I have had a week completely free of children…. at least my children.  It has been incredibly freeing.  The days have seemed longer, I have gotten more done and yet felt more relaxed.  It has been a truly wonderful time.  If only the house was empty of PEOPLE, then it would be perfect.  Anyone who knows anything about our lives right now knows that tale though, so I will skip the whining.  Focusing on the positive—- I have been free of my children for the longest stretch in 11 years.  Awesome.

I had two goals for this time:

One was to refinish a crappy bench that I dragged home from the street corner a couple blocks away.  I realize that dragging free furniture home sort of went out of style as bedbugs became more common, but this seemed like a pretty marginal risk.  The bench had a fake leather cushion and a tacky stain job.  A couple days of very boring sanding and $12 in fabric later, I have this sweet addition:


It looks pretty good in our house… not bad for a free bench made of sort of low-quality wood.  Of course, no amount of sanding and attention was going to make that wood beautiful, but it is passable.


Second goal was to watch World Cup in the middle of the day.  Devra popped in to join me during her lunch time.  It was pretty awesome to hang out in the German pub and watch England play Uraguay.  Poor England though.

IMG_0453 IMG_0452

It is not so much that I am a huge soccer fan, but the World Cup inspires something in me.  I feel like it is time to be a global citizen or something, and I want to go out and be around people who are excited about something.  And I guess it seems very crazy and free to go drink beer in the middle of the day.  The only bad thing about that is that you need a big nap afterwards.  Life is so hard, but I AM on vacation, right?  And it all ends Sunday.

No Cohesion Here


I only prepare food if there is a lovely bouquet on the table…. one must have standards.

There is no cohesive theme to be made out of today’s post.  I’m not in a particularly cohesive mood truly.  I take off with the kids for Spring break today, so I am just sort of racing around doing those dumb things that shouldn’t be pressing tasks but become so when you are out of your home for 6 days.  I HAD to make sauerkraut.  Either make it or face rotten cabbage upon our return.  I tossed in some golden beets, so I am excited about what that might be like.

I also had to clean out the refrigerator.  Or rather, I didn’t have to, but if I didn’t leave it wiped down now, I would surely regret things later.

Other news besides kitchen regrets to avoid:  the foundation is looking, well, like you could actually build something on it.  It is nice to see the footprint of our studio.  My first concern when Dad first started designs was that the addition not look weirdly out of scale with the house.  I didn’t want it too large.  Our house is super big in terms of square feet, but many of those square feet go up (or down), so the house retains a “small farmhouse” charm.  I should have trusted him more.  It is most likely going to be perfect.  Of course, now I have moved on to worrying that it might be too small!  Where will I put all my shit?

IMG_8178And this lovely little thing?  It’s our SAUNA!  Isn’t our house going to be awesome?IMG_8177I’m pretty pleased with the work getting done around here.  I DO wonder why dudes working on the foundation can’t seem to pick up their own nails?  Here is what Zephyr gathered up for me for the very economical wage of $2.  I should suggest that they pick up their own nails or pay my minion!

Owl Wall Hanging (5th grade art project)

I just finished the owl wall hanging for the 5th grade.  They sewed the individual owls; I just attached them to the fabric.  And made the tree.  And cursed as I poked myself with pins from the unattached owls while attaching other owls.  It took days of cursing before I went and got the iron-on tape and tacked them in place with that while I sewed.  This may be a metaphor for my life.
owl wall hangingThis was a fun project to do with the class.  They were so excited about talking about their sewing experiences and eager to make their owls the best they could be…. even though they knew they weren’t keeping any of them.  These kids were downright inspiring really.

Most helpful with this project was that the classroom volunteer did much of the footwork and set up.  It is pretty great when someone is willing to run to the fabric store for you.  My friend Pam took this on and was really nice to work with.  I like doing cooperative art.  I think I like sitting around talking design with people.

I really hope and pray that someone bids on this at the auction, but I also know that I can’t get discouraged if no one does.  This particular class has a lot of students whose parents don’t even come to the auction.  They are sort of priced out of that type of activity, which is a shame for many reasons…. too many for commentary here.

It’s weird working on these auction projects.  I want them to go for a lot because I am putting so much time and care into them.  At the same time, I realize that I need to let go of the outcome.  This may be a metaphor for my life too.


Stop—Cougar Time! (Ingrid)

ingridAs I noted in the previous post, we changed our route out of Pendleton somewhat, in order to go more directly between Pendleton and Enterprise, our next destination. I had thought we would dip south to Ukiah, mostly to get off of I-84. The northerly route through the Umatilla National Forest was just as remote, but more direct, so it seemed to be a great choice. It was also stunningly beautiful with high alpine wild flowers, a more manageable outside temperature of 80-ish degrees, and sparce looking blue-green pines. And it was quiet. We looked at one campground of 16 sites along a lake and chose not to stay there….along with 14 other people. The next campground was the one for us— 8 sites and no one else. The kids could run races around the loop yelling and hooting all the way. Our site was pretty and sun-dappled, and although there was no water, we liked how remote it felt. Until that night.

The kids were slowly winding down towards sleep (you know, fighting, arguing, complaining) when a man in a pick up drove up to our site. He seemed very rattled. “Soooooo, I live in a cabin up on the ridge and I just saw a very large cougar cross the road and turn this direction. He is coming right your way. You might want to get your kids inside.” He went on with even less comforting words, “He’s a big one. This was about ten minutes ago. He’s up on that ridge right THERE, and I thought to myself, there’s a campground down there; My God, I need to tell them!”

I think I went through all the stages of A TOTAL FREAK OUT within the first 10 minutes. First I felt irritation. Why are you telling me this? Do you want to scare me? Then denial. Surely a cougar would not come towards a place where kids are making so much noise. Then an attempt at reasoning. They are afraid of people right? Logic. What did William Sullivan say about cougars? There are no cougar deaths on record for Oregon. Then skepticism. But what about MAULINGS? Then panic. Brad, did you hear this? Oh my GOD.

Brad encouraged calm, cool, rationality. Zip up the tents. Stay inside. Go to bed as normal and the cougar would leave us alone. He then proceeded to roll over and fall asleep. I however, suddenly felt like I needed to go to the bathroom quite desperately. Because I was not at all inclined to venture to the outhouse in the dark, I crouched next to a tree and imagined a cougar jumping on my back while I was vulnerable.

The rest of the night was just an irrational vigil of a very freaked out mother (me). I laid in the dark in my sleeping bag holding my breath so that I might better hear the cougar sneaking up on us. My stomach growling made me jump out of my own skin. Brad snoring made me jump out of my skin. Zephyr snorting in his sleep made me jump out of my skin. My hand brushing against the tent made me jump out of my skin. Without calm (or skin at this point), I spent the long, dark night terrified and (largely) unsleeping. I needed to go to the bathroom but was too afraid. I figured I wasn’t sleeping anyway, so physical discomfort was the least of my troubles.

Somewhere in the early morning, my nerves gave up and I did fall asleep. I was drowsily turning over and noting with relief that it looked like morning when,

OOOOOWWWWWWW!” a cougar screamed. Every hair on my neck stood right up. My arm bones disconnected from my shoulders. My inner electrical wire highway screamed from the tip of my head to the tips of my toes. The cougar might have been a mile away, or it might have been 200 yards. I couldn’t tell. I was scared.

What is that?!” I yelled at a sleeping Brad.

OOOOOWWWWWW!” the creature answered.

That’s the cat,” my very frightened husband whispered.

Oooooowwww!” the cougar responded, mercifully sounding a little further off.

Thankfully that is the end of my cougar tale. We stayed in our tents another hour. Eventually, even when afraid, you have to get out of your tent.  When we finally faced the day, I made myself the best cup of coffee while trying to laugh at myself (and Brad) as much as possible in order to shake the jitters. We packed up, drove away and I ruminated on nature and its ability to make us feel completely whole and completely fractured. It took until about 2pm for me to piece the shards of my nervous system back together. I knew I was going to live when we visited the Joseph bronze walk and checked out this guy without crying or having weird, nervous laughter:


Okay, so maybe I did have weird nervous laughter.

In Portland on Saturday?

Those of you who know me well know what an amazing addition the St Andrew Gospel Choir has been to my life.  It is rare that something you have to do regularly (like a meeting) can so thoroughly nurture the soul.  Once having kids, I sort of shunned these more regular events, but gospel choir has been nothing but good to me.  Sometimes I go to practice feeling sort of downtrodden and tired, but it never takes long before I am smiling and belting out the tunes.  The whole thing is truly cathartic.  I love it.

We’re doing a concert on Saturday.  It is a sort of rare thing, so if you can at all make it, please do!

Gospel concert flyer half page

Things We Think We Know

Do you know the words to “Teddy Bears’ Picnic”?  I thought I did.  I don’t know what inspired me to launch into this particular song tonight at bedtime, but it seemed like a good idea.  I thought the kids would like it, and even though I haven’t sung it in YEARS, I felt confident heading into the interlude.  And then…

Watch them wash their underwear!  Those little Teddy Bears are having a wonderful time tonight!  See them wash their underwear!  As they picnic on their holiday!

My children dissolved in laughter.  “Mom!  That doesn’t make any sense!  Why are they washing their underwear on a picnic?”

I didn’t know.  But weren’t those the words?  Hadn’t I sung them all my childhood? My hippy, hippy childhood where we learn things like this song and all the verses to “Riding in my Car” plus everyone sang “Octopus’ Garden” even before seeing it on Muppet Show?  (As a side note, the last time I remembered singing these songs was around a huge bonfire out in a field at a sing-along.)

I looked it up.  There is no washing of underwear at the picnic.  It is “Watch them, take them unawares”.  Who knew?

94 Years and Counting

My grandmother turned 94 on Wednesday.  Grandma has always been a kick.  Even while she slowly suffered from more and more dementia, her lady-like manners remained.  For the last few years, no matter how checked out she had gotten,he would look at you and say, “Well!  How nice to see you!”.  The recognition on her face that initially accompanied that statement slowly faded, but she still bothered to say it.  Now she doesn’t say much of anything at all.  She is a pretty classy lady, but truthfully, she isn’t doing so well.  She seems to be drifting more and more into an interior world, which I guess is a natural part of moving towards death.  I feel weird saying that when there she is, still alive and kicking.  It is as though I am selling her out, not believing in her indelible spirit, and yet she is so frail and (now at least) detached.  It seems foolish not to just state things as they are.

There is a lot of dignity in death.  There is a lot of dignity in facing death.  A friend of mine just lost her husband recently, and she made the comment, “This is not what I bargained for.”  One side of me said, “Yeah, I bet”, but the other side thought, “Really?  Why not?”.  Aren’t we humans funny creatures?  We all touch death, we all dance with it and then we say, “What?!  We’re going to die?  Our relatives are going to die… like forever?  Huh?!”.  The denial that we live in and comfort ourselves with is ridiculous.

I guess even as I consider myself relatively philosophical about it, I just can’t really fathom death.  I have ideas and theories and this simultaneously powerful and wavering thing people call faith, but nothing that is unrelenting enough to really reassure me.  One minute I feel solid and comfortable and the next minute a small voice that says, “But where are they REALLY?” sends me teetering over the void—lost, freaked out.  And then my big ideas, my BIG RELIGION seems completely ineffectual—light and fluffy, insubstantial.  It makes sense that clouds have become a visual image of the afterlife.  What could be more everyday and yet immaterial?

Go Grandma.  You can do it, you classy lady, you.

This lovely picture of Wilma Parmeter was taken around Christmastime by my uncle, Stan Parmeter.

I Like This

Thanks to Kirstin’s blog post, I’ve been thinking about Dorothy Day again.  Man, I love that woman.  Back when I was a more active Catholic Worker, I would read her writings and just ponder what she put forth.  Dorothy had an uncanny way of talking about the exact issues that tear me apart sometimes— what are we suppose to do for the poor?  What about when people are crappy and mistreat you?  What about when you are tired?  How do we avoid war?  How does one small person stand up against injustice?  What did Jesus mean by….

Me and Dorothy need to get together to pray sometimes.  Here she is talking about St Theresa’s “Little Way”.  Yeah, I think I need to meditate with Dorothy a little more and maybe I can figure it all out.

“Paperwork, cleaning the house, dealing with the innumerable visitors who come all through the day, answering the phone, keeping patience and acting intelligently, which is to find some meaning in all that happens—these things, too, are the works of peace, and often seem like a very little way.”


About a month ago I was asked to speak at church for the fourth Sunday of Advent– today.  Our church has a tradition of having a mother speak on this day as it is the reading where Mary rushes off to see Elizabeth.  The child in Elizabeth’s womb “leaps for joy” and Elizabeth prophecies the place of Jesus in the new society that is to come.  It is a cool thing to be asked.

At first I was honored, then stressed out, terrified, and gradually worked around to confident.  I worked very hard on this piece.  I mean, I ACTUALLY practiced it!

And it went really well.  I felt pretty good about it.  I got a lot of support and positive feed back, so I am flying high on that one.  Here is the text if you are interested!  I cut the second and third paragraphs for time, but I am including them here because I was sad to see them go.

Fourth Sunday Reflection

So here we are in Advent, waiting for Christ and our song is (sung) “We’re waiting for Jesus like Mary”.

On the way to church one day I was bemoaning the task of putting together this reflection to my husband Brad. “What could I possibly have to say about patience or waiting? I’m not a patient person.” “Yeah,” he said, “You are not exactly what I would call serene!”. And then laughed!

“I am too serene!” I wanted to yell. In close relationships, sometimes we offer what we think is this amazingly forthright confession, only to be met by exactly what we don’t want to hear. I didn’t want him to agree with me. I wanted him to tell me how wonderful I am. But I am not a patient person. I am mostly okay with this because for the most part people confuse my impatience with effectiveness, but really at the heart of it all, I want what is not here yet.

Brad and I have three children, Francis who is 6, Zephyr is 3, and Inez is 1. I am a high school language arts teacher by trade, but I am home caring for children right now and sometimes all the waiting and trying to be patient feels like it is killing me. I am sick of doing all the same chores over and over again. I am impatient for the kids to grow up, to need less from me. I am impatient for Inez to quit screaming during church. I would like Zephyr to take his fingers out of his mouth for 2 seconds. And I am sick to death of diapers, diapers, diapers. Older parents say to me, “Oh it goes so fast!” and “Cherish this time!”. I know that they are right, but it is hard for me to muster spirit for their words, maybe because I am exhausted and have diapers to wash.

Pregnancy has always been such a powerful image of waiting, but despite experiencing three pregnancies, I never got much better at waiting. With number 1, I didn’t understand what was happening to me, by number 2, I was eager to be tougher than I was with Francis’s birth. With Inez, the last one, I just wanted it to get over with. That was about month 5.

I’m not good at waiting, but I do understand longing. My pregnancies did help me understand that sort of deep, physical and spiritual longing that comes from some mysterious place inside you, a passionate place, where love and pain are all mixed up together, where you feel something and gasp for breath at how much it hurts. I’ll add here that I don’t think you need to experience pregnancy to know this. We think of this as our heart aching, but why do we hurt in our core like this when our feelings are born in our brain? It is mysterious.

All my children were born in birth centers with midwives. The midwifery model recommends that a laboring woman stay at home as long as possible where she might labor in her own comfortable setting. For me, this was always at night. As I am unwilling to accept comfort when there are things to be done, I was up walking the streets in the dark trying to get my labor to speed up. This is what I sang as I walked: (This is as serene as you are going to get me, so enjoy it). “As the deer longs for running streams, so I long, so I long, so I long for you”. I longed for these babies, these mysterious miracles, these loves of my life.

I understand longing. I can long, and adore, and want change all at the same time. I love my life, my church, my community, but I long for change. I want justice, I want women’s ordination, I want people to stop calling other people “illegal”, I want gay and lesbian couples to have their relationships acknowledged and affirmed by the larger community. In a pregnancy, we know the waiting will all be over after 9 months. Waiting for justice might take a long time though. What are we suppose to do as we wait?

I like this Mary from our Gospel today. She is impatient too. I can just imagine her with her robes hiked up around her knees, her hair and veil flying behind her, rushing as fast as she can over the hills to her cousin Elizabeth’s house. She is out of breath, she is excited, she is bursting with information and can’t wait to hear what Elizabeth might know. Before she can do anything more than call out at the door, Elizabeth shoots up and calls out mightily, “Blessed are you among women! Look at what is happening to us! It is truly wonderful!”.

And it is wonderful. Mary and Elizabeth are not just excited about babies. Yes babies are exciting, but I think what they are excited about is change, is hope. Elizabeth is old and yet she is bearing a child. Mary has been told that her child will rock the foundations of society. Change is coming. The messiah is coming. I imagine that some of you women out there in your 60s and 70s might not consider it much of a favor if you were told by an angel that you were pregnant. “Oh please God no!”, but maybe we can think of this more as a deep symbol for all of us, childbearing or no. Pregnancy in this “old” woman is the ultimate sign of hopefulness. What seemed impossible is not. What seemed too late was not. What seems un-reparable in our human relationships is not without hope.

We long for Christ. We long for peace, for justice, for change. We are impatient. We want to hike up our skirts and run over the hills seeking out our dearest friends and family members to say, “Look what is happening in our world! Look what joy!”. There is value in being patient, but maybe there is value in being hopeful, in letting our longing let us make possible in Christ Jesus what did not seem possible before. Here is the question: can we make our longing manifest in action?

At Advent, we are all pregnant. Close your eyes, wrap your arms around your belly. This is where something wonderful that you long for is growing. Is it peace? Is it healing in your family, in your body, in your human relationships? Sing with me: “As the deer longs for running streams, so I long, so I long, so I long for you”.

What do you need to do to bring it to birth?


Bible Camp Dude!

Sorry I haven’t been much up to date on goings on around here.  The thing is that I am super crazy busy at Bible Camp….

I am doing the music portions of our church’s camp for 2-7 year olds.  There are 70 kids going crazy with art, music, story-telling, and games for 4 hours all this week….and it sort of feels like a life-time.  I did this last year, except I was a coordinator.  This year I am doing the same music-leading duties, but no organizational stuff, which truly I don’t do a great job of anyway.  I make confident decisions, but I have a hard time caring much about the woman who is stressed about the kids not washing their hands well enough, or the person who wants the chairs “RIGHT, EXACTLY, BACK WHERE THEY WERE”.  I pretend to care, but I don’t really.  I pretend like I don’t think those people are crazy, that I respect their input, but in reality, I am standing there thinking, “How long do I have to sensitively listen to this person before I can go about doing exactly what I want to?”.  I tell you, I am MEANT for leadership, eh?!

It is interesting leading music.  I am actually not “performing” for more than about 25 minutes at a time, but it is super exhausting.  I am up there with my guitar singing super loud, being hyper and trying to be animated and excited.  It is like teaching but super compressed.  I feel like I have just put on a Broadway show…. but in 25 minutes.

The other part of my duty is to pull out the kids who are falling apart (for whatever reason kids fall apart), and be nice to them and get them re-integrated to their group (except not screaming or pitching a fit).  Again, camp is for 2-7 year olds, so they fall apart for all sorts of reasons.  I tell you, I wonder about the sense of having 2 year olds.  They cry.  They whine.  They do things that 2 year olds do.  I find myself sort of disliking the whiner/criers and being so grateful that mine are not.  Of course, a great guy in the kitchen today noted that he would have been a whiner/crier, that he was a sort of nervous kid, so I really have got to stop thinking mean thoughts about the whiney/cry-ey set.  They grow up to be great people too.  Man, where is my patience?

I wish I could put some pictures up here, but as I am working with other peoples’ children, I just can’t.  Anyway, it is super fun (in a really strange way), and if I do not fall down dead of exhaustion by the end of the week, I will update stuff around here again.