Monday, January 31, 2011


For the past 21 days, my husband and I have participated in a Daniel Fast organized by our church. We didn't eat meat, dairy, sweets, bread or drink anything but water and juiced fruits and vegetables. We were faithful and learned to enjoy all kinds of vegan dishes. I didn't miss a thing... except my morning coffee. Oh my, it was tough! I learned that it wasn't necessarily the coffee itself, it was the routine of my day that was changed. It wasn't the taste of the coffee, it was the comfort of holding my favorite mug, starting the day with it, feeling warmed by it. Of course I had the headaches for the first three days, but after that, it really wasn't about withdrawal, I just missed it - like I miss good friends.

Today is the first day post-fasting and yes, I am sitting here with my coffee. The aroma, the flavor, the warmth! My husband says I don't really taste the coffee because I add a flavored creamer (vanilla-caramel!) but I taste what I like in my big old mug! Somehow, I was even more comfortable in my devotions today. I know meeting with the Lord in the morning isn't about coffee but He must like it too because our early morning communion was so cozy and comfortable today.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fabulous Drivers

I find myself reading several blogs from people who live and work in Haiti. We lived a big chunk of our lives in that part of the world and still have many wonderful friends and co-workers who minister among these resilient people. One of the blogs I enjoy is from a couple who have a large family and often share fun family challenges. The one I just read was about their daughter getting her first lesson driving a stick. That brought back some great memories!

Both our boys learned to drive in Haiti. Their dad taught them, for obvious reasons. Not only is he a great driver but he is very calm, a skill that is quite important when teaching teenagers to drive... in a place like Haiti! Our first born learned quickly and after one really scary accident, became more than just a good driver - he's a great one! Our second son learned even faster (since his brother and he would sneak out with the jeep) and didn't have his horribly scary accident until he was in the states.

One thing we decided right away was that both boys would have to take driver's training in the states for several reasons. Even though they were great drivers, Haiti is so unique that there were things that could not be learned. The law: well, I'm sure there are driving laws in Haiti but I'm not sure what they are, nor apparently, is any one else. Signage: it is important to be able to follow street signs and directional signs - something not required in Haiti since there aren't many to follow. The Kamikaze Technique: while it is a gift and talent in Haiti (weaving, dodging, using whatever lane is available), it can result in a big ticket in the states. Speed limits: there is little need of speed limits in Haiti; the roads are so bad that no one can drive too fast. But in the states, our boys loved to put their foot down!

As a result, the summer of their 16th birthdays, each son made the trip home to the states for summer school driver's training. The first born did a great job and got his license the first try. The second born showed up for class, was doing just fine and then went on his first drive. The instructor was very complimentary of his skill and told him that he had only had one other student, four years prior, who was as proficient the first time out. Then he said, "Come to think of it, he had red hair like you but he was from some other country..." to which younger son asked, "Haiti?" The instructor looked at him, startled, and replied in the affirmative, asking how he knew that. And the younger son replied, "That was my brother." A long discussion followed about life in Haiti and driving and the instructor stated that he thought all teens should learn to drive in Haiti. By the way, second son also got his license on the first try.

I have to agree that all teens should go to Haiti, or some other third-world nation, but not to learn to drive! One of the best ways for kids to learn to appreciate their blessings, to care about others and try to make a difference in the world, is to show up in a place like Haiti and do something to make it better. I still remember Shauna who came at age 15. After her two-week stay, she announced that she was never going to complain about anything again in her life. And I do believe she was changed by her experiences with the Haitian people. It's hard to avoid it. I bet there are many parents of somewhat spoiled kids who would love to have a child who learned to appreciate what it meant to be well fed, well clothed, well educated, and also know that someday - with a little hard work - a decent job would be possible. And I know for a fact that there are hundreds of thousands of Haitian parents who work harder than anyone can imagine and will never be able to provide that for their children. It isn't fair but it is a fact.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I left school about five minutes later than allowed so I could stand in the sunshine. Ahhh... I'm so tired of rain right now. I know the NE is tired of snow but I'd take snow - at least it's bright! I don't wish for tropical weather; I never did. I loved the Caribbean from December - March and after that, it just was too hot for me to appreciate the sunshine. I'm sure that's because I was raised in this rainy town; I like cooler temps. I know we will only have a couple days of this nicer weather and then the rain will return so I think I'll head outside. Seems like a good idea to enjoy it while we have it!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunshine, Ocean Waves, Family

What a great weekend! It took us a while to pack up everything we needed for our ocean beach get-away but we were able to leave the house before our 5:30 target and we made great time, arriving by 8 o'clock that night. Our three grandkiddos were standing on the upper deck, cheering as we pulled into the driveway. The house we stayed in was originally owned by the child star, Darla, from Little Rascals-Our Gang Comedy. It has passed through a variety of family members and is now owned by someone living in the Tacoma area. The house is quite mid-century modern, very open and comfortable. Someone had the brilliant idea of adding on a sun-room that completely opens the view on three sides. Gorgeous!

We played on the beach for a long time on Saturday, and ultimately, got hit by a big ole sneaker - a series of small waves that joined together to be bigger and faster than we expected. I had Sierra by the hand, running with her toward shore, when I realized that I'd better pick her up or she was going to be washed over. I grabbed her into my arms, still truckin' when T reached for her. I was glad to hand her over as my stability in the water, while looking down at its movement, is not the best. Sierra was pretty wet and not a bit happy! Both T and I had water cascade over our boots so it was time to walk back home. We were heading toward the trail when T spotted a kelp whip and began to play with it. Kayla wanted a turn and did well. Then Colton got a hold of it. In the process of whipping sideways, he nailed his face and ear. Not a good move. We held the sobbing boy for a while so he could regain control. A short walk later, clothes changed and in the washer, we all relaxed and played and snoozed the day away. That evening, we insisted that our son take his wife out to dinner for her birthday while we babysat the kids. They had a great evening and we played table games and watched cartoons most of the evening with the three adorables plus their dog, Scout.

After packing up and cleaning a bit, we left Sunday around 11, headed to Cape Disappointment. We decided against hiking up to the lighthouse as the trail was muddy as well as rated difficult. We chose to hike up to the interpretive center and the ruins of Ft. Canby instead. That was a smart choice. All three kids were beat! Sierra didn't think she could make it back to the car, walking down a paved path. We said our good-byes in the parking lot and headed home.

We have told ourselves repeatedly that we need to get away like this more often, but somehow it just doesn't happen. We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. We simply must take the time to enjoy it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Too Sad!

Some things just don't seem right! Early last year I wrote about not being exempt from suffering and specifically requested prayer for little Susana. For a long time, Susana did so well. She went through one procedure after another and was just getting so healthy. All of a sudden, things headed the wrong direction, so much so that Susana is looking toward heaven soon. My heart just breaks for these parents, people I don't even know but I ache for them. Please, please pray for Susana and her family. I don't know how but if she is not to be healed on this earth, may she pass gently into the arms of Jesus.

My connection to this family is Haiti. No, they weren't there during our eighteen year tenure; they were only there a few months before they realized they had a very sick little girl. Even as they have cared for their baby, they have continued to support their ministry with direction and occasional trips in country. When they return to Haiti, as I imagine they will, there will be three of them, not four. Isabela, age six or seven, will return without her little sister and playmate. May God rain down his blessings of healing on this little family and allow that those around them will truly be the support and encouragement that they need. God have mercy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fun weekend ahead!

Have I mentioned that I love my girls? My dad had thirteen brothers and three sisters; mom had two brothers. I have four brothers; my husband has two brothers. And we have two sons. I was so excited when our firstborn brought a lovely California girl home to meet us! Our first daughter has a birthday this weekend and she has planned an ocean-beach get-away that includes us! I find that absolutely amazing. We will head out on Friday, sometime after school, and not come home until sometime on Sunday. This will be fun; I am so glad that our sons married well! Happy Birthday to my dear Kassie on Saturday! You bless our lives!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What does one say?

It's interesting that many of my friends/acquaintances in Haiti have little to say on their blogs or Facebook posts about current events in Haiti. There's a lot going on down there these days. Jean-Claude Duvalier got his tush hauled off to the Attorney General's office - wherever that is - and as yet, I haven't heard the outcome. My guess is they'll ship him out without his suitcase! But I do understand the predicament of living in the place that is blowing up over one thing after another. Either one is hesitant to say anything because of repercussions or just plain tired of all the chaos.

Speaking of chaos, my 8th graders today (shake head wearily) were not demonstrating any level of self-control. Tomorrow they start novel studies so I'm hoping they'll improve. They like doing this. Well, it's 5:25 and I still have journals to grade. Time to get cracking.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Quiet Comforts

Today was a day-off from school. MLK, Jr. Day. My hubby and I had a slow start to the day but once we got going, we got quite a bit done. Our garage has looked like a collection site for a while. From my mother to T's brother to our kids, people have given us things to share with others. We also have cleaned out a lot of very good but seldom-used items of our own and today - it was time. We filled the back of the Explorer and headed out to share the goodness. I still have one large bag of beautiful draperies in the back of the SUV that I will give to one of my colleagues tomorrow. It's destined for her in-laws who had their house burn down 18 months ago and are now in a new home. They still need a lot of stuff so we help when we can.

Then it was time to grocery shop. Since this is not one of my favorite activities, I tend to just rush through things. Now that we're on this fast, it takes a lot more thought and label-reading. We began at the Top Food store, which has beautiful produce and a ton of organic foods. Then we went to Trader Joe's, which was mobbed! We kept searching for mint at Bayview Market, and although they didn't have any, they did have a great little deli where we had vegetable soup, cole slaw, and hummus for lunch while gazing out the big picture windows at Puget Sound and the snow-covered Olympic Mountains. Such beauty! Heading closer to home, we found mint at Ralph's Thriftway and continued on to Lowe's to search out chandelier lightbulbs and door-stoppers. I know, big spenders! One more stop at Costco for water, nuts, dried fruit, and gas, and we were finally able to head home.

Both of us snoozed by the fire for a bit and then I made a new recipe, Easy Creamy Cilantro Penne. It was so good! I have been finding more ideas for our meals in the Vegan section of the web-based recipe sites. I used organic whole-grain penne for this recipe.

Our tranquil evening continued, reading by the fire. We sat in our living room, fire burning, and read for three quiet hours. I would say silent but we had music playing. It was lovely. I've started tracking the books I'm reading in 2011, something I haven't done before. Tonight I finished rereading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson. I want to encourage a few of my students to give it a try but it had been so long since I had been through it that I thought I'd better give it a read. Love it still. So here's what I've read so far this year:

1. Essays 1: First Series - Ralph Waldo Emerson (love Emerson!)
2. Stuck in the Middle (Sister to Sister) by Virginia Smith (Christian fiction: so-so)
3. Deeper Water by Robert Whitlow (Christian mystery: okay)
4. Hide in Plain Sight by Marta Perry (Christian mystery, based in Amish country: I really liked it)
5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (for the 50th time, still love it!)
6. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (brilliant!)
7. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson (magic!)

I'm also in the middle of a YA civil war novel... cannot remember the title for the life of me, but it is going to be a good choice for the novel studies starting tomorrow. I started reading it at school last Wednesday and haven't been able to get back to it. I have several of Jane Austen's works that I want to read again as well as many other classics that I'm eager to re-visit. This is comfort food, just like penne pasta and a fire in the fireplace. A perfect day.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that Jean-Claude Duvalier has returned to Haiti. His father was vicious; sometimes I think Jean-Claude was just young and stupid. I mean, he became president of Haiti at age 19. I think we all know he wasn't calling the shots - literally or figuratively. I still remember George S saying that the day would come when people would be begging for JCD to come back. While talking with one of my colleagues last week, I made the comment that I didn't think every country benefited from democracy. I think countries with decades of incredible, demoralizing disaster (like Haiti) would benefit from a benevolent dictatorship or monarchy... maybe a constitutional monarchy. I was as down on the entire Duvalier clan as anyone when I first arrived in Haiti in 1988 but now... after more than twenty years of corrupt, greedy, thieving presidents... I'm not as critical as I once was. The country was clean and people could eat when the Duvaliers were in charge. I know they did a lot of horrible stuff, but seriously, which one of the many presidents hasn't done the same? And now, even before the earthquake, the country is a mess and people are starving in unprecedented numbers. I don't know. I am confused about the entire scene. I know there will be many, many people who welcome him with open arms and about a 100 times more who want to lynch the guy. I hope he knows what he's doing, coming back at this time. Everything is such a mess, physically, politically, economically... I just hope his presence doesn't make everything worse. It just seems as though Haiti can't catch a break. One crisis after another. Oh well, more to pray about while hoping for the best.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Respect Fasting

I'm here to tell you that following the Daniel Fast is not for wimps! Oh my goodness. Day one I experienced one of the worst headaches of my life! I'm quite sure it was a lack of coffee that was killing me. I went through two days of pretty intense headaches. By day three, there was just a slight residue of pain and now, the headache is gone. However, I've had some muscle pain (probably a lack of protein) and some tummy issues but it's all okay. I did find something that makes my heart sing or my tummy warble.... avocados with pear vinaigrette. Oh yummy! From my first days living in the tropics, avocados became one of my favorite foods. They grow big ones down in the islands! I still remember walking through the markets in Fort-de-France, Martinique and seeing huge baskets full of gigantic avocados. No joke, half of one was a big meal! Here in the Northwest, we get the little California avocados. They taste pretty good, especially with my pear vinaigrette. Yum! And they are quite filling, essential when following a prescribed fasting regime. I eat no meat, no dairy, no coffee/tea/soda, no bread. This will probably not become a lifestyle but I have discovered a lot of new foods that we are enjoying so I don't know that we'll ever be big meat eaters again. Although, come to think of it, I can't remember the last time we had any meat other than chicken or hamburger. We used to eat steaks regularly but I haven't fixed one since last summer when we had company over for a BBQ. Anyway, it isn't easy to give up the sweets and the coffee. I really don't miss much else but I will be so thrilled to get my morning java back in my hands... in February!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I don't know how to write about what happened in Haiti a year ago. A ton of emotions rush through me just remembering. Horrific is the best word I can find to describe what we saw on television. Helpless is the one that describes how we felt watching it. My husband and I lived in Haiti for twelve years then moved to Miami. For six more years, we kept a house in Haiti and would go back for a month to six weeks about four or five times a year. We lived through all kinds of disasters, hurricanes and such, but never, ever, anything like what happened in Haiti last year. As we sat in our recliners, in our comfortable home, we felt like dirt. We knew the language and my husband knew every rock in that country, but we were of no help to anyone. Neither of us can do more than put a bandaid on a bo-bo. So we prayed and talked to people who wanted to help. Then facebook became more than a social network. It became a lifeline. We were able to contact people in Haiti via facebook and give them contact info for people who had serious resources that they were willing to give to Haiti. My seven years of teaching at my sons' school was a tremendous benefit as I connected with former students who were in the hospitals, at the airport, coming and going from the DR to Haiti. It was all we could do so we did it. We know it helped a lot with immediate needs. But now, a year later, it doesn't seem like it was much help at all. So much is undone, broken, destroyed. So many are homeless, broken, hurting. My heart hurts for those I know and love who live in Haiti, who cannot go somewhere else for a new beginning, who cannot leave to take a break from the stress of that life, who must keep putting one foot in front of the other and surviving. Haitians survive. Oh how I wish they could thrive instead.

Sunday, January 09, 2011


Our church is calling its members, those who wish to participate, to a 21-day fast. That's a long fast. It comes from the book of Daniel in the Old Testament. I have never done this before but my husband and I have committed to participate in this event. It begins tomorrow and ends the 31st. Before we made this commitment, I went to the store and bought big quantities of meat and chicken. I don't really enjoy grocery shopping so buying in quantities allows me to avoid this task. Now it will sit in my freezer for three weeks. Today I stocked up on vegetables and fruits, soups and whole grain foods. It's a lot cheaper than meat but of course, cheap is not the reason for the fast. We desire to see God accomplish something important during this year and in order for that to happen, we have to change. The focus cannot be on someone else finally getting it together and realizing that we were right all along... ha! If God is going to change someone, it will need to be me.

Search me, Know me
Try me and see
Every worthless affection
Hidden in me
All I'm asking for
Is that You'd cleanse me Lord

Create in me a heart that's clean
Conquer the power of secret shame
Come wash away the guilty stain of all my sin

Clothe me in robes of righteousness
Cover my nakedness with grace
All of my life before you now I humbly bring

That's what this fast is all about. It just happens that it will begin the week of Haiti's earthquake anniversary. A second area of focus for us will be a miracle for Haiti. It is long overdue... but of course, that's just my opinion, although many would probably agree with me.

A third point for me will be generational salvation. My father-in-law once told me that he was praying for my grandchildren, for their salvation. My sons (his grandsons) were little boys at the time. He told me it would be my job to pray for my grandchildren's children. I want to do that for I have five wonderful grandchildren who have the potential to change the world for Christ. I want to pray for the generations to come that they would know Jesus and would be known by Him.

So we will fast, we will pray, and God will be at work - in us and through us - this I pray.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Grocery Store Encounter

I'm one of those people you meet in the grocery store check-out who chats with strangers. I know, it's weird, but I meet so many interesting people that way! For example, I left school late last night, after 5 o'clock on any Friday night is late! I needed to stop by the store because I had no coffee creamer and no fruit left in the house, two essentials for my life. I was setting my purchases on the belt and dropped the avocado. I picked it up off the floor and set it back on the belt, announcing there was no sense getting a different one because that one was going to be guacamole that night. The lady beside me started talking about avocados, then we talked about oranges and I realized she was not the 'normal' African American that I meet from time to time. I told her that she knew far more about oranges than most Americans and asked her what country she called home. She said Ivory Coast and I replied, "Oh, Côte d'Ivoire, I have friends who live there." We were instant friends. We talked about tropical fruits and vegetables, I mentioned Haiti where we lived for 12 years + 6 years (off and on), and then politics came up. Third World Politics. As we walked out of the store, chatting away in French, we spoke of the underlying reason politicians can't seem to walk away when they lose. Simultaneously we each said, "Money." They want access to the international money. Sigh... I'm such an idealist. I want to elect people (everywhere) who truly desire to help the needy in their countries. But life has changed from those first days of the people's choice and now one must be a multi-millionaire or have access to someone else's millions in order to mount a political campaign. I seriously wish leadership was more about service and less about money and fame. It's not going to happen so I will just be glad about my wealth of relationships, including those born in a grocery store.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Poetry Friday: My Favorite Winter Poem

I've gotten out of the habit of Poetry Friday, even in my classroom. Before Christmas break, I read aloud A Christmas Carol to my 8th graders and we watched the George C. Scott (Scrooge) version of the movie. I worked my 7th graders half to death then did my Children's Holiday Book contest the last three days of class. I have a huge pile of Christmas and Hanukkah books that the students read and rate. It's a lot of fun and since many of the books are poetic in nature, I don't do my Poetry Friday that week. So after a long break, today I shared Robert Frost's "Stopping By The Woods On a Snowy Evening" with my 7th graders. I love that poem! It is my favorite Winter poem. I also handed out "Woods in Winter" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to my 8th graders. Love that one too. But here's the favorite:

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost (1923)
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


After days of bitter cold, the rains have returned to Washington state. Something must happen with the barometric pressure that makes me want to sleep because I can barely keep my eyes open. Just talked to another teacher, same thing - called my hubby, same thing. So, an hour and a half of school, a hour of staff meeting, and then Home Again - and a nap! Bliss!

Monday, January 03, 2011

First 2011 School Day

And yes, I am tired! It doesn't help that I'm still a bit jet-lagged from our Israel trip, nor that I have a deep, hacking cough that woke me up at 3:30 this morning and didn't let me go back to sleep at all. Also, this year for the first time, my 7th graders did not meet their reading goals. This group baffles me. Teaching in a private school usually leads to a greater percentage of high-performing students. Roughly one-third of my 7th graders received zeros today. That is so discouraging! Not one of my 8th graders did that, not this year and not last year when they were 7th graders, but this group is quite an unusual bunch. I chewed them out pretty thoroughly but it felt like I was getting the old water off a duck's back attitude. It is their loss. Several have very low grades and the semester ends in less than three weeks. Guess we'll see what happens next. Normally third quarter is the lowest grading period of the year; I am hoping it won't get any lower this year! Well, the sun is shining and it's supposed to rain tomorrow so I think I'll head outside, even though it's cold, and see if I can get some vitamin D!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Home Again in 2011

After a whirlwind ten days in Israel, we are home again in Washington state. It's 38* outside and sunny. I really need to go to the grocery store but I'm having a hard time getting out of the house! The weather in Israel was spectacular, high 60s to low 70s every day which makes it difficult to adjust to the cold around here. Best of all, we were able to spend these ten days with two fabulous little kids, Gracie and Eliott. Oh how I miss them already! In addition to playing with our adorable little redheads, we walked many miles in Israel, including several uneven cobbled alleyways behind the walls of Bethlehem, a rocky shore on the Sea of Galilee between Tiberius and Capernaum, and a sandy beach of the Mediterranean near Caesarea. Amazing, it was totally amazing!