Friday, December 31, 2004

Peace in 2005

I can think of only one wish for 2005....peace. Peace in the United States. Peace between political parties. Peace within families. Peace between neighbors. Peace in our churches and schools. Peace in our President's plans and heart. Peace in our nation's desires.

Peace for the people of Iraq. Peace for our soliders in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Peace in violence-wracked Africa. Peace in the Ukraine. Peace wherever strife and war are present. Peace at the United Nations.

Peace for the tsunami-ravaged nations of Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Sumatra. Peace for the survivors of the tsunami. Peace for aid workers bringing food, medicine and supplies to victims of this disaster. Peace for aid workers everywhere who provide help to the helpless.

Peace, and a desire for peace, in all of our minds, bodies, hearts and souls. Peace in our comings and goings, in our everyday lives. Peace in 2005.

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved, as to love
It is in giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life."
----- St. Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Colorful Jewelry & John Steinbeck

Added two new links last night.....

The owners of Super Hero Designs make the most adorable and fun, colorful jewelry imaginable, and if you live the the San Francisco Bay area, Andrea also takes captivating professional photos. If I lived in SF, I'd love to know these girls. They look like fun!

Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck's novels intrigue me, with their rich characters, deep compassion, majestic sense of California geography and especially their almost-naive, moral outrage. I just finished reading his "The Winter of Our Discontent," so I have Steinbeck on my mind. Here is a link to all things Steinbeck. I hope this encourages you to also read or reread his tomes.

Also, please note that I added one cup unsweetened coconut milk to the recipe for my Christmas Day salmon marinade. That key ingredient gives the marinade an Asian-infused richness and depth.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Day After Christmas Musings and Recipes

Ron, Andrea and I are celebrating that great holiday, Day After Christmas, with noon brunch (waffles, sausage, fresh fruit) and an all-day pajama fest. Our beloved relatives are gone, the gifts are all opened, and even our pets (a dachsund and two competitive parakeets) have calmed down.

The family room is happily messy with holiday atmosphere.....wrapping paper and ribbons strewn under the coffee table, lights twinkling on the tree, fire blazing in the hearth. Ron and Andrea have settled in to start watching their new "From the Earth to the Moon" 12-episode video set. I will soon curl up to finish the Steinbeck novel, "The Winter of Our Discontent" and sip French vanilla cappuccino that was so kindly gifted to me by a Sunday School student.

Hard to select our fave celebration....Christmas or the Day After Christmas!
It may have been our most delightfully fun Christmas Day.....and I don't say that every year! It was a day tailor-made for warm, rich memories of family fellowship, gut-wrenching laughter, thoughtful gifts, and my work-of-art dinner.

I will be a grandmother for the first time in May 2005. We were all reduced to tears of hysteria over my oh-so-creative mid-20s son's speculation on names for his future son or daughter. Please, Ryan, if you're reading this....children should never be named after fast food (western bacon cheeseburger) or Frank Zappa's kids (Moon Unit). I don't care what wacky names hippie parents picked in the 1960s.
The dinner menu turned out superbly. I've promised to publish three of the recipes, so here they are....

Lemon-Rosemary Marinade and Poaching Liquid for Salmon
source: me
Equal parts lemon juice & olive or canola oil
1 cup, unsweetened coconut milk
Freshly cut rosemary
Garlic salt
Lemon pepper
Use proportions to taste. I use the garlic salt sparingly and lemon pepper heavily. Make sure to cut the rosemary needles, to release the full flavor. I marinated 3 lbs. of salmon in the liquid for 30 minutes, in a shallow baking dish, and then baked it for 10 minutes at 425 degrees.
Lime Cilantro Sweet Potatoes
inspiration - *
2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into thin slices
4 tbsps, olive or canola oil
2 tbsps, garlic salt
1/2 cup, lime juice
2 bunches, fresh cilantro
Toss sweet potatoes in oil and 1/2 garlic salt, and bake in baking dish for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Cut cilantro, and combine wth lime juice and remaing salt. Mix into sweet potato mixture, and bake for another 30 minutes.
Proportions are not vital for this recipe. Add or reduce cilantro and lime to taste. Fresh lime zest and cayenne can also enhance the taste of this unique, addictive dish.
* inspiration = I modified the original recipe
Pumpkin-Butterscotch Bundt Cake
source - "Bundt Cakes" by Karen Plageman & Susan Herbert, 1973
1 pkg yellow or vanilla cake mix *
2 tspns, pumpkin pie spice
2 tspns, cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
2 tspns, baking soda
16-oz, fresh pumpkin
2 large eggs
1/4 cup water
1-11-oz package butterscotch chips
1 cup, powdered sugar
1 tbsp, white corn syrup
1 tbsp, milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan. Combine cake mix, spices and baking soda. Add eggs, pumpkin and water. Beat until smooth as silk. Fold in butterscotch morsels. Pour better into pan and bake for 40 - 45 minutes. Let cool in bundt pan for 30 minutes, and then turn onto cake plate. Dirzzle glaze when cake is cool. For finishing effect and extra taste, I sprinkled cinnamon over the glaze.
* I prefer Betty Crocker cake mixes. BC mixes taste better & fresher than other brands.
One last time in 2004....Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Warmest Blessings (and Merry Eatings) of This Sacred Season

Warmest blessings of this sacred season to you and yours!

And also, merry eatings at your family feast. By popular demand, the Christmas dinner 2004 menu at the White home will be.....

Poached rosemary salmon with lemon mustard sauce
Rice with walnuts
Lime cilantro sweet potatoes
Peas, Julia Child style

Pumpkin-butterscotch bundt cake
Coffee, apple juice
Wine to be supplied by the best son-in-law anywhere

My son will be enjoying Christmas dinner with his new wife's family...his first Christmas (in 26 years) not partaking of my lovingly-prepared feast. He's asked for a doggie bag. :)

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Christmas Chaos & the Mother of All Meltdowns

I had my obligatory Christmas meltdown yesterday. You know....after braving horrendous traffic, several stores and the grocery market, I had a throbbing headache, a pulled muscle in my left calf and arthritic flare-up in my knees. All psychosomatic aches and pains, for sure, except for the pulled muscle, but a lousy, overwhelming feeling all the same.

The pressures of planning, cleaning, organizing. The pressures of pleasing so many others. The pressures of chaos, expectations and limitations. The pressure of so little time.

At Christmas 2000, we were in the midst of selling our home, packing and moving. Our home sold in early December with the proviso that we vacate by December 31. LIke fools hungry for a sale, we accepted. We were told on December 15 that our house would need to be tented and us out for 3 days, at 8 AM, the day after Christmas. And the tree would need to be gone, or it would set the house afire.

We already had a tree and hated to toss it, but it was depressingly barren. A dear friend surprised us when her children made adorable paper ornaments and Veggie Tale garlands for our tree that year. We packed and packed and packed, and cleaned and shopped as much as we could. On December 24, when I was supposed to be planning Christmas dinner for ten, I had the mother of all meltdowns.

No tears, no anger, nothing. I simply stayed in bed all day, covers pulled up to my chin (and over my head, at times). I had to. It was unplanned, necessary time-out for Debi. Amid all the chaos and craziness and packing, I did nothing. I simply stopped because I had to.

Inner peace returned to me at nightfall on Christmas Eve. We went to church, where we ran into friends who offered us their lovely home for the entire stretch from Christmas to New Years. They were leaving town for Indiana, and were desperate for someone to watch the house and dog.

We junked plans for the requisite multi-course homemade holiday feast on Christams Day. After opening gifts, we treated the family to Christmas dinner at the local Marriott. The fare was delicious, and there were no dirty dishes or chores to haunt me that evening. We stayed at our friends' home (rather than a hotel) for a relaxing respite, and then moved without a hitch. We experienced an unusual, memorable Christmas that year. All was well.

And we learned again that God's timing is perfect, and that He meets all our needs.

Lord, help me remember that today. :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Mother Brown's Soup Kitchen

A real-life Christmas story to warm your heart, from today's San Francisco Chronicle. This is one beautiful way to celebrate serving others, out of gratitude for God's gifts to your life.

Mother Brown's soup kitchen began with Barbara Brown handing out homemade meals to homeless people from the trunk of her Cadillac Seville in San Francisco's downtown and Fillmore district. More than 20 years later, Brown's modest food program has grown into the United Council of Human Services, which feeds about 6,000 people a month from its permanent location on Jennings Street in the Bayview.

This year, staff members are collecting hundreds of toys to be distributed to needy local children and for the annual Christmas feast. But for the first time, they're without the presence of their founder, who has been hospitalized for much of the year.

"I'll still be working from my hospital bed," Brown, 61, said in a telephone interview from her room at Kaiser Medical Center in South San Francisco, where she was undergoing treatment for a blood disorder.

Supporters credit Brown's organization with bringing needed services to the Bayview-Hunter's Point community and providing jobs and housing to area residents.

The 23-year-old organization will hold its fifth annual Christmas party today at the Bayview Opera House, where it expects to distribute more than 1,200 toys, said interim chief executive Gwendolyn Westbrook. More than 800 toys were donated by a Marine Corps unit out of San Bruno.

One of the organization's newest ventures is Hope House, a program that rents homes for the chronically homeless. It's part of Mayor Gavin Newsom's Care Not Cash program. Hope House, which started in June, has already provided housing for 35 people, and eventually hopes to house 70 people, Westbrook said.

Westbrook said staffers miss Brown but want her to rest and not try to rush back to work too soon. "She's a little dynamo," Westbrook said. "She cares so much."

Brown was born in Shreveport, La., the daughter of a Baptist preacher who taught her how to care for others. The family moved to the Bay Area when she was 5 years old as part of the World War II migration of African Americans to work in the local shipyards.

Brown grew up in the Bayview, married and raised three children while working at a number of clerical and administrative jobs, including at the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, the entity that oversaw joint business dealings of The Chronicle and the formerly Hearst Corp.-owned San Francisco Examiner.

Over the years, Brown saw the devastating impact gangs and drugs had on her community. In response, she began making meals to give to those in need.

"Oh, my goodness, they ate good," Brown said with a chuckle, recalling the dishes she served out of her car. "We'd make things like red beans and rice, ham hocks, greens. We'd even do catfish," she said. "I never would have thought that I'd be doing this (all these years)."

The center serves as a gathering point for the homeless, where they can shower, do their laundry and put their belongings in secure lockers. There's also a recreation area with a big-screen television. Joyce Vaughn, 49, began working at the center three years ago after being laid off from her job at Levi Strauss. Vaughn admits she was initially scared of the people who visited the center.

"At first, it was rough because I had never been exposed to that kind of lifestyle," said Vaughn, who works in the kitchen and as a dinner server. "It just showed me another side of the world I'd never seen before," she said. "It's a condition I could be in, or any of us for that matter."

Vaughn said Brown has made a difference to countless people. "This is really a good thing she's doing for this community," she said.

Brown still speaks with passion about the center's accomplishments and future, and hopes to rejoin her staff in the near future. "I just know that there's always going to be hungry people," Brown said, "and there will always be a need for Mother Brown's."

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Six Days to Go, and We're Holidayed Out!

I love Christmas. But six days until Dec 25, and we're already holidayed out.

We have.....
- hung garlands of green, white and red lights on our home, to start the holiday spirit.
- attended the sumptuous Glory of Christmas at the Crystal Cathedral.
- enjoyed a Messiah concert (beautifully orchestrated and sung).
- seen the childrens' Christmas pageant at our church (extra-adorable this year).
- strolled (and munched) through our city's La Posada and Tamale Festival celebration.
- savored our traditional all-day tree & house decorating, complete with holiday music.
- indulged in baking gifts....butterscotch haystacks, cinnamon snickerdoodles, Mrs. Calvert's best chocolate chip cookies, peppermint fudge.

- taught the story of Jesus' birth, in depth over 3 weeks, to our 5th grade Sunday School class.

And yet over the next six days, we will....
- attend an office Christmas party.
- participlate in a caroling and potluck cookie party.
- host a homemade soup and bread dinner on Dec 23.
- greet and give out neighborhood Christmas gifts, usually Dec 24.
- attend Christmas Eve services.
- host our 4 children, plus 2 spouses, on Christmas Day (brunch and dinner).

And we've done NO Christmas shopping! That's not as disastrous as it sounds. By mutual consent, we give gifts only to our children and children-in-law. All but one are adults. who, truthfully, can't think of anything they need or particuarly desire. We buy gift cards.... Best Buy, Nordstroms, Borders, Cheesecake Factory, Mervyns, Amazon.... and a few, small personal presents for them. Our 13 year old will have plenty under the tree....CDs, Old Navy clothes, acoustic guitar stuff, perhaps tickets to a professional lacrosse game, and the like. (We offered her a cell phone, but she's not interested. An iPod is over this year's budget.)

My most cherished gifts to my family are wonderful, satisfying meals and an atmosphere conducive to loving family fellowship and relaxation at Christmas.

Yes, I love Christmas. But I love the peace and quiet of the day after Christmas even more. And I love the return to the normalcy and texture of our everyday lives.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays

Lots of hot air lately about the audacity of some to wish us "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas," as if well-wishers were somehow inflicting harm on us. Well...I guess it would be nicer to hear "Merry Christmas." You know....a bit more personal since I'm a Christian.

Does it really matter, though? In this day of "Mean Girl" attitudes and Red State/Bue State hostilities, I'm just happy to have someone smile and offer me season greetings. Perhaps I'm too easily pleased. But perhaps too many thin-skinned people make it all and only about themselves and their insecure, paranoid feelings of victimhood.

I mean, please......the "Happy Holiday"ers are merely attempting to be both pleasant and inoffensive. Consider the alternative...they could just ignore us.

I, for one, am grateful for a kind smile and any cheery word from another.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Into the Lion's Den - Daniel Gets Eaten on The Apprentice

Donald Trump selected stoic West Point and UCLA graduate and software exec Kelly Perdew last night to be his next Apprentice. He selected Perdew over Jennifer Massey, the glamorous yet tough-talking Harvard and Princeton attorney.

I felt a bit sorry for Jennifer. It was filmed in front of a live audience, where she was subjected to a nonstop barrage of scathing, semi-cruel comments. It was over-the-top and unprecedented, and it cut her to the quick. People acted like it was battle...the true-blue Americans versus the villanous Iraqi insurgents. It felt like Daniel was in the lion's den, but this time, the lions won. They feasted satisfyingly on Jennifer's carcas, and licked their paws after the feast.

I felt a little sick watching it. Truth be known, the Donald appeared uneasy and unsettled, too.

I don't think I'll watch the program again. It was mean-spirited entertainment at the deep expense of someone else. Not my idea of good, decent fun.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Stress-Free New Years Resolutions

I've been known to make ambitious, exhaustive lists of New Year's resolutions, whereas Ron never made any at all. As the years roll by, Ron and I become more and more alike in our New Year's resolutions philosophies.

My resolutions for 2005 include ones you might expect.....write, continue to tutor in writing, continue to seek inspiration, send at least one manuscript to prospective agents, parenting, faithful Bible study, new car, save. You know the list.

But my list also includes two you may not expect.....make for family and friends 30 to 50 new dishes in 2005, perhaps by working through an untried cookbook or two. I'm thinking Chinese and Japanese wok cooking and French country cuisine. Greek might be fun, too. And second, to spend more time savoring beautiful parks and public gardens.

Ron has announced just one 2005 resolution: for he and I to dine at every Mexican restaurant in our city's Hispanic Old Town section. (There are about 15 authentic, family-owned eateries, all Mexican)

One more resolution.....that you, too, will adopt a couple carefree resolutions to lift your spirits in these stressful times.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Donald Picks an Apprentice - The Loser Is the Real Winner

The question of week clearly is Jenn or Kelly? Kelly or Jenn?

If you haven't a clue about the identities of Jenn and're not addicted to "The Apprentice." Your Yahoo calendar isn't cyber-reminding you of the 3-hour Apprentice marathon this Thursday evening. Shut off the phone, turn off the porch lights, because we're not answering either. The Donald is going to choose his next apprentice.

Will it be cool, calculating blonde Phi Beta Kappa Princeton attorney, Jennifer Massey, who has the killer political instincts of a litigation lioness? Or will it be West Point graduate Kelly Perdew, the shrewd, silent software MBA exec who, unlike 4 other Apprentice wannabes who selected reward jewelry for loved ones, spent all $10,000 on a big, fat luxurious watch just for himself?

It's fashionable these days to reward our soldiers, so that would be a bonus PR coup for Trump. But Jenn picked the strongest team for the final competitive task....Kelly picked pushovers and distractable Raj. Kelly fits the Apprentice 1 Bill Rancic-mold.....a hands-on exec-level worker bee. Her corporate majesty Jennifer delgates. Really delegates.

If Trump is smart, he'll select Jennifer. With her ferocious defensive gifts of gab, she'll negotiate his casinos out of bankruptcy in no time.

No matter who the Donald picks to be his next Apprentice...remember this: the loser is the real winner. Rumor has it that Apprentice 1 final-round loser, Kwame Jackson, makes tons more bucks than Bill.

And Bill actually has to work for the unbearable Donald Trump.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

This Woman Must Be Stopped

From the December 9 entry in "Simple Abundance - a Daybook of Comfort & Joy" by Sarah Ban Breathnach....

"There is a woman still at large...charmed and dangerous. She waves her clever hand over room and it looks like a page from House Beautiful. She waves her creative hand over the fruits of the earth and a feast appears nightly. Her thumb is green; her herb vinegar is curing; her potpourri recipe is sought; her PTA cupcakes are from scratch; her Halloween costumes are legendary; and she still wear a size 8. Her celebrity lawyer husband adores her, her five summa cum laude kids think she's wonderful.

She finished her holiday shopping, wrapping and sending in November. Now, she's turning her attention to making her own New Year's Eve confetti out of naturally colored crushed egg shells. I know this because I've just received her annual Christmas letter. Be forewarned. It's speeding its way to your house.

This woman must be stopped. she undermines our domestic tranquility. She threatens the common good. "

No kidding!

Goodness knows I adore watching Martha Stewart on TV, but please, God......don't let her live in my neighborhood. :)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Fun Knitting Discovery

Here's my new fave of the adorable, fun-type blogs....The Yarn Junkie. If you have a yen for any sort of cute hand-knitted goodie, you'll find it here....handmade just for you.

And it looks like you can learn to knit here, too. Something to do in front of the TV on these chilly almost-winter evenings.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Hand Me a Wild Strawberry

I'm working on a book that recounts the funny, sweet and wise reminiscences of some seniors in a senior daycare center. Here's a clever story that one man shared....

Once upon a time, a man was being chased by tiger, and he came to the edge of a cliff. Looking backward, he saw the tiger approach, so he jumped. On the way down, he reached out, grabbed a bush and was saved. He looked down and saw another tiger waiting at the bottom of the cliff, smacking its lips. Just as he felt the bush begin to weaken, he noticed a wild strawberry growing out of a crack in the rocky cliff. With one hand, he reached out, picked the strawberry and ate it. And he said to himself, “Now, that’s a delicious strawberry.” And that is just how it is with us!

Life, they say, is a terminal illness. From the day we’re born, we know someday we will die, and we never know when it will be. Some of us in this room have been told we have serious illness. But that goes for all of us, even if we feel well now.

In the course of human history, the moment in which we live our lives is just long enough to eat and enjoy a wild strawberry.

If we follow the stories about the Big Bang that they now say launched the physical universe, and how many billions of stars there are with no life, we wonder at the miracle of life on planet earth. In another billion years, the energy may all dissipate, or another star might collide with our sun.

So what? We have time today to pick a wild strawberry and enjoy it and give thanks.

Every since Hiroshima, and now with 60,000 nukes on earth, we look down and see that tiger opening its jaws.

Please hand me a strawberry.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Culinary Occasions of the Heart

As some women do crafty projects or savor dressing their home, I love to spend the occasional cozy Sunday afternoon making a special meal for my loved ones. I take a craftsman's pride in dishes well done.....dishes designed to nourish and please family and friends. Dinner created for family occasions.

Icy rain drizzling on our back patio. A fire warming our family room. Ron and the dog half-awake, watching football and golf. Andrea gone to a church middle school event. I baked two bundt cakes, one for dessert and one for my son and his new wife. (I'm not convinced either cooks yet....) The take-out cake was simple vanilla with raisins, finished with vanilla glaze....perfect for breakfast, snacking , anything. Dessert was a French vanilla-fudge marble cake with fudge glaze.

Sunday dinner for six....Ron and I, Andrea, Kevin (21 year old stepson), Ryan and Giovanna...was a Dijon-apple glazed pork roast, my in-demand garlicky potatoes, creamed spinach with onions and, of course, French vanilla-fudge marble cake.

We talked and talked, and laughed until we cried. Our sons.....ages 21 and 26.....ate like they hadn't tasted home-cooking for months. We loaded their departing arms with cake, beginners cookbooks and old videos. We hugged and exchanged words of love as they left.

It was the kind of family dinner you take for granted when you're young.

It was the kind of dinner you hold in your heart as you get older, and they become busy adults you don't see nearly enough.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Prayer Request for Encouragement

Hooray hooray hooray hooray hooray hooray!

Friends...particularly those who know me personally...pray pray pray for me to continue my ministry at my other blog, Heart, Soul & Humor.

Through my writings there, plus months of my persistent emailing, posting to other blogs and cyber networking, I have engaged a few well-regarded Democratic Party types to start to reexamine Roe v. Wade. To relook at abortion. To comprehend that 40 million abortions have been performed since that January 1973 decision.

No kidding.....I have an active and lengthy email dialog going with several bigwig Democratic types, and it's exciting beyond words to see them admit (at last) that, yes, the right to kill a child at many (or most) stages of pregnancy is a travesty.

Please pray for me to be able to continue to engage others on this issue. It's just exciting to see bit of progress! Finally. It's a start. Just as I was feeling's an encouraging sign for me to keep pressing on.


Thursday, December 02, 2004

Autumn Admiration

Southern California weather has been perfect the past few weeks....crisp cool, clean air; bright blue skies; trees in shades of daffodil, pumpkin and crimson blending with olive and kelly greens; white snow caps on distants peaks. It feels and looks like autumn from somewhere else.

Walking to our car few days ago, Ron and I wondered why people worship God in buildings when His natural sanctuary is so much more inspiring to behold. We need no more proof of God than the whisper of wind, the warmth of sun, the ripeness of fall foliage, the scent of late-blooming roses.

All's right with God's world. If you stop and notice.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Rattlesnakes for Advent

Received a cute Advent calendar Christmas card in the mail today. The front has soft-hued angels, shepherds and Wise Men surrounding the nativity scene. Inside are cheery words about a baby in a manger, angels on wing, shepherds quaking in fields and the world shouting in joy at the baby's birth.

I love Advent calendars. It's fun to slowly savor again the story of Jesus birth by opening one window a day until Christmas. It was a nice gesture by the sender.

So I set the sweet card here on my desk, and opened the December 1 window. And lo and behold, there was a picture of a.......coiled rattlesnake, rearing back to strike, and the words, "He will strike your head. Genesis 3:15."

Huh? An Old Testament approach to the Christmas story? Jesus isn't in the Old Testament. Well, except for a prophecy here and there. There's very little cute, sweet or cheery about the Old Testament. Certainly not a rattlesnake striking my head.

This may be a fascinating Advent calendar.

Losing an Unborn Child

I've been pregnant 3 times, and had 3 healthy, fullterm aged 13, 26 and 28. I'm also the stepmom of a 21 year old, who I've known and loved since he was 4 years old. I was born to be a mother....biologically, sure, but I mean emotionally. It might be my most natural role in life. I truly can't imagine a satisfying life without parenthood.

My son and his new wife are almost 4 months pregnant with their first child, our first grandchild. They received the news yesterday that they might lose this baby to miscarriage. They're bewildered and overwhelmed....they seem numb. She's confined to bed, and seeking the help of medical specialists.

I've heard that spontaneous miscarriage happens routinely, but there's nothing routine about losing one's unborn child or grandchild.

It feels sad to lose a precious child you never got to know.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Thanksgiving Weekend 2004

Apologies to Ron, but I adore George Bailey. I simply love George least once a year.

Yes, it's that time of year. It's a Wonderful Life time, when George and Mary Bailey and their Bedford Falls family and friends come alive in our family room. George is a decent, generous, caring (if a tiny bit cranky) family man, just like....well, Ron. In my eyes anyway.

It's a Wonderful Life is a 1946 b&w film that celebrates the triumph of love, prayers and right-living over broken dreams, fear, despair and frustration. Actor Jimmy Stewart embodies the hard-working, compassionate George Bailey, and Donna Reed is perfect as the hopeful, loving, resourceful wife and mother. It's a shamelessly joyous tearjerker, and one of only two films that never fail to bring tears to my eyes. (The other is Philadelphia starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. A magnificent film with near-genius acting, but hardly joyous.)

Like past Thanksgiving Saturdays, Ron and I cuddled on the family room couch last night in front a blazing fire, and hung on every scene and story detail of this film classic.

It was a delightfully romantic start to Christmas season 2004.

For the second year, we spent Thanksgiving Day serving dinner to the needy and homeless as part of the We Give Thanks program. We cancelled our trip to visit Ron's parents and extended family in Reno for the week due to Ron's work pressures. We host the family Christmas Day gathering at our home, so I won't miss out on preparing a feast for our loved ones. We were invited to my sister and brother-in-law's home in San Diego for the holiday, but we just spent last weekend with them at my son's wedding.

We Give Thanks serves 10,000 to 15,000 meals to the needy and homeless each Thanksgiving Day in an Anaheim strip mall parking lot outside the La Casa Garcia restaurant. Frank Garcia began the shared holiday meal 19 years ago to give back to his local neighborhood. What started as a dinner for hundreds of the hungry has grown into a major event with corporate donations, live music, 1400 volunteers, months of advance planning, TV and newspaper reporters, fundraiser tee-shirts, appearances by politicians and a blessing by the Catholic Bishop of the Orange County diocese.

Last year, Ron, Andrea and I ladled heaps of steaming veggies and mashed potatoes onto plates. This year, we cleared and cleaned tables. And for volunteers (like me) with a gift of gab, it was a splendid chance to sit down and break bread with people who are alone this holiday. Most attendees were Hispanic families with young children, but many were obviously alone or lonely.

I tried to remove a plate of leftovers near a 20-ish man in zipped-up jacket and green baseball cap who was wolfing down a sky-high plate of turkey and trimmings, but he waved me off......he planned to eat the leftovers. Later, he walked away with another full portion in a bulging take-out container. I set a goal for myself to help the scruffy and shy on the margins of activity...the ones ignored by others. (You know....WWJD.) I asked a tall and lean, unwashed man if I could take his plate and trash from him. Tears welled up in his eyes, he touched my hand and muttered, "Thank you. I can do it myself. Don't do it for me. But thank you."

Our families are excited about our support of this program for the hungry. Last year, we told a few church friends, but they acted we were bragging and they felt guilty. We would have loved to share the experience with our church family, but decided to not tell anyone this year. We're not doing it to be admired. It's a pity though, that we can't enlist others without striking a chord of competitive Christianity.

Andrea told her best girlfriend and carpool buddy from school, a committed Christian who attends an Asian evangelical church in Irvine. Her dad called us Wed evening for the scoop. We were delighted and surprised when the Kenmotsu family joined us there for a day of cleaning, clearing and serving.

By the way, this is no sacrifice. The food is delicious, the music and dancing lively, the company gregarious and grateful, the afternoon sky blue and cool. It was honestly a pleasure and privilege.

Yes, the Christmas house lights are up. We're the second house on the street with lights. Ron and Andrea put them up on Saturday.

Don and Barb (with the 62" gigantic-screen TV) are hosting an old-fashioned Christmas Open House for the street on December 12. (Of course, I've been asked to bring my world-class fudge, and Andrea makes a mean snickerdoodle that they've also requested.)

Let's just must have their Christmas lights up before the big shindig or risk raised eyebrows and veiled comments. And the outspoken Irish Catholic woman down the street will simply give you her opinion of your lack of Christmas spirit. No beating around the bush for her.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thanksgiving Thought

"Thanksgiving is traditionally a time spent gathered around the dinner table with family and close friends. Although for those who come from broken homes, who have lost loved ones, or who may be experiencing financial hardships, it can be a difficult time of year, filled with loneliness, painful memories and at time, even hunger.

Sometimes, amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it helps to be reminded of what providence has left behind. Thanksgiving Day was born out of gratitude and praise. It was a day set apart to acknowledge the many favors of Almighty God from whom all our blessings are derived. Thanksgiving began as a holy day, and its origins are deeply rooted in faith.

This Thanksgiving, take the time to acknowledge with gratitude and praise the many favors of Almighty God. Make this a time of reflection, repentance and new beginnings. Spend time in prayer and search out God's will in the scriptures.

Share your blessings with those in need. Reach out to those around you, at work, in church, and throughout your neighborhood. Watch for those who many be lonely, hurting or searching for answers, and take the opportunity to share God's love with them."

----- Koininia House Online, November 2004

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Irritated at the Christmas Light Show-off

Boy, are we irritated. Our neighbor two doors down already put up his Christmas lights. He violated an unspoken but inviolate street house lights before Thanksgiving.

Ron, Andrea and I came home last night from the season's first performance of The Glory of Christmas (our new daughter-in-law ushers for it.....freebie tickets!) , and there they were. Glowing red, green, blue and white. Twinkling, blinking, shining alone on the street. Brilliant in the dark night.

Allen's a quiet, nice enough guy, but he's a Christmas light show-off. He's home all day, tinkering on cars, electronic hobbies and home maintenance stuff. He's retired due to a vague permanent disability. His Christmas lights are his claim to fame. His special offering to the world. His annual source of compliments.

He doesn't put up lots of lights, but he cleverly programs them to nightly change colors and patterns. Some nights they blink, some nights not. Some nights they beam in solid colors, some nights in intricate patterns. Even his December programming schedule is creative and unpredictable. One-time visitors to our street wouldn't notice his lights. They don't stand out among our tract home displays, unless you visit here regularly. The novelty is that they change.

For the last few years, every home on our side of the street puts up Christmas lights. We take pride that the west siders share a civic spirit of Christmas, whether Mormons, Catholics, Baptists, EVFreers, Friends, or whatever. We agree on festive lights, cheery holiday spirit and exchanges of small gifts.

Allen violated the unspoken rule, though. We usually all put our lights up over Thanksgiving weekend. Embarrassed stragglers who travelled over the turkey holiday take work off early the next week to install their holiday house lights.

But Allen has upped the ante. He's raised the bar for Christmas lights. Now we're the stragglers!

Perhaps a Survivor-like neighborhood tribal council is in order to bring him back in line. :>)

Monday, November 22, 2004

Wedding of a Sometime Prodigal Son

My 26 year old son, Ryan, got married Saturday. My son who has to feel the pain before he changes course; my son who has often not taken the straight and narrow path; my son with the huge, warm heart. My son who has been forgiven much, and who forgives much. My son who has taught me more than I ever needed to learn. My fun-loving, literate, creative, deeply caring son. My sometime Prodigal Son.

The wedding was formal, yet completely out of control. The soloist never showed, yet the traditional wedding march was played on one of the most powerful pipe organs in the US. The florist ran out of red roses. We had to step over beflowered grosgain ribbons to reach the pews. The bride was late because she forgot to arrange for a ride to the church. The reception was 56 miles from the church.

It was vintage Ryan. Keystone Cops on a sacred occasion. Surprises at every turn, yet the sweetest wedding in memory.

He surprised his bilingual, Peruvian bride at the altar by taking his vows in Spanish. The pastor, touched by Ryan's loving gesture, remarked during the ceremony, "That's true love...taking vows in another language." to which my quick-witted son quipped, "That's OK. She's going to say it in English." And she did.

At the last minute before leaving home, I tucked a Bible into my purse. Minutes before the ceremony, the pastor asked "Who's doing the scripture reading." Huh? What scripture reading? Thusly, God blessed me with the great privilege of reading I Corinthians 13 at my son's wedding.

Fifteen minutes before she walked down the aisle, the bride sobbed in my arms from wedding plan burnout and sheer nerves. And then she gave me one of the great gifts of my life.

I have prayed for years and years for Ryan to accept Jesus Christ as his savior. As his mother, I absolutely know it's in his heart, but he avoids church. He won't take his elementary school Bible from me. I hold it, waiting for the day when he'll take it back. (I offer it back to him every Christmas.) He resists God. He won't discuss it with me.

I comforted Giovanna, a staunch, committed Christian. Just'll finally be married to Ryan. Wedding details don't matter. God is blessing you...smiling down on you. And Ryan is getting married in a church. He is a step closer to accepting Jesus Christ.

"He knows it, you know," she gulped between sobs. "He believes."

"Knows what? Huh?"

"The Bible."

I looked at her quizzically.

"We had a fight last year. It was awful...I was crying," she sobbed. I dabbed her tears.

"He said those words.....the ones you're going to say in the wedding. I Corinthians13. And he recited the 23rd Psalm, too. He said them from memory."

Joy leaped in my breast. Real joy. It is in his heart. Hidden in his heart. He relies on the Word.

A few minutes later, I watched my son take his marriage vows before God. He even kneeled and prayed, and he took communion.

As I read I Corinthians 13 to Ryan and Giovanna during their wedding, I paused twice. Tears of profound joy blurred my eyes and choked my throat.......just as they are now as I write these words.

God is so good.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Rehearsel at the Crystal Cathedral

Andrea and I were at the Crystal Cathedral last night for rehearsel for my son's wedding this Saturday. He and his bride are getting married in the Cathedral itself, as her Aunt Marcella is active and connected in church life there. We have the Crystal Cathedral all to ourselves for a two-hour window.

Andrea, our sheltered yet wise-beyond-her-years 8th grader, was stunned at the enormity and grandeur of the entire Crystal Cathedral campus......from synchronized waterfalls, manmade lakes and vast manicured gardens to sculpture, innumerable lavishly understated buildings appointed with exquisitely minimalist furniture, a soothing 400-person sanctuary, and, of course, the shimmering, transparent sky-high cathedral.

While waiting for the bride and her mother to arrive, we leafed through church newspapers and brochures. Andrea's eyes lit up......sports leagues for girls; musical concerts by popular Christian artists; lots of options for small group studies; fascinating and varied volunteer opportunities. A veritable cornucopia of activites for all ages. A holy Disneyland for the evangelical-minded.

The sumptuous Glory of Christmas production was in full dress rehearsel in the Cathedral. When leaving campus, we strolled by artfully-costumed actors and besaddled horses. Andrea and I waited in the cold starry night, listening to a rich baritone voice singing O Holy Night.

"Wow" she exclaimed. "Wow.....this is" She couldn't find the right didn't fit her experience of church. "It's so beautiful." She breathed in, then shook her head. "Did you see who's gonna be here? They're my favorite group!"

She looked at me.

I gathered my thoughts, and softly replied, "'s beautiful. Really beautiful. But it's not church. It's theater. It's entertainment."


"Oh're right."

Monday, November 15, 2004

Birthday Present to Myself

It's my birthday today. I have love, reasonable health, my first grandchild on the way, and a personal relationship with is sublime. It's a good and generous time, and I'm deeply grateful. Presents are nice, though, as is a celebratory meal (or two) with loved ones.

For the first time in our comfortable lives, Ron and I have not been blessed with financial stability for the past 4 years. Our "" business, that we spent 2 years building, was devastated by 9/11, and had to be closed. Just as we were recovering, Ron was unexpectedly laid-off in fall 2002. He was unemployed for 8 months, and we were without steady income or insurance benefits. He's been back in the job market for over a year now, but the company is struggling and things look bleak. He has a better plan and new skills and credentials for the next lay-off, but it won't be easy.

We've learned a lot from these uncomfortable times. We sold the 3400-sq foot house, and actually enjoy living in a much smaller, modest abode. (Way less to do!) I suppose it's a positive to have an older, maintenance-free car.....but I still dream of another gleaming, new Jeep Grand Cherokee. We spend little and have only basic bills plus one last debt from our defunct business, so life is pleasantly simpler. Ron and I have grown even closer to each other during this season, and our walks with and reliance on the Lord have never been stronger.

These past 4 years have also caused us to examine how we desire to spend our work time. Ron wants to teach, not toil as a manufacturing engineer. He's tired of the soul-robbing corporate grind, and would rather spend the next 15 years in a classroom. We've made the decision that once his current gig is gone, he'll be teaching. Despite the paycut.

And I want to write, undistracted. So my birthday present to myself......and Ron's present to the gift of focus.

I'm closing my eBay bookstore this week, and devoting my energies only to writing. Supply of books on eBay is up drastically, and demand and selling prices are down considerably, so it would take more and better effort to make a living there. I will still sell the occasional item, but that takes little energy.

I've wanted to focus on only my writing since I was a high school newspaper staffer. I always said I would do it sometime. Sometime when I have time. Sometime in the future. Sometime whenever this or that happens.'s probably now or never, and Ron and I choose now.

Again...I am deeply grateful that sometime is here. I can't imagine a better birthday gift.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Don's 62" Gigantic-Screen TV

Our next-door neighbors, Don and Barb, took delivery this week of a 62" gigantic-screen Mitsubishi TV. Don is a mid-60s grandfather who has retired (or been retired) from the air-conditioning industry 4 or 5 times. Years ago, he used to drink too much, but I've never seen him drink at all. Barb is 8 years younger than Don. She teaches elementary school, goes to garage sales and then breakfast on Saturdays with girlfriends, and exercises at a gym many days. They're Baptists, but don't attend church much anymore since the church hired a young senior pastor.

Don and Barb have lived in the same home for more than 30 years. They keep the frontyard immaculate. (We don't...that sometimes irritates Don.) Their grass is a putting-green perfect carpet of green. Their roses are trimmed weekly, and flower beds are frequently replenished with new, fresher plants.

As if to proclaim that their home is a country unto itself, Don had a flagpole installed next to the driveway before we moved in. The American flag always waves over their cars and lawn. Last year, Don paid someone to spend 2 days refinishing his flagpole.

We've gone swimming in their pool a few times, and had dinner once at their home. We casually visit over the fence, and keep up on vacations and major family news, and the Anaheim Angels. Ron and Andrea went to an Angels game last summer with Barb and Allen, their son who lives in Orange. Don doesn't like crowds, and can't handle sell-out baseball games anymore.

Don used to know everyone's business on our street. I have to say...I've never heard him gossip. He'd ask how things are going....offer to lend a hand. Randy, a 30-something man who lives next door to us on the other side, is a paraplegic. He and his wife rolled their van on a freeway 5 years ago, and it left Randy in a wheelchair. Don used to help Randy bathe and do mundane chores for them when Randy first came home after the accident. Don spent an entire summer day once fixing our faulty air-conditioning.

Don can be reclusive, though. His negotiable world is small, and the greater world is hard to bear. The distant TV world beamed into his family room is becoming more palatable to him than venturing out into the changing, challenging real world.

Their daughter, Kim, had a baby almost a year ago. Kim and her husband waited 10 years to have a child, so they were used to being out and about, child-free. Don and Barb first started watching the baby 2 afternoons a week, but now she's over there a lot.

Some weekends lately, I see a light on in the family room, but otherwise, it's hard to tell if they're even home. They don't leave the house much, and rarely toil in the yard anymore on Saturdays or Sundays. Except for waving at Barb leaving for work about the time I take Andrea to school, we never see them these days. Even when the baby's not there.

I do realize that it's football season, and Don loves football. His beloved 49ers are having an awful season, though, and he can't stand to see them lose. And he enjoys watching baseball and the Angels almost as much as football. This is more than a seasonal absence, though. I'm sure that during early spring between the end of football season and the beginning of baseball, when pretty spring flowers need to be planted in frontyard beds, we'll see Don more again. At least for a while.

It's sad, though, to see him gradually disengage from the world and cocoon with Barb and the baby into TV land. He has a good heart and a gift at helping others around the house. He was the glue that kept the neighborhood cohesive.

But he now has a 62" gigantic-screen Mitsubishi TV for engagement and companionship.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Attacked by the Wedding Reception Committee

My son is marrying a wonderful Peruvian woman in 10 days, and they are expecting a child in mid-2005. We just found out last week about their good news, so wedding hoopla has been hectic.......unbelievably hectic.

Despite my best half-serious avoidance maneuvers, I have been included in planning the reception. Included on the family wedding reception committee are my ex-husband's wife, my future daughter-in-law's mother (who is currently not acknowledging that she speaks or understands much English; I've been told that it's a cultural pride thing.) and aunt, the bride and me.

A committee of women all from the same family-to-be. All bright, outspoken women with strong, strong minds. All with opinions. And only one who has no problem with making swift, firm In fact, I might be the only one remotely capable of any decision-making whatsoever in any context whatsoever! (Sense my frustration yet?)

Plans change with the hour. Venue, band and or no band, napkins and plates and silverware, and good Lord, the food. It's gotten so wacky and out-of-control that the person I communicate best with at this point is my ex-husband's wife, and we haven't liked each other for 20 years.

Years ago when I worked in public accounting, many of us had a useful escape strategy for when the in-laws or similar came to visit for a few stressful weeks. Drum up a legit business trip for at least a couple days. Then show back up refreshed and blameless toward the end of their visit.

I have no escape hatch here. The best plan I have is complete agreement, no matter what, and oodles of creative delegating.

Ron says to be grateful that it'll be over in 10 days. Not 10 weeks or 10 months. He's right. Then we can focus on the joy of our first grandchild. :)

The thought just occurred to naive me, I wonder if there will be a grandparenting committee.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Astonished and Blessed

I'm astonished at the voluminous and positive response lately....especially since the Nov 2 my "politicized" blog, Heart, Soul & Humor. I have been invited (and I accepted) to be a guest contributor to a top political blog. Another leading Democratic blogger wants to start a mutual dialog with me on "hot issues" as abortion and gay marriage, and calls my evangelical liberal voice one that must not be ignored by Independents and Democrats. Heart, Soul & Humor is blessed with faithful, supportive readers, including many pastors, social workers, other commentators & writers and hopefully a few friends. It's even been cached by most search engines, including Google, Yahoo, Lycos, AltaVista and DogPile.

I tell people that I had a decades-long writers' block. Truth is I had all the tools...skills, gifts, education....but nothing to say. I never felt that Deborah White had anything to teach to others. I am just a person, and it felt overwhelming and uncomfortable to impress my ideas on others. It felt wrong. So I didn't write creatively for years and years. Only business memos and stuff.

We changed churches three years ago, to one not perfectly in line with my political beliefs, but nonetheless, one where I finally felt the Holy Spirit. Finally. Then the thought came to me two years ago...indeed, it's NOT about me. It's about God using and working through me.

Since that profound thought permeated my heart, soul and busy brain, my writing has flowed nonstop. I have something to say. A whole heck of a lot to say.

My home-brewed vision of liberal evangelicalism has taken on an actiive, growing life of its own, particularly in the last six day since the election, and it's incredibly exciting! My fervent prayer is that as this ministry grows and expands in influence, I continue to make it honoring to God, and don't fall into the trap of making it about me.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Contingency Plans to Move

It's no secret that Ron and I, and both sets of our parents, are deeply saddened that George Bush was reelected to a second term as US President. See my other blog (link at left) for my thoughts on both Bush's victory and Kerry's loss.

It's one thing to have feelings and reactions. It's another thing altogether to act on them.

Ron, Andrea and I have agreed that, if George Bush reinstitutes the miitary draft, and if Andrea is eligible to be drafted, we will move out of the United States, to either Great Britain or Canada.

Bush's Middle East wars are immoral, and Andrea will neither fight nor die there.

Simple as that.

Clueless in Fatherhood?

I assumed that when I first heard that I would be a grandmother, I would instantly feel ecstatic. I love babies, and will be thrilled and humbled to grandparent.

I got the good news last week that I will be blessed with my first grandchild next May. And I feel......worried, not terribly joyous. Incredulous. Not because I'm too young.....far from it. It's just 26 year old son, a father? My God...I'm not sure I trust him yet to babysit his 13 year old sister.

So now I have a new concern. Letting go.....not interfering and controlling the situation. No hovering.

It is stunning to imagine him as a father, and all that entails. I don't think he has a clue.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Inside Report by One Elections Pollworker

On Nov 2, I had the first-time privilege of being a precinct officer (fancy word for pollworker). I'd volunteered for many elections, but this was my first appointment by the county Registrar of Voters (ROV).

I wanted to be a pollworker for this particular election for 2 reasons: First, to honor, support and be part of the democratic process. Voting is an enormous privilege and responsibility, and people are only free when they can vote to decide the course of their government. Second, I wanted to do my part to ensure that the election in my family's corner of the world was fair. It was, indeed, fully non-partisan, and undoubtedly fair and complete.

Normal turnout, sans absentee ballots and early voting, ranges from 30 to 50%. Tuesday, our precinct turnout hovered around 80%. It was thrilling: every voter was on fire to express their opinion. The electorate was energized, and every voter was convinced that their vote mattered.

It was thrilling...and incomprehensibly exhausting. All went well. Our voter qualification lists were quite accurate and updated. Electronic voting worked perfectly. Voters were courteous, friendly and scrupulously non-partisan. Our 8-person volunteer team processed a record 1020 ballots, and about 50 provisional ballots for voters with registration problems. My task to was initially identify and qualify voters at the front door, and I assisted 569 citizens to vote in 13 hours.

A few images of Nov 2 will stay with me.....

- The Spanish-speaking woman who became a US citizen just 3 weeks ago. With the assistance of her adult daughter, she was deeply touched to cast her first ballot for the Presidency.

- The mother assisting her adult Downs-syndrome son to vote. "He follows it all on TV," she said. "He loves to vote. He insists on voting."

- The many elementary-aged children who came so that they could watch their parents vote.

- The college students who came home from campus to cast their votes.

- The innumerable families that ensured that every household member voted....mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. (We joked that a few families were so large, that they could sway the elections.)

- Two especially elderly citizens...a man and a woman...who each struggled fragilely in on walkers, sample ballots in hand, determined to voice their opinions.

It was physically demanding work. I went 4 hours at a time without standing or stretching. We subsisted on microwaved hot dogs, chips and candy bars. My total break time was perhaps 20 minutes. My biggest concern was that, by mid-afternoon, my eyes were swollen and a bit blurry.

I haven't written about procedures and controls in place to ensure that voting is complete and accurate. It's boring, detailed stuff, although incredibly important to the voting process. I stayed until 10 PM to make sure the inspector could reconcile the ballot count. It was a kick to see summarized electronic voting results for our precinct long before the ROV, press and voting public. Current voting procedures are cumbersome, but are designed to assure all that electronic voting is safe and secure....not designed for effiiciency.

The integrity of pollworkers at our location was at the highest level, and most workers were pleasant, sociable and flexible. One woman brought new meaning to nit-picking and finger-pointing, but thank God I wasn't teamed with her.

They want me to return for future elections. Would I return? Yes, gladly. It's a great way to support our community and country. But it would be nice if voter turnout was a bit less.....

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Teenage Trash Talk from Mervyns

Seen on tee shirts sold at Mervyns for teenage girls......

- Someone's boring me, and I think it's you
- I'm hot
- Cancun
- Boys are great. I think every girl should own one.
- Not listening
- Too young for Ashton
- I'm having a crisis. Take me to the nearest mall.
And my personal favorite......
- He loves me. I love his friend.

Just imagine the fuss if boys wore similar trash-talk fashion denigrating girls, or flaunting sexuality and superficiality. Just imagine parents who would allow their daughters to wear such junk. Just imagine the aspirations and hopes of girls who want to wear these shirts.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Gymnast with Writer's Block

Eunice is tiny...unimaginably tiny....yet she's anything but fragile, mentally or physically. I tutor 9 year old Eunice weekly in writing. Eunice is a top-ranked, gold-medal winning, Olympic hopeful gymnast. As such, she aspires to perfection, and she expects and is expected to obtain it.

Eunice received a B in writing from her 4th-grade school district teacher (She's home-schooled to accommodate practice and tournament schedules.)...her first academic her parents turned to our local library's literacy tutoring program (me) for help. They were shocked by Eunice's imperfection. Mandarin Chinese is the main language spoken at home, but English proficiency is not the problem.

To succeed at gymnastics, Eunice practices 30 hours a week. She's learned to apply her formidable will and stamina to accomplish gymnastic and academic tasks. With laser focus, she masters spelling, grammar, math, science and history as well as parallel bars, floor execises and the horse vault.

Writing requires creativity and relaxation, not focus and control. Writing requires observation, interest in people and surroundings and a sense of humor. Writing takes soul, not muscle or memory.

Eunice's school essays are lacking imagination and detail, but they have perfect punctuation and spelling, perfect sentence construction, perfect spacing. Eunice has classic writer's block. No ideas...nothing to say. Each week I strive to find the other Eunice....the little girl, the child, the person....and to harness her personal passions into writing. I need to teach her a different way to accomplish goals.

She loves to eat pizza, ice cream and mushroom soup. She used to have parakeets, but they flew away one day. She likes the color pink. She attends church and knows the Bible well. Her fave cable channels are Disney, Nickelodeon and FoodTV. She especially watches Jacques Torres, the French chocolatier who constructs intricate gourmet edibles.

So to one tutoring sesson, I brought an illustrated cookbook about elaborate chocolate desserts. We studied the luscious photos, and fantasized about tasting the creations. We had great fun giggling over black forest cakes, chocolate apricot sorbet and raspberry ganache truffles. Eunice wrote a creative, interesting essay about making and eating white chocolate mousse towers.

This week, tiny Eunice looked tired. She explained that on Sunday, she won 3 gold medals, but slipped in one event. She failed to secure her normal overall first place. She came in third, behind two rivals. At our session, she forced herself to obediently focus, but she was distant and distracted. She wrote a few pieces for me, but they were brief and barren. I praised her anyway, of course, and asked her to write essays about pizza and roses for next week.

Her mother approached me later in the library, and anxiously asked, "How is she doing? Is she improving? Maybe if she practices spelling and sentences more. Will she get an A?"

I hope I can help Eunice. I'm not sure.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Honorary Foods of Fall/Winter 2004

As chief cook, I declare an honorary food (or two) each season. I experiment with new dishes and new ideas using that food. I learn both the chemistry and romance of the chosen it feels, smells, tastes and reacts when cooked different ways. Family and friends feast on the results.

The White home's honorary foods of Fall/Winter 2003 were pumpkin and cakes. I made cakes almost every week for our Friday Family group. Some cakes were superb...some were less than smashing successes. (All were eaten, I might add.) I made pumpkin cakes, pumpkin soups, pumpkin-veggie dishes, pumpkin cookies. My speciality last season was a pumpkin cheesecake that I took to potlucks and served at holiday get-togethers.

Our honorary foods of Fall/Winter 2004 are soups and apples. I confess....I've been negligent in whipping up apple dishes, because Ron and Andrea crave my homemade soups. We've had unseasonably early cold rains, and our Southern California air feels more like post-Thanksgiving than pre-Halloween. So soup season has begun.

I've created 4 homemade soups in 2 weeks, and all have been aromatic, hearty, healthy and oh-so-delicious. Both declared my Mexican tomato chile soup to be their fave thusfar, although I'm partial to the French country chicken herb soup with pasta shells.

To start the Mexican tomato chile soup, simmer one chicken carcass in 8 cups water for several hours, until the fragrance fills your home and chicken bits are falling off the bones. (Tip - never throw away chicken carcasses. Freeze for homemade chicken stock. I learned that tip on FoodTV.) Fish the carcass and loose bones out of the stock, remove remaining meat from the bones, and put chicken shreds back into the soup.

Add to the stock and simmer for 30 minutes...a 14.5 oz can diced Mexican-style tomatoes, a 14.5 oz can unseasoned diced tomatoes, 1/2 can mild Ortega chiles, 2 tbspns garlic powder, 2 substantial sprinkles of garlic salt and Tabasco to taste. Garnish with grated cheddar cheese and sour cream, and serve with warmed corn tortillas and your favorite sandwiches. We savored this soup with my in-demand Dijon egg salad on whole wheat.

I wonder if they'll eventually let me meet my apple goals this season?

Friday, October 22, 2004

Days of Adolescence

Adolescence...those years from 11 to exhausting for our children. (The whole parenting thing is exhausting for moms and dads. That's a given and another subject.) Their bodies are growing and changing more quickly and radically than at any other time in life. Peer pressure morphs from child's play into tidal waves of temptation. At times, middle school work feels harder, bigger and wider than the Pacific Ocean. And parent's expectations become more evident than ever. Everyday is choices, new freedoms, new ideas, new pressures,

My 8th grade, 13 year old Andrea had not yet stirred this morning at 7:10 AM. She usually rises at 6:30, reads her Bible, refreshes the bird cage, and organizes for school. She's naturally an early riser, an organized girl, a great student. She hates to be late. I quietly walked into her room.....she's huddled under blankets, sound asleep like when she was my baby.

Me:'s 7, sweetie. Time to get up.

Andrea: Uh......uh.....what?

Me: Karena's Dad will be here soon. Time to get up.

Andrea: Uh...oh no. Oh no. Uh..... (she sits up, panics....finally stands. I leave the room....progress is in motion.)

I walk in to my office, listening to her scurrying. Bathroom noises, drawers opening, papers shuffled into her backpack. Sounds of morning chaos.

Me: Everything OK? Can I make your lunch for you? (She prefers to make her own lunch menu.)

Andrea: (walks into my office and puts her arms around my neck) Mom?

Me: Yes, honey?

Andrea: What day is it?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Boss Marty as God

In his sermon over the weekend, our pastor commented that bosses are not God, although some may think they're God. I'm wondering if he''ll call Ron's boss and straighten him out.

Ron's boss (Marty) pressured him to work intensely and ("24/7 is the goal. This is an emergency." Never mind that so-called emergencies occur monthly ) and late into the night last Thursday and Friday. Ron offered to take work home this weekend, but that wasn't "acceptable." Ron stated that he wasn't working this weekend....he's diabetic, his blood sugar is high, and he felt rundown. Our doctor would disapprove. Marty said no problem. I understand.

Ron trudged home exhausted at 10:45 PM on Friday. He hadn't seen Andrea since Tuesday. We settled in for a quiet, restorative family weekend, to be finished with a Sunday dinner celebrating the start of autumn...turkey with parsleyed red potatoes, buttered sweet peas and freshly baked pumpkin pie. Kevin, my stepson, was driving 20 miles to join us for this family gathering and fun, seasonal feast. An early fall thanksgiving dinner.

At 8 PM Saturday after church, Ron was popping old-fashioned popcorn when the kitchen phone rang. Marty. Said he needed a document, and couldn't find it. Where might it be? A few minutes conversation while Ron continued to pop the corn. Marty....irked that his guilt trip wasn't working, irked that he was at work and Ron was at home.....finally commented...."I can practically smell that popcorn through the phone."
Ron stayed at home, and munched popcorn as we watched baseball playoff highlights and an old movie. But he felt stressed out and guilty. Marty was on his mind.

9 AM Sunday morning, when most of the world is worshiping at church, Marty leaves a phone message. It's really's an emergency. Everyone but you is here. Call me on my cell as soon as you get this. Marty was worshiping at work.

Ron had two or not call. If he ignored the message, he would be fired. That was the implicit threat. We can't afford that. If he made the call, he would be going to work on Sunday. Family dinner would be cancelled. A sacred occasion sacrificed for overtime at work.

With my defeated encouragement, he called. Andrea and I drove him to work in Irvine 30 miles from home, only to find just three cars in the company parking lot. One belonged to Marty, the others to his dep't employees. Ron worked until 8 PM Sunday evening.

Marty won. And Ron is not rested or feeling well, Andrea and Kevin haven't spent time with their dad lately, and I don't have my husband's attention. Ron wants...needs... to be at home and church, not work, on Sunday.

(And get this....once Ron was at work on Sunday, Marty said "Tell your wife I'm sorry." Marty, if that's a apology, I don't accept. You're not sorry, and you've certainly not seen the error of your ways. You've neither repented nor committed to change.)

When pastors tell us that our bosses are not God...that our allegiances are misplaced when we work too long and hard.....I wonder if they realize that it's often not that simple. Ron sets appropriate boundaries as much as possible, and he gets punished for it. Saying no, as he did this past weekend, inflames some bosses that you stood up to their unreasonableness. They just pressure and pester you more.

Ron and I know that Marty is not God. Like I said at the start of this thought....I'm wondering if our pastor would like to call Marty and straighten him out. We're not having any success at it.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

No More Bad Boys for President

Watching a tape later last night of the Presidential debate (Yes, I taped it. I must be bordering on election year junkie status. Time to turn off this stuff.), the thought occurred to me that it would be a great relief to once again have a mature, fully-formed adult in the White House.

The last actualized adult who held the Presidency was George H.W. Bush. You might not have agreed with his politics, but you knew he was a focused, mature leader and a seasoned statesman with good motives. We've elected two consecutive bad boys to the highest office in our land, and they've been exhausting, childish and foolishly wasteful. Major disappointments.

Bill Clinton will eternally exist in a narcissistic teenage boy mode, forever chasing women to disprove his internal "fat high school band boy" self-image. What angers me about Mr. Clinton is the wasted potential. He is a bright, charming, open-minded natural leader who wasted his opportunities and missed Osama bin Laden. He could have achieved much more, but spent his energies on skirt-chasing.

George Bush smirks, winks, postures and struts just like the party-hardy fraternity rush chairman he was in his undergraduate years. In contrast to 4 years ago, he again has the appearance of a man who imbibes now and then. He claims to be a man of remarkable and constant faith, yet never attends church, rarely evidences familiarity with the Bible, and ignores most core Christian teachings.

Bush has trashed our nation's good reputation and name, polarized our precious nation, and frittered a huge surplus to destroy his family's bitter rival, Saddam Hussein, and to give tax breaks to his wealthy friends and supporters.

It's time we stopped voting for bad boys. They may look like fun to hang with at a barbecue. They may provide the airwaves with memorable soundbites and colorful moments. But rebellious bad boys usually make unfaithful husbands, prodigal sons, horrible students and unreliable employees.

And failed leaders. I voted to put an adult back in the White House. Please consider doing the same.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

October Voting, 40 Days & eBay Observations

I voted today in the Nov 2 Presidential election. It's handy and oddly relieving to to vote a few weeks early. Someday, we'll tell our grandkids about the good old times when we lined up for hours in the (pick one) --- pouring rain, driving snow, hot hot sun --- to cast our votes for the next US president.

Now, we shop for groceries, visit the bank and vote all at a neighborhood market. Of course, even that will seem old-fashioned to our grandkids. They will surely vote online, and be astonished to hear that it was ever done another way.

Speaking of voting, I invested 2 hours last night to understand the propositions, so that I could make intelligent, informed choices. I have a graduate degree, am well read, and am a fast researcher and reader.

It's either ridiculous that it takes significant literacy and effort to vote, or it's planned to be difficult for most citizens. Perhaps "they" want us to believe misleading TV ads and biased political pundits, and forget research.

A slightly paranoid thought .... but not unfounded.

Our church is doing the 40 Days of Purpose devotional study as a congregation. We started Monday, and finish on Nov 19.

I've read the book before, and didn't get much from it. But there's something exhilirating about doing it with Ron and Andrea, and as a church body, so I'm giving it my full attention. I set aside morning time after Ron's at work and Andrea's at school....I brew fresh French roast....and I, armed with book, journal and java, sit in a sunny front window to absorb and experience, not just read.

The words have come alive for me. Alive enough that now I'm impatient to see where this journey will lead. Alive enough that it occupies my thoughts. Alive enough that I have questions for God.....questions that fill my journal. "Why" questions. "Why not" questions, too. Now I'm dying to skip to the ending. (Hmmm...maybe patience is one of my challenges.:)

It's surprisingly fun to do it as a congregation. At my womens' Tuesday Bible study group, we chatted about when and where we do it, laughed about family schedules, shared a few thoughts. We had it in common, and informally held each other accountable.

A few church members grumble about this study. They find it boring, unchallenging, beneath their level of biblical knowledge. Like everything else at church, they're approaching it with their minds, but not their hearts. They' reading it with their eyes.....but not hearing it with open hearts.

And in a couple cases, they're married to a denominational viewpoint, not a Christian outlook. I loved it when Rick Warren wrote in Day 3, "God won't ask about your religious background or doctrinal views. The only thing that will matter is, did you accept what Jesus did for you and did you learn to love and trust him?" Exactly!

Will be interesting to see where this 40 day period takes me and mine, and takes our church.


eBay is dead right now. Buy & selling have dropped off radically this last week. It's eery, rather like a deserted ghost town. The last time online commerce and the general business environment felt this dead was exactly 3 years ago, after Sept 11, 2001. Something's amiss.

The stock market is currently a disaster; gas prices are unbelievably high; the long-term unemployed (so long, they no longer qualify for unemployment benefits; thus, they're not included in statistics) and especially underemployed (i.e... the working poor) are at all-time highs. The deficit is obscenely high, and our foreign trade debt is shocking. Another 4 years of Bush economic mismanagement, and we will border on (or be) bankrupt. That's not an exaggeration. We will permanently be a poor nation. We may already be there, truth be known....

I believe that October will prove to have been a horrible month financially for our nation. Most of the business world and all small business owners are terrified that Bush will be reelected.

Lucky for George he can hide the numbers until after the election. And he will.


What kind of person wears hidden wires to secretly obtain the correct answers for a test or debate? A cheater, that's who. What kind of person wears hidden wires that can actually be seen if you look carefully? A stupid cheater.

And if that cheater was a student at any school, he would be expelled in disgrace.

Don't ever vote for a cheater. You'll get what you deserve. Cheated.