I started this blog at the urging of friends and family in April 2010 when my husband and I were given an opportunity to relocate in Maryland for one year. We have now returned home to Arizona and continue to walk by faith as we watch God orchestrate the adventures in our lives. I invite you to share in our adventures as we watch God at work!

We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7


Tuesday, November 15

a lesson learned

When I was ten-years old, my grandmother taught me to crochet. She gave me a hook and a ball of yarn and showed me how to make a chain and then single crochet. I had dreams of making a scarf which she assured me would be a quick project.

Speed is in the eye of the beholder. As a ten-year old just learning to crochet, I tore out every row at least twice before I got it right. This scarf project was anything but quick. And it wasn't long before I lost interest, put my hook and yarn away and went on to something else - skateboarding!

Years later when I was in college, a friend was crocheting an afghan as a Christmas gift for her parents. I was intrigued as I watched her, the afghan growing ever-longer fairly quickly. Hmmm. I decided to give crocheting another try and under the patient guidance of my friend, I finished an afghan as a Christmas gift before classes and clinical began demanding all my time.

About fifteen years later, I picked up my hook and began crocheting again. Mostly I made baby blankets and donated them to Project Linus, an organization that provides homemade blankets (crocheted, knitted, quilted, ...) to children who have suffered loss or trauma. Many of the ones I made went to NICUs in the area.

Somewhere I got it in my head that I could do a project with straight rows, like a blanket or a scarf, but not a project with pieces, or something round. I don't know when or why that "belief" started but it was entrenched in my mind. I was convinced I was not a good enough crocheter to do a "complicated" project like a sweater or a round placemat so I continued making blankets.

Years later, my grandson, Nick, got two crocheted  stuffed turtles out of the "treasure box" at his school. They were well-loved as he played and slept with these two turtles until finally, one day, they wore out. The stitches couldn't hold the stuffing in any longer.

Nick called me to ask if I would make him a crocheted turtle to replace the ones that were worn out. "Please, Grandma? I know you can do that!!!"

And then, before I thought about it or even realized it, I heard myself saying, "Of course, Nick! What color do you want them to be?" After I hung up the phone, a cold sweat gripped me. What was I thinking? I couldn't do a round project with pieces to fit together!!

I had coffee with my crochet-guru friend and told her about my conversation with Nick. I was secretly hoping she would volunteer to make them, since everyone knew I couldn't do something like that. Instead, she laughed and said it was about time I try a project in the round, that I absolutely was ready for it and she would help me.

We met again a week later and she helped me get started with the pattern. I continued working on it at home and within a few days I had finished the first turtle. The second turtle was even easier and was finished in no time.

crocheted turtles

Nick, of course, was thrilled with his turtles. When I asked him why he thought I could crochet turtles when all I had done before was blankets, he replied, "Well, Grandma, why couldn't you???" with all the innocence and sincerity of a 7-year old.

Hmmmm. Out of the mouths of babes. It reminded me that I sometimes put limitations on myself when I shouldn't. What other things have I said, "I can't do that!" to and missed the joy and excitement of doing something new?

That revelation resulted in two game-changers for me. First, I don't say "I can't" unless there is a reasonable and logical reason. This requires some time to carefully, prayerfully consider the option. 

Secondly, I decided to try some new crochet projects.  Stuffed animals, potholders and even a purse stretched my comfort zone as well as my enjoyment.

crocheted animals collage
Amigurumi is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals or anthropomorphic creatures. Although popular in Japan for decades, it didn't become popular in the West until 2003.

I think my grandmother would be happy to know that the seeds she planted when she taught me the basics of crocheting not only took root but sprouted and continue to grow.

Saturday, November 5

prisoners

San Fransisco is one of my most favorite places to visit.

Golden Gate Bridge in cloud
The art deco design of the Golden Gate Bridge, the choppiness of the water, the clouds and fog, historic Fort Point built just prior to the Civil War, sailboats in the bay... just a few of the things I LOVE about San Fransisco!

While visiting San Fransisco a few weeks ago, we took a walking tour of the Golden Gate Bridge,  something I highly recommend and it's free! Our group stopped mid-span and I was able to spend a few minutes admiring the view... the downtown area, the Oakland Bay Bridge and finally, Alcatraz. 

Alcatraz


It was from that perspective that I realized just how close Alcatraz is to downtown San Fransisco. And how far away at the same time. 

The swift currents and freezing, often shark-infested, water of San Fransisco Bay made Alcatraz, aka the Rock, a perfect location for a prison. During its 29-year reign as a federal prison, Alcatraz housed 1576 prisoners. Quite a few inmates requested to be sent to Alcatraz because prisoners had a bit more "freedom" to roam around since "the Rock" was considered "escape-proof." They had an extensive library, outside areas, single person cells and much better food than most prisons.

From the outside looking in, Alcatraz probably looked pretty good, everything considered. But I wonder if once they got there, they looked at it differently. 

Prisoners could see the "City by the Bay" - the buildings, the lights, the bridges carrying people here and there. They could watch the ships, both commercial and pleasure, come and go. Unlike prisoners at other, more remote, federal prisons wth high walls around their perimeters, the Alcatraz inmates could see freedom.

I wonder if it was that constant reminder of freedom that made 36 men try to escape despite nearly impossible odds. They wanted what the people living in San Fransisco had, or at least what it looked like they had. Of the 36 escapees, 23 were caught before making it off the island, six were shot and killed during the escape, two drowned, and five were missing and presumed drowned when their belongings were found floating in the bay.

As I was walking off the Golden Gate Bridge, back to the visitor's center, I pondered this idea of freedom. And decided the escapees were chasing a misguided notion of what real freedom is. 

Sure, San Fransisco-ites have the ability to come and go as they please and can do pretty much whatever they want to. 

But real freedom is being unchained from the bondage of sin through faith and trust in Christ alone. Perhaps the prisoners who had THAT freedom didn't feel a need to escape from the Rock. 

Something to ponder...

Wednesday, October 26

not too old to learn a new trick

Bananas... that deliciously-sweet-but-not-too-sweet fruit that comes prepackaged in a bright yellow wrapper, ready to eat and is available throughout the year.  But the frosting on the cake is that bananas are nutrient-dense meaning they are packed full of things that are good for you like vitamin B6, manganese, vitamin C (yep!), potassium, fiber, copper and biotin.

While I didn't know how good bananas are for you when I was a child, I did know I liked them. I had them in a sack lunch at school, as an after-school snack, and of course, cut up on my cereal for breakfast. I have no idea exactly how many bananas I've peeled over the decades but I am sure it is in the hundreds. Maybe even thousands.

And I've been doing it all wrong.

We were traveling with friends a few weeks ago and while enjoying breakfast at the hotel buffet, my sweet hubby cut the stem area of his banana and began peeling it, just the way I do. My friend laughingly mentioned that another friend of hers would say that he was peeling his banana incorrectly. Her friend pinches the opposite end (non-stem end) of the banana, and then peels it.

Hmmmmm.

So the next morning, he peeled his banana the "correct" way. And it was much easier to peel! And required no cutting utensil. And the stringy things (called phloem) peel down with the skin. And, you have a "handle" to hold the banana with - the stem.

banana

That got me wondering if there really is a "correct" way to peel a banana. A quick internet search revealed that there is, indeed, a correct way to peel a banana and it's the way monkeys peel them - from the non-stem end. Cutting or pulling the stem-end bruises the fruit and makes it mushy.

You are never too old to learn a new trick!

Monday, October 3

burro blunder

Arizona has an abundance of burros. The animals, that is, not the food... well, maybe the food, too, but that's a blog post for another day.

But it wasn't always that way.

Burros, also called donkeys if you live east of the Mississippi River, are not native to Arizona. They were introduced into North America by Spanish colonists. During the mining boon in the 1860's, prospectors brought them to Arizona. After the mining bust, the donkeys were either abandoned or released into the wild where their populations grew, mostly because they have no natural predators in Arizona.

burro collage
The old mining town of Oatman is home to a herd of wild burros who roam the streets and beg for treats (carrots) from the tourists.

Coincidentally, camels (also not native animals) were introduced into the state at about the same time when Secretary of State Jefferson Davis imported the camels to solve military transportation woes before the railroad came to Arizona. The camels were able to carry heavier loads than mules (which are native and also different from burros/donkeys - they are the offspring from a donkey and a horse) and could survive on the little vegetation in the area. However, the Civil War brought an end to the U.S. government's camel venture and the camels were released into the wild. No one knows exactly how long they survived but there are no wild camels in Arizona today.

But back to the burro problem.

The burro population has grown every year and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) now estimates Arizona has over 5000 wild burros, more than three times what the government can manage. Burros are protected by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 which says the animals can be gathered or removed from an area but prohibits them from being killed.

For decades, the BLM has arranged "burro adoptions" and turned over thousands of wild burros to owners across the country. But burro adoptions are down and the population is increasing. This means more burros are placed in holding pens run by the BLM which are already over-crowded.

The burros aren't aggressive so what is the problem with letting them roam? They cause motor vehicle accidents posing a public-safety concern and compete for food with native bighorn sheep and livestock, affecting Arizona's agricultural industry.

This summer, federal officials, animal advocacy groups, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and others met in Washington, D.C. met to discuss land management including ways to reduce the burro population. They came up with three means to manage the burro population: temporary fertility vaccines (burro birth control)/permanent sterilization (can you imagine how much that would cost based on human birth control costs?), selling them to anyone, including "kill buyers" who would sell the burros for meat, and more aggressively promoting adoptions. The animal advocacy groups don't like the first two options so that leaves door number three - promoting burro adoptions.

Adoption applications are available through the BLM website and at their holding pens. The minimum adoption fee for each wild burro is $125; jennies (burro mommies) with an unweaned foal are $250. There is considerable paperwork and red tape to "ensure the animals go to good homes that can properly accommodate them" and many people don't want to jump through hoops just to adopt a burro. Economic factors also play into steadily declining burro adoptions.

In the meantime, the burro population is constantly growing.

I wonder what the long-term consequences of my generation's "quick fixes" will be. Creating artificial sweeteners to curb obesity rather than promoting portion control and exercise, for example. Or lowering educational standards because parents and kids are too busy to do homework or read daily.

They seem like such innocuous things at first - or so we think.

Sunday, September 18

printer problem

Printers, like smart phones and laptops, are devices designed to make our lives easier. And when they work the way we want them to to, they are an incredible convenience. But when they don't, it is a HUGE inconvenience. In fact, it's more than an inconvenience - it's maddening to have spent time creating a document or flyer that you can't print at home.

Our home printer has been dying a slow and very painful death over the past year and a half. My sweet hubby has nursed it along cleaning the heads, shaking the ink cartridges, and the like for months. But its days are numbered, I fear, as it makes long, ugly, black streaks on nearly everything that comes out of it.

We are looking for a replacement printer (unfortunately, it's not cost-effective to repair them) but until we decide definitively on one, I am stuck with the old printer. And I hate it.

printer

It was with some amusement I read a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (August 26, 2016) that confirmed what I suspected. MANY people truly hate their printers for all kinds of malfunctioning/mechanical reasons. 

But what I didn't suspect was that, motivated by the 1999 movie, "Office Space," they are publicly smashing them to smithereens! Some companies have planned employee retreats around printer pummeling. Or have contests where the winner gets to bash one of the evil company printers with a baseball bat. And "rage rooms" (aka "anger rooms") across the country report that printers are one of the most in-demand items. 

So I wonder... why is there such an over-the-top anger with printers? Why not smart phones or laptops? Maybe it's because our printer is the last in line. We become annoyed when the app on our smartphone doesn't work the way it should or the way we want it to. So we move on to our laptop and then become frustrated when pages are slow to download or we lose internet connectivity. We finally get the document finished or the coupon ready to print and now the printer isn't cooperating. We just want to be finished with whatever it is we're working on. We blow past annoyed and frustrated landing on angry.

It's funny how quickly we forget how it used to be when we had to go to a printing place to make copies. And creating our own documents at home to print  at home was just a dream.  It seems the more "convenient" life gets, the less content we are. 

Hmmm....

Friday, September 9

the love/hate affair

I have a confession to make. I have a love/hate relationship with the world wide web.

Way back when, if I had a question about something, I had to find the answer in a book or some other resource. For example, if I wanted to know who the 14th president of the United States was, I could look in an encyclopedia under "Presidents" and find a chart with the answer in a few minutes - Franklin Pierce was the 14th president, born in 1804 and died in 1868. Easy peasy.

encyclopedias

But we don't carry reference books around with us all the time, so often I would wonder about something but not have the opportunity to quickly look it up. However, if I looked it up later, I almost always remembered what I'd read. I think the effort involved in getting the information made it worthwhile to remember.

Then personal computers became widely available and "surfing the web" was a thing. It was new and exciting and really fast. Information was available in the blink of an eye. From multiple sources. In living color. Doing a Google search brought up the information before I had finished typing my query.

And with a smart phone I can search for information anywhere, anytime I have cell service. Instant information, 24/7. Sounds like a great thing, right? Super convenient and very easy.

I'm not so sure.

Unlike a reputable reference book like World Book Encyclopedia or Encyclopedia Brittanica that is edited and fact-checked by multiple people and sources (and historical information doesn't change like technology or geographical information does), anyone can put absolutely anything on the web. It takes much more effort to find "fact sources" on the internet that are edited by experts and consistently accurate.

But it's more than just the potential for inaccuracy. It's what I call the "laziness factor." Doing a Google search to answer the "question of the moment" requires almost zero effort on our part. We don't even have to spell correctly. Instantly the information is quite literally at our fingertips where we can either read it for ourself or, if we're really lazy, listen to Siri tell us whatever factoid we've requested.

"Ahhh... so that's the answer!" we think to ourself before we quickly discard that piece of information.  We think we remember it until we try to tell someone else what we read 15 minutes later and have to look it up again. There is no need to remember the information because we can just look it up again if we want or need it.

I agree that there are some things I might be curious about but don't need to remember forever. For example, what time the current blockbuster hit is playing at the local theater.

the new reference book


But I wonder if what we are really doing is training ourselves to not think as we read, to not retain information but to merely read the words to quickly find the answer to the question before moving on to the next thing.

And that is the crux of my love/hate relationship with the world wide web. I love the convenience and speed of getting information but hate the mindlessness of it. My solution? Use it when I must but also take time to investigate something - read a book, talk to a craftsman or professional, engage in the process and think critically about the information. I find it far more satisfying than just clicking a button and mindlessly reading whatever answer pops up.

Monday, September 5

labor day

Today is Labor Day, the first Monday in September. Although it is a holiday dating back over a hundred years, today most Americans just know it as "the three-day weekend in September" or "the holiday after which school starts" or simply as "the end of summer."

The first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City. It was planned and implemented by the Central Labor Union (CLU) to honor the working man. Just two years later, the date was changed to the first Monday in September so that worker's could enjoy a three-day weekend. It was the "workingmen's holiday" which makes me wonder if the  business executives and CEO's had their own holiday. I don't think they did - or do now.

Labor Day became an official federal holiday in 1894 when President Grover Cleveland signed it into law following the deaths of workers during the Pullman Strike of 1894. The CLU and Knights of Labor encouraged street parades to show the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and union organizations." This was to be followed by festivals "for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families."

While its origin was to honor the "workingmen," the sad truth is that the first Monday in September has just become another three-day weekend. Yes, there are "events" going on - an Hawaiian Luau in Cave Creek, an arts and crafts fair in Prescott, a BBQ Platter at Twin Arrows Casino Resort and sales at every department sale. But I couldn't find a single parade or "festival for the recreation and amusement of workers and their families."

Perhaps it's time to just call it what it is - September Long Weekend. It's what the Canadians call their Labour Day (also on the first Monday of September).