Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Sister and the Beach...

This is my little sister, Beverly. At 5' 10" she's three inches taller than me, but she's also three years younger, so she's still my little sister. For awhile, when we were young, my three sisters and I shared a bedroom, but later, Bev and I shared our own room. We got along really well and had a lot of fun as roommates. If you knew Bev (and some of you do), you'd know why. She is a funny, funny person and a blast to hang around with.

When I was a very young girl, I adored watching the Miss America pageant. I thought those women were perfect, and I wanted to be one. I reluctantly had to admit that I wasn't Miss America material, but I could tell that Bev was, so I had it in mind to groom her for the crown. Bev really was a pretty and talented girl (still is), but I lost interest both in Miss America and in coaching Beverly to win the pageant. She was never interested anyway. We'd rather climb trees and play in neighborhood tackle football games. Bev was voted homecoming queen in high school, though, so I think my eye for picking beauty queens was spot on.

As roommates, Bev and I weren't quite Oscar and Felix, but it was definitely the case that I liked the room clean most of the time and Bev didn't much care. Once I walked into the bedroom, and she was lounging on her bed. She said, "Look. The room's clean." I was pretty shocked at this sudden show of neatness, but because I knew Bev, I was also skeptical. So I looked under her bed, and there, wadded and smashed, was everything that had previously been spread openly across the floor. (Thanks, Bev, for cleaning the room!)

I slept on the top bunk, and Bev was on the bottom. At night, when the lights were out and everything was quiet and I was peacefully drifting off to sleep, it wasn't uncommon to suddenly feel the bed lifting and falling, lifting and falling. Instead of springs, there was a sheet of plywood under the mattress, and Bev would put her feet on this and lift me into the air-- up and down-- as I fruitlessly protested. But for some reason, it was hard to be annoyed with Bev. She just so easily made me laugh. She still does.

Now that I'm here on the coast again where I grew up, I get to see Bev often. She works during the week, but often on one or the other of the weekend days (sometimes both), we'll get together. Since going to the beach is the favorite thing to do for Mom, Bev, and me (and others in the family), we often head off somewhere where we can walk or just stop at viewpoints if the weather is bad. We just like to see and smell the ocean.

Today was sunny and pretty, but it was cold, and there was a hard, icy wind blowing. So, instead of walking down one of the sandy beaches, we went, once again, to the view-places along the road where the ocean crashes into rocks and cliffs. I've taken pictures in these spots before, but today was clearer than the first time I was there, so I was glad to get a few more pictures. (I take photos everywhere I go-- even if I've been there before-- because I want to make an album of this coastal area while I'm here.)

Above, Bev is looking out the reef.
She could be looking at this. See the sandy beach in front of that big rock? Those barely visible brown and light colored lumps on the sand are sea lions. This rock/beach happens to be the northernmost breeding ground (is that for the whole US or just in the west? I think it's the US) for sea lions. This spot is also a popular whale-watching site.

Looking north from the viewpoint. The waves aren't particularly big today, but the water is sure choppy out there.

I like this lighthouse.

And I like this cove.

This is near the cape at the end of the road.

I won't always mention my Kitchen Notes blog, but I will today just because I got side-tracked from my daily food log and talked a bit about another one of my sisters. So it's Sister Day at my blogs, I guess.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fish for Dinner?

Some small fishing boats in the harbor this late afternoon.

This afternoon, Mom and I went on another long, hilly walk in town, then we drove to a small nearby fishing village to pick up some snapper at the fish market. But they had no snapper today, so I bought sole instead. I had intended to make one of my favorite fish dishes for dinner-- snapper with
Padma Lakshmi's raw apple and mint chutney. I love this delicious, vivid green chutney. I make it in the food processor, and I could stand there and eat the entire thing all at once, one spoonful after another, straight from the processor bowl. But I don't. I behave in a more civilized manner and put the chutney in a bowl to share with others.

The rest of the post can be found here, including answers to questions that were asked below.

And how about another harbor picture or two?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Getting Healthier...

This photo has absolutely nothing to do with this post, but my photo of the chocolate mousse didn't turn out, and I didn't want the post to be photo-less. So, here's a picture taken last time we were at the beach (a few days ago). The ocean was pretty that day, and I liked how that little pool of water (at the bottom of the photo) looked.

No, I'm not going to make this a kitchen, health, or food blog, (I already have one of those... it's sadly neglected, but it's there), but I'm determined to keep on track with my getting-healthier plan, so I think I'll post about it regularly for awhile (after today, I'm mostly going to put my food and health posts on my "Kitchen Notes" blog) just to keep a journal of how I'm doing.

Currently I feel pretty well, I eat healthfully, I'm basically fit, and I'm not overweight (though I wouldn't mind losing a few pounds if they were to disappear), but, once or twice in the past, I've felt even better than I do now, and why not go for taking care of myself as well as I can? I aim to do just that, and that's why, as I mentioned yesterday, I'm narrowing my diet to the foods I know make me feel really, really well.

There's a certain way of eating that helps me to feel great-- my head clears, my energy level increases (though I have a good amount of energy to begin with), I feel stronger, my endurance increases, I need less sleep, my skin gets brighter than ever, my allergies improve significantly, I rarely feel hungry and pretty much never want sugar, any extra weight drops off without me really thinking about it, and on and on. Health problems that occasionally plagued me at one time have disappeared, some of them gradually, and some of them quickly, as I've improved my eating. (Gee, as I read over this, I am struck that it might sound a bit hyperbolic, but, alas, it's all true.) Three times in the past, I've stuck pretty strictly to this way of eating, and I like the foods I eat when I follow this "diet," so why don't I eat this way all of the time? ...I have no idea.

I'm going for a minimum of 50% raw or "living" foods, but I'll shoot more toward at least 75%. (I won't eat all raw.) I'm not a raw food purist, nor do I want to be. I just know that I feel really, really well when a good percent of my diet consists of living foods. And, already, in a fairly short time, there's already clear improvement in how I feel.

So, here are some of my eating parameters (I'm sure there's a similar list somewhere in my archives):

--Eat real food.

--No sugar. Use all-natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, rapadura, maple sugar, agave nectar, but not too much.

--Keep intake of grains low. Whole grains only. Grains should be sprouted or soaked before using. Mom loves oatmeal that is cooked after having been soaked all night in water and a little bit of all-natural yogurt.

--Not much meat.

--Little or no dairy. Dairy products should be raw or cultured.

--Lots of leafy greens.

--Consume a large amount, and a good variety, of produce.

--Daily green lemonade.

--Nuts should be soaked and dehydrated.

--All organic, or at least as much as possible.

--Lacto-fermented foods and drinks are highly beneficial. (I like grape kombucha and raw sauerkraut.)

--Eat as much organic as possible.

--The fresher the produce the better-- home grown, farmers' market produce, CSA produce.

--Eat mostly seasonally.

Also, I take a few daily supplements-- cod liver oil, evening primrose oil, acerola powder, and dolomite powder.

Another thing I'm making sure I do is to get lots of fresh air and increasing amounts of exercise as my fitness improves. Mom and I have been walking together pretty much every day, and we're both increasingly feeling the benefits of it. We often walk down the beach or on a nearby country road, but today we parked the car when we were in town and walked along the sidewalks and up and down the hills (it's a hilly town). We walked and walked. And when we had finished our walk, instead of going back to the car, we walked on down to the natural foods co-op and picked up some produce. It was a really pretty, warm, sunny day, so it was hard to stop walking.

What I ate today is almost a repeat of yesterday. I'll certainly be eating more variety, but one also has to eat what is on-hand so things don't go to waste!

--I started my day with a glass of water mixed with fresh-squeezed lemon juice.

--Sprouted grain toast with my peanut butter spread, again.

--Morning coffee.

--An all-fruit smoothie made from the same fruits as yesterday-- banana, orange, strawberries.

--My usual lunchtime giant salad, this time sprinkled with a homemade, vegan, "raw" parmesan substitute (basically made by food processing 1/4 c. nutritional yeast, 1 1/4 c. walnuts, and 1/4 t. sea salt).

--A few small pieces of dark chocolate.

--A tall glass of green lemonade-- same recipe as yesterday, with the addition of half a cucumber. Mom is starting to like this drink. My aunt was here in December, and she drank some of my green lemonade occasionally. She called this week to ask for the recipe because, she said, she's been craving it. And she got online to order a juicer so she can make the green lemonade for herself every day.

--A tiny bowl of leftovers from yesterday's dinner.

--A generous portion of Heidi Swanson's Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans with (Dark Leafy) Greens, from her cookbook, Super Natural Cooking. Yum.

--Dark Chocolate Coconut Bliss sprinkled with cacao nibs.

--Renee Loux's "
Chocolate of the Gods Mousse". Raw, vegan, chocolate. The recipe is unusual, but tasty. I made it for tomorrow, but I ate just a little bit tonight. Mom had some, too, and she loved it.

So, there you have it, and now I'll move this topic over to the kitchen blog so you don't have to read about my eating and exercising every day (unless, for some reason, you're interested)! I'll probably post simple lists there since I have very little online time each day, but I'll try to take some pictures and post recipes from time to time, too.

And I'll also get back to my more typical posts on this blog as I have time. I've got quite a few things mostly or partially written, but I don't seem to have time to pull them together enough to make them post-able.

A Few Comments and Answers to Questions...

Sandy, about making coffee in a French press, I posted about this very thing a few months ago. Here's that post for you:

High Desert Home: Making Coffee in a French Press...

Ellen, you know what? I don't really know how to tell you what a Fuji apple is except that it's my favorite apple. Large, always crispy and juicy, sweet (but not overly so). :-) Not much help, I know.

To my daughter, Michelle... I saw your comment below. I miss you guys, too. Terribly. And I can't wait to see you again. Love you. <3

To "
Prairie Prologue"... I don't know if you'll see this, I saw your comment to an older post of mine below, and I followed your link to the story of your own coffee journey. Loved it!

To those who have introduced themselves and I haven't gotten back to your comments (like Melissa and I think some others), I'm sorry. I really do appreciate you taking the time to introduce yourself and to let me know that you're reading here. And it's very nice to meet you.

And to Hannah (daughter of my good friend, Laurie)... I don't know if you'll see this, either, but I caught your comment below, and I wanted to say hello back to you. Hello! It was really nice to see you here, and I'm glad you came by! I think about you and your family often. And, thanks to your mom, I see pictures (you're a great looking bunch!) and have kept up on what you've been doing. :-)

Now to answer some questions about Ruth Bell Graham books. Someone asked about the origin of the passage I quoted, not in my recent post, but a long while back (about the duty of mothers). That one came from Prodigals and Those Who Love Them.

The recent excerpt I quoted in my post titled "Laughing, We Endure" came from a little book by Ruth and her daughter, Gigi, called Coffee and Conversation with Ruth Bell Graham and Gigi Graham Tchividjian.

And someone asked for Ruth Graham book recommendations. Where to start? I don't really know the answer to that. The books I've read in the past are books my mother has sent to me. I'm not particularly knowledgable about Ruth's writings, but I do enjoy her, and I benefit from her writings very much.

There's a fun collection of Ruth's writings about a variety of things called Legacy of a Packrat. A similar book by Ruth is titled It's My Turn (I've been reading bits from this one again lately). Years and years ago, I read a biography of Ruth's life called A Time for Remembering. And a fairly recent, lovely and worthy little book by Ruth Graham (the daughter of Ruth and Billy) about her mother is called A Legacy of Love: Things I Learned From My Mother.

Hopefully, that's at least somewhat helpful.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lists to Help Me Get on Track...

The Giant Salad.

Not the most appetizing photo, I know. I could have taken a shot of this when the salad was freshly made and looking quite pretty in the bowl, but I was in the middle of eating it when I thought about snapping a picture. The salad bowl I'm eating from is actually a mixing bowl. Like I said, it's a giant salad. When we were both living at home, Lissy and I ate really big salads every day for lunch (we actually bought special, extra-large bowls just to hold them), and this was our standard one-- greens, grated carrots, sliced cherry tomatoes (or, when in season, heirloom market tomatoes), thinly sliced Fuji apple pieces, dried cranberries (or raisins), chopped crispy pecans (or walnuts). I always toss it with whatever leftover vinaigrette is in the bottle, or I make it fresh. This is all organic.

I'm living by a check-list today. I prefer to live a life of "filling in" the spaces of my days in a pleasant, puttery manner rather than "checking off" items on a to-do list, but sometimes I need to tighten ship. (Like right now.) Occasionally, I need to put more specific structure and order to my days to regain good habits. (Like right now.)

A life of puttering and casual leisure only works when one is disciplined, and, right now, I'd say-- besides my fairly steady, nice morning routine-- my daily routine is going very much according to wildly random whim. That's okay, too, sometimes. I'm all for spontaneity and fun, except that I've been letting some things go that really need doing, and until I'm taking better care of business that needs to be done, I'll be working from a check-list.

Not too much, though. :-) I have to be careful because to-do lists kind of overstimulate me. They get me a bit wound up and wired, driving me forward and taking my eyes off what is right in front of me. Off of what I'm doing now and onto conquering that list! (And I do mean conquer.) It's hard for me to settle down and make the process of what I'm doing nice or beneficial when I'm under, what feels like to me, the tyranny of a to-do list, but I shall work on that, too. I'll add it to the list!

Wherever we are, at home or away, we're making a life. There is good work to do, routines to make and keep, people and things to care for. I like my days to be enjoyed and flexible but not squandered. Work should not be too much, and I don't want to be driven (I don't see this becoming much of a problem), but work is also good (for many reasons), and it can be enjoyed. And sometimes checklists are beneficial...

I'll post just one thing from today's to-do checklist:

Eat well.

I'm eating a lot more "raw" or "living" foods again. I do eat some cooked foods, but I like the way I feel when I eat a lot of living foods. I actually made an eating checklist for the day in addition to the regular to-do list just because I want to re-focus intently on eating well. I'll make a planned-in-advance list like this each day for awhile until a few bad habits I've picked up (like eating too many Salt and Pepper Kettle chips) are gone and better habits rule.

So, here's what I ate today:

1. Morning coffee. Stumptown Sumatra brewed in the French press, of course.

2. Sprouted grain toast with Nourishing Traditions homemade peanut butter. Eaten while I drank the coffee.

3. An all fruit smoothie made with a banana, a big handful of frozen strawberries, and the fresh-squeezed juice of one orange.

4. A giant salad. (The one in the photo.)

5. Fresh-juiced orange juice. In the Breville juicer, one orange, all by itself, comes out all frothy and delicious like an orange julius.

6. Leftover coconut rice with a little bit of chicken and peanut sauce. Leftover baby bok choy, too. Tossed together and reheated.

7. Roasted baby carrots (tossed with cumin, olive oil, and sea salt) from a farmers' market in Eugene. These were actually pulled from the ground just before market.

8. Green lemonade. Made with romaine, kale, a Fuji apple, and lemon.

9. Dark chocolate Coconut Bliss ice cream sprinkled with cacao nibs.

I also had a few small pieces of Green & Black's dark chocolate swiped through my homemade peanut butter spread. And I could not resist just the tiniest piece of fudge swirled with peanut butter that the hostess of our church mentoring group made for the meeting tonight. I think it's only polite to eat what she worked so hard to prepare for us, don't you?

What is a Sand Dollar?

This is for my blogging friends, Sian and "Hill."

I guess sand dollars aren't ubiquitous on beaches all over the world, or at least not in all parts of the UK and Australia.

After I mentioned them in a post below, Sian asked in the comment box, "What is a sand dollar?"

And I realized, "I have no idea."

Given that I grew up on the Oregon coast and have picked up countless sand dollars from local beaches over the years, and since I took marine biology courses both in high school and in college, my ignorance seems inexcusable. I know just a few, very basic, things that any casual beachcomber would know about sand dollars, and this, being pathetic, inspired me to look up the
Western Sand Dollar or Dendraster Excentricus on the internet.

And now I know a few more things.

Looking at the top photo in the linked article, I've never seen a sand dollar that looked hairy and purple like that. The ones that we find along the beach tend to be white or grey, and most often they are broken into pieces. Occasionally, I've found greenish hairy ones (sort of like the purple ones in the picture), and I've seen a few non-hairy purplish ones, too, but most of the sand dollars I find are white.

Sand dollars wash up in the surf, or are uncovered, at low tide. Most of them are broken.The whole sand dollars I've found this past month range in size from 1/2-inch or less to a good 4" in diameter. The little ones are sweet and delicate.

"Hill" asked if I could post a picture of a sand dollar because she had seen one in America once but couldn't remember what it looked like. So, while I was at the beach a couple of days ago, I ran across an almost perfect sand dollar and many broken ones (which is far more common) lying in the sand, and I took some pictures.

This one is almost perfect. There's just that chip on the edge and a few small holes on top, but I brought it home and counted it good enough to be displayed with my whole sand dollars.

And here's a broken one. It's not uncommon to find them like this, but usually they are broken into smaller pieces.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Few Very Simple, Very Nice Things for Today...

An old, recycled, summertime blog photo, but a cheerful one for a winter day, I think! :-)

I've been out of town for several days. I thought I'd finish a post I started writing last week (I have a few things bouncing around and some questions I'll answer in the next day or two), but it's really hard to find time to write much of a post. And, anyway, I felt like putting up something specifically having to do with today. So, here are just a few simple, ordinary things I've enjoyed so far:

1. A good cup of coffee.
I've always loved the smell of coffee. When I was in first grade, my teacher kept a large thermos on her desk, and every morning, after we'd said the flag salute and had gotten to work, she'd sit down at her desk and pour herself a cup of coffee. I loved the smell of fresh coffee so much that I'd strain to think of questions to ask the teacher just so I could go to her desk to stand in the aroma that was wafting from her mug. And, over the years, when I'd visit Grammy and Grampy's house, every time I'd walk into the kitchen, I'd give their coffee container a big shake and take off the lid to enjoy the lovely smell that rose from the can.

When I married Mike, he drank instant Folgers coffee. I didn't drink coffee then, but I knew that what he was drinking didn't smell as good and couldn't possibly taste as good as the coffee I'd always liked smelling, so I went off to our really great local kitchen store to surprise him with a coffee maker. After talking with one of the owners, I came home with a French press, a grinder, and a bag of good coffee beans. As I experimented with making coffee in the press, I'd always pour myself a little bit of coffee in the bottom of a mug just so I could monitor and analyze it in order to adjust the proportions and grind for the next brew. As I was learning to make decent coffee in the French press, I was also learning to like it. Gradually, I began pouring more and more coffee into my mug, until, one day, I realized I had become a coffee drinker. It didn't start in Starbucks or in any other coffee house; it started in my own kitchen, and I've enjoyed drinking coffee ever since, especially when it's brewed in a French press.

Anyway, Mom and I went to Eugene this past week for several days, and I picked up a bag of Stumptown Roasters' Sumatra coffee beans to bring home. This morning I ground the beans and brewed a pot of the coffee in my French press, and mmm, it was nice.

2. Green & Black's dark chocolate with Nourishing Traditions peanut butter. This might not sound good, but to one who adores peanut butter and chocolate, it's a real treat. I've always loved peanut butter-chocolate desserts. My dad perpetually kept a bag of miniature Reese's peanut butter cups in the cupboard in his office, just for his kids and grandkids to raid, and I'm pretty sure I ate more than my fair share of the little candy pieces. We finished the last bag of Reese's cups in December, and we left the empty bag in the cupboard. No one wants to throw it away, and it keeps reminding me of another sweet thing about Dad.

When I was at my sister's house this past week, I tasted her "peanut butter." It's made from the recipe in Nourishing Traditions, consisting of peanuts, virgin coconut oil, a bit of honey, and salt. Yum. It tastes really, really good, so I made some right when I came home. I was thinking this morning that the peanut butter tastes almost like candy, and then I got the brilliant idea to put some on a little piece of dark chocolate. Brilliant, if I must say so myself. A nice little snack.

3. Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time. Thanks to Aaron for introducing me to this French composer and his music. Actually, thanks to Aaron for introducing me to much of the music I love-- Arvo Part, Messiaen, Sigur Ros, others. When Aaron was here during his college Christmas break, we went to the library. He checked out this CD for me and insisted that I should listen to it because he was certain I'd appreciate it. I've been listening to the CD again today (no, it's not overdue; I renewed it), and I do indeed love the music.

Quartet for the End of Time was written when Messiaen was in a German POW camp during WWII and was first performed in 1941 in Stalag 8-A by Messiaen (at the piano), along with a violinist, a clarinetist, and a cellist. The eight movements of this quartet are based on Revelation 10. Messiaen is a Christian composer, and this is a very lovely and hopeful Christian piece of music. In light of Messiaen's situation when this music was written, its hope, joy, and faith in God is striking.

Messiaen has written very brief notes on each movement-- just enough, in my opinion. I appreciate enough commentary or explanation to inform and enhance the listening, but-- while I recognize that others do seem to enjoy and benefit from it-- I've never much liked lengthy, academic analysis of either music or literature. This isn't because I'm lazy and don't want to put my mind to it; too much analysis simply spoils a thing for me.

I may not fully comprehend George MacDonald's meaning, I suppose, but, in music and literature, I'm with him when he says, "Analysis is well as death is well." I remember hearing that music analysts, despite much study and analysis of the music of J.S. Bach, simply cannot put their finger on why his music is so moving and powerful. I prefer to leave it that way. I love Bach. His music strikes me mysteriously beautiful, yet full of clear meaning. It seems hopeful, joyful, real. True. William F. Buckley, and many others, have said that the music of Bach alone is proof of the existence of God. I think there's something to that, but I certainly couldn't explain it! :-)

(I've also been enjoying another CD today-- "Christ is My Hope" by The Innocence Mission.)

4. The pajamas Aunt Cherie sent me in the mail today. I only have one aunt, and I'm lucky enough to have gotten the best one in the entire world. I'm talking about Aunt Cherie who lives on an Alaskan island-- my mom's sister-- who happens to be a wonder woman of good cheer, humor, and thoughtfulness. And she's also is a total blast to hang around with. Cherie must have taken note of my pathetic-looking "pajamas" when she was here in December (how could she not have noticed?!) and taken great pity on me because she sent me a fun set of "Life is Good" pajamas. You know the company? The one with the motto running round their tags that says, "Do what you Like. Like what you do. Optimism can take you anywhere."? All I can say is when I head to bed tonight, I'll do it in fine, optimistic style.

5. A couple of good books. I'm actually reading several good books right now, notably Alice in Wonderland (finally, huh, Aaron?)-- I won't comment on this book now because I want to say something about it in another post specifically for my niece, Nicky. One of the books I'm reading today is Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris. I've been interested in the topic of acedia ever since I was first introduced to the concept in a First Things magazine article. I'm only at the beginning of the book, but I really like it so far. I hope I'm not speaking too soon, but I think Acedia and Me might appeal to those who have jobs or responsibilities that are done over and over again, day after day-- tasks or routines that require a bit of discipline or a determined willfulness to press through at times. Motherhood can occasionally be this way, for some of us. So can homeschooling. Housework. A job we don't like. A job we do like. Anything! Those who struggle at times with lack of motivation, melancholy, mental and spiritual lethargy, or even depression might find the book interesting and possibly even enlightening. Probably everyone faces some struggles with the over and overness of daily life at some point, but, even if this isn't the case, I think the book could be interesting for anyone.

I hope you're enjoying the simple, nice things around you today.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Attempt to Reform Myself in the Art of Writing Letters

Corresponding on paper lets you elevate a simple pleasure into an art form. And art has always survived technology. A handwritten note is like dining by candlelight instead of flicking on the lights, like making a gift instead of ordering a product, like taking a walk instead of driving. Handwritten notes will add a lot to your life. You can still use the telephone or the Web for the daily chores of staying in touch, but for the words that matter, it's courteous, classy, caring, and civilized to pick up a pen.

~Margaret Shepherd in The Art of The Handwritten Note

I'm in the midst of an attempt to reform myself.

I've never been a really good correspondent, and I've always been a bit ashamed of myself for this. I've taken comfort when I've read the words of others who have struggled with letter writing, like JRR Tolkien, who seemed to apologize often for being so slow to respond to his correspondents. The difference between Tolkien and me, though, is that there is a whole book of Tolkien's letters, and I'm sure this is only part of the correspondence he wrote.

I could probably fill a book with my letters, too, but not with much that's worthy or interesting. I've written many, many letters over the years, but it takes a lot out of me to write one, so I burn out and too easily find excuses for writing them. I have never-- for long-- settled into any kind of letter writing routine, but I've always wanted to and meant to.

I love reading collections of letters. The correspondence of NC Wyeth or the Letters of a Homesteader Woman or The Letters of JRR Tolkien have kept me enthralled in their pages. I own quite a few books of the collected correspondence of various figures of literature, art, and history, and, in these books, letter writing is clearly elevated to an art form. The letters often seem to exude thoughtfulness and care. It's inspiring. Or it should be.

The plain, honest fact is that I don't very often feel like writing letters. I've always known that to behave in accordance to my feelings rather than according to what I know is right or good to do is a flaw, but I've somehow been able to shrug off the value of letter writing as something not falling within these sorts of moral parameters, and maybe they don't, but if Margaret Shepherd is correct, it is at least "courteous, classy, and caring to pick up a pen."

A clincher in my recent decision to attempt a letter writing reform was this selection from the devotional, Joy and Strength:

"She constantly yielded to that kind of selfishness which makes the writing, or not writing, of a letter depend upon the inclination of the moment." ~Sarah W. Stephen


Last week I decided that, after five decades of sporadic letter writing (I'm quite sure that no one waits by their mailbox for a letter from me!), I need to reform myself. I have a bundle of letters that have come to me in the past month and a half and many, many more letters that have remained unanswered for far too long (some of them for years, I'm ashamed to say).

So, I bought myself some stationery and some stamps (which I promptly lost), and each morning, after my quiet time, I sit at the table and answer one of the letters in the stack. I finish it while I am still sitting there (if I get up and set it aside for awhile to come back to it later, I'll never finish it), then I place the letter in an envelope, address it, and put the stamp on it. Now I can get up from the table.
Knowing some of my hindrances to letter writing, I made a few guidelines for myself. One of them is not getting up from the table until I've finished writing. Another is stamping and putting the letter in the mailbox that day. I don't have to write on weekends unless I want to, and when I am out of town, I'm off the hook, too. Another guideline is keeping the letters short until I catch up with my correspondence, and then, if I want to and have the leisure to do it, I can take two days to write a letter. The main thing is that I will have a letter writing time each day right after my quiet time. A short, thoughtful note is much, much better than no letter at all, right?

So far, four letters have gone out, which does not make me feel even slightly victorious because I've gotten way past this stage in previous efforts to reform myself. I think it takes a while to break a bad habit and even longer to build a new one. And then, I hear, it takes something like 1,000 days for a new habit to become an actual, natural way of life. But I'm just going to think about tomorrow.

I feel almost like a child learning to do something new. That's how pathetic my letter writing habits have been for the past five decades. But I really do want to improve, and I intend to keep working at it. So, if I owe you a letter, don't faint if you find one in your mailbox soon. (Though, I must say, it will take me a long time to catch up!)

Another Fine Day at the Beach...

We're still enjoying amazing weather here on the Oregon coast. Every day for awhile has been sunny, clear, warm, and wind-free. So, pretty much every day, we've gone to the beach. Today was no exception, and, once again, we drove to the beach closest to home, which happens to be our favorite beach anyway because the waves are always so pretty, and it's often a great place for beachcombing.

As we stepped over the crest of the dunes to walk toward the water this afternoon, we saw that the tide was low and the surf was rough. Mom and I had already been on an "exercise walk" down the road in the morning, so we just ambled along the beach, looking for shells, watching the waves, and enjoying another beautiful day at the beach. I told Mom that if I could find a whole sand dollar, my day would be perfect. So, on we walked, looking and looking. There was a long strip of shells that had washed up on the beach, and we spent quite a lot of time looking there. And there it was, a tiny whole sand dollar. Perfect. I put it in my pocket and kept looking.

It wasn't long before we ran into our friends, Laurie and Dave, who were also walking the beach and looking for shells or any interesting thing that might wash up. (We crossed paths with them at this beach last week, too.) They'd been out there longer than we had, and they had their hands full of shells and whole silver dollars. Dave gave me some of his sand dollars and then I found a couple more. (When I came home, I had seven of them, so the day really was perfect!)

We looked around in the sand at the water's edge, and we noticed that in the spot we were hunting for shells, the water was moving crazily in all different directions. I'd seen this happen before at this beach, but it always amazes me when I watch waves going straight backward toward the sea, breaking and crashing into the waves coming in. I'm not just talking about an undertow here, or the normal action of water going back to ocean after it breaks on the shore. I'm talking about serious, literal waves moving toward the incoming sea and breaking over on the waves coming in. I have no idea what might cause this-- it's very strange. In the same place there are also strong currents pushing the waves perpendicular to the bigger ones coming in to the shore. The water looks really crazy when this happens (which seems to be rare), and I tried to a capture a photo of it, but it didn't work.

We walked on down the beach, and when we approached the jetty and the end of our walk, Dave and Laurie headed back to their car, and Mom and I stuck around for a while. It was a beautiful late afternoon and evening at the beach, so I'm glad we did. Plus, clouds are finally starting to form after many days of clear skies. The weather is making a shift for sure, and by the end of the week, rain is expected to fall here again.

It was a bit rough out there today.

Dave and Mom, walking along.
Laurie and me, walking along.

Bye Dave and Laurie.

Mom watching the ocean as the sun drops lower in the sky.

End of day.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Laughing, We Endure...

I've been writing this for myself, over the past few days, just jotting down my thoughts, but I decided to share it here because it's what I've been thinking about. I turned it into something more like a post, but I don't have time to cut and edit, so please forgive the length and maybe some redundancy.

I hope you'll have a lovely weekend. :-)


My mom is a Ruth Bell Graham fan, and over the years, she's given me copies of some of Ruth's books. I love Ruth, too. She is honest and down-to-earth. She doesn't play saint. She's very real and very funny. She's also encouraging. One thing I like about Ruth is that she is clearly deep and deeply intelligent, but she writes plainly about ordinary things.

There was a time when I thought of her writings as somewhat simplistic-- more geared to a new or young Christian-- but the older I get, the more I realize how very simple I need to stay in my spiritual walk. So, I am finding encouragement in Ruth's simple thoughts and words, and, growing older, I increasingly realize that simple truths run very, very deep.

Here at Mom's house, I've been picking up and perusing Ruth Graham's books again. I find them encouraging in the same way that Edith Schaeffer's and Amy Carmichael's writings encourage me. Even if they are not saying anything that is new to me, they give me a large sense of someone who is a kindred spirit on the path. Not that I am where they are or know what they know or have walked what they have walked, but there is the same attitude and hope and desire and spirit in their writings as I have been putting into my journals for years. All of these women are mentors to me, and, recently, I'm especially connecting to Ruth Graham.

How can I not like someone who writes honestly, like this:

"The job of raising five little Grahams to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ is too big for me, who am not a good soldier myself. Feeling particularly distracted (or I should say overwhelmed and confused) this morning, I have been looking to the Lord asking, 'Where, from here?'

"Bill will be leaving soon for the San Fransisco meeting. And I almost have a sinking feeling. Not altogether a left-behind and left-out sort of feeling, but swamped, knowing that all the things I have depended on others to do, I shall have to do myself.

"And things have not gone smoothly. There is a terrible amount of fighting among the children, ugliness and back talk from Gigi, and peevishness on my part backed by sporadic, uncertain discipline...

"And I don't look to the ways of my household. The children are not well taught even about brushing their teeth and keeping their rooms straight. Regular family prayers at the supper table are not very regular. I don't always keep the children's clothes mended, neat, and organized. We get ready for Sunday on Saturday. Well, there's no use going into it all. It just boils down to the fact that I am not being a good mother.

"So I took it to Him this morning..."

And there, in the last line is the answer. We all feel out of sorts and incompetent and that we are just not doing our job at times. And we might feel guilty and a bit discouraged when we see the evidence ever so plainly in front of us. But just do like Ruth and take it to Him. She found her answer, and we will, too.

I have kept journals for years, and many of my writings start with the very tone that Ruth uses. Like hers, my husband was also away more than he was at home, and I was left with four little kids and the animals. I was left with all of the work (and there was plenty, but four kids to help!) and responsibility, and, like Ruth, I often felt incompetent. My daily journal entries occasionally started out reflecting that, but by the time I had finished writing, they had usually taken on a different tone, only because I had "taken it to Him," and, by His grace, a bit of hope and even humor emerged. I most often arose from the table with an optimistic energy, and God knows I needed it! :-)

I have watched, and have emulated, people like Ruth, who refuse to wallow in a discouraging situations, but have eventually worked their way-- in quiet and prayer and trust-- to laughter, because they have taken it to Him. And mostly what I get from Ruth's example is laughter. She struggled honestly, but she was joyful because she, I think, chose joy. In one poem, she ended with the words, "laughing we endure."

Ruth had a wonderful sense of humor and fun. She was light and active, busy and family-oriented, grace-filled and a lover of beauty. She created a lovely home and made it into a warm and secure refuge for her family and for friends. It was full of laughter. A child who grows up in a home with people who can laugh, no matter what, has been given a very good gift.

As I was thinking about how Ruth Graham's writings connect with me right where I am and inspire me onward, I was trying to remember a Bible verse to the effect that we should follow the example of the faithful ones who have endured. I couldn't place it, and then today I just happened to run across it (or one like it) in my morning Bible reading:

"...imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised." (Hebrews 6:12)

There have been many people and many authors who have had a huge impact on my spiritual life, on my decisions, and in the way I choose to live my days. I would even say that there are many authors whose writings I like better, in some ways, than Ruth Graham's. They stimulate my spiritual intellect. They challenge me deeply. They make me think about things I sometimes haven't thought about before.

Ruth Graham is different. She meets me just where I am in my plain, everyday, ordinary life, and she tends to think and write about it in just the same way I would. But Ruth has gone much further than me. She is one who "through faith and patience has inherited what has been promised." I am following along on a path she has already walked faithfully.

I relate well to Ruth's stories of both her joys and her difficulties, and I can imitate her pursuit of God in all things because she has walked faithfully to the end. The faithfulness and the joy are what inspire me. Life gets a bit messy sometimes. Sometimes we fail in our attitudes, in our tasks, in the raising of our kids, in our relationship with our spouse, in everything! And sometimes we struggle and even flounder. But no matter. We can just get back up, praying, and carry on. Don't wallow. Don't be discouraged. Don't give up. And for heaven's sake, laugh! Life is just too short not to choose to laugh. As Ruth Graham writes, laughing, we endure.

I am thinking of many people whose example of laughter through the ups and downs of life has taught me to laugh. And, more specifically, I am thinking of my mother, who, every day, pointedly chooses to press ahead and to laugh along the way. She hurts like crazy just about every minute, but her humor marches on. She had me laughing so hard in the car the other night (and she was laughing, too) that I was practically in tears. Laughing, she endures. And, so I will imitate her, too (and I do).

I'm reminded of a favorite Chesterton quote, a saying I try always to remember: "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly."

I have been given the gift of a family who laughs. A family who takes themselves lightly. A family who does not make things bigger than they are. A family who does not wallow in emotions, but deals with them, and refuses to do anything but press ahead.* A family who tends to look things in the eye and feel unintimidated. This isn't to say we don't hurt or struggle, but, thankfully, I have been given the example of a long string of ancestors who carry on, who endure laughing, who take themselves lightly.

A cheerful heart doeth good like a medicine, you know. And, laughing, we endure.

*(I don't want to discount or discourage those who struggle with depression or are truly and deeply depressed. That does happen, and one shouldn't feel guilty about it, but should continue to seek God and seek encouragement and maybe find some help. But even in this case, it is good to willfully look to find a way to laugh.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Five Things...

Pretty soon I'm going to have to change the name of my blog from "High Desert Home" to "In Which She Goes to the Beach" or something. :-) But right now we're having amazing weather-- in the low 60's and no wind-- so we're taking advantage of the lovely days while they're here.

And I suppose if you're going to the beach every day, you may as well take pictures. Here are a few things I noticed and enjoyed during today's late afternoon visit. And just as nice as the things we saw was the fresh, clean seaside air. It is really invigorating, and, like I told Mom, it almost seems healing. Mom and I walked down the beach for awhile, then hung around til the sun disappeared behind the ocean.

Interesting patterns in the sand. If this wasn't a beach post, and I didn't tell you that was sand, would you know?

The light green color of the waves in the sunlight. This beach is my favorite, partly because of the color of the water.

Mom again, in her beach hat again, sitting on a log, with a lighthouse on her head. :-) (I do wish I would have shifted my position so that the lighthouse was further left, but I was too quickly snapping away.)

The grass and sand in the evening sun.

The lighthouse at dusk, taken on our way home. We drive right past the lighthouse when we go to the beach. I thought this was lovely.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Psalms and Morning Coffee...

Morning at the kitchen table. Old kitchen table made in the town where my dad was a young boy. Cloth crocheted by my grandmother. Jug and bowl belonged to my great-grandmother.

"My strength returns to me with my morning
cup of coffee and reading the psalms."
~Dorothy Day

I ran across this quote again today, and it made me smile because what Dorothy said here is true for me, too, and it really is the coffee as well as the Psalms. This will sound silly, but once, in the past, this gave me pause. I didn't want to think of drinking coffee or other little pleasant routines and rituals of my day as having that kind of importance in my life. I mean, I may not always be able to start my morning with coffee. I may not always be surrounded by pleasant things. I may not have as much discretionary time as I do now to live slowly and to enjoy the little material blessings that surround me. They may be gone someday. Who knows? Things change.

I wasn't feeling negative about life or guilty about my pleasures. I liked drinking coffee in the morning, and I would continue to enjoy it, but I wanted my daily strength, I thought, to come down to simply trusting Him. I wasn't sure it was a good thing for the coffee (or anything else) to factor into the equation of what gives me strength and joy.

And, really, it does come down to Him alone. I know that. If everything I enjoy now went away, the true source of my strength and joy would still be there. So that little doubt about morning coffee having too much importance passed quickly And right now, I do happen to be blessed with pleasant things around me and cheerful daily routines and rituals. I have been given the gift of time and the freedom of choice to order my days as I like. I'm blessed to be able to grind my own coffee beans in the morning, fill my coffee press, sit beside the fire or a window with a view, and sip and think and read and pray. This is a gift, and I'll take it gladly.

Many mornings I wake up feeling bright and cheery and ready to go. Other mornings are slower, and like Dorothy Day, when I open my Bible, sip my coffee, and write in my journal, my strength returns to me. And I really am glad for both the Psalms and my morning coffee!

And I'm glad for the fire in the stove or the sunny window with a view. I'm glad for the quilt (made by my grandma) that I wrap around myself each morning and the feel of the pen scratching its way across my journal. I'm glad for the books that end up in the stacks that surround me as I sip and read and write in the morning.

Yes, my strength returns to me with my morning cup of coffee and the reading of the Psalms. They are good rituals for starting the day, and I take them with glad thanks to God, who means for me to enjoy and benefit from them both.

I Have Discovered a New Favorite Thing...

Me, kayaking today. Well, actually, in the picture, I'm just sitting there. And the tip of Laurie's kayak. I think this photo will enlarge if you click on it.

Hey, JoAnne, remember the New Year's Day hike on the lake? Well, here's that point where we took a photo of everyone-- but this time it's the view from the water looking in. You would have loved being out there today.

What a perfect day for kayaking! It was so much fun, and it was just beautiful in every way. I'll take a kayak over a canoe any day!

Thanks, Laurie, for the great day kayaking on the lake. Next time we take coffee and biscotti! :-) And thanks for the photos. I'll probably put the others up soon and write more. (And thanks to Dave for loading, unloading, loading, and unloading the kayaks!)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

To the Beach Again!

Taken on the walk back toward the jetty and where we started.

(This post dedicated to you, my sweet daughter, Michelle, because you wanted me to write about our beach visit-- and put up some photos-- on my blog. Love you and miss you and your family!)

I know, I know. All I do is go to the beach. Hence, all I do is blog about going to the beach. But that's just fine with me. I'm enjoying every moment of it.

It was a gorgeous, sunny, warm day today. Mom and I had been doing things around the house, and after lunch she said, out of the blue, "Would you like to go to the beach?"


So, we hopped into the car, and in just a few minutes we were there. We ran into our friends, Laurie and Dave, in the parking lot. Because it was a beautiful day, the two of them had packed a lunch to enjoy in front of the ocean. They were just leaving for home as we were arriving.

Laurie and I talked for a minute about our plans to go kayaking tomorrow morning on a local lake. Awhile back she'd asked if I'd like to do this as soon as we have one of those amazing, unseasonably balmy January weeks. Two nights ago she called me, saying, "It's that week!" So we put it on the schedule for Wednesday (tomorrow) morning, and, according to the forecast, we should have beautiful weather for exploring the lake. While I've been canoeing many times, I've never been in a kayak, so I am really looking forward to this.

Lighthouse. Photo taken from the jetty.

Mom and I walked and walked down the beach, one that is often particularly good for shell hunting, but the tide was fairly high this early afternoon so it wasn't a good beach combing day. No matter. It's just nice to walk along the sand in the fresh air, enjoying the view of the dunes and the ocean.

We noticed some interesting and pretty pieces of driftwood along the beach. A sea lion popped its head out of the water right alongside us as we walked and seemed to be watching us.

Mom, sitting at the end of the jetty this afternoon.

I climbed up on the jetty and walked out on it a little ways. Mom sat on a rock to watch the ocean (she loves nothing better than doing this). There were several fishing boats nearby on the water, and I noticed a surfer bobbing around. Then he caught a small wave, rode it in, and paddled back out.

As I turned to walk back off the jetty, I noticed quite a group of surfers collecting at the top of the beach and trotting toward it with their boards. Nice day for surfing, that's for sure, even if the waves weren't gigantic.

We left the beach vowing to go back often. Why not eat lunch there on a nice day rather than at home? And why not take our walk there since we intend to walk daily anyway? After all, it takes just a few minutes to get to the beach, and it's so, so refreshing to be there.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Grumpy Story...

I've already posted about some recent blessings, but as I lay in bed last night writing in my journal, I was thanking the Lord for His goodness and kindness of another sort. And so as not to paint a too cloying picture of my life, I want to tell this.

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday morning. I didn't like feeling grumpy, and I kept trying my best to overcome it, but that feeling of being out of sorts only seemed to get worse as the morning went along. I hadn't slept well. My stomach was upset, and I was dizzy. My eyes felt gritty and they were puffy from allergies. And on top of this my head was throbbing.

I was hurrying to get ready for the early morning church service, and when I took the dog outside, three big, friendly neighborhood dogs swarmed and jumped all over us, getting my pants muddy. I tried to shrug it off, but my grumpiness increased, and I was now feeling in no mood to go anywhere or to be around people.

At the same time, I felt incredibly immature, and I struggled to get over myself. Struggled to choose to be cheerful, since, so often, all we need to do is to change our focus a bit. I was trying hard not to allow my feelings to affect my behaviour, but I was clearly not winning the battle. Mom, as usual, was cheerful. And, poor Mom, the last thing she needs is me being moody!

We arrived at church a bit late, thanks to me. I sat with Mom through the service, enjoyed the sermon, and liked visiting old friends afterwards, but when we went home, I was still dizzy. Still not quite right. Still feeling out of sorts.

I knew I needed some quiet time and some rest, so I climbed under a quilt on my bed, opened my Bible, journal, and devotionals, and started reading. One devotional reading confronted me with force, and I needed it:

"It is a sign that the soul is living in God, if it maintain calmness within through the consciousness of His Presence, while working for Him in active ministrations. Such restfulness will show itself in the commonest ways, in doing common duties at the right time, in preserving a sweetness and evenness of temper in the midst of ordinary interruptions and disturbances, in walking to and fro quietly on the day's varied errands, in speaking gentle words, in sweetly meeting unexpected calls. A calm, restful temper grows as self is learning to lose itself in God. Such grace tells gradually on the daily life; even the minutest detail may be brought under the power of God, and carried out in union with Him." ~T.T. Carter

How very, very far I was walking from this. And how very impossible I'd found it to conquer my attitude all by myself. So I prayed. And I got quiet. And soon I began to sense a change in the way I was looking at things. That closed-in, ugly feeling started to disappear as the Lord began to adjust my attitude and give me a bit of His love and His grace.

My hermit-like tendencies were gone, and I suddenly realized that my puffy eyes and throbbing head really weren't as bad as they'd seemed. I threw off the quilt and walked into the kitchen to ask Mom for an Advil. When I did, I burst into tears (this happens more easily lately).

Mom, of course, hugged me. I told her I was sorry for being a damper on the morning and on her cheeriness. She, of course, said that I wasn't at all! I felt silly and very un-50-years-old, but at same time, I was once again thankful for God's patient grace and for a sweet mother.

I know this is such an ordinary, everyday story, but, for me, it's just another very simple reminder of the truth of that verse I posted already:

"All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful..." Psalm 25:10

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Weekend Notes...

Saturday morning, Mom and I went for a brisk walk. We've just recently established this as part of our morning routine, and we intend to build endurance and strength by gradually increasing our distance and by walking hills as often as we can. There are so many beautiful nearby places for walking-- beaches and trails and pretty roadways-- that we never have to get tired of tramping the same path day after day.

After our morning walk, I took a shower and then dropped off some dishes at the home of a special friend. Back in December, during the long, hard week of planning my dad's memorial service, Laurie brought our family an amazing meal, and the dishes should have been returned to her long ago. When I stopped by her cosy home (the woodstove felt nice!), Laurie and her husband asked me to please come in for a bit to visit. Then they asked if I'd like to eat lunch with them. Sure! :-) So, we sat at the table, eating a nice lunch (great homemade salsa!), drinking good coffee, and having a really nice visit. I left their home, as I always do, feeling encouraged and also quite blessed to be friends with this couple.

(Since I mentioned the nice meal Laurie made for our family, let me just add this... when you know a family that is grieving, don't hesitate to show up with food or flowers or a tree to plant or even just a card and a hug and a promise to pray. You don't even need to walk in the front door or hold a conversation. But don't be shy. Don't worry that you'll be intruding. Don't worry that you'll be a nuisance. It means the world to the family that is going through hard times. One lady came here early one morning during that early hard time-- I think she was just going home after working a night shift-- while we were all still sleeping. I answered the door in my nightgown, and this woman was standing there holding a grocery bag. She said, "I brought you breakfast... I'm soooo sorry about your father!" And she burst into tears. She handed me the bag (there were muffins, bagels, and sweet rolls; cream cheese; coffee and creamer; and orange juice), and I gave her a hug and told her that her thoughtfulness meant so very much to all of us. Then I said, "I don't even know your name..." She said she was from up the road, and that my parents are "the light of the world." I had never seen her before in my life, but this sweet woman definitely has a special place in my heart now.)


Saturday evening we cheered on my niece's 8th grade basketball team in their last game of the year. They won in overtime, by one point, on a free throw in the final few seconds. My niece, Kristin, is an excellent basketball player-- tall and intimidating-- and she can sink 3 pointers like crazy when she's hot. The other night we watched her score 16 points in the first quarter alone. :-)

After the basketball game, my sister, her husband, her son, and her daughter-in-law came out to Mom's house with a large bag of cooked crab my brother-in-law and nephew had caught earlier in the day. The guys built a big, toasty bonfire, and we all sat around it, cracking and eating crab, then visiting for a long while in the pleasant nighttime air and firelight. The crab was delicious, and there's even enough left over to make crab cakes for dinner tomorrow. Oh, yum! I think (I hope) these lake-side bonfires are going to become a regular thing because they're a blast!

This morning, Mom and I attended the early service at church, then we came home and puttered around for awhile before going to town to pick up my sister and her husband for an afternoon at the beach. The morning was cloudy and misty, but by early afternoon, the air was clearing. The sun came out, but the sky remained somewhat hazy for the rest of the day.

We had a wonderful, relaxed afternoon with Bev and David, walking and exploring some of our favorite points along a very short stretch of coastline. There was a chill in the air this afternoon, but it was wind-free, so it was a perfect winter day for taking in the refreshing beauty of one little part of our area. Bev and David are great fun to hang around with, and I've already invited myself along for the waterfall hike they're intending to take next weekend!

I'm feeling blessed. I get to enjoy being with my mom every day. I have a bunch of relatives who appreciate the bounty of the coast and regularly offer to share their seafood-- crab, clams, and all sorts of fish. And everywhere we turn there are beautiful drives to take and beaches to visit. There are several lighthouses and fishing villages along a not-too-long stretch of coast. There are rocky beaches, sandy beaches, and ocean side cliffs. And there are an abundance of diverse hiking trails, rivers, lakes, sand dunes, wildlife sanctuaries, and waterfalls to enjoy.

God is good.

I thought I'd put up some photos of our time at the beach today. There's a haze in most of them because that's the way the sky was all afternoon, but you'll get the idea of what we saw. And, honestly, when I spend time out in this, I can't help but deeply believe that...

"All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful..."
~Psalm 25:10

A fishing boat coming into harbor.

Mom and Bev walking and talking along the beach of a little cove.

My sister told me that this trunk is part of the remains of an acient seaside Sitka Spruce forest. There are many of these along this beach, but they're only uncovered when the tide is just so. I didn't know any of this even though I've been to this beach countless times, and I thought it was really cool. It looks kind of like a starfish here.

Mom and my brother-in-law, David (I just had to get a photo of David into this post somehow!).

Some of the smaller tidepools in the area. A beach jsut down the road from here has some of the best tidepools on the west coast.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Different Kind of Weather...

This is what it's been doing here lately. All the time.

It rains. And it rains. And then it rains some more. The sky has been mostly grey with low clouds.

I'm used to the high desert, where we get about 10 inches of precipitation in an entire year (mostly in the form of snow) and more than 300 glorious days of sun and clear, blue, open sky.

Last winter at home. View of front yard and beyond from the front porch.

Here on the coast you can get inches of rain in one day.

Yes, it's raining in this photo, too, and lest you think I'm trying to get artsy here, framing my photo with a tree, I'm really standing under it to protect my lens from the hard falling rain!

But you know what? I love the rain. I grew up in here, so the weather feels cosy. The coast is a different place with a different kind of beauty, and it takes rain-- a whole bunch of rain-- to make it this way. And I love it when the wind howls and the rain pelts the windows.

In cold high desert winters, we know how to bundle up to stay warm. Here, we bundle up to stay dry. I've heard it said that there is no bad weather-- just wrong clothes-- and I think that's pretty much true. And when one is ready for it and open to it, rain is really a lovely thing.

And, because I grew up here, I know a winter secret about this rainy, coastal place. There are these unexpected, magical, sunny, summery 70 degree days that sometimes show up, even in January. I can't wait for the first one-- my friend says when it comes, we can go out on the lake in her kayaks!

And anyway, remember this nice poem? I posted it once before, but I love it, so here it is again:
Who loves the rain,
And loves his home,
And looks on life with quiet eyes,
Him will I follow through the storm,
And at his hearth-fire keep me warm;
Nor hell nor heaven shall that soul surprise
Who loves the rain
And loves his home,
And looks on life with quiet eyes.

~Frances Shaw

Tomorrow we're taking Melissa back to the apartment she shares with Aaron (who resumed his college courses this week). I've gotten used to having her around again, so I'll miss her. And she says she'll miss having a nice spot to sit and write (we'll have to see if we can get her set up with something that feels just right).

So, Mom, Melissa and I are off to the valley for a couple of days. I'm hoping, when I return, to be able to find a nice daily rhythm. I also need to find a way to come online besides using Mom's one phone line. Because I don't want to tie up her phone line, I'm usually only online briefly in the early morning and again late at night. Until I find another internet connection, my posts might be sporadic. I'm also in something of a brain fog lately (I guess that's to be expected), and I don't know how long it will be before I can muster up a coherent thought!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Late New Year's Post...

"Since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities-- his eternal power and divine nature-- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..." ~Romans 1:20

New Year's celebrations are over, and people have moved on. Except for me, that is. I'm late, but, oh well, here's a New Year's post anyway:

Normally, we spend New Year's Eve at our snowy home in the high desert with one of my sisters and her family. We make good food to eat and tasty treats (my favorite New Year's treat is my sister's peanut butter-chocolate dessert) and play some games. And then, at the stroke of midnight, while all of the neighbors are shooting guns and making a racket, our gang bolts out the front door to race around the house barefoot in the snow. This is a whole bunch of fun, but last year, it was so frigid outside that the snow was a bit icy, and we all ended up with little micro-cuts on our lower legs (all the more fun, right?!).

After our race around the house, we'd pull out the envelope that held the predictions we all wrote last year. On New Year's Day, we each write a list of predictions for the upcoming year (even the kids do this), then we put them in an envelope, seal it, and read them aloud on the following New Year's Eve. We prognosticate about everything-- politics, celebrities, and each other. Some of these prediction lists are quite hilarious, notably the ones created by my 10-year-old niece, Nicole.

Since we are not in the high desert this winter but are at my mom's house on the Oregon coast, my sister's family came here for our New Year's celebration. Another sister came out to Mom's house from town with her husband and a married son and his wife.

Mom had the great idea to build a bonfire in the fire ring down by the lake in front of her house. So, we roasted hot dogs and then marshmallows for s'mores. And I can't imagine anything nicer than making s'mores over a campfire. Simply standing by a campfire makes me happy, and apparently, I'm not the only one who feels that way, because we were all outside by the fire for hours.

The evening was just beautiful. It had been raining hard for days, but on the afternoon of New Year's Eve, the air cleared, the wind disappeared, and it was so still that the water on the lake was like glass. Which meant that the kids and some of the adults ended up in the three boats (two rowboats and a paddle boat) on the lake in the dark (life-jackets on, of course) using flashlights or reading lights to see (or not). We could hear the boaters talking and laughing their way around the lake, and at least once, the entire gang burst into boisterous singing (in unison). We couldn't see them, but we could see their tiny lights in the distance, and we could clearly hear the singing.

We went inside before midnight, and when midnight came, we all toasted with sparkling cider. Then my sister made us toast again a minute or two later when a different clock in the house struck midnight. Then she tried to make us do it again when yet another clock reached midnight, but we ignored her this time. :-)

The morning of New Year's Day was stormy with lots of rain and wind. I doubt very many people think of going on a hike in that kind of weather, but that's what some of us did. Our New Year's Day hike was on a trail alongside a lake under a thick tree canopy. Surprise, surprise, in spite of the storm, it was mostly dry all along the path. Just a few sprinkles reached us, and the trail was also mostly wind-free. It was a pretty hike, and it's always refreshing and invigorating to do something active outdoors.

I'm not a person to make New Year's resolutions, but I did like the very simple focus of my devotionals on January 1, and I thought they offered a nice mindset for the coming year. The passage in one of the devotionals was Psalm 125:1,2:

"Those who trust in the Lord are like Mt. Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people both now and forevermore."

I like that. My part is to simply trust, and God's part is to surround and keep me. And then I cannot be shaken. When I simply trust in the Lord (simple, yes, but not easy), I can rest in the fact that God is taking care of every situation in my life. I can leave it all with Him and walk in St. Teresa's pleasant encouragement (from another devotional reading):

"Walk cheerfully and freely in God's service."

That's exactly how I want to set my mind every day, and I think I won't complicate this with any more words. :-) Instead, I'll share a few photos from our New Year's Day hike. The picture quality below isn't great, but the photos at least give an idea of what some of the trail is like (this is a very different kind of hiking terrain than the trails we hike in the high desert).

To the members of my family who like me to post pictures of what we're all up to, here ya go, guys... :-) (These are also for anyone who reads here.)

My sister and her husband moving along the trail.

My sister, two of her kids, and my Mom (blurry people; oops).