Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas Letter 2007

Dear Friends,

Over the last few weeks, I have enjoyed checking the mailbox and online blogs for everyone’s Christmas cards, letters and especially the photos. Pictures really do say 1000 words! I love seeing all your smiling faces and watching your kiddos grow up. So many of you asked how I’m doing and since I’ve joined the blogging world this year, I thought I’d post here and review what’s been happening with me in 2007.

This year’s update really starts in December of 2006. About 2 days after I sent out my Christmas cards last year, I got laid off from my job. I had been doing marketing for KB Home, and if you watch or read any news at all, you’re probably familiar with the woes in the housing market. Truthfully, I was not entirely surprised, and while many said, “Bummer getting let go right before Christmas,” I actually was pretty happy about it. If you’re going to be out of work, why not have some extra time off at the holidays? It was GREAT!

I was also about due for a vacation, and decided there was no reason to postpone, so I booked a trip to the big island of Hawaii. Did I mention there was a severance package? WOW. Hawaii is amazing, and I highly recommend it if you ever have the opportunity to visit. I started plotting my next trip on my flight home! I enjoyed lots of sightseeing, some snorkeling, and visited Volcano National Park. Coincidentally, my uncle arrived in Kona on business the day before I left, so we enjoyed a rare chance to catch up over dinner. Mental note: job-hunting priority should focus on jobs including business trips to Hawaii.

When I got home from Hawaii, I learned that finding a new job is both time-consuming and… well, boring. Don’t worry, I’m not about to put you to sleep by getting into details! By March I was still unemployed, and I was starting to feel a bit stir-crazy, so I took a road trip to visit friends in the Bay Area and family in Lemoore and Hanford (CA central valley.) While out of town, I got a call for an interview for the job I eventually accepted, and on March 30 I went back to work.

I am now doing marketing for RMSA, a retail consulting company in Riverside. I have joined the ranks of (crazy) Californians who commute to their jobs, and travel about one hour each way. The hours are 7-4, so I beat the traffic a little bit. Who knew that so many people are actually awake at 6:00 am? I was intrigued by what this company does, and by the opportunity to get in with them at a time of expected growth. For a lot of reasons, it hasn’t quite turned out to be what I signed up for, and I’ve resumed job searching for something that is a better match for my interests. Like something with frequent business trips to Hawaii. Australia or Tahiti would be OK too.

After going back to work, I squeezed in a few weekend trips this year… April, I visited some good friends in the Phoenix area… in May, most of my family flew to Canada to attend a cousin’s wedding in Ponoka, AB (south of Edmonton)… in September, I visited cousins in Lakewood, WA, south of Seattle… and in late October flew to the Bay Area for a weekend. I’m starting a local chapter of Traveler’s Anonymous… “Hello, my name is Rebecca and I have a traveling problem.”

In October, California caught on fire. Let’s just say that when I left for work that Monday morning, I wasn’t exactly prepared to be gone for a week! Although the fire burned through the backyard, there was no fire or smoke damage to the house, and really very little ash to clean up. (I posted fire updates on my blog daily; you can scroll through the October posts to read more.) I did get home almost a week later, and for about 10 days after that, we lived without electricity which was interesting!

Throughout this year, I became more involved at my church which I enjoyed a great deal. I help out with nursery and hospitality events, and joined a Bunko group just for fun! Next year, I’ll be doing some singing with the praise team and getting involved with some worship planning, which I am really looking forward to! My church has become an important part of my life, and I have very much enjoyed the fellowship there.

In November, I took a long vacation, which I’d have to say was highlight of my year. I flew to Chicago and visited with friends there before driving to Michigan for a week to see many more friends and spend Thanksgiving with my “Michigan family.” As always, I couldn’t spend enough time with everyone, and missed a number of people I really had hoped to see! But it was so wonderful to visit with as many people as I did, and it was hard to say goodbye. These visits are never often enough or long enough!

Living here in California where I have lots of family nearby, I actually enjoy the chance to stay home for Christmas. I made two trips to the airport to drop off and pick up my Grandma. She is almost 87 (!) and is a special part of my life. As I’m sure is true of many of you, various celebrations extend both before and after Christmas with various family members and friends, and it is the same for me. I relish the chance to have Christmas last longer, and we will have our last get-together on New Year’s Day.

For me, having lived away from here for so many years, Christmas has always been a special family time for me. I love the visual feast of festive decorations at home and pretty much every where else. I love the Christmas cookies way too much, and like every other year, will be starting January with a resolve to lose a few pounds! And I love checking the mailbox every day for your Christmas greetings, so thank you for filling it!

I wish for all of you a wonderful 2008, and hope that it brings blessings beyond your expectations.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Just a Little Christmas Fun

One of my friends sent this list as an e-mail, and I decided to post my answers just for fun. After all, one must have a little fun on Christmas!

(E-mail directions.) Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends. Okay, here's what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE!!! Just copy the list of questions into a new e-mail and change all the answers so that they apply to you. Then send this to a whole bunch of people you know, INCLUDING the person that sent it to you… ‘Tis the season to be NICE!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
A mix, but I definitely appreciate the convenience of gift bags.
2. Real tree or artificial?
Artificial, with a nice evergreen candle burning in the room.
3. When do you put up the tree?
Whenever I get around to it.
4. When do you take the tree down?
See answer to #3
5. Do you like egg nog?
Nope. Every year I try it thinking maybe this will be the year I like it, but so far, it hasn't happened for me. So also no for eggnog shakes and Starbucks' eggnog lattes.
6. Favorite gift received as a child?
Lite Brite
7. Do you have a nativity scene?
8. Hardest person to buy for?
Dad or Brother
9. Easiest person to buy for?
10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Can't think of anything so terrible that it bears mentioning for this question.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
It's a Wonderful Life
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
When I first spot something ideal for someone on my list, usually sometime in the summer.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Carol's Cookies
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
17. Favorite Christmas song?
No way I could list just one....
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Stay home :)
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers?
Yes (Don't forget Rudolph!)
20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Varies. This year, Christmas Eve (that's today!) My brother is a firefighter, so we open gifts whenever we can get together around his schedule.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
Buying a gift for someone when you really don't have any idea what they might like!
23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
Red & white makes a very pretty tree, but lots of my ornaments have other colors too.
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?
Turkey with all the trimmings, basically like Thanksgiving #2.
25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
What I want: Apple iBook and iPod Nano.
What I'm going to get: No idea, but my sister-in-law has my name, so I'm sure it will be great.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dilbert is my life

Art imitates life... sometimes a bit too well. Yesterday's Dilbert pretty much sums it up for me lately.

If, like me, you are a fan of Dilbert, you can click this Dilbert box to visit the official Dilbert site, sign up to get e-mails, or just read online every day.

Thankful Thursday

Today, I'm thankful that my Christmas shopping is done! Yippee! (If anyone is still looking for ideas for me, I'm still hoping for that iPod nano. Haha.)

Here's my funny story about Christmas shopping. I drew my dad's name and he tells me he wants a new Shop Vac. OK, well, not that exciting in my mind, but if he wants it, sure that's what he'll get. So I go to Sears last week and buy the biggest one that fits in the budget... and it barely fits in my car. I guess it's a good thing the budget wasn't any bigger!

I have a hatchback, so there's a cover that hides anything in the "trunk" but the box is actually big enough that I have to remove the cover, and now the word "CRAFTSMAN" is clearly visible from all sides. Clearly, keeping it in my car until Christmas Eve is not going to work, and I need a plan B. Conveniently, my brother keeps his vacation trailer parked in the backyard, so he doesn't know it, but it's serving as Christmas gift storage at the moment.

If I'm lucky, my dad won't have some random reason to go in the trailer before Christmas Eve and spoil the "surprise."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gee, thanks. No you REALLY shouldn't have.

I'm sure this never happens to you. Someone gives you a gift, and watches with anticipation while you open it. Whatever it is, you just umm... aren't that excited. (Remember Ralphie's bunny suit in A Christmas Story?) As I was saying, I'm sure this never happens to you. But I have not always been so lucky.

So today, I thought I had an experience like that. It was the office holiday party, big lunch, white elephant exchange, and a raffle for some door prizes. The gift cards were for Best Buy, Olive Garden, The Cheesecake Factory and a local grocery store. I won the first drawing, and you guessed it... it was the grocery store gift card. So, of course it's cool to win anything, but at the same time, I was thinking "what on earth could I get from a grocery store that is exciting?

... bananas?
... frozen dinners for a couple weeks? Then I wouldn't have to pack lunches for a while.
... give it to Grandma, she shops there?"

Then I realized...

Grocery stories sell tequila!

Suddenly I’m thinking I got the best gift of them all!

Margarita anyone?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thankful Thursday: A new weekly post

So, I finally finished "catching up" on some previous posts yesterday. Posts I'd started a while ago, but was having trouble finding time to finish! Anyway, one of them was about Thanksgiving, and I listed a few of the blessings I was thankful for in the moment. It reminded me that I do not take time often enough to be thankful or to express gratitude to those who are blessings in my life.

That said, I’ve decided to start posting weekly about something I’m thankful for. Sometimes these will be silly and sometimes they will be serious. We’ll see how this goes, I’m not usually the best at keeping things like this up… but at the very least, I will be thankful today.

Today I am thankful for… yesterday’s office announcement that we will have “casual dress” daily through January 31! It’s the little things….

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Another Hero in the Family

Today, our family gathered for a special kind of going-away party. My cousin Michael decided some time ago to join the Air Force, and on Monday night he will depart for basic training. I was 12 when Mike was born, so it seems impossible that he is (already?) old enough to join the military. In truth, it is my lack of objectivity about my own age that leads to this perception.

So today, I take this opportunity to thank him for his service to my country. It is with great pride that I will say, "My cousin's in the Air Force." It is with gratitude to him and countless others who are serving and have served, that I recognize that their service is responsible for my continued freedom.

Thanks, Mike.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Book: Ask Again Later

Ask Again Later: A Novel

by Jill A. Davis

Monday, November 26, 2007

Play-Doh 101 with Kyra and Katie

For several days last week, I stayed with friends Kevin & Sarah and their cute girls Kyra and Katie. Sarah is definitely blessed with the gift of hospitality and I always feel welcome in their home!

Over the last few days, the girls and I have become great friends. I've had plenty of free time to play Ring around the Rosie, Tag, Hide and Seek, enjoy the cooking from Kyra's playroom kitchen, and on Friday we got to play with Play-Doh! I can't even remember the last time I got my hands on some Play-Doh!! Sarah also blogged about my visit, and there's a fun picture of the three of us and our Play-Doh creations. Unfortunately, the destruction of said creations was unannounced and I missed the opportunity to capture them on my camera!

Katie and Kyra are such happy and fun-loving little girls, and not being a parent myself, I really enjoyed the chance to be a kid again myself and chase after them through the house. I already can't wait until the next time.

Saturday I said a tearful goodbye to them, and headed back to Chicago to catch my Sunday flight home... after another tearful goodbye at the O'Hare curb. This trip was so bittersweet. My heart is just bursting with love for these far-away friends, with thankfulness for the opportunity to see them in person and give them big hugs, and spend a few precious moments with their kids (who will no doubt grow like weeds before I next see them.)

My only regret is that it’s not easier to visit more often, because these friendships enrich my life and my faith so much. I suspect there is direct correlation between how much I am blessed and how hard it is to say goodbye....

May God be with you - all my far-away friends - until our paths cross again.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A day to give thanks for turkey dinner and other blessings

Today is Thankgiving, and topping my list of thanks this year is that I am currently on vacation, having a fabulous time, and so relaxed that I don't even want to think about how my vacation is closer to its end than the beginning. The vacations always go by too quickly don't they? But today is about giving thanks! So here's my stream-of-consciousness list...

* Friends, who although they live far away, remain an important part of my life and have warmly welcomed me into their homes and lives again to renew our friendship, remember the shared memories that brought us together in the first place, and celebrate the blessings in our lives today.
* My "Michigan Family" - the Hekmans - who invited me into their home as their "California daughter" for more holidays and occasions than I can count! I enjoyed a full Thanksgiving feast with ALL the trimmings at their house today: turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, corn, and my favorite: homemade pie. Seriously homemade - crust and all. Mmmm.
* Since I now live in CA and have lost all ability to drive in snow, I am grateful for a relatively snow-free vacation!
* My rental car has leather seats and a 6-disc CD changer. Now, why you would buy an affordable car like a Ford Focus and then add bling is sort of beyond me, but I've been enjoying it. :)
* My flesh and blood family who loves me and did not have a collective cow about me missing a family holiday event while I was on vacation. I love that about them.
* Enjoying a jump start on the holiday season with some time off and relaxing shopping in some of my favorite stores. I know, I know, commercialism is not what Christmas is about... but when I walked into Pottery Barn on November 15 and there were Christmas trees and gorgeous ornaments and Christmas music, it was officially the Christmas season in my heart.
* Yesterday, Tracie and Sarah hosted a brunch for 11 women, which meant I had the chance to catch up with even more people, and enjoy some quality girl time! Tracie, thank you so much for opening your home and to both you and Sarah for all your work preparing the yummy food and doing all the planning and phone calls for that event to come together. I so much enjoyed it!!
* ... and many more.

Well, this list could be literally endless… I am so blessed. When I take time to think about it, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and am reminded that spending more time counting my blessings would be a good thing!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Book: Girl in Hyacinth Blue

Girl in Hyacinth Blue
by Susan Vreeland

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cruisin' with Joe

Today I got to meet Joe for the first time. We've been exchanging messages through a friend for a while, and I've seen his picture online, but of course, you never really get to know a guy until you meet him in person. As it turns out, Joe is snappy dresser, he likes to hang out at the mall (a dream date!) and has a pretty snazzy set of wheels. I've never really had a thing for younger men, but Joe's smile changed all that for me.

Don't we make a cute couple?

Joe is the son of Beth and Jeff, good friends in Michigan. Beth and I met our freshman year of college and became fast friends. During some of those years and for several years after, her family became my Michigan family and I spent lots of holidays with them, got to know her sisters, brothers, in-laws, nieces and nephews, and made a lot of memories!

It was fun to meet the new little guy in their lives, who's already 2 1/2 months old. He loves to smile, eat, and ride around in his stroller (his "wheels,") where he was content to hang out during our visit to the mall.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cappuccino Friends

When I lived in Michigan, I worked for almost four years at Baker Publishing. Every Tuesday, a group of us would step out for our morning break to get cappuccino. It was big news when Starbucks finally rolled into town and we upgraded to coffee bar mochas from the gas station variety. (True confession: every once in a while, I still stop for those gas station cappuccinos!) Other days we'd go out to lunch together, enjoying a break from the cubicles and catching up on our lives outside of work.

Today, I was excited to meet three friends for lunch to catch up since the last time... which had been far too long (always is, isn't it?) Phyllis & Sara took a break from the office, and Ruth took a break from retirement, to meet me, Jane and Julia at the Meijer Garden cafe.

After lunch, those of us lucky enough to have some leisure time at our disposal wandered through the warm tropical greenhouse and on the cold outside path through the grounds to enjoy the art. Julia looked like an eskimo in all her winter gear - only her bright blue eyes peeked out of all that fleece.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Meeting Julia

Yesterday, I left Chicago and drove to Michigan. My first stop: visiting my new cousin Julia and her mom and dad. Her mom Jane and I go way back - I go back a little farther as her mom likes to remind me when my birthday rolls around - as we were born mere weeks apart. At the moment, she and her husband Zach are living in Grand Rapids, MI, a former hometown of mine as well.

Today, Julia was baptized, and I was privileged that I was able to be present for this special occasion. I enjoyed Jane's fabulous cooking, including made-from-scratch Tiramisu (mmmm!!!) and some challenging games of Settlers of Catan. I think I managed to squeak out one win, but lost miserably on my other attempts. It was a great relaxing Sunday, and I got lots of time to hang out and cuddle my new little cousin!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Out on the Town with Aaron

I already blogged a little bit about my trip to downtown Chicago, but didn't mention the great company I spent the day with. I travelled to the area to visit my friends Mike and Sarah and their new baby Aaron, who was almost 2 months old. It was Aaron's first trip downtown! Besides the shopping and pizza previously mentioned, we took some goofy pictures on a visit to the Hershey's store where we stopped for a hot chocolate break from the cold wind outside.

Despite our excitement over the free souvenir hats, Aaron was unimpressed. One day, I'm sure, he'll be begging mom and dad for a Hershey-ized cupcake.

The next day we spent closer to home, but of course I got in some more shopping with my favorite shopping buddy Sarah. I first met Sarah 10 years ago in college; we were assigned to be roommates the year she was a sophomore and I was finishing up a few classes in an extra semester after graduation. What at first might have seemed a random introduction has turned into a deep friendship that has stood the test of years and distance. After sharing our lives these last 10 years, discussing everything from the serious (God's will) to the silly (cute shoes,) it's clear our introduction was not an accident but a divine appointment.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Windy City

Oh, I love Chicago. It's one of my favorite places to visit! Today I got to do two of my favorite things there: shop on the Magnificent Mile and eat deep dish pizza at Gino's East. A highlight: I was actually prepared to leave my signature behind - a Gino's tradition - thanks to a stop at the drugstore down the street! Best of all was sharing the day with good friends Mike and Sarah - cheers to you!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Why I can't find "Mr. Right..."

... he's already taken.

(Although I recognize the author of this invite would not be the kind of mother-in-law I would wish on anyone!)

Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Life imitates art

I've always enjoyed this Trace Adkins song, and today it has special meaning for those of us in Fallbrook...

Every light in the house is on
The backyard's bright as the crack of dawn
The front walk looks like runway lights
It's kinda like noon in the dead of night
Every light in the house is on
Just in case you ever do get tired of being gone
Every light in the house is on

Yippee! Electricity!!

A good reminder to be thankful for the little things in life.

Monday, November 5, 2007

What I learned about prayer this week

Our church is reading together a devotional on prayer called Love to Pray. Weekly, we meet together in small groups to watch a short video on an aspect of prayer and discuss the video and a particular passage on prayer. This week, the discussion focused on using scriptures as the basis for our prayers. That is, reading or memorizing certain passages of scriptures that could be used as prayers. These are not just prayers cited in scriptures, but other passages as well.

The main passage we studied was Colossians 1:9-12. In reading and discussing this passage as a prayer, we realized the passage focuses on things God would want for our lives, as opposed to many of our prayers that focus on things we want for our lives. In addition, the video challenged us to pray this kind of prayer not only for ourselves, but on behalf of friends, family or non-believers. As our discussion progressed, many of us were simply overwhelmed with the profound nature of this passage as a prayer.

We closed our small group time with a short time of silent prayer, where each of us took the opportunity to pray this scripture several times, either on behalf of others or for ourselves. I was amazed at how powerful this prayer was, and that's why I wanted to share it with you.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. (Col 1:9-12 NIV)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Book: Tidings of Comfort & Joy

If you are looking for a heartwarming holiday story and you are the kind of person enjoys needing a couple Kleenex while reading said story, this might be for you. Fans of stories like The Christmas Shoes would like it. Not to say that I didn't like it, but it was sort of what you'd expect from this type of book: light, sentimental... and a bit predictable.

The book falls into the category of Christian fiction. What I like about books in this category is that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it for the church library; it's clean entertainment. What I don't like in many Christian books is that the experiences the characters have with their own faith sometimes feel fake and clumsily added to the story. That is, one is reading along, and suddenly there is an interjection of a faith element that isn’t smoothly incorporated into the storyline. It's not surprise that by the end, the characters have repented of their sinful shortcomings, mended relationships, and of course, the life situations they face have neatly resolved themselves as well.

I can't say I didn't know what I was getting into when I picked up this book. I read this book because I knew it would be light and entertaining. In that regard, it was just the thing to jump-start some warm, fuzzy holiday season feelings.

Tidings of Comfort and Joy: A Tender Story of Love, Loss and Reunion
by T. Davis Bunn

Friday, November 2, 2007

Book: Where the Road Goes

I really liked this book. The main character, a lifelong activist, leaves her husband, children and grandchildren behind to join a year-long walk across America. Over the course of the year, the characters exchange letters telling of the events of their lives. For Tig, the walker, the challenges of living, walking, and undertaking activist work with a diverse group of people who've joined the walk with different agendas. For her family, their sadness and anger at her decision to leave them for a year and the struggle to understand the not insignificant events that unfold through the year

I like a book that is so interesting that I forget it is a fictional account. The characters become so real that I find myself cheering for them to make good decisions and sympathizing with their griefs. As the story unfolds through each letter, the depth of each character becomes apparent through what they choose to write, what they leave out, and what the others tell of them.

The whole idea of the book is somewhat refreshing. In today's instant world, I can't imagine being apart from e-mail and my cell phone, but the characters communicate almost exclusively through handwritten letters. This style of telling a story through a letter series, makes the story richer and more interesting for it embraces the perspective of the many characters rather than reflecting a single view point.

Where the Road Goes: A Novel
by Joanne Greenberg

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Coming soon to a city near you... long as your city is near Grand Rapids or Holland, MI, or Chicago, IL that is! I can't wait to see all my good friends in the midwest, and I would love to see you while I'm in your neighborhood. :)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Final Fire Update: Home again!

Last night I slept in my own bed. Ahhhh... that was nice. Things are returning to normal, although with a lingering smoke smell in the air. It's not that the air is smoky so much as that the large burn area nearby is filling the air with a smoky smell. In other circumstances, it might be a pleasant smell. Like in a mountain cabin with a wood-burning stove, or around a fire while on a camping trip. (Yes, there are S’mores at the campfire.)

We were very lucky. There isn't even much of a smoke smell in the house, so that's just one more thing to be thankful for. That and the motorhome my parents have in the driveway, which means we have a small refrigerator and stove, since we are without power in the house. My parents called Friday to get the estimate on when power would be restored and they said November 8. Several hours later, the neighbors' lights went on. On Saturday they called again to find the estimate had been postponed 3 days to November 11. They said with that kind of track record, they're afraid to call again!

So, with that being the one outstanding item for a "return to normal," this will be my last fire update. My thanks to anyone reading this for your thoughts, prayers, notes of concern and offers to help me out! I really do appreciate you! It's been a blessing to know I have such a great support system.

Book: Bookends

I picked up this book thinking it was going to be a very light bit of "chick lit," hopefully entertaining, but not really thought-provoking. As I often read purely for entertainment, this type of book is a fun indulgence. Although definitely on the light side, I was surprised to find that it went a bit deeper than I expected.

Main character Cath maintains close friendships with several of her college crowd, although there has been a mutual drifting apart between the core crowd and one individual. As she and her friends navigate changes in their early 30-something lives, and the missing person re-enters in a surprising way, she comes to a new understanding of both the friendships and her present life. By the end of the story, she has "come of age," accepting who she is and breaking out of the self-imposed box she had been living in. She finds a new contentment and joy in her life.

Well, obviously, at least to me, there are some parallels and lessons for me. I'm about the same age as the main character. Although I have some perspective on my college days and growing up years, I'm not entirely content with where my life is today. I think it's fair to say that I have imposed unnecessary limits on myself, and definitely I feel that if I could just be brave enough, I could make some positive changes in my situation.

In the book, Cath quits her unfulfilling corporate job to open a bookstore and conveniently meets and falls in love with Mr. Wonderful as an added bonus. Need I say that I would be happy to jump into these pages and live her happy ending? Probably not. There's a reason that fairy tales are works of fiction, but at the very least it's prompted some thinking about what I can and can't control in my life. For that which I can't, I will need to seek some patience, peace and acceptance. For that which I can... maybe it's time to muster up some bravery and find a dream to chase after.

Bookends: A Novel
by Jane Green

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fire Update Friday 9:00 AM

Wow. Although the fires are definitely well on their way to being contained and extinguished, our area of Fallbrook is still under evacuation. What this means is that I'm still camped out at my brother's house, since my attempts to talk my way past the roadblock yesterday were unsuccessful. (How did mom do it??) My parents are absolutely staying at home until travel in and out of Fallbrook is uninhibited; if they leave now, they won't be allowed back in.

I'm posting a portion of the map provided by the San Diego County Emergency Department that we’ve been watching. It shows the part of Fallbrook they opened last night (green shaded area) and the approximately location of our home, which is solidly within the closed part of town, and within the burn area (purple shaded area.) You can go to their website to see a full version of the map.

At the same time that I know I should be grateful for a home to go to, I'm anxious to be there now. I had grand delusions of sleeping in my own bed last night. I’m weary of the waiting, and a bit exasperated because since mom and dad are living there, I know it’s safe to go back. But, arghh! …they won’t let me in! Thankfully I got an infusion of clean clothes yesterday.

On another note, I booked a plane ticket weeks ago to visit friends in the Bay Area this weekend. It would seem this might just be the perfect opportunity to get out of town and relax with some friends when some relaxation might be just the thing I need. The kink in this plan is that the brakes on my car started acting up last Sunday, and they are now to the point that I really don’t think I should drive it anymore, so getting myself to the airport may be the challenge to completing my travel plans.

For those keeping track of the grand delusions about sleeping in my own bed, and wondering why I’m so anxious now to fly 400 miles to sleep at someone else’s home: if it’s not my bed, it may as well be theirs, right? Did I mention that these friends almost never sit down to dinner without a glass of wine? Or that we've been friends so long... being at their home is almost as good as being at my own? I am thankful once again for the offers of help and hospitality I've received this week. I am truly blessed with wonderful friends.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fire Update Weds 7:00 PM - Revised

*** A quick addendum: my brother is on his way home! Excellent news both for us because we know he is safe, and because it's a good sign that the fight against the fires is succeeding. ***

My mom and dad are both "camping out" at home now, as power is still off and may not be restored for a couple more days. They moved some refrigerator items into their motorhome, where they also have cooking capabilities, so they will be fine. I returned to work today, after sleeping a little extra this morning. I'm still really tired from the drama and sleeping somewhere different, so I know my own bed is going to feel really good whenever I get there. I elected to stay at my sister-in-law's one more night due to the lack of power.

It seems that there is no further risk to our home, and we are grateful. Others near us were not that fortunate. Also, I know a large number of people from my church were evacuated from their various home communities, and I don't know yet if any of their homes were lost. Whether or not it turns out that I personally know families who have lost their home is irrelevant: there has been significant loss of property in Southern California. Eventually, I'm sure my path will cross with someone else's who wasn't so fortunate.

On Monday, I was already at work when the threat moved into our neighborhood, and my mom began packing up important papers and photos. I had to quickly think: what should I ask her to pack? At some point, you just have to make peace with the fact that it's all just stuff. It can be replaced. But I am thankful that we were spared, and in a few days, I will return home and resume my “normal” life. The life that sometimes I think is “boring.” However, if this is the alternative, “boring” will be just fine for a while.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fire Update Tuesday 5:00 PM

As hours go by it seems more certain that the threat has passed. I just talked to my dad for a while, and he can see some flames not too far away, but doesn't expect a problem for our house. Praise God! He will remain at the house and just continue to monitor the situation. He is without power, so doesn't get news except from us, but the latest is that the fire department in Fallbrook is optimistic for containment, and doesn't expect to see more loss of homes. Also, the wind has let up pretty considerably in Fallbrook, so that is a great blessing.

As of now, they are still not allowing people back to Fallbrook, so I'm staying here in Temecula. My sister in law has been wonderful!! My mom went to visit my Grandma today and may spend the night there.

My brother is doing fine, still working on the fires in Rancho Santa Fe. So far, of the thousands of firefighters, there have only been 5 reported with injuries, and 4 of those were on the first day, Sunday. A blessing to be sure that they are safe.

Thank you all for your prayers and notes that your thoughts are with us!

Fire Update Tuesday 8:00 AM

The immediate danger seems to have passed - some brush on the property burned, but the fire department was there to put it out, and my dad monitored it all night to make sure nothing flared up. Now we wait, and hope that winds don't change and put the home in the path of the fire again. Mom and I will stay here in Temecula until we can go home, which could be a couple of days.

Estimates are that as many as 500 homes may have been lost already just in Fallbrook, so we are fortunate so far. The fire is still burning and difficult to contain due to the ongoing high winds, so it could be a while before the fire is contained and more homes could be lost. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fire Update Monday 9:35 PM

Friends, my mom has evacuated and is safe here in Temecula where I am. My dad is at the house, armed with a fire house, a hydrant on the property, and the prayers of many. Please pray for him. Will keep you updated when I hear anything.

Fallbrook Fire

Friends, as you may have heard there are fires raging throughout Southern California today. One of them is quite close to home, so close in fact that my parents have packed their cars with the photo albums, important papers, etc. A majority of Fallbrook has received evacuation orders, although my parents feel our home is not under immediate threat. I am at my brother's home, well away from the fires. I'm safe, just very, very worried.

If you think of us, please pray:
* Weather is a huge factor as the strong Santa Ana winds have impacted the ability to fight the fires from the air. The strong winds and warmer than average temperatures are not expected to let up for a couple of days.
* My brother was called into work this morning and has been fighting fires and doing other fire dept tasks as needed.
* That as many homes as possible will be spared, hopefully including ours. The house and the stuff in it is replaceable, but still, it's scary to think about.

I will post updates when I have new information. Please do not call, as we are being urged to keep cell phone usage to an absolute minimum to keep communication lines open for emergency and fire workers.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Book: Girl Meets God

This book was not a book I would typically pick up. Mainly, I’m a fiction reader. I love a good story! But recently, I’ve read a few biographies, and when a person’s story is told well, I find it very enjoyable.

Lauren Winner writes about her experience of being raised Jewish, converting to Orthodox Judaism, and then becoming a Christian. Several times through the book she mentions that she was irresistibly drawn to Jesus and therefore, Christianity. In the reformed tradition, the concept of “irresistible grace” is a key theological point, and it was beautiful to read a story where that concept is so obviously evident.

She crafts her story as a memoir of a single year, weaving in memories of significant moments in her faith journey. Time is marked in her story by noting both Jewish and Christian holidays, and her thoughts and experiences with both. Although her comments on each event include historical explanation and her knowledge of them is readily apparent, the discussion is not merely academic. Her story is very personal, and obviously both traditions have great meaning to her.

Another thing I liked about this story was the author’s very personal and honest discussions about sin and confession. Her honesty in dealing with her own sinful shortcomings is admirable. I often shy away from confession, even when it’s just me and God, as I’m afraid to reveal that I have not met His standards. Of course, this is completely irrational in the face of an all-knowing God, who knows my every move before I even complete it.

I enjoyed this book not only because it is a well-written story, but also because it challenged me to think about my own faith.

Girl Meets God: A Memoir
by Lauren F. Winner

Books, books, books!

A little note to preface my next, and other future, posts...

When I started my blog, I was considering one that was primarily about books I read. Then I decided on the name "Rebecca's Miscellanies" because I figured now and then I'd want to write about other things too. As it turns out, I haven't written about any books yet, so it's probably good that I didn't start this blog with the title "Rebecca's Bookshelf" (not to mention that name was already taken.)

My musings on books are in some way just so I can keep track of what I read and what I liked (or not!) about it. Also, because I was a bit curious how many books I actually read. My thoughts may not be of any interest to you, so feel free to read them or just pass on by.

On the other hand, if you have a book you’ve really enjoyed, I’m always looking for something new for my nightstand, so please feel free to pass on your reading recommendations.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ashley's Wedding

My cousin Ashley got married today!

Here's some pictures of
Mr. & Mrs. Cappelle.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Well, this hasn't been the best week ever. It hasn't been the worst either, so overall I guess it's a wash. You know how sometimes you are in the middle of what seems to be the BIGGEST DEAL EVER, and you just can't see the light at the end of the tunnel? I was in that dark place for a couple days this week. Now that it's Friday, things are a little brighter. I won't lie: my weekend begins in a matter of minutes, and that helps a lot. And it’s jeans day at the office, that helps too. The little things, right?

My friend Sarah blogged today under this same title, and it was just what I needed to remind me to climb out of the big bucket of self-pity I've been wallowing in for a few days and focus on some of the blessings in my life. (Click here for Sarah's post.) Sarah, I hope you don't mind if I borrow your idea... it is with thanks to you for brightening up my day and reminding me that I have much to be thankful for! Here's just a few of them....

1. FRIENDS. One of the things that has always been so meaningful to me about the great friends I have is that when I am brave enough to admit that I'm struggling, my community of friends gathers around me with encouragement, prayers, and the best part - assurance that they too have had similar struggles. Normally when something is just not well in my world, I tend to think that surely I must be the only one dumb/unlucky/inadequate enough to be in that place. How crazy is that? Everyone has problems, and just remembering that helps me get through mine.

2. MY CHURCH FAMILY. I joined a new church about a year and a half ago, and it has been a HUGE blessing in my life. I have experienced Christian community and a sense of belonging that has exceeded many of my previous church experiences. As an added blessing, I've been volunteering more of my time and have been given so much joy as a result. God is good.

3. ANGELS. This is the only explanation for the fact that the front end of my car is still intact after a VERY near miss on Tuesday. Whew! Thank you Lord, for watching out for me.

4. MY JOB. Okay here is where I have to swallow hard and be obedient in thanking God. I ummm… really don’t like my job right now. It would be the main reason that I was in a total funk earlier this week. But at the same time, I must be grateful. Why? Because earlier this year, I was unemployed and this job was the end of 3 ½ months of uncertainty. Why? Because this is how God is providing for my daily needs right now.

Now that I’ve put that into words, I realize I’ve been a bit ungrateful this week. Now that my perspective is not clouded by the aforementioned self-pity, it’s clear that I need to spend a few minutes on humbly repenting. Then I will gratefully add one more item to today’s list of blessings: FORGIVENESS.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Grace and Grandma

Last weekend, the Christian Reformed Churches throughout Southern California held a combined worship service to celebrate the founding of the denomination 150 years ago. I love attending events like this. I can't resist wanting to say “I was there.” I enjoy every minute of the special music, the memories shared, and simply being present as history is made. Incidentally, the worship service was held at the Crystal Cathedral, and that in itself was pretty impressive. But most special was attending this historical event with my Grandma.

Grandma is 86, and has been a member of this denomination since about 1953 when she and my grandpa packed up their four kids and immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands. You many know someone just like my Grandma – she’s the sweet little old lady with the thick Dutch accent. If you're lucky, she might be able to supply you with Mentos or Kings during that one- or two-peppermint sermon. I digress.

"Grace Through Every Generation" is the theme for this anniversary year. As I enjoy the memory of last week’s event, I need only think of being there with Grandma to recognize this theme in my own life. My faith is part of the legacy passed down to me from my parents and grandparents. Their faithfulness to God, and His to them, is a priceless gift I am blessed to share.

I've heard a number of dramatic conversion stories, but mine isn’t one of them. When I was younger, I thought my faith story was boring. When one grows up in church, the answer to "When did you become a Christian?" is ambiguous. Was it in Sunday School, when I first learned the stories of the Bible? Or at home, where devotions were read daily after dinner? How about in my years of Christian school and college, where faith permeated study of every subject? Well, yes. All of the above.

While I can’t pinpoint an exact day and time, I do know that over time their faith became my faith. More importantly, I began to see that a legacy of faith is a remarkable testimony to God’s grace in its own way. So for this, and so many other reasons, I held hands with Grandma to sing, “Oh Lord my God… how great Thou art.”

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Was it something I said?

I think I have occupational bad luck. While I've had some interesting jobs, and liked some things about all of them, I was thinking recently about some changes at my current job and realized this is the third job in a row that my boss has quit or changed jobs on me.

Anyone who's ever had a job - any job - knows that a boss can make it or break it. It's a huge factor in job satisfaction. And when you're spending more waking hours at work than anywhere else, it's a notable factor in life satisfaction as well. (Those of you who are your own boss, paint me envy green for just a moment.)

Currently, I am without a boss, and it's unclear when or how that might change. When it does, it will be like starting a brand new job, but without as much choice or control over the terms as if it was actually a new job. There is an upside: I already know where to find the bathrooms and the coffee pot. But I fear a possible downside: a 50% chance the new boss will not be as good or easy to work with as the old boss.

In the meantime, if you happen to ask, "how's your job going?" you might get a melancholy response. The truth is, I just don't know how to answer that.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Saturday, September 29, 2007

We should do this more often

Do you know this feeling? Whether it's grabbing a cup of Starbucks, enjoying a meal together, taking a walk... after being with friends, it's that feeling you have when the time comes to a close, but you wish it didn't have to. Oh, what a blessing those times are, and I enjoyed just such an evening last night.

Several of us gathered to celebrate birthday. There was great food at a local restaurant, there was birthday cake and coffee afterwards at someone's house, there were stories and more stories and oh, was there ever a lot of laughter.

As the hour gets later people start to head home, and the mood becomes bittersweet. Sweet because it's been so good for our souls to share some hours of of our lives together, exchange stories, and laugh and laugh and laugh. Bitter because our lives are busy and these times are all too few.

Hugs. Thank you's. Happy Birthday! one more time.

We should do this more often.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Skinny Jeans and Cute Shoes

I went to the mall yesterday. A fairly rare event, to be sure, but a good opportunity for people-watching. At one point I found myself walking behind a couple, arm-in-arm, and all I could think was, "Men shouldn't wear skinny jeans. EVER." In my state of general disbelief that not even skinny jeans were exempt from "it all comes back," it never occurred to me that this was a trend for women and men. Shudder. Try to delete image from mind. Did I mention that I'm going to an 80's themed party tonight, and I find it rather scary that I could actually just buy brand new clothes to wear rather than dig through my closet??

On a different fashion-related note, all was not lost in yesterday's shopping adventure: a very cute pair of shoes are now in my closet, just waiting for the right opportunity to debut....

Sunday, September 16, 2007

"My friends, may you grow in grace..."

There's a funny thing about song memories. Hearing a song from a certain time in my life evokes all the memories and feelings from the original time and place. For me, this benediction song was learned during my last years at Calvin College. There I was fortunate to develop friendships I cherish to this day, many of which were enriched by attending LOFT worship and singing this song together.

Where I currently attend church, this song is used as a benediction on occasion. Every time I hear the familiar melody start to play, I am immediately reminded of my college days. I remember the friends whose hands joined mine, and am grateful that many of those frienships have survived the years. I maintain a private prayer ritual, in which I silently pray for those whose hands I am holding, asking God to bless them. I am grateful for the new friendships in my life since joining the church where I sing this benediction today. For that, "to God be the Glory!"


My friends, may you grow in grace,
and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior
My friends, may you grow in grace,
and in the love of Jesus Christ

To God be the Glory, now and forever,
now and forever, amen
To God be the glory, now and forever,
now and forever, amen.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Earthquake Weather

Forgive me if this post lacks any coherency... as I was awakened at 4:30 this morning by an earthquake.

Lately, people around here have been talking about "earthquake weather," as though one could predict that conditions were perfect for a tremblor. Last time I checked, earthquake predicting was still more guesswork than science, but you can't convince everyone of that. So what is earthquake weather? It's quiet and still. Often very little breeze. The air is filled with a sense of expectancy.

You'd think I would be easily able to define "earthquake weather," having lived in California for a good majority of my life, but I heard this term for the first time a couple weeks ago. Someone had called in to the morning radio show I listen to, wondering if the current weather qualified as earthquake weather.

The DJ's assured her that the freak thunderstorm (a remnant of Hurricane Dean travelled north) was definitely not earthquake weather, so we were "safe." Hmmm. Whatever.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Rebecca starts a Blog!

I never thought I'd do this! Several of my friends have started blogs this year, and it's been so much fun to read what they are up to and see their latest photos, that they've inspired me to start my own. So here goes!