Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Christmas Kaleidoscope

Do you remember the kaleidoscopes you got as a child? You held the long tube up to the light and looked through to see a myriad of colors at the other end. Then you twisted the tube, the colors changing shapes and designs, with new colors replacing the old ones. It never looked the same way twice.

Christmas is much like that. There’s the green of the Christmas tree itself, as well as wreaths and holly. And don’t forget the mistletoe! Green brings freshness into the staleness of our everyday life. The mundane gets replaced by having a tree in the corner of the living room. What a concept! So it can be with our spirit. Life-as-usual is replaced with the realization that the freshness of Christ Himself came to dwell with man, right in the corner of our living room!

Red lifts our spirits and gladdens our hearts. It’s found in ribbons and bows that wrap around a gift. Isn’t it fun to get presents from our children, spouse, or friends? We place them under the tree, waiting for the right moment to untie the red ribbon and see what lies within. So it is with God’s gift to us. In the fullness of time He presented His gift, the gift of His only son. We can leave that present under the tree, simply admiring its beauty, or we can touch the blood-red ribbon He wrapped the gift with, and open the mystery waiting inside.

Then there’s the beautiful blue that offsets and contrasts with the other Christmas colors. Blue can have a very calming effect on people, and we all know we need a heaping serving of serenity at this time of the year. Though we want everything to be perfect, we have to realize we can’t make that happen. Only God was able to do that.

Think about it—take the stress surrounding the census, a nearly 100-mile donkey trip, a husband who refused to make motel reservations, and a KOA campground that was severely lacking in amenities, and you have the stress surrounding Mary at the time of the first Christmas. I wonder how she was feeling and speaking as she made that long, uncomfortable trip. Was she serene, sitting on the bony back of a donkey mile after mile, a beatific smile on her face, already posing for all the Christmas cards that would grace people’s mantels a couple thousand years later?

Or was she griping like I would have been? "Joseph, are we there yet? My back is killing me. Yes, I’m sure you would have preferred to leave me home with my mother, but a wife’s supposed to follow her husband, you know! Griping? I’ll show you griping! If you think it’s so easy, you try doing this when you’re nine months pregnant!"

The Bible doesn’t record any of that. But what we do know is that Emmanuel, God With Us, joined Mary and Joseph in the midst of their discomfort, fears, uncertainty, economic unrest, and distance from family. Ever been in that place? Isn’t it comforting to know we’re not left to muddle through on our own, but that the very Lord of Heaven walks along beside us?

Silver and gold remind us of the royalty of Christ. Though He came as the babe in the manger, He will return as the conquering king. Every knee will bow before Him in recognition of who He truly is and what He has done for mankind. May we, this Christmas season, look around and see Jesus in the world around us. We don’t have to wait until He comes back.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Book Review of The Fence My Father Built, by Linda S. Clare

Take a father who longs to be part of his daughter’s life, a broken marriage between an interracial couple, and a young girl who grows up knowing a part of her life is missing. Add a legacy of alcoholism and addiction that follows the girl into adulthood, and her need to know the side of the family she was never around. Mix in a rebellious teenage girl, potbellied pigs, an intriguing male neighbor, and a fence line built of oven doors, and you have The Fence My Father Built.

Set mostly in the open range of Central Oregon, Ms. Clare’s novel follows the story of Muri Pond, who has been called to settle some family business left behind when her father dies. A feud existed between her dad and Linc Jackson, the man who "owns" the town, with the ownership of land and a creek in question. It’s up to Muri to find the cause of the disagreement and try to right it. In the process, she discovers much about her own background and faith, and why it’s so important.

Ms. Clare draws from her own experience of discovering her Native American heritage. She brings to life eccentric characters whose lives present an interesting change from the norm. She did a great job capturing the ongoing clash between Muri and her teenage daughter. (I’m thinking the voice of experience here!) Ms. Clare deals with cultural relationships that are seldom explored in books, leading to thought-provoking moments for the reader.

The Fence My Father Built is a well-written novel that will leave you waiting impatiently for Ms. Clare’s next book. I gladly give it four stars.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What I Learned at the Knee of NaNo

With a title like this, maybe you think I have a special nickname for my grandma, and I've been sitting at her feet gleaning great wisdom. (As my dad always said, "I learned it at my mother's knee, and certain other joints!")

No, my grandparents have all passed on, so I'm not talking about them. I'm referring to NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. It's actually a world-wide writing event, in which you sign up and strive to write 50,000 words during the month of November. My understanding is that 177,000 people signed up for it this year, and 30,000-something met their goal. I'm very happy to say I was one of them!

Fifty thousand words may not sound like a lot, but when I first sat down in front of my blank computer screen, it seemed nearly insurmountable. I only had the germ of an idea for a story. I knew who my main character was and one event that would happen to her, but that was it. Not much to go on, huh?

I decided to jump right in and have something happen to her on the first page. The story began to grow from there. The fun thing about NaNo is that the writer is not allowed to edit themselves as they write. When I've written in the past, I could get hung up for ten minutes looking through my thesaurus trying to find the exact word to express myself. But not during Nano. I had the freedom to throw words on the screen and keep typing. My story makes sense (I didn't repeat one sentence over and over) but it's certainly not good writing. I don't have the layers and subplots woven through like I will when it's polished. But I've got a great start.

For the past year or more I have just dinked around with my writing. I've had so many family situations I've been in the midst of that I felt it wasn't possible to write. And yet at the end of the day I would often think, "Just what have I accomplished today?"

During NaNo I found I could set daily word counts and meet them. Most days I did between 2,000 and 2,500 words, but one day I managed 4,300. I was able to take days off for family activities by going over my quota for several days in a row. I learned to have contests with myself. I wrote down how many words I wrote in a thirty minute time frame and tried to beat it in the next thirty minutes. And I always did.

I learned to say no to some invitations in order to keep writing. I learned that when family crises continued to hit and I didn't want to write I could still force myself to do so, regardless of my feelings.

I think my grandma would be proud.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Peace in the Pieces

November—the month that makes us realize the year is nearly over. Nights are long and the rainy days seem to last forever. Children complain about sore throats and come home from school with hacking coughs. Christmas is just around the corner, bringing with it the panic of trying to fit in Christmas parties and programs, trips to the mall, cookie baking marathons, and sending out Christmas cards. This is a busy time of year, and we women can easily get overwhelmed. It feels like everyone wants a piece of us.

I believe that within our heart there is a desire to be calm and focused; not caught up in the whirlwind of busyness that surrounds us and threatens to suck us into the vortex of a life out of control. How do we find peace in the midst of chaos?

In John 16:33 Jesus says, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Psalm 26:3,4 gives us a beautiful promise: "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is everlasting strength."

Another reminder of our source of peace is found in John 14:27 where Jesus tells us of a wonderful gift He is offering—"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

We have a choice to make. Will we let God control the events of the day, or try to manipulate them ourselves? It is so important to take/make time at some point each day to settle down in a comfy chair, maybe with a cup of coffee or tea nearby, and just cozy up in the Lord’s lap. Read a favorite passage in the Bible and meditate on the words. How do they apply to your life? What is God saying to you? Just sit and let your thoughts be open to soaking up the truth of God’s word. Then, after your soul has been refreshed, join in the activity around you with a thankful heart. One that knows the source of peace.

Monday, November 16, 2009

How Embarrassing!

Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to say you have a blog, but you rarely post anything?

What does a non-blogger, who has a blog, look like? Their skin is creased and wrinkled from holding their head in their hands while moaning, "Alas, alas. What can I possibly write about that would be of interest to others?" A flabby stomach greets them when they finally rise from hours spent in front of a blank computer screen. Vericose veins march their way across the non-bloggers thighs in protest of too little walking. Eyes are dull, just like one's mind. It's a sad state of affairs, I tell you. Either that, or old age!

My postings have been so few, and so far apart, that I'm sure no one reads them but me. But I've found a new sense of discipline this month and I believe I can start posting a couple times a week. Even if I'm the only one who reads them, at least I can be consistent.

My new realization that I can be disciplined about my writing has come from participating in a world-wide event during the month of November. It's called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. Or NaNo for shorter. The goal is to write 50,000 words of a new novel during November. That's a lot of words for most of us to reach in that amount of time.

This came at the perfect time for me. I had just come up with the germ of an idea for a new story I wanted to write on my own. I had just become represented by a new agent who I know will require a lot from me. So I signed up. At this point, I've written 27,549 words. I think I'm going to make it!

And as I go through the rest of the month, I'll also blog. They may not be deep and insightful, but as I've found by NaNoing, they just need to be written.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Review of A Slow Burn, by Mary DeMuth

What would you do if you were called to the morgue to identify the body of your thirteen-year-old daughter? What emotions would course through your soul as you were hit with the realization your drug and alcohol abuse may have played a part in the loss of your only child? What guilt might you attribute to her young friend, Jed, who was the last person to see her alive?

Emory Chance is a mother living through such an unthinkable situation. She seeks to find out who murdered her daughter, and why. Things like this just don't happen in their small Texas town. Others deal with problems of their own: Hixon, a man who believes God has told him to marry Emory, though they have little in common, and Jed, the boy reeling under the regret of not walking his friend home after they had last played together. The lives of these three characters intersect in unusual ways, up to the last pages of the book.

A Slow Burn is the sequel to Mary DeMuth's novel, Daisy Chain. It's important to read them in the correct order. Ms. DeMuth's writing is stellar--deep and flowing. The characters come alive and may remind you of people you've known in your past. Huge topics of forgiveness, regret, guilt, and blame are dealt with. This book will grab your emotions and give them a hard twist before leaving you with a satisfying ending. The two books would make a wonderful Christmas present. I give A Slow Burn one of my rare five-star ratings!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Expect the Unexpected

Just a quick note today before flying out to the national American Christian Writers Conference, held this year in beautiful Denver, CO. I always have these grand plans of being prepared a day ahead of time, just needing to put my toiletries in at the last minute. But, as usual, I was up late last night finishing my to-do list.

One of the necessary things before taking off on a trip is to make sure the bills are all paid. Because John is a school teacher and just gets paid during the school year, summer is a lo-o-o-ng stretch with little income. By the time September rolls around we're counting the days until the end of the month and a pay check. But there was no getting around it on Saturday--I had to pay those pesky bills.

I wondered aloud, "Lord, how are we going to do this?" I closed the checkbook and walked away, still stymied. A few minutes later Christina brought my mail and placed it on the counter. What did I find tucked between various junk mail and fliers? A check from the school district John had tuned for several weeks ago--to the "tune" of $1,000. Thank you Lord!

On Monday I happened to stick my hand in the back pocket of a pair of capris and felt a hard lump. (No, it wasn't me!) I dug a little deeper and pulled out a folded roll of $14. I realized it was left over from going to the State Fair and not wanting to carry a purse. What's funny is that those pants had gone through the wash probably four or five times since then, and the money was still perfect. It wasn't enough to do much on the bills, but it was there. Thank you, Lord!

God gives us unexpected blessings more than we realize. It may be a $14 blessing--an easy-to-find-parking space, a new checkout line opening up at the grocery store when we're in a rush, or a phone call from a friend--these small things we blithely accept, then move on. It's the $1,000 blessings that garner our attention--healing from a disease, a restored relationship, a job after being out of work for months. But I say blessings are blessings are blessings! Keep your eyes open today for what the Lord is doing in your life. I'd love for you to leave a comment and let me know what you see!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Great Cover Up

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I’m a messy cook. People always say, “The proof’s in the pudding,” but for me, the proof’s in the cookbook. Just thumbing through my cookbooks can prove my claim, as pages are glued together by an errant drop of batter or boldly decorated with oil splatters.

Not only are my recipe pages victims of unplanned food fights, but my clothes become part of the fray. Homemade barbecue sauce accidentally dribbles down a white blouse, or chocolate pudding on my jeans. Sometimes, if I put my clothes in the washer with hot water and no soap, I could end up with a unique soup!

Because of my propensity to wear ingredients instead of mixing them, I rely on a relic from the past—an apron. I’ve had a lot of different kinds of aprons throughout my decades as a wife, but my favorite is the one my parents got me for my birthday last year. It’s an old-fashioned cobbler apron in a pattern that appears to have come from the 1950s—drawings of dishes, stoves, mixers, and tea kettles, all colored in red and green. Every time I look at it, a gentle breeze of nostalgia caresses my mind.

Now you may not be a woman who must cover up with an apron, but there’s a cover up that we all need to use much more than we do. I Peter 4:8 says, “Above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.” Yep, what the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s what our church needs, as well as our friends and members of our families.

I’m not talking about a kind of love that glosses over the seriousness of others’ sins. Not a love that turns its head the other way when wrongs are committed, or a love that refuses to take a stand when injustice is involved. None of those are really love, but an easy way out of confrontation or accountability. There are times love has to be tough.

The verse in I Peter is a reference to Proverbs 10:12, which says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.” When we make a conscious choice to overlook an offense against us, we are taking away the power of strife and adding a huge measurement of love. When someone hurts us, either intentionally or without meaning to, we have the option of tamping our resentment down into the crevices of our heart, where it hardens, or of letting it go. If we cherish resentment, instead of the relationship with the person involved, we are the one to lose.

So the next time you don an apron, or look down at your messy clothes and think, “I should have worn an apron,” remember the greatest cover up of all—love.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Interview With My Daughter, Author Christina Berry--The Familiar Stranger

There are days in the life of a mother when her heart nearly bursts with pride at the accomplishment of her daughter. Maybe it's the first time she uses the potty, or her high school graduation. (Hopefully there's a long time between the two!) Perhaps it's her wedding day, or the birth of her first child.

I've watched my daughter, Christina Berry, follow her dream for the past ten years--her dream of writing a book and having it published. I've seen her persevere through the times when it seemed like it may never happen, and I've been there to jump and squeal with excitement when it did. She's got a two-month blog tour going on with the release of her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger. It's my joy and privilege to introduce you to a side of Christina maybe you don't know.

Welcome to The Mother Blog, Christina. It's great to have you here. I hope you'll feel at ease as we spend a few minutes getting to know each other better.

I know you were born in NV, (I remember it well) but where else have you lived? What was your favorite place and why?

From NV to Georgia for the language school before you guys were sent to Nigeria, West Africa. Then stateside to recup in South Lake Tahoe, CA, one year in Reno, NV, most of my growing up in Fallon, high school in Pendleton, OR, college in Forest Grove and now settled in the metropolis of Gaston,OR. (625 people)

My favorite place would have to be ... your womb. I had no worries, was always well-fed and warm enough, and my skin was baby soft!

What was your family like?

Crazy! If I were to tell you some of the stories ... man, especially about my mother! She threw shoes before it was even Middle-eastern-cool to throw them. :-) Really, I had a fantastically close family growing up. Friends used to say that our house was better than Disneyland because they could feel the love. My parents taught me God's way not only with words, but with actions.

What was the best advice your parents ever gave you?

That life wasn't fair. I actually don't remember hearing this often, but you claim to have said it often, and I trust you, so I'll believe it. Here's the thing: you were right. This last year has proven beyond a doubt that life is not fair ... and that our God is!

How did you come to know the Lord?

My daddy was a pastor. Not even four years old, sitting in church, I heard Dad preach about heaven and hell, and thought, "I want to be with God in heaven." A very simple choice, which many could say didn't mean anything because of my depth, or lack thereof, of understanding and my young age. To that I say, like a marriage vow, a promise can be made for a lifetime with no real comprehension of what the commitment entails, but it's no less a promise.

Long about 9th grade, I went through a time of questioning: do I really believe this for myself, or am I leaning on my parents' faith? It didn’t take long to figure out that nothing in this world makes sense if God didn't make it, if He doesn't control it and redeem it, and nothing is worth living for if Jesus isn't coming back. Since then, I’ve never doubted, though I have wrestled.

Your book is entitled The Familiar Stranger. How did you feel about strangers when you were young? Has your perspective changed?

I'm pretty sure I was shy and ran from strangers. Now, I'm much more extroverted. I'll talk to inanimate objects if no one is around! Plus, listening to strangers' conversations or watching gestures is fascinating as book research.

Is there anything you've never confessed to me that you'd like to right here in front of millions of readers?

Once--unbeknownst to me--a chocolate chip got stuck in my belly button, melted, and I thought I was bleeding. Oh, wait, you already know that ...

I snuck out of the house one time in high school to walk the loop with some friends. Terrified of something tragic befalling me and you never knowing what happened, I left an apologetic note on my pillow in case you checked on me. Uh ... you already knew that too. Guess I have no secrets from you, Mom!

Your birthday is the last day of this month. What was your most unusual birthday celebration? The time you packed a picnic for us to take up on the huge stone hill in Nigeria. Once we spread out our food and began to eat, the witch doctor woman came out and yelled and cursed us and ran us off the mountain.

I thought that would be the one you picked! I remember being emotionally wrung out from that experience and we came home and I spent the rest of the day on the couch. You made your own birthday cake, using a little "play" mix someone had sent you for Christmas. I felt like I'd win the award for the International Worst Mother of the Year! But it didn't seem to scar you for life, and you've never held it against me.

Christina is a single mom and foster parent who carves time to write from her busy schedule because she must tell the stories that haunt her every waking moment. (Such is the overly dramatic description of an author's life!) She holds a BA in Literature, yet loves a good Calculus problem, as well. Her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, releases from Moody in September and deals with lies, secrets, and themes of forgiveness in a troubled marriage. A moving speaker and dynamic teacher, Christina strives to Live Transparently--Forgive Extravagantly!Her work has also appeared in The Secret Place, The Oregonian, and Daily Devotions for Writers. Find her at and
Christina, it's been fun to sit down and visit with you about your life and your book. We don't want to leave without inviting people to sign up for our infrequent, humorous newletter. There's a great contest going on at the Ashberry Lane newsletter, so everyone needs to stop by and sign up. Is there anything else you'd like to say in closing?

I just want to thank you for being the best mom in the whole world.
(So, okay, I didn't ask Christina that last question, but I'm sure that's what she'd say!!)
If you leave a comment on this blog, you'll automatically be entered to win an autographed copy of The Familiar Stranger.
Look for Christina's next interview tomorrow with Edwina Cowgill at

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Back to Reality

I had a great time last week when I got away for several days with my parents. It's so neat that Mom (age 79) and Dad (age 81) are still able to travel and have fun. Their best friends came from California and met us in southern Oregon at a little town called Shady Cove. I'd never heard of it, but since mentioning the name to people, I've had numerous responses of, "Oh, I love Shady Cove!" I guess it was a well-kept secret that I'm now in on! And I'm sharing it with you!

We spent four nights at the Edgewater Motel, set on the banks of the beautiful Rogue River. When we arrived on Sunday and opened the French doors on the river side, we saw rafts and boats floating past our doorway. It looked like a lot of fun. I've never gone rafting, but maybe it's something I should try.

During our time there, Dad and Dick went fishing every day at a nearby reservoir while we women stayed at the motel and played umpteen games of cards and went out to eat. Seems to me that we got the better end of the deal. The best part was that I got to celebrate my 57th birthday while we were there. Mom and Joanne made the day special by taking me out to lunch in the old gold rush town of Jacksonville. The richness of the decor and the ambiance of the Jacksonville Inn stirred my imagination as a writer. The trolley car tour we later took of the town only added to my vivid pictures of life in the 1800's.

So where does reality fit in with this, you ask? How can "real life" break through amidst dining out, living in the past, and maid service? Well, it happened when I returned home to find a $1200 bill (not covered by insurance) for blood tests I had done in the process of trying to find out what's wrong with my feet. (Talk about having to foot the bill!) And if that weren't bad enough, the next day I got notice that I've been summoned to appear for grand jury selection next month!

I've decided my best bet is to not open any more mail!

Monday, May 18, 2009

OCW Weekend

This will be a quick post this morning, as I'm heading to the beach in just a few minutes. I know ... it's a rough life! I get to go back to the beach house where John took me on our Mystery Weekend last month. My parents were planning on going with us, but they've both been sick with colds and won't be able to make it, We'll have to try to get them over there at a later time.

Friday afternoon Christina and I, along with our dear friend and fellow critique group member, Miriam, drove down to Eugene to be ready to attend the OCW (Oregon Christian Writers) conference the following day. What made this day especially fun was that we were slated for a tour of Harvest House Publishers, given by our own Kim Moore. (We call her our own, because we don't want to share her! What's really funny is that she's turned us down three or four times, and yet continues to believe in us and care about us. Just a really special person in our lives.) Another member of our critique group, Kristen, met us there.

Harvest House is an amazing place. Huge--with lots of offices, a distribution warehouse that looks larger than a Costco, and books everywhere you look. It's like letting a drug addict loose in an opium field! Kim must have seen how badly we needed a fix after spending an hour there, as she graciously invited us to each pick out a book to take home. Thanks, Kim!

We didn't want the good times to stop, so took Kim out to dinner at a cool barbecue place called The Hole in the Wall. We'd eaten there last year and really enjoyed it, so now it's a tradition. Kim was an entertaining dinner guest, full of stories and insights about the writing world. After dinner she invited us over to her house to meet her well-loved cats.

We spent the night at Kristen's grandma's house. Rita capped our evening with pie and tea. Of course we stayed up talking 'til nearly midnight. Do women ever run out of things to talk about?

Saturday morning, after many wrong turns, (none of us had brought directions along) we finally arrived at Northwest Christian University for the conference. It always feels like walking into a family reunion when we attend these events, as we only get to see most of these people at the conferences, which are months apart from each other. Cindy Martinusen Coloma was the keynoter and did a remarkable job. She spoke on "The Call of a Writer" and "The Fictive Life." She had very interesting presentations and I took lots of notes.

Mid-afternoon, Christina and I had the privilege of teaching a class called "Writing in Tandem." We had a good-sized group, with lots of interaction and participation. (I think the candy we brought helped!) It was fun to present things we've learned through our years of writing together.

I realized when I got home that evening that I wasn't tired out. Usually a busy weekend will make me feel draggy, but I think the teaching energized me. But in spite of that, I'm anxious to get to the beach and relax!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Beware of Dogs with Zits!

A couple of weeks ago my eight-year-old grandson, Joshua, came downstairs to see what I was doing. It was a little after 5 pm and I had the TV news on in the background as I was working on dinner. For some reason the news appeals to Josh, and he sat down to watch it.

"Grandma, they're looking for a pimple."

"What do you mean?" I asked as I continued to chop onions.

"The news says that people in the neighborhood are looking for a big pimple."

Intrigued, I rinsed my hands and joined him on the couch, hoping to figure out what this breaking news was all about. I listened to the newscaster as she said, "Neighbors are on the alert for a large pit bull roaming the neighborhood."

(Say it out loud to yourself--pit bull and pimple sound a lot alike!)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Getting to First Base

It’s that wonderful time of year in Oregon, when we parents and grandparents get to sit in biting wind and pouring rain to watch our children play baseball or softball. Our umbrellas may be up, their edges dripping water onto the knees of the person sitting behind us on the bleachers, and our blankets tightly wrapped around us, but those little players in the field don’t seem to be bothered much by the weather. Their attention is on the game. They are glad simply to be part of the team.

As I’ve been watching the games this year, I’ve been impressed by how much the young players have to learn. It’s not natural for most of them to have the correct stance, their hands positioned correctly on the bat. Nor is it easy to keep their eyes on the ball and swing at precisely the right second to ensure the bat connects with a resounding thwack! Then there’s the whole matter of making it to base before the ball does. One little girl on the team gently lays the bat on the ground before heading off for first base, as if she’s lovingly placing a doll on her bed before going out to play! It’s hard for her to beat the ball, except for the fact that that it’s usually overthrown, giving her a chance to make it in time.

My granddaughter is fortunate to have our pastor as her coach. This is her first year to play, and his encouragement helps her enjoy the experience. “Good try, Andrea. You’ll get it on this next pitch.” And when she hits it I can hear him say, “I knew you could do it!”

I think it may be like that in our Christian life too. When we first become believers, there are a lot of new things to learn. We’re glad to be part of the team, and we have a general idea of what we’re supposed to do, but are maybe not sure how or why. We need someone who can explain the importance of prayer and Bible reading. The importance of attending church and giving. The importance of serving in some capacity.

Will we always get it right? No, there will be times we strike out. But that doesn’t mean we’re eliminated from the game. As long as we get out on the field, no matter the weather, and listen to the directions of our coach, we’ll find ourselves becoming more proficient in our Christian walk. We’ll find our rhythm and it will become more natural, in a supernatural way, to live the life Christ has for us.

Batter up!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

An Evening of Gentility

Last weekend John and I were part of something that is quite unusual in our modern culture--an evening of gentility. He teaches at Veritas School, which provides a classical education for kindergarten through twelfth grade. Yes, they even learn Latin!

The biggest social event of their year is Protocol. This is something that all high schoolers can attend, but is in honor of the seniors. Seating is limited, so not all staff are invited. But John and I received an invitation this year, and it was a joy to participate.

It was held at the country club in Wilsonville. All the girls wore floor-length gowns in spring colors. No blacks. We women could wear knee-length dresses, which was a blessing for me since I'm so tall it would be nearly impossible to find a long gown. The boys and men all wore suits and ties.

Round tables for eight were covered with crisp white tablecloths, a beautiful arrangement of flowers gracing the center. Each table was hosted by a senior student, who was responsible to see that the conversation didn't lag. We had no problem with that at our table! John and I were the only adults and really enjoyed the students we shared the four-course meal with.

So what made this evening so genteel? The gorgeous setting certainly helped. The teens were polite and showed wonderful manners. The males at each table rose whenever a woman stood to leave or return to the table. I've never seen that happen any place but in books! Toasts were made to each senior, often by a younger brother or sister. The sentiments were heartfelt, often resulting in tears by the honoree, and sometimes by the person offering the toast. And the dancing--it was like nothing I've seen outside of movies. The young ladies stood on one side of the room, the young men on the other. They would approach the women and ask for the "pleasure of this dance" then escort them to that side of the room when the dance was through, and tell them thank you.

The dancing itself was very unusual, in a good way. It began with the Grand March, which was like something out of Jane Austen. There was a grand promenade, with weaving back and forth, in and out, between the other couples. They did the Virginia Reel, an Irish dance, and a waltz. No bodies pressed closely together, feet barely moving. Nothing like the sensual atmosphere that permeates most dances nowadays. The whole event was done so well--everyone had fun and it honored Christ. I hope we get an invitation again next year!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mystery Weekend Revealed

More than two months ago, before all the upheaval in our lives, John called me from school to ask if I would like to get away for a few days. I'm always up for that! After looking through our calendars, we realized that Easter weekend would be our best opportunity. He didn't tell me where we were going, but that's okay--I like surprises!

A few days later the breakup of Christina's marriage occurred, as well as the ensuing concentrated work of getting the house up on the market. I've worked extremely hard for many weeks, and have felt on the brink of exhaustion. Knowing I had a "mystery date" coming up was one of the things that kept me going.

John and I left mid-afternoon on Thursday and he started driving toward the coast. That's one of my favorite places to go, so I already knew his weekend plans were a success! As we drove through Lincoln City we passed several motels where we've stayed in the past, so I continued to be mystified. Imagine my surprise when he turned off Highway 101 into a gated community at Salishan. What? We didn't know anyone there! He slowly drove down the winding streets (at the posted speed limit of 18 mph it took seven minutes to arrive) and pulled in at a weather-glazed condo on the edge of the beach.

He unlocked the door and we entered a snug 2-story, 3-bedroom, 2-bath condo, decorated in the calming blues of the sea. The west side of the house was a wall of windows overlooking the beach, which was just over a hillock covered with beach grass. Turns out that a couple who are connected with the school John teaches at own the vacation house, and are extremely gracious about inviting friends to go enjoy it. I was nearly moved to tears by their generosity. On the table a bottle of sparkling cider waited for us, along with a gift certificate to a nice restaurant down the road. We felt as if God's blessings were pouring over our heads.

That night we used the gift certificate and ate a wonderful dinner at Tidal Raves in Depoe Bay. The sun was setting and John went outside to capture the beautiful evening.

Friday morning we awoke to sunny skies, which is not a given on the Oregon coast. We went for a long walk on the beach. (Kind of sounds like a singles ad, doesn't it?)

Late that morning I called Christina to tell her where we were and what we were doing. I said I hoped that sometime we'd get invited to come to the house again and maybe we could bring her and the kids with us. That it would give her some healing to her soul.

Around 7 p.m. John and I were preparing dinner together (an activity in The Love Dare book where we'd been held up for weeks) when there was a knock on the door. I asked him to answer it, but stuck my head around the kitchen corner to see who it was. Talk about a surprise! There stood Christina and the children!! They had been in on it from the beginning of the planning all those weeks ago! My joy was complete. John and I had had a wonderful time together as just a couple, and now we got to share it with some of the most special people in our lives. Andrea and Joshua could hardly wait to get down to the beach, and Christina's 2-year-old foster daughter (code name, Angel) was just as excited, though she had no idea what they were talking about since she'd never been to the ocean. (I wish I could share pictures of the kids, but we're not allowed to post photos of Angel.)

In spite of the windy evening, we all donned jackets and went out to introduce little Angel to her new surroundings. She was exuberant about it all. Every time one of us would talk about the waves, Angel would wave her hand. She wasn't afraid when she and Christina were surprised by a sneaker wave (or "sneaky wave," as Angel calls it) and were thoroughly doused by the freezing Pacific.

That night when we were all safely inside the warm house, Angel looked out the window and said, "Where the ocean go?" I explained that it was still out there but that we couldn't see it in the dark. Saturday morning she woke up, ran to the window and exclaimed, "The ocean comed back!"

Saturday was spent relaxing, playing games, and Christina and the kids and I going to the new Hannah Montana movie while John stayed home and practiced violin for his upcoming concert. We all went out for Chinese food that night, then watched a movie when we came home. The word for the day was "relax" and I learned it well.

The kiddos discovered Easter baskets waiting for them Sunday morning, which kept them busy while we packed up. We headed home through the rain, stopping at Church on the Hill in McMinnville to attend one of their four Easter services. (We weren't able to get back to our home church in time for their service.) It was a joyous time of celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and meditating on His goodness to us. I realized that He had prepared this special weekend away even before I knew I had need of it. The depth of His caring is unfathomable.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Squeaky Clean

Yes, it's officially Spring, and you know what that means, of course. No, I'm not thinking of baseball, birds in their nests, or warm weather right around the corner. I'm talkin' about Spring Cleaning! That's when we knot a kerchief around our hair, tie an apron around our waist, and carry the a feather duster like a torch in our right hand. Wait ... that's a past generation I'm thinking of. Lucille Ball, June Cleaver, and their friends.

But that's the kind of deep-cleaning I need to do this year, sans the kerchief and apron. We want to get the house on the market by the end of this month. Time is scampering away from us like a two-year-old trying to escape their mother's clutch at bedtime.

Yesterday I spent most of my energy whipping the house into shape. With just John and me living in it, it really doesn't get too out-of-control. But I'd been sick over the weekend and a few things needed my attention. Plus, I don't usually clean with Q-tips. A feather duster, maybe, but not their Mini Me cousin, the Q-tip.

I know those cute little things were designed to clean the outer aspects of my ear, but I must confess I love to dig a little deeper. There's something so satisfying about being able to reach an itch that's just beyond where the tip of my pinkie will reach. Those swabs got a big workout yesterday, as I used them to clean the tracks in our sliding windows, reach into small corners and dig out accumulated dirt, as well as to scratch inside my ear. I even dug out the putty knife to remove extra caulk and plaster around some of the windows. Things I should have done three years ago when we passed our final inspection.

Why is it I've waited until some stranger is going to buy the house before tending to the little details that make it perfect? When we moved here, I told myself I would always keep it in ready-to-sell condition. But my human-ness crept in and here I am doing the nitty-gritty cleaning for someone else to enjoy. I'm sure there's more I could say about this phenomenon, but if you'll excuse me, I've got an itchy ear to attend to!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

When the Roof Caves In

Have you ever been through a major building project or remodel at your home? You know, it always takes longer than estimated and something unexpected is sure to happen along the way. One wrong move and the whole structure of the house is changed, leading to cracked walls and a falling ceiling. The same thing can happen in our personal lives. So, what do you do when life as you know it takes a U-turn? When you’re hit in the gut with devastating news that impacts every aspect of your existence?

During the past month I’ve had to deal with these questions. I’ve gone to places and feelings that I never dreamed would be part of my life.

My initial reaction was to cling. To cling to the Loving Heavenly Father with Whom I’ve developed a relationship and deep trust through the past decades. It’s been a time of realizing that though the circumstances of life are changing in ways I wouldn’t have chosen, the Giver of Life remains the same. God is good all the time. All the time, God is good. I remembered that this incident didn’t take Him by surprise. That there are lessons He desires me to learn as I walk through it, and character traits He wants to develop. The worst thing I can do is to waste this experience—to be the same a year from now as I was before the roof caved in.

I don’t know what challenge you’re facing right now, but know that you don’t have to go through it alone. Cling to the Lord and remember His promises. Turn to Christian friends for prayer and support. Be honest about how you feel. Expect to hurt, but also expect to grow. Accept the peace God offers. And remember He is the one who can put your house back together, even when shingles blow off and beams collapse.

“God will strengthen you with His own great power so that you will not give up when troubles come, but you will be patient.” Colossians 1:11

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Gales of Change

Now that Christina has posted about her situation, I'm free to write about it also. If you read her blog ( you know that her marriage of thirteen years is over. This came as a complete surprise to her, as well as us, and the shock of that cannot fully be conveyed. There was no time to prepare for the bad news and its ensuing pain.

It feels like an unexpected death in the family. It creates that "I'm on the verge of throwing up" feeling in the pit of my stomach. It takes me to a place I never thought I'd be.

I realize that many parents have to watch their children go through the devastation of divorce and that it's never easy. But John and I are in a different situation than most. For the past four years we have shared a multi-generational home with Christina and her family. John built the lower story into our dream home, where we planned on living until we died. Instead, it's the kids' marriage that has died.

Because of the change in her financial situation, Christina will no longer be able to afford to live upstairs. And we certainly don't want to live here without her. Ashberry Lane is more about the people than the locale. Our piece of Eden has been changed by the fall.

So not only do John and I have to watch our daughter and her kids go through this change in every part of their lives, but our future is drastically changed too. We will be putting Ashberry Lane on the market and looking for new housing in whatever nearby community Christina moves to. We won't share a house, as we'll never again find a place like this, but will live close by.

My friends have gathered around to lend support as I walk through this painful time. Everyone is so shocked by what has happened to Christina and how it is going to impact our lives. I have held on to the fact that God has not been surprised by this. He is still in charge, still in control. He will bring beauty from ashes and restore our joy. He has lessons to teach us, character to build. I want to accept this with an open heart and not waste the suffering.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Out of the Mouths of ...

Last night a friend of mine came up and said, "I just have to tell you what one of your AWANA kids did today." As she started her story, I soon realized she was talking about her seven-year old son. She had walked out to the living room and been shocked to find three-inch high letters scratched into the beautiful finish of her piano bench. A lone pair of scissors lay in guilty silence nearby. "Elijah, what did you do?!!" He admitted to the crime, though he didn't seem to understand the seriousness of it right away. So his mother spent some time talking with him about his transgression and of how he could never do something like that again. He asked her to put the scissors up high where he wouldn't be able to reach them, but she said she wouldn't do that, as he needed to learn self-control. She went on to say that he would need to be punished, but stipulated that the punishment would be determined by him. "Elijah, I want you to think about the seriousness of what you've done, and then you tell me what you think you should take for doing that." He thought for a bit, then seriously replied, "Mom, I think I'll take mercy!"

Friday, February 6, 2009

The IDAhope Writer's Conference

Christina and I had a wonderful time this past weekend when we flew to Boise, Idaho, for the first-ever IDAhope Writer's Conference. It was hosted by the local ACFW chapter, headed by Angela Meuser. She and her fellow officers did a phenomenal job putting everything together.

What was especially exciting for us was that Christina and I were invited to be presenters, for the first time in our writing career. We had a blast planning our two sessions. We taught one class together, called "Writing in Tandem: How to Maximize Your Writing Relationships." That covered dealing with editors, agents, critique partners, readers, mentors and mentorees, and of course, co-authors. It was very practical, as we shared things we've learned in our years of writing together.

Christina taught a class on her own (we're not really joined at the hip!) entitled "Five Best Tips for a New Writer." It was fun for me to sit back and watch her do her thing. She has developed into a good public speaker and people came up to me afterward to say how much they had enjoyed both classes. Christina, as a contracted author, was able to sit down with some of the conferees and help them make their writing better. One of the ladies she worked with approached me later and said, "Your daughter is so sweet. She's able to be positive and yet show me what I need to work on. She really knows how to work with a middle-aged woman." I said, "That's because she lives with one!"

What seemed surreal to us was that we were on the author panel Friday evening along with Robin Lee Hatcher. We first read her books years ago, and in all our time with OCW and ACFW had never had a chance to meet her. She lives in the Boise area and taught a couple of classes for the weekend, as well as did a key note speech. She's written over 60 books now, and she's not even that old! I mean, how can a person write more books than their age??!! We got to spend some one-on-one (I guess it would really be two-on-one) time with her Saturday afternoon. What a friendly, down-to-earth woman she is.

We flew back to Portland on Sunday morning and were home in time to prepare for hosting a Super Bowl party and leading at Awana. By the time Sunday night arrived we were both pretty tired and glad for the chance to sit down and relax before starting a busy week by showing up in court Monday morning for a foster care case.

It seems the Lord has suddenly opened up speaking/teaching opportunities for us over the past few months, and in to the coming months. We hope that keeps happening. And we'd love to get invited back to the IDAhope conference!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Responsible One

In my family I was always known as "the responsible one." I'm the oldest of five children, so I guess I came by the nickname naturally. (I'm also known as Bubbles and Moochie, but explanations for those terms of endearment are not for this post.)

Because of the experience I had today, I think one of my siblings is going to have to take the title away from me, as I am no longer deserving of such an accolade. I hang my head in shame to admit to the following story, but those of you who follow my blogs understand that I am entirely capable of doing this brainless thing.

It all started very innocently. Christina was accompanying her second grader on a field trip today, so she asked me to take her foster daughter, "Angel", to her visit with her mother. No problem--I've done it before, I could certainly do it again. The one-hour visit went well and Angel and I returned to my car. I unlocked the passenger side of my two-door T-bird, threw my keys and purse onto the console, and securely fastened Angel into her car seat in the back. I slammed the door and went around to the driver's side to get in. Lifted the door handle, but nothing happened. I figured I hadn't hit the button from the other side that would unlatch both doors, so went back to the passenger side to do so. Lifted the handle--nothing happened. Yep, right there in the parking lot of DHS I had managed to lock a 2-year-old foster child in my car!

What's a grandma to do?? Angel smiled at me from the back seat, enjoying the yummy treat Mommy had given her during their visit. I yelled through the window that I would be right back, and ran through the icy rain to the back door of DHS and rang the button that would let them buzz me in. When a man answered and said I could enter, I opened the door and said to the faceless voice on the intercom, "I need some help!" He came out and I explained the situation, feeling like a complete idiot. (I kept an eye on my car this whole time, though the chances of someone being able to drive off with Angel in my locked car were pretty slim!)

Long story shorter, the case worker came out and stood in the rain while I went in and called AAA. I couldn't give them much info, as my AAA card was locked in the car, but as soon as they heard I had a two-year-old in a locked car in wintry conditions, and eating a snack that she might choke on, they said they'd make it a high priority call and get someone there as soon as possible. I went back to the car and spent the next fifteen minutes making faces through the window and singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star to an adorable little girl who stayed happy and didn't choke. (The case worker and I decided we'd break a window if necessary.)

Finally a tow truck pulled up and a big old guy got out, hitching up his pants as he made his way to my car. He worked and worked, putting wedges in the door, snaking a wire in to try to lift the door lock. (Every time he moved, his pants slipped down, his shirt slithered up and showed off an over-indulged stomach, but he was still a hero to me!) He tried for nearly 20 minutes, but wasn't having a lot of luck.

Another tow truck pulled up then, dispatched by the local police department. The guy got out and brought his tools around to the driver's side and started working. I've heard of dueling banjos, but dueling locksmiths? Forty-five minutes after trapping my keys, purse, and ... oh, yeah, a child in the car, I was rescued. The first man was able to get a wire to grab hold of my bunch of keys and bring them out through the wedge in the door.I was chilled to the bone from having stood in a big puddle all that time, and was ready for lunch, but oh, so glad that Angel had found the whole episode hugely entertaining and hadn't fussed at all.

Yes, I will be exceedingly careful to keep my keys in my hands or pockets at all times when I'm putting Angel in the car (if Christina ever trusts me with her again,) but the bigger lesson in all of this was for Angel. It was a day of teaching her opposites: warm--cold; dry--wet; full--hungry;
responsible--not so much!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Around the Bend

I awoke to beautiful sunshine Friday morning. Such a nice change from the arctic blast and snow of last month. When I opened the blinds and took a closer look outside, I saw the trees and driveway were covered with frost.

A little later I jumped in the car and headed to town to do my Curves workout. As I pulled onto the highway I noted the countryside was covered with white, but it wasn't snow. It's what we call pogonip, which I think is a Native American word for the icy fog that sometimes forms and encases the trees and each individual blade of grass with a frozen grip. Two curves later I entered a fog bank. Where was the sun? It had been streaming in my eyes just moments before.

For the next 16 miles I drove through the thick cloud, unable to see more than a few yards ahead of me. I got to Curves, did my my exercise routine, and headed to the grocery store. About two blocks from the store the weather changed yet again, and snow covered the ground. It fell against my face as I walked into the store, covered my windshield by the time I returned to my car. I retraced my way home, my headlights straining against the dense fog. Suddenly I burst out into sunshine and blue sky, but with the pogonip still painting the countryside ice-crystal white. The contrast of the icy trees against the azure sky was phenomenal. If I'd had a camera with me, you'd be looking at that beautiful winter scene right now.

My simple journey made me think of my life. I wake up in the morning having no clue (no, don't stop the sentence there!) of what will happen that day. Of what will be around the next bend in my life. I may be walking in sunshine one moment, then suddenly halted by dark circumstances that surround me, making it hard to see more than a few steps ahead. And when I think it can't get any worse, it does! Then there are those times when the pogonip and blue skies come together, the harsh realities of life mixed with the hope of more luminous days ahead.

I'm reminded of the verses from Isaiah 42 where the Lord says,"I will lead the blind along a way they never knew; I will guide them along paths they have not known. I will make the darkness become light for them, and the rough ground smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not leave my people." What a great promise to hold on to, no matter what the weather in your life.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I've Been Taking a Pounding!

I've got a few snippets of things to share with you this time, but hopefully you'll see the common thread. (I must confess, however, that I'm not a very good seamstress!)

Fifteen pounds: When I got home from the ACFW conference in September and stepped on the scale, I was appalled. Then when I saw pictures taken of me there I felt even worse. Where had this overweight woman come from? I used to be way too thin and found it impossible to gain. I would read magazine articles having to do with weight loss and do the opposite of what they said, trying to put a few ounces on my tall frame. Way back in high school I'd been so thin that a doctor had put me on pills that he gave to football players to make them gain weight. While I took those, I gained 1/2 pound a day, but as soon as I was off them, the weight slithered off. Decades had passed and trying to gain weight was no longer a problem. Now the opposite was an unwanted part of my life.

I had been a member of Curves for over a year by the time I returned from ACFW, but hadn't taken it seriously. I would go when I could fit it into my schedule (it's 25 minutes away), or when I didn't have anything better to do. Needless to say, that meant I rarely showed up. But after seeing those pictures ... well, enough was enough! Since the first week of October I have worked out at Curves three times a week, with the only exception being when we were snowed in for two weeks at Christmas. I've been more aware of the size of my portions and have lost 15 pounds. That's a great way to start the year!

Four pounds: When I walked into Curves today, the staff person told me she needed to take my picture. Usually I have other places to go after working out, and have my hair and makeup done. But today I'd basically rolled out of bed, pulled my hair back, and only put mascara on before heading out the door. Certainly not at my most glamorous. When I asked why she needed a photo, she said I had been the woman to lose the most weight over the holiday season! It was only four pounds, but hey, it was a loss and I had worked hard for it. Another great way to start the year! (And I convinced her to wait until Monday to snap the picture!)

Seven pounds: John and I rarely have a date to the movies because we have a wonderful home theater and wait to see videos there. But last night was an exception. Christina, Kevin, and the kids were gone for the weekend. Instead of enjoying the unusually empty house, we heated up leftovers, gobbled them down, and headed off to the movies. And you probably know what we saw, if you're picking up on the theme of this post. Yes, Will Smith's latest--Seven Pounds. I'm not going to say what it's about, as it's so much more fun to discover it for yourself. As a writer, I was taken with how the information was given to the viewers in a way that we had to piece it together. It certainly wasn't spelled out, and we weren't told what to think about it. It was a very thought-provoking movie and one we discussed on the way home. Go see it for yourself and let me know what you think.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Light Look at the New Year

So here it is, the beginning of a new year. The busyness of the Christmas season is over, the kids are back in school (finally!), and it’s time to take a few minutes to think through what we’d like to see happen in 2009. Maybe you’re the kind of person who sits down on New Year’s Eve and writes out your resolutions for the year. Or perhaps you’ve learned from experience that there’s no sense to bother doing that, as you never keep them anyway!

In an attempt to make your transition into the new year a little easier, I offer you these resolutions that you can tweak and make your own:

1. Do not, under any circumstance, forget to remove all the tags from new clothes you purchase. It is extremely embarrassing to find out at the end of the day, after traipsing all over town, that you are wearing a sweater that still has the clear plastic strip stuck across your chest, with the letter “L” running its length. (Not that I would know this from personal experience!)

2. Make this the year that you care more about the environment. Do your part to conserve energy. Do not put the detergent, bleach, and fabric softener in your washing machine, start the load of laundry, and later discover that you forgot to put the clothes in the washer. Especially do not allow your son-in-law to be nearby when you discover your mistake. (Not that I would know this from personal experience!)

3. When you’re eating a plate of spaghetti on the couch in front of the TV and the doorbell rings and you put the plate down on the cushion while you answer the door, do not forget that the plate is there when you go back and sit down. (Not that I would know this from personal experience!)

4. Do not attempt a gymnast-only type move atop a big exercise ball, even in the privacy of your own home, when you are a woman of age. This can result in a scraped nose that takes two weeks to heal, as well as a sprained wrist. (Not that I would know this from personal experience!)

5. Finally, lighten up. Whether that means losing weight, getting rid of “stuff” around the house, or taking yourself less seriously, do something to get rid of the thoughts and habits that keep you from living an abundant life. Look at the funny side, even when you make mistakes. (I know this from personal experience!)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Wrapping Up Last Year

As a new year dawns I always get a rush of organization that comes over me. I go through closets and cupboards, tossing out things I no longer use, or use so infrequently that it's not worth the space they fill. This year I need to do that with my blog too. Thus, a brief synopsis of my Christmas.

Here in western Oregon we were hit with a big snow storm that started on December 14th and lasted for two weeks. Our house is atop a very steep driveway and we ended up being snowed in most of that time. The guys were unable to get vehicles up and down except for the four-wheeler, and that soon became an impossibility also. Kevin (Christina's husband) would stop at the store as needed after work, then carry heavy grocery bags home through the snow from the bottom of our hill where he'd leave his truck. My parents, who only live 18 miles away, were to be with us for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but there was no way to get them up to the house. So near, and yet so far!

Our plans for a calm, cozy Christmas began to evaporate. The morning of the 24th, our power went off. Living out in the country, we have a generator for such emergencies, though we've only had to use it for a few hours in the past. It certainly paid for itself this time, as we were without power for 2-1/2 days. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are not the two days I would have chosen, but we managed. Christina's family packed up and came downstairs to stay with us, as our heater can run off the generator, but their heat pumps can't. Joshua (age 7) was running a fever and spent most of his time on the couch while the rest of us idled away the hours playing Pinochle, Hand and Foot, and a few other games.

After a nice dinner prepared by Christina in my kitchen, we gathered around to open our gifts as we traditionally do on Christmas Eve. The only trouble was the Christmas tree, surrounded by presents, was upstairs in the Berry's living room. John and I didn't have a tree since we were going to be celebrating with them. It was way too cold to be in the unheated upstairs house, so Santa's elves whisked the gifts down to our bare living room. You just do what you have to do!

John left on a piano tuning trip to Nevada on the 26th. On Saturday the 27th the roads were passable enough that Kevin was able to ferry the rest of the family down on the four-wheeler in three different runs. We crammed into the pickup and made the trek to my parents' house to have a late celebration with them. It was a very special family time and I only regret that John wasn't there to enjoy it.

The weatherman said this was the biggest snowstorm to hit Portland in 40 years, and I believe him! Chances are we won't run into the same problems next year, but I think we'll be prepared, just in case!