Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Trip to Seattle, Circa 1959

From a 1959 book, "The Creative Years - a Mature Faith for Adult Life" by Reuel L. Howe,

"The sex relationship of a couple is like a trip to Seattle. There are two ways of going. It is conceivable that we might travel all the way at breakneck speed looking neither to the right or left, and seeing nothing on the way --- the "Seattle or bust" approach. If we arrive at all under these conditions, we are so nervously exhausted that there can be no sense of achievement. And this is the way some couples approach intercourse.

A better way to go to Seattle is to take the time to enjoy the scenery along the way. If, for some reason, we do not get there, we have still enjoyed the trip. The chances, are, however, that we shall arrive, and arrive more fulfilingly, just because we enjoyed the trip. And so a man and wife may come together in the love act, to love each other without compulsive objectives, and be renewed by that love, no matter what its experience may be....

In conclusion, we may say that sex does not need to be a problem and is not a curse as many conclude. Sex is a part of us all, and is to be accepted as such."

Pages 106 to 107, if you don't believe me. I have a copy if you want to see it.

I always liked Seattle.....

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

God's Goodness and a Diamond Watch

I like jewelry just as much as as the next white Anglo-Saxon Protestant middle-class suburbia-dwelling wife and mother. I have the requisite dozen or so interesting semi-precious necklaces and bracelets, a couple strings of real pearls, diamond wedding rings and matching earrings, two quality watches that I never wear, gold and silver chains. and a drawful of of costume jewelry accumulated over decades. About average for my peer group.

I wear jewelry everyday...earrings, simple wedding band, gold or silver neck chain...but I don't lust after jewelry. I don't long for it. In fact, I never even think about it. It's rarely on my Christmas or birthday list.

Yesterday, paging idly through a magazine while watching a baseball game, I saw it. A watch, but not just any watch. An elegant, smart watch from Tiffanys, with a tailored black leather band, square "tank-style" gold face, and a bezel surrounding the face with rectangular-cut baguette diamonds. It wasn't cocktail flashy, but it shouted "pricey" all the same. It was gorgeous!

It probably costs tens of thousands of dollars. It would be out of place with my clothes and my life. I don't lust for it, but I admire it. It will never be mine, and that's OK. Even if Ron and I had millions, I doubt we would spend inordinate amounts on jewelry, clothes, cars, mcmansions, etc. (Maybe one great vacation, though.) God has met our needs, and there are millions in this world who have no food, shelter or books. We would give to them as God has given to us.

That's one of the nice things about getting older. We're satisfied. We know who we are. We've learned to differentiate between needs and wants. And we've experienced God's graciousness in all things.

Twenty-five years ago, I would have lusted (and maybe overspent) for that spectacular watch. Today, I admire it as a object of art, and then forget it.

God is good.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Baseball vs The Apprentice vs Presidential Debates

Let's see....we'll actually be home this Thursday evening. Wonder what's on TV?

Uh oh. Conflict time. Our beloved
Anaheim Angels playing a must-win game for a play-off berth. Exciting game last night. Two homeruns, great pitching. Good fun.

"The Apprentice," one funny program, although not as funny this season. Seems a bit contrived. No one would hire a couple of those loonies. They're ratings draws....not potential employees and what's with that pretentious big-word guy with the cane?

And the over-hyped, over-negotiated, over-rehearsed Presidential debates. Talk about contrived. If Bush had put half as much effort into dealing with the UN as his 30-member negotiation team did for setting debate rules, he wouldn't be so close to losing the presidency. Wouldn't you rather see these two guys shout it out, no holds barred, at one of Bush's beer-and-barbecue fests down on the ranch? Now that would be both authentic and entertaining.

Ok...need to set some priorities, so here goes.

Watch the Angels. Tape "The Apprentice." The hell with the debates. They'll be overanalyzed ad naseum, anyway, on every news channel. We won't be spared one agonizing moment of the silly debacle between rich bully boy and rich aloof guy.

Off to the market to get our requisite peanuts in the shell and red vines for baseball game watching

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Trail of Spots Leads to Truth or Don't Mess with Mom

A trail of drip spots on our white tile floor leads from the kitchen to the trash in the laundry room...

Andrea - I didn't do it. (said firmly) I know I couldn't ...wouldn't do it.

Me - I know you didn't do it......wanna know how I know? (said with a mother's knowing smile)

Andrea - Yeah.

Me - Because you never throw anything away in the trash. You just leave it on the counter or in the sink.

Andrea - Hey! That's not true. (laughing) I always throw things away.......I do that! At lunch, I .......(defensive blah blah blah overprotesting. This from a child whose room is perpetually a mess.)

Me - So you're saying you could have done it, then? You do walk that way? You did today?

Andrea - (shaking her head, laughing......then a long sigh)'re good.

Me - I'm a mother.

Looking at Avocadoes

"I never liked avocadoes, but then someone told me they were fattening, so I gave them another look. Now I love them and use them whenever I can!"

Paula Deen, Food-TV's over-the-top southern cook

I knew I liked her. :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Independence in a Wheelchair

I dropped Andrea and her friend, Karena, off this morning by the tennis courts and park behind their middle school, and turned the car around to head back home when I saw them.

A mother helping her son into his motorized wheelchair. She put a towel behind his back while he buckled a seat belt. He wore's a warm fall day. His legs were pale and lifeless, but the rest of him was energy in motion. He dressed for comfort and to be like the other kids, not to hide his disability.

With a determined look, he worked the controls on his chair, and headed alone up the bumpy path to school. He held his head high, and never glanced back at his mother. She looked tired as she quietly watched him take the long route to his classroom.

She could have taken him to the school front. She could have pushed him in his wheelchair. She could home school him.

He acted uninterested in any of that.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

"Time Machine" Author Speaks

Thought you might enjoy a couple surprising quotes from famed British science fiction novelist H.G. Wells (1866-1946, Time Machine, Invisible Man, War of the Worlds)....

"We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery." and.....

"It is possible to believe that all the human mind has ever accomplished is but the dream before the awakening."

Monday, September 20, 2004

Power of Purpose Winning Essays

Winning essays were published today for the Power of Purpose contest. For those who were praying for me, no, I didn't win one of the 19 prizes. I was one of the 6981 international entrants whose reward was the experience of researching and writing the essay. And that is far more than sufficient.

Topics of the winning essays are brilliant and inspiring, if occasionally a bit self-serving. Some were well-written, some sophomoric or overstated, but all are imminently marketable as a "Chicken Soup for the Purpose-Driven Life" tome. A second-place victor wrote on my topic, adult literacy, but she did it better and with a heart-wrenching twist. I admit.....I like her essay better than mine.

Losing something I wanted and worked for isn't stings some today, but the sting will soon be gone. I learned an incredible amount from the process. After reading the winning entries, though, I realize I'm likely not quite ready for prime time, anyway.

But watch out world. I'll be more experienced, informed, and ready next time around. Wiser for the wear, I'm shaking the dust from my sandals and moving on to the next challenge.

Thank you for the prayers, good thoughts and words of support. I am grateful.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Life Got You Down?

Life got you down? Feeling sorry for yourself? Have a case of the everyday blues?

Then go to this blog, Each Day Counts, and you'll see your life with new, grateful eyes. I rarely recommend blogs, but this one is special. It's written by Ruben Porras, a man in this late 20s, who was diagnosed last year with a terminal liver disease, and whose lymphoma is hopefully still in remission.

Every day counts for Ruben, and he sees each with new eyes. He notices and remembers joy, he sees and hears colors, sounds, sites and people in enhanced tones and pitches. He expresses his emotions honestly and with shocking courage, but never with melodramatic self-pity . Never with anger. Ruben's writing is enchanting. He promises poetry soon, and I bet it will be wonderful, too.

I told Ruben that I am praying for him to know the peace and comfort of God, and that God already loves him. (Christian friends, will you also place Ruben on your prayer list that he come to know the healing touch of Jesus Christ?)

The next time you're feeling down, go to Each Day Counts. Ruben inspires me, and he'll undoubtedly do the same for you.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Of Martha & Mary, and Perfect Lemon Rosemary Salmon

A sure-fire sign of fall at our home is the urge to create and enjoy heartier, delicious dinners again. The days are shorter, the weather is cooler (well, it's supposed to be) and our lives are busier again. The seductive slughood of summer is gone.

For the last three evenings, we've savored simple, fragrant dishes that caused us to deliberately eat more slowly, and focus on taste and conversation.

We had lemon rosemary salmon and stir-fried sesame green beans on Saturday evening. The salmon was poached, skin-side up, quickly (about 12 minutes) in a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees, in a marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, fresh rosemary, garlic salt and lemon pepper. I mixed the marinade in a bowl, and poured it into a glass baking dish. The salmon was placed on the marinade, then marinade was spooned over it. Top the salmon with generous sprinkles of garlic salt and lemon pepper, and relish this refreshing, delicate dish. (Warning...overdone salmon has the texture and taste of soft shoe leather. And underdone salmon is...well, sashimi. Salmon is just right when it's a soft pink, moistly flaky, and a much darker pink in the middle.) I also stir-fried fresh green beans in canola oil in a hot, quick pan, and tossed with soy sauce and sesame seeds just before serving.

Sunday evening, Kevin (my 21 year old stepson) joined us for a homemade tomato-garlic-oregano sauce with sweet Italian sausage over organic whole wheat spaghetti and Caesar salad on the side. And last night, I baked 3 turkey legs, then simmered the bones and meat with 2 chopped onions, a can of diced Italian herb tomatoes and a heap of tarragon for luscious turkey soup. (Add 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce, 2 tspns black pepper and 1 tspn garlic salt for depth.)

My family loved our early fall back-to-reality dinners, and I loved making them.

However.....on Saturday, I became so involved in the perfection of my planned dinner that I became more Martha than Mary. (I'm referring to the New Testament story of two sisters, who hosted Jesus for dinner one evening. Martha got so involved in perfect preparations that she became irritable and distracted, and neglected to sit with her guest. Mary sat at Jesus feet and listened with joy to him. Jesus said that Mary had chosen the proper course. See Luke 10:38-42 for a story all women can relate to.)

Friends unexpectedly came to our front door just as the salmon was halfway through its 12-minute poach to culinary perfection, and as green beans were sizzling in the wok pan. Too long cooking, and both dishes would be ruined. Larry and Ariel came to deliver a party invitation, and to chat.

When the meal was at its peak, I announced that it was dinner time. They continued to hurriedly chat with Ron and Andrea, trying to fit in all the words in their hearts and I again emphatically said that it was dinner time. (After all, we'd just seen them last night...they hadn't callled beforehand....etc etc etc. My perfect dinner was ready. I 'd slaved over my work of edible art.)

They left, and we sat down for our meal............... I should have invited them to join us. We had plenty.

I was Martha. I was wrong. I have offered my apologies.

Friday, September 10, 2004

American Healing

Tomorrow is the third anniversary of our collective awareness of our vulnerabiity....of the day we realized that our beloved, idolized country is part of the mortal world and not a mythic, better land with special protection from harm by the forces of Good.

The reality was a horrible shock. It still hurts to view film of the second plane flying into the World Trade Center tower. The pain is searing to watch and hear the towers crumbling to the ground. Of course, we grieve for the 3,000 lives lost that day. But we've grieved other massive loss of lives, and eventually moved on, national mental health intact.

We grieved more than lives lost on September 11, 2001. We grieved....we continue to grieve.... that our nation is not above the rest of the world. We feel personally violated, rather like woman must feel after rape. We continue to be incensed that the American Way is not universally admired. Many rage that Islamic radicals don't comprehend the Essential Goodness and Rightness of the US view on the world.

John Kennedy, Jr never perceived his vulnerability to misread the grey horizon of a cloudy sunset. He assumed he was above making pilot errors. As a result of his aviation arrogance, he flew his plane to the bottom of the cold Atlantic Ocean.

I spent a few weeks on business in the Philippines in 1986. It was my first extended trip to a third world country, and only trip to a country long torn by violent insurgency. In the Makati, which is an affluent area of Manila, all homes had surrounding walls and security entrances. No winding driveways, flowered yards or knockable front doors. Armed guards stood in shopping centers and patrolled roadsides. Life went on, though. War is an event. This was a permanent heightened state of alert, not an event. A new way of life, conscious of realities.

I was there with four other Americans to teach a company training course to young Thai and Filipino accountants. We taught the two-week course at a campus built by former President Marcos outside Manila. The well-appointed site was set in lush tropical countryside, graced with frothy palm trees waving in warm trade breezes.

And a barbed wire, electrified fence. The five of us were told to enjoy ourselves. Just one thing......don't go outside that fence. If you do, we can't guarantee your safety.

We were vulnerable outside our isolated oasis. (Looking back, we were probably vulnerable inside our oasis.) Our hosts penetrated our American veneer of arrogance, and awakened us to common vulnerabiity. We were not made untouchable by a magical aura of Betterness. Our self-righteousness would not protect us from harm.

In fact, it can lead to our downfall. It can lead us to step outside the fence, and be kidnapped. It can lead us to fly to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. And it can lead a nation to disrespect, abuse and exploit other cultures and countries.

Tomorrow, as we grieve the terrible events of September 11, 2001, we have every right to feel violated and angry over the loss of life and property, over the horrific disruption of our lives and economy.

But it's also time to stand back and examine our own attitudes. How did we help fuel the anger of the attackers? Why does the entire world, including all longtime US allies, believe that our arrogance contributed to our problems today? It's time to take responsibility for our self-righteous snobbery in regard to other countries, other cultures, other peoples.

Our country will only heal and move forward in wise humility from our present national state of paranoia, self-pitying anger and hatred of others different than us when we accept in our hearts that "God so loved the world," (John 3:16), not just the United States.

We will collectively heal when we start examining the plank in our eye. Yes, three years ago, attackers murdered 3,000 people on our soil. Did you know that on August 6, 1945, the nuclear bomb we dropped on Hiroshima, Japan instantly killed 80,000 people, and that another 60,000 died within months from related injuries? 140,000 mothers and fathers, children, friends, co-workers, loved ones....just like the 3,000 we lost.

" How can you say to your brother 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Luke 6:42)

And in response to the evil attacks three years ago, we would do well to remember the sacred biblical words....

"Do not repay evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay' says the Lord. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:17-21 )

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Secret Reading Vice

I have a secret reading all-but-unbreakable weekly habit. It's a secret not because it's shameful or wrong. The problem's corny and stereotypically "girly," which is not my preferred image. It's an embarrassing cliche.

I indulge each Sunday in the Weddings and Celebrations column of the New York Times. The writing is superbly affectionate, and the true stories are unabashedly romantic and uplifting. Stories of young and old, cute meetings and family set-ups, long friendships and passionate whirlwinds, elaborate church ceremonies and nuptials in the woods, and always smiles. All races, all religions, all ages.

Please don't get me wrong....fictional romance novels bore me. There's no void of romance in our marriage. And the wedding details hold little magic for me...the dress, the setting, the flowers, the attendants. (Actually, reception food is kind of interesting.)

It's the real-life element that touches me. I invariably cry at weddings, even ones that I harbor doubts about due to youth, brevity of their relationship, religious differences, family tensions, whatever. It thrills me that they could know the joys of a good marriage..... that they know love.

"The reward of giving up one's life to love is a gift of creative power which is second only to the power of God. Indeed, it is His power distributed through us to others. It gives health to the body, peace to the mind and freedom to the spirit. It ends strife, softens enmity, outruns evil, never fails in strength....One of the most beautiful gifts of love is the faith that it creates: faith in God, faith in humanity, faith in the purpose of life."

--- Bertha Conde, 1925, "A Way to Peace, Health and Power - Studies for the Inner Life"

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Promise & Excitement for a New Year

When I was a young girl, my sister and I wore new saddle shoes and brand new, often homemade, dresses on our first day of school each year. (Of course, according my my children, this was sometime in the distant past just after the extinction of dinosaurs and the invention of cars and, most unimaginably to them, before computers and the internet.) The new clothes made us feel special. New clothes for the promise and excitement of a new year.

Andrea was dressed from head to toe today in new clothes for her first day of 8th grade .... amazingly cool red, silver and gray athletic shoes with navy laces; red Nike shorts engineered with complex-technology to keep her skin dry (I think she said they were basketball shorts?); a just-right navy logo t-shirt, the silver "pray hard" ring that she bought with her allowance; her silver Christian-fish necklace; and the smart silver watch with navy band that we gave for her birthday.

She put careful thought into every nuance of her look. And while I don't much understand it, and it cost us more than budgeted.....she looked wonderful. She was ready for the promise and excitement of a new year.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Hunting for Book Treasures at Fall Flea Markets

Fall flea markets and estate sales started on this late summer morning, but I didn't want to get out of bed. Ron sleepily wrapped his arm around me at 6:15 am, and I drifted back into cozy half-consciousness. But business and the thrill of the hunt beckoned, so I struggled up and out.

Soothed by the aroma of Starbucks French roast, I roamed side streets and neighborhoods of the university town next door in search of books for my eBay bookstore. I stop only at promising places..... estate sales of longtime residents, friends of library events, yard sales by book lovers. Ah, the simple pleasures of discovering books unheard of, beautiful editions of old classics, and finding first editions by favorite writers. My only regret is that I resell most of my book finds. My treasured cookbook collection already exceeds hundreds of volumes, and my eclectic history book collection is extraordinary as is.

Today on my hunt, I bagged 68 books for a mere $42, including first editions by John Steinbeck (The Winter of Our Discontent), Somerset Maugham (Catalina), and one that will create lots of eBay excitement, Ian Fleming (On Her Majesty's Secret Service, a James Bond novel). Also found books about chess strategy, Italian and Mexican cooking, magic & religion of gypsies, collecting sea shells, geology of Utah and Arizona, history of the Jews, TS Elliott poetry, Rudyard Kipling just-so stories, dictionaries for ballet, biology and Japanese-English vocab, earthquakes and volcanoes, life in a medieval castle, and a vintage classic cookie cookbook. (I can't bear to sell the Steinbeck book. His social justice soul speaks to my spirit. My cookie-baking 13 year old may nab the cookie book. )

Life is good...especially in fall, my favorite season.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Fear, Rage & Gossip vs Faith, Hope & Love

Fell asleep last night praying long and deeply for our country. I heard only tidbits of the GOP convention speeches last night, and was stunned at the negativity and anger in the gossip-laced speeches, and the lack of vision and concrete plans.

I'm working on an intricate thought for my other blog about how odd it is that Bush/Cheney have been able to lure and manipulate many good people, evangelical Christians, through skillful use of fear, rage, hate....and gossip. (Headline on Yahoo news last night..."Cheney, Miller Unleash Rage Against Kerry).

Odd that such vile attracts Christians when Jesus Christ's message was unambiguously one of faith, hope and love. ("And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." I Corinthians 13:13.)

Odd that fearful thinking can control avowed Christians when God, Jesus, Moses, even angels proclaimed "Do not be afraid." Odd because faith is the very act of overcoming fear and worry through reliance on God instead of self.

So I prayed last night for our country while Ron was sleeping. I was feeling frustrated and powerless, like a great burden was on my shoulders. Then I remembered the power of prayer to give my burdens to God. I feel better for now.....but have decided that the most powerful thing I can do to affect this crucial election is to talk to God about it every night until the election. And to trust His plan.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

And the Countdown Continues....

144 hours, 49 minutes until middle school starts.

Not that I'm counting, though.

It's been a wonderful summer, spending so much time with my youngest child. We made lots of of precious memories together, and I adore her beyond words. She's growing up much too quickly, and sadly, the time is rapidly approaching when she will be off to college. It's been a privilege this summer to put aside my work, my writing, my interests, my chores, my women's Bible study group to drive her to practices, parties and friends' homes, to do extra laundry, to make more lunches, to empathize with her middle school angst.


144 hours, 40 minutes.