Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's Just A Little Kiss

What happens when you get a little too close to Boz...

It starts out as a great photo op....

And then you blow in his face trying to get him to 'pose'...

And then you get the kiss. It's just a little kiss....

But, ewwwwwww...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fishing, Guns, Ticks And Grenades: My Son's Virginia Vacation

Yesterday was a big day for me as my 13 year old son was coming home from Virginia after spending a month with my brother and his family. I had to head to the Portland airport to pick him up, which round trip equals nearly seven hours of driving. But it was well worth it because of the time spent with my son and listening to the stories of what a bunch of teenage boys do in rural Virginia to pass the days of summer.

(As many of you know, my brother and his wife have 12 kids with number 13 on the way. You can catch a glimpse into their life as a big, loving, never-a-dull-moment familyhere.)

Anyway, when we first talked about Killian heading out for a month, the old line, 'what's one more?' was somewhere in the conversation, and a week after school, Killian headed out to Virginia. Well, Killian had a really incredible time and it will be a month with the cousins that he will never forget. I wanted to share a few highlights from his trip.

1. When your nephew tells you, "We're going to experiment with a water bottle some vinegar and baking soda to try and make an airsoft grenade . Killian and I are going to make history or die trying." you should take them very seriously. And yes, vinegar does ruin the lawn.

2. Six boys fishing in a three-man unlicensed boat is basically a game of hide and seek from the boat cops. "Mom, you'd be proud of us. We didn't even use the shotgun to catch fish."

3. Calvary Chapel puts on an awesome youth camp. Killian knew it was going to be a good time when the camp director gave them the following tips:
"Do not to go running around outside in the woods at night. We have a bear problem."

"If you find a long black snake wrapped around your ankle, don't be afraid. If you find a diamondback rattler wrapped around your ankle, be VERRRY afraid."

4. A favorite past time in the car was the Roadkill game. It went something like this:
- One point for identifying the roadkill.
- Two points for identifying the sex.
All before you drive by it.

When I asked Killian, "Ok, so you see a possum on the side of the road and it's not on it's back. How in the world do you know what sex it is?"

His reply, "Mom, it's a natural hick instinct."

There you have it.

5. A neighbors tree crashed through my brother's fence and smashed a window during a horrific rain storm two nights before Killian had to leave. In Killian's words, "It was the hottest day of the whole month and we spent all day cleaning up the mess and cutting up that tree. But it ended up being a real blessing because Uncle Matt got to know the neighbor."

6. Bottle rockets will shoot off sideways if they are not secured deep inside the ant hill. If you light them pointing into the ant hill it kills more that way.

7. Eight boys. Eight Airsoft guns. A gazillion BB's. Good times.

8. There was a sighting of a guy who drives a truck completely painted in the Confederate flag. "Mom, that's enough to make a Redneck cry."

9. Getting your first tick is like coming of age. "Mom, you just light a match, blow it out and stick it on the tick. They come right out. No big deal." Mmmmmkay.

10. Killian's parting words to his cousins, who now consider him their brother, "Guys, I love you like a Redneck loves NASCAR."

Killian is already planning next years trip out to Virginia. After all, there are ant hills to conquer, bigger and better airsoft bombs to make and maybe they'll go for a new record of ten in the boat. Just leave the shotgun at home.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

It's Too Hot To Cook

Unless it is this.

Since I am a baseball widow for the next several days (Jon will be out of town spitting sunflower seed shells and watching his son play in the Little League All-Stars State Playoffs) I get to enjoy the luxury of either cooking whatever I want or not cooking at all. The latter never appeals to me and after working in the garden and pulling weeds in the yard all day yesterday, I thought I would treat myself to a big bowl of pasta.

My zucchini and squash aren't quite ready yet so I had to buy some, but yes, that is my home grown basil and it is pretty darn fantastic!

Lemon Basil Pasta
1 Medium Zucchini, Sliced
1 Medium Yellow Squash, Sliced
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1/2 Cup Fresh Basil Leaves, Chopped
1 Lemon, Zested and Cut In Half
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Plus 2 Tablespoons
1 13 oz Box of Multigrain Penne Rigate Pasta
Salt and Pepper
Parmesan Cheese, Freshly Grated

Cook pasta according to directions (until al dente), drain and set aside.

In a bowl, combine lemon zest and the juice of the lemon. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Add to pasta and toss to coat.

In a skillet, heat the two tablespoons of olive oil and add garlic. Heat for about 30 seconds and add zucchini and squash. Saute until vegetables are slightly crisp. Remove from heat and stir in basil. Add to pasta and stir. Top with fresh Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Girl Rejected: The Hope Road Trip Part 1

Most days, the young girl sat alone at the edge of the grassy field. On occasion, some of the girls would allow her into their small circles of friends during the lunch recess, but only until the bell rang, summoning them to their afternoon classes. She knew she didn't really fit in anywhere, but desperate for friendship, she was willing to take what she could get.

Class was her safe haven. A refuge from the halls where other girls drifted to their friends lockers to catch up between classes, gossip and share the notes they received from 'that' boy. When the bell rang, she rushed to her locker to exchange the math book for her social studies book, and then slammed the locker door nearly running to the next class.

Lunch was even worse. Finding a table with room next to someone who was a remote acquaintance was all she could focus on. And then the dreaded lunch recess. Losers sat by themselves. And she knew she was one.

As long as she could remember, she was the chubby kid that others teased and poked fun of. And it was an extremely deep wound that she kept well hidden.

It was about this time that she befriended a few girls in her youth group that attended the same school as her. And they were in with the popular girls. Slowly, she began stopping by their lockers to chat, sat at the next-table-over from them at lunch and even attended a few of their birthday parties. But lunch recess was still off limits. You see, nobody got to hang out with the popular girls at recess unless they invited you in. And man, did she want to be invited.

The day came when one of the girls invited her to hang out with them at recess. She was excited and nervous but after lunch, walked out to the group of girls and joined in on the games, laughter and talk. It was one of the best school days ever.

That night at youth group, one of the girls took her aside and said, "Um, some of the girls were talking and they just said that you don't really fit in right now. But that maybe if you lost some weight you could hang out with us."


Last weekend, Jon and I spent the evening with a couple who are close friends of ours. In fact, one of them, I have known as far back as I can remember - we grew up together. We were talking about childhood wounds and I shared this story with them.

Wounds come in different forms. Teasing, abuse, a harsh word spoken out of anger by a parent, an insult, gossip, and the list goes on. For me, it was rejection. And the rejection I felt at that moment, coupled with the rejection of every other year spent in school would dictate how my life would play out for many years to come.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My View From The Cheap Seats

This was my view of the local baseball game last night and once the sun decided to hang out a little closer to the mountainous horizon it was quite enjoyable.

To be honest, baseball is not my favorite sport. But, this is a team of college boys playing in the wooden bat league, and with a view like this, who doesn't enjoy some small town (OK, maybe medium town) baseball. In my opinion, this is what the sport is about. Young men playing baseball with REAL bats and entertaining the locals, the announcer giving out prizes for the correct answer to baseball trivia, kids getting down to the Chicken dance, crazy mascots running around, chatting with the strangers around you, cold beer (although overpriced) and peanuts in the shell.

Now that's how I like to enjoy viewing my mountains on a warm summer evening.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Man In Search Of Hope: The Hope Road Trip Part 2

I'm not sure what I expected would happen after sharing my encounter with Jimmy* (not his real name) last Thursday, but it certainly wasn't what happened the following morning. In case you haven't read about how I met Jimmy I encourage you to read Part One.

Friday morning, prior to work, I posted a link on my Facebook of the blog post that told about my encounter with Jimmy. Honestly, I was somewhat hesitant to do so because I tend to avoid 'promoting' my blog on Facebook. But the 'prompting' I felt outweighed the hesitancy and up went the link.

Within an hour of posting the link, my phone rang and it was my brother.

"Scotty. What's up?"

"Annie. What are you doing?"

"Oh, you know. Living the dream. You?"

"I'm heading to work."

"Guess you're living the dream to huh?"

"You know it. (chuckling) I read your Facebook this morning. The story about the guy that came into your work yesterday."

"Oh, yeah. That kind of bummed me out."

"You have his name and number right?"

"Yeah. What's up?"

"Well, I know a gal that runs an outreach program and I'm going to send her an email about this guy. I'll include the link to your post. I think she can maybe help him out."

"Wow. That would be cool."

"Yeah. I'll call you when I hear from her."

Two hours later, my phone rang again.


"Annie, I talked to my friend and she wants this guy's name and number. She said she thinks she can help him. She knows of some programs for people with disabilities and may be able to put him to work doing some things for her outreach program."

"Seriously? That is awesome."

I gave my brother Jimmy's information and asked him to keep me posted if he heard anything else from his friend.

Saturday, my brother called me back to say that his friend had contacted Jimmy and was going to have him come out and do some volunteer work for her. Because she runs a non-profit, she can't afford to pay him, but she is going to contact some other organizations on Jimmy's behalf in hopes of finding employment for him.

I'm excited for Jimmy and am very thankful for people who are willing to help a fellow man. Perhaps Jimmy will find the job he so desperately desires and I'd like to believe that there is a glimmer of hope in Jimmy's eyes now.

All because someone will, indeed, give him a chance.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Man In Search Of Hope: The Hope Road Trip Part 1

My office lies somewhat off of the beaten path. So, unless someone has business with my particular department, I don't see many visitors throughout my work day.

Today, as I was working at my desk, I noticed a man pull up on his bike. I vaguely recognized him and thought maybe he was one of our substitute workers bringing in a time sheet.

As he walked into the reception area, he looked at me through my office window and asked if the boss was in. I immediately knew he was not an employee but the face...where did I know him from?

I got up from my desk and walked out of my office to see how I could help this man. As we began speaking, I knew right away that this man had endured some things. You see, not only was his speech slow, deliberate and difficult, but I looked into his eyes. I think you can tell a lot by a persons eyes and what I saw was hopeless desperation.

He began to tell me that he was looking for work and even though he receives disability because of an accident a few years ago, he just wanted someone to give him a chance.

"Ma'am, I..I...I'm a h..hard worker. I c..c..can wash windows, and..and..push a broom. I did janitor...janitor...janitor work. I...(closing his eyes)...made mistakes. But I want to prove myself. I will volunteer. F..f...or a year. Please."

This is how the conversation went for several minutes. This man told me many times he had made mistakes but that he wanted to prove himself. He stumbled over his words, wiped the spit from his mouth and a few times closed his eyes as if willing the thoughts to come, and said, "what's the word I'm looking for..."

It finally dawned on me where I new this man from. Church. And at this point in the conversation, the reality hit me that most people would have judged this person to be mentally unstable or even crazy. But that isn't how I saw him.

He mentioned an accident and his actions were like those of a stroke victim. This man isn't crazy, he is desperate. And falling into hopelessness.

As we talked further, I encouraged him to talk to our Human Resources department.

"I...I...I've d..done that. They..they, w...won't talk to me."

"P..Please, can you to your boss. I..I..I will work hard. I c..c..can do lots of things."

I realized that sending this man elsewhere was not what he wanted. What he wanted was to know that I was going to talk to my 'boss' and put in a good word for him.

He then asked me if he could give me his name and number and would I please, just talk to my boss and put in a good word for him. As I mulled over what to say next, I looked him in the eyes and said, "Yes. I will talk to my boss."

A glimmer of hope crossed his face, and he asked if he could give me his name and telephone number in case we would be willing to hire him to work for us. As I handed him some paper and a pen my heart felt heavy because the reality of the situation was that his hope was very, very temporary because most likely we could do nothing to help him.

Tomorrow, I will talk to my boss because I gave the man my word. What started out as hopelessness and turned into a glimmer of hope will end in one more frustration and perhaps add another notch of desperation to a man who just wants someone to give him a chance.

It seemed to take some time for him to write his name and number on the paper I had given him. As he handed me the paper, he smiled and said, "I'll work hard." I returned the smileand said, "I believe you."

He said 'thank you,' and turned to leave. As I watched him walk out the door I looked down at the paper.

Written below his name were the words,"Please give me a chance."

Happy Birthday Candy!

Today is Candy's birthday. If you don't know her (which I suspect you do if you hang around here) then you should head over to her place, pronto.

I 'met' Candy..well, I don't really remember how and when. I just know Candy has always been a blessing in this crazy group of ours and she usually has something witty and profound to say. Yes, I used witty and profound in the same sentence. She's just that awesome.

Candy, I know you love flowers, mountains and Boz (who doesn't) and so here's a little 'picture' gift from me to you. I love ya gal and have an awesome birthday!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Boundaries (By Jon, Not Me)

I've been trying for months to get Jon to blog and 'exercise' his gift of writing (which could be read as nagging. But, seriously, it's the only thing I nag about). He told me today that he's been trying for several months to write about certain things, but everything seems to come out negative. I replied (as he was making the 'tongue sticking out face' and I gave it right back) that perhaps he should try focusing on positive things in his writing and see what happens with the outcome. Yes, we are very mature people when it comes to discussions such as this.

I do think that writing is one of the hardest things ever and because of my severe writers block at times, I can understand what Jon is going through. I have read much of what Jon has written and believe it is worth sharing. He has graciously allowed me to share this with you and I hope he will do so with more of his poems. If you are a parent (or soon to be), might I suggest reading these words of wisdom...


Be there for them. Sometimes they just need you to listen.
Open your heart. Let them see the real you.
Unconditional love. Don't ever let them doubt your love and commitment.
Never go back on your word. If you say you will do it, do it.
Discipline. Teach their hearts right from wrong.
Always follow discipline with love.
Remember they are not yours. But angels on loan from God.
In good times and bad...Love them with all of your heart.
Eventually you have to let them make their own decisions. Right or wrong.
Sometimes, even when you want to be their friend, you have to be their parent first.

JB 2000

Life In The Not-So-Fast Lane

I can't imagine life in a faster lane than this. And here's why I prefer life in the not-so-fast lane, especially in the summer:

1. Twenty minutes down the road and I'm deep in the woods. That means pine trees, the river, wildlife and peace.

2. Sitting on my porch in the lazy afternoon hours does not include listening to traffic.

3. I'm surrounded by mountains. Big mountains. And lakes. Lots of lakes.

4. Camping is usually 'right up the road' and consists of lots of walks by the lake, many hours reading in the shade, and big ol' campfires in the evening.

5. Eating popsicles on the front porch.

6. Early morning coffee on the deck while enjoying the mountain views.

7. BBQ'ing with friends and letting the kids make s'mores for us around the fire pit.

8. Watching the garden grow. Finally.

9. Clear evening skies means lots of stars to see.

10. The sound of crickets and frogs in the evening.

These are just to name a few. What is your favorite thing about life in the not-so-fast lane?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Best Gift Is A Poem

Today is mine and Jon's 4th anniversary. I'll admit that we joke between the two of us, 'we've only been married four but it seems like 12.' The only reason we can get away with that is because we know how hard it's been to blend two families (actually, ours collided) and the challenges we have had to face.

To be honest, we've had some pretty low points in the past four years, and at times didn't know that we'd 'make it'. But, by the grace of God it seems we have settled quite nicely into married life and I can say without a doubt that we love each other more and more every day and lucky him, he's stuck with me for good.

Before we were married, I was given a poem that Jon had written for me and it's probably the most cherished gift I've ever received from him. I believe words to be a very powerful thing and many times in the past four years I have gone back and read this and known that no matter what we're feeling at the time, one day when we're looking back we'll know that we have always been right where we're supposed to be.

Two Rivers Combined
Much like a stream, we aspire to the path
that the Lord has put before us,

Faithful to follow the current as we make our way
through the turbulent, the calm and the still waters of life.

As one stream meets another, there becomes a stronger,
more defined sense of purpose.

Together at last, they now have the opportunity to follow
what my have otherwise been impassable on their own.

With strength combined, their current will enable them
to overcome obstacles that may have re-directed their flow.

In fact, as the two become one in Him,
they now control their destination.

For so long, we have drifted, all the while aimlessly
allowing the current to overcome,

Now thankful as we begin to understand that our direction
was set forth long ago by a power much greater than our own.

It is with a fair amount of anxiousness that we
recognize the gifts which lie before us,

For with such gifts comes a responsibility to return the blessings,
Of which the greatness given, we can never repay.

The river is to Jesus what the sea is to the Father.
Powerful, yet with incredible beauty and grace,

we are led to that place where deep in our hearts
we knew we were always meant to be.

JB 2005

Monday, July 6, 2009

Reflections On The 4th Of July

My 4th of July was rather uneventful, probably because there weren't any kids around. My son is in Virginia for the whole month visiting my brother, the one with 12 kids (hey, what's one more?) and my daughter was off doing her own thing.

I headed down to the annual Pet Parade to meet up with my parents and after watching the parade for an hour realized that apparently all 80,000+ residents of Bend had brought their dogs down to be in the parade. There were a few horses and chickens, but I've never seen so many dogs in my life. Boz didn't really care about the other dogs, he was more interested in the small tree I was standing under. Seriously, male dogs...

When I got home, Jon and I sat on the front porch discussing this(Bend is just not small enough for me anymore) and that(the Hope Road Trip idea and how to go forth with that - if you have any ideas or people in mind please let me know) while drinking a LeBatt's. He didn't think it was very patriotic to be drinking a Canadian beer on the 4th, and with nary a Bud in sight we decided to head down the road and ended up at our favorite Mexican restaurant where we proceeded to enjoy some Pacificos. (I know... I know...)

We rented the John Adams HBO series and decided to watch the first CD before climbing up onto the roof to watch the fireworks. We are heading into part V (that's 5 in case you don't know Roman numerology) and let me just say what has been on my mind:

- I am extremely thankful that our founding fathers were willing to go to great lengths, even if it meant dying by treason to sign the Declaration of Independence.

- Because they did so, as I stood in church this morning I was overcome by great emotion as we sang The Star Spangled Banner.

- I know without a doubt that MY founding fathers had a great faith in God and HE is what this great nation was founded on.

- The cost of freedom is great and it started when the Pilgrims first landed. It continued through the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World Wars I & II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and countless others that we, the citizens of the United States have been involved in. And I believe we have the freedoms we do because millions have paid the ultimate price. And to those, I am extremely grateful.

- I am a traditionalist. Give me One Nation Under God, Apple Pie, Chevrolet, Hot Dogs and In God We Trust. (And real whipped cream. Not Cool Whip, please.)

- Our founding fathers fought hard for what they believed in. This country is 'of the people, by the people and for the people.' We have the right to fight for what we believe in.

As I watched the fireworks from my rooftop last night I couldn't help but think how grateful I am to live in the country I do. I don't agree with the current administration's politics or moral views, and I may not be very happy about where I think this country is headed but it's those who have paid the ultimate price that have guaranteed my right to voice my opposition. To those, I am eternally grateful.

And to those serving overseas, who have left their wives, children, mothers, fathers, extended families and friends behind, let me just say thank you for your service and dedication to a cause that is far reaching beyond America. It is the cause for freedom. And you are fighting for it.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Hope Road Trip

I have noticed, especially lately, the astounding amount of people who seem to be hurting and living without happiness or hope. I find that incredibly distressing and I was mulling this over in my mind while on a road trip last week.

Everyone has a different story of how they ended up at a particular point in their lives. Circumstances tend to dictate people's happiness, unhappiness, faith, hope, hopelessness and their outlook on life in general. I believe a lot of people are suffering in silence because maybe they don't know that there are others out there who truly care about them and their hurts. Or maybe, it's because we are so focused on our own problems in life that we tend to forget there are others worse off than us and we're not taking the time to show we care. I know I'm guilty of this. I wonder if taking an interest in the hurting and listening to their stories would allow a bit of hope to creep back into their lives.

As I was driving I thought about this and then came up with a totally crazy idea of what I would do to get their stories heard. It's called a road trip across America in my RV, with a video camera and the laptop (sounds like a different kind of reality show and seriously, these things just pop into my head).

Imagine the stories you'd hear sitting on a total strangers front porch or at a hole in the wall cafe in Small Town, USA. Or what about at an inner-city slum? Perhaps the people in the Great Plains have similar stories to those in the deep South. And while inner-city life dynamics may not be the same as small town dynamics when it comes right down to it people feel pain regardless of where they live and that is their common thread. Hopelessness has no prejudice and it doesn't care where one resides.

What if people realized there were others out there who had the same struggles and because they were able to tell their stories, found a network of people who could help them out. It might light a small spark of hope and get them through another day.

While I realize the whole concept of jumping in an RV and taking off across the country is a little out there, the idea of seeking out others who needs some hope isn't.

So, let's brainstorm. What can we do to spread a little happiness and spark some hope in others. Do you know someone who is in desperate need of those things or maybe you are that person. I encourage you to share your story because you're amongst friends here.