Saturday, July 26, 2008
"I had a big splinter in my foot but my dad was still alive so he pulled it out."
This was a profoundly consuming week.
Spoken with such truth and innocence by the seven year old daughter of a friend, that it pricked my heart with the earthly finality that it conveyed. Another friend had brought this child and the child's five year old sister to a park day we had planned. "What a good memory of your dad," my wise friend responded without missing a beat.
Some years ago a group of home school moms began getting together. The group has had different takers over time, we all attend different churches, but somehow through a web of connections our lives have been woven together. This week the husband of one of these dear women died of a heart attack. The sweet teller of the splinter story is one of the six children left behind.
This week I thought of 'light' blogs from the places of enjoyment that sustained me. There were also reassuring Summit Summer hikes, pleasantly mundane things like laundry, shopping for my step-niece's upcoming wedding, and Thirteen's golf camp. But the undercurrent was ever present, waking me up at night or early in the morning. You see, this circle of home school moms also holds the friend who awaits 'the call' for a new liver. Though very fragile, she somehow plans for the school year and calls to ask what kind of sweet peppers were on that sandwich I made her. The need is real and deep and can wash over you and leave you gasping and questioning, seeking counsel and perspective...where is it? Where is the boundary? Where is it? Where is it? Where do you find the true boundary? How do you decipher between wise service, true need, and your own selfish flesh that screams out for untroubled, idyllic summer days on the lawn sipping iced tea?
Friday afternoon I went blueberry picking with an Oldest-and-Dearest--you know, one of those friends from your early twenties? One of those who attended your wedding and was there when the kids were born? We weren't able to go early in the day so we went in the hot afternoon, slathered on sunscreen, and picked. For nearly three hours we sweated and picked. In the quiet, and in the sometimes overwhelming loudness of a SE Asian tonal conversation on a nearby row, we talked about loss and responsibility, and the realness of human feeling and struggle about such matters. I shared some of the counsel we received this week (some of which was hers) and she shared about their journey as caregivers/guardians of a disabled, adult orphan, and the recent death of her mother. 29 combined pounds of blueberries later (not counting the ones we ate) she picked up the tab and my extreme gratefulness for the honesty of her stories and for allowing me to share mine.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
It's that time of the month--the time of the month when I start the grocery shopping flurry. El Professor, the kids, and I dropped in at the local Grocery Outlet a few days ago. I like to check out the perishable section--often you can score good deals on items such as goat cheese. Every now and then they have packages of sandwich meat that are the nitrite free variety and, if they are approaching pull date, they are a great deal. I have found other great deals on nonperishables such as organic canned tomotoes and other organic products, chocolate (trying to stay away from that right now) tea, and toiletries. Sometimes, though, I walk out of the Grocery Outlet with an ominous sense of, why did I buy this stuff? We have a joke with one good friend about Grocery Outlet 'duds'. It's one of those 'one liners' that goes something like, "No wonder it was at the Grocery Outlet!" On this trip, though, we scored a few great spaves!
This tea is excellent! It can also be chilled for a refreshing iced tea. I have only seen this a few times at the Grocery Outlet.......
...so I spaved on all they had.
We are into making 'faux Subway sandwiches' around here, and I like to keep a lot of sliced deli turkey in the freezer so we have it on hand. There were a few of these in the perishable section, so I asked one of the head honchos if they had anymore in the back......
.....they did!! OK--we'll be having a lot of 'faux Subway sandwiches' .
While we're on the subject of things in the freezer....it's about all that rice from spaving in April. I think I'll go make a cup of tea now and check out some rice recipes.
At the beginning of summer I posted that the Crazy Days of May and the Totally Insane First Half of June came to a screeching halt with summer vacation....that calm lasted for exactly one day. The day I wrote that post. I signed the kids up for some summer karate, our second car was dead, and El Professor's 'summer of graduate work' meant fun but time consuming bike commutes for us, much going here and there to various activities like karate, golf, and woodworking, and a busy El Professor. El Professor's summer professional development culminates with a VERY important exam on Saturday and a few papers. Ahhhh. Next week we are outta here for a few days!! In the meantime...it's about all of that organizing I have yet to do.........Oh well.
Focusing on the positive...We have had some great family bike rides, some great hikes and a much needed regular walking routine. That has been wonderful! We've had some enjoyable evening 'sits' with my hilarious twin and her husband with good food and wine. Thirteen, that entrepreneurial kid, spent some of his birthday money on a used lawn mower, painted it Oregon Ducks green, created a business name complete with business cards, and drummed up some lawn mowing jobs. Ten has had some good old play time with neighbor kids, including teaching the neighbor's granddaughter karate. We went blueberry picking and I plan to go a few more times.
OK....I should pick an area and attempt some organizing. Hmmm. Where should I begin.......
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
Wow...amazing how God works. My friend survived the internal bleed and was discharged from the hospital in that faraway city. Here's the amazing part--a benefactor sent a private jet down to get my friend and her family and spirit them home sans all of the hassle of a commercial flight. Another friend and his children rode down on the private jet and road tripped the family's car home. My friend has now officially been accepted at the nearest teaching hospital where transplants are performed. It is my understanding that this hospital has a low mortality rate on transplants and this is due to high standards for potential transplant patients. She has been accepted! I'm feeling very thankful.
Monday, July 14, 2008
If you get on the interstate here and head north 350 miles you'll end up where my mom grew up and where much of her extended family lives and is buried. This weekend my hilarious twin and I road tripped up north together to attend the 60th wedding anniversary of my dear, sweet aunt and uncle, my mom's sister and brother-in-law. It was a wonderful, gasping-with-laughter-until-you-nearly-wet-your-pants kind of trip. (My hilarious twin has an affinity for getting off the interstate at really bad exits.) We enjoyed two motel nights with wine, movies and walks by the water. It was such a nice little break.
This trip was an unexpected time of gathering family history as we sat around my aunt and uncle's table late after the party was over. What started as storytelling about my aunt and uncle's courtship led to a lot of question asking about family history. My mom was the youngest by quite some years, and she and my aunt talked and shared. Their older sister died the year after El Professor and I were married, and they wished she was there as she knew more of the family's history. Still, we asked a lot of questions and learned a lot. I was floored to learn that my grandmother, who died 6 months after El Professor and I were married and was buried in the dress she wore to our wedding, was one of 12 children. I knew my paternal grandfather was one of 12, but I never knew this about my grandmother.
My mom always mentioned that my dear, sweet uncle had been in WWII in the South Pacific and that he never spoke of it. This was regarded by all of us as something that must be off limits and horrific. As we spoke of his and my aunt's courtship, the war came up. Afterall, they were married in 1948. My mom broached the subject diplomatically with something like, "You are one of the remnants of the Great Generation, who served in World War II." My uncle lit up as my mom clarified that he had been in the South Pacific. He told us how, as a 17 year old, he enlisted and was trained and shipped out from San Francisco on a new destroyer. He then mused that they sailed to Hawaii and the war ended! He spent 18 months in the South Pacific traveling as far as the Yangtze River as his ship served as a mail boat. Upon returning to the west coast, the destroyer was decommissioned and scrapped, and my uncle returned home to finish high school. After telling the story he went to his closet and brought out a framed picture of his ship.
My mom and my dear, sweet aunt. My aunt is 80 and is so spunky!
My hilarious twin and I are posing here with our cousins, the daughters of the aunt who died.
One thing I love about summers up in the family stomping grounds is that you travel far enough north to notice a difference in length of day. As the evening talk around the table wrapped up my hilarious twin and I headed east of town to the tiny hamlet where our maternal grandparents are buried. My hilarious twin had not been there since our grandmother's death. We pulled into the cemetary just after 9 p.m. with plenty of light and time to ponder. Our grandfather died when we were little girls, but this grandmother was dear to us.
The drive home was a 'burn drive', done in a day. Still, we took the time to satisfy one more curiousity. Our dad grew up in a place we pass through on these journeys north. None of the family lives there anymore so we gather in other places. It has been years and years since either of us passed the house our paternal grandparents built and where our dad grew up. After a few bad exit choices, taking 'West 36th Street' (the right street, but the wrong part of it) all of the way to what turned out to be the sewage treatment plant and the edge of town, and a cell phone call to my parents, we found it!!
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I am a great emoter. When the ride is a bit bumpy and disconcerting things fly my way I wear my feelings on my sleeve and I emote. The economy is disconcerting and I have some real concerns about El Professor's teaching position for the upcoming year. Possible job cuts don't settle well with me and it is easy travel to the Land of What If. This morning, however, was a time of gaining perspective.
The first post I wrote on this blog was about a very ill friend--I needed to emote about this fragile woman with a steel spirit, so I wrote about my encounter with her in 'Little Coats Big People'. This morning I got a phone call and an email letting me know that this friend is in the ICU in a faraway city. She and her dear family took a car trip to a time share they had and were poised for a little get away when she began to bleed internally. Much of her year and their year has been spent living with the frightening and ever increasing episodes relating to her failing liver. She is in final stage liver failure and needs a liver transplant. She is on the transplant list, but one must be even worse (as if I can imagine how much worse a person could be) before moving to the top of the list. So, there they are. In a faraway city, in a hospital where her case is new and unknown to the medical staff. By comparison my cares have been uncomfortable and very real to me, but I am gaining perspective.
Please pray for this dear family with two children and two loving parents, one of whom is teetering on the edge of very fragile health.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
For three glorious summers Ten has enjoyed a week of day camp at a nearby camp, but this summer was different. Having 'aged out' of the day camp option she was determined to give one of the overnight sessions a try. She painstakingly saved her pennies and then acquired enough birthday money to go to camp. After three weeks of camp angst/anxiety the day finally came to take our little girl to camp--OVERNIGHT camp.
It really is an amazing setting with a wonderful, old fashioned playground with real metal slides and delightfully dangerous looking swings. The rock wall and pool are among the many free time options.
We stopped by at the end of free time---Mmmm! Pringles!
Each camper can sign up with one 'cabin buddy'. Ten and a friend from church were cabin buddies.
I have great memories of the 12 summers I spent at a camp, ultimately working as a counselor. At some point I will have to post the story I wrote about my camp experiences--including the tale of the compass and losing the campers in the hills. Ten's camp experience was 'cushy' by my camp experience standards--indoor plumbing!! She is back home now and is glad to have weathered four nights at camp. She came home with a fourth camp T-shirt to add to her collection complete with the signatures of counselors and friends. Oh--and a really nasty cold/swollen glands.
This week was a great Summit Summer week! Summit Summer Summit Number Three is a local 'mount' which looks like a gentle slope in this photo. The hike up is rigorous and the view from the top is fantastic. We hiked to the two top twice this week--once with some fun hiking friends and again a few days later. (Summit Number One and Summit Number Two are both buttes that are in town and can be hiked on pavement. We hiked those to work up to Number Three!)
I've been encouraged as this week was a trial week of hill hiking for me. As the summer began and I was especially excited about the Summit Summer concept, I got up one morning and there, having literally popped up overnight, was a large cist on my left foot. It was one of those, 'What the heck is that?!' moments. I've had the cist looked at by a few doctor family members and it's not getting any bigger and it hasn't caused any noticeable pain for a few weeks. I named it 'Selma' and I'm hoping she gets along well with me--having a cist carved off my foot right now would definately put the kabosh on Summit Summer. Then, there's my left knee. In the interest of cross-training, fun, and avoiding high gas prices, the kids and I did a ton of bike commuting a few weeks ago. My naggy knee was very unhappy with the pushing off motion of getting the bike going and was sore enough to make the uphill hiking motion uncomfortable. I parked the bike and spent a week on flat route walking. Note to self--always wear socks. It has been two weeks since my sockless walk and I have literally had to wall paper my foot with moleskin to cover a blister right on the weight bearing ball of my foot. Still, the week turned out well with several trail hikes and culminated with the Butte To Butte 4.5 mile walk with a good friend and several thousand other people!
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Recently, Nightline ran a great story about an urban farm in Pasadena, California. Very inspiring! We have a large garden plot we've reclaimed from part of the huge, 'deadish' lawn that awaited us when we bought this house, and a very productive (and in great need of a MAJOR 'haircut') Royal Anne cherry tree. On top of that, El Professor has planted four apple trees (three are in stages of espalier), two plum trees, two kiwi vines and a raspberry patch. I've added a winter lettuce patch in the front yard where the house doesn't cast its winter shade, and five very unhappy looking blueberry plants (they don't qualify as 'bushes' yet). Much of this gardening has been a labor of love, transforming this abandoned house (our house had been repossessed and empty for a year) and neglected yard into aesthetic productivity (still working on that). Still, the farm on Nightline raised the bar of possibilities!
In our tough economy the resurrection of the Victory Garden has been fun to see. Recently, I stumbled across this blog with a link to victory gardening. As I've tinkered with vegetable gardening over the years, my dad has made a few suggestions/observations from wisdom he gained as a child. My dad grew up in Vancouver, Washington during WWII when the population of this major port area grew in leaps and bounds. Across the alley from his house was an empty lot which became the site of his Victory Garden. His wisdom to me? Quit over watering the tomatoes.
This summer I am planning another winter gardening area in the front yard. In the meantime, we are enjoying our own Victory Garden.
One of our favorite signs of the season....roof top cherry harvesting!