Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Love Out of the Box

Perhaps everyone has their own definition of what the word love means to them and it's possible that it is misused and probably overused in describing every day things. While I'm sure I throw the word love around rather carelessly, I don't like the thought of putting love in a box to only be used in describing how I feel towards someone. So, here are my out-of-the-box thoughts on what I think love is.

Love Is...

Waking up to the beauty of a sunrise.

And witnessing that same beauty in a sunset.

Love Is...

Your childhood memories.

And your children's childhood memories.

Love Is...

Finding your passion.

Love Is...

Feeling drawn to a place,

no matter what the season.

Love Is...

Letting the underdog win, just because.

Love Is...

Being in a place that brings you great peace.

Love Is...

Immediate family.

And extended family.

Love Is...

Life long friends.

Love Is...

Acting like a kid again.

Love Is...

Reflecting His majesty.

Love Is...

Never forgetting

the great price that's been paid.

Love Is...

Forgiving others for their mistakes.

Love Is...

The smile of a child.

Love Is...

Hanging out together.

Is it so small a thing
To have enjoy'd the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done...

Matthew Arnold

Monday, December 21, 2009

Touching Souls

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.” (Mother Teresa)

Two weeks after I graduated from high school I left the logging, ski bum town of 18,000 in which I'd been raised and headed across the country to live near Washington, DC. Culture shock doesn't begin to describe what I experienced but at 18 years old I was extremely fearless and spent every free moment I had exploring the city. I loved the history and the old buildings, wandering through the Smithsonians, visiting the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, going to Arlington Cemetery and sitting up at the Iwo Jima memorial at night to look out over the nation's capital and to watch the stars.

I explored Georgetown, Alexandria, the huge mall at Tyson's corner (our 'big' mall consisted of JC Penneys, KMart and a few mom and pop places)in which my love affair with Neiman Marcus began and the rural roads of Virginia. I ventured into Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio (to visit my grandma), and as far down as the southern states of Alabama and Florida.

While I didn't mind my time in the city, it was the quiet out-of-the-way places that interested me most. I loved getting in my car, turning on the radio and just driving to wherever the road lead.

I've lived in several places besides my hometown in Oregon that ranged in population from 350,000+ down to a tiny town of 217 where the pheasants out numbered the people. I've lived in towns at the base of the Rockies in Colorado, the Big Horn mountains of Wyoming, the coast of northern Georgia and on the Potomac River in Virginia. And of everywhere I've lived my favorite places are the small towns tucked in the mountains where the woods are just a few steps from my front door.

I don't know of any greater peace in life than being the one soul out on a trail surrounded by old growth pine trees and hearing the silence broken only by the breeze as it gently blows through the forest. Or walking beside the river and watching the small ripples form as it flows lazily along. For the most part, my footsteps on the trail, the click of my camera and the sound of my breathing are all I hear.

I honestly don't know how anyone hears God in chaos but I suppose there are those that do. I know for myself that I have never been able to. I guess I should be able to hear God speak to me anywhere, whether in the middle of a big city surrounded by noisy traffic and throngs of people or on the side of a mountain all by myself.

But there is one place that my heart truly longs for and where my soul finds peace. And that place is in nature.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Glow

Christmas Glow
Photo by Annie K

I know I've been somewhat remiss about posting here but come on over to my photo blog for a visit and see what I've been up to there.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tugging At My Heart

Sarah stood at the busy intersection watching as the rush hour traffic crept slowly through each green light. She was holding a sign, as she did most days, that simply read, 'Homeless, hungry and anything helps. God Bless you.'

She was well aware of each stare that was directed her way by the occupants of the vehicles as they waited for the light to change. Some looked on with disgust and Sarah knew she wasn't much to look at with her raggedy clothes and unkempt hair. Others looked upon her with skepticism as if she was merely out on the corner trying to cheat them out of their hard earned money. And in some faces, she saw pity. Pity that a person would have to resort to begging for a few lousy bucks. And, they all drove off without a second glance.

But what Sarah was more aware of were the ones who did everything they could to ignore her presence on that corner. They pulled up right alongside her but wouldn't even cast a glance her way. Those were the moments when Sarah felt the pangs in her heart, when she realized some people hoped that if they just ignored her, the problem would go away. That she would go away.


I saw 'Sarah' on the corner the other night standing out in the cold as I pulled up next to her. I didn't really notice what she was wearing and I didn't pay much attention to the bags lying next to her. What I noticed was the weariness on her face and the sadness in her eyes as she sat on the curb holding her sign. It was at that moment that I felt 'the prompt' and even before I pulled out my wallet, I knew... I'd spent my last few dollars only days before.

The light changed and the driver behind me began honking, irritated that I was at a standstill on a now green light. Looking up, I realized I was holding up traffic and drove off in an effort to silence the impatient driver.

I have thought about Sarah since then and even looked for her the past few days as I've driven by that corner. I knew I was being prompted to help her and I should have turned around and gone back. But I didn't. Maybe because it was late and I was tired and the opportunity seemed to pass when I drove away through the intersection.

I have been chastised for giving money to people on the corner and I've heard every 'they'll just buy drugs or alcohol with it' argument. I don't believe that and I think we have to be careful about judging those who are out on those street corners because we don't know their story. We don't know how they got there or what twists and turns in life happened that they ended up begging for a few dollars.

A few years ago, I made a deal with God regarding those in need. I told him that I would help anyone standing on any corner holding a sign, or hanging out in front of a grocery store or any person that He knew needed help if He would prompt me to do so. And He has. And I don't believe it's ever my place to question God when He tells me to give. Whether it is my last ten dollars to someone on a corner or several bags of groceries for those in a homeless camp. I struck a deal and I do my best to hold up my end of the bargain.

So this is where I'm going to challenge you. Ask God to point out those in need to you and be willing to help them. There are so many hurting, hungry, needy, lonely people that are closer to us than we realize. Seek out those people and ask what you can do to help.

If you haven't yet, and you'd like to join in Billy Coffey's Ten Dollar Challenge, (which you should because it's an awesome thing) then head on over to Billy's and read about how you can bless someone this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Beauty of the Trail

I grew up surrounded by the forest, mountains, lakes and a river that flows through the town I call home. I always loved spending time out in the wilderness and the older I get the more I feel drawn to the winding trails and the solitude of what I consider one of the most peaceful places I know.

This time of year there are very few people on the trail and the stillness that surrounds me is incredibly comforting. The only sounds I hear are the faint jingle of Boz's collar, the occasional chattering of a squirrel that was most likely disturbed by said dog, the wind rustling through the trees and the sound of my footsteps as I make my way along the trail that is covered with fallen pine needles and Aspen leaves.

The leaves from the Aspens fall all around me as if they are being dropped from the heavens, and for a few hours, I watch the lazy river flow by, breathe in the crisp air and enjoy the colors of fall as if they were put there especially for me.

Yesterday, I made my way around one corner of the trail and I saw a flash of incredible color that went from red to orange, to gold and green. As I inspected it more closely, I realized that it was a part of an aspen tree that was in full fall color and had fallen. Recently.

Curiosity got the better of me and so I made my way down the steep rocky slope to get a better view. The moment I laid eyes on the base of the tree a smile crept over my face and two words escaped my lips as I looked down at Boz. "Dang beaver."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

If you'd like to read the rest of the story, please head over to Texas and visit my good friend Katdish, who has been cool enough to allow me to guest post. And if you need some humor today, I suggest you stick around her place because there is no shortage of it. I. Promise.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What Faith Can Do

I believe in the moments when God speaks to us through music and there is someone who needs to hear this song because life is pretty overwhelming and fragile right now. I don't know where you are or what's happening, but God does and He really, really cares.

Everybody falls sometimes
Gotta find the strength to rise
From the ashes and make a new beginning
Anyone can feel the ache
You think it’s more than you can take
But you are stronger, stronger than you know
Don’t you give up now
The sun will soon be shining
You gotta face the clouds
To find the silver lining

I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn’t ever end
Even when the sky is falling
And I’ve seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That’s what faith can do

It doesn’t matter what you’ve heard
Impossible is not a word
It’s just a reason for someone not to try
Everybody’s scared to death
When they decide to take that step
Out on the water
It’ll be alright
Life is so much more
Than what your eyes are seeing
You will find your way
If you keep believing

I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn’t ever end
Even when the sky is falling
And I’ve seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That’s what faith can do

Overcome the odds
You don't have a chance
That’s what faith can do
When the world says you can’t
It’ll tell you that you can!

I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn’t ever end
Even when the sky is falling
And I’ve seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That’s what faith can do
That's what faith can do!
Even if you fall sometimes
You will have the strength to rise

Thursday, November 5, 2009

When Church Makes Me Feel Uncomfortable

On Sunday, as I sat in church at the 8am service, listening to the pastor speak, I became totally uncomfortable. In fact, I was downright convicted and honestly, I can't stand that.

I mean church is supposed to make me feel good. I put on my Sunday best (which in Bend means jeans with no holes, at least not BIG holes and only wearing flips if you're toenails don't make the person sitting next to you cringe), sing some feel-good worship songs, tithe, greet the others around me and then sit down and listen to the pastor speak on being a better Christian and growing in Christ.

I knew I was in trouble when I saw that the message was on sacrifice and the pastor would be talking about the widow who gave her last two coins; giving out of her poverty rather than her wealth. (Luke 21:1-4)

I've heard comments from several people that they are tired of hearing sermons about sacrifice because they have nothing left to sacrifice. And Saturday night, I would have agreed with them whole heartedly, but today, I'm on the other side of the fence in regards to sacrifice.

It's no secret that millions of Americans are in a financial mess and I'm right there with them. There are nights that I wake up in a panic as a result of the economy, plummeting home values, more outgo than income, bills, feeding teenagers and having enough money to put gas in everyone's car.

But what hit me as I was sitting in church was that I am really not that uncomfortable. I still have gas for my car, unlike the single mom, who lives 35 miles from town, works at Taco Bell to support her kids and come Sunday doesn't have enough money to put gas in her car to get to church.

And I still have income with benefits unlike the family who was living off of unemployment until it ran out and now is struggling to buy macaroni and cheese to feed the kids and only turns the heat up when absolutely necessary because they can't afford to pay their heat bill.

It was then that I started to squirm, but it was what the pastor brought up next that made me feel downright uncomfortable. He shared a portion of an email that he had received from a member of the church and it basically said, 'If someone gave me an envelope with $5,000 dollars I would be ecstatic. What if someone gave me an envelope with a ticket to heaven?"

And that was all I heard for the rest of the message because in my heart, I knew that $5,000 would relieve a great amount of stress for the moment and my humanness wants instant gratification whether or not there is a question of eternal gratification.

I spent the rest of the day thinking about sacrifice and what it really means. Websters will tell you that sacrifice is something given up or lost, but the Bible tells me it's something gained. I believe that what we gain is an incredible understanding of love. You see, when we sacrifice, as in 'our last two coins' sacrifice, we understand what Jesus gave up for us which was everything. When we look at it is losing something, the only thing we lose is the opportunity to love through our sacrifice.

I know that I can do without $40 in groceries to put gas in a single mom's car so she can get to church with her children. I know I can find the means to give a family a weeks worth of decent meals and then some. I really don't give out of my poverty but my wealth. And as 'poor' as I feel, I have much more than many of those around me and I know that I need to do more for those in need.

I had breakfast with my parents after church and we decided that instead of a big Thanksgiving spread, we would, as a family, serve dinner to those in need. I have also spent the week coming up with ways that I can truly sacrifice and be a blessing to others who so desperately need it.

And I don't want it to be a few weeks of going without a Starbucks coffee type of sacrifice. I want to develop a habit of really stretching myself for others every day and learning the true meaning of love through sacrifice.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Like Drinking From a Fire Hydrant (by Billy Coffey)

My family and I are gathered on an outcropping of rocks high in the mountains, wondering at the stars. An unusually warm winter’s night has given us the luxury of this little excursion, and we’ve been rewarded with the sort of natural scene that sucks in your breath and makes you exhale in a long, slow whistle.

Planets dance above our heads, stars glimmer, and each of us take turns wishing upon the occasional meteorite. Orion stands guard at his post near the horizon, his belt cinched and shining. The Big Dipper looks as if it’s pouring the Milky Way upon our heads. The heavens are arrayed in a perfect sort of chaos, as if God has sneezed a miracle.

My son gazes up and wonders of rocket ships and aliens. My daughter? Angels and celestial playgrounds. My wife is wondering why we don’t come up here more often, because we should.

And me? I’m thinking about a dog I met last summer.

Late July. No rain for weeks. The air was so hot and humid that it made you walk with your back hunched.

Standing at the bottom of a hill in town, minding my own business, there came a sudden and steady stream of water toward me. Then more. And more. Surrounding my feet, inching up my shoes to almost the ankle.

A walk up the hill confirmed the source of this minor miracle—four firemen had cracked a hydrant. “Testing things out,” one told me.

As I stood there and kept them company, a neighborhood dog ambles up so I could scratch its head. Tail wagging and tongue drooping, he sniffed and snorted and paced, as if confused by the dichotomy of an abundance of water and the lack of means to acquire it. The firemen, lost in the duties, paid little attention to the dog. I, however, did.

I knew what the dog was going to do.

More sniffing and wagging and pacing. Then, in a desperate attempt to satisfy his thirst, the dog stuck his tongue into the gushing water.

Why he didn’t simply head to the bottom of the hill and drink there, I don’t know. Some dogs just aren’t that smart. Much like people. I do know, however, that he got more than a mere sip. Water gushed into his mouth and over his face with such force and weight that it nearly drowned him. Good thing there were firemen close by.

That’s what I’m thinking as I look up at these stars.

“The heavens declare the glory of God,” said David. Funny word, that “glory.” Translated from the Hebrew, it comes closer to “weight.” The heavens declare the weight of God.

Now, in this remote place with the heavens above me, I am much like that dog. Longing and thirsty and maybe not so smart. And drowning. Not in the weight of water, but in the weight of God.

Never let it be said that God hides from us. He is as near as a glance out the window, a walk in the park, or a rock to sit on. He pours Himself out in sunsets and rainstorms, in the blossoming of a flower or the falling snow.

As I sit on that rock with my family, staring until my neck aches and my back knots, I am reintroduced to the God I knew before I knew God. My childhood God. The One I spent time with before I knew what the words colored red in my Bible said and meant.

I am fortunate enough to sit in church every Sunday and listen to someone expound upon those words. Fortunate, too, that I can sit with my Bible and have those words speak to me.

But I’ve never lost sight of that other sermon, the one I am a witness to every day. It’s a silent one, ever present, given to believer and doubter alike. One written and composed in the beauty that surrounds us. The silent sermon of God’s glory.

We drink from God’s fire hydrant every day, drowned in the inescapable weight of His power, His creativity, and His love.

If you don't already know Billy Coffey, then you should head over to his website, What I Learned Today and pay him a visit. Thanks Billy for taking time out of your extremely busy schedule of family, writing gigs, blogging, editing a book, being a Redneck and watching the World Series to do a guest post. In appreciation, I am sending all of my mojo to the Yankees.

Monday, November 2, 2009

There Is No I In TEAM

Yes, I know. I have been extremely remiss in posting anything on my blog the past few months but I do have a good reason. Volley. Ball. As some of you know, I coach high school volleyball (it's a second job) and the joke in our house is that come August when the season starts, I throw out a wave as I'm heading out the door and tell my family, 'see you in November.' It's actually not that far from the truth as regular practice days I put in 12 hour days and will work upwards of 15 hours on game days. It's a huge commitment and I don't do it for the pay. I do it because I learn a lot about teenage girls and myself and this year was no exception.

Halfway through the season, one of our Varsity starting seniors lost her dad to cancer. Doug had been fighting the deadly disease for over a year and just after our season games got under way, we received the news that he had days to live. On the morning of our game with the cross town rivals, Doug passed quietly away.

Our Varsity girls rallied around their teammate, visiting her at home that afternoon so they could express their concern and show they truly cared for her. As I entered the main gym after my Freshman game I was astonished to see this young lady warming up with the rest of the varsity players and she was doing so because it was her dad's dying wish that she continue playing volleyball and finish the season. Black ribbons with Doug's initials were in each players hair and while there was a somewhat somber mood amongst the players, there was also an air of determination to play their hearts out no matter what. For Doug. And his little girl.

The gym was packed with people from both sides of town who were there for our player and the rivals had Doug's initials embroidered on their jerseys for the game, in show of support. It was at that moment that they quit being our rivals and became 12 girls who maybe didn't understand what it was like to lose a dad, but were willing to put school boundaries aside and be there for someone who needed them to be.

It was an emotional game with some of the best volleyball our girls played all season. Doug's little girl went out there and gave her best under the circumstances and at one point, us four coaches commented that there was a peace about her that we'd never seen before. I don't know why, but maybe it was because she knew her dad was no longer suffering and cheering her on like crazy from above.

Our team played their hearts out that night and they did it not for themselves but for a teammate who suffered a great loss and they did it for her dad. It was the most unselfish act I've seen by any team I've ever coached.

When the last ball hit the ground and the match point was awarded to the other team, as I looked up at the scoreboard, I realized that the scoreboard may have shown us to be the losing team, but in lessons of life, our girls were the winners.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Is She Really Old Enough for Senior Pictures?

I don't know when it started, but as long as I can remember, senior pictures have been a 'right of passage' for any senior in high school. Well, today was the day that Kenzi, her best friend 'Nay', the dog and I trudged out into the woods to take Kenzi's senior pictures.

It's hard to believe that my first born is already 17, will graduate in a few short months and then sprint as fast as she can into a life of her own (which is exactly what her mother did). It just dawned on me that my dad did my senior pictures and I guess it was a given that I would always do Kenzi's, since photography is a hobby/passion of mine.

For the past few weeks I have been searching out the perfect spot for Kenzi's pictures when Boz and I are out hiking. I found an arm of the river where the creek bed has dried up except for a slow trickle and the bushes that line the bed are in full fall color. So, today we trudged up a trail, maneuvered down an embankment, slid over still wet river rocks (a few times nearly falling on our backsides), smiled, struck poses, laughed at Boz chasing chipmunks and got some great pictures. So, here's my little girl.

Striking a pose...

..is always more fun with your best friend.

Yes, the shoes make the dress!

...and I believe I see some her mother's attitude in that look (ehem!).

Of course Boz has to be a part of the action...

..so he strikes a pose showing his 'best side'.

Making ripples in the water.

Beautiful in black and white...

..and in full color.

Oh, that smile!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What's In a Memory

I once read that if a person has memories of when they were very, very young their childhood was a good one. I have shared some of my earliest memories with my mom and it seems I have a few of when I was just under two. And I would have to agree that I had a pretty darn good childhood and a lot of fond memories.

Whenever I've been asked about my childhood, I have likened it to growing up 'Beaver Cleaver'. My family consisted of a dad who was a school teacher, a stay-at-home mom who got up with us at the crack of dawn during the school year to make breakfast and lunches, and who could cook a mean pot roast, two older brothers, myself, two cats (not always the same two) and a dog.

We lived in a relatively small town (15,000) and everybody knew everybody, which could be a really good thing, or a really bad thing, depending on who your parents were. Because of my dad's teaching gig and the fact that he reffed football and basketball and taught Driver's training, there was no way I would be able to get away with anything because he knew too many people. So I led a relatively boring life through high school.

My brothers were complete opposites. My oldest brother was very mechanical and to quote my dad, 'Scott was the only kid I knew who got through high school with no homework assignments.' I remember him taking things apart and putting them back together. And they worked. Even without the leftover pieces. He loved to execute the Chinese torture technique on me and my other brother which usually left me freaking out in mass hysterics only because my other brother would never let Scott get the best of him and I was sure that he would die at the hands of Scott. Scott eventually entered the army, told his CO to eff off because they wouldn't let him come home to see my mom when she went in for cancer surgery and was 'honorably' discharged the same year.

My other brother, Matt, was skinny. He was like the .5 child in the perfect family that has 2.5 children because when he turned sideways we couldn't see him. He hated swimming pools and my only memories of him in such places are of him shivering uncontrollably with blue lips even if it was in the dead of summer and 100+ degrees. And he loved the Pittsburg Steelers. In fact we went to Pittsburg in the summer of 1980-something(who cares what the year really was since were from 'dry' and not humid Oregon and it was freaking miserable and hot) and walked on the turf that the Steelers played on. It was like entering the holy land. I remember one extremely horrible Christmas when he didn't get a Steelers helmet because they were sold out. It was the worst of times.

When he got to high school he became a runner. And popular. Luckily by the time I entered high school, Scott had graduated, but I had to live with the tag of 'Matt's little sister'. And I hated running.

There was always some sort of weapon around the house that us kids found to amuse ourselves. BB guns, pellet guns, pocket knives, crab apples, wheel barrows full of firewood... Fortunately I escaped most, ok, all of the injury inflicted by these things, but Matt was not so fortunate. Like the time he and Scott were bringing in firewood and Scott told Matt to hold the 'ramp' (a flimsy piece of bark - ok, maybe not bark, but you get the picture) so that he could push the wheelbarrow down the step onto the back porch. Well, the ramp didn't hold and the picture in my head before Matt was taken to the emergency room was him sitting on the kitchen counter, mom dialing the rotary phone (like she was calling 999-9999) and holding his hand in the air with bones sticking out of his skin. Did I mention it was his birthday and several of his friends were coming over for a party?

Or the time he and Scott got into a crab apple fight and Matt ended up in the emergency room because of a well placed crab apple to the eye.

My poor mother.

Matt was big into putting together model airplanes. I learned quickly that model glue does make your fingers stick together, permanently, and model paint will stain the dining room table. It was a tedious hobby, but the finished product was pretty cool. My brothers shared a room and they had a fleet of aircraft hanging from their ceiling. They were mostly WWII aircraft: F4 Wildcats, B52 Bombers, Kingcobras, Invaders, Destroyers, Helldivers.

For fun, Matt would put together models of German airplanes and we would take them out back and tie them from the branches of the Juniper trees. And then shoot them down with our BB guns(my cousins didn't call me Annie Oakley for nuthin'). From the carnage on the ground, it looked as though we shot down the whole Nazi fleet right here in Oregon. I know they say, 'Don't mess with Texas', but the kids on NE 11th street were doin' a little whoop-A of their own.

We always had animals and cats adopting our family. I remember when Sweetie Pie showed up and adopted us. She was the meanest cat I have ever known (besides my great-grandma Sabo's orange cat that would jump out and attack my legs). Back then, there wasn't a big campaign to spay ones cats, so we didn't. She had thousands of kittens and we ended up keeping one and naming her Mimi. She was the second meanest cat I knew. Sweetie Pie disappeared and Mimi became the Matriarch of the house. We still didn't believe in spaying our cat and she birthed thousands and we kept one. He was named Guido. Guido was awesome. He was a huge orange and white cat that ruled the neighborhood. I think he was a pimp but I'm not sure. But he was cool and I was ticked when my parents gave him away after I moved out.

We had two dogs that I remember growing up. Aussie and Missy. Aussie was an Australian shepherd that was the smartest dog I've ever known. My parents had 5 acres on the outskirts of town where we raised steers. We would go out daily to feed them and tend to dad's garden and Aussie would jump out of the back of the truck as soon as we got to the gate and start herding the steers. All three of them. Unfortunately, Aussie passed away from Parvo when we were away on family vacation. Us kids were devastated.

So we went to the pound when we got home and found Missy. My parents tried to make her an outdoor dog and told my brother she had to sleep out in the doghouse. Well, I remember many mornings looking out the back window and seeing a sleeping bag hanging out of the doghouse. Missy soon became an indoor dog. And was a part of the family for 14 years.

My dad's family was in Ohio and we only saw them every five years. But my mom grew up in California and us kids loved going to LA to visit Grandma and Grandpa Vic. My grandma's family was very musical and she bought me an old upright piano when I was five. I still have it to this day. What I loved most about going to grandma's house was that she and grandpa always had bologna, white bread, Kraft cheese slices and 7-up in the fridge. That is every kids dream meal and we only got that stuff when we were there. At Christmas, grandma always had the box of assorted chocolates and 'someone' always took bites out of all of them to find the coconut filled one.

Every girl likes to dress up dolls and I was no exception. That dress that is adorning that most adorable baby girl (me) was a permanent fixture on my favorite doll. I still have that dress to this day and if I was organized, I could find the picture of Kenzi wearing it as a baby.

To this day, I have a very close knit family. My parents have been in Israel for nearly two weeks on a missions trip and I call and leave messages on their home answering machine because I miss them so much.

Matt lives in Virginia with his wife and 11 of his 12 children (yes, they are all theirs and no they are not Mormon or Catholic) and when we get together it is a great time had by all.

Scott lives here and we talk frequently. Whenever we get together with the folks it's a lot of laughing and good times.

When the whole family is together (meaning my brothers, me, my parents and all...however many grand kids) it is apparent by the look on my dad's face that he is very proud of his family. There is always much laughing, story telling, reminiscing and making new memories.

As you can imagine, I am very thankful for the family I have.

Monday, October 12, 2009

When Things Go Right: A Young Hunters First Buck

Living here in the Cascade Mountains I definitely get to enjoy the four seasons of spring, summer, winter and fall. But living this close to the woods and abundant wildlife, we also have another four seasons. Deer season. Elk season. Pheasant season and duck season.

Since my son was little, he has had a passion for hunting and this year he drew his first buck tag. It was with much excitement and enthusiasm that he planned his first big rifle hunt with his grandpa, whom he has spent endless hours with watching hunting shows, shooting rifles and bows, discussing hunting techniques and finally shooting his first buck. I believe every child needs to find their passion and if my son could hunt every day of the year he would.

It was an extremely memorable week for Killian and he allowed me to interview him about his first big successful hunt and what it means to him.

So when did you first became interested in hunting and do you remember your first hunting trip?

Well, I've been interested in hunting ever since I can remember because I was born into a family of hunters. The first hunting trip I really remember is when my dad shot a spike and when I went up to touch the deer my sister freaked out because she thought I would get rabies from touching it.

Describe how you spent the day during this hunting season and who you went hunting with.

I went hunting with my grandparents and great aunt and uncle. We would get up around 5:00 am and go to our hunting spot about an hour later, then walk for a few hours looking for bucks. It was cool being out in the woods with my family and getting to hang out, look for deer and talk about different things.

What happened opening morning.

We had gotten to our hunting spot and it was about 9:15am and we had just been out walking and we saw two bucks and a doe. I found a rest for my rifle on a tree and one of the bucks was moving through the trees. Then when he stopped, I put the crosshairs behind his shoulders, clicked the safety off, took a deep breath and pulled the trigger.

The deer ran about 10 yards, turned, ran back to where I had shot him and died.

Do you remember your first thoughts when you shot the deer and it died?

I wasn't really thinking about anything, I was just really excited that I got it.

How big of a buck was it?

It was a forked horn.

You ended up hunting for the whole week with your family. What were some of the most memorable moments?

Shooting my first deer, and getting to hang out with my family. I also learned how to skin a deer, quarter it and break it down for the meat processors.

What are you going to do with the meat?

We are going to make steaks out of the backstrap and tenders. The prime cuts are going to be made into hamburger. We ended up with two deer and so we will all share it.

What was the biggest surprise of the week?

When my grandpa gave me his hunting rifle (Bertha). It's a Remington 700 series rifle.

Why is this such an important thing to you and what does it mean?

Well, it is important because it is my grandpa's favorite hunting rifle and he shot his largest deer and elk with it. In fact he's shot too many deer or elk with it to count.

What it means to me is I feel that it is my grandpa telling me how proud he is of me and that he thinks I'm responsible and that he can trust me with his favorite gun.

(editors note: Killian's grandpa sent me an email saying how proud he is of him and that he is giving Killian his favorite rifle so that Killian can now have his own favorite rifle.)

* * * * * *

When I received the email from Killian's grandpa regarding the passing down of his rifle, I did what any proud mom would do and got all teary eyed (ok, I flat out cried) because I realize how important and meaningful this hunting trip has been for both of them. It has been a week of bonding, laughing, talking, being in the woods, and just spending family time together. I am proud of how my son has handled himself as a hunter and for being responsible when it comes to handling a gun.

As I spoke with Killian on the phone the night he found out he was receiving his grandpa's rifle, he said to me (and I couldn't have said it better),

"Mom, this has been the best week of my life. I shot a buck, grandpa gave me his rifle and the Yankee's won."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The First...

I know, I know...it's been a few weeks since my last post, and I have some really wonderful excuses as to why I've neglected my blog. (Did you think I was going to tell you what they were?)

Anyway, I finally have a few days off and thought I should quit being so lame and post something (anything) on my blog. Since it's snowing like crazy at the moment and the 3-4 inches that have accumulated are keeping me house bound, I thought I'd post a few 'first' pictures. (Hey, it's something.)

Yesterday was opening day of deer slaying season and Killian secured his first buck tag this year. He has been waiting 'forever' for this hunting trip with his grandparents and a few hours into opening day, he dropped his first buck with one shot. I don't think he's stopped smiling since.

The First Buck

As I mentioned, it's snowing. Apparently we had summer last week (80 degree temps) and winter this week. I don't know what happened to fall but it appears mother nature doesn't think we need to bother with that season.

Oh, and would someone please call Al Gore and tell him global warming is a bunch of left-wing hooey. Thanks.

The First Snow

I had to bring out the winter recipes from the vault last night even though I'd still rather be BBQ'ing. I'm just not going to stand out in the rain/sleet/snow to do it. So I made a huge pot of lentils and if you'd like the recipe for this tasty looking dish, you can find it on mine and Helen's food blog.

The First Winter Dinner

I did manage to get some pictures posted on my photo blog, so feel free to wander over to 'Annie's Daily Picture' (which has not been so 'daily' lately) and catch a glimpse of what I see when I get behind the lense.

The First 'Fall' Hike

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go shovel some snow...