Saturday, July 22, 2017

I Have a New Blog

Hiking last Thursday.
Iron Mountain in the Cascade Mountains.
Photo by my daughter, Melissa.

I am going to open this blog for a very, very short time just to leave a message.

I suspect that there's no one who will see this here, but I decided that if someone stumbles on this post, they are welcome to see my new blog. :)

So, if you didn't get that the first time, I am starting a new blog. I have been fiddling with it, and it's actually in no shape to share yet, but I'm just sticking my neck out and starting cold, ready or not (or I'll never do it).

simplesusy.blogspot.com

I don't even know if the name I am using will stick. I don't particularly like it, and I'll likely change it at some point. I might change it tomorrow! I just had to choose something so I could get started.

I created the blog because of two people in particular (two people I adore) who have wanted me to do this for a long time. I finally thought, why not?!

To be honest, I've felt a bit odd and awkward posting there (just three preparatory posts so far), but I'll get my rhythm back.

So, if anyone is out there, come on over. :)
Susan

Sunday, January 13, 2013


I was going to make a list for you of some of the blogs I read, just for fun. I’ve never made a full listing in the sidebar, and I’ve actually had people ask me, from time to time, where I read online. But I think I won’t make that list. Because you know what? You have enough on your list already.

So, here is my hastily put together last post. I think that probably a number of people won’t see this, and it will only be up for a few days since I will soon close the blogs, but, for those of you who still have me in your reader, here’s my "advice," first to myself, and then to the world. (Haha. Just kidding.)

I’ve lived awhile, and I’ve watched a lot of wise people live their lives. I learn from watching those people and from talking to them, and there are a few things that have proven to be very good and very important in my life as well. To offer "advice" might seem arrogant, but my “advice” really is to me because I still have so much growing and changing to do. I could add a lot more things or create an entirely different list. This is in no way a list of everything that I think matters, but these are things I work on (in random order):

1. Make your bed. First thing every day. I’m serious.  According to Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit, it is a “keystone” habit that can be the start of a chain of habit-development in your life. This is one thing I’ve done for years, and it truly does seem to kickstart the rest of the day in a positive way. I've read the book, but here's a little piece on the idea.

2. Have flowers in the house. Wow, there are so many benefits that correlate to having flowers in the house that it is just amazing. Somehow it doesn’t surprise me. I suspect that any arrangement from nature will have a similar effect. Here's a little list of links, for starters.

3. Be quiet every single day. Just be still. "Be still and know that I am God." You will see many things differently if you do.

4. Go outside every day. Go for a short walk, even for ten minutes. And when you’re out there, pay attention. You’ll be amazed, I promise.

5. Believe that your circumstances today are the exact ones allowed by your loving God. Embrace them. Be always thankful, hopeful, and joyful. It’s not easy, but He will help you.

6. Write letters, however short. Last summer, when I moved to this apartment, I ran across my Grammy’s letters. I laughed, I cried, and I remember her so warmly and affectionately. She wrote to me routinely, but some of those letters were on paper the size of a large post-it note. It didn’t matter. Love and Grammy’s wonderful personality shone through. These small, but warm, letters inspired me to write more letters, however short they need to be. Just write them. Emails and text messages are fine, but a hand-written letter is a true gift. (P.S. I'm reading a book of the letters of Jonathan Netanyahu--written in the 60's and 70's before he died--and even when less than two weeks pass between letters to his parents, he apologizes profusely for not writing sooner. Of course, this was before cell phones and email, but there's something about these letters that is powerful in a way that an email can never be, and there was a sense of importance in maintaining this kind of connection. In these letters, there's a sense of sacrifice, commitment, and value in maintaining communication and relationships. Reading these, I'm more convinced than ever that I want to write letters.)

7. Look for beauty everywhere. I read of a Jewish prisoner in a Nazi extermination camp who looked up at the sky and saw beauty, even in that horrible place. If we look past our circumstances and look for God, we can find beauty.

8. Slow down. Slow down your life, your mind, your spirit. Things will come into focus that you never knew were blurry.

9. Speak gently. Proverbs says that “pleasant words promote instruction,” and “a gentle word can break a bone.” Harsh words repel.

10. Take every thought captive. That thought that wants to be critical of others, that jealous thought, that complaining thought, that rationalizing thought that would justify procrastination or irresponsibility, that bitter thought, and all of those thoughts that make us focus on ourselves. Don’t waste your time with that; don’t let it poison or tyrannize you. Align that thought with scripture and make it obedient to the love of Christ.

11. Be grateful. Don’t complain. Ever. “Count your blessings, name them one by one,” and your perspective will change.

12. Share your life in whatever way you can (even at home with your families). Love others. It’s not about you.

13. Pray. Pray. Pray. And never give up hope no matter what. He hears you, and He already has your answer.

14. Work with your hands. Make something. Create, write, cook, garden, sew, knit, make music, build something. In these times, it’s easier than ever to become a watcher or a spectator and even a time-waster, so be sure to be busy with your hands.

15. Listen. Really listen. Try to deeply understand that other perspective.

16. Read, think, discuss, live, and write. It’s the best education ever. Keep learning. Keep working at developing your gifts. Stay curious for the rest of your life. Here's a good article my daughter sent to me two days ago.

17. Do it now. Don’t put it off if you can do it now. (I work hard at this one, and it has helped me make a lot of significant changes.) For awhile, I had a little sign scribbled out on a piece of paper and tacked to my wall that said simply that: “Do it Now!”

18. It’s about relationships. It’s emphatically not, not, not about my house, my clothes, my appearance, my reputation, my gifts and talents, my “calling,” my success, my popularity, or even being acknowledged or understood. It’s about relationships. It's about loving. This is what everyone says at the end of their life. You’ll say it, too. It’s either, “I wish I had. . .” or “I’m thankful that I. . .” put my time and energy into relationships. Into loving God and loving people well.

19. Go to sleep seeking God, and wake up seeking God (and you may as well seek Him all day long, too! :-) ). This makes a huge, sweet difference in my life.

20. Follow Him wherever He leads you. And wherever that is, He will equip you and provide for all of your needs. Sometimes the way seems hopeless or impossible, but He will be your strength and your guide. Even more, He will walk with you in relationship and in love. He loves you and will never forsake you.

Blessings and prayers and gratitude for your presence here,
Susan

Friday, January 11, 2013

Just One More Week


It's time to say that this is my last post, and in a week, I'll close all of my blogs for good. (Edited--not quite my last post! I want to make a list of some of the blogs I read and just a couple of other things before I close shop.)

Anyone who has been reading my blogs for awhile knows that I have waffled and wavered about blogging almost from the start and especially during this last little while. I really am sorry for that. There's nothing worse than listening to bloggers go on about blogging or not blogging and all of their reasons why. I think it's time to put you all out of your misery regarding that!

So, it's time to close up shop on all of my blogs without opening a new one. The Lord has led me along to a new place, into a new season, and it's time to carry on with my life.  I've always enjoyed writing about the things that are on my mind, but I don't need to do that on a blog. I can write letters! In fact, my friends who like to write back and forth with me might really be glad I'm doing this!

My decision is just my own and is not an indictment of blogging in general. In fact, I will be peeking in on your blogs from time to time! I just can't honestly think of a good reason for me to keep a blog. I'm sure my time for it is past.

I'm sorry I've dragged you along so much recently and that I've kept you waiting for my new blog link that is now never going to appear. I really am sorry. You might be thinking, "She'll be back. We've heard this before." But, no, I really won't. I have too many doubts and growing convictions about how I want to spend my time regarding the internet. This is not a sudden thought or realization; I've been unsettled about it throughout this last little while of blogging.

Plus, I told a friend today that I think I am, at heart, a technological minimalist. I think I do best when technology plays a small role in my life. The way of the world is, increasingly, to be plugged in and active in cyberspace, but it's still possible to live largely without it, and I think I'd like to hang on to that slower, older way as much as I can. I like that kind of life.

I want as little time as possible to be eaten up online. When I blog, the internet creeps into my life more and more somehow, even when I'm not posting. In fact, I'm guessing that I'm going to get antsy when I step back from this again, and that's a good enough sign that it's time to go.

So, again, I'm sorry for my wavering statements about blogging. I feel honored that you have visited me here, some of you routinely. I wish you the very best, and I pray God's blessings on each and every one of you.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Few Words from Me


Pretty obviously, this is not my house.
But I want it, okay?
Because isn't that charming and inviting?!
Look at those steps and the flowers and the sunshine!
(I have no camera now. I don't know when I will, and until I do,
I will visit my photo files and use old stuff.)

Oh, hello, friends.

(Don't over-think the following, please. I wrote it in one quick go and don't have time to look it over and make it crisp and clear. Just read and interpret lightly and at face value!)

I need to apologize for leaving people hanging after posting my recent message that I will be shutting down shop here and moving along. I realize you’re not out there holding your breath, at the edge of your seat, waiting for an update from me. But I do know, thanks to emails from some of you, that there are people who have been checking the blog every day just in case I might put up my new link, then abruptly disappear, leaving some of you wondering where in the world I’ve gone.

I also realize now that I’ve created a somewhat mysterious scenario and that at least three or four of you are wondering what I’ve got up my sleeve. What am I going to reveal on my new blog? Haha. Nothing. I’ll just be moving to a new spot. I have no agenda or theme or idea for how I want to approach my new blog space.

I do not know what I’ll be writing (it may not feel different at all to you), but I need to leave the old spaces behind and close up shop. I’ve mentioned this before, but over the years, my kids have occasionally said that they have been conscious of being watched or held up as an example of learning, and indeed they have. In earlier years, more than one person said to various of my kids: “We’re watching you to see how this turns out.” Or, “My husband thinks your educational experiment can’t work and is watching to see what happens.” Or, “We’re just so glad you are leading the way for us so we can see how this is done.” Etc. Mostly, the thoughts were warm and kind, but not always.

It may seem easy to say about those negative watchers, “Who cares?!” Which is exactly what I did most of the time—shrugged it off—because, from my adult perspective, I don’t care what people think about how we live/d our lives. But my children were just that—children. I should have protected them from the pointed watching and measuring. Maybe they felt uncomfortable and sensed a subtle pressure, like they were living in a glass house or a fishbowl and being graded for how they fared longterm.

On the one hand, my kids really didn’t care what other people thought (they never have), but sometimes they got tired of being used as an example (by me). It’s never comfortable to think you are being observed like some kind of science experiment. And none of my kids really wanted (or wants now) to be used as an example of how our little learning life worked. They always gave me permission to tell stories about them, but I think now, in their honest hearts, some of them wished I hadn’t (we’ve talked about this some), and I remember that I occasionally had to talk them into it. I regret that I did. My kids wanted to please me, and I feel now that I, while well-intentioned, took advantage of that. All I wanted to do was to offer an alternative to tired homeschoolers, to say, “Hey, there are a lot of different ways to approach learning and education. It can be a wonderful experience.” And then to share how one family (mine) lives and learns together.

Those days and years truly were lovely and joyful, but I should have kept the kids' passions and interests more private. I shouldn’t have evaluated their learning so that I could present it to others as a sort of philosophy. In doing this, I only meant to encourage others. My kids understood this, so they were willing for me to share, but I wish I would have done so differently, for their sake--to give them more privacy and a chance to proceed in their learning without me getting inspired by it to write the next installment in the serial story of our learning lives.

My kids and I still talk about how much we enjoyed the atmosphere of our home: the freedom, the learning, the books, the creating, the making, the work, the celebrations, the study, the passion, the food, the conversations, and on and on and on. It was truly lovely and fun! I think we are all profoundly grateful for those years. My family has gone through some extremely difficult, challenging times, and the environment we had in our home gave us all a lot of strength. The challenges continue. They have been, and are, part of our education, as we have all had to press hard into the Lord and to trust Him, even now, day by day. I only hope that you don’t have to go through what we did, but I know that you have had, or will have, your own struggles and pain. God is certainly faithful, and some wonderful gifts become ours through our deep difficulties.

There were so many mistakes that I made with my kids, but they forgive me and give me a ton of grace, respect, and love. <3 <3 <3 <3 (That’s one heart for each of them!) Maybe that’s because they know without a doubt that I love them and always had their best interests in mind, even if I didn’t always use the best judgment.

I am not writing this or changing my blog because my kids have asked me to. Actually, I don’t think this crosses their mind at all unless I bring it up, but when I do, they speak openly with me about it, and I know they have been uncomfortable with all of the writing I’ve done about them. I really do respect that, and even though they would tell me to leave everything on my blog (for heaven’s sake !), I am going to remove it, for their sakes. The world is going to be just fine without my homeschooling stories archived on the internet! There are plenty of others out there who write about the same things.

I will still write about my family. I might even write about learning and home and other things as well, but I will just use more care not to give you the nitty gritty of my kids’ daily lives, work, creations, etc. I might post photos of what they make sometimes, but I won’t evaluate it and frame it in philosophical terms. (But can I just say that my kids are wonderful people who continue to learn and create and think and grow and amaze me? I love and admire them all so much!)

AndI just want to let my kids continue to learn and grow and work and create in privacy. The internet is a very public place. There are people whose every moment is being documented, photographed, and uploaded to the internet, sometimes hour by hour. What will it be like for a child to grow up that way? Watched? Will he regret it? Resent it? Does it/will it alter the way he interacts with the world or how he uses his free time? We don’t know, do we? But I’m a bit afraid that we’re losing touch with the real things, the natural things and rhythms of life, the slow, deliberate way.

Life is becoming a performance. I wonder about that even with my blogging sometimes. What am I doing, and why? Is this healthy? I just know that I love to type out my thoughts and stories and musings sometimes, and a blog is a good place to keep those sorts of things, and it's a nice place to connect with people who like to think about the same things. (Like you!)

But what does privacy even mean nowadays? Are we losing perspective on that? How can we protect our kids and allow them some (plenty of) unwatched, unphotographed, undocumented moments? Where should we set the limits and draw the lines?

I’m just asking questions and offering no answers. I don’t think I’ve cleared up in this post why I’m making changes, partly because I’m not entirely sure what those changes are going to be.

But, hey, I do know one thing. Whenever I finally think of a blog title, I will get that new one started and shut these old ones down! :-) 

I will give lots of warning before I close the old blogs, so you don’t need to exhaust yourself running over here every day to see if I’ve gone away yet! (I forget that a lot of people don’t use readers, so they have no way of knowing what’s going on unless they click onto my blog.)

Okay. I need to get to studying now. (I have some reading to do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is going to be an interesting class!)

Take care, all. I’ll be back soon.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Mundane Stuff


I found this seed pod thing when I was walking back
from the natural foods store this afternoon. 
It may not seem like stunning decor, but I  think it's pretty amazing. :-)

Hello. (Anyone out there?)

Today is the first day in a full month that I’ve spent alone. Since early December, I’ve either been at someone’s house or had someone staying with me in my apartment. It’s been a nice, long month of visiting friends and family, and here at the end of my holiday, I am feeling nothing more than a large sense of gratitude that I have been blessed with so many wonderful people in my life.

Yesterday, Aaron (the last of my company) and I drove up the “back roads” of the Willamette Valley to Newberg, where we met Melissa at a coffee shop. We all sat down to chat over a cup of coffee for an hour or so, then Aaron left with Melissa for Portland, and I returned down the same “back roads” to Corvallis, where I stayed with Michelle’s family for the night. There, my little grandsons and I sat together to cheer the Oregon football team to a post-season bowl game victory (yay!) on the television.

I slept on Michelle’s couch and left this morning to drive back down the valley to my apartment. When I left, Michelle was teaching her boys to do the three-legged race. She took turns tying her leg to theirs and—to much hysterical laughter from all—ran through the house with each of them. It had me smiling as I drove away. She’s a fun momma and a great daughter.

It was a beautiful, clear, sunny morning, and winding gently south along valley roads where pretty farmland nestles against the Coast Range was lovely and peaceful. It made me quiet and prayerful inside. Back roads are so much better than the mad rush of the interstate. I really am a big believer and advocate of taking the scenic route, and my kids are, too. (Do you do that, too?)

I think the temperature stretched up toward 70 degrees today after we had a few days of extremely chilly weather. I was out and about running errands and enjoying the weather. I stopped at the “dreaded” mall (“dreaded” because I am not a big fan of shopping, especially at malls) to spend the rest of a gift card I received for Christmas. I bought a sweater I like and two pairs of socks.

Are you beginning to wonder at my taste?!
(Haha.) I happen to like it.

Then I went to the thrift store for the first time in over a year because I got a little bit of Christmas cash, and I decided to actually use it to buy myself something! :-) Nothing there, though, so I stopped by a midcentury vintage store in town and found myself a kinda odd/funky little stool that suits the small size of my apartment and for which I can imagine many scenarios: magazine holder, extra seating for visitors, ottoman, a place to set my books or a tray with coffee, etc. This stool certainly wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but it works for me, and that’s all that matters, right?!

I took this for my mom (she wants to see the fabric).
If I'd known I was going to put the photo on my blog,
I maybe have moved the smoothie glass and that cord! :-)

I also bought a small piece of black and white fabric on sale at Joanne’s because I want a black and white curtain hanging in my kitchen. And then that was enough shopping! Except for food shopping, which I always enjoy.

And I took this one just for you
because I knew you wanted to see my jar of kefir.

I restocked my empty fridge today. Aimee left me some of her kefir grains when she returned to Portland, so I picked up some non-homogenized “grassmilk” at the natural foods store and got a jar of kefir started. I am now on super-clean eating mode after spending the last month happily eating just about anything and everything that was offered to me. (I usually have some restraint, but not much this time!) Juicing and greens and small portions of fresh, light foods sound really, really nice. So does exercise. I haven’t gotten much of that, either. Yikes. Time to get back on track.

School starts again Monday (my last term before my graduate classes start next fall), and I feel a lot different about this term than last. My brain was tired when summer term ended and I started fall term. Summer term is condensed and really intense. It also happens to take place in summer, which means there are a lot of distractions, like hikes to take and sunshine to enjoy. And, I happened to move during summer term (which was challenging), and then I didn’t get a break between the end of summer classes and the beginning of fall term, so I started fall term feeling really, really brain-weary. Throughout the entire term, I never did have much motivation or a find sense of traction (I felt like I was battling through the whole thing, every single day), even though I liked some of what I did in my classes. Somehow, I survived the term and got good grades, and at the end of it, a break from school was never so welcome. I now feel revived and ready-enough to start this last term.

Do you know that God loves you and that He answers prayer? Well, He does, so hang in there. Keep pressing and keep trusting. I am amazed, time and again, at the goodness and perfect timing of God. Sometimes I feel like I’m hanging on by my fingernails or I flinch because I’m about to crash perilously into a brick wall, and “poof!” the unimaginable happens. This has happened to me many times in the last three years, in both huge, unbelievable ways, and in tiny ways, too. Just recently, I’ve had a little spate of those tiny providences (“little” situations or needs, but impossible for me nonetheless). The little answers are just as sweet as the big ones. All are signals of God’s love and care.

Okay, finally. What about that little announcement I made last post? That one about closing this blog and opening another? Well, it still holds. I haven’t decided a name for my new blog, or I’d already have it set up. Part of not having a name is due to not having a set purpose. I have no idea what that blog will include, but I do know some of the things it won’t include, and that’s what matters right now. That’s why I’m making this change. And now that I’m no longer busy visiting friends and family or having company in my home, I’ll give more attention to that and will try to have something set up before Monday.

Oh, and speaking of that announcement I made, I have to say that I have received some really sweet emails from friends about the change. (Thank you, Friends! I will try to write back soon.) And the comments here on the blog are sweet and truly encouraging, too. Thank you so much for that. (I’m always really surprised that people actually come back here to read my posts again and again!)

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Little Announcement


Taken along my apartment driveway a few weeks ago. :-)
Just to have a photo! Kind of bleak, isn't it?
It was taken while the leaves were still falling and the days were shortening.
But now we've turned the corner.
The leaves have fallen, the days are lengthening,
and before we know it, there will be new life budding on those trees.


Well, really, this is kind of a biggish announcement. Very soon I’m going to hide from view all three of my existing blogs (High Desert Home, Gathering Up My Comforts, and My Summer Notebook), and I will start a new one. The new one will likely seem quite different from these old ones, so be ready to delete me from your reader or feed! :-)

You are welcome to copy any of my learning posts if you would like, but please do not put them up online elsewhere.

You may have gathered that I don’t seem like myself on this blog lately. That’s partly correct, but it’s also partly not. I still think about and write about the same old things that have always mattered to me, and I’ve written a number of typical posts in recent weeks, but for some reason I haven’t been able to bring myself to publish the majority of those posts.  I’m not entirely sure why. They just don't seem right for now.

You may wonder why I don't just leave my old blogs up and start a new one. I don't want to post a long explanation, but there are reasons why I think it's important to do so.

I want to continue to maintain a little online journal space, but I want and need to change my approach. I have some ideas for what I want to do in the future, but I haven’t finished thinking through those ideas, so I won’t say anything about that now. Someday soon, I will post a link and you can have a look and see if it’s something that might interest you.

I’ll say more soon,
Susan

December

December has flown by! Here are just a few, random highlights of the past few weeks. . .


1. Spending two weeks with my mother on the coast. More every year, my mother is my silent mentor. She doesn’t preach or dispense unsolicited advice, but I watch her, and I want to be more like her. She is an amazing, praying, loving, vibrant, Godly woman. And she’s so just dang adorable! I went to a Bible study with Mom, led by a longtime family friend who is now 86-years-old but is very young in spirit and appearance. She inspires me, too. I was blessed to grow up around some pretty amazing people.







2. Trips to the beach with my mom and my sisters. Because of very heavy, gusty rains, sometimes we simply looked out at the waves from the protection of our car at an overlook beside the jetty. Sometimes, in moments of mild weather, we walked along the sand at the ocean’s edge. And at times, we stood on the cliffs to watch the crashing waves after a storm. No matter how or from where we gazed at the ocean, it had the same affect on us that it always has—it brought a sense of awe and wonder, of God’s power and control, and of peace. My mom took us to the beach often when we were children, and we all love to go there still.


Roman made that look in about half of the photos.
On purpose. He thinks he's funny.
(That's my mother on the left.)



3. The Christmas lights at Shore Acres State Park with my family. The lights are artistically strung throughout the botanical gardens on the grounds of an old “mansion” that once stood on the adjacent seaside cliff. The Shore Acres Christmas lights have been featured in national magazines, and they get more plentiful and colorful—even gaudy—every year. It’s always fun to walk along the paths of the park; to discover new displays of lights; to step into the old, decorated gardener’s cottage for hot chocolate, cider, and cookies; all while carolers sing out news of Jesus’ love and birth from the gazebo. Before we drive away from the lights, there’s a walk to the oceanside cliffs to peer at the surf and crashing waves in the black night. The stormy sea never seems so fierce, ominous, and scary as in the dark.

4. A whole day with my good friends Laurie and Dave. There was, as always, really good coffee, great food, and spiritual encouragement. Laurie and I went for a walk in a nearby park then made a short trip to the beach to check on the waves after the previous night’s storm. The beach wind was icy, and the surf was wild.  After dinner and a bit more visiting, Laurie and Dave drove me home in a rare coastal snowfall. Laurie can’t seem to leave me empty-handed, this time sending me home with a box containing her famous applesauce; homemade raspberry jam and fudge sauce; some magazines and a wonderful, old book of stories to read; and some of the hard Christmas candy she’s been making for longer than I’ve known her. It was a great day with truly special friends.


Liya's spontaneous Christmas cheer!

The boys wanted bow ties, so Aimee made the green ones out of felt!
They wore them all evening long.

5. Christmas with my whole family at Michelle’s apartment. Michelle made the holidays very sweet and wonderful for us all: her decorations and the welcoming, festive ambience in her home; the delicious treats and food prepared for us; the pretty, well-stocked tea and hot drink tray; the generous hospitality; and so much more, added up to a wonderful time for our family. As always, I had a blast with my four grandkids. As they grow older, they get ever-smarter, funnier, and more creative. Being around them means endless stories, fun conversations, pretending (I was assigned the role of lion and monkey and a whole lot more), laughter, and hugs. And I love seeing the wonderful mothers my girls have become!

And now I am home for the first time in weeks. Aaron, Aimee, and Avery are here with me, and we have had a very nice, relaxing last two days together. Aimee and I have a lot of fun together in the kitchen, and Aaron likes benefitting from our fun! Avery (who will be two in January) is extremely verbal and very sweet and hilarious. She loves to take part in everything. Aimee brews Avery a light mug of herbal tea for babies, and she loves it. When she finishes, she holds out her cup: "More coffee please, Aimee!" Josiah will join us on New Year's Eve, so we are planning food and a little party.

I feel extremely blessed and grateful for God's gifts. The birth of Jesus, our Saviour. The sweetness and joy of a loving family. The peace of knowing that He holds us in His hands.

I hope your days have been lovely.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Stand Up!

Maybe you should read this standing up.

I think I’ve posted more than once about being a mover. I think better when I move. I don’t like to sit. I have a lot of energy, and I’ll admit I can be a bit ADD when I have to sit. When I was in elementary school, I had little rhythmic games I played with my fingers to keep me from spinning out of my little desk chair like an overwound toy. And, at the start of each recess, I went on a mad tear through every play structure on the playground and then sprinted around the entire school to vent all of my pent-up energy before I could settle down and play (like normal children) with my friends.

Now, as you know, I’m back in school. And guess how I study? Standing up. I lay my papers out on the table and counter, and when I study, I stand at the counter, shifting my weight back and forth between my legs, or else I walk around. When I’m at the computer, I sometimes use a chair, but my computer most frequently sits on the kitchen counter, and I stand in front of it.. Earlier today, I read a whole book, and I read it while I was standing. And even now, as I type this, I am standing at the kitchen counter. This is just the way it is with me. I’m not much of a sitter.

I read once about the rising popularity of treadmill desks for office workers. Because research reveals a lot of problems with being sedentary, people were looking for ways to be a bit more active while actually working. So, these office employees bought special treadmills where they could spread their work out in front of them while they walked very slowly.

I’m not arguing that I stand and therefore you should, too. But maybe standing is good for us! I ran across the following graphic earlier today. I thought it was interesting, and it made me glad that I stand up so much. I think it speaks for itself:

Sitting Is Killing You
Learn about infographics software.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wednesday Morning Notebook


This early morning. . .


I was up early, but I didn’t make my bed like I usually do first thing every single morning because I’m going to wash my sheets today. I came into the kitchen/living room and turned on the heater and the lights of the little fake Christmas tree. It’s just a little, kitschy ceramic tree with plastic bulbs, but it does a great, cheery job, and I like it. I pulled my Stumptown coffee beans out of the cupboard, ground them fresh, and brewed a cup of coffee using a Melitta filter. Then I took my coffee into the living room for my morning quiet time.


I sat on the rocking chair in front of the heater to read my Bible. I love verse 3 on this page:

.
". . .nor did their right arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them." Seriously sweet.

Right now I am. . .

(Besides typing.) Sitting in the kitchen at my little green table, looking into the living room and wishing I was standing over there by the warm heater. I am sipping the last of my cold-ish coffee. I am wearing red and white Scandinavian-looking slippers, blue jeans, a super-soft grey cardigan with tiny white dots, wildly messy hair, and my reading glasses.

I am hearing. . .

The heater at work. The ticking of a clock. The fast, rhythmic tapping of keys on the keyboard. A car in the distance. Mostly, it’s pretty silent, and I that’s how I like my mornings.

In the kitchen. . .

Well, today I will be eating this for dinner. I posted about it at my HDH blog:


And I will be making this for fun (my niece and I are planning to watch another episode of Sherlock together this evening, and I can contribute treats!):


Chickpeas are soaking on the counter, where they sat overnight. I’ll cook them this morning. I use a lot of chickpeas, and I love home-cooked chickpeas so much better than canned—there’s really no comparison!

I’ve been making a quick and easy form of coconut milk. I don’t like to buy cans of coconut milk anymore because I always waste some of it, and coconut milk is expensive. I do like to use it, though, and since I had a big ziplock bag full of coconut flakes my sister gave me, I decided to make my own coconut milk. I followed a recipe from the website of a great local business, Mountain Rose herbs. The milk isn’t as thick as the canned version, but I like it. It can be used just as regular milk would be used in any recipe.

I’ve been eating a lot of cauliflower for some reason. I prefer it roasted. Roasting works magic on cauliflower, turning it into a super-delicious treat. My favorite way of roasting it is to cut thin slabs all the way across the cauliflower (whole or halved), then I rub oil on both sides and salt it. I roast it til it's nice and roasty-colored, turning the cauliflower in the middle of cooking. (Okay--on the second thought--I probably like roasted florets as well as I like the "slabs".)

I try to have dark greens and some kind of orange vegetable daily or close to it, plus I add plenty of other vegetables to my diet. And fruit. And yogurt.

For example :-), I cooked a whole gob of arugula last night:


Because I ate this for dinner from the cookbook, Plenty:


I am Reading. . . 

The other night I was online doing something for a class, and on a page I was reading, this article from the Harvard Crimson popped up. I think it feel into my lap it within moments of its being put online, and I found it really interesting. It’s a brief, light student-written opinion piece that fairly well aligns with what I think about school and elitism and a lot of things, though I would say it differently.

Oh, and of course I am reading cookbooks. Which ones? Well, here is a snapshot of what books happened to be sitting on my couch this morning:


The three cookbooks? Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, Twenty by Michael Ruhlman, and Arabesque by Claudia Roden. The other book, the non-cookbook on the pile? The Craftsman by Richard Sennett.

I started to read some Wendell Berry but the content was too akin to a class I just finished (and liked very well), and my tired brain rejected the reading. I’ll pick him up later.

Healthy life. . .

Lots of fresh air and walking.

The dark green and orange vegetables, etc., that I mentioned above.

Sleep. I’m every-so-slightly sleep-deprived, but not badly at all, and I don’t feel tired. It’s just that sleep is a very important matter to me, as I am convinced it was one of the keys to getting back my health when it was deteriorating inexplicably years ago. I’ve been trying to take brief naps whenever I can. Naps are really good for you! They correlate with better cognition, longer life, and a number of other benefits.

My plans for the day. . .

One of the lava tube caves at Lava Beds National Monument,
just across the southcentral Oregon border in California.
This is natural lighting. The caves are diverse and interesting.

I will write a paper about this place for my geology of the national parks class. It’s a place where you can explore lava tube caves that were created by flows of basaltic lava from the Medicine Lake shield volcano not far away.

The park has an interesting, tragic history. It was the scene of a war between the Modoc Indians and the United States army. The native Americans created a stronghold in the caves because they knew how to survive there, and the terrain is extremely tricky to navigate:

The unique geology of the lava bed and the Modocs' understanding of how to survive in and use that terrain were the foremost reasons the Modocs were so successful. Bleak and forbidding, the jagged, sharp lava rocks became the allies of the Modocs, who used the land against their enemy in the truest sense of guerrilla warfare.

NPS Photo. Area near Lava Beds.
Amazing and wonderful middle of nowhere.

My family lived not too far away from the Lava Beds, and we occasionally went caving there. I have fun memories of exploring the area with my really good, real-life friend, Laura, and her family. When they visited once, I wanted to take them to see the caves and the surrounding terrain because southern Oregon and northern Caliornia on the east side of the Cascade Mountains is very different from the Oregon most people imagine. It is a desert and the region where I lived is extremely barren, wide open, and sparsely populated. I truly loved that feeling of living on what felt like on the edge of nowhere. In fact, on a stop on the way to the Lava Beds with Laura’s family, Bob said something about just that—about being in the middle of nowhere—and  he added, “I’ve never seen so much nowhere in my life!”

Plans for the weekend. . .

I get to see some of my family! Michelle, Monty, and gang, and Melissa, are coming down for a day. Yay! Visiting, playing, food, fun, being together. I adore my family.

And now I’d better get to making my rice krispie treats, starting my laundry, and writing my paper. It’s the last thing I have to do this term, and then I will be freeeeeee!

Happy day to you!

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Transformative Act

A spicy sweet potato dish that I love to make.
I'd share it with you if you were here!


Well, a few of you brought up some food books you have recently read, are reading, or want to read soon, and I got all motivated to write a post because this is one of my favorite topics.

I love reading cookbooks and food books. I read food memoirs; books about global and local food issues; books about growing food; books about chefs and restaurants; books about the history of a particular food; books about fermenting and preserving foods.

Those of you who have been around me through the last few crazy years and various moves and kitchens I’ve inhabited know that, through it all, I’ve loved my cookbooks, my food, and my cooking. I used to have tall book shelves burgeoning with cookbooks, but it’s narrowed down now to three and half sad shelves. I needed to get rid of those books, but I truly miss some of them. Like old friends. That may sound a bit overstated to you, but not to me.

I think if I had to narrow down my hobbies and pick just one, it would come down to food. I have a blast reading about food and cooking and the whole world that revolves around it. I love learning about how cooking works, planning what I want to cook, and then actually doing it.

When I feel tired and drained, and I can’t read another word in a text or spend another moment in front of the computer screen, I will likely grab a cookbook and sit down to read through it. I’m not there to look at recipes only; I’m there to be transported to other places—other countries, other regions, other kitchens. And in that book, I spend time with someone else who loves doing what I love doing: knowing about food, knowing about cooking, and then doing it. And they love it so much that they had to share that love with me.

Food is one of our most fundamental needs, and it is one of our most beautiful, creative gifts. It is a gift from God to us and a gift we give to others. It brings families and friends together. Eating together routinely has such power that it keeps families closer, makes children better students and makes it far less likely that they will get into trouble or have a sense of being unmoored. Conversation over a meal is something that has many levels of impact for a lifetime, and when the meal is prepared with care and love, convivial alchemy seems to occur.

Do you think it is by happy accident that God made eating one of our fundamental needs and then gave it tremendous social and spiritual power? Have we not caught on to what God is doing when He brings us together at the table again and again? He didn’t command us to eat together with our families every night so that we will be blessed, but there is an intuitive wisdom in it, carried down through centuries and cultures of food and hospitality. Look at how the people of Israel were instructed to live regarding hospitality toward others. Sharing food is a fundamental act of love and compassion and goodwill. It is a profoundly spiritual act. We’ve lost our vision for what eating together can and should mean, in our homes and among our friends. It matters.

I’ve talked about it before, but I’ll say it again. My family (when my children were young) was part of a Friday night Bible study group. And every single Friday night, we had a potluck—a very low-key, relaxed potluck. We never made a food plan. People just brought what they wanted to bring (if they could), and we let it all fall together however things were, gave thanks, and had a memorable time of visiting and laughing over food before the study began.

We all believed that eating together created a spirit of friendship and openness, and we wanted to do that together routinely. We also knew that planning, meal themes, and assignments for what each one should bring added pressure to the affair, and we didn’t want that hanging over anyone. It wouldn’t be light and fun to have a food assignment every week.

Well, one night, my family showed up, and the teenagers were waiting on the front deck. “What did you bring?!” I laughed and said, “A little quiche?” They laughed back, “Everyone else brought dessert!” My family’s tiny quiche was the only main dish. So some of us joined together in the kitchen, laughing and joking heartily while we made tuna fish and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. There were leftovers in the fridge that got heated, and we pulled together this and that. But mostly, it was a dessert potluck. It was really funny and really fun. And unforgettable.

It doesn’t matter what you have except that you have a warm, generous spirit, and a sense of humor. Food can be too serious nowadays. Too perfectionistic. We are awed by the Marthas of the world and a bit intimidated by those who emulate her well. Oh, I love a well-cooked meal, but there’s absolutely nothing better than family or a group of friends who love each other and sit together to share whatever they have, even if it’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

I guess that’s what I get from the type of cookbooks that are my favorites. Besides the instructions on how to cook a certain type of cuisine or food really, really well, there’s another spirit that reigns over that one. And that is to drop the perfectionism and enjoy sharing food with others. It is such a fundamental act, and it can be truly transformative. God’s gifts are like that.

(Can you tell that this post started out going one direction and took on a life of its own, going entirely somewhere else? I just went with my stream of thoughts because the topic is important to me. And I'll talk about specific favorite food/cookbooks soon!)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I'm a Pro


Above: my tree!
Below: Snowflakes in the window.
My grandma made some of them.

I’ve done it before. Locked myself out of my apartment, that is. I walked down to the natural foods store this afternoon, bought myself a few needed food items, and tramped back home in the rain, juggling two heavy bags and an umbrella. I arrived home, set the groceries on the doorstep, and reached into my bag for my keys. They weren’t there. Sigh. But I knew the routine.

I jogged over to the dumpster, grabbed the plastic recycling box meant to hold glass items, and wheeled the huge blue rolling bin behind me to the back of the apartment building. I set the big rolling bin down into the space between the sidewalk and building, turned the blue glass recycling box upside down and set it on the rolling bin. I climbed up on top, which brought me to just the right height for reaching my window.

I popped the screen out of the window with my bare hands like a pro, slid the window aside (which I strategically leave open for times like this), lifted myself up until my stomach was touching the window ledge, then flipped myself forward like a gymnast performing on the uneven parallel bars. I executed a tight, controlled, perfect, and graceful somersault onto my bed, sticking the landing (which isn’t hard to do when you land flat on your back). Whee! My finely-honed routine would have scored a 10.0 in the Olympics. (On the old scoring scale that is.)

I went back outside, put up the screen, returned the recycling bins to their proper place, and went back inside my apartment. It took me less than five minutes to do this. Like I said, I’m a pro, except that no one pays me for this routine. (They should make an action figure  of me!)

Note, added Monday a.m.--Haha! You guys are looking out for me! (in comments). Don't worry. I had the same thought as I typed yesterday. My window looks tightly shut, and only I know it isn't latched. Also, someone would have to use a ladder to reach it (or stack garbage cans). But, still, I decided to latch the thing from now on. So, thanks for your concerns. It's nice to be looked after! :-)

And now I’ll get back to work on my study guide for tomorrow’s final. Suddenly I’m really glad I bought that chocolatey thing at the store this afternoon. The house is clean and cosy, and I’m going to brew myself a nice, hot, dark cup of coffee (Stumptown Roasters Hair Bender Blend, FYI), sit down, and settle in to focus. These last days of the term are feeling somewhat relaxed, even though they’re demanding. When I can have a day at home with space to create a study rhythm, I get an awful lot done in a way that feels pleasant. Usually the days are cut up with back and forth to class, and it’s always hard for me to get on a roll then.

Oh, and, as I’ve said before, I read round and round the Bible, in order (with occasional diversions). I happen to be in Ecclesiastes right now, and I couldn’t help but smile at this verse: “Of making many books, there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” This resonated more than usual after last night, when I worked quickly back through each of five books I read for just one class. Haha.

Have a beautiful rest of your Sunday.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

But It's Like This Now

I don't really have the time to toodle around at my blog,
but I can't stand to leave the messy picture
below at the top of the page.
This isn't a particularly fetching photo,
but it does show a cleaner house!
I cleaned my kitchen that very afternoon,
and now my house looks like this again.
I was sitting in my rocking chair,
taking a break and listening to Nat King Cole
(can you tell he's my favorite?),
and the camera was beside me,
so I snapped a photo of my cleanish little abode.

Oh, hey. See that book on the couch?
I am eating my words.
Recently I said here that I think I prefer
Elizabeth David to MFK Fisher.
Well, I now retract that statement.
Instead, I’ll say that I like them both very well,
for different reasons.
David writes nice prose,
which is what makes a cookbook nice, I think,
but her focus is mainly on the act of cooking
and how to use different foods in the Mediterranean way.
Her books are nice to read.

But I randomly grabbed Fisher's Bold Knife and Fork
off the shelf today,
opened the book to an essay about eggs
(which happened to be coincidental
with what I have been thinking lately
about why I am willing to spend $6
on a dozen truly free range, truly organic eggs).
And MFK Fisher's writing won me over again.
Her books are the reverse David’s.
Fisher writes light-hearted,
philosophical contemplations about food,
but she also offers recipes,
and I can’t say I prefer any food writing more than this!
So Bold Knife and Fork goes back on my nightstand once again.

Other good cookery writers?
Laurie Colwin, Nigel Slater, Alford and Duguid,
and a bunch of others.
Do you read cookbooks for fun, too?

Be back soon--I'm in the throes of finals!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The True State of Things

There's my beat-up old kitchen 
in all of its messy glory. Yikes, huh?
I don't think I've ever made such a big mess!
Oh, and a happy little note:
My photo-teacher told me to stop by
her office today, and she handed me the camera
that I turned in yesterday and told me to
enjoy it over the holiday!
Sweet.

In the early days of blogs and internet fun,
the Flylady used to say, “Make your sink shine!”
That was how she got us to jump-start
the domino effect of order
that would theoretically take over the house.
I thought of the Flylady today when I gave my messy kitchen a glance.
Wow! What happened in there?!
I usually keep a tidy place and feel unsettled in a mess,
but when I get super-focused on stuff that must be done,
I go blind to what is around me,
and I hardly notice that chaos is mounting.
But now I can see again,
and remembering Flylady’s nudgings from the past,
if I can find my sink when I return home from my next class,
I will make it shine!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What's the Hurry?

Taken yesterday.
You can't tell very well, but the lamp was on
in the middle of the afternoon on that dark part of campus.
(Click and you can tell. And photos are always better when you click ya know!)
I have to turn this camera in tomorrow
(it was given me to use for Geological Photography class).
My old one is broken, so I don't know what I'll do now.
It's no fun blogging without pictures.
So, maybe I'll recycle some or look through files
for photos I haven't yet used. (There are a lot of recent ones.)

I had to do a lot of walking today. A lot.
A mile to here. A mile to there.
Then back over here. Then home.
Then another mile to this place.
Yet another mile to class.
Then home to stay at last.
That’s how it went today.
And all of that walking takes a lot of time.

At one point in the day, I thought,
“I have two finals to study for!
I don’t have time for all of this walking today.”
And I started ripping down the street
with steely-minded focus on my next destination.
Then I decided that this is no way to live my life
(life is made up of its minutes, after all, even if
those minutes take place walking to get somewhere).

So, I slowed down and looked around.
I got thankful, and to steal that old, tired cliché—
I focused on the journey and not the destination.
Like this:

I really do live in a pleasant neighborhood.
I’m getting lots of exercise!
It’s lovely walking across our picturesque campus.
The damp-sharp, crisp air feels lovely, too,
when bundled up warmly and walking briskly.

While walking, I occasionally see
one of those sweet late-autumn trees—
those little trees that are entirely barren
except for just a handful of earnest, colorful leaves
spaced evenly around their branches.
The leaves might cling, and I appreciate them,
but it’s inevitable—their life-season is ending.
And that’s the way it goes, right?
But while we’re in the space God put us,
we really should do our thing with all of our colorful might.
Like those bright little leaves.

Just had to remove something that was here
when I originally posted.
Some of you already read it.
But it just seemed too braggy!
Which is not okay. :-))
But it ended with this:
Encourage someone today. Every day!
You really don’t know how much they might need it.

And now, it's time to study for tomorrow morning's final!