Monday, November 30, 2009

Free handmade book giveaway

My daughter Kendra makes very very cool handmade books. She is hosting a giveaway of a book and some handmade cards. You can learn more about how to win one of her wonderful books by going to her blog.

I am kind of a handmade book snob, now that I own FIVE of Kendra's books! No wait, it's SIX! She's an amazing independent bookbinder. Do visit her webpage to learn more about her awesome books.

And you can even see her on You Tube! She recently completed a 3-foot-square (that's HUGE!) book for an artist. He custom-ordered it for his painting projects.

Wow, what a talented gal she is. Go to her blog now and see if you can win the prize!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What kind of "vert" is Jesus?

Today during the sacrament I got to wondering whether Jesus is an introvert or an extrovert.

First I thought an introvert. He was alone for 40 days in the wilderness, and there were times when he just wanted to get away from all the people. He teaches to pray and to listen to the spirit.

But then I thought that can't be right, look at how he reached out to everyone. He truly loved everyone and wanted to let them know that. He told the leaders to let the little children come to him, and he hugged and loved every one of them. When he struggled, alone, in Gethsemane, he wished he had others there to help him.

So of course it's silly to even think this way. To be an "introvert" or and "extrovert" implies that a person is one thing or the other. The concept is built on the notion that a person is lacking one thing or the other. Most of us probably are. But Jesus is whole, our perfect exemplar. We are trying to be like Him, and I'm pretty sure that must mean he is perfectly able to look within, and perfectly able to reach out.

In one way, it is helpful to me to know that I have the tendency to be introverted. This self-knowledge helps me to understand my weaknesses and to be realistic about the expectations I place on myself. But in another way, it's important that I not use this concept as an excuse to avoid the challenges that are difficult to me. If I'm going to be fully Christlike, I have to be both introverted and extroverted.

He promised that my weaknesses can become my strengths. I need to presume welcome.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Clean Pantry!

The pantry was driving me NUTS!
It is so deep that things get lost in it. Ugh.
Mark and I went to Fred Meyers and bought some little shelves.

I pulled everything out and organized!


Mark even installed some little lights in the pantry.
Now it's so fun to open the pantry and just enjoy...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving at My House

We had a very happy day yesterday. It was just a few of us who live here; a very relaxed and easy day.

Maleena did a major kitchen clean up to help prepare the area for the food preparations.

Mark and I wrote our Thanksgiving poems.

Julia and Mike made fruit salads.

Mark carved the turkey while I made the gravy.

And then we enjoyed our beautiful, yummy feast.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Annual Thanksgiving Poem

The rule at our house is: no pie until you share your (original) Thanksgiving poem!

Hooray! I get pie this year! Here's my poem:

Lazy Thanksgiving Sonnet

The turkey’s in the oven roasting slow
I’ll cran the berries into sauce at ten
It’s raining lightly, but no chance of snow.
You mash the yams and thaw the pies and then

We’ll nap. The day will laze along till one
We might go for a stroll around the block.
By then the turkey should be almost done
We’ll set the table, take a picture, talk.

We won’t have children running in and out.
The dishes won’t take hours and hours to wash.
All day, in fact, we can do just about
Whate’er we want without a care, by gosh.

Oh happy crowd of last year, stay away--*
I love a quiet, calm Thanksgiving Day.

*Note to my darling and wonderful relatives. You know I love you. You know I love to have us gathered together. So please don't take this personally! It's just after last year, with 22 people at the house, and 2 years in a row with a December wedding, that I am rather fond of only having a few people in the house today. :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The determining factor

This quote from President Uchtdorf's talk in October General Conference make me think:

God does not need us to love Him. But oh, how we need to love God!
For what we love determines what we seek.
What we seek determines what we think and do.
What we think and do determines who we are--and who we will become.

I recommend his entire talk, which can be found here. It is titled, "The Love of God," and I found the entire article to be thought-provoking.

I appreciate his counsel not to get trapped into expectations, but to "stay aligned with [the] weightier matters." Of keeping the commandments, he warns that, "there are so many 'shoulds' and 'should nots' that merely keeping track of them can be a challenge...gradually, eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of 'good ideas.'"

Monday, November 23, 2009

Three Things I Take for Granted

Getting my teeth cleaned at the dentist
Can you guess where I went this afternoon? What a luxury, when you think about it. To lie back in a comfortable chair, open my mouth, and have another human pick out the crusty plaque built up along my gum line. (Makes me think of gorillas picking bugs off each other.) Without the assistance of my friendly dental hygienist, I would probably have very few teeth left. We complain about going to the dentist, but really, we are so spoiled.

Hot, clean water
Oh, my. We have so much of this. Last week one of the twins was complaining because her bath water wasn't so hot after several of us had already showered that morning. I explained to her that she already had more almost-hot water in the tub than pioneer children would have had. She had more almost-hot water in the tub than my grandparents had let me use in their tub when I visited as a child. When I stayed in Costa Rica, the shower water was heated by an element right at the shower head (scary). The only way to have warm water was to turn the water on to just a trickle. Brrrr. I enjoy a hot shower whenever I want.

Comfortable shoes
I just assume that I can go to the store, try on several pairs, and find something that will fit. My everyday shoes right now are trail runners by Salomon. They have Gore-Tex uppers and they are VERY comfortable. I am sad that I can't wear them on Sundays. I wonder how many people it required to make my shoes? What is their standard of living, and how far away are they. I'm fairly certain they live overseas in reduced circumstances. I wish the world could be more fair. I love my shoes.

I hope you have figured out that there are WAAAAAY more than three things I take for granted. I might write more about them some other time. But these are the three I am writing about tonight. What do you take for granted?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thin shoulder blades beneath a white shirt

We had quite an assortment of deacons passing the sacrament in church today. I smiled to notice their diversity. Here was the lineup:

Navarro, 12.  He has milk-chocolate-brown skin and dark curly hair, and is a newly baptized member of the church.
Philip, 12. Because he has autism, he has to be shepherded by his father or another adult (today it was Mark).
Mike, 40-something. He is a big guy over six feet tall; my son-in-law, he was baptized about a year ago.
Michael, 34. Sometimes his Down's syndrome makes it difficult to understand his speech, but he faithfully passes the sacrament.
Jordan, 12, the ward's youngest deacon. His family has been less-active for years, but they have been coming more regularly now that Jordan is 12 and serving in the priesthood.
Max, 20-something. Also over 6 feet tall and skinny, and also also newly baptized, he is Maleena's boyfriend.

I was sitting on the stand with the choir, so I could watch the deacons as they made sure that each member of the congregation received the bits of bread and little cups of water. It was a normal Sunday. The deacons had their routes around the chapel to take care of, which they did without fanfare. They were reverent, and the chapel was quiet.

I noticed an interchange between two of the deacons just before they returned the trays to the front of the chapel. They were all lined up, except for Jordan. He approached the line, but instead of joining the other deacons, he exchanged trays with Max (who apparently still had some water on his tray; Jordan's must have been empty). Max, so tall, and Jordan, so young and new. Then Jordan turned and went with his new tray to the back of the chapel to finish serving the families on the back row. From my vantage point, I could see Jordan's thin shoulder blades beneath his white shirt as he managed the tray.

I was deeply touched by the service of this young boy. He was calm, doing what needed to be done so that everyone present could receive the sacrament emblems. It was a tender moment, a sacred moment: Christ's priesthood servants taking care of His business.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Recurring dreams

I woke up at 4:30 this morning, following a vivid dream about a house. I have had recurring dreams about houses for years. This might seem like a very boring dream subject--no flying, no adventure, no danger--but my house dreams are always deeply satisfying. They always contain a sense of mystery and anticipation.

My house dreams used to always be about my great-grandmother's house, although the dream houses never looked like her house. Now my house dreams are always about my own house, although the dream houses still never look like 916 Laurel Lane. The common element to ALL of my house dreams is that I find new spaces in the house. I open a door that has been there all along, one which I just hadn't noticed, and when I open it there is a whole new room to my house.

Before I went back to college, I used to dream about Grandma Polly's house a lot. I was in her house, and it was too small, too cramped, I felt confined. Then I would open a door and there would be this room, and I had all the space I needed. I think going to college in my 30s gave me some space I needed. After I had been in college for a while, I stopped dreaming about Grandma Polly's house, and I thought I had outgrown my house dreams. That made me a little sad, but it was worth it to have a college degree.

But lately I've been having them again. Usually when I wake up and remember a house dream, like this morning, I know that the dream is very familiar. I think I dream them many times without remembering them. This morning's dream was about a huge house - 5 or 6 stories tall, with 2 levels of basements, and 2 different levels of attics. It was built in the style of the open-beam, big-timbered lodge up on Scouter's Mountain (like I said, the dream houses do not resemble the house I actually live in).

I was exploring the basements, which were very satisfying. They had sooooo much space to store camping equipment. I had lots! Then I went up to the main floors, where the rooms were huge and filled with things that were interesting, aesthetically pleasing, and also very useful. I meant to get up into the attics, but I didn't get around to it. There was so much to hold my interest on the main floor.

Then I woke up. I wonder what was in those attics? I'm curious, but not worried. I know I'll dream about them again.

PS: I think it's fun to go to the online Dream Dictionary to see what the symbols in my dreams might suggest. I don't always agree with their definitions, but it's interesting to see what they have to say.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Black Hole

In high school physics class
Mr. Shaw explained
that light reflected
off of everything.
The only black
truly black thing
we could see
was a hole
in a box
painted black

The hole
--not a thing--
was the blackest

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stopping to breathe

My life at work has been intense and stressful lately. I love my job, and I am happy to do the work I do, but with all the budget cuts, we are doing more with fewer people, and so sometimes I forget to take any time out for myself.

This morning I was powering along between one task and another on my computer, when this photo popped up on my desktop. (You really should click on it so it will be big, beautiful, and clear.)

Seeing the photo suddenly pop up again was like magic. I am certain that my heart rate and breathing rate slowed down. I felt myself taking deeper breaths.

I took this photo on the backpacking trip to Jefferson Park with Mark in August. It was a magical time. Mark was recovering from cancer surgery, and we were so, so, so happy to be out there together. The flowers, which were far more amazing than this photo conveys, really captured the glorious spirit of that outing.

As I sat here at my computer and just breathed for a few minutes, my eyes were drawn to the background of the photo. The flowers, so bright and lovely, would be just a bunch of wildflowers without the dark background of the firs. There is a sense of hidden mystery to that darkness. At the forefront, you can make out the shapes of the firs, but then it all recedes into black. Trials and difficulties in our lives are a lot like that, too. There is so much that is unknown. So much we have to take on faith.

We need contrast in our lives. Without the dark times, it would be more difficult to appreciate the light. The sadnesses and struggles throw joyful times into sharp relief. The hike into Jefferson Park would have been amazing in any season, but coming after Mark's cancer surgery and recuperation, it was pure, pure joy. My stressful days at work are countered by the intimacy of reading students' writing and watching them open their hearts.

So, to de-stress your morning, and to help you feel joy, I will share the hiking song I made up for myself while hiking into Jefferson Park. It goes to the tune of "I love the flowers, I love the daffodils, etc." You know the one with all the "Boom-dee-adda"s at the end. You are welcome to stop whatever you are doing right now, and sing along:

I love the rocky trails, I love the PCT,*
I love the skeeters,* gosh what's come over me?
I love adventuring with my one true love,
Boom-dee-adda, Boom-dee-adda, Boom-dee-adda, Boom-dee-adda.

I love the ridges, I love the gentle breeze,
I love the huckleberries, I love the Doug Fir trees,
I love the talus slopes with their views so grand,
Boom-dee-adda, Boom-dee-adda, Boom-dee-adda, Boom-dee-adda.

There, don't you feel better and less stressed now? I know I sure do.
*PCT = Pacific Crest Trail, *skeeters = mosquitos

Monday, November 16, 2009

A long time ago...

(A story for Anna...)

There was this time when I think I was a jerk. There are at least two versions of the story. Kind of like Choose Your Own Adventure, but not really.

First, the setup:

I was asked to be a parent-volunteer-chaperone, accompanying the Oregon City High School Honor Society on an overnight field trip to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. My oldest daughter, Julia, was a sophomore at the time. There were two other chaperones, both young teachers (male and female). This is before I was teaching, but I was in college, working toward becoming a teacher.

I was mostly just along for the ride. Chris, the young female teacher, was the one in charge. I got to go see the Shakespeare plays and bond with my daughter (Julia). Chris did ask me to help her keep an eye on one student in particular, a boy with long crazy hair, who was sometimes a bit of a pill at school.

After we arrived in Ashland, Julia and I went to dinner together at a nice Mexican restaurant before the play started. When the waiter asked us about beverages, Julia ordered a virgin Margarita. “Oh,” I thought, “It’s a special occasion, maybe I’ll get one, too.”

 So, as an afterthought, I asked the waiter to bring me one of the Margaritas, too. (Just for the record, I wasn’t that impressed with it. It was kind of bitter.)

We had a nice dinner, then went to the play. It happened that I was sitting between Julia and Mr-Long-Hair-Problem-Kid. I turned to chat with him, and I smelled alcohol on his breath! I got up as casually as I could, pulled the teacher (Chris) aside, and shared my observation with her. She pulled Mr-Long-Hair-Problem-Kid out and grilled him. He denied any alcohol consumption, and Chris didn’t observe any smell on his breath, so she let him stay, but we all kept a really close eye on him for the rest of the field trip. Whenever he saw me for the rest of the trip, he gave me a dirty look. THE END

So, as an afterthought, I asked the waiter to bring me one of the Margaritas, too. But instead of a virgin (non-alcoholic) Margarita, the waiter assumed I wanted a regular one. Of course I would never drink an alcohol Margarita. Only problem is, how would I know the difference? I’d never had any Margarita before, virgin or otherwise. What I thought was “bitter” was actually “naughty,” but I didn’t even know it.

We had a nice dinner, then went to the play. It happened that I was sitting between Julia and Mr-Long-Hair-Problem-Kid. I turned to chat with him, and I thought I smelled alcohol on his breath! Of course, really it was on my breath but I didn’t even realize it. I got up as casually as I could, pulled the teacher (Chris) aside, and shared my observation with her. She surely noticed the alcohol on my own breath, and I’m sure she knew that our family is Mormon, but she was too polite to say anything to me about it. She pulled Mr-Long-Hair-Problem-Kid out and grilled him. He denied any alcohol consumption, and Chris didn’t observe any smell on his breath, so she let him stay, but we all kept a really close eye on him for the rest of the field trip. Whenever he saw me for the rest of the trip, he gave me a dirty look—naturally, since he knew that I was the one who ratted on him, and since he had smelled alcohol on my breath, sitting next to him in the theatre.

Which version is true? I have no idea. The events here described occurred about 18 years ago, and it didn’t even dawn on me until about 10 years ago that Version Two might be a possibility. Ever since then, every time I tell this story, Version Two seems more and more plausible. If it is true, I was a major jerk to poor old Mr-Long-Hair-Problem-Kid.

But who knows?

Sunday, November 15, 2009


From the etymology dictionary:

foliage Look up foliage at

1598, from M.Fr. feuillage, from O.Fr. feuille "leaf" (see foil (n.)). The form altered by infl. of L. folium.

foil (n.) Look up foil at

"thin sheet of metal," late 14c., from O.Fr. fueille "leaf," from L. folia "leaves," pl. (mistaken for fem. sing.) of folium "leaf" (see folio). The sense of "one who enhances another by contrast" (1580s) is from the practice of backing a gem with metal foil to make it shine better.

I like the idea that "foliage" is related to the idea of contrasts. And with that in mind, here are a few photos of the yellow maple leaves hiding in among the redwood branches at my house:

I hope you are having a peaceful, happy Autumn day.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


I don't do selfish things, just for me, very often. Whenever I get into a place in my life where things seem to be falling apart, the counselor usually asks what I'm doing to take care of myself, and I'm always a little stumped by that.

Selfish things today? I ate a bag of peanut M&Ms and didn't share a single one with my grandchildren, even though they were in the same room. (I was sneaky and eating them out of my hoody pocket.) I sewed a really pretty new BSA patch on my den leader uniform. And now I'm going to go upstairs and give myself a foot rub with lavender hand lotion.

(The rest of the day, you ask? Laundry, groceries, pay bills & balance checkbook, plan lessons, grade papers, Christmas shopping, sewing projects for Christmas and some mending for the Palshikar grandkids.)

I wanted to go for a walk, but I didn't. I need to be more selfish, I guess. But the M&Ms were a nice treat, and I do like that patch. And the foot rub will be lovely.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How I fooled myself into thinking I was an extrovert

(Me, kindergarten, 1959)

I was definitely an introvert all through elementary school. Such a little dweeb - I'd take a book out with me to read on the playground at recess. Teachers would send notes home saying, "I'm worried about Kathy. She doesn't seem to play with other children."

(Kim, Cindy, me - practicing French horns - 4th grade - 1963)

There were three of us little girls who all played French horn in the school band. The other two were Kim and Cindy. We got along pretty well, but Kim and Cindy were close friends, and I was always on the periphery. One night in 4th grade I got the brilliant idea to get myself inside the group. I called Cindy and told her, "Just talk to me tomorrow; don't talk to Kim." "Ok," she said. But my devious plan backfired the next morning when Kim and Cindy walked up to me together on the playground. "Why wasn't I supposed to talk to Kim?" Cindy asked, with Kim standing right there listening in. "I didn't quite understand what you meant," she added. So much for popularity.

The summer in between 6th and 7th grades, my parents (who were not religious) sent me to a church camp for a week. I was pretty confused and didn't know how to fit in. I had gone to Camp Fire Girls summer camp every summer for years, but the church camp was much more refined, with revival meetings instead of cookouts. However, a novel thought occurred to me on about the second day there. "No one knows me here," I realized. "They don't know that I'm not very popular." I made a conscious decision around lunchtime that day to act "as if" I were the kind of girl I admired and wanted to be. I acted friendly and outgoing, and made several friends quite easily.

Heady stuff. After I returned home, I was reluctant to go back to the old me. It was a time of transition in my life, leaving elementary school behind and heading off to the junior high. I continued to be outgoing when school started, and my life changed. I ran for one of the 7th grade class offices (class treasurer, with the slogan "Put a tiger in your treasury!" from the Exxon ads, "Put a tiger in your [gas] tank!"), and I won. I had a boyfriend (never mind that he was shorter than me, and a show-off). I had a social life.

And so I thought I had changed. I never told any of my friends about my conversion to popularity at the church summer camp; they didn't ask about the new me. Maybe they thought it was about time I came out of my shell. It's only now, in middle age, that I'm able to acknowledge the effort that goes into maintaining the act. And even though I liked a lot of things about the outgoing, popular Kathy, even though I can cope with lots of colleagues and students at school and brothers and sisters at church, and I love being with my children and children-in-law and grandchildren, I'm glad to finally make friends again with that quiet little girl who read books at recess.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Introvert or Extrovert?

For years I have assumed I was an extrovert. I knew that I like to help people, that I am generally helpful, I'm not intimidated by public speaking, etc.

Then, a couple of years ago, I was sitting next to one of our high school counselors at a staff party prior to the holidays. She asked about our family plans for Christmas, and I must have moaned or rolled my eyes or something. As my children will tell you, although I love Christ, His nativity, Christmas music, the special family ornaments we hang on the tree each year...I really do not love Christmas. It usually sends me into a stressed-out guilt-ridden funk.

Anyway, my counselor friend then asked me if I am extroverted or introverted. "Uhhh," I intelligently replied. So she took pity on my and asked another insightful question. "When you're with a group of people, like at a party, do you get energy from them, or does it take energy out of you? she asked.  That was a no brainer. Parties suck the energy right out of me. I fake it until it's time to go home. Diagnosis: I'm an introvert.

How could that be, I wondered? How could I be an introvert and get up in front of a classroom of 30+ kids every day? I genuinely do like people. My counselor friend told me that it's because I've learned to compensate for my introverted-ness. I have developed people skills as a way to cope, and they can get me through for a while, but eventually I will need some "down time" to recharge my batteries.

This has been an important lesson for me about myself. It has freed me from the guilt of not wanting to be in complex group situations; I still do them, but I'm not down on myself for not always enjoying it. And Christmas with a large blended family certainly is a "complex group situation."

When Mark and I attended the Courage to Teach seminars a few years ago, we learned an important ground rule: presume welcome. That is, when you go into a new group, presume that the others there will be glad to welcome you and spend time with you. When I go into group situations now, it helps me to presume welcome. But it also helps to go off to my private places, my quiet times, and recharge my batteries.

If you are interested in a more extensive look at introverts, check out this article from Atlantic Monthly. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Red Sky at Morning

Oregon City had an absolutely amazing sky this morning. This was taken about 7:00 am, looking toward Mt. Hood (east). Too bad the power lines were in the way.

When I was a girl growing up on the coast, my dad often repeated the sailors' couplet:
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.
Red sky at night, sailors delight.

Sure enough, about 1/2 hour after this gorgeous sunrise, it began to rain, and it rained all day.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The best parts of today

The best parts of today were...

...hearing Laura Lingman give her talk in Sacrament Meeting. She just returned home last week from the Billings Montana mission. Oh, she has grown and matured so much - she is an amazing lady.
...realizing that I had picked a good hymn for the RS practice hymn today (I'm the chorister). It turned out to be a good introduction to the lesson, which I hadn't realized when I selected it, so I think I had some help.
...going with Mark to visit Kent Price in the hospital. Kent was being cheerful and brave, even though it turns out that he has a rare condition (Churg-Strauss Syndrome) that will make his life a lot more difficult from here on out.
...sitting here finishing up my lesson plan for tomorrow while Mark practices his piano lesson on the electronic keyboard we bought for his birthday. It's just quiet and peaceful together here.

Have I mentioned how much I love this guy? Here's a great photo from Sparks Lake last summer - Dorothy snapped it - me paddling, Mark acting as anchor. Hah!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Our Play Day at Home

The first Saturday of the month is Play Day for Mark and me, but today we decided to play at home. The weather was stormy, with thunder, lightning, and a monsoon or two. We were exhausted. The last couple of weeks have been draining at work, and we had a wonderful, but tiring weekend last week in Utah. To top it off, the house was in serious need of attention, so we just enjoyed working on our home together. It was a fun day!

Oh, boy, the dust bunnies were taking over the kitchen. I did some serious de-cluttering on the countertops, and Mark swept and mopped until the floor was gleaming.

The laundry needed to be done, of course. (The washing machine is starting to make some worrisome noises...Mark looked at it but couldn't figure out what was wrong. We may have to call the Maytag guy.)

I made a batch of our healthy trail mix to take in our lunches to work. Yum! Only 100 calories per bag.

Mark vacuumed downstairs and I vacuumed upstairs. I don't have a photo of it, but we also scrubbed the upstairs bathrooms until they were all sparkly, too.

We had a yummy dinner--that's me making salads to go with the pork chops. (If you look closely, behind me you can see the nifty cookbook holder that Bryan made for me last Christmas, and a handmade basket from Kendra.) After dinner we went to do our weekly grocery shopping. On the way to the store, we lost control of the car and ended up in the drive through at Dairy Queen. I don't get how that always happens! Since we were there, Mark got a pumpkin blizzard and I got a vanilla shake. It was our Play Day, after all!

Why Blog?

Among the many wonderful reasons to photos, capture memories, reminisce, reflect, catch up with friends and loved ones...I ran across this thoughtful blog about blogging the other day. As an aspiring writer myself, I thought Towles' comments about why she blogs to be thought-provoking. Am I brave enough to post my creative writing here? Hmmm...not so sure about that. But I am working on a couple of projects right now. If you'd like to read and give me feedback, let me know and I just might email something to you.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Oregon 150

If you are very cool, you already know that 2009 is Oregon's 150th birthday. (Do you know the exact date of Oregon's birthday? Send me a comment if you do.)

So of course there is an "Oregon 150" website. One of the features of the website--my favorite feature--is the "Oregon Stories" section. Anyone can go there and post a story, or lots of stories, about what it means to them to be an Oregonian, or a memory of Oregon, or a vignette of Oregon, or a little story about something from Oregon's history, get the idea.

It has been a wonderful way to have my high school writing students go public with their writing - free, safe website, contributing to Oregon's ongoing story, etc. I'll be sad when the birthday year is over and we can't keep posting.

This morning I was showing the website to my students, and explaining that next week they will prepare their current writing assignment, based on observations in their own neighborhood, for publication on Oregon Stories. I put the website up on the projector, and something caught my eye...there was a new story on the website from Provo...hmmm...Oh my gosh, it was a story by Katie!!

Katie rocks.

This was so very cool. I clicked on the link to show the class Katie's story, and I recognized the piece as one of her blog posts from a while back. My students already know about Katie, because I show them photos of her darling Olivia when I miss school to go to Utah, so they were excited to read Katie's Oregon story. (Actually, "excited" is a bit of a stretch for these half-awake juniors and seniors on a VERY rainy Oregon morning, but they were at least interested.) One of my students finished her daily assignment early, and she has already written her own piece about our rainy morning, and why she appreciates the rain even though she came to school drenched, inspired by the writing in Katie's piece.

So here's what you should do. If you have any connection to Oregon at all, you should go to the Oregon 150 website and post your own story. Then you should comment to me so I can be sure to read your brilliant writing. Oh, and by the way, I have a story on the site, too. It's here. My memories after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, back in 1980.

I have to warn you that this website will only provide a brief experience with writing fame. Unless they choose you to be one of the featured stories on their very front page, you will only be on the first list of stories until more people submit their stories and you drop down further on the page. Then you're like me and you're buried somewhere. But the stories are all there, in the archive, and someday, when Oregon is 200 or 250 or 500 years old, people of the future will go back and read our stories of today, and know a little about who we are, who we were.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Please sit down and listen:

"Please sit down and listen: I'm giving you permission to fail. If you don't take the risks you won't get the growth. We'll minimize the exposure to failure through good thinking and communication, but: you will fail, and it's important, and it's valuable." (mentor to mentee)

This quote is on the wall over in the corner of the dining lounge at PSU. I'm sitting here eating a bowl of soup before I go to class, and I think maybe someone just went over there and wrote the quote on the wall before I got here. (I'm being facetious; it's a lovely scribed quote on the wall; no one scribbled it up there.) But anyway. I'm sitting here so tired, and I can't get everything done and I completely forgot to go to a meeting with the principal today, and I won't get home until 11:00 pm tonight. And then there's this quote. So there.

NaNo Oh No!

Whew! What a busy writing month. As an English teacher and high school literacy coach, I love the fun and frenzy of November. As a writer/reader it drives me crazy!!

It's National Novel Writing Month. What's that, you ask? It's crazy. Once upon a time someone had the nutty idea to get off his/her writing block by writing an entire novel in only one month. Never mind that it would be crappy, with plot lines dangling all over the place and needing editing galore, at least the dang thing would be written. Our fearless writer bravely posted his/her intentions online, and before you know it, others were inspired to join in. National Novel Writing Month was shortened in a very hip, cool way to NaNoWriMo. Last year over 120,000 overwrought novelists logged in to the NaNoWriMo website, and over 20,000 of them crossed the finish line at midnight November 30 with a 50,000 word novel under their belt. Whew.

Then the poets decided to chime in on the fun during National Poetry Month (April), and voila: NaPoWriMo was born. You write a poem a day for 30 days, and post it on their website. Of course, we are nothing if not literary at Oregon City High School, so one of my favorite English teachers, Ed Kline, creasted OCPoWriMo, our very own poetry blog that is primarily active during the month of April, but which occasionally sees some rockin' and rhymin' throughout the year. Needless to say, you can read some poetry by yours truly at this excellent site.

Enter the bloggers and NoBloPoMo. Who knows when...I just heard of it for the first time this year, but I'll bet it's been around for a while longer than that. National Blog Posting Month. Write a post on your blog every day for the entire month of November. Obviously, I've already blown it because I didn't post yesterday...up way past my bedtime trying to finish the homework for my PSU class tonight...but it's all in good fun, and if I'm not keeping the letter of the law, at least I'm into the spirit of it.

What's driving me nuts is trying to keep up with so many of my favorite bloggers this month! Funny, inspiring, nostalgic, reflective, adventurous...whew! I find myself sneaking odd moments to go back to my blog list and see who has updated in the last 15 minutes. (I just realized that I've already said "whew" three times in this post. Heads up--I will also say "dang" twice before the post is finished. That's what you get for reading a grandma-rated blog.)

A few of my favorites:
Katie: she actually keeps up with 3 blogs! Four if you count Sammy Jaybird. How does she do it with a brand new baby?
Dorothy: my friend and sister for 30 years - her posts ground me and remind me what friendship truly is.
Anna: funny, funny, funny. Except when she's worried, and even then she's funny. So is her husband, Chris.
Jessica: sailing alone around the world, nonstop, 16 years old. What's not to be inspired by that?
Annemarie: insights and gentle thoughts galore. I miss teaching with her.

OK, I could go on and on. You can see by the list on the right side of this post that I have a bunch of blogs I love to follow. Many of them are all revved up for NoBloPoMo, and updating daily. I can't miss any of them. So many blogs, so little time. Reading them all is a tough job, but what's a gal to do? Hang in there, dang it, and read!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Back to the routine

Back to work today. It feels good to have a routine. I like my job--the students I teach, the curriculum I work with (which I get to pretty much design), my co-workers, etc.

Last Friday was a really tough day, though. On Thursday afternoon the principal got word that our head counselor, who had been out since last June on medical leave, had died that afternoon by suicide. Sad, sad, sad, sad, sad. He was only 31. He was married with a 3-year-old child and a baby on the way. He was wonderful with students, the master schedule, frustrated teachers, and he also coached JV basketball. It was the kind of death that makes you want to shake your fist at the heavens, that wouldn't do any good. You have all these questions but no answers, at least not any satisfying ones.

His name was Scott Boxell. Scott collapsed at work in June. He was diagnosed with a thyroid problem, and treated for that, and it didn't do any good. Turns out the diagnosis was much more complicated than that. The medication actually made him worse. His adrenal glands were on the fritz, pumping adrenaline into his system 24-7 for months. He couldn't sleep, and suffered from emotional/mental problems related to the sleep deprivation. Who wouldn't? We heard he was getting a little better, but then had a relapse. And a gun. Damn.

You always worry when the principal comes on the P.A. system just after the last bell and says that the staff will have a "stand up meeting" in a few minutes. "Stand up meeting" meaning it's not going to be long and drawn out, but everyone needs to show up. Once in a while a stand up meeting is for outstanding happy news, but 90% of the time they are bad news, usually very bad news.

So we had a stand up meeting Thursday afternoon, and went home in a state of shock. Friday morning we show up and try to read the prepared statement to our students, but most of the teachers are struggling to get through it. Two neighboring school districts sent teams of counselors to the building for the entire day. The sheriff's department sent the victim's assistance team. A couple of dog handlers with trained therapy dogs came. People brought in comfort food for the staff. The entire library was turned into a "safe room" where students could go when it just got to be too hard to stay in class.

Deaths, especially sudden deaths, especially sudden deaths by suicide...especially by a popular young counselor...can trigger all kinds of reactions in students and staff. Old traumas are brought up, even for people who never even knew Scott. The safe room was swamped all day.

Then it was the end of the day, and all 2000+ of us went home to a goofy holiday weekend that somehow must have helped with healing, because we seem to be back into our routine in the building again. Not that we don't care about Scott. Not that we've forgotten him. But for so many adolescents today, school IS the safe place of routine. We try to maintain "normal" because sometimes that's the only normal kids have in their lives.

Scott's memorial service will be on Saturday. We'll have a number of students there; plenty of teachers will be going, too. And that's ok. Oregon City High School is bigger than a bunch of small towns in Oregon. A town of teenagers, with a few adults thrown in. Life happens a lot, and, unfortunately, the occasional funeral. Things generally work pretty well. I wish Scott could still be with us, helping us manage the ups and downs, figuring out the master schedule, orchestrating our routine in so many ways.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Blessing Day

Yesterday was a special occasion - two babies were blessed in Kendra & Katie's ward: Katie & Bryan's darling baby O, and Ben & Kelsey Carlson's daughter, too. (Ben Carlson is brother to Eric Carlson, Polly's husband.) Sweet, darling babies...

An intense occasion for the baby, as you can see! :)

Here's a photo of the family group that came to celebrate:

Mark and I have had a wonderful visit here in Utah, but we admit we are tired and ready to head home.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Fun

We are in Provo for Olivia's baby blessing today. She is such a sweet little Pumpkin!

Yesterday we enjoyed Halloween with Abbi and Charley, too! In addition to trick-or-treating, we had the traditional family Halloween dinner with lots of friends. The evening was topped off with a "fishing game" (Grandpa Mark behind the curtain, attaching candy to the fishing line), guessing games for guess-the-pumpkin-weight and guess-how-many-candies-in-the-jar, and a doughnut eating game, with the doughnuts hanging from strings. Too bad - no photos of that - my camera ran out of batteries.

For those who don't know the menu, it goes something like this:
spiders (hot dogs cut so they have "legs" that curl up when they are boiled)
blood (ketchup)
Transylvanian trees with bat guts (broccoli with cheese)
tombstones (Ritz crackers)
invisible juice (water)

Kendra & Katie and their friends added some additional dishes:
severed arms (wrap sandwiches cut into slices - from Costco)
goblin guts (tuna casserole with green food coloring)
bloody eyeballs (meatballs)
eyeballs (grapes)
blood pie (cherry pie with "bullet holes" cut into the crust)
slugs (green taffy formed into blobs on the plate)

This all started one year when the kids were little and we were scrambling to fix a quick dinner before trick-or-treating. I had hotdogs on hand, and some broccoli, and I threw in a can of clam chowder (ghost soup). None of it goes together very well, but the kids thought it was great, and it became the traditional Halloween dinner menu from then on. Be careful what you get started!

Before we left home, we got to see Josh, Sara, Kat, and Maddy in their costumes.

The best part of all of this was being able to enjoy the children and their fun, without having to be in charge of anything: costumes, menu, trick-or-treat times, etc. It made Halloween so much more fun!