Saturday, November 21, 2009

Nina's Mission Adventures!

Since we began attending our current church we have been thrilled and pleased to observe Nina's development and growth as a minister in our childrens Christian education to becoming a vibrant young woman of God in missions.

She has a newly updated blog that is a delight to read as well as listen to, as she's cleverly uploaded a music player. For the record, her blog is not all taupe and boring whereas ours? Well, let's not go there, now.

Check it out and tell her we sent you, 'kay?


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grace: An Indispensible House Seasoning

I like the term creative juices. It sounds like a pitch for some whirled and blended concoction on a late night infomercial. But what I am writing about, however tempting a smooth citrusy beverage sounds, is the kind of energy that inspires and impels us all to imagine, dream, and aspire to do the original. For me it’s mainly lyrics and music but cooking also provides an enticing outlet. For other members of my family it’s many other things along with poetry, drama, art, and dance. Whatever the bent it transforms our home into a supermarket of ideas and interests that flows nearly unhindered all throughout the day. It’s a little disappointing, then, when the finished product receives severe criticism.

For instance, yesterday the thought of a hot bowl of barley soup recalled pleasant childhood memories of winter suppers on the farm. Tender pearls of barley floating through a rich broth mingling with vegetables and small bites of meat was sure to warm any shivering hungry soul. I set to work preparing the barley then worked on a broth of pork cooking in water. When the pork was cooked I strained the broth and set it to simmer lively while adding carrots, celery, onions, and diced and lightly sautéed Delicata squash. Once the vegetables were nearly cooked I added parsley, thyme, garlic and a little house seasoning. I wasn’t altogether content with the taste or aroma, at that point, and felt it needed something extra special. So, after sneaking in a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, I decided to abandon caution and added a splash of cream sherry hoping to transform the soup from interesting to intoxicating. The scent was delightfully heady and I knew I’d done something ingenious. The cooked barley completed the portrait and all that was needed to play off the soup was a batch of cornbread studded with green onions. I was anxious for the response.

It was not at all what I’d hoped for. Of course Bill and Elizabeth enjoyed it greatly but the younger set just didn’t respond favorably. They are, after all, my harshest critics of whatever I set on the table. Unless, of course, I’ve made pasta or something else that is familiar and favored. I’d even tentatively served them very small portions in hopes that they would be braver knowing they only had a few bites. Murron ate her first miniscule serving with apparent gusto but wouldn’t hear of having any more than that. Ulie tried a few bites but faltered quickly after that while Aulay protested any attempts on our part to coax him into trying the smallest bit of pork. All were interested in cornbread, though, until they discovered the green onions. Dinner was over and, by bedtime when Aulay was insisting that he was hungry but would not eat the soup, Bill finally let him have a bowl of cereal.

This was not the outcome I had been envisioning. It’s enough to discourage even the most optimistic of at-home chefs. At times, in fact, I feel like the Beast in Disney’s movie when he hollers at Belle, “Then go ahead and STARVE!” Yet, however soured my creative juices may be, there is always another meal to be made, another opportunity to introduce my family to my own childhood favorites, and another challenge to season my cooking with a little more grace. And, perhaps, be more mindful of how my own criticism needs to be served more gently and carefully.

Oh, and the house seasoning recipe I use is this: 1 cup kosher salt, ¼ cup black pepper, and ¼ cup garlic powder. Store in airtight container for up to 6 months. From Paula Deen. Enjoy!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bittersweet Discipline

Since early in our marriage Bill and I have kept special chocolate treats in our bedroom. These decadent treasures have ranged from simple chocolate kisses to extra special dark chocolates. Bill and I like to give these to each other at random moments and often secretly. They're not so much a secret anymore, however.

The girls have known to keep out of this private collection for a long time, now, but the boys have stumbled upon their discovery and had been looting our trove like bandits. So today was no different as I was occupied in another room when I heard a terrible crash. Elizabeth was the first to investigate and let out a shriek. I came into our room and quickly sent both boys to their rooms and asked Elizabeth to make sure that was where they stayed until I was finished. Bill’s tall dresser, which held the chocolates was tipped completely onto its face assuring me what they’d been after. After cleaning up the mess it was remarkable that only one thing had broken, a perfume bottle. Even more surprising was the fact that neither of the boys were hurt in any way.

As I walked to our oldest boy’s room I could hear him sniffling then, as I entered, he wailed, “I’m so sorry, Mommy.” I hugged him close and told him I knew that but what he did was so dangerous that he can’t do it ever again. I told him I had to discipline him and he took it like the little man he is. Afterward he said, “Let’s pray, Mommy.” I held him as he told God he was sorry, that what he did was dangerous, thanking God that no one got hurt, and thankful that I’d disciplined him. He was thankful for the consequence! He is only four years old but in his little tender heart he understands the meaning of correction and that I love him enough to do it. I sat there and cried, at which he started laughing and said, “Don’t cry, Baby” I cried even more and he laughed again and said, “You’re not a baby!” I then went into our youngest son’s room and went through the same process, with slightly different results, but we prayed too. Still too young to appreciate his lesson, like his older brother, but accepting his discipline nonetheless.

I’m left to think about my own heart and how I accept correction. I’m not the most obedient child and I’m not always thankful for God’s discipline. But while the broken bottle of perfume sits on the dresser and fills this room with it’s aroma, I will remember the sweet repentant words of my son and try to follow his example as best I can.


Monday, September 07, 2009

By Hand

Today begins another new chapter in our lives. While we are pleased with our decision I'm very sure there are some who would think our choice to be strange, silly, or even simplistic.

We moved the dishwasher out.

No, Elizabeth is still living with us. The actual load up, drag to the sink, hook up and run dishwasher. This means that we're doing dishes manually, again.

Part of our reason for this lies in the environmental impact dishwashers have and part of it is to make more room in our kitchen and maximize our use of space. But there may be another part that will produce more long-term benefits than even those previously mentioned: doing things by hand.

There was a time, several years ago, before email, chat, and facebook when I would write letters and send them off by mail. You know, putting pen to paper, envelopes and stamps. That kind of writing. Well, I've woefully gotten out of that habit and I know there's something I've come to miss. Bill says that the written word takes thought and time to convey meaning. The one who writes is obligated to put thought and time into sending the intended message. The reader also should take time and put thought into finding meaning in the words. This makes it profoundly relational.

The same differences can be seen in recipes made from scratch, handmade clothing, original artwork, and personally crafted gifts. Come to think of it, I don't recall ever seeing anything handmade in a second-hand shop or thrift store. It's possible that some people may in fact give away or toss out things that were made specially for them or their children. Seeing the blankets, hooded towels, and handmade clothes that our kids have been given as gifts I can say with certainty that would not be me. I understand the time and thought that went into each stitch, tuck, and hem.

So it will be with our dishes, again. Carefully washing the plates, cups, pots, and pans will require time, a little thought, and some getting used to, again. If I'm fortunate to have a dish washing partner then it will go quickly and perhaps even pleasantly. But part of me is looking forward to the lessons I am sure to learn, with my hands in warm soapy water.

Who knows? You may even get a letter from me, by hand, smelling faintly of Dawn Citrus.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

When the wife's away...

...the hubby will work!

Yes, it's been a fast several days while my wife and youngest daughter departed for the Great White North to attend a nephew's wedding. We wished all of us could go, but we couldn't afford it. We're making plans for all of us to fly up to Canada for Christmas in 2010. That will be great.

It's been challenging to keep things going here at the home without Glory AND working my job AND making sure our oldest gets things done that she wants, too. But the biggest thing here has been ensuring that our plantation of a home is kept up.

We have a quarter-acre lot. We have one apple tree, six plum trees, a hazelnut tree, cedar hedges, lots of grass, flowers and such. It's a real English garden here that grows and grows and grows. On top of tending all that, I've painted, weeded, mowed the lawn, cleaned the house, washed the dishes, cooked food for the kids, tore up the dining room floor and made sure the kids have been cared for. My eldest has been very helpful in making sure clothes are put away, the boys are taken care of and her mom's new plants survive curious but destructive mauling hands.

It hasn't been all work and no play. We've taken a couple of ferry rides on Puget Sound, gone to church and tried to have fun, too.

All of this has made the time go by faster. In two sleeps, my traveling ladies will return home and things can get back to normal around here.

I don't know if that is so appealing to Glory.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Silliness at the school

Tonight was a red letter day. Our youngest daughter graduated from kindergarten and our oldest passed to 10th grade. Their school had an open house tonight, complete with the standard programming: kids graduating, demonstrations from music students, a few karate students kickin' and punchin' each other in demonstrations for all the parents who have been wondering what their kids have been doing at that school, anyway.

Now we know, and Glory and I are very proud.

Our younger ones even were attentive at tonight's festivities. They sat on our laps and stared in admiration at their sisters as they were recognized for their achievements.

But they really got into those karate kids. Our three-year-old was making the motions as he watched the students perform. I don't think he really took it all that seriously, though.

"Do you like that?" I asked him.

"Yeah," he said, while watching, transfixed. "They're silly."

Even our young graduate commented similarly:

"What are those silly things they're wearing, Daddy?" she asked me.

But, our three-year-old wasn't going to let his sister get away with her own form of comic relief. As he started at her mortar board, I asked him what he thought of her "hat."

After a long pause, he replied: "She looks like Peter Pan."

With that, she flew up in the air and did battle with the karate students and vanquished them all, as her little brothers watched in awe.

They can't wait until they get to go to school, too.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Getting ready for the mountains!

In a week we'll be on the road to the other side of our fair state to visit friends and to go camping! We're pretty excited. We managed to reserve a spot at a state park campground that has awesome privacy.

Going there fulfills the desires of nearly all the family: Our oldest gets to ride a horse. Our second-oldest gets to go fishing. Our third child gets to go see the mountains. Our youngest just gets to have some fun. Glory has been a tough one to convince that she has desires on this too, but she only needed to think but a few seconds and realize her inner micro-manager will be quite satisfied as she puts together the camping list and orders everyone about. I get to get out in the outdoors and have some fun with the family.

We bought a new family tent that is the size of a small hotel. The girls broke it in the other night in the back yard. This portable cabin will be great for us as we attempt to rough it in the great outdoors. We also bought a screened-in canopy, to keep the bugs away when we eat or visit. Just these two things alone, plus fishing licenses and other things, cost a small fortune, but we will have them for many years to come, and they will pay for themselves. As a cost comparison, we've already paid for a two-night stay at a nice hotel. Only now we have open-ended accomodations.

Next on the shopping list: bug repellent, camp food, another fishing pole or two and perhaps a lantern and tabletop grill. I would be satisfied with what we already have in the lighting and cooking department, but if I ever expect Glory to agree to go camping again, I have to mortgage the house and buy all this new, cr--, er stuff to make us all happy while we commune with nature.

Note to self (as Glory glares from across the room): don't forget the shower tent.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Big Buckths!

Losing teeth is a BIG deal at our house. So much so that we don't bother with the tooth fairy, quarters for bicuspids or 50 cents for molars. In our case, we give the kids Eisenhower dollars for their pulled baby teeth. Our six-year-old calls them, "Big Bucks."

They are big. Too bad we don't have huge coins in circulation anymore. I remember as a kid wanting to get the giant coins in change. That was until 1979 when the quarter-sized Susan B. Anthony dollars replaced the Eisenhowers. It was unfair.

Over the past year we have gone to the local coin dealer and have exchanged current currency for the older dollar coins and have put them in the safe so we can give them to the kids as gifts on special occasions. When Murron started losing her teeth last year, I told her she'd get big bucks for them.

Now Murron must think she's on to something for today she lost teeth number three and four: her two front teeth, both at the same time.

Murron and her little brother can be quite daring during playtime. They try to best each other in performing stunts. Their ideas of play sometimes end up being a parent's craziest nightmare.

We don't know if Ulie was leading Murron around like a dog, or how the pink cloth tie ended up in her mouth. All we know is that Murron gasped sharply several times before Glory heard her exclaim, "Ulie!" At point, she was on the verge of tears when Glory found her packing a wad of toilet paper in her mouth. Then she gave a muffled indication of what had happened.

"My teef!" she said.

Glory asked Murron where they were. Murron didn't know but pointed to where the mystery incident took place, and there were her teeth, on the floor. Through this whole time, Ulie kept hugging his now toothless sister and kept telling her how sorry he was.

It's not like this was a complete surprise. Murron had been working on the teeth for at least a week. They were getting quite loose.

After the shock wore off, Murron explained that Ulie had yanked on the tie, thus dislodging her teeth from her head.

Within 15 minutes, Murron told Glory that she now would get her big bucks for the teeth, which she repeated when I got home from work.

I immediately went to the safe and produced two coins. Murron excitedly grabbed them, studied them for a bit and then put them in her ceramic chicken, where she had two other big dollars.

She then showed me her new trick: letting her tongue poke through the toothless gap. It was pretty cute.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Don't challenge the man of the house

My manhood was put to the test last night.

I defended my home from intruders.

And they're lucky they didn't get hewn in pieces.

We were watching "Phantom of the Opera" last night when we heard something coming from the shed adjacent to our home. I just ignored it at first, but then it got louder, like someone rumaging through our home. Springing to action, I retrieved the only weapon nearby that would likely dispatch someone quickly, but also scare the living crap out of them, too: our broad sword. Our daughter watched with wide eyes (in admiration for her protective dad, I'm sure) as I unsheathed the sword and went outside to the shed at its outside gate that I found open. I asked Glory to go to the other side from our garage so that she could turn on the light in the shed and scare whatever was there. Ready for a fight, I charged in.

There wasn't anything there.

Lucky for him.

Later, we heard it again. This time, I grabbed flashlight and my menacing BB gun pistol and went on the roof. Nothing there. Then we went back to the shed and looked in the rafters. Still nothing.

On the other side of our lawn or in one of our trees, the culprit (or culprits) was watching and chuckling. The oppossum that Elizabeth saw outside our sliding glass door a few minutes before this whole ordeal started likely was frightened by the mere sight of the weapon that would have slashed him like a knife to butter. And that cat that toyed with me probably skittered to the nearest neighbor, relieved that I didn't cap it in its little kneecaps.

Yeah. They'd better be scared.

But while these intruders were trying to get their heart rates down, Glory laughed at me. "The first time we have to deal with an intruder, and you unsheathed your sword oppossum!"

Glory also chided me, saying that in time of war, I wouldn't have just gone to protect my family. I would have asked her where her gun was, too. Hey, I said, two guns are better than one.

Yeah, keep laughing, wife. That oppossum will never come back now. And neither will that cat. I can smell fear, and it ain't me.

I am the man of the house! I am resourceful! I protect my own, I thought as I, with trembling hands, put back our weapons in their rightful places. But they weren't shaking nearly as much as those menacing little creatures. They were just scared to death, I'm sure.

They'd better be!


Monday, April 06, 2009

Same Space, Different Look

There's not that much different about our house. Just looks a little different.

When we bought our house almost two years ago we thought it was HUGE. But as the kids have gotten older, we are learning very quickly how that just is not so.

Our little boys have been sharing a room for more than a year now. As the littlest one gets closer to two, he has been the one who has kept his brother awake and gotten him to wake up at an ungodly hour of the morning, forcing him to tattle to his sleepy and, eventually, grumpy mom and dad that his little bro is doing something wrong...about five times every morning before we all have to get up before washcloths are flushed down the toilet, curtains are ripped apart or entire contents of cereal boxes are emptied out on the kitchen table and onto the floor.

Something had to be done.

We always wanted an office, but now that dream is no more. Our office now is in our sanctuary, our marriage chamber; something that we never wanted. But sanity at this point is more important than precious space, so little Aulay now has his own room, allowing his brother to finally get some decent sleep.

I will say it has been a little sad while it has brought relief. Aulay seems too little to have a room all to himself. He's only two, but already he seems to have grown up in his small way. Soon, though, we will make it into a place that he can relax in, with pictures of dogs, horses or trains. He will grow to like it. At least we hope so.

But if he gets lonely, anyone will gladly open their rooms to him to give him comfort and company, including us.

But we sure hope he gives us a few days. We need the rest.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Family friendly venting

We do try to teach our kids that certain words and phrases are unacceptable.

For instance, we do not stand for "OMG" or the long version in our home. Saying such a phrase will earn the offender a quick stern glance from Glory or me.

We also shy away from "stupid." No one is stupid, nor are they being stupid. It's just a stupid word and saying such a word will earn the offender a quick stern glance and a chastening from Glory or me. But if Glory or I utter the forbidden word, we'll feel bad, recognize our hypocrisy and apologize to the children, who sent us quick stern glances.

There are a few others, but the felonious phrase at the top of our "DON'T!" list is "Shut Up!"

It should be uttered rarely but pointedly. If "Shut Up" is uttered, there are to be quick and decisive changes in the recipient's tone, attitude or what have you.

But the world stops at "Shut Up" in our home.

A few days ago while we were in the van going somewhere, our three-year-old was trying to say something but his little 22-month-old brother was interrupting him. Finally, Ulie had enough.

"Shut up, Aulay!" Ulie yelled.

The air got sucked quickly out of the van. Everyone gasped. Glory told Ulie that he was not to say such things and tell his brother he was sorry. Ulie was repentant and quickly apologized. Aulay, however, kept pestering him. Still annoyed, Ulie was getting frustrated, but not one to repeat his mistakes, looked for another way to make his point.

"Slow down, Aulay!" he said. Aulay just looked confused and kept pestering away.

And Ulie just grumbled.

That was OK.


Saturday, March 07, 2009

Terry Bowen Life Lessons

It was a year ago this month that my boss, Terry, was diagnosed with chronic leukemia. I had hoped then that we wouldn't have to face what we are facing today.

My friend Terry died this afternoon after his valiant fight with cancer. So, his desk that is next to mine will remain empty. I won't be able to tag along with him in our public CPR classes anymore. We won't be enjoying a trip to the local real Mexican food place at the 76 Station anymore.

But, as I write, with his death very fresh on my mind, I am comforted to know that Terry made it home from the hospital two days ago and was surrounded by family and friends when he passed. That was what he wanted.

But moreso I am comforted that he had faith in the Lord Jesus. I will see him again. I have no doubt of that. And, as I write, he is with the Lord, a FAR cry better from this place we call home. That is our hope -- eternal life, of which we have surety, but only in Jesus.

Naturally, I have been thinking of death over the past couple of month, since Terry started his final fight as the leukemia advanced. While we can't stop what ultimately will happen to each and every one of us, there are things that we can do to make this place a better one:

1. Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind and strength.
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

These two sum up about what our actions should be based.

Yet, here are some others that I have thought make practical sense.

3. Tell your family and friends that you love them, and mean it and show it.
4. Keep your accounts short with people.
5. Make a will and keep it current. And tell your family where it is.
6. Write notes to your kids, even if they are too young to read. They will have them for later.
7. Take lots of pictures. When you're gone, your loved ones will thank you.
8. Travel a lot together and make memories.
9. Take care of yourself.
10. Pay your debts. Don't leave them for your family to pay.


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Five Dollars!

Our oldest boy is just starting to figure things out: his name, his age, how he's doing, and how to answer these important questions.

Over the past couple of months when we've asked him how he's doing, he responds, "I'm Uilleam!"

"Yes, we know you're Uilleam, but how are you doing?"


"I'm Uilleam!" he repeats.

He replies the same when we ask him his age.

"I'm UILLEAM!" he insists.

We've had to talk a lot about money lately, what with the state of the economy, tax returns and so forth. Perhaps overhearing our conversations have caused him to answer in his new way.

"So, how's my boy?" we will ask him.

"Five dollars," he says.

"No, Ulie, how are you doing?"

"Five dollars!" he says.

Then we'll ask him his name.


There was a kid in the Peanuts comic strips whose name was "Five." Perhaps we ought to change Uilleam's name to "$5" since he's going to be faced with issues related to money all his life.

That's probably not a good idea seeing that he now is learning his ABCs, and I'm sure by next week his name will be "Letters."


Thursday, February 26, 2009


What is going on here?
After several days of extreme busyness, my family finally had enough.
They all went to sleep!
It's been a tough couple of days for us, with church, friends hanging out at our house, books to look over, problems to solve, this has turned out as one of the craziest weeks on record.
Tonight, I took Glory to church for a women's study she led. Then I took the kids grocery shopping. An hour and a half later we picked up Glory and headed home. Within ten minutes, our oldest boy, crawled into bed and was out! Never have I seen this kid go to sleep that fast. Then, his siblings followed suit. No getting up countless times to go to the bathroom or ask for water. They are done for the day. Then, Glory decided she had had enough and went to bed. Now, this NEVER happens. She usually makes it her policy not to go to bed without me. This time it was different. She's out for the count, too.
So, here I am getting ready to call it quits, too. I'm done.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Renewed acquaintance

More than 20 years I ago I played the trombone. I was pretty good. I played from the sixth grade through high school and then played a little in college. I even played a little in the military. But then in '94 I stopped playing. I just got too busy with college again, and then a career, and didn't think about taking music too seriously.

I wish I had.

There have been times over the years that I tried to sell my trombone, thinking that my playing days were gone. But I could only get $15 offers for it. It's just a student trombone that probably was older than me when I got it. It was dented and ugly. But $15 seemed too cheap a price to sell out years of playing and performing. It's still dented and ugly. But now I am glad I never did sell it.

Around Christmas time I brought out the horn and started playing again after I went to an opera in which our daughter performed. I had talked to one of the pit trombonists and told him I used to play. He asked me why I didn't play anymore. I didn't have a good answer. Just life and time getting away from me, I guess.

It was fun playing Christmas carols, albeit choppy and rusty, as I remembered the slide positions and notes. Although dented and ugly, this little horn still has a lot of music left in it.

Last month as our church was planning a valentine's dinner, Glory got the idea that we could play a piece together; she on the piano and I on the trombone. We practiced a little and then on Saturday we played an old hymn, "O Perfect Love," which Glory scored. That in and of itself was an accomplishment for Glory because she doesn't read music. Our performance came as a complete surprise to those in attendance. It was a beautiful time, and I was happy to be able to make sweet music together with my lovely bride.

Now I am wanting to play all the time, and I am a little surprised how quickly it's all coming back to me. Over the years I have tried to learn the piano and the guitar, but never have had the patience or dexterity to get very far. But, hidden away in a closet, storage or even under my bed, was my horn, being dragged along like an old high school scrapbook just waiting to be reopened and memories relived.

Glory thinks I should buy a new trombone and really get serious. I looked at a couple at a local music store today. Perhaps I will.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Reminders Are Good, Sometimes

I am loved (John 3:16)
I am God's child (John 1:12)
I am God's temple (1 Cor 3:16)
I have been justified (Rom 5:1)
I am Christ's friend (John 15:15)
I am God's co-worker (1 Cor 3:9)
I am complete in Christ (Col 2:10)
I am God's workmanship (Eph 2:10)
I am united with the Lord (1 Cor 6:17)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3)
I am bought with a price (1 Cor 6:19-20)
I am a saint (set apart for God) (Eph 1:1)
I am a personal witness of Christ (Acts 1:8)
I have been adopted as God's child (Eph 1:5)
I have been redeemed and forgiven (Col 1:14)
I am the salt and light of the earth (Matt 5:13-14)
I am a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27)
I am free forever from condemnation (Rom 8:1-2)
I am free from any charge against me (Rom 8:31-34)
I am a citizen of Heaven. I am significant (Phil 3:20)
I have access to God through the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:18)
I am a minister of reconciliation for God (2 Cor 5:17-21)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph 2:6)
I am established, anointed, sealed by God (2 Cor 1:21-22)
I cannot be separated from the love of God (Rom 8:35-39)
I am assured all things work together for good (Rom 8:28)
I have a future and a hope. He has plans for me. (Jer 29:11)
I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16)
I may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph 3:12)
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13)
I am the branch of the true vine, a channel of His life (John 15:1-5)
I am confident the good works God has begun in me will be perfected (Phil 1:5)

I belong to God.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Good Samaritan Mafia

All we wanted was to do the right thing.

A couple of weeks ago we left our church parking lot after service. Another driver pulled out ahead of us from the community college parking lot across the street. It was dark, so I couldn't see the top of the car all that well, but it looked like there was something on the roof. When we both stopped at a stop sign a block away, Glory and I saw that there was a laptop case on top of the car.

I flashed my brights at the guy in an attempt to get him to stop so we could inform him that his vaulables were in danger. He sped off. At the next stop sign, I flashed my lights again and hocked my horn. He sped off again, this time going faster. He didn't want to stop for us. This went on for several blocks, with the driver going faster and faster, careening around corners, ignoring my honks and flashes, before he finally pulled into an apartment complex. He didn't park. He was looking to shake us off -- us, the crazy couple and five kids (our oldest's friend was with us, too) trying to corner him, shoot him, carjack his car, steal his textbooks, something!

We pulled up beside him. He was on the phone -- to 911, no doubt expecting his hurried and panicked words to the dispatcher would be the last he uttered before departing this earth.

Glory pulled down the window: "You left your laptop on your roof!" she told the shaking driver.

"W-w-what?!" he said, rolling his window down.

"We're not trying to stalk you," Glory said calmly while smiling. "You left your laptop on your roof."

He reached up and felt the bag. "Ohhh! Thank you!"

With that, we waved, pulled around the parking area and left, catching another wave from the relieved driver as we drove past.

We laughed as we headed for home, but I didn't know whether to be glad for the guy in that we saved his computer, or be mad at him for thinking the worst of people.

I guess that's what we get for being a part of the Good Samaritan Mafia.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Too much soda and really BIG bunnies

I brought along my five-year-old daughter for a meeting I had to attend in Seattle today. She had a good time being with her dad but she eventually got bored. There are only so many pages in a coloring book and only so many ways a little girl can draw a pony or a dinosaur before losing interest. Fortunately the meeting ended soon enough and down the highway we went to see my boss, who is in the hospital with leukemia.

My boss smiled when we walked in the room, and my little girl wasn't disturbed by seeing this sick but very brave man lying in the hospital bed. After the visit, we were walking to our van in the hospital parking garage when my girl asked a pointed question:

"Daddy, how did he get sick?"

"I don't know," I said, after searching for something to say. "I just don't know."

There was a pause before she spoke again, trying to attach some blame to his condition.

"Maybe he drank too much soda."

I couldn't help but laugh and laugh. If only it were that simple. Yeah, I guess there's evidence out there that soda will kill you if consumed in extremely large quantities, but... it made sense to her.

I'm not surprised by a child's perception of things. They attach meaning to things based on what they know. Perhaps she heard that sodas cause cancer in lab animals. I don't know.

Another statement of the obvious made me smile again a little while later.

We have a pet rabbit. My daughter went with me last month to a feed store to get a bale of straw for the rabbit's cage. So my daughter equates hay with rabbits. Makes sense.

On the way home, after I treated her to an ice cream cone, we were behind a large semi hauling hay, enough for a herd of cattle.

"Wow! Look at that!" she exclaimed.

After a pause she said, "I bet he has a pet rabbit, too!"

And why not?


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Being Thankful

The month after Christmas typically is a rough month for us, as I am sure it is for many people. The cash you had was swallowed up by not just presents but buying food for parties or other gatherings, helping out others, etc. So from then on and until the next pay day, it's real lean.

So I'm thankful for God's provisions for us and seeing us through. We finally got my monthly paycheck on Friday and I couldn't help but to be extremely grateful. We were down to very little. Glory was running out of options with what little we had. And for my wife, who is a brilliant cook who can make meals for us out of nothing, to say that she's running out of ideas, it must have been getting bad.

But obviously not as bad as others. There's always someone worse off.

Today I heard about a couple in L.A. who killed themselves and their children because they lost their jobs. In fact, I continue to hear about such stories with more frequency. How sad that is that one's self worth is based so much on one's job.

I have been on the other end of a layoff before, actually a couple of times. While that is not fun, and it is scary, I can say with all certainty that never once did I believe that life was over and not worth living. I know that God provides and that He would see us through.

Jesus said in Luke 12:15: "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." While He was speaking of greed, of course, the principal is the same. Paul wrote in Phillipians 4:12: "I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need."

What is that secret? It's knowing Christ and knowing that He gives us strength to get through the trials of life. But all this help isn't just to make life easier for us. It's so that God gets the glory.

So, remember who puts food on the table. And may you remember, when times really get tough, that God sees even that. He'll sustain you even in the darkest of times.

Just ask Paul.


Friday, January 23, 2009

There's money to be found if only you look down.

Times are tough, I will admit. People are losing their jobs. They can't keep up with their house payments. The bills are piling up. It's a bad scene out there for many right now.

It's been a little tight for us, too, but thankfully we are doing OK. I remain convinced that we will be all right, mainly because God takes care of His kids. And we are His kids.

But there are things we need to do on our end, too: work hard, save, and help those worse off than we.

There may come a time when the whole family will have to find work to make the household function. I dread the idea of my kids having to get a paper route or something and then have to fork over their hard-earned dollars to have to keep meat on the table. That is my job. But if that is what needs to happen, then fine. Such sacrifices will knit our family together even more tightly. My grandparents had to endure hardships and they prevailed. Should our economy get worse and a depression befall our generation, may we show the same fortitude to withstand it and come out better on the other side.

But for all this spectre of depression, rice and bean dinners and barely scraping by, I am encouraged with the knowledge that there is money to be had, and it's under all our noses. As I tell my youngest daughter: "There's money to be found, if only you look down."

It's true.

Next time you're out walking downtown or even along your street, look down. Guaranteed, after a while you will find at least a penny. Perhaps you'll get lucky and find something more. Yesterday when I was on my scooter at a stop light, I spied a quarter and a penny on the side of the road. I pulled over and picked them up. Earlier in the day I found a penny. Today I found a penny in a parking lot. Go through the drive-thru and you will find at least 10 cents in the lane by the window. At the grocery store you will find a nickel by the pay phone. Money is to be found everywhere! I average a penny a day, at least. That's $3.65 a year.

You may scoff, "Big deal." It is a big deal. $3.65 will buy at least a jug of milk or a gallon of gas when you need it the most.

There was a time when people would get real excited at finding money on the street. It doesn't seem so these days. In fact, people throw their money away, even in these tough times. I think that's silly. I am sure there's millions out there to be found because people either are just careless or don't think a penny, nickel, dime or quarter amounts to much. Find them and we're talking dollars!

When it's getting late into the month and there are a few days until payday and you've run out of cash, and you've also run out of milk or diapers, and you see your kids' faces and you want their little smiles to remain smiles, AND you know that if you don't do something, life could be bad, you remember that you've been tossing found money into a jar. You then can thank God and rest easy in knowing that everything is going to be OK.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009


We watched yesterday's inauguration of President Barack Obama. We sang when Aretha Franklin sang, we prayed when Pastor Rick Warren prayed, and we prayed more when the oath of office was administered. After all things ceremonial were done we went about our day unmoved and unchanged. Just resolved as always to do what we know God has set before us to do.

Bill went to view President Obama's agenda. While we have our personal concerns over certain aspects of his policies, nothing gave us cause for significant alarm. It is not because of what President Barack Obama and his administration may or may not do but because of Who God is and forever will be.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

1 Chronicles 28:20
David also said to Solomon his son, "Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished.

Psalm 27:1
The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 56:3-4
When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:13
For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

1 Corinthians 16:13
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Hebrews 13:5-6
For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we may boldly say: "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Skin Game

A Skin Game, according to an online definition, is a dirty game that is characterized by ruthlessness.

Alfred Hitchcock movies have been an entertainment staple since before Bill and I married. We consummated our love for this outstanding director, producer, and occasional cameo actor over Vertigo, with James Stewart and Kim Novak to lead the way. From that day forward we have indulged our penchant for suspense, intrigue, and mystery via stories such as Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, and many others.

As we selected The Skin Game, then, we expected something far different that what we were dished up. Much like anticipating the taste of a well crafted wine but experiencing something very peculiar, The Skin Game unfolded with quaint scenery of English countrysides and accompanying orchestration. Bill and I snuggled under a woven blanket and I rested my head on his shoulder. As the movie continued I found myself tense and disconcerted and Bill was sitting up straighter, too. By the movie's end, we were both quiet, very still, and solemn.

Something about all of the characters made it impossible to despise any of them, outright, but there wasn't a single one who showed ample virtue to stand out enough above any others. All were selfish, proud, and deceitful, hurting whomever they needed to get what they wanted. In the end there were no winners, none with any redeeming changes. All was lost.

Clearly, we saw the law of sowing and reaping, albeit played out dramatically. But it left both of us to, firstly, decide to take a break from Hitchcock's theatrical fare, then to discuss who at the end was closer to salvation. It causes me to consider as well, how do any of us get close enough to see the light of Truth, the hear the voice of Love, to feel the hand of Grace. Without God's Holy Spirit to bring us to His mercy there is no hope of forgiveness and we are all trapped in our own Skin Game.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

My Very Crummy No Good Bad Day

Bill tapped the power button off on our CD alarm as we tried to steal a few more minutes of sleep. It wasn’t to be as Ulie unlatched the barn door (it’s really very much a barn door) that leads into our room and said, “I want out…Daddy, I’m doo-doo. Daddy, I’m doo-doo, Daddy…”

“Okay, Ulie, I’ll change your diaper.” Bill sleepily replied.

I always feel just a moderate quantity of guilt when Bill has to get up before I do and cares for the boys as I lay in bed earnestly trying to get up but not moving a muscle. He’s the money-maker so I should be busily preparing breakfast long in advance of him getting into the shower. I don’t and he’s patient and forgiving enough to never let me know if this bothers him.

So, this morning I decided to handle the boys, both of whom needed diaper changes in the most urgent and desperate way. I retrieved Aulay’s diaper and Ulie’s underpants and noticed that the bucket of wipes was perilously light…I’ll have to make more, later. So, somehow, I managed to clean both bottoms with three wipes between them, not much different than cleaning an oil barge spill with a few cotton balls, actually.

“Honey, don’t forget to call the city to have them pick up our trash,” Bill reminded me, before the “See ya, Honey *kiss* I love you,” ritual.

Our trash bin was beyond overflowing and we’ve had to pile nearly two weeks worth of garbage sacks on top and beside it on the street. I always feel like it’s going to get knocked over or torn apart by birds, cats, or opossums so it makes me nervous seeing it outside for very long.

It was a dire situation, then, when Bill left our driveway and I couldn’t locate our cordless phone. We have a phone on our printer/fax machine, but it ties me down and I hate not being able to continue a phone call while stopping Aulay from splashing his hand in the toilet or grabbing Ulie away from the glass pitcher that cracked when our refrigerator froze the water into ice. I pushed the “find hs (find handset)” button which beeped once, like normal, but bleeped after a short delay, not normal. I enlisted the girls to help me find it but to no avail. I called Bill to ask if he’d help me find it by calling us repeatedly. After about 5 repeated tries of having the wall set ring, not hearing the handset at all, the girls and I scrambling from room to room trying to hear it, and Aulay holding his hands over his ears and yelling, “I go- i !” (toddlerese for I GOT IT), I finally found the handset with the toys in the family room with an obviously dead battery. So I would have to make the call from the office after all that.

Somehow the kids were fed breakfast and released from the table and high chair to play in the family room. At least that’s where I expected them to be, where all their new toys from Christmas beckoned like neon Vegas lights. My wishful thinking was abruptly halted when I saw an Alfred Hitchcock DVD in his little hand. The TV combo was moved into our bedroom, yesterday, so I knew there had been an intrusion. After latching the barn door shut, again, I headed upstairs to check on Elizabeth and saw her with her schoolbooks and assignment sheets in disarray. I already struggle to understand her system but, today, I wasn’t interested in getting it. Seeing the gross disorganization of what should be the girls’ private retreat was the blinking red light as the arms folded down to block the path across the rails of the accelerating locomotive.

“I’ve had it!” I heard my voice cry out like a blaring train whistle.

My inner drill sergeant had awoken and it was time for Mommy Boot Camp.

Elizabeth was given strict instructions to organize her schoolwork while Murron was told that her Barbies wouldn’t see the light of day until her clothes were put where they belonged. Even the boys with their deer-in-headlights countenances were commanded to clean their room which had stuffed toys strewn about, bedding rumpled in various corners, and clothes out of drawers. Ulie and Aulay meekly began to put things away. I left them to their work after remarking how good a job they were doing.

That’s when I was inspired to create movie tickets that the kids could earn by keeping their rooms clean, the toys put away, and by helping with laundry and dishes. I reasoned that it wouldn’t take me very long and the kids seemed occupied with their tasks. After finishing the simple document I clicked the print button. Nothing happened. After repeated tries, still nothing happened…I restarted the computer, I pushed the buttons on the printer, I turned the computer off, I turned off the power strip, I attempted everything I could imagine short of flipping all the switches in our breaker box on and off. Bill called to ask how things were going and, when I told him of the printing dilemma, he suggested that I jiggle the wires a little. Too simple, perhaps, but I was bereft of anything more original so, crawling under the computer table, I did just that.

It worked.

I’d be feeling almost totally satisfied, right now, if my sock wasn’t so wet because of stepping on the soggy washcloth the kids left on the bathroom floor.