Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tsunami memories

Yesterday's tsunami warnings brought a surge of memories for me. I grew up on the coast of central California, in the little town of Morro Bay, and I remember two tsunamis there.

My brother, me, my mother in the cockpit of the sloop, tied up in the marina. Nov. 1959.

The first tsunami I remember arrived in 1960, after the Chilean earthquake (the largest earthquake ever recorded). I had just turned 6. My parents owned a 22' sloop, which they kept at a marina in Morro Bay. We were sitting in its cockpit of the boat, tied up in the marina, eating lunch at a little table set up in the cockpit, when the table suddenly tilted. I remember the mustard and ketchup sliding across the table toward me. My mom hurried my brother and me to the home of some friends, who lived on one of the hills in town. Meanwhile, my dad fired up the engine and motored the sloop out into the middle of the harbor channel.
Aerial view of the harbor at Morro Bay.

Morro Bay is a long, narrow harbor protected by a peninsula of sand dunes. It doesn't get gigantic killer waves during a tsunami; it gets surges that suck the water out of the harbor as the wave approaches, and then a surge of higher-than-usual water rushing back into the harbor. The worry for a boat owner (particularly a sailboat owner--sailboats have those long, deep keels underneath) is that a boat in a shallow marina would have all the water sucked out from beneath it as the surge pulled water out of the harbor. The boat would then tip on its side, leaving it vulnerable to the surge of water rushing back into the harbor, drowning the boat (and any occupants).

(Actually, a tsunami is never a "giant killer wave," as the above illustration explains.)

So why would my dad take the sloop out into the middle of the channel when the tsunami surge hit? He knew a couple of deep places in the channel, deeper holes that (probably) wouldn't lose all their water when the tsunami sucked water out of the bay. He says that he and a friend anchored their boats over one of these holes and experienced the tsunami surges - water rushing in and out of the harbor - for several hours together.

My second tsunami memory is from 1964, after the Alaskan earthquake, when I was 10 years old. We didn't own the sloop any more, but by this time Dad was the local harbor manager. He got phone calls that a tsunami was headed south along the California coast. It had done quite a bit of damage in Crescent City, a harbor in northern California. Dad took the car and went down to the harbor when he got the call, in the late afternoon or early evening.

The view from the dunes to the ocean.

It wasn't until later that night that our neighborhood was evacuated. We lived in a housing development north of Morro Bay, low and level with easy beach access, about 4 block from the sand dunes. The fire trucks came out and warned everyone in the neighborhood with bull horns. I remember the flashing lights and noise waking me up. Dad had already taken the car into town, so Mom had to load my brother and me into the family's second vehicle - an army surplus jeep (Dad loved it, Mom tolerated it). When she tried to start it, the engine flooded, and there was nothing to do but wait for a while. The rest of the neighbors had already left; we could see their car headlights in the hills across the highway; they had headed for higher ground. When Mom finally got the jeep started, she decided to take us to the real estate office where she worked, which was on a hill in town. But to get there, we had to drive for 2 or 3 miles along the beach, with only the sand dunes between us and the highway. The highway was empty. I remember wondering if the tsunami would hit while we were on that highway. (It didn't.)

When the tsunami did come, it was smaller than had been predicted, and did only minor damage in the main harbor. It didn't come anywhere near our house. I remember my dad telling how it looked when the water was sucked out of the harbor, "like waterfalls going down the pilings of the piers."

Here's a link to the tsunami event yesterday on California's central coast, both at Morro Bay, where I lived until I was 14 and at Port San Luis, where we lived when I was a teenager.
Morro Rock - the landmark at the entrance to Morro Bay, California.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Grandson in the Double Digits

Be sure to check out my Week 9 post in The Skinny today.

Joshua turned 10 on Thursday! He's the oldest of my 17 grandchildren.
This is a photo of him at the cub scout Blue and Gold dinner, receiving his neckerchief to join the Webelos den. Next year he'll become a boy scout.

Seventeen grandchildren! Amazing! I certainly would never have dreamed of having so many grandchildren in my life. This little charmer, nicknamed "J.J." joined the family on Valentine's Day. (Can you tell that his daddy has red hair?)
And we have two more little ones on the due in June and one in July! To paraphrase the Psalm, I guess you could say that "happy is the grandma that has her quiver full" (of darling babies and interesting, growing children)!

Happy Birthday, Joshua, and welcome, J.J.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Morning Walk

I went for a walk this morning. It was beautiful, though cold - blue sky, and ice on a couple of puddles! I took the camera along and had fun making a "photo journal" of my walk. Here are a few of my favorites:
Architecture of an oak tree.
Architecture of the substation.
Tree roots showing through the asphalt the asphalt is a living thing...
Silent rooster - not much wind.
Someone is just now hauling their Christmas tree away?
How can it still be green?
Spring is coming! Hello, crocuses.

Interesting older houses all over Oregon City.
Robins everywhere! The air was full of birdsong.
I wish my camera was better at taking close-ups.
How lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place, with so many inviting places to walk.

How grateful I am for health and strength to be out in the world this morning!

Oh, and if you'd like to read another "photo journal" of a morning walk, be sure to check out the photos Katie took on a walk a couple of weeks ago. Her witty captions are sure to make you smile!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Snowshoe Saturday

We started out at Twin Lakes, but there wasn't much snow...

So then we headed over to Barlow Pass - lots of snow there. 
Here are Mark and me on the Pacific Crest Trail!

Beautiful blue sky...a little bit of wind...
We went with Jason and Liberty Fort.
Can you see Mt. Hood peaking out behind the trees?
We saw a scout troop getting ready to camp in the's a boy digging a snow cave.

Mmm...scouts cooking lunch in the snow.
The scout leaders had a tent set up. Hey, we could do that!
 (But why would we want to??)
Another picture of me and Mark with Mt. Hood peeking through the trees.
We won't get lost - the blue diamonds in the tree are the snow trail blaze marks - easy to find our way!
Back at the trail head - next to the PCT sign.

One last view of Mt. Hood on our way back to Oregon City!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

More than half-way through the term

Whew! I turned in the midterm paper to my PSU class last night. The last time I wrote a literary response paper was in 1994, still in my undergrad program at 40 years old! Boy, was I feeling rusty this week as I scrambled to finish a 2,000-word compare/contrast paper on two of the books we've read this term. What I turned in was, I think, adequate. Not my proudest moment, not something I want to brag about, but good enough.

And you know, there are times in life when "if a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing good enough." We simply can't always push through to perfection!

Here are the books I've read so far this term:

Walden by Henry David Thoreau. You know that quote that says, "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away"? Yup, this is the book it came from. There were parts of this book I loved, and parts that (yawn...) were kind of long to get through. Thoreau is famous for living in a cabin he made himself at Walden Pond for two years while he got in touch with his inner hippie. In reading this book, I learned some things about how to (and how not to) write about nature.

Roughing It by Mark Twain. This is one of his early books, the story of his adventures as a young man out West. He rode the overland stage to Carson City, Nevada. On the way he spent several days in Salt Lake City, and he includes some tall tales--and some thoughtful comments--about the Mormons he met there. This is where his comment about the Book of Mormon being "chloroform in print" comes from. He stretches the truth with tongue-in-cheek humor that kept me entertained through the whole book. Good thing - it was over 300 pages!

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein. Now this was an odd book. Alice B. Toklas was Stein's companion and partner for many years. It is written by Stein, in 1st person, as if it were being told by Toklas. There's a weird mirror-image effect that keeps popping up in the book. Who is she really talking about? Because of course, it's really about Stein. Although Toklas (who is really Stein) says it's about Toklas. See what I mean? Stein and Toklas lived in Paris in the 20s, where they were part of the avant garde art movement. Although Stein can be a very odd, difficult writer to read, I do appreciate her spare style, and her focus on describing telling details.

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell. The only nonfiction I had read by Orwell prior to this book was a couple of his essays. Mostly I am familiar with his two famous novels - Animal Farm and 1984. This book is pretty much what the title says. He experiences poverty in two major European cities. In Paris he really was poor, and had to survive by being a dishwasher at a hotel. In London he wanted to experience the life of a tramp so he could write about it.

West With the Night by Beryl Markham. Wow! Wow!!! This was a wonderful read. Of all the books I've read so far this term, this is the one I would go back and re-read for enjoyment, or recommend to friends. Beryl Markham lived in Africa in the 30s, and she was a bush pilot there. She writes beautifully and movingly about Africa, flying, and horses (she also trained horses.) At the end of the book she writes about her trans-Atlantic flight, east to west against the prevailing winds--she was the first person to successfully make that flight.

Ok, I know this list is getting too long, but there's just one more...if you're still reading this...

Hiroshima by John Hersey. Have you ever read this? It's a little book, only 150 pages long and very readable. It's told in the voices of 6 Japanese who survived the bomb at Hiroshima. It is very moving and compelling to read. I think it is timely today because their experience is still being repeated, in our contemporary wars, and in natural disasters.
So now I'm reading Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin. He's really smart, and so far I'm having a hard time with this book - a lot of it is over my head! I hope I'll get the hang of it soon. I have to finish reading it by Monday night. Then I just have two more books and one more paper, and the term will be over! It's been a really hard term - one book a week plus some outside reading - but it's flying by.

I've put pictures of the authors here because 1) I like putting pictures on my blog! and 2) reading these nonfiction books by these writers makes them as people more real to me. Even when their books are hard to get through, they are very interesting people.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What's for Dinner?

Have you checked out The Skinny lately? Katie's doing a great job with her weight-loss goals, and I'm plunking steadily along. Lots of our authors post great recipes, and now The Skinny has a recipe index! It's on the left-hand side of the blog, just beneath the buttons.

Check out the recipe index for some great ideas for healthy meals. What are you having for dinner tonight?

Update on Baby Valentine: Cupid has a name! Joseph John will be going home to meet Audrey and Sam for the first time today! (Hospital rules prevent children under 16 on the maternity ward now, due to H1N1.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Baby Valentine

What a funny world we live in...I have a new grandson, and I know about him because of text messages! His mama (Angela) obviously had more important things to do, so she sent us these messages yesterday:

12:15 pm  Water broke, on the way to the hospital
10:28 pm  Labor progressing well, about to start pushing
11:13 pm 8 lbs 5 oz, blonde/red hair, born at 10:45 pm

Yay! We don't know his name yet. They had a list of favorite names picked out when I talked to her a few days ago, but they wanted to wait until meeting him before making the final decision. ("Cupid" was not on the list, even though yesterday was his due date.)

We can't wait to go see him (they live in San Francisco) over spring break!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

On My Motorcycle

Woke up at 4:30 this morning, couldn't get back to sleep, the neighbor guy was making lots of noise, so Mark and I got out the motorcycle and went for an early morning ride. I'm not very good at driving a motorcycle, and there were lots of obstacles in the road. We certainly didn't get up any speed, but it was fun to be out in the morning air, noticing things, hearing the noise of the motor, wondering if we were waking other people up the way the neighbor had woken us. Twisty-turny road...lots of bumps with tree roots...sometimes we were going real slow because we were inside some building or another, going down huge curvy ramps...

Yup, you guessed it. A dream. Certainly not a recurring one for me--I haven't actually been on a motorcycle since I was a teenager! Of course I went straight to the Dream Dictionary to learn that "To see or ride a motorcycle in your dream, symbolizes your desire for freedom and need for adventure. You may be trying to escape from some situation or some other responsibility in your waking life. "

Ha ha - Mark and I were just talking last night about undertaking an adventure this summer. But not on a motorcycle. :)

Oh, and the dream ended with me looking at my watching and realizing that I had to be at work in 20 minutes. In my real life, I need to leave for work in just over an hour, so I'd better sign off and get ready for my day. Happy Thursday! Hope you have a beautiful day...with a little adventure...maybe some escape...have fun...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The 11th Commandment

The other day a friend reminded me that the 11th Commandment is...

"Thou Shalt Not Compare."

Ha ha! But it's true, isn't it? We all compare ourselves to others all the time and it's really never a good thing.

Sometimes we make the comparisons to assure ourselves that we're ok.  At least I'm not as _______ as that person. But then we're judging someone else, using a putdown to excuse ourselves from one weakness or another.

Probably more of the time we make comparisons because we wish we had what someone else has. If only I were as _______ as that person. And although we're not putting the other person down when we do this, now we're coveting what they have, instead of being grateful for the gifts and blessings in our own life.

My friend reminded me that God never compares us with one another. He only looks on our heart and loves us for the good/better person we are trying to be.

This is my prayer for today, that I will not compare.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Three things that made me soooooo happy today

Just a normal Saturday here at home - running errands, doing homework and housework...but here are three things that made me grin today:

1. Took the car to the carwash and listened to oldies rock-n-roll while I went through the scrub-a-dub. I love it! I get to rock out with the music and sing as loud as I want to, and the car comes out so fresh and sparkly. Better yet, I gave the guys $3 for a tip - they were pretty excited. Cheap fun.

2. Bought some star anise today for the first time. It smells spicy and sweet together. It's an ingredient in a Vietnamese soup recipe I'm going to try this week. Found the star anise for cheap in the bulk spices section of the health food department at Fred Meyers. The soup has stick cinnamon in it, too, and ginger. I can't wait to try it!

3. Went for a brisk 45-minute walk with Mark. Uphill and down - a wonderful cardio workout, and so relaxing both physically and mentally to get out of the house, get some fresh air, and have time together with no interruptions. (Ok, so this photo wasn't from our walk today, but it is from a time we went hiking together back in November.)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

I'm teaching Sunday School at church these days -- a restful change from being a cub scout den leader, and almost as much fun. Sunday we're having a lesson on the choices that Cain and Abel made, and how we can make choices that lead us closer to Christ, or take us further away from him.

One of the scriptural references in the lesson is to 1 John 3:17-18.
But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue only; but in deed and in truth.

These verses really rang true for me when I read them this evening. I related them to the situation in my home.

Some of my colleagues at work are amazed that we have combined households with our daughter and her family while they are paying off some devastating medical bills. Some of our friends say, "Better you than me." Some of our family members become impatient because Mark and I don't have our home all to ourselves.

I prefer to take the longer view. I do have "the world's good" -- I have a large enough home to fit another family in, if need be. And while I can't help every needy person, surely "charity begins at home," and it's only the natural and right thing to do, to help out when a family member is in need and we are able to help. It's not enough to say, "Oh, I wish I could help," when we have the capacity to actually make a difference in the lives of others.

I love my home. But it's not really my home. I live here as a caretaker of sorts. I promised Heavenly Father years ago that everything I have, including my house, is His. Reading those scripture verses tonight felt like a hug from Heavenly Father, kind of an "atta girl," showing me that I am coming closer to not just dwelling here in my home, but a little bit closer to having God's love dwell in me.

If the house feels too crowded...

(I wrote this back on January 17; I'm just getting around to posting it now...seems to go with the post I wrote today.)

Here's a story my husband tells:
     There was a man who lived in a tiny house with his wife and children. It was a very, very tiny house, and they really needed more room. So the man went to the wisest man in the village, and asked him for advice on how they might be able to get a little more space. The wisest man in the village considered for a moment, and then he said, "I think you need to get a cow."
     "A cow?" the man asked, incredulous. "How will that help?"
     "Get a cow," the wise man repeated, ignoring the man's interruption, "and move it into the living room."
     The man couldn't believe what he had just heard, but he knew that the man was very wise, so he did what he had said. The cow was a lot of trouble, and took up waaay too much space, so it wasn't long before the man was back knocking on the door of the wisest man in the village.
     "This just isn't working," he said to the wise man. "We're more cramped than ever. My wife is going nuts. You have to help me!"
     "Hmmmm," said the wisest man in the village. "I will tell you what to do. Go buy a camel and move it into the kitchen."
     I will leave you to imagine the dialogue that ensued, but the man finally went to the camel dealer and bought a camel. It was a young camel, not fully grown, but it still took up quite a bit of space in the kitchen. The poor man and his wife and children could barely move inside their own house. What with the cow mooing and the camel spitting, it was a noisy, messy, cramped house. Of course it wasn't long before the man was back, pounding on the door of the wisest man in the village. He was almost in tears, as he begged the wise man to help him. It was terrible to have a cow and a camel in the house!
     The wisest man in the village considered thoughtfully. He stroked his beard, and then he beckoned to the man to lean in closely. Very softly, the wisest man in the village told the man what to do. "Go sell the cow," he said quietly, "and the camel," he continued, "and I promise you will have more room in your house.
     So the man went and sold the cow and the camel, and you know what? After that, the house never felt too small again.

So what's the point??

My husband and I are middle-aged grandparents. Between us, we have 9 children, who are all adults. We were empty nesters briefly, but then we adopted our 9th child (yay, Maleena!), and then my oldest daughter, her husband, and 4 of their children moved in with us when the economy blasted them with a double whammy of a difficult pregnancy, a baby with medical issues, and crappy insurance. Their medical bills equalled their rent bills, and something had to give. So we've been a household of 9 (!) people for the last year. It's always cozy, and sometimes gets to the point of feeling a little cramped.

Then, this weekend, my 2nd-oldest daughter and her husband and their 3 children came for a visit. They slept at the home of our good friends (who are empty nesters without and kids living at home), but they spent all day Saturday and part of today here at the house.

I adore these two daughters and their husbands and their children. They are all--all 12 of them--bright,  articulate, kind, clever, resourceful, wonderful people. It was a special treat to have the two youngest family members--darling baby girls born just 3 days apart last April--together playing and learning from each other. We got to celebrate the 5th birthday of a precious adopted granddaughter.

All of these happy, joyful events were also noisy and chaotic. My son and his wife and daughter joined us part of the time, and then we had 2 two-year-olds and 2 babies in the mix, along with the five-year-old wound up about her birthday. By the end of yesterday, I was crawling off to my room with a pounding headache, unable to think straight.

Tonight, daughter #2 and her family are snugly back in their own home, and the gang here at our house is settling in for the night...and you know what? It doesn't feel crowded at all.

*Note to Polly and David: I am NOT implying that you are a cow or a camel! Ha ha! I'm just saying that having a crowd over makes the house feel like it's not crowded at all when the company leaves!

Check out the remodeling job!

Wow! Be sure to check out The Skinny! It has a whole new look - sleek and elegant, just like I want to be! And be sure to come back again tomorrow when I post my weekly update...looks like I've lost a little. Yay!

Have you signed up for the giveaway on The Skinny yet? Very cool. Click here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Difficult Decisions

A decision was made for the first time in a courtroom in Clackamas County today. Two parents were found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in the death of their son. What makes the verdict unique is that the parents didn't abuse their son; they simply treated their son's medical condition with faith healing instead of medical care.

The family belongs to a local church, the Followers of Christ. Over the years that I have been teaching, I have had many students from this faith community in my classroom. They are invariably respectful, hardworking, and clean. I have liked all of them, and I have developed strong teacher-student relationships with a handful of them. Followers families live in several homes on my small dead-end street, and they have been good neighbors to me over the years.

I, too, believe in the power of prayer. I believe that those with authority can provide blessings of healing through prayer and the laying on of hands, although I do go to the doctor, balancing my faith in the healing power of prayer with the restorative possibilities of medical interventions.

I am not unfamiliar with the idea of choosing faith healing over medical intervention. My grandparents were members of another church, which also eschews medical care in favor healing through faith. I'm fine with adults choosing not to seek medical care--although I wish my grandfather would have been treated for pneumonia, so that I could have known him a few years longer. It is one thing for adults to make those choices, but I draw the line at children. It is a community's job to step in and help care for the children when their families are unable or unwilling to do so. That's why we have foster care. That's why we have welfare. And that's why, several years ago, the state of Oregon finally passed a law that required parents to seek medical care for their children when they became ill.

That law was passed after a little boy, whose parents were Followers, died in Oregon City of untreated juvenile diabetes. His older sister was a student in my class at the time. Years later, when he would have been in high school, his age-mates--my students--were still writing about his loss. Several of my students have lost siblings or cousins, who died of untreated medical conditions. Last year, a baby girl, granddaughter of the couple who was convicted today, died. Her mother had been one of my students. Her parents went on trial; her mother was acquitted but her father was found guilty; he served 3 months in jail. Last fall one of my dear students, who graduated just a couple of years ago, died way too young. And then there was Neil, the young man who died of a treatable urinary tract blockage, whose parents were found guilty today. I had Neil's brother in class a few years ago. We are losing too many children.

It is easy to be enraged and irate at a faith community that allows its children to die without seeking medical treatment. But mixed with my anger and frustration, always, is the respect I feel for a faith that teaches its adherents to pray with deep faith, a culture that raises its children to be hardworking members of my community. There is always this dichotomy in my reactions to these losses.

I come from a faith tradition that has suffered much persecution through its history. I get it, the desire to close ranks, to stay firm, to hold the course. But I have known, at least a little, so many of these children and their families. They are precious. They are worthy. They should not be dying as children. And so tonight, as I pray for these parents to be comforted in their grief and their trials, I cannot help but hope that this verdict may turn the tide here in Oregon City, that we won't have to keep reading headlines about children who have died too young.

Giveaway on The Skinny!

Katie has announced a giveaway of these amazingly darling reusable snack bags on The Skinny! You can get to the giveaway here, or you can click on that snappy looking button on the right side of my blog.

Gee, I wish I could win, but I'm one of the authors, so I'm not eligible...too bad...more snack bags for YOU! (Oh wait, that's right, she's making a separate giveaway for The Skinny maybe I still have a chance.)


"He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In ! 

Edwin Markham

Ha ha! Lately in my life, I am trying to outwit a few people via love, too.

(I have loved this poem for years. I first read it in a book of poetry that my grandfather gave to me when I graduated from high school. I just this morning discovered that it's by Edwin Markham, who was an Oregon City poet from the late 1800s. We read things by him in my Oregon Lit class. For those of my blog readers from around here, it's also interesting that Edwin Markham is related to Wayne Markham, a longtime church member here in Oregon City.)