Thursday, June 30, 2005

Fay Louise Bensfield

Her name was Fay Louise Bensfield, and she died in 1984 at age 75. She was my grandmother, I never knew her, nor did she know me.

But I always wondered about her....Was she happy? Kind? Pretty? What was her ancestry? Did she have other children or grandchildren? Was she loved and loving? For some odd reason, I always knew she lived a long life. And she did. I never knew you could love someone you never met. I think my mother does, and maybe I do, too.

You see, my mother was adopted at birth, in 1929, when adoptions were shrouded in secrecy. My mother rarely speaks of it, that sense of shame so deeply ingrained from decades ago. Last summer, while we were visting her in Colorado, she showed me her birth certificate. She keeps it close, in a drawer by her bed. My mother's health is not good, now, and she spends time pondering her life.

I wrote down information from that old, yellowed certificate....the names, ages, addresses and birth places of her mother and father. Fay was 21, John was 30. They were not married to each other.

Last July, I registered that information with a national online adoption registry. Then completely forgot about it.

Until yesterday,when an email arrived.

Seems that God has blessed this world with human angels who volunteer their time to research "lost adoption" listings. A woman in New York, herself an adoptee, researched, and found my grandmother. We knew we had a match after a flurry of emails. She's very excited for my family. She understands.

She and her genealogical contacts continue to search for traces and tidbits of Fay Louise Bensfield, maiden name Fay Louise Williamson. We know that Fay was born in New Mexico in 1908, gave birth to my mother in 1929 at Los Angeles County General Hospital, and died in 1984 in Camarillo, California. We know a bit about Fay's parents and her older brother.

There's so much more to know....and yet, facts aren't hugs and smiles and loving conversations. They aren't intimate knowledge of the person who was my grandmother. I thought a few facts would be enough...but they aren't. A loss is still a loss.

I haven't told my mother yet. Fay died in Camarillo, which could mean she died in a state mental hospital. Not sure my mother needs to know that. I'm calling Ventura County today for a copy of the death certificate, and will proceed from there.

It's odd how a woman I never met, a minor figure in my imagination, can touch me so. It feels like a missing part of me has been found.

What must it be like for people who never knew or met their mothers and fathers?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Loving Alternative to the Runaway Bride Ending

I love this story. From KNBC via AP, today....

Bride Calls Off Wedding, Throws Party For Homeless

Everett, Wash. -- A young woman decided to call off her wedding 12 days before the event and her parents knew they'd be stuck with the bill, so they decided to have a party anyway and invited the homeless.

Residents of the Interfaith Family Shelter, housed in a former convent across from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church where the wedding had been scheduled, attended the bash thrown by Katie Hosking, 22, a medical assistant at the Everett Clinic, and her parents, Bill and Susan Hosking of Lake Stevens.

"They had a DJ and really good music. It was a warm, friendly atmosphere. The food was delicious. It was a nice break with people not worrying about anything for one night," shelter manager Carol Oliva said. "Toward the end of the evening, they packed up all the leftover food and we got to bring it back to the shelter."

One homeless woman got her son out of a wheelchair, "took that child out on the dance floor and picked him up and danced with him. It was a beautiful sight. Our kids realized that even when something bad happens, somebody else has something worse," Susan Hosking said. "It was an eye-opener."

The almost-bride would not say what led to the breakup, only that it happened June 6, 12 days before the scheduled date of her wedding.

Planning a reception for 150 guests at the Echo Falls golf and country club, her parents had made a $2,500 down payment and written another check for the $6,200 balance. Club policy requires full payment for any event that is canceled less than 60 days before the scheduled date.

"Personally, it's a really hard time for a family," said Jessica Gamble, the club's catering sales manager. "It's a really awesome thing that they did. They made the best of it."

Susan Hosking said that once she and her husband "got past the panic," they took a suggestion from her brother-in -law in New York and decided to invite the staff and residents of the shelter operated by the Interfaith Association of Snohomish County to share in the evening.

More than 50 family members and close friends were joined by about 40 homeless people, shelter workers and volunteers. The shelter staff arranged rides to the club.

Instead of a wedding cake, chef Michael Greb produced strawberry shortcake to top off a menu that included baron of beef, salmon, shrimp cocktail, fettuccine and fruit.

"Oh my gosh, we had so much fun," Katie Hosking said. Shelter residents, she said, "came up and thanked us several times - thank you, thank you, thank you. We all danced. I still got to dance with my dad."

Her mother said she was happy to demonstrate an alternative to the case of Jennifer Wilbanks, 32, who got cold feet and vanished shortly before a 600-guest wedding in Georgia. Wilbanks pleaded no contest this month to telling police a phony abduction story and was sentenced to probation and community service.

"That food would help feed people at the shelter for another three or four days," she said. "With the notoriety of the runaway bride, I would like people to know that these things do happen, and there is another outlet. The money is spent."

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

What Gives You Hope today?

I write so much these days about the War in Iraq. It's greed-inspired and evil, and has corrupted our country's very soul, and divded its heart, like nothing before it. It gets me down in the dumps.

So I started thinking...what gives me Hope? Genuine, feel better, look-foward-to-the-future Hope. I'm a Christian so the list starts there. But I also mean things of this world....the things that touch my heart, forebode a better day. Hope.

1. The endless, infinite love of God.
2. The Holy Trinity....Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All aspects give me Hope.
3. The ministry and teachings of Jesus Christ, the Son. Especially the parables and the Sermon on the Mount.
4. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
5. The faith and strength of the women who followed and supported Jesus.
6. Mary, mother of Jesus. I understand her.

OK...the very basics out of the way. What in this world gives me Hope?
7. My husband's arms around me. His faithfulness in all things.
8. Our daughter, reading poetry in bed late into the night last night.
9. The sweet eyes and soft cooing of our 4 week old granddaughter.

10. My daughter and son-in-law's courage and excitement to move to a new city, a new state. I admire them.
11. My stepson's strong work ethic and excitement for his endeavors.
12. My son's conquering of his challenges, and his huge heart.
13. Writing, and the gift of writing well.
14. The blooming of a beautiful rose bud.
15. The crack of the bat as our hometown baseball hero hits a homerun.
16. A good, absorbing book to read.

17. Many, many writers and their ideas, blogs, essays and books.
18. Billy Graham's theology.
19. Senator Barack Obama speaking.
20. Exercise.
21. Music. Especially classical and some jazz.
22. Art museums. All of them.
23. The Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
24. My daughter's middle school that she just graduated from. At last, teachers that get it.

25. Farmers' markets.
26. Oh, and a freshly-brewed, venti-size Starbucks French or Italian roast.

This is a short list, and woefully incomplete.

What gives you hope today?

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The American Flag Is Not the Cross

I recently asked someone I respect when does allegiance to a flag becomes idolatry. I feel a bit closer to an answer with this Christianity Today editorial.

(Thanks, John, for calling it to your readers' attention.)

Worship as Higher Politics - Political priorities for citizens of the kingdom.

Christianity Today editorial posted 06/23/2005 09:00 a.m.

"George W. Bush is not Lord. The Declaration of Independence is not an infallible guide to Christian faith and practice. Nor is the U.S. Constitution, nor the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights. "Original intent" of America's founders is not the hermeneutical key that will guarantee national righteousness. The American flag is not the Cross. The Pledge of Allegiance is not the Creed. "God Bless America" is not the Doxology.

Sometimes one needs to state the obvious—especially at times when it's less and less obvious."

Read the rest here.

Friday, June 24, 2005

On Baby Birds and Strong Wings

Outside my office window is our front yard, with grass, a small rose garden and to the right, a gathering of trees.....olive, white birch and liquid amber. To the left is our two-car garage.

And birds. Lots of birds, mostly heard but not seen.

A wren-like bird built her nest this year in our garage eaves. Her eggs hatched a bit ago, and now the fully-feathered baby birds explore our front yard. They're tiny and adorable as they alight on flower beds, sprinklers, rocks and the neighbor's low-wall. I just watched one a few minutes ago.

I noticed that the mother bird is always in the yard when the babies are out and about. One day soon, her babies will fly away....fully nurtured and fed, wings strong, ready for the world. Her responsibilities for them will be done. Roots planted, wings grown. A maternal job well done.

I suppose it's the same for us with our babies.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Quiz: What's Your Theological Worldview?

Interesting quiz....What is your theological worldview?

At tip of my hat to Hootsbuddy to this link.

My scores make me realize that as many churches drift more and more toward militant Christian fundamentalism in response to militant Islamic fundamentalism in a modern-redo of the Crusades, I must focus my energies and passions on theologies that match my heart and soul...a "good fit." (I assuredly am no fundamentalist.)

What did you score? Here are my scores.....

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavily by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan 79%
Emergent/Postmodern 79%
Classical Liberal 50%
Reformed Evangelical 50%
Modern Liberal 50%
Charismatic/Pentecostal 50%
Neo orthodox 46%
Roman Catholic 43%
Fundamentalist 18%

Saturday, June 11, 2005

deep, very dark post secrets

Have you been to post secret yet?

I feel like such a voyeur there. It makes me uncomfortable to read those deep, very dark secrets. It's so appealingly, imperfectly awful.

Here's my secret.....I pray for them.

Saturday Thoughts on Innocence, Farmers' Markets, Baseball Dates & Sideways

We're enjoying one of those rare Saturdays...lazy and delightfully homebound. Ron is tending his tomato plants, washing the dog and starting a new puzzle. I'm reading and writing (here, not political), and dreaming of a new dish to concoct for dinner. Andrea is napping, reading, listening to music, and hopefully cleaning the bird cage.

We have a baseball date...Angels at 4 PM on TV, followed by Cal State Fullerton in the college world series. We have the requisite big bag of peanuts, and dinner will be served casual-style in front of the games.

Now if only our two-week-old granddaughter could come hang out with us this afternoon....
If kids these days have an age of innocence, Andrea's is over this week. She graduates from middle school next Thursday, and a few days later, starts a summer school class at high school.

The 400 8th graders of Tuffree Middle School had their graduation party last night....a three-hour extravangaza in the school multi-purpose room of dancing and lots of game booths manned by parents.

There were prizes tickets, gift cards, even dollar bills at one hotly-contested game booth. And food combinations only teenagers could savor...taquitos, nachos, brownies and big cookies, Chinese food ("not very good"), flavored shaved ice and Starbucks caramel mocchiatos.

The room was decorated by the parents, with fathers doing the heavy lifting and mothers commandeering the final touches. The entire event was planned and paid for by the 8th grade parents. And the kids actually dressed up in school-friendly yet fashion-cool attire. They looked scrubbed, expectant and adorably trendy.

It harkened to visions of the idealized 1950s, before student protests, drugs, the rise in teen suicides and other hard, historical realities. And before the simultaneous "dumbing down" of American education and increased pressure on the most academically talented kids to produce school-district-pleasing test scores. And before the rise of myopic organizations with selfish, even cultic, designs on our children.

Tuffree Middle School has been a wonderful, albeit sheltered, environment where the 8th class of 2005 still experienced a modicum of innocence these past two years.

Yes, they do know reality. Four kids were expelled from school a month ago for drug possession, and 14 more were suspended. A local high school freshman committed suicide, and her 7th grade brother found her body. Another girl ran away when she learned her parents are getting a divorce. And, of course, the whole sex thing. Kids making out. Kids doing more than making out.

But hard reality has been muted until now. Until June 21, her first high school class.

I wish she could stay forever in a happy, contented 8th grade bubble. I wish I could shield her from reality.
Last Sunday morning, I had the vast sensory privilege of exploring Seattle's
Pike Place Market, the nation' s oldest farmers' market, founded in 1907. I'd been there about 15 years ago, but frankly, had forgotten its rich pleasures.

It's a blocks-long ocean-front patchwork of fishmarkets, plump produce, used book stores, candy and pastry shops, fresh flower vendors, weathered eateries and local artists selling their wares. The fragrance, the colors, the pure vibrancy, the charming ambiance is unforgettable.

Pike Place Market is home to the original Starbucks coffee bar/store. To their corporate credit, they've not changed it a whit from the original wooden-floored, white-walled shop that blends in with surrounding retail shanties. The only differences between Starbucks #1 and our neighborhood coffee sanctuaries are that it looks a bit older, and everyone takes pictures there. It's a landmark, a place to say you've been.

The fishmarkets prominently displayed delectable whole, wildly fresh Copper River wild salmon, a Pacific Northwest delicacy that incites culinary orgasms in foodies and fish lovers. This salmon is only available for four weeks each year, and Seattle makes quite a fuss over it.

The farm-fresh vegetables and fruits were simply gorgeous....strawberries, eggplants, onions, tomatoes, carrots, apricots, newly-cut herbs, summer squashes, sweet corn, bell peppers, blackberries, artichokes, varieties of greens and so much more. I longed to buy an armful and head off to my kitchen to cook a meal for family and friends.

Pike Place Market has an intriguing email newsletter, complete with creative recipes, organic food news and tips for buying fish and produce. Be sure to sign up for it.

And at all costs, make browsing at Pike Place Market a centerpiece of your visit to Seattle.
Ron and I used to own a gourmet food "" It was a non-human victim of 9/11, which took the wind out of its fledgling sails. We worked for two years to develop, launch and grow it. We mourned its demise.

I miss writing about cooking and food on the internet.

Last week, I told the Managing Editor of that when he's tired of me ranting about liberal politics, I want to be the guide to one of's food/cooking sites. Not now, he said. I'll remember that. But not now. It would be impossible to adequately juggle two sites.

My fave site is French Food. I met the guide, Debra, last week, at our Seattle meeting and we had great fun chatting and rating the meals we ate there. She's as delightful as her food writing.

In her responsibilities as guide to French food, she travels to France once or twice a year on culinary tours (and deducts it!). She interviews top cookbook authors, and receives advance copies of the newst French cookbooks. And she tests recipes.

Maybe after the 2008 elections.....
I wish I had written Sideways. I know...I has some wrong attitudes and R-rated scenes. And Ron reminds me that there's strong language, too.

But it's so clever and multi-layered and character-revealing. It's so authentic. It's so Californian, and after all, I'm a native. Miles, the Paul Giamatti character, is a masterpiece in being lost and then found. Miles is the perfect name for him, as he has miles and miles to go.

I'm just saying I wish I could say I wrote something that finely, uniquely good.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

God Was Apparently Watching the City Council Meeting

This news morsel makes one wonder if God had strong feelings about goings-on at Onaka, North Dakota city government.....:)

From Yahoo news a few minutes ago:

Powerful thunderstorms rolling across the Upper Midwest destroyed a small-town city hall in South Dakota and flooded people out of their homes early Wednesday in North Dakota....

Wind gusted to 92 mph during the night in north-central South Dakota, destroying the one-story city hall in Onaka, flattening a farm cooperative building in Faulkton and damaging other buildings, said Faulk County Emergency Manager Wayne Vetter. No injuries were reported.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Louvre to Unveil 1500 Works on New Website

Now here's something to mark your cyber-calendar for.....I can hardly wait.

The Louvre, once the palace of France's kings and today the largest museum in the world, will unveil a revamped, state-of-the-art website next week, the museum announced.

The existing site, a model of innovation at its inception in 1995, will be replaced "to offer the public a new tool for the dispersion of culture and news," a press release said.

Initially in French and English, the new site ( will add other languages over time, beginning with Japanese.

Evolving technologies and expanding broadband access to the Internet have made it possible to enrich both the content and the presentation on the new site, which will feature an interactive 3-D map of the museum, detailed information of 1500 major works and a multimedia history of the museum itself.

Besides "permanent exhibits," the site will also contain special presentations on particular periods and exhibits "adapted to different publics," the statement said, including children, professionals, journalists, teachers and the disabled.

Additional features will come online before the end of the month: more profiles of selected works, personalized online services, a special site just for children, online ticketing, and even information on guided tours using mobile phones.

The price tag for the retooled website was seven million euros (8.56 million dollars), contributed by French bank Credit Lyonnais (4 million euros), technology firm Accenture (1.6 million euros), and Blue Martini Sofware (1.3 million euros).

The Louvre houses more than 34,000 art works over 60,000 square meters and attracts some six million visitors annually.