July 4, 2015

Not Quite the Parable of the Good Samaritan

(adapted from Luke 10:25-37, NRSV)

25 Just then a woman stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” she said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to her, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 She answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to her, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

29 But wanting to justify herself, she asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Jesus replied, “A gay man was going down from Seattle to Portland, and fell into the hands of Tradition, who stripped him and beat him, and left him for dead by the side of the road, for Tradition disregarded his humanity and worth within the community, and thus denied any gay person the same privileges of marriage as the rest of society. 31 Now by chance a pastor was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side (for the Church teaches that homosexuality is an abomination). 32 So likewise a church member, when he came to the place and saw him, felt threatened, and passed by on the other side (he believed that only the traditional family should be considered worthy in society). 33 But a compassionate judge while traveling came near him; and when he saw him was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having taken care to show love and empathize with the marginalized man. Then he took the man's situation to heart, considered the inequality imposed by a privileged society, and decided to judge lovingly, within the bounds of the law of the land.

35 And when the decision came before the highest court of the land, the good judge voted to end the inequality for the gay man and all who were like him in society, allowing them the same privileges afforded to heterosexual men and women, who have never had to fight for their right to be married to the one they love. 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the gay man who fell into the hands of Tradition?”

37 The woman said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to her, “Go and do likewise.”

June 30, 2015

A Long, Winding Road to Sweet Freedom

Today, in this moment of quietude, I know one thing clearly: everything changes. The weather changes, as does the scenery and souls surrounding it. Companions come and go, experiences are never fully appreciated until after they have passed, and the mind is forever a ruthless taskmaster.

One time, a very long time ago, I wrote a small piece describing a walk on the beach – my beloved and tranquil beach. But it wasn’t just describing the crash of the waves and the gulls flying overhead, it spoke deeply about the pain I was enduring within a group of intertwined relationships I was entangled within at that time. As I put one foot in front of the other yesterday on that same beach, I saw the ghost of myself. That ghostly-self will never exist again, but her experience has shaped and motivated where I am at this moment, to be sure.

Thankfully, I didn’t wallow in that memory, even though tempting it may have been. I am on a different path now. And that is where the story of this journey has resulted in a type of freedom that I taste only in droplets for now, but those drops grow with each passing day.

My life has taken twists and turns that even those close to me have difficulty understanding. I often remind myself and others that ‘you never know about me’ when opportunities arise and I make a turn into unknown territory. And while it may be true that I can appear foolishly impulsive and youthfully spontaneous, my choices are rarely unconsidered or foolhardy. My chosen direction at crossroads oftentimes confound those witnessing, however, I make no justifications or apologies. Especially now.

I began this journey at a tender, young age, just like everyone else. I knew then what I know now: there is a source – whether one wishes to label it a deity or not – that initiates and motivates the essence of my being. Some call this essence a soul or nefesh, others label it our ‘being,’ and still others attribute it to a sacred spirit – the Holy Spirit of the Creator, himself. What it is called doesn’t particularly matter, but what does matter is that there is an unseen core within humans that seems to be ever-present and life-sustaining. I consider the essence of my being and the source of all life as inexplicably connected. It is this essence of my being, the true me, that speaks, directs, and loves through the din of thoughts, repetitive song lyrics, activities, pain, and daily drama.

That is where I started and, amazingly, I have come full circle. I navigated life at a secular, self-satisfying level as a young, single woman, entered into a time of complete Christian devotion and zealousness during my early mothering years, and grew into a deeply rooted, rather rigid, Messianic fundamentalism for my 40’s. Always completely convinced I was following the life-sustaining source, I threw myself into all these phases and endeavors with fervor and sincerity. However, at the end of my heavy homeschooling years, my life situations had gone rancid, not only my religious journey, but in my personal life, as well. It was time for change, and the core of who I am was screaming from trauma, suffering, and abandonment.

As I stood at the crossroads of decision, I felt the hot wind in my face and the dust clinging to my clothing. The horizon was an amazing mirage of the unknown. Those decisions were not easy – not for me, nor for anyone close to me. Their lives were about to change, as well. Friends dwindled as I made moves to live, not according to the expectations of others, but for the essence of my being. I made my choices for me with the strong hope that joy and peace would return to my existence. Clearly, I could have chosen the expected, but in hindsight that would have been a choice of death – dying a little more every day as I simply lived to fulfill the expectations and standards of others. I would have been living a lie, deceiving others and denying my true self. The self that longs to give and receive joy, peace, and love.

And that is where freedom begins.

It has been a few years now since standing at that crossroads. I am now a junior studying religion at Pacific Lutheran University, and have spent challenging and life-impacting time studying abroad. I now have far too much information to ever enter into a religious community or congregation again – I would be living a lie, and that is something I just will not do. And here is another truth that I have affirmed often in my life: you can never go backwards. At least, not successfully. You can never recapture the past, and trying is futile and wastes a lot of time and effort. For some, reestablishing relationship can be rewarding, but it will never be exactly the same – it can’t be. We grow and change with each day, and to go back to another time that contained another you is impossible.

So, I know there are those reading this who have been watching and wondering about my faith – possibly even praying for me in what could be perceived as confusion or straying from belief. To them I say thank you, but I have only come full circle. I can affirm a source of life and that I embody that source somehow in the essence of my true being. (I know my language may be a little strange or uncomfortable, but I want to be clear and stay away from charged, religious words that only muddy the waters of communication.) I have studied, and will continue to study the inner workings and motivations of the religions of the world. I have learned so much, and know that there is so much more to know. What I have learned so far has been life-altering, and I wouldn’t go backwards for anyone.


Freedom to live authentically.

Freedom to be true to the essence of my being.

Freedom to live in this moment fully present
appreciating those who decide to be a part of this moment, right now.

I have been studying Buddhist philosophy, because freedom, sweet freedom.

…but, that is another post for another time.

May 13, 2015


I don’t know a woman who has not struggled with her appearance. No, really. There are a lot of women who reject culture’s standard of beauty, I know. They dress as they like, forego all the fussing of nails, hair, and makeup, and they say with much boldness that they just do not care what others think. But, somehow I have never been able to get to that seemingly sweet spot of carefree humanity – a total acceptance of the shell I call my body and appearance.

As I watch other woman deal with it, finding a place to somehow fit into what is called feminine, I can’t help but to compare their methods to my own. Do they grow their hair long or whack it all off? Do they go so-called natural with their makeup, go overboard, or ditch it altogether? Do they follow fashion trends or are simply a fashion victim? Don’t get me wrong – I am not judging any of them. I am just trying to figure out how they came to their ‘look’…are they happy? Are they comfortable in their skin? How did they get there?

As a 50-year old female who cares about her appearance, I admit that I fuss over all these things. In private, of course. In the world of social media, reality takes on a fun-house mirror quality, leaving me wondering if I am the only woman who isn’t so self-assured about her appearance. After having a hysterectomy a couple of years ago, I (like so many others) have gained some unwanted pounds. For whatever reason. This, of course, clashes with the accepted standard of beauty (tall-size4-tan-fit-longhair-brightsmile type of beauty). Maybe that is the problem – where are the examples of beautiful, over-50 women in the media? Maybe I am not really sure what I am supposed to look like anymore.

I know what I don’t want to look like. I don’t want to look unkempt, dumpy, or sport the easily-dismissible mom-look (I am a mother, but it is not my identity…but that is another post). I don’t want to look like I don’t care about my appearance, or that I haven’t a clue about fashion. I do want to present myself as intelligent and put-together – worthy of respect. Where are those types of examples? And of those examples, are they different sizes, realistic sizes?

I had a sort of epiphany while struggling to find self-acceptance while here in Greece. Truly, going back to university, and now studying abroad, has presented even more opportunities for feeling old, tired, and fat. Sitting next to fashionable 20-somethings could make anyone feel a little self-conscious. But, therein lies my epiphany: I have lived more than those sitting beside me. It may be a duh-moment for some, but it is very obvious that my body clearly shows the signs of that living. Childbirth and rearing. A multitude of diets and workout regimes. Sickness and tanning booths. Overwork and laziness. Years of getting up too early and going to bed too late. Emotional rollercoasters that have left me windblown and frazzled more than I like to admit. Yes, I have lived. A lot. Contrary to what media and diet gurus want to sell, my appearance and body weight doesn’t mean that I have given up, let myself go, or over-eaten due to ignorance.

More accurately, my body shows history. From the C-section scars to the broken elbow. From the birthmark to the cellulite to the stretch marks. To varicose veins, and multiple sunburns causing age marks, to the scars on my not-so-perfect complexion from various bouts of acne. Lots of history. And, that doesn’t even begin to talk about the laugh lines and darkened circles that show up under my eyes. My hair is starting to reveal grey and my step starts to slow down much earlier than I ever remember. All as a result of living hard in this body. I have danced hard, and exercised hard. I have laughed, and cried, and worked hard. I have struggled emotionally and physically, and have exhausted myself more often than I want to think about. I have denied myself sleep, food, and comfort at times, and indulged at others. All of which the beautiful and vibrant young woman sitting next to me in class have not had the opportunity to do yet. I realized it was an unfair comparison to hold myself to a standard of youth when I am sitting in a body that has been lived in 3 decades longer.

So, is all this just an excuse to give up and forget about being fit and beautiful? No, unfortunately. I still feel the pressure to be the 60-something that no one can believe is over 60.  I still dream of dropping enough weight to get back to my weight prior to major life trauma. I still have plans to detox and continue to be active. But, I have started to come to grips with the undeniable fact – this body has lived. Actually, this body has served me very well – it is strong, healthy, and resilient. I want to appreciate my body, not hate it. I don’t want to hate my body or my appearance anymore. 
Today, as I was watching women walking along the street, I thought a new thought. Regardless of their size and appearance, I thought, “they have lived, too. They are not perfect, either, because they have lived.” For me, that is freeing. And when I see a young woman who is very close to the ‘standard’, I can say, “I was once there…and now I have lived. She will, too.”

Women’s bodies change as they age. I used to think for the worse. But, now I am beginning to appreciate why.

One of the guys in my philosophy class made a comment that stood out to me. Just as a matter of conversation, he simply stated that people get bigger as they get older…right? I have thought about that, and truly wonder where he got that idea. But it is true, for the most part. And not to be despised. Getting ‘bigger’ can just be a consequence of living, of enjoying life, of making it through tough times.  And perhaps, in my classmate’s mind, he was harkening back to youthful days of thinking that grown-ups were bigger. Because we are bigger. Those of us over 50 are adults, not youthful 20-somethings who have not had the opportunities to experience life for all that it is. It is not their fault that they don’t show the wear and tear of decades of living, just like it is not my fault that I don’t look like a fresh-faced 20-something. And for once in my life, I’m OK with that.

April 12, 2015

May His Memory Always Be Blessed

I woke this morning knowing he had passed from our side of the veil to the other.

I had been thinking of him all week. And with those thoughts,  I lived with all the memories as if they were yesterday. I can hear his voice and his laugh. I can hear the piano and remember the friendship that was comforting and always welcome.

The last time I saw him was in our old neighborhood. As had happened a million times before, he was driving in and I was driving out. I don't know if he was really happy to see me or if out of old habit, but we made eye contact. His face lit up in a familiar smile and he waved. I smiled broadly and waved back. He was supposed to cut me off, like everyone else. But somehow he always liked me. And I liked him back. Even in the dark times, he was kind and loving. Even as my world was crashing down, he was my friend. I always knew that he would be there, in his gentle way, to help in any way he could. He wasn't perfect, but in my life, and in the congregation, he was a rock. At least, I felt that way.

It is a sad day for all who knew him...wherever they are.

My heart breaks along with all his congregation, friends, and family. My prayers and condolences are sincere and genuine. In my heart and soul remains the sweet and wonderful memories of him, along with all those who I hold dear from that time, a lifetime, so long ago.

Let the glory of G-d be extolled, Let G-d's great name be hallowed,
in the world whose creation G-d willed.
May G-d's sovereignty soon prevail, in our day, our own lives,
and the life of all Israel, and let us say, Amen.

Let G-d's great name be blessed forever and ever.
Let the name of G-d be glorified, exalted and honored,
though God is beyond all the praises, songs and adorations
that we can utter, and let us say Amen.

For us and for all Israel, may the blessing of peace
and the promise of life come true,
and let us say Amen.

May G-d who causes peace to reign in the high heavens,
Let peace descend on us, on all Israel and all the world,
and let us say, Amen.

January 20, 2015

The Long Journey

getting ready for take-off at SeaTac

last glimpse of the PNW
frosty panes at 33,000 ft

the 747 for the trip across the pond

the amazing Alps

first sight of Greece!

This is the first of the blog posts recording my semester in Greece.
To see more, please see A Semester in Greece.

January 13, 2015

I once had a friend.

I have had many friends over my 50 years of life. In my mind, I live with all of these ghosts nearly every day. As a child, my mother would console my sadness at a loss of friendship by telling me that they were ‘just jealous’ and I needed to just move on. I never could manage to believe her.

I once had a friend who liked me because I hired her for a job.

I once had a friend who shared the joys and sorrows of motherhood with me.

I once had a friend who sat next to me to cry after my baby drowned, and a friend who held my hand through a painful breakup with a lover.

I once had a friend who spent hours and hours on the telephone with me.

I once had a friend who shared new and fascinating music with me, exploring every nuance of instrument and vocal deep into the night.

I once had a friend who loved my parents and understood where I came from because they came from there, too.

I once had a friend who danced with me all night long to a 45 record on a portable turntable.

I once had a friend who loved Donny Osmond as much as I did, and pretended to surf right along with me as the Beach Boys crooned of their safari.

I once had a friend who would knock on the door and ask if I could come out and play.

I once had a friend who shared the wonders of the universe with me, pondering ancient knowledge and wisdom.

I once had a friend who wanted to play Frisbee and badminton with me, but I think it was only because I let them make out with me.

I once had a friend who wanted to talk to me all night just because they loved me so much.

I once had a friend who shared the drug culture with me…the rock music, the hazy concerts, the dark t-shirts, and the bleary-eyed mornings.

I once had a friend who laughed with me until we cried, and then cried until we laughed.

I once had a friend who liked me because I did everything to make their job easier.

I once had a friend who shared the experience of Israel with me.

I once had a friend who stood next to me when my mother died.

I once had a friend who liked to laugh with me. They always made me laugh, until they broke my heart and made me cry.

I once had a friend who rode shotgun, walked the trails, and dug in the brush with me.

I once had a friend who I felt I could be completely honest with.

I once had a friend who made special things for me and thought of me on special days.

I once had a friend who wanted to talk to me the next day.

I once had a friend who knew just when to hand me a tissue.

I once had a friend who shared those kind of special looks with me, the ones that not everyone sees.

I suppose everyone has friends like the ones I have had. But the words of a friend I once had still haunts me.

“But why are all those who were with you, no longer with you?”

That is a good question.

I have often thought that somehow it was my fault. That I did something to drive these once-upon-a-time friends out of my life. I have thought and re-thought. I have shed tears and re-hashed. I have agonized over the loss of every one of these friends. I have even believed that I must be a bad person – somehow unworthy of compassion, love, or friendship because that is what they said with their words and actions.

I once had a friend tell me that I had to choose between them or another.

I once had a friend insist that I publicly lie in order to continue in relationship.

I once had a friend ask me how long I going to cry over a miscarriage.

I once had a friend who only wanted to be my friend if I parented like they did.

I once had a friend tell me that they would be there to support me, but then they weren’t because I didn’t meet their expectations.

I once had a friend who used me for their own personal gain and satisfaction.

I once had a friend who hated me because I addressed them as ‘dearest’ in a letter.

I once had a friend say that they wished I would just disappear.

I once had a friend ask me to stop writing and sharing my thoughts.

I once had a friend tell me that I couldn’t be their friend because I was the wrong gender.

I once had a friend want to corner me in private with intentions to manipulate me.

I once had a friend tell me that my beloved hobby was evil and dangerous to myself and others.

I once had a friend tell me that I was selfish because I didn’t give them what they wanted when they wanted it.

I once had a friend who wanted to be with me because I was pretty.

I once had a friend who only could be friends with me while we worked together.

I once had a friend who was angry with me for years because I couldn’t marry them.

I once had a friend who only wanted to be my friend if I agreed with their political convictions.

I once had a friend who dumped our friendship because their old best friend came back into their life.

I once had a friend who looked for ways to set me up for failure and humiliation.

I once had a friend who said I was their best friend but chose to give me the ‘silent treatment.’

I once had a friend who only wanted to be my friend if I agreed with their religious convictions.

I once had a friend who felt more comfortable not being my friend anymore because I knew too much about them personally.

And, I have had many say they were my friend when they had absolutely no intentions of being friendly.

I am sure these relationship woes have happened to everyone. But it leads me, once again, to think about the definition of friendship and its purpose in our life. Are friendships meant to last for a long time? Or is it just a comfortable myth? What happens when people change…or possibly weren’t honest in the first place?

Could it be that, as a sensitive person who constantly loves too much and cares too deeply, I am to blame for all these lost friendships? Do I somehow make people uncomfortable with my intensity? I am sure that is partially at fault, and I do see my weakness. It just downright makes others uncomfortable when it seems as though I know things about them prior to them sharing vulnerabilities. I understand that and have always tried to downplay that aspect of my personality. Unfortunately, I cannot say that I have ever been very successful.

So, I have a lot of once-upon-a-time friends.

I once had friends whose children I loved with my whole heart, as if they were my own.

I once had friends who I loved because they were unique, and quirky, and made me feel alive.

I once had friends I cherished so deeply that I would give my life if necessary.

I once had friends for which I would drop everything if they were in need.

I once had friends who I supported through patient listening, even if I didn’t fully understand their struggle.

I once had friends who needed rescuing from awful situations, defended from bullies, and loved despite everything, and I so much enjoyed being a part of their life.

Now, I am only a part of their life through memory. Perhaps that is all I ever had – my own perception of these friendships. Maybe we are not really in control of relationships at all, as they seem so fickle and temporary. I have heard it said that friendships are like a garden that requires much care and tending, and that may be true. But what does it mean when you pour your whole self into relationships that end up failing? Does it really take two to tango? I have no answers, sadly.

I only have this to say, and that is that I miss them all.

I still hear their voices, and their laughter. I still see their faces in my dreams and memories. I still think about what they would think, and how they would react. And I still ponder their opinions and what they held dear. I still care. I still love. I’m still their friend.


December 25, 2014

2014: The Annual Look Backward

Every year on Facebook everyone has the opportunity to post a 'year in review' type of thing, highlighting special moments and pictures from the year. Pretty cool, especially if you post pics of friends, family, events, etc. I enjoy looking at everyone's year, thinking about them, perhaps even praying for them as I take a look into their past year. There is much about Facebook that is worthwhile, and I think this may be one of them.

I spend yesterday doing nothing but enjoying watching the ducks in the canal and poking through the scads of photographs I have taken this last year. I got a couple of new cameras and a new home in the last months, and both those things scream for photos. I now know that I have way too many shots of the beach, but oh well. Not nearly enough of my kids, though...boo.

So, in an effort to capture the feel of this passing year, a few thoughts:

I am so very proud of my children - Morgan is a straight-A student in her ongoing studies in Early Childhood Education at Pierce College, Alex is one of the top in his class at WyoTech (Laramie) working towards certification as a diesel technician, and Taylor continues to make short work of his last few years of homeschool (as well as growing quite a few inches this year!). They are becoming the kind of people I want to have as friends - kind, considerate, funny, and compassionate.

Morgan, Rob, Taylor, Alex & Mady, and Chester
I am so very grateful for the one who holds my heart in his hands - Charles is such a blessing to me. He understands me like no one has ever, and I will be eternally grateful for the safe and loving protection and love he selflessly pours out to me every hour of every day. Each day with him in my life is truly a gift from HaShem that I can never repay.

my Sweetheart

on the beach!

I continue to enjoy the loyal and deep friendship with Lisa that gets better with each passing year. She is the only one who has stuck with me through everything. She is as much my family as any blood relative. I am also so pleased that she has once again established herself in a teaching position at a local elementary school. I am not a fan of public education, but it might be better if there were more talented and compassionate teachers like Lisa. The Bethel school district is lucky to have her! Plus, it is so fun to hear all about her students and enjoy their experiences through her stories.

Lisa getting the Lake Stevens house
ready for sale!
the 4th graders love Miss Samson!

This year we had a lot of 'property'stuff' to deal with. Chuck sold his home in Lake Stevens, we purchased the beach house, and then we had to move out of one rental and into another. Thankfully, what was intended for evil by our rather strange landlady worked out for our benefit. We were easily accepted by a high-quality property management company, and are so very pleased with our new digs. I have to say, though, I do dislike moving. What a chaotic hassle. 

the big, blue rental living room with our 'fireplace'! haha!
say good-bye to the Lake Stevens house!

the new rental has a great kitchen with all new appliances!

The beach house!! Yes, this year Chuck and I bought a house together in Ocean Shores. This is, and will continue to be, a highlight in my life. Regardless of the weather, it is the place I want to be...it is home. Situated on the Grand Canal, we get to enjoy the peacefulness of waterfront as well as all the wildlife (deer, heron, ducks of all types, birds, racoons, otters, and fish). And just today Chuck hung up a hummingbird feeder for me outside my study window - a little hummer has already been visiting! What is more, it is just 5 minutes to Damon Point, Duck Lake, or the Pacific Ocean. I just love it here.

Chuck immediately built me a study
 at the beach house 
My Dad also bought a piece of property at the beach this past fall - down in Tokeland, just outside of Grayland on South Beach. He and Connie will be able to enjoy camping on this nice, large lot that is close to all that they enjoy: the beach and casino! Truly, I think they will really enjoy their time there.

Ocean Shores is on the North Beach side of Grays Harbor,
while Westport, Grayland, and Tokeland is on the South Beach side
Concerning my continuing education, the fall semester at PLU was far more difficult than the spring. I made it through (Anthropology, Sex in the Bible, Computer Science, Women Reformers, and Intensive Attic Greek), though, and we are ending the year preparing for study abroad in Greece. Yes, I said we. Chuck is traveling with me for the semester in Athens. Lisa and Tay will be holding down the fort while we are globetrotting.

Speaking of travels, we had a really short road trip this past summer. It wasn't supposed to be, but due to the house sales (Chuck's Lake Stevens house selling and us buying the beach house) we had to cut short our planned trip back to Illinois and a retracing of the Mormon Trail. We only got as far as Idaho Falls and had to turn around. BUT we are planning on giving it another try the summer of 2016! 

I just love western Montana!

Other travel this year started with a trip to Victoria, BC for a school break - so lovely, albeit cold! And another school break in Newport, Oregon. Then it was onto Laramie, Wyoming, to take care of arrangements for Alex and Mady's year there for school. On our way back, we were able to swing through one of my favorite cities, Salt Lake City, and play tourist for a bit. We also got to travel to San Francisco for a short visit with the purpose of meeting with the Greek consulate there. We packed a lot into that trip - Sausalito, a bus tour, a harbor tour, the Coit Tower, Ghirardelli Square, and the Waterfront. We even got out of the city for a side trip to San Jose and the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. Very cool! As much fun as it all was, we decided next time stay in So. San Fran...definitely NOT Oakland. Another highlight was a visit from our favorite friend Kevin...can she just move here, please? We had a terrific time touring around our own city - complete with a trip to Tillicum Village.

Victoria, BC - lovely, isn't it?

in Laramie with the kids
sightseeing in San Fran
a great snap of yours truly, Kevin, and Lisa at Tillicum Village

In the midst of it all, we antiqued, photographed, shopped, decorated, planned, and cherished each day we were given. Some days were harder than others, and some were just downright awful. But, with all the stress, uncertainty, and waiting, we held onto each other and to our friendships with those close to us through history, acquaintance, and social media. We enjoyed trooping in a couple of parades this summer, and loved just relaxing with a newly invented cocktail concoction on the patio. The cozy evenings at the beach house with pocket-meals and a movie while hearing the rain and wind buffet our little hideaway were priceless. We are so blessed with family, friends, peace, and prosperity that my heart cannot contain my gratitude.

So, onward and upward towards more learning, exploring, traveling, living, and loving.
May the Lord bless us all with His mercy and grace.

Everything happens for a reason.
The good, the bad, the indifferent.
They all have a purpose.

Never forget who you are.
Never forget Who you serve.

And no matter what happens,
keep your face turned to the Light.