A Poignant Story in a Rain Shower

Up where I work, it’s a drier micro-climate. There always seems to be plenty of sun, wind, and nice days.

This afternoon, a squall rolled through.

The smell of rain on dry soils and sidewalks brought a memory back to me, powerfully. Being of a certain age, I seem to have a number of stories which need to be told. And this is one of them.

My Mom died of metastatic breast cancer, back in 1978. The cure was worse than the disease, then.

It was to be her last trip to the hospital, and my Dad of course was there to lock the house behind them, and then to follow them to the hospital.

You need to know that my Mom was a person of the outdoors. She loved camping, she loved the outdoors; if nothing more than to sit and watch Nature being Nature. She was an accomplished gardener, with the beds around each of our houses making all into showplaces. Color and texture, variety of height and presentation, those were abundant in the art she applied to living plants, both inside and out. She was one of the region’s premiere flower show judges, and to have her frequent flower arrangements in the house brought a touch of the genius of design with an eye to natural presentation, so very unlike some of the ‘flower arrangements’ available at flower shops.

A person of the outdoors. A person who enjoyed the look of Nature, and being out in Nature.

Because of her disease, she had been trapped in the house for some time, with some trips to the hospital. And now she was going to the hospital for the last time. The attendants tenderly placed her on the gurney, and gently rolled her out the front door, to exit the house that she and my Dad had built; going out the front door for the very last time.

And suddenly, it began to rain. Not a drizzle, not a deluge, but one of those rains which spot your clothes and give you wet polka-dots. The attendants said to her, “We’ll hurry, we’ll keep you from getting wet”.

“No, wait,” she said. “I want to feel the rain on my face.”

And so they stood for several minutes in the rain, those normally in-a-hurry ambulance attendants with my Mom; and my Dad standing patiently nearby. And my Mom got to feel the rain on her face for one last time.

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So I very seldom anymore complain about the rain.

Nor do I try too awfully hard to duck in out of it.

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Stop, Listen, and … Be

Today, and in a greater sense, this weekend, has been more than a whirlwind. 

Saturday was our church cleanup day; and I am so humbled every time by those who come selflessly to help, and by the amazing results of the work of everyone’s hands.

Our 93+ year-old building gets spruced-up, both inside and out. And as the Property guy on Council, I have to say that the old girl looks great. 

One of the things I personally have a burden to do is wax the hand-touch areas in the sanctuary: this is the tops of the pews, the ends, the assist rails that are on the steps to the altar; and the communion rail. And this time, l had a helper from the Scout troop that we support, and things went faster.

It’s just that when these small, seemingly insignificant things are waxed, people are better protected against germ transfer, and besides, it makes things look nice and welcoming.

It is truly a quiet labour of love; I do not seek, nor acknowledge, recognition, for this work. I note it here only to show that it has been done. But it’s done, in spite of the protestations from my knees.

Then today, we did our taxes. This is much later than usual. But they’re done. May I say, Stressful…

Tonight, there’s rain in the area, keeping me in. And the physical and mental stress of this weekend would ask me to focus on just that, rather than on what is in front of me: the cold,wet wind rushing breathlessly through the trees, the bluntness of the wet-cold outside; the freshness of it all. It is here, reminding me that all I have to do is choose to look up and see God’s reminders in nature around me that God IS, GOD IS!!

When things look down, look up.

Do not lose sight of what is all around you.

That Daily Challenge

 

Challenges are a part of life.
Sometimes it’s just
the act of getting up after pressing ‘snooze’ only once …
and sometimes
it’s soldiering on when
things hurt
and ache
and protest every move.

But the challenges call to us
begging us to meet them;
things we do, because we must.

Sometimes
these are great and spectacular things;
for instance, my (much younger) work colleagues have a different challenge: biking that trail, running those miles today…
and sometimes
the challenges are quieter, subtler;
but no less of an obstacle when seen from the right viewpoint:

one more day in defiance of the obstacles presented by aging,
helping another deliberately turn away from crossing into the despair of a chronic illness.

We are made for Hope;
we are made for answering
‘Yes’ to God,
the spark of life within us
unquenchable.

The call for each of us
is unique,
an encounter to be met
in the way that we are the one person who is equipped to meet it.

 

I still go out every night to heed that call;
out to read,
out to pray,
out to think,
out to be quiet
and know that He alone is God.

But sometimes I feel a reluctance;
the weather is harsh, inclement, cold wind-chill numbers;
I’m going to get cold and wet, and my arthritic fingers are going to hurt.
But I go.
For a few minutes, at least.
And after coming in, I reconcile myself to the sunroom
where it’s warmer and I can still feel a part of outside.
And I had a reward:
the warm indigo tones of an Alpenglow.

(I caught the colors in a way that shows how sometimes you have to fool the camera’s sensor).

But now I’m inside, my fingers are warmed up and working, and God is as just as present here as everywhere else. 

Acts 17:27-28:

27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

Please help me solve a 54-year-old Cooking Mystery…

I was Sitting the Sunset tonight, and in parsing the things which are important in this, my short life; I remembered an old mystery:

Good, powdered, scrambled eggs…

Wait… What…?!

A contradiction in terms? Not so!!

Now, the back story:

In 1963, I was privileged to attend an experimental school camp for children of my age.

We spent a week at Mayfield Youth Camp (which seems to have changed direction from secular to Christian, and wow has it changed), learning about our environment, how The Forest is a part of our existence, and about all the living things around us.

Yes. Wait…

Before you think that this is some liberal touchy-feely thing, think about this: we lived in the very heart of redneck logging country; but everyone here knew and understood that proper forest management was key to not only our livelihood, but to that of future generations. We even had classes about Forestry as a part of our standard school curriculum.

That’s how important it was.

So enough people of this discipline thought it was important enough to spend the money to send us to Camp to immerse us in The Forest, and to pass on to us their love and respect and care for The Forest. And this camp experiment was an add-on to all those classes and field-trips.

I got it. And I still have it today.

Now then:

Every other morning, we had these MOST AMAZING scrambled eggs. Literally, these were the BEST I’ve ever had in my life! But they were so different from any eggs I’d EVER had!

They were buttery, sweet, smooth… They caressed the pallet. They were light, full of love, full of the essence of egg. They stole my heart, by awakening my love for food.

Yes, they were THAT good.

And I’ve been trying to duplicate this wonderful taste and texture, ever since.

Yes, I’ve come up with some great stuff, like adding Ranch to scrambled eggs, but I have never, ever, matched this amazing taste and texture…

Okay, now to the one and only clue in this mystery: my Dad (a WWII veteran), knew who the cook was. And he said, “He probably reconstituted them with cream.”

Well, yeah? And? …but that’s all I have.

This means that the cook started with the powdered eggs of the time, and used some sort of magic in reconstituting them.

But WHAT did he do? I’ve never been able to duplicate it. I’ve started with King Arthur’s powdered eggs. Yes, I’ve tried reconstituting the eggs with cream. And various other things. But nothing works.

Herein lies our mystery.

Intrigued? It’s a challenge of cooking!

Please feel free to post any ideas!

Would it not be wonderful to share with others, this Divinity of great scrambled eggs? And for others to have this amazing experience?

Thank you, from the depths of gratitude for a long-time mystery solved.

Thankful to be working from home after a heavy snow

The last few days, we’ve had some little bit of snow; just enough to show an inch or two. Nothing to keep me from going to work.

But beginning yesterday morning, we got SNOW!! Thinking it would abate (like the rest has), I got in the car and went to work. After noon, my wife called to tell me that it was really beginning to pile up. “Oh? How much?” “About eight inches! And it’s still coming down like crazy!”

I made arrangements to work from home, and left as immediately as possible.

Good thing I did.

I commute via the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge, and although the crews do a valiant job of keeping the roads clear, it was obvious that they were beginning to fall behind. As I approached Mount Pleasant, (where the infamous Cape Horn overlook is located), I saw 40 cars in a long, slow-moving snake; all of them were following a number of semi-trucks that were going no more than 20 MPH.

I hadn’t wanted to drive Canyon Creek Road.

Most times of the year, it’s a beautiful, pleasant drive, especially in the fall; with all the big hardwood trees. But in winter, it shows a mean, nasty side: it’s narrow-shouldered, twisty, and dead-scary when it’s icy. The road drops off steeply on one side (into Canyon Creek), and there are NO guardrails. It doesn’t get any sunlight in the winter, and so if it gets icy, it stays that way. But the choice was to take another hour to get home, or drive it. So I turned up Salmon Falls Road on my way there, and saw that at least it didn’t look too bad. I began to relax a bit.

Turning onto Canyon Creek Road, it looked as good as Salmon Falls. So far, so good; maybe this will be okay after all…

Then I came round the corner which takes you into the deeper woods.

And the road disappeared.

There was about a foot of fresh snow, and no tire tracks from the ‘wanna-be-monster-trucks’ that are prevalent out this way. Nothing to guide me.

Two choices at this point: Turn around (risking going off into the canyon) or keep on. It was only about three miles to the main road at the other end of Canyon Creek, so I spoke a quick prayer for guidance, and settled back, settled down, and remembered all those country roads I drove in the fresh snow in times past. There are subtle signs in the landscape that will guide you, if you can be aware of them. This all came back to me in a moment of calmness, and so I carried onward.

And no, this is no time to be fiddling with the cellphone and trying to get a picture. If you want a simulation, look at a piece of paper on the long edge, and then bend it into a gentle S-shape. The upward flow of the S is the canyon wall continuing upward, the sort-of-flat portion of the S in front of you is about where the road should be; and the downward portion of the S is the bank falling into the canyon.

No guardrails.

There’s a certain quiet beauty in making the first tracks down a deserted country road. I relaxed into that, and kept my confidence in the car and in those abilities which I had been given and had practiced.

(Meanwhile, Subaru: this would be a great commercial for you guys.)

I eventually turned onto the main road from Canyon Creek Road; only a few more miles of driving the River Ravine and I’d be home. Meanwhile, I could tell that it was still snowing lightly, although the trees overhead were catching most of it. Once I came up out of the River Ravine and more onto the mountain where we live, I saw that I’d underestimated it: it was still snowing like mad.

Thank you Lord for getting me home safely. Glory to your name, Jehovah-Rohi…

And this morning I was up pretty much at first light to start working from home. Dara was happy to be out, frolicking in the deep snow. I could get an accurate gauge on the depth, then: Above her chest in the deep spots where it’d drifted (2′), and below her chest where the wind had scavenged it (18″). The “Dog-Gauge for snow depth” is pretty accurate, since it’s sampled from all over the meadow.

I grabbed a photo from the kitchen window, and I’ll attach it.

Back from the Hospital

My wonderful wife came home from the hospital a week ago. Thank you, Lord!

This intervening week has been a whirlwind of emotions and ‘stuff to get done’. I’m so glad to have her back; she was there for ten days.

But what put her there was an interactive combination of two things – her Congestive Heart Failure, and acute diverticulitis. The infection in her bowel made her weaker and weaker; it occurred and then worsened over a long period of time, quietly taking all her energy and thus the ability to do even the smallest things. The infection made her CHF worse, which in turn made the infection worse… but the symptoms came on so slowly and gradually that we just… did… not… notice.

What is less understood by many is that with CHF, you have to watch your weight closely – weighing every day. A sudden rise of two pounds overnight is cause for concern. And necessitates a temporary upward kick in the diuretics. So why is the water weight of concern? Because it is accumulated in the lungs, interfering with the ability to oxygenate blood. And thereby slowly suffocating the patient.

Meanwhile we are thankful that she’s better. She’s very slowly regaining strength in her legs, and is gradually doing a little bit more to help her conditioning every day.

We both thank everyone for their kind thoughts and prayers.

And we are so thankful for friends and church members who have brought by dinners, soup, and just been there for encouragement. Such things are heartening, both for their nourishment, and for lightening my load in caring.

Going forward, I’ve been seeing that smart-home items are actually improving, instead of just gaining ‘bling’ factor. I’ve invested in three items that will help: a video doorbell that has two-way audio (so she can talk to whomever might be at the door, from wherever in the house that she might be); an electronic deadbolt (so she can unlock the door for visitors and home-care folks); and an Amazon Echo (to interact with and control the two previous items). I hope to end the weekend with these all installed and working well.

“Patatah-Beta”

The best recipe is one that’s shared. This is one that was really popular with the family; it originally came from a neighbor of mine where I grew up, and I improved on it. She had quite an accent and used to call it, “Patatah-Beta” (say it as a three-syllable word), but I’m not sure where that name came from. Anyway, I used to get asked all the time to make it.

The recipe is flexible for however many people you’re feeding – whether it’s two, or two hundred. It scales perfectly, and assembles totally ‘by eye’, so you don’t need any measuring stuff, and you can therefore prepare it while you’re waiting for the coffee to finish and the bacon to cook.

The list below gives quantities for about a dozen people.

Store List:

  • 1- bag: Ore-Ida Potatoes O’Brian, or Safeway’s Southern Hash Browns; either way, make sure it’s the small cubed potatoes with the veggies mixed in
  • 1- medium bottle: Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing – full fat, not “light” or “fat free”
  • 1- 2.75 oz. bottle: McCormick “Grill Mates” Montreal Chicken Seasoning – NOTE: This is NOT Montreal Steak Seasoning! If you can’t find Montreal Chicken, skip this. A popular substitution has been McCormick’s Chipotle Chili Pepper.
  • 1- Dozen Eggs; suggest Large or Jumbos. (If you have people coming who like really soft scrambled eggs, get the pasteurized ones to protect the older folks)

Now Assemble:

  • Start frying the potatoes first. Fry the potatoes until crispy. This is the longest step in the process, but it’s key to get them completely crispy.

Meanwhile:

  • Crack all the eggs into a bowl and find a whisk.
  • Look at the eggs in the bowl, and notice the volume of the yolks. Now add the volume of two egg yolks of the Ranch Dressing (more if you like your eggs creamier), and whisk all together until combined. Set aside until the potatoes are done. (The best ratio of Ranch to eggs is the volume of one yolk per six eggs; this works no matter what the size of the eggs.) See? I told you this was by-eye.
  • Once the potatoes are done to a good crispness, add a good pinch of salt and an approximate rounded tablespoon of the Montreal Chicken Seasoning, and stir these seasonings into the potatoes to coat and distribute the seasonings. (Use a teaspoon to half tablespoon if you’re substituting the Chipotle Chili Pepper.)
  • Dump the eggs into the pan and begin stirring them in. It’s important to continue to use a bit higher heat than you normally would, so the eggs cook quickly and don’t make the potatoes soggy. This is tricky, because with the higher heat, it’s easy to scorch the eggs.
  • As soon as the eggs are cooked to your satisfaction, remove all to a warm bowl and serve.

Set out ketchup and ranch dressing as condiments.

It’s easy, feeds a crowd quick, and you can sit back and enjoy the compliments. Hope you enjoy this one.