Monday, October 13, 2014

At Emily's House

We went to Boston for a week.  It was amazing!  We used up our airline miles and hotel points to take a vacation for 7 days to celebrate our 25th anniversary (which is very strange, since we are clearly way too young to have been married that long!).  We went straight from the airport to Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox play the Yankees, and Derek Jeter's next-to-last game, which brought joy to my baseball-loving heart.  We walked the Freedom Trail, toured Salem and Cape Cod, eating cannolis, lobster rolls, chow-dah and pub food along the way.  We toured not one but two breweries, and the Mayflower (did you know that the Pilgrims also brewed beer?), and a few really old cemeteries where pilgrims, founding fathers and revolutionaries are buried.
My favorite day, however, was the day we spent in what I like to call "English Lit Nerd Heaven".  We drove to Amherst and toured the house of Emily Dickinson, my favorite poet.  Because Jamey is not only smart but also a really good sport, he agreed to pay actual money for a 90-minute tour of the two homes on the Dickinson property (one was where Emily's family lived and the other is where her brother lived with his family).  
My favorite Emily Dickinson poem used to be "Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and knows the tune without the words, and never stops at all". Just think about that for a few minutes - it's really good.  In recent times, however, this poem has become really trendy and is all over Pinterest and Etsy, leaving me no choice but to choose another favorite, alas.  Fortunately for me, Emily wrote over 1500 poems and I love many of them.  She has a way of describing simple, homey things in a way that makes them very deep and profound.  I've always liked her, and I learned a few things about her that made me like her and relate to her even more.
So I knew that she was pretty much a recluse - that is well-known (despite all of my traveling this year, I am pretty sure I would make a good recluse as long as I could go into my backyard, and for runs, and order takeout).  She was also a great baker who would lower gingerbread down from her bedroom in a basket to her nephew as he played 'pirate'.  She was a gardener who could look at each flower, bee, and leaf in wonder.  And, she was an avid reader with a huge library who enjoyed talking to family and friends about books.  I have always felt a kinship to people who are content to just enjoy time at home with family and books.  
And so, that tour was a highlight for me - I may have even gotten teary a time or two.  And to make the day even better, if possible, on the way back to Boston we visited Walden Pond (complete with a replica of Thoreau's little hut), and drove past the homes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, and Nathaniel Hawthorne - be still my heart! It was almost too much to behold at one time. 
And here we are, at home again, where it is absolutely wonderful (even if it was 90 degrees today and we are still desperately in need of rain).
I will end with a new favorite poem by Miss Emily Dickinson:
"I never saw a Moor.
I never saw the Sea -
Yet I know how the Heather looks
And what a Billow be -

I never spoke with God
Nor visited in Heaven -
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the checks were given -"

Friday, September 12, 2014

Puppy Update...or, "Pupdate"

We are trying not to let our lives revolve around the puppy.  After all, Jason has started his senior (what the..?!) year of high school, Grace's roommates are trickling back into SLO after the summer, and we have the looming upcoming fall quarter to plan for.  But what with puppy school, crate training, other training (for example, "don't sit on the chickens"), etc, it does take up quite a bit of attention from all of us.  We've probably been learning almost as much about Reddick and puppy-ownership as he has been about life here in Garden Farms.  Here are some of our most astute observations:
1. When dogs go to the beach, the smellier they become, the more fun they are having.
2. Coconut dog shampoo is amazing at eliminating gross beach smells.
3. Nothing takes away the foul smell of the 'bacon and cheese stuffed hoof' breath after your puppy has been chewing on one for two hours.  It just wears off over time.  Hopefully.
4. There are waaaaay too many toys for sale at Petco, so don't be sucked into buying all of them, even if they are in the 50% off bin.  Although Reddick loves the frisbee, soccer ball, and stuffed squirrel, his favorite toys are things he found in the yard, like "stick", "root", "bark", "someone's old tennis ball", and "really old bone from some other dog".
5. Speaking of Petco, you can actually sample the doggy treats at the self-serve dog treat bar.  Jamey highly recommends the pink ones with peanut butter filling (we were assured that they are the same recipe as people cookies, except without sugar).
6.  I think I understand why it is called "House breaking". Glad we have mostly wood floors!
7.  Puppy teeth can actually poke through denim, even on accident.
8.  Puppies have a weird love for feet, shoes (especially leather ones!) and shoelaces.
9.  Puppies love low-hanging grapes.  Not only are they delicious, but getting to the grapes is like a game for them.
10.  In fact, puppies try to eat everything.  For example: shoes, hammocks, a rose bush (that one smarted!), anything made of wood, moths, toilet paper, his own collar and leash.
OK, I feel like I should stop talking about the puppy now and get on with other things.  But he's so darn cute....

Friday, August 8, 2014

Dog People

We got back to our house at about 5 last Thursday evening.  It was wonderful - when we moved from Orange County to SLO many years ago, I drove the kids in the car and when we pulled up in front of our house and they got out, Grace said, "It smells like camping!"....well, that's how I felt when we pulled into our driveway.  Blue sky and fresh air (except for a little smoke blowing over our way from the fire in Yosemite) were waiting, and Grace was there waiting for us as well (she got back from Thailand a few days before us).  We did notice, however, that it was quiet.  No barking dog greeted us.  And then next morning, when I got up, I noticed that squirrels had once again stolen all of the walnuts from our tree (thieving little monsters!!).  Not only that, but two of them actually had the gall to play tag with each other inside the yard, right in front of the kitchen window where I could see them.  Ugh, I missed my dog.  (Note: at this point in the story I will just mention that I may have unloaded a bb into the rear left leg of one of these offenders, warning him to get out and never return, in honor of my dog.)  The final straw for me, I think, was when I looked out of the living room window and the gas man was right there, checking the meter.  He hasn't been inside the yard for years - when Max was around, he had to stand at the gate and check with his magic laser light thingy (I believe that's the technical term).  We could stand it no more.  Plus, an online query showed that 2 border collie-mix puppies were currently at the SLO Animal Services shelter awaiting adoption.
So, fewer than 24 hours after arriving home, we were at the pound looking at dogs.  The two original puppies were already gone by that time, but lo and behold, there were 7 puppies from a Border Collie mom (and a dad of unknown and morally questionable breeding) waiting to go up for adoption on Saturday morning.  Two of them had the classic black and white border collie markings.  One of those was a boy.  Who can say no when such a series of events works together in your favor?  Not us!
So, on Saturday, we went and picked up little Reddick (named after the A's right fielder by guess who?) and he has made the house feel like home (i.e. chaos) again.  This is what we have learned about him so far:  he does pretty great at night, he is stubborn but super smart and trains fairly easily, he loves sticks, baseballs, grass, tug of war, our feet, and chicken poop pretty much in that order.  We are looking forward to teaching him to play catch with a frisbee, taking him on campus, to Big Sur, and the beach, and to seeing just how big he will get.  Next Tuesday, Reddick starts puppy school at the local Petco.  That should be a hoot!  I haven't yet entered the world of people-who-are-way-more-into-dogs-than-other-humans but I think I am about to.  Anyone reading this has my permission to slap me if I ever start talking baby talk to the new dog, or do something crazy like buy him a sweater.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Observations After Being Overseas For Six Weeks

Our whole family is back home at last - Jamey and Jason and me from East Asia, and Grace from Thailand (she has started her own blog to tell about her summer, quite well-written, I might add, at  I really recommend some overseas travel if you can do it sometime.  There's nothing like it to make you appreciate your home, think about what is really important, and even gain some perspective on things that you/we could do differently.  We arrived safely in Los Angeles on Tuesday evening, July 29 after a very long flight, and took the shuttle to a hotel very close-by, where we stayed for another day to make sure that our students could finish with closure and get a head start on jet lag recovery.  I have this little ritual of thinking of things that I am thankful for in the mornings, and here are my 5 items from July 30th: 1. Jamey (it was his birthday that day!), 2. Fresh air (mind you, we were right by LAX), 3. Non-smoking hotel rooms, 4. American plumbing,  5. In-n-Out Burger.
This was our third summer trip to East Asia (I will mention at this point that while we did not spend much time in Beijing, we were able to do a quick tour of the Great Wall and Forbidden City and a few other sites on our way home, since we flew out of that airport, and that is where these pictures were taken), and while I do love America, there are many things that this amazing culture does that are super impressive, like caring for and respecting the older generation, showing generosity, and hospitality.  A couple of stories from the summer:
We wanted to send a few post cards out, but it is difficult when you don't know the language and the addresses must in part be written in characters.  So Jamey asked a student he had basically just met if he could help him out, and that student eagerly gave up an afternoon, during his finals week, to help him (30 postcards. Why so complex? No idea. Not wrong, just different!)  This same student also helped Jamey find and purchase a bike so he could get some early-morning riding in.  Two of our students, Stephanie and Cassie, and I were eating lunch in one of the cafeterias, when Cassie needed to use the bathroom, so we thought we would use our newly-acquired language skills to ask a couple of students sitting by us if they could tell us where the bathroom was.  Well, as often happened, they had no idea what we were trying to say (this was sometimes frustrating because these are not dumb students - Cassie goes to Cornell and Steph to Cal Poly, and we really did pay attention in our language class), so we pulled out our trusty paper of translated menu items and common phrases that some wise friends had given us, and pointed to, "Where is the water closet?"  The girls read the translation and nodded, and then stood up, and motioned for us to follow (leaving their half-eaten lunches on the table).  "They are going to walk us over to it because they don't speak English.  How cute," I thought.  Then they walked down the stairs. "Hmmm, it must be on the first floor."  Then they walked out the door.  "Hmmm, it must be along the side and you enter from outside.  No wonder we couldn't find it!"  Then we followed them across the basketball court ("Wait, where are they taking us?") and inside one of the dorms and down the hall.  Those sweet girls left their lunch on the table to walk three strangers to their own room so that one of them could use the restroom.  As we waited for Cassie, Stephanie and I got to look around this small room that was shared by 6 female students.  Each girl had a bunk, with a mosquito net, a very small section of closet, and a shelf.  But they were all there and made us feel like we were celebrities who had just shown up in their room. This is pretty much how we were treated all summer.  Seriously.  You could get used to that.
I also think our language teachers were incredibly gracious to us as they had to listen to us absolutely  butcher their language day after day.  To say it is 'complex' is a gross understatement - one student kindly explained to me that if I want to be able to read a magazine, or a newspaper, I will "only need to learn about 9,000 characters!"  I'm pretty sure I won't be reading any of those items any time soon.
So, in our usual fashion, we've had an amazing and wonderful adventure, and realized that there really, really, really is no place like home.  Now please excuse me while I go cook what Jason is calling our 'ordinary American dinner' of chicken on the grill, a salad, and an assortment of fruit and veggies from the fridge (#6 on my thankful list).

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Roller Coaster That Was This Spring

I am currently taking a break from packing and preparing our house for tomorrow, when Jamey, Jason and I head out for 6 weeks on a summer mission to East Asia.
The boys on a Father's Day mountain bike ride at Montana De Oro
Generally, I don't at all like leaving home for more than a couple of days, but I must admit, I'm kind of looking forward to this trip.  Last week, we had to put our beloved Max down (we absolutely knew it was time).  This was the same day that we dropped Grace off at the SLO airport to leave for her own summer mission trip to Thailand.  From fear, to excitement, great happiness to extreme sorrow, we have experienced it all over the past few weeks!
Grace at the SLO airport, ready to fly!!
So many wonderful things happened - Grace finished her sophomore year, with honors, in a major that she loves, and headed off to work with women and children for the summer.    And Jason topped off a great junior year in high school by being awarded an academic letter for his good grades in high school.  Jamey and I had the chance to return one more time to El Salvador to close out a wonderful partnership with the ministry there, and got to debrief a team of amazing alums who spent the past year there (and brought home the world's best coffee!).  Quite a few students that we are close to just graduated from Cal Poly and are heading out into all kinds of fantastic places.  Today, we watched the USA beat Ghana in the World Cup with about 100 other fans at Laguna Grill in SLO.  We have also discovered a family of beavers living in the creek in our neighborhood, and we have walked down to watch them swim around in the water several times this week - it's like watching the National Geographic Channel live!
Max, keeping an eye on the yard like a good watchdog
But, at the same time....I miss my dog.  I think that I hear him for a split second when I hear leaves rustle, or when my neighbor's dog barks.  I expect to hear him bark when a truck goes down the road, or see him at the back door.  And Wednesday morning, a squirrel had the gaul to sit in the walnut tree and chatter at me (I shot that thing out of the tree in Max's honor!).
And so, I think we are all looking forward to packing up clothes, games, books, coffee (and creamer!) and heading west tomorrow for a few weeks of big city, crazy and great food, language class, new friends, and adventure.
Since we will be without the internet until about August 1, I will be sure to take a lot of photos and make a note of the best stories to share once we get back.  Grace's stories, too.... We should have enough time to share at least a few before we are off to get ready for fall!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Lovely Easter

These are the most glorious few weeks of the year in the neighborhood.  Everything is blooming - irises, wisteria, black locust trees (they drip with white blossoms that smell amazing), the honeysuckle outside my window.  On top of this, my neighbor's goat had triplets and when Jamey and I went for an evening walk on Thursday they were playing "king of the mountain".  And, to boot, I am rereading one of my favorite books of all time, Phillip Keller's A Shepherd Looks At The 23rd Psalm, which puts me in a pastoral mood for days, maybe even weeks.  I prefer the term "pastoral"  to "lazy".  I just want to sit in my chair on the deck and look across the creek at the pasture and the cows for hours....listening to baseball of course.

  And, I made blue eggs.  I saw them online and thought they were beautiful, so I gave it a try myself - the coloring requires boiling red cabbage and vinegar together (yuk!) and then soaking the eggs for about 24 hours.  I got a dozen eggs from my friend PJ because I wanted to see how the color would work on a variety of tans, browns, and aquas.  After they were colored, I put them into a bowl, snapped a photo, then put them in the fridge and gazed upon their beauty for a couple of days.  But really, there's not too much you can do with unpeeled eggs.  So, I eventually pickled half of them, and the other half got deviled.  They were just as delicious as usual at our Easter dinner.
We had nine people around the table (actually two tables, pushed together).  Two of these diners were students (well, three, if you include Grace, who spent the day with us), and one of them, a sweet girl named Ivey, brought me such a wonderful bunch of flowers.   I am bummed to say that I forgot to take a picture of the beautiful and feast-laden table.  I must have been having a really good time eating - especially the most amazing glaze on the ham .  None of us are really 'ham people', but this glaze, a "peach-reisling glaze", was soooo good I could have eaten it with a spoon (and perhaps I did....but only to make sure it was good enough to slather on the ham).
 Here is a picture of our leftovers instead - the extra ham and rolls have been made into baked sandwiches.  And you can see the roasted carrots and grilled asparagus, which I liked a whole lot, and which others politely ate to be nice.  And of course the family recipe pickled eggs and spinach salad.
Oh, and I also bought a flat of the most outrageously wonderful strawberries from the guy who parks his truck at the intersection up the road and sells fruit (maybe he has a big garden?  or a small farm?  or he's an angel?  who knows?!), and we ate a bunch of them with vanilla ice cream and homemade whipped cream.  Seriously.  It was a great meal - two days in a row.
Last but not least, after a wonderful outdoor church service on a hill (more pastoral goodness) there was our Easter tradition of the egg hunt, which has been dominated by Grace for the past, well, let's say 17 years.  I just think it's cute and sweet and hilarious that they want to continue to go hunt for eggs around the yard.  We use candy-filled plastic eggs, and here's a lesson I learned this year:  don't use chocolate-coated almonds on a warm sunny day, or you will end up washing all the eggs out by hand.  But still, it was fun to watch the kids romping around the yard just like they did when they were little.  (They just had birthdays, turning 20 and 17....WHAT?  How on earth has that happened?)
It sure was good to enjoy our lives as we celebrated the possibility and promise of eternal life.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Things to Be Thankful for this Spring

How easy it is for us (well, me) to complain!  Last weekend we got 4-and-a-half glorious inches of much-needed rain.  After it had come down in buckets for 2 straight days, our poor dry creek finally started running again.  You would think that I would be thankful (and I was, for a couple of days, there) but yesterday, the hubs was looking at the week's weather forecast (we need to know how to dress for campus!) and the next few days are "70's and sunny", to which my reply was, "Oh, brother."  We actually do need quite a bit more rain.  But hubs responded, "You cannot actually be complaining about that!" (he said it in a very kind way), which made me think.  It seems to me like the weather, and maybe the president (whoever it may be) are two things that half the general population is always complaining about.  So I have decided to play a game called "What Can I Be Thankful For Right Now?"
1. As I type this, I am sitting on the back deck with my son (who is doing his American History homework), one cat, one dog, and two chickens, in the sun, and we are listening to an A's-Dodgers game on the computer.
2. I got to spend 4 days last week in Temecula with other Cru moms and wives from our region, including my friends Melissa (we were randomly placed in the same freshman Bible study in college and our kids call each other 'cousin'),  Vivian (she came on staff with me and Melissa in 1989 and recently survived breast cancer and wrote a book about it  called Warrior In Pink), and Jill (she came on staff with Jamey just before me and was on my team for years in Irvine, and we run together at many conferences).
3. My 'to-do' list for the next day-and-a-half includes the following: go to a golf match (we are watching Jason's friend Beanie - that's a nickname I gave him in the third grade and he still lets me call him that), go to a tennis match (Grace's boyfriend Devin plays for Cal Poly), and go out for lunch at my favorite deli with a coworker.
4. On Saturday, Jason took Max-the-Dog down to the creek for one of his favorite dog activities: retrieving rocks by sticking his entire head under water.
5. There are hyacinths blooming in my front yard.
6. I am making my friend Terry's mac and cheese tonight for dinner.  It has bacon in it.  Everyone is thankful for that.
7. We made it through our third soccer season in a row without having to sit through a downpour.  This is incredible for a winter sport!
8. Did I mention it's baseball season?  I just switched my ring tone from the Monday Night Football theme to "Take Me Out To The Ball Game".  This makes me happy.
9. Saturday night our students showed a video that they made as a tribute to Jamey - I will attempt to post it here on this blog for your enjoyment.  It's a parody of a very horrible song called "What Does The Fox Say?" in case you wondered.
10. In a week, I get to celebrate St Patricks Day by having our whole staff team over for a real Irish dinner and speak in my best Irish brogue for the whole evening.  This is one of my favorite days of the year.
This is proof that if you look hard enough (and it usually isn't very hard), there is plenty to be thankful for at all times.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

We Are "Those" Dog Owners

We discovered a couple of weeks ago that our beloved dog Max has (had?) congestive heart failure.  It's not a surprise that he has gotten old and gray (actually, according to the chart in the vet's office, he has passed the 'adult' and 'elderly' stages and has moved into 'geriatric'), and, truth be told, I knew when we got him from the pound that we would in all probability outlive him.  But still, it's not something that you ever really expect.  There's a rumor going around that I am cold and heartless, but this is not always true (except with really mean or dumb people).  I am the little girl who cried in the bathroom for an hour after reading Where The Red Fern Grows (side note: What the heck kind of terrible book is that to put in the children's section of the library?  And what kind of person writes a book like that for children?!).  I still have never watched "Old Yeller" all the way through, and when I read The Yearling out loud to my own kids, I changed the ending so that for years they thought the deer just ran away into the woods.  
So, when we realized what it was (thank you Google) that was causing Max-the-Dog to cough and have trouble breathing, we prepared for the worst as we took him to the vet.  Seriously, we made Jason get up in the wee hours of the morning and say goodbye to him, and with many tears, we drove down to the vet's office.  Max-the-Dog is probably one of the very few pets that actually loves visiting the vet, so he wagged his tail as he struggled into the car, which made it worse of course.  We were fully expecting sweet Dr Hallock to tell us that it was time to put Max down. Tragic.  Heartbreaking.
But, after a blood test and an xray, it was determined that, with new advances in heart medicine, Max-the-Dog can hopefully live another wonderful "6 to 12 months".  A reprieve!  So, Jamey and I have now become "those people" who faithfully give their dog heart medicine (three kinds!) twice a day, in wonderful meaty canned food, no less.  Pricey, yes, but what else can you do for a dog who has faithfully watched over you, your kids, your yard, your walnut tree and your chickens for ten years?
Max of course might be under the illusion that he has already died and gone to dog heaven, since he now gets to eat basically whatever he wants, come inside way more often, and is going on rides to visit his favorite places.  He seems to be back to normal - just this morning he chased a squirrel up the apricot tree, across the electric wire and out of the yard.  So, we are okay with being 'those pet parents' who put little pills in peanut butter sandwiches and make sure they get eaten (actually, while Max-the-Dog does love peanut butter, he eats everything, so I can simply throw the pills on top of his dinner and he will eat every bit very happily) if it means that we get some good extra time with our good boy.