... with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. ~Dr. Seuss

My favorite part of Christmas is the days leading up to Christmas. I love the decorations and the present buying and the loving secrets we keep in that present buying ... I love cutting down my own tree and decorating it. I even love the office Christmas party. {Christmas Day, however, has always been a little anti climatic for me ...}

Of course, I never have time to do everything I feel like I should do.

This year was quiet ... a little snowed in and unable to leave. But that's fine. It just lead to a fantastic meal with people that might as well be family and I'll make my family holiday trip on Martin Luther King Day weekend. I did take an impromptu trip down to Portland earlier this month to visit my oldest friend, Noell, and her precious family, where we had an incredible time baking Christmas cookies.

Well.

I think they were supposed to be Christmas cookies ...



Cutting down our tree. This is my roommate, Tiff. The scarf is hiding the baby that just has 2 more months of incubating to go. Of course, she did not actually use the ax she is holding.




The Christmas "cookie" that the youngest "nephew" made. I do have some pictures of the boys that are quite adorable, but I did not ask permission to post them so post them I will not. The oldest, Trevor (4) , shared the following story with me, though:

"Yesterday we went to the zoo. Daddy elephants are not careful, so they have learn. The mommy elephant pooped and Meagan {their aunt} smelled it worser. Baby elephants have little poop." {Oh the holiday joys ....}



And this was the road in Eastern Oregon driving home from Portland to this little vineyard town in Washington. {the reason why I did not drive home over mountainous Eastern and Central Oregon to my mom's house for Christmas Day.}

And I'm also so very glad that the Holiday Season isn't technically over. Tonight we're going to go eat some very delicious creme brulee at our favorite restaurant, there are a couple of more parties before the New Year and New Years itself will be spent at a contra dance with some dear Friends of Acoustic Music friends.

I think I just love how light hearted this time of the year is.

Rather, maybe I love how light hearted I am at this time of the year. ;)


quite awhile ago I firmly decided to not blog about dating. My own, personal dating, that is.

{I feel like I should have a Christmasy post to put here. And I do, actually, complete with pictures. But first this. Later that.}

This is me not blogging specifically about dating:

It is a strange world out there, with even stranger people, in a universe that insists on playing cold, cold tricks.

Of course, I don't believe that the universe is capable of doing that.

But dating is a nightmare.

No freaking kidding.
... just don't do it.

It never gets better.

This has happened a couple of times now.

You know when your sons are getting to just be adolescents? And everything you do embarrasses them? Because it's really not you at all, but how they're responding to you?

Ok.

When you become elderly and go into a nursing home, please do NOT try to set them up with that cute little server downstairs in the restaurant. You will most definitely get the same response that you got when they were 13. They will blush, splurt "MOM!" and look away. Yes. Even at 35 they will do this.

Take it from me, that server downstairs in the restaurant.

2nd Set of Solo Holidays.

Compared to last year, there is no comparison.

I’ve got your answers, in the palm of my hand and they come, this year, a little easier from the heart.

What do you do?

I’m a social worker for the county. I co-supervise a program that advocates for foster care children.

I could never do what you do.

Sure. But you know what? I’d make a lousy farmer.

How long have you been here {in this vineyard town}?

Three years. I lived in {the little mountain town} for 10 years before.

What brought you up here?

I was married at the time and we followed his job. I’m solo now.

{This has to be followed by a smile to assure the other person it’s really, really ok.}

Right there. I’ve got your answers right there.

At this point, sure. I’d always expected a large family of my own and at 30, thought for sure it’d be MY turn to host the moms and the dads and the brothers and the sisters and the nephews and the nieces. I’d always pictured too much food. A kids’ table. Raucous laughter. Things are always slightly out of control when this clan gets together. And oddly enough, I thrive on that part that you just can’t control. I adore it when my brother in law says things he absolutely shouldn’t and his sons overhear it and repeat the phrases all night long. I adore it when I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what my sister is trying to act out during Cranium and it turns into a screeching fest. I love it that my darling, cowboy family has to deep fry their turkey. We’re lucky to beat the chaos and change out of our sweats for dinner.

I’d just been waiting to add to it with my own tribe.

But here I am. 30. This year’s Thanksgiving brought a whole new set of friends here in this vineyard town without any of my family present. At this Thanksgiving, there was a beautifully decorated, shimmering Thanksgiving table that no real child could have ever been sat at. Deep fried turkey was replaced with an expertly basted, roasted to perfection bird accompanied by side dishes such as brussel sprouts au gratin. {My nephews not only won’t touch brussel sprouts, they will tell you where you can put those brussel sprouts. We thank my brother in law for that.}

This year’s Thanksgiving, we drank bottles of good wine. None of us would have dreamed of wearing our sweats.

It’s not what I expected. I couldn’t have imagined it any other way.

Two truths.

I did get my little taste of things being out of control. These friends and their family I was eating with have been sharing Thanksgiving together for years. They were so gracious and welcoming to me, and I loved being part of their own inner circle. This is an inner circle ruled by a beautiful, stately matriarch. A great grandmother. She had a stroke 12 years ago and requires lots of extra TLC, but oh, how her family honors her. She is truly lovely and although largely non verbal now, she truly loved her holiday company.

Her daughter was our host, and as we were all seated, she (the daughter) started to read a quote about honoring ourselves and the gift God has placed deep within us. It was a truly amazing quote. I think.

It was at that moment the Queen Bee decided to start singing, loudly {at the top of her voice loudly} “DEE BO DEE DAH BO DO DO DO …”.

We’re still not quite sure why, but then she grinned from ear to ear and said, “All right, all right, all right.”

Daughter took a second stab at it and was interrupted again with, “DEE BO DEE DAH DO DO DO. All right, all right, all right.”

She never did get the quote out, and the next time Queen Bee started singing, we all joined in with her. Loudly. At the top of our voices.

So for right now, at this stage in my life, I’ll take the fancy, adult dinners in which we don’t dare go without at least a couple of bottles of white and red. Just as long as it’s accompanied by this total love. And raucous laughter.

... of things to come.

We're in the new apartment.

It's a mess.

We have too many things!

This evening we were getting ready to go buy groceries
to make a meal for a family that needed a little nudge of help.
I got my coat on.
Got my keys.
And my roommate, Tiffany, was still sitting at the dining room table
pressing on her stomach.
Tiffany is expecting in February.
"She kicked," Tiffany said.
"I want to see if she'll kick again before we leave."

We waited.
No kicking.

Tiffany picked up a hammer that was on the table
and said,
"The end of this hammer is about the same size
of the thingie they do the ultrasound with,
and when they move that on my stomach,
she goes nuts."

So she gently pressed her big fat belly
with the end of that hammer,
and while we dissolved into giggles,
Madelyn got spunky and kicked back.

Tiffany's in for it.
... into real life could be better. Really.

I've heard it before, but coming back from Hawaii is hard. Truly. Normally by the end of vacation, I'm ready to get back and get things organized.

O, but how I'm not here in mind or spirit.

Re-entry's probably a little bit more difficult because I moved apartments immediately after coming back ... and still had my job to deal with.

But I don't want to think about it.

So I'll share some beach pictures with you.




Hanaumo (sp?) Bay


me conquering snorkeling.

{i didn't really conquer snorkeling.
it was scary.
i swam away from the fish when they got too close.
it made my sister laugh.
then she snorted salt water into her breathing tube.}

but i did not see sharks.


my sister.
and me.



some beautiful, random beach i was i was still at.

big sigh.

good vacation.

back to unpacking ...


Even in Oahu, I'm still being told I need to relax.

By the surfing instructor!




Cheryl {mi hermana} and I took a 3 hour surf lesson on the North Shore yesterday. A splurge, indeed. But so very worth it.




Hard work, this surfing business. Paddling against the waves, sharing our space with sea turtles (no sharks, thank goodness!). My arms feel a little jelly like today. My left foot caught the brunt of the reef (the hike we were planning is going to have to wait a few days!).

And it was amazing.

And now, of course, I can say that I HAVE been surfing {technically} on the North Shore! {Um, "technically". It will be our little secret that we surfed in this adorable little bay with adorable little waves.}




These are all the pictures I have of our surfing experience. We were both in the water, with nobody left on shore to take more. But I do have a few more random ones to share ...


Bubba Gump Shrimp.



I have no idea what this beach is called.



Waimea Bay.




Warm water.

We had so much planned for this trip, but with all the running around and excitement ... we're beginning to lose steam! ;) Hopefully we'll still get to the snorkeling, the temple and the hike to Waimea Falls, but we'll have to see.

Today we have plan to give Cheryl some time to get caught up on some homework and then, this afternoon, head to the North Shore to a coffee shop I'm told is well worth my time. ;)

So I'm IN Oahu.

But definitely NOT on Oahu time. It is just beginning to get light outside and I've been awake forever. Literally. Forever.

I have a story for you. This story begins, "I'm fine. Everbody's fine. Nobody got hurt."

I'm in Little Pacific NW Town, on the plane. We're waiting to take off. In fact, the doors to the plane aren't shut yet, but most everybody has found their seats. I'm in the back with a group of very chatty, social people. {You work with juvenile delinquints? I work with juvenile delinquints!"}

But in a flurry of activity, the 2 flight attendants rush to front and back of the plane, slam the doors shut and lock them. I look to my left and see a Very Big Man being wrestled to the ground and handcuffed by TSA, City PD and the County Sheriff's Office. They've surrounded him and there's a shotgun pointed at him.

Our flight was delayed.

After they had escorted him away, the pilot got on the loudspeaker and informed us that the Very Big Man had escaped from a locked mental health facility, broken through the glass airport windows and was making a mad dash for the plane.

Other than that, it was an uneventful trip. ;)

Cheryl and I are making good use of our time. Today is starting out to be a beautiful day ... so it might be surf lesson day ...
ri-di-cu-lous.

The amount of work I am putting into this grad school application. Or, maybe that's the worrying I'm putting into this grad school application.

* Letters of Reference: Requested.
* Transcripts: Received.
* Upper Division GPA: Pain in my tush, put calculated. (That was two bachelors degrees worth of term credit hours to add, multiply, divide ....)
* Double check my Upper Division GPA Calucation: Not quite yet.
* School of Social Work Application: Rough draft started.
* Regular School Application: Rough draft started.
* Personal Essay: Drafted and sent to a writer friend, who's taking a look at it.

* Anything I've forgotten: Can't think about it quite yet!

And we won't know until April?

Seriously?

Oh-so-ri-di-cu-lous. {I will be. While waiting for the results ...}
Just a little bit of *very* personal business here ...

I got to write a VERY large check to Former Husband today {using the fruits of my table waiting labor}. This is a long story, but by The End, I was just at the point where I would have done anything to expedite the long legal process. In fact, I remember saying {in complete desperation, knowing that I could not go any further} at the time, "I will give you anything you want. But please, please let me out of this marriage." {Dear hearts, please remember that this was after every desperate measure I could possible think of ... and the heinous behavior still continued.}

So I've been giving. For 14 months. But as I wrote out this Sizeable Sum, knowing that next month's sum will be tiny, do-able and, most importantly, final, I wept.

How many times have I wept in the past two years? It could be its own version of "How Do I Love Thee?" I've wept in pain, in desperation, in confusion, in betrayal, in depression, in anger, in exhaustion ....

... but also in relief, in prayer, in worship, in hope, in love, and, of course ...

... in Thankfulness. Sheer gratitude is why I wept tonight. Because as of next month {ironically, the "anniversary" month of the finalization of the big, bad, D word} I have absolutely no legal ties to a past that I've let go of. Does that sound heartless? It's not my intent. I've just healed, and been healing, healthily.

I have this incredible expanse of ... I don't know what ... stretching out in front of me. And for that, I am very, VERY thankful.

In other news, I read an article on cnn.com that stated research has now proven that sharks can produce asexually. Flipping fantastic. More shark phobia!


{I'm not entirely sure why I keep adding photos of shark to this blog when they seriously scare me to death. That's probably not normal ....}
... I'll be going here.


And I cannot even begin to tell you how ready I am for this trip.

This is Oahu's North Shore. And it is not the only place I will be going. My dear sister Cheryl is wrapping up the last year of her naval enlistment and lives on this island. She's been asking me to visit for a few years now. A month or so ago, I found an amazing deal online and bought the ticket.

Surprised me, too! {But, remember ... I have a free place to stay and Cheryl and I are budget eaters.}

I have not taken a vacation quite like this in a long, long time. In fact, my last "away from the mainland trips" have been missions focused. When I told Cheryl that I was coming, she didn't think twice. She said she would put in immediately for leave and we would do anything I wanted.

Anything?

Amongst our list of tentative plans .... a tea ceremony at a monastery, watching the surfers practice on the North Shore, a Mai Tai cruise, kayaking & snorkeling, a trip to the volcanoes, fabulous eating, even more fabulous shopping ... and visiting a coffee shop that Mrs. Ronna PROMISES will be worth our time. ;p

And beach time. So much beach time.

Coincidentally, snorkeling does not excite me. In fact, it scares me. Weird, huh? I wonder if there's a snorkeling specific phobia. I've told Cheryl exactly 54 3/4 times that I do NOT want to see sharks and that if God put it under the sea and we cannot see it with our naked eye, then there is a REASON for that. But I love my sister and she promises, promises, promises that we will be in such shallow water that if I REALLY wanted to, I could probably just sit down and wait for the fish to come. Just when I had come to the conclusion, at her experienced cajoling ~she is the YOUNGER sister ~ that it wouldn't be so bad, she asked if I wanted to see sea turtles. Well, that actually sounded fabulous and I told her as much. Then, in a way only younger sisters can do, she quickly told me that,

"that'sgreattheseaturtlesareindeepwatersowe'llhavetoswimoutalittlewaysand
there'saslightchancewemightseesomesharks. . . . "


Scaaary. I do NOT want to be eaten by one of these things! But I DO want to get out of this little town for a little while, so I guess I'll take the chance.

November 3rd through November 11th. That's when I'm going.

I've already started my packing list ....
... now.

That would be a big, long breath I've been holding all day long. Dependency court was a tense, odd thing today. Crazy twists and turns. Upset judges. I'm so glad it's over. {This is one of the things I miss most about being married ~ having someone to come home to and debrief with, even if we don't talk specifics.}

But I'm home, now, with a long, luxurious evening stretched out before me. Even my toes are starting to relax! No waiting tables, no long hours at job #1, no plans to hang out with any dear friends. Nothing, nada, zip. I get to cook a decent meal, catch up on some reading and may even get to some writing tonight too. What will I DO with all my time?

What I maybe / perhaps / there's a chance / sounds like a good idea to me / is do some work on my graduate school application essay. That's right. I think I've finally made a decision. For the past several months, there have been many valid, perfectly good options colliding in my head, each one trying to knock the others out. Many of you will remember that a year and a half ago I had passed all my Oregon Teaching Licensure tests because I had planned to go back and get a Masters in Teaching. That was a GREAT plan. I was married to an educator, I LOVE reading and writing and helping students read and write, and we had BIG plans to move overseas and teach English. A good plan, indeed.

Only ... it didn't work out. And ... after the divorce, the public school system left a sour taste in my mouth. {Good reasons for this.} Only, the darling graduate school wouldn't pull my admission. They've continued to extend my enrollment, and I've continued to let them. Wouldn't want to throw the option away until I was sure of what I wanted to do ...

... and it's been a difficult decision! That first year after the divorce, I had NO idea what I wanted to do. I thought again about teaching, I thought about massage therapy school, I thought about changing jobs, I thought about going to school at Bethel in Redding, California. I had a LOT of ideas with NO direction. But it was so exciting when God released me to start DREAMING about these things again ... I really had to get it in my heart and soul that He does, in fact, have a most perfect plan for me and that it is VERY good and in it I am VERY happy.

This, my friends, as you well know, is easy to get in your head, and very hard to believe for yourself.

But after much praying and thinking and talking to the dear lady from my church who's been helping me {ok, ok. I'm seeing a professional counselor and have been since July 07 ...), I've narrowed it down.

This winter I'll be applying to a Master in Social Work program with an emphasis in Mental Health. In the next state down. At the ONLY school in the state that has an accredited program. Leave it to me to make things hard on myself ... they get 500 applications every year and accept 150.

Wow.

Hopefully with 8 {8! Am I really that old?!} years of experience and FANTASTIC letters of reference, I'll have a window of opportunity.

I'll tell you what, though. I'm so ready to work with kiddos on a therapeautic level rather than a systems advocacy level. I have this need, you see, to really get into their minds and hearts. If they let me, of course.

You know what else?

I'm planning to do this school and this move (acceptance pending, of course) ... with no plan for a job or an immediate place to live. This is SO taking a chance for me. It's an entirely new way of thinking, in fact. School first and then piece work together as it comes. For me, that's faith.
I'm a budgets and numbers person.

But I'm just not worried.

But I do want to take FULL advantage of this lovely night that's beckoning me, so I'll leave it at that. ;)
... set squarely in the middle of a crown-to-be. The one day crown that I'm working towards now.

Again, I found myself at the birthday party of a one year old. Sigh. I have yet to go to one that something random and disturbing did not happen at. No fault to the birthday boys or girls.

My dining companion across the table turned out to be the close colleague of Former Husband.

We figured this out quickly.

And oh, the beautiful things I said, gentle gracious tender, lovingly about Former Husband, knowing full well that Colleague had no idea why the marriage ended. Knowing full well that Colleague had the "your fault" look in his eyes.

Gentle gracious tender. Surprisingly, also, genuine.

I woke up this morning feeling grateful for this moment this day this life. I'll take these feelings of thankfulness over the alternative (!) any day.
... I'm admitting this out loud, but ...

I'm blogging right now to try to get away from the accusatory voices of the presidential debate on t.v. I know, I know. I should be more involved. I should care. I will vote (thanks, ladies of the early 20th century, who helped the rest of us ladies have the opportunity to vote).

But after days of angry parents and angry social workers, I just don't like the intensity. I'll read it in the paper tomorrow.

The highlight of my social work this week was playing with a precious, blond two year old girl, who held my hands, jumped up and down on her "big girl" bed and wanted to sing "Row, row, row, your boat."

This meant that Lisa sings the song, and Little Girl sings, "row, row, row, row, row, row, row." Foster Adopt Mom, who didn't mind a smidge that Little Girl was using her bed as a trampoline, smiled gently. On a whim I asked Little Girl where her mom was and her eyes got huge, her smile bright and she squealed and pointed to Foster Adopt Mom.

Thanks, Foster Adopt Mom. You've done a good job and I've got a beautifully adjusted and attached girly-kins on my caseload. I don't worry about this Little One when I go home at night. ;)
... about being cheeky when you're elderly.

I had just brought Mrs. A. her dessert to finish off her meal. As I was wiping off a nearby table, I asked her if she had had a good day today. She assured me that, yes, she had. It had been so very relaxing and she had spent most of the day reading.

I asked her what she had been reading and she mentioned something about a guarded tower and a queen.

"How exciting," I said.

"Oh, yes. It is. In fact, when I came down for dinner, they were just about ready to ..."

and she drops her voice to a whisper and leans over her strawberries

"... copulate."

Serving dinner always brings the unexpected. Always. ;)

In other non related news, the boy and I have decided that while we are very fond of each other, it is not going to work. A successful courtship - we know that we are not meant for each other. Of course this would happen right as I decide to write about it, but that's ok.

My life can also be exciting. ;)
so many good things lately.

~ a new part time job, waiting tables and serving dinner to the elderly at a cafe in an assisted living village. the result? so very many sweet requests, like, could you please cut my brussel sprouts in two? ~ and ~ please, please blend my spinach, and when you think it's blended, please blend it some more. this is three nights a week for just a few hours. God is really and truly using this season in my life to teach me about what it really means to serve others and truly put others before me.

~ a soon to happen visit from a very dear blogging friend from back in the MSN days. {soon as she should be here in about 30 minutes.} what an unbelievable thing to have mrs. ronna so close {just two and a half hours away.} she has been amazing over the course of this past year and is one of those women that helped give a piece of myself back.

~ a wonderful labor day camping trip out on the lake. three days of too much food, several naps, countless wipeouts on the knee boards and one fantasy football draft. {right. didn't so much take part in the last one.}

~ a new boy, who's actually been around for a few months now. an old friend who has been patiently courting and patiently waiting. we pray a lot about this. part of me would like to carefully scrutinize every tiny part of the newness of us to ensure that i really, really won't get hurt. but i know that's really, really not possible, so we pray. and pray. and go so slowly. but he's a good thing.

have i said it before? thanks, God, for You. i see You. see You everywhere.
.... and kissed the receptionist at my insurance company.

no kidding.

i had had 20 minutes to kill in between appointments and thought i'd run to the other side of town to change my last name on my insurance policy. {yes, it's taken awhile. it's been hard for me to do. but lately i've had a little extra motivation - hopefully i'll be able to blog about it soon - to get all the everything i have changed back to my real name.}

but the receptionist.

i told her what i needed.

she said ok.

she pulled up my information. typed a little and then looked over at me and asked, "marriage or reclaiming a maiden name?" and the corners around her eyes got a little soft and a little understanding.

and that is the kindest way i have heard it put yet.
seriously?

really?

it's really ONLY Wednesday?

can I trade in this week for a newer version?

this week i have:

been fighting the flu ... taken a second job ... been battling the hospital to schedule a CPR class ... flown {figuratively} to a rural community {twice} for emergency meetings {and one time flew back over wheat fields to be sure to be in time for a CPR class -- that didn't happen} ... had a somewhat frustrating meeting with my pastors {my fault, not theirs} ... been trying to find a puppeteer for kids church this Sunday and coming up short due to Men's Camp also happening this weekend ... cried in court because the foster family adopting the developmentally delayed girl is just entirely too loving for words ... patiently listened to former husband explain to me exactly when and how he wanted his monthly check ... watched my house get messier and messier ... ruined a blackberry cobbler :( ... and have had an overabundance of absolute lying on the part of my clients - the adult ones.

big fat sigh and insert small temper tantrum here.

but i don't want to leave you on a sour note.

this week, i have also:

... had a productive chiropracter's appointment {chronic, not so cheery pain in my upper back made worse by, yup, you guessed it, stress} ... gotten most of my laundry done ... had one or two very relaxing moments in the backyard with a cup of tea ... seen one of my adult clients follow through with disciplining her 6 year old {trust me, this is a big victory} ... and drawn silly pictures with a 5 year old client of his family {one eyeball bigger than the other, swirly necks, feathers instead of hair}.

ok.

it can still get better from here, right?




This is my dear friend Sarah's daughter.






And me. She is absolutely darling, and I double dare you to click on the link above to see how absolutely precious she is.


On Monday I went to a day long seminar on infant mental health.


Yes. Mental health for infants.


It is my new love.


Actually, my new love is when I see infants capturing their parents' hearts and their parents falling in love with them. The cooing, playing, babbling, smiling.


Did you know a seven day old infant can imitate you when you open your mouth wide or pucker your lips? They most certainly can. You must give them a few minutes, but they can.


And, if you ignore a little one, she will smile and charm and flirt with you to get you to engage with her.


They love those relationships, those little ones.


This is my most newest "niece." I have called her "Hepzebah" for many months because her mommy and daddy wanted to share her name only on the day she was born.






Welcome, miss liberty. You have already captured your mommy and daddy's hearts. They are completely, madly, totally, truly and most definitely 1,0000% in love with you.


Ok, I admit.


I'm a little smitten, too.





I cannot believe my friends are having these precious infants. It's a little odd, but perfectly perfect. Miss Elizabeth and her husband also welcomed their own little bundle of coziness in early June. Take a peek. Of course, I cannot wait for the day when I get to hold my own.


This is social work:

* lining up matchbox cars so the six year old can crash his toy helicopter into them, the crashes getting bigger each time.
* one reading of Sponge Bob Squarepants.
* discussing the finer points of Pink Floyd in 100 degree wheat field summers on the front porch with the 13 year old.
* miniature 2 year old arms wrapped around my neck, little head pressed against my cheek.
* two toddler "i love you's" when I leave the home.
* i will do social work forever. i will love these kids forever.

This is social work:

* endless conversations with service providers that conclude we don't know as much as we'd like to believe. sighs. breaks in the conversation. what are the family's resiliency factors again?
* awkwardly supervising a visit between parent and child. everybody's on their best behavior. love and risk and hurt and power so thick you can reach out and touch it.
* staring at the computer, wishing so hard you can make your words really align to what you're thinking for that court report that's due today.
* i cannot do social work forever. i will love these kids forever.

When I write those reports, I listen to Massanet. Beethoven. It's just complicated enough without being dark. I cannot listen to Mozart or Siberius. They mock the complexity of my recommendations with their simple little melodies.

What people are capable of can astound you.

Both ways.
I am ...

... wilting from the heat. {Even in the blessed coolness of this basement apartment, my body is not deceived, realizes the full force of the heat outside and, well, wilts.}

... just finished reading "Velvet Elvis" and "Sex God" {a little different than one might expect}. Very worth my time.

... STILL creeped out by my midnight viewing of "The Dark Knight." Were the Batman movies always this dark? I don't remember them being so. The Joker completely messed with my mind and I left thinking, "oh my goodness. I think I need a nightlight tonight."

... looking forward to camping with my beautiful friend Kim and her spunky kids the first weekend in August. {The other day, her 9 year old son, Tyler, was stalking butterflies in their backyard with a BB gun, wearing a camouflaged bathrobe and sporting his summer buzz cut.}

... being grateful for the wonderfully random gift my friend Joe brought back for me from Kauai. One might expect a Lei or a Hawaiian printed something, but, o. Not so much. I am now the proud owner of a blue refrigerator magnet that has an image of crossed fingers on it. Above the image is printed, "Me and God are like this." I'm glad my faith is a never ending source of amusement and wonder.

... contemplating some pretty big life changes. Living in Vineyard Town was always supposed to a be a short term plan. The longer I'm here, the more I realize that there's probably something different for me. Of course, I don't say this lightly. As I'm about to start looking for jobs in metro Pacific Northwest, my heart rate is increasing just a little. Of course, at this point, I don't have anything to lose. And, what's that? Grad school, do I see you becoming more of a possibility?

Many blessings on your week this week. Stay inside. Or go swimming. Drench each other with water hoses. Drink some lemonade.

Be happy.



Beyond here there's no map.

a year ago, i turned 29. one week after my entire life course changed. i spent the day antique shopping in mountain oregon with my best friend, wishing the entire time i could dial back the clock. wishing i did not have a new apartment.

How you get there is where
you'll arrive; how, dawn
by
dawn, you can see your way

clear: in ponds, sky, just as

woods you walk through give
to fields ....

but i had a new apartment. a new job. a new life. i did not understand these things at first. i did not understand me.

sometimes i still do not understand me.

but i understand that this that is, is. prickly misunderstanding and confusion has given way to the niche that God has carved for me. it is not a big space, generally and metaphorically speaking. but it is a space.

. And rivers: beyond
all burning, you'll cross on bridges

you've long lugged with you.

i don't know that i can define this next year. it's taken awhile to let go of this past year. i have never, never wanted a year to pass so quickly. i do not know how many times i said to myself, "i just want to feel better."

Whatever your route, go lightly,
toward light. Once you give away
all save necessity, all's
mostly well: what you used to

believe you owned is nothing,
nothing beside how you've come to feel ...

i have a little secret.

in the past few months, i started to let go.

of what i believed i was. of what i believe i should be. i feel what i feel in christ jesus. sometimes it's not very holy.

i tell him anyway.

. You've no need now
to give in or give out: the way you're going your body seems
willing...

i'm willing.

...Slowly as it may
otherwise tell you, whatever
it comes to you're bound to know.

welcome, 30th year. i didn't think i wanted you.

turns out i wanted nothing more.

in the car driving out to the snake river last thursday, i spouted a liturgy of the things i wanted Some Day.

marriage. children. (i did get an odd sideways look as my traveling companion was one of my closest male friends.) a master's degree. maybe two. maybe more. to write. to publish. to take more piano lessons. to learn the violin. to travel. to live right now.

i couldn't be more grateful for the place i'm in in this very moment, though there's so much that is so very unclear.






these people here? all very different. also? i've really only known them in the past year.

i'm grateful for them, and that they chose to celebrate with me this year.

and i choose to be grateful for last year.

and i am expectantly living out this year.

(big thanks to philip booth and "heading out" (c) 1990).




this is my june.




welcome, old friend. many apologies i truly did not get to visit you this month.



welcome, baby.




farewell, relay for life. you are a truly noble cause. and i am truly glad you are done for this year.




welcome to the new song family, jeff b. congratulations, mrs. b.




this baby girl is almost here, too. but this baby shower did not get any pictures as my camera was used and abused for its batteries.


there is no picture for this one, but please welcome Happy House Person Caleb to the blogosphere. His well written, thought provoking posts will be at http://whyiama.blogspot.com

in my life i am grateful for many things.

jesus.

marriages.

new babies.

fundraisers.

good friends.

and the chance to sit down after celebrating all of these wonderful things.

there is one more thing.

this month, i turned 30.

which will be the subject matter of my next post.



... is the noise of me drowning in busy-ness. And ignoring this poor blog.

sigh. Poor little blog. It's always the first to go.

Relay for Life is quickly approaching, like scary footsteps rapidly coming up behind me. I know something is there, but I don't think I'm prepared to turn around and face it .... Coming up: a Karoake Fundraiser (I will so *not* be singing, but I so *will* be event coordinating); a carwash that I'm hoping our probation kids will put on and one teensy little fundraising lunch I need to cook.

misnomer that that is. I can't cook a teensy little lunch ~ undoubtedly it will be a very big lunch ~ but maybe that will raise more funds. Come, June 13th, please come! I'm ready for this year's event to be over already!

glug.

and I'm there with you ladies. I haven't escaped baby and wedding season and am busy making invitations, making wreaths and sewing little washcloth duckies. I'll be gone most weekends from here until July.

glug, glug.

this weekend I will be in town, but we're church conferencing with a Firestorm team from Bethel that's visit. I wouldn't miss that in the first place, but as well, most of my "family" from my little hometown are going to be up for it too. And they're bringing the kids! Hurray! I like the adult weekends, but I so seriously miss all of my little munchkins. {Groan. That reminds me that I still haven't prepared this week's Kids Church Lesson. Good thing I love those kids too. 5 year old random Jeremy told me last week that he accidentally ate dirt. Actually. He announced it during the teaching time. O, you have to love that, though.}

glug, glug, glug.

all right. Time to put on "South Pacific" and get to the rest of those baby shower invitations. And hopefully I'll have a minute to clean my poor little house {I cannot stand the clutter!} and balance my checkbook. And get some sleep.

Sidenote: Sierra and Aaron, I had no idea you guys had caught up with me here. It would be great to get an email address from you, but I guess I can contact you through Myspace as well. Be blessed!!
is in any way easy to explain ~ that between a mother and a daughter.

There is just one thing ~ one mantra ~ left over from my childhood that I can still literally hear my mom say: You choose what you want to do, Lisa, as long as it makes you happy. I hear that voice again and again, especially lately: The one thing I want for you is to be happy. What have I always told you, Lisa? You need to do what makes you happy.

I don't feel like I have a good handle on what that is. I don't know what makes me happy. I'm still in a state of ... transition. {What does it mean, Mom, to be happy? Does it disappoint you that I would rather follow a set of rules ~ of order and decorum ~ rather than seek happiness and joy with abandonment? It disappoints me a little.} She can't answer that for me. And if she had an idea, she wouldn't share it with me so that I could find it on my own. Today I'm left wondering what would happen if I truly pursued what made me happy.

What makes my mom happy? How does she know? What makes my sister happy? Is it the same as my own? Do my sister and my mom have the same relationship as my mom and I? Is it different? Did we become the type of women my mom had hoped?

What does that woman look like? What did my mom want for us when we were younger? Does my mom know how closely I hold her heart in mine? Do I tell her? Does she believe me when I do? Does she know I think about the days when my dad left and she was forced to pull it together and parent us on her own? Does she know I haven't forgotten? Does she know she's still, in so many ways, the gauge, the meter, the measurement of what's right, what's wrong?

Does she know she's the first person I call when things go right / go wrong / get confusing? Mom, I'm getting a second degree. Mom, I'm getting married. Mom, we're seeing a fertility doctor. Mom, I think something Very Wrong is going on.

How can we feel so different and then how can my heart be so inextricably wrapped up in hers?

Is my own relationship with my future daughter(s) going to look the same? {Are those daughters ever going to be here?} Am I going to want the same thing for them? Am I going to be able to raise them with tightly held values? Are they going to know and follow a God that loves them more deeply than I ever could? {Am I going to fail them?} Are they going to trust me? Be proud of me? Know that they're loved?

Did my mom think these same things before my sister and I were born?

A couple of years ago my mom shared that she wrote us poems while we were in her belly, waiting to meet the world. I've been praying for my children since I was 19 years old. So much faith resides in that place. Faith and love and fear and hope and anxiety.

All at once.

All true.

When my mom told me about the poem writing, I went home and wrote my own. One day I will tell my daughters that their poem is in every way entrusted to them my their grandmother. And it is only, simply, so deeply, a legacy of that love.

To My Daughter

When you are born I will
gaze at your soft, sleeping infant
body and praise.
You are a little girl.

If you are my first born rejoice
in the legacy you
are born in to fiercely silence
those who whisper what a shame
you were not a boy.

You are mine.

I'll teach you the joy
the courage it takes to
serve a God who so intimately
knows you and who so purposefully
made you female.

You will find your own
cost of your Alabaster box
and a God divinely male.
Your soul must find the God
also divinely female.
Please celebrate this.

I will introduce you to your
many grandmothers ~ our mothers and
the mothers sent to us ~
listen to them name each Wisdom's
origin and seek your own.
Seek the mothers
that are not me.

And if you are born only
into my conscious
I will not love you less.
You are mine.

{2005}

I hope I can make my mom as proud as she has made me.
.... {and a little to children as well} but this little one thinks I'm the devil.



This is Odie. I'm house sitting right now for my supervisor and Odie, for no *good* reason, has decided she hates me. She's never not liked me before, but she's realized that my supervisor is gone and now she snarls, growls, snaps and won't let me come within 5 feet of her. {Who knew something so small could be so vicious?} We *used* to be friends. We *used* to sit together on the couch. I've been over here lots, but now .... Odie, Odie, Odie. Odie seizes (as in, she has honest to goodness seizures) if she doesn't go outside to go to the potty. But Odie won't go outside. Odie very violently lets me know that she is not going anywhere with me. Odie won't do ... anything. Including eat. Drink water. Not growl. She lays on the couch with her back purposefully turned away from me, or buries her head in her dog bed. I'm two seconds away from calling the vet.

At this point, I'd rather have Odie go all over the floor inside rather than have her have seizures. She's a million years old (literally) and who knows ... Telling Supervisor that Odie "went" everywhere is a ton better than having to tell her anything else ... what if she doesn't make it through one of the seizures?? One of my Big Bosses (I have a lot. It's a chain that starts with my program manager, then goes to the administrator in charge of probation; then goes to the executive director of the juvenile justice center, then goes to the judges, then goes to the co. commissioners ...) said that it was good that I was house sitting because I was so nice ...

... and because hearing from me that Odie didn't make it would suck less than if anybody else said it. Big Fat Sigh.



And this is Rascal. Rascal is co-dependent and follows me everywhere. Literally. If I close the bathroom door, she has a cow. {But she's a cat. Don't get confused.} Before she left, supervisor said Rascal liked to sleep in the bed at night. Problem: I have some pretty amazing cat allergies and thought I would show Rascal who was "the boss." The first night I let Odie in to her dog bed and then closed the bedroom door, and ...

... I am not the boss. Rascall meowed outside the door all. night. long. All night. Maybe three hours of sleep. The next night, I just let her in. And later that day, refilled my allergy eye drops.

I am not the boss in this house. Not the boss at all.

No wonder people have pet psychiatrists.
Through the course of this past year, I have been asked and asked and asked, "You're doing so well with all of this, Lisa. How are you doing it?" I cannot believe I'm writing this, but I'm coming up on one year since the separation. Where did all those days go? Wasn't it yesterday that I was crumpled on my bathroom floor wondering why time was going so slow and how I was ever going to feel normal again? I don't remember getting off that bathroom floor, but I'm here. I'm not there anymore. Something's happened in these past ten months. {Ten?}

It wasn't yesterday, but here's my truth: Some days I do not do it at all. Some days I hide in my little apartment and think about the rejection and do not do anything. {Ok, actually I do do something: I weep.} But here is what I know. God shed light on a terrible, terrible situation and He gave me a choice. He said, "You can stay. And. I release you from this marriage. It's your decision."

But the things I had to learn ... I had to learn what resting in grace really means. I had to re-learn the amazing promises of God. I had to go back to my prophecy tapes and listen and re listen and re listen to the words that God had spoken over me. I had to believe in faith that by separating myself from a situation where my health was so gravely at risk, I wasn't forever ruining my chances of a Godly marriage and having my own beautiful children ~ my heart's true desire.

I had to come to the knowledge deep down in my heart and spirit that it wasn't God who rejected me at all. Rather, I had to surrender my own fears to Christ and let Him tell me that.

I still have sad days, but the God that I know now is so much more real than the God I knew before. {I probably would have chosen to find this reality a different way, though! ;)} This summer I'll be turning 30 {quiet sigh}. I had pictured things a little differently for this stage, but I know I'm not outside of God's will.

A week ago one of my good friends asked, "When are you going to start dating again?" My response? "I have no idea. That's scary." But when I took it to God that night in prayer, my Spirit began to get a little happy.

This past year, the people I know have been watching me a little like they would a car wreck: you don't really want to look because you know it's Very Bad, but there's a part of you that just needs to see. It's not lost on me: people are looking at me to see what a Christian will do in this situation. Most of the time, that scares the crud out of me ~ so many people have been so hurt by hypocrisy by just a few in the beloved church. But, I know that God is showing them what renewal looks like in a life of a person who loves Christ ~ the flip side of that, of course, being ... look what God can do for your own heart. I've bit my tongue and not said a few things I really wanted to say, vented to a few good friends ... and then forgiven. Even in the beginning of this Terrible Thing, I knew that God would be asking me to forgive my former husband and former friend. That was hard to swallow, but I did not want to be bitter. Not at all. I wanted to give these things back to God and get healed. {Why do I need to hurt more by not forgiving?}

So I say, let them watch. And I also say, God, spotlight's on You. I have had amazing conversations with precious women that center around our relationships with men. There have been chances {already!} to tell them about how at 30, I'm re-surrendering my life to God's will, and how although I have no idea what this next stage is going to look like, I'm content waiting for the right time to move forward. I'm ok with it being me and God.

I also get to build Godly marriage up and say honestly and without hesitation, "It is one of the biggest blessings ever." I truly believe that. Before Former Husband made the decisions that he did, I had never, never been so blessed.

I'm not entirely sure why I wanted to share that on this Wednesday and I've changed my mind 20 times in hitting the publish button. But, as well, in the past two days, I've had this exact conversation multiple times. Don't know what it means, but I can take a Holy Hint. I guess I just feel like something is shifting, once again, in my Spirit and wanted to publicly declare it. So, renewal blessings on all of you, as well.

What a busy week. I can’t believe I made it out alive! It’s been so slow at work for so long ~ I was completely caught off guard on a Friday that kept me hopping for 10 hours straight. And I always say, a bad day for a social worker is a little different than a bad day for a librarian ~ especially considering that I work for abused children.

Also very busy from being co-captain of our Justice Center’s Relay for Life team. How did I get roped into this? I love planning and organizing and event coordinating … but oh, my. I do not like fundraising ~ not one little bit! I remember when Former Husband and I used to take kids on missions trips … and I was most decidedly not in charge of the fundraising! {In fact, I do believe I said I would never do it again! But, I suppose as long as I never sell another Krispy Kreme doughnut … or never have to fork somebody’s lawn again, it will be ok.} My other co-captain, Tiffany, and I have been busy baker bees this week ~ making little treats to take to work for others to partake in … on a donation basis of course. We also had the brilliant idea that we would approach a local restaurant and see if they would partner with us in a karaoke fundraiser … but the poor proprieters had extremely limited English proficiency … and the lady just kept cocking her head and staring at us blankly. She finally ended our meeting with nearly shouting, “You no force customers to give money! {We giggled all the way to the chairwoman’s house where we picked up more luminary bags.}

So I was very ready for this weekend, and it seems like this weekend was very ready for me, too! I slept until 10:00 {yes, 10:00!} on Saturday morning, which really never happens. Morning disc golf was cancelled and my poor body has been fighting off a yucky voice stealing cold for over a week. And I got to clean my house, which always sets things in order. I love the feeling of cleaning, straightening and organizing and then, sigh. Enjoying my newly found peace.

After a little house cleaning, my dear, new friend Lacey called to get coffee, and we spent a lovely late afternoon downtown, drinking Starbuck’s and shopping in our little downtown stores for Mother’s Day. I adore buying people gifts! The problem with our downtown is … I always find large furniture pieces I want to buy, as well. I found the cutest little table for my bedroom, but it will just have to wait. I, in all my order glory, have budgeted for the next few months, and this lovely little table just does not fit in right now!

Last night, too, a small wine tasting event ... Wine, of course, in this town is just as common as it is in Greece or Italy or France. Even our community college has an enology and viticulture program. This winery has some amazing wines this year ~ my favorite so far being the Syrah ...

I have one more week teaching on my kids church rotation ~ we do six weeks at a time ~ and while I adore our lovely kids, I am looking forward to sitting back, loving on them, having less responsibility ... and maybe taking a few weekends to visit family and go "back home." For right now, though, my little bed is calling me and I think I need to indulge in a late afternoon nap ... It's absolutely freezing outside {snow flurries expected tomorrow!} and I just want to snuggle under some covers. {Spring? Hello? Are you here yet?}
Drumroll, please. Everybody, I'd like to introduce you to my littlest sister ...


This is Hannah.

And yes, she should look that young ~ there are 18 years between us. There are also currently 9 hours between us, as she and her mom live many miles away. But my spunky sister Hannah and her equally spunky mom, Kate, came up this weekend to visit. It's been six or seven, years, I think, since I've seen them, although we do phone calls and lots of emails.

We met in Cowboy Town in rural Eastern Oregon (a Little Ways from where I live) and we caught up news and school and ice skating (she's a pro!) and hugs ~ lots of hugs. Hannah had never been to the Cowboy Town, and it was a wonderfully family friendly day for her to visit. Not every day is a family friendly day in this rough and tumble Cowboy Town. For no reason that I could see, other than that it is Cowboy Town, they had horse and cow day on Main Street.



Hannah is a Horse Whisperer as well as a professional figure skater, and she loved conversing with the animals.

It did add a festive feel to the day. Almost like when the Rodeo comes to town, only more ... family friendly. (It may be the largest rodeo in the nation, but it is just not as family friendly as I would like to believe it might be.)

So after the horse petting and the antique shopping and the lunching, we toured Cowboy Town's early century underground life, where speakeasies and Chinese opium dens and saloons once thrived. Fascinating.

Some parts of the tour were a little, um, re-created, but interesting none the less.



70 miles of underground tunnels run beneath Cowboy Town, although most are long blocked off. The no chinese above ground after dark rule ended in early 1900 (thank goodness) and in 1953, Cowboy Town officially closed all of its brothels. (Then they all came up to Tiny Little Vineyard Town where I live. Sigh.)

Cowboy Town Mayor bricked over the entrance to this brothel ... and left almost every artifact intact inside. Tsk, tsk, Mayor. You can't Cover Up something and pretend it never existed!


I think Hannah liked the tour ~ she's a brave one. She's also extremely articulate and smart ~ her brain is also working. My relationship with her is a funny one with no legal ties, but lots of genetic links. Again and again in my life, I'm finding that, despite bloodlines, we choose our family. I'd choose Kate & Hannah any day.

Hannah also chose this guy. Silly girl.


In the Scheduling of the Family Visits, I'll probably visit Kate & Hannah at their home in the summer ~ before the trip to see my sister Cheryl in Hawaii and before the Family Reunion over Labor Day. Each visit brings a set of new faces, and usually, none of the faces are related to each other.

But, I don't mind.

O, it feels like it might almost be Spring.


I’m not sure.

I’ve never been awake during the day during Spring here … this is the first year I’ve lived here that I haven’t been working graveyards at this time. It feels like a somewhat tedious process though, this winter becoming spring … a few false starts, some teasingly warm days, but more blustery, rainy days.

I’m still wearing my long johns, ski jacket and ski hat during disc golf on Saturday mornings. The space heater still runs full time in my apartment. And I know for sure Spring isn’t here entirely yet because I’m not wearing my Spring shoes yet.

But the daffodils have triumphed. And the tulips are making a run for it (these guys were actually awake this morning).

And if I'm not too far off, I think the grape vines are sleepily getting up to the season as well.

This week was a difficult one at work, but in a strangle, parallel world where parents are not always loving (a misnomer) to their children, and service agencies face huge liabilities and have so much at stake, and everyone involved has such high emotions running … I expect nothing less. (But do get so tired, sometimes, at the end of A Very Long Week.)

Which is why I do play disc golf on Saturday mornings with the boys from church (they are gracious gentlemen. I never throw to par. This can make the game take awhile.). And why I am writing this. And why I am about to go paint old picture frames.

I have a master plan to actually decorate my bedroom. Courage just arrived on my heart’s scene and now I feel like I can try some things … without the fear of failure. I need some picture frames. I need some pictures of green growing things. I need a little more organization.

I’ll get back to you about that.

Here’s to a better week – one with grace, less sweaters, thoughts of Farmer’s Market opening in the next couple of months and finding the perfect bottle of cabernet sauvignon to send to my sister in Hawaii. She must know she’s loved. Shipping wine takes … a pretty penny. Next weekend my littlest sister, who is newly eleven, will be in town to visit. She is a pretty, spunky, amazingly smart, funny girl.

I’m sure she gets it from me. ;)

Also this weekend, a spirited fundraiser where the best of friends got together to eat some amazing Mediterranean food, to the point of over indulgence, and laugh deeply.


Here we are dancing.



Here we are being young.


And here are the people I live with. Upstairs roommates.

Here we are being happy.



Sometimes I have the best job. Many times, often in the same day, I bemoan the fact that people can be so terribly cruel, especially to children, but then sometimes ... just sometimes ...

I get to watch the wee ones on my caseload take swimming lessons. (And knowing these wee ones, they might have wee-d in the pool, but when you're a four year old little boy ....) After my step class, coming down the hallway of the Y, I spotted one of my foster moms watching through the pool window at her borrowed boys splash, kick and blow bubbles for the first time ever. I watched them shiver and shriek and push their little tummies out ... and then I watched them look up and search anxiously for their borrowed mom, and relax when she and their borrowed dad laughed and waved to them.

One of my foster moms always tells her adopted kids, "I had my other babies in my tummy, but I had you in my heart."

I couldn't imagine not being in the kid business.

(For those of you who know from before ... last September I left my dear teens in detention ... and yes, for all their rottenness, contraband hiding, sprinkler head breaking, cell flooding selves, they are so dear to my heart. I left to co-supervise a program that utilizes highly trained volunteers to monitor dependency [foster care] cases and be the voice of the child in the courtroom. I'm so blessed to be able to actually get paid for this. I love supervising my volunteers. I love having normal work hours. But more than any of that, I love being in the kid business.)
O, I tried. Several times, in fact, to go back to the MSN page. But somewhere in the past two years, I've lost the desire. Heaven's sakes. I even tried to go back through ALL of the old posts to delete anything that had to do with the former life ... but that was so many posts ... And then, of course, I realized that I didn't want to delete everything that had to do with my former life.

I couldn't face the images on the page ... the fonts .... the title. But now I get that that's ok, and the only person that makes me do things ... is me. I {am} a slow genius. And then I started to get all brave on the inside - and I look at the fabulous examples of Chelle and Fairlight and Meg and Jungle Mama and I thought maybe, just maybe, I could just switch. Start over.

Sometimes you just don't know the things that are going to weigh you down.

And I just can't let something as {ridiculous} as this weigh me down. ;)