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.

December 21, 2014

Exodus (Gods and Kings) - Some Thoughts

I didn't see the Noah movie. I'm glad I didn't after some of the reviews I read and heard. However, this new rendition of Exodus was definitely worth the ticket price.

Egyptian eye-candy

The story is oh-so-familiar, so I was very interested in their interpretation. I always love to see ancient Egypt come to life. Here are a few of my observations:

1. Christian Bale does a pretty good job with the famous role. And he wasn't hard to look at, either. I did wonder why he wasn't bald in the typical Egyptian fashion for royal men, however, it is important to note that he most likely looks better with hair.

2. Joel Edgerton, whom you may recognize from Star Wars as the young Owen Lars, was a decent Ramses. We won't talk about the scholarly discrepancies about timelines and whether he was THE Ramses that we see in the Bible account...we will just pretend like this is how it went down for the sake of entertainment.

3. The costumes were fabulous. Absolutely perfect. Even down to the wedding costume for Zipporah - nice.

4. The music was good, not memorable, but good...and not distracting.

5. Now, here's the best part - the plagues! Good G-d, this was an AMAZING portrayal of the 10 plagues G-d brings upon Egypt. I was reciting each one just like I was sitting at the seder dipping my finger in the wine, lamenting the suffering of the Egyptians. Blood...flies...frogs...boils...wow! This was done without the tedious trooping of Moses to warn about each one - they just came upon them, just like I thought it really happened. I enjoyed 'G-d' telling Moses to 'watch' after Moses tried to make Pharaoh relinquish the slaves through military action. Interesting thoughts, fascinating to watch, and kinda cool.

5. Which leads me to my next point which may be an issue for a few: G-d is depicted as a child, a young boy about 11 or so. With an accent. Still pondering that one. It could be that He came as a child to more easily be accepted by Moses...or maybe it is some sort of strange delusion due to the massive head injury Moses endured, or perhaps it is a reference that we all need to be as 'little children'...I really am unsure. But, there it was - G-d as a child. Or was he the messenger. Not sure. Oh, and no "take off your shoes, Moses, you are standing on holy ground" business, either. I kept waiting, but was treated to a mudslide instead. Again, interesting.

the Almighty...with hair.

6. Another surprise was the reason Moses left Egypt. The typical treatment follows the narrative pretty close: Moses witnesses cruel beating of Hebrew after discovering his heritage, kills the Egyptian slave master, then flees. However, in this version, the beaten slave is witnessed by Moses and the beating is halted by a rather sarcastic quip, but the Egyptians killed are actually spies sent to find and kill Moses by the Pharaoh's wife, one of which is only wounded. Interesting that it is two separate events.

7. Which leads to the next, rather personal observation - Sigourney Weaver as Pharaoh's wife. Ew.

Not my favorite actress, except in Alien. She rocked in Alien.

8. Having seen and read several (read quite a few) interpretations of this famous story, I couldn't help but to compare. There was significant nods to the old Charlton Heston flick Ten Commandments, as well as the animated Prince of Egypt. Somehow, the characters (especially the old Pharaoh and Ramses) made me think they could have all been the same actor. The sandstorm while Moses was in the wilderness was very similar to the Prince of Egypt scene, as well as the scene at the well with Zipporah and her sisters. Speaking of Zipporah, I have to say that I prefer her character (strong, opinionated leader type) in the animated classic rather than this one, although she was stunningly beautiful and exotic. Also, while in this film Zipporah's faith was mentioned, it was not expounded upon in any way. We really don't know who her people are, nor what they believe, although her father looked amazingly like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof.

Jethro officiates the wedding
9. The Red Sea opening for passage scene was rather different, as well. No Moses raising his staff to split the waters in this one, but a gradual emptying. It was a little dizzying, and at the end, I couldn't tell which direction the tsunami was coming from. The computer effects were well done, if a little drawn out.

10. Speaking of the animation, the CGI was amazing in this film. The long-shots of the Egyptian city Memphis was worth admission, as well as the battle scenes with thousands of participants. The plagues, without question, relied on animation to make them come to life - and boy, did they!

At the end of the day, I'd have to recommend seeing this film, even if for some incredible images that will forever influence my reading of the biblical account. I may have to purchase this one just to keep it for watching around Passover time. I say go see it, if only to redeem the time you lost viewing the Noah movie.

August 11, 2014

Grateful Summer

As I sat on the deck of our new-to-us home on the Grand Canal in the quaint and a bit touristy town of Ocean Shores, a kingfisher decided to join in my morning reverie. In the distance we could hear the crashing of the waves and the accompaniment of of avian voices chittering, bickering, and announcing the day. The kingfisher and I watched as the swallows swooped and skimmed the surface of the mirror-like water that was broken occasionally by a small fish surfacing to create the most wonderful circular ripples. My companion eyed me warily as I continued to sit quietly enjoying her company and my tea. The smell of my childhood embraced us both - fresh, ocean air filled with salt from the churning water joined with the smell of the lush, green vegetation. It filled my lungs and forced me to remember a simpler, long-ago time.

Suddenly, my companion left her comfortable and familiar perch atop the naked flagpole and dove beak-first into the still water creating the most pleasant splash. She captured her prize and flew across the canal to another naked flagpole that was equally as familiar. I watched as she perched for a few moments, then was on her way to who-knows-where.

This isn't the first time that my friend, the kingfisher, has joined me for morning tea.
And I am glad of it. For who can have such a companion in this life, even for a short time?

I am grateful for all our wild companions here - the wide-eyed deer and the picturesque seagulls, the fish in the canal and the river otter that pokes his head up on his way back to his den under the overhanging branches on the water's edge. This is their home, and I am only a fortunate visitor, truly.

I am most grateful for where I find myself, which is rather unexpected, I might add.

I am grateful for the loving, guiding hand of HaShem for bountiful blessings of provision, comfort, and companionship.

I am grateful for unconditional love, friendship, and commitment.

I am grateful for the far-away sound of a buoy bell.

I am grateful for friendly, new neighbors in this sweet town that tourists will never know.

I am grateful for a place of peace and rest.

I am grateful for the fresh, salt air that fills my aging and asthmatic lungs.

I am grateful for the three swallow babies that sit on a branch close to our deck and wait for their parents to bring them sustenance.

I am grateful for, and apologetic to, the blue heron that likes to sit silent in the reeds closeby; unfortunately, he does not care for our company so always decides to relocate across the canal, scolding the whole way.

I am grateful. Beyond grateful.
I feel almost guilty.

Baruch HaShem.

May 25, 2014

Must-have Treasures

Now that school has ceased for the summer, what's a student to do when the pressure is off? Well, wherever it is, it needs to involve a camera, for sure! Yesterday we made our way down to the incredible Portland Saturday Market. What an awesome thing this is. We found some irresistible treasures that had to come home with us...and I want to share them and the artisans that create them. Don't you need some of these things? (I have included the websites/business information, just in case you do.)

Below you can see an example of the wonderfully whimsical artwork of Karla Dornacher. It reminds me of Mary Engelbreit but lighter and more inspirational. She had a terrific piece of artwork that featured Psalm 1 and the Tree of Life that I was immediately drawn to. However, this one seemed to fit my needs better...

I came home with a really sweet banner set of her encouragements - forgive freely, give thanks, dream big, trust G-d, and shine brightly. They are bright and happy. I love it!

But this item was, hands down, my favorite of the day. Made from 99% recycled materials, this messenger bag gets its texture from used burlap coffee bags - that's right - coffee! How cool is that?? So, it has the burlap on the front and handle (built up with webbing - that's the 1% not recycled), and recycled leather jacket on the backside. Inside they used men's shirts for the lining and pockets...so clever! I figured a religion student needed one that had a mission featured on the front, and I am currently having a love affair with the color orange, so this was my pick. But, there were many others to choose from; in fact, Lisa got one that is made of recycled upholstery fabric. These bags also sport a special pocket lined with recycled blanket for an iPad or Kindle - perfect! I can't love this enough! The artisans, a husband and wife team, gave me a handful of cards with my receipt saying that I will be asked about this bag...I am sure of it!

This next treasure is so fun. It is a hanging vase with thick copper wire fashioned around it - can't wait to see it filled with the peonies that just exploded in our backyard! I really enjoy stuff like this...

I have been itchin' to get some of this type of earrings - no backing, just push them through the ear - so simple and light! They are sterling and look so very cool on. The very cheery and fun artisan of these beauties shared some laughs with us as she convinced me to try them on. So glad I did - fun!

Do you like burled wood as much as I do? The beautiful small mantle clock below is made out of Birdseye Maple, which is beautiful, but what really sold it was...can you guess? Gotta have the Hebrew numbers - yes, please! They had so many beautiful things, all of which were polished with super-fine steel wool and wax polish - no poly here. Sometimes, you just cannot bypass these kinds of treasures.

We also snagged these treasures - a pendant made from recycled chandelier crystals and a dictionary from the early 20th century, some incredible lavender body moisturizer that melts as you hold it in your hand, and an uber-cool cutting board made from beautifully crafted woods. I'm gonna use it for serving sliced cheese and other nibbles (and it was only $10 in their sale pile!). I love supporting these local artists and their endeavors. Partly because I am so extremely sick of seeing the same old crap in the mall, but also because I want to enjoy these types of unique pieces in my life. Unique art pieces have so much character and contain the love and care put into their creation. You can't say that about your MK purse or the pair of earrings that everyone else is wearing from the department store. Character - that is what makes these pieces treasures.

I picked the pendant that featured dandelion wishes - love!
Unfortunately, I didn't get the artist's business cards for these treasures - boo.

I hope you feel motivated to check out these artisans noted above, as well as this one below. I didn't buy anything from her, but she had some of the best-made duct tape wallets I have ever seen. I had never seen this ingenious flask idea, but who can't love it? I will be indulging from her website, most definitely.

Street fairs and farmer's markets are one of my most favorite things. Diverse food, smells, music, people, vendor/artists, and preferably sunshine - what's not to love? I also love the market in Ballard on the weekends, and in Tacoma on Thursdays. You have to get to this Portland Saturday Market, if at all possible. It is located pretty close to the Voodoo Donut shop. You will have to wait in line for that, though...just sayin'.

March 2, 2014

The Philosophy of the Donut

Heraclitus – You can’t eat the same donut twice.

Plato – All donuts share in ideal ‘donut-ness.'

Aristotle – A donut contains its donut-ness.

Augustine – Donuts need grace to be fully donut.

Descartes – A donut hole proves the existence of the donut.

Locke – Donuts taste good to me.

Hume – Donuts exist because I imagine donuts.

Kant – A ‘donut’ = my total experience of donuts.

Wollstonecraft – Women deserve donuts, too.

Mill – Donuts are good if they make people happy.

Kierkegaard – I have faith that donuts are delicious.

Marx – Everybody deserves donuts.

Nietzsche – Stop at nothing to get your donut.

Saussure – Beignet/Krappen/Ciambella/Bunuelo = donut.

Wittgenstein  - Fried pastry, zero, parking lot spin, spare tire.

Beauvoir – Patriarchy is responsible for the shape of the donut.

Malcolm X - We should all be afforded the opportunity to get donuts…by any means necessary.

Ayn Rand – A donut is a donut.

Schrodinger – Until someone looks in the box, you are both eating and not eating the donut.

Homer (Simpson) – Mmmmm…donuts.
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.