Thursday, September 5, 2013

Birthday Jam

This summer Sophie celebrated her 100th birthday. Her kids (who, as you can guess, are no spring chickens themselves) threw her a big party at a local restaurant. In addition to the dinner, they wanted to send something home to the guests for them to remember this auspicious day.

Son Bob has an amazing garden which happened to be full of strawberries. He decided to make a small jar of jam for everyone from his own berries. He found the jars, designed the personalized lid, made the jam, and voila - he had an interesting practical gift for everyone. Assembling 75 jars of jam was a labor of love for sure -  unique, appropriate and fun. A great way to mark the moment.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Family Cradle

My husband (Jim)'s family has had cradle that has been passed down for five generations - starting with the era of his great grandparents and their siblings. It isn't the fanciest cradle in the world - more functional than glamorous. Somehow it has taken front stage for all these years as the place to be when you are born. It gets passed all over the country depending on who wants it and needs it at the moment. Our two daughters spent their beginning days in it as well.
Jim and I picked up the cradle recently in Reno where it had been awaiting the next baby. The call came from south Seattle (near where we live) from Jim's cousin's son - he and his wife are expecting. He had been in the cradle himself when he was young and his mom encouraged him to track it down. We brought it home and on Mother's Day, the expecting couple came by to pick it up. It brought back memories of our kids using it . Jim's sister-in-law made a list of everyone she knew who had used it and I know there are a lot more.

We were just lucky to be a part of this long tradition. Traditions need to start somewhere. Maybe now is the time for you and your family to find a special item to tag and share - a child's chair, a small table, a book, something that you have cherished or even discover and offer it to those who come after you. Our daughter had a little chair. When she had her daughter, I put both names on the bottom when I passed it on to the next generation. We'll see what happens from here. It isn't too late to think about starting something like this. It's a question of awareness and putting it out, then seeing what happens. It sure is fun being a part of a long lineage.

Monday, April 22, 2013

An Appreciation Circle

 My brother-in-law stopped by yesterday and told me this lovely story. He is on the board of a Gospel mission in a nearby town. One of the longtime board members was retiring after many years of service and connection with the program and other board members. The chair person asked the group what they could do to honor their retiree. Dave spoke up telling the group of the tradition of circling and expressing appreciations for special occasions that we do in our family. The chair person immediately resonated with the idea put the plan into action. She didn't even "introduce" the idea. She set up the chairs. led off with what she wanted to say and very easily and comfortably everyone in the group was able to share their gratitude for what this man had contributed to their mission. It was better than a plaque. Everyone participated. Each person had his/her own view of the retiree and a lovely verbal picture was painted of this man. All hearts were warmed in the process and the intention of the board was further solidified.

They didn't do anything extra - like a centering table - or a candle bowl - or a flower vase - or instructions. They simply took off with the idea and it worked beautifully..

Thursday, March 21, 2013

British Boarding School

My friend, Betsy, just returned from a trip to Florida to visit her elderly mother and 3 step sisters. Betsy's mom and her step dad had been married for more than 30 years before he died, so the girls had been long time friends as well as relatives. Betsy's mom, Anne, is living in a condo, but life is getting more difficult for her and she is getting more forgetful. Within this setting Betsy wanted to make the time with her mom as meaningful as possible. So, you ask,where do British boarding schools come in?
It seemed that it was getting harder and harder for Anne to track conversations going on around her, so the girls decided they needed to ask interesting questions and get their mom to tell her stories. The girls could chat when their mom wasn't there. When they were altogether, the girls would lead her into topics where they could be entertained by Anne's past. Anne grew up in England. At the age of eight she was sent to a boarding school. Those experiences were quite foreign to the American daughters, so they were very interested in hearing about what life was like for one so young. Anne had also done a lot of traveling with her first husband - all over the globe. The gals encouraged her to tell what she remembered of those times.
By looking for common ground for all of them and focusing on Anne, the daughters found something interesting that would connect them all.  Anne loved being the center of attention and appreciated that someone was interested in her tales. The girls created a win/win situation from a scenario which could have been frustrating had they not looked for what would work for Anne at this time.
With this focus, the trip took on a life of its own.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Answer Feather

Have you heard about the Answer Feather? This is a traditional healing tool for those who are seeking answers. Keep your eyes open for a feather as you are walking around. One will find you.When you are looking for guidance on a particular issue, keep your feather with you throughout the day. Your answer will become clear within a day or two. Offer thanks for the feather and release it back into nature. Feathers are gifts from our winged friends and can help us access insights. Generally we know the answer deep inside of us, but for some reason it is blocked. Trust this process which gives you opportunity to have your inner knowing surface and give you guidance. Give it a try and see what happens.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Moments Finding Me

I am just home from a service/learning trip to the Dominican Republic. Our reason for going was to help out and observe at the Doulos Discovery School in Jarabacoa. The week was amazing and incredible on many levels: we painted a classroom, left books for several libraries, had dinners in the homes of families whose children are attending the school, took a class on Strength Finders with the staff of the school, visited Spirit Mountain Coffee Plantation, made prayer flags and left them hanging at the school, planted plants around the new classrooms, created a mural on a wall in a public school classroom in the high mountains, enjoyed created community with the group of women - and I could go on and on - all in 8 days, The smiles of the children, the hospitality of the families, the patience of the staff, all touched us deeply. What I realized last night, as I lay in my own bed at home, is that I wasn't making the moments on this trip - meaning that I wasn't creating special things to happen. The moments were marking me - leaving indelible impressions on my heart. I was noticing and  allowing life to flow through me and registering the happenings as special. This hightened awareness also has an important place in our way of being in the world. That doesn't mean we can't step up to mark important milestones. It says to me that there is magic around all the time. It's there when we decide we can open our eyes to take it all in. An unexpected gift from the trip.

This little donkey has just finished carrying two 50 pound bags of coffee beans AND a person down the mountain to where they take the hulls off the beans. What a trooper he is!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

An Adventure

Tomorrow I am heading out to the Dominican Republic joining a group of 13 women to visit a school in Jarabacoa for a week. It is called a mission project, but with all the reading I am doing, I think it might better be called pilgrimage - having an opportunity to spend a week in an unfamiliar country where we will be allowed to mingle with the children attending the school. How lucky are we!

At this point, I am encouraging myself to be open to the possibilities of what might happen - attempting to leave expectations out of the scenario and go with the flow. For me that needs to be a conscious decision, otherwise I will have preconceived notions on how to fill the days rather than relax into the rhythm and flow of the culture and the school. I am willing and ready to do what is asked  - whatever that might be. Stay with me as this story unfolds.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hometown Heroes

Some thirteen years ago, our local paper began a monthly feature called Hometown Heroes. The intention is to  tell about individuals who have made a difference in our community and share their philosophy of life, so that the rest of of us can be inspired . So often we think of heroes as folks who we see on the news and in major magazines, yet in our midst are people who quietly contribute to the well being of local area.

Susan Knickerbocker came up with this idea. She had a dream one night describing in detail the format and what needed to be in the column. She contacted the paper and met with the editor, who ultimately accepted the idea. Susan hadn't necessarily thought that she would be writing it, but that's how it has turned out.  

This is my favorite part of our paper - focusing on the good in people who are like the rest of us. My soul needs good news and it needs knowing that there are people close at hand doing the work of supporting our community in countless ways.

Even if you don't have a monthly feature in your local paper, think about who you might consider as a hometown hero. When you look around your community and family with this in mind, you may be surprised at what you find.

Friday, February 22, 2013


In our small town of Langley in the 70's, there lived among us an amazing artist called John Braun - also known as the Magic Man. He lived on the island until he died in the early 2000's. I loved visiting his studio to see what new creations he would be making with feathers, beads, parts of nature he found around the town, coins, discarded items - all found their way into his necklaces, sculptures and wall hangings.

The degrumper is one of my all time favorites. The sketch shows an actual degrumper made of some sort of pod that still has the peas in it, so that when you shake it, it makes noise. He adds feathers and beads as a handle and off you go - ready to get rid of your grumps.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Grandpa's Throw

Jim and I were visiting our friend, Beth, in Tucson. Her husband's dad had recently passed away and the usual clean out of the house needed to be addressed. While working in the closet, Beth decided to keep all of Grandpa's shirts. She decided to cut them up and make throws (small quilts that you keep on your sofa). She then decided that it would be even better if she could find photos of family members with Grandpa, transfer the picture to fabric and include them in the quilt.

Beth made five of them - for her two children, one for herself and husband, and a niece and nephew. All the pictures were different as she found photos of Grandpa with each of the recipients. She even color coded the shirts - trying to match enough shirt colors to have some artistic flow to the throws. There are even some button flaps included.

This is a major labor of love, yet also allows Beth a positive way to process Grandpa's passing - using her talent to bring together elements of the man and share him in a unique  way with  his grandchildren. The family will constaqntly feel his warm and loving presence with them when they snuggle into this quilt of love and family history.

Friday, February 15, 2013


As my husband and I continue with our adventures in the Tucson area, we were invited to dinner with some friends at their house on a Wednesday, which is Betsy's day to meet with her friends at 4:30. My sister-in-law and I were invited to this neighborhood group called the Whiners, or maybe it is the Winers. The 5 to 6 women gather weekly at one of their homes to have a glass of wine and some goodies and to share their lives. One has her invalid dad at home. One is having personal health issues. One has a tough teaching job. Betsy started the group several years ago when she realized that some of her neighbors were struggling with life issues. If they could share the challenges, would it help each of them move through the situations with more understanding and not feel alone? It seems like it has worked as they are still meeting and it is a priority for all of them.

At the time we were there, they were discussing the results of the meeting with their neighborhood development regarding covenants. This wasn't the usual sharing from the hears, but it seemed reasonable to me that they might not be ready to move into expressing their deepest selves with 2 guests. Betsy says their meetings have served as an important outlet for feelings that might not otherwise have a place for expression. Betsy doesn't tell her husband what happens when they meet. The confidentiality and trust that they have established allows them to vent their frustrations and fears, as well as triumphs. They are not interested in fixing problems or judging each other, rather in witnessing and being there for each other.

I love this story of a woman who has seen a need among her friends (and for herself) and set up a space for them to connect at a heart level. This may not seem like a big deal, yet it is huge for those who are participating and helps them get through some the rough spots.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine's gift suggestion

As the Big Day approaches for you to show extra love to your loved one (s), are you starting to panic? It's an emotional expectation day! What to do?

I do have one small suggestion that might encourage you. It is lovely to receive flowers, chocolate, and material gifts. They are always an option, but not too original. Take some time to think about your loved one. In this case I am thinking about what she does for you to make your life easier. Does he do daily chores? Does she make dinner? Does he wash the cars? Does she clean the house? Does he walk the dog? Does she take the kids to ballet lessons? In most relationship there is a division of labor and sometimes the jobs get to be a chore. I am suggesting that you might want to surprise your person and do the chores for her. Clean that house or hire someone to do it. Wash and detail that car or have it done. Lift the load  for just one may realize how much your person does for you to make your life more pleasant. You are giving the gift of appreciation - and that goes a long way.

Friday, February 8, 2013

This story is about Sunny, a 64 year old woman who was declining into Alzheimer's. For 15 years she had been a part of a group of women who called themselves the Women of Ancient Wisdom. Through the years as they met monthly, they built a sense of love, trust and connection. When the group started to notice that Sunny was becoming unable to host her meeting and less able to participate, the gals took notice and moved into action.

The group met and talked about how they could help her, as they didn't want to lose her and they wanted to keep her as a part of their lives. Friendships often collapse at the point when their friend is longer who she was. Family is expected to step up, but friends can slip away.

It takes some trial and error to find what will work to be with Sunny. What might work for a few weeks needs to be changed as she changes. The group would evaluate what they could do at any given time, then tweak their plans. One thing for sure at this point is that each friend takes one day a week to stop by to see Sunny. The friend decides what her activity will be and shares her experience with the others in the group and Sunny's husband so that everyone knows what is going on. One will take her on a walk, to the nail salon, plan a theme lunch keeping her comfort level in mind, or read her a book.

These friends are not just marking a moment in time, but keeping the moments going to be with Sunny and keeping her connected with them and the world. They are also taking this process one step further by telling their story to whoever will listen - hoping that as the word gets out people may rethink how they respond to Alzheimer's. This project is a work in progress. There will be a time when Sunny won't know them. My guess is that this creative group will figure out a way to support her and stay connected to Sunny's journey in all its stages.

This is an amazing and courageous group of women who are stepping up to the plate, facing new territory, and allowing whatever needs to happen to unfold - taking mark the moment to a new level.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Prayer Flags

I am heading off to the Dominican Republic in a month to work at a school which is sponsored by a Lutheran Church in the States. As part of a team of 12 women from all over the US, we have been asked to bring Spanish books to  leave in the school's library, read about poverty, and each take a turn doing devotions in preparation for our trip. The devotions part made me think hard about what I wanted to offer the school and my fellow travelers. That's when the idea of the prayer flags came to me.

The plan is to take fabric squares along with Sharpie permanent colored pens (comes in 12 colors). At the beginning of our week I'll pass out the fabric and pens, with the direction of being aware of what each woman wants to offer in terms of prayer for the school. By the end of the week they can put that thought on the flag in the form of words or pictures or poems - or whatever comes into their  hearts. At our devotion time each person is invited to show her flag and tell about it. We'll put them onto a rope and hang them somewhere at the school.

I also want to leave the pens and extra squares so that students can make their own flags and add them to ours.

Since this hasn't happened yet, I am hoping that I can take a real time picture of what we do and share that when I get back.

It is interesting to write about this plan before it takes place. I can get excited about an idea before it ever happens. It gives me pleasure just thinking about it. I work at putting out the offering without too much expectation, but let the heart of the project unfold. It seems like most things take on a life of their own when they are presented - and I imagine that will happen in this case as well. Stay in touch for the rest of the story!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Chain messages

As a Christmas present this year for my 95 year old mom, our daughter gave her a fairly good sized, light weight box. In it was a long chain - like the ones kids make out of construction paper for the Christmas tree. Instead of ordinary solid colored paper, Katie, our daughter, had collected at least 60 kinds of wonderful artsy papers - some wrapping paper, some handmade, some cut from a magazine. On each of them she wrote my mom a little message: a thought, a remembrance, a wish. There were about 2 to 3 a week until mom's birthday at the end of May. Where she would have Scotch taped the chain together, she put a little sticky white paper with the date on it. Mom looks each day to see if she has a message for that day, then reads it, smiles and thinks of Katie.

What an amazing, thoughtful  labor of love. When you have a grandma as old as my mom, you sometimes wonder what it is that a person can do for her. Katie thought about her grandma and what might make her happy, connect the two of them and came up with this delightful idea. I think implementing the idea got to be more than she planned, but she followed through. Each day I watch the delight mom has as she reads her message. She then puts it back into the lovely box.

Katie is an inspiration for thinking carefully about a loved one - in this case specifically for a Christmas present. It didn't take a lot of money, because she kept her eyes open for the small papers, which would show up here and there unexpectedly, then spent the time to think of all the messages. Truly an amazing gift from the heart.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Weekly Postcards

Andrea's grandson, Thomas, moved away with his dad to another part of the country.  Andrea was devastated that her grandson was gone and out of her life. She agonized about what she could do to stay connected with him in a situation where she wasn't really invited. She found out his address and proceeded to write him a postcard every week for many years. She would collect cards so she would have them on hand. She wrote about what was happening at her house. She told about where she lived and what she was doing. She made the effort to connect him with people that loved him even though they were separated. She heard nothing from him until one day, when he was a man, he showed up on her doorstep wanting to get to know her. She was shocked to see him after all those years, yet ready to take him into her life in person and begin to develop a relationship.

The perseverance that Andrea demonstrated to Thomas showed that she cared about him in spite of the circumstances. Apparently the love that came through those notes settled in his heart and he wanted to know who that person was who so diligently communicated with him. Thus began a new chapter for all of them.

Andrea accepted her situation, yet was unwilling to let her grandson slip away unnoticed. She figured out a way to keep the thread of love going between them with the postcards. It didn't cost much. It did require dedication and a little time. Andrea didn't know where it would all lead. She just knew she had to do something proactive. And in this case, this story has a happy ending.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Magic Christmas Tree

This is really a Christmas story even though we are in January. Put on your imaginations and go with it.

When our family was biking the Erie Canal in May, we stopped at various bed and breakfasts along the way. Each of them were unique and we heard lots of stories. This story, of what I call the magic Christmas tree, is my favorite.

The owners lived on several acres which included wooded areas, but there were no Christmas trees  on the property. They had a couple of youngish grandchildren who lived near by. One year in December, the owners bought a cut tree and planted it in their back yard - well - not really planted it because it was cut. They dug a hole and put the trunk in deep enough that it looked like it was growing there. The grandchildren were then invited to go look around to property to see if they could find a Christmas tree. They delighted in searching here and there until they discovered it. The parents came with their saw and cut down the tree for a second time. The kids never knew that this had been planted just for them. They just knew they were looking for the magical Christmas tree that was there every year - yes - it became a tradition.Other activities surrounded the tree search - hot cocoa, getting out the tree lights, unpacking the  decorations.

I was charmed by the creative and practical solution to getting their tree - making it into a magical experience. I bet the kids didn't even care when they found out that it had been planted, because the whole experience was such fun.