Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's a Smaller World After All

I have two reflections on this last day of the year.

First, as I look back on 2009 I'm struck that it's a smaller world after all.

It's a smaller world when I can include folks from every reach of the globe in my daily, real-time Twitter-sphere. It's a smaller world when elementary school chums and co-workers from decades ago re-emerge and re-enter my life via Facebook.

It's a smaller world when we share the same entertainment (think Susan Boyle on YouTube) and family highlight reels (such as the dance-down-the-aisle wedding procession that sent smiles virally and even influenced an episode of The Office) with strangers and folks from faraway lands.

Second, as we close a decade, I'm asking myself how I would have approached it had I known at the outset what it would hold. I might have been immobilized with fear. Time Magazine dubbed it the "Worst Decade Ever". What if I knew about September 11th, Hurricane Katrina or the economic crash? What if I knew my young cousin would lose his leg in Iraq or that I would lose my job and lose my mom?

Retrospection makes me feel strangely comforted. I certainly don't feel like this was the worst decade of my life. In fact, I wouldn't have missed it for anything and what I remember most are its victories: my co-patriots mobilizing to help each other in times of great need. And its lessons: I've learned to serve my community, invest in deeper friendships, take personal risks, love my family better and savor small blessings.

This perspective makes me trust and lean into God's divine strategy to give me just enough light to see my way clear for this day and just enough grace for each moment. It really doesn't matter what the next decade has in store. I have everything I need for today.

In 2006 Sisters Community Church hosted a "Firefighter Appreciation Night"
to thank those who battled the Black Crater Fire, which burned thousands of acres and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate.

Our heroes, just off the front lines and covered in ash, were presented with hundreds of pies and new socks. Some cried.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Christmas Cause: Shopping for Hope

I don't know about you, but we have had far more "sorry kids, we'll have to keep it simple this year" Christmases than not.

Every year we've improved at finding a select gift or two that costs very little, yet demonstrates that we've been paying attention to our children's evolving interests. So I am immensely gratified that our kids are growing into appreciative, charitable adults who see the bigger picture and understand the true message of Christmas.

The message of Christmas is hope. God humbly came to earth to save mankind, who could not save themselves, because He is the essence of love and we are the objects of His perfect love.

Hope is what Yobel Market is all about. They are a fair trade, global marketplace whose mission is to inspire awareness and promote justice. Last year I discovered Yobel Market and immediately thought of my college-aged daughter. I chose a pair of earrings crafted by Suubi women who live in refugee camps in southern Uganda, and a raw silk scarf made in Cambodia by recovering victims of human trafficking. Our daughter opened her gifts and cried as she read the backstory about the women who crafted them. She said it was the "best gift ever" and I knew she meant it.

Yobel Market will be here at Sisters Coffee Company on Sunday, December 20th for an event you won't want to miss. Come see for yourself these special (and extremely affordable) items that help bring hope to the hopeless.

Live music will be provided by Shane Simonsen. A short documentary film by Zion Pictures will introduce you to Canaan Farm, a transitional farm providing healing and hope to the child soldiers and families who have suffered from the LRA conflict in northern Uganda.

Come for a memorable evening celebrating hope. If you haven't "caught the Christmas spirit" yet, this should do the trick.

An evening of film, music and fair trade gifts that inspire awareness and promote justice
Date: Sunday, December 20, 2009
Time: 7:00pm - 8:30pm 
Location: Sisters Coffee Company
Map and Directions

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dad’s Dream: A Tale of Two Houses

Thanks so much to St. Petersburg, Florida Kitchen Designer, Paul Anater, for inviting me to guest post for his blog Kitchen and Residential Design during his absence. The piece I’ve written is far more sentimental and estrogen-infused than his normal fare, so I’ve been second guessing the whole idea. I suppose I could have written about my specialty, Kitchen Design. But since my dad passed away thirty years ago this month I have been spending a lot of time revisiting some old memories, especially those surrounding our living spaces. So here I go, with a little Christmas tribute to my dad:


My dad, the electronics professor with the teasing wit and clip-on bow tie, had a manuscript for a college textbook to complete and three noisy rug rats underfoot.  “We’ll go to the country for the summer,” he must have said to Mom. So they rented a seven-bedroom, turn of the century, Dutch Colonial farmhouse in a small town nestled on the upland slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains. It was 1969.

Brown House 
The house itself was decrepit, with advanced plumbing issues. I can remember turning a squeaky faucet handle and observing the slow oozing of rusty goo into a wall-mount lavatory. It was minimally furnished, most notably for me with a record player and stack of albums which included The Ventures, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass and The Beach Boys. There were clawfoot tubs, cold linoleum floors and secret passageways. It was absolutely wonderful; and it was here that we all huddled around our black-and-white console TV to watch a grainy image of Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon.

Christmas 1968
While we kids were enamored with the house and the space to run, Dad was enamored with the close proximity of his beloved redwoods. These are graceful, velvet-barked, tilt-your-head-back-and-try-to-find-the-top kinds of trees. On many Sundays after church we would be treated to dipped cones at Foster Freeze, then a drive through the dense, moist, redwood forests of California’s Coastal Range.

Summer rolled into fall and it became clear that we weren’t ever going back to Monterey. Dad bought several acres of future paradise on a steep hillside with a lush valley view and never finished the manuscript.

For the next five years he was a man with a plan and a long commute to teach year-round plus some night classes. Our occasional vacations meant piling into the Ambassador station wagon (without seatbelts) to visit family, with stops to tour model homes: A-Framed, chalet-style mountain retreats. Dad’s enthusiasm was contagious, and we had all caught it.

So when the framing eventually went up, we were totally engaged with the process. I think this is why even today I adore the sweet scent of sawdust on a jobsite or in a cabinet shop. Miraculously my sister and I, as teenagers, were able to agree on one thing: our new bedroom would have lavender walls and chartreuse shag carpet. Deep shag. Life held such promise; we each had ample closet space for our bell bottoms and wrap-around skirts and plenty of wall space for our fuzzy black-light posters. Dad fashioned swinging saloon-style doors to separate the toilet space from our long, double vanity.

scan0019 Dad's Dream House

All of the cabinetry was birch plywood with a simple, flat door, routed on the back side to lip over the face frame. Outfitted with the latest Harvest Gold appliances, the galley kitchen stretched no more than ten feet long. Mom chose sunflower gold tile for the countertops and a happy blue and yellow vinyl flooring. There was no microwave of course. We didn’t know we needed microwaves in the 70’s.

There was, however, a small appliance that truly christened the kitchen of our A-framed chalet in the redwoods. On our first Christmas in the new house, Auntie Midgie and Uncle Owen presented my parents with the latest innovation: a Joe DiMaggio-endorsed, Mr. Coffee automatic drip coffeemaker that eventually gurgled and brewed to everyone’s delight. But Dad “wrote the book” on electronics, so he didn’t need directions. When his first coffee-brewing efforts were met without success, Dad proclaimed in his most professorial voice that there was obviously “too much turbulence in the scupper hole." This would become a family mantra of sorts for all future technical difficulties.

Mr Coffee sm
Uncle Owen admires the Mr. Coffee.  (Mom & Dad are on the right)
And so just as Dad had dreamed, this A-Framed abode with its pointed nose of window glass, extensive redwood decking and mountain charm, sat in harmony with its environs. And a gregarious, hard-working man realized a dream.

Less than two years later, before the new-house smell had even gone, Dad learned that he had lung cancer. Our family went into survival mode and tried to reconcile that what once felt like a shiny new beginning was now the beginning of the end. My courageous dad tried to go back to work for awhile with just one lung. He loved a few things even more than the redwoods...teaching for one, family for another.

Just before Dad passed, he briefly came out of a semi-comatose state and with a sense of urgency asked us to sing a hymn, In The Garden. My mom, Auntie Midgie and I sang it very poorly, but Dad's eyes and ears seemed to be witnessing something infinitely more angelic. Here is the last verse:

I'd stay in the garden with Him,
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go, through the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He left us, there in his redwood paradise. He had pursued the things he loved. As I squeamishly approach the age my dad was when he bought that piece of property(!), I appreciate ever more deeply the lifestyle he modeled. He is still teaching. He’s teaching us to journey to discover our own unique dreams, the ones that are so divinely designed that they inspire a hope that propels us to act, and a joy that’s contagious.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Today is a gift; that’s why they call it the present.”

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Kitchen Make-Over, Hollywood Style

Christmas Day brings the release of what promises to be another feast-for-your-eyes romantic comedy from writer/director Nancy Meyers, who also brought us Something's Gotta Give and The Holiday. Meryl Streep stars as a bakery owner who is undergoing a kitchen remodel while caught in a love triangle with her ex-husband (Alec Baldwin, who we all love to hate) and her architect (Steve Martin).

I'll have to seriously multi-task to watch Meryl while also taking in every inch of the set design. Traditional Home has a slideshow of the set that reveals styling much like Streep herself: gracefully casual, warm but sophisticated. Her character's bakery provides a canvas for the same food stylist that provided culinary gewgaw for Julie & Julia.

The kitchen looks open and uniquely eclectic. I can't wait to have a better view and discover where the rest of the storage is! The exposed hinges and inset grids (metal? cane?)in the cabinet door panels are interesting choices.
If I could have one Christmas wish, It's Complicated will be rated PG-13 rather than R; but alas, I can always focus on the scenery.

View Traditional Home's slideshow here
View the movie trailer here
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