Friday, December 28, 2007

Year in Review: Gratitude Version

I've been sorting through things and organizing. The second bedroom in my apartment has become a junk room of sorts, instead of the office I intended it to be. It's my goal to sort through all of the stuff that remains in boxes, take what I don't need/want anymore to a thrift store, and thoroughly clean the whole apartment during my break. I also need to complete some paperwork that has hung over my head for a couple of years and get it turned in. It's my plan to have that project finished during my break too, so that it's no longer causing me guilt. I would estimate that I'm about halfway done with my projects for this break. Another couple of days should be enough to finish up.

I like the idea of cleaning and organizing at the end of the year. When I lived in Korea and later in San Francisco when I pastored a Chinese Church, I learned about the tradition in those cultures of thoroughly cleaning house before the beginning of the New Year. I've intended to do it for many years myself, but this is the first year that I actually made space in my life to do it. It has given me a sense of anticipation about the coming year that I like. It helps me feel that I am approaching the new year with more intention about receiving the new things that it has to offer. I guess there's nothing magic about the change in the year, since it is important to me to daily work to be open to the newness the day offers, but the process of cleaning and organizing has helped make me ready in a way I've not experienced before. I like it.

As the year closes, I find myself reflecting on all that the current year brought to me. I have a lot to be grateful for:
  • A new faith tradition that has nurtured the sense of freedom that I've needed to reconnect with God;
  • Friendships that continue to develop and grow;
  • The trip to No. California and Yosemite, which helped me become more fully aware of the importance of place and nature for my spiritual experience;
  • The foxes that took up residence alongside the river across the street from where I live, creatures that made this place feel magical and beautiful to me, who reminded me that much about my life right now is "in between times;"
  • The gift of a new level of honesty with my mom about who I am when I came out to her, though I'm learning that coming out is not a one-time experience, even with the same people in my life. Choosing to live with integrity with my family is a continual challenge;
  • A group of women who are willing to help me work on the difficult things I'm trying to face, while also reminding me of all the good things I've accomplished in the past few years;
  • A cat who is so much fun to watch play and who freely offers her affection (she's resting on my chest as I type, occasionally reaching up to lick my nose);
  • The experience of losing out on the job I hoped would be mine and finding that the person who got it has been such a bright spot in my life since she came this summer;
  • The joy of running again and seeing my body change in the process, of accomplishing more as a runner than I thought possible in such a short amount of time.
I'm sure there's more, but that's a start. As I look back over the list, I'm struck by the fact that everything there is something I will take with me in some form into the new year. So much to look forward to!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Sour cream cookies are in the oven and the house is filled with the smell of cinnamon and sugar. It must be Christmas!

Wishing all of you a day filled with things that bring true peace, love, joy, and hope!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cooking by the blog

You all have done a great job of posting some mighty appealing recipes the past few weeks! I'm making some of Jo(e)'s relentlessly healthy bread right now. It smells SO good! It's making my mouth water. I can't wait until it's done so I can eat some. It's a recipe that can't go wrong. If it's got cinnamon in it, it's going to be good.

In a few days I plan to make Yankee T's Christmas Morning Coffee Cake. Ditto on the cinnamon with this recipe. Of course, the butter and sour cream in this one won't hurt anything either. :)

On New Year's Day, I'm going to make Cheesehead's Olive Tapenade for my olive-loving friend from city west of here. It looks fantastic. I'm anxious to try it out. I will, however, skip making the cheesecake recipe she shared today. Not. Going. To. Do. It.

Tomorrow I'm making some homemade tomato soup using a recipe I found on the Food Channel website. It looks good and easy to make. It's cold here, with a light dusting of snow on the ground. It seemed like the thing to have. I'll have apple crisp and caramel sauce for dessert to keep the house smelling good.

Oh, the timer just went off. Let me go get the bread out of the oven.

I'm back....YUM! It's fantastic! I can see why it doesn't last around Jo(e)'s place!

I love having time to cook. It makes the house smell warm and cozy.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A different kind of Christmas wish

The reading below was used in a holiday memorial service at church this week. I felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders as I listened to it. I've struggled for a long time to find a way to welcome the joy and magic of this time of year, while maintaining some sense of integrity regarding the other emotions it evokes in me. Mostly I've swung from the extreme of choosing to be jolly to the point of ignoring everything else to choosing not to celebrate at all, as I did last year. Neither extreme is what I want, but complicated family stuff and losing Speaks-Few-Words when I left Always-Mom have filled this time of year with a mixture of emotions for me. I have yet to find a graceful way to enter into the holiday season without just gritting my teeth and holding on for dear life until it's over. But, I think I'm getting closer.

I found this reading very affirming. It helped me name that part of the problem for me is a certain social expectation that the season is "supposed" to be light and joy-filled. Hearing these words helped me lay down my own expectations that Christmas needs to be anything but complicated for me. So I offer this to you...

I Wish for You a Complicated Christmas
by Bruce Marshall

I wish for you this year a complicated Christmas.
Not the Christmases of simple joys and warm memories that we feel obligated to strive for,
but a season in which there is room for the complexities that occur during this time;
A season of complicated memories, of happiness and pain, of comfort and loss,
of disappointment and fulfillment;
A season of gifts, some that remind us of the relationships that sustain us,
some that remind us of the silliness and excess to which we are also subject;
A season of joy that also has room for sadness, because gladness and sorrow
take place together;
A season of busyness that also grants us time to pause;
A season of bustling that also allows for quiet;
A season of celebration that also encourages time for reflection;
A season of stories and songs about which we have complicated feelings,
some fill us with the warmth of nostalgia, some make us cringe with discomfort,
and some bring messages of truth and hope that we still yearn to hear;
A season of light that brings us to see more intensely the shadows of our lives;
A season of hope that underscores how far we still must travel to realize these dreams.
It is in this world of complicated feelings and memories that a star appears and shines above,
drawing us forward with promises of peace and goodwill, offering glimpses
of the path that still lies ahead.

So I wish for you all what I wish for myself.... A Christmas that acknowledges that hope dawns not in the uncomplicated joy of guilt-induced denial and happiness; it comes in the messiness that is life, full of complicated feelings and memories, drawing us to a child born not in the sterility of our clean, reverent nativity scenes, but in the messiness of a kennel, surrounded by indifferent animals and travel weary parents.

I am learning that true hope comes when I search for it with integrity. May it be so for us all this year!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Apparently there are a lot of buttes around Pullman, WA. JM tells me the "e" is very important, though, I'm sure if you left the "e" out, the sentence would still be true.

Anyway, budget and work schedule permitting, it appears in February I will get to see what all the fuss is about buttes. Work is requiring a trip to Oregon, scheduled at a time when it would be easy to add on a weekend with JM, which might give us a chance to do a follow-up to the Great Yosemite Adventure of 2007.

Hey, JM, are there any mice bears around those buttes?

I am thrilled that my work travel will lead me west! Now, I just need to find a way to the Northeast!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I've done a good job of sharing my frustration about being without electricity here. What you haven't heard is the appreciation I've also felt. Now that my head is a little clearer and I've had a night's sleep with a wonderfully cuddly cat who slept peacefully, purring much of the time, either on my chest or at my side leaning in as close as she could, I want to share some of those things and then I'll happily move on to something else. I know I've worn out at least one friend with my single-mindedness this past week. Heck, I've worn myself out with it.

So on to appreciation....
  • One of my friends here invited me to join her and her partner at her mom's house where the power never went out for more than a couple of minutes. Her mom and mom's husband were fabulous hosts. They made me feel comfortable and at home. They dealt graciously with the interruption to their lives that having three extra people (and a couple of others, as well as another two dogs one night) brought to them. T's mom, L., who blogs at Tranquility Base, baked for us several times, and made some fabulous lasagna and chili. It was a great place to be this past week.
  • It's hard to express how deeply grateful I am for my good friends T. and J. who have taken me into their lives freely this past year. Hanging out with them helped make things more bearable this past week. J. and I met through Seeker who was reading both of our blogs and took note of the fact that we were moving to the same city within a few weeks of each other. Shortly after I moved to town, J. and I got together. Through that connection, I found my church and some of the best friends I've ever had! So in addition to my deep gratitude for T. and J., I'm grateful for Seeker who suggested I e-mail J. It seems pretty random, but I know better! :)
  • L. and T., her husband, have five dogs. They, along with T. and J.'s dog, were great fun to be around this week. I love dogs and would have one of my own in a heartbeat if my lifestyle would allow for me to take care of it properly. I thoroughly enjoyed playing with them and having them around. I tried to sneak one of them into my car when I left, but they all know they have a good deal where they live. None was willing to go with me. :)
  • The property owners for my fourplex were so attentive and concerned about our situation this week. I'm grateful to be renting from great people.
  • The guys who restored power to our building and who worked in our neighborhood were from Georgia. I don't advertise where I live here, but I can tell you, it's not anywhere near Georgia. People from all over the country have been here to help us restore our power. I am very grateful to them for their hard work!
  • My boss has been wonderfully supportive of me and my difficulty concentrating this week. I'm grateful for the afternoon off yesterday when I'd reached my limit on dealing with the stress!
  • My friend L. who lives in city west of here, where there also was significant damage though she was spared any herself, checked in with me every day and helped keep me sane. I'm grateful for her friendship too.
  • And my favorite moment from the week was at church on Sunday, sitting in a sanctuary that was lighted and warmed only by the bright sun pouring through the tall, clear glass windows (the church still has not had power restored). We sat down for the service, busily swapping power outage stories when the service started, and the choir opened with, "Give us power, O Lord! Give us power, O Lord!" It took a few seconds, but in no time the place erupted in laughter.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


My capacity for calm, reason, and kindness in the face of the inconvenience of losing my electricity and being displaced is, apparently, 9 days. Good thing the good guys from Georgia Power showed up at 2:00 this afternoon and restored my power. My sanity was returned to me immediately.

I'm happily blogging from my warm(ing) apartment, on my own internet connection, music blaring in the background, with the world's clingiest cat resting on my chest!

Home, sweet home!

I have a whole new appreciation for St. Casserole and those whose experience of loss and displacement after Katrina was far worse than what we've had here, and truly sorry it took my own experience of this kind of storm damage to gain such awareness.

ETA: Thanks for your prayers, thoughts and good wishes this past week!

Monday, December 17, 2007

What day is it?

Day whatever....still no power.

That's all, because I can't seem to focus on anything for more than five minutes right now. Me? Not a lot of fun to be around these days.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007


Sometimes it takes a major ice storm for a person to learn important lessons. Here are a few I need to make note of:
  • It's not a good idea to take every pair of dress pants you own to the dry cleaners at once. If their power goes out, it may be awhile before you see them again.
  • There's a great deal of comfort that comes from a daily routine.
  • Sometimes there's nothing better than sitting down in the stylist's chair, having her massage your head, and give you a good haircut.
  • Just because your most immediate neighbors have their power restored doesn't mean you will too.
  • Heroes sometimes wear coveralls and hard hats.
  • Crisis can reveal the best in people and the worst.
It's possible my power will be on tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I still don't have power. They are now saying it will be mid-week next week before everyone who can receive power to their home is back up. I've shifted my thinking from "maybe tomorrow" to "hopefully next week." I'm one of the most fortunate people in town though. I have a place to stay where there is power, hot water, and heat. The cable and internet connection is spotty, but even that is reliable enough that I can rely on my typical coping mechanisms for stress relief.

I'm still at my friend T.'s mom's place and taking it one day at a time. I may go to city west of here over the weekend and stay with L. just for a break from all of this. Her city has been affected too, but her area seems okay. She at least has power, as do her mom and grandmother.

I spent some time at my place this morning. I've missed PPBob and have been concerned for her staying in the cold apartment. She seems fine though. When I got there today, I climbed into bed and pulled the covers over my head with her in my arms. We stayed there for an hour or more. She played with me for a long while, and climbed all over me. Then she laid down and went to sleep leaning against my stomach. I fell asleep too. It was short, but it was a taste of home.

The seminary has wifi in spots and enough heat and power to make it possible to be there, so I'll go into the office tomorrow. Several staff and faculty families have been living at the seminary for the past few days. It won't be business as usual tomorrow, but I'm hoping it will provide enough sense of the usual routine that I won't feel completely exhausted at the end of the day. One of the great mysteries of the past few days is how it can be so tiring to do nothing. Hmmm...

Monday, December 10, 2007


After our little jaunt through downtown big city south of here, we returned home to ice in our fair city this afternoon. When I say ice, I don't mean a little coating of it here and there. I mean ice so thick the view of this city is transformed for good. Trees are down everywhere. Power is out to over 200,000 customers. The streets aren't icy, but they're littered with limbs and downed power lines. Standing outside, the breaking limbs sound like gunshots. Sirens can be heard all over town, and in some locations there's a dull roar of generators running. It will be some time before the city returns to anything resembling normal.

We went to my apartment first. I checked on PPBob, made sure she was warm enough and well cared for, then unpacked and repacked my bag. Everything at my place is fine, except for the fact that there is no power. We went to my friend T's place from there. Trees were down all over their yard. One limb fell with such force onto a power line that it ripped the electrical box off the side of the house. I fear it will be a long while before they can return home. I watched as a limb fell across the street onto the church van. We loaded up her car with her dog and stuff and headed over to her mom's, where there is power and heat.

We are safe and sound, full of good warm food and content with a wireless network set up to accommodate all of our internet habits. Classes are canceled at the seminary tomorrow, but I may have to go in to work. We'll see when the morning comes.

The ice hit where my mom lives too. She's been without power since yesterday early morning. Fortunately, my nephew drove down from Kansas City to pick her up and take her back to his place. I was worried about her, but there wasn't anything I could do. I don't much like that feeling. My nephew just called to say they arrived safely at his place. I'm so relieved to know she's safe with someone who can look out for her.

Click here for a slide show from the local paper. It's really very surreal.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


We did it! In 2:48, which is faster than we expected, especially given a pit stop and a couple of stretch breaks. It was not warm here, as predicted. Fortunately, I planned for that and while we were running I was fine. Waiting outside for 45 minutes afterward left me chilled to the bone, but now I'm showered and tucked into my bed, warm and content.

At mile 12, I thought about Jo(e)'s comment to my last post. There were people yelling. Our bibs had our first names on them big, written big enough that people on the sidelines could see and yell for us by name. For a moment it hit me that I was in the place filled with many difficult memories, doing something I never imagined I'd be doing a year and a half ago. Tears filled my eyes. Of course, it could have been the cold wind blowing around the corner, but I don't think so. The tears kind of took my breath away. It's hard to run and cry at the same time. We went on and finished strong. The best sign of the day was just after the one more mile to go marker: "Your feet hurt because you're kicking ass!" You have no idea how that lifted my spirit!

And there was a nice cold beer waiting for me at the end! Tonight it's fajitas and margaritas for dinner to celebrate!

Saturday, December 08, 2007


I leave in a couple of hours for city south of here to run the half-marathon tomorrow. I went to Target this morning to get a new running outfit. I had planned to buy a new running jacket. Instead, I need shorts and short sleeves, as the weather will be unusually warm and humid. A warning went out by e-mail today to dress for warm weather and to begin taking in plenty of fluids now. And just a few weeks ago I wondered if it would be too cold to run comfortably! L. kept telling me about the year her brother ran the particular race we are doing. It was 19 degrees with strong winds on race day for him! I'll take the 60-degree weather we're expecting. Particularly since my new clothes could be purchased from the clearance rack for under $10 for the whole outfit!

Race start time is 9:00 a.m. CST tomorrow! We hope to finish before noon. Yes, that's slow. What's your point? My only real goal is to finish. After 12 miles in strong winds last weekend, it feels very doable. We've already started looking into doing another half-marathon in late March. Perhaps then I'll set a particular time goal. What I wanted to achieve by planning to run this race has already been accomplished. I've run farther and more often than I would have if I hadn't set the goal. The additional weight loss is a nice bonus too!

I'll return on Monday and will offer a race report then. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Pre-half-marathon randomness

The half-marathon is in three days! We ran 12 miles on Saturday, half of which was into 30-mile-per-hour winds, so I'm hopeful we'll make it on Sunday. I'm glad we're headed south of here. There's a chance of freezing rain in my fair city on Sunday. That would not be optimal running weather!

My mind is about as scattered as the weather these days. I'm swamped at work. I'm in the middle of the usual holiday blues that I'd hoped to do more than endure this year. It's just that this time of year seems to be a good time for the demons of past mistakes and discontent to set in. I predict by January, they'll be gone.

There's a post brewing about attachment and this time of year, but it's not ready yet. I'm conscious of my desire to be somewhere else, not in terms of my actual living situation, but somewhere else financially, somewhere else in my relationship status, somewhere else with family, somewhere else with work. If it sounds like discontent, you'd be right. So my new mantra is "Everyday, do the work you have." I need to get my attention back on to what's here now, in front of me, instead of wishing I were somewhere else.