It’s August! How did that happen? With the whole world going more than a bit crazy, this has been an extraordinarily pleasant summer for me. I don’t ever want it to end!

We started the break off by visiting Jacob and Shawna in Walla Walla. It is so relaxing to visit with them. We saw their “new” house, which is beautiful, met their kitties, and did a bit of sight-seeing centered around finding good food. And we sure did. Lots of yummies to taste, including Doubleback wine and Walla Walla cheese.

At the end of June we welcomed our first granddaughter and second grandbuddy, Evelyn Joy. I was able to spend a few days in Philomath getting to know her. That was lovely. I spent most of my time keeping an eye on Benjamin and the cousins who are currently living all together. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to spend time with little boys. Benjamin has really become quite a little guy. With being mobile, he is a busy little guy who wants to keep up with his older cousins. The most fun was watching him jump on the trampoline with several of the cousins. Such silliness. He and I became buddies in that time. Such a sweet blessing.

Family has played an important role in this summer. In addition to spending time with Jacob, Shawna, Benjamin and Evelyn, we also spent time with Dan’s family. His brother Matt came over from Idaho with his wife and three of his daughters. So delightful to spend time with these people I love. We shared several meals with them, including one with some extra nieces, nephews and grands.

And the garden. I have managed to spend quite a bit of time out in the garden this summer. Things are beginning to look like someone is actually taking care of it. A lot of my seeds didn’t sprout, but we still have managed to eat well from the garden, getting plenty of brassicas. It’s just so nice to be outside in shorts and a tank top. This year hasn’t felt so pressured to get it all done. I’m just been plodding along making a bit of progress here and there. I imagine that when it’s time to actually head back to school I will feel a bit more pressure to get more done out there.

And, like I said in the beginning, it is August. In just a few short weeks I will be back to school. Whatever that means. I think I will try to get some training on Google done in little bits before I have to report for real. In the meantime, I’m going to try to pack as much summer into the days I have left.

La, La, La, I Can’t Hear You

If we don’t reopen soon, our economy will be in a shambles and it will take years to recover. People will lose their businesses and not be able to feed their families. People who don’t want to reopen don’t care about people losing their homes or feeding their children. If we do reopen soon, then people will die. People who want to reopen don’t care about the vulnerable in our communities.

Me? I’m just done. I don’t want to be part of the argument anymore. I don’t want to talk about how Costco has put limits on the number of people who can come in and are requiring customers to wear masks. I don’t want to talk about how infections will go up if we reopen. I just don’t. It’s all dueling experts. This expert says one thing. Another expert says another that totally contradicts the first expert. I can find data to support either side of the situation.

So, why can’t we just admit that maybe the experts aren’t in agreement? That we don’t know what we’re doing? Why can’t we all show a little humility and quit acting like our way of looking at the situation is the only way?

It seems to me that we are all acting out of fear. We are afraid that we are headed into a depression. We are afraid that we or our loved ones will die. One of the things I have learned in my life is that making decisions based on fear rarely leads to a good outcome.

So, I am choosing to trust. I am trusting first of all in the Lord. This is not a surprise to Him. He knew it was coming and has a plan to use this for His Kingdom. And I’m trusting in my fellow adults. I want to be treated like the adult that I am, so I am going to extend that to others as well. Do other adults often act like adolescents? Yes, they do. Which brings me back to point one. I am trusting that the Lord has got this. And that means I just don’t need to be afraid at all.

So, I am done debating. I will do what I need to do to deal with all the issues. And I will do what I need to do to feel safe. And you can do the same. I will be OK.

Too blessed to be stressed

Well, it seems like everyone is writing about the pandemic quarantine. I don’t like feeling left out, so here we go.

I feel so out of step with the rest of the world. Yes, I am concerned about the situation. I’m a little concerned that I am going to have to do some sort of technological work that is totally out of my abilities. But mostly I am doing great! Everything in my life is set up to make me feel successful in this time.

I have no children at home anymore. I think that is a huge piece of me not being stressed. I only must take care of myself. My husband is retired so he is available to make sure that meals get cooked and farm chores get done.

I live on a chunk of acreage. I can spend all the time outside that I want while still engaging in social distancing. Piece by piece, all the options for outdoor recreation are being closed. That makes me feel bad for people who really have few options other than staying inside. I have a large garden that I can spend lots of time in. And I live next door to forest land, which provides me with a lovely place to walk.

My finances are solid. It’s been decades since we lived paycheck to paycheck. I don’t have to worry about having enough money to buy food or pay my mortgage. And I have plenty of food in my house. For years I have been bulk buying because I like to buy things when they are on sale, so I pay as little as possible.

I have faith in the Lord. This situation is not a surprise to God. He knew it was coming and He will use it to bring people to Him. In the end, this will be a blessing. I have no doubt of that.

I know that so many people don’t have these advantages. I pray for them. When I see things that I can do to help, I do them. But I do not feel worried about things. I can always worry later, but today I’m just feeling very blessed.

No Sugar!!

Today is Day 34 of a 40 day sugar fast. It’s part of an online fast to help fill up with Jesus instead of sugar. My friend Kendra invited me to join. I knew I was eating too much sugar and didn’t seem to be able to rein it in. And I was searching for something spiritually. This seemed like the perfect combination and an answer to prayer.

Before I started, I prayed about what I should give up. There are many foods that turn into sugar in the gut, so I wanted to do what God wanted me to do. (And hopefully not have to be too extreme.) the Lord showed me that when chips are around and I’m tired or stressed, I will dive right into them. So they had to go. But the small bits of honey I consume as part of my wellness routine could stay.

Hot chocolate is my comfort food. The Lord told me that even if that even if there wasn’t sugar (I was thinking about eating unsweetened chocolate because I like REALLY dark chocolate.), that chocolate had to be part of it.

So, on January 6 I began along with over 20,000 others in the online group. I expected it to be brutal, but surprisingly it was not. I did have a bit of a headache on days 2 and 3, but that really was all. I haven’t really had much in the way of cravings, and when I do, they are short-lived and assuaged with water or herbal tea. (Good for dehydration and being cold, which both make me want to eat.)

Along the way the Lord spoke to me about other things I was going to instead of Him. So a week in, wine was offered up. And then the games on my i-Pad. It’s amazing how much time I have now. I really do miss the jigsaw puzzle app though.

Our church offered several different Bible reading plans and I felt nudged to to Prof. Horner’s which is 10 chapters a day. I tried to convince the Lord that I should do something easier, at least until the fast was over. After all, I have readings to do each day for that. But the Lord was having none of it. So, it’s 10 chapters a day for me. When I’ve worked all day and I’m really tired, it’s hard. I’d like to just bag it and drink hot chocolate. But I am plugging along.

So, what are the results? First, my joints feel so much better! My back had been hurting so badly that I was just needing to sit with a heat pack all evening. Now it rarely hurts at all! Sometimes after I’ve bent over too much, it bothers me. But really so much better. I was having trouble walking up and down our steps because of the arthritis in my knees. Really, it was one step at a time. But now I can move up and down them quickly. The swelling is also much reduced.

As for the spiritual portion? I’m not quite sure. I was hoping to just really have a deep sense of God’s presence. I haven’t had that. But perhaps the wanting is deeper, and that is a very good thing. And the Lord has moved on a prayer request I’ve had for 4 1/2 years. I don’t want to share about it just yet, but it looks like something that I have been powerless to make happen will be happening. I don’t know if it’s because of the fast or not, but the timing is interesting for sure.

Next Saturday I will be able to break my fast and I’m thinking about what I want my life to look like going forward. I will continue with the reading plan. I don’t think I will give sugar up totally, but am looking at ways to use honey instead. It’s anti-inflammatory instead of causing inflammation like sugar. I’m giving up the chocolate I ate after each meal. And I’m exploring intuitive eating. It just makes sense to me. I reckon that the Lord created our bodies to know what they need. We have overridden that with overeating and training our taste buds to crave sugar. So I’m learning about how to pay attention to my actual hunger, not boredom or fatigue and my body’s fullness signals. We’ll see how it goes.

Rainy Day Rambling

Winter has finally arrived, and I am so glad. Most of December was just so not winter that I found myself craving rain. And now I have got my wish. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

People around me are complaining about the weather. And I do understand that gray days get very old very fast. And that’s how I felt in December. Too much gray and not enough rain to go with it. But now it’s raining and it’s so, so wonderful.

Basically I like it to be sunny, rainy or snowy. None of this gray, heavy, overcast business. Want to see me happy? Give me a good storm. Love, love, LOVE it.

Two nights ago we had such a storm. The wind was blowing, thunder, lightning, and an inch of rain. So wonderful. Except for one tiny detail. I was asleep for most of it. It all happened during the night, so I missed a lot of it. The storm did awaken me a few times: when the rain was especially hard or when the thunder clapped nearby. But mostly I missed it. Sigh.

Today school was closed (water main broke), so I got to be home all day. And it rained. Nice. Until I had to go outside to harvest some parsley and leeks. The parsley wasn’t too hard. That just required me cutting some leaves. But the leeks were another story. Their roots have grown together and the ground was quite soggy. It was so hard to only pull up the three I needed. Then I tried to replant the extras in the mud. I’m not sure if I was successful or not. Only time will tell.

I used the leeks to make roasted chicken and leeks. Not only were the leeks from the garden, but the chicken was one we raised last summer. It was all so good. I wish I had taken a picture, although it wasn’t the prettiest looking thing. I got the recipe from Bon Appetit. (Click on the “ek” in the word leeks above. I haven’t quite figured out the linking feature.) Either their cast iron skillet is larger than mine, or their chicken smaller. Mine took up almost the whole pan. There was barely room to put the leeks. But it was not really a problem.

And now it’s dark and time to make a few cards for upcoming birthdays and Valentine’s Day. Ciao!

Black Friday

What do you do on Black Friday? Do you have traditions? Or do you just do what you feel like or people invite you to each year?

In years past, I have gotten up early to go shopping in the “big city” of Eugene. That was crazy and all the crowds! BUT, I was pretty much done with my shopping and the rest of the season was so restful. Totally worth it, I decided.

But then there was a divorce in the family and it did not sound fun to drive over by myself. So, I shifted into “Buy nothing” mode. I stayed home and didn’t go out to the stores at all. And that was sure nice and quiet. But I still had all the presents to buy. And besides, there were some pretty fabulous deals to take advantage of. It seemed wasteful not to take advantage of some of them. Especially the ones I was planning on buying anyway. If I can get socks for half price, why would I pay full?

On my birthday, I wear a tacky birthday crown and hand out cookies. It is SO fun. A few years ago I thought it would be fun to do something like that on Black Friday. Which means that I wear a goofy hat or antlers and hand out candy canes at our local Fred Meyer. But at a civilized time like 7:00. I shudder to think of getting there when they open at 5:00. Ugh.

This year it seemed like the crowd had thinned out a bit more than in past years, so it took a lot longer to hand out all the candy canes. I had to really search for customers to get all 60 gone. But people are generally cheery when you are offering them free candy!

Then it was time to do my shopping. There were some great sales on things that I think my family will like. And I bought some groceries. And then I came home. And hav ethe rest of the day to work in the garden and start on the decorating. (Or really just getting the Christmas dishes out.)

What do you do on Black Friday?

A blog post when I have no idea

I have this quirky little way to decide what job to do. There are so many things swirling around in my head that I know need to be done.  And I don’t know where to begin.  And actually I don’t have time to get them all done anyway.  And I hate making decision.  (I know. I”m in the wrong profession.) So, to solve all those problems (well, not the time one), I wrote all the jobs I could think of on little pieces of paper and put them in a cute little bowl.  I also threw in a few that are just for fun. Then I draw one out and do that.  I know, it’s silly.  don’t judge.  It works for me and makes it all seem like a bit of a game. I actually get a little frisson of joy every time I reach in.

So today, I drew out a piece that said to work in the veggie garden.  So I did.  I got one bed cleaned up and another started before my 15 minute timer went off.  I set the timer for 15 minutes for a couple of reasons.  First, it helps me to get started, especially on jobs that I’m not really thrilled to do.  And it protects my back.  I have found that much longer than that at a time and I hurt.

After my timer went off, I drew out another slip.  It said, “Blog.”  So here I am.  I really do mean to blog more often, but I don’t.  So here I am with my timer set for 15 minutes typing away.  I’m going to tell you what’s going on in my life and then, when the timer beeps, I’m hitting publish (I’ll finish the sentence at least) and hit publish.  I’m working with no net here.

First bit of randomness: I went bra shopping yesterday.  I have never had so much trouble ever in my life.  First it’s been a couple of years, so there’s that.  And my current bras no longer fit.  This menopause thing is causing me to gain weight and grow–and not up.  So, a new bra size.  I used to wear 36A, which was often very hard to buy.  So, I started with 36B.  It was OK, but a little bit loose.  So I tried 34B.  Band was great.  Cups, not so much.  So, 34C,  not so much.  I finally tried 34D. (Probably the 20th bra I tried on.  Good thing I had a friend along who encouraged me to keep going.) And success.  Sort of.  I feel weird about not actually filling out an A cup to needing a D.  Sigh.

We did some more miscellaneous shopping.  I bought new athletic shoes, which are super comfy.  In case you want to know, they are Asics Gel Nimbus.  Nimbus is a type of cloud, which is appropriate since they sort of feel like clouds on my feet.  Although not damp.  Very comfortable.  And I found a beautiful ceramic Nativity Scene and Home Goods to add to my collection.  I didn’t need it and it was a bit expensive (No, I’m not going to tell you.) for a whim buy.  But it is beautiful and my friend convinced me to buy it.  I’ve never seen anything like it, and I think I would kick myself if I hadn’t.  So, now I have it all wrapped up in protective paper just waiting for November 29.

Today a friend who has just started teaching Life Skills is coming over to go through my left-over life skills stuff.  I kept it when I was laid off because I didn’t know what I was going to do next.  But now I’m pretty sure that I will never teach life skills again.  Both Dan and I want to get it out of our garage and my friend could use at least some of it. It’s a win/win.

Then Dan and I are going shopping.  (Because I “need” to go shopping two days in a row!) We signed up for an Operation Christmas Child box and Benjamin turns one in two weeks!!!  Fun stuff to buy. Also ingredients for fudge for my class’ annual “Fudge Off.”

And there’s the timer.  And I have completed a rather disjointed bog post.  But the word is completed.

Different Can Be Good

I’m learning the difference between middle school students and high school students.  I teach a class at my school called Farm to Table.  It’s a mash up of things I like to do, and my favorite class to teach.  How could it not?  We do crafts, garden, and cook, often with food from the garden.  See?  Fun.

In the past, I’ve had all high school students for a double period twice a week.  This year, due to a scheduling glitch, almost all of the high school students are locked into required classes during my scheduled class time.  What to do?  One option was to drop the class entirely and push into other classes where there is a need.  That is what special education teachers often do.  But I didn’t want to give up this class that I had designed.  That I had gotten grants to create a permaculture food forest during.  I had rhubarb, tomatoes, peppers and herbs to use.  I did not want to give that up.

So the decision was made to change the time.  Instead of a double period twice a week, I’d have a regular period every day.  Instead of high school students, I have all middle schoolers.  It has been an adjustment for me.

First I want to say that I really do love the energy and enthusiasm that these students bring to class.  They are a joy to have in class each day.  However.  Where in the past, I could leave the cooks for a few minutes while I went out to the garden and everyone would be safe and tasks would be completed in a timely manner.  With this class, I walked into the kitchen area in my class to discover a boy slicing a tomato with his thumb right UNDER the blade.  Thankfully I was able to stop him before any appendages were sliced.  I have never been so thankful for the Kevlar gloves that came with our mandolin.  They are now required for all chopping.  And so far, no fingers have been chopped.

Then there’s the time factor.  With only half as long, I’m having to divide recipes into two parts and spread the project over two days.  It seems like that should solve the issue, but not always.  For some reason, tasks just take longer with the middle schoolers.  I think perhaps one reason is that they actually READ the recipe.  And that takes time.  So, I really shouldn’t complain.  However,  I often end up doing the clean up after they have headed out for the buses because we just ran out of time.  It just takes them longer to complete the tasks.  Someday I will do a better job of managing the time.

Middle school students get a bad rap about how difficult they are to work with.  When I tell people that I work with middle school students, I rarely get a positive response.  I understand that.  Middle schoolers are trying to figure out who they are, and that’s hard work.  Sometimes they can be difficult.  But I remember when I was that age.  It was difficult to just be.  No wonder they have rough days.  But mostly I really enjoy them.  They are a lively bunch with lots of energy.  They greet everything I ask them to do with enthusiasm.  And, honestly, they are just plain fun to spend time with.

Cousin Time

I once read that cousins are your first friends.  If you had siblings, that might not be true.  But I am an only child.  I had no brothers or sisters to play with.  But I had a plethora of cousins, twenty-two to be exact.

I was one of the younger cousins:number 20.  One year older than me were the triplets and one year younger was Jay.  The triplets belonged to my Uncle Bob, who had five other children.  Jay belonged to my Uncle George who also had five more.  With that many kids, both these families had a whole lot more activity than ever happened in my house.  And a LOT more fun.

My cousins remind me that I usually came over dressed in frills and patent leather shoes.  As adults do everywhere, they sent the kids out to play while they visited.  I’m not sure what exactly my parents were thinking to dress me that way and expect me to stay clean while playing with those crews.  Once I could understand, but I pretty much always spoiled my clothes climbing trees and playing in the mud.

As I’ve got older, I still love my cousins.  Life is busier and fuller for all of us these days, and we don’t get to see each other so much any more.  So, when one set of cousins recently invited me to join them to revisit some of the settings of our childhoods, I took advantage.

I was only able to spend one day with them, but it was a really great day.  I have such fabulous memories of the time they lived in Brightwood, Oregon.  We stopped at the store and found the house they lived in.  I’m sure it was much larger back then.DSCN2522

We looked over the bridge into the Sandy River where Jay once accidentally threw his new fishing rod.  There was the house that Maureen cleaned.  Here was the house of Charlie’s good friend.  Things were so different and still so much the same.

We went all the way up Mt. Hood to Timberline Lodge, where I accosted total strangers to ask favors.  One lovely woman took this photo:DSCN2529Then I asked a really nice young man what that little bump on the left was called.  Turns out he loves to climb the mountain and told us all about it.  That little bump is called Illumination Peak.  Then there is Illumination Saddle and Crater Peak, and the Old Mazama Chute.  He told us all about climbing the mountain, including the history of the women of the Mazamas who climbed it in long, wool skirts.

That evening we sat around and reminisced over fabulous lasagna made by Marlene. Then we all piled into Charlie’s fifth wheel to visit a bit more and finally go to sleep. In the morning it was doughnuts and ice cream for breakfast. And then I had to drive home.

I’m so blessed to have such wonderful cousins.  I love them and they love me.


My Summer List

I am exhausted at the end of every school year.  It’s hard work being a teacher.  Sure we get summers off, technically, sort of.  But after months of pouring myself out in the service of my students, I need that break to recharge.  If I’m going to arrive back at school in late August ready to do it all again, I desperately need that recharge time.

But here’s the thing.  All school year I’ve noticed bits and pieces here and there that really need to be taken care of:  we can barely close our pantry doors, my closet is about to explode, the weeds have taken over the garden, and on and on.  And I tell myself that come June, I’ll tackle those little jobs.  Plus I need to get a jumpstart on my classroom prep for next year if I’m going to avoid 10-11 hour days.  (Seriously, the janitor and I become good friends last year I was there so late.)

In my mind, there’s this long unbroken stretch of sunny days in which to lounge around and read.  Heaven.  Only there’s all this stuff to get done!  And, really, I tell myself it’s not like it’s a whole lot you’re trying to get done.

And so here we are in the mid-July and I’m starting to panic about how nothing has got done yet this summer.  Nothing.  Well, I did finally get the vegetable garden all planted.  (It’s not all growing yet, but it’s planted.)  I feel like I’m working hard, but not making any progress.  Why is that?

Part of the problem is my work habits.  I have great habits and I work hard.  But I am incapable of doing anything for an extended period of time.  The thought will trigger procrastination every time.  And I have this back thing that means I can manage a physical job for no more than 15 minutes before it needs a break.  So, I set my timer for 15 minutes at a time.  It works great.  Except that when the timer goes off, I work on something else.  Which means I have several projects started, but none to cross off my list just yet.

Which brings me to the real root of the problem.  The. List.  When it was floating around in my head, I only thought of one or two items at a time.  Why can’t I manage one or two items?  So I wrote down everything swirling around in my brain that I had planned to do this summer.  People, there are 15 projects on that list.  None of them are quick little jobs.  No wonder I’m feeling a bit scattered.  I gave myself 15 projects to finish this summer.  That’s in addition to the “normal” summer garden chores.

So, what’s a girl to do?  I’m chipping away at some of them.  I got compost spread on one of the beds where I am replanting a hydrangea after I killed it by pruning.  (I had no idea that hydrangeas are not fond of short haircuts.)  I have the first few months of school roughed out for my elective and the first week for my math classes.  And I think that is what I will continue to do.  A little bit here and a little bit there.

But what I will stop doing right now, right this instant, is get after myself for having the recklessness to sit on my porch and read or eat a bowl of ice cream.  I won’t get the whole list done.  I probably won’t even come close.  And I will choose to be OK with that.  The bedroom might not get painted and I might go yet another year without a solar oven.  (It’s been on my list for a few years now.)  But I will not mind.  I will be happy that I invested time in people I care about.  I will revel in sitting on the porch and reading.  I will take naps.  And I will not feel guity about any of it.

I hope.