Saturday, December 27, 2008

2008 Highlights (Christmas Letter Addendum)

Less philosophical, and more "what's happened this year," I took a trip down memory lane to remember some of my favorite happenings of this year...

My sister-in-law and I taking my mom to the San Francisco bay area for a girls' weekend. We had a great time, even though it rained.

Losing my job thanks to a layoff... again. Only really not minding it so much.

Finding out I was going to become an aunt, and meeting little Charlie in early December.

Receiving my acceptance letter to grad school at SDSU in May, starting classes in September and finishing my first semester last week.

Visiting great friends and hanging out with family on a vacation to the Midwest in May, and a personal retreat to Northern California in August.

Training for and completing my first 5K race in October.

Enjoying reading a lot, sometimes purely for fun, and sometimes because it really made me think.

Spending some quality time at the beach with my "second" church family.

The blessing of learning many times over how great God's love and grace are and how much my faith has grown this year.

God is good!!

Originally posted at:

Friday, December 26, 2008

Book: The Bedford Boys

This is not a typical book I would pick up, but I've been partially affected by the interest in all things World War II in my family. This book tells the story of a company of men, all from the small town of Bedford, Virginia, who fought - and died - together on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.

Reading a book like this makes me appreciate in a new way the freedoms I enjoy as an American that have come through the selfless sacrifice of others. An interesting read if you are into history or this particular era.

The Bedford Boys
by Alex Kershaw
Originally posted at:

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Letter 2008

Dear friends,

It’s Christmas afternoon and my family has just finished unwrapping gifts accompanied by warm coffee and holiday cookies. Turkey dinner is to follow in about an hour. It’s raining outside, and I’ve heard more than one person comment that they like the rain because it makes Christmas feel cozy. Normally, I’m in favor of sunny and 70 for Christmas, but my current state of reflection on the blessings in my life doesn’t allow any room for discontent with the weather.

This has been a year of changes for me, and I feel so blessed by the opportunities I’ve been given. At the beginning of the year, I was working at a job I really didn’t like much, but I was laid off in March, more of a relief than anything else. I was immediately freed up to focus on what I had already decided to do next: go back to school.

In May, I was accepted to San Diego State’s MSBA program in Finance and Tax Planning, and was also blessed with a part-time job opportunity that would be flexible with my school schedule. Through that opportunity, I made some connections that together have provided me with enough work to meet expenses while I’m in school, mostly working from home, which is great.

In September, life got busy as I nervously began classes, not really sure what to expect. This is the part where can’t help but be grateful for a very good undergraduate education, because after years out of school, I found my skills were up to the demands of grad school. As the semester continued, I found my studies rewarding and interesting, which was further confirmation for me that I am in the right place at the right time.

The end goal of this degree is to become a financial planner. If all goes well, I will finish the degree next December, and then take a certification test and look for work in the financial planning field. I’m very, very excited about working in this field, and I can’t help but feel that I finally have figured out what it is that I want to do when I grow up… and having wondered that for most of my life up until now, this feels nothing short of amazing.

Another gift this year has been the opportunity to renew old friendships and the blessing of new ones. I was able to visit friends in Iowa and Minnesota and also attend my cousin’s graduation from Dordt College in May. I also was able to spend a few days on the remote Northern California coast thanks to the generosity of friends, and also visit several friends and family on the way north. A few days of retreat on the coast, soaking up the beauty of God’s creation and relaxing was a wonderful gift.

I have learned the most this year in the process of making new friends. If left up to me, I may not have been smart enough to choose wisely, but God placed some wonderful people in my life this year that have challenged me and become good friends. I am thankful so much for friends who not only make life’s journey more fun, but teach me new things and always cheer me on when I struggle along the way.

I went to church this morning to worship the newborn king, to rejoice in the gift of God’s son. His gift is for everyone, and I hope this Christmas finds you blessed with the joy of this amazing gift.


P.S. For more on what I did this year, check out my post on the Highlights of 2008.

Originally posted at:

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I've been thinking a lot about this. Not just recently but over the last several months. I think it started when I talked with a friend about how blogging has helped me be more aware of how I present myself to the world. While it is tempting to present a person that has an organized life, is always on top of things, and never has any human shortcomings, that's just not really me.

My life is occasionally a little crazy. I've become more aware than ever of my shortcomings, and at the same time, more determined than ever to overcome them. My life is definitely not organized, and if you could see the room I'm sitting in right now, I wouldn't even have to put that into words.

Along the way, I've found in myself a desire to be authentic. I'm flattered that I have friends who actually read this blog, and occasionally I get a comment from someone I didn't know was reading it. The sum total is a variety of people that I have known for between 1 and 30+ years (Hi Mom!) and all of them get the same "me" on the blog. So it's made me think a lot about who I am.

What I've figured out is that authenticity is important to me. I really try to make sure those words are an accurate reflection of what I'm feeling or thinking. That is not to say I might not change my mind. Or that upon further reflection I won't realize I was wrong. Just that it's important to be genuine and honest, and that it's OK to be honest about being confused or uncertain or doubtful... or any one of the things that could be considered the opposite of "having it all together."

In the last week, this is something that I've thought about even more because I realized that I need to be more authentic with people in the real world as well as in the virtual world. It's cathartic to write a blog post, publish it, then not think about it again. On the other hand, being honest with someone over a cup of coffee takes more guts than that. It means that the real me is vulnerable in that moment to what they might think or have to say about what I've shared. That... completely freaks me out.

It's a choice. I have often not taken that risk because the fear of having the "real me" rejected was greater than my ability to perceive potential reward in being truly known. I think it's time to start taking some risks.


Originally posted at:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thankful Thursday: Semester #1 is Over!

I had completely forgotten how crazy college is at the end of the semester. All you do is eat, breathe, sleep and study. And sometimes you don't sleep. I am SO glad this semester is over! I was able to persuade one of my professors to take his final on Monday instead of today, so I wrapped up one day early. Now to wait for the grades. I'm a little nervous about one of them, but the rest of my exams went very well.

I am grateful, not only to be finished and have the chance to enjoy the holidays without studying, but also because this semester has been really great. I've enjoyed learning, and I've become even more convinced that I'm on the right path for my life. I feel like I finally know what I want to do when I grow up, and that is a wonderful feeling.

I've been surprised to find that I'm so into numbers, which is a big part of what I'm going to be doing. I had one major project this semester that involved building some pretty interesting spreadsheets. Oddly enough, when I wasn't completely stressed by thinking that I was doing it all wrong, it was kind of fun.

I know. Weird. I used to do marketing.
Originally posted at:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Charlie photo op

Charlie's mom and dad brought him over today, and he was wearing a cute "Baby's First Christmas" outfit, he looked like a little elf!
His hat says, "I've Been Good."
No worries, he's definitely on this Santa's "nice" list!

Originally posted at:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Odds and Ends

Finals are next week and I am officially overwhelmed. Yikes. Here's some odds and ends that have crossed my mind recently . . .

Never go to W*l-M*rt on a Sunday in December when the economy is bad. Holy Cow. Miraculously I found a parking place, but there were no carts left. Not a one.

Christmas cards are going out late this year. Like maybe ON Christmas. If I wake up from my post-final exam nap by then.

Yet another risk of trying something new turned out well: Mediterranean Chicken Pita. Yummm. (And for the record, I still don't like lamb.)

Highest price paid for a gallon of gas EVER: $4.54 on June 18, 2008
Lowest price in 2008: $1.67, yesterday (Last time gas prices were this low: 3/31/2006 - $1.65)
Average drop in price since June 18: $.115/week. (With a drop one week of $.50/gal.)*
Maybe it's time for a roadtrip?

Number of relatives coming to visit during the holiday season: at least 10.

Number of times I've been to the gym this week: 1 (I promise I'm going back more often when finals are over. I promised to run a 5K on New Years.)

Number of times I will blog during finals: zero. See you soon!

*Yes, actually, I am a math nerd. And I like Jeopardy! too.
Originally posted at:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

And the winner is.... (Baby Pool)

My grandma Emmy won the baby pool! She didn't get any points for the correct date or time, but was so accurate on the weight (within 3 oz) and the length (right on) that she scored enough points to win!

1st place with 30 points - Emmy
2nd place with 25 points - Nicole H
3rd place with 20 points - Mary L & Sarah S*
Everyone else - "Sorry, you are not a winner."

( * late entry)

Originally posted at:

Charlie is here!

Introducing my new nephew, Charles Andrew


Born today, December 2, 2008 at 9:50 am
9 lbs, 3 oz - 20"
Originally posted at:

Friday, November 28, 2008

Baby Pool

Nope. My nephew's not here yet, he's taking his time and making us all wait - impatiently - for his arrival. So yesterday, I started a baby pool. No money on the line, just for fun.

Here's the rules. Points will be awarded for guesses in four categories as follows:
10 points for the correct date
5 points for the day before or after
20 points for a guess within 5 minutes of the actual arrival time
10 points for being within 1 hour
5 points for being within 6 hours
20 points for a guess within 1 ounce of the actual birth weight
10 points for guesses within 3 ounces
5 points for guesses within 5 ounces
20 points for guessing the exact length
10 points for being within 1/4 inch
5 points for being within 1/2 inch

Winner will be the person with the most points after Charlie arrives!

Here's the official list of guesses:
(Click on the link to the original post to see the list of guesses: )

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful Thursday #28: Thanksgiving 2008

A year ago during Thanksgiving season, I realized that I was not spending enough time being thankful for the blessings in my life, so I decided to start writing a weekly post to express my gratitude. Well, my intent was to post weekly and by the title of this one, you can do the math and easily determine that it's been more like biweekly. I'm just going to just assume that represents an increase in thanks-giving, and consider this experiment a success.

More than that, I fully intend to continue Thankful Thursday posts, mostly as an act of faith and obedience a reminder to myself that gratitude is in important act of faith. An act of obedience even, as the Bible tells us:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus
- Philippians 4:4, 6-7

Today, our entire nation pauses for a day designed to give thanks, and so, I join in with a list of just a few of the many blessings that I will give thanks for today.

* * * * *

I am thankful for God’s gift of grace and forgiveness, that although given freely, was not without great cost to Himself.

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, Oh, my Soul!
- It is Well with My Soul
(When Peace Like a River)

I am thankful for God’s perfect timing, for his faithfulness, and for the gift of believing He has a plan for me.

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;
yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
- Ecclesiastes 3:11

I am grateful for God’s provision and for His meeting my needs in unexpected ways before I even dared to ask.

And my God will meet all your needs
according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
- Philippians 4:19

I am grateful for the gifts of friendship and fellowship, and the innumerable blessings this has brought into my life this year and every year. I am thankful for being placed in a community of believers at my church where I am loved, challenged, taught and allowed to slearn the joy of serving.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
- Proverbs 27:17

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.
- Benediction

I am thankful for this verse, shared by a friend this year:

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
- Psalm 73:26

To this great God, who has indeed blessed me abundantly, I offer this:

Now to him who is able
to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us,
to him be glory in the church
and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations,
for ever and ever!
- Ephesians 3:20-21

* * * * *

May you and your loved ones be blessed on this day of Thanksgiving.
-- Originally posted at: --

Friday, November 21, 2008

Family Photos

About a month ago, our family had pictures taken together for the first time since my brother's wedding three years ago. My friend Sara, our photographer, and her hubby Chris put together this slide show of some of the best photos.

It was a gorgeous day at the beach, and it was so much fun to hang out together. The photo op also served as a maternity portrait session for my sister-in-law, so there are lots of shots of her and baby Charlie (who is due to arrive any day now, as the 25th is his due date.)

Originally posted at:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thankful Thursday: 4 to 1

Sometimes it's the little things. I was downloading some new podcasts this week, something I couldn't really do until about six months ago because, yes, I was stuck with dial-up internet. It's not that we didn't want to upgrade, but just that there is literally no cable or DSL on our street. That is one of the downsides to living in this beautiful, rural, corner of the world.

Technically, I'm still on dial-up, but now it's a broadband wireless card. Now I have internet anywhere I can get a cell signal.

So back to podcasts. I was watching the timer click down "2 minutes remaining" and realized that in those two minutes I was getting about 8 MB of podcast... a ratio of 1 minute to 4 MB. If you have "real" high-speed, you're probably not impressed by that. But for comparison's sake, on the old dial up the ratio was more like 4-5 minutes per 1 MB - exactly opposite.

It's the little things.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Check out these Birthday Freebies

Today's my birthday! Yippee!! Over the last week, I've been getting some great Happy Birthday e-mails, the kind where I get something free because it's my birthday, usually from a restaurant. I thought I'd share my list, now you can sign up and get freebies, too!!

Naturally, if you have other tips for birthday freebies, I would love to know about them, so please leave a comment!

Here's what I've got so far:

Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill
Only in the a few western states so far, but their fish tacos are Yummy! The birthday freebie was for a free meal up to $7, no purchase required. This freebie was the first to get consumed, kicking off the celebration 3 days early.

Coldstone Creamery
Can you say "Yumm!!!" ? I almost never go to Coldstone, but will make an exception for a free 'Like It' creation of my choice, again, no purchase required. The best part is that you can register everyone in your family with just one login.

Well, this turned out to be a disappointment since our local one closed, and I'm not going to drive an hour for a free dessert, but if you live close to one you might want to check it out.

Buca di Beppo
I love Buca, but it's not very close by, unfortunately. If I can, I'll try to take advantage of the free dessert with entree purchase, though, because ALL their food is good, and I have an incurable sweet tooth. (I wonder if I can get it to go?)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Book: The Time Traveler's Wife (Re-read)

My second round of midterms was a bit less stacked than the first round, so during a break in the study schedule, I took time out last weekend for a book. I've read this book before, but somehow it didn't make it onto the blog, perhaps it's just been longer than I thought since I read it.

I don't read too many books more than once, but in a recent purging of the bookshelves, I knew I wouldn't be able to part with this one. The other half of the title character involuntary time travels, and the book explores the effect of life-meets-science-fiction on a marriage relationship.

Terrific writing and a fascinating narrative if you enjoy thinking about questions like, "What would happen if time travel was possible?"

On a side note, in a search to find what other books might be available from this author, I learned that movie rights were sold and filming took place this year for The Time Traveler's Wife. No release date yet, but the film stars Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana as the main characters Clare and Henry.

Thanks to Sarah in Elgin, who originally recommended this book!

The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thankful Thursday: Eternity

I don't really have any idea what to write this week. Our country has selected a new president. I have mixed feelings about some of the election results, and about many of the conversations I've had over the last several weeks with people. I have surprised others and myself with some of the conclusions I have come to. I have grown weary of defending first my indecision and now the decisions I've made. I have been encouraged by some conversations and been angered by others. I have to remind myself that God's grace is more than sufficient for the shortcomings of sinners... and that I am constantly in need of that grace.

Yesterday, a friend and I were discussing faith and the election and some of the tougher questions Christians have faced this week. (In California, we voted on state propositions about abortion and gay marriage.) I'm reasonably certain that we voted differently on some issues, but we didn't talk about our differences. Instead, we talked about trusting in a great God and about the challenges we face as Christians in an increasingly broken world. About how we each bear the responsibility of being the hands and feet of Christ in the world.

At some point, the conversation turned to eternity. My friend mentioned anticipating a time when there will be answers for all the mysteries beyond human comprehension. I commented that when my heart is heavy with the weight of sin and brokenness in this world, I find myself longing for eternity, for a time when all things will be set right and there will be sin and brokenness no more. Ahhhh. My soul is calmed by this thought. My soul was calmed by a conversation that rejoiced in the sharing of a belief that God is good and in thankfulness for His blessings, instead of yet another stressful discussion about politics.

I am thankful this election is over. I am more thankful for a God whose wisdom and guidance and love transcends time and place.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end."
Ecclesiastes 3:11

Monday, November 3, 2008

Democracy Isn't Easy

I voted. Finally. I've literally struggled for weeks and months over how to vote this year. I've discussed the candidates and the issues nearly endlessly. I've agonized to the point of feeling sick, more than once. I've argued and questioned and wondered if I'm doing the right thing.

As I consider that democracy isn't easy, I now worry that this is the first time I have given this much consideration to my vote. I feel the weight of responsibility not to just cast a vote, but to cast a very carefully considered vote. Because it really does matter. Sure, it matters to me. It affects my life, my home, my taxes, my rights. But it matters to a lot of other people too, because it is the will of the majority that in fact affects the entirety.

When I went to Calvin College, I remember it being said that Calvin endeavored to teach students not what to think, but how to think. I first understood this when I encountered some dissension between the college and a local congregation of the college's sponsoring denomination, and the case in question was an objection to some academic discussion where admittedly the answers could not easily be separated into right or wrong.

At the time, I came to understand that a belief becomes stronger when it is questioned and tested. Therefore, I must be willing to withstand questions of faith and even ask them, if I am to hold strongly to what I believe. I can't ignore or discredit dissenting viewpoints, I have to engage the people who hold them, and find out what I can learn. I must be willing to step outside of the assumptions I have always held, so that when my vote is cast, I know it is out of true conviction and belief.

I've done my best. I'm human and fallible, but I have tried to be faithful to my responsibility to make an informed decision. I always get excited about election day, and now that I've finished agonizing, I will enjoy it. I think it's fabulous that for one night every four years, democracy is the star on every TV channel. While the outcome matters, it is the process of democracy that I believe in the most.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

24 Days and Counting

Everyone around here is eagerly awaiting the arrival of my new nephew. He's the first baby for my brother and his wife, a first grandchild on both sides, and a first niece or nephew for me as well as for my sister-in-law's brother and sister.

Today her family threw her a baby shower, and seriously, it's a good thing there is not a practice of actually raining gifts on the mommy-to-be, because she would have been swimming in all the blessings. Also a good thing there is no statutory limit on "oohs" and "ahs," for all the cute onesies and blankets and toys and nursery decorations. Giraffes and elephants and lions, oh my! (The nursery is being decorated in a jungle theme!)

I can't wait until little Charlie gets here. His scheduled arrival is November 25, but of course we all know babies come on their own timetables, so could be anytime (don't tell his mommy, she's not quite ready yet!)

Anyway, here's a photo of the day, from left: my grandma Emmy, me, Genevieve and my mom Janny.

And, just to prove how good I am at poking fun at myself (why do I think I will regret this?)...

I was recruited to play a game of an unspecified nature, which turned out to be a "drinking game" and which I am proud to say I won!! Here's proof:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Santa Ana

A year ago this week, I was camped out at my brother's house, evacuated from home due to wildfires. Santa Ana winds are fairly common this time of year, bringing hot, dry weather from the east, creating "perfect storm" conditions for a wildfire like they did last year.

Wednesday morning, as if on cue, we woke up to Santa Anas. It had been exactly one year to the day after Rice Canyon (Fallbrook) fire started. This week's Santa Ana is pretty mild. Although it's been warm, the breeze is quite mild compared to last year's extremely high winds.

Homes are still being rebuilt. Avocado trees that lived through the fire were pruned and now have a new growth. It may be a few seasons before they will once again supply Super Bowl guacamole. Other trees that weren't so lucky have been chopped into firewood and replaced. There is a big grove right by the freeway that I pass several times a week, and it is a constant reminder of last year's fire. That and actually being able to see the neighbor's house, formerly hidden behind their mature trees.

A couple weeks ago, when the season's first Santa Ana blew in, I packed a suitcase with some extra things and stashed it in my trunk. "Just in case" I leave home one of these days and don't get to go back, at least I'll have a toothbrush and some clean clothes. Extreme? Perhaps. Some would say I'm inviting disaster. Others would bet against a fire, because I'm prepared.

One family that lives not far from here built a fireproof garage last summer. I don't know the details, but the structure was designed and built to not burn down. It worked. The fireproof garage survived. It was largely empty because they hadn't stored anything in it yet, which is unfortunate because it was about the only thing left on their property after the fire went through.

I'm not sure why this has been on my mind all week, I guess perhaps because it was so memorable. Because I can't forget how narrowly we got by. Because I'm still grateful.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


This actually happened in my night class yesterday. I was furiously writing notes, as usual, when I looked up because it had gotten very, very quiet in the classroom. The professor had paused his lecture, and instead was standing in the middle of the classroom staring at a fellow student... who was very busily sending text messages. She was appropriately embarrassed when he called the attention of the entire class to her lack of attention to the lecture, but I just can't find it in me to feel too sorry for her. The syllabus included a comment making it painfully clear that electronic communications during class were his biggest pet peeve. The "no texting/chatting" policy was reinforced by his ranting on the topic for several minutes during our first meeting.

Now, this class is boring. No insult to the professor here, he pretty much told us that upfront, on the first night of class. I personally would have been mortified if I'd been in her shoes. But if I had any notion that grad school would involve a more mature group of fellow students than the last time I was in the classroom, that has been swiftly dismissed.

Sadly, this was not the first evidence that dismantled my notion. On the first day of class (a different one,) I had my laptop fired up and ready, planning to put my speedy typing skills to good use taking notes during the lecture. Unfortunately, the first professor I encountered disallows laptop use in class except for homework. Why? Because he got tired of students chatting online and watching the World Series during class using the university's free wifi.


The problem with policies like this is that they encourage students to live down to them. With every ridiculous rule, a student is less motivated to behave responsibly. The people running my high school tried to legislate everything. When there's a published list of the 35 ways you can get detention, is it really any surprise that the students did everything possible not on the list... virtually ensuring that the next edition of the list has 38 things on it?

I know I'm probably too much of an idealist. I know that my perspective, developed over the years since I was last in school, gives me an appreciation for education that many of my fellow students don't have. But I wonder, if not now, when will people be motivated to take responsibility and pay attention?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

5K Race for the Cure

I guess October's turning out to be kind of cause-focused month, although I didn't plan it that way. Today I ran the local Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, an event I've participated in for a number of years. At some point I decided it would be really cool to run instead of walk in this event, and promised myself "next year, I'll be out here running across the finish line!"

Well, it took three years or so, but finally, I achieved that goal! The running is something I've wanted to do for me, but this event is about fighting breast cancer. Choosing this event for my first 5K is about a lot of other people. This is for you:

Aunt Joan & my friend Marcia, two very special ladies who lost the fight to breast cancer.

Aunt Pat, Aunt Mary, Aunt Jody, Kay, Ruth & Shirley, all great women who beat the odds and successfully fought the fight.

And for Jilliann, who just started her fight - hang in there! I'm cheering for you!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Meet Peter

If you were hoping I was going to introduce you to the new guy in my life, you are right. Kind of. This guy is single. He has a good heart, and he's FULL of money.


Here he is:

Some of you might recognize the Peter Fish coin bank. You might have had one just like it as a kid or maybe your kids have one. The Peter Fish change drive kicked off at our church this past Sunday. All the kids and families get to take one home, and are encouraged to drop spare change in it for a three weeks. The proceeds benefit CRWRC, an organization who works to help those "who suffer from poverty, hunger, disaster, and injustice."

Last year, I missed out on the Peter Fish drive. Demand for banks exceeded supply, and by the time one made it to my house... the 3-week drive was pretty much over. So I kept the fish (please don't tell) and committed to doing the change drive anyway, donating the money later.

That was November, and in February I was still staring at an empty fish, when a member of my church committed to bicycling across the continent to raise awareness of poverty and raise funds to support causes that fight it. That was all the encouragement I needed to start collecting change. At first it was kind of hard as the dollars in my wallet disappeared quicker than I was used to. I groaned inwardly when one of purchases came to $1.07, and the next 93 cents were siphoned into the fish. But after a few weeks, I was used to it. I didn't miss the money anymore, so when the three weeks were up, I decided to keep saving my change.

Since then, I've collected $99, which means about $10 a month is feeding the Peter Fish. That doesn't sound like a lot, because it just doesn't buy much here in America. But in impoverished places around the globe, just pennies can make a significant difference in someone's life. Skeptical?

The CRWRC, where the money goes, publishes a gift catalog every year around the holidays, and the 2008 edition is hot off the presses. It shows how a few dollars can help fight poverty. I thought I'd do a litle shopping to see exactly what $99 can do, and here's what I found:

$15.00 = Doctor visits for two children in Ethiopia orphaned by AIDS
$ 4.50 = Blackboard & chalk for literacy classes in Malawi
$25.00 = Provides full immunizations to a child in Nigeria
$12.00 = Training on garden productivity for two families in Nicaragua
$12.00 = One mosquito net to prevent Malaria infections
$15.00 = Nutrition kit for a child in Honduras
$15.00 = Tool kit for volunteers responding to disasters in Canada & the U.S.
$ .50 = Two tree seedlings to help prevent soil erosion affecting farmers in Haiti

For a moment, I let my mind wander... What would I do with an extra $10 a month?
I'm embarrassed to admit that the first thing that came to mind was a couple extra trips to "four"bucks. My mouth waters at the thought of a steamy hot chai latte. (Why ARE those things so yummy!?) It's so easy to convince myself that my few dollars won't make a difference anyway, so why not?

But when I look again at the list I just made, I see a very different reality. A reality where a few dollers does make a difference. By no means will my coins change the whole world. Poverty and hunger won't end overnight. But the quarters and dimes I collect will make a difference to someone, somewhere. No doubt about it.

As for that yummy latte I was pondering a few minutes ago, I'm finding it less enticing as compared to another pretty sweet option: changing the world, one coin at a time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Life is Messy

First of all, my life is not messy at the moment. It's just fine. Just don't look in my closet.

Life is sometimes messy. It doesn't fit into a neat box. The plans I make sometimes don't come to be, even with my best planning. Things happen unexpectedly that catch me by surprise, change my path for a day or a year, or expose me to something that challenges my thinking.

Life is shared. This thing called community assures me that I am not alone in this world. Almost without exception I would say that my life has been enriched by the people who've touched it. But receiving this gift from the community means that sometimes it's my turn to give back. To be the one assuring a friend that they are not alone. To pray for a friend in a situation that I don't understand. To be sad along with them when their life is messy.

Sometimes, I look around at the lives of people I know, and I am overwhelmed by the mess. I am saddened by the effects of sin, of humanity, and sometimes, just by circumstance. Why did this person get cancer? Why did that marriage fall apart? Why is another one struggling? Why is that baby in the hospital? Why do people hurt other people? Why do I crumble at the slightest discomfort when there are real problems in the world?

There are no easy answers. It takes more self-control than I have to not say the things that make it sound like there are. But while my mind is busy trying to come up with something to say that is remotely meaningful, know that my heart is aching for you. I am praying for you. You are not alone.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thankful Thursday: 100,000

My car rolled over 100,000 miles today. I remember when Toyota commercials featured their happy owners leaping into the air to celebrate this milestone. The company slogan at the time, I think, was "Oh, What a Feeling!"

After looking forward to this moment for a few days, I actually managed to miss it during my normal commute, noticing as I exited the freeway that I was already at 100,003. Even then, I was not overcome by some overwhelming feeling reserved for this occasion. But I was grateful to have reliable transportation that has taken me a lot of places in the last couple of years, and hopefully will hold out for a few more years and a lot more miles.

I place a pretty high value on independence and the freedom I have to just hop in the car and go whenever I feel like it. Definitely with energy costs fluctuating, I have done that with greater awareness of the cost, but I am fortunate to have the options I do because I have a car.

At the same time, I sometimes think about how great it would be to not have to own a car. In college I lived in London for a semester and loved everything about the convenience of public transportation in a big city. Where I live now, it's just not possible to function without a car, but I would love to live in a place with that option. Part of that is the lessened environmental impact, but the other part of it is that owning a car involves ongoing maintenance and repairs that only increase with the car's age.

My brother and my dad have both helped me out with minor repairs, fixing brakes and replacing batteries, and offering advice on bigger problems. But I find all of it a big hassle. I hate messing with it. I hate taking the car in for an oil change and hearing from the technician about all the other things I should have fixed. Naturally, this is at some cost I find completely objectionable, so I decline... and then suddenly the price is halved. I'm dreading my next tire rotation, because they let me know last time that it's getting close to time for new tires.

But that's the price of the independence that the car allows me. It's necessary to keep the car in good running condition so I will get the most life out of it, and maybe even get a few bucks when I eventually decide it's time for a different car. It's the responsibility I have because I am blessed enough to own a car.

In other words, it's all in how I look at it. So today I choose to see the blessing in it, and be thankful.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

True Story Tuesday

You can't make this stuff up. This actually happened to my mom at a popular fast food chain, the one often associated with a clown dressed in red and yellow:

Mom: "I'd like the senior coffee, please, and can I just get it in my commuter mug?"

Red & Yellow: "Oh, I'm sorry, your mug is bigger than the senior coffee, so we have to give it to you in the regular cup."

The girl brings Mom a cup of coffee. Mom pays her whopping total of 45 cents, and pours the coffee into her commuter mug.

Mom: "Do you guys have free refills?"

R & Y: "Yeah"

Mom: "Great! Can I have a refill?"

And that, my friends, is when the light bulb came on at the Red & Yellow.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

30 Days and Counting Down

The Presidential election is in 30 days, and I don't know who I will vote for on November 4. As I put it to one friend last week, "I've upgraded from a tent to a cabin with running water in the camp of the undecided voter." At some points in time I've been nearly sure of where to place my vote, only to return to undecided upon further consideration.

The issues at stake this year, and every election year really, are mind-boggling. There is little, if any unbiased press coverage, and I frequently find myself yelling at the TV news. Don't even get me started on the inflammatory e-mails that have arrived in my inbox lately. The more I think I know enough about the issues to make an intelligent choice, the more I realize that I know very little.

Economics? I don't think those two Econ classes I took 12 years ago are going to cut it. Foreign Policy? Well, I do own a passport and proudly claim a few stamps in it, but I know very little about the countries in the headlines these days. Social policy, Wall Street bailouts, tax cuts, tax increases, party politics, health care, education.... the list goes on.

One of my strongest convictions is that citizens of a democratic government should participate by casting their vote. But I admit that there have been times this year that I've been tempted not to vote this year, because it's just too hard to wade through the issues to discover which candidates values and policies most closely match my own priorities. But I take the responsibility to vote seriously, so I will figure it out and I will cast a vote on November 4.

I remember casting my first presidential "vote" in 1984. The students of my elementary school voted, like the nation, to re-elect Reagan. That year was also the first time I watched election returns on the news, the map of the states lighting up in a patchwork of red and blue. My teacher had sent us home with a blank U.S. map and instructions to copy the TV map with red and blue crayons. After I vote this year, I will do the same thing minus the crayons: watch the news until I fall asleep, waiting to see whether more states turn red or blue, indicating who will be the next President.

It was predicted to be an interesting election year, and I have not been disappointed.


(and it's wordy, sorry)

After finishing this post, I read an article in
Reader's Digest (October 2008) called "The Super Voters," which profiles a number of swing voters, and notes that it is the undecided voters in swing states who will have the most significant impact on this year's election. For one thing, although I've been thinking that it is WAY past time to make a decision about my vote already, I learned that there are probably a lot more undecided voters out there than I thought. Apparently I just know very few of them personally.

Second, the article profiled a Christian swing voter who, like myself, believes that it no longer makes sense to vote on a single issue, specifically, a candidate's stand on abortion. While my views on this subject have not changed, and I remain personally opposed to abortion, I feel that because our president deals with so many complex issues in many areas, this issue cannot be the only issue I consider.

Lastly, the profiles in the article highlight which states will be the ones to watch as the returns come in on November 4. Any of the states mentioned (among others not profiled, perhaps) could be the state that selects our next president. Wondering which ones? Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire, Missouri, New Mexico and Pennsylvania. (Michigan was also profiled, but this was published before McCain gave up on the Great Lakes State last week.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Thankful Thursday: School Update

I've survived two midterms this week, and feel that with passing those milestones I've finally begun to settle into a school routine. My commute is feeling quite manageable, primarily because it's not the nightmare I anticipated. There are enough hours in the day to study. I think I did OK on this week's tests, and will now focus on the next one.

People keep asking me if I'm enjoying school, and I'm not quite sure how to answer that. Two of my professors admitted up front that their subject matter is boring, and I have to say I'm not inclined to argue with them! One can only memorize so much tax law minutia before realizing how maddeningly complicated it is, and wondering if there is any bit of tax code that is not plagued by exceptions and calculations. Now I know why people outsource their taxes.

My favorite class is the introductory class in financial planning, and I truthfully wish I had more time to digest the huge volume of information we are covering. This, after all, is why I went back to school. The other classes cover key information that is also necessary for this work, but it's those classes that are the majority of my time right now, and therefore determine my answer to the enjoyment question: "This is a means to an end, and I am enjoying this opportunity because it is going to get me where I want to go."

It is a privilege to be back in school, to be able to focus on it full-time for the next few semesters so I can earn my degree and at the same learn the skills to start a new career. That's exciting AND enjoyable.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sing Me a Memory: You Are My All in All

You are my strength when I am weak
You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all....

Jesus, Lamb of God,
Worthy is your Name!

We sang this song in church today, and like so many songs, I have a strong memory connected to when I first learned it. It amazes me how memory works, that a few bars of a melody can bring back to mind everything about a time and place.

It was 1994, and I was a freshman in college. Three friends and I determined to drive from Grand Rapids, MI to my home in California for spring break. Straight through. Bathroom and fueling breaks only. Yes, we were probably certifiable. Sure! We can sleep sitting up. Sure! We can subsist and soda and pop tarts for two days straight. Sure! We can make it to Reno on the gas we have right now. (We did, by the way, no getting stranded in the Nevada desert.)

This was before the days when every car was equipped with a CD player, let alone a DVD player and 1.8 cupholders per passenger. So along the way, we kept ourselves entertained - and awake - by singing a lot, and one of the girls taught us this song. The chorus and verses can be sung in a round, so we divided into pairs and sang it over and over again until all of us had learned every word. And then we sang it again and again and again just because we could. Because on that little sleep, the acoustics inside the car rivaled that of any dorm room shower.

I can't help but think of that trip and those girlfriends when I sing this song. It's part of my history now, a piece of the puzzle that defines my life and my faith and who I am today. I sing it with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. I'm thankful for those friends still, and thankful for the great God who led us to a share a path for a bit of life's journey.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Missing Joan

Last week, I wrote about the "cheerleaders" in my life, all of you who have blessed me with your prayers and encouraging words these last few months. Also last week, I was reminded of one of the cheerleaders who is missing from my life, my Aunt Joan, who died two years ago. Something I read for one of my classes reminded me of her, and I found myself experiencing an intense sadness that she is now absent from my life.

Aunt Joan was a pretty special person to me. She was younger than my parents and married later than they did, so when I was a kid, she was always spoiling me and her other nieces and nephews. Among my relatives, it was she who had attended the same far-away college I did, and sent me fun care packages. She would have had some great stories to tell about me in the "most embarassing moments" category. "Fun" should have been her middle name. She loved life. Hers came to an end far too young, only 49, of dreaded breast cancer.

But last week, as I was reminded of her and thinking about all the great people in my life who've encouraged me this year, I knew without a doubt that she would have been among the most loyal and enthusiastic members of my cheering section. She probably would have had some really sarcastic comments about the stupid outfit, but she would have forgotten that when it came time to stand up and cheer.

I know, in some ways, she will never be absent from my life because of all the great memories I have of her. Just knowing that she would have cheered me on, whatever I do, is a great memory of who she was. But it sure would be nice to meet her for a latte and long talk. I would tell her how much I appreciate the love and encouragement she gave me, and thank her with a big hug.

Thanks, Auntie Joan. I miss you.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

How Many of Me?

I got an e-mail with a link to this site today. Basically, upon entering your first and last name, it calculates an estimate of how many others have your same name. Entering the common first and last name "Mary Smith" returns an estimate of over 40,000 people with that name.

Seeing as I know my last name to be relatively uncommon, I couldn't resist trying it out. I thought the odds were good that I would be unique. Here's my result:
LogoThere are
or fewer people with my name in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

I wasn't quite prepared to find that there are "1 or fewer people with my name." Logically, since I've entered my name, wouldn't that indicate that there is a minimum of 1? What would fewer than 1 of me would be like? Would I start disappearing like Marty McFly in Back to the Future when he interfered with the meeting of his parents in the past? Or maybe fewer than 1 of me could just involve losing a few pounds I don't really need hanging around. That would be OK.

You can click on the words How many have your name? in the box to find your results.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thankful Thursday: Cheerleaders

Classes just started last week, but in some sense, this grad school thing has been underway for six months already. In March, I started studying for the GMAT. In April I took the test and applied to SDSU... and no where else. In May, I found out I was accepted. In June and July I waited and prepared a little, and spent some time de-cluttering my life and my mind. In August, I worried.

All along, the cheerleaders were there, spurring me on, voicing their confidence in me when I doubted myself, and inspiring me to continue moving down this path one step at a time.

This week, the path got a bit trickier. I was expecting that last week. That my life would become completely insane overnight, and it didn't happen. But somehow I was completely surprised by a chaotic week this week instead. What, like it wasn't inevitable?

But the encouraging voices are still there, in e-mails and phone calls and in person. And when I've faltered this week, wondering what I've gotten myself into or questioning my abilities... I've heard a new voice over the chaos, confidently assuring me that I can do this. To my great surprise, it's my voice. The words are simply an echo of what the cheerleaders have been telling me all these months.

Thank you. Your encouraging words have been an extraordinary gift in my life. I am grateful.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I'm tired. I've actually been tired since the alarm went off at 5:45 this morning. I hadn't slept well on Sunday night, and a not-so-good night always catches up with me on the second day. So I'm very sleepy.

Today, I got all the way to campus with my notes for today's classes, my cell phone, my laptop... the parking permit even made it back into my car after I moved it to mom's car when I drove it last week. But for the first time ever, I managed to forget the power cord to my laptop. Ummm, hello? That's kind of essential. I only get about 2 hours of time before it shuts down to make sure all the important stuff is saved for the next restart.

Wouldn't be a big deal, but normally on Tuesdays I go to work in the afternoon and I definitely need the laptop then (I don't actually use it during classes.) So, an extra 40 miles and 40 minutes of driving today.

Reading I'd planned to do - needed to do - for tomorrow still isn't done. And nothing sounds as good as crawling into bed and passing out until morning. Not even ice cream.

That said, school is going fine. The pace is picking up after a slow start last week. I'm struggling to get back into a studying routine, mostly because of my procrastinating tendencies. But I am actually excited about some of the stuff I'm learning. In some cases not because the material is compelling... not one but two of my professors readily admitted their subject matter was boring... but because learning it will help me launch into a new phase in my career. And that's exciting.

Here's proof:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

"You Go, Girl!"

I've gotten pretty sloppy at keeping up my exercise routine these last few weeks. I sort of lost focus once I'd hit the 3-mile point. Although I have the 5K in about 7-8 weeks, I haven't figure out quite how to prepare for it from here. Although I can run 3-miles, I can't consistently do it, and I don't want race day to be an "off" day where I can't finish. I need to do some research on that to figure it out.

This morning, I forced myself to get out there and run, and got about 2 miles in before I slowed to a walk. As I approached the 1.5 mile mark, I was having an internal debate, trying to decide if I should stop there or go for the full 3 miles. As I jogged and debated, a cyclist passed me and called out "You Go, Girl!" A perfect stranger who decided to cheer me on gave me a boost of determination to keep going. I didn't make 3 miles today, but I felt good about sticking it out a little longer.

Random acts of kindness are a gift! Thank you, Ms. Cyclist, you made my day.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Day

Today was great. I was expecting pure chaos, and instead was blessed with everything running as smoothly as possible, starting with my commute. SDSU is 50 miles from home, and the route is notoriously congested during commute hours. To allow for that, and time to find a parking place on a campus chronically short on parking capacity, I left at 6:45 for my 9:30 class. Words rarely fail me, but the only thing I could say as I pulled into a parking spot at 8:00 am was, "Thank you Lord!"

I immediately walked over to the main part of campus and started checking to-do's off my list, getting a jump start on what I'd anticipated would be an after class checklist. By 8:30 I was comfortably seated in the shade outside the bookstore, watching the campus mall get more and more crowded with students heading here and there. I wasn't brave enough to find out how long the line was at Starbucks. :)

By 11:30, I was finished for the day, having sailed through the first session of two of my four classes. Having expected to compete for a seat due to "crashers" (students who had not registered for particular classes, but hoping to add them) I was happy to find there were plenty of seats to go around. So far the work load seems manageable, and I was shocked to discover there are no papers expected in these two classes, only tests. Really?!? I think the last class I took without a paper or major project required was a 100-level math class.

So, tonight I have my other two classes. Carpooling looks like it's going to work out great, so that's lined up for today... everything seems to be going great.

I had been overly anxious about the beginning of things, as I just don't deal well with not knowing what to expect. I guess in the big picture, it's best to plan for the worst and be pleasantly surprised than to expect the best and miss a first class over not getting a parking place. In that regard, I don't regret the planning I did, I just wish I could have been a lot less anxious.

As I write, I'm reminded of Philippians 4:6-7...
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

I studied this verse in the Grace Bible study just a few weeks ago, and yet I didn't do a good job of following it's instruction. Thankfully, God watches over us constantly and I feel blessed that my day went so well despite my anxiety.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Raina's Wisdom

My friend Raina, who is 7, made this for me recently.
Sometimes the best lessons are found in the simplest truths.
Thank you, Raina!

***** ***** *****

***** ***** *****
The Squiggle Squirm
by Raina

Squiggle Squirm was a Book worm
and no matter how hard he tried he couldn't keep that Squirm out of him!
Then one day he tried so hard he could not move.
Then the Book worm finally realized he was made to squirm.
The end.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Spontaneous Non-Combustion

Nothing will get you out of bed at 2:12 AM faster than the smoke detectors going off. Holy cow. There's a smoke detector in every room, and they are linked to one another, so if the sound from one of them is ear-splitting, you can only imagine how lovely it is when the other nine chime in.

My first thought was to step into the hall to determine if I could smell smoke. Nope, not from my doorway. My bedroom is at the corner of an L-shaped house, but before I could set out in one direction or the other to investigate, the alarm stopped.

Sadly, the alarms in this house have a reputation for crying wolf, so while my gut reaction was to jump out of bed, my first conscious thought was "not again!!" No fire this time. Just another false alarm. In the middle of the night. Again. The false alarms are almost always in the middle of the night. After all, it would be so boring for a spontaneous fire drill to happen at 10 in the morning or during dinner when everyone is awake already.

It took about a half an hour before my heart decelerated to a point where I could think about falling back asleep. It sure felt early when the alarm clock went off at seven. I am really hoping there is not going to be a repeat performance.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thankful Thursday: Carpool

One of the best things about yesterday's orientation meetings was getting to meet a few of the people who are starting the same program as me. It turns out that one of them actually lives in the same small town I do, which is almost unbelievable, especially considering that home is 50 miles from campus. What makes this more unbelievable is that we are registered for two of the same classes, and have already discussed the possibility of carpooling one day a week. An auspicious meeting to be sure. Saving 100 miles (and three gallons of gas) every other week is definitely something to be thankful for.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What a Day


[Orientation today. Not the first day of school, but kind of felt like it. It was all of the above and more. Tons of information that is both helpful and a foreshadow of the big challenge that is about to begin. College textbooks that cost more than my new iPod. (Holy $$$!!!) More decisions to consider about the specifics of my program. Trying to get my head around the critical factors with limited understanding. Suggestions for numerous things to do, associations to join, departments to visit right away to maximize the grad school experience. Did I mention "Overwhelming"?]

And just beginning.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Great Gift Wrap Idea

If there is one thing in this world I will probably never run out of, it is greeting cards and scrapbook paper. I don't know what possesses me when I am in the stationery section of the store, I am seduced by the beautiful color graphics and colors, and usually something comes home with me. On my last trip, I managed to bring home only four sheets of scrapbook paper, but they are for a specific project, I promise.

So anyway, I have all this scrapbook paper and I've been using it up quite a lot lately by re-purposing it into gift wrap. A 12x12 sheet is the perfect size to wrap a small gift, and these gifts always get comments about how pretty they are. So I thought I'd share my idea just in case there are any other paper-holics out there.

The trick is to place your item diagonally on the scrapbook paper, and fold each corner over on the back.

Then I take a strip of a contrasting paper to make a band around the package, add an embellishment or gift tag, and it's done. For this one, I used paper punches and layered the shapes, drawing the first letter of the recipient's name on the top one, monogram style. This little package contains a men's t-shirt, carefully folded. Since it's for a guy, it's rather masculine, but the gifts I've wrapped for girlfriends are much prettier.

----- * ----- * -----


I just did another one of these, and it falls into the cutesy category, so I thought I'd add it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Summer Olympics: Results

The closing ceremonies are over, and the Summer Olympics are done for four more years. One of my favorite bloggers threw out a challenge to readers to create their own Olympic events. I took full advantage of the opportunity to set some goals, and here are the results!


Results: GOLD
I made a substitution on one project, but actually completed at least 10 instead of the original 9.


Results: BRONZE
A bronze in this event represented maintaining my normal level of exercise and activity. That bum knee I've had kept me from stretching to reach a higher level. There's always 2012!

The Honeymoon is Over

Well, for literally months I've been completely enamored with Facebook, keeping in touch with far-away relatives, reconnecting with old friends, and spending spare hours playing word games. I considered it a good goal (why???) to reach 100 friends this year. Conveniently I have a lot of relatives, so that boosted my count quite a bit. I'm there now, no longer sure why that was important to me.

Now, I'm not so sure about this whole social networking thing. I mean really, there are some people for whom I'm perfectly content to wonder - or not - "what ever happened to them?" without ever needing an answer.

Probably we weren't ever that great of friends anyway. Or we happened to walk the halls at the same high school, but because you dated someone for a while 15 years ago that I'm still actually friends with, does not make you my friend. Being an ex-boyfriend... well, if we had pulled off "let's be friends," I wouldn't need Facebook to tell me that. Being a friend-of-a-friend that I met once 4 years ago does not make you my friend.

So if you are already my friend on Facebook, that means I am actually interested in knowing what's happening in your world. If it's been a long time, I regret not having been in touch. I am grateful for your friendship during a phase in my life, however brief or long ago, and hope that just maybe we'll be able to keep in touch better now. So I don't regret hopping on the bandwagon. It has been a lot of fun. Maybe I've reconnected with you there. And that was definitely worth it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lost and Found

Lost: 3-year old boy, blonde, fair, last seen wearing a green "Daddy's Helper" t-shirt and khaki shorts near lifeguard tower 7 at Huntington Beach on Saturday evening... an unknown number of minutes before one of the grownups asks, "Where's M?"

Uh, oh.

A period of time passes, relatively short in minutes but VERY long on worry.

Found: Above 3-year old, taking a relaxing walk on the beach. He is 100% unconcerned, and is definitely not looking for any of the more than 10 people who are looking for him, including the lifeguards. He's somewhat uncooperative when his rescuer insists that he come back to the fire pit where the rest of the group will eventually return to be thankful he's been found. Upon reuniting with his very worried mommy, M receives a new name: "DON'TYOUEVERDOTHATAGAIN!!!!!"

Our extended family was enjoying a family reunion at the beach, partly because M's family has joined us all the way from Wisconsin for their summer vacation.

I'm not a mom, and I won't pretend I understand exactly what my cousin and his wife were feeling and thinking in those minutes where we were looking for their son. M has a great mommy, by the way, only one bit of evidence of that being the obvious happiness and relief when she had her little boy in her arms again. Watching her hug him like she would never let go, I couldn't help but think of a loving God who warmly welcomes each of his lost children when they come to Him.

This morning I went to church, where as if by divine orchestration, the sermon was about the parable of the prodigal son. Honestly, I don't remember very much of the teaching. I just kept thinking about how grateful I am that this real lost and found story ended well. In my mind, I couldn't help picturing the image of M and his mommy in that moment when she raced across the beach to her son, wrapped him in her arms, and wept in gratitude and relief that he was not lost after all... but found.

Someday, I hope M's mommy can tell this story and smile. I smile already because I know I will never forget this example of a parent's love for her child, and how it spoke to my heart powerfully about God's love for me. When I dwell even for a moment on how God's love for each of his children is even greater than that of an earthly parent for their child, a big lump forms in my throat, and I am moved to offer a prayer of thanksgiving. I am unable to conceive of any other sufficient response.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thankful Thursday: All Better

You know when you were little and skinned a knee or fell off your bike and mom would kiss it and make it all better? Those little injuries that seemed so magnificent suddenly and magically disappeared, just because mom said so.

Well, mom didn't decree it this time, but my bum knee is suddenly and inexplicably "all better." As suddenly as it came on, the pain is gone. Earlier this week, my knee "cracked," like a knuckle cracks, and after that I haven't had any pain, so something must have snapped back into place. Woo-hoo!!

I consulted my nearest medical professional, who also happens to answer to "mom," and she speculates that there might be some loose cartilage rattling around that just got stuck in a random place for these last few weeks. Weird!! I really was about to call the doctor to make an appointment because it was starting to impede my life, not to mention my 5K training schedule, and mom definitely recommends I do that if it happens again. Which it might, because this is the second time in two years.

But for now, I'm glad to be back in action! I might not feel the same when the alarm goes off tomorrow at 6:30 so I can resume my 5K training... but I'll just have to convince myself that I'm going to feel really great after I've done my workout for the day.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rotten Tomatoes

Otherwise Titled:
Why Groceries Are SO Expensive These Days

I'm heading home from my vacation today, and I've split the return trip into three legs so I can stop off and see some relatives along the way. Today's route took me from the southeast San Francisco Bay Area east to California's central valley, then south to my aunt's house. The central valley is prime agricultural country, and has been for probably as long as people have lived here.

I had noticed on my trip north through the valley that I was passing a lot trucks just full of ripe tomatoes. They were also heading north, just at a slower pace, which I'm sure will surprise no one who's been in the car with me. HaHa. Today as I headed south, I noticed that even more trucks full of tomatoes were headed north. I didn't think much of it, other than the fact that it must be tomato season.

Then I began to overtake a truck heading south, and when I got closer I noticed that it, too, was full of . . . tomatoes. Is it just me, or is that just a little crazy? No, I'm sure it's not just me. I'm sure there is some reason why semi-truck loads of tomatoes are passing each other on the freeway, going opposite directions. Some reason that supersedes the common sense idea that if they traded destinations, it might cost less for that tomato I need at the supermarket.

Thankful Thursday: Vacation

This has been a wonderful week. Quiet, relaxing, and surrounded on all sides by God's creation. I took walks every day, enjoying the views of the ocean and the sound of the ocean crashing on the sand or the rocks, a sound I love. I got to take pictures of this photogenic place, so I can enjoy the memories when life is not so peaceful.

The book I'm reading right now, Captivating, talks about how beauty is important in our lives, that it somehow speaks to our souls in ways that nothing else can. Everyone sees beauty in different things and in different ways, but it has the same effect on us. I have always enjoyed being near the ocean, it's simply one of my favorite places on earth, a place that I can soak up beauty. And a place where I feel closer to God that just about anywhere else.

I like it because to sit in the sand and see nothing but ocean means that for a time, I can turn my back on the world, tune it out and just be. It's as if the shoreline really is the end of earth, and somewhere beyond the horizon where water and sky meet is the heavens, and God is there. His hands created everything I can see and touch and smell in that place.

This week had no agenda, no deadlines, and plenty of time to just be. Soon, my life will moving ahead at a pace I'm not sure I'm capable of grasping. So these days were a gift I treasure.

There are two things for which I am specifically thankful...
First, I thank God for the beauty of His creation. For us to live on earth, it needed only to be functional, not necessarily beautiful, but God gave us beauty to enjoy.
Second, I thank friends who generously shared their home with me to make these few days possible. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Last Vacation Sunset
~ Sea Pine Beach ~
Sonoma County, California

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wednesday at The Sea Ranch

I went to the tidepools today and found a few more critters...

Sea Anemone


(I can't resist...)

One fish,
Two fish,
Orange fish,

Now I'm off to catch one last sunset before I head home tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesday at The Sea Ranch

No worries about being lonely...

I counted about a dozen wild turkeys hanging around and pecking for some breakfast this morning.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday at The Sea Ranch

Walk Along the Bluffs ~ The Sea Ranch
Just south of Gualala, California

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday at The Sea Ranch

I'm out of town this week in a remote, quiet, peaceful place. Just my bag of groceries from Trader Joe's, an internet connection, and a hot tub (vacation is hard work.) No TV, no Olympics, no noise or busyness, just lots of God's amazing creation to enjoy.
So I guess there's some noise, like the ocean pounding against the shore, and the crickets serenading me... and the surprised sound I made when I found a frog hanging out by the hot tub.

For the next few days, I'm planning to post some pictures of the amazing outdoors, as seen through the eye of my humble digital camera.
Here's one for starters... The sun is setting behind me and to the right, and the white spot in the upper left corner is the moon.

Pebble Beach ~ The Sea Ranch
Sonoma County ~ California

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Thankful Thursday: Joy

Today I met with my friend to study chapter four in our Bible study on grace. By the end, I felt like I was on cloud nine. My heart was bubbling over with joy just from spending time with a good friend to read and study God's word together. There were some trickier questions in this lesson, and unlike in previous weeks, we had to re-read a number of passages and really think about them to feel like we had a clear understanding.

As I think about it now, I would say that I experienced what it was like to be fed by God's word. I felt full, like after a good meal, and it was so meaningful that it just exceeded the capacity of my mind and bubbled over. Probably not surprising considering that this week's topic was "Delighting in Grace" and specifically addressed joy and rejoicing.

While studying this chapter, I not only experienced joy, but I was also challenged. In citing scriptures like I Thessalonians 5:16, "Be joyful always," and noting that God commanded his people to set aside times for rejoicing, the book suggests that joy is not optional but rather a discipline to be practiced in all circumstances. Even hard ones. Even ones that we would never choose. Even when we absolutely don't feel like it.

I have often had a hard time applying scripture when I can't apply the lesson to the situation I am experiencing right this very moment. And right this very minute, I am pretty joyful. I'm in a great place, and it's as easy as breathing to be joyful and praise God for the blessings He's poured into my life. However, having joy in all things is, well, not one of my gifts. It's something I need to work on.

I know that life will not always be roses and sunshine, but that there are inevitably peaks and valleys on the road of life. The lesson for me this week is found in the fact that each passing day brings me a bit farther down the road, so I need to prepare for the next time I hit a pothole, or find myself heading down a small hill, or suddenly realize the road is already in one of those long, dark, winding, seemingly endless valleys. Because even the smallest of valleys appear endless when I can't quite manage to spot any sunshine.

So the challenge is to begin preparing now by practicing joy and making it a habit that becomes a part of who I am and how I relate to God. Oh, to be able to rejoice in God "no matter what." This is a gift of His abundant grace, because even when I can't muster joy on my own, I can turn to God and ask Him to help me. Philippians 4 says this is the solution to anxiety, a definite joy-zapper, and further it says that when we bring our worries to God, He will give us a peace that "transcends understanding." I know for me a heart at peace is much more inclined to be joyful... so that's a promise I plan to take Him up on.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Educationally Blonde

Someone asked me today if I was ready to go back to school. In reply, I asked if she remembered the scene in the movie Legally Blonde where Elle (Reese Witherspoon) arrives at her first class unprepared and is promptly asked to leave despite her polite explanation that she wasn't aware of an assignment. That is my worst nightmare... I only hope that should it come true, there is no *itchy Vivian (Selma Blair) to add insult to injury.

Side note: for true fans like myself, don't worry (as if you would)... there is ZERO chance that I'll show up to anybody's cocktail party dressed as, ahem, a bunny. For those who haven't seen the movie, I'll just mention that she wasn't dressed as the Easter bunny.

On the other hand, no one could fault Elle's sense of style when it came to her back to school fashion choices or her school supplies. When she realized her heart-shaped notebook and fluffy pink pen weren't going to cut it for law school, she upgraded to a Mac laptop. I cheaped out and got a PC. But I have already told people I might get non-prescription glasses because it will make me feel smarter. (I know someone who actually did this in college.)

I did pick up some school supplies last week. It's the season for great deals, as anyone with kids in school will tell you, which means that one might be able to keep the arm and only sacrifice the leg to get the kiddos outfitted. Being the one who now pays the bill for school supplies, I understand why mom may have dreaded the back-to-school shopping: "But mo-om!" - always two syllables when it's life-or-death - "All the cool kids will have folders with Hannah Montana/CARS/Spiderman on them!!! I have to have it!" I was tempted by Hannah, but in the end opted for the loss-leader 5-cent spiral notebooks. I wonder what the cool grad students will choose?

And don't even get me started on what to wear. I can't decide if it should be designer jeans or business casual for the first day of classes. Probably I'm going with the dressier option, assuming it will be better to be over- rather than under-dressed in this scenario. Besides that, I'm sure the cost of designer jeans these days means I'd end up delinquent on tuition payments.

So, am I ready? No idea. But only one way to find out... pray a lot and leave home really early on day one - so I'm not late to class over finding a parking spot. The $135 I forked over for a parking permit does not guarantee a place to park... only that I may park in an empty space should I find one. A topic for another day.