when I do look at it, it’s a lot.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
While my shoulder is still bothersome, I am able to type for short periods of time now – with two hands, that is. Thank goodness! I’ve been typing in excess of 70 words per minute since I was in high school. Being reduced to one hand was really a trial, to say the least. My husband (who has had only one arm for the last 20+ years) couldn’t resist saying what I knew was coming when I complained about it: “Welcome to my world,” he joked.
But even one-handed, I can still type faster than he can. Heh. Heh. Heh.
Today I have another therapy session and then it’s off to the grocery store for some things we’ll need this weekend. I will be careful not to do too much with my left arm, though – the shoulder is still pretty touchy.
My gluten-free stuffing attempt of last week didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped, so I will be experimenting again today with a different mixture of seasonings. The texture of the stuffing was really great – but the taste just wasn’t there. In fact, it was what I refer to as the “double whammy” – gluten free AND taste free.
In addition to the stuffing, I’ve found a recipe for gluten-free corn pudding that I’m planning to try today as well. If it works, it will go with us to the Thanksgiving feast at my mother-in-law’s house tomorrow. Or maybe I’ll keep it for our weekend parties (of which there will be a few).
Thanksgiving weekend is one of my favorites here in Pocatello. There are a lot of things going on in town – a parade of lights, an evening of fireworks, special shopping events in Old Town, all kinds of fun, small-town stuff. I’m thankful to live in a place where community is so important.
I read an interesting article yesterday in Christianity Today online about how a daily spirit of thankfulness can really help a marriage partnership get through the tough times. That concept seems like a no-brainer at first glance, but the subtlety of the attitude orientation really has quite a powerful effect. A habitual spirit of thankfulness preserves and protects the partnership, rather than letting everyday life tear at its fabric. I like that. And I think that same principle can be applied to all of life.
My cousin, Karen, ends every one of her blog entries with the reminder, “Be thankful.” Today I will do the same.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Typing with one hand does not lend itself to updating the blog regularly, as you can well imagine. I am working on a piece, but it will probably be a while before I can finish it. I hope to be back soon!
Wishing you all the best,
Monday, November 10, 2008
Of course, there was no Veteran's Day holiday at that time.
Generations later, my own grandfather (from the same family as ancestor, Koert) fought in both World War I and World War II. I know very little about his military service in the first World War, but I do know that he volunteered to go back in for WWII and went over to Europe as military police (he had been a mounted police officer in Newark, NJ, at the time). After the war, he remained in Bavaria for a short time as one of the Military Governors assigned by the Allies to aid the transition process. He also witnessed at least part of the Nuremberg trials.
Two of my stepsons currently serve in the Idaho National Guard, with one of the boys already having completed a tour of duty in Iraq. (That’s a year that we spent pretty much down on our knees.) There is talk that the Idaho Guard may be deployed again within the next 18 months, and I will confess that I am very, very reluctant to see them go.
I won’t pretend to know whether our current war is justified or not justified, and it’s not a point I’m willing or able to debate with anyone. It is what it is, and our hard-working troops go where our government sends them.
The point is that we owe all our veterans a great deal of gratitude – and that’s true whether they fought in a popular or an unpopular war. The scars they receive from battle are not just physical and can shadow their whole lives. The scars their families bear as a result of the enforced separation can be long-lasting and deep.
We really do owe them a huge debt for the sacrifices they have made/are making on our behalf.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Oops! Did I mention it's time to get ready for Christmas? Yep. I'm not a last-minute kind of gal when it comes to Christmas. Can't be, with a family that is the size of ours! Plus, I really enjoy the Christmas season. Not the commercial stuff, but the real meaning of it (i.e. We are loved so much by God that He was born into this messy world of ours!) And I love the memories, the tree, the food, the family gatherings, going to church on Christmas Eve, having some time off that week to play, listening to the music (it's already playing on my MP3 player!), the food (oh, did I already say that?).
This year I'm intending to make fudge. I don't do it every year because I often run out of time. But this year it's on my list, and now that I have a proper kitchen to play in, I think it will get done. Plus it's one of the few sweet treats I make that Tim can eat without getting sick.
My mother made fudge EVERY year at Christmas. Tied up with a pretty ribbon, it made (and still makes) a good gift for neighbors and friends, for one thing. My brother and I absolutely loved it and would cram down as much as we could get our hands on! I have vivid memories of Mom reminding us (rather forcibly) to refrain from eating the entire contents of the crystal candy dish within minutes of her setting it out. Vain hope! I'm pretty sure we got in trouble quite a bit over that.
Mom's recipe called for cooking the mixture and using marshmallow fluff -- a really messy experience. My recipe uses melted chocolate, but doesn't require cooking and doesn't include marshmallow in any form -- and I prefer the taste and texture of this recipe. (Plus, you can add a drop or two of peppermint flavoring to the batch and get 'chocolate-mint' fudge in a jiffy!).
Here's my basic recipe:
1 14-oz. can of sweetened, condensed milk
1 12-oz. pkg. of semi-sweet chocolate bits (or milk chocolate bits, if you prefer)
1.5 (yes, that's "1 and 1/2") squares of bitter baking chocolate
Melt all the chocolate together. Add the condensed milk. Beat until smooth (this is the step where you'd add a drop or two of flavoring, if you wish). If you want to add 1/2 c. chopped nuts, stir them in after you've beaten the fudge.
Pour into a buttered 9" square pan. Cool completely and cut into small squares.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
No complaint that I have in my life could ever equal the pain and terror of this situation. It is every parent's nightmare.
Please pray for Ben and for his parents, Carin and Jeff. He's three. It's neuroblastoma. His parents are beyond worn out and need every ounce of strength and courage that they can get.
If you want to read their odyssey, you can find it here. Click on the Journal link to see all the posts.
UPDATE this afternoon: the new tumors in Ben's brain are growing so rapidly (i.e. overnight) that the doctors have determined further treatment to be futile. Ben was sent home this afternoon with his parents. Their only focus now is to treasure every moment that they have left with their first-born son.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I don’t fear for her ultimate destination; I know that when she dies she will go home to be with the Lord. But I fear for her suffering at the end. And I fear missing her so much that it will be like a piece of me has died.
I know that my generation has reached the age when our parents pass on. I know that death is part of life. I know that God is good and that He has a plan – for Mom, for me, for the next generation. But knowing all of that doesn’t seem to help right now. Tonight I’m just a sad and scared little girl who wants her mom to be well. Even when you’re a 50 year-old adult, even when you've reached the point where you find you give more advice to your parents than you get from them, even when your own kids are adults – even then, you still need your Mom.
Prayers much appreciated……
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I’m about 1/3 of the way through my trip. Today I was supposed to have visited my mother, but the weather was completely, totally, and unequivocally uncooperative. Snow, slush and high winds do not make for a safe scene on Interstate 80 through the Poconos -- so there will be no ‘over the river and through the woods’ to momma’s house this Fall. Bummer.
Had lunch instead with an old and very dear friend – a real treat since we seldom have the opportunity to get together. Our friendship began when we were raising our kids, and the bond between us remains deep and strong, even all these years down the road and across all the miles that now separate us. After today's lunch she sent me a text message saying that she misses US. Me, too, Trace.
Halloween will mark the end of this week, and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” was on TV tonight, for what has to be the 40th or so time. Produced in the mid-1960s (I haven’t researched the exact date), this 30-minute Peanuts cartoon is a classic piece of nostalgia – from a time when Halloween really was just innocent fun and no one projected any dark, spiritual implications onto the bed-sheet ghost costume of a five-year old eager for candy.
We grew up on a farm, so were not able to walk through a neighborhood to go trick-or-treating. My parents took us in the car to the homes of their friends, instead. We must have driven our folks nuts, bouncing all over the back seat in our excitement (this was before seat belts, so we were very much “at large” in that enormous back seat). My very first Halloween costume was a pair of overalls, a short-sleeve shirt, a half-mask, and a straw hat – I was a four-year old farmer (I still have the photograph somewhere to prove it, too).
One year I was recovering from the chicken pox or German measles and had to stay at home. Dad took my brother out in the car and, since we trick-or-treated only at the home of friends, Ed took along my bag and asked for an extra piece of candy. So I still got my bowl of candy, but none of the fun, that’s for sure. Ed, if I recall correctly, wasn’t too terribly gracious about having to do this for me. Hmmmm… I’ll be seeing him this week and I think he may owe his sweet little sister an apology.
(to be continued)
Monday, October 27, 2008
Day 1 saw the return of the stomachache, although not as bad. No headache, thankfully. The exhaustion can be chalked up to jet lag now, I think. So I have high hopes for a good night’s sleep.
I’m driving a mini-van on this trip -- a whole mini-van for just li’l ole me. I’ve noticed that, with the gas crisis, the rental car companies seems to be running out of their inventory of smaller cars much sooner. So, even though I’d reserved a compact car, I was issued a “free upgrade” to a mini-van – because that’s the only class of cars they had left, quite frankly. I think that officially makes me a soccer-mom, even though I don’t have a soccer team to haul around.
Next door to the hotel is a small, exclusive mall with expensive stores like Anthropologie and Restoration Hardware. It also has a superior Barnes and Noble, and that is my mission for this evening – I want a book and I want to browse the bookstore for a long time.
On the way through the mall I am accosted by a young man from one of the kiosks. Brandishing a tray, he asks if I want to ‘have a taste.’ I do not. I’ve had a full day of work and I’m grouchy. I’m not interested in interacting with people one-on-one, tasting anything or, worse yet, listening to a sales pitch about whatever is the taste du jour. I vaguely and politely murmur, “no thank you,” and purposefully keep moving.
At the B&N, I skimmed through the companion book to the upcoming Twilight movie (what IS the attraction of that series?). I read parts of two small monographs about haunted places in New Jersey (we are, after all, just a few days from Halloween). I wandered around the book tables to my heart's content, gazing at the contents and looking for something that might pique my interest.
One thing that secured my notice was the plethora of Jane Austen ‘sequels’ now available. Good heavens! – a whole lot of people are tapping into the Austen-mania market and trying to write plausible sequels to Austen’s real works. Now, as much as any other Austen lover, I always feel let down when I get to the end of her last completed novel. She was such a great writer and her life and career were much too short! I always, always wish for more. And I will admit to being amused and entertained by the Austen mystery series written by Stephanie Barron – Barron writes well and constructs a good story with Jane Austen as the protagonist. She uses many historical details from Austen’s life in order to give authenticity to her tales, and she has found a good echo of Austen’s literary style.
But the rest of these pretend sequels are just too much. They all seem to be just this side of pulp romance novels, which Austen’s works were most decidedly not (however much Hollywood would like us to believe that they were).
In the end I pick up an Agatha Christie mystery that I haven’t read yet. And that’s okay. That’s the beauty of a protracted browse through a bookstore. I had hoped to find something new, but I also was quite sure there would be another Hercules Poirot saga that I could just as happily sit down with.
(to be continued)
Friday, October 24, 2008
Jesus calls us to love. The Bible calls us to love (see 1 John 4:7-8).
Hate the sin and love the sinner. But we don't. We accuse, we label, we call people names (like we're still on the grade school playground), we condemn them to hell, we threaten them with bodily harm -- all in the name of Christ!? It's sick. And completely un-Christlike.
People engage in sin -- every last one of us does it -- but people are still God's creation. To diss on them personally is to diss on God. (And I mean all people are God's creation - not just believers.)
There's a line -- and it's not all that hard to see, actually -- between hating the sin and hating the sinner. Think about the words and descriptions that you use when you talk about others. It's perfectly possible to come out against sin and still love the sinner (and sound like you do!).
Another interesting John Fischer article can be found at: http://www.breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=1412
Sorry if I sound a bit snarky today. I'm fed up with the uncivil discourse that passes for discussion in this culture. We have become a hateful people. And we demean ourselves every time we demean someone else on a personal level. Go ahead and decry the sin -- but remember that the sinner is still loved by God.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
It goes along with something that I once read by Anne Graham Lotz: "Are you interpreting His love by your circumstances instead of interpreting your circumstances by His love?”
Tim and I were talking last night about how the Christian culture has done a disservice to believers when it promotes the "gospel of prosperity" or the notion that God yearns to bless us with all our heart's desires. God is not a Fairy Godmother. He has a purpose for each of our lives that is perfect, but it doesn't always look like the things our selfish hearts want. We need to look beyond our own whims and remember to seek first His kingdom -- because what the Lord wants for us is much, much better than anything we could imagine.
Monday, October 20, 2008
After a long day of sessions today, we were treated to a reception of finger foods. Not bad for a Holiday Inn, I thought. The foods were pretty tasty and were decoratively presented. And each offering sported a small tent card in front of it, identifying the contents of the chafing dish, which was quite helpful. Bacon-wrapped scallops, teriyaki chicken satays, cocktail shrimp, spring rolls with sweat chili sauce…. Wait! sweat? Yes, indeed. That’s what it said. Not “sweet chili sauce,” which I’m pretty sure is what they meant, but “sweat chili sauce.”
Someone on the banquet staff wasn’t paying attention.
I didn’t try it.
Tomorrow’s our last day of sessions and then I get to go home. Amen to that.
The first leg is Idaho Falls to Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC). The Idaho Falls Regional Airpot (IDA) is a two-gate facility, with probably only one gate in use at any given moment. The security line opens 45 minutes before the flight and then shuts down again until the next flight.
I’m an old hand at airport security lines now. Remove the laptop and the cell phone, take off the shoes, the belt, the jacket or sweater or sweatshirt, etc. As Dave Barry once noted, it’s like some weird adult pajama party with people dressing and undressing at either end of the line.
I duly removed the all important plastic baggie of liquids and aerosols from my luggage and placed in the bin on top of my jacket. Gone are the days when they would mistake my asthma inhaler for some kind of weapon buried in my purse. Now it's all out in the open for easy identification.
Just as I walked through the security portal, however, I remembered that I’d left my 2.3 oz. bottle of moisturizer in my makeup bag – which was nestled inside the carry-on luggage that was currently making its way through the screener’s xray machine. Oh, shoot. But either they missed it or they recognized what it was and let it go, because no further searches were ordered and I didn’t have to explain or, worse yet, lose my little bottle of rather expensive moisturizer. I'm very grateful. Note to self: put the darn moisturizer in the baggie unless you want to risk your $20 purchase!
On this Sunday afternoon there is a football game thoughtfully provided on the TV screen in the gate (Gate 1). I opted instead to call my mother.
Mom is fine.
From the terminal you can see the planes as they land, and so far, the incoming flight hasn’t landed. So we don’t have a plane to get on at the moment even though it is only 20 minutes until flight time. I fervently hope it arrives soon because I have only 30 minutes in Salt Lake for my connection to the Omaha flight. Granted, the flights will arrive and depart from the same terminal in SLC, but, still, it’s a bit nerve wracking to run that close.
I will need time in SLC Int'l in order to hunt down some food for the next leg of my trip because, as usual, there will be no food service available on the flight – just snacks and beverages. Sad that you can fly most of the day and never be served anything close to a meal – or even have enough time to actually find food when you’re in between connections. A person could starve to death in this country just trying to get from Point A to Point C.
(to be continued)
Saturday, October 18, 2008
I immediately shifted gears for the day.
The big deal, of course, is that our three-year old granddaughter was to be in the Parade, on the float for her tumbling school. I got lots of pictures, but that's the one I missed. She was seated on the side of the float opposite to where we were standing (something we would have had no way of knowing ahead of time, unfortunately).
But today was a gorgeous, Fall day and the Parade is always fun. Below are some pics.
The color guard, followed by the ISU Marching Band, opened the Parade.
This is the Bengal's mascot, Benny.
Our niece, Jordi, is on the Highland High School cheerleading squad.
Now that the parade is over, I'm back on track for the day, although we will move dinner ahead so that we can attend tonight's Homecoming Game (kick-off at 6:35 p.m. MDT).
Fall is a special time -- football, parades, warm sun, potato soup in the crockpot and Rosemary Chicken in the oven.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
It’s October. Leaves are turning colors and the green plants of summer are dying. The familiar smell and feel of Fall is most definitely in the air. Today it’s raining, with that delightfully musty fragrance of wet leaves everywhere. We have so few ‘rainy days’ in the Intermountain West that I am relishing every sodden moment of it.
We’re camping this weekend – the last time that we can before we winterize the RV and put it away until next Summer. But this weekend isn’t actually about the camping experience so much as it is about just getting away from everyday life for a couple of days. We needed some time. Time to dream, time to chill, time to be together with no external pressures and no expectations of a schedule. Time to write. Time to talk. Time to play video games (well, we do have our 12-year old son with us!).
Time to “think deeply of simple things” (nod to the late mathematician, Arnold Ross). That’s a luxury in this day and age: mulling over at length one simple concept, finally grasping its essence and then working outward to practical application. What heaven! This rain-swept morning provided ample opportunity, for a change.
The topic that captured us is the concept of bearing each other's burdens, and what that really means. It’s one “simple” point of a spiritual walk with Jesus, but to really grasp what it means takes some thought. The way it connects us to each other and to God is actually quite complex.
And that’s where I’m ending today’s blog post because I’m STILL thinking about this concept. When I’ve got more to say, I’ll continue. In the meantime, if YOU’ve got something to say, please post your comments!
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Whatever we think of the policies of one President or the other, it heartens me to see that people CAN put aside their differences and work together for good.
If we as a society can't do that, too, then we're doomed, quite frankly.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Suddenly, a small housefly landed on the counter top, and as I moved around, the fly quickly skittered away from me down the counter. The spider, which I then discovered was most certainly not dead, began to move. Quickly it tracked in the same direction as the fly but maintained the distance between them. A stalker. And his target was the fly.
I retreated to the far corner of the booth.
The fly skittered back down the counter with the spider continuing to track and maintain the distance between them. Yet again the fly moved and so did the spider. And then the fly stopped to rest, perpendicular to the spider and seemingly oblivious to any danger. Stupid fly. At that point, the spider began to move directly towards its prey. Smoothly it closed the gap to about a foot, and then it stopped. And it waited.
I remained in the far corner and debated about frightening the fly so it could take off and get away. But something insisted that I watch Mother Nature at work here. Plus I was chicken to approach the counter. So I stood still, shuddering slightly, as the spider began to inch ever closer to the fly. I’d never seen anything like it – the spider’s movement was nearly imperceptible. I watched the process in what can only be described as horrified fascination.
It took several minutes for that little arachni-stalker to maneuver itself to a position just about an inch away from the fly. At times during the process I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me; but each time it seemed that the spider had stopped for good, I could then see that it had actually gained yet another smidgen of ground.
Again I considered waving off the fly. And just as I made up my mind to move, the spider suddenly pounced with deadly aim across the last inch of open ground.
The two began to wrestle and roll around the counter top. Somewhat traumatized (did I mention that I have a phobia here?), I rushed out the back door of the Fair booth and nearly knocked over the woman who runs the booth behind us. We are old “Fair friends,” so she asked me what was wrong. I blurted out that a spider had just attacked a fly on our countertop, that they were locked in Mortal Combat, and that it was more than I could cope with.
Little ninny that I am.
My friend calmly picked up the fly swatter and marched into the booth. With unerring precision and a strong arm, she instantly whapped both of them flat. “Bad boy!” she said pointedly to the spider. Flicking the little corpses into the garbage, she handed me the fly swatter as she exited. “There,” she cheerfully assured me, “that’s over.” Indeed it was; for the Stalker and the housefly.
I got out the Clorox.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Tim and I are watching the Presidential campaign with interest. And I can't wait until it's over -- the insanity of it (on both sides) is depressing.
For some fun with the politics, check out Jib Jab's campaign song for 2008.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Bought myself a beach cruiser bicycle the other day, which might perhaps be seen as an odd choice for land-locked Pocatello, Idaho. But I disliked all my road bikes with their 600 finely-tuned gears and their rock-hard rides. The heavy steel frame of the beach cruiser, the fat tires and the coaster brake – as well as the seat just made for a middle-aged rump – lured me with a promise of bicycle comfort that I could no longer resist.
Plus the doctor says I HAVE to get daily exercise, no matter what -- so I had a medical excuse.
My first ride of 20 minutes on mostly flat terrain left me winded and with wobbly legs. Clearly this will require some effort on my part.
But tooling along, when I wasn’t noticing the burn in my thigh muscles, I felt years younger. This is the kind of bike I grew up riding – indeed the kind of bike I learned to ride on when I was about 8 years old and my parents had managed to snag a bike for no money (the only way we had bikes when we were little). And the weather in Pocatello in these waning days of summer 2008 has been absolutely peerless: chilly mornings, clear and warm days, a mild breeze. Can’t beat it for outdoor activities.
And surprisingly (to me), biking around town gives a much better perspective of this place I call home now. You really learn the streets and can appreciate the beauty and charm of the yards and houses when you’re cruising at 4 m.p.h. through a neighborhood. We’ve had a fairly green summer, and everyone’s flowers and yards are still quite lush. There are proud, glorious sunflowers and cheerful geraniums everywhere. It puts me in mind of the last days of summer at the Shore, when most of the East Coast humidity is gone, the breeze is stirring the sand, the wild roses tumble over the fences, and the days are crystal clear.
You get the picture.
The beach cruiser bike is clearly a pleasure bike – a mixed blessing to my self-esteem because I think it inspires pity in motorists who watch the middle-aged lady pedaling her big bicycle along the side of the road. They stop their cars at intersections in order to let me cross – as if I were a pedestrian in a crosswalk and not a moving vehicle subject to the same rules of the road as they. Weird, but at least I get safely across the road (unlike when I’m on my motor scooter and motorists seem intent on mowing me down if at all possible).
I’ve just returned from a ride, winded and with muscles burning, but the breeze and the sun were so exhilarating that I just can’t mind the discomfort. The last days of summer are going fast, but I intend to slowly soak up as much of them as I can on my beach cruiser.
What’s your bicycle story?
Thursday, August 14, 2008
It’s been five days since we returned home, and already the memories are starting to fade a little as everyday life ramps back up to normal. But the ‘battery recharged’ feeling really lives on. What a great time we had this year, the three of us and the dog!-------------------------------------
Still mornings, with a hot sun, cool mountain air, and a lake so clear you could see the fish on the bottom at 15 feet or deeper.
Waking up at whatever time we wanted to, no schedule all day long.
Floating around on the water, cozily ensconced in my river tube.
My two best guys out in the raft, our dog sometimes with them, exploring the lake.
Sitting in my chair on shore watching storm clouds roll up through the valley.
Seeing the Bald Eagle fly overhead, bringing home a fish.
Watching the Ospreys fly back and forth along the valley wall (often in pairs), hunting for their next meal.
Visiting with our good friends, Tom and Marilee.
Evening movie marathons in our camper, the three of us huddled around a little 7-inch screen.
No cell phone service and no internet access.
Driving 20 miles one day to get internet access so I could complete a proposal on deadline (bleah! but I had the consolation of knowing that my project director had to do the very same thing: drive 20 miles from her own lake vacation for the same unexpected deadline.)
Warm days and cool nights.
A summer thunderstorm that poured rain over the valley one afternoon.
The gentle sunshine and crystal clear air after the thunderstorm, as if the earth had been cleansed just for us.
Crawdad hunting, and then (yuck) crawdad cooking!
A renewed and welcome sense of the wonder (and fun) of raising a child to adulthood.
The “Black Dog Convention” that seemed to be taking place at the campground while we were there (no less than a half-dozen black lab or lab-type dogs were in the campground by Friday).
Prowling the lakeshore in search of beautiful wildflowers to photograph.
Our photos are at http://picasaweb.google.com/cathering/SummerVacation2008 . Can't wait for next summer!!!
Thursday, July 31, 2008
The political climate of 2008 is even more overwrought, it seems to me, than ever before. Certainly the choice of President of the United States is important, but in the heat of battle, more and more people are losing their heads and saying things that should never be said. Pundits on network TV routinely attack the personal lives of candidates, making such vicious insinuations that one has to wonder why. (Think I'm kidding? Look up the remark Ann Coulter made last winter about John Edwards and the death of his son.)
A recent email going around now is castigating Michelle Obama for the senior thesis she wrote as an undergraduate at Princeton University. The email message purports to have the credibility of snopes.com behind it, yet when I went to snopes.com myself, I found the email to be quite a bit off base. See http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/thesis.asp
Michelle Obama was 22 years old when she wrote her senior thesis in 1985. She was a college student, getting ready to graduate with her Bachelor's degree and worrying about getting into graduate school. That's 23 years ago. For most adults, the time period between college graduation and middle age constitutes a lifetime of experience and a world of change in perspective. Mrs. Obama is 45 years old now and a different person. Do we have any fact-based reason to not believe that her perspective now would be, if she is an average person like you and me, based on that of a seasoned adult and not an immature undergraduate?
Should anyone's potential as First Lady be predicated on a viewpoint expressed before she'd even graduated from college? I would hate to be judged on some of the boneheaded opinions I held when I was in my early 20's. I would hate to have someone accuse me of thinking the same way now as I did then, because it would be patently untrue. Some of my opinions at that time were due to an uninformed and immature view of the world, some could be chalked up to an attempt at trying to please someone else. Can you say, in all honesty, that none of the opinions you expressed in the past have changed? Are you exactly the same person you were in your early 20's? Studies show that the human brain is still developing during a person's early 20's -- right up to the age of 25 or so. What does that say about our thinking at that time in our lives?I'm not defending Mrs. Obama (or Mr. Obama for that matter), nor am I expressing in this entry an intent to vote for one candidate or another. Rather I'm using this situation as an example of how crazy and damaging the political process has become. Candidates should be judged on the record they amass during their time as adults in the real world, not when they were college students barely out of high school.
And I think, more than ever, that our culture has lost sight of the fact that the candidates are human beings. A campaign does not constitute "open season," not on John McCain and his family and not on Barack Obama and his family, nor on any other public person. Spreading rumors and innuendo is wrong, no matter who it is and, quite frankly, no matter what they've done.
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is the Golden Rule. That should apply during a political campaign, too.
Monday, July 7, 2008
I'm currently working on some nice pictures I've taken in the mountains -- when I get the chance, I'll upload them to our album.
In the meantime, wishing you all a happy summer! - Cath
Friday, June 27, 2008
The trademark harmonies of the Osmonds are still there, but my, oh my! those guys are gettin' old! I’m watching Donny cavorting around the stage and I’m worried that he will trip, do a face-plant on the steps and finally ruin those perfect teeth.
I was never a big fan, per se, of the Osmonds and their music, but our ages are similar, so I’m using their work to make a point.
Thanks to the success of a young friend, I have a much closer view of the elaborate marketing that goes on around the up and coming singers. The package is heavily stylized, and I wonder whether those young musicians end up losing their sense of self before they even begin. In chords and lyrics and melodies the human soul finds a mysterious expression. Music is, in fact, a visceral experience. I think God designed it that way and meant it to be an honest expression of the soul as well as being something artistic.
There are many who say our generation is too old to be performing – “middle age” isn’t sexy, you know, and it’s sex that sells. But I say that the music should speak for itself, rather than relying on the show of nubile flesh, the model-thin body, the professionally airbrushed print advertising. Age should be irrelevant. It’s the music, the expression of the soul, that matters.
Sooooo….. Rock on, Osmonds! (But watch where you put your feet.)
Friday, June 13, 2008
Here are two more pics of the kitchen -- the backsplash is done and we are back in operation. We are also still moving stuff back in and trying to decide which items belong in which cabinet, so it's all quite a mess. These are the latest two pics -- I will take more once we've made progress in the clean-up aspect of things!
Thursday, June 5, 2008
I’ve spent the last couple of days in New Jersey – the State where I was born and raised and where I lived the first 44 years of my earthly existence. A long personal history ties me to this State. It is my home in a very profound sense.
Six years ago I moved out West, called by the love of a good man and a marriage of great contentment. I don’t regret that move one bit. I relish the grandeur of the country, the less frantic pace of life, and my adopted hometown. But sometimes I get a hankering for that deep feeling of familiarity that only comes from the place where you’ve spent not just a lot of time but where you’ve had significant life experiences, especially in your formative years. Home.
Very little out West is like the East. The air smells different, feels different. The water tastes different and has a different mineral content. The accents and cadences of the spoken word are different. The last names are different. The weather patterns are different. The colloquial expressions are different (NO one in Idaho says “youse” instead of "you," and NO one in NJ says "oh my heck!"). Even in these days of mass communication and easy movement around this vast country of ours, local culture remains strong, shaped by people living in close proximity to each other in a unique environment that everyone must cope with and react to. It’s not necessary to label the differences “worse” or “better” – they’re just different.
I’m definitely home when I’m out West – that’s where my husband and family are, so that’s home in the very real sense that it’s my center and it’s where I live. I can’t imagine living anywhere else, either, unless my husband went with me. But I’m also home, kind of, when I’m here – this is where my family of origin still live, where I learned to ride a bike and drive a car, got my first kiss, made straight A’s, grew to be an adult, raised my daughter, buried my Dad; powerful memories among many other memories that comfort and unsettle all at the same time.
Still, New Jersey calls me from time and time, and sometimes I just can’t resist that feeling. So I go home to the memories and what is familiar. It soothes my soul in a way I can’t really describe. I’ll be here for a few days. I’ll see my family and breathe in the soft air, complain about the humidity and enjoy being in my brother’s company. And when I touch down at Salt Lake International Airport again next week, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to being at home in Idaho – where I now live. Home.What are your thoughts about home?
Friday, May 30, 2008
Woo hoo! They're done and they're wonderful!
Yes, we still have more work to do before the kitchen is actually functional, but this really is a major piece of progress for the kitchen re-do. Our updated Web Album can be viewed by clicking here. Looking at the pictures of the stretch along the window, you can see the new dishwasher and the new trash compactor. What you can't see is the new garbage disposal (since it's under the sink, silly).
Now it's on to the tile back splash (which Tim will do while I'm out of town next week), some trim around the window, some more electrical work, some under cabinet lighting.... etc., etc., etc.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman lost his youngest daughter, age 5, three days ago in a tragic accident at the family home (if you Google or go to stevencurtischapman.com, you can find out the details). Maria Sue was adopted from China by the Chapman family when she was just a baby, much like my own daughter, Abbi, was adopted from Korea by my first husband and myself when she was three months old.
Adoption isn't a makeshift or substitute relationship for the 'real thing.' It is the real thing, as solid as any biological relationship and running just as deep. The choice to make a family with a child who has already suffered the loss of his/her biological family is not taken lightly. And the bond created in that choice is permanent, whatever the outcome of the child's own subsequent life choices. Believe me. I know. And so do all the other 'adoptive' parents out there. Adoption is the very relationship we enjoy with our Creator. He chose us to be His. The bond is permanent, no matter our subsequent choices.
My Abbi turns 24 tomorrow -- a birthday little Maria Sue Chapman will never see. The loss for the Chapman family is horrible to contemplate. Scripture says that our days are appointed by God. Maria Sue had 5 years and 10 days here -- a good life, I'm sure. She's home with Jesus now, of that I'm also sure.
The Chapmans had a mission when it came to adoption, establishing a special foundation that gives grants to parents in need of funds to cover the adoption fees -- so that even if money is tight, they, too, can bring home a child. Why? Because every child deserves a home -- a 'forever family' is how we put it. The exact same privilege that we enjoy spiritually with our God.
If you wish, you may contribute to Shaohannah's Hope and help others bring children home to their very own forever families, too.
Thanks for reading.
Friday, May 23, 2008
During my school years, we didn't have our first homework assignment until the 4th grade, and even that might be stretching it a bit. At least we were old enough at that point to be responsible on our own for the work that had to be done -- our parents didn't have to sit us down to do the homework with us, as most have to now. I don't think my mother checked a single homework assignment that I ever did. School was my responsibility, not hers.
Studies show that homework in the elementary years does not contribute to children's learning. It might help them regurgitate facts better in the short-term, but that is not an indicator of actual learning. What homework does do is significantly raise the stress level of today's parents and, consequently, the entire family, robbing families of time that could be better spent. That's a tragedy for the family and for child development.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Maybe when the Baby Boomers are in full retirement things will change? What do you think?
Monday, May 12, 2008
We join in a very ancient cry when we sing or say the word “Hallelujah.” Interestingly, it appears in Scripture in this form -- i.e. as the actual word “Hallelujah” -- only in the book of Revelation (chapter 19). The literal translation is: Praise JAH -- JAH being the Hebrew for He that Is. This is in contrast with the Psalms, where we find Praise Jehovah – which means Praise He who will be, is, and was. In Revelation, with the use of “Hallelu JAH” we have reached the time when there is no more need of thinking about God as He was or will be – we are then in the present with the living Lord. That gets a “Hallelujah!” out of me when I think about how wonderful that day will be!
So, does our use of the word “Hallelujah” in the present age mean that we are living in what is known as the “end times?” Are we getting ahead of ourselves by using the term? I confess I don’t know the answer to questions such as those, and I am not really trying to address that here (although you’re welcome to think about it).
Hallelujah is not the equivalent of the present day “Woohoo!” or “Ye-es!” that we all use when we’re excited about something. Hallelujah! is an ancient form of reverent worship and praise to our living God. What is interesting is that singing or saying “Hallelujah” means we are praising the God who is right now, with no need to think about the past or the future. Seems to me that’s how we are to be living anyway in these days. Scripture exhorts us not to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34); it also tells us that God does not remember our past sins (Psalm 103:12). We get to live in the present with our magnificent and mighty God – what a relief! Hallelujah!
Friday, May 9, 2008
Staying true to my core beliefs and the laws of the land, I pledge to serve all species during my administration while adhering to my universal theme: Playtime for Everyone. To that end, every family and pet in America will be issued one case of frisbees, chew toys and balls each year, and an Annual National Day of Play will be declared and established.
My fellow Americans (Canine and otherwise), this is a new day in our history, with the first Mixed Breed Canis Familiaris elected to the highest office in the land. I promise to walk sedately on my leash and lick only those faces that are close enough to be reached without jumping up with my muddy paws.
Thank you. I will not betray the great trust that has been given me in this election. And if anyone has a red super-hero cape that they don't need, would you please send it to me? Apparently I can't use taxpayer dollars to purchase one.
- President Hank, The Wonder Pup
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
That’s where our counter tops are – lost in America. We were given the bad news yesterday by the cabinet installers.
How can a honking great package of counter top material get lost in the system of the revered United Parcel Service????
PS – vote for Hank the Wonder Pup – he needs the work.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Today I'm being "serenaded" by the sounds of power drills at work. The frames of the new cabinets have been installed, as well as some of the cabinet doors, and you can really see the kitchen taking shape!
You can see the progress in these two pics -- the left pic is the old kitchen and the right pic is the same view of the new one as its being constructed.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
I should probably also take a picture of the demolition/construction dust that lays thickly over everything in the house now! I spent nearly all day yesterday trying to clean the second floor, but that dust is going to take some special elbow grease to get rid of once and for all. It's in every nook and cranny imaginable.
While the kitchen is being constructed, Tim is also working on one of the basement bedrooms, preparing for a new egress window and, eventually, new carpet and paint. His efforts yesterday somehow resulted in great clouds of dust billowing merrily out of the heat ducts -- we're still not sure how that happened! Needless to say, I was less than thrilled at the sight.
The cabinets and countertops are due to be installed early next week, and then we're on the home stretch. Stay tuned!
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Spring is definitely trying, but winter keeps coming back and biting us. It reminds me of some unfinished business in my own life – some unforgiveness that I know needs to be resolved so that spring can arrive, but, like winter right now, keeps coming back to bite me.
Scripture is very clear that as we forgive others, so will our Father forgive us. Bearing that important truth in mind, it is still incredibly hard to get around the very human emotions engendered when someone deliberately sets out to hurt you. The shock, the hurt at being betrayed by someone you thought you could trust to deal reasonably with what is, admittedly, a sticky situation. Can’t we all just act like adults? Well, it seems that we can’t. And I need superhuman powers to get to the point of forgiveness – something I most decidedly lack right now.
Where is God when you’re trying but not getting anywhere? Is He just sitting up there laughing at vain effort? Not at all! Jesus tells us that our God knows every hair on our heads; He knows every emotion we go through.
Then why the continuation of this particular winter season of my soul? I pray for spring (forgiveness) to come. I know His mercies are sure. I just have to believe – and, really, I already do know -- that this cold and dead season will eventually give way to spring’s more pleasant climate and the renewal, birth, and growth that come with it.